Friday, April 21, 2017

Dedication Like No Other

There is a reason Dog is called, "Man's best friend" - undieing devotion. Even your best mate, spouse, significant other is not always going to be with you. No matter what your day was like, does your significant other meet you at the door thrilled to see you - every single time you come home? Only in the 1950's movies that promoted a woman's place in the home, devoted to her husband, meeting him at the door with a martini, not in reality.

If you are on the sofa feeling awful, in bed feeling blue, or just sleeping through the night, no matter what spats you may have had earlier (trash scattered on the kitchen floor, the pillow on couch being "de-filled of its stuffing", or so many dog toys strewn across the floor, a visitor would think that Hasbro blew up in the middle of your den), the canine friend is by your side.

Who else will listen intently to your problems, your rants, your dreams, your wishes, your fantasies, and your bad jokes and never argue, question, or judge you? 

Yes, a canine companion is an unabashed, dependable, adoring, dedicated friend. When your other relationships go south, he will be by your side, ready to move on with you. 

Everyone needs such in their support system. Anyone who questions this is clueless. They have either never lived in a household with dog, had a rare bad experience as a child, or is a germaphobe. All they need is to be exposed to a dog of a friend, of a child, of a grandparent, heck, in a shelter or pet store. Who can walk away from that face, that yearning to please. Well maybe a germaphobe, but then they have a 'hole 'nuther set of issues.

Yes, cats are fine. They will offer you love and attention on their terms. Their independence, indifference, and aloofness fail to offer you that dedication and companionship you may need.

Someone who doesn't like dogs is not willing to see unrequited love in front of them. They are someone who is missing out on the best friend they could ever have. Besides, without a pup, they always have to sweep the crumbs off their kitchen floor (another value of this dedicated pal).

Running Running on Empty

Ever had one of those days when the weather is good, your weight is normal, your house is (relatively) clean, you have plans to do something you have been looking forward to doing, yet you feel off. Your karma is not plumb. You have no energy. Yet there is nothing you can quite put your finger on. In a way you feel like you are running on empty.

If you have never experienced this, you are lucky that you cannot relate. But stay with me here, this still applies to you. I digress.

Now if you have felt this way, it hard to articulate this to anyone (except maybe your Dr.). Your friends and family, bless their hearts, try to be helpful and supportive. Yes, life is going fine. Yes, nothing is bothering you. No, there is no physical issue. No, for God's sake, you are not descending into a deep depression. But, so far, there is nothing that comes to mind that someone else can do to help.

This is a personal feeling. It is as if there is no foundation, no footing. Something is missing, but what? 

In my case, usually I move forward, hoping I will reconnect. If I have mentioned this to anyone, then I expend a lot of energy that I do not have, assuring them that on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being drowning and 10 feeling like life is swell) I am rating about a 7. This is when I question why I bothered to discuss this with anyone.

Jackson Brown put it well, "Running on, running on empty, Running on, running blind [ ] But I'm running behind"

If someone shares with you that they feel this way. Don't try to "fix them" with platitudes, "cheer them up" with Pollyanna optimism, or hover like a protective mother over her only son. Trust me, even though your intentions are good, it only makes it worse. Then not only do they have to handle their issue, they have to handle you.

Be a friend, listen, answer any questions you are asked, be available if they need you (but give them space). Let them share, knowing you will listen and not judge. Shit like this happens. They need to know they can trust you without fear of what you will do. 

This is the time when true friends can come through. If someone reaches out to you or you think something is amiss, don't storm the Bastille, just be there. That is how you can help.

And, no, I feel fine. This is not a cry for help. This is more suggestions of how one can be a better friend and one can trust their friends to be there for them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Don't Ask Them Anything Personal

Despite their wicked humor, impeccable manners, and their love of a good time, the British people as a whole initially come off as standoffish on first blush. It is not unusual for the ignorant and uninitiated to assume the British to be rude, cold, or worse yet - offended by something one did. (My Aunt would describe this attitude as "Being too big for their britches"). However in my case, coming from the warm welcoming south, I may as well arrived on Mars as we deplaned at Heathrow.

