Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Remember when I made things?

Tiny Oil pastel, circa 1998, found in the artist's closet

Oil on canvas paper, 2013 (with glare), made during an art class my roommate teaches and which I did not pay for.

I'm trying, dipping my shy little toes back into the pool of creativity. Can't say my orange is that creative, but it's loosening up the joints.

I had a friend basically yell at me because he saw my robot and toaster from last fall. He thought it was just a cute avatar, didn't know I'd painted it.

 Acrylic on canvas, 2013, baby shower gift for friend who teaches math

Then it went like this:

Unnamed friend: You should write a story about those guys.
JoBiv: I am, in fits and starts. Still working out a plot or two.
Unnamed friend: I could find you an artist to work out a few boards with you.
JoBiv: Yeah, that'd be nice. Painting in the buttons every time gets tedious.
Unnamed friend: Umm... are you saying YOU painted that?
JoBiv: Yep.
Unnamed friend: (Lecture on wasted talent, blah blah, "I never knew you were an artist" blah blah, "You HAVE to work on this story!" blah blah.)
JoBiv: Wow. I mean, thanks.

Of course, I look at this little piece and say, "The robot's sitting in the wrong place, and his femurs are too long and his tibias are too short. The table looks like it's made out of spongecake. The value of the gray robot and the blue background are much too similar. There should be a dot after the zero, because calculators don't work like that," etc.

Regardless, I bought a sketchpad, a cheap one. I dug out all my old art stuff and made it visible in my room. I'm staring at all of it now, and it seems dimly possible that I may be creative. Soon?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Status variabilis

Tell me how this melody can break out of white noise. How can an entire chorus stop a busy station in its... um... tracks?

My psychiatrist bought a used copy of the Carmina Burana and knew I'd be amused that he found it far more colorful than he'd expected. He also took a Lactaid in front of me, added milk to his coffee, looked at the expiration date on the little carton and read aloud "July 3, 2013." He looked into his mug. "Well, it didn't curdle." I'm in good hands.

He told me that the "Echay Grahtoom" is his favorite track. I resisted a lecture on Germanic pronunciation of Latin texts. Not that he would have minded; the man's a nerd of the first class, but by then my brain had corrected him and moved halfway through the piece at a nice gallop. Iamiam cedant tristia! Sadness has ended! Spring has come again!

I still get excited when I see those first green shoots of crocus and tulip and daffodil. I still feel my heart thudding in my chest when I hear a beautiful melody spun out of thin air. I have to believe in change, at least in a cycle, that sometimes plunges me under but will eventually raise me up again. Maybe my "up" is still below the surface, I don't know. I have to hope I'll be able to poke a finger through to the sunlight, that that will be enough.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Too soon?

Things that maybe one should never joke about:

1. Suicidal ideation
2. ECT treatment
3. Psychiatric inpatient stays

Well fuzz that shiz, I'm crossin' the line, people!

(If you haven't seen Mary and Max, perhaps you should. It has chocolate and insanity and poo-colored birth marks. Need I say more?)

I have been assured by many, nearly all, that Electroconvulsive Therapy has come a long way since, say, The Bell Jar (although it isn't portrayed terribly negatively in that novel). I will not be lobotomized, will not have my memory wiped, will not be communicating with aliens, etc. I have better chances of having SOME benefit, whether it's infinitesimal or not, than having any kind of bad reaction.

The doc asked me lots of nosy questions, most of which I couldn't quite pinpoint for him. Dates, admissions, prescriptions, attempts... I spend so much time batting all of those things away. They exist together in a kind of gnatty buzzing cloud that follows me around, the kind that makes me constantly fearful that I'll swallow a piece of it or breathe it in or have something get stuck under my eyelid. Gross. Bat, bat, batting away.

My patient psychiatrist is taking my latest dip a tad personally. "What's the point of me if I don't make you feel better?" he asked. I shrugged. He told me I usually laugh at his bad jokes. I told him I laugh at the good ones and he didn't have any this time. He took this as evidence that my sense of humor is still intact.

