“I Took a Break from Make Up” Club

I wouldn’t call myself a “girly girl” (I’m sure feminists would love a diatribe on the phrase alone), but I love makeup. I’m not a shopper, couldn’t care less about purses or shoes, but I’ve always looked at my face as a canvas I can perfect upon. I have always firmly believed everyone looks better with makeup and I never leave the house without it – and if I do, I am very insecure about it.

I grew up studying my mother apply makeup in the mirror. She wore a full face whenever she stepped outside the house. I watched her putting on mascara, mouth agape, carefully applying layer after layer on her long black lashes and then using a needle to separate her newly created sticky creations. In junior high school, I quickly learned from the girls who used their lunch hours to meticulously fix their eyeliner (blue, green, purple was in style) and mascara (many coats of any color) and touch up their dark brown lined, frosted pink lips. Thank you for your cosmetics inspiration, 1986.

Throughout my 13-year corporate career, I wore makeup every day but when I started working from home, I wouldn’t wear any unless I knew I would see someone. It seems pathetic how I was wearing make up for someone else (who?!) since I didn’t bother to put it on while I worked from home all day.

When my 6-year-old daughter watches me put on makeup, she has one of two reactions. If I’m delaying her, she sighs heavily and proclaims annoyingly, “Why do you ALWAYS need to put on makeup?” On the other hand, if she’s procrastinating or it’s a special occasion, she’ll happily join in on the application and ask for eyeshadow, blush and lip gloss – all of which I’ll hand over because I don’t think wearing makeup has anything to do with her becoming a potential whore when she grows up.

My answer to her as to why I wear makeup has always been “because I like it” and while it’s partially true, the truer, more revealing answer is “because I think it makes me prettier.” (I won’t say that to her, though.)

With makeup, I walk with my head held higher, I hold eye contact longer and I linger in a conversation more confidently. Ironically, the makeup I wear does not create a look dramatically different from my natural one. Yet I feel much more comfortable when I have the opportunity to “beautify” my face: even out my freckled face with a tinted moisturizer, accent my cheeks with some bronzer, pink blush and lastly, basic black mascara (which I don’t coat on heavily) to accentuate my eyes. It’s not much, but it takes time.

I stare at myself in the mirror with a clean face. A month’s worth of sun tan has given me a perfect color and my stress-induced adult acne has been dormant (knock on wood) and my eyebrows are plucked. This is as good as a blank canvas as I’ll ever get.

“You’re a natural beauty,” my husband gushes, “you look gorgeous without a stitch of makeup. You don’t need any of it.”

“But I look better with it,” I rebut.

“More polished, maybe, but not better necessarily.”

For our two week vacation on the beach, I packed my small travel makeup bag with enough to give me anything from a natural beach look to a smokey eye going out at night look. Our days were spent sun-drenched, saturated in lotion and after I showered the sand from my body and combed out the salt infused frizzy hair, the last thing I wanted to do was apply a face of makeup. I moisturized and moved on – even out to dinner!

I spent over a month without wearing makeup. Getting ready seemed so much easier and faster. I didn’t take half as many photos if I had worn makeup. We didn’t get the ideal family photo on the beach like I intended because I was floating in my new “bare faced but don’t take a picture of me” world. Every time I caught my reflection, I was surprised to see me looking this way “out in public.”

I made new friends who met me only as makeup free, which seemed obvious on the beach; they didn’t think anything of my secret makeup break. I was happy and tan and didn’t care what they thought of my freckled, un-made-up face. At the end of our trip, I shared a Dubsmash compilation video my husband and me recorded and my new friend’s first reaction was, “Cute. LOVE the lipstick.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “It’s my non-beach look.”

Home a week, the makeup remained untouched until today. I went to see my grandmother and my mom and thought I should look my best for fear of them thinking I looked too thin or pale. I am so tan the makeup looks less negligible than ever.

“You look great,” my husband made a point to tell me. “Is this the first day you did makeup?”

“Yes, I wasted at least ten minutes doing this and I look exactly the same.”

“I told you – you don’t need it.”

“I Took a Facebook Hiatus” Club

The newest cleansing rage is not the green smoothie, but the Facebook detox – taking a declared (unspecified) time off from the social media time suck.

