Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Morning Notes While Having A Latte The Size of Texas! Just wanted to touch base...

The absolutely most essential thing in this cottage to keep Mama on track and not swinging from the rafters and having the pugs all running to set up the caffeine IV:


Oh yea baby, oh yea, and don't come close to me before I've finished it. You'll be able to tell because my 1" hair will be standing straight up, my eyebrows will be singed, my eyes will be the size of dinner plates and kind of rolling around in my head, and, at the same time, a peace and calm will come over me which makes me able to face one more day. I live from latte to latte. We all have our stuff. 

Sssssshhhhhh, WHISPER, It will take me a good 45 minutes to get through the foam and I can't stand loud (meaning anything above a whisper which I'd just as soon ignore anyway...) voices early in the morning. Then I'll do backstrokes in the latte between sips and by noon I should be approaching something like human, well, as close as I ever get. Ah, the morning latte, there's nothing like it.

So, I just thought I'd ramble on here a little because I want to stay closer in touch and sometimes all we have are the mundane moments of our lives which to me are sacred and downright fascinating when I'm listening to someone else's. They're going "Yadda, yadda, yadda... nothing important ... yadda yadda yadda, you must be so bored .... yadda yadda yadda..." And I'm thinking "WOW, now THAT'S an exciting life!" We never realize the power of our own lives. Please share yours, it makes us all feel a lot better! 

Okay, brace yourself, this is liable to be so wildly exciting it will wear you plum out, as my little old aunties used to say. Are you ready..

Sometime between 6 & 7:

* 4 pugs are bouncing wildly all over my body. Baby Tanner is dropping sloppy nasty toys in my face -- his love gift of the morning -- wee tiny Penny which everyone thinks is shy and retiring leaps forward, covers my face with tiny kisses and then lunges forward and grabs my nose. Not hard. Kinda cute. She's usually the one who sounds the alarm to "GET UP EVERYBODY!" She is our resident drill Sargent. Sam just wants love and squeezing and shy little Pugsley sidles up for some loves and kisses and a good tummy rub.

Once all the various and sundry puggerlings are herded down the hall and through the kitchen, the cozy room, and out the studio door onto the deck and out into the big wide world (the back yard) they run and bark and frolic and do their business and I wave my caftan around wildly in a frightening looking dance which is only really me trying not to get more than 50 or so mosquito bites. I come in and douse myself so heavily with white vinegar -- which is marvelous to make the bites go away - but I smell like an Italian salad all day long. I buy the vinegar by the gallons and fill big spray bottles. My back yard is gorgeous and heavily treed and runs down to a creek. My privacy fence stops before it gets that far so the pugs don't float downstream, but living in the woods on a creek here where the temps are over 100 most of the summer and humidity so bad that the minute you walk outside your glasses fog up and you are likely to run into a tree, the mosquitoes are fearsome. Ah the joys of living in a coastal region, as if the hurricanes weren't reason enough.

Then the morning gets very busy and complex...

1. Dogs out and in

2. Feed 4 parrots in front room and get them fresh water and turn on lights and public radio and give them all lots of kisses. I hand-raised all 4 of these parrots some 15 or more years ago and, of course, being my parrots, they are the biggest kissin' fools you ever did see. They are also very cultured parrots listening to NPR all day and I donate to the local public radio station just to keep us all sounding half way intelligent.

3. Into Miss Scarlet the grey parrot who lives in my studio and who comes out of her cage early morning when we get up and is out all day long, 3 feet away from me at my desk here. She is just a SMASHING kisser so she fits right in. She gets her fresh seed, pellets, freshly baked birdie bread, and water and new toys nearly weekly. Poor thing has a rough life. 

4. By now the dogs are frantic so we go through the routine of giving everyone vitamins, pills, eye drops (2 dogs -- different drops, 3 get different pills, at least 2 each) and then the food which is a very high quality food, with a teaspoon of fish oil with omega 3's and a dollop of canned dog food. I use "Blue Buffalo" everything for the 3 boy pugs but Penny has allergies so she is on special food. During the preparing of this I have 4 pugs screaming and one crying like a baby, practically doing back-flips and howling so pitifully I'm surprised the police haven't been called by the neighbors. By the time all of their food is served up and they are eating I kind of slump against the counter and wonder how I made it this far. But of course I always do.

