The Road to Heaven is Paved With Dolls:
The Story of Lisa's Doll Closet
Lisa A. Lawrence
Every night, I lie in
bed until 3:00 a.m. or later. I'm usually crying softly and extending this
plea to God: "Please, God, please, tell me why I am here? What's my
purpose? Why are people so mean to each other? Why are there so many
starving children in the world? Why do people abuse drugs and alcohol? Why
can't the world be a nicer place to live? I am so unhappy. I can't bear to
know that other people are suffering so. If I have a purpose to be here,
please let me know. Otherwise, I'd rather be dead."
am eight years old.
LISA, PART ONE
I was born
in Green Bay Wisconsin in 1958, and the first seven years of my life were
normal. I had a very stable family life with parents who never divorced,
and an older sister, Linda, whom I idolized. At nine years older than me,
Linda was like a second mother . . . only a lot cooler! My brother Mark was
three years older and too smart for his own good.
The pain I felt didn't
hit me until we moved to Concord, California in 1966.
I didn't have a name for
this pain but I was very careful to hide it from everybody. To the outside
world, I looked like a bright, happy, carefree child. I got good grades and
had lots of friends. My favorite pastime was reading. By age three, I
could read simple Doctor Seuss books. My father placed a lot of emphasis on
reading and, to this day, my siblings and I are still voracious readers.
By 1967, we moved to
Anaheim, California, where my family has since remained. Because me dad
kept getting promotions at work, we had moved around enough for me to see
the effect it had on my siblings. Being uprooted from junior high and high
school didn't seem fun. At nine years old, I declared to my parents that I
WAS NOT moving again. They could move, but I was staying put. For whatever
reason, I desperately needed the stability of staying in one place and
growing up with the same set of friends. Fortunately, I was able to do
I was fairly shy as a
child but flourished academically. In sixth grade, I did something that was
to slowly, but considerably, help me out of my shyness--I started playing
the French Horn. This instrument is one of the most difficult to play, but
fortunately no one told me this at the time or I wouldn't have had the
courage to choose it. I practiced incessantly. I had little, if any,
natural talent. I thought all the other kids who were starting their own
instruments were having as much trouble as I was. They weren't. In summer,
I practiced up to eight hours daily. I got good--quickly. I started
winning music awards, getting into honor orchestras, and getting
scholarships to summer band camps that I hadn't even applied to. I was even
offered a music scholarship to Pepperdine University, although I had not
applied there, either. I was still pretty shy, but behind the French Horn,
my confidence grew by leaps and bounds. I even got cocky! I ended up
playing for ten years, all through junior high, high school, and my first
year of college, even being a member of the famous USC Marching Band!
By day, I was a bright,
cheerful student, making excellent grades, working two jobs, and excelling
at everything I did. By night, I was still tormented by extreme sadness.
All these years I had continued my nightly prayer in tears. Night after
night, I got no response. While I was raised Lutheran, went to Bible
studies on my own accord, and completed three years of confirmation classes
by age 15, I wanted to die. At that point, I had seriously been
considering suicide for several years. I didn't do it because it was a sin.
By age 16, I was mad at God. I made two half-hearted attempts on my life. I
finally told God, "I've had it. I've begged for years not to feel all this
pain. I've begged for you to tell me why I'm here and why I'm suffering so
much. I've begged you to give me some purpose in life so I can at least help
others be happy. It's been eight years, and you haven't answered. I'll
make you a deal, You stay away from me and I'll stay away from you." I kept
this deal, pretty much, until I was 22.
I graduated from high
school a semester early so that I could work full time (at Broadway
Department Store) in order to save money for college. I had been planning
my whole life to go to college and I couldn't wait. I only applied to two
universities, UCLA and USC. I got accepted at both. USC is a private
school and in 1977, cost about $25,000 a year to attend. Fortunately,
because of my grades, I got a full scholarship. I chose USC over UCLA
because its music department was far better. I entered in the fall of 1977,
planning on having a double major: music and psychology.
By the end of my
freshman year at USC, I faced a huge dilemma. While I had wanted to play
someday for the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, I didn't have the innate talent
to make it. I knew that I had to choose between music and everything else.
Only by devoting myself full time to practicing the French Horn would I ever
be good enough. But my love of books and academics were also extremely
important to me. I realized that the sacrifices I'd have to make to be a
professional musician were too much. I chose "everything else."
Once I made this
decision, I opened up the USC Course Guide and began looking for another
major. I still intended to major in psychology, but I was finding the
classes too easy. If I was lucky enough to have a four-year full
scholarship, I was going to show my gratitude by getting the absolute best
education I could. I decided almost immediately to major in philosophy.
USC had no minors at the time so it was all or nothing. Then, I decided
three majors were better than two. I ended up graduating with three
bachelor’s degrees, in psychology, philosophy and religion. I did it in
I was bright. It wasn't
hard for me to accomplish this. I still managed to "party" a lot. But in
retrospect, I now know the real reason I got three degrees. I would do
anything to keep my mind preoccupied so I didn't feel the continuing pain.
Philosophy and religion are fairly difficult subjects. Still, there came a
time every day when my studies were done and the pain rolled in. I still
cried at night, most every night. But I no longer talked to God. Well . .
. not very often . . . and usually with a disclaimer!
The last semester at
USC, my depression was spilling into the daytime. I was very upset that I
was graduating! I was terrified of being out in "real life." I had decided
to go to law school, but I was still shy enough that I knew if I went
directly from college, I'd be eaten alive. Instead, I decided to wait two
years and get some real-world work experience, hoping that would toughen me
up. Nine months after graduation, I still couldn't find a job, so I
enrolled at UCLA for a 16-week paralegal program. Immediately after I got
certified, I got a paralegal job. I loved it. I flourished. I became
cocky most of the time! While the depression was still there, as always,
this was a fairly happy time in my life. I was still young, had an entire
future ahead of me, and had a great hope that my future successes would make
my sadness go away.
