Archive for August, 2010
From the beginning, I hoped to write about all kinds of things, including the things people don’t talk about. I was committed to was a series called Bended Roads. It was my intent to get people had been through bad stuff, to let other people know what it was like–in the hopes it would be helpful to others who felt alone in similar experiences and also to give empathy to those who couldn’t relate. Unfortunately, many of the difficult things we face come with a measure of shame–as if we are responsible for our own misfortune. Because of this, putting these features together presented a greater challenge than I’d anticipated.
The courage of those who face the worst of life, and bounce back is only surpassed by the courage it takes to turn their own pain into hope for others, for this the individuals who have agreed to share their stories are worthy of admiration, for what they’ve endured and for their willingness to talk about it.
The first of the Bended Roads addresses something many face–depression. Just as some people call every headache a migraine, some people call each day that challenges them depression. Real depression can afflict people when everything is going great. For those who have never had the floor pulled out from under them by depression, they’ll tell you there’s more to it than just being bummed out.
The friend who wrote the following knows of what he speaks. This former colleague, was a cheery individual always at the top of his game. Until he told me his story, I never realized that he had successfully masked the despair and pain inside him. In this first Bended Roads feature, he shares a bit of his experience after having climbed up from the depths of depression.
“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. “A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.”Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on “Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.’”
I won’t try to douse the fire. I’ll just say it: depression is real. The infliction is painful. The tragedy undeniable. It’s acid to the soul. And yet…surprisingly…there’s a way out from that state. Not all depression is the same. For some it’s caused by the chemical imbalance. For others, such as myself, it was created by external factors. Sometimes understanding the source of depression is like attempting to arrange the contents of one’s vomit based type and/or size of debris after it’s been expelled to recall what you ate and caused the disorder.
I had suffered with life-long depression for more than 30 years. The periods of my darkness were caused by external events in childhood that were never addressed, which festered without treatment, understanding or love. Over time, it culminated in a near-fatal conclusion.
In my own life there was no one source of depression, that kept reoccurring. It began with abuse as a child, which was not addressed. It went untreated because I had not sought help…I couldn’t.
For a snapshot of my background: I wasn’t raised in a warm and loving home of parents and siblings. When one was in trouble: they were on their own. If you had troubles in your life, you were liability and you were treated as such. Expressing one’s feelings was not encouraged. Support and love were not commonplace. I was conditioned to withhold my true feelings. Some families are like that; but, you really cannot call that family.
The abuse originated with an outsider; so, in my mind, when you cannot turn to anyone as a child, how can you seek help from others? I had no one to turn to for support, understanding or help – and I remained in that state for many years.
What develops is a twisted logical to the illogical; what occurred was a life of based upon feelings of fear and shame.
That’s no life.
When other bad things happened over the years – it was a confirmation that life was bad and I was the only one who had went through these things. Yes, I know, that’s untrue. We all have issues, but I had nothing to compare it to. I was never exposed to what others endured in their own lives. I kept myself distant from others so. I never got close to anyone. My own shame and aloofness was reciprocated. What people saw of me was a façade that allowed me to hide from the world. No one ventured to learn about me. I shared with no one the hurt, because of my shame and guilt. “If they only I knew…what they’d think of me….”
The fact is … I had little respect for others; I distrusted people based upon a bad experience and actions of others. I believed all people were insensitive and the source of all that was bad. Yet, like all things Human, I still held out an ounce a hope that there might be one or two who could be a source of good and hope.
I found more than one or two.
Let me take a step back and make this one point: one of the challenges with depression is that we think we are alone. That’s a lie, which is borne from fear. When depression strikes, we become withdrawn. That’s natural, but depression isn’t something we can heal without help. The only way to start on the way out of our holes is finding those who have been down there, too. Before things became terminal for me – perhaps out of self-preservation – I opened myself to a couple of people and they responded with kindness, love and support. Healing begins when we seek help and when we learn the truth, that we are never alone.
Over time, others’ told me their stories and troubles. From their experiences, I gained their advice and benefited from their wisdom. I listened and considered what they had to say to me. It was still up to me to heal my pains, but now I had the support of others who encouraged me with love and understanding.
I never knew there were people like that. In time, I learned the world is filled with such people – in abundance. They were always there. I just had to ask for help. More than three decades of suffering from various depression periods have ended. Their final toll was that I had lost everything from possessions to self-worth, but I what I gained in return covers those losses tenfold.
The healing continues this day, but the last of the debilitating depression is gone from my life. I confronted and dealt with the issues that needed to be addressed and sought the answers I required. Our lives are formed and shaped by our experiences, the good and the bad. Plain and simple. That’s just the way it works. That’s life rhythm.
