Contemplating Suicide? Wait.

1. In the gaping sinkhole of earlier days, kicking and screaming served no discernible purpose, it only made me sink deeper, and tired from flailing and wailing, I’d give in, spent.

(Did no one hear me? ‘Cause I was making quite a ruckus.)

I lay in bed, an anesthetic veil pulled between me and all of you normal, smiley people, and I drifted, waiting to bump up against something, anything, just to be jarred. Between numbness and despair, I preferred despair. Feeling its wretched undertow was actually molten relief.

Contemplating suicide was how I nestled with that despair, after the daily masquerade of pretending ceased. It was comforting, like the activities of childhood we revisit when under pressure: coloring, doodling, stacking blocks and knocking them down, just to see them fall.

In this secret room my fantasies of escape could gently inhale, exhale. Spaciousness dwelt in macabre scenarios. Imagining how I could die was my oxygen tank and I pulled on that tank as if……….as if my life depended on it.

And it did.

I had no control in my life. Nothing happened the way I wanted it to. Hell, I didn’t even know what I wanted, other than to stop feeling this way. Helpless and victim to everyone, to all the circumstances I was born into. All I knew were puppeteers and wardens.

And then it dawned – my first moment of light – If I had the power to kill myself, then I had the power to choose not to.

Slowly, more light crept under the door, washing across the floor and up along the bedcovers.

My mind split in two. Cleaved open. I was not just suffering anymore, I was the one witnessing the suffering.

And if one of those voices had the wherewithal to choose, even if the other one couldn’t see it, then there was still a way out. All I had to do was acknowledge it. I didn’t even have to decide. Not yet.

Just knowing an option existed was the most roof-raising, holy-fucking-shit revelation I ever had.

2. I think it’s time to start throwing parties again.

Not the sophisticated dinner party variety that I’m age appropriate for, where all the guests read the same online news reports and exchange their latest restaurant and movie reviews, and flatter each other’s weight loss, but the Sunday stew pot Bacchanalias I hosted in my twenties. Disparate groups showing up at my house wondering if they got the date wrong because while, yes…there I was, who were all these people?

Gay boys dancing, pickup-driving rednecks drinking beer, long-haired metalheads surrounded by the prettiest girls, stiff brainiacs from class, and the neighbors who weren’t sure if they were more nervous about the rowdy, muscled jocks or if they might actually be having fun amidst the cornucopia of humanity.

What I mean to say is, maybe it’s time to raise the roof again and watch the festivities commence. Remind myself of all the characters I’ve cast myself as, and all these other fabulous expressions I’ve gallivanted through the seasons with.

Who can I resurrect that will be the most playful?

The giant instigator?

The sexy flirt in leather boots?

The smarty-pants?

Damn the torpedos! Someone turn up the music, will ya? And make a beer run; it’s gonna be a late one.

3. I have a box on my desk with five passports in it. Four of them are mine and one belonged to my father, who passed in November. His was issued the year we met him (technically, he’s my stepfather); he went to Germany with his mother and sister.

It used to be that when you went to Europe, you got a stamp for each country visited, and collecting these inked pages was like those old photo albums that sat on your grandparents’ coffee table – signposts of a time and place that only exists in memory. Now that we have the EU and global connectivity and paperless paper, aren’t we playing in a unified field of dreams, where everybody’s simultaneously in costume on stage and clapping from the orchestra seats?

If we’re all collective conscious-ing and retina-scanning, how will I remember what my dad looked like in 1976?

4. Recall those T-shirts from the 80’s, the ones that said in bold letters “Frankie Says Relax” and “Choose Life?”

Yeah, those.

5. This year, I’m throwing a balls-out, come-as-you-were or who-you-want to-be party and all of you and all of me are invited. Shakespeare said so.

Do you want to join me? I think it’ll be a rollicking good time.

The choice is always yours to make.

OMG. Can you BELIEVE what he just did?

It’s madness I say! All this talk!

Be yourself.

Follow your bliss.

