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.

 

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.

 

The Weekly Penny Positive

It was my birthday on Wednesday. Just a regular day, but it was a good day.  Brain-wise, that is.  I’ve gotten a lot of response from the boxed set of Teenies.  I never thought about this being the beginning of the Christmas shopping season—it’s been a while since I worked retail—so I was overwhelmed by folks wanting up to four sets for Christmas presents and willing to be on a waiting list for them.

I had to step back, breathe, and kindly (I hope) say no.  I figured it took me about 5 weeks to put together that first little boxful.  And making those Teenies is a source of joy.  Part of the joy is opening to the piece, bringing in the right scrap, the right color, and delighting in the outcome.  I need to take my time.  I also need to set them aside and make other things that call me.  I was grateful and humbled by the response.  As I am grateful for my Skunk Totem for reminding me to maintain my boundaries.

That was my birthday present to me.

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.

Void

Slowly, over the past several months, the desire to make dribbled out of me until yesterday I couldn’t stand to snip one more little piece of paper.  After an SOS to my art friends, they reassured me that this happens to them, too.  They suggested changing mediums, lying fallow for a time, or taking up something radically different.

I started a drawing class at our local art guild, hoping for social contact and a reconnect of some kind with an old skill that I used to love.  Neither wish has been granted so far, despite sweaty effort to clear a path through my mental minefields.

I’m frightened.  Arting is my last, best safety net, the place I can always go when the bipolar demons scream the loudest.  It’s gone for now, and I can’t imagine what to do with this void or how I’ll manage.

I’m bone and brain tired, so I know enough not to make more of this than it is.  Something will present itself.  There’s plenty of room for it to wander in.  Until then, I guess I wait with empty hands.

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 Moment is Enough

Emmett has his own way of getting the day started.  He scuttles up to my pillow and whacks me in the face with his tail.  He’s not subtle, this second-fiddle cat who got promoted to Concert Master last December.  I consider myself trained.

From bedroom to kitchen in the gray, half-light, stiff joints find their rhythm.  The ritual of cat food alchemy and kitchen clean-up come from muscle memory, not any sort of gray matter function.  That, in itself, is a miracle.

It’s been a week since my new Medicare drug insurance ended the two month gap where I had no coverage.  I rationed three weeks of meds over those two months and learned, decisively, that Vyvanse helps the depressive part of my bipolar existence.  Without it, I made piles of my possessions in my mind with Sticky Notes of who should get them.  I slept a good part of the day and stayed in bed the rest.  All the hobgoblins nattered ugliness in my ear. I lived in a different sort of gray world.

With Vyvanse, windows of color open.  Joy slides in with the brush of Emmett’s tail and putting paint to paper.  A different ritual starts to reform—swimming, cafés, doing the next thing.  Gratitude resurfaces—for my weekly yoga class, for my steadfast sister, for the Salty Dog Ruccicino at the Erly Rush coffee drive-through.

A cardinal just flew across the parking lot—a blaze of color in the sunlight.  Limpy, the feral calico, prowls around the cars, waiting for opportunity.  Birds chirp.  Trains rumble.  The thought of getting a massage later in the morning creates a warm spot of anticipation.

In this moment, all is peaceful.  The moment is enough.

Wax On, Wax Off

Our little Art Journaling Round Robin group is still arting strong. The theme for the journal I’m working in this month is Tales from the Kitchen.  I figured this might be a stretch since I forsook (verily!) cooking many moons ago. (In fact, I should clear out all those thirty-year-old spices in my cupboard and make more paint storage. But I digress.)

How-some-ever, during that magical time between sleep and waking one morning, a path back to the kitchen presented itself through my family’s rinderwurst. This is a meat sludge made from the left-overs of butchering, a recipe known only to my Gram and never written down.

It sounds gross, but we considered it a special treat, layered on hot pancakes. As food is wont to do, this gray delicacy carries my family’s DNA in the muscle memory of helping turn the meat grinder, listening for the canning lids to pop, and digging in together around the big kitchen table.

So, I created A Genealogy of Rinderwurst, tracing the Sorta Sausage back to my German immigrant ancestors. I used bits from Gram’s journals (yes, she broke the Journaling trail for me) and indulged in a decades-old desire to try my hand at encaustics. The golden glow of liquified beeswax gave the spread even more vintage deliciousness and puddled nicely in the paper’s dips and hollows.

I loved hooking a disgusting bit of farm history to my cache of family pictures and being brave with a new medium. I love the outcome. And I am, once again, revitalized and grateful for my Round Robin group—Tanya, Lori, Carina & Cindy—the Art Angels on my shoulder.

Choosing to be Vulnerable…or Not


“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are
when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved
and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed
and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time…
Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world
but to unglove ourselves so that the door knob feels cold
and the car handle feels wet
and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being
soft and unrepeatable.”

 

~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Over the past several weeks, the concept of vulnerability and its importance to intimacy has followed me like a stalker.  At the same time, I heard from a friend about how sad and hurt she is over my silence and disconnect; I swore at my sister (via text) for the first time in my life; and I annoyed another close friend with my narcissism (my words, not hers).

I believe without a doubt that I’ve lost the ability to listen deeply to others.  Compassion and caring used to be important to me.  They were qualities I purposefully cultivated and practiced.  I believed in the power of kindness to change the world around me.  I have also felt that belief dribbling out of me over the past decade.  I’m easily annoyed and impatient with other people’s problems. I avoid social settings and leave when I feel my tolerance unraveling. Mental illness has made me guarded, judgmental and mean.

There’s a reason therapists caution against isolation—not just because human connection is vital to all forms of health, but because the mentally ill are already vulnerable, and making real connections with others requires us to risk being more vulnerable.  It’s too hard, too painful.  So much easier to barricade behind thicker and thicker walls, then complain about being lonely.

I can see the path I’m on leading to life as a hermitic sociopath.  Maybe I’ve binge-watched too much Dexter, but I can identify with his lack of empathy and complete self-absorption.

Then, Tara Brach, or my therapist, or an article in a magazine suggests an alternative path—to “unglove” as Mark Nepo puts it.  It’s painful and terrifying.  It seems like too much work that requires more courage, more bad-assery, more, more, more.  To be fair, Tara suggests gentleness and tiny acts of willingness.  I’m not being asked to tear down the walls, just look at them.  Or sit with my back against them and feel their warmth and strength.  Still, I don’t know that it’s worth it.

And I don’t know if I have a choice.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Fashionable

There are moments, days even, when the inside and the outside come together like haute couture.  The cool, dry sunshiny weather matches my mental shoes.  The new drug insurance company that gives me everything I need comes in chartreuse and lilac, Clear Mind’s signature colors.  Birdsong is slimming.  My kitten-soft cashmere mood finds sparkly bangles at coffee shops and radiant jewels in the little rolling mountains on my drives.

It is a gift, this feeling of being harmonious and put together well.  I can feel my brain swishing her kicky little skirt as I take my chai out to the patio where morning sun shines on emerald grass.  I am part of an expensive twin-set, and for now, I will enjoy being fashionable.

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