Saturday, December 22, 2007

What We Write About When We Write

My friend Diana Wagman has a piece in the Times today called "The Cancer Drug" about using pot to get through chemo at,1,5385759.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
I was delighted that Diana dealt a well deserved slap in the face to the sanctimoniousness and downright stupidness the issue has taken on. Some guy brought in some footage of the closing of a big clinic in Hollywood, trying to get me to support a feature project and perhaps be interviewed. All the footage was of real patients and it was like stoners via the Farrelly Brothers--like the lowest brow comedy and it just proves that lots and lots of folks who habituate these clinics could find other remedies for what ails them but they just like to get high. "Is that me?" is of course the burning question of the minute. And even if the answer is a resounding yes (I swear I don't know) given the human condition blah blah blah, is that a bad thing?

Diana also takes a big risk in a number of pieces she’s done for the Times by writing honestly about her family. Himself is wounded by me (I would so much rather he be angry) because of a piece I wrote here about his temptation to shield his birthmother from who he really is. I ended the piece with a passionate proclamation of love for him. I naturally assumed that this would defuse the sensitivity of the authenticity issues and expected an outpouring of love in return. I came home instead to a chasm. Everything I said was true and thoughtful. He has nothing to be ashamed of but if I were a good wife would I have considered that he might feel differently? Am I guilty of cheap writer shit or is it a mitzvah to publicly proclaim my love and discourage shame? Even though I brought it on like the graceless clod I am, I believe he will more fully confront who he is now at the very beginning of his journey to know his birthmother and that this will enrich the experience. Even though I have caused him pain, I do not feel the need to be forgiven by him. I need desperately though to feel loved by him and maybe this will teach me to keep my mouth shut. Right huh?

After reading Diana’s Times piece, I sent her an e-mail lauding her bravery in these essays and bemoaning my own sad situation with my beloved and she responded with a warm embrace and another question that burns, and that I cannot answer, "Our families are our lives and our lives are our work so what else can we do? ...You could ask him first I suppose - but how would you feel if he said no?"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas from Casamurphy!

My husband is protective of his birthmother. She sent us a Christmas card. We do not send Christmas cards. I spent all morning making a single Christmas card. There was a program I used to adore called Sierra Printshop which enabled me to create really nice cards and flyers and stuff. It was seamless and elegant and will not run on any current computer. I have a high falutin’ more sophisticated program but it is a useless tacky embarrassment, as is all the other comparable software available. With clunky software, and printing problems and my stupid assed perfectionism a single greeting card took me an entire morning, giving me lots of time to ponder its ramifications. Does my husband need to foster false assumptions because he made his birthmother vulnerable, seeking her out, unbidden, revealing her secret?

Several days after Leo’s birth, by husband entered the mikvah at the University of Judaism and was welcomed into the covenant. His birthmother had specifically requested that he be adopted by a Catholic family. She attends mass weekly. Does he have the responsibility to protect her from who he has become? He has never mentioned his conversion to his adopted father, out of what I feel is a well placed sense of responsibility. It would be taken personally and no good would come of it. It is different with the birthmother, but I do puzzle if his first responsibility in this case should be to her or to himself.

I should be cleaning but the drop in the bucket on the home organization front has yielded a long lost copy of Diana Wagman’s novel BUMP which I am devouring. The theme of mother love is confronted with great abandon and at great risk, and I chewed this around last night as I sat at the Christmas banquet at Chez Alzheimer’s across from my mother, trying to recall having felt it. I have accepted my mother’s consistent lack of connection to the things of which I am most proud and hold most dear. Now I have been blessed with a husband’s love and approval and acceptance to sustain me. I am at his side on his journey to know his mother and having a mother and being a mother, I know both the complications and richness inevitable to this road. I know and cherish who he has become. And who we have become.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Writers I Run With and Into

Last weekend, the Silverlake Children’s Theatre performed Turbulence, written by 16 year old Olivia Russin, daughter of screenwriter Robin and arts administrator Sarah. The performance was attended with great difficulty by Robin’s frail 92 year old dad, Robert Russin, a renowned sculptor and one of those hunting and fishing tough manly Jews who settled in the most unlikely of Jewish bastions, Wyoming. Robert lived a long life. He saw films written by son Robin and a play written by granddaughter Olivia. Robert Russin died in his sleep two days after the performance. Sarah and Robin have been dear friends for over a decade and I reach out to them in their sorrow and hope they are comforted that Robert, famous artist and patriarch, was able to proudly drink in the extraordinary accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. I also suspect now that Sarah may forgive him for having nodded off for a few minutes during the show.

