My New Hero

“There are things that you don’t get over. You have to find a comfortable place to put them.  But they’re always there.”

  -Ben Palmer on “Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars”

Wow!  When I heard that in “Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars,”— one, if not the, best rock n’ roll documentaries I’ve ever seen— I said aloud, “That’s perfect.”

For years, I’ve tried to say something about what we can do with our hurts, insults, and rejections and the feelings they stir up.  The best I came up with was “We can never get rid of this stuff.  We can just see it coming our way and be prepared (like Girl Scouts).  Maybe we side step or maybe we dive head first.  But we’ve seen the movie before, know the lines and the conclusion.

All of us have been, say, rejected at one time or another. Clapton was rejected by his biological mother who, after giving birth, turned parenting over to her parents and took off from England to Canada.  Clapton was raised by his grandparents whom he assumed were his mother and father.  Even though he wasn’t told the truth until he was nine or ten, he “knew” that, despite being loved and adored by his grandparents, something deep down was missing.  There was a hole that couldn’t be filled.

That rejection has haunted Clapton throughout his life.  He turned to music as his only solace—the sole way he discovered to mask the hurt but never erase it.  He was a drug addict, then an alcoholic.  He obsessed over George Harrison’s wife for years, wrote an entire album of songs about her and, when he finally “had” her, he was too strung out to make the relationship work.

He had a daughter with a woman he didn’t love.  He repeated his feelings of rejection by rejecting her.  But when he fathered a son with another woman, he found himself—for the first time—more invested in someone other than himself.  Connor’s birth helped him find a comfortable place to put the negative feelings and consequences that had overwhelmed his entire life.

This story has a happy ending but a terrible tragedy in between.  I won’t spill the beans, in case you want to watch the documentary or google Eric Clapton and read more about his life.

Clapton is my new hero.

ESP: Skeptic or Believer?


” . . . now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind . . .”  —The Beatles

Okay, so the Fab Four were singing about love.  But I’m writing about Extra Sensory Perception that comes in many flavors: readers, astrologers, palmists, channelers . . . Go ahead and add to the list.

To tell the truth, I was a skeptic.  Some of the supposed people with a “gift” got some things right about me and some things wrong.  You know, the standard stuff like there is a true love in your life or about to be.  Or you’re going on a trip within the next year.  (How many miles from home?) Or there is something about your health that may be a cause of worry.  Maybe their predictions were right some of the time, but they were so wide and vague that they fit just about everyone.

Sure, I kept testing the waters.  A tarot card reader at the neighborhood fair.  An astrologist who came highly recommended.  (I kept notes on my calendar and found myself twisting my life to fit her predictions).

But then there was Robert, Robert the Reader.  I was on assignment for a now defunct national women’s magazine to write a feature about ESP.  My assignment was to schedule sessions with all kinds of people who claimed higher powers.  Robert had come recommended as the “real deal.”  So, off I went.

Robert followed a process: he would ask you a question, write down your answer on a piece of paper, and turn that paper upside down on a coffee table that separated him and his client.

He didn’t waste any time.  “On what day will your life change?”

“You mean what day out of three hundred and sixty-five?”

“Yes,” he said.

“I don’t know,” I muttered.  “How about May fifteenth?”

He turned over the pad of paper.  He’d written may 15, with May 23 in parentheses.  “You think it will be May fifteenth, but it will be the twenty-third.”

I was impressed but not convinced.  It could have been a lucky guess.

“What’s the name of your next book?”  I shivered.  How did he know I was writing a book?  There was no Internet.  He couldn’t google my name.  There had been no pre-publication PR.  And he didn’t know a soul connected to me.  The only two people on the planet who knew the title were my editor and husband.

“I’m not sure,” (I really wasn’t), but I think I’ll call it Dead Serious.”

He turned the paper over.  It read Dead Serious.

Okay, so he’d made another good guess, but I began to feel uneasy.  I wasn’t enthusiastic about continuing to play this game.

