In the Beginning…

Most of you probably don’t even know how this all began. My mother died four years ago on May 14th, 2008. I had recently separated from my partner of 8 years and left a job of almost 13 years. I was alone. I was numb. I had no direction. The only solace I found was driving down country highways with a pack of cigarettes, a cup of coffee and country music blaring on my radio. I quickly became friends with the 3rd shift employees of gas stations and grocery stores. I came home late and went to sleep with my pup Griffin snuggled at my feet. Day after day I lost clients as I canceled or forgot appointments. Quickly my business declined and my credit card debt grew. While talking to my cousin Caroline one day, she suggested I start a blog for my business to help me get more clients. “You’re a great writer”, she said, “people will be able to relate to you and they’ll want to come see you.”

I had never heard of blogging before and I didn’t really understand much about the internet. I had exited a relationship into a world of Facebook and Myspace. Youtube and dating sites. To say it simply…I was lost. Nothing made sense to me anymore. I couldn’t even figure out how to do my bills online. But I was determined to try.

One night in July, I found myself distracted while driving around and went home early. I sat down at the computer and began my blog which was originally titled Suicide Birds and Seahorses. I started to explain why I was starting the blog. Actually, it might be easier if you read my first entry. Here it is, Suicide Birds and Seahorses July 28th, 2008:

Hmmmm….where should I start…well, I guess at the beginning…I’m not even sure that I understand the purpose of this, but I know eventually it will find me. Let’s start, Halloween, 2007. Unsatisfied, unfulfilled with my life, I sat on the porch in the Smokey Mountains at 2:30 a.m. with a friend discussing that I was nearing 40, and I didn’t feel as if I knew what I was supposed to be doing, or better yet, wasn’t doing what I felt I should be doing anymore, but I didn’t even know what that was I guess. My friend, a very wise, yet unfulfilled 57 year old, sat back, stared right into my eyes and said, “Don’t wait until you’re 57 and you’re husband sits on the couch all day watching CNN news.” It was the moment in Thelma and Louise when Thelma can no longer go back, those words released me. And I could not go back. Within the next few months, I left a seven year relationship, which at times, I am unsure was the correct decision, resigned from a job I had been with for 12 years and began writing a book. And then not one book, but two and now three. Oh, did I mention I’m a recovering addict and as such, I can’t limit myself to any one thing. And then, my mother became extremely ill and was in the hospital until May 14th, when she passed away. And driving away from the hospital that night, Bob Dylan singing “Shelter From the Storm” through my speakers, a bird swooped down and dove directly in front of my car. A suicide bird, I thought. But why would they take such a risk. For the excitement, for the test, the chance that maybe they would make it to the other side and maybe they wouldn’t? Could these small creatures really be that wise. Swallow Sage? And maybe, we were all suicide birds, putting ourselves in risky situations, or taking chances to feel for one small moment that we were truly alive. And that’s how it began for me, through all this crap that has happened, although I’ve always known it served a purpose, I’ve begun my own nosedive in front of cars on the interstate late at night. It started with dedicating one year of my life to living freely, taking chances, going where I wanted to go and not being afraid to meet new people. But now I think, maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be for me. Maybe I’m not supposed to sit like a bird on a wire, waiting for winter to fly south. Maybe, I’m supposed to fly south now, or tomorrow. But nothing makes sense and everything makes sense, all at once. Suddenly. And I don’t question anymore. Or at least I try not to. Haha…I’m not that arrogant. And one thing I know, is that the magic still exists in me, and that is part of my journey, to forever stay four, wading through the creek behind our house, watching the sunlight hit the moss on the rocks, or seven, my mom and I checking out twenty books each at the library, or nine, and still now, believing that somewhere, way down beneath the still waters of St. Barts or off the coast of Tulum, live sea horses who sport bright red top hats and sing Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”…at least I hope…I hope they do…

Wow! That just made me start crying. Four years later and my life has changed so drastically. I’m in a new relationship and married. I’m living in my mother’s old condo. I have three new dogs. I have a successful practice with clients who love coming to see me and I delight in waiting to see them. I run a full service website with my husband where we interview celebrities and do social reviews. I haven’t finished a book and now I’m writing 10 instead of 3. I still drive around at night. I still get sad. I still miss my mom.

