devil makes work for idle hands

The signs as The Smiths lyrics

Aries: Hand in glove, the sun shines out of our behinds, No it’s not like any other love, this one’s different because it’s us! // Hand In Glove

Taurus: You shut your mouth, how can you say, I go about things the wrong way, I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does // How Soon Is Now?

Gemini:  I wish I could laugh, but that joke isn’t funny anymore, it’s too close to home, and it’s too near the bone // That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Cancer:  In my life, Why do I give valuable time, To people who don’t care if I live or die // Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

Leo: Is it wrong not to always be glad? No, it’s not wrong - but I must add, How can someone so young, Sing words so sad? // Sheila Take A Bow

Virgo:  The devil will find work for idle hands to do, I stole and I lied, and why? because you asked me to, but now you make me feel so ashamed, because I’ve only got two hands, well, I’m still fond of you // What Difference Does It Make?

Libra: How can they look into my eyes, And still they don’t believe me
How can they hear me say those words, And still they don’t believe me, And if they don’t believe me now, Will they ever believe me? // The Boy With The Thorn In His side

Scorpio: Learn to love me, Assemble the ways, Now, today, tomorrow and always, My only weakness is a list of crime, My only weakness is… well, never mind, never mind // Shoplifters Of The World Unite 

Sagittarius: Take me out tonight, Because I want to see people
And I want to see life, Driving in your car, Oh please don’t drop me home, Because it’s not my home, it’s their home, And I’m welcome no more // There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Capricorn: But we cannot cling, to the old dreams anymore, no we cannot cling to those dreams, Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body? I dunno… // Still Ill

Aquarius: And when I’m lying in my bed, I think about life and I think about death, and neither one particularly appeals to me, and if the day came when I felt a natural emotion, I’d get such a shock I’d probably lie, in the middle of the street and die // Nowhere Fast

Pisces: Last night I dreamt, That somebody loved me, No hope - but no harm, Just another false alarm // Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

Last weekend, I went to see the off-Broadway production of “Hadestown”, a 1920s-esque folk opera retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice. That’s a lot of elements for one show, but yes, really.  And it works. It’s based on a 2010 album by Anaïs Mitchell, which you can listen to here, but which is fairly different from the show as it exists now.

It is the best thing I have seen/heard/read in ages, and I want everyone I know to see it immediately so that I can talk about it with more people. Which I realize is a problem, because a) most of you don’t live in NYC, and b) it’s only running until the end of the month. So! Let me tell you about it.

The Orpheus/Eurydice plot plays out fairly close to how it does in the myth: we see them meet, fall in love through Orpheus’s music, Eurydice descends to the Underworld, Orpheus chases after her, they convince Hades and Persephone to let them leave – with, of course, the caveat that they only escape if Orpheus doesn’t look back – and then the tragic ending. The biggest change is in how important the Hades/Persephone relationship and myth is to this play; they become at least co-leads, if not the central figures.

The setting does a lot of work, though it’s more in feel and symbolism than plot points. Orpheus is the great musician, still – but he’s also a penniless romantic that is not particularly concerned with figuring out how to support himself and his new wife, which is a problem in the Depression-esque “Hard Times” of this story. His eventual look back that loses Eurydice – I don’t want to spoil too much, but whew, the show has no sympathy for him. It’s absolutely savage. In the first act, he’s strongly paralleled to Persephone. She seems to be the same sort of feckless dreamer as Orpheus, and Amber Gray, her actress, plays Persephone as a drunken flapper girl who treats summer like an unending party with her as the star. Here’s a photo.

Hades, on the other hand, is the god of work and railroads and industry and factories; “Who makes work for idle hands?” he sings at one point, and yes, he is also much more of a Devil figure here than in the original Greek myth. His underworld is a place where dead souls endlessly build a wall – there’s no particular need for a wall, you see, it’s work simply for the sake of work.

We build the wall to keep out of the enemy, Hades tells his followers, in a catechism-like song, and then asks, “What do we have that they should want?”

The response is:
“We have a wall to work upon!
We have work and they have none
And our work is never done
My children, my children
And the war is never won
The enemy is poverty
And the wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free.”

(YES I KNOW. But this song was written in 2010 and is not actually about the Trump campaign, despite any and all horrifying similarities.) Here’s a link to the show’s version of this song, which everyone should absolutely listen to.

In this version of the story, Eurydice does not so much die as sell her soul to escape hunger and cold – that’s her belting out the final verse of Why We Build the Wall, zealous in her temporary seduction by the underworld’s affluence. She and Persephone are both quite explicitly creatures kept in gilded cages, trading freedom for luxury. And they are both, in different ways, furious about the world that took away their choices. They both feel lied to by the men they’re in a relationship with (this show really has no sympathy for men in general, it’s amazing). The difference between them is that Eurydice still has hope for Orpheus, while Persephone hates Hades in the way that only comes from love that’s died.

