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How to Talk to Suicide.

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Don’t worry, this isn’t an essay about suicide.

Well, it kinda is.

But mostly it’s not.

I just needed a catchy title.

This essay is actually about talking and asking questions.

Specifically, this essay is about when we talk and ask questions….and, more importantly, when we don’t.

So, I’m often asked what my art is about.

I tell people I’m focused on social impact licensing – developing products that help to tell a story and raise awareness.

And what’s your cause, is usually the next question.

Sometimes I say wellness.

Because nobody’s scared of wellness.

In fact, everyone’s in favor of wellness.

Then I add depression, if it appears my audience is receptive.

I only get specific and say suicide if the audience seems really engaged.

Because, you know, suicide is a funny thing.

No matter how gently you say that awful word, ears really perk up.

Often, when you talk about suicide, you get the wildly curious response.

“You’ve thought about killing yourself?”

“Have you ever tried?”

“Were you successful?”

For those who really want to know, my answers are yes, yes and no.

And it’s relatively easy to talk about suicide when I’m doing well. I’m a good commercial for staying alive and being productive.

But let’s talk about the other times.  Times when I’m not doing so well.

When I’m not doing so well, it’s pretty obvious but only in a very quiet way.

I used to think nobody could tell when I wasn’t doing well, but now I know they can because they say things like “Yeah, I thought you might be having a tough time” or “I wondered if something was wrong.”

People who are close to me can tell when I’m off the radar, laying low, staying home, avoiding them, and otherwise cutting myself off from the world.

I don’t expect my Facebook friends or my colleagues to know.

But I know that the people in my closest circles know.

And until recently, they had no idea what to do.

I told them to leave me alone so they did.

I told them I didn’t want to talk about it so they didn’t ask questions.

I told them I was fine – and they may or not have believed me – but they didn’t press.

While the topic of depression when you’re fine elicits passionate discussion, telling people you’re in the throes of depression does not do the same. People aren’t quite sure what to say after the basic “I’m here for you.”

And telling people you’re actively suicidal?…well, that really is awkward.

People are scared they might do something or say something that triggers or worsens the bad feelings and dangerous thoughts.

They worry about doing something or saying something that, God forbid, gives the person in pain “ideas” –

As if the person in pain didn’t already think of those ideas.

But here’s the thing –

NOT TALKING about depression and suicide keeps it a secret – and it keeps the person in pain from getting the help they need.

As for me, when I am allowed to suffer in silence, my brain tells me that everyone knows what I’m planning to do and that it’s for the best.

Yeah. My brain tells me that.

My brain tells me it’s my fate and that everybody is expecting it to happen.

My brain tells me they’re just waiting for me to do it and they’ll be relieved when I finally do.

My brain is not very helpful.

So, what’s my point?

My point is simple:  talk about pain.

Talk about the pain people are in while they’re in pain.

While a person is in pain is the EXACTLY CORRECT TIME to talk about the pain.

Believe me, you can’t make their pain worse.  It’s already worse.

I often tell people that my most dangerous and awful thoughts are like nausea.  You can’t get rid of nausea by thinking positive thoughts.  Nausea isn’t a mindset or an attitude.  Nausea is a sensation you feel.  Nausea can be caused by many different things.  SO many things can trigger nausea.

My thoughts are like nausea.  I can’t always predict what will trigger them or when they’ll pop into my head and make me feel ugly urges.  And I can’t always predict how long they’ll last.

But I can do a lot of things to minimize the opportunity for them to take over my life.

I can do things to help them go away faster.

And I can do a lot of things to reduce their impact on my daily life.

The other thing I often tell people is that suicide is like dehydration.

Have you ever gotten dehydrated?

Dehydration is really bad.

And, if you’ve ever been dehydrated, you know that drinking water doesn’t work so well once you’re dehydrated.

That’s why runners start hydrating days before a race.

Anyone who has been dehydrated knows that dehydration needs to be avoided, not dealt with once it’s too late.

So here is my ask.

If you know someone in pain, talk about their pain now.

Don’t make them wait until the pain is so unbearable they have to do something extreme to get someone to talk to them.

Don’t wait for a “cry for help” –

They ARE crying for help.

Avoiding family is a cry for help.

Staying home ALL THE TIME is a cry for help.

Cutting yourself off from the world is a cry for help.

Crying uncontrollably on the phone while saying “I’m fine” is a cry for help.

If someone you love is in pain, get involved.

Nobody should have to be in pain longer than necessary.

And nobody should have to live with unbearable pain when there are so many ways to relieve pain.

Most importantly, nobody should ever want to prove that their pain was unbearable and that nothing could be done about it.

Because maybe something could have been done about it.

xoxoxo, d

♥ www.livingbroken.org 
Giving power to personal stories of thriving
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The Problem with Suicide.

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Before you think you know what this post will be about, let me warn you, it’s only tangentially related to the subject of suicide.

Suicide is not my favorite subject.

Suicide is a complicated, painful and tricky subject.

But suicide is the subject that prompted me to write this post today, thus the title.

But don’t worry.  This post is about much more than that uncomfortable word I just said.

This post is about appreciating difference. Specifically, it is about acknowledging and really “getting” that the way the suffering or recovering person thinks is much different than the way the loving, supportive helper thinks.  In other words, what one person needs could be different than what others believe they need.

