My good cry – Meh

If a mental breakdown wants my attention, it should request an appointment.

Beware what you wish for.

I spent much of the weekend aware there was a straw ready to break my back and send me into hysterics. It was out there somewhere, lurking, ready to drag me under. To catch me unaware. Not actively seeking it but suspicious. Would it nail me at the photo shoot on Saturday? Or thrifting with my BFF? Or … what? Show yourself, coward!

The insidious straw (see my Blog from a couple days ago) pounced from the e-glow of the daily news. Lalala-lah. I’m curled up on the sofa reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on my iPad – we subscribe but don’t get the physical paper any more – which is it’s own story. The headline should have read: “Susan! Run! This is THE Straw”. But, no.

This undated rendered image provided by Activision shows canine star, Riley. "Call of Duty: Ghosts" isn't due until November 2013, but Riley has already become the breakout star of the military shoot-'em-up. After footage released earlier this year revealed that "Ghosts" would feature a four-legged soldier, the Internet uniformly wagged its tail in anticipation. (AP Photo/Activision)

A war veteran bomb-sniffing dog needs emergency medical care and there are no vet (pun not intended) benefits for repatriated canines. Bonus: She’s also suffering from PTSD. I immediately teared up. My brain started spinning. Injustice. Hurt. Anger. A deep need to do something about this situation and an inability to do anything.

Heartwrenching sobs later. I’ve been rude to my husband. I’ve cried for myself and everything and everyone and all the things that have ever happened in my life and everyone elses. It lasted for about 4 1/2 minutes – including the time it took to indignantly drag my sorry butt upstairs and away from the world. (Unless you ask my husband, who will swear it lasted about 3 days)


A good cry used to lay me out. Not that I looked forward to it, but I could at least count on a familiar process.

Again, I feel gypped. Only, this time, I’m still wary as well. Will I craft a self-fulfilling prophecy? Will I worry myself into a mental and physical breakdown? This is so tiring.


I know, I know… what about the dog? She is living with a wonderful young man – the guy who brought her home with him from Iraq – and she’s getting the help she needs.

Me, I’m moving on. I have a full schedule of stuff. If a mental breakdown wants my attention, it should request an appointment.

Have a good one.



I want to want a good cry

A good, cathartic cry might be just the wonderful storm that leaves the garden refreshed and ready for planting.

I’m mystified. I’ve assiduously accumulated plenty of worthy excuses to have a heart-wrenching sob. Not to brag, but I am an expert at tallying emotionally charged hoo-hah – storing it – nurturing it – and the moment that I can get away with it, having a total melt-down.

crying girlI feel gypped.

You tell me. Here’s my cherished, sharing-way-too-much information tally…

  1. A few days ago, I read the suicide letter of a friend.
  2. A few months ago, I suffered the worst and longest PTSD episode in years. The trigger is still dancing around the peripheries of my life.
  3. My Mom died last Thanksgiving and I couldn’t get out to the west coast in time to say goodbye.
  4. We closed Shakespeare in the Park about a week ago. We work all year to put on this show for a couple thousand people. It’s a massive undertaking fraught with success, failure, terror, financial ruin, and a stupendous show.
  5. My physical health is for crap and I’m having serious angst about taking care of myself. As if I don’t deserve it slash don’t see the point.
  6. And whatever is behind door number 3 where the grand prize waits just for me.

Yadda, yadda, blah, yadda, blah, etc… you get it.

Are my meds working? Is the mindfulness meditation working? What the heck?

Maybe I’ll get around to it later. Perhaps there will be some sort of straw on my camel-like back. The kind of non-event that makes it impossible to explain why one is sobbing uncontrollably. “They only had yellow widgets in stock!” Guaranteed to earn puzzled looks and a dawning suspicion that I do actually need an Ativan prescription and some serious attitude adjustment.

All kidding aside (right, let’s see if that happens) I do feel a suspicious lump in my throat. A good, cathartic cry might be just the wonderful storm that leaves the garden refreshed and ready for planting. But, for today, I’m dry-eyed and chugging along. There’s good stuff happening. I love and am loved. Oh well. Maybe next time.



This is better?

I’m not so numb.

Why was numbing was necessary?  Because it worked.

Why is it now not so necessary?  I’m guessing, because it’s not.

About a week ago, I spontaneously started to shed the need to numb.  I had a pleasant conversation with myself about this habit but I didn’t set out to change it.  It just did.  Or, is doing.  Happening.  Anyway, I’m assuming that the fall-out is detox.

Tell me again how this is a good thing?fidgeting

Detox = that totally fucked state of being where you are stuck between destruction and less destruction.  Where you kind of wish you could be destructive again but don’t know how to get back there.  Where you start scouting around for substitute destruction but nothing quite fits the bill.  Sigh.

