Ode to My Muse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ignored my plaintive whispers

Paid no attention to my pleas

On Sunday had to call the vet- the dog came down with fleas

It’s time to get my blog on

And all you do is tease

As I sit and stare in horror at these damn computer keys

 

 When it seems that I’m most distant

That’s when you’re nestled in my mind

Insects are revolting and quite a bit unkind

When I told you that I needed help

You said you’re not inclined

To help me with my edits, the nastiest bugs I’ll find

 

Hated to see my canine scratchin’

Bitin’ at her tiny little thigh

It seems like you forgotten that it’s on you, whom I rely

My draft’s in a state of languish

You know the reasons why

But all you said was see ya, gotta go, so long, bye-bye

 

Got sidetracked with life’s minutiae

Cried my eyes out ’til they’re raw

No, I swear, you must believe me, I never stopped to draw

I’ve got to write some words down

My creative flow has got a flaw

I realized this had happened as I was poking at her paw

 

Debuggers helped my dog’s morale

She runs and barks, is grateful

I must admit I’m happiest when I see her playful

I’d like to pen some rhymes again, a poem, a verse or two

But here I sit, beside myself, all in all, just fretful

I must believe in you, my muse, you’ve always been most faithful

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Clichés: The New Black

While sitting on the train today a light bulb went off in my head. There’s no time like the present, I decided to stop walking on eggshells and let the truth be told. I happen to like clichés. Editors and friends have warned me about using too many of them. For me, clichés are descriptive, fun and remind me of my mother- who always had one at the ready.

Clichés happen to describe things exactly as I’d like. They do a great job of dealing with the business at hand. Why can’t I just say he was a chip off the old block? Or they are like two peas in a pod? That’s a piece of cake. Instead, I concoct something that goes like this: Those men were twin snakes charming their way to my heart, posed to strike. Awful.

 When I was eight years old I received an excellent grade on my report card. Everyone was terrified of Mrs. Kelly, the Language Arts teacher. Maybe it was that fox pelt she wore around her shoulders. I thought she was the cat’s pajamas. My classmate confided to me that the only reason I got that grade was because I’d memorized all the proverbs that year. What was wrong with that? It goes without saying that doing what the teacher tells you to do garners a good grade. A stitch in time saves nine. A penny saved is a penny earned. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I believed them then and I still do. It was a great way to understand something but I gave up trying to explain that to my friend. You can’t win ‘em all.

Today I love slogans. One day at a time. Live and let live. Be a member of the KISS club-keep it simple stupid. I could go on and on. But I won’t because brevity is the soul of wit.
 
All I can say is-to each his own.  For me it’s a no brainer, why reinvent the wheel?

-Thanks to Patricia Dornelles who collaborated with me on this one.

Have any clichés you just can’t live without?

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Psychic Psychiatry

When I’m not bopping between blogspots I have a couple of day jobs. As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I talk with lots of people every day. We talk about how they’re eating, sleeping, what they’re moods have been like and how they feel about their family members and their jobs. You know, the mundane- that wonderful place that exists very close to the paranormal that I’ve mentioned before. On other days, I sit in my spiritual room and do psychic readings for the people who find their way to me. I use tarot, oracles, cigar smoke, water, you name it, I scry it.

Sometimes these people share things with me like their views on their religions, faith, dark nights of the soul and, sadly a little less frequently, their illuminated lives. Sitting with them I help to determine whether I can offer help and in what form. Tapping into my intuitive side, I guide them into delving a bit more deeply into the way they are experiencing their lives. It’s not often that I receive everything they say at face value. There’s a reason why people come to see me. Psychic or psychiatric- they want to know more about themselves.

Every so often I have a therapist ask me whether I can see a particular client of theirs because I’ll find them interesting. These are the people that believe they are seeing clairvoyantly and not experiencing visual hallucinations. They are the ones that hear spirits talk to them and aren’t disturbed by auditory hallucinations. These folks admit that they feel the presence of someone else in the room that’s not visible to most others. They aren’t really paranoid-a term that we use very loosely.

