Anti Same-Sex Weddings? Go To One Because It Might Change Your Persepective

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Look at the above picture. Religious zealots call this an abomination. Some people consider this against their definition of marriage which states marriage consists strictly of union between a man and a woman. I call this love. I call this humanity. I call this happiness. I call this evolution (sorry Creationists).

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending my first same-sex wedding. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t care who walked whom down the aisle. I didn’t care what the brides wore. I didn’t care if they called themselves “brides”. And why should I? We live in New York, one of the states that legally allows same-sex marriage, something that should, in my opinion, be legal throughout the nation.

But why can’t “they” just have civil unions? Isn’t that enough?

No. No, it isn’t because this is a free country and marriage should, in my opinion again, be about the love between two people and their willingness, their desire to spend the rest of their lives together just as my wife and I did 8 years ago. Anything else is exclusionary. It demeans people. It paints homosexuals as subhuman.

The wedding I attended was nothing short of beautiful and touching. The wedding theme was “Our Favorite Things” and the bridesmaids and held paper flower bouquets, each one personalized specifically for them. For example, one held an ingenious bouquet crafted out of Tom Petty lyrics. Placed around the room were wonderful black & white photos of the couple. Each attendee wore a button boasting their name and a short and personal humorous blurb – mine read, “I’ll be blogging about this tomorrow.” They sure know me.

The gorgeous program told of N & L’s story as well as how the wedding would proceed. It also included painstakingly punched out paper hearts made from NYC maps (NYC being one of the couple’s most favorite things) which we would throw instead of rice. We read that many of the items on the menu were provided or inspired by their favorite eateries and our mouths watered looking at the choices.

But first came the ceremony. First came two young women walking down the aisle, their arms wrapped within those of their parents’, and taking their places before a loving audience filled with family, friends, coworkers. They stood nervously before a judge and with humor and clear undying affection pledged themselves to each other. Tears flowed as family members read some of the couple’s favorite pieces. Laughs rang out when the judge, an old family friend of one of the women, pronounced them wife and wife but then had to take it back because he’d jumped the gun and forgot to let them read their own vows. Then he pronounced them wife and wife again and we in the audience clapped and cheered as N & L kissed.

What followed was like any other wedding. A cocktail hour. The wedding party entrance. The couple’s first dance. Speeches during which voices broke. Dancing to great 80s music. A brilliantly crafted wedding cake with NYC as its theme. A photo booth where you could take silly pictures. A sign-in book keepsake for well-wishers to express their joy to N & L. Booze galore. And then there were the special things. A real famed NYC Nuts 4 Nuts cart handing out roasted peanuts, cashews and almonds (if you’ve ever been to NYC, you probably know the sweet smell of these confections). Pizzas delivered by a favorite restaurant after dessert, after we’d all been stuffed to the gills by food provided by Dinosaur BBQ.

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The specialty wedding cake baked by N’s coworker

So now that I’ve been to my first same-sex wedding, let me tell you the 3 differences between it and all of the heterosexual weddings I’ve attended including my own:

1) Two people of the same sex walked down the aisle.

2) Two people of the same sex said their vows.

3) Two people of the same sex were joined as partners for life in sickness and health.

That’s it. Why does that matter to anyone? Why does that matter more than love, joy, happiness, life? And why is it any of your business? Who gave anyone the right to define marriage between 2 people? If Sienna discovers she’s attracted to women I’ll be as proud to say I’m her father as I would be if she were attracted to men.

N & L are deeply in love. They’re happier than they’ve ever been. They’re off on their honeymoon.

Just like any heterosexuals who decide to take the marriage plunge.

Why I Want My Daughter To Curse

No. Not right now. She’s 2 1/2 years old, silly people! Right now I want to her to spout goofy things or get all serious like she did the other day when she said, “I love you, Daddy.” I’m not ready for her to go all Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy of George Carlin on me, though come to think of it it’d be pretty cool if Sienna started dissecting language the way the great Carlin did. No. I just don’t want her to become like me, a person so scared of being judged that he’s unable to say the four-letter words that comfortably fill the public lexicon.

I’m not ready for Sienna to have her mom’s sailor mouth, but eventually, when she’s a teen, I don’t want her to be afraid of speaking the language of her classmates (yes we’ll have the comedic swear jar) and once she reaches adulthood, I hope to be ready for her to speak such words in my presence as part of normal conversation because the reality is that cursing is ordinary and sometimes, often even, acts as a release for pent up stress.

I wish I had that release, but I’m terrified of what people will think of me if I curse – fear of judgment, just another aspect of suffering depression. I’ve been trying to figure out where this particular one comes from and I believe it’s from my father who in turn got it from his mother. My grandmother doesn’t curse at all and doesn’t believe either of her children, their spouses, any of her grandchildren or THEIR spouses use words like s–t or f–k…EVER. She lives in a perpetual dreamworld, a life of denial, because as far as I know, just about all of them curse. My sister dropped the F-bomb at least 4 times during a magazine interview about the prominent comedy club she runs and I can only imagine my grandmother’s face as those bombs exploded before her eyes. My late grandfather, teller of bawdy jokes, probably cursed, though never in front of my grandmother. My aunt, I’m not sure. My dad? I assume he did when he was younger in front of friends and while in the National Guard. I know he does at work sometimes. I heard him once when I temped at his office. But he seems uncomfortable with it, like my grandmother’s directly in his brain.

