returning

Yes, I have been away from this for some time. Far away, it seems, from thinking and writing and reflecting. I suppose I’ve just been living. There is something to be said for just living—without cataloging experiences. After all, neither Jesus nor Buddha left behind any written record of their experiences.

I have done a lot of living in these past months. Discovering (a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for my daughter), realizing (the likelihood that I too am on the spectrum), laughing (I seem to have developed a strange guffaw that I at least had never noticed before taking lamotrigine). Oh, and working. I mean, outside the home.

Yes, this has been one of the curious developments of transitioning from lithium to lamotrigine. I have more energy and more interest in what’s going on outside my head.

I am working with children with special needs. And learning a lot about myself and my daughter at the same time. My social ineptitude is no better—in fact, it’s probably worse from my being out of practice. And so my relationships with my colleagues are incredibly trying for me (and very likely for them too). I seem to always be relying on the patience, understanding, and forgiveness of others.

But I love the children. I can be silly with them, and they are all really crap at this whole social thing too because they haven’t yet learned the code. I am completely incapable of understanding the code, and so the children and I have much more in common than you might think at first glance.

The unfortunate part of this whole enterprise is that I still have that voice in the back of my head that says I’m not good enough. No, that’s too gentle. It says that I’m bad for the children. Bad for my colleagues. That I don’t belong, and I never will. That everyone is just being polite but would really prefer that I go away. And sometimes it says that everyone hates me and is laughing at me behind my back.

So, yeah, in that climate it’s been hard to make friends. Luckily, I had given up on making and keeping friends a long time ago. (It is a rare and special person who will maintain a relationship with someone who is very bad at being a good friend. There are one or two of these special people in my life. So, I do have a couple of friends by their grace.)

Anyway, just keeping my head above water has taken all the energy I would have used on reflection. Hence, the separation.

But then the Coronavirus situation…

That is an issue deserving of its own space.

experimental gardening

My garden is once again in that precarious position between abundance and disintegration. Texas weather shifts so fast and dramatically from spring to summer that the lettuce turns bitter overnight. Very few things can survive the summer sun here, so it feels as if most of my plants are preparing for their last rites. This is a difficult time for me; I can only look at my garden in early morning when the plants have had the night to recover from the previous day’s battle.

I am watering a neighbor’s plants while my neighbors are away, which is always an uncomfortable proposition. My way of gardening is more experimental, or, depending upon your perspective, neglectful. So, it should come as no surprise that her chard is the worse for my care after a week. My chard, on the other hand, is obnoxiously abundant.

But how can this be so? They are the same plant, are they not? They are exposed to the same climactic conditions, similar soil, precisely the same amount of rainfall. So then why does my chard bolster while her chard balks when the sun reaches its zenith?

The secret lies in growing from seed, and starting as you mean to continue. That is to say, all of my mature plants have already made it through a sort of climactic selection process: those who could’t survive my adoring though neglectful manner either never germinated or never made it to so far as to produce their first true leaves.

This is a bit how I parent too. I don’t mean to, I just care very much when I’m thinking about it, and at times get so absorbed in something else that it appears that I do not care about anything else. Knowing myself and that I have the best of intentions, I will defend myself with the fact that I appreciate the essence of a thing (or person) and believe fully in the individual’s ability to overcome adversity–the triumph of the spirit, and all that. I believe that a thing (or person) needs respect to reveal its own individuating rhythm, which also means that applying some formulaic system of care based on an understanding of parts (how much nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorous a plant needs, for example) reveals a deeply flawed understanding of a life and my role as facilitator or steward.

So, with plants as well as children, there is no right way to encourage growth and development. They all adapt to their environment and, if given enough space to become themselves (with occasional frantic fertilizing), will flourish and become strong individuals, capable of managing and overcoming their own suffering.

Everything is an experiment: gardening, parenting, living. It is all a matter of being and doing the best we can with what we have available to us.

An afterthought…

My chard is now entering its second summer and is bright and strong as only a world-wizened being could be. My garden is in the front yard, so I have had many conversations with passersby about gardening, and in the process I have discovered that most chard does not do particularly well here. I had assumed that mine was like all the others and that chard was simply one of the three vegetables that can survive a Texas summer. But it seems that it is only “neglected” chard that has such survival instincts. Which of course leads me to question whether it isn’t precisely my faith in my chard’s ability to survive (and my minimal input to ensure its survival) that has resulted in its resilience. Indeed, I feel as if I should question whether it is MY chard at all, or simply another glorious individual in this crazy karmic enterprise.

On failure

I am beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as failure. Failure suggests an absolute system of judging correctness, success, goodness. But, in what has been revealed to me of the universe, there are few true absolutes—and certainly moral absolutism is far too small to be of universal consequence.

