Part of me says “don’t write so much about bipolar because it’s a turn-off” and part of me says “it is you, write about it.”
Therein lies the problem. I always feel like I am being tugged in many directions and it is difficult to set the course. My moral compass has not always pointed in a set direction, I will admit that. But God only knows I have attempted to “do it right” and all things considered I think it has worked out fairly well.
If you are reading this I will say “thank you” now and also you can rest assured that I am writing this “off the seat of my pants.” That, to me, is what my WEBL is…an acronym for “Wayne’s Everyday Battle List” during which I may list some of my victories for the day.
Of course you may remember a recent entry during which I “rebelled” against the dull and uneventful word “BLOG”(a truncated form of the word “WEBLOG”) and I replaced it with “WEBL” which is also a truncated form of the word “WEBLOG”.
So that is it. If you have a desire to delve into the convoluted spaces of a bipolar mind, this is the place. I plan to do a virtual lobotomy and while I am in there I will also deal with issues of the heart because these two are so closely connected. I know this is a danger zone, a hard hat construction area and yet I am going to walk boldly in and see if I can finally discover who this man is who lives in my body.
I also plan to add a touch of poetry each day and poetry is one place I can go to feel settled and safe. Poems are like seeds that grow…dandelions that scatter in the wind. I invite you in to take this wild ride and with your comments and help I know we can get there, wherever there is.
I want to give a special thanks to DiAne Ebejer who said, “As I have learned here on WP, a blog is anything you want it to be..”
And so it is, this WEBL formerly known as BLOG will be anything we want it to be…and by we I mean the divided heart within me.
i wanted to know you better—
a black and white photograph told the story
of how you went away without smiling
or saying goodbye.
i looked for flowers
sprayed around the plain metal box—
black and white roses all look the same
and photographs expose no fragrance.
somehow i remember your face,
eyes closed so i’ll never know the color,
hands folded one over the other
as if covering a hidden secret in your belly.
i looked into your padded bed
and when i saw an angel sleeping
i knew you had to go away
and i would never know your touch.
i wonder what you would say
if given just one minute
to reveal the passion in your heart
and if you would hold me as i have dreamed.
A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).
So this is how wikipedia defines a Blog! I suppose if the decision had been mine I would have called it a webl (pronounced ‘weeble’)…every time I made an entry I could add a chubby little character. What can be equally charming on a BLOG entry?
But as fate would have it, no one asked me (they never do) so we are forever more stuck with blog entries and my pudgy little boiled egg shaped friends will be put away and never again will I raise the question about what a blog is.
when with you
i can retreat to some place
normally reserved for childhood,
singing out-of-key songs
and playing for a brief moment
like a child with no yesterday
to create memories
that hurt like an open wound.
i can teasingly touch you in a way that before today
would have seemed silly.
i can watch in awe as you light up a fresh smile
with the eager passion of a little girl
and the reckless abandon of a woman in love.
i cherish being able to know you at this time of your life
when i can catch you with mustard on your chin
and laughter in your heart.
you keep me always guessing…
is it warmth, daisies, or memories
which fill the menu of your innermost desires?
let me serve them to you
like kaleidoscopic helium-filled balloons,
tightly tied and held,
so they can never soar away
to a sky in want of colors.
Look carefully now,
even a patchwork tapestry of heaven
pales in comparison to the colors you bring
into my life.
I was asked by someone just what it is like to be bipolar. I don’t necessarily want to beat a dead horse on this subject but I also don’t want to run from gathering clouds. I had never been asked the question so directly before and I must admit it caught me off guard. As I started to answer the question I looked to my right and then to my left. There was no apparent reason to look anywhere other than in the searching blue eyes of the enquirer. That was my simple answer. To be bipolar is to feel an uncertainty and all sense of direction is tossed out of an open window and any sense of logical thinking dissipates like swirling dust in the wind. I think that’s enough for now…it’s not like Jack Nicholson said in the movie A Few Good Men…”You can’t handle the truth!” It is more like Nurse Ratched said in another Nicholson film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, “The best thing we can do is go on with our daily routine.”
