Going Back to School…

A lot is changing in my life, and it feels like it is happening very quickly. I didn’t expect it, as usual, and now I am left reeling with both excitement and fear. It all started with an innocent post on Twitter. It was one of my million-a-day inane posts that most people don’t read, and I don’t blame them. I don’t care if anyone responds, it is my space. My relaxation space. But I digress.

I posted on Twitter that my laptop was dying, as it had started getting flickering lines across the screen and taken to randomly rebooting. Plus, it was still running Windows Vista, which Firefox (and everything else) was dropping. It was a wonderful, albeit slow and cantankerous, little laptop for me for a few years. It was gifted to me from a friend who was getting a new one, so sweet! I didn’t want to let it go, so I had mostly been ignoring the flickering lines and random rebooting, but it was getting pretty bad.

I had zero expectations when I posted, I was just venting. Out of nowhere, a Twitter friend (that I didn’t even know all that well!) offered to buy me a new laptop on the spot. For good karma, he told me. I figured he was kidding, but we chit chatted about it and I gave him my address after some deliberation and a promise that he wouldn’t show up on my doorstep.

He didn’t, but about a week and a half later, a new laptop did. The box was addressed to my Twitter name, which made me chuckle. So now I have a new laptop. Most people I’ve told this story have thought it was quite odd, and I think may worry for my safety. I believe completely that he just wanted to do something nice and saw something he could do, and did it. These random acts of kindness make the world a better place.

I had been daydreaming about going back to college for a bit, but I kept waffling on what precisely I wanted to do, and I refused to go back without a plan. Plus, there’s no way my old laptop would have gotten me through online classes and writing papers and things. But now, now I was to have a new one. Now I *could* go back to school and keep up. It also happens that I follow a few librarians here and there. So I started asking questions, and thinking about things. I’m still not 100% positive, but I  am pretty sure that I’d at least like to TRY working in a library and seeing what is involved.

It just so happens that Palomar College, which is right by where I live, is one of only 8 schools in California that offers an Associate degree in Library Science. What?! They also seem to have a good English department, which is what I initially thought my AA would be. Now I’m not sure. Perhaps I could fulfill the requirements for the library certificate and still get an AA in English, and transfer to CSUSM for a BA in English. If the whole library thing is still appealing, I could get an online Master’s degree in Library Science.

These are the types of daydreams I have been having for weeks. I know myself, and once something gets its hooks in my brain, I have to research it until I’ve exhausted all the options.

But first things first. The other night I finally did it, I stayed up late and applied for college, filled out my FAFSA, and ordered my transcripts to be sent to Palomar. Now I just need to be officially accepted, see a counselor there, and register for a summer class. I believe I will take just one class over the summer to get started. We will see.

I have been writing very little and playing guitar a lot. My guitar class I took through Mira Costa only meets twice more, then my Thursday nights will be my own again for a bit. I will miss the class. My teacher’s intermediate class is already full, which is probably for the best since it seems I will be busy studying this summer.

Things that are very small seem very scary. Setting up an appointment with a counselor. Deciding which math class to take (I placed higher in math than I expected, so I have some options..) I don’t think I will try to tackle math first, though. It gives me huge anxiety and I know I will need a tutor and a lot of time to focus on it. Ugh.

But, I feel hopeful and excited in a way I haven’t felt in a few years. I still enjoy doing massage, but there is always this black cloud looming and it says, “WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU INJURE YOURSELF? DO YOU STILL WANT TO BE DOING THIS IN YOUR 60s? How will you retire?” This voice I usually can ignore, but it has gotten louder over time. The answer is, I really don’t want to still be doing massage in 15 years. I love it, I will always do it a little, but I don’t want to rely on it solely anymore.

It has been so nice and peaceful, having such a low-stress job. Every shift is like a moving meditation. It has allowed me to clear my mind in ways I didn’t think was possible. But now I feel thirsty for something more, something new that I can wrap my brain around. And I want to hone my writing, have some feedback and peer review. I want to be educated. So I am going back to college.

Wish me luck.


Surgery and Closure

I had surgery at Sharp Grossmont Hospital to fix my deviated septum. It was the same doc that did my ear surgery last summer, Dr. Jeremiah Moles, and he did a great job on both surgeries. I am not in any pain, but a little uncomfortable from the splints in my nose. They get taken out on Tuesday, so I am looking forward to that.

