Sunday, December 31, 2006

Where we goin'... are we there yet?

This is my last post of 2006. I feel it should be important, something fraught with deep and heavy meaning. Sadly I can't think of a thing that fits the bill.


The only thing I can think to say is how very happy I am to be alive.

Is that theme running out of steam for you? It's not for me.... but let's veer off for a moment any way, shall we?

Let's talk meditation for a bit.

My friend Lori gave me a meditation CD yesterday - for healing... you know, since I'm all achey and complainy. Though I have always loved the idea of meditation (the theory) I've never been very good at it (which makes my Wicca practice a little sketchy at best), but I gave it a shot.

I've tried in the past, but that whole focus or lack of focus if you will, the 'turn your mind off' portion of the meditation program, has always been difficult for me.

I took a meditation/relaxation class in college (about 3,876 and a half years ago) because I was always tense (yeah... much has NOT changed since then) and thought a little work on my ability to de-stress couldn't hurt.

It didn't hurt, and I liked it quite a bit... but mostly I ended up taking a much-needed nap every class. I'm not sure that was the actual 'goal' of the program... snoring and drooling on a gymnasium floor... but I did like being able to fall asleep easily (always a problem area for me). So that was good.

My problem with meditation has always been the ...okay, okay I got it but there's a million things I should be, have to be, could be doing other than sitting here feeling myself breathing for 20+ minutes part. It seems the height of anti-multi-tasking. I'm the type of person who likes to do at least 2 things at a time. The closest I've come to a meditative state was in Mexico, and even then I was toiling away on my journal or reading most of the time I was 'relaxing'.

But I tried it tonight. It seemed worth a shot, especially as I could stand a little 'healing' and it's the end of the year and all that...

It was good! I liked it. I had no idea what to expect, I just popped the CD in the machine and hit play and went with it. Letting go of the control of knowing what is coming is something I'm working on. Sorta. It's a trust thing. I'm learning to let go and trust. Note I said learning. I'm not actually there yet, but I'm learning.

So I did the meditation, and I think I'll give it a few more tries and see how it works out. And now I think I may have a topic. Something important, fraught with deep and heavy meaning.

With this being New Year's Eve, and tomorrow being the big 'start the resolutions without me' day, it occurs to me: it's not really about one day. It's not about, it's Monday, it's January 1st, it's a new start, it's a clean slate.

It's about this moment right now.

It's about what are you doing this minute. What are you doing that is hurting you? What are you doing that is healing you? Right NOW. There is no tomorrow. There never is. There is only this moment. This second. It's here and *poof* it's gone.

So what do we do with that?

We make the choice.

Not for tomorrow. Not for the 'new year'. But for now. For right now.

If you make the choice to be happy.
If you make the choice to treat yourself and the world kindly, healthily, lovingly right NOW, just for this instant, and you do that every second, every moment, consciously choosing to do what's good, and kind and loving to everyone -- and yourself most of all -- you don't need that elusive 'tomorrow'. It's already here! And every single moment can be golden.

I am not saying there are not trying times, tough times, sorrows (and yes, aches and pains!) I'm not being a Pollyanna here, god knows! But if you feel the bad stuff coming at you, or your own thoughts turning against you... as they can tend to do... and you stop yourself, you stop for that second and DECIDE: "uh-uh, nope. Right NOW I'm going with the happy thoughts, JUST for this moment" it's conceivable that you could stretch that moment into many, many moments and then you turn around and find you've gone days and days feeling happy. Feeling okay with things. Feeling stronger, and better, until the bad stuff starts becoming just a memory, just a spot in the distance you can look back on but that cannot hurt you any more because it's far away.

Where are we going?

Who knows?

Are we there yet?

We're always there.

Have a GREAT moment....and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Big Whiny Baby

I've toyed with removing the previous posting because it's sooooo self-indulgently cry-baby-ish. But I'm leaving it.

The theme of this blog is to dwell on the happy. To push for the positive and hopefully to be of some small help to anyone who might be going through the hell of suicidal thoughts that I went through. The whining about my physical pains seems counter to that.... but is it?

Yes I feel like crap: physically. But I dragged myself down the block to the gym because I had an appointment with the wonderful Rafael, my friend and trainer, and I hoped that some weight training might help. Sadly it seems not to have. All I want to do right now is go to sleep and not feel these pains. But I feel compelled to address last night's pity party.

I hurt, and I was angry that I hurt. I felt sorry for myself a bit, but mostly PISSED OFF. I'm pissed that going through whatever the hell this pain crap is, I'm pissed that it was bad enough to affect my plans, I'm pissed! But unlike my prior M.O. I am not pissed at myself. I'm not turning my anger on me. I didn't do anything to deserve this pain and I can't blame myself for it. I think being angry at the pain instead of at myself is healthier; because once the rage turns inward... pow... there's that Depression. And I will NOT allow it. (Much easier to not allow it because of the Zoloft!)

So *ouch* I'm hurting.
Pisssssssed that I missed a show I wanted to see.
Really severely unhappy with the state of my pain.
I can laugh
I can find a way to fix this pain nonsense
I can be happy.

Know why?

Because I'm alive.

And everything is going to be okay. Strike that. Everything is going to be GREAT!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Not doing so well right now...

Oh it's nothing life-threatening, at least not that I know of - meaning I'm not a danger to myself. But I'm not feeling so great.

I don't like it.

Something's going on with me and I'm not sure what it is... I have some theories... I'm not thrilled with any of them.

The main thing I don't like, right now, the thing that's pissing me off enough to bitch and moan about it here, where I really have no business bitching and moaning, is that I'm not going out tonight. Yeah, that's the thing that burns me the most. I'm staying in.

Seems so trivial, huh?

But I'm missing something that makes me very happy, something that never fails to keep a smile on my face for a good two weeks or so... The Niagaras are playing tonight and I'm missing it. And yes, dammit, I'm going to whine about it.

If it were my choice, if it were because I had other plans or some such thing, well alright, no bitching. But this is not my choice and it gets me cranky.

Shall I bore you with the details? Sure, what the hell. You can always stop reading.

The physical problems, that's the problem. Which, yes, granted, better than the mental problems any day of the week, but I'm having a pity party tonight so pull up a chair and turn up the 'poor me' tunes (Patsy Cline works well, though the subject matter isn't exactly right, the woe-is-me tone is correct).

In August of 2002 I got sick. Really, REALLY sick... I thought it was the flu. Lots of people get the flu in August... don't they? Um... not so much. It wasn't flu. It was something I'd never heard of until I got it, and even then I didn't know just how serious it was until AFTER I'd gotten out of the hospital. It took the infectious disease specialists days and days to decide WHAT it was... it isn't seen in NYC all that often so they were stumped. It's called Meningococcal disease and it can kill you. Or you can lose limbs. I was lucky, I neither died (clearly) nor lost a limb. But I lost a lot, and gained some lovely pains in the process. My hands were hit the hardest. And they are what remind me...

At the time my hands hurt so badly that the AIR hurt them. They were swollen, looked a bit like catcher's mitts... red-polka dotted catcher's mitts. They hurt so badly I couldn't open the door to my apartment when my very dear friend trekked in from Jersey to force me to go to the emergency room. I literally could not touch anything without screaming. I had a fever of 104 and all I wanted to do was go to sleep and be left alone. Luckily my friend had a clearer head than me. If I had been left alone and gone to sleep, I would not have woken up. Meningococcal disease can kill you in under 24 hours. By the time the petechiae (polka dots) show up you're in VERY bad shape. We watched as the little red dots popped up before our very eyes... on my hands, on my legs and ankles... It's the outward symptom of the blood vessels bursting under the skin... simplistically: when the vessels burst, the blood stops flowing to the extremities, that's how people lose limbs - it goes to the extremities first. Which is why my hands are all fucked up and my ankles hurt...

Any way... that was 4 years ago and I've gotten back a HUGE amount of strength in my hands since then... but they will never be the same. I was studying American Sign Language when this hit me... it was actually something I was surprisingly adept at... I had dreams of becoming an Interpretor... now I can't even sign for more than a few minutes because it just hurts too much. I can't hold a pen to write for more than 15 or so minutes at a time without my hand cramping up so badly I need a massage... luckily typing doesn't hurt quite as much so I'm able to do that for much longer periods. BLAH BLAH BLAH

The aches have gotten worse lately. I'm also having some other, really odd pains that my doctor can't figure out and is sending me to a Pain Management specialist to deal with... I can't help but feel they are related to the damage caused by the Meningococcal disease. Yeah, good times, all from a disease I was not 'supposed' to get. I did not fall into any of the 'risk factor' groups for this disease. The Center for Disease Control and the NIH were treating me like a rockstar for about a week, while they tried to figure if I was the start of some huge epidemic. I wasn't.

