Friday, December 07, 2018

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun

I don't exactly know what I want to say, but some version of this: yes, holidays are a time of joy and giving and getting and sparkle and friendship and joy.

They're also a time of frenzy and exhaustion and loneliness and hard memories bubbling to the surface when you least expect it.

We're over-scheduled, because 'tis the season! We eat too much sugar and drink too much alcohol or caffeine or both. We don't sleep enough, because there's so much to do do do!

I don't know what to do about any of these things but try to schedule better, and be more deliberate. And also maybe acknowledge the frenzied overscheduliness of the season, reminding myself that it is temporary.

I just recently learned to remind myself that "nothing is forever" in yoga. Oh, and now I do yoga. I don't know what kind. People always ask if you do yoga, and then they ask what kind.

I used to say no, but now I do, and I do it at the Hilton and so I call it Hilton yoga.

Although the truth is I always had my own version of getting through temporary discomfort. For as long as I can remember I've told myself that I can do anything, no matter how hard or miserable, for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes up to a year.

I should add, however, that I now try to incorporate happiness into my life. And now that I know that joy is attainable, I'm less inclined to do something miserable for a year just for my resume or whatever.

Because you know what my dad's advice of just do it for a year for your resume taught me? To be unhappy for longer.

But I digress. I may have even digressed from my digression.

My point is this. We look beautiful in this photo, don't we? Julie and Emily at Tellchronicles make everyone beautiful. I've not seen a single photo where their subjects don't absolutely glow.

(And I am trying very hard not to pick on my flaws because I see them. Oh, I see them.)

But back to the delightful, seemingly effortless photo.

Please, don't be deceived.

Prior to the photos, to get to us to that point where we are all smiling and looking overjoyed to be together, I had to beg, and I mean beg edging into threats.

I begged and threatened my husband and my children to get in clothing. Not even clothing they dislike. Their regular clothing.

My son was wearing a grey fleece hoodie--the one he wears daily--and still, I had to cajole.

Nick, who prior to the photo shoot was not remotely interested in a photo shoot. was sitting in the dining room doing work while I was running around doing my makeup, doing my mom's makeup, trying to convince India on her outfit, begging Jordan to put on his clothes.

We were on the verge of late, and I was flustered and frankly, angry. Why was it all on me?

Why why why am I the only person in our house who cares if we have family photos with our entire family in them? Because ordinarily, we have photos of a motherless family. And they're rolling their eyes all, Mama's taking another picture.

I wanted ALL OF US to be in the picture. And I was going to have beautiful family photos THIS YEAR if I had to STAB someone I was related to in order to do it.

We were verging on late and Nick and I were bickering, and it was all stressful.

We finally met up with Emily, and she started working her magic, and suddenly, it was fun. For everyone.

And so what you don't see, when you see the happy family, the perfect tree, or the scrumptious meal on a fancy table, is the background stress and fighting and insecurity and feelings of loss.

You see the beauty, the perfection. And maybe a little piece of you wonders if you measure up.

This cannot be just me. I know it's not just me. So I am saying this to you (and me).

Of course you do measure up to whatever standard might be in your mind, because it's internal. There is no universal measuring stick that you have to stand next to.

You're wonderful. You, just as you are.

You may be tired, so very tired. You may be short-tempered. Your pants might be tight. You may not be all that well organized. Your house might be a mess.

And still.

You are a beautiful human being. You're smart, so smart, and funny. You have a different perspective from everyone else, because though all humans have similarities, nobody else sees through your eyes. And that's delightful.

You're kind, and kindness glows.

You are amazing, and you are loved.

Sugar is nobody's friend, but it sure is delicious. Sleep is critical. Alcohol is actual poison, but it certainly is fun sometimes.

The holidays are a giant dollop of wonderfulness smothered in whipped cream and topped with sprinkles and one of those long wafer straw cookie things with a marshmallow crammed on top and then lit on fire.

They are everything all at the same time, and that time is right now.

As with everything, they will not last. These moments are fleeting, for good and bad.

If the holidays are hard, that's OK. If they're too hard, and you think you could use some help, good for you for recognizing this. You are not alone in this, ever.

I see your glow, and you are incandescent.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Together together, and thankful

One of the things I am thankful for is all of you.

I'm lucky I began blogging when I did.

I started out heartbroken, single, depressed (clinically, as it turns out), and in need of a tremendous amount of support. Way more than my friends could provide.

And I processed things on the blog that I was working out in therapy. Or I told funny, weird stories, and got insight and support from you.

If you've been with me for a while, you know all these things.

I felt very isolated, no matter how many people were around. Because I believed they were all happy and fine.

And I was not.

Putting my struggles and my fears into the world on this blog and hearing that they resonated with others was incredibly powerful.

I wasn't alone. And I wasn't aberrant.

---

I blog less and less now because life takes over and because I lack a community of bloggers. DC had a great blogging community when I started.

Last month I celebrated my 12-year blogaversary without notice.

Nick and I were both away for work last week, when we would've gone to the Tabard Inn, if we could manage, and cheersed 11 years of meeting. I didn't even post about it.

As I said, life takes over.

---

This morning Nick realized that last week was our anniversary. He said, "Last week, 11 years ago, we met. And then you went to Mexico with Jen for Thanksgiving."

I said, "Best Thanksgiving of my entire life."

He rolled his eyes.

Maybe not best, but most fun. No family dynamics (as this was back when my nuclear family was still intact), no cooking, lots of sunshine. We read books and swam and drank cocktails. We showed up at Thanksgiving dinner on the resort.

And then, if I'm not mistaken, we resumed our cocktail consumption and then went to bed with our books.

I don't wish away my family, but I would say that since my children developed the ability to say, "No!" I have not had a conflict-free day. I've not had a single day at home where I didn't have to convince at least one person do to something.

That something ranges from eating breakfast to brushing teeth to settling down for bed.

I am not saying there aren't upsides to children--of course they are charming and delightful and hilarious and full of joy and wonder--but let's be honest: they are also relentless and exhausting.

---

For years I hated Thanksgiving, not because I am opposed to gratefulness, but because I was already well into my slide into winter depression.

I was already eating every sweet I could get my hands on. My clothes were tight. I cried a lot.

And then there was Thanksgiving, with the forced gratefulness and its endless piles of carbs and sweets, and the darkness of night at 5:00 pm.

---

Now I have medication, and distance, and perspective. I try regularly to think of things for which I am grateful. I ask my children at dinner.

Because apparently just the act of searching your brain for gratefulness changes your chemistry for the good.

---

I have to make a pie this morning. I've never made pie.

Maude says to use vodka instead of part of the water, to make the crust flaky. In fact, she sent me her mama's cousin Gail's recipe for chocolate pecan pie.

Betty is going to help with the crust. Crust intimidates me.

Vodka will likely help with this. 

---

I have many,  many things to be grateful for in this life. And I'm in a place where I can recognize the ways in which I have been blessed.

And I'm in a place to give.

I think for so many years I just needed so much. My ability to give was limited because I was so emotionally limited.

Years ago, when Maude and I were in California, someone was trying to friend me. I can't remember who this was, but someone new was on the edge of my life. And it was clear they were going to take a lot of time and energy.

And Maude said, and I believe this is verbatim, "You only have time for one high-maintenance person in your life. And that person is me."

