I want to talk about BREAST CANCER. I’m not going to blog a bunch of cancer statistics and information on research and treatment. Nope. You should know the important stuff and if you don’t, Google …
As an actor, I had to pretend, imitate, hide, steal, keep secrets, and even transcend. I created believable characters and delivered Oscar-worthy performances. Ooops, wait a minute . . . did I say,…
Source: REMAINS OF THE DAY
I have bipolar disorder, and if you are like me and suffer with a mental or physical condition that wreaks havoc on the inside without showing on the outside, then you know that its invisibility ca…
Source: CONTRADICTION IS CONFUSING
“Dear Julia . . . there is no easy way to tell you this . . .”
On July 3rd, I learn of my friend’s suicide
The savage truth delivers a violent punch to my heart
and fractures my core
For others, the days ahead bring fireworks, art fairs, and festivities . . . even The Rolling Stones
but I’m here still trying to get up off the floor
Reality comes in waves now; acid waves which leave me breathless
I can’t talk about it yet, or say his name aloud, or share his wonderfulness with you
but I know that soon the grieving will begin and it will be better than this
In a single moment everything can change
your perspective . . . your world . . . even the person you are
To the muffled backdrop of exploding fireworks, I weep
for his pain
and my loss
and the tremendous tragedy of it all
It didn’t have to be
This life . . .
is magnificent and beautiful
yet fragile, tentative, and temporary
and ever so bittersweet.
*If you are in crisis, PLEASE call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-HELP (8255). They’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They really care and can help you. Or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .
Because you matter.
I don’t remember what led me to River’s Edge Gallery that night, but there I was standing before three brightly lit floors packed with people excited about art. I turned to my friend, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
It was “The Homage Show”, and my first opening reception at an art gallery.
It was also the night I met Patt Slack, the gallery’s owner.
And the night that I began my personal journey of self-discovery through art and photography. I didn’t even realize I was in need of or in search of anything, although, as Patt peered over the rim of her glasses and smiled at me, I suspect that she did.
She accepted it graciously and appreciatively . . . and without laughing out loud.
Since then, I’ve blogged about Wyandotte’s galleries and their incredible artists, but I never considered myself one of them. Now here it is just a few years later, and instead of writing about this show, I have two photographs entered in it.
I have come full circle.
Today I am thinking about Patt Slack and that first night of art, and I’m in awe of the magical new world she opened up to me. And I’m remembering something she said seriously and adamantly that I thought a bit odd at the time; about the difference between being “creative” and being “an artist”; the distinction being that the former creates and enjoys, while the latter does the incredible grueling work of art. I understand now, Patt. I just want you to know. I sure do.
Last week I celebrated a friend’s show by wearing my shiny red patent-leather shoes for the first time; the ones that I purchased shortly after that night, and keep on my dresser as I reminder of my inner girly-girl, and I immediately learned two things: although I love these dreamy red shoes, they are NOT conducive to comfortable walking or to good photography.
Tonight I will attend MY first-ever Photography show still limping from their wear, as I stand before my entry . . . where I, um . . . kind of . . . honor them.
You just gotta love ironing.
I mean irony!
You just gotta love irony!
Just a week ago we gathered to celebrate Rose Lewandowski’s art show at The Carr Center in Detroit (See the Carr at: http://www.thecarrcenter.org/ and visit Rosie on Facebook).
We love Rosie and her beautiful brilliant brain. She’s a painter and photographer, and she creates the most elegant pottery. Tonight it’s her pottery that’s being featured and I love to see the world through her eyes, as reflected in her pieces. She has incredible perspective. And depth of heart.
Actually, both of the other girls are creatives as well; Desiree’s a painter, gardener, and creator of fairy gardens and anything else her beautiful brain can imagine; and Patti is a photographer, chef extraordinaire, and probably a few other things that I’m not remembering right now. Me? I write a bit. And I take a few photographs now and then.
Rosie’s show was fabulous. The attendance was good and the room was abuzz with creative energy and the chatter and support of friends. Our Motley Crew was there to celebrate our friend, who passionately and relentlessly does the work of art; this night was just one result and reward. She has the heart of an artist, the soul of an ancient, and the work ethic of a Fortune 500 CEO. Needless to say, her pottery pieces just blew everyone away. I wasn’t surprised. Of course they did.
We even made some new friends.
Say hello to Dana and Dom (Rosie is on the right). They are delightful spirited characters and we all bonded rather naturally (you learn to spot the good ones quickly!).They are soon expecting a beautiful baby boy named, Alexio. Isn’t that a wonderful name? I’ve already called dibs on his first photo shoot!
In the afterglow of the evening, we left Detroit, and each ventured ahead into the upcoming week.
