Monthly Archives: September 2012

Replacing The Bad With the Good

One of the exercises I’m really liking from Keiko Zoll’s The You Project (the best $7.50 I’ve spent in AGES, by the way) is writing down the negative things I think about myself during the day.

There are a lot of them.

Most fall within a specific pattern: I tend to feel I let others down, then I feel guilty about it.

Darcy had a birthday and we make a big deal about birthdays around here. I spent 4 1/2 hours baking him a homemade chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. In a way, cake-making might be the biggest nightmare out there for perfectionists who are hard on themselves. (Remember how baking a cake caused one character to have a nervous breakdown in “The Hours?”) The cake tasted incredible, but it looked in a word: WONKY. I didn’t make enough of the buttercream frosting so it wasn’t covered completely. The buttercream recipe was completely fussy and required me to add very small amounts of confectioner’s sugar over the period of an hour to the butter. Again it tasted incredible. Darcy (who never holds back his words and whose opinion I care most about) loved it.

It didn’t look picture perfect.

So I was simultaneously annoyed with myself for not DOING IT RIGHT then I beat myself up because I didn’t include my kids in the baking of this cake like the French do, then I thought, why do I care so much about making things the best?

That’s a bad wormhole to go down.

In addition, I have a friend who has the worst timing in the world, at least when it comes to our friendship. She calls at the worst possible moments, shows up when I’m in the MIDDLE of something or when the house is a total wreck. I’m always explaining, it’s not me, it’s you, I’m tired, I’m sick. It’s happened enough to strain our entire friendship.

Today I woke up with the feeling that someone was sticking a dull, cheap Ikea Allen wrench deep into my left ear every 15-20 seconds. It hurt a lot. I was able to make it to a doctor’s appointment, and he quickly told me I had a nasty ear infection and I needed antibiotics.

Poor Darcy took the day off for Yom Kippur and went to services without me, drove me to the Doctor with the kids, dropped us off then went to pick up the meds.

During the doctor’s visit, my friend called. I didn’t answer. Then as soon as I got into bed, trying to amuse the kids while still feeling the dull pain of the Allen wrench, she texted me and said she was around the corner with her daughter visiting her dad.

I did not answer her text.

Readers, I hid the phone behind my pillow.

Darcy got home and said he had seen my friend at the drugstore while he was picking up my antibiotics. She was really upset and wanted to hang out. She was sick of my excuses, he could tell. He felt badly for her.

I let down a friend today. I didn’t value her friendship enough to put away my own suffering and blithely serve her the leftover chocolate cake. Which is what I should have done.

I don’t really know how to atone for this.

Keiko Zoll tells me that for each negative self-thought, I need to show myself one kindness.

So right now I write this entry, because what I love to do is write. And tomorrow, I will call my friend (even though I hate talking on the phone) and try to make it up to her.

***

Do you have negative self-thoughts? How do you ignore them/get past them?

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Filed under cooking?!?, Family

Melancholia

Darcy and I watched the movie, by Lars Von Trier.

Quite possibly, the film is the best illustration, ever, of what it is like to live with either depression, or its sister, anxiety.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Part One

The film is a look at an upper class family on the eve of the end of the world. No one knows the world is ending in the beginning, although Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, has her suspicions. Justine is one of the most gorgeous brides ever, in a wedding as picture perfect as you can imagine. Well, except for her dysfunctional parents who either let her down or make a scene. Gradually, we understand that Justine can’t enjoy the beauty of the event. She thinks it’s false, even though she doesn’t want to, and she makes a huge mess of it all. Her sister Claire who had planned the event on her beautiful estate, is troubled and can’t understand why Justine can’t just “be happy.” The day after the disastrous affair, Justine goes horseback riding with her sister, and she is unable to get her faithful stallion Abraham over a bridge. Justine looks up and notices a star is missing from the constellations.

Part Two

The missing star has been identified as Melancholia, a planet that is possibly on a collusion course with earth. Claire’s extremely rich husband John is confident that the planet will miss earth, just like it missed Mercury. He reassures Claire, who is very worried, that the planet will provide for a beautiful sight, but that is all. Claire desperately wants to believe him, but you can see the doubt and concern on her face. Justine has returned, catatonic, but seems to improve as the situation grows more dire. With a calm certainty, she faces her doom with dignity, helping Claire and her son who are eventually deserted by John. (Money means nothing in the end?) Claire tries desperately to save her son from their shared fate, and tries to control their fate, but to no avail. She never really accepts what is happening.