Which was, at that point, absolutely true.

---

At this juncture, I have four people in my life who truly need me on a daily basis.

There is give and take, to be sure.

But sometimes there is way more take. Sometimes I am all gived out. Sometimes I get tired and crabby and whiny. Sometimes I get resentful.

And sometimes I haven't even realized it yet, but Nick does, and he suggests I take a break.

---

I have many, many people I love. I have a safe, comfortable, interesting life.

I'm thankful for many things in this world And I want you, my (in some cases invisible) friends, to know that I'm truly grateful for you.

Thank you for being a part of my life.

Big hugs and lots of love,

Lisa

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cross post: Suicide, a Survivor’s Guide

Sometimes you meet people and you are instantly friends. This was the case with my dear friend David. He wrote this for his blog, and graciously allowed me to post it here.

Tl;dr version - We do not talk about suicide and mental health nearly as much as we should. It is critically important to speak up about this - so to that aim I am telling my story 10 years later and ways I've learned to stay sane. If you need help call The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) or NAMI (1-866-488-7386).
Me pretending to be "happy"

Suffering is one very long moment

A decade ago I was "happy". I put on a veneer that everything was going well when just below the surface I was raging like Mount Vesuvius and as stable as the San Andreas fault. I didn't have an outlet for that pressure, it broke me and I tried to kill myself. In the past I've been vague and skimmed the surface about this because it is painful, deep, and emotional and honestly, because I still feel ashamed about it to this day. I'd allude to it as "about to give the ultimate sacrifice" or "in the past I went as far to create a suicide plan". The only other time I've written about this it was clinical. Only 5 short crisp sentences stating what had happened with a link to the Trevor Project. The fact that I tried to kill myself is a dark secret I carry with me and don't talk about because I'm partially afraid of how much one night nearly destroyed everything. I don't focus enough on the fact that I've had 10 years that by all rights I shouldn't have had. It is important that we speak uncomfortable truths and secrets and so today I will. Reading through my story it is amazing to see the power of hindsight. Things I thought were the end of the world seem trivial now but when I was in the midst of this darkness my view was distorted and it is only with a decade of time that I am able to see more objectively. Please forgive any typos as this was painful to write and harder to revise.

My Story

  • It was the fall senior year at the University of Utah - 2008 I was in DC for an internship and hadn't met anyone else in the program
  • I'd transferred to the University of Utah after being kicked out of BYU for "struggling with my sexuality". I hadn't yet admitted to myself I was gay. I'd lied to my parents and literally everyone about why I wasn't at BYU anymore.
  • On the flight to DC I finally said the words "Maybe I'm gay" to myself. In that moment every question I'd had over the years clicked into place. I'd felt incongruous with the world around me and finally I had an answer as to "why"
  • 30 seconds later I realized "Shit I'm also Mormon" - hence the major conflict
  • I spent the next semester figuring out what being gay & Mormon actually meant. I came out to the other gay kid in the program and he introduced me to my first gay bar which incidentally I have now outlived (RIP Town Danceboutique!). I went on my first dates, learned how fleeting yet fantastically meaningful a relationship could be, went to my first gay-friendly bookshop and realized that it is just another bookshop albeit with larger self-help & fiction sections and a flag out front.
  • I also dove headlong into researching everything biblical and clinical on homosexuality. From the original Greek version of the Bible that Paul's epistles would have referenced to the latest research on twins where researchers were looking for the "gay gene".
  • On any given week I would go from looking for a "cure" to my problem to instead looking for religious text that said I was normal and loved. I researched conversion therapy and the only reason I didn't sign myself up for electroshock aversion therapy was because y research showed it was effective only 5% of the time and even then the effects of the "cure" lasted less than 5 years.
  • I did all this because I felt like my soul was being split in two. Saying that doesn't do it justice and I lack the talent to describe it myself. The closest I've found to how I felt can be found in the play Angels in America when the Mormon housewife is having a mental break because her husband is gay. She is told:
"God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching."
  • This is how I felt as a gay Mormon. My entire life had been ripped apart and I was left to do the stitching up and in the process had to decide what I kept and what was left behind. Would I keep the gay bits or the Mormon bits.
  • This is how I thought, in a binary. I couldn't do both and so I had to pick one. Faced with the choice to leave all you've ever known and throw it aside for all eternity or reject this new thing that for the first time made your life make sense. Two roads diverged in front of me and I had to choose. But my thinking was almost always on what I'd be giving up. On the negative. Rejecting family and eternal life with them or rejecting happiness. Even in that time of choosing I could only see the negative of those choices, not the positive and definitely not a possibility that there was more than just a binary.
  • So it was with this constant question in my mind that every day during my lunch break I'd take a walk through the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery & American Art Museum just a couple of blocks away. I'd wander through oblivious to most of the art because I couldn't see the beauty or the happiness in any of it. I was going to find a quiet place to think and work through this problem. I felt so weak for not being able to "just fix this" that I told no one. I just put on a smiling face, wrote my thoughts in journals, and kept white knuckling through it.
  • That meant the cycle between "I'm going to be gay" or "I'm going to be Mormon" went from a 10-day cycle to a 7 day to a 4 day to a 2 day cycle. I started flip-flopping my position on everything so much that I couldn't do anything but get myself to work, get through the day, and then focus on this. It consumed everything I did. Finally I "broke down" and started looking for help from other people.
  • I started participating in online forums for other gay Mormons working through this on both sides of the coin. I reached out to YouTubers who had told their coming out stories. I went so far as to break down and tell my Dad when he was in town and then a month later just a few days after the bitter-sweet election of 2008 where Obama won and Prop 8 passed I told my Mom I was gay.
  • Let me tell you that it is not easy telling Mom that her baby wasn't everything she thought I was going to be. After I told her I thought things were going to get better. I went from having no support network to having a couple of people I could lean on. Or so I thought.
  • Just 2 weeks later I still faced with this binary choice of which half of me had to die so that the other could live. This morning I reviewed my journals from that time and this quote stood out
“I feel as if I'm in an endless cycle that will keep me depressed then happy the depressed, etc until one side either the Church or gay breaks and gives UP. If this continues I will break and kill myself, I can see it coming ... ... If I can't break this cycle before next year I will need to commit myself to a psych ward”.
  • That's where my head was at and one day things clicked into place in my brain and this seemed like the answer I'd been struggling to get to. Why be the one to choose when I could let Jesus take the wheel and have God tell me what I needed to do on the other side of the veil.
  • It was in that moment that I really had decided to do it but I was so mad at myself for making that choice that I decided to vent my frustration and blow off some steam by practicing some of my fencing kata. I didn't have my swords so I took an old broomstick, went outside, and started through the motions to try and calm myself but they didn't work. So instead I started to fight the imaginary foe that was a big tree nearby but it wouldn't budge.
  • I hit the tree again & again & again & again until I had destroyed the broomstick and my hands were stinging and numb from all of the reverberations.
  • I picked up the pieces, threw them away, went upstairs, and cleaned up my hands not feeling any relief. In the bathroom I opened up the medicine cabinet and noticed the bottle of Lortab leftover from my wisdom teeth removal. So I took one for the pain.
  • I tried calling Mom but couldn't get ahold of her so I reached out to my online community and posted about how I was feeling. I don't remember if it was a goodbye note or just an obvious cry for help. After writing that I tried calling Mom again and this time left a voicemail.
  • In it I asked her to call me back, told her I loved her and needed to chat, and that "If you don't hear from me, it's not your fault". Then I hung up and emptied the rest of the bottle of pills down my throat.
  • I got a call from one of the guys in the online group and he did everything you are supposed to do in that situation. He tried to get my address by claiming "he wanted to send me a postcard" but I told him no he'd want to send an ambulance.
  • I remember lying in bed trying to forget about this world protesting against this guy’s attempts to get me help and something I was saying on the phone triggered my roommate into action.
  • My roommate came over and asked me what was going on. I stumbled my way through it without really telling him much except about some of the pills. He went to ask our other roommate for help.
  • In that moment I ran out of the apartment, took to the stairwell and went up a few flights of stairs and hid in the laundry room just wanting to die.
  • The police were called and they searched the building until they found me and took me to the hospital. It just so happens that I was found by one of the gay cops on the force who, on the way over, shared his story with me and telling me I’d be okay, that it gets better ... he didn’t understand.
  • In the hospital bed I remember the nurses saying I was having issues with my sexual identity and me internally raging that they didn't get it. I knew I was gay that wasn't the problem. It was that I was also Mormon and no-one understood what was going on.
  • They took me to the psych ward for observation and counselling. I remember they wouldn't let me have my headphones to listen to music for fear I'd use them to hang myself. I met with a shrink who wanted to talk to me about how it was okay to be gay and how "in here all the problems of the world are on the other side of that door. In here you don't have to worry about the pressures outside." I stared and him and realized he didn't get it either.
  • The cop didn't get it. The nurse didn't get it. And now the shrink didn't get it. And worst off I hated being in that ward. It was for crazy people and I wasn't crazy.
  • I eventually got to talk to my mom and heard how panicked she was by my voicemail the next morning (she had gone to sleep early and hadn't heard the phone ring) and how she and my brother had tried to track me down.
  • I met with the shrink again the next day and this time he realized that the demons I faced came inside with me and that keeping me in the hospital may not be the best for me. Part of this was helped by me internally believing and thus truthfully telling him and everyone around me "After going through this I can promise you I'm never going to try and kill myself ever again".
  • I believed that lie. I made them believe it too until they let me out. What they didn't know was that in my head the key word was "try". Like Yoda's advice "Do or do not, there is no try" I knew my next attempt would have no calls, no room for error, no witnesses, just a note safety pinned to my shirt. Even hearing how my Mom panicked when she got my voicemail didn't shake this resolve.
  • Somehow I convinced everyone of this lie and got out of psych ward in less than the 72 hour observation period and ended up back at my internship.
  • I went back to the old cycles of gay or Mormon but they were back to their 10-day cycles again. I had 3 weeks left on my internship before I went home and I knew that before my 20th birthday in March - if not sooner - I'd be dead. I was past choosing, I had decided. I was full on planning how with several situations as to how I'd do it.
  • Then after only a few days home I woke up to a primal scream from my mother yelling my name. Instantly the adrenaline coursed through my system and I was awake and downstairs. She couldn't find her husband and he had left her some disturbing voicemails. We went looking for him and listened to more voicemails that made it clear he had was going to kill himself. We figured out where he'd gone and when we got there we discovered the police had already been there and taken him to the hospital. He was alive.
  • It was only then sitting in the hospital waiting room that I realized had been given a gift. I was able to experience first-hand what my Mom went through when she got my voicemails. The panic, the feeling of helplessness, the primal fear coursing through her veins. I got to see how my attempt had fractured her.
  • In that moment it became clear that for the first time that this suicide attempt wasn't just about me. It wasn't about what half of me had to die, which binary I chose, or how I killed myself. I finally understood how it would have deep, life altering ripples through everyone around me.
  • It would take the pain I was feeling and not end it, but amplify it and share it with everyone around me - forever changing their lives. Even writing this I can only imagine how these two attempts may have changed my Mom’s behavior when it comes to sleeping near the phone, and we both made it out alive.
  • I am extremely grateful to have had that experience but I got lucky. Far too many people don't get that and are thinking to themselves "I'm never going to try to kill myself again". That is why I had to share my story because far too few talk about this.
  • In the last decade I have been able to do some incredible things including living in 4 major cities, going to grad school at Oxford, working for Google & L'Oreal, seeing dozens of amazing musicals that touched my soul, help countless other gay Mormons stay alive and find meaning. I've met incredible friends whom I've shared my life with, traveled to almost 20 countries, been on incredible adventures and so much more.
  • Has it been all rainbows and sunshine - HELL NO! There have been struggles and pain. Loss and rejection. Frustration and fury. But in the end I have been able to hopefully do some good in this world.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars

In order to push back the demon I had to make it about other people, not about me. But sometimes the stress brings me closer to that demon’s grasp and so I’m grateful for tools I’ve put in place to help make sure I never get anywhere near this demon again. Here are some of the ways I work to stay mentally sane. They work decently well for me but your mileage may vary.
  1. Get physical - Even if it's just for a walk or a run let alone a gym session or a full on competitive sport. Activating my body activates my mind and helps me stay sane.
  2. Talk meaningfully with the inner ring in your life. - Your inner ring may be just 1 person or a handful, but the family and friends you tell just about everything to you should speak to regularly and meaningfully. Sometimes all I need is a quick check in with how their job hunt or move or travels are going but I know that - when shit hits the fan - I can call on them to help get me out if my head. When I find myself realizing my inner ring has shrunk because people drift or move on, that is a warning sign to heed.
  3. Find and embrace stories. From novels to comic books, business books to TV shows, movies to video games, or from the people around you. Find a way to hear other stories. They don't have to be about struggle or mental health and please I hope they aren't! Stories allow us to find our own moral lessons and learnings based on how we - in that moment - interpret them. When I find myself finding only melancholy meanings in stories that is a warning sign and so I look for something different.
  4. Change your routine. We are creatures of habit. We take the same commute to work, go to the same shops, order the same food and in the process form patterns and routines. When my routine becomes a mental rut something as small and simple as taking a different path to work or going to a different gym gives me perspective and gets me out of my own head. It reminds me that I need to get out of my mental health rut as well.
  5. Shut off the news. The news alert the other week about RBG falling down and breaking 3 ribs set the mood for half of my office and made everyone a bit more on edge. I stopped getting most alerts so that I could avoid the rapid-fire cyclical anxiety of news. Unless your job demands you have CNN on at all times then don't. Reclaim your time.
  6. Change your music. Over the last decade I've seen how the music I listen to amplifies or dampens a mood. If I'm feeling down and listen to melancholy music I feel worse for longer. Putting on music with a brighter beat or more calming message works. It may take an entire playlist or two but it works for me.
  7. Explore a new culture. This one is huge for me. Be it through going to try new food at a local Ethiopian place or flying to Portugal (which I’m doing in a few hours). Seeing how a different culture responds to the same stimuli forces you to change your perspective. Travelling especially does this as you go from “they say elevator wrong” to " they say elevator differently and that's okay”. While a lift and elevator are small examples experiencing this reminds me to not think in a binary of wrong and right but to find a way to make things work best for me.
  8. Learn a new skill. When we only do what we are good at doing it is easy to see ourselves as failures when we fail at some new challenge. In reality we just haven't experienced it or practiced it yet. We can build resilience by failing often in small and controlled ways. The best way I know how to build this is by trying something new. I went to Costa Rica and spent a week at surf school. I originally thought “yeah, I can do that!" Newsflash I could not. I got up 1 time for about 10 seconds and failed again and again. While I may not have actually learned the new skill I did learn how to fail and be okay with that as long as I keep trying.
  9. Journal. Writing things down with pen and paper in a quiet spot gives you perspective and lets you empty your anxiety onto a page instead of keeping it bottled up in your head. If I spend 5 minutes each morning with my iced coffee writing 10 lines about the shitty thing Karen from finance did helps me be more mindful during the day.
  10. Reflect. Spend a day a week different from the others. Don’t work, don’t stress, just set it aside. If I can take it and go to the park for a picnic, take a stroll, or go to an amazing choral church service I find it helps turn the release valve and give me a mental break. Often I’ll take my journal and write until I can’t write anymore thus combining a few activities.
These 10 things work well for me and help me stay sane because they try and slow down the crazy and give me perspective. If you are having a hard time know that you are not alone. You are not flawed. You are human. We live in a crazy world and so I’ll leave you with the best description about anxiety & depression I’ve ever heard. It comes from a dear friend who was asked by his doctor where anxiety came from. He described it best when he said;
“I mean the brain evolved to pick berries out of bushes, chase antelopes or whatever, and run away from lions, but now I have a computer in my pocket that talks to satellites, i live in a brick box, and will probably live 70 years longer than nature intended, so that probably has something to do with it."
If you are having a crisis please reach out to The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) or NAMI (1-866-488-7386). If you need someone to talk to I am happy to help out as well.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Quicksand