Before going forward, let me iterate and reiterate that this is only my thinking about my life experience.  These words only represent what I have experienced and what I have witnessed as I have tried to help others.  In that way, these words can only really be helpful to those who relate on some level – or understand.

So, back to suicide.

The really unfortunate and annoying news is that I have suicidal thoughts.  I have many, many, many suicidal thoughts. Its just the way my brain is wired.

I don’t like it. I don’t choose it. I don’t benefit from it.

It’s just the way my brain is wired.

I won’t go into my family history or my brain chemistry or my relentless efforts to eliminate or diminish these thoughts.  That’s personal health information and, quite frankly, I hate debating what I’ve tried and what works or doesn’t work with others who may or may not have had similar experiences.

It’s just not helpful. At least not for me.

But, I will say that I have tried almost everything available, both traditional and  untraditional.  And although many tools help me to successfully manage the impact of my thoughts on my ability to function and thrive, few tools help to actually diminish those thoughts.

And so, I live with suicidal thoughts.

I live with suicidal thoughts the way others live with whatever they live with.  Everyone has a condition, whether it is theirs or the condition of someone they love or care for.

Everyone has something.

That, to me, is comforting.  The universality of discomfort actually helps me to keep my own discomfort in perspective most of the time.  And proper perspective, for me, is life saving.

The problem with my suicidal thoughts is that they are ridiculously strong and far more persuasive than the thoughts of those who love me or are in the business of helping me.

This isn’t sad or a shame or awful.  This is, for me, just a fact of my life.  I think about my brain chatter the way I think about any medical condition. It needs to be dealt with as well as possible on a daily basis to avoid any periods of unavoidable health crisis.

Those who are against suicide, for good reason, believe that suicide is wrong or bad or not the answer.

I can’t disagree with any of that. I wouldn’t recommend suicide, generally speaking.

But my brain doesn’t have a problem with suicide.  My brain tells me that suicide is a good thing – a better alternative than any of the other alternatives.  My brain tells me that suicide is the right thing to do and that it’s inevitable.

If you’re reading this and you’re uncomfortable with those words, then welcome to my life.

Even I am uncomfortable with these words. In fact, I hate these words.  I especially hate having to discuss these words from time to time.  I hate the fact that I can’t just ‘get over’ the thoughts in my head.  But these words live in my head, trying to take over from time to time.

So here’s the question I grapple with in trying to help myself and, more importantly, help others.

How do you help someone who believes what their brain or body is saying?  How do you help them without defaulting to persuading them to listen to your helpful brain chatter instead of their unhelpful brain chatter?

The bad news is that I don’t have the answer.  At least not today.

To date, no good argument about God, love, life, family or anything else I value most highly has been effective enough in the mental battle of thoughts.

It’s not that I don’t understand the arguments. I do.

It’s just that my brain thinks differently. And my brain thinks it’s smarter about this particular subject than the brain of anyone not living my life.

My 2016 is, in great part, dedicated to helping understand how to bridge the gap between helpful intentions and actions that are actually, effectively and even substantially helpful.

Toward that end, a few observations:

Everyone is suffering or recovering from or managing something.  But everyone is different.  What helps one person may irritate or agitate the next person.  Just be aware and sensitive and open to considering a million different ways to be helpful.

Ask the person you hope to help what is helpful for them.  And then honor what they say, assuming they’re a decent communicator.

And never underestimate the value of the tiny gesture.

Dropping off popsicles or magazines or hot chocolate might be the gesture that relieves the person’s pain long enough that they can manage the moment and move forward.  Just be sure to thoughtfully match the drop off to the special limitations of the condition.  Someone having trouble eating or drinking will welcome different treats.  Someone having trouble reading or focusing will welcome different media. It’s better to ask what a good treat would be than to surprise the person with the wrong treat.  It’s not that the wrong treat isn’t appreciated…it’s just not helpful.  Surprises are for celebrations, not comforting.

Helping the person obtain resources that make life more comfortable are often invaluable.  Does the person need groceries delivered?  A space heater?  A fan?  A really great straw?  Maybe they need a lift to an appointment or someone to go through their mail.

So many ways to help.  So so many.

And, of course, helping the person to alleviate even the smallest stressors can help immensely.  Ask them what they are most worried about and help them find a way to relieve the burden of that worry.  Remember that a person who is struggling is often incapable of making even simple decisions.  Your ability to help accomplish simple tasks might provide the person the break they need from life’s basic – but debilitating – stressors.

Just do something.

And never believe that anything short of face-to-face is unacceptable.

Send the email or text – even if it’s just an xo or a heart or a smiley emoticon.  We complain about emoticons when we’re feeling oh-so-smart and bigger than life.  But most of us welcome the same ridiculously simple emoticons when we’re feeling small and alone.

And, as I recently discussed with a friend dealing with his own family situation, don’t be scared of the person in pain.  Engage the person in pain.  The person who is engaged in any way with others is relieved, to some extent, while they are engaged.

And never stop asking or suggesting things that might help.  The person you want to help might say no today but say yes tomorrow.  The person you want to help might benefit from the 179th suggestion you make even though they poo poo’ed the first 178 suggestions.

And finally, at least for the purpose of this post, remember that the person’s condition is only a part or a piece of the person’s life.  Remind the person, through conversation and engagement, that their life is far more than the present moment.  Focus on their profession, their interests, their talents.  Focus on their stupid collection of whatever stupid things they collect.  Stupid collections of stupid things provide great comfort during difficult times.