Probably none of that makes sense and therefore that becomes my definition of what it is like to be bipolar. On the subject of poetry a similar question could be asked. Where do poems come from? Once again, I have no answer for this question and could only answer from personal experience. Rather than do that I invite those of you who write poetry to give some perspective and insight. If you don’t write poetry please feel free to offer insight on any other interests you have.
melody of your smile
though you have been gone
for only a short while
i constantly find myself
searching through the pages of my mind
what does your smile sound like?
when morning stretches before you
where does your heart sing?
i no longer have words
to fill the pages of my day
now there are only
in want of one another
punctuation is lost between the words
like silent pauses
silence is nice
it is in silence
i hear the melody of your smile
The following is the second installment of the book entitled ‘The Migration’ and I will post five book pages at a time if there is any interest shown. Thank you to Karlos Van De Bestness for requesting this second installment. The first entry was made on January 7 2015 (‘I tossed out a few words’). This obviously picks up mid-stream.
This fixation with migration is behind why and how stories were handed down from my grandfather to my father, who took them to heart; and then entrusted them with me. His instructional sessions—as he called them—were not just about birds. He also told me about the migratory patterns of other creatures in the animal kingdom, but more significantly, he taught me why relocation is important, even essential. I first started learning about these journeys when I was quite young; soon after one glorious morning when I saw a magnificent flock of geese like I had never seen before and have not seen since.
On the fifth day of every month, my father called me onto the front porch to tell me the story—that’s what he called it—the story. The story was bigger and more distinguished than his instructional sessions and most of the time parts of those sessions would find their way into the story anyway. He said he told the story because he wanted to be sure I knew it so well I could tell it to my children without missing a word. I was five years old when he first said that. I could comprehend most of the story because my father seasoned it with sentences that I could understand and marinated it in words I hungered to know…but the idea of someday having children of my own…well that was still a mystery to me.
He said his father told him the story every day for forty years—an exaggeration, I’m sure—but now that I’m older I understand why he stretched the truth; it seemed like I heard it every day for forty years too.
Human nature is human nature and with exaggeration being what it is, some stories get stretched quite tightly over time. Not so with the story my father told—the story about migration and our family history, starting with my grandfather—because he took our family heritage very seriously and insisted that it remain intact and truthful.
“That was by design,” my father said almost every time he told it. Actually, what he said was “Son, don’t try to weave a rug where there ain’t no fabric.” He had a way of simplifying things so I could understand—when I was five. Somehow, as I grew older, it became more difficult to understand and even more complex. “That’s part of migration, just part of you learning about you, where you’ve been, where you’re going.” My father explained it that way each time I asked him why this was.
Many families have traditions they observe and pass down from generation to generation. My grandparents were quite poor and uneducated, not necessarily an enviable situation in North Carolina around the turn of the twentieth century. I say that to say this…our traditions had to be plain, simple, and especially, dirt-cheap. Free was even better than dirt-cheap, and the story my father told me was free but he always reminded me that the price had already been paid and now the telling and listening was free. He said he got that concept from the bible. Even though he wasn’t necessarily religious, he certainly used what he called ‘the God book’ as a guideline for living. Mom usually corrected him and said it was the ‘good book’, but he laughed and said, “Good…God…He’s a good God with a good book, woman, what’s the difference?” Her quiet chuckle made the house feel warmer on the coldest of cold Carolina mornings.
Biblical names were a common thread in our family’s history because my grandmother’s father, Obadiah, was a Baptist preacher who, as the story goes, could belch out words of hellfire and damnation with the best of them. My other great-grandfather was Pentecostal, and although he wasn’t a preacher, he knew every verse in the Bible where the Holy Spirit did something awesome.
