Comfortably Dumb

--Edward Hopper, "High Noon"

–Edward Hopper, “High Noon”

Suicide.  It’s been over six months since I’ve had this urge to google it.  Six months ago, I put that urge away. . .put it in a strongbox and swallowed the key.

This is the last time you haunt the house of my brain .  Here’s your hat . ..don’t let the unlocked door hit you on the way out.

And  here, I hesitate to say,  it is six months later and he’s back, Jack. That asshole with the hobnail shoes, exhausted, nauseous, spent. Stomping around in the kitchen again. . .rummaging through the produce drawer, looking for palpable courage.

The long hallway with all the family photos: every last one of those faces emaciated, expressionless.   You want to save them. . . load them all into boats, bound for anywhere

but here, where the hurt is.

I mean it is one kind of unholy to go there yourself, but you look into that sea of faces. . .so far from shore.  Hands and arms aching all the way to umbilicus that keeps you tethered to heavy heavy heavy.

Holden Caulfield in a Coast Guard boat, waving a white flag.  Enough already.  Uncle.

Uncle uncle uncle.

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Posted: No Trespassing

Screenshot of Brittany Murphy, “Girl Interrupted

A long bus ride to a dental school destination across the river…a stop in the most dangerous community in like the entire world, but also the most wise and loving people living there and gentle…so there is lots of time to talk with fascinating and inspiring strangers (I always imagine them all  to be angels…but if not, then it must be someone earthbound who’s made a bargain with the divine saying it’s OK to use their skin for awhile)

And anyway there’s this man talking about what he would do if he won the lottery, how he’d spend his winnings …and another one saying it would be just as hard to be a billionaire as to be poor as dirt. . .and I jumped in, more or less agreeing…but also thinking of that Dylan-inspired Kristofferson line that says, “Freedom’s just a another word for nothing left to lose.”

And then strangely, as he didn’t seem like the kind of person who’d be into such things, he starts talking horoscopes and signs.  So I tell him I”m a Libra…

and he says, “Ahh. ..well, you know, Libra is an air sign so that means you spend a lot of time taking it all in from this very high place…like a bird on a skyscraper…or you know…the flying nun.

You aren’t satisfied like all those folks who walk close to the ground and do what they are told…you can’t make a move before you feel like you have got a sense of the bigger picture, an activity which, taken to extremes, can be at times unbearably awful…you think and think so much it makes your brain hurt.  And you need a rest sometimes, a lot of rest because going that high can take its toll on a body.

I mean nothing Honey, if it aint free.

The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell of Mental Illness: Invisibility and Eccentricities in the New Millenium

The other day I found myself  lost in thought as I followed the hand movements of a young therapist intern who was making notes on a whiteboard for myself and others diagnosed with  various illnesses caused by biological and trauma-related hypersensitivity and emotional dysregulation.  It is in this room we gather once a week for instructional and motivational therapy.

Paul Klee, "Siblings"

I was especially focused on the way she drew the circles for the o’s and a’s,  beginning at the right of the round shape and then continuing the curve in a clockwise path.  It was fascinating to study that process, at the same time overwhelming from a flood of sadness and empathy;

though I may have been projecting, I imagined the act of mirror image character-making as a kind of struggle, as if her wrist and brain were working harder somehow. . .maybe some leftover trickled down from the fine motor constaints of the Spencerian Method.

And in doing so, I got lost in my own inner dialogue drawing parallels between that act and the act of trying to thrive and survive as an uber-sensitive intuitive in a world that is forever trying to suppress that in you. . .and force its own agenda of bootstraps, categorization,  and adherence to inflexible schedules.

Suddenly, I flashed to the memory of those stories of left-handed children forced to make letters with their nondominant hand.

And those mental images were followed by the ones of native American schoolchildren, severely reprimanded for speaking in their native languages; in the meantime. .. all those beautiful and musical syllables and sounds silenced and sentenced to death by the queen’s linguistic lynch mobs.

The truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever had a left-handed instructor before, so I’d never had the chance to ponder it from the perspective of a student.

