Picked up on a whim (I love rock ‘n roll (auto)biographies), I devoured this book. I wouldn’t say I am a huge Foo Fighters or Nirvana fan, but I am now solidly a Dave Grohl fan. What a cool guy! Took many leaps of faith, achieved amazing success, had significant losses, but still seems so grounded and grateful. And loves his mama. I really enjoyed the parts where he talks about meeting his musical heroes and about what a big fan he is himself. He has had crazy adventures and still loves to party, but will literally travel the Earth to be there for his family (blood-related and not). There is a sense that he feels things deeply, and is not afraid to show how moved he is by the magic of life. Another quote that resonated with me is “I believe that people are inspired by people”. This is why I read people’s stories including Dave’s – for inspiration. I was not disappointed here.
4 quotes from the book:
“I was an idealistic misfit, empowered by the audacity of faith and a reckless determination to do it my way.”
“…but I saw a door open before me, and rather than stay within the comfort of my tiny bedroom, I decided to dive through it, leaving a life of stability and security behind.”
“I love my children as I was loved as a child, and I pray that they will do the same when their time comes.”
“…I will still always choose to let life take its natural course, a journey with no roadmap to refer to in the event that you get lost.”
Life wisdom obtained:
The last chapter spoke to me deeply and brought on some tears – so much about bucking a conventional life in favor of a creative one despite no guarantees of success. And being happy and grateful for the whole spectrum of life.
Must read chapters:
All of them.
Will I keep it on my bookshelf or donate it? Definitely a keeper and one I will enjoy sharing with others
I read this book a month ago and I am still thinking about concepts from it almost daily. It’s the type of book where I found myself wanting to highlight every other sentence. Like the author was speaking to me directly. So many thought provoking concepts about work, love and even our educational system (fascinating as a parent). What does meaningful work look like for me as an individual? How do I love someone well? How do I discover what really makes me tick? I want everyone I know to read it so we can talk about everything in it!
4 Good quotes from the book:
“You don’t need to love all you do. You just need to find the love in what you do.”
“To help you see yourself for the unique creature you are, begin by resisting the pull of comparison.”
“Schools and workplaces that insist on treating all of us the same are sources of oppression.”
“Know someone’s fear and you’ll know their need. Know their need and you’ll understand their behaviour.”
Life wisdom obtained:
I don’t need to love everything about or every minute of my job. Loving what I am doing 20% of the time is sufficient.
I have to understand what my unique loves are before I can find a job that fits me.
Schools are designed to build and sell a workforce, not to help students understand themselves and reach their own individual potential.
The best relationships are about seeing and being seen, understanding the depth and complexity of each other and always viewing the other’s behaviour through the kindest possible lens.
Must read chapters:
7 – It Just Clicks
14 – Rate Me, Rank Me
16 – I See You, I Love You
17 – A Scavenger Hunt For Love
19* – Love In Learning (*Especially good for parents)
Will I keep it on my bookshelf or donate it? Definitely keeping it. When I’m not lending it out to everyone I know
My trusty old suitcase finally gave out at the end of 2022 and I like the symbolism of that. It represents a former life and all of the places I went before. I am grateful for that life and those experiences and also ready to close that chapter and move on to do new things. 2022 was about leaving my old career, healing and finding a new path forward for myself. Now 2023 is all about going for it!
To this end, I’ve got 3 big projects going down this year:
Writing this book has been a growth experience like none I’ve had before. I learned so much about myself and life transitions and I can’t wait to share it. Even though sharing with a wider audience also makes me incredibly nervous! I am a private introvert who has somehow managed to write a book that lays myself completely bare. Scary to put it out there, but doing it anyway.
I am starting a publishing business!
That’s right, I’m gonna be a publisher. Bonfire Books Press is in the works because I believe writers deserve a better deal than what most traditional publishers offer these days. More creative control, more money, better marketing. I will test the waters with my own book and then open it up to other writers with unique voices who are looking for a publishing home.
I am writing my next book: Desperately Dating!
I had a blast doing the Desperately Dating Podcast with my dream of a stepson, Zac Shomler, so now I’m going to turn that content into a book. Some of the questions I will explore in a fun, approachable way are: What is true love and how do you find it? Is it possible to enjoy dating without losing your mind and becoming totally discouraged? How do you maintain a soul-satisfying relationship?
I am really excited for this year! These three projects will be incredibly fun, but I am also looking forward to enjoying more of my daily joys that keep me grounded and happy as well. Like reading good books or swimming (only reason to have a gym membership in my book) and cooking for those I love. Or discovering and sharing quirky new kitchen gadgets to delight and amaze. Spending quality time with my man visiting dive bars, drinking martinis at home or enjoying restful Sundays on the couch with good shows and popcorn. I will also continue to advocate for my mom as she navigates our challenging American healthcare system – at least there is still a good use for all my training and experience working in the medical field. The big stuff matters, but the little stuff also gives my life a lot of richness and texture.