Everyone is dealing with something.  Whether you’re on the up side of life today or the down side of life, you can ask for help, be open to help or, hopefully, give help.

So do something.

Thank you to everyone who helped 2015 be better.  Let’s all help 2016 to be better still.

xoxo, d

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen.

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You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen. ~Neil Gaiman~ http://ow.ly/i/eiLXC

A Few Great Things on a Saturday.

A really great TED Talk on depression by Andrew Solomon, whose work – and words – I love.

And one of the things that often gets lost in discussions of depression is that you know it’s ridiculous.You know it’s ridiculous while you’re experiencing it. You know that most people manage to listen to their messages and eat lunch and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door and that it’s not a big deal, and yet you are nonetheless in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it.

I wish I had said everything he says.

And this was the week Project Runway crowned a plus size designer as winner!  Another win for diversity! Yay!

Congratulations Ashley Nell Tipton! Love your eye, your spirit and your commitment.

You can read about her all over the net…and in the UK too.. :-)

And, finally, to end on a really cheesy, gooey note, check out the Backstreet Boys doc and the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block performance special on #PalladiaPOP….these guys are super adorbs…and so ridiculously swooney.

Still.

xoxo, d

The Therapist Who Loved Me.

The first half of 2015 was difficult in my little part of the world.

I began 2015 with high hopes and great expectations. I had officially left the formality and structure of the office environment for working at home full-time.  I was SO (as in SO!!!!) excited to be free of paying for coffee and having to decide what to have for lunch the night before I would have to eat it.

Seriously, how can you know what you’ll want to eat the day before you’re actually going to eat it?

Anyway, I was SO excited to be free of listening to bosses I increasingly never rarely barely hardly respected. Mostly I was ready to just be able to work all day long without having to go to meetings, eat birthday/retirement/promotion cake, and pretend to not be bothered by office behavior I believed was juvenile ridiculous child-ish baby-ish infantile unprofessional.

Yes, I had an attitude.

But I had earned my attitude. I had worked around the clock for years and years (and years and years).  I had earned the right to be completely pissy about the absurdity of workplace culture and practices.

So I began 2015 very excited about a new, less stressful, more enjoyable, more productive professional life.

And then shit happened.

Because, as you well know, I am sure, shit happens.

I won’t bore you with the details of the shit.  Just think paperwork, delays, roadblocks, finances, bills, red tape, jumping through hoops and all that. It was that kind of shit. And, to be honest, I can generally handle that kind of shit.

It stinks but I can handle a bit of stink as long as it’s not forever.

I was still excited though – even with the stinky shit. I was especially still excited after I spoke with trusted comrades who shared that their own professional transitions to working at home had been fraught with stressful shit too.

Wow, I’ve said shit a lot so far.

Sorry, but it was truly shitty.

But I forged ahead. I kept my eyes on the prize by working, working, working and trying not to get distracted by the you-know-what.

And then, the love of my life, my beautiful best friend of a feline, Boo Radley, died.

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Boo at 6 – on Halloween.

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Boo a few months ago – negotiating with Baby Bella.

I had known that Boo’s life was coming to an end. He was of that age.  He was on the verge of living to 20.

And he wasn’t as sturdy from time to time.  I knew he was starting to wrap things up.

So I was kind of ready.

I was dreading the day Boo left me, but I was kind of ready.

And I had a therapist I could go to when Boo died who would understand what it feels like to love your precious cat more than anything in the world. In fact, I had chosen my therapist, Bonnie Anthony, because of the fact that was passionate about rescuing dogs. I had chosen her to be my primary brain doctor during a time of my life when I really needed someone who understood me and my bad brain.

I knew that someone who loved rescuing animals would understand my life. I don’t rescue animals on a regular basis, but my beloved Boo had kept me going on with life through some really tough times.  I love people who understand the animal connection.

When Boo died, I didn’t tell anyone except for my immediate family and Bonnie Anthony.  I emailed my family and told them that Boo had died and that I couldn’t talk about it out loud for a while because it hurt too much.

They understood.

And of course Dr. A understood. She’s an animal person.

And then, shortly after Boo died, someone important in my life died.  I can’t write about that yet.  It’s too difficult and complicated and sad and hard to accept.

It’s too soon.

But I explained it all in an email to Dr. A.  I explained it in an email because I had to reschedule my appointment with her to attend the funeral.  Just writing about it to her was helpful since I knew she loved me and could absorb some of my hurt.

Just before our rescheduled appointment, Dr. A emailed me to say that we had to reschedule our rescheduled appointment. Dr. A was having major surgery.

I wasn’t worried.  Dr. A is an eensy teensy itty bitty gal, but she seemed to be tougher than any ten men (or women) I know.  She had a zeal for life and a love for her family that I knew could out-run any medical problem.

I wished Dr. A well and believed she would email me immediately when she could, even if that was during surgery.  Dr. A loved me and had historically kept in touch with me even during times when she should have been off the clock.  I could imagine her emailing her beloved patients as soon as she was able to, unable to stay away from humans she knew depended on her being available, flexible with her overwhelming support and ready to save those in pain from the current hurt.

I can’t figure out how to say in words that Dr. A is gone, but she is.  Something was too much for her body – either the surgery or the condition – and I hope very much that she is now with my Boo Boo in Heaven.  I hope that she is cuddling him and being cuddled by him.  I can’t explain it more than that.  It is, as they say, surreal.

