book reviews, mental health, psychology

A review of Matthew Perry’s Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir…

Merry Christmas Eve, y’all. I know it may seem strange to be writing about addiction when I could be writing about the holidays, but I’ve just finished reading Matthew Perry’s book, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir, and I want to express my opinions about it before I forget the details. Perry, who is probably most famous for playing Chandler Bing on the 90s era sitcom, Friends, has led quite an astonishing life in his 53 years. Although I don’t remember watching many things with Perry as an actor, let alone “the star”, I was intrigued by all the hullabaloo about his life story, which was released on November 1, 2022. So I downloaded it five days after its release date, although I didn’t get around to reading it until this month. Overall, I thought it was a pretty interesting story. I can see why there was a lot of “buzz” (see what I did there) about it.

I really should have known more about Matthew Perry than I did before I read his book. Wikipedia tells me that I did once see Perry act, back in the day. He had a guest role on the show, Growing Pains, which was one of shows I watched regularly when I was a teenager. He played Carol Seaver’s (Tracey Gold) boyfriend, Sandy, who died in a car accident after driving drunk. I remember thinking he was way too cute for Carol, but in weird way, life imitated art for Matthew Perry. Drugs and alcohol have almost killed him on multiple occasions. He’s made many millions of dollars, and he’s pissed away millions on drugs, booze, and rehab, as well as bad business decisions and bad movies, caused by his addictions.

Matthew Perry on Growing Pains. I guess he didn’t learn anything from this very special episode…

Growing Pains was just the beginning for Matthew Perry, both in terms of his acting career, and the subject matter of that particular episode. I was never a Friends fan, although I loved watching ER, which came on after Friends. Perry is probably most famous for playing Chandler on Friends, but he reveals in his book that he almost didn’t get the part, because he was committed to another, rather bizarre sounding show, that thankfully never took off.

Originally, the part of Chandler Bing had been offered to actor, Craig Bierko, who was one of Perry’s best friends. But Bierko passed on the part, opting for another show that also didn’t take off. Fate intervened, and Perry was soon making $1 million an episode, along with fellow friends: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and Lisa Kudrow. During this heady time, Perry also had a lot of girlfriends, including Julia Roberts, who was a huge movie star at the time, and was even once a guest star on Friends. You’d think he’d be on top of the world, and in many ways, he really was. But he’s also addicted to drugs— especially opiates— and alcohol.

Matthew Perry explains that he was born on August 19, 1969 in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His Canadian mother, journalist Suzanne Marie Morrison (nee Langford), had married Perry’s father, American actor, folk singer, and former model, John Bennett Perry. Perry calls his parents the “best looking” people in the world, but that wasn’t enough to save their marriage, which ended before Perry’s first birthday. In his book, Perry writes about driving to the U.S. border with his parents and his father leaving, never to return to the home. When he was a very young child, his mother would repeatedly send him, alone, from their home in Ottawa to Los Angeles for visitations with his father. This experience apparently really traumatized the young Perry, who writes that he was terrified of being alone on the plane. He mentions the incident repeatedly in his story. As he got older, he had great fears of being abandoned, which led to many breakups. As he got more attached to women, and they got to know him more, he would fear that they were going to dump him. So he’d dump them first… then plunge back into his drug and alcohol addiction.

Matthew Perry’s dad starred in this classic commercial for Old Spice.

Perry was a good athlete and, as a boy, was heavily involved in tennis. He also went to school with Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, whose father, Pierre, hired Perry’s mother as his press secretary. But he really loved acting, and at age 15, he left his mother, her second husband, and his half siblings to move to Los Angeles, where he embarked on a career in show business. Yes, he was successful, but he also had a multitude of personal problems, to include a terrible fear of intimacy and bent toward toward narcissism.

Although he made many friends and had some incredible girlfriends, none of them managed to stay in his life for the long haul. As soon as they would get close to him, he would panic, and that inevitably meant using drugs and alcohol to the point of almost killing himself. I’m not kidding. At the beginning of his compelling memoir, he writes about how his colon exploded, forcing him to use a colostomy bag for nine months, due to his abuse of opioids and its tendency to cause severe constipation. And he also had a very severe bout with pancreatitis, which is often caused by excessive alcohol consumption, that landed him in a hospital for a month while his pancreas “rested”. He couldn’t eat or drink anything for that entire month; all nutrients and fluids were delivered intravenously.

Matthew Perry talks about his book.

In spite of his medical and psychological traumas, a lot of people would think that Matthew Perry is a very blessed man. He has good looks, charisma, athleticism, talent, and money. And yet, Perry writes that he’s often felt suicidal, and would trade everything for the chance to feel normal and at peace. Being sober, he writes, makes him feel close to God and peaceful. But even that isn’t enough to stop him from using drugs or drinking. In fact, I’m not even sure if this book is a declaration of his sobriety, as he’s relapsed many times after going to all manner of rehabs– expensive, exclusive ones in Utah, Malibu, and Switzerland, and “prison” like ones in New York and Philadelphia, usually flying to them on private jets.

