Monday, July 1, 2013

Well, I'm all packed and heading over to the new site. Click the suitcase to follow me there!

Yes, Maitri's Heart and I are leaving on a jet plane. The whole blog, all the archives will be there in a drop down menu at the bottom of the right hand column. Peter, Paul and Mary are going to sing us over... 

I want to thank all of you who have followed me here since 2007 and I assure you this is NOT an ending, this blog will continue on in the new location. I surely hope you will join me there and leave me notes and say hello. It isn't goodbye, it's a whole new way to say hello and a whole lot of exciting things to come.

I love you all so much!!!

C'mon now, click on the suitcase, you can help me carry some things over there!

Come on pugs, let's get to gettin!

... to be continued at...

"C'mon now, you can follow me over..."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Big M, Little M ~ It's time for Maitri to take care of Marcia...

Oh, my dear, I left you all alone.

When I changed my name to make a whole new identity for myself in the world, a place where I could feel whole, could feel true to the woman I wanted to become, I hadn't realized that the little girl who had felt abandoned her whole life would be abandoned once more. When I think of it now it breaks my heart.

I was Marcia. She was the one who was sexually abused for her whole childhood. She married a lovely man and had 3 children she adored. She was an artist and a writer, who grew up on horses and saved kittens and puppies and hamsters and mice, wild birds and squirrels, and she was the one who never learned how to play. She was too afraid. She hated playing games as an adult because anything that she didn't have control of terrified her.

Marcia was the little girl who was adopted, and through her entire childhood never felt as though she fit in, always felt like the little girl with her nose pressed to the glass on the outside looking in, wanting desperately to be part of the happy family inside. She would never be part of that family, and when, at 26, with 2 babies of her own, she searched for and found her biological mother, believing, with her innocent heart, the heart that so deeply loved her own children that she would die for them without even thinking, it never occurred to her that the woman who gave birth to her wouldn't want to know her, especially since she had gone about it very quietly, discreetly, never wanting to hurt anyone or cause any trouble. She found out these things --

She and her middle daughter looked like her biological mother.
She had 6 half brothers, the first of whom was born one year after she was given up for adoption.
She was a product of rape.
Her mother hated her and wished she had never had her. She told her so. She said that if she had been able to have an abortion in 1953 she would have.
That her biological mother would threaten to kill her, and be so graphic about the way that this would be done it sent her reeling in shock, and into years more therapy than she had already had.

How much more abandonment would there be?

I can tell you the rest of her story, but in this moment I only feel the deep, stabbing pain of remorse. In July of 2005, after my divorce, I went to the courthouse and changed my name, legally. It meant a lot to me. I wanted to wipe the slate clean, leave the abuse, the abandonment, the neglect, the terror, the pain, behind. I signed the papers. I became Maitri Libellule.

But what happened to Marcia?

 I never really wondered until today. I have wondered why this bi polar madness that I live with has swelled all out of proportion and daily nips at my heels and seems to get worse with each passing week, and then, oh dear God, then it came to me. Perhaps it is not being bi polar as much as it is having buried alive a part of myself and she, Marcia, who was left for dead, has been clawing her way up out of the grave I buried her in.

Dear God.

Oh my God.

I hadn't meant to erase her. She would always live inside of me. I simply wanted to embrace a beautiful name that held all of the spiritual teachings that mattered to me. The teachings of loving-kindness, of compassion. I wanted a name not tainted with a childhood filled with hidden darkness when she, the seemingly privileged child, to everyone who knew her, including family, lived through horrors no one would ever know. Shreds of dark fibers from the nightmares of those days would cling to her through marriage, and motherhood, and her young adulthood into middle age. How would it ever be possible to step out of the darkness into the light?

I thought I had the answer.

After a 6 year separation we finalized the divorce. Upon legally changing my name Marcia ceased to exist. You will not find her in any legal records. Maitri Libellule was born and Marcia slipped away, except... except of course she never really died. She has been living inside of me with a broken heart. How many times would she be cast aside, by birth, by chance, by circumstance? I left her, but she was still clinging to part of me.

Am I bi polar, or am I a woman who cut off half of herself and is being chased by her other half through nightmares and daydreams, in the pathways between the two poles of her brain? Will I only find peace, will I only ever be well if I go back and meet her face to face, embrace her, tell her that I love her, and bring her with me? The day that I signed the papers and became Maitri a black curtain dropped down on all that came before, inside of me that is. I still had my beloved children, and all of the outer trappings of life, but I had tried to kill my other half, not intentionally, but effectively had I done so, and not for the past 8 years have I understood what this gnawing, gut-wrenching pain was.

Next month I will be Maitri for 8 years. Is this why the last months have been so desperately difficult? Has Marcia been crying out, begging me to reach out to her, to bring her along so that my two halves could once again be whole?

Can Maitri love Marcia and still be Maitri? I think that is what I need to know.

Perhaps for me the bi polar journey is as much about reuniting both sides of myself as well as dealing with the biochemistry that rules my brain and must be reigned in like wild horses lest they go off in opposite directions and never come back to the middle again, or, perhaps, and I think this is far more likely, I need to reach out to Marcia, to embrace her, to hold her, to love her, and finally, acknowledge the she that is me. I need to weave the two halves of myself together. I think more than the pills I swallow every day this might be the most important answer of all.

Tonight I will warp my loom and begin to weave. I will weave together the two halves of myself before they are rent apart for good. I have been terrified by the struggle through each and every day as it became harder and harder. I did not want to be one more woman who went mad. I have too much to give. I want to live.

I am opening up my arms tonight and welcoming Marcia into my warm embrace. I love her. She is me. This is very hard work, but this is the summer that will transform my life from broken pieces into a whole. I will weave a tapestry where both of us will be woven fine. Big M will take care of Little M. It's time someone does.

I have been desperately searching for an answer, and she has been inside of me all along...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sitting with the changing tides inside of me, sharing honestly...

The one thing that you will always get from me is honesty.

I do get afraid, but I am not afraid to share my truth, or perhaps, better put, I know I must share my truth, because there are too many of you out there that need to hear it. You tell me so.

The pendulum has been swinging wildly, I am waiting for it to come to the center and rest. I am getting closer. The difference between me, I suppose, and other people, is that you are seeing process, not just product. I am capable of producing, of finishing, but I go very deep and shine my searchlight in every direction before finding the thing that I am looking for, I cast my net so wide for fear of missing that which needs to be included, the right way to say it, to engage people with the idea that I hold in my heart, that I sway too far this way and that. 

Is it all about being bi polar? I don't think so, but that is surely part of it. 

I do know that my work is about helping people come to terms with fitting out, embracing that concept if it is true for them. But it won't come by way of blue-footed boobies (They were in the last entry that I took down if you didn't read it. Just say that I was looking for a light-hearted way to approach an often difficult and painful subject. The intent was good, but it did not fit.). I love them, I might have a stuffed booby here on my desk to cheer me, but he won't be the emblem for the flagship enterprise. If I spoke too soon I am not afraid or ashamed to say so, but I will move slower as I head toward this goal. And I will share all these missteps with you because maybe you will accept yours, if you have them, a little more easily, and love yourself, despite it all, along the way.

Somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m. I woke up with an uneasy feeling, a panicky one, and I held onto my wee pug, baby Tanner, cuddled next to me, and I tried, hard, to go back to sleep, but it was haunting me, it was wrong. In the wake of moving house, taking this blog to the new site, perhaps I have felt as though I were flying without a net and tried to create something solid to stand on. But life doesn't work that way, so what I will do is slow down and move forward a little slower.

I am going to have the new website. I am moving this blog, but Maitri's Heart must needs continue as it has because what it represents is one woman's heart, wide open, for all the world to see, wild shifts that might seem embarrassing to some but to me are part of my fragile humanity and if I bring it all to the light I will not lose my way. I won't hide these missteps. I will make them, as we all do in our own way when we are building a life, but I will own mine publicly because someone else out there is sitting there feeling so alone and so afraid they don't know which way to turn. They are filled with fear, shame, and maybe even self-loathing for once more stepping out, and falling back, for all the world to see.

If you are that person, dear man or woman, you are not alone. We are here together. As the fear rises we will catch it in a net. We will take it out and sit it gently on our lap. We will stroke it and tell it it's okay, we are here with it. Love your fear, embrace it, don't run from it, don't hide it, love it tenderly, and then sit it in a soft basket filled with downy quilts and cover it lightly. 

You have taken care of your fear. I have taken care of mine. Now we can move on.

I believe that more dreams have fallen by the wayside because people have great bursts forward, they stumble and they fall,  but instead of getting up, dusting themselves off, and taking a deep breath, being very very gentle with themselves and accepting where they are, and knowing that it is all part of the process and if they just keep getting up and moving forward they will get there, fear or shame causes them to drop their fragile dream and run from it, hoping not too many people noticed them stumbling on the way.

You have seen me stumble. You have seen me fall. I'm sure you will again, but you will see me continue to get back up and keep moving forward. You can too. Come on dearheart, it's okay, it's part of being human. Take my hand, we can do this. 

I am tenderly cradling my book, Tending Grace, and I know that I will finish it. It is about fitting out, because I do, it is the gentle story of me, getting here, to this place, and moving forward to the next. It is the story that I will tell first, it is the heart of Maitri's Heart, it is the truth of my life. Digging deep I find my truth, and I must needs keep finding my way back to this soft gentle place. It is not flashy. There are no blue-footed boobies here, but there are pugs and parrot and a growing garden and loved ones and what more is there? I have all that I need. I am blessed, and I am grateful.

And so once again I move forward...

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Heart Speaks If We Listen...

The days following my last post have been peaceful. 

Have I worried or been afraid if I will be alright, if I will be able to make an income, if I can trust what I believe, with my whole heart, to be true?

No, no, and no, I have not been afraid, and yes, I trust. 

Do I wonder how it will all happen, am I filled with hope, do I get a little shy around the belief in myself needed to create what I believe I am here on this earth to create?

I wonder, I get a little shy, I smile, I get a little fidgety, my heart flutters a bit... in excitement, because I know that I can survive and from that place of knowing, from a place of sitting, very still, and in a quiet meditative place taking time to listen to that still small voice within, all of the answers that I need are coming, floating up one at a time. I don't need to see the whole picture now because I couldn't do everything at once anyway. I get quiet, I listen, I pray for guidance, I trust the answers.

One thing that has really come up for me in an amazing way is the realization that when I stop trying to do what I think I'm supposed to do in a way that works for others, that I have been encouraged to do, only to become afraid and frozen and shut down, when I gently release those ideas of how it should be, and stop criticizing myself because I feel that I should have been able to, and sit with it all for awhile, really releasing it all, something shifts. What happens is that when you listen very closely all that you need is already there inside of you. Yes, there will be outside things that you need to learn or do to see those dreams into reality, but those things are easy once you have confidence in yourself and your dream. I never had that confidence. I was waiting for someone else to tell me that it was alright.

I am alright just as I am, right now, in this very moment. I am not afraid of hard work. I can do what I need to do. To that end I am already creating a website that will be in place to create income in a way that I feel good about that is separate and apart from the work that I hope will one day be my full time work, but it is all connected and true and authentic and part of my soul. It has to do with gardening, and more than that I am not yet ready to share. Too early. But I will say that in finding a way that I can create income now, with gifts and talents that I already have, enables me to breathe a little. Too much pressure put on heart~work to be the sole means of income just kills the very soul of the enterprise. It is too much for it to bear. It will never see the light of day if you crush it with expectations it cannot hope to live up to as it is just getting up on its wobbly newborn legs. Let it grow unfettered and free. My work will be from home but it will be the equivalent of a day job that feeds one's passion, and as it is about gardening it is also a passion. 

When we focus so completely on one way of looking at things, or achieving our dreams, we limit ourselves in such a way that we are almost surely dooming it to failure. I have cast my net wide, become expansive with my notion about what can be my work in this world, have begun to look at what for me are more practical and perhaps a little less dreamy pieces of the puzzle but still all part of the dream. All of the parts support the whole. I have stood back, taken a good look at my life, and saw that there was so much more there than I had ever given myself credit for. I am amazed by my own abilities, by the gifts and talents that I have that I never thought about using because I took them for granted, and as all the parts and pieces are moving closer together I see that they are all part of the same tapestry and they are woven fine. Woven together my life begins to look both possible and doable and in a way that will make me happy. I thought anything less than being able to fully and solely achieve my soft little dream was, well, not selling out, but taking away from the potency of that which I had hoped to create. No, when we take care of one part of our life it creates a vibrant energy that spreads through the whole life at hand. A mystical, magical, mysteriously awesome experience.

That I have found this, almost by accident, to be true for me is a revelation, and it is true for you too.

How often do we find ourselves living by others shoulds, oughts and musts? What happens if we gently let all of those things fall away -- scary, entering the unknown, actually trusting ourselves -- and let those little fragments break free and float up to the surface? Those little pieces of dreams that we have pushed down so hard they might never have surfaced again. And they might not be easy to retrieve but it is so worth taking the time to try to reconnect with them. Do this...

Find a little time each day to sit quietly, to be with yourself in a comfortable, peaceful place. It may be for 10 minutes at night when you are actually in bed before you go to sleep. 

Sit, close your eyes, breathe, and picture your beautiful heart opening up, slowly, maybe just a little. In whatever way is comfortable for you tell your heart that you are ready to listen, to receive the messages that are meant for you to hear. Imagine tiny little notes escaping from the opening and floating up, up, up. Try to read what these little notes say, it may be a word, a phrase, a picture. These are the messages your heart is sending you, and will keep sending you, until you are ready to hear them. You may not be able to read them yet. Come each night with a willingness to listen. It is your life that you are listening to. It is your soul trying to call out to you to bring you back to the place of innocence and longing, dreaming and hoping, wanting dearly to have or do or be or achieve that special thing we held so dear before the loss of innocence, when everyone around us gave us a hundred reasons, a thousand, why it could never be so. Look at the faces around you. How many look sad? How many are walking through life with the weight of long lost dreams weighing them down?

