Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My Occupy Photos Set to a Groovy Tune!

I took these pictures at the Oct. 5 OWS march to Zuccotti Park in New York. Then my dear friend Dean set them to my song, My Life of Crime, which I wrote about ten years ago when I was so ill but had no health insurance.

I would get tests, knowing full well I couldn't pay for them, then would throw the bills in the trash, which of course made me feel like a criminal. I truly felt guilty, to the extent that a song came through (my songs always come from my subconscious--I never summon my creativity).

What the song ended up teaching me is that the true criminals were the ones charging such exorbitant fees, for both insurance and the tests themselves, not me, who was just trying to get what I needed in order to actually live. After I wrote it, I realized I'd written a song about revolution. Here's the video and pix (I'm the one holding the sign). Footnote: The pix at the end aren't mine; they're the Wall St. bankers mocking the protesters with their champagne toasts:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How I Quit Smoking (6 months and counting...)

OK, I've been waiting to write about this because I didn't know if it was gonna stick. But it has, and so here is the announcement: I quit smoking. As of March 22, 2011, I have been a non-smoker, although I do confess, I have been seen occasionally slipping behind a dumpster for a drag with some shady characters, but these...er...slips...have been very few and far between. Essentially, I am smoke-free, but what has shocked me even more is how free I've become in general--a development I DID NOT anticipate.

First, I'll explain how I did it. After years of trying every quitting technique out there--Chantix (psychosis-inducing drug), Smokenders (very expensive), hyponosis (multiple sessions), homeopathy, plus some other methods I can no longer recall--I'd become completely despondent that anything would work for me, despite a very real desire to quit. With the exception of the morning and evening cigarette, I didn't even like smoking anymore. (I had just passed the half-a-pack-a-day mark when I quit.)

But then an intervention of sorts happened. I awoke in the middle of the night one evening to see a commercial on TV about yet another magic homeopathic elixir that would supposedly make me stop instantaneously. Thinking this was God speaking to me, I scribbled the web site down on a napkin, only to find out the next day via reviews on the web that the potion was a total scam.

Just as I was imagining the Great Spirit enjoying a knee-slapping "Gotcha!", I then discovered the real reason I'd been directed to the internet. Via some other reviews, all positive, I landed on Amazon, where I discovered over 800 four- and five-star reviews for a book titled "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking," written by a man named Allen Carr, who at his height was smoking five packs a day. As the book was just $8.99 (brand new!), I ordered it overnight and I kid you not...I received it at 5 p.m. on a Monday evening, read it twice, and by 6 p.m. Tuesday I'd smoked my last cigarette.

What was it about this book that was so different from everything else? How I wish I could answer that in some simple way. I was so astounded that his techniques were working every time I wanted to light up that I actually began obsessing over this strange mind control, which I guess was better than obsessing over cigarettes.

Of course, it did take some mental stamina those first three or four weeks to rid myself of the habit, but Carr anticipates every single thought, feeling and situation that will come up during this period and gives you the tools to, well...just say no. And he somehow makes it all a joyous experience!

I was going to write an essay here about the surprising emotional liberation that occurred after I quit, but I'll save that for my next post.

The truth is that, before this book, quitting smoking was extremely difficult for me, as it is for any nicotine addict, so I'm ecstatic to report that I found a way to be liberated from the evil cigarette.

But before sharing this wonderful news with my fellow bloggers, I obviously wanted to be sure the quit had stuck. I can tell you that it has (despite the occasional sneak...and I know! I'm playing with fire! I'll stop!), and I can't begin to tell you how much my life has changed.

If you're a smoker yourself and you truly want to stop, for the price of a pack you can buy this book and give yourself a true fighting chance against the odds that have been stacked against you for years by the tobacco companies, and by your own human vulnerability. It worked for me. I hope it works for you.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Seem to Have Misplaced My Life

Lady Gaga is everywhere. When I scan the channels there she is--in yet another interview, another video, another performance, another commercial. And I admit, I can't get enough of it.

But while I'm enjoying the ride, there's a lingering malaise that's sitting in the pit of my stomach like an undigested dessert, and I'm getting a tummyache.

