Still bipolar

When I woke up this morning it was one of those days when I realized I was still bipolar.  Every so often I'll experience a stretch of relative evenness.  As an optimist, I will be lulled in to a false sense of well-being.

Then, all at once, I'll realize I have snapped at all the people I love (as well as anyone else who wandered into my orbit that day) and I'm trolling the cabinets for chocolate.  Anger, regret, self-soothing...

That is the best case-scenario for someone who is manic and depressed at the same time.  I recently learned that people most often attempt suicide when these two mental states coincide, and that more often than not, people with bipolar disorder have substance abuse problems.



Medication, eating well, meditation, daily Kundalini yoga practice, writing as therapy, and purposely weeding out parts of my life that bring only negativity are all key to maintaining my moods.  But sometimes, it's still not enough.

I am grateful to be able to recognize what is going on with my moods pretty quickly and arrange my activities accordingly.  After years of confusion and "powering through" I have learned when things just aren't going to work out and there's no shame in knowing my limits.

This requires knowing that I am not simply my body, including a brain, and some misfiring neurons.  I am also an intangible being watching this life play out.  I literally imagine my spirit moving out of and away from my body to get a different perspective.

It's only in this removed state (free of any earthly ego or attachments) that I can see my struggle, have compassion for myself, and move back in with more clarity.

This excerpt is from a book that shattered my perception of self in a fantastic way:

True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection,  This is done by constantly remembering that you are the one inside that notices the voice talking.  That is the way out.  The one inside who is aware that you are always talking to yourself about yourself is always silent.  It is a doorway to the depths of your being.  To be aware that you are watching the voice talk is to stand on the threshold of a fantastic journey.  If used properly, the same mental voice that has been the source of worry, distraction, and general neurosis can become the launching ground for true spiritual awakening.  Come to know the one who watches the voice, and you will come to know one of the great mysteries of creation.  (p. 13 the untethered soul)

This book, by Michael A. Singer, is a great starting place for people who have that constant irritating narrator chattering in their minds.

So, I'm sitting in the tiny control room (the real me) watching this fragile woman struggle with bipolar disorder.  I feel compassion for her pain and I applaud her far-reaching efforts to shut off the inner critic.  I love her like I love my own daughter -- even on her bad days.

Can you say that about yourself?



Looking Through a Different Lens




Someone close to me explained recently that she believed people only go to church when they need something.  

I believe in my case she was right.  Although, I haven't returned to church exactly, but to God.

When you lose someone you love, you start to wonder what your purpose is for being on earth -- what anyone’s purpose is for being here.  What was once a purely curious, intellectual question becomes an absolute necessity for carrying on.



Before my brother died suddenly in a work accident a few months ago, I had already begun investigating my spirituality.  For months before his death, I had been exploring the landscape of my heart again. 




I had begun to rely on the pure love and light that helped me see the beauty in life through depression, disappointments and regular ups and downs.  

After his death, it was love alone that carried me to his funeral.  I was held up by angels and guided through grief by Christ's promise that I wouldn't be alone.  I was broken apart, burnt up, and put back together.  



When I returned home to start living my ordinary life again, I was changed and couldn't continue on as I had before.  The love I had felt was going to be the center of everything.  I sought to connect with others who lived by this code of absolute love, acceptance, and compassion. 


Standing in truth and feeling certainty became very important to me.  If I didn’t have this purpose in life, I could not picture what would be left -- perhaps an unmoored body drifting from one year to the next further and further from her soul.


I wanted to magnify the truth and light that I had already seen.  I was addicted to remembering that I was, in fact, a spiritual being having an earthly experience.  


This is the seed of truth that bloomed in my heart:  We are not here alone to toil, muddle through, and die.   We are here to learn how to love and be loved.  That takes a lifetime to know.



Kids Today...



When I have a pet peeve, it tends to consume me until I figure out why it’s so important to me.



Here is one I’ve been wrestling with lately:   Articles online or in print media, or tirades in person about why parents shouldn’t let their kids _______________________ . 
Fill in the blank with “talk back to their parents,” “not talk to their parents,” “throw tantrums in restaurants,” “have too much screen time and rot their brains,” “participate in too many activities,” “participate in too few activities,” etc.

The most recent example was a link to an article entitled "Your Kid Is Acting Like an Asshole and It's Your Fault" shared on Facebook by a teacher whom I respect.  I had to click on the link to find out why I'd be proven wrong in feeling that this was a hideous use of an online platform.

It wasn't exactly what I thought it was, but it was a person who felt responsible for teaching all the other parents out there exactly how to parent.  A server in a restaurant was disturbed by a child's behavior and even more disturbed by the mom who coddled him (in her opinion) by allowing him to pick whether or not they'd be staying to eat there.  She also suggested that we shouldn't be so caught up in how smart our toddlers are because they are toddlers.

It wasn't a horribly untrue message.  It was rather the tone that stuck with me.  It's the tone that seems to inhabit these dark, condescending commentaries.  It leaves you feeling dark, as if the writer is speaking from a place of control instead of a place of love.


