I've been having panic attacks. The whammo, bammo kind that leave you breathless and shaky. Adam wants to help as much as he can and he does everything -- but I know that it's got to come from me. Even writing that is hard. Mental health is such a damn balance beam. Sometimes you just say screw it. I'm gonna fall off.
No dog has ever said a word, but that doesn’t mean they live outside the world of speech. They listen acutely. They wait to hear a term – biscuit, walk – and an inflection they know. What a stream of incomprehensible signs passes over them as they wait, patiently, for a one of a few familiar words! Because they do not speak, except in the most limited fashion, we are always trying to figure them out. The expression is telling: to “figure out” is to make figures of speech, to invent metaphors to help us understand the world. To choose to live with a dog is to agree to participate in a long process of interepretation – a mutual agreement, though the human being holds most of the cards.
There is much I want to do in the New Year. I want to give voice to the voiceless. I want to get my own words out there. I want to continue letting everyone I love know that I love them. I want to continue to discover myself, to get more comfortable with the material I've been given. I want to meet uncomfortable feelings honestly and work through them rather than running away. I want the past to be the past, the present to be fulfilling and the future so bright I gotta wear something resembling shades.
I've been seeking it, searching for it, rubbing my eyes and blinking. I think it's emerging and it's intoxicating. I love focus, precision and order -- strange because I often so don't achieve those qualities in my own life. But it's coming. It's coming.
I've had many ups and downs lately. This week I've had both. Monday I felt paralyzed by anxiety, Tuesday depression. Yesterday I took the dogs to St. Louis and was better.
Fact is, I'm at a crossroads. There is so much I want to do and boundaries I have refused to acknowledge. Mainly, I want to get the Project published, and that is so damn hard.
I am very open about having anxiety and depression and taking medication for it. Sometimes I think I'm on way too much medication. Sometimes I wonder if I ... DO I wonder if I shouldn't? Actually, I'm scared to stop. And there's no reason to do so.
Am I homesick? Yes and no. I still would be feeling this at home. Here my shit is just amplified and I HAVE to deal with it, which is not a bad thing. Except for when it is ...
I've been getting deeper and deeper into the animal advocacy world as of late. And last night I found myself in tears at 2 a.m. thinking about it all.
I have to take a little bit of a break. It's probably going to only be for a few days, but I've had a good streak (I'm seeing pets for whom I've advocated get homes) and I think I need to take that as a clue to chill for a while. It's a great cause and I want to be able to contribute to it, but I need to do what they call self-care too.
Did I mention that I've moved to Columbia, Missouri for four months?
Adam got a contract job here and when the opportunity first came up, we both chuckled. Mid-Missouri, especially in the winter? But the idea grew more appealing over time. I've wanted to go somewhere else, do something different, meet new people and freeze my ass off in the middle of winter. And it looks like I'll get to do all those things.
I really want to write a long blog post about it, about how this all started in early October and spun out until we left at the end of November, but that will come in time, I think. Then again, maybe there's no time like the present. My friend Sophie recently told me that I don't waste words and I like that idea. So maybe this is my long blog post. And maybe it's just majorly stream-of-consciousness.
Leaving Berkeley was -- hard? Adventurous? Both? We sublet our place -- couldn't give up the Farm and wouldn't want to. We bought a huge Chevy Suburban and towed Ringo halfway across the country. And now we're here, in a three-bedroom, two-bath house for $900 a month. Let the adventure commence.
It cost $143 and a phone call. He was scheduled to be euthanized on Nov. 10 -- an eight-month-old puppy -- and I just couldn't watch it happen. I cried when I told Adam about it. It means the world to me to be able to pick up a phone and pull out some plastic and save someone's life. If you're anywhere near Pinal County Animal Services, please consider adopting Rufus. This one's on me.
Wednesdays used to be Homework Club. I'd go hang out in Sean's studio and we'd talk the written word.
Then I left.
I didn't leave in an honest way. I asked if I could be a "part-time" member. Then I just never came back.
I often felt as though I didn't fit in. The guys liked to talk about music I didn't know and didn't like, authors who I'd never heard of, and just philosophy in general that I couldn't get behind.
They are not bad people. They just aren't the group for me right now.
This feels like such a sketchy post to me, half-baked and only half-truthful. The fact is that I wanted to give this airspace, but I still am holding back on some of my truer feelings around it all. I will say, though, that by the end I grew to dread group, and I'm sure they could tell. We are probably all better off.
I just found out that I'm going back to Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, which honestly has been my favorite retreat thus far. It's perfect for me: A mix of solitude and access to the rest of the world, a cute little town with totally sweet people. I met great folks at KHN and can't wait to go back again!
I have two brothers. I'm close to one, not so close to the other. The not-so-close one is getting married and has decided that he wants to resurrect family relations, starting with our other brother who he's barely spoken to in 19 years.
Excuse me, what?
Just because YOU'RE getting married doesn't mean that everyone else needs to forget all the shit you've pulled in the past and join hands happily. Especially because you're not going to keep it up.
