15 Jan 2017
in anxiety, art, art journaling, bipolar disorder, cats, depression, distorted thinking, health, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, TV and Movies
Tags: acceptance, bedbugs, melancholia, mindfulness, Northern Exposure, PTSD, self-compassion
After almost three weeks of Clear, Calm Mind, weeks when I made art with quiet joy and dug into the second draft of my book about being bipolar, weeks when decisions made themselves; after weeks when the Dark Times of last autumn faded, the inevitable shift came.
First, just a melancholia set in as I watched the last season of Northern Exposure (like getting weepy over Hallmark commercials). Mopping up with Kleenex, I would have called myself hormonal if I still had any Girl Parts. But after the final episode, I felt bereft. I’d binge-watched all six seasons of the show, and now it was over. I have a bad feeling about this, my Inner Han Solo muttered.
Later that day, I shut down during therapy. We hit something big, and it blew all the circuits. My therapist talked and all I could hear was the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons (Wah-wah-wah).
Yesterday I met my friend at the theater to see LaLa Land and cried through the whole thing. Not that I was paying attention to what was on the screen.
It takes me a bit to catch up with the shift. I have to find a little spot of compassion and mindfulness where I can change gears. What do I need? What do I have to take care of and what can wait? I will stay home today and do art at my table instead of going to church and the Writing as a Spiritual Practice group that I love. I can make this decision without guilt or self-loathing. It’s what needs to be today.
Tomorrow I will focus on preparing my apartment for the new bed-bug prevention regiment. There’s a lot to do—vacuum, get everything off the floor, pull the furniture away from the walls. I don’t quite understand what will be done, some kind of silicon mist, so I need to get as much stuff under cover as I can. Then, on Tuesday, the cats and I will camp out at friends all day while this procedure takes place. I’m not sure what kind of clean-up will be required once we get back. All I know is that I can’t vacuum for three days.
Stuff like this is stressful on my best day. I had found a rhythm with the quarterly bug-sniffing dog’s visits, but I guess Radar wasn’t as accurate as advertised. Now management has decided on this annual preventative hoo-haw instead. It’s so disruptive and worrisome.
So, I breathe and try to turn my thinking. I don’t have bedbugs, but if my neighbors do, I’m at risk. So this is a good thing. Proactive. And only once a year. I can do this.
And if it’s all I do this week, it will be enough.
16 Nov 2016
in anxiety, art, bipolar disorder, blogging, computers, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art
Tags: anger, forgetful, PTSD
My computer came home today, perkier, but still not firing on all cylinders. The tech-docs did their best and will continue to monitor vitals. At least I don’t have to create posts on my phone anymore.
Perhaps now my vague disquietude will ease up. I feel like I’m constantly patting my mental pockets to make sure I have my keys. What am I forgetting? I start out the day with my gym bag and art tote, then forget my purse. Once back in the car, I realize I’ve forgotten the letter I need to mail. Then, my coffee. Or like yesterday, I left my coat somewhere and still haven’t found it.
I’m discombobulated, constantly ticking important stuff off on my fingers. Cats alive? Gas in the car? Shoes on? I check my calendar, then look at it again because I can’t remember what was there. I’m guessing my anxiety is a little spiky.
I’ve been getting about two hours of sleep at night for several months —even taking Xanax, which is usually all I need. So, my med provider switched me to Clonazepam—same pharm family (anti-anxiety), but with a longer duration. I still wake up three or four times a night, but go back to sleep, which I wasn’t able to do on Xanax. And I’m not waking up furious. That alone is a huge relief. Any morning I can get out of bed not pissed off or in PTSD flashback-mode is already a success—no matter what else follows.
Before Anthony, the tech-surgeon, made his house call this afternoon, I vacuumed and dusted a little—something I haven’t done since summer. I told a friend, “You know it’s time to vacuum when the carpet is crunchy.”
Like my computer, I’m still not firing on all cylinders, but we’re both making progress. Two addled brains are better than one, I guess. It’s a good thing the cats are in charge.
12 Jul 2016
in anxiety, art, art journaling, awareness, bipolar disorder, creativity, distorted thinking, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, poetry, TV and Movies
Tags: art journaling, Haven
I’m finishing up a Haven marathon. If you’re not familiar with this SyFy Channel show that got cancelled last year, think Stephen King (it’s based on one of his stories) when he’s not at his best. Hokey, repetitive and, at times, incomprehensible, but with enough great characters and moments of genius dialog to keep my attention. Gloria, the smart-ass coroner, is worth it all by herself. And Dwight, the Chief of Police, isn’t hard to look at either (This GIF is from an episode where they switched bodies—one of my faves).
The folks in Haven, Maine have Troubles—like attracting bullets, or talking to the dead, or blowing up anything they touch. I always liked that understated description for the load of misery the townsfolk suffer. Troubles. I’ve unofficially adopted it this summer. As in “my Trouble is flaring up.”
