Acting True to Yourself

I’ve learned a life lesson courtesy of having interacted with the jewelry vendor.

It’s a lesson I’m reminded of because on my job I deal with books and people every day.

The life lesson comes after years spent trying to conform by working in cubicles in corporate office jobs.

Mid-life is the time to get this schooling right once and for all. You won’t ever be happy trying to be someone you’re not.

This is a FACT in my book of life:

Taking joy in being who you are is the greatest gift you can give yourself. To be who you are when others don’t want you to be this person takes guts and grit. The glory of being you lasts a lifetime. To squander this gift is the greatest tragedy.

 

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Meeting Your Match

Years ago I had the dubious distinction of logging onto Match to see what that online dating website was all about.

The featured Profile on the Match homepage–the first thing you saw–was that of a guy who wrote: “I won’t date fat women.”

Really, buddy? How fat is too fat for you, I wanted to ask. What if you married me and I gained 5 or 10 pounds? Would you divorce me because I was no longer skinny?

It turned me off from joining Match after reading this guy’s profile.

Chris’s Adventures in Dating Wonderland aren’t that funny even today.

I have a distaste for revealing personal information on a dating website.

In recent years I’ve met people who have met their girlfriend or boyfriend via dating websites. Now they’re husband and wife.

This hasn’t been my experience. I’ve simply been “ghosted” by all the guys I’ve sent messages to. There’s so much competition online that it’s hard to compete.

A pretty good book about online dating is Love at First Click by Laurie Davis.

I’ve read a number of matchmaker books. This book is the best by far. Reading it you can edit and revise your Profile.

The fact is you might not click with a person and it can have nothing to do with your mental health issue.

You might reject them or they might reject you for another reason entirely.

It takes a sense of humor to make the dating scene.

I say: do stand-up comedy about your experiences looking for love.

We all have outrageous tales of romantic partners found and lost on this ultimate road trip.

I’ll end here with this:

You’re not ever alone when you enjoy your own company.

Take a vacation to Italy without a love interest. Remodel your kitchen. Paint your bedroom walls pink.

It can be easy to fall into a funk.

Yet we ladies must hold our heads high and be proud of ourselves with or without a partner.

Talking About Mental Health With Others

I don’t like to talk about what happened. On an ordinary day I choose not to tell people. Only in my blogs, books, and public speaking engagements will I be open.

I’m trying to meet a love interest like a lot of women in America are. Even in this arena I don’t want to reveal too much information about anything, even about non-mental health things.

To empower readers I would like to talk about this:

When is the right time to tell your romantic partner about your mental health history?

I say: it’s after you’ve gotten them to swallow your bait and you’ve reeled them in on your fishing line.

The bait you should be dangling is who you are apart from your illness.

The first date or even only the fifth date is not the time to talk about any liability if you ask me.

If you agonize and obsess over whatever your mental health diagnosis is, constantly thinking about possible stigma and expecting stigma wherever you go, this might just become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s going to influence how you interact with other people.

My memoir Left of the Dial exposed the early mindset I had that I didn’t want to be viewed as “crazy.”

Yet discontinue your medication and get sick, and you’ll be farther away from attracting a romantic partner.

The reality is–to quote a shrink–“A guy will be impressed that you take medication because it shows you want to be healthy in the relationship.”

In my early fifties I decided I wanted to try for love. The diagnosis is off the table as a conversation starter.

First I might slip it in little-by-little by talking about how Kanye West has told people he has bipolar.  Then by talking about a real person in my life who has a mental health issue.

Send out the information like a canary in a coalmine. See if it kills the canary.

The point is people who lack compassion, who are going to get spooked because you have an MH thing, are really messed up themselves. They’re not so great candidates for living in love with.

When you do talk about what happened it’s OK to keep embarrassing details to yourself. Keep private of course the things you don’t want to tell others.

You can tell others the bare-bones if you’d like and only that. It’s your right to tell others only what you’re comfortable revealing.

My signature poem “What She Said” talks about how I’ll only give others parts of the story. It’s worth buying Left of the Dial to have on hand this poem that starts off the book.

Like it or not (it’s a fact), revealing your diagnosis is going to color and influence what another person thinks of you from that moment on.

It’s far better if you ask me that you tell your love interest when you’ve established a connection with them linked to who you are apart from the illness..

Lastly, I’ll give readers this counterpoint:

You have to realize that it can be a burden for another person to process what you’ve told them. This has nothing to do with stigma.

They should be told in a way that considers their needs too.

The person you want to get intimate with should be told at some point.

What to do if you’re rejected, if the person stops calling, if they ghost you or disappear?

Think of the good times you had up until then.

Remember the adage:

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Every experience you have in life with another person gives you the skills, abilities, and strength you need to succeed in the future.

 

Doing What Gives You Joy

In this blog I want to return to other more positive topics.

Today I lobby for doing what gives you joy. Every day or as often as possible we should do what gives us joy. This is the ultimate adjunct way to heal from an illness as well as using traditional medicine.

This claim I don’t make lightly.

The fact is that when you’re happy, it will upset other people. Those who are miserable about their own lives won’t like it that you have and express your joy.

Yet what is doing what you love if not an expression of joy, if not a life force that can help a person heal?

I think of this today as the season starts to roll into autumn. The late summer and early fall are a magical time in New York City. Street fairs abound. It’s the perfect weather to talk long walks in parks.

