My life while writing – what life?

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Brown Pelicans fishing -Wordpress

I admit that it seems that since I started writing a couple of months ago, I’ve done nothing else. I’ve taken courses at Blogging U and joined a twenty-six-day writing challenge, all with the sole purpose to get me to write every day. Between writing, editing and reading other blogs, this has become my life. I do get out to socialize a bit or to club meetings, and of course to spend time with family but I have been extremely pre-occupied; afraid to fall off the writing wagon again.

Over the past few days, I have been giving thought to structuring my days differently to make room for things I enjoy. I know daily posting is not something I can sustain indefinitely. I have great sensory awareness; I write best when I am directly affected by life around me. I need to get out to experience different things first hand. I need the smells, the visuals, the sounds to transport me to another time and place when I write. I like to feel a connection to a story.

I know I need to get back to the walks on the beach in the early morning where I can stop to watch the pelicans fishing. Getting back to yoga and the gym would be nice for health reasons. I also want to laugh with friends at karaoke or a comedy club or a movie. I’d like to people watch at outdoor festivals while listening to a cover band. I like to dance like no one is watching, think Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. I am aware that I need to live to write about life. A personal challenge for me in a new city is to get out there, “just do it.”

P. S.- Please remember that I need I ideas from my readers for my Day Fifteen assignment. Please let me know what you think I should write about. What type of post would you like to see me write; poem, an essay? Is there a particular topic you would like me to address? Please share your ideas in the comment section of this post, or you can go to my Contact Me page. https://rosalind.life/contact-me/

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your help.

Day Nine: Writing and Not Writing     #everydayinspiration

The letter I never wrote

My Dearest Bobby, 

It’s been almost half a century since we last saw each other or since we shared about our lives and yet I looked for you a few years back when I found myself in a new city without friends. Where have all my young friends gone, long time passing? 

How I had missed you!  You drove west on a cross-country adventure right after college, looking for John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High.  I went looking for myself on the little Caribbean Island where my family roots were waiting. 

The last time you wrote to me, you told me that you finally understood when I wrote to you about my special love for Edward.  You wrote that you had found someone extraordinary as well and felt like you were on cloud nine. “I’m walking on air! This is the one,” you wrote.  I was so happy for you.  You deserved to be loved to the max.   I never heard from you again; not even when I wrote to tell you of Edward’s unexpected passing.  I always wondered about that and thought it strange.  Did you get my letter?  It was before Facebook and emails when letters often were lost and neither party knew it.  I believe in my heart that if you would have gotten it, you would have reached out.  You were always there for me.

Speaking of Facebook, let me tell you that there must be a gazillion Robert J. Smiths on Facebook! You had told me once. that Robert James Smith was a common family name from one of the islands in the Canadian Maritime provinces where your parents were born. I expected many Smiths but I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting so many with that name combination in our age group. I tried many variations to filter my search and convince the algorithms to give you up. 

Finally there it was; a Robert J Smith from New York currently living in the Rocky Mountains!  The profile picture was a portrait of a past president known as a great social reformer. I knew I had to be on to something, but the profile said this Robert J was a computer guy at some Rocky Mountain University, not a famous photojournalist traveling the world in search of a great story. 

Although this Robert J was not the photojournalist you had dreamed of becoming, there were random sarcastic posts and funny tongue-in-cheek comments in reference to some joke among your friends.  I remember that you were always amusing with a sharp wit. I kept scrolling on that page.  The information available on the public profile gave me an indication that I may have found the right person. 

It seems this Robert J was an activist like my Bobby who inspired and motivated us to march and protest many things while we were in high school.  I remember the cold, wet days we spent holding signs in front of the local state-run mental hospital to oppose the abuse and demand better community options for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.  We recycled and protested about pollution. All the while you documented it with exceptional photos for the school paper.

It seemed like this Robert J was also a patron of the arts and I remembered how we spent that one summer exploring all the little museums in the city because we had already exhausted the larger ones.  The haunting photos you took at the Cloisters were amazing.  It was exciting watching them develop in the makeshift darkroom in your parents’ apartment. 

We enjoyed that summer even if it was just the two of us. All our friends were busy with their own projects or were just not interested in the same things.  Bernice approached me once about her insecurities because we were spending so much time together.  I remembered assuring her that you loved her and the only reason you kept inviting me was that you being ever the supportive friend, didn’t want me to be alone as I dealt with my recent breakup with Harry.  

