Finding Life (in obvious places): Bill

 

On the way to the beach...roadside fruit and vegetable stands. Just what the kids need to sell all the fruits and veggies they have planted!!!

 

In a small Indiana farm town, a place where they still sell vegetables by the honor system along the roadside, there was a young man named Bill, who lived with his father. He enjoyed working on cars, busing tables at restaurants to buy tools, digging in the garden, and telling stories. Bill would say–

“It’s raining so hard, it’s like pouring piss from a boot.

His father left the fast pace of modern day suburbia for the open space freedom of a farm community, where he could grow his own vegetables and look out on his land while he smoked his pipe and waited for life to happen. He worked odd jobs to provide for his family and brought home tales of people he’d met and the things they did.

“This guy at work has a wife in the hospital, having a baby. He packed his lunch for the first time in seven years and forgot to add coffee to his hot water.”

Then Bill would say,

“It takes a real man to drink boiling water.”

Bill’s father started this family garden they called their “Victory Garden,” where they grew enough for their own needs, gave some away to friends, and sold the rest for seed money. He kept a Mason jar by the roadside with a sign about the price for each vegetable. Bill would count the money each day and was amazed they never ended up short.

Bill would say,

“It takes a helluva big dog to weigh a ton.”

There were dogs and cats that hung around, waiting for scrap food or a stroke. They’d follow Bill and he’d play games with them, wrestling them until they both got tired and would have to get a drink from the garden hose.

On Friday nights, Bill would take the car or truck he’d been fixing up and drive into town with his friends or his date. They say once Bill ate 33 hamburgers in one sitting. They also say he dated five girls in one week, but it’s not recorded anywhere. Just something they say.

 

From My Mother’s Womb: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

For you, O Lord, are my hope,     

      my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;     

you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.

My praise is continually of you.    (Psalm 71:5-6)

 

            While I may not have had an ideal upbringing, faith was certainly a key component in my life from before birth. I have many people to thank for this, including my mother. Also her mother (my Grandma McPeak), who would often read Bible stories to us grandchildren from a big hardcover picture book.

            My sister April and I would go to church with our grandparents and Uncle Geoff. We would sit in the back seat and talk about the things we saw outside the window. The first one to see the church would holler – “I first it.” The other would say, “I second it.” On and on until someone said, “I ate it!” Then we would laugh outrageously at the concept of eating a church.

            The church where we worshiped was called “First Mt. Pleasant Baptist.” They placed a premium on fiery preaching from the King James Bible. They had an extended altar call for sinners to repent (while the congregation sang “Just As I Am”). People came forward to receive Christ and be born again. Evidently, they had a notion that the “age of accountability” was around first grade, because that’s when both my sister and I came forward – responding more to a fear of going to Hell than with faith in the grace of God through Christ.

            Yet, I am grateful for my faith upbringing. I was able to develop daily disciplines of prayer and Scripture reading. More importantly, I cultivated the value of having a relationship with Jesus Christ that provided me a solid anchor of hope as the world collapsed around me.

Not everyone is born into a family of faith, but the promise of these Psalm verses is that God takes us from our mother’s wombs. While it helps to have a faith heritage, there is no “grandfather clause” in our covenant with God. Each of us is invited into a personal relationship with Christ that lights the ways through dark valleys and inspires us to offer up praise throughout our days.

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission which can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Dirty Houses, Brain Fog, Pushing, Winding Roads, and Hard Thinking: Mental Health Monday

OCD and my Dirty House” (Mental Parent)

The ignorance of mental illness doesn’t stop at bipolar, depression or schizophrenia. People don’t understand OCD either. I partially blame the media for its depiction of people with OCD having spotless houses, insanely clean hands and color coded closets. These disorders, like all mental illnesses, have spectrums and severities. But, in the media’s defense, severity sells.

You may ask “How can you be OCD if your house is dirty and not in order?” I would answer that question in two parts. One: Because I have two children at home and a husband who works a lot and Two: Because that is not how it works…read a book.

