Better living through chemistry vs. the rebel without a clue

Better living through chemistry vs. the rebel without a clue

OK, so I enjoy the illusion that I am strong, tough, self sufficient (yeah, and I’m a size 10, but that’s a whole different illusion). I do not enjoy (as I may have mentioned in an earlier rant) “victim mentality”. I used to keep a picture of myself riding a Lipizzan on my desk to remind myself that the only person who was going to come riding into my life on a white horse to save me was….. well, me. Life happens, suck it up and deal with it. Go ahead, throw it at me, I’ll handle it, it’s what I do, it’s who I am, it’s my favorite version of me.

Then that version of me met the hormonally challenged version of me – the one with the hot flashes, night sweats and monthly migraines like, well, they’re so bad, I can’t even come up with a snappy simile. Trust me on this, they suck. The “tough it out” me came face to face with a me harboring homocidal tendencies toward people who drive too slowly in the left lane (if you want to go the speed limit, get in the right lane, dammit), the me who feels that providing exceptional customer service would be a whole hell of a lot easier if it didn’t seem more like pandering to a bunch of spoiled rotten brats than customer service (whose idea was it to reward bad behaviour, anyway??? Don’t the powers that be have kids? If they do, I’m glad I never had to babysit them…)

Super me (smug, annoying creature that I must have been) came up short against a me that veers wildly (no, not behind the wheel…. usually) from one emotional extreme to the other, but most often seems to spend a lot of time in the (emotional) breakdown lane.

I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, especially when those people are my family. I don’t like being cranky with my daughter or uncommunicative with my husband. (One day, I will feel that I am worthy of love and care from myself, but in the meantime, at least I’m looking out for them). This is where the better living through chemistry part comes in…

I finally went to my doctor and asked for hormones. In this case, just low dose birth control pills, just to even out the rough spots. I’m not totally happy about this decision. Not because of the whole heart attack/stroke thing. Not because of the breast cancer thing. Because of the rebel without a clue thing. I want to be strong (in case you missed that earlier), and caving to a normal, natural life passage/process/stage kind of pisses me off (admittedly, not that all difficult to do lately). Why should I, (some combination of Xena and that girl from the Matrix) ask for a chemical intervention to go through this NORMAL transition? Maybe because I’m less Terminator and more terminal wuss. Maybe because I talk the talk better than I walk the walk. Or, maybe, and I’m not willing to place any money on this, just maybe, I’m maturing mentally as well as hormonally.

Maybe, by caring enough about how I treat others to medicate myself (under supervision, of course) I will eventually learn to care enough for myself. Neat concept.
In a few month’s time, I’ll begin to have an idea whether or not this particular medication is working, hopefully it will, if not, we’ll keep trying to find something that does. And then, the rebel without a clue will finally be able to completely embrace living better through chemistry.

Question time

So how do you get over a dead guy? For those of you looking for answers (or worse, those of you having answers to offer), let me state now that this is a rhetorical question. I’ve probably spent more time kicking this around over the last few years than David Beckham has spent similarly engaged with a soccer ball, and I guarantee he’s fared better, and quite possibly, so has the soccer ball. If you are seeking a happy ending, I suggest you go rent something by Disney.

I had a friend in high school, engaging, quirky and about the smartest person I’d ever met. He read Camus’ “The Stranger” in sophomore year – in French! (Although he did admit to me 20 some years later that just because he read it, didn’t mean he understood it, and with a French father, he did have the advantage of being bilingual). We would hang out at school occasionally and discuss things like the socio-economic impact on third world countries of whatever high-jinx Washington happened to be up to at the time. We never dated (for him, I need to add the qualifier “each other”, for me – the global statement is sadly true).