I took a month off Facebook. I took a break from my daily scroll through pseudo-strangers’ lives, wondering which smiles are real and which ones phony; whose photos are accurate and who is hiding behind childhood images. I also wanted a break from putting my vulnerability on display. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and the urge to click while I had a momentary free second (or on the toilet) disappeared. I notified my “friends” that I would be on a hiatus. Facebook sent me emails daily tempting me with growing numbers of notifications. It tried to convince me I was a terrible person for not wishing a friend from junior high school a happy birthday. I didn’t miss it. It was very easy to forget all about it; nothing like dropping your coffee or cocaine habit.

When I logged back on, I wasn’t sure what to do so I uploaded my Instagram (irony) photos from my vacation to Hawaii. I knew it would yield some kind of social interaction – or else why was I even there? As a passive voyeur? Social scrolling had become such a routine, nail-biting habit and I was not getting any of value from it. It amazes me how addictive the perpetual virtual parade of “The Joneses” can be.

After I posted the photos, I scrolled down the dozens of missed notifications; birthdays, events, tagging me in photos and cat videos. I moved onto the news feed and scrolled down and down without stumbling upon a familiar post. How long do I go down? Is there something specific I was looking for? Weddings, new babies, huge announcements? I felt much less interested, having gotten accustomed to living without it.

Humans need distractions, entertainment, socialization, and Facebook is just this generation’s thing.

My grand realization was nothing more than “I do it more often than I should,” like any habit, but I also don’t need to delete it forever. (I realize this is language an addict would use.) When I logged in, I did learn of three new babies and one death. Facebook does have an uncanny way of reflecting life, however skewed, back at us. Sharing births and death with one scroll, sharing happy and sad memories without emotion just based on algorithms.

My Facebook cleanse has reassured me I can go for very long stretches without checking in and I will not miss anything. It has also reassured me that there is no benefit to being the first to know the breaking Facebook news. Mostly, it showed me that if I’m not wasting time with Facebook, I’ll find other ways to procrastinate.

“Hesitant to Share Good News” Club

There are too many new sad stories every day. Shootings and terrorism and cancer and what the fuck is happening to our world? “Are we on the brink of a revolution?” my husband said the other day and I didn’t answer him because I didn’t want to go there in my head. I try to stay local, stay present, stay in the now, but these tragedies creep into my life through the cracks; I cannot live with a blindfold and noise-blocking headphones.

Some people lead with their problems while others prefer to focus on their blessings. There are psychological explanations behind both characteristics and I’m not judging either, just making observations. I love to find typos in signs and menus; I love to walk into a hotel room and think about all the ways they could have designed it better (I’m not an interior decorator or anything, I just think I know better). In fact, I am by default more likely to see something wrong with something before I see how great it can be. Whether I inherited this trait through genetics or imitation from my parents is up for debate, but I have diligently tried to reconstruct the way I view a situation.

I do my best to focus on the positive, at least when it comes to my life – and to the broadcast of its stories. I have written about my alcoholic mother and my infidelious father. I’ve recounted stories of my divorce and getting fired (twice). In one year, I had thyroid surgery, broke my foot, got audited, had someone fall on me and break my knee, and got fired. (I got me some stories that year!) Instead of wallowing in a “woe is me” circular thought process, I try to find the reason for things – or at the very least, learn from the experiences. I understand you have to jump over hurdles to get where I am: Happy (at least right now) and Grateful (always).

With the over saturation of catastrophic stories, I feel a sense of guilt sharing good news. But that’s bullshit, right? Both of my children were precocious, intelligent, early readers and talkers and yet whenever they reached a milestone ahead of standard prediction, I kept those announcements secret, sharing them only with immediate family. I would certainly never share the news with a friend who had a child of the same age. I’m not sure how or why our culture has evolved into one so predominantly competitive, but that’s where we are. Ideally, one person’s successes would cause another’s inspiration, not insecurity.

I was brought up not to air dirty laundry, yet my mother and grandmother gossiped about everyone and anyone, speculating and judging even strangers. Another constant growing up – and this could be linked to our Soviet immigrant mentality, being superstitious, we were taught never tell anyone of your good fortune in fear they will jinx you and cause you to lose it.

