Just Perfect

Sometimes poetry is the best vehicle for gentle concise truth. My poem today is inspired by "A Blessing for Wedding" by Jane Hirschfield.

Today when the rain spots your glasses and the mailbox leaks on your letters
Today when the ants and snails invade your flower bed
Today when the dog coughs up some kibble and eats it again
Today when you notice your favorite coffee mug is dull and stained
Today when your favorite tree (They're all your favorite.) starts looking diseased
Today when the automatic door doesn't slide open automatically
Today when there are no birds or squirrels in the yard
Today when your computer starts making a new noise
Today when you can't zip your jeans
Today when you reach for a granola bar and the box is empty
Today when it's 2 degrees too warm in the house
Today when there's a perfectly lovely salad to be eaten, but no chocolate
Today when your kids have permission slips, doctors appointments, and extra homework
Today when your throat is scratchy and your nose drips
Today when you feel your age
Today when you realize you forgot someone's birthday
Today when you use your last drop of gold paint

Today is the day to know life.
Today is the day to know life is.
Today is the day to know life is just.
Today is the day to know life is just perfect.

Today when you have one last drop of gold paint
Today when you wake up late and remember it's the weekend
Today when the words are flowing
Today when your husband makes that amazing mushroom omelet
Today when there's time for 5 more games of Sorry
Today when the dog learns to heel
Today when you get new jeans
Today when you reconnect with an old friend
Today when you arrange your markers in rainbow order
Today when there's more hot coffee left in the pot
Today when you flip through your wedding album with your teenager
Today when you watch Twilight again
Today when you find the perfect eyeliner to highlight the green in your eyes
Today when there's nothing on the agenda

Today is the day to know life.
Today is the day to know life is.
Today is the day to know life is just.
Today is the day to know life is just perfect.

Pick Me

More Wild Writing today. I can't get over how much truth spills out when I stop self-editing.

Why You Should Pick Me

1. I ask questions and won't stand for complacency.
2. I will point out what bird that is.
3. I have many coffee mugs to choose from.
4. My couch is covered in cushions and snuggly throws inviting you to get comfy.
5. I will see through your mask.
6. I will comment on the weather, nod my head when you do, then talk about real things.
7. I wear my honesty on my face and in my shoulders.
8. I light up every time a kid or a dog enters the room.
9. I begin every few sentences with, "I read in this book..." or "I heard on this podcast..."
10. I'll never stop seeking truth. Truth is my name.
11. I probably love you.
12. I love myself.
13. I love making lists.
14. You need me and I need you. We might not know why yet, but it's true.
15. I like cleaning and everyone needs that friend.
16. I will bring you bread and soup and gifts.
17. You should pick me because we're both carbon-based life forms stuck to a rock spinning through the universe together.
18. I will hold your truth even if you can't look at it yet.
19. Pick me because I'm strong.
20. Pick me because I'm mentally ill. That will make you feel better about yourself.
21. Pick me because I love to laugh.
22. Pick me because I'll also cry with you.
23. Pick me so I can show you my art, my books, tarot cards, and marker collection.
24. Pick me so I can make you a roast, pour you a glass of wine, and ask you about that one time.
25. Pick me because I give great hugs.
26. Pick me because I'm an eternal cheerleader archetype.
27. Pick Me.

Permission Granted

I'm doing another Wild Writing workshop and it's amazing. Laurie Wagner reads a poem twice and then you write for 15 minutes, pen not leaving the page.

Today's poem was "It Doesn't have to be Beautiful" by Cynthia Berg.

This is my freewriting based on that prompt:

Permission Granted
 to let your belly spill over
 to let your shoulders fall
 to let your hair dangle
 to let your hair grow, all of it

Permission Granted
 to be direct and just say the thing
 to make a face, sigh, and roll your eyes
 to push down feelings in the moment
 to let the feelings bubble up again and run your day

Permission Granted
 to laugh at your own jokes
 to cry when reading your own poetry
 to be inspired by your own words

It doesn't have to be beautiful, neat and tidy, or even well-organized.
Let it be fuzzy, funky, gritty, tear-stained, gut-wrenching, wobbly, and wild.

Open the gates. Let the feelings in. Let them take you on a ride. See where you end up.

Permission granted to secretly despise people. Permission granted to openly despise people. Permission granted to have good boundaries for yourself. Permission granted to see old stories through a new lens. Permission granted to heal. Permission granted to openly love people again.

Permission granted to say difficult things.

Permission granted to want to be religious sometimes because you crave the reliability, tradition, and togetherness you see from the outside.

Permission granted to rest.

Permission granted to bite your nails, read dirty stories, to wear sweatpants with a saggy butt, to not wash your hair, to re-wash your hair and start all over, to notice you're wearing two different earrings and laugh at yourself.

Permission granted to eat the whole avocado.