You know, when I was a kid, I thought quicksand was an ever-present danger.

I knew that to escape, you had to calm yourself and spread your body weight out to swim. You had to  paddle yourself to safety, rather than stay upright trying to run.

Flailing wildly would just get you sucked down to your death.

I knew the concepts as well as I knew to stop, drop, and roll if I caught on fire. Better, in fact, as we didn't dwell on fire prevention.

Although now that I say that, did we dwell on how to survive quicksand?

Maybe.

It was tricky, though, because unlike fire, which is obvious, quicksand could be anywhere.

You might be playing and think it was mud you could walk through. It might just look like the floor of the jungle—so tricky! So you could be waist or even neck high before you even realized.

Best case scenario, you'd have a friend along, one with a long and sturdy stick to offer. If they didn't have a stick, they could lie down flat, making sure they were secure, and extend an arm to pull you to safety.

If you didn't have a friend, you could pretend you were swimming and get yourself to solid ground.

And this is how the slide, or stroll, or plod into depression is for me.

I realized last week that rather than being on the same plane as my peers looking them full and brightly in the face, I was peering out at the world from a grim, grey, industrial twilighty kind of place.

This journey in, which I’ve written about before, is so slow and gradual it’s almost imperceptible. I walk further and further in, until I almost can't see out.

It's like that frog in the gradually heating pot. It's not like raaiiiin on your wedding day, or a free ride when you've already paid.

If you don't know me well, and only see me at the office, or school, or wherever out and about, you wouldn't know it. I smile. I make jokes. It's just inside my head where everything is dark and relentlessly negative.

I knew that the rain pulled me down, and that we had an awful lot of it. In fact, I was pretty sure it had been raining my entire life.

But I was taking my medication. And as I’m at the office I have a an almost two-mile walk to work, and a free gym. So I was exercising pretty regularly. I mean, mostly, except when I wasn't.

And I was eating pretty well. More or less. Except for chocolate.

I was fine. Just tired. And frustrated and short-tempered. But I don’t have a single female friend who doesn’t feel that way lately.

So actually, I really was fine.

I mean, not great, and some days it took every bit of my willpower—and I have a lot—to force myself out of bed. But lots of people feel that way, right?

I was drinking a lot of coffee, and all of the coffee was not enough.

But other than that, I was fine.

I was fine and fine and fine, until I wasn't. Which is how I always am.

I stroll blithely forward, never realizing till I’m waist high, neck high, till I’m under. The farther in I get, the harder it is to do the things that help me surface.

I need that friend with the stick or the arm to extend.

Last weekend, after I'd snapped at him repeatedly, Nick pointed out that I was awfully annoyed with all of them. I was about to tell him that it was because he was being particularly annoying, when he said Betty had mentioned my behavior to him as well. I was short tempered.

And this is what happens now.

I don’t tuck into myself and cry. I get angry and direct it outward. It’s more unpleasant for others, but I’m a more functional human. I don’t have the luxury of time to stay in bed and cry all day. Not getting up and dealing is not an option.

This is what I need to do, every day, to keep myself balanced: Exercise. Walk in sunshine. Eat well, with little to no sugar. Sleep at least 8 hours. Take my meds. Have some time alone.

On a perfect day, all those things happen.

It is rarely a perfect day.

Because sometimes it rains for your entire life or anyway weeks and weeks in a row, month after month.

Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly you absolutely have to review everything you've done wrong, every single misstep, for the next three hours.

Sometimes chocolate seems like the only solution.

Sometimes for a long time you do not have one single minute to just breathe.

So after Nick said that, I upped my meds. And I ordered a sun lamp for the office. I have floor lamp for home that I use when I’m on my laptop. But now I spend a lot of time in the office, no sun or sky in sight.

On Saturday, Nick took the kids camping overnight. I had a whole day to myself. I had quiet time. I sat in the park under a tree and read a book.

This weekend, I felt like it was turning around. The world still seems grim—I mean, we are heading for a planetary water crisis and the bulk of my government is comprised of pustulent opportunistic lying cheats—but my particular personal little world is not quite so grey and apocalyptic.

Half a dozen colleagues have inquired about the lamp, because it is visible from a great distance, perhaps even outer space. Some asked if it was a grow light, and wondered if I was cultivating pot in my office.

It's legal in DC, but even so, that might be pushing the bounds of acceptability. Also, it is not my thing.

After I explained what it was actually for, several of them asked for the link.

When it rains for your entire life, or anyway weeks on end, months on end, and you cannot function without sunshine, it’s nice to have your own personal grow light to feed your soul and trick your brain.

The quicksand, for me, is always there. I'm vigilant, but it can look like the jungle floor, and I can be neck deep before I know it.

I am always at least neck deep before I know it.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

I don't get many things right the first time...

Dear Nick,

Ten years ago today, we stood up in front of a gathering of loved ones and said our very simple vows.

And then we exchanged rings.

Then did we kiss too quickly? Or did you kiss me twice? Whatever it was, it made us laugh, up there in front of everyone. And our friends and family laughed along with us.

Laughter is what I come back to, over and over.

I remember when I was young, hearing parents' friends say things like, "I married him because he made me laugh."

And I remember being all, what? Anyone can make you laugh. What kind of a lame reason is that?

Ha.

I grew up with a particular kind of funny. Puns. Clever humor. And lots and lots of physical humor. My dad doing silly walks in public that mortified me. My dad and I having terrible-face-making contests at the dinner table. Jokes and stories.

I see this flavor of humor in my relatives, and I embrace it. I love many kinds of funny, but these particular kinds most of all.

