Contents: SCROLL DOWN
…Margie Lawlor, Eating Right, 2019
…Margie Lawlor, Help for a Depressed Friend, 2019
…Claudia Beechman, My Single Life, 2019
….Ross Fishbough poem, 2016
…Linda Murphy poem, 2013
…Dorothy Heine Rudolph, 2013
…Frank Kelso Wolfe, 2013
…Janet Taylor, 2011 (2 works)
…Linda Barrett, 2011
Hi, Sarah! I’m glad you received so quickly this package that I shipped to you. I’ve mailed the enclosed materials because I’m hoping you will both read them AND find them interesting and useful to you. As you might guess, what first inspired me to send you this information was the email you forwarded, with the Subject Line reading, “Not Doing Well.”
I grew concerned for you, empathizing with your plight of loneliness, regret, and frustration. You may be surprised to know that—despite the vast differences between the totality in which we each have lead our lives to date—I can wholly relate to your sense of longing and self-blame, including our respective JUSTIFICATIONS in blaming others for the situations we now find ourselves. We didn’t start the fire.
Given the more-than-challenging lives we are now forced to live, one might easily turn toward the despair and hopelessness of self-destructive thoughts. In fact, it’s tempting to view such outlook NOT as self-destructive, but as vaguely self-liberating, with an end toward extricating ourselves from our respective miseries. Yet—I encourage you/us NOT to judge our life-stations in this finite manner. Sarah, I believe we must NEVER succumb to this impulse… to END it all. There’s nobility in enduring—not in the heroic sense, but in the sense of sustaining and of GIVING. I believe we have a duty to give of ourselves as best as is humanly possible, as sole, single individuals.
Ironically, despite your grave misgivings regarding the net value of your very life—YOU, Sarah, already perform this magnanimous act of GIVING in exemplary fashion. I see how actively involved you are in near-infinite volunteer projects and causes, one more precious and worthwhile than the next. Your work as court advocate to children and families who are caught up in the social justice and child welfare system is invaluable to every party in the oft-tragic equation.
I admire the good works you do for your fellow man. Perhaps I shouldn’t have to tell you, but an inestimable number of persons benefit from your caring and expertise—these same people would lose untold defense, were it not for you and your knowledgeable influence. I realize your good works may well fail to reward YOU in equal measure as those merits you bestow upon others. Now, all we need to do is transmit a message to your brain that somehow might bequeath directly to YOU the amounts of positives equivalent to those resulting on behalf of those whose lives you touch.
And I’ve spotlighted here merely ONE aspect to your multi-dimensional life. You are such a bright, vital, kind, and whole person—if we can just temper that part of you that suffers, at times, near-unbearable pain. Where there’s breath, life, and hope—there IS energy and ability enough to GIVE to others—and to OURSELVES—no matter the degree of heartache we harbor, the suffering we embody.
Thus, even while we have bestowed upon the world as much as we physically and emotionally can sustain, we must reap satisfaction unto ourselves. Surely, we can extract a modicum of pleasure sufficient to prevail on this planet long enough until our time here is completed naturally, without our having inspired or instigated our demise. This philosophy may not make “sense,” nor even bring joy, but to follow the rule of nature’s law is ultimately more practical and most assuredly more productive. Even for those of us without belief in a mystical “higher power,” the carrying-out of one’s days and nights through principles that are “life-sustaining” is BETTER than premature death. I don’t want to die in opposition to the natural order. I am hoping that, ultimately, this will be your same future—to fulfill your life to the fullest that you uniquely are capable of, for better or for worse.
Yes, sure, there exists the cacophony of noise and upset swirling everywhere around us, but just maybe we CAN triumph over it all, over EVERYTHING, all of life, and finally even over death, withal by saying, “Yes, I can”—can endure, survive, and thrive one time more.
I want to direct your attention especially to the enclosed book/booklet, entitled, YES I CAN/My Bipolar Journey, authored by a friend and colleague of mine, Ruth Z. Deming. Here, please refer especially to PART II—KEYS TO RECOVERY, beginning on page 24, and running through page 39, plus. In her section, Deming lists numerous strategic techniques, which she herself has employed to stave-off life-threatening depressive-episode attacks. Additionally, as a psychotherapist and support-group founder, this author has accrued and disseminated a treasure-trove of active advice, designed to thwart depression and its deleterious effects.
You may find of interest also the remainder of this same book, PART I, as well as the enclosed editions of COMPASS, the Mental-Health Journal Deming and her associates publish annually. COMPASS includes entries submitted by lay participants from NEW DIRECTIONS, the suicide-prevention support group, which Deming has founded. I’ve read in full YES I CAN; I’m in the process of reading each of the COMPASS journals.