I think a lot of depression comes from closing our heart so tight and determinedly not listening because we feel that it isn't safe, that what we hear will be frivolous, or impractical, that we will be made fun of, that we aren't up to the task, that we let them sink to the bottom of the sea of our soul. I think more people than less die with broken and lost dreams in their heart. Is there anything sadder? What if you try and it doesn't pan out the way you had imagined? Well, what I am finding out so far -- and I am still very early on in this journey -- is that once you trust enough to make a start you may not come, in the end, to the place you thought you wanted to go, but most likely you will come to the very place you are supposed to be, or at the very least you will have come  closer, and be more fulfilled, than you would have ever been without trying. 

It's only your life. Do you want to die without trying? All we can do is try, but the very act of believing enough to try is positively life changing, it changes your perspective on everything else around you, every little corner of your day is a new, brighter color simply because you are allowing hope in again. I think belief in ourselves is the hardest part. Then, step by step, it gets easier. There will surely be times when fear rises, we are human, but come back to your night-time meditations with your heart. The messages will keep rising and direct you back to your course. Once you have opened that door it is not easily shut.

It is never too late. It is never, ever too late.

I am just beginning. I am the little horse trying to stand up on wobbly legs, but I am determined to keep on, and to share my journey here with you. There is strength in numbers. Why don't you leave a comment below this post, and you don't have to share what your dream is, but perhaps just say, "I'm with you Maitri, I am ready to listen to my heart, I will not die with my song unsung, I am ready to begin."

It is a journey, not a destination, but it is easier when you know that you are not alone. We have to follow our own individual paths, but we can walk parallel to each other, we can wave to each other and offer a hearty, "Atta girl, keep on keeping on!" to one another. 

I'm waving at you now. Will you wave back at me?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I Found My Way Home...

Be it ever so humble there's no place like home...

The front porch at Dragonfly Cottage

Dear Ones,

The last couple of weeks have been an intense and scary roller-coaster ride around and through the bi polar pathways that start in my brain and run through my life. I sat down two nights ago trying to figure out what had been going on and I realized something that was so important I don't know  how I could have missed it, but one thing that I know for sure is that bi polar or not I will always find my way home. Home to myself, home to that which is real and true for me, and this is what I discovered...

There are many ways to create a life and a business today and all are good and have value for those who fit with the current paradigms. I do not fit. I have written here that we -- those of use whose life must needs be lived outside the box -- need to learn how to be comfortable with fitting out rather than fitting in. I was trying desperately to fit in, and it's just not me. To that end I removed the last 2 blog entries about writing and teaching because they came from a place that while authentic at one time no longer work for me. I can cook them up but I could not continually dish them out. I am not that intense, over the top wild writer anymore and, as I read it, I must say, I was a bit unnerved. I don't know where that came from. I am a very good teacher, I taught my writing classes for over thirty years and had waiting lists to get in my classes. We went deep, for sure, but I am a much gentler soul than that, and as time has gone by I get softer, and gentler, and quieter. I cannot work with people one on one. I left the world for a reason when I decided that Dragonfly Cottage would be my home, my sanctuary, where I would create a life that would be the safe haven that I need, but also I want, in my deepest heart, to help others find their way home, to themselves, to what is true and real for them even if no one else understands it. It is what I am doing here. It is what I want to share with you.

Tanner and Sampson just waking up -- on my chest!

Yesterday morning I woke up, as I always do, snuggled in with my 3 pugs, and Sam and Tanner were right on top of me, firmly planted on my chest and tummy, two sleepy pug boys, my sweet loves. I am a simple woman, my animals, my garden, my writing, my art, solitude and silence, prayer and meditation, reading, and sending love notes out to the world through my blog and the books I want to write and the podcasts that I am now doing, this is the way I want to live my life, this is what I have to offer, and yes, I have to find a way to create income to live on but it has to be my way, a way that can sustain me in a quiet gentle way that does not set off solar flares that awaken the sleeping dragon inside of me. I have so much that I want to give, so much that I can give, and yesterday I started doing just that. I am creating my own paradigm for how I can live my life, tend it gently using the gifts and talents and elements of my life that I have that keep me at peace and help me create what is real and true for me now, and what I think, I hope, will reach others and be something that might help them as well. I want to help you, dear readers, to feel less alone. I want to help you see that if I could find and create a life that works for me you too can find and create one that works for you even if no one else in the world understands it. I want to create safe space for you in my books, and perhaps there will be a community online, I'm not sure, it is a possibility, but first there is so much more that I have to create. I am doing this for me, and I am doing it for you. If what I have to offer can be a help, a comfort, for you, I will be blessed a thousand fold, and my life will have purpose and meaning.

I will also be working on my novel as well as my book about the 100 Ladies. I will be creating art to sell, not only the drawings that I have been doing that I will use to create merchandise to sell but in this beautiful, peaceful place I am finding my way into I am finally returning to my fiber art as well. So much of me has been taken up trying to do things that I thought I was supposed to do that I dropped the thread that connected me to all that I loved to do. I will be weaving and hand-spinning yarn and doing free form crochet and upcycled art, nature art, and more. Soon I will be re-opening my etsy shop, maybe by the end of the summer when I have had time to create enough to fill it. Oh my, it feels good to have found my way home to my true self and the life that I have known all along was the one I was meant to create.

Tall blue salvia opening up in the green cottage garden...

In the next few months much of my life will be spent in the garden. Just now I have a number of plants to plant, and a great many bulbs, hundreds of gladiolas and a great many lilies. Two boysenberry bushes arrived yesterday and I can't wait to plant them in my studio garden on my deck where herbs, roses, fig and berry bushes, and so much more are growing. I look out these windows here where I am writing on so much beauty, the bright flamingo pink deck overflowing with new little plants shooting up, a host of wild birds at 3 feeders, two, just on the other side of these windows so close that I can almost reach out and touch the tiny birds that come to these two, the chickadees and the nuthatches, rosy finches, and even downy woodpeckers, and so many more. All of the things that I have wanted to do, that I came here to do, are the things that hold the keys to creating the income that I need to create. A flood of relief came over me and I cried. The weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.

Finally, yesterday I set up the PDF for the book I will definitely publish and I can say that with confidence because it is just this, the book of my heart, coming out of the world that I have created. The pages are a warm rosy pink, each 8x8" page outlined, a little box to live within, to write my stories, share my art and photographs, and mostly, in sharing my life here at Dragonfly Cottage, I hope to help you see that if you haven't already you can create the life that is one where you can sink into with ease and relief, grace and peace. There is so much I want to share with you and I have to do it in the way that I know best how to do it. It is not unlike The Contemplative Way, the quarterly journal that I published on all blue paper under the auspices of The Blue Hibiscus Press.