But time goes on.

I can either sit back and be sad all of the time about things I can’t change and continue to be that lost and numb person I was four years ago, or I can ebb and flow with the tides of life and enjoy what comes my way. I prefer the later.

In exactly 10 days I turn 40. I will be posting a journal entry every day on my blog and doing a video for my YouTube channel every day. When I started this project four years ago, I did it for myself. I didn’t care how many views I got or how many people commented on my posts. I did it because I loved to write and I loved to find things to write about. I think I’ve lost some of that passion. Today, I write to inspire, not to be inspired. I need to be inspired again. I need to get back on that old, dusty road and continue my adventure…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

*I need to ask my readers for a favor! I’m trying to put together some great goals to accomplish in the next year. I’m already determined to finish writing my first book, be in the best shape I’ve ever been, pay off all of my debt and quit smoking. What are some things you think I should do? What are some books you think are important that I read? I’ve come so far in four years and accomplished so much I’d like to prove what can happen in a year. When Adele won Album of the Year at The Grammy’s she talked about the power of just one year and I agree. If I can overcome three major losses and come out on top, so can anyone else. Follow the journey with me…even make your own…because, like my mother always said, we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Please follow me here for my year long journey!
And follow my videos on YouTube HERE!

If you’d like to take a look at my old blog, Suicide Birds and Seahorses, check it out HERE!

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Barefoot Dancing…

Sometimes we find the push we need in the strangest places. Yesterday, while on Facebook, I read a poem that my dear friend Erin, who I’ve known for over 20 years, posted, stating that it had been one of her favorite poems and that her mother had it above her desk since she was a child. I read the poem, surprised that I had never seen it before, and realized instantly that the words of it’s song resonated in my heart and pulled me back from the daily troubles and life lessons that had been overwhelming my mind recently. I printed off the poem, making two copies. One to hang of the fridge and the other one to hand above my desk in my office, next to my picture of a remote beach in Antigua.

And today, as I stood in my office, checking off all of the things I had to get done on my list, my eyes grazed over that poem and old Nadine, the poet, spoke to me as if she were standing in that room. Suddenly, I realized that my mother, old friends even old teachers and childhood pets were dancing around me in my mind, reminding me how truly short life is and how I take even the smallest things for granted.

I opened the door and stepped out into the garden behind my office and stopped and stared up at the most amazing azure sky I had seen in a long time. And then I realized that maybe I just hadn’t been looking. I kicked off my shoes and walked into the grass surrounded with yellow and orange flowers…and I danced. Maybe because the images of all of those people from my past haunted me and reminded me that one day I would be gone too! Or maybe because of the poem. Or maybe because summer will be over soon, and then another fall and another winter and time is passing much too quickly for me to grasp on to it’s withered hands.

So I danced. And I smiled. And I imagined the poet, old Nadine Stair, whispering into my ear the words of her poem, almost as if they were commands. And now I whisper them to you! Listen carefully, and head their words, because we’re on borrowed time as it is…

IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax, I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who live
sensibly and sanely hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments,
And if I had it to do over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

Nadine Stair,
85 years old.

Moments of Grace…

Tonight, we were in the middle of giving our dog, Boo Radley, who had rolled around in some unmentionables in the yard, a bath when the electricity suddenly went out bathing the house in complete darkness. We immediately stopped in our tracks as the three dogs ran circles around us, completely unaware of the change that had occurred, or at least not bothered by the lack of light.

