A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Recovery Model

When I first accepted that I suffered from schizophrenia (for a while there I thought I had Multiple Personality Disorder) I went to the library and took out several books on it. I learned it was a "brain disease" with no cure and I felt crushed. Did this mean that my brain was disintegrating and that I'd go senile eventually, was there no hope? Would I remain a burden to my family? Could I not dream of recovery? I put the books aside. But I didn't stop praying and I didn't just give up.

I live in a very rural community with no support groups for mental illness nearby and so I relied on my psychiatrist, my therapist and Al-Anon (the closest I could come to a support group for mental illness), but, other than my therapist, I didn't talk about my schizophrenia with anyone else. I remained in isolation. I lived alone (and still do) and worked out the worst of this illness on my own. How did I survive without the companionship of other schizophrenics? Initially, I followed my good voices, the ones that encouraged me to see my therapist weekly, go to Al-Anon meetings weekly and help friends. It wasn't quite enough but it got me through the worst of the first three years. I wrote in a journal. I did craftwork. I listened to soothing music and watched upbeat films and television programs. I tried to practice gratitude even when I felt desperate.

Practicing gratitude was one of the most powerful tools I had to overcome the worst of schizophrenia. I learned it through studying and practicing Buddhism (I listened to audio books by Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron and the Dalai Lama) and through the 12 step program in Al-Anon. And I found, despite the devastation of schizophrenia, that I had a lot to be thankful for. I had food and shelter and heat and a loving family and some friends. I had sweet tea and sunshine and cats. I had my own creative abilities and a determination to keep on keeping on no matter what. I helped people in my community. And in helping others I saw that I was a worthwhile individual who could make a difference.

The only thing I didn't do for the first three years (the hardest years) was to take the anti-psychotic medicine regularly. Even so, I went back to art school. At the end of the first semester I had another psychotic break. The voices told me to start taking the zyprexa which I had been storing up from my psychiatrist but hadn't been taking. I was fragile and desperate for several months but the delusions and paranoia abated. I continued going to school. I dropped out of one class and had to withdraw from another but I didn't drop out. I persevered through depression that was sometimes suicidal and I kept taking the zyprexa at higher and higher doses hoping that it would relieve some of the depression. It was hard going for a while and for the next three and a half years while I finished my degree I suffered from depression. I still had voices but gradually they became less insistent and pervasive.

But I stopped going to Al-Anon and stopped visiting friends while I finished school. I felt at the time that school was all I could handle. In retrospect I see this was a mistake. I felt different from the others students. I was middle aged and they were primarily young. I was schizophrenic and they were healthy. I lived an isolated life, they lived a communal life. Not going to a support group meeting and not seeing friends just added to my feelings of isolation and hence depression. But I was determined nonetheless to do my work and get my degree and I succeeded with that.

Then in the last year of school, my therapist took a six month sabbatical and set me up with a new therapist, but I never made an appointment. I focused on finishing school and did so. After school ended I started making jewelry and crocheting afghans, shirts and hats. But no therapy, no support groups and just my brother for companionship. It's no wonder that I've been feeling depressed. I went from engaging in life back into isolation. What kept me afloat so far? Medicine, craft and art work, my brother and parents, prayer and gratitude and lately finding support online.

For people like me, the computer is heaven sent. It offers the first step out of isolation and ignorance. I joined several email groups for schizophrenics. I read a book by Pamela Spiro Wagner (and her twin sister) called Divided Minds about her experience with schizophrenia and through the NAMI online community for schizophrenics I encountered her and began reading her blog. And then we began emailing each other. Her intelligence, dedication to her art (writing), and sensitivity have been an inspiration to me. She made me see more clearly that an individual can rise above her disability and do something worthwhile.

Lately I've been reading the blogs by Christina Bruni, another schizophrenic in recovery. Like Pam, she is a dedicated writer and has found her way over the years towards a personal model for recovery. And, like Pam, she has found some success from writing about her illness and offering guidance and hope for schizophrenics and their families. Both these women are upstanding examples of the recovery model for schizophrenia. Christina is especially successful. She lives and works in New York City and seems well adjusted and happy. Is it because of the anti-psychotic meds? Yes, in part, but it is also because of her determination not to give up. She has a lot to teach and she is generous with her life and time and I applaud her for that.

Now, I , too, believe recovery from schizophrenia is possible. And even if I never totally recover, I know I have recovered enough to contribute to the world in small ways and that the liklihood that I will revert to the days of torment is very small. Online I have discovered other people who are well on their way to recovery. As the saying goes -- where there is a will, there is a way. A self-defeating attitude naturally defeats the self. But an attitude with hope gives and receives hope and makes many things possible once again.

