"Sometimes the only power you have is to tell your story." -Evelyn Wilde

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Like a Boss

I really need to trust my instincts more. The inner voice that says "Eeshh, this asshole is going to fire you" has never been wrong yet.  I ignore that instinct because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and, more to the point, I need the work.  Not that I have been fired that often but, you know, enough to ask "Was it something I said?"


I can look back at each horrible boss and plead my case:

1. Age 24. Napoleon Complex. Didn't appreciate my lack of enthusiasm for his boat. I told him to go fuck himself, resulting in my one and only official 'Security Guard Escort' out of the building.
2. Age 37. Misogynist. I held him accountable for poor decisions which impacted my Department. He felt threatened by my assertiveness and bullied me out of a job. I was one year shy of tenure. He was mandated to complete training on How to Not Create a Hostile Work Environment and still has his job.
3. Age 39. Unethical company from top to bottom. They could get someone less qualified for half the price, or more qualified with less training requirements. I was 'let go' without cause, the day before I went on vacation.
4. Age 40. Insecure and Inexperienced. She was constantly looking for validation; talked a lot yet said very little. I think it came down to her feeling intimidated but I'm not entirely sure what story she was telling herself.


My most recent experience has made me hyper aware of perceived reality. You can be getting on with your work, thinking this means that, and surely they understand x and y; meanwhile, a completely alternative reality is occurring. You have not bought a ticket to see this story but at the end, you get fired.

At least that's how I remember it. A leading expert on memory, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, asserts that we distort our memories so we come out looking favorably "...we are more prone to adopt false memories when they make us look better and feel better about ourselves."

I do have high expectations of myself and others. I expect people to do their jobs well. When I am criticized, without context or clear guidelines for improvement, I do become defiant and frustrated. Ultimately, communication is the key to any relationship, personal or professional, and that is where I recognize my "areas for growth."

I did not grow up in a home where we advocated for ourselves. My family did not argue, make a fuss, or object in public. A little girl certainly didn't speak her mind without being called "bossy" or "pushy." Manners were very important, as was being well liked.

I say that not to eshew blame as much as to recognize the cause and effect. My failings in communication start with not having the practice, the foundation to build upon. I don't want to be rude. I want to make a good impression, be well liked, so I always start off with a smile, thank you notes, "whatever you need" etc.

When a conflict occurs I feel like I failed. I triangulate to diffuse my feelings. That inner dissonance results in frustration which then gets expressed in a tone of voice or body language interpreted as criticism. When I don't feel heard or assume that clearly it must be obvious that... I come out swinging. Firm emails get sent, voices get raised, defenses are fortified. The result? I'm crying and filing for Unemployment

I think being a woman is still a handicap, too. I really wish it weren't. I don't want to be that lady but I do think it still factors in. A recent study by North Carolina State University demonstrated this bias when they evaluated student perception of Professors based on gender.

If I were a man would my perceived shortcomings be received more favorably? I think they would and the Data seems to agree. Being white and middle-class helps. A woman past twenty-nine, who is not especially gorgeous and lacks independent wealth definitely drops my score back down though.

How much is mine and how much is theirs? Do I ultimately recognize that I will make a better boss than employee and it's just a matter of getting to that point? Yes. I know the only boss I'll ever truly respect is myself. Nevertheless, I want to play well with others.  I must teach myself what was never shown to me as a child. I need to use my words; learn the skills of effective communication. The spiritual lesson is found in loving kindness, especially towards those I do not agree with or dislike.

Having said that, can I tell you a secret? The only thing I really regret is not telling them all to fuck off.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?

One day...one day...I will be in the WHYY studios in Philadelphia sitting across from Terry Gross. I will be there because my clever, disarming, never knew a memoir could be like this, first book has peaked her interest enough to discuss everything me. 

I've been listening to Fresh Air on National Public Radio for so long that I've lost count of the interviews that have made me laugh, cry and learn, all thanks to Terry's perfect combination of insight, wit, and empathy.

But back to me. This is my moment. The moment all the hours of writing into what has often felt like a vacuum are finally validated. Terry (not Dave Davies. No disrespect Dave, you do a fine job but it has to be Terry) and I are getting to know one another and she asks me the obvious first question.

It has always been tricky to answer without coming off as pretentious, convoluted and/or like I might be a Spy. That is why I must put it all out there before we meet so Terry has the information she needs to craft her masterful questions.

