Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Mystery of Two Dorothy/ Dorothea Dixes, both with Mental Health History Issues

Continuing w/ the matter of the Dorothy Dix, who wrote a column in the New Orleans Times-Picayne at the turn of the last century.  She was NOT the DOROTHEA Dix who earlier worked w/ the mentally ill.  This DOROTHY Dix, a pen name she chose as directed by her editor, 'The Major', had this birth name: Elizabeth Meriweather (descended, as I said previously from Meriwether Lewis of Lewis & Clark fame). 

From page 59-60: (in being directed by the editor of the paper to choose a pen name for her Sunday column, w/ she living in New Orleans, having left her mentally ill unstable husband who could not keep a job and had temper control issues):

"....Dorothy Dix....she liked the sound the sound of the words, and so did the Major (the editor), and that was it. Not until years passed did she hear about Dorothea Dix, the New Englander, who worked so devotedly to obtain fairer treatment for the mentally ill.  The newspaper woman's sly adoption of a similar name was no sly allusion, as some thought, to her husband's illness.

Well, isn't this curious? Its as if the younger Dorothy Dix was being 'directed' by the older Dorothea Dix to move in a certain direction...the claiming of her own life, snatching it away from the untoward influence of her mentally ill husband. 

And so Dorothy Dix writes:

"I stood yesterday.  I can stand today. And I will not permit myself to think about what might happen tomorrow."

And like myself, and this blog, referring to Dickens' character, Madame Defarge, the old crone purling away as the heads rolled off the guillotine of the French Revolution, "Nobody could spend a few hours with her without hearing something about a Dickens character." (p. 28)

"....By the time she was fifteen she was putting out her own private newspaper, making herself 'proprieter, editor, contributor, compositor, and sole subscriber..." (p. 31).

And as this Dorothy Dix recognized that she would never have any domestic stability due to her husband's mental instability, dragging them from city to city whereupon he lost job after job, she resigned herself to having no children---a woman who very much wanted children.  And her father, upon seeing how she was suffering, took her to the Mississippi Gold Coast for a long holiday when she was in her early 30's.  Her neighbor introduced her into the Times-Picayne as she resolved that hard work was the only antidote to her sorrow:

"The only panacea for grief is to keep so busy that you have no time to think of your sorrow, and to work so hard that you sleep at night through sheer exhaustion. I know, for I travelled the dark road for thirty-five years, and I should have gone crazy if I'd had enough time to do it."

"Dear Dorothy Dix" : Muse for the 21st Century

Part I: Its a funny thing: I lost my muse re: this  blog: too much work/ little inspiration. 

Part II: I was at the Grove Park Arcade Wine and Book Bar this evening....Val leggings and a short black skirt...looking pretty hot....looking thru the NC books section and whadyaknow: stumbled across a lost muse whose name floats across NC re: tearing down her mental health hospital (her husband of 40 years had a mental health challenge which inspired her column of 'Dear Dorothy Dix' at the New Orleans Times-Picayne---not her real name---she was a descendent of the Merriweathers..ya got that right...Meriwether Lewis of Lewis & Clark fame).  Her friends implored her to leave him time and again but she would not.

The subtitle of the book was laughable once you start to look at what and how she wrote:  "Dear Dorothy Dix: The Story of a Compassionate Woman."  I ASK YOU: what is it about the South that sentences women to the lesser of emotions, in terms of action.  The woman was a FIREBRAND.  To suit, the author was a man, Harnett T. Kane; the book written in 1952. 

She was no wilting rose/ pitiful petunia.  On page 7 of the book is her written word, moving through time, with imagination and potency:

"I have been through the depth of poverty and sickness...I have known want and struggle and anxiety and despair...As I look back upon my life I see it as a battlefield strewn with the wrecks of dead dreams and broken hopes and shattered illusions----a battle in which I always fought with the odds tremendously against me, and which has left me scarred and bruised and maimed and old before my time.

But I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading the morrow.  it is the dark menace of the picture that makes cowards of us. I put that dread from me because experience has taught me that when the time comes that I so fear, the strength and wisdom to meet it will be given me."

And SO: I determine that THIS year, 2014, will be associated with a channeling of that muse, Dorothy Dix.  Dear Dorothy Dix: we have so many problems in NC associated with mental health issues.  Thank you, in advance, for your quiet, solid, potent suggestions.  We'll be getting back to you very soon. 

And so, as re: muses, here is one of my favorite songs about the matter, by Loudon Wainwright III (his father was the famous photographer for LIFE magazine for many decades; his son, Rufus, was a 'tit man' (his dad's term, sorry), and is an openly gay musician.  Last time I saw Loudon was in Atlanta about three years ago when he was amazingly, on the stage, w/ Richard Thompson.  What a funny duo: two tremendously talented men, coming from completely different folk music traditions....

Here's Loudon's Muse Blues:

I went down to the library, you know
The big one way downtown
I went down to the library
You know the big one way downtown

I pulled out my spiral notebook
And my Scripto pencil
These are the words
I did put down

I'm a dud firecracker, I ain't got any fuse
I ain't got no inspiration since I lost my muse
I'm a table with two legs, I'm a spider with five
I'm going down, slow muse, when will you arrive?

Oh muse, where are you?
Oh muse, where are you?
You know I eat, drink and I smoke stuff
I don't know what to do, I don't know what to do

Went to the mountain and the desert too
I was there, ladies, so where were you?
I'm a flattened out wave, I ain't got any curl
I'm an empty old oyster, I ain't got any pearl

Muse, where are you?
Oh muse, where are you?
You know I eat, drink and I smoke stuff
I don't know what to do

Sit up late, stay up, wait
That's a rule of thumb, she's got to come
Sit up late, stay up, wait

I take lots of cold showers and I go for long walks
I wait for a pitch but the fickle bitch barks
Took a shot of whiskey and a snort of cocaine
Opened up my head and stuck electrodes in my brain

Oh muse, where are you?
Oh muse, where are you?
Yeah, I eat, drink and I smoke stuff
Eat, drink and I smoke stuff
Eat, drink and I smoke stuff
I don't know what to do