5. THEN --- and this is VERY important -- the minute they are finished eating and I can tear them away from licking each other's empty bowls, SURE that somepuggyorother got something THEY didn't, I corral the boys and out we go again. Penny does all of her business, lady-like, before breakfast and is good for awhile. I swear, boy dogs can go to the potty 15 places all over the yard and then have breakfast 15 minutes later and if I don't hustle them out they will pee in various places all around the kitchen and my studio. This does not make Mama happy. So I do the "Let's Go OUT and PEE" song and dance which they know I take very seriously and, shrugging and not looking happy about it, they go out and I swear, Pugsley will -- having already gone to the bathroom 15 minutes of so before -- stand there and pee non-stop practically to nightfall. I will never understand this.

FINALLY, with all of the animals cared for -- the dogs have now snuggled back in their beds -- I go in to make my coffee. 1 to 1 1/2 hours after my foot hits the floor first thing, I finally get the coffee going, and by then my eyes are hanging out of my head dangling about in a frightening sort of way.

Having read about my recent debacles here at the cottage (You saw the picture of the hole in the ceiling a few entries back?) the man who sprays the "Popcorn" on the ceiling over the drywall that is now dried will be here in an hour. I may have to make another latte or 3 before he gets here. Having people in the house -- the nicest people in the world -- unnerves me no end. This "2 1/2 Day Job" that was quoted and is now in it's 5th week has me as limp as a dishrag. Saturday the carpet gets fixed. Then they will send someone out to clean it. THEN the 15 inches of "green" insulation will be blown in which should have been done but when people go falling through your attic into your living room leaving a whole the size of a large man it kind of puts a damper on things. 6 weeks or so after the "2 1/2 Days" all should be done.

Meanwhile I am working on my book and getting ready for my teleclass with SARK tonight. I sent her the 2nd piece of my writing on Monday for evaluation. It's very exciting and moving forward with my writing is doing me a world of good. I've had a lot of discussion now about the conundrum a lot of us face ("Am I Spending So Much Time On My Blog I Am Using Up My Writing Energy."). There's a lot about that that I have come to and will write sometime in the next few days. 

So with the popcorn ceiling man on the way and needing to gulp my latte down as fast as I can so that I can meet him appearing something towards human I will stop here. I just wanted to say Heidy-Ho and How You Doin'? and if you have trouble getting going in the morning get a bunch of parrots and pugs and then make lattes the size of some large geographical area and you'll probably make it just fine. 

(I just looked in the mirror -- always a mistake this early -- and my hair is indeed standing straight up and my eyes the size of car tires. I hope I don't send the Popcorn Ceiling Guy screaming down the street....)

Here I go to do a few last laps in my latte cup. The backstroke, I think...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Am Lifting My Heart Toward Heaven...

"Refuse to fall down. If you cannot refuse to fall down, refuse to stay down. If you cannot refuse to stay down, lift your heart toward heaven, and like a hungry beggar, ask that it be filled, and it will be filled. You may be pushed down. You may be kept from rising. But no one can keep you from lifting your heart toward heaven."

~o~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs ~o~

Dear Ones,

Today... today I have needed to lift my heart toward heaven. This is the kind of entry I don't usually like to write but more and more I find that this is the kind of entry that helps my readers the most because they may be in this place and this is when they feel most alone. When the world is full of those who don't like to talk about depression but how to find joy -- and I do that myself, and I know that it exists, and I feel it and celebrate it -- depression is the step-sister that gets hidden in the closet. In the last 13 years I have had to come out of a succession of closets, both to myself and the world. And every time I found my heart pounding and wanted to run and hide, those were the times that the most people stepped forward and said thank you when I have written honestly about it.

