My Dog Elliott Scot Fry Taught Me …

Run to the door and wag when someone comes over.  Then bring your toys and enthusiastically ask them to play with you.

Take poops on walks.  Stretch after a really, really good poop.

Don’t let the cat get between you and your meds or whatever it is that makes you feel better.

Wait for permission and then eat with gusto.

Take point when hiking.  Stop and check over your shoulder every once in a while to make sure your pack is still together.  Wait for them to catch up.

Stay close when the pack asks you to.

Try your best.

Attend every gathering you can and sit up straight on your chair.

Listen and try to do what your pack wants you to.  It’s okay to do it more slowly as you get older.

Never hold a grudge.

Be gone when asked but not too far away.

Pick a pack member who emanates love, sleeps soundly and has a big bed to curl up with.

Do your job with utter joy and expect a reward.

Schlorp your water.

Keep secrets.

Treat every experience like it’s the first time you’ve done this wonderful thing.

Try to be brave when getting your nails trimmed even though it really really scares you.

Try to understand and then enjoy it when your pack laughs at how hard you are trying to understand.  Tilt your head because it makes them laugh harder.

Play piano for grandma.  You get lots of treats when you do.

Smile at people at the drive through window.

Run down the stairs to greet your pack whenever any one of them comes home.

Love your kennel.  It’s your home and it’s safe and it’s yours.

Love your toys.  Have lots of toys.  Share them.  Tease your pack with them.  Run after them.  Chase your pack with them.

Go With.  Nothing is better than Going With even if it’s just to run errands because there may be a walk in it somewhere and even if there’s not, you got to go with.

Don’t beg.  But remain ever convenient in the kitchen just in case someone oopses something on the floor.

Don’t hesitate if someone oopses something on the floor.

Remember the places that are important to you like the river, and Grandmama’s house.

Don’t get underfoot in the horse stalls.

Run with your pack and don’t stop running until they do.

Come whenever someone calls for the cat.

Forgive yourself when you eat garbage.

Sleep with your head on someone’s knee.

Occasionally stick your nose out the car window, chase a squirrel or pee on a fire hydrant so that your pack can have fun pointing out that you’re doing something cliche.

Run across the field like crazy with a huge smile on your face to get Mommy or Daddy.

Hold hands.

Stay close.

Guard your pack.

Inform your pack whenever there’s someone at the door, if someone has ever dropped a hotdog, or if there’s anyone in Milwaukee.

Know ‘far enough’.

Air conditioning is great.

Give the kitty lots of room unless he starts batting at you then that means he wants to play and you can run around and around him like crazy.

Know how to ‘heel’ but not quite well enough.

Wait until you’re told you can have the treat but then don’t hesitate.  If you learn to balance the treat on your nose or jump up in the air to get a treat, you get more treats.

Be happy and excited to meet and sniff other dogs and then be just as happy to continue on your own way when it’s time.

Sniff everything.

Check your pee-mail.

Love your collar and all it’s bling.

Get the paper.

Chase bubbles.

Be a champion champagne cork retriever.

Romp in snow.

Carefully open your presents when it’s finally your turn.

Morning cuddles or rolling around playing crazy bed dog are the only ways to start the day.

Meditate every day under the dream catcher over Mom and Dad’s bed – even if they call it napping.

Learn new things your whole life.


Beautiful: A Good Dr.

The 7 Stages of Learning to Live with Being Bipolar:

1. Acknowledge it

2. Accept it

3. Deal with it

4.  Embrace it

5.  Re-deal with it

6.  Revel in it

7.  Incorporate and make it a resource.

Repeat as necessary.


I have a good Dr.  Not a great Dr. but a good Dr.  My criteria:  He doesn’t discourage me from participating in my own treatment.  I’m one of those people who will read EVERYTHING about my diagnosis and then quiz said Dr. about my conclusions, so this is important to me.

Oh, and he’s smart and blah, blah, blah.

My Dr. also does not freak out when he asks me whether or not I’m thinking about suicide and the first answer out of my mouth isn’t “No”.  My answer is, “Yes, I do think about it, and I’m not planning on it.  I think that I understand how a person can experience such pain and despair that suicide is the only option they think they have left.”  He asks because it’s on the checking-in checklist.

So, no I’m not suicidal.  I am bipolar and we have a huge suicide rate.  It’s chemical and other stuff.  We also have a special handshake and now that my meds are evened out, I get to learn it.  Something else to look forward to.

Today, I am in “Acknowledge It” and “Incorporate and make it a resource” modes.  It took about 7 months and 4 med adjustments (aka Step 5) to get here, but here I am.


