Friday, May 29, 2009

We Know Better "Now"

In an instance, everything can be taken away from us like that. All of our belongings, loved ones, things that we cherish can vanish in blink of an eye. Most of us take for granted what’s in front of us right now - today - in the present. We focus on the past, mourning about things and people we’ve lost and we look too much into the future: who we’ll love, what career we’ll have next and where we will live. Many of us miss out on the best part: the journey. We let our emotions take control and drive us way back into our past or have it tinker with our desires in life and focus on what we don’t have. Desiring things are good, but skipping out on the path there, isn’t.  By the time we figure it all out, we'll be too old to do anything about it.

For a long time, I was missing out on the “now”. I focused way too much on what I had lost, and focused way too much on the future. I spent too much time inside my own head mourning the past and not letting go. My mind was fixated with obsessive thought patterns. And, at times, if I’m weak enough, it’ll go back into that same mode. I’m only human. But, with time it got better. Last night while talking to my friend at a new bar and grill that had just opened up, I heard her say, “You know, you don’t talk about the past like you used to, in fact, I haven’t heard you speak of it at all these days.” I looked over at her and almost thought to myself: what is she talking about? Almost as if I have forgotten it. (Of course I haven’t forgotten it), but it was interesting to see myself responding, or better yet, not responding as I would have. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s more about how my time spent praying, meditating and focusing on God has healed me. The pangs of the hurt that I went through are no longer there. I thought they would never leave.

There came a time where I knew I had to do something. I tried everything from quitting drinking, changing my lifestyle habits and just making better choices for myself. All of that was wonderful, but there was something missing still. I needed more. I wasn’t healing properly still. I needed a breakthrough and I wasn’t getting one. I felt stuck; trapped inside my own mind like a prisoner of war. Obsessively thinking and drilling into the past, having it affect my present and future. I was torturing myself. All of these negative thoughts stealing all of my peace and joy. I had to do something and I couldn’t wait. I started to meditate. Everything was distracting me. Cars went by, horns were blown and construction guys were yelling obscenities from out on the street. “Focus”. “Breathe”. I then started seeing a professional who helped me find better techniques to focus.

We forget to breathe. It causes anxiety and lack of oxygen in our brains leaving us to lean toward negative responses. How can we respond properly if we don’t have sufficient oxygen in our brain? I began practicing. Meditation isn’t something you can master in one day. It really takes practice. It looks easy - but I assure you, it’s not.  As time went on and I started to pray and meditate on a daily basis, my obsessive thought patterns have simmered down somewhat and I began enjoying life again in the “now”.

Our past doesn’t define us, however it does strengthen our character and endurance for the next time around the mountain full of new challenges. We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for our past. We can leave the past behind, but we can definitely use it to our advantage as a learning tool.  Don't ever get old having regrets of not living in the moment. Life passes by more quickly than we can possibly imagine.

We know better "now".

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taking a Step Back to Reflect

Sometimes I have to take a step back, retreat and hide from the rest of the world, before I start loathing it; before I start realizing how self-absorbed and obnoxious some people can be. I’m accountable too. The one difference I see from myself and others is: I retaliate and speak before thinking sometimes. I don’t hurt others out of jealousy, resentment or to just be plain mean to them. My words of anger stem from hurtful attacks by other people. Sometimes, these “hurtful attacks” can be misconstrued of course by my own little pointed noggin. I take things the wrong way. I also take things the way they are.

It is what it is.

The past few years have been really interesting. I’ve encountered people hating me out of pure jealousy. My question would be: why? Another mystery would be why others, especially people that are close to me, seem to be “nice” while in my presence and then completely turn around and badmouth me to a bloody pulp as if they’ll never think their words would get back to me somehow. I guess they trust everyone they talk to.

I have many people in my life who don’t necessarily “like me” because of my lifestyle, or they just feel that maybe I’ve placed my wife into eternal damnation. I’ll stop there. Avoidance is the biggest indicator of not agreeing with my lifestyle. Of course, the biggest day of my life - the happiest day of my life, was a huge indicator. Nobody has to agree with my lifestyle, but if these people say they love me and accept me, then it would have been nice to have seen them at my very own wedding. Not a card or sentiment, nor an attempt for a house warming or shower. Just “best of luck”.   Nobody had to pay a penny out of their pocket - just their presence would have made me feel blessed. The ironic part of their lack of acceptance is their very own offsprings who are a little light on their fragile toes who have seem to lost all sense of identity whatsoever. Life’s funny sometimes.

Then you have the ones who think if you’re not a soccer mom or go to PTA meetings, then you’re not ‘part of the group’ - part of their little club. Thank the good Lord I’m not. These housewives I speak of can’t even hold a conversation without glancing sideways at their kid yelling, “Get back here now” and then trying to focus back on you with a statement such as, “Ok, so you were saying?” I don’t envy these people one bit. I feel bad for them, but the judgmental grimaces I see on their faces while thinking my lifestyle is reckless and not suitable enough to be around their children make me think how they’ll handle one of their own kids possibly telling them one day, “Umm, mom, I’m gay.” What then?

I think education is so important. Teaching kids the difference between a loving couple - a married couple, as opposed to referring to homosexual people as “perverts” or “promiscuous” is important. We are just like anyone else: married, with the possibility of having kids. And yes, we are able to have children to those who believe differently. We are not promiscuous swingers: we’re a family unit - even if we’re just two in a household. Madelene is my family, my wife, my best friend --- something that surely is lacking in many heterosexual households. I wouldn’t trade my life in for any soccer mommish role. I’m happy with my lot in life, my wife, my work, my friends and my strong bond with my parents.  

