The following is my personal experience with getting off of anti-depressant medication. It is not meant in any way to criticize, disparage or otherwise shame anyone who has taken, might take or is currently taking one. In fact, I suspect … Continue reading
I am not sure what is more remarkable: what I did or what happened once I’d done it. I’d been thinking (and talking) about it for years. Like years and years. I’d never been able to get “permission” from anyone … Continue reading
There is nothing I can say about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain that has not already been said. I have no sage advice or pearls of wisdom or explanation for what appears to be the mainstreaming of suicide. I don’t know what I could possibly add to the conversation other than to, well have a conversation.
Off the top of my head, the top of my head, I can think of close to a dozen people who I know personally who have found life so intolerable that the only way they could find peace was to end their lives. Young and old, they were each someone’s sibling, spouse, child, grandchild or parent. No one, it appears, is immune. And, while there is no doubt that the pain that their friends and family will have for the rest of their lives is astounding , my heart literally aches thinking of these people and just how burdensome their lives had become.
Some took pills. Others used guns. One hung himself while another used a helium machine usually reserved for the joy of blowing up balloons. In each case, without exception, their absence was quickly noted. That “no one will miss me” thinking? – debunked. Their deaths unimaginable.
There is no doubt that mental illness plays a role in many suicides. And, for those of you fortunate enough to have been spared this hard lesson, finding (not to mention being able to afford) appropriate and meaningful support ain’t easy. In some instances, it can be nearly impossible, even for those well connected, well educated and with the means to pay for it. Remind me to tell you about the time I had to sit outside a locked psych ward for four hours waiting for someone, anyone, to talk to me.
Yes, mental illness plays a role. But so, too, I would strongly argue, does what life has become in 2018. It is brutal. People are angry, isolated and fearful. We claim to love our “i” everythings, but to what end? Admittedly, I am guilty of over sharing and, although I try hard to keep things real, there are those, I am sure, that think I have a perfect life. Truth: I don’t.
No one does.
Yes, I have loads to be thankful for. I am married to a great guy; we have our health, live in a beautiful home and get to walk on the beach whenever we want. But second marriages are complicated. Raising children to adulthood can be brutal. Having a hand in raising other people’s kids has some gigantic challenges. Managing an ex-husband, even one who is a better ex than he was a husband still carries constant reminders of why you are exes. And, if we are being honest, there have been moments, sometimes many of them, when I just don’t know if I can do it all. No, I’ve not been suicidal, but I understand why people are.
Truth is, as much as we know about the people in our lives, I contend there is way more that we don’t. That’s why I always implore that we be kind to one another. Most of us are masters at putting on a good face. Many of us are ashamed at feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and ready to throw in the towel because, well, you know, we have a perfect life. But, oh yeah:
No one does.
Look out for the people in your life. Answer you phone. Reach out.
Kate Spade had built an empire and was beloved by her legions of fans. Anthony Bourdain made a living out of travelling the world. But clearly they didn’t have perfect lives either because, remember:
No one does.
I’ve seen, or, more to the point, heard him, always at one of the three Dunkin’ Donuts in town. He’s everything you think of when you think of a ten-year-old boy: mop of thick overgrown hair sprouting out from a well-loved Red Sox hat, sparkling eyes and one of those adorable little bubble butts that only little kids can get away with. He is joyfully immersed in a game on his iPad, his mom sitting next to him catching up on her mail or Facebook or something, anything, that allows her just a few moments of “me” time.
He is happy. I can tell when he conquers his game from the rises and dips in his squeals. Glancing over, I catch him jumping up and down while somehow keeping his butt in his seat. Yeah, he’s really happy.
As the stream of those-in-need-of-their-morning-coffee enters Dunks, each and every one of them looks to see where the sounds are coming from. In fairness, it would be impossible not to. I, seated at a nearby table, find myself on alert, just waiting for someone to make a comment (and by comment I mean complaint), give a dirty look or simply shake their heads at what many would consider an irritant. Thankfully no one does. Had they, this mama bear was itching to let them have it…and would have.
This wildly cute little guy is on the very far end of the Autism spectrum.
As I waited for my coffee to cool down a little, I took advantage of not being responsible for anyone but myself and logged onto Facebook. A dear friend’s status:
Looking for something to do today? Why not find a way to make the world a better place. Check in on a neighbor, help the elderly, donate to a charity that you’ve been meaning to do for some time, or just live your best life. If we all do it just imagine the possibilities.
