Denial: The most human of flaws

As a lifelong student of human behavior, I now find denial to be the most ubiquitous and powerful trait known to us all. The best therapist I ever met told me,

“People can get used to anything, if they can get used to schizophrenia.”

I would only add, we do seem to specialize in getting used to emotional problems instead of doing what we can to change them. It surprises me when I see someone suffering from deep emotional challenges and yet making no effort to do anything about it. To some it must seem natural to live with emotional discomfort, feel self-critical of ourselves and yet never seek out professional help to change. Speaking from experience, this tendency literally ruins lives, because unresolved emotions lead to self criticism, unhappiness in relationships, destructive addictive habits, and reduced productivity.

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Most don’t seek help for debilitating denial issues and feelings because we are also in denial that these parts of our emotional makeup can change. Our main concern may be the fear that we aren’t up to the challenge of breaking addictive cycles, ending self-abuse and the habit of choosing toxic relationships, or the simple certainty that these things can never change. So what do we do? We get comfortable with the familiar and yet frustrating habits we were raised with.

For many (including myself) our lives will continue to go gradually downhill until that final crisis that says with absolute certainty: “Things must change NOW!” Confronting that moment with self-honesty and self-responsibility is the end of denial. And once the walls of denial start to tumble, the denials underneath those denials all must go.

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Admitting exactly how miserable you are is always the first step. Finding the best solutions unique to your own needs comes next.

Yes, I know how disturbing it can be to see your lovely set of life rules and plans based on absolutely nothing but denial fall to ashes before your eyes. Then you know it’s time to start from scratch, but not really. If this happens in midlife, as it did for me, you will find that you have amazing amounts of resilience,  life experience, intuition and deep inner wisdom to fall back on.

Letting go of that old, worn out crap your entire life was based on and hitching your future dreams to the power of the new you, following your heart for perhaps the first time ever, now that is powerful and exhilarating! Don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to have it all.

Hang on, it all changes!

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Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool: A Review

I experienced a unique and piercingly beautiful film yesterday! Based on Peter Turner’s memoir, this film follows the playful and passionate relationship between Turner (played by Jamie Bell) and the eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening).

Annette Bening in Film Stars dont die in Liverpool

I loved the way this film skillfully intertwined their budding romance in the late 1970s, with Ms. Grahame’s death in 1981.

What starts out as a vibrant and totally unexpected love affair between a legendary femme fatale and an unknown fellow actor in Liverpool England, quickly deepens into a passionate and caring relationship. Thus her decision to spend her last days on earth with him and his great family.

This 2017 film so skillfully and seamlessly takes the viewer from their early days of lustful romance, to Turner’s present uncertainty about how to handle Gloria’s obviously serious illness. Seeing her again brings back so many exciting memories for Turner as he watches her slowly fade away.

The skill of director Paul McGuigan in taking us back and forth in these characters’ lives, explains everything about their love for each other, so much so that Miss Grahame pushes Turner away when she realizes she is very ill. She hopes to spare him some degree of pain, but pain cannot be avoided in death, not when love is involved.

Childhood Stars, Crazy Ideals and who did you want to be when you grew up?

We just recently got access to a new channel on DirectTV, MeTV. They show old programs from the 1950s and 60s including classic TV characters from my youth. Watching these old shows reminded me that the only TV character that I ever idealized and wanted to be just like was Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. It ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975! In retrospect I find it down right crazy that I wanted to be a saloon proprietress. Come to think of it, she was probably also the Madam of the Long Branch brothel upstairs, but nobody talked about things like that back then.

Amanda_Blake Miss Kitty on GunsmokeWhen we were kids it was not uncommon to join “fan clubs” for the stars on TV. The only one I ever joined was for Amanda Blake. I even sent away for a signed photo of her, dressed up like Miss Kitty. I still have it! It says: “Best Wishes Laura” on it. So much food for thought for the feminist I turned out to be. But, then, on second thought, I did choose a professional woman to romanticize. She seemed to own her own shop and not depend on any man for her income. Sure she seemed to be sweet on Matt Dillon, but there was no hanky panky going on there. I guess he had to pay like any other customer… See how confusing childhood dreams can be? Still she was a beautiful woman working in a man’s world, and she championed the cause of animals her whole life. It couldn’t have been easy.

