In the Gray

I’ve shared this journal spread a couple other places, so I’m sorry if its old news.  But this is where I am—in the Gray of disconnect and apathy.  Gray doesn’t carry the anguish or hopelessness of The Black.  It’s colorless and adrift, lonely while being intolerant of companionship, and capable of being distracted without too much effort.

I Don’t Care is the name of a restaurant here in Muskogee (as in “Where do you want to eat?”  Answer: “I don’t care.”). I think it’s a horrible name for a place of business, but it suits me as an anthem right now.  Maybe I do care a lot, and it’s easier to say I don’t.  I’d have to expend too much energy to dig out the truth of it.  Just doesn’t seem worth the effort.

So, I will pass time.  Mark time.  Exist.  Hard to tell in the mist.

A Normal Day

Normal.  My normal.  Making.  Allowing.  Taking delight in both.

This morning’s batch of new background papers for cards.

A bag of magazines from the library awaits my snips.

Pages from 100-year-old almanacs rehydrate on the kitchen counter.

I’m pondering how to make “month” cards along with the zodiac line I already have.  January, February… what might be beautiful? What might be meaningful? Clues in the old almanacs I’ve snipped apart.  Clues in poetry.  Clues in color.

Glue cards make their way to Etsy customers, but I might have to keep this one.

And in a little bit, I go get a massage.

A lovely, normal day.

 

 

A Slow Leak

Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed an ongoing shift in my mental weather.  It’s subtle, quiet, not alarming or uncomfortable.  I can only describe it as a slow leak of caring.  I’m not interested in much beyond making my bits of art and maintaining creature comforts.  This I attributed to lung crud overlapping Henry-grief.  It seemed pretty normal to me, and not worth fussing about.

And it’s not completely new.  I go through cycles of pulling back, detaching, giving the Hermit full reign.  In the past, those cycles included some kind of mental anguish or agitation.  Not so now.  I’m curiously uninterested in friends or family, untroubled by minor annoyances.

So, I confessed to my therapist yesterday in the spirit of full disclosure.  And, I think, to make sure nothing else might be going on.  She agreed that sickness and grief were probably in play, and that I was correct in taking it in stride.  Although, she did ask for my promise to call her if thoughts of suicide became a daily occurrence.  That seemed a bit drastic, but Sonya doesn’t know me that well yet, so her caution and concern are actually quite endearing.  I promised.

Today will be another spent on my bed with art supplies, Emmett, and the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation keeping me company (This was the season Michelle Forbes joined the cast as Ensign Ro Laren—Michelle Forbes who stars with Richard Armitage in Epix’s Berlin Station and who seems to be his current amour.  Seven Degrees of Star Trek.).

I will be content, unaffected by other people or the world.  It seems a little weird, but I’m not complaining.i

Productive with Phlegm

After a long and noble battle, my immune system took to her fainting couch, and bronchitis cackled its phlegmy victory.  I’m actually delighted to have gone almost ten months without lung crud.  Setting up the sickroom and soup kitchen was second nature.  Plus, my sister ran for juice and other essentials in the early days, so that was a new comfort and indulgence.  Thanks, Sissy.

I’ve been in a card-making mood for several weeks, and just moved everything into bed with me.  Counting up this morning, I’ve made 62 cards and little Penny Positive collages in the past two weeks.  They just flow—a positive role model for all my bodily Humours.

As my Etsy shop fattens, Emmett and I relax with some series or other on the TV, the bed full of paper and ribbons.  A mug of Gypsy Cold Care tea steams on one bedside table, snips and tweezers sit on the other.  Yes, there is coughing and dizziness, and Emmett’s weight loss, but we are companionable and warm and here.

In fact, I hear my bed calling.  A new batch of cards longs to be created with the awful first season of Star Trek: Next Gen on Netflix to keep us company.  Think how many we can make by the time we get to the seventh season series ender!

Moments of a Quiet Life

 

The Monotony and Solitude of a Quiet Life Stimulates the Creative Mind. — Albert Einstein

°

It’s been quiet inside and outside for a bit.  That’s always a gift.

