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The Auteur of Lincoln Logs

April 7th, 2010

Hyena Store Grand Opening

It’s finally happened. After nearly eight years of blogging about my experiences with and recovery from depression, I have nothing to say. Nothing that I need to say.

Over the years, I always blogged from an impulse to heal and to understand, and so there was an urgency to whatever I was sharing. But now that I’m fully immersed in what feels like a whole new life here in New York—new job, new friends, new home—it’s like I’ve touched down on the bottom of what I previously had thought was a bottomless lake. I’m no longer struggling to stay afloat.

And honestly, I’m tired of words. I’m a writer, and there are only so many words I have at any given time. I’ve kind of used up a lot of them at this point.

With the words that are left, I want to try out some new creative ways of writing.

Over Christmas, I bought myself a set of Lincoln Logs. I went to the giant F.A.O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue, searched high and low until I found them, stood in the longest holiday line ever to buy them, and then walked 20 blocks home.

I love to build things, but we were on welfare in the early years, and so I got hand-me-down Barbies. It never occurred to me to ask for Legos or Lincoln Logs, the toys that would help me build entire societies, because I knew we couldn’t afford them. I remember playing with them once at a friend of a friend’s house, and feeling a sharp loss when we had to put them away. Their softness and heft stayed with me over the years, and when I finally realized in December that I now had the money to buy my own set, I was so excited! I could finally build my own little notched, interlocking worlds.

As a playwright, that’s what I do. I build worlds. I build them with words. But, like I said, I’ve been getting a little tired of the way I’ve been spending my words. So I bought the Lincoln Logs, and had a heydey for about two weeks, building all sorts of different homes and stores and outposts. Using such a different creative medium opened up the playful part of my brain–I built an Upper East Side pagoda, a log shrine, and a hyena store.

And then I turned to video. I want to try telling stories in a new way that matches this new space I find myself in. So I wrote up a couple of short scripts, roped some actorines into spending an afternoon with me, and shot two projects:

I learned a lot on those projects, and I’m writing some new scripts this month that I’ll shoot in May.

I’m building new worlds, and saying goodbye to old ones.

For now.

Circling the drain

March 14th, 2010

Uterus contracting, feels like it will fall out.

With each contraction a sad reminder that even more eggs are escaping, never to be developed into another human.

Heart sad, heart broken, had to put my best friend to sleep.

He served me well, watched over me and bit the ones that needed to be bitten.

Machines are breaking, money needed to fix, money not available.

Life goes on, churning each day running to the next.

People smiling to cover their sickness, people laughing when they should be crying.

Pretending to be something they aren’t, rotting corpses behind their smiles.

I need a break, a break from it all to remember who i was before i fell.

Fell a long way, deep down into the hole of what I thought was the “right things to do” drain.  i knew better, yes I did.

Roads less traveled are not for the weary, the weak or the frail.  I chose this road.  Knowing, it would throw me out of my glass house.

Windows are broken, blood spattered on the walls, water damage from the tears, backing up in the pipes and threatening an explosion of epic damages.

Life is what this is.


Mental illness is what I have; seen as a disability, maybe it’s just the way some of us are.   The way squirrels are nervous.

Some choose not to be here, some choose to leave early, some walk with me shadowed by their own distractions of their own path.

Grateful to feel, grateful to live, grateful for the opportunity.

All that appears to be “in the way”; simply the scenic route.

Lessons to be learned, beauty to be admired, love to be tasted.

Above all, I must remember.


This, is a life NOT wasted and there are no magic answers.

Because I Have To

February 12th, 2010

By Dianna

I’m 35 years old and I live with my Mom and Dad. I’m OK with that…most of the time. They are my crutch as there are things I probably would do that I shouldn’t and things that I wouldn’t do that I should. My Dad is “old school.” He doesn’t believe in mental illness but believes everything is an act of will. Don’t want to feel crazy? Then stop.

There are many days when getting up seems way too hard and the very thought of walking out that front door in bright daylight fills me with terror. My stomach clenches, my hands shake, but I know I have to because the look on his face, the disguised remarks, or the silent treatment will be so much worse. So I do it, and in the end I am better off for it as the reality is never quite as bad as what I create in my head.

