Today

Today the illness is quiet.

Color steals back into the iris outside my window; pale, pale lavender with throats of orange.

Chores and tasks long neglected get taken care of without thought or effort.

Ideas come. Art that has shied away from my ruthless brain offers small enticements.

I am coaxed back into living.

Walkabout

I don’t often pull out my Walkabout Journal. It’s used for creating art out of whatever I find on my walks. Usually, the amount of trash I see depresses me more than inspires me, so I sorta gave up on that concept.

How-some-ever, last week I visited Civitan Park for the first time. The park is close to home, and offers trails plus some scraggly woods. When I found a funky snack bag, I knew I needed to look a little closer at the trash there.

Civitan Park

I found a few more interesting things (though I left the used condom where it lay in the parking lot), and talked to a beautiful tree that was dying and losing all its bark. Then, I came home and worked on this for a couple of days.

I went to the park originally to sit in my car and journal. That has taken the place of camping out in a coffee shop like I used to do pre-Covid. It’s nowhere near as satisfying, but it gets me out of the house and making art in a different, albeit cramped and chilly, environment.

This winter has made me a little claustrophobic with Covid’s lack of options. I do so miss the thick smell of coffee in a shop, the patrons with their laptops, and the baristas’ banter.

My Sissy has a lovely Keurig coffee maker, and I subscribe to Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee cups, but it’s just not the same (though this add is one of my favorite things in life).

I like the idea of making Car-Journaling into a full event—arting, walking, and scavenging for Walkabout fodder. I’ll be on the lookout for other parks to visit now, instead of just waiting for warmer weather and the lure of my coffee shops’ outdoor seating. Winters are mild here compared to what I’m used to. I don’t want to waste them.

The Next Simple Thing

I’ve “gotten out the door” every day for almost two weeks. I feel good about that. Doesn’t matter if I went to the mailbox and back or if I explored the neighborhood. I’m moving my grumpy knee.

The Next Thing is to pay attention to my gut.

Who knows what all is going on there? Compulsive Eating Disorder, Leaky Gut Syndrome, allergies, food intolerances, addiction… I’ve tried all my adult life to control my eating. And by that standard, I’ve failed every time.

How-some-ever, I do know a few things.

1. I’ve been eating crap consistently since Covid started.

2. I’ve gained weight. Don’t know how much since I threw away my scale years ago, but my grumpy knee says it’s a significant amount.

3. My gut is disturbed and unhappy. Everyone knows what that feels like and the explosive ways it can manifest.

4. Some foods make it worse. Some foods make it better.

Today I pulled out my old notes on Leaky Gut (since eating the foods on that list makes my gut happier) and started a grocery list. I also downloaded a recipe book onto my Kindle. I realized that was probably a waste since I have a mental block about cooking, but who knows?

I’m just trying to pay attention, to hold it all lightly. I will have days of clarity and days of fog. I will resist and I will fly.

I feel like I’m launching buoys with these simple tasks. When the bipolar symptoms swamp me or the compulsive eating pulls me under, I have something to focus on when the waters recede. When the weirdness of Covid-life pushes me farther from shore, I can hear those little bells in the distance. Instead of treading water, I can float toward my buoys. And then, swim.

Yeah, it’s still an Adventure.

Switching the Message

I am changing as the world changes.  My world kaleidoscopes inward, spiraling smaller and smaller.  Some days, it scares me.  Some days, I’m content.

Lately, I find little desire to create.  The art I made before holds little meaning or the kind of depth this changing requires.  Some days that scares me.  Some days, I’m content.

What soothed and distracted me before has lost its power.  I am left alone with my brain—the labyrinths and dark pits.  Some days they scare me.  Some days, I’m content.

I need a new banner, a new battle cry, because this—all this—feels like a battle.  But more like the battle a chick wages to emerge from her egg shell.  Something new is being birthed—in me, in the country, in the world.

I can’t choose between these two:

Never give Up. Never Surrender. —”Galaxy Quest”

Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in ‘t! —William Shakespeare

So, I choose both—the common sourced from silliness and the erudite sourced from genius.  Something new will shake out from their pairing, something with flavors of fear and acceptance, I’ll wager.

And I am willing.  Still on the Adventure.

Petting the Black Dog

Searching for shows I haven’t watched (it’s getting harder, isn’t it?), I found Flowers—a very odd, very dark British comedy about family dysfunction, depression and madness.  It’s a total HOOT!  Plus, I love Olivia Coleman in whatever she does.

Anyhoo… this is the second or third time I’ve heard depression called The Black Dog as in “when the Black Dog is on him…”  It’s a delicious descriptor.  Littermate to the Hound of the Baskervilles.

So, I’m petting the Black Dog a lot lately.  He just seems pretty content to snooze on the rug indefinitely.  Gratefully, the amphetamine I take gives me a few hours of oomph before he crawls into my lap.  Here’s one of the things I’m doing with that time…

A while ago (who can keep track of time now), I made some little art journals with all the cup sleeves saved from my coffee excursions.  I sent them off to arty friends, but kept one for myself.

I’m turning it into a love letter to the coffee shop.

The drive-through is one of the few places I can talk to a live person without wearing a mask.  They are kind and funny, and they give me delicious succor.  I know I’d be lost without that little bit of contact and a way to pamper myself.  Making a journal seemed like a fun and different way to thank them.

I colored the pages by adding a few drops of ink to wet coffee grounds.  I made little pockets out of arted-up coffee filters to hide little treasures like this repurposed gum box.

Mostly, I’m making little collages, incorporating pictures I’ve taken of the shops (drive through and sit down) and the staff.