My dad never cursed in front of me when I was growing up and seemed terribly uneasy when my mom did. And I think I took that discomfort and internalized it to the point where I can’t curse in front of anyone…not even my wife. I think I feel that if I utter a f–king this or f–king that or call someone an a-hole, my dad will know and think less of me. To be honest I imagine everyone will think less of me. And that’s insane. It’s ludicrous. Why would anyone care? But just like with my anxiety it manifests physically, twisting my stomach, weighing on my chest, my veins feeling as if shot with cold radioactive dye. I even have trouble writing the words as you can see by my incessant use of hyphens.

I tried to change when I went to college. I went in there thinking that I’d start cussing like Al Swearington on Deadwood (ok, Deadwood wasn’t on yet, but you get my meaning). I wanted to create a new identity. I wanted to be normal. So I tried. Freshman year I said something about my roommate to my best friend, something like my roommate’s “getting off” on being a jerk and my best friend’s eyes widened to the point where I thought they’d burst.

“You’ve never said anything like that before!” he shouted. I know he was proud, but I took it as criticism – and I didn’t even really use a swear word! And that was it for me in college. I couldn’t curse after that. Freshman year became a pathetic war with hallmates trying to get me to utter obscenities.

I’ll never forget Chad, a tall, lanky, long-haired blonde fratboy who’d corner me daily.

“Say s–t,” he’d say, but I wouldn’t. “Come on. Just say it.”

And he’d laugh when I I couldn’t because at that point he’d win. They’d all win. I’d be cursing for them, not for me. And the pressure in my head built.

When alone, profanity swirls through my head and expletives spout from my mouth. If driving alone I’m not immune to deriding a bad driver with a “motherf–ker” or even give someone the middle finger. When I’m alone vulgarity comes easy, but my jaws clamp in front of others. “Friggin’” I’ll say. “Morons. Jerks. Idiots.” For the longest time I wouldn’t even say “hell” or “damn.”

18 years post-college and I’ve cried in front of my therapist about my inability to curse, tears streaming, face scrunched and reddened with embarrassment and anger.

“You’re safe here, she’ll say,” leaning towards me as twist myself into a pretzel. “Let go. Say f–k.”

I sputter like Fonzie trying to admit he’s wrong. “Fu…fu…fu…fu.” But that’s as far as I’ll get.

“I’ll leave the room,” she’ll say. “I won’t hear it. Just say it.”

And she’ll leave, the door clicking. I’ll sit there furious with myself, face blotchy, hands tightened into fists. The room dulled and quiet. Sometimes I’ll whisper it, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter. No one’s there to hear me so I’ve still failed. “F–k” and “s–t” and so many others remain missing from my daily speech.

I have, however, added some over the years. For some reason I can now say “hell” and “damn” and even “bastard” and “son of a bitch.” It took 30+ years for me to say those words out loud in front of people. I’m not sure if I say them in front of my dad. I KNOW I don’t say them in front of my grandmother. But I still feel so much internal pressure when it comes to swearing, like the world would stop, a collective gasp catching in everyone’s throats, fingers pointing, judging, always judging, if I dare utter the f-word in front of another person. And I don’t want that for Sienna. I never want that for her. The cycle that began with my grandmother, passed to my father and then to me seemingly by osmosis will end. I want my daughter to curse.

I look forward to having a swear jar and by the time Sienna’s old enough, I hope to be adding a few coins to it myself.

Could A Tire Blowout Cue The Dawn Of Positive Thinking?

I was loving Utah’s 80 mph speed limit when our rear back tire blew and I mean BLEW, like a small explosion, our car suddenly lopsided and dragging. As I slowed down and pulled to the shoulder, we watched the full rubber ring roll by our window until it settled a ways away. We were 130+ miles away from Sandy, Utah, 130+ miles away from my friend, John Kinnear’s of Ask Your Dad Blog home, the place where most of our stuff remained. We had a flight the next morning. We wouldn’t be taking the Kinnears out for dinner tonight as thanks for letting us crash at their house as promised. Instead we sat at the side of the road, a bit stunned, but safe,  in the middle of nowhere, Utah.

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Elaine poses w/ our tire ring

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Blowout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I talked with our rental car company and discussed our options (the closest rental car place stood closed 100 miles away, and driving back to Sandy on a donut was out of the question, especially since we’d have to go 40-50 mph) and Elaine used her phone to figure out nearby places we could stay, a Good Samaritan stopped and put on our donut. He refused the $20 bill we offered and instead said, “Pay it forward.”

We drove 15 miles to Fillmore, Utah, where we found ourselves at a Best Western hotel/restaurant. And there we waited 2 1/2 hours for a taxi to come get us and then drive another 1 1/2 to John’s house.

As we sat in the restaurant waiting and waiting and waiting, Elaine expressed her worry that like usual, I’d internalize this maddening experience and let it sour things, allow it to damper our vacation to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. And it was at this mention that I, a heavily depressed and anxious person with warped views, an insane ability to take everything personally and a man whose glass remained perpetually empty, not even half empty, but barren, realized I’d somehow…grown? I registered that my first thoughts upon pulling to the side of the road were:

At least it happened AFTER we’d visited Bryce and Zion

At least it happened while the sun still shone

That’s not me. That’s never me. I’m the one who curls into a ball of anxiety at the slightest inconvenience. I’m the one who rails against the gods for raining on my parade without even considering anyone else. I’m the one battling a selfish, narcissistic disease. I don’t look on the bright side. But I did. Somehow I did. And somehow it came naturally and I can’t explain why.

Maybe it’s because Elaine and I had already done a 3 1/2 hour horseback ride through Bryce Canyon, one in which the cowboys seated me incorrectly leading to so much pain that I felt my knee would be wrenched off, one that caused the tops of my hamstrings to scream at the slightest touch or movement later that evening, but one that blew my mind and I’d do again in a heartbeat.

