Tag Archive | Lunesta

Anger Management Part I

My cat Lunesta, named for my favorite sleeping pill. She really knows how to chill out.

My cat Lunesta, named for my favorite sleeping pill. She really knows how to chill out.

Is it just me, or does anger management get easier with age? It’s taken me decades, but everyday aggravations don’t get me nearly as riled up as they used to. Is it simply that my psychotropic meds are working the way they should? Is it because of hormonal and biochemical changes as I creep toward genuine old age? Or is it the cumulative effect of all the years of life experience I’ve racked up?

Maybe it’s all three, but in any case I’m grateful that I’m usually able to follow Bobby McFerrin’s advice – “Don’t worry, be happy.” (That’s when I’m not in a clinical depression, of course. But deep depression is so enervating, it doesn’t leave enough energy for anger.)

Over the past couple of days, though, something’s been making me intensely angry. No need to go public with the details – suffice it to say that it involves a creative group project I’ve been a part of for several years on an annual basis. Over time, the group’s chairperson has become increasingly dictatorial and resistant to anyone else’s ideas, to the point where I decided I could no longer associate myself with this venture, even though it’s something that’s brought me great pleasure over the years. 

In years gone by, I would have fumed and fretted over whether or not to quit. I probably would have done some yelling and screaming, slugged down a couple of glasses of wine, lain awake nights obsessing over the injustice of it all. Today, there was none of that dramatizing. I simply sent the person an e-mail saying I was dropping out. I’ll admit I copied in a couple of relevant people, and there may be some further fallout, but I’m sticking with my decision to distance myself from a situation that’s clearly bringing me uptight and is thus potentially damaging to my mental health.

I’m proud of how I handled this. I did what I had to do, said what I had to say, but now it’s over and done, and I’ve already moved on. I’m feeling calm, and my pulse rate and blood pressure are back down where they should be. Writing this blog post is cathartic as well – how wonderful to be able to channel all that angry energy into writing that all the world can read! 

Katie Couric show on January 14th, the day I visited

Katie Couric show on January 14th, the day I visited

Since my recent visit to Katie Couric’s show, I’ve been watching her more than ever, though I clicked off today because she’s interviewing families with lots of kids, and frankly, I couldn’t care less. But a few programs ago, the show featured a cardiologist who hooked her up to a heart rate monitor, thereby demonstrating that her pulse went up alarmingly when she was caught in midtown Manhattan traffic (even with her own private car and driver!) or before the show when she encountered some fans and wasn’t yet wearing her makeup. Over time, that kind of physiological reaction can do serious damage to a body. Though I’m not a Type A adrenaline junkie, my blood pressure is borderline high, and I believe the ability to chill out at will is a valuable talent worth cultivating.

Buddhist meditation

Author’s note, two days later:

Just as I typed the words “Buddhist meditation,” a friend phoned me. Maybe not coincidentally, she’s extremely involved in Buddhist meditation. Jungian synchronicity, maybe? After that, I had to go to my UU church for choir practice. Then yesterday, we visited my brother in the Bronx, so I haven’t had time to get back to this post until now.

Visiting with my brother Pete Lomoe in his Bronx apartment yesterday. He looks rather like Buddha, doesn't he?

Visiting with my brother Pete Lomoe in his Bronx apartment yesterday. He looks rather like Buddha, doesn’t he?

There’s lots more to say, but I think I’ll save it for my next post. I’ll close with a brief progress note about the situation I described above: writing that e-mail saying Sayonara wrapped up that issue nicely, and though it still comes to mind off and on, I’m still calm and collected about it. Besides, it’s one more responsibility off my plate, giving me that much more time to zero in on my novel.

Does anger play a major role in your life? Any coping strategies you’d care to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Entropeia – Goddess of Disorder

Kali

I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of entropy, the idea that chaos and disorder tend to increase in a closed system. I’m not talking about the scientific explanations – the second law of thermodynamics and all the inscrutable equations that remind me of why science courses terrified me in college. Rather, I’m using the term the way sociologists do, as a measure of what Merriam-Webster describes as “chaos, disorganization, randomness.”