One Sunday morning—and my father said this is as true as anything you’ll ever hear in church—my great-grandfather, Obadiah, actually started a fire in the pulpit using only his words and pounding his Bible. He loved to preach from the Old Testament because—and this is exactly what my father told me—“that’s the part of the Bible where God really flexes his muscle.” Of course, I got my name from the Old Testament because my mother wanted me to be like Gideon, a “mighty man of valor”…as the Bible calls him.
I have to admit the story of how I got my name was confusing to me at first because it had a whole bunch of Midianites and Amelekites lying in the valley; the Bible says they were “as numerous as locusts.” Now, growing up on a farm, I had heard my grandfather and father talk many times about swarms of locusts so I knew they weren’t something we wanted feeding on the crops. I didn’t know what Midianites and Amelekites were and in fact, some folks probably don’t know even now. Mom said I had to learn about them because I would understand the world better if I knew how they acted. I figured if they were lying in the valley they couldn’t be too trustworthy. Anyway, it seems that Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, hiding underground, when the Angel of the Lord called him a “mighty man of valor.” Well, it was a mystery to me for a long time why the Angel of the Lord would call him that when he was not doing much more than hiding from the enemy. Honestly, I suppose that part is still a mystery and probably explains some of my internal conflicts over the years.
We lived on a modest farm in a gracious house facing a small cornfield that produced enough corn to feed our family and the farm animals and sometimes a neighbor or traveler who had fallen on hard times. Our little house was warm and had sentimental value but otherwise was not worth much. Sometimes, while pacing around inside the house, my father would stop, and using his eyes as punctuation, said emphatically, “everybody falls on hard times once in a blue moon and when it happens, and it will happen,” with this pause, he pointed his finger at me and then glanced at each of my sisters, “it’s a good thing if you have been a giving friend.”
Most times this was the start of a lecture of some sort, and he started out with the same thought he had just expressed. It was not a written or spoken rule, but once he was this far into the discussion, it seemed best if no one left the room.
“Hard times will hit everyone, and they help build character. It can be good character, and you become stronger or bad character and in weakness even the best people can turn bitter and devious. When these difficult times hit, and mark my words they will hit, it is good to know your neighbor has enough corn in the field to help out or your field is fertile and your heart is full, and you will be generous and compassionate.” This sort of lecture held our little house together more so than did the wood and nails, cement and rounded stones used to construct it. When he was done with his lecture, he bowed his head and with closed eyes said, “Amen!” I guess I never really figured out if he was talking to my sisters and me and God happened to be in the room, or if he was talking to God and we were all in the room. It was the “Amen” at the end that confused me. I knew he never finished with “Amen” when he was talking to me alone so I suspect he was praying the whole time and kept his eyes open, in case I did try to sneak out of the room.
Those times revealed a lot about Benjamin Daniels. When he had his children as an attentive congregation he was transformed into a back roads preacher who waved an imaginary bible, pounded on an imaginary pulpit and lifted his voice so it carried from the room all the way across the corn fields where it was sifted like flour. I never knew whether he had the ambition to preach or if he was envious of my grandfather but either way, he would have done well if only he had the confidence and assurance—or as the bible calls it, the anointing.
The house wasn’t much to look at—either the one we lived in or the one where the livestock lived—but lots of love and the aroma of fresh baked bread or apple pie filled that house. My two youngest sisters, Esther and Sarah, did most of the baking because they didn’t yet have the ‘squeeze-strength’ to milk the cow…but they could sure put together a sweet smelling cinnamon apple pie. The girls were about a year and a half apart in age and—in heart—were about as close as sisters could be.
My other sister, Rachel, was the oldest of the girls and worked in the field and kept fresh fruit and vegetables on our table almost the whole year round. Rachel was a year and a half older than Esther and a year younger than me. Don’t worry about the math; just trust me, that’s how it was. All of my sisters were devout girls who read the bible daily and prayed with fervency that I had never seen and have not seen since. When those three girls got together it was with expectancy that God would answer their prayers expediently. I was convinced that God shuffled His priorities on more than one occasion when He knew the Daniels girls were banding together. Of course, Rachel, Esther, and Sarah all knew the significance of their names as they related to the Bible and none of them ever questioned why they were named as they were. They simply knew that they were living proof of the words in Ecclesiastes that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
When the girls were still quite young, my mother made what I considered to be a very odd request of them. As each of my sisters turned six, our mother sat down with the birthday girl, and together they selected ‘life verses’ from a section of the bible that related to her name. The verses were then embroidered on a burlap sack that was hung over their beds. I remember the words my mother spoke when the empty sacks were nailed onto the wall.