We walked downstairs and as Alex went outside to see how many other houses had been affected by the outage I lit candles, lighting our way around the house. I held the dogs back and walked outside to find Alex walking up and down the street. “It looks like it was just us and Norma.” He said. “Did you pay the bill this month?” He asked. “It’s not even due yet.” I said. “And yes I paid it last month. I always pay the electric bill.”

He walked back inside and I stood for a second in the dark yard and then followed him inside. I found the number for the electric company and pushed buttons around until I finally got to talk to a human being. I explained to him that we had an outage and he said the storms the previous night had affected an area they were working on and that several other people didn’t have electricity either, explaining that it shouldn’t be very long until service was back up. I hung up the phone and walked into the living room, watching the puppies jump all over Alex in the candlelight.

“Do you want to go for a walk outside and look at the stars?” I asked. “Not really.” He said, thumbing through his cell phone. “I’ll be sleeping. I need to go to bed.” I couldn’t imagine going to bed without the whir of a fan, so that was completely out.

I walked back outside and walked down the street towards our neighbor’s house, watching the blinking of the fireflies as they tangoed on a backdrop of black velvet with sparkling star lights. The night was magnificent. It was literally the perfect summer evening, something I had forgotten because of our busy schedule of cell phones, recorded television programs, meetings and social obligations.

And for a long moment, I just stood in the street and took it all in. The smell of the grass and the feeling of it’s dewy dampness on my feet, lightly scented with some June flower whose name I was unaware. I watched the fireflies blink and blink and blink, remembering catching them in glass jars with forked holes in the metal top when I was a kid. The stars in the sky were brighter than anything I could remember, reminding me gently of my aunt’s farm and how stars always seemed closer and more pronounced in areas of complete darkness. I listened to the trees in the woods gently sway in the summer breeze, their limbs clicking together a warm embrace.

Suddenly, I heard a door creak open and I saw our 90 year old, neighbor Norma walk slowly out onto her front porch. I didn’t want to scare her so I announced my presence. “Hey Norma, it’s Peter from next door. I think we have a power outage.” I said.

“Oh honey, I’m so glad it’s you. I was scared and I didn’t know how I was going to get to you and Alex.” She said. “What happened with the electricity?” I explained my conversation with the man from the electric company and she showed me that she had a flashlight so she was in no danger of falling as she leaned on her metal cane, standing rigid in her crisp, white summer pajamas. “Beautiful night though, isn’t it?” She said. “It is indeed.” I agreed, and for a moment we both stood there just enjoying an eleven o’clock hour together in June; a moment of grace we hadn’t expected. They come so very rarely these days it seems, these coming of age, To Kill a Mockingbird summer nights…

And then I walked back up the street and back into our house smiling, hoping for many more summer moments like these…because they’re the stuff that dreams are made of and well, because we’re on borrowed time as it is… ,

Getting Screwed…

Yesterday, all day, my car information system told me, “WARNING…TIRE LEVEL VERY LOW”…and of course I completely ignored it, waiting until we were going to an event last night to rush to the gas station and fill the tire with air. On our way home, I meant to stop and buy a can of Fix-a-Flat, but instead, opted to rush home and hide under the warm covers of our bed.

So it should be no surprise that when I woke up, excited to run to Starbucks and grab my daily 6-shot Iced Americano before heading out to lunch with our friend, that I found a completely flat, or as I called it, dead tire. And of course, it should also be of no surprise that I cussed out that ole truck driver in the sky.

And that got me absolutely nowhere.

So I came inside and started complaining to Alex who was lost in a world of Brother’s and Sisters and Grey’s Anatomy. “We’ll just call someone to bring us a can of that stuff and then we’ll go get a new tire. It’s not that deep.” He said, focused on the television.

“But I just paid the bills and now I have to buy a new tire and we don’t get to do anything else today because now our day is ruined!” I cursed. And he just stared at me. “Is there anything else you want to complain about?” He asked.