I have to admit that there are people currently in my life right now, that if I never saw them ever again, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Some people just drift off in different directions, and that’s okay. We just need to accept it all and realize that people are in our lives for a reason, a season or for a lifetime. I’m just grateful for the wonderful memories I have had with them.  Sometimes, you just have to take a step back and reflect.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Embracing Bitterness While Trying to Heal

I felt the need to continue the discussion I had in the comment section of my previous post, with someone that went under “anonymous”. The post mainly dealt about issues of emotional, verbal abuse when someone that was loved once before has been jaded or hurt. “Sticks and stones” was referenced and basically how two wrongs don’t make a right, questioning if the first wrong...was in indeed “wrong”. When a person is trying to heal from an intense relationship that has ended, is it healthy for that person to go through a “healing process” of slandering and dragging their ex love’s name through the mud? I totally understand the fragile emotions of the first few months of the breakup. It’s raw. It’s hurtful. It’s the feeling of a great loss. It’s also feelings of jadedness, anger, resentment and bitterness sometimes. It’s rare you find a mutual breakup that deals with mutual respect and admiration to continue a friendship thereafter.

How do we heal the “healthy way”? There is no answer really. I mean, we can suggest this and that - but someone, somewhere will tell you it’s not how they cope with a loss. Everyone is different. But, you do have to take into account negative emotions, such as bitterness and anger that lingers too long inside the heart. Those emotions can lead into other aspects of a person’s life: hard time creating new friendships and relationships, short fuses, lack of trust, anxiety, depression and isolation. When you’re bitter at the world for too long, the world becomes a bitter place. It’s no longer joy and happiness: it’s misery and depression. It’s dark. It’s a place where you just say “Eff everyone and everything!” I can’t see that as being healthy.

Getting back to Miss Anonymous, I had a really interesting time conversing back and forth with her regarding this topic. I’m not going to copy and paste the entire dialogue, because you can always click here to read it. I will copy and paste just a couple of things...

Anonymous: Sometimes people have to do what is right for them and in an unhealthy situation it becomes necessary to leave the relationship. Necessary for survival. It doesn't mean you can't allow that person back in, after the healing, and ultimately forgiveness and acceptance takes place. There is a process that has to take place, a healing process.

Deb: I totally understand the process of healing and taking your time, but what I don't understand is, while in the process of healing, why a person that feels they have been either, "jaded" or "wronged" have to keep on for years talking negatively about that person. In your honest opinion, would you call that a healthy way to heal? That's what I'm talking about: when someone is hurt, like an ex, and feels jaded and robbed of whatever -----how long does that person have to slander and emotionally beat their lost love to a bloody pulp before healing? What are your thoughts?

Coincidently, Miss Anonymous and myself have been in similar situations, her’s being a divorce and mine being a breakup from a relationship. Love is love, right? My question really focused more about the negative aspects of the bitterness, years afterwards. How does one heal if they aren’t creating an atmosphere of healing? Regardless of deciding whether or not to ever speak to that person again ---why slander someone forever and create that bitterness for others to see? In my opinion, when I see someone who is atrociously bitter at an ex from years past, I think, “Wow, that person has to be miserable inside.” People around you will pick that up. Usually, a bitter person cannot have or “hold” a relationship for long or maintain friendships due to the darkness they exude. You cannot hold resentment in your heart and hide it. It comes out in different forms and people will see it eventually. They hear it, they feel it, they realize that this person is in a bad place.

Healing. How do you heal in a “healthy” way? For me, I pray for “my enemy”. I pray that God sends them love, happiness, laughter and most of all, healing of the mind, body and soul. I send this love to “the enemy” every single day. I truly believe prayer is so very powerful, which is why I do this - not for any other reason than for healing to take place for this person, and, to continue on with my healing process as well.

Think about this concept: employers during interviews give trick questions to see if you’re the right candidate. One of the trick questions is: “What didn’t you like about your former employer?” As being in human resources myself at one time, the big “OH NO SHE DI-IN’T SAY THAT” reactions would be a result of an answer like, “Oh my GAWD they were so nasty and rude and treated me so badly! They didn’t pay me enough and made me work overtime! Their company is going down and my boss was a self-centered imbecile.” An answer like that will have the interviewer saying, “Well, thank you for applying. We’ll review your resume and call you if we’re interested...”  ~Blip~  You just lost yourself a job. Now, the same applies when you are out on a date and still have bitterness in your heart. Badmouthing the ex is the worst thing you can possibly do. It makes you sound pathetic, screaming, “I’m a victim!”

So, Miss Anonymous, my question geared more around, how healthy is it to heal when you embrace bitterness within your healing circle?

In general terms, of course...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Deep Into One's Heart

The basic lessons in life when you’re a child are all about social skills: saying please and thank you and being polite to those around you. Learning the golden rule of life deemed important and “sticks and stones” were embedded into our brain so we wouldn’t get offended so easily. We were taught to protect ourselves with the “sticks and stones” quote, by those who would hurt us with mere words.

Did we ever really learn?

What about “two wrongs don’t make a right”? It seemed to have lost its importance as years went by. So, when someone bad mouthed you, it was because they were hurt by what you did, therefore hurting you back twice as badly. Especially in matters of the heart and relationships, all of these great rules to live by have simply trickled down the drain. Nobody likes getting hurt. And, as hard as this may be to swallow: nobody enjoys hurting others - even if it seems as though they do. I guess this is what I believe anyway.

We try to give the benefit of the doubt.

If your parents were religious, they’ve probably taught you a great deal about forgiveness too. As adults, we conform into our own ways and believe what we want to believe. Some of us are weak in mind; only relying on what other people think. It’s as though we allow brainwashing techniques to take over our lives and live by what others feel to be acceptable or not. Usually these “people” are relatives or close friends ---people that we have to deal with for a lifetime, or whom we value their relationship a great deal. However, what if we didn’t take their advice and went by our own accord? Would this “important person” wreak havoc on the choices that have been made without their consent?

