Wednesday, October 26, 2016

That time I was going to lie to my shrink and then I didn't

"OK, so, I was totally going to lie to you, because I was afraid you'd get mad, but I'm not. I'm going to tell you the truth."

Months ago, that was what I said when I walked into my shrink's office.

You might think that of all people to be honest with, you'd be straight up with your mental health professional. The one giving you psychiatric medication.


But you know, my previous shrink, the one I chose because he took my insurance, he made me feel bad. I'd go in and talk to him and I'd immediately feel like I wasn't doing the right thing. I was doing something wrong, or I wouldn't be depressed.

He didn't make me feel like we could figure it out together. No. He made me feel like a loser.

I needed help feeling like less of a loser. Or a not-loser. I didn't want to pay someone to feel like more of one.

And here's the thing. I am a first born rule follower. I am a people pleaser.

I don't want to upset. I don't want to disappoint. I am terrified of getting in trouble.

Now, I don't know about you, but I was raised to respect and even fear authority. Certainly not to question it. I didn't know that was an option.

As an adult, I was once visiting my parents, and my dad called from another room, "Lisa, could you come in here please?"

I flinched. "Am I in trouble?"

He said, "What? No. Lisa. You're 25."

Sometimes Nick has a tone. I think, "I'm in trouble." My body goes into fight or flight mode.

I'm not kidding. I don't think it ever completely goes away.

When I was a kid, I was so truthful. If I did something wrong and was asked about it, I owned it, even if it meant getting spanked. Often I confessed before being asked. I was grounded a lot.

I don't remember my transgressions. I do remember the fear.

As I got older, things got more nuanced. I knew my dad wasn't always right. His rules didn't necessarily make sense. But he expected me to do as he said. He expected me to agree.

I never challenged my teachers or the school administrators. If you were in a position of authority, your word was law.

Then one day in eleventh grade my dear friend Kristin said, "I just agree with people and then do whatever I want."

What? Whoa!

You know what? This worked.

Disagreeing never worked. Fighting didn't work. Sometimes very carefully and thoughtfully articulated opposing arguments worked. I did this, in letter form, I think twice.

But this! This subversive strategy was so much more expedient! And less stressful!

Sometimes me actually doing whatever my dad was expecting didn't even seem to matter. The agreement, the "yes, Dad," was what mattered.

You could agree with something you thought was stupid, and then quietly go about your business.

If you didn't do what you were supposed to do, despite your best could just kind of...not exactly tell the truth to the person in charge. And then you wouldn't have a disagreement and you wouldn't get in trouble.

Unless you were caught. But that didn't happen much.

So. My shrink's office.

I'd gone off my meds--you know about this--and taken that express bus to Crazytown.

And then I had this long-standing shrink appointment. To check in and talk about my medication. The medication I'd quit so cavalierly, without so much as an email to him.

My plan, of course, was to walk in and pretend that everything was fine. That I hadn't deviated from the course he set out for me. Because that would be not following the rules. And he might get angry. Or be disappointed.

I might get in trouble.

The day before my appointment, I saw a good friend, who asked about my upcoming appointment. I told her I was just going to say everything was fine.

And she basically said, "Look. This is someone you pay to help you. This is his profession, so he knows what he's talking about. And his only role in your life is to help you feel better. He's not going to get mad, and he's not going to judge."

"You're right. I know you are."

"So let him help you."

I knew she was right. I did. But still, I was so nervous. I hadn't followed instructions. I'd broken the rules. I had to keep telling myself, "He's not your dad. He's not going to get mad. You're paying him to help you."

And I walked in, took a deep breath, and confessed.

It came out in a rush.

"OK, so, I was totally going to lie to you, because I was afraid you'd get mad, but I'm not. I'm going to tell you the truth..."

I went on for a while. I told him everything.

That I was afraid he'd get mad. That I'd be in trouble. That I'd gone off my meds and gone to Crazytown and now I was pretty much back but I hated Wellbutrin and I just wasn't willing to take it anymore.