It doesn't have to be beautiful, but it can be if it wants to be, even without anyone working to make it so. It doesn't have to be cute, pretty, or trimmed-down.

Permission granted to call bullshit, to say fuck off, or to walk away without saying anything at all.

Permission granted to stop second-guessing and overthinking.

Permission granted to stop asking for permission.

Love Yourself Like You Love Other People

This phrase has dangled itself in front of me several times in the last few days: 

Love Yourself Like You Love Other People.*

When I let it penetrate my awareness fully, it was a big moment for me.

It happened when I was responding to a comment one of my favorite people made on Facebook. He was sharing a brave statement about having Bipolar 1. He was asking for others to share their experiences with any kind of bipolar and asking for people to connect with. 

I was overcome with emotion at seeing this post. I gathered my thoughts and responded sometime later to his post. This is what I said: 

I'm Bipolar 2 with mixed episodes. Some days (or weeks), I can't even. . . and others, I'm okay. I let myself be super angry at the situation and the unfairness of having to tiptoe around food, sleep, meds, etc. as much as I need. I vent through writing and humor. As long as I vent the crud, I'm able to function around my family. One of the keys for me is committing to very few things. Very few. I know my boundaries and that helps too. Annnd, I have an understanding husband.

I was overcome because I know how hard it has been for me to share all the things about my mood disorder. I know it must be that much harder for men to do so. I also know how brilliant this particular dude is. 

I learned a lot about giftedness when I taught at a small school for the gifted in the Chicago area. I haven't given my friend an IQ test, but I'm pretty sure he's highly gifted, which is, of course, a blessing and a curse within itself.

For example, one of my former students was profoundly gifted. He loved calculus and physics and writing novels (in French) as a 6th grader, but he still had to function as a regular kid. He had to eat meals, and take care of himself, and navigate social situations. His classmates all wanted him on their team when we were playing around the world with French Verb conjugations, but he was content to stare at the wall and think about the origin of the universe. Being shaken from that world of exploding stars and entropy was an assault on his senses.

Being a grown-up and a parent, I would argue, leaves even less room for considering the vastness of the universe and all things mystical, magical, and divine. 

My point is that I have known many bipolar people. They are without exception special, connected to the pulse of humanity in a specific way. They frighten us a little because they have big ideas, and their brains are constantly urging them not to play by society's rules. 

I launched into writing all this to my friend on Facebook and realized this was more than a casual social media post. Also, if I have bipolar, are these things true about me too?

Yes, they are. 

My strength lies in my writing and helping other people see their own stories as works of art.

So to my friend who bravely posted on Facebook: Thank you for triggering this fantastic realization. I see your pain and your genius. 

*This quote is based on advice Gloria Steinem recently gave to an audience of  young people: "We need to treat ourselves the way we would treat other people."

Staring Down Mania

I've often said that I'm Awesome at Depression. It's the working title of my memoir in progress. I know depression. I can look it in the face and say, "You suck, but I'll deal with you."

I am not great with mania, though.

Having Bipolar II means I swing between extreme lows and hypomania - - - usually. I've considered myself lucky because hypomania is me, but in turbo mode. I might be a little scattered. My eyes might look a tiny bit wild, but I'm all there, just moving through things much more quickly than normal.

In the last few months, I've been experiencing full-blown mania off and on alongside depression. Mania is the more intense version of hypomania. I've had flashes of losing touch with reality, scattered racing thoughts with confusion, and it can be terrifying.

I have a personal mood protocol. For these instances, I call my people immediately. I check in. They check in.

I sit the kids down and explain in an age-appropriate way that my brain is working too hard and I'm going to do certain things to take care of myself. My oldest is given instructions to call dad if things get too confusing or scary.

I sit the kids down and explain in an age-appropriate way that my brain is working too hard and I'm going to do these things to take care of myself.

Not a mistake. I literally did that two times in a row because I didn't realize I had already had the conversation. (Thanks for letting me down like that in front of my kids, brain. My oldest picked up her phone and started dialing, which made me hate my illness.)

And I wait. I don't get in the car. I don't make any big decisions. It's agonizing. I like being a busy bee. I'm a mom. I feel unmoored if I'm not checking things off my to-do list. When you can't remember people's names, to-do lists become meaningless.

During my first episode of mania in this series of episodes, I put on headphones and wrote 2 blog posts. I had never attempted to do anything but "get through" a manic episode before. 

Here is the link to one of those posts:

France is my effing Patronus

After that day I didn't write, take photos, or paint until I was feeling better. I took some photos last week. I wrote today. I might paint tomorrow. In retrospect (several weeks have passed where I've been stable and not even depressed), I'm proud of how gentle I was with myself through the last few months.

I could have easily fallen into the old trap and beating myself up for being this way. Acceptance, planning, and support, as ever, are what made the last few months bearable.