Mental Health · Publishing · Sara Dobie Bauer · Writing

A ghost story in Bop Dead City

laurencedemaison-4

Some stories we write and love to read again. Others we write and sort of shudder. Not because they’re bad, but because they remind us of a certain time and place we’d rather not revisit.

My short story, “Ghosts of Ice Cream,” is one of those stories, written during a deep depressive phase in Phoenix when I was … blocked. A writer’s nightmare. Plus there was just some bad shit going down, so I wrote this story, haltingly, alone in a corner, probably smoking a cigarette.

Bop Dead City admired the freak factor of a ghostly ice cream truck at Christmas in the desert. There is something creepy about that ice cream truck song, especially when there aren’t any children around to hear it.

Excerpt: “Ghosts of Ice Cream”

by Sara Dobie Bauer

Presented by Bop Dead City

My marriage now feels like something that happened to someone else—a story told over the phone by an old high school friend you never liked, never cared about, but pretended to because you used to be a nice person. But the dreams. I don’t dream. For the first time in my life, I don’t dream.

bopdeadcityissue14cover

***

I wait every day for the ice cream truck. Today, I try to see it. I consider running outside and ordering an ice cream cone, but I don’t want to leave the house. I wait for the telltale ting-tang-tinkle, and when I hear it, I scurry to the nearest shuttered window. I hear the music, right out front, the same nameless tone shooting like sparks into the tepid Arizona winter sky. I wait for the little truck to pass by. It must be close, so I check another window, on the side of the house.

The noise grows louder—the low hum of an engine, the continued music, but no words, just music. I see no ice cream truck. I must have missed it. Surely it turned the corner before I made my way to the window, as the music now seems far off, perhaps blocks away already. I take a seat on the living room floor and open my computer. I go so far as to open a Word document, but all I can type: “Ting. Tang. Tinkle.”

***

One night, I drink vodka and manage to sleep. I wake in Michael’s arms, the side of my face stuck to his chest. He always did sweat in his sleep. My fingers rest like a sleeping spider against his collarbone. I breathe the scent of him: salty sweat with an undercurrent of men’s cologne, leftover from his day at the office. He takes small inhales, exhales, and hums a little when my fingers touch his throat. Our legs are tangled together. We’re both naked, the way we used to sleep during the long Arizona summer. I don’t open my eyes. I sense the darkness in the room around us, probably close to midnight.

And then I hear it: the ice cream truck. I recognize the song: an off-key, off-tempo version of “Beyond the Sea” that comes to me like screams through water. It was our wedding song. I shiver and pull closer to Michael, who falls apart, a pile of ash in my hands.


Read the rest of “Ghosts of Ice Cream” (and other awesome stories) by buying the newest edition of Bop Dead City for $3 HERE.

(Intro photo by Laurence Demaison.)

Bite Somebody · Mental Health · Ohio

Creative ways to fight SAD in winter

Trust me, this is not a clinical analysis of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is my list of things I do to pick me up on a day-to-day basis. See, everyone I know has been a little wary, what with me moving from sunny Phoenix to the frigid Midwest. My family and friends know I’ve suffered from depression ever since I was old enough to buy black lipstick. It’s been over a year since I went off anti-depressants, and I’ve been doing great actually! However, with the creeping cold comes some creeping sadness, so here’s my list of STOP SAD NOW!

1. Happy Light / Light Box

There’s the theory that we get Seasonal Affective Disorder because we don’t get enough light. I’m not sure I buy this since I prefer rainy days to sunny ones, but I also watch horror movies to cheer me up, so … Anyway, this was my mom’s idea. Every morning, I sit in front of this big, glowing light. It’s supposed to fight SAD and give you more energy, so why not? I’ve been using it for over a week now, and I like it. I’m not sure I’ve noticed an emotional difference, but nothing like blinding white light to get your eyes open at 7 AM. Here’s an example.

