Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 2.5

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Don't Worry, and Unexpected Encouragement

In my previous entry, I meant to mention that I plan to try working with a therapist again. I had seen one since college, depending on where I lived, and until several years ago, but probably, I was not ready prior, as I always felt like most often, I just went in there and told stories and entertained us...or myself, anyway.

So we'll see.

Something helpful happened already as a result of last night's blog-entry. A colleague from work wrote to me and relayed, though our life circumstances differed from each other, the colleague felt that the colleague could have been the entry's author.

Certainly, I wish this mood on no one else, but since at least one other person in the world has told me that this person could relate to my account, I feel less alone in the struggle and I hope my colleague does a bit, too.

Day 2 of Freedom

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Inspired by My Friend Helen

Pat has gone to pick up the stray mini-pumpkins from last night's jack-o-lantern lighting fest at the Presby Iris Gardens and I can see from the web-cam that she has her work cut out for her.

My friend Helen has been blogging super-honestly and it's heartening to read -- picks me up, even when the entries are sad, and makes me feel more connected to humanity. I'll try to follow her example:

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm known for my enthusiasm. So how can such an enthusiastic person be depressed? It's a good question, and it *is* unnerving to be so, as I'm used to being easily delighted, highly-appreciative, observant of my surroundings and generally ready to laugh when provoked.

Thankfully, Pat still can provoke me. From the silly to the hilarious, Pat can make me giggle. Yesterday, during a lower-than-typical point -- my period had finally arrived -- I heard a huge diesel engine expelling exhaust on our street, and said, "What's that?" even as I knew.

"It's me," Pat said. That's just silly. And from a few weeks ago, a friend of my mom died, who she never allowed herself to be romantic with, as she believed he had served in the Norwegian version of Hitler Youth as a kid. When he died, Pat said, "He may have been an anti-Semite, but he was *her* anti-Semite." Hilarious.

Do I feel free, coming out as depressed? Sort of. I'm grateful that my employer does not discriminate based on genetics -- and though I've got no proven connection between my genes and this depression, somehow that non-discrimination policy is encouraging me to be myself.

I woke up, reasoning, hardly anyone reads your blog in any case, Sarah....No offense meant to anyone who does, and thank you for doing so. In other words, if I weigh what it has been costing me to stay silent, rather than write and share my actual feelings against playing it safe and avoiding this topic of prolonged sadness, I feel less ultimately vulnerable in choosing to share it.

The other day, I was speaking with a friend who will be visiting us from a faraway country. I have not seen my friend in years. She was joking (or not) about how she'd need to abstain from chocolate, so that she wouldn't be heavy when she saw us.

I told her, "I wish my head weren't so heavy. I don't think I'm the person you remember first meeting anymore," and then I began to cry.

"Oh, Sarah, I haven't yet made my flight-plans. Let me know if you want me to take an extra day off and we can just sit in the house and talk if you need to."

I didn't accept my friend's offer, and then I almost wrote to her later, agreeing. Discretion won for once, though, and I opted to let her go home on schedule.

I need to thank God that this depression isn't grandly-justified, and really, is probably based on low-humility; I thought I would be further along in life by now -- even saying that aloud makes me feel ungrateful. It's irrational, as on the one hand, in my early-twenties, I couldn't imagine what the future held, and certainly didn't expect it to be what it has become -- with a partner of 17 years so far; and a chunk of time spent in India, doing meaningful work; and being cat-parents to two sister-cats; and being a highly-successful grad student; and being the aunt of four great kids; and living in a gorgeous town in a great house, but still....

I care too much about what others think of me; I'm not yet a famous writer; I did not have a child organically or otherwise, and haven't yet determined how in any case to leave a meaningful legacy; and in my ego-centric mind, I thought I'd be more famous generally by now. I think these are my main reasons for the depression.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Freedom's Just Another Word..."

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

What's the worst that could happen if I revealed my sadness further? And basically admitted that the mood from my last blog-entry, where I became happy again, was just an interlude? What's the worst that could happen if I said I've been feeling depressed for some time?

I can hear my mother now: "Why tell the world?"

"Mom, I tried writing it by hand in a journal and I got no relief."

I'm not really even sure how this depression became sticky. I've had plenty of sad moments across my life-span so far, but this moment has stretched. Was it from since we left for India? Since we got back? Since my mom had her car accident and convalescence two Marches ago? Since I saw "Snow Cake" the other night? Since my friend Susan interviewed me earlier in the week, anonymously, for her class, about how adults make changes, and about a change I was unable to make over the past two years, and which I'd wanted to, and how not being able to made me feel?

