Monday, November 30, 2009

Washington Cop Killer

I hope someone finds this piece of shit and that they throw him in solitary confinement somewhere to live out his days thinking about nothing, doing nothing, looking at nothing, laughing at nothing ... one of those 6 x 9 ft cells with a bed and a pisser ... Or a bed and a drain. I could give a shit what he does. I hope he's bored. I hope it's too loud to sleep and too dark to do anything but sit awake. Sit and think. And go insane. And to die knowing that he was a piece of shit.

I usually try to present my opinions on serious matters with a measure of even-handedness. I try to remove all possible judgment from my mind and my hands as they write. I am fascinated with the legal system and our laws and how we apply them to society. And in studying this area of knowledge, I have learned how important it is to keep an open and objective mind when thinking about the big answers in life. In a court of law, as in a written piece for a blog or publication, it is extremely important to keep personal and emotionally - charged words and rhetoric out of what we present. Once it gets "down and dirty" in the court room or in any other debate, people fail to take seriously what the impassioned speaker/writer is saying. Plainly speaking, I think that when we start hurling insults and personal slurs, we lose our credibility as an opinion-holder on issues that carry huge weight within our society.

Hearing this story about this asshole today pushed me to the limits of what I believe. My immediate instinct upon hearing about the crime is to think Let's hunt down that motherf*cker and kill it (yes, IT). My anger and rage and personal experience, personal relationships, and personal values produced that reaction in me. But I have come to know myself well enough and to know my own mind enough, that eventually I was able to think of what I truly believe and well, think. I simply don't believe that anyone has the right to decide whether or not another human being should live. My main reason is not rooted in religious or moral values (although I have my own faith and values, for sure) as much as it is in my observation that none among us living today is intelligent enough to hold so much deciding-power over another. When I say "intelligent," I mean intelligent in enough ways, while also being compassionate enough, while also being passionate enough about doing what is right for the self and the society, while also being fortunate enough and diligent enough to have been educated thoroughly in ALL the myriad issues that can be involved in such a decision. That is what I mean with the meager word: Intelligent. I think that if such a person existed, well, that would be our God. There is no human being who holds enough talent and skill and feeling, who is also able to weigh those things out in the proper measure for each individual case, for that person to be nominated Decider of Fate.

That being said, what happened to the slain officers and their loved ones, has long been one of my worst nightmares. I grew up in a law-enforcement family. I was raised by a police deputy - turned - 911 operator. A great number of family and friends served and are serving as police officers or civilian staff around our country. I know what it looks like, what it feels like, what life is all about when you are the family of a police officer. Just about six years ago, I fell in love with someone who is to this day a sheriff's officer. I know how it feels to wonder, to worry, and to learn to live with those feelings.

I know what it's like to see the clock approaching midnight, then passing it, when I haven't received a phone call yet ... wondering whether this could be the day that we all dread. I have sat and wondered whether I should go to sleep knowing the odds are in our favor that tomorrow will dawn as it always does, that he will have arrived home safely, just busy, just late. I have woken up on such a morning many, many times. "My" sheriff's officer had wanted to do that job since he could remember, since he was a boy. He admired his late uncle who had done the job. He loves his work, rarely complains about even the worst nights on the job, even the worst atrocities and ugliness that he sees in people, and he remains dedicated to his work. As partner to someone like that, I knew that I could never ask him to leave it. I knew that I would either have to accept it, learn to live with the down side of it, or I could leave. In most situations in life, I don't believe in asking those we love to choose. Besides, I wanted this person to do what he loves and what makes him happy. Learning to live with the job was part of learning to love him.

And most of us do learn. We learn to revel in the wonderful moments that also come with the job our police officers do. I was so very proud to go to a reception at the County Sheriff's Office one day to see my boyfriend accept an award for saving a life (an accident victim on whom he had successfully performed CPR). I love his "gallows" sense of humor, which is clever and dark and devastatingly funny. And I love him for being someone who wanted to help others, while being willing to accept the fact that most days on his job would not be opportunities to achieve awards and accolades; in fact, most days will be thankless and difficult. Some days are boring. There are politics and gossip and pettiness, as with most of our jobs and careers. For every life saved with CPR and other techniques, there are many who cannot be saved. It's difficult to face life and death and violence and ugliness and appreciating and expectation and fear and courage and fighting and drunkenness and always, always the unexpected; it is difficult to face these day after day and still come home to loved ones and family laughing at cartoons on TV and wanting to you to mow the grass. Life "out there" is something that no one who hasn't lived it can never fully understand. Sometimes it's hard to come home to the rest of us and BE one of us. Sometimes, I imagine, it's easier, even fun, to be the one who does just that.

So today, knowing all of this and having lived as the partner of a policeman, I could feel the horror that must have surged through the hearts of these victims' families. When that phone rang, or when someone appeared at their doors (I don't know how it went down), the fear and recognition of what was happening must have sunk thick and deep into their souls. This is the Thing that we all pray will not happen. This is the Thing that we try to prepare for, mentally, even knowing one can never really prepare. I made up my own mind long ago that this was my life if I was going to love this person. I made up my mind that, while it was unlikely this day would come for me (the odds are stilll much better that it won't), I would prepare as best as I could, and then I would let it be. I made up my mind to trust in the training and skillfulness and dedication of the one I loved and appreciate every day. And so it goes. For most of us, the dreaded call does not ever come. For most of us, life does go on, with all the daily joys and failures and tasks and events. For most of us, we do live with it in the back of our minds, but we do not dwell or live in fear and panic. For most of us, we kiss our loved one goodbye and make plans for when that person comes home. After all, there is always a chance that anything could happen to anyone. We all have only this moment Now, always.

But for the families of four suburban Seattle, WA officers today, that moment did come. Their loved ones were murdered this morning in cold blood by a psycho who should not have been allowed on our streets again, ever. I know how I would feel if I were them. I know that I would want to go murder the piece of shit with my own bare hands. That is anger. That reaction is hurt and pain and worry and loss and grief. Up until this morning, I knew exactly how the families felt, but now only a handful of us knows. I pray for all four families tonight, as I pray for law enforcement workers and their beloved every night. May God grant them peace and some measure of understanding in time.

Update 12-01-2009: Associated Press has received confirmation that the shooter has been apprehended by police and killed.

Update #2: A memorial service will be held for all four of the deceased officers at the Tacoma Dome. The service will begin at 1 p.m. on December 8. At press time organizers have said they expect more than 20,000 mourners and representatives of the national law enforcement community to attend.
**If you wish to make a charitable donation to the families of all or any of these officers, it can be sent directly to the Lakewood Police Independent Guild Fund; P.O. Box 99579; Lakewood, WA 98499. Those seeking further information may contact

Where is our Secret Service?

I'm just going to say it. People disgust me sometimes. People in our culture, our "pop" or common culture; however one might phrase it. Usually, I endeavor to ignore idiots and search instead for the beauty and good in people, in the world, in everyday. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to find the good; sometimes it isn't hard at all. When I worked in the so-called service industries, I learned very quickly that although it can be crushingly painstaking to find good people, to focus on the beauty and light of each day ... it is also quite frequently the only thing that keeps me going. My own perspective, my own thoughts and my most personal relationships and exchanges can sometimes get in the way; that is when we are our own worst enemies. Because if my dark mood prevents me from seeing a child or a kind word or a miracle as anything less than what it is, I have lose everything. Just my thoughts.

I'm sure everyone in the U.S. remembers the footage of shoes being hurled by an angry member of the press at then-President Bush a little over a year ago, while Bush was visiting the Middle East. Many of us laughed or expressed shock or even rage about the video. I had to admit the guy's athletic reflexes were in top form. But I recall conversations I had with my dad and others around that time ... None of us could believe that the Secret Service -- once imagined by many to be this clandestine, superiorly-trained, BEST, BIGGEST security agency in the world -- did not step in. From the fair amount of information that I have read and learned about the President's most-relied-upon agents, a flying shoe should never even enter our President's field of vision!! The moment that guy even thought, even considered thinking about, throwing his shoes at the President of the United States of America, eight or ten agents should have been on his ass. But they weren't. One shoe: President swats it and takes it down like a fly. Two shoe: President has ducked already. A seemingly-full, 60-seconds-long, moment occurs ... now the Secret Service approaches the offender, who is already being subdued by members of his own community. WHAT is wrong with this picture?