I was up late last night crying about Oliver. I hadn't cried about him in a while. I think about him every day, but I don't cry all that often any more. Last night I did. Last night I cried until my eyes were sore and my nose ran. I relived every one of his last moments, the way we held him, the way both Adam and I cried.
But in a way it wasn't so much about him as about the dogs. I know how it went with Oliver and it went well. Yes, he died, but he died at an extremely advanced age, surrounded by love, with nothing wrong with him except for the fact that he was really damn old.
The dogs? They scare me, and my love for them scares me. Nothing can happen to them. I won't let it.
“You are simply not lonely enough when you travel with companions… Spells of acute loneliness are an essential part of travel. Loneliness makes things happen.” - Jonathan Rabin, Driving Home: An American Journey
40 is always 40.
It has always looked the same for the most part.
between you at 20
and now at 37, looking up at 40
with the optimistic resignation
of one who doesn't believe she's that close:
You can see the youth
that once was there,
perhaps still is.
You can see who they once were
and who they've carried over into today.
History is a sixth sense for you,
one you didn't have nearly two decades ago,
one you're now better equipped to understand.
For a long time I've been interested in animal advocacy. I volunteered at the Berkeley Humane Society for years before the devastating fire in May 2010. Since then I've been somewhat paralyzed, sitting on the sidelines. At first I told myself it was because of Oliver -- my energies needed to go to him. But he passed away in August 2010, and the excuses have been thinner since.
Now I've decided to take action. I'm going to be volunteering with Oakland Animal Services and BAD RAP, a rescue organization for pit bulls. I can't just passively look at what goes on via Facebook, seeing who dies and who lives. Sending money is something, but it's not enough. Action is where it's at.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. - Steve Jobs
And I think I've discovered the fuck-it principle. More later as details emerge.
It's a seasonal thing, but it's a year-round affliction. I joke that I take enough medication to choke Bambi, but the reality is that it doesn't -- and perhaps shouldn't -- insulate me from my feelings. I know it's genetic and I know that though there is a stigma, there shouldn't be. The more honest I can be about this, hopefully the better I will feel.
Depression is more than sadness. It's sandbags on each shoulder. It's making yourself get up or staying in bed far longer than you should. It's loved ones asking what they can do and having no answer to give them. I can personify the bitch all I want, but the fact remains that she's a bitch. And a strong one to boot.
I should say that fall is a very challenging time for me. I guess you could call it seasonal affective disorder, but I just call it being out of sorts. It feels like a slow death, fall, especially in September. So I haven't been writing very much, here or elsewhere.
Depression is slow and languid. It sits with a cigarette smoldering in its hand. It waits for you. It is patient and kind in its way. Depression will be there when everyone else has gone.
This is the hardest time of year for me. The move from summer to fall is a killer. The shorter days, the leaves blowing around in the Indian-summer wind ... it's hard for me to take.
Depression is something you have to monitor all the time. When you feel your mood start to slip, you've got to be aware of it and how to take care of yourself around it, as a therapist might say. And although I'm doing all right at the moment, I know things can change.
I'm thinking of the lines from Bob Seger's "Night Moves":
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in
There is a dog in Miami who has had my heart for the last day or so. Melody is an American bulldog whose big heart and sweet nature need a home. And it looks like she may be getting one! Never doubt that the internet -- and people -- can make a difference.
In a way, I live a relatively stripped-down life: I don't commute to go to work, I wear thrift-store clothes for the most part, I have a secondhand car and a one-bedroom cottage.
I also have a plethora of technology: a laptop, an iPhone, and ... okay. That will do for now.
When I say I'm looking for a simpler, more pure life, what does that mean?
I want to meditate more. This is solely up to me. I want to travel more. Okay, that's not totally up to me, and I'm not sure thousand-dollar airline tickets constitute more simplicity and purity. Maybe I just want to see India.
I'm thinking of becoming a vegetarian. This probably won't happen, though. It's important to get protein, particularly after Lap-Band surgery, and although I do like meat substitutes, somehow the real thing feels more protein-y.
So what the hell am I doing to make life more simple? Maybe I'm just taking one step at a time.
Three cafe tables taken up by a single person, moaning and whining on the cell phone about how the underwater basket weaving class is sooooo hard. Yes, the students are back, and Berkeley will feel their presence until they take off for Sunnyvale or Agoura Hills in May.
I too have been a student, and I'm sure I was just as obnoxious as these brats. To the denizens of Santa Barbara from 1992-1996: I am sorry.
I've been having trouble writing for the last few days -- okay, maybe a week or so, give or take -- and I'm realizing why. My expectations for myself are very, very high. I want to write something clean. And this is really driving down my productivity.
They say throw the editor out. I'm trying to push her away for now, but she keeps lingering in the door frame. Enough, bitch. Out.
Not everyone watches the Food Network while waiting to undergo weight-loss surgery. Then again, not everyone is as hooked on food as I am.
