The Little Boat That Could

 

I have lived in Portland, Maine, for most of my adult life, and on occasion my father would take my son Tom and I out to eat.

DiMillo’s was one place we went now and then. It is an actual boat on the water that has become a main attraction of the city: a floating restaurant! Great food! A little more money than the average restaurant, but totally worth it just for the experience; and did I mention? Great food!

Well, my father always liked to “treat” whenever we went out. Even when I had a good job, he would insist on paying the bill. I would offer to pay now and then but he would not allow it. Literally.

But I wanted to be able to express my affection and gratitude for all he had done for us over the years, and I realized that the only way I could do so was to be a bit sneaky. So one night he invited then-10-year-old Tom, and I and a few others, to DiMillo’s, and the plot was hatched. I was going to pay the bill, whether he liked it or not!

So, soon after we’d arrived and been seated, I excused myself “to go to the rest room,” and sought out our waitress. “No matter what he says or does, I am paying for the check,” I told her, and I gave her my debit card number in advance.

Well, come time to order, my father leans back and says, “get whatever you want.” My son Tom, who’d come to love lobster, decided to order not one, but TWO lazy lobsters. Lazy lobsters are one whole lobster taken out of the shell and served with a generous amount of butter and who knows what-all; it’s delicious, and at the time it was $25. a pop. “Tom,” I nearly hissed, thinking of my poor debit card, “I think ONE lazy lobster is sufficient.”

“Oh, no,” said Dad, patting his stomach and throwing an arm across Tom’s shoulders. “Let him get what he wants.” He smiled. I smiled. Tom got his two lazy lobsters.

Afterward, there was a full round of dessert. Coffee. Dad finished his last sip of water and looked around for the waitress. Took another sip of what was now cold coffee and grimaced. But not because of the coffee. Tom, full of lobster and ready to go run around on the wharf, was oblivious. My wallet was crying. Dad continued to crane his neck looking for the waitress.

Finally my father, visibly upset, got the waitress’s attention. “We’re WAITING on our CHECK.”

Beaming, and winking over at me, the waitress says, “The check’s taken care of, Sir.”

“WHAT?”

Her smile faltered a little. “It’s been paid. Your .. your daughter …”

He turned flashing eyes on me. “You did not.”

“I did.” I was smiling, but having a hard time holding it in place. He REALLY was not happy. I could tell by the look in his eyes.

Tom, oblivious, hopped down off his chair. “We ready to go?”

“We sure are, honey,” I said.

I’m still not sure that I did the right thing. I was proud to be able to “provide,” for once. But my dad really never liked that I’d done that. It was HIS job to take care of his baby girl, not the other way around.

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The Sound of Silence

Silence like a cancer grows …” Paul Simon

Well, I suppose that is true. I don’t speak (= don’t write), therefore it leads to not speaking, and then it is harder to speak again. The silence grows and the cancer is the self- talk that goes on – “No one wants to hear what you have to say.” Or, “You don’t want them to know what you are thinking.” I don’t know which cancer is worse, and I really didn’t think of it as a cancer until those lyrics occurred to me …

The impetus for this blog post is one by a blogging friend, who says that her silence comes from a need to recover. I suppose that is partly true in my case (Recover from what, though? But I feel broken).

But unlike her, the recovery comes when I do write. When I am silent, i.e., not writing, but I suppose this includes not confiding verbally, I am withdrawing into myself, more depressed.

I did ask my NP (Nurse Practitioner) to help me deal with the increase in depression, which I am experiencing “a little bit,” and she upped my Abilify (which I have to be very gentle with – it can be very touchy!)

The other song that came to mind in reflecting about the quiet is a hymn we often sing during the altar invitation time at church:

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit Divine!

So, silence is not so great, haha, if it means that the Holy Spirit will tell me what to do next (“Write, Kathleen!“). I don’t want to hear. La la la la … (index fingers firmly planted in both ears…). I am living a spiritual life, praying, reading my Bible, spending time with other Christian friends, but I am guarded somehow, lately.