This may end up being a quarterly journal too and it will be full of notes and quotes, resources and stories of animals and gardens, of one woman finding her way through the maze of life as a bi polar woman to a sanctuary that she created, that I created, to be able to share the gifts that I do have. We all can do this. I want to invite you into the cottage in the way that I can. I want to welcome you to my home through the pages of this book, the first in a series. Yes, that's just it, it is the first book in a series and I am so excited to bring it to you. Would you like to share this journey with me and be guided gently into a life where you, too, can find your peace? I hope you will come with me. Oh, dear ones, I hope you do. There will be journal exercises -- gentle ones -- and so much more. I want to reach out to you and offer you all that I have to give, all that is inside of me. It is time. Oh yes dear ones, it is time.

From this beautiful place, this gentle place of peace and calm, I send you so much love. I offer you my heart, like an open book. The pendulum had to swing wildly in every direction until, dazed, confused, afraid, and hurting, through prayer, meditation, silence and solitude I was able to come home to myself. It is only from this place that I truly have anything to offer, and I am ready to offer it to you.

I wish for you many blessings. I send you so much love...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Harnessing That Bi Polar Energy, A Renewable Resource ~ Dedicated to @kseniaanske ...

It began like this...

Like over 50,000 others on Twitter I have been inspired by the incredible Ksenia Anske whom I "met" there, as one meets, tweet by tweet, in this now not in the least bit unusual medium. This amazing woman/writer/Twitterologist has published one novel, and not only self-published it but she offers you her writing for free right on her website. (Yes, you can download her books for free. You can also buy them on amazon. But first she just wanted to give them away entirely for free.) Her work and what she is doing with it, as well as the amazing phenomenon she has become on Twitter tweeting her way through the day as she writes, now working on her second novel, and encouraging others far and wide to do the same, "Write-Write-Write!" has me all fired up and more excited than I have been in a long time about just-plain-writing. Writing for the joy of writing, for the thrill of it all, because you can't NOT write, because you write like you breathe, because words are your LIFE, because reading and writing are all that matter. Because...

I have been saying this and writing this and teaching this for nearly 40 years but I forgot. I have written in magazines, newspapers, been published in anthologies, had 3 small presses and written a dozen novels that didn't sell but I always wrote with a passion, a desire, and a fervor that nearly set my hair a-fire. I was known for this, until I didn't know it myself anymore. What happened to me?

Somewhere after leaving my decades long marriage I fell through time and space and lost myself so completely that for someone who picked up a pen at 9 and wrote her way through a lifetime of pain and confusion and depression and whatever else life handed me I lost the thread, over a decade I unravelled, and writing left me. Oh yes, I've blogged, but I stopped writing books. It didn't matter if books were not published -- and if I'd had the option to self-publish, the kind of options that are available today, some of them might have been published and I think I would have been proud of them -- no, it didn't matter that they weren't published, what mattered is that I never had any trouble writing them. I'm not talking about quality, or publishability, I'm talking about the zest for it all, and somewhere along the line I lost it.

Enter Ksenia Anske on Twitter. Now, mind, we don't really know one another, we've just tweeted, or retweeted as it were a few times, but her energy is contagious and it has reignited a passion for writing in me I'd lost without knowing it. Thank God. Just in the knick of time. And it's so much more than that. 

I had nearly written myself off, so terrified have I become over the fact that being bi polar seems to have become more of a struggle as the years have gone on to the extent that I have worried that I wouldn't be okay, okay as in able to make a living and take care of myself. It's really been a very scary time and every day is a bit of a Sisyphean task to push myself up the hill through the hours only to roll back down and have to start over the next day. What I hadn't realized was that the not writing was making it all worse, and I couldn't get my groove back, not until Ksenia. I am on my knees thanking God for that woman, and I can pretty much guarantee you a lot of other people are too. 

Okay, so what is the point of all of this? With my new found inspiration I pulled out a novel I have been starting and stopping for years. It is an odd little novel that I have great affection for but every time I start it I get just so far and I think, "Yegods, this is, well, it's... what would people think?" And the thing is that now I don't care, I just don't care. Life is too doggoned short to care so much that I don't write and if I don't write it just won't bode well for my life as a whole. It's just that...

Well, you see I got the novel out, I dusted it off, I set a timer and I wrote for an hour. BAM! Something inside of me like a sleeping dragon woke up and went WILD. I was laughing while I wrote. I was prickly with fear and shivering with delight. I startled myself and I just WENT for it. This set me to writing everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, you name it, that I was going to write this novel and tweet the dickens out of the whole process and, and, and...

And then it hit me. I was riding a wave of bi polar mania and it scared the hoo ha out of me! And it stopped me in my tracks. And then I realized that I have done nothing but be stopped in my tracks for over a decade. And if I have to surf the wild waves to write this book I'm going to do it. 

Now, here's the thing. I am on medication. I may get manicy in moderation but I get a grip fairly soon. I don't drive my car off a cliff, I don't take drugs or go on alcoholic benders, no, I just get razzle-dazzle excited (and sometimes buy too many pens or books or art supplies or plants for the garden) but the thing is that if I'm gonna have to be bi polar then gosh darnit I'm gonna USE it! Why not harness that bi polar energy?

So my plan is to set that timer for 1 hour a day, and no, I haven't done it today but I can promise you that as soon as I publish this blog post I'm going to do it and here's why. I'm going to do it because I have to, because I need to show myself that I can stick to something, that I can finish something, that I can DO something, and that joy, that over the top sheer reckless exhilaration I feel when I am working on that book is something that I need to harness and store up inside of me. I need it, like the solar lights that I have all over my yard that soak up the rays during the day and glow at night, I need to write this novel and let that part of me kick up it's heels and write whatever I want to write, as big and bold and wild as I want to write it, because, properly harnessed, within the framework of that hour each day, I will be charging the solar battery in the center of my being so that I can move through the rest of my life and create the business I need to create to take care of myself and yes, maybe save my very own life.

There is a lot written now that bi polar disorder has entered the mainstream mental health arena about all of the writers and artists through time that were bi polar and how they created in such angst that they did such things as cut off their ears or kill themselves leading a lot of people to wonder if you had to be crazy to be an artist at all. Can you be "healthy" and be an artist? Well, I think that's not the point, not for me anyway. The point is that I believe you can be bi polar and create and have a happy life. I think you have to be aware, very aware, and take good care of yourself, and use those energies in a way that moves you forward. Within the confines of that hour I can be as flippin' manic as I might be writing this story that screams to be born, but then... Then the timer dings, I save the document 56 ways to Sunday, I kiss a pug, and I go on about my life. Every single page that I write is an affirmation that I can do it at all, and that affirmation is something that is spreading through me and into dark corners that I thought would never see the light of day. I knew it before but I forgot. It's writing I need. Writing will save my life.