And, I have discovered, there are scads of not-funny people in the world.  You know I find women, on the whole, funnier than men. I know you disagree with this. Just as every man I've ever said this to has done.

As I recall, in my first iteration of my Match profile, over two years before we met, I said I loved to laugh. It's hard to write an online profile, as you know. How do you figure out what to say about yourself? I read some examples, and I picked out things that I thought were most important to me.

And then I read an article about how trite that was in online profiles--everyone says they love to laugh--and I took it out.

Other things you weren't supposed to say were "partner in crime" and something about being comfortable going from a cocktail dress to blue jeans.

I guess the reasoning was, who can't leap from jeans to cocktail attire? Who doesn't want a partner in crime even though ostensibly you don't commit crime? Who doesn't love to laugh?

As I discovered in my dating career, a number of men don't find me funny. It was clear that we were not destined to be.

Because I have many insecurities and shortcomings but there are people who find me fucking hilarious, and I was pretty sure the future Mr. LG ought to be one of them.

And then, then you did! We had such a fun first date! We made each other laugh, and we told each other ridiculous stories.

You thought I was hilarious and I thought you were hilarious, and we were both profane, and that seems very little to start with, but really, it was a good enough place.

(It's also true that I accepted your offer of a ride home, and on the way we passed a bar that turned into a sex club once a week, and I pointed it out because a friend of mine had gone and I had a story about it, and this apparently made you hopeful and then I gave you a quick kiss in your car and said good night and completely forgot about it and never mentioned it again.)

By the time we met I was pretty candid online and in my profile.

I said men who could do complicated math and use power tools made me swoon. True then, true now, and boy howdy am I glad you're a math guy with power tools, because besides these being qualities I find attractive, with weekly and complicated house repairs, we'd otherwise be bankrupt.

I do still love to laugh, but no longer wear a cocktail dress under my jeans at all time for the just in case.

There have been, I must admit, chunks of time in this past decade where I haven't found you funny.

When I'm annoyed with you, you're instantaneously not funny.

I imagine you feel the same. We've had some truly unfunny points in our marriage.

Someone once told me that you get married and then you make the choice to stay married. You make this choice over and over. I believe this.

People are hard to live with.  The closest people are the ones with whom we can be our worst selves.

This makes the closest people the most irritating of all.

Particularly when you are not a morning person and your spouse can be kind of smug about getting up at 4:30 am to row and then, like the loud extrovert he is, insists on both playing music and keeping up a constant flow of jokes that kill with the nine and under denizens of the house.

Oh, hilar.

The other morning I walked to work so annoyed that by the time I arrived at the office I had a firm action plan to never marry again after you'd been hit by a bus or we'd gotten divorced.

And then you called an hour later and by then it had passed.

I can't actually imagine us getting divorced. I imagine us getting really mad at each other, and yelling and talking and then apologizing and being the stronger for it. And please don't get hit by a bus. You know I save your voice mails just in case.

I didn't know I was looking for safety, but I found it in you.

Without realizing it, I needed a person who was so stable, so firmly rooted on this earth, and so committed to family that he would never leave.

Not in a boring way. In a calm, reassuring way.

It's not just that I feel physically safe when we're together. Although as a small woman who is extremely vigilant at most times, I appreciate how I can relax when I'm with you.

With you I feel safe in the world. I can exhale, and stop paying constant attention, and all will be OK.

But the bigger thing, the most unexpected part for me, is that I can be the weakest version of myself, the person I never, ever trust most people, and certainly not men to see, and you love me as a whole person.

Nobody ever did that before.

You celebrate my strengths and you do your best to lift me when I'm weak. And sometimes you just listen, which is even harder than lifting.

The other day I got in a fight with Jordan, and when I told you about it you said, "There are times when you get mad at me when you tell me something and I immediately start making a plan to fix it. You've taught me that sometimes you just want to vent, and I just need to listen. And I think Jordan needed you to just listen, and not fix it."

I felt so heard. I appreciated your advice. I loved your insight into our kid.

Honestly, you were right. Our son just wanted to vent, and I jumped to fix, and it made him angry. And then I felt powerless and got mad right back. You listened to me, you processed it, and you gave me good advice.

When I look back ten years, I realize I had no idea what lay in store.

We got engaged in 10 weeks, and we married seven months later. It could've all gone very badly, very fast.

We got married, and life rushed at us. You had to deal with things you really didn't understand, like my dad's mental illness, and the aftermath of his death. You stepped up where my blood family didn't.

I don't know when we started truly appreciating each other for who we are, rather than who we seemed to be, or wanted each other to be. It wasn't immediate, but at some point we did, and we do.

When our kids list our family, they name the members of our household: you and me, Nana, and each of them. You're my family. You're my world.

And look, just look, at how lucky we are to be here, together, now.

Happy anniversary, Nick. I love you.

Lisa

Thursday, September 06, 2018

I'm not calling you a ghost. Just stop haunting me.

This is something that scares me to post.

Last month, Nick took this photo of me at camp.

Isn't Moose Pond spectacular?  I've taken a photo of this view myriad times with and without people in it.

So I wanted to be in a photo with that particular backdrop.

And still, when I saw the picture, my immediate response was to cringe and delete it.

I wear a bikini because it's easier to get in and out of. I learned this when I bought a shaper one-piece after I had Jordan. I got stuck in a bathroom with a wet bathing suit, struggling to pry it up or down. Two pieces are easier.

But I typically wear a sun shirt over it. For SPF rather than modesty. But I looked at this photo of me sitting down and I thought, why, why wasn't I wearing my sun shirt? Or a tee shirt or a towel? And makeup? Or better yet, my sunglasses?

Ugh. Delete.

Then I paused. Because I've recently seen some high school photos of myself. I was so young and fit, so fresh and pretty.

Do you know what I said about myself at the time? Same things I say now. Negative, critical and negative.

But look, look at me then. I was lovely.

And I do remember. I remember all my criticisms of myself at the time.

I was raised to seek external validation. But it didn't actually make me feel good about myself.

I know, looking at those photos of my youth, how bad I felt about myself then. I remember how inadequate I felt. If only I were taller. If only I were thinner. If only were prettier. If only...

The fact was, I could only starve myself so much. I could only run so many miles. I tried very hard to do more of both.

And just as with moving from place to place, you're still you with your same issues, until you deal with them. You can't run from them, you can't starve them out, and you can't move away from them.

As it turns out, you just have to work through them. And sucks for a while, and then it makes you feel better.

I can take a photo tour of myself across time. Sometimes I look pretty. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I am beaming or laughing, genuinely delighted. And sometimes, despite a smile, I can see through the facade to profound misery.

And still, the person in those photos is never the gorgon she imagined herself to be.

My reaction to my high school photos was to wish I'd appreciated who I was and what I had when I had it.

From my current vantage point, my skin then--always too pale and freckled for my liking, and why was I so unfairly pale?--was unwrinkled, lush and beautiful. My thighs, my dread thighs, were strong and athletic, smaller than they are now, back when I imagined they were enormous.

I look at this picture of myself at camp, and my eyes go to my flaws. But let's be honest. I'll never be younger than I am now.

This body created and carried two babies, one of them almost nine pounds, to term. This body had its abdominal muscles cut, and recovered.

This body has done the Everest trek, and ridden camels, and slept on the roof of houses in the desert in Rajasthan.

