My Movember Forward Debut @ MakeItUltra!

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This is an interesting biography about Split Enz, a New Zealand rock group I’ve loved for over thirty years. Co-founder/artist Phil Judd, who created the “Mental Notes” painting on the cover, has bipolar disorder. The Enz’s late drummer Paul Hester (who eventually joined the internationally acclaimed group Crowded House) allegedly suffered from bipolar disorder as well.

Stranger than Fiction popped into my mind since it describes what my life has been like lately…I’ll fill you in on Friday.

                                        

 

Good morning my friends,

I hope you had a good Halloween!

I was honored to have my post The Found Girl kick off the blog MakeItUltra!’s Movember Forward series. Thanks to MakeItUltra! founder Eric and editor Cait for their support.

My month has gotten off to an amazing, surreal, and heartbreaking start. All I can do is keep on moving and visit the redwoods with Lucy for a daily mental/physical reboot. 

Now it’s time for Dia de la Sugar Detox in my house! 😉

Love to you all,

Dyane

p.s. Several years ago my I changed my original blog title “Proudly Bipolar” (a phrase inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s description of his intrepid crew in his book No Reservations) to “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder,” the title of my upcoming Post Hill Press memoir. 

Frances Nettie Messinger, My Inspiration

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Our Future President Hillary Rodham Clinton with

Congressman Charles Rangel, my Granny’s student and friend

 

Today is my maternal grandmother Frances Nettie Messinger ‘s birthday. I witnessed my beloved Granny suffer an agonizing and prolonged death from lung cancer. I’ll never forget the last time I saw her at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. She didn’t recognize me. This gentle, loving woman who had never even raised her voice at me started screaming. Without thinking about what I was doing, I sprinted out of her room and down the hall in terror. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew what I did was cowardly, but I was ignorant about death, and I wasn’t strong enough to face her decline. 

Hers was the first death to affect me significantly. I was twenty-seven when she died and I plummeted into a deep depression. As nightmarish as my depression was, it only gave me a hint of what would come after I’d be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder. To be honest, I’m glad Granny died before I was diagnosed so she didn’t see me suffer the horrors of bipolar. I know she would have been devastated.

While I’m lucky that my Granny and my Dad are the only deaths that have hit me so hard, I know more grief will arrive. For now, it helps me to remember my beloved family members when they were at their best.

Granny was an absolutely  amazing woman. Yes, I sound biased, but read on and I’m sure you’ll agree. She was an elementary school teacher in Harlem, New York. Granny was a single mother to my Mom and she took care of her own mother “Bubba” until Bubba died peacefully in her sleep at age 93.

I was only five-years-old when Bubba died, but I remember her having a lively sense of humor and a clear mind. My most vivid memory of Bubba is when she shook hard with laughter while telling me a joke about the F-word. (Hey, now I know where I get my potty mouth!) I loved her bouncy laugh. Although I didn’t know exactly what the F-word meant, I could tell by her expression that it was naughty and that she got a big kick out of saying it.

On the other hand, Granny had an impeccable vocabulary. You’d never hear her utter an unsavory word for she was used to being an exemplary role model. This extremely dedicated teacher mentored many students, but one student stood out in her life. His name was Charles Rangel, and he would eventually became a Democratic Congressman and the first African-American chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee.

Granny and Congressman Rangel had a truly beautiful friendship. I was so proud of Granny for inspiring this extraordinary man to achieve his dream of governmental service. He is currently the second longest serving member of the House of Representatives. 

I met Congressman Rangel when he gave the eulogy at Granny’s funeral in upstate New York. There were only six of us in attendance, and he took time out of his jam-packed schedule to make sure he was there. Despite my being in a fog of despair, I was comforted by my brief interaction with this warm and wonderful man who loved my Granny too.  

I write in depth about this remarkable woman and our relationship in my memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder slated for publication in 2016 by Post Hill Press.   

Yesterday I found a link that posted a speech given by Congressman Rangel. He honored my Granny in front of Congress, and as you can imagine, I was totally blown away by such a find. What a gift!

Thanks, Granny, for leading me to this link and for so much more…

I miss you.

your Dyanu

Here goes:

In Memory Of Sixth Grade Teacher Nettie Messinger On Teacher Appreciation Day by Congressman Charles Rangel

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Mr. Speaker, let me join with my colleagues. I did not come to speak on this subject, but just this Friday I attended the funeral of a sixth grade teacher that I had. She was more than an inspiration to one of the worst kids in the classroom, which was Charlie Rangel, but it was fantastic that the more success I received politically, the better she thought I was as a student.