Live by the beat of your own drum. Love who you want. Screw the rest of the world who disagrees with you. Take chances and never let anyone tell you that your heart is wrong or that you’ll get hurt, because regardless, we all get hurt. Don’t let other people’s views warp your sense of compassion. Some people are jealous, irritable and/or judgmental. Whatever the case: people who try to dictate other people’s lives are like busybody neighbors who have absolutely no life of their own. They watch out their windows and hope for something to happen. The same with your life: they watch your backyard, hoping you’ll trip and fall and then, giving them the ability to say, “I told you so”. These people want you to solely rely on them, this way they don’t feel so lonely and pathetic.

Have you ever been in a position where you simply did not think your best friend’s new girlfriend or boyfriend is right for them? And, If you have, did you ever let your thoughts be known? Have you ever encountered someone constantly telling you all of these bad things about their lover, and then later on have them wonder why you don’t care for this particular person? One person can truly paint a picture for other people to see someone else in a completely different view. You want to believe that you’re a good judge of character, however you also want to side with your best friend and believe what they’ve told you. It’s simply too much bullshit for one day.

Simple fact: many people want to come out looking like the good guy. That’s fine. But when words are meant to slander and create false illusions, in the end it will always backfire. It’s kind of like the laws of attraction. Whatever type of energy you put out, you'll receive. Some call it karma - but that may be a whole different type of concept.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible popped into my head. I had no idea where it was and then I opened the Bible and there it was - I fell right onto that page. I love when that happens!

“Any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight.” -Proverbs 18:17 (NLT)

Of course if a story told, we pay close attention to that person telling it and for that matter and time spent, we want to believe what’s being said. We can’t read minds and we’re certainly not a human lie detecter. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt when it comes to bitter people talking about their exes or someone that they’re on the outs with. There is always another side to the story. The other day Madelene was telling me a story regarding one of her friends going through a little bit of turbulence in her relationship. I had asked her if she knew for a fact that this was all true. She said, “Well, it’s what she told me.” I looked at her and just said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to hear the other side of this story?” In court, someone usually straight up lies and doesn’t think twice about it. Sometimes, their lies are even believed by the person telling them.

Even my name has been dragged into the mud, slandered and beaten to a bloody pulp. I have the peace to know that what has been said were rooted through bitterness, jealousy and resentment. These words, which have affected me a great deal a while back, have now resurfaced and come back to the one who has said all of these lies. The constant slandering got her nowhere but stuck in a rut in life for a long time. Some people don’t have a a heart - which in fact leads into a lack of compassion for other people’s feelings.

“What dainty morsels rumors are--but they sink deep into one’s heart. -Proverbs 18:8

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meet My Friend "Ida"

A Sunday with Ida in New York City...

Visit her @ www.amybeckerman.com

If you'd like to see Amy Beckerman live, she'll be performing at Stand Up NY - 236 W. 78th St. New York, NY 10024, this Thursday on May 21rst! 

Visit her website for more scheduled performances. Her stand up comedy is hysterical!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Purging

Purging. It’s what I do best, since I absorb so much. It’s equivalent to bingeing on negative energy and then finally letting it release upon an unknown source. To some extent, we all do this. We’re human. Bottled up emotions, secretive battles within ourselves that makes our heart scream with anguish and mourn with sorrow are all energies that need to finally come out. Whether it comes out “as is”, or as an alias, is solely up to us. Some mask what’s hidden inside and blow up at something or someone that isn’t necessarily the triggering source. It’s just dumping your trash into another bin.

Although my spirits have been high, I’ve been feeling the heaviness; keeping it inside and having a difficult time purging it all. It’s not healthy. I went and renewed my gym membership, this way I can plunge into a good workout if I feel pent up. I started working out every single day, until my back locked up on me.   Although exercise has been known to relieve stress, it’s still not enough. I thought it would be a helpful outlet. But what about the stuff brewing inside? Aside from exercise, there has to be another outlet for the emotions; a verbal one possibly. Simple meditation and reflection can do wonders, so I’ve been told. I didn’t have the time, nor the patience.

When I think of the word meditation, I think: “relaxing” and “easy”. I find it hard to focus on not thinking about anything. My mind is constant. It won’t stop. It just goes on and on and on... I sit, breathe, and think about trying not to think. It just doesn’t work for me anymore. I have someone trying to help me with this - a professional.  She stated that my back problem was most likely due to stress. It’s amazing how emotional chaos can wreak havoc on us physically. Sometimes, emotional distress can cause illnesses. Trapped energy can lead into health problems. It makes sense.

How do I get the lightness back again? How do I obtain a conscious level of “happiness”---not the adrenaline junkie type of happiness, but the constant joy of peace that comes from God or a higher being? Even with all the praying I have been doing, it seems quiet. It seems like prayers being thrown upon deaf ears - or am I not realizing or feeling the power of my prayers.  Many would question atheism at this point, but I still have faith, I’m just having a hard time connecting to everything, everyone and even God right now.

Last night I did a cleansing inside my apartment. I burned sage and said a prayer, asking for protection. I must have looked like a gypsy gone insane, but at this point, I’m trying anything. Have you ever felt a heaviness that you couldn’t explain? Almost as if, something or someone is preventing you from moving into the next phase? I feel “stuck” - almost stagnant, where the road ahead has a visibility of zero. It’s different from being depressed - it’s not depression - it’s a feeling of uncertainty; perhaps blindness of my surroundings would be a better term to use. My vivid dreams are becoming more and more realistic. I have no clue how to analyze them, or if I should try to analyze them.

