This is me, Sharon Lyn Stackpole, when I was four. I dressed myself about as well then as I do now. My mother and my grandmother are pushing me in my little swing, because even then I was really good at delegating. I’m a past journalist, past public official, sometime pianist and always have been, always will be, an artist.
I’m sharonlyn9 on Twitter.
“How is it that you have a pacemaker? You’re so young.”
I have tachy-brady syndrome. My heart stops when I sleep. I also have atrial flutter. Between calcium channel blockers and a pacemaker — ablation being unsuccessful — I was told my rhythm is now as close to normal as they’ll ever get it. Somehow, that sounds perfectly within my character.
There is a family history. I lost my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother early, each to fatal heart attacks, in my childhood. My pacemaker was implanted in 2004, when I was in my thirties.
I am a You’re the Cure Heart Health advocate for the American Heart Association. I’ve lobbied on Capitol Hill for stronger legislation on heart health issues.
On a personal level, I’ve had to educate many doctors personally on how common it is for women my age to have cardiac issues. You’d be surprised, really you would.
“Are you a writer?”
If you mean have I ever been paid for what I wrote, the answer is yes. I have worked as a stringer, columnist, reporter and sometime copy editor (in more or less that order). I have been a freelance writer for Wonderful West Virginia magazine. I write poetry, fiction and short narratives for the Art House Co-Op in Brooklyn, NY.
“Are you an artist?”
If you like to look at the world in your own way and not the way you’re necessarily told to; if you dream in color, and love music, and believe in the power of imagination even after you’ve (chronologically) grown up, — congratulations! You’re an artist.
An artist is someone who enjoys looking at the world through their own eyes, not someone else’s. Artists grant themselves the right to feel what they feel, when they feel it. And then they can turn it into something compellingly beautiful — if they so choose. Everything in life, from the said quality to the outcome, it’s all choice. You know it’s so.
Yes. I am an artist.
I am also an affiliate member of the Global Art Agency.
“Are you a musician?”
Now we get to the difficult question. Now I understand why others hesitate when asked, “Are you a writer?” “Are you an artist?” Because this is the one I want so badly to call myself and I also can’t really claim it.
Yes and no.
I have always played music. From my earliest memory I played a lap harp and then a tiny plug-in organ (there wasn’t a piano in the house for a long time). I taught myself to play by ear, mimicking songs I heard on the radio by approximating the patterns in major and minor though at the time I didn’t know the technical terms. I thought of the notes as outward (major) or inward (minor). Also, the notes seemed to have hues in my mind and that made it easier.
Music to me seemed the most beautiful way to articulate emotion in a way that words and even image could not, though the latter two complement very well.
The first time I learned about music composition, it was akin to a biology class and dissecting a frog. A bit awkward, but I did catch on to it.
When I turned fourteen my grandfather bought me a piano and paid for piano lessons. I loved this, but could not resist improvising on my lessons because the habit by then was too deeply ingrained. I did not do well in formal instruction.
One of my big surprises in growing up and meeting formally trained musicians was realizing how much many of them deeply resent people who don’t take sight reading and form seriously. I had to cover the window of my practice door at the university with a piece of paper when I practiced my piano every day in Morgantown because the other pianists could be so verbally mean through the walls and I didn’t want them to know who I really was.
I say I am a pianist on my Twitter bio, but I don’t think of myself as a musician. I’m quick to admit I am not formally trained and my playing is deeply flawed. I only played the music that was in my heart, which was the music of my grandparents and their siblings. After they passed on, I couldn’t feel them listening any more, and it’s been very difficult to bring myself to play the piano since.
So my answer would have to be: I don’t know.
“Don’t you feel self-conscious having people know everything about your business?”
I could, but why start now?
Of course I do. But someone has to take the first step in sharing. Might as well be me.
“Why did you first get involved in politics?”
Which reason would you accept?
I held a municipal office from 2003-2010.
I’m a registered independent (non-partisan).
I got involved in politics because the town needed a municipal Recorder, and the person they wanted wasn’t interested, and that person suggested me. In other words, I was second choice, but I was okay with that. I thought it would be interesting to be on the other side of the desk for a change. And it was. I enjoyed my job very much. It felt good to be a part of something — to feel as if I was effecting positive change.
