La Bella Figura

I talk about la bella figura in Left of the Dial.

Most Italians could think this “beautiful figure” ethic is social theatrics taken to an extreme. They could feel it reflects poorly on their heritage.

Not so. I’m greatly impressed with this Italian trait. In a negative way, it’s when we go to a bridal party and secretly or not-so-secretly assess the kinds of gifts each of us gives: the amount of money, or how much an item cost, or how lavish the item was.

In another way, it’s “acting as if” or “faking it until you make it” before you’ve become successful. In this way, you adopt the behavior and characteristics of successful people, even when you’re just starting out, so that you can fit in and be taken seriously.

It’s la bella figura in action. And I, for one, am proud that this national trait exists. This is a cultural phenomenon that might not have a biological origin. Yet in a positive light embracing the beautiful figure is a way to be able to at ease in the world with other people.

I’m reminded of a woman I met with a diagnosis who told me she does what it takes to appear normal when she’s outside of her house. Observing social protocol is also what got me where I am today. A little bit of la bella figura helped me get taken seriously when it counted.

Acting normal is not the same as acting false to yourself like I railed against in the last blog entry. At certain times, doing what it takes to blend in can help you feel confident. Yet even as I typed this last sentence I can see the expression “be you-nique” is valid too.

I prize originality, whether in thought, fashion or livelihood.

You can most likely Google in quotations “la bella figura” and then type in Italians to get a more detailed report of this national ethic.

Like I said, I see the good in making a beautiful figure in a positive way. I also see the beauty in being your own original self. The marriage of these two ethics can be magnificent.

Ciao.

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The Memoir Is Available Now

It was quicker than I expected yet now my memoir Left of the Dial is available on Amazon and will be available elsewhere in about two months.  I expect to have a Kindle e-book version coming out shortly.  You can install a Kindle app on your iPad to download Kindle books to your iPad.

Here’s one review of the book:

“Christina Bruni’s Left of the Dial describes her struggles, achievements, determination and perseverance. Despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia, she weathers the storm, and fights her way through it, earning a masters degree, working full-time as a professional librarian, and becoming a writer and award-winning mental health advocate, using her experiences to aid others. From the outside looking in, her illness is hidden behind her makeup and clothes, but inside she battles with stigma and searches for recognition, love and acceptance. Her story is one of courage. I congratulate Bruni on what she’s accomplished in life and enjoyed her insights and triumphs sewn into her story.”

— Sandra Yuen MacKay, author of My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness

Interestingly, my literary agent told me I had nothing to be ashamed of because the memoir was a story of resilience and persistence too. The goal for everyone living on earth is for each of us to not ever feel guilty or ashamed for being who we are and not to feel like we’re inadequate or lacking compared to others.  We must not believe the words of the people who hate and judge us for being different.

I’ve been in remission from schizophrenia for over 22 years.  It’s been decades since I didn’t want to viewed as crazy because I had schizophrenia.  I turn 50 in April and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me anymore.

That’s why I always tell readers in my blog to believe in yourselves when no one else does.  The only power the stigma has over you is the power you give it.

Again: You can buy the book on the Left of the Dial Amazon page right now.

Thank you dear treasured and faithful readers of my blogs for supporting me throughout the years.

Infiniti Auguri:

Endless good wishes to you.

The Eternal Noontime

This is the last memoir excerpt I’ll post here for now. Left of the Dial is set to go on sale on amazon.com and bn.com on January 1st–New Year’s Day–in two days.
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One day Jon and I ventured to Times Square to eat in Red Lobster yet again. It had become our constant meeting place. He liked it because everyone walked through its doors: black, white, Asian, Latino. The two of us were at home in this world and lingered there over our dinners.

We walked along the street as the night settled in. He followed me into Sephora and waited patiently while I had the makeup artist choose a new foundation for my face. It was NARS in a shade called Fiji in a refillable compact. I stayed there pushing up the tubes of lipstick and decided to buy Pigalle, a chocolate pink.

“Okay, glamour girl, let’s go,” he prodded me to get in the long line.

“How wonderful it must be to have a job where you get to wear pretty makeup and give other people makeovers.”

The women at the check-out counter wore hot-pink wigs, and the sole guy rang me up. “No wig?” I asked him, and he laughed.

