Out of the darkness

I’ve said before that depression is much like an old lover. One you’ve successfully managed to get out the door – along with all of his things – and begin a new life. A life in which laundry gets done, friends get visited, lists get checked off, balanced meals get cooked, and the things you enjoy get enjoyed. But something or a lot of things happen. Usually in succession and often involving sleep loss, grief, financial or marital stress, etc. — and, under the weight of exhaustion, your resolve weakens. That’s when he comes looking for you. Whispering in your ear. Telling you all your efforts are futile. Crooning the familiar songs he sang to you before. Knock, knock, knocking at your door. Until you open it and invite him to come inside — and his seduction is complete. And the next morning –every morning you wake beside him– you know you knew better. But now his clothes are in the closet, his toothbrush beside yours, and he is ingrained into your life once more.

I’ve noticed lots of things. When I do, I race off to WordPress and create a post, give it a title, and even jot down some of the words that are clamoring to be released. But it isn’t long before he begins whispering to me. This post will take a lot of time. Of course, if you write it, you’ll likely infuriate someone and will feel the need to respond. Which will just upset you more than you already are. You’re tired. Tomorrow –you’ll write it tomorrow. Of course, I don’t. It doesn’t get written. Thoughts and emotions keep pounding, and everything just gets louder. From the dishes being unloaded to the dog’s incessant barking — Morgan being bipolar and Clark being autistic. It’s all so very loud. And all I want is to sit on a porch overlooking the pasture on a cool early morning and hear…nothing. Nothing but the wind blowing and perhaps a little rain or moving water. No voices. No screaming. No phone ringing. No cacophony of everything I need to take care of. To sleep. To read. To write. To recharge. Because I am simply depleted. I attempt to get my head together and manage to accomplish a thing or two. But my constant companion draws me back in to myself. His incessant whispering for me to lighten my load and sit down for a spell. To put it off for another day. To pull the covers over my head and attempt to hold the world back. Yes, he knows how to talk to me.

My heart aches. My fears bully me. And even my bones feel tired.

Everywhere we go, we take two cars. There are few things that we can confidently plan as a family. It’s too crowded, too bright, too large, too hot, too long. Too everything. Sometimes the view from this ride is beautiful. Sometimes, it’s fun. But right now it is making me sick. And I just want so very badly to be let off. Every time I get on the highway or have a strange pain, I fear dying. Not for me, but because who will take care of Clark? Who will fight for him? How would Morgan do it alone? And how – how – do I ensure that my sweet husband will understand that I love him so much though I cannot give of myself to him equally? Some days – or weeks – it’s too much.

And, in my darkest moments, I fear that I am not enough. That I’m doing this all wrong. Making the wrong decisions. Not doing enough. Doing too much.

Yes, I have been to see my doctor. I have taken antidepressants. They helped marginally, but my hair started falling out (a truly unfortunate side effect for a depressed person if ever there was one.) So the doctor and I are trying again with another antidepressant. Trying because there is no other choice. For the alternatives to managing this are unacceptable. My boys need all of me, therefore depression can be allowed none of me. There simply isn’t enough room for him in my house. I’ve told him he must leave. To pack his stuff and get out. Good riddance and all that. So far, he hasn’t budged and has turned into a squatter instead.

But I know something he doesn’t. I know the unconditional love and trust of two boys who depend on me. I know the bliss of snuggling against their sleeping forms in the wee hours of the night. And I know that, in this battle between him and me, who I’m really fighting for. In nature, whoever gets between a mother and her young is always at a disadvantage. He’d do well to remember that.