Brain fog” (Mental Health on my Mind)

You see, I still have the same thoughts that I had before, the voice in my head is still unrelentingly negative, but now instead of feeling anxious, the thoughts make me sad. Deeply sad. I’m no less likely to avoid situations that used to make me anxious, only now I feel horrible about myself and everything I do, say, think, feel, regardless of whether or not I avoid situations. I am an expert in mental flagellation, and in finding reasons to beat myself up.   I cry.   A lot.   Even my CPN seemed to be at a loss in the face of my distress when I saw her a few days ago. I am hope-less, totally lacking in hope, resigned to always feeling like this, but at the same time, terrified of always feeling like this.

Pushing” (The Daily Platypus)

Its always the crash that gets me. I knew it was coming and even at first convinced myself it wouldn’t be bad. It took about an hour, but when it hit, it hit. My body practically shut down. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t focus beyond three seconds. I was happy, though. I had accomplished going out rather than sit around all day. My mind was even too tired to bother me, to push or prod. While hurting, it was peaceful since it was almost like even the depression was too tired to move.

The Long and Winding Road” (My [Redacted] Journey)

Unfortunately, many people believe that you can “tell” a person has a mental illness by the way s/he looks.  Additionally, many people also believe that there is no way back to normal (whatever that means) once you’ve been mentally ill.  That is a misconception.  Unfortunately, it is because of such misconceptions that people are reluctant to seek the help they need.  I am no professional, I merely speak from personal experience, and my experience has been better than some and worse than others.  I tell my story in the hopes that someone, somewhere may feel less alone and more willing to seek help.

Coping with Bipolar: Sometimes thinking is the hardest work of all — black dog pie: a magazine on depression and bipolar” (Depression Hub)

I have spent most of my life battling that mood which insists “I can’t”. I have gotten much done in life, but I cannot but regret missed past opportunities simply because I was preoccupied with, well…. me.

Which brings us to the place of reason and logic in managing our moods. Mood does not define us totally: if that were the case, we would be less than human, and beyond hope. Hope is the defining feature of homo sapiens.

Having “A Fighting Heart”: An Interview with Kristin Hocker

 On Independence Day this year, I found myself in Rochester, New York enjoying a day of rest and relaxation. After a nourishing meal with a friend at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, I headed over to the Rochester Contemporary Art Center where they were having an exhibit called “6 x 6 x 2014.” They had covered the walls — floor to ceiling — with art work all 6″ x 6″ with only numbers to identify them. If you found one you liked, you could purchase it and discover who the artist was. It could be anyone from a kindergartner to an established artist (and plenty in between).

I saw many intriguing works, but the piece that really grabbed me was one of a weary heart portrayed as a boxer collapsed on a mat yet hanging on to the ropes, with the words — “Down but not out.”  The vibrant colors and hopeful message called out to me and I was inspired to purchase it. I was given the name and e-mail address of the artist — Kristin Hocker. I contacted her and she agreed to be interviewed for a post. The following was an g-mail exchange we shared last Thursday night.

A fighting heart

 

When did you start painting and was there someone in particular who motivated you?

My mom was the key motivator. I was fortunate enough to spend a good portion of my childhood in NYC, and my mom took me to as many museums as possible. She also had a wide array of art books in the house that I would stare at for hours, DaVinici, Michelangelo, Degas, Picasso, Monet, etc. I fell in love with art and when I visited the museums I would go downstairs to the classrooms where I could create art (usually something crafty).
I started painting in high school. The only way I thrived in high school was in my art classes, otherwise I was miserable. I wish I could say I kept with it, but I gave it up for a long time and just really picked it up again recently.

Do you now schedule time to paint or simply paint when the inspiration strikes you?

A little of both. These past two years I challenged myself to draw something everyday or at least every week. It was something to do in between dissertation writing (to spark both sides of the brain). I love painting in sketchbooks because it creates texture, makes a mess and lets me be free with my art.
Getting connected back to my artistic center inspired me to complete and submit some pieces for the 6X6. I kept saying I would and never followed through, but this time I was glad I followed through with it.

