Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Tuesday
    Sep162014

    Notes From a Bar Mitzvah

    "While we try to teach our children all about life,
    Our children teach us what life is all about."
    ~Angela Schwindt

    When I voiced my apprehension towards attending her son Ben’s bar mitzvah, my friend Karen replied with a long list of reasons for why I needed to be there. Chief among them being that it would be impossible for me not to smile while doing the hora. Of course she was correct. In my defense, I was far too busy being consumed by the life-ness of life to be interested in mingling with strangers and pretending to be happy. The idea of bar mitzvah-ing sounded daunting and at the time - Thursday - I thought that I would rather spend the day at home, day drinking and being pitiful.

    Invite me to parties. Please.  I am fun.

    ***
    This would be my first bar mitzvah, which I stated, fairly excitedly, to anyone who asked. Though my normal extensive researching was thwarted by my wallowing so much so that I did not have the opportunity to Google “how do you open a prayer book” prior too attending. Which means that I spent the first 20 minutes of the service holding it upside down and frowning then making attempts to will it open. There I sat, then stood, then sat, then stood again while clutching my book. Sometime after the third or fourth standing I stopped white knuckling and started paying attention, absorbing, appreciating the moment and then crying.

    One minute I was having such deep thoughts such as:

    - What if it’s your bar or bat mitzvah and you cannot carry a tune?

    - Why didn’t I learn Hebrew before I left the house?

    - Why didn’t I have breakfast?

    - I really like that woman’s hair/dress/make up. Why doesn’t my ass look like that?

    - But seriously, what are they saying?

    And then suddenly:

    - Oh my What is happening? Why are my eyes watering?

    Through the rest of his ceremony being at once exceedingly confused and proud. Subsequently, less interested in what I didn’t know in more in what I did which was to grasp the enormity of it all and the honor that it was to have even been invited. In typical me fashion I lost sight and the purpose only to quickly regain it, thankfully.

     

    One of my favorite memories of Ben is from one of the first times I had the pleasure of hanging out with him. Like any child, he was curious about me and my life and took the time during dinner one evening to pepper me with questions about my job, my age, my marital status. We went through the basics; lobbyist, 25, not married and no children. We had already gone through how I knew his mother - she was a literary agent and I want for her to represent me. After satisfying him with my answers he paused. “You know”, he started and I mentally braced myself for a thinly veiled insult to come from this nine year old. “You’ve done a lot for someone your age”, was said rather matter-of-factly. And he casually went back to his food while the adults at the table glanced at each other in awe. Because this kid (or “man” as he was so quick to inform me post-party as we kicked a ball around the lobby of his apartment. Me, in a dress and barefoot. Ben the “man” with a giant cupcake stain on his shirt). This is why I cried. This wonderful, spectacular really funny kid. A child who found himself gladly standing in front of those who loved him most and using his call to the Torah to talk about bullying. This no nonsense, all joy, kid. Ben’s dad asked me if I was going to blog about it and I thought that I would have all of this insight and be full of deep thought. In reality, the part where I tell Karen FINE. YOU WERE RIGHT is that instead of remaining consumed by myself  I was too busy being happy to be there.

    With the strangers, the Hebrew, the hora and all. 

     

    Wednesday
    Sep102014

    "It's Literally a Post About Vomit"

    1. I wrote this post for another website but other things happened and it wasn't used. When my editor read it she commented on the "vibrancy"of the writing and how well it was written and then she said, "it's literally a post about vomit" which forced a giggle out of me. I felt the need to share it anyway because why the hell not?

    2. This is a really gross. Be happy that I'm not your child.

    3. Happy Back to School, everyone.

    "A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." ~Charles Peguy

    I was seven years old; a second grader whose mother woke her each morning with a rap at the door and a shout-whisper of ‘Beanie! Beanie Barbum!” a pet name for me. “Time to get up!’ My mother was never one to make extravagant, as-seen-on-TV breakfasts but instead opted for quick and easy. Cheese toast was a popular favorite and often boiled eggs.

    On this particular day, boiled eggs were the option. I was, after all, a growing girl who needed her protein. But there was something amiss, a gurgle in my tummy, or something that didn’t feel quite right. I I told my mother that I wasn’t feeling up to par. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she put her hand to my forehead. “You’re fine and you’re going to be late” and she sent me off to the bus stop.

    I sat on the left side of the bus - the driver’s side. I remember that my bus driver was a woman named Fran and the bus number was 1. I can tell you that instead of taking the main road to school we took the back way, to avoid heavy rush hour traffic. I’m assuming. Off to school we went, down my street through the entrance of a subdivision and out the back. Sometime between passing the neighborhood’s pool and making a left turn, my mouth started to feel warm. I swallowed a few times only to have spit fill my mouth. I swallowed once more and glanced out the window, hoping the others won’t notice. My eyes begin to water and fill with tears because I am still rather unsure of what is happening just that my seven year old tummy is bothering me and that my attempts to keep whatever is occurring within my body at bay, are futile.

