“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim”Tyler Knott Gregson

My big little brother sent me this quote via Pinterest and as always, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, as if in answer to the questions I’ve been yelling at the Universe lately. I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy many things because I have been solely focused on trying to cope using ways that (obviously) have lost a degree of effectiveness. I have been so focused on just “keeping it together” that I have turned blind to simple things that I had once remembered to seek out; tiny moments of everyday miracles happening all around me. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly, a baby is born far too early and fights to draw each breath, yet he fights, and he lives. People die, yet their spirit and the essence of who they were live on; the deaf can hear, the wounded heal and rise to fight another day. A mother does the impossible everyday, bringing food to the table, keeping her children safe yet aware of the dangers in this world. A father works himself into an early grave so that his children can have a better life than he did. So many miracles, unnoticed when I’m so deep into myself, my “troubles” and my rollercoaster of emotions that are as much a part of me as my curly hair and my tattoos. Living with mental illness, addiction and temptation are my trifecta of Troubles. But there is so much more to the world, to me, to what I want to accomplish and who I wish to become. As with anything, I must adjust, adapt and/or accept what is happens to me, around me and within me, but that doesn’t mean that I should disregard the beautiful insanity that is my world. A world where people are still my friends, even after I have proven myself to be less than perfect and wholly human, a world where a man knows me, good and bad, happy and sad, sane and mad and still loves me. Where I have a son who has every reason to begrudge me happiness, yet wishes it for me abundantly and repeatedly; where a friend sees the crisis and helps in the the best way possible, giving me sanctuary from stress, mental exhaustion and emotional bankruptcy….next stop Complete Shutdown. I was able to avoid that next stop and it’s due solely to my friend’s generosity, which I will try to repay, but can’t imagine how I will be able to.

These last few days have been an effort to get back into the River that is Life and swim, just for the sheer joy of it. Spending time being creative, whether it’s writing, coloring with crayons or just seeking out beauty and capturing it in a photo, stealing a moment in time and keeping it forever, unchanged and unspoiled. Just walking through a park, on a trail, really looking at the trees, majestic and tall, decorated in Autumn’s colors and waving to me with the crisp morning wind shaking their leaves. This brings me back; this slowly cleanses away the grime and dust of depression, that black dog who creeps in and lies on your chest until you know you will never rise again. Nature fights that, gives you light and beauty and life, but we need to be aware, to reach out to it and let its goodness in.

Oh – and swim. Just for the love and the sheer joy of it.


A Walk to Remember

Yesterday I participated in the Out of Darkness walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). This is the second year I have walked and both years I have been overwhelmed by the emotions that accompany me on it. There is so much love in the crowd, not just for the loved ones they have lost but for those they wish to keep alive and protect against such a destructive, secretive and shameful act. I say shameful because that is how society (in general) sees it; a coward’s way out, not thinking of those who are left behind, selfish. What they don’t understand and should thank God they don’t, is the pain. The unrelenting pain of simply being alive; the thoughts that drive one to believe it IS hopeless and NO ONE cares, there is no other way and this is THE ANSWER. Depression to me is a magnifying glass to the tiny imperfections and doubts every person has; those who do not suffer from it can put those doubts into perspective, focus on the positive and realize it’s all pretty much good. When under the influence of depression, there is no perspective, no light, no tunnel, no nothing but blackness and sense of doom. This is why it’s so important to be vigilant with our loved ones, family members, friends and even people we just know. Our society seems to encourage independence and if you know me at all, you know I’m all about independence but there is a time and a place for everything and when dealing with depression, independence should take a back seat to seeking help and triage. Get talking with someone, whether in a phone call, Skype, tin cans attached by string, smoke signals, Morse code or Ham radio; the way in which communication takes place is not important, only that it happens.

The men and women of our military are coming home and the numbers of suicides by service members is growing and that is a number we cannot afford to rise any further; these men and women have put themselves in harms way for their country, for us. We need to be there for them. I’m not speaking of the government, although that is the obvious choice, if our world was fair and just and if their priorities didn’t begin and end with their benefit, the stroking of their egos and caring for their own personal agendas. I’m speaking of you and me, Joe Citizen. We can donate to causes that we know support them, we can spend time volunteering, writing letters, sending care packages and being a thorn in the side of the government until they do the right thing, recognize they have a mental health epidemic and get off their fat, entitled asses and take some action.

