Insanity vs. Sanity

By: Shannon Boatwright

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

Most people have heard of and read at least some of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I have many favorites when it comes to his stories, poems, and quotes. Currently, I am producing and directing a production with my 8th-grade honors drama students called, “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe”. This show features some of Poe’s best works, some that I had never heard of until I came across this play from TheatreFolk.com. It’s a brilliant play that pieces together Poe’s works in a very intriguing, unique and entertaining way. Of course, I’ve added my own special touch to it by incorporating music, song, and dance, adding even more depth and umph to the eerie mystery of Poe’s tales. As we’ve been working on the production, I’ve had the opportunity to dive deeper into the life of Poe and learn more about his tragic world.

I’d always been fascinated by his quote, “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” My thoughts go in many different directions when I think on this quote. I think of the times I wish I could just sleep and stay in my dreams, or never wake from my fantasies. I think of how the busyness and stress of my life make me feel insane at times, yet it’s the moments of boring normalcy when creative busyness does not overtake my life, that I feel crazy in my saneness. Is it because in all the moments when I’m so busy, I don’t have the time nor energy to think too much about things? Probably. It’s a fascinating topic for sure.

It is said that when Poe wrote this statement about being insane and claiming his intervals of sanity as horrible, that he was describing his dealing with his wife’s illness. Having to battle through the ups and downs of his wife’s horrible sickness really did him in. To cope he drank alcohol excessively, I think to provide that little bit of escape into insanity. I believe it’s the moments of terrible reality, the stress of caring for his wife as she suffered so much with tuberculosis, that gave him his horrible moments of sanity. Most of the people Poe cared about died. He really did live quite a tragic life. I can only imagine going through all the loss he experienced, and part of me cannot blame him for having moments of madness, releasing the angst and horror of life through words.

I could probably write a blog post for every single one of his famous quotes. There are so many mysterious and poignant words from Poe that instigate all sorts of interesting discussions. I’m sure there are many different interpretations of them all too, which in my mind, is a sign of an excellent writer promoting and instigating deep thought.

What are your favorite works of Poe and your interpretations of his words?

Digging out of the Doldrums

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Sometimes it just all seems like too much.

Work projects I thought I had plenty of time to tackle are suddenly looming over me. I still haven’t painted the laundry room or cleaned out my closet. The pile of charity donations sits where I started it months ago. My office colleagues are quibbling and pulling me into the middle. A nagging hip injury caused me to miss a race for an important cause. My favorite football team lost. And I’m two days late turning in this blog post.

Yeah, I know, first world problems.

Still, all of us go through times when the stress of everyday life seems overwhelming. The list of things to get done grows faster than we can cross them off and molehill-size annoyances take on mountainous proportions.

As the joys – and chores, errands and demands – of the holiday season approach, this seems like a good time to remind myself of simple ways to keep perspective. Maybe some of these will work for you, too.

Take a deep breath. I recently started taking a weekly yoga class (see nagging hip injury above) and apparently, it’s all about breathing. It helps bring oxygen to your muscles and clears your mind. And it’s a concept I can use any time I feel things piling up around me. No stretchy pants required.

Get outside. I don’t know if it’s the aforementioned oxygen or just being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, but going for a run or walk, playing a round of golf or even picking up pine cones and sticks in the yard (talk about your never-ending task) never fails to help me change my focus.

Write it down. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer – and old-school, too – but the physical act of writing things down helps me feel better organized. I wrote back in August about how making a master list of everything you need to do creates some mental space and alleviates some of the pressure. If that doesn’t appeal to you, here’s another idea: Keep a running list of the blessings in your life. Jot one or more on your calendar each day, then go back at the end of the week, month or year and read them. This is something your whole family can do. Start now and share around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Start anywhere. Can’t face cleaning out the whole closet? Start with one shelf, one drawer or the shoe rack. The sense of accomplishment will feel great and may inspire you to tackle another piece of the project. I often use this strategy to overcome writer’s block. I just start keying in phrases, bullets or ideas, then go back and cobble them together into a cohesive whole.

Let it be. Sometimes the best thing to do is … nothing. Taking time to think through a problem before jumping in likely will lead to a better solution. Give yourself permission to procrastinate. It may be good for you. (Note to my editor: This is my excuse, I mean reason, for being late this time. Is it working?)

Pray. This one should be at the top of the list instead of the end. I don’t know why it’s one of the last things I think of. I rarely pray for a particular solution to a problem. Instead, my prayer takes the form of thankfulness for my blessings and for knowing God is always there for me. It’s a reminder that no amount of list-making or closet-cleaning means I’m really in control. And thank goodness for that.