If the President didn't have something to say about his security agency right then, if heads didn't roll and re-training wasn't embarked upon, then I am shocked. Even if Bush 2.0 is the most self-centered, common-joe type of guy that ever held the office, I would think that his sense of self-preservation (not to mention pride, fear, etc.) would dictate that measures be taken to ensure his future safety. What if those shoes had been guns? Knives? Grenades? Home-made bombs? If I were him, I'd be saying What the Fuck.

I don't know what, if anything, was done to remedy that situation, which really looked like a failure to me. My friends and I went on to discuss other topics, Bush went on doing whatever he did for the remainder of his days in the Oval Office, and apparently, the Secret Service continued its swift decline in functioning. Has anyone ever watched that video from the John Kerry campaign, when a college student was forcibly removed from the room where Kerry was speaking? You might recall it as the "Don't Taze Me, Bro!" video. It's always on the internet and on those OMG! tv shows about viral video. Some big hulk of a "student activist" was basically just being obnoxious and asking too many questions and taking up everyone's time with his verbosity. Before he could even get going really, about 5 Secret Service agents were upon him, physically dragging his ass out of the room and away from Senator Kerry. And yes, when they got him a safe distance away from the candidate, they tasered him when he refused to pick up his own feet.

Well, I'm not here to debate the politics of Kerry vs. Bush vs. whoever. And I'm not here to determine whether that particular tazing (sp?) was in line with standard operating procedures for those who protect our government. What I am saying is ... A college student asks a few too many questions, gets a little out-of-hand verbally, and they physically remove him and taze him for good measure too. But NOW, yes, now-a-days, a couple can sweet-talk God-knows-how-many of our formidable agents and get right in next to our top FIVE in line for the Presidency? Have dinner with them? Cozy photos?

I began writing this post, because it was that couple ... you all know by now who THAT couple is, I am assuming ... who had disgusted me first. I won't name them here, because they are idiots. Asinine, self-obsessed jerk-offs. And they disgust me. But, as so often happens, when a blog post forces its way out of me, this one has taken a different turn. While the Idiots disgust me, the Secret Service really and truly disappoints me. I couldn't be more disappointed if the guy in charge was my own son.

I will take the fame whores of our culture to task later. For now, let's uproot this security agency and investigate what is going on there. If I were a government official, I'd be watching my back.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One of My Favorite Girls

This is a post about a young artist who reminds me so much of myself that I have been stunned and awed many times listening to her. We do not pursue the exact same art, and I can't claim the fame that this young lady has. But I see so much of my younger self in the way she writes her words, the sensitive soul that she reveals even when talking about everyday subjects, and her passionate reflection on the way our shared human experience leaves its indelible mark on each and every one of us... Nope, I'm not a famous musician at all. But when I sit down to write what I write, my aim is to address the exact same type of experiences and feelings and relationships between people as she does. I'm proud to be a "fan"...

Taylor Swift! I at first felt sort of embarrassed jumping on the girl's bandwagon. I guess I felt immature and old getting into her music; sometimes I feel wrong getting into the whole "fan" situation with musicians, especially teenaged ones. However, this teenaged one has sold the most records, won a billion or so awards this year, and she's just undeniably on fire now. Until about 2 months ago, I had heard maybe part of one or two songs by her. My view of her was a sorta-cute-in-a-quirky-way teenaged country singer who is rumored to be dating the werewolf from "New Moon" (actor Taylor Lautner, who is cradle-robbery adorable). But then ...

Her music was just everywhere for me. I caught her on Oprah's show one day and was just really touched by how sweet and genuine she seemed. Her performance on that show and subsequent appearances I saw in a short amount of time thereafter really impressed me with their simple precision. There is nothing sloppy or unrehearsed in Taylor's show. Every time I've seen her sing, play, perform ... she nails it. I would love to see her live.

So I downloaded her cd, Fearless (Deluxe) and I've been listening to it a lot. I asked for her debut cd for Christmas this year, and I was amused by the fact that my father asked for "Fearless" on his list. Impressive, girl! I mean, when you can catch the attention of that wide a demographic, and throw in the fact that neither of us listens to much country music these days (I like old-school country; Dad never listens to country) ... It says a lot about the way her songs are touching people, no matter who they are. I have always believed that the ability to genuinely reach people with your art is one of the true marks of talent. Taylor's songs at first appeared to me as just sweet little ditties about her life experience, love and growing up and being a kid. And they do stand up pefectly well as that. She's only 19, but she has absolutely nailed the "write what you know" skill. She uses everything she has to work with, and proves that no matter who you are and what you have (or haven't) done, it's enough for a true artist to create amazing work.

So to the specifics ... I think my favorite song by T-Swizzle (as celebrity blogger Perez Hilton likes to refer to her) is "Fifteen." Yes, at first I was embarrassed to tackle this whole subject, let alone discuss which one was my favorite song, but fuck that. I've written about it ALL in my life on the blog, so no hiding my favorite song :) Seriously now, if you listen to and really are feelin the lyrics and the passion behind that voice singing "Fifteen," then you know everything about my heart and my experience during that time in my life. In a way, it took listening to "Fifteen" for me even to remember being that girl and feeling those things in an authentic way. There are so many life experiences that shape us that we wall up and lock away forever as we grow. Sometimes they feel too painful to recall. Sometimes we feel like we can't think about what got us to where we are today, for fear of living in the past or for fear of remembering who we used to be. Or sometimes we think that it's just plain immature to remember any of those days fondly, let alone try to decipher how they might have shaped us. But Taylor Swift's song in all of it's perfect lyrical glory, has broken that wall within myself.

Fifteen, being a freshman in high school, being a girl growing up in middle America ... I have a feeling that Taylor's appeal is due to the fact that she has clinched what so many of us felt, maybe all of us who have this shared upbringing. A beautiful and perfectly-crafted poem or song wastes not one word. It utilizes every single rhythm and connection between syllables and words to paint a picture and evoke an emotion. And when it is executed just exactly right, it's a song like "Fifteen." I could go on and on about the technical beauty of some of the lyrics on the Fearless album, but I know not everyone falls to pieces over a perfectly - crafted line the way I do. But Swift's album sales show that many of us are passionate about what those lines set stirring in our very souls.

You know how a main pointer for any good writing is to "show, not tell"? A wonderful achievement in doing so is the song "The Best Day," also on the Fearless album. A sentimental collection of stories paying gratitude to Taylor's family, "The Best Day" shows us the way it looked and how it felt and what it was like to be that girl, in that exact moment in time, exactly what it was to see her world through her eyes. She tells us a lot in that one song about her parents and brother, a bit about her faith and her upbringing, what matters to her in life, and what she used to think about as a small child ... and she does so without ever telling us at all. Rather, she paints us a musical picture so that we are not so much hearing a story about her life, but watching a memory as it is unveiled in the shadows of her own mind. Beauty.

Something that writers, myself included, bump up against is a fear of going there. It's a fear of going into that shadow, into that memory, into the farthest reaches of our mind and then not only sharing it in a story but really letting the reader know what it looked like to us, through our eyes and from the perspective of our very own personal world. If you are going to go for it and really do that, 1.) It's the only way you will write your best, most authentic work, and 2.) You should expect to feel the true terror that is vulnerability.