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Horseback riding through Bryce Canyon

 

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My beautiful wife on “Sweet Pea” with the famed Bryce Canyon Hoodoos in the background

Maybe it’s because we’d already hiked through Zion, one a sharp and steep incline that led to Weeping Rock, a beautiful rock face that naturally dripped water, another a 2 mile stretch through the darkness during which I got to give my “city girl” wife (born and raised in the Bronx, NY) the stars. At one point she lay down on the path and marveled at all the celestial bodies she’d never seen, at their infinite number and splendor. Was it because during that night hike I moved my headlamp to the right unwittingly illuminating a tarantula (A REAL, WILD TARANTULA) that stood waiting for its venom-filled prey – a large, black, still-flailing beetle – to fall still so it could feast? Was it because I witnessed a large fox cross our path in the night, it’s eyes aglow from our headlamps? Was it because I’d already seen this:

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Native American petroglyphs at Zion National Park

Was it because Elaine convinced me to drive back through Zion which padded our return trip by a couple of hours but allowed us to see these:

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A desert long-horned ram and mate at Zion National Park

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Closeup of a desert long-horned ewe Zion National ParkWas


Was it witnessing and experiencing the majesty of nature I’d craved for so long that filled my glass? Was it sharing my love of these things with Elaine? Blowing her city-raised mind again and again?

Even when things went wrong during the trip, something seemed to go right. I wanted to give Elaine the stars at Bryce which has the darkest place in the continental U.S. I wanted to look through telescopes and see Jupiter and the Milky Way, but a rainstorm killed all of that. So we went to a local steakhouse, enjoyed a fine meal and a sinful Oreo cream pie despite the severe pain from our earlier horseback ride and then, there it was, right outside our window:

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There was so much beauty on this trip. A picture everywhere you turned. It was exactly what I’d wished for. So how could I complain? How could I wail and moan after we’d been so lucky to see so much? My brain knew it…even the irrational part…and it naturally thought about the positives following the blowout instead of the negatives – possible costs, the hassle of the taxi, having to wait for hours. Normally I’d shake and quiver at having to arrange for service. I’d be lost. I’d let my wife take over. I’d call my parents. But instead I was so full of vigor from experiencing Bryce and Zion and so many amazing things that my depression and anxiety never reared their ugly heads.

None of this hit me until Elaine told me she was worried about my mental state and when she did I sat bewildered but strong. I talked to my therapist yesterday and she told me I now have a muscle to strengthen because I have proof that I can fill my glass. The water might evaporate over time if I let it and to be honest, I’ve been a bit sad since we returned. I’ve been afraid to look at Facebook. Would I be forgotten? Abandoned? I’ve been scared to write. But on the flip side I have all of these pictures and more so, I have life experience to conjure if I can. I lived through a blown tire in the middle of nowhere, Utah, and my reaction was one of humor, lightness and positivity, because nothing could take back what I’d already seen and done.

So is this the dawn of Lorne Jaffe, positive thinker? I don’t know. I might fall back into pits of depression as I return to the normality of life as a stay-at-home dad. I might suffer anxiety attacks over ridiculous things. My judgment might be clouded at times, my thoughts muddled, my self-loathing beastly.

What matters is that I fight through it all, that the dad blogger friends I’ve made around the world continue to support my battle, that my family and friends keep loving me, that I keep loving them, that I look at Sienna with wonder and joy. That I remember that just because this vacation is past, it doesn’t mean another one won’t be in my future. And I will fight. And I will remember.

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Elaine and I at Zion National Park

Sienna Puts Me In A Compromising Position

I sat with my back to the door, arms and knees to my chest, hands covered in kitty litter dust. Toe throbbing. Knee burning. Face red. Minky’s soft, hungry meow coming through the door. Next to me sat my near 2 and a half-year-old Sienna smiling proudly, impishly. And why not? She did something that a student of media had to appreciate. She succeeded in creating a living sitcom. For you see, the door we sat against led to the inside of our apartment. We sat in the hall facing the elevator. And I was dressed in nothing but my frog-printed boxers.

Five seconds. That’s all it took for Sienna to create this hackneyed yet utterly embarrassing situation. I’d just finished cleaning the cat litter and stepped outside in my boxers like I’ve done hundreds of times before because the garbage chute stands 3 feet away from our apartment door. I threw away the garbage and suddenly heard a soft creaking. For a split second my heart stopped and then I reacted. I twisted around, slipped, bent my left big toe sharply backwards while falling, skinned my knee on the rug and reached the door just as Sienna closed it and locked us out. At first one thing zoomed through my mind:

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But then I sat there half naked with my toe throbbing and me knee burning and my daughter smiling not realizing what she’d done and I thought of all the sitcoms where a character’s towel gets caught in the door and they get locked out of their house or apartment, naked, flailing, and all I could do was add to the canned laughter.

I also realized how glad I was that I decided to change the cat litter later than usual because we only had 30-40 minutes until Elaine came home as opposed to the hours we’d normally have to wait. Plus I felt thankful that BOTH of us were outside instead of Sienna locking me out and her in. Ugh. Could you imagine?