We cannot let the fires of fear and shame consume us or extinguish our existence. If we are to confront our challenges and problems, we need to express the pain and seek the help of understanding. We need to be ourselves at all times and we need to be willing to show our emotional wounds. It’s the best way to begin the healing.
Believe me when I say, “I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”
Written by a friend of de blog
Not even on a whim or a dare, would you walk down an aisle to say “I do”, if you had any idea that one day marital optimism, might be replaced with hurt or anger. You would most certainly turn and walk away, if you had any indication that someone you could love so much, might devastate your heart.
You might be reluctant to have children, if you had any idea what kind of heartbreak they are capable of causing. Maybe you would have opted out, if you had considered that your own might come with personality defects, mental illness, addictions, unanticipated health problems or even untimely death.
Perhaps you would have clipped coupons, washed Ziplocs or saved soap if you could have anticipated stock-market crashes, layoffs or housing market downturns.
Above is an excerpt from a piece that was previously run to introduce a series of pieces about the stuff people go through–the hard stuff.
I had hoped to be running these pieces much sooner, but have realized that while getting people to talk about their private pain is easy; getting people to talk about it publicly, is hard. The first of these pieces will run this week. In the meantime, the following link will take you back to the original post, if you’d like to read more.
Months ago, I promised readers I’d be reviewing some of my favorite pharmaceuticals. I’m a very reluctant lab rat. I hate taking drugs, for a variety of reasons. I fear side-effects and the later findings that never come out until after a drug has been widely prescribed. It’s my own little neurosis, but I could probably count on my hands the sum-total of all the drugs, recreational or prescription, I’ve taken in my life.
People who know me well will tell you I’m pretty easy going. I don’t have many quarrels, I’m patient most of the time. I‘m generally happy. I don‘t know if people would describe me as mellow, but I don‘t think anyone would describe me as moody. In my younger years, I took, myself and many other things too seriously. I didn’t have the same level of patience, and I tended to be more reactive.
Parenting changed that. The first years of parenting were a learning experience. I thought I was supposed to make the child behave perfectly. I nearly drove myself crazy trying to reason, time out, and distract the child who seemed to make each day top the previous one. I realized there were many things I couldn’t control–including my two-year old. I changed my mindset and crossed my fingers he’d still turn out okay.
That’s is why when after a couple of years of relative high-Zen parenting, I was horrified when I heard some harpie screaming at my little innocents.
It was me.
The perfectly normal things he and his littler brother did, were getting under my skin. I was overreacting and I knew why. For the first time in my life, the hormonal train of PMS was derailing me a couple days a month.
The doctor called it premenstrual mood dysphoria. He prescribed special just-for-girls drugs–something to insure my mood wouldn’t be skewed. Their girly floral packaging looked like something from Barbie’s Color Me Happy collection–which explains why she can go from career-to-career always looking so darn happy. I’m guessing these are the secret to keeping everything in Barbie’s Dream House so dreamy.
Those pills were all wrong for me–maybe because I’m not Barbie!
The next thing The Doc suggested wasn’t any better–I wanted something to take the edge off–not “Mother’s Little Helper”.
Finally he suggested something that made me shudder . . . . He wanted me to try Prozac. It was not an easy sell.
Prozac? That’s for depressed people, the unbalanced, the mentally ill. He suggested the lowest available dose. It didn’t come in a prissy package, but it did come with an unlimited supply of stigma. I’d read the newspapers, I knew antidepressants were associated with crazy stuff like suicide.
I was against it but I left his office with, yet another, package of samples.
Prozac changed nothing.
My life was exactly the same as before. Stupid people were still stupid. Annoying things still annoyed me. Sad things still made me cry. Prozac was not the “happy” pill, however–Prozac changed everything.
I could be annoyed, angry or sad but the moods were no longer big enough to climb on top of me. Negative emotions were compartmentalized, not pervasive. That it kept me from becoming Mommy Dearest, would be reason enough to have taken them, but the truth is I realized Prozac was allowing me to reconcile my moods with my personality. They let me be who I was inside.
I didn’t have depression. I wasn’t depressed, but sometimes my moods were out of scale with the things that caused them. Prozac allowed me to be in control of my moods, instead of subjected to them. The chemistry in my brain was finally in sync with the rest of me. This basically optimistic and happy person was no longer subjugated by moods that weren’t her.
The stigma of Prozac bothered me, at first. I didn’t want anyone to know I was taking it. However, the stuff changed my life radically, and eventually, I no longer cared who knew.