Suddenly as I scrolled through the photos on that Facebook page, I saw your smiling face; still looking like a cherub with curly gray hair.  Even in the black and white photo, your eyes had a sparkle as you sipped from a champagne flute in the back seat of a limo with your wife.  She looked nice. I was glad to see you so happy; I didn’t bother with the friend request.

About a year later I tried again.  This time there was just one status update post.  You were glad it would be your last radiation treatment. You explained that you had just started chemotherapy on Brain Cancer Awareness Day.  So many memories, and some regrets, all came rushing at me.  I said a prayer but didn’t contact you.  I wish I had.   

Months later around your birthday, I checked a third time, but when nothing new had been posted, I looked for your wife.  Did I just become a stalker? I didn’t care; I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I saw the condolences on her page.  So many people were acknowledging what a wonderful friend you were and how you touched their lives.  They all loved you, as I did.  I saw what she said was her favorite picture of you posted for your birthday.  She wanted to reassure her friends that she was coping well and but admitted she missed you so much. I was glad to see she loved you so.

It was a professional portrait, and it was how I had imagined you aging with soft gray curls and a neatly trimmed beard.  Your mismatched eyes were apparent, one green, one hazel.  They were thoughtful eyes, caring eyes.  My sweet Bobby; you found someone who loved you the way I couldn’t.  I thank God for her. I wanted to reach out to her and add my condolences, but I didn’t. 

I still remember you on your birthday and say a prayer.  I’m sorry I didn’t love you the way you wanted; the way your parents would have wanted. I’m glad we were best friends though. I’ll always remember the special moments we shared, the decision we made that summer to protect Bernice. I question myself about that choice from time to time and naturally wonder what could have been,. 

Of one thing I am certain, I am grateful that I had you to walk beside me as we were growing up and transitioning into adulthood. 

Rest in peace my dear one. 

You are forever in my heart – love me.                                                                                                                                                           

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Day Eight: Reinvent the Letter Format   #everydayinspiration

Let Social Media Inspire You

“I can’t decide if procrastination kills creativity or is essential to it.”                                           Grant Snider@grantdraws  Twitter

Today is the test. Has procrastination murdered my creativity?  I’ve been putting off completing this assignment all day.   I don’t know why, but maybe the very essence of the word procrastination is enough to make me fall off the wagon.  I think I’m doing pretty well since I decided to make my blog a priority.   I knew keeping up with a consistent writing routine was going to be a test of dedication to my craft.   I’ve joined Writing Challenges and participated in courses at Blogging U just to make sure that something would stimulate me or hold me accountable to get to the computer to write.

writing muse
Photo by Fröken Fokus on Pexels.com

In the past, when a project was due, I was one that pondered, ruminated and at the final hour moved forward with all my might to catch up. I have found though that if I have a thought, an idea or an inspiration, I need to grab it and run with it at that moment.  If the sentiment passes, it goes up like a cloud of smoke, and it’s much harder to be creative because one can’t force the arts.  I can understand when someone cries that the muse is gone and with it the intention to be fresh and original.  

I’ve said before that I have learned that I am a binge writer as explained by Kara Daly from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog.  https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/staying-out-of-the-headlights-on-finding-my-own-writing-process/.   I need my imagination stirred; I need a catalyst to start churning ideas in my mind.  When I feel it moving, thoughts start flowing, and I write; it may be poems, essays, sometimes it’s a story without end, and I need to find a wrap-up.  Lately, I’ve been better about jotting the random thoughts that come about as well.  I may not use all of the material that flows, but then I have something in the pipeline for when the muses don’t stop by.

In short to respond to the tweet by Grant Snider@grantdraws; Procrastination kills creativity for me because if I wait until the last minute, I am stressed and worried about the time.  Procrastination may be alright in other areas but not when I want my creative juices flowing. 

Please remember that I need your help too with ideas of what you want to see me write about for the final lessons.  You can put suggestions in the comments section of this blog post or go to the Contact Me page on the menu section at the top of the page. Thanks.