If this is making a lick of sense to anyone, please feel free to comment and leave suggestions. I’m tapped out right now and feel limited. I’ve rarely felt this way before and with that, never verbally admitted to this. So, I write...and write.  Maybe there is a purpose to all of this. I guess this is my way of purging.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Aspiring Professional Lurker

Without a doubt, I know most people who read my blog are also writers or have the urge to, at least. Some days it comes easy and other days, it feels as though there isn’t one word to describe how I’m feeling; I’m just simply out of steam. For work purposes, it comes easily because there’s an agenda. There’s more of a structured type of program I follow. But, for this blog, my personal little doodling pad, I find it difficult at times to express myself the way I want to, or find the words I want to type.

The other night I was watching, Finding Forester, a movie about an afro-american teen writing prodigy who finds a mentor in a reclusive author.  The author was encouraging the boy to write. He said something very significant: “Your first draft you write with your heart. Your second draft you write with your head.”

I remember in grammar school we had those ditto sheets. The teacher would tell us to “speed write”---meaning: write every single thought onto the paper as fast as you can. Tell a story of something that had happened to you in the past or something you feel strongly about. She also said don’t worry if it’s sloppy - just write! All of us started furiously jotting down words off the top of our heads, with our tongues hanging halfway out of our mouths. We wrote about our vacations or how we were upset that we didn’t get to do this or that or how our parents reprimanded us for doing whatever, and we felt we didn’t deserve the punishment we received. Other kids wrote about how they hated homework, much like an attempt to boycott it altogether. Whatever. It was in our hearts, right? Afterwards, we had to basically edit and clean it up to present it as an essay. We wrote with our hearts and then with our heads.

I never told this to anybody, except for Madelene, but at the age of 19, I had written my very first book by hand in a composition notebook. There were five notebooks I had completed.  I never tried publishing it, nor did I show it to anyone. It was a fictional love story between two women. I’m not a huge fan of fictional novels or writings for that matter, but this book was so in tune with my life that it seemed nonfiction. I was a closet writer. I didn’t show anybody my work. I even wrote lyrics to music, most of it hidden in a notepad in the last drawer of my old bedroom. Eventually, the music and lyrics came out, more so than my fictional writing did.

Back then, we didn’t have the internet. I used to buy books that were memoirs or “diaries of so and so” to read raw and honest truths about someone I admired. Even if it wasn’t someone I admired, I wanted to read “real life stories”----much like a blog but in a book form. More than ten years later, blogging became all the rage and I dove into it head first. The mere fact that random people can just log onto your page and read your words was exciting to me. I had a voice for the very first time. I had a place that was all my own, where people could absorb my words, tap into my mind and see what’s really in my heart. If you have ever seen my vlogs, you would think another person was speaking. I write much differently than I speak. I don’t know why - maybe proper grammar conscious, but even so, my grammar is off at times. I can’t say that I’m shy, because people think of me as a complete goof in person, and I’ve even heard some go as far to call me an “intellectual thinker” when they read my words---so the two don’t correlate at all, in fact, they’re quite the contradiction. But who says you can’t be a goofy intellectual thinker?  Hrmm...

I’m glad I didn’t hide out as a lurker to the blogging world. I’m sorry I didn’t publish my first book, because it was really good in my opinion. It was a good book for people who had just come out of the closet as homosexuals. But, I have no regrets. I ripped it up for a reason and that reason being: I’m not a fictional writer. It wasn’t “me”. I wasn’t ready. So, here I am today writing about my life and being 100% honest and raw as one possibly can.  My second book will be out this September.  It's more about my life, family and events in a heartfelt and comical tone.

If you’re reading this blog and you have an urge to write for yourself, don’t hold back. Get your voice out there because someone, somewhere is going to need to “hear” it. Don’t just be an "aspiring professional lurker"--get out there and make a voice for yourself.

19th Nervous Breakdown (Part II)

Ah, peace and quiet. That’s how it was from last night until this morning. (See previous post.) I thought it would be a good idea to leave a note on my neighbor's door in an envelope before I left to go out for the day. In the letter I had written, I had asked if she was ok and if she ever needed anything, to not hesitate to call or even come upstairs. I also indicated that I realized we have never met before, but I was really concerned because I thought she was getting robbed or God forbid, something worse. Figuring that the letter would defuse the 'war of the stereos', it would also give her a sense of neighborly kindness.  One would only assume...

At around 6pm I got a phone call from the boyfriend. Now, the letter was left more for the girl, because I was really concerned about her and the blood curdling scream. Her boyfriend has not been home in almost a week.

Here’s the conversation that the boyfriend and I had over the phone:

“Yeah hi, it’s Bobby from downstairs, how you doin’?”
“Hi Bobby, is everything ok? I just wanted to see if she was alright.”
“Yeah yeah - dingz’ are good. Da police came inside lookin’ for me yanno? Dey’ dought’ I did sumptin’ to her or sumptin, yanno?”
“Well, I heard the water go on and then a loud bang followed by a woman’s scream. I wasn’t sure if it was from your apartment or the next one over. Then I heard the police come inside. I hope everything’s ok...”
“Yeah yeah, you can hear everything ova’ here yanno? I hear you wake up every mornin’, I know wha' time you go to sleep, I know when you go to the baTR
oom’, I know---”
“Yeah Bobby, the walls are thin, I know.”  I said, hoping he wouldn’t go on to say he heard us in bed as well.
“Well like I said, if you guys need anything, don’t hesitate to give us a call or come up...”
“Das' really nice of you -  das' really cool!  You too, yanno?”
“Ok then. Nice to hear from you, Bobby.”
I said, hoping that this intelligent conversation would end quickly.
“Yeah yeah, you too.”
“Bye.”
“Bye.”


