Floating a Little


And to everyone who responded to yesterday’s blog post with such generosity, kindness and compassion.  It is still pretty bleak in my world, but at least I took a shower.  And I feel something today other than done.  Thank you for that.

 

• 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.

Isolation and Mental Wellness…

…are incompatible. At least that’s what every Professional has told me since I was a wee Bipolarling . Self-isolation is one of the diagnostic tick boxes for clinical depression in the DSM–5. It can act as a harbinger of worsening symptoms and suicide.

But what happens when isolation, or Social Distancing, isn’t something we choose? If the studies about what solitary confinement does to a prisoner’s brain apply—even to a small degree— a different kind of crisis might be around the bend for those of us Around the Bend.  And perhaps for the Neuro-Normal as well.

Or not.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve had it drilled into me that being alone too much is BAD. Over the past two years, I’ve gotten used to not interacting with another soul for days. I’m finding that the less I interact with people, the less I’m able to interact, like the prisoners who suffered solitary confinement.  I can see and feel that socializing is a muscle that needs regular use to keep from being atrophied.  But my current therapist isn’t alarmed. I’m older now—geriatric—and she says solitude in that age bracket is normal.

Huh.

I’m not sure what to think about that. Do I actually have permission to stop trying so hard to make connections? It would be like ditching the bra when you get home—such a relief! Or is there something more subtle going on. Depression in the elderly is more common than most people think. So, could solitude and depression still be in play? Is some level of depression considered (by Professionals) normal for older folk?

My therapist thinks not.  She says elder folk suffer more situational depression from death of loved ones, loss of income, physical debilitation and the like.  In my mind, that’s a lot of depression— situational or not.

I don’t want to atrophy.  I don’t want the World Brain to atrophy.  But I know it takes a lot of work to push past the barriers of isolation—work that’s gotten harder and harder to justify in my own cramped mind.  Will the World be willing to work that hard when the pandemic fades?

 

Floating a Little

Virtual Doggy Kisses

• 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.

Small Acts of Support

I’ve been reading about small acts of kindness and support that make a huge difference in the long run.  And we’re in this for the long run.  So, I’m brainstorming different ideas about how I can make a contribution in my small way.

Lisa Vollrath is sponsoring a Glue Card Swap of Good Thoughts that I’m going to participate in. Glue Cards are usually made out of trash, junk mail, recycled anything.  Down and dirty collage that’s fast and EASY.  So, if you’re the least bit interested, visit Lisa’s site and sign up.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting more Penny Positives and any other art that comes from a place of breath and love—like the Glue Card here.  I make these from scraps with a glue stick on old postcards, then stick them in my Etsy orders as a little thank you.  Sometimes these cards end up funnier than anything in my shop.  Or sweeter, like this Hello, Kitty girl (I love Hello Kitty).

What kinds of small things are you all doing to help yourself stay sane and to pass that on?

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.

The Finger and The Moon

Ο

Coming back today after a swift dip into the Dark Side.  This time I was triggered by an encounter.  I knew I was being triggered, felt the color bleed out and a numbness spread into my limbs.  Under the fear and vulnerability, a part of my brain murmured, “Huh. This is different.”  There is almost never a direct cause and effect to my flavor of bipolar disorder.  Watching something specific set me off was a new experience (I think.  My memory is Swiss cheese, after all).

At the time, I was horrified that I’d gotten myself in a position to be triggered, hated that I got sucked into opening up to someone I wanted to trust.  But, I also sent out an SOS to my Posse, and started Doing the Work, as my friend, Lily, says.

Part of The Work was to separate the event from the subsequent bipolar episode.  It’s like remembering that the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.  If you stare at the finger, that’s all you see.  Moonlight glints off the nail bed. It can be hypnotizing.  I dealt with the finger and was required to turn and face the moon.  The moon is familiar.  I know how to look at it—I have tools to deal with lunacy.  And I know that patience and acceptance is the only way to get through the night.

Another part of the Work was to hold in my mind that I was successful in turning away from the finger.  My sad and flagellating brain berated me for looking at it in the first place, but I had plenty of other voices telling me otherwise.  My posse told me I was brave to take a chance and compassionate as I gazed at it.  I needed lots of help to keep turning away and remembering that the moon was the proper focus of my attention.

I went through some white-knuckle days, but kept reaching out to the people who love me.  That act alone can be so hard when your brain tells you it’s weak, wrong, bothersome.  Oh, the crap our brains can tell us!

Today, I am so grateful for my friends and family.  And I’m even grateful for the luminous moon.

If you’re familiar with the Buddhist teaching about the finger and the moon, forgive me for bastardizing it.  I needed a way to separate the event from the symptoms that followed.  This worked for me.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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