Communication is a powerful tool and personal contact even more so. May we continue to reach out to each other, continue to hope and continue to contribute whenever we can to help others along the way.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Therapist J. and the Value of Therapy

I will see J. my therapist on Thursday afternoon. I'm proud of myself for acknowledging that I have a problem and seeking help. I know this is how to prevent a relapse. I haven't seen J. for about two years; it will be good to see her again. She was my therapist for around six years, almost from the the onset of the psychosis. She's a small,slim woman maybe in her early 50's though I think she looks younger. Aside from being a psychotherapist, she's also a psychology professor at the local university. She's smart, very capable and kind hearted. Her small size can be misleading. She is not weak but strong and surprisingly stubborn. She is the one who kept encouraging me to take the anti-psychotic meds while I wavered during the first three years. Though I've always liked her a lot, I don't feel like I know her too deeply. She is kindly but professional. She decorates her consulting room sparsely but with class. There are none of the throw pillows or mellow homey atmosphere that I've briefly experienced earlier with another therapist. There is no hypnotism or creative visualization, just J. in a simple setting sitting very attentively and listening very closely. Her comments are invariably made of common sense and practicality and sensitivity. Early on in therapy I thought sadly that if she weren't my therapist that she would be the kind of person I'd like to have as a friend but because she was (and will be) my therapist there are certain rules. Her job is to be there for her clients and not to develop a deep friendship but to be as objective as possible. And she was for me. When I told her my delusions she didn't say they were false. Instead she worked with me as I worked through my delusions. She allowed me to be myself and to think and feel what I would. The only thing she was very firm about, especially when I was suffering, was that I should give the anti-psychotic meds a try. And she was right, the meds did, eventually, help a great deal. It was wading through the depression and the voices that took some time. For most people, there is no quick cure to schizophrenia, you have to work with the options you're given: therapy, meds, support groups, etc... You have to be willing to ask for help while at the same time putting in the effort to take care of yourself in any way that you can. I believe therapy is vitally important to any schizophrenic. It was part of why I was able to live independently even when I wasn't taking the anti-psychotic medicine. I've only been locked up in a hospital ward once overnight before I knew enough to get therapy. I believe J. is part of why I've never been back to a psych ward or psychiatric hospital.

Recently I've been a bit of an unmotivated, depressed mess and I asked for the I Ching (pronounced Yijing) to guide me. The response I got was Gathering Together, hexagram 45 with no moving lines. Now quite simply the I Ching's advice was to go somewhere to gather with other people to share one's heart and mind in joy or through difficulties. Recently I returned to the NAMI (National Alliance for the Mental Ill) online discussion boards, just to touch base with other schizophrenics. I am a recluse and knew that the only place I could gather together with others was in an online community. So, for the past few days I've been reading people's posts and offering my own comments and advice. I feel as if I can do some good for other people there and am pleased by how bright and supportive everyone is despite the pain they're going through. NAMI's discussion boards cover a wide range from boards for the mentally ill (Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, Major Depression, etc...) to boards for those who take care of the mentally ill (mostly the families, friends and lovers). There is no strict dividing line between the groups and often the "caretakers" go to the boards meant for the mentally ill and visa versa. So I've encountered husbands, mothers and girlfriends of schizophrenics and learned a bit about their stories. I've found myself in the past few days saying repeatedly that everyone needs some kind of therapy whether they are mentally ill or affected by the mentally ill. Other than being financially unable to afford therapy I don't see why people often resist going to therapy. It's an opportunity to be really heard and to treat yourself lovingly while gaining perspective. It's just common sense. The message boards are great and deeply valuable but it shouldn't take the place of talking with an appropriate therapist (and you need to choose wisely). Listening to the caretakers talk about how hard it is to live with a loved one who has schizophrenia seem to not realize that they, too, are in need of help. That they turn to the message boards is very healthy. I'm just hoping that they take it a step further and find a face to face therapist or an offline support group.

I know not all people have great experiences with their therapist but that is a problem that can be remedied by seeking out another therapist. I say, fight to find the right therapist and stick with it. I stopped seeing J. when she and her husband took some time off for six months. She set me up to see someone else but I never went. I've been doing okay for the past two years, it's only lately that I've been aware of the depression setting in. I'm grateful that she has the time to see me again and that she knows me and my history, so I won't have to go all over it again. But if I had to, I would because I really have faith in the process. It's not a cure but it is a sensible treatment and I hope with my prodding, that more people give it a chance.