It's strange listening to Gaga, because her music has reignited a love of pop that I haven't felt in a long time, and I feel something like a teenager again, when music was the sustenance of my existence. But here's the rub: I'm not a teenager anymore--far from it, in fact--and all that went with my love of music in those days is long gone.

For example, when I listened to pop music as a young person, it stoked the dreams of me doing that myself one day, and so much of what I chose to do was put towards making those dreams a reality. As a kid, I dutifully took my music lessons, and as I got older, I joined bands, developed my songwriting and performing abilities, put my own band together, and hit the road. I recorded and released two CDs, was a critics' darling, and came close to publishing and record label deals, which always ended up falling through.

Undeterred, I kept at it, but as the years began to pass, an eerie feeling soon emerged, which was this: If my dreams don't come true, if I don't end up a truly professional singer/songwriter (who no longer needs the day job), then what will happen to me? Who will I be without my dreams, or worse, without those dreams fulfilled?

For years, even decades, I didn't allow those worries in, because like any good young person, I thought I would live forever. And I believed, perhaps naively, that provided my heart was in my work, as long as I didn’t sell out, then everything would turn out fine. There was nothing to be concerned about. I worked hard, my music was good, and I was committed. What could go wrong?

Well, what went wrong far exceeded anything that I could have imagined in my wildest dreams, as my health, which was never very good in the first place, took a dive in 2004 that brought me to a full stop. And just like that, it was all over.

While I’ve pursued other creative interests during this time, like writing and painting, and even dance for awhile, music will always be my first love as songwriting is what I do best. But when I became so ill and was racked with such unrelenting pain, there just wasn’t anything to write about anymore, and I knew I was done for a very very long time, maybe for good.

Whether it was creative exhaustion or the inability to put physical suffering into a song lyric (or a combination of both), I knew that my music days, for the most part, were behind me, but I was just too sick at the time to grieve over it, as most of the time, I was just trying to stay alive.

But in the last few months, I’ve noticed that my spirits have picked up, which has led me to picking up my guitar again, right around the same time Lady Gaga began promoting the release of her new disc. While her songs inspire me so, I painfully realize that I’m no longer the teenager who can fantasize that I’ll be like her one day. And frankly, I don’t know what to do with these feelings.

In short, I feel like crying all the time it seems, despite my rebounding spirits, because the days of dreaming about a music career are over. Let’s face it: No record company is looking to hire a 52-year-old pop star.

Some have suggested that I get back into the game as simply a songwriter, but even that takes money (to record demos), hence the realization of another grim reality: I’m flat broke. This illness has wiped me out so completely that I live in a Section 8 HUD apartment, am on Social Security disability, and am in chronic pain most of the time. This is NOT how I expected my life to turn out.

So when I see Lady Gaga in all her glory, talking about how she “stuck to it” to achieve her dreams, I think of the millions and millions of other aspiring performers who also gave it their all, sometimes for their entire lives, and have ended up with absolutely nothing, other than some wonderful songs that no one knows or cares about.

On a positive note, I’m so skilled as a songwriter that I no longer have to hone my craft for a lifetime in order to pen a tune. Instead of dreaming about it, I can pick up the guitar or sit at the piano and just do it, provided the inspiration is there, which is a BIG proviso, by the way. Without inspiration, I’m no better than a no-talent hack with nothing to say.

But the negative note seems to be ruling the day, it seems, for at least this day. I just heard a passing car blasting Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” which is an edge I sat on for a very long time. The scales just never tipped my way, and there’s a giant ache now where my dreams used to be.

Maybe it’s time to grieve for them, as I gave up everything to have them…marriage, children, and careers in other fields. I went for it 100 percent without a net, and now I’m splat on the ground after having fallen off the wire.

I don’t regret it—not a bit. But I feel just so so sad.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Weight of Encroaching Ice

I had a strange dream last night in which glaciers were beginning to form all around New York and I could see the ice getting higher and higher, climbing ever closer to my apartment window, which meant that I'd soon be encased in ice. I knew that my car was parked on higher ground, but I couldn't find it anywhere, which meant that I couldn't flee the city and that I'd soon lose everything.

