[You may wish you had the Cliff notes for this piece. Trust me, I surely wish I did. But this is process, not product, and will be a leitmotif in posts to come.]
I sat down this evening to read a new publication that had come out in one of the groups that I am in. It is a beautiful publication, well done, with the writings and art of many accomplished and successful women. I am happy for them. This is a path that I have been on for some time, but I stepped out of the flow of the stream and I am sitting on the bank watching them all go by and for the first time in a very long time I am at peace.
The thing that struck me, kind of like a lightning bolt singing my hair, was a feeling of striving, I am trying to think how best to say this because it certainly is not a judgment or a criticism, it is one of those defining moments when you know that something in you has changed profoundly, something that was very different even a short time before. While I am all of these I no longer feel the urgency to claim a name for myself, or tell the world who I am through a series of labels — writer, artist, teacher, healer, mentor, etc. — what I would like to call myself — and I am only at the beginning of understanding how to put words around this so please forgive me and you will see the evolution of the thing over the posts to come — A gentlewoman. Gentle woman. Gentle woman. I believe that this is who I am, reduced to essence. It has become as important to me to shed labels as it now is to finally shed the pounds I have held onto like a suit of armor. I don’t need them any more.
I needn’t, I am realizing, (past getting through this whole disability process) introduce myself every time I say hello as a woman who is bi polar, agoraphobic, etc, etc, etc. Even today I found myself trying to, well, not defend, perhaps explain? that the reason I am staying at home is because of this basket full of mental health diagnoses as if I didn’t have the right or should be ashamed. It comes from years of people saying, almost, at times, a tad angrily, “Well yes I’d like to be home all day too but I have to work.” I would, and have, cringed a bit, and felt the need to make it right. I don’t feel the need any more. I can allow them their space to express what they are feeling without the need to make it palatable for both of us.
I don’t like that I felt the need to write that, but it’s the truth, and perhaps another layer that needed shedding.
What I’m realizing is that I want to define myself not by what I do but by how I do it. [Note to self: There is a hell of a lot more here to explore darlin’. I know you know what you mean but you are not expressing it very well.]
Another thing… there is a plethora of books and whatnots on how to simplify your life, get rid of stuff, have a specific number of items and no more, live in a tiny house. That is all well and good but I think we need to go back, a priori, and simplify ourselves. That is perhaps a near impossible task for a bi polar person but it is certainly the most important thing for me to work on. For my kind it will be a lifelong journey, but essential.
I realized tonight that when I came home two weeks ago, back to the house that had burned down, I stepped through a looking glass. On this side of the glass I cannot see who I was before and I don’t want to be her. I am trying to figure out how to meet obligations, and finish commitments when my heart isn’t in them. I am a responsible person and I will do it but I am in the process of stripping everything away — skin, hair, teeth, down to the bone — and it is a tad worrying how I will put it all back on to do this or that that I must. But I will figure it out and this is part of the process too.
My daughter said to me just this last week, “Mom, this is really weird, this time the Phoenix really did crash and burn…” Literally, she meant. I watched my home, the life I had carefully woven of things collected over the years, my 4 beloved parrots who died in the fire that night, I watched it all go up in smoke, I saw flames coming out of windows that had exploded out and smoke swirling through the neighborhood around me. And I don’t remember much because I was in the process of disintegrating. All that was left of me for the next month was ash. And then after a month I was moved from the hotel to the rental where I would be for 7 more months, and nothing ever looked or smelled or tasted right. The Phoenix was regenerating herself long before she could begin to rise. Currently I am a Baby Phoenix in flight, tossing on the air currents, going upside down and backwards, but daily I grow stronger, I see more clearly, and when I do I always come back to the same question…. “Oh shit, what am I supposed to do now?”
There were so many things I started before the fire that were impossible once it happened. And people were very, very kind and patient. But now I am home and it is time for me to move forward but I am not the same person who started those things. I started those things, like the women I talked about in the first paragraph of this piece, to make money, to create a business, and even without the fire my bi polar nature has kept me from carrying through and on and finishing and it is one of the great embarrassments and disgraces of my life. And now, just the basic facts are that unable to support myself I have applied for disability and IF I get it and IF I make money I put my disability in jeopardy. I don’t know how to do this. I am — pardon the abovementioned dropping of labels — a writer, and what if for the first time in my life I write a blockbuster (chuckling) and the money could make me lose my disability but then it would just be a one time thing and I could be panhandling on a corner somewhere all to0 quickly. [Note to self: Lose the melodrama.]
I have a long way to go to understand this, too long for this Sunday night. And it’s probably the kind of rambling blog post I shouldn’t publish but you know me, I’m going to. And the thing is, I believe there are a lot of people grappling with these kinds of things, and this is why I do what I do, why I write honestly even when it makes me sound like a lunatic.
I hope there is some merit in this piece for someone. The jury is still out for me.
But let me ask you this in closing, and I would love to read your answers in the comments section… How do you define yourself? I don’t mean what do you call/label yourself, I mean how do you get to that, those words, that description. I really want to know.
Thank you dear ones. If you’ve gotten this far you get a gold star and my undying gratitude.