I’ll be in touch again soon.
CLAUDIA BEECHMAN – My Single Life
From 1973 until 1978, I was a single woman living in Center City Philadelphia. My first apartment, an efficiency at 8th and Pine was, in the words of a boyfriend, a “cracker jack box”. But it was just the thing. I wanted to live alone and my gig as a singer paid me just enough to afford the hundred and fifteen dollars a month.
I had gone to Head House Square to Lautrec, a French restaurant and jazz cafe. After I sang “La Vie en Rose”, owner Ed Bottone suggested I go to The Cafe Erlanger, a magnificent old theatre, bar, restaurant and disco. There I auditioned for the Harry Jay Katz, the notorious entrepreneur. He was so reviled by some that there was a sign on the Schuylkill Expressway: Harry Jay Katz is Not as Bad as Philadelphians Say He Is. And he wasn’t. In fact, the was the only boss I ever had who suggested a raise.
Le tout Philadelphie frequented The Erlanger. It featured a large bar, a cigarette girl, fine dining a billiard room and a disco. The bartenders wore tuxedos. I had an early set, accompanying myself on guitar. Then, a jazz trio took over. I usually hung around for awhile, schmoozing with the bartenders or Harry Jay’s girlfriend.
A large part of my salary went toward my wardrobe : a long black skirt and tops embellished with sequins. A flower in my hair. Harry Jay contented himself with a tuxedo. Through my contacts at the Erlanger, I appeared on Mike Douglas’s Dialing for Dollars with Marciarose Shestak. She wanted to know if I wanted Erlanger pronounced the French way, as in AIR LON JAY.
Meanwhile, the grandiose Erlanger was in financial trouble and soon I was searching for another gig. I found it at Cafe Yaas at Fourth and South.
Cafe Yaas was owned by three Iranian immigrants, Desmond,, Richmond and Edmond. The boss, Edmond played the accordion, with Jack on guitar, Chick on oud, and John on bazouki. They taught me to sing Greek and Israeli songs. Yaas served great Turkish coffee and middle Eastern snacks. Back then, hummus was rare and exotic, unlike today when it’s available in every supermarket in multiple brands and flavors.
Yaas was the only cafe in Philadelphia open until 4 o’clock in the morning. Belly-dancers from the Middle East restaurant on Chestnut St. came to Yaas after work and gyrated on the small dance floor.
I had a blast at Yaas. Edmond’s mother taught me how to use zils, brass middle Eastern castanets. I loved the exotic atmosphere, the camaraderie, the music. But soon, Yaas, too was having financial difficulties. I knew the jig was up when my paycheck bounced. I should have known that when I got a check instead of cash, that it was going to bounce. Edmond paid me in cash but within a and week I got a call to come to Ontario to play Woman Number One in Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris.
I came back in the fall and began singing with Buddy Barnes at the Canal House in New Hope. I performed French songs and he introduced me to Sondheim. Then a call came from London, Ontario. They were reopening Jacques Brel in a different theatre. I went back and resumed the role of Woman Number One. When the show folded, I returned to Philadelphia.
And to a day job. In college, I had earned a certificate to teach French at Rutgers University. I went down to the School District of Philadelphia and secured a French position at West Philadelphia High School. My fancy cafe society friends were horrified when they learned of this development. But they had nothing to fear; the kids were sweet and polite and I enjoyed teaching them.
When the school year was over, I hopped on the bus and rode the 21 blocks down South St. to Le Bistro , a cozy restaurant/bar at Front and Fitzwater. I was welcomed by the tall, genial proprietor, Rick Sirianni.
The audition went well. I sang a few songs in French and got a nod from Morgan, one of the waitstaff. Rick hired me for four nights a week and offered a good salary.
I was able to buy a beautiful, navy blue reefer coat from Toby Lerner, my favorite store. I could afford to live alone. My grandmother bought me a set of Revereware pots and pans.. There was room for my beloved bicycle.
Some other gigs along the way:
Arthur’s Steak House. That was a tough one. Usually I was serenading the bartender, a sweet guy named Joe who introduced me to the music of Johnny Hartman, the great balladeer. When I left Arthur’s, I gave Joe one of his albums, purchased at Sam Goody on Chestnut St. The same Sam Goody where my father purchased my guitar, a Martin 000-18.
