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She is my Symphony

On the eve of my wedding day, I thought it fitting to add a post about the love of my life.  From the moment I met her that second week of October, I knew there was something special.  As we have poured ourselves into each other these past eight weeks, my desire to know her and be with her has grown.  My realization that she was my future came faster than I ever thought possible.  At first, most of our conversation was behind a screen, but soon distance could not keep us apart.  In fact, after our initial meeting at Rain Café, I only let a few minutes pass before I messaged her about meeting up again.  Our first true date on October 14th at the Keeper of the Plains proved to be a special time. Tender beginnings were serenaded by a song about flying from the edge of a cliff.  I certainly felt like I was soaring!

Let me go back and revisit that day at Rain…

It was an afternoon of cautious awakenings.  I sat waiting patiently for her arrival.  As she entered the room, I first noticed the way she moved—graceful with confidence.  Later on, she would reveal to me her gratefulness for the time it took her to get to me at the table. She felt her breath catch when she first glanced my way.  As we sat and talked, I felt myself attracted to her beyond words.  Her passion for life itself was evident.  She spoke of her solo trip to Colorado to hike up a mountain.  She spoke of her students with fondness, her family with love.  Her intelligence and sweetness caught me off guard.  As our legs accidently brushed during a conversation, I wanted so much to grab her hand in my own.  I resisted, not aware of her feelings about me. I admit, I thought she was interested in another…

Our first official date was wonderful beyond words.  Because of the thousands of texts shared by that point, we thankfully knew of each others’ affections.  As we walked together by the river, I gathered the nerve to hold her hand.  A surge of electricity went through my body as our fingers met.  My nerves were near raw but never had I desired to share my story with someone so new.  A few months prior to meeting her, I had written a song, a song about jumping from a cliff into the unknown.  The urge to sing that song to her came suddenly and without warning.  I led her to a rock, motioned for her to sit and I began to sing my song.  As I sang, I realized the song was about us.  The Universe had been planning this all along.  I knew at that moment I loved her.

After that realization, each day away from her was excruciating.  Finding ways to see her became my focus.  J’s Lounge provided the atmosphere for another important date.  There we shared our first dance and focused conversation full of laughs, heartfelt discussion, intense eye-contact and a couple of tender kisses; we were unaware of our surroundings.  My heart was so full!  We were falling in-love!

As the weeks have gone by, our love for each other has grown.  Never do we allow much time to go by before we have to text one another.  Our messages have reached the tens of thousands, literally.  Staying connected and communicating fully with one another is at the forefront of our relationship.  We have become best friends, each others’ confidante.  We take care of each other emotionally and communicate our love to each other with cards, flowers and the spoken and written word.  Tomorrow, I will share with her my vows—my promise to be there beside her all the days of my life.

I am excited to give myself to her in marriage, to take her name.  I can only hope she knows how much I cherish her as an individual, how unique and matchless she is, and how much I value her.  Kristi, you are my heart.  It is my honor to become your wife!

Surviving the Bipolar Storm

Sometimes destiny is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine. And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

~ “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami

Recently, I’ve been going through a storm. I won’t deny that it was by my own doing that I managed to find myself enduring the stinging sand. I’ll admit, I went off my medication…not a good idea for someone who is bipolar. I honestly thought I had the tools needed to combat the never-ceasing knock of depression. However, I found myself in a most discouraging dilemma. I could continue to force myself to adjust—wait for my brain to balance out even though the crying spells came so frequently or I could go back on my medication and readjust my attitude to the idea of needing the extra boost. I chose the latter and I’m thankful I did. Sleeping during the day is not an option when you’re the mother to three active and needy boys!

I’ll admit I felt like a failure after not being able to pull through the storm. My mom suggested that it’s not a failure if I learned something from it, though. She was right, but what did I learn? Well, first of all telling myself that everything will be alright isn’t enough to cope. Emotional regulation for me is bio-chemical and not just a strength of mentality. Second, it’s not simply thinking of different ways to change the problem or fix the situation. My brain REQUIRES chemical consistency to function properly. Accepting these realizations isn’t easy. Knowing I may be stuck on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics for the rest of my life can itself be depressive. But I must adapt. Acceptance, positive thinking and cognitive restructuring are required. Let’s hope this lesson sticks!

