Come Ride With Me

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
But whisper
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.

“I Want To Give You Space”

I performed this poem, which I wrote five years ago, at Jubilee today.  It’s a love poem and so fit the day after Valentine’s Day.  The text is below.  You can find audio (with beautiful keyboard by Chris Rosser and a slide show with sensitive photos thanks to Sandy Swanson) at   Video of today’s performance (with lovely piano by Robert Thomas and beautiful dancing by Kathy Jennings) is at  The poem is about four minutes long – if you like reading it, I’d encourage you to go onto the audio, and then maybe even the video.

I wrote this poem when I was in the throes of infatuation.  But even before I became uninfatuated I realized that it’s not really just about romance.  It’s actually about how I want all of my major relationships to work.  And it’s called “I Want To Give You Space”.

I want to give you space
But not by stepping back
I want to step towards you
All eyes and ears and heart and breath
All my nerves atingle
From the joy of seeing YOU!
In all your gorgeous, flawed humanity
You! As you are right now
You! As you soar and dance
And as you stumble, swear and fall
You!  In your frailty and tears
You! In your power and your glory
You! When you like yourself and when you don’t
You! When I like myself and when I don’t
But still to keep seeing you
Outside of my programs wants and needs
You! Beyond my foolish little dreams
Of who you are or ought to be
You! Bigger than you know or I know
You!  Never the same two days straight
You!  Becoming someone so big and free
She would scare both of us if we could see her now.

I want you to feel more space
To breathe and move
With me than by yourself
Or anywhere else
I want you to sing like only I am listening
To dance like only I am watching
To know I crave your anger and your joy
To know that I will step towards you
Or hold my ground – but not step back
No matter what

To know that my anger, also
Is a way I step towards you
And not a call for you to change
Even when I tell you to change
That’s not what I really mean
It means I don’t yet know
How to be with this part of you
But I will try
Or simply hold my ground
Until something shifts
And that something does
Not need to be you

I want to breathe and trust and be myself
And to know it’s not your job
To do or be anything for me
It’s my job to do and be for me
And to let all my friends help – including you
And my job to not mess with you
Just to love you, as best I can
And to get better at it all the time
And to keep my eyes open
Open wider all the time
To see who you are
And who you are becoming
And to let you take my breath away


“Making beauty is good for us in every way.”

Something is happening here.  My blog has been live for five days.  This morning two customers, Betsy and Andrea, stood next to each other in my line.  Both are good friends of mine, but they did not know each other.  When they discovered that they both are big fans of my blog – are gobbling it up – we had a little three-way party.  Eliot is a Grammy Award-winning musician whose work I greatly admire.  I would say we are acquaintances.  This morning he checked out through someone else’s line, but when he walked past me, he pointed dramatically to me and said “Great work – thanks for putting me on your list.”  Thirty-seven people have signed up to follow my blog in five days – it took months to reach that number in the past.

What’s going on?  Right idea, right time, right person.  I think all that is true, but there is something more.  I am fully surrendering to the Muse.  I am trusting this sucker.  I am prioritizing it.  I am willing to stay up late for it.

Complete surrender holds tremendous power.

Complete surrender holds tremendous power.

I am making a commitment to my readers. I am committed to sending a personal greeting to each of my subscribers.  I haven’t done it with everyone yet, but I have time free this weekend – time I’m keeping free to do this.  I am committed to responding to each comment people leave on the blog.  I’m committed to thanking each person who sends me an email cheering me on – and there are a lot of them.  And to thanking the people who cheer me on face-to-face, like the girl who works in produce who said, “Your blog is inspiring me – I want to be better with customers”.

Your Muse may not yet have clearly announced herself – you may not yet have a particular “art form”.  But maybe you express your creativity through cooking or gardening or interior decorating or parenting or through an intimate relationship.  If none of these feels like a direct hit, what supports your creativity?  Listening to music?  Walking in the woods?  Eating soul-satisfying food?  Making love?  Are you willing to make a commitment to your creative force – to prepare a place for it?  Are you willing to take a stand for your creativity – to claim that you are a creative person?  Are you willing to make sacrifices for your Muse – to choose for it?

This afternoon in the checkout line I was talking about all of this with Anita, who is similarly throwing herself into her ceramic art.  She took several steps towards the door, then came back as I had begun talking with the next customer and said, “Making beauty is good for us in every way”, and she left.  That felt right, felt powerful – but I knew I hadn’t really integrated it yet.  One of my principles of customer service is “Include the customer in whatever conversation is going on.” I frequently get successive customers involved in the same conversation.  So I asked Colleen (whom I had never met) what that meant to her.  She described a man “who I’ve been making music with” who is totally committed to making beauty.  I told her that it sounded to me like she also is committed to her creative force.  She said, “If you’re not creating, you can forget it.”

I love to dance – free-form improvisational dance (Asheville Movement Collective “dance church”).  It makes me happy.  It definitely expresses and feeds my creativity.  And I love the Friday night dance.  Early today I told Tom – my old roommate, dance buddy and work-mate – that I was definitely dancing tonight.

Tom and I do contact improv dancing as we pass each other in the store aisles.

Tom and I do contact improv dancing as we pass each other in the store aisles.

Late in the day I told him. “I can’t dance tonight – I gotta write.”  I had accumulated so many hand-written notes today – three posts worth, including this one.  Letting go of my beloved Friday night dance was a big deal, but my Muse required it – and it wasn’t really a sacrifice, I loved writing tonight even more than I loved dancing.

Tom very dramatically (he can be dramatic) said, “You’re not dancing…you’re not dancing” as he backed out of the store.  Lindsay, my lovely and brilliant young customer who had just heard this exchange, looked at me and said, “Tonight, writing is your dancing.”