“Why have you been waking up in the middle of the night?”  Was it so obvious?  Were there dark bags under my eyes?  Was my hair askew?  Had I smeared my lipstick?

Now I was really spooked.  I had been waking up for no apparent reason.  Everyone had a bout on insomnia once in a while.

He wrote once again and, suddenly I knew why I’d been waking up in the middle of the night for over a month.  The only remedy was a script for Ambien, a drug that physicians at the time didn’t realize how addictive it was.

“My dead brother is trying to contact me.”  I was sure he had no idea about my brother or his suicide or the reason I was writing Dead Serious.

I held my breath.  He turned the paper over.  It read: “Your dead brother Rob is trying to contact you.”

How the hell did he know that?  My brother’s name was Robert, we called him Robin.  Rob was close enough.”

This was more than thirty years ago.  Sure, I’d read about seances and seen actors in movies with their Oui·ja boards boards, but the whole thing seemed like a ruse.  All this talk about spirits hanging around a house where it once lived or the ability to “know” what a dead person was thinking (“Your husband loves you very much and is so sorry that he left you with little money”) seemed like a crafty way for folks to believe in something/someone they could not in their everyday lives comprehend.

But this Robert guy.  He scared the hell out of me.  What was I supposed to do?  Sit up in bed in the middle of the night and talk to my brother?

I was freaked.  Robert was not a sham.   “You know,” he said, “this ‘gift’ I have is a curse.  I see someone walking down the street and know that they will die in an automobile accident.  Or that they’ll battle caner or lose a loved one.  It’s exhausting.”

I felt sorry for him and didn’t know what else he “saw” about me and my future.

But to his credit, he set me on a path to break my addiction to sleeping pills and to eventually talk to my dead brother when he appeared in my room.  Robert set me on the path to healing and, for that, I am ever grateful.




Age Jumps (For Anyone over 50)


Woman with paper bag over her head with smiley face drawing


You were all excited when you turned 50, right?  You had all of Act Two in front of you.  Any mistakes of the past could be forgotten in the knowledge that you’d learned your lessons (Sure, you did) and could sail on into the next 50 years.  Well, okay, maybe not 50—I mean, who wants to live to be 100? (Actually, I do)—but a good, say, 35 years before you said your fond farewells.

All was well on the western front.  At least, that’s what you thought.  But then one morning you woke up, stumbled into the bathroom, took a look at your sleep-deprived reflection in the mirror and couldn’t believe what you saw.  What the hell was that line in between your eyebrows that stayed put no matter how hard you tried not to squint?  What was with the laugh lines when there was nothing funny? And those lines on your chest (I’m talking to my sisters out there) that conjured up visions of leather-skinned women from Miami Beach who turned sunbathing into a profession?  It’s a challenge to accept these physical changes as badges of experience and wisdom and not flashing neon signs that scream out, “You ain’t no spring chicken!”

I like to call these moments “age jumps”—the moments when you are despondent about a new line or sag or permanent something or other that wasn’t there just 12 hours before.  You want to put a bag on your head, stay in bed all day, bite the bullet or, if it’s a really bad age jump, schedule an appointment with a plastic surgeon.

Here’s what I say: go ahead and feel real sorry for yourself.  Cry.  Scream. (The Primal Screamers don’t have a corner on the market.)  Get “smashed” after work.  Sit by yourself on a park bench and feed the pigeons.  Isn’t that what old people do?

Miraculously, the next day, after all the histrionics, you’ll feel so much better.   It’s like any other disappointment/tragedy in life—if you don’t process the loss, you’ll never get over it.  (Need I remind you of your first breakup when your whole life crashed and burned?)  Age jumps are part of the downhill slide we all take.  Let’s join our collective hands and all moan together.  A one, a two, a three . . .

Disclaimer:  This process is not guaranteed.  The success rate ranges from 0% to 100%.  If feeling sorry for yourself with age jumps does not improve your mental health, stop moaning right away and call your doctor—in this case, a behavioral therapist is recommended.