Gratitude List 591

Although this blog exists in order to promote my own project as well as to support the projects of similar, like-minded Artists and Writers, I can’t help but confess that I’ve been posting a lot of personal stuff here lately.   It doesn’t sit entirely well for me to do so.  However, my Art is so entirely wrapped up in my personal issues and experiences, it becomes a bit difficult to separate the two at times.  Nor should I really concern myself with creating an arbitrary separation, as though my absorption in Art were a strictly professional matter, mandating that I leave my personal stuff behind in order to work.  Such distinctions never pan out in reality — not for me, anyway.  

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaThe best “separation” I’ve ever been able to accept is that I write better about personal experiences when they are not immediately happening.   Take my recent writings on Homelessness, for example.  The descriptions of the homeless life that I wrote while I was homeless might be extremely lurid, perhaps even shocking, but they don’t adequately convey the essence of homelessness towards those who are not homeless.  I write better about homelessness when I am removed enough from the experience to be more objective in my writing, but not so far removed as to have forgotten entirely what it was like to live outdoors, sleeping with one eye open, constantly wondering when I was going to be awakened, by whom, and for what purpose.  I’ve been living indoors for almost a year now, and the urgency with which I sometimes feel compelled to post about my homeless experiences is based almost entirely on the perception that I’m about to forget all about it, any day now.

All that said, I don’t wish to belabor personal issues here on this blog to the extent that they overwhelm or even replace my focus on my Art.  But lately they have been so intense that I’ve felt that I had to.  It would have been sheer hypocrisy to sit here behind my computer, pretending that everything is A.O.K.   Still, enough is enough.  It’s time I take responsibility for my depression, and move forward once again.  

So I’m going to swallow my pride once again, and meet with my therapist and my doctor on Friday, and concede to explore the new mood stabilizer that they have considered for me, on the basis that the previous one (which I’ve not taken for months now) was giving me acid reflux.  Although I am leery as to any lasting effects the medication may have, I do recall that the previous medication definitely helped me to focus well enough to finish my musical script and to interact favorably with the other Writers in my guild.  After a while, however, its favorable effects sort of wore off, and all I was left with was the acid reflux.  Maybe this one will be better.  We’ll see.  In any event, I don’t want to become as depressed as I’ve been throughout the past several days, if I don’t really need to be.

I do want to report that I’m in much better spirits today.  For one thing, I got up and made a daily gratitude list — as I do every morning — only this time it was not merely the empty ritual it had somehow become.  I sincerely attempted to come up with ten things I could truly be grateful for — and you know what?   It worked.   (The strong cup of coffee alluded to in #9 below also helped.)

GRATITUDE LIST 591
 

1. It was good to go to One World last night, where I felt the energy of being around students who are into higher learning and not into ripping me off, rather than around tweakers who are only into crystal methamphetamine and ripping me off.

2. I had this funny feeling of “recognition” when I walked past the Kenworthy on the way to One World and “remembered” how David H. would often invite me to some theatrical event there, and often I would attend and talk with him thereafter.

3. I noticed that D. seemed kind to me when he paused briefly from his studies to say “hello” — not so much as though I was only another interruption.

4. I did something different when I got up this morning and listened to this brief clip of Pastor Larry Austin, my friend from Faith Family Presbyterian Church in Oakland. A nice reminder with which to begin the day. I was grateful that God sent it to me first thing in the morning, and grateful that Larry requested my Facebook friendship, after all this time.

5. Jim the Janitor has also requested my friendship on Facebook. I’ve also noticed that Jim is a lot more fun to talk to once I have accepted his peccadillos.

6. Speaking of which, today would be Day 13 — were it not for the “peccadillo.”

7. I remembered Homelessness in the surprising rain that poured when I left One World last night, and I felt that earnest gratitude once again when I got behind the locks of the room I am renting. Beats being out in the rain.

8. I get to play for the Taize service tonight. I can also apologize to Erika and maybe even show up for Choir practice, if they have it.

9. Vandals Blend coffee from the Bagel Shop last night. Good thing to have saved it for morning, and grateful for the coffee cup that Kathy Pendegraft gave me from the church yesterday. Glad she pointed it out, because I would never have thought of it, despite how desperately I’d have longed for one in the morning.