So I cleaned out the garage while we waited for our friend and I got more and more angry thinking about how, as Gilda Radner so appropriately said years ago, It’s always something! And that’s exactly how I felt. And then we drove to the tire place and the guy told me a new tire would be $200 and of course…I freaked out again. “I’ll give you some money,” Alex said, “How much do you want”, but I just really wanted to complain.

Until the guy came out and showed me the screw that had been stuck in my car tire. “I can fix it. It’ll only be about $25 bucks.” He said, walking away. And the guy behind the counter smiled over at me and smirked, “You got screwed!” And he was right. But not because of the tire, but because for some reason, I let it bother me all day. And as we were walking out, Alex reminded me of this as he teased me about how I had already spent the $200 on the tire before the guy even came out.

So I guess the lesson, which I give to everyone else, because it’s always easier to coach than it is to perform, is to take my own damn lessons and not borrow trouble and enjoy the present. Because the rest of the day was awesome and in my entire life…I’ve never been given more than I can handle in a day! And that’s a miracle.

And then I thought back to Gilda Radner and how I had always loved her humor on Saturday Night Live and how I loved her love affair with Gene Wilder so I started looking up some of her quotes because I think we need to look back to our teachers on a regular basis. And funny enough…I read the quotes, some of my favorites I had heard uttered so many times from my mom, and I realized, LIFE, is just not that serious…so I thought I’d share a few of them….

“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.”

“It’s such an act of optimism to get through a day and enjoy it and laugh and do all that without thinking about death. What spirit human beings have!”

“The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is that the days that you have had you will have lived.”

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Damn! I needed that today. I needed to stand in my front yard and watch my puppies Boo and Tucker run across the grass for the first time in their life, I needed to hear a version of Mr. Tambourine Man I had never heard before, I needed to eat some delicious pineapple pizza with my man and I needed to drive and dance in the car, listening to great music…how amazing life is…if only we could remember that every second and live as such…and maybe, with a little practice, I will…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Blame It On Rio…

It seems lately I’ve been getting tons of calls about relationship counseling. At the same time, I feel like every time I turn around I hear about another couple that “didn’t make it”, and I guess I’m wondering what’s been going on in the world of love right now. As someone who has been in several long term relationships that “didn’t make it”, I understand the need for separation and newness, but it isn’t always the answer. And honestly, in my last relationship, if we had come together years before and decided we needed counseling or became willing to work on our issues, maybe it would have “worked”, if I even understand the definition of “work”. But I am a believer that everything happens for a reason and we are all on a journey…each one being as different from the next.

But as a relationship therapist I know one thing…relationships are easier to reconcile and improve than they are to end and move on. If in fact your partner is not what you want anymore and they aren’t willing to change, or you two are just on two completely different roads, then maybe the best answer is to separate and discover new lives, as sad as that may be.

I know for me it was vital for me to leave my past relationship because I felt we weren’t experiencing the same passion and respect for each other as we once had and I just don’t think we were happy anymore. But I think counseling can fix these problems. Creative counseling with home assignments and a commitment to continue no matter what.

Which is not what I’ve been experiencing in my practice. I’ve met couples who are extremely invested in working together and doing home assignments and being as corny as I challenge them to be. And then I meet couples who don’t come consistently and don’t do anything I ask outside of the office and then grow frustrated because they don’t want change. Well, as a person in recovery I realize first and foremost that a desire to change is the most important part of the journey.

And I really want everyone to “make it”! Because there are enough lonely people out there that don’t have anyone in their life who constantly complain that they can’t meet anyone that we should be grateful when we do have someone…unless it’s not the right match or it doesn’t feel right. And there is nothing wrong with being single. Being single can be one of the most rejuvenating periods of a person’s life as long as they allow themselves to focus on self-improvement..enjoying time with themselves. In my practice, I am an avid supporter of not dating for a year after the ending of a relationship or just getting into recovery because it is a time which can be just for you.