What's the worst that could happen? What's the worst that could happen if I didn't tell you?

The worst that could happen has been happening:

I've been too ashamed of my depression to blog, since I didn't think I could blog authentically without acknowledging it. The Lady Liberty bobble-doll on the shelf above my desk is smiling and nodding her head in approval at my honesty.

Why couldn't I go to the pumpkin-lighting at the Iris Gardens with Pat this evening? Why couldn't I have the weekend off instead of having to write a literature review for school? Why can't school be over? What will I do without the stimulation I get from there once I graduate?

Why can't I sleep better? Why is my pre-menstrual time so dark, so often? Why doesn't expressing my gratitude pull me out of my mood? Why isn't swimming helping? Why do I feel so vulnerable, describing all of this? Why does it give me a bit of relief at the same time?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Don't Stop Believin'"

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Unbound from Self-bondage

Occasionally and usually playfully, I acknowledge my self-absorption, and am pretty certain I've done so right here in this blog. Early this morning, though, it didn't feel funny.

Blame it on too little sleep; no swimming; working by myself at home too many days in a row; missing the cats after getting into a nice rhythm of having them around me all day while I worked; recent reminders of personal disappointments, e.g., not having succeeded in conceiving a child -- unwittingly, a colleague invited me to sit at the IBM table at the upcoming "Working Mothers" magazine gala...whatever the reason, I was in a dreadful mood as I drove to work this morning. Dreadful.

Driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge, the sun was just beginning to rise and I saw some pinkness on the horizon and even as I registered its beauty, it made me sadder. I was actually moved to pray to God aloud by myself in my car. And it would be neat if I could tell you I heard a disco-fied version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" after praying, but I'm not sure that's true.

As I heard the song, I recalled how much an adorable colleague from BlueQ (IBM's Canadian GLBT employee networking group) relished the song -- how she lit up when she heard it during the reception of a conference we were both attending in Austin last fall. Thinking of the colleague and her sweetness distracted me momentarily, but only momentarily.

Only one other piece of the morning cheered me briefly; as I put on my necklace while getting ready, I thought of my friend Radhika, who had given it to me when Pat and I lived in India in 2007. And then I was sad again, as I missed her.

The day would have to be just something to get through.

And then this afternoon, I spoke with colleague and friend. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the birthday of the baby-boy she lost shortly after child-birth. I was staring into the fall foliage, disturbed by the unkindness of nature as I listened to her confide in me.

"The better part of me feels like I should just shut up and listen," I said, "But I want to tell you that the closest I can come to empathizing is by thinking of how I felt, realizing that I couldn't have a baby -- well, I suppose I still might have been able to have one if I had gone to extraordinary measures, but after nine IUI's...well, still it's a lack, more than a loss....Well, it's a loss, but of what I never had, whereas your son was already a person with a personality. I'm sorry. I don't know what to say."

I told her I loved her when we hung up and I do. And I wish that people's love and high, high regard for my friend could heal her magically, but what would healing mean in this case? Surely, it should not mean a dulling of her memory.

Connecting, Not Isolating

While listening, of course, I also realized how small my bad mood was in the giant shadow of her justified grief. It did not make me feel better to hear of another's misfortune so much as it restored me to my most loving self, being able, mostly, to listen. I've written here before about my favorite saying from Ethics of the Fathers: "Al tifrosh meen ha'tsibor."/"Don't isolate yourself from the community."

Probably, it's my favorite because it's a challenge for me at times not to do so. I'm an extrovert, but also sometimes, I think my extroversion is just an aggressive shyness, which I've written about here before, too.

In talking with that friend -- who would be justified in wanting to isolate from the community -- I was inspired that she was not doing so; I did not need to be cocooned in my own crummy mood....I don't think any of this part was conscious at the time.

Talking with my friend and then also being scheduled to join two different virtual community meetings today for work, my self-bondage was further freed. In both meetings, I asked questions that made me feel so much more connected to this world, and potentially, might have even been helpful to the other participants.

Why Self-destruction Doesn't Pay

My sadness and self-destructive impulse, if I think about it, began last night -- not long after receiving that gala invitation -- and I recall now that I tweeted, "Enjoying an escapist mood." Fortunately, the escape was through TV, rather than an even more tranquilizing substance...and fortunately, that's as self-abusive as I ever get -- using TV to distract me from my own life when I'm feeling scared or sad.