10. Though depressed throughout the day yesterday, a brief conversation with Nick cheered me up quite a bit. It was as though I picked up his positive attitude all the way from Marin. I was able to sleep well after that, though previously I had been very anxious.

I actually got all the way through the Gratitude List without spouting anything negative that I am aware of. This could be a good day in Christ, and anyway His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. It is another day of Grace under the sun.

 

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Despair

I’ve never felt a depression anywhere near this deep before.   The depression keeps me from being able to do simple things in life.  Wash the dishes.  Take out the trash.  Make my bed.  Wash my clothes.  

It just doesn’t seem that there’s any way out of it.  I hesitate to write, to even post, because it consumes me so entirely.

It used to be, there was a reason to be depressed.  Now it’s just — constantly happening.  I keep telling myself that maybe if something changes for the better, I will feel better, and I can start anew once again.  Or I tell myself, I will just pick up where I left off, before I got so sidetracked.  But nothing works.  Nothing helps.  

I used to be able to rely on this person, this Andy, who was always motivated, who always gritted his teeth and faced whatever adversity there was, and endured it.

Now I can’t rely on him anymore.  He’s missing, he’s vacant, he’s gone astray – he doesn’t know where he is.  He can’t do the things he used to do, and enjoy doing them.

I’ve been writing music for several days.  But I don’t like the music.  It’s lousy.  I don’t enjoy it.  I don’t want to be writing it anymore.

I wrote this musical – but – how easily it came to appear to me to be useless.  I can’t even put a demo together; I can’t find singers; I should not even try any more.  All it does is increase the depression.

I just feel like – God blessed me so hugely in bringing me here, bringing me off the streets. Then I somehow transformed the blessing into a curse.  It used to be the other way around, and it should be.  I used to be able to transform curses into blessings.  That was my strength.

I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore.  I pray – but I feel so disconnected from God.  I just can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel.  It just goes on and on, winding in a way that I never can tell what’s ahead.  All I know is what is ahead — is total darkness — and I am always, always in despair.   

More Culture Shock

I was going to remove the previous post because it was basically the “illustrated version” of a 27-paragraph Facebook timeline post, printing out to 13 pages (1 1/2 spaced) on a Word doc, and I didn’t expect anyone to bother to read a post that lengthy on either site.  The only reason I wrote it in the first place is because I was feeling depressed, and I was giving myself an online pep talk at the time.

However, four people read it on Facebook, and it looks as though three people read it here on WordPress, although I’m pretty sure at least one of them was a “likes collector” and did not actually read the post. 

It is both interesting and depressing that, of the four people who read it on Facebook, the two who decided to comment did exactly what I was hoping no one would do.  I even think that I pretty clearly suggested in the topic paragraph of the post that this was not what I wanted anyone to do.  I had said that my posts were in general “social statements” and not “requests for advice or assistance.”  So, when two people proceeded to give me advice in their comments, it made me think one and only one thing:

Can my writing possibly be that bad?

However, of the other two people who read it on Facebook, one of them gave it a “love” and the other one private-messaged me with the word “wow.”  (I wish she had put the “wow” on the post itself, but I suppose I can’t have everything.)  So I have to remember that it’s not always all about me.  People’s inability to understand the gist of my posts is not always related to my inability to write clearly.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, they just don’t understand.

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In any case, depression has been striking me much more frequently and much more easily ever since March 4th, which as you may recall is the day I finished the script to my musical Eden in Babylon.

Talk about your crash and burn.  It seemed as though I had reached a peak, after which I could only descend, when my desire had been to ascend further upward.  My doctor and my therapist both want me to try this new medication, and I’ve been feeling like telling them both to take all their damned psychiatric drugs and cram them up their you-know-whats.  The last one gave me acid reflux, for which they responded by wanting me to take yet another med, one to wipe out the awareness of the acid reflux.  Of course, I stopped taking the psychiatric med instead, and the acid reflux went away.