I suppose that's what my life feels like, that my world is getting smaller and smaller, and ever the more dangerous, as this pain drags on, offering little hope that I can ever flee to a better place. That's the thing with pain. You can't decide to just take a break from it. In fact, you basically lose all control over your own circumstances, and your decisions are no longer yours, just like any catastrophe, like a new ice age, where everything you've ever done will be devoured and destroyed, and all you're left with is yourself in your own skin, wondering how you'll ever navigate is this unsettling new world, where all rules of society and civility will have to be rewritten.

In the dream, I remember looking at my paintings on my walls, wondering if I could take them with me, as I knew if I'd left them, they'd be destroyed by the water and ice. I realized that there were just too many and so they'd have to be left behind, and it made me sad to think that so little would be left of me, so few remnants to remind anyone that I was ever here.

That's what my life feels like right now, as I find that I'm just sleeping the days away. My mom suggested that I maybe go back on antidepressants, but they never really lifted the sadness over the shrinking contours of my life. After awhile, they were just another drug in my system, and the point lately is to get the chemicals out, to get back to something I've been reaching for ever since this all began--back to a lightness of being, back to a happier state, back to hope.

As I sit here writing, my body feels like a ten-ton weight, and I'm not even sure what I want to say, other than these periods of extreme heaviness seem to crush all motivation to do anything useful or fun. At times, they can lift somewhat, and I can make my way to the gym, or spend time with family and friends, but today, everything is just getting smaller and smaller, as the ice and water get ever closer to encasing me for good. It's days like this that the will to go on wavers, as when I look ahead, I just don't see any solutions.

I am going to a new doctor, who has me on a nutrition regimen that is supposed to reduce acidity in the body (as acidity is supposedly a huge coponent of chronic pain), and I've spoken with my previous oral surgeon about possibly trying surgery again. But I'm so at the end of my rope. I'm not sure I could withstand any more disappointments. But I'm not sure how much longer of this I can stand either.

My friend Lynda theorized yesterday during her visit that these new supplements are perhaps detoxing my body, which may account for the sluggishness, and surely there's a lot to detox. These daily doses of morphine can't be good for my health, and I sometimes think of just going to a drug detox center to see what will happen, to see if I can stand the pain without all the drugs. But that requires making a plan, something I can't stand to think about at the moment.

I suppose what makes me the most sad is that my life has come to feel like such a waste. It's a waste in terms of any good that I could be contributing to the world, and a waste for me personally, as it's become nothing more, it seems, than a study in endurance.

Sometimes I've thought of turning these writings into a book of essays about a life in chronic pain, but along the way, I've always hoped that I'd have something inspirational to offer--that I'd land on some softer sand, which could maybe be a map for others as to how they could better cope with the unthinkable.

But here I am, over two years later, with little more to offer than when I started. It seems that for some, cruel twists of fate stay cruel, and I've no explanation for it, no words of wisdom, no path leading the way out. It's a mean existence for sure, and the day may come when I just won't want to do it anymore. I hope those who love me will be able to forgive me.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Who is God?

When I first started this blog over two years ago, the biggest issue I grappled with, other than the chronic pain, was whether or not God existed. My suffering was so great that my vision of the world became incredibly narrow, and it seemed that all I saw was suffering all around me. I couldn’t understand how God, if he existed, could let it happen.

I’ve been revisiting this question again in recent weeks as I find myself praying more, something I never thought I’d ever do again, and I’m wondering what has changed. Have I forgiven God for my state, or has my understanding of a greater power changed?

Yesterday I was doing some research, and I revisited the Amazon listing of When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, a rabbi who lost his son to the premature aging disease, and was intrigued by the reader reviews. Many people gave the book five stars, thanking the good rabbi for restoring their faith in God again, but many also gave the book just one star, as they found themselves depressed by his belief in an impotent god—a god who suffers with us when we suffer, but who is powerless to intervene on our behalf.

Many readers had obviously suffered terrible tragedies in their lives, like losing a child, and they just couldn’t accept the notion of a supreme being not being able to step in with a miracle. One bereaved mother sadly said of her life, “I will never believe in God again.”

