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Monthly Archives: December 2011

High on Arrival, A Memoir

“I’m living my life instead of watching it. I’m free.” Mackenzie Phillips, High on Arrival, A Memoir

 “High on Arrival,” is the memoir of 70’s TV sitcom star and singer Mackenzie Phillips. Best known for her role as “Julie Cooper” on the TV sitcom “One day at a time” and as vocalist in her father’s re-vamped musical group the New Mama’s and the Papa’s, Mackenzie Phillips chronicles a life of drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll common in an era defined by tumultuous and excessive living, the difference being that Mackenzie Phillips was exposed to this lifestyle at a very young and impressionable age. When other kids her age were playing hide and go seek, Mackenzie was weaving in and out of two homes, her mother’s home where in her early childhood there was some semblance of order and responsibility, and her father’s home where hedonism was the name of the game. Mackenzie Phillips teetered on the edge of both of these worlds, but in the end, it was the anything goes, no discipline, no limits lifestyle that would engulf and define her childhood and the better part of her adulthood.

From the very beginning of the book, Mackenzie Phillips sets the reader on a winding and quickly unraveling road laced with drugs, sex, and complete self- destruction. Given the world that Mackenzie Phillips was raised in, it should come of no surprise that she fell prey to the destructive lure of drugs and alcohol, resulting in her total rejection of all stabilizing forces in her life. Without honing in on the specifics of the book, something that I believe would taint ones gut reaction to the storytelling, Mackenzie Phillips off the charts drug use and other manifestations of destruction stirred in me an intense reaction that in the end made me question myself more than Mackenzie. Peeling back the layers of my reaction to the experiences shared by Mackenzie throughout the book, I was able to focus in on a broken woman, broken by a disturbing and deranged upbringing and adulthood which crossed into the early parts of her role as mother to her son Shane. Viewing the book through the lens of Mackenzie’s broken self helped, in part, to place into the context the extreme and foolish behavior she engaged in, as well as understand why the “Aha” moments I believed should have come at several points in her life never appeared. This is not to say that I give a pass to or condone the behaviors depicted throughout the book, behaviors that Mackenzie herself denounces. I simply realized that there was no way I could relate to the utter insanity and hell that her life devolved into, no more than I can understand the tales of the seemingly normal and traditional upbringings detailed in some memoirs.

The ironic and tragic reality of Mackenzie’s life is that it was couched in the counter- cultural movement of the sixties and seventies, a movement that promised its followers freedom from establishments that sought to enslave them. Sadly, much of this movement was marred by perilous and excessive drug, alcohol, and sexual exploits that left not only lasting and destructive consequences for its followers, but accomplished the very thing it set out not to fall victim to, enslavement. Enslavement to drugs and alcohol ravaged many of this cultures devotee’s, for some resulting in death i.e. Janis Joplin Mackenzie Phillips was close to death’s door, she managed to evade death’s grip but at a very heavy cost. However, today, it seems that Mackenzie Phillips has remained on the course of sobriety and one can only hope that she will continue down that path. For me, Mackenzie Phillips memoir highlighted the dangers of a life with no boundaries, seared with rampant drug use and other forms of abuse. Although I cannot claim to relate to the privileged and utterly dysfunctional environment she was raised in, like all good memoirs, Mackenzie Phillips memoir ropes the reader into a space where understanding and empathy can grow.

“High on Arrival” is an extremely raw, and oftentimes, disturbing book. Understandably, some of the subjects discussed in this book are too rough for sensitive readers, but for those otherwise inclined, I would highly recommend this book. In my opinion, this book is a definite page-turner that will challenge the way you process how family relationships and experiences influence our lives.

Just a little bit of sadness…

One of the great things about owning an iPad 2 is the ability to download applications like Flipboard and Zite (these applications are now available for the iPhone). Flipboard and Zite are “magazine style” applications that allow users to tailor the information that the applications stream to them based on their personal preferences. Content sections and design layout are but two of the functions users can custom design. I can’t begin to count the vast amount of diverse information these applications have streamed to me from sources I most likely would never have come across during a typical web search. Today, via the “Psychology and Mind” section of the Zite application, I stumbled upon a wonderful blog post by a blogger named Kymberly Grosso who veered away from writing about autism to share her thoughts and suggestions on how to get through the loss of a loved one during the holidays, (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/autism-in-real-life/201112/getting-through-the-holidays-after-losing-loved-one-0).

Like Kymberly, unfortunately, I can relate to the stinging pain that follows the loss of a loved one and how that loss forever marks the holidays with “just a little bit of sadness.” There is no way for me to adequately articulate the painful and numbing feeling that engulfs those like me that have lost loved ones, especially during times when the presence of these individuals is emphasized. While it is generally true that with the passage of time comes the ability to better deal with the intensity of the loss of a loved one, the pain and sadness over their loss never truly goes away.

Along with wonderful memories of her mother, Kymberly offers some great suggestions for how to get through the holidays after the loss of a loved one. If you have lost a loved one, please know that the pain that you feel, as raw and intense as it may be now, will get better with time. No amount of time will cause you to forget your loved one, nor will it erase the sadness you feel about their passing, but there are things you can do to honor your loved ones memory and take care of yourself.

Ho, ho, no

It’s that time of year again. The time when we are bombarded by a mountain of advertisements touting the “must” have gifts of the season, when we are faced with a near endless supply of cheesy Christmas movies to watch, and many of us frantically try to decide what to wear to the office holiday party. In Christmas’ past, I have worked myself up into a frenzy trying to mail out Christmas cards in time to arrive to before Christmas day, have shopped for a gift or two, watched a couple of cheesy Christmas movies, and have cranked up the volume on Handel’s “Hallelujah.” This Christmas, nothing, zip, nada, zero. I haven’t addressed one Christmas card, shopped for any gifts, listened to anything sounding remotely like Handel’s “Hallelujah,” and yesterday afternoon I pulled the plug on a cheesy Christmas movie. All signs point to tis’ being the season I opt out of Christmas. Subconsciously, I think I opted out of Christmas far in advance of the now 6 days left until its arrival.  If it wasn’t for all of the shopping channels I get sucked into watching when I hibernate at home, it honestly wouldn’t have registered into my mind that Christmas is only 6 days away. My Christmas spirit gone bye, bye this year isn’t a case of the Grinch stealing my Christmas, and no, you will not hear one bah humbug out of this girl. My mother having been ill for a good majority of the year, culminating in her death in June, along with having the life and soul’s blood choked out of me on a near daily basis at an uninspiring and un-fulfilling job has no doubt led to this “meh” attitude towards Christmas. I know that it is not entirely fair to couch Christmas in terms of the external forces that have wrecked havoc on my life, but I am human and from time to time the external will creep into the internal. It would be ideal if I could set aside my feelings of hurt and stress long enough to revel in the decorations and good will toward men, but that simply will not be the case this year and I am at peace with that reality.

Even though I will not be decking any halls this Christmas, I will be enjoying some much desperately needed time off from work. Assuming no stray ornaments or Christmas trees land on my head, on Christmas day I hope to cuddle up with some hot apple cider, warm blankets, some can’t wait to read books and articles. Also on the agenda is to hopefully draft some more blog posts and check out the billion and one websites I have bookmarked on my laptop. I don’t know how many of the things I’ve planned myself during Christmas will come to light, but if even one of these things happens, I will be over the moon with joy. My goal is to distance myself from all of the hoopla surrounding Christmas that I am just not into this year and instead carve out time to decompress and enjoy the simple things in my life. If there is someone in your life that is not feeling Christmas this season, please give them the time and the space that they need to work out whatever it is that they need to work out. Don’t cast your version of the “perfect” Christmas on anyone else, don’t harangue them to participate in Christmas activities and events. Coming to an authentic place of healing requires not only time, but the ability to be honest with oneself and others.

May I encourage anyone who is feeling less than jolly this Christmas to try to find at least a few minutes of solitude during the day or night, indoors or outdoors. Do not allow yourself to feel bad about not living up to others expectations when it comes to Christmas.  You are not obligated to be the picture of what others deem to be appropriate Christmas behavior, whether that behavior stems from a secular or  religious viewpoint. Don’t worry, Christmas will be here when you are ready to come back.

It’s free, it’s free!

In reading my “About Me” page (https://musingsnyc.wordpress.com/about/), you’ll see that one of the first things I state about myself is that I’m an iOS app addict. I’d prefer saying that I am an appreciater of all things iOS app related, but those who know me would vehemently argue that I am an addict, going as far as taking multiple screen shots of my iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch to bolster their argument. Semantics aside, my love of iOS apps is no secret. I love discovering  new applications to download to my iPhone, iPad , and iPod Touch, especially if the applications are free. In what seems like an application tailor- made for me, Apps Gone Free combines my love of discovering new applications to download to my iDevices at the hard to beat price of free.

On a daily basis, the Apps Gone Free application scours the Apple App Store in search of applications that meet the following criteria:

  1. 3 star rating or better in iTunes store;
  2. Haven’t been free over and over again, and;
  3. Don’t include outside ads

What I love most about the Apps Gone Free application is the diversity of applications it highlights. Productivity, photo, finance, and gaming are just a few of the catergories that Apps Gone Free draws from to compile its list of free applications. If the application is currently being offered for free and meets the above crtieria, it is near certian that it will pop up on the Apps Gone Free listing for the day. The applications showcased on Apps Gone Free are offered for free by developers for only a limited period of time, thus, one should be diligent in clicking on the Apps Gone Free app daily so as not to potentially miss out on a great free application to download. Having missed out on some applications myself, I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to skip clicking on this application daily, or at the very least a couple of times a week.

For this iOS app aficionado, downloading the free Apps Gone Free application has been invaluable. Thanks to the Apps Gone Free application, the quality, and yes, the number of applications on my iDevices has increased for the better. But you needn’t be as hard core of an app aficionado as me to enjoy the merits of this application. Apps Gone Free, I believe, is appealing to people at all app levels.

You can learn more about the Apps Gone Free application here, http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/appsgonefree/id470693788?mt=8

So, what are you waiting for? Let the free iOS app downloads begin!

Unplug two devices and call me in the morning

 

Do you suffer from FOMO-itis? FOMO, otherwise known as the “Fear of Missing Out” syndrome, is a relatively new phenomena that is sweeping the nation. Fueled by the angst and envy caused by a near never-ending stream of social networking updates from our friends, family members, coworkers, acquaintances and celebrities, FOMO can strike at any time of the day and night where there is cell reception, WiFi, DSL, FIOS, and even dial- up. New York Times staff writer Jenna Wortham describes FOMO as “a blend of anxiety, inadequacy, and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/business/10ping.html). Iterations of FOMO have plagued society for decades, back then being dubbed as “Keeping up with Joneses,” and the “Grass is always greener on the other side.” One main difference between now and then is the proliferation of social media in our lives. Time lines, check-in’s, and photo filters are the breeding ground for today’s strain of FOMO, and with the number of people around the world reportedly syncing into at least one social networking site rising at a rampant pace, there is no limit to how many people FOMO can ravage.

Back when we had to wait for what now seems like a lifetime to get caught up with what is happening in the lives of those around us, the news of our cousin getting a promotion or having a baby usually took time to trickle down the family and friend tree. Now, news about promotions and pregnancies, with pictures to boot, are just one click away, as are images of fabulous parties, food, drinks, and vacation destinations. Changes in relationship status, moves to a new city, graduations, and birthday announcements are streamed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the method and the speed with which we communicate with one another, while also providing a platform through which we can reconnect with old friends and family members. And for those of us inclined, these social networking platforms also provide a way for us to peer into the behind the scenes goings on of our favorite celebrities, periodicals, and television shows. But intermingled with the joy of reading new status updates, and clicking on freshly uploaded pictures, videos, and links to coming attractions, is that dreaded feeling that we are missing out on the fun and excitement that is continuously streams through our screens. This is where the trace elements of FOMO that lie dormant in all of us either remains dormant or starts to swivel together to generate feelings of inadequacy, depression, envy, and sometimes drives an unhealthy compulsion to “one up” our social media connections by feverishly posting status updates, pictures, and videos of our own. This cyclical action and reaction is what co-founder of Flickr and Hunch Caterina Fake says positions social media as both the creator and cure for FOMO (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/business/10ping.html), the goal being to provide an incentive for people to continue using the social media application without the side effects of fear and envy which are symptomatic of FOMO. Chief executive officer of Instagram Kevin Systrom states,”Whatever angst people may feel when they see someone else having a good time is probably exaggerated by the overall effect of so many new social data streams pouring into browsers and mobile phones at once.” Systrom adds that “We aren’t used to seeing the world as it happens. We humans can only process so much data.” Yet, is the data that social media’s pushing an accurate reflection of what is consistently happening in the lives of those we follow, or is it merely a sanitized version of their lives?

Like many fears, FOMO thrives on an inaccurate perception of reality. What must be kept in mind is that the streams and streams of party pictures and vacation destinations to die for are merely snapshots of the lives of those we follow.Very few, if any, individuals lead lives that are filled with one party and life enhancing status update after the other, real life simply does not function like this. At one time or another, our lives will get complicated and twisted. Someone we love will die, we may lose our job, our home, our reputation, we may miscarry, break-up with our significant other, get divorced, suffer from a life- altering illness, and on and on. Life is not a gift that remains neatly tied up with bows and ribbons. The gift of life supplies moments of love, laughter and joy, but also sadness, illness and grief. The way we choose to navigate both the light and dark periods of our lives is what shapes our character and provides us with the presence of mind to continue onward. Social networking sites largely stream air brushed versions of our lives, versions which are further enhanced via the use of quirky captions and photo filters. FOMO is not concerned with truth, lies, or exaggerations. FOMO’s strength lies in its ability to utilize our addiction to social networking sites to take aim at our insecurities and oftentimes flawed perception of other peoples lives. Chiseling FOMO out of our systems requires a heavy dose of gratitude for the gift of life that we have been given, remembering those who are no longer with us and holding onto the hope that tomorrow will provide us with the opportunities we did not get today.

Try taking a break from social networking sites and pick up a book or magazine to read, take a walk in the park, listen to your favorite song, take a run outside or in the gym, or call up a friend to meet for lunch. Sometimes a good book, walk, song, run or friend to meet for lunch is just what the doctor would order.

Coulda, Shoulda, Gonna

In the world of “Blogging do’s,” one of the biggest “do’s” is to surf the blog sphere in search of blogs to read and leave comments on. The idea behind this “do” being that the more blogs one reads and makes comments on, the more traffic will flow to ones own blog. In practice, this “do” is fairly successful in achieving the goal of directing traffic to ones blog because it taps into the part of our nature that seeks to satisfy curiosity. The longing to unravel the persona behind the comment leads most to click on the link that steers them towards the another website. So begins the circle of blogging that I have fought tooth and nail not to be a part of for fear of becoming what I call a “hit and run” blog commenting machine. The blog commenting machine is an almost robotic personality who feeds on the need to leave as many comments on as many blogs a day as they can with the objective of getting as many blog readers to read, comment on, and hopefully follow their blog. With every tap on the keyboard or touchscreen, the blog commenting machine spills his or her agenda out bear for the whole blog sphere to witness.

For months, I have locked out the advice I’ve read in numerous online articles touting the virtues of commenting on other blogs as a means of directing traffic to ones own blog. I even snickered at my coworkers sound advice to seek similar minded bloggers to connect with and bounce ideas off of, believing that this action would lead to my eventual decent into blog commenting machine territory. The walls I built up against reading and commenting on other blogs was further fortified by my current crunch for time. Nowadays, not only do I barely have the time to stitch a blog post together, I most certainly do not have the time to “troll” the Internet for blogs to drive- by and hit. Unbeknown st to me, a familiar foe named procrastination was about to help me overcome the blocks I’ve built up against reading and commenting on other blogs. The time- waster, denial- weaver, and stress- inducer that is procrastination was about to conjure up a blog I had long since forgotten, The Daily Post (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/). The Daily Post blog describes itself as “an experiment in blogging motivation” which provides ideas, suggestions, inspiration to bloggers. Additionally, bloggers are given the opportunity to participate in “Post a Day” or “Post a Week” challenges. Lately, being as as time crunched as I am, I opted to answer one of the questions posed on the blog. It was in the comment section of that question that I had the opportunity to read some witty, informative, and engaging replies left by fellow bloggers. Both curiosity and procrastination merged forces, and as soon as I knew it, I started clicking on blog links. Shortly thereafter, I conducted a search for more blogs on the WordPress website where each blog I discovered was more intriguing than the next. By the time I had written my 3rd or 4th comment, my fear of becoming a blog commenting machine had dissipated, replaced by the joy of discovering a wide range of raw, honest, witty, funny, informative, and entertaining blogs.

The wonderfully talented members of the blog sphere community should be celebrated and praised for the amazing content they share on the Internet. My ill- conceived fear of becoming a blog commenting machine kept me from fully immersing myself into the blog sphere, and worse yet, not acknowledging and appreciating the work of fellow bloggers by refusing to comment on their blogs. There will be times that I will not be able to read the content of the blogs I’ve discovered, just as there will be times that I will fail to comment on a particular blog post and that is okay. The point is for me to keep the door of the blog sphere open, appreciating every second I get to participate in enjoying what others have painstakingly taken the time to share.

I am….

It’s funny to trace how many of my seemingly innocuous conversations end up becoming some of the most perception- shifting of my life. My most recent perception- shifting conversation began as a rundown to my coworker about the introduction to magazine writing class that I am thinking of taking early next year, one of the hiccups to my taking the course being that I am not sure if it is designed for individuals with no professional writing experience. Near the end of my rundown, my coworker said that as a writer I should seriously consider registering for this introduction to magazine writing course. Quickly I snapped back and stated that I am not a writer. Sure, I love to write and have a blog that I try to write in as much as I can, but due to my lack of professional writing credentials, I couldn’t possibly refer to myself as a writer. Gazing square into my eyes, my coworker replied that the fact that my writing hasn’t been published, nor the fact that I am not currently getting paid for what I write, should not dissuade me from identifying myself as a writer. “No, no, no,” I insisted. Unless I can add “writer” onto my resume, an action that for me would necessitate being able to list at least one entity that has published my writing, I cannot represent myself as a writer. And since I am not generating any income from my blog, I added, I can’t use my blog as a way to legitimate myself as a writer. Almost as soon as these words came spinning out of my mouth, my mind wandered back to a Marie Forleo You Tube video I saw where she addressed an e-mail from a viewer that wanted advice about how to project herself as a writer first, pre-school teacher second. At the very top of the list of things that Marie suggested this viewer do was to “Speak it.” For example, when introducing herself to people, Marie suggested that the viewer identify herself as a writer first, expounding on everything relating to her life as a writer, afterward speaking to her work as a pre-school teacher. The rationale behind this “Speak it” suggestion being the belief that words have the power not only to change the way we see ourselves, but also the way others see us.

For doctor’s, lawyer’s and accountant’s, a set amount of schooling and licensing in their field is what validates their standing in that profession, but for professions such as writing, acting, and singing, the line is not always that clear. While one can chase down a degree focusing in on writing, acting, or singing, it is not entirely necessary for one to have to formal training in any of these areas to gain entry into the profession. Ideally, writers should be able to write clearly and concisely, actors should be able to convincingly deliver lines, and singers should be able to carry a note, however, many of the opportunities in these fields do not require any formal training, and in some cases, having any tangible talent is optional. In lieu of degrees and certification, writers, actors, and singers are typically validated by the number of books/articles they publish, how many substantial TV and movies roles they’ve landed, and how many chart topping hits they’ve cranked out. In terms of writing, I’ve always regarded individuals whom have published books, magazine or newspaper articles as those having the wherewithal to say that they are a writer. Yet, is carrying the moniker of writer simply a matter of being able to point to a certain amount of books and/or articles published? Practically speaking, yes, being able to point to a set number of books, articles, and nowadays, blog entries published is a clean way to validate ones claim to be a writer, but just as important is the ability to take ownership of that title regardless of ones current level of publication in the field. For me, this means letting go of my preconceived notion that presenting myself as a writer to those I meet requires my being able to point to a portfolio chock full of published articles. Getting some articles published would be great and certainly would push me closer towards acquiring some professional writing cred, but ultimately what make defines me as a writer today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow will not be the number of articles I get published, but rather my love for the craft of writing. It is my passionate love for the craft of writing that propels me to strive to approach the world as a blank canvas that I have the opportunity to mold with my words. This deep and abiding love for writing is what keeps me scribbling ideas and thoughts onto post it notes and pieces of scrap paper, and most important, it is what keeps me doing what every writer does, write.

So, with this in mind, I say, “Hello world, it’s me, an aspiring to be published writer, call me.”