So here I am, in such good spirits, so glad to be alive -- can you imagine, after THAT debacle where I almost died because of a bacterium that just a couple of years later I was planning to kill MYSELF? Amazing. Even to me. And I'm so blue tonight because I feel so shitty physically that I can't face going out to see something that makes me so happy emotionally... yet, blue or not I'm still glad I'm here. I wish I didn't hurt. I wish my hands didn't cramp up so easily. I wish my arm would stop being numb and my ankles wouldn't hurt and my knee would stop screeching every time I bend it. I wish I didn't have these crazy headaches and the weird vertigo... I wish I didn't have these pains... but I'd rather have them and be alive.

I just wish I could drag my sorry ass out to see the Niagaras tonight. And there have been times I could, but tonight I'm having 'the anxiety'. Sometimes it comes with the pains. The fear that I'll start hurting too much while I'm out, that I'll have to hobble home in tears... it makes you not want to risk it. Sure I could pop a couple of Xanax... but then I'd get sleepy and it doesn't stop the pains... so I'd be a sleepy, achey neurotic out on the town. Um. No.

Well. That was a bit of a vent. Goes to show though, you can feel like hell and be blue and STILL be thrilled to be alive. Weird? A little. But it's okay too. And that's about enough of my pity party for tonight. We're closing up, now - you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. :) No more pity parties... at least until next year. Honest!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Basil's After Christmas Let-Down

Yes he checked everything. All those beautifully wrapped packages....

None had his name on them. But he stood guard any way, 'cause he's good that way.

But then he was clearly bored.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry and Bright...

Happy Holidays!

Humbug, you say.

I know. I remember. Ouch.

Holidays, this season in particular, can be terrifically hard on people. Even people who hold it together the rest of the year feel the drain, depression and angst of this time of year. Or more so, the let-down after the holidays are over. The "oh... that's it?" of January 2nd.

Thirteen years ago this week my cousin stepped in front of an Amtrak train. According to 'statistics' suicide rates go down, rather than up, at this time of year. But what is a statistic?

Just because the rates go down, doesn't mean someone isn't considering it. My cousin proved that. She was a newlywed, less than 3 months, at the time of her suicide. Doesn't sound like she was the 'standard' suicide, does it?

We weren't close, I'm estranged from what remains of my family, which works for me. But her story still makes me sad. There have been other suicides in my family, but not anyone I knew, this one was my generation and I did know her when we were children. I did attend her wedding. She was a stunning woman, but clearly she was very, very ill.

It gives me pause at this time of year, to remember her. To remember her wedding. To remember her funeral so soon after. Christmas lights and funeral homes. There was a lot of denial at that funeral. It's hard for people to accept that someone they loved took their own life. It's devastating for the survivors.

What's curious is how much more connected to her I felt after her death than ever during her life. Clearly we had far more in common than I knew. And when I was making my own suicide arrangements 2 years ago, not for the first time, but certainly the most serious and methodically well-thought out plans that thankfully got re-routed to the happy place I'm in now, I did think of her. I remembered how stunned everyone was, how shocked, how pained. Yet not once did it concern me.

Oh I was concerned about paperwork, and monetary issues and clean-up of my affairs (which I was doing my best to prep so that it would all flow easily for my inheritors). I was also concerned about the 'discovery'... I worried about the timing, worried that my body would be found in a timely manner so that my pets wouldn't be without food and water for more than a day. That's the sort of thing I worried about.

It never crossed my mind that people would be hurt. Never occurred to me that I might be the source of terrible sorrow to my beloved friends. Funny how I worried about the mundane aftermath, but not the emotional scars I might be inflicting. I know it was because I was too deep into my own pain to think that anyone would even miss me.

In fact, I was certain they'd all be better off with me gone.

My cousin would be 43 now. Who knows what wonderful things she might have done with her life in the last 13 years. Who knows how things might have improved for her if she'd held on a little longer... long enough to get well.

Every day I wake up I think to myself, I have another day. I'm here. I'm alive!

Every single day I wake up grateful for the last 2 years and 2 months of my life.

Every single day I remember - I never, ever have a day go by that I don't feel like the luckiest woman alive simply because I'm here. Because everything is different now. Because I am so lucky.

Christmas. The years leading up to my decision to kill myself were incredibly hard. Christmas was the worst of it. Both my parents dying slowly in nursing homes and hospitals. A horrible relationship with a man who fucked with my head and heart so badly that I didn't know which way was up from one day to the next. Loneliness that was so vast and isolating that it didn't matter how many people were with me, or how good to me they were, I was alone and the dark was all encompassing. And I went through the motions every day, and I made cookies at Christmas, because that's what I do... it's what I've always done. And everything meant nothing. All I wanted was to be gone. To make the hurting stop. To be dead.

I remember standing on the train platform at St. James station on Long Island. That's where the nursing home was, the one where first my mother went... and 2 years later my father. And me, trekking out on that long, lonely train ride. Standing on the platform in the cold waiting for the train back to Manhattan thinking about my cousin. Thinking how simple it would be to just step off the elevated platform just as the train was coming through... and it would all be over and the pain would stop. I can't ride commuter trains any more. Too many bad memories.

I remember hating Christmas. The one holiday that was good in my family. I hated it. It reminded me how alone I was, how much pain I was in, how empty I felt all the time. I was envious of everyone, especially at Christmas. People with families. People with relationships that were not INSANE. People who were happy. People who did not want to die.

I'm better now.

I don't love Christmas the way I used to. Because, well, I'm not a Christian. :) And what I loved about it was the illusion that I had a family. That at this one time of the year there was happiness. I don't need that illusion any more, so the holiday doesn't hold sway the way it used to. But I'm good with it again. I like it. I like having a tree again. I like seeing my friends. I like giving gifts. I like being happy. And I like making cookies. I like looking at the store window displays. I like just 'being'. I'm not doing anything special for Christmas, I'm on my own just hanging, catching up on the reading, playing with the dog (and sometimes the cat), making cookies, writing... and wallowing in the most wonderful feelings. Contentment. Peace, real peace, peace of mind. No envy, no longings for 'what everyone else has' that I do not. Because I have the one thing I cherish most, the thing I wanted passionately to throw away two years ago: I have my life. THAT is the best thing. And it's not an illusion. It's a pretty rockin' gift to have.

Merry Christmas. I wish you peace too!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy!

Are there words to describe the kitsch, the camp, the hilarity that is a living nativity? Welllllll.... there are words, but I ain't gonna use 'em!! My best friend, Gary, is in this nativity... he's Joseph, "um, Mary... honey... can you just explain one more time about this pregnancy thing..."

Happy Holidays.

p.s. More serious and on topic fare in store for tomorrow. Be sure to come on back now, ya hear?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'm alive I'm alive I'm alive....

The Niagaras (left to right: Tony Grimaldi, Robert Whaley, Johnny Pisano))

(Dylan Wissing on drums - sorry I couldn't get everyone in one shot!) at the Red Lion... what better way to spend the holidays?

My best girlfriend enjoying her very first Niagaras show! (Red shirt)

How great it is to be alive - I am thrilled more and more every day... and I couldn't be more thrilled that this poor woman who has listened to me praise this fantastic band every time we talk on the phone finally got to experience them live for herself. And it took rearranging flights from California to Vermont to do it, and was the travel hassle worth it? YES!! She was wildly impressed, and LOVED it.

Of course she did. They're wonderful, what's not to love?

She's also one of the precious friends who listened to me through my Depressions, through my suicidal thoughts, who talked me down a couple of times in years past... just by being there, listening, talking to me until I was too tired to open a vein and simply fell asleep instead... buying another day, another week, through endless phone calls. She's also the one I called two years ago the night my miracle happened, because for once I needed to share something happy and good rather than miserable and sad, so I called her. I called her because truth to tell, I was confused. I was shaken and stirred and a little scared. I was a suicidal woman who had just had the razor plucked out of my hand by a stranger.... 'happy and hopeful' felt disorienting and strange to me -- I needed the ear of a friend to try to work out verbally what I'd just experienced... And she's said she could tell something big had happened to me that night, I sounded different. I was different, not healed, but on the way - finally. Thankfully. Ever, ever thankful for that night.

So this was my Christmas. A touch early, but what's the dif? I got to be with dear friends, I got to listen to great music, I got to laugh, and laugh, and laugh a little more - because I AM alive. And thankful, and happy to be here.

You have your life and that is a helluva gift to have. Hold it close. Share it whenever you can. And treat it with kindness and care, it's a beautiful gift, the best gift - and it's all yours.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Fear... cookies... and paint

So busy! Friday I made a mess o' vegan Rugelach for some friends - some are Vegetarians, some are Lactose Intolerant (which is not to say intolerant of other things... just that ornery milk sugar), and some just like cookies. It was my first try at making them and I was fairly apprehensive. I'm good with baking, I've always had a knack for the sugary baked goods, (seriously, I'm like Shakira, my hips don't lie), but these are semi-complex (meaning you have to roll the dough... I'm not good with the rolled dough...). But I wanted to make them, I saw a recipe, I augmented the recipe and then ... I put off attempting it. Yeah. I'm a chicken.