In preparation for that moment I will attempt to construct here the honest, albeit complicated, answer to that one question:

"Where are you from?"

Well, Terry...I was born in Africa. In Lusaka, Zambia in 1974. Ten years after Independence from the British Crown, when the country had been known as Northern Rhodesia.

I was the first of two daughters born to Dan and Rosemary.

My mother found herself in Zambia after her father, my grandad, took a contract with the government. He and my grandma left England in the early seventies and lived for a few years in Southern Africa. They were both Veterans of World War II so spending extended periods of time in far away lands did not faze them. After Zambia they lived in Spain before finally moving to Australia.

My mother, at 21 and the youngest of three sisters, was working in Hospitality in Brighton on the south coast of England but had plans to emigrate to South Africa. While staying with her parents she took a temporary office job in Lusaka and met my father. They married in 1971.

Her middle sister had already emigrated to Australia by then and her eldest sister had married a local farmer in Hertfordshire. My Mum and her family had settled there, north of London, but were originally from Sussex, in the South of England. My granddad, Cyril, was born in 1910 to a large family in Hastings. His father was a policemen.

Her mother, Doris, was from the North of England, from a town called Doncaster in Yorkshire. My grandma's father was a Solicitor and her mother had died of unknown causes when Doris was a young woman. Doris was asked to be her father's Hostess for social functions until he remarried. When he did remarry Doris was asked to leave the home by his new wife and she joined the Royal Navy. My grandparents met in their thirties while serving on a British Naval Ship in Kenya.

My grandma died when I was a little girl. At that point they were living in Perth, Western Australia. I don't remember her as a happy woman. She used to drink in secret, according to my mother, who only realized that herself as an adult.

After my grandma died, my granddad moved to Miami and lived near us. Unfortunately, a hurricane blew his home away in 1992 so he moved back to Australia, closer to his middle daughter, which is where he died at the age of 90.

I have four cousins, two from each Aunt. Three live in Australia now and one is still in England. In my entire life I have probably spent a week in total with my mother's family whom she only communicates with a few times a year.

They are not close but not acrimonious either. They come from a time and a place where distance was not an obstacle; an Anglo-Saxon model of family, defined by heritage not obligation.

My father, however, comes from the Jewish Diaspora. A family born from blood, sweat and many tears. He was the second of two sons. My granny, Devorah, and a man I never met, Jonatan, divorced when my father was a baby. That was kind of a big deal back then.

Jonatan's family were Russians who had left Moscow for Palestine in the late 1930's. Wealthy Industrialists who settled in Tel Aviv, his younger brother died fighting in the 1948 war.

My Granny was born in Palestine in 1922, to Zionists from Poland and Romania. She was the eldest of three and her brother, Dani, would later become an Ambassador for Israel.

My Granny has a large extended family that span Israel from Haifa to Ashkelon but their roots are in the wine growing hamlet of Zichron Yaakov. In her youth, my grandmother worked for the Hagannah; smuggling Jews out of Czechoslovakia during World War II. Jonatan built his family's successful business and was known to be quite the ladies man, even after marriage. They had a son, Yossi.  Four years later, in 1949, my father came along.

During the War of Independence in 1948 a young Zionist came to Israel from South Africa. My granny fell in love with him. She petitioned Jonatan for divorce not long after their second child was born. She was granted her freedom on the condition that her eldest child stay with his father, while the youngest, who was still breastfeeding, could move with her to South Africa.

This event, like a horrific car crash, has many angles from which to cast judgment. I went to Israel several times to try and uncover "the truth" but was only left with more questions. Did she abandon her son? Did she fight for both or suggest the compromise? Was she willing to leave them both? Did she commit adultery or did he?

Whatever the facts were, it left a scar across the hearts of all those effected by her choice: her choice to love, her choice to leave.

In 1951 my father, his mother, and his new stepfather, Toby, moved to Johannesburg. My father was two. He and his mother would continue to travel back to Israel every year to see family. My father's family moved often; after South Africa they lived in Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia), until they settled in Zambia in the 1960's.

His brother, Yossi,  had a new stepmother, Ruth. Both boys came to love their adopted parents but the vitriol and resentment between their mother and father was nothing short of Shakespearean. Until I physically found myself in Jonatan's home as an adult, at the gracious invitation of his widow, years after his death, I had never seen a photo of him in my life. My granny had cut his face out of every piece of evidence in her possession.