Be a Bipolar Paddler

For those with bipolar disorder, and particularly for those with Bipolar II (that would include me) symptoms in the mild to moderate range can often give rise to feelings of guilt and self-doubt. I often ask myself “What am I responsible for vs. what do I have little control over as a result of my illness?” After all, when viewed as a neurochemical disorder it would seem that the shifts in mood and energy, either upwards or downwards, aren’t usually subject to conscious control by the bipolar individual. If they were, then bipolar disorder probably wouldn’t be a diagnosable illness. It would just be a reflection of poor choices. Maybe we could call it “Poor Judgment Disorder.”

But all you have to do is speak with several (or me) who have the disorder and you’ll learn that much of our experience is beyond our conscious control. It isn’t like we can simply feel more upbeat when slipping into depression, or conversely, put the brakes on when energy and cognition are accelerated due to hypomania. I feel like I’m on a raft being carried down a river. Sometimes I reach parts of my journey where the water is still or hardly moving at all. At other times I’m being swiftly carried down river while also trying to manage turbulent rapids. In other words, being told I can exert control is like being subject to a cruel joke.

For those who have Bipolar I, there is often little ambiguity about being out of control. The very fact that full mania requires the safety and protection of inpatient hospitalization as well as fairly strong medication to bring the individual’s behaviors back under control is usually a clear testament to the fact that the manic person is experiencing neurochemistry gone awry. The individual rarely feels like he or she had a lot of conscious choice.

Those of us with Bipolar II are frequently faced with pervasive guilt and self-doubt about our role in creating negative outcomes as a result of our episodes of destabilization. Consequently, our work needs to occur in two areas. First, we really need to work on compassion and self-acceptance. Second, we need to become world-class paddlers. There are many skills and many behavioral adaptations that can be applied to help us smooth out the turbulent waters. Those who have lived with bipolar disorder for numerous years are typically better at these skills as they’ve had a longer period of practice. Those who are newer to the river aren’t as skilled.

Unfortunately, those of us with bipolar disorder don’t typically have a choice as to what river we’re going to raft. That’s where we see the differences between Bipolar I and II. But once on the river, we’re not without paddles. How effectively we apply our skills can make a big difference. And don’t forget that acceptance of the fact that we have a disorder is one of these necessary skills!

Hello, Deeply Conflicted Humans!

While we appear to treat ourselves with love, and pamper ourselves on the outside, internally, we beat ourselves up far worse than what our enemies would do to us.

You’ve also probably been the receiving end of the hostility belt out by your own inner critic. For some of you, it could even be an internal battle with which you have to fight, and win, every single day in order to stay functional.

Why do we beat up ourselves so badly inside, while we can take such meticulous care, sometimes to the point of obsession, of our body on the outside? What causes such inconsistency between our actions and the mind?

Actions Born Out of Fears

Although on the surface we may appear to love and respect ourselves, on further inspection, you may realize it is anything but love and acceptance. Instead, our actions could well stem from fears.

What are we afraid of? Plenty.

We are afraid of getting terminal illnesses; we’re afraid of not being able to afford the escalating hospital bill; we are afraid of disapproving looks from the people around us; we are afraid of losing out to our relatives, friends and neighbors; we are afraid of being disabled and having to rely on others for the rest of our lives, and so on.

This fear-based approach to life can easily infiltrate into the ways we manage other aspects of life as well. Career, relationship, kid-raising and more.

While it can be a powerful motivating force, when actions arise solely out of fear, we tend to become angry with ourselves, and become fiercely self-critical, when we fail to make the mark we’ve set.

I have realized in the last couple of days that achievements accomplished through fear are also destined to be fleeting as the very fear that fuels our motivation will come back larger each time it has been fed.

Success is, therefore, always in the next major project to be completed; happiness will always lie in the next thing to be possessed; the ideal weight will always be one pound lighter, and wealth will always be another zero after our net worth value. Enough is never quite enough.

This, of course, is the perfect reason why your inner critic is never stopping, since it will never run out of justifications to give you a good lash.