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This is how memory works

This is how memory works: I am a woman who lives in fear of being denied. There is a mask I wear, a mask of unfazable calm, with it firmly in place, my features express serene indifference. My cheeks, eyes, lips, all are placid, welcoming, nonthreatening. I convince myself that I am at ease, that I do not live as though expecting the gate to be slammed shut at any moment. This is so true of me that an old friend made fun, saying that I have the least discomfort with entitlement of any young woman they know.
And to some extent, this is true. I was raised to believe I am entitled to whatever is avaliable. There is no question as to wether or not my birth or my breeding merits it. This, to counteract the idea that being a woman or being gay or being unsophisticated, means having to settle for less, for the thing that is not the best, for whatever it is they are trying to give you rather than what you want. This means I have the nerve to expect admittance, service, respect. At any kind of gate, be it physically real or intellectually abstract, I assume I will be allowed to enter. If detained I know with every cell in my being that I am ready to be indignant and that I will use whatever I have at my disposal, usually my words but often the law, to demand access.
But memory is stronger than principles, moral mandates, and progressive imperatives. Even though I appear “zenned out”, as one of my friends describes me, in those moments that test all of us who havnt grown up in the wealthy, upper class, all of us who expect, at some point, to be held at the gate, interrogated and turned back, I am, in fact, trembling. This is how memory works. It reminds me that no matter how strong I feel in myself, I am still the little girl with knobby knees. I am still the little girl with scars, matted hair and bare feet in mississippi dirt, too rich or too poor to be trusted. Memory works like this: I am always standing outside the gate, wanting to be let in. I am always terrified that this is where I will have to live: forever wanting, never fullfilled, always outside.
And so, more often than not, I choose not to remember. I wear a mask of belonging because this is what I am supposed to do, because belonging is my birthright. But behind the mask lurks a far more mutilating truth: I am not fit, there is something wrong with me, I am not correct.
Beneath the mask, behind the cool, unperturbed exterior there is rage. There is pure liquid fire threatening to annihilate. And I am afraid.

Surrounded by bears 

“Worry is the thief of joy.” – Unknown
I read with interest the other day a post by psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz, “This Is You on Stress.” Being stressed out all the time, I’m becoming increasingly aware of its effects. Dr. Saltz says stress is an evolutionary thing, a fight or flight response triggered by a perceived danger. In dangerous situations – such as the possibility of encountering bears in a park- it keeps us aware and can save our lives. The problem, she says, is when you are removed from the danger but the fight or flight instinct is still going. That kind of anxiety is harmful. She goes on to suggest some strategies for breaking the cycle of unhelpful stress when danger isn’t nearby. I thought about that for a while and how to use those strategies to stop stressing and calm down. I thought about those bears in the park.
And that’s when I realized. It’s no wonder parents of autistic and disabled children are increasingly being diagnosed with anxiety disorders, PTSD, depression, etc. It’s not because of their children. No, our children give us just as much joy as any others. It’s because there is rarely a time when you aren’t in the park looking around for all those bears.
What and who are these bears? There are many. Elopement, bullying, failure of school districts to provide an appropriate IEP, medical and dental appointments, unfamiliar situations, loud noises, lack of autism awareness, lack of autism acceptance, loved ones who don’t get it, judgmental stares and comments from strangers, inaccessibility, respite care, insurance battles –and on and on.
So we rarely leave that park. And we stand – fight or flight response at the ready – clutching the hands of our children all the time. While trying to live our lives in all the necessary ways. Nurturing our marriages. Paying bills. Working. Caring for older family members. Taking care of ourselves – which, like on this list, always comes last. But we do all of these things while anxiously looking around, listening, and facing those bears when we encounter them.
I’d like to follow Dr. Saltz’s suggestions. I’d like to try meditation, thinking myself calm, and reminding myself that I’m out of the situation. Except I’m not. I don’t have the luxury of letting down my guard. Because if I do, the bears are still there. My child will not receive an appropriate education. He may be traumatized by people not trained to work with autistic children. Someone might forget to latch a door. A door within minutes of busy intersections and bodies of water. He might be taken advantage of because he’s an easy target who is easily intimidated. He might be treated as a disorder and not a child. No, the only time I can relax is when he is safe in bed and the door is locked. Even then fears of my own mortality, his education, his health, and his future haunt me in those witching hours of worry.
The problem is these fears aren’t unjustified. My anxiety isn’t occurring in the absence of danger. These dangers are real. Because this world is not ready to welcome my son. A son who will one day outlive me. A son whom I fear will not –if needed– be cared for by those with good hearts and a desire to allow him as much independence as possible.
No, I’m not crazy. Yes, those bears are all around me.
I don’t want stress to win, but it’s ever present. It steals from me sleep, laughter, and peace. Joy? It’s fleeting. Found in bits and snatches – and always bestowed to me by my boys. Yes, it’s there. But it’s often stolen by the thieves of anxiety and fear.
And in my darkest moments, I fear that lack of joy is turning me into a bear. Someone who sometimes fails to appreciate the little things. Someone who will fail to pass on joy to my child – who deserves that in his mother.
Some talk about a national autism plan. Do we need one? Yes. Should it resemble any of the depressing and misleading suggestions we’ve heard so far? No. But we must begin to address the needs of children, adults, and families like mine. We must begin to teach our citizens, our schools, our medical personnel, and our law enforcement how to interact with autistic and disabled persons. We must learn new ways to teach, engage, employ, and live amongst those who experience the world differently. And we must begin to plan for the futures of the most disabled on the spectrum.
Until then, I remain perpetually on watch for bears.

