Thursday, August 31, 2006

the up side of having been suicidal...

Okay, so maybe that's a no-brainer. The upside is you're no longer suicidal - pretty much everything is up from that point. But the thing I'm referring to is the lessened fears.

I had become so fearful, so holed-up, with my depression and desire to die that I was afraid to do the littlest things.

I've always been shy so my littlest things are miniscule to other people; and with some of them I still have some work to do. For example, don't expect me to feel comfortable ordering in a deli... it's nuts (no, really, it is) but I have a horrible time working up the nerve to order over a deli counter. There's something so intimidating about all that glass... or maybe it's just that I'm short. Not sure. But that one is still problematic. And party-phobia. That's just something I can't seem to control, sometimes I'm fine: most times, not so much. Parties and Delis... hey, we all have our quirks.

But the bigger things, THOSE I'm much better about. For instance I had never traveled alone prior to my first trip to Mexico 6 months ago. Sure I've 'traveled' alone, but I've never actually been on an entire trip alone start to finish. I'd either meet up with someone or go visit someone or some such thing. That first Mexico trip was HUGE for me. Not only was it my first trip alone, I was going to a Spanish-speaking country. I took French in High School. My knowledge of Spanish began with "si" and ended with "gracias". Seriously. But I went any way. And it was, hands down, the very best vacation I have EVER taken. I came back to New York and immediately signed up for a Spanish class. After 4 months of classes I still have a HORRIBLE accent, but I can read and understand what people are saying (I love Mexican soap operas) and that's a helluva lot better than "si and gracias".

If I'd gone ahead with my check-0ut plans, I would never have seen Mexico - easily the most beautiful place on earth. I would not have learned Spanish (some would argue I have STILL not learned Spanish but I ignore them). I would not have had the chance to act again, I would not have gotten a second tattoo, I ... okay, let's just say I've done a lot of things I could never have even dreamed up when I was planning my suicide. And I cannot express how astounded I am at all I would have missed.

Every day since the day I decided NOT to die has been pure gravy. Even the crappy days have been great. Seriously great. If I were to die tomorrow I would still be so happy that I had this time where I truly appreciated being alive, I'd be pissed it was so short, but I'd still appreciate what I'd had. Because had I done what I'd intended... there would have been none of it. What an awful waste, to have missed so much. And there is SO much out there.

It's hard, really hard, to see this side of things when you're sick. Your world becomes very small, very tight and wrapped around your pain and your fears. It's an isolation that allows nothing beautiful in, nothing delights, nothing feels good. Everything is ashey and empty and tasteless and dull. So much so that you can completely forget what it ever felt like to even laugh for real. That was one of the worst things for me. Losing laughter.

Not that anyone knew it. Hell, I laughed all the time. It was what people expected. Funny girl, laugh clown laugh and all that shit. I remember hearing my own laughter and thinking how insanely fake it sounded. It was like watching a badly dubbed movie. And I remember the first real, honest "oh my GOD I'm REALLY LAUGHING and not fake-smiling" moment that I'd had in years. And I know exactly when and where it happened and I will never be able to thank enough the man who gave me my laugh back. Laughter really is powerful medicine. Real laughter any way. And that's hard to find when you're sick.

I know, it sounds all preachy-happy and maybe even a little nauseating. God I hope it doesn't... though I know my cynical self, I'd poo-poo it all for sure. Except that I experience it every day now, and I'm still a bit cynical, but you can be cynical and still be THRILLED to be alive. It seems odd, but ... well... I'm a little odd.

I'm going to Mexico again in two weeks. If you've read this blog before you know that already. This time I'm not even a little nervous. I did set up a reservation for a Dolphin swim. This is a big deal, because I do not swim. I'm a dog-paddler at best and that water had best not be more than 4 feet deep. So this is one of those I'm afraid but doing it any way things. My guess is that it will be incredible and I'll wonder why I never got over my fear of water and learned to swim. But while I'm worrying about drowning (not that I think Flipper would let anyone drown) and making a big fool of myself I'm also going to remember that there's actually nothing to fear: it's all just gravy after all. And what's scary about gravy? Nothing. It's delicious!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

it's getting baaaad again!

I have not wanted to write here because I'm feeling Grumpy, and at least 5 of the other dwarves, along with their cousin Mopey (who is currently filling in for Happy while he's on vacation somewhere... probably Mexico where I WANT TO BE RIGHT NOW!) This is due to the fact that the headaches I was having a couple of weeks back have returned and I am very, very bored at work.

Not like I have nothing to do at work... I just find it all tedious and meaningless. Bad combination.

BUT I am trying to be upbeat... uh, yeah. No really I am, but it's so difficult when you are stuck in the same place, the same every day, the sameness. Some people really love that. And that's fantastic! It's great... for them. Some people love routine, the comfort of continuity which, you know, is wonderful... sometimes. But mostly I hate it. If it were something I loved to do, or something I felt deeply about well then I imagine it wouldn't be so bad. I don't suppose I'd feel trapped. But this job? This office thing? I feel like I could start screaming just from the same same same same.

I work as a legal secretary. I took some secretarial classes in high school: because they wouldn't let me take the 40 other classes I WANTED to take. My best friend was taking this crap and I just went along. Clearly one of my stupidest mistakes. Okay, I'm glad I can type - that's the only good thing. I am not, nor have I ever been, anyone's vision of the ideal secretary.

I suck at it actually.

So after a full 3 years and 9 days being a permanent employee doing a job that is pretty much my worst nightmare (telephone sales would be my absolute worst... oh wait... I guess it depends on what I was selling; nevermind) I'm .. shall we say... lacking in job satisfaction. It's getting me down, and I hate that I'm allowing something as meaningless as this make me sad.