But recently as I’ve been trying and trying to function in the workforce at various times and venues, and thrive under the supervision of management who, for all intents and purposes, are just doing what’s asked of them, (those things that every manager of personnel does to keep an employee on the straight and narrow),

it’s just become increasingly apparent to me that for all their efforts to keep me in line, for all the admonishment, advice and disciplinary actions, it’s just been making things harder for me to get the job done.

I am not a left-brained, linear, logical thinker.  What  I am is a right-brained, emotionally-charged intuitive and creative thinker.  And it’s been a whole lifetime of trying to fit into that first category. . .a lifetime of going against my better instincts after having been accused of laziness or stupidity or willful disobedience . . .that has kept my world in a constant state of chaos and frustration.

And I guess what hurts most about all of this is having to live with this label of not trying hard enough. . .of all the above mentioned things. .because damn it nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a madhouse of activity when I get rolling, but the part where I have to keep drawing all the circles backwards to suit the tyranny of a system that just keeps taking the pencil out of my hand and trying to make me write the other way is nothing short of exhausting.  And if I am resting, it’s because my god does anybody hear me when I say that I simply must work twice as hard to fail at being someone alien to the way I was born?

And so rather than follow along with others who say that mental illness is mostly caused by biological factors and family stress, I would like to offer that maybe just maybe it gets even worse when everybody tries to make us contort into some other version of ourselves that is not only inauthentic, but freakish. . .like a sideshow of misfits on display to make the rest of the world feel glad about being healthy and normal.

And in suggesting this, I am not saying that I am impervious to working on strategies to fit in better, because I know there are areas of my brain that can be re-wired in ways that will make it easier to manage the navigation of these rocky waters. And I am more than willing to work at that.  (At this point of already having tried everything from isolation and shock treatments to medication and trauma talk, I am ready to try anything that brings relief from this and results, which isn’t so much admirable behavior as anesthesia seeking)  And the truth is, the new therapy, which through some miracle of miracles, I’ve been fortunate enough to qualify in getting financial assistance for, is working.  And the reason it’s working is because the repetitive coaching and calming techniques are helping to rebuild the broken bridges in my brain, ones that have made it extremely difficult to manage complex emotions of feeling trapped and isolated as a result of this misfit existence I’ve been living forever.  Sadly, this therapy is mostly unavailable to most folks because insurance companies refuse to pay for it (due to the enormous costs of constant on-call monitoring and coaching) so you can imagine what it’s like trying to get it for the uninsured.  Like I said, I’ve been blessed to have it, but also I had to be recommended for it by a team of therapists, and after I was approved (mostly by virtue of repeated suicide attempts and hospitalizations) I was put on a 2-year waiting list.  My heart goes out to others who go without such help to manange  illnesses as borderline personality disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder as they must simply endure without effective treatment, via medication and cognitive therapy, treatment that oftentimes has proven to do more harm than good.

I am also insanely thankful to my therapists and doctors, friends and family so very much as well.  Without their patience, love and caring, no doubt I would have just given up altogether and banished myself to a life on the fringes somewhere. And to Dr. Marsha Linehan, the patient turned physician who, through her own struggles and suicide attempts, became the creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, therapy that has been life-saving to the others of us with similar challenges.

But also to those who have come forward to share their stories of hope and survival, I say “thanks for lighting the way for the rest of us who are afraid to speak openly about this.”

It is because of you, all of you, that I am certain we can do this thing, come out of the mental illness closets and find a way to ask for back-up and support somehow someway if only we push for legislation and listening from folks who could help us be safe in talking about it.   I mean, anybody who’s been there, done that knows that it’s at best humiliating and awkward to ask for any kind of accomodations in this world, let alone inappropriate and unreasonable, where the policy of “don’t ask; don’t tell” is pretty much a given.

And to those who say it can’t be done, that the only way to fit in is to suffer in silence, I can only quote the words from John Lewis in 1765, words that have re-emerged to become the outcry of the civil rights movement:  “If not us, then who?  If not now, then when?”

painting

painting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

–Vincent Van Gogh, “The Sower”

Who’s Sorry Now: A Godzilla Apology

So what to do when you’ve had a huge fight with your bestie in forever

and the thing has snowballed to the size of Argentina in a heatwave. ..

and you have been ridiculous and he has been insensitive. . .

and  hammered at each other to the point of senselessness. ..

each too stubborn to give an inch, but especially HIM?

