gratitude-a-thon day 361: an icon

Lauren Bacall

God, she was BEAUTIFUL. Those hooded eyelids–an engraved invitation for a long romp in bed. Her pouty mouth, her glamorous Hollywood hair, an air of sophistication and intelligence surrounded her like an angel’s halo. She roared class.

And that voice. A low, sultry mix of dignified self-confidence mixed with subtle seduction. She had a commanding kind of beauty, and a charisma that was more powerful than an army.

Ah, Lauren, thanks for all those movies, all those voice-overs. We all know how to whistle now, but nobody will ever know how to do it like you.

gratitude-a-thon day 360: addiction and depression, not funny at all

484f7c1c7f0bdfb9d9b6df4ba348f68fe4ad96daYesterday I talked about addiction and depression, and about how all the funniest people have them (trend alert: addiction and depression are the new black). But the truth is there is really nothing funny about either of them, although humor is so frequently used to deal with both. I know for myself, the daughter of an alcoholic, I have used humor all my life to minimize the self-doubt, fear, and anxiety my father bequeathed me. He’s not getting a thank you note for that inheritance, I can tell you.

So many people I’ve known who suffer from addiction and depression are highly intelligent, hilarious, and extremely compassionate. They are, in fact, some of the best, brightest, most interesting and creative people I’ve known. Underneath my dad’s alcoholism was a super smart,  curious, and funny man. He was quirky, liberal-minded, and open. He loved theater and music and good books, and worshipped at the alter of the kitchen, and the New York Times (You can read more about him here).

But seeing anything good about him was, and still is hard for me, because I still have so much anger toward his unacknowledged addiction to alcohol, his associated depression. I have never forgiven him for not getting help, for not admitting that he had a problem. If he had tried and failed, I believe I would feel differently, but the pain he left in his wake, the havoc he wreaked, by looking at us like we were the crazy ones when we pleaded with him to get help, made all of us suffer in a profound, long lasting way. And that is something that I can’t seem to forgive, no matter how much money I spend on therapy (and let’s just talk about how many summer houses I have provide the therapeutic world).

I don’t like carrying anger around, like a hump on a camel’s back. I don’t want to continue lugging this part of my life with me everywhere I go. And yet, I can’t leave it unguarded for even a minute’s time, as if protecting it is somehow proving something, allowing my dad to get off free of responsibility. I know, I know, if he had cancer, would I feel the same?

As I watch celebrities publicly lose their lives because they are addicts, or suffer from depression, or bonus points: suffer from both, hear all the social media chatter, read and watch endless accounts of what addiction does to a person, I find interestingly that I can have compassion, and feel genuine sadness for John Belushi, Chris Farley, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Williams. I can see the tortured souls in them. I can see how it’s not a choice, but a sickness. But when it comes to my own father, there is no softening, nothing remotely like forgiveness that I can muster. He remains separate in my mind. A criminal of sorts. I give him no get out of jail card for his illness, no understanding. All I have is anger at the amount of baggage he left his family to check at every pit stop on the road of life. “Porter! Over here. I need some help.”

I wonder how many more celebrities I will watch lose their battles. I wonder how many more will tug at my heart, before I understand that my dad was one of them.

gratitude-a-thon day 359: “O Captain! My Captain!”

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His eyes always twinkled. He had one of those faces that looked like the sun just broke through the clouds.

 

Some of the pee-my-pants funniest people I know have struggled with addiction and depression–those two lovers, that so often go hand in hand. They are diseases we look down on, think that they come from a lack of willpower. We say “buck up,” and yet, oddly, these take-over-your-life afflictions seem to result in people who often make us laugh the hardest. Oh, the fucking irony.

Robin Williams was one of those people, born with the twin demons. And he made us guffaw and giggle our heads practically off of our bodies. He did jokes and voices with the agility and speed of an olympic skier on a slalom course. And just as adeptly he could make you cry with his sincerity. A quick wit and a big heart. His range was boundless in movies as diverse as Mrs. Doubtfire, in which he played drag better than the pros, and Good Will Hunting, in which he played a therapist who changes the life of a Southie genius, while healing himself at the same time. And then of course, there was Dead Poet’s Society. “O Captain! My, Captain!” I seem to be one of the only people in advertising who was dramatically moved by the recent Apple iPad commercials, (legions of people hated these) in which Robin did the voice over, and quotes Walt Whitman:

“O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

He sold those words to me like nobody else could, with a depth and emotion that got me in my gut. As I type them, I can hear his passionate resonating voice echo through me. He contributed more than a verse. He contributed a million volumes. If we’re really lucky, he will have contributed more awareness to addiction and depression, too. Ah, nanu, nanu.

gratitude-a-thon day 358: right in your own backyard: spontaneous sunday

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If Riley could talk (and I’m sure he will very soon), he would have said, “This is fucking great. How come we’ve never been HERE before?” He loved this walk. Me too.
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Lake Waban. This place is special
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This was a serious Dr. Seuss moment. Did he go to Wellesly?

