Think back to when you last shopped for groceries. Do you remember the cashier? Many people deal with feeling invisible in their lives, in a variety of ways, but none as unique as my next guest who channels her frustrations into her art. She wrote and illustrated a book about the ageing woman, whose eventual death was almost not even discovered. Her unsettling, yet humourous drawings capture her secret inner ponderings of existence - thoughts we all have on some level
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The Secret Life of Doris Melnick by Gail Prussky
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00.00 Think back to when you last shopped for groceries. Do you remember the cashier?
00:08 many people deal with feeling invisible in their lives in a variety of ways but none as unique as my next guest who channels her frustrations into her art
00:18 she wrote and illustrated a book about the aging woman whose eventual death was almost not even discovered
00:26 her unsettling yet humorous drawings capture her secret inner ponderings of existence; thoughts we all have on some level
01:00my next guest has a degree in fine arts and also one in addiction therapy she spent 10 years as a hard drug addiction therapist at Donwood institute in toronto until the pressure eventually caused her to quit to save her sanity.
she then moved to the country and took up drawing and painting as a way to soothe her soul. she's the author of broken balloons and has just released her second book the secret life of doris melnick, please welcome my friend gail prussky. Hello gail
Gail: hi there debra
Debra: Glad you were here to join us today and talk about your book a little bit because i read it and it's a story about an aging woman's life and this woman, Doris Melnick, she worked as a cashier at Foodworld and although she showed up every day for work she felt that she was somewhat invisible but her internal world didn't match her external world.
02:08 Do you have anything to say about that
Gail: um, no other than the fact that i think that's the case with a lot of people. um there's a heck of a lot more going on under the surface than we realize and she was a very very classic example of that you know.
She was very much different on the inside thanshe was on the outside.
Debra: yeah and and your book really tells that story through other people's eyes which it's really interesting to notice how people see us in a different light and also how we see ourselves. So your book really shines a light on that perspective. So, i have an idea gail
02:53 i think it would be really fun, what if we could channel doris back from the dead so we could get to know her better.
03:00what do you say
Gail: 03:01 i think that's a fantastic idea. i'm sure she has a lot to tell us
Debra: 03:06 yeah because because the the book is all about people talking about her and uh we don't actually get to know her except from other people's eyes so um
Gaikl: 03:17she did journal a bit in the book though she did you did you get a little insight into her mind
Debra: 03:22 right so we're gonna hear it from doris's mouth. so we're gonna do some channeling so gail hold my hands
Gail: okay holding on
Debra 03:30 okay doris doris melnick, are you here (knock) she's here
Doris: 03:39 i'm eating cheesecake
Debra: will you speak with us. knock twice for yes and once for no (knock knock) ah she is she's here. so uh so doris um we've got some questions to ask you today.
03:57we understand that you were intrigued by the changes in your body as time went by. how do you feel about cellulite and body fat
Doris: 04:08they became my friends they became my friends as i watched i would look at myself in the mirror every day as i got older and at first i was shocked and a little bit frightened and then it began to be quite fascinating and i wake up in the morning and there'd be all these new spots on me and and and um new new wrinkles where there weren't any wrinkles but the most wonderful day was the day when i was at the cash and i heard this flapping sound when i was working on the cash register and i didn't know where it was coming from and it was it was my underarms flapping
04:43and i and i got again fascinated with it it was just slapping away and i mean i took a break and went to the ladies room and just watched it and and after that it just became a very interesting experience just watching my body change and i and i it didn't upset me anymore i just found it0 really quite really quite interesting that's all
Debra: 05:09it's hilarious it's hilarious um your connections with people they they seem to be only in your head were you lonely
Doris: 05:21it's hard for me to admit that now um but i was a very very lonely person and and i think that's why i used to draw so much i would create all these05:31people that could be my my friends and05:33my world i would create05:34i would create these worlds that out of05:37my head05:38and i didn't feel so lonely anymore so05:41so05:41but i never i would have never admitted05:43that when i was alive05:45 also i would i would also create a lot05:49of monsters because that helped me05:51deal with the monsters and also helped05:53me deal with my emotions because i would05:55get really angry at work i would get05:57really angry at05:58especially the woman behind the deli06:01counter who always gave me rotten06:02macaroni06:04and so i so i'd go home that night and i06:06would draw her i would draw her06:08being eaten by rabid wolverines and06:11and that would and that would help and06:12then i could let it go so it06:14my drawing was my was my therapy and it06:17kept me from killing people06:22
