Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Little Work History Might Help

Start again.  Anew.  Rebirth.
With this project of my recollections from Greece and my first manic episode, I've thought that if I could just record what all I thought about at that time, there would be a book there.  But it's not happening that way.  So I need a different approach.  I think.
There were far too many thoughts to remember all at once there, during that time of duress.  You had the mingling of the cultures, the transformation from artisan to commerce economies, the lack of restful sleep.  Plus I was facing a grand transition in my career.  I had been working for the Engineering Department with the City of Santa Clara, which had been a big deal in and of itself.  I had traversed the topography of shift work for the Police Department before, suffering through a job that I had a lot of trepidation going into and a lot of dread to overcome as I became a permanent employee with the city after almost two years of working full-time but in an "as-needed" capacity.  I had worked my way into a position with the Finance Department as a utility meter reader, after a stint with the Sewer Department as an "as-needed" laborer.  This was after a period of unemployment after being laid off from my job while living in Sacramento.  I had moved back home with my parents, who were rebuilding their lives back in the south Bay Area after a long haul of eking out an existence in the Central Valley.  Funny how long it takes to get to the bottom of it all--  I could go back into details of suffrage for both of my parents in their careers, as well as with mine--  suffice it to say that we had been challenged and it took quite a transition to get back on our feet again.  I went from falling in love with a college friend who had a house in Malibu, and the possibility of relocating to the LA area (I even had a potential job transfer available) to being laid off with no prospects.  The long-distance relationship didn't last-- love couldn't conquer the distance.  So I eventually moved to Santa Clara and my aunt got me an interview for the job with the Sewer Department.  Time to start at the bottom and work my way up again.
After about five months with the Sewer Department, my limit on how many hours I could work was about up.  Just about then, I learned of the opportunity to work with the Finance Department as a meter reader.  They needed some summertime coverage, so it would be temporary, but would be quite a bit more money.  And as luck would have it, one of the permanent employees got injured, so I ended up working more.  I was making almost twice as much as I had ever made before in all my work experience, and I really liked the job.  I worked at my own pace, by myself, with no phones interrupting or supervisor's eyes leering, and I got to work outside and wear shorts.  What a coup!  I thought I had found the way to live my life.  If I could just get on as a permanent meter reader, I'd be set.
Over the course of the next year or so, I took several civil service tests to try and get on hiring lists to get in line for permanent positions with the City.  At that time, it was common knowledge that a person could gain a distinct advantage by taking any position with the City and fulfilling their one-year probation period.  Once that was achieved, an employee did not have to satisfy the one-year period again.  And if you were a permanent employee, you were given preference on the hiring lists.  Permanent employees were placed on a promotional list that was considered before the general public hiring list even got a call for an interview.  And you didn't have to score as well on the test to be placed on the promotional list-- if you just got a passing grade, you'd be added to the promotional list, and would get an interview before anybody on the regular list.  A distinct advantage indeed.
So such was the thinking behind taking as many tests as I could qualify for so that I could get a permanent position with the City and then move to the position of my choice once I had satisfied my probation.  The best laid plans...
While I was working as-needed as a meter reader I waited for the opportunity to test for the permanent position of the job I was doing and enjoying doing.  It came up once, and I did well, but since I wasn't a promotional candidate, I didn't get a call for an interview.  So when I got the opportunity to become a permanent employee as a typist clerk with the Police Department, I had to say yes.  It meant that we could qualify for a loan to buy a house, and by then I had met my wife-to-be and was building towards a life together.  It presented challenges, for sure, and I had a lot of trepidation as I said before.  But it had to be done.  It was the practical choice.
So I started work with the Police Department in November of 1997, and instantly began to dread going to work.  It was so much more stressful that meter reading, and there was danger and hazards and codes and privacy and so much to keep straight.  Plus I was working swing shift and graveyard at times.  And there was so much negativity, conflicting personalities, back-biting, and depression.  I'd get off work usually at 1:30am and go straight to the grocery store for beer or liquor and drink myself into the morning hours so I could go to sleep.  At the time, I was a newlywed and we bought a house, and soon we started to try and start a family.  I continued my efforts to find another position with the City doing something else, but it was not quick to happen.
It was about this time that we started having our difficulties with infertility.  The economy was booming in the Bay Area, and my wife was making very good money and traveling quite a bit, but she really wanted kids and we tried to make it happen.  After some time of tracking her cycles and trying on our own, we sought out help from an infertility doctor.  She had elective surgery to try and clear her tubes, we did the assisted insemination thingy, and we even got pregnant, once.  But it was a blighted ovum and we weren't blessed with a child.
By the time that we did get pregnant, I had managed a transfer from the Police Department to the Engineering Department.  Swing shift to day shift.  Back to the life of the living.  We were cautious about letting people know, but we were just too excited to keep it a secret.  So we celebrated with family and friends, and planned for the arrival of a future that never came.
When it happened, when we found out that we would be miscarrying, it was a shock and severe disappointment, for sure.  My wife was crushed.  But I felt inspired by the fact that we had succeeded to the next step and proven that we could in fact get pregnant, after a lot of infertility talk and diagnosis and plotting.  So I tried to be cheerful and encouraging as we set out on the next phase of our journey together.
I worked for the Engineering Department for a little over a year, and it proved to be just as stressful as the Police Department, but in a different way.  There weren't lives hanging in the balance on a daily basis, but there were important projects and dignitaries to deal with.   My co-worker had been hired a month before I was for the department, and all of a sudden she and I were running the show-- our supervisor left for a different position in the City, and then the department heads decided to take their over thirty years of experience and retire.  We learned on the go, and it went fast.  I continued to shop around for the right place with the city, and continued to take tests, even though the promotional rules had now changed and it was not as easy to move around (figures).  I came out number 2 on the meter reader list and was ecstatic.  Finally, I would have the chance to become a full-time permanent meter reader!
And so it went.  I accepted the position with Finance and set up my transition from Engineering.  By this time we had already been making plans to go to Greece to visit with my college buddy Armand and his wife as they celebrated their marriage in his homeland.  I would finish up my duties with Engineering and go away on vacation to Greece, and when I got back I would finally start at the job that I'd been trying to land for almost five years.  Things were falling into place, or so it seemed.
What I didn't anticipate was a medical crisis.  My mental health crisis.  One doesn't often see such things coming.  I most certainly didn't.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Spectacle of Adventure

