The New York Times reported yesterday that women who drink coffee are less likely to be depressed. This is news?  Coffee got me out of bed and moving for years.  I didn’t drink it for many years and a couple of those years I was extremely depressed. 

Don’t Buddhist monks drink green tea all the time?  Caffeine is the most addictive psycho-active drug in the world.  According to the article, “further research studies will be needed to understand caffeine’s affects.”  Why don’t they just drink a cup?  And save the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be wasted on more studies?  And why don’t they talk about men?  Men drink just as much coffee as women. 

I’m going to San Francisco next week to visit my daughter, who used to work in a coffee house.  I will do my own studies there, since there are coffee houses on almost every corner. 

For some reason, I’ve always found mornings to be my worst time of day.  Some mornings are fine — this morning, for example, even though it’s really cold out and I am not happy about that, I feel great.

But many mornings are very challenging for me.  I wake up with a sense of gloom and I really have to pull myself out of it.  I know I’m not unusual, many people feel that way in the mornings and I’ve heard of others say around 3 pm they start to get depressed.

I don’t know how anyone can not be depressed these days.  I’m glad that George Bush is no longer our President, but the world is a mess, politics are disgusting, hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been lost in the past ten years, the economy is…okay, now I’m probably depressing anyone who might be reading this.

Somehow, despite these feelings of despair, every morning I meditate and yesterday, when I was feeling really sad, I suddenly remembered Pema Chodron’s words to “lean into whatever you’re feeling” so I did.  I said, “I feel really depressed. I just want to stay in bed.”  And then I meditated, read, went to the gym, made a few calls to friends who are going through difficult times and by 10 am, the feelings past.  Like clouds in the sky, they seem to always move.  It’s an interesting business, life.  I want to feel that what I am doing is of service and I’m not quite feeling that these days.  But I show up and do my best and trust that I will find my way.

I just finished a new draft of “Scrambled Eggs” (I still hate the title) and now I feel that it’s so much closer to where it should be.  So this morning, when I woke up, I didn’t feel any despair.  I felt cold, but happy. 

Yesterday I heard an amazing singer, Rosena Hill, at Unity of NY.  She sang some gospel spirituals acapella that were so soulful, everyone in the audience was blown away. Then she sang “The Impossible Dream” and killed us and then later on, the choir came out and she sang with them and I couldn’t believe what a gift it was to be sitting in that audience and listening to that music.  I was so uplifted the rest of the day – I went shopping at Zabar’s and then my loft mate, Abigail and I tried out a great hamburger place in the East Village and talked to the owner, who was divorced but still pretty angry after fifteen years. Fortunately, she makes excellent burgers. 

Then later at night, a feeling of doom and gloom came over me.  Divorce blues, fears of earthquakes on the west coast where my daughter lives, sadness about Chile, Haiti, the Congo.  I don’t know where it came from – Sunday nights can be difficult.  I thought about kissing and having fun and that cheered me up a bit — and then I did what I usually do when I’m having a soul struggle – I made a few calls, did a little reading, wrote, watched some mindless TV (last night it was the closing ceremonies of the Olympics) and then took a half a Klonipin and went to sleep…or passed out really.

When I woke up this morning, I took the dogs out for a walk and brought my ipod.  Two songs randomly came on.  One is a song that Zoe and I used to dance to when she was little – “I get knocked down but I get up again”  – by Chumbawamba.  And it made me laugh and dance a little on the street.  And then a few minutes laters, Carly Simon’s “Coming Around Again” came on and that also lifted my spirits.  I had an email from a friend who reminded me how far I’ve come in the past six months or so…it’s always hard to see that in yourself, but I think it’s true.  
I read a long article in yesterday’s NY Times about depression, which I agreed with – depression is part of life, sadness is not to be medicated away (unless it’s completely debilitating) and I went to the gym and ran three miles in 35 minutes – a personal best since I started running last month.  And then suddenly, I was back on track, back to living in the moment, back to feeling optimistic and also with lots of ideas for the book that Abigail and I’ve been thinking about writing together.

So thank you Rosena, Chumbawamba, Carly, treadmill, hamburgers, hamburger lady, dear friends; I pray for Chile and Haiti and everywhere else in the world and here’s “Coming Around Again.”

I have trouble sleeping. I frequently wake up several times in the night (more often when I hear my daughter moving around – since she is awake most of the night – and then I really can’t fall back to sleep.)

Sometimes I wake up and do some meditation. Last week (that week of economic horrors, which is continuing this week) I read the NY Times all night long, in bed, on my BlackBerry, following the financial markets around the world and reading op-eds. (I realize, of course, that this is not considered a cure for insomnia.)

Occasionally I wake up in a panic and that’s what happened to me the night before last. I woke up with a headache (from slipping in more caffeine during the day) and I couldn’t get back to sleep. And then I couldn’t stop listing all the things in my life that I feel I’ve failed at, or everything that’s gone wrong with the world, or whatever. It was just a very very bad night. On nights like that I think “what is actually so great about life?” I can’t even remember simple things like French Toast, or a walk in Central Park, or Paris. I’m just in it – “it” being the blues, the hopelessness. Really, what I need to do is have a good cry, but I have a hard time crying. So the feelings get bottled up, clogged, and the headache continues and it’s a struggle to get myself to do anything.