My father, who was not the most communicative, nor the most insightful fellow told me something shocking maybe a year or so before he died. He said: "You have to love the work you're doing. Life is too short to stay in a job you hate." This from the man who told me, when I said I was going to go to college, "Why? You'll only end up at Taco Bell any way." Yes, the support system was always pretty strong from my parents.

[For more on that sort of thing, presented, I hope, in a humorous fashion, please check my other blog http://briefhistoryofanorphan.blogspot.com/]

The pitiful thing is: I actually loved working at Taco Bell! It helped me pay for a BIG chunk of my last two years of college and it was one of my two top favorite non-theatre-related jobs. It goes without saying that anything I ever did involving performing, whether it paid nothing, $5, or $500, was WONDERFUL. But I really loved working at Taco Bell. It was FUN. Sure there was a 'routine', but it was always a little different and when the pregnant woman with the two-year old would come in every day at 10:00 a.m. for a burrito supreme (she had cravings) I felt like I was doing something ever so slightly IMPORTANT. That woman NEEDED that burrito every day and I loved making it. What do I do now? Oh I file. Yeah, that's making someone happy... I type sometimes... feel the thrill? I'm not DOING anything that gives me any kind of creative or emotional fulfillment. And as odd as it sounds, I did have that at Taco Bell... even if I did have to wear unflattering brown polyester with a matching kerchief while I was doing it.

So my Dad was right. You really do have to do something you love. It's sad he found that out AFTER he retired. I guess I've always sort of known it but never could get it right. But I'm trying. I'm never going to love the job I'm doing now, in fact when I took this job the time frame I gave myself (and the people I work for) was 6 months. I outlasted myself by quite a lot, and no one is more surprised than I. But now it's bad. It's making me unhappy enough that I'm not getting over it when I walk out the door. It's a struggle to go there every morning.

So, in two weeks I'm off to Mexico. And after that... time to do work I love, no matter how little it pays. And if it turns out that I'm never on a stage again, and I never sell my book(s), or screenplay(s) and I end up making burrito supremes for pregnant ladies with cravings for Mexican fast food = well so be it. And then my Dad will have been right twice. And wouldn't that be something?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

recalling the pain...

It's been nearly two years since the lowest point in my life. Since that time, especially at the very start of my healing, I have tried conscientiously to avoid remembering how much pain I was in back then. I can talk about it with anyone without any problem whatsoever, but I don't really let myself truly remember how it felt in any way except intellectually, surficially. The fear for me, and from what I'm told, for others who have dealt with depression, is that to remember too vividly, to dwell, as it were, will bring it back. It's something of a case of 'speak of the devil'.

From time to time something will remind me of the actual feeling - not the description of the feeling - and it will hit me full-on just how horrible it was. When I actively remember, when I empathize fully with that poor sick chick that was me... I usually cry. I want to run and avoid it, fearful that the memories themselves can make me sick again. It's an easy fear to have. And it makes sense. Since so much of the pain of depression is inner turmoil, anger, 'rage turned inward', and so much of it runs in the circles of the mind, it is only natural that to recall those feelings brings on anxiety. Despite whatever healthy and good place you're in, there is a terror that just the memory of the illness will send you back into that black misery.

Today I feel so wonderful, so easy and relaxed and tension-free that I feel safer delving into those scary feelings.

Everyone has bad days. Everyone gets the blues. Everyone feels grief sometimes. The difference for people with Depression is that we don't see it as finite. We can't see it as a temporary feeling. Even if we've been up and down and over and out with it a hundred times. That is primarily because for us, those of us who have been down the dark road, it isn't finite. It isn't temporary. For us, once in it, we're IN IT. End of story.

Oh it's not always completely debilitating, perhaps it would be better if it were. Let me explain.

For the most part my Depressive episodes - there were many... I couldn't count them if I wanted to - were times when I managed to function, managed to work, managed to pay the bills, feed the pets, take care of the child-like parents, deal with the insane boyfriends, comfort friends, make people laugh. No one could see how sick I was because I was functioning. I was surviving.

My first major Depression hit me when I was 17, at the start of my senior year in high school. I was debilitated. I couldn't move. Couldn't get off the couch. Was paralyzed. I barely spoke. I didn't read. Did nothing but sit there. My parents, being the enlightened and caring people they were, let me sit there. I missed between 4 and 6 weeks of school. I barely remember that time. What I do remember is how terrified I was, how much I wished I could die, how I thought constantly of suicide and even more so, how much I wished someone would PLEASE HELP ME!

To call it 'awful' is severe understatement.

I sat there day after endless day wishing someone could understand what was wrong with me - I understood I was very, very sick and sad beyond words, but I couldn't tell anyone, couldn't express it, and no one seemed to see it. But I had always been pretty much invisible so I am not surprised to look back and understand that since they didn't see me, how could they see there was anything wrong? (except of course that a 17 year old girl was laying on the couch virtually catatonic for a month and half... uh... yeah... pretty normal... pass the salt).

If I'd had anything like a caring family life, odds are good I would have been brought to a doctor. Even a general practitioner would have been able to say: get this girl to a psychiatrist! But ... that would have (a) cost money and (b) been embarrassing. So. There I sat until, thankfully, the episode passed and I - oddly enough - became MANIC. Well, wasn't that a lucky break?

Of course as I got older and went through milder and more severe episodes like that first one... up and down up and down... until the last ten years or so which saw a steady falling away of the 'up' and pervasive increase in the 'down'. I saw more and more that, in fact, there was quite a history of manic-depression, bi-polar disorder, suicide, not to mention the prevalent alcoholism, in my family on either side - so who could help anybody? Maybe they DID think it was normal. Though no one really talked about it... so maybe they didn't think it altogether 'normal'.