The first career I ever considered was acting, something my college professor Dad would have never approved of. How I got from there to academic librarian is a mystery to me! But I still enjoy watching Miss Kitty and remembering the simple, innocent dreams of a ten year old so many years ago.

Who did you want to be when you grew up and how did that work out?

Anthony asked us: “Are you hopeful?”

I watched a marvelous one hour special last night called: “Remembering Anthony Bourdain” on CNN. Even if you have never watched any of his TV shows like “Parts Unknown,” you should at least find a way to watch this one hour video.

Anthony BourdainAnthony was a brilliant and amazingly creative man. He took journalism to a whole new level by caring about the people he chose to interview. And by doing that he attracted a whole new audience to “the news.”

During this video his friends and colleagues at CNN explain how younger Americans, who would never watch the news, watched Anthony because he took us to so many unusual places and introduced us to those who live there. Within that process he also included all sorts of philosophical tidbits, like his line,

“I looked in the mirror and I saw someone worth saving.”   —  Anthony Bourdain

His honesty about his own struggles with drugs and suicide are all a part of the tour with Anthony. He admits at one point, “I am certain of nothing.” as we all are if we are honest with ourselves.

But the question he loved to ask his interviewee was: “Are you hopeful?”

I was stunned when I heard his last loaded question…

Why are there so many midlife suicides?

As an well-informed boomer and specialist in midlife psychology, I have been trying to draw attention by writing about and publishing pieces on the ALARMING increase in depression and suicide among Boomers, especially among women going through menopause,  since 2008.

DEATH NEED NOT BE AN OUTCOME OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN OUR WORLD TODAY! WE CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS…

In 2013,  when my cousin killed himself and my brother John disappeared after descending into a profound, private despair, I dedicated my book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, to themas I continued to seek a deeper understanding of the reasons why midlife suicides keep rising. Here’s an excerpt from one of those pieces from the Huffington Post, April 2013:

Why is Boomer Suicide on the Rise?

There have been a number of studies on boomer suicide that seek to explain why we continue to kill ourselves at an ever-increasing rate. Some say it is the period effect,” blaming the historical and cultural experiences we share as a generation. The “cohort effect“ theorizes that being born into the largest age cohort in American history created unbearable competition for limited resources, including jobs.

Then there are the facts: Boomers share higher depression and substance abuse rates than any previous American generation. Could it be that we did not face the kind of adversity growing up that creates successful coping skills? Were we raised to be too optimistic, and now find we cannot deal with how it all turned out?

Beyond all of the mythology around boomers, the fact is we now face extreme wage inequality, and the highest level of poverty since the generation born before World War I. We also face ever-increasing personal debt. In 1965, the ratio of household debt to income was 60%. In 2012, that ratio had risen to 163%.

We may have been born at the high point of American optimism, but that has vanished…

Some say Boomers have been witnesses to the death of the American dream. Most of us grew up with high expectations for our lives, but now, as we reassess where we’ve been and where we hope to go, we must admit, this is as good as it gets. We will never be richer or younger than we are right now.

I only know that I tire of so much misinformation about boomers and their lives. I have had enough personal experience with midlife depression to now feel determined to do what I can to alleviate some of the suffering, and this terrible waste of human potential.

Globally, about a million people kill themselves each year, the single largest cause of violent death. It remains mysterious and debilitating for those who surround every suicide and ask the question: What made him/her do it?

Laura small for blogThrough my research, I have learned just how normal and natural it is to feel depressed and disillusioned in our 40s and 50s as we discover that our lives may not turn out as previously planned. What is the best way to cope with these feelings of hopelessness? I share what I have learned in my ten years of research, and what has worked for me, in my books about boomer psychology, midlife despair and how to change your midlife for the better.