Then, there was the gig at The Penn and Pencil Club on Latimer St. I met reporters, developing a crush on Pete Dexter, a Daily News columnist who became a famous writer. He congratulated me for bringing culture to the famous watering hole, but a romance was far from his mind; he had a girlfriend whose name sometimes appeared in his columns.
I met a lawyer there who invited me to the opera. I was thrilled until he told me to meet him at the Pen and Pencil Club for dinner. Hot dogs and booze were the featured fare.
During the blizzard of 1978, I made choucroute garnie for one. I had decided to cook tasty meals in my poststamp-sized kitchen. The fridge was in the living room. So when it snowed, I put Brazilian music on the stereo and happily prepared the Alsace Lorrainian saurkraut dish.
POEM by Ross Fishbough
The syntax of the dusk
Is translated by the slow
sound of the herons rite
In a breath of stars
The grass issues its windsong
As if caught between no time
and the sky
The egret stands on principle
Follows the litany of the pipers
Tracks on sand
Repeats the season forever
As though the breath of heaven
I fall away abstracted as
the memory of a black bird’s dream
-the blackbird with eyes full
that contemplate everything
desiring and desirous night
yearning and yearned for god.
POEM by Linda Murphy
I am bigger than the bubblegum I’m chewing
I wonder if the sky is blue on any other planets
I hear Green Giant’s tummy rumbling
I see the inside of a rainbow ribbon
I want to fly to the moon on butterfly wings
I am bigger than the bubblegum I’m chewing
I pretend today is the first day of my life
I feel fuzzy moss under my feet
I touch the face of God
I worry I don’t have enough friends
I cry when I see a bloody animal on the road
I am bigger than the bubblegum I’m chewing
I understand we are all one circle
I say I love you
I dream we can all touch the face of God
I try to hold everyone I meet in my heart
I hope we can all meet in heaven
I am bigger than the bubblegum I’m chewing
Intentional Living and Polarity After Retirement
by Dorothy Heine Rudolph
May 21, 2013
I have become aware of my responsibility for emotional highs and lows as they are related to observable patterns in my thinking, feeling and reacting. “Observable” is the operative word here. Observing, being conscious of the dynamics of my reactions and how they affect my moods, is key to becoming free to choose how I behave in any situation. I am also learning how critically important lifestyle is to developing this ability to observe. Living at a slow, deliberate pace is essential for my reflective awareness.
Silent inner listening during focused art expression is my most effective aid for getting beneath emotional disturbances, for discerning what defense mechanisms may be operating, and for perceiving how energy is channeling more deeply and authentically through me. Art is primary process; I find it helpful to use secondary process as well – words, rational thought – so I make personal notes about the situation and the process of creating the visual expression. I also practice “The Work of Byron Katie” to question my beliefs:
www.TheWork.com, and mindfulness meditation at least twice daily, especially immediately after art making to settle and integrate inner movements before becoming available to external stimuli.
Another aspect of my intentional lifestyle involves walking. Those times when I walk aerobically to any significant degree, I realize later that I have fed my “rush”, which, along with non-stop action and multi-tasking, rev me up, accelerate my mood, and potentially lead to hypomania. I have consciously decided that I would rather die of a heart attack than to exacerbate the ongoing distress of my bipolar condition. Both my psychiatrist and my medical doctor support this decision, regardless of the US government’s recommendation that we walk aerobically 150 minutes per week for heart health and stress reduction.
When I feel intense, urgent or agitated, I need to settle into stillness, and open to my capacity to observe and reflect. If I’ve already done enough sitting, I practice slow-walking. To be uninterrupted by outside stimuli, I slow-walk in my apartment, moving at a snail’s pace from room to room, altering my itinerary and direction for minor variation until my mind settles and I am ready to function more actively again. A welcomed insight or solution occasionally arises that I had been too distracted to perceive. I go for solitary, outdoor walks in an unpaved neighborhood at the rural edge of my town, and there’s always the local park if I need a break and feel open to the stimulation of friends or acquaintances I might meet there.
I need to limit the amount of stimulation to which I subject myself. My sister lives in Europe and has traveled back and forth for forty years, so when I was able, I was happy to reciprocate and began taking annual vacations in Europe. I thought I was taking it all in stride until the effects of my highly active and social job, coupled with the stress of overseas travel – both of which I relished immensely – took its toll on my nervous system, culminating in exhaustion and an unexpected crash that forced my retirement.
