Planting Flags

Duck DodgersI lived in or near Minneapolis and St. Paul for 24 years.  It was home.  It’s also where my life imploded under bipolar crisis.  So while some of my closest friends are there, and the energy and sensibilities of The Twin Cities resonate in me like music, the sorrow and loss of a life destroyed seep up out of the cracks.  I’m saturated in Minnesota, and my groundwater rises.

This past year, I decided to fight the sludge.  The idea started in IPR when we took a close look at my natural support system (friends, family, associations, etc.).  It was a relief when Aly, my case worker, declared my natural supports woefully inadequate.  Instead of fighting against feeling “needy” or berating myself for not being more sociable, I could finally acknowledge that I didn’t have the kind of support that would benefit me.  I no longer belonged to a Tribe.

Aly and I brainstormed.  From those sessions, I chose a dual approach—get involved in the Unitarian church in Des Moines and spend more time in the Twin Cities with my friends.

It has been a weird year, being a visitor in what feels like my hometown.  My zeal in the beginning caused me to over-extend myself, then watch shame and guilt rise about being symptomatic when I was among the people who understood and accepted me unconditionally.  How could I forget that these were the people who watched me self-destruct and didn’t run?  My anxiety or social phobia melted off them like October snow.

Dying of NostalgiaSorrow snuck up on me at odd times—journaling in a Starbucks, intermission at the Guthrie theater, watching a jogger with his golden lab lope along the crosswalk in Minnehaha Park.  Sorrow dragged memories up from the depths—regrets, bridges burned, the parts of my life that sloughed off and lay half-decomposed along the roadsides.

When I discussed this discomfort with my therapist, she said I’d have to dredge all that up and deal with it before the sorrow could lift.  “You have to know why you’re grieving before you can move past it.”  But I already knew why I was grieving.  I’d done that work.  Ad nauseum.  I wanted the “moving past it” part.

I decided to just Watch.  That always seems to be the answer to everything, so why not this?  I saw that sorrow came when I attended events alone, so I started asking my friends to go with me.  Lily and I went to the opera a few weeks ago (free tickets provided by Jim and Duane).  The show itself was dreadful (a German comedy, which has to be the definition of oxymoron), but Lily and I had a wonderful time swearing at the traffic jam caused by hockey fans.

I saw that sorrow rose when I felt separate from my friends’ real lives–a visitor instead of a fixture.  So I planned trips around going to Duane’s presentation to high school students and their parents about AIDS and safe sex, and Jinjer’s workshop on Beginning Astrology, and in December, Carol’s choir concert.

SPilgrimage Cafeorrow seemed to hide in my old haunts, places I loved in my Old Life, so I look for new places to plant my flag now.  A few weeks ago, Jinjer and Carol introduced me to Pilgrimage Café, a neighborhood restaurant with a quirky, delicious menu.  This past weekend I went back there by myself, and felt the café embrace me like a lover.  I sat at a repurposed church pew, my journal on the slab of wooden table, sipping pumpkin ale and breathing in the smell of welcome.

Slowly, I am reclaiming my old hometown for the Nation of Now.  I chose the unfamiliar and travel streets I don’t know.  I cherish my Tribe and go deeper with them while I forge new friendships and expand out like ice crystals knitting across the lakes.  There’s no room for sorrow in all that Light.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. radiatingblossom
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 12:41:02

    “…expand out like ice crystals knitting across the lakes.” So many words to love in your writing Sandy Sue. 🙂


  2. Leslie
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 14:11:03

    This really resonates with me Sandy. Having moved away after blowing up my old life in PA with hospitalizations, long term outpatient therapy and jobs blown to smithereens, I have come to South Carolina to be a hermit. I feel like a visitor in PA even though I lived there for 40 years

    I’m so glad that you are revitalizing your relationships and finding new places to go in your hometown that don’t cause you sorrow or pain. It has to be a lovely feeling.


    • Sandy Sue
      Oct 27, 2015 @ 21:35:58

      I’m thinking most of us with mental illness have a similar story—chaos, nuclear melt-down, deadly fall-out. It’s scary to pick through the rubble.


      • Leslie
        Oct 28, 2015 @ 05:00:37

        I think you are right. There are definitely some things I need to come to terms with about my old life. When we were in PA a couple weeks ago, we drove past my old office. I was terrified that someone I knew from there would pull out of the lot as we sat at the traffic light. It’s a big part of why I feel so out of touch up there. There are just too many places I’m afraid of, because I know people in the area.

  3. Catherine Cheng, MD
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 17:53:56

    Best wishes to you, Sandy Sue! And thank you for sharing your soulful and courageous journey with us. Peace. ☺️


  4. David Kanigan
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 21:18:08

    You, are, one of a kind. Period.


  5. LindaNoel
    Oct 28, 2015 @ 10:07:56

    “… My zeal…caused me to over-extend myself, then watch shame and guilt rise about being symptomatic…” Your Arrow of Clarity, aka “Tilii” — short for Tellin’-It-Like-It-Is — piercing and dissipating my Pig-Pen cloud of Shame+Guilt. Giving a Name to the process and result. Describing my experiences and describing a/your/the healing processes. thankyouthankyouthankyou SandySue ! xoxox Oh, BEAUTIFULLY describing….


  6. pegoleg
    Oct 28, 2015 @ 12:01:01

    Beautifully written, as usual. I’m confused, though – have you moved back to Minnesota or are you visiting quite a bit?


    • Sandy Sue
      Oct 28, 2015 @ 14:53:52

      Just visiting. Travel is therapeutic for me, so I love the drive. Plus, Marshalltown is a cheaper (if less inspiring) place to live. I’m determined to thrive here.


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