Once Upon a Time

Over the flu and in the Grey, which often happens after I’m physically ill.  It’s a melancholy, weepy place where regret and self-pity slink from shadow to shadow.  I have to be vigilant here, which pisses me off, so there’s a lot of bouncing around in the mist.

The thoughts generated by my gray matter here are particularly sneaky.  The Almost True and Slightly Off entice me into following them down paths that grow darker bit by bit.  Like a Grimms’ Fairy Tale, I end up lost in the woods.

So I pull out my Bag of Tricks and rummage through until I find a compass.  Or a sandwich.

The first Bad Day, nothing in my bag helped.  Nothing pointed me in the right direction or comforted me.  I panicked a little bit.

Then, like a Fairy Godmother, a memory slipped through the fog.  I remembered making a set of cards a few years back that helped me through a similar Forest, so I pulled Larry and Bernice out of my bag and we started leaving bread crumbs.

I’ve only traveled with Bernice so far, but I’ll get Larry to join in today.

I also stumbled across an Emotional Health Assistant Ap called Youper.  It’s a sort of daily check-in with an AI therapist to capture mood and thoughts with very nice guided meditations and exercises on gratitude.  Of course, it’s not really an artificial intelligence, just an algorithm that responds generically, but if I squint just right, I can pretend it has a beard and pointy hat.

Companions make a dangerous journey more tolerable—and it is dangerous here in the Grey. While the light is dim, it’s enough to keep going. And I’ve got plenty of sandwiches for all of us.

 

The Weekly Penny Positive

Since I’ve been housebound the last couple of weeks with a weird cold/flu combo, I’ve had to follow this axiom—looking forward to my Art Journal Round Robin Group starting up again next month, letting the banter and good writing of all 12 seasons of “Bones” counteract the bathroom-bound moments, the simple joy of a Jello cup, Emmett’s cat-psychic move to sleeping on my bed instead of under his blanket, falling asleep on my bed while arting.

Yesterday I was able to keep down (in?) Minute Rice cooked in chicken broth, so today I’ll chance foraging for Fresca and Kleenex.  The sun hides behind clouds this morning, but I’ll bring my Light with me.

 

The Weekly Penny Positive

I went to an Orphans’ Thanksgiving at my friends’ house (yes, I’m claiming friends!).  Instead of bringing a dish to share, I made these playing card-sized, portable reminders.

What Would Mr. Rogers Do?

After an excellent massage this morning, I went into the waiting room a little loopy, smiled at the woman who was sitting there, and finished up my business at the front desk.

The waiting woman was called back, but as I sat updating the calendar on my phone, she returned and walked up to me.  She said she had been called to pray for me, and would that be okay.

This has happened before, people wanting to pray for me (though this is my first Oklahoma Encounter, which is odd, considering this is the Bible Belt.  Hmmm…).  I know the request is not about me, but about what that person needs in the moment, so I don’t take offense.  I told her to do what she felt was best, expecting her to put me on her prayer list or whatever.  But, she stood in front of me, planted her hands on my shoulders, and went on at length about the healing power of Jesus.

Then, she stepped back and asked for a hug.

I started to get a tad uncomfortable—probably because The X-Files has been my background noise for the last couple of weeks.  But, then I remembered my new mantra, one I decided on after seeing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood last week.

What Would Mr. Roger’s Do?

So, I hugged her.  And when she said, “These are God’s arms hugging you,” I imagined everything she believed she was giving me being returned to her.  And I told her to have a wonderful massage.

Fred Rogers was all about paying attention and offering kindness.  As the movie points out, he had to work at this.

So do I.

Today I paid attention to what this woman seemed to need.  Raising my atheist flag was not it.  Being kind as she gave me something that mattered to her was.

Thanks, Fred, for hugging me today.