There are nights I’d like nothing more than to sit in my room with a bottle of wine and drink myself silly. This only leads to hyperactivity and a walk out the front door to a bar, because the truth is, I don’t like to drink alone. I have the built in excuse not to do it, too, because my Daddy will get mad at me. In the end I am thankful, when I wake up fresh and ready to face a new day. Each day this happens is a day that fills me with pride that I made the right choice and conquered the demon in that moment. You see that’s the thing. The moments always pass if you just refocus the energy, the battle is learning how to do that, the rest of my battle is to learn to do it for me and not for someone else.

Then there is the knowledge that eventually I have to let go of the crutch and I have to find a way to make it on my own. I have to get out there and build a life of my own and more often, I finally want to. Most days I am no longer scared.

Where Do I Go From Here?

January 29th, 2010

By Dianna

Where do I go from here? Once again I feel my life spiraling out of control and have nothing with which to stop it. I am a logical person. I know what I should do to make myself feel better, however I seem to have no way of stopping myself from doing what I shouldn’t do.

When I get nervous and feel disliked in a situation, I drink. When I am manic and feeling like the world is mine and everyone should bow to my amazingness, I drink. When I drink, I inevitable fail and the all consuming guilt spirals into depression.

This weekend I celebrated my friend’s birthday. Her friends don’t like me. Perhaps the best thing was not for me to point out how one particular friend of hers doesn’t even say hello to me and shoots daggers at me with her eyes. They make me feel uncomfortable and she herself, always seems to want me to act a different way, or be a different way, and I try to tell myself it’s all in my head and than I feel bad, but perhaps maybe it isn’t.

That night, I separated myself from the group. Instead of talking to them, I talked to strangers. People who didn’t make me feel disliked and uncomfortable. People who listened to me and didn’t tell me I was talking too loud or act as if I was embarrassing them. They left me at the restaurant and I had to find my own way to the bar. Then, they left me at the bar and I had to get myself home. No matter how poorly I was behaving, how can that be the way to treat a friend?

Here I go again. One more friend down. When you only have 3 left it’s a sad and lonely place to be.

Being bi-polar is not conducive to friendships, and those you do find generally are engaged in the same self destructive behavior you should avoid like the plague. It gets you nowhere real fast. Yet, no matter how many times I am told “it’s not my fault”, no one else seems to believe it or wants to take the effort to understand that. And sometimes I just don’t believe it.

Whose fault is it if not mine? I’m the one who chose to have sex with strangers, to put things up my nose that shouldn’t go there and to put that glass to my lips over and over again.

Today I made it out of bed, albeit late, and I will drag myself to the gym and remember each hour that passes is another chance to begin again.

Time for a change

January 28th, 2010

How many people stop in their tracks some days and wonder just how in the hell they got to the particular point in their lives that they got to.

I’ve been doing this for a long time now.  I retrace my steps, I inventory the steps I took that led me to where I am right now and wonder what will come of it all.

One of my closest friends recently told me, that while speaking to another person close to me, she told this person at that point, “she’s the most unhappy that I’ve ever known her to be”.   I’m the she in that sentence.  That was over five years ago.  I asked her why didn’t she tell me then but she was uncertain.

I started crying when she told me this, knowing deep down that I was unhappy, and that I’ve been unhappy for a long time.  I’ve been doing the “make the best of it and maybe it’ll get better”!  I had some obstacles to overcome, some stuff that needed to be worked out and really hard life stuff that came in constant waves for a few years.

Life sure can take you full speed ahead down twisting roads and you have no time to catch your breath, much less your mind.  With each new battle, I would pray for the serenity I needed in order to climb the next hill.

I did what was in front of me to do, I put one foot in front of the other, and I persevered.  I stayed the course, I kept it together.  Silently questioning what it was that I had to learn from these calamities.  Why me God?  WHY ME?

Much as I despise that question (because it’s screams of a character flaw I do not wish to emulate) I would ask anyway.  Ultimately trusting that I was where I was supposed to be and sometimes the life you want and think you should have is not the life you get.  Acceptance is what they call that I believe.