 As a description of my life, sometimes those words seem all too apt. Another definition I like describes entropy as “a measure of the unavailability of energy in a closed system” – not a bad description of clinical depression, when life closes in claustrophobically and it’s hard even to get out of bed. I’ve only recently emerged from over a year of living in this sorry state, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

A year ago, in the depths of my doldrums, I summoned the energy to write a poem in which entropy takes on the guise of a goddess. Here it is:

Entropeia

I’m Entropeia, Goddess of Disorder

Shape shifter, seductress

Enticing as your cat Lunesta

Purring and writhing on your desk

Unsheathed claws swatting the mouse

Knocking your pens and papers to the floor

Where they remain untouched for days on end

 

Over the years I’ve worn away

The letters at the center of your keyboard

A dozen keys, blank as an erased blackboard

Your fingers blindly grope for vanished symbols

You used to know by heart

 

Words become maddeningly elusive

Refuse to reveal themselves

Hide in the plaques and tangles

Of your aging brain

I wield Time’s Arrow

Wound you with panicked fear

Of irreversible dementia

 

I lure you with endless hours

Of Spider solitaire

Clawed hand cramping the mouse

You bargain with time for one more game

And throw away another day

Blundering on with stinging eyes

Till darkness falls

 

Nature tends from order to disorder

In isolated systems

That’s the entropic law that guides my every move

Your every lonely act or lazy lack of action

Under my ruthless reign

You fall apart

 

Athena

I’m delighted to report I no longer feel I’m falling apart, and I’ve managed to transcend my writer’s block and fear of dementia. But the other manifestations of disorder and chaos remain major issues. Lunesta still writhes around on my desk and tries to swat the mouse to the floor, and yes, she’s named for the sleeping pill I still take every night.

And I’m still using the same keyboard with the rubbed-away letters. The year of nonproductivity impacted on my touch typing ability, and I make more typos than I used to. Still, on the whole, life is good.

 

 

 

 

Dogs I’ve loved in life and fiction

Congratulations to Karen Walker, winner of my 50,000 hits contest. Though Karen lives across the country, we’ve shared a lot over the past year through the Blog Book Tours group. I invite you to visit her wonderful blog, Following the Whispers. Here’s the post I contributed to her blog for my Blog Book Tour last November.

Truth can be stranger than fiction:

the tragic saga of Lucky, my golden retriever

Lucky and Me (Author photo for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders) Courtesy Hot Shot Photos

Dogs have long played a central role in my life and my fiction but Lucky, the beautiful golden retriever in my author photo for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, may have been the last dog I’ll ever own. Six months after the photo was taken, he died of lymphoma, and in the years since then, I’ve switched to cats. Setting up this Blog Book Tour, reading my hosts’ reactions to the photo, I realized I’d never written about Lucky. Since Karen’s blog focuses on memoir and nonfiction, this seems like the perfect time.

But Rishi, the dog before Lucky, deserves pride of place. He’s a major character in Mood Swing. In fact, his image is in my cover illustration, and his name is the first word in the first chapter:

            Rishi was halfway out the window and onto the fire escape when I tackled him. Arms around my dog’s massive shoulders, I groped for his choke chain and yanked hard. Half a dozen pigeons flapped skyward, squawking.

            I described him on Page 2:

            He’s leaner and rangier than a German shepherd, stockier than a Doberman, bigger than a Rottweiler. Despite his forbidding looks, he’s a basically friendly beast, but sometimes it’s in my best interests not to let people know that.

That last sentence was literary license. Rishi was wonderfully affectionate and loving, but only to our immediate family, and he was never adequately trained. Despite a near-death experience with a neighbor’s hammer that left a permanent dent in his skull, Rishi lived nearly ten years, a good long life for a big dog. But his death threw me into a deep depression.

Enter Lucky, a year or so later. He came into our lives with what seemed at first to be joyous synchronicity. At a Woodstock party given by friends of my daughter Stacey, someone mentioned having a golden retriever who needed a new home. I was instantly intrigued – we’d owned a beautiful golden named Shawna when Stacey was a child, and except for her propensity to chew up the woodwork during thunderstorms, she’d been a wonderful member of the family.