I had seen many doctors before Dr. A.  When you live with recurrent severe depression, otherwise known as a messed up brain, you need to have doctors on board and ready to catch you when your brain tells you to fall.

Some doctors were better at the catch than others.

But Dr. A was different in a million ways.

Dr. A loved me. And she liked me. And she genuinely thought highly of me.

And she hated my depression as much as I do.

Dr. A didn’t say the things I hate to hear.  She didn’t opine endlessly on my family or friends or support system or life choices.  She didn’t think I needed to talk any more about depression than was absolutely necessary.  She knew depression was depressing and didn’t have any interest in making me think about it more than I needed to.

Dr. A wanted to hear about my life.  She didn’t see me as a depressed person.  She saw me as a really talented, amazing and funny person who was doing a good job of managing a highly annoying and inconvenient condition.

Dr. A hated the bosses I hated right along with me.  And she hated how long it takes for a licensing deal to go through.  She loved my Boo and she loved my Bella.  Before Baby Bella, she loved my Addie and liked that Addie had been named after Atticus Finch.

Dr. A also loved my comic strip, which I thought was pretty funny.  She read it every day and reported to me which ones she liked the most.  Eventually, I had to create a character based on Dr. A.

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I would say that the character of the Reply All therapist was just ‘inspired’ by Dr. A, but that would be misleading.  Looking back at the therapist strips, which began in March of 2013, I believe most of those conversations actually took place, possibly verbatim.

I would tell Dr. A how much I thought something about life or work or love or family or depression was stupid.  She would agree it was stupid.

Now THAT is the best type of therapist. I always felt validated and less crazy-in-a-bad-way when I left Dr. A’s office.

It’s hard to talk about your doctor these days with HIPAA and all of that complicated legal stuff governing conversations about health.  But Dr. A and I had discussed confidentiality.  She knew that eventually I would share my story about depression for the sole purpose of helping others in pain.  She knew that eventually I would write about her and want to identify her for purposes of making the story real. She was okay with my talking about her and identifying her.

To be honest, I think she wanted me to license her character eventually. I think she wanted her funny and adorable self to be on pillows and mugs and iPad cases.

She was adorable. She was really and truly adorable.

Dr. A wanted more for me. And I love her for that.

I love her for genuinely laughing at almost everything I said, as if seeing me had made her day and her life even better.

I love her for crying with me when I couldn’t control my own tears. I love her for hating to see me in pain but letting me be in pain without apologizing for making her experience it too.

I love Bonnie Anthony for being very real with me and for genuinely caring whether I lived or died.  I know in my heart and soul that she loved me and valued my contributions to this world.  I know that she would have missed me if I had decided to leave this world prematurely, which I unfortunately think of from time to time due to my badly wired brain.

Bonnie Anthony never told me not to hurt myself because it was wrong or too permanent or anything like that.

She just said she would miss me.

I really miss her.

xoxo, d
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“[H]ow can she be depressed, she is doing well in school?”

No matter how many times the therapist explained high functioning depression, [my parents] never believed it. I mean, I can’t really blame them. I have trouble believing it myself sometimes. And I’m living it.

I really appreciated Busted Laser’s very honest explanation of high functioning depression.

As Ellen says every day at the end of her show, “Be nice to one another.”

Read her blog at Busted Laser: A TRUE lifestyle blog.

On another note, I spent yet another day watching Ally McBeal on Netflix.

Can I just say “THANK GOD FOR MARATHON TELEVISION” – ????? Can I just say that?

I spend a lot of time at home drawing (and drawing) (and drawing). During the week, while drawing, I listen to music, audio books and podcasts. But on the weekend, I like to get all wild and crazy and watch something fun.  Something I can keep on in the background that makes me laugh without requiring much concentration.

My go-to shows for weekend marathoning are 90210, Melrose Place and Ally McBeal.  I’m so glad that neither 90210 and Melrose Place went the way of anorexia that Ally McBeal did.  It is definitely annoying and difficult to watch the starved women of Ally McBeal seasons 2, 3 and 4. But it is what it is and hopefully some girl somewhere learned something when the women of Ally McBeal eventually shared their stories of body dysmorphia and starvation. And hopefully they realized that the non-anorexic characters of Elaine (played by Jane Krakowski) and Renee (played by Lisa Nicole Carson) were the most beautiful women on the show.

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Luckily for me, my broken brain allows me to watch the same episodes over and over again without remembering most of the show.  It’s a gift, really.

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And finally, a recommendation –

LOVE close up with the hollywood reporter on Sundance TV!

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You must, must, must watch if you love observing the minds of creative people.

xoxo, d

I turned off CNN and turned on Porn

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So, the headline, AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE, is not exactly the truth.

It’s closer to truthiness.

But the first part is true. I turned off CNN.

I turned off CNN because CNN was driving me crazy. And when I say driving me crazy, I mean depressing, annoying, frustrating, angering and completely instigating me.

I had been wanting to turn off CNN for a long time. But I had become incapable of turning CNN off. I blame it on their constant threat of “Breaking News.” Even though I know “Breaking News” is just a trick to get idiots like me to keep the channel from changing, I was also scared I might miss something if I turned off CNN.

And then, one day, something happened.

I don’t remember what it was.

It could have been a jury verdict or a crime or an instance of weather.

It could have been a Kardashian sighting.

I don’t remember what it was.

