Sad, Scared, Scarred; Serene

Here’s a snippet of what my head was telling me last night. I’m estimating that these thoughts all took place in about a five minute period:

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post on what not to say to a depressed/anxious/suicidal person, when they’re in the thick of things. I hope today’s post helps to give more insight into how people (like me,) think, even when we’re NOT in a deep depression. I hope it helps someone cope with their “loud” head.

When I get sad, I almost always feel scared and self-critical. It takes abundant, repeated practice of coping strategies for me to realize that I’m just sad and in actuality, okay. No matter, I can get pretty panicked by it.

Last night, I felt sad. Over the past year or so, when I feel sad I am oftentimes missing my former super energetic and enthusiastic approach to virtually everything. (Okay, I have never been enthusiastic about anything related to taxes or health insurance enrollment, but almost everything else.) I miss the “old me,” and when I’m sad, I usually feel my scars; both literally and figuratively and my worst self-critic emerges ruthlessly.

Before I realize I’m not in a deep depression, my head questions and criticizes a million things, real or imagined. It can be a mean place upstairs.

Here’s a snippet of what my head was telling me last night. I’m estimating that these thoughts all took place in about a five minute period:

Continue reading “Sad, Scared, Scarred; Serene”

“Just Think Positive!” …sigh…

I urge you to challenge your own biases where mental illness is concerned. As you read this, you may be thinking you’re not biased. If this is actually true, you’re amazing.

If you have a loved one who suffers from major depressive or bipolar disorder, anxiety, BPD, PTSD, c-PTSD etc., and they may even be suicidal or have suicidal ideation, I have compiled a list of things said to me by well-meaning loved ones who sought only to support me. With their words, I was left feeling even worse than I already did. So, I’m giving mere suggestions here in this blog post, based on my own personal experience.

Continue reading ““Just Think Positive!” …sigh…”

Can/Can’t Canteen Can Can

…my smorgasbord of feelings…

It’s fully impossible for me not to notice AND acknowledge that when I reflect on my *smorgasbord of feelings over the past five months, it’s almost always associated with food. (see aforementioned reference to *smorgasbord)

Okay, it’s more than a casual food association. It may not even be “almost” always, but ALWAYS. My moods and feelings are like a vulnerable-loving-forgiving-physically-stagnant, casserole of emotions, covered in crispy french fried onions, located on an all-you-can-eat buffet of mostly unpredictable, hungry/foody/full feelings.

Buffet…Smorgasbord…Canteen…Chow Fest…FEELINGS.

It’s so interesting, because these days, I am generally peaceful. In many ways, I have never actually liked or loved myself (and others) more than while this pandemic has been going on. P. S. I am thinking about food right nowcheddar cheese on an egg bagel with honey mustard

Okay, I’m back.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll see that my daughter, Charlotte, has been baking and creating decadent treats on nearly a daily basis. A key fact is, I am not overindulging in her amazing culinary creations.

Bearing witness to Charlotte’s visionary process has helped me understand myself better. My imaginative and often funny thoughts of food – casseroles, carbs, KETO, vintage gelatinous “aspic-tacular” platters, buffets and canteens are all really healthy ways of coping with:

  • Missing people
  • Craving human touch
  • Concerns about money and being able to provide for my kids
  • My worry over other people’s health
  • Wearing pants inside out and backwards
  • Simply wearing pants
  • Wearing pants that, once fit and now feel like medical-grade compression wear
  • Seriously though… I’m not going to list everything. This is the last bullet point. You catch my drift.

Like you and most everyone, I’ve had to sit (long stretches) alone with myself. I never, ever forget that we’re collectively in this trauma together and not being alone, even though I’m physically alone sometimes, is incredibly comforting.

Also, even if I’m a little more than slightly flabby, I’m really not too shabby. I imagine the same is true for you.

So, even though I ate two dinners last night, (and thought of food even more), it’s not the end of the world. I mean, it doesn’t happen every night and in evaluating what transpired in that extra meal, one could say that I just had a really early breakfast. (Three hours after my original dinner.)