My goal at the time was
to buy a new car with cash, go to Europe and save $10,000 for law school.
Well, I bought a cheap used car for cash, went to Europe, and saved $10,000
for law school. Unfortunately, it took me three years instead of the two I
My trip to Europe (which
was supposed to be a honeymoon, but I'm NOT even going to get into that) was
amazing. Seventeen countries in six weeks. If you blinked, you missed a
country. It was fascinating enough to keep my pain at bay during the
day—but each night, it returned.
LISA, PART TWO
I entered Hastings Law
School in the fall of 1984. Although I had a cocky new attitude from my
three years of real-world experience, I was scared shitless! Here I was at
one of the top law schools in the country. But I went back to my college
study habits, and I graduated in the top 25% of my class.
So, law school. It's a
lot of work. It wasn't enough to make the pain go away. I needed more
work. I managed to get myself on one of the School's four law journals. I
was determined to publish. I did. It wasn't enough. During my third year,
which is easy as pie and basically a goof-off time for most students, I
decided to write a 250-page research guide on the Right of Publicity. It
too was published. While I thought I "needed" to achieve more than everyone
else, what I was really doing was keeping my brain busy so I wouldn't feel
down. Still, every night, I had to put the books aside. In rushed the
I graduated from law
school, took the bar exam in July 1987, and promptly took off on a
cross-country trip. My bar results wouldn't be available until November and
I was determined to see as much of the country in the next three months as I
could. I borrowed my dad's car and took off. It was a wonderful trip.
Except for two weeks, I did it alone; my sister met me in New York so we
could explore New England together. But my pain was with me every step of
the way on this trip. I was often driving 12 hours a day. Besides taking
in all the scenery, there wasn't much to keep my mind occupied. I cried a
lot. And I was starting to talk to God again. He still didn't answer. No
matter, this time, I wasn't going to shut him out again. I'd wait as long
as it took to find out my purpose in life and why I was so unhappy.
I never, ever took for
granted that I got to go to a four-year university and a top-notch law
school, and to take trips like going to Europe and exploring the States.
Even while I was sobbing, begging God for answers, I was very aware that I
"had it good." I never wondered where I would sleep or where my next meal
would come from. I had easy access to medical care. I got to go on trips
of a lifetime. Even though I was sad, I was grateful.
I returned from my trip,
got "the letter" welcoming me into the State Bar of California, and got my
first job as a lawyer. I worked for three years as a business litigation
attorney. When I started work, my bosses immediately decided I was a
superstar. They gave me the best and most difficult cases, telling me
straight out that it was a test. I was thrilled! I was again scared
shitless! By the end of the calendar year, they gave me a $10,000 raise and
a $10,000 bonus and FORCED me to take a vacation. I LOVED my job. I went
on vacation to Israel and Egypt. Still, the pain followed me everywhere.
My trip to Israel was a
turning point in my life. I didn't fully grasp this at the time but I was
hugely affected by what I saw there. Seventeen-year-olds carrying Uzi's,
filling their three years of mandatory service in the Israeli armed forces.
Uzi's! This was serious stuff. While I choose to go to Israel because of
its biblical significance, I was surprised to find that the soldiers were,
for the most part, not religious. This was a culture war. This was a turf
war. Many didn't even believe in God but were still ferocious in their
defense of the Israeli Jewish population and territory.
It's hard, for me at
least, to be in Israel, to visit Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee,
Megiddo, and not have a profound religious awakening. While God still
wasn't talking to me, I "felt" His presence. I loved Israel and the
intensity of "meaning" there. I wanted to join the Israeli Volunteer Army
for three weeks, but my bosses had made it clear that I had to return to the
law firm when my vacation was over. No extensions for me.
I returned. It was the
beginning of the end. I felt that my life and my career were absolutely
worthless. Here I was making a ton of money, rapidly climbing the ranks in
the firm, and it all felt meaningless. How could I compare the value of my
life to someone who carries an Uzi to protect the citizens of their land?
While I continued to be good at my job and make my bosses happy, I was
increasingly miserable. Now the pain and tears were even more frequent.
They were joined by extreme insomnia (I would often go five nights without
any sleep) combined with recurring and horrifying nightmares when I did
sleep. On the outside, I held it together for about another year. As the
lack of sleep, the pain and lack of meaning in my life increased, my body
and my energy were going downhill rapidly.
During this time,
however, I had a completely open relationship with God. He still wasn't
answering me but I got over my anger at Him and renewed my communications.
I didn't do it on the sly either. I was honest. I prayed, "God, I'm ready
for our detente to be over. I'll listen to you, if you'll listen to me." I
still wanted to know why I had the depression--why I suffered so much.
God stayed silent.
Within about six to nine
months, my bosses started noticing my change in mood. Whereas I had been
cheerful and sarcastic and often the first one to open the firm daily, I
became quiet, withdrawn, and kept shorter and shorter hours. The partners
started to think I had an "attitude" problem. Somehow, the quality of my
work remained excellent, even as I was dying a slow and painful death—and
until I could "redeem" myself in the partners' eyes, I wouldn't allow myself
to do anything but work. Fortunately, my direct boss and a few other
partners were very supportive of me, even as they were perplexed by my
failure to be "fun" anymore. But I was working myself to death. Worse, I
knew it. I figured there were only two ways I was going to leave that
firm: in a body bag or being carted off to the funny farm. My intent was
to work as hard as I could for as long as I could so that no one could ever
say I was lazy or didn't "try." To me, in my screwed-up head, there was a
certain nobility in working yourself to death. Anything else was, quite
simply, failure . . . something I had never experienced and never wanted to
experience. I was the golden girl. I could NOT fail.