I’m working in miniature, which I love.  Laying down this poem with itty bitty letters saved from magazines took a whole day.  But the result was so worth it.

Expressing thanks helps shove the Black Dog off my lap for a while.  And working in miniature keeps my mind distracted from his whining.  Any relief, no matter how brief, from his weight and stinky dog-breath is a blessing—a chance to breathe and maybe take a sip of something yummy.

I’ll be making more of these little blank journals in the not-so-distant future, so if you’d like one, let me know.

Making What Sings to Me

I’m ready to send my little journal off to Art Journaling Magazine.  It doesn’t matter if they accept it or not, because I love it. I love having all my little bits of bipolar wisdom in one place.  I love the bones, and feathers, and tattered leaves mixed in with chiffon, and paint, and tissue paper.

I felt like I was using all my best parts—the Hunter/Gatherer keeping an eye out for treasures in the weeds, the Granddaughter channeling Gram’s magical needle and thread, the Aesthetic savoring texture and color, the Mad Scientist mixing media until it bubbled and wondering, “What if…?”

It was a Grand Experiment that shocked me over and over.

When it travels back home to me, I’ll keep it where I can see it every day.

It will remind me to be brave.

It will remind me to make what sings to me.

Floating a Little



 

• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Floating a Little


(Click on the photo to get a closer look)

 

• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Ideas About Thriving

I read a bit of Mary Oliver’s book of essays, Upstream, on a friend’s FaceBook page, and this grabbed me:

And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is an antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness—the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books—can redignify the worst-stung heart.

Reading, difficult for me since electroshock, takes determination and much effort, but Mary’s book is on my Kindle now, and I dip into to it every day. As my cycle shifts out of depression, her words help me open to ideas about thriving.  Here’s what I’m trying so far:

•Commune with the Trees

I have an open invitation from my friend, Martha, to show up in her garden—to wander or make art or write, to breathe in the green and listen, to put my arms around the trees and mend my torn connection to them.

I’m also determined to find green places to walk.  Arthritis and despair have held me back, but today I tried out Cody Creek Trail.  The pain was worth the trees and their bits of discarded, lichen-covered bark that they left for me.

•Finish

For whatever reason—fear, despair, boredom—lots of projects languish, tucked away so their half-heartedness can’t hurt me.  These pieces deserve my respect and my care.  I deserve their beauty and the sense of stewardship their completion brings.

Today I hung the art quilt I started years ago when a friend in Marshalltown gave me her shop’s old upholstery sample books.  I took those pieces and centered them with a scarf my grandma used to wear wrapped around her head (the reddish cross in the middle).  I love the subtle colors and the way some of the fabric falls apart like melting butter.  It hangs in my sitting room, waiting for other pieces to join it.

I’m working again on a small art journal that I started when I moved to Muskogee.  It’s called The Zen of Bipolar Disorder.  Each spread is a “lesson” I’ve learned and try to practice.  I’ve used lots of natural elements—feathers, leaves, bones, sticks, raw wool—sewn to chiffon or cheesecloth or other semi-transparent media.  It’s wild, and startling, and unlike anything else I’ve ever done.  When finished, this little book (made from an antique Swedish almanac) will be my next submission to Art Journaling Magazine.

Today, I’m going to start the finishing of my Wall of Flowing Yellow.  Not long after I moved here, I found a wholesale fabric warehouse and bought yards of various yellow chiffons and silks (and a shimmery orange prom dress at Goodwill).  The idea was to drape this huge (14 feet by 8 feet) blank wall in the center of the duplex with the Feng Shui-accurate color of Health.  Some panels are beaded, some beribboned.  All that’s left is to sew nine panels together and hem the whole piece.  A few days work.

•Choose to Thrive

This last idea is an experiment in alchemy.  How do I combat the Place Hatred that takes over when my symptoms cycle into the Black?  Hating where I live stops any chance of growth.  It poisons the air and turns people into monsters.

One small shift—repurposing a journal—is the only idea I have right now.  I used this journal to analyze my Place Hatred, to be specific, to sort out what I could change and what I couldn’t.  I used about half of the journal to that end.

Now I will use it to explore Thriving.  What makes me feel alive and well?  How do I stay open to the possibility?  This will be a place to tuck notes and ideas, to jot down little joys and brainstorms.  As I experiment, I’ll practice proper scientific technique, keeping track of results, near-misses, and magic.

Oh, it’s a relief to know that I’m still on an Adventure.

The Wind

From my journal yesterday.

Sitting in Martha and Jon’s garden with the rush of the wind in the trees.  I’d forgotten that sound, like the ocean roaring, fading, roaring.  It will rain soon, but for now the sun breaks the clouds in the east, and this roaring is full of life, and energy, and danger.

If I am to stay, I must find a way to thrive instead of just existing.  It will have to be something new since the old ways aren’t working.  Everything changes.  My illness buffets me like this wind.

I need a way to flow with it… (Ah. The rain is coming.  Good.  That feels right, too) … I need a way that makes my illness an organic part of the solution, the way the wind blows pollen, strengthens roots, culls the dead branches, mixes things together and apart.

I can feel the wind and the blow behind my words clearing space.  The sky darkens.  Thunder grumbles in the distance.  The rooster next door crows.  Something is coming.

Hints abound if I can stay awake and open, if I keep looking, keep trying, keep experimenting.  There are seasons in me cycling faster than Nature.  I feel the rain on my back, the cold on my skin.  I feel my rain and cold turning again.

I can continue to turn.  I can continue to seek.  I can get wet and cold with winds roaring inside and out.  And it will all keep turning if I learn new ways to turn with it.  I’ve done it before.

The patter of drops on leaves sounds like applause.

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