“We should make that,” I tell my husband, pointing to the screen. A woman in a low-cut top stirs risotto and murmurs assessments that sound more than vaguely sexual.
Adam raises his eyebrows. “We should probably make stuff you're going to be able to eat,” he says.
I'm at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, which overlooks Oakland in all its gritty glory. It's a rooftops run riot, gray snakes of roads, wisps of greenery. I'm playing I-Spy: a Starbucks, a car-detailing shop, the Samuel Merritt nursing school. Above it all is a semicircle of dark hills, an overseer of sorts. Looking at them feels somehow like staring at the sun, risky, potential retina damage.
I'm slated for Lap-Band surgery. Picture a belt cinched around your stomach, creating a pouch. That limits your food intake. That means you lose weight. That's the theory, anyway.
The Lap-Band means changes. I'm not sure I'm ready for them, but they're coming nonetheless.
“Ah,” the woman on the screen says, sucking her finger. “So good.”
I roll my eyes. “Is she fucking or making food?”
“Sometimes,” Adam says, his gaze not shifting from the screen, “there is no difference.”
It's moments like these that tell me I'm doing the right thing: It's only eye candy, he likes to tell me, but eye candy still fills some sort of hunger. “You like her.”
His eyes lock onto mine. “Actually,” he says, “she's kind of ridiculous.”
Ridiculous, sure, but a size six while she's at it. She's making that risotto, but does she actually eat any of it? Does she survive on an apple and a slice of beef jerky per day? Does she celebrate her cheekbones, applaud her flat abs? Mmm, so good.
Oliver will have been gone a year as of Aug. 14. A year. It doesn't feel right without him, and it never did. I love my dogs dearly and there is no competition there -- the relationship is completely different. Oliver was a bit of a contemporary, really, a fixture in our home and on our couch. He was even a point in our arguments -- whoever's lap he chose was right. And he always chose Adam's.
His death put a punctuation point on a year that was ridiculously difficult. I feel that we've been emerging from that time, but I know that Aug. 14 will be a hard day and I want to do something to honor his memory. I'm not sure what that is yet, but whatever it is, we will be thinking of my big orange boy.
I never took much notice of Bob Marley before I moved to the Bay Area. Even after coming here, I didn't realize how much I was starting to like him ... until one day I heard "Buffalo Soldier" and I was gone. It brought back so many memories and made me realize two things: a) I really like Marley; and b) I love the Bay Area.
I'm thinking about this even as I think about the wide world out there. I want to travel and explore. I want to see what it's like on the other side of the world. But -- and part of me, the adventurer part, doesn't want to admit this -- I think I've found my home.
Yet as I write that, I wonder if it's true. After all, can't we have many homes? I have several: here, New York, Boston, Toulouse ... I can think of others but right now those will suffice.
Yes, we can have many homes, just as we can have many The Ones. Maybe Marley knew that too.
I attended a reading at Mrs. Dalloway's for Fire Monks. David Zimmerman, one of the five monks who turned back on the road to Tassajara and helped save the place from burning in 2008, was there and what he said found me scrabbling for a pen. Without going into too much detail, these were things I needed to hear this week.
Whatever happens is right in every moment.
Fear is actually an idea of the future. There's some point we all face ... this fundamental moment of the urgency of life.
Every moment is a story. We are never the character we think we are. awe are never the story we think we are.
I got up way early today to get to meditation by 6:15. Adam couldn't believe it. But I could. I'm good at getting up when it's something I want to do, and I wanted to do this.
I only lasted half an hour. Then I start getting really fidgety. It's not as though I was able to just concentrate on my breath this morning either. I just watched my thoughts rollick back and forth. Like -- how best to do the freelancing? What's going to happen to The Project? Things like that.
I continue to battle anxiety, though I am quite happy these days. It definitely showed in the meditation. I can't just push it away. I need to learn to contend with it.
I've been losing weight steadily since returning to freelancing.
I don't want to create too much hubris in announcing that out loud -- even in a blog post. But it's worth noting. I've wanted to go back to freelancing for quite some time, wanted to concentrate on my own creative writing. Adam and I argued about it more than I can say. It wasn't that he didn't want me to do it, but he wanted me to wait until he'd graduated.
I was having a hard time with that.
Now it's done and I'm on the other side. I'm going for a hike this afternoon. While I may or may not bring the computer, it's likely I won't feel that I need to urgently check it.
Tomorrow is my last day at my job, which I've held since December 2009. When it came along, it was very much akin to a godsend: good money, great benefits, a terrific working situation since I could work from home. I took it and ran.
A year and a half later, I'm ready to go back to what I know and love. I'm going to be concentrating on my own memoir and fiction -- working to get The Project into print -- while making money as a freelance writer and editor. And damn if I ain't excited!
I'm a writer and storyteller in Berkeley, CA. If you're wondering where that is, follow the smell of patchouli and skunkweed. There you'll find me with my kickass husband, gorgeous little boy, and manic Lab-Australian Shepherd mix pups. I'm represented by Miriam Altshuler of DeFiore & Co., but of course, my views are my own.