Sometimes Blue is just Blue

Subbing in a high school language arts classroom recently, my thoughts turned toward symbolism in literature. And the fact that I don’t use it heavily in my own writing made me ponder a few things.

For those of you whose stint with literature in high school isn’t as recent as mine, let me refresh your memory.

The teacher would stop the reading of a story, play or novel and stare over the tops of reading glasses and ask, “Why was the room blue?”

Most of the time, I’m guessing the author made the room blue because they liked blue. Or maybe it reminded them of their character’s eyes or the bright orbs of the husky next door.

“Because the woman’s getting depressed.” This from the geeky person who always raised her hand when the teacher asked a question. (Hermione Granger or even me back in the day.)

Blue often symbolizes depression. Which I totally don’t get because a blue sky can make me content and happy faster than just about anything else.

The Story

The two freshman classes were reading “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst.

This story of two brothers is set in the 1910s. It’s narrated by the older brother, and chronicles the brothers’ journey to make the sick and invalid younger brother “just like all the normal boys” when he starts school.

The Symbol

You might guess from the title that the symbol is the ibis. What the heck is an ibis? Glad you joined the freshmen in asking such an important question. An ibis is a tropical bird.

However, if you look up different meanings for the color red or scarlet, you might see that it is often used to symbolize things: like blood, for example.

In the story, a scarlet ibis shows up in the tree outside of the boys’ home and drops to the ground: dead. The younger (invalid) brother is highly affected and decides to bury the bird. His mother warns him that to touch it would bring the death curse on himself. So he manipulates it with a rope.

This is foreshadowing, of course. And when the final image of the story in the younger brother bleeding from his nose beneath a red bush, it’s clear that the author used the bird and the color of its plumage as a symbol.

Sometimes the symbols are obvious. Other times they’re more obscure.

If they’re obscure, I tend to wonder if they are reader created rather than author intended.

After all, if I’m going to use symbolism, wouldn’t it be most effective if it was clear and plain?

Literary fiction is rife with symbolism. The genres I write? Not so much.

This reflection made me wonder if readers enjoyed the odd symbol now and again. Would they want the woman to be wearing a green shirt when she learned a new skill? Did they understand the plot and arcs better when symbols were used?

I can only speak for myself. A well-done symbol is fine, and even interesting or enlightening when it’s well-executed. Making the murderer wear black just because black is the color of death? Not so much.

There must be a point to it. A point other than using symbolism for the sake of symbolism.

Is symbolism important to you when you read? Does it add to your enjoyment? Does it add extra dimension to the story? Or is it something you pay very little attention to?

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Emotional Fatigue Syndrome: Yes, it feels chronic

Things happen. Sometimes these events bring joy and laughter. Or “The Imperial March” plays while the Force wreaks doom and destruction.

Life always brings us both. Maybe not in equal doses, but if there was only gloom, we’d lay down and quit. I’ve tried this a few times. Apparently, I haven’t found the correct person to submit my letter of resignation to yet *shrugs*

When life mimics and emotional roller coaster, fatigue sets in.

Some of you might love the thrill of the sudden drops and twists of a roller coaster. Me? I’ll pass. Hand me the camera. I’ll snap a shot or two while you’re hanging upside down on the loop-de-loop.

Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia

Unfortunately, I don’t have the option of being a bystander on life’s roller coaster. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to just watch. Life is meant to be lived. You never know if you’ll get 10 years or 100, so it’s best to ride it for all it’s worth.

Sometimes my car needs to take a break though. My emotions aren’t built for the constant rubber-banding from one extreme to another. Finished a novel – success. Mom’s on hospice – disillusionment.

When it goes on for months, I feel like puking my tears and laughter out just so my chest can be empty for once. Numb. Not wrung like a dishtowel stuck in the agitator.

Two funerals in a week – sadness. Positive feedback from beta readers – encouragement. Interning the ashes – devastation. Waking up early to be reminded of the emptiness – bleak. Finishing the revisions on schedule – accomplishment. Ordering the sign for the memorial garden – lost.

And on and on it goes. Until my Emotional Fatigue Syndrome kicks into high gear, meaning I’m laid out flat. Sleep, yes please, rather than doing anything else. Sleep, not when it’s dark and quiet and everyone else snoozes.

Every muscle aches. How many times can I be thrown into that safety bar across my lap? Apparently, one more. Until my diaphragm is damaged, and I can no longer breathe.

Perfect. Suffocation will be better than grief. Unsurprisingly, they’re one and the same. Who knew?

The prescribed pills don’t push it back. Even the glorious sunshine struggles to keep the dark monster at bay.

How do I treat Emotional Fatigue Syndrome? Does anyone know where the lever is that shuts this emotional roller coaster off?

How Sunshine gives me a healthy self-image

Original image from self.com
Original image from self.com

I’m a product of the 80s. My generation slathered on baby oil and sat outside. We pulled out sunlamps and held them over our arms, legs and chest. It was all about bronze and beautiful back in the day.

Now we’re suffering the effects: wrinkles and skin cancer. Actually, my Native American heritage (hey ,12.5 percent counts) has offered me protection from those uglies. For now.

The latest health news espouses the benefits of Vitamin D (give yourself 10 minutes in the sun and your body will produce a day’s worth). According to one source, Vitamin D affects depression and mood, susceptibility to colon and breast cancer, osteoporosis, alleviates muscle and bone pain and aids in gum health. Even muscular sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis can be prevented by increasing your intake of Vitamin D.

I didn’t need anyone to tell me that being in the sunshine just makes me feel better. It has much less to do with having brown skin these days and more to do with feeling relaxed and energized.

For me, the proof is in the pudding. There are studies that support my findings with data, too. Stepping outside for as little as five minutes per day can boost mood and self-esteem, says an article in Psychology Today.

Other professionals recommend between 15 and 30 minutes per day of sunlight exposure to reap full benefits. I align with these folks and even declare more is better in the case of sunlight improving my self-image.

All the negativity in the media focusing on a woman’s body shape and size riddles our self-image with holes. My cure? Avoid the media and step into the sunlight. Simplistic? Perhaps, but sunshine will improve your outlook on life (and yourself), while promoting better sleep and protecting from autoimmune diseases.

Is it any wonder summer is my favorite season of the year? Who can feel discouraged when the sun tickles you with warmth?

Don’t take my word for it. Spend some time outside today. Start with five minutes sitting on your porch or following your pup around the neighborhood.

Close your eyes and tilt your face heavenward. Those warm rays will kiss your face and your lips will twist into a smile.

By all means, slather on the sunscreen if you’re going to be out there longer than 15 minutes. UV rays are linked to skin cancer in a negative way.

If you hate hot, choose your sun time early in the morning or after 7pm in the evening. A few deep breaths will help dispel any negative thoughts you carry onto your back deck.

Remember, I didn’t tell you to head to the beach to get your sun fix. Watching the skinny girls frolic in their bikinis will reverse all the positive benefits of the sunshine. I recommend soaking up your Vitamin D in the privacy of your own neighborhood.

In my experience, people are the biggest contributors to my own negative thoughts. Leave me alone with my sunshine and I’m the happiest, most well-adjusted woman on the planet.

What things improve your self-image? Share your tips here. With all the negative bombardment on our self-image, positive tips are welcomed.