The More Things Change…

By: Stacy Thompson

My law firm has undergone some huge changes recently – two of our partners are moving on to great professional ventures and as a business, we could not be happier for them. Personally, however, the transition will be anything but easy. As consumed as we’ve been in the pragmatic aspects of the change (complete overhaul of letterhead, business cards, website…and the list goes on and on and on) I personally can’t help but get the feeling we all have when faced with a ‘goodbye to the old and in with the new’ life event. I know our firm will continue to thrive, as will the careers of both our colleagues, but we will miss their friendship and personalities as much as we will miss their legal guidance.

In times like these, it’s natural to reflect back on the beginning as we face the change. Seventeen years ago, I was a baby-lawyer fresh out of law school, looking to do good and hopefully make a living. I had taken the South Carolina Bar Exam, a grueling three-day marathon that I hoped to pass, not because of my immense drive to succeed but mainly due to my inability to fathom having to study for and take that thing again. I was pursuing a potential career in the military, but in the interim, was working at my brother’s sandwich shop. Yes, the girl with a law degree was getting drink refills, chopping vegetables and bagging to-go orders. I was happy to have the distraction and interaction with customers and really enjoyed the time with my brother and mother, who worked the cash register. One of the ‘regulars’ came in for his usual lunch and my mom asked him how his new law practice was doing. He had recently gone into practice with another lawyer and starting the business was hectic, overwhelming, but certainly exciting. He happened to mention to her that they could use a little extra paralegal help to handle some of the day-to-day stuff, and my mother, in true momma-bear-mode, pointed to me, the one in the apron, baseball hat, and sneakers, and said, “My daughter has a paralegal degree, well, and a law degree, but she’s worked as a paralegal and has some time on her hands.” As I was getting said lawyer’s drink, we talked about his new practice and I explained that I had experience in drafting pleadings, answering interrogatories and writing demand letters. He brought his law partner back the next day, and I moved to the other side of the counter (still in my apron, baseball hat, and sneakers) for my first job interview post-law school. They asked me to come to their office the next day and were a little surprised to see me in a suit – I had changed after leaving my ‘other’ job and wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to show them that I was serious about the part-time job they were offering.

Two weeks into the job, the work continued to flow and I was asked to come on board full time. A few months later, my bosses (by that time friends) asked if I would join them as an associate. The decision was an easy one – although I had other thoughts as to my future, I found myself in an office with people I respected and liked, doing work that I was proud of – truly, this was where I was meant to be.

Fast-forward to the present – I’m still in that same office with people I respect and truly like, doing work that I’m immensely proud of. I live close to my family and have the flexibility to balance my work life with travel, Gamecock games, and the occasional arts and crafts project.

Sometimes changes in our lives are intentional and other times changes drop into our laps or even blindside us. Regardless, change can be positive and may allow us the opportunity to reflect on how things were and how we want them to be. I’m grateful for the change that occurred seventeen years ago and look forward to the new change happening now. It may be that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ but sometimes it involves embracing a new ‘same’ and relishing the chance to create a new direction in life.

Why Are You in the Picture?

By: Chaunte McClure

 

With the convenience of having cameras built into cell phones, the world has become obsessed with taking photos. We take pictures of our food, plants, bare feet, shoes and my, oh my do we take photos of ourselves. Yes, the selfie has taken over social media timelines and feeds, but the ‘usie’ isn’t far behind. Of course, we have to snap a photo of our family and friends when we’re just hanging out; it’s all in fun and in the name of capturing memories.

I was warming up my pose and smile for a group photo recently when I was asked, “Chaunte, why are you in the picture?” For a couple of seconds, I second-guessed my position in front of the camera, knowing that I was invited to say cheese along with my friend and her friends.

Fast forward a few days, I thought about the question again during my commute to work. Why are you in the picture?

It’s a relevant question that we can ask ourselves regarding (the proverbial picture of) our conversations, settings, relationships, careers and other facets of life.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question before but perhaps formed it differently. Instead, you’ve asked:

What is my purpose? Why did God call me to do this? Why do I have this job when my career goals are totally different? Why did I meet him or her? Why am I going through this? Why was I born? What am I to learn from this situation?

Each of these questions, I believe, is another way of asking: Why am I in the picture?

Truth is, we should exclude ourselves from some “pictures”, but we tend to try to fit in someone else’s shot, even if it means photobombing.

When you find yourself in toxic relationships, the honest, well-thought-out answer to the above question, should urge you to walk away from that which is not good for you.