I have three reasons for cringing when I hear these rants:

1.  We cannot know anyone else’s children or their family situation. These blanket statements can’t apply to everyone.  

Ex.  "Kids should be seen and not heard, especially in a public setting such as a restaurant."  

This is easy for quieter introverted earthy kids.  They don't even have to try to be still and quiet.  It is just their nature.  For airy kids who haven't slept enough, or who are coming down with a cold, but no one knows it yet, or any kid whose parents are traveling and have no other option but to eat at a restaurant -- this is torture.  The more adults who try to stuff that noise into the booth cushions with threats through gritted teeth, the louder the tantrum may be.


            Have you ever tried to stop a tornado from forming by saying, "We're in public!  What's wrong with you?" or otherwise shaming it?


When people try to enforce one specific parenting method for everyone, they are forgetting that no one else is living precisely the same story they are with the exact same cast and crew.  It is an impossible wish for uniformity so we know what to expect from (young) people around us.   

2.  We can’t even know how much different the kids being raised today are from the previous generation.  They have a larger mental capacity for a lot of things, perhaps for both positive and negative.  They receive everything we received in more concentrated doses.  They know things (good, bad, and neutral) at 8 years old that I didn’t know until I was 38. 

3.  The third part of my face-palm response to these tirades is that they inevitably include references to the good old days when we all drank out of the hose, and didn’t wear seat belts, and got backhanded when we mouthed off to adults.  (I might even be able to find an old Polaroid with all 3 of those things happening at the same time.)

Nostalgia is one thing.  Laughing at our collective mistakes or growth as a society is even interesting, but someone usually has to add that maybe kids today need to be hit once in a while! 

First I give them a mental hug, because people who say those things are hurting, for real.  I'm not trying to be funny or sarcastic.  No one enjoyed being hit as a kid.  Then I want to suggest that they look at what they learned from their youth, how they can do better for their own kids, and not glorify pain.  See it for what it is.  It was their chance to feel the sting of a thoughtless response from an adult and resolve to make smarter choices in their own parenting.

I never say those things out loud.  Honestly, I silently judge them to be unenlightened and at a different point in their understanding of life than me.  I say a teeny prayer for their children and know that they will probably do better when they are older.  It is incredibly challenging to honor that difference, but it heals an enormous wound for me to do so.


Instead of circulating lists about “What’s Wrong with Kids Today!” I think our time would be better spent nurturing them as individuals because...


1)  They’re smart.  That’s a little scary for us adults, because we don’t know what that will look like in 20 years.  We can't force them to grow up the way we did, because things are so radically different in their world.  The only thing we do know  is that they will be responsible for supporting our wrinkly old generation in a few decades.  

2)  Their potential is incredible.  If we remove the limiting beliefs we unknowingly instill in them (ex. Kids today are so disrespectful/don’t look up from their phones/need to be beaten into submission/don’t know the value of hard work), all the better.

3)  Focusing on what you don’t like about something is only helpful if you use that information for positive change.  

I would challenge these ranters to get busy modeling what they do love about people and helping the young ones in their lives forge the qualities they want to see in our society in the future.



All About Mormons

This post is for me (as they all are) but it's also for my LDS friends who are scratching their heads thinking, "Is she ever going to be baptized?"  It's also for my non-LDS  friends and family who are scratching their heads thinking, "Why does she seem to attract so many LDS people into her circle?"  I'm writing it because sometimes I wish I had this all written on a note card to hand to people when they get the deer in headlights look as I discuss religion, spirituality, and what that looks like in my life.



A couple of weeks ago I published a tiny blog post entitled "Plain and Precious" in reference to my youngest son and his sweet, innocent view of life.

Those words are taken from the Book of Mormon, which I have begun to read.  It is a challenge I have taken on after reading a thought-provoking article by a man who grew up LDS, decided to leave the church for a time, and then came back to his religion.





In his article "How I lost and regained my faith": LDS man shares 18 lessons he learned, Rich Millar explains:

..every single person I have ever personally come in contact with who has spoken poorly about the Book of Mormon, when I dug down and uncovered the truth, had never actually read it in its entirety with an open heart and mind. And most hadn’t read any of it at all. ‘Well, no, I haven’t actually read it, but so-and-so has, and they said … .’ How can you judge the content of a book without actually reading it? If you want to have an opinion on it, pick it up and read it cover to cover with an open heart and mind.

The quote I used refers to the plain and precious truths that Mormons (a.k.a. Latter Day Saints, or LDS) believe were obscured or removed from God's word over time.  While they study the Old and New Testaments as part of their scriptures, they also include the Book of Mormon, their Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, which they believe is the fully restored gospel.

I am not a Latter Day Saint, but a lot of my friends are members of the church.  They are warm, trustworthy, inspiring women.


For most of my adulthood "Religion" was a dirty word to me.  Keeping an open heart and desiring to know my own truth has led me time and time again to God.  It was startling to me that I might consider myself a "Christian" again.

