Sunday, January 18, 2009


There's an expression, "mad money," used to describe money you earmark to go wild with every so often. I've given myself $15 every two weeks to do this, and thus the clothes I bought yesterday when I was paid. The pants are coming out of the last remaining money from the job I lost at the end of December. I tell myself, I tell you, that this is it, yet how can I be sure? Especially when I saw what I call a beautiful "date dress" to wear out on dates in the spring. Maybe I can do that. It's too cold now to want to travel in this frightful weather.

A co-worker years ago gave me a Laundry spaghetti-strap dress that a friend had given her and when she tried it on, it didn't fit, so she gave it to me. It needs to be taken in under the armholes, so I do that tomorrow when I take the pants to be hemmed. The dress is black wool with an embroidered design and fits beautifully, is elegant enough to wear to a book signing [hopefully my own] or gallery showing.

Next Saturday I risk showing the landlord the peeling paint and asking her to repair the ceiling so I can paint the living room. The sooner I can paint it, the better. Because I want to host my own birthday party in April, and I'd like to have the Tiffany blue walls by then. I'll invite a crowd that can spill into the dining room. Maybe Mom can cater it, I'll see.

Remember how just three or four entries ago I wrote that sometimes the detours are necessary? How prescient that was it appears now. I've decided I'm going to roll with it, rock-and-roll with life. So I want to have the party dress on hand, ready to slip into at a moment's notice.

Yet the idea that a person can be in control at all times is flawed. We do the best we can. I would rather talk with a friend at a coffeehouse than schmooze at a cocktail party, even though I'm a Classic. I'm not into that whole deal-making ethic, the "corner office, I've arrived" kind of mentality.

The idea of singing my own song appeals to me because I fought for the right to be free. The Judy Mowatt song, "Sing Our Own Song" was my anthem in the 1980s even though it referred to South Africa.

Ah, pinstripes. I have a pair of brown pinstripe pants that I wear in the fall and winter. That's a creative twist on the pinstripe suit I wore to the interview that got me the job at the law firm. I'm of a different stripe, always have been. Even today I muse on the idea that music energizes me, cheers me, and I could listen to iTunes radio for two hours. Because I can't live without music.

It also helps me cope with the blues, uplifts me in this review period. I like the image of designating an "off-season" shelf in a closet for our feelings we need to let go of to make room for new ones. A new image I use along with the apothecary chest where I place each feeling in a separate drawer. To visualize this enables me to let go and let life. It's not so overwhelming after all. Everyone has feelings. In Mercury retrograde, I've revisited things and today I placed the feelings on the off-season shelf.

That's as far as I'll go without talking about what I actually felt, as that belongs in a therapist's room. Understand that things like fashion and music and keeping a journal are coping techniques, as well as creative visualization, which works wonders.

Friendships help, too. Today I met the others at the Spanish restaurant for lunch. I nearly fell asleep in the cafe afterward, so decided to come home instead of going to the theater. You do what you can.

Eddie, Ana and the others are my good friends. The diagnosis was the ice breaker, and after that, it was their personalities that hooked me. They're good people. We spoke of how others are snooty, won't even say hello to you. Some of us were abandoned by our friends after we got sick. I pretty much go my own way and as the song goes, "get by with a little help from my friends." [My chemical friends, too.]

I'm a reverse snob who doesn't expect so-called normals to understand, the people who covet living a straight-and-narrow life yet ironically pigeonhole those of us who do our own thing. We're not this indistinguishable blob. Each of us has her own quirks and traits and feelings and life experiences that make her who she is.

The revolution will be televised if I have my way. My memoir, Left of the Dial, will be published in due season. The waiting is the hardest part, yet I'll gladly wait for that day. It is something I quietly work about going towards.

I want to help others find their voices. Hopefully my memoir will inspire others to come out of the closet, take their advocacy on the road, so to speak. I consider my role in this lifetime to educate others about what it's like to live with SZ.

This is it, folks, this is all I have to give you: one woman's life, on display like fine china.

The table is set and dinner's at eight.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just Like Honey

In the 1980s, a band Skeleton Crew had a song with the lyrics: "There's no convenient time to break your neck." Ah, so true in all regards. When is it ever easy to face a hardship?

In the last couple of days, I've come around to accepting that things are the way they are. It's my "one thing" motto: you're here in this life to do one thing, and in the next life, your role is to do something else. So to hate yourself in this lifetime, to beat on yourself, isn't healthy. You're given what you're given: traits, a personality, quirks that make you, you.

So the sooner you give up resisting your nature, the better off you'll be in terms of your mental health.

Riding the train into the City today, I wrote in my spiral-bound notebook to keep the thoughts from pouring out. As I did, it was clear to me that I'm not responsible for what other people do or think, and I don't cause them to be hateful. I understood that they have "agreements" that determine what they think. These agreements are actually hang-ups about other people that are a reflection of that person, not you or me.

The one thing I realize is that some people have an agreement about what's acceptable, what's normal and what isn't. That's why is such an antidote, it gets you to question how far off on the fringe people with SZ are compared to those of us with tongue piercings, tattoos and other hallmarks of unconventional, free-spirited expression.

Marilyn Manson is the gold standard of weird.

As I write this in here, it's also clear to me that no one else dare judge us, and for you or me to sit in fear of being judged and thus conform, act counter to our true selves, ah, that's the bane of every creative person: to be forced to wear gray flannel when she'd rather browse a thrift shop. That's what I'm getting at: there is no normal.

Someone who has an agreement with himself that he knows what's acceptable and what isn't is often the kind of person who will judge you or me if we don't agree with what they believe, or follow their doctrine. So you see it's exhausting even to talk about narrow-mindedness, let alone experience it out in the world.

Part of what I've been grappling with in the last couple of days has been the reality that when I was younger, I had no tolerance for the residents I felt accepted learned helplessness. Right now, as of today, I forgive myself and feel the need to protect and respect others. I get the sense that my role is going to change in the coming years and I will quite possibly go back to school for some kind of therapy degree.

The Jesus and Mary Chain lyrics come into my head now, for the song "Just Like Honey": "Look at the girl/As she takes on half the world." Those Brits were my favorite band in the 1980s. I'd listen to their album, Psychocandy, on vinyl at midnight in my bedroom, when everyone else was out of the house and I could listen to the music, really listen, as if it held the secret to life.

I salute anyone who dares take on half the world. And now I salute the ones who take on their recovery in whatever way they feel works. As I rode the train home, a space started to free up where I could allow everyone in.

Again I'm reminded of the woman with the shocking blue eyeshadow. I'm pulled to see beyond the surface, to wonder what's going on in someone's head, in her life. Who is that stranger on the train and where is he going, where has he been? Curiosity can be a good thing. Certainly having a healthy imagination allows us to envision possibilities, weather the doldrums. [As long as it doesn't run wild.]

Can you imagine a day just like honey dripping goodness? My friend couldn't go to IKEA, so treated me to lunch in the Asian place. I was direct with her; I didn't dice it up. My tears flowed over the grilled lobster. She told me, "You're a rock star, honey." I didn't protest, though when you look up the word hot mama in the dictionary, you see a picture of her. She has done great things and I respect and admire her for taking those risks.

No, no, no, I couldn't judge someone who wanted to accomplish something and set out to do that not knowing whether she would succeed or fail, would fall flat on her face. The wounds another person tries to inflict on us because he's insecure we don't have to let cut into our skin. Years later I can forgive "Tony Rome": the guy who baited me because I told him I wanted to move to Brooklyn, and he said I was "a yuppie that got fumbled out by a waiter in a restaurant so popped into the meeting to blast everyone with her feelings." I call him Tony Rome because he was this suave guy in a navy jacket and casual slacks, and there was something very Frank Sinatra about how he looked. Didn't Ol' Blue Eyes play Tony Rome in the movie of the same name?

Watch out. Listen up: Mercury is in retrograde; what the astrologer woman I met called a "review period." The feeling that everything is sliding backwards is doubly felt with Mercury retrograde. In two weeks Mercury turns direct. You could feel differently; however, I feel there's something to astrology that can't be discounted. Of course, I wouldn't do something or not do something because the stars foretold it would be a lucky or unlucky day.

Thus the subtle philosophical bent to what I've been writing lately, this kind of reflective mood, going within to draw strength in a time of uncertainty. M. rang late last night and we talked on the phone about how people are getting depressed in this economy,. "Some people are turning to alcohol," he knew. It's not a good scene. Everyone gets the blues. Everyone hurts sometime.

