writing

NaPoWriMo 2021

Many of you may know that this month is NaPoWriMo month, National Poetry Writing Month. I was reminded of it this is very day, when I went to read the blog post of someone who started following me today. Thank you for joining me, Brenda! You can find Brenda and her NaPoWriMo contribution for today, The Dragon and the Fairies, just click the link.

Some of you may have seen some of my poetry in my past blog entries. Although I haven’t written any poetry in I don’t know how long. I miss it. I miss it a lot.

I was first introduced to writing poetry in middle school. I was a TAG student. For those of you who do not know what that is, TAG stands for Talented and Gifted…not something I saw myself as then.

Anyway, we had a term on poetry. My least favorite teacher, who normally taught social studies, wound up teaching us to write poetry for that term. We had to create a book of our own original poetry.

My book had two wooden covers with the pages of poetry bound in between them with yarn, I believe. I had hand drawn a unicorn or something like that on the cover of the book I don’t remember any of the poems and I no longer have the book. However I can see what the book look like in my mind’s eye. I didn’t think it was that good. And I never really thought of it again.

Many years later I found poetry again as part of my college career. I took an intro to poetry class and that’s when I fell in love with it. I loved the different forms of poetry how it could be visually artistic as well as the beautiful imagery created by the words themselves.

One author whose work spoke to me and which I resonated with on a fundamental level was Sylvia Plath. This is the first poem of hers I remember reading:

Metaphors
I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house.
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

I immediately knew what these metaphors represented. If you don’t know or if you would like a brief analysis of the poem, please click the link in the title.

Beauteous fractals
Above and beyond the call
Winter’s final wail

The first prompt from the national poetry writing month website for this April, was to write about a piece of art. Now, I don’t have access to a whole lot of art. I’m not a fan of looking at famous art online. I don’t believe it gives it justice. This image is an original painting on a 4×6 canvas by a friend of mine. She did this basically uncommissioned. She’s an amazing artist. Not only did she do this on commission, she did five others at the same time. The most amazing thing about this piece of artwork is that she created it while her home had been without electricity for a week. You can see some of her other art at

The reason it had been without electricity for a week was the same reason why I actually commissioned the piece from her. The electricity was out due to a major snowstorm in Portland that took place in February. I like to call it the Valentine’s Day Snowpocalypse of 2021.

I had to work that weekend. I was on foot and having to take public transportation. And it snowed and iced over enough that the buses stopped running as did the trains. Since I am an essential worker, I had to be at work regardless of the weather. the only way I got there and back home for a couple of days was due to my supervisor and his four wheel drive vehicle. After that weekend I wanted to do something special to think my supervisor and to commemorate the events we had all lived through. That’s why I asked her to do a piece of art.

What does it really mean to be emotionally healthy?

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

I’ve been in and out of various forms of therapy since pre-adolescence. I’ve been doing it pretty consistently for the past seven years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to reach a point of being emotionally healthy.

The PTSD has had deep and lasting impacts on both my brain structure and neurochemistry. Bipolar II Disorder means that my brain structure and neurochemistry were already atypical. Both impact emotional health and affect my capacity for instinctively choosing emotionally healthy behavior.

Ten months ago my faith community stood beside me and supported me in my mental health recovery journey. They chose to pay for me to go through trauma recovery therapy, so I could better deal with the myriad of intense psychological and emotional stressors in my life. Past trauma is something I’ve been minimizing, avoiding, and denying most of my life. Dusting it off, picking it up, looking it in the eye, and examining it is not even close to easy. What is easy is distancing and distracting myself, even as I try to face it.

Last week I had a Telehealth appointment, which turned into an audio only appointment because of my dying phone. Since there’s no unoccupied space in my apartment and the sanctuary of a vehicle no longer exists, I walked to a coffee shop that has a large, covered, outdoor seating area. It also happens to be the socially distanced gathering place for the neighborhood dog owners and their dogs to hang out. I sat as far away as I could so as to be heard by my therapist and not heard by the community of strangers. Fun times.