When we have dinner as a family we go around the table, each sharing not only our “highs” and “lows” from the day, but what we did for someone else. The first two are pretty easy. Some days, the “what I did for someone else” is harder to come by. But! It gets everyone thinking and, I’ve noticed, gotten us all to try harder to have something to say, even if it is as simple as holding the door for someone.
It was still early in the day and my caffeine was still in the cup, but I took note of the Facebook challenge.
Despite having seen her many times prior to this morning, I’d never spoken to his mom. Today, as she was gently telling her son (and, I have to surmise, bracing for a battle) that it was time to shut the game and get going, she and I caught eyes. I told her that she is doing a great job. With that, she began to cry. It wasn’t an “Oh my God, I cannot take this for one more second” cry, though. It was a “Thank you, thank you, thank you” cry. It occurred to me that it had been a longggg time – if ever – that anyone had patted her on the back or, worse, noticed her at all over all the ruckus and judgment.
I asked if her if he was completely non-verbal. She replied with something between pride and sadness,
“He has two, no, make that three words.”
I hoped to myself that those words are: I, love and you. In that order.
Accustomed to receiving so much negative feedback, she assumed that my kindness could only mean that I, too, have an autistic child. Initially I said that I did not – a nonverbal child, I say tongue in cheek, is the exact opposite of anything I’ve been up against– but, in fact, I do. One of my stepsons is on the spectrum. If this little guy was on the furthest end, my stepson is on the closest: extremely high functioning, always the smartest person in the room and gloriously sweet. No one stares. No one moves to a different table. No one feels broken-hearted for him or his parents. While my stepson sometimes dances to the beat of his own drum, this little Dunks boy is doing the same, but with an entire orchestra and all day long.
This mom is a complete rockstar. Next time I see her, I am buying her a cup of coffee. And a donut. Because she definitely deserves a donut.
Be generous of spirit.
Try to do something nice for someone else every day. It’ll give you something to talk about at dinner.
And next time I see you at Dunks, I’d love to treat you to a cup of coffee, too.
 The children in my life seldom STOP talking..
I don’t have to tell you that last week there was yet another school shooting. That makes 22 in just 20 weeks of 2018. And of those 22, exactly none of them have been addressed in either my kid’s high school, or in the 5th and 7th grade schools of my stepsons. Horrified by this administrative decision to pretend something didn’t happen, I conducted a highly unscientific poll of friends with kids in the K-12 range: Of the six respondents, only one said that their school even mentioned this latest massacre. And while this is the most cataclysmically ill-conceived decision I’ve ever heard, it is not all together surprising.
Back in February, the high school parents received an email from the principal. It was short and sweet, the most meaningful words being:
Arrest in the parking lot, no one was in danger, everything okay now.
It was the most cryptic piece of writing I’ve ever seen. As such, the chatter on social media, at Starbucks, in the school pick up line was so rampant as to be (almost) comical. In response, I penned what I like to think was a well written email, pointing out that perhaps a little bit more information would be helpful but, now that I knew the incident involved a non-student shooting up heroin as the kids were piling into school, embroidered LL Bean backpacks in place, all was right with the world. Perhaps, I suggested, this could be used as a teaching moment, made into an opportunity for discussion about any number of issues: like heroin at the ready, say.
Thanks for your email.
(No, really. That was his response.)
So, here we are, post Sante Fe, Texas. Clearly if they are not going to address someone shooting up heroin in the parking lot they sure as hell ain’t gonna talk about shooting up a school. You know, the one with your kids in it.
While I appreciate that the kneejerk response might be to just keep everyone moving along, nothing-to-see-here, the truth remains: no one is entitled to pretend it never happened. Not the principal. Not the teachers. Not anyone.
After Parkland, I asked the Assistant Principal why (on earth!) there was radio silence on the subject. She told me, very matter-of-factly, that the faculty and staff had been pre-emptively
warned instructed to shut down any conversations about this (or any other) school shooting… to, you know, prevent things from “getting political.”
What the actual fuck?
It’s pretty safe to say that kids, particularly high school aged, when given the opportunity to talk about this gigantic elephant-in-the-room-that-no-one-is-talking-about, would be far less focused on the gun control issue than in their own personal fears and sense of safety. They are, as any school teacher or administrator can attest, pretty self absorbed creatures, after all. I’ll go one step further: This might be the very reason there are kids who are going to school armed, dangerous and with a mission. No one is listening to them!
