Smile Files: Music

In Celebrities, Dancing, Singing, The Smile Files on September 24, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Me in 2005.

I’m one of those girls that you see in the movies. No. Not the leggy blonde with the knockout figure and big boobs that point to the sky. The other one. You know, the embarrassing one with the big laugh. That one.

I’m Bridget Jones sitting in her flat, wearing pyjamas, singing All By Myself at the top of her voice and guzzling red wine. I’m Susan Sarandon belting out Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (into a hairbrush, of course!) while dancing around her bedroom with her kids in Stepmom. Yep. I’m THAT cheesy.

There’s a funny thing about me. You can always gauge my mood by whether or not I’m playing music. Of course, if I’m depressed there is nothing like a sad song to hit the mark. But in general it’s not the type of music that I play. It’s the fact that I’m playing it at all. When I feel deflated, for me music doesn’t even exist.

If I’m in a good mood, I’m my neighbours’ worst nightmare. It’s playing in the background on the rare occasions that I do housework. It adds atmosphere to the house while I’m surfing the Internet or doing something that doesn’t tax the brain. And it’s a great way to get myself in the mood when I’m tarting myself up for a date or a girls’ night out.

But, to be honest, I don’t need an excuse to play music. Many times I turn on the iPod because I want to have a party in my living room. I want to grab my wooden spoon or my polka dot lint roller and sing while prancing around. I don’t just want to move like Jagger, I close my eyes and pretend that I’m sharing a microphone with him.

And when a slow song comes on – like a good old-fashioned Patsy Cline tearjerker or that Penny and the Quarters tune, You and Me from the movie Blue Valentine – then I slow dance, with my shadow I guess, because there’s no one else around.

I know you’re cringing on my behalf right now. I’m cringing for myself because I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you. This is probably the most intimate thing that I’m going to reveal about myself, because it is private. It is silly and if someone ever walked in on me while I’m dancing around in my vest and pants like an idiot I would be mortified!

But guess what? It’s one of those simple things in life that bring me pleasure. And I don’t think you need to be Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary or Tom Cruise singing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling in Top Gun to experience it. If it makes you smile, just do it.

So, in honour of all those geeks out there, click on the link below and join Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci, grab the nearest hairbrush and sing The Shoop Shoop Song from the Mermaids soundtrack. Go on. You know you want to. I promise not to look.

M x


The Curse of Perfectionism

In Bipolar, Exercise on September 12, 2011 at 3:18 am

I have a problem. All of my life I’ve wanted to be perfect. On the surface perfectionism sounds like it is anything but problematic. Who could fault someone for trying to achieve his or her personal best? Surely this is what our parents and teachers taught us to strive for? Work hard. Do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

But, for me, I always wanted more. I’ve never wanted to blot my copybook. In fact just one stain would make me want to toss the whole thing away.

I’m not making an analogy. I’m being absolutely honest. There are days where if I write the date or the words “to do list” on the top of a blank page of my notebook and accidentally make a spelling mistake, rather than cross the offending typo out, I will rip out the page, tear it up and throw it away.

This doesn’t mean that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don’t insist that the tins in my kitchen cupboards all face forward or that my books are stacked in alphabetical order on my bookshelves.

My version of perfection is the “Oh fuck I’ve blown it, now I’d better go off the deep-end” type of perfection. Like a dieter who falls off the wagon because she has had one cookie and then proceeds to eat the entire pack – plus a giant bag of potato chips, a burger, fries and that milkshake she always denies herself – I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl.

I guess that’s why I have bipolar. It makes sense. I’m either saint or sinner, virgin or whore, lazy or incredibly busy. I can be a sloth, sleeping hours of my life away, doing no exercise for months and then transform myself into an exercise fiend, clocking at least nine hours at the gym in one week.

I can spend weeks knitting hats, blankets and scarves for family and friends furiously click-clicking away. Then a few months later, I will groan at the thought of being anywhere near a ball of yarn.

(PS This doesn’t translate to my work. I’m grateful that my bipolar has never affected my ability to earn a wage. If anything my bouts of mania propel my productivity. If I get depressed, I take myself off for a walk at lunchtime just to get away and clear my head.)

It’s outside of work that my battle to be perfect often impedes me; paralyses me.

So, it’s no surprise that after having verbal diarrhoea and uploading multiple posts within the first month of The Moody Cow, I have since been silent.

Oh dear. I didn’t write two pieces a week on a Tuesday and Thursday like I promised myself that I would. Oh the shame.