I was telling her what happened the night I dropped my phone. I had gone over to my friends’ house, where I had been living from March – November, to pick up Christmas gifts for my grandkids. While I was there, the woman who had been my first friend from a DBT group I had been part of in 2018/2019, absented herself and had no interaction with me. Her wife indicated that I could try to communicate with her, but I would probably be unsuccessful. The wife is now my primary friend.

I have a lot of sad and mad feelings about this relationship break. However, when I was discussing what happened that night with my therapist, my brain fixated on the broken phone, as if that was the source of my difficult emotions. I was completely aware that’s what I was doing, but couldn’t seem to stop it. So, I said out loud that my brain was wanting to focus more on the phone than the lost friendship.

We discussed that for a bit. We drilled down some and identified some roots in prior relationships with important women in my life, starting with my mother, that ended in rejection and abandonment. Still a lot to unpack there, but both my therapist and I recognize that I’m stretched to capacity to address more trauma at this point. With that agreement in place, the question becomes, “what direction do we go and what do we work on?”

Since I’ve made some significantly bad decisions in the past several months which were decidedly co-dependent, avoidant, and risky and the outcomes of these decisions have increased the emotional, physical, and financial stress on me, thus maxing out my capacity for doing the more in depth trauma work, I figure I need to work on making emotionally healthy choices when faced with situations where my trauma responses have been triggered. I think that’s the only way to clear the path for me to do the deeper work.

My therapist suggested that my lack of emotionally healthy response is more likely rooted in the fact that I’ve never been around emotionally healthy people making emotionally healthy choices and that, while it may be possible for me to come to an understanding of what it means to be emotionally healthy, I may continually deal with an inability to operate with that same understanding. To which I responded that is why I said learning the behavior that comes from being emotionally healthy can be learned, even when the emotions aren’t healthy.

I think of it like reverse engineering good emotional health. Learning to act “as if” I am an emotionally healthy person, might enable me to become an emotionally healthy person.

I think I just found my focus for this year.

2021, the year I become an emotionally healthy responder.

Legacy

‘Round and ‘round she goes
Freewheeling and spinning
Bouncing from thought to thought
From one thing to another

Up is down, down is up
Good is bad, bad is good
Riding the exhilarating waves
Crawling through the dark valleys

Always looking to be “fixed”
Always wanting a “fixer”
Needing control
Living in chaos
Dying in love

Her life is mine, as well
My children can attest
I fought like mad
Lashing out, relentlessly

Life on the edge
The art of the con
The good apprentice
Crumpled and abandoned

Obsessive plans
Frenzied achievement
Burned out
Crashed hard

Time and again
Rinse and repeat
Cycles within cycles
Antagonist and victim

The mind forgets
The body remembers
In the midst of anger
In the midst of turmoil
Conflicted life

Lost momentum
Lost joy
Lost hope
Lost self
Unmoored

Immovable mountains
Crashing and clashing
Awakened in conflict
Change begun

Spiritual awakening
Fortuitous convergence
Extraordinary and mundane
Unforeseen support
Asked, offered, given

Long and winding
Road of an epic journey
My strength is my weakness
Renewed and redeemed
Bridging the past and the present

From mother to daughter
Connecting the generations
A new future written
Shaped by what was
Walking into what will be

UBC 4/20 Day 12: Nailed it

Another restless and sleep deprived night. So tired.

Being this tired eats away at the creative process and dulls the mind. I really have no clue what to write about, because my brain is so foggy. So, I guess you will learn of the new skill I’ve been teaching myself during this period of enforced isolation. Painting my own nails.

Sounds a bit silly and frivolous, I know. But, it’s something that has been giving me a minor creative outlet, engaging my brain in a new activity, and giving me at least a small sense of accomplishment. Why painting my nails and not some other, useful, edifying thing, such as learning a new language or reading, or doing more writing? Well, because, sleep deprivation. I’m too tired to really engage my brain in those ways. I’m too distractible and I can doze off mid-word…whether I’m writing or reading. If I’m reading, that means I’ll reread the same sentence multiple times and I lose the thread of what I’m supposed to be understanding or learning. If I’m writing, it disrupts my thoughts and disconnects the ideas. Sometimes, I’ll even type out some kind of gobbledygook and have to backtrack in order to figure out what I was trying to say.