Friday, January 19, 2007

On Depression and "Enthusiasm"

Hello Everyone, sorry I've been away for a week and a half. I've been struggling with a bit of depression. I'm pretty sure it's the winter blues, short days, little sun, too much time indoors and away from human contact. I just sent an email to my former therapist asking if she can see me a couple of times a month. If she can't I'll go find another therapist but either way, I think it's time to return to some talk therapy. The depression I feel is nothing like it once was, most especially after I came out of my primary delusions and paranoia. Then I felt suicidal and so alone and still crazy. My depression now is more in the lack of motivation department. I noticed it clearly when I tried to set up a daily work schedule. I was okay for a couple of days and then just starting shutting down. I haven't given up my aspirations to make songs and I have still been working at it, just not a whole lot right now but I'm getting the signs that it's time to get myself some support. I'm going to try this Monday evening to go to an Al-Anon meeting. I no longer living with an alcoholic but I still believe in some of the 12 step program and found the people I met there very bright and caring. I just need to take the steps that lead to less isolation and, hopefully, less depression. So that's my short term goal: to get back into therapy and return to face to face support meetings.

What I'd really like to go to is a support group meeting for schizophrenics but the nearest one might be an hour away. I have a fantasy of starting my own group nearby. I know there must be quite a few other schizophrenics living near to me but I have no clue who they are. I have never had an off-line schizophrenic friend but have often thought it would be rewarding. Plus, it's just common sense that just as addicts and their families support each other, so should schizophrenics, maybe especially. I know I could be of some help to someone else who is in the grips of psychosis and supportive of those in recovery. I could do some good for my community. But I'm afraid to start and to take responsibility. I lack confidence to organize and promote a meeting but I still want to try it. There are a few options, if I decide to do this. NAMI and Schizophrenics Anonymous both could help me get started but I would have to follow their rules, whereas something called Meetup.com allows individuals to make their own groups and this is what I think I'd like to try. But I would need somekind of inspirational daily reader and I haven't found any relating to schizophrenia or mental illness in general. If anyone knows of one, please let me know. The Al-Anon daily readers really helped me when I was going through hard times. I took what I learned there and tried to apply it to my daily life. There was a lot of therapy in it which I found effective, such as cultivating a positive attidude, having faith in something greater than yourself, going slow, letting go, being supportive of others, etc... Another of my fantasies has been to write a daily reader for schizophrenia and/or collect writing for one. What do you say Pam, Yaya? Want to join me in trying? You are both accomplished writers with a lot of relevant personal experience. What would you say to someone struggling with schizophrenia or to their friends,lovers, family as a daily pick-me-up? It's a cool idea ladies. So, if you would, please collect quotes that you think would help others and try writing an entry for yourself. It can't hurt and it might help. Meanwhile I'm going to do some online research to see if I can locate a daily reader for schizophrenia or mental illness in general, though that might be too wide a subject to cover well.

(Here's a quote I picked up at another site: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Gandhi
I like that one alot.)

Last week I decided to take a year long correspondence course in the I Ching with a woman named Hilary Barrett who has been consulting the oracle for others and teaching the I Ching for years. I discovered her site a month or two ago. It's excellent with some active message boards and just so much to investigate. Her site is called Clarity (I'll get you the website address tomorrow in case you're interested in learning about the I Ching). I've already received a response from her on the first assignment. The assignment consisted of picking a hexagram at random and apply it to a recent problem. The hexagram I picked was # 16--Enthusiasm. I've gotten this hexagram several times recently and have been trying to study it. Hilary definitely helped me to appreciate the hexagram more. The fascinating thing about Chinese is that each written character has quite a variety of meanings. The name of the hexagram-YU has been translated as not only enthusiasm, but joy, repose, providing for/provision and the ideogram for it is (according to Stephen Karcher ) a son and an elephant. Hence truly deciphering the I Ching is a little like being a sleuth looking for clues. I am now excited to get a Chinese dictionary and start learning more about the words and their various meanings. Slowly, I will get the hang of this.