The point that debilitation is a 'good' thing is when there are people around you who care and SEE that there is a problem. When you are a functional Depressive (or manic-depressive) people just chalk it up to your 'artistic or sensitive nature'. This encourages you not to seek help. "Help for what? I'm not sick, I just have a sensitive personality!" Seeking help is doubtless the hardest thing to do when you're depressed. When you're manic you don't WANT help because you feel so awesomely good. You don't sleep much, but you may sleep with LOTS of people, you shop a LOT, and you sure feel good. Been there? You know what I mean.

But when you're depressed you want so desperately to have someone help. And usually it is impossible to ask for that help. Impossible to admit outright that you are in more pain than you believe anyone can understand. And frankly, if you've never been there, you really can't understand. This is not to say you can't sympathize and want to help and think you have an inkling as to the torture your Depressed friend or loved one is going through. But you can't actually know it, and you are blessed that you can't. Trust me, you don't want to know firsthand.

The Depressed often gravitate towards each other. It's that instinct that tells you: they have been there, they know. The trouble with that is that it's hard for someone who is drowning to help someone who is drowning right next to them.

Since the night I was thrown a life-preserver, albeit unknowingly, by someone I'd never met before but who will always be the great hero of my life - and that's no exaggeration - I have wanted to help someone else as I was helped. To repay a portion of an enormous Karmic debt. Almost two years since that night someone made me feel I was NOT invisible, I am 99% sure I will never be ill again. (When I hit 3 years I'll be 100% sure.) And I wish I had the power to actually help everyone who is suffering the way I suffered. I don't have that power, the best I can do right now is what I'm doing here. Write these little essays that may spark some recognition for someone who needs it, someone who might just need to know that someone else has walked in the dark and is here to tell them that it can be overcome. You can get into the light, and I don't mean the crazy manic disco-ball lights, I mean the calm, warm, happy light. You have the power within yourself to work a miracle in your life. (I'm a pagan, so I'm not doing a christian thing here, trust me!) You might need meds to help yourself along, like I did, but it's STILL helping yourself. Don't think it's a crutch, like I used to. It's a tool that can truly help.

We all walk alone in our darkness, but just on the other side is the light and there are people like me, like that hero of mine, total strangers who are walking alongside you in the light and reaching a hand into that dark place for you to grab onto. There's a song I love, and listen to almost every day... okay, okay I listen to it every day... one of the lines that resonates most for me is "nothing is impossible, as long as we're alive; nothing is insurmountable because we know how to survive". I had always been a survivor, but two years ago I had used up all I had, survival no longer seemed worthwhile or possible. But I got a little help from a stranger, and it changed my mind.

I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive. And you are too. Nothing is impossible. Nothing. You can heal, you really can. Feel that hand in the dark? Grab it and hold on tight, okay?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Something different

I've never been a big fan of peaches. I don't dislike them, I just don't gravitate towards them. I can't even remember the last time I had a peach.

The other day I stopped at a fruit vendor on 58th and Park and impulsively grabbed a peach to go with the usual staples: carrots, bannanas. I don't know what made me decide to go for the peach, it wasn't as if it was the finest representation of the fruit I'd ever seen. It wasn't a craving I'd had prior to seeing the pile of peaches on the vendor's cart. I hadn't seen an advertising photograph of a juicy, ripe peach split open with morning dew on its furry skin with a blurb about the wonders of antioxidants. Out of the blue I simply wanted that peach.

After I'd bought it I forgot about it. It sat in a bag on my desk at work all day, I carried it home, and it sat on my kitchen counter. Even my insane, fruit-eating cat didn't bother with it. Apparently even my cat is not a big peach fan. The dog could care less.

But I have let too much fresh produce go bad because I lose the mood after a buying furor at a really good grocer or am too much of a lazy cook to prepare the meal I originally bought them for - I wasn't going to let this one stupid peach rot.

I cut it open yesterday morning... it was, quite simply: fantastic. Possibly the best peach I've ever had. Fully ripe, juicy without being sloppy, the flesh firm but yielding, sweet and flavorful. I was amazed that I'd picked such a great piece of fruit.

On my way home that evening I decided I needed to have more peaches in my life. I stopped at a green grocer and bought two Georgia peaches; they were the variety that most resembled the one I'd bought from the street-side vendor.

I washed it in happy anticipation, I cut it open and sliced it into sections, put it in a bowl and sat down to experience the delight of my new-found fruit obsession.

It wasn't a great peach. It was okay, but it was more like the type of peach that I was used to. There was nothing special about it. There wasn't a blemish on it, but wasn't particularly flavorful, not particularly juicy. It was good, not great, just a peach: not an experience.

Okay so you can't force serendipity - obviously. But you can be open to it. There are so many seemingly tiny things in life that we don't pay enough attention to, are too busy to fully experience, that we allow to be mundane when in fact they are miraculous. Something as ordinary as grabbing a peach from a fruit cart and discovering perfection can open your eyes - if you let it.

I may never find a perfect peach again. I may not even try. But then again... there may be more out there that are even better, even more sublime. We get so stuck in our routines, bananas, carrots, that we forget that there are peaches, and that we can have them - we can have anything. Everything on this earth is here for all of us, if we want it - if we aren't too closed off or afraid to try.

I bought some fresh figs this morning. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Communication... or its lack

The dance between men and women can be so distorted by assumptions. It's such a waste, really, to pass on being with someone sexually because you assume that someone wants to be in a romantic relationship (that you don't want) when in fact all they want is a sexual (and friendly) relationship - that you DO both want.

I was talking to a friend of mine today who had just discovered an old friend of his had actually been interested in him, sexually, since they met. But neither of them would admit an attraction. NOW it comes out, 25 years later. Well... now that was a bit of waste wasn't it? They may work it out now, but still... that's a long time to keep quiet on a desire.