My question is: why is he calling me and not his girlfriend? He wasn’t the one screaming. In any event, he wasn’t even there for over a week. I know this for a fact. Also, why were the cops there for over three hours in her house? Something had to have happened. Well, it’s none of my business anyway, however I must say that it has been so extremely peaceful last night into this morning. Not a peep! She wasn’t even walking like a stallion. I heard her walking, but she was so pleasantly ~tip-toeing through the tulips~ that I had to just say: “thank you” under my breath as I was able to sleep in a little.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

19th Nervous Breakdown

As some of you already know, our neighbors downstairs are quite loud and boisterous at times. Ever since they’ve put in hard wooden floors, they sound like two horses galloping around. We’ve recently learned that they’ve been having wars with the neighbors below them. I had heard her saying, “Well the neighbors don’t give a shit. Thank God they don’t live above us.” (Which indicated it was not us she was complaining about.) So as days went on, every 6am they would have a sound war. She would blast awful Michael Jackson music and the apartment beneath her would blast out really good club music - stuff that my wife and I would listen to. You gotta side with the people who like good music.

Anyway, this morning at 6am, I hear the neighbor below me blasting Amy Winehouse (which is much better than Michael Jackson), but so loud, that it sounded as though someone was using our stereo out in our very own living room. Then, we heard a blood curdling scream. That, woke us right up! We got nervous and I just looked over at Madelene and said, “This can’t be happening.” I wasn’t sure if someone was hurting her or if she was just having a complete meltdown. Her boyfriend hasn’t been around in days, so who was in the apartment with her at 6am? We heard loud banging and crying, as another song started to play.  We only heard her and nobody else.

I would have called the police but here’s my dilemma: is she having a meltdown because she is going through a breakup, so she blasted the music to drown out her cries?

But before I could make my decision, someone beat me to it.  A patrol car came racing into our parking area and two police officers came running upstairs. They banged on the door very loudly. I was peeking out my window and had seen my neighbor adjacent from me walk downstairs and “pretend” to get something out her car.  Then, more officers arrived and she had asked what was going on, but they couldn’t give her the full story.

So, it is 9:15 and they are still in the apartment for whatever reason. No bodies were taken out, nor was anyone arrested...so it seems. I’m guessing she had a complete nervous breakdown and they’re assisting her with whatever. God only knows. Now I feel bad for having sound wars with her, but the sad part was, she was really having sound wars with the neighbor under her, and a war within herself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Killing Two Birds By Getting Stoned

Everyone’s crunching down, saving money or trying to steer clear of the luxuries they once dabbled in every so often, or more often than not. Some people are feeling the pangs of the economy and other people, well, not so much. I’ve had to cut down on certain things to increase the bulge in my wallet, but gradually, it does look like things are getting better.

Dad insists he’s going to quit smoking. Dad’s 72 years old. He’s been smoking since he was born. From four packs of cigarettes to zilch? He and my mom used to have cigarettes shipped to their house by the Indians who didn’t tax them. Now, even their price is too high.

“You gotta be kiddin’ me! You crazy or sumptin’? Nine dolliz’ a pack?” my father welps over the phone to his little stogy dealer. “It’s like a goddam car payment, yanno? Ah fuggedaboudit’!”

With my father’s promise of quitting and my anticipation of walking into their house without having an asthma attack, my mother is still hunching under the microwave, leaning on top of the stove smoking the last of her cigarettes, as the clogged vents from bacon grease are sucking up whatever smoke it can. I smelled the smoke as soon as I walked in. My asthma started kicking up and I didn’t have my inhaler or anything to help me.

“Oh you can’t possibly smell this. It’s going up into the vents, Deb. It’s the pollen that's bothering you. You want a Benadryl?”

I love my mom. She’s just clueless. Just by her saying that, I let out this huge wheezy laugh and told her it was ok, I was just going outside to get some air. But the coughs sounded more like a mule in heat, so I had to leave before dinner was served. I felt bad, but had to go before I went into a full fledge attack.

My mom comes outside and comes out with, “We’re getting pipes.”
“Pipes?”
“Yeah, we’re going to smoke tobacco out of pipes now.”
“Why?”

“It’s cheaper.”
“Isn’t it still tobacco?”

I told her, “The hell with it - buy pot, it’s cheaper and at least it’ll give you a high and relieve all of your pain.” She looked over at my father for approval. They can kill two birds with one stone by smoking pot, quitting cigarettes, and not buying all of those jugs of Carlo Rossi.

Problem solved. 
Thank me later.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A New Start

Such things are immaterial: an old lamp that used to sit on my night stand as a teenager growing up that now sheds light upon my office desk and a picture frame given to me by a former friend. There are two antique ships that are hanging on my hallway wall, to remind me how long my parents had them up on their wall at one time. Some things are sentimental and others are just things I’ve brought with me on my way towards the next chapter in my life. Most things in this apartment are new, fresh, without reminders of ‘a time when’. I have had to rid of many things I had owned in order to set my place as “a new start”.

Mere objects: simple things like furniture, books or coffee mugs given by someone else that was in your past can conjure up many emotions. Depending on how that person has affected your life, the object may bring certain feelings up to the surface. This time last year I had to purge of many of my belongings that were given to me by other people, so that it no longer haunted me. The sentimental value had deflated into a pile of ashes that have been blown away. Sorrowful, dark, demeaning: feelings that place a certain type of darkness around the object at hand. Pure rubbish. 

The wonderful objects I do have hold memories of love, happiness, friendship and sharing. My furniture: memories of friends coming over, my first apartment with Madelene, guests crashing upon our huge leather sofa and so many great nights of watching movies and falling asleep upon Madelene’s lap. These memories are precious to me. Our coffee table has held so many nights of sitting on the floor Japanese style eating take out food and playing many games of scrabble. I have written my first book on this coffee table because I didn’t have an office back then. This table means the world to me. It never leaves. An old rocking chair has traveled with me through my stages of life. It belonged to my parents, but my grandma and mother used to read me stories until I fell asleep in their arms. That chair will always be with me. Many guests come over and sit in it - it’s their favorite spot.