I wanna be stupendous.  Spectacular.  I wanna knock the collective socks off an audience.  If I could just figure out how to fill the theater...

Hi, my name's Michael, and I'll be your guide on this excursion of the mind.  We're looking at a good, brisk hike today, hopes of burning some fat and collected malaise.  Our host has spent a lot of time gathering energy, becoming ready to burn.  Seasoning himself.  And now the match has been struck, and the fire lights our way on this traverse through the innermost unknowns to have yet see the light.

Sparkle, baby.  Let 'er rip.

There is so much to be known out there.  And in here, for that matter.  Too much, indeed, to know in a single lifetime.  So that's why we are more than ourselves.  We are more than just our bodies or just our minds or our souls.  We are all connected as one thing, at a very basic level.  We are one, all of us.  The butterfly, the mongrel, the gnat and the sparrow.  Infinity, limitless space, electrons and black holes.  It's all in there, baby.  If you lived at the cellular level, you'd understand.  There wouldn't be the distractions of logic and philosophy and religion.  There wouldn't be all this thought in the way.  There would be knowing, without explanation, what it was that you were supposed to do, what is the way.  There is that path to follow.  For you alone.  Each must find his or her own steps.  Viola.  Voi-la.

We watched a movie last night called Genghis Blues.  It follows a blind blues musician's journey to Tuva, a province of Russia near Mongolia, that used to be an independent country.  There are connections made to the likes of Richard Feynman, who attempted to make the journey there himself, but came up short.  Paul Pena, the musician, makes a pilgrimage to the home of "throatsinging" after teaching himself the craft.  It's an interesting adventure chronicled by a tag-team of documentary filmmakers that garnered an Academy Award Nomination.

There are many things in this film that have stuck in my mind.  There was a small treatment of shamanism, and I added it to my mind's file cabinet.  It's a myth, a fallacy, that we think we know what we're doing a hundred percent of the time.  Truth is that we're acting on inspiration, most of the time.  We don't know why we say or do the things we do.  But sometimes, that's what needs to happen, for the greater plan.  Kinda like karma, in a way, but different, because there isn't a sort of balance sheet where a good deed makes the world a better place, and where evil doing brings retribution.  The balance sheet is in a language we no longer understand, in the sense that understanding is developed and put into play these days.  It is understood, perhaps, but cannot be explained.  All the languages spring and dart around at it, and the work gets done, but it's not one way or another.  It is both.  It is all.  That is all.

