Begin Again (Again)

Another year, another month in rehab; seems like this cycle never fails to repeat itself. Stress, depression, poor coping skills and ultimately, drinking. Drinking is not the origin of the problem, but the one that usually brings the issue to life in glorious Technicolor and Surround Sound. Learning who I am and why I do the things I do will more than likely be a lifetime project, but I am getting closer to my truths each time. How many times does one have to travel down a road before they recognize it leads to a destination that is not the one they want? How many times do I try again, only to fail? How many times can people be there for me, encourage me and help me when I just fall back to pieces again? Compassionate people have their limits and everyone has something they are battling, be it depression, simple unhappiness, a toxic relationship, addiction, avoidance and a painful past. The painful past doesn’t stay in the past; like a child coloring for the first time, it goes outside the lines of the past and bleeds into the present time, often without our knowing.

One of the things we learn in therapy is why we react the way we do to certain people, places and things (emotions can be included with things) and I am learning that my painful past is fully present in my present day. The strings that lead back to the original pain are like telephone wires, communicating and echoing the pain of the incident long ago. If I do nothing to cut those ties, heal those wounds and exorcise those demons, I will be destined to repeat this process over and over again, until I can fight no more or until I am dead and gone. This is not a post about blaming others for my past, but more to understand how the past is still manipulating my thoughts and with them, my emotional well-being. I have created a great deal of my painful past, simply by being a human being and trying to make myself happy, without having the understanding of how to create real happiness. Alcohol made me happy until it made me dangerous to myself and others; men made me happy until I realized the emotion I was feeling wasn’t happiness, but some ugly deformed cousin of happiness in which their happiness (supposedly) made me happy. The old saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” may be true, but it’s better to not pretend love when it’s lust you’re feeling. Not to confuse the two, which I have done for most of my life. If you’ve never felt true, unconditional and pure love from someone, how would you recognize it? The thrill of the love affair brings about emotions that could be mistaken for happiness, but I’m fairly certain that the formula for happiness does not include compromising ones morals or living in secret, experiencing alternating moments of bliss and shame. My life is what I have made it and will continue to be a mix of good and bad, but mostly what lies between the two. I am responsible for my happiness and my well-being. I am not responsible for everyone else on the planet, I cannot save anyone except possibly myself. Others may care, but their lives demand their time and attention, as it should be. The choices I have made in the past have led me to the place I am today as the choices I make today will lead me to tomorrow’s destination.

My painful past is not without its benefits, as pain is a sure sign of growth. I have learned how precious life is and how easily one (me) can believe that I am not worthy of such a precious gift and try to return it. I’m pretty sure God (or Buddha, or my Higher Power) doesn’t want me to take that gift and s**t all over it and return it to Him with a single finger salute. I’m pretty sure the idea is to live the life, to the best of my ability with whatever gifts and challenges that come with it; learn and grow, love and give, have and hold forever and ever. Understanding that to error is human and to forgive, divine is the formula and there is no pass or fail, there is only learning and growing. To love oneself seems simple enough, but for some of us, it is the most difficult challenge we face, every single day. So, I will begin again (again) and keep trying, keep learning and hopefully, ultimately, I will love myself as those of you who love me do. This is my wish and my most passionate prayer. For a life without love is no life at all.

BrotherWord-Love-Thyself

Scotland Remembered

Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart castles

Beauty in all things down to tapestry tassels.

Glasgow Acropolis, history laid to rest

Tales of bravery, lives cut short, headstones attest

Merchant City, bustling with tourist and native alike

Traffic moves like a blood through veins; be it by car, tram or bike

Aberdeen, Fort William, Aviemore;

These highland towns I truly adore

Perth, Kelvingrove Park, Lanark

You have all left your mark

In my heart, in my soul you’ll always be

The best of my memories, the best of me.

I have left your lovely lands to return to my home

But I miss you deeply, you’re my reason to roam.

Oatcakes, tea and skies as far as the eye can see

Bring back the happiest in my memory;

Dunblane, John o’ Groats and the Isle of Skye,

my soul breathes out a heartfelt sigh

Calming, soothing beauty makes me smile

A journey through this beautiful land does please;

your wild beauty, star-filled skies and crashing seas

Make my heart wish to return again

To the land that I loved when this adventure did first begin.

You’ll always be in my heart, Scotland my dear

I will return someday, never fear.

When I’m sad or lonely or think life’s too much to bear

I’ll return to you, to heal my heart and to repair

my battle-weary soul that has fought for so long

and bow to a power that can’t go wrong

My love of the land, the people and all I know

Scotland, my love, my dream and home to my soul.

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School Daze

“Two great gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts, mutilated monkey meat, itty-bitty birdy feet; two big eyeballs rolling down a dirty street and me without a spoon…”

Out of all of the things I could remember from grade school, this is the one thing that just instantly pops in my head when I think of those early days of being a kid in the 70’s. I know there are different versions, depending on where in the world you grew up and so there are variations on the theme, but in general, it’s just plain silliness and I love it.

