I Knew What Was Coming

I bought my ticket in advance.  I put on lipstick.  But I knew what was coming.

Thorin BoFAThe Hobbit has been one of my favorite books since I was in junior high.  I wrote my Senior Thesis on Tolkien.  I’m in love with Richard Armitage.  But I knew what was coming.

Everyday for the last few weeks, I’ve whipped from depression to hysteria.  I wondered, since I knew what was coming, if going to the movie now was wise.

But, I went to the premiere last night and sat in a full house of other Tolkien geeks who cheered and wailed along with me. Because we knew what was coming.  And it was glorious.

And as an additional kick to the emotional gonads, Billy Boyd (Pippin from The Lord of the Rings) sings the theme song.  In this YouTube piece, his song overlays all six of the movies Peter Jackson crafted from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings along with behind the scenes moments.  Those are mostly of the cast and crew saying their own farewells.  Excuse me while I go get another box of Kleenex.

Channeling Scarlett

scarlettI wish I had something new to say about rapid cycling and mixed states.  I wish I had a pithy “Ah-Ha” moment to relate, something inspiring and brave that illustrates the worthiness of the fight.  Maybe I’m just not there yet.  I’m still in the middle of it, so my perspective is limited.  I can only see the bark on one tree, not the forest.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I believe to be true:  Almost everything in my head right now is a lie.  It’s the almost that’s tricky, especially since my discernment is faulty, too.  This is when I try not to think, try not to problem-solve or make decisions.  This is when I discard the first, second, third reaction to what people say to me, or their silences.  This is when I don’t trust myself to look in a mirror, or feed the lies by buying clothes or watching the news.  This is when I pare everything down to its simplest form and stick to a schedule:  Get up, Swim, Get Coffee, Journal, etc.  This is when I spend my time pulling pictures out of magazines and organizing my vintage photos.  This is when I text my friends and say, “Tell me you love me,” then try to accept their immediate responses.

There’s something about rapid cycling and mixed states that filters out the loving and positive while reinforcing the hateful and negative.  It’s part of the illness.  It’s not who I am, though for decades, I believed it was.  All the hurtful, doubting thoughts sound true, feel true.  Sometimes I can see the falseness, sometimes I can’t.  Sometimes the best I can do is channel Scarlett O’Hara.  I won’t think about that now.  I’ll think about it tomorrow.  That way I don’t have to decide if the thought stream gurgling through my head is true or not.  That, in itself, is restful.

Because I know, with bipolar disorder, with rapid cycling and mixed states Tomorrow is Another Day.

A Little Something

When rapid cycling hits like this, I always feel like a hot mess.  The reality is never as bad as it feels inside, but sometimes that Truth is hard to find.  It helps to have a little something to show for my time.

I finished my Solstice Cards and got them sent out—a project that took two months exactly.  After a big project, I always feel at loose ends anyway.  With the bipolar stuff added on this time, I’m pretty goofy.  So, I tried to make a few cards for my Etsy site this weekend.  I haven’t done that in a while, and it helped.

My “Star Trek Line” isn’t hugely popular, but they make me happy.  That’s all that matters right now.  I’ll get these added to the inventory a little later today, but wanted to share—to prove that I’m still me inside the hot mess.

Double Ah

Iconic

Daddy Issues

Tumble Damp

Chevron

I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.  — Alice

After a very long spell of hypomania—a delicious month of productivity, creativity and blissful good-humor—I seem to have fallen into an industrial-sized clothes dryer set on tumble.  Rapid cycling wakes me up with hyper-vigilance and terror, then flops into stultifying depression, with a finishing touch of insomnia and obsession.  Tumble, tumble.

In times like these, it’s best not to take anything seriously—not the spiky little thoughts in my head, or any plan I had for the day, or misconstrued texts, or the dog barking across the street.  Better to put on comfy clothes and make popcorn.  Better to turn on all the twinkle lights in the apartment and light incense.  Better to read something like The Hunger Games that won’t tax my dendrites in the least.

And when the silly megrims come calling, better to smile at their oddness and offer raison toast.

Everything is funny, if you can laugh at it.  —  Lewis Carroll

SoulCollage®

SC-Bipolar

Bipolar Disorder: I am One who has an altered mind.

For about a month, I’ve driven to Des Moines on Sundays to attend the Unitarian Church there.  I love the facility—an eco-friendly building nestled in the woods with a wooden footbridge from the parking lot that crosses a burbling stream.  Every week, I’ve met interesting, like-minded people with amazing stories to tell.  The messages are uplifting, and I get to sing. I feel very welcome and comfortable there.