 

Pickles

This is a bit out of a story I wrote a long while back.  My stories are all the same—Bipolar Girl Finds Acceptance/Love.  It’s a need I work through on paper when I can’t manufacture it in real life.  Recent events have shown me that I am both characters in this scene.  That is a great comfort

So, I’m in the guest room, sleeping through tea and dinner.  Amanda has told the children to leave me alone, but by bedtime, Grace can’t stand it.  She comes in and gets on the bed with me.  I’m awake, groggy, slow.

“What’s wrong, Auntie,” Grace asked.  She snuggled close and laid her head on my belly.

I bunched a pillow under my head and watched her pick at the pink lace on her shortie pajamas.

“Well… “

It was hard to think, to even scrape together words that might make sense.  How could I answer her question?  I wanted to do it right.  You’re supposed to answer kids’ questions simply, not give them more than they ask for.  That’s right, isn’t it?  Isn’t that how you’re supposed to explain sex?  Jesus.

“I get sad sometimes, Gracie.”

“Why?”

“Well… my brain doesn’t work quite like yours does.”

“Is your brain broken, Auntie?”

Oh, it was too hard.  I didn’t want to scare her, but I also didn’t want to just brush her off.  She looked at me with her huge, round eyes.  Her little elfin face a perfect combination of her parents’.  I brushed the white-blond fluff away from her eyes.  I loved this little girl—the daughter of my best friends on earth—a tiny, precious creature with a scientist’s curiosity.

“What grade are you in now, honey?”

“I’m in Seconds,” she said proudly, the squeaky little voice with the perfect British accent.  It went straight to my heart every time.  But my heart was already too full.  I felt tears leaking out the sides of my eyes.

“Okay.”  I fingered the pink lace next to her hand, trying to pull myself together.  “You like pickles, yes?”

“Oh, yes.  I LOVE pickles.”

“And pickles live in their jars with juice all around them.”

Brine, Auntie.”  She was very smug.

“Yes, that’s right.  Brine.  The brine is always green.  Whether the pickles are sour, or sweet, or spicy—always green brine.  Well, let’s say you and I are pickles.”

Grace giggled.

“What kind of pickle do you want to be?”

“Gerkin!” she shouted.

“Good choice.  I’ll be Bread and Butter.”

She giggled again.

“You have beautiful, clear brine.  The most delicious brine in the world.  But my brine is brown and smelly.  My lovely Bread and Butters live in that nasty brine.  Sometimes they don’t taste very good.”

Grace blinked at me.  “Then, we must rinse your jar, Auntie.”

“What a good idea, my darling.  But it’s hard to do that to a real brain.”

Grace sat up, her little face puckered in thought.  She looked just like her father right before he let loose a string of profanity.  “You can have some of my brine, then.”

I took hold of her hand.  “What a generous gift, sweetheart, but I’m afraid you need your brine to grow up to be Prime Minister.”

“Pew.”  She wrinkled her nose.  I’m going to be a Maori princess in New Zealand.”

Of course, she was.

“I shall live with the kangas and the wallabies and be their queen.”

“May I visit Your Highness in your realm down-under?”

“You may,” she said magnanimously, “but only if you hop.”

“Your wish is my command.”

Inside, I breathed a sigh of relief.  That wasn’t so bad.  And she didn’t seem to be scarred for life.  But I was exhausted, and looking at that vulnerable sweetness filled me with a melancholy that would spew soon.

“Off to bed now, Grace,” I said, turning on my side.

She slid off and stood at the edge of the bed considering me.

“‘Night, ‘night, Princess,” I said, tears wetting the pillow.  I wanted her gone before I started sobbing.

Grace reached out and put her hands on my head.  A royal blessing, I thought.

“Poor pickles,” she whispered.

Something New

After some fussing and fuming, the first Teeny Penny Positive Boxed Set sits in my Etsy shop.

I don’t know why this makes me nervous.  Maybe because I love these itty bitty things (1 ½ inches by 2 inches) and have spent lots of time on them.   But that doesn’t make sense.  I spend lots of time on all my work.  Maybe it’s more like sending your kid off to kindergarten.