Day Seven: Let Social Media Inspire You  #everydayinspiration

Writing Space

Most days I enjoy writing in the quiet of my room, up away from the street noise and TVs.  I have a small computer desk where I perch my laptop on its stand and pull out the keyboard from the tray.  I’ve got a table with a couple of notebooks and pens for jotting ideas or taking notes and always a glass of ice water.  I love a bright sunny day when I can write without lamps and open the window for fresh air.  

My ideal space would be a loft on the second floor of a Spanish colonial townhome on the edge of the Old San Juan historic district; with a view of San Juan Bay.  I would also be satisfied with a loft apartment in the same place but now over a Spanish style bakery with the aroma of fresh Mallorca and expresso spiraling up through the open doors on the balcony which overlooks the cobblestone streets.  Who am I kidding?  Neither one of these would be conducive to productivity.   I would spend hours daydreaming or people watching or maybe not indoors at all.   In that case, I will stay in my own little corner, twirling in my office chair, in front of my computer desk. 

Some of you may have noticed I am working in a group to continue to improve my writing.  Photo by 85Fifteen on UnsplashFor the past few days, at the end of each post, I have identified the task for the corresponding day.   Today’s assignment has a part two.  We have been asked to collect post ideas from our readers that we can refer to in the future.  What would you like to see me write about?  We are to gather ideas that will in some way be integrated with our Day 15 assignment.  I would certainly appreciate your help.   You can leave an idea in the comments section or go to my Contact Me page from the blog menu.  

Here is the link to Contact Me —-  It should be fun. 

I look forward to hearing from you.   Contact Me

Day Six – A Space to Write  #everydayinspiration

Home is Where the Heart Is

I was “home” this weekend visiting family.  It’s funny we are all far from our childhood home and our parents have long past on but spending time with my sisters always feels like home no matter where we are.  From the belly laughs to the tears it all feels just right.  I am reposting this story, which is one of my favorites, in honor of spending time with loved ones.  

Baby Girl woke up startled she didn’t recognize the loud voices in her home that morning. Strange things had been happening for days. Stuff was disappearing from all the rooms; like the picture frames on the mantel and the books her sisters liked to read to her at night. There now were big boxes all over the house. New ones appeared each time something else went missing. Nothing seemed to be where it should be, and the whole family was too busy to play with her.

Suddenly Baby Girl realized she was alone in the room and she was scared. She could feel the hair on the back of her neck stand stiff against her collar, but she had to go to the bathroom, and she was hungry, so she quietly ventured out into the hallway. Baby Girl peered out from behind the long wall. She did not see Lovey or Annie. Where had they gone without her so early in the morning? She called out to them as two big men crossed in front of her with the boxes. They smiled at her but went on their way carrying boxes out the open door. She glared at them. Where was Mama or Dad? Baby Girl called out again. No one answered.

Since the front door was open and the big men were not around, she decided to let herself out and go to the bathroom. She knew Mama and her sisters did not like her to go out by herself, but she was just going to the backyard. She had done it many times with the girls. She started creeping along the side of the house, the gate was closed, and she couldn’t open it. She continued slowly and carefully, close to the fence until she found a spot. Business was done but still no sign of her family. She couldn’t even hear them. She went back to the front of the house to check. Did those men have anything to do with her family’s disappearance? She sniffed the air – nothing. Should she worry?

Sometimes Mama and Dad went for a walk in the woods behind the house early in the morning before everyone else was up. Maybe Lovey and Annie went with them this morning. Baby Girl knew how to get to the woods. She would walk along the long white fence until the end and then walk into the woods no further than the Big Pointy Rock. Her sisters always promised their parents that they would go no further than the Big Pointy Rock so that Mama could still see them from the kitchen window. Baby Girl was getting hungrier; she wanted to find everyone so that she could get some breakfast. Off she went into the woods.

Lovey and Annie had gone with Mama up the street with a box of baby toys and books for the new neighbors. Dad went to take a few things to the dumpster. Lovey and Annie agreed to give those things to their babies because they were big girls now and would be getting Big Girl things in the new house. As they were walking back, Lovey and Annie noticed that the movers had left the front door wide open. They ran the rest of the way calling out to Baby Girl. The movers said they had just seen her near one of the bedrooms, but she was not in the house! She had not eaten her breakfast. The girls went outside and called again. They shouted her name all around the house and at the end of the fence.

