I sing a song of Christmas
All the things that happened and that didn’t happen
The times I reached out
And the times I kept my mouth shut
Christmas more than any other day
Is so overloaded with meanings
Memories and disappointments
How do we touch the fantasied
Joys of Christmas past?
How do we make up for
All the pain we have endured on this day?
And it’s not just us
All around us – everywhere in our society
People reaching too high
Being brought too low
If I can get this to happen with this person
I will be vindicated as a person
It will validate my life
Once all these false ornaments
Have fallen off the Christmas tree
What is left?
Today I kept my mouth shut
When I felt the urge to say things
That could have stirred old wounds
Today I completely emptied my storage locker
Itself an exercise in confronting old demons
And tiny Christine, the property manager
Offered, from the goodness of her heart,
To help me of the broken wing
My immobility an assault on my manliness
To hoist two boxes into my car
Then did it all by herself
And my hundred dollar monthly payments end today
Today, my therapist Lorrie listened to me
And helped me make sense of all this and more
Helped me understand
That I’m making up all the meanings I put on these things
That I don’t have to do anything to fix these things
That my pain is mine to deal with
That no one needs to heal it
That no one needs to hear it
But maybe my therapist and maybe a good friend
Today my housemate Lucy
A good friend
Listened to me
While I reinforced what I needed to remember from Lorrie
While I sorted out some things that were still not clear
While I praised myself for some little victories
While I extolled my love for people who have helped me
And people who have pissed me off
Today the guy at Hearn’s Cycles
To whom I took my brother’s old bike
That he gave me when he was dying of cancer
And now it seems that I am never going to ride
And have no place to keep
Which I desperately wanted to save from the dump
The Hearn’s guy, on whom I dumped all this story
Gave me a strong handshake
Looked me in the eye
And said “Your brother’s bike will have new life.
I promise you this.”
Today, having returned from slaying and being half slain by
All these dragons
At the storage locker and the bike shop and the dump
My little four pound dog Toni
Greeted me like the hero I’ve always tried to be
And in one day have proved so often not to be
And maybe am anyway
She snuggled in my arms
And got very quiet and totally content
In that moment she wanted nothing else
And in that moment, that one blessed moment
Neither did I.
There are a lot of things that I’m not grateful for.
I’m not grateful for all the terrible things going on on the world stage
Although that makes me even more grateful for my life
And it makes me think about and care about
People in the world who I might never have thought about otherwise
Well I’m not grateful for the knee replacement they say I need.
Though it does make me even more appreciate
Some of the things I right now can’t do
Like Tae Kwon Do
And it’s making me think about
What other kinds of work I might want to do.
That would not have me on my feet for eight hours in a shift
I’m not grateful for bipolar disorder
Every seven to ten days
Throwing me into the dark and cold
Where I can hold on to nothing
That the day before I loved
About myself and about life.
But my new meds seem to be helping some
And I am clearer all the time
That reaching out to my brothers and sisters
With this terrible disease
And writing and teaching about it
For those who love us or have to deal with us
Is my life’s work.
I’m not grateful about not seeing you people very often
Except it does make me appreciate you even more
And I’m actually probably as busy as you are – or more when I’m up
Busy and unavailable when I’m up
Flat on the floor and unavailable when I’m down
OK, us not seeing each other is not all your doing
And, in the here and now, here we are
So, I’m not grateful for er-r-r uh, a lot of things
I’m kind of good at not being grateful
So I have to learn how to love
All the players on the world stage
Even those who are doing heinous things
I’ve got to love my knee doctor and Lucille
And you people
And myself when I’m not being grateful
I’ve got to love myself no matter what
Gratitude will come in spurts
I will learn it over the whole course of my life
And I guess I can be grateful
That we have a day like now
A season like now
That encourages us to go to that place
So I’m going to be grateful for this present moment
Radiating out as best I can
In all directions
I’ll do it the best I can, for as long as I can
And ask some benevolent spirit
To give me a heads-up
When I return to whining.