I know that Desiree has been nonstop busy with family duties and activities, and assisting in the care of an ailing loved one, while babysitting her granddaughter (the light of her life), and while being in physical pain. She’s had an incredibly rough year of family losses, but you’d never know it to look at her. Or be with her. She always sees the beauty in everything. And she’s a firecracker. She’s also a fluttering little firefly flapping her wings and being beautiful while trying to shed some light in all the darkness that surrounds her.
I also know that Patti has had the same kind of busyness, even though it was her week of vacation; errands and family duties never stop. She just got her second tattoo; a bracelet of flowers, inspired by her late mother’s ring. Her first tattoo, in honor of her infant daughter, Sara, was an angel with wings, and now rests just above her heart . . . the same heart that broke the day she lost her. Patti’s the calming force in our little rock band of middle-aged, Zen-seeking, hippie-embracing, creative girlfriends. She brings balance (That’s why she carries a cane! She’s also highly skilled in navigation…and sarcastic humor).
Rosie did not escape unscathed. She had a minute of joy at her show and then the next day, she got clobbered . . . really hard. She lost her beautiful friend, Marty; someone she’s loved for a lifetime. And it broke her heart. There are no words. Only tears. Later, the memories will come that will comfort her. She will honor Marty by living life with love and joy in her heart.
Nothing too major. I got crushed by bronchitis, which spurred a three-day migraine, while a number of important things were happening. It was crazy-bad timing and I cried a lot, but I pushed through it. Even the smallest tasks required tremendous effort and attention, with relatively few positive results. It’s frustrating; and that’s a word my bipolar disorder doesn’t like. We don’t care much for emotional roller coasters either, but we’ve been privy to a ride on one of those this week as well. Yeah . . . I’m tired.
(I keep writing this paragraph over because I need want to tell you all of the bad things that happened to me. I want to name them off, “This and this and this and this…..”, and then say, “See how rough my week was?” But I will resist that urge.
So, exactly what is this blog about?
And honoring our beautiful friends.
Just as they are.
Not because we accept them or tolerate them.
But because we love them.
And we want to celebrate them.
Life’s gifts come with no guarantees. One minute you’re enjoying the night with your friends and the next minute you’re up to your eyeballs in turmoil and pain and everything’s different. Sometimes, it’s major and life-altering. And sometimes we just go through a rough patch . . . for maybe a day, or a few months, or even a few years. But not one of us will get through it without a little help.
Nope, not even you.
We need someone to listen and to share it all with. We need a couple of good friends. The love and laughter they bring is as vital to our existence as the air we breathe.
This beautiful band of girlfriends I jokingly call backup singers and Zen-hippie girls, and indeed we are; but you can be assured, we are also warriors. And we’re fighting for love, comfort, peace, and a little bit of the happy stuff.
(From left: Rose Lewandowski, Desiree Mate, Julia Kovach, Pat Petroline).
Tomorrow, come hell or high water, we will reassemble for a girls-therapy session luncheon, where we will hug and chat and laugh and love for hours.
And we’ll embrace these moments as tightly as we embrace each other.
Because that’s just how we roll.
And because this is the important stuff.
The stuff to cherish.
It’s a rare find.
This blog is dedicated to Rosie’s dear friend, Marty Gratz, who left this earth much too soon, and who will be greatly missed by all who had the honor and privilege of knowing and loving her.
The heart is the most important muscle there is, but it does more than just pump blood.
It creates memories.
“Muscle memory” is when a movement is done repeatedly over time and your muscle creates a sort of memory for that movement which allows you to do it without really thinking about it too much; like riding a bike, or typing on a keyboard.
Emotions are born in the brain . . . but they live in the heart.
That’s why it swells and overflows when we feel joy. And that’s why a “broken heart” physically hurts when we lose or miss someone.
It all happens there. Some would argue the accuracy of this, but it would fall on deaf ears. I know my heart and what it holds.
And today it is aching.
I thought I knew what love was.
Until I had a child.
And everything changed.
I fell in love with my son the moment I knew of him.
Our life together began with his first hello . . . a small flutter from within; and with every passing month, I talked to him and he responded with little poked messages of acknowledgement, as we secretly conversed in our own Morse code; with me talking and him tap, tap, tapping in reply.
Until the tapping stopped.
And it was all over.
The dream ended; the gift withdrawn.
And I was left with nothing but empty arms and a broken heart.
When you lose a baby, you lose a lifetime.
In my case, I also lost a lifeSTYLE, because I couldn’t have another child.
And the trouble is my heart already started loving him.
My heart memorized every single moment of him. Every movement, and every hope and dream; his first steps and his first bike ride, when he learned to drive and when he went off to college. My heart remembers the sound of him calling out, “Mom!” as he returned home from school; and the way his dark hair fell across his forehead when he was asleep. I remember when he fell in love with my daughter-in-law and they had my first grandbaby; and how I marveled at my blessings and the opportunity to relive it all again.