How to Deal with Your Inner Critic

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s ever possible to stop the scathing commentary from running completely. Trying to stop the incessant chattering is like trying to ask a person to turn off the brain. But, there’s no off button for the brain!

But, even though we have little control over the content of our mind, we can change the way we relate to them.

Believe it or not, what makes unrelenting self-criticism so powerful is you. We take every word coming from ourselves way too seriously. We accept and believe every single thing that we tell ourselves without questioning.

But the fact is, just because something comes out of our own head doesn’t make it any more truer than what we see on the TV, papers or the Internet.

The thoughts in our mind may not even be our own to begin with! The years of conditioning by our parents, friends, colleagues, media, the society we live in and our own limited experience have all collectively shaped our perspectives in life, both consciously and subconsciously. Our perspectives, in turn, affect the opinions we formed about ourselves and others.

You only need to be mindful of what your internal commentator is talking about to figure this out. If you’ve never analyzed what those judgements are about, you’ll be surprised that a lot of times they are distorted facts, half-truths and even complete lies.

When you’ve done this for enough times, you may even come to the stage when you stop identifying with the bulk of what your inner critic is trying to have you believe. That’s when most of the self-judgements start to have less effects on you and they will simply appear and disappear on their own without leaving much trace within.

I get tripped up all the time by my internal commentary when I’m not mindful enough to see through the condemnation that disguises itself as well-meaning advice. The mind can be crafty (be careful!) and will try to deliver its two-cent worth in other ways when its old tactics are no longer working.

But with sufficient mindfulness, which daily mindfulness meditation can help to cultivate, it’s possible to live in harmony with Mr. or Ms. Critical inside.

Try it the next time when another self-critical thought pops out. Listen carefully to what that voice is saying.

Because as caustic as it may sound, that’s also where the key to your freedom and inner peace can be found.

(By the way, I didn’t figure all of this out on my own. I have someone who speaks positively into my life on a daily basis. Without her, I’m not sure I would be making the strides I am to mindfulness and self-truth. We all need people to speak truth into our lives. My hope is that you, my friend, have such a person in your life.)

What My Mother is to Me

I will love my mother for all of my days. She’s gentle, yet strong. She’s patient when I’m foolish and gives guidance when I ask. She’s a dependable help in times of trouble and supports me when I call. She taught me how to serve, to accomplish, to persevere. I wouldn’t be the strong woman I am today without her example. Her love, her attention and her guidance have helped to make me who I am. I think of all the things she has spent on me throughout these thirty-one years—sacrifice, devotion, lots of tears, her heart, her mind, and her energy. With enduring patience and open arms she gave me comfort, encouragement and forgiveness, oftentimes at her expense. Sometimes I took her for granted, but I don’t now, and I never will again.

Finally, she did the hardest thing of all: she set me on my life’s path, let me separate and then set me free.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         I Think of My Mom

I think of my mom as I walk down the street…She is the whisper of the leaves.

I think of my mom as I do laundry…She is the smell of my freshly laundered towels.

I think of my mom when I’m sick…She was the cool hand on my brow.

I think of my mom when I am happy…She lives inside my laughter.

I think of my mom when I am sad…She is crystallized in every tear drop.

I think of my mom when I look in the mirror…Her investment is written all over my symmetrical smile.

Nothing on earth could separate me from my mom…Not time, not space, not even death.

I carry her inside of me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. May I always follow the example you set for your daughters.

Why I Write

Okay, so I thought it was time for me to climb into the discussion here, being as it is my blog and all…

I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of what you believe and what I believe. Everyone has their own perspective of the world. Who am I to tell someone they are wrong? Who am I to tell someone that they need to stand where I am and look from my vantage point? We all have our own journeys.

As I was writing a friend this morning, I expressed to her why I write about my most intimate experiences online for everyone to see. I don’t do it for me, though I suppose there is some catharsis of freedom that comes with being honest. I express my life experiences for those who struggle with some of the same issues I do. I want those with bipolar to know they aren’t alone in their daily battle for equilibrium. I write for the homosexual who is still finding their place in the world. Why do I make myself so vulnerable? Because I know, and because I’ve been given the time and the words to express what I feel and experience. My vision is to bring hope, encouragement, motivation and maybe even validation to someone who feels beat down.