2. 80s Music

Granted, the only reason I figured this out was because of my novel, BITE SOMEBODY, the characters in which adore everything 80s. I dare you to sit still and not smile while listening to bad 80s music. Here’ s an example. Dance, you maniac!

3. Happy Tea

Developed for me by my witchy friend Debi Brady (she’s not actually a witch; I just like to pretend she is), I drink a cup of “Happy Tea” every day. Here’s the rundown:

2 parts St. John’s Wort
2 parts Scullcap
1 part Red Raspberry Leaf
.5 part Peppermint Leaf
(Toss in some Catnip and Nettle for a little boost, too.)

I buy organic herbs in bulk and then mix up a batch of leaves in a tupperware container to bust out and scoop into my tea ball every morning. Sometimes, I use it twice a day. It’s nice with some freshly juiced ginger and orange blossom honey.

*Ben giggle*
*Ben giggle*

4. Find a (Healthy) Obsession

It’s no secret: I’m obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch. Between work assignments, I troll Trumblr to find new pictures of him smiling. He’s aesthetically pleasing, all right? You need to find your equivalent, whether it’s pictures of puppies, Star Wars trailers, or making canned beets. Find something that can immediately, quickly, drag you from the depths and obsess. I give you permission.

5. The Gym

I joke that I’d be a homicidal maniac if I didn’t work out (I have anger issues), but really, it’s great for my joy levels, too. I go to a fantastic gym, by the way: Everybodies Gym in Chardon. The owner is possibly as obsessed with Halloween as I am, because there are creepy clowns that hang from the ceiling and spooky lighting. I adore it. There’s nothing like a good treadmill pounding to shake the blues away. Add some heavy lifting to get that extra kick!

6. Funny Friends

My closest friends are the ones that make me laugh, and there’s a reason. Laughing is fun, so the more we laugh, the better we feel … So if a friend makes you laugh, you’re going to want to hang out with him/her more. Find funny friends. Find friends who say hilarious, inappropriate things. Find friends who send you stupid videos of their dogs. Find friends who don’t judge you over Cards Against Humanity. And you know that Negative Nancy who just bitches about her kids/husband/bowel movements/etc? Get rid of her. She’s just dragging you down.

7. Talk to Strangers (the stranger the better)

Keri and me.
Keri and me.

We tell kids “Don’t talk to strangers,” but you’re an adult, so talk to strangers. At Big Lots, I was looking at knock-off perfume, and this lady asked me which one she should buy. We spent ten minutes spraying every sample bottle on different parts of my forearm. I reeked for days but left the store laughing. I met my friend, Keri, at a beer fest because I thought she was hot and told her so. Now, she’s one of those “funny friends.” Same goes for Deidre, who told me at a bonfire that she was a porn star. (She isn’t, but I love that this was her go-to response.) Talk to people you don’t know. Smile at them. It’s like a shock of happy to your system.

A final thought: Seasonal Affective Disorder (and depression in general) sucks, and my tactics might not be your tactics. Some people need medication. Some people need therapy. You have to figure out what works for you, but once you figure it out, keep doing it. Lift the funk and live your life. With love xoxo

Mental Health

Cumberbatch’s Hamlet: A study in teen depression

hamlet-gertrude

Y’all know I’m a loud and proud Cumberbitch, so I could swoon for 500 words about last night’s Hamlet performance, but I won’t, because the Barbican Centre’s interpretation of a 400-year-old play was more than a display of Benedict’s fantastic forearms. It was a depiction (strangely) of teenage depression and suicide, despite the leading man pushing forty.

I’ve been well acquainted with Shakespeare’s tragic Danish prince since high school. And then again in college. And then again after college, because I just love the play. Something has always resonated with me where Hamlet is involved, and thanks to last night’s National Theatre Live streaming performance, I finally understand why.

As a teenager, I dyed my hair black and wrote mean notes to myself about how ugly I was. I locked myself in my room and meditated on Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana. I was the epitome of teenage depression. As I grew up, I learned my depression wasn’t going anywhere, but I could hide it so no one knew I was depressed–and I was good at hiding it. Still am.