When I started my blog eight years ago, my voice emerged, and I didn’t want to only write about the shit which was happening to me; I never thought of myself as a victim. Instead, I wanted to proclaim gratitude for where I arrived despite challenges. I got divorced, but I found love again. I had thyroid surgery but didn’t have cancer. I got fired but began pursuing my dreams instead.

Call it latent immigrations or plain paranoia, it’s hard for me to share the joys in my life with friends. I don’t want to risk rousing jealous thoughts. On my blog, I feel freer. Online I have an invisible shield only penetrable through the comments section.

“I Don’t Like Snorkeling” Club

I’ve snorkeled about a dozen times in my life, in some of the world’s most majestic and sought after underwater locales. It’s cool – ish. I mean it’s awesome to stare at mother nature’s aquarium (invasively as aquatic creatures conduct their mundane daily business of eating, shitting and fish fucking) through a plastic mask suctioned onto my face (leaving substantial unsightly post-mask indentations) while I bite down on a mouthpiece attached to an oversized hard plastic straw. This apparatus forces me to breathe in and out only through my mouth, hyperventilation style.

Nine years ago was the last time I attempted this underwater feat and it went swimmingly (I’ll take a bow for that pun, thank you).

Indeed I marveled at the real life version of Finding Nemo. I calmly conducted my Darth Vader breathing as I pointed to my boyfriend at the brightly colored angelfish, humuhumu’s, triggerfish, yellow tangs, and the dazzling world of the coral reef. Moray eels darted in and out of sea caves, octopi camouflaged themselves on the submerged rocks, and I’m quite certain there were sharks. I braved this experience because I felt like I had to; I didn’t want to miss out. This is a theme I find myself revisiting often: doing things I don’t necessarily enjoy because “I think I should” or because “I don’t want to miss out” (even though I’d enjoy the missing out more than the participating).

Almost a decade later, on our family vacation to Maui, my teenage son wasted no time booking us on a snorkeling tour to Molokini, a crescent shaped partially submerged volcanic crater which forms a small, uninhabited islet, the perfect destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. With lush reefs offering excellent visibility as deep as 150 feet, Molokini is home to about 250 species of marine species. This is a snorkeling mecca – how can I not do it?

We decided on a more adventurous style tour mostly because we preferred to spend our time seeing lava caves and tubes rather doing rum and coke shots on the way home. What we booked was a small raft that accommodated 24 passengers, some who had to sling one leg over the front rim and hold onto a rope not to fall overboard. After skipping over waves and catching air, we arrive at the first of four snorkeling sites. I put on my gear and bravely jumped after my 6-year-old daughter. My husband took her and I thought I’d hang out with my 14-year-old, but he was halfway across the ocean before I was out of the raft. I dunked my head into the water and began the repetitive breathing, my head consumed by the amplified sound. I see fish, I see the coral reef, but I’m not impressed, I’m focused on trying to get enough air through the straw. It was just this year that I even learned how to breathe properly in the first place (through your butt!) and now all the rules were broken in the vast water. I looked for the fish, I looked for my kids under water, I made sure I wasn’t drowning or being eaten by piranhas or sharks, and mostly I tried to stay alive by inhaling and exhaling out of my mouth and it sucked. Nothing I saw was worth it. No tangs, no turtles, not even fucking dolphins.

I climbed back onto the raft and spent fifteen minutes calming myself down from my subaquatic hyperventilation. I jumped in again at the second stop because I had to pee and there was no formal bathroom on the raft (“We pee like the fishes,” said Captain Andy.) I took another quick look around and it looked the same; I wasn’t impressed. I longed for the warm sand back on the beach and considered how much happier I would have been if I was honest with myself rather than push to like something I truly didn’t care about. Looking around the second time, the panic had gone but I felt completely underwhelmed. My love affair has always been with the sun; it’s time I retire my sea legs. 

“My Best Day Ever is Today” Club

I’ve been trying to #RetrainMyBrain to focus on now. Focus on this moment. I try to make every moment of my life count (whatever that means) and am perpetually checking in, validating whether I did enough in each moment. Did I successfully seize the day?

