Love is the drug

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The other day, I felt the blues trying to sneak up on me at a most inconvenient time. I was on my way to see my mom — we went to the ballet — and I am trying my best to minimize her worrying about me. A friend who understands these things all too well (I wish you didn’t, of course, but selfishly, it helps that you do) agreed that I should “fake it” — because sometimes this actually works. I did; I smiled throughout the cab ride uptown in what I hoped was a beatific manner but that was probably closer to maniacal. I held the door for everyone in my path at Lincoln Center. I rolled my eyes and agreed with the line for the Ladies Room that waiting so long is an injustice against our gender. And by the time I saw my mom, I was feeling much better.

Since I’ve been writing about depression I’ve been searching for my own metaphor. It’s something like a fog coming in (and not, as Carl Sandburg said, on little cat feet), but fog is too pure; it’s more like a thick smog. The ability to sense its coming is invaluable. 

Grief is an entirely different animal. When I was little my mother and sister were driving in a rain storm and a massive dead branch fell on their car and shattered their windshield; thank God, they escaped unharmed. That is a good analogy for grief — a wet broken branch that falls with a thud and shatters whatever it lands upon. And grief, again, takes many forms — death of a loved one is the most profound, but the loss of any relationship can be as traumatic, particularly when it takes us by surprise. So, “At least you’ve still got your health. At least no one died” doesn’t apply; every ending is a death of sorts. Folks-who-are-going-through-this, allow yourselves to grieve and don’t let anyone make you feel that you should snap out of it, because we can’t just do that; adding pressure to the feeling makes it that much worse. Change of any sort is difficult, and it makes perfect sense that we struggle with it, that the unexpected takes its toll and we are temporarily paralyzed by the fear that we’re not sure how to get through, what to think, how to feel, how life can possibly work from here on out. You ARE going to get through it, and you’ll figure out how life is going to work, but these feelings are entirely valid. Rely on friends, rely on music, on art, on exercise, allow yourself to feel the loss and allow yourself to believe that you have incredible strength that will rise to the surface when you need it most. 

The Vanishing Man contacted me again, via email. I’ve still yet to respond to a single attempt on his part. I’ve nothing to say. I wish I didn’t derive any semblance of satisfaction from his “suffering” (hard to believe the words of the delusional), but I can’t help it. I went through hell — briefly — because of him (in part because of him; he doesn’t have the power to wreck me), and I made my feelings known to no avail. I’m pretty sure what I feel now is indifference. Of course I don’t wish ill on him — I wish no one physical harm, ever — but if he’s now having a hard time emotionally because of the world he created through his action and inaction, so be it. Not my fault. Not my problem.

I’ve come to the point where I truly believe that, more often than not, we’re best off making our thoughts and feelings as clear as we can; any “rejection” this causes is much purer and less worrisome than what would exist if we hadn’t put ourselves out there in the first place. If our genuine selves send others away, those others could never have been right for us. Because despite our best intentions, despite how hard we try to be on perfect behavior at the beginning of a relationship, to woo through what we think will work and act in such a way that we will keep the object of our affection interested, eventually our true selves will shine through. I think I’d rather be rejected for who I am, hard as that can be, than for who I want others to think I am, for not expressing enough interest if I have it, for not putting my heart out there. At least then I know I’ve done whatever I could to love completely and without subterfuge. It’s important, however, that we don’t make the loneliness = heartache mistake. That we don’t perceive promise where there’s never been any and let this determine our happiness or sense of selves. No one person can make it all better for us. Sometimes not crossing the line of platonic love in the first place is the best thing we can do. This is not the same as acting on physical impulse once (or twice) and realizing it’s a mistake, because as sentient and sensitive beings, sometimes in-the-moment makes all the sense we need it to. But regaining our wits if we haven’t succeeded in keeping them about us is crucial. And not blaming others for our indiscretions or changes of heart (or other parts) is mature and kind. Much more to say but I’ll have to come back to it.