Neither one of these options are helpful. Both leave me feeling frustrated and angry with myself. Since I have a goal to be gentler with and more satisfied with myself, I’ve decided to do something else with the massive amounts of otherwise unoccupied time and the short attention span.

I’ve had the lifelong, nervous habit of chewing my nails. It’s gotten a lot better over the past several years as I’ve gone through my healing and recovery process. I’ve reached the point where I don’t chew them every day. So, they actually get a chance to grow to a little past my fingertips. It would be great to have nails. However, they grow out super thin and sharp. Then they get brittle and easy to break. When that happens, it’s uncomfortable for them to be unevenly long. That’s when the chewing comes back and the portion of all the nails that have grown out get chewed off again.

This time was different, though. First, the sheltering in order from the government. Second, the environment where I’m sheltered in at. Things are crowded and chaotic in my home. However, I’m not there. I was spending time with friends when the orders came down. My pregnant daughter and her three littles, along with their father were in my apartment. I didn’t want to chance affecting them if I somehow had contracted the virus. Then, there’s the fact that the women I’m staying with both fall into the vulnerable category and if they needed help I would be here for them. It’s a much more stable and calm environment here.

When I realized my nails were at that length again, I really wanted to see if I could preserve them. So, on one of my friend’s essential trips to the store, I accompanied her and grabbed myself some nail polish and supplies.

Trial and error have resulted in some fairly decent results. It takes me a long time to achieve the final results, because I have to use so many layers of polish to actually fortify and strengthen the nails. Then, I have to let each layer dry fully. I’ve gotten impatient a few times and the results were more fail than nail. So, I had to start over. But, I’m getting the hang of it now.

Here are my first three efforts:
Collage 2020-04-12 08_51_43

1) Pink holographic
2) Purple Holographic
3) Dark purple French tip
4) Purple French tip with sparkles

 

 

 

 

Collage 2020-04-12 08_50_08

 

 

 

Red with Gold sparkles

 

 

 

 

Collage 2020-04-12 08_51_04

 

 

 

Sparkly Holographic Blue French tip

 

 

 

I know it’s silly, but, I’m feeling quite proud of myself. I hope I can keep them up when I start working again.

What’s something you feel good about yourself for doing?

UBC 4/20 Day 8: Updates and Checking In

I don’t have anything particularly interesting or exciting or deep to write about today. As a matter of fact, it’s about 3:00 AM and the insomnia is activated. I woke up around 1:30 AM, had some juice, chatted with my friend … rather, I listened to her retell a couple of stories I’ve heard before. Then, I just stayed up and dozed for a little bit, but couldn’t really sleep. So, I decided to write today’s post. See if I can get the words to stop wandering around in my head, whispering and shouting at me. So, here we go.

I hadn’t heard anything about the job since last Thursday. So, I tried calling the number the HR guy I’d interviewed with had called me from. It was a generic Google Voice number with a generic screening message and no indication whose phone I was calling. I hadn’t actually saved his phone number, so, I was left wondering if I had left a message on a spam caller’s voicemail by accident. A little later, I remembered I had his email address. I emailed him and got an almost immediate response

It turned out that the managers of the house he had in mind had both been off work and he hadn’t connected with them yet. Also, he hadn’t actually checked my references yet. When I submitted my initial application, it required that I list three professional references, with at least one being a supervisor. Well, having been out of work for over seven years, I didn’t have any ongoing contact with any of my former supervisors or co-workers. I couldn’t even remember most of their names or could only remember first names. I reached out via text and email to my instructors from the Peer Support Specialist and Peer Wellness Specialist training classes I took fall and winter of the current school year.

Well, I didn’t hear anything from them within 24 hours of starting my application and I was too impatient to wait any longer. I made a false assumption and jumped the gun by listing each of them as a reference without first getting their agreement. One of them replied to the email, stating that she doesn’t usually provide references for her former students, but, because she thinks I would be good for the organization, she would give me a reference. I was applying to the same organization that had provided the training.