My father showed signs of entrepreneurship from an early age. His father, Jonatan, recognizing that his eldest son, Yossi, had a kind heart but a lazy disposition wanted to bring my dad, Dan, into the family business, in Israel. He promised my dad, by then a handsome, confident, teenager, the Trifecta: women, money and power. My granny was having none of it.

At that point, her eldest son was already in the Israeli Army and she knew if my father were to move to Israel and join the family business she would lose him. He knew that moving to Israel would involve mandatory military service.

At 16 my father made his choice. He changed his last name to honor the man who had raised him and he never went to Israel again. His father disowned him, his country of birth declared him a deserter, and that part of his life began to fade away.

Having rejected Judaism, his father and Israel, at 21 my dad fell in love with my mom; a very pretty, English shiksa who refused to convert, much to my granny's objections. When I was born, the first grandchild, she became slightly less awful to my mother but their relationship would always hover somewhere between contempt and disdain.

My granny would continue to visit Israel and see the family that still spoke to her. She and Toby had a son, Tamir, ten years younger than my father. Her eldest son had married a very glamorous Israeli woman and they eventually had two children together.

From memories and stories about my granny, she was a fierce, vibrant, creative woman probably suffering from a serious mental illness. Both my grandmothers suffered; my mother's I would think from Dysthymia and Alcoholism, my father's from either a Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar II. As both women were undiagnosed in their lives, sadly, neither received the compassion and care they deserved.

My dad only saw his father once again in his life, when my mother was pregnant with me. He called once, years later, and I answered the phone. I was probably fourteen but I remember the moment I heard his voice like it was yesterday. He was in New York and told my father that he wanted to visit us. He never did and died not long after.

My father had become involved in a professional organization in his twenties, Jaycees International, and was elected from hundreds of candidates from around the world to become the CEO at their headquarters in Coral Gables, Florida. This is why, in 1979, my immediate family, which now included my baby sister, relocated from Zambia to Florida when I was five years old.

My granny and Toby would visit us every year. It was on one of these visits, they were babysitting us while my parents were out of the country, when another phone call was received that I will never forget.

The phone rang and moments later a cry, so deep and sad, filled our entire house. Yossi, my granny's eldest son, had died of a heart attack at the age of 36. He left behind a wife and two small children. My granny did not go to the funeral because she said she was looking after us. What family still spoke to her could not understand her choice. It would be said that Yossi had died from a broken heart; he never recovered from being abandoned by his mother, even in death.

A few years later, her beloved husband, the man she left her family and country for, would also die of a heart attack. The loss would be almost too much for her. She moved from Zambia to Miami where both of her sons, Dan and his half brother, Tamir, were now living with their families. She died in 2004, just before her 82nd birthday, with both sons by her side.

Jonatan's fortune went to his wife, Ruth, whom I eventually met in Israel. Although she acknowledged my father as Jonatan's legitimate son, all of her money when she died went to Yossi's widow and children. I have met them on a few occasions. They too have their version of my granny and our family. While they may have the money, which I have admittedly felt the injustice of on occasion, my sister and I still have a wonderful father in our lives.

I grew up in a Miami which at that time was starting to become the epicenter for Cuban exiles, Columbian drug trafficking, and German modelling agencies. Miami has changed so much since I left in 1998 that I have no sense of place there. The idea of "home" continues to evade me.

By the time I was six I had travelled to more countries than most people can locate on a map. After I graduated from University I travelled around the world, moved to Spain, and have friends across the globe but almost none where I currently live.

I've moved every few years as an adult but while much of my time was in Europe, my parents and sister have stayed in South Florida. Which is where I live now.

South Florida is not like Los Angeles or New York, where people move for something. Florida is where you go to get away from something. Despite my objections, I have roots here and can't seem to escape.

My answer to your question has to be this, Terry: I am an African American. I find affinity in Jewish culture yet reject Religion of any kind. I have European blood coursing through my veins. I can speak Spanish and love Cuban food. I am a Socialist who craves fame and fortune. I have a British Passport yet I feel more American in England than I do anywhere else in the world. If one place were to make me feel more like myself it would be New York City but having only lived there briefly many years ago that is not where I'm "from" either.

So, I guess you could say: I currently live in Palm Beach, Florida...but I can't wait to move again.

I hope one day I can answer in five words or less.

Next question?

