Saturday, April 9, 2011

Survival, Staying Sane, Living A Simpler Life & Being Happy ~ Where Do I Begin?

"A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books."

~ *~ Walt Whitman ~*~

Where does one start really? My thoughts have been such a jumble that I have started numerous blog entries only to discard them in dismay and sit, as I have been for weeks now, depressed and kind of lost and not really knowing why. Finally, it becomes apparent that you just can't sit frozen not doing anything and it doesn't really matter what you do, just that you start doing something.

I am starting here. I have written a few words. I have begun the garden. I have planted morning glories galore.

I have been examining my life, going through one of those phases where everything is cloudy and one tries to grasp anything that is solid. A rotation of thoughts circle round and round in my mind. "Did she really love me? Does she still?" "Does being Bi-Polar with PTSD and a few other diagnoses in the soup, does it mean that I will never have a life where I won't constantly doubt? Feel pain? Feel frozen? Feel unproductive? Have great leaping beginnings and the inability to carry through? Will I ever be able to jump tall buildings with a single bound? (Or at least finish the book I'm working on...) Will I ever be able to get through a day without feeling like the bottom is going to drop out and I will fall into a black hole in the Universe?" It's been one of those times when I can't get out of my own head, and it's not always the most peaceful place to be.

These are not the kind of thoughts that I would like to share, but they are real, and they have been haunting me for weeks. I have a good doctor, have spent decades in therapy, take meds that really help, and am closely monitored with them, have a wonderful psychiatrist, and a full life if one pretty much cut off from the world. I live with ten animals. Animals have never hurt me. People have, and I live having to rise from the ruins of those early traumas again and again and again. But like the Phoenix I keep rising, and in the end some of my best work comes out of the most painful cycles, and the rising is a time of great fertility. I am starting to rise again.

 I have lived most of my near 57 years never fitting in, being eternally the square peg in the round hole, and being criticized for it. I once wrote an essay called "Legless With Too Many Pairs Of Shoes." The essay was about a woman who was legless, in a wheelchair (a metaphor for my broken self, unable to "walk" or move in the world as a "normal" woman much to the chagrin of every one around me...) and everyone around her kept bringing her pairs of shoes, sure that if they just got the right kind of shoes she would get up and walk. They couldn't grasp or wouldn't see that she had no legs, that she would never be able to wear any of these shoes, and their anger at her for not getting up and walking, not being what they wanted her to be only made her withdraw further and further inside herself.

I was in my early forties then. This has been going on for a lifetime. It's part of my journey. The proverbial albatross around my neck and I am ready to set it down. But where do you set an albatross? And will I feel naked without it? Am I more afraid to lose the part of me that gave me an excuse to be "less than" because then I'd have to be "more than?" And can I really be "more than?" More than I have ever been, I mean.

And then I found the books that would make me feel sane for the first time, really, as if there was another person in the world who got it. I am nearly finished with the second book and I'm going to start the first one all over again and if you have ever felt lost or remotely like what I have described here, PLEASE get these books (They are ten years or so old and you can get them cheaply on amazon now where I did.)

God Bless Susan Brackney. Her books are:

The Lost Soul Companion ~ A Book of Comfort and Constructive Advice For Black Sheep, Square Pegs. Struggling Artists, and Other Free Spirits

... and ...

The Not-So-Lost Companion ~ More Hope, Strength, and Strategies for Artists and Artists-At-Heart

And what I am carrying away from these books along with wonderful stories, some funny, or touching, and all of them filled with wonderful, practical, down to earth advice from a woman who just like the rest of us who are Square Pegs can relate to as if she were a sister or best friend, is that we will continually come upon these stumbling blocks of one sort or another but we just pick ourselves up and keep on keeping on, as best we can, even if it looks like we are not doing much of anything to anyone else.

I have told people that I am working hardest when it looks like I am doing nothing at all. The internal creative process can be like a pot about to boil over all the while you sit there staring into space. If you haven't been there it is an impossible thing to grasp. To the outside world you just look sort of crazy and real lazy.

I am talking about creative people, deeply creative people, who don't do their art as a sideline. And I'm not referring to artists who work a day job and do their serious art when and in as much time as they can. And I'm not talking about selling or not selling your work or making lots of money or none at all, I'm talking about the people who live and breathe and walk in the world as artists of one stripe or another and their whole being can only see and experience the world through a kind of lens that often makes them, us, look to others as a rather skewed person with a somewhat unbalanced, perhaps peculiar way of living and being in the world, as opposed to someone who paints or knits or builds things with great joy, as a hobby perhaps, and this is wonderful, but it isn't what defines them.