I’m so grateful that I was able to have this surgery done. It’s been 3.5 years since I was attacked in Hayward and punched by a powerful man in a baseball cap. He broke my nose, and not much has been the same since. When the initial injury occurred, I had fierce black eyes for two weeks. This time, minimal bruising and no black eyes!

Everything seems so uncertain these days. Will I have health insurance much longer? I don’t know. What will happen? I don’t know. These questions lead to fear and catastrophizing, which I don’t want to feed into right now.

My nose seems to be healing up nicely, my surgery was on Thursday morning and now it’s Saturday afternoon. I just have to be good and keep resting, which is difficult for me. Neil has been supportive and it’s been nice being able to rest without having to worry about Molly too much. I go back to work on the 25th, so until then I am just going to try and take it easy.


This and That

It’s been a month since I wrote anything significant. I’ve been tinkering a bit with my next major blog post, and my sci-fi story for the second anthology, but not much. I have been so wrapped up in the holidays and my daughter and family and work that I’ve barely had time to do anything at all. But it has been good. I have been living in the moment and taking things as they come, and my therapist and psych both think I am doing well.

I had my med check the other day, and my psych asked me to think about starting to reduce my antidepressant a bit. Having Bipolar I makes using an antidepressant at such a high dosage kind of risky, since I could swing into mania at pretty much any time. But I also take a mood stabilizer, which has been doing its job. She is hesitant to reduce it as well, since that could put me into a tailspin back into my depression. We decided to leave it where it is, and I go back in four months. If everything is still going great, maybe we will reduce my antidepressant some then.

In my downtime, instead of writing I have been practicing guitar. It is going really well. I play with Mr. W once or twice a week, and practice on my own to Youtube videos the rest of the time. I’ve started building up calluses on my fingertips, and it feels great. There is a series of adult guitar lessons starting at a studio by where I work, but unfortunately it is at the same time as my Saturday shift. Ah well. I would like to take some official lessons to make sure I’m not developing bad habits, but I have been having a great time learning from Mr. W in the meantime.

I also got to see all of the first season of Westworld, which is great and makes me want to talk about it with other people who have seen it. I have NOT gotten to see Rogue One yet, but I am hoping to get to see it with Mr. W next week. Over the winter break, my daughter and I saw both Moana and Sing, which were both great movies. We so rarely get to go to the movie theater, it is always a treat.

Anyway, I am tired of seeing my heroes die and mostly can’t wait for 2016 to be over. I will be processing the deaths of many people and institutions for awhile yet. I can only hope that 2017 will be a year of catalyst, and that people will  be inspired to create art and take action. I am still heartbroken over the election results, but am starting to feel stronger again and ready to move forward into the next year.

NaBloPoMo Wrap-Up: #NaBloPoMo Day 30

I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of my stories with you this month. It has been wonderful and invigorating making sure that I write every single day. I hope to remain so focused over the next year and finish up some lingering projects, as well as complete some new ones.

It proved logistically difficult to write every day, but I managed, mostly by dragging my ancient laptop with me everywhere I went, and also utilizing the work computer when it was slow. Sometimes I had to write with a movie on and my 6-year-old interrupting me every few minutes. I don’t mind. She is so good about letting me write while she entertains herself, I try not to make her do it very often.

What I’ve realized is that even when I feel like I have told all of my stories, there are always more. Writing is like reaching down into a deep well, and the more I reveal, the more I remember. My memory is pretty terrible, or amazing. There is no in-between. What I remember, I remember completely and in vivid detail. But so many things are gone, lost to the haze of time. I constantly have to be reminded of things that I have experienced and said. Writing helps with that, and helps to ground and stabilize me.

Congrats to everyone that survived this challenge, it was rough! There were a few days I definitely did not think I was going to make it through. I have mad respect for anyone that puts so much effort into writing, pouring out their souls. It is an amazing thing and a tool for shared experience that is unmatched. Being able to tell our stories makes us strong, and helps others to be strong as well.

I can’t believe I really did it – put up 30 posts this month. I have a few more personal stories to share in the coming weeks, but after that I hope to focus on putting together a book of these stories, and others. Thank you so much for going on this journey with me.

A Moment on the Streets: #NaBloPoMo Day 29

Three years ago, I went through a “hell of an ordeal” according to my court-ordered psychiatrist. I’ve been working on compiling a list of all the experiences I had during my mania and psychosis, and I hope to post it soon, but it isn’t ready yet. I did want to share this moment from my list, since it shows some of the random kindness I was shown.