My great uncle Tony collected stamps.  I wonder if he had one from Tuva.  Evidently, that's how Feynman discovered the existence of Tuva-- through his stamp collecting.  You just never know how things are gonna lead you, and where you'll end up.  It's an intriguing mystery indeed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Passion for Sleep

The page is blank.  The page is white.  Undriven snow.  Potential.

There are so many seeds to plant.  So much fruit to harvest.  It is already grown and ripened on the vine and tree branch.  It is not wasted, even the fruit that falls to the ground.  Perhaps a rodent or insect is fed.  Or the tree is fertilized so that it may produce fruit again.  In any case, energy is conserved.  Nature makes no waste.

Creating the conditions conducive to life.  That's the focus.

We've got to return to the land, the soil.  We will return, inevitably.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  We're all recycled material, one hundred percent.

Just add water.

I take a fair amount of pills these days.  Some are just 25 milligrams of "substance" that adjusts my brain chemistry such that I am afforded a more "mundane" existence.  It takes away the hyper-highs and the super-lows so I can have a normalized mood.  But some days, things just don't make sense.

I was riding "high" the last couple weeks, such that my wife and I were on edge about me potentially going manic.  But it was controlled, and still subtle.  Then my sleeping habits started to change, and I had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.  This was a red flag.  I ended up taking a sleep aid a couple nights in a row to try and get back on track.  It worked, and my mood was still good.

But now, I'm not only "back to earth," I'm kinda down in the dumps.  The luster is gone.  I'm not optimistic about most everything in life-- I'm cautious, reserved.  It's like night and day.  I want to sleep all the time now.  It's only been a couple days, but the transition is major.  I'm in a down cycle now, and everything takes effort again.  My thinking is slowed and laborious.  Decisions take more time to make.  I feel like I'm swimming against the flow.

I try to tell myself that this too shall pass.  It's of little comfort from my seat here, adrift without direction.  Where does the passion go?  And why does it flee?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More on Tripolarity

What does it mean, "tripolarity?"  I blogged a little about it in What of This Tripolarity, Anyway?, but I found this article today that adds more intrigue.  Do check it out and let me know what you think.

More grist for the mill, spice for the stew.  I'll keep stirring...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Best Man Redux

Recently received this photograph of myself from my good friend.  It's from his wedding, where I was Best Man.  It's a picture of a rarity-- me public speaking.  I don't consider myself much of a public speaker.  But I did it, and it went just fine.  Somebody told me that they were moved by my speech.  So there's that.

For more on this event, check out the post When Once I Was Best Man.  For now, though?  How about another picture?

The ceremony was at an atrium in St. Louis, the name of which escapes me right now.  It was very pretty.  Tom and Melanie are into year three of wedded bliss now.  God bless them both.

Weddings are what bring people together in our culture.  People will travel from great distances in all kinds of inclement weather to make a wedding ceremony.  It's an occasion like no other.  Sacred and gentle.  It speaks about the people coming together to merge hearts as one.  Oftentimes, great chasms of perspective must be navigated for a marriage to take hold and sail swiftly, confidently.  This definitely seems to be how Melanie and Tom are progressing-- they make it look effortless.  But I know it's not.  Firsthand.  Just ask Suzy.

The Start of Mania, part 3

I missed my medication Saturday night, and forgot to take my Sun. night pills on time.  I'm back on track, having taken my pills with an early breakfast this early morning, but that might have a little to do with the whole not sleeping thing.  I've got to stay on track with the meds.  The calibration is crucial. 

Just as important as the meds though, is sleep.  I'll have to catch a nap sometime today.  Three hours is not enough fuel in the tank to go a whole day, after being up the whole of the early morning hours, mind running, humming along at a pace, like the cruise control is set at about 70 miles per hour, just humming along on the interstate...  Multi tasking, organizing, facebooking, blogging... all of these things, I'm doing when I really should be resting.  Seems that my sister is up early this morning too.  If we lived closer together, we could meet for an early coffee or biscuit or something.  Perhaps a scone.

It's not any one thing that causes the mania.  It's a bunch of things.  A body needs rest; so does the mind.  Sometimes I dream so vividly in the daytime even, visualizing in great detail.  But that is not mania.  This is not mania.  I know that, and I'm comfortable with it.  I am confident that I'm still calmly in control.  I can get some sleep later today.  For now, I'm allowing the vibrant energy that's coursing through my brain to manifest.  It's what needs to be done.

Must be hyper vigilant when I'm feeling good, and I think I'm doing the work.  And I've got a lot of important support from family and friends-- they're looking out for me, too.  So I'm blessed in that regard.