This isn't how I intended JM to take off today: down a dark road. So I'll switch gears and tell you what absolutely lifted me after lunch in the Asian place. Shopping. Yes, retail therapy. It's called retail therapy for a reason. After I left the store with a cheap yet beautiful camisole and another gorgeous blouse [for warm weather], I felt good. Real good. I exchanged the pants for a different pair in a smaller size. Ana said, "Cheer up. Do you know how many people would be happy if they were tiny?" Of course. Yet she knew I worked it; my fitness didn't come naturally to me. Oh, I can't have a tub of Ben & Jerry's every week like I used to in my thirties, when I first moved here. I'm 43, and a cupcake every now and then is pushing it, the most I can do.

It's true: when you turn 40, you have to reduce what you eat, and exercise more, to maintain a healthy weight. Kate Moss isn't someone to idolize unless it's only her fashion sense you covet. To have legs as skinny as measuring tape isn't healthy. To be a hostage to the number on the scale isn't healthy, either. Yet I know how it is to feel sh*tty about your weight because I was once 20 lbs overweight when I first began taking the Stelazine in 1987. It took me six years [yes, six years] to lost that weight and in the long-term, I kept it off.

It's a struggle to get up everyday and fight the good fight. You could be a good soldier and feel nothing's going to come of it. Yet I urge you to soldier on. These are soul-testing times, more so for people diagnosed with SZ or other MIs who have to fight harder. I urge you not to give up. In this review period, take stock of where you've been and how far you've come.

Better days lie head.

And if you want to treat yourself and you like Loft, I recommend you go. They're having some good sales. "You gotta love a sale," Ana chimed as I pulled things off the rack.

Keep up a positive spirit.

As I wrote in here recently, sometimes the detours are necessary.

So why not look smashing as you wait for the tide to turn? Run errands in that cute top or abolish your sweatpants as you sit typing at the computer.

Here's looking at you, kid!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gentlemen's LSD

You heard it here first: "Gentlemen's LSD" is all the rage in the New York City area, according to a Channel 7 news report on the TV I saw while at the gym earlier. It comes from the root of a plant and causes the men who use it on their lunch hour to see things, hear voices and see dead people. Funny, so-called normals want to get psychotic. Will wonders never cease, it's now cool. I don't mean to sound glib, though of course this is how it sounds. What's the appeal? I'll never know.


Again, I'm tempted to come back because the bait is so appealing:

I would rather have 10 good years on the drugs, instead of 50 psychotic years.

Chances are, if you don't take the drugs, you could die of suicide [10 percent of those with SZ do] or have a greatly reduced life quality.

Besides, irrespective of the atypical I'm on, I'm at an elevated risk for heart disease that I had long before going on the Geodon. My grandmother died of a heart attack, too. I'm willing to take this risk. Life holds no guarantees. You could get killed in a car accident.

You have to recognize the statistical odds of getting a heart attack from taking an atypical, and if that's related to a side effect such as weight gain. Do you feel as I do that outsiders have no idea what it's like to live with SZ every day? It's so easy for them to suggest we stop taking our meds.

Sue, the psychic, told me I was going to live a "long, long time" in this lifetime. She obviously had the inside track. A woman in my writing workshop suggested that creative people live longer because they're involved in the things they love. This is undoubtedly true.

It's not about the number of years in your life, but the life in your years.

The truly alarming reality is that people with SZ die much earlier than other people do, and the side effects of the drugs, such as weight gain, can't be pleasant to live with.

So what do you do? Choose psychosis? I'd rather be dead.

Good Eggs

There's a guy, a good egg, remember that expression, "a good egg?" He calls up every so often and I invited him to my New Year's Eve party. Last night he wondered why I don't crack and I told him the medication works. It's one way to keep the sensitivity in check, yet I failed to mention the other facet: maturity. With the years, you develop a backbone or otherwise you're reacting to the real and imagined slights other people hurl at you instead of coping with it.

You're human, you were given tender feelings, and maybe with the SZ the feelings are in full bloom all the time, you're sensitive to what goes on. This is all the more reason to take the meds every day as prescribed. To seek balance. I take with a grain of salt when others [usually outsiders] criticize us for taking the SZ drugs because of the harm they do. Given the chance to achieve my goals in life versus not being able to function, the choice is clear, right? I'll risk my heart health. Isn't that the insensitive thing, to suggest we should choose psychosis as a way of life?

If our critics had a choice, would they choose psychosis? So why do they expect us to be OK with being barely able to function? It's our right to be healthy. Some critics believe it's a person's right not to take meds and live life as he chooses, even if that means the voices return or the delusions take over. Do these people really think there's something wrong with wanting optimal mental health? They should only know what it's like to have to choose.

Wow, listen to where this blog entry has gone so early in the morning.

I'm a good judge of character and I can tell a "good egg" from a rotten one. My intuition is solid. Of course I'll get revved up when someone implies, even in a subtle way, that sickness is an acceptable alternative to taking the medications. Or maybe I'll read into things because I'm so passionate about the benefits of the SZ meds.

Hey now, nobody criticizes people for taking diabetes drugs that cause heart attacks, do they? All drugs carry risks, it depends on what risk you're willing to take. The reality is, someone with diabetes has a ton of drugs she can take as alternatives, and people with SZ have a limited handful of good medications.

More drugs are coming on the market for us every year and so there is hope if one drug you take now causes weight gain or has a side effect. Change has come slowly yet it is coming here soon. Corlux is being investigated as a drug that can prevent and reduce the weight gain associated with Zyprexa. New drugs in the pipeline aim to reduce the cognitive deficits associated with SZ.

So there, I switched back to SZ and that goes against my better wishes yet sometimes it's possible it will benefit you. Analyzing things rather than getting worked up about them is what I strive to do when I devote air time to SZ in JM.

My intent with the Blog Roll is to give you the ability to listen in to other voices.

Sometimes, my words will blow like a weathervane in the direction of the wind.

Thus I hope you get some benefit. OK, I'm going on the record: I'm only human, I'm going to break my vow every now and again. Besides, computer text is in itself flat and each person reading it will interpret it in her own way. So when you see me go to the loom and weave in elements such as the SZ, feel free to chuckle and say, "There she goes again." La, la, la.

In one of the other blogs I link to, the blogger suggested people with SZ are expected to identify themselves with their symptoms as the automatic response to what happened to them.

Folks, that's the only thing I'm trying to say: if you are true to yourself, you will recover. You are not a schizophrenic, you are a person with traits and quirks, a personality all your own, with hopes and goals and dreams, and failures as well as successes, just like anyone, just like any human being who doesn't have SZ.

Just sayin'.

The blogs I link to are written by people who have the courage to be themselves, who get up every day and fight the good fight to live the kind of life they'd like to have.

Besides, a journal is a journey of days, and as such, one's sentiment can change day-by-day.

So please understand sometimes I will write something on Tuesday that I contradict on Saturday.

Now I will gracefully segue into the quotidian:

The pants will be returned tomorrow as I don't want to take the train into the City today. Instead, I run to the bank and do my laundry, and go to the gym later.

In New York City, we've had North Dakota weather all this week. It's supposed to be only 20 degrees today, so I'll dress in layers to keep warm. Tonight it goes down to 6 degrees. Brrh.

A good egg gave me the recipe for perfect scrambled eggs: keep beating the eggs in a bowl to fluff them up before pouring them in the skillet. A favorite dinner I used to cook a couple years ago was something I called an "egg scramble": an egg omelette mixed with cheese that always came out a scrambled mess, yet tasted so good.

Today I will cook an egg scramble for lunch in honor of the guy who is a good egg. I'm not as good a cook as he is. Heck, I tell people I can't cook, yet I do, even if I consider cooking chicken and brown rice and a vegetable to be hardly anything. Some people are truly challenged in the kitchen and consider bringing home sushi a culinary event. More power to them. I will always profess I can't cook, but who am I kidding?

My mother could've opened up an Italian restaurant, she is such a good cook. Alas, I didn't inherit her love of cooking. I cook dinner only because it's necessary in order to stay healthy. I do what's easy instead of using recipes with 10 ingredients. I hyperventilate when I read cookbooks because they're overwhelming. The only one I loved, which is long out of print, is Verdure, a slim Italian vegetables recipe book with fresh, simple offerings.