Additionally, he had to do employment verification for the one job I held, back from 2007-2008, which held any kind of relevance to the position I’m being considered for. Normally, he would have had me come in and complete a form which would then be faxed to the employer. However, as we all know, these are not normal times. With everyone working remotely from home, there was no one and nowhere he could fax anything to. So, he had to have me complete an application for the specific position, since my first application was a generic one used to have a pool of employees ready to fill various positions which are needed on a regular basis. Completing this new application was the only way he could get my electronic signature to authorize that employer to release employment information to him. I got that done as soon as we got off the phone.

I also found out that the house I’m being considered for is a low-risk house and I would be on shift by myself. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. I’m used to working with other people as part of a team. I told him that I’m good with it. I know I can do that on my own, I just feel awkward and uncertain thinking about it, at this point. Anyway, if things check out and all the connections are made that need to be made, I could start training next week.

Not knowing what that potential schedule will be, meant I couldn’t actually schedule next week’s counseling session. So, if I don’t hear anything concrete by Thursday afternoon, I’m going to text my therapist to set up that appointment. We’re getting some good work started and I don’t want to lose momentum.

I read, paraphrased, what I had written on the blog yesterday. She was surprised at how much I had actually opened up about, especially in such a public forum. I told her that I’m REALLY good at going deep in a very shallow way. She indicated that is a common thing amongst trauma survivors. It tends to be a way of testing relationship waters. Basically, putting the bad stuff out in the beginning, determines if someone is going to stick around or if they’re going to abandon the relationship. It is a way of telling the story without getting into the emotions and feelings.

We talked about feelings being like waves in an ocean. Some can be soft and gentle like the small waves brushing against the feet and others can be huge waves that overwhelm us and knock us off of our feet. An these emotions can be ones that make us feel good as much as they can be ones which make us feel bad. My assignment for this week is to work through the Color Wheel of Emotion and identify the waves of feeling I experience.

Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. See you tomorrow.

It’s that time again! April 2020 Ultimate Blog Challenge

First, let me start by saying, “This is NOT another pandemic blogging projecct.” When I first signed up for this month’s challenge, I was asked what my goal was. My response was to state that I want to write 30 posts that have nothing directly to do with the pandemic. I may refer to it, but, I won’t be discussing the politics of it, the projections, or a daily accounting of my time spent “sheltering in.” What I write about may not wind up being as interesting or light-hearted as it could be in this time of stress and fear. But, it is intended to be a different thing altogether.

Now that we have that out of the way, you may be wondering, “Lillian, what ARE your 30 blog posts going to be about, then?” The answer is, “I don’t know for sure.” Sounds strange, I know. However, I’m not a planner. Never have been. I’ve tried. Lord knows I’ve tried. I just don’t have it in me. Every time I create a plan, it falls through. You know the old adage, right? “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” Let’s just say that I tickle his funny bone whenever I attempt to make a plan.

What I do know is that there could be poetry or short stories. You might run into something like a devotional, refering to biblical scripture. However, it will likely be a combination of me processing my mental health stuff or discussing mental health stuff. It also might be a record, of sorts, about my search for employment and, hopefully, me adjusting to a job. For the moment, though, let me introduce myself, for those who don’t know me or who need a quick catch up.

I’m a 50 year old mom and grandma. My children are currently 11, 26, and 33. My grandchildren (by the 26 year old) are currently 6, 5, 2, and due in two weeks. The 11 year old experiences the world through the higher functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Due to her behavioral issues and my mental health issues, I recently had her go live with her father. I have all kinds of feels about that and some of that subject may show up this month. My 26 year old daughter is pregnant with baby #4. Her family of five, soon to be six, are living in my tiny 2 bedroom apartment, along with a dog and a cat. Anecdotes and feels about things related to that may also appear here. As for my 33 year old, he’s married and living with his wife, doing his own thing. There will proably be little reference to him, unless it relates to our history.

I also live with a bipolar brain that has been shaped by trauma. So, I have diagnoses of Bipolar II Disorder, PTSD, Depression, and Binge Eating Disorder. I just started weekly therapy with a trauma therapist. I was blessed with a gift of 6 – 12 months of this therapy by my faith community, otherwise known as “church.” So, there could be a LOT of me processing through my mental health challenges this month.