But then Friday came and I just jumped in. Or rolled out, as it were. And they came out okay! This is a picture of the third batch, because although the first two tasted good, the third looked prettier.

Again, and I guess this is a big theme for me, I have to say trying something new - even something as seemingly mundane as baking a new kind of cookie, is SO good for the soul!! It was such a boost to see them come out of the oven looking relatively decent, and tasting okay, that I just had to laugh at myself for worrying about it. What's to worry? It's just a COOKIE!

Pretty much everything in life is a cookie. "That's the way the cookie crumbles" and all that.

I hate to oversimplify, but really, when you come down to it it's not a bad analogy. Conquering cookie fear is the same as conquering fear of the water, or of choosing a crappy paint color for your walls (which I'm relieved to say I did not -- and may I recommend Behr's Atomic Tangerine to anyone who wants to make the leap from neutrals to something bold) -- or posting a photo on the internet of your incredible disaster-area of a livingroom mid-paint job just to SHOW that color....

It's actually a bit more 'orangey' in person... but you get the idea. Bold. And it's an extremely happy color. Which works really well for me, because I'm... Oh God it's still a little hard for me to even say this... but I'm A REALLY HAPPY PERSON. Whew... I said it. That wasn't so hard.


Of course it was hard. It's a commitment to admit to being happy. It's something you have to live up to. It's a bit of a challenge, and there's that fear of tempting fate by saying it too much, or too loud. The fear that it will go away.

I hope it will never go away.

It's not easy for me to accept it, I'm still always waiting for the other shoe to drop... for the meds to stop working... for the depression to return... for something horrible to happen in my little world... for the depression to return. It's a struggle to let go of that fear. Yes, it could come back. Sure, medications stop working, it's possible. Anything is possible.

And that's the thing I hold onto.

Anything is possible.

And that means anything GREAT and WONDERFUL not just anything bad or tragic.

It's a big change for me. I used to, literally, be uncomfortable WHENEVER I was happy... because I was so unused to it, and so fearful that it would turn horrible. And truthfully, a lot of times it did turn horrible, worst fears realized and so forth.

But over the last two years (and nearly 2 months! YAY! Go ME!) I have found that focusing on just accepting 'the happy' - holding it while it's here and not worrying about how it might go wrong - actually seems to feed it. And if you feed something it grows... and grows... and grows... and gets stronger.

So I'm feeding my happiness some cookies. My hips may not like it... but my soul surely does.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

ahhhh at last... Dessert!!!

There it is, a serving of apple-cranberry crumble. With a scoop of vanilla gelato (thanks to Gary for supplying the ice cream).

It's not the best photo I've ever taken... but it was hard to keep this stuff around long enough to photograph it!

mmmmm-mmmmm fattening!

Happy Accidents

Now then, tell me THAT isn't yummy looking!

That is the extremely hardy chicken stew/soup (with dumplings) that is the result of burning my onions last night. I believe the semi-scorched onions are the key. This came out so beautifully I was shocked. So flavorful it needed no salt, no pepper, in fact it needed only a spoon and a mouth to insert the spoon into.

The apple-cranberry crumble pictures will come later... battery died on my camera before I got the shot. But soon... soon.

So there you have it. Sometimes what seemed like a mistake actually works out to be the best thing possible. Attitude is everything.

Yeah, I know... I sound loopy.

But I've got soup!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Despite my best efforts...

Well it seems, despite workin' it, I am NOT Martha Stewart.

Oh I'd like to think I can do everything at once. I'm writing, painting and cleaning my apartment, selling stuff on eBay, shopping for gifts AND attempting new recipes (baking AND cooking), making holiday plans (wheee out of town friends are visiting!!)... if I were whipping up some needlepoint and tending my window herb garden too then I'd surely be in the Martha running. Alas, I'm not Martha. I don't even have a window herb garden... northern exposure... I'm lucky my 'lucky bamboo' hasn't died yet! But I'm sure I can manage to kill it eventually. I have confidence in my black thumb, dammit!!

But seriously I thought I was doing pretty well.

Until an hour ago.

Until the onions.

I'm making a soup/stew and I'm being all Galloping Gourmet Girl. I'm layering my flavors, I'm sauteing my onions and garlic in broth before starting the soup.... okay, sounds good, right?

Not so much.

I sort of lost track of how long it was between the time I stirred the onions and plopped in front of the computer (to find the apple crumble recipe that's next on the Joy of Cooking show that is me of late)... and then I smelled it.

Oh yeah. Sauteed onions smell delightful, the aroma wafts through the hallways, people get hungry just from the scent... and then... oh then that horrible smell... the burning. The scent of burnt microwave popcorn.

, thinks the not so Top Chef to herself... what's that????"


Luckily I got it off the stove and into the sink before all the onions were charred and the pot was ruined. I did ruin a pot by simply boiling water once. HEY, they say a watched pot never boils... so I didn't watch. For three hours. There was no saving that pot. *sigh*

This time the smell of YOU'RE RUINING THE ONIONS saved the pot... and possibly my soup. I got the unburned out, scoured the pot, put the onions and other veggies into the pot with TONS of broth and it's simmering beautifully right now. Smells awesomely good actually. And I'm topping it with dumplings. Because we really can never have too many dumplings, can we?

The thing is, I want to be able to do it all. And do it all perfectly. And be Martha (albeit no jail time)... but I can't. No one can. Not even Martha. The best we can do is ... well... our best. So you burn some onions. So you have guests coming and the painting is not done. It's not the end of the world. It's really not. Sometimes you can fix things, soup, depression, a perfectionistic attitude.. and sometimes you just have to deal with not being able to fix it, burned pot, the mess of a half painted one-bedroom apartment with people coming for dinner. Either way, it's just life. It's just ... well, shit happens. And we go on. We do our best. And sometimes our best turns out to be better than we'd ever dreamed. I'm hopeful for my soup. I think it will all turn out just fine.

Now YOU go burn some onions!!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bloggin' around...

There was an awful lot of wasted space on the right side of this blog page. It's a template and I couldn't seem to adjust it. So, genius that I am, (shush! let me have my delusions!) I decided to upload a photo to fill the space. Naturally, one photo turned into a pile o' photos. It may not be exciting to anyone but me, but it fills the space and I admit freely that I am pussy-whipped by my dog, so there are shots of him... and there will likely be more. Oh deal with it, I'm an animal person!

I also thought, since I'm doing all this cooking and creative work in the kitchen lately (we'll see how long that lasts!) that I'd take pictures of the final products and post those. Oh GOD aren't you lucky???!

I know I am.

I'm lucky to be free of depression and suicidal thoughts. I'm lucky to be alive.

Really lucky.

Every day.

It doesn't take much to make me happy, I'm pretty easy these days. I try something new with a basic biscuit recipe, it turns out edible (and yummy) and I'm as excited as if I won the lottery. Because, let's face it, I have. Because I'm happy. Just happy to be breathing, walking, talking ... and of course, putting silly pet pictures up on my little blog here. Everything makes me stoopid happy. Because it's life. Because I'm here. And every minute of every day is a miracle.

Hey, I got the pictures to upload - tell me THAT's not a miracle!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Gifts...

So here we are in that holiday time of year again.

The caroling.

The candles (note how all religions enjoy the candles).

The pretty decorations.

The tacky decorations.

And of course....

The gifts.

Well. That's always the issue, isn't it.

WHAT do I give (fill in name of recipient)??!!

We feel compelled to fulfill societal obligations of gift-giving at this time of year. Personally, I love the giving part. I don't hate the receiving part. But I despise the obligation part. It's that obligation that ends with someone receiving some sort of semi-crap gift that they do not want, need or know what to do with. And then the guilt. Someone you like, or love even, gave you this... well, let's call it a fruitcake for now (but it can be any useless item)... and you simply HATE fruitcake. And you have no ROOM to keep a fruitcake. A fruitcake does not go with your ultramodern bachelor/bachelorette pad. (I love the groovy lingo...) and in fact is interfering with your feng shui.

What do I do with this f-ing FRUITCAKE?!

This is the conundrum.

We want to keep the fruitcake. We want to love the fruitcake and display it and show our friends and neighbors and the Con Edison worker who comes to read the meter. "Look at this lovely fruitcake my friend/sister/lover/co-worker gave me! Isn't it swell!??"

But we can't.

Because we hate the fruitcake.
We think about re-gifting.
We want to chuck the fruitcake in the trash.

But it was a gift.


Okay, here's the thing. Just because someone gave it to us, doesn't mean we have to like it. Or keep it. We can get rid of it. And it doesn't make us bad, or ungrateful. What we KEEP is the gesture. The thought behind the gift, though if it really IS a fruitcake... we might want to rethink that thought... (and the giver.... I'm just saying... fruitcake? C'mon.)

