On a more serious note…

I’ve been a bit busy lately. I am taking this online writing course to help me jump start writing my novel(s). So, for today’s blog I am going to put in a bit I wrote for the class. I hope you enjoy it. Maybe enjoy isn’t the right word…

Mom was on the playroom floor again. It was going to be one of those kind of days. I sucked my thumbed hard, looking at her through my fingers curled up around my nose and eyes. The window shades were pulled down, as always, blocking out the sun. A few beams tried to penetrate the pink room but were stopped, partly by the thickness of the shade itself, partly by the gloom in the room. Mom was weeping; a few sobs escaping before she could stop them.

She noticed me standing there. “GO!!!” she screamed at me. She was instantly enraged. I ran like hell, down the stairs of the tri-level home, through the kitchen and out the back door. I didn’t want to take a chance of her moving from her fetal position on the floor. I stooped down and began turning over the gravel stones that formed our driveway. Fossils were always a treasure and I was hoping to find an old shell imprint on a stone. I studied the stones with the intensity of a raptor, looking for prey.

The sun was blocked out and I grew annoyed. I looked up to see my sister standing a few feet in front of me. She crouched down to join me in the hunt. “Mom’s crying again,” she said flatly. I nodded my reply. We both knew that the crying had an unknown time limit. It could last a few hours, stopping just before dad got home from work, or for a week. Our silent house would become even more silent, as we had learned early on how to tip toe and hide.

“I’m going to walk down the street and look at the neighbor’s dog,” said Suzy. I shot to anger like a rocket going to space. “NO. You can’t. What if mom comes looking for us? We’re not allowed to leave the yard. She’ll get mad. She’ll get mad at ME for letting you go. You know what happens when she gets mad. Don’t you dare leave the yard.” Suzy looked at me defiantly. She turned to walk down the driveway, and through the fence that surrounded our house like a moat. I launched myself at her, causing both of us to fall hard onto the gravel. I punched her hard on her arm. She started crying. We were both bleeding from skinning our knees on the stones. I didn’t care. I was angry at her, at mom, at life.

I walked away and sat down under the lilac bush and began sucking my thumb. I hated my life and I was only nine years old.

 

 

 

 

 

Driving For Direction (or, Pandas Gone Bad..)

I took my two sons and a visiting friend on a short vacation down to North Carolina to visit my oldest daughter last week. I wanted to see her, I wanted to see some sunshine, and I needed to clear my head.

A ten-hour drive, each direction, will give you some time to think.

I needed to figure out where I am going with my life, my career…was it worth putting the effort into comedy or should I quit now before I get too invested… I was feeling stressed from trying to do it all, from trying to break into formed social groups, from watching the hatred being spewed out on political television… I needed a break.

I drove from Michigan, through the farm lands of Ohio, then through the gentle mountains of West Virginia. We stopped for lunch somewhere there… at some small roadside “town.” We flipped a coin over the two restaurant choices and walked into the winner.

As we pushed open the doors and entered, we found ourselves facing the largest display of the Ten Commandments I had ever seen. Ever. I mean, I have seen smaller billboards on the highway. They were displayed on a table, filled with all sorts of religious artifacts… I wasn’t sure if I had stumbled into a makeshift altar and a sacrifice was about to take place, or a spontaneous Baptism–all I knew was that it freaked me the hell out and before I could stop myself I burst out loudly “HOLY SHIT!!!”

In my defense, at least I said holy. Just saying.

My youngest son’s eyes were as big as saucers… he started to dart them back and forth…clearly out of his comfort zone as well… he whispered to me that he was concerned for his safety… I assured him that we were fine…although I wasn’t entirely convinced myself..

We ate our crappy lunches and beat it. Lesson learned.

Later I was nearly pushed off the road by a semi truck that failed to see me…I drove onto the shoulder and somehow managed to speed up and zip in front of him without rear ending the semi in front of me…this still in the mountains…all very exciting…as my Mighty Explorer is well-known as being a performance automobile (insert sarcasm here..).

