7 Years and Counting

For A Mind Divided’s seventh birthday, I thought I’d look up my very first post.  Hmm…somehow this seems so familiar…

Insanity, Creativity and Living in the Now


When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought my life had ended.  And in a very real sense, it did.  Parts of my life fell off like flesh off a zombie–my home, my job, my friends, my ability to support myself, my ability to live independently.  In the months and years that followed, the lessons of living in the NOW and letting go of attachments kept repeating.  Living with bipolar disorder (BP) was like living in a constant fire.  It burned away everything I thought I knew about myself and how the world works.  But with fire comes new growth that could never happen otherwise.  I’m finding that to be true in my life as well.

While I always considered myself a writer, I also became an artist because of BP.  I needed a way to express the chaos I felt and the wild shifts from despair to joy and back again.  My study of the world’s religions deepened.  I explored the science and metaphysics of the brain.  I also fell in love with “Criminal Minds” and “Fringe.”

I invite you to journey with me into the overlapping realms of mental illness, creativity and spirituality.  There will be fire and ice, but also miracles.

Of that I’m certain.

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Penny Positive #55

From An Optimist’s Calendar

This. Instead of Hiding.

“Heartbreak is how we mature; yet we use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream, a child lost before their time.

Heartbreak… is something we hope we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time.

But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way… If heartbreak is inevitable and inescapable, it might be asking us to look for it and make friends with it, to see it as our constant and instructive companion, and even perhaps, in the depth of its impact as well as in its hindsight, to see it as its own reward.

Heartbreak asks us not to look for an alternative path, because there is no alternative path. It is a deeper introduction to what we love and have loved, an inescapable and often beautiful question, something or someone who has been with us all along, asking us to be ready for the last letting go.”

— David Whyte

This quote from David Whyte calls me to be open and available instead of hiding in my apartment until I move to Oklahoma. Leaving will break my heart in many ways as much as moving will give me a new way to be and a family nest. My practice, then, is to lean into the heartbreak, trusting in the gifts it will bring.

Penny Positive #54

From An Optimist’s Calendar

 

Goal Reached: Master Level

Today I’m sending a finished journal to Art Journaling Magazine.  This is a goal I set for myself last year—to create a journal to their specifications, send it in, and see if my work is publishable.

It’s taken seven months to complete, which is about twice as long as it usually takes me to fill a journal.  That’s because it pushed my envelope like silly putty.

The book itself was a beautifully crafted, handmade journal with pages of mulberry paper that I bought a long time ago and never used.  Mulberry paper is handmade, wispy with lots of long fibers.  Pretty, but hard to write on.  I had to Frankenstein it to make the pages semi-workable, and then I added scraps of watercolor paper with the noble intention of doing a lot of my own drawing and sketching.  Not only did that not happen, it just added to the bulk and weirdness of the pages.

As per publishing requirements, a submitted journal must not use copyrighted material in the artwork (which means no Pretend Boyfriends, evocative National Geographic images or current advertising—basically, everything in my arting arsenal).

Sorry, Boys

 

 

 

 

 

 

I struggled with this monster for months, and then the binding broke.  Suddenly I could breathe.

I started journaling differently, using my words as design instead of Great Thoughts that needed to be preserved.  I wrote over previous entries, then wrote over them again.  I wrote on napkins and tissue paper that made the words practically disappear when glued to a painted page.  When written over and over with different pens, different colors, the background takes on a lovely Serial Killer vibe.  Mixed with the right images and some cheesecloth scrap, I found a whole new way of evoking Crazy (my favorite topic).

I’d go to antique malls and use whatever I found.  Mixed with a few scraps of my own, I could still tickle myself and make pages with hats.  Putting hats on critters just makes my day.

I found these girls and a deck of Slap Jack when I visited my sister over Christmas.  I made this spread while I was there, and it’s still one of my favorites.

I sent along a query letter with several proposals for articles—about how hard this was, about art journaling as therapy, about shifting from Writer to Artist, and the thoughts and techniques that went into some of the spreads.  I covered all my bases.  And if the good folks at Stampington and Company send my journal back with a “Thanks, but no thanks” note, I’ll still be satisfied.  I met a Big Goal.  I stretched as an artist.  It’s ALL good.

 

Penny Positive #53

From An Optimist’s Calendar

 

Penny Positive #52

From An Optimist’s Calendar

 

Penny Positive #51

From An Optimist’s Calendar

 

Penny Positive #50

From An Optimist’s Calendar

To Boldly Go

Split infinitive.

You’d think Gene Roddenberry would have known better.

Still, Bill Shatner could Shakespearize anything, even bad grammar.

But I digress.

Boldly going, I’m moving to Oklahoma.

My sister and I started talking about it when I visited her there over Christmas.  We let it sit a while to see if it was just holiday cheer and wishful thinking, then decided the plan had legs.  What really put shoes on those legs, though, was my brother’s offer to support me enough to live somewhere other than subsidized housing.

It’s been a shock, really, to be given this unconditional support, to know that my siblings are with me, to come to understand that I am not alone.  We didn’t grow up this way, you see.  Grand generosity was never our family’s forté.  Small gifts, yes.  Limited support with strings, yes. Pull up your big girl panties and stand on your own two feet lectures, yes.  This level of largess requires a complete brain dump and reboot.  What I thought I knew as truth isn’t.

I’m also struggling with the urge to hide in my apartment until it’s time to move.  I can feel myself disengaging from my life here, from both difficult and delightful relationships, from the activities that fill this life.  All the reasons I want and need to leave this place rear up like trained elephants, trumpeting and rolling wild eyes at me.

But I have a trip to Taos at the end of February, to make art with friends and breathe in the mountains of the West.  I want to enjoy that trip.  And I know I will need time afterward for my brain to do what it does with change and stress.  It will be well into spring before I leave this little apartment that I’ve worked so hard to make into a Nest.  I need to stay present and grounded in now, take care of my friendships, do the work in front of me each day.

In the meantime, my sister is in High Research Mode, talking to her realtor friends and sussing out neighborhoods.  In a month or so, she’ll start looking at places for me to rent.  She has my Must Have list (I have several lists going—that’s one way to keep the Greener Pastures Gremlins from taking over).

Transition is always a challenge, as is stress.  Even good stress.  So, while I do the work in front of me, I must also Do My Work.  Be kind, gentle and generous with myself.  Allow the terrified elephants a chance to walk on four feet and sing themselves to sleep.

Because (all together now), I’m on an Adventure.

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