Today I am feeling the weight of depression so heavily that I can hardly breathe, and it came on suddenly, mid-day, and while it is softening a bit since I walked outside in the garden with the dogs, and came in and fed them, and the five parrots, I still feel as if gentle hands are holding me down. This is what it means to live with bipolar disorder, this is a mood swing, and I have Bi Polar Type 2, the depressive side of things. I am not complaining, I am not sitting here feeling sorry for myself, I am sharing the facts that exist in this moment, and also the knowledge that they will pass. I have used essential oils that help enormously, oh yes, I just took a deep breath in and the blend of bergamot, neroli, sandalwood, rose, and other oils in a blend called "Present Moments" (From Rocky Mountain Oils, and I am not prescribing or suggesting this for anyone, and no I don't sell it, I am simply sharing what I am using. Each must find their own way with what works for them.) are already helping my body relax. I have just taken a full breath, easily, for the first time in hours. That is a break in the pattern, but it will likely be some time yet before it lifts entirely, and only if I am diligent about self care. I have learned to do that with decades of therapy, medications, and, becoming a healer myself, I have the tools to help even these energies even out, slowly, but it will be a lifelong process, bi polar disorder is treatable not curable, but it is, even with all of this, an interesting thing to live with.

I sat on the couch reading with my small blind pug in my lap and the others crowded against me, and I had this visionary moment, a moment of, perhaps some kind of clarity, when I saw, felt, that depression opens and softens the heart, and that if we let ourselves feel it, and not run from it, it will wash over and through us more gently, and, softer, the heart is more porous and lets thoughts and feelings in that we might not otherwise see. If you are out there feeling this you are not alone. Put your hands over your heart, feel your precious heart beating, know that this, too, will pass, and I promise you, it will.

I am leaning on my desk, this long, very old farmer's table with nicks and scratches but worn very smooth with a lovely patina. Many people have sat at this table. Now I am one of them. I am looking out of the studio windows at the birds landing lightly on the feeders, just before dusk now, when most of the trees have fallen in shadows but the top of one of the trees in front of me is still sunlit and gleaming. I can hold onto that light, even though there is so much darkness around it. We have to find something to hold onto, there is always something. 

If you are in this space find something to hold onto. Go outside and pick up a leaf, a rock, a wildflower, make a bouquet from your garden. My animals help me. If you don't have any take that bouquet to a neighbor, perhaps an elderly one that feels alone. Sometimes the very best thing that we can do to lift our spirits is to engage with someone else. Call a friend. I know this will sound corny but I have gone outside and wrapped my arms around a tree, one with rough bark and so big around my fingertips would not reach each other, but it was solid with roots deep in the ground and leaves and branches reaching so high in the sky I could not see the top. Sometimes I have cried into the bark, sometimes just held on and breathed. A tree is very alive and will support the weight of your sadness. I will hold on until I can stand alone, as tall as the tree, and I reach my hands up and stretch my fingers as far as they will go. The trees in my yard are tremendous healers. I am blessed by their presence. 

I'm not sure how anyone lives without animals because they are life-saving for me, but then we all have our different ways of living and being in the world. Just now my little Penny, tiny, blind, but persistent, is woofing her little woof that says, "Pick me up," and Scarlet the near featherless grey parrot is woofing like Penny and just said "I love you," and I smiled, I really did, I smiled, and I just laughed out loud. And I think that it was because I made myself write this blog entry. I think it is because I am here with you. Scarlet just said, "Hey Suggg-arrr, I LOVE you..." How can you not smile at that. I just breathed again deeply. I did not know that I would start this entry near tears and end with a smile on my face, but so I have. I should know this. I taught a very healing journal-keeping class for 30 years and I know the power of the written word, it has saved me since I was 9 years old and hid under a stand of forsythia bushes with my little spiral notebook. Tonight writing has helped this cloud lift, more than a little. I want to thank you. I want to thank you so much. 

Scarlet just said, "I love you sooooooo much," and so I will say it to you... I love you soooo much. We are kindred spirits, walking this path of life together. You don't have to be bi polar to feel it, we all have hard days and sad and complex times. Sending love out into the world to others is a way of connecting too, and so I am sending it out to you this evening. 

I love you soooooo much. I really do

Friday, August 24, 2012

Accepting The Things You Cannot Change & Opening Your Heart To Self Love...

