I started watching this documentary about Kathleen Hanna, titled The Punk Singer.
Watching the film helped me put into context just how ground breaking Hanna and the Riot Grrrl movement were, but there was one quote that stuck out for me. Hanna, at the time a spoken word artist, described an encounter with writer Kathy Acker.
“Acker asked me why writing was important to me, and I said, ‘Because I felt like I’d never been listened to and I had a lot to say,’ and she said, ‘Then why are you doing spoken word—no one goes to spoken word shows! You should get in a band.’“
During the time of Riot Grrrl, I was living with a musician obsessed with technical guitar playing- playing faster and cleaner, producing challenging riffs. He scoffed at the Riot Grrrl movement and punk in general. Punks didn’t respect the craft of becoming proficient at playing. At the time, I thought he made a good point. Why would I want to listen to hacks stringing three chords together when I could be listening to technical wizards at the top of their game? My young mind couldn’t grasp the bravery of thinking I want my voice to be heard. I’m going to make that happen. I was coming from a place of him speaking for me. (I hate to be that person, but I have to state that I have a huge love and appreciation for punk, grunge and Riot Grrrl now. In many ways, it seems tailor made for me and I’m sorry I didn’t get to experience it as it was happening.)
The quote from Hanna resonated with me because I’ve been pondering the idea of connection. As I consider the boughts I have had with depression, and what things have helped me, I keep returning to the need for connection. The problems vary, but for me, there are common threads of feeling isolated and powerless. During these instances, I was scared to discuss my problems or felt like talking about them would not change my circumstance.
Within minutes of watching the movie, I started wondering who among my friends had seen it and who would enjoy it but might not know about it. I had read about it months prior but was just now getting around to viewing. My instinct was to post about it on Facebook. For whatever reason, today, I paused and considered that. Surely it would get a few “likes.” Perhaps a couple of comments. But I began to think about the pre-social media days- when you would have an actual conversation with your friends about the happenings in your life.
Unfortunately, most of the people I wanted to converse with on this topic lived in other states. Long gone are the nights from my twenties when I’d meet up with my crew after work, smoke pot, drink cheap booze and just languidly talk for hours.
Instead of posting to my timeline, I reached out to a few friends who I knew would care, and talked about the film. It wasn’t some earth shattering conversation, but it felt genuine. The interaction was more satisfying than noting the number of “likes.”
Liam had his conference at school today. I went into the meeting with mixed feelings about his teacher. She is very skilled at teaching children, but I had written her off as a no nonsense curmudgeon. Liam seemed to love her, but I assumed he was young and impressionable and eager to please. He would like any figure of authority.
A few weeks ago, Liam told me he did not like school. He said recess was too long.
What the hell? What kid thinks recess is too long? I thought.
I spoke with his teacher, Mrs. D, about it. She was able to communicate with him in a way I wasn’t. He told her that the boy he normally plays with was playing with new friends, and that he was all alone.
We both talked with him about making a larger group of friends so that he would always have someone to play with. I started setting up play dates with more classmates. I felt like we were handling the problem.
The conference was student led, which meant Liam was present. Mrs. D asked Liam about the playground problem. He started to cry and she inquired as to why he was crying.
“It makes me sad to talk about it.”
“I’m not talking about it to make you sad. I see you cry and it makes me cry on the inside. But I’m your friend and I want to help, so I need to talk with you so I can know what to do.”
Jesus, I was going to start bawling at any moment.
She told me how they had been having an extra recess on Fridays so she could watch him and give him extra time to interact on the playground and make some new friends. I was really floored. This woman listened to my son. She reorganized the schedule of the class to give him more time to figure things out. She let him know she was on his side and would continue to help him until he felt comfortable. I could see in his eyes that it mattered to him.
She steered things in a more positive direction and told me how much she loves Liam’s ideas. “He’s like having a second teacher. He always has ideas for how we can do things and I just love it.” Liam was the definition of the word beam.
Would the world be cured of depression if we all took the extra time to listen to each other, empathize and have each other’s backs? Probably not. But it couldn’t hurt to try.