A year later,
I finished a $10,000,000
arbitration against Merrill Lynch, and I was spent. The month of the
arbitration, I billed 303 hours. When it was over, my boss told me to take
a vacation, but I said "no." What I couldn't tell him was, I KNEW that if I
left, even for a two-week vacation, I'd never come back. I was beyond my
breaking point. Still desperate to keep my legal career, I insisted that I
stay and that he give me some new cases to work on. For the next month, my
work was completely and utterly useless. The firm had a bunch of problems
going on and they realized they needed to do some major layoffs. With some
of the partners still thinking I had "attitude problems," I got thrown into
the layoff pool. I was angry. I felt completely betrayed.
Financially, though, I
was in good shape. While all the other associates bought fancy new sports
cars and expensive homes or rented over-sized apartments, etc., and urged me
to do the same, I ignored them and socked away at least 50% of my salary
every month. Still, this was the money I was saving for a down payment for
a home. A modest one. Not wanting to go through the money rapidly, I left
my apartment and returned home to my parents’ house. Being a lawyer was no
longer an option for me. Ever. This thought terrified me. I had years of
schooling and work experience; I had put all my eggs into the lawyer
basket. There weren't any other eggs.
LISA, PART THREE
I decided to try my hand
at screenwriting. (Hey, I live in Southern California... everyone tries that
here!) Having anticipated the potential demise of my legal career, I was
already reading screenwriting books during my last few months as a lawyer.
While at USC, I had several friends in the film school. Right after I lost
my legal career, one of their friends (from UCLA) sold the "Lethal Weapon"
screenplay for a million dollars. That sounded lucrative!
My best friend, Ann, and
I decided to write as a team. I packed up some clothes and my computer and
moved to Plano, Texas, living with her family for the next three months.
This was the first time that I would see a psychologist. I was a mess. A
big mess. But I also had an epiphany while I was there. Ann's daughter
Emily was eight years old at the time, the same age I had been when the
acute sadness and pain started. This was the first time, as an adult, that
I realized just how very young I had actually been. I was shocked and I
started to grieve for my lost childhood.
After three months of
not writing a word, I returned to my parents’ house and enrolled in several
screenwriting courses at various colleges, including the American Film
Institute. I got a new psychologist; he said I suffered from depression.
Now, I finally had a name for it. Despite all the years of pain, I never
thought I had depression. I thought depressed people were bed-bound. I
thought they couldn't achieve anything. My whole life, until my layoff, was
one success after another. Surely I didn't have depression!
My doctor wanted me to
have weekly therapy. He also suggested I take medication. I was adamant
that I would not take "drugs." I was probably the only thirteen-year-old
girl in Jr. High Health Class who actually took those "drug addict" movies
seriously! At USC, no matter how much I partied, I never took any of the
drugs that were available. Years later, I was STILL NOT going to do drugs .
. even legal ones!
I got married to Aaron
Doolittle in summer of 1992, a year and a half after my layoff. Aaron is
ten years younger than I am. While we had been friends for about two years,
we had never dated. From day one of our meeting, Aaron decided he was going
to marry me. I laughed at him, and when he asked me if there was any chance
I'd go out on a date with him, I replied, very sarcastically I might add,
"Snowball's chance in hell." That only made him more determined. After the
June 1992 Landers earthquake, which left us all pretty shaken up even though
we only "felt" it, Aaron started asking me to marry him. The more I turned
him down, the more he asked. We still had not dated. Within three weeks,
he had me so worn down that I finally told him I would marry him just to
shut him up. Oh, yeah . . . I had discovered during that time that I had
fallen for him, but I didn't consider LOVE enough of a reason to get
married! Three weeks after I said yes, we were married. To say this was a
shock to my family and friends is a complete understatement. I called my
sister and said, "Guess what! I'm getting married." She replied, "Who to?
You haven't been dating anyone!"
Marrying Aaron made a
huge change in my life. Aaron didn't know I suffered from depression. I
told him before we were married, in the fairness of full disclosure, but
what I failed to realize is what impact it would have on him. Up until this
point, I had hidden my depression from everyone for decades. NO ONE knew.
Stupidly, it never dawned on me that you can't hide something like that from
a spouse. I had never been married; how would I know? The effect on him was
devastating. Because he'd never seen it while we were friends, despite my
repeatedly telling him this had been going on since I was eight years old,
he blamed himself. All he saw was that I was perfectly happy before we got
married, and crying a lot afterward. See, I play a good game. When in the
company of others, I can fake it . . . for a long time. The problem was,
Aaron never went home! He lived with me and shared my bed . . . the place
where most of my crying took place.
Now that I was married,
I put even more pressure on myself to find a new career and to be a
"responsible adult" holding down a decent job. I couldn't do it. As the
months passed, my depression worsened. I felt like a fraud. Here Aaron
thought he was marrying some big-time attorney who was happy-go-lucky, and
instead he got this messed-up middle-aged woman who went downhill rapidly.
At 23, he was at a complete loss about what to do. He did, however, insist
that I tell my parents. I was adamantly opposed to this. Against my
wishes, Aaron invited my parents over so that I would tell them. I
wouldn't. I stayed in the bedroom crying. Aaron took it upon himself to
tell them. I WAS pissed!
My parents were
alternately devastated and disbelieving. My dad thought it must be Aaron's
fault. He had never seen me depressed, so in his eyes, it all occurred
after I got married. Because of my depression and the ten years difference
in our ages, Aaron and I had a very rocky married life for the first year
and a half. To my dad, that had to be the cause. In retrospect, what Aaron
did by telling my parents slowly pushed me into leading a more authentic
life. Very slowly.