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

~o~ Reinhold Niebuhr ~o~

Maitri Unmasked

Dear Ones,

In an odd turn of events I found myself, just a short while ago, at a website where you can order glasses frames online and use these special new doodads, rather, programs where you upload a picture of yourself so that you can see what you look like in the frames you are considering buying. I now consider these a ruse to get you to take a frightening picture of yourself that will shame you into a place wherein you don't care about what the eyeglass frames look like on you anymore, you just want SOMETHING to cover that face up FAST! I myself decided, upon seeing the picture, to spend the rest of my life hiding under a pug. Or so it felt this morning when I was foolish enough to press that horrifying button that turns the camera around to face you so that you actually have to look at your startled face when you take the picture. They all pretty much made me look as I do above, like an aging blind person (Not blind really, just trifocalish, but no eyeballs showing to clue you in otherwise...) with slits for eyes, a neck I refuse to believe really looks this way and a nose that looks something like a small squash of some sort with a stylish little crooked turn. I was simply horrified. NO ONE will EVER see this, I groaned. But then...

Well, I could go on to explain that I just woke up, was very tired, had a tiny blind pug in my lap who refuses to live elsewhere, and on and on, but the truth is that I am a 58 year old woman who has weight to lose and is working on it but also had a very severe case of Bell's Palsy in 1995 that never completely went away, in fact, some days it shows up quite colorfully, kind of like I'm doing a circus trick with my face. If I tried to smile really big the left eye would really kind of squint and droop at the same time and the left side of my mouth would turn downward. It has been one of the hardest things I have had to live with in my life, sexual abuse, mental health disorders, car accidents, a lifelong battle with weight and other things notwithstanding. You see, after I'd had children and began to really struggle with my weight which seemed to expand every year, my last vestige of self confidence came because everyone told me what a beautiful smile I had. In June of 1995 I developed such a severe case of Bell's Palsy that 3 medical doctors, my chiropractor and accupuncture 3x a week for a year would not make things right. I went from horrified, to depressed, to numb, and eventually -- not because of the Bell's Palsy -- slipped away from the world entirely to a place where 9 animals don't much care what you look like as long as you love them, feed them, and give them treats. A perfect life for me, with all of my extant quirks and oddities anyway, I think.

So why did I take, much less share, the above picture? I took it because -- and I don't like to use or believe in this language -- it is me at my worst. Seldom do people see me like this, Bell's Palsy notwithstanding. No, I never wear much if any makeup anyway but when I'm up awhile and more chipper I look a little more alive. And my glasses hide a multitude of things I'd never known were there to hide, and where did that NECK come from? AND, bless her heart, that woman in the picture, that reflection that is me, I love her now more than I ever have in my whole life. I have come to accept her, just as she is today. Before I've lost the weight and with the Bell's Palsy kind of hanging out, and no glasses to hide anything, and without the wee bit of powder, lipstick and on odd days a dash of blush which really do help a lot, I stand before you naked as a jay bird and I smile with a soft heart at that woman that is me. 

And as I write that I realize that I have really made it, or most days I have. I have begun to accomplish what I'd hoped to when I took the name Maitri Libellule, legally, in 2005. Maitri is the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and the heart of the teaching is that we must first love ourselves, embrace our tender hearts and all the rest, because we cannot give from an empty well. It's good to have empathy, compassion, and to feel loving-kindness for the world around us, but if we don't have it for ourselves we have nothing to give to another. Self-Love, Happiness, Joy, Inner Peace -- all of these things are an INside job. And so I look at that picture of myself, unadorned, a picture I shyly put up and thought to take down a number of times while writing this piece, and all of a sudden I have felt an amazing sense of self-love and tenderness for she who is me. I am committed to spending my life spreading loving-kindness and compassion for others through my work. Something has been holding me back. Today I realized that it was that final step, the great leap over the crevasse that is the distance we must cross to come to a place of loving ourselves just as we are. I can look at that 58 year old woman and I can say, "I love you. Thank you for being my vessel in this life. Thank you for giving me a huge heart that loves, a tender quality that softens everything around me like a picture fading from bold oil paints to soft watercolor images, allowing me to see past the physical world and into the soul of things." I was considered quite lovely when I was younger. I modeled. And I didn't half love myself, wasn't nearly as comfortable in my own skin, as I am today. Thank God.