I’m not in municipal politics any more. Like newspaper journalism, it was more of a time and a place kind of thing. There’s always another path to take.
“Where did you go to school?”
First, Fairmont State, which was a wonderful school and I can’t say enough good things about it. Then, for no good reason I can name except that it was bigger, I transferred after one year to this very quiet, sedate place called West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia.
I studied art (not English). I wore black. I meditated. I danced with wolves. Sort of. Mostly, the ones in my head. Those are the very worst kind — the ones you can’t escape, not ever. I couldn’t tame mine, so I made them at least wear silly hats so I wouldn’t be fooled into taking them too seriously. I know that I am my own worst enemy sometimes.
“I like your drawings and paintings. I wish I enjoyed art like I used to….long story but I was almost an art major. When it became “work” though, it seemed less enjoyable.”
Oddly enough, I think “almost an art major” is what my college adviser wrote on my permanent file. I’m being facetious, of course. I love my college adviser, even still. We’re friends. I understand, and I felt the same way, at the time. I very much disliked the idea of creation as an assignment. I still do.
I can’t participate in a forced anything, and that includes art. Art school was a sort of …boot camp for me, on many levels, which may be one reason why I just didn’t complete it. I still have dreams about it, and probably will to my dying days.
“Your blog is so personal. Is it just for friends and family?”
“I never met a reader I didn’t like.” –Will Rogers. It’s not just for friends and family, but also for complete strangers. Which is totally dangerous, but that’s the way I like to live.
“Do you have depression? And if you do, why are you talking about it?”
Why wouldn’t I talk about it, is the real question. I think that’s part of the problem: jillions of people are going around pretending they aren’t depressed when they are, and saying they’re fine when they’re not, and then they worry that they’re crazy, when they’re anything but crazy; they’re just lonely, because they’re not telling the truth, no one is.
We all go around with our masks on pretending to be okay but the truth is, life is difficult and love is a gamble and we’re going to care a lot about people whether they reciprocate or not.
So really, look at it another way. You’re not crazy. You’re brave. Why? Because you’re still here.
Face it. All of this life is tremendously difficult to navigate, and on any given day who can say how responsible anyone is going to be with everyone on their dance card? It’s scary.
I talk about it partially because I’m whistling in the dark and it makes me feel better, but also because if I feel it then surely someone else feels it too.
And then also: the only thing worse, for me, than feeling miserable: is feeling miserable and alone. So okay then — at least you aren’t alone. That’s something, isn’t it?
“Your blog is so honest. How do you find the courage?”
If you only knew how fearful I am, all of the time! ~ I sometimes put up a cover page on my blog for a little while, when I go through a stage (it happens from time to time) when I don’t want to make it quite so easy for everyone to see what I’ve written. In a few days I’ll change it back again, once the mood passes.
I have had other people ask me, though, and it’s funny, because to me nothing I write seems all that brave or revealing. You should see the writing I do that I *don’t* post! It’s even stronger and more direct, if that seems possible. I guess a lot of vulnerability still comes through in a lot of what I put out there.
It does leave me at an emotional disadvantage, but I do it anyway because I reason that if I feel it, someone else has felt it, and if I say it first, maybe that person will feel a little less alone.
For myself nothing as felt so awful as the feeling that I’m completely alone in the world. And unfortunately, even now, I have that feeling a lot. But also I can’t help feeling that no one is really reading what I write anyway.
I don’t get a lot of comments, so I really have no idea who reads or what they think about what they read, which is, I imagine, probably a good thing. I’m not very brave. I probably just lack the filter everyone else has.
This quote (which has become my favorite) was given to me by one of my first bosses, who most unfortunately died of a heart attack on the tennis court some years ago. (I read about it in an AP release, on the job, while I was working as a reporter at the News-Register. And I said, “Hey, I know that guy. Er,…knew that guy.”)
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” — T.H. White (The Once and Future King)
…So I make it my aim to go out there every day and try to learn something. And avoid tennis courts at all costs.