On the other hand, a reflection of your journey as you recall a time when you’ve asked yourself some form of that question, your response may help you appreciate where you are in life right now and have a better understanding of how God has ordered your steps. That’s my story because now I can see how my past two jobs prepared me for my current job.

At times, we are in the picture for a divine purpose – to provide encouragement, bring peace, make connections, share love, take a stand, be a witness, and the list can go on and on.

Other times, we are in the picture for our selfish reasons. We force ourselves to stay in the picture although God is ready to crop us out and place us in a different setting with our past in the background. Are you ready to change places?

Take some time to think about why you’re in the picture. You might discover that you should be where you are, but you’re not fulfilling your purpose. You might realize that it’s time to do more or it’s time to move on. It’s helpful to understand why you’re in the picture.

How to Make Instagram Instantly Better

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I am not a social media maven. No, let’s be honest: I don’t even like social media. I just don’t see the fascination of wasting hours trolling through tweets or tracking someone’s every movement on Facebook. (Fair disclosure: I have Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, but only because I need them in my work.)

This blog and an Instagram account are as adventurous as I get in social media, and the Instagram account only came about more or less by accident. A conference I went to offered a drawing prize for attendees who posted throughout the event using its hashtag. I’d heard of Instagram but didn’t know much about it or why anyone would want to use it. But with that prize dangling in front of me — and a long trip with time to kill — I downloaded the app and taught myself how to use it.

Well, guess what? It was a ton o’ fun, and so simple even I could get the hang of it quickly. Just take a picture, type a short phrase about it, toss in a few hashtags and click share. I don’t have a lot of followers (you can be one: search for @jeannedreynolds) nor do I follow many people, but I have been able to connect with one or two long-lost friends and gained some insight into the personal lives of some of the creative, caring and really cool people I work with.

But — you knew there was a but coming, right? — the more experience I have with Instagram, the more posts I see that are, well, kind of annoying. Here, then, are my gentle suggestions for making the most of your Instagram posts:

  1. Post a picture of someone besides yourself. Of course I like you or I wouldn’t be following you, but your constant stream of selfies comes across a bit self-centered.
  2. Less is more. If you need to write a paragraph to explain your pix, try another social media platform. Don’t make me hit the “more” button and scroll, scroll, scroll to read your entire thought.
  3. Less is more, part B: Enough with the hashtags. I’ve read that posts with multiple hashtags are more widely viewed, but viewed by whom? Do you really care if you reach a tattoo artist in Alaska with your personal views? Two or three is plenty.
  4. Let’s see some variety. There’s one co-worker who I like and admire deeply, but 90% of her posts involve her drinking champagne, or her and her friends drinking champagne, or just two glasses of champagne by themselves. Two family members post mostly photos or videos of each other making puppy eyes or looking soulfully into the distance. OK, they’re somewhat newlyweds, but still.
  5. Save the sap. Related to #4, please save the long, heartfelt confessions of true love for your Valentine’s Day card. This person is a lot of fun to be around and has changed your life for the better, check. Ooey-gooey hearts and doves, check out.

If you haven’t tried Instagram yet, take a look at it. It’s a fast and simple way to vicariously share travel, meals, holidays and everyday adventures with your family and friends. Like me, you’ll probably gain new insights into how they think and feel and a new appreciation for how multifaceted each of us is.

It’s said a picture is worth a thousand words. Just be sure you’re only using a fraction of that on Instagram.

The Dove Made Me Do It

By: Angie Sloan

True confession: I love dark chocolate. It’s a weakness for me. Knowing how quickly I could slip over the edge and overindulge, I limit myself to the occasional bag of Dove Almond Dark Chocolate Promises. Yes, I know there are many other brands out there, many of them a higher quality or better taste. But I like Dove, and here’s why.

It’s the little affirmations.

Dove’s marketing team had a genius idea when they came up with this. Each time you unwrap a square of Dove, there is a little message in the wrapper. Most of them are instructional: “Play a grown-up game of tag with your friends” or “Share your smile with someone” – the list goes on.

After consuming about a half a bag in a PMS-fueled binge, I stacked all of the wrappers together and came up with a plan.

  1. Stop eating the chocolate
  2. Pick 5 of the affirmations and actually do them.

The first affirmation:

Buy something frivolous. Who needs an affirmation to do this one? But I am in a minimalist mindset, so it was a bit more challenging than before. Frivolous? Hmmmm. What to get? New shoes? No, not it in the mood to try them on. Jewelry? No. Just because Dove said it, doesn’t mean I need to spend a ton of cash. I pondered and thought about it.  Chocolate should not be this hard. And then it came to me. I wanted a bouquet of flowers. Nice, bright beautiful flowers. Bought for me, by me. No occasion.