The best part of the trip (besides spending time with my children) was going to the science center in Charlotte. There we innocently bought tickets to the IMAX panda movie–a documentary about preserving the pandas in China.

HOLY SHIT.

It began innocently enough. Panda preserve, female panda, needs to get pregnant to keep the panda population going. Ok, so far so good… They put her in a pen and brought out this young male panda, who is a bit rough, so she rejects him, so they brought out (and I quote) “an older, more experienced male.” At this point I’m giggling. No shit. The panda lady was like “Get that asshole young kid away from me with his cheap ass beer– I want the older guy with the stable job and the fine wine and a fully stocked liquor cabinet–with the GOOD STUFF–and a good retirement plan. AND that knows what the hell to do in bed.”

Jesus, even PANDAS know this shit.

So the female panda gets pregnant and has twins but she normally only takes care of one. This means that every two weeks some poor worker has to go in and take the panda baby from her and switch it with the other baby that they are caring for in the panda nursery. Except she can get a little testy about this and apparently pandas can kill you with one swipe. I wish you could have seen how fast this guy ran. I mean, Olympic fast. No kidding.

Fast forward–now one of the panda babies is grown up enough to make it and they want to get him ready to go out into the real world. To do this (wait-I have to laugh here…) to do this (laughing again…) a couple of guys put on these really shitty panda costumes, so the panda WON’T KNOW that they are humans coming in to hang out with him. Ummm..

At first I was like WHOA!!! Did this movie just take a wrong turn??? Is this some kind of sick furry sexual film?? WHAT THE HELL???

The costumes were so very bad. I mean, this is CHINA for godssakes. One would think they could find a better costume there for their beloved pandas!!! And, the panda dudes were walking upright! Like Yogi Bear! Or the Country Bear Jamboree! I mean, WTF people!! Even pandas aren’t that stupid!

The best part was that one of the panda guy’s had to smear panda feces and urine all over himself to help convince the real panda that he was legit. I kept thinking that the other guy probably had a double-headed coin for that coin toss…gee guy, sorry, you lost again, bummer but you have to smear that crap all over you again…wow…

The final test was getting the baby panda ready to handle predators. The two panda dudes, walking upright, carried a stuffed cat. This was to be the terrifying jaguar to teach the panda to fear for its life. They smeared the urine and feces all over it and hid behind some bushes…waiting…ummm….

The panda walked by (walking on all four legs, just to be clear…) looked at the stuffed cat (and probably thought “who the hell put a stuffed cat in the middle of this forest? Assholes…”) Just then the panda dudes hit this tape recorder circa 1979 and this loud YOWL was heard. The real panda was like, “HOLY SHIT what the HELL was THAT!!!” and promptly ran up a tree (because he thought “JUDAS PRIEST when did stuffed cats learn to make noises??!!”)

Apparently this was a big success and it was decided that the real panda could now be pushed out of the nest and into the real forest to deal with real predators.

The End.

I have to say that thru the entire movie, my asshole family was snorting and giggling and laughing. Nobody else in the theater was. Sigh. We just could not take this seriously. (Ok, my autistic son was not laughing. So one of us was well-behaved.)

Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog. I was thinking of walking away from comedy. I really was.

But after this trip all I could think about was how I could make this into a new bit. Or how I need to write a television series. Or how I need to write some new sketches for the sketch comedy group I joined.

And to clone myself so I can be a mom and do it all.  That would help too.

Peace people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the monsters are…

I watched the Today show this morning…as I always do. It’s just a habit. Anyway, they mentioned how Oprah deals with stress by going into her closet and taking some deep breaths. I fully believe that some of the hosts on the show are complete idiots…they blissfully agreed that this is a wonderful thing to do… to go seek quiet, that your closet is a wonderful place to do this, blah blah blah.

Shut the fuck up.

It’s not that I disagree with this. Not at all. Hiding in closets is something I have done… a million times.