But people feel the pressure at this time of year. They feel the desperation of 'what do I give'! And they end up with a fruitcake. Because they want to make the gesture, they want to do the giving thing, but it's tough to come up with the perfect gift - and there it is, in the tin, the fruitcake.

I have been decluttering my home. I'm clearing out EVERYTHING. I really don't want any more fruitcake cluttering up my chi. And I do NOT want to give anyone more fruitcake that they will have to deal with either. What to do?

Letting go of the obligatory gifting is the first step. It's commercialism gone wild after all, so why go there? My friend Kori has worked under a really good gifting practice for the past few years. I'm going to borrow it and share it here.

If you see a perfect gift for someone: get it, give it and WHEEE!
If you do not know what to give someone: do NOT just go for 'anything' - if it's not special and right for the recipient, just pass until something that IS right presents itself, and give it then.

Just because it is a holiday where gifting has become obligatory, does not mean you must conform. Don't conform. If you find a great gift for someone in July, get it and give it to them. The thought is far more important than the obligation.

I love this idea. It takes the pressure off, thus dissipating the dreaded holiday depression, it makes every day a potential day of surprise gifts, and best of all: no more fruitcake!

Of course it's tough to break the old habits, so if you feel compelled to fruitcake someone you love... maybe you could make them something edible (fruitcake is not edible, so don't get any smart ideas), or get them a gift certificate to a store they like, see if they have an online wish list, or make a donation in their name to a charity they love, or some nice candles - you burn 'em, they're nice and then they're gone (and remember all the religions love the candles!), or take them to dinner, or get them a massage! All these things are gifts, they don't clutter up the house, they show you care, and they're things people don't usually get themselves... and they aren't fruitcake.

Merry Merry
Happy Happy

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Airlines are Right

I've been doing something I have rarely done: I'm cooking. For myself!!

Usually I just don't see the point in mucking around in the kitchen just to eat something and THEN have to clean up after myself. If someone is coming and I'm doing it for them, then I'll go nutty and nothing is too extravagant. But for myself? Eh. Cheerios are good. (and good for you!)

But the past couple of weeks I've been on a cooking kick. I'm actually buying things that require cutting, chopping, mixing, heating... you know cooking: like with a pan and fire!

And I'm just loving it!

I had the urge to cook, but my old lazy, "why cook for me?" attitude (where's the applause in THAT?) tried to take over. Luckily my best friend Gary was coming one day last week, so I took advantage. When, as usual, he asked where we should GO to eat, I said: I'm cooking!

Poor thing almost passed out.

Luckily my culinary skills revived him - instead of putting him in the hospital... (Oh Taco Bell what's become of you?) And ever since I've been cooking something new every night. Just for me!

Where are we going with this, you might be asking.

And I have an answer.

You know how the airlines do that happy little speech before you take off?

Here's the slide in the event of an 'unscheduled' landing (take off your heels ladies!)

Here's your flotation device in the event of a water landing (oh puh-leez, like I wouldn't have had a heart attack beforehand)

And most interesting and most important and TRUE:

Here's your oxygen. "put your mask on before assisting your child" Because you can't help anyone else until you help yourself.

And that is the goddamned truth. And it took me a very long time to 'get' it... I'm still working on it, but that's life... you keep working on it.

A lot of us are caretakers. Most women are instinctive caretakers. Some men are as well. The problem with the caretaker mentality is that we are so busy taking care that we forget to put on our oxygen masks first. In the frenzy of worrying about others, whether it's a real emergency, illnesses, or just being concerned that our friends or guests are comfortable and happy, we overlook the one person that we need to care for first, and foremost: ourselves.

It's uncomfortable at first. Who am I kidding? It's damned near impossible at first. We worry that we'll be seen as selfish, or cold. Saying "No" is tough! And I have to admit, if my parents were still alive I don't know that I would have gotten to the point of learning this. I spent my entire life caretaking them... and anyone else who came within 3 feet of me... it happens a lot to children of alcoholics, it's what we learn, it's what we know, it's comfortable (even when it sucks).

But I'm getting it. And I'm consciously working on it all the time.

So every day I'm pulling out the cookbooks. Yes, I have over a dozen of them. A shock to many who know me. Hey, I love books. I love food. It's a natural.... of course they needed to be dusted off, but still...

And every day I'm making something new. Just for me! Guess what? It's nice to put the oxygen on and get cooking. It actually feels good to take care of yourself first. It's not selfish. It's not cold. It's important. You matter, and you have to take care of yourself before you can do anything for anyone else. So Do It. Breathe deep and remember to take care.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy friend

I just spoke to a very dear friend today who had the best news. She has a new sweetie, and it seems he's smitten with her.

In a very short time he has done multiple sweet and thoughtful things for and with her that make it sound (to me) that he's crushing on her big time.

And this makes me so very happy. She's a really great woman and I'm thrilled she's met someone who sees what a prize she is. And the best thing about it is she met him doing something she loves.

She decided to go back to school to get a degree in a field that excites her, something she's done as a hobby for several years, now she's going professional and she'll be earning a living at a job that really feeds her soul (once school is over that is!) She had the guts to quit a safe, but draining and ill-paying job, to try something that would make her really happy. And it seems that doing that has opened the floodgates on so many good things coming her way that it really gives credence to following your bliss.

This is one of the great things about life: being happy and excited for your friends and their happiness. Okay, it's new, who knows how it will go - but do we ever know how romance will go? The point is right now, today, it's great - and I am so SO happy for her.

You just never know what's around the corner. Best to keep your eyes open and stick around to see for yourself.

I just love it when good things happen.

Winter's coming?

Or is it?

It may be December, but if you step outside you'd think it was Spring here in New York. I know the reason is global warming. I know it's the result of pollution and our disregard and disrespect for the planet we are lucky enough to live on. I know it's not a good thing. But selfish as it is, I have to say: I LOVE THIS WEATHER!

It is a pleasure to walk out the door without a coat. To go out and not be freezing my substantial ass off. It is fantastic! It may be the death knell of our planet's eco-system... but right now, today, it's gorgeous!

I feel the cold so much more in the past few years that any time the weather is even close to warmish, I'm delighted. My poor old bones can't take the cold any more... Hey kiddies, get me my walker and rheumatism medicine!

I used to prefer the cold weather to the heat, I just couldn't deal with hot weather - especially the humid summers of New York. But now I can't tolerate the chill, even the slightest drop in temperature gives me the shivers.

The heat in my apartment, as many New York City dwellers will agree, gets blasted to the high 100s. It's crazy hot, to the point that people can only find relief by turning on their air-conditioners! This used to torment me - windows open, fans running, just to make the room temperature tolerable. But now I am grateful for the excess heat. I have extra blankets and just got my first down comforter (something that I joked I'd never need in my hot-box apartment).

But today is beautiful. It's simply perfect. Okay, it's a little rainy, but it's warm and I'm psyched. It's a beautiful day. Every day is a beautiful day: because we get to live it. But today, this gift of a Spring day on the first of December, it's an even more beautiful day.

Happy December!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

love, regret, and why do we?

What is it about the toxic 'love' relationship that makes it so hard to let go?

The movie What the Bleep Do We Know? addresses the physical, chemical alterations our brains go through when we continue to reinforce beliefs. Beliefs about ourselves and our relationships with others and the world in general. It makes a lot of sense, and (this is my shorthand, simplistic explanation) says we can in fact change ourselves and our reality through positive thought processes. Of course it's not so simple, nor so easy. But I believe it works. Of course if I were really adept at it you'd be reading this in a best-seller that was *cha-chinging* cash into my bank account while I was laying in a hammock on the porch of my Mexican beach house while my 'friend' Fernando, wearing only a gold lame loincloth, was peeling mangoes and humming Niagaras tunes for me.... but I digress.

I was talking to a friend, not the imaginary Fernando, about this today. He went through a very toxic long-term relationship with someone who really played with his head and even though he's out of that relationship, sometimes he falls back into the thought processes he developed during it. And it is tough to break those thought habits.

And when I say "I was talking to a friend" I really was - though the truth is the same thing happened to me. It's helpful to know that you're not the only one who has been in one of these psycho-relationships.

The trap is that it does seem to actually alter your brain chemistry. Okay, okay I'm not a doctor, I'm not even a Ph.d., but you don't need a degree to get this stuff. It's something in your head that keys into the addiction, whether that addiction is a drug, coffee, cigarettes, food, or a person. Habits become ingrained and then you forget what it was like not to have them. What was life like BEFORE I met 'psycho' (or had my first cigarette, or whatever)... you FORGET! You forget that you didn't need the object of your addiction BEFORE... you simply forgot what it was like not to have it. And that you were just fine, if not healthier, before you 'met'.

I have TONS of addictions... it's part of the brain chemistry I inherited from generations of addictive personalities... but I got rid of the worst of them. And that one was the one I 'thought' was the love of my life. If he was, I am soooo screwed. :) But it seems the only way to realign your head to the BEFORE is to completely erase the object of addiction from your life. Not to say you should forget the lessons learned from the experience, but you can remember the lessons without keeping the textbook open on your lap for the rest of your life. It's the old pulling off the band-aid conundrum... do you rip it off or pull slowly? I say RIP THAT SUCKER OFF! It takes a bit of balls... but it's so worth it.