In my hands, a whisk is a weapon of kitchen destruction. I once bought a whisk thinking I would use it [wishful thinking] and finally donated it to Sal's years later when I realized I would never bake a cake, or do anything remotely needing a whisk.

OK, I'm writing in here to delay going outside. Must buckle down and get ready to brave another day of frightful cold. Luckily it's sunny outside, without a breeze.

Warm wishes,

Thursday, January 15, 2009


"The weather outside is frightful."

I leave in an hour to travel to see Dr. Altman.

I'm going to make this a D'Lightful day because what else can I do?

"The reality is . . ."

You get up each day and do what you have to do.

Would like to request that if you know of any good blogs written by people with schizophrenia [they could be schizophrenia blogs, though they don't have to be] I'm interested in getting the URLs so that I can read them and possibly link to them.

I feel like you absolutely don't care that I'm buying a pair of petite dark jeans or using a salad spinner to create crisp, fresh salad. I would love to branch out and make Joyful Music a truly memorable blog you come back to again and again for comfort like a cashmere sweater.

So because I'm one person with her own slant, I want to read, and I'm sure you'd like to read, people with other perspectives. One blog I can't link to because of my involvement with the Connection, otherwise I would link to her in a heartbeat.

If you write an independent blog, however, I'd love to consider you or someone else who keeps their own private blog to include in my list of links. Key word in that sentence: independent. I've just finished creating a Blog Roll for you to enjoy of links to other blogs. A new one is Ashley's who I link to because I want her to be included. She's a good soul, so surf on over and read her blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia.

Yes, I want to spice it up. Give you a multiplex of options to choose from. I will review the latest blogs and post the ones that could be of benefit or good humor.


Dr. Altman doesn't mince words, or do the soft shoe. He told me: "People are moving back home to their parents, losing their jobs, their homes. People who have a rent stabilized apartment like you would stay there forever."

He urged, "You don't want to get depressed. Paint your living room a color to cheer yourself up, as long as you're going to be there even just six months or a year." And so I have it painted in February.

That was all we talked about. My last words were a zinger of a quote I've written in JM. We barely focused on the SZ.

It was so cold that my fingers are still stiff even now that I'm in my apartment.

Last night I decided how I wanted to apply my makeup after seeing Eva Longoria Parker in the November Allure. She is the most beautiful woman in that picture. So I copied the dark brown and beige eyeshadow she wore, with my pink lipstick, the Clinique Pink Chocolate. Eva wore a L'Oreal lipstick called Dune which was more of a beige yet I got a similar effect so worked it to go see Dr. Altman. It is a point of pride to show up to his office looking pulled-together.

Where I was the other day a young woman had that theater makeup on that I used to wear imitatinig Siouxsie Sioux, the iconic goth lead singer of the Banshees. It was this counter girl's look and I accepted her as she is and didn't consider it hurtful, because I pegged her as a Trendy who was pulled to express herself that way, much as I did in the 1980s. Though I wasn't a Trendy, I was displaced, cut off from my true self, a lot sicker and in the grip of SZ.

Today I can accept people as they are without expecting them to change to conform to my view of how they "should" act or look. At best I'm an arbiter of positive change and I'm not a judger; I respect others and feel everyone needs to be given the latitude to express themselves.

So, I see the dainty woman with the scary face, and remember the girl I was, hiding behind the Siouxsie mask because I was hurt, and it was the only way I knew to get attention. Having a breakdown pretty much signals to others that they can't act like nothing's wrong forever and had better take action right now.

I find it fascinating that women use their faces not only as a canvas but as a diary of their feelings; at least, I did this. Siouxsie subverted convention and her beauty was only magnified: those violet eyes! that alabaster skin! How dramatic and appealing to young women who felt less than beautiful compared to others, as I felt compared to the other girls who seemed to have life at their feet.

It truly is a D-Lightful day when I can write like this, show you a facet of a young woman who had SZ, early on in her life. It was 1995 when I stopped wearing theater makeup. Years before that, a woman I hoped was my friend, who I orbited around, told me, "How can you expect to get a professional job if you wear that garish makeup?" It was then I understood what I had to give up. The loss of this loss close to 20 years later is a victory.

Once a month I travel into the City to Dr. Altman, and he observes me, his hazel eyes a mirror. I told him what I wrote in here applies to my life as well as my recovery. I accept this with grace and am aware that each day I have to earn this good fortune. I seek to be impeccable with my words and actions, to give to you and others my best self.

It was like a test three nights ago when I was applying my makeup: I wanted to see how far I could go, and I couldn't go beyond the pale. Blue eyeshadow should absolutely be illegal, girls. Paula Begoun got that right. Don't go to the cosmetics counter if you have the urge to buy Proenza Schouler blue. I don't care if Dick Page created that color, it has no place on any woman's face.

It seems like Trendys own the world, or at least determine what you'll be wearing or doing next. I'm not keen to adopt every new fashion, like those peasant tops I abhorred when they flooded the racks in stores years ago, or the boring sweater coats Mom bought me because they were on sale for $9.99 at the end of the trend.

Acrylic: No. Cotton: Yes.

Mustard: No. Red: Yes.

Sneakers: No. Loafers: Yes.

And so on. And so on.

Such are the "rules" I have for fashion. I understand that to most women wearing jeans and sneakers is perfectly acceptable, and that's their right. It doesn't mean they don't care, it just means they don't see anything wrong with it. Whereas I feel better if I dress better. It's a personal thing. To each her own. So be it.

This is where I get the idea that the StatCounter is dropping fast.

You know I'm fascinated with fashion. It gives me great cheer to dress stylishly. "Less" is the way to go in makeup and jewelry It's like a hobby to invent new outfits from the clothes I already own. "Shopping in your closet" is indeed the prescription image consultants like Mary Lou Andre write for spicing up your look.

Hey, maybe in my fifties I'll make good on my goal of obtaining a diploma in image consulting. Maybe not. Either way, you can see it's a refrain I've come back to time and again in JM.

Wow. An hour spent writing in this blog has distracted me from the SZ. Now you see why I'm a big fan of "living your joy" or talking about your passion.

I'm going to sign off before I skirt too dangerously close to the edge of reason.

It's Rosa's birthday today.

Time to call her on the phone and sing "Happy Birthday."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beautiful Disaster

Alas, the senior woman on the first floor who signs for my packages has made friends with the UPS guy and she'll be sorry I'm not having anything delivered again any time soon.

That's real life in the big City. I've seen the UPS guy; she tipped him the money I gave her when he carried the jewelry mirror up two flights of stairs to my door. It was an extravagant tip.

The pants that arrived are loose and don't fit properly; I return them on Friday to a Loft store in the City. Instead, when I get the credit, I buy the J.Jill petite dark jeans.

I titled this blog entry "beautiful disaster" as a hook, because those evocative words came to me as I was writing in the spiral-bound notebook last night. The economy is a disaster and my living situation is status quo, yet I felt it was time to accept that my life is moving along like a turtle.

How much slower can it go? I feel the urge to fill up my days with activity again to counter the doldrums. The Chills, a New Zealand band, had a song, "Doldrums," whose lyrics were, "The benefits arrive and life goes on." When will the benefits arrive and why do I have to wait?

The economy is in the toilet and I see no upswing any time soon. Painting the living room seems like it would be an acknowledgment of defeat. I've been in the same place 10 years, and to live here another three years is stretching my patience.

This feels entirely too much to reveal, and so I'll keep other sentiments to myself, as well. Except to say I realize that the situation is far worse for far too many people in America today. And that is a crying shame when Wall Street hasn't been accountable for its excesses and ordinary Americans are losing their shirts and their retirement savings. We entrusted others with our money, and they went out and bought $6,000 shower curtains, and our stocks plummeted.

Maddening. Whatever happens, I refuse to work retail. Shortly I'll sign a book deal, and that should give me some peace of mind to make the leap out of this apartment when the time is right.

The reality is [and I begin a lot of my writing in the notebook with this expression, the reality is] it could be a lot worse. I'm here today because of the courageous action my mother took. Tomorrow I see Dr. Altman and I'm honest about the subtle shift. Although it's hard for me to admit that things are better and could continue this way indefinitely.

You get only one life to live and then in the next lifetime you're someone else, so as hard as it gets while you're here, I suggest you find pockets of hope to contain your expectations. It really can turn around. You just have to believe, even when taking it on faith is the biggest leap.