Please follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/midlifequeen
Laura Lee Carter, Midlife researcher, author, psychotherapist

Dietland: Being fat in a world that hates women

My measure of any form of media, is whether it continues to please, alarm or haunt me days after viewing it. Dietland did that for me! After viewing the first episode on AMC this past Monday night, I couldn’t quit thinking about how mixed are the messages we receive as females growing up in a world that tells us to love ourselves while critiquing us at every turn.

Part of me learned about being fat from watching those around me struggle with dieting and self-hate their whole lives. The other part learned about it on a much more personal level in the past few years, as I joined the legions of women starving themselves constantly for “the cause.” But perhaps all of us can relate to some extent to how beauty-focused advertising teaches young girls that we don’t deserve joy. We should instead strive toward “perfection,” no matter how self-destructive that path may become.

dietland baking scones

“Dietland doesn’t merely argue that beauty culture is violent, but also asks the unsettling question of whether the violence that women spend inflicting on themselves is actually a coy display of anger, not at ourselves, but a deeply misogynistic culture.”  — Arielle Bernstein, “Killer Looks, How Dietland Confronts The Violence of Beauty Culture.”

A few things I learned while watching Dietland were disturbing at best. For example, this line by the star “Plum Kettle” about being fat and attracting men: “Men screw women like me, but marry women like my boss,” played by Julianna Marguiles below.

dietland Julianna Margulies

Since I didn’t grow up dieting, I never quite understood the fantasy of those women who have been taught that their lives will be completely transformed as soon as they lose just the right amount of weight. The self-hate is everywhere in this show, and in our cultural bias created by advertising.

“Dietland allows fat women, women like me, who have fallen off too many treadmills and gone to bed so hungry it hurts, the chance to explore a righteous anger; it connects our pain to the bigger issues of a world that hates women.”  —  Laura Bogart, “I see myself in Dietland”

All of this brings up the issue of finding a healthy sense of self-love and respect in a world that doesn’t necessarily believe we deserve it. My biggest issues growing up were around whether I even deserved to be here at all, because I was quite different than most of the girls I met. In my decades-long journey to find and then allow my true self to be seen and heard, few were reassuring. I thank those strong, brilliant women (& Mike!) everyday for speaking to me about my right to be here and to be heard!

Take the greatest risk of all, to be seen as you truly are!

My New Xeric Garden in Southern Colorado

nice garden scene at comanche drive

Now on to my favorite pastime, where you can find me every morning bright and early, my rock garden outside my door! I know, it isn’t much to look at this time of year, but my new plants are just getting established, some last spring and some this year.

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Some plants came back with enthusiasm! I have found that Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon Strictus) never bloom the first year they are planted, but all three of them are blooming this year!

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And this one I forgot all about, but it is sure happy in my garden this year! Knautia macedonica

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Look at my pussy toes! They will be blooming very soon I’m sure!

I haven’t had many problems this year with rabbits or other animals chowing down on my plants. I try to choose the ones the animals don’t like, but I just learned how much they like Yarrow!

Portulaca Mix

I learned the hard way my first summer out here that they LOVE tender, well-watered Portulacas! Perfect rabbit salad! These are the only “annuals” I buy every year. Sometimes they do re-seed themselves in their own pot. Now I keep them up on a shelf away from all hungry critters.

garden scene outside my bedroom door

THE VIEW OUT OF MY BEDROOM LAST SUMMER…

I’ve also had great success with Blue Mist Spirea bushes, Jupiter’s Beard, Lavender, most sedums, Gallardia, and I’m working on establishing a few Walker’s Low Nepeta (Catmint) for their lovely purple color in the spring.  Nice to see a few native plant volunteers too! We plan to add hardscaping this summer. It should look wonderful in just a couple more years… That’s the way with new gardens, patience is key! The main problem we have here is the drying wind. I like what Merrilee over at Perennial Favorites said about that: “We hate the wind, but the plants really don’t mind.”