But, the biggest surprise was the load of activities and classes that the community offers.  This one caught my attention immediately:

SOULCOLLAGE®
Wednesdays, 7 – 8:30 pm
11/12, 11/19, 12/3 & 12/10

SoulCollage® is a creative process in which we make our own deck of collaged cards for the purpose of self exploration and self acceptance. Images are intuitively selected and cards are created in a manner that accesses your deeper self and facilitates a journey to wholeness. Created by Seena Frost, SoulCollage® allows you to create a deck that is the “Story of You.” This is a fun, intuitive process that requires no artistic experience but allows every one to becomes their own artist. The four-week class will include information about SoulCollage®, making of the cards, and working with the cards to understand their meaning. 

I couldn’t imagine a class more tailor-made for me!  I had to go.

I loved it from the moment I walked into the room.  Native American drum music in the background, chairs set in a circle, simple instructions.

Don’t think.  Pick three images that either attract or repulse you.

There were hundreds of images culled from magazines and who-knew-where-else laid out on tables.  We silently walked around, looking at them all, then took the ones that called to us.  I consciously kept my brain from rushing ahead to what it might mean, what I would collage with it, blahblahblah.  The point was to follow our intuition.

SC-Captive

The Captive: I am One who is blind to the assistance in front of me.

The way we introduced ourselves to the class was to pick one of the images and speak from it, starting with “I am One who…”  This image would be the base for our first card, a part of our selves that made its presence known.

Since I was a little manic at the time, I immersed myself in the process, sent away for the book and supplies (dang cheap, I may add), and started making cards at home.  I’ve been collecting images my whole life with no idea what to do with them except keep them safe.  A lot of the images I use in my collage and mixed-media art, but many are too weird or personal to be appropriate for pieces meant to appeal to others.  So, I pulled out my huge stash of images to see if any of them spoke to me the SoulCollage® way.  The clouds parted.  Angels sang.

This process is a little like making your own personal Tarot deck.  There are Suits as in Tarot, but these Suits are a bit different.  The Committee Suit are cards that depict parts of one’s personality, while the Community Suit picture actual people, places, pets, significant events in one’s life.  The Companion Suit is comprised of animal guides connected to the seven chakras, and the Council Suit collects the archetypal energies (much like the Major Arcana in Tarot).  This is Play that could last a lifetime.

Our class didn’t meet this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but our facilitator invited us to a card-making gathering she was having at her office on Friday (Not surprisingly, Maureen is a psychotherapist specializing in PTSD).  I went, bringing some of my images and using some of hers.  I love the silence of doing the work, then the community aspect when we speak from the cards and process what they mean for us.  I fully intend to participate in any workshops Maureen holds, especially the one on The Companion Suit.  It seems like a little guidance and meditation might be in order to “find” these special animal guides.

The Observer: I am One who sees Reality without judgement.

I love turning off my brain and just letting the cards form.  I never know what’s going to happen or what images will demand to be put together.  It’s alchemy.  And deep Play.  And manic or not, I love it.  Because it’s an adventure, and I’m all about that.

Grateful Wonder

With Grateful Wonder

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who move me so much.

1000 “Followers”

No Accounting for Taste

⇒ ⇒ ⇒

This is hilarious, really.

WordPress says I have 1000 followers now.

Which translates to about 60 people who might actually read my stuff once in a while.

The rest are folks who want me to come vacation in Bali, or help me make money (so kind), or want to improve my writing (excuse me?).  There are the followers who don’t speak English (at least they don’t blog in English), but I guess they might like to look at the pictures.  Then, there are the followers whose blogs use English words in ways the English language never envisioned.  Bless those random generators!  Or the really mysterious followers who don’t have a blog, or a profile, or can’t find their blog or their profile, or simply don’t exist at all.  These must be my Virtual Followers.

There are the real head-scratchers—followers who write only sports reviews or post gangsta photography, the right-wing Republicans and rabid religious, the mechanics and race car drivers (I guess they could be manic…).  I was particularly fond of the East African Gossip blog follower.  There’s nothing like inspiring folks who post misogynistic girl-hate.   And how is it that the fashionistas keep following me?  Do I exude an air of chic cool through my fingertips?  Awesome!

I love that writers and poets, folks with mental illness, folks in and out of my generation have found me.  I love that other artists like my stuff enough to want to see more.  I love that real people still keep finding me and sticking around to chat.  I love that some of them have become my friends.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if WordPress gave us a button to trim out the followers who aren’t really followers?   But maybe I’m being hasty.  All those folks who want to grow my social media standing might just be my target audience.

