A journal of the heart

I recently had a housewarming party. My friends Keith and Maddie, along with many other friends, walked through my room and spend time there to check it out.  One of the things they saw was my print of Gustav Klimt The Kiss. I have kept it in my room for a couple of years now, because I think it’s beautiful – and also as good luck around love and romance in my life.  Sometime in the following week, Maddie was in New York City and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and picked me up a housewarming gift: a very generous gift – a journal based with that painting beautifully rendered on the cover.

Keith (I work with him) and Maddie (his wife) saw this print in my room.

Keith (I work with him) and Maddie (his wife) saw this print in my room.

And Maddie got me this journal from the Metropolitan Museum of Art!  It's exciting just to have something that came from there!  I still have the bag!

And Maddie got me this journal from the Metropolitan Museum of Art! It’s exciting just to have something that came from there! I still have the bag!

When I sat down with my lovely book, my first thought was to make it a journal focused on romance. “That’s the ticket – I’ll make only entries that have to do in some way with romance. But it didn’t take too long for me to realize that this was too narrow a focus.  So I made it bigger: the heart – what’s going on with regard to my heart.  So now every day, right before bed, I make an entry on what has happened that day which nurtured or activated my heart. It doesn’t matter how big or small: some days I have listed several things, one day I wrote one line – but one that meant stuff to me.

In the twelve days since I started, I haven’t missed a day.  I go to bed more in touch with my heart.  I bet it affects my sleep and my dreams.

You might want to steal my idea and create a similar journal just for your heart.  Or a notepad or a document in your computer or your phone – voice recordings would work great.  Or put a note on your nightstand or somewhere reminding you to think about this before bed.  Or maybe you’ll just think about it today.

  • Who did you see or think about that you love – or like a whole lot?
  • What gave you access to your emotional life?  What feelings did you have?
  • Who was nice to you?  To whom were you nice?
  • Was there a way that you were good or kind to yourself?
  • Did you think or talk about something that’s important to you?
  • Did you create or make a heart connection with art?
  • Read “The longings of the heart” – December 6.

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Making art

Yesterday I wrote how I struggled through to affirm the value of the positive experiences I was having at the cash register, even though they didn’t lift the punishing biochemical depression that had me in its grips.

But there was another dynamic at work.  On and off throughout the day – and especially towards the end of the day – as I was having these positive experiences and these miserable experiences, in my head I was writing about them…planning to write this post.  During my afternoon ten-minute break I wrote (dictated, actually, into the voice recorder in my phone) about them as fast as I possibly could.

So for much of the day I was operating on two tracks: on the level of my immediate physical/emotional/mental experience, I was having moments of release followed by the return of crushing contraction – but on another level, I was detached from all that…was observing it.  The writer in me was observing – was creating a state of mindfulness, where I was not caught in my experience but could stand outside of it and notice it.  And mindfulness is liberating – to the extent it was operating, part of me was free from the suffering that was still going on.

Once again I celebrate my old meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, who taught me lots more than I understand about mindfulness.

Once again I celebrate my old meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, who taught me lots more than I understand about mindfulness.

So writing can trigger mindfulness and that can be freeing.  There was one other way that writing this post in my head was freeing.  Writing is a major identity for me – it feels like a big part of my mission in this world.  And right now writing this blog – writing about my job, about customer service, about bipolar disorder – is at the heart of that mission for me.  So even while my biochemical/emotional/mental suffering continued unabated, part of me was happy – was doing a little dance.  “I’m writing.  I feared that this depression would keep me from writing, but it’s happening.  I may hurt like hell all day, but I’m going to come out of it with a pretty interesting blog post.  I may end the day as fully in the grips of biochemical contraction as I started, but – regardless of how late it may be (and I do have a meeting tonight), before I go to bed I am going to write.  Depression can’t take that away from me.”

And now, at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday that’s exactly what I’ve done.  I wrote Thursday’s post and this post to go up on Friday – and I feel good about both of them.  My body feels like crap, but my spirits are good.  I may feel lousy all over again tomorrow.  I don’t want to program myself to feel bad, but lots of hard experience tells me that this is likely.  But I have written.  I have found meaning in my experience.  I have created something that could possibly be helpful to somebody else.  I have transcended my pain.  I have made art.