I don’t suffer from depression, although I have had my sad moments during my infertility journey. I don’t think life is pointless, like Justine, but I understand her plight. She sees the world as it is: that we will all face death. She has a hard time going through the motions, based on her understanding of the end game. No matter how incredible certain moments are, she just can’t play at life.

Claire, I comprehend completely. Claire, who functions so well during Justine’s wedding, is lost when Melancholia approaches. She has tied her life to the material world, she has a son she wants to survive and she can’t face the end. While Justine relied upon Claire in life, Claire must rely on Justine when facing death.

No one wants to die, of course. But we know none of us get out alive.

Have you seen the movie? Did you think it is about depression and anxiety?

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Filed under movies, What Say You?

Happy Birthday Grayson!

Some of you may know about the lovely and inspiring Elizabeth and her gorgeous boy Grayson, who was recently diagnosed with Leigh’s Disease, a terminal condition.

Today Grayson turns two!

Please go over and wish Grayson a happy birthday. And, learn more about Mitochondrial Disease and Leigh’s Disease by going here.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Slip Into Something More Comfortable

2002 was the year I got married. In the UK, and specifically within the Ibiza Chill Out scene, a haunting song would often play at the coolest of lounges and clubs in London. It was a song that was incredibly romantic. The violins stirred and reminded me of what my heart heard when I met Darcy for the first time. I contemplated playing this tune as I walked down the aisle, but thought it was a bit racy. So I decided upon “Storybook Love,” the theme from The Princess Bride, one of my favorite movies of all time.

But I memorized the romantic loop of “Slip Into Something More Comfortable” for our Honeymoon: I ingrained it into my head, for there were no iPods, not yet. Specifically, I remembered it for our island getaway to Mnemba, which in my mind IS paradise on earth. While there, we stayed in a beautiful bungalow, and dined by ourselves under the most low-hanging and vivid stars I have ever seen. I actually felt I could stand up and touch the bright constellations. I also scuba dived for the first and probably last time in the Indian Ocean. I remember every moment we were there, every limeade we were brought by our butler. The guy was so aristocratic that WE tended to his every need: I was always asking him what I could get him or what books he would want to read. (All the smartest books I had, I soon found out. He loved Margaret Atwood. Turns out he was in fact a Zanzibar noble.)

When I went through infertility, whether it was transfers or accupuncture treatments or injections, I always replayed the Kinobe loop in my head. I remembered how my low-slung red bikini fit me so gorgeously, I remember wearing sarongs to mealtimes with famous and important people: including the producer of all of the Harry Potter movies. I remember wearing Hermes scarves on my head with my wedding pearls and somehow feeling as badass as a pirate. I had come face-to-face with lions and leopards and green mambas and was unbowed.

It’s hard to remember that girl now. That beautiful, sculpted, optimistic adventurer. Yet, she is here. All I need to do is play Kinobe to call her back into existence.

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Filed under Discovering joy

Family Outing

One of the many reasons I love our neighborhood is that it feels like a cocoon when you enter it. Tall, mature elms and Oaks block out the heavy traffic nearby, lavender, green lawns and large lots provide trappings of privacy yet there is a distinct feeling of neighborhood. Within this wooded and private retreat, we are lucky enough to have friends and family who live nearby. Best of all, the twins have two boy second cousins, one the same age as them, and they love to have rowdy light saber and robot battles. My daughter bosses them all around.

My favorite occasions are when one of the families hosts a dinner and instead of having to say no, we don’t have any babysitters, we are told to bring the kids along. Best of all, we walk a brisk 10 minute wooded trail to reach the cousins.

The children play together and tend to work out their own battles (mostly) while the adults adjourn to the outside table, overlooking the lawn and play area. It’s comfortable, we hold witty banter and just enjoy the company.

Tonight’s Menu: Smoked brisket, potatoes lyonnaise, broccoli and a homemade chocolate cake in preparation for Darcy’s birthday (in a few weeks).

After a spirited and disturbing discussion of “Deliverance” (which I have never seen) we retired home, pushing the stroller within our safe confines, with me pushing the Citi-Mini a bit faster than necessary because of the chill that had settled in quite suddenly.