Now, I know that though I didn’t have depression or a depressive personality, I had previously been trying to balance the bad things in life without the aid of the naturally-occurring brain chemical that helps us to restore emotional balance. Post-Prozac, I didn’t have to deal with emotional disruptions complicating my life and stealing my smile. Seratonin, it’s a good thing!
Had I known how much Prozac would improve my life. I would have asked for Prozac, instead of clothes for my 18th birthday.
Deb’s Note: After taking Prozac a few months, I became so intrigued with it, I read extensively to learn more. I talked to every person I knew who had tried it. I’m pro-Prozac, but it isn’t the right solution for everyone. I can only speak for myself in saying I don’t ever want to live without it. Next week, I will be running a very compelling and powerful piece from a friend who struggled with depression–real depression–the-steals-your-life, debilitating kind. Don’t miss it.
POSTSCRIPT: When I first ran this post, I had intended to include the following links, to allow others to hear another woman’s story. There is still so much stigma in taking any kind of mood-drugs that I appreciated the wit and candor in which this fellow blog-stress shares hers.
Some days I caution my male readers, lest they learn more than they wanted to know about women. Today is not one of those days. This one was written for the girls, but intended for the men. Your mother told you romance wouldn’t last, but she failed to teach you why. So, in the spirit of No Man-Child left behind–I invite you to enter the world of tuition-free education.
For today’s Language Arts lesson, we will brush up on a vocabulary word that many men are still having trouble understanding.
Today’s word is romance.
The English language is filled with words that cause confusion. There, their and they’re cause confusion. Layed and laid trouble many. Laying and lying can really get people in trouble.
[The teacher winks as she tells her class that “laying and lying” will be addressed another day--but for now back to today‘s subject.]
Romance is often confused with it’s closely related counterpart–sex.
Women want romance. Men think they want it too.
Gentlemen! You’ve already demonstrated your confusion, because you mistakenly thought when the woman said she wanted romance, she meant sex.
To clarify: Sex can be romantic and romance can be sexy. However, at no point is sex romance, conversely at no point is romance sex.
The confusion is understandable. Both sex and romance are intimate expressions between two people who are very, very fond of each other–at least in theory. Unfortunately, sometimes romance is used as a kind of currency exchanged for sex and vice verse. (Sort of like that Euros and Francs things, which is also confusing.) There are also times when Euros, francs, and dollars are exchanged for sex, but I digress.
Just as every man wants to feel like a man, every girl, no matter how young or old, wants to be made to feel like a woman.
Here is a simple rule to help you remember what you need to know.
Sex is that which makes a man feel like a man–(Being able to provide for one’s loved ones does this too, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable.)
Romance is that which makes a woman feel like a woman–the kind of woman who is desired.
Still, sex & romance are both are short-lived. Listed below is a list of things emblematic of romance. I have included this so that you might consider the shelf-life of these items. A list of sex comparables is not necessary. You probably have an idea how long those last, though actual results may vary.
Flowers, candle-lit dinners, love songs, kisses, chocolates–each of these things has a very short lifespan.
Love songs and kisses are forgotten.
Chocolates disappear. (Know one ever knows what happened to them.)
Expensive dinners end up in unfortunate places–we don’t even want to get into that.
Just like sex, they’re great, but they don’t last. This is why romance is so fleeting. Afterward the only thing left are the memories. There’s the rub. Just as men are not content to remember the last time they had sex, women are not content to remember how sweet the chocolates, they never touched were. Therefore, to insure romance is not lost, romantic gestures must be repeated regularly.
Moving now into the subject of economics: Men fail to see the value of things that don’t last. (Too bad Craftsman doesn’t manufacture the things women really want.) To men, most romantic gestures are too expensive and require an unnatural amount of effort. Gentlemen, I assure you, the time and expense are both good investments.
Take flowers as an example. Men have trouble understanding why they should pay $40 for for something that won’t last a week. Yes, it’s true flowers usually peak just before they start to go limp–not unlike something else, but try to buy $40 dollars of that “something else” and you’ll start to see what an excellent value flowers can be. (Not that anyone’s buying or selling here, I’m just sayin’.) If the flowers are very nice and given with a heartfelt sentiment you might get a better return on that $40 than you’d ever dreamed possible. This is simple economics, not rocket science.
Of course flowers won’t work every time or on every woman. That’s why you have to mix it up. Some good mixers are loving words, twilight walks, sentimental notes, sincere compliments, or being a good listener. After you’ve mastered these, you might move on to picnic-in-a-secluded-place, the honey-I’ve-drawn-you-a-luxurious-bubble-bath, the weekend away or almost anything that surprises or delights. When all else fails, try fine jewelry.