Of course this resonates with me as I went through something very similar. The difference was that mine ended up being the single worst relationship of my life - and that was due to the romance bit. Had it remained purely friendly and sexual it would have been great fun (though due to this fellow's many inhibitions - none of which showed themselves until I was too caught up in the love side of things to get the hell out without a giant life-altering epiphany it would not have remained great fun for long.) Warning: if you are at all puritanical switch to another blog right now. When a guy is all for getting blow jobs but finds going down on you abhorent: get out of Dodge because he's either:

A) Gay;
B) Angry at women in general, and using you in particular to get back at 'THEM';
C) a lazy, and therefore lousy, lover; or
D) See A.

Oral sex is not the complete story of course, but if it's important to you (and it is to me) then it does matter if someone who 'loves' you isn't willing to reciprocate. Especially when you really LOVE it (giving and receiving). It matters A LOT. And of course there are other aspects of sex that may not show themselves so overtly, this one is just the big clue that should be the wake up and get out of the bed call.

But let's get back to that dance.

When people know each other for years and then suddenly find themselves blissfully in bed together, if one is of a mind to keep things out of the romantic realm, they should BOTH keep it that way.

When you start talking 'love' 'soul mates' 'meant to be together' etc, etc. you had damned well better not be lying. I mean really. If you're trying to get someone in the sack, well... okay it's still going too far to try to convince them you're 'in love' when you aren't, but at least it makes some kind of sense! If you do it AFTER you've been knocking the bed through the wall for months, and you don't mean it: you're a seriously cruel and fucked up person. No ifs ands or buts.

Do men and women really understand each other so little that they think the romance is necessary to have sex? I mean sure, it's delightful, but nothing is worse than faking it. (in all ways) You don't break a heart by fucking someone, you break a heart by pretending to care in ways you don't. And unless you're simply a sadist there's no reason to do it. There's no earthly reason. Can it just be miscommunication? Just the "Men are from Mars" bullshit? No, I think it's much more convoluted then that - and it sucks. Being a woman I can't speak for men who may have had this happen to them, but somehow I think it's more common that men believe women require 'love' to have sex. We don't. Oh some do, or think they do, but really, sex is a wonderful thing -- love is a wonderful thing too, but they do not always have to go together to be wonderful things!

The truth is I have had unbelievably great sex with people I was in no way in love with, but who I did LIKE a helluva lot. And what a refreshing and lovely thing it is to have a FUN passionate sexual relationship without the fucking DRAMA, angst and pain!

What is wrong with just WANTING each other?

People always say, "sex changes things". Well it doesn't actually. Emotions change everything. Sex is a beautiful, fantastic, GORGEOUS thing - but it does not have to 'change everything'. It can make you feel closer to someone, sure. You bond in an extreme way, but it doesn't mean you are the love of each other's life. That's just a fairy tale. You can be the love of someone's life and never once touch them, having sex with someone doesn't instantly make you Tristan and Isolde.

I don't think I'm unromantic. In fact just the opposite. I hold love and romance in an exalted place of honor. But I also think it's too rare and precious to believe a sexual act can create it.

So what's my point? Yeah, good question. My point is, if you assume someone wants a 'girlfriend/boyfriend type relationship' when what they really want is your body you could be missing out on a truly great RELATIONSHIP that is not only fun, but nuturing in a good way without anybody's heart being broken. Oh, and guess what? If you were actually friends before you had sex, you will STILL be friends afterwards, and during, and afterwards again. Get over yourself if you think the other person will fall madly in love with you because you fucked and don't pass up enriching your friendship.

Friday, August 18, 2006

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life....

I've been cranky and crabby all week. I have been a big ol' Japanese monster movie crab. Currently playing in theaters: Joy-ra vs. Godzilla. Godzilla Doesn't Have a Prayer.

But now it's Friday and time to get over it, which should be easy because The Niagaras are performing tonight at the Red Lion (@ Bleecker & Thompson)!

If you are in the New York City area then do yourself a giant Godzilla-sized favor and go see them. GO SEE THEM!

I'm sometimes (sometimes?) a little overzealous about this band, but for very good reason: they are, without doubt the very most fun you will have (outside of sex).... or in the case of my last relationship more so.

Not one person I've brought to a Niagaras show has been disappointed; nor will you be. These guys really know what they're doing, and despite the goofiness that always ensues, they are consumately professional. And did I mention: FUN?

Nothing will lift your spirits more than the life-affirming, radiating happiness you will feel at a Niagaras show. It never fails. Never.

No matter how blue or tired or out-of-sorts I may feel, a couple of hours of Niagaras-style fun make the world right again. (I often wonder if they pump something into the air...hmmmm.)

Seeing this band work is the world's best-kept secret weapon against the blues -- but it shouldn't be a secret! So I'm telling. So there, world: be with that!

Come see the Niagaras and see for yourself. I promise, you'll be amazed. And you will laugh. You will very likely dance. The odds are tremendous that you will see an extremely charming man in his underwear. You will have happy, happy tunes stuck in your head for weeks. And I will become uncrabby... Now THAT is a miracle!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

War & Peace

I have been attempting to read Tolstoy's War and Peace for years. More years than I want to admit to. I have actually read the first 140 pages over five times. I don't know what it is about those first 140 pages, but no matter when I begin it that seems to be the place I stop. By the time I feel the urge to read it again I feel compelled to start at the beginning, so that I am totally up on the characters: many of whom have such similar names as to require a cheat sheet.