The psychiatric med had little or no effect on my mental health while adversely affecting my otherwise excellent physical health.  I just do not understand why a person would ever want to take a psychiatric drug unless they absolutely needed to. Psychiatric drugs lost me a $50,000 annual income, a car, and a house in the year 2004, only because I still believed anyone who wore a badge.

As far as my piano-vocal score, I made it about halfway through the Opening Number during the first week of my plan to work twenty hours a week on it and get it all done before October 1st.  Though the task was not as tedious as I’d expected, nor did it feel as much like drudgery as I’d anticipated, I still felt like I couldn’t rise to the occasion.  I was on my way down.  There was no stopping it.  I was living in a beautiful, idyllic city of my dreams between July 27 and March 4th.  Since that date, practically everything I have touched has turned to dirt, and the city of my dreams has become a ghost town.

This is neither a social statement, by the way, nor a request for advice or assistance.  I’ll be back with a social statement very shortly.

Another Scene Down

I’m not sure exactly how many hours I put into my writing today.   It seems I didn’t really get started till about one in the afternoon.   Let’s say there was an hour break for dinner and bathroom stops.   So I guess I wrote for eight hours.   All I know is that when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene One” at the bottom of p.104, I looked down at the computer clock — and it read 10:00pm exactly.

I had a feeling today would be a good day.  I awoke in good spirits, feeling relaxed and relieved after having resolved a difficult situation at work.  I also knew I had the day off — and I knew what to do with it.   Most of the writing of the 17-page Scene consisted of refining the six pages leading up to the song called Hunted, finishing the lyrics to Hunted, writing all the dialogue between Hunted and the following song, writing a new monologue called the “Mainstream Monologue,” and finally finishing all the lyrics to the song Children of the Universe.   (If you happen to listen to the music of that song, you can easily discern how writing its lyrics was no small task.)

Obviously, I felt very pleased when I finished all that work.  But there’s something gnawing at me.

real-writerIf you’ve been reading me much at all lately, you’ll know that I’ve been contemplating the different stages of the creative process as well as the different spaces of Bipolar Disorder, and how they seem to coalesce in order to yield long periods of time when nothing gets done at all — at least not consciously — followed by long periods of time when all kinds of work is steadily produced.   Even though I only have two Scenes left to go, and I can actually even see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have this horrendous fear that the next period of depression – or incubation – is going to last even longer than the last one, which was damn near seven days. 

For the sake of balance, I want to stop writing now, and rest my weary head and bones.  But for the sake of getting the show finished, don’t you think it would be better if I forged forward, while I’m still on the roll?   I’d hate to plunge into another week or two of dry vacuous nothingness.

But no – I must seek a more healthy balance here.  I have tomorrow off as well, so I might as well get some rest, and have at it once again in the morning.   I’m starting to get the feeling that God is actually going to allow me, after all these years, to finish the damn thing.  I need to ride on that hope.   There’s no turning back by now.

Never the Twain Shall Meet?

It’s been a week now since I’ve updated.   Mostly it’s been all bad.   The day after I last posted here, I was chewed out at work by a person who is not my boss but who insisted on giving me a ride home, evidently so she could lay on me all the things that she thought I was doing wrong.  Because I’d had a bad night that night, trying to function on very low sleep, and continuing to try to adjust to this new medication, I sort of felt as though I was being hit below the belt.  To address all her criticisms effectively would have involved implicating the conductor, which I did not want to do.   I felt, as I have often felt while accompanying this particular church choir, like a scapegoat.  It’s easier to blame things on the accompanist, whom you can clearly hear; than on the conductor, whom you cannot clearly see – and this is part of the problem.  I became really angry over the whole thing, and I almost quit my job.  It doesn’t pay me well enough to have to keep putting up with all this pettiness, when I feel I’m doing the best job I can do.

