Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The theme of today's blog duet is feelings and healing.

Once a book came into the library titled Ceilings and a guy started singing: "Ceilings, whoah whoah whoah ceilings" riffing on the song lyrics.

Right now I'm not amused.

Nelson Mandela got it right: "There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you."

This all-time great also believed [and I've quoted this a million times]: "As we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

Why are flashlights in such short supply in the world?

When did it become acceptable to treat each other like big fat zeroes?

This is not. How human beings. Should act.

My second book is 156 pages now and I quote Nelson Mandela in one chapter.

In it I talk about a lesson I learned: about owning your feelings and recognizing them as true. You are entitled to your feelings. Nobody has the right to trample on you.


Sometimes: you need to make a graceful exit from a relationship that isn't working.

I walked away from a woman because of what happened to me when the Stelazine lost its effectiveness. How I see it: I could have been a better friend to her. I'm wise enough to know that should I be so presumptuous to think I could bop back into her life she might not want to let me in again. How could I be certain things would be different?

So you move on as we all do and you make your peace.

I have the confidence that I have not ever treated another person like a rook.

We should all have a flashlight equipped with working batteries and replace them when the light dies out.

The relationship you have with yourself deserves to be kind and generous as well.

The sad reality is I'm preaching to the choir here and I sing off-key.

This is also the truth: if you expect great things from a person he will rise up to meet your expectations.

You can get a flashlight real cheap: it's called a smile.



It is something that I do: seek justice.

We are all rooks-people diagnosed with SZ and other mental illnesses are treated like rooks. I cannot bring myself to describe what a rook is except to say it's a person who is less than zero-less than even a piece of____.

How can we hope to recover if our therapists and psychiatrists treat us like babies or worse-like rooks. You can read the poetry book by Gil Fagiani titled Rooks about his time at a military college where the freshmen were treated like ____.

This poet has out now a book El Blanquito in the Barrio loosely translated as a white person in Harlem about his experiences in the 1970s. I recommend you buy both books.

So I feel we have to fight back. The song "We're not gonna take it" comes to my mind now.

It was interesting that because of my earliest experiences in the mental health community-first at a day program and also at a residence in a housing project-I got out and stayed out. I kissed that life good riddance.

The idea that someone with a dx can only be a peer advocate rubs me the wrong way too. I believe we can all be mental health activists on our own terms not on the limits imposed on us by society.

This ties into my Left of the Dial philosophy: be who you are the one and only you.

I'm going to keep this blog entry short because I'm going to write another one when I'm done here. Today's feature will not be a silent movie.

There's this stereotype that if you have schizophrenia and you're not babbling or living on the margins that you were misdiagnosed and don't have a mental illness: that's how low some professionals think of us.

So how does a person fight back? First: you develop backbone. How do you do that? You take risks and do things that give you the confidence to take more risks. You start with one challenge and work on it and next you work on something else.

All the while: you do not give in to the people who say it can't be done or that your role in life is to be a mental patient warming a chair at a clinic or Clubhouse.

Expect success. Do the thing you think you cannot do: to quote Eleanor Roosevelt. Expect respect. Settle for nothing less.

Have a good day.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Breezy Point

Have you ever lost a weekend?

I spent my time yesterday and today working on the second book. It will be published by 2014 and is my latest obsession since the memoir is complete at 369 pages.

A writer cannot not write.

I wrote my Life List on the back of a bookmark that advertised how to create a Life List of things to do before you die. I call mine The Sand Pail List: To Grow Young Again-instead of the bucket list. The idea is that I want to collect memories in the pail and carry it home after a life on the beach.

I wrote a short evocative poem a couple of years ago:

Breezy Point

the little girl
in a red-stripe bathing suit
at the beach
with a blue sand pail
and a box
of ginger snaps

doesn't know
the life that awaits her

here she is--
forever innocent
in a photo
her mother
or father took

she is

and unaware.


The Sand Pail List - To Grow Young Again:

1. Sicily
2. champagne - often
3. driving down the Amalfi Coast
4. Maine for a seafood supper
5. San Diego - again
6. Spain
7. Day trips once a year
8. Diploma in image consulting
9. New School retired professionals writing workshop
10. fashion decorating and organizing consulting business
11. San Francisco - Sausalito - with a free mind now
12. paint oil paintings
13. volunteer work with Special Olympics
14. photography hobby
15. jewelry designer

Do you have a Life List? I recommend you write one on a napkin or a note card and keep it in a safe place for guarding.

Treasure what you have. Dream of a life beyond measure.

Check off your happiness.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tough Enough

Do you wonder who you would be if this hadn't happened?

That was the question posed to me today by a friend. Only because of how my life turned out I'm glad it happened.

She referred to a Buddhist monk who said that our anger is a part of our lives and we must cradle it like a baby. A radical idea.

It was a mix-up: she left a message on my cell saying she was waiting by the elevators only I was waiting by the elevators and she wasn't there. I had the intuition to ask the security guard if there was s second set of elevators and he said yes. So at that point I went to the pay phone to retrieve my messages to see where she was.

Luckily she was waiting for me and hadn't left although it took us an hour to connect.