Maybe it’s because my sister commented that my art has gotten smaller and more complicated over the years, which, she is sure, indicates a kind of pinched pathology. An interesting theory. Still, I love doing tiny things well, so that’s what I’ll keep doing.  Whatever makes the soul sing, right?

I have three more sets in various stages of completion.  That ought to keep the music flowing for a while.

(PS. This sold almost as soon as I hit “Post.”  So Holy Crap, folks!)

The Weekly Penny Positive


As I work with less Making and more Space to allow whatever arises, I find the
art that calls me rich with meaning and joy. I’m holding a tentative idea about making little boxed sets of tiny (1 1/2 X 2 inches) Penny Positives—like this sweet thing that sprouted this morning.

Another Conversation

“There’s so much space here,” she said.

His eyes smiled. You’re not afraid anymore.

“Is that weird? It happened so fast.”

It’s happened before.

“I thought there was something really wrong.”

You thought there was something missing.

“I always think there’s something missing.”

Always? No.

“I feel calm here… content.”

There’s nothing to do, nothing to want, nothing to change…

“I don’t want to leave. Not yet. If I leave now, it makes what brought me here not real—not serious.”

It was real then. Doesn’t have to be real now.  His head tilted like a crow. Does it feel time to leave?

“Maybe. I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to rush anything.”

Like the art.

“Yes.  I’m letting it in—the pieces that call me. Not the stuff that feels like work. Some of it smells bad.”

He smiled. Anxiety-stink.

“Yes. Exactly.”

If you go, you can always come back. You could come sit with us. Anytime.

“That feels right. I’d like that.”

Stay or leave or do both. We’ll be here.

A Spot of Coppery Sunshine in a Gray Sky

It was a hard morning—one where the amphetamine doesn’t work and suicidal thoughts fill my empty cup.  I tried arting at the Starbucks in Tulsa, but couldn’t summon any interest, so started home sooner than expected.

As I drove I remembered that I’d dreamt about Barack and Michelle Obama two nights in a row.  In the dreams, I was happy,  hopeful, and part of a positive flow.  I thought, “Okay, this is where I need to take my brain today.”

As the negative images resurfaced, I summoned President Obama’s cheerful face, talking to me like a friend.  I felt the lightness of my dream-heart and the sense of rightness.

This spot of brightness in my gray morning reminded me of a project I’m working on—making sets of tiny Penny Positives like the ones I make each year for my friend Sarah.  I found tiny plastic sleeves to keep them protected and little paper mâché boxes that a set of 50 will fit into.  I planned to label the boxes “Penny Positives: A Spot of Coppery Sunshine for a Gray Sky.”

I also remembered that I’d sent both President Obama and President Carter Gratitude Postcards last week, telling them how much hope they add to my life.  I’m thinking I will spend time this afternoon making a new Gratitude List.  Maybe more people on that list will seep into my dreams, which might give my brain additional hopeful rest stops.

I’m better now—tired and slow-witted, but that part of depression isn’t nearly as frightening or dangerous as the Black Thoughts.  There’s a sense of being more skilled than my Black Thoughts let me believe, and there’s gratitude for that.

This Bipolar Highway is never-ending and ever-changing.  It seems like I’m being called to build more Comfort Stations now.  And the more I can build, the longer the Adventure continues.

Gratitude Snapshot

Sitting at my desk, mellow and comfortably in the middle of my bipolar spectrum, Emmett’s tail touches my leg in a whisper.  Rhythmic, gentle, it asks for attention.  But his little bowl holds fresh food, so I wait, knowing my non-answer will send him to investigate.

Our communication is easier without Henry.  While I still miss my Companion, I give thanks for this time with Emmett—to offer him more and to open to his lessons.

There is only Today, this Moment—the quiet of a Sunday morning, the rumble of a train, a clock ticking, the faintest whiff of vinegar from my cleaning lady’s efforts.

The air conditioner kicks on.  Time to settle into a project for the day.

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