Thursday, November 06, 2008

this is what normal feels like...

Abandoning the idea of "what is normal?" for a moment (we can define it, possibly, as the land of "not depressed"), I'm finding myself thinking the following on a fairly regular basis:

"So, this is what a cold feels like, you know, to normal people" (just a cold, not an indicator of moral failings or a harbinger of doom because I have to stay in bed more than I'd like).

"So, normal people sometimes don't keep their kitchen clean when they have a cold because it takes all of their energy to get done what absolutely needs to get done" (not, I am committing a deadly sin of sloth, and therefore, the rest of my life will fall apart and I'll be drooling on the floor before you know it).

Just for example.

I think catastrophizing is a pretty common technique for us bipolar girls. It's a learning process to know that sometimes, a cold is just a bad cold (and miserable, but not, you know, all defining of my character and such).

how much longer can I say I'm in transition?

hello, y'all...

This is a letter I sent to my Pendle Hill friends (edited a bit for this blog)...posting here to give you a sense of what the summer was like...

I wrote this in August, after months of isolating myself (somewhat painfully) for a couple of months upon my return home...

In the letter, I refer to a possible job at Pendle Hill -- I did get offered a job with the hospitality team, but it wasn't possible to make accommodations for the Kacey dog, so it didn't work out. Which worked out fine, because being home has been really good (ultimately!).

You can see many of the images I'm talking about here...

I have moved my computer and printer to the kitchen table in my lovely house – the kitchen gets lots and lots of light, and besides, my office hasn’t quite recovered from my move back from Pendle Hill earlier this summer. I have my screen-saver set to pull photos from the couple of thousand I took while I was a Pendle Hill, and so I’m caught by images and memories as I walk by on my way to fill the dishwasher or do laundry. And I literally am caught – my breath jumps and I remember the crucifix and belly cookies, or Julia and Mary Elizabeth quilting and knitting (respectively) at the Academy Awards party…or, or, and…

Ok, and honestly? I look at some of the photographs and say, wow, those are really good. I took my computer to my therapist’s office last week and showed her some new work I’d done, of driftwood and oyster beds off of Bogue Sound. I cried as I forced out, “these are really good, aren’t they?” I’m not getting out of this one: I want, need, and would be doing the Spirit a disservice if I don’t keep up my creative work. Besides, I want to live up to my title of “spiritually grounded, community based, mixed media artist/activist.”

SPEAKING OF WHICH: I turned in a GRANT PROPOSAL for Bipolar Girl Rules the World and Other Stories!!!! Just yesterday!!! Obviously, I hope I get the money ($5000 to put towards an animation sample) but most importantly, I feel like I announced to the universe, “ok, I’m really serious about this project!”

I was surprised to learn that my fall would not include a return to Pendle Hill as a member of the staff; it wasn’t the right time for me and my dog Kacey (who is nosing my leg as I write this) to head back north. I feel some sadness, of course, but also, some clarity about building in the supports and structures I knew I would find at Pendle Hill and creating them in my life here in Durham. What surprised me about not coming to Pendle Hill this fall (where I imagined taking a job that would allow me to follow my creative callings) was an awareness of the strength of my call to be a conduit of radical hospitality. So I’m trying to figure out where hospitality fits – a deep desire to offer the grace of God to others, in down-to-earth and practical ways – in figuring out my next steps.

Although I have spent a great deal of time this summer with my extended family, I am quite isolated in my day-to-day life. I am lonely; that I haven’t been in a place to connect with my Durham folks. I’d say I’m about 60% positive and hopeful to 40% numb and despondent. That’s not a bad percentage. (And in this moment, I’m fine!). I feel like I’m struggling with real stuff, not made up phantoms. So I’m doing some of the work to reach outward, and make commitments to see people again.

In some ways my life looks very much like pre-PH, but it is different. I’m struggling, but with a level of self-acceptance that is new to me. I’m seeking a way that my next steps – creatively and otherwise – can bubble up out of me, rather than being beaten out of me through self-judgment and despair. A friend succinctly summed up what I think was one of my most important Pendle Hill learnings: I want to live my life out of love and not out of hating myself – creating a life out of a desire for self-expression and overflowing spirit, NOT out of a sense of inadequacy or “not enough.”

That said, I absolutely MUST find a writing teacher, and some photo/film comrades as well. I’m planning on turning one of my basement rooms (a garage, really) into an art studio, where I can paint on the walls. I also want to paint my kitchen. Some of the being alone time has been nesting. And letting go of stuff. I have at least ten large garbage bags of stuff I’m taking over to Goodwill. It is SO the right time to empty my life of things that weigh me down, make my life more complicated. It feels really good.

I think I put off some of my mourning for Pendle Hill in early June because I though I would be coming back. Of course, each of you wouldn’t have been there, so I much have been fooling myself. ☺ I miss you, truly – my heart aches for y’all. I have loved reading your missives – please keep writing! And sign-up for the work weekend in the spring, like Mary said. I’m going to, and I am totally and completely broke right now. I’m living off of a minute settlement from a car accident almost two years ago! The timing of the check was just right, though…I’ve forgotten the pain and suffering, and now I’m just grateful for the cash!