stuckLast week I got stuck in the snow and ice.  I spent about a half hour rocking my truck back and forth, almost tipping over the edge to freedom only to fall back into the rut.  Eventually, a boy with a truck and a tow line happened by and hauled me out.  First he wanted to try his hand at rocking out of the rut (Ah, the optimism of youth!).  While he played in my truck, I stepped off the snow-hidden curb and fell with my foot caught.  Things got twisted and made funny noises.  I may have uttered a few disparaging words about winter.

Unfortunately, my brain seems to be stuck and making its own funny noises.  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mired in depression, able at times to rock back and forth, but always ending up in the rut.  When I’m in this gutter it’s too easy to focus on all the failures and pain—my application for rent reimbursement was denied since my HUD apartment building doesn’t pay property tax; after doing a week’s worth of records-gathering and making copies for my rent review, my 2014 rent only went down by a dollar; I can’t stop binge eating.  Saturday I got up, determined to knock some of the whingeing out of my head.  I got dressed for the Y and stopped by the library to get a new pile of DVDs.  By the time I checked out, I was exhausted.  I went back home, pulled on my jammies, and crawled, defeated, back into bed.

When the rut gets deep and my mental tires smoke from spinning, I try to remember the good stuff.  And there is good stuff.  There’s always good stuff if a person looks long enough.  I’ve made it through a whole month without using my credit card and sticking to my White-Knuckle budget.  The UU Fellowship I attend asked me to be their go-to presenter and will pay me a stipend of about $50 to provide two programs a month.  I was approved for Medicaid, so I’ll at least be on the waiting list for the Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program.  And because I have Medicaid now, I can continue to see my therapist every week instead of scaling back to save money.

Then, there are my friends and their gifts.  There’s Rob and Carol.  There’s David and his gift of The Measure of My Days—a beautiful, inspirational book.  And Michelle’s gift of two fabulous CDs of music (The Polar Vortex 1 & 2).  And emails.  Lots and lots of emails filled with support and love and inspiration.  Those are just my bloggy friends.  Here at home, I’ve been given bags of fabulous junk to make art—sequins from India from Sheila, Czech magazines and bric-a-brac from Robyn.  Dee invited me over to look through her collection of vintage photographs and to pick out ones I could use.  Penny and Karen take me to lunch.  Cat takes me to breakfast and keeps my phone working.  All these tow lines keep the tension steady so that when this current rut flattens out a bit, I can drive on.

Tow Lines

Still, today, the despair and pain are thick.  I’ll go to the laundromat in a minute—a cozy place that’s warm and smells like home.  I’ll get my Peppermint Mocha, and sit with my journal, and do all the things I need to do to keep rocking.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  And I’ll remember the tow lines attached to me that keep me tethered to the world outside this rut.

Little House in the Burbs

handmade cards, collage artIt’s a little hysterical in the old hometown today.  There’s supposed to be a blizzard moving in tonight, so an attitude particular to the midwestern mind takes over.  All of a sudden we think we’re back on the pre-Civil War prairie, sleeping in the dugout with our livestock.  We envision ourselves freezing to death in waist-high drifts, our cars belly up like dead bugs.

Like everyone else, I went to the grocery store this morning to “stock up.”  The check-out line wove through Frozen Foods and all the way back to the Dairy case.  While waiting with my life-saving supplies, I chatted with the women around me about our childhood blizzard memories.  We all decided it was silly to stand in line when, even in the worst weather, we all could pull on boots and trudge to the Kwik Star.  Still, all of us waited.

And while the barometric pressure has been low enough to make my brain implode the last couple of days, nary a flake has landed.  Even so, I cancelled my meditation group for tonight.  Wouldn’t want anyone to get caught in weather!  And tomorrow has been obliterated from the calendar.

We should know better.  Every time the weather service forecasts a storm with more than two hours notice, it ends up as a dark cloud or two.  But, the anticipation is so delicious!  And those of us descended from tough immigrant farm folk get to pretend we know what that was all about.  In reality, we’ll heat hot chocolate in the microwave, watch the TiVo of “Bad Santa,” and check Facebook.  And we’ll consider ourselves very smart to have extra nacho chips in the cupboard.

Through the Ice Darkly

Tomorrow I leave for an excursion into the arctic north.  I’m spending the next ten days in Minneapolis, first to sit with a friend as she undergoes a simple, but scary surgery.  Then, to visit other friends—some I’ve not seen since my exodus to Iowa five years ago after I had ECT.

It’s a weird juxtaposition of memory holes and my different lives laid on top of each other like layers of ice on a frozen lake.  Some are Jasper-green and opaque with soft spots and groaning cracks, others sludge-gray with craters.  Others still carry bits of fish scale, algae, and ash from shoreline campfires of summer.  They stand rock solid even in the spring thaw.

Seeing these beloved friends again, touching them, will be like taking nourishment and starving.  Love and loss.  A life remembered through “the glass darkly.”  I hope to maintain my curiosity as broken memories crack the surface of consciousness, as my friends remind me of what we were together and what I was then.  I hope to hold them and myself with compassion, respecting our feelings and our words, watching the rise and fall of emotions without grasping, allowing myself to simply love them in the moment of being together.  I hope to remember my life now, who I’ve become, traveling like Frankenstein’s monster on a frozen floe with growing awareness and a spark of dignity.

It will be an interesting time away.

I will greet you all again on or around January 16.

