Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gratitude for a Happy Home

I am pretty sure my housekeeper thinks I have a drug problem.

She does not judge the sink full of dishes I leave each week, nor the un-watered plants that are on the brink of death, or even the random (wrapped!) condom she finds that has slipped out the back of my nightstand. But each time she visits my home, she completely removes all traces of the white pills I leave on the stovetop.

The pills, of course, are for my cat Peaches, who has a heart problem and relies on the milky white drugs for normal daily function. Her pills are kept in two stocked pharmacy bottles on the kitchen windowsill, and because she needs only a quarter of a human heart medication, I keep the cut pills on the stove next to the olive oil (who doesn’t?!).

My housekeeper, Alicia, doesn’t speak English, so she is not able to read that the innovative Target pill bottles are clearly marked “Peaches Marconi.” And even if she could, I am not sure she realizes that this is the name of my cat. 

Does it matter?

Alicia arrives each Thursday morning as I am leaving for work, and the best communication we can manage is of the weather. Since I am usually only half-dressed by the time she arrives, she tells me if it’s cold or warm; and I head off, leaving her to take care of my home, which she does, every time, with amazing care. She is a fantastic asset. But because we can’t communicate properly – even on the most basic level - I often wonder what she perceives of my lifestyle.

We obviously come from significantly different backgrounds. She is from another country, although I don’t know where; she has a family, which I only know because her daughter manages most of her business affairs; and she makes a living cleaning homes, which I know because I was referred by someone else. But that’s it. That is all I've got on her. Yet, due to her role in managing my home, we share an intimate relationship - especially since she knows much more about my life.

She knows that I hate doing dishes and that I attempt to recycle. She knows my cycle of bed sheets, which shoes I’ve worn the day before, the mail I receive. She knows that I leave the radio on for my cat, which shampoo I use, and the magazines and books I am reading at any given time. She sees that I like fresh flowers, fragrant candles, and that I pull daily affirmations from a jar. She’s even met a former boyfriend, the apartment manager, and my handyman. And apparently, she also thinks I have an issue with small white pills.

Alicia has become an integral part of my life, and besides the obligatory bonuses on the holidays and attempted thank you notes in Spanish, I have no way to show her how much this care means to me. Is this a larger societal problem, or my own personal bourgeois guilt?

Throughout time, women not related to us have taken care of our homes, our children, our businesses. Their daily labor has produced a good percentage of our nation’s GDP, raised productive adults, and kept chaos at bay – and all under the table. Although at some economic level this is simply a macro issue of supply and demand, it seems that there should be a greater priority to thank those who do much of society’s work – the efforts that seem not so economically viable for us to do ourselves.

I am not sure how to express this gratitude to my trusty housekeeper... I doubt she realizes how much it means to me that she can take care of an area of my life that I cannot, and I often wonder if it signifies anything more to her than simply a few more hours of regular work in her week.  

All I can hope is that our weekly weather chats, my copious thank yous and the random bonuses speak this respect. Or maybe it’s enough for her that she is saving my soul by discarding the small white pills. Either way, I appreciate her and what she brings to my home – and perhaps one day we will find a better way to share this certainty. Rehab, anyone?!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sex Seven Times A Week? Better Watch Out...

Addiction is a very real part of our society. Every one knows someone who struggles with, or has been affected by, an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It can be heartbreaking to see a substance have such an affect on someone - and have little control over how to help. Over the years scientists and doctors have determined that these specific addictions have a genetic foundation, and they are now considered diseases.

Can this also be true for sex? 

This month, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is considering adding sex addiction to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders (DSMIV),
the “standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States.” It's important because it determines what is a psychological illness - and because illness needs treatment, health insurance providers are more likely to cover it (and society to take a greater interest in it).   

The proposed "hypersexual disorder" suggests that illness can be present if "you spend so much time pursuing intercourse or masturbation as to interfere with your job or other important activities." 
Warning signs would include "repetitively engaging" in sexual behaviors when you are anxious, depressed or stressed OR having more than seven orgasms a week for at least six months - actual sex or otherwise. 

Seven? Seriously? There are definitely relationships I’ve been in where I would have qualified. And have they met most men in Los Angeles? And gay men everywhere?

I know that addictions are very real, and I know that there are men (and women) who have extreme appetites for sexual encounters. But with individual sex drives ranging so dramatically, how can one determine how much is too much sex? For the most part, men generally complain they aren't getting enough; and women couldn't care less about it until they hit their late 20s and then they’re on fire. Modern sexuality is very specific, readily available and increasingly less taboo. 

It is also partly inherited, somewhat environmental, and definitely a crazy combination of hormones stemming from the limbic system in the brain (the very front, important part that regulates survival and pleasure). Attraction, mood, a great ass, ulterior motives, smell and other elusive factors are also generally involved. As humans, we are literally hardwired to want to have sex - not only for reproduction but also to engage a mate for lifelong companionship.