Disassembling my differences detector 

Once i saw an immensely fat woman – 350lbs at least – struggling to step onto a nashville city bus. Wheezing with effort, perspiring through her floral print dress, she couldnt hoist her foot onto the platform. Her knee, encased in layers of flesh, wouldnt bend. The driver, with a sigh, bolted from his seat to try to shoehorn her through the door. The passengers gaped and craned, their expressions ranging from embarassment to scorn to a sort of horrified fascination. As schedules unraveled and tempers frayed, the irritation grew more audible. The thought flashed through my mind as it did through nearly everyone’s “how could anyone allow herself to get so obese?” Then I saw the expression on the woman’s face: mortification. And my heart broke – for all her hard days and for all my hard thoughts.

Why was my first response not compassion but a series of assessments that went off like a string of mental firecrackers before I even knew I’d lit the match? My judgement was so fused with my perception as to be inseparable: she became what I beheld. I was painfully aware of my mind – the mind itself – as a difference engine, cranking out the petty distinctions that keep people apart. And I wished I could dismantle the whole stupid contraption once and for all. 

That moment has stayed with me almost a decade now – and I hope that it’s lesson always will. 

A letter to those who have gotten or will get in this Momma Bear’s way. 

Dear [ ]:
I’m sorry.
I’m sorry to have ruined your day, angered you, or caused your supervisor to watch you closely. I know what bad days, frustration, and job pressures feel like. It wasn’t my intention to cause you problems. It may not feel like that to you, but it’s true.
I know that –when you aren’t busy being the person I had to get unpleasant and sassy with –you’re probably a very nice person. I’m sure that your family loves you, friends think you’re wonderful, and you’re an active church member. If circumstances were different, we might be friends.
But the great person whom I’m sure you are intersected with a road I’m traveling to meet the needs of my special needs child. To put it simply – you got in my way. In some way significant to my child, you failed to do your job. Do I think that makes you evil? No, I think that makes you human. But the issue isn’t how I feel about you. The issue is a vulnerable little boy who cannot speak for himself – my vulnerable little boy.
There are a lot of reasons why you might fail to do right by my child. You may be overworked. You may not have enough resources. Your boss may be a jerk—or clueless. You might not have the knowledge or time to do what is being asked of you. Most likely, you are simply a part of a system that has been broken for so long no one knows what it is supposed to look like when it works. Most likely, you probably already know that – but fear of rocking the boat caused you to go along with what you knew to be wrong. You may feel helpless about that and wish it were different. I’ll let you in on a secret – I feel the same way.
But feelings and wishes – over truth and action- are luxuries I don’t have. I can’t blame it on the system, lack of money, or others and go about my day. You see, this child is mine. And you and I know all too well who will step forward to advocate for my child if I don’t – no one. Not really. They’ll think he’s adorable, sign him up for an hour of therapy or so a week, and set goals for him low enough for him to achieve in a year. They’ll finish his FSP/IEP in 15 minutes and tell themselves they’ve done their jobs.