We changed and tucked our little ones into bed.

I never had cousins who lived nearby and I feel privileged to be able to provide my children with this experience. The twins and their younger cousin are almost like triplets because with such close birthdays, they will enter their kindergarten class together. This makes me very happy.

He also makes me very happy.

Are you close to extended family? Do you like to interact with them?

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Filed under Family, Parenting After IF

Time Warp 9/11: Last Year, My Story and Today

Today, I decided to replace our American flag. This wish was a surprisingly urgent feeling. I’ve felt our home seems naked without our old glory, somehow. It comforts me to see it fly out our front window. It wasn’t until tonight that I realized tomorrow is 9/11.

My father-in-law confronted me about the flag, not long after I decided it needed to be retired and unfurled.

“Why do you keep that flag up?” he asked, genuinely perplexed. “I like it,” I replied. Not really sure why. I hadn’t grown up with a flag flying outside my home, but somehow, here, it feels right.

“You know that famous quote about patriotism,” he stated.

‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.’

This afternoon, I found a flag. But his words echo in my mind.

*****

Last year, I wrote about September 11th.

I didn’t tell MY story, because I wondered if it was my story to tell. And I still wonder that today.

Every year, I read “For Thou Art With Us,” still the definitive essay of the event for me.

*****

The morning of September 11th 2001, I flew into London on a red-eye flight from San Diego. A great friend had gotten married in Mission Bay, and I had risked jet lag hell by flying from London to San Diego and back in four days. I remember not being able to attend the beachside rehearsal dinner because I had SUCH a headache. I took a black cab from the airport to my flat early in the morning, and ever the workaholic, I was worried about missing any emails or phone calls from my important clients. So I took the tube to my office in Piccadilly Circus just as soon as I showered and changed. Darcy was in the South of France for a conference.

Around 1:50 PM, I went to CNN.COM, and before I could click on the technology tag (keeping on top of that news was part of my job) I noticed there was a headline that said “Small Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center” in a very straight foward manner. There was an accompanying picture of a hole with smoke (but not flames) in the midst of the famous building’s pinstriped facade.

I blinked at my computer screen, unable to compute this message.

Then I went to a local newsstand and bought a Dr. Pepper and a package of Starburst. I remember that, well. I remember thinking I was going to need some sugar to withstand such awful news, especially given my jet lag. It was one of many odd things I did that day.

One thing to explain about my office is that I was the only American who worked there, other than an intern who was out that day. The office was staffed, appropriately, mostly by Brits, but there were small packs of Aussies and Kiwis too.

When I returned, almost everyone in the office was standing and staring at one of the many TVs populated throughout the office. (It was the firm’s job to monitor broadcast media, too.) I saw the image of the enormous firestorm consuming the North Tower. And as I watched, still unable to compute and perplexed that I was listening to Katie Couric instead of a British talking head as usual (BBC had cut to live American TV), the second plane hit the South Tower. “Bloody HELL!” exclaimed one man. Bloody was not a word that was normally acceptable (as I had found out painfully, early on) in the office setting. That exclamation was about the only signpost I had the rest of the afternoon that what was going on was extraordinary in any way.

Phones began ringing. Our Business division of course had many ties to New York. Guys would calmly run in and say stuff like: “Ten planes are unaccounted for!” Then they ran back to their phones.

Suddenly, I realized my parents might be on an airplane: they were scheduled to fly from New Orleans to Salt Lake City then Montana that day. I tried to dial information for their hotel in New Orleans. But I couldn’t get through to America. “Circuits are busy at this time,” was the message I kept receiving.

Right about then, the jokes began. That “Keep Calm and Carry On” business is for real in Britain. One guy kept making the remark, “Where is Charlton Heston when you need him?” Referring, I think now, to The Towering Inferno. At that point, I started to have difficulty breathing. My parents were unaccounted for. Darcy was in another country. Why wasn’t anyone taking this very scary situation seriously? It was a cultural divide that seemed unconquerable at that moment.

I finally reached Darcy by calling his hotel and asking for his room. “Are you SEEING this?” I asked him. “What?” he replied. And at that moment, the South Tower fell, crushing itself into dust as it began its slow descent into nothingness and ash. “My God, one of the World Trade Center Towers has just collapsed!” I shouted into the receiver. “I don’t believe you,” he said.