Election Depression

It has been a week since the 2014 mid-term election. Any good Psychotherapist will tell you there is no fixed time frame to the processing of grief. I've passed Denial and Anger and am hovering somewhere between Bargaining and Depression. Acceptance is still a way off.

It may seem hyperbolic to liken an election to the loss of a loved one but if the Republican Sweep- despite the current positive indicators- are representative of the town, state and country where I live I am at a loss, for words.

A few weeks before Election Day I informally polled acquaintances to gauge the temperature on various issues; which in Florida included Medical Marijuana, Children's Services, numerous State and National Congressional Representatives, and Governor.

The various reactions my selective sample garnered included three themes which, in my opinion, would seem to address the reactionary results and abysmal voter turnout numbers:

1. A woman who smokes Pot every day (just for fun) said she was voting against Medical Marijuana because she didn't want the price to increase.

2. I casually asked a young couple if they had voted yet- a week prior to the actual day- and they replied that they had "a lot on" so just couldn't get to the polls this time.

3. A client, who had spent weeks complaining that the Casino he worked for had cut his hours because of "Obamacare," wasn't voting in "protest."

Based on that kind of feedback a measured response proved challenging. Nevertheless; I have tried to qualify my results in the order they were received as follows:

1. Self Interest
Americans care about themselves, their families and maybe their friends. A celebrity telethon or 5k walk will elicit generosity among the lower classes, while a charity benefit usually gets the 1% to sign big checks, but I'm not sure how to change the chronic head-up-own-ass-ness of Americans.

One is branded a Socialist if raising taxes to support the less fortunate is even suggested. A new Republican member of Congress, the Lady Pig Farmer from the Great State of Iowa, Joni Ernst, has just illustrated that point to her Supporters:

 "We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs…we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything."
 
 
2. Apathy and/or just can't handle one more thing we "have" to do.
Americans don't even take all their paid vacation time because they are so stressed about keeping jobs, making student loan payments, avoiding Gluten, watching Bravo Marathons, picking kids up before the late fee charges, etc.
 
Election Day really needs to be a Public Holiday. We couldn't make it mandatory though. Come on now- unless we're talking about a woman's womb, Americans sure as shit won't abide without a choice.  

3. Ignorance
24 hour access to people just talking for the sake of hearing their own voice puts a lot of opinions into the atmosphere. Facts are difficult to debate but subjective ideas can be interpreted into our own frames of reference with much less effort.

The Affordable Care Act didn't demand that the multi-million dollar revenue producing Casino (my client works for) cut their employee's hours. That was a business decision many companies make, in one way or another, to skip out on paying taxes, providing health care and other benefits, because its a god damn job so shut up and be grateful!

Just a few days after this Election the 2014 Country Music Awards were handed out. The Song of the Year was awarded to a very talented young lady named Kacey Musgraves and her song Follow Your Arrow.

This catchy tune about loving who you love, kissing boys and girls- whichever you're into- and smoking weed must be pretty popular to win that award. Nevertheless, I guarantee the majority of people who listen to Country music elected Politicians who vote against marriage equality & cannabis.

Cognitive Dissonance is a Psychological term defined as: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. The American Psyche would seem to be suffering a wicked case of it.

Maybe it's far more basic. More fear based. Most people are scared of Hospitals, right? Maybe Americans hate Obamacare because now they have no excuse for not seeing a doctor who will most likely challenge their Big Gulp and pack a day habits and confirm what we all fear, our mortality.

Or maybe Americans, on a Jungian collective unconscious level, think Obama actually represents Karma? How can they trust him- after all the terrible things White people have done to the American Negro, how could they? White privilege has resulted in abhorrent behavior towards black people, historically and probably within the last hour.

(Obama) has to be looking for payback for all, or at least half, of black people everywhere. Hmmm...maybe...Health Care is really a Black Panther scheme for injecting us with Syphilis disguised as Flu Shots at CVS...yeah...yeah...it all makes sense! Vote Republican!!

 
I might still be at the Angry stage of grieving.

How to Not Get Married Like a Crazy Person

A recent report has said that "Godless" Millennials will be the end of Right-Wing Conservative Politics. I hope I am alive to enjoy an Agnostic, Liberal, Feminist, Eco-Friendly World with Transgender Leaders and LEED certified housing for all.

Perhaps it will also mean that my niece; a gorgeous, smart and independent four year old will not grow up planning every detail of her wedding, or at the very least not feeling weird about why she doesn't. Until then, I accept that marriage is still kind of a big deal.