Debra: so did you would you say that there's06:24any benefit06:26to growing older
Doris: well i can06:29i can see that now from the other side06:33but i couldn't06:34really when i was alive but now that i06:36see06:37i can see now that you stop caring so06:39much you stop worrying so much about06:41being06:41judged or what people people think about06:44you06:45um and and that's a really really good06:47thing06:48and uh let me see that i06:52i used to always feel invisible in the06:54world but as i got older i started to06:57feel more invisible so that's a good06:58thing and a bad thing06:59on the one hand i liked being invisible07:01because then i could be more of a07:03watcher but as it got older it just felt07:06like i was07:07fading you know and so that wasn't so07:09good07:10
Debra: yeah do you have any regrets
Doris: oh07:17yeah if i have to admit it i guess i07:19have lots of regrets i mean07:21i i was so i had i had more than one07:24mask i probably wore about 20 masks and07:27that's the way i hid and i protected07:28myself and i never let anybody07:30in and it never occurred to me it does07:33now07:34um that i'm at peace but it never07:36occurred to me that there might be other07:38women like me out there that were as07:41lonely as i was or felt as cut off as i07:43was and07:44and that never came into my mind and07:47that there might have been other people07:49like me and and i07:50could have had connections in my life07:52but it's it's too late now07:55and my other regret is well i07:58i might as well tell you what difference08:00does it make i'm dead right i08:02i never even kissed a man let alone08:05anything else and i had kind of a crush08:08on08:08dwayne the produce manager well it was a08:11huge crush08:13and nothing ever came of it because i i08:15was so scared i would08:16creep up and and watch him stack his08:19produce and and08:20all i could do was look at his turnips i08:23could i never got brave enough to talk08:25to him08:26and i so i really regret that i was08:29just never never held and08:33nobody should go through life never being held
Debra: 08:37so with with the produce manager if you08:40had08:40plucked up enough courage to speak with08:43him08:44do you have any ideas of what kind of08:47life you might have had
Doris:08:48something other than i like your turnips08:52dwane08:54i i don't i don't know i can't even08:56imagine what it would've been like i08:57mean08:58if i had been brave enough to talk to09:00him and if he had actually responded and09:03maybe even liked me i09:06i can't even imagine what my life would09:08have been like no i can't09:10because it was just a life of loneliness09:12and i just never even tried to imagine09:14anything else09:15even when i watched movies and on09:17television and09:18couples together and being in love i09:21never pictured myself in that09:22place i just never did it was like it09:25was like my destiny to just be this lonely old woman09:30
Debra: 09:31you mentioned that you didn't handle09:34aging well09:35and that nobody prepared you for what09:38you were to experience09:40what might have helped you feel more09:42prepared or able to deal with the09:44inevitable changes do you think
Doris: 09:46well i never had i was never close with09:48my mother so she never told me09:50too much about you know what it was like09:52to be an older woman and i never talked09:54to any of my family women at work09:57so i had i certainly wasn't prepared for10:00menopause10:01i certainly wasn't i mean i didn't know10:03what was going on with my body10:05i didn't understand my mood swings and10:08it would have been really nice to have10:09another woman to talk to in those days10:11no i it just i think it just made me10:14more bitter10:14and that made my drawing stranger
Debra:10:21and now that you've10:23passed on10:24and you're talking to us from the other10:26side perhaps you have10:28maybe more of a perspective that you10:31didn't have10:32before and and i'm wondering why do you10:34think you concealed10:36your true self
Doris: i think it was fear i10:39think it was fear of being judged10:41i think it was a fear of feeling10:43different and10:45and feeling that that i was alone in the10:47world that there was nobody else like me10:50and uh and now from the other side i can10:53see that10:54there are many many women who feel the10:56same way you know i mean you can you can10:58walk into a party11:00and the most beautiful woman there will11:02be just as11:03insecure and frightened as i11:06am and i didn't know that then you know11:09i mean i thought i was the only one11:11and that's something that i see clear11:13now um11:14and also i guess another one of my11:16regrets that i was afraid to open up
Debra: 11:18is there anything that you wanted to11:21share11:22with us from from your perspective on11:25the other side