When memories and longing for international travel arise, I rationalize, “As I continue to become more stable, perhaps I’ll be able to travel in Europe again”. But skepticism and fear of consequences contain this kernel of truth: “maybe you feel more stable because you are NOT traveling now”. So this has become the polarity of my European travel story – “maybe…maybe not” – based on preference in the past and conjecture for the future. I find it wiser to remain in the middle, in the present. I understand that in reality my longing to travel is a fantasy that raises energy I need to redirect to a more immediate question, “What do I need to deal with here and now?”
Following experiences of peaking energy, I experience relative depletion of energy in the aftermath. Now, with more time and less external responsibility, I am learning to regulate my responses to circumstances, and my mood swings are more superficially situational than the deep rolling ocean swells of the past. Optimally, energy flows through me and takes creative form in relationships, mundane household tasks, simple being…but the process requires constant monitoring. I need plenty of solitude, rest, and silence.
Creating visual expressions, meditating, and walking work best for me; and gardening, occasional radio programs or CDs, and spontaneous contact with family, friends and neighbors, are manna. As I age (I’m 68) and wonder “What is my potential in my elder years?”, I think less of productivity, achievement and financial gain, than of observation, self-awareness and stability: traveling within…and to Europe in spirit.
Dorothy Heine Rudolph has written two articles for “The COMPASS, a mental health magazine”. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, and her Master of Arts in Art Therapy degree from Vermont College of Norwich University, Montpelier. She invites you to view her art works at www.ArtofaSpiritualJourney.com .
Schizophrenia. From the inside.
by Frank Kelso Wolfe, May 18, 2013
Pigeons can’t spray paint a purple forest rug or envision hot lemons back flipping into Laverne and Shirley screaming forever across the marshmallow night. Can they? No. I couldn’t have either. When it hit me, it hit me like a cable knit sweater. I didn’t see it. I knew I was alone and could, for a few months, do whatever in the world I pleased. Like so many who begin their life with a mental illness I was at University. No one at fault. I did my best. We all did our best. Didn’t we? What if in 1986, my junior year in high school, I had begun to see a therapist? If I’d been tweaked just a little bit with just a smidgen of medication? If I had gone to the community college? If I had joined the Navy or just gotten a job? If I hadn’t been alone among thirty thousand students in a system that was/is not built to catch the ones who have my kind of trouble?
Twenty five years later I am used to being in my head. I am comfortable and at home there. It takes something intense or some new perspectiveglance in a mirror to make me green to my illness again. Tonight it took one more nasty freezeupbomb on stage. One more awkward silence of my brain squirming while everything shuts down. Everything screamed Go home! Go back to your table! Disappear! You really screwed up this time! You really needed a great performance (deadly thought for the performer) and you died. You wished you could die. You hoped for a clean, honorable way out. What did you get?
Silence. No one can bring down a room quite like you. So your head spun. Everything was about YOU! You were grateful for the darkness of the room. Grateful for the other people who went on stage after you. This feeling of all eyes on you is partly my illness, partly true. I often enjoy being the center attraction. But when it goes bad, it’s a waking nightmare.
That night I caught a glimpse of cold canned steel wool smearing Tabasco sauce on my pock marked thighs while a third eye burned its way through a Dutch cabinet full of peanut butter across the room next to my middle ear apocalypse.
Is this the way I think? Maybe sometimes, but rarely. Most often it’s what people want to think people with Chronic Paranoid Schizophrenia think. So you can place them in a box. So you don’t have to deal with their individual stories and needs. So you don’t see that they are just like you in many ways.
Is it sad that because of my illness I may have not reached my full potential in life? What could I have been if my mind had not taken the path less traveled? Or is my mission in life to express for me and those who can’t what it is like to live with this malady? A very important thing I believe.
I don’t take care of myself. I binge on sugar and all sorts of junk food and convince myself I will get better, even if I don’t exercise or eat healthy, (Oh yeah, I have been living with chronic pain for over three years). I am a food addict. Having a mental illness and an addiction together is called a Co-occurring disorder. The food and the pain and the mental illness all feed off each other. I am fighting to keep my thoughts positive and optimistic. I also want to be realistic about my situation.
Speaking of being realistic, I have had some major delusions. Delusions are like stories. It’s the imagination running rampant. I once saw five guys putting up a rope in tree over on Lewis road in order to lynch me later. One day I was a big college football star. One morning I looked into the rising sun and was sure that it was a living entity.
This bit of writing is not meant to exhaust my thoughts on me and my mental illness. It is meant to entice the reader to open a door to a locker room where each locker is a human mind. Some of these lockers are standing open. Some are just closed and some are securely locked. But we are all in that locker room together.