Solstice Card v.2014

J.K. SimmonsCreating my Winter Solstice cards is something I look forward to every year.  It’s work and joy bundled together, my way of connecting to the people I love and admire.  It’s also my version of a holiday gift.  I stopped trying to give gifts when I went on Disability, but I can still send a little bit of art.

I also send one to a someone involved in making movies, someone whose work particularly touched me that year.  It feels important to tell folks how they help me manage during the worst of my bipolarness.  I don’t imagine they get that kind of feedback very often.  I sent one to Peter Jackson after the first Hobbit movie saved me from a winter of despair.  This year, I chose a long-time favorite, J.K. Simmons (if you haven’t seen Whiplash yet, run to your theater this second).

Original Artwork of Collage Assemblage Artist Andrea Matus deMengWhen I got back from England in September and immediately got sick with bronchitis, I took myself to the Barnes and Noble to comfort myself by looking through art magazines.  I knew I had to start thinking about my Solstice cards as they often take months to complete (I usually make about 60 of them), but had absolutely no ideas in my snotty head.

Then, I opened the September/October issue of Somerset Studio and found the feature on Andrea Matus de Meng.  Her work stunned me.  Could I do something like this for my Solstice card?  Wait.  Instead of using vintage photographs this time, could I draw something provocative?  The thought of doing my own sketching lit a fire and I went to work.

The bronchitis is gone, but the fire isn’t.  I’ve been hard at work on my cards for about six weeks.  I open my Pandora station, microwave a mug of chai, pull on my ratty and paint smeared sweatshirt, sit at my table and let the magic happen.  Here’s what that’s like:

Gathering Materials

It takes some trial and error to figure out what materials to use.  First I pick the card stock for the card itself—this time, Poppy Parade from Stampin’Up®.  I love the quality of their card stock.  This color is discontinued (I can get the “retired” products cheaper), but I had a bunch on hand.

Step 1I knew I wanted to use paint instead of ink this year, so I sorted through my collection of Lumiere acrylics—luscious paint with a metallic sheen.  Then, I just started experimenting.  The photo above shows all the materials I ended up using for each card.  It’s even a little shocking to me when I see everything together in one pile.

As a base for the collage, I took sheets from my parents’ farm bookkeeping ledger, cut them to size, and painted them.  I wasn’t sure which color would look best, so I painted a few of each color.  They all worked, so I continued this first step using six different Lumiere colors.  I like leaving interesting details unpainted (like the row numbers on the ledger), but I knew they’d probably get covered over later.  That’s okay.  It’s my little secret.

Step 2Next, I collaged pages from a tiny, antique book.  I’m assuming it’s some sort of accounting or actuarial text, but it’s in German, and I really have no idea what these little tables are.  I don’t care.  The graphics and foreign language rock!  Once the Mod Podge dried, I painted them.

Step 3Next, I added music from a Temperance song book from the early 1900s.  I love this little book.  Some of the song titles include “Away! Away! The Sparkling Wine,” “The Teetotallers Are Coming,” and “Beautiful Water” (because they tried to promote water as a beverage instead of demon booze).  Music adds a nice graphic, and I love using it.

Step 4After the music dried and got its coat of pain, I added a fun layer of graphics.  This started as pieces ripped out of vintage dress patterns, but I didn’t have many of those.  What I did have was some seamstress’ tissue paper from the 1930s—deliciously yellowed and fragile.  So I drew some of my own simple graphics with a marker and used that.  Tissue is great for adding depth while letting the color and design underneath show through.  Along with this layer I collaged equations from an antique German geometry text.  Again, I couldn’t resist foreign language and numbers.  Yum!

Step 6After drying and painting came the last layer on this background collage—letters from a vintage children’s reading primer, a section from an old spelling handbook, and either bits from another German book on Hieroglyphics or one on Chemistry.  Once that all dried and got a touch of Bronze Lumiere, I was ready to put together my central image.

I drew my Winter Solstice shamans on a 1906 copy of The Youth’s Companion, a newspaper-like publication for young adults.  I thought the small, delicate type face would lend an interesting texture.  The faces also got a touch of white acrylic paint and a touch-up with black gel pen.

Shaman 1

Then, I went to work on the shaman’s headdress.  From my bucket of fabric scraps, I pulled a nice, gold brocade and sewed beads onto strips that would become a sort of drape (think ancient Egypt or Mayan).