A friend put a photo of the engagement ring he gave his fiancĂ© on Facebook recently and, I have to admit, I stared at my own diamond like it was a pebble glued to a piece of string. I often flip through wedding photos and take mental color palette notes. I have a few ideas and more than a few issues.

I have also been married twice. I had a courthouse wedding, a Las Vegas wedding and am starting to plan a third wedding because I'm a perfectionist in need of a project. The love in my life right now is not contingent upon a wedding. I just like a good party and want redemption for the first two.

Needless to say, a very dear friend is contemplating her first wedding and BOY do I have some advice! I wish a wise woman had shared this stuff with me. Would I have heard her? Doubtful. Nevertheless; for those brides/grooms out there more self aware and sensible than I was, I do have some ideas, a bit of inside information, I'd like to share with you.

So. Put down the Bridal magazine and your mom's 25th text of the morning about guest lists and venues. Pop a tranquil inducing substance of your choice. Take a deep, cleansing breath...........and here we go:

1. Congratulations! Seriously, it's a big deal to love and be loved. You found your lobster! Please know that is all most people want to commend and celebrate.

2. That person you love is a fucked up mess. Accept that now. Get couple's therapy now. Get your own therapy- now! You're a fucked up adorable mess, too. Marriage is not a car wash that you go into tarnished and come out of pristine. Just accept that now and get help now and if the person you love is flawed now they'll be all of that and a bag of chips the day after you get married. Accept it, try to fix it, or move on.

3. Weddings are parties. They are not the defining social event of your life and you will feel empty inside after you drop 30k+ to fail at that.

4. Look gorgeous, document the day, and throw a really good party. Whatever your version of that is.

5. Have someone assist you in the operations of that day but don't let another person's aesthetic (mom, friend, wedding planner, et al) create your party.

6. If it all seems like too much to cope with- stop. Seriously, just give yourself permission to stop. Your mental health is way too important. Go to the courthouse and/or leave town. Save the money for an amazing vacation, property or your IRA.

7. Keep it real, Girlfriend. You are NOT a Disney princess. You know that, right?

8. Be as tasteful and/or as honest as possible about asking for stuff (gifts, money, etc.). It's a weird expectation anyway so mind your manners but be crystal clear of your expectations.

9. I think a color palette for the bridal party- eg. beige, black and powder blue- and a general theme- smart casual, Country Chic (is that a thing?) - for the party guests, are straightforward, reasonable boundaries people can work with.

...and finally

10. Marriage is a really important commitment when you actually plan on sharing your life with that person. If you are honest with yourselves and marrying for money, power, citizenship- ignore everything I've just said. However, if it's authentic, be mindful of the promise you are making. See it as one of the best opportunities you have to becoming a better person.

Ideas of Reference

Full disclosure, I have to admit that I am a long-time viewer of Project Runway and Top Chef. I love the idea of creative people being challenged to show their best work. I usually fast forward through most of the "drama" so I can just get to the bits with Tim Gunn, Runway Shows and Food Porn but those are my guilty pleasures.

There is a wilderness beyond the two shows I watch, grown from the seeds of a Television writers strike back in 2001, that has brought us entire Networks dedicated to crop after crop of feud, freak, and fancy. True story: since the U.S. has either been adapting or exporting Reality TV all over the world, a Real Housewife or a Kardashian are as visible abroad as they are in the United States.

I do not watch other reality based shows mostly because I am sensitive to bad juju. I find by abstaining from Reality Television, like some would nuts or gluten, I can avoid a bad reaction. I am aware they exist though, thanks to another show I watch every week, The Soup, so I can usually follow along with random conversations and tabloids. 

When I was a kid, foreign travel often involved awkward conversations about Miami Vice and Baywatch which usually resulted in my bursting the bubble of a teenager's wet dream about America. Today, while American Dramas and Comedies- which to be fair, are some of the best we have ever made- still find success in other countries, we are also ostensibly sending the world our "way of life" through the medium of Reality Television. A random sampling of which might include: Swamp Dwellers, Child Beauty Pageant Contestants, Bigfoot Hunters, and Trophy Wives.

A few of our best & brightest
I am not denying that a percentage of Americans are represented by the aforementioned, I'm just wondering if it's the smartest diplomatic strategy?