He didn’t know. He’d been writing a story in his hotel room with his cell phone turned off.

“The Pentagon has been hit!” politely yelled a Business group person, shortly thereafter, in the same manner he would report that one of our clients was on BBC, and we might want to pay attention to the TV.

A co-worker came up to me and asked quietly: “Are you familiar with New York City?”

“Sort of,” I replied.

“Is Greenwich Village near the World Trade Center? My son is staying there.”

I blurted out in an ugly stream of words: “I think so! You should try to call him! This is serious! Really serious! My parents are supposed to be flying! I can’t reach them!”

“Right,” she said, and politely stepped away.

I regret now that I hadn’t said something more reassuring to her. I guess I was trying to wake her up to the severity of the situation. Everyone seemed to be walking and talking, and yes, laughing (gallows humor) with ice water running through their veins.

“A plane is suspected to be heading towards London!” called out one of the business guys, matter-a-fact.

At that point I approached my boss. “My parents may be flying, I can’t reach them and I just want to go home and try to find out where they are.”

She told me: “The clients need us. You need to stay at your desk and…”

Just then, the North Tower fell.

I guess this kind of response to crisis is what allowed the Brits to hold up so well during the Blitz. It’s admirable no one lost their shit like I did. They had friends and relatives in NY and maybe they even knew people who were on airplanes too. They kept their cool.

Finally, I called Darcy again, even though my boss was giving me the stink-eye and probably was wondering why I wasn’t writing a press release or something. “The Second Tower has fallen,” I screeched.

“I saw that,” he replied hollowly.

I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I silently stood with strands of wetness running down my cheeks, fully aware that I was the only one who was giving into the instinct to cry, as the footage of the crash in Shanksville was shown. I knew I had seen thousands of people die. It was beyond my comprehension and the tears were the only release my body could find. And then I quietly made my way to the door, and for the first and last time I worked there, I left promptly at 5 PM. And because I couldn’t be alone, I went to a friend’s house and we stayed up all night watching the footage over and over and over.

I didn’t find out that my parents were safe until that night.

Later I found out that my building housed the conference firm which had handled the “Windows on the World” event. Several people in our very office had died in the awful attacks. Tony Blair visited, and we weren’t allowed to leave our offices for security reasons. I saw him out our window stepping back into his Jaguar.

I may have been the American, but so many people suffered that day. It’s important to remember that. And we all responded in our different ways.

*****

Even today, I remember the horrible, abruptly assembled footage of photographs on BBC of 9/11. I remember in particular Adagio, by Samuel Barber, playing in the background. I have to change the radio each time that song plays. I detest that composition, now, and will probably for the rest of my life.

*****

For my children, 9/11 will be history. There will be a few pages dedicated to the event in their American History primer.

This is the music I prefer to play, to honor all those who lost loved ones during 9/11.

Go here for more Time Warps about 9/11.

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Filed under Time Warp Tuesdays

Fall Is Here

I noticed that my favorite tree in our backyard, a particularly gorgeous Elm, has a few red leaves today.

I love this time of year. I love the way the weather changes, remaining warm but with an edge of crispness. It reminds me of when Darcy and I first fell in love (we met in late August) and he took me to Opera in the Park and we listed to OK Computer a million times while driving to Half Moon Bay.

One thing I love about our neighborhood is that fall really is a season here. The main roads are planted with tall American Elms that change colors in spectacular fashion, a neat trick in California. In fact, the scene in The Godfather where Kay is approached by Michael after he finally returns to America? And she’s teaching at some unspecified New England school with gorgeous fall foliage? That was filmed a mile from here.

Aside: one of the reasons I love The Godfather is how enigmatic it is. Why did Michael marry Apollonia? Why did he forget about poor Diane Keaton or was he just totally in love with Apollonia? Why did he take up where he left off with Kay after he got back? Did he ever explain to her that he married another woman while she was pining away for him and that woman blew up in a car accident? SO MANY QUESTIONS!

My favorite home in our neighborhood is a Cape Cod straight out of Norman Rockwell-ville. At the height of the fall foliage, it looks like this:

Are you happy to see Fall arrive? (If you are in the Northern Hemisphere.) What memories are stirred by seeing the leaves change color for you?

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Filed under Discovering joy