Now I'm going back to Fernando, fresh mangos and the Niagaras.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


It's so nice we have a holiday dedicated to giving thanks for everything we have. Personally I have been in a perpetual 'thanksgiving' state for a little over 2 years... so this is just another day in a series. But it's still nice.

In the past Thanksgivings for me have been either:

family gatherings
having to travel, worrying about how drunk everyone was going to get and when the fights would begin.

being the hostess
worrying that the food would suck, worrying about how drunk everyone was going to get and when the fights would begin, or even better.

visits to nursing homes
well, at least no one was drunk or fighting... they were just mentally altered and food was no issue as feeding tubes were in place... but it was still a real party.

But this year is different. And I'm loving it.

The past couple of years, prompted by my newly found joy in living, I signed up to do Thanksgiving meal deliveries to the homebound ill and elderly. It was fun, and beyond gratifying, but it was a job of work. Most of the folks we delivered to lived in walk-ups, on the highest floors (hence the reason they were homebound) so carrying those bags of food was a trek. But the smiles we got in return... that is the SHIT, baby! And it made every flight of stairs a breeze.

I wanted to do it again this year, but got so caught up in my 'quit the job' decision-making, etc. that I didn't get to sign up in time. So this year I'm doing something different: nothing!

I feel bad about not doing the volunteer thing, but I'm also really delighted to have had NO obligations today. Oh a friend and I are going to the theater tonight, but that's easy-breezy. Otherwise I have just spent the day chilling, and yes, thinking about the hundreds of things I have to be thankful for.

All the things I am thankful for are things that would not be, had I killed myself. So we're talking about an excessively long list that goes from breathing to being on stage, from being healthy to having the world's most lovely friends. My lists are too long - and for that, I am profoundly thankful.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Late the other night on West 4th Street I was at the light waiting to cross 6th Avenue. There was a homeless man yelling at some people behind me:

"Do you want to see me die? You would, wouldn't you? You want to see me jump off a bridge, step in front of a car?"

The guys he was yelling at crossed West 4th and I stood there waiting for the traffic...

"What about you Ma'am? You want to watch me die?"

The entire previous exchange left me feeling horrible, when it was focused at me I froze. These are the issues for me.

It's the middle of the night and I'm alone.
Ignore and move on.
Aggressive, ranting people on the street are rarely a safe bet.
Ignore and move on.
He called me "Ma'am". I hate that.
Ignore and move on.
What if he meant it?

I feel like I failed a test. Like I blew it. I know that's a little nutty (hellllo, I'm a little nutty), but I can't help feeling like a hypocrite. If the subject matter had been anything else I'd have no qualms. I don't give money to people on the street: I used to, and found every time I did it would turn bad. Leave it at that. But here's a guy... maybe he's really suicidal and somehow I could have helped (though the vibe was more aggressive than suicidal... how do I really know?).

I don't want to feel guilty about this... and I'm not sure that I actually do... but I do feel conflicted. I don't like feeling like a coward, or a hypocrite.... but maybe I was a bit of both. Or maybe I did the right thing.

I don't know.
I just don't know.

This is where my stomach knots up.

Part of me wants to stop and say "No. I do not want to watch you die. Suicide is not an answer. How can I help you?"

But the self-preservation instinct is stronger than the 'help a stranger' instinct. So I ignored and crossed the street.

In part I know I did the right thing. But part of me... coward.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Cake

Yes, my friend was correct. If you quit, you get a cake. I didn't really believe it, but here it is. That's my cake. Ain't it GORGEOUS?!

And it was delicious as well. And I was touched beyond the telling of it. Not only was it a lovely way to end two weeks of wonderful 'farewell' lunches, with wonderful people, one of which was actually home-made spagetti and meatballs (not to mention antipasto and wine all of which were made and than lugged into the office by a very sweet woman who is a little too good for her own good... and she makes a helluva meatball!) but the cake was ordered specially for me (oh my GOD!) and then picked up in Brooklyn and trekked back into Manhattan, by another woman who is a little too sweet for her own good (she brought the Tiramisu to the Meatball party too -- Nice!!!)

And I got presents too! Holy hell, who knew?! A girly bathset from BLISS, hello! And a vintage leopard hatbox and a beautiful vase with my name on it -- and it doesn't even look like a Christmas vase. Hey, with a name like "joy" you get very used to having misteltoe or a reindeer on anything with your name on it; it's always a rare treat when it's not a holiday thing!

So many people stopped by to say good-bye I couldn't take it! I felt very ... popular. And I was a little astounded. And it was.... really, really nice.

And even though I was dancing in the halls most of the day... I tried not to be too obnoxious about leaving but ... you know... HAPPY! I was also feeling a little misty about saying good-bye to some very nice people... who actually seem to like me. Talk about a shock! Hey, I'm healthier but it doesn't mean I'm the Queen of Confidence or anything! My head inflates rather easily, but it deflates even easier, hence my need for constant praise or reassurance... empty flattery sometimes works as well. I'm not too fussy that way. I'll take it!!

But all this outpouring of good wishes and kindnesses has now foisted on me another reason to do the things I intend, the things I've dreamed of doing. Now I feel I will be letting down these great people who truly wish me success and good fortune as I leave them. Sure it's a little pressure. But it's a good pressure. And you know, nothing is impossible: as long as we're alive. So I think I'm going to be okay. Not just okay, but fantastic.

And I hope all these great people who were so kind to me and laughed at my jokes for 3 years know: I wish them all the same good things they wish for me.

Thank you.

A CAKE!!!! Don't you love it?!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006



Today is my last day at 'the job'. I could say my last day of work, but that would be erroneous. I may have more work lined up for myself than I can handle, but that's just fine with me. The difference being 'the job' has been sucking my soul. The 'work' does nothing but feed it.

I couldn't be more excited.

The persistent question I get from everyone is "but what will you do?!"

My answer: Plenty!

I understand that people are concerned. They hear you are leaving a steady income, they hear you are making a drastic change, and they worry for you. And I appreciate that, I really do. But I think perhaps the deeper truth is that they wonder: "what would I do?"

Here is where some soul searching comes into play.

Are you happy with what you are doing for a living?
I'd estimate 90% would answer "no".

What else can you do, what would make you happy?
I'd estimate 99% could not answer that question.

There's a popular phrase that's been bandied about for the past several years: thinking outside the box. The thing is, not many people dare to do this. It's hard to go against the grain. It's hard to imagine our full potential. It's WORK.

I understand that. It's so much easier to do what you've been doing, to do what has been set up and decided. To just keep going on the same path. And for many that's a great path! It works for them, and that's wonderful. But so MANY people are unhappy. So why persist in something that makes you unhappy? Simple: fear.

Change is hard. It is SCARY! Hell, it's terrifying. But the alternative is stagnation. And a lifelong inner questioning of oneself: 'what if'.

I suggest that if you have identified your 'what if' that you give it a shot. Figure out how to make it happen, find out what you can do to make your 'what if' a reality. If you don't know what your 'what if' is... try this: what did you want to be when you grew up? Let's face it, most of us have our dreams squelched pretty damned early in life. But that doesn't mean we can't get them back. They stay with us, they linger in our memories, they fill our fantasies in ways we may not even realize. The soul cries out for what it wants - we are the ones who stop ourselves. We listen to the inner voices of doubt and 'you can't do THAT!' and 'you're not good enough' and we settle. And we persist. And sometimes we can find a way to be content. But is contentment bliss? No.

Try getting into your head for a while. Try to remember the thing you dreamed of being before society, or your parents or teachers or your own insecurities told you 'no'. When you find that 'thing'... pursue it. Immerse in it. DO IT. You can, you know. You really can. There are a million ways to follow your own bliss. You may not need to quit your job to do it. I did, but that's me. You are you, and YOU can do it. You can have the 'what if' of your dreams be your reality.

It takes a little work.

But isn't finding your bliss worth a little scary work?

I think it is.

So today is my last day of 'the job', and tomorrow is my first day of 'work'. I can't wait. Can you?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bad Girl!

I've spent the day doing, doing, doing. Working out at the gym, brunching with the friends, running the errands (thank God the dog can eat now!)... the library is CLOSED today-GRRRR!... chucking more stuff... seriously, does anyone else have this much USELESS STUFF???... cleaning... fixing broken things.... reworking my blogs... backing up the computer... and yet, I feel like I have been remiss. Why? Because I only wrote a thousand words on my Nano novel so far today instead of FIVE thousand. I'm woefully behind in word count and instead of hunkering down and doing it I'm doing THIS!

And you know what I say?