Yesterday Spuds and I took grandma out for lunch. She was more agitated than usual. I stopped at Petco briefly to pick up cat litter for her and left her in the car with Spuds. I got a hysterical cell phone call from Spuds indicating that he was unable to keep Grandma in the car. She was implicated several months ago in the cutting of phone wires in her boyfriend’s room in order to prevent annoying incoming calls from his daughter and all of her scissors have been confiscated. While I was shopping and Spuds was minding her, she’d located an advertisement for scissors she’d ripped from the newspaper in her purse and was absolutely determined they would have them available for sale at the veterinary clinic or the gun store adjacent to the Petco. I left my place in the long line and firmly escorted her back to the car. Just as I reached the register, I saw her spring out of the car again and run across the very busy parking lot. At that moment, Broderick Miller (also useful for the removal of dead cats and a screenwriter, playwright, and founder of the Silverlake Children’s Theatre ) suddenly appeared at the register inquiring about the purchase of a hamster and I screamed at him to go put my mother back in the car, which he accomplished swiftly and forcefully enough to make it stick. I thanked him for saving the day and received back from him a warm and comforting note.

Shopping for produce, I ran into Kim Jones, a weekly Hollywood Farmer’s Marketeer, writer and mother of teenager and we talked about how our family experiences can feed our writing and like Rashomon, the stories told by parents and their children would spin themselves out quite differently. This made me think immediately of another writer, Marion Siwek, whose famous writer mother actually did publish a memoir of intimate family details. I was chewing this around still when I got to Trader Joe’s and there was Marion, at the dairy case. Just like God sent Broderick to end the scissors debacle, there was Marion in the flesh to finish my thought and share fears, while we obstructed egg and yogurt buyers.

In many ways the weekend stank. We have teenager problems and a terrifying strike and I visited last night my dad’s house for the first time since his death. Monday now though, I sit here putting the words down. Writing. Maybe healing. And thanking God particularly for bringing into my life so many other clueless people compelled to string words together towards some sort of knowing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kitchen as Metaphor

My niece Cari’s mom Faye passed away over the weekend and my heart goes out to Cari and Marlene. Aliki made her first public appearance since my dad’s death on Sunday to see Leo in a Silverlake Children’s Theatre production. I float from moments of being immersed in something immersing, to being charmed by family and friends to sadly still feeling my still newish state of fatherlessness. How sad and complicated and grown up it all is. To my beautiful nieces I send my love.

Himself helped me get to the point where I have cooked a bit in my new kitchen. There are still boxes and dust but we have what we need to perform rudimentary cooking. I’ve fought a cold for days and wanted soup. The first thing I prepared was chicken soup, oy, the cliché, I loved making it and eating it. We still don’t have a fully functioning oven and lots of other things require tweaking but it is so sweet to cook and it is shameful how happy it makes me to scramble eggs or boil pasta.

Although I no longer attend weekly, I had a check up therapy session with Leslie this morning. I told her about my one week marijuana fast. I noticed when I reinstated my daily morning dose, even when experimenting with smaller and smaller doses, there were times I felt foggy and wished that I had not taken any. I talked about the Whole Foods latkes and tears episode as an example of the stress and anxiety I often experience sans pot, but noted that today I’d taken none and felt fine.

It came back to the kitchen and living for months and months with filthy boxes stacked to rafters, a constant reminder of the chaotic garbage filled mess I’ve made of my life. The journey of the last year and a half has been arduous, including losing a parent and institutionalizing another. Through at all, I chipped away literally and figuratively, at ridding my home of broken and unloved objects but it was only in the last few days, with that first pot of chicken soup, that I felt something tangible to show for it.

My parents loved me but were disappointed at my lack of beauty. I lived for so long disappointed with myself. I married a man who also grew up in a house where he was also misunderstood and his genuine gifts were overlooked. We have soldiered on for nearly twenty years and while there are still boxes of detritus to be hauled away and destroyed, we have each found value in ourselves despite our parents’ shortsightedness.

I find myself in the middle of a crippling strike which will have some serious ramifications for my already struggling little business. The kitchen is unfinished. There are boxes and little pockets of crap all through my house. All I would have wished for when I lay in my little girl bedroom on Fulton Avenue, beauty, wealth and fame, is still elusive to me at age fifty. Instead I am more wildly in love than I ever would have dreamed with a man who nurtures my intellect and faith and love, in the real sense of love. My children are handsome and gifted. My friends hold me tight and make me laugh and watch over me. My soul is burnished by heaps of loss and sadness. I can make chicken soup in my own kitchen. I am happy and perhaps some would call me superficial for attaching so much to a kitchen, but I am full and grateful and at my best.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bread Ahead = Less Dread

This morning I took a tiny bite of pot cookie, ending my angry dog week. During this week I had great exercise and yoga, recovered sweetly from a big marital blowout, had fun working at the kids’ play and an uplifting satisfying experience at the temple. I also got into a huge snit about the lack of latkes at the Whole Foods on the first night of Chanukah and if the lady in charge had been white and educated seeming I would have gone off on a big ol’ eloquent tirade, subtlety evoking anti Semitism, (Pasadena...) but it was a hugely obese black woman so even though the Jews have never been shown enough appreciation for our role in the Civil Rights movement, I put a sock in it.