Symbolically, I have replaced my old faithful case with this snazzy new number, in Caribbean Blue (of course). We are ready for new (ad)ventures! Here I come 2023, it’s gonna be a great year.
I feel like menopause thus far has been something of a mystery. And not the good kind of mystery. Not the I-wonder-what-this-beautifully-wrapped-gift-is type of mystery, but more of the why-is-my-toilet-making-that-weird-noise kind of mystery. Not just a mystery to me either.
I honestly think part of the reason why my first husband and I divorced when we did was because he didn’t want to have to go through this stage of life with me. And he’s a doctor! Funny coincidence that his new wife is significantly younger… unintentional or not, it amounts to further postponement of that shared experience.
The irony of my ignorance about menopause is, I am a woman, a healthcare provider myself and I have two older sisters, a mom and friends who have all gone through this stage of life. So why do I feel so ignorant about it??
Well, that’s not entirely true. I did learn, many years ago in school, about the technical changes that occur in the body including which hormones shift at menopause. But who gives a fuck about that? That doesn’t help me understand what this life transition feels like.
And since my own healthcare providers had similar scanty training on the subject and are usually younger and devoid of first-hand experience on the matter, none of them have been much help either. They just hand me various pills, tell me to give up gluten or send me off for consultation about having my uterus taken out and be done with it.
The body ills like heavy unpredictable bleeding, disabling pain and sheet-soaking night sweats have been no picnic, but honestly, most of the time I don’t know if I need a doctor, a psychiatrist or a priest! These symptoms are wildly varied and go far beyond the physical plane. For instance, I don’t think there are meds I can take to fix my profound existential angst and I doubt a hysterectomy is going to cut it (every pun intended) when I feel like my metaphorical cheese is sliding off of my cracker.
Neither of my sisters has been much help in shedding light on the subject. One of them says she barely noticed going through the change (I wonder if her immediate family would corroborate this) and the other just takes on a haunted look when the subject arises. My mom was the most up close and personal look I had at the process and it was not pretty. The messages I got from her were that this is a horrible, no-good, awful change to be fought tooth and nail and one must take synthetic hormones to stave off the inevitable for as long as possible. She did not go willingly into that goodnight. Not exactly encouraging.
Well, I don’t want my daughters and sons to be in the dark like I was. I want them to have some idea about what is coming and how to be good to themselves and to their partners during this totally normal, but admittedly challenging stage of life. So here goes, what I have learned about menopause (so far):
Perimenopause is the name for the time period leading up to menopause which is defined as the date one year after the last menstrual period. Colloquially, people call it menopause when they’re really talking about perimenopause (when all of the wacky shit happens). I did it myself at the beginning of this letter, it’s just easier to say.
It can sneak up on you. In retrospect, I’ve probably been in this perimenopausal period for around 10 years! It started very subtly with heavier bleeding, more pain and fewer fucks to give. Incidentally, this transition can last 7–14 years on average, so I gotta be reaching the end soon!
Pain can and should be managed. This may require assertiveness, but it is possible. Don’t accept less. I allowed my pain to be under-treated for far too long until it was impacting my work and general wellbeing. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I finally demanded and received adequate relief. I shouldn’t have suffered that long, physically or emotionally. It wasn’t heroic, I was just hurting myself and further hobbling my ability to roll with the menopause waves. Go ahead and be that squeaky wheel if you have pain that you can’t fix on your own. You matter.
The mood swings are epic. They come on fast and can take me from the highest feelings of joy and confidence to the lowest depths of despair. I have had more suicidal thoughts in the past 3 years than in my whole life. Never with a plan or anything close to completion, but still. It feels highly shameful to admit these dark feelings, but they are real. And thankfully transient.
It is disorienting to lose that predictable menstrual cycle. Imagine having all access to clocks and calendars removed from your life. You don’t know what to expect (physically or emotionally) or when, it is all constant reaction. For planners like me, that sucks! And it is exhausting all by itself.
Plus, all of the other various and sundry body woes: Bloating to an extent I did not think possible. Like, do I have a tumor level. Hugely swollen tits. Ridiculously easy weight gain. Changing shape with a bigger belly. Clothes fit way different. Headaches. Joint pains. Very weird sleep patterns, insomnia, nighttime restlessness, odd dreams. And while some women reportedly lose their hair during this time of life, I find I am sprouting more than I need. On my face and chin in particular. Thank god for tweezers and good lighting.
