Every year, instead of making resolutions, I make a bucket list of goals to give my year meaning and purpose. That way, I know what I want to get done, not what I’m going to strain to avoid doing. And I also know, on a given day, that I can choose among a whole bunch of things I care about accomplishing. Some have deadlines. Many call for weekly progress. But they’re goal focused, not deprivation focused. And that makes it much easier for me to keep going toward the purposes that give my life meaning.
During the eight years I taught NAMI’s Family to Family course, the session that most powerfully impacted participants was the one near the program’s end where they got to meet a person who relies on mental health services.
They’d look around the room expectantly and I’d announce: “I know you’re expecting a special guest tonight, someone who lives with mental illness as your relatives do.” I’d pause a few beats, then say: “Hi. My name is Carlene and I live with bipolar disorder.”
Eyes would widen. Jaws would drop. Sometimes I could hear a sharp intake of breath. No one expected their teacher to have a diagnosis. No one imagined that an ordinary-shaped life could also include bipolar disorder.
This post deals with topics that some may find triggering. If you are currently struggling with the desire to end your life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741 (US). Compassionate people will help you rediscover your possibilities. Hugs and God’s love to you!
As I write, “the winter that wasn’t” has slapped coastal Maine with what we hope is its last dose of ice and hazardous travel. Good Friday’s freezing morning mist coated even sand particles, making my unpaved driveway a slippery, treacherous mess. In the afternoon, a freezing rain frosted the pine needles and slicked roads. By Saturday, it had bent trees and broken branches.
Still, this ice landed on New England streets and yards almost entirely clear of snow after the extraordinarily warm “winter that wasn’t.” A thicket of crocuses is already blooming in my front yard. Budding daffodils are 4 inches high. Tightly furled tulip leaves have begun to push through the soil.
Most of the spring bulbs in this yard were planted more than three decades ago, when I began to create my little legacy in flowers.
Until then, I had spent dark years through my teens and early adulthood. I cried so much of my adolescence that I propped a favorite stuffed toy at one end of my bed and designated that area “my crying corner.” Throughout my days and nights, I heard a voice tell me over and over, “You shit. You schmuck. You fuck up. You fuck everything up. You can’t do anything right.”