I was heartened to read that Perry saw his behavior as narcissistic and self-centered. That tells me that he actually isn’t a narcissist. He is an addict, which causes people to behave like narcissists– (see my recent post about my father). But when he’s not loaded, he has the insight to see that he does frequently act like an asshole, and the world doesn’t revolve around him. That’s to his credit. His writing is very charming, and he seems like he would be a lot of fun to know, when his colon isn’t exploding. I can see why so many people like(d) him. I can also see why he’s made a lot of enemies.

And yes, Perry is in Alcoholics Anonymous, and has tried to “work the steps”. But even after long periods of sobriety, he always seems to relapse. I wouldn’t assume, after reading this book, that Perry has finally gotten “clean”, once and for all. It’s kind of poignant, in some ways, to think of this man in such a predicament. In other ways, it’s kind of infuriating, because there are many people who have nowhere near the blessings that Perry has had, and no means to get clean. He’s no better than they are; he’s just been a lot luckier in terms of his earning power. I also get the sense that Perry might think he’s more famous than he really is. As I mentioned up post, I never watched Friends, nor have I seen any of the movies Perry has been in. I read his book because of the press it generated. I can’t be the only one.

Perry writes about how his drug addiction started, back in 1997, when he was in a jet ski accident while working on a movie. He was in extreme pain, so a doctor gave him some Vicodin. The drug made his insides feel like “warm honey”, and he had to have more. Soon, he developed a habit of taking 55 pills a day, just so he could feel “okay”. He’d already had an introduction to alcohol, back when he was growing up in Canada. The booze made him feel “okay”, as he laid out in his backyard, pondering life. I’ve often heard that if someone has a very significant reaction at their introduction to alcohol, that’s not a good sign.

Addicts can be very endearing, and a lot of them, deep down, are basically decent people who are just very sick. I got that sense with Perry, too. As an actor, he knows how to behave in ways that seem genuine. It’s important to note that acting, by definition, isn’t genuine or authentic behavior. Actors make their money by convincingly playing roles. So, I couldn’t help but notice the usual veneer of bullshit in his writings, even though I admire him for being very candid, especially about the more humiliating and painful aspects of his story. I’m afraid that he’s always going to be an addict, though, and most addicts always have a layer of bullshit about them, even when they’ve been sober for many years. In this book, you can read about one former sponsor of Matthew Perry’s who said he hadn’t had a drink since 1980. That guy had seemed absolutely amazing… but their once “best friend” relationship has ended, and not on a good note. That time, the bad ending wasn’t because of Perry’s shenanigans, but those of his long sober friend’s.

In spite of what might sound like critical remarks about Perry’s character, I did enjoy reading Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. I think it’s well-written and very candid. Many readers will find it very engaging; it’s often even a funny book. Perry does use a lot of frank language, including a lot of profanity. I don’t care about excessive profanity myself, but I mention it because some readers might not like the cursing. He includes some photos, especially of him as a youngster, most of which are in color. He sure was cute; I think we had the same bowl cut hairstyle, which was all the rage in those days.

I’m glad that Perry knows he has a problem and is working on fixing it. I’m even happier to know that he realizes what excessive drug and alcohol use has cost him, on so many levels– from girlfriends (or potential wives, which he’s said he’s always wanted), to the chance to have children, to millions of dollars of his money, to his health. I understand that he has an illness, and that being an addict doesn’t inherently make him a bad person, even if it can cause him to act in ways that are disappointing, dangerous, or deranged. I feel empathy for him… but I think I feel even more for those who love him. And I wouldn’t call this book a triumph, either, because he hasn’t been sober for very long, at this writing. So we’ll see what happens. I do wish him the best, and I hope this time, sobriety works for him. Otherwise, he could be among the celebrity deaths we’ll read about in 2023 or 2024…

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musings, social media

My thoughts on so-called “insufferable posters” on Facebook…

Our vacation is winding down… we are now in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. It took several hours to get here from Florence, which gave me plenty of time to look at Facebook. One of my friends shared a post from 2015. It was from qz.com and was titled “There is a good chance that you are the ‘friend’ that everyone finds insufferable on Facebook”.

I think I read this article some time ago, but I was reminded of it anew today as we sped north toward Modena. The post, which was written by a guy named Tim Urban, was originally shared in November 2015. It was all about how people on Facebook annoy their friends, family members, and acquaintances because they indulge their egos, seek attention, or try to make people jealous.

The friend who shared this post wrote that she thought it was a great read, as did some of her friends. A few others, myself among them, thought the writer was an asshole. I know I do my fair share of complaining about Facebook comments. Actually, it’s really mainly comments that annoy me, not status updates, or things that people mostly share on their own pages. I don’t like it when people go on other people’s pages and act like jerks. They can do whatever they want on their own pages. If it really bugs me, I’ll unfriend or unfollow. But I don’t think of those people as “insufferable”. If I did, I would probably go ahead and disassociate myself. I know I’m not everyone’s shot of tequila or whatever…

Mr. Urban’s post consisted of a list of seven types of posts people share that tend to be annoying… to him, I guess, but maybe to others, too. In Urban’s view, to “not” be annoying, a status update must either be interesting or informative, or it has to be entertaining somehow. All other posts– to include any about one’s blessings in life, “cries for help” (from loneliness), meaningful quotes from well-known sages, or humble bragging– are apparently irritating by Mr. Urban’s yardstick.