The Peace Palace

Happy Hour at Barbara’s

Call an old friend just to catch up. This was easy. I called my friend Barbara. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and it was great to catch up with her. Later that week, we met up for a relaxing happy hour at her house (what she refers to as her “Peace Palace”) and we talked for hours. It was great fun! (See pics below of the spread she prepared). Thank you, Barbara. (And thank you, Dove.)  

Quote your dad. I read this one and it hit me right in the heart. I’ve not reconciled my father’s death. I’ve not grieved as I should. I haven’t even written about him like I did with my mother.

My dad

With her, it was my coping mechanism. But for some reason, I couldn’t do it with my father. My father had so many wonderful quotes. He possessed a deep wisdom that he kept well cloaked underneath his larger-than-life exterior. He always told me, “Speak to everyone at work, from the janitor to the boss. It keeps you humble.” This little chocolate wrapper made me think back to his words. I could almost hear his voice. It was healing.

Give someone a compliment. I think as women, we should empower other women. So I didn’t stop at one compliment, I did it all day! A compliment should always be sincere. I didn’t just say something nice to fulfill my chocolate obligation, I made sure what I said came from a real place. And it felt wonderful! If I liked someone’s earrings, I told them. If I liked her hair, I told her. At the end of the day, my cup was overflowing with good feelings.

Learn something new about a loved one. My cousin Tammy told me a funny story about her mother, my Aunt Sis. “Sis” as she was called, was a fashionista back in the day. She loved having matching shoes for each and every outfit she owned. But times were tight and she couldn’t afford to continuously buy new shoes. To solve her dilemma, she befriended the guys at the local paint store and began painting her shoes to match her outfits. I laughed when Tammy told me. But it was quite smart. She was trendy like that until the day she passed.

In total….

I plowed through countless numbers of delicious chocolates. Got some flowers. Spent time with an old friend. Reminisced the good times with my dad. Made random strangers happy. Learned a great story to share about my aunt.

This was fun and I was on a roll! I decided to select one more wrapper from the stack. And it read: Why not?

And that was all the affirmation I needed. It was permission…permission to polish off the rest of the bag of chocolate. After all, it provided me with inspiration to write this post. Why not indulge a little more?

Brush Up on the Basics During National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Every year over 30,000 US families lose someone from a ruptured brain aneurysm. About 40% of those experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm will die. Those that survive often face significant challenges, greatly impacting their lives and the lives of their families. Today, at the beginning of National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, I re-tell my story to raise awareness of brain aneurysms.

On the evening of March 18, I noshed on some dark chocolate covered espresso beans left over from a road trip to see Modest Mouse in Charleston. I ate a lot, at least ¼ of a pound. Then later that evening, I felt a sharp electrical-like impulse go down my part line, and then down my head. Then it felt like ice cold water running down the sides of my head. I felt really weird, like I was outside of my body; I even told my sister that I thought I was dying.

She said that I threw up and felt better; I don’t remember that, but I do remember refusing her suggestion that we call Mom or go to the ER; I said, “No, I just ate too many espresso beans,” and went to bed. She found me unconscious by my bed the next morning.

Aside from being a woman over the age of 40, I had few of the risk factors. I’d lost and maintained an 80 lb. weight loss. I had LOW blood pressure, so much so that I had taken meds to prevent me from having constant vertigo. I never smoked except for one or two cigarettes in college. So I had no idea I may be having an aneurysm. (Unaware to me until after the event, which could’ve been far too late, I did have a family history. My father’s sister, Rose, had one and survived, and they lost two cousins to aneurysms.)

The doctors say that my aneurysm was about as bad as they get, and my family didn’t know if I would survive for three long weeks. Even then, the doctors couldn’t predict a full recovery. I was fortunate to have wonderful care and to go to a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta for follow-up care. My story ended well. I’m still alive, and while I do have some very mild deficits, I’m a living, breathing success story.

From someone who’s been there, I urge you to use this month to learn more about aneurysms, including the risk factors and symptoms. If you have a history of aneurysms in your family, make it a point to talk to your doctor this month.

There is plenty of information available about brain aneurysms. You can talk to your doctor or consult the internet; my favorite site is the Joe Niekro Foundation. I’m not a doctor, but I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have or speak with you or your small group about my experience.