So here’s the take-away lesson. Romance and sex are not the same. You have to make her feel good, if you have any hope of having her make you feel good. If you don’t remember anything else, take note of this: You know how often you want sex? That’s approximately how often we want romance–though like you, we often settle for less.
Review, remember, practice.
I’m a big fan of stuff–both the tangible and intangible kinds. I like to write about life-stuff, but today I’m just talking about regular stuff.
I have a lot of stuff, but you know who has stuff?
Oprah has stuff.
The girl has everything.
She has a driver, she has a cook, she has a trainer and she has Steadman. She has all kinds of stuff I don’t have, but not much I desire. A cook or a driver would be nice, but I probably do both of those things better than Oprah, I can manage without either. A trainer? I can‘t think of anything more annoying than some high-energy hard body trying to force me onto a treadmill each morning. Steadman? seems like a decent-enough guy, but I wouldn’t want him either. Seems to me if she’s been with him that long and still doesn’t want to marry him, there’s got to be something wrong with that boy. A long term boyfriend who, either won’t marry or isn’t interesting enough to marry doesn’t seem very desirable.
The girl has it all, but only one thing I covet.
Proving that life is unfair and celebrities get all kinds of things they don’t deserve, Oprah has a list. Not a list like mine (the never-ending to-do list); she has the “O” list, a list of things that Oprah likes so much she thinks everybody else needs them.
Seriously, why are Oprah’s opinions deemed to be so much better than yours or mine??? Sure, she can afford better stuff than I can, but must we all rush out for some spendy item simply because The Divine Ms. “O” says it’s a “must-have“?
In my own attempt at righting one of the injustices of the media-driven universe, I have decided if Oprah has a list, then a list is must-have item for each and everyone who uses stuff. If I were Oprah, you’d already have one under your chair, but we’ve already established she can afford stuff I can’t. Sorry, but you’ll have to make your own. With that in mind, here is the first edition of my own list, which shall heretofore be known as de list.
My list isn’t like hers, but when the apocalypse comes, though Oprah will be fully outfitted with a Pashmina shawl and pastel uggs, she’s going to be wishin’ for really cool stuff like mine.
1. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap
Coming to you from a German family of soap makers and Holocaust victims, it’s just soap. It’s not fancy, but it comes in several natural fragrances–all of which I‘ve tried. The peppermint is especially nice for a shower on a hot day, it leaves the skin with a refreshing coolness. I liked the almond, until I realized it smells a little like the pleasantly-clean bathrooms at Chevron. Now, I stick with lavender.
I learned of Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-One Pure Castile Soap while shopping for my first whitewater rafting trip. I was told it was non-polluting and completely biodegradable–in other words good stuff for bathing in a river.
It was developed by a man who concocted his own strange religion of health, Judaism & metaphysical ideas. Calling himself a doctor, master chemist and Essene rabbi–it’s possible that the good “doctor” was brilliant, and/or a certifiable whack-job. Dr. Bronner had a compulsion to print every odd thing that occurred to him, so it was sort of like de blog, except it was printed on soap labels. Maybe Stephen Hawking gets Dr. Bronner, but Deb doesn’t. Nevertheless, reading his soap labels by campfire is always a good way to pass an evening.
Click this link to see what I mean:
So . . its good for the planet, its good for cleaning, and the label is amusing, but there’s still more. Bronner’s labels suggest using the soap for all kinds of things. I once brushed my teeth with it as per the label’s instructions. After that, I was convinced not all of his suggested uses were things I’d want to try.
However, it’s pretty good soap for washing delicate items. I use it to wash finished needlework before framing.
It’s an amazing product for washing injured skin. I once got a rash on a canoe trip. Thinking the culprit might be something like poison ivy, I reached for the Dr. Bronner’s, hoping to remove irritant from my skin. I was surprised to discover the soap quickly calmed the itching and irritation. Since then, I’ve used it for washing cuts, abrasions and any irritated skin. Treating a recent burn, I was instructed to use Johnson’s Baby Wash for cleaning the wound, but Bronner’s soap was gentler.
Get the idea I love this stuff? It’s not my everyday soap, but I can’t live without it.
More fascinating history available at:
2. Angostura Bitters.
I am aware of only two things which come from Trinidad. The first I learned from an off-color song my father used to sing about the kind of girls from Trinidad, the second is Angostura Bitters.
Angostura Bitters have been around since 1824. It’s a secret recipe of herbs and stuff. Like the soap this was also developed as a medicinal by a doctor. (Unlike Bronner, this doc had bona-fide credentials). Despite it’s original intended purpose, it’s mostly known as a flavoring for cocktails and a Carribean dishes.