Lately, I’ve been playing all these old 80’s movies in the background while I write. Into the Night, Hanky Panky, Legal Eagles and Blame it on Rio. It’s funny how those movies were different than movies now. Don’t get me wrong; I love everything that’s out there, but maybe we’ve all become a little too serious. Maybe, we need to go back to the bad hair and bad leather of the 80’s, enjoying bad music and just having a fun time. Maybe, we need to bring a little of the 80’s back into our relationship and try to just have some fun. I think we focus so much on the bills, the kids, the house that we forget all about having fun and remembering why the hell we’re together in the first place.

Find your 80’s moment…for me it’s the Brazilian music of Blame it on Rio, candles lit around the house, dancing barefoot and waiting for some fun nights out with Alex…as well as some relaxing ones too! It’s all in moderation. Just don’t be too hard on each other…relax, find the passion again, have fun…and remember why the hell you’re together in the first place.

And if that doesn’t work…call me…cause we’re on borrowed time as it is!!!

Our Big Gay Dream Wedding!!!

Ok Everyone…If you don’t know by now we’re getting married in Las Vegas and the big day is August 25th!!!! We are trying to win our dream wedding at Crate and Barrel and need you help…

Go to the link below and vote for us!!! We don’t even need 100,000 so we would be more than willing to host a huge party when we get back for everyone that votes and supports us!!! So get everyone to vote…we only need about 5000 votes to catch up!!!

Vote Here for Peter and Alex’s Dream Wedding!!!

Eyes Open, We’re Watching!!!