Would you share some of the story behind “A Fighting Heart”?

Yeah, that came from a sketch I did when reflecting on being newly single. Two years ago I had separated from my partner of 15 years, and was going through a massive transition, being a single, empty nester (my daughter left for college the same year). After the first year I tried to date again, but found myself attracting people who were either emotionally unavailable or overall just not sparking any interest and I just found myself really sad and discouraged. But instead of letting it all weigh me down, I chose to find some peace within it, and that was the theme of the painting, that even though I was down, I wasn’t out, I still had myself and the faith that I would make it through.
So on Valentine’s Day of this year, I decided to celebrate my singleness by painting, going back to what gives me joy.
 
Well, it’s a very hopeful message and the painting conveys this well — with the contrast of bright primary colors and the image of the weary heart. There was a quote I spotted on in your social media that read, “It takes a strong heart to love, but it takes an even stronger heart to continue to love after its been hurt.” Did you have this in mind as you painted? And, has the process of painting “A Fighting Heart” helped you live out the quote?
 
I think it was a combination of quotes and other inspirational moments. I have a notebook that really became a tool of comfort and creativity for me. I would write, paste quotes, draw, get all the pain and joy out on the page. 
I think just being creative overall helped me to rediscover how I wanted to live, and eventually to love. Being creative, to me, means you take the time to process what’s happening rather than simply reacting to what’s happening. As someone who struggles with depression that is a huge paradigm shift for me. It helped me recognize I could choose what to do with the pain, I could choose to also hold myself accountable to my response and what I would do next (move onward, have faith that good times would come). Didn’t mean I couldn’t feel sad, just that I didn’t have to dwell in the sadness.
So I think that’s the “strength” you impart in your heart, not only to love someone else, but to build on what it takes to love yourself.
 
You mention a struggle with depression. How has depression impacted your creativity?
 
Yeah, I would definitely say my depression impacted my creativity. It impacted my life. It really limited my thinking as, for me, it was based in self-loathing and fear. I’m glad to say I’ve reshaped my life so that my depression doesn’t take over. I’ve become a runner, a Yogi, and practitioner of Zen meditation, all which I call my three-legged stool. They have helped me to find my center and believe in myself. I found believing in myself helped me believe in my art more. 
 
Do you have any other projects you are working on?
 
Not at the moment. I had to get back to dissertation writing. I am also training for a half marathon, so I’m running more, which is taking a lot of time (and energy). I have a piece in mind that I want to do for a friend who returned to Germany. Other than that I really should get back to the sketchbook.
 
Well, I thank you very much for sharing your artistic gifts with 6×6 (and thus with me and my readers).
 
You’re welcome! My pleasure. This was definitely a pleasant and unexpected surprise. There is an artist in Ithaca whose card says “Buy art when it speaks to you.” I am deeply touched that my painting spoke to you, and I hope it speaks to your readers as well. 
 
 

Savoring Sacred Pauses

I’ve been savoring some Sacred Pauses this week. This book by April Yamasaki is bountifully bathed in Scripture and thoroughly entrenched in Christian tradition and springs to life with fresh illustrations and a gentle pastoral tone.

Yamasaki guides us on a journey of spiritual growth like a good coach who strives to learn her players’ strengths as well as their particular challenges. Rather than yelling out instructions from the side lines, she walks beside us through the valleys, beside still waters, and into the mountain peaks.

The book highlights classic spiritual disciplines (or exercises) such as “Engaging Scripture,” “Praying It Like It Is,” and “Fasting.” She also delves into somewhat atypical spiritual practices, “Getting Outside (for a walk),” “Being Alone Without Being Lonely,” and “Valuing Relationships.” In each chapter, the Bible is used not just as proof-texting. Instead, the Word is enfleshed with Spirit, coming to life in the stories shared, the examples given, and the encouragement offered.