Here’s the deal. This stuff will settle your stomach faster than you can say “Check please”. I discovered this one evening in Telluride. Having overindulged my weakness for Greek food and exotic beers, my tummy was threatening to spoil the rest of the evening. My brother had once told me that bitters & soda was a miracle cure for indigestion. Thirty minutes after testing this, I had become a forever-and-ever devotee of this odd tonic.
Things you should know about bitters: First, it’s not bitter. It’s aromatic and pleasant in it’s own way.
It is said to be a very effective mosquito repellent. I’ve never tried it, but I’d feel better rubbing this on my skin than some of the other products that do the same thing.
For years, I’ve been amazed at the reliability of this cure, but only recently did I consider that the key ingredient is probably ginger. So this isn’t really that different from those times when your mother gave you ginger ale for an upset stomach–but I‘m thinking this ginger ale for grown-ups might be pretty good at easing seasickness.
Find it in the liquor section, but if it has alcohol in it, it ain’t much.
3. Dawn dishwashing liquid
I don’t know how many dishes Oprah washes, but I’m betting I’ve washed more. Dawn is a good dish soap, but there are plenty of dishwashing liquids that are adequate for cleaning a few plates or cups, I prefer Dawn.
Here’s the dope on Dawn–it’s a great degreaser, so good, it’s used to clean waterfowl who have been compromised by oil spills.
I became a fan after a girlfriend gave me a very nice suit. I loved the color and it fit perfectly, except that she had once worn it while eating spaghetti, leaving it with a teensy little grease stain. No amount of stain remover or dry cleaning would remove the stain. After the stain had been heat-set and well established in the garment, someone suggest I try Dawn. It worked. Since then, I have used this stuff to successfully remove just about every kind of grease guys get on their clothes. I can use any kind of dish soap, but in the laundry room I have to have Dawn!
4. All day lipstick.
I love lipstick, but it’s too much trouble. Freshly applied it’s fabulous, but then you have to reapply it throughout the day. You can‘t kiss with wild abandon without it ending up where you don’t want it or making your man-friend look clowny, effeminate–or worse. Worst of all, if it ends up smeared on your front teeth, you’ll be the last to know.
All-day lipstick is all the fun with none of the fuss. Whoever developed this stuff should be given a cushy cabinet post or at least a big kiss his wife won’t find out about.
All-day lipstick is great all-day or all-night. If you don’t wash it off before going to sleep, the man next to you wakes up to see a girl who looks almost as good as she did the night before. Nothing is better than stumbling into the bathroom first thing in the morning to be reminded how great your lips look.
This lipstick that makes me love being a girl even more–as if that were possible.
There are many brands available–not a much difference between them, except price and the type of gloss that comes with them.
5. The DVR
With great shame, I admit, I once allowed a daytime talk show host to influence me and fill me with urgent covetous desire. In other words, sometimes Oprah makes me want what she has. After seeing the, then new and revolutionary, thing known as TiVo on her show, I had to have one.
I heart the TiVo. Time-shifting technology has totally changed my TV-viewing habits. I used to come in and look for stuff I wanted to watch. It’s amazing how much time you’ll spend in front of a TV if there’s nothing on. After TiVo I found that the only time TV seemed worthwhile was when I knew I’d TiVo’d something good. Best thing about it? Must see TV (like Laker games) is always available when I am.
Granted in case of an apocalypse this won’t be something I have to have, but I’ve added “Cataclysmic End of the World Disasters” to my TiVo Wish List, in the hopes that if something goes down, I can watch it on TiVo when it’s over.
As I entered the room, a longtime girlfriend asked the women there, if they had met me. Most of them hadn’t, so she proceeded to introduce me to the group saying, “This is Deb. You may not like what she says, but you’ll love her.”
Apparently, I’ve reached the point, where introducing me requires a disclaimer–could be worse. Fortunately, it was one of the better introductions I’ve had, and I think it sums me up well enough.
I saw a page on Facebook called something like “I like who I am and I don’t care what you think about me.” As I was trying to relocate the page, I discovered there are dozens with similar expressions of the same idea. It seems there are many who feel the need to assert their inner Popeye with the “I yam what I yam” sentiment, while claiming not to care what others think of them.
I think most people feel this way–at least until someone says someone takes a jab at them.
I was thinking about this, because de blog has passed the half-year mark. I knew that letting my opinions free-range might have consequences, and I’ve gotten a small-scale introduction to what that means.
The first six months have been very interesting, especially reconciling how de blog has changed peoples’ opinions of me.
I went to a cocktail party and was approached by someone who had become a reader, a woman I’ve known casually for years. She told me she was enjoying de blog and proceeded to comment, “Wow, you’re smart–and funny.” Apparently, she had previously thought me to be dumb and witless.