On a physical front, I KNOW I have to move my body more. I haven’t been too into “getting physical,” until I decided to start dancing at least 45 minutes per day.

Oh fine. I’ll move my tush.

Today, I danced for 90 minutes. As I moved my body, I thought about the aforementioned, vintage gelatinous “aspic-tacular” platter. I laughed as I danced, because the committee in my head was entertaining. It was hard to breathe, but I just kept going.

I even danced a “Can Can,” that I think seemed more like a “Can’t Can’t.”

But, it’s all okay. I mean, everything I mentioned in this post is okay.

Sure, I hope I eat only one dinner tonight. I pray that I’ll dance as hard tomorrow as I did today.

And all the while, I hope I can continue to laugh at and enjoy all of my food associations, my temporary flab and life on life’s terms in general.

I’m sending you so much love and virtual hugs. Please be gentle with yourself. You are a gift and very brave to be walking through this surreal time.

Stay safe and healthy. I hope we can have dinner together, (just one) soon.

How are you?

So… How am I?

“How are you?”

Most of the time, I have no idea how to answer that question. Do you?

In some respects, this collective trauma has left me feeling less alone than any other time I can recall. I’ve also found myself growing quieter and maybe a little more peaceful. I can’t really explain why but I’m not too into exploring or even asking, “why?”

Some key things I have noted in the past several months:

  • A lot of things are less funny, including me. I’m okay with that.
  • I notice little wonderful things in my daily life and I’m on the lookout for them.
  • I do a gratitude list every single day, even (especially) when I feel crappy.
  • I have become much smaller and I don’t mean in the physical sense, but my emotional investment in things that once appeared to matter, really don’t. I’m grateful for this too.
  • I forgive my sloppy eating but not in a way where I’m giving myself permission to eat five dinners. I’m just kinder to myself and I think, others.
  • I pay far more attention to how I use my own physical, mental, emotional and financial resources – I’m more discerning.
  • I don’t think I’m ugly even though I am physically not even close to my best.
  • I am sometimes incredibly sad, but rarely depressed.
  • I am shocked by other people’s behavior and especially meanness. I have learned in the past several months that I’m actually more naive than I ever thought possible.
  • I’m not becoming cynical.
  • I have a new appreciation for my previous trauma. The silver lining is that this is just another trauma and this time, I’m not alone in it.
  • I miss human touch.
  • Some of my favorite family moments have happened during this time period.
  • I generally think more in “we” and not “me.”
  • I’ve grown less judgmental.
  • I have fallen more deeply in love with fundraising and nonprofit management since the pandemic began.
  • I am very impressed by my (and other people’s) children and their ability to cope, hope, adapt and act for positive change.
  • I’m inspired to and must help the arts community.
  • I’m devoted to learning how to be an antiracist and I have a lot to learn and do.
  • I am sure I’m not destined for greatness but am good enough. What a relief.

So…

How am I?

I am okay with not knowing what’s coming down the pike and when I’m uncomfortable, I just sort of sit in my uncomfortableness. It always passes, comes back, passes again and so on…

How are you?

The Practice for the Panicky Parent

So now, with my daughters, the jig is up. The jig is totally up.

I recently learned that my kids see all that I am. They’ve known about my flaws for some time now, but I am just starting to someday, maybe, sorta, etc., get okay with this fact. My hope is that I can use their truths about me as a learning tool for personal, parental and professional growth. Continue reading “The Practice for the Panicky Parent”

Grateful for Art.

And mindful reflection.

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Evanston Canal, by the hospital

And quiet.

And breath.

And tears.

And laughter.

And color.

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J and C in Chinatown

And sound.

And eyes that see.

And ears that hear.

And the willingness to work through what I cannot see or hear,

yet,

or maybe ever.

cagey
Safe doesn’t always mean pretty

Instagram post 11-13-18
Strength from all over the place. Some boundaries too.

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No such thing as trapped. Not really.

Grateful for all that has led me here, right now.

Grateful for you and others on my path who may have caused wounds,

And scabs.

And scars.

And joy.

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My busy head. I have learned to like my head and its committee.