Whenever I think of school, the first thing that comes to mind is the crisp Autumn air, the leaves turning color and the back to school shopping, which was hands-down my favorite part of it all. Some kids want new shoes, new clothes and backpacks. I, on the other hand, looked forward to new pens and fresh, unmarked notebooks and piles of binder paper, just waiting to be filled with the endless stream of thoughts and ideas I always seem to find whenever faced with a blank page. I loved the new beginning, fresh start and endless possibilities that awaited me with each new school year; it was like New Year’s except without the hangover and the pressure to make resolutions. It was a chance to learn, to strengthen existing friendships, make some new ones and exercise my brain, while learning new concepts and discovering new worlds that I had not previously known. It was an escape from an unquiet, chaotic household to a world of order, clearly defined rules of behavior and expectations. It was a world of learning and because I was (and still am) a huge fan of learning, I received a great deal of praise and encouragement in those classrooms. It was a place that I felt I truly belonged to and some of my most formative lessons growing up took place at school.

As an adult, of course, things are a little different, but I still love learning. I have to work harder than I did as a kid because 5o is just around the proverbial corner and because (as you all know) my mood swings around like dancers doing the Lindy Hop.

But there are rewards that by far outweigh the effort put forth; the sense of accomplishment, of facing challenges and overcoming obstacles that you just don’t get when you run away or quit. It reinforces the belief that I am capable, intelligent and have some serious moxie.

mox·ie
noun NORTH AMERICAN informal
force of character, determination, or nerve.

I love that word, moxie. It’s so cool. Makes me think of old school gangster movies with Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Bogey.

Sorry. Shiny thing distracted me.

At any rate, school will always be a place that I love. I may not like the teacher, the subject matter or other miscellaneous things, it is a happy place for me and the memories of playing dodgeball and hopscotch will always be some of my all-time favorites. My first slumber party, becoming a song leader (cooler dancing sister to the cheerleader) and playing volleyball are some of milestones that made me the woman I am today and the teachers who were endlessly patient with my endless supply of questions nurtured the desire to learn in me and allowed me to explore my intellect and question what others called the truth.

Doodles. That’s another thing I love about school. Doodles are awesome.

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Deja Vu/Vuja De

It was a year ago, around this time on the calendar when I finally admitted to myself and to my psychiatrist that everything was most definitely NOT fine and a change of venue was in order. My doctor, being the good doctor that he is, referred me for psych evaluation and an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) to deal with the immediate concerns and to eventually get my mood rightened and myself back to the land of brilliant Technicolor, instead of the shades of black in the world I was living in. Well, fast forward a little over a year and guess what? I’m back in the same place, with the same therapists and doctors, cafeteria style lunches and rooms with uncomfortable chairs, lots of Kleenex boxes and people with stories, like me and very much unlike me. My immediate thought upon having to tell my doctor YET AGAIN that I was losing my s**t was not one of “Atta Girl!” but more like, “Seriously? Didn’t we JUST do this?? WTF is wrong with you, loser??” because my first thoughts are always from a place of extreme judgment and an unrealistic goal of perfection, no matter the circumstance.

Now, I wouldn’t say that to my worst enemy anymore than I would say it to someone who was doing another round of chemo or radiation in an effort to destroy that which is trying to destroy them. Treatment is treatment; the disease may differ, the course of treatment may differ but the goal is the same, to provide relief of symptoms and improve the health of the individual, thus improving the quality of life. Mental health is really no different, although much less one size fits all. Mental illness and those who battle depression, mania and other disorders are as different and varied as any selection of human beings can be; one person’s burden is another’s blessing. There is no absolute 100% guaranteed course of treatment and whatever course is selected, the patient must be able and willing to follow subscribed course of treatment, which often if not always includes eliminating substance (pick a poison, alcohol included) abuse and implementing a medication program that includes a cocktail (pardon the pun) of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and perhaps a little Antabuse thrown in for the hard core alcoholics. The patient must be willing to give up those self-medicating methods and switch to the psych meds, which usually come with a hefty side of side effects, weight gain being at the top of the list and covering all manner of ailments including, but not limited to: psychosis, permanent facial and/or body tics, blindness, headaches and possibly (of course) death by suicide, because some of these drugs have induced suicidal tendencies in certain groups, such as adolescents and the elderly. Go figure. Seems kind of counter-intuitive, but every rose has its thorn, as we learned from Guns ‘n Roses/Poison.

If you’re still reading and still awake, I commend you. 