Most framed photographs were taken by me. They are memories of where my wife and I shared some wonderful times at. One of my favorites is hanging up in my dining room. The frame belonged to a former friend, but I ripped up the old photo because it was too negative - she was negative - it had a very dark feel to it and so I replaced it with a photo I had taken of a place where my wife and I used to sit, have coffee and talk for hours. I call it, “My Little Venice”.

Sometimes to get over certain chapters of your life, you have to rid of everything that reminds you of it. And if you cannot do that, because these are objects that you desperately need, then change your entire place around to give it a different feel. 
A feel of a new beginning. 
A new start.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Same Opinions = A Boring World

There are people who write and there are people who aren’t able to express their feelings onto ‘paper’. Maybe it’s not about being “able” to write or express themselves; maybe it’s more about fear. Have you ever come across a person who writes poetry and you ask to see their work and they get all shy? What about blogs that keep getting deleted by the author? People are so afraid to get it all out there and the one word that comes to mind is: vulnerability. Nobody wants to be critiqued or ridiculed for what they think, what they feel or how they express themselves with words. They hate rejection - we all hate rejection, but if we don’t receive the criticism we need, then how do we become better writers or artists?

Opinions are like assholes - everyone has one. Why let a few bad eggs ruin your ability to be brilliantly open and creative? Not everyone is going to like what you write or do artistically. And the truth is: that’s okay. But who can say that they can keep pushing through after all that’s said and done? Can you continue to write, paint, sing or act after getting constantly put down? Or, does it take one special person to say something derogatory about your work to have you sink your head into the sand? Whatever, whoever - you just have to keep pressing on.

Remember also, that some of the criticism you receive can be stemmed from jealousy. There are crazy people out there that don’t have to necessarily know who you are, who can become extremely jealous of your work. Let them slander your name against the wall for everyone to see, but what other people are seeing is a spiteful, jealous and resentful person who is inferior of you. Don’t get me wrong, there are going to be complete honest critiques and judgements made about your work, but always try to see the logic in it all. Take in what you can, learn from it and throw the rest of the negativity away.

Look at Miss California. She stated she believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman. All gays and lesbians around the world bashed her up against a bloody pulp. You know what though? I have a ton of respect for her to get up there and be completely honest about her opinion. This is a beauty pageant, not a presidential election. She could have been vague and said something everyone wanted to hear, but she stood up for what she believed in and what she was brought up to believe what was wrong and right. Who are we to judge her? We call her “intolerant”, “a bigot”, “judgmental” -- when it was just an opinion and belief she had. Oh what a terrible person! She is not intolerant or a bigot. She is a person who believes differently. I think the LGBT community should practice what they preach if they’re so desperately seeking acceptance.

Take everything with a grain of salt in life, because one opinion is not the be all end all.  If we all shared the same opinions and beliefs, this world would be a boring place to live in.

EDIT: "Prejean later announced that she'll be launching a campaign opposing gay marriage with the National Organization for Marriage." --read more.  Now, it's one thing to state your opinion to the world, but it's another to fight for what other people believe to be true. Why put so much effort into preventing two people who love one another to not be able to marry? Why not focus on yourself - your life? Why can't you just state your opinion and have it be final? Why do they go out of their way to try to make other people's lives miserable? That came back to bite me in the ass, huh?

Friday, May 08, 2009

His Last Cigarette

Usually at around 7-8 pm in the evening, the same man across the street comes outside of his apartment to sit out on the stoop and smoke a cigarette. He’s probably in his late 30’s, receding blondish hairline, attractive face and slim build. I can see him sitting there, arms folded upon his bended knees, deep in thought. Sometimes I wonder if he just needs to get away from his wife and family or if he’s not allowed to smoke in his apartment. Other times, I think he’s most likely hiding the fact that he still smokes while promising the wife he had quit a long time ago. Whatever the reason may be: this is his time. Maybe this is his only time to just sit in peace and stare out into space thinking about what could have been or what should have been, or even, how very lucky he is right now. The last option is usually not the case.

I find myself doing the same thing right outside my own deck.  I stare out into space, but my thoughts are full of gratitude.  I don’t have much, but what I do have is worth all the gold in the world to me. I’ve always wanted a wife who I could call my best friend.  I’ve always wanted to live in a busy community right in the center of everything.  I don’t prefer living in seclusion.  I did it all my life.  It was beautiful, but not for me.  

I think about my past and how it has helped me grow and learn so I could become a better person today. I’m still not there yet, and still have so much to learn. I’m thankful for every single person that has come in and out of my life - even if they are no longer with me. It’s nice to know there was a ‘time when’ we used to share our time together. I prefer to look at the positive side of every relationship and friendship I have ever had. What if I didn’t go through this or that-- would I be different today? If that didn’t happen to me, what would my life be like right now? I’m a firm believer in the cliche that everything happens for a reason. It’s not a cliche - it’s a fact, in my opinion...which could be an oxymoron altogether.

Think about your life: where would you be right now if you hadn’t gone through a few of your most challenging times? All of the trials and struggles we go through are all to help us develop better character. Do you believe that or do you just get angry at God or the universe for giving you a bad hand?

Post traumatic stress is very common among many people. Some people have it and don’t even know it. Our bodies protect us - it’s the fight or flight response that enables us to hang in there the best we could. People handle and cope with things differently, depending on their fight or flight responses. You may ask yourself, “How can he or she do that to me?” or “how dare he or she say that to me?” Whatever the reasons are, it’s the way they cope with it all. To lash out is the fight response. To ignore you and flee is the flight response. To do both is a very confusing response.