Now, of course, I'm feeling defensive, and like I need to qualify that not all of my TV-watching is so that I can become tranquilized (though probably, it's true more often than I'd prefer to admit).

I digress. My point was going to be about the value of resisting self-destructive impulses. I'm so glad that I felt present and useful at work. By the time I left the office, I was able to notice and be grateful for the foliage, the unseasonably warm evening and that it was still light out. Almost never do I get to leave during classic drive-time.

The down-side of leaving at prime-time is the traffic, but the huge upside is the special mixes of music that one of my favorite radio stations, 107.5 WBLS, plays at that time. My mood lifted high up during a series of favorites, including:

TLC's Creep and then Alicia Key's "Teenage Love Afair."

The part about staving off self-destruction hit home as I was driving back over the Tappan Zee Bridge and this time, the sun was setting, and this time, I was able to love the purple-orange, stacked-striated clouds. They reminded me of our kitties' fur or Halloween-hued whipped cream, and I enjoyed imagining raking my hands through them.

Upon reflection, another song broke my sad mood this morning for a few minutes: "I Need Your Lovin'" by Teena Marie. And when I got to work, a colleague had posted the following status in his Sametime instant message updater:

"Chieli haunt my dreams..... I love you and your light-jazz stylings welcoming me to another new day while I am waiting for a 6am conference call to begin." That made me smile, so I guess God was listening to my car-prayers.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Serendipity of Phoebe

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

My Luck and a Cat

It seems like days since Phoebe wanted this much affection. Of course, she waited till I was wearing brown corduroys to perch on my lap. I *was* going to blog about being able to catch up on the rhythm/patterns/interests of an ex-girlfriend's life through Twitter, but this cat-affection is moving me more right now.

(The Twitter thing, I realize, might sound like stalking, but it's not, really; I woke up the other day and saw that she was among my new followers on Twitter and so I clicked on her profile and read her 60 or so tweets, and they gave me peace and relief; her micro-blog reflected the reasons we were ever together and validated my choice of her for that time in my life, even as they also validated our choices of different partners ultimately.)

She's purring so loudly -- Phoebe -- while her other mother sings in the shower off in the distance. Her little limb -- Phoebe's -- just slipped off my leg, and so I can tell she's falling asleep, and the purring is fading.

Two mornings ago, I had the worst nightmare, that I was in a colleague's car with both cats and the colleague wouldn't keep the doors shut, and the cats kept trying to exit the car. It was a dreadful feeling, imagining that if the cats got out, I'd never see them again, as they would dart off on some chaotic quest. They are not outdoor-cats, but they "hunt" birds and squirrels in our yard through the glass doors routinely.

Thank God, I woke up with Toonces doing her daily march over us, to wake us for feeding time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Out on a Saturday Night

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions. Second Life

Mitali aka Pat and I went out for the evening with my childhood friend Amarynth aka Amy last night, in Second Life. Mitali was relatively new to the environment, but definitely had just the right spirit. Here she is, with horns and wings, posing by Amarynth's rooftop pool:

[19:10] Amarynth Emmons: what sort of skin would you like?
[19:10] Mitali Wycliffe: Stripes
[19:10] Amarynth Emmons: dark? light? blue? lol
[19:10] Mitali Wycliffe: Blue!
[19:10] Amarynth Emmons: let me see if i have a blue that's transferable
[19:11] Mitali Wycliffe: I should wear shorts so people can see my blue skin.
[19:11] Amarynth Emmons: hehe
[19:11] Amarynth Emmons: actually if your skin is modifiable you can make it blue
[19:11] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: with stripes?
[19:11] Amarynth Emmons: no
[19:12] Mitali Wycliffe: I found a hat.
[19:12] Amarynth Emmons: stripes would have to be part of the skin or done as a tattoo
[19:12] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: charmante
[19:12] Amarynth Emmons: lol

We also took a stroll around the Beyond Space and Time exhibit at the Forbidden City:

[19:44] Mitali Wycliffe: is this IBM?
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: actually, this is not
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: This is the Forbidden City
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: in China
[19:44] Amarynth Emmons: neat!
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: (an exhibit)
[19:44] Mitali Wycliffe: cool
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: that IBM helped with
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: want to walk around?
[19:44] Amarynth Emmons: sure
[19:45] Mitali Wycliffe: hey they bow when you click on them
[19:48] Virtual Forbidden City Calligraphy Kit owned by AM Radio gave you 'Virtual Forbidden City Calligraphy Kit' (

Hope-filled and Greedy Still

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Inspired and Wistful in Parallel

About four minutes into the video of the President Obama, speaking last night on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) inclusion, I began sobbing. My tears were triggered by the president's commitment to end discrimination against us; he said, "This fight continues now and I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight."