Some people like me more because of de blog, some like me less. Lots of friends tell me in very polite language, that they basically think I’m full of crap. They are usually reluctant to tell me why, which is about as compelling as someone grading your math test and telling you that though they don’t have the answers, they are sure yours are wrong.
I’ve only had a couple days when the feedback was bad enough to make me wonder why I was exposing myself to this–but if my opinions were universally adored, I’d stop blogging and run for office.
On that subject, I don’t know how (or why) some people run for office repeatedly–especially after being defeated. I always have an empathetic and morbid curiosity about the Wednesday morning after a Tuesday election. I always wonder if having spent tremendous amounts of time and energy only to get a very public and definitive message that you didn’t measure up wouldn’t be the ultimate in “not a good day”.
People who run for office must believe they can win, otherwise, why would anyone go through that? Public scrutiny, unflattering portrayals, one’s own words used against them, time & money lost and all the rest just to find out people didn’t like you nearly as much as you’d hoped.
I’d like to believe that those who run are so committed to their political ideas that they think it’s worth it, but its probably that they’re just too dumb to realize it’s a bad equation. Don’t know why people do it, but here is what I do know:
People have opinions. Reasonable people mostly have reasonable opinions. Some may not seem so reasonable, but our own experiences cause us each to see the world in our own unique way. The less opinions you voice, the more reasonable and therefore likable you will seem to others. There will be times when people don’t like you–at those times, try the spinach–it worked for Popeye.
I’d like to see the graph. No. I think I‘d prefer the pie chart.
It seems like everything is measured and summed up with a graph. Apparently they are very important–my kids have been required to make them each and every year of their school careers.
Opening the mail, I’m inundated with charts and graphs.
There is one from the water company, that shows how the quality of the tap water has been. (Some days it’s purer than others, but I don’t pay much attention. When I’m thirsty, I still drink the water and knowing that at times it contains micro-parts of fecal coliforms, hasn’t been enough to cause me to stop showering.)
There is one in the utility bill graphically illustrating the electrical use of its customers. Apparently, they want me to pay attention to when others use their major appliances, so that I can avoid using mine.
Stocks and mutual funds always send out statements with graphs of past performance–not nearly as helpful as one that would show what to expect in the future.
This got me thinking about the unpredictable and unquantifiable aspects of life. There are good years and bad years–good weeks, bad weeks, good months, bad months. There are days that make everything worthwhile and days that are excruciating. There are great moments and moments we regret forever.
So if we could see a pie chart of our lives quantifying the successes and failures, the happiness and the pain, would we be able to face it? Would the graph be better than we expected or worse? Would seeing it make us give up or forge ahead?
I think I’d prefer a pie-chart. A big sunny yellow wedge showing how much of life is happy, would probably make the smaller wedges of stuff like pain, uncertainty, heartbreak, disappointment and failure seem inconsequential. I think I could handle a pie-chart. On the other hand, I think a bar graph would make me want to drop out of life with a shopping cart and controlled substances. Can you imagine having to look ahead to big ominous bars of the bad things to come?
How about one of those curved line graphs . . Can you imagine what years of floundering would look like? I’m thinking about the years when we keep thinking we’re about to get it together, but mostly we just bounce from place to place and thing to thing. The years between high school and career probably would probably be a discouragement.
How about a bell curve? That way you could look at yours and compare it to the lives of other to get a nice objective idea of whether or not your life was better or worse than other peoples’.
There are many days that make us glad to be alive. Then there are times when the bad days eclipse the better times in life. If we are lucky, the eclipse passes quickly.
It’s better that we don’t know what lies ahead, but it would be helpful if we did.
Those raised on Snow White and Cinderella believe marriage to be a “happily ever after”. Sadly, sometimes “forever and ever“ is short-lived. There are lots of fairy tales, but alas life isn’t one.
This is the tale of a friend of a friend–I know it sounds suspect, but it‘s true. Though I’ve never met her, I know her story well. Like a school play, recast and re-enacted season after season, I’ve heard this one before.
She was married–married a respectable long time. Everyone who knew her, believed she was happy. She wasn’t. Her marriage was stagnant and she was lonely. She might have stuck it out longer, had it not been for the other man. She wasn’t looking for someone else, but before long she had fallen in love with someone who was not her husband.
I’d tell you her name, but it’s immaterial–and unless you are living in one of the better zip codes of Utopia, you can probably insert a familiar proper noun into this, not so far-fetched, real-life Mad Lib.
It was never her intent to start something else, it just happened.
(Yeah, I know it’s cliché, but Hans Christian Anderson would assure you it is perfectly true.)