In the woods, Baby Girl had followed a big green lizard past the Big Pointy Rock until it ran up a tall tree. She couldn’t reach it but as she was looking up, she spotted a big beautiful dragonfly and followed it as it danced in the air through the woods. She did not hear her family calling, but she did hear a splash from the gurgling of a brook nearby. Fish were jumping out of the water! She wanted to catch one of those, it smelled like food, and she remembered she was hungry.

Back at the house, the girls were upset, and Mama and Dad were worried. They had to leave soon, and they could not find Baby Girl anywhere. They put the last boxes in the car. As she hugged them goodbye, the neighbor next door, Mrs. Levy, promised to keep an eye out for Baby Girl and would call them right away. “I’m sure she’s just having an adventure. She’ll be back.” She reassured them.

In the woods, Baby Girl paced back and forth along the edge of the water, she wanted to catch the fish but hated getting her feet wet. She heard rustling in the bushes and looked up to see two baby deer. The deer are back Baby Girl thought with excitement. She forgot about the fish and ran after the deer. She ran and ran but couldn’t catch the deer. The baby ran straight to Mama and Dad Deer who stomped their feet at Baby Girl. She stopped in her tracks and realized she was standing in front of the Big Pointy Rock. She remembered she was hungry and headed toward the house. She hoped Mama and Dad and Lovey and Annie were back.

To her surprise Baby Girl found the gate to the yard open; and so was the screen door to the back porch. She discovered her bowls were on the back porch. How strange she thought, but things had already been odd for days. She was glad because she was sooo hungry. After she ate, she wanted to go inside and lay in her bed; she was tired. She called at the door for Mama or Dad or Lovey and Annie, but no one came.

Just as she was going to check to see if the front door was still open, she saw Mrs. Levy coming toward her. She liked Mrs. Levy; she smelled like food and always had a special treat for her. “Baby Girl, where have you been? You had us all worried! I heard you barking and called your family. Lucky for you they were not too far yet. They are on their way back to come for you. Let’s go to my house to clean you up before they get here.” Mrs. Levy picked her up and took her home. When she was clean, she lay on the rug by the door and waited for her family.

When they arrived, there were hugs and kisses everywhere. They were all glad to see each other. In the car, Lovey and Annie took turns holding her tight. They told her they were afraid she was lost and they didn’t want to go to their new home without her. Baby Girl didn’t understand all the fuss. She was home. She was where she wanted to be all along, snuggled in between Lovey and Annie as they all took a nap in the backseat of the car.                          

 #everydayinspiration 

Homeward bound

A List for Everyday Inspiration

Things I like 

  1. Watching pelicans fishing at the beach. They are not known for their grace, but they fly over the water with such skill and precisely the right spot they dive straight down and come up with a fish. 
  2. Sunrise – especially on a crisp morning by the beach or over the mountains.
  3. Laughing until my belly hurts
  4. Spending time with family
  5. Historical novels
  6. History – in order to understand today
  7. Learning about different cultures. The more I learn, the more I realize we are not so different.
  8. Acoustic guitar, Flamingo guitar
  9. Singer-songwriters because they usually tell a story
  10. Old radio shows like Allen and Burns or Abbott and Costello
  11. The Cello
  12. Celtic music
  13. Salsa, Bachata – Latin music
  14. Dogs and cats – even though I have allergies
  15. Making up dishes with whatever food is in the cabinets and the fridge
  16. Local raw honey
  17. Oatmeal power pancakes
  18. Going out with friends to listen to live music
  19. Making up stories of things that catch my eye or my ear.
  20. REAL ice cream
  21. Hawaiian style pizza
  22. Watching live shows – especially musicals.
  23. Sitcoms 
  24. Movies and TV shows that depict seniors as very much alive and active like “Grace and Frankie.”
  25. Walking – brisk walking for daily exercise. Strolling if I’m walking the dog or sightseeing and exploring.
  26. Yoga – I’ve been at beginner level Yoga for half a lifetime. It suits me just fine.
  27. Old Country Gospel songs
  28. Meeting new people
  29. The summer rain – not hurricane season, just the warm afternoon showers.
  30. Seeing animals in their natural habitat.
  31. Museums
  32. Spiritual faith practice and some of the traditional religious rituals and customs.
  33. Hanging out at someone’s house to create something together.
  34. Poetry – doesn’t need to rhyme – a rhythmic verse will do
  35. Looking at old family pictures and keepsakes
  36. Looking at a situation from all sides. Put my feet in someone else’s shoes
  37. Singing with my heart and soul – to get lost in the words and melody
  38. The full moon and a clear sky full of stars.
  39. Watching the first snow. Feels like one is in a snow globe. 
  40. Walking on crisp freshly fallen snow, without freezing wind
Make a list
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  Working to improve; I chose to write a list of things I like.  I set my timer for forty-five minutes of free thought writing.   Turns out this is still all about me.  #everydayinspiration

