Living Life in Balance

Life out of balance is no way to live.

I remember watching that 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi or Life Out of Balance in college. The Madonna “Ray of Light” video looks eerily like the animation in Koyaanisqatsi.

How human beings ravage the natural world is out of balance. How institutions in society treat people is out of balance. I have read books written by Conservatives and while their arguments appear bulletproof on closer analysis they are shot through with Swiss cheese holes.

It might be that I’ll always be a Lefty. It might be that my focus on fitness as a lifestyle is not popular and won’t ever be popular. I turned 46 and decided to make fitness a priority. I’m 50 now and I’ll say this: it’s to our government’s benefit if you’re in ill health and unable to be strong enough to become a citizen activist.

The lack of faith in the U.S. government according to studies is at an all-time high. We’re so disgusted that we don’t think anything we could do would change things. I certainly don’t think my letter-writing to my congressperson about mental health reform will change things. So those in authority are quite happy that ordinary Americans have given up

It starts and ends with fitness in my view because first of all each of us has to take care of ourselves in order to have a healthy, prosperous life. I define “prosperity” not solely in monetary terms. I define being prosperous in terms of having a bounty of strength, optimism, and what’s commonly called “agency”: a sense of purpose in our lives and the ability to do what we’re passionate about.

It comes down to fitness then.

I absolutely value having a fit mind and a strong body. This isn’t a stigmatizing belief. Everyone living on earth is capable of having their own version of a healthy recovery. Not everyone is going to dead-lift 205 pounds and that’s okay. That’s not the point.

The point is that achieving our own version of “well” is a noble goal to strive for.

Living a balanced life–what I call living life Left of the Dial–is also a noble goal if you ask me.

That’s why I say: forget the government. Forget elected officials who have memorized the Ayn Rand playbook. That is no way to live your life: expecting that any other person has the power to give you things.

I say: it starts and ends with each of us taking action in our lives to create a better life for ourselves.

I’ll end here by saying that now is the time for everyone living in recovery to expect great things. Now is the time to support each other in setting goals and going after what we want.

The days are long gone when we should have to ask permission from any other human being in order to have a better life in recovery.

Recovery is our right. Health is our right.

Living life in balance is something to think about.


Food and Fitness:

You turn 50 and you don’t want life to pass you by. You think about what matters most now.

I met a guy who is a political activist. I’m so jaded that I don’t think our government can fix what ails society. I favor Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Michael Jackson sang in “Man in the Mirror” that if you want to change the world you first have to change yourself. That’s an apt message for those of us who are 50. There’s still time. Better to take action now than to not do it and turn 60 or 70 and regret that yes life has passed you by.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

I’m a food activist and environmental activist first of all. The substances we put in our bodies and in our earth can harm us more than anything.

This is something everyone has control over. In New York, you can use food stamps at Greenmarkets. Do this and use a food pantry–you won’t have to resort to buying cheap processed food.

Meat belongs in no one’s diet–so right there you lower your food costs.

In New York a pack of cigarettes is $12. A week of organic oranges is $11. This is simple home economics.

We can thus all have a better life regardless of what our government does. There’s the real chance a Republican will be our next president–so it’s important we take matters into our own hands in caring and providing for ourselves.

I didn’t want to have to rely on the government–I didn’t want to collect a disability check the rest of my life. My political activist guy thinks the arc of history will progress. I’m skeptical it will.

Now that anyone on SSI or SSDI can set up a tax-free ABLE account we can have the money to buy organic food. A container of Earthbound Farms organic kale is $5. Buy tomatoes, chickpeas, and olives to add to the health. Voila–you have at least four salads for lunch for each week.

For $6, you can buy Amy’s Organic frozen meals instead of Lean Cuisine. No one is getting lean on tiny portions of standard frozen meals.

Now: I don’t want Mr. Toupee to become our next president. Yet he might well become our president. Anyone who doesn’t get out and vote–when Americans do have this bare minimum way to participate in our democracy–has to accept the outcome.

That’s why I’m firm in saying that each of us is truly the best change agent in society when it comes to changing the world.

If we can barely take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of the planet.

Which is why in my view success starts and ends with food and fitness.

Not with the political process.



A Long Life to You!

baby pink sweater outside

You’re supposed to use photos in your blog entries so that Google ranks them higher in search. This photo is a little too big if you ask me.

I just say no to fillers, Botox, and lip injections. It all looks plastic to me when a woman over 40 has no wrinkles.

This photo was taken after a haircut. I recommend you have your hairstylist shoot your photo after a good haircut.