Eh, and I thought my not blogging was just a laziness thing, but maybe not. And I do know you don’t mind hearing from me, at least, a number of you have said so. Somehow, that thought makes me feel tearful.

I had no idea, really, that I was feeling this melancholy. I’m really not! But apparently, it’s in there! (“Ragu: It’s In There!”)

So, I suppose I should keep writing.

I am toying with the idea of participating in July’s Nano Camp (see link if you are unfamiliar). Since we are allowed to set our own goals for it, I think I will work on my old work- in- progress one day, and alternate the next with a new work (featuring Vernon and Maggie Burke, an older couple who have an illustrious past …).

So, I guess I’ll see ya.

 

The Sound of Silence,” Written by Paul Simon.

Open My Eyes That I May See,” Words and Music by Clara H. Scott

(Okay, the song really does touch my heart, sigh …)

Dear Day of Off

Dear Day of Off,
I have been looking forward to you all week, but here I am, not as thrilled as I was, because suddenly you have become a Day of Obligation. Oh sure, I have a Meeting of Friends scheduled for 12 noon, but I also have a number of chores and errands that need to be accomplished.
And a visit to an Office of Government.
Really?
It all started when I woke up.
First of all, I had planned to Sleep In, which, in case you did not know this, means, “not getting up at the usual (or earlier) time.” Did you not realize this? Of course, you and Bladder colluded on this matter and I am quite Put Out.
Next, there is this matter of Clothes Not Washed. Now, I realize that you and I have a deal, that I will keep up on the laundry, enabling me to have said Day of Off available for Other Things. So explain to me where these Clothes Not Washed came from?? And where goeth these Other Things? I have Books awaiting perusal! I have friends awaiting phone calls! I have windows awaiting the Staring of Out!
But instead? Bladder, as previously discussed. Then, the Surrender to Coffee (required regardless of Day).
And Clothes Not Washed, which took precedence. Because of another phenomenon which I call, CRS: Can’t Remember Stuff. Yes, I have come to forget essential things (including the washing of uniforms), and even with a List, I forget the List. Hence, the 12th Commandment: Thou shalt do the Thing, whilst one is thinking the Thing. (The 11th Commandment being, Thy mother worketh not here: Clean Up After Thyself.)
So I am breaking cardinal rule number 1: Thou shalt do nothing before coffee. And here I am, doing something before coffee!
There is also this matter of Vacuuming, Dusting, General Cleaning, and the like. Answer me this: Why have you not kept up these things as much as you have Clothes Not Washed? Why have you eaten up my day with such foolishness? Don’t you know I have other things I would like to have done with my Day of Off? Leisurely Bible reading, perhaps? Correspondence? Extending Meeting with Friends? Daydreaming?
(SMH)
(Which stands for, Shaking My Head)

Do Wha Diddy Diddy Dumb Diddy Doo …

Well there’s an eye catching little title. Nothing to do with this post.

Except for that first word, “do.”

And perhaps, the “Wha.”.

(Leave it to me to get something obscure from a song lyric).

The “do” and the “wha” refers to the “do what?” of my life.  Because so often I’m questioning what I do or don’t do. Am I doing right? And if I’m doing right, am I doing right?

Let me explain. And I’d better hurry up, before I lose you. One of my primary issues is keeping boundaries. And it’s not just the fact that people can take advantage of me. I volunteer myself and my resources. Nobody asked! It’s “What do YOU need?” versus “What do I need?” Then, when everybody’s happy, and I do mean ev.er.y.body, then  I’ll sit down and do my stuff. Complaining all the while, don’tcha know. But to do otherwise, to ignore someone’s need, to leave someone unsatisfied, feels very selfish, and just plain wrong. Sound familiar? (Cough: Martha)

This hurts me. Because after a while I’m feeling disjointed, disoriented, disorganized, and dissatisfied. It’s feeling like life is out of control. My laundry is weeks overdue, I haven’t made that phone call or done my writing, and I’m neglecting my job search and exploration. But maybe that’s the point. In seeing to someone else’s needs, I get to put off the things I need to do, or face, or feel. But that only works for so long. Soon I am in dire straits, and worse, blaming you.