I'm a skeptic who needs things signed, sealed and written in stone.

I've wandered away from crediting God in any of this. It doesn't sit well with me that he doles out our fortunes or suffering. "He gives us only what we can carry," a woman told me last night. I don't doubt that. You must remember that as an outsider looking in you have no proof that other people have it easier, it only looks like they have it easy. I aspire to carry my cross in private yet that could do a disservice to you, to others, to the ones I'm here to help. Jesus accepted his cross, and I accept mine. I'm not going to go creeping to that cross. I will bear it with dignity.

Will continue in this vein for a little bit and then segue into something light and bubbly, like champagne for the soul. For now, I hope I'm giving lyrics you enjoy listening to tonight as you surf through JM. Am I skipping in a groove? Is it too much? Do you wonder at the fairness of things? I go back and forth between wondering about this and not giving it any credence.

Sure, life isn't fair yet it doesn't matter to me that it isn't. That's just the way it is, and so I deal with it. You can't change what happened, you can't go back to the way life was before. What did I have? Nothing. It wasn't until I returned to school that my recovery took off.

As I've said before, the tide could turn at any moment. I'm telling you this yet really I'm convincing myself it's true as I type it out in here. One thing you can't do is write the ending of the story before the story's even begun. You have to give it time.

Open your heart to yourself and be kind to yourself. It isn't over by a longshot, so keep the faith. You don't have to believe in God to believe in yourself and that things can change. There, I've said it: if you believe in yourself, that's all that matters: if you believe you will have a good life because of the actions you take, if you feel it's in your control.

So chances are it's goiong to happen: I'll publish my memoir, you'll recover to the best of your ability, life will go on and you will find joy in living.

On that note, it's time to carry on.


Flash: Mazzy Star's on the radio on Sophie with "Fade Into You," an old classic. I'm surprised the station revived the song yet it sounds good even today. I used to play Mazzy Star on the radio and I bought their albums on vinyl. Their lead singer Hope Sandoval has a haunting voice.

I also like Nelly Furtado.

Had wanted to continue the music and now I have no energy, the bubbles have fizzed in my brain and I feel like snoozing.

Must go to bed.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bird Alone, or A Votre Sante

The salad spinner works like a charm, so I'll fix a salad with the chicken for dinner. It's well worth the $20 I spent to have crisp, fresh salad.

I'm reminded that life is measured out in coffee spoons, to quote the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the classic T.S. Eliot poem you can Google and read on the Internet. Today before I saw Dr. L, I ducked into Starbucks for a Signature hot chocolate and a duet of mini black-and-white cookies. I had arrived early to the Island. She is a true professional.

It's a Tuesday I just want to be alone. I wrote tomorrow's Connection blog entry, so surf on over in the late morning and enjoy it. For now I reach out and type in here, telegraphing the day's mood.

Yesterday I was in tears in the therapist's room, sitting on the beige couch, as I voiced my regret that I can't have children. Oh, I could. I choose not to because of the risk my kids would develop SZ, a genetic trait that runs in my family.

My grandmother's cousin had a break after she gave birth to twins, and her husband took the babies and left her, claiming she would be an unfit mother. My Mom's cousin has full-blown paranoia and he lacks the awareness that he has an illness, so he believes his delusions are real.

Aunt Millie, my grandmother's sister, wouldn't take elevators and was afraid to ride the subway. She lived in the same first-floor studio in Flatbush for 50 years. Shortly before she died, my cousin drove her home from a holiday gathering and said, "When you go inside, turn on the lights so I know you're okay." Aunt Millie replied, "I can't turn on the lights. They'll know I'm home."

That is the legacy that was handed down to me.

So I take comfort in my niece and nephew, glancing at their photos often when I'm at the computer, their pictures right in front of me on my desk.

I've chosen not to tell them unless it becomes imperative that I do so because their life depends on it. I want them to see me, their aunt, and not a sick person. I love them more than life itself, I love them the best.

This is going to be a short blog entry as I don't feel outgoing tonight, able to compose something sparkly and punchy. Sometimes all of us have to go within, or go to the wall, or wherever we go to retreat in solitude with our feelings.

One thing I want to end with. The last words my therapist told me last night: "You have a gift."

We all have gifts, and that is what matters: to use them wisely, and for the benefit of the world.

It's been said, "The life that is unexamined is not worth living."

I have a different take on things: "The self that is not expressed is the root of most unhappiness."

Be jubiliant. Live glorious.

A votre sante.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Jingle Jangle Morning

The radiator jingles like a tambourine this morning.

OK, folks, I bought a salad spinner so I can make salads at home and bring them to work instead of buying $8 salads every day from the tossed place. This in an effort to slim down my spending.

Also, luckily, I simply can't buy any more clothes because I don't have room for anything new in my drawers. The armoire I've dubbed my "casual closet" because it contains the jeans, capris, tee shirts and hoodies, and yoga pants.

My love of organizing energizes and calms me at once. Would love to be a professional organizer when I retire, just one of the things I'm passionate about.

I've settled on Old Pickup Blue to paint the living room, hopefully I can do this in February or March.

Just three full months until I know whether I'm staying here another three years or moving out. All roads lead to staying here and painting the living room.

A friend came over yesterday and I cooked us tilapia with lemon herb sauce. It was a good dinner. We explored the shops and I confess I bought a great pair of athletic pants to wear when I run errands or go to the gym. They were cropped and I wouldn't have to hem them, so I felt I'd better snap them up, plus they were attractive.

So after this, no more purchases, I aim to conserve cash like I'm sure everyone wants to do in this economy. I hear we may get another tax rebate and if so, I use it to travel in June or pay the literary attorney when I sign the book contract.

Really can't consider moving out of this apartment in July, even though I want to. Staying here would allow me to save up more money towards the down payment on a co-op in three years.

You take it as it comes and roll with the punches, lie low until the opportunity is right to make a change. I told my friend life could change on a dime though right now, as of January 12, 2009, I can't see anything different happening to enable me to move out of here.

"You have a beautiful apartment," she reminded me.

And so I paint the living room Old Pickup Blue to enjoy the space while I'm here.

What does it matter? It matters to me.

I've begun working on my second book. I would also like to write a third book.

Yet now I want to walk away from it all, from the advocacy, from the endless focus on SZ, I want to be recognized and given credit for my other talents, like decorating an apartment, like organizing, like doing board work, having a job. Because I want to talk about my passions, about real life, not about the hell, not about the pain.

At my New Year's Eve party, I lifted my champagne glass to toast K, telling her that her forties would be the best years of her life. The tide could turn at any moment for all of us. Wasn't there a book titled, "How Much Joy Can You Stand?" What would happen if we had ongoing, unadulterated joy?

It would make the hell that much more bearable.

This is my ultimate goal: to give you joy, as much happiness as I can infect others with, too much joy to counteract the sorrow. Because who am I kidding, I'm well-known in the mental health field and I'm not going to walk away, tempting as it is.

Do you see what I'm getting at? The idea that there's more to life than the diagnosis. It's true "the only way out is through" yet I'd rather talk about music and fashion and the things and people I love.

A woman told me I have a refreshing point of view. It is a world view filtered through the lens of my recovery because my ethic is also that between me and the SZ, I'm going to be the last one standing. So because I'm willing to cheerfully duke it out that's how I've come about this tendency to look on the bright side.

Would you like me to tell you exactly what happened on that night in 1987? You'll have to read my memoir, Left of the Dial, for details.

Yesterday my friend and I sat at the dining table, with the good dinnerware and the stemless wine glasses, and the intricate flatware, eating the tilapia and talking. And I told her, "How many people cross over and come back? Don't you feel grateful that you came back?" And she understood I couldn't minimize what we'd gone through, what any of us go through, what you went through or anyone struggled with.

Yet because I'm here, still standing, it is a victory to live just for today where I am, relatively free of the worry, an ordinary person going about her life.

You get only one life in which to please your soul, only this one, so make it a good one before the next life comes around and you're somebody else with other blues.

Katherine Hepburn is quoted, "You cannot change the music of your soul." My soul's music is a song of better days, always hopeful. Though right now things are in a holding pattern, I'm determined to maintain a positive spirit because keeping the faith lightens one's load and being pessimistic is a negative, burdensome energy.