BUT, I remember seeing a Tweet about whatever it was on Twitter and then immediately changing the channel from Bloomberg News back to CNN, only to find that CNN didn’t care about what was currently happening.

CNN was talking about missing boats or planes or the Ukraine or something that doesn’t immediately impact me.

I’m not saying those aren’t important subjects. I’m just saying they’re not really breaking news in my personal world.

So I turned off CNN. And, because I was pissed off at all news outlets everywhere, I turned off Bloomberg.

I turned on some crap because I work better with noise in the background. I turned the television volume so low it was almost off and I went back to work.

And I monitored Twitter.

And I also added a few Twitter feeds to take the place of CNN’s supposably breaking news.

And I’ve rarely turned CNN back on since then.

My problems with CNN are deeply and meaningfully complicated. I’m not just a news junkie. I’m a sucker for sloppy politics and a near obsessive when it comes to jury verdicts and media coverage of law enforcement.

And don’t even get me started on a good sociopath or psychopath story. Those can keep me home, glued to the television for months on end.

I had thought about turning off CNN for a long time since I knew it puts me in a bad mood and encourages obsessive thinking…but I had never quite gotten there.

But now I was there.

And I liked it, even if I didn’t realize I liked it for a couple of weeks.

Turning off CNN turned out to be the perfect instigating factor in my ‘mixing things up.’

Turning off CNN set into motion a series of little actions and inactions, all of which affected my life in various small but incredibly poignant ways.

And turning off CNN appears to have opened up a ton of brain space, allowing for the freer and easier movement of ‘other stuff’ both in and out.

So there I was, monitoring Twitter and ignoring CNN, and I needed to find women sitting in positions that caused their knees to be bent.

Why, you might ask, was I looking for these bent knee women?

Because I draw a cartoon and I wanted my main character to sit on the sofa with her feet up but not stretched out.

And I wanted to draw girls with bent knees too.

Because I draw girls.

So I searched women and sofas.

Let’s just say it’s a bad idea to search for women and anything on the internet.

You end up with lots of naked women.

And, just in case you don’t know, never ever EVER search for anything about women and knees. Unless, of course, you throw in a medical term or the word ‘surgery.’

At first I was all kinds of shocked.

You might think this is stupid if you’ve spent decades poring over internet porn already.

But I wasn’t an internet surfer. I was into guided internet. I always started with the New York Times or CNN and followed links from those safe sites.

And gossip. I also read some of the safer gossip sites.

Not the ones with pictures of gross plastic surgery and celebs at the beach one week after giving birth and without make up or demure cover ups, but the nice ones that show posed pictures of celebs and their adorably adorable babies.

And now I was looking at lots of open legs in questionable locations.

And, may I just say, who knew?

Who knew that women are sitting around in so many places with legs spread and no clothing on? I certainly didn’t.

So now it’s a few weeks or months later and I’ve learned how to search the internet for bent knee girls without getting total VAG (pronounced V-AAAA-J) on my screen.

But, along the way, I’ve also discovered some sites that CNN didn’t lead me to.

And it’s cool. And fun. And far more interesting than constant reporting on how a bunch of really bad people are cutting off the heads of people who wanted to keep their heads.

I’m a big fan of mixing it up.

The last time I tried mixing it up in a major way, a series of accidental actions resulted in the development of a comic strip. And that comic strip has been an incredible amount of fun.

So mix it up. Try something new. Stop something old. Change the channel.

Do something different, even if it’s little – or especially if it’s little.

It may not rock your world, but it’s more likely to rock your world than whatever you’re doing now that isn’t necessarily rocking your world.

Back to my women. Today is bent elbows.

xoxo, d

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Today’s List

I love lists.

As a pre-internet moody, introverted, impassioned wannabe writer, I lived for making lists.

I didn’t make ‘To Do’ lists because I thought they were annoying. First you make a ‘To Do’ list, then you don’t do the things on your “To Do” list, then you obsess (if you’re obsessive) about how to manage a list that is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

But I still loved lists. I made lists of everything and anything. Favorite this and that. Priorities. Wishes. Dreams. Everything I wanted or thought about or dreamed of ended up on a list.

Eventually, I made lists with arrows pointing everywhere. Lists and arrows evolved into charts and diagrams and graphs.

And yes, I fell in love with Excel. If you’re an Excel junkie too, I love you.

These days I still make lists of anything and everything. For me, there’s something about documenting a thought that makes the thought more likely to become an action or an event or an actual life occurrence.

And I find lists all over the place. In books, in purses, in baskets filled with books and magazines. The lists are at once both inspiring and validating. The lists prove that I’m not flighty or just a dreamy dreamer of dreams. I find lists with words and wishes that have now come true more than occasionally.

I think the biggest misconception about lists is that they have to have a theme or purpose. I wish more people realized that you can just list things for the sake of listing things.

So here’s today’s list:

[1] Giant brand Pink Grapefruit Flavored Sparkling Water Beverage in the skinny, tall 8-ounce plastic bottle. With a straw.  It may be healthy. It may not be. I can’t tell. But it’s got no calories, no apparent sugar, and it’s SO DAMN PRETTY to look at. Really pleasing to the eye.

[2] My ballet barre. Because my ballet barre is amazing.

[3] Tom Rhodes’ podcast. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tom-rhodes-radio/id426881872?mt=2 Tom Rhodes is my favorite type of comedian interviewer. Funny and fun to listen to but he’s all about the interviewed subject, not about making his own jokes on their interview time. He’s curious and genuinely interested. His questions are good questions – short, to the point, not ridiculous or stupid or self-serving. And he’s got a great voice.