You can be or do anything you want.

…and then…

Did you SEE that dress she was wearing?!

Yeah, but you can’t make money at your art. You have to get a real job.

THIS is how it’s done.

I’m not good / pretty / rich / smart / connected enough.

Pure insanity! …this cognitive dissonance of declaring that we simultaneously have freedom and also must abide. Can we not see the disastrous effects judgment – certainly of others, but most insidiously of ourselves – wreaks? Is there any way out?

I wonder…

What could happen if we:

* unfurl, instead of bind

* celebrate, instead of constructively criticize

* unarm, instead of protect

* radiate, instead of compete

* affirm life, instead of deny it

* loosen, instead of furrow

* shoot from the hip, instead of prepare

* witness, instead of evaluate

* accept, instead of tolerate

* breathe

What if we stopped judging every little damned thing we see? What if we stopped deciding if everything fits neatly into either the Good or Bad column? What if that voluptuous woman wore that dress like no one’s business, painted her way into a living, and did it all on her own terms?

THEN would we shut up that petty little voice in our heads?

What if, I mean, really now…imagine if The Last Judgment wasn’t some day of reckoning, some hierarchical accounting of our sins, layered with the gross humiliation of guilt and blame and deeply rooted shame…and instead was simply…

The very last time we ever judged?

Reading Is Fundamental And Other 70’s PSA Riffs

People start pollution. People can stop it.

“So, what do you do?”

“I’m a writer. I’ve a collection of essays on my blog, about breaking through conventional thinking and living on my own terms.”

“Oh, cool. Are you published?”

Hmm. Didn’t I just say I’ve got a website? With words on it? Organized around a topical theme?

Isn’t this kind of programmed thinking polluting our creativity? (See: BOX, thinking outside)

Oh! You mean do I have an agent, a contract, and a book deal? Not yet, but it’s curious this leveraging game that’s going on. To get the traditional folk to take a gander, the online platform must have viral-ity. And for site cred, a NYTimes bestseller sure doesn’t suck. Good thing, that penchant for having my cake and eating it, too. Hey, I’m just doing my patriotic duty. The pursuit of happiness and all…

Conjunction, junction. What’s your function?

I’ve been practicing the best of both worlds for a long time and I’m just as comfortable on a John Deere as I am in a Jag. Lifestyle agility, if I may suggest, is a virtue to cultivate. Being nimble enough to position yourself in front of the ball gives you time for strategic visioning. Score! That we embrace the models which have informed and brought us here, along with the exciting tranformations-in-progress – didn’t Dr. Seuss say it best, “Oh! The places you’ll go!” Doors are flying open, because…

The gatekeepers are gone! The keys are in our hands, and not just mine, but yours too. Technology has gifted the tools for us to articulate our madness, er…brilliance. Innovation lies not just in the realm of the few anymore.

Think: Inspiration.

Speak: Intention

Act: Creation.

You’re published when you write. You’re an artist when you paint or sculpt or dance. You’re who you say you are. Declare it. Eyes and ears are everywhere; so is opportunity. It’s taking the best the evangelicals and Darwinists have to offer and leaving certainty behind. We create AND evolve. In muse we trust.

I live to investigate and identify what’s true. Ditch the conventions and assumptions I inherited and reframe how I see the world, and I’ll tell you, it’s not my father’s Oldsmobile. Not a Prius either. Actually, it’s still car parts and chicken wire (nod to Ani DiFranco) since I’ve cut back on the ‘master’s tools’ habit. While it’s too radical to go cold turkey, (still need the Mac, a wireless connection and the USPS) I can see a new horizon and it’s architecturally magnificent! All these fellow life hackers supplying the necessary juice to keep us revved. There’s a whole lotta lovin’ goin’ on in 2012! Look around and see many like-minded souls rejecting the limitations of the previous, and even their own, generation. Truth and passion and optimism ripe for the picking. Online and off. Never before have there been so many ways to get your voice heard, your writing read, your message disseminated.