Many of us have done this. But the people who I know that have or still do this…well it’s because we suffer from PTSD or anxiety. The closet is our personal decompression chamber.

When I was a child, and things with my mother would get…bad…I would hide in my closet, door shut, huddled up against the back wall, trying to pull the clothes that were the longest near my face. I would sit there as still as possible, trying to breathe as quietly as possible…in the dark…trying to disappear.

Think about that.

What child do you know that willingly goes into a dark closet…where the monsters live??

But my “monster” lived down the hall, when her demons would come to visit.

In the closet I could isolate myself from the noise…fingers in my ears…sweat dripping down my face as it was damn hot in there, as this was before air conditioning existed…

Just this last year, a friend was joking with me at work… this friend shouted at me… except I didn’t realize they were joking…I froze–ready to dive under the desk at the nurse’s station–the closest thing to a closet I could see. Once I quickly recognized this person was joking I relaxed, but my adrenaline was already flowing. My flight or fight response on high alert from years of being over stimulated…it’s a wonder my adrenal glands haven’t jumped off my kidneys and run away out of protest.

I’m reading Jenny Lawson’s latest book, Furiously Happy. If you haven’t read her books, I highly suggest you do so. It is good to know that there are others in the world that also suffer from anxiety and depression…and still go on to fight the good fight. She is very funny and honest about her struggles…I admire her. She would probably hide in a closet as well.

My point to all of this? I began with Oprah. I’m aware that she has been through some shit in her past…and even with all her fantastic gains, perhaps it still comes back to haunt her. I don’t know this, I’m merely speculating. It’s the closet thing. The decompression chamber.

The fact that many of us have fought battles…and are continuing to do so. That even after those battles are over…well, sometimes they still wage on in our heads. I have to admit every time I see that damn saying that “we are not a product of our parents or society or whatever, and that we alone are responsible for our actions” or whatever it exactly says, I really want to punch somebody. Because we freaking are a product of our childhoods, our history. This does determine in some part our personhood. Not all of it–it is far more complex than that. We are not all given the same opportunities.

Some never had to hide in a closet. Where the monsters are.

Peace people.

Life Bad Ass

Hello gentle readers…It’s October, and that can only mean one thing. No, not Halloween, but Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink in your face.

I was standing on my stairs when my breast surgeon called to tell me that my biopsy results were positive…that I had breast cancer. I was home alone… I sat down. I tried to compose myself. I told him that I pretty much already knew this, as we had gotten my MRI results the day before and they were positive for malignancy. I tried to keep my tears out of my throat as he told me the next steps to take… to come into his office the following week to discuss what to do next. I thanked him… I knew, as a nurse, that his job of calling a 43-year-old woman to tell her she had cancer, was not easy–in fact it sucked, and even as I sat there, reeling from the news, I felt sorry for him, as that kind of job sucks.

The following week, in his office, I once again, tried to be brave. Ha. I tried again to not just convulse into hysterical crying. I did cry, with tears just flowing down my face, but I tried to not just completely lose all control.  I told him that I was pissed as this meant I couldn’t salsa dance. He looked at me… he must have thought I was a nut case.

It’s not that I’m a great salsa dancer. I’m a great beginner salsa dancer. But it was the one thing that I did just for me. Learning to salsa dance… well, it forced me to let go of my extreme need to be in control. Somebody else was controlling me. A man. If you knew my full history, you would know why this was and is so difficult for me. I had to let go and let somebody else lead me. I had to learn to trust my own body. I had to learn to actually look at myself in the mirror. My instructor would FORCE me to look at my own image in the mirror. I had to look at my instructor in the eyes. IN THE EYES. This is extremely difficult for me. I had to trust him… I have such trust issues. I had to learn to feel sexy, seductive. I always feel awkward and on guard.