What my silence over these past few months has taught me is that doing something, anything, no matter how little, is often better than doing nothing at all. And if in my quest for perfection I muzzle myself it is an exercise in futility. Writing one sentence a week would have been far more productive than bemoaning the fact that I haven’t written anything of substance for months.

I don’t know if my quest for perfection is a “bipolar” thing or a “Marissa” thing or if it’s something that plagues us all from time-to-time. All I know is that it has sucked the life out of me for far too long and rather than be perfect I want to be productive. Progress, not perfection is my new goal.

M x

Mommy Day

In Bipolar, Children, Miss Helena, mother, Parents, School, Uncategorized on May 6, 2011 at 1:31 am

My Mummy

“My mum has very funny moods…”

(Marissa Charles, aged nine, June 1985)

My essay about my mother.

Anyone who knows my mum knows that she is a hoarder. It’s not just that she is untidy. (She is. As am I. Life is too short to obsess about everything being in its place. There are far more important things to do – like read.) It’s that she is sentimental and it’s that sentimentality that leads her to save the smallest of items, things that to you and I may seem insignificant.

Mummy still has the cot I used to sleep in when I was a baby. (I’m 35 years old. President Jimmy Carter was in the White House when she bought that thing.) She saves the messages that I leave on her answer machine. (She played about seven of them back to me the other day.) She even saved a kitchen towel from her local pub. (Last month I cut my arm and needed first aid. A kind stranger in the pub where I sought help used it as a tourniquet.  Thankfully Mum washed the kitchen towel before she saved it.)

So it should come as no surprise that my mother has a collection of my old school books. I’ve tried to encourage her to throw them away but all my attempts have failed and Mum has a library of my compilations – from the days when I could barely write “see Jane run” to the present day when I have had exclusive features published in the Daily Mirror.

Every now and then, under the pretence of clearing her “rubbish” – her word, not mine – she will leaf through my greatest works, cry, laugh or both and put them into a pile of things to keep.

It was while doing this that she discovered an essay I wrote when I was nine. I was at primary school at the time. My teacher must have asked us to write about our mothers because I composed a piece describing Miss Helena (Mum). But I didn’t just describe what she looked like. I also wrote in detail about her moods and what life was like for my dad and I when she was manic and when she was depressed.

It is an insightful look into a child’s mind and how a little girl views her life with a bipolar parent. You can tell that I am aware that my mother has manic depression but what is interesting is that I don’t seem to fear her moods. By the mid-Eighties bipolar was a normal part of my life. Mummy had her breakdown and was hospitalised when I was five. I was sent to live with my grandparents in New Jersey and returned to the UK after a year. I was a precocious child so there is no way the adults in my life hid my mother’s illness from me.

The second part of my essay about my mother.

Below is a typed version of my essay. I have corrected the childish spelling mistakes. (If you want to see the unedited original have a look at the accompanying pictures.)

As Mother’s Day is celebrated in the West Indies and the US I want to remind all bipolar parents that their children are resilient. Talk to them. Be honest about your condition. (Make it age appropriate of course.) But rest assured that once they understand why Mummy or Daddy has “funny moods” they will learn to cope with it and they won’t love you any less.

That is not to say that when my mother was in the midst of her nervous breakdown in 1981 I wasn’t afraid of the disorder that surrounded me. No little child will feel secure with his or her mother ranting, raving and swearing, especially when that mother is usually so kind and gentle. What it means is that children are smarter than you think and clearly at nine-years-old I was smart enough to know that, yes, Mummy can be moody, but she is my mummy and I love her whether she is high, low or in between.

M x

Factual Description of My Mummy

My mummy is beautiful so first of all I will describe her beauty.

My mummy looks half-caste but she is not. My mummy has red, black, brown, gold and grey hair. (I have the red and black, brown and grey hair bit.)

My mummy has brown eyes and a flat nose, with lovely, lovely soft lips. My mummy is between slim and fat. My mummy is beautiful in my eyes because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Secondly, I will describe my mum’s kindness. My mum is very kind because she loves me, buys me clothes every day and has sent me to such a nice school with such nice teachers. My mum’s kindness has made me feel happy even if it has not to you [sic] because kindness is in the heart of the beholder.

Now I will describe my mummy’s moods. My mum has very funny moods. When my mummy is happy she will either cry or dance and sing. When my mummy is sad she either cries or reads her Bible or prays. When my mummy is angry she cries and sometimes goes to sleep.

When my mummy is all these things my daddy and I join in with my mummy and now you can guess her name – Helena L Charles.