In the space, I’ve been making a lot of cards.  I was called to make a sympathy card for my cousin’s son whose family just lost their dog.  It touched me so that I made more for my Etsy shop.  The words came from all the support and kindness given to me when Henry passed—especially from my friend Sue, who lost her cat, Lucky, last year.  She showed me the path I would be taking with my grief, and I wanted others to benefit.  I love this photo anyway, so I doubly love this card.

I started getting a drippy nose on Friday and thought a head cold was imminent, so I dragged my supplies into bed with me.  Of all the stuff I’ve done in bed (art-wise!), I’ve never made cards.  I keep so much STUFF to choose from, I thought it would be impossible.  But, it was good for me to get up and choose ribbon while pouring more grapefruit juice, wheel my paper box into the bedroom while soup irradiated in the microwave.  I made a dozen cards yesterday while flipping through one bad Netflix show after another.  And after a little fever spike and loading up on zinc, my cold seems to be gone.

I think this is An Oklahoma Gift.  In one of the shows I watched yesterday, someone said you either love the place you live or you don’t.  People who grow to love a place have just learned to ignore the things they still hate.

Is that a bad thing?  Does appreciation for the place where you’re planted have to be pure to be real?

In this quiet space, I can feel my gratitude for nine months without lung crud and the mild winter weather.  In the quiet, I can be thankful for lost cousins and reconnection.  I can use my hands and my stuff in different ways to touch others’ lives.

I’m on a Quiet Adventure.

Art Nesting

I’ve left several art housekeeping projects hanging for months and months, projects that take time and attention, projects that get tedious after a while.  But there’s something in my bipolar wind that wanted to tidy up and get ready for what’s next.

The first goal was to update my card caption list.  After I glean a goodly amount of captions for my cards from old magazines and books, I add them to my Gleans List on the computer and file the cut-out snips in my homemade Glean Rolodex.

A few years ago, I started adding little legends to the list to note which captions might be appropriate for birthdays, sympathy, and especially my zodiac cards.  When I need to make a Pisces card, it’s so much handier to flip through the list and look for the little legend instead of pulling out all my notes about Pisces and finding something that will match.

Either way, it’s time-intensive, and I’d given up on making the legends.  So for the past several months, I’ve taken my astrology notes and marked up a page or two from my list.  I finally finished last week and printed out a new, 38-page list.  Oh, that felt good.

My other housekeeping task is still in progress, but I can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel.

Along with captions, I also keep a file of gleaned letters of the alphabet.  I love to use miss-matched lettering in my journal.  It would be simpler and faster to just hand-letter captions and titles, but I love the psycho-killer look.  Go figure.

I recently cut apart three books on art journaling and harvested a ton of funky lettering.  Like captions, this is an ongoing project, but with so much to “process,” I knew I needed to devote some serious time to getting my letters organized.

Letters, especially the teeny ones, jump like fleas.  I know I’ll find them under the bed, under Emmett, and in my coffee no matter how careful I am.  I need lots of light and my best glasses to snip the letters apart.  Then, I sort them into four different sizes (which gets pretty random sometimes, especially if I’ve been at it a while).  Eventually, I have a dedicated bag in my traveling art studio of letters I can pull out and use quickly.

My last act of preparedness is something new.  Whenever I make zodiac cards, I make just enough background paper for the task at hand.  It’s another time-intensive creative process that I love, and I like making each batch a little unique.  But since my zodiac cards continue to be popular in my Etsy shop, I thought I’d try making more than I need and have some extra on hand.  I’ve made the papers for the Air, Water and Earth signs.  I’ll finish up with Fire today.

I’m not sure what all this tidying is about.  With the holidays behind me and over a month since Henry passed, maybe there’s room in my emotional carpet bag for other things.  Winter feels spacious here.  Knots and clots seem to be loosening.  Whatever it is, I’m thankful for it.  A Good Spell in Bipolarland is always a treasure.  And a little nesting always welcomes the next Adventure.

