On the Los Angeles Magazine story

As a quick glance will reveal, I haven’t updated my blog in many months. I am in the midst of what will be a very long break from public writing. The promise of an extended hiatus is one I made many times last summer, but invariably failed to keep. For some time now, however, I’ve been able to stay away from doing interviews, publishing articles and blogposts, and otherwise unhelpfully inserting myself into the conversation.

The April issue of Los Angeles Magazine includes a long article about my fall from grace. Written by Mona Gable, it’s based in part on interviews she did with me in late August of last year while I was staying with my mother in Carmel. These interviews were given during a time when I was in an emotional tailspin, fresh off a psychiatric hospitalization, and heavily medicated on a considerable number of psychotropic drugs.

Though I stand by what I told Mona in our conversations, I deeply regret having spoken with her and the many other reporters to whom I compulsively repeated my story. One of the most unpleasant and unfortunate features of my breakdown was an irresistible urge to talk about myself and my pain to anyone who would listen. I wish I had heeded the counsel of those who urged me to stay silent and away from media. I am able to practice that restriction now, but was not able to do so last summer.

There is no way at this point for me to have a healthy public presence. Both my recovery and my amends to the many, many people whom I betrayed and hurt are contingent upon my staying out of the public eye for the foreseeable future. I am (briefly) breaking my silence now to make it clear that while this painful piece in L.A. Magazine is almost entirely accurate, I am so very sorry both for having done these interviews and for having behaved in such a dishonest, disappointing, and embarrassing manner for so long.

The strange evolution of cowardice

And one more: my post today at Times of Israel looks at the misuse of a familiar word: Why do we call terrorists who are willing to die for their cause “cowards?” Excerpt:

Coward is the epithet of choice when referring to terrorists, even when it so regularly seems misapplied. American comedian Bill Maher was famously forced off the air after the September 11 attacks. His offense? Daring to suggest that calling the hijackers “cowards” made no sense, as a willingness to give up one’s life was an inoculation against the charge. Chastened by his example no one has dared point out the obvious problem in continuing to use the term for men who are prepared to die. Coward is such a necessary word that its use must not be questioned. But why?

It was Homer who introduced the idea that cowardice was the worst of all masculine failings. Heroism, he argued, was indistinguishable from physical bravery – and to be seen as lacking courage was the greatest disaster that could befall a man. “How can I face my fellow Trojans if I walk away from battle like a coward?” argues Hector to his wife, shortly before he meets his doom. Odysseus reminds himself that “Cowards flee the fight, but a hero in war stands stubbornly, whether he be smitten or whether he smite another.” It’s not that cowardice meant something different to Homer than it does to us – Odysseus’ remark could be uttered nearly verbatim by a contemporary MMA fighter. It’s that Homer believed cowardice, especially a cowardice that was seen by others, deserved elevation above every other failing.

Read it all here.

Beauty and Weakness: Reprinting a Relevant Magazine Piece

This piece first ran in Relevant Magazine in April 2012. Following the revelations about me, the site chose to take the post down. I am reposting it here for anyone who might still find value within it.

It’s spring again; time for some to talk baseball, others to talk graduation or prom or taxes. For some Christians, springtime is also the favorite time to lecture girls about keeping their hemlines long and their necklines high; it’s the season for the “modesty wars.”

If you’ve been around the Christian blogosphere long enough, or been in a youth group any time in, oh, the past 30 years, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve heard or read the usual catchphrases and snatches of proof texts: “don’t cause a brother to stumble;” “don’t let your vanity be a man’s undoing;” “faith matters more than fashion.” Don’t get me wrong; I think these discussions are important. How we dress – and more basically, how we carry our bodies out into community – matters. Yet these discussions (or lectures) often end up shaming rather than encouraging the young people who are their targets. That shame falls on both sexes, albeit in very different ways.

Our contemporary cultural dialogue about men emphasizes the decisive role that biology plays in driving behavior. Evolutionary psychologists, brain researchers, and TV doctors regularly produce studies “proving” that men are hardwired to be visually stimulated or to cheat on their wives. The emphasis is on men’s helplessness in the face of their own physiology, an emphasis that many women find disillusioning and many men find disheartening. Continue reading

A Wayward Son and Absent Father, at Home

Since July 30, I’ve been living with my mother in my hometown, Carmel. Through four hospitalizations and much emotional turmoil the past two months, I’ve called this house home once more. It is not easy.

One of my pledges for a return to writing was that I wouldn’t engage in exploitative memoir any longer. I wrote too many pieces about my exes that, while accurate as to fact, needlessly exploited private exchanges for page views. So in the spirit of contrition, I won’t write about the breakdown of my marriage to Eira. The root causes of what are now divorce proceedings are essentially public knowledge now.

On July 30, a counselor told Eira and me that we needed to separate as soon as possible as our marriage was over. Three hours later, I was on a plane to Monterey. I have not seen my soon-to-be ex-wife or my children since.

