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.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Poem: Sanctuary


Do you pray, my friend,
When you rise in the morning from your bed?
Do you light a candle or some incense
And think of someone you hold dear?
Do you look up into the sky as I do?

I say to the sky,
"Great Spirit, thank you for my life.
Please show me the way."
And then I think of all that I have:
Food, shelter, heat, all wrapped up
Into a home for me;
My place, my sanctuary.

Where is your sanctuary?
Your wounded soul has gone
To many places both real and imagined.
Which places gave you comfort?
Which places give you comfort now?

So you were born with too much Saturn in your blood
And your tipping point came much too soon.
Given no choice, only an instinct for survival,
You fell into pieces you delicately preserved
And lived your days and nights fragmented.

But each fragment was charged with spirit
And each part contributed to the whole
And no one knew you were a kaleidoscope inside,
Shifting from one color, one shape to another
Within the flow of all those moments.

Where are you now, my friend,
Now that decades have gone by?
Your whole cast of characters I know still shines,
Some hidden inside,
Some coming to life in all of your senses.
It is amazing what you have done
Each time, after each instance of abuse,
To still turn yourself around
To still look up at the sky and the sun,
Then to wait to see the stars and the moon.

Listen To Audio Here

Friday, November 27, 2015

Blessings Undisguised

Today at 2pm I handed over my Applause acoustic guitar, which I bought 20 years ago after I left my boyfriend, to a friend of mine.  Last time I saw her she mentioned that she had played a little guitar, "Stairway To Heaven" to be exact, and the thought crossed my mind that I had an extra guitar at home that I had stopped playing.  A few months ago I bought an acoustic/electric guitar, my first acoustic/electric guitar.  Cheap, but good and I've been enjoying playing it since then.  My friend is a music lover and I think it would be great if she had some live music in her home.  She has a friend who plays and is willing to teach her the basics.  Strangely, I don't feel sentimentally attached to the Applause guitar.  I just wasn't enjoying it the way I used to and I like the idea of my friend enjoying it.

Early tomorrow morning I'm going to transport the first load of stuff over to the studio space.  The space will be mine and I will be alone in it.  I'll bring my digital recorder and do some audio journaling recording my first impressions.  I'd like to stay for an hour or two.  My brother mentioned to the small group we were eating Thanksgiving dinner with that I was leasing the store space.  When I said I might start a tie dye business there in 6 months or so, one woman groaned and said it was a bad idea, but then, she was young during the 1960s, early 70s, and appeared to hate that time, especially rock and roll.  My brother was supportive.  The rest of the group was silent.  Not a good sign.  That depressed me a bit, but not for long.  I noticed at Walmart in the crafts' section that there were quite a few tie dye kits, really stripped down ones, and I thought that was a good sign.  If there was no market for it then they would not be selling them.  And I am determined to make unusually good ones and not too expensive.

I have almost all the supplies I need to make the tie dyes and an assortment of clothes from onesies, children's t-shirts and a couple of girls dresses to a couple of women's dresses and larger t-shirts and a few handkerchiefs.  I'm going to continue to study the instructional DVDs before I start.  I'll start maybe sometime next week after I get my washing machine checked out.  And then I will live and learn from my mistakes.  I'd like to give a few away as presents for Christmas and New Years.  My brother is going down to Florida for Christmas and New Years with a friend, so I'll be on my own this year, as I was last year.  For December I'm aiming at spending around four hours a day at least five days a week in the studio painting and/or doing yoga/dance.

Both the painting and the yoga and dance will be a challenging practice for me to return to.  I'm curious to see what I come up with in such a nice, open space.  Maybe I'll even bring over my acoustic guitar and hear what it sounds and feels like in a different place.  Music, whether I play it or listen to it, will help me adjust to being there.  And it will help a great deal to get me stretching and dancing.  It will be a luxury that open space.  Most of my life I've danced in not very large spaces with furniture and cats around.  One of the reasons why I plan to paint and dance with abandon is because there will be no cats there and I'll have no worries of hurting them.  But after pulling a ligament in one of my legs, I know that I really shouldn't overdo it to start, but go slowly.  As my Nana used to say, I'm no spring chicken, i.e. I am 53 years old returning to dance after not dancing much for a long time.  Work hard, yes, but be smart.