As is often the case with most ‘7 Stages…” lists, I’ve popped around among them.  As is often the case with me personally, I want nothing more than to skip ahead to the good parts.  I mentioned my fast-forward to #5 earlier, but naturally #6 is a favorite.  There’s actually a website called Famous Bipolar People.  Hello Agatha Chrisite and Abraham Lincoln!!  Howyoudoin Curt Cobain (oh wait a minute on that one.  didn’t turn out so well.) Anyway, I’m awed to be in such good company.  The association I like most are the people who don’t eventually / inevitably kill themselves but hey we didn’t ask to join this club so I can’t really discriminate against other members – so hello Stephen Fry AND Ozzy Osborne (who’s not officially dead but we’re all kind of wondering what’s up…)

Being bipolar isn’t the only reason that people commit suicide.  I’m just dwelling a bit on a personal cause and effect chemical process because, frankly, it’s pretty mind-blowing to be unable to stop the thought “hey, I think I can understand it.”  It’s one of those hitting-bottom realizations that (hopefully) lead to step 1 and so on.  For those for whom it’s a personally painful thing, I deeply apologize and sympathize.  I take a light-hearted approach now because I feel it’s most constructive for me.  Writing about it is one way I’m accepting thoughts that I couldn’t control.  I’m better now, but it shook me up.

Anyway, back to step 1… It terrifies the shit out of me to acknowledge this.  I expect to be excluded from parties (although the social phobia that accompanies being bipolar often does that for me), to have all my conclusions held suspect (although as a person who voluntarily tries to start a new theatre company in this economy my conclusions should technically be held suspect) and to be generally shunned and whispered about (see social phobia above).

I started writing my own personal outing the moment I was diagnosed.  I have a strict anti-secrets rule and this is significant.  For various reasons, the first 4 posts I drafted were trashed.  This particular post was began on April 14, 2012.  It’s time to testify.  It’s time to release feeling scared, guilty and ashamed.  Period.  Exclamation point.  It’s time to own me again.  It’s time to re-embrace my strength and courage.  It’s time to be the person I used to think I was.  I questioned myself – my basic being.  I shook to the core.  I doubted the reality of my beliefs about myself.  That’s one of the things that this chemical imbalance does.  Well, it’s fucked, let me tell you.

It’s time to be able to talk about and offer perspective on a pretty damned significant thing.  Own it, baby.

O,O,O!  Speaking of ‘fuck’ you should have heard me on the phone with my best friend the day I was diagnosed!  Talk about ranting and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  In retrospect, I won’t share actual content because it was far less imaginative and erudite than I’d like.  It mostly involved repeatedly using the f-bomb in any ear-burning combination imaginable.  Adjective, noun, adverb, heck I’m sure it was a contraction at some point.  I owe her.  Again.

So.  Here I am.  Out of my personal closet.  Writing my own ‘7 Stages’ list.  Because that’s who I am.




Beautiful: Rant and Resources

Frustration = $13M for Scott Walker’s efforts to fight his recall + Shakespeare in the Park struggles to pay our cast and crew.

We make it because individual humans like Kris, Dan, Ruth, Pam, Heather, Konrad, Jean, Barbara, Chris, Char, Edie and about 100 others gift us with whatever they can spare. Without the willingness to take a chance on us that Alverno, Max, Nancy, Linda, David, Jim, Donna, Teresa and Bob have decided to make, this would not happen. We persevere because of the love of the people of Milwaukee and environs, because of the supportive kindness of our local theatre community and because of your good will.

I confess, I’m feeling it especially right now because I’m crunching the budget. It’s hard to see in black and white that we can’t afford to pay our cast and crew enough to justify the time commitment to create SITP. If it weren’t for their willingness to pitch in, we wouldn’t make it. Too many professionals at the top of their game are volunteering their time. It’s not right. And, the fallout is happening.  People have to put the day jobs that pay the bills first and we ain’t it.  I honestly understand.

I don’t want anyone who’s pitched in financially and with their blood, sweat and tears to feel it’s not going to make it.  To ask themselves why they did it.  We will make it this year.  Every corner will be cut and every single dollar will be spent and we will make it.

My optimism is taking a hit today. I know it’s bad form to confess that but there you go. I’m asking forgiveness and patience. Thank you for your help. I’m not asking for more from you, my friends. You give and give and I’m so grateful.

Arts cuts are bringing me down. Yes, I’m preaching to the choir. I know you’re all feeling it – either directly or spiritually. I’ll say it – it hurts. It hurts personally. Hey, who wants to struggle for their dreams every single day? Who wants to re-invent themselves every day? Who wants to crunch and crunch and crunch?  I know so many of you are doing that very thing every day too.  Yeah, daily re-focus seems like a great way to approach life but I confess, it’s tiring sometimes.  I have a really tough and demanding boss and she just won’t take less.

