In 1998, a film called "Living Out Loud" had its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival.
I guess you would call it a small film. The liner notes of the soundtrack describe it as a "closet musical." But size doesn't matter because this film features a cast of enormous talents – Danny DeVito, who sings a rather lovely upbeat rendition of George and Ira Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me," plus Holly Hunter and the sensational Queen Latifah in jazz mode. The soundtrack also includes other legendary jazz greats – I'm listening to it right now as Queen Latifah belts out the classic Billy Stayhorn song Lush Life.
Life can have its lush moments if you recognize them. Life is lots of moments, a series of moments. I try to make the best of each one and forget about the others.
The music is not why I'm writing about this film. Or even the story, about a woman (Hunter) breaking out of her old self and the woman she thought she was before her husband leaves her. Free and on her own, she discovers who she really is along with a humble guy (DeVito) who falls for her.
The point is, everyone in this film (even Latifa) learns to "live out loud" a little – move closer to their essential essence, become a tad more self-accepting – and they're each liberated by these experiences in their own unique ways. You walk out not only humming the songs, but the story.
That's what I've discovered as I've learned to live my life out loud. That getting closer to who I really am, knowing myself, also leads to self-acceptance. This come from Living Out Loud and enables me the freedom to Live Out Loud.
Believe me, it's taken years. Hundreds, probably thousands of hours of psychotherapy. Processing. Psychic pain. Insight-gathering. Learning. It's an education – my PhD in me – that's taken practically my whole life. And I know I'll never graduate with any degree.
But it's worth it.
It means that I'm not afraid of myself when I look in the mirror. Nor do I hate myself. Naked, even. I like what I see. And my nakedness is no Vogue magazine moment. Not pretty. Trust me. Just me. All of me. At two-weeks shy of 61. Lumps, bumps, scars, creases, wrinkles – and one perfectly exquisite smile. :)
I will not try to convince you to live your life the way I live mine. How could I? That's the height of pretension. You live your life as comfortably as you can, your way. Not my way.
But that doesn't preclude moving beyond your comfort zone once in a while. I do. And it does mean that you and your life can change. Nothing in life if static. Every day is different.
I trained myself to live out loud on airplanes. Flying solo. I love engaging with people I know I'll never see again. I don't ever lie. Quite the opposite. I'm brutally honest and I've learned that most people are very open to visceral truth telling. They like to tell their stories, too, and often they like listening to yours. Conversations can be fascinating.
Many years ago, when I used to fly down to Florida to spend time with my parents, I started practicing "coming out" on the two and a half hour flight to Fort Lauderdale. It felt good and always ended with an easy, "Have a great time."
I may have a bit of an advantage, as a journalist. But not really. I'm just curious about other people. Curiosity, I think, may be "contagious" – like yawning.
So, over the years, I've lived out loud – louder and louder. To the point where I have almost no secrets. Except my weight. My doctors don't even know that. Just my husband.
As for the events of my life, no secrets at all. No lies, either. That's what 49-years of divulging to a professional listener does to you. It's natural to talk, honestly, to listen and to process – the key word. Process.
So you might say I'm extraordinarily aware of life with my mental illness in all its guises and permutations. I'm also aware of my mental health. And my weaknesses and strengths. That's healthy, too. And all the stuff I want to work on.
It's a life-long journey. And on the cusp of 61, I'm no poster girl for "Sixty is the new 40." Nope, I'm proud of every grey hair on my salt and pepper head. Wouldn't dream of a dye job. I'm no slave to the scale and I feel 25. That's what counts to me.
How I feel. How do you feel?
I hope when this Mental Illness Awareness Week ends – tomorrow on October 10, which happens to be World Mental Health Day – I hope that you can feel good to be you. If you have a diagnosis, you're not alone.
This year, the British Mental Health Foundation is theming their World Mental Health Day as an opportunity for Tea and Talk – Have a natter. Change lives. (It's a fundraiser, but don't worry about that part.)
I like that. Why not give it a try. Have "a cuppa" with a good friend. Or make a friend over "a cuppa." Or throw a little Tea Party.
The best thing you can consider doing is taking a page out of the British Mental Health Foundation book and connect with someone. Do something to have a good day.
Try celebrate being you!
And spend a minute or three "Living Out Loud!"
Be truly, deeply and madly you!