I’m programmed with the “problem solver / make it better” / find the best of everything” gene, but sometimes life serves up the very best and I freeze. Beyond “this is as good as it gets” and closer to “THIS IS HEAVEN – IN REAL LIFE!” It’s a flavor I can’t describe, but can scarcely comprehend what it tastes like when your dreams come true.

On our first morning in Maui, we sat on the wraparound lanai of our 2 bedroom condo and I stared out at the view mother nature painted for me. Six palm trees, poetically beautiful and beyond them, a golden sand beach; a volcano on one side and a mountain dotted with wind turbines on the other side. I could see two other islands across the blue ocean. When the sun hit the mountain, I could find every color in those browns – bright reds, almost florescent oranges, yellows, greens of 20 different shades. When the clouds cast a shadow on the mountain, shapes emerged, like dancing angels over the slopes.

While every photo conveys “iconic paradise” (mother nature is perfectly styled for a 24/7 photoshoot) no photo or video can convey the smell of the plumerias adorning the shrubbery. No still image can convey what the sand felt like on my feet; smoother than cornstarch baby powder and when the sun touches it, gold glitter emerges.

“This is the softest sand I have ever felt,” I declare. I am convinced and certain. I don’t ever recall such silkiness underfoot on a beach. I am on a coast dotted in volcanic rock, forming secret inlets and tide pools, each one its own microcosm. There are over 1,000 species of fish in the water 50 feet from me and turtles pop their heads up periodically to take 7 breaths and then disappear for another 20 minutes.

I watch my 14-year-old, prescription goggles on, face deep in the water, my husband jumping waves with my six-year-old, who is clinging on for dear life and giggling in sweet delight. My heart doesn’t believe what my eyes are seeing.

I am looking at my life from above as if I am a ghost; I cannot believe I get this: a man who adores me ferociously and consistently, a son who is kind, brilliant, grateful and naturally curious about everything. And my girl, a caricature of from a storybook, complete with pigtails and tutu, one you can build a sit-com around. She’s six and doles out life lessons by living every day as her best day ever. I remember trying to explain to her at one point, “They can’t all be the ‘best day ever.’ There is only one best. That’s what makes it best by definition.”

Today I realize I was wrong. Whatever day Today is – whenever now occurs is the time to soak up all the goodness of a moment, as if I am an unquenchable sponge never able to be too full of joy. I’m overwhelmed with the beauty of the world in front of me, the postcard coming alive around me like a hazy dream. But I know it’s real because I feel the warm wind caresses my shoulders and hear the ocean delivering its morning sermon and smell of the fruit punch of flowers and taste the salt on the corners of my lips. I’m flooded with the same hormone as being in love…and I am high on life. Tears flow slowly from my eyes, leaving them wet, blurring life because it’s too sharp, too vivid. I can’t believe I’m in this life. I hope the gratitude oozing from my pores is payment enough.

I try hard to memorize it; all my senses on high alert. I want to come back to this moment forever. This is my happy place. My best day ever.

“I Love Hawaii” Club

Hawaii is Mother Nature’s candy shop. Its vistas are unparalleled. Orchids grow like dandelions and trees line the roads like a box of crayons. If the flowers don’t lure you in closer, the mysterious fruit and nut clusters will: wild berries, mangoes, bananas, coconuts, grouped in bundles, camouflaged in multicolored leaves. The blue of the ocean is the kind they call azure. The surprising warmth and softness (for ocean saltwater) are soothing to the skin. And the SAND! You could pay hundreds of dollars in skin treatments and still not feel powder under foot like this. The palm trees which have either been planted perfectly by nature or else a top-rate landscaper create so quintessential a background you’re convinced this is a movie set. (And duh, no wonder so many movies and TV shows film here.)

The trees which are not palm trees are either oversized Tim Burton-imagined bonsai trees or covered in white, pink or fuchsia plumeria or creamsicle-colored delicate blooms inspiring a Dr. Seuss fantasyland. Hawaii year-round looks like New York City’s botanical gardens do for about 3 weeks a year. Everything is in bloom ALL THE TIME. Even the dirt is red, rather than brown. The rocks are black and sharp, an eruptive volcano’s lava hit the ocean and formed the onyx coastline, rocky, ragged, full of hidden faces of animals and mysterious Hawaiian tikis. The complexity of the layered rock is beautiful. Sections darting above the ocean resembles black marble columns protruding beacons from beneath the blue. The second layer is more porous, they compare it to swiss cheese and the top layer is the fiercely jagged top, spiky sand castle tops ancient as an archeological find. On some heavily rocky beaches, natives use pieces of white coral to spell things out on top of the black slate. In Hawaii, even the street art is sustainable.