That I had to be reminded that he wasn't my dad and wouldn't get mad at me. That I recognized that I hired him specifically to help me with the very types of medication I'd been planning to lie about.

You know what he did? He chuckled at my confession. He said he understood how I'd quit and not checked in with him. He didn't chastise me.

He commended me for being truthful. For recognizing that his role is to find solutions, not to judge.

And then we talked it all through. And made a new plan.

He did exactly what I pay him for.

He helped me. And he made me feel better.

I'd love to pretend that with that, I learned my lesson. That I have gotten rid of this automatic response. That I do not react when Nick has a tone. That I do not keep my doctors on a need to know basis, with me deciding what they need to know.

But that would be a lie.

The truth is, I'm working on it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cozy and cold, put the horse before the cart

Me, 10 years ago
Today I have been blogging for ten years.


This is longer than my longest romantic relationship, which at this point is approaching nine years. It's way longer than I've lived in most places.

Really, this relationship, with all of you imaginary friends--many of whom I've been lucky enough to get to know in person--is one of the longest and most constant I've had.

I was thinking about where I was when I started. And it was here: heartbroken, fearful, insecure, depressed...really, kind of broken.

Some of you have been with me since the beginning, when my dear friend Kaysha said, "Do it! Start your blog!"

A few of my friends approved wholeheartedly. Some disapproved. Some just thought I was odd, but that's true; I am odd.

My dad read it from the start. He'd send me notes about typos or grammar. Sometimes he would lament my profane mouth; I'm well educated enough to use myriad other words.

I know now that he was proud of me, although he didn't say it to me. I'd hear the criticism. He'd sent my blog posts to friends, though. He'd talk about my writing.

Recently I was in a writing workshop and someone asked me why I started blogging.

I think the most honest answer is that I wanted to write and I desperately needed support, although I had no idea that was what I was looking for.

Truly, I could never have expected to encounter such fine people. I've met such smart, funny, interesting people, just by showing up here and writing.

Then they also asked how I named my blog, and of course I had to say it was my porn name. And also my profile name, which is up there with the poorest choices I've mad.

When I started I wrote every day. Every day. I had so much to say. And I wanted to say it to you!

I wrote blog posts in my head on my walk to work. I spun them around. And I typed them up at lunch. It was so easy. My head is so busy! And I finally had somewhere to put the words!

I now have less time, and honestly, my life is a lot less varied. I don't think I can ever top the Internet dates for blogging fodder. I was looking for love and I found all kinds of fabulous stories.

Sadly, I do think it's true that I got a lot less funny after I fell in love.

Such is life.

Blogging has given me a number of gifts. First would be friends. I have met heart people here, people I value tremendously and genuinely love.

It has made me a more honest person. I've laid myself bare, and people have responded with thanks, with their own stories.

I don't, in retrospect, know that I've always done the right thing being so open and honest. My dad was so angry that I wrote about him. He felt it was very unfair.

And for my part, all I could see was that he was shattering my life all over again. That he wanted us to live in silence because it was more comfortable for him. But it was killing us.

For me, it was such a relief to start talking about mental illness and suicide that I couldn't stop. I haven't stopped. He is gone, and there's no question of fair or unfair. But I don't know that I was 100 percent in the right back then.

Through this blog, I have come to believe that most of us have lived through something terrible, something brutal. We aren't all comfortable talking about it in public, but we need to be able to share, and to know that we aren't alone in our vulnerability, in our pain. To lay it out without being judged.

Darkness and fear are heavy. They are cumbersome. Everything starts to feel better when you call them out by name. When you expose them to sunshine and air they start to dissipate.

I feel so grateful and honored that people feel comfortable sharing with me.

Blogging has made me a better writer. I look back at early posts and I am tempted to re-write them, because I know I could do a better job now. But that's who I was then, and this is who I am now.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your support, and for holding my hand through some very rough times. Thank you for not bailing on me even when I did things like rub butter on a complete stranger's nose.