The Start of Mania, part II

It's 1am and I've just gotten out of bed and taken a shower.  The shower was kind of a religious experience.  Cleansing of the soul, I took inventory.  It's not normal.

Not the shower, not the being up at one o'clock in the morning.  But then, what is the normal for me?  I've been going to bed around 9:30 to 10:00pm and sleeping through the night, with just a few pit stops, and getting up about 8am or so.  The last couple days I've been on edge because my mood is quite elevated.  I'm starting to see some warning signs.  Saturday night, I was having trouble sleeping, so I ended up taking a sleeping pill.  That helped my mind to finally relax and I slept for a while-- several hours-- and got up with my wife in the morning.  Now tonight, I slept for about three hours and woke up (got worked up) completely and couldn't get relaxed for sleep again.  This isn't mania, but it's a warning sign.

My wife had the good idea to start a blog or spreadsheet of this pattern, or deviation from the pattern.  Just so we can keep track of all that's going on.  I'm having grand ideas of going out into the world today and making things happen.  That's not to say that I'm having grandiose thinking.  That would be another sign that mania is coming.

I'm up early, but I'm under control.  My thinking is logical and relaxed, not racing.  I do have a lot on my mind, but it's not at breakneck speed or relentless.  There's a grace to it.  A serenity.  I'm on the right path, I sense.

So much about managing this disorder is being in touch with your feelings and emotions, being mindful.  Being mindful is a soulful, spiritual practice.  It allows you to be who you are meant to be.

So I know that I'm making my wife nervous with this behavior.  Hell, I'm making myself nervous.  But I am checking-in with myself and I feel calm, collected.  Under control.  I'm not spiraling or groping for great truths.  I'm just living.

I really enjoyed Angels in America (we finished watching it this weekend).  It's "haunting" my mind, its dialogue replaying on loops.  There are lessons there, as there are in many things.  Most things.  When the conditions in your heart are just right, anything can be a learning opportunity.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Start of Mania

The first blog post that I did on Greece I believe was Long Overdue.  And indeed it was.  I also talked about what had happened to me in Greece in Celebrate September 12th.

I'm just now getting around to getting on with this project of recollection of the manic episode in Greece and the ensuing struggles for sanity and recovery.  Bear with me as I do some organizing.

For more background info, be sure to check out Don't Imagine You'll Wanna Hear This

And hang in there, I'm pedaling as fast as I can.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Little Spring Cleaning

So I've been doing this blog for some time now-- I just reached a milestone of over 5,000 pageviews.  I thought I'd try and do some organizing around here-- sweep up the leaves, turn over the compost, pick up the fallen fruit, and try and make some more sense of things.  So without further adieu...

I am bipolar I, which means I am subject to the possibility of manic episodes, as well as depressive ones.  I had my first hospitalization because of a manic episode while I was traveling in Greece in the summer of 2001.  I'm hoping to write a book about the experiences I had there, chronicling the onset of illness and my recollection of events.  I have blogged about some of my experiences with mania already, but I feel that I haven't fully told the story from Greece.

I was also hospitalized back in February of 2008, when I had a manic episode and had to be taken to VMC in San Jose.  My wife called 911 after I "lost it" and pulled the television out of the entertainment center and thrust it to the ground.  I became violent and through a chair and stripped myself naked and attempted to go out of the house, all the while screaming a litany of expletives while on a tirade about how the president had violated me.  I was finally calmed, clothed, and placed in restraints on a stretcher and taken to the mental hospital.

There was a turning point for me a while back--  I write about it in the post "Now What?" It's the point where I started taking responsibility for myself and my health.  And it has brought me to this time, when I am feeling recovered.  And that is a new, unfamiliar thing for me to be experiencing.

If you'd like to know of a place to start, you gotta find it somehow.  And you might not even really be aware of it-- that you're starting something.  But you are; you're in the right place.  Trust your intuition, your heart.  And you will find your path.

For more on my experiences with my bipolar disorder, check out The Comfy Seat and Writer Writes of Whiter White

Quiet Perspective

Loved this talk about the introvert/extrovert spectrum.  Twenty minutes of good ideas, well worth the time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What Does Your Mind Weigh?

Message from my dream this morning--  the only true ownership is self-ownership.  Meaning, own thyself.  Not the air, or the water, or the incorporated labor.  Work is abundant.  It grows from the stone, out of nothing.  Tweaking the twig and replanting brings forth more life.

We can be sustainable.  We can help secure the conditions conducive to life.  Doing so sustains us all. 

But what does it mean, really-- this self-ownership?

