Monthly Archives: March 2015

Emerging

  

oh wordpress, how I’ve neglected you

bits of ideas written on scraps

Like song lyrics lost to the wind

I can’t write more than a sentence or two

Because I’m always asking myself

What do you want to say?

There’s a sun out there today

Holding back the snow and darkness

Is it spring, finally?

The equinox has passed

And I’m here with my bad poetry

Standing amidst a pile of rubble

Made of words and thoughts and hopelessness

Like we thought the winter may never end

A new age Narnia, where we had no wardrobe

Only the ache of time passing.

I’m going to sit outside near the ocean

With my Moleskine and iced tea 

Sit back and look up through heart shaped tinted glasses

At the never ending blue

And imagine words

Words that I’ll compile 

Chew up and swallow

Ideas that I’ll sit on

Take naps with under a tree

Before making something

Creating something

Stringing together words to make more than just one depressed winter-like scene. 

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66

5:18 p.m., on the 66 bus headed East
and everyone is cramped, close, avoiding
contact, craving space. There is a woman.

She is large, her voice, the way she flaps
her hands when she talks as if her palms
are wild birds sure of flight, her body

huge, wedged over two seats and swathed
in bundles of black fur. The woman talks
as if we are all listening, and we can’t help it,

we are, we’re listening to her talk about salad,
how she eats it every day, could eat it for
breakfast lunch and dinner and the more

polite of us doubt, the more audacious
of us snigger openly, for how could this mountain
of a woman eat salad every day, as she says,

eat it every day and not crumble to dust,
not lose her great weight and become
mountain’s shadow, half the woman she is now,

a fleshy resemblance to the greens she so
loves; wilted celery leaf, limp romaine.
I stare down at my own hands

folded like sleeping doves in my lap.
I am envious of the woman, envious of
her weighted body in all its surety;

her body, the lasting memory of first kiss,
first embrace, first grief, the limitless expanse
of all three, the source of joy and sex and sorrow.

Her body, a fierce politic. One day, maybe soon,
she will take a step and shake all of us, wake us
from our lurid dreams of Lululemon and scales

and grapefruit and salad. We will be like newborns,
mouths twisted open in fear or in awe, crying for her,
crying for a woman, a woman’s body without boundaries.

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Mid-March Theme: Rebirth

  

So I’m a few days late with this post. At first I was looking for the perfect image, then when I couldn’t decide I thought I’d wait until today. In the mean time I forgot. I’ve been dealing with a lot of overwhelm, to be vague about it. And I’ve not been taking the time to be creative – or try to be creative, because quite frankly my mind refuses to think. 

It’s a struggle to write when you can’t think, anything on paper sounds dry and emotionless. Conversations are hard. And all that.
But I’m not here to talk about my mental health.
I’m here to introduce you to this month’s new theme. It’s relevant, especially to today. It’s the first day of spring. (Though the weather in Massachusetts hasn’t gotten the message). And in in desperate need of it. REBIRTH.
Tell me about the times you turned into someone new, you set fire to your life and grew from the ashes, you became a lotus in your own life. Tell me the tales of others, the mishaps of strangers. Show me the life that’s becoming where you live, as you can see its gray, brown and covered in dirty snow here. So tell me. Tell me about rebirth.

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Leaps and Bounds

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Peter Pan Syndrome. I haz it. Most kids can’t wait to grow up–behold! unlimited cookie dough and choose-your-own-bedtime. Not me, though. I cried when I outgrew my favorite pair of shoes (red with rainbow-colored fruits on them) and battled puberty every step of the way. It didn’t help that everything came early for me. I needed a bra at eight (but managed to convince my mom to let me go without one for three more years) and got my period at eleven (while my best friend, that lucky bitch, didn’t get hers until, like, sixteen). By the time I was eighteen, I decided I’d try to grow up all at once, which ended disastrously–but that’s another story for another post, one I still haven’t figured out how to write. After that, I kept on as I always did, stripey socks and handbags made from stuffed animal carcasses. I smile when people tell me I don’t look my age, and I have one-hundred percent decided that I don’t want children because that’s a straight shot to grownupsville.
But…somehow it happened anyway. On approximately February 22, 2015, at the age of thirty, I became an adult. It occurred in the most random of places, really: a checkout line. My husband had recently changed jobs and switched to the graveyard shift. He decided he needed a particular appliance, one that neither of us wanted, to help him stay awake at night. So, we were standing in line together with this unholy thing in our shopping cart. I was staring down at it thinking, ‘well, damn it, I’m officially a grown up now’ when the husband turned to me and said the exact same thing out loud.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a coffeemaker stole my childhood.