At 50 a woman should let her face breath every so often. The war paint look is aging. If you’re afraid to look at yourself, there’s more going on in your head than meets the eye. If you don’t like yourself, that’s sad when most likely you’ll have more years to live.

A guy I know who’s taken schizophrenia meds since he was 13 is now 72. A shortened life span is not inevitable. It’s a myth that needs to be retired. People who stay in mental health treatment become well enough to monitor any co-occurring medical health risks. Thus we live longer as a result.

The start is to quit smoking. My 72-year old friend didn’t ever smoke. Nor do I. I’ve always detested cigarette smoking from the time I was a young kid. I was easily nine or 10 years old when I had a distaste for cigarette smoking.

Give up smoking–I implore you to quit smoking now if you’ve taken up this life-ending habit. It’s not ever too late to quit smoking. Three women I know who smoked two packs a day for 40 years now sleep and travel everywhere with oxygen tanks.

Guaranteed to give you emphysema, COPD, and a drawn and gaunt, wrinkled-early face.

Give up drinking colas and sodas and soft drinks as the other thing you do if you still imbibe sugary or fake-sugar sweet pop. Doing only these two things–quitting smoking and not drinking colas–are the two best things a person can do. The proof is in how I look..I refused to start cigarette smoking; I refused to drink Coke or Pepsi.

Vanity is a legitimate reason for not doing any of this if you ask me. Living a happier, healthier, longer life is also a good reason for not doing any of this.

Besides…I have a date at a gastro pub that plays cool music.

A long life to you too!

Recovery at 50

Fifty reminds me of the song “Freedom” from the 1980s.

I turned 50: And I could give a rat’s ass about what other people do and say.

Anyone who cares one minute for what other people think has too much time on their hands. That time is better put to using it to do your own thing in your own inimitable way.

So you want to wear polka dots and stripes at the same time? Go right ahead. Fifty is the time to declare a war on changing yourself to fit into a version of a person that other people will approve.

Anyone else who dares spend their whole life sitting in judgment of you or me isn’t worth worrying about. Forgive them. Pray they one day “see the light.” Then send them on their way.

Besides in reality most normal people are too obsessed with their own perceived faults that they have no time left over to worry about you or me. Capisce?

I make the case for getting to the point where you stop being paranoid about how other people act towards you. This is one of the benefits of being in remission or in having minimally intrusive symptoms–the paranoia doesn’t influence your thinking and in some cases the paranoia is totally gone.

Imagine that: getting to the point where you’re not paranoid.

I firmly believe that acts of discrimination (traditionally called “stigma”) should not be accepted or tolerated.

We need however to differentiate between when we’ve been discriminated against and when we’re merely “reading into” the actions or words of other people.

At 50 years old: I don’t care about so-called stigma. Our lives should not be focused on pleasing other people who can set the hoops higher and higher that we have to jump through.

I’ll be 51 soon–my how time flies. Our fifties if you ask me are the time to get things right: to once and for all throw off the shackles that make us fear “stigma.”

To live the full and robust life that we’re entitled to live.

Fifty is when we’re asked to do things we feel passionate about: buy a home, enter into a relationship, travel, take up a cause–whatever the most persistent and urgent thing it is that our souls demand take expression before we’re gone.

Each of us is going to turn 50 at some point. All hail those of us who are 50 now. Fifty is too late in the game of our lives to continue to sit on the sidelines and not dare to get into the ring to try to achieve a goal.

Read the Theodore Roosevelt quote that I posted here in the quotes section. It truly is not the critic that counts only the person who has gotten in the arena and fought to have a better life.

I’ll return here on Thursday with information about a life-changing book I’ve read that might just help others in recovery find the freedom to be ourselves and live our lives free of stigma.

Fifty is the New Funny

I want to do a comedy routine about recovery at mid life.

A reporter for Yahoo Health interviewed me for an article on dating with a mental condition.

A lot of so-called normal guys are a few bricks shy of a house if you get my drift.

I’d rather date a person with a mental illness who’s normal than an allegedly normal person who’s effed up.

This might be why as I continue into my fiftieth year I’m suddenly interested in the inner beauty of a person.

At the same time I see the beauty of getting dolled up to go outside. I learned some tricks this weekend about making up your mind as well as your face. The inner core of our belief and our outer beauty should be in synch.

My joke is that a bathroom mirror should come with the instructions like a fire scene: Stand Back 500 Feet.

Try this and see if as I did it does the trick. Deborah Harry of Blondie fame was quoted in a book that women view ourselves microscopically. Yet at 50 we can’t afford neither emotionally nor financially to obsess about every line, wrinkle, and pore.