We headed over to the restaurant and were seated quickly. It had a seaside lobster special that I ordered. Jon ordered the fisherman’s platter. Our waiter started calling him buddy, as in “I’ll get you that right away, buddy” when he asked for a diet soda.

I only drank the tap water when I dined out, and I refilled the glass numerous times. I took out my new pill box: a white oval one with a silver lipstick design on it and two inner compartments. I had collected numerous pill boxes recently. One was a blue ceramic one with the Starry Night scene on it. I also had two large boxes for traveling—the same one in different colors: with silver stars for the morning and with a black mock croc for night.

Truly creative, I felt choosing and using the pill box according to my mood or who I was dining with elevated taking the medication to an art form.

“I got you something.” Jon reached into his pocket and handed me a small box. I opened it and inside was a gold charm with the words: The Best. “You’re the best.” He smiled.

I wanted to wear this beautiful necklace around my neck when people came to view me at my funeral.

“Friends till the end?” he asked.

“Friends till the end,” I said as he crooked my pinky in his.

We tucked into our food when it arrived.

Jon asked me how the manuscript was coming along, and I told him.

“Left of the Dial will make people smile.” He laughed.

“I want it to inspire others. It’s not another hell-and-heartache story, so I don’t know if it will attract a publisher. There’s a name for that trend: misery memoirs.”

“I expect an autographed copy.” He returned to eating his food.

“How’s Sam?” I asked Jon about his fiancé.

“She moved in with me. I might have to move out.” He laughed again. “I have no closet anymore.”

I could understand because I was over at his apartment for a party, and it was cramped. My own apartment had one coat closet in the dining foyer and a small closet in the bedroom. That was the liability of New York City living.

“Do you women really need sixteen pairs of the same black pants?”

He got me, though I wanted to tell him that something always set them apart: the design on the back pocket or the boot-cut or flared leg.

“Would you like dessert, buddy?” The waiter was suddenly back at our table. “How about you?” He turned to face me.

“We’ll get the check,” Jon suggested.

We paid and exited the building into the twilight world. It was as crowded as if it were noon. I took the train with him one stop to Thirty-Fourth Street, where he continued, and I transferred to the F.

I reached into my tote and pulled out a book to read on the trip home. The secret to success on the subway was always having something to read. Oddly, I wasn’t the only one turning pages on the platform and heading into the train.

You put on your game face living with this illness. The other riders wouldn’t have the idea that you have a master’s degree or that you were a public service librarian. You were just another person trying to find your own city Zen.

I wondered about the other riders: what was that woman like under her Calvin Klein suit? Did the guy with a briefcase visit a dominatrix?

The advent of Carroll Street was always good news. I exited the downtown train with my Sephora tote bag and walked down the street like I had somewhere to go.

 

Left of the Dial Amazon Page

Glad Tidings of Cheer To You

I’m glad the year is ending and the Christmas music will soon be gone from the airwaves.

It’s come about that my memoir, Left of the Dial, will go on sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online on New Year’s Day: next Thursday.

As a treat, I will post one last memoir excerpt here on Tuesday. On or near January 15th the Kindle e-book version will be available to install on your device: either on a Kindle or an iPad with a Kindle app.

We had lobster for dinner last night and six other fish for the Night of the Seven Fishes. It’s because my nonna, my Italian grandmother, was Neapolitan–from Naples. The Seven Fishes is a Christmas Eve ritual that I wrote about in the memoir.

Glad tidings of cheer to you. A Happy and Healthy New Year.

2015 promises to be a great year. Mark my words: 2015 will be great.

The Way I See It

Ordinary people with the courage to continue in the face of great challenges are the ones that inspire me.

I’m not impressed because someone has a title like a JD or MD. I listen to the advice “experts” give only if it makes sense to me. In the end, the beauty of living your life left of the dial is that you own your life; you’re the expert on your recovery and on your life.

You have to be invested in the outcome of your recovery and the outcome of your life, because no one else holds the keys to your happiness and success. Find and employ the best therapist and psychiatrist and other doctors you can to treat you. Yet trust your instinct or your intuition as well.