Walk-About

Last Sunday, I took my first neighborhood walk.  I’ve wanted to get out there ever since summer went away, but the excuses… oh the excuses.  Somehow, last Sunday, the bright sun and mild temperatures snuck past all the barriers.  I laced up my purple tennies, stuffed a collection bag in my pocket and went.

My creaky knee complained, but it always complains, so I kept a slow pace.  I sorta had to—my exercise regimen since moving to Muskogee boils down to Old Lady Yoga once a week and maybe a few pool laps once or twice a month.  My old rhythm is gone and a new one hasn’t presented itself, so I’m pushing when I can.  I want to enjoy this place, and getting outside this winter will move my pendulum in that direction.

Leaving Edmond Street, I took Kimberlea Drive.  Traveling east from my duplex toward the country club, the neighborhood perked up—larger homes, sturdier fences, dogs with holiday attire.  I wondered if I’d find enough refuse and biologicals to revive my Walk-About Journal. Is street trash in moderately upscale Muskogee different from a park in Des Moines or the woods near Toledo? This was my mission.

The neighborhood felt familiar—with a few exceptions.  I get this a lot—a sort of Twilight Zone slippage of the space-time continuum—Braums instead of Dairy Queen, Sooners instead of Hawkeyes.  I wonder what cultural cues I’m missing.  My cousin in Tulsa kindly informed me of the real meaning of “bless your heart” (which conveys nothing beatific).  The part of my brain that wrestled with Russian and Vietnamese keeps lighting up.  No wonder I’m so tired.

Once I made it to the golf course, I hobbled to a bench, stretched my grumbling back, and turned my face to the sun.  A whiff of breeze on the waterway, a rustle of fallen leaves. Oh, yeah.  This was the Reason for the Season—to be in a quiet place smelling of sky.  This would be worth the body moans to come.

On my way back, I reminded myself to be present, to notice more detail—the wheat color of the grass, the young couple walking toward me in shorts and tee-shirts, the beauty of a lost Christmas ornament.

And then home again, to be greeted by my Gateway Guardians—Fu Dog, who came with me from Minnesota, and Guillermo the Goat, a recent hire.  I love the entrance to my home, tucked in the back corner of the complex.  My Guardians and a glass bowl full of crystals and stones I’ve managed to keep over the years welcome me with color and meaning.

Inside, I unloaded my foraging finds into soapy water and dug out the appropriate journals.  Some of the biologicals would make nice additions to my little Zen of Mental Illness journal.  The other refuse waited until after Christmas.

As always, Christmas triggered my bipolarness.  It is one thing about this unpredictable condition that I can count on.

I cared for myself the best I could, then tried not to take the whole weepy/distorted thinking/exhaustion personally.  Distraction is key, so before I visited my therapist on Wednesday, I camped at my favorite coffee shop and made trash art gleaned from my walk.  It tickled me, and that’s always the first step back.  One foot after the other, continuing on The Adventure.

A Marker

I think I know something.  I think I feel something happening.  But, I can’t trust what I think or feel.  So I write it here to plant a marker.  Later, I can come back to this marker to learn the truth of it.  Maybe.

Maybe there is no truth, just the shifting sands of perception.  Maybe it’s best to let go of the idea of truth and simply breathe.

Yet, my mind wants to take note.  To point its finger.  To take a picture for its scrapbook.

So, I comply.

I think it takes more effort to leave my home.  Going outside, in the world, does not appeal to me.  I make plans—to join my sister’s family for Thanksgiving, to swim, to see a movie—and when the moment comes, I stay.  Being out in the world has always been hard work, a constant push against my neurodiversity.  Some days are easier than others.  Some days the barrier between in and out seems thin.  I can tell myself that I’ll be glad when I’m there, which has been accurate most of the time.  It is accurate less and less now.

When I am on my bed, with the cats sleeping between the piles of a project, with an episode of Friends or a Netflix movie running, I am content.  I laugh out loud and blink tears like any other human being.  I make beautiful and interesting things that create wonder in me.

