Tag Archives: Mental Health

Down For The Count

Life is funny. And tragic. Sometimes it’s both. But mostly, it’s a fight to the finish.

*

Bathos Theater in Conjunction with the Below-the-Belt Boxing Federation Presents:

“A Low Blow”

 

Announcer: “In this corner, weighing it at 8000 pounds pressure per square inch, the reigning champion: LIFE!*

[LIFE bounces around in the corner wearing hardened leather gloves. Shiny, red satin shorts jiggle as the mammoth boxer warms up.]

Announcer: And in this corner, weighing it at… (looks down at card)… None-Of-Your-G.D.-Business, and facing the wrong way: The Czarrrrina of Pain!*

[Czarina looks down at pink Hello Kitty boxing gloves with perplexed bewilderment.]

Kiri-Czar: “Hey… there’s been some kind of mistake here.”

[Announcer walks to center ring, dragging reluctant Czarina along with him and holding a hand up to stop LIFE from plowing right over her before the bell rings.]

Announcer: (grabs dangling mic) “This fight will go ten rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or their manager throws in a towel.”

Kiri-Czar: (looks frantically around) “Where’s a towel? Wait…where’s my manager? Somebody get me a manager…or a towel!”

Announcer: “Are you ready to RumbbbbbbbbBBBBBLLLLlleee?”

Kiri-Czar: “NO!”

LIFE: (snorts like bull, nostrils flare) “AaaROOOOOoooooOOOOOO!”

[Bell Rings *DING*]

Kiri-Czar: (holds up Hello Kitty clad hands) “Wait! You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?”

LIFE: (swings) “Snarl!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks frantically) “I guess you would.”

[The next five minutes are a slap-stick routine where the Czarina runs around the ring trying to hide behind an annoyed announcer while LIFE tries to pin her to the ropes. Brace yourself, sports analogies are not her forte.]

LIFE: (growls, dances back and forth) “Stop running away!”

Kiri-Czar: “Stop chasing me!”

[The Czarina grabs an oar from an audience member and WHACKS! LIFE over the head with it! LIFE shakes head as tiny yellow birds tweet in a circle around LIFE’s head.**]

Canoe 1
One hour into a 4 1/2 hour Canoe Trip. Still had energy to lift cell phone to take a picture.

 

LIFE: “Oh, so that’s how you wanna play it?” (grabs tweety bird, throws it at Czarina) “I whip the bird at you then!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks bird) “That’s not how you whip someone the bird…” (tries to whip bird…stares at boxing glove) “Oh…right.”

[The Czarina raises the oar once again as LIFE stomps toward her. She swings. Misses. LIFE snatches oar with dismissive snort.]

LIFE: (breaks oar over knee) “You can run…but you can’t hide!”

Kiri-Czar: (slips behind Announcer) “Oh yeah!? Watch me!”

LIFE: “I’ll find you in the end. You should just give up now.”

Kiri-Czar: “Screw that.”

LIFE: “Oh, I plan to!”

[LIFE doubles back, pushing the announcer aside, and advances on the Czarina. Czarina grabs a tent and camp stove—holding them in front of her.]

Camping Tent
Before The End Came

 

LIFE: “Where do you think you’re going?”

Kiri-Czar: “Camping. What does it look like?”

LIFE: (rears, one arm back) “Hah. I don’t think so…”

[SWOOSH. SMACK. THUD.]

Announcer: (Counting) “One Mississippi…”

[Czarina lies on floor, dazed, babbling about recent events.]

Kiri-Czar: “All I wanted to do was take him camping… he likes camping… ”

Announcer: (Counting) “Two Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: “Two nights, we made it two nights…and then…BAM! We are off to the emergency room at midnight.”

Pooped at the Hospital
Turns out he was just badly…uh…compacted. Took 3 hours and x-rays to confirm the problem. Sigh.

 

Announcer: (Counting) “Two-and-a-half Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar (eyes announcer): “What happened to Three Mississippi?”

Announcer: “If I don’t count…LIFE gets to come over and stomp you until you get up again…”

Kiri-Czar: “What kind of crooked game is this?”

Announcer: “It’s the game of LIFE. Two-and-three-quarters Mississippi.”

Kiri-Czar: (scrambles upright) “Does that mean LIFE always wins?”