    And then it happens. We are on the final approach to school and I can no longer prevent my insides from being on my outside. A quarter mile from my elementary school and everything that had gone down during my breakfast came up. Eggs, probably some milk, a white cesspool of shame and sorrow as I sat on my school bus helpless, tears spilling onto my cheeks because I just vomited on my school bus. If, at seven, I had been well-versed in sarcasm and woe, I would have made some hyperbolic statement about never being able to go on the bus again and how my mother would have to drive me, both ways, to my new school three towns over as that would be the only way to alleviate the pain of that day.

    We arrive at school where I am ushered to Mrs. Ostrander, the school nurse. She asks what happened and what I ate. I tell her about my eggs. My poor eggs. She calls my mother and all I can hear is the pity in her voice as she says, “Well, she threw up her boiled eggs”.

    I was a sick little girl. A child whose body decided to broadcast her illness - a stomach bug - at the most inopportune time and a mother who had to get to work. Nothing more, nothing less and then it happened again.

    I’ve been playing the clarinet for four years at this point and today is a band day - a Tuesday - at my middle school. Everything is fine as I make my way to the school bus with my overstuffed back pack and expensive woodwind. On this day I am sitting on the right side, the passenger side, but in the aisle seat right by the wheel. I look over at my seat mate and then to the floor below her which is how I can so distinctly remember the expanse due to the wheel well. It is then that I see a giant, phlegm filled glob of spit. Someone - probably a disgusting boy - had hocked a loogie on the bus and there it was, practically in my face as it jiggled around in synch with each bump on the road.

    I quickly turn away but I can already sense that it’s too late. I have a sensitive stomach and I can feel the warmth in my throat once again. My face is getting hotter and I try to put it out of my mind and begin to read through my music book. But i am a child after all and I have to take one more peek and that is when it happens. I throw up all over the bus and I watch my vomit roll down the aisle towards the front as small children lift their feet in horror and despair. It’s on the bus, it is on me and it is on the clarinet case I had been gripping for several miles. The sight of my own upchuck causes me to heave once again. And again. And then once more for good measure as I am brought down by bile and subsequent dry heaves. I cannot look at anyone else as I hang my head in hopes that I am able to click my heels three times and be transported out of this misery.

    We finally arrive at school and I am the first person off the bus. As I get outside to the fresh air I see Jason Stewart, with his mouth full of braces standing right in front of me. Jason Stewart whom I briefly dated during the sixth grade. I had been trying to win him back for a year to no avail. Jason Stewart who picks this moment to smile and say hi as I stand sheepishly on the sidewalk. I have to make a quick decision either flirt back or run for cover but there is no time. He walks up to me and starts to say something as I am holding my clarinet case which is covered in my bodily fluids. I can only look back at him and mumble something but he is unsure of what. I say it again but louder, “I just threw up…” and hold out my hands as a final sign of mercy. He catches air as he jumps back and makes a face of absolute disgust. “EW! Go!”, he spits out at me and I walk into school.

    Tuesday
    Aug122014

    For You the Bugle Trills 

    "People call those imperfections, but no, that's the good stuff." - Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting

    Whenever I write about my depression I start with the story of my sophomore year of college during which I found myself at, what I had assumed would be, the lowest of the low. How I walked around my DC neighborhood smoking and then putting cigarettes out on my arm in the hope of actually feeling something, anything. Or the weekend that I disappeared to my newly leased apartment after a week of staring down the orange and blue lines of the metro thinking that I could just jump. If I jumped everything would be OK and it would be over. Ease was what I sought because death had to be far better than being in what seemed to be an insurmountable amount of pain. And despite having written about this struggle on numerous occasions I still find my heart thumping inside of my chest as I hit publish for what will others say or think about me? Will I be seen as broken and unworthy or will others acknowledge that this is a disease that will never go away and one that I will spend the rest of my life fighting?

    I have had several major depressive episodes that have been fixed with talking or a bit more Lexapro. This is my life, which I have long accepted but it isn’t my everything. To speak out and write about mental illness is to write about any other thing that happens to be going on in my day to day living including what my cat is doing, the wine I’m enjoying, the dress I just purchased. It simply is. I present as an average and capable adult because I am, in fact, a boring typical adult who happens to struggle mightily at times.

    Like many others who have depression hearing about the death of Robin Williams made everything ache. The ability to wrap my head around the death of someone so brilliant and beloved as he has everything to do with having been in that same deep, dark hole, crushed by a pain so unbearable that it is hard to breathe. For those who wonder how such a successful person could succumb to such a horrible illness it is because depression is a disease that does not discriminate. I know why he did what he did. I also know that but for the grace of God and therapy, I could easily be on that same treacherous path. Robin Williams’ death feels personal because it could easily be me or anyone else I know.

    Thankfully depression isn’t a foe for me today but it could be tomorrow. For those seeking words of advice I can only say to be gentle. Reach out. Dole out kindness. For those suffering, well, obviously you are not alone and when you are ready to talk there are people waiting to hear you.