How quickly they forget. I was so blessed to have had her, not only as a sixth grade teacher in Nettie Messinger but as someone who counseled me after I got out of the service, returned to high school and went on to college and law school.

There were so many, many students that she took this very, very personal relationship with. She did not just let you play hookey, she had to come by your house to let your parents know that you missed school.

On behalf of all of the students from old PS 89, some who get on TV and many others who do not, let me thank the teachers that follow the high tradition of real teaching as Mrs. Nettie Messinger did and join my colleagues in thanking all of our teachers, especially those in the public school system.

 

 

Mundane, Mysterious and Bloody Acts of Writing

Photo on 2014-09-10 at 11.34 #2Lucy the Canine Muse says hello while I’m writing at my desk

 

Today I reviewed the introduction and chapter one of my book, which I wrote several years ago.

I was totally appalled with certain sections that I used to think were rock-solid.  

I wondered things such as, “What on EARTH was I thinking?”, “Why-oh-why didn’t I see those errors? I have an English degree, dammit!”,  and “Whhaaaaaaat?

Writing is so strange.  If I write a few paragraphs and wait just one day, I always find ways to improve them.  Always.  At the very least I find egregious, embarrassing typos and/or syntax bugaboos.  More often than not I find entire sections that need to be changed or cut.

It’s perplexing, and it raises my blood pressure, but I also find this phenomenon fascinating.

When is a piece of writing done?  The pattern that I describe shows that writing is never truly complete, and that it can always be smoother, wittier, more profound, and even 100% grammatically correct.  The same concept could be applied to any creative pursuit, of course.  

I guess it’s about acceptance of the imperfect, and about setting limits with one’s examination (navel gazing?) of one’s writing.  That sounds simple enough, right?

Oooooh, it’s not simple!  Not for this silly procrastinating perfectionist!

I’ve also been daydreaming about other aspects of writing, i.e. what inspires us to write,  and “the flow” of creativity that descends upon us when we least expect it.

The other day I listened to an interview with Neil Finn, who is one of my favorite singer/songwriters of Crowded House.  Neil was being interviewed about Crowded House’s album “Time On Earth”.  That album holds special meaning for me because some of its songs are about the suicide of Neil’s best friend, a gifted musician named Paul Hester, Crowded House’s drummer.  I met Paul in New Zealand when I flew there to basically stalk Crowded House, and he was charming, kind and funny with me, since I was a nervous wreck.  He reportedly suffered with bipolar disorder.   I write more about Paul and Neil here:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/paul-hester-neil-finn/

Neil’s interview closed with his observations of the songwriting process.  He mused,

 “Tapping into the divine inspiration – I have no idea and I never will,  I don’t think…it always seems like it’s harder every time, but it probably isn’t.  It’s probably the same.  The contradiction being in the whole process is that when it happens it’s effortless, and getting to the point of where it’s effortless is an internal struggle, so I don’t know…I don’t understand it.”

http://neilfinn.com/videos/crowded-house/page/11/

As Neil discussed his songwriting I realized that his thoughts about “divine inspiration” applies to writing a book as well as a song.   My ears pricked up when he mentioned “internal struggle”.  I’m not feeling like anything is effortless this morning, nor do I feel graced with divine inspiration, although there’s plenty of internal struggle going on!  (Note to Wendy K. Williamson, bestselling author of I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar and Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living with Bipolar, if you’re reading this, I promise not to whine too much in future posts. Well, maybe.)

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Recently the writer Jeff Smith of Higher Trust Marketing shared a Ernest Hemingway quote with me that gave me pause:

“There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I’m no Hemingway, and I never will be (or aim to be) for that matter!  What I do want is for my writing to be consistently good, insightful, and ultimately helpful to others.  Do I really need to “bleed” in order to do that?  

I hope not.  

I’ve suffered enough, like all of you reading this.  No bleeding, please.  

As some you know, my goal is to finish the draft by my birthday!  At this point the only birthday present I want for the rest of my birthdays is to finish the damn draft! 😉  I’ll keep you posted.

Have a GOOD weekend, dear readers!!!

XOXO
Dyane

 

Schadenfreude & Gwyneth & Boo

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I’ve always been intrigued by the word shadenfraude (of German origin meaning “satisfaction or pleasure at someone’s misfortune”), and I’ll admit I’ve felt it myself numerous times.  For me, it’s an icky feeling, and I’d much rather be experiencing feelings of altruism. (I’m a Dictionary.com fan; altruism is defined as “the practice of unselfish concern to the welfare of others”.)