This body can do push-ups, and climb, and lift an 86-pound kid, and walk over 16 miles overnight.

I work out at home regularly. My kids see me lift weights and do push-ups. I tell them how proud I am to be strong. How strength and fitness are what I'm working for.

I don't focus (out loud) on size. I shush that voice for them, and I try to quell it within myself.

I've had more and less toned abs. I've had larger and smaller thighs.Sometimes my butt is bigger and rounder and wider. Sometimes it's less so.

 Last year I ate a pint of ice cream every night and grew out of all my pants. Like, I literally could not squeeze them up past my thighs, or if I could, they weren't office-appropriate. My skirts were like sausage casings. So when I returned to the office last winter, I bought two pairs of black work pants, vowing to fit back into my wardrobe.

And I started working, really really hard, on fitting back into my clothes. It's more difficult than it used to be. Just eating well didn't do it. Just exercising hard didn't do it. I had to do both, and diligently.

Now I fit back in my clothes, and for the most part, I feel good.

As for my freckled Irish skin, well, I spent too much time without sunscreen in the Indian sun, and that's just a fact.

So back to this photo. I saw it and deleted it. And then I made myself stop and reevaluate. Not the photo. My response.

I decided I needed to change my internal narrative. Because the issue is not actually the size of this body part or that. The issue is my brain.

We swim often, and we wear bathing suits while we do so. And it's OK for me to post photos of myself in a bikini, no matter how old I might be now, no matter how much fitter I might have been back when.

My body has done some amazing things. My body is strong.

I do my best, most days. Regardless of how I look, or think I look, I am enough.

And this is my body.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Welcome to Hell*. It's time to set up your online account.

Welcome to Hell*. It's time to set up your online account.

Name:
Use your first and last name at time of death. If you're a celebrity, divorced, running from the law, a con artist, a grifter, etc., please include all aliases you used in life. (We will know; these behaviors are likely why you are here.)

Physical Characteristics:
You must list your weight, height, and hair color. Your real weight, height, and hair color.

Address:
Hell works, of course, but more creative types often use “the netherworld,” “Hades,” “H-E-double hockey-sticks,” etc. (We’re flexible, but judgmental, so choose whatever best suits you.)

Username:
Your username is the first and last name of the person with whom you had your most embarrassing  sexual encounter. If you can't remember or never knew their name, make your best guess and name a defining characteristic and/or include location. Please note that in most cases you will need to add information or numbers. Steve’sTallFriend, for example, will not cut it. This is your login name; it must be unique.

Password:
Passwords must be at least 42 characters long and must contain profanity.

Fake curse words such as darn, dang, rats, cripes, and so forth are unacceptable. You're welcome to try and use them, but they will be rejected, and you'll have to start again from the top.

Strengthen your password by choosing a compound word or epithet. You can insert an underscore or hyphen between them, which may or may not count as one of your special characters. Examples: shit_head; rat-bastard. We enjoy creativity, so don’t be shy.

You must use at least 4 special characters.

You must use at least 6 capital letters. They cannot be consecutive.

You may not use the name of a pet, street on which you lived, or loved one. We will know.

You will be penalized for including “DivineComedy” or “JeanPaulSartre” in your password. We thought they were clever, too. The first million times.

You may not use any password or variation on a password that you ever used in life.

Note: Pounding on or faceplanting into the keyboard will result in having to fill out the form again, starting from the top.

Note also: In Hell there is no recovering a forgotten username or password. If you forget, you will enter yet a new level of, well, here.

Again, welcome to Hell.

*We know The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP do not capitalize Hell. We don't care. We make the rules here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Today I am 49

On my birthday, I like to document myself with a photo. India just took this for me.

Last night I stayed up way too late drinking wine with my dear friend Sarah, and today I see it in my tired face and bleary eyes. But she lives far away, and our families are close, and if I have learned anything, ever, it is that the people you love are the most important parts of life, and you need to take the time when it is right in front of you.

So we carped the diem but really the evening which is a word I do not know in Latin, although I think the phrase is really about the moment or the opportunity. While I am tired today, I will tell you I don't regret it one bit.

I look at birthdays as my own personal New Year's, as a time to reflect and an opportunity to reset.

I've had a big year of returning to work, and a summer of work and fun travels in which I've barely been home. At this point my list of cities includes Cartagena, Bogota, Long Beach, Duluth, Minneapolis...I need to write about so many of these adventures in particular posts.

But on my birthday, I want to talk about roots.

A couple days ago I got an email from my cousin Patti Jo. She'd been out running errands with her son Dave, who I got to meet earlier this month. They'd run into a friend of his who had a large tree tattooed on his arm, starting with the base of the trunk at his elbow and going up to his shoulder.

And Patti Jo said, "Where are the roots?"

Later that day the friend messaged her son, showing him new ink with roots going down his forearm. I said, "You gave him roots!"

And as I said that, it struck me: in our time together, she gave me roots.

The first of this month, I took my mom and India to Duluth, Minnesota.

Duluth, if you're not familiar with it, is about 150 miles north of Minneapolis. It's on the shore of Lake Superior. You may know the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, about the sinking of a ship that carried iron ore from Duluth and Superior, twin ports a bridge apart in western Lake Superior.

My Aunt Jo documented it with a painting, included here. You can also see the painting of me, and on the far right, one of my brother. He was standing next to me looking down, as I sat on the beach letting rocks trickle through my fingers, looking across Lake Superior at Aunt Jo's island.
Though growing up we went every summer, we hadn't been 1984, when my paternal grandmother died.

My cousins were older than me and we always lived far apart, and so for decades we weren't in contact.

This summer, it was time.

I texted when we arrived, and Patti Jo asked what we wanted to do. My list included: visit Grandma and Grandpa's house; eat Bridgeman's ice cream; search for agates on the shore; see Aunt Jo's marina. We wanted her to come with us for any and all activities she was up for.

So we went on a nostalgia tour. We looked through photo albums and scrapbooks. And we talked. And talked.

For a long time I relied mainly on my friend family. Growing up overseas, we had all our holiday traditions with friends. And we were distant not just in miles from my dad's family.

As someone who didn't grow up with much family, it's struck me how powerful shared memory is. There's something about the way my cousin talks, her voice and her cadence, that are so much like her mom, my Aunt Jo.

In the summers, we'd stay with Aunt Jo and Uncle Howard, who lived on a big piece of beautiful land. We'd stay on Aunt Jo's houseboat. We'd cook out on the beach, and we spent hours and hours looking for agates.

We'd find rocks we thought were agates, and we'd ask, and Jo would say, "Oh, yah, that's a snot agate!"

"What's a snot agate?"

"Snot an agate."

I don't know if humor is genetic, but I feel it is, because the Jordans are all tickled by the same kinds of things.

Patti Jo has been going through photos, compiling albums and scrapooks. This is our great grandmother Olga. I see my face in hers. If she had a sense of humor, I'm going to be I'd have liked it. It's unclear from this photo, however.
All this to say, I've spent the last years in DC creating a home for my kids, and a "from" place for them to be from. And a "from" place for me to be from as well.

I left Duluth with a greater feeling of belonging, of understanding our generations of family, of being  connected.

I felt, after so many years, rooted. And that was a gift I didn't even know I was hoping for.

Much love to all of you. Thanks for joining me as I start this big year ahead.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Priorities and such

Let me start by saying that we are in Cartagena, and it is spectacular and we have been speaking Spanish and eating delicious food and delighting in the culture and all around reveling in the Caribbean.

So you don't think I'm an utter Philistine.

Because what I really want to show you is this fabulous outfit I bought.
My super fashionable friend Leigh once told me, "I always feel that if I don’t have a touch of cartoon character in my daily wardrobe, I’m doing it wrong." She said this and I was all, yes, yes, and more yes.

I saw this outfit, and I had to try it on, because look at the tigers loitering in the jungle! It's by a Colombian designer called tr3s. I'd link to their site but all that comes up is it's under construction.

Now, I don't know if the top is a little too much for me, but I adore the stitching and the details. I also don't know quite where I can wear a dressy shorts outfit. You know?

But I would very much like to wear this with platform heels.

I love everything about it. Everything.

As Colombians say, "Divino!"

Also, this the only place in our Airbnb to take a photo into a mirror that doesn't involve standing on a toilet. So, here I am, chair standing. And please ignore the terrible humidity hair because it is possibly twice as humid as DC here which I think means approximately 7 million percent.

---
India saw this top in a children's boutique on our walk home from camp.

She peered in the window and asked if we could go in. And then she spotted this top, and she wanted it.

It was expensive for a kid's top, and I said we had to think about it.

She talked about it the next day, and the next. Could we go back? Could we buy it? Finally I said she could buy it if she were willing to spend her own money, saved from allowance, birthdays, etc.

The third day she said she was willing to spend her own money, and we bought it.

She couldn't be more delighted.

Nick likes to say she's her mother's daughter. I love her fashion sense, and I love that she gets in my closet and tries on boots she loves and cannot wait to fit them.

One day she's going to wear all my favorite things better than I do.

---
We arrived and Jordan immediately became obsessed with World Cup stickers.He has a pretty amazing backdrop for hanging out with his sticker book.

(Also, we rooted for Colombia on Tuesday, and we were crushed, crushed at the very last minute.)

Anyway, if you've not done this, you buy a book that has pages for all the teams, with spaces for each player. And then you buy packets of stickers with the players in them.

When Jordan is feeling generous, or wants to engage his sister, he offers for India to open packets for him. They can and do spend a good deal of time doing this.

These stickers are expensive, and he was willing to spend his own money on a box of stickers.

One morning last week he woke me up sobbing at 6:20 am. "Mama! Nigeria isn't stapled!"

I understand there are people in this world who are their best selves at 6:20 am. I am not among them.

I walked him out of the room and said, "Tt's OK to cry about this, but you need to cry somewhere else so you don't wake up India. Also, in the future, do not wake me up before 7:00 in the morning unless you're bleeding or the house is on fire."

The next morning he woke me up at 6:40 and said, "I know I'm not supposed to wake you up, but..."

We've been rising early is what I'm saying.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Kind of an incredibly big huge deal to me

My dear friends,

I started this year with a personal goal of getting an essay published in a publication that pays.

I've gotten rejections, which don't feel good but are to be expected.

Sometimes I wonder if I should keep blogging, because I have so many friends who used to blog, but haven't for years. I wonder if I should be making myself write and submit more essays for publication, rather than spending the time on the blog. But I like LG and it keeps me writing, and there are so many stories I tell here that nobody would be interested in publishing.

So.

One night after work a couple months ago, I was waiting for the light to change at the corner of Connecticut and Q. I checked my email  and almost stepped out into traffic.

There was a message from an editor at the On Parenting blog of the Washington Post. She liked my blog. Would I be interested in writing a piece for them?

Would I?!?

It is up today, and you can find it here.

My essay is about talking to my kids about the fact that my dad died by suicide. It is, as you might expect, deeply personal, and I'm so proud to have this piece up at the Washington Post.

Truly incredible people were willing to talk to me. They so generously shared their time and their expertise. I learned a lot that I will use with my kids, and I hope I conveyed my story and the advice  in a manner that's accessible and helpful.

If it resonates, I'd love it if you'd share.

Hugs,

Lisa



Thursday, June 28, 2018

In case you've ever wondered, this is what my brain looks like

Around midnight last Friday, the night before the kids and I left for three weeks in Colombia, this was the state that I was in.

I kept having one more hurdle to get past before I could organize and pack. First, work travel. Then, I was writing an article (which, when published, I will tell you and everyone I've ever met about). Next, the Overnight walk.

And finally it was the weekend and we were leaving on Saturday afternoon and ohmygod it was becoming increasingly clear that I was not going to fit all of our everything into Nick's designed for manly suits work suitcase.

And we had so many shoes. Did we need so many shoes? Yes, and I wasn't even taking all the shoes I wanted to take...

I rolled garments into tight little rolls, and filled as many of those efficient packing cubes as we had. And still, no fit.

So then I realized that at this point my children are old enough to be helpful when they're willing, and I could enlist them to roll one bag.

So I added a rollaboard, (rollerboard?) and off we went with what I thought was a rather reasonable amount of luggage.
The kids were semi-cooperative in the airport, except when they weren't, at which point they were fighting and sliding on the ground in the middle of the terminal. I decided to pretend I didn't know them.
And then they decided to see if they could fit into the overhead compartment. My first inclination was to snap at them and tell them to get out of there right now! But desire to take pictures won out, so I did that first.
We flew Copa, which sadly had no back-of-seat movie screens, but did have lovely staff. My children ate all of their airplane dinners, with no complaints.

We had a stressfully brief layover in Panama City, and arrived in Cartagena around 10:30 Colombia time, which, when the US springs forward, is one hour back. Jordan immediately lay on the floor next to the conveyor belt, thus causing my head to melt.

I'm no germaphobe, but two airport floors in one day is at least one too many.
And now here we are, and we've already been to my kids' favorite restaurant (pizza! mural!) and gotten Jordan a soccer shirt because tomorrow Colombia plays Senegal. Vamos, Colombia!

I'm not gonna lie, I'm beyond delighted to be here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sometimes I think that I know what love's all about. And when I see the light I know I'll be all right...

Philly SOLO!
Dear friends,

Saturday night we walked 16.7 miles through Philadelphia in the Out of the Darkness Overnight walk, raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

This year I had so many names on my shirt. Each name was a loved one lost, or a loved one who struggles. I have people I worry about who I put on there.

So many generous people--so many of you--contributed to my walk without hesitation. In fact, gladly, with kind words, words of gratitude, when really, I'm the one who is grateful.
So many loved ones
I offered to carry names on my shirt and in my heart, and people gave them. People thanked me, but in truth, it was my privilege. It's no small thing to carry someone so dearly loved. I do not take it lightly.

My new and lovely friend Melissa lost her dad, Miguel, when she was young. She couldn't do the Philly walk, and gave me his name. Our two dads, with the same name.

I thought about people's brothers, boyfriends, parents, children, friends and relatives. The ache of the loss makes me cry, even now, as I type.

I would never compare my loss to someone else's, because all our losses are the worst. Losing loved ones is brutal.

But with suicide there is an extra layer of why. Of whether or not you could have done something. And, even now, of stigma.