You take it to the mattresses for a godzilla apology!

Listen, you reptilain toad fart! So I don’t have to say this again:

I am sorry for being such a three-headed she-beast..

Now stop brooding about and give me a hug, please.  You know you miss me already and the feeling is mutual.

What do you say we go a couple more rounds in imaginary Japan?

xoxo  Kisses and Hugs from your bestie who can’t imagine a minute of madnees without you.

My Blue Heaven

--Tess Farnham "My Blue Heaven," mixed media on canvas, 20x24

So in the past, I have admitted to being one of those artists who grapples with intense bouts of sadness, bouts that are at times so gripping and intense you can barely hold a brush in your hand, let alone steady the thing for detail or realism.  The curves turn linear and the lines wave and bend with trembling.  You erase and erase until the frustration just leads to tears and the tearing up of preliminary sketches and grids. 

At some point in this process you finally get so exasperated, you just grab the closest implement of application and let the strokes go where they will.

This piece actually began as a much darker work with lots of primary colors for contrast; it was a piece that I cherished mostly because its importance to a friend of mine, nevertheless, a piece that I had more or less made to suit his tastes instead of mine.

As it happens, I store blank canvases in the same corner of the basement where I store finished works.  And the other night as I was flipping through to find the size I wanted, my eyes fell upon that painting. ..and I started to think of how much I wanted to take out those awful strokes of ocher and red. . . 

So instead of starting fresh, I decided to go to work there. 

After I had taken this painting upstairs, I noticed that there was a tiny ding in the wood support where it had been dropped on the basement floor.  At first discouraged by this discovery, I quickly recovered when I realized I could patch it.

With lacy mesh from an old curtain panel, its mate lost in the fog somewhere now.  A slumping and ravaged mishap in a heap on the chair beside the easel like a castoff bridal veil. 

I cut the bandages haphazardly, applying them to the corners of the canvas as reinforcement. Afterwards, I applied some gel medium and paint to anchor them.

Next came coats of color and gel medium mixed with pearlescent powders to address the areas where the piece had fallen short of my vision of a completed work. Blues and maroons, mixed and unmixed with dabs of this and that and at times patched together with leaves shakily extracted from that cast off curtain.

A couple of hours later,  I was finished.  Happy and satiated that I’d lifted myself out of this sad spell, but also had done sufficient triage to resurrect a work that had gone to a corner of my basement to die.

Letting go of heartbreak songs

In matters of self-education and scholarly pursuit, I can be honest and say for the most part, there has always been motivation enough to make me wise and willing to learn.  In matters of the heart however, I have been remiss with myself and sorry.  And, in looking back all I can say is: Man am I a sap and a moron.

I almost never listen to mainstream pop or country so this song is new to me. ..and it’s coming at a time when I could use a reminder of what really happens after having let yourself be stupid to the point of laying face up on the floor like a golden retriever: here ya go, trample my guts and eat my heart out.

And sad songs are OK when you want to cry, but if you want to get angry and get over it so you can get on with it. ..I think Reba says it best.

Watch this one.  Even if you have to click the link and wait for the advertising.  It will be worth it!

Ether

“The lannnnguage of loooove has left me stony gray.  Tongue-tied and twisted at the price I’ve had to pay e aaay.  Dumb hearts get broken just like china cups.  The language of loooooooooooooooove has left me     broken    on the rocks.”  —Annie Lennox

That was yesterday.

Diva (Annie Lennox album)

Image via Wikipedia

And a lot of days leading up to it, admittedly.

One of those turning points, you know, when the universe seems to have blotted your name from the roster. . . the blood barely moves through your veins. . .a bag of that birdshot ingested as if from a dystopian short story.

And so you sit with that for awhile.  You drag yourself from task to task, heart pumping chunks of plastic and acid, stomach turning over and over. . .and the tremors and trembling. . .

If there is an ounce of mercy in this universe, let me evaporate please.  I want to go home.

All the while the friends floating in the ether around you. . .