Reputations on the world stage aside, I can't be the only person who becomes physically uncomfortable by what I see on television. Oscillating between schadenfreude and self-loathing there has to be a moment when our better natures question the value and cumulative effect this noise is having on us.

Which is why, resigned to the fact that there is no turning back to simpler times of sexist Game Shows and sentimental Soap Operas, there might just be in all this "reality" an opportunity for valuable lessons to be learned.

What I propose is a Mental Health Professional, a Dr. Drew type- someone approachable yet knowledgeable **I am very much available**- who would become part of the programming; appearing at the beginning, mid-way, and at the end of each show, to illuminate the public on the plethora of Mental Health issues that have been observed.

For example:

"On this episode of Chrisley Knows Best we saw Todd demonstrating classic symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder which is characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking."

or

"Tonight's Keeping up with the Kardashians was brought to you by people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is important to understand that people who have significant problems with their sense of self-worth, stemming from a powerful sense of entitlement, can lead them to believe that they deserve special treatment, and to assume they are uniquely talented, or especially attractive. Now let's continue watching a Baby sitting in the front row at Paris Fashion Week."

We could realistically open up the DSM V and match every disorder with the corresponding Reality Television Program, assign a Mental Health Professional to provide therapy to the cast and educational commentary to the public. Let's see how it goes! What's the worst thing that could happen?

People might begin to recognize and understand pervasive, pathological patterns in others if those issues were explained, not celebrated. Which maybe, just maybe, will decrease the tendency to emulate those behaviors in the general public because we will have stopped treating Mental Illness as a spectator sport. At the very least, Reality "Celebrities" would become case studies, worthy of compassion and clinical review, not clothing lines and cookbooks??

Terrible parent but her Banana Bread recipe is outstanding!

I'm letting you have this one Andy Cohen, Ryan Seacrest, et al- purveyors of perverse insanity which you rebrand as reality- try it out, beta test it. Whatever development deal with the Devil you have made can surely be amended.

Did I mention I have some availability and on camera experience??


------------------------

**I am a Professional Mental Health Therapist aware that I am making assumptions about general behaviors I have seen on television. Diagnosing from a distance is neither advisable nor professional so without further evaluation I am only assigning diagnoses as a way of illustrating a broader conversation.

Don't Tell My Mom I Told You This



My mother is English so a cup of strong tea usually eases most of her discomfort. She was diagnosed in 1994 with Multiple Sclerosis and has defied the odds, thanks to her no nonsense lifestyle and an incredibly expensive weekly injection. She thrives twenty years on. Nevertheless, twenty years on is still time passing. She lives with the constant doubt "Is this MS or is this getting older?"

Last February it was a nerve trapped in her lower spine and no amount of PT or PG Tips would cure it.

Her doctors wrote prescriptions for painkillers, mostly Opiates. The kind junkies buy for $20 a pill. The stuff a stoic, tiny woman in her sixties, who scoffs at Ibuprofen, sees as the last resort. The side effects cause her more grief than relief: nausea, constipation, dissociation from a reality which she generally enjoys if it weren't for excruciating pain. She is restless and likes to keep busy. Mum does not heed the Rx for bed rest without a struggle.

I advocated for Benzodiazepines which would have allowed her anxiety to settle and might have encouraged rest and relaxation. Although they too have addictive properties, the doctors did not agree that addressing anxiety was vital so kept pushing the Oxycontin to address the pain.

After she finally had the surgery she needed at least a week of rest. The prescription she went home with instructed her to ingest 90 mg of Opiates per day. After the first two pills she was nauseous, lacking appetite and cramping; in addition to the fresh, sore surgical wounds.

I saw someone I loved suffering so I did what I felt I needed to do: I sourced some edibles and served her one with a cup of tea.

I told her what they were. She resisted: "I have never taken drugs in my life! Thank you but no thank you." One more dose of a prescribed Narcotic convinced her to try it my way.

She nibbled tentatively, like a little hamster. I made sure she was given just enough to rest and relax "Don't worry, mum. I wont let you go full Phish on us." The reference lost on her.

For a week she nibbled. She slept for hours and quickly began to eat and move with less pain.  We watched TV, chatted, and drank lots of tea. She never left her body like she had with the painkillers and, for a few days, until she declared,"That's enough of that. I've had my Hippie phase now"  my Mother chilled out.
 
There are too many people in pain like my Mum. Too many harmful, addictive drugs sent home with vulnerable people unlike her. Too much evidence indicating the healing properties of Cannabis, for a variety of illness and ailment, to not
#Legalizeit.