And no, I'll leave it to Ksenia to tweetly-deedly-doo all about the writing process on Twitter and elsewhere. I will be there soaking up her tweets and thanking God that I stepped into "the twitterverse" and found her. And I will rip though this novel without stopping or looking back. I'll say anything I darned well please any way I want to. If, in the end, it is something that with time and editing and work becomes a book that I feel that I can publish, well, wonderful, but it's the act of writing it, of finishing it, that I most need to do, and so I am. By the time you see this my timer will be ticking and I will be pounding the keys fueled by bi polar delight.

Skyrockets in flight, it's bi-polar-delight, I'm harnessing bi-polar-delight. (If you're old enough to recognize the song that inspired this you can sing it out loud with me just for fun!)

Thank you Ksenia. Now I'm setting my timer. It's time.

Weeeee doggies!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Now that I'm Free To Be Myself, Who Am I? ~ Mary Oliver

I came across this Mary Oliver quote this morning and it brought me up short. I just sat and stared at it. 

Last night, between 11 and 12 pm, I started, stopped, and deleted no less than 5 attempts at a podcast. I have not missed a scheduled podcast since I started even though I've gone from every day to every other day since they have gotten so much longer, time for listeners to have time to listen and for me enough time for the well to fill again so that I feel I have something to say, to share. While my podcasts are not on the edge of your seat exciting. simply gentle musings from Dragonfly Cottage about the days here, the pugs and the parrots, the garden, my writing and art, thoughts about life, last night it felt like everything I came up with was gibberish, and, I must admit, it sounded like meaningless meandering all over the place. I could not get my brain on straight! The question that I had been grappling with all day was a version of just this, Now that I'm free to be myself, who am I?

By last night I was exhausted to the point of tears trying to figure out what it was that I was that I wanted to do with my one wild and precious life (One of my all-time favorite quotes, also by Oliver, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" the last two lines of  her poem "The Summer Day."), and I'll be doggoned if I could tell you.

I have written here, there, and everywhere about my 100 ladies, and I love them, and fully intend to continue with that book and their work. I have grappled with trying to write my book on being bi polar, I Will Not Go Down That Rabbit Hole, but after pulling it out, dusting it off, connecting with it strongly, after getting an amazing amount of feedback and thank you's for sharing it I became afraid again, not that I couldn't write it but, as self-care is absolutely essential for me, the dark place that I would have to live in for the year or however long it would take me to write it would mean that I would have to live through the pain and struggles that I face almost daily, twice. Once in the living of it and again in the writing. It is just not a place I feel it would be healthy for me to go. 

Then a few comments came in about part of a book that I have started over and over again for years, The Road To Dragonfly Cottage. This is not just a journey to a physical place but a spiritual journey that began after leaving my marriage at 45 in April 1999 to the present, and there is a lot in that book as I have conceived it and in the numerous drafts I have written to date that I feel has merit, might help others as well as be a record of both a spiritual and psychological journey of a woman coming to midlife and beyond while struggling to create a life that has purpose and meaning.

All of these projects are important to me even while I know Rabbit Hole needs to just rest for now, but my most pressing concern that comes up and up and up is that writing a book is not enough at a time when I really need to create an income. And so the idea of creating a community where I might bring the wisdom and experience that I have into a forum where I can help other women is what I have come to, but how best to go about it? Thank goodness I have Dori Etter of Inspired Income to help me do just that.

So after contacting Dori on Tuesday to tell her that I was finally ready to have our one-on-one session to start moving forward with this work, and I will next Tuesday, I started plotting and planning, and yesterday I made up a list of all of the things I have done in my life that I can bring to bear on this new work and I was overwhelmed. It was a life review of sorts and there was so much that it left me reeling and feeling somewhat depressed and melancholy about times gone by, as well as tender towards all of the things that I have done. And, too, what I came to is how little we credit ourselves for our own experience, knowledge, and wisdom earned over the years. I think most of all I love having come into my crone years and fully embrace that I am a wisdom keeper, a truth teller with the battle scars and stripes of glory that we all have, in our own way, as we grow into midlife and beyond.

Who am I?

I was a daughter and a wife. I am a mother and a grandmother, a friend and a lover of so much of the world and very nearly every one I meet, everyone that is kind and gentle and loving I embrace with my whole heart, even if I can't do it in person I have a lot to give and receive from where I am.

I was a childbirth educator for ten years teaching natural childbirth classes to countless couples, and after having my 2nd and 3rd babies at home I got more and more involved in the homebirth movement and became a lay midwife. I was a La Leche League Leader and counseled breastfeeding mothers for over a decade and nursed my own three children for long periods of time. We homeschooled our children and grew as a family through so very many experiences and so much over so many years. After 25 years we would separate and just short of our 31st wedding anniversary we divorced but my husband and I have had a very gentle, kind and loving parting and celebrated birthdays and holidays and weddings and deaths and births together over the years. My family, including my ex-husband, are the dearest people in the world to me.

As a survivor of long-term sexual abuse and suffering from a handful of mental health diagnoses, and having had nervous breakdowns and been suicidal, and having come through the worst of it to the place where I now work vigilantly at self-care, managing medications and working with a therapist for four of my nearly six decades, I have gained so much insight and wisdom about being a survivor, about healing, about struggling, nearly losing the battle, but winning the worst wars and daily finding my way over the hurdles and through the valleys, I have been on a shaman's journey, and with a lifelong spiritual quest from being raised Catholic, to studying Buddhism for four decades, as well as Native American spirituality, being ordained a Christian minister, studying, deeply, the monastic traditions, and finally coming to peace with God in what I call Direct Communion, I have a knowledge base that spans a multitude of spiritual traditions, that has brought a richness to my life and which carries with it so much depth, and color, and passion for living a life of spiritual service that I know I was born to do just this, to be of service in the world carrying the message of the name I took legally a decade ago. Maitri, the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and that we must first have it for ourselves to give it to another. My work is centered in compassion and loving-kindness in all that I do from day to day relations with others to my writing and art to the work that I will do with women for the rest of my life.

Having taught journal-keeping classes for thirty years, first with my childbirth couples and then, after apprenticing Katya Sabaroff Taylor whose wonderful approach to journal keeping changed my life, to studying with Ira Progoff, the founder of The Intensive Journal Method, and Natalie Goldberg author of Writing Down The Bones, and becoming friends with the woman who was my favorite writer and became my mentor and muse in the last years of her life, May Sarton, all the way up to this last year when I have studied and worked with SARK, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, who has taught me so much, read my writing and encouraged me every month since last July, and inspired me to do all that I have wanted and meant to do, in fact was born to do, yes, all of these people have stood me in good stead for what lies ahead.

I have learned the power of our stories. Writing and sharing our human stories is the most powerful thing that we can do and the recording and sharing of our lives with others and leaving that legacy for the generations to come I truly believe is the great legacy we will have left when our days on this earth have come to an end. Writing and sharing my own story, teaching, helping, and encouraging others to do the same, and gently midwifing women through the birthing of their deepest, most authentic self, and learning to fully love and embrace who they are may just be the most important work that I can do.