Sometimes we don’t get closure. That’s “okay”. We don’t need closure in order to wish someone well and to move on. I had to learn later on in life. I’m glad I did because I’m content knowing that my prayers and well wishes are received, regardless if they don’t have a clue I’m doing just that. I have faith in God and my thoughts, words, prayers, heartfelt cries all go to Him. I don’t look to other people to handle my strife any longer. I don’t expect anything anymore from anyone.  So, I sit out on my deck on a warm evening and think how incredibly lucky I am to have gotten to this stage of my life: acceptance and contentment. Contentment, not being a negative word, but being a word of confidence in my lot in life. I like where I am. Would I love to improve? There is always room for improvement. I’m working on it.

While sitting on my deck, watching my neighbor smoke his last cigarette, I said a prayer that while he was staring out into space, he was also thanking God for his lot in life. I know the prayer was received - I have faith in that.   And one day, maybe he’ll sense all of those prayers and well wishes were sent to him from a complete stranger that evening.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Trust No One

No. I don’t care who you are or how important you may be, I will not open my door for you unless you provide some sort of identification that you’re an officer or a fire chief. I am not opening doors for workers, mechanics, maintenance people or unexpected deliveries. If you’re sending flowers to me, tell them to leave it at the door because I’m not opening it. And to those idiot Jehovah Witnesses that bring their child in below zero temps with no jacket on (just to make you feel bad so you’ll invite them in), ---put the guilt upon yourself because that child will freeze. If you’re my neighbor that lives below me: you can kiss my ass because I have no respect for you since you blast Michael Jackson 5am every other morning and stomp around on your hard wooden floors like a horse. Remember: I own you. I live on top of you. You’re my drum and I will play you till I wear you down woman! If it’s someone I already know, that face better be visible in the peephole or...I ain’t opening it. I don’t care if you’re 10 yrs old and selling girl scout cookies - take it somewhere else kid. I’m not mean. I’m just careful. Too many ploys to get us to open the door.

Electric company you say? Everything is just fine on the inside - check it from the outside, thank you. Gas company? Is there a problem? Call me, you should have my number in that little computer of yours. Pizza? I’m on a Goddam diet moron! Take it to the next door. Oh one of our troops asking for support and donations? THANK YOU for your support and bravery. I’m sorry, not opening it up for you though.

It’s not being mean. It’s being safe. A few people got broken into by vulnerable people opening up their doors to servicemen. They would push right through the door once you open it, possibly raping and killing you, after they have stolen everything in your apartment or house. Most people who do this dress up as your local service people around the area, so without a doubt, you open the door right away. Wrong. Get verification from the company they work for that there is a technician trying to get inside your home.

I had to turn down a package that came from an unknown delivery service. I usually receive UPS, DSL and FEDX packages. Today was different. I told him from the other side of the door that my husband and I could not answer the door and that we never ordered anything from that service. He persisted, but I told him to pretend that I’m not home. He got the hint and I saw his van roam around my complex over ten times making stops to each building. I made a call just to notify the police of this new service man and they’re looking into it. How can a whole bunch of packages be sent to everyone in this complex on the same day?

Trust no one.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Low Bottom Superiors

As most of you know, I decided to take a huge five month break from drinking on November 18th. I initially did it because I noticed I was drinking to self-medicate. I also took a break because I wanted to lose more weight. I have had five months of sobriety. I even went to AA to get some support. They told me to try the 90 day challenge, because they thought I was a “high bottom”, which is someone who has not seen a great loss because of their drinking habit and well, considered me more of a ‘social drinker’. But at the time, it wasn’t the case. I found myself drinking in the middle of the day if I was stressed out. “Oh one martini won’t hurt.”  And it is ok, except when it’s to self-medicate.

During the day while I was attending alcoholics anonymous, I sat in and listened to everyone. Many of the AA members had been there 20+ years. Some were newcomers and usually, I’d never see them again at the same meeting. The stories were so horrific and tragic - my heart went out to all of them. To hear that one man lost his wife, kids, home and job because of his habit and a woman who had lost her husband by alcohol poisoning really hit home for me. Alcohol was a gate drug for many other substances for some. All of these were very heartbreaking, yet I couldn’t relate to any of them, except for the fact that I loved to have a drink once in a while. But, at the time, it seemed to be more than just once in a while.

Nevertheless, I hung in there. I lost ten pounds, started sleeping better and developed a little pattern where I’d grab a cup of coffee from Duncan Donuts and headed for my meetings every evening at 5:30pm. The more I went, the more I opened up to my story. When it was my turn to speak, I told them about my habits and how I drank only when I was stressed. Then I explained how it increased greatly when I started getting depressed and then I had put on weight because of it. It seemed as though my story didn’t quite measure up to everyone else’s. It almost felt like, “Oh well that’s it?” I felt like I was being belittled and almost snarled at because my main goal was to try to stop for a while and lose weight. “This isn’t a weight loss program, this is a program to save lives.” one person muttered in his anguish. I reiterated that I was there for the same reason he was: the desire to stop drinking - regardless of “why”. We each had our own reasons of why we were all there. Does it really matter?

I found most of the women to be insincere about their “kind gestures” to offer their phone numbers, just in case we had an urge to drink. “Call me anytime, really.” These calls were shuffled off by, “Oh, can’t talk right now”, and another lady said, “Well you can call me but I’m really busy most of the time.” One night I called a temporary sponsor while I was really stressed out and ready to paint the town red. She blew me off so fast and rudely that I actually picked up a beer and drank it. This, being after 90 days of sobriety. It’s not her fault - everyone has a life, right? Who am I to force people to chat with me for five minutes just to remain sober for the remainder of the evening so that I can reach my goal? It’s always about me me me... That’s how I felt.

