Temba, His Arms Wide*

After a few days of sneaky depression, the kind of depression that makes it sensible to lie to my therapist about why I cancelled my appointment, I shoved myself out the door with my art supplies.

There’s always a point in The Black when It starts to thin, when a crack seems possible.  If I push too soon, The Black swallows me with doubt, failure, hopelessness.  I’ve learned to wait, to leave the insanity of my thoughts alone.  In The Black, waiting feels like giving up.  It’s not.  It’s just waiting.

At the coffee shop, I felt the crack.  Like a door ajar in the night, a thin line of light cut across my dark floor.  With that crack of light came a flood of gifts.  Real ones.

My friend, Sue, sent me one of her Care Packages full of Entertainment Weeklys, refrigerator magnets, a CD of her favorite show tunes and the most thoughtful piece of jewelry I’ve ever owned.  She had a necklace made from a picture of Henry.  It looks just like him.

Another friend texted to say that since I’ve always supported his music, he’s sending me an early (and secret, shhhh) CD of the songs he’s recorded so far in the studio.  I know he could be bigger than Billy Joel.

My landlord texted to say she sent my worries about the strong mold smell in my sitting room to Management.  They asked her and her husband/maintenance man to come check it out today.  I’m so relieved.  Visions of black mold have been dancing in my dreams.

An artist/teacher I met at The Muskogee Art Guild emailed me to say the drawing class I so dearly wanted to take and couldn’t afford would be covered by a scholarship.  And my friend, Sally, confirmed the date of her birthday party back in Iowa, so I can take a trip back home and take the class.

There are other gifts, but these blinded me.  Light does that when a person has been sitting in the Dark

I’m mindful of standing open-armed instead of denying or shaking off these gifts, receiving and being warmed.

I am full of color today.

*Caution: Star Trek reference.  The following YouTube bit doesn’t relate at all to this post, but I love this guy’s take on said ST:TNG reference.

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.

Once Again, Thankful

I love my blog.  I never came here to do anything except tell my story—whatever that might mean.  I never expected to find deep connections.  I never expected to touch so many lives.  Or to be touched by so many.  The only conditions I placed on my posts were to tell the truth and to wait long enough to know what the truth might be in a given situation.

Keeping this space for almost eight years means it has also become my memory.  Electroshock not only eliminated 2006 and 2007, but continues to burn holes in the process that changes short-term into long-term memory.  I stopped fussing about that long ago.  Being forced to live in the Now is a pretty decent way to live.

As I think about making some sort of journal/tribute for Henry, though, I mourn all the stories I’ve forgotten, all the little details, the ways he, Emmett and I became a family.  So, when I sit down to write about him, I start with what I notice now.  This morning I wrote about how quiet the house is without him.  That thought led to another and another, stitching together fragments of memories into a surprising string of delight and appreciation.

And I come to my blog, where Henry’s stories remain clear and available.  I took more pictures of the cats so I could illustrate those stories.  How grateful I am to have this reliquary!  Who knew how smart I was in 2011 to fiddle around with WordPress?

As Emmett and I rearrange ourselves around and within the space that was Henry, I’ll keep coming here to share our truths.  Today, Emmett is soaking up the morning sun in the Alpha chair.  When I came home from yoga (noticing the silence instead of Henry’s irritated greeting), and saw Emmett basking, I took pictures.  This is an important moment for him, for us, for our life now.

The sun and the silence.  And the Adventure Continues.

(This song by the Wailin Jennys has always felt like Henry to me—his energy, his personality—so I share him with you in a slightly different way.)

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.

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. . . 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.

 

Saying Good-Bye Well: Part 2

Today was my last appointment with my therapist, Megan.  Last week I had my last visit with my nurse practitioner, Sarah.  There’s been a lot of blubbing (as the BBC might say), and not all on my side of the couch.

I thought I would be a mess.  These two women saved my life many times over.  They taught me how to be bipolar and still function in the world.  When they set up their clinic almost three years ago, they created a sanctuary for me where I was always welcome to hang out with my art supplies.  They are the most professional care providers I’ve ever had.  And I know, without a doubt, that they love me.

I know, too, that their consistency is the reason I can leave them.  I take everything they’ve taught me, their humor, and their open-heartedness with me.  I will be fine, whoever I find in Muskogee to be my therapist.  It will be a new relationship enriched by the healthy, positive ones I had with Megan and Sarah.

Today, the three of us ate lunch in Sarah’s office, laughing and leaking tears in equal measure.  I know this sounds horrid, but their distress lifted me up.   I’ve been struggling with all the uncertainty of this move—not knowing when it will happen, making lists I can’t act on.  Today’s loving closure gave me a much-needed sense of a job well done.  I drove home feeling lighter than I had in weeks.

In her card to me, Megan wrote in part:

I am a better person and a better provider because of the things I have learned in our work together.  You are super fucking awesome, and I will miss you tremendously.

Sarah wrote:

“In a world of ordinary mortals, you are a wonder woman.” —Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman’s mom).  I will miss you dearly.

I am so grateful to have had them on My Adventure.

The Birchwood Team. Megan—back row, second from left. Sarah—front row, in the chair

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