When robbed of the opportunity to talk, express feelings and process something that has happened, people have no choice other than to rely upon their own devices. And, for kids, those devices are immature, unsophisticated and often inaccurate. So they are left talking amongst themselves. They are fearful – even the ones who don’t come out and say it. The silence from administrators and teachers is deafening. The adults, the same ones they look to for guidance and mentorship are not doing their job. By making a conscious decision to shut down any discussion – even a highly moderated one – we are all failing our children. Further, the deliberate absence of acknowledging what has, and continues to happen, is an insult to kids – they know just enough to be dangerous. Very dangerous.
Newsflash: The act of pretending something didn’t happened never made anything “un-happen.” As in ever.
Our children deserve to be heard. Just ask Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris or Adam Lanza or Nickolas Cruz or Dimitrios Pagourtzis. Or, better yet, ask their parents who, I have to assume, wonder what would have been had their children felt heard.
Final thought: Imagine you are a coat room attendant. Over the past five months, a coat room attendant has been shot, while just doing their job in the coat room, an average of once a week. You’re probably feeling anxious, on edge, concerned, confused and maybe even a little unhinged. Which would you prefer: a forum to talk about it or to pretend it isn’t happening? (Allowing time for you to think….) Ah, right, that’s what I thought.
Now replace” coat room attendant” with our kids and “coat room” with school.
You can yell at me.
You can call me a bitch or a jerk or a shithead if you want. (But please don’t tell me I look fat: that slays me.)
You can tell me you think my outfit is ugly, my hair is too big or my opinion is stupid.
You can even tell me that I out and out suck.
You cannot, however, lie to me. Like ever.
For starters: I will always find out the truth. Trust me. And if you don’t believe me, ask my kids.
I promise that, every.single.time, I will be far more incensed by a lie than anything you might have done that you felt the need to lie about.
And, remember, there will never be an instance where I don’t eventually learn the truth.
I will even give you repeated opportunities to come clean. In fact, I will give you more than the average bear. Way more.
My superpower: I always find out the truth.
In my world, lying is the worst.
Little white lies: “I wish I could come to your Pampered Chef party but I have to wash my hair…” or “Don’t worry, no one else heard the little toot that slipped out…” : those are cool, bring it!
Lies = disrespect.
Do. Not. Lie.
It erodes trust.
And it pisses me off beyond belief.
p.s. It is not Barry. He knows better.
I had thought about it, perhaps even obsessively, for a couple of months. In one scenario, when I returned to the spot where what-I-had-thought-was-my-tribe convene for coffee each morning, I would be met with warmth and kindness, the passage of time having clarified how overblown our misunderstanding had become. In another, I was yelled at, shooed away, had it made clear that, no, actually, time had changed nothing. And the third: I could easily continue to avoid it all by taking my coffee business elsewhere – which is precisely what I did.
I stopped to grab some cash from my local ATM when one of the women who has chosen to remain friendly with me saw my car at the far end of the same parking lot where CoffeeGate had gone down. “Hey, want to do a quick coffee now?” she texted me. It was nearly an hour before the big guns would be there, so, with only a brief hesitation, I replied, “Sure!”
I had not stepped foot in there since having been expelled back in January. I kinda felt the way one does when they are 19 and their fake ID fools the bouncer. But I was there, and whatever would unfold, would just have to unfold. I am 53 damn years old. This is absurd.
It was not long before another woman we both know happened to come in for her morning cup of joe. A semi-regular “member” of the group, months would go by without her coming in for the daily ritual, yet she knew all about what had gone down. Even still, she pulled up a chair and we three picked up as though no time had passed. It filled my soul. I had missed the camaraderie and friendship. I appreciated the warmth – neither of these women were having any of the bullshit that went down and I love them for that.
With a much appreciated heads-up, I braced myself for what was to come. My two coffee-mates were, as they should be, greeted warmly. I, on the other hand, was totally, completely and without even a hint of acknowledgment, ignored. Okay. I hadn’t really considered that scenario, but I guess it beats being humiliated.
As two more of the women came in, I wondered if their approach to me would be the same. Had they, in the months since my banishment, curated and choreographed just what they would do in such a situation? Well, given the fact that each did the exact same thing, I have to wonder. And, yes, I am aware of how narcissistic that sounds. Yet…I contend: it is not out of the question.
So there we were. One group of women at one table, another at another. I can only speak for myself in saying that, more than uncomfortable or stressful or ridiculous, it felt absurd and surreal. Aren’t we all grown women? Aren’t we all free thinkers who can decide for ourselves what constitutes an irreparable set of circumstances? What is this really about?