But it won’t keep them up at night. It won’t drive them to learn and do more. They won’t feel a sense of panic as precious time is lost. It won’t incite their indignation. It won’t be their child, so…
It won’t be personal.
But his well-being is my purpose for being here. Having made the decision to have and raise a child, he shot straight to the top of my priority list – even if he isn’t at the top of yours or the system you work for. If you fail to make a call, provide a service, determine and meet his needs, allow him to be under-challenged, ignore his FSP/IEP, traumatize him in some way, or do him any kind of educational, medical or moral injustice – then it’s my job to be there, make a scene, draw attention to it, and make it right.
So, unfortunately, that’s where your path and my path have crossed. I’m sympathetic to whatever caused you to be here. But my job is incompatible with looking the other way while you don’t do yours. No matter what the reason. It’s just that black and white – even if it isn’t completely your fault.
This isn’t going to change anything. I’m still going to be there. I’ll still be watching closely. I’ll be polite, but I will be ‘that parent’. The parent who writes the letters, makes the phone calls, requests the records, researches the issue, analyzes the data, knows the law, and makes it her mission to know more about my child’s disability and issues than you or anyone you work with. Which means there may come a time when his needs and rights are in conflict with your convenience, budget, or the status quo. Again, I’m sorry about that.
But I want you to know– it’s not personal.

I am boring. 

I reserve the right to be boring. I reserve the right to go on and on about my day to people who aren’t listening. I can and will give lengthy and laborious lectures about traffic, television, and this new salad dressing I’m trying, I’ll talk about all the least offensive jokes I saw on Facebook and I will refuse to curse in the company of people I don’t know all that well.I will bog you down in the details of my adventures in the parking enforcement office of a city to which I had never been before. I will drag out my love of physical books over digital ones. I’ll describe, in microscopic detail, all the reasons I can’t stand Larry David and why Jaime Lannister’s storyline makes much more sense in the books. And yeah, I’ll talk about the weather. I have a fully prepared speech about this godforsaken humidity and how it makes me feel like I’m wearing a sweater pulled out of the dryer too soon because I grew up in a dry heat and, yeah, there is a difference.

I reserve the right to rant about Doctor Who, Call Of Duty and how I think Quicksilver got cheated because my identity is not for show. My life is not a Double Dare obstacle course and I am not the happy child beaming for the cameras under a cascade of slime. I am neither modern nor marvel. I won’t win you cool points with that girl you like and I won’t see how upset your mother gets at the sight of me. I am not your wrist tattoo, signed Elliot Smith vinyl, or Jill Stein bumper sticker. 

I am not a conversation piece — I am the conversation.

I am my love of jarlsburg cheese and my indecision over buying a Fitbit. I am my own desire to be uneventful, unexciting and uncool because people who’ve actually been through shit don’t need to wear the problems of others as jewelry.

So before your best intentions reduced my entire being to your laziest assumptions, what were you saying about Christina Ricci? Because the more I think about it, the more I realize she’s probably my favorite living actress.