Yes it’s a long way to go, but in the meantime

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A friend asked me recently what I think of as my worst quality. Interesting question – as qualities and habits are not the same thing. Much of what I would like to change about myself is the result of habitual behavior that has seldom worked in my favor, like procrastinating. Other things are the result of deeply rooted fears and insecurities; I’ve preemptively lashed out at people I love so they can’t hurt me first. I’d have to say that my “worst” quality is impatience, in all its many forms. I get impatient for results and do things too quickly and not quite carefully enough and this is how dishes break and ankles are sprained and overpriced items are bought. Intentional use of passive voice. I get impatient with people who don’t seem to know how to behave in public, like the woman sitting next to me at the theater last night who did not stop moving the entire time, ate what sounded like a full meal, and took her shoes off. And I get most profoundly impatient with the people I love who can’t see the wonderfulness in themselves that I see. I realize how “unfair” this is, and that it is projection, frustration with my own slow self-improvement, and so on, but the question was asked and this is my answer right now. RIGHT NOW! (see?)

It comes down to a mixture of things. One is that, as Vanessa and I discussed this weekend, I am on such a quest for self-betterment and so determined to conquer my demons, which will be a lifelong project, that I get frustrated when people complain and lament but don’t want to accept that there are solutions, that the vast majority of “problems” we have are, in fact, surmountable. My frustration stems very much from my need to believe that obstacles are temporary and that better things will surely come my way. And that I can manifest a life that is rich and abundant and more positive than negative. And so idle complaining from others, particularly of the cyclical variety, is difficult for me to tolerate. When a friend complains about his or her unhealthy habits and the toll it’s taking on his or her body, I want to be able to say, “You know what you need to do. I’ll help you and encourage you. Let’s start now.” But I recognize that people aren’t always ready to hear that. I know I’ve needed to lament about the states of various things for a while before I’ve been ready to take the necessary steps toward fixing them. It’s like quitting smoking (and in some cases is exactly that). We know it’s bad for us and that we need to quit, but knowing and feeling and implementing are three unique parts of the process. Kinder than sighing in frustration and snapping with impatience is embodying this quote, which I’ve used before:

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.

Several people in my life are going through difficult times right now.Most of these times revolve around heartbreak and self-doubt. Self-doubt, I’m noticing, can segue into self-loathing, and there is no one in my world who deserves such treatment. Loving and accepting our own humanity, the wonderful and the horrible, allowing ourselves to learn from and let go of guilt and regret, and understanding that we don’t behave in a vacuum, that we are a sum of all of our parts and experiences and habits, these are the things that pave the way toward happier lives. Toward surviving the dark times and moving forward. Bad things will happen; this is an inescapable truth. The stronger we are, mentally and physically, the better equipped we will be to weather the unthinkable.

Now I must practice what I preach.

Send me photographs and souvenirs

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A very happy birthday to a dear man (yep, it’s official) who has been an integral part of my life over the past several months … though we’ve known each other for three years. Thank you, my friend, for being here for me when I’ve needed you most, and for weathering the storms with me. In this short time you’ve taught me a surprising amount about the world and about myself. I wish you nothing but joy and abundance as you enter this next phase of your life. Поздравляю on all of your successes, past, present, and future. 

Alors. 

I so appreciate everyone’s kind words yesterday about the pup. Hug your dogs extra tight. 

I had a whole post planned for today but, as is the nature of writing without a map, my mind is leading me in a different direction. This weekend I will be in the home where the photo of Archie, below, was taken. This will begin the process of closure; he was such a part of that house.

At the risk of alienating the scientific minds and non dog-owners among you, I feel that my Louie senses what’s happened; he certainly will when we get there. 

I profoundly believe in an after life, in the immortality of spirit and its connectedness to the living. I have had too many convincing experiences to argue otherwise. My sister calls it “the vapors” – my perceived ability to sense the departed. I’ve walked into places for the first time and, without any prior knowledge, I’ve felt the presence of someone who’d recently died — in inquiring I’ve learned that this was the case. That was an awkward sentence; resisting the urge to self-edit, which is exceptionally difficult for me. I think that if we’re open to signs, we see them. I’ve been told by psychics and mediums that I have extra sensory perceptions, which I could channel if I applied myself. Sometimes I want to, and sometimes I absolutely don’t. 