 

I write because…

I have stories to tell. I write because I want to make a difference in someone’s life. My head is full of ideas. Some are reality-based; they are the stories of people I’ve met who touched my life in some way. Some stories are what-ifs that swim around in my brain. I see something or someone that catches my eye and that sparks my curiosity. I wonder what’s beyond or why does it happen that way. Sometimes I see things and am overwhelmed with emotion, and I need to stop and sort it out.

I believe we all share a human experience and we learn from those who’ve gone before and even those who are coming up after us.  If we choose to learn, age teaches us but does not give us all the answers. Everyone who crosses our path affects our life in some way. They leave something behind – either a gift or a lesson.

I have worked with people in different aspects of my life in various roles, and I have learned a lot about the human experience. If something I write helps one person take another look at a problem in their life, I will have served a purpose.
#everydayinspiration

Another work group to improve my writing.  Please bear with me.

Everybody Plays the Fool

Infect

When I saw today’s prompt, Infect, two blog topics popped into my mind, nasty oozing boils or sunshine and lollipops. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go with my blog.  In recent days I read a great post by Leo the Nerdy Lion, encouraging new bloggers to find their passion, to find a voice and success will follow. He writes with humor, so I took it to heart.  Whether it’s to encourage writing, the arts or simply to be the best, we’ve probably all heard the saying “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” (Author Unknown from Quote investigator)

Infect – influence somebody’s feelings; to communicate an emotion such as enthusiasm or fear to somebody

I originally started writing this blog to vent and rant about politics and religion, but every time I start going down that path, it gets dark.  While politics and religion are things I’m passionate about, I don’t want to be stuck with the type of message.  Some days I may write about faith practices and social issues but generally,  I want to send out messages of faith, hope, love, and light in all shapes and sizes.  We all travel in that continuum of feelings from happiness to gloominess back and forth during our lives.  Where we stop or get stuck and which way we choose to go forward from there is so important.  

This morning I received a notification from an internet radio station with another subscription offer.  The gimmick was to put in the year of your graduation, and they will play all the top hits of that time.   Why not take a stroll down memory lane this morning?  “Everybody plays the Fool” was the first song and undoubtedly the one I could write about today.  I’d been blog surfing the last few nights, and among many creative, well-written blogs, I found a few broken hearts on the mend.  When I heard the song I chuckled, ain’t that the truth I thought.  Lots of us have been there.  Most of us manage to survive and move on in some manner. 

Today I want to infect you with hope, faith, love, and light.  Truly the most important is love.  Love yourself.  I’m not telling you anything new, you’ve heard it before.  I’m not talking about your looks or your style, your status – just you.  That presence inside that has love to give and wants love in return. Get to know that person.  Sometimes we walk around this earth, and we try to be everything to everyone.  We morph into what we think people want us to be and give what we think people want from us, but we don’t take time for ourselves to know ourselves, to love ourselves. 

When we make time to know ourselves, we can take a step back and look at our life objectively.  We are not afraid to ask the tough questions of ourselves or others.  We are not scared of the answers.  Whether in our personal lives or work, we all go into each relationship with certain expectations, certain assumptions.  We assume certain things are true for the others involved.  These assumptions can sabotage our relationships. Keep in mind that each person’s mind is coming from a different place.  Yes, you may have lots in common, but as I’ve said before our life experiences make us all unique in how we respond to specific situations.   You don’t know exactly what the other person is thinking or feeling.  Someone once told me “just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have to give.”   If there is nothing left in the box, it’s empty.  Don’t take it personally; there is nothing left to give.   