On deck here are a slew of writing projects. Seeds of new business ideas poking up out of fertile soil. I’m on the verge, folks. And so are YOU.

So remember…

RIF. Reading is fundamental.

It’s not just writing that’s being redefined. Reading, also. Have you heard that more people are cracking the kindles, nooks, and good old-fashioned books more than ever? It’s not all black and white, anymore.

Think about your RSS newsfeed, your favorite magazine, your horoscope, yours truly. None in hardcover or even sitting on the shelf. Digital. Ethereal. Cloud-like.

We’re immersed in words, in all their old and new forms. From Facebook and twitter to whizzing billboards, daily weblogs, ingredient + nutritional stats, Ron Paul newsletters, overflowing library stacks, and those creepy pharm ads (check out the side effects – you’ll never consider popping Lipitor again).

Amidst the cacophony, there’s wisdom to widening our lens. We’re exposed like never before, and great responsibility is called for. Notice how words are used and consumed. Become more conscious of what you put in your mind – for it determines what you think. Our mind is the only place that’s truly ours to govern.

Have you ever closed a book and reveled in the story, wishing it hadn’t ended? The characters live on, in our imagination. They have staying power when expertly rendered. Sometimes even when they’re not, so isn’t it better to be as discerning with our mental appetites as we are with our New Year’s ones? It’s easier to decline entry to those freeloading poseurs than to evict them. Just as we trim the fat from our diets, we should be careful with what stories we give our mental real estate over to.

Onward from my 70’s rugrat days, I scoured whatever I got my hands on. Voracious, I was. It started with the back of cereal boxes and Nancy Drew mysteries. Then there was my vampire phase. (version 1.0, that is ~ Anne Rice). My tastes have become more discriminating, as I satisfy my word cravings with more nutritious fare.

Here’s what’s on my reading list now:

  1. Drive by Daniel Pink (masterfully documenting what we intuitively know to be true about human motivation)
  2. The latest issue of Orion with a don’t miss interview between Terry Tempest Williams + Joe DeChristopher (the auctioning activist, post-jail term)
  3. This quote: Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. Helen Keller
  4. Issue #5 The OCCUPIED Wall St Journal (nabbed while touring the OWS offices in NYC last week)
  5. The Flinch by Julien Smith (FREE ebook on amazon – what’s stopping you? go get it!)
  6. The “map” of my new book (in progress) – How I’m going to revolutionize the interview process for the 21st century – you’ll never hire the wrong person again. Book proposal gratitude to Danielle Laporte & Linda Siversten.
  7. A new yoga studio’s schedule (oh how I miss you, Rachel)
  8. My dad’s Christmas card, for the nth time
  9. My 2012 list of intentions, declarations, and wouldn’t-it-be-marvelous-if’s. Tinkering, still.
  10. To my nephew: Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent. Because the single biggest determinant in the success of a child – across the board – is being read to.

Only you can prevent wildfires.

Together, we can start them! Change your mind, change your life.

What’s on YOUR nightstand? What do YOU do?

Once In A Lifetime

I was driving from Warren to Camden the other night when it washed over me: I feel like I’m living inside a David Byrne song: as if some large bird swooped down 10 months ago, lifted me on its back and deposited me squarely in this new life.  Or maybe just the opposite – not in a midlife crisis kind of way, but in a finally! all is well, but how did it happen so effortlessly kind of way?

Who ARE these people? How DID I get here? (and, strangest of all, why does it feel so much like coming home?)

   “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
     And you may find yourself in another part of the world
     And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
     You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
     You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Too often, men (never women, make your own conclusions here) ask me: “Soooo, how is it that an attractive woman such as yourself has never been married?” Statistics trumpeting the benefits of marriage to our esteemed male population aside, I’m often stymied as to what they’re really asking. Am I lesbian? A radical feminist? Unlovable? A runaway bride, perhaps? A maneater? Or maybe too choosy or demanding?