Sorry – bit of a rant there, but it is something that I have witnessed first hand; the devastation resulting from lack of action and heads deeply buried in sand or up their collective asses. The damage to families, friends, fellow service members and society in general is impossible to grade or measure, as the ripple effect will continue through lifetimes yet to come. Children who will be born without a father to raise them, a father will never get the chance to walk his daughter down the aisle, a mother will have to bury her child, a son will know mother only from stories and photos; this all doesn’t have to happen. We can get OUR heads out into the sunshine, take a deep breath and try in whatever way we are able to fight the good fight against not only suicide, but mental illness left untreated, people suffering because they are afraid of the shame and ridicule associated with mental illness STILL. For God’s sake, it’s almost 2016 and although we can clone sheep, genetically modify food and update our Facebook status every 3 seconds, we still cannot come to the place where we treat mental illness like it is – an illness. Not a personal choice, a personality flaw or a bad strand of DNA, it is an illness just like any other. Cancer used to have the same sort of stigma attached to it but we’ve gotten past that. I would like to write someday that we have gotten past all the negativity surrounding those who suffer with depression, anxiety, mania and all the other flavors of mental illness. We are not to blame and we cannot simply think happy thoughts, suck it up and put on my big girl panties or just get over it. Tell someone who is suicidal to “Get over it” and they will, just not in the way you had in mind.

This walk is a walk to remember; to remember those we have lost, to remember that it effects people of all walks of life, races, religions, social and economic classes and levels of intelligence. This is what its name implies, bringing the issue and those who suffer out of the darkness and into the light.

For more information on mental health in general please visit NAMI.

For more information on our service men and women, please check out the Wounded Warrior Project. Sorry – I tried to add links but couldn’t make it happen.

Thanks for stopping by!

Building Mr. Right

I have been thinking for a while about diving into the waters of the dating world again and as always, I ask myself what kind of man is it that I’m looking for? If I could build Mr. Right what parts and pieces would go into his creation? Kind of like a puzzle but with body parts, personality, moral and ethical laws and whatever form of spirituality he may possess. That led me to thinking about the men in my life; past, present, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, sad, bad & everything in between. What was it about the Bad Boy that made me so weak in the knees? What was it about the Desperate to Please that made me so irritated? Why did I immediately like that guy, only to find out that he was a liar, (note to cheating married men – we can go online to see if your “divorce” actually happened, so quit being dumb asses and telling such pathetic, easily verifiable lies) why is it that the perfectly available, ready to settle down, single guy makes me want to jab my eyes out to break the monotony of listening to this safe, clinically sane man who is more in love with himself than he will ever be with any other human being bore me to tears with his painfully dull monologue about how great he is? All these things considered I came up with the following:

My dad, was of course, the first man in my life and to say that we had a complicated relationship would be akin to saying the sinking of the Titanic was an unimportant event in history or that the parting of the Red Seas was a neat trick (ok atheists – settle down over there) neither does them justice or tells the whole truth. At any rate, my dad had some outstanding traits such as he was a “thinking man” who loved the Greek philosophers, debating pretty much anything and had a thirst for knowledge that was unquenchable. He spoke to me as an adult, even when I was a child. He gave me the belief that I had something to offer in any conversation, regardless of content or who the participants were. He never treated me like I was “just a girl” or “little Princess” (thank God!!!!) so I grew up a tomboy, blissfully unaware about gender roles, as they applied to me. I was able to hit the speed bag just as well as my brothers when I needed to blow off some steam; Dad knew that my temper would be my downfall and tried to give me healthy ways to deal with it. However, Dad was also an alcoholic for the first 20-some odd years of my life, was an unhappily married man for most of those years (yeah, my poor choices in men are no longer a mystery) and I’ve been there, done that and have no desire to return. So married would go to the top of my “Non-Desirable/Deal-Breaker Traits” list.

All of my five brothers were the next important men in my life and I could fill a book with what they taught me. But the traits I admire the most are their very unique and individual senses of humor, their tenaciousness and ferocity in protecting those they love. They are good husbands, fathers, uncles, friends and of course, brothers.

My first husband, who taught me that I was worth loving, that there was a man in the world who could look past all the Crazy and see something worthy of love; that man had patience beyond saintly. He was the first man who would have stuck by me through better or worse, in sickness and in health; truly until death do you part. So naturally, I was terrified that I was responsible for yet another person’s happiness and blew that relationship to smithereens. However, all I need to do is look into our son’s eyes to know that it happened for a beautiful reason, a wonderful gift of life and love. He has since remarried and is living happily, hopefully drama-free and enjoying the life he chose to live.

