I Slept with 14 Books and Read None

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It’s only happened to me once and I remember the experience so clearly after all these years.  In my mind, I can see myself sitting in my comfortable chair hunched over a book, so consumed with it that I cannot stop. I read for three days, with a few hours of sleep in between; finally I finished the massive book.  I remember just sitting and letting the feelings swirl around me.  I can’t even tell you what it was, but in that instant I felt changed.

The book was “I Know This Much Is True,” by Wally Lamb.  Honestly, it was the strangest book.  There were flashbacks to Italy which were sometimes boring and confusing.  Whatever it was—Wally weaved this tale so beautifully, it moved me.  Just so you don’t think I’m crazy, the same thing happened to my sister.  She loaned me the book, saying I could read it first because she was busy and it was a huge book. When I gave it back to her, I just said, “You have to read this.”  She stayed up all night too and came out the other side—changed in some inexplicable way.

I’ve thought about reading it again, but I don’t want to erase that experience by reading the book with new eyes.

Today I picked up a book that has been sitting next to my bed for about two years.  It was stacked with all the others that my heart longs to read, but my head wonders if I ever will.  I collect books that catch my interest and add them to my collection, knowing when the time is right, I will read them.  I had this one book on my shelf for five years, only to discover that it was not what I thought—it was wonderful and made me so happy.  Maybe I wasn’t ready for it.  I don’t even know if I believe in things like that. Continue reading

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Robin Williams and the Brutal Fight Against Suicidal Thoughts


I posted this on my Facebook page last week and decided to share it.

I haven’t written about Robin Williams, but I saw an article and thought about how clueless people are about suicidal ideation. RW admitted to having bipolar depression. It is very likely, given his history, that he started having symptoms in this late teens or 20’s. He was 63 years old, so he has been plagued with this cruel disease for 40+ years. Alcohol and cocaine didn’t cause his depression; they were coping mechanisms for the depression and anxiety.

In major depressives, suicidal thoughts are not something you get when you had a bad day. They just linger in your brain for days, weeks, and sometimes years. Fighting these thoughts everyday slowly strips layers off of you, so that even if you seek treatment and the thoughts stop, you are a shell of your former self. It’s like you’re holding up something heavy, then someone comes along to take over the load. You are no longer holding it up, but your arms still ache.

A few years ago, I watched his interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio.  He would talk seriously for just a minute and then launch into his one-of-a-kind improv.  I felt like I could see something in him that day—a deep sadness.  I was concerned about him, knowing of his issues with depression.  When I read that he had died, I was shocked.  I just kept seeing that interview in my head and remembering him.

Depressed people are very good at wearing masks.

If you have a troubled friend, ask them privately if they are having suicidal thoughts. They will likely say “no” many times before saying “yes,” but you have to keep asking.  It gets easier when you admit it aloud and can speak frankly about it.  After a while you can have the conversation without tears. That’s how you help someone. Talking about suicide is beyond difficult, but it’s so important.

Hiding in Plain Sight


Isolation by Karen S Thompson

Isolation by Karen S Thompson

Last fall I noticed several articles about how living an isolated life can affect a person’s mental acuity.  I was concerned because I started to notice that my mind seemed addled and at times confused.  Reading these articles I realized that I have been isolating myself from the world.  I rarely left the house and tended to spend most of my time along in my room.  The internet was my source of the outside world.

I lived an isolated life for many years, but about 5 years ago I returned to college and just being with other people added so much sunshine to my life.  I enjoyed the intellectual discussions with my instructors and classmates.  I felt so confident.  I started communicating with old friends on Facebook and life was good.

Towards the end of my schooling, I had reoccurring health problems that really made the last year very difficult.  I struggled but finished a year later than I had planned.  I found myself closing ranks, battening down the hatches, unfriending all my old friends, and I stopped writing in my blog because I was afraid my “crazy” was going to come out in my writing.

I was utterly humiliated that I had returned to a life of isolation and depression.  I didn’t want anyone to know that I spent most of my time sleeping and reading the news online.  I had my degree (finally!) and no more excuses. Why didn’t I have a job?  Why am I still living with my parents?  Deep inside I believe I am a person who could be doing great things, but I feel like I’m wearing a fat suit.  I can’t breathe and I can’t get the heaviness off me.

So I’m hunkered down, going out once a week to see my counselor.  She gives me tasks to do each week and tells me that I shouldn’t care what other people think of me.  It has been difficult.  For years I hid the fact that my life was mired in depression, anxiety and extreme fatigue.  My hair was done and my makeup perfect.  My family and friends had no idea until I moved in with my parents after my divorce.  All I could think was “Everybody Knows!”

I am working on getting past this and know that I can turn things around.  It’s all up to me.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?