I have been called the king of tact. I appreciate when family and friends alert me to, in a sensitive way, to some part of me I might want to consider working on or changing. There are words and phrases I either don’t use anymore or stop and consider for the sake of accuracy and positivity. Words are magical, and that’s no delusion. “Should’ is a word I now think thrice before using. It is not healthy to berate myself with should have, or could have, or might have. It simply is. I have a mental illness. Accept it. Deal with it. Educate self and go on.
If one really wants to know what it’s like to live with chronic paranoid schizophrenia, be my friend. Come to my house for tea. Look at my artwork. Read my Facebook posts. Ask to read my journals and poetry. Ask me questions. Understanding and empathy go a long way. Who knows when I will perform once more? There is a chance if I do that I will goof up again. But there’s also the chance I will knock ‘em dead. That optimistic chance is the main reason I wake up in the morning.
Frank Kelso Wolfe
- It was brought to my attention that the term “Mental illness” might be antiquated, constraining and negative. I use it several times in this paper. Just as “patient” was changed to “client” was changed to “Consumer”, so perhaps the term “Mental illness” may need an update. Such words as “Challenge” or “peculiarity” would put people in a different frame of mind when they consider those with mental health issues.
Janet Taylor, Jan. 19, 2012
SESTINA, 1991 Definition of sestina
Well I’ve finally gotten all the decorations up in my room
Above the bureau stands my Georgia O’Keeffe print.
The map collage I made last April stands beside the mirror.
Above my desk lies the wall hanging my old boyfriend brought back from the Peace Corps.
Yeah, it’s finally beginning to feel a little like home.
But I wonder what people would think of it, especially you.
I’d really love to show it to you.
I spend so much time in my room anyway.
But even if it doesn’t quite feel like home,
I really enjoy looking at my Georgia O’Keeffe print,
And looking at scenes from the Peace Corps,
But probably spend too much time in front of the mirror.
I like the fancy chestnut wood border around the mirror.
It’s woodsy and it kind of reminds me of you.
I wonder if it looks like wood from the baobab tree he saw in the Peace Corps.
It really matches the earthly feel of the room,
And complements the blue green of the Georgia O’Keeffe print,
And makes me feel more at home.
I got a call yesterday from Mom and Dad, my original home.
I see so much of myself in them it’s like looking in a mirror.
My Dad grew up near barns like those in my Georgia O’Keeffe print.
My mother would really like what I see in you
The way she likes how I decorate my room,
So far away from Africa and the Peace Corps.
No one from my family has ever been in the Peace Corps.
They all kind of stuck close to home
And put a lot of effort into decorating their rooms,
And found more to think about in the mirror than in the world,
And didn’t travel so far to find the world as you,
And didn’t live in ways as exotic as the colors of my Georgia O’Keeffe print.
Sometimes I just want to step into my Georgia O’Keeffe print
Or travel far and see other people’s homes in the Peace Corps
But I don’t think I’d be so good at traveling as you
I need to feel anchored in a stationary home
And relationships that act in part like a mirror,
With people I’d be comfortable to show to my room.
Maybe if I painted my room the colors of my Georgia O’Keeffe print,
Or used my journal and art as a mirror while traveling the map in the Peace Corps,
I’d come as close to feeling at home as I am when I’m with you.
– Janet Taylor, Philadelphia
October 1, 2011
THIS SWEET SAD NIGHT
This sweet, sad night to me brings souvenir
Of you and love together once we shared.
Still, lilting breezes, low, lend breath to dear
Remembered relics, sentiments once aired.
The flow’ring plants, though hid by night’s dark veil,
Spread scents as sweet as long gone reveries.
The animals, though screened by shade, prevail;
Their murmurs, soft, sing mellow memories.
But zephyrs soft, becoming wind, will whirl
And soothing cadences to noise succumb.
And though Apollo’s morning star unfurl
To brighten black skies, you’ll not homeward come.
Yet, in the dark of my soul’s gloomy night,
You’ll shine, enshrined, with golden, star-like light.
– Janet Taylor, Philadelphia
SEPTEMBER 11, 2011 by Linda Barrett
Whatever happened to the country
singing Patriotic songs on the Capitol steps
Republicans and Democrats holding candles
swaying side by side?
Whatever happened to the everyday heroes
who fought hijackers on airplanes
pulled bodies and survivors out of World Trade Center rubble?
Whatever happened to one nation under God?
Everyone praying for our nation
proudly waving our flags
weeping on street corners
showing our vigilance against terror
Instead of all this infighting,
Why can’t we forget we’re Liberal Democrats and Tea Party Republicans
and act like one country indivisible with liberty and justice for all!
– Linda Barrett, Abington, PA