Shaman 2

Next came the feathers.

Shaman 3

Then, the headband.  The gold braid and pearls came from a necklace my mom wore before I was born (so, yeah, it’s really vintage).   I added more pearls from my bead stash (I’ve got a little bit of everything).

Shaman 4

And, finally, microbeads to tie the headdress together.

Shaman 5

Step 7I also wanted to do something a little different for the greeting inside the card.  I have a “Solstice Greetings” stamp, but I thought the nature of the outside ought to be reflected on the inside.  So I opted to dash a couple of layers of Lumiere on The Youth’s Companion and hand-write my holiday greeting with white gel pen.  I layered that over a snippet of music from a 1932 The Etude magazine, then spritzed it with Gossamer Gold Moon Shadow Mist from Lindy’s Stamp Gang (great stuff).

I’m pleased with all aspects of this project—the stretch to my creative muscle, the meditative time with my bits and bobs, the chance to give something that delights me, both inside…

Step Final Greeting

And outside.

Solstice 2014

May your holiday season be as rewarding and juicy.

 

 

Why I Don’t Mix Charity and Cake

Sandy Sue:

If your’e starved for BritWit (as I often am), here’s PrettyFeet, PopToe’s rant on charity bake sales.

Originally posted on Pretty Feet, Pop Toe:

"It's for the victims of eyebrow plucking in Essex"

“It’s for the victims of eyebrow plucking in Essex”

In every office there is that one person who feels the need to foist a charity bake sale upon the workforce. That person is never and shall never be me, for the simple reason I take great issue with the charity bake sale. For those of you who have gone straight from the womb to the underside of a well furnished rock, a charity bake sale is where a group of people bring various home-baked goods to their place of work and sell these items to colleagues, with the monies gathered being directed to some charity or heart-blisteringly worthy cause.

The altruistic soul who suggest the charity bake-off/buffet/coffee morning (they have many guises but all with the same trite format) just can’t resist the call of a worthy cause and what is more, they can’t resist the urge to make sure that everyone can see them…

View original 514 more words

Saying Yes

Coming of AgeThe last couple of weeks created a lot of thrashing around for me.  In IPR, I was required to recount my history—something I’m loathe to do as it is only painful and seems to trigger the dark side of my bipolarity.  At the same time, I cast off my life-long dream of ever controlling my compulsive eating enough to lose weight and started seriously working on accepting myself as I am.   Self-love and PTSD may be strange bedfellows, but they seem to be making progress together.

I had a Bathroom Revelation—you know, when you’re in the shower or on the pot, your mind blissfully drifting, and BLAM! the Next Great Idea materializes out of the ethers (so to speak).  E=mc2 came to Einstein this way, so who am I to question a loo’s creative holiness?

Anyway, this simple thought came:

Mindfulness is Not Enough.

And from that, I understood that nothing would ever be enough.  Nothing I do will ever cure me of this mental illness.

Of course not, right?  Everyone knows there’s no cure.  But everyone isn’t me, and I was sure I could crack this nut.  I would find the Key—my own, personal Incantation—that would unlock this prison.  If I worked hard enough.  If I followed every lead.  If I…

But, suddenly, I understood what Luke Skywalker tried to tell me this summer about striving, how there was no way to win that game.  Working hard at managing my bipolar disorder became another club to bludgeon myself over the head.

What happens when I let go of that dream as well?  What happens if I really accept all of who I am—obese and bipolar, creative and destructive, intelligent and compulsive, single and romantic, mindful and delusional?  What happens when I relax into all of that?  Allow all of that?  Say, “Yes” to it all?

So far, it means pulling back from the rigidity of my routine, from documenting every gnat’s ass detail of my brain flatulence.  It means trusting myself a little bit more, following my instincts a little.  And crying a lot.

This is new territory for me, this saying “yes” business.  It’s different than galloping after compulsions or riding a manic wave.  Saying “yes” comes from a loving place, a place of plenty and safety.  When the depression was darkest last week, it meant holding myself and saying, “Yes, this is part of me, too.  I’m not broken or wrong.  I am simply this, too.”

There is benefit from a Plan when the illness is raging at either end of the spectrum or when I’m sliding into those two extremes.  That’s when I forget what helps.  That’s when I can’t remember “yes,” and a Plan is needed to wade through to the other side.  But I’m trying to live looser in the between times.  Instead of scribbling out a Daily Plan, I look at this on my way out of the door.

Nurture

Create

Connect

 

And maybe that’s enough.  We’ll see.

Because I’m still On an Adventure.

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