Oh, yes, I fell in love with him.
And my heart remembers the life we were supposed to have.
The one I had imagined.
Our beautiful babies aren’t supposed to die; but mine did . . . on the day he was born.
He was in an incubator . . . and then he wasn’t.
Then he was in my arms.
Then I was allowed to hold him.
And in those few moments . . . we lived our lifetime together.
Those powerful few moments have sustained me for 30 years.
I’m not burdened by the weight of grief every single day anymore.
I’ve learned how to live with the reality; you get used to feeling the pain, I guess. I actually embrace it at times. And memories of my son are kind of like breathing for me – I don’t consciously think about breathing, but I do it . . . all the time.
Needless to say, 2014 has been a “numbers” kind of year for me.
Six years without a cigarette, 5 years without an egg, a piece of fish, or a steak, and 4 years without a script for pain meds; I turned 55 years old, my son, Michael, would’ve been 30, and this is the year my matrimony is “a wash” – 12 years married, now 12 years divorced.
I’m not sure what it all means. But I’ve never been good with numbers, so I’ll leave it to the experts.
As for today, I am thoughtful.
I am grieving the loss of my son on his 30th birthday, I am sad for what will never be, and I wonder what motivates me to rise each day.
But I do. And I will.
And I will continue to grab the little bits of joy I happen upon, and I will embrace them. I will work hard to be good and to be kind. And to be better than I am.
Because I have a son. And I want him to be proud . . . just in case there is a heaven.
I just turned 55 years old and had a fabulous party at Kensington Metropolitan Park in Milford, Michigan with my human bestie, Pat Petroline, and many of my wildlife and barnyard friends. I enjoyed the photographs so much that I compiled them into a video slideshow featuring all the images from the day, set to the song, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
I just love it and I hope you do too.
All my best to you, friends.
As an actor, I had to pretend, imitate, hide, steal, keep secrets, and even transcend. I created believable characters and delivered Oscar-worthy performances.
Ooops, wait a minute . . . did I say, “Actor”?
I meant, “Addict”.
“As an ADDICT I’ve learned to pretend, imitate, hide . . . “.
Although, after 40 years of addiction I’ve become quite the actor. I was so good that when I stopped acting, there was no one left. There was no one remaining. I’d lost the central character . . . me.
It’s said that addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can begin recovery. Trouble is, I didn’t recognize rock bottom even when I slammed into it.
I thought it would BE like in the movies; when the alcoholic wakes up face down in a ditch, with no memory of how she got there.
I never embraced a ditch, but I did pass out face-down in a bowl of Fruit Loops once.
And I thought it would LOOK like in the movies; like the crack addict with sores and discolored teeth who eventually blows up her house while brewing chemicals.
Although I never had sores or blew up the house; I did lose a lot of teeth, and I did set the sofa on fire by falling asleep with a cigarette in my hand.
The tragedy is that I never saw the similarities between them and me.
As a result, I co-failed in marriage, spent a lifetime in a foggy buzz, and lost most of my memories. I was constantly using drugs, pursuing them, or desperately trying to hide my addiction to them.
My addiction was accessible, convenient, socially acceptable, and kind of legal. And it only required two things: my willingness and a reliable drug dealer.
And I had both.
I was lost and floundering, and he was greedy and available. So together we entered into a relationship in which neither of us acted or looked the part.
We never spoke in drug code on the phone, or met in a dark alley in the hood, or in the bowels of inner Detroit. And my dealer wasn’t paranoid, dressed in Goth black, or covered in tats and piercings; and his pants did NOT hang below his butt.
Nope. He was confident and clean-cut.
And he wore white.
My dealer was my doctor.
And my addiction was to prescription drugs.
I took my first pain pill when I was fifteen years old and suffering with a migraine.
Three things happened:
- I felt the buzz of codeine.
- My addiction switch was flipped on.
- I lied about feeling relief because I already wanted more.
It was that quick and easy.
Over the next 40 years, I lived on a daily cocktail of medications prescribed for pain, muscle tension, anxiety, sleep, depression, and seizures.
And because of the migraines, finding a dealer doctor was easy.
As with all professions, there are good doctors and bad ones. The good ones won’t prescribe pain meds if they aren’t truly warranted. They will work with you to reduce pain and eliminate or control the cause of it.
And the bad ones won’t. They won’t take the time. But they will take a quick moment to write a script and take your money.
I don’t blame my doctor for my addiction, but I will say:
“I couldn’t have done it without him”.
Now, four years later, I take full responsibility for my health, behavior, and life. I volunteer my history of addiction to my doctors because once I do, there is no turning back. And every time I own it, I’m a little proud; because I’m reclaiming myself.