Macy's truly is "America's Department Store."

I watched everyone exiting and entering the elevators.

The only thing I bought was a pink dot Tommy Hilfiger sheet set on sale: such a cheerful pattern for the summer.

We had this conversation: how we have to accept life on life's terms and go in the direction life takes us.

She understood I was like a scientist wanting to prove cause-and-effect only sometimes there's no reason why something happens only that you have a defective brain.

She echoed my sentiment that we must embrace the struggle.

To not do so you set yourself up for a lot of heartache.

I know these are revolutionary ideas I'm espousing here.

Each of us wanted to live a simple life unencumbered by the pursuit of material goods.

That's why my sheet set is Tommy Hilfiger on sale not Frette at full price.

The friend quoted a folk song:

Tis a gift to be simple
Tis a gift to be free
Tis a gift to come down to where you're supposed to be.

I have no great ambition or heights I want to scale.

Only to keep my feet on the ground and just keep moving.

I made the analogy of someone who has been languishing for years and is placed on Clozaril and has a miraculous turnaround and is forced to confront their old life.

It is as I told you: you do not know what the future has in store for you.

It can be even better than you imagined.

I submit that the struggle might always be there however when you change your perception of what's happening that is when your life will change. Using coping techniques is the way you have to put up your fists and duke it out.

You might ask why it has to be this way.

I have no answer for this. I can make the analogy of characters in a novel who grow and change through conflict. We all benefit from having a certain amount of stress to keep us on our toes. Standing still is not an option.

Do you see? Does this make sense?

When all else fails you head to Macy's for retail therapy because when the going gets tough the tough go shopping.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Silver Lining Theory

This blog entry will be devoted to an endless topic of fascination: hope.

How can I tell you that hope is a competency? Hear me out and decide for yourself whether it is true that your life can turn around.

Life at 30 was far different for me than life at 40 and life in my twenties was unremarkable. The psychic told me I went for years not using my talent and that I was supposed to use my talent in the coming years.

Do you want proof that things can change?

I submit to you this:

A woman living in a 5 apartment: the one good thing about her life in 1993- way back 17 years ago. A life lived in the moment. She attended the Summer Garden concerts at MoMa. Took adult education courses at the Learning Annex. Went back to school four years later in the fall of 1997. Obtained her degree and a good job in June 2000. Four years later started her freelance writing career. Six years later signed a contract with a literary agent.

That was the trajectory of my life in the past 18 years I've been out of the hospital. So I can tell you this: you do not know. You cannot throw in the towel. My life is proof: I remember when I was 28 and that time is in sharp contrast to when I turned 40. This was the time span: 12 years.

I urge you to give yourself the gift of 10 years. You simply do not know what the future holds. Every day is a stepping stone to your goal. Honor the dream that won't die.

My second book talks about an exercise I'll describe to you here: honoring your three selves: the one from the past and the person you are today and the one you'll be tomorrow. Write a letter to your younger self and send her on her way. Start where you are now and have compassion for your struggle. Be scrupulous and mine the rocky soil of the path you're on to uncover your diamonds-the good things you have right inside you to speed you on your way. Visualize a day in the future when what you want has already happened and you are living the life you always dreamed of.

So there: a way to honor the past and the present and the future.

I decided to write about this as a preview to my second book.

The idea for this exercise came to me when something someone said sparked me to examine my life in my twenties. It clicked that I needed to honor myself and to do that I had to reflect on the disconnect between then and now.

Are you still not convinced there is hope? Hope coupled with action makes all the difference. So I will always tell people to do at least one thing each day to move towards a goal.

Today I viewed an apartment for sale that turned out to be too small for my furniture. It had a large closet and a coat closet in the hall. Only the kitchen did not have enough cabinets for my dinnerware and glasses and the living room would not fit everything I owned.

Still: viewing the apartment was my one thing to write down in my greatful journal-oh a Freudian slip that is grateful journal. You get the idea.

Do your one thing today and do your one thing tomorrow and keeping doing one thing throughout the days of your life.

Remember: hope coupled with action will guarantee success. I have just given you proof of this. It is irrefutable.

I urge you not to give in to the voice of doubt. Hold a lantern up to your fear and examine what is holding you back. For people with SZ and other mental illnesses I submit the internal roadblocks are far worse than any stigma.


The phone rang when I was typing and it was a friend who I spoke to about my hope theory. He said it could go the other way and there could be a downturn. To that I said sure it's possible yet it's how you respond to the troubles that determines whether you're successful.

So be it. It is not my role in life to talk about the hell though. There will be plenty of sorrow for all of us in our lives. How do I propose we deal with this? With the courage to live true to ourselves and the understanding that we have everything we need right inside ourselves to succeed.

Every cloud is said to have a silver lining. We must look for the silver lining and stitch it into a coat to comfort us as the clouds pass by in our lives.

Hope is an almost irrational response when there is no objective evidence that things will get better.

One last thing I can tell you is that things might not get better what will change is that you can cope better with what goes on. Look fear in the face and do your one thing anyway. Changing your response is sometimes all that is needed to change your life even when external obstacles will always be there.

So you see.


Take action.

Carry on.