I also have the help of an intern, Jean, Jim, Tom, ML, Char, Edie, Holly, Ruth, Rachael, Lisa, Este and a host of other skilled folks who are happy to pitch in to help on projects like stuffing envelopes, writing program copy, cutting and pasting addresses, and even fundraising brainstorming.  And asking their friends for money.  How long and how much can you ask from these fine people?  I know they actually are happy to help.  Sometimes, I’m so overwhelmed that it’s hard to cut through the noise and figure out what they can do for us.  For me.

I’m staring at the notes on our reservation system and our audience check-in system.  Seems simple, right?  This is the most complex thing you can imagine.  It’s complex because it matters.  We are trying so hard to create wonderful theatre but people need to be able to get to it.  It’s also complex because it’s human powered because we can’t afford to use any other system.  Even the so-called free ticketing options actually do cost $.  I’ve read the fine print.

PLEASE do not take this as an oblique, passive-aggressive call for help.  I needed to state the state of things in my head and on my desk.  I don’t need rescuing.  Thank you for your kind instincts.  And, if you didn’t actually have kind instincts after reading this very long post, then … fine!  (heartless bastards…)

I’m really grateful that Ron’s on the road and Rachael’s at work right now so I can sit at my desk and rant without bringing down the people sitting next to me. They feel it just as much as I do – as does Tom, ML, Jim, TJ, Amanda, Jean and everyone who helps run this company. Grateful for family.  People like you.

So, here are my resources in all this:

  • Ranting helps clear the cobwebs in my soul.  I can get on with the task at hand.
  • I believe in honesty and also believe that withholding is not honest.  I get to practice a core truth.
  • It’s better for my marriage not to dump on my partner.  Not that it’s better to dump on you but, believe me, it’s hard for 2 such driven people to also work together and manage a loving relationship.  It takes care and consideration.
  • I have a renewed focus on what counts – you.
  • Gratitude is high on my list today.  It’s much more effective than wallowing in self-pity.
  • I am going to give myself the luxury of focusing on one big, big thing today and ignore the receipts, forms, letters, etc in my in box.  They’ll be there tomorrow.  Perhaps today I will flow chart a lovely, inspired, human, caring, streamlined process.
  • I’m reminded of the wisdom of Jacque’s perspective:  “My job as an actress is to audition.  If I get cast, I consider it a paid vacation.”  My job as a producer to to figure out how to get things done.  If I get to greet and chat with a happy audience, it’s a vacation.
  • Confession clears the fugue that keeps me from connecting.  That and coffee with chocolate-peppermint creamer.
  • A good rant clears the way to taking care of myself so that I can take care of business.  It’s much better than eating myself into numb oblivion.  Mind you, I’m still not putting down the coffee cup.
  • My sense of humor is restored.

Thank you for bearing witness.  It has helped.



Beautiful: Maintaining Friendships

I have facebook friends that I never see face-to-face but it’s a joy to connect and keep up with you through this medium.  This social network is a wonderful part of my life.  It’s a reminder of how many funny, smart, silly, beautiful people I’ve encountered on this path.  Thank you.

I have face-to-face friends and it’s an important and wonderful part of my life.  Last year was an especially significant time in my ‘relationships’ life because I got together with real human beings on a regular basis and, in some cases, our friendships grew.  This was an important evolution for the reluctant yet devoted hermit that I used to be.  Now there are people in my life with whom I may only manage a coffee or phone chat with once a year, but when we set out to make it happen, we both work to make it happen and it does.  Thank you.

Now, the impetus for this post and these reflections.  This is my turmoil and I’m working it out right here and now.

I have facebook ‘friends’ who used to be face-to-face friends but who have dropped me from their social circles.  This isn’t a new situation but what is new is I’m admitting that it’s painful.  These are people who used to include me and it makes me question why they don’t anymore.  Creating and maintaining friendship takes time and effort and there’s not enough of either to go around.  People have to pick and choose.  And yet, I feel like I’ve failed them somehow.  Or they’ve passed judgement on me and I haven’t measured up.  Or that I’m no longer of use to them so not worth the effort.  Or that I was a fool for hoping and believing in the first place.  Or I just haven’t tried hard enough even though my intuition tells me that I have.

I’m done pretending that it doesn’t hurt. Admitting that is my first step to sorting it out.