Today I just say, "I am an artist." I don't need to ramble on about how I am mainly a writer and teacher of same for 30 years, but also a fiber artist, and I have this doodly wannabe painterly sort of person in there somewhere and I dabble in mixed media and I love collage and I've filled hundreds of journals which I threw out when I moved in here a year ago. That shocked the hoo ha out of people but I had been there, done that, literally wrote the book, worked out a lot of things that I needed to let go of, and while much of the writing had been incredibly healing and cathartic, I didn't want to carry around the ashes of the painful parts of my life that had been burned away by the healing process. Maybe it's thirty years of studying Zen, but it sure helped, that letting go of the great mass of writing that I used to stand on as if I were those hundreds of books. The last year and a half have been about being stripped down to essence and trying to discover a way to move forward in as authentic a way as possible. And I want to live more simply, which is a serious goal for me, but I'm not talking about going into the woods like Thoreau or being Zen spare. I will always have a cozy home filled with old, vintage, used, well-loved sorts of things with a lot of animals as companions, and I love my mode of living, no, I am talking about a different kind of simplicity.

I started to call this piece, "Less Intake, More Output," because as a bi-polar person I have had great sweeping times of acquiring far more than I need of just about everything, and starting lots of projects (...and rushing out to buy every conceivable thing I might need to complete said project...) only to never do the project at all. Inotherwords, I Don't Need Anything Else. Less Intake. I have been struggling to move forward with my creative work, especially the book I'm working on. When you stop filling every crevice of your life with stuff ( it things, ideas, starting too many projects that never get finished, or a thousand other things...) you make a great open space to move forward into, unfettered, finally having clear space to actually create because your arms and hands and head aren't full of all the junk you've been running around buying and picking up. I have a lot of stuff here. An amazing lot of stuff. I plan to go through it all and clean it out and organize it. I figure if I work at a steady clip I might get close to getting through it in oh, say, ten years. But what's the rush? Where am I going?
What I'm trying to say is that I am looking at all manner of ways to survive this crazy life, and stay as sane as I'm ever likely to be by living the simplest life that I can (Even if no one else can see that it's simple. I'll know inside, I'll feel it.) and allowing myself -- let me repeat that -- allowing myself, to be happy. I think I can do it. By gosh and by golly, I think maybe I can.

So this has been the road I have been traveling these last weeks, trying to find my way, trying to let the work reveal itself, trying to get out of my own way, trying to trust that the table will rise if we simply relax and allow it, and knowing that I may always be bi-polar but I'm learning to take good care of myself in that respect and I'm pretty comfortable in my own lopsided, cattywompus skin.

I finish this in a nearly completely dark room with a couple of small lights beside me, all seven of the parrots put to bed and the three dogs all sleeping around me (well, one is on my head), two small pug boys snoring softly, and I am sitting here smiling. Life is good. I will survive. I am sane enough. I am learning to live more simply, and, yes, I am happy. And grateful. And now I am going to eat some hummus. It's a quiet Saturday night. I'm going to make my dinner and slip back into my book with a good cup of hot tea and with my notebook beside me I will write as thoughts arise. I could not ask for anything more.


Tanya Keenan said...

Maitri, you are a gem. This is a very similar space to the one I'm in. I've found that I can't hear God/The Universe speak if I'm so busy with every other thing. Right now I'm trying to find out what I'm being guided to do, why I'm here in Washington now. And I will never hear it if I don't give myself permission to sit still and truly listen.

Thank you for this. Thank you for you. Love you all your critters.

Francis Hunt said...

"I am sane enough ... " that, i think, is the crucial point, Maitri. We let ourselves so often be needlessly dominated by polarities; yes/no, good/bad, sane/mad, etc. But, in fact, we are always moving in a dynamic spectrum, in many dimensions, all at the same time. Sometimes a little more of this, a little less of that - but on a journey where it's always becoming anew ...


beth said...

Being sane is highly overrated! I think you are great.

learn oil painting said...

I like your blog. Great Article....Daniel

Lidian said...

You are wonderful, Maitri, just as you are. And I so relate to what you write...

xxx Lidian, in the city, dreaming of a cottage near water (someday!)

Split Rock Ranch said...

I need to find those books! Some people think that "being an artist" isn't really a "job". Or people ask how in the world I create so many things. And I tell them it is "my job" but they don't get it. Hugs to you my dear Maitri!

OLLIE MCKAY'S ~ A Chic Boutique said...

That was quite a post! Maybe that's what life is really like for most of us?? (if we are honest!) ~ it does take many years before we look in the mirror one day and can so ~ OK, this is me and I love ME ~ I'm OK with ME!! The world is not just white/black!! Have a happy healthy and beautiful day!

krizza said...

Great post! Meaningful...somehow I can relate to how you feel and what your thoughts are...My first time to visit her!

God Bless!

MtnGrl said...

Wow, Maitri.
That post resonated so much with me it seemed sometimes you were writing from within my head.

It was inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

Sweetwater Designs said...

I'm passing you one of my favorite mantras..

"We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey." -Kenji Miyazawa

Great post Maitri~ You have an open heart, that's one of the finest characteristics a person can have.


Petula said...

I'm glad you shared this and wish I could read it in its entirety. I'm fighting a drowning myself. Lost in my head when doing this that only require remote control. Reviewing my life and choices trying to be a better me and not the me that my experiences are trying to mold me into. I'm looking for the peace in my brain and it's not there. Thanks for being open and sharing your process... it'll definitely help others.