At first I wanted to read it because it just seemed like a 'should do'. I mean can you legitimately call yourself a bibliophile and shy away from this tome? Can you? It's enormous, which meant if it was good I'd be in book-lover heaven. And you know, those first 14o pages ARE good. Why then can I never get to page 141? It's the weirdest thing. It's like there's a curse on this book for me. I've never attempted to read a book... I mean either I read it or I don't. Simple, right? But not this puppy. For some reason it keeps calling to me, and I keep dancing back and forth with it. The strangest thing is how much I WANT to read it... and then I don't do it.

I've flown through Tolstoy's short stories and loved them. The other novels never appealed much, but W&P... well, I want to read it. So what the hell is the hold up?

Maybe it's the copy I have. Paperback - which means it's the size of two bricks lumped together and not so easy to manipulate. But that's just an excuse, right? If it were a hardcover version it would still weigh a good 97 lbs.

It must be that War and Peace represents something more than just a good read. There's something about being able to say: "oh yes, I read War & Peace"... some status amongst the literati, some Everest-like claim that I am afraid to achieve.

It would be okay if I could just let it go, say I don't want to read it. Now that would make sense. But the truth is I do want to read it. And it's not even as if it would be some record-breaker, "what's the longest book you've ever read" nonsense. There's a block here and for the life of me I can't put my finger on it.

I have an amusing story about War & Peace. At least I find it amusing. In a very pitiful sort of way.

One Christmas I was working at a Barnes & Noble to supplement my temping. I have a habit of running more than one job at a time, until now... maybe that's why I'm so stressed, I need a second job. Yeah. Any way, I was working at a Barnes & Noble.

The thing is I'd always thought working in a bookstore would be a dream. All those books. People looking for books. Recommending books. Books, Books, Books!!!

Wrong.

Oh sure, during the interview process they aspire to, or pretend to aspire to, the illusion that they are an actual BOOK STORE. They ask you what you're reading right now. They ask what authors you like. You actually have a conversation about books. That's how they sucked me in. I was naive enough to think you needed to know something about literature, or at least popular fiction, to work there. Laugh with me now. It's like saying you need to attend the Cordon Bleu to work at McDonalds.

So after my interview, where we discussed the Brontes (all of them, not just the dreaded Charlotte), science fiction as a legitimate form of literature, and the then current trend towards slasher-fiction (crime stories, you know), I thought this is going to be GREAT. Guess where they decided I was best suited? Magazines.

MAGAZINES? WHAT?!

My knowledge of magazines begins and ends with my adolescent subscription to GLAMOUR.

And there I was, 'assisting' people in the magazine section.

Every day was like a series of bad dates.

One day I happened to be hanging at the information desk. All the various thousands of Bridal magazines were in order and tidy so I had nothing else to do.

A man came up to the desk and asked the child working the computer, "where can I find War & Peace?"

The teenage info-tech pro began furiously typing into the machine. He stared at the screen. He typed more. He stared more. I was fascinated. What ever could he be looking at?

"How are you spelling that," asked the kid. "W-A-R-R-E-N P-E-E-S-E?"

The guy looking for the book just gaped. Then regained himself and started to explain... I spared him.

"Second floor, fiction and literature is to the right, it's shelved under "T"."

He thanked me profusely, shot the kid a "What's WRONG with you" look and headed for the escalator.

"How did you KNOW that," the kid asked me.

Yeah. How did I? I just went back to the magazines and put the Biker's monthly back in the sports section and decided I'd rather work at McDonalds. I quit a week later. There's only so much one can take.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Crankiness... it's not necessarily a depression precursor

Oh I AM cranky. Not just, please best not to talk to me right now I'm cranky, but rather EVERYBODY SHUT UP AND GET THE F OUT OF MY WAY YOU JERK-OFFS cranky. Which, to say the least, is pretty damned cranky.

I thought a daily dosing of Xanax would ease the nasties, but sadly it's just not doing the trick. However, having lunch and making silly internet pictures of friends with an equally cranky friend does help... at least momentarily. Thanks Josh, I'm not sure if it was giving in to the pasta at lunch or the "make a superhero" that helped more.

Sometimes I worry that feeling this angry at almost everyone, and everything - moths make too much noise for me at the moment so clearly I'm a bit on edge - is going to lead to a huge blow up and/or a depressive episode. The blow up is more likely. I'm hoping it doesn't happen. I really don't like losing my temper, because when I do it's so very, very nasty. It's rare that I will ever speak with the person I blow up at again. Ever. It's just that bad.

Luckily it only happens very rarely.

Hopefully it won't happen before I can get my ass to Mexico and chill out!

And yet, with all this cranky, nasty anger building up inside me... I wouldn't trade it. You have to be breathing to be cranky. I'd rather be alive and cranky than dead. Cranky passes, but dead...

I'm on the seventh day of an ongoing headache so profundity is not happening tonight. Profundity? Oh brother... I should hit the hay! Turning my brain off has always been a problem - but I'm going to give it a shot. Maybe I'll get lucky and dream of pasta, superheros in their underwear and mariachi bands! Buenos noches, amigos! Pleasant dreams!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Shallow Old Women Don't Deserve Your Poetry

Walking out in this beautiful virtually autumnal day today I overheard a bit of conversation between two older women. What I heard both chilled me and infuriated me. They were talking about one of the women's granddaughters.

"She said she'd write me a poem," said the grandmother. Then she and her friend burst into mean-spirited giggles.

"A POEM?" the other shrieked.

"What am I going to do with a poem?" replied the other.

"How ridiculous!"

"I KNOW! I'll show it to you when she sends it."

"What a riot!"