What to do? I suggested Sienna run up and down the hall while we waited for Elaine and/or I thought of a way out of our predicament. Thrilled, Sienna obliged except she looked back at me with a sunny grin rather look ahead and thus she smashed into a hall corner leading to tears, wails and cries to go back “outside.” I couldn’t stop laughing, not at her pain but at how ridiculous everything was, at how it kept escalating into further ludicrousness. I didn’t want to hold Sienna with my hands because they were covered in kitty litter dust so I held in my forearms and calmed her by telling her to listen to Minky’s meows through the door. I always feed the cats after changing their litter so poor Minky wanted his food as his meows were so pathetic and sad and funny because of the inches of door separating us. Meanwhile my toe began to turn black and blue. I couldn’t bend it downward without causing sharp pain. Here’s a pic I took later:

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Believe me, the toe looked worse the next day. Now it’s taped and immobilized. But back to the hallway.

Sienna stopped crying after five or ten minutes. I thought of my options:

1) Sit and wait for Elaine

2) Knock on a neighbor’s door to ask if I could use their phone to call my parents so they could use their key to let us in (plus I could wash my hands)

3) Knock on Fae’s door (Fae serves on the building’s board and I thought she could somehow secure a key. I knew our super was on vacation so I didn’t see the point on taking the elevator down to the lobby while in my boxers to knock on his door…and there was no guarantee Sienna’d stay still. She could take off leading to a seriously embarrassing chase through the lobby and ground floor. Problem was I didn’t quite want Fae to see me half naked and looking like an idiot)

I wanted to just wait for Elaine, but then decided to go with 3. I asked Sienna to knock on Fae’s door and miraculously she did so…a few times. No answer. I think I was too ashamed to do it myself even though I was laughing at myself. Somehow my realization that I was living a funny cliché combined with the knowledge that Elaine would be home soon helped stave off an anxiety attack. But still I’d rather not let anyone see me in boxers.

So we sat watching the elevator go up and down hoping it’d land on 4, the doors would open and my wife would do a double take. And then it happened. The doors opened and there was the double take…except it was 2 young women who live down the hall. Oh boy. I covered myself as best as I could. And at that point I didn’t care if Fae saw me in my underwear. We had to get back inside.

“Hi!” I said. They averted their eyes and almost ran to their apartment. “Umm…can you do me a favor and knock and that last apartment door and see if Fae’s home? This little one here locked us out.”

“Ok,” said one of them. They knocked, Fae opened her door and saw me sitting on the floor half-naked with Sienna standing next to me.

“Hey Fae!” I waved. She was dressed for bed. “Umm, Sienna locked us out and John’s on vacation. Is there any way you can get a key to our apartment?”

“I heard knocking,” Fae said laughing, “But I figured Sienna was just playing. Give me a sec. John’s back home. I’ll go downstairs and get the key.”

She ducked back inside as the 2 young women waved goodbye. Within a minute she came back out in jeans. I related the story to Fae and she belly-laughed.

“Don’t you unlock the doorknob when you step out?”

“Nope. Only when I do the laundry, but you can bet I’ll be doing it from now on.”

“Ok,” Fae said. She smiled. “Sienna, you want to come with me in the elevator?” Sienna did. She took Fae’s hand and I shook my head at our predicament as I watched the elevator door close.

Great. Now John gets to see me in my boxers. Except he didn’t because apparently he had no extra key for our apartment. Everyone else yes, but us no! What next?

Fae invited us to wait for Elaine in her apartment. I graciously excepted, keeping my arms crossed on my chest the whole time (still a behavioral remnant from my years of suffering gynecomastia). I washed my hands. Sienna started at the TV. Then Fae brought out a box shaped like a treasure chest on which Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s faces were imprinted.

“I’ve been meaning to give this to Sienna. Princess dresses!” Fae exclaimed.

Sienna jumped up and down as Fae ripped open the box.

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Sienna grabbed a pink skirt.

“Put ON!” she demanded. “Put ON!”

Fae helped Sienna into the skirt as the elevator doors dinged and Elaine stepped out.

“HI!” I called out and there was the double take. The real one. The one that read what the hell’s going on?

I relayed the whole adventure as Elaine cracked up, Fae laughed and Sienna swished about in her new princess dress. Then finally we thanked Fae and Elaine opened our apartment door. I limped inside and sat down. Sienna being Sienna ran about the apartment as Elaine checked out my toe. Years ago I ruptured the tendon in my right big toe after I slipped in the shower the same day we had to drive to Vermont. Now that was a painful trip (Elaine doesn’t drive). Elaine was worried that I’d ruptured my other tendon and she wanted me off my feet because next week we’re heading to Utah and Bryce Canyon meaning a bit of hiking. After examining me, she decided it was a sprain and she wrapped ice around my toe and sent me to bed. I took a pic of Sienna dressed as mixed princesses before I left.

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Sienna as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with ubiquitous security scarf

She fed the poor hungry cats and got Sienna ready for bed. Then she brought Sienna in to say goodnight and to make sure my foot was properly elevated.

Sienna watched quietly as Elaine adjusted the pillow beneath my foot and fixed my blanket. And then she did one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen. She did something that made my heart nearly explode with pride and nearly set Elaine’s eyes to tearing.

Sienna gave me her precious scarf.

“Daddy’s scarf,” she said, her voice sweet like cotton candy.

Then she took her cherished white blanket and covered me with it, carefully adjusting it just as Elaine had fixed our normal blanket.

“Daddy’s blanket, she said. Daddy has a boo-boo.”

“Thank you, Sienna,” I said, a smile on my face, amazement, joy, pride flowing through me. Elaine stood near crying.

Then she said kissed and hugged me goodnight and I said it was ok to take her blanket and scarf which she grabbed hungrily.