Will some people abuse it? Of course. People like to get high. That is a fact the world over. Poverty, genetics, isolation, boredom, easy money, trauma- all are possible reasons pathology takes over. There are also many reasons why people seek relief in drugs and alcohol.

People are capable of destroying themselves but they are just as capable of taking responsibility for their health and well-being. The "war" on drugs has ruined too many lives. The statistics on addiction would indicate we have lost. We could be doing a lot more with our DEA funding to improve things like work conditions and wages, Mental Health Services, Education (Pre-K through College) and Health Care, so people actually want to stay engaged with their reality.

Let's try it a different way. America has bigger problems to solve and greater victories to win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Miami Vices


 
But do you know this idea of the imaginary homeland? Once you set out from the shore on your little boat, once you embark, you'll never truly be at home again. What you 've left behind exists only in your memory, and your ideal place becomes some strange imaginary concoction of all you've left behind at every stop.
-Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs

I left Miami in January of 1998 but my sister has stayed, now raising two children in the same area where we grew up, so I have been obliged to visit regularly ever since.

The Miami I belong to spanned my family's immigration from Zambia in 1979, when I was 5, to my exodus after graduating college at 23. During those 18 years in my life I did some important stuff: attended K-12 school and University, lost my virginity, fell in love, got my first job, endured Hurricane Andrew, and learned to drive.

Although I have lived in many cities since, Miami is pretty much it for me, as far as any connection to a childhood. I find myself resentful that I cannot recognize myself in its current reflection.

A local Newspaper recently put together a collection of movies filmed in the South Florida area and I realized, much like the roster of shite on that list, I haven't been impressed with anything produced in the city since 1998: I can effectively draw a line under There's Something About Mary as the beginning of the end for Miami and I.

I can't think of anywhere else in the world like Miami; where the Immigrant expects the adopted culture to adapt to them, not the other way around. Especially when the template for immigration came with little to no regulations or similar concessions (nor generosity) for the Afro-Caribbean, mostly Haitian, communities. As of 2013, the "American" population of Miami was reported at less than 15%.

While I applaud any city which embraces immigrants, celebrates diversity, and encourages assimilation, Miami is not what multiculturalism looks like. The Hispanic population of the United States hovers at around 20%, less than 3% of which are Cuban. Once you cross the Miami-Dade border you might as well be at the world's end.

Some Latinos are encroaching north to Broward County but the hub of Latin activity remains firmly within Miami, and the citadel which has been constructed around it. Business and culture have responded accordingly so an "American" raised in Miami would now be struggling to find a job or friends without ingratiating themselves into the dominant Cuban/Latin culture which does not translate beyond its own borders.


In Miami, money and power has always had more cache than culture though. The natural beauty that defined South Florida for centuries has been steadily sold off to the highest bidder. Aggressive towers block the sun along the shoreline, while McMansions have cleaved their way into Old Florida/Spanish Revival homes, which used to sit on large, lush, tropical lots.

Much the way Plastic Surgeons reconstruct the lips and labia's of the women who live in the area, vanity has decimated the authenticity of cities from London to Los Angeles. What makes Miami's glossy veneer that extra inch of insulting is its all style, no substance.

My parents actually left Miami the same year I did and relocated to Palm Beach County, about 90 miles north. I moved back a few years ago to attend Graduate School and settled mid-way between the two in Delray Beach, which was voted America's Most Fun Small Town in 2012.

It's not all fun in the sun though.The onslaught of Addiction Treatment Programs and Half-Way Houses (as well as the coterie catering to those 'in recovery') have infested the area. All the attention has spurned the sale of quaint, historical landmarks to large developers.

Once again, more money than sense has prevailed in South Florida.

Miami, Delray Beach, these aren't my towns. They don't define, embrace or inspire me. I might never see myself reflected back, wherever I may live. As an immigrant, I understand the need for approval and desperately want to demonstrate the value of my contribution. I don't mean to discredit how Latin culture has enhanced Miami or the seriousness of Addiction. I just don't feel connected to any of it.

Yet as I was scrolling through my photos recently I realized that, at a certain point, the images changed abruptly. What were once landscapes and city sights became the faces of my family and home cooked meals.

I might eventually make peace with South Florida and stop looking for validation in a location. If home really is where the heart is, and I can't reconcile people vs. place, can I make it appear that way without major surgery?