Her husband was too preoccupied to notice that she was unhappy and too preoccupied to notice when she became preoccupied. What followed was unintended. She fell in love. Fortunately, or unfortunately for her, he fell in love too.
The double lives they lead left them both conflicted. She eventually she left her husband. She didn’t leave to be with this other man, she left because she was unhappy. She left because her husband had failed to make her feel loved. Nevertheless, the other man gave her the motivation and courage to give her former king the goodbye-look.
Then they lived happily ever after.
Did she love him? Wholeheartedly.
Did he love her? Absolutely.
While both were still married, they had envisioned a fantasy life together. So what was the deal breaker that turned this fairy tale into an unpleasant fable? Was it just another case of “Why sell the cow , when you can get the magic beans for free?”
You might surmise that they moved in together and found out they were incompatible, or that perhaps the spoiled princes and princesses from the previous unions became a contentious issue, or maybe he lost interest when the object of his desire was suddenly available, like a knight, who once in possession of the holy grail, begins to seek a new conquest? None of these is true.
Did he suddenly discover that he loved his wife more than his lover? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Before I share my own conclusion, let me tell you how the story ends.
She started over financially, emotionally and was ready for her prince to take her to a castle somewhere–except for one itsy-bitsy little detail–he was still married.
When she had made the decision to leave her husband, they had planned to marry. She would be free, he would leave his wife–they would live happily ever after. A Grimm’s fairy tale in the making, except this one becomes grim in a most unfortunate way.
Grimm and his other tale-telling pals forgot a couple details–the ones usually spelled out in pre-nupts.
Her knight had stuff. There were the heirs to his kingdom to consider, there were castles and lands to be divided, and there was a royal legacy of past memories. He loved this woman and would have loved to have made her his wife, but in short, it was too complicated. He had too much to lose. His castle wasn’t perfect, but it was more attractive than renting a thatched-roof cottage in a village far away.
Being a believer in fairy tales, I am convinced he had at least as much fondness for his lady-in-waiting, as for his wife, but he wasn’t ready to sacrifice half his kingdom. Leaving her meant giving up half of all he’d spent his life building. Not only that, but the honorable part of him, filled him with a sense of duty to the woman who had been there when he’d been out conquering and building his kingdom.
As lonely as Rapunzel locked in a tower, she lays awake at night crying for this Jack of Hearts who jacked her heart and her well-being.
He still lives in his castle, perhaps at night he lays awake dreaming of the damsel he distressed.
She has nothing. He has everything he had before. She has become Sleepwalking Beauty, with her life on hold, while everything around her goes on as before.
I wish the story were unique, but I have been privy to the tales of more than one woman who lost her heart in this kind of joust.
Sometimes the story has a different ending. There are men who leave their lives for their lover–especially if the princess comes with a dowry better than the stuff they stand to lose–you know, jewels, riches, cattle, or a better castle. Men who promise to leave their wives often don’t, and the ones who do may not be as gallant.
I was sure “social networks” were for people who didn’t have a social life–lonely hearts clubs for those without real friends. In my mind, those sites were populated by societal rejects whose only company was Oreo cookies. In my head were visions of men who didn’t have a prayer of a chance of meeting women if they left their homes.
I ignored. I resisted. I scoffed. Then, I got a request from an old friend to whom I couldn’t say no. How could I not be friend to a friend I was so fond of???
It was the first step on a slippery slope. I added four or five people who had previously sent me requests. To my surprise, they were keeping in touch with others I’d lost touch with. I added them too. In no time, I had a couple dozen new-old friends.
Catching up was more than just finding out what cities they lived in or what they did to put bread on the table. I learned who had been divorced, who had been widowed, who had lost parents, who had lost children. This thing I had so badly misjudged, allowed me to once again be able to share both the joys and sorrows of people I cared about.
Everyday, put me in touch with more people, whose presence in my life I had once valued. There were the kids from summer camp, gals from the dorm at college, colleagues from my first job, and of course, there were family members scattered throughout the country. I had found a way by which I could easily enjoy those connections–all at the same time. I remembered how my mother had warned me about friends who would pull me into all kinds of unknown dangers, but I blame the owl.
My e-mail box was monitored by a virtual owl–I‘ll call him Hedwig. Each time someone Facebooked me, Hedwig would notify me with a pleasantly beckoning hoot. (Hedwig has requested I not use his real name.) Whether or not I was on Facebook, my desk sounded like the area of an aviary where the really fierce birds of prey live. Some people would have killed the owl and ignored the disruptions, but I could not. Each time I heard the hoo-hooing of Hedwig, it was Pavlovian. I had to know what he knew.