It just so happens that being a Christian means something different to me than it did during my Pentecostal upbringing.  Instead of being part of a limiting, oppressive culture created by people, I listen to my own heart and try to be Christ-like.  It's as simple as that.

I am still left with one question, though.  Why am I so fascinated by Latter Day Saints?

My fascination started with wanting to understand the large LDS population in my old neighborhood in Arizona.  I keep coming back to ask more questions because...

1.  I love asking questions.

2.  I love it when people believe I am important enough for them to sit down, look me in the eye, and enjoy a conversation.  The LDS church designates entire groups of people whose sole job it is to sit down with anyone to talk with them about God. (These are the missionaries you may have seen walking in your neighborhood.  They serve for two years of their young adulthood and pay their own way to leave their loved ones and go educate anyone who chooses to listen.)

3.  I have never detected any false pretenses from an LDS person I've known.  The first person and the last person and all the LDS people in between simply love who they are and love their community.  They want to share it with everyone, because why not?  They want everyone to feel the joy they feel.

4.  This is what I have gleaned about what they teach their daughters:  They want them to know they are Daughters of God, to act with integrity, to dress modestly, to know their individual worth, and to understand their choices and accountability.  They are taught that work and serving others is a joy.  (This was the first lesson I learned from my Mormon friends.  It changed my perspective on motherhood from a whiny one to a grateful one.)

5.  Their sons:  They are elevated in status and shown how important it is to be truthful, have high moral standards and prepare to be trustworthy leaders.  Instead of telling young men to "pull up their pants," and "get a job," and "be responsible" they explain to their young men that they are a reflection of God and that they are responsible.  They are given many opportunities to practice that throughout their lives.

(There are many resources at LDS.org that have been thoughtfully prepared.  I'm giving a peek into things I have learned just from being around my friends and their families.)

6.  They believe families are of the utmost importance and are the best way to grow good people.  They spend one evening each week as a family focusing on a particular lesson and fun activity to promote togetherness and unity.  There are endless church-sponsored programs and activities to support every age group in the community.

When my kids are playing at my friends' houses, I know they are playing innocent games and making messes and eating snacks.  They most likely won't be seeing any inappropriate media, hearing any foul language from the adults, and they always beg to go back.

7.  They honor their history and teach their children where they came from and who they came from.

8.  They encourage a lifestyle that allows them to be able to hear the promptings of the spirit best.  For most, this means no caffeine, alcohol, or other mind-altering substances.  (I have taken it upon myself to balance out the world coffee trade by making up for the millions of Mormons who do not drink coffee.)  This, and other covenants they keep, require sacrifice and discipline to remain a member in good standing.  That is admirable and respectable and also a lot of pressure for someone like me.  


No matter what your beliefs are, you have to admit, the level of organization, commitment, and unity with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is incredibly impressive.

Ultimately, for me there is still a large distinction between spirituality and religion, and a fine line between acting out of love and acting out of cultural pressure or ritual -- between the God that lives in my heart and the God that others want me to worship with them.

That doesn't mean that I will stop listening to people around me or enjoying their company.  I respect their choices and want to know what brings them so much happiness and peace.  This is one way of treating others how I want to be treated, after all.


Mid-Meditation

I am in the middle of a 40-day meditation.  It is based on Kundalini yoga.  I have never tried anything like it before.  It was so highly recommended that I couldn't help but research it.  What I found was a group of pretty evolved people pointing to this experience as pivotal in their personal growth.

These same people often mentioned a challenging period in the midst of the meditation.  I don't shy away from difficult things.  Sometimes I run right up to those challenges and say, "I had a boy's haircut and ate a diet of 75% baloney for 2 years - Bring it."

The instructor is also a personal friend of a personal friend, so I trusted that it was at least a worthwhile learning opportunity.  My inner skeptic thought, "I'll be the judge of that."

Tomorrow is Day 14 and part of me wants to pretend like I've never heard of meditation.  I ache.  I cry.  I am confused and angry and zen.  I have been "excavated." as my dearest friend says.  I have been so torn down that I want to curl up with kids' Netflix shows and Oreos and shut out reality.  I am genuinely scared.  Oscar Mayer and a Dorothy-Hamill-hairdo-gone-wrong have nothin' on this awakening of my divine potential through the tool of the Kundalini coil at the base of my spine.

I have to finish it now.  I can't be left like this.

I am so raw that I feel like the 10-year-old version of myself who just had her first period in the girls' locker room.

Before I began this seemingly harmless meditation, I was practicing a daily visualization exercise.  I would envision myself floating on the surface of  a vast body of water.  Whatever images or sensations formed, I would watch, wait, and ponder.  Then I would begin to sink below the surface watching these images change.  From this simple practice, I have put beautiful words to so many things in my heart.

I began to crave more of this growth and lightness of being.

Now I see that I am a water-loving creature who has been tossed into a desert.  I can hear the vultures circling.  I can feel the heat burning my skin.  There is nowhere to hide.  But, I am going to finish this.