I've been listening to Fearless a lot lately when I am unable to sleep at night. When it is quiet and my mind is quieting down for the day, I am able to watch Taylor's stories unfold the way they do, and I am able to remember the times and experiences in my own life to which her music relates. I have to hand it to this teenager for reminding me of some very important experiences that I did not intend ever to wall away from my conscious mind; also, for reminding me that it takes this type of courage to stay true to our art. I've been writing more in the past few weeks than I had done in the past three years. So, as you might have noticed, I'm a bit rusty. But also, I'm experimenting with where I'm going to go with my work as I practice practice practice. I couldn't have been reminded of the simple and perfect beauty of a great lyric, song, or poem at a better time in my life!

My favorite line right now from Taylor's music is: In your life, you'll do things bigger than datin the player on the football team [but] I didn't know it at fifteen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If I Knew Then What I Know Now ...

... I would:
1. Get my ass immediately into Law School following my 1999 graduation from college.
2. Finish at the top of my class around 2002.
3. Move to Florida and take the Florida Bar.
4. Practice for a year or two as a Prosecutor before moving into the typically-more-lucrative
field of Criminal Defense.
5. Work hard to make a name for myself defending the accused in Florida.
6. Hear about this horrific story of a psycho-/socio- path mother who murdered her daughter.
7. Hear about this bullshit story of said murderer's attorneys and their plot to implicate the
good samaritan who found the baby's remains.
8. Be available to said good samaritan to take on his case pro-bono.
9. Wipe the courthouse floor with the collective ass of Casey
Anthony's defense team.

Remember: "Everybody hates [defense attorneys] until they need one of us." -- Mickey Sherman, criminal defense atty., Conneticut

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Not-My-Problem Mentality

I'm watching a documentary called "Thin" produced by HBO. It is, as the title suggests, about women dealing with anorexia. I had to start writing right here, right in the middle of the show, because guess what one of the girls is dealing with in the midst of her treatment? INSURANCE!!!!

This country has to change what it's doing. I'm watching this very, very sick young lady -- so sick with anorexia that she has been hospitalized and force-fed over the last 10 years on almost every birthday, plus other holidays! -- and she's being forced to go home by her insurance company, which decides based upon its arbitrary policy that it's time for her to be "treated," time for her to be "well."

When I tell my own story of insurance bullshit to others, everyone thinks it's horrible and can't believe the b.s. that I am expected to pay out-of-pocket for, AND that I got this nice "benefit" as reward for over a year's full-time work at a major American company. And of course am working on my situation now that I am well enough to do so. But I do believe that this, THIS woman's situation, takes the damn cake. I mean, thanks be to God I don't have a condition that causes me to be an inpatient in a treatment facility and incur all of those costs (well, not most of the time anyway)! To some extent, I am able to control when I make my doctor appointments; and when I communicate with most of my docs about my situation, they are pretty understanding. For example, they will try to work with me over the phone and do as much as they can at one appointment so that we can have as few face-to-face meetings as possible. They understand (and have vehemently voiced their agreement) that my situation with insurance is ridiculous, and I'm paying for everything.

But these women! What are they supposed to do? I'll just tell you that the young lady in this example was fortunate enough that her father volunteered to pay for her care after insurance ran out. And I think that's how most people get residential care, whether it is for mental illness, eating disorders, drug addictions, or whatever. Just look at the fancy "rehab" facilities available to the celebrities and their family, the ones we read about like Britney and Lindsay and Mel Gibson have recently gone to. And think about where the "other" people had to go, if you know anyone in your life who has dealt with these problems, anyone who isn't rich like the aforementioned folks.

I've heard it said over and over again by Republicans and those of the conservative mind-set that this type of problem is one that people "bring on themselves." The opponents to change, the opponents to healthcare reform, etc., constantly rail against our society's offering to help those in this type of need. Well, I have a lot to say to those people: Just like nearly ALL of you have taken that first (and second and third...) sip of alcohol in your life, just like nearly ALL of you have done that restrictive diet when you wanted to lose weight, and just like many of you have even tried marijuana and other illicit drugs while out for a "fun" night ... These people who are suffering did that same thing with the same intentions. You should say nothing except to count your fucking blessings that you do not have this pathology, that you do not have this genetic predisposition, that you are not sick from something that crept up on you during normal activities that a billion other people do in their lives.

Just think about it before you take measures to deny your fellow Americans assistance or carry on about how it isn't your problem.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Okay, One More D-MN Political Post ...

...I've been reading a lot today, even more than usual! Is it wrong to spend your day reading newspapers and magazines and books when you are supposed to be studying and organizing medical paperwork instead? I mean, I'm doing some valuable stuff ... It's just that, um, I'm gonna have to work hard tomorrow! ... So, be that as it may, I've been watching the news shows and perusing the gossip sites today. Just catching up on the weekend happenings (I'll deal with Lindsay Lohan in one of these upcoming blogs, ohhh yes). So I guess it's just par for the course that I'm catching a lot of these political issues too.

Right now I'm writing this while partially watching "The Joy Behar Show." Against all of my predictions and my better judgment, I began watching this -- it was a given, um, given that it follows my absolute favorite thing to watch: Ms. Nancy Grace's show. Well, I still don't particularly like Joy Behar's demeanor and persona on "The View," but she is very different on her own show. She seems more comfortable, more authentically herself (not that I know this, but she comes across as very comfortable in her own skin), and the lady does a good interview! So I'm watching, and there's all this business about Sarah Palin, and no, I can't seem to escape politics all of the sudden. Sheesh. I am working on an article right now, the details of which must remain under lock and key for the time being...Mainly because I do not know yet what they are. But a part of my focus is Sarah's portrayal of herself as a victim of a gender-based double standard. Oh, Sarah Sarah Sarah. What exactly is the double standard? I mean, I don't think many would argue that I have many feminist leanings and am typically quite quick to defend my sisterhood on matters where I feel we are being discriminated agains and treated unfairly in any other way. I like to push the limits of what is expected of us ... right now, it's my haircut, next up, who knows? But I don't need to go on defending me. Let my writing and my life speak about that ...

Mrs. Palin feels (or says she feels) that it's a double standard for the people to criticize anything to do with her appearance and her clothing choices, because they just don't do that where men are concerned. But I beg to differ! Yes, I heard a lot of critiquing of Hilary Clinton's brightly colored and questionably tailored dress suits at times. Hell, I was ready to be first in line to take a job as her stylist! I had plenty of better ideas for her wardrobe and what would flatter her! But whatever; because there were loads of people on the blogs and on TV making fun of John Edwards' pretty-boy hair and the rumored cost of his salon visits. People would often criticize our former President Bush II for dressing a little too casually for occasions or places they thought deserved more "respectful" attire. And certainly we have all heard people weigh in on both Obamas' clothing, hair, and overall style. If you haven't, take a second listen. Let's make sure we aren't just hearing what we want to hear in order to prove our hypothesis.

Hate Never Helps ... Do I Really Have to State This Fact???

I just have to "go there" on this one. I don't usually write about politics for a variety of reasons. It's not what I make my blog about, although it is about any and everything, when the mood strikes! Today, I am pissed.

What is the big brouhaha over President Obama and his bow to Emperor Akihito over the weekend? No, really. What is it? I'd love to know the truth of what is really behind this outrage. Because it is clearly not about the bow. The worst of the worst "news" I read about this matter today, which I am definitely not going to publicize by linking to, discussed that No, the bow was not unprecedented ... But when Fmr. President Richard Nixon showed similar respect for the culture in the country where he was a guest, he didn't bow as low. Ah. That explains everything. I mean, if Obama didn't bow, that would not be respectful ... no one had a fuckin' problem when he learned some of the customs expected of him by the Queen of England (oh, I'm sure probably someone did, silly me). It's only when countries of color, of other race so to speak, are involved, that every move the President makes in their company is criticized.