You can choose to see the glass as half full even when you're not convinced it is, and that will determine how feel about your situation, and it will give you hope when there's no evidence that things will turn out for the best.

Do you see what I'm getting at? I don't doubt it's hard, each of us takes The Hardest Walk every day when she wakes up in the morning and goes outside to greet the new day. The Hardest Walk yields the greatest benefits. You place one foot in front of the other, you walk down the road in your blue shoes, and every day you get halfway there, and the getting there is the reward, because when the end of the road comes, that's the end. Am I saying that life is a road we walk that has no destination?

Yes, recovery is a process, not an endpoint, as it's often said, and recovery is the journey down life's road to self-acceptance and happiness and peace. You recover when you're true to yourself, that is, you discover yourself through recovery and you recover by discovering yourself.

I would rather read about the person, what she likes and dislikes, his goals and dreams, if red is her favorite color, if his violet eyes turn gray when he wears a certain color shirt, and so on. Now you get the picture.

For the record:

Green is my favorite color.

I drank three beers and danced on the kitchen table at my friend's house when I was in my twenties.

A third pile of books is stacking up on the floor in my living room in front of the bookcase. I love books, books, books.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Traveling Shoes

The blues are a pair of shoes you travel in, down roads in your life.

Sometimes you go down one road only to find out you've taken a detour.

Yet in life it is often the detours that are worth the trip. Only in retrospect do you realize they were necessary.

The rhythm of the blues is the beat of a drum now.

All kinds of blue weather: the economy, my living situation, other things.

On May 1st, I'll know if I'm moving out of this apartment or I'll remain here.

The closet project is underway. The under bed box arrived. I placed the box with the hangers on the highest shelf of the bedroom closet, which I want to paint a sky blue inside.

The next step is to buy the light-color pants to wear instead of jeans.

You see, this apartment isn't a hovel by any standards except my own. It's a lovely apartment and it would be nice if the landlord would make the needed repairs, so I risk her response when I ask her to fix things at the end of January. Right now I'm on vacation and don't want to talk to her about this, which is fine. The last resort is to contact the housing agency to see if they can strong-arm the landlord if she refuses. It's to her benefit to get the repairs taken care of, even if she doesn't see it that way because she tells me, "I cut you a break on the rent."

So it's all what it is, I wouldn't have been able to live here in the lean years unless she habitually went lower on the rent increase, as she has done. Now it's different, because if push comes to shove, I could move out, and she'd have to make the repairs before the next tenant comes in, so she's screwed either way.

The reality is, there's no bug problem, I have heat, the walls have cracks but no gaping holes, no rats, roaches or mice, and so the housing department will probably tell me to thank my stars I have an apartment under $900 in this economy. They'll laugh at me and send me on my way.

Would love to travel in June, far from this place, take a vacation, slip on my traveling shoes and beat the habitat blues.

The apartment could be so much nicer, really, if the landlord did things like replace the faucets in the kitchen and bath, re-glaze the tub, plaster the walls so they're smooth when I paint. That's the truth.

When my friend comes over on Sunday, I show her the closet and ask her if she thinks someone could paint it, would $100 cover that and then I'd buy the primer and the paint? I'll see, I'll ask around, I could possibly use the painter who painted a co-worker's apartment. To paint the closet is no big deal, one can of paint should do the trick, and I could have it done in early February. Why not?

The clothes themselves are another matter. As I wear out items, I'll replace them with Loft and Ann Taylor, and J.Jill for casual wear, like jeans. I'm tempted to buy a pair of dark jeans from J. Jill next week, so I'll wait and see how things go by the time I'm paid on Friday. I've spent $60 on vitamins and supplements, and $45 on drug co-pays, and these costs are out of my control.

At this point you'll tell me to look on the bright side, and so I will, of course.

Over 500,000 people lost their jobs in December. The unemployment rate is 7 percent. I heard Barack Obama speak on TV today, and he's the right person for the job. When he speaks, you can listen to him for more than five minutes because he's intelligent and articulate. I'm certain he won't let us down. He'll chart a course from which the next president has to steer.

We can't go back to business as usual.

Even I can't go back to the way things were in my life. My faith is my compass as I journey through these dark woods.

The landlord would be able to rent this apartment in a heartbeat to someone who doesn't care about the tub or the ceiling, as long as the rent is OK.

Well, I can't complain: I have a large kitchen with six cabinet doors behind which are three cabinets with three shelves, so I can store the dinnerware [two sets] and the glassware [martini glasses, fiesta glasses, champagne flutes, stemless wine glasses]. I also have space for the bowls and the Tupperware containers of rice and couscous.

So, you see, I have that along with a dining room as well as a living room, so that's not shabby, right? Exactly. How many people have all the housewares items I have? As a Taurus, I like to collect beautiful things for the home.

There, you know something new about me: I'm a Taurus, and I like to entertain.

So much to tell you. It's a distraction from everything else. That is a good thing, because on Thursday I see Dr. Altman. It's been too months on the higher dose. So far, so good.

Things can be changed if at first you decide to change them. It's been revealed to me what's not working. Life holds no guarantees. The tide could turn at any minute, in any area of our lives. It has gone out for me now. These are austere times, as they are for everyone.

I accept what I can't change, and change the things I can, and I'm wise enough to know the difference, as the saying goes.

Life goes on. Always, you do the best you can with what you're given. You have all the traits you need to succeed, right inside you.

Has this blog entry gone on and on? Would rather talk about my passions than about the emotional weather. I live for the day when I own my own co-op and can paint the walls and decorate and host dinner parties.

For now, I change my perceptions of this apartment because it really is OK to live here, all my friends love it. "And how many people in the City have a dining room?" Ana reminded me. And a kitchen with tons of cabinets.

You are amused by all this, perhaps.

You shake your head and wonder why it matters to me when I have a roof over my head and a job that won't go away.

Go on, laugh.

Love. Live. Laugh

That's all you can do. That's all anyone can do.

As we weather this financial storm, I hope you are OK, really, I hope you are OK.

All I can do is give you some joy. Open the front door to my life and welcome you to a bright spot in your day.

So I hope Joyful Music is truly a joy to read.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Let Go, Let Life

This is all I have to give you: my story, my books. I have nothing else. That would be a lie. So I talk about recovery as if it's something possible for you, because of my experiences living well with the SZ.

A frightening word, a scary diagnosis. And in the end what matters is how you approach life, with the courage to fight stigma by being true to yourself.

We are not our symptoms. The reality is, if someone gets help immediately, it's possible the symptoms will go away and not return.

So how can I preach to those people outside the choir? Ordinary folk watching clothes go round in a laundry center. Lonely people waiting at a bus stop or on a train platform. Your three-hour airplane buddy.

R. feels, as I do, that it's our duty as recovered individuals to educate others. I have only this to give: a message of hope, a positive tale of what happens when psychiatry gets it right.

To act like I can barely roll out of bed, to deny that luck played a part, to discount these things, would be disingenuous.

Yet this year, in 2009, I want the focus to be on other people, meeting people of all stripes, to be active out in the world. Also, I risk painting the living room so that when I do come home, my soul is rejuvenated, my outlook brightened.

It's hard for me to take it on faith, all of this, especially the downturn, yet it's not rational, just something felt as true. You take it on faith when you don't believe. Faith is almost irrational. You're going out on a limb when there's no objective evidence that things will get better.

It's a hunch, an intuition.

Yet it's the best way I know to deal with the uncertainty, to let go of the need to be in control at all times. Faith. I like the sound of that even though I'm the kind of person who wants things signed and sealed and written in stone, I'm a doubting Thomas, a real skeptic.

This blog entry touches on my year of faith, because I'm going to "Let go, [and not necessarily Let God]" and embrace the possibilities, and Let Life guide me.

Let Go, Let Life.


Hallelujah, I'm cured. A quick trip to the podiatrist and I can walk again, whereas for two weeks I was limping. He did his thing, and now I can walk.

In what instance does waiting a long time to take action ever result in a favorable outcome when it comes to your health? Hmm? Hmm?

Now I can return to the gym and pound the treadmills, because it no longer hurts to bear down on my right foot. I will go on Saturday after work.

Imagine, a lot of people wait forever before seeking help or treatment. A lot of people also take their meds or vitamins or supplements whenever they remember, or whenever they feel like it. It's hard for some professionals to believe I take my meds every day, as prescribed, and haven't missed a single dose in 17 years. The reality is, most people engage in partial compliance or else stop taking their meds entirely.


