Big Penny Positives

A while ago, I started making my Penny Positives on a small deck of playing cards to put in my Etsy shop.  My friend/customer Melinda in Seattle bought every single one.  Mel is a public school teacher and gives my cards to her other school teacher-friends to bolster their spirits.  I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a teacher in this country right now.  And I’m so proud to be the source of Mel’s spirit-lifting endeavors.

Since I need a little spirit-lifting myself today, I thought I’d start sharing those cards here.  Maybe they can turn my course a little.  Maybe they can push me back to my table to make some more.  That would be good.

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.

Blessed Assurance

These are the things that keep me going:

1.  An Etsy customer sent me this photo.

She said, “As you can see, I’ve discovered a way to set up your artwork in my apartment; I couldn’t have your cards just sitting in a shoebox in the closet. When I’ve sent out cards to friends and family, I simply replace them with something else fabulous from your shop. It’s a wonderful system; It helps me foster relationships through writing. And you should know, they always love them.”

Another customer said, “You are a warrior woman who is in Amazon training. I join you in your training and I fight the good fight as a secondary teacher who has seen enough of school shootings and is ready for both kids and teachers to feel and to be safe again at schools. Love your positive cards that pack a pint-sized punch. Going to keep some and share some with those in need of a pick me up.”

2.  Choosing to be Grateful

3. Subsonic Purrs. 

4. The moments, however fleeting, when a crack opens in my anger, or paranoia, or hopelessness, or wanting and something wise creeps in—something gentle, something breathable—that reminds me of who I am.

5.  Daily Confirmation of the Power of Art to Heal.  I trust the process completely now.  I sit with no ideas and in a few hours something remarkable creates itself.  No mistakes, no judgment, no hesitation, no Time.  It is Magic.  It is Grace.

Part of the Village

This week I went to my grandnephew’s kindergarten graduation. There’s just all kinds of weird in that sentence alone. Children. Family. Social Event. Inclusion.

The school is K-12, laid out in a campus of what reminded me of Morton buildings—low-slung, metal barns. Here’s the south side of my sister as we make our way to the auditorium building

While I’m not one to follow the endless flow of depressing national news, I am invested in Oklahoma’s educational woes.  A January report in Education Weekly ranked Oklahoma schools 47th in the nation with teachers’ salaries ranked 49th.  Teachers went on strike in April, and while the state passed a bill to raise salaries slightly, it neglected to fund the bill.  It never addressed other issues like the lack of program funding and huge class sizes

Teachers are leaving the state like psychiatrists left Iowa, fed up with a system that cares very little about the end-user or those who provide for them.

Oktah, my grandnephews’ school, is considered better than average and receives a federal grant due to its number of low-income students. The superintendent, who spoke at Zane’s graduation ceremony, asked parents and friends to stay involved. More than ever, it seems, it takes a village.

So, I was verklempt, watching my one out of forty-eight kindergarteners dance, sing and use sign language to proclaim his new status.  So was my sister, the retired teacher.

I don’t know if I can help him or his older brother.  Volunteering has always ended up a bipolar casualty.  But I’m staying open to ways I might be part of that Village, even if it’s just being another grown-up (in closer proximity now) who will listen and answer their questions.

You never know the effect of just showing up. That’s something I can do.

Visit From An Old Friend

Early morning light streams over my left shoulder onto the unfinished art quilt in my lap. After a year, it’s graduated from the unwieldy three-foot hoop to a six-incher. Almost done, it whispers to me. This part. 

Missy Higgins croons quietly from the iPod.  Sometimes every inch is bruised, and there’s nothing you can do…

The cats snooze elsewhere, satisfied that nothing superviseable is happening.

One more swallow of chai left in my mug. My favorite mug.

There’s a strange word drifting in and out of my mental rear view mirror, gaining on me, slipping through the open window and settling into the shotgun seat.

Contentment

Yes. That’s it. An old friend gone missing for years, decades, maybe. She’s one of those friends I used to chase after, trying to coax her back, trying to remember what happened to put so much distance between us.

I gave up the chase long ago. I stopped chasing after all the Used To Be’s. All that wanting kept me stuck, kept me sick. Instead, I blessed what I held in my hands.

But, here she is, back for a visit. I’m too savvy now to hope she’ll stay long, but maybe she’ll come back again, now that she knows the way.

And when Henry nestles into his companionable niche against my side, I know how he feels.

Ignition

So long, Iowa.

Thanks for giving us eleven years of sanctuary and for teaching me how to live bipolar.

Next stop: Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Countdown to Muskogee . . .7

Last session with my therapist, Megan.

Tears and gratitude.

Countdown to Muskogee. . . 12

I waver over the line of leaving and arriving, trying to come back to today where they meet.  This David Whyte poem spoke to me before I even contemplated moving and became a part of the art journal that will be published in July.  I tore this spread apart three different times, trying to find my true connection to the poem and my authentic voice in it.  It was one of the first spreads I created in the journal and one of the last I finished.  It seems fitting—the struggle of leaving and arriving—to a place and to ourselves.

 

Countdown to Muskogee. . . 15

Last week I went to my old sanctuary—the Cinemark 20 in Jordan Creek Mall in Des Moines.  It was the first place I felt really safe when I moved from Minneapolis to Marshalltown.  Those years when I was so sick and ill equipped to deal with it, the hour-drive would start to ease my mind.  But it was the theater itself that gave me a place to rest.  Dark, contained, I could distract my conscious mind with the stories onscreen, the music, the beauty, the art.  Often I spent the day going from one movie to the next with no interference from the staff.  I stayed as long as I needed for my mind to settle or shift.

Jordan Creek started my bipolar education—to know for a fact that my moods would shift and to wait for it with less fear, to appreciate the need and use of distraction, to contemplate acceptance of this terrifying part of myself.

I sat in the newly remodeled lounger seats filled with gratitude for a place that held me when nothing else could.  Memories of movies experienced rolled between my fingers like prayer beads.  I said good-bye with love.

 

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