And Words Are All I Have

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And Days of Auld Lang Syne

Being Human

I look back on 2022 and what has not been exactly a banner year for me. To wit: my ancient nemesis depression revisited and took up shop. I am employing all my tried and true weaponry against it, realigning chemistry with the help of a doctor and current science.

This is so often an exacting, exhausting process of trial and error, calling for patience and a steely resolve, when both are entirely missing in action, I find myself scared to death I am spiralling further down as I try on various psychotropics to find one that fits. I fear I may never resurface.

Meanwhile I try and do some (one!) physical activity every day even when it is the last thing that appeals. And I write something, even if it's only a haiku or a snippet of thought. Or my name in cursive.

Depression is a harsh mistress, bringing surprisingly serendipitous gifts. I have learned that I am my joy and sadness. Both of these. Full stop. For the most part I have found ways to live with both of my halves and there are sizable parts of each one I cherish and identify myself through. But when the sadness takes up too much room, when this melancholy bullies its way through to the marrow of my bones, which happens for the most part randomly, I need to wrestle this beast to the ground in any way I can. I have learned over time never to minimize its power, and the war it wages against me.

Make no mistake: clinical depression and major depressive disorder is intrepid. It is relentless. We minimize and ignore it at our peril. We become expert at hiding it. I do feel everyone who labors under it deserves a Lifetime Acting Oscar.

Its physical fallout is just as punishing. Both major and subthreshold depression are associated with increased mortality, largely due to hazardous behaviours and physical comorbidity. Major depression was independently associated with excess cardiovascular disease and stroke mortality.

Writing has helped me through in the past; it's not f0olproof but it does help. It dismantles some of depression's offensive, albeit temporarily. Honesty and disclosure becomes like an unburdening. (Maybe I can help one person?). Inaction and silence merely hand it more power. Writing about it lets me stare it down, unflinchingly, if not fearlessly, to relearn its faces and shadings, its subterfuge and its lies. In knowledge, as ever, lies hope.

Meanwhile I persist. I find my other half, the one that feels unbridled joy in the simplest, most inane things, makes an appearance every now and then, her jazz hands flapping. With the assistance of the right psychotropic combinations I fully expect I will come through this, perhaps stronger than I was before. (OK, calm down, Tricia. Let's not push it.)

If and when I do, I will be among the lucky ones who is treatable. Not everyone is, tragically, and for those tortured souls, ending their lives seems their only escape from the pain.

The malaise of depression is characterized as languishing by psychologist and author Adam Grant. Languishing is “the neglected middle child of mental health, "he says in a Ted Talk, calling it the "void between depression and flourishing — i.e. the absence of well-being.”

“By acknowledging that so many of us are languishing, we can start giving voice to quiet despair and lighting a path out of the void. When you break the surface and open up, only then will you begin to confront the beast it can surely be."

Gentle reader - If you need to talk, send me an e-mail. You'll get no judgment, no magic. But I am a great listener. We can talk about anything, Our favourite books, snacks... The Raptors, ok... not the Raptors... what we did today... or didn't do! :) Knowing someone else has peered thr0ugh the darkness of depression can offer us a life buoy when the water seems to be rising ever higher.

Meanwhile, if you are reading this and struggling, know one thing: You are not alone in this, even though depression whispers the opposite in our ears.

Refuse to believe it. Reach out. Throw on a coat and go for a walk. I know ... it's the last thing you feel like doing. Shoot off an email. Pick up a phone. Talk about it. Let's wake up to another tomorrow and let's try again.

And kindly send this to anyone who might need to hear it.


And on a decidedly lighter note. thanks to my friend Lloyd Thomas for this giggle ---


This day marks 12 months without drinking a drop of alcohol or any kind of fizzy drink. 6 months without eating bread, cakes or anything sweet. The change in my body has been fantastic, I feel fitter, I feel great and my way of thinking is very positive.....

In 2023 I'm looking to keep this up and go for more, because I choose to! No alcohol, healthy eating and above all else exercise every day!

I don't know whose status this is but I was so happy for them that I copied and pasted it.

Writer and actor Carrie Fisher was asked once about how it was to work with Harrison Ford. "If you can’t be nice, be charming.

"And Harrison was very charming."

Carrie Fisher was always a class act. She also handed me a depeendable mantra years ago:

"Take your broken heart: Make it into art."

new year
Auld Lang Syne

Here is my favourite version of the song recorded by Dougie Maclean in 2012. These are the original lyrics by Scotland's national poet Robbie Burns. The lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” are in the Scots language. Burns first wrote the song down in 1788 as a poem, but it did not appear in print until after his death in 1796.

The title, translated literally into standard English, is Old Long Since. The words can be interpreted as since long ago or for old times’ sake. The lyrics are about old friends having a drink and recalling adventures they had long ago, interestingly, with no specific reference to the new year.