Along with my brothers, my dear friend JJ would be the next hugely important man in my life; because of him I found the courage to seek out sobriety, to see myself in an entirely different way and to appreciate the small, beautiful, everyday things that I’d always taken for granted before meeting him. His friendship was solid gold, true blue and forever; no false platitudes or sugar-coating from him. You never had to ask him what he thought because he would just tell it like it was, the good, the bad and the painful to hear because it was true.

The other men I’m just going to let them remain nameless, to protect the guilty and the innocent alike. One of them, let’s call him Walt, always loved taking off on spontaneous trips (which I would never even consider) to places nearby for a weekend or even just a day. On the down side, he was a freak off his leash, meaning he couldn’t keep “It” in his pants. Another man, who we will call Tom, taught me about living life Post Divorce, how to survive when your kid is in another state, with another woman raising him, who is a complete stranger. This man had infinite patience with me and more love and kindness than I could have ever hoped for. On the down side, he was married, so yeah. You see the pattern, right? Good stuff, not so good stuff. There are more men who taught me to enjoy fine wine, music I had never listened to, books I’d never read, movies I’d never seen. The varied and infinite degrees of love, the different chemistry, the short or long lasting fascination with each other; all different, but all playing important roles in the Story of My Life.

So, to sum it up, I would love to meet a man who is patient, fearless, loyal, kind, generous, not married, hopefully sober with a great sense of humor but doesn’t take himself too seriously, is forgiving, loves and appreciates the small things in life, has some battle scars and war wounds but is a survivor, a fighter fighting the good fight. Of course, he can’t be perfect, so he’ll have some flaws or some issues he’s working on, as we all do. Or he snores, leaves the toilet seat up, turns the toilet paper roll the opposite way I do or doesn’t put a new roll in when the old one runs out and instead sets the new one on top of the empty one? Maybe he has a Man Cave that no cleaning products or vacuum cleaners are allowed in. Maybe he likes gangster rap (hold on; that may be a deal-breaker) or listens to Fox News (ok – maybe another deal-breaker) or maybe he cross-dresses. Who knows? The point is that there is no Mr. Right; there certainly is Mr. Right Now but we’ve met and he’s not for me.

I guess I’m looking for Mr. Right for Me.

Moving and Doing and Being

Moving – Sorry I’ve been lacking in posting here, but I have been keeping busy packing, moving, unpacking and sorting, etc. for the last few days. I am officially done and couldn’t be happier to say that. My new place is much closer to work (reduced freeway time – yay!!) and closer to most of the family, which is always a huge plus. Speaking of family, I would not have been able to move, had it not been for my siblings. They were absolutely incredible, hauling and loading, never complaining and helping me yet again. I am so fortunate to have such fantastic and generous brothers and sister. I think that family is one of the reasons why I have been able to work through so much unpleasantness in my life. Family is the safety net that’s kept me from falling from great heights to my death; they have supported me when they didn’t agree with my choices, told me when I was being unloving towards myself and encouraged me always to speak up for myself, communicate what I am feeling and share my gifts, whatever they may be. I have never felt that I was unloved or alone, thanks to my family.

Doing – I am looking forward to celebrating one full year of alcohol-free living in November and am more excited about that than I am about my 45th birthday the following month (although I am pretty excited to hit 45, come to the end of the Mayan calendar and celebrate Christmas all in the same week) I feel much stronger in my recovery and am again so thankful for everyone that encouraged me to make the change in my life and find myself in the process.

Being – growing up in a large family sometimes feels like you are never an individual, only one face in a sea of many. I always wanted my own space, my own room and my own toys. What I failed to realize is that all those people around me would be my best friends, my therapists, my champions, idols and counselors in the decades to come. I can always have my own space when I need it, but as I grow older I have come to value the company of others that I truly love, admire and enjoy. None of us know how long we have to walk the Earth, but I do know that I will spend as much time as possible telling the people I love how much I love them and how grateful I am for the gift of their friendship. I am working on being in the present more, looking back less and not worrying about the future so much that I miss right now. I am working on balance in every aspect of my life and I believe that is a never-ending, constantly changing job.

There’s nothing quite like a fresh start to get me feeling confident, happy and open to change. I hope those of you who are able will come by and check out the new place, have a glass of juice, coffee or tea and make some new memories in my new home. In the meantime, keep on keeping on and thanks for stopping by.

My Heroes

As I’ve said in previous posts, I do love my comic book superheroes. I admire their strength, their dedication to fighting crime, protecting the innocent and being extremely awesome, all around. But I also have some real-life heroes that I have always looked up to and loved. I’d like to share with you a little about them and the reasons why I consider them heroes.