Everything tastes better on the island. I’ve had the best fish in the world there – the irony being it’s tasted least fishy. The papaya tastes like a perfumed bouquet; the strawberries taste like someone dialed the taste saturation all the way to strawberry blast. Their smell permeates the whole house. “These strawberries remind me of the ones from my childhood,” I say as I smell them – which is also ironic since I remember so little from my childhood.

When I inhale, the air is sweeter, cleansing, and healing. I tilt my head up to the Hawaiian sun to praise nature, grateful for my moment there. Grateful for the heat, the soft wind to balance, and the harmonious ocean. The world is so alive here; life beats everywhere. Dozens of butterflies loiter around a tree, tiny birds perch on fragile branches; there is no digital temptation here. Everything I want to see surrounds me.

I stare out from my beach. A sailboat passes by the crescent-shaped island where we snorkeled with 300 feet visibility in crystal clear water. We swam in the world’s aquarium, breathing arduously through a little straw poking through the sea. We marveled at fish the same size as our bodies and watched schools of shiny unnamable fish; there were eels in coral cracks and octopuses disguised within the secret caverns of the reef. The sun peeks through a cloud and illuminates the top of the volcano – majestic and magnificent. When I inhale, I do it deeply. I want my lungs to memorize this air. I want my gut to fill with all of this and forever have it in me. Oh, enchanting Hawaii, you have forever tattooed yourself on my heart and I will keep returning to refill my love.

“Revisiting the Same Vacation Spots” Club

I’ve been to Hawaii three times, St. Martin, three times, Tulum, two times, and there’s more. I’ve been to Disney World five times, I’ve been to the South of France three times and Paris three times. I’ve been to London twice and California dozens of times.

I’m not alone in my revisit-itis. When I was 15 and 16, on consecutive years, my mother took my sister and me on vacation without my dad, who had to work. We went to Disney World for four days followed by three days in Fort Lauderdale to relax on the beach. Why did we do the exact same trip 12 months later? Many people have seasonal houses they return to season after season, and I’m slowly understanding the benefits of returning to a familiar place.

I want to relive the same blissful experience, relive those iconic vacation moments, recapturing that temporary euphoric feeling. It’s akin to reaching for a coping method of choice on a bad day. It’s comforting, safe and overall, easy. You’ve been there, you don’t have to waste your time acquainting yourself with the area; you are familiar with the best restaurants, beaches, supermarkets. You know the secret beaches and where to get cheap straw hats and fresh strawberries.

So why does it make me feel so guilty? My bucket list begins and ends with a passion to see the world – as much as I can. Australia, Japan, Bali, the Northern Lights! Why did I go back to Paris when I could have gone to Ireland? Why did I go back to Hawaii when I could have gone to Tahiti?

I’m hard on myself even when it’s time to relax.

Sometimes I want to go back because I want to take my children there and show them what I’ve seen. This just happened as I made my FOURTH trip to Hawaii, the first time with my kids and I was instantly reminded of why I go back.

I go back because of the experiences, because of a FEELING derived from stimulating all your senses all at once. It’s the sound of the ocean with the view of crystal waves so clear you can see turtles in the folds. It’s the golden powder sand, glinting with natural glitter underfoot massaging your feet with the finest grains. It’s the explosion of florals tickling your nose in many directions, fruit that tastes like sweeter childhood memories of fruit, the sun that kisses you awake. Every hair on my body stands alert, a soldier on shore leave.

I go back, because, like an addict, I just want that exact fix.

“Searching for Suppressed Memories” Club

Traveling has always occupied a huge part of my life. Not necessarily exotic, but not stoic either.  I want to move, see, explore, study other locales and people. I fantasize about the time my kids are both off to college and my husband and I take off on continuous travel, with no home base, just traveling everywhere we want to visit before our time here is up. I’m not worried about missing my home base; I’ve never gotten entirely attached. I guess that’s what happens when you’re plucked up from the first home you know. I didn’t think my immigration had any impact on my psychosis, but upon self-analysis, I wonder.