Which it did today. I got a naggy, creepy-crawly feeling that something bad was about to happen, sort of a Stephen King version of anxiety. Everyone looked suspicious and a little dangerous. And I was worried about screwing up my art projects.
However, I finished a couple of things without unfixable mishaps. I put together my first art journal in over a decade. Even though the memory of making those first ones got lost in the ECT void, I kept the written instructions and assembled all the ingredients over the past couple of weeks. I watched the Dark Fret try to stop me from finishing today, but pushed on. Somehow, it helped to have this new journal done. I did it. While Troubled.
I also finished a new piece for my front door. The text comes from Stephen Dunn’s poem, Reversal, which I loved so much I posted it a few days back.
I worked on this for weeks, waiting after each coat of paint or bit of grunge to see what would arise. Working with matte medium and fabric for the first time, I panicked over the result, then took sand paper to it and loved the effect. Yesterday I tore apart an old alarm clock for the gears. Today, I finished it with gloss medium and hated it. My Trouble screamed, “Ruination!”
The negativity and fear my Trouble conjures up slips into my body like an old, familiar song. But, practice helps me turn down the volume and remember there are no mistakes—just unexpected detours. Art work, fiction, life may not turn out the way I envision them, but they turn out. Most of the time, those detours are the best part of my day. Troubled or not.
08 Apr 2016
in anxiety, bipolar disorder, blogging, developing consciousness, friends, mental health, mental illness, music, nature, relationships, spiritual practice, travel, video
Tags: Bed and Breakfast, Bucket List, Durango, Van Morrison
Durango, CO (10:00 AM) to Lamar, CO (4:45PM). 351 miles.
Notables: Van Morrison’s Keep it Simple (thank you, Robert)
Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novel Small Favor (read by James Marsters, for all you Buffy fans)
Meeting my bloggy friend, Robert, was like coming home. None of the emotional crap I wrestled last night took that away. He was the thoughtful, mindful, funny, articulate man I knew from his blog and mine. His voice sounded exactly as I imagined, his clear gaze looked and saw.
We sat at Durango Coffee Company for about an hour, shedding the distance of friends who only know each other through letters. We asked big questions and dove deep for the answers. And we laughed.
Robert wanted me to have some Van Morrison for the rest of my trip (I love how music-people know when you need a piece of music). We strolled down to the music store, still talking, but we were too early. And I needed to be on my way. So, we took a detour to his truck where he pulled out Keep it Simple from his CD player and handed it over.
I was so enthralled, I forgot to have a barista take our picture. Crap. Next time. Because there will be a next time.
The rest of the day took me through the Colorado Rockies, through lots of little burgs, and into a scape that looked almost like home. Rock still juts out of Eastern Colorado’s skin, but the grass and trees are turning Prairie. Soon all that tectonic majesty will be behind me and the sea of fields will take over.
Tonight, I get to cook my Ramen noodles in a sweet, shabby-chic B&B. Lace curtains, antique furniture, quilt on the bed, and a retro bathroom all just for me. There’s a house cat on the porch. What Traveling Girl could ask for more?
07 Apr 2016
in anxiety, art, awareness, bipolar disorder, distorted thinking, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, music, nature, travel, triggers, video
Tags: Arizona, Bed and Breakfast, expectations, fatigue, Observer, reactivity
Golden Valley, AZ (9:00 AM Pacific) to Durango, CO (6:30 PM Mountain). 469 miles.
Notables: (for singing loud) Wailin’ Jennys Live
So much for good intentions.
Melanie, my host in Golden Valley, lassoed me as I was loading the car, and we ended up gabbing for an hour in a sort of open-air living room; old couch, recliner, and side table under a trellis in the front yard. Magnificent view and another magical connection.
I cut loose before she could give me a tour of the property, though. Like Mr. Frost, I had promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep.
So off I went across Arizona, through Hopi, Navajo and Ute land. There, buttes and mesas dominate; brick-red sedimentary formations. Sometimes ponies pastured on top of them, which made for an unbelievably cinematic silhouette against the cloudy sky.
I spent most of the day on a two-lane highway with no rest stops and long patches of nothing between gas stations. We women of a certain age don’t do well without regular “rest” stops. Luckily, I grew up on a farm and knew how to duck into a cow path off the road. Some skills never die.
I had texted my friend, Robert, and my Durango hosts about being late. Robert said not to worry. I never heard back from my hosts. So, when I got to their drive, and the gate was chained and locked, I fretted. Soon, Ginger drove down the lane toward me. They thought I was coming the next night. What worried me even more was that Robert said the same thing; he thought I was coming the next day and couldn’t have dinner with me tonight.