I always find this question partly annoying (why am I not asked if I’ve ever run a business, had children, or, even been in a long-term relationship?), and partly amusing (it gives me a chance to don my contrarian outfit, poking around to find out how much they’ve really given the venerable institution serious thought). I guess I’ve just heard one too many stories of someone walking down the aisle like it’s a plank.

Once, I learned a man was asking because he was on the way out of his 8 year marriage, claiming he’d just been riding the wave of … isn’t-this-what-people-do-when-they’re-in-love? … “We met, dated, moved in, and next thing you knew we had a wedding, a mortgage, and … there I was, wondering, My god! How did I get here?” I think he was desperately seeking permission to leave, and that it would all be okay in the end.

     “Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
     Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
     Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
     Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Looking back on my childhood in the 70’s, there weren’t many successful models of happily ever after around me, so I never idolized some future wedding, frosted with buttercream and white lace. There was nothing I particularly wanted to be when I grew up, either.  Those pressures of today – prepping at preschool for the Ivy League – were absent. Instead, life then was much like it is now, like all good spiraling cycles do, coming back around and placing happiness in the form that we learned it first, at our blessed feet. I learned young to be content and interested and make my own excitements;  the independence that followed led me on grand adventures both far flung and romantically. For that, I am thankful my (divorced) parents left the big picture choices for me to paint, never imposing their successes and failures, but granting me the wherewithal to navigate by pointing out the moon and the stars and the sky above.

    “And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”
     And you may ask yourself, “Where is that large automobile?”
     And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house”
     And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife”

When I was eighteen or nineteen, underage at a local bar, I chatted up a guy who’d graduated a few years before me. I had a crush on him in high school, and now that I was all grown up (in my mind), I wanted to impress him with my college sophistication. But right out of the gate, in answer to my eager and bouncy greeting, “How ARE you?” he replied, “Same old, same old.” Regrettably that was not the last time I heard those words. Disappointment crashed like a Ming vase.

     “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Perhaps I only entered into relationships that had an expiration date, for fear I’d end up fighting and married, despondent and divorced, or like the sad sacks at the bars I tended. If I wasn’t heading into the mystic, nevertheless, I had love and lust and sweet guys and bad boys and romance both lengthy and fleeting, but I always knew deep down that I wasn’t a keeper.

     “Water dissolving and water removing
      There is water at the bottom of the ocean
      Under the water, carry the water
      Remove the water from the bottom of the ocean
      Water dissolving and water removing

Or was I? Whenever accused of being noncommittal, I resisted the notion. I’ve developed decades-long friendships, deep loyalties to my workplace, and a steadfast curiosity about the world that I indulge with vigor. Yes, I had my Houdini moments; I could bolt with the best of them. But over the years I explored the wheels and dials of my inner timepiece and discovered lasting commitment to truth, freedom and aliveness. Socrates, Jefferson, and Emerson left nourishment and I ate at their examined table. Once I put myself first, deliberately instead of haphazardly, peace reigned.

     “You may ask yourself, “What is that beautiful house?”
     You may ask yourself, “Where does that highway go to?”
     You may ask yourself, “Am I right, am I wrong?”
     You may say to yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Recently, a charming and itinerant man asked me how I ended up here. Believing he might understand why I’d move somewhere not knowing anyone, I described the complete reliance on intuition and seizing of the right moment. Instead, he pressed me to ‘come clean’ that I was, in fact, running away from some uncloseted demon or such. Are we so accustomed to fight or flight behaviors that we are unable to recognize a step forward, a Constitutionally protected pursuit, an embrace of beauty and destiny? Is drowning that common?

      “Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us
       Same as it ever was, same as it ever was
       Same as it ever was, same as it ever was
       Same as it ever was, hey let’s all twist our thumbs
       Here comes the twister”

My oldest friend once said that given my propensity for the obscure destinations I head off to and unexpected life choices I make, that the only thing that would surprise her would be if I were to settle down with a husband and raise a gaggle of rugrats. At the time, we laughed at the absurdity, but wouldn’t that be the kicker, the ultimate rebellious move?