Doris: 11:27you don't have to choose to be lonely i11:29mean i didn't see it as a choice11:31when i was alive i i thought it was like11:34i said before i thought it was11:36my destiny you know and then that i was11:38going to be this unhappy woman and and11:41and11:42it was my parents fault and it was but11:45it was everyone else's fault but but now11:48i look back and i see that11:49it was a choice i made and and it was a11:52choice to keep myself11:53walled up and it was a choice i made to11:55keep myself11:57away from other people and and12:00i i just would want people to know that12:02you're only12:03gosh you're only there once and it goes12:06really fast and12:07and i didn't even know i was going to12:08die it was in my bed at night i was12:11sleeping and12:12then i was gone and i had no warning12:15so so i mean if i could go back if i12:18could go back12:20i'd start to take the masks off one by12:23one12:23i i think i would be brave enough to12:25take a chance and and12:27and let other people see me and and i12:29think that would have given me the12:30chance to have met other people just12:32like me12:33and mostly other women i can't think12:35about men too much but i think i12:37i could have used some other women in my12:39life so12:40so i think that's one thing i i can12:44look back and see from this side12:47and another regret i suppose it's12:49another regret
Debra: 12:51yeah wow well thank you12:54doris we'll we'll leave you now so that12:57you can continue to live on12:59the other side of the veil there and may13:02you rest13:03in peace
Doris: well this was fun if i come13:06back again will you have cake13:07[Laughter]
Debra: 13:09well absolutely as long as it's from uh13:12food world right
Doris: 13:15oh no theirs was horrible
Debra: oh okay
Doris: thank13:18you so much this was this was fun13:20i really this was fun visiting13:22
Debra:13:26gail your your art obviously expresses13:30inner frustrations and13:31and the way that you're feeling do you13:33feel any better after you've drawn or13:35painted
Gail: 13:36oh i can't tell you how much better i13:39feel that13:40i mean i i can i can absolutely13:43dissipate my anger my frustrations13:46um by drawing it's been wonderful for me13:49um like like i i said and for Doris too13:52it was it was it's therapy it's uh and i13:56and i feel so13:57lucky that i can do this you know i13:59think everybody needs to have something14:01where they can express themselves14:03or or at least at the very least zone14:05out because the other thing that my my14:07drawing and my art does for me is it14:08gives me this14:09this time to block out the rest of the14:11world and14:12to just zone out and it's really really14:15important especially with all the chaos14:16we're living with now and all the14:18tension and unhappiness and sickness14:21that it it'll keep you going if you have14:23something whether it's music14:25or a sport something and for me it's14:28been my drawing14:29and i'm very grateful for it
Debra: yeah so are14:32we14:33to get to experience what goes on in14:36your head14:38it's quite quite phenomenal
Gail: but not14:40everybody would say that but
Debra: 14:41it's very unique that that is for sure14:44but14:44um you know it helped me uh get to know14:48another side of you as well which was14:51quite an honor to be able to14:53to learn that i i wonder what reaction14:56do you hope to evoke from the readers of14:59your book the secret life of doris15:01melnick
Gail: 15:02if it just gets people to start looking15:05at other people and thinking15:06maybe there's more than more to them15:08that meets the eye that would be15:09wonderful even better for them to start15:12looking at themselves and and seeing15:13whether they're if they themselves are15:16their real15:17self when they're out in the world you15:18know or if they're if they're wearing15:20masks or if they're afraid just to let15:22go of all that and15:23and and be who we are because we are15:26really here for a very short time15:27you know and uh i hope that that that's15:31what it opens up for people and then15:32like i told you before one of my15:34my one of my good friends said that now15:36she goes to the supermarket15:38and she looks at the cashier differently15:40and i think that's fabulous because she15:42probably never even paid attention to15:43the cashier before and now she's15:45thinking15:45what goes on in this woman's life so i15:47think that's fabulous
Debra: 15:49we'll never look at cashiers as15:51invisible again
Gail: that's right15:52that's right
Debra: it's beautiful it's great15:54advice so15:55where where can listeners buy your book15:57gail
Gail: well it's available on amazon16:01amazon.com16:03amazon.ca and16:06hopefully it's delivered on time because16:08amazon's been kind of challenging lately16:11and for those of uh of any of people who16:14live in the orangeville area it's16:15available at book lore16:16in orangeville before
Debra: On first street16:19yeah that's a lovely bookstore
Gail: yes it is yeah
Debra:16:23wow well thank you so much gail any16:26ending message that you'd like to share16:29with us
Gail:16:30go out and live and take off the damn16:31masks that's all well actually no that's16:33not right16:36oh my gosh wear the right mask16:39take off all the others
Debra: yeah it's a little16:43challenging these days
Gail:16:45I'm like going around telling everybody to16:46take off their mask and I can't do that16:48anymore just16:51wow
Debra: well this has been gail prussky and Debra Jones and we thank you for16:57listening and we hope you enjoyed16:59the podcast as much as we did as much as17:01i did17:02and please leave your comments and questions at ownthegray.ca and share it with your friends and if you haven't subscribed yet please do. So thanks again