When that flight landed and the taxi came to a stop, I was home. My mother bought this house in 1974, when I was seven; I lived here until I was 18. And for the first time since I was 18, I’m living under my mom’s roof again, sleeping in the same bed I called my own as a boy.

Mom is 76, on the cusp of being genuinely elderly. She has her moments of great energy offset by those of lassitude. What doesn’t vary is her concern for me, a concern as comforting as it is oppressive. I’ve been the designated patient in my family since I was a teen; for nearly 30 years, my mother has worried about my mental health, my addictions, my penchant for self-destruction. Continue reading

Remembering the Rav: on the passing of Kabbalah’s Philip Berg

One of the things about psych meds is that there are brief windows when it is possible to work and write. My first piece since my breakdown began runs today at Times of Israel.

I’ve left the Kabbalah Centre, but wanted to pay tribute to the kindness of its longtime leader, Rav Berg. An excerpt:

I studied Kabbalah at the Centre’s Los Angeles flagship location for a decade. The Centre drew me, a patrilineal Jew with Anglican impulses, and it drew my wife, a cradle Catholic. We joined the Centre a year before the Rav had his stroke, and were privileged to hear him lecture. Our children were given their Hebrew names by Rav Berg, and my son received his brit milah on the lap of a then-frail but still lively spiritual master.

While some will remember Berg as a divisive charlatan and others will revere him as a saint on par with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I will remember the kind and gentle man who stroked my son’s cheeks during his brit. I will remember the man who, when I asked him to bless my wife and me with a child, replied with a kiss and the words “I’ll be hearing your good news soon.”

The whole thing here.

Memoir, Continued: On Learning to Say “No”

I remain on hiatus.  This section of memoir deals with the aftermath of the story I shared below in my penultimate post.

I was discharged from the psychiatric ward at Northridge Hospital on the morning of July 1, 1998.  With the drugs I’d taken four days earlier out of my system at last, I was clear-eyed enough to begin to comprehend the enormity of what I’d done.  I’d tried to kill myself — and the woman I thought I loved.  Deputies from the sheriff’s department had reminded me I could be in jail; the doctors and nurses had reminded me I could be dead.  I couldn’t stop reminding myself that I had very nearly murdered someone.  Charges still might be filed.

 

The threat of prison seemed a distant abstraction that hot Wednesday morning as I walked out of the hospital into what my head told me could be a very temporary freedom.  More pressing was the question of what I would do when the urges came to drink and use again, as I knew they would.  I’d barely survived my own suicidal impulses the previous Saturday night.  If I used again, the chances of such continued good luck were small. Continue reading

Memoir, Continued: On Getting Sober & Celibate

Still largely offline.  But here’s some more memoir, the chapter that follows the previous section that appears in “Goodbye Part Two.”

I was discharged from the psychiatric ward at Northridge Hospital on the morning of July 1, 1998.  With the drugs I’d taken four days earlier out of my system at last, I was clear-eyed enough to begin to comprehend the enormity of what I’d done.  I’d tried to kill myself — and the woman I thought I loved.  Deputies from the sheriff’s department had reminded me I could be in jail; the doctors and nurses had reminded me I could be dead.  I couldn’t stop reminding myself that I had very nearly murdered someone.  Charges still might be filed.

 

The threat of prison seemed a distant abstraction that hot Wednesday morning as I walked out of the hospital into what my head told me could be a very temporary freedom.  More pressing was the question of what I would do when the urges came to drink and use again, as I knew they would.  I’d barely survived my own suicidal impulses the previous Saturday night.  If I used again, the chances of such continued good luck were small.

 

It was only 9:00AM, but the San Fernando Valley sun was already intense.  It felt wonderful on my vulnerable skin.  I stood in the parking lot, soaking up the natural light, watching and hearing the traffic.  I was out.  I was alive.  It was good.

 

A little red Toyota MR2 pulled up to where I stood.  Tracy, my former student turned loyal friend-with-benefits, had come to drive me home.  Taken to the hospital in only my boxers I had no clothes of my own to wear when I left; I walked off the ward in hospital scrubs.  After she’d given me a fierce hug, the first thing Tracy handed me was a pair of plastic flip-flops I’d asked her to buy.   I slipped them on my feet and climbed into her car. Continue reading

Medical leave from teaching: UPDATED

I will be on a medical leave of absence from my teaching duties at Pasadena City College for at least the first two months of the entirety of the fall semester while I remain under psychiatric care.

UPDATE: All my courses will be covered by adjuncts, and I will be recuperating on the Monterey Peninsula under the care and close supervision of my family and medical professionals.  My diagnosis includes “bipolar one” with psychotic features as well as a complete set of  Axis II (or “cluster b”) personality disorders.  I am very heavily medicated and as of August 20, have been hospitalized four times in just over a month.

My apologies to any students looking forward to my classes.  I sincerely hope to be well enough to return to teaching in early 2014.

And of course, I have no words adequate to apologize to all those whom I’ve let down.