Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Light Appearing Real Beyond the Abyss

Darkness has enveloped me and kept me prisoner. Adopting a cocooning form toward all the pressures against me, I know when the time is right and I am ready, I will emerge equipped to overcome the latest battle. While in my cocoon, I gather strength and courage to do what is required. I soul search. I pray. I seek the highest wisdom in the face of my struggle. To some, it appears that I am unmoving, immobilized, stubbornly refusing to "deal with it", perhaps even standing in my own way at these times.

A long time ago, a gentle friend reminded me that even a snail's pace is progress. She also offered the gem that even a broken clock is right twice a day, useful for me during my earliest steps in my evolution from the doormat I had become. All that to say, I am progressing. Slowly, deliberately, mindfully. It might take me a lot longer to get there, but that doesn't invalidate my journey. It is just different than yours might be. Joined as we are, we set out on our odyssey, parallel at times and perpendicular, others. As we embark, one hand should extend back to aid the one behind on the path and the other hand, reaching forward, touching the next level like a lifeline, a beacon in the night.

Schizophrenia came into my life uninvited. It has made its home in my beloved son's head. He is so young, I am alternately angry and then in disbelief, even though six hospitalizations in 10 months and worsening symptoms make it undeniable. Perhaps this is what my mind and heart do to protect me, to save me, to offer me some grace. A respite of sorts.

I mourn for my son, I see him in my mind's eye, growing and forming, his smiles, his dreams...morphing and changing, growing. And with him, my love and my dreams have also grown, alongside taken-for-granted expectations about how his life would naturally unfold. School, dances, girlfriends, cars, sports, music, growing taller and more handsome...Graduation, college, career, wife, children. Yes, all this in a moment.

And now I revise and am forced to take one day at a time and accept that some days and nights will be filled with his hallucinations, demons he can't control and things and people the rest of us can't see, moments of intense agitation, anger, and rage...and still other times, the son I raised...the sweet, loving, caring, compassionate, beautiful spirit shines through the madness. I live for those moments of sweet lucidity. Ah, but they are too few. A mother's heart breaks. And breaks again. Will I ever have my stolen son back??? His bedroom is empty now and it hurts me to see it. But see it I must and it is like picking a scab involuntarily. Parts of my life feel like the abyss and I seek the safety of my cocoon. So when you notice long gaps in my blogging, know that I am trying...trying to get back to myself in this ever-changing landscape.

~ Schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair. ~ R D Laing

All the same, my depression and self-hatred, my desire to mutilate myself with broken bottles, my numbness and crying fits, my inability to get out of bed for days and days, the feeling of the world moving in to crush me, went on and on. But I knew I wouldn’t go mad, even if that release, that letting-go, was a freedom I desired. I was waiting for myself to heal. –Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia

I’m living under water. Everything seems slow and far away. I know there’s a world up there, a sunlit quick world where time runs like dry sand through an hourglass, but down here, where I am, air and sound and time and feeling are thick and dense. –Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

All their “helpful” comments imply that if I’d only do _____, my problems would be solved. Like it’s all within my grasp, able to be managed and mastered, if only I would try harder, longer, better. As I nod my head in polite and pathetic appreciation for their input, I scream inside, “Shut up. Shut up. Unless you’ve been lost in this particular section of hell yourself, don’t you dare try to give me directions. – Unknown

You wanted to get well. You never had a conscious moment in which you were not aware of being sick. You could no more, while conscious, forget your sickness than you could forget to breathe. Asked your greatest wish in life you would have replied at once—sanity. How remote was the world in which sanity was taken for granted. In the world outside, people longed desperately to be millionaires, movie actors, club presidents, and even, tell me little gypsy what force creates this one, even novelists. True, a bad cold, a touch of heartburn, an allergy to a favorite dog could blot out for a time the desire for money, power, and fame. During the period of the running nose, the stomach ache, or the asthmatic wheeze physical well-being would stand alone in the spotlight of yearning. But nowhere, nowhere save the madhouse, did mental health get its share of prayers. –Mary Jane Ward, The Snake Pit

We all fear at some point that “our” world and “the” world are hopelessly estranged. Psychosis is the fulfillment of that fear. –Michael Greenberg, Hurry Down Sunshine

A broken leg can be remembered and located: “It hurt right below my knee, it throbbed, I felt sick at my stomach.” But mental pain is remembered the way dreams are remembered—in fragments, unbidden realizations, like looking into a well and seeing the dim reflection of your face in that instant before the water shatters. –Tracy Thompson, The Beast: A Reckoning with Depression

We are all born mad. Some remain so. –Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Orange String

Lady Antebellum sings a song called "I Was Here" and it strikes a chord within me. It is a call to be bigger than we imagine ourselves, to come into the fullness of life that is intended by, and necessary to, this world we share. In the spirit and heart of each person is a dream by divinity. I believe we were all born with this heart-dream, but some become aware of it early on in their lives, others have become deaf to its song. Some call it "right-livelihood."