Don’t you love when you wake up on a Sunday without plans and then one magically materializes, and it winds up being complete perfection? Like if you tried to plan it, it never would have come off right, but because it just happened, it was exactly right in every way. Enter Facebook, and a blog post on Rhode Island, and my old roommate Leah, who lives six minutes from me, and who I do a lot of technological staying in touch with, but not real life seeing, and ba da boom, a Sunday off-the-leash dog walk around Lake Waban on Wellesley’s campus, where I had never been before, and where nature does its thing in the best possible way.

Leah has great energy, and she’s smart and funny, and she has Stanley, her fearless five pound dog, who thinks he’s part of Hell’s Angels. After our walk, she took me to Volante Farm, where  I’d never been, and we looked at flowers and plants and bought some yummy stuff to eat, and then we stared at the lines of summer flowers being grown, which I’d only ever seen in bouquets at the farmer’s market, and which I couldn’t take my eyes off of. We then lounged in her backyard, where our dogs pranced around, and we gabbed and ate until our tongues were tired. Spontaneous Sunday. Absolute A++++.

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Volante Farms in Needham is new to me. I can’t wait to go back. This is the tiniest bit of the enless row of flowers. It went on forever (ok, not really, but sort of).
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The adorable Leah and her fearless and crazy cute guy Stanley.

gratitude-a-thon day 357: rhode trip

On Thursday, with the sun turned on high, our good friends Karen and Maia took us on a mother daughter road trip to their summer digs in Wickford Rhode Island. Aside from working in an ad agency in Providence for about a year (where one of my accounts was the state of Rhode Island), and going to Newport a few times, and Watch HIll with my mom and sister, in like 1968, where I rode the carousel and ate unforgettable fried chicken and mashed potatoes, I haven’t really explored the smallest state in the country, that has, as I so frequently used to tout in the ads I wrote, “384 miles of coastline.” As a lover of all things beach, I musta been in an extended coma.

Anyway, we packed a lot into our mini vacay, and I came out a believer. What a great place, a hidden gem, Rhode Island is. From Allie’s Donuts (sublime with local color and a line 20 long) to the Farmer’s Market at Casey Farms (with the friendliest vendors anywhere, not to mention a cornucopia of mushrooms that were like art, and where I bought a sugary scrub that I KNOW will transform my summer-worn skin to lovely and young again) to the amazing Narragansett Beach,( where a spontaneous text would allow us to meet up with my good friend Ginny, who invited us to her sister’s INSANELY beautiful ocean front home, and where, at last, I met the Princess of Cute,Ginny’s granddaughter, Madeline), to our walk through historic and crazy adorable  Wickford (including a super find $18 scarf), a late afternoon boat ride, a candlelight dinner where we ate Karen’s delish food, drank this summer’s drink–crushed blueberries, lemonade, basil and vodka (which desperately needs a name), and played phone charades (you wear your phone on your forehead to play), we had a freaking ball. I will be back. MEGA thanks to our hosts. It was just what I needed. Rhode Island forever.

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On the rocks.
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Ally & Maia have known each other since 1st grade.
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Moms and as our girls called themselves, “daughts.”
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Karen is awesome. That is all.
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An unbelievably gorgeous church in historic Wickford, where Karen’s mother-in-law is buried, and where her sister-in-law was married.
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The Wickford Collection, an inspiring antique/interior design store.
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Da drinks and the munchies.
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Ahhh, flowers at the Farmer’s Market.
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I’ve actually never seen spikey sunflowers like this.
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The color of summer.
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Mushrooms as art. I couldn’t quite get over how beautiful these were.
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The color purple.
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Queen Ginny and Princess Madeline. What a treat this was.
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Ally and Maia set out for a boat ride.
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Captain Colby and first mate Scott.
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A really fun two days. Thanks Karen, Maia, Scott and Colby for sharing your happy place.