Finding what gives you happiness and going and doing that is the key to living well in recovery. The older I get I’m emboldened to shout louder about this and other things.

It matters to me that everyone has the equal opportunity to recover and do well after becoming ill. You should view recovery as the chance to change your life for the better.

Obviously something wasn’t working before you got sick. Post-illness each of us has the choice to continue the way things were before. Or to risk making changes to grow and get better.

We have a second chance to find joy and happiness in our lives.

What gets lost in the critical nature of a few reviews of Left of the Dial is that doing what gave me joy helped me recover. If this is a sin, let me be guilty.

When I set out to write the memoir I wanted it to be a different kind of narrative. I chose to focus on everything that happened after I recovered. My goal was to show how how I healed through creativity.

Music, art, fashion, writing, and exercise have long been in my life the five elements that gave me incredible joy.

I’m going to end here by telling readers that if anyone else tells you either subtly or outright that it’s wrong to focus on getting your needs met in terms of being happy you should question what their stance is all about.

Be happy. You have the right to be happy.

It’s precisely when you’re in pain that you should do what you love.

More Facts About Women’s Health and Assistance Programs

Instead of women attacking women for the choices we make it’s time to band together to have each other’s backs.

We each of us have the power to make things better for ourselves and others.

Regardless of which guy with a red tie is elected into office.

Just the facts:

Abortions are illegal in America after 3 months.

There’s no killing of babies at 7 or 8 months.

Only in rare cases of risk to the life of the mother is an abortion allowed after 3 months.

The truth is that Planned Parenthood offers mammograms, PAP smears, STD testing, and prenatal visits as well as routine gynecological exams.

Women living in poverty often don’t have access to these kinds of services as well as birth control except through Planned Parenthood.

Want to know some other facts?

A lot of the homeless are women with children who’ve had to escape domestic violence.

A lot of women diagnosed with schizophrenia who give birth to their kid are abandoned by the baby’s father when their symptoms get too severe for the boyfriend’s liking.

There is no more welfare that makes it easy for women to have four or five kids and collect government benefits.

Welfare has been replaced with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF):

About TANF

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. States receive block grants to design and operate programs that accomplish one of the purposes of the TANF program.

The four purposes of the TANF program are to:

  • Provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes
  • Reduce the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage
  • Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families

 

Taken from: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ofa/programs/tanf/about

Remember: the word is temporary not permanent.

Those convicted of a drug felony are not able to receive TANF benefits by the way.

 

From Wikipedia:

President Bill Clinton signed PRWORA into law on August 22, 1996, fulfilling his 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it”. PRWORA instituted Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which became effective July 1, 1997.

 

It seems a lot of Americans might not know anything about political history or legislative history.

I call what’s going on in Washington a Democrap and Republicon fight to control the minds of Americans to get us to vote for their party.

Only I’m no fan of either party.

In the coming blog entry I’m going to talk about how “People Have the Power.”

This is the title of my favorite Patti Smith song.

 

Learn From My Mistake

I’m writing a second memoir that is a collection of essays.

In it I talk about my adventures in life and love in the Big City.

One thing I recommend is not putting all your eggs in one basket as the expression goes. Apt because we are women who get fixated on finding the right guy.

To wit: last fall there was a guy I was interested in. At that time I went to a holiday dinner where another guy chatted me up.

Interested in the first guy I got up at the end of the dinner and said goodbye to Guy Number 2 and walked out.

Fool! It turned out Guy Number 1 had a 7-year relationship with a girlfriend.

Now Guy Number 2 who I’ve become interested in is nowhere in sight.

Online dating isn’t for me. I’ve given up online dating for good.

You know something’s not right when the dating profile says a guy wants to meet “an intelligent woman who loves life and likes to laugh.”

I am that kind of girl. When I meet him he’s not interested. His version of intelligent is reading James Patterson books.

My version of intelligent is getting up on stage to perform at poetry readings.

There’s no guy in sight. (Play the violin strings and I’ll cry on cue.)

Moral of the story:

Play the field until you have an actual boyfriend in your arms.

 

A Blanquito In El Barrio

In Memory of Gil Fagiani

blanquito

Poet Extraordinaire and Beautiful Human Being

Gil Fagiani wrote one of the two book reviews on the back cover of Left of the Dial.

I had wanted him to write a book review because one of his own poetry books was titled Serfs of Psychiatry.

That book is an autobiographical account of his earliest job in the mental health field.

A Blanquito in El Barrio graphically conjures his descent into street drug abuse.

Gil is one of the people who lived to tell and was able to stay clean for decades.

He treated me come un figlia.

In his name (as was requested) I’m making a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I urge you to read Blanquito and any other of his books that you can find.

He is the third person I have lost in three years. Each of them to life-ending illnesses.

Our lives are like the song lyrics to “Big Yellow Taxi.” You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. All that remains of paradise in that song was a parking lot.

One day all that will be left of this planet is burnt earth.

It’s time. For days now I’ve been thinking of the quote: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

You and I don’t know how much time we’ll have here. We don’t know how much time we’ll have with our loved ones, friends, and others we’re close to.

Make every day a day when you wake up and choose to love.

There is no other way to live.

One day things could change. Love is a life preserver. Acceptance is a safety net.

Make every encounter with another person a positive one.

Find the good: In life. In other people. In your situation.

Take a cue from Gil Fagiani’s remarkable life:

Fight the good fight. It isn’t over until it’s over. Treat everyone you meet with kindness.