But there's another reason to live: so my psychiatrist will not see himself as a failure. I like the dude. How was he to know not to take me on? That I'm impervious to treatment, apparently? How could I make him believe that, but then how would that belief alter his sense of adequacy and effectiveness? How do I, Hippocratically, do no harm (and why do I adopt this as an oath)?

All of this aside, and sensing that this cloud is ever descending, I will try to be cognizant of others while I'm slipping away from myself. I will, perhaps, send postcards from the hospital. "Shocked to hear from me?" Or how about, "Thinking of you... and guess what Freud thinks about THAT." Or, perhaps the meanest of all, "Wish you were here!"

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Monologue (Dialogue)

I am capable of creativity. But only in sputters and starts. 
I have some natural talent. But I'm mediocre at best.
I have ideas to share still. But nobody wants to hear them.
My sadness isn't me. But it continually consumes me.
I'm blessed in ways others aren't. And I squander my blessings daily.
I can use resources to get help. But others deserve them more.
My family feels they still need me. But they don't know how poisonous I am.
Keep looking at their faces. They'd be better off without me.
Keep looking at their faces. I'll only continue to hurt them.
Keep looking at their dear faces. The little ones are young, they'll forget me.
Keep looking anyway.
Keep looking.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Adventures in Humiliation

Turns out I didn't have to worry or prepare for work nearly as much as I did. I suppose that should be a lesson to me. It would be if I hadn't been blindsided by an unforeseen (redundant, I know, but I'm shocked) demotion.

That's right. After four years of reinventing a system that was inherently broken, the very few but loud voices of the insecure win out over the many who offer logic and praise. 

It's the kind of thing that could send a girl to a mental hospital.

So here's the damage control mantra of the moment: They're paying me the same hourly wage. They're paying me peanuts, but still, I'm getting the same money for less demanding (I hope) work. I'm basically working the front desk, which seems eerily similar to working for the Bux. You can imagine, my master's degree keeps me up at night with its baleful sighs.

Or was that me keeping myself up with self-indulgent pity parties? Enh, six o' one, half dozen of the other...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stepping forward, back up the down escalator for eternity, or to open doors, shining with light and possibility. We shall see.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Reechersall, In which our heroine tries on excuses to use at work whence she returns thither

I imagine it will go something like this:

Typical Colleague (to be referred to as TC from here on out.): Hey Jo, it's been forever! How have you been?
JoBiv: Oh, hi Typical Colleague, how are you?
TC: Good, but how are you?
JoBiv: Oh, you know.
TC: No, I've been worried about you. Where were you? You were gone for three months.
JoBiv: Ummm...

And this is where I should say something, don't you agree?

Here are some contenders, with some possible mind-read follow ups.

JoBiv: I had a sex change and I didn't like it, so I had it reversed. Kinda messy.
TC: No ya didn't.

JoBiv: I had not cancer.
TC: That's not funny.

JoBiv: I won the lottery and I took a trip around the world, and then a pageboy in Turkmenistan stole the rest of the money, so no, you can't have any.
TC: Bullshit.

JoBiv: If I tell you, I'll have to kill you.
TC: Do you own a gun?
JoBiv: I'll kill you with my mind.
TC: Doubt it.

JoBiv: I went crazy and wanted to kill myself and wound up at McLean.
TC: Tee emm aye.
JoBiv: You asked.

JoBiv: I've been ill but I'm getting good care now.
TC: Sooo you went crazy and wound up at McLean?
JoBiv: AGHH!!
TC: You know that's selfish and we were screwed and everyone hates you now.
JoBiv: Sigh. I know.
TC: Whelp, I have to get back to hating you with every fiber of my being! So long!

 Possibly that last one will go better than I've imagined, but it's nice to have a few backups. Suggestions welcome, of course...

Sunday, March 03, 2013

We're Marchin' on

And yes, that was a pun.