Ladies, turn off ‘Game of Thrones’ and come this way… 

I am a Dungeon Master. I know, I know, this conjures up images of 12-year-old boys with chronic acne and a Mountain Dew addiction in 1982. I know the stereotypes, I believed them at one point too. Basements, incense, black cloaks, and Doritos-stained fingers attached to the limbs of unstable, social outcasts. Kids who were into D&D were sent to the principals office because their teachers caught them doodling dragons and elf mistresses in the margins of their history notes. And it was always boys, right? Girls never played. We girls were too busy counting our jelly bracelets and daydreaming about going to the movies with Jonathan Taylor Thomas or Shaun from boy meets world. Now, if Jonathan and Shaun killed an umber hulk, I for one would have traded in my Lisa Frank binders for the Dungeon Masters Guide. But alas, me and my 137 black jelly bracelets had much better things to do than play a silly old board game. 
As much as I tried to fight it, my preconceived ideas were conquered and D&D won me over like the quiet, outcast wallflower that is so not your type but is kind of funny and has great manners. What’s one date, you think? It never hurts to have another friend, right? Next thing you know, you’re going steady and can’t wait for your friends to meet D&D. Ladies, I implore you to come into this world with me. What’s one date?

OK, so, this is a roleplaying game- what the heck is roleplaying? Most people picture either kinky sex or guys dressed in mid evil garb at the local park on Saturday afternoon. Let’s flashback to high school. I know, I know, the bad images are coming back but bear with me. Did you have a debate club? They ran those mock trials after School? Charles is the plastic bottle factory and Susan’s Greenpeace. Susan wants to shut Charles down. Charles thinks plastic is fantastic.

No bells ringing? OK, let’s go back a few more years. Remember your pal Barbie? You spent hours brushing her hair and then eventually chopped it off, only to cry over it because your neighbor lied – it didn’t grow back. What is Barbie if not a giant mini with synthetic hair? 

You and Butch Cut Barbie furnished her dream house, cruised in her pink Corvette, and walked her dog beauty, the ginormous white collie with a faulty equilibrium. Your friends came over with their Barbies and you orchestrated pool parties and swapped clothes and your plastic people went on double dates while cruising around in their pink Corvette’s. 

Barbie didn’t last long for me but I made up for that with stuffed animals. I had bears, bunnies, seals, dogs, and everything else under the sun. They had names, back stories, husbands and wives, children, and jobs. Froggy O’Hara owned a pillow factory. He married Green Rabbito, an opera singer. They lived happily in their makeshift city, driving around in their shoe box car until Froggy sold his pillow empire and bought the Atlanta Braves. He left Greenie penniless and took up with Butch Cut Barbie and her pink Corvette. Greenie was devastated until she took up with Tubby Pistelle, a crooked cop, who never admitted having any part in the breaking of Butch Cut Barbie’s hyperextended legs. My stuffed animals had more storylines than sweeps week on daytime television.

OK, maybe my parents were right and I should’ve been outdoors instead of acting as the mayor of my own private animal planet. And maybe I just disclosed too much information. That’s not the point. The point is, women have been roleplaying their whole lives.

Women love conversation and get together’s and pretending to be something we’re not. Oh, just admit it. I just confessed that I had adulterous stuffed animals. You can confess to telling a few white lies. House, doctor and tea party all led to would you rather, I never, truth or dare – all role playing games. D&D -a roleplaying game. It was made for women. Why hasn’t anyone told us yet? 

Still don’t believe me? That’s OK. I was expecting some resistance. Think about heroes for a moment. D&D’s most popular female characters all have a few things in common: they’re buxom, built, and badass. Riddle me this: if Laura Croft’s tomb raider threads happen to get mixed up in your dry cleaning, before you called the cleaner to complain, you know you would try them on! Of course you would. You’d be cleaning out the refrigerator and paying your mortgage or jogging on your mini trampoline watching a ‘what not to wear’ marathon while wearing them. You couldn’t pass a mirror without looking yourself up-and-down, maybe see how the outfit moves when you throw a few shadow punches. Not only would you look good wearing it, you would feel damn good too. Why? The fact is that women want female heroes. We like kicking the bad guy’s ass. Wonder Woman, Xena, Buffy, Sydney from Alias: Jennifer Garner’s alter ego had it going on. And who wouldn’t love an invisible jet and a truth provoking magic lasso? Come to think of it, wonder woman’s red boots are pretty bitchin’ too. 