I think it means that no one can own another.  Slavery is a no-no.  A big bad.  Cocka-poopoo.

And just as that is so, one cannot own the things that are sacred.  The elements of the source that sustains us all.  The land, the wind.  The life force that turns seed into oak tree, plain into canyon.

The river cuts its way through it, finding its path around obstacles.  So does our consciousness.

For me, spirituality is the source through which we are all understood, along with everything. 

But I fear I'm not making myself clear.  Please know that I am trying.

Religion is one thing; spirituality quite another.  Religion is like a menu at a diner-- follow instructions and you'll be nourished, albeit with a greasy hangover.  It says that if you read what is written and follow the way of the word, there is salvation.  There is promise and hope for something much better than the reality that we encounter with our senses. 

But much of what religion promises cannot be delivered.  At least, as far as we know.  There's been thousands of years of religion and attempts to communicate beyond what we experience as a collective reality, and far too little has been passed back,  through the keyhole, to prove or explain or plainly justify the rules and regulations that have been written down in an attempt to capture the lightning in a bottle.

Our reality is a lie.  It's an estimate at best.  We've measured from here to the stars and back and down into the bloodstream and beyond the chemistry and the molecules and the atoms and the imagined building blocks of the building blocks.  And still we have no answers.  Only more questions. 

Questions are the fuel of the imagination.  They get us out of bed in the morning.  It is this practice of judgement, not the actual ruling, that is important.  As was said in Angels In America about justice-- and now I am paraphrasing, because I don't have a photographic memory-- the process of law is what is justice, not the verdict.  The verdict may feel like salvation, but it too can be questioned again, under the right circumstances.  We question and ponder, and that reshapes and hones reality and law and is the basic process of our justice system.  And it is what is wrong-- very wrong-- about many religions.

Religions stake a claim to some holy sanctity, some static entity, of eternal truth.  They build their rituals around this claim, purporting to have found the answers to what is right and what is wrong, and simply cleaning up all the messy grey areas and printing it up in black and white.  But true divinity does not solidify.  It is always in motion.  Alive.  Breathing.  Blooming.

This is what spirituality is, for me.  The acknowledgement of a greater than thou.  A simple greater than.  There is more, abundantly, in perpetuity, and it grows freely out of nothing.

At least, that was what has been on my mind today.  And several other days in my life.  What is the mass of the mind?  And is it heavier with though or without?

Questions are greater than answers.

Today, I weighed myself.  I looked down and saw a number.  I realized that I was much more than that number, that my ultimate self was actually much lighter than the number.  I am on a journey, and I believe that my mind and body are on that journey with me.  But I am not the number.  I am oh so much more than that number.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Something From the Past

A haiku from May 4, 1979.

The rain is so nice,
But sometimes it's a pain when,
It hits fiberglass

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Planting an Occupation

So what I really want to do is write, right?  I want to tear open a hole in the garment that holds this thing called the economy together (is it a girdle? A pair of slacks?) and make room for my existence.  Make possibility for my existence.  Pay for me, that is.

I'd like to come into some cash so that I can get out from underneath these bills that I've amassed through being sick and so on.  I've got a terrible eating regimen that costs too much and doesn't give me the nutrition that a healthy me seeks.  So I think I will turn to growing my own food.

I already have oranges-- right now-- that I can eat.  And I just planted an artichoke plant today.  Soon I will add other vegetables to the garden, and an assortment of vines to replace the front yard lawn.  Blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and different grape varietals as well.  I'll plant squash and carrots and beets.  Asparagus and... mushrooms?  Can I do that?

I guess I'll become a vegetarian.  I'll plant tofu.

All kidding aside, I do need to continue to monitor and adjust my lifestyle so that I am more in line with nature and health.  I do not need to eat at the likes of Taco Bell, Weinerschnitzel, and Jack in the Box all in the same day.  I really don't need to eat that crap at all.  But I'll adjust instead of deny, cold turkey.  (Mmm, turkey...)

So I'll be the constant gardener, even though I haven't seen the film (or even read the screenplay).  My yard work will produce nourishment for me and my family and friends, and the neighborhood.  I will be creating wealth with my produce.

So do I have to sell it so I can be a writer?

I don't think I want to be a writer "full-time" anyway.  I think it would drive me nuts.  Maybe that's just me resisting work-- something I can do.  I know how to procrastinate. 

There's a way for me to make a living and still be true to my soul without selling out to the highest bidder.  There's just gotta be.  I believe it.  I want it.  I'm going for it.  It has to be there.

It will all work out somehow.