At what point should you stop convincing yourself that this is how it is supposed to be?  At what point do you realize that being unhappy isn’t what you want out of life?

An answer to this riddle has eluded me for a few years now and I’m not even sure what course to take in order to change it.  In fact, I’ve only just begun to speak of it’s truth, I’ve only just begun to realize that I have to change my course.

This scares me, despite my experience and knowledge that changing courses brings about blessings and clears away the things that no longer serve me, opening me up for a new adventure.

Painful, uncomfortable, sad, and hopeless are a few of the friends that will join me in the change, even though I know their counterparts of love, joy, serenity, hope and freedom are waiting on the other side for me with cookies and tea.

The Fight in the Kid

December 22nd, 2009

[This post is the kind that winds around itself and threatens to lose all who dare to follow.  I apologize, of course—but will try to bring it home.]

It starts—or ends—here, with a yellowing bruise on my hip the size of a half-dollar.  Unintentionally put there, a mistake that he didn’t realize he had caused.  If he had realized at the time, he would have switched his face immediately.  I’ve seen it a few times—a shoulder to the sternum or my hands contorted around my metal back—then the abrupt stop, the gasping gaping mouth.  The hands laid flat across my spine as I catch my breath.


Winter 2006—I was filling out one of those anonymous surveys on my stupid MySpace page.  I was supposed to be finishing a medical school application but was distracted.  By everything.

One of the questions asked, “What are you not?”  I was insanely jealous of the answer my friend Allison had put—it was so self-assured, so positive.  I thought for a few minutes before I answered.

A strong person, I wrote.


I was a feisty child, surrounded by rough-and-tumble brothers and built of a certain solid stock.  My body accumulated bruises and scars over the years—the gouge on my hand from a fight with my brother, the scars on my knees from rock climbing and dog bites, the permanently swollen knuckle and swan-necked finger that resulted from one memorable wrestling match, age 20, that required an entire month of PT to resolve.

But somewhere along the way, I lost that sense of fierceness.  I gave in to pushing touches and piercing glances.  Sucker-punched by words that were supposed to be compliments.  I felt so out-of-control.  So fucking weak.

“What are you not?”

“A strong person.”


I don’t know if he’ll ever fully realize how much he’s given to me.  There was just something about his constant challenges, the purposeful pokes that incite me.  There’s nothing like the feeling of an impending spar, the first things that make me stop and ball up my tiny fists.  I know I’ll never win—he’s much bigger and much stronger—but there’s something in the fight that thrills me.  There’s something about being pushed back and attacking again—raising my fists after hitting the floor, arching my back down and charging or kicking as I’m held above the floor.

I never had an older brother, but I imagine that this is what a childhood with one looks like.  There’s something brilliantly beautiful in the futility of it all.  There’s a certain passion that blushes up through me, that warms me up and makes me feel alive.  Alive and strong.


Sometimes, on Tuesday afternoons, I go to pilates class.  I’m not terribly good at it, but I am always inspired by the instructor.  She’s bubbly and thin, uses weird phrases for different muscles, and is unfailingly supportive.

So, one week, I push myself into a plank, and I hold there for a minute.  And she squats down beside me and places her hand on my back to steady me.

“Look!” she says.  “See how strong you are?”

And it hurts, but I nod and smile.


I will never feel invincible.  There is always something else, pushing and testing me.  There’s always a hurt or a need or an aching longing for something else.  There is perpetual stress, constant working and chronic exhaustion.  But on a Monday night, I spar in the living room of my best friend’s house, the room where I’ve been tossed to the floor and spear tackled onto the ottoman and dragged across carpet and picked up until I screamed in frustration.

It’s not until later that I notice my hip is in acute pain, throbbing from the force of being thrown sideways into a couch.  I realize that I didn’t notice it before because I was so engrossed in the fight, obsessed with picking myself back up and throwing myself back into a losing battle.  Over the next few days, a bruise blooms into the most lovely battle scar, a sore memento that I fawn and fret over.  That I’m proud of.