OLLIE MCKAY'S ~ A Chic Boutique said...

Great post!~ And after reading this, think you may like the post/video I did today. Stop by and watch! :-) Happy Tuesday to all!

laane said...

There's a cry inside people who feel,
there's a cry inside people who live,
there's a cry in people who reach out and realise their arms are never long enough to embrace all creatures in the world.

I wrote this for my daughter a while ago.

Maitri... life is about being the person you are, being the person she is, I am.
Each painful experience enables us to learn more about ourselves.

We're not the product of our experiences, or of labels because we didn't fit the average, or of the expectations of ourselves or others.

We're slowly leaving behind what we don't need and become ourselves.

I only become more of myself when I leave my coats, and everything else in the past. And be the person we are in the present.

You're a beautiful person, and your animals know it already.
Now it's your turn.


Lin said...

I think we all connect with how you are feeling on some level. Heck, even Lady Gaga was on the news this week, boo-hooing backstage at a concert feeling like a "loser"....still. After all these years after high school and huge success in her industry. Go figure.

Don't we all feel like square pegs? I know I do. I'm a HUGE dork and I know it. And most days I can deal with it, but look out if I'm sniffly or feeling out of sorts--all of those bad things anyone has said about me or stupid things I have done come back to haunt me in my mind. Why do we do that to ourselves???

I have this wacky idea of a sixth sense--our creative sense. It is how we take in art and process creativity around us. And like someone who has keen hearing or sight--there may be those of us who are more in tune with their creativity than others. I dunno--it's wacky, but I like my theory. I believe creativity affects our lives in a very real, and sometimes intense way. Does that make sense?

You aren't alone, pally. I guess that is what I am trying to tell ya. :)

Maitri said...

To all of you dear dear souls who have written in with so much love, kindness and support, I just have to thank you with my whole heart and I'm sorry not to have written sooner. I lost my 18 year old dog after I wrote this and it nearly did me in. But your notes here have meant so much to me and lifted my heart and my spirits. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As a writer I try to write honestly about my own experiences in the hopes that what I write may help others. You don't have to be Bi-Polar, for example, to feel much of what I've written here, we all feel like that square peg in the round hole at times for differing reasons. I just want to make the point that no matter what comes along in life there is always something to hold on for and propel us forward and if nobody outside of OUR body gets it, the way we must live to be okay, that's not our problem, and I say that not in an unkind way but in a way that says, "I care about you, but I have to do this for me. To be okay and live day to day in this world I am creating a life that works for me and makes me feel as well and whole as possible." That needn't all be said or said like that but that's what I meant.

I love you all, wish you well in your lives and on your journeys. Be who you are. Celebrate yourself. As Whitman said, "Sing yourself." What a beautiful song!


ManileƱa Mom said...

I also went through that "questioning myself" and "finding my place" phase, and i was so sad that i feel like im supposed to be old enough and mature enough to take things easy...but i think what helped me find myself is when i started to really know jesus. it may sound funny to everyone but reading the bible and praying helped me understand what life is about and that there are a lot of things in life that i may not understand but i don't have to and i shouldn't be beating myself up because of it, because i don't need to :) i hope you're doing fine now. :)

one of the many things that helped me cope is blogging :)

snoring solution said...

This is a very similar space to the one I'm in. I've found that I can't hear God/The Universe speak if I'm so busy with every other thing. Right now I'm trying to find out what I'm being guided to do, why I'm here in Washington now.

snoring solution said...

We let ourselves so often be needlessly dominated by polarities; yes/no, good/bad, sane/mad, etc. But, in fact, we are always moving in a dynamic spectrum, in many dimensions, all at the same time.Thanks for sharing.

K Fields said...

It's a GOOD thing to march to the beat of a different drummer...

That is the way of very creative people, they are what make the changes when needed in this world.

We need you to be the way you are!

I love your blog!

snoring solution said...

I just want to make the point that no matter what comes along in life there is always something to hold on for and propel us forward and if nobody outside of OUR body gets it, the way we must live to be okay, that's not our problem, and I say that not in an unkind way but in a way that says, "I care about you, but I have to do this for me.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Maitri, never a day passes when I don't experience many of the emotions you express, although perhaps, less acutely.

Life is very difficult and disappointments abound. And depression and despair are part of it, at least for me.

And who that is sane, could move through days in this crazy world, without being upset a good deal of the time? Yet I know that there are degrees in this spectrum, and my intent in saying all this is not to minimize your pain and suffering. For I have not walked in your shoes....

The process you have been going through, I call "going go Ground Zero." No reference to 9-11 here, as I used the expression long before that ugly event changed history.

But you truly seem to have arrived. Yes, you are sane enough. And so am I.

And I like very much the contentment that is seeping into your last statements.

You are strong, and you will not only survive, you will prevail!

Thank you for the candid self-disclosure. The books sound great; maybe I'll read them at some point.

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