preparing for my debut

I’m spending spring break in Southern California, enjoying the sunshine and beach while blocking the story I’ll tell this coming Sunday as part of Sunday Night Sex Talks (8pm, Bar Lubitsch, West Hollywood).

Here’s what I’ve blocked out so far:

– grooming

– therapist

– Anthony

– in between

– the Cajun

Now, how to tie it all together?

responsibility rash

I’ve been overwhelmed lately. This should surprise no one who reads this blog; many of you are also single parents of young, active children with demanding jobs and homes. And I desperately need a vacation…which is coming.

My response to these feelings?

At work, I plug through task after task, one step at a time.

As far as the rest of it goes, I am retreating from responsibility (all those things I should be doing) as though it’s some sort of rash. I haven’t managed to fully plan our spring break vacation (we leave in a week), I haven’t cleaned the bathroom, I haven’t finished the taxes, the pots and pans sit in the sink for days before I manage to wash them, etc…

And I don’t care. So there.

just like that, it happened!

At first I was in denial. I resisted for an awfully long time. And then suddenly, it happened:  I fell hard and fast. That’s right, I’m in love again!

It all started with my friends on Facebook, ooh-ing and aah-ing and cooing. The more I heard, the more I had an inkling that there was a lot to like. And then one night, while curled in bed with my iPad, the recommendation from Netflix pushed me over the edge. Finally, I succumbed to temptation:  I clicked “play”…and I was immediately transfixed by the Grantham family and Downton Abbey.

I mean, I’ve always enjoyed the works of Victorian England writers – the Brontes, Edith Wharton, etc. and I can’t deny a fondness for the Queen’s colorful English…I’ve recently found many occasions to use dramatic words like “deplorable,” “ghastly” and (accompanied, of course, by a raised eyebrow) the phrase, “Some manners would not go amiss.”

I watched the entire first season that night, completely drawn into the scenery, costumes and stories of the Downton aristocrats and servants. I felt as though I’d been admitted to a special club — a group of millions of viewers who are likely equally smitten with Cousin Matthew and envious of Lady Mary’s uncanny knack for always saying exactly the right thing in any given circumstance.

Certainly not all characters are equal, but it is a delight to watch the family weather various challenges, from the Titanic’s sinking (and loss of an heir) to war and death, to new economic realities. We watch as Robert, ahem — Lord Grantham — the family’s patriarch, transforms from a strong leader to a man hopelessly clinging to past glory. (For those of you who follow here, you’ll note that the middle-aged white man, unable to adapt or reinvent himself and grown bitter, is no stranger to the author of this blog.) We watch how Cora manages him masterfully.

And then there are the servants…

So between the mostly excellent writing, acting, scenery, costumes, cinematography and lessons in managing men, I eagerly await tonight’s episode – and the words and phrases whose use it will likely inspire.

climbing up and out

Surely you’re getting tired of hearing of my recent outrage and heartache. I agree; it does make me dull. It is therefore my pleasure to inform you that I am 48 hours into taking an herbal serotonin enhancer and have, thus, begun the climb up and out of the hole I’ve been in since…hmm…maybe mid December.

I mentioned that I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder. There is the lack of sunlight, holiday stress, the cold… Compound this with a January rejection and, next thing I know, I’m regularly in tears with little to no provocation. The challenge is that it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between normal, everyday malaise, sadness / grief or desire to hibernate and real, genuine depression. This time, I realized I wasn’t able to pull myself up and out on my own.

I’ve found that these are some of the clues that let me know when to get some help:

  • When there’s a part of my mind that is obsessing about something out of my control, and I seem powerless to let it go. (Normally I have a grip; really I do.)
  • When my mental acuity and focus become elusive, and it’s difficult to concentrate.
  • When more swearwords than usual come out of my lips in any given day, or my brain-to-mouth filter seems especially defective. (Given that I’m already capable of cursing like a longshoreman, this can get really, um…spectacular.)
  • When I am angry or teary three days in a row.
  • When I can’t seem to bring myself back around to gratitude or happiness from feelings of resentment or pain.
  • When a beer commercial brings me to tears.

Over the years, I’ve learned to compensate for these feelings; I’ve learned to smile in spite of them, to put forth a brave face. Probably many in my life — even close friends — wouldn’t guess what I’m going through. These days, however, I’m getting real:  I’m much more open to sharing what I’m going through with friends and, especially, talking with my children about mental health, their genetic risks, tools and strategies, and responsibility. I hope they’ll grow up understanding that we all have varying degrees of mental and physical health throughout life, with some of us more prone than others to specific types of illness, and that there should be no stigma associated with either kind of disease.