[4] Tuesday. I love Tuesdays. I’m good on Tuesdays, generally speaking.

[5] Thinly sliced onion. Because I’m still doing a good job of thinly slicing onion. No cut fingers! Yay.

[6] Weather coverage. So not interesting. At least not for me. Which doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t go out to those in the midst of weather. It does. I hope they’re okay. And I’m glad states are taking more precautions to prevent people from getting stuck in dangerous weather. I’d rather see states be safe than sorry. Tell everyone to stay home unless they’re performing emergency surgery. I’m all for preventative weather coverage for the sake of helping people avoid poor decision making regarding travel. But otherwise, I can’t watch weather coverage.

[7] Anger. I’m all for it. It’s healthy. Feel your anger. And don’t apologize for it. Just don’t hit anyone or yell at anyone. Hit a bag and yell at a pillow. Or the tv. Yell at the tv. Don’t hit it. Hitting the tv hurts.

[8] Dog grooming. I still can’t get anywhere close to my dog’s eyes with a scissor. She won’t let me. Looking for tricks but prepared to go to a groomer just for help in that area. I need a dog face groomer.

[9] Girls. I’m watching it. And reading reviews of it. And seeing too many references to Hannah’s character not knowing how she comes across. And not believing it. I firmly believe that annoying, offensive people – even if they’re smart, perceptive, talented and right some of the time – know they’re annoying and offensive. They just think that being annoying and offensive is justified. And it’s not.

[10] Chocolate chip sugar cookies. Mix chocolate chip cookie dough with sugar cookie cookie dough. Mix well. Make cookies. The mix of the two types of dough is amazing in terms of both texture and taste. Especially if you’re not a big chocolate person. Which I’m not.

That’s the list for now.

Makes lists. They’re good for you.

And stay warm and dry.

xoxo, d

15RALRGB (celebrity lists)

Women of a Certain Age

A friend of mine – a fellow writer – has been gently nudging me to write about ‘women of a certain age’ for some time. And I want to, I do. The problem I have is that age is generally not a category I seem to think of when I think of life’s experiences.

That’s not to say that I NEVER think about age. I do.

I feel like a dinosaur when I go to our monthly writers’ dinners and see so many young writers at the beginning of their careers, their love lives and their campaigns of deliberate mistake-making. When I see these young people, I definitely know that I am ancient and old.

O.L.D.

But I don’t really care because I don’t want to go back to my twenties or thirties. I might make a lot of jokes about being the geriatric at the table, but I don’t pine for those decades of my life even though I’m quite nostalgic about them and find myself wallowing in memories of those times way too often.

And of course I feel ancient around my very hyper – I mean energetic – youngest nieces, my curious and always-inspired college-aged niece, and my skateboarding teen boy neighbors.

But again, I don’t care about feeling ancient. If anything, I feel lucky since I’m at a point in life where I get to go back to my sofa at the end of the day and chill out, relaxing while the young people are busy running around finding themselves, feeling angst, feeling conflict, and rebelling against the restrictions imposed by others.

I must say that I genuinely love being an adult. I love being able to make choices every day about what my adult life will look like. Being an adult is really much cooler than I ever imagined.

But at the tender age of 52, I generally don’t go about my business feeling old or invisible or anything less than what I genuinely feel at any particular time. To be honest, my life has been largely defined by three things: feeling good, feeling fine and not feeling good.

Now, in my 50’s, with the right job (for me), the right medications (for me), the right diet (for me), and the right lifestyle (for me), I almost always feel either good or fine. I don’t often feel not good. And, when I do feel not good, it doesn’t overwhelm me the way it used to.

When I feel not good, I get through it. I don’t worry obsessively that feeling not good might last forever. History shows that feeling not good doesn’t last forever. History also shows that feeling not good lasts a shorter amount of time if I don’t add a layer of worried obsessive anxiety.

So I usually have days when I feel good or fine.  Indeed there are some greats in the mix, but the greats are usually parts of days, not entire days.

It’s not because I don’t have great days. I do.

But my tendency is to not view days as great because I’m a compartmentalizer from way back. I never measure time in terms of an entire day. I break each day into eighths, sixteenths, thirty seconds and sixty fourths.

But not to worry.

I generally tend to have a few guaranteed greats per day. That’s probably because I write and draw every day. And I allow a very cute dog and a highly mischievous cat to live in my house. I consider these to be my four children. My four adorable children are writing, drawing, my dog and my cat. At any given time, one of my four children is being silly. Or naughty in a funny way. Or ironic. And all of those are great for me.

Writing about feeling good and feeling not good comes easy to me. Very easy.

But pondering – or writing about – the topic of ‘women of a certain age’ doesn’t come naturally for me.

Of course I could always talk about my own very specific personal issues with age. Because it’s SO TOTALLY FUN talking about the joys and constant surprises of peri-menopause.

But I consider peri-menopause just another phase that I can ignore to the greatest extent possible since everyone agrees it’s temporary. I’m not going to invest much time or energy into something temporary…even if temporary feels like forever sometimes.

So I’m left with just one thing – and that’s: ‘What defines me as a woman if it’s not my age?’

For lack of a better word, all I can come up with is sexy. To me, in a very personal way, as a woman person, my life comes down to feeling sexy or not sexy.