Back to the present time – I am back in the land of black and bleh, trying to find my way to the light and a coherent, relatively calm mind so that I can make some decisions that will hopefully keep me from having to return again at this time next year. I have a great many decisions to make at some point in time and I want to choose wisely and make choices that are good for me and my health. It’s easy for me to say that (I’ve said it over and over again) but the execution is where I falter. I guess if I’m thinking about what I SHOULD do instead of what I NEED to do, that could lead me to an unwise choice.

For all of you who have sent happy thoughts, well wishes and in reached out to me in general, I want you to know I feel the love. Seriously. Those of you who are thinking about me but haven’t reached out, I assure you, I still feel the love. You are the difference between me giving up or carrying on; your belief in me is my sword of truth, fighting against the lies and untruths that hold my spirit hostage, trapped in a dark and dismal mind. Your love and support brings a light to the darkness, a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow to come back to the land of the living and love. I have talked to many people who have no family, no friends and oftentimes it is because their mental illness/addiction issues have exhausted the supply of people willing to lend a hand or support that person. Some people have a limited time only offer of assistance and once that window is closed, there are no more. I understand the reasoning behind this; if you are trying to save a drowning person, but don’t know how to swim yourself, you will both most certainly drown. Dealing with mental illness is neither pretty, Facebook post-worthy or fun. It tests  your limits, your love and your own mental stability. It’s like a fire you can’t get too close to or you end up with some pretty serious burns. It’s a rollercoaster ride you don’t remember buying a ticket to ride, a storm that was born of sunny skies and fluffy clouds; sunny and bright one minute, dark and destructive the next. It can tear apart the closest family, take away your best friend and leave a wake of destruction miles wide and years long. Knowing this makes you and your continued support all the more precious and appreciated.

Shooting thoughts of love and gratitude to you. Wish we were there (Half Moon Bay)

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Everything’s Fine.

She looks as if she’s calm as can be,

Got it together, it’s plain to see.

She has a smile that almost reaches her eyes,

appears to be intelligent, capable and even wise.

Light-hearted, quick to joke and laugh

she is the picture of no worries and it’s all good.

But her smile, her voice and her actions deceive;

inside, she feels as brittle as old, broken bones.

Tears are constantly there, seeking a flaw in the wall

she’s built around herself, her heart, her mind.

She’s trembling on the inside,

slave to a mind that’s anything

but quiet.

She’s clenching her teeth to keep from crying,

she’s trying to ignore the desire to be dead or at least dying.

She knows she wasn’t always this way,

but to remember any differently

grows difficult every day.

The dark, heavy weight brings her to her knees each night

is her only constant companion, her cerebral shadow.

It has life to it and a wicked, twisted point of view that lends

itself to despair, deep depression and brings pain

to the state of simply existing.

Doubt is the seed from which distortion of the mind does grow;

She used to feel powerful, smart and in control

Now she is timid, frightened and beaten down.

She once knew the way to happiness and traveled it daily with great passion

Now she hides away from everyone, not willing or able to put on that happy face,

Think those happy thoughts, hear those words again –

“What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just be happy?”

She stands tall, shoulders back and smile soldered on;

she counts the minutes until she can escape to her sanctuary,

peel off that heavy mask of lies and false smiles,

let those weighted shoulders and brimming tears fall.

the sadness pours forth from her

like lava from a volcano,

oozing, burning hot in its intensity,

suffocating in its weight,

It has a presence, a dark energy and a power

that is invisible to all but her.

She dreams of a day when she can be free

from the darkness and find some light,

Soak up some goodness and banish the dark night.

 

 

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

I miss you. I wish I could tell you how much but I don’t hear from you anymore. I hope you’re doing well and your silence means you have outgrown me. I hope you don’t need me anymore and you’ve found something that helps you the way that I couldn’t. I hope that you will always remember our time together with a smile. I hope that you know how much you changed my world, opened up doors and windows within myself and within my world that I didn’t know existed. I hope that you know I love you, in a way that words cannot express; I love you with not only my heart, but with my soul as well. You gave me priceless gifts that I’m certain I will never be able to repay. You gave me a new lease on life, a different way of seeing people and things.

The most precious things in life cannot be boxed up, nailed down or made to stay in one place; they are precious because they are not to be owned by any one person, locked up or tied down or in any way contained. A beautiful sunset in the night sky, a shooting star, a baby’s first step and that first kiss; all of those things are beautiful and fleeting, which is one reason why they are so precious and should be treasured. This is how I must remember you – as a beautiful gift that lives only in my heart. You will never age, never change and will be remembered as you were the last time I saw you; with love in your eyes, warmth in your embrace and a touch of sadness in your farewell.

You will always be in my heart and I will recall your beautiful voice telling me to stay strong, believe in myself and reach for the stars.

Thanks for the memories.

 

 

 

 

 

Only the Lonely

Only the lonely ask themselves why they are alone

only the lonely wish their house was a home

only the lonely break hearts like a boxer breaks noses

because they love to be lonely

only the lonely know what

it feels like

to be

lonely

but not

alone.