Having an impassioned awareness of how all of us are tied, one to another, and how the "strings" we carry through our lives weave lovely tapestries collectively motivates and inspires me. At times, the strings seem haphazard and messy and without sense or order. I know my own feels like watching the flight of a bumblebee!

Right now, I like to think of my string as being orange. Orange, to me, is a color of passion and pain borne of learning lessons, and one that livens things up, used sparingly here and there...Small bright splashes of surprise. It draws the eye without offending and can bring much life and brightness in little space. It can blend and seem to disappear, then show up again in unexpected places in ways never imagined.

Life is teaching me that my orange string, though seemingly random, definitely has a specific and fortuitous path. Those things I previously accounted to serendipity along my journey may well have been more accurately called synchronicity. "Chance" meetings and dumb luck, being in the right place at the right time resulting in peace, harmony, and order are the very heart of synchronicity.

My orange string leading me on, I strive to rediscover my heart-song. I purpose to find my own way to say "I Was Here"...

I Was Here lyrics:

You will notice me
I’ll be leaving my mark like initals carved in an old oak tree
You wait and see
Maybe I’ll write like Twain wrote
Maybe I’ll paint like Van Gogh
Cure the common cold
I don’t know but I’m ready start cuz I know in my heart

I wanna do something that matters
Say something different
Something that sets the whole world on its ear
I wanna do something better
With the time I’ve been given
And I wanna try
To touch a few hearts in this life
Leave nothing less
Than something that says “I was here”

I will prove you wrong
If you think I’m all talk, you’re in for a shock
Cuz this dream’s too strong
And before too long
Maybe I’ll compose symphonies,
Maybe I’ll fight for world peace
Cuz I know it’s my destiny
To leave more than a trace of myself in this place

I wanna do something that matters
Say something different
Something that sets the whole world on its ear
I wanna do something better
With the time I’ve been given
And I wanna try
To touch a few hearts in this life
Leave nothing less
Than something that says “I was here”
And I know that I will do more than just pass through this life
I’ll leave nothing less than something that says “I was here”
“I was here” (I was here)
“I was here” (wanna do something that matters)
Somethin that says I was here) “wanna do something that matters”
(Somethin that says I was here)
“I was here”

Monday, January 19, 2009


Often, I make resolutions...not just at the beginning of a new calendar year as one I am contemplating presently seems to have arisen from...but driven by the desire to actually take action on an idea or plan I may have long been ruminating. My writing, or lack thereof, is in this category. I have all the best intentions, of course, of disciplining myself enough to give forth the effort it requires to perform the simple act of writing. Or is it really simple, after all? Seems there are times when I simply stare at the blinking cursor, like an impatient person tapping frustrated toes...c'mon, c'mon, hurry up now! More often than not, I fail to deliver. Damn the blank page!

In the past, I have acquired many journals. Some merely ordinary, just plain by appearance. Others with supple, buttery smooth covers and bookmarks stitched into the bindings, weighted charms dangling from the ribbon. Some have had handmade papers, others, the mass-produced lined varieties. The one constant, it occurs to me, is that I have looked at these books with hesitation and dealt with the writing in them with more than a little procrastination. I felt that whatever I wrote had to be profound or witty, or at the very least intellectual. I am attempting to break that habit now, but find that I feel incredibly stuck. The answer lies in just doing, this I am quite sure of. As Sean Connery's character told an aspiring young author in the movie "Finding Forrester", "Writers......write." They don't contemplate it, reason it through, perfect it in their heads. No, they write. And write some more. Recalling my past knowledge as one that has spent a fair amount of time writing, I remember that the more I performed the task, the easier it became. And the quality generally improved, too.

