photo(1)Did you know that Walt Disney recently tried to trademark “Day of the Dead” for one of their upcoming Pixar movies? Seriously! Death might be “black and white”, but the whole trademarking of holidays, commonly used slogans, etc…that’s an ethical gray area for me. I mean, does everything have to be “owned” by a big corporation?! Disney is infamous for raking people over the coals with trademark lawsuits.

I work in advertising, as a designer. I have a great job that allows me to be creative. I understand the importance of protecting creative ideas. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m not a big fan of consumerism and marketing, and I actually hate selling stuff. That’s a big part of what we do in advertising. Of course, it doesn’t always feel that way from the inside. If you watch Mad Men, you know that there is a lot of skill, strategy, and thought that goes into creating a message, and that the “creatives” at an agency live to come up with the right line, the perfect font/photo/and layout combination, a comprehensive piece of communication so meaningful that it lives on beyond the campaign. They – we – are passionate about it.

But there are certain things, images, icons, sayings, that I feel shouldn’t be restricted in public use just because someone put them in an ad and trademarked them. People were saying “Just Do It” long before it became Nike’s “thing”. Is it really fair that none of us can “legally” use it now? Don’t even get me started on “Dia De los Muertos”. Thankfully – rightfully – there was outrage, and Disney backed off.

The reason I bring all of this up, is because I’ve had some tough days recently. I’ve felt the cloud of depression trying to eek its way into my healing. I haven’t actually been depressed this past year; I’ve been grieving. But grief and depression are not mutually exclusive, and for obvious reasons, a lot of people become depressed after they lose their spouse. I’m fighting it hard. I don’t need, or want, two gray clouds hanging around. One heavy-duty grief cloud is quite enough.

But just because I am fightin’, doesn’t mean the sky has opened, and all paths are clear. Today, I had planned to go to a yoga class, when that slippery cloud of depression started moving in. I found myself making excuses for why I shouldn’t go. That it was “ok” to just hang around the house and wallow. That there was laundry to be done, weeds to be pulled. I could always go to yoga tomorrow, instead.

Then into my head it popped: “Just Do It”. Yup. In fact, I said it to myself several times as I packed my gear and my mat. Get in the car. Go. Just do it.

So I did. And I laughingly thanked Nike along the way.

But it got me thinking…about the power of words, of slogans, mantras. Especially ones that have become part of our social culture. As “evil” and omnipotent as advertising might seem at times, (and there are people who study just this – the influence of advertising on our culture vs. the influence of our culture on advertising) I can’t help but think that if “Just Do It” hadn’t become so widely known and used – a rally cry for the masses – it might not have had the power to get me to class today. Sure, there was a time when “Just Do It” was being sustained by the power of advertising bucks, but now it carries the power of a collective belief behind it. When we say it to ourselves, it’s as if the whole world is saying it with us. And, in those really tough moments of grief, you need to feel like every media-consuming being on the planet is rooting for you, just to help you make it through another day.

So today, I’m sending a big shout-out to advertising, and the power of the “word”. Every single “Be all that you can be” – “I’m lovin’ it” – “got Milk?” – can’t get away from the stuff – message that we are exposed to, every day.

And sometimes, it’s just as powerful from a single, kind, soft-spoken source, like my wonderful yoga teacher who started the class out today with a “mudra”, a hand-gesture that means “unshakable courage”. Word that, too. It brought tears to my eyes. “Just Do It” got me to class and, “unshakable courage” got me through class. I’m thinking that “unshakable courage” can get me through tomorrow, too.

You’ve come a long way, baby….

*Just Do It – Nike – 1988, Be all that you can be – US Army -1981, I’m Lovin’ It – McDonalds – 2003, Got Milk? – CA Milk Processors Board – 1993, You’ve come a long way, baby – Virginia Slims cigarettes – 1968

7 thoughts on “Word.

  1. I have a one of those rubber bracelets with the words “just do it’ on one side and “no excuses” on the other side. I had it made special to motivate me for all sorts of things. I agree with you…some words and phases just shouldn’t belong to anyone one or any company! Hope you get out of your funk soon. I personally think that always happens just before we widows are ready to take the next step in healing (like starting your yoga class). We know we can’t turn back and every step forward is a step away from our spouses and that brings on the (hopefully temporary) sadness.

  2. Thanks Jean. I might need one of those bracelets! And I think you are right. While moving forward is positive and necessary, it often seems to have the emotional strings attached…the fear and worry that we are leaving someone behind. It’s hard. It’s complicated.

  3. Thanks for talking about grief and depression. Initially, it was clear that it was grief, all grief. But in this second year, when grief becomes a habit, I can see the slide toward depression. I fully approve of your re-appropriation of a catchy slogan. Look where it led you–to a safe space to feel your own unshakable courage.

    • You bring up such an interesting point about grief becoming a habit…after a year, (or however long) the real intensity of grief blankets us, coming “out of it” is hard, too. And I’m not sure we really do come out of it. It’s more like we “incorporate” it/and our loss. What a task. I think that is why I have started having a strong urge to bring about some more changes in my life. I fear that grief and depression will get too cosy with me, if I don’t. Thanks for your comment, you always get me thinking.

      • I guess that’s the challenge. This grief isn’t going anywhere. We know that, at this point, so it can make us depressed. Or, we can incorporate it and remake our lives, not by liberating ourselves from it but by weaving it, embracing it, acting with it, reshaping it, with our own agency.

        I’m getting this mysterious “second year” I’ve heard widows refer to. Not mastering it, but getting it. Thank *you* for your honesty and insight!

  4. I am finding that yoga is really helping me to stay in neutral emotionally. I just discovered your blog from reading a comment you left on “widow’s voice.” I started yoga about 3 years ago and I think it is starting to make a difference. Now I feel confident enough to practice on my own every day. I find it so calming.

    • Thanks for visiting my blog, and for your comment! One of the strange things about grief for me has been that I wasn’t even able to exercise, or “open up my body” to grief for a long time…but every time I went to yoga, it got a little better. I am glad you are finding calmness in it, I am too, and I consider it my “anti-depressant”, so I keep doing it.

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