But it was worth it. All of the embarrassment. The three women seeing me half naked. The sprained toe. The rug burns on my knees. The sitcom brought to life. Everything was worth it to witness my daughter give me her most treasured items because Daddy was hurting. My love for her grew exponentially if that’s even possible.

I’m so proud of her. So proud.

And lesson learned. Never again will I leave the apartment to throw something in recycling or the garbage chute without unlocking the doorknob.

I can’t wait to see what sitcom plot we act out next. Hopefully I stay fully clothed for it.

 

 

I’m Featured in A “Today Parents” Article Re Parental Pressure & Mental Illness

Please check out this terrific article for which I was interviewed by Alice Gomstyn, contributor to Babble, ABCNews.com, and Babyzone, etc., that explores the correlation between societal parental pressures (such as seeing all those “perfect” pictures on Pintrest) and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. I’m always playing the comparison game and things like Pintrest & Facebook, all of the social media on which people post pics of the various activities they’re doing w/ their kids and meals they’ve cooked too often have me feeling like I’m failing my daughter. And I’m not the only one. Also interviewed were Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress, and Jennifer Marshall, the woman behind Bi-Polar Mom Life. I’m honored to be included.

You can find the article here.

Thanks for reading!

Depression is Not a Joke: Thoughts on Robin Williams’ Suicide From A Fellow Depressive

I lay in bed, phone in hand, reading about Robin Williams’ severe depression, how the disease beat him down to the point where he found suicide the only option. It didn’t surprise me. I’d known Williams’ suffered from the same condition I’ve battled for 3 decades. He’d been in and out of rehab for drugs and alcohol. He’d spoken previously about the darkness that swarmed his brain just as his breakneck wit overwhelmed the world with laughter, though he never revealed its true depth.

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The great Robin Williams lost his battle with depression on August 11, 2014.

I’ve been there, though not as close…not nearly as close. I’ve imagined the bottle of pills in my hand. I’ve pictured the heft of the gun, the barrel cold against my temple. I’ve felt the fictional sweet kiss of the razor slicing my wrists. But I’ve never done anything about it. Even at my most fatalistic, pre-Elaine, pre-Sienna, I couldn’t put thoughts to action. Too frightened. Too scared of judgment. Post wife and daughter, the thoughts still appear randomly like fleeting wisps in the night. They’ve been there this past week and a half as I’ve suffered through a deep depressive episode triggered by something I’ve yet to figure out. My therapist and I are working on it, trying to pull me out of this feeling that I’m in the blackest ocean abyss, chains constricting my legs like an anaconda, arms flailing upwards against the crushing weight of the sea and the heaviness in my legs. I’ve had days this past week+ when I didn’t want to get out of bed despite my 2-year-old daughter needing her daddy. Sometimes my mom would come and take Sienna for a few hours so I could sleep (my usual means of recovery). Elaine took care of Sienna one evening last week so I could go see Boyhood, a movie filmed over 12 years about a boy and his family as they grow. The movie just exacerbated my mood as I felt time slip away. Just as the finale of Six Feet Under destroyed me with a montage of each character’s lives and deaths go by quicker and quicker making me lose my tentative grasp on time and causing a tearful breakdown in the car in my wife’s presence, so too did Boyhood, though this time from a parent’s perspective. As I watched Mason (Ellar Coltrane) literally age from 6 to 18 in the span of 2 hours and 40 minutes, I again lost that elusive and impossible grip on time, feeling Sienna grow faster and faster and faster. She’s still not yet 2 and a half, but I saw her graduate high school and I heard Mason’s mom’s (Patricia Arquette’s) heartsick words echoing through my head: “I got my degree. I got a good job.I put you through college. What’s next? My funeral?” (paraphrased). I’m almost never affected by film or television or literature, but I was by Boyhood. Knowing the state I was in, I should have gone to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ve had panic attacks this past week+ because I haven’t blogged in so long and I’m afraid readers and fellow dad bloggers will abandon me. For some reason I’ve been unable to even scroll through Facebook as if touching the keys would burn my fingertips and seeing the happiness of others will blind me. I’m terrified that if I don’t share other people’s blogs, if I don’t comment, if don’t hit the “like” button, they’ll all leave me. So I’ve shared some things without reading them. I’ve hit “like” a few times. I’ve made a comment or two. I’ve even posted about this, my most recent fight with this damn disease, and caring people have responded, some have send PMs, but I’ve been unable to read them. I post and run. Post and run. I can’t scroll long. It hurts too much. And I don’t know why.

This isn’t my first battle as I’ve said. I was unofficially diagnosed at age 9, 31 years ago. I kept everything inside until 1996 when I had my first nervous breakdown and then went back to bottling it up until my second nervous breakdown in 2010. I’ve been on so many different medications I’ve lost count. I’ve seen 4 different therapists and 4 different psychiatrists with my most recent ones being the best. I can be fine for months and then something can trigger an episode, something seemingly innocuous that leads to irrational thought after irrational thought until my brain might as well be a Sharknado, turning and twisting and biting. Each waking second I feel like I’m up against a Mt. Everest of negativity, 31 years of incongruous thought processes and feelings – wrong thoughts and feelings as my therapist will be quick to point out.

Depression is a fiercely selfish disease. When you’re deep inside its clutches, you can’t see how you’re affecting others. My sister taught me that years ago when she lectured how the world walks on eggshells around me, how no one knows what will set me off. I keep that in mind as best as I can but I still succumb at times. I’m better than I was 18 years ago, 10 years ago, 4 years ago. My episodes don’t last as long. Suicidal ideation is rare and cursory. But the triggers, those bastards, still exist and often I don’t see them coming and need time to work through them. And that’s what I do. I work. Hard. Each and every day. And I’ll never commit suicide. I have a responsibility to those I love. I can’t ever hurt Elaine and Sienna like that.