I have spent the better part of my life hating myself, blaming myself for EVERYTHING that goes wrong with EVERYONE and generally working the guilt on myself for every move I make. Though, true to form, I have to say the one thing I never have and never will feel any guilt about is sex. Why I escaped that particular Catholic idiosyncrasy is beyond me. But I'm glad of it! Guilt for eating too much, I get. Guilt for having sex? Nah, that makes no sense. But I digress.

After years and years of listening to the nay-saying voices in my head telling me I'm a loser and talentless and ugly and [insert all bad qualities here] I have finally reached a place where I can stop it. Sure, there are times when insecurities hit, when I'm angry at myself for not doing something I should have (like writing 1,667 words a day), blaming myself for everything that DIDN'T get accomplished and negating everything that DID, and I feel myself taking a stroll down "I Hate Myself" Lane. But I don't walk there long. Couple of feet, maybe a yard or two and then I turn back. And I remember that the only one telling me I cannot do something, or am 'bad' for not having accomplished something is ME. And I will not hate myself any more.

Okay, so my parents didn't love me. So what?
So I'm not a best-selling author. So what?
So I'm not on Broaday.. or Off-Broadway... or in a dinner theater. So what?

It does NOT make me a bad person.
It does not mean I am a loser.
It may mean I need to get my ass in gear and make some priority changes, but that's ALL it means.

I used to internalize every little thing and turn it around on myself. I was brought up with so much negativity, so little encouragement that I didn't have much choice but to be the way I was... I didn't know how else TO be... until I saw someone LIKE me, someone from the same shitty background, someone maybe 'too sensitive' who took things too much to heart, who was a little too proud, and a little too insecure but who looked at life from a different angle and kept going instead of giving up. Who chose happy over sad, and chose to see the good instead of the bad.

All the intellectualizing in the world can't beat a good old-fashioned example in the flesh. I met that example and it changed my life.

So my apartment is still a mess, and
My novel is further from being done than it could be, and
I haven't practiced my Spanish in months.

I have done a lot today. Hell, I've done a lot in the last two years. I'm not lazy (reading's lazy.. yeah, right Dad), I'm not stupid (why is it only an A, where's the A+?... yeah Mom) and I am NOT bad. In fact, I'm pretty damned great.

And so are YOU!

So there!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A break from the regularly scheduled blog for a Niagaras PSA

Mark your calendars, people!!

Friday, November 10th The Niagaras at Rodeo Bar, 10pm. It's FREE! Absurd, I know. It seems impossible that you can actually see this incredible band for FREE, but it's true! Best bargain in New York City? Oh yes! Fun music, fun performers, and if you're lucky (and you will be lucky) - a fun man in his underwear.

If you haven't seen them, I guarantee you will love them. It might even be a life-changing event. How can you resist?

If you have seen them, you know you need to see them again!

Come on down - it's good and good for you! (Come early, grab a table!) 3 min preview

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Let's take a moment to procrastinate, shall we?

I have SO much to do, my fingers are in about a million pies at the moment. Metaphorically any way. The last thing I need to do now is start baking!

But I'm taking a break so that those of you who do read this blog will not be bored that there hasn't been a new posting in 3 days! And of course, it gives me a chance to blather on and leave my other projects to gel for a bit.

Yes, I did quit my office job. Thursday. Handed in the ol' resignation. I felt like I'd lost 5 lbs just by handing around that piece of paper. Honestly. I don't think I feel the full effect of it yet. I am not yelling "Yippee!" in the streets... but I will on my last day! I do feel relieved to have finally done it. It was the right decision. I was second guessing myself so much that I couldn't take it any more. I like to think, I like pondering, but sometimes you really just have to take a leap of faith and DO IT. Whatever "IT" may be for you. Whether it's signing some sort of contract or painting your kitchen or quitting a job. You can think it to death but nothing changes if you don't take a chance.

Sometimes you just have to trust that everything will be okay. That you are making the right decision. And just do it.

I want to stop right here for a moment and make myself exceedingly clear: by just "Do It" I am talking about positive changes. I'm talking about good things, or scary-to-do things, or things you don't particularly want to do because it might change your comfort level. I am NOT talking about suicide. Let's be VERY VERY CLEAR here. That is the ONE choice that is NOT acceptable. Not at all. Because if you chooose that, well then everything will NOT be okay. Not for you, not for anyone you've left behind. It's NOT AN OPTION. Don't make me come there and smack you upside the head!

Okay, now that we're clear, let's get back to the things you CAN do that are GOOD and good for you!

I've been 'apartment therapy-ing' my place for what seems like a decade. Actually more like a year and a half. I redid the bedroom first and loved it. But then it became all about "what colors do I paint the kitchen and livingroom" and I got flummoxed. So many choices! So many beautiful colors to choose from -- and I want them ALL! But of course if you use them all you end up living in what looks like a circus tent. Not that I have anything against circus tents... I just don't imagine they are very comfy to live in.

I finally found a paint color I ADORE - just KNEW it was the one for me. So I bought a gallon yesterday and I've been painting since last night. It's called "sundried tomato" and it is yummy! I'm not done yet but what is done looks pretty great. It's rich and warm and enveloping.

Of course it's also quite dark... but I've solved that with strip lights and plan to put more lights in under the cabinets. Do you care? See I'm blathering! I knew that would happen.

It's just that I'm so excited that I finally chose a color and slapped it on the walls. When you wait and wait and wait to do something and then finally do it... well, it's a relief. And exciting!

Oh my... I think I'm about to start running in the street yelling "yippee!"

Now go do something you've been putting off. Just do it! I'll be listening for a yippee!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pretty November~

It's November 1st. The beginning of a new year, look, it's a pagan thing and it makes more sense than January really. Any way....

It's November and that means National Novel Writing Month! Woo-hoo!

Whoo-What? You say.

It's a ... well... it's a thing. It's an exercise, it's an excuse to write freely and without boundaries (except that you have to finish 50,000 words by 11:59pm on November 30). It's fun! Well... not so much fun sometimes as a struggle, but actually still fun. You can see excerpts from my first attempt at this NaNoWriMo thing (2004) on my other blog (click the profile it will take you there). It was something I did as a vent, a purge, a step towards feeling better - November 1st comes just 4 days after my "Happy Day" anniversary so it was a good thing to do that year.

What I'm doing now is known as procrastination. That's PRO-CRAS-TI-NATION. I've actually gotten 871 words in so far, which is not so bad I'm happy with it. But I decided to write this instead... because.... I'm procrastinatin'!

And because I have news I feel like spilling.

I'm quitting my job.

I was trying soooo hard to stick it out until January, but the truth is: life is short. Too short to do a job you hate, or that leaves you feeling empty, dissatisfied or so unhappy that you eat enough Entenmann's Chocolate Chip loaf to gain 20 lbs in 2 months. Yeah. I wish I was exaggerating. (well... actually I'm also going through a little thyroid glitch which is helping the cake settle in, but still: I'm eating the cake, and it's because I'm BORED! And I'm angry at myself too. Angry that I allowed this to happen. I should have left a year (or more) ago and I knew it, but I felt like it wasn't the 'smart' thing to do.

Fuck that.

I'd rather be happy than safe and 'smart'. Life is so short. Security is an illusion. Happiness is not. Plus I'm making my friends unhappy because I'M SO unhappy 8 hours a day. THAT is unacceptable. So I'm quitting tomorrow morning and relief really doesn't cover it.

I'll still have to do 2 more weeks after I quit... because I'm a dope that way... it's rude not to give 'notice'... I guess. I don't like to be rude... though it's going to be a hard two weeks with the finish line staring me in the face. Still, as a very charming friend of mine told me recently, "don't get fired: quit. Or you'll miss out on the cake".

Who am I to turn down cake?

And now the procrastination ends and I'm going back to the novel-ing. Which is work, but at least it's satisfying. ...kind of like cake.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Dog Hates the Rain...

It's one of those lovely-to-stay-in-bed days. Raining off and on and kinda dreary outside. This means trouble.

My dog is not fond of rain. He would rather burst his little bladder than go outside in the rain (and he would never deign to have an 'accident' in the house). So rainy days are tough.

Today however I got him out around 1pm and our timing was great. It had stopped raining and out we went. He was perky so I got him to walk around the block. Another herculean task as he isn't much on walking any where that takes him where he can't get home in two seconds flat. We were half-way around the block when it happened: the sky opened up and TORRENTS of rain came down! I had no umbrella, Basil had nothing (poor nekkid doggie!) and we were caught in the rain.

Me, I like getting caught in a downpour, I think it's fun. My dog disagrees.

But today was different! He actually continued sniffing around, he didn't bolt to run home, we actually walked about a 1/2 block before he even seemed to be bothered by the rain!!

"Hey, what did you do with my dog????" I asked him.

"....." he answered. C'mon, he's a dog. He doesn't talk.