During this time, I set
aside my screenwriting, realizing that I was far too fragile emotionally to
actually write the kind of movies I wanted to write. Instead, I turned my
focus onto becoming an image consultant. I loved fashion and had an innate
sense of style. In junior high, when everybody else wore jeans, I wore
skirted suits! (Actually, I didn't have a lot of choice; I wasn't allowed to
wear jeans until I was 18.) I decided to target the rich Newport Beach
babes, but I was smart enough to know that I’d better "know my stuff" before
I ventured out to get clients. I bought a ton of books on image
consulting. I read all the various theories on color. I also spent about
three years going through a dozen fashion magazines a month and cutting out
all the designer pictures and articles that I faithfully filed away for
reference. I took a year of classes at the local college, including
Textiles, Design and Line, Applied Color, Image Consulting, Fashion
Illustration. I made straight A’s.
I joined the Los Angeles
chapter of the Association of Image Consultants International. I wrote one
article for their quarterly newsletter. Next thing I knew, I was
editor-in-chief of the Newsletter, built the LA chapter's website, rebuilt
International’s website, and started writing articles for the international
newsletter. Typical of my over-indulgence in work- related projects, what
started out as an article, “Fashion on the Internet,” turned into a series
of seven articles and eventually a 100-page guidebook before I even
published the article. I then did a single article on all the fashion
internet sites there were (thousands!) and plugged my book, which I
self-published. One of the teachers of the fashion courses I took at the
local college saw the article. She called me up and asked me to teach a
seminar to the fashion department teachers and to teach a nine-week Saturday
class to the fashion students.
When I got to the point
where I was ready to work, I had a built-in clientele. My husband's
computer consulting business was thriving and he could get me all the CEOs'
wives as clients. They had money. They attended all the charity functions
that require new clothes all the time. I was going to have it made. My
rate was $75.00 an hour for shopping. What a way to make a living!
was, I didn't figure my depression into the equation. After less than a
week of actually doing my job, I realized that I didn't have the energy to
run all over Newport and Huntington Beaches shopping. Just a few hours
shopping on one day would leave me exhausted for a week. I couldn't do it.
I was distraught. I was just starting to get my self-esteem back, and I was
back at square one.
My depression worsened.
Aaron and my parents, as well as my psychologist, urged me to take
medication. I fought them until I could fight no more, and then I went on
Zoloft. Life started to get better. Then, unexpectedly, my father died. I
was devastated. I was also 35 and my clock was ticking loudly. I had been
told NOT to get pregnant while taking medication; I went off the medication
so I could have a baby. Aaron and I had planned to have a large family,
starting with maybe two or three kids of our own and then adopting a bunch
of kids. Obviously, I did not choose the ideal time to go off the
medication, but I wasn't getting any younger. My depression rapidly
worsened. Aaron, my mother, and my two best friends begged to me to go back
on the Zoloft. I refused. I knew that staying off of it long enough to get
pregnant and have a baby was the only chance I had of giving Aaron his own
child. As the months went by, their begging increased. Aaron saw how bad I
was getting and let me know over and over that he married me for me, not
just to have children. He wanted me to be better, even if it meant no
kids. Finally, after a year off the meds, I realized that I would
never have my own children. Looking at myself honestly, I knew I was
completely incapable of raising a child. I hoped that by going back on
meds, I could at least stabilize myself enough to adopt someday. I started
on the Zoloft again. This time, it didn't work. For three years my doctors
put me on various drugs and combinations of drugs, but nothing helped; I
continued to get worse. Finally, I took Prozac. It changed my life. (To be
fair to my doctors, they wanted me on Prozac from day one. I refused it
because of all the controversy about it at the time.)
After messing around
with the dose for two years, along with adding and subtracting other meds,
my psychiatrist and I found a dosage and combination that worked for me. It
isn't by any means perfect, but for the most part I can now control my
emotions. I still have depression. I don't expect it will ever go away. I
am still very limited in what I can do. I have NO energy. I cannot get a
job outside the house because I don't have the stamina. When I taught that
Saturday-morning fashion internet course at the local college, every
Saturday night I'd be in bed crying from exhaustion.
I am limited to doing
what I can do from home. I can work on a computer up to 14 hours a day
because I'm at home, it's quiet and, whenever I need to, I can stop and take
a nap. Giving into my body when it is tired has been critical to the
success of my stability. Unfortunately, this means I can't have even a
part-time job. As it is, I usually only leave my house 2-3 times per week,
for 2-3 hours each time when I need to grocery shop or do errands. Anything
more than that will be too taxing and I'll end up bed-bound for a week or
After I acknowledged to
myself that I couldn't be an image consultant, I contemplated what I would
do next. I badly wanted a new career so I could get my self-esteem back.
Although I was increasingly housebound, I still worked fourteen hours a day,
seven days a week. Until I could earn a living, I didn't think I deserved
time off. Also, it was still a matter of keeping as busy as I could to
dampen the pain--a never-ending treadmill.
Aaron was making lots of
money. I didn't need to work. He begged me to stop pushing myself so hard
and just "be his wife," but I couldn't. He thought he'd married some
go-getter and, until I could be that again, I felt like I was failing him.
I wanted to make him proud of me--proud to have me as his wife. Despite his
continued reassurances that he was already proud of me, I felt so bad about
myself that I couldn't see it.
I realized that I had
just spent about nine years spinning my wheels, getting nowhere. While I
had worked long hard hours, trying to retrain myself for a new career, my
lack of energy prevented me from taking that training and putting it to
use. I was very down, very discouraged. I was at "the end of my rope."
After years of fighting to stand on my own two feet, I finally admitted I
couldn't. I told God, "OK, that's it. I can't do this anymore. I can't
seem to find anything that I can do that will justify my existence or help
me earn a living. I give up. You are now in total control of my life.
Everything I've done in the last decade has failed. The only way I'm going
to succeed at anything is through You."
God waits for all of us
to get to this point. He waits for us to voluntarily submit to His will.