It didn’t start out like this.  My initial decrease in numbness played out as an increase in my desire to show up and participate in my own life.  Okay, that’s cool.  It escalated to irritability, hypersensitivity and being generally critical of everyone thus making me a joy to be around.  Not so cool.

There is a lot of white noise and fidgeting involved in full-blown detox.  If you put your ear next to mine, you can hear the ocean.  There are people drowning in it, but it’s still the ocean.  The shrieking is seagulls.  And me.

Oh and the aforementioned fidgeting?  Joy.  Yeah.  Fidgeting as in tapping my fingers so hard and fast on the desk that the tips start to get numb – which is when I notice that I’ve been tapping.

My greatest fear is that this state of detox is my new state of being.  I can endure anything this horrid if it’s temporary.  Luckily, I have a best friend who told me that it is temporary and I believed her.  Because it’s better than not believing her.

I know!  I’ll distract myself by getting in the car to drive around and do errands.  Yes, that’s so smart, Susan.  Get behind the wheel of a massive chunk of metal filled with gas (as soon as I go get gas) and aim it at things.  And fidget.  Brilliant.

Poking fun at myself works.  A much better choice.

Significantly, SSF

Live in the moment. Be mindful. Meditate. Bullshit.

meditation1Live in the moment.  Be mindful.  Meditate.  Be open to the abundance of the universe.  The path is the journey.


I mean, really.  (I can hear my Mother’s voice right now.  She had this way of saying “Oh reeeeaaally” and rolling her eyes when I would make some statement obviously designed to provoke.  I do that myself now.  It’s really irritating.  Anyway…)

My mother was in the hospital the last few days.  She’s in advanced stages of dementia and blanked out more severely and for a longer time than usual so the family thought she had had a stroke.  After all the tests, it’s impossible to tell exactly what happened because her mind is so far gone but it wasn’t a stroke.  She’s back home now.

This latest episode has brought up all sorts of questions.  How do I want to die?  When is it preferable to die?  Why is her body so healthy when her brain isn’t?  What kind of ‘quality of life’ does she / can she possibly have?

After a lot of tough pondering, I’m mostly on the ‘quality of life’ question.  What does it mean?  Being honest with myself, I don’t like the answer.  Because I have to be honest with myself, I have to tell you.  In my heart of hearts, I Desire, with a capital D, the American puritan work ethic of grueling labor with no rest.  Extreme self sacrifice.  Hyper responsibility and drive.  One-ups-manship about how much more insomniac I am than you.  All that stuff.  That’s really who I am.  None of those efforts happen here and now.  They are all fear-based efforts to try to control the future.  They are also great at numbing myself right now.  Bonus.

I would love it if I never had to meditate, exercise or delegate again.  I meditated every day for a whole week and I hated it.  It was hard.  I preferred wallowing in chaos to suffering that kind of discomfort every morning regardless of the benefits.

I trained 6 months each for 2 marathons.  I should never have to exercise again my whole life.  I’ve done my time.

Okay, we’re approaching full circle so bear with me.  If I truly believe that living in the moment, that the path is the journey, that connection with something greater than myself is real, then my Mother may actually still have some quality to her life.  If I don’t, then I must believe that she is better off dead.

Go ahead and hate me for a moment.

Moving on.

There’s a prickly feeling in my reptilian brain that rejects all of this as wrong.  It’s not just wrong that we shouldn’t ever wish someone were truly dead.  Oddly, that’s less of a consideration here.  I’m saying that my intuition is telling me that that is incorrect.  That it’s warped.

My intuition being prickled like this is a call to action for me.  In a weird way, that feeling kicks in my desire to work hard at fixing something.  Perhaps – no commitments here –  a recognition that it’s time to evolve.

Much of my life has been lived in pursuit.  Safety.  Hope.  Boundaries.  Esteem of self.  Esteem of others.  Esteem of life.  My place in and a part of the universe.  In this pursuit, I’ve gravitated to concepts that struck me as true.  Taoist concepts that I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with.

I’d like to release the hate part.  Of course, my instinct is to do that by fighting and striving (read: American puritan work ethic above).  Yeah, yeah.  I know.

Am I ready?  I don’t know.  I do know that I’m readier.  I also know that I’m tenacious – in all ways.  I will hang onto the self-destruction and strive for peace in the same breath.  Phoo.

I know that there isn’t some threshold to cross into living a gleefully blissful existence.  I do know that every day is an opportunity and a choice.  Quite often, I choose poorly.  Sometimes, I choose well.  Some days, I choose well more often.  I guess that’s that evolution I was writing about.

Just like Mom did.

More accidental lessons my Mother taught me.  Damn her to hell.

Except, you know, not really.



Hi! I’m Crappy. How About You?

On the “Welcome” page that promotes a man’s audio books, the first sentence I read today was:  “I had wanted to issue a CD with this book, to illustrate what Shakespeare’s Globe called ‘original pronunciation’ (OP), but the production costs went against it.”