I have gained much fruit from reading Sacred Pauses (and I’m currently pausing after reading 63% of the book.) Perhaps the greatest fruit I gained flowed from chapter 10, “Praying the Lord’s Prayer.” Yamasaki recommends you write out a prayer, using the Lord’s Prayer as a model. True to her pioneer spirit, she offers a prayer first — which inspired me to write one of my own.

Lord of all and Savior of my soul, may all creation glorify You. Rule over our world and reign in our hearts so we may do what is best and care for each other as you care for us. Nourish us with your steadfast provisions that we might have the energy to serve you with our bodies as well as our minds and spirits. Free us from self-blame and we will resist the urge to bear grudges against each other. Protect us from our own worst instincts as well as from the snares of the Evil One. This day belongs to You, Lord, just as all our lives and all creation is Yours. May each moment bring you glory and honor. Amen.

Order your paperback or e-book copy
from Herald PressAmazon,
or your favourite online or local book store.
Get the free Group Leaders’ Guide and Scripture Index here.

 

 

Poetry, Darkness, Second Chances, Life Stories, and Fictional Journals: Friday Featured Followers

Ian Stewart Black

Bipolar, asexual, vegetarian, poststructuralist, pantheist nihilist. Professional poet and french toast connoisseur.

General penhandler, Sonneteer, Philosopher, Haijin, Writer and Byronic hero… with a penchant for waistcoats.

 

I have readers from the UK, Washington, Ontario, Ireland, Australia, Wisconsin, Maryland, Singapore, New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Minesota, Korea, Illinois, British Columbia, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, California, France, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Ghana, India, Singapore, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Thailand, The Philippines, Macedonia, Austria, Pakistan, Brazil, Norway, Serbia, Turkey, Spain, South Africa, The United Arab Emirates, Nevada & beyond.

 

Wrong With Life: The immeasurable terrors of her mind.

My past is that of a dark nature, i was honestly never delt any aces in the hand of life but i also made many mistakes of my own free will while growing up, as i think most of us do. I constantly overanalyze, thinking this will help me be better prepared for the next battle that lies ahead. As with life there are two things i know are certain there will be light and there will be darkness it’s just a matter of time before one or both arrive.

 

Reading through my blog you will get to know the writer side of me, mostly my intense emotions and thoughts but also glimpses into my past and present. If there is ever a time when you feel you relate to a piece of my writing please feel free to share that with me. i am not always as forward with my writing, i leave most of the back stories to the imagination which i think makes it a bit more relatable but still accurately portrays my feelings and it just so happens to come out this way while i am writing. If you have any questions or you are curious about a piece of my writing or the back story please feel free to ask. I am a very open person and i feel that if my story and the lessons i have learned can help somebody along the way then i have served my purpose as a writer.

Second Chances

I want to live. I would like to enjoy life and I would love to enjoy living again. I see glimmers of this again but I also still feel darkness. I find myself thinking, “If it gets too bad I can just die.” I recall even in adolescence, telling myself this much more often without realizing how dangerous that thinking was. So, I am writing about my mental illness; and donating to suicide prevention causes; and talking to people who have lost loved ones to mental illness so I can look back on that the next time my pain gets too big.

Lifestoryclip

I am an historical fiction writer and blogger of funny everyday life when not downing the Haagen-Dazs.

The Journal of Wall Grimm

“The Journal of Wall Grimm” is rated R due to adult content in the form of sex, drug and alcohol abuse, vulgar language, and other things that can occur in the world of a guy in his early 20′s. 

 

My penname is Sage Doyle and I am the author of this blog, which is comprised of the fictional journal entries of Wall Grimm.

 

It’s possible to read the journal out of sequence and many posts can stand on their own.  If there are references or characters you need to clarify, don’t hesitate to ask questions.  I will fill you in with all the details necessary to bring you up to date.