In the play, Hamlet feigns madness. He reverts to a childlike sort of exuberance. Benedict dons a toy soldier uniform and stomps across tabletops. He is animated, wild, in front of others, but as soon as he’s alone, the tears flow. In Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” speech, he ponders if life is even worth continuing. This was me in high school–and so many others. Benedict further represents a troubled teen in his astounding physicality as he hops, skips, and leaps all over the stage.

opheliaIt’s no wonder the man was covered in sweat for the entire performance, ginger curls glued to his forehead. No wonder Benedict has been losing so much weight over the show’s run, too, trying to force down as many calories as possible pre-performance. His already prominent cheekbones were like a razor’s edge.

Ophelia, of course, goes one step further than her precious, beloved Hamlet by actually going mad and committing suicide–doing what the young prince has not the will to do. She loses her first love; she then loses her father. How many teens do we lose to suicide for similar reasons because their feelings are either ignored or overlooked, much like Ophelia, who is left to wander alone offstage into a white light?

The production itself was spellbinding. Benedict Cumberbatch (although an Oscar-nominated film actor) was made for the stage. Not only was he physically impressive (he moves like an eighteen-year-old on cocaine), but his vocality evoked gasps from the audience as he went practically up a musical scale from depressive whispers to rage-filled roars. And okay, yes, he’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. He should wear jeans more often; definitely more often. God bless that ass.

He had a strong back up cast with the haunting Sian Brooke as Ophelia, Ciaran Hinds as an absolutely evil Claudius, and Anastasia Hille as loving, confused mother Gertrude. The special effects were movie quality, especially the final scene before the interval when the entire Danish royal home appears to be alive with swarms of angry, black flies. I give top honors to the fight coordinator who made Benedict’s childish Hamlet into an impressive (and sexy) sword fighter in the big, final duel.

And the ending still hurt. I joked before the show, “I wonder how it’s going to end.” The joke was on me as I still wanted to scream “NO!” as Hamlet shuddered and died in the arms of his one and only friend. If only depression was something we could kill with a poisoned sword.

I can’t say if director Lyndsey Turner intentionally asked Benedict to play Hamlet young. I don’t know if it was her idea to have Ophelia wander into the darkness like a child first learning to walk. Whatever the intention of the director or the actors, the Barbian’s Hamlet was a haunting reminder of the illnesses of the mind and how our own hearts betray us–at any age–but more so as young adults when we’re still trying to understand who we are.

ben

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Gina's Team · Mental Health · Publishing · Sara Dobie Bauer · Writing

Goodyear, AZ, author featured in new book (Hint: it’s me)

Photo by Ray Thomas.
Photo by Ray Thomas.
(Article by Jeannette Cruz, featured in the West Valley View.)

Most people don’t spend time discussing literature with inmates, but Sara Dobie Bauer isn’t most people. The Goodyear author established a book club three years ago at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville in Goodyear.

Dobie Bauer, who is a board member for the nonprofit Gina’s Team, which works to improve the lives of inmates and ex-convicts in the Valley, said she was inspired to write an essay about her experience at the prison after realizing the importance of hope.

Her essay “Hope in Orange” will be featured in the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back.

“I wrote an essay about what it’s like going to a prison, spending time at a prison and realizing that no matter how much I think I have to offer, the women behind bars have so much more to offer me,” Dobie Bauer said. “Together, we lift each other up. Together, we bring each other hope. Together, we laugh, together we cry — all through the catalyst of books.”

With shows such as Orange is the New Black, many people think all inmates are “scary and tough,” Dobie Bauer said.

“Once you sit down, you realize most of them are the same age as you and they just made one mistake, or maybe life dealt them a bad hand and they had a really bad upbringing, and the only way they could get out was through crime,” she said.

She considers herself an ideal candidate to go into the prison, because she suffers from mental illness, Dobie Bauer said.