The simple solution is to stand back from the bathroom mirror at least two feet. This does the trick nicely when you’re looking at yourself. Like any work of art (and every human being is one) we need to view ourselves from a distance. This is for most of our day how other people view us. I doubt a lot of people enter or invade what’s called our personal bubble closer than two feet to our bodies every day.

Yes: the simple solution is to stand back from the bathroom mirror at least two feet. This works wonders in changing how we view ourselves. Like I reported in here before a makeover is also a special effect when a woman turns 50.

Other simple strategies come easy too:

Cleanse your face at night and apply moisturizer at night. Now is the time at 50 when a woman benefits from using moisturizer and broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning and moisturizer at night.

The makeup artists who wrote The Makeup Wakeup also championed applying moisturizer. It can instantly wake up our faces.

What I find funny and with pun intended is that often the solution(s) are right in front of our face.

I so will not do expensive lasers, injections, and other treatments. I think it’s egregious of magazine editors to fuel the flames of their readers’ worries about getting older by showcasing anti-aging products in features.

Step Away. From the Mirror. I guarantee you’ll like the results.

Makeup Lesson Photo

sideways photo

I like the offhand grace of this photo with the guy walking down the street outside the salon.

Yes: I do recommend celebrating 50 with a makeup lesson.

The makeup artist was bright and cheerful. I bought the lipstick, eyeliner, and blush she used. The products did not cost a lot of money though.

A woman at the last book talk commented to the audience that she loved my memoir because it talked about clothes and makeup–“And Sephora-our favorite store!” she laughed.

Forgiveness is a buzzword for 50. The tee shirt I wore in this photo has black letters that spell out the words: grace wit poise love. These are the four horsemen of a woman’s strategy for getting older.

I kid you not at the book talk my mother told the audience: “Chris was chubby in her twenties.”

My story is living proof that you can lose weight, keep it off, and be fitter and healthier and stronger at 50 than you were as a young woman.

I urge readers to always maintain a sense of humor. Go to a comedy club. Watch a Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoon marathon.

Acting with good humor is the way to go at 50.

Living a Life in Balance

I talked to a woman about why I titled my memoir Left of the Dial: how I covet living a life in balance with my thoughts and feelings on the left of the dial so that what I feel and think is in balance not noisy and distorted with feedback and tension.

As I near 50, I want to talk to other women who turned 50 to ask them how they felt as they achieved this milestone birthday. In my estimation: now is the time to let go of the clutter: the cluttered, negative thoughts as well as the physical clutter in our apartments.

As I near 50, this might seem unusual yet I regret nothing that happened in my life. Regret serves no purpose except to keep you stuck and unable to move forward.

The beat of our lives goes on at 50. I want this to be an upbeat time where I seek to do new things and achieve new goals. Each of us needs to focus on what’s possible instead of making excuses for why we can’t do something.

Fifty is the start of our new lives not the end of our lives.

Clearing out the clutter is in order. Opening our hearts and minds to our potential and to others’ potential is the way to go now.

Some things I’ve learned now that my forties are over:

You don’t need 20 tubes of lipstick. Six tubes of lipstick will do.

You don’t need to buy what the media is selling about erasing wrinkles. As numerous older women have proclaimed, “It’s either my face or my ass.” You might gain weight and have no lines on your face or you might gain only a couple of pounds and have wrinkles.

By the time a woman turns 50, it’s time to stop chasing perfection. It’s time to live the dream of what you’ve always wanted to do or to live the dream of a new passion you’ve discovered later in life.

At 50, I desire to live a life in balance. I’m able to accept that the past had an expiration date and that the future is an open book.

I’m not so foolish at 50 to think I can have everything or do everything in my life.

Instead, it’s time to embrace our imperfections, to honor and use our gifts and talents, to see the positive not focus on the negative.

If you turn 50 and you still don’t like yourself that’s not good when most likely you’ll have 20 more years on earth.

All woman have to love ourselves from wherever we are right now. If we don’t like an aspect of ourselves or our lives, we have the power to change things for the better.

I’ll end here by telling you to repeat after me:

You don’t need 20 lipsticks. You don’t need to hang on to guilt or regret. You don’t need to conform to how society tells us a woman should act and be and what a woman should do in her older years. Dare to wear purple.

Let’s celebrate ourselves at every day. Let’s break out the champagne.

Fifty is here. The world is our oyster now more than ever.

Marching to a Different Drummer at 50

It’s not easy to wave a freak flag when you’re told to conform from an early age. I know I wasn’t the daughter my mother expected me to be: gingham and giggly. Instead, I stayed in my bedroom listening to college radio and sketching fashions, reading books and writing in a diary.