Right after the party, I paid a home visit to meet Lucky, fell instantly in love, called my husband on my cell, and within a week we had a beautiful four-year-old male golden. He came with a tragic back story: he’d been the beloved companion of an 84-year-old man who lived alone in the Catskills, and when the man was hospitalized, one of the nurses befriended both him and Lucky. Shortly after the man’s discharge, he was brutally murdered by a neighbor he’d known and trusted for years, a handyman in search of money for drugs.

The nurse took Lucky in, and in turn passed him on to the folks who gave him to us for adoption. The poor dog was threatening the family’s togetherness. They already had a couple of young kids, a poodle and a cat, and a rambunctious young retriever sent them over the top. The husband’s job took him on the road a lot, but when he was home, he told us, he and Lucky slept together downstairs while the wife, kids, poodle and cat slept upstairs. Not exactly a prescription for marital bliss, so Lucky had to go.

Soon after the photo session with Lucky, his health began spiraling downward. He couldn’t seem to keep food down, and he was weakening and losing weight. After extensive testing, the vet diagnosed lymphoma. In a futile attempt to buy more time, we opted for extensive – and expensive – surgery. In retrospect, that was a mistake, but he’d been so young, so lovable, that we thought it was worth the gamble.

He died in early fall. We buried him in the garden out back, marked the spot with a marble plaque bearing an iris design my husband had carved years before. I planted dozens of bulbs – crocus, daffodil, and hyacinth – and they’ve bloomed luxuriously in the three years since.

Dogs play a major role in both my novels, but they never, ever come to a bad end. In fact the villain in my suspense novel Eldercide nearly refuses an assignment when he thinks it might mean harming the victim’s Jack Russell terrier. And I could probably never write that scene where the neighbor tries to murder Rishi with a ball peen hammer, with me coming between them, shrieking that he’ll have to kill me first, screaming bloody murder until the neighbors call 911 and the police arrive. On the other hand, maybe enough time has passed – and after all, the dog survived in the end.

 As I write, my cat Lunesta is writhing around on the desk next to my computer, tempting me to rub her tummy and doing her best to bat the mouse out of my hand and onto the floor. Does she sense I’m writing about dogs? Is she demanding equal time? For now, she’ll have to wait.

Post script five months later: it’s a beautiful spring day, and the green shoots of the crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are pushing out of the ground atop Lucky’s grave. Lunesta is sleeping in a basket by my side, soaking up the sunshine.

I did the cover illustrations for both my books, by the way. The medium is pastel.

How about you? Any pet stories you’d like to share? Have your pets played a role in your fiction?

 

Burning resolutions: lose weight, conquer clutter. So what else is new?

Why have I been procrastinating for over two days about this New Year’s blog post? Probably because one of my biggest resolutions, as always, is to quit procrastinating. This is the first year I’ve vowed to send my resolutions out into the world via my blog, and that makes committing to them in writing all the more difficult. It’s already January 3rd, and I’ve broken several already, but since they were only in my head, not on paper, that hardly counts, right?

Wrong. I’ve spent the first days of the New Year basically goofing off and feeling guilty about it. But the holiday weekend’s almost over and it’s time to get down to business. Last week I broke my self-imposed “no Facebook quizzes” rule and created a “How well do you know Julie Lomoe?”* questionnaire. Here was my first question:

1) What’s my most burning resolution for the coming year?

a) To conquer my cluttering habit once and for all

b) To lose 20 pounds

c) To start making significant money from my writing

d) To sell the paintings I showed at Woodstock 1969

e) All the above

The correct answer, as my granddaughter Kaya correctly guessed, was “All the above,” but some of the resolutions are more burning than others. I could easily fill a blog post with each one of them, but today I’ll tackle just two.

Weight loss: this is an annual pro forma goal, forever unattainable because I seem to be stuck at a comfortable set point and I enjoy wine, cheese and pizza too much to put myself on a deprivation diet. My husband and I are enrolled in a “Lose to Win” program at the local YMCA, and he lost 13 pounds in the last eight weeks, while I lost a big fat goose-egg zero, although our diets are very similar. Yes, I know men lose weight more easily than women, who are genetically programmed to build up more stores of fat, but it’s so unfair, it makes me feel even more like eating!