So when I sat there, in his exam room, crying that I couldn’t salsa dance until after the surgery, until I was well enough to spin… it wasn’t just dancing. It was so much more than dancing. It was learning to believe in myself. It was learning to trust. It was the joy of the music and movement.

When I finally did dance again… a couple of years after my surgeries, after chemo… with a new instructor… We began dancing…my hair had just started to grow back… I was so overwhelmed with emotion I began crying. I had to stop dancing and try to pull it together. But I couldn’t. The journey to that moment had been so long. I had gone from being in the best physical shape of my life at the time of diagnosis… very thin, fit, muscular, with long blonde hair… to chubby, with short stubby grayish hair, and a giant scar across my chest. I was happy to be alive…don’t get me wrong, but I was back at ground zero and I knew it.

I saw my (poor) breast surgeon again and cried, this time about being heavy. I weighed more than I did when I was pregnant full term with my children. This was a result of the medication I was taking to prevent the return of the breast cancer. Then I cried harder about being vain about my looks when I really wasn’t that shallow.

My (poor) breast surgeon (you are probably really feeling sorry for him by now…) was very kind and just listened to me. He doesn’t know that I also suffer from a bit of body dysmorphic disorder. He doesn’t know that I constantly worry that my weight is too heavy, that this shirt doesn’t look just right… And it’s not just my weight. It’s that I’m not as well read as I should be. That I’m not as well-educated as I should be. That I should know more about Jazz or that I should be able to play an instrument or be able to speak a foreign language.

In other words, I’m not good enough.

I’ve done a lot of work on that front since that day in his office, crying about my weight gain… and I’ve taken the weight off. I’m still not as small as I was when diagnosed, but perhaps that was a bit small, and I’m not getting any younger.

Tomorrow they are having a fundraiser for breast cancer at my gym. It is kickboxing, one of my favorite classes… and I will go and proudly wear my bright pink boxing gloves. I went back to the gym as soon as the surgeon cleared me after my initial surgery, and continued to work out through my chemo. I will dance as I box…because I can. Because it brings me joy.

I’m fighting a lot of battles…but that makes me a freaking warrior.

Kind of a life bad ass.

My point to all this? Don’t stop fighting whatever personal battles you may be fighting. Keep swinging.

And if somebody starts crying about something seemingly stupid or silly…perhaps there is a backstory that is worth finding out. So be gentle. Be kind. I’m glad my doctor was.

Peace.

Happy New Year….

Today was the Jewish New Year. Happy Rosh Hashanah everybody.

I went to the gym, to start the day with my spinning class. I pushed through, eyes closed, concentrating on not dying on the spin bike…aware that I really swear A LOT when I’m in pain..and make some really strange noises when gasping for air. Awesome.

Afterwards, I saw a couple that I am friends with. They are a bit older than me… and I secretly wish they were my parents. We are friends… they have come to see me do my comedy… the woman and I discuss books…

I love them.

I started talking with the husband…he asked how I was doing…what had happened with my job situation. I explained… and the conversation grew. We discussed depression…and how it can take over. He looked at me at commented that I was already a fragile person… that I needed to be careful.

We had a long talk about how I had become this way…and how I was actually a super survivor.

He said that I needed to write this out… that this would be a book or books that people would want to read.

It meant so so so much to me to have this virtual hug…to know that somebody cared…that somebody understood depression, survival, and the shit that is my everyday life.

Anyway.

We went to services…and if you know anything about this holiday…a major theme is forgiveness.

Sigh.

I watched the Johnny Cash documentary this weekend. There was this scene where he is interviewed…and he says that if God can forgive him, well he guessed he could forgive himself for his past.

Ok…my struggle with the divine is mine. Do not lecture me.

My struggle with forgiveness, especially of myself… is probably equally if not more intense. Brene Brown could move in…and write a book just on me. Ha.

Anyway.

At synagogue today…I thought this year…this year, I will forgive myself. This year, I will let it go…

And maybe…I will find forgiveness for those that hurt me so terribly earlier this year.