It’s probably because I grew up with a sexy mother.

Despite the problems, challenges, and issues our family had to deal with, my mother was always sexy. Even when I hated her and thought she was the worst mother on the face of the earth, she was still sexy.

It was infuriating at times.

My mother was sexy and she knew it. She knew it, she felt it, and we felt it.

And I learned to associate most of the things I value with sexy.

My mother was smart and decisive and confident. She was hard working. She would never ever consider doing something or not doing something because of her mood. She was reliable, consistent and responsible.

And she always put her children first, even if she wasn’t always pleasant or selfless about it in tone.

To me, that was all incredibly sexy.

On top of that, my mother looked good every single day.

Every day, my mother fixed her hair, put on enough makeup to look like she gave a crap, and wore clothes she enjoyed wearing. Every day, my mother looked like she wasn’t just phoning in her performance as a mother, a wife and a woman.

I don’t wear makeup everyday because I like to give my skin a break when I can. But I  love makeup. I really love makeup. Makeup quickly transforms me into an ‘awake and ready to go’ version of me.

Even though I don’t get dressed up everyday, I wear something I love every day. I’ll spare you the nauseating details, but I never wear something that means nothing to me. I always wear articles of clothing that feel really good and that I feel really good in.

It’s a habit.

And it’s a helpful habit. For me.

And generally, I feel sexy.

At the age of 52, I don’t feel more sexy than ever or less sexy than ever or any particular variation on sexy. I just feel sexy. Like I’ve always felt sexy.

And I don’t necessarily mean sexy in terms of sex. Although I’m a fan of sex-related sexy.

I mean sexy in terms of inspired and passionate and turned on by the day. To me, sexy is strong and deliberate. Focused and determined.  Earnest and honest and hard working. Capable and confident. To me, that’s what sexy is.

I’m sure everyone has a different definition of sexy. And I’m sure sexy isn’t a necessary element of life for a lot of people. Or that other people call my idea of ‘sexy’ by another name.

But when I think about my life as a woman, for now at least, age isn’t a defining issue.

I’ll let you know if that changes, but I hope it doesn’t.

I sincerely hope that when I’m in my 80’s, I’m still a sexy babe, making the men and women who are already drooling drool just a little bit more.

xoxo, d

15RALRGB (fly)

For Those Who Need a Nap Before Bed.

RAL RGB Nap Before Bed

A few years ago, a journalist asked me if I wanted to be interviewed for a website about women. The topic was second careers and all that kind of stuff.

I said sure.

So we began talking.

I explained how I had always wanted to be a writer and how I had, in fact, been writing every day of my life. I explained how, in 2006, I hit a wall of writer frustration and decided to take a formal and official creative break from writing. I regaled the journalist with anecdotes about my attempts at improv and stand up and how a love for writing punch lines ultimately led to my accidentally creating a comic strip.

The journalist was excited by the details of the years from 2006 until 2010 when I got a syndication deal. She listened to the numbers – six four-panel strips a week plus an eight-panel strip for Sunday. Fifty two weeks a year. No break. Those were the first year numbers.

By the second year of syndication, I had enough material for a second property, a single-panel cartoon. And I usually created two of those a day since I was trying pretty hard to build a loyal and interested following of readers.

The second year numbers were six four-panel strips a week, one eight-panel Sunday, and fourteen single panels.

She said “wow” and I remember feeling quite proud of my numbers.

I told her about my loyal followers and how they sent me really engaging emails and notes on the internet. I told her I was really pleased to have found a following of many women and some men who appreciated my observations about life. I told her I was working on a book. And licensing opportunities.

The journalist was impressed.

Then she asked about my day job. I explained that I was a lawyer and that I was pretty passionate about my work and that I had thus far managed to continue working full-time as a lawyer. I explained that I needed my lawyer job for a variety of reasons, including the salary, the health insurance, the routine, the social aspect, the perspective, the balance, the challenge, and, of course, the material.

I could hear the whistle of the happy air leaving the journalist’s happy balloon.

Oh, she said, I was really looking to interview women who gave up something to do something new.

I said, well, that’s great, but it’s hard for normal people to give up their life to do something new. I think I’m a really good role model for someone who wants to maintain their financial independence and still pursue their dreams. Financial independence is a really big deal, especially for women.

I may have been a bit aggressive when I added the part about financial independence being especially important for women.

She wasn’t buying it.

She didn’t like it.

It wasn’t sexy or inspiring, in her view.

I was shocked, to be honest. I was particularly shocked since the founder of the website the journalist was writing for had been one of my earliest and most important role models. I wondered if my role model felt the same – that pursuing your passion is only sexy and inspiring if you give up everything to live in a car or travel to India to live with monkettes.

The journalist told me to call her when I quit my lawyering job.

I politely said thank you.

Then I hung up and said a lot of things that don’t sound even remotely like thank you.

I then called my mother, a woman who has bravely suffered through the pain of having a daughter who constantly wants more in life.

“Mom,” I said, “the journalist for XYZ website said I haven’t given up enough for my writing and the comic strip.”

My mother wanted to call the journalist or email the journalist or otherwise set the record straight.  I didn’t give her the journalist’s information. We’re still recovering from the time my mother called the local paper to complain that she’d have to move to another city if she wanted to read her daughter’s comic strip in print. It’s a sore subject for her.