Thank you for being part of my life. I am so lucky.

Love and hugs,


Monday, October 03, 2016

Dear Dad, on your 80th birthday

Dad had a man purse and he did not care.
Dear Dad,

You would be 80 today.

You know math is not my strength, so imagine my surprise when I counted backwards from 2016 and came up with 80. It seems impossible.

I mean, of course everything is possible when you're talking would'ves and could'ves.

But still.

It's a beautiful, sunny fall day. The kind of day you want to bottle, so you can sprinkle it around you in the grim of winter. You'd be out for a walk or sitting in the yard if you were still here.

Jordan is seven and huge, and so much BOY. You would love him. He likes his name, and the fact that he is named after you, and we have a cousin Mike Jordan, and there's a famous basketball player with the same name!

He loves building and music and science and math (inconceivable to me, but glad he does). He's  obsessed with Star Wars. I remember you taking us to a movie theatre in London to see the first Star Wars (which is now the fourth, and this out-of-orderness annoys me). You always took us to the new movies, the new shows. We recently watched E.T; I remember standing in line for it with you in DC.

The kids and Mom and I listen to Hamilton on repeat. In fact, Nick is the only one in the house who doesn't love it. I try not to think of this as a character flaw.

But I know for a fact that you'd have headed up to NYC and seen it the minute it came out.

India is four, and so sophisticated. You'd be charmed by her. She would hug you and kiss you and snuggle into your lap and ask you to read to her. She'd make you tickle her.

She's got a strong personality, and she comes by it honestly. She's so bold; she'll try anything. She falls down and gets up and brushes herself off and says she's fine. She impresses me endlessly.

I know that you'd be down on the floor with these kids, building Lego and Duplo. You'd  take turns telling jokes and making each other laugh.

It makes me so sad that they don't have you. That you didn't get to have them.

Mom is doing well. She has a plot in the community garden. She got about a million radishes and four little stunted carrots. Jordan dumped the pepper seeds all in one hole, so I think about two of those made it to pepper-hood.

Maybe you know this. Maybe you know all these things. She said that sometimes at night she feels a weight on the bed, like someone just sat down. She knows it is you.

I believe this.

We have a great little family. Nick still gets home late, so family dinner means Mom, the kids, and me. Jordan does his nightly reading with Nana, and still crawls into bed with her regularly.

Neither of my kids can imagine our family without her. We are lucky to have her. I wish we still had you as well.

I love you and miss you. Happy birthday.



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Eight songs for a mad king

Eight years ago tonight, we said, "I do" and "I do" and then burst out laughing.

This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding.

We kissed first. Or maybe we kissed too early? And then started laughing? I can't quite remember. All I know is, we laughed and laughed. We were married and we were delighted.

It is the laughter that sustains us and that saves us, every time.

It's not like with the kids, where we've somehow, once again, gotten into a standoff about shoes. Or  breakfast. Or tooth brushing. Even though I try so hard to remember to voice their feelings. "You're so frustrated. You want to play. You don't want to put on your shoes."

Too often in the moment, I forget.

I try to remind myself, but then it is morning and everything is hard and I end up being all, "Just put on your shoes! We put shoes on every day! We have to go! Put them on!"

But if we do get into that spiral and I can break the tension "Look, a squirrel!" or make them laugh, we can reset and move forward.

But with grownups, with us, "Look, a squirrel!" doesn't work.

Our tension is not so easily broken.

Eight years ago on this day, we'd known each other for approximately 10 months. Most of those months our free time was spent watching The Office, doing the crossword, swilling beer in bars, and going for runs along the Potomac.

Those months were easy. We had one big fight, about our honeymoon. Seriously. That was the biggest thing we had to fight about. Which exotic location and for how long.

We both wanted kids. We were raised with a strong work ethic, and to pay bills and only incur debt very carefully and with much deliberation. Our politics and worldviews aligned. We both liked Bells Two Hearted.

We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.