Robin Williams’ decision to end his life wasn’t fair to his wife or his children, family, friends. But was it wrong? I can’t say that it was. He was tortured. Another tortured genius like Hemingway and Woolf who could no longer battle his demons. Depression, like most mental illnesses is a cancer of the mind. If the pain gets too intense, who am I or who is anyone to tell a person to keep going if there’s no fight left, if each breath, each second is a waking nightmare. If someone has cancer, is in unending pain, sees no light at the tunnel and wants to end it, isn’t it just as selfish of us to ask him/her to keep living and fighting because we want them in OUR lives? I wouldn’t kill myself, but I can’t say Robin Williams is wrong for taking that road. Who knows how deep his depression went? Who knows what he thought in his last moments? This is a man who covered his sickness as best as he could, who made millions laugh as his own brain probably screamed he was a failure. We were robbed of so many more laughs created by Robin Williams, but not by Robin Williams himself. We were robbed by Depression.

I couldn’t sleep last night after reading about Robin Williams. I kept envisioning his last agonized moments. And then I’d wonder if his death would push me over the unable-to-blog hump and I’d chastise myself for it. Then I started thinking about all of the bloggers that would beat me to the punch and/or write with a more poetic touch. And I felt so egotistical. So disgusted with myself. At 3-something in the morning I posted on Facebook about my insomnia, Robin Williams, and my warped warped thoughts and fears. I’ve yet to read any responses, though my mother said I received a ton of support. If I can I write this then I can read those responses. I’m proud of myself for writing. I think. I hope.

If there’s any positive in this tragic loss it’s that Robin Williams was such a high profile figure, such a supposedly kind and humble man in person, such a dynamo on film and stage, that maybe the light will finally shine on mental illness. Maybe more information about mental illness will be available to the masses. Maybe the government and insurance companies will do more for those of us who suffer either aloud or in silence. Maybe they’ll do more to create affordable therapies and medication. Most importantly, maybe we’ll all talk about it more. People will look to Robin Williams and no longer be afraid to speak up. I’ve found that talking about my disease with fellow sufferers has been a huge form of therapy. They get me. And there are millions of us.

It’s time to stop being afraid if you suffer from depression or any mental illness for that matter. It’s time to stop fearing judgment. Step into the light and talk about it. If you’re feeling suicidal, call someone. Call a hotline. Seek help. Because we’re in this together. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

As proven by the unfortunate loss of Robin Williams.

Gratitude List

My therapist assigned me a “Gratitude List” during our last session and keeps pestering me to post it on my blog because I’ve been unable to write due to a prolonged depressive episode. I don’t want to do this, but I will anyway:

1) Elaine (my wife)

2) Sienna (my daughter)

3) Oscar (my best friend)

4) Brian (my other best friend)

5) Chocolate

I wrote these things as the popped into my head and IMMEDIATELY felt horrible that it lacked family members. Then I blamed myself for not combining Elaine and Sienna into “family” and Oscar and Brian into “friends” thereby making room for other people/things. And chocolate? I don’t know why that even made the radar.

So I did my assignment, but my irrational guilt and second-guessing kind of tore it to shreds.

Isn’t depression a wonderful thing?

On the positive side it’s the first time I not only haven’t balked at an assignment, I actually ASKED for one. That’s how sick I am of feeling this way. Maybe now I can do the second part of the assignment which is to blog about this recent episode.

Sienna and “The Breakfast Club” in 2027

Sienna’s 2 year, 4 months old. She’s never step foot in a pre-school classroom. And yet last night I lay awake until 3 am thinking about Sienna’s high school experience because I had the great fortune to attend a 30th anniversary screening of what I consider to be arguably the most honest and accurate portrayals of HS life ever to grace the silver screen - The Breakfast Club - and I can’t wait to share it with my toddler daughter.

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No I’m not gonna sit her down in front of the TV and show her an R-rated film filled with cursing and frank sexual conversations, but in 13 years when she’s entering the heightened social world of HS, you can bet I will because the late John Hughes’ brilliant dialogue and character development, his ability to capture and destroy these 5 HS archetypes was uncanny and stands the test of time.

Each iconic character – Molly Ringwald’s popular, “conceited” Claire; Judd Nelson’s brash, “anarchic” John; Emilio Estevez’s athletic, “strong” Andy; Anthony Michael Hall’s anxious, “nerdy” Brian; and Ally Sheedy’s silent, “screwed-up” Allison – proves to be unhappily lumped into a category by both adults and school life. Each feels better than at least one other club member because that’s how they’re supposed to feel. And each learns that they can break out of their prisons, that their comrades all share disdain for their sometimes bullying, sometimes ignorant parents and authority figures. Each learns they have flaws. Each learns they have strengths. Each learns the other is a real person and not a cardboard cutout.

Even the adults come off flawed as imperfect. Brian and Andy’s respective parents pressure their kids into being things they don’t want to be. Via his stories, John’s household is rife with abuse. Allison’s parents appear as shadows in car and completely ignore their daughter. Claire’s father equates money with love. Paul Gleason’s Principal Vernon tries to come off as all-powerful, but he’s jaded and frightened of where his world is leading. Only John Kapelas’ Carl the janitor feels sure of his position as unknowingly to the Club and Vernon, he’s the eyes and ears of the school, collecting and keeping all its secrets, sometimes for a price, yet being a custodian is not what he wanted to be.