My mother proceeded to list everything I had given up for my passion. It was depressing hearing my life summed up by my mother.

If you’re a writer, an artist or a person who has relentlessly pursued a passion, your list probably looks similar to mine.

Let’s just say it’s a long effing list.

As much as I’d love to eat, love and pray my way to happiness, I’m a real person with a real life. I have real bills and real medical issues. I have real family and real friends and real neighbors. I can’t just give up everything. And I can’t just pick up and leave my responsibilities. And I need my health insurance.

But I still pursued – and continue to pursue – my passion.

I hope somebody taught that journalist what sexy and inspiring looks like. I think she got it wrong.

xoxo, d

The Problem with Depression. Part Two.

RAL RGB Basic Survival

There are so many problems with depression that there will probably be twelve billion parts to this collection of essays.

The first problem with depression, if you read The Problem with Depression. Part One, was that depression is depressing.

Brilliant and simple. And obvious.

And yet, not always obvious.

Part Two of “The Problem with Depression” focuses on the fact that the condition of depression makes it really difficult to ‘keep your chin up’ or ‘lighten up’ or otherwise keep your head high.  Although it feels good to talk about getting through tough times after the fact, it’s not as easy to be positive about the future – or even the next day – when you’re in the actual throes of the tough time. With depression, it’s pretty much impossible.

So again, that seems pretty obvious, right?

But it’s not so obvious.

Because a lot of folks make it through a REALLY TOUGH TIME only to then find themselves struggling mightily to manage the tiny ups and downs of a normal, routine day.  But because they made it through the REALLY TOUGH TIME, those same folks think everything should now be fine. And easier.

But REALLY TOUGH TIMES aren’t always followed by easier, finer times. For some people, the tiny ups and downs of the day don’t feel tiny. Sometimes even tiny things feel big. Sometimes they feel difficult. And sometimes, they feel too big and difficult to manage, even though they are relatively tiny compared to REALLY TOUGH TIMES.

I used to wonder how all of the people in my neighborhood, at school, and at work were managing to do so much and enjoy life when every day was so exhausting. Eventually I realized that not everybody’s day-to-day life is exhausting. Not everybody has to work so hard to get the simple things done.  Not everybody has to ponder every detail of the day until thinking about the day overshadows living the day.

Many, many people are able to get dressed, get out, be out and do things without having to think and rethink the who/what/why/when/how.  I even know people who show up for every event or activity they say they’ll show up for, regardless of whether they’re energized, tired or recovering from a bad day.

A long time ago, I was jealous of people who lived life more easily than I was capable of living it.

But something changed. I began to view other people’s ability to live easily as a sign that an easier life was possible, regardless of the wiring I was born with in my brain.

So, what does it look like to force oneself to live easier?

Here are five of my learned habits for living easier:

Habits for Living Life Easier:

[1] Acknowledge the bad days.

By bad day, I don’t mean a day that’s bad. Although it could be a day that’s bad. Something yucky happens at work or at home. Sure, it could be a bad day.

But it could also just be you having a bad day.

If that’s the case, acknowledge it.

[2] Isolate the badness.

Try to distinguish the bad from the not bad. This is an especially helpful tool for those who are quick to catastrophize.

If a part of your life is giving you grief, remember to acknowledge the parts that are okay and not bothering you. It will help you to keep perspective.

Draw a pie chart and see how big the bad part is compared to the not bad part. Pie is always helpful.

[3] Get the basics done.

Do your homework. Go to work. Carry out your obligations. Show up for important things.

You don’t have to be winning or charming or the life of any party, but make sure to get the basics done so you don’t have the weighty baggage of being behind when life gets easier.

[4] Think about illness.

I know, I know. That sounds weird.

But it helps to think about how you handle a cold or a flu. Do you question it? Doubt it? Fight it?

Do you feel bad about yourself for having caught a cold or flu? Do you blame yourself and swear it will NEVER happen again?

Of course not.

If you’re even somewhat normal, you eventually have to concede that the cold or flu is (1) bigger than you, (2) stronger than you; (3) not going away as quickly as you would like, and (4) totally annoyingly disruptive.

Then you realize you have an excuse to lay around and watch junk on television, so you do.

If something yucky has happened or you’re feeling yucky, let it ride. Don’t keep checking to see if it’s gone or over. Don’t promise yourself that it will be over soon.

Accept it. Nurture it a bit.

And be comforted in the knowledge (yes, the knowledge) that yuckiness usually passes within a few days.

FYI: My yuckiness usually takes a solid five days to work itself out. And it helps me to know that. I can plan better when I feel the yuck descending without my permission.

[5] Stop feeling bad about feeling bad.

It’s lousy enough to feel bad. It’s even more lousy to feel bad about the way you feel.

If you feel bad, you feel bad.

Get some exercise, get some sleep, get some extra sleep and some extra exercise.

Eat some soul-filling food.

Call a friend – or isolate – whichever works for you.

But don’t feel bad about the fact that your wonky mind is being wonky. Then, refer back to (4).

Okay, everybody. Back to life!

Go live it. And live it easily whenever you can.

See you back here soon for Part Three.

xoxo, d

Things That Work(ed) For Me

For years I read anything I could find about depression. I read books written by doctors, therapists and people living with depression. I looked high and low for any advice or insight as to what might work.

I needed to know how to make depression better, how to get through the day, how to get through specific days like holidays, and where to look for the things that might make the depression better.

From time to time, I found something helpful.

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