At one point, I got off a bus in San Francisco. I can’t remember what I was doing before I got on the bus, just that I had a sign from the universe (I saw signs everywhere) that said I should get off here. I did, holding all of my bags, and just lost it. I sat down on the corner of the street, my bags all around me, and started bawling. I was ugly-crying, in public, and people were just kind of stepping over and around me like I was completely invisible.

I didn’t know what to do, where to go. Then all of a sudden, this slight blonde girl totally saw me.

She knelt down and asked me if I was okay, and gave me a hug. She was SO sweet. She was really thin, and seemed like maybe she was on drug,s or perhaps was recently clean. I couldn’t tell. She told me that she could help me, but I had to go with her and this guy. He had one arm and seemed very angry. I didn’t really want to go with him, but I sorta trusted her (and had nothing better to do) so I decided to hang with them for awhile.

I helped them run their errands at the bicycle shop and the grocery store, then it was time to go. They lived way out, past the end of the BART line. But I was starting to get scared.

The one-armed guy was acting really weird, and he kept disrespecting her. She kept telling me not to mind him, he was just drunk. Having no concern for my own safety, I kept asking her if she was okay. She reassured me that she was, but when we walked past the Ducati dealership, he ran inside and shook one of the motorcycles and ran out again. The salesmen started yelling at him, and he started yelling back. He was wasted. It really freaked me out, so after we turned a corner and they went into one last store, I crept around the corner and ditched them. I never ran into them again.

I felt really bad for leaving her with him. There she was trying to help me, and she probably could have used some help herself. I was in no position to help anyone.

It’s so weird, as I go through these experiences and try to arrange them in a chronological way, I have so much trouble. I have such vivid memories of my time on the streets of San Francisco, San Mateo, Oakland. I remember things people said to me, entire conversations. But I can’t remember what happened which day, unless I literally write out every single thing. So I’ve been trying to do that. It’s proven to be a bigger undertaking than I expected.

When you’re out there on the streets, really looking like you belong there, people’s eyes slide right over you. You are no longer a member of society, so you no longer exist. I walked around on crowded sidewalks for over a week, looking lost, talking to myself, crying, yelling, and people just pretended like nothing was happening at all.

One thing happened repeatedly, and that was that random women and homeless people and buskers reached out to ask if I was okay. I never really asked outright for help, but I talked to them. When I still had money, I was handing it out. People that would have been in a position to actually help me, like, people with phones, or cars, never did.

A few times I did approach people with cell phones and asked to use them. Some people said no, but a few people said yes. Sadly, since I had smashed and buried my phone, I didn’t have any telephone numbers. So I would dumbly hold the phone, sometimes calling my estranged husband’s phone since his was the only number I could remember, then hanging up.

But I got genuine smiles from the people waiting outside the shelters. Families on the streets of Oakland gave me hugs. The guy selling hot dogs out in front of Candlestick Park gave me food, and the old black sax player played a few songs while I sang along. There is camaraderie among those with nothing, a kind of solidarity. Against the tough streets of the Bay Area, I had countless positive experiences during my breakdown.

There really are helpers everywhere. Although it took me getting arrested to get the help I really needed, I am still grateful for all the help I did get from random people. The worst part was feeling lonely, alone, helpless. At least when I was talking to people, they were seeing me, and I felt human.

My Missing Person information was out there, but it was not enough to get me found. People go missing every single day, and some of them never turn up. It really does help when people share those Missing Person pictures and signs. I interacted with the police three times before I got in trouble with them, and none of them recognized me as a missing person. It is a terrifying thought.

I am so much better now. I have been on my medications and stable for over three years. I am so lucky. Things could have gone much, much worse for me. If I learned anything from my adventure, it was that no matter where you are, if you reach out for help SOMEone will help you. Be open to that help coming from unexpected places, and next time you see someone on the streets, try giving them a smile. I wasn’t panhandling so people never really gave me money, but I got lots of smiles and they kept me going. Your smile can be the one thing that keeps someone alive, and that is no understatement.

You matter. You can help.



Snippets of Grief: #NaBloPoMo Day 28

I’ve been thinking about grief today, about my mentors and friends, idols, that I lost this past year. A friend of mine lost her boyfriend a few weeks ago, the love of her life, and seeing her openly grieve has refreshed for me these feelings of loss and brought up so many memories.