Sleep. Dream. Escape.

From the time I woke up this morning

there was a strange feeling, a deadened gnawing

sitting solidly in the pit

of where my food (once eaten) does sit.

It was an odd feeling, a hollow but heavy feeling I felt

It circled my entirety, tightly, like an invisible belt.

I felt as though I had crossed through gossamer strands of time,

Losing all direction, sense of self, of reason and rhyme.

My mood was erratic, my heartbeat at time and a half;

I felt like I had run a race with the darkness,

on unsteady feet down an unfamiliar path.

Yet somehow, I found my way to morning,

to light and to day

I walked the maze of my dreamscape and

didn’t stop or stay

Made my way to the light, to the waking

and the dreams swept away.

Whatever dreams I had lived,

are now forgotten in the

dawn.

Until my eyes close again tonight,

Until I see the blackness engulf the light,

the stars in my mind wake up and blink

and my conscious mind does sink

into the sweet, silent darkness,

the relief of sleep

allows me my sanity

to keep.

To dream the dreams my subconscious needs to speak;

to find the answers to the questions it seeks.

I dream a thousand dreams

of a thousand castles,

memories and fantasy meet and marry.

Sleep is my friend, dreams are her children

Escape is the destination to begin again.

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Sanctuary

IMG_3689“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods; there is rapture in the lonely shore; there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but nature more” -Lord Byron

I found a poster when I was about 13 that had a picture of the ocean at sunrise with the text above on it. I was fascinated by the ocean, the quiet society and the thought of being at one with nature and free from the noise and chaos of the human race. Somehow I felt as though Lord Byron was just like me, seeking out the quiet places where a worn and weary soul could go to heal, to recharge and to reconnect with something outside of oneself, but yet connected somehow. I hadn’t thought of that poster in years but have a vague memory of writing the text down in a journal somewhere with the intention of seeking out those places in my world someday when I was older and a world traveler. Well, fast forward about 30 some-odd years and here I am. A world traveler with a weary soul, seeking sanctuary from the world of Man, just for a little while. The ocean greets me like a great, great, great-grandmother, opening her arms and pulling me into her embrace, while the waves crashing down are the song she sings me. My eyes drink in the colors, the beauty of the crystal-blue sky, the blinding-white clouds and the silver tops of the waves as they catch the sunlight. The air is crisp, cool and smells like a brand new start, a fresh beginning, a clean slate. The ocean’s rhythmic cadence is like a story being told to me; I am feeling as though it’s telling me a story about my true purpose, my true identity. I am not  a child of Man, I am a child of the Universe; the world is my classroom and the ocean is one of many teachers bringing me lessons about everything and nothing. Everything is connected, nothing is insignificant.

I feel calmer, although no “real” change has taken place; I am still me, I am still facing the challenges that we all face, although no two lives are the same and no two individuals will process and feel the same way about the same event, there are commonalities and connections within the human race as a whole. For me, the key is to not dwell too long in the world of Man without taking time out to reconnect with Nature, walk the pathless woods and find rapture on the lonely shore.

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On Loss and Carrying On

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Today marks yet another anniversary of my dear friend JJ passing away and this year, the passing of other, more well-known people has added to the sense of loss. David Bowie, Prince and too many others to mention have left this earth and moved on but not without leaving an imprint on our hearts and in our souls. I will still hear songs by Bowie and Prince, just as I will replay conversations I’ve had with JJ. I still hear my father’s voice when I’m lost and seeking guidance and hear my mother’s voice when I’m doing something that I know would cause her concern and/or anxiety, so in that way, they live on because I will not forget. I will not let the sense of grief and loss keep me from living the life I know they all (well, maybe not specifically D.B. & Prince) would want me to. I believe strongly that we are all interconnected and the more I try to be solitary, aside from everyone else, the more I realize that’s not really possible. What my loved one goes through, I am emotionally right there by their side; when someone is angry and hurting, those feelings project out of them and I feel as though a barrage of emotionally-charged arrows are heading straight for me, like heat-seeking missiles. When I am with someone who is depressed, I cannot help but feel for them; I have been there, I know the way and I know how dark it becomes. I can tell myself it is their problem, their burden to bear and logically it is. But there is a voice that tells me that if I am able to help, I should. If I have a light to give this person to help them find their way through the darkness, how can I not offer it? If I bring happiness or even a temporary relief of a great burden or guilt, does that not benefit me as well?

Prince and David Bowie are part of the soundtrack of my life and they will call to mind the times I’ve had, good, bad and amazing with my friends, my family and you, my dear readers. I will do my best to cherish the good times and not let the loss overshadow the gifts that I’ve been given. When all else fails, I’ll put on their music and just dance.

That’s how I’ll get through this thing called life.