Who would have thought that such a simple question would have sent me into a tail spin?  Just that one question has me looking at my entire life in a totally different way.  I spend a lot of time contemplating things in my life, trying to understand why something happened the way it did and how I contributed to the outcome.  This one question made me realize that after high school, I waited for life to come to me.  I was not driving the train, but a mere passenger.

How do I see myself in 5 years?  I have no idea.  I’m a girl without a plan.

I actually wrote a post a year or so ago about how I had no idea where my life was headed and that I didn’Plant worry about it—I would take it as it came.  Looking back, I realize that this is a terrible way to live life.  When I was in high school, I was moving forward:  preparing for college; participating in extracurricular activities; joined groups to learn leadership skills.  I had a plan.

Sometime along the way, I stopped moving forward and started living day-to-day.  If I am honest with myself, I know that the stress of everyday life ramped up my tightly controlled anxiety to the point where I could no longer hold it all together anymore.  I just needed to get through each day.  That is what you tell yourself to keep going. Unfortunately I got stuck in that mentality and didn’t even realize that I wasn’t moving forward.  How can you see the future when you are focused on the sun setting and the end of the day?

This one question has helped me understand so much more than just my lack of direction.  Last fall, I realized that I needed help and I am seeing a counselor who never lets me wander to far from getting the plan in place.  I realized that I’m a real pro at evasion.  Is it any wonder that I have been stuck on a sandbar for so many years?

Love Letters


I was talking to my mother yesterday about my “love letters.”  She didn’t know that I have about 40-50 letters that my husband wrote to me the entire time we were married.  I would find a note in my shoe when I was getting ready for work; mostly, he would leave a letter stuck to the door with an Elmo magnet.

We are no longer married, but the love never died and we are good friends.  Even now, he occasionally sends me an email to tell me that I’m taking good care of our son and that I’m a good mom.

I was thinking about grouping them all together in a book to save for my son and his future children.  I know he wouldn’t want to read them now, but maybe when he’s older.  I think they are special and should be preserved—who writes letters anymore?

I woke up today thinking about the other letters I have in my teenage box of ephemera.  I have a few letters from 1985 when my BFF spent the summer in Florida.  I have letters my cousin sent from all over the world while cruising on a Navy battleship.  I have all the email correspondence from my funny, satirical brother, whose middle name is brevity—those are gold.  I have a letter my 4th great-grandfather wrote to his brother in 1823.   Truly priceless.

Text messages and Facebook status updates are today’s letters.  I have instant messages sent between my brother and my son when he was five or six.  Last year, I saved about three hours of Facebook chatter between my extended family, while we waited for my cousin to deliver her baby.  Family from all over the country shared this special moment, with my aunt outside the delivery room with a smartphone, sending us instant updates.  What a treasure.

It makes me happy to know that one day my grandchildren will read these and know something about their history.  I look at pictures of my ancestors and wonder who they were and why they did what they did.  Every letter, email, text or status update is a record of everyday life and they must be preserved.

 

“Young Willie took off one day, never to be heard from again.” Great characters can be found at home


Young Willie wasn’t so young.  He was a 43 years old husband and father of six children who received an inheritance from his father and was able to purchase a farm of his own for the first time.  Three years later, he sold it back to the previous owner for the purchase price.  It was 1875 and I could find no evidence of him after that date.  He was my Great-Great Grandfather, son of a pioneering minister in Canada.

Young Willie is not part of the novel have started to finally plot out, but he is always in my mind, thumbing his nose at my endless questions.  Young Willie is only one character that I have found right in my own family history.  The wonderful thing is that I will be able to write a story for Young Willie, inventing his travels and his ending.  I can’t wait.

I have been reading US history books spanning the late 1800s to the 1930s.  The books have probably been too detailed for my purposes, but I want to know how people lived; the hardships, gender relations, familial structures, and ultimately what drove people to make drastic changes in their lives.  One of the common themes with my character is sudden, life-altering moments that propel them in unexpected directions, with long-term consequences. Continue reading

I’ll Know Who I Am When I Get There


After high school I didn’t really have a concrete plan of what I wanted to do with my life and that didn’t bother me; I would figure it out as I went along.  I had a lot of interests; I studied journalism for a year, and then switched to computers which were just starting to change the world.

I continually committed myself to more than I could do, but I didn’t see the logic yet.  I always seemed to sign up for one class too many, then would get stressed about the workload.  Soon I was running to the Registrar’s office to drop a class.

Sweet relief, followed by an awful guilt.

I got a two year degree but knew I wanted more.  I studied graphic design while working at a job I stumbled onto.  I fell in love and quickly married.