Soul Sistah…

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Several weeks ago, I received a call from a client, who I’m honored to say is also a friend. As I walked to the end of the driveway to get my mail, getting ready to go to dinner with Alex, I listened as she explained that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. To say this woman has had a difficult year would be a huge understatement. She has had curve balls, dodge balls, basketballs, well just about everything thrown at her this year and she has continued to stay standing up. She explained to me that she didn’t yet know the severity of the cancer diagnosis but would let me know when she knew something more. Her main concern at the time, was how she was going to tell her teenage daughter who was currently residing in a longterm residential program for addiction. As I got into the car, I just kind of lost it. Alex immediately knew something was wrong, obviously from my flood of tears, but assumed that it was some random memory I was having about my mom, which may have been part of the truth; the memory of some strange, foreboding diagnosis that no one really knows what to do with yet. He’s not a man of many words when it comes to stuff like this and all he said was, “I’m sure she will be fine.” And he was right.
I met with her later that week and she had one of the most positive attitudes of anyone I had seen in my office in quite some time. She stated that her marriage was improving, that she was more focused now than ever before, that she was finally able to set boundaries with her relationship with her mother and that she was able to allow her children to make their own decisions and begin to live their own lives. For once, she said, she was living for herself. She believed the cancer was the best thing that could ever have happened to her. And then I got a call a few days later that the cancer had spread. And still…her attitude remained the same. She had, in a sense, been reborn.
Last week I received a message from one of her friends asking for some advice…“so my question here would be this – how do you help someone you love going through the hell of cancer with the attitude of determination and the tools recovery have afforded us???
I really thought long and hard before answering this question. I didn’t want to give out some random him-haw of recommendations and advice and anyone that knows me knows I’m much more the sitting on the front porch giving advice therapist than any text book, doctorate holding analyst. So, I needed to be careful before answering. Or maybe not, as I decided. I would just talk about what I know.
And what I know about friendship and loyalty and how to help someone…well, I learned that all from my best friend Tonya. You would really have to know her to understand and maybe then you still wouldn’t get it. It’s in the details actually. Like how I’ll get some call late on a Tuesday just to see if I’ve seen the latest Big Brother episode. Or, a random call when the newest James Patterson book comes out. We talk almost everyday, but those are the calls that set the foundation for our friendship because that’s how it all began. It’s in how she sees her only son Nick getting older, moving up in high school, and although I can tell she misses the days when they’d dance around the kitchen and she’d help him with his math homework(those were the Wednesday nights I knew never to call or stop by), she allows him to grow up and become a man. It’s how she still looks at her husband with love, but really lust some days and talks about how sexy she still thinks he is. And I see it in her eyes. It’s in the way she can whip up a bad ass buffet on her kitchen counter in about five minutes for all of us to eat and doesn’t even ask for a thank you. It’s in the way she talked to me through all of my mother’s illness and death and how she will be there with me when I have my little dog put to sleep.
When my mother got too sick to leave her bed, Tonya and I went over to her house one night and stretched out on her bed. Tonya jumped right into the conversation, complimenting my mom on how she looked and telling her we had to get her better. And she did it for her, but it was also for me. She’s my friend becaus she left for Florida, the day my mother died, for a much needed vacation with her husband, and she respected me enough to not come back and enjoy herself. And she allowed me to depend on other people. She’s my friend because she tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. And she realizes that sometimes what I need to hear is what I want to hear. She’s the only one that it really mattered that I got approval to have my dog put to sleep, one, because she loves all animals and two, because she loves Griffin and I. And she said it was time, so I knew that it was. And she was right.
In over twelve years of knowing each other, I can remember only one time that we got into a fight. And it lasted less than 12 hours. And it was because I hurt her feelings, which we know better than to do, but realize it might happen from time to time. We’ve been through a lot, this ole gal and me, and we’ll be through a lot more together I hope. She’ll be the one standing next to me the day I get married. We laugh, we cry, we vent mostly and gossip often.
But what I have learned about friendship through her, is that it is consistent. I know what to expect from her because she is always consistent. She doesn’t lie to me, she is always loyal, she is there for me unless her family needs come first, which I expect. And what I expect from her is that she will always be buying a new pair of Uggs, she’ll always have a block of cheese in her fridge, a brand new novel folded over on the table and a house full of people at any hour of the day. She is dependable. And that is what a true friend is…consistent. I know tomorrow if I got sick, she would be right there next to me asking me what WE were going to do about it. She would not sugar coat it. She wouldn’t make it pretty. She would look it in the eye like a bully on a playground and then walk over and give it a hug. She would probably drive me around to get a fountain coke and take me to my doctor’s appointments. She’d board my dog and bring me movies and books. But she does that already. She’d just up the ante a little and make sure no one got in my safe zone. She’d be my Shirley McClaine in Terms of Endearment. I love her. And I’m pretty sure she loves me.
Every year, we rent a house on Lake Norris, Tennessee with a bunch of friends. Last year, we stayed at Tonya’s cousin’s house, which had this long stair case down to the lake. Every day, Tonya would load a cooler, have a bunch of towels around her neck,(with her matching Ed Hardy Tee-shirt and baseball hat of course)and head down to the lake, so she only had to make one trip. Me, I’m different. I didn’t care if I ran up and down that staircase fifty times, but I’d bitch about it every time. That pretty much sums up our friendship. We’re both so different aiming at the same thing. She’s calm and planned out while I’m scattered and frenzied half the time. But in the end, we’re both just floating in the water, a diet coke in our hands, laughing our asses off about the woman we found on top of a snow bank in the blizzard, or something funny her dog Gypsy did, or something funny our friend Lis said, or some old story about my mom. She allows me all of that.
And that, my dear, is how you help a friend. By always, painfully so, being yourself. She is my soul sistah, my mojo mama, my best friend and my ally! I love ya lady! You help them through the hell because you’re with them through the heaven. And that…is the truth.
There is a great scene in the movie, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”, which shows Angela Bassett talking to her dying friend Whoopie Goldberg. She begins dancing and singing and talking about “Old Charlie” in the hospital room. It is absolutely one of the most endearing scenes in any movie because it glorifies the power of friendship in life, and in death. And we’re all gonna die someday…because we’re on borrowed time as it is.