I have been both rewarded with online friendships and discouraged with losing friends who thought they knew me. (Trust that I’m not any less moral or tender-hearted than I was when I attended my conservative childhood church.) I’m diligently searching for a faith that I can hold onto without the fear of being shamed, guilted, or damned to an eternity of flames. I’m not saying I’m looking for a faith that fits MY mold, rather I’m looking for the truth that sets me free. I know many of you believe you hold the answers (or Answer) to my questions. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as one might suggest—we all have our own journey as I said before. I welcome all comments (and prayers) anyone might send my way.

Part 1: The Interpretation of the Bible

I have decided to give serious study to homosexuality and what the Bible says about it. Wow! There was so much to learn about gays and lesbians—and the Bible—that I’m so glad to come to know. I hope my readers find this as enlightening. I am now convinced that the presumption that many evangelical Christians hold about condemnation is unjustified. I have written out what I believe is clearly a correct interpretation of pertinent Biblical passages. Forgive the length of these posts, but I don’t think I could adequately address this matter with fewer words.

I’m new to the Ana-Baptist faith, but after attending a statement of faith class I understand that Mennonites believe that each person must interpret the Bible for themselves; we are not to let anyone else control our thinking about scripture. Too, understanding the Bible is understanding what the writer wanted his readers to understand. This seems so obvious, but millions of Bible readers and thousands of preachers violate this principle constantly because when they look at a passage, they do not give a thought either to the author or to those to whom he wrote but immediately begin to decide what the words, by themselves, mean. Practically everyone is guilty of this. This leads to almost as many different ideas as there are readers. But the only truth in a passage is the truth the writer was trying to convey to readers who were his contemporaries. Thus we need to keep in mind:

a) The writer’s meaning comes out of his background.

b) The writer’s meaning is determined by the background and situation of those to whom he wrote.

c) Our understanding of the writer’s meaning is colored by our own culture, experiences, understandings, presuppositions, etc.

d) The meaning of the author is not in his words! Words are merely imperfect vehicles for use in transferring thought.

As the points above indicate, what we must do is find the central truth or God’s eternal principle in any passage we are studying. Nothing should ever be taken out of its whole context. If we ignore the context, for example, then couples would not marry unless one of them “burned with lust,” then it would be okay to marry so the lust could be satisfied in a legal way (I Cor. 7:9)! And that is as ridiculous and repulsive as many of the ways “proof-texts” have had cults built around them. Paul thought Christ would return very shortly, so he was saying that since marriage would last for such a brief period, it was just better, if you were single, to stay as you were. When the time came that it was no longer so certain that couples would have only a brief time for marriage, Paul’s (scriptural) admonition was no longer considered applicable.

 A single passage should be interpreted in the light of the Bible as a whole. Peter said that if we believe and are baptized for the remission of our sins, we shall be saved (Acts 2:38). This says rather clearly that faith and baptism are the way to salvation. Ana-Baptists don’t believe he meant literally what the words say, for we know from the whole New Testament that baptism in itself has nothing to do with salvation. So now we know what he really meant and didn’t mean.

The Bible is not a rule book. Grievous errors are made by those who believe it is. The Bible is a record that gives us a revelation of God by the writers’ having recorded their experiences with God, things that happened in the first and preceding centuries. What we need to do is find the eternal, central truth behind the “rules” and apply that truth to our 21st century circumstances. Many rules are eternal, but that is because of the eternal truth in them, and it is that truth we follow, not the rule that contained it. For example, Jesus didn’t command me to go into all the world; I wasn’t in the group that heard him that day. But when I read the record of that event, I understand God’s plan and that if I want to do God’s will in my age, I must do all I can to go into all the world, not because that is a rule to follow as a child follows a parent’s rule, but because it is my mature understanding of God’s plan and my place in it.

How do we move from the first century Bible to today? We have talked about principles, but applying the principles is not always easy. The Bible has nothing to say about much that we encounter in the twenty-first century, for example, innate homosexuality.


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