As an athlete trains and cross-trains, there are "exercises" to becoming a better writer. One I have always enjoyed is simply reading. I don't read solely for the entertainment value...I read with the perspective of trying to get inside of the author's head. I gain insight and appreciation for the character development, the choices of words, the word pictures and feelings that the piece I am reading bring forth. I know that the easier it is for me to read, the more difficult it likely was for the writer to create.

Another exercise is basically compulsory and has its origins for me in my 7th grade English class, when my teacher would write a word on the blackboard each day. Students were awarded extra credit points for turning in the proper definition. This taught me that building my vocabulary was a valuable asset in my creative writing endeavors. The thesaurus became a desktop companion and saw more use than my dictionary as I began to write poetry more and more.

But the most vital exercise? Write. Just do it. Even if it is destined for the recycle bin. Write and then write some more.

"So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it." ~Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~Anaïs Nin

"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." ~Charles Peguy

"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium." ~Norbet Platt

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop." ~Vita Sackville-West

"The wastebasket is a writer's best friend." ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~William Wordsworth

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies." ~Emme Woodhull-Bäche

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." ~Mark Twain

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." ~James Michener

"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right." ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

"Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague." ~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing

"If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad." ~Lord Byron

"All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure." ~Henry David Thoreau

"Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head." ~From the movie Finding Forrester

"An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere." ~Gustave Flaubert

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." ~George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947

Friday, January 9, 2009

Clarity and Joy

A handful of years ago, I returned to my homestate in the center of the Midwest. Since that time, I have pined longingly for the West Coast that I love so much. Of course, there are certain things that keep me planted right where I am presently, or I would no longer miss Oregon. I would BE there.

Then a wonderful and unexpected thing happened. A friend from long ago contacted me through Facebook and we started to talk. And talk and talk. Blissfully, a friendship has been rekindled, but even more than that, I feel like I have reached the shore of clarity and warmth. The feelings of belonging and validation are a strong elixir for the bereft emptiness that has gnawed at me for so long. The tides of disillusionment and exile carried me so far from those places in the heart that kept me going, I thought I would never make it back alive. Wise words and insight spoken to me have breathed new life and filled my sails with hope once again. This thoughtful exchange between two girls now grown has set me in a new direction toward joy and wholeness once again.

I have long believed that there is no such thing as coincidence. This is more proof for me. I have every confidence that people and situations enter my life on cue. The timing is perfect. Long has my spirit been parched and starving for nurturing and understanding on this level... Sweeter is the appreciation of this gift of friendship for the wait. The clemency is salve to my soul! The gentle grace of true friendship is transformational. Today, I remember to count my friends among my blessings...Though I specifically mention one here, there are a handful of others that have sustained me through the storms of life.

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being." -Goethe

"The making of friends, who are real friends, is the best token we have of a man's success in life." - Edward Everett Hale

"The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?" - Henry David Thoreau

"A person is only complete when she has a true friend to understand her, to share all her passions and sorrows with, and to stand by her throughout her life."

"Material things can't make the soul whole. The only the love, trust, and loyalty of friends can do that."

"I'd like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me. I'd like to be the help that you've been always glad to be; I'd like to mean as much to you each minute of the day, as you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way." - Edgar A. Guest

"We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, There is at last one drop that makes it run over. So in a series of kindness there is at last one drop that makes the heart run over."

"If you're trusted and people will allow you to share their inner garden...what better gift?" - Fred Rogers

"A friend will strengthen you with her prayers, bless you with her love, and encourage you with her hope."

"A friend is like a rainbow. They brighten your life when you've been through a storm."

"Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joy, and dividing our grief." -Joseph Addison

"In loneliness, in sickness, in confusion-the mere knowledge of friendship makes it possible to endure, even if the friend is powerless to help. It is enough that they exist. Friendship is not diminished by distance or time, by imprisonment or war, by suffering or silence. It is in these things that it roots most deeply. It is from these things that it flowers." -Pam Brown

"A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you've been, accepts who you've become, and still invites you to grow."

"Choose your friends by their character, and choose your socks by their color. Choosing your socks by their character makes no sense, and choosing your friends by their color is unthinkable."

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." -Antoine de Saint-Exupery The Little Prince

"Friends know what you want them to know about you. Best friends know what you don't even know about yourself. And True friends help you build yourself from all they know"

"A friend is the inspiration in you when you have lost all hope, and they bring out a world inside of you that you never knew you had."

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."- Anais Nin