I don’t oppose mainstream medicine or the legitimate use of prescription drugs. Pharmaceuticals save lives, manage diseases and disorders, and relieve pain. If I could tolerate an effective bipolar medication, I would take it in a minute. And if I was having surgery, I would take pain medication during my recovery.
But my pills ceased to be for pain and morphed into a crutch and a habit.
There was always a reason to take one; if I was insecure, upset, depressed, or even just bored. And I was not discriminating about what I ingested. I quickly discarded the inconvenience of discrimination, along with my dignity, judgment, and self-confidence.
As long as I felt . . . better. Or numb.
I didn’t know about bipolar disorder and self-medicating, or about masking and delaying grief, and I didn’t know about addictive personalities or that it can be genetic and run in families.
I couldn’t be an addict . . . because my drugs were prescribed.
“These are needed”, they said.
And I was hurting and without tools to cope with the pain of life or death . . . so I pretended to believe them.
And I took a pill.
EVERY SINGLE DAY, for years.
I don’t know what spurred me, but I slowly weaned myself from one medication at a time until, eventually, I stopped taking all ten medications (Do this under the supervision of your doctor!).
Today, I still take pills. The ones I need; for thyroid and migraine (a migraine med, NOT a pain med), and Xanax for sleep or extreme anxiety.
I’ve been clean now for four years.
Boy, what a different world.
It’s all brand new. And I’m doing everything for the first time.
Now, without any fog to act as a buffer, I’m living in a world FULL of people with issues. It’s difficult, as I’m still finding and developing tools for coping and interacting with them.
Sometimes, I miss the warm fuzzy fogginess of codeine. Things seemed easier. Nothing really touched me. When I felt things, it was dreamlike.
But I’m awake now.
And that means I’m seeing all of life’s beauty for the first time. But I’m also feeling my bipolar disorder; acutely. And my grief. And now, living an inactive, disabled life has become much less tolerable. It was easier when I didn’t care.
But getting clean makes you care. It also makes you restless and uncertain of your next step.
Yes, I’m awake now. And I have a small window of opportunity to try to live an entire lifetime . . . again, the right way.
Why am I sharing all of this?
Because America is suffering from an epidemic of addiction.
Prescription drug addiction is the #1 addiction in the USA today (NOT marijuana, alcohol, or heroin). There’s an estimated 20,000 prescription drug-related deaths annually.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
- START AT HOME by setting an example. Watch your child’s behavior. Be diligent. Keep all medications inaccessible or you will become your child’s drug source should they become curious or depressed.
- BUCK UP. Feel life. It’s okay to be sad or experience pain sometimes. When physical or mental pain persists or interferes with your quality of life, THEN it’s time to visit your doctor.
- STOP SHARING your pills. Your friends may become addicted or have a bad reaction. You might be well-intentioned, but that’s not the way to help.
- BE WILLING TO DO THE WORK OF LIVING healthier. Whether that entails diet, exercise, quitting smoking, stress management, or physical/psychiatric therapy. Seek natural and alternative therapies.
- DON’T SELF-DIAGNOSE. You’re not a doctor and your friends aren’t either. And however educated, they don’t know your medical history; online information is ambiguous at best, and every patient is different. Consult a doctor.
- OVER-PRESCRIBING DOCTORS WILL QUICKLY OFFER YOU PAIN MEDS. It doesn’t mean you have to take them. You can “just say no”. If pain meds are needed, remember that they’re not a long-term solution.
- RECOGNIZE your addictive personality or family history.
- BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LIFE. Dr. Random doesn’t care if you live zoned-out and in a stupor. Protect and contribute to your quality of life.
This is 2014 and there’s a new addiction in our country.
It’s lured us with its legality and promises of a quick fix for whatever ails us. With the pop of a pill, we don’t have to feel even remotely uncomfortable ever.
But is that what we want?
And is that the legacy we leave our children?
I spent 40 years spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I wasted a lifetime.
Rewrite the script to your life story. If you don’t know how, find someone who does and ask for help. There are plenty of us around.
I was nearly 50 years old when I stopped hiding from the pain of life and took my first baby step towards change. And then I took another. And another. I shed the dealer. And the addict. And I stopped playing the victim.
And when the fog cleared, I looked around. I thought that there was no one left. But I was wrong.
I’m directing my own movie now. And at the end of the day, there IS someone left.
And that’s a start.
Today is Baxter’s 2nd birthday and he’s a very happy boy.
First, we went for a drive.
Then he opened his Birthday cards.
For his special activity he’s chosen a themed movie marathon on television . . .
. . . obviously, Sci-Fi.
It’s hard to believe I’ve had him for only two years……feels like a hundred! haha.
Here is the blog I wrote after first bringing him home. He was 6 weeks old and weighed 1.5 pounds. http://wp.me/p2ckKM-5W.
Happy birthday, Bax! Momma loves you!