“I have depression. I have an anxiety disorder. I have post-traumatic stress. So, some days, even though I am not behind bars, I still feel trapped by fear and by sadness,” she said. “Emotions can be my prison, whereas these women have emotional prisons and literal prisons. But, despite the prisons we inflict on ourselves and that we suffer through, there is hope.”

She believes books have an amazing power to heal, and when selecting books for her book club, she looks for those that have had an emotional impact on her life, Dobie Bauer said.

“These women are really into it. They are so smart and so good at taking out the important things in these books, talking about it and really relate to everything,” she said.

Earlier this year, the book club read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and explored a plot surrounded by murder, a poisonous marriage and dark elements.

“I didn’t think it was that great when I read it, but I was curious about what the women would think, and it was the most fiery conversation we’ve ever had because the opinions were so divided on who was more of a psychopath — the husband or the wife,” Dobie Bauer said. “I didn’t even have to speak the entire time.”

(Read the rest at West Valley View. Pre-order your copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back HERE.)

Film · Mental Health · Writing

A Fantastic Fear of … Agoraphobia

a-fantastic-fear-of-everything-official-trailer-hd-simon-pegg
Obviously, what all writers look like.

I have step throat, and I’ve decided when my body is sick, my mind goes a little mental, so bear with me. As most of you know, I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. What does this mean? Well, it means I did not attend Phoenix ComicCon this past weekend, because HELL NO, I WON’T GO.

Several people asked if I would be attending, to which I responded, calmly, “Are you <censored> nuts?”

See, I have a two-hour maximum. Even with friends, it’s difficult for me to spend more than two hours outside my house, talking to people. Movie theaters are fine, because they’re dark, so I don’t feel like everyone is staring at me and waiting for me to say something completely inappropriate, as is my wont to do.

Also, crowds. I don’t do crowds. Makes me feel all itchy. Like fire ants are crawling up my nose.

Instead of leaving the house this weekend, I watched A Fantastic Fear of Everything with Simon Pegg: a movie about a writer who researches serial killers and, in turn, becomes convinced everyone is trying to kill him. Of course, I related.

1) As writers, we live outside our actual lives and in stories. Sometimes, waking up from stories can be jarring to the point of sudden screaming and/or asking the nearest person (usually my dog) what day it is.

2) The older I get, the weirder I get, which means my agoraphobia is getting worse.

Agoraphobia: “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.”

Common places to avoid:

Costco

Baby showers

Neil Gaiman book signings

Doctors’ offices … which is why I refused to make a doctor’s appointment until I was rolling, sobbing on the floor in two-day-old pajamas, and Jake said, “But really, dear.”

In an effort to recover (from strep throat), I sleep or write. I read Sherlock fan fiction. I call my family and tell them boring, useless things. I drink watered-down Gatorade and eat eggs.

In an effort to stop the Howard Hughes process … well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

I’ve heard of other writers worse than me. Children’s book writer/illustrator Adam Rex once said he’s been known to spend days in his office without noticing the passage of time. The fact that his wife is also a writer doesn’t aid in this, as she does the same thing, and suddenly, they’re both like, “Hey. Should we bathe?” as they run blindly into each other in the darkened hall.

I guess it helps to have a husband and friends who understand The Way I Am. Jake doesn’t push, and when my friends see that look in my eye (akin to a serial killer twitch), they usually just shuffle me toward the nearest exit.

Maybe it has to do with living in a big city. Everything’s just too … big. Or maybe it’s just being a weird writer person.

Whatever the reason, I have built a “nest” in my office composed of a heavy, winter comforter; two pillows; and the teddy bear from my childhood, know as “Bearenheart.” Plus some Halloween-colored twinkle lights. I go there and huddle after most business meetings, public speaking events, and walks to the mailbox.

Okay, I’m not that bad, but, no, I didn’t go to Phoenix ComicCon.

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Life without Harry · Mental Health · Publishing · Sara Dobie Bauer · Writing

LIFE WITHOUT HARRY official release on Amazon: For the Harry Potter fans

LifeWithoutHarry_Cover2
Cover art by Katie Stout Purcell.