I was irritable all week and the little sleep I had was fitful. I came on to the pot and felt a calm awareness of God in the world. I felt despair and anger and hopelessness last week. I reached out and was met with healing love but still felt a kernel of anger. After my morning cookie, this has melted into compassion and anxiety feels supplanted by hope. The pot too is like truth serum and while I do feel lessened anxiety and clearer focus, I am aware too that it is critical to pursue all means necessary, as in God and love and exercise and yoga and music and this writing, towards honesty and light and peace. I know that of all the things I do so that I can exist in peace and joyfully shoulder my responsibilities, pot is the only tool with drawbacks and one to be employed mindfully.

My cabinetry is being finished as I type here and I will begin unpacking our filthy boxes. We still need paint and lots of tweaking but by weekend’s end we will be eating food prepared by me and off of real plates. I was raised by a mean, narcissistic mother, a product of her time, I suppose and I forgive, to be a whore. Both of my parents reinforced again and again that a woman’s sexual desirability was the true her measure of worth. A lot of failure and humiliation have brought me finally to the point of discrediting this. I am worthy because I show love. I am most confident about showing love when I make people laugh, strive for compassion and cook food. I have finally become much more confident about my sexual desirability but it is no longer tied into my self worth and much more about surrendering self and loving strongly and fearlessly jumping off into the void with my beloved. I look so forward to having a house full of kids or a dinner party or just eating with other than a plastic fork and filling this home with love in the ways that I know best.

There is lots of bullshit ahead. Business is tough. I am the mother of a teenager. I am married to a brilliant introvert and our different priorities inevitably make me feel put upon at times. I am confused about my use of marijuana. I love my marriage and my family and my friends and while this home never bodes to ascend out of funkiness, soon at least we will break bread that I have baked and partake of good things. My nearly useable kitchen. Oh fresh hope.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Seventh Day Will Follow the Sixth

I have not imbibed any marijuana for six days. I have had a couple of icky meltdowns, one of which resulted in my beloved sleeping a night on the floor. I have screamed at both of my children. I have sobbed at the office and at the house and in my car. I have slept poorly and my motor skills feel off. I may have bottomed out yesterday when I was kicked in the ass by hopelessness and rage and desperation, and morphed into the Angriest Dog in the World, "the dog who is so angry he cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl...bound so tightly with tension and anger he approaches the state of rigor mortis."

I sold concessions for the Children’s Theatre all weekend, elbow deep in ice water, fishing out cans of sodas. I perform this big job four weekends a year and am always left exhausted but the time with dear old friends was particularly tonic and while I am still miles from inner peace, I do take comfort in the community of families we have nurtured. As I come out more and more about my reliance on pot and my resulting confusion to my friends, it surprises me that there are still snickers and snorts, which I doubt would result if I said I was struggling to come off of Prozac. I wonder if marijuana is too sullied with its outlaw history to ever be taken seriously as a legitimate medication. Still, I felt shitty and at sea and being with my friends made me feel better.

Saturday Spuds and I attended services at Knesset Israel, one of the two little backwater synagogues we belong to. Both of our tiny congregations have survived due to an influx of Mexican congregants, some of which apparently have discovered some Ladino roots and others who have found Judaism as a jumping off point from evangelical Christianity. I presume most have completed some official conversion process and noted that they knew the songs, prayers and responses far better than I, who have been attending synagogue, albeit erratically for over fifteen years. The prayer at Knesset is very intense and raw and it feels primitive. There is shuckling (swaying) during prayer which is not too common at Conservative shuls and to my knowledge seldom practiced in the Reform movement, where it is probably perceived as being too hardcore, like speaking in tongues. The Rabbi and Cantors covered their heads with their tallit, epileptic ghosts, as they prayed for the sick and ailing and I prayed as hard as I could, given my current diminished focus. This is how they must have prayed at the Temple before it was destroyed or in the shtetl or in the camps and I was innocent and open and touched and maybe I even believe a bit that these fervent prayers may heal me too.