Winter Solstice

The World Tree

by Carol Singer

Surely, deeply, a holy Tree grows in your heart.

Ancient wisdom is there in a touch of its bark.

Its joyous leaves catch Heaven’s light,

The roots are strong with Earth’s own might,

To keep you through the longest night

And lead you out of the dark.

∞ ∞ ∞

The longest night of the year.

For those of us with bipolar disorder, this day is more than simply the beginning of winter.  It’s a reminder that even the darkest nights end, the deepest depressions, the craziest mania.  While in the dark, we can’t see an ending, we can’t feel the Earth turning and tilting.  But the Universal cycles continue nevertheless.  Winter Solstice reminds us of the turning and the promise of Light returning.

An image often associated with Winter Solstice is Yggdrasil, or the World Tree.  In Norse mythology, it embodies the concepts of renewal, it’s branches reaching into Heaven, and it’s roots into the Earth and Beyond.

Today, I invite you to take a moment from your day to mark the Solstice.  Remember yourself with branches reaching into the Divine and roots deep in the safe, warm Earth.  Standing tall in the dark, feel the moment of Light returning.  Feel the promise fulfilled.  Breathe, and be at peace.

In the Spaces

No drama.  No opinions.  No strong thoughts of any kind.  Moods shift, but not too low or too high.  Events transpire, even uncomfortable events, but Body and Mind return to center.  Swim.  Write.  Drink coffee and eat oatmeal.  Write down calories and watch the scale.

Henry purrs.  Emmett hides.  Music plays.

The sun comes up, lasts all day, then sets at night.  The moon and stars come out.  Breath frosts the air.  Life happens between breaths.

Life happens in the spaces.

A Case of the Bends

I’m starting to get a handle on this whirligig confusion.  I think it’s a form of the Bends.

All of a sudden, the financial pressure that’s crushed me for a year or so, released when I sold my car.  Whoosh!  Massive decompression.  I can’t get oriented.  Who am I in this larger space?  Is it an illusion?  What is the right action to take?  Is it okay to buy some new underwear?

I’m afraid to expand, afraid of the inevitable contraction.  It seems much safer to stay huddled in the smallest space possible.  I can feel how I’ve been holding my breath all winter, waiting for the next disaster, the next piece of me to fall off. No wonder I can’t write, can’t create.  Creation asks for expansion, openness, trust.  The energy and intent of creation must flow and be allowed to overflow.  This winter was all about control, minimizing, eliminating, shrinking, doing without.  Reversing that trend feels dangerous, delusional—crazy.

I will need help with this.  I’ll talk with my Money Mavens to see what’s realistic.  With a better vehicle and money for gas, could I dare drive up to Minneapolis for a weekend?  Could I set aside some of the money from the car sale and go to Pittsburgh this summer to see my teacher, Melanie?  Is that reaching too far?

Is it acceptable for me to dream again?  Not get mired in wanting, but just allow my wishes to come forward?  Is it dangerous for me to dream about traveling to Ireland someday?  Can I think about Tucson and the desert I love so much without slamming the door shut on the possibility of returning?  What’s in the space between dreaming and wanting?  When does the energy shift from expansion to contraction?  Am I creating a duality that doesn’t exist?

I’m just beginning to paddle around this wading pool.  It feels like there’s much to explore.


Snow drifts down outside.  Just a dusting.  Just enough to remind us Winter lingers even though Spring slides Her warm hand along His back.

There’s a gray, peaceful rightness to the morning.  My mirror.

Yesterday, I went to see a BodyTalk practitioner.  Several of my trusted friends have been talking about her for years.  So, in my new quest for alternative ways to manage my bipolar disorder, I decided to buy a session.  This was a huge financial decision since the session’s cost of $75 will eliminate everything but the bare essentials for the next month.  (No paying down on my Visa card or that stupid hospital bill until April.)  So, it was a big commitment, but I was determined to dive in and follow whatever instructions given me.

What I understand about BodyTalk is that it combines a lot of different modalities—the energy dynamics of acupuncture, osteopathic and chiropractic philosophy (also practiced at Be Well Chiropractic), kinesiology, Western medicine, medical intuition, physics, and mathematics.  The goal is to bring the body back into balance and make sure all the different parts are communicating with each other, especially the two hemispheres of the brain.

I found the one hour session to be quite powerful.  Practitioner Fonda Hall of Des Moines gave me an extensive history to fill out.  Then, with a gentle laying on of hands, tapping, and instructing me in particular eye movements, she zeroed in on my key emotional/physical issues.  At times I felt anxious, at times my stomach roiled, but mostly I felt calm.  When I left, I felt normal.

I was wide awake all night.  Not tossing or turning, just laying there, petting Henry who always knows when I’m awake and available for scritching.  And this morning… nothing.  Just this sense of peaceful rightness.  Chores done, apartment straightened, I’m simply fine.  The thought of having no money to work with this month feels wee and far instead of an elephant sitting on my chest.  Whether or not the podiatrist can help my pain seems irrelevant now that the splint he put on my foot is in the trash.  The probability that I’ll be alone all weekend doesn’t trip any panic switches or morph into loneliness.  My story revisions call me to come dance.  The collage I’m working on whispers answers about how to proceed.  I have plenty of playmates here.

But, there is something going on with my stomach.  I’m aware of it—a hollowness, a largeness, that makes me want to not eat.  This could be a first.

Fonda said it would take at least 24 hours to feel the full effects of the session.  So, I’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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