I have played around with lots of theories about why I have not been writing on my blog, but they all really boil down to one factor: I haven’t wanted it enough. Sure, it’s true that I’ve been depressed, but there have been other times that I have been depressed and still kept writing. It’s true that I’m tired at the end of the day, but that doesn’t explain it – if I wanted it enough I would power through the tiredness. It’s true that when I’m manic I get all kind of scrambled: I generate too many ideas and can’t pull them all together into an intelligible post.
I’ve got to want writing more. I’ve got to see it as super-important. I’ve got to get how central it is to my identity, my life purpose. I’ve got to really make the connection between not writing and depression. When I don’t write, I’m more depressed. It’s very circular: I don’t write because I’m depressed and then I’m more depressed. I’ve got to break the cycle.
It’s very parallel to what goes on for me with Tae Kwon Do. I use some of those same arguments for why I don’t go to Tae Kwon Do, but then I get more depressed. And Tae Kwon Do itself can be developing the qualities I need to push past my limitations and write. When I had been practicing for just a couple of weeks, I had a little internal crisis about this practice. “Why am I practicing such a hard, yang art? I need to be doing something soft and flowing like Tai Chi.” But the answer came back loud and clear. “There’s some shit in your life that needs kicking – so learn how to kick some shit.” Depression rolls over me – completely takes me over. I’ve got to learn better skills for fighting back. And these skills for fighting back can help me harness my wanting to write, can help me to push past the resistance – the depression, the tiredness, the manic scrambledness. So Tae Kwon Do can very directly lead not just to the regular benefits of Tae Kwon Do, which are many, but can lead very directly to more writing – I need to remember that.
The rub comes when I get home at the end of my day with stuff to write. I’m tired. I may be depressed – or maybe I’m manic and scattered. I can do some Tae Kwon Do to ground and energize myself. So many things do one or the other – this can do both. I don’t have to do much to get out of my head and into my body. Today I resolved to learn my new form one movement at a time. Five minutes. Less.
At this moment, I’m very clear how much I want it. At this moment, I’m tired from work and from a long day: up very early, then work until 7:30. I may be manic – after about 11 days clearly depressed, today I seem more manic than depressed. But so far I sure am not very manic. My ideas seem to be coming out pretty clear. Well, you be the judge.
Today I was part of the third and final video conference for the Shine Expansive online creativity and life purpose workshop I have been participating in for the month of October. I was great out of the starting gate in this course – right up to writing the “Come Speak To Me Of Love” poem on Day 7 – then I promptly fell apart in my participation in the workshop. I was depressed – I fell apart everywhere. I even went 10 days without going to Tae Kwon Do. And I haven’t been writing here (that’s been going on longer and there’s got to be more to it).
So I arrived at our conference today feeling behind the eight ball. (I had quickly scanned two weeks’ worth of Shine materials in advance of performing my improv poem – Wednesday’s post here – then done nothing since.) I saw Jessica, our instructor, at church on Sunday and confessed what she already suspected from my lack of participation on the online forum that is one element of the Shine. She said the last three days of the workshop would be the big finish and that she was encouraging everybody, regardless of how far “behind” they were, to go through the last three days together. I was feeling like so much of a loser in regard to the workshop that I wasn’t ready to commit, but did tuck away her invitation for considering.
On Wednesday, I scanned the assignment for the day, then did get on the conference. And pretty quickly, the depression that has been dogging me for ten days went to work on me. I was convinced that, having participated so poorly in the course, I had no business asking for attention on this call – so I stayed on the sidelines for the first 2/3 of the time. And, reviewing my life from the sidelines, I got to see how this depressive “You don’t belong here” voice torments me in many areas of my life when I’m depressed: at church, on the dance floor (very much a communal activity in the Asheville Movement Collective), in my household, in my depression and bipolar support group (of all the crazy places to not feel like I belong).