As an immigrant, it’s been easy to jump around, apartment to apartment, city to city because nothing truly feels like my birth city, which is ironic since I have zero memories of the place I left when I was four years old. My husband can recall entire afternoons from when he was three and I can’t remember the first four years of my life.

It didn’t get any better when I got to America. I remember my life as snapshots, kind of like the new iPhone’s still/moving image that comes to life for three seconds when you tap it. I’m grateful for these photos of me labeled “Early America – 1979 – 1985.” As I peruse my history, I think these are the moments my parents felt were worthy of immortalizing. I long for the days in between, like the pictures we take today; on the way to school, on a random afternoon stroll, swimming in the pool. I have no memory of these mundane rituals – nor can I remember most teachers or classmates. Entire school years evaporated from memory.

My more vivid memories start at age 12 when I moved to Staten Island. Somehow those times trumped the ones of my life in Queens, which must have trumped the first memories I made in Kiev. I have a pattern of Control+Alt+Deleting my life and consequently forgetting and burning old memories with new ones.

While many of the memories of my first two decades seem hazy, the ones which do pierce through the fog are the tragedies. The memory of my three-year-old sister falling and “cracking her head” while on my watch trumps the memory of a mundane afternoon of watching Three’s Company on our beige corduroy couch.

My husband taunts me with the superhuman way he can remember details from his childhood and intricately describe friends from preschool. He can dictate verbatim, his house when he was five years old, including the stuffed animals on his bed, the design on the bedspread, the patterned wallpaper, and the color of the yarn in the carpet.

Marilu Henner, another woman of whom I am in awe, can remember every single day of her life, by date, and tell you what she wore and what she ate. The science of memory and the human brain fascinates me and I want to believe my husband when he insists: “it’s all in there; every single day of your life is cataloged up there and if you want to, you can access it.”

Only I think I’m missing some special passcode or something.

If they are hidden deep within my cranial storage facility, what is the trigger to set them free? Where are all those days from grade school? What was the name of my 5th-grade teacher? When did I go to that trip to the United Nations when I bought a flag of the USA on a stick? I wasn’t abused; I didn’t withstand any physical trauma. I was well loved and cared for; I was just an immigrant kid assimilating her way into a new culture and country. It’s a familiar story repeated over and over through the ages; this was just my version of the journey.

As I write every day, I am pressing myself to retrieve these memories, to face demons if they arise, and mostly to revisit the moments which brought me here.

“I’m Terrified of Cancer” Club

Cancer is a boa constrictor which squeezes you from the inside and encapsulates the rest of your family into a smothering chokehold. Cancer is a terrorist which doesn’t discriminate. There are citizens in the United States (I’m passive aggressively referring to the Trump supporters) who have become so terrified of “Islamic terrorism,” they are suggesting we rewrite the entire doctrine on which our country was based. However, in 2015,“Islamic terrorism” accounted for 37 deaths in 6 attacks  in America while cancer recruited 1,658,370 new patients and killed 589,430.

My aunt has been raped by ovarian cancer and its consequent treatments for four years. My husband’s aunt is having a parallel journey halfway across the country and we sit and wonder which funeral will be first. My aunt is in New York City and we think she gets access to better treatment, and most recently a clinical trial. She is miserable, though. She hasn’t hasn’t had a happy day since her diagnosis, for which I was her right-hand woman.

Her life is consumed by cancer and her brain, although not full of tumors, is flooded with cancer. In fact, so is mine.

I’ve been scared of cancer ever since I watched that terrible Susan Dey movie, I Love You Perfect and it scarred me, putting into my mind the thought that as soon as you find the love of your life, a radical mass of cells gone rogue will take over your organs and kill you. Before I googled it today, I was sure I had seen this movie when I was ten years old but now I realize I was 15.

You can’t get a vaccine for cancer, yet.Marilu Henner says I can continue to eat a plant-based diet, drink ionized water and do skin brushing. I create rainbows of food each evening for my family, thinking, “this is my medicine; this is the only thing I have in my power to try to create a strong immune system to have a chance against this terrorist.”