I am also a Reiki Master, a Shambhala Master Healer, a long time gardener connected to the earth more deeply than almost anything else, and I have had a lifetime of working with animals, rescuing them, as they rescued me, and living with a multitude of pugs and parrots and more over the years. Colette wrote, "My poetry is earthbound." My poetry, my life, my work, my love, my whole being is both earthbound and spirit-led. I am a child of the sun, the moon, and the stars. I carry within me the innocence of the newborn that I have never lost throughout it all as well as the wisdom of the grandmothers which I have truly earned. I am near tears writing this. I am all of this and so much more.

As I write this I truly encourage all of you to do just this. Start with the quote at the top and keep writing. Write for days, for weeks, for the rest of your life. Embrace and love and celebrate all that you are, and keep evolving and becoming and celebrating every single facet of your life, every battle scar and stripe of glory that you have rightly earned. As Walt Whitman wrote, "Celebrate yourself, Sing yourself!" and in this blog entry I have and going forward I will and I will help others to do the same.

I have answered the question. I am ready. I will meet with Dori next week and I will begin. Soon I will open the doors to a community that I will spend the rest of my life building and nurturing, where I will teach, and listen, and offer all that I have, all that I am, all that I know, and I will learn from the women who come to me, and I will love and cherish them with all of my heart.

In writing this I have found my answers, I have found my peace, I have finally, fully understood who I am. My heart is soaring. I am on my knees thanking God and my spirit has sprouted wings and my soul taken flight. I cannot wait to start this work. The best part of my life is about to begin.

Oh yes. I am ready.

With all the love in my heart I embrace each of you with the warmest regard and sending the deepest blessings to all...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can You Wind This Ball of Yarn?

The Ball of Yarn...

How to: Make a new friend, catch up with an old friend, get to know someone you have known for a long time but not really KNOWN...

Invite them for a cup of tea (or coffee, or a glass of wine, whatever suits) and, this is the most important part, have a ball of yarn ready and set it in the middle of the table.

After the pleasantries have passed and you are comfortable with one another you are ready to begin. 

Move your chairs together and sit with your knees almost touching. One of you will hold the ball of yarn while the other will take the end piece of the ball of yarn and beginning slowly unwinding it and making a new ball on your side. While you wind your ball tell the person opposite you everything you admire about them, everything you would like to know about them, how they inspire you, intrigue you, tell them anything and everything you can think of. Tell them how much you appreciate that they were willing to take a step forward with this friendship. You can laugh and giggle and whisper and cry and any other emotion that rises is fine. When you get to the end of the ball, stop, reverse order, and let your friend respond to everything you just said to her. 

Switch chairs. This is important because you are switching gears, modes, the ball of yarn is on the other needle so to speak. Now she (or he) will tell you everything that you first told her, and so on. When the ball ends, you answer. 

If you are feeling very close and things are really opening up and you are in a beautiful space you might pass the ball back and forth for hours. Having the yarn to wind makes it easier. Gives you a task to break the tension of staring at the person nervously not knowing what to say. You can just look at the yarn, constant eye contact isn't necessary. Keep winding, make a beautiful ball.

Now, if you can do this you will be one of the rare, extraordinary people as will your friend and this will be a friendship to cherish for a lifetime. In today's world where a dinner can't be had without someone texting or checking their e-mail, if you can pass the ball of yarn back and forth, raveling and unraveling the mysteries of the person before you and offering them your open heart in return a miracle will have occurred. 

Can you wind that ball of yarn? Do you dare?

© 2013 Maitri Libellule

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rose and the Stories of The One Hundred Ladies and How I Hope They Can Change The World...

Rose, the cantadora, who sings the songs (stories)
of the 100 Ladies...

I started The 100 Ladies Project because they insisted on being born. I wasn't sure where they would lead me but I knew that they wouldn't steer me wrong, and they haven't. They have led me into a place where art meets writing, where stories come from deep inside of me from a place of time beyond time, and in the most unique and unusual of the women's stories there is a universal truth. The 100 ladies message is that every woman, in her uniqueness, in all of who she is, is an amazing miracle and brings with her myriad blessings and gifts that, when shared with other women, can create a tribe of women who can band together to create a worldwide movement. 100 women  helping 100 women helping 100 women and so on into eternity. They mean to plant seeds that will bloom generation after generation. Their stories will never die.

I am a cantadora, a wisdom keeper, I sing the songs and tell the tales of women who have come before me, and those who will come after me, and those who are inside of me. I sing the lives of women I have known and women who have influenced, delighted, taught, and inspired me through their books and art and music. I write the stories that come in dreams and those from waking visions. Sometimes the lady comes first and sometimes her story but they come together, hand in hand, and their stories are more powerful linked together. United we stand, divided we fall, the ladies mean to band together, through space and time, and reach out to other women around the world. They want to hear your stories. They want to pass the talking stick until all the stories of all the women of the world are told. Their work will never end.

How do I hope to structure the real world work of these ladies? These are some of my ideas, and I am in the process of giving birth to more than a project, but a movement. I have always tried to leap into what should be long range plans before the time was right and this time I plan to move more slowly and grow into all that I hope to do but I can tell you that what I would like to do is to create a community where women can hear these stories, and learn the medicine, the wisdom, that Rose has come to teach, and start with a bi-monthly journal wherein subscribers, women committed to helping grow this community and help other women, will receive one of the ladies stories every other week. After the story Rose, the wise woman, teacher, and guide to the ladies will share the wisdom learned in this woman's story, and will guide a discussion in a forum created just for members. The forum will be like a cottage with many rooms where women can meet to discuss all manner of things from living their daily lives, to trying to find their way in the world and the path and work that are right for them, to how to build a life that is perhaps outside the norm but is the life they can best live to survive and thrive and grow the living garden inside of them even as they grow one in the real world.

I see the community of women gardening together, sharing seeds and stories, plans and dreams. Cooking together, sharing recipes and teaching one another about the foods and spices and traditions in their own corner of the world. These activities may be metaphorical and hold the energy of the activity, the nourishing quality of these activities that women have have taken part in in their daily lives since the dawn of time until recent generations. It is a call to bring back this energy and spread it, one woman to another, until all women know that their stories have merit and that in sharing them on they will change the lives of their children and their children seven generations into the future. 

I have a dream, not unlike the theory of The Hundredth Monkey which Ken Keyes wrote about in his book of the same name. When enough monkeys shared the knowledge it spread through the tribe until the hundredth monkey learned the lesson and the collective energy shot through the tribe and soon around the world. What if...

... one woman told her story and encouraged the next woman to tell hers (and as each woman shared hers she share the one that came before her) and each one carried these stories and this wisdom forward and on and on until all women knew all of the stories and the collective wisdom spread across the land and around the world and women found the commonalities at the same time they were enriched by the differences. We are all one. Together we can change the world.