When I went back to the meeting the next day, I told everyone that I picked up a beer. The response I got was: “Just one?” Everyone stared at me and the room of 30 somewhat people remained in complete silence, until the female director said, “You know, most alcoholics wouldn’t stop at just one drink.” Basically, everyone shunned me because I wasn’t “a real alcoholic”. Well, what the hell is a real alcoholic if alcohol is a great part of my lifestyle? “Well, you can stop at one drink, speaking for other people as well as myself, we would drink until we would become unconscious.” the woman continued. “You’re a high bottom. You have more control. You don’t blackout.” I felt like I was being subliminally being kicked out of their club. And then it was confirmed: “You never lost someone from alcohol poisoning. You never experienced what it was like to get your stomach pumped and you have never gotten a DWI.” I wanted to correct her and let her know that there have been many nights where I had no idea how I got home, but something told me to just shut it for now. She went on and on until my cork finally popped.

“I’m the person that never gets caught who ends up killing your loved ones by carelessly driving home after a few drinks.”

The room went silent.

“I’m here because I want to get better and make better choices. Regardless if I’m a high bottom, low bottom, side bottom or whatever the fuck you want to call it - I was endangering not only my life, but your loved ones too. What’s the difference? Does anyone want to tell me or should I just quit now and find the next bar to drive to?”

I heard crickets.

The priest next to me rubbed my arm, but somehow that just made me feel worse. I felt like I had a huge taco in my throat. This is it. They won’t play with me anymore. I picked up my coffee, grabbed my purse and headed out of the church. I saw people looking down at their feet as I walked past them. One guy nodded at me in approval to what I said - but at that point, his approval nods meant shit to me. Nobody was sincere in that room. They were still the self-indulgent low bottom superiors who had no regard for anyone that wanted to make their life, as well as others, safer.

To conclude with this very difficult post I am writing, I want to say that I have set rules for myself. After five months of sobriety and a nice little fasting for my liver, I am now a social drinker. I have a couple drinks with dinner on the weekends and I always switch designated drivers with Madelene so we can share in the process of keeping our roads safer. Yes, I can stop at 1 or 2 beers, but that doesn’t mean a cop can’t stop me or worse yet -  a horrific tragedy due to a couple of drinks.

I think AA needs to get their priorities checked.

So for now, my motto is: everything in moderation and never, ever get behind the wheel---even if it’s one drink.   I may be off the wagon, but at least I'm not driving it.  

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Sliding Scale

Sometimes I have to stop myself and ask: “Do people really care?” Not just any people, but the people who are here to help us: doctors, healthcare providers and mental health professionals. Do they really want to see us get better, or do they just want us to remain “as is” and collect as long as they can? I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt, and I also know that we’re all in our own types of businesses to make money, but it does seem as though these healthcare professionals don’t have a heart to the people who need their services the most. We can play the blame game all day long, but really - who is at fault? Even with most insurances, they’ll pay a percentage of whatever doctor you’re seeing. If you have a low income, a sliding scale isn’t a sliding scale unless it slides of course. That’s discretionary of the doctor or professional that’s treating you. What good is insurance when you have to pay most of it out of your own pocket? It doesn’t make sense.

Let me get into the mental health side of things. I have been seeing the same psychiatrist for almost 5+ years. I just found a therapist after a year and a half to help me with my anxiety disorder & depression and to provide cognitive behavioral treatment. I have insurance, however I pay $50.00 out of my pocket for the psychiatrist and $40.00 out of my pocket for the therapist. My question is: if I see my family doctor for the flu or whatever may be wrong with me under the sun, and I don’t have to pay one penny out of pocket, then why are my psychotherapists charging me an arm and a leg? Is mental health not as important? If I walk into my shrink’s office and claim I’m suicidal, isn’t that more dangerous than having the swine flu?

Even though I go to therapy for anxiety disorder and mild depression (which is due to the anxiety), there are worse case scenarios out there that really do need the help, but they cannot afford it. So they wander aimlessly, without help until it’s too late. I wonder if it’s one of the reasons why some kids in high school are shooting their peers and then committing suicide. They cannot cope with their mental anguish by themselves and cannot afford the professional help that they so desperately need.

So who’s to blame - the insurance companies or the doctors who have the ability to “slide the scales”?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine Flu & Mexican Restaurants: Should It Be Avoided?

It’s a very grim time to know that Cinco De Mayo is approaching and we’re not attending our favorite Mexican restaurant to celebrate. Granted, most of the staff are Mexican, we fear that some may have came back from Mexico recently or have had a relative visit, etc., hence being fearful of walking inside their lovely establishment. But is it any different from anywhere else really? Think about it: people of all nationalities visit Mexico and who am I to judge a Mexican restaurant when I’m about to go grocery shopping later on at one of the largest chains in America? Even if I were to get swine flu, it would be the same as getting any other type of flu. The cases are mild here in the states and there are hardly any reported deaths from it, other than what you see from the typical influenza seasons.

Nevertheless, we’re having our own little soiree attempting to make Mexican goodies in our own kitchen. I know, that’s a sin - that’s like me trying to cook up a Puerto Rican dish while my Puerto Rican wife stares at me in horror. Hey, maybe it’ll be good - who knows? And just think about all of those wonderful and talented Mexicans cooking at your favorite Italian restaurants. Our favorite Italian restaurant in New York have Mexican cooks. It is the best. food. ever. I rarely see authentic Italians cooking in their restaurants anymore. But, that can be a whole other political conversation in itself and I don’t want my post going there...just yet.

My heart goes out to the guys who run our favorite Mexican restaurant. They’ll be losing a lot of business, especially on Cinco De Mayo. I’m seriously thinking about going there, in spite of their possible trips in and out of Mexico because anywhere we go, we can all be exposed to it regardless of anyone’s nationality we come across.  But then again my OCD comes back to haunt me.  

What do you think? Would you celebrate Cinco De Mayo at your favorite Mexican restaurant at this time?