It Takes A Village

handmand greeting card, collage artMichelle’s post today in The Green Study got me thinking.  She focused on how easy it is to over-share in blogs and wondered if it’s all just naval-gazing from self-absorbed recluses.

Well, that would be me.

My gazing tends to point farther north to what’s in my skull, but I am self-absorbed and self-centered.  I justify this by reminding myself that most people with my flavor of bipolar disorder are living in group homes or institutionalized.  Self-absorption or self-preservation, I can’t tell the difference any more.

The recluse part of me is something I’ve started reframing as healthy instead of pathological.  For years I’ve heard how “telling” it was when I isolated, cut myself off from others, quite reaching out, and turned down social engagements.  My health posse at the time would panic, remove all sharp objects and count the pills in my bottles.  They had good reason.  I did try it once.

But, I’m discovering the joys of reclusiveness.  Well, not joy exactly.  Peace is better descriptor.

People wear me out.  Yesterday on my walk around the neighborhood, I saw a little girl (who didn’t know any better) tease a puppy that was tied to a stake.  She didn’t hurt the puppy, but I could hear the meanness in her preschool voice and the pitiful whine of the puppy.  It made me sick and scared, and I hated myself for not doing something about it.  Something gentle.  Something as easy as walking across the street to talk to her and lay a calm hand on the puppy’s head.  But, I didn’t do that.  I walked faster.

When got home, I was sad and tired, disappointed in myself, and could feel my mood slip/slide like ice over black water.  I made a pizza, plugged in an episode of Fringe, and put on my nightgown—done with the outside world and with people.  Then, my doorbell rang.

A casual friend from swim class and also from my meditation group ferreted out where I lived by Sherlockian means—knowing my truck, seeing where it was parked in the apartment lot, peeking at the collaged sign on my front door.  She was hesitant, cautious about showing up unannounced.  She said she had something for me.

It’s always disconcerting when someone rings my doorbell.  Firstly, it’s rare.  Secondly, it’s usually politicians or the landlord.  Thirdly, I’m usually in my nightie.  My little apartment is private space where Henry, Emmett and I weave a cocoon of safety.  Company jangles us.  I may not dash under the bed like Emmett, or growl like Henry when the doorbell rings, but I understand the sentiment.  Still, I try to shift gears and put on a welcoming face.

My friend came back from the parking lot with a big box.  She said her mother ran a food bank in a neighboring county.  “I told her about you,” my friend said, “that you live on Disability and don’t have a pot to piss in.  So, Mom packed a box for you.  I hope you’re not offended.”

What is a person to do with such startling kindness?  I took the box, thanked her, introduced her to Henry and Emmett (who didn’t dive under the bed), thanked her again, and watched her leave.  I stood in my kitchen, touching the box, feeling my friend’s true regard and care.

handmade greeting cards, collage artThere are people in my life who love me, but there are others who actually like me.  They value me (their word, not mine).  They want to support me and are generous and bold in their affection.  I don’t say this because I think I’m unloveable or valueless.  When folks first get to know me, they usually like me—I’m not without a certain amount of charm—but, generally, it doesn’t last.

If folks hang around long enough or get closer, the bipolarness sours their regard.  Rage, judgment, neediness, inconsistency, intolerance have chased away friends and family.  Shutters bang closed over their faces and conversation floats on the surface like dead fish.  I wanted to say to this new friend, “Thank you so much for your gift, but if you get any closer your sweet desire to be of service will shrivel up and die.”

But, I didn’t, because, sometimes, it doesn’t shrivel up and die. Sometimes, people get their bearings and decide the hassle of me is worth it (also their words, not mine).  Sometimes they’re willing to dance with me until we find our rhythm.  I have a precious few who reaffirm their commitment when I get in this mood, who will stick with me when society at large is too jarring.

People are hard.  I’m hard.  The effort it takes to balance naval-gazing with true personal interaction seems herculean at times.  But, we make these gestures of love at each other, little acts of kindness, drive-by thoughtfulness.  So, I guess I’ll keep blogging about both—the belly button lint and the food boxes.  And maybe on my next walk around the block, I’ll be able to squat down by the little girl and pet her puppy.

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