It can be difficult to see how deeply one has sunk until one begins that long climb up and can see from where one’s come. I’m already feeling marginally better, and I’m looking forward to having a much healthier perspective within a few days.

that sinking feeling

I have a case of the Januaries. It likely began in mid-December, but now it’s in full swing. All I want to do is sleep, I’m moody and irritable, and my outlook has taken a turn for the distinctly bleak… I’ve slid into self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), what my therapist might otherwise call Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood.

I’m someone who is definitely affected by the low exposure to sunlight, the lack of vitamin D, the waning stores of serotonin in my body. And while I wish to do little but hibernate, struggle to maintain a positive attitude and experience bizarre feelings of anger in response to being physically cold, my kind of depression pales in comparison to what I know so many people struggle with on a regular basis. I may wallow for a bit or go on a crying jag but, generally speaking, I can pull myself back up out of it within a number of hours and at least be minimally social, productive and effective as a parent. I rely on the assistance of my friends, vitamin D supplements and a natural serotonin enhancer.

For any of you who may be feeling a bit down this winter, please reach out to your friends and loved ones, find something you can look forward to, be grateful that each day gets a little longer, take care of yourselves and seek whatever kind of help and support you need to let the light back in. We’re each responsible for our own mental health — and there are resources aplenty for those willing to seek them.

meditating and mantra

For the past month or so, a particular mantra has been on my mind. It goes something like this:

“I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”

This particular mantra has been part of my consciousness for so long that I can’t recall where I first learned it. Possibly it’s as common to meditators as “om mani padme hum.” I’ve done a little research, and it turns out this is an ancient Hawaiian / Polynesian mantra that is part of a healing practice of forgiveness. According to Wikipedia, “Ho’oponopono” is defined as “mental cleansing.”

I’ve played around with it over the years. And, since it’s back in my mind, I’m going to work with it a lot more over the coming weeks. With this as a reminder to myself, my daily meditation practice will go something like this:

Inhale:  “I’m sorry.”

Exhale:  “Forgive me.”

Inhale:  “Thank you.”

Exhale:  “I love you.”

Repeat.

Maybe it’s just the medicine I need to restore my faith in the possibility of love.

Join me?

the horrors of love

Did you read the recent news about the man who shot and then dismembered his wife after she told him she was going to leave him? As the gruesome details of the story continue to emerge, the thing that strikes me above all is this:

This woman had her master’s degree in psychology. Her husband was a felon, convicted of a violent rape. What on Earth possessed this woman to fall for this man?

I’ve both seen and experienced that love is blind, but Wow! I can’t imagine how she ended up with him. I can see forgiving some past flaws or youthful indiscretions, but a violent rape? Difficult for a woman to overlook…

In any case, it’s a tragedy for all who knew and loved her, all who supported the couple and especially the couple’s child.

And the horror of this sort of love makes the relative awfulness of being single seem somehow tolerable, preferable even.

a message from the universe

I think the universe wants to keep me silent, tossing extra work and minor household disasters in the way of my writing. Cest la vie. Sometimes these things happen and, while I have plenty to say, I’m obviously to keep mum for a bit. 

Relax, I’ll be back shortly.

props to the first husband

Now that the heightened emotions of the election have waned enough to bring it up:  GObama!

I say this not for any politically motivated reason, but because this man knows how to give his woman props for not only putting up with, but also campaigning through, a second presidential election. You may recall these words from his acceptance speech:

“…And I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago.

Let me say this publicly: Michelle, I have never loved you more. I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation’s first lady…”

Damn! Our first man’s got it going on!

What’s right about it?

  1. “…wouldn’t be the man I am today…” He gave his wife credit for making him a better man, right there in front of the whole world.
  2. “…agreed to marry me…” He acknowledges that this was an agreement, something they did together, which translates to partnership or equality. (You may have noticed that a certain other political party got this whole message wrong…but again, this post is not about politics; it’s about love and appreciation!)
  3. “I have never loved you more.” Man enough to express his softer side to the world, that his love has grown.
  4. “…to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too…” He sees what others see in her, or how they respond to her, and appreciates her for that, too!

Men, take a lesson from this:  Find opportunities to let your spouse, partner, girlfriend know you appreciate her (or him). On second thought, let’s not limit this to men; we can all learn a thing or two about expressing appreciation from this speech. And, while most of us don’t have access to every major news outlet in the world (or speech writers ensuring we make it sound pretty), we can still share publicly, even if in front of a select few, just why we think that special someone is so special.

Now go forth and appreciate!