There is an arrogance – no, a myopia – to believing that only that which we experience with our five tangible senses is real. I appreciate the fact that not everyone feels this way, but I am fascinated by such topics. “They” say that animals and children, i.e. beings who are open and not laden with incredulity, are able to perceive spirits. My Louie came into my life in August 2002, two months after I lost my dear friend, Laura. The last time I saw her we spent the day together, and I took a photo of her in an archway of my old apartment. For many years after her death, my thoughts of her were omnipresent; I still think about her very frequently, but as those who’ve experienced loss know, the sharp pain does eventually give way to a kind of acceptance, and tranquility and warm memories overshadow grief. I was thinking about her very strongly one day when Louie was quite young, and he suddenly sat up, startled, stared at the spot where I’d last seen Laura, and did that perplexed head-tilt that dogs do. For the next minute he’d look to me, back to the spot, back to me again, perhaps wondering why I wasn’t acknowledging the person standing there. Or perhaps he could tell she was on a different plane. Or perhaps a fly flew by and this is all in my head. I don’t think that’s the case, in part because I don’t want it to be. The notion of eternity comforts me greatly. I was raised without religion and so I’ve been allowed to draw my own conclusions about such matters. 

After I spoke with my mom the other morning, I told Louie what happened – yes, I talk to my dog as though he understands me, because that’s what one does. For the past two nights he’s climbed his little staircase up to my bed and slept next to me – something he hasn’t really been able to do since his knee surgery last summer. (My dog has a titanium knee).

Maybe Archie visited him and let him know that he was happy and frolicking (with Duffie, Lovable, and Clovis) and that there is something to look forward to that’s far more blissful than we can fathom. Maybe Lou sensed what happened before we knew about it. Maybe he understood what I said and wants to comfort me. Or maybe he simply figured out how to navigate the stairs again and this is all in my head. 

I don’t think that’s the case. 

I love you guys – you know who you are – and I have deep gratitude for all who read my words. 

Fare you well, my honey

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Oh this is a tough one to write, a heartbreaking situation, but I can’t let it go unmentioned. The sweet boy in the photo above, Archie, was hit by a car a couple of days ago and is no longer with us. He was my parents’ dog – and absolutely devoted to my mum. With her through so much over the past several years. Strange and beautiful and sensitive and full of life. He was a wonderful addition to the family and I’m grateful that she enjoyed these years with him. 

If you happen to know my immediate family, please don’t bring this up; it’s too difficult to process at the moment and there’s guilt and shock involved. Then again, if you happen to know my immediate family I probably don’t need to have told you that. I am the grief filter among the four of us, and I’ve had to learn to understand that I process things differently than they do. I’ve dealt with a decent amount of untimely death over the past many years, and it’s been very difficult. As such, I’ve become better at working with others when they are in mourning. I feel things very deeply and am an excellent weeper, but I’m learning how and when to put my grief aside and let others’ take precedence. It’s such a tricky process, grief – the five stages are very real, and they don’t always come in order. Grief is unwieldy, unpredictable, and deeply personal. I’ve found, more often than not, that the bereaved don’t want to tiptoe around the name of the person (or animal) they’ve lost, but this is certainly not the case for everyone. 

It’s hard for people who’ve not had pets to understand how profound the love we have for our dogs can be. When I was going through one of my black holes of depression and Louie was an outspoken and impossible-to-please two year old, I had a very hard time raising him. I gave serious thought to giving him to friends upstate. It was an agonizing decision at a time when paper or plastic was an agonizing decision. A well-meaning friend, one of the “But you have so much going on! Don’t be depressed!” folks, said, “He won’t care – he’s a dog!” I took no offense at this and didn’t try to convince her otherwise, but as anyone who’s read about or experienced the incredible attachment and unspoken communication that can exist between dogs and humans knows, this is not the case. 

Obviously I did not give Louie away, and as the weekend of his eleventh birthday draws near I can say, unequivocally, that I am truly grateful for that. 

But alas. Frolic with the angels, my sweet Archie. I love you very much — we all do — and we miss you more than words can say. We will meet again some day. 

Good boy. 

 

Hello there, my old friend

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Another one for you, dear L, on this most auspicious anniversary. Seven years ago you finally had enough of things as they were, of repeating mistakes, waking with regrets, issuing apologies, I imagine, for things you didn’t fully remember. How easy it is to continue in vain, to decide through indecision to fix it all later. But you are strong enough and smart enough to realize that later doesn’t always come, and that, even if it does, time better spent is what makes it worthwhile. You made a choice that is far from easy to execute, and one that so many of the people in our world avoid and rationalize until the choice is no longer theirs to make. Seven years ago you started over again,  and while I wasn’t there in the intervening years, I imagine it was, at times, grueling. I imagine it took everything you had and many things you didn’t know you had to adhere to your new way of life. The last time I saw you before this new beginning we’ve recently realized, we were all on the same spectrum, and so it must have been so, so easy to justify staying there; as I’ve written before, there’s comfort in the familiar, no matter how dark and destructive familiar might be.