My very first hero was my mother. She faced many challenges long before I was born and it wasn’t until much later in my life that I learned of a few of them. She was patient with me, (which was a superhuman feat, considering just how far I tested that patience and how often) gave me unconditional love, tried to educate me about morals and faith; she represented to me what it is to have true faith. Her strength of personality and her dedication to her family was amazing. She has five sons and two daughters and to say she had her hands full would be a gross understatement, but she handled it (I thought) with grace and always with love. I’ll never forget the time that I was freaking out (that’s putting it kindly) having a grand tantrum and she very quietly got up, went to the kitchen and came back with a large pitcher of very cold water, which she proceeded to throw in my face! Exit tantrum and enter shock. It had that effect. Stopped me cold and only then did I look into her eyes and see the anger and frustration. But she never raised a hand to slap my bratty face, though I’m sure the thought crossed her mind. She was the first person to show me love, real love and faith.

My second hero was my father, for altogether different reasons. He treated me like an adult, told me all about computer programming, his day at the office and all sorts of other things I couldn’t understand at my pre-teen age. I inherited my love of books, of logic and of the study of the human condition, as well as my work ethic. I worked for him when I was thirteen and learned data entry, along with how to consume insane amounts of coffee throughout the day. He was a complex man and as with most complex humans, was never truly appreciated for his gifts, as they came with their own set of complications, for lack of a better word. He was a man who was sick with alcoholism, but was somehow able to heal himself and emerge with his True Self in tact, having battled and successfully slayed the beast through his own strength of will and enormous faith.

I have admired all of my six siblings, for different reasons at different times in my life, but they all have one common trait that I am so grateful for; they never gave up on me and to this day, encourage me not only with their words, but with how they live their lives and meet the challenges that Life presents to them.

My sister has been my second mother for all of my life, as well as having to share a room with me when I was an absolute and unadulterated slob. She visited me during my hospitalization and talked to me as if I was a normal person, not in a mental hospital for suicidal idealizations. She has been that kind of mother to not only her three children, but to all of us. I know she had to sacrifice a great deal of her childhood to shoulder the responsibility of watching over her siblings, but she did the impossible, with grace and love.

Brother #1 (birth order, not order of favor) is the most responsible, down to earth, loving man I have ever met. He watched out for me and watched over me all through my childhood and when I first heard the expression “still waters run deep” I immediately thought of my brother. He is father to two gorgeous children, husband to a woman who is his equal in kindness, love and faith. He is the hardest working family man and I still feel like a little kid whenever I’m around him. He is quiet, but his strength is there, always.

Brothers #2 & #3 are the closest in birth, with only 18 months between them, if my math is correct. They are totally different in personality, one quiet and retiring; the other, outgoing, outspoken and in constant motion. Both of them have been great older brothers to me, allowing me to tag along with them and assault them with a barrage of questions and requests, but guardians and partners in mischief. I can’t imagine any of their friends thought it was a treat to have a younger sister constantly showing up, but they never said a word.

Brothers #4 & #5 are also very different in personality, but as my younger brothers, they were alternately tortured and picked on by me, but God help the idiot that tried to mess with them; I would make certain that said idiot would see big a mistake they were making, trying to mess with my little brothers. They have always been there for me and always and without fail, provide support and love to me. They have given me courage to overcome so much and I count them as my “big little brothers” for they look out for me as well as my big brothers.

I could go on and on about my family; I love them all and admire them for their strengths, their ability to survive, adapt and overcome all that they encounter. We are a tough bunch and although we don’t always agree, we never stop loving each other. This is no small feat and is a rarity these days.

My best friend from forever ago has watched me kiss the edge of insanity, come back and then go out again so many times, I would think she’d be able to write a book about that itself. She has been a single mother from a very young age, yet is the best mother to all four of her children and represents the best example of unconditional, unwavering love. She has stood by me through thick and thin, been my partner in many adventures during our younger years and has stayed the truest friend I have to this day. She is my hero for being a strong woman, but also for thinking for herself and not letting ignorant people’s opinions stray her from her chosen path. She is unconventional, unapologetic and the most beautiful woman I know, inside and out. She has dealt with disappointment, heartbreak and obstacles with a determination that makes steel look weak. She has my friendship for always and forever and is my soul sister.

These are a few of my heroes; I have many more and perhaps one day I will write about them. For now, I will have to leave you with this thought:

You are a hero to someone; you may not know it, but by your actions or your words, you have given someone the strength to carry on. By your kindness and praise, you’ve given someone hope for happiness. By your unconditional love, you’ve given life to the realization of someone’s potential. By not walking away when things get tough, you’ve given someone the most precious gift of all, your time and your faith in them.