We came around the corner of our street and though he'd usually run through traffic to get home rather than be in the rain, he plopped himself down under the awning of the restaurant on the corner. Curtains of rain fell around us and we were in a little protected square. Basil was apparently quite happy to stop under the awning and watch the mayhem around us: people (and dogs) running through the rain. Watching him sedately watching everything going nutty around him really struck me. This dog is so f-ing ZEN sometimes! So instead of worrying about getting back home (all of 6 doors away) I leaned against the wall and chilled with my smart dog.

I could not get the smile off my face. It was a silly, happy moment. We just stoppped. I don't often 'stop'. This is New York... we keep moving here. But sometimes, like when nature decides to FORCE you to chill-out, it's nice to be still. To stop thinking about the million things you need to get done, but will never get done, and just BE.

We finally did a sprint to the next awning and did the same ''stop and watch" thing; and one more sprint to our building where we stopped in the doorway and did it again. Basil's tail was wagging and he was doing his doggie smile... and I realized I was laughing and smiling too. We were soaked, but happy. Maybe he doesn't hate the rain so much any more. People...and dogs... can change. It's good to remember that.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Welcome to my Happy Day

Today is the second year anniversary of my best day. My very best day. The day of my great epiphany. The day I decided that I could try a different way - that possibly, just possibly now, I might be able to change my life rather than end my life. That I could give it a try... and it might be worth it.

Two years later I am so happy. So happy! Just to be able to sit here and type these words: I am alive. Two years! I look back and am amazed. I look back on every single day as another blessing sprung from that miracle that changed everything for me.

A couple of nights ago I went to the theater to see a new play The Sunset Limited. I had asked if anyone wanted to go (I had an extra ticket) but no one was enthralled by the subject matter: attempted suicide.... so I went on my own. I'm glad I went alone, there was too much in this show that was hitting home for me and the resonance left me in tears a couple of times... sometimes that makes people uncomfortable. And I'd never want to make anyone uncomfortable... Right.

Any way... it seemed opportune that I go to this show this week of my anniversary. It reminded me, not that I really need reminding at all.

Two years ago when I was preparing for my suicide, it never crossed my mind that what I could do is just drop everything and move on. Leave my current life behind, become someone else, AND keep living. Just DO something completely out of character, something bold, something unexpected - like move to Mexico and start a new life. Of course I was in no emotional state to do anything of the kind, I barely held it together from minute to minute... The point being that while one might see suicide as a viable (ironic, huh?) alternative to their tortured existence, the suicide would never conceive of simply picking up and abandoning everything to begin fresh somewhere else... yet they would leave it all to die. Crazy, huh?

No one ever said a suicidal mind is a rational mind. (I know I wasn't rational.) BUT in truth if you kill yourself, if you die, you do just that: you abandon everyone and everything. Something you would never do: just to pick up and walk away from everything, people, job, home, pets, everything and start some new life is EXACTLY what you would do if you killed yourself. Of course the difference being that you don't just die to the life you've known, you die to everything. You lose it all. And that, truly, is a horrible waste.

It is of course because the pain of living is in you, it's not something you see as environmental so much as internal. Doesn't matter where you go: there you are. From a perspective of two years passed I can see that far more clearly than I could have if someone tried to tell me that at the time. So why do I think writing it here, maybe suggesting this to someone who is as bad off now as I was two years ago would be of any help at all?

Because it's coming from someone who was there.

Someone who knows just how intensely sad you have to be to see death as your best choice.

I was there, so if you're reading this and you're thinking "yeah, but you don't know how much pain I'm in" guess again. I do know.

I know so much that I have tears in my eyes right now as I write this. That I am crying as I type this silly blog in hopes that someone who needs it will stumble upon it and find the kind of epiphany I found two years ago from the words of a stranger. Because I do know how much you hurt, and I know what kind of strength it takes to get through every minute of every day when each breath is fraught with pain and nothing, absolutely nothing seems good to you.

I know what it is to wake up every single morning for endless months with tears in your eyes because you are so miserable you even cry in your sleep.

I know what it is to stand on a subway platform and think how simple it would be to just step off as the #6 is coming through.

I know what it is to collect razor blades and line them up on the side of the bathtub so you have back ups.

I know what it is to collect pills so you will have enough to be lethal.

I know what it is to want to die to make it all stop hurting.

So yes, I think hearing it from someone who was where you are now might have some weight.

And maybe knowing that someone who was where you are, who knows exactly where you are right now, is here, is alive and grateful beyond words to be alive TWO years later will be enough to make you rethink your 'only option'. Because suicide is not it. It's not the only option. In fact it's no option at all.

There is no one on this planet who has any more right to be here than you. You have every right to be happy, and alive and to have the life you want. I promise, it can be better. I do promise you that. I know how afraid you are, I can remember it vividly. But I can tell you truthfully that if you feel you are alone in the world - you're not. We're all connected, in some way. If you haven't tried medications, please do; just go to your doctor and tell her (or him) that you need to try something. If you have tried medication and it isn't working: try another! Everyone is different, Zoloft works for me: it may not work for you, but something else will. It is worth trying, trying is scary, but living and finding happiness in living is worth it.

Two years. Worth every minute. I promise.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nothing Learned is Ever Wasted....

Never let anyone tell you that your dreams are worthless, your aspirations unachievable, or your education an exercise in futility.

I have a degree in Theater... Acting emphasis. Yes, I am well aware: that and $2 will get me on the subway. Is it a worthless degree? Perhaps, if you only think in terms of monetary gain. If you think in terms of personal happiness, fulfillment and growth then it is priceless.

When I needed to borrow $2,000 from my father to pay the balance of my college tuition for my junior year, after financial aid and my job at Taco Bell I was short just the $2K. He said to me, "I thought you finished with college"

I had done 2 years at a community college and earned an A.S. degree... then took a year off to earn enough to pay for the next two years and a B.A.

I tried to explain that I wanted, no, I needed to go for two more years. He scoffed. "What for? You'll only end up working at Taco Bell the rest of your life any way."

With encouragement like that... well, who wouldn't feel special?

But after much bargaining, and by bargaining I mean begging... yeah, that felt great, my father and his fucking power trip about money... sorry, digressing... I did manage to finish my B.A.... in Theater.

The wonderful thing about a degree in Theater is the things you learn. Now sure I wanted to be playing Blanche and weeping about "a boy... just a boy" while a Streetcar Named Desire ran by with my name on it... but the reality of the education I received was that I learned EVERY aspect of the theater. Not just the fun part (acting is the fun part - at least for me). So although I knew I was never going to become a set designer, lighting designer and god help us all I wasn't going to be handling the house; I learned what these jobs entail.

"As useless as algebra!" was the consensus of the acting students. We didn't need to know how to use a lathe or a jigsaw or how to build a flat. "We should be studying Shakespearean soliloquies!!!

But you know what? I used my college lightening course this very day. I sure did.

My kitchen light has been on the fritz for the past 2-3 weeks. I kept meaning to call the Super to take a look at it, but ... I really kinda hate having people come in to do work in my place. I prefer my privacy. And frankly, most times I can do the work faster and better myself. How sad is THAT?

Today, however, I finally decided to get off my ass and fix the light myself. I bought a dimmer switch at the hardware store, because if I needed to install a new lightswitch, why not make it a dimmer? Ooooh. Mood lighting!

I read the directions on the package, very simple really, and *pow* I heard the voice of my Lightening Design teacher in my head....

"Now, Now Joy, you have simply GOT to remember that like goes to like and twist those wires together..." That should be read with a texasy-southern accent.

And there I was back in class, splicing wires and reconnecting lamps... in under 20 minutes not only was my kitchen light working again, but it was even better than before. I LOVE the dimmer!!

So it goes to show you. You may learn things in your life that you see no purpose in... that seem redundant or superfluous... but one day everything comes into play. Nothing you learn, whether it's how to strip a wire or how to mourn a broken heart, is ever a waste. One day having learned what you thought was boring, or painful, turns out to be something that can make you smile. I'm going to lower my lights and burn some incense now.

Go learn something new! Follow your dreams, no matter who tries to discourage you. And someone always will, it's what they do. But trust me, don't listen to the naysayers. They're just too afraid to follow dreams of their own... or they don't even have a dream to follow.

Whether it leads where you thought you'd go or not, nothing is ever really wasted... it might just take a while to see the lesson played out.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

On Your Feet!

I love shoes. I can't help it, it's just something that seems to go along with XX chromosome patterns… or maybe I'm just trying to rationalize? Probably... but...

I love girly shoes!

I love high-high heels. I love beading and sequins and fringe and bows. I love Lucite heeled stripper shoes. I loved the platform shoes of the 70s that had a clear heel you could actually keep a goldfish in! Cruel? Sure. Cool looking? Ab-so-fucking-lutely!

I love strappy shoes. I LOVE S&M fetish shoes. I love old-school cockroach-killer '50s high-heels. I love boots! Thigh-high pirate boots that lace up the back (I have a pair of those: yum!) and short little ankle boots. I love flats!

I do not love big clunky shoes that look like they belong on a construction site. Doc Martens? Ugh. Really.

