Two weeks since I returned from my cross-country sojourn, and I still can’t find the words. But, that’s never stopped me. Words come. They tumble down the nerve bundles from brain to fingertip and hit the keyboard all by their lonesome. My mistake is in thinking I have to go looking for them.
A small part of taking this trip was curiosity. ArtFest, my destination of record, was a gathering of art journalers. I’ve tried art journaling in the past, even made my own journals, but it never stuck. I journal—a fast, Artists Way kind of brain dump that vomits everything onto the page as fast as possible—and I make collage art—a multi-step process that can take days or months.
Could I find a way to combine the two forms? I went to Port Townsend without a need to make it happen, just a willingness to keep an open mind and play with fun toys.
The question followed me from that creative crucible, down through the Redwoods, and into a conversation with my friend, Robert. That’s the thing about people of a Buddhist persuasion—if there’s a question lurking in the back of your psyche, they’ll winkle it out of you, one way or the other.
So, in the course of our conversation, I blurted out that my real Work was to Be Me—to be in the world as mindfully as I could, to use all my parts (nefarious, broken or skilled), to accept them all, and just show up.
I almost looked around the coffee shop to see who was talking. Words tumbled out of my mouth, prompted by nerve bundles attached to a question tucked in my gray matter. Words I obviously had no control over. Words that made absolute sense.
I was talking about integration. And I could feel it happening, like a broken bone knitting together or a spider spinning a fragile web across space. And as I left Durango, the sensation continued. I talked to it, held it gently, never pushing or setting expectations. I wanted to see what it would do, not me.
So, I continued to work in the journal we made at ArtFest, pulling everything about my trip into it, creating something new, something more. At the same time, I dug out the journals I’d made years ago and wondered what might happen in them. And I pulled out my SoulCollage© materials, because they were another piece of this emerging creative process.
In a few days, the severe depression that usually peaks this time of year arrived—another part of me accepted and welcomed. Not that the despair and hopelessness are any easier to ride. I felt them drain my energy and confidence. I heard all the old fears and horrors settle into their usual corners. And as I sobbed with my therapist on Thursday, I also knew the pain and darkness as a valuable part of me. This, too, Tara Brach might say.
I’m comfortable being the brave, battling, Bipolar Bad-Ass. Proud, even. But it’s much harder to let others see my seriously brain-sick self. I feel too vulnerable, too liable to hurt myself or others with my pain, too out of control. It’s part of the illness to want to hide, to keep the truth of it on a leash, to just wait until the cycle shifts and I can present as more-normal. Instead, I joined my spiritual study group on Thursday—exhausted, incoherent, weeping—and felt the truth of integration even then.
My showing up touched each of them in different ways. Etta called it a gift. Martha said, “We want you with us, no matter what state you’re in.” Chuck, whose daughter also struggles with BP, wishes what I have for her.
This is the path, then. To use it all—in the world and in my creative efforts. No need to look for words or have a plan. I’ve got everything I need.