And we each found the other funny. Sometimes only mildly amusing. And sometimes hilarious. This was what really got me.

Nick was smart and kind, and he made me laugh. And he loved my humor. Obviously, if he hadn't found me funny, I'd have considered him humorless.

Now we have kids. We spend most of our free time with them. Sometimes this is tremendously fun, and sometimes it's incredibly taxing, and often it's both, all swirled together. But regardless, we both consider it important to parent as well as we can.

But this means we have very little time or energy for the two of us. Our relationship suffers for it.

We have a house that demands a lot, both maintenance-wise and financially. Our politics and worldviews are unchanged and compatible. We almost never drink beer. (Separate personal choices for differing reasons.)

We fight, boy howdy, do we fight. Sometimes the mad lasts for only 15 minutes, or for an hour or two. In the worst case it lasted about a year.

I can simultaneously love Nick with all my heart and be angry enough to loathe him with every fiber of my being. They aren't contradictory, at least not to me. And he is strong enough to handle it.

I don't exactly believe women who never admit to wanting to stab their husbands.

Recently a dear friend asked me if I think she is hard to live with. I said yes. She is hard to live with and I am hard to live with, and so is my husband. It is hard to live with people.

People are annoying when you have to live with their moods and uncapped toothpaste and inside out socks.

So we pick the ones we love the most. The ones whose minds intrigue us. The ones with whom we are our best version of ourselves, because we feel truly good with them. And with whom we can be our worst, most vulnerable versions of ourselves, because we trust and feel safe with them.

The ones who make us laugh, really laugh.

I did, and I do, and I would all over again.

Oh, look! A squirrel!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How to start a fight with your spouse in five easy steps

The Heirloom of Injustice
You may already be good at this. But if you need a few tips, I'm happy to share some tried and true fight starters.

1. Remember, timing is critical. 

A great time to start one is late at night, perhaps while you're brushing your teeth before bed. At this point you're both tired, a little vulnerable, and not at your most rational.


2. Pick something that's been eating at you daily, but you haven't said anything about.

For example, me, I'm constantly annoyed by my husband's grandfather clock. It is beautiful, generations old, and imbued with family history and import. It was owned by his namesake. He has known his whole life that he would inherit it.

It chimes like his other ding clocks--and there's bitter history there--but louder. It sits near the bottom of the stairs, and the sound shoots right up to our room hourly and on the half hour.


I've been bothered by it for a long time. And to Nick's credit, since receiving it, he has tried various methods of stifling it. He's wrapped the dinger in a towel, in bubble wrap, etc. His goal was to adjust it so it is loud enough to hear but soft enough to be acceptable for me.

He was under the impression that he'd fixed the problem, since I'd stopped complaining. But I stopped complaining because the whole thing made me tired. And he was trying.

The DING is no longer so loud that it actually wakes me up at night. But if I am awake, I count the dings...

3. Wait until your frustration has built and built, so while it seems logical to you (you have daily conversations in your head) it will come out of the blue for your partner. This way you can really wallop her or him with your rage and righteous indignation.

The unsuspecting clock has come to symbolize every instance in our marriage where I felt that his opinion carried more weight than mine. Where his wants and needs came first. Where he pushed harder and I capitulated, because it was just easier to give in.

Now it irritates me every time I hear it. Which is a million times a day.

It is no longer just a clock.


It is the Heirloom of Injustice.

4. React to a trigger. Do not stop to think about the rationality of it.

In my case, the 11:00 chimes were the final straw. 

5.  Go for the nuclear option. Accuse. Use a tone, perhaps some profanity. With built up rage and righteous indignation, this is really the only approach. It works immediately, eliciting anger and setting you up for completely irrational conversation.

For example: "You know, if I ever leave you, it will be because your fucking ding clock is more important to you than my feelings."

You love your clock more than you love me. How much do you even really love me?

Pretty good, huh?

There. You'll of course have your own personal peeves, your own heirlooms of injustice, but follow this formula, and I've set you on the course for a big old fight.

You can take it from here.