Otherwise, though I do see a few people each week and I did go out to a friend's house for Thanksgiving yesterday, I continue to live an isolated life, and, as we move towards Winter, I just feel it more.  It will take me about a month to get used to using the studio regularly.  Once we enter into 2016, I will be ready to start up some kind of sketching group.  Even if it is just a couple of people meeting once a week to work from a model, that will be an amazing step forward for me in connecting with a few new people and pursing my interest in visual arts.  But for now,  I have myself for company and the voice in my mind which has been with me for seventeen years.  And this creative voice, which I do not write about, but which is with me all the time, is my true companion.  We are friends.  And no matter how isolated I let myself be from others, this spirit, this being helps me to know that I am never really alone.  Once that was painful, but now, it is a blessing.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Violence In Response To Violence Makes The Cycle Continue

The above is a quote by Martin Luther King Jr when he was fighting for civil rights in the US, but it is an appropriate quote for anytime and especially now almost a week after Paris suffered from multiple attacks by organized terrorists.  The French government has chosen to return violence for violence, thereby continuing the cycle of abuse, sickness and terror.  So many countries, including the US, have bought into perpetuating this cycle using the insane logic that somehow more violence can subdue outbreaks of violence in the world.  It is a grave misunderstanding to equate strength with violence.  In my mind, I equate violence with weakness.

The Americas and Europe are mostly Christian countries, yet not truly followers of Jesus, the most famous pacifist in our history.  He is a more striking example of pacifism than Buddha precisely because he lived in a hostile environment and was crucified for his beliefs.  Jesus was smart; there is no way that he didn't know that there was a high probability that he would be harmed or murdered because of the way he spoke to all the people in Israel.  And yet he continued to speak out.  And in our patriarchal, war oriented world he was killed in a very horrible way as thousands of people were in those days.

So here we find ourselves over two thousand years after Jesus' death in the same situation.  As far as I know there are no more crucifixions, but there is a proliferation of other ways to torture and kill.  Terrorists are particularly frightening to most of the world population because the do not follow past rules of war.  There is no war zone.  Anyplace can be a target from places of worship to schools to hospitals as well as to war zones.  Terrorists are very clever, manipulative, secretive, organized and often motivated by deranged religious zeal.  Simply put, they are premeditated, armed and severely insane.  Very predictable in their attitudes and behaviors amongst themselves, yet seemingly unpredictable as to when and where and who they will strike.

Jesus was said to have said:  "But I say to you who hear:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you."  He said "to you who hear" but who is really listening to Jesus these days?  People don't want to hear this message, just like they didn't want to hear it two thousand years ago.  The message hasn't changed and it appears neither have we.  Do you think these terrorists are living joyful, love filled lives?  Obviously not.  So what do they really need - more hatefulness?  No.  They need love and tenderness.  Without it they will continue to do what they are now doing.

These terrorists are the negative spiritual teachers of our time.  People who act out violently do not love themselves.  And when they are punished for acting out, it only goes to prove to them that they are justified in hating themselves and so they continue to act out because there is no reason not to.  And so, the cycle continues.  It is basic psychology.

How many children who have been punished severely turn into juvenile delinquents and then become prison inmates, only to be released and start the same cycle over?  The prison system doesn't work in the US.  For many inmates, prison is just a place to learn how to be better criminals inside and out.  Recidivism is high.  How can it be otherwise when their rights are taken away and they are stamped with a convict label?  And what affects them affects their wives or husbands and children and therefore the larger communities and society as a whole.

How many of us will do good for terrorists, bless them and pray for them?  It seems very few.  The same goes for those juvenile delinquents and prison inmates, for criminals and drug addicts who act out, for the violently mentally insane.  And who would Jesus be hanging out with if he were alive today?  All of the above, including terrorists, if he could find them.  That's how he got into trouble in the first place, but that did not stop him in his quest to love and teach all the people he came in contact with.

The answer to how to deal with terrorist is simple, but not easy.  And it is not to stockpile weapons in your home, nor to go on raids or to bomb their homes.  When you find them, capture them, not with weapons, but with sedation guns.  I mean we do this with large potentially ferocious animals, why not with humans?  Go on a mission to capture as many as you can and keep them in locked down communities, but not as prisoners, rather as severely mentally ill patients.  A closed healing community can be for them a means to change deeply from violent animals perpetuating the cycle of violence, to peaceful, loving human beings.  It is the same system that should be applied to transforming prisons.  If this were openly done on a large scale, the word would get out across the world.