So, starting tonight…I’m adding forgiveness to my daily and nightly gratitude affirmations.

Like a dandelion gone to seed…I’m going to blow all this shit away. I’m going to strip myself down to a bare twig…and bloom again.

Happy New Year everybody.

Peace.

Reality check

I have been struggling with a deep depression since the loss of my job in February. I’m not going to lie about this.

It’s gotten so bad at times that I actually secretly envied my own mother’s escape into her depressions, where she would hide in her room, shades drawn, bedroom door closed..and stay there for a few days at a time…

I wanted that luxury. I wanted to curl up in a ball, hide in my closet, and just cry.

But I know what that does to a child… the fear it causes..then anger… and there was no way I was going to put my children through that.

So as bad as I felt, I pulled myself out of my bed, forced one foot in front of the other.. and life went on. The sun still continued to shine, I continued to heal… and I’m still continuing to work on forgiveness..for all parties involved…myself included.

I think I’m on the verge of a breakthrough on that front.

I recently talked on the phone with the husband of one of my best friend’s. She and I go way back…back to the small town where I grew up. We don’t talk very often, but when we do it’s as if we just saw each other yesterday. We know each other. She and her husband are true salt of the earth type people.. living in a small village, small house, very content with what they have. I need people like this in my life. They remind me of who I really am. Where I come from. And where I am now.

Anyway, I was talking with her husband on the phone..he has lymphoma. He has been fighting this for a while. It doesn’t sound good. We were talking about the betrayal of friends…and he said to me, you know what–a friend of 20 years just betrayed me–terribly. And it really hurt. But I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS NOW.  And neither do you. We have more important things to worry about. He reminded me that I had survived cancer–that I had a second chance on life–that everything else–like the stuff with my job–it’s just bullshit. That our families, our true friends, our health-that is what counts.

He is right.

It still hurts.

I still cry a bit in the shower. But it is slowing down.

I am practicing gratitude.

I will get to forgiveness soon.

And for now I will focus on my family and my health.

Peace.

Stuck in the mud

I have some walls. What can I say? It’s the result of my past…it’s a defense mechanism. I’ve had friends tell me, “You know, when I first met you, I didn’t like you.”

Wow.

I usually take a deep breath, look down, and then back and smile at them.

I don’t tell them that when I first met them I thought they were complete douchebags, and that my spidey sense went off…warning me to be careful around them. I don’t tell them that with their lovely expensive lives, filled with tropical vacations on yachts, or driving BMW’s or Range Rovers; their healthy children succeeding in school…well, I have no common ground with which to begin a conversation.

I am meeting some new people in my comedy class…and one of the guys told me I could smile more. We were out for drinks after class…a monumental step for me..as again, trust issues.

Eventually, I smiled.

He told me to get my hair out of my eyes…I laughed and said I would try…little does he know I keep it there on purpose.

I read a saying once, something along the lines of “She kept a part of her face hidden, like the dark side of the moon…” Yeah. That’s how I feel. I don’t want you to see me too closely. Don’t look too deeply into my eyes. Don’t.

I don’t want you to see that my mouth may be smiling, or even laughing…but my eyes are not. I don’t want you to see all the pain that is right there, behind this thin veil…and that if you push me just a little bit..I will collapse, like a house of cards.

The stress of losing my job, the stress of dealing with an autistic child, the stress of my other children, the stress of my personal life, combined with my personal chemistry…

Let’s just say I’m trying to take deep breaths.

I’ve been taking a lot of deep breaths lately.

I’m pushing my personal limits…conquering fears…pushing down some walls..

I am smiling. It has taken me a minute, but I am smiling again. The pain of the last several months has taken its toll…but I am a survivor.

It’s a skill. I get pushed down…but I always get back up.

And I get back up, stronger than I was before being stomped into the mud.

Maybe if you’re lucky…I will let you look into my eyes.

But only for a second.

That’s all I can handle right now.

I’m still climbing out of the mud.