I’ll admit that I can see some of his points. I do have a few current and former Facebook friends who share quotes. It makes me wonder if they talk to their friends that way offline. Do they go up to their pals and say things like “laugh and the whole world laughs with you”? Somehow, I doubt it… but hell, it’s their Facebook page. I don’t have to respond to it.

And some people probably hate that I share my blog. As a matter of fact, during our Italy trip, I met a few people who live in Stuttgart. One was a couple who had been there since 2015, and the female half knew about my blog. I had a feeling she didn’t like it, or me, and that was before she’d ever met me. Whatever… c’est la vie. Lots of people don’t like me after never having read my writing, just as some people think they know (and don’t like) me after reading a couple of posts. I think that’s a pretty limited way to go through life, especially since I’m not really so bad once you get to know me.

I know there are a lot of people– especially in the military community– who HATE that I have the nerve to call myself “overeducated” and think I’m an asshole for my blog title alone. But I also realize that some people actually enjoy the blog, and don’t think I’m a pretentious asshole. Later, after I parted company with those folks, Bill and I went to another hotel, and met a couple of really nice American couples who were excited to be in Italy. We had a very pleasant conversation, unmarred by any preconceived thoughts about my activities on social media or this blog. 😉

Mostly, though, Tim Urban’s post made me think that I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with HIM. I like sharing my friends’ joy. When they share their proud parenting moments, news about their achievements, pictures of their trips, or even mushy posts about their spouses or other family members, I’m genuinely happy for them. I think anyone who would find those kinds of posts offensive, obnoxious, or annoying, probably aren’t much fun at parties. I would also like to know who make Tim Urban judge and jury for what people ought to post on Facebook. Especially since he’s not one of MY friends. 😉

Personally, there are a lot of days when I’m sorry I signed up for Facebook. However, I realize that it’s pretty hard not to be on some kind of social media, if you’re not in your 80s and completely removed from the Internet, like my mom is. I do hope a better alternative will come along, though. Or, maybe I’ll just lose interest in it, like I do most things.

Anyway… I gotta be me. Part of who I am may come off as profane, vulgar, and obnoxious. I own it. But I can’t be someone else, especially for people who don’t even care enough to try to get to know me before they pass judgment. For most users, Facebook isn’t a place for developing real relationships, even though I know some have developed there. And so, I think people ought to post what they want to, on their own pages. It’s when they’re shitty on other people’s pages and posts that I take notice and feel negative. I think people who are rude to strangers on news sites are the most insufferable Facebook posters of all.

Well, tomorrow, we will enjoy Vaduz, and then Wednesday morning, we’ll make our way home to Wiesbaden. I am looking forward to it, to be very honest. I look forward to doing laundry and seeing the dogs, and writing up all of these adventures… and I’m even more hopeful that the swelling in my ankles will go down. We had a very busy vacation and it was a lot of fun, but it’s time to get back to business.

Still… it will be hard to leave this view from our current hotel… and if that’s bragging, so be it.

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family, obits, tragedies

April brings new life… and for some, the end of life.

Happy Easter, everybody. We have gorgeous spring weather so far today. I don’t plan to do much, since everything is closed, anyway. For a country with so many atheists, Germany sure does go nuts over religious holidays. Everything closes over Easter, from Good Friday until Easter Monday, although things are open on the intervening Saturday. This year, I didn’t plan ahead well enough. We ran out of dog food for Arran and contact lenses for me, after tomorrow. Fortunately, the stuff we need will probably be here on Tuesday. I hope I managed to sock away an extra pair of contacts in my luggage so I will be able to see before the delivery gets here. I wish I’d had my eyes lasered years ago.

Historically, for me, anyway, April tends to be a “cruel” month, even though it’s also usually very beautiful. So far, this year, April has been punctuated by grief… not necessarily for me, personally, but for people I know or am related to.

It started with a guy I knew in high school. I had a lot of classes with him, but we didn’t run in the same circles. I never knew until I read his obituary that he taught special education at our high school for some time. He eventually left that job, but then had brain cancer. That’s what killed him on March 31st, just a couple of weeks after his 50th birthday. On April 1st, a lot of people were posting about him on Facebook, writing about what a kind person he was. That made me wish I’d known him better, but he was more popular than I was, and people in my high school mostly thought of me as a weird person. So the cute, popular guys never talked to me. I’m probably less weird now… or, maybe they admit that they’re weird, too.

The next person to go was my cousin’s lovely wife. My cousin and his wife were married in 1984, when I was 12 years old. I wasn’t at the wedding, because it took place in Georgia, and I lived in Virginia. My cousin and his wife were a beautiful couple, but very religious and politically conservative, as are most of my Georgia based relatives (and I have quite a few). I was briefly among the Georgia folks myself, but we had to move to North Carolina after about 18 months of living there. I was sad to go. I enjoyed Georgia.

My cousin and his wife had three gorgeous daughters who are the epitome of “southern belles”. They’re a very close-knit family. When my cousin’s wife was diagnosed with cancer last spring, and the cancer then spread to her brain, the whole family got t-shirts made and wore them to support her before she went into surgery. They took pictures wearing the t-shirts and holding up signs with Bible verses and slogans. We heard that she had done fairly well with the surgery. Then, there was not much news at all.