There are many things to be upset about: my daughter not knowing what to do with her life, the work I’ve found in the past few years, real estate, seems to be “shifting” (as one of the heads of a big NYC real estate company describes it.) The economy is in the toilet ($700 billion dollar bailout?) Friends are dealing with life threatening illnesses, Steve has to have two eye surgeries in the next month and Lucy (our beagle) has another ear surgery next week. Probably the most important election that we’ve had in a long time is coming up in 46 or so days and who knows how it’s going to turn out? SARAH PALIN. The war continues, costing a billion dollars a day (is that possible – see Thomas Friedman’s NY Times column today), the cost of everything is skyrocketing, Javier Bardem is never going to ask me out, and I feel old, frumpy and tired.

So yesterday morning, before I sat for my mediation, I did some reading and one of the books I picked up was Regena Thomashauer’s book “Mama Gene’s School of Womanly Arts.” (This is part of my homework for the course I’m taking.) I read this:

“Treat a woman like a Goddess, she rises to the occasion. That’s a tip that will take men far in the world of women. Worship her, and she will give you the best she’s got.”

It’s been a long, long time since anyone treated me like a Goddess.

I am a Goddess. (I really am, I really am…if I say it enough times, perhaps I will believe it.) We are all Goddesses and Gods. We don’t all know it (unless we’re Donald Trump.) How do we live a life that allows us to feel fulfilled, to know that whatever journey we are on is the one we need to be on, and to feel whatever feelings come up (no matter how painful) and to know that they will pass.

This course for women is based on the idea of seeking pleasure in your daily life and doing what makes you happy. I’m not quite sure what that is anymore, but I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit, to figure it out. I looked at the inside jacket of the book and Regena Thomashauer (“Sister Gena”) had written this: “Sister Goddess Robin – Welcome to Fall Mastery! I am looking forward to meeting you. Yes! To all of your dreams and desires! Love, Mama Gena.” And for some reason that made me cry.

As the day progressed and my headache eventually went away, I felt better. And last night, I decided to take no chances. I took an Ambien.

“The sky and the sun are always there – it’s the storms and the clouds that move through.” (Pema Chodron – “When Things Fall Apart.”)

I wrote last Saturday about Dick Cavett’s piece in the NY Times about depression and as I was skimming through some of the many comments, one of them stayed with me. So I wanted to share the suggestions this writer had, since I’ve adopted many of them myself and they are so simple:

1. Exercise, very important. Every day, if possible.
2. Get some sun and if you can’t, take Vitamin D or fish oil. (Very good for you.) Also 5HTP. I have no idea what it is, but I’ve read that it’s a great natural antidepressant.
3. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. (Except champagne, for a special occasion, if you drink alcohol at all.)
4. Be of service to someone else, daily.
5. Take a few minutes to meditate or just pay attention to your breathing.
6. Remember you are only one person in 6 billion on this planet. So don’t take yourself so seriously.
7. Enjoy art and nature. And food. Don’t forget good food…but not too much sugar, if possible.
8. Swim…or float, whenever you can. Just get in some water, even if it’s just in a bathtub.

I just finished reading two articles Dick Cavett wrote in the NY Times about depression. They are on the Times’ front page on-line and are definitely worth reading. If you know anyone who’s ever been seriously depressed, you might want to send it along.

Having been through some bouts of depression myself, it was interesting to read his columns and some of the more than 600 responses from readers.

I am feeling a bit blue these days, but fortunately, it feels fairly mild. I keep up with exercise and meditation and they both seem to help. But life is difficult and there are disappointments and losses. And I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals and nursing homes these past few years.

I also read that Tom Stoppard is feeling completely blocked, not knowing which crisis in the world he wants to write about. There are too many, he said, and he doesn’t know which one to start with…or something like that.

One thing that helps is having a sense of humor. I knew I was depressed when I couldn’t find anything to laugh about. I have to acknowledge Martin Short for making me laugh one day when I was feeling completely hopeless. Thanks, Martin! I have no memory of what you said, but I remember laughing and feeling so much better.

Today I rode my bike to my grandfather’s old block in Bedford Stuyvesant. I’d write the name of the block, but it’s hard to spell, I’ll give it a try: Koscuisko, or something like that. His house is gone, but four houses (including his) were torn down years ago and they never built anything on the empty lots. His old garden is still there and it’s become a lovely place where people in the neighborhood can get together and hang out and barbecue. They’re starting to know me, since I like to ride my bike there sometimes.

I remember so many summer days when we would drive to Brooklyn to see my grandfather. All the aunts and uncles and my cousins would come too and we would all sit in his backyard, which was filled with beautiful trees and grapevines. Those are good memories, I loved coming to Brooklyn when I was growing up, especially in the summer.

My mother told me yesterday that my grandfather was never very happy and that he was often angry. I know that depression has been in my family and I’m grateful for all the advances in therapy and medication. I’m not taking any medications right now, but I have in the past and they really did help.