The book title "Let Go and Let Life" exists, so I'd like to read it sometime.

I dreamed up the expression, "Let go, Let Life" and it's not original, boo-hoo. Oh, well.

I can't wrap my head around Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. It's presumptuous of him to assume most people are ego-centered and need to be told how to live, and that we have to go outside ourselves to seek fulfillment.

My take is that more people would benefit from being kind to themselves as well as others, and forgiving of themselves.

Tolle says what other people have already been saying, but he's rambling and unfocused and all over the place. It's been said before in a clearer, more direct way. I don't get what the fuss is about Tolle. I have my ideas, and I'll keep them to myself.

Lastly, who is he to tell us how to live our lives? To give up the self is one thing, to be self-centered is another, and it sounds like a judgment to tell us we're all universally self-centered and need to let go of our bodies, our connection to the earth.

So what is A New Earth about? Darned if I know. I couldn't get past the first paragraph, and skimming other parts of the book left me wondering, "And his point is? And when will he get to the point?"

Oprah's star-making talent could turn a pet rock into a warm-and-fuzzy love guru. I take with a healthy dose of skepticism anything she professes.

In the O magazine, a freelance writer proclaimed, "The atypicals appear to be weight-neutral," and I hit the floor, I wrote a letter to the editor stating that all atypicals cause weight gain except Abilify and Geodon, and that Zyprexa caused people to gain 80, 90, 100 pounds or more and thus caused diabetes. A retraction of the writer's comment was published a month later, stating that only Abilify and Geodon are weight-neutral.

As you can see, sloppy copy editing abounds at some magazines.

So it eludes me as to why Tolle is being touted as a spiritual leader or guide.

That's all I'll say on the topic.


We had a holiday lunch at work, and I ate so much that I'm still full at seven o'clock in the evening even though we finished eating lunch at noon. I simply can't eat anything else, and will wait until nine o'clock when I'll pour a bowl of cereal and take the Geodon.

One sweet woman saw me eating the chocolates and she said, "You're skinny, you can eat chocolates," so I left it at that though I don't consider myself to be thin, not at all. To me, Kate Moss is thin. Everyone else tells me, "You're skinny," and I don't know why.

I'm going to the gym tomorrow to pound the treadmill, so I'll burn off the calories.

I can't eat one more bite tonight, so I wait until later.


Already, there's been an improvement: I dressed well at work this week except for Monday when I wore the faded Loft jeans [though with a black turtleneck and black jacket]. Today I wore a skirt I bought three years ago and hadn't worn until now, with black tights and a black wool sweater; the skirt is a nubby weave.

I want to be taken seriously, and I feel better when I dress better.

That's how it is, plain and simple.

You get treated better when you're dressed sharp. It's also a sign of respect for the person you're talking with or interacting with if you're well-groomed. Sometimes, a person doesn't have control over how they look, and people are supposed to accept them anyway, yet the truth is, shabby clothing conveys the wrong impression. It also gives the idea that you're shabby towards yourself.

Ah, I've skirted this in here.

Please forgive me if this sounds a certain way.

I admit I'm envious of those "living museum" women I see on the streets of Manhattan. I secretly wish I could be dressed like that all the time. Yet the truth is, I have a Trendy accent style and traditional clothes bore me, and I don't have the kind of lifestyle that requires I go outside looking like an executive 24/7.

I can dream, can't I?

Oh, well.

Philosophy, diet, fashion: I've covered across the divide today in Joyful Music.

So I'll leave you now and turn on Sophie radio, and give equal time to my spiral-bound notebook.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Handwritten Sign

Handwritten sign found on the wall of Mother Teresa's room:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered, forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends, and some true enemies; be successful anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous; be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow; do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give your best anyway.

For you see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Woke Up

It's like I've woke up and I'm ready to greet the new day, go out and do new things and see where life takes me in the next two or three years. This could involve meeting new people of all stripes for love and friendship, I'll see where that goes.

The urge to discard the unworkable, unlivable has struck with full force. 2009 will be a 2 Personal Year according to my numerology chart, and I'm glad to be done with the testing I experienced in 2008 when I turned 43.

The setback in not being able to move out of this apartment right away is only temporary yet feels like I'm stuck in a rut, so the key thing is to create changes in other areas of my life to compensate for living here.

And so the painting projects. I've decided I also want to paint the inside of the bedroom closet a light blue, as well as the living room. And I've ordered an under bed storage box to place the hangers in, to keep on the highest shelf of the closet, which is empty. This way I don't have to cart the 15 or so hangers to Mom's. The closet project will keep me going and energize me, as well as the photo project.

Kate's current blog entry [click on the link to her blog, on the right] is right on about getting stuck in negative patterns that we've fallen into, like addictions and "stinking thinking." I realize that what happened to me two weeks ago is out of my control, yet how I respond to it will determine whether I can succeed. I look on the bright side now and I'm committed to reducing spending to counter the effect of losing one of my jobs.

It's all a mindset. The Woman's Day magazine has an article about how resilience is the number-one trait in overcoming adversity, and I take this to heart. I'll be writing about resilience for a Connection blog entry shortly.


Young Frankenstein was good. Afterward, we dined in Ruth's Chris Steak House again. Charlie picked me up and drove us there and back. I will keep things out of this. I will only say it's draining to be around people who are critical. A protest to free Palestine was taking place in Times Square as we walked to the theater. That's the great thing about America: you might not like somebody else, yet they have the right to speak out in a free country. I keep how I feel to myself, yet I know others who will vocalize their displeasure.

People harshed on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and yet I think she's justified in how she went about advocating for the rights of Muslim women. One clitorectomy on a five-year old girl is one mutilation too many. The fact that certain Christians as well as Muslims perform this operation is of no concern to me. I respect and admire Ayaan and think she's on to something. It's all about religion, which is sad, a warped, twisted version of religion, which has nothing to do with faith or being spiritual. I have no problem with her anti-Muslim stance because the fact that other religions practice female mutilation doesn't make the Muslim practice any more acceptable. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's critics question her glossing over the facts, and this doesn't bother me. Either the media selectively chooses its darlings, or not many other people are speaking out against female mutilation.

So you live in America and can say these things, protest on the streets of Times Square or quietly go about your business. I have no doubt the media is a watered-down version of what goes on. I believe the Religious Right get it wrong, as most religions do that parse the bible and other holy texts like the Quran. I'm willing to stand with Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an infidel rather than remain silent and warm a church pew every Sunday and ignore that the Catholic church won't accept my views on women's rights.

Those of us who use our voice to better the world are going to meet resistance. In a second blog entry today I'm going to post a copy of the "handwritten sign found on the wall of Mother Teresa's room," which so beautifully describes what goes on.

To one critic's credit, she got me interested in reading other writers who aren't widely touted in the media. And I don't want to sound like I'm suggesting "silence equals acceptance," because it's each person's right to choose whether or not she takes up a cause, and what that cause is.

My goal, plain and simple, is to be a messenger of hope. I believe in my vision that people can recover from SZ. That's my "one thing" I'm here to do in this lifetime. Ayaan Hirsi Ali had hers, and you will have yours.

I support everyone, regardless of whether they speak out or not. Yet everyone has a voice that is hers alone, and when we find our voices, we're empowered.


There, I've gone from the private to the political in this blog entry.

All roads lead to an awakening in 2009. I feel this year will be one of my best. I'm willing to take a chance on shaking things up, making changes that benefit me in the next two or three years. The setback I experienced was hard to deal with, yet if I can brighten my outlook by brightening the four living room walls, that will boost me and go a long way in giving me joy as I deal with the uncertainty.

One person who lives her life and is authentic, I admire for her courage because being true to yourself is possibly the most radical act of all. It requires a level of honesty most people aren't willing to embrace. So I salute the woman who sits at her kitchen table writing in a journal, or walks up to the mailbox to post a letter, or keeps a blog, or is a mother, or is single. The right of all of us to be who we are is the greatest freedom human beings have.

So, I can tell you it will get easier in your recovery if you act resilient, change your outlook to embrace a better future in a realistic way. To like yourself is a freeing energy and when you like yourself and are happy, it paves a road where there was no road.

That's the ultimate goal: peace of mind, which is a freedom unlike any other.

So I urge you to think about the little things you can do in 2009 that can have a big impact; subtle changes that yield positive results.