I have far too many shoes. Most of them are ridiculously inexpensive PayLess shoes. I love PayLess. You can buy a half-dozen pair of shoes for less than the price of one pair of SERIOUS shoes, and if they end up hurting your feet, or if they get rained on or otherwise destroyed, or simply worn out, it just doesn't matter: because they were so cheap! It also allows me to indulge my divergent tastes in shoes and buy trendy-trendy shoes that I won't ever wear again and not feel guilty about it.

Today I am wearing an adorable pair of dark purple flats with a rhinestone buckle. $9 at PayLess last year. Love them.

The only downfall to the higher heels that I own and wear less frequently than I'd like is the street factor. Oh sure I can walk in them (or I wouldn't buy them) but can I maneuver on the New York City Streets in them? Not always. It's not even a matter of diverting away from slick surfaces or grates that catch and destroy covered heels; it's a matter of speed.

I tend to be late.

I was born late. Literally. Six days late. It's as if I knew what was out there and I didn't want to deal. BUT I learned to walk in heels early. I did the usual dress-up in Mommy's clothes that kids do… down to the shoes. But since I had my growth spurt very young (one of the few things I did early) I was wearing the same size shoes as my mother by the fourth grade… so learning to walk in heels was relatively simple for me. In college I ran around in 4 inch platform SANDALS all the time. And I when I say RAN around I mean it. I could actually run in the things! But the streets of New York offer far too many challenges and I run late to appointments, shows, work, everything and I need to be able to scoot. And so, cute flats are my favorite go-to shoes.

I try to be mindful of those in heels on the street. I'll move over and walk on the subway grates so that my high-heel shoe-lovin' sister can have the sidewalk and not fall on her face. I hope others wearing flats will do the same for me when I'm caught out in heels. It's something that should be understood by all women who brave the streets in high heels.

Wearing high heels makes me feel feminine and sexy… but also vulnerable and unsafe. I like the former and dread the latter. I don't think men understand the concerns that women have on a daily basis about what they can wear out. We do have to be careful. Something adorable at a party of friends or even when with someone can illicit frightening attention on the street if you're alone. This means clothing as well as shoes, and there's little as frightening as realizing you are being menaced while wearing shoes you cannot move fast in... it's bad. So when I will be traveling alone, on the subway or just walking, I almost never wear my real killer shoes. I need to feel safe in my ability to get the hell outta the way, and sadly, the beautiful shoes don't give me that feeling.

But they sure are purty!

Did this little blog have a point? Is there a deeper meaning about the human condition somewhere hidden in the metaphor of the coveted gorgeous woman's shoe? Could be... but you'll have to figure this one out on your own: and when you do, please drop me a line - because I'm clueless here!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A good start...

Two days off a week is entirely insufficient to do anything productive with my apartment. I can clean it... to a reasonable extent.... but I need to get some painting done and this involves in-depth chucking of stuff and that takes more than 2 days. I knew I had a lot of stuff, the fact that after a year (at least) of intensive chucking I still have piles in corners leads me to believe that I have no true sense of the full amount of crap I hang onto. If I can have this much physical junk and not realize it, how much emotional clutter do I have that I am not dealing with, or even aware of having so that I can deal with it? Good God it's daunting!

BUT I have accomplished a lot (even though it sometimes feels like I haven't) and the only way to tackle a daunting task is to start. Somewhere. One little thing at a time. Baby steps... baby steps....

So instead of diddling here (which I'd rather do than sort through the pile of mess in my livingroom corners) I'm going to go set my clock for one hour. You can do anything when you know there is a finite time for it. Even cleaning. One hour of action rather than three hours of moaning about it and I know I'll feel better about it for having simply attempted to get SOMETHING done.

Honestly though, I do feel that when I'm not here, or am sleeping, or otherwise occupied, that someone comes into my home and messes it up. Entropy? I think it's an actual entity! Mr. Entropy! How else can there be so much stuff on a kitchen table that was clear yesterday?

Maybe it's the dog?

More likely the cat.

Time to set the clock... and maybe get one of those 'nanny-cams'.


Monday, October 09, 2006

kind of fun...

Over the past two days I've had two separate, yet similiar conversations with two friends. Both involved them telling me they thought I'd be good with kids. One as a teacher, the other as a "good influence"... of course this is all in the abstract as I'm really not so great with kids.

I'm fairly patient, and I can be fun with them... but after about an hour I can't sustain it and will invariably say something "too adult" or maybe I'll tell some poor kid that Peter Pan is being played by a woman.

True exchange between myself and 6 year old Maya during a performance of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby (who was really wonderful) which I attended at the request of my best friend (their teacher) to assist as a chapareone.

Me: Wow, she's amazing.... she looks really convincing as Peter considering she's what... a 50 year old lady, huh?

Maya: WHAT? You mean Peter Pan is a GIRL?

Size 8 to the mouth.

I may as well have handed her a cigarette and a shot of whiskey. I just FORGET they're kids sometimes... Even as a kid I spent more time with adults than with other children, so it's just ... I forget, okay?

I do feel pretty bad about disillusioning Maya, but I have to say that almost a year after the fact she still refers to me as Joy, You know the one who told me Peter Pan was a woman... and she says it with a sort of pride. Which I admire. And Maya is also my one and only fan. She actually has an autographed 8x10 of me in her room. Odd? Sure, but I guess it proves my friends right... I do have some kind of influence on kids.... maybe not the best influence, but influence nonetheless. And I figure when she's an adult, if she still remembers me, she'll have herself a good laugh at the crazy lady who sat with her class during Peter Pan and blew Peter's cover. And after all, it's not like I said anything about Santa Claus!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Joy Lucky...

For many years... um... okay, for over a decade if I have to be honest, and lord knows I have to be... I'd been in a pit of bad. Any luck I had at all turned out to be bad... and if not bad, then AWFUL. In fact towards the end it of that period it got to be that the bad luck was welcomed as a respite from the awful luck. Yeah. It wasn't good. Well, hell, if it had been I certainly wouldn't have been fixated on killing myself, now would I?

But I am blessed, truly, because I have some kick-ass friends; those old, wonderful ones who stuck with me through the ungodly crap and did what they could to help the miserable wretch I was... and the new, make-me-cry-they-are so-good-for-me ones I've known a much shorter time, but who have made me feel like there might actually be something worthwhile - okay let me get conceited and say FABULOUS - about me. God knows I like myself better now than I have ever in my life before and I give much of the credit for that to these amazing people who I am blessed to call friends.

The strange and wonderful thing about friends is how you almost never know when you first meet how important someone will become in your life. It's usually not a thunderbolt moment like love at first sight, where you just KNOW that someone will impact your life. Although sometimes it is, and that's something pretty damned special... and the best kind of luck.

Probably, no, it's a certainty, the best luck I ever had was some of my bad luck.... okay convoluted, but in retrospect it's a direct line. Let me explain.

I had no medical insurance, and no job, and lump in my breast. Well... how very unlucky for me. Or I so I thought... and it was, sure, bad. But because of that lump I took a job for the medical benefits and there made an awfully lucky friend.... though I couldn't know how lucky. It was because of this friend that I saw the show that turned out to be the single best thing that ever happened to me, and met someone who I did know, right away, had impacted my life. If not for that lump... no friend, no show, no hero... just an exacto knife in a warm bath.

What I'm trying to say here is if you are in the pit of bad, like I was for so long, and it looks like nothing will ever change... and even your most optimistic friends have to admit that it looks like your luck will never change... and the crap just keeps coming and coming and coming with no let up and no end in sight... as hard as it may be to see, and as hard as it may be to believe, there might indeed be a reason for your bad luck. It may in fact be the best luck you could have wished for -- but you won't find that out if you don't hang in. If you don't wait to see how the comedy of your life is playing out, you might miss the best thing in the world.

What I want to say to anyone who wants to check out is just this: stay.

Stay... even though it hurts so much you can't even manage to cry any more. Stay... even though you feel so alone you believe you will never feel anything good again. Stay... Stay... Stay... get through the bad days however you can. Stay... and do the things that scare you shitless (even if that just means getting out of bed). Stay... Stay... Stay... because you don't know the future. Stay... because you have a right to be here. Stay... because somewhere, someone you don't know is here for you. Stay... because you have a purpose (even if you don't know it yet) Stay... because the sky is blue. Stay... because I said so. Stay... because ... Stay... because you are here, you are alive and that is the luckiest thing. Stay... Just stay...

Now to any of my beloved friends who are reading this and asking "what about ME?" let me say: I love you all, very, very much. This is just about a very specific chain of events that I needed, desperately, to happen. (you know I did) And how I got so very lucky... how someone who was so unbearably sad became so stupid happy. You all had a part in it, (you know you did), but this is the specific last straw that kept this camel away from the razor blades and turned her into someone new, someone happy. And by the way, this year's mammogram came back totally clean again. I really am lucky. And very, very happy.