Announcer: “It means, no matter how you play, sometimes, you gotta lose.”

Kiri-Czar: “Well that’s just great.”

LIFE: (charges) “ROAAAARRRRRR!”

[Czarina drops to her knees and crawls through LIFE’s legs.]

LIFE: “Get back here punny human!”

Kiri-Czar: (stops to correct LIFE’s spelling): “I think you mean ‘Puny!’ ‘Punny’ would be like if I said I would called you a banana…except you have no appeal!”

Boxing Bananas
Found in Google search of ‘boxing puns’. Stolen from long-ass webpage link.

 

LIFE: “PUN THIS!”

[LIFE lands a sharp jab—a sweet kiss to the Czarina’s glass jaw.]

Kiri-Czar: (staggers back, one drunken blue bird whizzing before her eyes) “Now, that’s a bird of a different color!”***

LIFE: (Feints left, crosses right) “That was a play on words. Not a pun!”

[SMACK, SMACK, KA-POW! THUD.]

[Announcer looms over Czarina, counting while LIFE gloats.]

LIFE: “Just for that, your son gets chronic constipation and an addiction to popcorn.”

Kiri-Czar: (aghast) “Noooooo!”

LIFE: “Plus you have to give him this medicine for three days until he goes ‘Pop!’”

Kiri-Czar: “Don’t you mean poop?”

LIFE: (*evil smile*): “You’ll see.”

Announcer: (wheezing) “Two and ninety-nine-one hundredths Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: (staggers to feet) “That’s it. Go ahead. Pick on the little guy!”

[Wildly swinging, the Czarina advances throwing haymakers as she goes. She lands a glancing blow to LIFE’s bread basket.]

Kiri-Czar: “How do you like that, you…you big bazooka?”

LIFE: “Do you mean ‘Palooka?’”

[Czarina continues to piffle away at LIFE throwing more dope than rope. LIFE holds her off with one leather glove pushing against her sweaty forehead.]

Kiri-Czar: (winds up and swings): “Whatever! I’ve had it. I go canoeing. I go camping. And wherever I go, I get no peace. There is always this counter attack waiting to knock me down, every damned time I step in the ring. I’m beginning to feel like a punching bag. When am I gonna get a break?”

LIFE: “You want a break?”

Kiri-Czar: (Hello Kitty balled fists on hips) “Yes. Yes I do!”

LIFE: (shrugs) “Okay. If you say so.”

Announcer: (bellows into mic) “LIFE feints left and then crosses with a right hook to the head. Czarina’s glasses go flying. She’s blind now, ducking a barrage of punches. Hello Kitty gloves are no defense against LIFE. LIFE isn’t pulling it’s punches anymore. LIFE delivers a damaging blow to the kidneys. The injustice! There’s no Marquess of Queensberry here, folks! Next, the Czarina dodges a jab only to walk straight into an uppercut. Oooh, the Czarina’s on the ropes. The blows are pounding her like hail on a Kansas wheat field. LIFE is raining down. Rain is raining down. LIFE switches to KickBoxing and the Czarina takes a roundhouse to the noggin. The Czarina’s on the ground. She’s taken a beating, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think she’ll be back up again for quite some time. I’m calling this fight. The Winner by KO and Ultimate Fight Champion of the World is…LIFE.”

[LIFE dances around the ring, both arms raised, pumping the air in victory. Stops to stand over the inert form of the Czarina sprawled on the floor. In the distance, the final bell *DINGS*.]

LIFE: (shouts) “Get the cutman…we’ve got a bleeder!”

[The crowd departs, LIFE raised on its shoulders. The loser is left in a pile on the floor, the white towel of surrender shrouding her face.]

 

*time passes*

Cutman: “C’mon, let’s get you patched up.”

Kiri-Czar: (wakes confused) “What…what happened?”

Cutman: “It’s 3:00 A.M. LIFE dropped a tree on your house and took out your electricity. Your kid is on the power laxatives for two more days. You get to stay home and wait for the shit to stop pouring in.”

Tree on Roof
My poor house and formerly new roof.

 

Kiri-Czar: (jaw drops) “WHAAAAAT? You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Cutman: “You asked for a break from the routine chaos, right? You were tired of everything you’ve been dealing with, yeah?”

Kiri-Czar: “Uh…yeah. But, I didn’t ask for…” (looks around, gestures to the dark and utter chaos)… “THIS!”

Cutman: “LIFE’s tricky that way. You asked for a ‘break’…it gives you a ‘break.’” (points to tree on roof, shakes head) “You just gotta be grateful it wasn’t your leg! Or worse.”

Kiri-Czar: (holds ice to black eye) “Right…just, ask LIFE…no more breaks for me for a while, okay? Please?”

Cutman: (packing up gauze, tosses loose pinecone to the Czarina) “I can’t make any promises. But let’s agree…we won’t be complaining about ordinary LIFE so much after this, right? That’s what LIFE gives you…perspective. It can always be worse.”

Pinecone FInger
Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

 

Kiri-Czar: (raises pinecone in disbelief) “If life gives you lemons…you make lemonade. What’re you supposed to make with pinecones?”

Cutman: (looks around and the devastation/deforestation) “I don’t know…Pińa Coladas, maybe?”

Kiri-Czar: (wincing) “Ugh…what a terrible pun.”

[With a flourish, the Cutman whips off the surgical mask revealing the grinning face of LIFE.]

LIFE: (taps Czarina gently on the chin] “Nuh Uh! It’s a play on words, not a pun! I think someone’s had just enough PUN-ishment for one day.”

Kiri-Czar: “Ugh.”

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Or, as my friend put it when she heard the news: “You’re some kind of shit magnet, you know that?”

**LIFE looks a bit like the HULK and MR. CLEAN had an angry, bilious baby.

***Look, coming up with sports-related puns was definitely not in my wheelhouse. And, even if it were, someone would probably drop a tree on it.


You’ve read the whole thing bonus:

I will be selling Roof Killer Pinecones at a reasonable price of $25.00. Drop me a line if you too want to plant this decimating conifer in your backyard.

And if anyone wants me, I’ll be at a cabin this weekend watching the campfire with a disturbing amount of pleasure as I watch the kindling burn.  Burn baby, burn!

Brain on Standby…Hold, Please

I keep trying to pin down a thought.

T

H

  O

       u

 G

                                                   T

Crap…there goes another one.

Distracted by minutiae*

Unable to FOCUS!

*slaps face*

Need sleep, breath…peace.

I have a moth for a brain and the light bulb burns like an acetylene torch.**

The afterimage from staring into the glow is cutting holes in my cerebellum.

Burning+Moth
Image stolen from eyeheartcreative.ca

 

 

I write, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Have posts unpublished and no time for review, reflection, or renewal.

Stop the world spinning so fast…I might be sick.

And so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes…

 

I am Fine
In searching for an image for ‘Thoughts’ this is what I found. Seems about right.

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*One of which is the correct spelling of the plural of minutia.

**Googled the spelling of that one too.

A Day In The Life…A Special Needs Breakdown

I remind myself that this too shall pass.

EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Missing Easter eggs–taken from fridge–still not found?

This too shall pass.

Two teardrop shaped containers of food coloring found in son’s bedroom. Two still unaccounted for. Mattress now looks like Jackson Pollock vomited there.

This too shall pass.

No clean clothes today…most of child’s pants cut up by scissors or missing. Must remember to check the heat ducts later…

This too shall pass.

Looks in fridge. *Stares blankly* Where’d the chicken go?

This too shall pass.

If you are a happy parent, please stop reading here. If you find fulfillment of life in nurturing and raising your beautiful, perfect little yous. Go away. This is not the blog you are looking for and I won’t be nice about it.

If, however, you have had dark thoughts on miserable, cold days. If you haven’t showered in forever and aren’t entirely sure whether it’s Tuesday or the apocalypse. Join me, comrade. And welcome.

*

While studying to get a degree in Russian Studies*, we were assigned the work One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Its simplistic, yet brutal reflection of the miseries of life for prisoners in a Russian gulag are played out in a single day for the title character Ivan Denisovich. What I did not know then, while reading about the struggles of someone trapped in a cold, cheerless existence, is that it could just as well be a metaphor for what it is like to parent a special needs child.

This too shall pass.

This has become my mantra. This reassurance every time my son finds a new and inventive way to make me regret the wonders of fertility treatments: the bad moments pass. It is a lifeline when you feel you are drowning and desperate options rear their suggestive, ugly heads.

This too shall pass.

Sometimes you find yourself sitting by the side of the road weighing bad to worse choices. Because bad are the only choices you can see.

This too shall pass.

I took my son to a birthday party Friday for the son of a longtime friend in the Autism Community. Little Man refused to enter the building. When finally forced to enter, threw a massive tantrum, beating himself and biting his arms, until he realized he wasn’t getting his way and we were going to stay. He sat rigid, refusing to join in—in a place where other children played jumping on trampolines and swinging from giant swaths of spandex dangling from the airplane-hangar-sized ceiling beams. He tolerated it until I would let him go home again.

This too shall pass.

We traveled to the delightfully grey and 40-degree weather in Traverse City, Michigan. I drove for three hours. Got fifteen minutes in the hot tub of the hotel before my son screeched his regrets and left the pool; I took him for his requested walk to the nearby lake where he promptly wanted to leave; returned to the Comfort Inn to sleep to dream of wifi only to be woken at 6:00 a.m. because someone next door took a shower. This was a good day. No major meltdowns.

This too shall pass.

Then yesterday happened.

I took my son to an event sponsored by the school celebrating a program that is intended to engage children like mine with the neurotypical kids. The ones who can play the games and take part in ordinary life. The children not like my son.**

I run into his teachers and classroom aides.

“Little Man had a really good day today.” One person tells me.

“Really, he was very happy.” Another stops to greet my son.

This too shall pass.

They don’t hear it. They don’t hear the bell ringing, the tolling, sonorous carillon signaling the shift from happy child to frantic, exhausted, terrorized hulk.

Neither do I.

This too shall pass.

We win the most patriot looking red-white-and-blue cupcakes at the cake walk—on only our sixth or seventh time around. *Thank goodness.*

I coax my son into a bizarre game where marshmallows—a food my son loves—are tossed back and forth to be caught in cups. None of the marshmallows are supposed to be eaten, however, because they keep hitting the floor. My son sneaks one anyway, confused that he couldn’t eat them in the first place. Has no one heard of cotton balls?

Cupcakes
Guess who snuck these into his room while mommy wasn’t watching?

 

This too shall pass.

I drag my reluctant child to a photo room where mustaches on sticks and leis are strewn to give families props to stage silly portraits. I manage a few with my unsmiling teen and he drags me out after thirty seconds.

This too shall pass.

He attempts to leave the building by several exits. We have only been there a half hour, but he wants out.

I ‘encourage’ my son to participate in a game in the library and he balks.

“One game. Candy Land…or Yahtzee. Then we can go.” I plead.

It is too much for him.

He is desperate and begins hitting himself violently.

Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

It is the sound of someone testing a melon for ripeness. It is the distant sound of an axe biting into wood. It is my son’s fists cracking against his skull.

He is crying from angst or anger or frustration or stress or some combination of all of these emotions. Or none. Perhaps he is drained and all that is left is the hollow drum upon which he beats an empty tattoo.

This too shall pass.

I push him into a cozy nook for readers to sit by a pretend fire where a painted tree grows to spread its branches overhead. Or so my vague memory suggests. I was too busy dosing my child with a sedative so I could get him out of the building without scaring or hurting anyone.

This too shall pass.

As I am driving him home, I am blinded. Blinded by regrets that my son cannot take part in fun activities. That I don’t get to be the parent encouraging him to stretch his limits, but instead failing to recognize them in time to prevent catastrophe.

It is as if his emotions have spilled over from where he sits in the back seat tearing strips of paper to calm himself.*** He winds the paper around his fingers and I think, “At least he’s finally using all those summer workbooks I purchased.”

I am crying now for the pain he feels but cannot express. For the fact he can never, ever make any real friends because he has such devastating limitations.

That he is so broken and so am I.

This too shall pass.

I pull off the road because, really, I can’t see now. I can’t see the point in continuing.

I park in an empty florist’s lot. The strip of grass that divides my car from the busy traffic is a green wedge of nature slipped between asphalt boundaries and a Panera coffee shop.

I am tired. I am listening to the recording of my parenting failures skipping and repeating in my head. And before anyone thinks to tell me what I great mom I am. Stop. Just stop.

Because you don’t know the thoughts I had.

This too shall pass.

You don’t hear the insidious little fucking voices in your head telling you that there has got to be an easier way than this. That life shouldn’t be this hard. That life shouldn’t be this…

This too shall pass.

You all think there are programs to help families in need. You all think we are getting help to make it through the every-fucking-day struggle of making yourself get up when black thoughts drag you down.

Maybe there are. But you know what? I don’t qualify for them; barely anyone does. You apply through miles of red tape, applications, certifications, interviews, and, if you are lucky, you are put on a wait list to try and get one of the 450 some slots the entire fucking state has to help people with severely handicapped children who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

You heard me. 450 slots. For a state with a population approaching 10 million.

You all think that there must be someone out there helping families like mine make good choices and to step in when things get bleak or despairing. You would be dead wrong.

This too shall pass.

This is the problem with real life. Ugly thoughts are like rancid cheerleaders rooting for destruction. There are no angels to balance you out. Sometimes the monsters win.

But not today.

This too shall pass.

I watch the robins bobbing on the slender manicured lawn that is trapped on all sides by concrete barriers and the threat of chemical castration or decapitation by lawn mower for any daring weeds. The little red-breasted birds are rejoicing in the abundance of rain-forced worms.

This too shall pass.

I turn on the book on tape I’ve borrowed from the library.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto rolls out the welcome mat to sanity and invites me to listen. It takes some kind of talent to write a comedy set around a funeral.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m safe to go on.

If anyone knows Mitch Albom. Tell him, thanks.

This too shall pass.

In writing this, I was reminded that in college, I found One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to be uplifting. Despite all of the misery, Ivan Denisovich finds moments of grace—not religious—but humanizing that help him to eek joy from the life he does have.

Ivan Denisovich got fish eyes in his soup.

I got robins bobbing for worms and the lyrical beginnings of a musician who might be a magician. Or vice versa. I’m not sure yet. The story has only begun.

I’ll have to listen for another day.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Because I’m all about collecting useless degrees. Ask me about my aborted career as a teacher. Go ahead, *cocks imaginary pistol* ASK.

**The normals (aka The Little Fuckers.)

***The real reason why I donated my son’s books to the school—because watching him destroy something I love and had hoped would connect us is too painful.

 

 

———————————final thoughts——————————————-

I am fine. It was just a bad moment. We all have them. Do not contact the authorities or  the Department of Human Services. I shared this to let the world know we have a problem with our resources and mental health care assistance to families in need and maybe to let other parents of special needs children know they are not alone. We just need support.

If you want to act, check out our local Autism Support of Kent County (A.S.K) agency http://www.autismsupportofkentcounty.org. They have helped my family as well as others in various outreach programs and financial aid for summer camps and therapies. Their Annual Walk for Autism is Sunday, May 7, 12:00 noon– at John Ball Zoo, 1300 Fulton W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. If he’ll go, I’ll be the one leading my son around with a bag of marshmallows.

A Cookie Cutter Philosophy

cookies-1
Cookies! Not just for breakfast, lunch, and dinner anymore!

I am suffering a cookie backlash. It’s something like the brain freeze you get from sucking down a super-sweet slushie too fast. I ate nearly a whole plate of cookies before realizing, “Hey, I am apparently hungry for dinner and cookies…though delicious…sadly, are not dinner.” I blame my son and his cookie-niverous habits for setting a bad example.

cookie-10
Go on. You know you want to!

 

I am supposed to be writing about my personal philosophy of life as part of my DBT group therapy* Part of my instruction is to “Learn and do challenging things that help me grow and mature as a human being.” So far, all I have managed to do is throw my agnostic self into the holiday spirit like a drunk at an open bar.

In the past week, I have walked the neighborhood enjoying the random display of holiday lights that sparkle and invite; I’ve frosted enough cookies to qualify as a half-baked mad woman; and, I’ve sculpted a snowman and pelted snowballs in pursuit of the perfect snowy day. Perhaps I can find a personal philosophy herein?

Let There Be Light!

The majority of homes in our neighborhood have no decorations at all.** So, as my son and I walked, we passed rows and rows of quiet, well-behaved buildings in order to find the rowdy and unruly ones clad for a festive night life.

There were Simplistic Scenes:

snow-3
One can be tastefully understated and have fully-lit deer. It’s just that simple.

 

Perfectly Balanced Perfections:

snow-2
“As long as our lights run: red, green, yellow, blue, red green, yellow, blueand never burn out… then everything is okay!”

The Whimsical and Charming:

 

cookie-13
Every life needs a Blue Light Special!

 

Hazardous and Slap-dash Efforts:

x-mas-lights-5
Guess who’s house this is!?

And Truly Dazzling Displays:

x-mas-light-4
The neighbors set the bar a little high this year, don’t you think?

 

And then there was the show-stopping efforts we traveled to Lansing to admire. I can’t even imagine where one shops to find a Jabba the Hutt inflatable Christmas display.

Have a Very Star Wars X-Mas!

 

snow-7
This was from our car…across the street. Yes, that is Darth Vader with a ten-foot candy cane light saber.

 

snow-4
We wish you a Jabba Christmas, We wish you a Jabba Christmas, We wish you a Jabba Christmas and a Jawa New Year!

 

I don’t know whether the way one strings lights says much (or anything at all) about one’s mental health—but my philosophy says the least amount of effort brings the greatest pleasure. That, and you really can’t enjoy your own outdoor decorations. So, it is better to live opposite the house that puts one up—which in my case, is what happened. I get to admire the beauty and they foot the bill! It’s a win-win, really.

No, to find philosophy, one has to go deep into the kitchen. Perhaps all philosophers start out staring at the world around them to find meaning. This is what I discovered while getting baked…er…I mean baking.

The Cookie Maker’s Manifesto

  • No matter how well you follow the recipe, you are going to forget how many cups of flour you have painstakingly scooped half-way through. It pays to buy enough measuring cups for a double recipe.
  • When you go to roll your dough, be prepared for breaks, cracks and just plain wrong efforts.
  • You will burn the first batch. Expect failure.
  • Cute, mini gingerbread houses are bound to be just as hard to construct as real ones.
  • The walls will not want to go up right the first time; you will put them on the wrong way each time; and, you will definitely break a wall pressing too hard.
cookie-5
Frosting makes an excellent spackle.  Remember this the next time you are caulking the tub.

 

  • Frosting plus cinnamon red hots make a handy-dandy, makeshift chimney to hold up a house and hide foundation-wide cracks.
cinnamon-hots-cookie
“Sure. It’s totally on purpose that a house with no fireplace has a chimney. Why do you ask?”

 

  •  With enough frosting—even badly rolled, overly-floured cookies are edible. And, even if they aren’t, with enough sugar candies, they are at least pretty.

cookie-1

If you can’t find the sweetness of life in your cookies – perhaps you can find it in sublimated aggression otherwise known as snowball fights.

Snowball Epiphanies

It always starts off innocent:

“Let’s build a snowman.”

snow-man-3
Winter Wonderland Wrapped in Puffy Snow Suit = Michelin Man in Black

 

Soon you are bundled to within an inch of your life wondering how the suit that fit last year is so snug? You waddle into the yard and start scooping snow.

 

You mean for this to be a nice, fun experience…but before long, the balls are flying! (Not pictured because, duh, flying snowballs.)

snow-ball
Teaching my son the value of pre-emptive strikes.

 

What have we learned from all this? I can’t really say. Perhaps in all the madness of the season hides the reason for the madness?

Shine the Light on Your Anxieties?

I’m not sure if I’ve found the meaning of life in all my wanderings this week. Is it like a colorfully lit, snowy landscape? It can look pretty on the sparkling surface, but the minute you scrape away the white layer the dirt-encrusted reality is unearthed? No…that’s not it.

Cookies as a Panacea?

Can philosophy be found in an oven? If you see a cutesy cookie cutter at World Market—put it down and back away slowly—it is bound to bring you hardship and grief! Nope…I don’t think that is quite right either.

cookie-cutter-hell
JUST SAY “NO!”

 

Snowball-ism!  Is violence really the answer?

No matter how well-intentioned, every snowman creation ends up being a frigid brawl dressed like an inflatable sumo wrestler! Ahh. That’s it. That’s my philosophy for the week: Don’t fling the frozen water if you can’t take the cold!***

Of course, when the fair weather returns, I’ll be shopping around for a new mantra. I suspect innate sand castle mortality and nagging mosquito bite b-itchiness are in the offing. Until then, avoid the chill and wait out the winter with a good book and hot cocoa. Everybody cool’s doing it.

snowman-final
Ice Ice Baby!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Right about now that philosophy would be “Don’t eat just one more! There is no end of ‘just one more’ when it comes to cookies.”

**These are the homes of people who fear giant electricity bills.

***It helps if you pick a seven-year-old as your opponent. Even if you can’t outrun him, you can always squish him in defense.

The World Wrote Me a Poem Today

The world wrote me a poem today.
It spelled it out in leaves.
I’ll try to tell you what it said,
But sometimes words fail me.

fall-flowers

All things change, child.

Someday will bring rebirth.

The newly-minted leaves of spring burst forth—

Escaping winter’s grip.

The ice that seems forever set, cracks,

Creating meltwaters in frozen spirits.

And growing things will make the dried ground a newly-turned earth again.

But today is a different celebration.

Today we bid farewell to a season that refuses to go out.

The November sun yet burns—

a fiery match against unprotected skin—

Warding off winter’s dark heart.

*

As I walk, I listen. With my heart, I hear.
The world speaks in technicolor and surround-sound splendor.
Maple, Bay, and Beech leaves waver from green to gold to bronze—
laughing, courting the heat curling up from warm grasses.
And though they are crunching nuisances to chase with a rake,
The scraping, dragging, bagging annoyances adults curse,
Also make a playground for children to romp through with rubber-soled glee.
the-informant
The tree at the corner whispers revelations—it is my informant.
Its leaves with their crinkle-cut, potato chip edges, blacken, yet stubbornly cling to gnarled branches.
It’s crooked trunk in naked winter, points out mistakes in a grey sky with crooked-fingered impatience.
Yes, a bleak season is coming.
But for now, a sinuous black cat laps at a pool in the inky tarmac.
It darts a reproachful look before—poof—it dashes into shadows and is gone.
A current whisks red-brown-yellow paintbrush splashes in vortexes along the sidewalk.
And squirrels have no time to pander for gawking admiration.
The world speaks through wind chimes…
And invisible gusts…
And silence.
 The pathway is now a variegated landscape
Where up is down
And only in snow globes
Can worlds come apart and reform
In such a whirlwind, patchwork topography.
I am dizzy. Overcome by verse parsed in semaphore signals
Through sunlit trees the Earth speaks.

*

“The fallow season is upon us and yet the roses cling, sharp-thorned objections to change.
Milkweeds tuck their mouse ears up and listen to fall’s farewell.
Podsopen mouthedspitting seeds.
Silken tufts will find their way to window boxes
Where dead chrysanthemums mourn with heavy heads.
The time for spring will come, child, the time to rise will come.
But, for now, it is time to sleep.”

*

The world wrote me a poem today.
It spelled it out in leaves.
I’ll try to tell you what it said,
But sometimes the world fails me.

 

Overwhelmed? It might be time to A.C.T.

 A Super Simplistic View of

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Crazy Christmas
This is how my brain feels on Christmas. Any Questions?

The holidays come around every year and every year I struggle to get through them despite depressive inclinations. The DSM V (Dismal Scrooge Manual) describes it as a tinsel-bedecked, window-flocked, overly-piped Chipmunk Christmas Album version of Seasonal Affective Disorder.* On occasion I have had to suppress the urge to strangle someone with tangled Christmas lights if they so much as Ho Ho Ho in my direction.

Based on the theory that which does not kill us makes us stronger, in the past, I have responded by leaping maniacally manically into the holiday spirit with an elaborate annual letter with photos and captions, holiday cards, and a cookie party inviting all my friends and their children to festoon my carpet with a thousand and one sprinkles.

But the stress of my life has had an accumulative toll and this year, I seriously wondered if I was going to live long enough to see my child grow up. So I got help. I’ve been seeing a therapist (because all the cool kids are doing it) and for months now I have been trying to embrace a very simple philosophy that gives me a headache when I try to employ it. Repeat after me people:

“I am not my thoughts or emotions.”

The therapy in question is called A.C.T. a lovely acronym which stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. During months of weekly visits with a very nice therapist through the V.A., I’ve managed to grasp the ideas behind the program. There’s even an APP for that on the VA website.  But it’s like chess, you can learn the rules pretty easily, it’s becoming a grand master that takes practice.

Describing A.C.T., as it turns out, is harder than I thought, but here goes:

OBSERVE

First, I learned that you step outside of whatever thought you are having (good, bad, indifferent, the emotional context doesn’t matter) instead you focus on recognizing that all thoughts are separate from who you are. You accept that you have thoughts of worthlessness, failure, depression, whatever, and then you say, “Okay. I see myself thinking X, Y, Z.” The goal isn’t to get rid of the thought or even dispute them.** After you accept that you have had a thought, you are to ask yourself “Is that thought helpful?”

BE MINDFUL

Second – be present in your life. Practicing mindfulness is what I like to call the “Woo Woo” portion of ACT. This involves active observation either of a task or meditative relaxation where you might hear a soft-spoken speaker tell you to listen to your breath while imagining leaves floating on water carrying any extraneous thought away from your observer state.*** After learning mindfulness came what I consider the more concrete portion of the therapy: Commitment.

BEING COMMITTED

Third – Values versus Goals. I was given a few different lessons in determining what really matters to me—defining the way I want to live my life. Once I decided what values matter most to me—health, being a good parent, writing—I wrote goals as steps that life. Goal: I will get to sleep by 11:00 p.m. (in progress), Goal: I will not swear at my child. (Damn.) Goal: I will value my writing and make time in my day to respect my creativity. (Ta dah!)

PRACTICE

Okay, but what happens when your week sucks bilge water? I’ll give you an example of one day I reported to my therapist:

Me: “…child has been sick …. I haven’t slept…today he flooded the kitchen AND the bathroom, he emptied the liquid dish soap into a garbage can—twice— and then, he turned on the stove past the click-click starter point, filling the house with gas, and he turned off the refrigerator…blather…blather…hysterical tears…

[My therapist always gives me time to have a mini-meltdown and she makes comforting noises before redirecting me to our opening woo-woo practice. Her voice is a soft monotone and very hypnotic as she reads from the page.]

Therapist: “Okay let’s do a mindful relaxation session. Get comfortable. Focus on your breath, but you do not need to change your breath. Breathe as you normally would. You are comfortable. You sense your hands, your feet, and your head is centered on your body….”

This goes on for a bit and then I heard the following sentence:

Therapist: “…you do not need to fix yourself.”

Me: “Bwa ha ha ha ha hah!”

I laughed so hard I was crying. I laughed so hard, I almost peed myself. I laughed so hard, the therapist started laughing. She broke out of ‘robo-voice’ to say, “Well…there isn’t anything wrong with you that needs fixing.”

It took an effort, but I finally stopped snorting and threatening to burst into manic laughter every time I thought of that sentence.  Somehow we got through the exercise. Afterward, I told her it was the best session I had and it was worth it just to be able to laugh like that.

A.C.T. doesn’t pretend to be a solution to any problems you have in your life. I like that about the program. My goal isn’t to try and ‘fix’ my thoughts, or make them go away, or pretend they aren’t there. A.C.T. is teaching me that, yeah, I may be depressed, I may have negative thoughts or feelings of worthlessness, but, I’m not going to let that stop me from trying to have a better life. It’s teaching me that I can choose to act in my best interest in spite of my mental illness.

One of my favorite lines from a movie, comes from A Beautiful Mind. In this movie, Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a mathematics genius who is nominated for the Nobel Prize for his theories in economics in spite of the fact that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic. In the scene I’m remembering, Nash is meeting a member of the Nobel Committee who is there to see whether awarding Nash the prize will lead to embarrassment.

Nash say that he might embarrass the Nobel Committee, and when asked, admits that he still sees the hallucinations that mark his schizophrenia.

Nash says, “I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them.”

He further explains: “I’ve gotten used to ignoring them and I think, as a result, they’ve kind of given up on me. I think that’s what it’s like with all our dreams and our nightmares, Martin, we’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”

From now on, I am going to try and feed my dreams instead of my nightmares; take the actions that will help me to live my values; and acknowledge that some days will be easier than others. I pledge to be as kind to myself as I would be to a friend who felt this bad. And I will remember “I do not need to fix myself.” In truth, I already possess a beautiful mind.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Not to make light of people who actually have S.A.D. No Joke.

**Although A.C.T. has some nifty terms for handling destructive ideas–like ‘cognitive defusion’–that makes it sound like your brain is a bomb about to go off.

***For some reason, I always imagine floating elephants down a river on a leaf. I have no idea why.

_____________________________________________

Anyone truly wanting information on the subject can check out the following links:

Social Work Today

List of Resources from Contextual Science