I cried for the whole 37-second standing ovation he got for that message, and beyond it. Finally, respect and acknowledgment of my humanity from the top leader of my local world. Yes, I'd like to think of myself as a global citizen, but I am also American, and to hear my leader say that he values my people and me was a form of delivery and redemption. Seriously.

In my life, I have suffered indignities for my sexual orientation -- nowhere near as awful as others among my people -- but definitely, I have felt second-class for it.


My sense of redemption is incomplete, though, as I have transgender friends and if I'm psychic -- haven't yet checked with any of them -- they were unable to feel as celebratory as I felt, listening to the president's messages, since he did not explicitly include them when he spoke of the Employee Non-discrimination Act, though I was happy he at least spoke the words, "Transgender" and "gender identity" upfront.

Knowing how bad it feels to me to feel like a second-class citizen, how good can I feel if we don't all get included in parallel? The single-most frustrating feeling in the past several years has been people's request for my patience around gaining full citizenship, particularly regarding the human right to marry my partner of 17 years. And last night, I was still denied that right, since no explicit commitment came from the president around marriage for GLBT people in same-sex relationships.

And now, I cannot in good conscience be among the GLBT people who ask the transgender among us to hang on, first things first. If they're like me -- and I think that they are very much like me, since I believe that discrimination of transpeople comes from the same place as homophobia, i.e., a fear of people's criss-crossing and trespassing on established gender borders -- probably, they are also tired of hearing people, denying their priority, which translates for me as denying our humanity.

Still, Ground Was Broken Last Night

My father of blessed memory grew up in Washington, D.C. and maybe that's part of my association; I won't try to explain it rationally: Missing my father, since I was 17 when he died, I do search for father-figures mostly unconsciously as I go through life and last night, it was like having my father stand up for me, be there for me, even express love for me. How can I be comprehensible around these feelings?

I guess, metaphorically, there is no one more like a current father in my life than the leader of our country, which I did not recognize till my gratified tears came last night. The president, whoever he or she is, is like another parent; infantile or not, I do look to the president to help take care of me, I now realize consciously.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Created My First Art-object...

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions. Second Life

Fairly often, my IBM colleague Robi Brunner hosts a field trip in Second Life for interested IBMers. Today, I was inspired to create my first even remotely artful object.

Happily, my friend and colleague Maria Izabel Vinha Vieira aka Sharon Schmertzin in Second life and I aka Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven in Second Life both were on the field trip together. Maria Izabel lives in Brazil and we have never met in real-life, but we have worked together in Sametime 3D, OpenSim and Second Life.

I took a snapshot of Maria Izabel/Sharon and me, sitting on the shiny, red cylinder that I built (I'm on the left, and we've captured a rare moment, where either of us is sitting still):

In fact, other than Suzy Deffeyes, Mike Ackerbauer, Bernie Michalik and Robi, and my friend Amy from childhood, I've never met any of the friends/colleagues with whom I've been most active in-world. And I feel at least as close to them as to some of the colleagues I see face-to-face routinely, whether or not we work closely together. What does that mean?

Sometimes, I wonder how shy I would feel if I met Chuck or Amy or Maria Izabel or Andy or Karen or Silvia or Thomas in real-life. What would it be like to face a version of Chuck that didn't include skin-covered spikes, coming out of his forehead? How would it be to meet the appealing and graceful Jacqueline's real-life alter-ego, Amy?

For the record, I have neither a pony-tail (the default hairstyle for female avatars in the corporate version of Second Life) nor a Swing Out Sister bob in real-life. And I'm not even sure that any real cat has an elbow, which is the English translation from Yiddish/German for my avatar's first name.

When I asked once, Maria Izabel told me that she dresses artfully in real-life, too, but still, how would I feel if we were witnessing the actual version of each other? Does Silvia really wear elaborate dresses from the 1700s and Indian saris day-to-day? Is Andy as fit in real-life as his virtual version? Probably! How realistic is Karen compared with her avatar? Is Thomas Su as suave as Thom Thom Tigerpaw?