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.

The Weekly Penny Positive

(Fish seemed to be a theme for a while.  Pisces dreams?)

Storm Chasing

Well, that was a Big One, a Black Brain-Storm that hurricaned up my coast.  When I say “Big,” I mean lengthy.  I manage all right with depressive episodes that last a couple of weeks, but when they stretch out longer than that, I… well… there’s no other way to put it.  I lose my shit.

I also lose time.  How long did it take to sweep through my mental landscape?  A month? Two?  I lose the shape of individual storm cells, delineated by these little bursts of clear sky.  They start to moosh together until it seems as if Black is all there is. I know that’s not true, but I can’t remember the sunny skies unless I look back in my journal or ask someone else.

The Big Fat Lying Brain starts to sound really savvy.  Some of those awful thoughts might be true.  After all, they’re just an Edward Gorey version of what usually rummages around my gray matter.  Paranoia trickles in like lizard sweat.  It’s really not a pleasant place, my brain.

How-some-ever, the inside-skies cleared yesterday, so I’ve got time to get ready for the next blow.  I will be taking a drawing class for the next three weeks during the time I would normally see my therapist (it’s one of those Good News/Bad News situations), but she’s available by phone, so I shan’t worry.

I’m also trying to take teeny-tiny steps in a positive direction: drink a glass of water when I get up in the morning, commit to swimming on Thursday mornings, and choose Subway instead of other take-out.

I’m still searching for the Muskogee Routine and hope this will be a start.  Small additions.  Tiny sandbags in the dike wall.

I always feel better with a plan, whether I can carry it out or not.  Incremental turns toward wellness feels gentle.

And I’m all for a Gentle Adventure.

The Weekly Penny Positive

by The Cranberry Lake Jug Band on Keepers 2, Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Morning Show.”

Image

Synchronisity Rocks

I love when the Universe throws random shit together and plunks me down in the middle of it.  It’s kinda what I live for.  Here’s the deal:

A few weeks ago, when I had nothing new to bitch about with my therapist, she said, “Let’s play a game.”  Since she works mostly with kids and teenagers, she’s used to sullen silence and keeps a cupboard full of games to sneak in a client’s back door.  She apologized for not having anything for adults, but we found a box of questions (does anyone remember The Ungame?) and took turns asking each other get-to-know-you questions.  It was fun and definitely perked me up.

I remembered I saved some art journal prompts out of my magazines and took those the next week to see if they might be appropriate for an adult version of the Question Game.  Sonya loved them, so I asked if I could make a game for her.

I tend to make things for my caregivers.  They give me so much, and I love making something that I can pour all that appreciation into in a healthy, non-creepy, all-boundaries-intact way.

So I dug around in my stash and pulled out a full box of Pictionary cards that were the perfect size.  I gathered the prompts from all my books and magazines, then went to Pinterest to find a gazillion more.

Meanwhile, I’d been thinking about finding rocks to paint for my little garden.  At Lowe’s I found Egg Rocks (perfect), then wandered the store a bit.  Searching for masking tape, I stopped in front of the paint sample display.  I’d always wanted to try using paint chips in my collage work somehow, seen how other artists had done cool things with them, so I grabbed up one of each and added them to my stash.

I noticed that the larger paint chips were the exact same size as the Pictionary cards.  Boom!  The perfect substrate was born.

So, now I’m whiling away these sultry summer days surrounded by color, creating a fun tool for my therapist, while binge-watching Six Feet Under.  Sonya told me once that the artistic daughter on that show reminded her of me—the final loop in the thread that ties all this synchronistic, yummy juju together.

Like I said, I live for this shit!

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