My doctoral thesis was all about the paranormal- another word I take issue with but it’s one that society has decided explains these phenomena quite well. It’s no surprise that a client recently offered me the name of a title of a book I should read that is about two adolescent siblings-one schizophrenic. My book Covering the Sun with My Hand is about twins- one is diagnosed with schizophrenia when they are teenagers. My client didn’t know I’m writing this! Serendipitous you might say. That’s how my professors described it in school.

While writing my book I kept sitting back to ponder whether some of the scenarios were too far-fetched. I wondered how much I was making up and how much was a result of the absorption of information I’d gleaned over the many years that I’ve been working in psychiatry. Well, I never had to sit and obsess too long. There was always someone coming in and telling me about a situation they’ve dealt with that was very close to a scene in my novel. Not only were they sharing their experience with me, I firmly believe that my spiritual guidance was telling me to chill out and relax. It’s all good.

Many of us were brought up learning about roots, sitting at the misa table watching spirits channeled, or sitting at the kitchen table listening to our mothers and aunts talk about those “coincidences.” My mother didn’t mind that I talked to my toothbrush and had imaginary friends. Superstitions, old wives tales, Bewitched’s Samantha Stevens twitching her nose. They all point to the truths of who we are. I searched for “something more” through a doctoral program in research and theory development. I started in a library, online and in journals. I found it in regular people’s living rooms, in train stations and on the street. I found the “something more” within me and can comfortably share about it today. My inner guidance tells me I can.

Have you been listening to your intuitive side, your inner guidance, the voice that whispers in your ear? What does it say?

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Romancing My Muse

Some of my greatest relationships have kept me guessing, on my toes, and anticipating the next great thing. The love of my life that I’m talking about here is my muse. I often wonder when it will pay a visit in my busy and unpredictable life! Will my muse speak to me when I’m covered in slippery bubbles? Will it show up when I’m sitting behind the wheel on I-95? Sometimes my muse has been known to murmur in my ear when I’m slick with perspiration smashed between simmering bodies on the F train. It’s okay, my muse knows how much I love him, her, it! It knows the depths I’ve gone to keep this torrid love affair alive. Let’s face it- muses have been known to be fun, fickle and, occasionally, fatal. My muse has played hard to get. I’ve chased it. I’ve delighted in it. Sometimes I’ve even cried about it.  I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve applied yet another layer of crimson red lip gloss waiting for it to ring the doorbell.  I’ve dabbed tissues under my smudged mascara and wondered if it would call. I’ve wrung my hands, chewed my nail beds and then hidden my fingers in my pants pockets, hoping others wouldn’t see my distress. I admit that I’ve even given birth to books because my muse has sweet talked me into nocturnal raptures.  Instead of weaving socks on a cold winter’s night, I’ve woven words together as I’ve sunk into my easy chair in front of my roaring stone fireplace. All thanks to my muse.

I’ve been told that I’ve needed to corral my muse. Let it know who the boss in this relationship is. I’m told not to pay too much attention as my fingers have danced across my keyboard.  I’ve been advised to write in first person although my muse insists on third (my muse and I agree, never second person!).  I’ve contemplated my muse’s head swelling, expanding, growing in size until it explodes-never to be heard from again, except that would be it giving human form-something I’m not ready to do. If it were human, my muse’s ego would be a lot bigger than mine. It tells me I can write the next best mystery and a Pulitzer is being polished just for me. My muse believes that I can live on a beach on a small island, in a gracious home in the woods or in an apartment in one of the most sought out neighborhoods in NYC. It whispers promises to me as I gaze into my crystal ball-encouraging me to make my dreams a reality and not to turn my back on myself or stand in my way-something that I have been known to do.

Sometimes my muse is busy and at other times I am. I’m especially grateful when my muse knows that I can’t add another thing to my plate. The days I forget to jot down a thought, my muse waits in the wings and often enough reminds me of what whistled through my mind when I have an envelope or index card within reach of my Z-Grip. We take turns at the wheel. We read for pleasure. My muse knows it’s important for me to run, to meditate and to eat salads for lunch. It also knows that I love chocolate ice cream, chatting with friends, and that my spouse and I need private time every once in a while. This is a relationship that will deepen. I feel it in my gut and my bones. I felt it last week when I submitted that short piece for the anthology that an editor had asked me for. I knew it again when a new mystery novel began revealing itself to me a couple of days ago. I was certain when I listened to it speak to me about the third set of revisions for a novel that’s been sitting in an editor’s slush pile. I love my muse. My muse loves me. I think we’re going to continue writing beautiful stories together.