I was a little surprised to read that she had passed away last week, since I hadn’t known that her illness had progressed so much. I mean, I know something about chronic illnesses such as cancer, and when I heard about her initial diagnosis, I figured she might not have much time. But her daughters appeared to be having the time of their lives, which is what I’m sure she wanted for them. My cousin’s eldest daughter posted a gender reveal video for the baby she’s expecting. Then, she announced her mother’s death. I didn’t know she was so ill, so I didn’t know she was near death. Last week’s news of her death came as a shock to me.

I knew her middle daughter planned to get married on April 16th. That daughter shared a photo of her hand holding her mother’s hand. I could only see the hand in the photo, but it was pretty obvious just from that photo of her hand that my cousin’s wife was very, very sick. Her skin was yellow and mottled with purplish red splotches, even around her fingernails, which were lined with the same red. I guess it was bruising of some kind.

She was a very beautiful woman who was much beloved by family and friends. She was also very religious and had strong faith in Christianity. Although I am nowhere near as religious as she was, I like to think of her joining those who went before her, to include my aunt and uncle, and my cousin, who was her sister-in-law, as well as all of the other people who were in her life I never knew. I’m sorry she had to miss her daughter’s wedding yesterday, but her daughter did say she thought her mom would have the best view… I hope she’s right. It looks like her daughter had a beautiful wedding, at least.

And finally, the third death was that of one of Bill’s friends from high school. I never met this man myself, but Bill has talked about him throughout our almost twenty years of marriage. Bill was kind of a shy introverted type when he was a teenager, and he went to a public high school in Houston where there were a lot of wealthy kids. Bill wasn’t wealthy, but he did have an interest in the military. He joined JROTC and made some friends, which unfortunately included his ex wife. But one of the guys he met was a guy named Mark who was a year older than he was. Mark was kind to Bill. He had a great sense of humor and a talent for art. Bill really liked him a lot, especially in the days when he wasn’t very confident about himself.

The years passed, and Bill lost touch with his friend… but then along came Facebook, and Bill reconnected with him. They didn’t communicate much on Facebook, mainly because Bill barely uses it and never posts. One of Bill’s other classmates, a guy who friended me for some reason, announced Mark’s sudden death yesterday. Apparently, Mark, who was divorced, had no children, and had recently lost his father (his mom died many years ago), decided to commit suicide on Good Friday.

Mark’s Facebook posts left no indication whatsoever that he was planning to kill himself. On Friday, he just posted “Guys, it’s been a slice”, accompanied by a collage with pictures of him at different stages of life. I told Bill that his high school friend had announced Mark’s death. Bill looked him up and read all of the posts by people who were devastated by Mark’s decision. So many people asked why he hadn’t reached out to them for help. A couple of people wrote that there was nothing they could have done… which is probably true in a case like this. Mark never left a clue of what he was planning. Unfortunately, it sounds like people will always wonder what drove him to make this decision, although a lot of people knew he had “demons”. But then, don’t we all?

It seems unconscionable that in this season of renewal– with flowers blooming and babies being born– some people have died before their time. All three of these people, who touched my life before they passed, were folks who might have been considered too young to die. While all three deaths could be considered very sad and tragic, I am especially sad for Mark. The other two had family with them when they passed, but Mark apparently died alone, and probably violently. As awful as it is for him, it’s even worse for whoever had to find him and whoever will be cleaning up the aftermath of Mark’s decision. I don’t know the exact method he used to kill himself, but he did own quite a few firearms. Bill told me that he owned some Russian pistols that he highly prized. So, it’s likely that one of his guns was the tool he used to end his life “on his terms”, as one of his friends put it.

I try not to look at suicide as a moral failing. I see it as more of a fatal response to depression, which is a real illness. Depression can be deadly. Maybe Mark could have been helped if he had reached out for help, but there really is no way to tell. And, in fact, there may have been something else going on that we didn’t know about… and will never know of. At least it looks like he had some good times during his last week. Many friends wrote about how they saw him this week. I wonder if Mark thought about how they would feel after he died… having spent time with him having lunch or drinking beer… and then finding out that he was planning to kill himself.

I didn’t know Mark, but I was there last night as Bill teared up over the news of his death. It just goes to show that everyone affects other people… even people they’ve never met in person. But as someone who has experienced depression and has felt suicidal, I understand that things might have seemed hopeless and pointless, and maybe he felt helpless to change anything. And one more talk with a friend or a doctor might have felt futile. So he made a decision that impacted a lot of people he never even knew.

This morning, Bill told me that he used to envy his friends. At one time, their lives seemed better than his was. I asked him what he thought of that notion today. He said, “I prefer my life.” I’m glad to hear that, especially since younger daughter shared an adorable video of her little daughter yesterday. What a blessing it is that Bill can get to know his grandchildren, even if it is just on video. Seeing her so happy and energetic gives me hope for the future. I’m glad I can be part of Bill’s future, especially as he awaits the birth of his second grandson in a couple of months.

