2017: To Blog Or Not To Blog?

WELL. Here I am, finally, some two months or so since my last blog entry. For the handful of you who actually follow me, I sincerely apologize. To say I hit a “rough patch” would be putting it mildly. Sometime in early November, I sort of had a “come apart”. The fact that my hero, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by some 3 million votes but lost the election to TRUMP is not a coincidence. Combine that with the anxiety I felt trying to write a novel in  30 days for the National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo) and I just sort of fell to pieces. No novel was forthcoming. No writing of any kind was forthcoming, not even in my personal journals. I just froze up. I was dead inside. All because of an election, you say? Well, yeah, kinda. It was the most important election of my lifetime, I believe, and it was a disaster. In 10 days, a lying, racist, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, narcissistic , moronic  blowhard will be sworn in as President, despite proof of Russian hacking in the election, despite, Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote (because even though we complain about the electoral college every election year, we never do anything about it!). 2016 was a rough year. It had it’s bright moments. We should all count our blessings, of course, But it was a long, arduous election cycle, and the celebrity death count was unprecedented. People die all the time, of course, famous and not, but there seemed to be an unusual amount of big names on the In Memoriam lists for 2016. I won’t run through them all, but the most traumatic for me were Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Prince, Harper Lee, and Carrie Fisher, though I admired many of the others.

Alan Rickman: a gentleman in real life and often onscreen, though he will probably be remembered for his starring role as the cold, brooding Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. That gorgeous bass voice will forever haunt me. I have a recording of Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native narrated by him, and I treasure it and listen to it when I have trouble sleeping.

Glenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles, one of the all-time greatest rock bands. Lead singer of so many classics of my youth, like “Take it Easy”, “Heartbreak Tonight” and so many others. I regret I never saw the band perform live.

PRINCE….What can one even say about this genius? He was just the best. He wrote his own music, his own lyrics. He could play every instrument. People tried to compare him with Michael Jackson. I’m sorry, but NO. Just NO. His was my coming-of-age music. I had put him away for awhile but since he died I’ve been listening to him every day. I just can’t say goodbye.

Harper Lee. Her death wasn’t such a shock. She lived a good long life. She wrote one of my favorite books, one of the greatest books in all of literature, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was adapted into a wonderful film and she rested on those laurels for many years and no one thought she would ever write another book. But about a year before she died, a second book was released, possibly against her wishes. Her state of mind was unknown. I read Go Set a Watchman and wish I hadn’t. It had some of the same characters as her first book but they were too different. I don’t believe she really wanted that book published. I believe someone took advantage of her to make money. A sad situation. But that can never erase the wonderful legacy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

And dear Carrie Fisher. I identified with her so much. She was open about her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction. It’s easy for me to talk about being bipolar because I’m not trying to maintain a career. But she was in Hollywood, an actor and also a writer. She was very brave. And had such a wicked sense of humor. She and her mother were so close, it reminded me of my relationship with my mother. When her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, died within a few days of Carrie, I thought, “She just couldn’t make it without Carrie, ” and I could imagine my mother doing the same. Or me, if my mother died. So close we don’t know where each of us begins and the other ends.

So this is what all has been on my mind during the time I haven’t been writing. Death and disaster. I want to be optimistic for 2017, but it’s hard. The question I have now is: To blog or not to blog? If so, why? What is my purpose for keeping this blog going? I don’t have a huge readership. I can barely get my friends and family interested, and often not even them. I think I started just to be writing SOMETHING. Well, now I am writing something. I have a memoir project I’m working on and I’m outlining a novel, both potentially paying projects. No one is going to pay me to write this blog. This is sheer vanity work. This is just  getting my name out there (I guess. Is it really?). It’s a place for me to blow off steam. That was especially useful during the election year. It’s my place to share my opinion. Bur really,  who cares about my opinion? Not that many people, really. So I don’t know how much time I will be spending here, honestly. I’m committed to resisting the Trump regime so I may write about that. But I mostly intend to work on other writing projects, so if I’m in here, that means I’m procrastinating. I thought this would be a good forum to talk about bipolar disorder and maybe help others who suffer mental illness but I’m not convinced I’ve done any good. I think I may have just spilled my deep, dark secrets in vain and now everyone knows I’m crazy and thinks I’m a narcissist who can’t stop talking about herself.

Maybe I’m just in a mood. I don’t know. I had a medication increase recently and it should start helping soon, I hope. The fact that I’m even at my desk, on the computer, typing a blog is an improvement. Maybe I’ll come around and think of some brilliant new blog topics to dazzle you all with. Who knows.