The conductor herself is not faulting me for my job performance, either.  It’s only the members of the Choir.  I’ve talked with my pastor about this, and basically what I’m supposed to do is try to remember Who is being glorified here.  But that’s the problem – God is not being glorified.   There’s just a bunch of petty bickering that makes me feel like I don’t belong there.   To be honest, I’m still thinking about quitting.  I’m on a fixed income anyway – and when the Feds found out I was working, they charged me all kinds of money and chopped my Social Security payments practically in half.  I’d have been making more money had I never dared to get a part-time church job to begin with.   So I’ve definitely only been hanging on to the job for its propensity to glorify God.   It’s not as though there’s a monetary advantage in my keeping the job.   In fact, ideally, I would only be a member of the church, with no job responsibilities whatsoever.   But somebody has to do it, and I have a funny feeling I’m not going to be able to quit.  Something tells me that, much as I dislike my world right now, it’s still the best of all possible worlds, for me.

So all of this has been preoccupying me.  I fell into a deep depression, and I called in sick on Sunday when, to say that I was “sick” was probably more than a minor understatement.  I couldn’t focus on my playwriting at all.   I had begun to worry that I have been focusing too much on the playwriting anyway, and not enough on my job.  I had even discussed this with my pastor, and no doubt will discuss it with the therapist when I meet with him next on Friday.  The church is supposed to provide a spiritual anchor – and I guess, in most ways, it does.   God probably also knows some things I am loathe to admit; for instance, that if I didn’t have the job, I probably would never make it to church.   So any “anchorage” I’m getting from the church itself wouldn’t be happening if I didn’t have the job that goes with it. 

I slept round the clock for three days solid.  Finally, I cut back on my medication unilaterally.  I just can’t be as exhausted as I’ve been, and expect to get anything accomplished on any level.  I’m beginning to curse myself for even conceding to take the meds.  They’ve never done me any good in the past.  Why would now be any different?  I thought they were helping me to handle the social interaction of my Writer’s groups.  But now I just want to lay in bed all day, and not interact socially at all.   This is unlike me.  I’m not prone to depression, as a general rule.  Maybe the meds are making me depressed?

I think I’ll take back my mania, thank you.   But gosh – there’s got to be a middle ground! I’ll call the doctor today, and hopefully he’ll either take me off the meds or cosign my decision to cut back.   I should have called earlier, but I was too depressed to deal with reality.  Only this morning did I finally arise at a normal hour.  Only last night did I make some headway with the script.   And, I didn’t like letting a whole week go by without updating, so I figure I’d post my truth.  Now, if you don’t mind, I must cease this whiny rant and all the self-piteous bemoanings that go along with it.  I abhor these kinds of personal entries; I’m an Artist; I have pride.  Guess that’s the bottom line.  

I’m an Artist – and I must have pride.   But I’m a Christian – and I must not have pride.  Somehow there’s a “never the twain shall meet” aspect of all this — and it doesn’t sit well in my stomach.

Highs and Lows

A while back, in my post The Creative Process, I wrote these words:

There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously.  This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation.  Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed.   Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished.  Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day.   Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about. 

At the risk of being stigmatized or stereotyped, I’m going to open up about one such theory.  It is said that some very creative people have Bipolar Disorder; and it is also quite possible that I might be one of those people.  If so, it is possible that, for me, the stage of “incubation” corresponds to the low end of the bipolar mood swing, commonly referred to as depression.  Then, the stage of “illumination,” – and all the satisfying work that follows – may correspond to the high end of the swing, commonly referred to as mania  I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve been writing this play, I’ve been cycling back and forth between these two stages — whatever they’re to be called – and that the cycling has been occurring like clockwork.

However, when I read the symptoms of the disorder, they seemed to me to be much more extreme in general than what I was experiencing.  It may surprise you, for example, that I wasn’t so concerned about the low end of the ebb.   Sure I was depressed when my sister died.  Of course I was depressed when, three days later, we in America elected a reckless and unscrupulous, inexperienced buffoon to be our chief political officer.   I was also more than a little depressed whenever I was first trying to break through my three-year Writer’s Block, and could not get my mind off how my failure to make progress with this piece seemed inextricably linked to a failed 45 year friendship.  But as far as depression that would be experienced as part of a cyclic mood swing — no, I did not experience depression at any level nearly commensurate with the awful accounts I read about.  If anything, I felt a bit annoyed that I seemed creatively dry, and I was eager for the situation to change. 