Grief is a universal experience. We all grieve, mourn, feel loss. Grief is such a tricky thing. Years go by and I think I am over someone’s death, rarely think about them anymore, then BAM. It returns. I am grateful I was holding my grandpa’s hand when he died. He was my father figure in life. I miss him so much, and I’ve had 15 years.I will never get used to not being able to call him to check in, and I still have his house telephone number memorized.

I used to have a post up on here about my former boyfriend Tony and how he was murdered. It was deleted when I nuked my whole blog three years ago. Sometimes I think I might re-write it, but so far I haven’t undertaken that task. Whenever I hear bagpipes I think about him, and other odd little moments, like when I am strumming my guitar. Tony played guitar, too, but he was more of an electric guitar kinda guy.

It’s odd, the things that stick with you. I remember the phone call telling me that Tony was dead. I was so confused, I kept thinking he was talking about this other Tony we knew. It didn’t feel real at all. Then I remember being at his funeral, all by myself, crying my eyes out. I remember how his mother had brought these little Scottish flag pins for everyone to take home, and how fake the pictures of Tony that were strewn about looked. I often wonder about his mother, and hope she is well. I cannot imagine losing my daughter. Actually, my mind takes me to these morbid places often where she dies, and it is usually my fault. Thankfully my meds keep most of these thoughts at bay, but they still surface.

It’s been too long since I’ve been back to Houston. The last time I was there, I stopped by my friend Leigh’s ghost bike. She was tragically killed on her bicycle by two (!) fire trucks. Leigh and I were in theatre production together, and though we had grown apart, I miss her so. We were roommates on a trip to New York City that we all took one year with our dance teacher Ms. Roberts.

I think about my friend Phil, who took his own life over Christmas a few years ago. A few months later, his ex-girlfriend and my friend, Cara, killed herself, too. Her death affected so many people I know, and still does. Now my friend Michelle organizes art shows in Cara’s memory. But Cara is gone, and I will never see her sarcastic smile again in life.

My freshman year of high school, I had just moved back to Houston and one of the few people that I had talked to was a boy named Travis, who had blue and green hair. I liked him immediately. He had already heard of me due to my purple hair dye/Barney incident. It was only a few months into the school year when he was playing with a gun with some of our friends. It went off, and he was killed instantly. I’m not sure why I was in class that day and they weren’t, because I normally skipped school when most others did, but I am grateful that I was not there. I remember the grief counselors coming to our school for a few days to talk to everyone that knew Travis. I thought they were lame, so I didn’t go.

Everyone handles grief differently. Grief is slippery, sticky, tricky. There is no one way to grieve. When I was singing with the women’s chorus, one of my friends Alissa ended her own life. At the time I thought people were being fake over her death, and now I only see how shocked and hurt everyone was, and how guilty they felt. We all felt guilty. If we had talked to her more, included her more, would she be alive? These thoughts are not productive.

Suicide happens. People succumb to their illnesses, or grow weary of the pain. I can understand how the endless quiet is preferable to daily torment. When the pain gets to be too great, people will do anything to stop it.

My mother is very ill, and in California they recently signed into law the assisted suicide stuff. She has spoken to me frankly about killing herself if the pain gets worse, or having a doctor help her. Thankfully she is no longer in that head space, and has been doing much better the last few months.

Living is challenging. Making money to live is challenging. Living without love is challenging. So many people live lives of perpetual loneliness and pain. If we all responded to situations with kindness and heart, we could really change people’s lives. Mr. Rogers always said to look for the helpers in the face of tragedy, and I do this routinely. There are always more helpers than villains.

We are inundated with media that profits from death. Tragedies happen every day, and they seem to get the majority of the media attention. I haven’t been able to watch the news since I had my daughter. The stories are so sad and gruesome, they take me into very bad mental places and keep me depressed. But for every tragedy, there is a spiderweb effect of kindness that becomes active. People volunteer, send money, do their best to comfort or give opportunities to the survivors.

I think sometimes it takes a tragedy to find out how much people really love you. It is sad, and I think we should all know how much we are loved in the absence of tragedy. But people get busy, distracted, don’t communicate well. Years go by and friendships don’t dry up exactly, but they become forgotten and wither. Life is so short, so precious. Pick up your phone and text your friends. Email them. Maybe not call them if they’re introverted like me and can’t handle talking on the phone. But you know what I mean.