I talked to people who kept quiet for decades. Who lied about what happened, because that was more acceptable than the truth. Who are asked why they're not yet over it. Who get chastised by family for being open about a decades-ago suicide loss, because there are adult children who still don't know, and family members want to perpetuate a fiction.

You might not think that a suicide event would be fun, but my teammates are high energy, passionate, hilarious. Cari, who I'd met along with her amazing mom Connie, organized everything for the Philly team. I'm so grateful to her for adding that to her super busy schedule.
Starting out strong
Jen carried the Philly SOLO sign most of the miles, until it got left next to a porta-potty.

I wove in and out as we walked, talking to new people, hearing new stories, or picking up on old tales. You know I'm not one for small talk, and I find the emotional intensity satisfying.

We share our stories, our burdens, our snacks.One even offered to split her Xanax with another.

This year the Philly team was called Philly SOLO, but it was the same incredible team I walked with last year. This year, though, I got to walk with lovely Tiffany, who contacted me before the NYC walk because she was an LG reader, and she's the reason I joined SOLOS. There were members I hadn't met on the DC walk last year, and new members.

Laurie was unable to make this year's walk, and I carried her son Nathaniel with me, and she was with me in spirit.

Nick had been planning on driving Jordan's camp trunk up to NJ, so I asked if he could do so last weekend, and drop Betty and me in Philly on the way. In theory, this was perfect. It didn't take them out of their way, and we'd leave in the morning and I'd be there in good time for the team lunch.

In actual fact, I-95 is Gehenna on wheels.I don't know why they don't have on-ramp signs that say, "Abandon all hope..."

Then we stopped at a rest stop, where India cheerfully announced, "This is where I puked on Jordan's foot!" In fact it wasn't, because the rest stop where she puked on Jordan's foot is much bigger, and has a poorly staffed Dunkin Donuts, whereas this one has a delightful Peet's Coffee.

In any case. We then had to eat. Jordan's bagel was too hot. He was thirsty. Why did it take so long to get water?

ETCETERA

I was growing increasingly agitated as the hours wore on and it was looking like I was barely going to arrive in time to drop bags at the hotel before the team lunch.

At some point Nick pointed out that I was overly anxious.

And in my head I was all, "Don't stab the driver, Lisa. Breathe. The number one rule of being a passenger is don't stab the driver."

Out loud I'm certain I was shrill and bitchy, as happens when I am anxious and someone suggests I need to calm down or dial it back, which just makes me DIAL IT UP TO A MILLION.

In any case, Nick and the kids very kindly deposited us at the hotel and Betty and I got to the lunch not terribly late, and I relayed my anxiety and everyone said, in different words, that it's such a high anxiety weekend and they get super stressed out beforehand as well.

One of my teammates also said she's not a lawyer, but the advice she'd like to give me is never to stab anyone. "Just think it quietly really hard," she said.

Not a single person thought I was making too big a deal of it. It is hard for all of us.

I am so open about mental illness, about losing family members to suicide, and about my own struggles with depression. And I'm comfortable talking about all those things.

But I'm usually the one leading the conversation.

Being in a big group of others who talk about the same things, who live and breathe these issues, who casually mention that running daily decreases their ainxiety, who have been told to "get over it" or made to feel aberrant by STILL being upset about the suicide of a loved one...being surrounded by these people feels like exhaling after holding your breath for a long time.

It feels like a strong hug. Like sliding into clean sheets after a hot shower. It's a relief. It's a pleasure to all be together.
Hard to get all our feet in!
And! I got to see my delightful friend Joy, who I met the night before my first walk in 2013, and walked with in DC and then four years ago in Philly.
Joy!
Joy's friends come out and cheer, and bring a dog to pet. They drive to different spots on the route. I think because of my neon pink tights, they always spotted me and encouraged me. This encouragement feels amazing.

We started walking at sundown. The first 10.5 miles were fine. And then around 1:00 am, we all sat down in a field and had midnight snack. We took off our shoes and changed our socks.

After that, the city was dark and quiet. Walkers spread out. The energy and excitement of starting out had dissipated.

I saw walkers I'd noticed earlier and wondered if they would make it, who were still walking when we approached the finish line. Honestly, at a certain point, I wondered if I would make it. Like me, they put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward.

The team stayed together well into the walk, way past the halfway point.
Almost halfway!
I can't think of another event like this. There's something particular about walking through the night, pushing through the dark and the quiet, keeping going even when you're tired, and your feet hurt, and you'd rather lie down and sleep. I keep going because I committed, because it is important to me. And because I know that if I just continue to move forward, eventually, I'll get there.

The last several miles, I lost my team and walked alone, though I was never alone. And I don't mean that in a Jesus carried me kind of way. I mean, there were other walkers.

We walked into Sunday, Father's Day.

I crossed the finish line alone, and hobbled up the steps to find my luminaria. This year I found all three. I was so tired I was off balance, and nearly fell off the steps several times.
Walking toward hope
But I found them. They were glowing, surrounded by others, dearly loved and dearly missed.
Travis
I saw old friends, made new ones, and had a beautiful time. Next year I'm heading to wherever it is on Friday, so I can have a good sleep and eliminate the stress of rushing on a Saturday. Plus I want to spend more time with my people.

This is a club I never want you to join. But being a member, walking is helpful; it is healing. As my friend Joy said, "Walking doesn't fix grief. Nothing fixes grief. Walking together on the journey of life is all we can do."

I'm grateful to walk together, and to feel that we are never alone.

I'm thankful you're on this journey with me, and that you've so kindly and lovingly supported me in so many ways.

Including donations that have not yet been credited to me, I raised over $4,500. My team raised over $31,000. I feel proud of raising this for such a great organization, one whose mission resonates so strongly with me.

Thank you for all your support, in so many ways.

Big hugs and much love,

Lisa

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Morning smiles like the face of a newborn child

"Mama," my son said, as we lay side by side in his bed before sleep, "are you afraid of anything?"

The room was dark and quiet, and as I thought about my response, I said, "Am I afraid of anything? Hmm."

I'm terrified of somehow losing my kids, like in a car or plane crash, and having to face life without them. I'm scared something will happen to Nick. I know one day my mom will die and I worry about it. I'll be so devastated, I'll fall apart completely.

I'm scared to look in the mirror in the dark. I have been since second grade, when we played Bloody Mary at my house in Bangladesh. If I have to use the bathroom at night, I hurry in and out, looking straight ahead, making sure I don't glance in the mirror.

The other night it occurred to me vampires don't have a reflection. So looking in the mirror, you wouldn't even if know one were behind you.

Clowns, clowns frighten me, ever since Poltergeist. I read Steven King's It years and years ago, and that added to my clown terror. I couldn't watch the movie trailers.

I'm afraid of turbulence, I'm afraid my plane will crash. I worry about not having enough time with connections, and missing my next flight.

The idea of sink holes makes me anxious, although Nick has assured me that DC is built on rock.

I'm scared of accidentally backing into a geyser, although I've never yet been to Yellowstone. I'm scared of tsunamis and super volcanoes and being in the Pacific Northwest when that one giant tsunami earthquake liquefies the entire area.

At night, in the living room, when I'm the last one to bed, I fear a hand will reach out from under the couch as I walk by.

Also, rabies. Good lord, the rabies.

I'm afraid I'm not special. That actually, I'm just plain ordinary.

"Sharks," I said. I'm pretty scared of sharks. What about you?"