Seeing how tormented I tend to be when I’m depressed, I pushed back my reluctance and the next time the floor was open for someone to solicit Jessica’s consultation I raised my hand. And we did some terrific work together:
- With her support, I backed off some from the vision I announced in my “Come Talk To Me Of Love” poem, where I would no longer let depression drive my car. There is so much history around this and the pull of my biochemistry is so strong that sometimes depression is going to take over.
- What I can do, however, is to monitor very closely its behavior, and when it gets too destructive – torments me too painfully – bump it back in the passenger seat. Some of the ways I can do this are
- to write a blog post – or, if that’s too much of a stretch, at least organize my notes for a post (from the liittle spiral pad where I enter these notes at work) or at the very least review some of these notes
- to practice my Tae Kwon Do – or if that’s too much of a stretch read or watch some videos on our center’s Facebook page.
- When depression is having its way with me at work, I can
- pull out my little pad and start capturing notes from my encounters at the cash register – there is pretty much always something there.
- I can find things to appreciate about my customers and co-workers. This comes easily and naturally when I am up, but is difficult when I am down – when I am more likely to find fault with everyone around me. Or I will judge them as lots better than me – more attractive, more successful, etc. In this case, I can reach for ways we are alike – maybe just our common humanity, that we both have our struggles, heartaches, etc.
Today I have already had some success in this regard. When depression started to take over the driver’s seat:
- I cued up the website with my Tae Kwon Do videos and practiced my current form. When trying to learn from the video got too frustrating, I settled for learning one new move and then shifted to watching a video from the Facebook page – an interview with one of the other students whom I like quite a lot. This made me feel good.
- I’ve been writing this blog post, harvesting my notes from the conference call yesterday.
As with any positive new habit, success with these tactics will probably come and go. I will probably need to develop some cues to remind me to do them. When you see me – or with an email (my address is at the bottom of the right column) – feel free, actually encouraged, to ask me how it’s going.
We Welcome Majo Madden to the SHINE Expansive Spotlight!
Majo Madden, Featured Guest of SHINE Expansive, is here to ‘Release’ before your very eyes. He is releasing himself from his pre-written poetry or a script of any kind, and opening instead to letting his true self shine through his wholeness in the improvisation of this moment.
“This video emerges from my pain around self-criticism. Making this video feels courageous, authentic, and vulnerable because I improvised and I leaned into my pain. To create this video I had to move beyond the fear of being seen in my vulnerability. This video feels like a true self expression because it was not censored or edited.”
Enjoy Majo’s poetic example of Release: “Releasing You ~ Releasing Me.”
To watch this video, enter Password: Day 25
at this website: https://vimeo.com/143056487
On our Shine Expansive conference call today, I told Jessica Chilton (the creator and facilitator) that in my bipolar disorder, depression forgets its role as a part and takes completely over, asserting that it is me. She suggested the metaphor of a car, in which depression is no longer allowed to drive. She also suggested that I write a poem about it. Here’s the poem:
Come Ride with Me
All parts of me are good
But some don’t know their place
Dance with me depression
You teach me some steps that are graceful
But I will lead, my dear
Come ride with me in my shiny new Benz
But you no longer get to drive
Settle in, let the wind blow in your hair
Whisper to me of where there is pain
In me and in the world
You no longer get to pin me down
And snarl those menacing words into my face
Tell me what I need from you
Show me where there is risk
Keep my feet on the ground
Teach me of vulnerability
It has value when I do not blame myself for it
When I do not say that I deserve ill
Caress me with your long fingers
Coo to me of how I’ve grown
How suffering has brought me here
Where I know so much
Of what hurts my brothers and sisters
But enough is enough
From now I learn mostly from joy and intimacy and love
Pain will come, but only when I need it
Only when it keeps me in balance
Not as punishment
Which I have sometimes thought I deserved
But no longer
Come ride with me, depression
But I will drive
Come speak to me
But only speak to me of love.