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High Anxiety: I’ve Got Mail

Right now, there is an email sitting in my inbox. Seeing it there makes my. It’s not from a lover (or a hater), not from my mother, or someone I’m specifically trying to avoid because I said something that made her mad, or he said something that made me hate him a little bit. The email is from my thesis supervisor. It will be a small email, quite short I think, because she is busy and has other students to tend to. I haven’t opened it yet. But I can read the beginning … “my main suggestion would be”

My body takes up the tension like a sponge. Would be what? To just scrap the whole thing and start again? To just be better? To just give up? I am too proud for this, and my pride makes me anxious.

Deep breaths.

It’s just an email. It’s just words. Just pixels on a screen. Word are my friends, and so are pixels. No, words and I are more than friends. We go way back, back to when my father gave me my first note book and pen and told me I could write whatever I wanted in it. That was the root of it, the feeling I had when he gave me that book, when he gave me that freedom to create. It is the root of why I am still writing, of why I am am doing this stupid thesis in the first place.

But I am the worst with emails. I have deleted emails from people who have hurt me, and are trying to apologize. I’ve deleted emails from people who I’ve hurt, and cannot bear to read how and why. It is a sick coiling in my gut, to read those first few words, and only those, to scroll through the possibilities of what they could mean, and settle on the worst one. It is cowardly to obliterate their carefully thought out lines, and the time they have spent crafting them. Now they are just floating through space, unread, like unseen stars, and even the thought of that makes the bile bubble up.

Maybe I’ll walk to the Blackheart and Sparrow, buy myself one of those nice imported beers, the ones they keep up the back, and cost the same as a whole bottle of wine. Maybe I’ll take it home, maybe I’ll sit at my desk, maybe I’ll take a long sip before I open that email.

Maybe it won’t be as bad as I think. Maybe this is just a chamomile tea situation.

Maybe.

Deep breaths.

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An anxious life // Melanie Kristy

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(credit)

I’ve suffered from anxiety since I was a kid, but I didn’t know what it was for a long time. In fact, it wasn’t until 5-6 years ago that I actually, personally, placed a name on all of my feelings. I self-diagnosed myself, sought out a few therapists and ultimately, I’m still here. Still occasionally suffering.

In grade school I was one of the last kids to be picked up on the way to school. This resulted in an entirely full bus of students sitting two to a seat, avoiding eye contact and hoping I (or any other student who got on after me) didn’t choose them to make their seat too stuffed with three elementary school kids. The seats weren’t build for three people, and often the third person on the end would have to sit sideways with their hand across the isle holding onto the seat on the other side of the bus so they didn’t slide right out. For at least a year I couldn’t eat breakfast in the morning because of the anxiety over getting on the bus.

In middle school and high school I couldn’t eat before concerts, or anything else that was in any way stressful or exciting. I still can’t eat if I’m traveling – at least not until I’m through security, know I have a very large chunk of time before my train comes, I’m on the road, etc.

I had insomnia for all of high school. I would go to bed at 10pm in order to wake up at 6am, and I wouldn’t fall asleep until 2am or later. My parents blamed this on my staying up late on the weekends, they blamed my sleeping in and always being tired on staying up late. Usually I wasn’t, not on purpose (but especially not on school nights). Later I would find out I have sleep apnea. That can cause insomnia. I’m not sure I had sleep apnea in high school, but it’s possible that’s why I could never fall asleep. It’s a breathing thing, you know. But so is anxiety. A breathing thing. A mind thing. And every thing.

Through the years anxiety has changed and affected me. Sometimes it was about dating, sometimes about jobs or friends. It’s always about food, health and money. Other things slip in there, I avoid the need for confrontation because my mind just stops working, and being confrontational doesn’t work when I cannot think of anything.

There are a few different ways that anxiety takes hold inside me. It’s either with heart-thudding, queasy-stomach I-have-no-appetite anxiety or the more common anxiety that I felt in my chest and in my throat. It convinced me to just keep on eating. Finish that pint of Cherry Garcia. Find a new bag of chips. Order an entire pizza and devour the whole thing. Then, what’s for dessert? Then when food wasn’t enough, when I started to have digestive issues from stuffing myself for so long, the spending issues got worse. It’s always been a flip between the two. Credit card. Full stomach. Both things I’ve never been able to budget, in spite of me logically knowing how.

