One Giant Leap

As I tried to think outside my bipolar management box this summer, I kept coming back to the increased isolation caused by COVID-19. So, I asked my sister if it would be possible to live together.

Not only was she agreeable, but completely willing to sell her house so we could find a place that fit us. In just a couple of weeks, we found the right house with a lovely garden situated in a quiet neighborhood. She takes possession tomorrow and we will be moved in by the end of the month.

I know this will make a huge difference in my mental health. Just to hear someone else puttering around. And I believe my sister when she says it will be good for her too.

So, here’s to stepping outside the box!



A Report from the New Normal

A friend reminded me that I hadn’t posted here in a while.  Fact is, I have nothing useful to offer.

Severe depression seems to be my new COVID-era normal.  Art can’t touch it.  Drugs rarely provide enough energy to do a load of laundry or make a run to the grocery store.  Not often enough to consider myself “functional.”

In another time and place, I would be hospitalized.  As it is, I try to keep my head down as I slog through the Suicidal Ideation mire.  One foot in front of the other.

With no other options, I am shamelessly asking for help on FaceBook—from the friends and family who know me there.  Help comes.  Groceries and prepared meals from real live people near me; in cold boxes and online deliveries from those far away.  I’ve asked that folks clean out their desks and attics for collage fodder—old pictures, papers, receipts, music sheets, letters—anything flat and weird that might kindle a spark of creative oomph.  I’ve asked them to remind me who I am to them, if I mean anything at all, since I’ve lost perspective about all that.

I can’t wait for the cycle to shift anymore.  I may get a boost now and then, but my little marble rolls back to this trough with no real mood change.  Like everyone else in the world, I have to do things differently.  I have to ask for help, not once, but repeatedly.  I have to get over the shame of that, get over my upbringing, get over myself.

Just one more fucking 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.

Using It

I didn’t know what to do with the agitation after voting in our primary this morning, so I made the Glue Card for tomorrow’s challenge. The prompt just happened to be “Protest.”

Now I think I can get on with the day.

Sitting in Martha’s Garden

When I can’t hold any more tension, when the Vyvanse can’t kick me into a better mindset, when I can’t see through the wet in my eyes and nothing seems worth doing, I come to Martha’s Garden.

I sit under the old tree, rock in the mint green iron chair, and let the breeze and the birdsong waft over me. The neighbors’ rooster and dogs talk to each other. A garbage truck grumbles by on the road.

I give all the distorted thoughts and twisted feelings the room they need with my bare feet flat in the mulch and my eyes soft on all the green.

I take a deep breath and start to journal.

I will let the Garden soothe me, bleed the ichor, untangle the thoughts, and send me on my way.

To the special order waiting for me to finish (a set of cards for The Wheel of the Year), a set of my own Divination cards, a new journal to play in from my art journal Round Robin group, and the little art journals I made out of cup sleeves from my favorite coffee shop.

I will set up Emmett’s new litter box after finally realizing he can’t squat low enough to keep his stream from flowing over the side. Oh, the stories I created about being negligent and asleep! The guilt, and shame, and memories of other cats neglected!

All of that seeps into the Garden’s waiting dirt. There is only Now and what needs doing in this moment. There is only the clouded blue sky framed by leaves and branches.

I sip my iced coffee and return to my journal. The Garden will dismiss me when she’s done.

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

 

• 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.

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