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celebrities, lessons learned, music, musings, obits, YouTube

The first day of 2022…

I hope everyone enjoyed their New Year’s Eve 2021. Bill and I had a nice evening, marred only by the news that the great Betty White passed away. A lot of people reacted to the news of Betty’s New Year’s Eve demise with great sadness. She was a remarkable woman who was blessed with so much talent, beauty, and humor. When I think of how many people were touched by her, it almost overwhelms me. This was a lady whose career spanned many decades and generations, and she did it all– singing, dancing, acting, sales pitching, and especially comedy. She was the oldest Golden Girl, and the last one to leave us.

She was such an adorable and hilarious pro! God bless her, wherever she is… I hope she and her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, have finally reunited.

I loved Betty White as an entertainer. I admired her a great deal. However, I don’t feel particularly sad that she died, nor do I think of it as a tragic event. I think, as living and dying go, Betty White did it in grand fashion. As far as I know, she wasn’t seriously ill when she passed. In fact, she was even featured on People magazine’s cover this week, as she planned to celebrate her 100th birthday on January 17th. She was still “with it”, and not bed bound. Yes, it would have been wonderful if she could have celebrated one last birthday, but 99 years is still a hell of a good run. What happened to her eventually happens to us all… and she had the good fortune to do it on relatively favorable terms.

I think this one was my favorite! Betty’s dusty muffins could not be matched.

So no, I’m not totally saddened by Betty White’s death. She died the same year as several of her co-stars on the Mary Tyler Moore show, as we also lost Gavin McLeod, Ed Asner, and Cloris Leachman in 2021. And all of them lived to ripe old ages, having been able to work, play, and be in the world pretty much the entire time. We should all be so lucky… and in fact, I think we’re all lucky that we were alive at the same time she was.

*Giggle* She was so funny!

MOVING ON…

A lot of people were also mentioning how much 2021 sucked. I’m sure it really did suck for a lot of folks. COVID-19 has really screwed up normal living for so many. However, one good thing I have noticed about the COVID era is that some people are reprioritizing their lives. Yesterday, I read an awesome Reddit thread called “Twas the night before my resignation”, about a guy who decided some years ago that he no longer wanted to prioritize his career over his family. He started taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In 2021, as usual, he scheduled that week off.

At the end of the year, a work emergency came up. It wasn’t something that should have affected his time off, and he did what he could to warn his employers that he would be taking that week off. But, as it happens, the company dragged its feet and the emergency, quite predictably, became dire as the guy’s week off approached… For best results, you really should read it for yourself. Suffice to say, the guy pretty much told his boss to pound sand, and was richly rewarded for his moxie. And to that, I say, “Kudos, and fuck those people!” I hate it when employers treat their employees like they own them. It’s nice to see that some workers have been able to claim some control over their work environments. I hope this is a trend that lasts, so that working conditions will improve for everyone.

I know… maybe it’s too much to hope for that there will be less greed and corruption in the American workplace. But I can dream, can’t I? Hell… if I were in the USA now, maybe someone would even hire me!

Bill and I actually had a fairly good 2021, in spite of COVID’s suck factor. We finally resolved our lawsuit, and it mostly went in our favor. I know it may seem like a small thing, but holding our former landlady accountable for her egregiously illegal actions, outright lies, and the really crappy way she treated us, was very satisfying. I think we learned a lesson from it, too. Hopefully, that lesson will carry over the next time someone tries to screw with us and shame us into automatically allowing them to have their way.

In 2021, Bill finally started working with a Jungian analyst, which is something he’s been wanting to do for a long time… and something I’ve felt he’s needed to do the whole time I’ve known him. The sessions have been very healing for him, but they’ve also been immensely rewarding and interesting. I didn’t know anything about Carl G. Jung when Bill and I met, despite my background. Social workers do study psychology, but it’s not really the bulk of what we learn, since social work is not psychology, per se. It’s been fascinating to learn more about Jung, and help Bill learn more. He’s been so intrigued by the process that he even started taking classes at the Jung Institute in Zurich. So far, the classes have been online, but we did get a chance to visit Zurich for the first time last summer. If we manage to stay here awhile, he may get to do some serious work.

As for my own successes… I’ve watched my relaunched blog explode. In 2021, I had over 560 times the hits I had in 2020, which was much more successful than 2019, when I moved my blog to WordPress. It really is picking up, and that’s been exciting to see, even though it took some time.

I felt pretty much forced to relocate the blog from Blogspot, although I had kind of wanted to do it for a long time. It was difficult and a bit depressing to start over in February 2019. I had a decent following on the original blog, even though it was a bit rawer than this one is. Moving the blog meant losing followers, as well as ad revenue. It’s not that I make a lot of money at all through ads, but it was kind of a nice thing to occasionally get paid by Google.

Well… that pretty much ended with a thud when I moved the blog, and for quite some time, I felt really constrained and nervous about writing. I know some people don’t think I have any talent… and some people think writing is a waste of my time, so they think nothing about messing with what I do… and some people just plain don’t like me, and want to cause trouble for me for selfish and dishonest reasons. This blog is NOT my life, but it is something I enjoy creating, and it gives me a purpose. So it was hard for me in 2019, when I experienced the setback that caused me to have to start over.