So unlike prescribed treatments for alcohol and drug addiction, it is very difficult to treat a sex addiction by abstaining from the act of having sex. Treatment centers are still working on alternative ways to treat it and society hasn't quite determined if this is an actual disease. 

So with a vague definition, a liberal model for diagnosis, and an ambiguity for treatment, the APA has its work cut out for them: is sex addiction an actual psychological disorder, or is this an outcome of a society that can watch porn on-demand, is more sexually educated than ever before, and grew up under looser sexual norms? Should we send the offenders to treatment centers or tell them knock it off? 

These are big questions that have pretty weighty outcomes - and we will learn the final prognosis in the next couple of months. In the meantime be sure to keep track of how many orgasms you’re having, just to be safe – or to have something to brag about.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Current Love Affairs

I’m not in love with Valentine’s Day. And really who is? Singeltons get shafted and couples get gouged by expectations and overpriced accoutrements. On the plus side, my gym class will probably not be as crowded as it has been since the New Year began.

But rather than wax poetic about all the things wrong with this Hallmark Holiday, I will instead share about all of the things that I am in love with – on February 14 and every other day throughout the year. And while they may not be as exciting as a hot date, can't snuggle on the couch with me, and don’t offer long-lasting partnership - at any given moment they can me smile, inspire me, or remind me of the magic that is all around.

Stargazer Lillies
I am not a fan of perfumes, but the fragrance of these flowers is my absolute favorite. Add that to the tall, bright green stalks of five-pointed star buds and you can’t go wrong with an arrangement of these beauties in your home.

Los Angeles Sunsets
LA has some of the greatest sunsets in the world. When the sun dips below the Pacific Ocean, orange and pink hues are kicked around the LA basin and cover everything from the mountains to the high rises with a soft blanket of light. It never ceases to make me pause in awe... my kind of daily meditation!

This American Life
Ira Glass and his team at This American Life (produced by Chicago Public Radio and aired on NPR) are some of the most clever journalists around. Their well-researched and interesting stories absolutely make my Sunday mornings and teach me something new each week. I never knew that I wanted to know so much about topics that range from the inner workings of the Fed to youth politics in China. Download the iPhone app!

A love of these smallest birds runs in my family - we all have a special affinity for them. And just watching a hummingbird navigate his world immediately calms me down - I can stare for hours. They are so delicate, yet efficient; beautiful, yet hard working. I recently saved the life of one of these tiny creatures and it was one of the most poignant experiences I've had.

There is something so magical about a happy coincidence. You think of someone and they call; a check arrives in the mail the day you accidently bought too many pairs of shoes. These moments of synergy make me smile and remind me that we are all connected in one way or another.

And finally, I love writing this blog. It has become a wonderful outlet for me and I really enjoy the practice of putting words to “paper” and getting them out into the world. So on this random holiday – and every other time I post throughout the year – know that I am sending you love and appreciation for being a part of my online experience. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's All in the Timing

I always get dumped on a Wednesday.

It is the strangest thing. But it is true - the last few people I’ve dated, who’ve chosen to end things with me, decided to do it on a Wednesday. One was on St. Patrick’s Day. One was last week. From 2:30-2:35 in the afternoon.

Always a nice way to end hump day.

And also a nice reminder of the importance of timing.

For most things in life, it all comes down to timing. And not just in the “we’re not in the same place in our lives” kind of timing. More in the way that, as humans, we generally invest time in the things we consider to be priorities. For most it is a deep and evolving connection with family and friends. For others it’s completing a marathon, traveling to every country or launching a business.

For me, for the last couple of months, it was investing in a relationship.

For those of you keeping score at home, you may have noticed that I have not posted a blog in a while. Instead, I have spent my time getting to know someone whose company I enjoyed. Dates, holidays, football games. And my lack of perspective left little time to write about anything relevant or interesting. Plus, he lived so far away, I was practically on vacation each weekend!

But have no fear dear readers, I am back to the keyboard with full force! And back to tennis, girls’ nights, weekend getaways that are actually vacations, and a greater dedication to my work. With a nudge of rejection, my priorities have again shifted and therefore, how and where I spend my time.

Surely there is a greater message here about maintaining balance in one’s life, not sacrificing a perfectly fine routine for silly hair twirling, not putting all of your eggs in one basket. But for me, finding a brilliant relationship is somewhat of a priority, so dramatically shifting my energy into something that seemed to have potential did not seem to be a waste of time. Plus I have a bad habit of jumping in to things.

In its essence, dating is a painful experiment. It is laced with excitement and bliss, uncertainty and rejection, bad timing and misplaced priorities. But as my mom reminds me, and if you look at it in the right light, it is also a learning opportunity.

So now that it’s over, and with time on my hands, new priorities on my list, and many break-up free Wednesdays on the horizon, I am finding comfort in romantic poet Lord Byron who said, “Time is the corrector when our judgments err.”

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