I mean, please. To me, the President's behavior doesn't really even need explaining and certainly doesn't need defending. This, for me, is an outrageous non-issue, ridiculous and deeply personal as opposed to any sort of critique of the man's performance as a leader or a public servant, the public servant. Since Obama was elected, the group that hates him, has been stomping its feet and throwing a collective tantrum. They just cannot believe that there isn't something they can do to make his Presidency not-so! Just like The Rest of Us had to sit there and twiddle our thumbs while W. was in office. If you vote for the one that loses, that is what happens. It takes place every single election in our system of government. But this time, the Bush sympathizers are just so spoiled by their recent run, their recent domination of the country and pillaging of the Constitution and government services ... I suppose it seemed for awhile like that party would never end.

They cannot stand the fact that he was elected. They cannot stand the fact that he was elected and he's a Democrat. They cannot stand the fact that he was elected and he's black. They cannot fathom that he was elected and is now, in fact, working hard to effect changes on his agenda. As for that last point, um, what else would anyone expect the President of a party opposing the last one to do? Every step he takes, every move, is met with shock. They can't believe his ideals or opinions or existence. The campaign against Obama is born of true, pure hatred of the man himself (rather than the type of differences and discourse that have always shaped America and kept our Democracy alive). It is a hatred so ugly that I count my blessings rarely to have seen it first-hand in my life. And I have been even luckier to have experienced it directed toward me even fewer times in my life.

Well ... in my opinion, there is nothing else to say. I don't believe that anyone in his right mind would honestly think that the President is telling us with his actions to "bow low in submission to the other countries in the world," as one editorial alleged. All I could say in response was Give me an effin break. If all you can criticize is that he didn't bow correctly or behave the way you wanted him to in another culture ... Well, that is truly a compliment.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Themes

I've been wanting to get this going for awhile: pick a day or days of the week and on that day post a little bit about a lot of topics that are on my mind or that I have recently written about here or that are current events, etc.

First of all, I had to get back to writing anything frequently, of course! I'm on a roll in that department. I'm so grateful for my loyal blog readers. This little site is just getting off the ground, and there is so much I still want to do with it. My editing and writing need to be polished, and I'm going to do a few things differently with the layout. I had the great fortune of emailing back and forth with a very successful guy who is a consultant; he became successful at a young age and now works with huge companies and makes pretty huge money. His main work is that he consults with all different types of companies and organizations about how they can use social networking sites to increase their sales and other marketing goals. He also has always written blogs for fun. I didn't think he'd have much time to give me any pointers when I contacted him, if he even responded at all, but he did! He wrote me a very in-depth and generously helpful email with all sorts of tips on how to get noticed in the vast sea of blogs and websites out there. Awesome!

So far, I've kept it mostly about the writing and the stories/topics themselves, but I realize that to be effective, the blog has to do it all ... Meaning, I need to have interactive things going on (like Tom's Hideaway -- see my sidebar, to the right -- where you can feed Tom's virtual fish!) and links to Facebook, Twitter and the like. I'm excited to build this up! But I'm taking my time. In the immediate future, it's still going to be all about perfecting my writing and choosing a pattern or a few core topics, etc. If anyone has ideas or suggestions or something they liked on here, feel free to share. It was recently suggested that I submit the two-part head-shaving story to a magazine. I'm in the process of researching which mags it might be best suited for and what their submission rules are. Then I will clean it up and send it. Can't hurt!

More to come later, when I'll be trying out something new...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Part II - The Reaction

In my last post, I related my personal experience of how and why and when I shaved my hair into a buzz-cut, a style I am currently sporting again (albeit a tiny bit longer these days). I did it on a week night, and I was thrilled. I spent that night enjoying the look and feel of my new, spiky, short, light hair. My head felt unbelievabley light-weight. It was insane how many times I was surprised to find no hair swinging or falling against my back. I never got used to it, it seemed.

That year, although I was not altogether unprepared for it, I found out that our heads really do release half or more of our body heat! This is wonderful in the hot summers; a simple splash of ice cold water on my un-mussable hair makes a world of difference. But in winter time, I had never before been so cold! I'm one of those always-cold girls anyway, so I had to think fast of a solution. That was the first year I shopped for new and stylin' hats to wear. It was a lot of trial and error. Sometimes the hats were too itchy (I cannot wear wool at all, not even for a second!), some too childish despite looking "cute" at the store, some too big for my (another new discovery) smaller-than-average adult head. But I found what I liked and what flattered me eventually. It was a new piece of my wardrobe in a way, something new to try out. It is still amazing to me how much difference a warm hat makes when I am cold!

But what you really want to know is whether my worst fears came true ... whether no boys ever like me again ... right!? Well, they did. But some didn't. I wore a hat to work that next morning, for my very first unveiling. It would be in front of the owner of my workplace, a man who had become a second father to me, a member of my second family. I saw him everyday, he had been with me and there for me through some very intimate times, and he had brought out my leadership skills before I even knew I had them. But I knew that he was among the most conservative people in my world. Regarding politics and clothing and just ways of living life in general, the man was Conservative. Our conversations had revealed that his taste in lifestyle was making money, having a wife who mainly stayed home and raised the children and prepared food and laundry for the family, and who looked, well, traditional: longish hair, preppy, etc. Now don't get me wrong, all of you who might sway toward the same preferences. There is nothing wrong with wanting and having these things or this lifestyle. It just isn't quite the same as what I personally strive for. But I don't see myself or my views as better or worse, merely different. My boss was pretty much the same. I had worked for him for years at that point, and he respected me. He accepted me as being "different" to his way of thinking. We teased each other about our differences but worked well as a team. It was like that.

Nevertheless, I was nervous as I approached the door of the restaurant where he was already inside working. I came in, and he greeted me, barely looking up, working on something at his desk as I recall. I remember blurting out, "I need to get this over with and show you what I did." I admit that I was feeling less "liberated" and "excited" and more fearful and like a little kid, wondering whether she would be grounded for something. But feigning the confidence that had deserted me, I whipped off my winter hat: Ta-da! I think I could have predicted his reaction.

"Oh. My. Frickin'. God!" He stood up and began walking slowly around me, peering at each side and angle of my head. "What the hell did you do that for?" But he was smiling. He was surprised but not shocked. Not disgusted. In our relationship, he was usually at least amused by my constant changes of hair color and style or whatever. And that was fine with me. He came from a different walk of life, completely. And like I said, we teased each other but respected one another's opinions. The rest of the business day went along alright, with other emmployees exclaiming when they saw me and asking whether there was a specific reason I had done this. At least half of the people who spoke to me about it said they liked it! My boss kept up the peering and laughing and staring. It was difficult to get used to, for me too.

I could tell, as those first days went on, that people were most disturbed by the fact that they wanted to know what this meant. My own mother took time out to ask me whether I had done this because of any sort of emotional upheaval or upset. She said if I truly just liked it and wanted my hair gone, then she supported whatever. But she wanted to know that I wasn't suffering silently through something and acting out with this drastic change. Oh my! I assured her that it was the former, and that was true.

I can't say that it came as a surprise to me that I became my own walking, living, breathing social experiment. Contrary to what some people think, I never did this to get attention or in order to become such an experiment. I did it for the reasons already explained. I accepted whatever "consequences" came of my choice to do what made me feel the best. The main social consequence was that people always want to talk to me about my haircut. Whether they are curious, admiring, aghast, disgusted, or attracted, they want to tell me about it. A lot of girls I know who have extreme haircuts or shaved heads claim that they find this behavior rude, that they are offended at people's willingness to say whatever they think. That view never occurs to me really. I mean, if you do something that is not average or right in the middle of what is normal, I just think you can expect people to be curious. And their reasons for being curious might be any of the ones I listed. It doesn't usually bother me.