But that’s the thing about terrorism … you can’t predict it, you can’t prepare for it, and you can’t prevent it. Terrorism climbs into our brains and like sepsis, paralyzes us from living, consuming every thought with fear.

I had three friends diagnosed with cancer by March of this year; it’s the reverse lottery where you pray, “not me, please just spare me.”

I just read two cancer books back to back. My therapists would advise me against this; I should not continue to dive into tragedy after tragedy, adding scenarios for me to draw from when the fear strikes. The new mole on my back – was it always there? Melanoma. The wheeze I heard in my lung – did you hear it? I never had that before; lung cancer is the second biggest woman killer in our country. A headache right behind the eye? Brain tumor. My poop looks funny; colon cancer.

My anxiety of cancer is just a branch of the neurosis in my brain. My overactive “what-if” generator is my ultimate terrorist. My unimaginative brain comes to life in a medical arena. I excel at piecing together any string of innocuous symptoms to create frightening deadly diseases. I’m learning, to negotiate, though. Even though Hollywood movies have echoed how “we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” I may just have to sweet talk mine into releasing me from morbid thoughts for just a minute. So I can breathe easy, knowing no matter what happens, something will kill me anyway.

“I’m in the M.A.D.D.” Club

I learned to drive in 1990 when my biggest fear on the road was the drunk drivers in Staten Island. In high school, in driver’s ed, and on billboards around town, M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) messages were shoved down our throats. By 16, this scare tactic had successfully inflicted fear against drunk driving, AIDS, and teenage pregnancy.

I reflect on those days nostalgically as I ponder the frightening epidemic on our American roads: texting and driving.

I’m perpetually enraged by drivers filling the roads with their entitled, less than sacred bodies; huge metal murdering devices and phones with which they cannot separate. On a daily basis, I cross The George Washington Bridge, the country’s busiest span and gasp in horror as I see slowed-down, weaving cars FaceTiming as they cross the bridge. Texting and driving are dangerous and illegal and both republicans and democrats agree on it. Yet almost every car around me is doing it and no tickets are being issued, even though police officers see it everywhere. Is it beyond containment and regulation at this point?

On today’s roads, you have to be better than an alert driver, you have to be a proactive, partially ESP driver, anticipating the moves of the violators around you. I’m constantly peeking into the dark-tinted windows of fellow drivers to confirm my suspicions. The huge gap between them and the car in front of them is caused by a quick Facebook check. Or if weaving lanes, clearly a text back to the wife. Yes, it is sad that a husband leaves for work too early to see his children, but please don’t risk my life in your morning’s illegal bad habit which jeopardizes my life, my children’s life and every other citizen on the road.

We all want to be the exception to the rule. We all think we’re better drivers who wouldn’t be distracted. We just don’t account for the others. On my 17th birthday, I enthusiastically got my license (passed the road test on the first try!) and every time I left the house, my father would say, “Drive safely,” and I would sigh deeply, thinking he didn’t trust me or think I was a good enough driver. Yet he reassured me time and time again. “It’s not you I’m worried about, it’s all the other guys.”

Twenty-five years later, I genuinely feel terrorized by these distracted drivers. As if the built-in navigation and iPhones aren’t distraction enough, some cars play movies in the backseat! Above all, over two million Americans are on the road while taking anti-anxiety medicine. Even though warnings boldly proclaim against driving under pharmaceutical delusion, they don’t think the drug could impair their motor vehicle functions. But it does; I’ve tried. Anti-anxiety medication works to “decrease abnormal excitement in the brain.” Translation: delayed reactions.

I am not sure how it will change. If police officers need to get quotas like they have for parking tickets or how many more people will have to die. I’ve contemplating campaigning for MADD to change their acronym to stand for “Mothers Against Distracted Driving” because the state of our roads has taken a dangerous curve in the last quarter century.

Nine Americans a day are killed from texting and driving. 3,285 mothers buried their children last year because it was more important for someone to look down at a little screen while operating a vehicle than to wait and not kill a human. How many deaths are enough to make people stop this nonsense and make a change? As a whole, I think we can agree on the morality of valuing human life over gadgets, yet this still happens. I’d say invent technology which restricts texting in the car but what we really need is an app for self-control.