Ladies of the world, whether you come over in your Catwoman leotard or your pajamas and UGG boots – I invite you to join me on an adventure.
* and bring some Doritos with you – stereotypes be damned – I like Doritos* 

The day everything changed… and yet nothing did

On Tuesday, May 17, 2016 our Clark was diagnosed with autism. This is something that we had expected and knew was coming. What I did not expect was the overwhelming amount of information that came my way. It’s hard to know where to go or where to start. Everything in me has told me that one of the places that I need to start is right here – getting everything out there.
People keep asking if I’m OK. I am. We are no longer in ‘limbo’ waiting for something to happen and feeling lost somewhere in the system. Clark is no different today than he was on May 16th. Nothing has changed except we were given more tools to help him thrive and grow and succeed. Early intervention is key and I am so happy that we were able to get this diagnosis now, while he’s two, rather than many years down the road.
Would I change any of this if I could? No. Absolutely not. Everything about my son is genuine. You want authentic? Come see my son. He feels everything, it’s all absorbed, mixing and tumbling in his fragile little brain, then spit back out anyway he can. That’s part of the problem with autism – you can’t interpret your environment like everyone else. But it’s because of this that there is no lie with my son. What you see is what you get. His disability becomes a part of his personality, part of who he is. It’s all part of his character, his head, heart, and soul. And I love my sons character. I love his personality. Clark is a sweet, loving, caring, amazing little boy who can also be a bit of an asshole.
We had prepared and have now told our immediate family and friends. I do not want this to be a secret. I want it to be very clear to Clark and everyone that there are no tears and no shame here. This is not bad news, it’s just news. Attitudes will only change and understanding will only Don when people are open. This is a part of him. He is a part of us. It’s all beautiful.
Let’s talk about some phrases: “He doesn’t seem/act autistic” “but he seems so normal”. I know that it is meant well and I know that there is an understandable, although misguided, urge to resist diagnosis.
If you’re trying to say that you didn’t notice/recognize any signs of autism during the time you’ve spent with my son – that’s OK. The thing about autism, like with any disorder, is that it comes with preconceived ideas and everyone has had a different personal experience. But autism is a spectrum of behaviors, and every person is different in terms of onset, temperament, severity and types of symptoms. Children with autism are individuals like snowflakes, no two are the same. Just because one child with autism looks and sounds one way does not mean that another child will.
But if what you’re really trying to tell me is that you don’t think he has autism, then please consider how hurtful that might be to us, his parents. Please consider how that might invalidate all our efforts, all our battles and all of our triumphs. What you are really implying is that we’ve wasted our time and emotions and money because he’s just “normal “.
The thing is, I won’t mind explaining my son’s diagnosis. I actually love to talk about my son. I feel part of my job is to promote awareness and, hopefully, create a world of acceptance for him. But please don’t say how sorry you are and don’t tell me about the latest diet or treatment you heard about. I don’t need to hear about your friend’s neighbor’s sister’s kid who is autistic. Unsolicited opinions and advice, even when they come from a good place, are usually more damaging than helpful. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle and don’t even bring up vaccines. Instead, ask me what kind of treatment he is in and do I like his therapist. Offer to babysit or help me with a project. Ask what he likes to do and what his favorite things are. Ask me about my crazy schedule and how doctor appointments are going. Offer to listen or help.
I know that no matter how close I am to people, some of them won’t get my life. I know that I am hard to interact/stay in touch with. With a bipolar husband and a son with autism, my life is complex. I understand if it is too much for some people but I will learn to let go of the people who can’t handle it. I love everyone who is reading this – thank you for your interest and we are so happy to have you in our lives and on our journey.