As infuriating as it is sad, as ridiculous as it is painful, as unnerving as it is surreal, I will cop to this: it is dangerous and destructive. Here’s why.
We are living in challenging times. We are at an age that our parents need us more, there is no such thing as job security or the promise of good health. Everyone, to.a.person. needs more, not less support. Marriages are shaky. Relationships are as tenuous as they are desperately needed. The stock market is eroding our sense of security every.damn.day. Our children are facing a world so completely different from the one in which we grew up – more so, I would argue, than earlier generations. Schools are setting up metal detectors and armed guards at the front door. Students are required to wear lanyards not only to prove they are supposed to be there but, perhaps more to the point, to make themselves identifiable should someone run wild in the halls with an assault rifle. Mothers are drinking wine and smoking pot just.to.get.through.the.day. Grandparents are sick with worry about what the future will look like for their children and their children’s children. Everything, from stem to stern is hanging in the balance.
What, I ask, is to be gained in alienating others? How is it good for anyone to be unwilling to accept not only the mistakes someone else may have made, but their own missteps as well? And is digging your feet in out of pride – or, more likely, in the absence of knowing how to hit the re-wind button – beneficial to anyone? No one wins. No one feels good.
I haven’t been able to shake it for months now. I’ve run the gamut of emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, disbelief, frustration and, yep, anger again. Relationships should bring feelings of support, kindness, love, acceptance, understanding and flexibility, right?
I’ve come to realize that my upset is no longer about what happened with these women.
It is about acknowledging that moving five (but feels like 10) town away was hard and entering a new community which, for a variety of reasons – none of which were personal –that did not necessarily offer open arms was even harder.
It is about starting from scratch. Finding new doctors and dentists and dry cleaners and manicurists and gyms and restaurants and friends. Making friends is easy when your kids are little…once they are teenagers: close to impossible.
It is about thinking you had found a tribe only to realize you hadn’t.
It is about the challenges that come along with four children – only half of whom you gave birth to.
It is about that sick feeling that every single parent has to one degree or another; you know: might our school be next?
It is about the ease with which self-confidence can, and will, morph into crippling insecurity.
It is about hoping and searching for a tribe.
Because at the end of the day, we all need a tribe.
Today is International Women’s Day and, not surprisingly, I have a few thoughts.
- Women must support one another. That does not mean that they need to agree. Nor must they see eye to eye on politics or breastfeeding or working outside the home or any, any, anything else. Making the same choices as one another: not a requirement. Support means being there for her in good and bad, even if it is just to provide the chocolate. Support, don’t judge. Be kind. Remember what we teach our children: if you have nothing nice to say, shut the fuck up.
- Women must not compare themselves to other women. I know, I know. I do it all the time. I am so bad; in fact, that I have been known to ask people “Am I as (fill in the blank) as that stranger in line or “does my (fill in the blank) look like hers?” Added for clarity: it is usually always a negative question. File under: things to keep working on.
- Women must put themselves in positions where they feel safe, cherished and protected. Men should, too. Life is hard. Surround yourself with people who make things joyful, crack you up and allow you to be you more often than not.
- Women must be comfortable in their own skin. I’m not sure if this is altogether different from #2, but regardless, let’s try to do that, ladies. I’ve been 5’6” since I was eleven years old, at which time I was considered really tall, as in: way taller than 99% of my classmates. I hated it. I never grew another millimeter since then, but still feel the feels of standing in the back row for every single class picture ever and being taller than all the boys and the girls. It didn’t help matters that my first husband was the tallest person in his family…and he was my height. I admit to feeling silly even mentioning it, but we can’ts help how we feels. (Aside: the “I am too tall” complaint has garnered exactly no sympathy from my 5’ tall mother…)
- Women must feel good – read: not guilty – when they treat themselves to things. Why? Because I am 100% certain that they’ve earned it. Take me, for example. I
neverseldom buy anything “fancy” for myself. That’s not to say I don’t like a few fancy things here and there…I just thought that the only way I deserved to have it was in the form of a gift. I shattered that illusion last week when I bought myself the one thing I had been jonesing for: an Apple Watch. And, guess what? I love love love it. I stopped dropping hints – I may have instructed the kids to tell Barry that the only thing I want for my birthday is an Apple Watch – and just did it for myself. I am woman, hear me roar.