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Palabras- The South

 

This week the oracle traveled to the Met, Central Park and Flushing Meadow Park. The illustrator, Mara Cordova, is vacationing back at home in Brooklyn. While not abstaining from a jam packed fun filled week, she carried a few cards with her daily, along with her sketch pad. Graciella is at yet another level of copy. Her beauty and feeling is simultaneously simple with great depth. I am seeing and understanding things that I’ve never before in the cards. Although I started the process by listening to Graciella’s words, my daughter has continued the process and is taking La Gitana’s story to a new level. Tonight, I gathered up the cards, gave them and all of us a great big smudge and centered. The card I pulled along with Graciella was the South card.

 Image: The image is of Graciella. She is standing in a meadow with magnificent trees in the distance. There are flowers at her side. Graciella’s eyes are closed and she is breathing in the energy that surrounds her.

Words: Raise your face to the sun. Trust what is being freely shared with you. There are no answers other than the soft feeling of comfort on your shoulders that offers protection as you travel on your way. All will be shown clearly in its due time.

Read: Immediately I think of the Morning Tobacco Prayer. “To trust and innocence, simplicity, to little mouse, to  the  good road home, to the south, I pray for your power and spirit to come in.” This is one part of a beautiful prayer that I was gifted with many years ago. To share in a spiritual life one is provided with community, one doesn’t have to do anything alone. While we aspire, have hopes and dreams we are also in the great position of not being in ultimate control of anything. Whew! That would just be too much for anyone of us, despite what we may think. I’ve often heard, “I don’t know what Higher Power is but I do know it’s not me.” We are allowed to fret about outcomes, we can pray for things to happen, and gather ourselves up into frenzies, losing all sensibility as we spin. What we don’t have to do is to think we’re in charge. We will be protected and can depend on those who come into our lives to support us, in whatever small ways, as we realize our true potentials.

Let me know how this card takes shape in your life this week. I’d love to hear from you.

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Keeping the Balance

Cycling at 17 miles per hour during the Tri-Sprint last week, I saw there’d been an accident up ahead. I had to carefully find my way through a very narrowed lane in order to avoid an ambulance, two EMS persons and the injured party. She was lying on a wooden board with her head immobilized. Her bike was still on the ground somewhere between her and me. I got through there pretty easily. I realize that 17 miles an hour on a bike isn’t fast for some people but it is for me. I’d only dusted my bike out a couple of months ago after not really feeling great about cycling. I’d never really learned as a kid because I was terrible at letting myself go and still maintaining my balance.

I found out the woman who’d fallen off her bike had somehow lost all control of her handle bars. Not having the ability to know what she was feeling, I’m sure of some things I am feeling. My whole life is a balancing act. I’m afraid that I will lose all sense of control and end up immobilized. Watching her I saw the strength in her face, the adept way that the other cyclists skillfully avoided her and the quickness in the actions of the emergency workers. In my estimation, from my bicycle saddle, she was being taken care of. Sometimes when we let go, we will lose our balance. We are not in control of all things. It could be a bumpy road, a letter that arrives in the mail, a phone call at 2am, or a pink slip at work. Even as I write this, I feel a slight intake of my breath and a heightened sense of anxiety. What will come next? The point is that we don’t know what’s next.

Peering down at the injured woman I knew that she could be me. I fell a couple of months ago and skinned my knee when my friends and I had just mounted our bikes. I cried and sat down on a big old rock. My friends scurried for water to clean my wound, they found a bandage and they all gave me hugs. They made sure I was composed and ready to roll when we climbed back on our bikes. Yes, I did fall but I was taken care of. It somehow made up for some past falls I’d made as a kid. I was famous for falling and creating gaping holes in new leotards. I remember once tumbling and gasping, “oh, my knee” and the grating laughter of an older kid who mimicked my reactions. I was ashamed to have fallen and having the nerve to be in pain about it. I was four. It would have been okay to cry and have my booboo kissed and I probably would have gone about my business. Instead, I stayed with shame for a really long time. Shame has kept me away from a lot of good things.