So what about the men? The main thing that women say to me (and it was the same for most of the other females I talked to while researching for this little story) is that they wish they could "pull it off" or "have the guts" or something to that effect. I always am encouraging, telling them how happy I was to try it; but of course, you have to feel like I did or it can be quite traumatic. GUYS, on the other hand, come with all sorts of opinions. I guess it shouldn't be a shock to find that it's often a cultural thing. For example, I rarely meet a black man who does not really like my cut. Black guys in clubs have stopped me to tell me it's "clever" and "sharp" and "hot." None have ever stopped to share their opinion if it was negative. And that brings me to something that really bothered me at first: black women are often seen rocking nearly-bald heads. I know that the whole issue of hair with black women is a huge, expensive, sensitive ordeal, and I'm not trying to pretend I know about that (although I'm excited to go see Chris Rock's documentary, "Good Hair"); so I am guessing that when a black woman grows weary of all that maintenance, that might be a major reason for cutting it all off. But whatever the reason, having extremely short hair, whether it's natural and close-cropped or dyed a shade of blond or whatever style ... that's accepted in our society. When I say it's accepted, I mean, nobody thinks a black woman with a shaved head is punk or counter-culture or rebellious, do they? It's just a style. But when I rock my shaved head, it's like I am explaining here: a bevy of opinions come out, and they run the gamut. And like some of the females interviewed say, people feel they have a RIGHT to some crazy opinions. I struggled with that race issue at first. I couldn't understand why I was being looked at if another girl right next to me with the same exact haircut but a different color skin was being considered "normal." Going into race / society issues is something that I will delve into more deeply another time, because it deserves an entire blog post. But that was one interesting thing and one that I admit puzzled and frustrated me.

Back to MEN. On the flipside of getting a lot of acceptance from black guys, I found that almost NO Latino men had appreciation for my cut. I have quite a few friends of this ethnicity, so we felt free to talk to one another in a real way. They told me basically that they just thought women should have long, luscious hair and in that way be different from men. All the guys I spoke to told me they loved having their hands and fingers in some long, female hair. It was sexy, they said. Fair enough. As for white guys, well, they always say something different. It just depends, in my experience. And of course, to all of these rules, there are exceptions, and I'm sure that if I conducted this "experiment" in another part of the world, I would find altogether different trends. But I was here, in the Chicago suburbs, in the late '90's, and these were the reactions.

I can't say they have changed very much. There aren't as many references to Sinead O'Connor, as she doesn't seem to be as famous anymore. I saw her in a magazine recently, though, and she indeed still has her hair like this. I think I'm more comfortable than some women would be with this haircut, because I have some prominent facial features that are easily made even more noticeable with a little more makeup and less hair. My best feature was never my hair. Nothing wrong with it really, but I also was never attached to it. A close female friend recently told me that she feels her own best feature is her hair; and it IS beautiful. I can imagine someone who feels that way would have a much different experience if forced to lose her hair.

For me, it was not traumatic, but it WAS interesting to notice all the ways that I, as a woman had come to rely on my hair. I mean, we flirt with our hair, we have habits of twirling and fiddling with it, we use it to draw attention away from a tired or un-made-up face. I noticed that a lot of times guys will see long, beautiful hair and approach a woman or whistle at a woman or whatever before even getting a very good look at her face. I began to look at the chicks who were considered classically hot and wonder where they would fall on the hotness scale without their hair. It seemed the ways and meanings that we as a society attach to hair were never-ending. I felt it too; it took some plain old getting-used-to for me to be comfortable without my ponytail.

People look at me. They stare at me a lot more than when I had long hair. Even when they don't say anything, I know that it is because they have an opinion about my head. And of course, people offer their thoughts, more than they did when I had a more traditional 'do. But they are mostly friendly. And maybe I have grown more comfortable in myself, or maybe society has shifted a little bit ... I can't be sure. But recently it hasn't seemed like such a big deal. I have some tattoos, and when they are visible, THOSE are what seem to draw more controversy. And no, I generally do not get hooted and hollered at when walking down the city streets by men I don't know. Drunken bar guys do not approach me as often as they do my longer-haired companions. But I have found that I don't miss that kind of attention too much. It kind of weeds out that type of dude. I mean, for me anyway, I am not so much interested in starting a relationship with a drunk guy whistling in my general direction. It's fun to be flirted with, and I still get that in the right places, but I have just found that there are some kinds of attention I don't need.

If I ever change my mind, there are some very fancy wigs available these days!

I Shaved My Head, But WHY????

Once upon a time, I shaved my head. Unlike my friend Lisa, who did this recently (and whom I called attention to, because she inspires me) in reaction to the fact that her hair was falling out (she is fighting cancer) ... unlike Lisa, I was not fighting an illness. I have known several females who have shaved their heads bald because they suffer from cancer or alopoecia or went through brain surgery ... a number of things that made it more or less necessary. Some have shaved their heads in support of these females. Socially, this seems to make it more acceptable. When the masses find that you have shaved your hair off because of something like those reasons, they feel much more comfortable (like that is a woman's job anyway, to make everyone around them comfortable ... ha). For better or worse, my story was not like that.

And yet, it wasn't meant to make a statement. It wasn't meant to be a rebellion against anything or anyone. I just didn't want the hair anymore. Doesn't anyone else ever feel that way? Also, in case anyone needs a mental picture of exactly what happened, I shaved it only to a # 2 razor cut (if you know clippers, this is one of the guards you can use to measure how short the hair will get). So my hair was not cut to the scalp, but it was very short. For a woman, it was extremely short. Okay, and it didn't help that the very first time I did it, I made one little mistake and took a knick out of the back of my head. Oops. I didn't want that kind of extra attention, but I had to suffer through it.

It all started sometime in the previous year or so. I had a long, dark, swinging ponytail. I wore my hair like that, in a ponytail or tightly-wound bun at least 6 days a week while I worked my job as a fast-food manager. My shifts were 9 hours long, and I had to have my hair up. It wasn't that I minded putting my hair up. I thought it looked alright, I got compliments sometimes -- wait, no, I really did not get compliments on my hair at that time; it was more that I got compliments on things my hair accentuated, like my eyes or long neck. Wrapping that thick-ass hair (and it IS thick) into a squishy bun was the best way I knew how to let it air-dry out of my way. I have never learned to do cool things with my long hair; or, whenever I think I have learned, my hair has not "held" the style I've worked so hard upon for very long. I don't know for sure whether it's me or the hair. And I'm not the kind of person who has the patience to spend more than a few minutes on something like hair.

To tell you about me, and the time I'll allow for appearance-related duties each day ... I remember being 14-years-old and making a decision. I was a very disciplined little girl, always creating schedules and routines for myself. My parents were not as strict with me as I was with me! Maybe they didn't have to be, because I did it for them. In the summertimes, it was like I knew already that I would fall into boredom and despair if I did not plan ahead. It just came naturally to me, no one told me to do it. I find that so peculiar now. But anyway, if you look at my notebooks and journals from that time, I would always have my days planned -- I mean, right down to each hour -- with things like working out, tennis lessons, and working on my annual newspaper, which was a project I did just for fun each summer. And I was happy that way! To this day, there is little more unsettling to me than a day that just stretches out before me with no real plan. Although I have to admit that in recent years, I haven't always been so disciplined, and that is part of my problems and issues now. But that's going to be another post!

So, I was careful and diligent about my time. I decided at 14 that of course I wanted to be clean and pretty and "done" when I arrived at school each day. I wore a little bit of makeup, and I had long hair (a bit past my shoulders) that was highlighted that year. However, I decided that with all the options available to teenage girls (and all of us women) for hair and make-up and styling and fashion, one could spend an infinite amount of time and energy each day preparing. And while nobody said this or taught this to me explicitly, it occurred to me that for me, there had to be a limit. For me, that limit was going to be one hour. I don't know how I reached this conclusion at that age. My own mother, who was my main make-up and hair influence leading up to that time, would probably not agree. I just thought that there were only so many hours in each day for all my interests and priorities and responsibilities, okay? And while I wanted to look good and meet high school boys and all that, I also wanted to play sports and study English literature, and sleep and read and write. So I decided that I would spend one hour each morning getting beautiful, and after that, I would leave it alone.