 

 

 

A Sacred Rest : Throwback Thursday

     The following reflection was taken from a sermon based on Mark 6.30-34, 53-56 entitled “A Sacred Rest” originally delivered on July 17, 1994 at Zion Presbyterian in Alton, Illinois…

Some time ago, there was a law suit filed against a hospital claiming that a young medical resident allowed a person taken into the emergency room to die. The resident had just completed 40 hours of grueling work, without sleep, in this busy city hospital. Sheer exhaustion prevented him from making good medical judgment.

In response to the suit the state legislature made it illegal for residents to work long hours without rest. To protect lives, it is necessary that those who care for others care for themselves as well.

Many times we made damaging demands on ourselves and others, sometimes even in the name of God. At an awards ceremony at our recent Synod meeting, I was struck by how within the Church we expect and reward people who are damaging their own lives, their own families, in the name of God. The speaker read off a litany of all the things these great servants of the church had done, from attending every committee meeting of the church, to missing their children’s birthday parties so they could visit members in the hospital, to postponing or canceling family vacations in order to be more available to the congregation. It made me sick to honor these tireless servants who failed to take the sacred rest God provides and suffered because of it.

As God’s people, we do have much work to do, but we can’t become so absorbed in it that we fail to honor the Sabbath rest God provides, and expects from us. As Christians, we are to work for God’s justice, and we are to feed the hungry, but we are not to do it as if it depends upon us alone. Everyone in the church is important, but no one is indispensable. God depends on each of us, but God expects no one person to carry the whole load. We have seen throughout the history of the church that God raises up leaders that are needed at the time and replaces them when their time is up. It is essential for all leaders in the Church, for every follower of Christ, to care for themselves, to take regular rest to be recharged for service.

Jesus recognizes the need for rest. He sends his disciples out two by two (notice: no one goes alone). When they return, they are eager to share with him the good news of all they had done. Jesus knows they need rest, so he leads them to a quiet place. Meanwhile, a crowd of needy people has gathered. Jesus has compassion for them. He knows they are hurting, desperately seeking guidance. While the disciples rest and regroup, Jesus stays behind to teach the crowds.

It is important for people in ministry, you and I, to see who it is that does the healing, who does the feeding, who does the teaching. It is not one of the 12. It is Jesus. Jesus is the one who, though limited as a human being, draws on the limitless power of God to heal, to feed, to teach. It is God who puts an end to our limited and painful existence and replaces it with the kingdom of God, a kingdom that knows no end.

 

My soul finds rest in God alone, because my confidence comes from Him. Psalm 62:5

 

 

Finding Life (in obvious places): Dick

Dick worked as the maintenance man for a small factory in a small town in the Midwest. He performed odd tasks and tried fixing machines when they broke down, but they were mostly too big and old for him, so he just poured oil in them until they’d run, then he’d have to do it all over again in a week.

The guys at the factory called him, “Richard Whiskey” and the girls avoided him. He would smoke his pipe and walk around staring at people until they noticed him and told him about some problem he could work on.

“Could you take a look at this, Dick?”

“Sure, what have we got here?” He’d put down his pipe and start twisting some bolts.

“Hmmm. Hmmm. Yup. Could you hand me that oil can over there.”

He ate lunch with the boss, and only went to the break room to warm up his honey bun and get his chocolate milk out of the refrigerator. They’d be waiting for him.

“Hey, Dick, how was your weekend?”

“Fine.”

“Your mom doing okay?” Then they’d all laugh and Dick would turn around to take his honey bun out of the microwave.

One day, towards the end of the summer, the boss’ niece started working at the factory. She took an interest in Dick and would bring him cookies to go with his honey bun and chocolate milk.

“She’s a little young, don’t you think, Dick?”

“I think it’s none of your business.”

“But what will your Mom say?

“She’s met Mom….. Oh, go to hell!”

By the next spring, word got around that Dick was getting married. He took a week off for the honeymood, and came to work the next Monday with a bag of cookies, two honey buns, and a gallon of chocolate milk.