Today, I re-released my 2013 novel LIFE WITHOUT HARRY on Amazon. What’s it about? Consider it an homage to my love of Harry Potter …

Xanax-dependent author Samantha Elliot is on deadline with a literary festival three weeks away when a white owl flies into her windshield and then disappears. This wouldn’t be the strangest thing, if not for the magic wand that soon shows up and the Invisibility Cloak that just happens to make Sam invisible.

Then, there’s Paul Rudolph: the office crush who finally asks her on a date. With the help of anti-depressants and her friend, Julie, Sam must navigate an ever-escalating world of Harry Potter and an ever-hotter relationship with Paul while finishing a manuscript before her agent (who might be Lord Voldemort) arrives for the literary festival … and possibly Sam’s head.

An excerpt for your enjoyment!

“An owl? You hit an owl in the middle of the day on a crowded downtown street?” Sam had her best friend, Julie Grant, on speakerphone while she brushed her teeth. “Are you sure?”

“I’m pretty damn sure.” She spat toothpaste into the bathroom sink. “Then again, there was an ambulance involved.”

“An ambulance?” The volume of Julie’s voice increased. “Are you hurt?”

“No. I had a panic attack.”

“I thought you weren’t having those anymore.”

“Yeah, well.” Sam rested her palms on her bathroom sink. “Tell that to the owl.”

“I thought the drugs were supposed to help with all that.”

“They have been helping, generally, but there’s no pill that fits the category, ‘Feel like you’re going to pass out? Take this.’ You should have seen the paramedics. I swear they thought I was dying. I’m pretty sure I was the color of sea foam.”

“What about the owl?” Julie asked. “Its bloody corpse must have been nearby.”

“The critter disappeared.” She made a heebie-jeebie noise and rinsed her toothbrush before grabbing the mouthwash under the sink. “Or maybe I’m just nuts.”

Sam’s dog, Ripley, watched from the hallway, listening. She was the color of Bambie with a wrinkled forehead that made her look constantly concerned.

“Is hallucinating owls a side effect of your meds?”

“I don’t think so, but I can check.” Sam poured mouthwash into her mouth and swished it around. She tried to remember all the Paxil commercials she’d seen on TV. When they listed possible side effects, she didn’t remember anything about birds.

This is a novel for the true Harry Potter fan but also for the true romantic … and for people who generally just want a good laugh and some magic in their day-to-day. Head on over to Amazon and buy your eBook today!

Mental Health

How antidepressant withdrawal ruined my body and mind (via SheKnows.com)

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I thought I was going to die. I said goodbye to my dogs and my husband because some part of me was positive I would not wake up in the morning. Well. I did wake up. Some days, I wish I wouldn’t.

This is antidepressant withdrawal.

11069934_10153230902806318_6880259713043043209_nI’ve suffered from depression all my adult life. It moves as the tide; it ebbs and flows, just like my use of medication, most often, SSRIs like Celexa, Paxil or Wellbutrin. I’ve been on some variety of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) for the past year. Two weeks ago, I decided to switch medication again, but first, I wanted a clean slate. I wanted to cleanse my system of all drugs, just for a little while, and see how I felt.

My mistake.

I’ve been told antidepressant withdrawal is a lot like giving up heroin. Mental symptoms include paranoia, anxiety, fear and despair. Physical symptoms include extreme nausea, dizziness, headaches, brain zaps (you feel like your brain is being electrocuted), fatigue and night terrors.

In the past week, I’ve dreamt that I murdered one of my dogs; that my grandparents (both dead) were still walking around as rotting corpses in their old house; and that my college friend refused a date with Bill Skarsgard. The last one wasn’t too traumatic, but you get the idea.

The weeping worries me. I cried over a commercial yesterday. I cried over bad sentence structure. I cried because I couldn’t bring myself to wash a plate, brush my hair, pick a sock up off the floor …

I think I’m going crazy. And that is the scariest part of withdrawal: I’ve lost any semblance of the sanity I once had.