As women get older, the pressure to conform is still there. Magazines like Allure and Vogue feature teenage models with tape-measure limbs and flawless faces. Celebrities hawk miracle creams and hope in a jar of happiness.

What happens when the happiness we seek from physical perfection eludes us? What happens when we realize our mental muscle is starting to turn to flab as well as our bodies? Do we keep seeking happiness outside ourselves via products and praise from other people?

The goal is to be self-confident: not to be swayed by our critics or our fan club either way.

I have a touch of shock like the rest of us now that fifty is here and I’m being sold a bill of goods of impossible perfection I’m supposed to obtain. Let’s face it most women don’t have a peaches-and-cream complexion or creamy skin without pink blotches or fine lines.

“On with it!” is my motto.

I decided to have a makeup lesson for my 50th birthday. It cost only $80 and I will bring my eye shadows and lipsticks for the makeup artist to review. Bobbi Brown in one of her beauty books calls this a “makeup facelift.”

Instead of buying endless products hit-or-miss I recommend booking a makeup lesson at a local salon. You’ll feel pretty and today with the outcome. Research a local salon that offers makeup lessons.

Hiding behind baggy clothes, slathering on hideous makeup like you did in your twenties, and not taking care of yourself are the easiest ways to make yourself ill physically and mentally. Read the Lauren Slater article in the Oprah magazine about how she spruced herself up to overcome depression.

Beauty is the birthright of all women.

Every person living on earth is beautiful.

50 is not the end it is the beginning of our new life.

Dare. Do three things on your bucket list by the time you’re 50.

Keep dreaming. Keep doing.

The best is yet to be.

Saying Yes to Life at 50

Fifty is the chronological caboose, okay?

Yet rather than focus on the past, which had an expiration date, I choose to embrace each new day.

It’s true so much of our youth is gone: friends, badges of identity like music and fashion, desires, priorities, and values.

Yet a New York Times article on March 23rd heralded our older years as an auspicious time to reinvent ourselves, reflecting on women and men who published books of poetry, invented a new business, and dared meet themselves in their fifties, sixties, and seventies

I will always remember my mother’s aunt who lived to be 82. I bought her an amethyst necklace from a gift shop for her 80th birthday party. She told me: “Oh, purple is my favorite color.” (I hadn’t known that.)

The party was at an organic farm upstate, on wooden tables outdoors with a Mediterranean feast. “I love every birthday!” Aunt Angie proclaimed, lifting her wine glass in a toast.

The point is: giving up on ourselves is not the answer. We need to wrap with love the packages of ourselves we give to others. We can embrace the good and be realistic about the not-so-good that remains.

Even when there is pain, we can find pocket(book)s of joy-a Freudian slip-pockets of joy became pocketbooks, as if we can cherish our accoutrements of style.

Yet I can’t tell you I’ll be the “same Chris” at 60, or 75-or 80. In recovery as in life, there are no guarantees. The clock might keep ticking, so we can’t shut off our minds and bodies, nor remain stuck, blind to our potential and the possibilities in our “second youth.”

Truly, at 50 and beyond, acting resilient and having the bravery to carry on are the smart accessories in our mental makeup bag.

Now is the time to say “Yes!” to life.


Just for Today at 50

I wrote this ditty about seven months ago when I started to reflect on the end of my forties this coming April.


Just for Today, At 50:

I will join a bowling league for fun, even if I barely score a 60.

I will refuse to get cuckoo over the right way to fold a bath towel.

I will use Brillo pads to scour the brown off the stove burners.

I will treat myself with the kindness and compassion I treat others.

I will accept that I gained 5 or 10 pounds because I’m still alive and have more good years left.

I will use the rear-view mirror as a cheer-view mirror to be proud of what I’ve done instead of regretting what didn’t happen.

I will go to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure.

I will perform a random act of kindness.

I will remember that God wanted me to be born, that I live here now because life is good even though challenges remain.

I will refuse to take other people’s bullcrap.

I will take myself out to dinner for my birthday.

I will accept that a bad habit remains.

I will strive for excellence because it is attainable, instead of striving for perfection which is impossible.

I will buy a daring outfit: polka dots or stripes.

I will understand that This Is It: so I will live with the knowledge that most things don’t matter in the scheme of life.

I will get over my fears of not being good enough, thin enough, or popular enough.

I will tell myself that Maya Angelou was right: a woman should own a set of wine glasses with stems.

Then I’ll break out the bubbly and celebrate 50, because it’s a great time to be alive.