It was what happened when the situation changed that concerned me.  True, I would have incredibly satisfying bursts of long-winded creative accomplishment, such as the day when I wrote for sixteen hours.  It’s also true that I would sometimes enter into elation, and feel that I needed neither sleep nor food, on the premise that my soul was being fed.  While excessive goal orientation and loss of interest in food or sleep are both known symptoms of a bipolar “manic episode,” I still wasn’t concerned.  What concerned me was that I became so happy that I was finally getting into my script again, after an infuriating three year Writer’s Block, I could barely sleep at night for excitement.  All I could do was lay awake in bed at night fantasizing about who was going to be playing what part on Broadway, and what my acceptance speech would look like when I picked up my Tony Award.

So I went to the clinic and saw a doctor, who had me fill out a simple questionnaire.  He wound up diagnosing me as “mildly bipolar,” and put me on a low dosage of a bipolar medication.   This turn of events seemed reasonable to me.  My level of bipolarity, so to speak, is not so huge as to cause gross disruptions in my personal, social, and professional relationships.  However, it is pronounced enough to have caused me to become concerned and seek medical attention, before the situation should worsen.

It has now been ten days since I began taking the medication.   Although at first I didn’t enjoy its effects at all, I’ve begun to notice some things that I can’t help but interpret as positive.   Let me list a few:

  1. If a problem is solved during Writers Guild meetings as a result of intelligent feedback from the other Writers, I don’t become so excited about it that I can’t focus on applying the solution.
  2. I no longer lay awake in bed all night fantasizing about future successes, but rather wind down normally, do some light reading, and drift off into sleep.
  3. I’m more relaxed in my work situation, and less anxious about missing my cues.
  4. Probably most significantly, the amount of time spent in what I’ve been calling the “incubation” or “depressed” period is significantly reduced – at no expense whatsoever to the amount of time spent in the highly productive period.  The only difference is that I am now more inclined to stop the production, get some food or rest, and continue the high level of productivity the next day.

As to point #4 above, I’m in the process of getting the first Scene of Act two prepared, which will include the musical number I call Hunted.  I wrote this in 2012, when I first conceived of this musical, as described on this page.   I’m eager to finish the lyrics, and apply its dynamics to the current incarnation of Eden in Babylon.   In the meantime, I’ve linked to a instrumental recording of it below.  It is my hope, like that of any other Artist, that you will take a few minutes to enjoy and appreciate my work.

Hunted

from Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2012, 2o17 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.

Unknowns

I feel like I’m a little too stuffy when I write in this blog.  I keep a personal journal online that is password-protected so only friends can read it.  Naturally, I’m less self-conscious when I write there.  Somehow, the idea that anybody at all from anywhere can read what I’m posting here makes me just uptight enough, that I suspect it affects my writing style for the worse.

So here’s what I wrote in my personal journal last night:

Unknowns

My depression lifted temporarily when I realized that I know exactly what to do from the bottom of p.53 forward, for several pages to come. Then I veered off and corrected that part of The Royal Rhapsody that bugged me. I hear another part that bothers me in the same section. All these annoyances have to do with a sense of something dropping out, some kind of eerie ethereal support that is created by the string section, or other instruments capable of extending tones over a number of measures.

But enough of my stuff. I noticed I felt extremely focused while working on the Rhapsody, so I might go back to that. Depression and anxiety seemed far from me. That music production process is just something that rivets me to it. With the script, even knowing what to do, I still rack my brains out over little things – tiny little mini-unknowns that crop up in the midst of the Known.

Bottom line is I’m dog tired. Not sure why. Ran really well yesterday, and obviously faster than usual with the Nanospikes. Maybe that’s a factor. Whatever, I saved a cup for the morning and I’m gonna crash out after a snack. I’ll run in the morning, and probably have a decent day tomorrow. These three day weekends sort of throw the Sunday night vibe onto Mondays. Can’t wait till morning.

10:47 p.m. – 2017-01-16

If you like that style or manner of delivery better than the way I’m writing here, feel free to let me know.  Or, if it appears to be the same style, or even a worse manner of presentation, clue me in.   I won’t be offended, though I can’t promise you I’ll be able to readily change.  We O.G’s have a tendency not to flex as easily as we did back in the Day.