I do not judge anyone for the choices that they make. If a woman needs to have plastic surgery to feel good about herself, more power to her, and I, again, am not making any judgement at all, but I feel a little sad, as if some people are hell bent at doing whatever they can to hide from themselves, to hold up only a false image to the world because they are afraid that they will not be loved otherwise. It breaks my heart. What we must realize is that a person's reaction to who we are says far less about who we are than who they are, and what they feel inside, their own fears and insecurities and the struggles that they have with their own self image. Do not feel hurt or angry if you do not feel accepted or praised by another, especially if there is something about you that the world "sees" as less than perfect, because so much in our culture has become jaded and broken and what ever happened to caring first, valuing most a rich inner life? Of course we all want to be seen as attractive but that just seems to be a near impossible task because the way the pendulum swings as soon as you get "that perfect ________," (Fill in the blank -- weight, haircut, nosejob, etc...) the tides will have turned and you will no longer be in style. I appreciate outer beauty, and I also see the value of working with, celebrating, becoming comfortable with who I am. Now I am doing healthy things to take care of my body. I want to feel good. I want to be strong and vibrant and have the energy to do the work that I am here to do, lopsided smile, cattywompus countenance, and all.

In 2001 I was featured in "The Utne Reader," and they published a picture right off my website (even though they'd sent out a photographer who'd taken many much lovelier shots) because they liked it. It was a picture of my grey parrot Henry sitting on my shoulder looking at me and the caption I wrote said, "Don't show this picture with that lopsided smile!" I never realized it would turn up in a national magazine. But so things go.

And that was over 10 years ago now. And I lost my beloved parrot Henry in 2008, and part of me went with him. I don't think I will ever get over losing my beloved boy, but now I have Miss Scarlet, my near nekkid grey girl that I adopted in May, and life goes on, and so do we.

I share this today, shyly, in hopes that you will look at yourself in the mirror and be a little kinder. That you will turn away from the mirror and feel that soft place inside of you that loves, that is gentle and kind, and that that is the part of you that you should nurture and care for, for when your cup runneth over with the self love that we all need -- it is the fuel that propels us forward -- you can shine your loving light into the life of another, and let them pay it forward. That is how we help one another. That is how we love ourselves enough to transcend our own fears in the hopes that it will make someone else's day a little brighter. I have tried to do this here, today. 

Close your eyes. Put your hands over your heart. Feel it beating. Smile. Feel the rising tide of gentle waves inside the center of you, the place where your soul resides, invisible, but present, and let that be the part that you care most about nurturing. Take care of the outside, but live on the inside, and everything will be alright. 

I am sending you so much love. I am cupping your sweet face in my hands, smiling, and hoping that you can feel what a tremendously beautiful human being that you are. Because you are, I am, and so is the rest of the world. Let us now close our eyes and move forward with love...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where's Maitri? (Think, "Where's Waldo.") It's been that kind of time."

"The little things? The little moments? They aren't little."
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Four weeks through the debacle one of the workers fell
through my ceiling from the attic. He's fine, thank God,
my attic/ceiling, not so much...

Dear Ones,

I had planned on updating this blog a whole lot more often, 2 or 3 times a week at least, but then came a nightmare I was not prepared for. I have moved from shock to hysteria to a zombie-like numbness. 

So here's the short version. If that's possible. Sigh...

I bought this older home that I adore in February 2010. It's a charming cottagey like home on an acre with a creek at the back. Simply charming, like slipping into an old pair of shoes. It just FITS me and despite everything you are about to hear I absolutely love it. But it's been a hair-raising challenging time.

After having the house inspected before buying and being told that everything looked great and giving everything I had to buy the house, I found out the roof needed to be replaced in the first few weeks, all manner of things had to be repaired, replaced, or built brand new to make the whole place workable, and the first summer the air conditioning was limping along with literally 4-5 service calls per summer. This summer it finally went kaput, the night before the 4th of July, in 100+ degree weather. I get cranky in these 1000 degree temps. Well, more than cranky but I'm too polite to go into the hysterical mess that I really get.