What I’m getting at is that on an individual level, failure is an illusion.  Take this morning. Despite all my preparations to help things run smoothly (but oh! Even now I am thinking of more things I could have done! My monkey brain working to accept responsibility for the failure of our morning), my neuro-eccentric daughter lost control and had another one of her fits. It could have been very messy indeed, but there was no shouting (from me at least), no holding of arms and legs, no attempts at “controlling” the situation. I sat and acknowledged that the natural consequences of her actions were sufficient. My children were late to school, but I feel no responsibility for that fact.

From the outside, I failed. According to society, my job today as their mother was to feed them, clothe them appropriately, and get them to school on time with all they needed. While this morning didn’t go how I had hoped, and my own schedule and emotional equilibrium was disrupted, I succeeded at being mindful in my words and actions. This success is significant for me. So much so that I cannot view the morning as a failure. But perhaps that is because I am getting better at not holding myself and my neuro-eccentric daughter to society’s standards of success.

This is the key. People like us cannot function well within the socially defined parameters for how one should behave or even according to the standard definitions of productivity and success. (Many would argue that it is because we exist outside those norms and many others that we are valuable tools for social change, while others would argue that that is precisely the reason we need to be locked up or at least medicated, sedated.) Thus, “failure” is a highly charged concept for a neuro-eccentric.

My point is, I have spent a great deal of my life feeling ashamed of my “failures,” holding myself to standards that were not meant for me. I did an incredible amount of damage to myself. From the age of nine, I have been aware that I am different. What I did not know was that that was something to be celebrated. So, I spent decades hurting myself in one way or another, trying to be more like something that was accepted, raging against all that was accepted, or punishing myself for not being acceptable. And for what? Some nonsense absolutist ideal of success and failure?

I wonder what I could have accomplished by now if my difference had been celebrated from the beginning. And then I hear a little voice that says that my value is in my path, in the way I walk that path, in the discoveries I make along the way. Not in accomplishments, because, quite frankly, no accomplishment would ever have been enough to make me feel truly accepted.

I don’t mean to get all pop-psychology here. I mean to talk about the false structures that inform our perception of who we are and what our purpose is. Society paints a backdrop of a world based on false absolutes. The world we see in that image is not the real world. The real world lies beyond the backdrop, and the way to see it is to dissolve society’s falseness in our minds. This is part of what the Buddha’s teachings mean to me.

So, I am not a failure, despite all evidence to the contrary. I am in fact making progress on my path.

Electric miscellany

My mind is a quiet electrical storm today. I’ve been frantically jotting down notes because all things seem so important right now.

It is possible that I’m in a borderline tailspin, since my partner left this morning for a two-week work trip (for folks with borderline personality disorder, absence most certainly does not make the heart grow fonder). It’s just as likely his leaving was simply a psychological call to action, stimulating brain activity to enable me to fulfill functions I don’t normally perform. Such as being a carer, cook, schedule manager, and sensible authority.

I won’t go into too much detail on how his leaving impacts me; perhaps I’ll write a bit about it in a borderline personality disorder post at a later time. Borderline is a bit more difficult for me to come to terms with—the symptoms less sympathetic and arguably less interesting than bipolar symptoms. If I’m honest, I also just don’t understand borderline as well as bipolar. Borderline is like that sassy, booger-eating kid in class that you knew you should be nice to but were really just disgusted by. It also doesn’t help that borderline is the one thing I have in common with Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer.

That’s always a smack in the face. Really can’t go there now.

Instead, I thought I’d review my notes, all taken before 8am this morning, to see if there are any real gems there…anything I can expand on in future musings. Organizing my thoughts…

  • Connection between hormones and cognitive deficiencies associated with bipolar: I am a member of the small subset of folks with bipolar who suffer continual cognitive decline, independent of bipolar episodes. The connection between hormone levels and bipolar symptoms has always been obvious to me, but now I am seeing there might be a link between hormone levels and cognitive dysfunction. Interestingly, I seem to be most clear headed when I am ovulating.
  • On beauty: Have I finally reached a point in which I see beauty only when it is truly represented, and if so, what the hell does that mean—beauty exists independent of the observer? This arose as a result of my animal instinct driving me to confirm that my children were the most beautiful children of all (as determined by looking at their class photos). The twist was, I could not confirm it. I saw that they were all absolutely gorgeous beings of light and star dust. And my heart rejoiced that my baser need for validation was utterly foiled.
  • A mother’s prayer: For the first time, I understand the meaning and value of that powerful meditation. I saw my children walking away from me this morning and I sent my supplication into the infinite universe, and in the process of finding the exact words for my incantation, I realized I protect them every day by loving them. This is a mother’s prayer, since knowing that you are deeply and unconditionally loved is the strongest of protections against harm.
  • A spin-off from the previous: The worst aspect of borderline personality disorder is never feeling truly loved.
  • Self awareness is both a curse and a gift: You see clearly your own failings and are ultimately immune to your own illusions. Which is precisely why self awareness is the vehicle for true healing.
  • Social performance: I am the harshest judge of my social performances. I am probably never as odd or abrasive as I think I am.

And then I meditated and took my medication and the storm died out. End of transmission.