They continued disparaging the granddaughter's offer and laughing. I was appalled. What a disgusting display. I wish I could find this girl and shake her. I wish I could tell her not to waste her precious efforts on someone like this. I wish I could tell her to write a poem for herself, for a stranger, for anyone but this shallow, foolish old woman who clearly knows nothing about love or creativity. I wanted to tell this girl that it didn't matter that her family had people so dense that they would think a poem was worthless. That it didn't matter if no one in her life understood what she surely has inside. What matters is what she feels, that she expresses it and that she knows that there are others who grew up with just as much disdain from their 'families', but found their own way any way.

It's hard to break the habits of your life. Especially when it means facing reality instead of the illusion of yourself you keep in your mind.

I understand this in myself, and I know I'm not alone here. I lived so long with the beliefs instilled in me by parents who were too selfish, drunk, sad, angry, or just plain jealous to know how much damage they were inflicting on their only child that it is a struggle to challenge those beliefs for any great length of time. I work towards erasing the negative beliefs I have about myself that I know intellectually are not true but rather are just me attempting to make them right. Make my parents right about what they said and thought of me.

To be a success, to be anything other than the pitiful loser they made me believe I was, means I have to emotionally face the facts that I already know intellectually. That they were wrong.

I am amazing. But to fully believe that on all levels means that I have to accept a responsibility to live up to my true potential. And if I do that, I prove them wrong. And if I prove them wrong, it leaves a void. It means reprogramming everything I internalized.

I know others struggle with this, though perhaps they haven't worked out the complexities. Brilliant, talented people who nearly make it... only to somehow sabotage themselves, thus proving the negative voices they hear every day in their heads are right. Those parents voices telling them they are stupid, or worthless, ugly or fat or talentless or simply bad. You live with those voices echoing ... sometimes they are so ingrained you believe it is your own voice you hear - you convince yourself it's the voice of truth and reason. But it's not.

We are all amazing in our own way. There is something important in all of us, no matter what cruelties were foisted on us, no matter how little love or caring we received. No matter how little we were loved and encouraged. No matter that no one was evolved enough to see how great we truly are. And we are the ones who must quell those horrible voices that keep us from being what we dream of being.

I saw a therapist for about a year who told me only one useful thing. She suggested that the reason I could never feel loved, particularly by my parents, was because as an infant I did not "have my mother's gaze". Developmentally to have not had that attention, that gaze, when it was needed leaves a wound, a lack that is never filled. Well. That's a bit of a hopeless thing to say to someone who has told you she wants to die. Stupid therapist.

But I do believe that I lacked my mother's gaze. And my father's. But I no longer believe what she said about healing it. Perhaps I will never be the same as someone who was nutured unconditionally, but that does not mean I am doomed to a loveless state for my lifetime. Not at all. The hardest part is (oh God am I going to sound trite here) to learn to love yourself. Because it's tough to do when you have had no guidance, and you've been taught you don't deserve love at all, even your own.

But you can do it. I have (it's why I've got a big ol' crush on myself!). I'm still working on the other parts. Things like believing I'm talented, believing I have something worthwhile to say, believing that I deserve to be happy ... and despite the mistakes I've made that I may be capable of loving someone who loves me (in a way that doesn't cause either of us heartbreak). I think that's the toughest one... but I also think it's the most important. I don't think it can happen until I believe it can... so I'm working on it. My heart was so badly broken I gave up believing it would ever heal - or that I'd even want it to. Why heal only to have it stomped on again? But I think I want it to heal now. It will always be scarred, but maybe someday it will actually work again. I believe I can make it happen. And that's a little poem to myself. I hope that evil woman's granddaughter has a poem for her heart too someday.... in the meantime this little essay is mine to her.

Friday, August 11, 2006

When in doubt go to Mexico!!!

I've never used travel as an escape. Sounds odd, I mean to most people a trip, rather a vacation, is an escape pure and simple. But for me a vacation was always more for exploration and discovery - nothing was less attractive to me in a vacation than just laying around doing nothing.

That changed.

In March of this year I fulfilled a years-long dream of going to Mexico. All it took was a lodging recommendation from a friend. I was in dire need of a change of scenery and I needed to go on my own. I was lucky enough to be steered to La Posada del Capitan Lafitte in Playa Del Carmen. (Thanks Robert, you're a genius.) This enchanted, extremely low-key place, was exactly what I needed. Even though I didn't know it. Talk about a lucky turn of events.

I spent 6 days in a literal heaven on earth. No tv, no radio, no PHONE, no internet. Plenty of quiet, peace, beautiful, indescribably beautiful scenery such as I've never experienced before. So beautiful I couldn't believe it wasn't some sort of Disneyland creation. I discovered I LOVE lying in the sun. I always shunned the brightness before, but in Mexico the sun may be blazing - but is a caressing blaze that makes you relax and you feel embraced rather than assailed. I felt wrapped in a hug of sunlight and warmth and it was glorious.

I read, I wrote, I baked in the Caribbean sun (moderately... I'm as white a white girl as you can imagine and despite it feeling fabulous, too much of that sun would have had me in the hospital the color of my favorite nail polish "high heel red"). But it was glorious, every single minute.

On the third day there my best friend called my cell phone from New York, where it was something like 27 degrees.

"You had it, down there?"

"Had what?"

"I mean aren't you ready to come home? Aren't you bored yet?"

"Ready to come home? I don't want to leave!"

For a someone who dreamed of nothing more than living in New York City her entire life, for me to admit to loving the quiet and solitude was a shocker to my friend.

I actually shed a couple of tears the day I had to get on the plane to come home. I promised myself I was going back - and soon. But about a month ago I was informed that this fantastic place was closing (after over 30 years) and moving further down the beach. I was crushed.