I’ve spent nights frozen in my own thoughts, mad at myself for not being able to just act. It’s a circle that doesn’t end. And then it might pause for a little while before sneaking up on me. And suddenly I’m back to the sick feelings, frozen mind and just plain old tiredness. I’d like to say I’ve found some miracle something or other. I’ve tried herbal medications, prescription pills, not eating gluten (digestive issues, remember?), therapy amongst other things. Sure, there are times I may allow myself to take a bath and forget about the world for a bit. And if I allow myself to NOT do the things I need to do, for a while the feelings dissipate. But it doesn’t last. It never lasts. It comes back in full force when I look at my credit card statement, check my weight, or get back blood tests that remind me that, once again, my a1c levels are too high. Stress and anxiety makes your blood sugar higher, did you know that? It’s a never ending battle.  And when I have the free time, I can’t seem to force myself to do the things I know I need to do, or that I know will benefit me. Yoga. Writing. Bubble baths. Forgetting. Remembering. Something. Something. I’m not quite sure what.

xo

Melanie

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Star Wolf

Star Wolf & Cosmic Crow by Jilly DreadfulI am a wolf made of swirling galaxies and I am in search of a pack. The constant search for wolves made of similar stuff has been wearisome on my wolf bones. The pads of my wolf feet are dry and cracked from miles of searching in the snow—snow that goes on for infinity in all three dimensions of cubic volume. So it comes as no surprise that the trails I once found have long since grown cold. It comes as no surprise that I have lost the scent of creatures made of the same star stuff as me.

But then there is a crow. He is white as the snow I trudge through, and I can tell he relishes the surprise he causes me by undermining my expectations of what a crow should look like. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a crow to be made of the same density of blackness as myself. The crow enjoys the way he stands out in the murder of other crows—at once, accepted as part of the collective, but, also singular in his peculiar color.

My heart is made of dark matter, and it’s comes with its own gravitational pull, and although the crow is curious about my orbit, he is wary as well. And he should be. I am made of the crushing force of a thousand collapsed suns. What creature could possibly withstand the catastrophic force of a star running out of fuel and condensing into a black hole shaped like a wolf?

It is better to not be curious about such creatures. It is best to make my bed in the snow and sleep and sink into an event horizon of my own making.

But the crow’s curiosity follows me, outweighing his natural impulse of wariness. He makes wide circles at first, creating his own apogean path, giving me time to decide whether I trust the crow to come any closer, giving him time to decide whether he trusts my jaws to be still.

I stay still. I don’t snap my teeth, I don’t even howl, even though the moon is bright and full, and I can feel her yanking on the tides of the planets that swirl inside me. The moon makes me want to run; not in fear, but to run for the joyful crunch of paws on snow, and my particular ability to melt into the night.

When the crow swoops toward me, he conjuncts my heart and flies right through. He isn’t bound by my gravity. He isn’t bound by the orbital path I would’ve expected my dark matter heart to force upon other creatures who dared to venture too close. The diving conjunction gives the crow his own momentum, and he flies the highest I have ever seen a crow fly. So high that the moon is able to lean down and give the crow a kiss, and moonbeams bounce off his back.

Seeing him fly in such a way gives me hope that I, too, can survive as a star wolf, with swirling galaxies, but without a pack to call my own.

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Definitions

Mary Oliver

 

 

“Poets are among the most fearless of writers when it comes to self-revelation.” – Richard M. Berlin

 

 

There is a wonderful book about the intersection between mental health and poetry that I strongly urge every poet to read. It’s called Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment, and the Creative Process. The book’s premise is that, contrary to popular belief, madness does not inspire creativity in poets. The book is comprised of a series of essays from published and well-read poets that have struggled with mental health and their very personal take on how mental health, and consequent healing through medicaton and other therapies, has affected their writing.

What’s even more unique about this collection of essays is that it features each contributing writer’s poetry before, during, and after treatment for mental illness. More often than not, the writing of the poet had improved. They were able to tackle subject matters in their poetry that they’d previously been afraid to explore. Because of their increased attention span, they were able to stay with a poem longer, pulling it through the rigorous edits necessary for publication. And, of course, they found the motivation and courage to publish.

It’s been a couple months since I read that book, but like any book worth reading, I find myself thinking about it, going back to it and re-reading parts, highlighting new quotes. It’s the first book I’ve read that doesn’t romanticize the connection between poetry and mental health, the relationship between the poet and her writing. I started to consider both my work and my illness–previously two separate entities–in the context of these essays. How had my anxiety affected my writing? And the more important question: how had my recovery improved my writing, if at all?

Below is my own essay, written as if it could be published alongside those authors in Poets on Prozac. While sharing my story isn’t exactly something I delight in, I do feel that it needs to be done so that we can begin to lay the groundwork for a safe place to talk about mental health. As always, sending my love.

DEFINITION

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Creature of Comfort: The Comfort Box and Managing Anxiety by [sic]

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A selection of items from my comfort box.

 

The Comfort Box by [sic]

*NOTE: Sharing aspects of my anxiety is something that I struggle with, but I felt this was so important to write. Thanks to my fellow Kindreds who encouraged me to post this piece.  Love and support: two vital components to managing anxiety. I hope this also inspires my other Kindred spirits to join in. This is such a hard subject to talk about. Anxiety is difficult, but together, we can start a conversation. Enjoy.