However, Persephone is after all a goddess and vastly more powerful, and when Eurydice and Orpheus’s story has ended, hers still goes on, repeating its summer/winter cycle forever. It’s ambiguous as to how complicit she is in the humans’ fates; there’s more than a tinge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream here, the supernatural creatures playing out their own cold war through the proxy of hapless mortals. Persephone loudly announces her hatred for the underworld and Hades throughout the show, but her constant use and pushing of alcohol called to my mind the tempting forgetfulness of Styx. In one song she sings to a nameless soul, half-promising and half-mocking:

“Come here, brother, let me guess
It’s the little things you miss
Spring flowers, autumn leaves
Ask me, brother, and you shall receive.
Or maybe these just ain’t enough
Maybe you’re looking for some stronger stuff
I got a sight for the sorest eye
When’s the last time you saw the sky?”

After all, what stops you from escaping more than a little false relief?

The casting is diverse – both Eurydice and Persephone are mixed race black women, in another parallel – and all of the acting was amazing. Nabiyah Be (Eurydice) does so much with tiny facial expressions that felt like they shouldn’t carry out to the whole theater, but she was absolutely magnetizing. And I haven’t even had a chance to mention Hermes (Chris Sullivan)! He, along with the three Fates, works as narrator and storyteller and Greek (ha) chorus, and is also fantastic. Everyone was! I desperately want more people to see this, mainly for selfish reasons including but not limited to: they will write interesting meta for me to read, they will produce a cast album, they will make this the next big theater fandom.

I know it’s a bit pointless for me to recommend this, since again most of you probably won’t be able to see it, but I can’t help it but do so. It’s just so good! If you have an chance, absolutely check it out.

|| Sentence Meme || Hadestown ||

Adjust pronouns and such as needed.

  • “Lover, tell me if you can, who’s gonna buy the wedding bands?”
  • “Follow that dollar for a long way down.”
  • “You either get to hell or to Hadestown. There ain’t no difference anymore, anymore”
  • “Nobody knows where that old train goes. Those who go they don’t come back”
  • “An eye for an eye! And he weighs the cost.”
  • “A lie for a lie! And your soul for sale.”

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Dress Up in You (Trixya) - Chapter Two

A/N: Thanks for the lovely feedback on Chapter One everybody :) For those of you coming in fresh, this is a cis lesbian AU where Trixie is a theatre grad in her mid-twenties working at the mall, and Katya is the eccentric woman she meets at the bus stop.

No warnings for this chapter except for swearing and smoking, but there will be more as the story progresses. Also I saw Trixie live last week and she was amazing, and I’m seeing Katya next week, so I’m basically in Trixya paradise rn so expect plenty more where this came from!

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Are You Too Busy To Get Better?

I’ve had better Mondays. After a disappointment came a cancellation, then another one. 

Rolling around a conversation from my own therapy that morning (it’s part of ethical practice to make sure we therapists sort out our own heads to avoid any possibility of us doing so through our clients) I was reflecting on a few seemingly disparate questions which later converge in my mind into one core theme. Do we feel an entitlement to happiness? What is it that causes us to constantly fall into the same emotional holes? Why do the same things hurt us over and over again?

In modern society we are encouraged to hold dearly the belief that anything is possible, but even further, that anything is our right. If I want it, I can have it, but that’s not really the case is it?

You’d think that having identified a hole in the ground would give us the required ability to walk around it rather than tumbling into it. We scan forwards and around with our adult eyes but, in an instant, find ourselves tumbling down into the deep earth staring up at a pinhole sky feeling the same inadequacy and frustration that we felt the last time we took the fall. Slowly we begin the painstaking business of clambering out berating ourselves for being so careless and full of assurance that it won’t happen again. Until the next time.

There are many opportunities to feel pain in our lives and they largely boil down to situations in which we believe we are not enough. Not smart enough, not loved enough, not worthy enough, not strong enough. Whenever we are exposed to the situations which might invoke this emotion the pain is as vibrant and resonant as it ever was, sometimes even more so as the years pass by. 

So, we might have ever increasing expectations that life will go as we would wish it, but then we keep falling into the same holes which suggest that the world is not as straightforward as that, and then we start to ask ourselves why we can’t find happiness and keep faltering coming up with an obvious answer, it’s probably something wrong with us, we’re not enough.

The basis might lie in the past, way way back where it’s hard to see, back in our childhood selves. We might have learned that it’s better just to get on with it even when life is tough. We might have learned that strong emotions are not displayed but instead held tightly to our chests. We might have learned that the devil makes work for idle hands. We might have learned that sadness or stress or any emotional difficulty is weakness, and that weakness is a sin. We might have learned a good many things that have turned out to be unhelpful or just plain wrong.