I have mentioned that I am bi-polar. For me, life runs best when I stick to my fairly rigid routine, kind of like climbing a ladder everyday and I can't miss a step. If I do I'm likely to fall off the ladder and this is NOT pretty. At the very least I slip a little and am unnerved for the rest of the day. When my air conditioner finally went (and in Wilmington, NC with 100+ degree temps all summer it is not an option not to have it fixed), and I had the estimates done for the work, I went into utter shock. This house was built in 1970 and the unit INside was as old as the 40+ year old house, causing it to regularly flood and go out. The HVAC unit outside was 15+ years old. There was virtually no insulation in the attic, the duct work that WAS there was in terrible shape with NO wrapping, and, having added on the back of the house at some point which is my den, studio, laundry room, and a one car garage, they never made adjustments for the rest of the living space meaning there was one long, skinny piece of duct work coming all the way back here, no cold air return, no vent in the laundry room which means you could cook eggs all over the place in there and have them fried in an instant, and surely could not breathe in there especially when the dryer was running. There is a lot more and it is all grim and to the tune of MANY thousands of dollars to get it all fixed. The estimate was 2 1/2 days work. That was over 4 weeks ago. Almost every single rung has fallen off my ladder and I am moving through the days in such a fog, clinging to anything to keep me steady, well, you just can't imagine.

The first week, the one that was supposed to take 2 1/2 days took 6. Four days instead of 2 1/2, and as soon as they left the unit flooded all over my floor both in the hall and into the living room. They "fixed it" and promised it would be fine now and that they would have the carpet fixed. The next day it flooded again. More problems were resolved, the carpet was in a bigger mess, but finally the AC seemed fixed. On Monday a part stopped working and the house wasn't cool and they had to replace a part. By now I was prone with despair babbling words no one could understand, and that's probably for the best.

The new 15" of insulation still had to be blown in, "green" and the whole house will now be energy efficient but, when into the 3rd week they came to blow the insulation in, one of the guys fell through the attic floor (Again, thank God he wasn't hurt!) leaving an enormous gaping hole. They had to tear it open even bigger to have it patched, that first day by someone else they called in, and it will take a week for it to dry before they come in and blow the "popcorn" all over the ceiling. Oddly, the hole is right above the bad carpet meaning that it literally goes into 2 rooms. A BIG job and it means that because the old ceiling will likely be impossible to match they will have to do the whole ceiling and now I have flooring people thinking that the carpet is too bad to be replaced because it sat in water for so long. That means new flooring in the whole front of the house. The company is paying for it which is their obligation and good that they are doing it but my ladder has now been carried off with the trash. I don't like people here in the house, it knocks the heck out of the peaceful environment that I have to create to have any kind of equanimity at all. I am walking around googly-eyed muttering nonsense and expect to be put in a straight jacket any minute.

Now in the 4th week of the 2 1/2 day job, sigh, I had the ceiling guy and the floor guy here yesterday. This was just to check things out, the work is yet to come.  I'm hoping it will all be done by Christmas. If not the family is likely to get chunks of the ceiling wrapped in rotted carpet with a note saying, "I love you, but this was the best I could do this year." I am in a state of pure despair and having trouble wobbling through the days. You wouldn't want to meet me just now.

Next week will be the 5th week of the 2 1/2 day job and the ceiling has to be finished before the insulation can finally really be able to be blown in and Godonlyknows what is going to happen with the flooring. The carpet may have to be torn out completely at which point I will have a new flooring put down that looks like nice laminate flooring but is waterproof. This is for the dogs. I was going to do it this summer before the AC went, and now it looks like I will have no choice. This is all being determined now, estimates made, and me just looking glassy eyed at yet one more person coming in here trying to tell me how things will get fixed and what they will do. I now have AC but everything else is falling apart. Will someone please get me a bag of Hershey's kisses? I'm not supposed to eat sugar right now as part of a gluten free/sugar free diet, but if I don't get some I am likely to turn into a raging lunatic (Some unkind people might say I've been there for some long time already!) and go postal in the neighborhood taking out everyone's air conditioners in a wild, crazed, get-the-h_ll-out-of-my-way sort of mood.

