Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thanks to strangers

Sorry to be MIA again. Depression sucks, and it's hard to write when you're depressed. I'm sure a lot of writers get that.

We lost two people recently who vastly improved the quality of my life, and, I imagine, countless others. Sheila Michaels single-handedly led the campaign to use an acronym/prefix, Ms., that didn't indicate a woman's marital status. I emailed my dad, who is the first feminist I ever met, her obituary and he replied: "Why haven't I heard of her?"

Like so many others, she was lost to history. I hadn't heard of her, either.

When I was little, I asked my grandmother, "What does 'ms' mean?"
She replied, "That's if you can't decide if you want to be a 'miss' or a 'missus.'" I found that pretty amusing, but then realize now that in her generation, those were the choices. Period, end of story.

Sheila Michaels created a movement nothing short of revolutionary - the idea that a woman had an identity outside of her legalized romantic relationships.

To children's book author Michael Bond I owe much. I read the Paddington Bear books as an adult during a time when my world was so stressful and chaotic that I could only handle reading something light and fluffy - or so I thought. There is a gentle humor in these volumes and a deep emphasis on lasting friendship. And, the idea that you can accidentally flood a house, or cover important papers in marmalade and still be loved is a pretty damn decent one.

A few months after I started reading those books, I was hospitalized for a week. Paddington - a stuffed one - was the only bit of cheer in my room.

The Paddington books create a safe, happy place, one that we can sometimes only find in our imagination.

Distraction can be a lifesaver. I imagine that isn't just the case for me, but for many others.

 

15 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

I adored the Paddington Bear series - and still reread them in dark times.
And I too hadn't heard of Sheila Michaels until she left us. We are the poorer for their loss, and richer for their presence in our world.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I heard of Michael Bond's passing but not of Sheila Michaels. Nor did I know that she coined the title "Ms". Thanks for the info . . . I feel a post coming on! Hugs to you, Riot Kitty.

HBF said...

Sad to hear and good to learn of these names :o)

Charles Gramlich said...

Sorry for these losses. I read a few of the Paddington bear works to my son. It's always interesting to learn about what books touched the people I know.

lgsquirrel said...

Sorry that you've been going through a dark time. I hope you can find your way to the sunlight and the love and laughter of friends.

I identify more with Winnie the Pooh rather than Paddington and it may not surprise you that my favorite was Eeyore.

Lee said...

I'd not heard of Sheila Michaels, either...not that I'm consciously aware of, anyway. But I thank her for "Ms"...I think it is brilliant. I always use it to denote what gender I am if corresponding with persons/companies who do not know me personally. With a name like mine...it can be confusing to some, not knowing if I'm female or male. So to not cause them embarrassment I add "Ms" after my name when the situation warrants.

I've never read Paddington Bear books, but I know they are much loved as was/is the now late author.

Take good care, RK...chin up. :)

Abby said...

Distraction can be a wonderful thing. I enjoyed reading Paddington Bear books to my kids, and until now, I never thought about the originator of "Ms."
It's nice to hear from you Ms. Riot Kitty.

Jono said...

Yes, distraction works, but sometimes I need help finding it. If I don't I keep wallowing or going farther down.
I thought that Ms was the one of the coolest things because of the statement such a simple thing could make. Never been big on titles of any sort, though. I'll raise a glass to Sheila.

Granny Annie said...

I remember when the term "Ms" greatly changed the workplace correspondence. It was always used when writing a woman whose marital status we didn't know and then it created a firestorm when they were married and hated the term Ms. LOL

G. B. Miller said...

Because I work in such a hyper-sensitive/politically correct environment, it is almost mandatory not to use formal titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.) when addressing people. Sad if you think about it.

Regarding Paddington Bear, while I didn't read the books, I did enjoy the live action children's series based on it.

I Are Writer!

Lynn said...

I love Paddington - I was sad to hear of the author's death. And I remember the Ms. movement, but not her name. My new cleaning lady was insisting on calling me Miss Lynn - I would flinch every time and asked her to please just call me Lynn. She told me it was a sign of respect on her part, so I let it go. But I noticed she switched to Ms. Lynn, which I suppose is better. :)

klahanie said...

Positive distractions and seeking out resources that help, an excellent tonic. Verbalising your valid thoughts via your blog can be cathartic and therapeutic.

I wish and because of my own mental health situation, I was hospitalised for five weeks with no visitors. Yet, I've done my best to not let depression overwhelm my life.

Wishing you well, my friend. I shall now go back and answer your question on seahorses.

Gary

Ileana said...

Wish depression would just disappear. It really sucks...although your post is sweet (love the Paddington Bear story). You left me wanting to browse through some of those books in the children's section next time I'm at the bookstore. I feel the way you feel about Paddington with The Berenstain Bears. I always wished I could live in a tree. lol Anyway, I'm back to blogging...at least for now and thought of you. Miss you and Joey and I wonder if Naomi is still blogging. Hugs and much love to you, m'dear!

CraveCute said...

Had not heard of Ms. Michaels either, thanks for bringing this to our attention. Women often get forgotten in the greater scheme of things. I've been wondering how people with depression have been dealing with our current politics. I mean, I've been mildly depressed since last November, that's no joke. Thank goodness for good books, movies etc. Some of those help us remove the sad thoughts for a few hours at least. Trying to find joy in everyday things and each other will get us through. Sending warm thoughts your way RK!

A Beer For The Shower said...

I hadn't heard of her either, but I can appreciate her contribution to the world. I don't even like the title Mr. It just sounds way too stuffy and professional. I STILL enjoy Paddington... I don't need a 'Mr.' or a 'sir' anywhere near my general vicinity.