Fast forward 25 years or so. We’re both still living close to where we grew up. We run into each other occasionally (like twice?), haven’t stayed in touch. He’s married, divorced, two grown kids and on the back side of a long term relationship. I’m married, one grown kid. One day several years ago (although it seems like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away), he showed up at our farm for a performance by the Herrmann’s Royal Lipizzan Stallions. After the performance, I needed to unload three hay wagons (my husband was at work, and our daughter in the house sick and sleeping). He stayed to help with the first one. We went on his bike to get a cup of coffee. He came back and helped with the last two, then took me up to meet his horse. We grabbed a pizza and a couple of bottles of wine and sat on his deck and talked. Really. We talked about his horse, his life, my life, sociology and political science (he had recently graduated with a double major and unsurprisingly high honors). We discussed philosophy, politics, religion. He pulled out books, referenced sources, talked about being a helicopter pilot in the National Guard, talked about the breakup of his long term relationship. I talked about running a farm and running on empty. I realized, or perhaps “finally faced”, the fact that despite having my dream job (owning a horse farm, teaching riding lessons and training horses), I was feeling empty and unfulfilled.

I know what you’re thinking – couple bottles of wine, empty and unfulfilled, so when did this move from the deck to the bedroom, or the couch, or did you just do it on the deck?? Well drag your mind out of the sewer and back into the gutter with the rest of us. We. Talked.

Over the next several months, we continued to talk. Marc would pick me up when he had to go to Home Depot, and we’d talk. We would make a run to the nearby used bookstore, and we’d talk. Emails went back and forth many times a day. He’d come to the farm, I’d go to his place, and we’d talk. We’d go for rides on his bike, and we’d talk. At some point, I became included in his “Monday nights with Ross”. Ross was Marc’s best friend. “Close” doesn’t even begin to cover it. They were closer than most brothers I knew. They had an amazing respect for each other. They had a standing appointment for Monday night outings to a bar with Jazz, and I had been invited into the inner sanctum. We’d drink and talk, although on these (as in many other) occasions, mostly Marc would talk. I remember one night, Marc was sitting between Ross and me. I had asked Ross a question, which Marc started to answer. I already knew his answer, I wanted to hear what Ross had to say. I finally had to say “Would you just shut the fuck up? I didn’t ask you!” We laughed and drank, and talked.

He made the transition from National Guard to the Army (no small feat for a guy in his 40’s), and went to Ft. Rucker to do his Blackhawk training. His horse came to live at our farm, and via phone and email, we talked.

Marc knew how to ask questions that were uncomfortable (and ultimately necessary for my growth). He pulled me out of my not-that-comfortable comfort zone with questions like “why?”and “what?”. Why did I feel that I didn’t like to take risks? What was I doing in my life that was just for me?

I wrote a lot, mostly in emails to Marc. I decided I could use some counselling to help me find a way through the questions I now couldn’t let go. Marc thought that could be a good thing. Now a “who?” question: “Who are you going to see?”. I didn’t know. Then a “how?” question: “How are you going to choose?”. When I suggested throwing a dart at the yellow pages, he gently suggested a more prudent course of action with something as important as my psyche. He gave me a name of a counsellor he knew. Try him for a visit, if this wasn’t the right person, fine. If it was, fine. It was the right person, not that I was surprised.

Things started to change. I started riding roller coasters. I took the basic motorcycle rider’s safety course at the local branch of the state university. I enrolled in community college. I listened when Marc told me I was a talented instructor. He took riding lessons from me, I took life lessons from him.

A new post in Germany. The phone calls tailed off, the emails continued. On a visit back to the US in May a few years ago, Marc reviewed my big paper for English and gave me some pointers. He was disappointed that he hadn’t gone to Iraq. It was chilly and rainy. I felt like we weren’t quite connected on the same wavelength as usual. That was a Monday. The next day, he flew back to Germany. The following Tuesday evening, I got a call from Ross. Marc was dead. Even now as I type these words, my breath catches, I wait for it to be a mistake (my conspiracy theory loving self has even thought – in really desperate times – that maybe he’s just working under cover, and had to fake his demise). During the counselling sessions which followed, Dan tried to help me move through this wrenching, horrible time. I particularly remember one exercise. He gave me figures (dolls if you will) to represent Marc and me. I had to place them where I saw our relationship when Marc was alive, and then move them to where I felt they should be now that he was dead. When Dan questioned why I still had Marc standing after his death, I could not take that figure and lie it down. I don’t think I could today.