Of the four resolutions, weight loss is definitely the least burning. Now that I’m spending so much more time online with my butt firmly planted in my chair, it’s become even more difficult. I’ve cut back on career building via personal appearances and networking, so I have less motivation to get into my “dress for success” clothes. Bathrobes and sweat suits cover a multitude of sins!

Conquering clutter: here’s another resolution I make annually, but it takes on added urgency with time, because unlike my weight, which remains fairly constant, the volume and density of the clutter grow substantially every year. Most of it’s paper and books, but I have clothes dating back to the 1960s. For years I’ve mulled over the possibility of using the fabrics in quilts or collages, but I’ve come to the realization that’s probably never going to happen. Then there are all the supplies for various long abandoned craft projects. My husband threw out all the silk flowers, but I’ve still got half a room full of beading and jewelry supplies, and I know I’ll get back to them one of these days.

Has anyone here watched “Hoarders”? It’s a reality show that airs on A&E every Monday at 10pm. As the website describes it, “Each 60-minute episode of Hoarders is a fascinating look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis.” Many of these folks are mentally ill and at serious risk of having their houses condemned or losing custody of their children because of their cluttering habits. In each episode, a clinical psychologist, an organizing expert and a team of junk removers make home visits to help them mend their ways.

I’m not nearly at the level of the woman who was surprised to find two dead, squashed cats buried in all the garbage, but the show is enough to strike terror into my heart and inspire me to modify my hoarding behavior. Speaking of which, this post is long enough – I think I’ll go conquer some clutter!

How about you – do you have any resolutions you’d like to share? Do you believe New Year’s resolutions are a good thing, or would you rather forget about them and avoid the guilt trip? I’d love to hear from you.

*Kaya’s the one who inspired me to create this quiz, after I took hers and my daughter’s. Several writer friends have been sending them out as well. They take only a few minutes to create, and they’re an interesting way of exploring your own priorities and learning more about your Facebook friends. If you’d like to take mine and find a link for creating your own, visit my profile on Facebook and you’ll find the quiz on the lower left.

**I’m not acquainted with the cat in the photo, but he/she reminds me a lot of my beloved Lunesta. I recently bought her a soft, fuzzy pet bed and placed it on my desk near my computer. She loves to sleep in it, and it partially solves the problem of her lounging all over the desk and knocking papers down. Lunesta’s more of a tabby, and her hair’s shorter, but she’s the most marvellous cat in the world, of course.

Depressed? Today is National Depression Screening Day

Munch Sick Child lithograph

Did you know that this is National Depression Screening Day? No? Neither did I, until I checked my Inbox this morning and found the following story. I believe it’s important enough to reprint in full.

 

Economic Downturn

Taking Toll

on Americans’ Mental Health

New National Survey Finds Jobless Individuals Four Times as Likely to Report Serious Problems

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new national survey shows the economic downturn is taking a toll on the mental health of Americans. Individuals who are unemployed are four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness.

Munch Melancholy1891Americans who experienced involuntary changes in their employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, also are twice as likely to have these symptoms, even though they are employed full time.

The survey was conducted for Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness in collaboration with the Depression is Real Coalition. The results come from telephone interviews of 1,002 adults nationwide from September 17-20.

The release of the findings coincides with Mental Illness Awareness Week (from October 4 to 10) and National Depression Screening Day, which takes place this Thursday, October 8.

“This survey clearly shows that economic difficulties are placing the public’s mental health at serious risk, and we need affirmative action to address these medical problems,” said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. “Individuals confronting these problems should seek help for their problems – talk to their doctor, trusted friend or advisor or mental health professional.”

“Unemployment today stands at almost 10 percent. Nationwide, we face a mental health crisis as well as an economic crisis,” said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, M.S.W., executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “There is no shame in seeking help to overcome unemployment or a medical illness. For the sake of all our loved ones, it’s important to learn to recognize symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses. Screening helps. Talk with a doctor about any concerns.”

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