Two years later, I think my blog is better than it ever was. And I’ve been rewarded with new followers, and yes, more ad revenue. I only monetized the blog a few months ago, but pretty soon, I’ll be eligible to be paid. And I can only expect that this blog will be more successful than the original blog was, in terms of money, and quality content. The travel blog is a bit down in views lately, but hopefully COVID-19 will eventually be tamed enough so we can travel again. And really, I mainly write this stuff for myself, anyway, so anyone who reads and enjoys it is just icing on the cake.

I also found a new person with whom I can do music collaborations. In fact, I even uploaded our latest effort this morning! Music is something I do for fun and relaxation, so this is a rewarding development, too…

He lives in the States. We’ve never met, but we have similar musical tastes.

Another great thing that happened in 2021 was that Bill and I finally got to visit Croatia, and pay another visit to Slovenia. I already knew Slovenia was beautiful, but Croatia was magical. Although we didn’t have an “action packed” vacation in the fall, it was still probably one of my favorite trips yet. Just the sheer beauty of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as the time we spent in Austria (another favorite destination) was so awesome. I guess COVID has also made me a lot more grateful for ANY travel. Thank God for vaccines, too. I will be boosted in a few days, which may cause temporary discomfort, but will likely make my chances of dying from COVID lower.

We got to see a few friends, and make a few new friends… and the old friends who are real friends are still with us. We also didn’t lose any loved ones in 2021. In fact, in 2022, Bill will presumably gain another grandchild. And… our beloved Arran and Noyzi are still alive. Noyzi has even become a real part of the family, right down to loving on me when he wants something and showing up fashionably late to dinner! So that’s a blessing.

I have high hopes for 2022… I hope you do, too. To those of you who have been part of this blog, thank you so much! I especially want to thank my friends who have been here since the beginning. You are all a big part of the success, too!

2021 didn’t suck for us… but I know some people are really struggling right now. I don’t know what words of wisdom or comfort I can share. One friend mentioned how bad 2021 was, and I mentioned that I thought 2016 was worse– at least in terms of lost legends. She responded that she’d had a rough time of it in 2021, and compared 2021 to a few other horrible years she’d experienced.

I knew she’s been having a hard time, so I acknowledged that. And then I remembered one of my worst years ever– 1998. If I’m honest, there were a few times during that year that I seriously contemplated suicide. I was dealing with moderately severe depression, and I didn’t see how I was ever going to escape the situation I was in. It was NOT a hopeless situation by any means– which I clearly proved. But at the time, it felt hopeless… and my perspective was so blurred by depression and anxiety that I couldn’t see beyond the fog of despair and despondency.

But some very good things also happened that year. Yes, I was working in a restaurant job where I was abused daily, and I lived with my parents, who were kind of hostile and disappointed in me. I was young and basically healthy, but felt unattractive and unsuccessful. That year, I backed into some lady’s car in our driveway, because I was so upset… and that accident led me to finally seeing a therapist. Dr. Coe helped me so much, and I was eventually put on antidepressants that changed my life. To this day, I no longer feel as horrible as I did for most of my young life.

I eventually got pretty good at the restaurant job, and was able to make enough money to pay for the therapy and save up for an apartment. I bought a car. I had a terrible setback in November 1998– in fact, that was probably one of the worst months of my life. And yet, two months later, the medication was finally correct, and I started getting my shit together… and by November 1999, I was in a dual degree master’s program, proving to myself that I wasn’t as stupid or worthless as I had felt a year prior. That was also the month I “met” Bill online. By November 2002, we were married! And now, 19 years later, here we are… In 2022, I’ll presumably turn 50, and we will celebrate 20 years married.

So it’s good that I didn’t give in to my urges to off myself back in 1998. That would have meant missing out on some really wonderful things. That “abusive” job also led to meeting some truly great friends and learning valuable life and survival skills. In the long run, that turned out to be a good thing, too, despite the suffering that happened when I was still in that situation.

My point is, sometimes what seems like the shittiest times can lead to some pretty wonderful recoveries. So if you are struggling right now, I urge you to hang on as best you can. It can, and probably will, get better. But I also know that those words ring hollow when a person is really suffering. So just know, there are people who really do care, and have been through it, too… You’re probably more like them than you know… unless, of course, you’re Josh Duggar or Ghislaine Maxwell. Those two probably won’t be enjoying life for awhile.

And, with that bit of “wisdom”, I’m signing off for today… Got a few chores to take care of, and then it’s time to watch movies and concerts.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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love, marriage, music, musings

Writing about my scars for the past nineteen years…

It’s time for another goofy selfie. Today’s featured photo was taken in Innsbruck, Austria, in August 2020. We’re both a bit broader and greyer.

Good morning, everybody. It’s November 16th, which means it’s my wedding anniversary. Nineteen years ago, Bill and I tied the knot under somewhat scary circumstances. He was a 38 year old man who had been through divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, domestic violence, and 9/11 at the Pentagon. I was 30 years old and recently graduated from a double master’s degree program that had put me in a lot of debt.

We met in a chat room in 1999. He was newly separated from Ex and had recently rejoined the Army as a full time officer. I had just started grad school and didn’t know anyone. We fell into a friendship in November of that year, finally meeting in person in 2001. When 9/11 struck and no one knew we were dating, we decided to go public… and not long after that, we got engaged.