Everyone who faces a struggle is a winner in my book, by virtue of their waking up and greeting the new day with courage.

Keep on keeping on, because there is hope.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

How many women scrutinize their clothing choices as much as I do? Hmm? The project on my mind is organizing the closet. Now I want to take photos of clothes to store in an album to see the "new" outfits in the morning when I dress for work.

The weather is cold in New York City in the winter so some of the lightweight sweaters I feel I can't wear now and will wait until March.

It really is true that "Eighty percent of the time we wear 20 percent of our clothes." I toyed with getting a diploma in image consulting; it was some kind of dream in my thirties that fell by the wayside. I could maybe return to that in my fifties. Right now, I have the goal of not wearing the faded jeans to work, like I used to.

What I've learned: it's all in the past, you can change your habits today, the thing is to accept how it used to be, and move on. So that even though something happened in the past, and even happened for a long time, you can change today and the changes can be permanent if you realized that the habit used to serve you well and now it doesn't.

That's what happened when I began shutting the lights at eleven o'clock and going to sleep earlier; I erased an unhealthy habit that had been going on for 10 years. Yes, you can change a behavior that used to be long-term. It's not too late.

And so, as 2009 dawns, I'm committed to working on my wardrobe because I've fallen into a rut. This is where people reading this blog entry are going to scratch their heads and say, "Why does it matter to her?"

I would like to meet people who care about fashion as much as I do. I have a good friend who does, and I covet her walk-in closet. Already I'm envisioning how I want my next apartment's bedroom closet to look and function.

When I was in my late thirties, I went through a deeper kind of this soul searching. At about that time, I donated to the Salvation Army the last of my trendier clothes. Early on living in this apartment, I sent three bags of clothes to Sal's.

There's a web site, Closet Couture, where you can view women's virtual closets. I joined, and haven't uploaded any photos or gone back to peek into their wardrobes. That's a little too much, I'm not that fashion-obsessed though from reading this blog entry you get the idea that style matters to me.

In my memoir, Left of the Dial, I hint at how I fashioned my younger self through a weird wardrobe, and then in the "power blue straightjackets" I wore in business to fit in. The truth is, I did NOT fit in, that career was a mismatch, it restricted my self-expression.

Even today I would rather attend and perform at poetry readings, go to coffeehouses, concerts and see films, read good literature, than rub elbows with executives at cocktail parties where you schmooze and booze.

So you can see this isn't frivolous to me, it's part of my life ethic to dress in fashion, be stylish. Some of us are perfectly fine in Sag Harbor, if that is your thing, more power to you. Wasn't Sag Harbor the clothing line you could find in stores like Stern's?

Fashion certainly makes life interesting. It goes hand-in-hand with music and writing as one of my great loves.

On Friday I order a pair of light-color pants from Loft, because I had to throw out the old pair that had stains on them. This sounds like I'm fastidious, no? Oh, I'm not. I call the kind of women dressed in that style "living museums" because they're perfectly turned out at all times it seems.

Do you know the ones I mean? I'll be waiting to cross the street in Midtown Manhattan, and in front of me I'll see a woman with the expensive leather tote, the immaculate suit, and Cole Haan shoes, with the perfect hair.

Maybe that's just not me.

Maybe it really is OK to wear jeans if I wear them with a dressier top or sweater, or a structured jacket.

You see.

My New Year's resolutions involve clothes and finances. One goal is to stop wearing the faded jeans to work, I fell into that habit that I want to cure. It will take time. I can always wear the dark jeans, right?

In America, denim is a democratic fashion, everyone wears it. Though I'm not convinced I wear it to equally good effect, I do wear jeans to work. Again, like I've said, you can change a habit that's been ingrained. This will possibly make its way into a Connection blog entry, so stay tuned. A previous entry for that web site talked about changing our behaviors, and now I could improve upon it by talking about other changes we could make, subtle ones that aren't dramatic.

My other goal is to cut down on taking car service so that I can save money, too. Now that it's easier for me to take the trains [as long as I have a book or magazine to read], I really don't need to call for a car when I'm going long distances. That will free up $50 each month. I've also decided to dine out only once each week.

Those are my two New Year's resolutions. I wish you well with whatever goals you set for 2009, too.

As humans, maybe we're hard-wired to re-invent ourselves at different times in our lives. I turn 44 in April. So I'm taking stock of where I've been, where I want to be in the coming years, and how I'm going to get there. It's time to discard the unworkable and unlivable things and focus on the new things.

Bringing in the New Year with friends in a joyous party was the perfect segue into this new era in my life. I embrace the possibilities and I'm pumped up to make these changes.

Again, life has a funny way of working out.

I urge you to refuse to give up because there's always hope.

Hope keeps me going when the odds aren't good. I love a long shot.

When I turned 40, I wanted to be married, and not any more. That's OK.

What I do want is to retire when I'm 55 and do something else, and everything I do now leads up to that. Will I go back to school for a second degree? It motivates me to keep striving for this, even if it turns out it won't happen.

Keeping that hope alive is something I do to live through what I'm going through now. If it doesn't happen, that's perfectly fine.

Either way, fine-tuning my wardrobe and my finances will rejuvenate me in ways that matter. "If you can't please your soul," you'll wither. All this frivolous stuff isn't really frivolous.

It's kind of a victory, too, because when I was a lot sicker, I dressed in odd clothes and wore theater makeup, so investing in a wardrobe now is like coming home to myself.

I would love to know if any of you women out there feel this way.

On that note, I'll end this blog entry as I feel I've been circling around things.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Seven on the Dot

Hey, it's seven o'clock on the dot as I begin typing in here.

I left my friend's early so I could go home and buy cereal, Kashi GoLean, before the market closed tonight. "I just want to be alone," to quote Greta Garbo.

All these projects swirl in my head for the apartment.

One: send the hangers to Mom's to store, take the off-season clothes out of the closet, and store them in the under bed box. I'm envious because Delia had a custom closet built in Christopher's bedroom. When I move out [likely NOT in 2009, after all], I will paint the new closet and organize the clear plastic storage bins in it, and arrange the clothes from light to dark according to item and season.

A goal for 2009 is to stop wearing the faded jeans to work, even though I only wore them with a purple cardigan or a black wool sweater and ankle boots. I saw a neat, dark pair on the J. Jill web site that I will buy in January to wear to work instead. It's a funny thing about jeans: I'm not convinced I look good in them, though I'm certain other people look good in them.

The clothes project is one I work on now. I donate a beige linen shirt to the Salvation Army, or salvage it by wearing a black turtleneck under it, because I was shot in it for a photo and I looked washed out. Beige near my face isn't a good look. It's an ongoing tenet that "classic" colors anybody can wear are beige, navy, black and brown, yet Winters don't look good in beige and brown, only Autumns do. Years ago I used to wear neutrals; however, I feel that makes me look boring, unapproachable, and "all-business" when I want to convey a modern sense of style, not some kind of traditional suiting.

This all sounds, OK, it sounds like a treatise or a lesson plan, doesn't it? Well, 2009 is here and I ushered it in with good cheer last night, and today I went to a friend's for her traditional New Year's Day dinner party, and now I've come home on a burst of wanting to conquer the world, starting with my apartment and branching out into publishing and beyond.

A couple months ago I bought the first issue of Boho, an eco-fashion magazine. That's where I found the Audrey Hepburn quote about fashion, which you can read in Joyful Music by searching within the blog for Audrey Hepburn.

Would like to paint the living room some kind of light blue while I'm on this apartment project. I will do that in July if I'm still living here then. I'm considering some Benjamin Moore swatches I brought home from the hardware store. It could be the color Old Pickup Blue, possibly. I'll see if I can get a painter to do it for less than $400. First the landlord has to repair the ceiling whose paint is peeling.

Life has a funny way of working out.

I'm not sure what the future will bring.

Yet I accept that I can't predict what's to happen.

I can only move forward even though my next habitat is unknown now, the where and when.

Tonight I wanted to be alone, and so I left Zoe's early. I'm reviewing what's in store for the next two weeks. I wanted to be clear on things. I typed up my "Goals 2009" sheet to place in my goals binder to review in the coming months.

This sounds like lather to me: nice, not essential. I've been writing in here about quotidian realities. I'll maybe post photos of this apartment here after I've painted the living room. One truth: I don't want to take money out of the emergency fund to be able to move into a new rental in July, so I stay here. I'm writing this out loud as I type and who knows, maybe when June comes my circumstances will be different and I'll kiss this apartment goodbye.