Read more at SheKnows.com.

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Mental Health · Sara Dobie Bauer

You’re not pretty enough to be a model

"Dark Beauty" by Scott Miller.
“Dark Beauty” by Scott Miller.

I used to be the chubby girl. Not in the obvious way but in a way that made me think, No matter how much you work out, you’re just big-boned. Not to mention large-breasted. In college, I never felt like the “pretty one,” probably because my close knit group of gal pals were all absolutely stunning. I was the wild one. I was the funny one. Pretty? My roommates were pretty; I wooed via wit.

Guys didn’t seem to mind my fuller figure. I didn’t mind it … most of the time. Then, sometimes, I just felt big and ugly.

Through all this, I had a friend who was an amateur photographer. Janine was not only my roommate, post-college, but she was another one of the “pretty girls.” Nay, she was smoking hot; yet, she wanted to take pictures of me.

Me? Why?

I agreed because I trusted her, and I liked the photos she took, even though I still felt kind of nervous about how I looked and the occasional appearance, on film, of my lazy eye. When I moved to Charleston, I didn’t think about photography anymore. I thought about beer, beaches, and boys and mastered all three, thank you.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon
Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I didn’t think about having my photo taken again until I moved to Phoenix with Jake and only did so as a boudoir shoot for his eyes only. Then, something weird happened in Phoenix. I lost thirty pounds. I wasn’t big-boned after all. I had become a “skinny bitch.”

One day, I received one of the funniest compliments EVER from a dear friend of mine. She said: “You could be a model. Or a hooker. At Cannes. I hear they have expensive hookers at Cannes.”

My first official photo shoot in Phoenix was in character as Fight Club‘s Marla Singer with the super talented Chris Loomis. And for the first time in my life, I looked at those photos and thought, “Huh. I look pretty good!”

I’ve since gone on to do many, many photo shoots, some completely nude. I’ve become utterly fearless about my body, and I question: Why? Is it simply because I’m “skinny?” That would be the easy answer, wouldn’t it? That would be the stereotypical, media-embraced answer. But I don’t think me being skinny has anything to do with it.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.
Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

For the first time in my life, I have a man who loves me, supports me, and tells me I’m beautiful all the time. This may be controversial and old-fashioned. I understand we are supposed to love ourselves. We don’t need a man to give us self worth … but it doesn’t hurt.

With Jake, I have grown to become more confident. Trust me, I never needed a man. Until I found a man I needed.

But I don’t do the photo shoots for Jake. I do photo shoots (and runway) because I think it’s fun. It’s fun putting on makeup, wearing crazy hair, and dressing up in costume. It’s fun playing a role and seeing how that role comes across on film.

Modeling has shown me that being skinny isn’t the “pretty” part. Certain poses aren’t exactly complimentary, let me tell you, but who cares if I look a little bloated one day? Who cares if my hair is a frizzy mess? And okay, yeah, I have a kind of strong, manly jaw, but with that camera looking at me, I feel beautiful.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon
Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I wish I had done this earlier, back when I considered myself the “chubby girl.” I wish I had more of a visual time line of where my body has been and where it is now … and eventually, where it’s going. I wish I could tell my younger self just how empowering it is to own the skin you’re in, no matter the shape or size. Marilyn Monroe sure as shit wasn’t a size two, and she’s considered the most beautiful woman in history.

So to all of you (the friends of mine who say they aren’t pretty enough to do a photo shoot, aren’t confident enough to walk the runway), YES YOU ARE. It’s a mental state; not a physical one. Think you’re beautiful, because damn it, you are.

I’m lucky to have Jake as a confidence booster, but I still believe a man is not a self confidence necessity. Single, married, pregnant, post-kids: do a photo shoot, just so when you’re seventy years old, you can look back, see where you’ve been, and know you’ve been beautiful. Always.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.
Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.
Mental Health · Writing

Skin: A poem about cutting

Your skin is the only thing keeping you together.