That worked great, actually! I knew everyday that I had put my best effort into all those little details that we girls like to pay attention to, knew that I had worked my hardest on matters of appearance. As my mother would say, I had "put my best foot forward." If I felt I had spent that one hour doing that, then I didn't fuss over these things or obsess about them throughout the day. As a teenager, this was truly a feat. Because it wasn't lost on me that worrying you had a fucked-up hair do or not the right makeup or whatever throughout an entire school day can be utterly demoralizing at that age.

But back to the year of the shaved head. I was working at the restaurant, going to college, and those tasks pretty much took up my time. I dated a lot, but my priority was not finding a husband or even getting a date for that weekend. If you know me, you know it really never has been about that. My priority if and when I had free time was to get ahold of friends and go out somewhere fun and relaxing. Most of my time was about work, making money and getting closer to that college degree. That doesn't mean, however, that I didn't appreciate anytime a guy would flirt with me. The restaurant drew mostly construction workers, middle-aged family men and families with children. It wasn't a great pool of single guys. The ones that did come in were definitely the type to go for a buxom, long-haired blond, 9 times out of 10, and a few of my co-workers fit that bill. In the flirting wars, they almost always outshone me.

I understood that this was more about the type of person in our "audience" than it was about me, my personality or my looks. It also sucked to wear the uniform I had to wear as a manager there. And despite the fact that I sometimes was bothered by this, it was never at the forefront of my mind or on my list of Important Issues in My Life. I was tired of my hair. I was just plain sick of how long it took to dry, how difficult it was to make it look pretty when it was down, to keep it from engulfing or competing with my rather dramatic facial features (large eyes, big smile, European nose). It has the rather-unfortunate (in my opinion) combination of being both fine and thick. The individual strands of hair are fine and in the winter become staticky and flyaway-y. Yet the sheer amount of hair on my head is thick and heavy when it's long. I felt by the time I had reached my 20's that I was always fighting it. That hour I had allocated for getting ready each morning? I had begun to spend the majority of it fighting and wrestling with my hair. I resented this fact, wishing I could experiment with new make-up looks, drawing attention to my eyes, which usually get me the most compliments. And after I had fought my hair, it almost always came to pass that I didn't like how it looked. So what was the point of all of it?

That was the beginning of the end. One day it just crossed my mind: what if I just cut it all off? I mean, people say this all the time, but they don't usually mean it. Well, I thought about what it would mean to say it and do it. To cut it all OFF. It could be liberating for all the reasons I listed above; I would be free of all the trouble and annoyance my hair caused me. My next thought was, would it be worth it? I mean, really, the social consequences felt like they would be mighty. I have always suspected that this is because I live in the midwest. I don't think that anyone would look twice at me in New York City, for example, as a woman with a shaved head. But in the heartland, where people hold to traditional values and many people still rock their sweatshirts with applique seasonal designs on the front, and stretchy blue jeans, out to dinner ... well, you get the idea. Then, throw in the group that surrounded me, the construction worker dudes and guys from the bank and a few cops who at that time had only one woman on their department. I didn't see how shaving my head would appeal to them.

The more I thought about it, the more desirable it seemed TO ME. And the more I realized that my one sticking point was just that: the social upheaval that I was afraid would come of my actions, especially from men. Now, I have been fortunate to have great women around me, women as friends and family, about whom I never really worried. If anything, they were the ones who spurred me on, before I even showed anyone. I knew my girl group would love and support me no matter what I ever did with my hair. My girls always supported acts of courage and bucking the status quo, whether it was in society or at work or just in one's choice of clothes and hair.

I had to admit it. The only thing that was holding me back was my fear that BOYS WON'T LIKE ME ANYMORE. And guess what. When I realized that was my one sticking point, the ONLY thing keeping me from doing something I wanted to do, something that might be really liberating and fun ... and that was easily changeable, as my hair would begin growing back the minute I stopped shaving it ... I began to be angry and disgusted with MYSELF. So I thought more and more, it's either me or them ... I was going to live and make my decisions based on what THEY might think and how they will react OR I was going to live for me. The choice was obvious. I never make choices for anyone else if it stands in opposition to what I know is good for me, will make me happy.

So I made my decision. One night, when I had plenty of time and solitude, I chopped my ponytail off. I then carefully cut all but little, short tufts of hair off my head. There was no stopping. I plugged in the clippers, and I copped Sinead O'Connor's style. It was deliciously terrifying! I took my time, going over and over my head to get all those plucky hairs exactly the same length. I marveled while discovering the shape and length of my long neck. I could see the shape of my skull. I learned that I had to shave closer on the ridge which did not heal quite right on the top middle of my head (they were still using foreceps on babies when I was born). It was awesome. I was happy with my decision.

Everyone wants to touch a bald or shaved-short head, and I was no exception. It felt so funny to me, and it was fun to touch! You know that phenomenon of how, when you put your hair into a ponytail for several hours, you take it down and that spot where it was pulled kind of aches?? Well, my entire head felt that way for nearly two weeks!! I have since spoken to some guys who said they had this same experience. It's like the follicles are used to being pulled a different direction by the long hair, and suddenly they are not being pulled by the now-lightweight hair. So it kind of ached and itched. There were all sorts of little and new things like that with my new haircut.

Since then, I have re-grown my hair, but not as long as it was before the shave. It seems to grow pretty damn fast. I wonder sometimes if I will ever be able to grow it to ponytail length or whether that ship has sailed for me. People say that sometimes you reach a point where your hair will no longer grow past a certain length. I'm not sure I will ever have the patience to find out. Once I had cut that hair off, I really haven't ever wanted it back for very long. As many readers know, I usually keep it some version of short or shorter these days, stopping sometimes to grow it for awhile.

In Part 2 of this post (coming later or tomorrow!), I will tell you the story of the way society and my world in particular reacted and still reacts today. As for me, I have never been happier or felt more ... ME. I spend my "free" time in the mornings experimenting (like I had always wanted) with different eye make up, from golds to green and purple, or just some black-rimmed cat-eyes. With very short hair, I don't like to leave the house without ANY make-up. After all, my goal was never to look like a boy. I pay more attention to my wardrobe most of the time too; and I use my time (and money!) freed up from fussing with hair to do that as well. Every now and then, I do go to my stylist and have her trim my hair into a professional shape and cut, to make sure it's done properly. But most of the time, I just use my own clippers (I've invested in a reasonably good pair) to do this cut; it's nearly foolproof and I've gotten very practiced now. Today before I jump in the shower I am taking my hair back to a # 3, something I haven't done in awhile; that is part of what spurred me on to writing this post. I'm taking my look back (almost) to where it began. You can touch it if you want.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ventilation (Pure Venting)

I am in such a bad mood. I know, I know, what a quick turnaround! I'm not normally a mood-swinger; at least, I haven't been in quite awhile, not since I've had recently-mentioned treatments and help for various ailments / issues. I mean, a girl sometimes has a "mood swing" because actual shit is happening to cause all different emotions. I consider that quite different from just spazzing out for no reason.

And tonight (this morning) I have reason. I'm writing about it here (not linking anywhere else, but if you're reading this, then welcome, you've found it on your own) for my own mental health ... and so that afterward I can go to sleep. My mind tends to work like that: if I can just write the crap down on paper (or digitally as the case may be), then it feels as though I have actually removed the trash from within. Good.