     “Letting the days go by
      Letting the days go by
      Once in a lifetime
      Let the water hold me down
      Letting the days go by”

What is true is that I’m at my best in the company of those I care about, especially when in a loving and mutual relationship. I thrive in the sunshine of security. It may just be that I have always believed in only doing it once. And, watch. That’s what will come pass.

Dismantling Youth

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.  My sin. My soul.  Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.  Lo. Lee. Ta.”

When I was 20, maybe 21, signing up for yet another semester of Humanities at the local community college, adulthood perpetually as imminent as the red button, the Cold War was unknowingly about to end.  In a desperate ploy to hang on to childish things, to look cool in the eyes of others, I graffiti’d a pair of white Vans with titles of Vladimir Nabokov novels in red magic marker.  Save for that  stunning opening paragraph that even now astounds me by its physical lyricism, I hardly knew who Nabokov was, much less Stanley Kubrick or James Mason, who together brought Lolita to the screen.  Smitten as I was with the younger intellectual skateboarding boys on campus – with their long hair and side-parts, lanky surfer bodies and West Coast fantasies – I scrawled ‘Bend Sinister’ across the left shoe and ‘Invitation To A Beheading’ across the right, in true contrarian embrace-the-enemy fashion.  What’s that mean? they’d ask, as we’d hang out in concrete basement bars, pretending we were old enough to be there, but not so grown up to be confused with the proletariat drinking their dollar and a half draughts during dusky happy hours.

God forbid our fraud should slip.

While Michael, boyishly cute and charming and the one I had the maddest crush on, played aloof, I did my wiliest to mirror his nonchalance (therefore showing him how much he really wanted me) and instead tried impressing his friends with arcane Soviet trivia.  When I found them gawking over stacks of nudie magazines one afternoon after class, I casually mentioned Nabokov’s penchant for getting published in Playboy, proving that yes, men really did read it for the articles and they should, too.  Were any of us planning on graduating and growing up at some point?

We never saw that our restless energy was held in check by end-of-the-world-as-we-knew-it propaganda.  What young adult wanted to stake claim in an era of Reagan and Gorbachev and the crisis of missiles?  We did as we were told:  good little Communist-haters, except that we weren’t.  We were too naive, still, to really understand anything, so we played on both sides of the rail, never knowing when the train was going to race down the tracks and split everything in two.

https://i1.wp.com/www.factropolis.com/uploaded_images/ussr-788466.png

Meanwhile, I taught them to play chess, (the Russians were masters, right?) and we’d plot moves until dawn, taking rooks and pawns and they taught me to say “Prost!” as we toasted with cheap vodka;  it wasn’t until I went to Germany years later did I realize that I didn’t have a trademark on affectation.  In time, our attempts to dazzle each other with bluster and bloc fizzled, but as the breezes of destiny blew, it turned out we all just really loved being together.  Especially Michael and I.  Ultimately, we paired off, whirling around in a magical wonderland with passionate abandon, leaving the group behind.  For months, we were intoxicated by the blindness of bliss, closing our eyes and diving deep enough inside to feel lo. lee. ta.  in each other’s mouths.

Eventually, the other boys all said goodbye, scattering off to four-year universities or low-paying jobs in nearby towns.  Michael and I remained, still partly caught in the stickiness of our infatuation, but somehow sensing a shift in the wind.  That fall, with legs entwined, curled up in front of the TV, we watched the Berlin Wall come down, governments toppling like dominos, the only world we ever knew crumbling, and we tried to imagine life without impending nuclear catastrophe and its fear we unwittingly swallowed. The structures that had defined us were no longer.  Where do you go when you can go anywhere?

As we planned our escape to California, as far from New York as we could  imagine, tragedy struck.  There was an accident and his brother died.  All spells broke.  The world had changed;  nothing would ever be the same.

The stranglehold of the eighties loosened and catapulted us into our futures.  The cocoon of youth dissolved.

He left for Hollywood, alone.  I never saw him again.

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