He'll even throw disaster after disaster at us to urge us to hand things
over to Him. He did this to me. For ten years, I was determined to
overcome each one by myself. I was going to "prove" myself "worthy." I
could have probably saved myself ten years of grief if I hadn't been so
stubborn. But who wants to "give your life" to God? I'm not just talking
about believing in God. I'm talking "walking the walk." Doing what God
asks you to even if you really don't want to (like writing this article, for
instance!) Each time I thought I had hit rock bottom, apparently it wasn't
bottom enough, because I refused to "submit." When I finally did, a HUGE
weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt a sense of peace that God would
take care of me. Life might never be easy or fun, but I wasn't alone.
Also, God can be the ultimate scapegoat! If you really do everything He
asks and it doesn't work out, it's His fault, not yours! OK, I guess that
should be worded His "will," not "fault." But I never said, in giving up my
will to His, that I am not on occasion ornery about it!
The peace I have
received in exchange for "my life" has been well worth it. It's funny
because no one wants to submit to God . . . it almost seems like our very
personalities will be taken from us and we'll be nothing but automatons.
It's not like that, though. Instead, you end up being the "best you" you
can be. And after years and years of struggling on my own to be
successful, I'm totally ready for some peace. I'm no longer fighting a
battle, either with myself or by trying to prove myself to others. I am
what I am. God loves me as I am (even though I swear a lot!) And I don't
have to justify my actions to anyone but Him.
was time for a big change in my life, to match the big change in my attitude
toward God. I needed off the treadmill. I asked Aaron if he minded if I
took off a year and just read theology books. I wanted answers to life's
major questions and I was willing to look at various religions to find the
reason for my being here. I wanted facts. I wanted truths. I didn't want
propaganda and I didn't want dogma. I started reading, and a year turned
into two. While I honestly didn't expect to find any answers, I found tons
of them! I was shocked. After all my years in church and all my years in
searching, I had never learned these very basic truths! I was pissed off at
the Lutheran ministers who had "educated" me on Christianity. Why hadn't
they taught me the stuff I finally found on my own? My whole life would
have been easier had I known.
I've been studying for
about five years now. I have a mentor with a Ph.D. in theology. I have
built up a library of literally hundreds of graduate-level theology books on
various religions. I realize that most people don't have the luxury of
spending so much time reading. God (and Aaron) gave me that time as a gift.
I didn't want others who don't have the time to miss out on what I had
learned. I wanted to share these truths.
I decided what I really
wanted to do next is build a free theology website that is nonjudgmental and
factual, allowing people with questions on any of the world's major
religions to find nonbiased answers. I'd like to state a religious belief
and then compare and contrast it to the beliefs of the other religions. Like
me, many people are searching for answers to life's major questions, often
those of a theological nature. Going to a church, synagogue, temple, etc.
can be intimidating and even off-putting for some people. I'd like my
website to be a safe, comfortable place where people can get answers without
feeling like they are being manipulated or preached at. While I'm a
Christian, I'm NOT planning on promoting Christianity as the only true
religion. Instead, I want to give all the beliefs, with supporting and
negating facts, of all the world's major religions, and let people make up
their minds for themselves. Yes, I believe Christianity is the one true
faith. But I'm not going to convert people by jamming it down their
throats. I'm confident that if I am very careful and do the website
correctly, people will reach that conclusion on their own. If they don't,
that's OK. I tried. Better people than I have tried and failed! I'll be
in good company.
I secured a website
under the name Project Believe. I expected this to be a lifetime project,
and I still do. There's too much information to provide for the work ever
to come to an end. But I haven't been able to spend anytime at all on the
website. God took me on a different path that has taken all of my time.
I've been fairly
stabilized for about five years now. For the most part, I am happy. I
still fight my depression on a daily basis and live within its limitations.
But I've learned to let go of the many, many things I can no longer do, and
be happy with what I can do. I also know now that, unless I improve
considerably in the future, I'll never be able to adopt kids. While this is
a devastating loss to both Aaron and me, we both agree that I simply don't
have the emotional or physical energy to care for a child properly. For
those of you who have read my story about "B," on my website, maybe this
will help you understand how important she is to Aaron and me. Being older,
B doesn't require the attention and care of a small child. Anything I can
give to B is more than she has ever had. She can be our "child." Even at
my worst, I have something to offer her and can improve her life.
My lack of energy and
inability to do much has completely ruined my social life. I don't go out
to the movies. I rarely go out to dinner. I never go to friends' parties.
I only go to family functions, and even then, I can't attend them all. For
a long time, I was bitter about this. Life was passing me by and I couldn't
join in. Eventually, I let go of the anger and learned to live with it.
Aaron, however, has had a much harder time with it than I have. After
letting my parents know about my depression, I STILL didn't want anyone else
to know. Aaron attended party after party with friends and/or relatives,
simply telling them I wasn't "feeling well." Eventually, several people
asked Aaron if I was avoiding them because I didn't like them. Aaron was in
a bad position; the excuses were no longer holding up. After about five or
six years of this, I finally let Aaron tell people the truth. For the most
part, people accepted it. Still, Aaron suffers a lot from my failure to
accompany him to events. Aaron has the energy of three or four people.
He's constantly on the go and, in a perfect world, would love for me to be
with him every minute of the day. But I simply can't.
Aaron also loves to have
parties. While parties are just way too much for me to handle, I encourage
him to have them whenever he wants to. In preparation, I will clean the
house and make tons of food. By the time the first guest arrives, I'm
beyond exhausted. Within an hour, I have no choice but to go upstairs and
go to bed. If I don't, I'll end up sobbing uncontrollably, possibly for
days. If the party lasts long enough, eventually I'll be able to join in
again and clean up when it's over. Mostly, for me, parties are a lot of
preparation and clean-up without actually getting to participate during the
My lack of energy is a
huge loss for Aaron. While he is married, he's always out alone. He's had
many, many people ask him why he stays married to me. His answer, "Because
I love her. She's the kindest person I've ever met and I know she'll always
be there for me." Even with that answer, friends have repeatedly suggested
to him that maybe his "marriage" isn't worth it. People just don't
understand depression and can't seem to grasp that it's a disease like any
other. He'll even reply to these suggestions, "Would you leave your wife if
she had cancer?" Aaron has lost a huge part of his life by staying married
to me. He's accepted that we'll never have children, although he feels that
loss acutely every day. He knows I can't "participate" in life. He is
desperate for me to be "whole." Even after twelve years of marriage, Aaron
still blames himself for my depression. But the reality is, my depression
started two years before he was even born.