You like to poke holes to see if it might suddenly give way.

Sometimes, you feel like a balloon with a small leak.

He likes to pick your scabs while you lay in bed together. He asks you questions:

Why do you cut yourself?

Does it feel good to cut yourself?

Would you stop cutting if I loved you?

You tell him you’ve been cutting since the eighth grade. Now, well into your twenties, you don’t remember how to do anything else.

Except sex, he says. You remember how to do that.

“Yes,” you agree.

Sex is just another hole being poked.

Photo by Devon Adams.
Photo by Devon Adams.
Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Gina's Team · Mental Health

The Art of Love

Saturday, I MC’ed an event for Gina’s Team called “The Art of Love” at Cup O’ Karma in Mesa. It was a fundraiser where we featured musicians, spoken word poets, roses, hand-painted coffee mugs, and inmate art. Even I sang a couple sets.

Needless to say, I was terrified. Let’s face it: generalized anxiety disorder feels like heartburn in your brain. I’d already give myself permission to consume a vodka martini post-event, but first, I had to make it through the event.

Once things got rolling, I found a rhythm, assisted greatly by the likes of emotive piano player Nate Rosswog, sexy chanteuse Tiffany Brown, and Gina’s Team co-founder Sue Ellen Allen. Ex-inmate Sandi Starr and one of the phenomenal Gina’s Team interns, Samantha, brought us practically to tears with their witnesses on how the organization saved them both.

me-and-russWe kept on rolling with kingpin poet Tristan Marshell, gravel-voiced god Jon Rodis, and Rasheda Poe, who translates pain perfectly into poem. It was a relief for me when I got to sing two sets—one with jazz prodigy Jesse Sumter; the other with my gifted, spirited guitarist, Russell Braman—because I could just shut up and sing, wrap myself in lyrics like warm ocean waves.

The ever-glamorous wordsmith Emily Cimino reminded us that love ain’t always pretty. Then came the cast from Four Chambers Press, Jared Duran and Jia Oak Baker, who made us laugh and consider what love is all about (even if it involves Costco). We closed the afternoon with Teneia: a melodious married duo that had us dancing in our seats.

But let me be honest: all my artists, my volunteers, were not the highlight of the day. A small busload of teen girls from Mingus Mountain Academy came for the show, as well, and a certain girl (let’s call her Mary) who I’ve connected with in the past sought me out because she needed to talk.

We headed to the alley behind Cup O’ Karma, and Mary admitted she’s been barely able to cope with her depression. She’s been having nightmares. She wants to isolate herself from everyone. She’s scared she’ll never feel okay again.

A strange epiphany: Mary and I have been experiencing the exact same emotions, she in Prescott, me in Phoenix, for months. Divided by miles; connected by despair—connected by “The Art of Love” event this past Saturday.

I told Mary I didn’t have the answers, because if I did, I would have remembered how to eat by now, how to get out of bed in the morning, how to smile at good news. I told her that the only way I make it through the day is one step at a time: one hour of one day of one week … I told her, “Just make it through this hour and the hour after that and the hour after that.” She seemed relieved. We hugged a half dozen times before she had to leave.

I wondered later, while surrounded by Gina’s Team supporters, if I’d done enough. I always wonder if I’m doing enough. Then, I remembered, we do what we can for who we can when we can.

That’s what Saturday was about. That’s what Gina’s Team is about. That’s why all my musicians and artists agreed to do an event for free for a good cause—no, a great cause. Like Sue Ellen says, “Been there, done that; now, how can I help?” I’ve been in love; I’ve been broken by love; I’ve cut myself until I bled.

If not for our own experiences—the good, the bad, the ugly—we couldn’t help other people. And because we survived those experiences, we can give back, hence Saturday’s “Art of Love.” What can you do today? (If you’re moved to do so, donate to Gina’s Team.)

art-of-love1

art-of-love2