So what is my business? How do I know? What is my responsibility, to you, or to me?

To know this, it starts with prayer. A common prayer of mine is the prayer Paul prayed at the time he was converted to Christianity (and isn’t that putting it mildly?). Having persecuted Jesus and His followers,, and having just condoned the stoning of Stephen, Paul (as Saul) meets Jesus on the road to Damascus.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord,what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:6)

Simple, huh? Just ask God, and He will lead.

So why don’t I do it? Why don’t I make a habit of taking the time, first thing in the morning, to ask what He’d like me to do during my day? Why don’t I pause, before I say “yes,” or volunteer myself? It only takes a moment. Is it because I think I know better what’s best? Is it because I enjoy that adrenaline rush that says “Ooh, what have I gotten myself into?” “It sure has gotten hot in here.” Or, “Where’s the fire extinguisher?”

But there are concrete things He’s asked of me. I don’t need to pause and wait to be told; it’s in the Book. I can pray for others, one of the finest things that can be done for another human being. I can study and meditate upon God’s word. I can serve in my local church. I can spend time with other people the Lord has given me. And I can do my laundry.

Ok, perhaps that last was my mother talking. But you get the gist. There are many things I don’t make time for, and end up a mess. And if you’re like me, you’re spending time recuperating from time with others as much as you’re actually spending time with them (see: introvert). Maybe more. So you still don’t get things done.

It doesn’t mean I can’t drop everything in the event of an emergency, but it does mean that God has specific tasks for me. He has helped me, through a long history of anxiety, depression, and bipolar illness, to figure out what I need to do to take care of myself. He has helped me to know when it’s time to take steps forward in my recovery, and when I’ve taken on too much. He’s given me specific people, family and friends who know me well. They can see if I am “off,” they can give me that refreshing of the spirit that only a true friend can give, and it is mutual, I hope. If I’m neglecting all of that, or ignoring red flags, a lot of sour notes will ensue. And it’s not just me on the piano, or the Mexican food I just ate.

This is not to mention the fact that if my “good deeds” do proceed from my flesh, and not from the Spirit’s call, it’s not worth a whole lot. I am thoughtful of the following scripture in Romans 8:5-8:

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

There is a whole lot in that there little portion of scripture! Among other things, it makes me evaluate things: Is my motive selfish, even when I appear to be focused on others? Am I looking to be comfortable, to be honored, to be liked? Am I trying, in my flesh, to make others happy? Maybe God’s intent is for that person to seek their own solution, or to sit with their own discomfort. Or, more than likely, for them to turn to Him, rather than to this friend who wants to make “aw better.” Sometimes, making it easier on someone else is not making it easier. It’s not just the two-year-old who needs to know they can do it themselves. And sometimes the attempt to “mother” someone does more harm than good. After all, “mother” and “smother” are pretty close.

Of course, there is such a thing as analyzing something to death. Sometimes I am procrastinating. Sometimes I am “enabling.”

But sometimes, I’m just loving.

And isn’t that what Christ has begged for us to do all along? As it is written:

And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 2 John 5:

 

 

Ulla – Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

I hate to write this. And after many revisions, trying to articulate this clearly, I am just going to click “Publish,” and call it good. After one more read, then I will. And then one more.

Our Dear Ulla, a fellow bipolar blogger known as “Blahpolar,” who entertained us, saddened us, instructed us, inflamed us, embarrassed us, left us. She took her life, and now she’s gone.