The struggle we've gone
through led Aaron to have his own breakdown two years ago. He had a
successful computer consulting business but he stretched himself too thin.
Between the stresses of trying to please his clients and his family and
friends, as well as dealing with my ongoing issues, Aaron was breaking.
Every day, for weeks on end, he would come home around 3:00 p.m. and sob. I
saw in him a lot of what happened to me when I was a lawyer. Hoping to
catch him in time before he was completely broken, I made the decision to
shut down our company and fire him. He fought me on this, but I wouldn't
budge. He desperately needed a long vacation - which I considered to be far
cheaper than the impending medical bills should he have a heart attack or
some other medical crisis. We pretty much got no support for this
decision. I was trying to save my husband's life and all anyone thought was
that it was stupid to shut down a good business. I didn't care who thought
what. It was my husband and my decision. Aaron wasn't capable of making
decisions at the time, so I did what I thought was best for him. For
months, I had prayed for guidance on how to help Aaron. It was God who led
me to shut down the business and send Aaron on vacation. I wouldn't have
had the courage to do it on my own. It was too scary to think we'd have no
Aaron is a scuba diver,
so I suggested he take trips to some of the better diving areas in the
world. His plan was to spend one month each in Thailand, New Zealand, and
Australia. He got to Thailand and fell in love with the fantastic diving,
the people, the land, and the culture. He never left for his other
destinations. He ended up staying there for nearly six months, and he
flourished. He lost about 50 pounds without even trying, he learned the
language, he made friends, and he took some scuba courses, becoming a
certified dive master. He met B, the girl who did his laundry for him.
Over the months, B became his "daughter." He called me constantly about her,
telling me that he felt like she was his child. He wanted to bring her
home. I talked to B, in her very broken English, on the phone at least once
a week. I wanted him to bring her home too. He couldn't. B is Burmese, in
Thailand illegally and has no papers. Aaron contacted the various embassies
in both Thailand and in the US. He was repeatedly told "no." Stupidly,
Aaron even offered increasing bribes to one official at the US Embassy in
Bangkok, making his way up to $30,000 before the official finally told him,
"one more bribe and I'm going to throw you in jail." Luckily for Aaron,
this person was actually very kind and understanding of our plight, and let
When Aaron returned home
in June 2003, while he was significantly better than when he had left for
Thailand, he was so upset over leaving B behind that he was essentially too
paralyzed by grief to work. He spent the next six months moping, and gained
back his weight. He did spend a lot of time fixing some major problems with
our home, but he was not happy and wanted to return to Thailand. The
problem was, Aaron did something he should never have done without
consulting me. When he left Thailand, he promised B he would return in a
few months. I was NOT happy about this promise. We'd had no income for
nine months and I wanted him to start working again. But I also understood
that making a promise to B was something he could not go back on. If I had
told Aaron he couldn't leave, he would have stayed home. Instead, I told
him that, while I wasn't happy that he made such a promise without
consulting me, B was such a fragile, tender being that his failure to keep
his promise would crush her. B wouldn't understand that circumstances
change. She would just know that the first person in her life to treat her
with kindness had "lied" to her. I couldn't let that happen. Again, I
prayed for months about it. Again, God made it clear that I was to send
Aaron back. We were not to abandon B. Despite knowing that sending Aaron
back was going to continue to eat up thousands of dollars of our savings, I
sent him back in January 2004. This time, he was supposed to be there three
months, getting certified as a dive instructor and working. He's still
there. That's where God wants him. That's where I want him. That's where
he needs to be.
LISA’S DOLL CLOSET
I started collecting
Princess Diana dolls about 1994. I was never a big fan of dolls, preferring
to read books than to play with any toys. I never owned a Barbie® until I
was 40. The only collection I had as a child was about 15 or so Liddle
Kiddles®. I wasn't interested in playing with them, but I was enchanted by
their tiny size. I collected them, hoping one day to give them to my
daughter. My father made me a beautiful wooden and glass case in which I
still display them to this day.
So it wasn't dolls I was
interested in. It was Princess Diana. When she got married on July 29,
1981 (coincidentally, exactly 11 years before my wedding! LOL!), I was dying
to buy the Danbury Mint Wedding Set. I couldn't. I was a poor college
student. In 1987, when Sarah Ferguson married into England's Royal Family,
I was dying to get the Danbury Mint Wedding Set of her, Prince Andrew, and
Prince William. I couldn't. I was a poor law student. Finally, by the
spring of 1994, we had purchased our home. Now all the things I had passed
up for many years were on the "can buy" list.
As soon as Franklin Mint
started producing their Diana dolls, I started buying. One thing led to
another, and I ended up getting their Scarlett O'Hara®, Titanic Rose®,
Josephine®, and Jackie Kennedy® collections too. I didn't know that other
fashion dolls existed.
About three years ago, I
found people on the internet who made replicas of Diana's clothes. I
started buying them. I soon had so many that I needed something to hang
them on. Diana's trunk was full and it didn't fit very well in my curio
cabinet. It took up too much space for the storage it gave me. I went in
search of a doll clothes rack. There was nothing that was even remotely
suitable, so I decided to design my own. I also figured that if I needed
one (actually, I needed about four!), so would other collectors. I was
determined to get my rack manufactured and start selling it online.