I want Sienna to see this, to know that she doesn’t need to fit into HS cliques to be a person, to see that parents make mistakes and to understand that although I’ll have my own flaws, I’ll never an abusive father, I’ll never apply extreme pressure, I’ll always want to be in her life and help her feel safe in unsafe world. I want her to know that she can be herself, especially in high school, and that those that do succumb to stereotypes might have things going on in their lives that she doesn’t know about.

This applies to me as well. I have so much trouble remembering that I too often take things at face value. I see people with houses, fancy cars, and huge job statuses and immediately think they’re rich and happy. I see Facebook pictures and think people lead perfect lives. It’s just one terrible aspect of depression, your brain creating false worlds based on the smallest details.

So in 12-13 years I plan to sit down with Sienna and show her one of my favorite films. She’ll probably roll her eyes at watching a movie that will by then be over 40 years old, but if I do right by her, if I’m still the parent I strive to be, she’ll be receptive. And then she’ll watch the magic on the screen, fake realities shattered.

And she’ll know.

High school hasn’t changed all that much in 40 years.

Dad’s experienced the insane world that is high school. He’s a person - just like her – but with his own imperfections.

And no matter what, he’ll never forget about Sienna.

What other high school genre films do you feel fit the fold standard of The Breakfast Club?

Depression: It’ll Be Back

Depression is like the terminator, but not the slow and steady Arnold Schwarzenegger version. It’s more like the Robert Patrick design from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that liquid metal that regroups if blown apart, twists and morphs into various forms in its quest to take you down, and is exceptionally fast, determined, and dangerous. You could be cruising along for weeks thinking that your meds are working (and they are) and then suddenly it’s on you like hot lead, crushing you with sadness. And sometimes you don’t know how it found you or how to take charge and battle it until someone points out the trigger or it’s revealed in therapy. That’s what happened to me over the weekend. I’d had a number of good weeks and then depression was back in all its horrible glory leaving me feeling as if stuffed into a sarcophagus of sadness.

terminator

Still from Terminator 2: Judgment Day

But why?

Let’s flip back the calendar.

Months ago my college friends and I decided to get together in Boulder, Colorado to celebrate our 40th birthdays. Excited at first, I soon became agitated and nervous, unsteady and unsure. I began having panic attacks because without warning I WAS the college me, not the 40-year-old me, the boy who felt ditched for alcohol, whose desires felt secondary to his friends’ need to party all the time. I didn’t drink in college. I was too afraid, terrified that by losing control my since-corrected gynecomastia (male breast enlargement) would be exposed. And yet I wound up in a group of heavy drinkers I met Freshman year. It wasn’t all bad, but because I was depressed and frightened I was unable to seek out others who shared my likes: movie nights, baseball, etc. My friends are good guys but acted like college kids since, well, they WERE college kids. They were selfish, sometimes cruelly so, in regards to considering my feelings, and I felt I gave a hell of a lot more than I received. They all apologized over the years and I think it was genuine. I no longer blame them but apparently the kid in me still does. He remains mistrustful, fearful of getting hurt and worried I’d get drowned out like in school and eventually those feelings burst from my chest in anxious breaths and caused my fingers to tremble. Would my friends listen to my wishes to see the natural wonder of Boulder every once in awhile in lieu of getting wasted? Almost all of them are 40 now, but would they, now that they were together in a big group again for the first time in who knows how many years, want to relive their college years? The rational side of my brain said no, that we’d go to a Colorado Rockies game (which I’d requested to do when we first talked about Boulder), that we’d drive around and explore the picturesque town in addition to the expected drinking, that my voice would be heard, but the hurt college kid in me disagreed.I couldn’t commit to the vacation knowing that should I go, I’d (whether wanting to or not) “test” their sincerity. That wouldn’t be fair to them, nor would the fact that they’d have to be on edge around me in case I had a panic attack. So I pulled out of the Colorado adventure.

The reunion happened this past weekend. And that, Elaine pointed out, was the trigger that allowed my terminator to find me.

And so that pulverizing depression as I subconsciously second guessed myself. as I lay in bed completely unable to care for Sienna. According to Elaine, now that I’d “found my tribe” in the dad blogger community and been fully accepted for who and what I am (though I’m still shaky on that), that weekend was like breaking up with the old me and thus I was in some sort of mourning. I think that’s partly true. I think it hurt me that I feel more accepted by the dad blogger community now then I ever did in college, but I also think I was berating myself for not being fair to my college friends, for not trusting them.

Trust is such a tricky thing when you suffer from depression and have been stung as many times as I have over the years. You so want to give it, but you’re scared to. You want to believe, but your irrational mind won’t let you. You want and need almost tangible confirmation, but that’s impossible to get. Your damaged brain won’t let you take that leap of of faith.

Should I have taken a leap of faith with my college friends? Did I blow a chance to have an amazing time with people I haven’t seen in years, friends that might have mellowed from their partying days?

The fog of depression is starting to lift. I look at Sienna and Elaine and know they’re here for me, that they’re the most important things in my life. I also went to a dads’ night out courtesy of the NYC Dads Group and Baby Bjorn at a swanky hotel for the MLB All-Star game and cheered Derek Jeter on during his final appearance. I talked baseball and laughed and received hugs from friends knowing I was going through a rough time, that I was once more suffering depression. I received tons of messages on FB from dad bloggers across the world giving me virtual hugs. And I’m so thankful for that.

But at the same time I wish I’d had the courage to go to Boulder and place my trust in my college friends and I feel haunted knowing I might never again have the opportunity to find out.