- Women must have girlfriends. I suppose you will have an easier time with this if you master number 1. And numbers 2, 3 and 4. I adore my husband. He’s wonderful in so many ways and for so many reasons. However, despite his excellent cooking, cleaning and laundry skills, and the fact that I can tell him anything – including things he really doesn’t want to know – he is still a guy. I’ve made some great girlfriends in my new community, but I miss many of my old girlfriends. We were with one another through boyfriends,high school, college, boyfriends, break ups, engagements, weddings, kids, marriages, illnesses, divorces, jobs and deaths. I only speak for myself in saying that I could never have done all those things without my girlfriends.
So, ladies, celebrate the day with yourself and your girlfriends in the most supportive, non-comparing, safe, comfortable and guilt-free way you can.
p.s. I am pretty certain that International Women’s Day has a broader meaning and hopes for a further reach than my little bullet points, but, well, whatever.
p.p.s. I am going to be spending this evening at a special screening of “Pretty in Pink” with Jess…because nothing says International Women’s Day like a Molly Ringwald flick.
 My husband fits that bill. Better than half the time.
 In fact, I think I might be getting to that age when I start shrinking. Dear lord.
 Fancy is important here. I am pretty darn good about treating myself to manicures, massages and anything available at Marshall’s. Or TJ Maxx.
 Full disclosure: I did not make this empowering decision on my own. I happen to have a dear friend who, lucky for me, happens to be a therapist. She made told me to do it. One of the many never-ending reasons I love her.
I have four kids. I have eleven nieces and nephews. The youngest of the bunch is 11, the oldest 28. I’ve also been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my kids’ friends, from when they were little right through college. My point: I’ve spent some time with kids. My conclusion: Every one of those kids wants and/or needs to talk about what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, 2018. Every. One. Of. Them.
And so do their parents.
And teachers. Definitely teachers.
Parkland is no different from the town that I live in: an affluent beach community where the schools are highly ranked and parents, if even subconsciously, enjoy – and share with their children – the fact illusion that, by virtue of where they live, they have earned an extra layer of protection. It’s a fair and, in many ways, true assessment. But that comfortable, incorruptible life has been shattered and talking about it is not only an option, but a responsibility.
Jess, a high school sophomore, shared with me that not only has there been no conversation at school, but student attempts to start a dialogue, or even a monologue, have been shut down. In fact, during the first Advisory meeting following the massacre – and, let there be no mistaking the fact that it was nothing short of a massacre – the topic on the “long planned” agenda was, and I wish I were making this up, “what makes our high school special?”
Guess what? Our high school isn’t special. Despite the prestige of being “highly ranked” and having more amenities than schools in less affluent areas it is just as vulnerable, perhaps more, as any school anywhere. And the kids know it. In fact, there is a real case to be made that it is the middle- to upper middle class communities at the greatest danger – due not only to the bubble in which we live, but to the unwillingness and inability to talk about the elephant in the room. You know…the one with the assault rifle.
With each mass shooting comes a deeper fear, a more intense anger, a greater need to talk and a need to achieve the impossible: understand. Kids are scared. Parents are beside themselves. Grandparents do not recognize this world. And teachers should all be receiving pay raises and Medals of Honor for what they do.
I subscribe to the thinking that we are not raising children, but raising adults. When we obstruct communication around things that make us anxious or angry or uncomfortable (the birds and the bees talk, anyone?) we do our children a disservice. Nothing ever went away because no one talked about it. It is time to stop protecting these rising adults from the truths of the big, bad world. Actually, that time arrived about five school shootings ago.
Our children -aka the decision-makers, game-changers and leaders of the future –deserve better. Talk to your kids, but, more to the point, let them talk to you.
First, a sincere and intense thank you to each and every person who commented, texted, emailed, called, carrier pigeon-ed and smoke signaled me following my last blog. I cannot begin to tell you how much it meant to me.
After spending the better part of the past few weeks crying, rocking in the corner, sucking my thumb, picking at my face like a teenager, wondering if my hair – with whom I have an absurd love/hate relationship – was going to fall out, and feeling like a tether ball that broke free of its rope, I have some news to report.
Last night I got a call from Dr. Z. He started out with,
“I have never seen this before and I am still shocked”
This was around the time I realized that whatever he was about to say was either going to be totally horrible or unbelievably fabulous…
”It came back benign!”
The few still-firing brain synapses that I have started to short circuit; Had I imagined his having told me it was bladder cancer?? Did I know that this was even a possibility?? (He did. I didn’t.) I still need to be followed closely as these little fuckers tend to come back and sometimes when they do, they aren’t so benign any more. Regardless, allow me to shout a big old PHEW.
With a hearty good riddance to the first 19 days of 2018…let’s all commence to some weekending!