What Marc gave me is something that transcends the physical realm, perhaps because it was never a physical relationship. Yes, he was incredibly handsome, and I was vulnerable enough for it to have become physical, even hoped it would, sometimes still wish it had. For good or bad, Marc made it clear upfront that he didn’t want to mess up our friendship by adding that dimension. On my nobler days, I find his integrity another quality to admire. In my more base, self loathing times – I figure this was the intelligent man’s way of saying he found me physically repugnant.

Despite the hours and pages and days of dialogue which flowed between us, I was not, still am not, ready to have it end. In my heart, when I can cut past the effects of thinking far less of myself than Marc thought of me, I know the answers to the unasked questions. And really, I know the answer to the question with which I opened this: “So how do you get over a dead guy?” For me, the answer is simple: You don’t.

just another day

So I have to admit that I hate this time of year. Loathe, detest and fear it. Just wake me up in May, or since I’m living in Virginia now, make that early April…

The days start to close in and I feel trapped, forced to be introspective and face things I really don’t want to face. It happens in waves, or layers, or stages, call it what you will, it is a progressive thing (for which I suppose I should be grateful).

Over the summer I was consumed by my job and other external forces…. like my other job. No time left over to wonder about balance or fulfillment or meaning. It was all about 80 hour weeks, double pay for overtime and $40 Sheetz gift cards for every extra 8 hours worked. So work I did. It’s a great form of self medication (and I don’t think I could ever manage to pop Vicodin without a chaser like my current favorite bad boy House… besides, I think Vicodin is the stuff that makes me itch. I hate to itch.) Regardless, I had no time or energy or desire to sit and contemplate anything other than the current email in my inbox at work or the traffic on my commute. Well, there were the gas prices, but, hey – I was earning gas cards!

So then the overtime tailed off a bit, I was confined to a darkened room with a multi-day migraine (the 5th in 5 months, notice a trend here?), then I had some legit time off to go to DC with my daughter for a few days for her birthday. Enjoyed the break, but began to feel antsy, trouble sleeping – strange bed, right? Maybe… We really did have a great time. Visited museums, the zoo, wandered around Union Station admiring the architecture, took a Duck tour (amphibious vehicle as opposed to Donald or lame). I love spending time with Sarah and generally love to hang out, but I was feeling guilty. I was not producing.

Four days after my return from my vacation, I had more scheduled time off for knee surgery. Now I had been looking forward to this for weeks for a few reasons. First and foremost, my knee was really bothering me and I wanted it fixed. I was living on ibuprofin and Pepsi Max (perhaps not a House worthy combination, but it suited my needs) during the day and OTC sleeping meds @ night. Time for surgical intervention.

Reason number two I was looking forward to the time off was so I could “catch up”. Have you ever considered the idiocy of that phrase when used in conjunction with ones life? Good God people, this is not a DVR, you can’t pause live life! (Quite honestly, I’m not sure how you can pause live TV either, but what the hell, they say it works…)

OK, catch up. This brings me to the point where I am acknowledging that I am not where I should be or need to be or want to be or some combination of all three. The annual pilgrimage to self torture through self analysis has begun. I’m not where I should be, however, if you ask me where I should be or want to be, I’m not likely to be able to give you much of an answer. Not at this time of year anyway. During the spring and summer, I’ll tell you that I’m where I’m supposed to be, everything works out for the best and everything happens for a reason. Looking at my summer self at this time of year, I’m just glad my name doesn’t have an “i” in it, I might be compelled to dot it with a heart (if this blog had sound, you would hear gagging noises, so just plug in imaginary ones here to replicate a multi-media experience.) No, all the serenity and peace and acceptance of the sunny months must be affecting folks somewhere south of the equator at the moment, cause it sure as hell has left me high and dry.