In the bigger picture of my life, I fall, get up again and keep at things that I have determined are important for my growth, my life and service to others. When I started writing I was ashamed to “show my paper” to anyone. At first I didn’t want anyone to read what I wrote, criticize my words and, especially, tell me I’d made a mistake. Fortunately with enough spills and rejections I am aware that I feel vulnerable but truly, no one really wants to hurt me. In fact, many want to help me. My writing and my bike riding have improved. How do I know that? Well, if I depended on my feelings I may not know it. The facts tell a different story. When I ride with 400 other people in a race, it tells me I’m different. When I share my words in a blog or in a story that strangers read and I ask for feedback, that shows me I’m changing too.

Keeping balanced in all the spheres of my life takes work. I once had a martial arts teacher who reminded me often enough, “you are who you practice to be.” So I practice this art of life. Sometimes I am shaky and other times, I’m a ballerina in toe shoes dancing across a stage while others applaud. Most times I’m in the middle, practicing, breathing and mindful that it is not all in my control but I can give it the best that I can.

 I hope that the woman who toppled over her handle bars is on the mend and maybe even rode again this morning. Regaining one’s balance is often not easy. To get up again and carry on doing the things we love without shame may take a certain grace but that’s one thing I know that there’s plenty of to go around.

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Miracles Happen

I’ve seen miracles happen. I’ve heard of people talk about them, some with a reverent bow of their heads and others in entire disbelief.  Synchronicity happens. Sometimes the elements seem to conspire so that a certain thing comes to pass.  We witness a miracle when a rainbow crosses the sky. We experience another when someone says, excuse me, but I’m going to get some of that gold that comes at the end of it. I realize that “miracles happen” because of a mix of things. Some of those things are extraordinary and others are mundane- and that best describes the kind of world I live in.

In my experience, someone says yes. Another person creates a placard with a big loud message written on it in bold letters with glitter and exclamation points. Yet another fights his or her way on to the front of the bus and says my feet hurt and I’m going to sit. People speak and others listen. Many knowingly give their lives. There are warriors who are fierce and charge with their weapons of arrows, lances, and knives. And there are those who simply write a paragraph and share what goes on in their hearts and minds in order to stand up for what they believe in.

 I once stood in a crowd and surged forward to protect the dignity of a young man who was brutally murdered because he was gay. I remember the fear I felt when an officer came toward my partner warning her to get rid of her camera but we kept walking to preserve our dignity too. Matthew Shepard and countless others have been killed because of who they were and what they believed in. As a child I had no idea what the participants in the Stonewall Riots would affect in my life. Homosexuality was only declassified as a mental illness in 1973 when I was a young kid who couldn’t even begin to identify the trueness of myself. Today, the rainbow of sexuality- in all of its splendor- can be explored by adolescents and adults who might not have this opportunity if it were not for the courageous ones who first came forward.

At some point in my life when I was coming out and forward I heard that its best not to leave before the miracle happens. The promise that a miracle might happen for me came from a wonderful group of people I cherish. I loved the thought that if I stuck to something I believed in, without a heart full of resentment, that miracles would happen for me. Goddess willing, on Sunday, my partner and I will be legally married in NYC with some of our very closest loved ones present. It may be a miracle, but I think this has happened because some regular folks got together and conspired to allow love to happen. I am blessed this day. In my heart I thank all of those who came before me and pray for those who are coming up behind me.

Tell me about your miracle today!

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Swimming with the Fishes

After insisting to anyone within earshot that “I wouldn’t ever in this lifetime,” I signed up for a triathlon sprint. While standing on the sidelines for a few of them, I realized that I didn’t have to be buff or a goddess. My running is at a good place. All I had to do was practice my almost non-existent biking skills and jump back into the pool after a very long dry hiatus.

Returning to the swimming pool at the Y, I engaged in the appearance of lap swimming. Practicing my breast stroke I found myself in the slow lane next to, how can I put this nicely? Slow people.  I fancy myself going into the medium lane where I’m sure not to gain on the person in front of me in two strokes. I knew that if I had the nerve to move lanes I probably wouldn’t see dangling legs going at a snail’s pace smack right in front of my goggles. But I don’t have the daring. Instead, sad to say, I sulked a bit, was impatient and more annoying to myself than the person in front of me. Glub, glub!