I am creating something that each woman who joins will receive. It will be, I believe, a revolutionary way to change the world, one woman at a time. I am more than excited. I am in awe of the power of women everywhere. This is an idea that is growing inside of me, the seed of a movement, or a gentle revolution based in love and kindness, in compassion and in the genuine desire to change to the world for all who come after us. It is my hope, my dream, my plan, my mission. And there is so much more.

The 100 Ladies are on the move. Look for more news here. I hope by September to be ready to open the doors and begin to grow the tribe. Some of the work will begin to go out through the summer. If you are reading this I hope you will join me. We are part of a great lineage. Our mothers, our grandmothers, and back and back and back. Our daughters, nieces, neighbors, grandchildren and on and on into the future, and their families and friends and the whole world around them. 

Each one, reach one. That is the message of the 100 ladies. It is time to hear their stories. Let us begin...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's time to go scary deep with my writing. I'm going to tell it all. I will not got down that rabbit hole...

La libellule √©crit... 
(The dragonfly is writing.)

When I took the name Libellule after my divorce to honor my French heritage the dragonfly had long been my totem animal. The dragonfly represents moving out of the darkness into the light. It was in 1999. My marriage had ended, I came out as a lesbian and quickly found myself needing to enter into a cloistered world with animals and the garden, to go deep into a cocoon where all of the layers that had built up over a lifetime for self-protection were painfully tight and tearing. I was about to go through a decade and more of deep transformation. It would take me some time now to move through the darkness and into the light.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
Leonard Cohen

Thank God for that crack. The little bit of light that I could see kept me alive, and I was dangerously close to the edge. More than once suicide seemed my only option, but something pulled me back from the brink. In my darkest hour, the closest that I ever came, a miracle occurred. I was just at the very edge of black despair, tears were running down my cheeks, and then, just then, through my patio door flew a very large, luminescent dragonfly, golden, unbelievable but real. He stayed with me for half an hour. I was able to get my camera and he sat with me peacefully while I photographed him.

I call this extraordinary experience "The Visitation" and am writing a small book about it. He did not just save my life but in that moment I committed my life and my writing to spiritual good. To continuing to transform my own life and help others do the same. I have spent fourteen years trying to figure out just how to do it. I am finally discovering the answers and the way is unfolding. The time has come. The time is now.

In January I started to write a book that terrified me. After struggling with it for some long time I shelved it. I didn't think that I could live in the place that this book might take me to write it, but in the last days, the response that I've gotten from readers about my last  blog entry, "On Being A Bi Polar Artist," came from every direction. Comments here, from my Facebook friends and followers, from Twitter, and a lot of direct e-mails. It came to me once again that I had promised that dragonfly, that mystical being who saved my life, that I would be a truth-teller, that my job was to save my own life and the lives of others through my writing, and I intend, now, to do just that. 

I am going to share with you, tonight, the beginning of the book that I started to write in January, and tonight I am returning to that book and I will finish it no matter how long it takes. I know that it can save lives because no matter how dark, how bleak it is in the telling, there is also light coming in through the cracks, and it is the story of a survivor. Suicide isn't even something I would consider now. My job is to ride the waves of the bi polar ups and downs, to survive it all, and record it so that someone else can read it and know, through the worst of it all, that if they just hold on they can make it through. 

I am going to put the writing below and let this entry end where it ends because it leaves me almost breathless and afraid to put it here and hit publish, but this is the first step in a long journey. It is time that I return the blessing of he who saved me. It is my turn to help and to heal in as much as I can. 

The title of the book is I Will Not Go Down That Rabbit Hole, and I offer it, now, to you. It is a rough beginning, but it speaks for itself...

I will not go down that rabbit hole.

Too many other women (and men) have lost their way, the possibility of so much more that disappeared into the ether as the last embers of their lives burnt out leaving pain and suffering and sorrow in the wake of their deaths for all of the people who loved them, to whom they were important, even when they could not possibly believe that their life had any meaning, that it mattered not whether they lived or died. I have been in that place, I have nearly been swallowed whole by that terror, sometimes I face it every single day, but I will not succumb. I will not go down that rabbit hole. I will fight with everything that I have in me to stay alive, even on my hardest days, because if I can hold on and share my journey maybe I can help even one other person avoid falling into the abyss. If I can then my life will have had more meaning than I can see on my darkest days.

I will not go down that rabbit hole. I have been teetering on the brink and my head hurts and tears are welling up in my eyes and I am so terrified that I don't know how I will go on but I know that I must. I will not do that to the people who love me. I will not put my children through that. I cannot bear to wonder what would happen to these precious little animals that share my life if something happened to me. I have the rescues, the little ones no one else wanted, and they are so bonded to me their own lives would be in peril if I took my own. Suicide is no longer an option, nor do I want to go there, but the blinding terror that I face nearly every day to some degree must be managed in some way if I am to stay afloat. I will write this book. I will cast it, like a paper boat, out upon the water and let it find it's course. My dream is that it will multiply and find it's way to other tender souls who, like me, may have been one moment away from the edge when some unknown thing intervened.

I will not go down that rabbit hole. I will write this book. These words will anchor me to the page, will hold me in place, will tether me to this world. As long as I keep writing I will not go down that rabbit hole.


This morning I got up, went to the bathroom, woke the pugs to go to the potty, and we headed out into the cold. Back in I took my morning medication and we crawled back in under the covers for the hour they now know I must lie down to give the meds time to kick in and me that little bit of extra cushion before the day begins. Most days I can go back to sleep for awhile but this morning was one of the hard ones when the cover I tried to pull up over my trembling body was a heavy blanket of fear I could not remove. It was only because my old teddy bear pug Sampson was lying on top of me with my arms around him that I could hang on. Three year old Tanner pushed up against my right side and shy little Pugsley burrowed into the crook of my knees. These pugs have done far more to save me than I could ever do for them, but even this morning, anchored firmly in place with their soft warm bodies snuggled against mine, I had to keep repeating over and over and over frantic prayers and mantras in my head until I thought I might truly be going crazy. I was afraid to lie there and afraid to move. I tried to just breathe but quickly started repeating my prayer, an abbreviated version this time, over and over until I could bear it no longer. 

Usually I want the dogs to stay asleep, just a little while longer, but today, the three little faces, burrowed into the covers with their chorus of puggerly snores making me smile even through the dark cloud of fear, worried me. Can I wake them, do I dare? But they, so connected to me psychically that they know the movement of my mood's swift changes, sat up almost in unison and looked at me worriedly. I was nearly panting with relief by the time we got up, and once outdoors again, breathing fresh air, released from the previous night's nightmares and the early morning terror that gripped me, the day, as it usually does, seemed possible. Just before the pugs opened their eyes my own filled with tears. 

“I will not go down that rabbit hole, I will not be swallowed whole, I will not let my life end or worse yet let life swallow me up and spit me out, a broken thing that those that I love so dearly will need to worry over or bear the burden of taking care of. I must muster the courage, and find the wherewithal inside myself to live, to be independent, not to let a string of mental health diagnoses and the wreckage of a little girl's psyche that I try so hard to convince myself and everyone else has been pieced back together into something approaching whole, shatter. I will not let the shipwreck of my early life sink the life that is left to me in my final decades on this earth. I will soon be fifty-nine and it is not too late for me. God help me, I have got to find the way."