I remember having these exact feelings about my own life and about the book as well, as an impotent god seems about as good as having no god at all. While Kushner’s writing is beautiful, and his story is heartbreaking, I remember feeling sad when I first read his book, as perhaps back then I just didn’t want to believe that we live in such a random world.

Yet when I stop and think about it, I think the rabbi and I have come to similar conclusions about life and suffering—first, that random things do happen in this world, and second, that what we can count in terms of the divine is compassion, for ourselves and others.

Yet where we differ is perhaps the notion of God himself. The rabbi believes that he does indeed exist, and in his book I got the feeling that he just didn’t want to let go of the god of the Old Testament—the father figure sitting majestically in Heaven, overseeing us all in our daily lives. But what I’ve come to believe, I think, is that God is more of a force—something that moves within each of us, and manifests in the form of all good things, like truth, compassion, art and love.

While it’s true I suffer day in and day out (today was a very bad day, in fact), I have to remind myself that there are countless researchers and scientists out there who are uncovering the mysteries of pain every day, many of whom no doubt witnessed a loved one in their own lives who suffered with relentless pain.

They are motivated by compassion and love, as are all those who start research foundations to find cures for diseases. So many of these organizations are named for those who lost the fight, and it’s the loved ones left behind who become determined to right the wrong, so to speak, by not letting their loved ones die in vain. They are moved by compassion not to see other families similarly destroyed, and so they take up arms to raise money, to organize walkathons, to stimulate research.

When I pray these days, I find myself talking to the “Great Spirit,” and I’ve no idea why that particular name has surfaced. For one thing, it’s genderless in my mind, and I feel it almost like the wind—something I can’t see but that I know is there. It’s the source of all goodness, and when I speak to it, I can sometimes feel its love for me, as strange as that may sound. It’s more of a sense that it’s a force that is on my side, that is there to guide me through this treacherous minefield of life, and when I take the time to surrender my questions, I do indeed get answers, and this often startles me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve by no means figured anything out, and I doubt anyone ever will. There’s simply no way any of us will ever figure out the mysteries of the universe, no matter how deep science may delve into the matter. All we have to go on is the proof as it arises, and the proof for me are these answers I seem to get when I take the time to look deeply into my heart and humbly ask for guidance.

Do I think this is God? Whatever it is, I’m grateful for its appearance, but I’m not suffering any the less because of it. In fact, most days still blur in this lingering malaise, and I do ask frequently why I, or anyone, have had to suffer at all.

Yet in the grand scheme of things, if there is indeed an afterlife, my life on this planet will truly seem like a fraction of a second when one thinks about how long our universe has been around. And maybe then I’ll understand why I had to suffer so during this particular tenure of my life on Earth.

Does that understanding of things help me right now? A little—for the moment, anyway.

Today I watched a History Channel show about the blood diamonds in Sierra Leone, and saw suffering on such a grand scale. It was an interesting juxtaposition to watch the horrors depicted in the show interspersed with commercials that reflect the beautiful lives we enjoy in our own culture. It made me want to do something, other than just sit and watch in horror, as I know just how frightening and harrowing life can be. I thought that perhaps I should look for a job with one of these organizations and put my writing skills to better use than just as a means to pay my bills.

Perhaps that’s the god force working within me—the tangible manifestation of compassion born out of the terrible suffering of my own. Maybe that’s who and what God really is, and maybe that’s enough—for now, anyway. It’s all rather new.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

But for the grace of God go I

For my birthday last week, my dear friend Janet gave me the book The Power, which is the much-anticipated follow-up to the bestseller The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

Even though I never read The Secret, a number of years ago, Janet and I were big fans of the Law of Attraction (LOA) after our discovery of the writings of Florence Scovel Shinn, who wrote about the phenomenon during the 1920s.

As anyone who is a fan of these books can attest, when you first learn about the Law of Attraction, you can feel quite excited, as suddenly you’re given this road map to life that actually has hard and fast rules to live by—rules that if supposedly followed will bring limitless joy and prosperity into your life.