This is not the politest entry I have ever written. This is the entry of a woman who has gone round the bend and not found her way back. But I felt I should explain my absence and when things settle (In this lifetime please God, in this lifetime!) I will be back to blogging more often. Until then, pray for me, or to the Gods of Air Conditioning. I'm too busy ducking lest more ceiling fall on my head while I'm squishing walking down the hall on wet carpet.

I am now going to lay my head down here on my desk and weep. It's another day in disaster land! Oy!

... ducking and dodging falling debris...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What If I Told You The Truth?

“At some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth.”

~o~ May Sarton ~o~

Dear Ones,

It has been an extraordinary week for me. Difficult. Weighty. Frightening. Revelatory. Transformative. I am up against the wall. My whole future and well-being may depend on my ability to write a book about living as a woman with Bipolar Disorder, and every time I start it seems wrong. Perhaps it is the nature of the disease. If you read this blog, if you have read it for years, you will see the teeter-totter writing, from deeply soulful to funny, from frightened and heart-broken to hopeful, from the depths of despair to a flight among the stars, but I can tell you, with all my heart, that the one thing I have always done is to try to tell the truth.

I am not afraid or ashamed to tell the truth about myself but I will never reveal anything about those around me save a passing remark that is unremarkable in their life but helps flesh out my own as a human being, a woman, walking through this life, in this body, with this complex mind. I will tell you that I was an adopted child, an only child, adopted during my mother's first marriage, and then adopted again by the man she married when I was four. Yes, I could write about many years of sexual and emotional abuse, but you see I have written about that for a lifetime, and I need, I really need, to draw a line in the sand and step over it. I am not afraid to write about the abuse, but I don't want to be defined by it, and most of all, I want the book that I write to speak to all people who struggle, for whatever reason, with not fitting in, with being the proverbial square peg in the round hole. Yes, I have Bipolar Disorder, but even with that I don't want to narrow the scope of what I write to a mental health diagnosis, again, not because I am afraid or ashamed to write about it but because I believe that so many people suffer for so many reasons, and I want to reach out to all who do. You are my brothers and sisters. You are my tribe.

I want to talk about how we can carve out a life for ourselves in a world that many never understand but that is essential, crucial, if we are to live in this world, perhaps even stay alive. Some cannot, but many of us battle on through years of therapy and with the help of medication do our best to carry on. Many of us have struggled since childhood to hold on to something to get us through while we were punished, ostracized, or chameleon-like, shape-shifted to fit in wherever we were so that we wouldn't stick out. That's what I did. I didn't want to be noticed. There were a few years when I started working in theatre and those were wonderful because I could be someone other than myself. I could go onstage and sing and dance and I did very well at it. I had dreams. Big ones. And when they didn't come to pass, at 18, I came crashing down with what was probably the beginning, the foreshadowing, of the life I would live, but there weren't terms for that then, and I was young.

I would marry at 20, less than 2 years later spend a month in a mental ward in a hospital after a nervous breakdown, and, after coming out of the hospital I found out that I was pregnant, had to go off of the medication cold turkey, and in the next decade had three children. They are my bright shining stars, the reason that I have, somehow or another, held on, they have given me a reason for living. But I won't write about that because I guard, zealously, their privacy, and this story is not about them. This story, the one that I need to write, is about living a life continuing to shape-shift as an adult until, finally, more than a decade ago, I retreated from the world and began the journey that would lead me to today. I am a virtual recluse that lives with 9 animals and is relieved and grateful to live alone. I can leave the house for brief periods to do absolutely necessary things like get food, medicine, or other necessary items, but I only feel completely safe here. Varying any routine can throw me into a tailspin, and my routines are as rigid as the steps of a sturdy ladder. I climb them one at a time each day, and if I miss a step, if something causes me to miss a step, I may be holding on for dear life for the rest of the day.