Eventually, I noticed
the people on the Diana boards talking about Gene®, Tyler® and Alex®. I had
no idea what these dolls were. I saw someone mention Annette and Friends as
a shop that carries these dolls. I looked online to see if Annette had a
website so I could see what the dolls looked like. Not only did she, it
turned out her store was twenty minutes from where I live. I went to her
store, just intending to check out the dolls. I left two hours later--four
hundred dollars poorer! Now I knew and I was going to find out everything I
could about the dolls and their collectors. I went online; I found more
doll boards. I went on eBay®; I went NUTS! This was January 2002.
I read that Doll Show
Magazine was going to be debuting in June 2002. While I'd never written a
magazine article, I thought for sure I could do it. I contacted the editor
and asked if she'd be interested in an article on Vince Nowell. I had just
met Vince online while buying Gene outfits. She said yes. The next thing I
knew, I was the couture editor for Doll Show Magazine (unpaid, I might
add!), responsible for all the magazine's interviews of doll clothing
designers, repaint artists, and accessory designers. I planned out a whole
year's worth of articles (six or seven per issue) and started writing.
Soon, I was interviewing everybody and got to know the people in the fashion
doll world very quickly. I met Vince in person that March, interviewing him
and Denis Bastien at the same time. By July, God had made it clear to me
that I was to pick up Vince in LA and bring him to my home in Irvine (about
50 miles away) to live. Vince was going through a very difficult time and
was in a horrible living situation. He ended up living with me for seven
months. This was the first assignment that God gave me in the doll world.
I knew helping Vince was what God wanted. I didn't know it was going to
change my whole relationship with the doll community.
At the time, I was
trying to figure out what God wanted me to do with my life. Learning to
hear God wasn't easy. It took months and months of practice. When I
finally started "knowing" what God wanted me to do, I was completely
perplexed. I thought it was totally off the wall and a waste of my
talents. God wanted me to start Lisa's Doll Closet! For months, I kept
asking, "Are You SURE?" He wouldn't let me off the hook. It's not that
I've hated doing all this work, it's just that it wasn't what I wanted to
do. I wanted to work on Project Believe.
God said, "No."
Lisa's Doll Closet was
never started with the intention of making tons of money for myself. My
hope was simply to earn a modest income to pay our bills until Aaron was
back on his feet and able to support us. God has given him tremendous gifts
and I know Aaron will earn way more than we will ever need. Until he was
ready, though, I wanted to take that burden off of him and do it myself. My
intent was to then turn Lisa's Doll Closet into a charitable organization,
giving ALL profits away to the poor and needy. I've spent three years on
this project of God's. At no point has it been profitable for me.
Everything I've earned, I've re-invested in more stock. I asked several
times if I could "get out," but He wouldn't let me. He had me there for a
purpose. While I wanted to be out gently converting people to Christianity
to ensure their eternity in Heaven, God wanted me playing with dolls.
Somehow it just didn't have the meaning and depth I was looking for.
But then, after
some months, I realized that there were people in the doll community that
God wanted me to reach--to help them in their beliefs and in their lives,
and to help them in their own doll-based businesses. My "being in business"
was just God's way of getting me to the right people. He gave me specific
"assignments" on specific people. He used my writing talent (one of the few
things left that I can still do) to help these people. If you've read the
prior issues of High Maintenance you know some of the names of the people
I've helped: Deb Simpson, Deb West, Patricia Seaton, Vince Nowell, Jean
MaDan, and several others. The amount of time I spent on helping these
people with their lives, their faith, their businesses, was eventually,
overwhelming. I'm sure I put in at least one month of full-time work for
Deb West, which involved everything from critiquing her outfits prior to
publication and writing her article to building her website and keeping it
updated. These various "assignments" took away significant portions of my
time to work on my own business. It was OK though, because it was what God
required of me. For the most part, I handled it all with grace and charm
(if you believe that! LOL!). There were times, though, when the people I
helped had so many successes related to my help that sometimes I just had to
ask God, "When is it my turn?" I never begrudged anyone their success; I
just wanted a piece of the action.
God didn't give it to
me. I wasn't angry, but I was getting increasingly worn out. I worked
fourteen hours a day, literally seven days a week. Until mid-spring 2004, I
hadn't taken a full day off in over three years. Finally, after I finished
the summer 2004 issue, God didn't give me any new assignments. I think He
knew I was beat and couldn't have done them anyway. He gave me time off. I
took advantage of this and went to Thailand for six weeks to visit Aaron,
whom I hadn't seen for seven months. Fortunately, we still had enough
frequent flier miles that I flew for free. Aaron already had his apartment
so my stay there didn't cost any extra.
While I loved Thailand,
my time there was NOT a fun vacation. I was so worn out from working for so
long without a break that my depression was acting up. The first week
there, I ignored the signs my body was giving me and Aaron and I went out
every day for several hours. I can't do that. The next thing I knew, I was
in bed sobbing for several days. Because depression weakens the immune
system, I always catch whatever cold Aaron brings home. He came home with a
head cold, and two days later I got it as a chest cold. I've never had a
cold like this before. My whole body ached. I was miserable. The good
thing was, I hurt so much that the depression didn't have the opportunity to
affect me for the week I was in bed sick. It came back as soon as I was
feeling better, however. I hadn't had any assignments from God for a few
months. I was anxiously waiting to find out what was next. I knew I was at
a point where I could no longer continue to do High Maintenance and my
website without making an income.