Did I get my dates mixed up? It would have been so easy to do with all these B&Bs to keep straight. I had a text exchange with my sister earlier in the day, and she noted that I didn’t give myself much down-time or slack in my schedule. True. And no place for fuck-ups.
All this really threw me. Even though Robert and I made plans to meet for coffee tomorrow morning, even though Ginger apologized and said they’d looked at their AirBNB calendar wrong, I had to sit in my car for a while and bawl.
I know I’m tired, which makes me more reactive. It also makes me more rigid (Go With The Flow went). I felt choked by disappointment and embarrassed by weeping in front of strangers. And really bipolar.
A teensy part of me watched all of it happen. That part cooked Ramen noodles. That part talked to Ginger and Phil about their old dog, Zeke. That part took a deep breath and held the exhaustion tenderly. That part of me is okay.
It’s getting bigger by the minute, that teensy part. Pretty soon, all of me will be okay.
03 Apr 2016
in anxiety, art, bipolar disorder, creativity, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, music, teachers, travel, video
Tags: art journaling, art techniques, Artfest, Bucket List, Fort Worden, Jesse Reno, Tracy Moore
Our last day of classes.
I skipped breakfast this morning to write about yesterday and ease into the day. The Fort has a little coffee shop, so I stopped there for a latte and scone before heading to Jesse’s class; a quiet walk through the morning mist to the other side of campus with only my bag’s wheels grumbling on the asphalt and the gulls calling overhead. Lots of crows here, too. And owls. The Flying Ones offer lots of singing practice.
I think Jess’s class was my favorite. We worked in black and white acrylic paint using a fan brush and our hands. Primitive mark-making. And like Michael deMeng’s class, we started looking for areas of interest and larger images. I loved the energy and immediacy of it. Black and white felt so much easier than color. And Jesse was a hoot. He told stories in different accents, so of course I loved him.
Details from the pages; lots of little Mr. Bills getting out of the thorny, pregnant monster’s way.
After lunch, it was finally time for Tracy Moore’s class. This was the watershed moment. Could he teach/inspire/goad me into art journaling? Was there a way to incorporate art into my daily journal practice? Or were these two modes of expression forever separate for me?
Tracy’s very low-key, but passionate about art journaling. He just wanted us to keep our hand moving over the page, doodling, trying different simple shapes while he told stories about his own process. He talked about how journaling for him is a social experience, hanging out in coffee shops and bars with his journal and pens, inviting people he meets to draw something in them. Some of his pages have lots of text, some don’t. He admits that he gets bored easily and switches things up.
He also gave us a list of his favorite stuff; pens, techno doo-dads, stamp-making tools, online stores. I made a list.
Later I talked to him about being a writer who also does art and whether I could combine the two. “Keep it simple,” he suggested. “Try it and see what happens.”
So at the Last Night Party, I sat with everyone else and wrote in my newly minted art journal and pondered this question. The Seattle band, Surrealized, provided mood music and the door between my words and my art cracked open. Is the separation illusion? If both are allowed to play together, what else might join them? What else might have been sacrificed to my bipolar scramble for survival? What else waits for room?
I’m willing to push the door open a little wider and invite everyone to come play.
02 Apr 2016
in anxiety, art, awareness, bipolar disorder, creativity, friends, mental health, mental illness, quality of life, relationships, teachers, travel
Tags: art techniques, Artfest, Bucket List, Sandy Sue Altered
I smartened up yesterday, dumped out one suitcase, and loaded it with all the art supplies I need to schlep to classes. I’d seen other people doing this, so it’s not my brilliant idea. Just took me a day.
Yesterday’s classes were with painters. I’ve longed to learn how to use paint since high school (when I flunked art class). It’s always intimidated me, so I ran through a gammet of expected emotions throughout the day. It was a challenge to stay present, to breathe, to remember who I was and that I was okay no matter what. Both teachers were kind, funny, helpful, nonjudgmental. All that made a challenging day successful.
Again, these pages are just beginnings; a way to learn techniques and start applying them. We all wanted weeks to keep working on them.
In Michael’s class, we started with a wash of paint, then slowly pulled images out of it with repeated layers of wash and white highlights. This is one technique I want to try again. It has a spooky, otherworldly quality that I dig in a big way, but couldn’t quite grok in three hours.
Then it was time for the vendor show. Half a table turned out to be a lot smaller than I expected, so I ditched my idea of showing my bigger collages and set up my cards as best I could. My table-mate, Lynn, and her girlfriend, started laughing at my stuff almost immediately, so that helped me settle down and enjoy myself.
And all I can really say is, “Holy Shit!” People crowded around my end of the table until Teesha flicked the lights to call quits on the show. Even then, a couple of new friends hung around, digging through my boxes and exclaiming over details like WW1-era papers and gilding paints. Compliments bombarded me like little Nerf balls. I loved telling the stories of cards people chose; This is my grandma… This is my mom and dad…This image came from a 1915 holistic health magazine… This group of folks loved it. I was in my perfect venue.