I haven’t been employed for a little over seven and half years, except for a recent, very brief stint with H & R Block. I took their income tax preparation course last fall, and barely survived it. I also took a three month Peer Support Specialist class, followed by a 10 week Peer Wellness Specialist class, which I completed on Friday, March 13th. The last day I worked at H & R Block was March 16th. I have to obtain my Peer Wellness Specialist Certification through the OHA – Oregon Health Authority before I can actually get a job doing that work. Right now the OHA is pretty occupied and they already took 3 – 6 months to process those applications before the current health crisis. In the meantime, I need an income. So, I applied for a grocery store position, thinking it would be a good bridge job while I go through the hurry up and wait process. But they decided to “pursue other applicants.”

On Monday I applied for a Direct Care position in a mental health group home situation with the community behavioral health organization I took my Peer training through and have been receiving services with for almost a year. The next day, yesterday, they did a phone interview with me. I have a video interview with them today. Wish me luck.

This month promises to be quite the journey, or at least the first chapter of this new book in my life. I’m happy to have the company while it gets written. Thank you for joining me.

I can see clearly now…or not

I’ve been using reading glasses for a couple of years now. My eyes have been getting more and more blurry over the past several years. Yet, every eye exam results in a very mild prescription, for a complex combo of issues which include astigmatism and far-sightedness.

I haven’t been able to afford glasses. The last pair I got were covered by my church…up to the cost of a single lens prescription. The progressives were going to cost an additional $200, which I had no way of covering. So, I chose the middle…not thinking it just meant that I was getting what I basically already had without glasses. Silly me.

So, yesterday, I had the opportunity to get an eye exam that will result in a good pair of prescription glasses, sponsored through a partnership between Dress for Success and Myoptic Optometry. For the first time I can remember, I found out the true reason for my blurry vision, which fluctuates in degrees.

Dry eye Syndrome, aka Chronic Dry Eye.

Yay.

Another health thing that won’t be going away.

Fibromyalgia…✔️
Diabetes (2)…✔️
Hypothyroidism…✔️
Bipolar (2)…✔️
Depression…✔️
PTSD…✔️
Chronic Insomnia…✔️

and now…Dry Eye Syndrome…✔️

I can’t really complain. I mean, any one of these things could be so much worse. Plus, there are so many people going through things and dealing with much more major issues.

It’s just that the combination of these things is collectively overwhelming… especially if you factor in the depression’s ability to make everything else seem and feel worse than it is.

Add a night of the worst insomnia I’ve experienced in awhile, and I’m hurting and exhausted. I’ve got a ton of stuff to get done today and all I can do is lie here and be a lump.

Nap time before 9 am.

Thanks for “listening” to me whine. I’ll write something more interesting next time…maybe.

Two minutes

Two minutes.

That seems like such a short time.

Unless those two minutes are for standing up and talking to a group of people. Especially if the subject is me, myself, and I.

Then, those two minutes feel like two hours.

I have four weeks to prepare this little speech to present to my class as part of my final requirements, in order to graduate and obtain my Certificate of Completion for Peer Support Specialist Training.

Two minutes.

How is that possibly enough time to explain my lived experience with mental health challenges, what I bring to the job, why I want to do it, and why I’ll be good at it?

Two minutes.

How in the world am I supposed to remember a two minute speech when I don’t remember what I was going to say two seconds ago?

Two minutes.

The time stretches and constricts, like a rubber band.

I’ve survived this long. I’ll survive two minutes.

Challenge (almost) complete, but not over

I started a 29th blog post yesterday. However, I was running late on getting it done. Then, I got a call from a family member facing a minor crisis. wp-15644976270724186864348788725799.jpgWhile helping to resolve the crisis, I dropped my phone on a four lane, very busy, street and watched several vehicles run over it.

It’s still powered on and functioning internally, as near as I can tell, but the screen is totally shattered. The only reason why it’s even still on the device is a testament to the kind of screen protector it had on it.