I thought about schadenfraude last night while enjoying one of my guilty pleasures: leafing through a pilfered issue of People magazine.  That’s an admission I’m not proud of sharing with you – I’ve been known to have sticky fingers in waiting rooms where glossy magazines linger.  On Friday I was in not one, not two, but three waiting rooms which all had what I refer to as “trashy magazines”.  I held out until the third waiting room.  I felt nervous because I was waiting to see if my old car passed its smog test.  I stared at the April 14th edition of People in front of me, and perhaps I borrowed it…permanently.

I opened the issue with Gwyneth Paltrow smiling Mona Lisa-style on the cover and noticed the editor Jess Cagle’s letter.  I don’t usually read People’s editor’s letter as it’s way too intellectual for me given the magazine’s context.  But I spotted the word “schadenfreude” in one of his paragraphs, and I was intrigued.

Of the marriage separation between actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin, Cagle wrote, “But to be honest, their announcement also made me sad.  I’ve been there…The feelings are universal and inescapable, so I’ve been a little surprised at the glee and schadenfreude with which Gwyneth’s detractors have greeted the news of their split.  Reading the vitriol online, you’d think Gwyneth didn’t have a friend in the world.”  Cagle added that Paltrow most definitely has supporters; they are simply quieter than the haters.  He wrote that he regards her as “maddeningly tone-deaf” in how she talks about the difficulties of being a movie star mom, and that she sells $315 pillows on her lifestyle site Goop!

As a mother, I feel genuine sympathy for any children of famous people when their parents divorce.  I don’t feel a touch of schadenfreude in that respect.  But I can’t relate to Paltrow in any way except for the fact that we both loved our fathers deeply, and they both died awful deaths; hers from throat cancer and mine from pulmonary complications.

Who knows the real reasons why Paltrow and Martin split up?  No one knows except them and maybe their therapists and best friends, and that’s how it should be.  The truth is given a choice these days, I’d rather read a moving human interest story that inspires me as I go about my life rather than read about a couple worth 150 million who own four estates, and who have more opulent pillows than I ever will possess.

I’ve been a furtive People reader for years now.  At one point I even splurged on a subscription.  I wish I was drawn to a more respectable publication such as Time, but my tastes were influenced by being an L.A. girl.  I was born & bred in a town populated by famous folk and I had a fascination with those connected with “The Business”.

I used to get a titillating kick from reading the movie star profiles.  Now when I scan those pieces, they don’t do much for me except make me like I need to spend $300 in beauty products.  I tend to forget that the photos of stunning movie stars have makeup artists, hairstylists, couture clothiers, and Photoshop behind them.  The Paltrow article included a “selfie” she apparently took without a stitch of makeup.   In that photo she looked like a completely different person in comparison to all the other glam shots of her throughout the piece.  Despite my having a problem with her selling those three-hundred-dollar pillows on Goop!, I appreciated her sharing a real-life shot with the public.

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The details of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s breakup are fading quickly from my brain, but I haven’t forgotten a really cool article in the April 7th issue of  People called “Amazing Animals Gone Viral!”  In particular, I’ve become enamored with Boo the Pomeranian, who lives in nearby San Francisco.  This isn’t just a fluff piece (pun intended – ha ha ha!), according the to article Boo “represents a new phenomenon called The Viral Pet Philanthropist.  Through donations from fans, Boo and his owner have raised tens of thousands of dollars for poverty and children’s causes, from the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to Charity: Water.”  Boo’s owner, who has chosen to be anonymous but is suspected to be a Facebook executive, says “It’s a huge privilege to use Boo’s popularity to give back and make a positive impact.”  The eight-year-old Pom has a Facebook page with over 11 million fans, and is the model for a Gund stuffed toy.

ImageBoo & a palImageHope Boo doesn’t get a makeup artist and couture clothier, but alas, it looks like Boo has a fancy groomer!

imgresAlmost too cute!  What a puffball!  Watch out Oprah – this cutie may take over the world!

The issue contains profiles about other pets who have made a profound difference in their owners’ lives, such as “A Vet Heals with His Best Friend’s Help” and “Feeding a Cat Helped Her Beat Anorexia”.  Those two profiles were particularly poignant pieces.

The sweetness of Boo and the generosity of his fans raising funds for charity will stay with me.  The Paltrow-Martin “conscious uncoupling” and the particulars of their massive estate will fade from my memory in a few days.

I’m finding that in getting older and healing from postpartum bipolar disorder, I’m cultivating greater compassion for others.  From time to time I know I’ll cave and read a gossipy magazine article. (Or a few.)  Nevertheless, I’m making a concerted effort to read things that lift me up.  As I discover people, projects and animals who are making our world a better place, I feel motivated to do the same.  Maybe I’ll even get in touch with Boo’s “people” to see if they want to make a donation to the International Bipolar Foundation.  You never know unless you try! 😉

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Boo’s Public Figure Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Boo