I know I used this photo last year, but it’s really a good representation of us… and how we are. And we don’t have any recent photos of us. Maybe we’ll take one this weekend.

Now, here I sit, pretty much debt free, but never having used those degrees I spent three long years working to earn. Bill is retired. The last nineteen years have been full of adventure and, for the most part, a lot of fun. I talked to Bill and my mom last night. Bill is in Poland on business. Mom is in Virginia, watching ships pass from the windows of her apartment, which offer great views of the Chesapeake Bay. I didn’t have much to say to Bill, since I last saw him at 4:00am Monday morning, before he flew to Warsaw.

To my mom, I said I was surprised by how well marriage has worked out for Bill and me. Especially considering how and where we met. Lots of people had doubts about the feasibility of our relationship. My mom, especially, was creeped out that we met on the Internet. She thought it was WEIRD. Years later, she admitted she was wrong to doubt us.

My career didn’t work out the way I had hoped it might. Now I think that’s probably a blessing, even if it’s hard on my ego. I had always wanted to be a writer. Sure enough, that’s what I am. Almost every day, I write something, even if lately, I’ve been putting up a lot of reposts. I don’t mind the reposts, since a lot of them eventually do get read, especially the book reviews. The reposts are, for the most part, from days when I had good thoughts to put down, and I see nothing wrong with recycling stuff. I live in a country where recycling is the law. Aside from that, sometimes I just can’t think of anything I want to write about that badly. That’s not a bad thing. Taking the odd day off is good for the soul and helps me recharge, and sometimes old posts are still entertaining or educational.

This morning, I was reading some old posts I’d written. I was trying to think of what I wanted to write about today. I found a post I wrote called “My Special Brand of Shitty Sunshine“. I had forgotten what it was about, but was intrigued by the title. One might think that post would be full of vitriol. Actually, it’s a fairly thoughtful post inspired by Caleb Wilde, the guy who runs the Facebook page for Confessions of a Funeral Director. I wrote it on May 19, 2019, after having read an insightful post Caleb had written. I was struck by his thoughts on why he writes, and I related to it so much so that I quoted him:

Speak and write about your scars, not your open wounds. That’s the axiom you’re supposed to follow as a writer.

Anyone who regularly reads my writing knows that I often write about my scars. However, like Caleb, I also write about my gaping wounds. Sometimes people don’t know how to take some of my more “honest” thoughts, especially about certain subjects. I have occasionally been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice about some of my content or opinions. Some have warned me that sometimes I come off like an ass. Of course, that only stands to reason, because just like almost everyone else out there, sometimes I actually AM an ass. I’m just being authentic. 🙂

On the other hand, people have also told me that many times, the posts about my open wounds are useful. They relate to them, or are entertained by them. Or, sometimes they SHOW me the posts are useful to them, by stabbing me in the back and talking trash about me to a certain mutual former landlady, or to likeminded people who don’t like me and want to stir up shit among themselves. While I’d rather people didn’t use my writings to cause trouble, there’s not much I can do to stop people from doing what they’re going to do. That’s the price I pay for writing down my thoughts and sharing them. Besides, since we left Stuttgart, most of that juvenile crap has stopped, since I have made a point of not engaging with most of the military community in Wiesbaden.

I know a lot of people make lifelong friends through ties to the military. My parents had some dear, wonderful friends from my dad’s 22 years in the Air Force. Bill and I have made a few friends, too. But, by and large, I’ve found that trying to make friends with most people is kind of a fruitless exercise. It’s kind of like dating. You date someone for awhile and break up… and sometimes you can be friends afterwards, but a lot of times, there’s too much pain and the relationship falls apart. I haven’t dated much in my lifetime, but I have found that I’ve had a lot of “friends” who turned out to be temporary. On the other hand, I’ve had other friends who have been around for decades, even if very few of them are “close friends”.

Maybe finding real friends is more like panning for gold, which in some ways, is harder in the age of the Internet. It’s easier to find “friends”, but harder to find quality friends. A lot of people think I’m weird, anyway, and don’t take the time to get to know me well. But, in fairness, I don’t invest a lot of time in them, either, because I sense that they don’t quite accept me the way I am. At my age, changing for the sake of a friendship that will probably be temporary isn’t worth the effort. So, those who take me as I am, like Bill… and even my mom, these days, are people I make an effort to keep in my life. There are a few true friends, too… including a couple of people I’ve never met in person and know little about.

But, in all seriousness, having been associated with the military lifestyle for the past 19 years, I gotta say that as much as I loved living in Stuttgart– especially since a total of six of our years as a couple were spent there– it really is the most toxic place we’ve ever lived. It’s even more toxic and dramatic than living on Fort Belvoir was. We spent four years living there, and we saw a LOT of drama. And that was before Facebook or Twitter! Stuttgart the second time was even worse, even though we didn’t live in a stairwell apartment but, in fairness, that probably was because of social media.

Caleb continues with this: “Burnout, secondary trauma, PTSD, depression, fear, disassociation, social anxiety . . . these are all a part of my concoction of diagnosed open wounds (more on the diagnosed part of things when I’m feeling up to talking about it). And these wounds rarely have time to heal when their source is your job. For some of us, like me, writing from our scars isn’t entirely possible because some wounds just remain . . . open.