There are so many fights, you know—I fight to be treated fairly, I fight to get what’s mine.  I fight over silly things and important things, and I fight the world and myself equally.  And at the end of the day, worn out from fighting, I go to bed tired but filled.  Filled with a certain feeling of strength.


“What are you not?”

“A weak person.”

“Look at how strong you are.”

“I know.”

Stone Hearted Queries

December 16th, 2009

Please allow me a moment to take you with me to see where I have been and in a way how it is that I am here in quite the way I am.

Journal Entry: April 30th, 2006-

What have I sacrificed and why have I done it?

Every day I sacrifice healing in trade for coping.  If I can just put off the tears for a few more minutes then I know I can make the bed, feed the children and laugh.  Ha ha, I am laughing, see.  If I sacrifice the coping, the day to day then I am trading for pain and sadness.  I am opening the door to such grief and heartache.  What if it doesn’y stop?  What if i drown in it all?  What if I work through everything only to discover what I fear the most is true?  What if it really is my fault?

My sacrifices are selfish although they appear to be about other people a lot of the time.  I watch my sister’s kids so she can heal.  I take my kids for a walk even though it hurts because I know they’ll have fun.   It goes on but ultimately I do it all to avoid the darkness.

The sacrifice of birthing was not my own.  It was no choice to be made by weary  minds and souls.  Birthing happens; the sacrifice comes with the pieces you give freely along the way.  I gave more than was asked, had even more taken and in the end I don’t know who was supposed to be benefiting.  So I crawl now on battered bones with heavy heart, knowing my sacrifice was unwanted.  My sacrifice was for naught and only brought terror and pain, ugliness and black.  It was my fault and I have to live with that, my family has to live with that because of me.  I am so guilty.  I am so guilty.

Returning to today…

In April of 2006 I was still deep in the caverns of guilt ridden, self-examination and sacrifice with the determination to find a resolution to my suffering.  My baby was 1 day shy of 4 months old.  I was 6 days past my 29th birthday.  Today my daughter is a mere 15 terrifying days away from turning 4.  I am 4 months and 8 days short of turning 33.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart
Oh when way it suffice?
-William Butler Yeats 1865-1939

Has my heart turned to stone yet during these past years?  Have my sacrifices become more genuine or are they mostly imagined and martyr-ly?  I don’t know if there is a valid way for me to tell.  I think it is likely one of those things where 10 people in a room would all give you varying answers.  I  need to turn to my stony heart for answers and for that I need a sharpened pick ax and a strong swing.

I am finding myself.  I could easily end that sentence right there but I had intended to go on.  I am finding myself with so many questions these days.  I can answer some with a quick trip to Google or a phone call.  I can hide under the covers and cry until I determine the reply to another query.  And there are still millions that make my heart race or my eyes glaze over from either panic at maybe never knowing or trying so hard to find the answer that I get stuck deep in my cerrebellum.

Sacrifice?  Happiness?  A time to make new memories?  Write more or less?  Does cleaning under the bed really matter?  How do I love better and be loved better?  Can I be whole?  Is my racing heart just a glistening rock with channels worn through it for blood flow?  What is it that makes Trader Joe’s Peppermint Jo-Jo’s so hard to put down?

How will I ever make it through another one of my baby girl’s birthday’s when I am struggling so much with just talking to her about the act of being 4?  What cruel power planned December to go: Hannukah, Christmas Eve with the in-laws, Christmas, drive for 2 1/2 hours for 3 days of Christmas with separate parents out of state, week of mandatory furlough (yeah no pay!), New Year’s Eve/Wee Girl’s Birthday/Trauma Flashback Day?  For real?  This makes sense?  Was I really cruel to the serfs in my fiefdom?

As we approach the end of 2009 I hope it comes with an end to the types of sacrifice that turn beating hearts to solid stones.  Maybe we can all be lucky enough to be left with the sacrifices that warm you with a sense of completion and an eagerness for more.  Zora Neale Thurston writes in Their Eyes Were Watching God that there are years that ask questions and there are years that give answers.  I am hoping beyond hope that 2010 is a year that comes with some answers or at least more multiple choice questions.  When in doubt you can always pick “C.”