But, what I want to tell you all is that I am happy -- as happy as I can be with what nature and nurture have handed me -- four mental health diagnoses in all -- and many days I do indeed feel joyful, and in every moment I am grateful for this life. I am able to be open on the page and I pray that my writing may help someone else feel a little less lonely, may help them know that they are not alone in this world or crazy because they are deemed crazy in the world's terms, that we live with whatever it is that we live with, diagnoses or no, that for some the world has just thrown them so many curves that they, too, struggle every single day to make sense of it all and carry on. Some will work outside the home and some will not be able to. Some will be in partnerships or marriages with someone they love and who supports them through the hard times, and others will be in very hard places in relationships for any of a number of reasons. If you are in pain, if you are confused, if you feel like you never fit in, if you, too, are a square peg in a round hole, then you are part of my tribe. I write this for you. This is the book I need to write. And I haven't known how.

There are people who have wanted me to write a book about abuse. I myself have started many books about being bipolar, because there are few out there and most seem to be dire pictures of near suicides or severe manic stories or medical texts. I don't want to stay in the narrow channel of a disease that can make many days seem like a trip down Alice's rabbit hole where everything around them is seen as if through a fun house mirror at a carnival because all of my days -- and I can only speak for myself -- are not that way. When I sink deeply into despair, now, I lean into the coping skills that I have learned and know that the hard times will pass. I have learned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, at least for today, and for, perhaps, many days to come. I do not want to burden anyone, least of all my family who are dearer to me than I can say.  I live with 9 animals, rescues, 4 pugs and 5 parrots, because their love is unconditional, and, many mornings, if it weren't for having to get up to care for them I might not get out of bed at all. There are many times throughout the day where I have spent hours huddled in a chair, but having to get up to take the dogs out helped me move and changed the tenor of my day. Sleeping with my pugs I am able to, most nights, sleep almost through the night without waking in tears, or screaming, or a cold sweat because of soul shaking nightmares. I go to sleep now with my hand on a pug, or a tiny blind pug snuggled in my arm with the rest of them snoring their chorus of pug snores around me, and I go to sleep smiling, and in the morning I am awakened by them jumping all over me with kisses and tiny tails wagging and huge eyes staring into mine. Yes, living with animals is what works for me. People have hurt me, animals never have, and they bring me more joy and comfort than I ever knew I would have.

And so this is the book I am trying to write. I want it, in a way, to be a book of love letters to those in my tribe, and when I say love letters I don't mean in the romantic sense, I mean that I want those like me -- meaning those that feel that they never quite fit anywhere for whatever reason -- I want you, if you are reading this, to know that you are loved. I want you to know that you are valuable and have much to give in this world. I want you to know that you can carve out a life for yourself that will work for you if for nobody else, and that within the walls of that world you can experience much joy and wonder, and you will have very hard days and shed many tears but you will be safe, and the dawn does indeed come after the dark. I want you to know that and to hold on because a new day is coming and you will make it. I want to help you know that you will be okay, no matter what, and come what may, and I want you to know that though we will never meet that there is someone who genuinely cares about you and wishes you well, someone who wants to write books that will help you hold on.

Hold on. Please. You are not alone. I am here and there are many others. No matter what circumstances brought us to this place we can survive and thrive and move forward into a life that can be beautiful and full. I am living such a life, in my own way, and finally I don't care if anyone else understands. I no longer care to be a chameleon. I am fully myself, with all that that means, and with every wobbly facet of my being.

And so yes, May, I am telling the truth, and I am so grateful to have known you before you died, and to have written letters to you and received postcards and gifts back, and for our numerous phone calls that gave me the strength to go on. I am grateful to know that I can live in the world, mostly cut off from it, that I can have rages and yet mostly be very tender, and that living alone can be painful and lonely and yet the one thing that makes me feel whole. I love my solitude, it has saved my life. It, and my animals, and my garden, and my books, and my family, and my cherished friends mean more to me than I can say, even if I cannot always be what they might want or need. I am not easy, but I do try.

This is the book that I am trying to write. I hope that it has value, I hope that it helps others. I guess that I am writing this blog entry in the hopes that it will propel me into the pages of the book that I need to write. I have so much more to tell you. I will tell you there, in the pages of my book. Until then, hold on dear ones, you are not alone, you are a member of a tribe of hundreds of thousands, more, and through spirit and the conscious knowledge of the presence of the others that live and soldier on we can all make it. Hold on dear reader, hold on. I am coming. I am writing this book.

With deepest love, and gentle caring, from behind the veil...