I am nearly weeping as I write this but even as tears run down my cheeks I sink into them with relief. I have written countless books trying to unearth the one in which I could really tell the truth, not be afraid, not worry what anybody else thinks or hold back in any way. In this moment I am fighting to save my life and there's no more time to waste. I will not go down that rabbit hole. I want to live.

Maitri Libellule, copyright 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

On Being A Bi Polar Artist...

Dear Ones...

It is one of those days...

One of those days when I feel blue, when any energy I might have had has drained out of my body and I look around at the disarray in my studio and feel overwhelmed and helpless. Will I ever get this cleaned up? Will I have the will, the wherewithal to finish this book? I have received great encouragement from the people that I am working with, that the work is good, has meaning, could sell, and I have been very happy to hear this, comforted, hopeful, and then these times come. 

I can't write this. It is my dark secret, I feel ashamed, embarrassed.

I have to write this. Writing this is the only way to open the shades and let some light in. I need light.

If even one person reads this that needs to hear these words, who might feel less alone, then this is what I must do. Throughout it all, good times and bad, hard times and times of great happiness, I have shared it all here, and my role as a truth-teller is the most important role that I have with my work because at the very heart of everything I do is the desire to help others. I have felt so alone, so frightened in my life. I have read and reread and clung to books that gave me hope, that were life rafts in a stormy sea. If I can do that for someone else, I must do it.

The difficulty for me is not in whether or not I can write or create art, I can do both of those things and I'm confident in my ability to do so, no, the difficulties that I face are the roller-coaster ups and downs of being bi polar. As I have been in therapy for decades and now only require regular check-ins every 3 months or so to have medications evaluated and dosages tweaked, I know my body, and the medications have helped enormously, but they can't pave over the rutted roads, sharp curves, and landslides that my neural pathways and grey matter are wont to take. Things are much more even now, the swings between the poles are not severe ups and downs, but they come regularly enough that, though subtle to the outside observer, can keep me from being consistently able to get the work done at a pace and speed that I would like to maintain to finish any project , be it a book, the artwork, household chores, or other things. 

My saving grace is the living things around me. My animals are my dearest loves and always get the best of care. They are the reason that I get up many days, to feed, take the dogs out, care for the parrots, get in any and all food and supplies that they need, go to the vet, and so on. And the dogs are the reason that I stay as stable as I do. Animals have an amazing sensibility and understanding of what is going on. My 3 pugs will practically lay on top of me when I am slipping into a sinkhole of despair. The concern on their little faces touches me deeply. I reach for them and love them to ease their worried little hearts, and in so doing I am lifted up. Time and again they pull me back into the present moment and move the stalled engine inside of me forward once more.

Too, the garden saves me, especially at this time of year when so much planting is being done, as plants come and must get in the ground and be watered lest they die, and the seeds that I plant by the tens of thousands must be kept watered to grow into the lush cottage gardens that I create. I drink in the color, the life, the lively dance of the cosmos, the poppies, the thousands of zinnias, the fragrant herbs, and am nourished, healed, and calmed by nature, the living plants, the wild birds at my feeders, a squirrel frolicking on my windowsill, a mourning dove sitting peacefully in a patch of daylilies, these things, too, are saving graces. I can move to care for the living things. I will take care of the plants and animals who need me.

And then a tidal wave of fear comes again.

"What will I do for income, how will I support myself if I can't get this work done quickly enough?" shouts a voice inside of me as fear runs over me. During these times, on these days, I try to anchor myself in what is concrete. I get up and clean up the kitchen. I have been putting that off for days. I get the dishwasher going, gather the dirty laundry and get a load of wash going, do my rounds with the animals and sit down with coffee. I tell myself that my plan will be that every time I get up, to go to the bathroom, to go outside with the dogs, answer the door, whatever, I will do as many little chores as I can. Last time I went out on the deck and filled the three bird feeders and blew the deck off, something I do several times a day with the leaf blower so the pugs don't eat the fallen birdseed. I got another load of laundry going, checked on the parrots in the other room, and returned to the safety of my chair here with an urgency of someone who barely made it back alive.

That will sound like an exaggeration to you, perhaps overly dramatic. It is the often painful truth. It is my reality.

There are times that my blood sugar drops far too low and I become shaky because I can't get up to get something to eat. I finally got up and got hummus and rice crackers. I am okay now. This happens far too often.

At these times I feel that it is important for me to write the book I keep starting and putting off, about living with bi polar disorder, because it may help someone. I don't share any of this to frighten anyone, to try to garner sympathy, but because I know what it is like to be thrown a life raft when there is a hole in the boat and I've lost my oars and am about to sink. 

I am working steadily on my 100 Ladies and will continue to do so. I love them dearly and it is work that has really opened up a place inside of me where beauty grows, where hope has taken the place of hopelessness, where I see so many possibilities, but I think if I use the ladies in smaller books along the way, if I can publish, even self-publish, books of stories that people can read along the way but more to the point that give me a feeling of accomplishment, that show me that a project can come to completion, then it will keep propelling me forward. Yes. I think that's it. In the way that I have to take small steps each day as a way of getting things done and feeling the sense of accomplishment necessary to keep me moving forward, so, too, would publishing small books along the way. My ladies are coming. They cannot be stopped! They have a will and a life of their own. There is no fear that I will not finish this book, it is only a concern about taking too long to finish all 100 of the ladies. I needn't wait until the end. Just writing this I see a bit of light coming in around the edges.

I want so much to write a book about Dragonfly Cottage, about the road to Dragonfly Cottage, because it has been the road to a place where I could finally land, where I could nest and feel safe, where I could create a life that would make living possible, where I could grow and flourish, and I have been, and I want, so very much, to show other people that it is possible for them too, to find a way, a place, the necessary elements needed to create a life of meaning and substance even with the limitations of bi polar disorder or whatever else might feel crippling in someone's life. People despair when they feel as though they can't fit in. I think we need to be comfortable fitting out. Fitting outside the norm. Living outside the box. That is my message. That has been the road to Dragonfly Cottage. I have run off the road a number of times but always seem to find the path back. Dragonfly Cottage, creating this world here, has been life-saving for me. I will continue, all the days of my life, to tend these gardens, these animals, and yes, work with every fiber of my being to keep moving forward, to do my writing and my art, and hope it has some value to the world. 

I think I'm okay now. I just noticed that I took the first whole breath that I have in some time. My body is relaxing. I have made it safely to shore again.

I am bi polar. I am an artist. A writer. I will live my way through everything I need to to do my work. It's what I have to give in this lifetime. I will do it because I can. I will do it because I must. I will do it.

Thank you for being here with me, for listening. It is a greater gift than you could possibly know.