To my sweet baby boy,
This does not define you.
You are friendly, you are outgoing, you are fearless. You are a joy to be around. Your dad and I, we will make sure we give you every tool you need to grow, learn and thrive. I can’t wait to enroll you in 1st grade and cry my eyes out that my little boy is growing up too fast. I can’t wait to see what your passions will be. I can’t wait to see you graduate high school and college and then really cry my eyes out that my little boy really is all grown up. I can’t wait to meet the person that you fall in love with. One day, maybe, you’ll make me a grandma and make me the happiest I’ve ever been to hold a baby since February 26, 2014, the day you were born.
I never thought of myself as a parent of a child with special needs. But here we are, here I am. A parent of a child with autism. We may have some hurtles we need to jump over but you, your dad, and I are no different than we were on May 16th. We have a great life, full of adventure, ahead of us. I am constantly in awe and inspired by you. You make me want to be a better momma and person. I love you more every day.
Love,
Your Momma

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Do men feel the sting of sexism?

Yes. Because boys are bullied for being weak because we think being weak is girly. Because we think a guy who is a virgin is sad. Because we think a man who has a negative body image is unmanly. Because we think boys with girlie interests are shameful. Because we think men who dress like women are jokes. Because we think it’s better to send men to war. Because we think men hurt by women are pathetic because even girls insult guys for being “sissy”. Because most insults towards men attack their masculinity. “Pussy” “fag” “grow a pair” “man up” “sissy” “homo” “wuss”
Because it’s shameful for men to be weak.
Because it’s shameful for men to be weak like women.
Because the same sexism that hurts women also hurts men.
Because talking about one group’s issues doesn’t mean that we are belittling another group.
Sexism isn’t “us vs. them” it’s “us vs. our lack of mutual understanding”.
True “feminism” is about equality of the sexes and sexism hurts everyone.

The movies you MUST see before you die.

I have, my entire life, LOVED anything that allowed me to be someone else or see something I never would’ve seen otherwise; books, movies, TV shows and plays did this for me. If I had a way to make a living by enjoying these things, I could die happy. So, because of my obsession I am always taking in as much as I can. Recently, I saw a ‘Top 100 movies to see before you die’ list. It was unbelievably pretentious and almost everything predated 1975. This started me on a search for an accurate list; based not simply on critics, income or ratings. I couldn’t find one. So, I’ve made one.
I tried to start by thinking of the list as just what it claims to be – a list of movies that you MUST see before you die. With that in mind, 100 was just not enough. Yes, I know this list is long but in the course of your lifetime if you only got to watch 162 movies – these should be them. There is no pretention here, nothing based on money or ratings. This is NOT a list of the BEST movies ever made. This is a list of the movies that everyone should see at some point in their lifetime. I’m sure many people will disagree because of that; yes, I have to fast-forward through A Space Odyssey but everyone should see the movie at some point, likewise, I love Casablanca but I definitely could’ve lived without it. There is classic and recent, deep and fluff, top-grossing and flop, horror and musical, complex and simple, award winning and overlooked.
Here it is, in no particular order:

1 The Alfred Hitchcock collection
– includes: Psycho, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Birds
2 Almost Famous
3 Back to the Future
4 The 10 Commandments
5 Citizen Kane
6 Kevin Smith’s New Jersey trilogy
– is inaccurately named, as it is a series of 6 movies: Clerks, Clerks II, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
7 Close Encounters of the Third Kind
8 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
9 Evil Dead (the original)
10 Fargo
11 Fight Club
12 Ghostbusters
13 Gladiator
14 The Godfather
15 Goldfinger
16 Cleopatra
17 Goodfellas
18 Grease
19 The Great Escape
20 Halloween (Rob Zombie)
21 The Indiana Jones collection
– Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Temple of Doom, the Last Crusade, and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Feel free to skip the last 30min of Crystal Skull, as it is terrible)
22 Jaws
23 The Lord of the Rings trilogy
– The Fellowship Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King
24 The Matrix trilogy
– The Matrix, Reloaded, Revolutions
25 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
26 Moulin Rouge!
27 101 Dalmatians (Cartoon)
28 Pulp Fiction
29 Se7en
30 The Blood and Ice Cream trilogy
– Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End
31 The Shawshank Redemption
32 Dune (1984)
33 Sin City
34 Niagara
35 The Star Wars trilogy
– A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi
36 Strangers on a Train
37 This is Spinal Tap
38 Toy Story trilogy
– 1, 2, 3
39 True Romance
40 2001: A Space Odyssey
41 The Wizard of Oz
42 The Three Colors Trilogy
– Blue, White, Red
43 Young Frankenstein
44 Forest Gump
45 The Princess Bride
46 Jurassic Park
47 Ferris Bueller’s Day off
48 The Breakfast Club
49 A Christmas story
50 The Goonies
51 Office Space
52 It’s a Wonderful Life
53 Braveheart
54 Full Metal Jacket
55 True Grit (the original(although the remake is good))
56 The Sixth Sense
57 Dead Poets Society
58 The Shining
59 The Dark Knight
60 The Green Mile
61 The Kill Bill movies
– Vol.1, Vol. 2
62 The Blues Brothers
63 Beetlejuice
64 Finding Nemo
65 Dances With Wolves
66 Robin Hood: Men in Tights
67 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
68 Sleepy Hollow (Johnny Depp)
69 Starship Troopers
70 The Hangover
71 Pretty Woman
72 The Nightmare Before Christmas
73 Boondock Saints
74 Big Fish
75 Good Will Hunting
76 The Chocolate Factory movies
– Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
77 The Big Lebowski
78 Beauty and the Beast
79 The Sandlot
80 Love Actually
81 Hard Candy
82 Young Guns
83 Pride and Prejudice
84 A Few Good Men
85 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
86 Tommy Boy
87 The Bourne Identity
88 Snatch
89 Some Like It Hot
90 Gone with the Wind
91 Ocean’s Eleven (remake)
92 Clue
93 Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
94 Empire Records
95 Inglourious Basterds (both)
96 The Bridges of Madison County
97 Into the Wild
98 Rent
99 The Birdcage
100 Watchmen
101 Monster
102 Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
103 Seven Years In Tibet
104 For Colored Girls
105 The Way We Were
106 Carrie (the original)
107 The Hannibal Lecter collection
– Red Dragon (Original in 1986 is called Manhunter and worth a see), The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising
108 The King and I (Deborah Kerr)
109 The Last King of Scotland
110 Lonesome Dove
111 White Oleander
112 Saw
113 Alien
114 Girl, Interrupted
115 Saved!
116 The Untouchables
117 Mysterious Skin
118 The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
119 Alice In Wonderland (both)
120 Mars Attacks!
121 Little Miss Sunshine
122 Romeo + Juliet (1996)
123 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
125 Pan’s Labyrinth
126 Apocalypse Now
127 Philadelphia
128 A Streetcar Named Desire
129 Taxi Driver
130 Duck Soup
131 The Last Picture Show
132 3:10 to Yuma
133 Charlie Bartlett
134 Jeremiah Johnson
135 Juno
136 The Lion King
137 Roots
138 Requiem For a Dream
139 Man of Steel
140 Crash
141 Trainspotting
142 Les Misérables
143 American Psycho
144 From Hell
145 GI Jane
146 Wildthings
147 What Dreams May Come
148 The Red Shoes (1948)
149 Sweeny Todd
150 The Cell
151 The Planet of the Apes collection
– Planet of the Apes (1968), Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape From the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle For the Planet of the Apes, Planet of the Apes (2001), Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
152 Gangs of New York
153 Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)
154 Misery
155 Fried Green Tomatoes
156 A Raisin In the Sun (1961)
157 Legends of the Fall
158 Donnie Darko
159 Malcolm X
160 Gia
161 An Officer and a Gentleman
162 Thelma and Louise

Trust me – if you just read the title of a movie that you’ve never heard of, stop what your doing, and rectify the situation.
Looking forward to your comments!