Anxiety is hell. Sometimes, even just accomplishing basic tasks can be exhausting. As I began learning how to manage my disorder, I wondered how others coped with their anxiety and went searching on the internet, finding sites such as Kill Your Anxiety, which offers resources, advice and soothing images. I believe it was through them that I stumbled upon a blog post from Mental Illness Mouse about making a comfort box, and it was one of the best things I could have ever found. Reading the list inspired me to think of all the little things I could do to care for myself, even at my most anxious. I went about curating the box with the utmost care. My box is an ottoman that I had bought on a whim at Target when I first moved into my apartment. Sturdy and gray with a padded neon yellow cover, it matched absolutely none of the décor in my home, but it called out to me. I’ve had it in my room ever since, storing odds and ends, but once I started on my project it made sense to have this ottoman be the place to house my comfort items. A journal, a rotating selection of fashion magazines, volumes of poetry, books sent to me by friends, mints, hand lotion, DVDs of calming movies. A Ziploc bag full of magazine clippings, glue sticks and packing tape for making collages. Colored pencils because coloring and doodling is so relaxing to me. Gel pens because they write smoothly and my thoughts can flow onto paper uninterrupted. Tiny treasures that may not seem like much to most but provided calm during trying times.

I’m not saying that surrounding yourself with lovely things will cure you of your anxiety. It doesn’t. Nor does shopping incessantly to fill a void or relying on material items for happiness. The comfort box is my way of making sure I am remembering that I need to care for myself, that I am a human being and can love myself, even if I don’t have money. Self-care is so necessary.

You don’t have to have a lot of money to make a box. Most of my comforts are gifts or items sourced from digging through closets and boxes to repurpose things I already own. The comfort box has inspired me to be resourceful with what I already have and create little comfort centers throughout my home. I whip up my own cheap, natural body scrubs and bath salts for a relaxing soak. A red and white polka dot makeup case in my bathroom holds beauty and skincare samples so I always have a little spa-like experience whenever I need a pick-me-up. I’ve loaded my e-reader with soothing music and reading material, and I bookmarked some of my favorite websites that help me combat anxious feelings so that I can just launch the web and see something calming right away. A portable comfort box, if you will.

After reading an article on Goop titled “Selfish Selflessness: The Art of Self-Healing“, I created a “womb-like” space in my living room by outfitting my beloved ugly secondhand recliner with the softest cable knit blanket, my Ugly Doll and the first Christmas present my husband ever made me, a hand-drawn poem scroll. I like settling into the recliner and wrapping myself in the blanket and a soft pink Isaac Mizrahi Live! scarf, given to me by a dear friend, while writing in my journal or reading a good book and drinking a cup of tea. It’s a good place to sit and center myself when I’m having trouble sleeping or just need a little time to reset. I keep a yoga mat in my living room closet for impromptu stretching and meditation.

I turned a table, another free secondhand find from years ago, into a special desk with little tubes of glitter and a tutorial from Jinx in the Sky. Every time I sit down to work, I feel like I’m in another realm. The old mug with a broken handle that my sister gave to me way back when I lived in Brooklyn is now my pen holder. The mug is decorated with a picture of my entire family, and seeing us as kids with toothy grins, snuggled up with my mom and dad on our old sofa, instantly brings me happiness. Having that sparkle and warmth to greet me every day helps to distract me from anxious feelings so I can focus on writing. I’m learning how to turn old containers into office accessories. Not only does it save me money (which eases stress!), it makes everything in my work environment seem personal and a little more special. The space is decorated with collages and vision boards.

It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to breathe and sparkle and read and look at beautiful pictures and drink warm tea and feel good. It’s okay to cry and be scared and then soothe yourself after you cry and be proud of yourself for dealing with fear. Creating a comfort box helped me to realize all of this.

[sic]

 

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Art to soothe the fear and chaos: Nidaa Badwan in the New York Times

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My free flowing painting today.

I came across this striking story yesterday in the New York Times about artist Nidaa Badwan and how she has created an artistic haven of sorts as a way of coping with the chaos surrounding her in Gaza. As I read about how she did this in part to cope with anxiety, I wanted to cry. Her work is absolutely gorgeous, brave and powerful in its defiance and honesty. I am in awe of how she has found a way to express the beauty within her even as she struggled with chaos. I hope this story inspires you and helps you find a way to deal with whatever pain and stress is in your life. Create a space that gives you comfort, joy and peace. As for me, it may not be much, but I did put a paintbrush to paper today and just let myself create without thought or fear of the outcome. I’ve decided to use it as a background for a mixed media collage. Bit by bit, layer by layer, we build and grow.

Sending love,

[sic]

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