I was taken aback and had to look past this first ‘wah, wah, wah, poor, abused, misunderstood, unsupported, put-upon me’ sentiment to click on the links to his audio recordings – which I think are quite good.

Wow.  Who offers a welcome like that?  Uh-oh.  I think I may have done it once… or twice…  Yes.  Reading his intro bugged me but perhaps primarily because I saw something of myself in it.  Sigh.  Sorry.

It’s funny (not funny-ha-ha) but when I would begin a conversation that way, it was often about something that I thought was really cool, neato and groovy.  I am guilty of taking a person’s conversational “How are you” opening as an invitation to dump.  I assumed they really wanted to know what I was dealing with my life, how I was coping and how I was applying all those lessons to the cool, neato and groovy thing I was doing.

Mea Culpa.

Wait, I blame my mother.

Momma Culpa.

No, wait!  Really, it’s what I was taught.  My mother had no clue how to open a pleasant conversation.  She was consumed with so much ick and desperation to be cared for that her state of being (always horrid unless she had already been drinking that day) was the first thing out of her mouth.  To be fair, she was an unmedicated schizophrenic, so she was doing her best but that’s what I learned.

Oh, no.  TMI, right?

So, here’s where I am now – because you really want to know, right?  The coolness, neato-ness and groovy-ness of the things I’m working on are the driving forces in my day.  These things are great first, lots of work second and I generally feel happy and blessed to be doing this work.  Sometimes, I’m frustrated, tired and overloaded, but those are the ebbs and flows of life.  They aren’t my daily state of being.  My inexplicable flip-flop in perspective is probably the reason that I noticed the sideways bitchiness of this man’s first impression.

Here’s also where I am – as aptly illustrated by my Mother’s to Blame explanation above.  Mental illness and the uglier actions of people were an every day part of life for me as a kid.  My mother talked about them all the time.  It never occurred to me that most people don’t divulge their darkest, hardest and most harrowing experiences and challenges in the average course of conversation.  My mother used to do that.  So, now, I’m at peace with all that stuff but it still creeps into conversation.  When it does, I’ve started to see the horrified looks on people’s faces and quickly try to explain that it’s all okay now.  I’m fine, we’re all fine, everyone’s fine, I’m happy, doing great, blather, blather, gulp, try to recover and change the subject to flowers and sunshine.

Oh, Susan.  I love you, girl and you’re such a klutz.  Well meaning, delightful, funny, bold and (sometimes) a little intimidating, but a dear.  You mean well.

This is a sheepish morning for me.  Imagine that I’m looking up at you with a sideways smile and my chin tucked down just a bit.

Oh! Hey!  How you doin?!



Christmas Full Circle

The Fry family celebrates Christmas as many people do.  Rachael and I decorate, we buy gifts, Ron cooks.  It’s a day devoted to the best aspects of being together, digging the pretty lights, and having fun.  It’s about caring enough to make all the food from scratch that day.  It’s about being with family who doesn’t care that the recipe for an untried dessert turns into mushy yarg.  So what?  Right?

None of us are religious.  The name ‘Christmas’ is a shorthand term for the day.

It’s also a miracle.  I get to let go of the ghosts of bad Christmases past and wallow in the spirit of the day.  And, there is a spirit.  Poo and pah over the idea of a collective consciousness but I believe in it.  When a bajillion people are all hoping for the best for everyone around them, I feel it.  When the focus for a concentrated period of time is on wanting to be a kind and generous person, I feel it.  When this feeling culminates on a specific day, I celebrate it.  I dive in head first and blow raspberries on it’s belly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the past, as a sentient human being who lives in America, I couldn’t ignore Christmas overload and hype.  It appalled me.  I rejected December-frenzy.  I clung to my dysfunctional brain chemistry baggage with a fury.  For some mysterious reason however, the constant effort to refuse Christmas didn’t engender lasting satisfaction and peace.

As a possible antidote to the poison I ingested, I shifted to questioning Christmas trappings.  Starting from zero, I tried on my own rituals for size.  Some of them were wacky, but I believe in wacky.  I also believe in self-determination and personal responsibility.  If something is nagging at me inside, it’s my gift to fix it.  This multi-year process of reshaping the holiday was cathartic and ended up being delightful.

This year, the gifts that particularly stand out for me are future experiences.  I got a certificate for a cookery lesson that I really wanted.  Ron and Rachael got an aerial silks lesson that they can go to together.  The family got a killer food processor.  I swear!  We gather around it and get giddy over how fast it slices potatoes.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the chocolate and all but these ‘experience’ gifts are teeny sneak peeks at the coming year’s path.

It’s January 1, 2013.  A whole year of evolution ahead.  I wonder what I will come up with for next Christmas.  It may be time for some new wacky.  But, maybe not as whacked as that gluten free cobbler recipe.  That’s too much even for me.

Merry Christmas.

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.