“Dick, you’re back. You dog, you.”

Dick just smiled.

“So, a married man. How’s it feel?”

“Good. Feels good.”

“Did your Mom cry?”

Dick laughed a little to himself, then went off to put his food and drink into the refrigerator and fill the oil cans.

 

Good Boundaries: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.   (Psalm 16:6)

             One thing I’ve experienced in the time I’ve spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries and other personal affects. Rules about visits and contact with others.   Rules about schedules—times to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven’t bothered me so much. I’ve benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There’s a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules.

            Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbucks coffee (at a steep price, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater brown liquid they served us from the cafeteria.

            Like the woman who gained permission to use the exercise room as a space to listen to loud Hip-Hop music on her boom box.

            Like the couple who found a way to prop a broom against the laundry room door so they could get around the “no-fraternization-with-the-opposite-sex” rule.

            One thing to learn as psychiatric patients (and people as a whole) is that rules are generally good for us. As chaotic as the world is around us, and as distorted as our mind is within us, rules provide order and clarity to prevent us from harm – from others as well as from ourselves.   Rules help establish clear, consistent boundaries within which we can live safely and safely let others live. Only when we have good, firm boundaries can we survive (and even thrive) within this crazy, often unpredictable world.

            Praise be to God who gives us such boundaries for life, as the Psalmist says – “You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth…” (Psalm 74:19).

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission which can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Trust, Poetry, Cravings, Language, and Gun Violence: Mental Health Monday

Not to be Trusted!” (Transcending Bipolar)

One of the things I’ve become aware of is how, even before I was diagnosed bipolar, I knew not to trust myself. Post-diagnosis, I now know why. As early as high school, I started getting myself into things in a manic state that I had to finish when I wasn’t. Example: I volunteered to be the school mascot, Miss Mustang, which entailed decorating my horse and riding her at halftime in school football games. When I volunteered, it seemed like a fabulous idea. When it actually came time to do it, I was no longer that manic person and had to deal with the reality that I was going to ride a horse (who was afraid of a tiny streams of water on the ground, among other things) on to a field in front of screaming people while a marching band bore down upon us. It did not go well. I couldn’t figure out how I’d gotten myself into that.

Mighty Oak” (Broken Light: A Photography Collective)

I’ve been enjoying writing poems. Something I used to do in the past. I’m finding it quite therapeutic and a new challenge for my mind. Playing with words as well as my photography has been a fun way to express myself in a way I find hard to do in real life.

Day 16: Comforts and Cravings” (30 Days of You and Me)

Cravings are a natural way to self-sooth. When I crave one of these things, I know something isn’t right. Have I over-worked myself? Is something in my work causing stress? Am I not meeting my goals, or are they perhaps too ambitious?

Language and Mental Illness: A Different Point of View” (bi[polar] curious)

Language is a form of self-expression. If we consider other forms of self-expression (music, painting, etc.) it seems ridiculous to walk up to someone painting and tell them they can’t use the color blue. Or they can’t use the “c” note. Or they can use the “c” note but only when followed with an “e flat”. A lot of the things I’ve seen lately about mental health verbiage has sounded like that sort of bizarre notion me. While I understand that people feel concerned about how others are expressing themselves (something I will get into momentarily), the act of telling someone what they can and can’t say or write quickly falls into the realm of censorship. While I understand that is not anyone’s intention, that doesn’t change the fact that that’s where this attitude is heading.

The Myth of Mental Illness and Gun Violence” (Forbes)

Random gun violence is a terrifying fact of American life, because of both the violence and the randomness. Terror bred by violence does not really require comment; they are twinned. But terror bred by randomness does, especially when it leads people to accept as true a reasonable story that is false, when a myth functions as an explanation. And that is what is happening with the way we talk about mental illness and random gun violence. Thankfully, a just published report in the Annals of Epidemiology pulls together the facts we need to consider if we really want to adopt evidence-based policies to reduce random gun violence.