Enthusiasm (#16) is the music hexagram in that it makes a strong reference to the power of sacred music. The image translated by Thomas Cleary in the Taoist I Ching is: "When thunder emerges the earth stirs; joy. Thus did the kings of yore make music to honor virtue, offering it in abundance to God, thereby to share it with their ancestors." The key word for me here is virtue because that is the goal of the I Ching, to make individuals more virtuous through wise and informed choices, through practice. Stephen Karcher in his translation of the I Ching says the Chinese word for virtue is TE and he includes even deeper translations, such as: "realize tao in action; power, virtue; ability to follow the course traced by the ongoing process of the cosmos; keyword. The ideogram: to go, straight, and heart. Linked with acquire, TE: acquiring that which makes a being become what it is meant to be." But what does tao mean? Again, according to Karcher, "way or path; ongoing process of being and the course it traces for each specific person or thing; keyword. The ideogram: go and head, leading and the path it creates." So TE (virtue) and tao (path) are profoundly intertwined. In order to get to the path one must cultivate virtue. And what does virtue mean? According to the American Oxford Thesaurus it means: "goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, integrity, dignity, rectitude, honor, decency, respectability, nobility, worthiness, purity; principle, ethics. Antonym--vice, iniquity." Ah, another important word: "iniquity...Wickedness, sinfulness, immorality, impropriety; vice, evil, sin; villainy, criminality; odiousness, atrocity, egregiousness; outrage, monstrosity, obscenity, reprehensibility; formal--turpitude. Antonym--morality, virtue." Back to virtue. Back to TE and tao.

I've been led back to the study of virtue, the study of the superior person. I struggle with myself everyday, unsure of my tao and aware of how any egotism creates an imbalance. But I do have foolish thoughts and am still way too self centered. That is part of the path, to join with others, to end my self imposed isolation, to open my heart up and be of service somehow. Music could be my personal tao. But what would be a virtuous song? A song about a schizophrenic or an alcoholic or anyone with an important story to tell--something to challenge the mind and move the heart. But before the music comes the actual living of life and the actual practice of virtue. That's really the hard part. The individual decisions and actions, even the thoughts need to be held under a compassionate scrutiny. A determination not to lie to oneself about anything. That takes discipline but is obviously the way to go. Enthusiasm says to me, yes music is wonderful but remember to practice virtue while your creating it and remember to praise virtue in song. Enthusiasm without virtue is, as the I Ching says, "incorrect" and leads to "misfortune".

What are some of your ideas about what it means to be virtuous? I would also love to hear stories about any truly virtuous people you know. Their story could act as a teaching example.

May you all be well (safe, healthy, happy and useful) : )

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

On Music

What I remember from childhood is listening to the Beatles and dancing wild, crazy dances. The reason I was listening to the Beatles at all was primarily because of my brother who was already a dedicated listener of records and NYC radio. When my brother listened to music he would go into a rhythmic trance and to disturb him (or touch his records without permission) was considered some kind of crime. And so I watched and listened and then danced and listened some more. But I didn't sing.

My mother was the singer in the family and her favorite music was opera. I knew my mother had a good, strong, tuneful voice. I knew she could have become a trained singer though she never went in that direction. She would take me to the Metropolitan Opera House where everything was elegant and lavish and grown-up. I liked the music and some of the singing and I liked the sets but I never had the desire to sing in an operatic fashion and so I left that to my mother. On occassion I would make fun of her singing because it seemed so exaggerated and silly but mostly I kept my mouth shut. It made her happy to sing and that made me happy too. I do remember her singing to me in the backseat of the car while my father drove us home from a week-end at the beach. She sang French and English folk songs and sometimes I joined in, if only tentatively. I loved those moments and felt possessive of my mother, not wanting her to leave me. It was one of my earliest sensations of my own mortality. I knew that time marched on and that I would have to march with it. I knew I would grow up and leave my mother but for right then I was content to hold on to her and listen.

Later, in junior high school I began to listen to my own records (and my brother's when he'd let me) and I also began to sing. Mainly rock and folk rock. I remember trying to turn my friends on to Buffalo Springfield, especially a tune by Neil Young called "Expecting To Fly". A couple of my friends had good voices and they would sing together. They would ask me to join but I felt too self conscious and didn't know many lyrics unless I listened to a song and sang along with it. They knew by heart all kinds of songs that I didn't know and I felt excluded nonetheless. I also didn't think I could sing as well as they could. I did listen to a lot of music often while fantasizing about whatever boy I was attracted to at the time. The Beatles, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell then Bruce Springsteen, Ricki Lee Jones, Elvis Costello, the B 52's took me into high school and my private singing got stronger only I didn't really know it. I still hadn't heard myself sing.