Now back to battling my personal terminator.

all star game

30 members of the NYC Dads Group (including myself and many of my friends) gathered to watch the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

A Tantrum Leads To A Near Wedding Fiasco

We double, triple, quadrupled checked everything. Meticulously packed all items. Card holding crucial check stored in Elaine’s handbag. We packed up Sienna for her overnight stay with my parents making sure all her favorite stuffed animals were accounted for and we were good to go for our 3 and a half hour trip from New York to Pennsylvania for our friends’ wedding. We even got the front door open.

And then like an unforeseen hailstorm – tantrum.

Sienna wanted to wear her Mickey Mouse fleece despite it being 83 degrees outside and was not leaving the apartment until that red and white polka-dotted coat safely encased her torso. We tried reason, but it shockingly failed miserably. So we put her in the fleece because we had to go go go.

Got down to the car, buckled her into her carseat, and set off for my parents. Dropped her off with my dad with lunchtime instructions (like she’d eat anything) and once we plugged in our hotel’s address into Google Maps, it was time for smooth sailing pending little traffic.

Elaine and I relaxed a bit knowing we were Sienna-free for a bit more than a day. We sang along to 80s ballads. We talked about weddings and reminisced about our own. We planned to get to the hotel with hours to spare so we could unwind from the drive and shower before the cocktail hour and reception. It wasn’t until we reached the mouth of the Holland Tunnel that Elaine shouted something that made my guts fall into my shoes:

“We forgot your suit! My dress! We have nothing to wear!!”

That’s what a toddler tantrum can do. It can unravel all of your painstaking plans and careful choreography. Our formal wear stood in the closet next to the front door laughing at us fools now an hour away from home. Sienna was probably obliviously happy in the park, playing with in the sprinklers with Pop-Pop, her fleece long out of mind.

“What should we do? There’s no way not to go through the tunnel!”

“It makes no sense to go back,” Elaine said. “It’d take us 2 hours to get back here. They’ll forgive us when they hear the story.”

“We can’t go in wearing jeans and t-shirts!” I countered.

The Holland Tunnel opens right next to the Newport Mall on the New Jersey side. It was almost serendipitous. We screeched into the mall parking lot and raced to Macy’s. Time for emergency shopping!

Elaine and I raced to the women’s petite section and she desperately pulled everything in her size off the rack.

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Elaine makes a face of desperation as we emergency shop

The second dress she tried on was perfect. She grabbed some gold stud earrings off a kiosk and then it was my turn. I needed slacks, a sport jacket, a tie, a shirt and a belt. Luckily we’d packed our shoes in the suitcase. We ran to the mens’ section but both of us were lost, so we asked for assistance. We told the nice woman who helped us that we were on our way to Pennsylvania and just now realized we’d forgotten our formal wear.

“What?” She said. “You know, I’m angry at you! How could you do that?”

“We have a 2-year-old. She threw a tantrum.”

“Stop right there. I forgive you. Mine’s 4. Let’s go find you an outfit.”

Elaine and the saleswoman worked together to pick out my clothes and it was perfection. The suit fit perfectly and matched Elaine’s dress. She then told us to hold onto the tags so we could return everything which didn’t feel right to me.

“You didn’t hear it from me,” the saleswoman said, “But people do it all the time. Besides, in your case it’s a toddler-related emergency. Don’t worry about it.”

We bought the clothes, drove the rest of the way to the hotel, checked in, got dressed and made it right at the end of the cocktail hour. But we had to stop and take a picture, of course. I mean, how many times does something crazy like this happen? And we did look good for being dressed almost completely off the rack. My wife looked especially hot.

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Off the rack, baby!

 

I don’t know how many times we told the story, but it got huge laughs including from the bride and groom.

“You see how much we love you?” We joked. “This is what we do for you!”

It was a beautiful reception, two cultures (Indian and Chinese) coming together to form a brand new one just as Elaine (Latina) and I (Jewish) had 8 years prior. We ate and danced all while making sure not to mess up our clothes.

The following day we made a pitstop at Indian Echo Caverns which was just 20 minutes from the hotel and got to marvel at some of nature’s beauty. As I looked at the glistening stalactites and stalagmites, crystal-embedded limestone and underground lakes, I forgave my daughter for her last-second tantrum and imagined taking her to and sharing with her such a wondrous place as Echo Caverns. There’s something about appreciating each moment with your child, about not wanting them to reach the next phase in life, but there’s also something about wanting them to reach that point where they excitedly look at the green, blue, red, white rock formations just beneath a parking lot. I can’t wait to see the awe in her eyes when she sees something like this:

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An underground lake at Indian Echo Caverns

But that’s still 1-2 years away.

What amazes me most is how I handled the situation. No I wasn’t happy, but for some reason anxiety did not grasp my chest and leave me incapacitated. In the past I would have been reduced to jelly. I probably wouldn’t have been able to drive and it’s quite possible we never would have been there to witness our friends’ nuptials because my parents would have had to drive out to Jersey City to take my shaking, stuttering self home. But this time laughed at the ludicrousness of our predicament. This time I emergency-shopped. I problem-solved. And when we reached Queens on the way home, we dropped in at Macy’s and returned just about everything. The dress stays. Elaine’s just way too gorgeous in it.

So I forgive Sienna for being 2 and throwing a tantrum and forcing us to forget to bring our formal wear to a wedding 3 and a half hours away. I can’t be angry with her, especially since we avoided a potential fiasco and I proved to myself that I am indeed improving in the mental health department. I might not be exactly where I want to be, but I can’t refute facts.

Besides, she gave us a great story to tell.