This 'quit the damned job already' mania that I've been going through was very much what I was going through in March. Unfortunately this time it's a bit stronger. In March I went to Mexico and de-stressed enough to buy a few more months of not quitting. In September I'm going back to Mexico, I don't know if it will keep me from quitting before the end of the year, but it can't hurt to try. Mainly I just want to stay at Lafitte one more time before they close. This time I'm staying for 9 days and I know in my heart that that will still not be enough... but it's the best I can do right now. So I'll take it.

The plane is booked, the room is reserved... yet I still have the tension headache I've been harboring for the past 5 days. I guess it will take more than action to cure that. But at least I did something, something positive that will be fun and healing.

While I was in Mexico in March, pondering existence and what I want to do in my life I wrote in my journal every day about how happy I was to be alive. To have had the chance to come to this amazingly glorious place. I think back on that woman I was almost two years ago. When I do cry nowadays it's almost always for her, the me who was so sad, so very ill and hopeless that she saw no other option but suicide. Who hid that sadness so well that not even my closest friends knew how very bad things were. I laughed and joked and faked every single minute. And not one person knew. Oh they knew I was depressed, but not the extent of my illness - there was no one who could see it. I made sure of that. I didn't want anyone to have the chance to try to talk me out of suicide: it was the only salvation I could see back then.

But I got lucky, and I had an epiphany that changed my life. My Mexico journal is full of pages and pages of the gratitude I feel to be alive, not to have missed the shockingly wonderful things there are in this world.

When you're sick, when you're in that horrible black pit that is depression, it's so impossible to see anything outside of the darkness. But oh please, if you read this and you see nothing to hope for - please trust me: there is a beautiful sun that wants to shine through that darkness and open you up to what you can't see. If you feel you've given up, that there is no hope, before you do anything rash: do this - go to Mexico, see the wonders of this beautiful earth, let that wild yellow sun wrap around you, step outside that awful darkness for just a few minutes and see you CAN heal, you can. I know, because I did.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

big decisions....

So I have this job. I've been in this job for three years as of August 21 and for me this is an unprecedented record. Not one I'm excited about. I have a problem with permanence. It would be easier to say I have a problem with commitment, but that's not actually the case. But I do have selective commitment issues. Office jobs definitely fall into the last category.

Ever notice how the thing you fear most is usually what you end up with? My dread of working in an office started when I was in high school. Unfortunately office jobs were the best paying, plus they afforded me the opportunity to temp. Which fed right into my 'problem with permanence'. What's really unfortunate is that I needed health insurance 3 years ago in the worst way. I had a possible cancer issue which no doctor would address BECAUSE I HAD NO HEALTH INSURANCE. So much for the Hippocratic Oath, eh? Bastards.

So I ended up taking this job. Got the cancer thing dealt with and now here I am 3 years later still sitting on my ass losing my mind with the boredom.

I am not well-suited to this sort of work, I'm not particularly good at it though frighteningly I am 100% better at it than many. How sad. For all of us!

So the big decision is: do I quit? Lord knows I want to - every single day I fight myself back from just walking out... or not going in at all. I feel trapped, suffocated and wasted. I'm exhausted from it. Yet every day I lose the fight and go. Why? I'm afraid I'm making a stupid decision on a practical level. Certainly wouldn't be the first time. But emotionally I am sure it would be the best possible thing for me to do.

So how do I reconcile this? I do what most of us do... nothing. I continue to wage an internal war on the topic and then do nothing about it but bitch and moan to anyone who will listen. Not attractive. And it's making me someone I do NOT want to be.

I've discovered what it is to feel HAPPY, for the first time in my life. Happy not because of a man (though I heartily admit I do loves the mens), or because of any other outside sources, just happy. Happy with my life. Happy to be alive. And I fear that the longer I stay the further away from that 'happy' I will get until I am full circle back to the miserable wretch I was before.

I don't like my cowardice here. How I've become (nearly) complacent doing something I disdain 8 hours a day. I wonder what happened to the woman who would just GO when she was fed up.

Oh blah, blah, blah. Round and around. One thing I have learned from years and YEARS of bouts of serious Depression is that it makes you feel powerless and that lack of control feeds the depression. Action, however small is the antithesis of that powerlessness. I need to act.

Monday, August 07, 2006

silver linings...

You know that annoying 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade' slogan? I hate to admit it, but yeah.. okay.. I made lemonade yesterday. Metaphorically.

The sick dog clean-up led to let me vacuum this... which led to ...let's find a place to put this... which led to... you get the picture. And now my train-wreck of an apartment looks positively habitable. Martha Stewart's not going to want to spend any time here, but it's a helluva lot better than its been.

I've been on an apartment-therapy kick for what seems like more than a year now. Purging this place of all remnants of a very, very poisonous love affair. So bad that it was easily 75% of the reason I was suicidal. That's not love, oh what a shock to have figured that out after nearly 5 years, that's masochism. So that very bad man is out of my life for ever and always and so is nearly every material possession that vaguely reminds me of him. Whew! It's amazing how much negative energy (sorry to be so new-agey) STUFF can hold. It's not surprising I wanted to kill myself - it's surprising that I managed not to. And I am so damned happy that I held on long enough to have a giant jolt of revelation that made me realize that suicide is NOT a solution. Not even a teeny bit. But I understand those who have given up, boy do I. I know I will never go there again, and I wish there was a way to reach out and shake everyone who is going through the hell I was in and tell them: there's another way. Stay here! Try a different way, any choice is better than killing yourself. I guess this blog is really me trying to hand a thirsty person a very tall glass of lemonade. Here. Drink up. And stay with us.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Diversión grande en la casa de la alegría (big fun in the house of joy)


My poor dog. He's sick as a... well... as a dog. Really, I'll spare you details but suffice to say I'm doing a lot of cleaning. The worst of it missed my new carpet, not entirely, but at least it wasn't the entire carpet! Poor puppy: I think he's terrifically embarrassed. He's been 'potty trained' since day one and when something like this happens it's only because I was too sleepy to get the message that he REALLLLLLLLY wanted to go out.