I'm fighting an old, familiar urge to loathe myself, to feel unreasonably lonely, sort of ... small and embarrassed about who I am ... a general sense of wanting to be very tiny and very quiet, unseen and unheard. The worst part of this feeling, which is something I began to feel before I knew any better, waaaaay back in my youth, is that it is really a feeling of wishing that I had already been quieter and smaller than I have. Does that make any sense? It's like, wherever I sit right now, literally as well as metaphorically, I wish that I could take back any revealing details of myself that I have shared with the world. I guess that is wanting to hide really. Yeah. What happens is ... I can be going along fine, feeling well about myself and the world around me, but something happens to trigger me, and then I'm in THIS place. I have finally learned, in my recent adult years, that this is a habit (yes, I learned that our negative thinking patterns and feelings too can be habits ... and yay, habits can be broken, but boo, it's difficult) I developed as a child. Incidents would happen back then that taught me to feel this way; and maybe in those cases it was indeed a good decision or wise for me to clam up and not share myself with those around me, to want to hide from them. Maybe certain people around the young me could not understand me the way I needed them to, and maybe they were capable of causing great pain and injury to that little me. So I learned this feeling.

The problem is that I don't need it now. As a woman -- a strong, independent, free-spirited and free-thinking woman, woot!-- I do not need to shrink away from anything or anyone in this world. I believe truly that any person or body of persons who would attempt or desire to make me feel that I wanted to shrink from them are completely useless to me and not worth my time or my feelings or my shrinking power :) (Ha ha, I'm making myself laugh, that's better already!)

Tonight's incident was so unexpected and ... well, yes, that describes it. Given the topic of the conversation that was had, I would never in a billion years have predicted that this is what would come of it. But now I feel very small, very wrong in every way, just wrong as a person, like the things I have said and done and even the way I look, the way that I LIVE, is wrong.

Damn. That is powerful. It is a power I wish I would not give away to other human beings, not to anyone. It is a power that I do not wish to use upon anyone, including myself. I mean, to render someone so unsure, so unsteady, so cut-down ... it's brutal. It's not about feeling sorry for myself. No, this is different. This is what happens when you have not learned to take criticism or learned to differentiate types of comments made by those around you, learning when and how to take them, when and how to be sensitive to what they are.

(I love to change the font colors, I guess it keeps me from boring myself!). I just want to say something here for myself and for anyone who reads my words. It's a mini-manefesto of sorts. It's a state of the union of my soul. I have been through a lot, down a long and winding road, through the brambles. I expect to go through more but not like that. I am determined and hopeful that the worst is over, especially where physical and emotional illness and strife are concerned. Just that sentence, that hope, that fact alone is a GIANT. It's a THING that brings me to my knees in awe. This is my life- my big, bold, beautiful, bedazzled life. And there's more ...

Having been through those brambles, fought through all of that ... I recognize that now is the Transition. Soon it will be time to embark upon What Happens Next. This is not the time to explain, but I know deep within, I just know, that it isn't time yet. It isn't time to embark upon my great journey yet, not time yet to embark upon what can be simply and magnificently described as the Rest of my life. Rather, right now, today, and probably tomorrow, and maybe for awhile longer ... This is just time to BE. I'm not sure what, if much, will happen to me or take place in my life or my in my relationships during this time. All I know is that I have come home from war, and now there is time for rest, there is opportunity, and there is occasion for hope. I recognize the need to absorb all of that. I recognize the need to reflect on all that has transpired, to process things that I was unable to process while they happened. I need to sleep. I need to play. I need to pet my cat. I need to watch TV. Doing nothing. Doing something. Thinking about what it is that I like to do, need to do, want to do. This is the Transition.

I rarely have anxiety or concern about the Next bit. That will come when it comes and its shape will be whatever it will be. There are times in life when it is necessary to grab that proverbial bull by the horns and MAKE it do something; but other times, it is necessary to refrain from such aggression. This is where I am and who I am. I am completely at peace with it. In fact, as I've recently expressed in many ways, I am overjoyed about many things that are taking place and unfolding. I am thrilled about the many things that are giving me hope right now, the reasons I have to smile and wake up each day. Abundance. People in the western world, myself right in there among them, do not often have the time or inclination or opportunity to think about or learn about or put to use these ideas about Doing Nothing and my theory about the Transition. And maybe not everyone needs to focus upon such things in her life. All I know is that right now, I am here, and I am good, and I need to remain focus on where I am and what is good.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I Thought It Was All My Fault (Reflections on the Past 6 Weeks)

The past 6 weeks have changed everything. Maybe it is more accurate to say that the past 6 weeks have made me realize and really SEE how everything has already changed. To take us back a little further, I was diagnosed by my headache doctor with Adult A.D.D. about 4 months ago. The idea that I had this disorder was secondary to what he was trying to accomplish in my treatment. He and his "boss," a renowned headache specialist in the Chicago area named Lawrence Robbins (I recommend their practice to any who are suffering beyond what their local doc can comprehend!), have done research on treating certain migraine patients with stimulant drugs. Without boring everyone to death with all their medical findings (although I can share if anyone is interested), they have found that patients who historically have not responded enough or at all to traditional, everyday preventative medication (some of the commonly-used ones include blood pressure meds and anti-seizure meds ... also sometimes anti-depressants) often get relief from taking a moderate dose of a stimulant. A stimulant is something like Ritalin or Adderall, which are drugs commonly used to treat children and adults with ADD or ADHD.

Well, part of the reason I went to these doctors was because they are constantly doing new studies like this and updating their research. So I have always gone to my appointments with an open mind, ready and willing to try just about anything that will alleviate the frequency and intensity of my painful migraine episodes. When the doctor suggested treatment with Adderall, I was like, sure! cool! And I don't live under a rock you know; I have heard that college kids abuse these drugs to get better grades, because part of what they do is help one concentrate for a long period of time. Personally, I am unclear how these medications help someone that does NOT have the condition (it seems to be it would be different than in someone who IS suffering from the mixed up chemicals of HAVING it). But I recall thinking, hey, I can use all the help I can get with studying and school!

Here's the thing. And it's actually very sad to me. I have always done well in school. I never had the Hyperactivity thing going on, and indeed, that is not part of my Adult diagnosis. I only suffer from the attention thing. Anyway, all my life I got outstanding grades, I mean, better than average. I got thisclose to a perfect score on my ACT test in high school, and I was always kicking ass at those standardized tests they gave periodically. I made friends easily, at least back when there was a social structure to be found in school and sports (now is more difficult, but that's for another post). I did not display any behavior problems, although I have come to believe very strongly that my lack of acting out was more a trained fear of rage and retribution born of my father's parenting. But that's also another post.

The bottom line is that as a kid, I either did not have ADD or, more likely, I did not display it in the most common ways. Or my intelligence masked the trouble I was having. You know, I was smart enough to do very well without studying in any organized manner; I remember that. When I got to college and studying was pretty much required no matter how intelligent one was, I really suffered. I almost flunked out my first two years! Meanwhile, people who had not done particularly well in lower grades were acing college, because they had carefully honed their study skills. I remember being around 19, sitting in my bedroom with piles of notes and reading to go over for exams. I would read MAYBE a page of something, and then I would be compelled to fiddle with my radio station, to suddenly switch and read a magazine article that was lying nearby, or to re-arrange my book shelf. Now, I know that every one of us procrastinates at tasks sometimes, especially when those tasks are not particularly interesting or "fun" to us. But my lack of focus was crippling, and I didn't understand that it could be different. As is my way with so many things, I just beat myself up and berated myself: Why can't you pay attention?! Why can't you finish reading like the smarter kids do!? How are you going to get a better grade on this test!? I truly have always believed that I was just lazy. I believed that when I didn't finish the things I wanted to do, or didn't reach the goals I set for myself, it had to be because I'm just un-disciplined, lazy, too focused on "just having fun" or partying (in college). It never even came CLOSE to crossing my mind that this was not my fault. It never even entered my peripheral thinking that maybe doing "better" WAS possible but that it would take TREATMENT. All my life I had been a pretty "good" kid, a good student, no trouble, no failing out, no detentions (well, hardly any), etc. People assume that when a kid like that gets into trouble with jobs or homework or whatever, it must be that they aren't applying themselves, right? And, as my diagnosis suggests, these problems started to affect me most strongly after the age of 18. So I had grown up without being diagnosed with any problem. I think people figure any issues with attention or other mental/emotional stuff are pretty much "discovered" by that time, with a few exceptions.