“Each time you look up from your bed, each time you stand in front of this lowly piece of burlap; I want you to consider the beauty of emptiness.”
None of the girls understood what our mother meant by “the beauty of emptiness.” At six, that was difficult to comprehend and as the oldest, when they asked me, I felt that I should know; but all I could tell my sisters is what I was being told by my father, “You will know when you know.” He always told me that when questions burned a hole in my heart. He was right of course, and somehow the timing seemed perfect when I finally understood. It made me feel smart in the presence of my sisters when I repeated words my father had taught me.
My mother chose burlap sacks as wall decorations because they were plentiful and once emptied of grain could be washed, dried and then dyed almost any color desired. Rachel selected purple, mauve really, and once she had the first sack hanging on the wall over her headboard it was as if she couldn’t stop; by the time Sarah picked her first sack Rachel had four of her own. On the first old piece of burlap were these words from Psalm 149:
1 Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
2 Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
4 For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.
Of course, the verses were actually selected by our mother and at six; each of my sisters was easily persuaded to accept what was given to her. Ultimately, they were lifetime verses selected by our mother, the one who knew what she had prayed and had unreservedly trusted that God would show His faithfulness in blessing her daughters with a fulfilled life.
Although our mother did the sewing and embroidery work on Rachel’s first burlap ‘beauty of emptiness’, Rachel was quick to learn how to clean and dye, embroider and sew the burlap sacks that followed. Since they were dyed at different times the sacks were slightly different shades of mauve, but this, Rachel said, made each unique and special. All four of her burlap sacks were embroidered with twine, scarlet in color, highlighted in indigo.
Of course, Rachel, an aspiring dancer, was partial to verses that referred to her passion. Her dream of someday becoming a ballet dancer was rekindled each time she read the words she had so meticulously embroidered onto her second common piece of burlap, a reminder of her beauty of emptiness. Her fingers had carefully labored over the words of the Psalmist in Psalm thirty:
10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.
11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD, my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.
Rachel spent hours at her spinning wheel, a homemade contraption made by our father using mostly barn wood and the metal bands from old wine barrels. He knew she would spend lots of uninterrupted time on the spinning wheel so he built a wheel that turned with some, but only a little effort. A foot pump, designed to help strengthen her legs and thus further prepare her for her dream of dancing, was placed especially for Rachel the tallest of my sisters. Spinning cotton was very meaningful to her because her handiwork, her scarlet thread and indigo thread were always going to be intertwined in the burlap sack, her ‘beauty of emptiness’; and of course, those of her sisters. Esther and Sarah were happy to relinquish the spinning wheel duties to Rachel, and neither showed any desire to make their own twine, so she happily did it for them.
Esther is the only one whose name is actually a book of the bible so it seemed that her choice of a scripture would be simple, yet it was more difficult for her to decide than either Rachel or Sarah. She finally decided on a passage from the Psalms and these verses became her lifetime scriptures. Esther was the most stubborn of all the girls and even at a young age she knew what ‘sounded right’ for her. It turned out that nothing in the book of Esther hit her just right and as hard as our mother tried to convince her to stay within her namesake, she was not interested.
Later this morning I will make a real Blog entry. I am still learning what a Blog is so bear with me. Time for a cup of Ghiradelli chocolate…
there are so many things happening in our world today that it is difficult to catalog it all.
so i won’t.
it rained here today. actually it was little more than a trace of wet on the pavement. it was thicker than split-pea soup in places so that counts as rain in arizona.
i wanted chocolate and that was the only craving i had that was tugging harder on me than sex. i suppose wanting and needing and craving and getting are about as far removed from one corner of the earth to another as can be imagined. chocolate was safe and easier to come by.
sometimes i still dream—and dreams are different from mere thoughts. i hope that my dreams will be uncensored except within my own boundaries and those are plentiful and round-up any vagrant thoughts quicker than a sheep-herder’s dog at dusk. i am trying to break loose of those ties that bind.
now that i am older and hopefully a tad bit wiser, i see too late that any prosperity i had gained was spent like a fat boy’s quarter in a chocolate shop.
as a child i acknowledged that God is both good and great, and now, sixty-plus years later, i know that to be true.
God never let me go hungry, i never missed a meal.
it’s also true that i never miss depakoke, seroquel, lithium and zoloft. the four make up quite a combination that somehow goes down like chocolate mousse…without the chocolate and without the mousse…but with the dream that my mind could be settled without those four little pills.
for the record, it is unsettled without the intervention of those four little pills. i’ll tell you about it sometime.
one day the words stopped
like a wave less ocean
or a stream with no current
and i wondered if the days were numbered
when tears would no longer flow
my heart is quiet
as the sounds of life lay like a burden
and questions within my mind
cut like sharpened steel
everything has one last time
and we are left with no choice
life moves on
and that one last time
was the one i waited for
So a funny thing happened on the way to my Blog Entry…not so funny actually but true. I wrote a couple of paragraphs and once I read them I crumbled them up and tossed them into the trash. That’s not such an easy task when the crumpled paragraphs are on a monitor screen. This time I am committed to staying with it and the words will come out as they come out.
The truth is that I have been wallowing in the throes of depression and have just barely kept my head above water. One thing right out of the gate…I want to be able to say what I just said without feeling like someone is showing pity towards my situation. It is just healthy for me to say it and get it off my chest.
Now that I have done that I will do this…the following is a short excerpt from my book entitled “The Migration”. I hope you enjoy it and whether it is thumbs up or thumbs down I would love to hear your feedback.
Until next time, stay safe, healthy and happy.
1. The Beauty of Emptiness
Thursday November 5, 1959
Sometimes the heart won’t let you go where the body wants…and sometimes the body refuses to go where the heart wants.
You taught me that.
Today is the first time in years you and I have not sat down together on the fifth day of the month to talk about migration. Sure, for the past several years I told the story while you sat staring blankly at me, holding a wrinkled black-and-white photograph.
I remember you often said, “Gideon, I would have thought that when folks looked at this picture, they would have realized black-and-white looks mighty good together. Son, this is something to remember; a time and place when your mom and I were black and white in a photograph but your grandparents were black and white in everything they did. This picture always reminded me of that. ”
That photograph was a mess, crumbled in your hands, but that’s exactly where it belonged. I always wondered if you gripped the photograph so tightly because you were still choking out the bigotry and prejudice of those who tried to ruin your father’s life. Finally, it was okay to let go of the picture, okay to let go of the memories.
I suppose I will always hope for one more day with you. How did it happen that you were here and then gone so suddenly? Thanksgiving is only a few days away and again this year there will be a wild turkey in the oven, stuffed with freshly picked apples to create an ever-familiar aroma that will paint the November air with thick memories that would be sweet smelling but are made bittersweet by the absence of your laughter.
Well, I suppose that’s all for now. See you in December, Saturday the fifth.
Gideon closed the tan leather book after his entry was made. He knew that time—at least to some extent—would heal the wound of his father’s passing. He also knew that he had a huge void in his heart, one that could never be completely filled. There was silence at his father’s grave site now, different from the sounds of sobbing—quietly and not so quietly—a few days earlier.
Looking out over the snow-laden branches of lofty pine trees, he reminisced about how years seemed to repel down life’s mountains and become months, then weeks and finally days—until they folded, sometimes collapsed, into minutes. His were good memories for the most part, and he was genuinely thankful for that.