That being said, another wise friend told me: “enjoy each moment because you never know when the opportunity may come again.” Can you look back at your experience and find that there were enjoyable moments, maybe even moments that took your breath away?  Were there moments in which you gave love with all your heart and moments when you felt special and loved?  Keep that with you.  It is what it is, one particular moment in time and your life goes on.  The chances are that if you had that much love to give, your cup is still full and you have more to give.  There are different ways to share that gift.  Love has different shapes and sizes.  It may be another romantic relationship but don’t limit yourself to the possibilities. Look around; people are sharing love and addressing different needs all over the world.  Know yourself.

So why does everybody play the fool?  Why is it that fools fall in love?  Why do fools rush in? Some of it is hormones plain and simple.  The other reasons?  We believe in dreams and have faith in the future.

“To everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Why does it hurt?  For the same reasons, because we lost our faith in our dreams when what we expected did not come to fruition the way we thought.  Change the pattern, re-write the story.   

“Do not cry because they are past!  Smile, because they once were!” (L. Jacobowski- courtesy of Quote Investigator)

 

PS- In addition to my Christian base faith, some of the ideas I have adopted in my life are from Dr. Miguel Ruiz books Four Agreements, the Mastery of Love and The Fifth Agreement.  You may recognize some concepts in my writing from time to time.

Reflections of A to Z Challenge April 2018

Blog A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

A few days after I had started blogging again, a blogger I follow posted her theme reveal for the April 2018 A to Z Challenge. https://promptlings.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/a-to-z-challenge-2018-theme-reveal/.   As I read her post, I got excited because this Challenge sounded like a perfect way to develop the habit of writing every day. My life is less hectic now, and I felt there was really no excuse but to be consistent with my writing.  I knew the exercise would help me to be more disciplined.  I also enjoy and actually fare better, when I am working with a team or in a community. I thought this was perfect!

Without much thought to the process, I clicked the link and signed up.  I did not post on all twenty-six letters, but I was glad that I was able to get as much done as I did.  The A to Z Challenge April 2018 did serve its purpose for my personal goals.  I have made blogging part of my daily routine.  I didn’t get much feedback, but I did enjoy exploring other blogs.  Because of my limited experience with blogging, I learned a lot from the different styles of writing, and of course, I enjoyed the creativity.  It also encouraged me to take more pictures when I am out and about. 

There were some issues that made the A to Z Challenge more demanding than it needed to be.   The first was I was sick the first week of the challenge and the next week I was trying to catch up until I convinced myself that was not necessary.  I breathed a sigh of relief and moved on.  Second, my theme was broad and not clear – even to me.  I chalk it up to the fact that I really had no clue what I was doing when I signed up, and I had no overall plan.   Sometimes I felt like I was on Sesame Street trying to find a prompt from random words for the “letter of the day.”   Somedays it was amusing to me as I sang … “the letter of the day is here…” in my head of course.   I was able to come up with a post whether from my unfinished work or an idea that popped into my head while humming that tune all morning.

The only negative thing I can say is that for some reason I did not feel connected to the group.  Perhaps I misread the instructions, and as I indicated I earlier, I didn’t understand the process.  I tried to get back to the original page where I had signed up to review the instructions, but I could not find it.  I did not understand it was a page outside of WordPress.com.  I did not get the daily badges with a different letter each day.  I still don’t understand much about the spreadsheet or how to post to a community page.  I’m hoping this will get there. 

Overall, there is no question that I would do it again.   Thanks so much to the hosts for organizing it; looks like there was a lot more behind the scenes work than I realized. I’m hoping I can get things straight for next year.   Looking forward to 2019.   Lindi Roze

 

Mental Health stories of courage and resilience Part 4

Y is for the true You inside

This post is the last of the Mental Health stories that I will share in honor Mental Health Awareness Month.  As I’ve written earlier, these are memories I carry with me from past experiences. I hope that in reading these snapshots, you can get a glimpse of the struggles for a  person who lives with chronic and persistent symptoms of mental illness and from that glimpse, gain understanding and empathy.  This mini-series resulted from the letter “Y” in April 2018 A to Z writing Challenge. If you’d like, you can go back to Part 1 and start at the beginning.  

I met Margaret as I did many of my clients, in a state-run psychiatric hospital to be a part of discharge planning.  As I had mentioned in my last post, Margaret was on the younger end of middle age. She had been married once and had a child, a boy named Shaun. The boy’s father had full custody.  Margaret had not seen her son, now a teenager, for many years.mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpeg

Margaret carried a dual diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with manic episodes along with Alcohol Abuse and Dependency.  Hospital records indicated that there was a family history of substance abuse by both parents and siblings. Margaret had lost contact with her family. She had lived “on the streets” or in psychiatric facilities for most of her adult life.