It sometimes happens that people cancel their sessions with me because they are too busy. Too busy to recover? Perhaps what they are focused on is too important to leave alone, certainly more important than their own happiness and peace of mind clearly.

Sometimes people ask how much it costs to come and see me and, when I tell them, they go silent. Perhaps they have found another therapist better suited or cheaper or both, or perhaps they have decided that their recovery isn’t worth as much as it costs. Perhaps they just don’t believe sufficiently in the process. 

People used to tell me all the time to put testimonials on my website and I have always declined. A testimonial from someone is contextually so personal that it is rendered of zero value to anyone else, but in addition I have no interest in persuading people that they might need help. The very first step and arguably the most important one is to recognise that you need something, you might not know exactly what, but you know that help is required. It is this central conflict between wanting to be enough and feeling we are not which can prevent us from stepping in and pulling ourselves from the fire.

This is not to suggest that all therapy with all therapists is successful because it plainly isn’t, but it is true that many clients abandon the ship long before it has reached the port. Our expectation that improvement is needed and it must happen now combines with our continued predisposition to fall into the same holes and we figure that our therapy isn’t working. When we overlay that with the underlying belief that going to therapy in the first place is at best a bit self indulgent and at worst a huge sledgehammer to crack a tiny nut we don’t sail much further before we leap out into the lifeboats making urgently for the shore we only recently left. A combination of feeling something isn’t working fast enough and that we’re not worth it anyway is an intoxicating mix strong enough to pull us out of any chair or off any couch.

Therapeutic work can be very challenging because there is no prescriptive requirement as to what you must look at, talk about, examine. The client can control how far we both look together and can keep hidden what it feels too frightening to reveal. It is predictably in the painful and frightening revelations that change tends to happen most enduringly, but even then fast paced change is far from a certainty. 

One of the most clearly frustrating aspects of any emotional therapy is that once a problem is brought into sharp relief the breaking it down, dismantling, correcting, adjusting, circumnavigating can be a process which frequently appears painfully difficult. Like a ball floating in a stream, bobbing gently, going nowhere but just agonisingly out of reach we are faced again with the contrast between the world as it is and the world as we would want it to be. To retrieve the ball might require sitting patiently until the wind changes direction and blows it toward us, and the alternative is to relinquish the need to get the ball back at all and instead turn attention to that which is reachable. Patience and acceptance are perhaps two of the most valuable tools we have in the box.

Sometimes a problem emerges into the room that at first sight looks to be impenetrable. Death and ageing are two such examples. What are we to do about either? To set about changing them is as pointless as holding the hands of a clock and expecting time to stand still. Similarly a realisation after sometimes many years that change is required is unlikely to be satisfied in an instant.

Talking to my friend Martin yesterday our discussion turned to the topic of this blog. As a recovering alcoholic now over three years into his recovery he offered a pithy but accurate insight into why it might take us time to make changes. “It takes practice to fuck up” he told me. Yes, yes it does, it is rarely the case that we wake up one morning and find that the world has fallen apart, we have to work hard to make it fall apart through our strong held negative beliefs, through our systematic self abandonment and destruction, through our refusal to acknowledge what is good in preference for a focus on all that isn’t. To stay in one depleted state for months and years takes great skill and practice because as human beings we are constantly changing so to stall the change in favour of remaining solidly less than we are takes effort. What is true for the physical is true for the emotional. 

When I was a small boy I used to love to sit with my father watching TV. I would hold his hand and run my finger idly along the rough skin of his index finger. It was soothing and comforting. A short while after he died I realised that I had scratched a similar patch on my own index finger presumably so that I could feel the comfort and connection I had lost. It took me consistent effort to create that assimilation of my lost father and now I have a scar there which I sometimes find myself rubbing. If I wanted the skin to heal I would need more than a couple of days because I have created something lasting and substantial and we do the same to ourselves emotionally. But having created the emotional mark, wound, scar we can have an expectation that it should improve instantly otherwise whatever we are doing must be failing.

Whatever you do in life you might have to give yourself a chance to get the result you desire. It might take money, it might take time and it might take both but most of all it will take faith. It might well take faith in someone else but it will definitely take faith in yourself. Whatever you do don’t undervalue yourself and convince yourself that everything is important apart from you.

Every day there are reminders of the fragility of life. Earlier this week Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes died after being hit by a ball. The impact of such a tragic event is far wider than simply the loss of a young life not yet in full bloom. There is nothing that he can do anymore but for everyone left, however deep the grief and pain, hope endures, always. Never snuff it out.