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I’m In Repair

Facebook post from last night: My husband and I took my mother out to eat for lunch today and in the ladies’ restroom I had the pleasure of seeing myself in a full length mirror for the first time in a long time. I was not unaware of my weight gain, but I was not quite prepared for the image that greeted me. My first thought was “Mama Cass” and the words to “California Dreaming” started playing in my head. Tears welled in my eyes, but I thought, you know, of the two women in the group, she did have the better voice. And also, I thought, taking a deep breath, there is always something to be grateful for. At least I’m not starving. Right? Right. Still, I wish somehow I could choose my mental illnesses. Instead of bipolar and ADD, I would be severely OCD, with specialties in cleaning and exercising. I would be disturbed, but thin and meticulously organized. But the mental health lottery doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. You play the hand you’re dealt.

 

For you younger readers, Mama Cass was a fabulous singer from the 60s group, The Mamas and the Papas. I’m sure you can find their music on iTunes. She sang beautiful harmonies, but she was mainly known for being “the fat one” and dying at an early age. I believe she choked to death on a ham sandwich or something else not very glamorous. That’s all I was ever told about her growing up, and left with the impression that if you were fat bad things were likely to happen to you, and maybe even SHOULD happen to you, like fat people deserved to die young. I got the message. I stayed skinny for a very long time. Then life happened. I grew up,  I became depressed and was given anti-depressants. Anti-depressants helped me realize, perhaps for the first time, that food tasted good. Really, really, good, and eating was enjoyable and I began to put on weight. This was healthy at first, as I had been significantly underweight. But I grew up and developed and began to change medicines often and was  susceptible to the side effects of all of them and I began to put on more weight. I should add here that I have never been a physically fit person, even when I was stick thin. I was never athletic, never enjoyed physical education class in school, even flunking it on purpose in high school by not dressing out out of sheer stubbornness. I never developed the exercise habit. I didn’t like to sweat. I liked walking well enough, if I was walking somewhere, or walking in an area with scenery like a short hike. But walking around and around a track didn’t interest me, and I didn’t see the point of running unless I was being chased, and then it depended on who was doing the chasing. (If it was a cute boy, I might let myself be caught! *blush* coy smile*) I was too cool too dance and aerobics, popular during my time, was lame.I was thin because God made me that way, but when I didn’t take care of myself over my lifetime, when i worked out only sporadically and ate whatever I felt like eating, my body began to change. I went from skinny in my teens to average sized in my twenties to curvy in my thirties to overweight at forty. The decade of my thirties really did the damage. I switched to an almost completely sedentary lifestyle. Sitting all night at work at a stressful job, stress eating, and sleeping all day. I joined gyms and rarely went. I bought exercise equipment and rarely used it. I made plans to walk and did for a while, then quit. I just never could stick to anything. Exercise made me so tired so quickly; my heart beat so fast. I found out that I have “exercise induced tachycardia” which just means when I exercise my normally high heart rate jumps up abnormally fast to a dangerously high rate. So I can’t run or do any high impact aerobic workouts. I can walk or cycle slowly. I can do yoga, pilates, weight training, etc. I just have to make myself do it. But it’s soooooo hard. WHY? Don’t you feel better after you exercise? People would ask me? Sometimes I would. Sometimes I would feel like I was dying or like I wanted to go to bed and stay there. Surely that is not normal, is it? So here I am, today. Not giving out specific numbers but well over and above a healthy weight range. My goal weight loss is 100 lbs.  To get in a healthy weight range, I need to lose 80. I’m trying not to think in big numbers yet. I’m trying to think about 10% of my body weight first.  Just losing that much can have great benefits for your health. I learned that from Weight Watchers, which really works, if you work it and stick with it. I’m not sure what kind of program I need now. Diet or exercise or both. I hardly eat at all. Ask my husband, he will tell you how I don’t finish meals or I skip meals. I’m doing SlimFast right now and some kind of diet pills I got off the internet. But I am tired ALL THE TIME. I have an exercise bike, and I am too tired to ride it. Simple household chores exhaust me. A few months ago, my doctor told me that I still had mono from a year ago! But my blood tests are clear now. Supposedly the virus is gone, but I am still tired and weak. My fitness level is zero. The doctor suggested water therapy and is supposed to be giving me a referral but I haven’t heard from the clinic and I don’t know if Medicare will cover it. If I had the energy, I could go to thy Y in Madison and do water aerobics twice a week. (and the motivation.) But I don’t have the energy. Just started taking super potent max dosage B12 vitamins that are supposed to give me massive enetgy, but so far I haven’t noticed a big change. Taking big dose of vitamin D too. Maybe B12 shots might work? I’m ready to try anything. Adderall worked when I was taking it for ADD, but Medicare stopped covering it and will only cover Ritalin and Ritalin does not boost my energy, at least not at the dosage I am on. At least it keeps me awake. I was sleeping half of every day for the longest. Now I am awake, if barely, but I go to bed early. tired, every night, soon after dinner. Just a blob. That’s what I saw in the mirror in the restaurant. I felt pretty when we left to pick up my mom. I had on a new top, purple, my favorite color, beaded and cut loose and full so it didn’t cling to me and feel tight. Probably looked like a maternity top only I’m not pregnant, just fat. I looked in the mirror and just saw a purple blob, with newly colored black hair that my mother didn’t approve of (she had made sure to tell me as soon as she got in the car) and now in the ladies’ room when I joked I looked like Mama Cass, she didn’t deny it, just remarked something about her career. And I just felt fat and old and stuck  and hopeless. But I have so much to live for. I am blessed with a loving, supportive husband whom I love with all my heart and soul and we have big dreams together. And I am finally beginning to fulfill my dream of being a writer. I can’t let my weight drag me down. I have to get healthy. I have to take care of myself, for us.
Later, when I came home and posted that status, many lovely people wrote kind words of support in the comments and my good friend Kristine McKeown reminded me of our favorite guy John Mayer and his song that has brought us back from the brink so many times. If you’re not familiar with John Mayer, you should get to know him. He is my favorite singer-songwriter. I have often said I feel like he is singing my journals out loud. He really gets me, and I get him. His song “In Repair” perfectly describes how I feel, in this in between stage of not being quite right, but getting there. This fall and winter I will be in repair, and hopefully “when things turn green again, it will be good to say you know me.” Here it is, with lyrics. Enjoy.

Too many shadows in my room
Too many hours in this midnight
Too many corners in my mind
So much to do to set my heart right
Oh, it’s taken so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh, but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady
I am in repair
I am in repair
Stood on the corner for a while
To wait for the wind to blow down on me
Hoping it takes with it my old ways
And brings some brand new luck upon me
Oh, it’s taken so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh, but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady
I am in repair
I am in repair
And now I’m walking in the park
And all of the birds, they dance below me
Maybe when things turn green again
It will be good to say you know me

 

 

Aging Gracelessly

Facebook post from yesterday: 

Well, I’ve had a lovely birthday….kind of blown away by all the birthday wishes here on Facebook. Had a delicious breakfast from Cracker Barrel brought to me by my sweet husband, Steve, Then we went to the movies for the first time since our first date and saw Bad Moms (totally raunchy but hilarious….I needed a good laugh!) and now we’re winding down the day with some chocolate birthday cake from Publix. Big piece of cake, tall glass of ice cold milk. It doesn’t get any better than that. By the way, this is an important birthday for me. This year I start counting backwards. I have some lost time to make up for from the last several years. So, without giving my exact age, I can tell you by the time I turn 50, I will be turning 40…again. 🙂 It’s like…magic….

Yes, I decided “growing old gracefully” is for the birds. I plan to be dragged into old age kicking and screaming. So as of yesterday, I am growing younger by the day, until…until I change my mind and decide it’s time to be old. I’m simply not ready yet. I don’t feel XX years old and therefore I am not going to be. Over the last several years, I have suffered a major breakdown and lost a job that was precious to me and spent the better part of a few years almost entirely in bed. So I feel I have to make up for lost time. Some tell me that’s impossible or unnecessary. “You’re only as old as you feel”. Fine. I find that I do not feel as old as my driver’s license claims I am, so I refuse to be it. Looking in the mirror, I find that I am no longer passing for a twentysomething,  but my true age is still hazy. At least one friend my age has sworn not to tell if I don’t, so that’s something. It’s no big thing. I’m not going to cringe and cry if someone finds me out. The truth is, I never thought I would live this long, suffering from depression and being often suicidaI. It’s kind of a miracle really, to find myself here….at my age…whatever it may be.

I know I can’t avoid aging. Every single day there’s another reminder of that. But I can fight it for a while. I don’t have to give in so easily. I don’t have to do like some people and wake up one day and decide to be old and just give up. And if I live to be 102, I don’t ever plan to GROW UP. I plan to be childlike until my dying day. As innocent as possible in this screwed up world, pure and simple. Not childISH. That’s a different thing. Not immature and bratty. Despite my leaning toward realist/pessimist views I want to remain open to things that are new and different and good and positive. Peace and love and kindness and all that hippie stuff. To quote my favorite actor, the late Alan Rickman, “When I am 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I will still be reading  Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, ‘After all this time?’ and I will say ‘Always.'” Yes, I will be reading Harry Potter and other children’s books the rest of my life. And coloring in coloring books, and playing with animals, and children when I get a chance. Anything to “rage against the dying of the light”. I will not “go gentle into that good night.”

And I challenge the older people in my life not to give in so easily, no matter what the calendar says, no matter what the doctor says. What does your heart say? Do you still have the heart of a young man in a wizened body? A mind full of wisdom, even though you can’t remember where you left your phone? You still have lots of living to do, lots to offer the younger ones. Hang on, as long as you can. You are so loved, and your life matters.

 

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 19141953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.