But you stuck to it. My friend Roger says that he won’t know he’s succeeded in this same mission until his last day on earth. You, my dear, are inspiring, so inspiring to me. I am so appreciative that we’ve reconnected at this time in our lives, older and wiser and stronger and smarter and ready to take on the world. 

Thank you for being the amazing woman that you are, and for accepting me just as I am. 

Here’s to the rest of our beautiful lives. I’m so grateful to be part of yours. 

Love, L

Bright eyes

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My dear, departed friend Mark Enger used to call me Bright Eyes. He was exceptional. Though he has an identical twin, somehow they broke the mold when they made him.

I’ve had some excellent conversations in the past several days, with people who have turned out to be more likeminded than I’d have thought. Among them are the conversations I had yesterday with this guy, who has come so far in the years I’ve known him where letting go of cynicism is concerned, and with whom I spent Saturday afternoon and evening; we were in the west village, which was my home for ten years and is one of my favorite places on earth. We were both so appreciative of the slightly off weather and of the fact that we are in New York. And we talked about love, the importance of it in all its manifestations, how, ultimately, nothing else really matters. It’s not all about romantic love. By that token, you must visit this, a project by a brilliant photographer friend we ran into yesterday. His photos, here, are visual manifestations of the things I try to write about. 

The loneliness I felt last Sunday is, I think, an extension of my addictive personality. I’d become so accustomed to having a fellow in my life that, despite profound evidence that my last two situations were likely going nowhere, I held on as long as I could; at times nothing is more terrifying for me than sitting with uncertainty. And now I can say without a doubt that moving forward from those defeating relationships was the best thing I could have done with them. Wow. How lovely it is to enjoy the silence after so many months+ of the dissonant thrum and shrill banter of misalliance.

The liberty is intoxicating. The future is boundless. 

Though the poem itself is macabre and tragic, and the associations with Play Misty for Me (great movie) chilling, some of the language in Annabel Lee is pure romance. There is one phrase that runs through my mind on a regular basis: “…we love with a love that [is] more than love”. Various iterations of this have become nicknames for my sweet Louie, who is turning 11 next weekend. This boy has been by my side through so much sturm und drang and remains sweet and sensitive and kind; strangers often remark that he looks at me with incredible love. And he does. I know it. It’s not just that my pockets are lined with dog treats …

Alors. I must get ready for the dinner I planned last week because the thought of being unmoored again on a Sunday night seemed unbearable. Actually, I’d be fine, and I have the people who’ve been part of my last several days to appreciate for that.  

I leave you with this, which I am determined to memorize. I’ve got the first few verses down.

Annabel Lee
 
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
 
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.
 
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
 
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
 
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
 
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
-Edgar Allen Poe

This is your paradise

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I have fallen in love again with this magical city over the past few days.

I made the executive decision to not attend the bulk of my high school reunion yesterday, having done my part on Thursday evening. The evening was festive, but with one or two exceptions I didn’t feel very connected to anyone from this part of my past. I am much better suited to the world I’ve inhabited since I completed my formal education, and it’s a world that bears little resemblance to my all girls’ boarding school and college, which was the quintessential East Coast liberal arts school, complete with homecoming games, quad-dwelling hacky sack players, and a flourishing Greek life. Neither institution nurtures individuality the way the cities I love and the people I choose to spend time with do. There were molds to fit. I’ve come to appreciate both places in a way that I couldn’t see them then, and that’s largely because I have the benefit of a few decades of wisdom. Attaining wisdom often comes at a cost; it’s rarely a smooth process, and some of the strongest lessons are born of darkness. But knowing this makes the dark times less unbearable.

Brightness follows every squall. These words have stayed with me since I heard them, in February 2006 at my friend’s father’s burial. It was a cold, sunny, beautiful day in the aftermath of several days’ of winter storm. I remember trying to balance the walk across the frozen snow toward the grave; the sun was blinding. My friend’s mother, the widow, spoke eloquently and calmly. Brightness follows every squall, was how she began her eulogy.And it’s true, and this is what helps me most when things get difficult.

I am feeling exponentially more tranquil and grateful today than I did one week ago. Right this minute, in my beautiful home with the rain as my background music, I’m exactly where I want to be.