I wasn’t ready to upgrade the phone. However, I’d already planned on leaving Apple behind. After an hour and a half at the Sprint store, I wound up with a Pixel 3a XL. So far it’s pretty intuitive to use and it’s soooo lightweight compared to the iPhone X I had. I’m pleased about that.

I’m super bummed at this point, though, because I’m not sure if my phone was automatically backing up to the cloud. Nor do I have a clue as to how to download all the pics and things from the cloud. There’s an iCloud sync app I’ve downloaded, but, for some reason, I’m not allowed to use it until Friday, August 2nd. Oh well, I can be patient.

In other news:

I’m super happy to report that when I got home Sunday night, after a busy weekend, I checked the mail and found an acceptance letter from the Peer Support Specialist Training I applied to a couple of weeks ago.

I was pretty sure I was going to get in, but, it was such an exciting relief to actually read the words!

Now comes the hard part…figuring out what to do next. The initial training ends on December 6. That certification, in and of itself qualifies me for an entry level position. Do I try to find a short-term job that will only be 3-7 months long, which is unlikely. Or, do I find a job, knowing that as soon as I graduate, I’ll be looking to move on into a Peer Support Specialist role? That doesn’t feel good to me. Kind of unethical. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I just had an idea! I can register with a temp agency and do some office or customer service work to tide me over while I get my training done.

Glad that’s figured out. Moving on.

This is my last post of the July 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge. I managed to post 29/30. So, all in all, with everything else I’ve had going on, that’s a pretty good record. In the past, I would have counted that missing one as causing this whole endeavor to have been a failure. But, that isn’t true, is it? I did good.

On Sunday night, we discussed the difference between a destination mindset vs a journey mindset.

The way I would have previously seen less than 30/30 as a failure, is a destination mindset. Meaning, achieving the goal of 30 posts in 30 days was the mission and the only thing that mattered. It’s a very limiting mindset, isn’t it? It’s rigid and perfectionistic. It’s self-defeating. At least, for me, these things are true.

What’s the alternative? What is the journey mindset? It’s a way of thinking and being that makes the things experienced and people encountered on the way the point and purpose of being on the path to reach a destination.

To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This mindset enables the one on the journey to stay present in each moment, learning and growing, as well as achieving the end result of arriving at a destination point. It is a mindset that inherently causes one to realize that there’s always more to explore and experience. It also instills the ability to see the value in savoring the moment instead of just getting through it in order to get to the next moment.

For me, this month’s UBC has been a journey. I’ve experienced a lot of growth inside of myself. It’s grounded me, causing me to stay present and connected to the moment I’m in, because I had to pay attention to what was happening in order to write about it. It stretched me to explore things I never would have chosen to do on my own, in my egocentric life. I got the opportunity to make some new friends and learn to look at some different viewpoints.

I’m not sure what kind of writing schedule or routine I’m going to set for myself now. I know I need to figure it out. It will happen. I’ll be staying in touch and updating probably once a week, if not more often.

Thanks for journeying with me.

Mama Dear

Sundays are always my busiest day of the week, so, I’m just now getting to today’s post and it’s 8:08 pm.

Yesterday, I had my Peer-to-Peer class then went to a friend’s barbecue. She and her wife have been strongly encouraging to stop dragging my feet about putting a book together. So, I asked the wife if she would help me “curate” from my previously written content. She told me to pick 10 of my favorite things.

That’s a difficult task. I don’t really have favorite things. I have things I’ve written that, if I go back and read, I don’t like. But I don’t have favorites. I don’t remember the details of most of what I write.

I decided to start by just gathering some poems. I found one I had completely forgotten about. The note said it was a draft and it looked like there was going to be at least one more stanza. But, I had no idea what it was going to be. When I read through it, it seemed pretty complete to me.

Let me know what you think:


Mama dear
This shed tear
Transformed from fear
Is making me clear

Mama love
My mourning dove
Absent gift from above
My life devoid of

Mama me
Never been free
Always tried to flee
Broken memory

Mama dear
You are my peer
Your spirit near
This time of year

Mama knows
How to bear woes
Keeping faith close
As the heart slows

Mama’s pains
This daughter gains
Release from the chains
My hope remains
©️ 2018 lem