Keeping at my plan I’ve returned to the pool a few times a week. I know that occasionally some capped stranger will jump into the slow lane and suddenly it turns into a medium lane. Everyone is quite nice and we let each other go ahead if they’re a tad(pole) faster. The only person that didn’t smile at me was the lady who walks her dog each morning when I do. My yorkie-poo barks whenever her larger dog comes near. The lady crosses over a block in advance when she sees us coming. I’m still not sure how we recognized each other in the pool with our goggles and caps on but we still keep coming back.

Then my partner suggested we go to the free evening lap swim at the neighborhood city pool. The first night was wonderful. We met a friend there just by chance. The sunset was in full swing and it was magical. But last night was a struggle. Because it was a sweltering evening  everyone came out to swim. About five percent of the people in the slow lane were lap swimmers. The rest, well, again, what can I say? One guy swam almost underneath me. This evoked memories of being twelve years old but luckily he was a gentleman and kept his hands to himself. A very pregnant woman swam in the middle of the pool with her Styrofoam thingy keeping her afloat. The lane is divided in two, comers and goers. But what can you say when the Madonna goes for a swim? Then there was the leaping lady who insisted on going ahead of me. Every time I got near she leapt ahead. I kind of respected her frog-like action. The last I’ll mention was the woman who decided to jog in the water and pinned me between the mama-to-be and herself. Glub. Glub.

I stood at the end of the pool between two men who were also patiently awaiting their turns. I contemplated going to the medium lane but saw the people there were actually walking at that moment. There were so many of them that it looked as though they were standing in line at the bank. Taking a deep breath, I began speaking to the guy next to me. He told me that he’s actually a fencer healing up from a stress fracture of his thigh bone. Such an interesting guy! I loved that he noticed I was breathing on alternate sides during each of my timed third strokes- Great guy that he is! When I explained I’m training for the tri, another well-defined muscular gent on my right told me he, too, is training for the one I’ll be doing. He suggested I become a member of the Brooklyn Tri-Club. We shared thoughts and tips and I got happy! I’d become just one of many in this crazy school of fish!

I’m sure that in the ocean fish bump into each other, they stare at one another without blinking, and share anecdotes about what to do when the current goes the wrong way! I’m just a regular fish going about swimmingly with the other little fishes. I don’t have to be a shark ready to strike but I can be a dolphin, friendly, and living in a community. I hear dolphin skins are delicate. My skin is also thin and easily bruised, I must admit, too much of the time. Taking a lesson from them, I’ll learn how to live and thrive in a community. Jumping and diving, I’ll make happy sounds and make people smile. I’ll swim with all the others as we try to survive the challenging stuff. We can all live blissfully in the sea!

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Palabras- La Gitana

 Burning sage cleansed the room. A fan of feathers swirled away energy no longer needed. I sat, centered and grounded myself to pull today’s card with Graciella, la Gitana. In shuffling the cards I saw the many different faces and anticipated which card would come forward with its message today. We pulled the card, as I felt Graciella’s energy infuse me. I was ready. La Gitana! Again. This was the same card I pulled the last Sunday evening I sat ready for the read. While this isn’t the celebrate card, this is the message I received. Celebrate yourselves and your lives! 

Image: Graciella la Gitana dances barefoot. She is wearing her swishy skirt, her hair is swinging loose and she holds the tambourine high with ribbons twirling. Next to her sits a male who is smiling as he plays a guitar. On her other side is a parrot who sits on his stand, watching over all. Behind her is a curtain that hides another room. Next to that room is a door that has a ring hanging on it. On closer inspection the ring is shaped like an animal bone-a bull’s horn or the crescent moon.

Words: Tambourine jingling, guitar strumming. Others have told you about your identity. Stories have been told about you. Movies and songs have been written about you. It is important for others to think what they need. You know who you are. You know what your identity is. Keep the mystery.