And this song I rediscovered this week that I want to share with you... the unabashedly romantic tune Fallen by Lauren Hill... easily the best thing about the movie Pretty Woman.

Who can't use a little more romance going in to the New Year?

“It seemed to me that winter was the time for love, not spring. In winter the habitable world was so much contracted; out of that little shut-in space we lived in, fantastic hopes might bloom. But spring revealed the ordinary geography of the place; the long, brown roads, the old cracked sidewalks underfoot, all the tree branches broken off in winter storms, that had to be cleared out of the yards. Spring revealed distances, exactly as they were.”

~~ Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women

candle heart
Invictus is a short poem by the Victorian era British poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903). It was included in his first volume of poems, Book of Verses, in the section Life and Death (Echoes).

From the age of 12, Henley had tuberculosis of the bone that resulted in the amputation of his left leg below the knee. The early years of Henley's life were punctuated by periods of extreme pain due to the crude treatments then. However, Henley's younger brother Joseph recalled how after having his joints drained excruciatingly, the young Henley would "hop about the room, laughing loudly and playing with zest to pretend he was beyond the reach of pain."

According to Robert Louis Stevenson's letters, the idea for his character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend Henley, whom he described as "... a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet."

As Henley has swept me off mine...


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


“Fearlessness is what love seeks,” Hannah Arendt wrote in her magnificent early work on love and how to live with fear. “Such fearlessness exists only in the complete calm that can no longer be shaken by events expected of the future… Hence the only valid tense is the present, the Now.”

When I was supposed to be reciting my interminable Hail Mary’s and Our Father's and more through countless years of Catholic masses, I was writing little poems in my mind… about anyth8bg and everything... my fellow parishioners... the aura and unknowability of the nuns who taught us... the particular perfect light from the stained glass window behind the elevated mahogany pulpit… the heartbreak that was the Pieta statue in the church's vestibule.

I stood before it countless times as a little girl and with my index finger traced its every cold marbled ripple and fold and nuance, marvelling at how the merely mortal Michelangelo could imbue a block of stone with pathos, with compassion.

I still do.

As one of my poems says, There are many ways to pray. That's a prayer right there. A Tricia prayer.


Christians are hard to tolerate; I don’t know how Jesus does it”

hope is the thing
tricia handwritten signature

Recent Post

I Am

I am from my mother’s bed in a Glasgow tenement and walls thick with coal dust. I am from Saturday confession and identical Catholic school uniforms and unflinching patriarchy. I am from melancholy to the marrow of my bones. I am from not up to it but showing up anyway. I am from faking it so very well no one …
I Am

Michael O'Donnell didn't return home from the Vietnam War, but his poetry did. Alum Daniel Weiss was so taken by O'Donnell's work that he spent the last decade-plus learning about its author.

This is from an essay by Bret McCabe, himself a vet, published Spring of 2020.

Helicopter pilot Michael O'Donnell could hover near the ground for only a short time before returning to the sky. On the afternoon of March 24, 1970, O'Donnell had guided his Huey below the dense foliage of Cambodia's mountainous northeast region to retrieve an eight-man reconnaissance patrol that had been inserted to gain information on the size and movements of enemy forces but encountered gunfire early on. Three days into a planned five-day patrol, they needed to be evacuated.

O'Donnell, a 24-year-old from suburban Milwaukee, was part of the helicopter rescue mission involving two unarmed transports and four gunships that were dispatched from an airbase in Vietnam's central highlands. After lingering at 1,500 feet, waiting for the recon team to reach the extraction point, one transport had to return to base to refuel. The transport was on its way back when the recon team radioed that it couldn't hold out much longer. O'Donnell dropped his helicopter into a windy canyon and through a small opening in the canopy, lowered his craft to just above the ground. The recon patrol emerged from the jungle with enemy fire trailing after them. It took about four agonizingly long minutes for all eight men to board, a little longer than the average pop song.

After ascending about 200 feet, O'Donnell radioed to air command, "I've got all eight, I'm coming out," right before his helicopter burst into flames, likely struck by a ground-based rocket. The pilot, his three-man crew, and the recon patrol were officially declared missing in action in 1970. O'Donnell wouldn't be declared dead until February 7, 1978. His remains were discovered in 1995 but not officially identified until February 15, 2001. And on August 16, 2001, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, which was created as a final resting place for soldiers on land seized from a plantation owner after the Civil War. O'Donnell left behind his wife, his parents, a sister, his best friend and music partner, and a collection of 19 poems, some of which he included in his letters to friends, discovered in his footlocker after his death.

One of those 19 retrieved pieces, printed below, O'Donnell had mailed to his friend Marcus Sullivan in 1970. Sullivan served as a combat engineer in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, and they wrote each other throughout their training and tours. O'Donnell's daily missions transporting the dead and wounded back from the front lines were taking their toll.

If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own. And in that time
when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes
you left behind.


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The Music of Leaving, my collection of poetry, is available to order.
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The Music of Leaving - Tricia McCallum

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