For those who found success through this method within the closed system, they would become a profound resource for the world, especially the communities within the countries they grew up in.  They would know all about their home and their people.  They would know how to reach those still caught in the cycle of self-hating violence.  If they were brave enough, they could be allowed to return home to spread the news.  Of course, they would be targeted and would have to, like Jesus, be willing to lay down their lives for peace.  They would be truly spiritual teachers, peaceful warriors.

Jesus said to do to others as you would have them do to you.  He said it is not a great thing to be kind to those that are kind to you because really anyone can do that.  The aspiration is to be more like God, who is compassionate to all people, regardless of what they have done or not done.  And that means, now more than ever, to love those that abuse you.  To become the tolerant, loving, compassionate beings God has always meant us to become.  Is it hard to potentially lay down your life for peace?  Of course it is!  But wouldn't it be worth it to pave the way for future generations to live in a peaceful world?  The terrorists may not know it, but they are sending out a world wide call for peace on earth. They are challenging all of us.  I say, let's step up to the challenge and change ourselves first.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Start Next Week

I got the key to the dance/art studio space today, but the owner still needs to do some more work removing things from the smaller room before I can claim the space as my own.  By this time next week I will be in it, getting to know it and bringing my art stuff into it.  I got the camper toilet and I'm getting a cheap camper kitchen set up on Friday and I now have two ceramic heaters to heat the space.  So I'll be roughing it a bit, but I'm sure I'll get used to it pretty quickly.  I'll have a lot of sweeping to do and if I can clear my clogged vacuum cleaners, I will vacuum, too.  But first the electricity needs to be turned on.

It's been off since December 2012, so an electrical inspector came today and gave me the thumbs up, so the electricity might be on by the end of the week.  Luckily, we're having pretty warm weather for this area at the time of year, mid 50s.  I'm just hoping it will last till after Thanksgiving, which will give me a few days to bring over my main easel and a whole bunch of other stuff, most of which is not too heavy.  I have a long list.  I have a small refrigerator, an extra microwave and an extra coffeemaker machine.

I bought 8 cheap chairs and 8 cheap display easels to use for drawing if I set up a sketch group.  I've been doing research looking for the best out of the cheapest things I can get for this space because I just don't have the money to get the great stuff.  It all adds up...  I will be spending a chunk of my inheritance.  If I work hard and am fortunate I will make that money back with a bit of a profit if I start a business in 6 to 9 months.  It will take 2-3 years, but I could do it.  I will also be working on improving my house, so that I can possibly rent the upstairs and live downstairs using the heated garage as an extra room.

I have to pull up all the crappy carpet myself, which will be hard, dirty work.  First I have to clear out as much stuff as I can from the upstairs and store it either downstairs or in the smaller room of the rental space.  I don't have a lot of truly big, heavy furniture, so I might be able to do it myself.  Or I might have to get past my insecurity and ask for help.  I will also check out YouTube which is an amazing video resource library.  My cats will have to stay downstairs while I work, which I think will be fine once I've cleared out and organized the garage.  It's a part of the house I don't allow them in, so they will have a blast checking it out.

The first thing to take care of is my garage and I've worked on it a couple of days this week.  Once it is cleared, swept and organized I can paint the walls.  Probably just with primer to start but that should lighten up the space.  Then I can bring my music equipment into the garage and set up a tiny studio so I can continue to work on songs and sing.  So I'm figuring by mid to late January the house should be looking pretty good and then my friend can visit for a few days and get a feel for the house and the town and the surrounding country and see if she likes it enough to move here for a while.  She'll be coming during the hardest season, mid winter.  If she can like it then, she'll really like it when it gets warmer.

So I've got two jobs to do in two months, the home job and the studio job.  Can I do it?  Right now I feel as if I can if I pace myself.  I'm praying that it's not going to be a very snowy winter with temperatures dipping below zero, but even if it were, I think I could manage.  The studio is only a ten minutes drive away.  When I can't work in the studio because of the weather, then I can work at home, including making some tie dyes.  I have to test out all the dyes I got 7 years ago.  They've never been opened, but they have been sitting in a dark, but heated garage.  I'm getting a 3 DVD instructional set to walk me through how to set up in my garage.  The laundry room/kitchenette area is adjacent to the garage, so I'll have easy access to a double sink, a washer and a dryer.