So my morning has been a delight of stain removal and worry. He's almost 11 years old and he's a big dog: so he's really up there in years. He still acts like a puppy most of the time and the vet said he has the teeth of a two-year old, which is fantastic... but when he gets sick I worry. A lot.

He's the first dog I've had that was my own: which means no "we're taking him to a farm where he can have lots of room" bullshit. And no psycho father throwing him into the street to be hit by a car and refusing to take him to the vet. (Hey, I'm happy now: but I wasn't always so this stuff is going to come out if only for comparison's sake). So... my dog, my responsibility and I take that pretty damned seriously.

I think the thing that makes dogs so appealing is not simply that they f-ing LOVE US even when we don't deserve it, but that they are (unless they're really ill) boundlessly HAPPY! "Oh a ball!!!" "Oh you're home!" "Oh a cookie!!" "Oh we're going out!" "Oh we're going back in!!" It's all fantastic to them. Every single minute is full of joy. They are utterly in the moment and everything is a blessing. Well, okay maybe not everything: my pup has a lovely habit of rolling his eyes at me when I'm (to him) being stupid. I can't imagine where he got that from... couldn't be from me. Uh-huh. But in general every moment is simply THE BEST EVER! It's something to aspire to, to be so "I'm alive and this is just plain GREAT!" all the time. To let things that bug you just roll off and stay in the past.

I'd like to say I'm there 100%, but I'm only human (too bad!), but I'm working on it. And now I'm going to be working on blotting up the stain remover from the carpet and hoping that there won't be more to clean up when I get back from the theater this afternoon. I'm going to see a show called Pig Farm... something tells me that after the fun of this morning I'll feel right at home.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Heatwave? Hell, it's nothing!

The past couple of days here in beautiful New York have been unbearably hot. Luckily my electricity has held firm, unlike so many in Queens and the Bronx, and the A/C is doing its thing or I'd have two melted pets. But aside from the fact that it's scorching outside I am still just freakin' tickled to be drawing breath every day. Sure, it's hot air we're breathing in but on the good side it reminds me of Las Vegas and Mexico so that's toasty and pleasant. And full of happy golden goodness.

Plus today the heat seems to have abated so we're back to normal August, which here means humid and heavy - and that's a damned sight better than what it's been.

Tonight I went to a show, something I do with ridiculous frequency and I'm glad of it. A year and a half ago I thought I'd seen my last live shows: one on Broadway, one on off-off B'wy. So to go to the theater now is something I treasure wildly. It's representative of so many things I thought I'd never do again back when I was calling Frank E. Campbell's to price my funeral arrangements so my friends wouldn't have to do anything after I offed myself. Given the shear mess I was left to unravel after my parents died, I knew I could never kill myself and leave that sort of crap for the people I love. Of course at the time I was planning all this I was so f-d up it never occurred to me that my suicide might be more horrible to them than clearing up some paperwork. I was pretty much past rational.

The theater has been more a religion to me than Catholicism ever could be. To have that back when I had actually said good-bye to it... it's really a microcosm of the joy I take in being alive now. And since it was in large part the theater that helped keep me alive, well now, that's pretty much religion isn't it?

Tonight I got to see a really dear woman I had the pleasure to meet while we were performing in an Off-Broadway show together -- every time I see her I wonder why I'm not pursuing acting in any real way. I mean good lord it makes me so stupid happy it's a little sickening, so why do I shy away from it? Cowardice? Laziness? Exhaustion from having to be in the same 9-5 job for the past 3 years? Probably a bit of each. But seeing her reminds me, so thank you Ms. T for the reminder that I need to get off the pot and do what I can to feel fulfilled, instead of something I hate that just eats up my days.

This is awfully rambly, but since I'm new to this bloggy thing I'm going to just go with it. Still getting my sea-legs as it were. Come back again and see if I get more coherent!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

always against the grain

Hot Fun in the Summer Time should be blaring from every radio. It's maybe 178 degrees today in beautiful New York City. Naturally, I decided today would be the perfect day to walk outside for an hour, oh yeah and run too. I can't seem to help myself. The days when the air quality is at its worst, when oldsters are in danger of death just from stepping outside, when dogs are smart enough to lay out flat and cool their bellies in the breeze, when even car horns sound like sighs: Joy decides to get in a little extra cardio. Pretty typical of me. I have some authority issues. Even if the authority is the weatherman. I do NOT like being told I shouldn't do something. God knows I hate being told I CAN'T do something.

So instead of being smart, I risk heat stroke. But for some reason it always works out for me. At least it does now, I guess it's true that attitude is everything. I actually feel terrific. I should be flat out on the floor from dehydration: I'm actually a little overhydrated instead. (Yes, it's clear) I started a Vegan & fat free diet a week ago and find that I'm not only perkier, but I'm completely hydrated without having to choke down 8-10 glasses of water a day... all the fruit and veggies really DO have a lot of water! It's a regular Niagara Falls around here.

oh nice place for a segue...

if anyone needs new music to run to, or dance to, or make love to, or just plain live to, I heartily suggest you investigate the unbelievably happy, funny, clever, poetic and touching music of The Niagaras. If you don't know this band... my heart goes out to you. Learn about them here. And then go see them live. You will never, ever see a more unique and energetic show - or one with more disparate 'types' in the audience.

I am almost evangelical in my attempts to convert the uninitiated ... but what is religion, really, if not feeling a spirit move you? Trust me, stranger, you will be moved. C'mon! And if you fear dying of a heat stroke, just bring a defiant attitude ... and a bottle of water !