What are you even reading?

I had a diaryland blog years and years ago.  It was fun.   I had a few friends who I knew just through diaryland and a few I knew in real life.  I started the blog when I found out my grandma had cancer, and ended it when she died.  Although I didn’t plan it that way, I’ve never thought of it as a coincidence.  I needed it.   I had one friend who wrote in her blog that I said exactly what she needed to hear, when she needed to hear it.  This is especially interesting because she was an avowed atheist and I wrote a lot about God.  I guess the other stuff was compelling enough she felt some kind of connection with me, and I with her.

I’m a sucker for complements.  I wish I wasn’t, but I am.  In college I took a class led by a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, Ishmael Reed.  We had to apply for the class.  I thought we’d have the creme de la creme of poets, after all it was an excellent University with a large population of writers and poets.  I was excited to be a part of this workshop and couldn’t believe I even got in.

Well.  Most of the poems were horrible.  I hate to say it, but it’s true.  They were either predictable, trite, or just bad poetry.  There were two very good writers, M and G.  M wrote gorgeous, original work and G knew more about words than anyone I have ever met.  Everyone else’s work was a disaster.  However, since we had about a dozen students dedicating themselves to train wreck, there was always support and encouragement.  The teacher began each discussion with, “That’s a good poem.”  Even if it wasn’t, and it almost always wasn’t.

Here is the embarrassing thing.  I’d sit in my chair making fun of their work in my mind.  (I was a less gracious woman then.)  Then it would be time for my poem.  I paid attention and lapped their compliments and comments like a shih tzu hound.  I wrote them all down and read them later.  Sometimes Ishmael would write his own comments and I, fourteen years later, still have those papers.  I just knew that, even though every other comment directed to the majority of the writers in the room was stupid and wrong, the ones about my poems were genuine and helpful.  It was a very strange time in my life.

After the class was over a handful of us went to see a play Ishmael had written.  There was a question and answer session afterwards and we stayed.  Afterwards Ishmael said to me, in front of most everyone, “You’re a good writer, one of the best.”

If he thought I was “one of the best,” there had to be something there.  He addressed his statement to me, not any of my classmates.   I was the good writer.  He saw something in me that was special.  I told my bff at the time and he said, “But you already knew that.”  I didn’t.  I wasn’t insecure, I knew my writing was good, at least good compared to the hapless students in the class, but I didn’t really know what anyone else thought of it.

His compliment was clearly important, and would be to any young poet.  It makes sense to roll it around in my head to cheer myself on, but it’s not always those kinds of things that perk me up and give me the strength to write.  I loved Ishmael and loved hearing things from him, but I’ve needed more, little tidbits more, to pull me along for the last fourteen years.  I would like to say that it was all I needed to propel me in to better work, but rather it hugged me and made me feel cozy.  I got some sort of security knowing that my work really was good, and I was on my way towards important.

The bipolar dude wrote in his blog, “So, I was reading this incredibly well written post on a blog (thanks Malakoa!!) about not using real names while blogging about these kinds of topics.”  This has kept me going for the last month. If anyone calls to ask how I’m doing, I’ll tell them about what he wrote.  I think it’s exciting to be recognized by my peers.  Sometimes people care, others don’t, but I care.  I want people to read what I have written and think about it.  I want them to be both enlightened and healed by what I have to say.  Maybe they can avoid some of the wounds I’ve incurred.

Maybe not.  I’ve noticed folks with bipolar are stubborn.  We want to do what we want to do.  We’ll decide we’re going to go on medication, what medication we will take and not, and add other things such as vitamins or supplements as we feel is appropriate.  We’ll wear what we want.  (Remembering a 5’3’, 215 pound woman in a pair of knee-high, spike heeled pleather boots, black mini-skirt, a Raiders sweatshirt and her hair slicked down all over. She thought she looked fabulous, and ladies, if you have manic episodes and you

think you haven’t dressed in an outfit just as charming sexy as that, you are probably

kidding yourself. We eat what we want, and sometimes that means macrobiotic and

sometimes it means only M&Ms for a week. We can’t be told what to do, because then

we won’t do it. Sometimes a book about bipolar will change our minds about what is

“right” and we change our behavior. Sometimes it’s some sort of worship or reading

of holy texts (A lot of times this scares health care providers,

so I keep it on the down low.) Sometimes we’ll start yoga, but we absolutely

must be the ones to decide for ourselves. Perhaps we can make the changes other

people want to see in us but we’re unable to invest. While we’re low, everybody is

out of luck, you’re back to doing exactly what has been your decision all along.

Friends and family may feel betrayed, but we’re usually doing the best we can do

to take care of ourselves. Despite other‘s input, or past experience, we feel that

we know what works for us, and that does not include other’s values.

So while the statistics show I will probably not change anyone’s life or ideas, 
I hope that I can.  
More than that I think it’s possible to feel a relief when sharing with other 
chronically ill people, it might help with understanding what the mentally ill 
people in their lives go through most everyday.  It’s not always we can hear it
 when someone says I love you, or when some one calls your work “exceptional”.  
When I can hear it, I tuck it in a safe that I store in a safe place where 
there is always room for more.
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One response to “What are you even reading?

  • T

    Your writing helps me a lot. You have helped me immensely. I like what you say and what that makes me say back.

    You are a very good writer. And a fantastic mother. Your birthing experience memory will be less torturous as you watch Small grow. Birth is just the beginning of the journey. As the interaction moves from physical to emotional and spiritual care your relationship will reflect your love AND the “series of unfortunate events” that are bound to interrupt your journey. Less dwelling, more moving forward.

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