One of the first things that Margaret wanted me to know was that she “was not like the other homeless drunks.”  She wanted me to know she had lived in a big white house overlooking the Bay in a small posh town known as a summer retreat for famous people.  As she stuck out her arm in front of herself, she fanned her hand and wiggled spread fingers to make a point,  “and, I had di-ah-mends…”   

Whenever she was having a hard time, she would repeat the story to me with the same gestures and intonations.  She wanted me to remember. It was her dream to get back to that point in her life.  It was my goal to help her get as close as possible.  She was discharged to a women’s transitional residential program with seven other women and plenty of support.  The structure proved too much for Margaret.  There were curfews, chores and according to Margaret “the staff was pushy and some of the other girls were too young or too sick.” 

We started looking for safe alternative housing.  It was the 1990s. Margaret’s only income was Supplemental Security Income and the minimum allowance of food stamps. Today she would probably get a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs for that amount.  Without a housing subsidy, it was impossible for Margaret to afford even a room in one of the many rundown boarding room houses in the city.  We applied for a rental assistance allowance through a special grant designed for downsizing the state hospitals.  While we waited, Margaret’s boyfriend, Jean found a small attic apartment in an old triple decker. 

Jean was supportive of Margaret’s treatment and personal goals. We were able to adjust the subsidy request to use at that apartment.  With a place of her own, the primary thing on her mind was to see her son Shaun again. Margaret was able to open communication with Shaun and his father.  Now she could tell his dad that she had a safe place for him to visit.  Jean was able to borrow a car to meet her son for lunch near his home. It was the first time they had seen each other since he was a small boy.   She was so excited.  She bought a stylish blouse and slacks at the Salvation Army.  For Shaun, she purchased a gift from a local department store, precursors to Target or Walmart.   They tell me she looked fabulous.  It was very stressful, but she managed to get through it without hospitalization or too much disruption in her life.

It was a year later when Shaun got his driver’s license and a car, that he was able to visit Margaret.   From the moment she got the apartment, everything she did was with Shaun in mind.  Now, her little boy was coming for Christmas!  

Margaret and I would shop for her groceries and personal items at the beginning of each month when her Representative Payee would give her spending allowance according to her budget.  Margaret had planned and budgeted for Shaun’s Christmas visit for months.  She wanted to make sure she had enough for a Christmas tree.  She was extra careful shopping because she also wanted some ingredients for a special dinner.  After we secured her monthly staples, we were done, but with very little left for a Christmas tree. 

Margaret wanted a real tree for Shaun.  She didn’t want a dusty beat-up artificial one from a thrift store.  We searched high and low on that cold New England winter day.  Finally, in the back of a tree lot, Margaret spotted the perfect one.   It was short and lopsided, but not too scraggly and at least one hundred times better than Charlie Brown’s.  To Margaret, it looked like the one at Rockefeller Center. She negotiated and got it for eight dollars.  She cried silent tears as we drove home.

At my next visit, I saw the lopsided little evergreen sitting in the corner glowing brightly pexels-photo-264988.jpegfrom the lights and ornaments that Margaret had collected from around town – donation boxes, thrift stores, and friends.  The little Christmas tree did look like it belonged in a big white house by the Bay with strings of “di-ah-mends” to light it up.  Margaret had poured years of bottled up love for her son into decorating the tiny apartment for that visit. It was Margaret’s first Christmas in a long time as well, and sometimes she would become flooded with so many emotions. It was good to hear they had a lovely time.    

Margaret was a loving mother who also happened to struggle with distressing symptoms of a major mental illness.  I tip my hat to her this Mother’s Day wherever she may be.   

Each one of us has our own evolution of life, and each one of us goes through different tests which are unique and challenging. But certain things are common. And we do learn things from each other’s experience. On a spiritual journey, we all have the same destination. A. R. Rahman  (from BrainQuotes.com)

Please check out the links below for additional information for family supports as well.  Many times family and friends want to help but don’t know how. There is also information about Peer support groups and peer mentoring programs.  No one has to do this alone.

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at  https://www.samhsa.gov/

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI