Alice and Being Creative

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I have been asked many times if I was more creative or a better artist when I was in the hell of the crazies. I have actually done research and written some articles on the subject, and the bottom line for me personally is that, yes, many of history’s best and most prolific creatives were nuts in one way or another. And that includes being addicted to drugs and alcohol.

As for me, I wrote more feverishly and was much more productive when I was living in England and off the fucking wall. My poetry was impassioned, inspired, and full of symbology that I am still deciphering now. I haven’t really written a poem of any note since 1994. I haven’t been moved to either. My writing has become this blog, the iWonderSisterhood blog, and the continued “beginnings” of a book about how animals facilitated my recovery. But no poetry, and nothing written in a mania.

I used to call what I now know is my hypomania, the buzz. During my last few years in the UK I had the buzz all the time. I was completely hypomanic, needed little sleep, and was more creative than I had ever been. Indeed I was more creative than I HAVE ever been. Medications and wellness have overtaken my prolific-ness. I can honestly say it is no longer the same. And if I am really honest, I miss that creative frenzy. I loved having the buzz.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t trade how I feel now for more great poems. Well, sometimes I would, but mostly I would rather just be well and eccentric and not be insane. Living in insanity is painful and exhausting, and I enjoy my life as it is – full of beauty, love, and peace.There is balance in my life now and I treasure it.

I think about the person I was a bit wistfully and wonder what else she would have created if she had been left alone. I have to search for my creativity sometimes now, and back then it was at my beck and call. I have indeed lost something that was very precious to me and I do grieve its loss. But I live in the light now, I see the stars, and when the darkness occasionally inundates me, I wait it out, in the certainty that it will pass. Now trumps then any day.

Andie

ALICE and ROBIN WILLIAMS

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The suicide of comedy legend Robin Williams has hit a lot of people hard, apart from those who actually knew him. The shock of it is difficult to get over, but for me it is the knowledge that he was in such despair, in such a dark place, and couldn’t reach out is what gets me the most. I still really can’t wrap my mind around the fact he is gone, and every time I hear about or read something on him my eyes well up with tears. I know I am not alone in this.

There is such desperation in suicide. The idea that someone just can’t go on anymore is huge, and for some people, a difficult concept to understand. Depression is a silent killer, very misunderstood. Most people can’t “get it”. Unless you have been there it is hard to fathom being in that state.

I have been there. Suicide was something that I lived with every day for a very long time. I tried twice, but they were half-assed attempts, designed more to get someone to see me in that darkness. As much as I wanted the hell to be over, I wanted help. The bottom line for me was that I had a strong survival instinct, even though I wasn’t fully aware of it. I was an optimist in that I knew there could be something better for me even if I wasn’t conscious of it.

When you are depressed and suicidal you are swallowed by the darkness. There is no light, you see no way out, no respite. Nothing anyone says to you, no matter how loving and supportive, changes anything. Medications do make a difference, but some people cycle into depressive episodes in spite of them, and the depressed person feels like nothing will ever change, nothing can help. It seems to me that telling someone you are in the dark pit is essential. I wonder if Robin Williams said anything about where his head was on the day he killed himself, or if suicide had become an imperative for him.

I dreamt about Robin Williams last night – he has been so much on my mind. The world has lost one of its great lights and there is a hole in the hearts of millions. For me, his death reminded me how fragile human beings are, how fragile even I am, and of how much we need each other. It has brought mental illness into the consciousness of many who never gave it a thought before this, and that is a good thing. But how sad it is that it took this event to make people think.

There is a part of me that wishes I could have helped him, but sometimes the dark is too dense. It will take me a long time to come to terms with Robin Williams suicide, to stop crying every time I see his photograph on TV. And I know that I am only one of many who have been so touched by his death. For, at one time, it could have been me, and there but for my tenacity would I have gone. I miss you, Robin, and I didn’t even know you. I hope you have found some peace. Your legacy is huge, and will always remain. Thank you for having walked this earth for a time. You gave many people so much joy. RIP

Andie

ALICE and AGING

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The aging process begins from the moment of “newness”, the instant of conception. Everything, sentient and not, conceived and built, ages. Nothing is exempt. Just more proof that the worn rug under my feet is no different than I am. But our youth-obsessed culture has people getting plastic surgery even before the appearance of the first wrinkle or grey hair. Wearing your age as a badge of honor is almost unacceptable in today’s society. Advertising and Hollywood are not the only institutions at whose feet blame can be laid, but they are certainly two of the most responsible parties.

It is especially difficult for women. Men are considered a bit more dashing and sophisticated with some silver in their hair and a few character lines. But women are barraged with images of sixteen year-olds gliding down fashion runways in clothes only they can wear. They are assaulted with ads in every medium, for anti-aging creams, lotions and potions, all touting to erase wrinkles and fade age spots. The cosmetic surgery industry is booming. No one wants to get older. I’ve got a news flash: You will anyway. And your face lift will not stave off cancer or a stroke.

Yes, the aging process is sometimes a pain in the ass, as well as the joints. Aches and pains come with the territory, we all slow down a bit, and some things are more difficult to do. As for me, I have bad knees, angina, pulmonary hypertension (which BTW, I have had for ages), a bad back, a repaired, shattered ankle with rods and screw holding it together, and sleep apnea. I will never be able to run again – I used to run 10 miles a day – and I get out of breath taking a long walk. I can’t indulge in activities like roller blading or ice skating – I was once a student of figure skating – and even standing for any length of time is painful.

Does it make me sad? In a word, No. I mean, yeah it would be nice to run a bit from time to time, but the truth is that there are things I can do now, at 67, that I never could do when I was a runner. With age has come wisdom, as well as silver hair, which I no longer color, and wear with pride. With age has come overwhelming gratitude for Life in general, and for my third “second chance”. I am living proof that we continue to grow, evolve, and become our best selves no matter our age.

Some of my friends have said I am an exception, as I have learned to embrace change, and have made some big changes. I like myself more than I ever have been able to, and stand in admiration of my accomplishments. 67 looks very good on me, and I revel in getting older as I know only more good is coming, more growth, greater self-awareness, self-acceptance, and understanding. I am getting a bit jowly, but I don’t have too many wrinkles yet; however, I welcome them, as they will reflect who I am – my past, present and future.

I find wearing the signs of aging an honor. They mean I have come through a lot and am still here. They tell my story to those who have the ability to look hard and really see. They say, “This is Andie!”, and I am proud to be her.

I wish more of society accepted the aging process with grace. I wish it weren’t such an anathema to be wizened. You can be wizened and still vital. Vitality is quality not quantity. At 67 I am more vital than I ever was. I think getting old is one of life’s greatest gifts, and it tickles me that I am considered to be elderly. I like it! It doesn’t frighten me that it means I am closer to my mortality. It is part of Life’s grand dance. And I am dancing, baby!

Andie – Fae, Eccentric, Adorable

ALICE and EMOTIONS

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Feelings are difficult, even the ones that feel good – maybe especially those. I’m not talking about expressing emotions here. I am talking about feeling them. Many people walk around not even knowing how they feel at any given moment. I know it was that way for me growing up. When psychiatrists would ask me how I was feeling I often said, “I don’t know.” And I didn’t.

I have come to understand deeply that recognizing emotions, being able to name them, is the first step in working through them, processing them. Being able to say “I feel sad,” is the beginning of feeling happy again. (“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”-Gibran) But for a long time, emotions sat deep within me, unknown, and unexperienced. It is a wonder that I never developed an ulcer, though, come to think of it, I did have a spastic colon for a while.

When Kimm and I reached New Mexico, I had been running on pure adrenalin. If I felt anything it was relief at finally being here where there was so much less external stress and inner turmoil. But I didn’t permit myself to really feel my feelings. I had no idea what my feelings were. There was so much to do in the way of adjusting to a new environment, that I didn’t think about it. I just went along and did what needed to be done at the moment, and learned to live in these majestic mountains.

In ending a long-term relationship – for whatever reason – there are always feelings to sort out, and they surface gradually. I was still hurt and angry, and somewhat in disbelief that the person I had been living with had hated me for so long and pretended not to. I felt like I really never knew her. It was scary. I couldn’t experience the sadness that I knew was inside me, the feeling of loss, and I couldn’t grieve. My emotions were stuffed so far down I was unaware of them. Until now.

I don’t like to cry, I never have. Even as a kid, when I felt tears coming, I would pretend to yawn so that whomever I was with would think the tears were from yawning. Tears were an embarrassment. That’s partly due to the fact that when I was very young and something would make me cry, my father always said, “Cut the dramatics!”

Anyway, this is just the long way of saying I am feeling now. All the things that I know come along with grieving are coming up. I am sad, hurt, and sorry, but no longer angry. I am really beginning to let go, say farewell, and while it’s painful on some level, I also know it’s all good. And it’s not inundating. I am not drowning in it. I still feel joy and gratitude and love for my life as it is. This is a time of deep emotional healing, and I am happy it is finally happening for me.

Emotions are no longer anathema. I accept them. They are embraced now as part of life. They are the gifts of living consciously, and I am proud to have them. It is all part of the human experience that Kimm and I talk about so often. Though, I have to confess, there are still moments – however fleeting – that I wish I were an android. ;)

Alice and Peace

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People race through Life. They forget to savor. They don’t stop to smell the proverbial roses.

I vowed a very long time ago that wouldn’t happen to me. And it was a hard thing for me as my brain was a very disorganized, noisy place. I never felt alone, dreams were disturbing, often I would be jolted awake, gasping for air and terrified. I have written before about the the volume being turned way up for me, and so it was. I was in constant sensory overload, with no respite, and I was exhausted. I never slept the sleep of one who trusts, in true peace. I slept the sleep of a paranoid, looking over my shoulder 24/7.

But I knew there was something better for me and I meant to find it. I practiced meditation, even with my head screaming. I worked with a therapist, trying to free myself from a debilitating past, from guilt that didn’t belong to me but was forced on me. I walked a zig-zag path that seemed only to go uphill, and even when nothing seemed to be helping me find my inner freedom, the peace that I knew was my essential self, I remained a seeker. I was scared shitless and intrepid all at once. For me it was an imperative: Do or die. Literally. And I was not ready to abdicate my place on this earth.

I worked hard. I got to know the darkest places of myself. I saw things I didn’t want to see, heard things I didn’t want to hear, wrestled with them, and tried to put them to rest. I grappled with grieving the loss of so much of my life to illness. It made me angry, mostly at me. I struggled with my feelings about the way my parents treated me. But I had to come to a place of surrender about it all. I had to see it, accept it, and let it go in order to move on and really live my life. And though I had plenty of love and support, no one could do this work but me. It can feel very lonely in that darkness.

Of all the things I learned and unlearned, the thing that struck me hardest is that the work never stops. I found out that I wasn’t going to arrive at some “destination of knowing” and be able to stop seeking. I learned that there would be some things that would remain unknown, and that I was going to have to make my peace with that. I learned that I am beautiful and flawed, and that that is okay. I learned that the parts of myself that I didn’t like were also a part of what I did like about myself. The two sides of me, that pesky duality, needed to coexist for me to be whole. I learned that if I didn’t love and accept all of it, I would never have a peaceful sleep.

I still seek, I still work, but the road is not as bumpy(because I am not as resistant), and the work is joyful even when it hurts. Khalil Gibran wrote “Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding” and I live by that. He also said “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”, and I live by that too. Self awareness and self acceptance, living consciously, are the most important things to me. I can meditate in silence and be still, and there is no screaming inside my head. I have tools now, to deal with the difficult times – I do have them occasionally – and they don’t last as long.

But best of all is that I am Peace. I have found my peace. I can sleep unafraid. I have trust. I am more able to surrender to the Universe and put any neurotic shit aside. I am Gratitude. Every day I feel grateful. Every day I am acutely aware of this chance I have co-created with the Source, and every day I say “Thank you!” The import of this moment is not lost on me.

Here in The Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, I am becoming more than ever before.

ALICE and the MIND CHATTER

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I meditate. Every day. Most mornings my meditations set me up for a joy-filled day. For the last 2 days, however, my brain chatter has been constant and noisy, and no matter what I have done I haven’t been able to quiet it. I believe in choice when it comes to emotions and thoughts, but I feel – at least right now – that choice has been taken from me. Or, to put it a bit less from victim mode, choice eludes me. I can’t find it.

Yes, you say. So open your eyes! Easier said than done sometimes, and now is one of those times. I keep telling myself all the “right” things: Let it go. Own only what belongs to me. I can only control and change myself. But I still feel myself stuck in the muck. And it all goes back to my mother, and how afraid we all were of her.

Her old tapes play in my head over and over, and other people can trigger them. And sometimes it is only after the fact that I realize it is my mother and not the sales lady or receptionist. I have the knee-jerk reaction and only later do I understand what really happened. It makes me crazy. Er.

Mind chatter is the ego, the fear-based entity, sometimes the child each of us has inside. In the human experience on this earth plane, we will all deal with this part of our being. Finding tools for coping with it that work for you is your job and your right. We do not have to be controlled by this small piece of ourselves. And it is small, which is part of its problem. It thinks it’s big, wants to be in control, craves attention.

MY dilemma is only how to turn the volume down until I can’t hear it anymore. My awareness of all this helps me. In cases like this, awareness is everything. It keeps you from making rash decisions and doing things that you might regret.

In my case, my awareness has kept me from contacting someone I wish to put in my past. She has hit the ball over the proverbial net and is waiting for the return. Not engaging is the best course of action – for me. For my good health and wellness doing nothing is doing everything I need to do. I have found choice again. Hooray for me! And my Self is victorious.

We all get lost in the muck from time to time. Remembering what happened the last time and taking from that what has worked is how we grow. It is how we evolve, how we heal. Each of us has the capacity to do better, to heal ourselves. It is a process – a process that never ends. But that is also part of the thrill of being alive.

#Alice and Gratitude

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gratitudeToday I woke up three times before actually getting out of bed. I had what I call “second sleeps”, when you peacefully doze after the first wake-up. And each second sleep was sweeter than the one before it. I had my Chlo with me, and everything was as it should be. Later, after breakfast, I meditated, and was overcome with tears of Gratitude. In fact, my entire meditation was a prayer of Gratitude.

I am in the best place emotionally than I have ever been. My environment is magical and full of beauty. My work is steady. We have food in the fridge, and money in the bank. My birthday is in 2 days and I am eager for the next year. 67 is a four year, and 4 is my path number. As I approach 70, a big deal, I get more and more excited, because I am realizing my dreams, and age doesn’t matter. In fact, I am living proof that life is full of second chances and I have had many, thank you very much. This is about my fourth one I think. And it is the best one yet. And I do NOT regret that it is coming in my “elder” years. I couldn’t have done what I am doing now at any other time in my life. I am so grateful that I am mentally in a space where I can take advantage of this incredible opportunity. And I am sharing this time with my soul sister, which makes it even more special, and our relationship is full of joy.

I love this feeling – Gratitude. It permeates every cell in my body and fills me up to beyond my physical body. I FEEL so much more than my physical self. I am expansive and expanded, and I touch the sky as I soar. And I can take you with me. I can’t give you this feeling, for it comes from deep within. But by sharing it in this way, I can take you with me. By sharing it with you, you can rest in the knowing that it is possible for you too. Deepak Chopra always talks about “limitless possibilities”, and I am living proof of them.

Gratitude is something that you must nurture, and I am doing my best. And if you look – some of you may have to look hard – there is something that you can be grateful for. There always is. That is the beauty of Gratitude. It exists. Our job, as human beings, is to recognize it when it appears. Today I am there. And I am so grateful.