Now I expected this from the well known guards at Buckingham Palace where tacky tourists (mostly Americans) do ridiculous things to make the strictly regimented soldiers show some emotion - some sign of life. But not from the lady at the Air France gate, the attendant at the chippy, even the friendly looking gentleman queued behind us in the line for a black cab. One would have thought I insulted their mum or told them their shoes looked ridiculous. Obviously neither was the case.

Heck, I could not get one to engage in conversation with me. Was this the Britian/ England/ United Kingdom I had read about for years? These folks were nothing like the characters on the BBC shows I loved so much. They were just one cup short of rude.

I was to learn that this was my initial introduction to the well known "British Reserve". Unlike us who can make friends in the grocery store line, the Brits almost avoid eye contact. Where American personality is seen as loud, pretentious, and wanting everyone to look at them. Brits find drawing attention to themselves frightening. As Mame said, "It ain't fit'n, it ain't fit'n, it just ain't fit'n."

It is not that they are cold, standoffish, or even unable of being expressive or open. Rather it is hard for them to grasp the concept of talking to a random stranger, of being told, or even worse, asked about personal details.

Close friendships in Britain are thought of as few and very special. They are fostered slowly over time. One just doesn't rush into a close friendship without a long period of development. Oh, they have plenty of acquaintances and friends, but a "close friend relationship" takes time.

The main reason for this reticence - Brits have been brought up in a centuries old tradition of not showing emotions. And never call attention to oneself. So knowing someone enough to be able to drop that facade and share emotions and trust takes a while and is seen as a long and serious process. 

All this leads up to HRH Prince Harry. For someone who has been caught playing pool stark naked in mixed company and wearing a much less than PC Halloween costume, to name a few of his "infamous" headlines, the moniker "inhibited" does not come to mind. Unlike the Heir to the throne who is reserved and proper, the "Spare" seems to live life large. 

But this week, that image was broken when, in an interview, Harry disclosed that he had finally sought counseling to handle the tragic death of his mother 20 years ago. His comment was that not knowing how to deal with the grief lead to years of total chaos n his life. Just his bearing his soul was above the fold news in itself.

Then what followed could possibly change the British reserve. He said that the therapy that he received helped him finally deal with Diana's death and showed him how to go forward. He encouraged everyone who needed help to seek it. There was no shame.

Now this is a conundrum for the Brits. Here was the beloved son of Britian's almost sainted Princess, who had grown up in the public eye, not only saying he had sought professional counseling, bared his soul, shared his fears, and admitted his emotions to someone - a stranger at that, but he was suggesting, asking, and saying not only was it the right thing to do, one should do it if they think they need it.

The Rubicon has been jumped. The Queen herself could have stepped forward and admitted that she had been seeing a therapist for years to help her and it would not have had the same effect. After all she is the Queen and not "One of us". However, Harry having grown up under a watchful and adoring realm was more "real".  They can relate to him. He straddles the worlds of Royalty and mere mortality fairly well.

Well done Harry. Your mother would be proud of you. There are feelings and emotions in there after all. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Staying on the Farm

I often respond, when asked, "How do you handle that?" sarcastically with "Drugs and therapy". It sounds flippant, but anyone getting serious treatment knows that those 2 parts of help are a big component of the solution. There are also those who assume (some have commented) that the drugs should be great. They ask, "Are you on drugs? Don't they make you feel good?"

This is where there is a failure to communicate between the general public and physicians. My Daddy was a pharmacist. He always said if you felt different, like a drug was "doing something for you" while you were on  it, you should stop taking it. That was an indication that it wasn't the right thing for your condition at that time.

The madness here is that if a drug is doing its job, you should not feel a difference. Huh? You ask. Only upon reflection after several days /months should you realize, "Wait a minute, I'm not so depressed or anxious. " (or whatever ill has confiscated you karma). Folks get in trouble when a drug effects them immediately in a very profound way. 

Legally​ prescribed drugs are not developed to make you "feel better", but rather to treat a condition you are dealing with. A prime example is opioids. This has become a major national epidemic that often leads to heroin abuse. And research shows that doctors are over-prescribing these drugs to fight pain when there are other treatments/medications that will control the pain and not lead to the Hell of abuse and addiction. 

The two times I have been prescribed opioids for health issues, I either did not get the prescription filled and shredded it or if it were filled, safely discarded the tablets. It wasn't worth it. Yes, I was in pain but there are other ways to treat it. It is my personal humble opinion if doctors would restrict their habit of prescribing opioids or refills and patients would think, "Do I want immediate pain relief and take a chance of sending my personal, physical, and financial life down the drain?" or "Isn't there some other pain reliever that will give me relief without the possible attached destructive baggage?"