What I always loved about Shinn’s work was that she didn’t just write about the LOA; she actually gave you exercises to do to activate it in your life. And what was so exciting was that when I began to employ her ideas, I did indeed see my life begin to change. I began to practice gratitude, I did my daily affirmations, I envisioned a better life for myself and I have to say, it began to be something of a heady experience—to live by these guidelines and have them produce an actual result in my life, for never had I felt so joyous and free, so in tune with a power that was greater than myself.

So why then when I read The Power this week did I feel like punching Rhonda Byrne?

The book is filled will relentless optimism, basically saying that when we activate love (which is “the power” of which she speaks), everything will change, and if we can activate it enough, we’re guaranteed a blissful existence beyond our wildest dreams. She peppers the book with extraordinary tales about ordinary men and women who made simple attitude adjustments and then found themselves in the midst of a miracle, be it a reinvigoration of a marriage, restored health or gargantuan amounts of money.

While few could argue that a positive attitude in life generally produces more positivity, what has come to frustrate me about the Law of Attraction is that it can create a false sense of security, so that when life throws in a random catastrophe, the believer is then left wondering what he or she did wrong to attract this horrific event, and frankly, I find this cruel.

This was certainly true of me in 2004, when a series of unbelievable health traumas left me in this state of chronic pain. When I look back on that year, I was probably living one of the happiest periods of my life, and I see now that I was living with a type of hubris that set me up for the fall. I was a full believer that my whirlwind of positive energy had me encased inside a type of protective shield, and I wonder now if I thought I was just a little bit better than the next guy as my belief system seemed to be working so well. Like the evangelical Christian who believes God is on his side, I was so in touch with “the universe” that I wonder now if I was holding my head just a little too high.

In that sense, I suppose I’m grateful for the fall, which are words I never thought I’d hear myself say. I’ve since let go of my absolute beliefs in the Law of Attraction, realizing now that anything good happening in my life back then was the result of positive thinking, for sure, but also just a streak of good luck. I was feeling healthy and robust after a few years of stressful health issues, and frankly, I was probably a bit manic as well, which is when mental pathology feels good for once. I seemed to have limitless energy, endless creative ideas, and bottomless motivation to make those ideas come to fruition.

While I’ll continue to employ the helpful aspects of the LOA, never again will I believe that there are no accidents in life, as I know now just how dangerous that thinking can be.

We all want to feel safe in our worlds, and the Law of Attraction can lead us astray in thinking that we’re safer than we really are. If we can blame ourselves for every bad thing that happens to us (that gossip session yesterday brought on today’s headache, that fear of not having enough money brought on today’s arrival of a huge bill—these examples are detailed in The Power), then life doesn’t seem so random, so strange, so frightening.

But the truth is that sometimes, life IS random, strange and frightening, and instead of causing a panic attack, a full-on acceptance of this uncomfortable truth ignites something far deeper and more beautiful, and that’s compassion.

The affirmation that comes to mind right now is “But for the grace of God go I,” which means that as we look around us, we bear witness to the awful suffering human beings can go through day in and day out, and we recognize that any one of us is just inches away from befalling a similar fate.

Instead of looking at our brothers and sisters with judgment, that they somehow attracted these horrendous events into their lives with their erroneous and negative thinking and is thus their own fault, we see them instead as children of the universe who truly are sometimes just the hapless victim who deserve our love and deepest sympathy.

I missed all that when I believed too deeply in the Law of Attraction.

The bottom line is that sometimes, bad things do indeed happen to good people, and there’s no sense to it at all. What a relief.

While we’re certainly responsible for our own happiness, finding that happiness is harder for some than for others, and it’s not their fault at all. There are all kinds of horrors in this life—third-world poverty, abusive homes, dying children, murderous rampages, falling skyscrapers, to name but a few, and most victims are just at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that's about as deep as it goes.

But for the grace of God go I.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You're going to do WHAT?

When the bad days erupt, they can feel like a slow controlled explosion, with each passing hour feeling worse than the one that just came before.

This past week, I’ve been trying to reduce my morphine dose, as I’m seeing a new holistic doctor in New York City, who has put me on a nutritional regimen that is suppose to reduce my pain. But I’m still on a hefty dose of the stuff, which combined with all these new vitamins he has me on, landed me in the hospital the other night with a case of constipation that was literally off the charts.

As embarrassing as telling this tale might be, it’s a grim and somewhat common reality that anyone who takes opiates, whether by choice or not, must deal with the sometimes extreme irregularity it causes, and Saturday night at 3 a.m. will go down in the annals of my life as yet another indignity my poor body has suffered as a result of this unrelenting pain.

It’s happened before—this extreme constipation, indelicately called fecal impaction—but somehow I was always able to, er…well, push through. You would think that one would be able to tackle the problem with some basic laxatives long before it would get to these end stages, but for some reason, it often can happen hard and fast (oh, these puns), with little warning that a huge amount of cement is building up where it ain’t supposed to be.

Each time it’s happened, I’ve sworn that it would be the last time, that I would do whatever it took to prevent these occurrences, but the new supplements must have been my undoing this week, for when the clock struck around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, and all measures I’d been employing for the previous eight hours or so had failed, I intuitively knew I’d been beaten and that this time, I’d have to go to the emergency room, as even waiting until morning could make this dangerous case even more perilous to my health. Plus, having a brick sitting in your bowel feels like, well…a brick sitting in your bowel, and you want it out as quickly as humanly possible.

I did get myself to the emergency room, and luckily I didn’t have to wait too long for a young male doctor to come in and remedy the situation, which was basically sticking his finger up my ass in order to break up and pull out the offending material a little at a time. But oh, the indignity…and the discomfort! I can’t believe that we can put a man on the moon, but the best we can come up with when it comes to a clogged pipe is manual dexterity.

Before he took the plunge, I asked in astonishment if there was any other way, if there was any magic potion they could shoot up there to break things up, but he said somewhat curtly, “Nope. I just have to get in there, and it’s nasty.”

He then told me to take down my pants and roll over, as a nurse stood by, pan in hand, ready for the rocks. Before I knew it, he’d put on two pairs of rubber gloves, greased up, then plunged in with such ferocity that I grabbed onto the side of the bed for dear life, fearing that my poor anus was being ripped from its moorings.

He wasn’t in there for even a minute when the intercom clicked in, saying he had a phone call. “Excuse me,“ he said, removing the gloves, “but I have to get this.” “What?” I whimpered, shocked that any phone call could be more important than stopping in the middle of a procedure such as this. As one might imagine, a patient in this position wants the entire matter over as quickly as possible, and it felt like an hour for him to return as my poor butt was throbbing, even though it was probably just a few minutes.

It gave me just enough time to ponder how awful it was going to feel all over again when he returned, and my imagination didn’t disappoint. He was just as vigorous the second time around, to which I grunted, “How long is this going to take?” “Oh, a few more minutes,” he said, which inspired such fear in me that I gave a mighty push, and well, the matter resolved itself from then on in just a few seconds to the surprise of both him and the nurse. They both acted like a baby was coming as they rushed to get the pan underneath me, realizing that nature was taking its course in a way I just couldn’t control.

And just like that it was all over, and before I knew it, I was back in my apartment, back in bed tending to my severe case of bronchitis and fever, which felt like kids’ play compared to what I’d just been through.

Since then, I’ve been trying to reduce my morphine even more, and I’ve been staying away from the supplements for now, but frankly, I’m miserable. The pain in my face is too fierce right now to reduce the morphine any more, and I was in tears most of the afternoon, wondering how in god’s name my life has come to this—that I’m on so much pain medication that I actually needed an emergency room doctor this week to pull a brick out of my butt with his bare, if gloved, hands.

The poor guy didn’t even stick around for me to thank him. I did thank the nurse though, who was left with the grunt work, ‘natch, of throwing out my poop. I told her I was sorry that I’d come in with such an unpleasant task, but she couldn’t have been nicer, shrugging off the whole ordeal with, “Honey, this is what we’re here for. We’re here to help, and it’s not just you…this happens to people all the time.”

And with that I walked out a little easier than I walked in, if a little bowlegged.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Bust-Out Power of Journalling

I'd forgotten how dazzling, exciting and soothing daily journal writing can be.

After the holidays had ended, I was feeling such a terrible void, which isn't that unusual, I suppose, at this time of year, but the whole season seemed to have a void to it, despite how busy I was. On the surface, I probably looked happy. My online Etsy shop--filled with all kinds of my art-related goodies--was doing well, and I was commissioned by six clients to do a pet portrait. And my pain level was holding steady, kept in check by a moderate daily morphine dose.

There really didn't seem to be any overt reason for me to feeling such a deep malaise, during the holidays or after, but there it was, grinding away at me day in and day out, and yet I couldn't even cry about it, which was really strange for me, as weeks earlier, it seemed I couldn't turn off the daily waterworks.

Very early in the season, I was so tearful that when an old friend, who I hadn't seen in about 15 years, came over to pick up her pet portrait, the tears came out in an embarrassing flood when she asked me the simple question as to how I was doing. I knew the dreaded words were coming while she was catching me up on her own life (with me laughing and smiling the whole time), and I kept saying to myself, "Please don't ask me how I'm doing. Please don't ask me how I'm doing." She did, of course, and the more I tried to regain my composure as I spoke, the more the explosion built up steam.

It all turned out fine, as she's as much a dear now as she was then, but I was indeed perplexed by my post-holiday numbness, and decided it must be the morphine, which only added to my malaise, as right now, it's just something I can't live without.

I don't know what made me do it, but I decided on New Year's Eve to seek out my journal and just start writing automatically, not to make any discoveries necessarily, but just to break the logjam of my feelings, which had come to a full halt. And what a break I made.

It's amazing what feelings lurk inside us when we just stop for 20 minutes or so, and really let them surface. At first, I wrote that I should go off the morphine at all costs, as I just couldn't stand the blankness of my life anymore, but suddenly, little glimmers of other matters began to appear. The first entry gently percolated with what family gatherings do to my feelings of self-worth, especially when I'm sick and in pain, and I found myself praying on paper for guidance, as I was so at a loss as to what to do next.

I ended with, "I need a miracle," and sure enough, the next day while talking to Glori, my therapist, while telling her that I just can't cry anymore, that the morphine has put me out of touch with any and all feeling, a few sniffles suddenly turned into a flood of tears about how yet another year has passed with me being in pain, and the sorrow I felt about it was overwhelming.

"My dear," she said. "I believe you are in touch with your feelings just fine."

Since then, I've made the effort to write every day, and the results have been unusually soothing, as any good purge of emotion usually is. Unlike my blogging, which is more controlled and meant for others to read, my journal writing is often splashes of sentences that only I can understand, filled with run-on phrases, misspellings, and deeply private feelings meant for my eyes alone.

While I'm as honest as possible in my blog, my journal writing is really honest, where I can vent and reach into the darkest corners of my soul, often with some trepidation, but always rewarded, as even if I don't discover an answer, I do always end with a prayer to the Great Spirit, asking for guidance, courage or whatever else I might feel I'm lacking at the moment, and the hope those words bring is always reassuring.

Perhaps the greatest discovery, which came from my session with Glori that day, was something I've let lapse, and that's been writing here.

At one point, Glori and I were doing an updated treatment plan (I see her at a clinic), and she asked me what I hoped to achieve with our sessions in the coming months. At first, my answers were very self-centered, as I seemed to answer by rote, with the old chestnuts like, "I'd like to be happier," "I'd like to become more social," "I'd like to feel less anxious," etc.

And then she asked me about my writing, which I've always felt has helped not just me, but others as well. When I started this blog well over two years ago, it was at first a way to give meaning to a harrowing experience simply by expressing it. But in time, as certain comments were made, I saw that the sharing of the experience had a reverberating effect that went far deeper than I'd ever anticipated when I started.

I haven't had to offer any answers here, or any deep insights, or even clever writing. I've just had to be honest, even when that honesty reveals that I just spent three days in my pajamas and I feel like crap. It's those entries that sometimes resonate most of all for others suffering similarly, and this has caught me completely by surprise.

When Glori reminded me that thinking of others will come back to me a thousandfold, I knew what I had to do, which is coming back to my blog and continuing the chronicling of this bizarre journey.

And that's what some simple journal writing has led to. In the search to find answers, the answer is simply to be honest and continue the search, and perhaps most important, to share the experience with others, for it's in the sharing of the journey that the healing truly begins.