I want to smash the myth that a person is only worthy to others in society if he or she has a prestigious job or a fancy degree from an Ivy. The point is not that every single person living in recovery can do what I do or what another person does. The point is that you can have peace of mind and happiness doing the things that you’re passionate about. The point is to find your purpose for being here in this lifetime. And then go out and do the one thing you were put here to do.

The reliance on your status in the world is a fleeting grasp at straws, because so-called “status”–whether it’s from a job, title, marriage, health or other measure–can be taken away from you. The one thing that can’t be taken away from you in recovery is YOU.

No other person and no illness can rob you of the ability to choose to be optimistic. Unless you’re clinically depressed of course.

I’m going to end here with something astounding. My mother told me that every day of her life she was grateful. This surprised me. She had a daughter who had a breakdown. My mother lived through other kinds of hell too. She had a GED, not a college education. She was forced to drive her daughter to the hospital not once but twice.

And even with all this: every day of my mother’s life she was grateful.

That’s something I’m impressed with. I urge every reader to take a tip from this woman and DECIDE to be grateful. DECIDE to like yourself. Get up one day and DECIDE to create yourself instead of thinking you have to find yourself. You’re right there. You have right inside you what you need to succeed.

Get a JD or MD only if you want to.

Be your own best friend, whatever you can or can’t do.

Sing karaoke off-key. Slam-dance to the Ramones on the radio with your friends at someone’s apartment. Bake a cake.

Be who you want to be and be grateful.

That’s the ticket to wellness.

Mix Tape

In the early 1990s you’d make a mix tape of songs you recorded on an old-fashioned cassette tape. You’d meet a person in a club and he’d send you a mix tape of his band.

This was the prelude to a playlist on iTunes.

The chapter titles of Left of the Dial are mostly song titles, and they’re short, catchy titles.

I present here the “mix tape” of the songs should you want a soundtrack to the book. The songs have lyrics that relate to what was going on in my life in the chapters.

Everybody Knows – Leonard Cohen
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
Head Like a Hole – Nine-Inch Nails
Cotton Crown – Sonic Youth
Crazy – Seal
Roadrunner – Modern Lovers
November Spawned a Monster – Morrissey
Hybrid – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Transmission – Joy Division
Too Much – Fetchin’ Bones
Personality Crisis – New York Dolls
Chill Blue – the Chills
Walk On – U2
Just Like Honey – Jesus and Mary Chain
Funky but Chic – David Johansen
Unwell – Matchbox 20
Mysterious Ways – U2
I Wanna Be Sedated – the Ramones
Left of the Dial – the Replacements
London Calling – the Clash
Regret – New Order
Into a Swan – Siouxsie
Wonderwall – Oasis

Good Humor Man

I think differently from everyone in my family, from most people in the world.

I keep my mouth shut when a person makes a comment that makes no sense to me. The tired rebuttal about how whites didn’t protest after O.J. was acquitted makes no sense to me.

Knee-jerk reactions don’t impress me. It’s not about race. It’s about violence. No one should be killed by any other person who fears an unarmed person.

You fear other people: you need your head checked. You fear the stigma: that’s ridiculous.

I recommend strength training because when you can power lift 205 pounds you’ll have the last laugh. You’ll be able to stand on your own. You’ll have no reason to fear narrow-minded people.

Yet better to take someone out with your caustic wit than your bare arms. Humor is the way to go. I’m related to a guy that can’t stop cracking the jokes. As soon as he enters the room, he’s joking about something. As soon as one of us enters the room, he’s joking about us.

Having a sense of humor and being able to deploy it at will is one of the all-time greatest gifts you can use in your recovery.

The secret strength in my life is that I find the humor in things that shouldn’t be funny.

My memoir, Left of the Dial, is not harrowing. It’s not negative. It’s not the story of a woman who still has major ongoing episodes. I use humor in the memoir, which no other SZ memoir does.

I find joy in life even when life is hard. I laugh, because laughter is the best medicine.

Truly what’s different about the memoir is the razor-sharp wit. I urge you to consider going to a comedy club or writing and performing your own stand-up comedy routine.

Laughter is what makes the world go around. It can inoculate us from all the negative things that go on.

I urge readers to try to have a sense of humor about what goes on.

Have the last laugh. Put stigma in its place by refusing to cower when other people are narrow-minded.

Smile.

Find the joy in life, because being angry and focusing on the negative ages a person faster than anything.