I’d give just about anything for one more day with my grandfather. I know he knew how much I loved him. I am secure in that. But I will never stop missing him. He was so big and strong, charming and charismatic, full of life and vigor.. until he wasn’t. He became frail so fast. By the time he got pneumonia and congestive heart failure, he had been dragging an oxygen tank around him for over a year. His diabetes was acting up, and all at once, he started to shrink. The same thing happened to my grandmother when she became frail. I miss her so much, too. My grandmother was such a classy lady, and so sweet. My grandfather would have done anything to protect her, and did.

I hope someday to have the kind of love my grandparents had. But I am content having my daughter and my friends. I am guilty of not contacting my friends for long periods of time as I drift in and out of depression. I hope to do better, and always have the best intentions. So know that I love you. I will fight for my life every day for my daughter. She is the reason I am still here, her, and all of you. Thank you for being in my life, and for reading.

Self-Esteem: #NaBloPoMo Day 27

I’ve never really felt like I belonged. I’ve been lucky in my life to have been welcomed into a variety of subcultures. Even so, I still have this hole inside me that will always leave me with this feeling of Otherness. People can go on and on about nature vs. nurture and what happened to me to make me feel this way. People even hold that argument over whether people are born with Bipolar Disorder, or whether it is created within them due to life circumstances, or both. I don’t have an answer.

I do know that whether it is because of my illness or my upbringing, I have always felt alone. Being an only child in a family of mostly older people left me often being the observer. If I wasn’t a wallflower, I was the center of attention, being the only grandchild for quite some time. My cousin Lucy wasn’t born until I was in high school. The attention was equally uncomfortable and baffling.

My nature has always been split in two. I want to perform, but I want to hide. I need attention, crave it, but when it is given to me I shy away or panic. I used to think something was really wrong with me, but now I know that isn’t true. I have met many sensitive, creative, wonderful people in my life that are exactly the same way. So maybe, just maybe, it is possible that I am just sensitive. Maybe I’m even a little bit creative. These realizations dawn on me, and I feel better.

Building self-esteem has been a lifelong project. I remember my mom reading books about trying to raise your child’s self-esteem from as far back as I remember. Even now my self-image is shaky, and I actively work on myself. I use affirmations. I gaze lovingly at my body. I try to use kind language in my mind when I review and refer to myself. And it’s still not enough.

I know perfectionism is a foolish endeavor, but this stiffness and paralysis that comes from being afraid to fuck up is real. I am so mortified when I make a mistake. It is so hard to move past that and remember that we all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. In fact, we learn the most from these mistakes and can take that knowledge to move forward. But it is difficult.

I remember the very first play I was in, The Velveteen Rabbit. I was in maybe 3rd or 4th grade, and I played the Skin Horse, so I had some lines. When it came time for my very first line onstage, nothing came out for a long time. I just stared at the audience, petrified. But then something clicked inside me, I remembered my lines, and life moved on. That moment seemed to stretch out forever though, and I will never forget it. The time when people are staring at you expectantly is both the slowest and fastest time ever.

Another one of those moments came in high school. I was on the Quiz Bowl team, which was kind of like Jeopardy! Yes, I was a mega-nerd. Anyway, we had a tournament in New Orleans and I vividly remember riding along in my English teacher’s new blue Beetle. We stayed at Tulane, and during our bout I answered the question “Name one of the words in the English language that uses all of the vowels in order.” I blanked completely, but somehow my hand hit the buzzer and I channeled out the word ‘facetious’. We won.

I don’t know where these moments come from. They always feel like the normal, terrified me gets shoved out of the way and I bring in some other, stronger, version of myself to fill in. The same thing happened during my yoga teacher training when it came time to teach my class to everyone. I wanted to puke, but as soon as my time started, I was ON. I did a great job.

So these fears, they are not based in reality. In reality, we do okay. Everyone is doing their best. The hardest thing for me to do every day is to set aside my fear and face the day, get out of bed. Once I am out of bed, I am onstage and I can get through it. But in the mornings, when I’m still laying there underneath the covers, I doubt. Can I do it? Can I make it through another day as a mentally ill divorced mother? Can I make it another day as a luminous light being? Which am I? I think the answer is both. We all are.