We Might As Well Dance

handmade greeting card, collage artAh, the bloom is definitely off the bipolar rose.  After two days of bone-melting exhaustion and brain-fog, there’s no doubt depression has rolled back in.  (I can hear Elton John belting out Circle of Life amid tribal drums—or maybe that’s just another of my nattering, negative voices caught in a brain crevasse).

Three weeks of stability is a fabulous run, no matter what comes next.  Three weeks is enough time to make change into habit.  So, I’m hoping all the tightwaddery I put into place this past month can withstand the storm.  My good friend, Nancy, has offered me a massage on Thursday.  And although I’ll be driving to Des Moines for that, I have no inclination to stay for a movie, a Starbucks, or any other indulgement that costs money.  That, alone, feels like a success.  Instead I get to meet up with my old meditation buddies for lunch and a sit.  Better than a venti mocha any day.

As always, it hurts to feel my clarity go.  Darker thoughts invade, fussiness, and a kind of chronic brooding that uses up my mental energy.  Thoughts twist and turn back on themselves.  I miss the simple directness, the grammar school progression from A to B to C.  Now the alphabet gets scrambled and stuck together with sludge.  It takes so much effort to get the wheels of my brain out of the mud.

But, this is the circle of my life—changing dance partners as the waltz ends and the fox trot begins, stumbling a little as I adjust my step, and getting whirled back out onto the dance floor.  Beyond my ballroom, the seasons turn as well.  Spring comes tomorrow, bringing the equinox and a moment of balance before spinning off in another direction.  Dancers, seasons, all circling round each other and themselves.  It’s all we have, this weird spiral, so we might as well dance.

The Second Elephant on my Chest

This pneumonia business is taking its sweet time clearing out.  I’m still having trouble taking a deep breath.  It’s like the proverbial elephant sitting on my chest.  But this morning I realized there’s another pachyderm squatting on me as well.

Last night I had an opportunity to go shopping with my girlfriends.  But I only had $40 to last me until my next Disability check comes on October 3.  That $40 had to cover groceries, gas for the truck, and any other purchases.  So, I did a rare and scary thing.  I asked my sister to let me take $200 out of my emergency fund (which she controls).  My sister is a gentle guardian.  She always sends me the money I ask for—no interrogations, no judgments.  When the check came in the mail, I put $100 in my checking account and kept $100 in cash.

Even though I’ve been too depressed to think clearly, I was giddy last night.  I actually bought myself Halloween twinkle lights ($5) and two new spiral notebooks ($2 each)—one with The Dark Knight on the cover and the other with The Avengers.  I felt deliciously decadent and rich beyond measure.  While my friends shopped for clothes, I wandered through the racks.  Such gorgeous fabrics!  Such flattering designs!  It was a visual feast.  When I checked the price tags, I just couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing.  One top cost as much as a week’s worth of groceries.  Clearly, I’d taken a misstep somewhere.  I felt dizzy and couldn’t catch my breath.

Poverty is the second elephant pinning me down.  Last night I let loose and stocked up on spaghetti and soup at Costco, but normally I fret over every dime.  When my bipolar compulsions push me to “throw money away,” it’s usually to buy a pizza or get take out from the local Chinese restaurant.  We’re talking $15 at the most, but that’s enough to make me park the truck for the rest of the month and walk everywhere I need to go.

There is no margin in poverty.  There’s only shuffling around the few dollars I have.  Do I pay the doctor bill this month or try to whittle down my VISA bill (which I use to pay for gas)?  Can I afford coffee today, or do I need to stick to ice water?  Can I make myself cook a meal when I’m so depressed I’m afraid to turn on the stove?

I don’t write this for sympathy or as a plug for donations.  Most of the time, I manage just fine.  I’ve learned to live very simply and to mediate my bipolar splurges.  It’s just when the elephant eases up a little, like she did last night, I see how heavy she really is.  Money, or the lack of it, colors every interaction with my family and friends, it determines my activities, my diet, my grooming—every choice there is to make.  I’ve become a person who relies on the generosity of my circle—someone who has gotten comfortable accepting gifts.  Pride is a thing of the past—well—I still worry about looking like a homeless person.  Maybe that’s because I’m so close to being one.

I don’t know what to do to make this situation any better.  I’ve tried going back to work—several times—to disastrous results.  I’ve applied for all social assistance programs.  I try to keep my expenses to the bare minimum.  The only thing I could think of today was to research Etsy and try to sell my greeting cards online.  So I worked on that for hours.  In a few days, I’ll have a “shop” up and running, but I can’t think much money will come pouring in.

All I can do is put the Word out to the Universe—I need more abundance in my life.  Since this is the cusp of the Autumn Equinox, it seems fitting to be setting an intention for balance and plenty.  I’m well aware that the Universe answers in unexpected and startling ways.  I’m ready for whatever answer comes.

The Dream of Equinox

This is one of those magical times of the year when we hover on a cusp.  For a moment we balance between light and dark, neither summer or winter but both.  We are not Either/Or, but And/Also.  In my part of the country, we can feel the change in temperature, see the new slant of the sun.  Change is coming, but it’s not here quite yet.

For me, the Equinox carries a dreamy quality.  Time slows to that one pin-point moment of balance.  A clock inside me resets.  A shutter snaps.  And then, I’m on the other side, sliding into winter, the paradigm changed.

Equinox feels even more poignant this year as my family stands on a cusp.  Settling Dad in the nursing home yesterday seemed unreal, dreamlike.  I found myself slipping in and out of time.  Listening to my mom’s nervous chatter, I felt my attention narrow to the slide of my hand across her back, the softness of her sweatshirt, the vulnerability of her small shoulders.  Then, I would look up and catch my sister’s eyes.  Is this the balance point?  When we blink, will we slide into winter?

Aides, nurses, social workers, dietitians, our family all crowded into one side of the double room, talking over the roommate’s blaring TV, talking over each other, darting in and out of the room in a jittery dance.  All the while, Dad sat in the new lift chair, his hands folded over his belly, his gaze focused on an empty spot in the room, the dream wrapped around him.  I wondered how long he could rest in that balance point, how long he could stretch the moment before crossing the threshold into what’s to come.

A shutter snapped.  And now we are all on the other side.

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