When I am out, I am aware of how hard I am working.  I feel the effort of making conversation, the strain of blocking noise and triggers.  I’m not sure its worth the effort anymore.

Isolation is a symptom.  Every mental health caregiver in my life told me to fight against it.  What if I don’t?

What if I don’t?

My Anti-Hate Campaign…

…Or Training Myself to Grow Where I’m Planted.

In the wilting swamp of summer, with depression and agitation kicking up a Pig Pen Black Cloud, I found myself hating Oklahoma.  What I gained by moving seemed minuscule compared to what I’d lost.

Thankfully, I’ve done this work long enough to know I was not seeing the whole picture. I needed clarity.  I needed objectivity.  I needed to turn the Bipolar Bus around.

So, I started my Anti-Hate Campaign.

I pulled out a blank journal and started making A Plan—to be specific, to separate my “hates” into piles, and to brainstorm ideas on how to make changes.  I approached this journal like any other, painting and collaging the pages with care, using colors I love, letting the art of the process lead me.  Loving the journal itself encouraged me to pick it up and tackle the next phase.

I found that most of the “hates” I labeled unmanageable carried some seed of change, either in my perception or in a sideways action.  The state’s poverty and poor education system overwhelmed me, so I noodled about becoming more informed about specific problems.  I subscribed to the Tulsa World and looked for speaker forums to attend.  As other ideas come, into the journal they go.

The cooler weather brought all kinds of physical and mental relief.  I came back to ideas I’d had in April about making my duplex into a place of sanctuary and inspiration.  I rearranged my sitting room, painted and hung a screen door to be used as an Idea/Celebration Board, and found the perfect, Feng Shui-enhancing poster of Wonder Woman.

Outside, I asked permission to create a rock garden between the edge of my cement patio and the privacy wall.  I spent a satisfying day leveling ground and hauling rock, then sitting in my sister’s borrowed patio chair to enjoy the breeze and my handiwork.  Artful doo-dads and whirligigs will be added in due time.

Because of my journal and texts with my friend, Cheryl, I realized that hating where I live is just another bipolar symptom.  Anger, agitation and loathing rise up and attach themselves to whatever is handy.  An unfamiliar, uncomfortable place is a perfect target.  As I continue to do this Work of shifting perception and turning toward joy, I will learn to recognize that symptom sooner and take steps to be gentle with it.

And I will feel my roots growing deeper into Oklahoma’s red earth.

The Work Starts Today

This is my work today: To start finding ways to love living in Oklahoma instead of hating it.  I know there’s a way to do it.  Or ways.  I might need help, so if anyone has ideas—trite, condescending, stupid-sounding—I want to hear them.  They will make me mad.  I won’t want to listen.  I will clutch my perceived Truths until my fingers bleed.  And I need to let go if I’m going to survive.

I don’t just want to survive.  I want to thrive.  How do I do that when I’m filled with loathing?  Well, I can’t.  I need to find the drain plug on all the disappointment, judgment, rage and hopelessness.  Fast.  I need a brand new perspective, one that hasn’t occurred to me yet.  One the Bipolar Badass never imagined.

This is what I will do today:

•Make a list of what I hate most and decide if those things are manageable or not.  If they are, I can brainstorm another list on how to change them.  If they aren’t, I must find a way to manage me.

•At the same time, focus on what I love and am grateful for.  A new art journal spread is calling.

•Start re-reading Radical Acceptance as this book opened me to accepting myself.  I know there are other treasures there.

•Manage my illness.  There are things other than art that make my bipolarness easier.  I need to identify them and gently reincorporate them until they become routine again.

This is a lot.  Maybe too much to begin with.  But, today I will start.

I’ve always said that Life is an Adventure.  I want to come back to that perspective, and to find the next outgrowth of that perspective.  What is the next thing?  I will search and listen, be active and be quiet, breathe and wait.  I’ll find it.

I know I will.

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