I've been feeling pretty good lately working with all these plans.  It's been rather quiet in my mind, too.  It's like pre-work quiet time, not pressured, a time to prepare for a lot of activity.  But still, I have to pace myself and keep the balance, neither overdoing nor doing too little.  Next week is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, but I don't know if I'm going to celebrate it this year, except for getting myself a turkey breast, making up some stuffing, cooking some green beans and eating some pumpkin pie at home.  My brother will be making a feast for one of his friends.  Last year was the first year in a while that my brother hasn't prepared the Thanksgiving meal at my house because I was just too mentally ill at the time to handle it and now I just don't want anyone in my house till after I've worked on it.

Not much more to say right now, except that my life seems to be shifting into a new direction.  We shall see how far I get in a month, before Christmas comes.  I'll try to continue posting here as I make progress.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Space To Dance & Paint In

This is the building that I am leasing very inexpensively for six months starting today.  I am leasing two rooms, plus a loft space and attic.  The front room is large, large enough to dance and paint in.  It used to be a bicycle store for over thirty years.  The owner moved the store to a better location nearby and has been trying to rent out this space for several years as an art studio.  One of the reasons he is leasing it so inexpensively is that there is absolutely no plumbing in the building, so no toilet and no sink.  I have bought a cheap camper toilet to use when I'm there and will have to bring in my own water and basins to use when I paint.  I have paid the owner to cover the front windows with strong white plastic that blocks anyone from looking in while I work and helps to preserve some of the heat during the Fall and Winter and early Spring.

I have a bunch of plans on how to use this space beyond dancing and painting in it.  One of my ideas is to have an open sketch class once a week.  I've already gotten eight folding chairs and eight cheap easels are on the way.  There is an art school nearby where I can find models to pose.  I'll ask for donations to pay the model for modeling for two hours or so.  I know one local artist superficially.  She is the local veterinarian's wife and she also works at the animal hospital.  I plan on talking with her about it because I believe she has organized sketch groups before with her friends and she may be able to give me some guidance as well as joining the group and having her friends come, too.  There are also art students nearby who might be tempted to come, or even painting teachers.

I decided to commit to spending the money to get the chairs and easels as a way to push myself to do this.  It would force me to get involved with people, especially the local artists which would also motivate me to draw and paint.  I will need to also get a small stage platform for the model to stand or sit on in a chair and that will cost at least $240.  Luckily, I inherited some money and can do this right now.  But the money will run out in a few years and I need to find a way to earn some income.  So my other idea is to take these six months to write up a business plan and do a bunch of research and if starting a store at this location seems feasible, doing so in six to nine months time.

Right now my idea is to open a home made tie dye shop which would also offer jewelry and ceramics and paintings by local artists.  If the shop holds its own I should break even the first couple of years and then hopefully begin to make a profit.  My brother says the shop is not in a good location, but I think he is wrong.  It's on the main street of a very small town and the road is the main road that leads directly to a college/university town only a few minutes drive away.  There is no local competition in the area.  There are three other businesses there: a beautiful, old country store, a knitting studio and and antiques shop.  There is one church and a post office.

I think if I have a tie dye shop and advertise it well throughout the area, it might bring business to the other businesses there and that would be good to support them as well.  I would put up on an easy access wall a business card holder and get business cards from different interesting businesses.  I would also like to have a community board telling what's going on in the area.  I would put my displays and clothing on display cases with wheels so that I could push the displays to the sides of the room and open up the space for a sketch class, a dance space for me and possibly an Al-Anon meeting.

I'll have about five months before the lease can be renewed to make up a supply of tie dyes out of my garage and even if I don't decide to open a shop there, I can still sell my tie dyes to local businesses and give them as gifts to friends.  Right now I'm all for committing to this business idea, but I know there is so much work I have to do first and I am grateful that I have these six months to do that.  In the meantime, I will dance and practice yoga and paint.  I plan to paint portraits of animals and children because I have some talent for that and I might be able to promote a joint business painting portraits of people's children and their pets or even both in the same picture.  A photo studio is possible, too because there's enough space for it.

This is all big stuff for me, but I feel ready to give it a try while I have some funds to work with.  I grew up in Brooklyn, but I've lived here for twenty six years and I feel comfortable here.  I look forward to getting to know the other business owners in the area.  Another great thing is that a friend of mine from Brooklyn might come to live with me for anywhere from six months to a couple of years depending on whether she likes it here.  She will be a great support.  She is already a true friend to me and I love her.  She will help to end my self imposed isolation.  So developing my true friendship with her and working towards opening a business will extend my responsibilities out into the world.  May I find success!