Fortunately (or unfortunately) nothing I have been prescribed (or have taken) allows me to live in a psychedelic funk. Not one thing takes me "high as a kite". None offer escape from reality. Rather after initially taking them for several days it dawns on me, "Wait I'm not as depressed as I was. I do not feel 'different', I just feel 'normal' for the first time in a long while. I had forgotten how this felt."

I cannot help but be reminded of Jim Stafford's song, "Wildwood Weed". 

My favorite lines from that song are:
   "Smokin' them wildwood flowers got to be a habit
     We didn't see no harm
     We thought it was kind of handy
     Take a trip and never leave the farm"

Yes, my prescribed medication takes care of me. But every once in awhile wouldn't it be nice to be able to "take a trip without leaving the farm." We can all dream . . . or hallucinate.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Soul Food

Music calms the savage beast. Actually the true quote is,  "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast” but who knew. Well, in my case I think of it more as "Food calms the savage soul". What else would you expect from a southern girl. After all, contrary to what the food snobs from New York say, we have the corner on the market of damn good food.

Who is going to argue with BBQ, fried chicken, hush puppies, collards, pound cake, peach cobbler, macaroni and cheese, to name a few. This is the one of the seven sins I plead guilty to. Well there was that one time I had pure lust in my heart for Clark Gable, but Mama told me I was forgiven because almost all southern women were guilty of that. I digress.

I knew I was not doing well when I stood in my kitchen and could not think of anything I really wanted to eat. Nothing struck me as tasty, nothing called "come hither" from the refrigerator, and not one thing came to my mind when I thought, "You can eat anything, just name it" - a rare time I attempt one of the seven sins.

Back to the issue at hand. The box of Godiva chocolates sitting on the table did nothing for me. I had no desire for the dark chocolate mint Ghiaraldi squares. But when the leftover macaroni and cheese in the refrigerator did not interest me, I knew I was in serious trouble.

Some people refer to "comfort food". Personally, that term brings to mind colds, fever, being snowed in, and heavy blankets. To me it also connotates soups, stews, and casseroles - just my thoughts. Perhaps our southern food could also be considered "comfort food", but it is MY idea of comfort. Food that is satisfying, well flavored with traditional herbs, spices, and sauces. And of course, I have to add very rich dark chocolate and the flavor of mint and citrus to that (my) list.

So when I need solace, when the world is not being kind, or it has not been a good day, I seek out those good southern foods that have contented, satisfied, reassured, and soothed my people for generations. 

And I don't need an entire pound cake, 4 servings of macaroni, a whole fried chicken, or pound of BBQ to fill my soul with consolation and solace. A small serving will do. 

The secret, you ask, of southern food for the soul? It starts with butter, bacon, and cream. Margarine, that turkey "stuff", and skim milk does nothing for anyone's karma. Bland flavors and watery sauces are the death of many a culinary effort. Cakes and other pastries made without real butter are unpalatable. It is true, you cannot fool Mother Nature. Trying to replace butter and cream with anything else will guarantee gastric failure. It is tantamount to trying to pull off Kraft Mac and Cheese (in the blue box) as the real thing. You should be ashamed of yourself. 

The bottom line is - my savage soul can be calmed and soothed by good southern food made with real butter, bacon, and cream. Anything else would just be empty calories that would make me feel even more remorse.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Take It Easy

For those of you from my generation, the lyrics "Well I'm running down the road tryin' to loosen my load ..[ ]" should be familiar. Now that you are singing along to one of the Eagles' greatest hits, the next line is :  I've got seven [men] on my mind ..." The song is 'Take It Easy'. Hearing those lyrics always take me back to one particular night my senior year in high school. Wait, or were they playing 'Hotel California'? I digress.

When I am viewed as upset, agitated, distressed, rattled, and/or antsy, the usual responses from friends, family, and therapists are "chill out", "cool down", "relax","get a hold of yourself". Easy for them to say. If it were that simple I think I could have handled it myself. I'm not out of control, I'm just pissed. 