When I did my survey to
see if my subscribers would be willing to pay for High Maintenance, I fully
expected to get enough people who would. I was shocked by the lack of
response. I received about 150-175 total subscriptions. It wasn't even
close to being enough, though I got some very nice emails from people, even
from those who weren't subscribing. I went on about a week-long prayer
vigil, asking God what I was supposed to do next. God wasn't answering. I
contacted some of my dolly friends who are willing to pray for me and asked
them to pray that God would send me an answer. I was staying up all night,
searching the internet for jobs that I could actually do. Mostly I focused
on my writing skills, because I have to be able to work at home. I watched
many sunrises that week, searching but not finding. Despite my numerous
prayers, God was silent.
One night I got a lovely
email from a customer/friend of mine, telling me that she loved High
Maintenance but simply couldn't afford it because the cost of her and her
husband's monthly drug prescriptions were so high, they had to "choose"
which medicines they had to have and which they had to do without.
Sometimes the pain medications lost out for more important ones. This broke
my heart. I instantly wrote her back and told her that she could continue
to receive HM for free for as long as I published it. About an hour later,
I received another email from someone I didn't know so well. She too
praised HM but also couldn't afford it for very valid reasons. This email
upset me even more. Here I'd just graciously offered HM for free to a
friend because she couldn't afford it. Was I now supposed to offer it free
to a stranger too?
I thought about it and
compared my business to Deb West's. When Deb makes an outfit, it takes her
many hours to complete it. When she's done, she needs to sell it. She
can't afford to give it away to someone who can't afford it. But High
Maintenance is different. No matter how long it takes me to write it, once
I'm done, I'm done. It doesn't matter whether five people or 10,000 people
read it, it doesn't cause me ANY extra work. Now, I'm not stupid, and
having been a business litigation attorney, I know that, business-wise, you
don't give away your product. But HM and Lisa's Doll Closet were never
really about me making money. They were about me following God's will. How
could I be doing God's will if I gave HM away to a friend, but not to a
stranger who was in a similar predicament?
A light dawned. I
suddenly knew what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to write this issue of
HM, bringing it full circle by telling my own story. Instead of charging
for it, He wanted me to ask for donations. I was greatly relieved that I
didn't have to charge, because the number of people willing to pay wouldn't
have covered the cost of getting my website set up to accept such payments.
I was also somewhat horrified. Tell my story? I didn't want to tell my
story. I didn't want to open myself up, exposing all my fears and
vulnerabilities to people who could turn around and ridicule me--especially
because my story includes following God's will, being His servant. So many
people don't want to hear about anything religion-based. So, God's asking
me to spend another couple of weeks doing work I won't get paid for (who’s
going to donate? LOL!), AND I have to spill my guts. Fun.
I knew this was what I
had to do. I didn't bother arguing with God about it. Lisa's Doll Closet
and High Maintenance were never about ME. They were simply God's vehicle to
help others he needed to reach. To God, my story isn't about ME; it's about
someone sharing their faith and beliefs to show how God works behind the
scenes. From a impartial viewpoint, I get it. From my viewpoint, it
I have been dreading
writing this article for weeks. It's now Friday night, about 24 hours
before publication. I procrastinated as long as I possibly could to start
working on this article because I knew all the pain it would dredge up for
me. Years of it. For the last two weeks, I've been sleeping around 16-18
hours per day. Usually, I'm an insomniac. This time, my body shut down. I
couldn't stay awake. I think my body was gearing up, reserving energy, so I
could get this piece written without it triggering enough pain to prevent me
Cynthia Patton has been
editing HM for me for the last few issues. I wrote to Cynthia two weeks
ago, letting her know both that a new issue of HM was coming up for her to
edit and that I was going to be writing a very special article that I was
going to need extra help with. Usually, Cynthia just corrects my grammar
and sentence structure. For this article, however, I wanted her help in
making sure I told my story in a way that would honor God without offending
my readers. I told her I was going to be an emotional basket case while I
was writing it. She agreed to help me. Yesterday afternoon, I wrote to
Cynthia to tell her I was about to start writing and asking her to say a
prayer for me that I wouldn't cry. Cynthia did. However, prayers aren't
always answered, or in this case the answer was "no." I hadn't finished the
first sentence when the tears started flowing. By the end of the first
paragraph, though, they were gone. Only now are they back again.
I'm crying now because
I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I won't put down the right words on the page
that will convey the message God intends for me to send. If I fail, I fail
God. I also fail the people God intended to be reached by this message.
However much this hurts,
I have to believe that God has a reason for it. I don't know whom this will
touch and whom this will offend. Ultimately, I shouldn't worry about those
things because I know it's God's will. I have no idea what the future holds
for me. None. I'm hoping that I will get to move to Thailand and live with
my husband again, be a "mother" to B, and maybe, just maybe, finally get to
work on Project Believe. But, I'm fully aware that those are MY desires.
God may have completely different plans for me. The thing is, my faith is
strong enough to know that God's plans will be the right thing. I can't see
the big picture. God can. What I may think sounds awful (like writing
this!) may be the catalyst to something wonderful I can't even foresee.
While everything is up
in the air and I have no idea where life is taking me, I'm actually very
optimistic about it. Excited, even. I know God will be there for me. I
know no matter what He throws at me, it will be the right thing. In my
lifetime, I may not get to know the effect of my obedience. While I
would like to do Project Believe, because in my narrow vision I see it as a
way to potentially save thousands of souls, God may instead have in mind for
me to only touch one person. A person I may never even know about? A
reader? A friend of a reader who just happens to look over the reader's
shoulder at this article? Maybe that friend of the reader is the one who
will get my message and go on to be the one who is better suited to touch
thousands. I'm just a tiny link in the chain. On earth, when God expects
it, I have to work in the dark and just trust that everything will work out
as long as I'm following Him. I know one thing, however. I WILL go to
Heaven. Frankly, while I'd like insights into lots of different things,
right now, that's all I really need to know. I may cry. I may hurt. But
God has given me peace. When I start to lose that feeling, I know I'm going
off the path and I turn my attention back to God. The peace returns
immediately. I feel protected. I feel loved. I wish everyone could know
God be with you.