Very briefly, my brother and I had guitar lessons at a dreary school quite a few blocks away. Then my parents got me a piano and I practiced classical piano all through high school (but not rock,blues or jazz). They also got me a guitar. I must have been around fifteen. I played a few chords, sang a few songs sporadically but was much more involved in the classical piano (much to my mother's pleasure). So it must have been sometime in college when I began writing my own songs. I still couldn't play the guitar well but I knew enough chords to create very basic songs but I didn't think much about it. I stopped playing the piano as well. I focused on school work and my boyfriend. I still listened to music but not as much and so I sang less too.

It wasn't until after college that someone I had a short relationship with said that I had a good voice. He was a singer and actor among other things and he heard me singing along to Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark album. I was surprised. I had never thought about whether I had a good voice or not, I just sang along for the pleasure of it. But here was someone with a really good voice telling me that he appreciated my singing. So that made me pause. And so I wrote a few more songs. A couple of years later after I moved away from the city I bought an 8 track cassette recorder reccommended by my brother and that's when I heard my voice. It was no revelation but it did spark my interest. I still felt shy about singing in front of others but I could hear on the recordings that if I practiced more I might be able to sing well.

This was the time when I got involved with an abusive alcoholic (though I didn't know when I met him that he was either). Like my brother, he loved music. He also played a little guitar, sang and made up his own songs. We sang Neil Young tunes and Grateful Dead tunes but he became progressively more abusive and sick with alcoholism. For a while he focused on the guitar and songwriting. I stayed in the background and tried to lay low and I was pleased that he was focusing on the music but at the same time I wanted to make my own music. So I would go off now and then and write a song and hide it. It was during the abuse when I would go to make some kind of protest song about abuse that I began to connect to making music. It was a much needed outlet but I didn't think much of it because I couldn't practice much.

After five and a half years I found a way to leave him. The 8 track recorder was no longer working and so I invested in a new one about a month after I left him and for a couple of years I started focusing on singing and songwriting. I was in a miserable state at the time but the music that was coming out of me was strong and I felt connected to something greater than myself. But still I was isolated and took no guitar lessons and didn't progress anywhere with it. I did realize that I had the ability to really sing, if I practiced and that I was, in my own way, a songwriter. The songs were like a journal to me and I could go through some of my feelings again by listening to the music. It was a record of what I had experienced and therefore was valuable to me.

Then schizophrenia hit me and I still made music for a few months, some good songs and singing but the illness overtook that side of me and banished it from my life, for a time. Well, now that time is over and I'm returning. But really I'm starting over. My voice is weak, my playing poor and my songwriting is only just emerging again. This would relate well to Hexagram 3--Difficulty At The Beginning: "Times of growth are beset with difficulties. They resemble a first birth. But these difficulties arise from the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form. Everything is in motion: therefore if one perseveres there is a prospect of great success, in spite of the existing danger." The process of learning is the process of "struggling to attain form". The process of learning how to imitate and to create takes dedication which takes self-motivation. And so I've set up a loose schedule for daily practice and reading which I've just begun. The "existing danger" is really a lack of motivation. And I've felt that in this illness so strongly but now I feel I can move forward even through the difficulties which I've encountered and am sure to encounter again.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Freakish Inspiration

Someone left an anonymous comment on my last blog entry. It said simply "You are a freak." I was saddened and disturbed by the comment but I also knew that I left this blog as an open forum and that I have to come to terms with the fact that not all people will like what I have to say. But how they choose to express that discontent is very important. War is all about conflict of interests and without any dialogue, any truce there will be no communication, understanding, positive change for both sides. It is the mature thing to build bridges rather than to destroy them. I want to know perspectives that differ from mine; I want to understand and I want to cross the bridge. But unsubstantiated put downs do little to help any situation. If a criticism is articulated it can lead to new understanding. It seeks to be understood rather than to simply territorially mark and shut out (or worse blindly attack).

Many religious people assert that humans are above animals but I believe humans are animals too. I believe in evolution which in no way affects my belief in a higher power. From atoms to one celled organisms to fish, reptiles and mammals, there is an intelligent design to everything. Without it little would stay cohesive and/or alive. There's sense in biology but there are also aberrations and diseases. Perhaps the higher power is not perfect or perhaps the higher power leaves room for imperfection. For who among us is perfect? Twelve step Christians often say "Hate the sin but love the sinner." or hate addiction but love the addict. What humans do have is higher brain functions that allow us to do just that, separate the illness from the individual through reflection and tolerance. Instead of seeing the addict or abuser as the disease itself and trying to punish them for their illness, we can stop this punishment mentality (animal brain) and start to treat the illness with intelligence and compassion. We can rise above our own (animal) instincts.