And I have a right to be pissed. As an unhinged great aunt of mine once said, "I am due a nervous breakdown. I deserve a nervous breakdown. I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. And no one is going to deny me one." So there. 

Now what?

I asked my doctor just what a "Nervous Breakdown"was. He responded that it was a broad term used for many conditions, but the basic symptoms usually included:
-Severe stress related depression 
-Loss of interest in social and family life
-Weight loss (or gain)
-Feeling sick to the stomach

Humh, check, check, check, and check. Well the good news is that this proves that, contrary to what some folks think, I am not a petulant child, fretful middle age woman, peevish loner, whiny b*+ch, querulous victim, nor out-of sorts invalid. I am simply someone having a bad day. OK, I am someone going through a low time, rough patch, or the blues aka depression.

One thing I have learned that has helped me crawl out (albeit slowly) of my black hole is to take it easy. Going back to my teen years, when the world was my oyster, life was grand, and the biggest crisis imaginable was not getting a second date with that great guy, I pulled the words from the Eagles' song.

"Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. Lighten up while you still can. Don't even try to understand. Just find a place to make your stand ... [ ]  We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again ... [ ]"

So now I have bared my soul, identified my condition, and found a memory from my past that provides some direction. I simply need to take it easy and follow my mantra; live for the moment one day at the time.

Oh, and you are welcome for the song that you will hum all day. Hopefully it will take you back several decades and bring to light some memorable moments you haven't visited in a while.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Odometer of Life

I can always remember my Grandmother telling me, " Don't wish your life away." This would be in response to my incessant whining that Christmas would never come or school was going to last FOREVER. Ah, but youth is wasted on the young.

Two weeks from now I am taking a trip with some friends. I was thinking this morning - 2 weeks, Lord we do not leave for two weeks. That day will never get here. But upon reflection it dawned on me that  2 weeks is 14 days, as in 14 days of my life. And "Like sands through an hourglass, so are the days of our lives." After all, we are each only allotted so many days in the lottery of life.

If you can afford to cast 336 hours of your life into the wind, go right ahead. Be my guest. I can assure you there are few dead people out there who, when offered 14 more days, would decline and say, "No thanks. I'm just fine. After all it is only 14 days."

This makes about as much sense as the folks who watch the lottery and say it is never worth their money. Only when it reaches some ungodly amount, say 420 million dollars, are they willing to invest their dollar. When in reality the chance to win 10 or 20 million dollars (though their odds are the same) is not worth it to them. Trust me, I'd take Door No. 1 if Monty promised me there were several million dollars behind it. The hell with spinning a wheel for only a chance to win 420 million. But I digress.

Growing up is a bitch. We spend 20 years trying to grow up, 45 years dealing with the wraths of aging, until somewhere around 65 we finally realize time is moving way too fast and it is no time to worry about trivial things.

There are the southern women who take a "vacation" for a week or 2 and return not only looking rested, but years younger thanks to a nip here and tuck there, that one would never admit to. Excellence by Loreal can give some us the false sense that by keeping the gray at bay, we somehow are stopping the clock. But, alas Virginia, there may be a Santa Clause, but so far, no one has found the fountain of youth.

I have said live life in the moment. Well we should also live life day to day. My dear mother only lived to be 79 years old. According to my calculations (old math mind you) that is 28,835 days. Scary to think if I have been the dwelt the same ticket, and I manage to make it to that end, I am currently already registering 21,329 days old odometer. Those 14 days I was about to wish away could be .0018685% of my remaining days.

Of course, my mother's life was cut short by unforeseen consequences that in the perfect world could have been prevented. That said and math aside, time can neither be stopped nor reversed (despite the promises of Olay Regenerist serum). It is what it is. One never knows when one's ticket will be punched and it will all be over but the crying.

One of my all time favorite quotes came from HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother:

"Wouldn’t it be terrible if you’d spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t eat things, took lots of exercise, and suddenly, one day, you were run over by a big red bus and, as the wheels were crunching into you, you’d say, 'Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night.' That’s the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus."

She lived to be 101. And from all I have read she truly lived life for the moment and got the most mileage possible from her 36,865 days on Earth. No doubt her daily habits helped,  starting with a gin and Dubonnet at noon, red wine with lunch, a port and martini at 6 pm and two glasses of champagne at dinner. So live life as if you were dieing and beware of a big red bus.