He held a second book, tattered and worn, and this one promised so many answers to his questions about migration and about his family’s history. He clutched it tightly, and then gingerly opened it to read the scribbled writing from his father’s hand. Throughout his lifetime, as long as he was able, Benjamin Daniels had kept an exact journal; his assurance that ‘the story’ would remain intact.
Gideon read one of the first pages of his father’s journal. It was smudged by rain and tears, but somehow the way the ink trailed and twisted it looked more appealing, more engaging, and more artistic.
Gideon read a few sentences at a time and decided he would devour his father’s writing like a delicious home-cooked meal. “I traced our family’s history back to my grandfather, Jonathan Arthur Daniels, a Confederate soldier from Gastonia, North Carolina. He served under Major General Robert Frederick Hoke and fought in the Battle of Bentonville.
Private Jonathan Daniels had seen enough of the fighting that dragged on for four years. He refused to call it the Civil War, saying, ‘There ain’t nothin’ civil ‘bout a man shootin’ his neighbor; stabbin’ him in th’ back and stickin’ him in th’ ground he used to be welcome to walk on.’
In April 1865, shutting the door on the war, my grandfather was able to purchase the farm where we now live.”
Gideon closed his father’s book as gently as he had opened it. He had never heard about his great-grandfather, Jonathan Arthur Daniels, but he was thankful for the family farm.
It goes without saying that my father took great pride in handing down the story of migration year after year, and through the story I learned that migration does not depend upon planning, it just happens instinctively. My father always started with one seemingly simple question: “Gideon, why do you suppose birds migrate?”
His father, Benjamin, always explained things simply and quietly. “One reason is that they are able to soar to such majestic heights with liberty and freedom. In that case, I suppose they migrate because they can. With this passage comes a sense of community, a sense of belonging, yet also a feeling of independence. Migration is so simple, yet in its simplicity there is woven a fabric so complex we will never fully understand it.”
I learned these truths from my father. This is how he taught me about life and about the importance of family and the cohesiveness of relationships with one another and about communion with God. To my father all answers were found in creation, in nature and the way animals learned to survive and live amongst one another. All things created were born and explained in God’s developed pattern of migration.
So with that question it started, ‘why do birds migrate?’
Of course, I knew that birds are able to soar to majestic heights because my father pointed it out to me when I was five. I knew that birds experienced liberty and freedom because those are the words he used to teach me when I was quite young. Later, I would learn about independence, majesty and sovereignty in new ways; ways that pertained to our family and were explained through our journeys.
Of course, there are other reasons for migration, and he taught me about those too. Most folks know that birds migrate because of the food and water supply or more favorable weather conditions; even so, I learned from my father that there are reasons much deeper and more meaningful than these behind the secrets of relocation…though maybe not all of them are scientific.
Discussions about migration were frequent occurrences when my father and I sat on the front porch and talked about life. When something new was discovered about the wonders of migratory habits, it always provoked conversations about how our everyday lives were affected. My father said, “…there is no new thing under the sun.” He oftentimes quoted scripture to prove his point so when a ‘new’ discovery was made about the mysteries of the movement within the animal kingdom he pointed out that in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes we learn that there was already enough wisdom to know we really don’t know much in the grander scheme of things. My father had an instinctive understanding about these matters, and somehow I knew it was similar to the intuition he spoke of when he marveled at the seasonal flight of birds.
Just a few short paragraphs…hope you enjoyed. Let me know if you would like me to post more.
December 31st oozed out quietly in my household and January 1st purred in near silence like a cat rolling over in its sleep. There were years when I would not welcome those moments of uneventful bliss; now I do. I wonder what changes take place in our lives when there is still enough energy to invite a whole new cadence of minutes where the current stash has been spent. Is it in the heart or the head where the desire to crawl beneath the covers is born? Whatever the cause and however you spent the waning seconds of 2014, I trust that you will be blessed in 2015. By the way, if you know the answer to the heart/head question, please let me know…I may not sleep until the question is answered.