But…it is not all bad. And here are a few of the good things I want you to know about too:
I am loving my mind. It feels like a race car these days! With benefit of all those years of living, learning and experiencing life I am at the top of my game in the brain department. I can see patterns, reason and intuit things like never before. I may not have the memory power that I used to, but cognitive function is solid.
Orgasms are way more intense. Seriously.
My tolerance for bullshit is way down. I am feeling increasingly comfortable with being direct and saying no without guilt.
I am more focused on me, my wants and needs. Not to the exclusion of others’, but in addition to them. I feel like I matter too and I am pursuing my dreams, not just helping others reach theirs.
I am braver and way better at facing my fears and doing it anyway.
My hair looks great. Silver suits me.
I am healing deep hurts and setting new boundaries as a result. Painful, old shit is welling up, but it feels necessary and healthy to purge it and process it. This is the means through which I am growing into myself and really reaching my potential as a healthy and happy human.
And soon, the biggest boon on the horizon still to come — freewheelin’, birth control free, no kids at home sex! That must be the best gift of menopause; hot sex with the privacy of an empty nest and and no more periods. I can’t wait!
So for my daughters: Be kind to yourselves when your body and mind start to change. Your experience may be different than mine in timing and variety of symptoms, but your family history says you’ll probably be looking at your early 40s for all of this fun to begin!
Call me if you want to talk about it and lean on your friends or find a community to support you. It can be disorienting and weird, but don’t forget to advocate for yourselves and look for the good parts as well.
Journaling has been an indispensable tool for me to process this process. Caring for my physical body with daily yoga, swimming, dog walks and increasing the nutritional value of my diet while cutting back on alcohol and caffeine have also helped. Being nice to myself about my changing body size and shape has been difficult but necessary growth.
Even though a big part of me still has the impulse to make drastic changes to my diet and exercise in an effort to force my way back to my 20-year-old body, I am increasingly aware that this is futile and not good for my mental health. Bodies are meant to change and this is the body I have now for this stage of life.
So I make a big effort to care for it, talk nicely to it (or at least not negatively), feed it well, buy cute and comfortable clothes that fit and be grateful that I am healthy. Instead of focusing on what I don’t like, I spend more time looking for the good (like my hair ;).
For my sons: Be kind with your partner as she goes through this change. It may start around 40 or even earlier (best guess is whenever her mom went through it). She is not going to feel like herself and that is because she is busy morphing into her new, equally amazing self.
Her experience may be much different than mine, for better or worse, but she is going to need you. This is your time to give to her your love, support and understanding. Be patient, give her room and look for the good stuff in the process too. Tell her that she is wonderful and beautiful and that you like her and love her. Acknowledge how hard this must be on her and admire her strength.
You can call Steven to talk about it. He has been a phenomenal partner to me through this. He never once made me feel ashamed of myself or guilty for how the process of my body changing affects him. I liked how he took the attitude of “this is important to you, so it is important to me.” That’s teamwork right there. He has remained unfailingly curious and supportive, which, come to think of it, is a great example for all of us about how to treat ourselves and each other.
I’ve been mocked by many over the years for my philosophy degree. Here’s a sample of the gems that these wise critics have imparted to me:
“Philosophy is just mental masturbation.”
“A philosophy degree won’t get you a job.”
“What are you going to do with THAT?”
“She has a philosophy degree? HAHAHAHAHA!”
The level of derision my degree provokes just blows me away, because I use my philosophy background every single day.
It may not have taught me a lot of useful (or even useless) facts, per se, but studying philosophy did teach me how to operate my brain better, which has wide applicability (that goes far beyond being able to dissect people and figure out what the hell they’re up to, but that’s a definite perk, too). I can read deep, dense writing effectively and find meaning in it. I can evaluate the validity of an argument and use logic to craft my own. I can contemplate the meaning of life in a meaningful way. I can understand and appreciate multiple points of view and potential courses of action. I can write, clearly and persuasively. I can consider the moral implications of my actions and the actions of others.
I am where I am today precisely because of my foundation in philosophy, and I am so very grateful for having that tool under my proverbial belt. It’s pushed me to seek a better life. I’ve weathered my share of losses and abuses and changes, but I’ve emerged stronger and better as a result of knowing how to apply the hidden lessons beneath those things.
My degree hangs proudly in my laundry room. Why the laundry room? Well, partly because I think it is a funny play on what many believe is the quality of work my philosophy degree has prepared me for. But at the same time, it’s a reminder to myself that even while I’m doing the most mundane of chores, my mind is still working on bigger, badder stuff.
I am emphatically anti-clutter in the kitchen. Well, actually, most places in my house but especially in the kitchen. I like a clean, streamlined space. If my kitchen is dirty, I clean it before I cook in it. My weirdness is already well-established. My husband learned the hard way when he moved in that I do not tolerate multiples of any kitchen item (except silverware, dishes and wooden spoons). His favored corkscrew? Gone. I already had a similar one. His wine glasses? Out. I’ve got plenty. Ditto for cutting boards, cookie cutters, coffee pots, whatever else I already had and did not need. Don’t even get me started on single use kitchen gadgets! Most of these are pure clutter and seem utterly ridiculous to me, albeit as such, often entertaining. It was a relatively tense moment when I asked him to prove the utility of his milk foamer under intense scrutiny before I would consent to its continued residence in our cupboards.
I am not without my vices however. I cannot deny an abiding love for the following single use items, some admittedly silly.
I must confess a deep attachment for my rice cooker. I have owned one since receiving my first model as a high school graduation gift from my grandma. Priceless bit of magical machinery. Lasted 25+ years before I had to replace it. That little baby kept me and my poor hungry college friends fed on many an impaired occasion when the sobering and nourishing power of white rice was desperately needed. My mom gave me my first egg cooker as a joke one Christmas. It was a branded model, Foghorn Leghorn (for those who understand that reference) and I instantly fell in love. This ridiculous little machine pays for itself by turning out perfectly hard cooked eggs every time without requiring me to boil water or set a timer. I am emphatically anti-timer. Related item – I also have an egg slicer, because I like eggs on toast without having to squish everything up using a knife getting crumbly yolk all over my hands. Stupid, I know, but I like it. A salad spinner is indispensable because, um, I like salad and wish to avoid food borne illnesses.
In the interest of complete transparency I also own an electric kettle (life changing for this tea drinker and I’ve never looked back), a lemon twist cutter (I like martinis), and a tortilla press – I’ll tell you more about that one later, but homemade tortillas are a cinch, dirt cheap, taste great and make you look like a rockstar in the kitchen. Worth the cupboard space. Otherwise, I’m pretty much opposed to over stocking my kitchen drawers. I mean if you use it, fine, but if not, get rid of it! For most things I use a knife, sometimes scissors (much overlooked versatile kitchen tool), a pan, the stove, and the oven to get things done. More on my favorite kitchen essentials to come and a collection of my all time favorite stupid kitchen gadgets here can be found on instagram @stupidkitchengadgets.
I work in the American healthcare (AHC) system. I see patients. I dispense health related advice. I order screening tests. I prescribe medicines and treatments.
And I partake of none of these things for myself on a regular basis. In fact, I avoid the AHC system for my own needs as much as possible. I even abstained from care when I broke my ankle a couple of years ago while in-between jobs and temporarily without health insurance (long story). Rather than invite all sorts of high charges and possibly unnecessary tests and over-treatment (like surgery), I treated it at home myself, successfully. I’m not advising anyone else to take this route, and I would absolutely seek more care if I had any health conditions that demanded it, but gratefully, I do not. This is just me sharing my own story and the extremes to which I am personally willing to go!
Why this deep aversion? Simple: Lack of trust. I do not believe AHC as a system has our best interests as patients at heart. Many of the providers working within this system do care, but their hands are largely tied by AHC. As an industry, AHC doesn’t really work to make us healthier or allow providers to do the best job they can for us. Like it or not, and they do not advertise this, but AHC is in it for the money. And the money is in fixing us when we are “broken” (or perceived to be). Similarly, insurance companies don’t care about us or our wellbeing. They care about their profits, which rarely translates into approving more care. There are sooo many examples where insurance companies could have done the right thing with sick, desperate people and did not. For money. Drug companies are no better and scam us with shoddy research then convince us through tv ads and such that we need expensive drugs to be ok. Then they jack up the prices once we are hooked. I know I sound like a cynical crackpot, but this is just so hard to witness! I think people go into healthcare for altruistic reasons for the most part, and consumers have faith that they will receive good care, but the system stymies all of us.
Let us remember that living, aging and even dying are not pathological. Bodies change, parts wear out and sometimes break. The best way to be healthy is to take care of ourselves and prevent/reverse illnesses that require ongoing care whenever possible. How do you keep your car running well? Don’t drive like a maniac, get regular maintenance, use proper fuel. Same with bodies. The AHC system is like the oily mechanic who price gouges when you are broken down or sells you all sorts of parts and questionable services by preying on your ignorance and your fears. This is not ethical. This is not healthcare. Our best defense here is a good offense: take care of ourselves better! This won’t always work, but there are things we can do to fix ourselves and keep AHC out of our lives and pockets! Maybe I’m not a hypocrite, maybe I am a crackpot…
Sometimes I feel guilty for wanting something different when I already have so much. I hear voices in my head (not literally) telling me I’m asking for too much, I’m selfish, I’m never satisfied.
But am I?
No. Because I don’t necessarily want more, I want different.
By many standards, my life is a good life. And I do enjoy it. I have a steady, well-paying job with lots of flexibility. I have a great husband, happy and healthy kids and an adorable house with a cute dog, upgraded kitchen and lots of books. I also long to live an independent, more personally fulfilling life where I am creative and living on my own terms. I want to be my own boss. This is the different life I want. Not more, not less, just different. I’m not trying to cheat the system, I am willing to work hard, I appreciate what I have and I harbor no disdain for others that are content with the status quo – it just doesn’t fit me. I am trying to find some peace and acceptance within myself for that.
I’ve cracked open a big, scary door and I can’t see what is ahead, but I’m ready to take a chance and go through anyway.
I remember when my husband pointed out to me that people don’t write for fun like I do. It had never really occurred to me that something I love so much is often painful and best avoided for others.
I just love words; their shapes their sounds, stringing them together in creative ways to artfully convey meaning – heaven. I also love reading them and writers are the absolute rockstars of my world. To get to play with words all day and be paid for it? I can think of no better dream job.
But writers are rockstars and I am …not.
Or am I?
Opening the big scary door is about finding out the answer to that question. Stay tuned.
Follow my journey writing my first book Falling Out of Love With My Career here and over on Instagram @fallingoutoflovewithmycareer
This memoir from music journalist Lisa Robinson is like catnip for me. Not just a glimpse, but a long, deep, satisfying look behind the scenes of the music world from someone who got up close and personal. It is a bit misleading to constrict the title to “rock and roll” because it covers way more than that genre. Sure, most of the usual suspects are there – The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, U2 and more, but she also takes substantial forays into punk rock, blues, rap, hip hop. As well as other artists who sort of stubbornly defy categorization – where do you put David Bowie, Lou Reed or Lady Gaga? Even with everyone who is in here, you get the sense that it has been carefully curated and there is tons of other dirt that didn’t make the cut. I reckon you could ask Lisa Robinson about nearly anybody in the music biz over the past 40-ish years and she would probably have a story to tell. I enjoyed it tremendously and her writing and style are inspirational. She was there, with all those amazing people, yet her writing is clear-eyed, crisp and never feels name drop-y.
After finishing this book, I had to ask myself, “Why do I like reading about rockstars (sounds better than “musicstars”, though less inclusive)?” Hmmm. First off, I am a music fan. From a young age I can remember feeling moved in an almost indescribable way by the loud 70s rock music my brother subjected the whole family to at ear-splitting decibels. There was no escaping a basic, though forced musical education in my house. I found my own way into appreciation for punk and new wave (which my brother heartily derided), “discovered” Bowie, sang along to the oldies through my crappy first car’s AM radio, lived through grunge (so depressing), got the blues, educated my kids about all of this, “discovered” Lady Gaga and now am experiencing a second, forced musical education courtesy of my kids who like all kinds of “new” music. Whatever that means. And I love it all! Good music inspires me, makes me feel things, feeds my creativity, makes me want to be a better me. God, that sounds so incredibly cheesy! But it is the truth. Music isn’t just in the background of my life, it feeds who I am and who I want to become.
Part of why I find musicians so inspiring is the absolute fearlessness that is required to make a go of it in that business. There is no school for rockstars. No formal internships or competitive training programs. No surefire path or playbook to greatness. They are born, not made (the good ones, at least). The concept that someone can feel so moved internally by their own creativity that they have no choice but to make music is both intriguing and inspiring to me. What confidence they must have. And tolerance for risk. Singlemindedness, dedication, direction and purpose. Not to mention talent. All traits I admire and, sheepishly, envy.
Its not just rockstars either, though they are arguable the most fascinating of the bunch. Writers, especially but not always travel writers, often fall into this category for me. Peter Mayle, Frances Mayes, Anthony Bourdain, Ernest Hemingway, Roxane Gay. Other inspiring folk are found in a multitude of settings but share similar appealing traits: Albert Einstein, Tara Stiles, Richard Branson, Julia Child, Lousie Hay and Wayne Dyer. So many more, but they all go (or went) their own way on their own terms and proceeded to make a life that is creative and uniquely, honestly, true to themselves. I may very well be seeing everything through rose tinted glasses, sure, but this is what these people’s lives and work represents to me. And I want that.