Well… he’s a funeral director, so he’s bound to see and hear a lot of sad stories. He’s not unlike a bartender or a mental health counselor of any stripe. I wrote the post that fathered this one in May 2019, before COVID-19 was a thing. Caleb’s business is bound to be even more difficult today than it was two and a half years ago. In fact, it occurs to me that I haven’t seen any recent posts by him. I just checked his Facebook page, and it looks like the last fresh post from him dates November 13, 2020. I can only assume that he’s very busy with his work. I hope nothing worse has happened.

But this is what he posted, almost a year ago… and I guess it offers some explanation:

There’s a sliver of time in a person’s life when society actually encourages us to care for ourselves. That sliver of time we’re afforded for self-care happens when we experience a loss. After we lose someone or something, it’s like all of a sudden everyone around us becomes caring and encouraging with phrases like:

“You can get through this!”

“It’s okay to express your feelings.”

And . . . “You need to take some time for yourself.”

And for a minute we believe them. We allow ourselves to let our space get a little dirty. Or maybe we stop shaving. Maybe we order out and watch more Netflix. During a loss, we let ourselves take care of ourselves.

But in the back of our minds we have an imaginary clock that’s counting down the days til self-care takes a back seat to “responsibility.”

Right now all of us are experiencing a loss. A loss of normality, of the rhythms were used to dancing to. Just like with the loss of a loved one, we’re suddenly having to learn an entirely new dance with no promise that the old dance will ever play again.

We’re friends, right? You’re here because you’ve read something I’ve written and you connected to it. So, as your friend, let me tell you:

“You can get through this.” There’s no promise the end of this will be the same as the beginning. It won’t be. But we can get to the other side.

“It’s okay to express your feelings.”

A lot of us don’t like the COVID versions of ourselves and that’s okay. It’s okay to be less patient, less stable. Take all the time you need to accept yourself as you are right now.

“You need to take some time for yourself.”

You can stay safe and not be a martyr. Nobody is asking us to sacrifice ourselves. Do something you like (the pic is me doing something I like). Stay away from things you hate. Train your mind to think on things you enjoy, not things that make you angry and fearful. You have total permission to care for yourself. I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay to be a little more patient and gracious to myself right now. I give that same grace and patience to the families I serve at the funeral home. I don’t have to starve myself of what I give.

I don’t know what Caleb Wilde is up to right now. I hope he’s alright, and the realities of life in 2021 haven’t buried him, either figuratively or literally. It occurs to me, though, that his writings about his scars and gaping wounds have inspired me, and taught me new things. Likewise, I hope some of the things I write are inspirational, educational, entertaining, or even just offer some reaction of some sort. Even if that reaction is disgust or anger… or something else negative.

I’m sitting here writing this post today, on our 19th anniversary, mainly because 19 years ago, we said “I do.” I didn’t go off and work for a public health agency or take a job as a social worker. I didn’t become a grant writer or lobbyist. I didn’t do what I had been planning to do when Bill and I had that chance meeting in a javascript chat room, back in 1999. We later progressed to mIRC, and then Yahoo! Messenger, which is where I got the news that he’d survived 9/11. I remember the first time I heard his voice was over VoIP, rather than on the phone or in person. I never thought that would lead us to marriage. In fact, I never thought we’d meet in person, let alone become husband and wife. I have to admit our partnership has really worked flawlessly on all levels, in spite of everything, including COVID… 😉 And yes, it’s worked out “in spite of ourselves”, too…

Wish COVID-19 hadn’t taken John Prine… because this song could be our theme song.

And… just as I’m about to close today’s musings, James Taylor’s song, “Daddy’s All Gone” just came on. As I sit here, wishing Bill was home on our anniversary, and I’m reminded that his career has taken him away so many times… though so far, not permanently… I realize how prescient that song could have been for him. He wasn’t a James Taylor fan before he met me, but he’s come to appreciate his music. I’m sure I’ve played “Daddy’s All Gone” for Bill. It might have made him choke up, especially given that he missed out on raising his daughters.

This song has meaning for Bill…
And this song has meaning for me… especially this particular version.

We were supposed to see James play in Frankfurt on February 11. We have second row seats. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has fucked that up, and James had to postpone his European tour. I hope he gets here eventually. I really could use another show by him. I’m not surprised the tour was postponed, though. A year ago, we were supposed to see Keb’ Mo’ play in Mainz. He has postponed that show three times. At this writing, we’re due to use our tickets for last year’s concert on May 11, 2022. I had to look it up, because I can’t keep all of the updates straight anymore.

Well, I guess I’ve prattled on long enough. Those songs remind me I really need to practice guitar. Thanks to COVID-19, I may have more time for practicing, because I fear there may be another lockdown soon. Anyway… we’ll probably do something celebratory over the weekend. And maybe I’ll put up the fucking Christmas decorations while he’s gone. Wow… this year has flown by. Before we know it, I’ll be thinking about what to write on our 20th wedding anniversary.

Edited to add… Bill and I walked down the aisle to “Highland Cathedral”. I just happened to stumble across this rendition, and now I’m a blubbering mess. Seriously… it is GORGEOUS.

I could listen to this all day.

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