I started out with four boxes of cards and ended up with two and a half. I haven’t tallied the take, but let me tell you, it’s much more than I ever expected. I was in shock when I packed up.
And stinky, sticky with adrenalin.
And my back ached like a son-of-a-bitch.
And What A Day!
31 Mar 2016
in anxiety, art, bipolar disorder, creativity, mixed-media art, music, relationships, teachers, travel
Tags: Artfest, Ferry, Fort Worden, John Cleese, Teesha Moore
Spokane, WA (7:30 AM) to Port Townsend, WA (4:00 PM). 370 miles.
Notables: Sting’s Roxanne (Symphonicities version)
Well, really, ho-hum. Another day of brilliant sun, snow-capped mountains, burbling streams. It’s just all a little overdone, don’t you think? I mean, on and on with the sapphire sky and pine-fresh air… can’t these Pacific Northwesterners show a little restraint?
We were doing just fine until Seattle. I saw signs for a tollway and wondered, tollways? When was the last time I paid a toll? Do they still have big buckets to throw quarters at as you pass by? Do I have any quarters?
Since John had no answers, I thought I’d better stop and inquire about proper procedure. I didn’t want to get chased by Washington State Smokies (Were they even called that anymore? Geez, I felt old).
Come to find out, the highway cams snap a picture of your license plate and you get a bill in the mail. More stuff I never knew.
So, I was a little flustered when we got to the ferry. I thought I told John to take a different route to avoid the ferry, but here we were. The first time around, Cleese got us in the wrong lane and the Port Authority officer yelled at me (until he saw that I had an Iowa license plate and clearly no accurate help from my British Sulu).
After I stuffed a sock in his recorded yap, I found my way to the ferry toll and holding area. Clear sailing from there on (pun only sort of intended).
I’m finding that a GPS system can get just as befuddled as a human when the details become complicated and change quickly. Two heads (one nav-sat and one bipolar) really are better than one.
Another hour of twisty two-lane highway through forest and, to my surprise, cattle ranches brought us to Port Townsend and Fort Worden.
I checked in, made my journal (which will hold all the art I make this week), dumped my stuff in my dorm room (which used to be the barracks), and started schmoozing.
Dinner offered a vegan option (a to-die-for veggie burger). Teesha made a few logistical announcements and introduced our teachers.
I made a few swaps (traded art bits) with the fun folk I’ve met so far, and came to my room to report and crash. Tomorrow: ART.
27 Mar 2016
in anxiety, books, music, quality of life, spirituality, travel
Tags: animal totem, Artfest, Badlands, mink, skunk, South Dakota
Marshalltown, IA (7 AM Central) to Interior, SD (5:30 Mountain). 575 miles.
Notable tunes: Don Henley’s Cass County. Audiobook: Terry Pratchett’s Nation.
It was a dark and gloomy night… er… morning.
I could barely believe that THE DAY had come. No more lists. No more sleepless nights (There’s a Country song in there some place), just my nosey neighbor hurrying out to snoop as I finished packing the car, her barky wiener dog in tow. In no time, I’d shaken the Marshalltown dust off my wheels and set out in the lowering gloom.
First rest stop was Sac City, where I got a whiff of Skunk as I gassed up the car. Auspicious! Skunk became my Animal Guide in a sweat lodge ceremony eons ago. Her scent still makes me feel protected and in the flow. Then, when I walked along the North Racoon River, I spotted a mink at the water’s edge. My aunt used to raise mink, so I knew it wasn’t just a weasel. The gifts seemed to be tumbling out of the trees!
It felt wonderful to squish in mud along the water’s edge, to see geese and hear the bird chatter. I was glad to have my hat, as the wind at 34 degrees still held a bit of winter.
And who knew Sac City was the home of Barn Quilts? The things one learns On the Road.
The next stop was Tea, South Dakota. I mean, really, how could I not stop for a spot of Tea after being bossed around by John Cleese all day (His best bit so far has been: “In 500 yards, bear right; beaver left.”) and listening to a fabulous Terry Pratchett audiobook, read by a lovely British baritone (yes, there are actually a few of those I don’t know or claim as Pretend Boyfriends)?
A few hours further west, the skies cleared, the snow melted and temperatures warmed into the 50s. No more adventures, just clear sailing in the bright sunshine and on into the Badlands. I knew those naughty bits were close by, but didn’t expect to drive through the State park. What a feast to wind through all that topographical drama!
The sun sloped from the west as I drove through The Circle View Ranch’s gate. A family played ring-toss in the yard. A scrappy herder-dog watched them from the porch of the main house. Chickens meandered and pecked along the drive.
My room is lovely with a private bathroom. I think my cowboy nephew would like it here.
Time to wash my Ramen bowl and call it a day.