About 10 years ago, I was extremely depressed. I was what I like to call a card carrying member of the sandwich generation or given the times, "The Panini Generation."
Like many millions of people, I was caring for a parent (my mom, my dad had already died) and raising a kid (my lovely daughter). And working full-time. And being a wife with a husband who was struggling with his business. And taking care of two beloved dogs (thank God for them). I looked like a refugee and felt like (insert your favorite expletive here).
I loved everyone and enjoyed my job -- but the constant phone calls, texts, racing to emergency rooms, school meetings, individual and family therapy (I think we single-handedly kept New York's therapeutic community going) -- was just too much. I was on overload. I tried meditation, antidepressants (they ultimately made me feel worse), I ate too much, slept too much, watched too much TV, lived on caffeine, and felt like I was the walking dead.
I tried to live a day at a time and find pleasure wherever I could, but it was just too much. It felt hopeless.
And then the whole thing fell apart. After many years of being a caregiver, everyone died, left, or moved away -- leaving me alone with my two dogs. And that felt even worse. That felt like the worst pain I had ever experienced. I fell apart -- completely -- I cried, I raged, I talked, I wrote, I laughed, I let myself fall apart and for a year and a half, I had the best mini breakdown I could have ever. And here's the surprise: I recommend it. Highly.
I learned more spiritual lessons in that period of my life than I ever had before. Ever. And one of my favorite lessons, taught to me by Robert Levithan, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, was to embrace the word: "and."
And. That's it. Just "and."
My life is falling apart, everyone left me, eventually even my two beloved dogs died -- AND I feel alive in a way I haven't in years. I don't feel depressed, I feel feelings that had long been suppressed. Crying feels good!
The world is a mess, random shootings of innocent people and horrific violence seems to be happening all over the world -- and the beauty of daily life and human kindness astounds me every day.
Our political system is a travesty, we are owned by huge corporations and both parties are equally bad and ineffective and petty and we can still have hope that life can and will get better.
I miss having a special someone in my life -- and I am blessed to have an amazing daughter, loving and supportive friends, work that has so much meaning to me and to everyone I have the opportunity to come in contact with all over the world.
Every year we lose people we love, and this year was no exception. We lost close friends and people we felt close to even if we didn't really know them -- like Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joan Rivers. We still have so many great people who make us laugh: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, and Amy Poehler, just to name a few.
I can feel bad and I can take a dance break or go for a walk and feel complete joy.
Nothing is just one thing. It is all -- an "AND."
Embrace it. Remember it. You may not be surrounded by a what looks like a Hallmark card this holiday season. You may not have a fantastic date for New Year's Eve. You may feel sick and lonely and worried about the future and how you are going to manage AND know there is still so much to be grateful for. Make a list of those things that you are grateful for. Daily, if necessary. It helps.
Thank you, Robert Levithan. You are one of the kindest, most thoughtful and generous men I have ever known and so handsome and I love you -- and you're gay and unavailable.
Oh well. You remind me of the goodness of men -- and that ultimately all I need is One. Good. Man.
Or a dog. Or two.