Getting Real

I just got back from getting my Real ID. It’s a perfect morning in eastern Oklahoma—bright, clear, cool—so the short drive over the Arkansas River with the pretty foothills in the southeast pulled my shoulders down from my ears. I’ve been fighting a sinus infection for the last week. Getting out and breathing in the beauty of today was better medicine than anything on my nightstand.

Getting a Real ID—the one that gives a person more access than a regular driver’s license—takes some preparation. This kind of red tape is stressful for me. Ghosts of Doing It Wrong rise up and cluck. But when I dug out my passport, it surprised me by still being valid. It also rolled out wonderful memories of my whirlwind trip to England in 2014 and stirred my current fantasy of visiting Scotland some far-off day.

Whirlwind Souvenirs

I was Real when I traveled to England, but realized I’d lost that sense of myself. Too much stress. Too many changes. Too many dreams abandoned—Trump, Covid, Oklahoma and adapting to life with my sister. My bipolar disorder wrapped me up like a quilt and bundled me into a safe, padded room.

Today, my illness feels lighter. Today, my art is coming back, like red-tailed hawks came back to Iowa after DDT left the ecosystem. The birds migrated to a place where their eggs could be viable, but eventually came home again when it was safe.

My art seems to be laying eggs again, too. I’m getting new ideas, using new elements, trying scarier and out-of-my-comfort-zone things. Like making little watercolor and marker sketches of my own to illustrate my cards.

A walk through my sister’s lovely backyard garden gave me lots of deadfall and other treasures to make some different kinds of cards. Sewing something so fragile feels like a meditation, and I haven’t been able to meditate in a long while.

My therapist and I are also working with a new (for me) kind of therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Lots of familiar behavioral and mindfulness elements presented in a new way. One of my first tasks was to sort through What Is Important To Me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure anymore, so that took time. And now I’m journaling about how I move toward those things or values. You can see how much progress I’ve made so far.

With this unmoored sense of self, I will have to dig to find ways I am actively seeking the things I say I value—if I’m doing that at all. And it’s scary to think how much they might have changed or if I just abandoned what I loved and valued. But that’s what therapy is for, right? To set a new course. To Get Real.

And maybe, when I’m a Real Girl again, and the Covid pigs fly, and the Border Unicorns prance open, I’ll take my passport to Scotland and breathe in the beauty there.

Oh, today I am blessed with Adventure.

Amazing

Eli from Israel asked me to make an OMG! card for him. He told me he has two cats and dreams of being a father. He also likes Maya Angelou.

Eli, if you happen to see this before the card arrives in the mail, I’m sorry to spoil the surprise. Like all the special orders I am privileged to make, they come at the exact time I need to make them.

I’m moving through another long trough where my head is filled with possible suicide options. Normally, I wait until I’m on the other side of said trough (you know. To be POSITIVE and UPLIFTING), but it feels important to share where I am now.

Maybe to name it. Maybe to ask for support. Maybe to poke holes in the red rage that encapsulates it. Maybe just to be honest.

A song came up on my iPod a few days ago that grabbed me by the throat. It was from another life when I was a different person. My friend Frank Anthony, who is dead now, singing about Light and Truth, resurrected memories of great Love and Compassion. I remembered singing with him and my friend Carol. I remembered laughing HARD with Lily. I remembered using my hands and my voice to heal and comfort. I remembered being Present.

Now I’m an angry person, more likely to say “Fuck you” than “Thank you.” I opt for numb instead of present. Those memories felt like a story I might have written long ago.

“Divination” for my Round Robin Journaling group

And yet. And yet.

Beauty can still call me back.

A young woman just walked in front of the coffee shop window with a huge bouquet of cut flowers blazing color against the rainy-gray day.

A lithe, smoky-gray cat slipped between the tires of a parked pick-up and blinked up at me with water-clear eyes.

I’m still able to breathe “Thank you” when Beauty arrives.

To me, that’s amazing.

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.

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