I have sent out my SOS and dear friends have reached out and this makes me feel better. I have exhausted myself at bootcamp and this makes me feel better. I have donned my yoga face and stretched and this makes me feel better. I have indulged more than ever in the comfort of music and this makes me feel better. My beloved has returned to our bed and this makes me feel better. I do not though feel as good and clear and hopeful and focused and confident slogging through the travails of being a mom and a wife and a daughter and a business owner as I feel on the days when the marijuana I imbibe is neither too weak nor too strong. The burning question is whether I medicate myself due to some real biochemical need or because my circumstances are simply beyond my endurance. Am I chemically fucked up right now or just lucid? Tonight begins the festival of lights and celebration of miracles. Tomorrow I will have abstained from pot for a week and while I feel beaten down and haggard I do believe in miraculous light. I have seen it and trust in God that I will again.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pot Mom

I stopped taking Prozac, after titrating my dose for several months, in July. I had taken a large dosage daily (except during pregnancy and lactation) for about twenty-five years. I don’t even remember what the initial diagnosis was but it was probably something like depression and anxiety. I stopped taking Prozac under the supervision of psychologist Leslie and a nice psychiatrist and felt markedly better when I did. I have had a prescription for medical marijuana for over a year and I find it assuages depression and anxiety much more effectively and without the mental dulling caused by the more traditional and widely prescribed Prozac. I have been open with all my practitioners about the substitution of marijuana for Prozac and have been treated with respect and taken seriously. I can make a compelling case for why marijuana is more effective for me than Prozac and yet, as I type this, jittery and anxious after 48 hours sans cannabis, I will admit that the patient herself is not 100% sold.

Prozac never made me feel good. I presume it made me feel less bad but there was a palpable dullness that lifted as I discontinued the drug. When I first visited the psychiatrist he was certain that another prescription antidepressant could be more effective. After several visits though he decided that medical marijuana did seem the most salubrious for me in particular and even put this in writing for me to have my medical marijuana recommendation renewed.

Pot makes me feel good. Is that bad? Have I totally bullshitted myself and my minions of medical experts? I have described here what I knew at the time was a dangerous and degrading addiction to opiates. Because the literature recommends the cessation of pot use for a week annually I am sitting here feeling funky. I sat at the same window in my office a year ago in the throes of full blown opiate withdrawal. This is nothing compared to that but nevertheless, I am chastened and thinking about what I put in my body and particularly, why.

I have used marijuana recreationally on and off since high school. I like being high on pot, just like I enjoy a few drinks, in the right circumstances. The first time I went to a marijuana clinic it was a big thrill and my inner pothead got a big rush at the veritable cornucopia of cannabis and related products. And perhaps it does speak to the authenticity of my medical need at how fast this got old.

My ritual is to consume an edible (brownie or cookie) first thing in the morning. I was using an excellent dependable suspension for a while but this is no longer available and I have been unable to find any other liquid or capsule form of marijuana that is reliable. The voters of California voted that marijuana should be considered a legitimate medical treatment. There are a lot of asshole clinic owners making big bucks from this, completely flaunting the intention of this referendum and clearly selling pot for recreational use. The federal government still considers any use of marijuana criminal. It is therefore a real challenge to find marijuana dispensed appropriately and knowledgeably for medical purposes. Although the dangers of smoking anything are quite apparent, for some reason, there has been much more of a crackdown on edible marijuana than on smokeable and it is difficult for me to find edibles in Southern California.

When I took Prozac, I filled it monthly at the pharmacy and got exactly the same dose everyday. I have actively educated myself with regard to marijuana as much as possible but because there are virtually no standards, it’s a crapshoot every day. Sometimes a brownie will have no effect at all and sometimes, I find myself too high. When the dosage is correct I am not particularly aware of being medicated but am less likely to experience physical jitters or hobbling anxiety. I think that this is how I want and how I should feel. Since beginning yoga and bootcamp and engaging in some serious discussions with an enlightened clinic owner, my medical pot consumption is about half of what it was. If I could get a uniform dosage of pot from the Rite Aid, I would probably take it and give it as much thought as a vitamin. Because the drug (I think) I need is messed up with crime and government and not offered in a normal medical venue makes me ask questions of myself that I might not otherwise. Might. I do have a history of drug addiction so it would be foolish of me to get on any high horse. A friend (in recovery) wrote me a confrontational letter several months ago about my pot use. It hurt and has been taken seriously.

I hate to eat in the morning and one of the things I look for in an edible is potency in a small size. I found some tiny brownies and cookies at a clinic in San Francisco. Edibles are plentiful and inexpensive in the Bay area. Fuck if I know. These are extremely small and extremely strong and because they were so tiny, I didn’t bother cutting them in half. I spent about a week feeling overmedicated and decided that this would be a good clean out week but the fact that I had to approach it using the recovery argot of "one day at a time" gives me pause.

I might go home and smoke this evening. I might hang until next Wednesday and make it a full week. Maybe at the end of this week, after extra yoga and bootcamp my anxiety will be at bay and I’ll continue being abstemious. Anxiety and depression have fucked me up. So have drugs. So has (most particularly) being full of shit. Prayer on the other hand, has never fucked me up and as I struggle with this, and so many other things, I pray to be able to pray.