Am I the only one obsessed with clothes, with organizing things, with work projects like painting and writing a second book?

I'm going to end this blog entry right here before it sounds like lather: nice, not essential.

Happy New Year!

Chin Chin

The lyrics to the Hole song, "Doll Parts," run through my head: "Someday I hope you ache like I ache." You live in each moment, and that is all you have, and it's a truism that everyone repeats because it's true. The idea that someone could know my pain is a strong motivator to educate people so that they understand what it's like to live with SZ.

In pockets of time, I live. The blog immortalizes those moments. Like tonight. 10 people came over to celebrate New Year's Eve. It was K's birthday, so I bought a chocolate mousse cake in the bakery. Jackson Browne was on the radio with "Running on Empty" as I waited in line. The music cheered me. I marveled that I could be able to buy a cake in a patisserie with my hard-earned money. I gave K a card with a Starbucks gift card in it.

Right now I listen to Sophie with great mixes by a live DJ as I wait for the champagne flutes to dry so I can take them out of the drainboard and wash the other items. I went to a 99-cent store and bought four new flutes because originally I was supposed to have 12 people here. The new flutes I like a lot, they are classic, elegant.

Tomorrow a friend has her traditional New Year's Day dinner party so I buy salad fixings and make a salad I can carry there in the Vera Wang silver bowl I bought three years ago with the Macy's gift card Charlie gave me. You gotta love those gift cards. Last year I bought formal dinnerware to make service for eight. One year I bought martini glasses. Another year, overnight luggage.

The ball that dropped from Times Square this year was techno-beautiful, I loved the flashing colors. "Besos, besos," Eddie went around to everyone at 12:01 a.m. The last guests left at one o'clock. I'm glad everyone left early.

Pieces drifted in: "She has a good soul." "She's always composed." "She looks beautiful."

K said she liked my makeup. It was the lilac and beige, the lilac so light as to be almost gray, and the espresso eye liner, mascara, blush and the latest lipstick: a color called L'Amore that's a pinkish brown without being too brown, so it works for me.

I wore a black cotton knit skirt, patent loafers, black stretch turtleneck, unbuttoned white Oxford shirt over the turtleneck, and the light blue lace agate necklace, and the amazonite pinky ring.

Do I wish someone would ache like I ache? Ah, here's the rub: I don't much like to dwell on the pain, which comes and goes, mostly when I remember I have SZ and I suffered a lot in the last three years. It has gotten better. It will only get better.

In the mornings before work, I'm going to start writing the book proposal for my second book, which I'm keeping under wraps for now. The world needs my second book as much as it needs my memoir, Left of the Dial.

Just the memories are enough for me to free fall. It happened, OK? I lived to tell. In keeping with a blog entry elsewhere, I'm going to riff on scenes from New Year's Eve nights in my history.

1. "The Year-End, Rear-End Review of 1986 Record Picks."

The countdown of the most popular indie records played on WSIA that year, as reflected in CMJ's playlists.

2. The last night of 1991.

Amped up in a leather skirt, aubergine tee shirt, fishnets and ballet flats. Drove out to Queens with M. to spend New Year's Eve with her friend, who lived in a jewel box of an apartment. Drove home and stopped in a diner for a 3:00 a.m. breakfast, where I changed into a sweatshirt in the restroom because the temperature dropped.

3. The holiday after I came out of the hospital the first time.

In retrospect, I understand that I hoped against hope that my college buddies would remain my friends. So I invited a crowd to a New Year's Eve party in the basement of my parents' house, where I lived for the next year before moving into the halfway house. I wore black tights, a black cotton long sleeve tee shirt, and the metal concentric circles necklace. We drank Harp's and listened to echoes of the year on the radio. The happiest time of my life faded out along with 1987.


The disc jockey on Sophie has created such great mixes that you could dance to if you wanted to. I listen, I love it.

As the ball dropped and "2009!" flashed on TV, I felt glad that 2008 had ended and the New Year had begun. I truly expect 2009 to be a good one.

Life goes on. I remember going to Red Blazer, a lounge in Manhattan, one year when I worked at the law firm. I arrived solo and was self-conscious, so left after a half hour. Tonight was a good night.

I've switched to WFNX, which is edgier in the wee hours. I can imagine, and I remember, going to night clubs to hear alternative bands in the 1980s. Right now it's a band with the lyrics, "Hey man, nice shot" and the sound of the song brings back memories of that other era in my life.

I want to tell you: your forties are the best decade. My first psychiatrist told me, when I was 23 and had just started out in recovery, "Your thirties will be prime time." He was right, but life doesn't end at 39. I was glad to turn 40. I have six years until the big Five-Oh [I can hear the Hawaii Five-O soundtrack in my head]. So I have to make these years the best.

First up, I publish the memoir. Then I publish the second book. I have some time freeing up in the mornings, and so I will dedicate that time to my books. I have a double-wide file folder with all the notes and print-outs of the things I want to include in the second book.

Life will tell you, if only you stop to listen.

I've learned that all you need is two friends, pizza and a really great sound system.

My world view was shaped by my earliest experiences. I would be a different person today had the SZ not happened to me, and yet I'm the person I always was, even after the diagnosis.

Right now it's David Bowie with "Rebel, Rebel" on WFNX, his best song. "Rebel, rebel you've torn your dress/Rebel, rebel your face is a mess/Hot tramp, I love you so."

In looking back, I love myself. I wrote in an earlier hardbound journal: "The long arm of my memory/Reaches for you dear girl/To pull you out of the trash heap of suburban fright/And plant you on firm soil."

An astrologer who gave me a reading said, "You must have had to dye your hair blue to get your mother to notice you." I told her I dressed in theater makeup and had a breakdown. She believed we choose our natal charts. I have no doubt I knew I had to arrive in the world at 8:02 a.m. Even then I had somewhere to be and something to do, a purpose for being born, and I had to get there at that moment.

It is all what it was, and I won't dwell on it or regret a minute lived. To embrace the struggle, and cherish what life has to teach us, is the ultimate goal. I'm not sure why I'm so optimistic, or cheerful, and not resentful. Though I know I would be this way regardless of whether I had a much harder time of it.

I'm convinced that to be resilient is the number-one trait that bodes well for us in recovery. On the right, I refer to a favorite book, Don Greene's Fight Your Fear and Win. He talks about the seven skills for success: courage, poise, focus, determination, resilience, energy and perspective. All of us can develop and strengthen these traits with practice and via the techniques he describes in his book.

Yes, I trust the New Year will be OK, and that my finances will hold on, and I'll be able to accomplish what I set out to. This morning when I woke up the lyrics to Counting Crows "Daylight Fading" ran through my head. Something about wasting another year. Life has conspired to keep me in this apartment. So in July I'm going to paint the living room some kind of color. First the landlord has to repair the ceiling, because the paint is peeling from the roof leaking.

Oh, well, here's the rub: I find I have no energy to hate myself, or beat on myself. In the last two years I've come to embrace those things that make me, me. The idea of accepting our imperfections, even celebrating our flaws, and honestly, I don't like the word "flaw" because the word itself is flawed in describing those traits that we tend to resist in ourselves and others. Because what is really a flaw?

I'm not a big fan of endless self-improvement as the holy grail of happiness. To live real, as an authentic person, we need to let go of perfection projects.

So this year's resolution, for me, is to manage finances as best I can, and let the rest of my life take care of itself.

"Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed unless it is faced," to quote James Baldwin who unintentionally describes recovery from SZ.

Right now it's Radiohead with "Reckoner," a beautiful, ethereal song. I saw them live at Roseland Ballroom in 1993 when they opened for Belly. Interesting, Belly has come and gone and Radiohead are the darlings of modern rock and have been for years.


The chocolate cake was enjoyed by everyone. Everyone lifted and clinked together the champagne flutes I poured with the Brut Fre, a dry kind of sparkling drink with only one percent alcohol, or some tiny amount. I have two bottles left over because the woman in the wine shop recommended I buy three or four, and that was when 12 or more people were supposed to come to my party.

I toasted K and told her her forties would be the best years.

The song on the radio talks about "waiting till the shine wears off." I doubt the shine will wear off any time soon at the end of this first night.

Here now I'll raise a glass to cheer you.

Chin Chin.