I loved you right away, Ulla, loved reading your irreverent prose. The F bombs, the rants, the things we all want to say but can’t. The extremes of anger and sadness. I wanted to loosen my lips, but not THAT much. Being around it, I started to think it. I have no way to explain, only that it wasn’t good for me and the life I was trying to live. So I left off reading your daily blog. I tried reading you once a week, but I couldn’t. I tried to help, but my solution being God and godly things made you REALLY mad. You had your reasons, and I understood, but that was all I had to offer. So I popped in now and then, said hi, reminded you I still cared, but was it enough?

Ulla was as out there as anyone with bipolar could be. She called herself the bipolar dyke. I know some of my Christian friends would wonder, how can you love someone like that, who is out and proud and loud and bipolar and gay and “heathen,”and what if you catch it? Funny, huh? Not really. After all, there but for the grace of God my desire and passion could be for a woman. It can’t be an easy road. My response is more a tilt of the head, and then, so, what else are you about?

As everyone, I was shocked to find out you had left us, Ulla. Let’s just say it right out, you killed yourself. Why? I am so surprised at your choice. You were so strong, so determined! You had a purpose and that purpose was keeping US alive. Oh Ulla. What tipped you over the edge? But I understand, too. When you’re that depressed, you DON’T have a choice over your thoughts, your morbidity, and yes, your choices. And you, my friend, I am sure you looked at the whole thing practically, logically. I don’t believe you were one bit impulsive or emotional about it.

Where are you now? According to my faith, once you are gone you are gone, and if you’ve not chosen Jesus, you are really gone, to Hell, with no way back. But how could I tell you that? Besides, you knew, right? You’d been steeped in religion at one point in your life. I think. Am I remembering right? And shouldn’t I have said something, directly to you, sooner, more emphatically, more empathetically? I had my blogs about salvation, did you read them? But I should have said, Ulla, please, listen to ME. I should have begged, or at least, been a bother.

Then again, maybe you did know the Lord. Maybe you didn’t land in Hell. I believe that those of us who commit suicide ARE ill, and God takes that into account. Oh Lord. Oh Ulla.

And in some religions, it is GOOD to pray you into that good place. It is believed that you can take someone ordinarily destined for Hell, and pray for them, and they will go to Heaven. I know God can do anything, does do miracles. So I pray. Lord, have mercy. Lord, the ones I love, they didn’t understand. Lord, have mercy. It can’t hurt to pray, God wants us to pray, so I pray, Lord, have mercy.

Ulla, I am just so sorry I didn’t continue to be your friend. Survivor’s guilt, they call it. But not just that. I shoulda coulda woulda. You would now be telling me, F___ guilt. But there are some things I am actually guilty of. And you really were a friend to me. You did reach out to me. Or did I you? Regardless, we hit it off. And nothing I said was unacceptable, I was in a bad spot and you were my friend. And vice versa. I really should have done more. I’m so sorry Ulla. We are all asking, is there anything we could have done differently? Something that would have made you stay for one more day, a day things might have turned around for you? Oh yes I know this is totally self-centered of me, but would you please come back?

Ulla Ulla it just seems that if you had held on a little longer, you might have been okay. ECT does not work right away, you know that.  😦 What was it that tipped you over the edge? And was it the best decision? But how could it be?

That is one thing that haunts me. Whenever I find out that someone has committed suicide, I am so sad and horrified, but a part of me is envious, because I have what you have. And that thing that I have is the occasional hatred of life, so strong it can be overwhelming,  it can be all I can think of. The desire to leave, so strong.

But what you didn’t have is what I do have. The hope that no matter how bad things get, I have a future. A future in Heaven. I have Someone Who loves me, will love me forever. No matter who or what happens in my life, I have an assurance that is real enough that nothing else matters. Not my pain, not my misery, nor the endless days. And eventually those days change, and I am happy again, and can move forward. Write again, smile again, hope again. See that I matter.

I pray, as I said, that your endless days ended in Heaven. I pray that I can be a better friend.

But more than that, I wish you were here Ulla. You are so missed. I wish you were here.