Read: Apparently Graciella wants us to receive her message again. Celebrate! Dance. Let the vibration of sound course through you. Allow yourself to be the instrument of happiness, your truth, your destiny! It’s none of your business what others think of you. Did you do the right thing? Did you buy the right outfit? Did you serve the right dessert? These things are superfluous to who we are meant to be on the planet. Being who we are, without the need to defend ourselves, decreases our tendencies to limit ourselves. We don’t have to offend in order to get our point or ourselves across. Doing this with love is gift giving to ourselves and to those around us. To freely be ourselves is something many of us have walked centuries across to accomplish. Start today, in one action, in one moment.  The gentleness or ferocity of this feat depends on you.

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Depression Doesn’t Rock- Part three of three

If you go to a barbershop long enough you will probably get a haircut. So, if your mental health practitioner suggests medication after the assessment, don’t be surprised. “I don’t want medication,” is something I hear all the time. Sometimes I shudder and sometimes I breathe a sigh of relief. There are different ways to combat depression; there is no one right way. It’s up to you and your practitioner to figure what the best course of action is for you.

Medication- There are many medications out on the market that could help your mood. This is a definite area for you and your prescriber to talk about. Please don’t take the pills that the doctor prescribed for your cousin Ruth. Medications are metabolized in different organs, have different side effects and shouldn’t be used in various health conditions. You will probably need blood lab work done before and during your time on an antidepressant. Ruth means well but, really, she doesn’t have a medical degree. Same goes for when you decide you want to stop taking them. This is just as important as when you start. Don’t catapult your body into a crisis, it just got out of one, don’t go into another if you can help it. And you can.

 Exercise- After a physical check up and receiving the “ok” on starting an exercise routine you can actually begin one. Maybe you were running daily, had an injury and had to stop temporarily, but never quite laced up your running shoes again. Your body is probably screaming at you. “Hey where are those endorphins? I love them. I need them!” If for some reason you can’t go back to a previous sport think about alternative routines. Swimming, biking, weight training, speed walking, the list goes on… Walking around the corner to stop at the bank, then the grocery store, with a stop at the pharmacy, is not exercise. It adds to your overall conditioning but there’s nothing like giving yourself your “special time for me.”

Good nutrition- Seriously, that cheeseburger may taste delightful but your body probably needs something different. Fruits, veggies, whole grain foods, yogurts, lots of water…yummy! The last time you made a fruit smoothie, didn’t you feel great? I also think there’s something to preparing fresh food for yourself. It’s a gift. Taking care of yourself I mean.

Alcohol and marijuana- I know, everyone who has a beer or another substance “to relax” will argue the point. That’s okay. Just know that alcohol and marijuana are depressants, voila, “relaxation.” Each time you put some into your body you are laying on the depression. Depending on how many times a day you find you’re “opening up a cool one,” you’ll probably feel cranky and irritable when you stop this form of relaxation, but eventually you will be less depressed. If you’re using these a lot consider asking your doc the best way for you to taper off, you might need professional help.

Therapy- Talk isn’t cheap. Psychotherapy costs but it’s well worth it. I always say there’s nothing better than talking about yourself for forty five minutes at a clip. There are therapists who will offer a sliding scale fee if you think you can’t afford it. There are different types of therapy, cognitive behavioral, psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, different strokes for different folks. Try it. I feel better just thinking about my days on the couch.

Complementary Healing Techniques- Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, herbs, the use of crystals, Tibetan Bowls. These are just some of the forms of healing that can be used with and without medication and therapy. There are complementary healing practitioners that are available to discuss what forms might work best for you. They work even if you might be skeptical to begin with. We don’t stop at our skins. These measures have been used for centuries because they are effective. If you aren’t well versed in these techniques speak to someone who is, I don’t suggest trying them if you have no idea what you are doing.

Meditation- Go inside, people. We learn a lot about ourselves. What we need. Who we are. What makes us feel the fullness and joy of life. By going within we allow ourselves to listen to the inner voices that nudge us into being who we are meant to be and depressed isn’t it.  

Figure out the cause- not by yourself though. As I wrote in an earlier segment, depression has different causes. Yours might be long term, chronic, low level or profound. Read up on depression and go to a health professional. Get yourself acquainted with the various ways to feel better. Often times when we’re depressed we isolate and feel alone. That is a symptom of depression. Reach out for help and you’ll be whistling ‘Happy Days are here again!”

Any thoughts? Leave a comment! Would love to hear from you.

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