What I’ve got now is, well, for lack of a better word: angst. I know, I know, angst is for artists and California or Manhattan dwellers with high priced shrinks and parents who are still responsible for their adult children’s inability to form a loving relationship even though they’re now in their 50’s. (Insert more gagging sounds here for full experience). No, I’m not talking about the artsy-fartsy kind of angst. Here is a definition I copied from Google: ” A feeling of anxiety or apprehension often accompanied by depression”. See? Angst is just a garden variety crappy feeling for the less-well-heeled among us, it doesn’t discriminate, it’ll mess with anybody. Take heart — you, too can enjoy angst in all its glory, even on your meagre wages.

So, where does that leave me, the alleged heroine of this little fable? And where is the moral? How the hell should I know? That’s the whole point. Every year at this time, I feel like I’ve been dropped in the middle of a huge room blindfolded. My “true path”, where all my dreams come true, lies in one (and only one) direction, all I have to do is find it. Miss by even one degree and wander around forever, knowing it’s there somewhere, I just can’t find it.

Have you ever seen “50 First Dates”? (If not, go rent it, I’m not going to go through the whole thing here) I kind of feel like Lucy, except instead of every morning, I’m finding myself back at the same place every fall. Fortunately, unlike Lucy, I haven’t actually been diagnosed with brain damage. This is a good thing and a bad thing, at least she had an excuse.

As soon as…

I have always suffered from “as-soon-as-itis”. As soon as I lose 20 pounds, I’ll get some new clothes; as soon as I switch my shift an hour earlier, I’ll have time to go to the gym every day; as soon as I buy a laptop, I’ll get going on writing my book. Uh-huh. And I’ll start to watch my cholesterol when? As soon as I have a heart attack?

So you’re alittle overweight, you’re not getting along with someone so well right now, you’re spinning your wheels at your job. Life’s gentle reminders often fall on deaf ears, and so the reminders become less gentle and more pointed, if we’re lucky. We’ve all heard of people who had no warning signs and dropped dead at an early age, but we rarely heed the message for us hidden in these tragedies. You didn’t die. You are still here, so pay attention. Don’t squander this day, or this hour or this lifetime. You might be the next one to suddenly be told “Time’s Up, let’s go” “But I’m not ready” You may well protest I can’t die, lose my job, lose a loved one, I’m just not ready! I never got to (fill in the blank)…

Here’s a word to the wise, or more likely, a word to the rest of us, because the wise don’t need to hear it. They already know. Be ready. Tell them you love them, get your blood levels checked, wear your seatbelt, start writing your book, go for a walk. Do it as soon as you can. If you don’t do it now, you may not have the chance to do it later.

Other People – Part 2

Other People – Part 2

I know this guy. Comes from Brooklyn, 29, tall, dark, handsome, amazingly talented and nice! And talk about inspiration?? Good grief – even if I wasn’t raised Catholic, I’d still probably feel guilty about not writing when I think of what he is doing this year.

“This guy” is Ari Hest. He is a musician/singer/songwriter (I’ve never thought to ask him his preferred title…) Ari has released several CD’s, including “The Break In” last year while under contract with Columbia. Yup, this guy is the real deal – a contract and everything. Had it made. Except for the fact that he wanted to have more control over his music and getting it to his ever-expanding fan base. Ari decided to walk away from the contract, to take his career back into his own hands and (get ready for the world’s most famous split infinitive) to boldly go where few musicians would have enough chutzpah to follow.

Ari decided to challenge himself a little. To step outside his comfort zone, and step he did. To me, calling this a step is like calling Barrak Obama “popular”, or Oprah Winfrey “successful” – it doesn’t come close to describing the magnitude of the situation.

Ari’s “step” is a little project called “52”. Ari is writing, recording and releasing a new song every week this year. The downloads are available by subscription on his website (, and at the end of the year, subscribers will vote on the top 12 to go on his next CD. Happily, 999 people other than me think this subscription is an amazing deal. (Amazing is a word I use a lot in conjunction with Ari’s talent…) Last thing I heard, there were 1000 subscribers (and still time, folks!)

I haven’t decided if I’m more impressed with the concept of this project or the fact that the quality of the music and lyrics is so good week after week. As I listen to the 30 some odd songs released so far, I keep thinking “Oh, I love this song…and this song…. and this song”, yeah, this guy’s good.