And grateful for my voice and for yours.

mountain3
One scar, of many.

This is my heart.

And this is my art.

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When I couldn’t sleep last night, this happened.

And we all have stuff with which to make art.

So grateful.

 

Loving John After My Break Up with Peter

It’s always been you, John.

Most people know that yesterday was the 38th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination. If you know anything about me, you are aware that I am much more than just a lifelong fan of John Lennon and his music. I hoped to lose my virginity to John Lennon. Obviously, that didn’t work out as he was assassinated in 1980, but had he lived longer…. Continue reading “Loving John After My Break Up with Peter”

Directions on Escaping Your Private Hell

ESCAPE ROUTE: Make it less private.

Ask for help.

Tell the truth. Continue reading “Directions on Escaping Your Private Hell”

A Love Letter Redux to Juliette

The original letter I wrote to Juliette four years ago can be found here – “For Juliette: A Love Letter You’ll Hate (For Now)”. I write my daughters fairly often, but this one stands out and serves as a sort of unspoken grading tool for how I am doing as a mother. I give myself a “C” grade as a mother, but the important lesson here is that I don’t accept my own “C” grade. I trust the trustworthy people in my life instead. Continue reading “A Love Letter Redux to Juliette”

Safe

How can we feel safe when no one is safe?

The past several weeks have been rough. Without going into detail on what’s happening in my little family, I’d rather focus on what this time period has evoked:

FEELINGS: FEAR. 

FACTS: SAFE.

Are we safe?


My daughters and I have openly discussed safety, identifying safe and unsafe scenarios and spaces, not compromising our safety, so that someone will like or accept us, and finally, how we practice self-soothing when we are afraid. Like any parent, my daughters’ safety and empowering them to know how to get/stay safe, are of the utmost importance.

While in the midst of walking through private issues over the past several weeks, epic mass shootings, scores of hate crimes and the disastrous fires in California, also plagued our country.

After the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, like so many of us, I was shocked. No matter how many times I hear about or experience anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, the shock value never, ever lessens.

My daughter and I discussed the Pittsburgh tragedy after a few days had passed. I couldn’t believe how matter of fact she was about it.

I fervently exclaimed,

I absolutely refuse to let this be the new normal!

She responded to me very calmly,

Mom, we’ve been having lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. At first, when I was little, they were really scary, but now, this IS our normal.

My mouth was agape. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…

I had the “aha” moment I have never wanted to have.

I went on to validate what she’d said to me. I told her that her response made me sad and then, she said,

It is sad, but it just is. Mom, we have to live with what is.

A part of me wanted to argue against what she was saying, but I didn’t. The truth is, I was in awe of my daughter’s composure and graceful example of how to live life on life’s terms.

Just this past week, I came home from work and as I prepped dinner, I shared with my daughters that ORT’s Kfar Silver Youth Village had to be evacuated because there weren’t enough (or close enough) shelters, for the kids to be safe.

Kfar Silver Youth Village is located just outside of Ashkelon, Israel. Hundreds of rockets were launched from Gaza and it was a terrifyingly unsafe situation for these kids and all who live there.

At dinner, my daughters were wide-eyed and glued to everything about Kfar Silver. They wanted to learn more about the “really cool” place the Kfar Silver Youth Village is.

My daughters asked so many questions:

How can these kids ever feel safe with rockets being launched nearby? How can they not have enough shelters? Do adults help them feel safe? Who helps the adults feel safe? How can the world be this scary?

And then, the same daughter who told me about needing to “live with what is” said,

WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!

My (amazing) daughters just finished raising funds for ORT America, for its #GivingTuesday campaign. (Yep, they raised their funds well before #GivingTuesday!)

Jand c GT GOAL
Of course I’m proud of them!

Next, my eldest daughter has expressed interest in helping the kids at Kfar Silver Youth Village to get safe, feel safe and stay safe.

So, the moral of this story is,

we can live with what is, but we can must also take action.

We may feel afraid, but in this very moment, in the here and now,

we are safe.

Thou shalt not

Jake Lawler

Writer | Director | Motivational Speaker | Storyteller

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