It was like falling from the sky and landing on a big fluffy cloud—I was so happy.  I didn’t know myself and I was not even cognizant of it.  I moved along from one thing to the next thing that presented itself to me.  Looking back I realize that I have an impulsive nature, which caused me to make some poor choices.  It didn’t help that I was driven by anxiety—anything to make it stop.  My job was stressing me out, so I leaped to another, finding a peacefulness I never expected. Continue reading

Empathy and a Girl Named América


I picked up my son from school last month and a boy crossed the street in front of us.  My son told me the boy’s name and said that he was crazy—that he was in trouble at school a lot.  My first instinct was to tell my son that he shouldn’t judge this boy because we had no idea what was going on in his life.  I told him that kids with serious troubles usually have bad things going on at home; their parents could beat them, use drugs or be drunk all the time.  I told him that this kid may be on his own at home, barely finding something to eat or hiding from an abusive parent.  Homework and other responsibilities get pushed aside when trying to survive.  I told him to stop and think about that every time he crosses paths with a troubled child and maybe give them a kind word if the chance presents itself.  Empathy–that is what these kids need.

I recently watched a movie, 3 Américas, about a teenage girl named América who was abused for years.  By the age of 16, she demonstrated typical behaviors of abused children:  angry outbursts, depression, shoplifting, smoking, and a general disinterest in anything.  América had these big, beautiful eyes which sadly mirrored every moment of torment in her short life; this torment a cinder block in her already heavy backpack.

I read that some viewers didn’t like her and thought her to be just another teenager with a bad attitude.  I didn’t get this impression at all because I recognized the signs in her obstinate behavior.  Many years of reading and just living in this world have taught me that bad behavior is rarely just that—there is almost always some messy deep-seated cause for it. Continue reading

I just realized my goals are passive, negative goals.


The other day I visited Artboy68’s blog where he has a goal of drawing 100 portraits in 20 weeks—what an admirable goal.  I started to think about other goals I’ve heard about:  WordPress’ Post a Day, reading a list of classics by the end of the year, working out 4 days a week.  I admire people who set such goals and work hard to reach them.

These are what some call active or positive goals.  I spent the last few days thinking about this and realize that when I set goals, they are passive or negative goals:  starting today I will not drink coffee, I will not eat as many carbs, and I will not read fiction or watch movies while taking classes. Continue reading

Artboy68’s 100 Portraits in 20 Weeks — I’m number 67


I heard about “Artboy68” blog 100 Portraits in 20 Weeks from a wonderful blog Draw and Shoot by Canadian artist and photographer Karen McRae.  She was portrait number 39.

Yesterday I received an email from Scott telling me I was portrait 67.  He sketched my blog profile picture and posted it on his site with some really nice comments.  Thank you, Artboy.

A worthy and noble cause it is:  searching for enlightenment.  Liza’s posts are a collection of musings and experiences based on her inspirations, including, “books, music, lyrics, poetry, fiction, well-written dramas, plus interaction with others and a lot of deep thinking.”  While drawing her portrait, I couldn’t help but get the sense that this is the face of a genuine, open and honest person.  Check out her blog and see for yourself! https://searchingforenlightenment.com/

This is portrait 67 of 100.  I might just catch up this week.

Go here to see my other portraits, or learn more about this project.
To enter to win the 100th portrait (acrylic painting) even if I’ve drawn you before, go here

Thanks for visiting!
artboy68

Who would I be if I had never known you?


I was driving slowing down our dirt road, giving the song time to finish before I reached home.  I looked across the farm land and saw our neighbor’s house.  I had an instant thought—I would be a different person had I not known those people, my dear neighbors.

They showed me a world I never knew.

From near birth, they were a part of my life.  I witnessed life being lived by good, honest people with incredible work ethic, both at my house and at their house.  Together they raised me to live a life absent of envy; an incredible thing, really, the roots of which I cannot explain.  I learned that people are just people.  Every family has problems and troubled times—there is no need to hide in shame when you can seek solace in the arms of family and good friends. Continue reading

It’s Thanksgiving and I wish I could be a kid again.


It’s Thanksgiving and I woke this morning thinking about my Grandma.  Sometimes it’s hard to find the spirit of the holidays when you have lost your center—the center of your family—your mother, your grandmother, your heart.

Growing up, holidays were about going to Grandma’s house.  They were the best days of the year.  Your little heart was so filled with such gladness as you dressed in your new clothes, anxious to get to Grandma’s.

Is there anything better than walking into a small house filled with people who love you?  Oh, the smells…turkey, ham, and pie (with cool-whip.)  My Gram would make lemon and orange meringue pie with really high peaks.  The adults would sit around the big table and munch on mixed nuts and chocolates, while us kids would sit on the stairs and talk about who knows what.

My Gram has been gone 20 years now and I lost my Mammaw this past spring.  It’s hard not to think of them today, but I am so lucky to have my Mother and Father with me.  They have always been my center and I am truly blessed.