(I'm changing the font color so you don't get too bored!). I want to create an interlude here and say that I do NOT blame my parents or even my teachers. I certainly don't blame my friends. I DO, however, blame the almost-countless doctors I have seen for various reasons since I was 18. Because get this: not ONE doctor, be it a family physician or a neurologist or a (hello) psychiatrist - all of whom I have seen multiples of! - EVER even ASKED me about these symptoms or the possibility of having this. I mean, what did they effin' THINK was wrong?! I complained routinely of being unable to concentrate, feeling bored even while doing things that I really love, and so many little details that were beginning to chip away at the quality of my life and my personality. And guess what they came up with? Depression. I was diagnosed with Depression at age 19 and have carried that sad label in the back of my mind ever since.

Actually, it was just that one doctor, that one day when I was 19 years old, who made the diagnosis. After that, I would simply repeat what he had said and found to other doctors, who would then treat me accordingly. No one questioned it. No one really did anything. Now, let me say here that I HAVE been depressed and probably was very depressed at the time of that diagnosis. I suffered the loss of my first love somewhere around my 20th birthday (so things were going downhill already), my family broke up (divorce and all of that) soon after, and I was going through a lonely time wherein all my friends had moved away to colleges in other cities. I surely won't describe all the times I have despaired since then, but yes, I think it is/was accurate to diagnose me with some kind of Depression. The seemingly-best fit in my opinion was when the therapist who treated me the longest said that I suffer from Dysthymia. In my lay-woman's terms, that means a generally-low feeling and mood that is present most of the time. It's in contrast to those who suffer more cyclical and severe swings toward Depression, even feeling suicidal. I'm not a doctor, so I won't try to define these things here. Suffice to say that yes, I've been depressed, but I think the Depression was a SYMPTOM of something else, rather than a cause.

So what does all this mean for the here and now? Well, many things are happening! As I've said, the past 6 weeks have brought unprecedented improvement in my migraines! Last week I had a pretty bad setback, but I have already bounced back from that. My doc helped me put a few things in place to try and nip that kind of headache in the bud if/when it comes again. Let's hope and pray! After being on a low dose of Adderall for the first 8 weeks, the doctor raised me another 10 mg. I have to tell you, THAT VERY DAY, I felt better. And when I say BETTER, the word encompasses so many things that I had forgotten even needed improvement!!!

As far as the migraines go, WOW. In combination with my other medications (it has taken years and obviously many drs to get the right mix), this additional med seems to have worked miracles, truly. I generally hate the idea of and shrink away from decorating ANY drug with MIRACLE status. I mean, isn't that what drug and diet pill companies are constantly trying to do with our minds? It's always a new, miracle, cure-all pill that's being marketed to us, and I really hate that shit. I have had my share of doctors who are clearly "in the pocket" of drug companies and not treating me with my best interests at the forefront. And I hate when I'm online and constantly being offered pills for everything from penis enlargement (yes, me) to weight-loss to yes, A.D.D. So I want to make it clear that I have experienced enough to KNOW FOR SURE that every individual is different and thus responds differently to medications and combinations of them and doses. Please don't take this blog post as my "advertising" my new drug. Rather, I'm sharing what has worked for ME personally and I continue to see my doc once a month to control and maintain what is happening.

All that being said, let's get (finally) to the Good Stuff! I cannot effing BELIEVE it took this long for someone to save me, help me, find OUT for God's sake what I have suffered from, that I'm struggling so hard against A.D.D., and it didn't have to be that way. It makes me so sad. I know I haven't told you the whole basis for my doctor's diagnosis nor all the ways that I suffered, but trust me, it's legit. Another time, I'll post about the craziness of living with un-treated ADD. And it WAS crazy! I have kept so many things to myself, thinking more and more that I was just "weird" and yes, "lazy" and had so many odd idiosyncrasies. Well, I might be weird, but at least now I'm happy and productive and weird :)

So it is looking like we have these migraines "on the run," as my doctor likes to say. Apparently, it is most common for women who suffer these headaches to suffer most severely between the ages of 28 and Menopause. He believes that, unfortunately, we are in the thick of my suffering now, but obviously, what better time for us to find things that really work? As I've shared here before, I have been taking an average of 2 Imitrex tablets (50 mg each) PER DAY for about a year now. Those of you who are in the medical or pharmaceutical field, or if you have migraines too, KNOW this is outrageously excessive. It's expensive, it's hard on the cardiovascular system, and I mean, taking that much of anything that is meant to be used SO much less, is just bad. I am fortunate in that I'm still young enough to "get away" with this for now (at least, my last two doctors have been in agreement about that). But one cannot stay with such a plan forever, that is for sure. So imagine my delight at counting the days in the past month when my head pain was so far gone that I did not have to take ANY Imitrex!!!! There were 7 days! Doesn't sound like much maybe, and they were not 7 days in a row (my poor doctor's face fell when I informed him of that fact) ... but nevertheless, it is an amazing improvement. We just "tweaked" the dose of one of my other everday meds, so over the next month we are hoping for even better results in the headache department. I am so excited! I have so much hope! These are feelings that I have not genuinely felt about any migraine treatment in YEARS. This alone has literally changed my life.

But the A.D.D. diagnosis/discovery has been an additional change. I feel like I cannot even begin to itemize the ways that my life is different and wonderful these days! The ongoing Migraine Saga had gotten me waaaay down, it's true. And issues with that side dish of Depression have plagued many of my would-be better days. But since beginning treatment for A.D.D., every moment is different! And the beauty of it is, I don't NOTICE every grueling, tedious moment of life (and they don't feel grueling and tedious!). When I went to visit my Godmother last month, she said that she could see the "real" me was back. I asked her when she had noticed that I had changed, or was "gone," not my true self (because many other people in my life made similar observations, that my real self was just GONE over the past year). She thought about it and shared with me that she hadn't even realized I wasn't my self until she saw me "come back." What a wonderful thing to hear! Because that is how I've been feeling! I am enjoying my studies once again. I have gotten good grades and been able to maintain my focus on what I'm learning. I can drive in the car and enjoy a song or a radio station without constantly switching music or stations, even when what had been on was perfectly fine (that's something I used to do incessantly).

It's difficult for me to describe the things that have changed and made me so happy; I am aware of skeptics who are quick to say "THAT isn't A.D.D., that's just (blank)." But I know the facts now. I was sick and had completely lost my joy and my personality. I mean, spending time alone "with" myself, I had even begun to see it. I have lost friends with whom I wanted to stay in touch! I have lost jobs (the struggle in the workplace for someone with adult ADD is unbearable ... another time, I'll write about it), lost relationships, and lost happiness. I'm not saying that ADD is the direct and singular cause for all of this or that the medicine treatment is the cure-all. But I am saying that finding out what was truly going on, and being able to treat it while also treating the migraines that have plagued me for my entire adult life ... Well, THAT has been a beautiful journey.

Finally, I have to share something that will probably cause shock and awe in those of you who know me best. I am LOOKING FORWARD to the next 6 weeks and the holidays!!!! HA HA! If you know me at all, you know me as someone who is always pretty bah-humbug, who always hates everything to do with the winter and snow and cold and Christmas trees and ALLLLL of it. I have often repeated the statement that January 2 is my favorite day of the year! It was true, because it was the farthest we ever are from the holidays. My reasons for being so miserable were many. But this year is going to be so different, and it's much to do with what I've written about here (and a few other lucky breaks that have come my way recently!).

This year, I am up for everything, people! I am gonna hit every single party and event; hopefully few (or NO) migraines will stand in my way! I might even decorate a Christmas tree! I will drink Egg Nog! I will spend time with family! I get to be involved in the MEANING of the season if I choose to do so (and I do!). I am so excited. Who knows what might happen? You might even catch me trudging in my boots through the snow! Or sledding! It's better than being a new person. I am finding ME again.