Beautiful, Broken, and Okay

Beautiful, Broken, and Okay February 19, 2020

I have been depressed lately.

That’s another of the 200 symptoms of fibromyalgia, and not a very common one for me. I usually get anxious rather than depressed. That, combined with the bad joint pain, has left me feeling speechless for a couple of weeks. Usually, words flow easily and I don’t get writer’s block. But this February has been difficult. When my fingers feel A-okay for typing, my mind won’t come up with ideas. And when my mind finally does come up with an idea– painfully, like a hen laying a really big egg– depression tells me it’s rotten.

I get in the shower, which I call my Blog Post incubator; I usually start outlining my posts and thinking of good ways to word things in the shower. But every time I come up with a funny wording or a nice compact argument, depression tells me it’s stupid. No one will want to read it. I will get trolled by liberal and conservative readers alike. Traditionalist Catholics will call me a demon again and atheists will tell me I’ve insulted them.

It’s hard to get around depression.

I scroll through social media, looking for ideas of something fun and funny to say, until my scrolling finger starts to hurt with fibro joint pain, and then I take an epsoms salt bath. And in the bath, depression taunts me.

On social media, I ran into a beautiful woman named Shirley Raines, who is a hairdresser. Every time I see a photo of her, her hair is a different neon color and she’s got a new pair of glorious earrings on, to say nothing of her eyeshadow choices. If I had the confidence I would dress and make up just like her.

Ms. Raines runs a charity called Beauty 2 the Streetz. Weekly, she packs her van with food and supplies she buys with donations people give her, and she drives to Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles. For those who don’t know, that’s where the homeless people congregate– about two thousand of them, lining the street in tents, one of the largest “stable populations of homeless” in the United States. They don’t have plumbing; there’s nowhere to go to the bathroom. They come down with Medieval plagues like typhus and tuberculosis. And with housing prices what they are and poverty getting worse, they’re likely to stay that way for a long time.

That place is hell on earth, I’m sure, but in the videos Ms. Raines posts, she makes it look happy. I want to visit there with her, because she brings joy and fun when she visits.

Ms. Raines serves the homeless people a meal she’s prepared, including a dessert. She says it’s important to give the homeless people choices of toppings on their sandwiches and ice cream sundaes, because homeless people have so few choices anywhere in their lives. And then she and her team of volunteers do the women’s hair. She brings portable showers and some kind of pump-operated beauty shop sink with tanks of water from her own house. She doesn’t just give them a quick wash and trim, but a real trip to the beauty shop with haircolor, wigs and makeup. On Valentine’s Day she also handed out roses and pink treat bags and served sparkling cider.

I’ve been watching all the videos and photos she posts on social media, grinning from ear to ear. I love how she calls the homeless women “queens” and how she says “thank you for saying thank you!” whenever she’s thanked.

One day she posted a video showing her shopping cart full of rotisserie chickens. “Hit up Costcoto purchase 38 chickens! Gonna pull these and make chicken fajitas for 500 plus. Y’all donations make all this possible. Bless u!”

I’ve never been happier at the sight of 38 rotisserie chickens.

In the comments, I saw somebody complaining that Costco rotisserie chickens are bland, and in another place I saw someone commenting that she should shop for things that don’t use so much plastic.

I was appalled– all the good this lady is doing, and somebody wanted to complain about the chicken, and to chide her for having no choice but to buy chickens in individual plastic boxes. Yes, somewhere in the supply chain, somebody ought to make a more responsible choice about chicken packaging, but the person who buys the chicken can’t control that. Individual consumers aren’t to blame for the environmental crisis we’re in now, any more than individual poor people are at fault for the housing crisis that leaves them on Skid Row.

Some people will find fault with anything, even a beautiful woman making fajitas for 500 poor people before she washes their hair.

Several days later it was Valentine’s Day. My friend Mark Shea was gushing about how much he loves his wife and how deeply he enjoyed the simple dinner of liver and onions she made him, and I smiled again. Then I saw the comments, where someone was chiding him for eating liver on a Friday.

It takes a special kind of troll to frown on a grandfather’s innocent enjoyment of liver and onions on Valentine’s Day– particularly so close to Lent, when some churches in communion with Rome are holding a fast-free week anyway. But people manage to be miserable.

I think, maybe, it would do us all some good if we looked at our depression as an internet troll.

Maybe the sad, hopeless voice that says we have nothing to say is as ridiculous as someone who frowns at rotisserie chickens for the homeless or liver when Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday. It’s just a mean old prude, not to be taken seriously. If I could take a screenshot of my depression and post it here for us to laugh at, it wouldn’t seem so threatening.

The other day, as if she was reading my mind, Shirley Raines tweeted,I don’t have money…I have heart, compassion and drive. That’s all u need to start living ur purpose. Just last week my Dr increased my Prozac because my panic attacks were getting worse. I help people the best I can right where I am. #brokenandokwiththat.” 

I think I’m broken and okay with that too.

(image via Pixabay)




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