Susan – it’s time to grow up and move on.  I raise my right hand and repeat after myself even though it sounds like a funky little echo:

“I hereby take responsibility for my friendships.  If you initiate or respond, that’s lovely.  We may find that we’ve got a connection or we might not.  Either is fine.  If you don’t respond or initiate, I won’t try any more and I will stop wishing you would.  What I do wish you is a great life filled with people you do connect with.  My life is better when I stop trying to cultivate friendships that do not exist.  Whether you knew it or not, you meant something to me and I can only feel that that’s a good thing – whether it was realized, reciprocated or not.  With love and gratitude, I release this and you to the universe.”

Thank you.



Beautiful: Once Around the Block, My Dear

I’m panting and sweaty and maybe crying just a little bit.

Yes, it took me longer to put on my shoes and to decide whether or not to take my dog-with-a-heart-condition or not than it did to run around the block.  Yes, I realized that I didn’t stretch and didn’t warm up and it didn’t matter today.  Yes, I realized about 1/2 way around the block, that I wasn’t going to make it the whole way around unless I adjusted my pace so I adjusted my pace.

I thought of the Penguin and how he started running.  John Bingham was in my first marathon, by happenstance.  I think I saw him waddling along chatting with a buddy somewhere on the streets of Chicago.  Anyhoo, he upped and put on a pair of sneakers and ran around the block.  Soon after, he coined the term “The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

So, why did I do it?  Because my body chemistry is so fucked up that I have no choice.  There is no anesthetic in pill or any other form that will edge out the fidgets.  And, you know what?  I’m a good runner.  I know how to run.  I have good form.  I know how to do it well.  I have skills.  I simply refuse to use those skills unless I’m backed into a corner and this computer and my personal, internal chemical mix has become my corner.

I’m resentful and relieved all at the same time.  I may never run around the block again but so the hell what. That’s then.  This is now.

And, yes I took the dog with me.  Waddle On.



Beautiful: What I CAN Do OR Do I Really Need Another Mage-Skull O’Doom?

I have zero appreciation for what I CAN do.  Conversely, I compulsively obsess about what I CAN’T do.  Or rather, what I can’t do yet.  Or, even ratherer, what I’m not as good at yet but swear I can get better and would really rather be doing.

I make me crazy.

Here’s the game:  (Everybody play along.  Please include the terrible grammar usage because that’s how I really talk.)

“Hey, Someone-Other-Than-Susan.  Nice sweater.  New?  I need to do this amazing project but I’m stuck.”

“Hey, Susan.  Thanks.  $1.99 at Goodwill.  Oh dear.  What’s sticking you?”

“All the stuff I’m not great at.”

“Are you doing this amazing project all by yourself?”


“Well.”  (insert eye-rolling and audible sighs)

“Yeah, but I’d rather do all the stuff that I’m not so great at and none of the stuff that I’m really great at.”


“Because when everyone I know does that stuff I’m not so great at, it looks like they’re having so much fun and I want to have fun, too.”


“Okay yeah but if I mostly do the stuff I’m great at then I loose martyr points too and I’ve almost got enough to cash in for a mage-skull o’doom*.  Level 20.”





(*Apologies in case a mage-skull o’doom actually exists in someone’s universe.  I meant very little disrespect.)

Beautiful: Walk

I have this (almost) burning desire to walk 100 miles some time this year as a pilgrimage to honor my 50th birthday. Why not 50 miles? Not tough enough.

I have this (almost) burning desire to walk 100 miles some time this year.  A pilgrimage to honor my 50th birthday.

Why not 50 miles then?  Not tough enough.  Yes, yes – that does sound like a bottom-lip-out, pugnacious, posturing sort of attitude but I honestly don’t feel that way.  I’ve taken on progressively tougher things in my life and it’s been a rewarding trip.  Sometimes, it’s more like trip and fall and put ice on my bloody nose, but it’s always eventually laughable.  Even my divorces, work failures, and secrets that I’m not ready to air.  Eventually.  After years sometimes.  But the ability to inevitably laugh at it all (sometimes with a sideways grimace) is a companion on this life path.

I’m also thinking of creating my own training calendar.  An homage to faith in my experience and resources.

I’ve have lived a life absorbing, experiencing, and dissecting all sorts of great and ignored guidance.  I feel comfortable taking those pieces and turning them into an effective puzzle picture.  Deadlines, good shoes, vegetables, wine, companionship, detailed goals, lots of water, body glide, and the level of my dog’s happiness are all in the magic pouch.  Reach in and grab a handful even when I’m sick and tired of it all.  Especially then.

I mostly love having a personal, selfish dream that I’m working on fulfilling.  What a delightful gift to myself.

First, we mull and plan.  My birthday isn’t until October.  How about September?  Where’s my calendar?