In time, I became fond of the continual sound of the great horned owl in my workspace–as did my visitors.
People began to believe I had become addicted to the social network known as Facebook. If I protest too much, everyone will be more convinced than ever that I am in denial, but I swear it isn’t so.
Seriously, Facebook addiction?
My problem is way more complex. I am compulsively and pathologically sociable. Some people like alcohol, or drugs, I like people. Facebook provided non-stop opportunities for interaction.
So, my Facebook friend P.R. guru and blogger , David Kusumoto, is, by necessity, a trend-watcher. He often posts links & stats related to social networking trends. From his page, I’ve learned many things about social networking. Apparently, people are so addicted they check their Facebook first thing in the morning. I do that, but never before coffee and only while I wait for the reporting of the previous days de blog stats. I’ve learned that people check their Facebook after sex. I’ve done that–but only because Hedwig and I are night owls. I’ve learned that some people even check their Facebook in the car. I do that too, but who could blame me on long drives through the Mojave desert when the only thing to do is listen to Socialist poets on NPR or rebroadcasts of Tales from Rehab–The Woodstock edition.
It’s possible I have a problem, but I don‘t see it that way. I am interacting with people–real people, people I know. This makes it seem like a worthwhile diversion–compared to the hours friends spend playing Call of Duty with remote people or evenings spent watching people they don’t know on sur-reality TV. I spend hours each day at my computer–most of it is spent expediting my life and /or writing–for me Facebook is the break at the water cooler.
Okay, I’m coming clean on one aspect of this . . I hate ropes, tethers, chains, cords and all the other things which would keep me tied down. If I have an addiction it is to all the [finally] wireless things that simplify my life and allow me to stay connected anytime, anywhere. If you want to see the ugly side of addiction, take away my laptop.
Life is seasons.
We are unique beings living unique lives, but with many experiences that are universal.
Learning to listen is learning. Listening to girlfriends, I’ve learned a little about the seasons of motherhood. There are seasons of great joy, seasons of great pain and seasons that cause women to take stock of the substance of their lives. Though the male midlife crisis is so well-known and identifiable it has become a cliché or a punch line, the female transitional period women encounter is less discussed.
When I first moved to suburbia, my kids were small and underfoot. My best entertainment was meeting with mothers of others at the local parks. The other mothers on my block had older kids, their lives were consumed by driving, attending and shepherding kids and adolescents.
We managed to eek out time for visits as we bridged the gap between the days and the dinner hour. As their children grew, I was able to learn some of the things which lay ahead. The years passed quickly. Their kids moved out, my toddlers turned into adolescents. They found themselves with more time, I found myself with less.
From the first moment of parenthood, a mother gives up a part of herself for those in her charge. Most women don’t account the sacrifice until the kids are almost grown. Her time, her interests, her sense of self can become secondary to the lives intertwined with her own. Perhaps, this is why when the action slows, women often find themselves asking “Who am I?”
This is the season I think of as the “winter of our discontent“– grey days when women wonder “What now?” Women nearing the end of their childbearing years finally have the time and space to consider the net worth of their lives.
For me, the evaluation of everything happened unconsciously. There were events that challenged me, and events that changed me. With each new challenge, came new understandings of who I was and who I could be. I went through some hard times to get to where I am today, but I was lucky. Had it not been for those things, I could have easily become wedged into a role too small for me.
The end of the parenting years can easily bring about a kind of mid-life identity crisis–especially as women try to figure out what their role is post-parenthood. Considering all they’ve invested in the children who have become remote, can leave a woman wondering what their purpose is. Children are a hugely rewarding part of life, but our lives shouldn’t be empty because they do the very thing we’ve raised them to do.
The post-parenting era needn’t be a season of emptiness or discontent. It can be a season in which to reinvent. Sort of like one of those mornings when you wake up knowing that you have to change the paint or the curtains, it is a great time to revamp and reinvent our lives–a time to cultivate old friendships, revisit old hobbies or seek out new interests.
In fact, it is a season in which we should be ready to burst forth anew. Just as winter is a time when things rest waiting for Spring, the post-parenting season should be one in which we cultivate the things that have waited through the winter for the time when they might bloom.
My children are young enough, I don’t have to think about this yet. Nevertheless I do, because the thought of them leaving the house to go build their own lives is bittersweet. I can’t imagine the quiet of a house without their vibrant noise, or driving a car devoid of their patter. I can‘t imagine not having to wake up to prepare breakfasts or lunches. I can’t imagine when my daily schedule isn’t governed by their activities. However, when that day comes, I hope to be ready–both to watch them launch their own lives, and also to begin a new chapter in my own.