By Maggie May Ethridge
In the news:a father, a mother at sixteen, a thirteen year old charged as an adult, a dog trapped in the sewer system, these five men, this famous singer, faulty wiring, a family torn apart by this devastating lie, a baby, a toddler, a car accident, a horrible accident no one could have predicted it it just happened, a man who did something good for a woman, a man who did something bad to three women, a horrible accident everyone predicted it still happened.
Remember to carry your sadness inside.
Do not bury it. Carry it. Remember to let it go occasionally and watch it fall apart at your feet. Remember to dance on its grave. Allow time for slow motion, disco, modern and robot dance maneuvers. Remember to lift the corners of your mouth enough to prevent an entire day of What’s wrong? Remember everyone has an answer to that question. Constantly address the present moment, like Hey what’s up PM? What’s happening? You chill? Check out the PM’s dress, manner, body language and if the PM is a dirty rat bastard, address it with the steely, dignified acceptance and enduring faith of someone you wish you are, someone you read about in a Robert Parker or Joyce Carol Oates novel, and are sure you will become more like if you just keep pretending.
Wear appropriate shoes. Find something small that is beautiful and carry it with you, like a rainbow keychain, a necklace of gold, your nails in chevron stripes. Glance at it all day. When The Sadness becomes a fish flapping nastily on the riverbank, reach back deeply into your throat, pull it out, flog it repeatedly while cursing in a loud and vigorous manner until breaking a sweat and becoming red of face and neck. When properly flogged, sternly yet quickly lecture The Sadness on it’s proper place in your life, being a good example for the children, remembering how much you actually have, that you are not special, Sad Fish, just another Sad Fish- actually a lot LESS sad than many in the river, and shove the flat and emasculated fish back into your gut, where it will hopefully remain meek and subdued for quite some time, or at least long enough to get you through this thing you have to do or that other thing that must be done, or the kids are in bed.
Possible containment of The Sadness through medium glass of wine, which will either bring forth unencumbered weeping- therefore preventing public doing so- or giggling ridiculousness. Let is be made clear that giggling and ridiculousness are both highly desirable and should be sought after as much as possible.***Do not make mistake of assuming the drink can kill The Sadness, and fall into the wishitwere’s. The drink cannot kill The Sadness, but when misued, can feed the Sad Fish until it is bloated, enormous and agitated, unable to be properly sorted, flogged or carried. The Sad Fish may, in this case, with scales of liquor and beer, lay eggs. In this case, you are truly fucked, until you make your way to a vigorously practicing AA meeting, rehab, or a spiritual experience.***Consume as much material as possible re: survival. Include: children’s stories, YA fiction, poetry, French films, 80’s and 90’s American dramatic films, any marvelous novel, classical, gospel, folk, alternative music, memoirs, certain TED lectures and face to face discussions. Consume as much happiness as possible and is available.
FATAL MISTAKE: to begrudge happiness because you are angry/disenchanted/hurt/exhausted/sickofit or the worst of all: feeling sorry for yourself. FSFY is a known killer, causing Sad Fish to lay eggs, causing normal living humans to become the walking dead. Unable to appreciate or acknowledge the good things and people around them out of a stubborn sense of being singled out in life for pain or fear of losing focus on the shitty things and/or people’s sympathy for them, FSFY causes severe uglification and decay of the soul, slowly poisoning a person until they vomit up their Sad, Dead Fish, and eat it while hissing brains, brainsssssss.
FSFY must be avoided at all costs. Better to become a Sickeningly Positive Person than a FSFY.
FSFY’s do not get great sex, great friends, family that likes them or even dogs that adore them. FSFY’s are toxic to normal human beings and are not allowed past the sitting room. Think ridiculous thoughts that make you chuckle to yourself, even if you must look around nervously afterward, feeling stupid and wondering if anyone heard you. Lay in grass in sunshine. Take hot baths and read. Watch hilarious movies and shows. Be around children often. Help someone else, every day. When you want to growl, bark or bite at your family or friends, slap yourself, begin again. It’s exactly like your damn mother told you: practice, practice, practice. No one becomes great at being sad without a shitload of effort.
Remember The Sadness is going to be a part of your life, forever. Why? Was that you, in the corner with the green headphones, ear piercing and energy drink who asked that? Because you were the lucky winner of life. You got chosen to be alive. Life is a package deal. It comes with The Sadness. It begins the first time we feel the sharp and salty tang of loss, yearning and frustration as an infant, and let out a wail.
Have sex you wanted to but were afraid to. Do yoga. Stretch. Instead of walking to your car, skip. You will feel ridiculous. And better. You will find those two words often go together; if you want to feel better, you have to be willing to be ridiculous. Take out your Sad Fish, put glasses and a hat on him, and dance with his short rubbery little arms in yours. Carpe Sad Fish! Later he’ll be so tired you will have an hour of peace. When you wake up every morning, slap water on your face and say to your reflection ‘ Well, you ain’t no prize. ‘ This keeps you in check, and lessens possibility of FSFY.
Then smile at yourself and say “Well, on the other hand, you ain’t a piece of shit, either.”
Maggie May Ethridge is a novelist, poet and freelance writer from the deep South who has lived most of her life in San Diego, CA. She has an Ebook coming out in January with the new publishing company Shebooks ” Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From A Marriage ” and is completing her second novel. She has been published in magazines both on and offline in places like Diagram, The Nervous Breakdown, Equals Record and blogs regularly at Flux Capacitor.
The tattoo was sent to Maggie by a Flux reader who used Sad Fish to get through a dark year and ended up putting the words on her body- an ultimate compliment: The enduring faith of someone you wish you were.