Gratitude List 960

(1) Somehow the house felt like a furnace this morning, and it sure felt good to get out of the house and get a blast of nice cold fresh Winter air.  Thank God for the open air.  Just because I have a decent place to live after living outdoors for all those years doesn’t mean I have to stay inside all the time.

(2) That said, I still thank God that for the past two years, I have lived indoors and have generally been getting a good night’s sleep.  I was practically sleeping with one eye open for the better part of twelve years down there.

(3) I was able to get my thyroid medication refilled today and also a scrip to address my bipolar affective condition.  This will be the first time I’ve addressed that condition through medication for approximately a year and a half.  Though I am leery of the medical-pharmaceutical paradigm in general, sometimes you just gotta take care of your head.  Life’s too short, if you know what I mean.   

(4) A meeting with an important person on Friday was auspicious.

(5) When I find myself losing sleep over the precarious position of a close family member, it helps to remember that I have also been in that same precarious position.  God helped me see my way free of the dangers of the time, and He will help her too.

(6) Nice talk with my good friend Nick last night, and another this morning.  He always has a way of helping me put things into perspective.

(7) An unexpected $75 donation took place over night, and should be able to help me defray certain upcoming medical costs.

(8) It is a beautiful, bright, brisk Winter day in the city of my birth.

(9) Returning to my birth city after 63 years was the most positive thing I could ever have done for myself.  I knew nothing at all about this town when I stepped off of that bus, let alone that I would have a new job and an apartment within days.   By now it almost appears as though this town was custom-designed for me since the day I was born.  Of all the positive possibilities that loom ahead of me, the most promising are those that are right here where I stand.

(10) In the words of Oscar Hammerstein II:

You’ve got to have a dream!
If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

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Gratitude List 951

My gratitude list from Sunday morning.   

1. Only got 5 hrs sleep (from 9 to 2) but awoke feeling rested. Also, I felt like I was coming down with the flu when I went to bed, but feel fine after sleeping it off.

2. Coffee is actually the right strength this time. (It’s been weak lately).

3. I like my early morning space and solitude.

4. Just finished vocal-scoring No.6 (Awake the Dawn) with words thru measure 30 and w/out words to 55. It’s going way better than I thought it would.

5. An interesting synchronicity is making me feel like I’m on the right track. Same thing happened with Bubbles Taboo a long time ago, where 12 unplanned modulations on all kinds of divergent intervals somehow landed me back in the same key I’d started in, even though I didn’t plan it that way. This time, with “Awake the Dawn,” I had to change the key and some of the octaves to avoid having the singers span an impossible 3+ octave range, and also had to correct the two instances where a corny half step modulation ought to have been replaced by a modulation to a relative major; and once again, the combination of all that landed me somehow in the same key I started in. It’s like magic when that kind of thing happens, and it can be very encouraging.

6. J. says that E. got her medication now, which is a relief.

7. Nice conversation with Danielle last night. Interesting about Baby-Wise.

8. I’m really lucky I landed the church I’m at. It’s not just that they’re not “kicking me out.” I’m actually being given a chance to grow. It’s such a blessing, compared to anything I tried along these lines in the past.

9. Guess my PSA levels were okay, or the clinic would have called me by now.

10. God is Good.

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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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.

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.

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.