I've been around cats nearly my entire life. I love them dearly but they have their own behavioral problems. Growing up my family had, at one point, six cats. After I left home I had, at another point, ten cats. But there was one case in particular that I couldn't solve. I had a female cat named Allie who was repeatedly attacked by three of my other cats, but mostly one, Bubby. It got so bad that soon after I became ill with schizophrenia I decided to bring Allie over to my brother's house. I also brought over another cat Gizmo who had been the mainly nonviolent leader of the pack, so she wouldn't be all alone. But last year Gizmo died and my brother has been uncomfortable with Allie who demands too much attention and whose personality he just doesn't like (he put up with Allie because he liked Gizmo so much). Then Bubby died last Spring leaving me with two cats who only knew Allie when they were very young. This Christmas, since Allie is so old and apparently deaf, I told my brother that I would try to take her back into my household. This is what I've been attempting to do this past week.

The two cats that I have, Ozzie and Moocher, each takes after a particular previous cat. Ozzie bonded with Gizmo when I had him and Moocher bonded with Bubby. But unlike Gizmo and Bubby where Gizmo didn't much care for Bubby and Bubby remained subordinate to him, Ozzie and Moocher are basically compatible with Moocher sometimes pushing the limit a little but never enough for there to be a real fight between them. Ozzie should be the dominant male because he is larger and slightly older but he's so good natured that he accepts Moocher like a sweet brother. Moocher is a small male cat but he has spunk. He's the kind of cat that will moderately bite you to let you know when he's either annoyed or very affectionate.

So far, I have only allowed Allie to be around Ozzie, hoping that Ozzie would take after Gizmo and not act aggressively towards her. And, for the most part, he's been very sweet though cautious and Allie (who is a bit high strung) has generally accepted him within limits. If he gets too close or moves too quickly she's ready to run, to growl, to hiss, so I'm monitoring their progress closely. But I keep separating her from Moocher because I'm not ready to deal with the conflict. I'm already a bit stressed out by the new living arrangement. He, like Bubby, waits outside the door of the room or rooms where I put Allie intermittently and tries to start a fight. He's obsessive the way Bubby was but I'm also pretty sure that he's curious but Allie doesn't trust him and growls and hisses and this just makes him get more excited and tense. Still, they'll never get along if I don't introduce them to each other as safely as possible. I've got to make a bridge, I've got to get past Moocher and Allie's namecalling and try to get them to tolerate each other (and hopefully bond over time). This means when together, constant supervision, encouraging talk, gentle petting, inclusiveness, the way I've been learning to do somewhat successfully with Allie and Ozzie. If I can get that far.

One of my points is that many animals are territorial and fight with each other, just like some humans. They yell at each other, push boundaries and eventually strike out to try to determine dominance. This is the war mentality of our embedded animal instincts. What makes us different from other animals is that we can choose to over-ride our instincts. We can supervise our own behavior. We can change, we have the choice whereas most animals do not have the choice. We carry with us the legacy of carnivores but we are omnivores. A cat can't choose to be a vegetarian (not that I know of) but we can. And we can choose open communication over name calling, peace over war. We have the ability to be tolerant of, flexible with and respectful towards other people. So, yes, in a way I do believe humans are above all other animals...well, some of them. The ones who are able to compromise and engender peaceful co-existence. The ones who strive to stay as open minded as possible. The ones who make bridges all over the place. We have the gift of communication that surpasses body language. If we can use it to heal and build instead of hate we can't help but develop into a finally mature civilization.

As it stands the world is still a mess, but I really believe that that can change. Many people don't. They don't believe in change and growth. They believe in this painful status quo where people who should be fed are starving, where there's always a war or wars going on somewhere in the world, where husbands and lovers still are violent towards their mates and children, and the list goes on and on. They believe it's just the way it is and nothing's going to stop it. And so they adapt to the disease instead of change and the world keeps spiralling out of control. I really believe this defeatist attitude perpetuates so much misery and it's unnecessary. People CAN make a difference, if only just in their attitude. So let's keep the lines of communication always open and stop calling each other freaks and fighting in war, stop letting people (children!) starve to death, stop killing our planet. It can be done. It really must be done or we'll run out of time. There's no law saying we'll be here forever. The planet can survive through all kinds of upheavals, but we cannot. We just don't have the power, not that kind of power but we do have the power to change the way we live and that is a great power indeed.