I decided it was high time to buy a calendar, it bein' March n' all. I'm going back to paper. Why? Because I frankly don't care for the many ways my iPhone and Google calendars require maintenance and nudging.

Or, it could be that I'm getting lazy.

At any rate, there is something comforting in seeing the pages flip, looking at an entire month laid out in front of you without any nasty surprise linky things. Aha, I can say, on this day I have promised to eat waffles with Spen (International Waffle Day is March 25th, dontcha know). On this other day here I will get a haircut, providing I can afford the tip. Yes, everything's looking quite nice on paper.

Lookit, all of this is to say that I bought a calendar, which means I suppose I have decided to be alive. I decided again, today, consciously. Buy a calendar, fill it with appointments and concerts and birthdays. Be here on Earth with People for 2013. And so I shall try.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Where, oh where has my poetry gone?

I have poetry in me yet, don't I? I have committed myself, yet again, to the writing life. I have been unfaithful, or purely negligent. It's time to start paying attention again.

I'm making art, however. That's the easy stuff. And happily messy.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The crux

My grandmother passed away, finally*, at age 94 back in October. She died in her sleep. More importantly, she died dreaming of my grandfather (or rather in a haze of dementia) and repeatedly mentioned that he had asked her to marry him.

"What should I say?" she asked my father.

"For godssake, say yes, otherwise I won't exist," said my father. She laughed as though she got the joke, and she may have, because she was a sharp lady.

I love to think of her suspended in that giddy moment of young love, the moment just before her life settled into its track and took off barreling toward pregnancies and houses and addictions and celebrations. I see it as a conductor raising her arm for the downbeat, the gesture before the music, the instruction to draw bows and breath.

Yet, when my grandmother died, I had a sudden and explosive thought; I had been waiting for her to die before allowing myself to consider suicide. It was a simple rule, and it worked for years. While she was alive I could spare her needless pain and confusion. How would this woman, who only knew the kindest, most patient side of me, ever reconcile that image with the desperation of my truer self? Why force sobs from her? I assumed, too, that my father would very likely lie to her, and how could I make him do that. How cruel would I have to be to force him to make that decision?

And so she fell asleep, and so she never woke, and when that word popped into my head I had nothing handy to bat it away.


At first, the thought itself was so upsetting that the anxiety swept me into fits. Every moment of solitude or quiet brought on hyperventilation and tears.

Then I started really thinking about it; how I had drawn away from friends and I could recede even more, how I could sell my things, throw away papers. We already had a temp at work, which just proved (in my mind) that everyone is replaceable. I had already stopped enjoying the usual pastimes; reading, writing, singing, hanging out with friends, even eating. The world had become two dimensional, blank cardboard cut-outs of the actions of living. And so it was time.

Of course, I'm an asshole, and this is why.

My father hinted to it on the phone but I didn't believe him at the time. He was drunk. But then again, he had just lost his mother. I cut him a little slack, at least. He mumbled something about Grandma's will, and I decided to dismiss it. Then my mother mentioned something and credibility came into the picture. And then I went home to see my aching family and touch them to make sure they were solid and okay.

Mom and Dad were puttering downstairs, clearly waiting for me to get ready. I came downstairs to the two of them on either side of the kitchen counter, suddenly hushing themselves. My father had something in his hand, barely hidden.

"Johanna Mary... your grandmother loved you very much." He then went on to describe the many ways I was good to her; sending cards and letters, insisting on seeing her on my trips home, making sure my brothers remembered her at Christmas time and her birthday. And then he talked about his mother meeting his father, how dear they were to each other.

And then he showed me the ring, and told me Grandma wanted me to have it. She only mentioned four people in her will, and I was the only grandchild. She left her wedding band to Aunt Depresso, her pearls to Aunt Klondike (I think), and her engagement ring, a cushion-cut diamond flanked by the tiniest chips of diamond in an art deco setting, to me.

I cried. A lot. My parents hugged me. They couldn't know that every part of me wanted to reject the gift. If I had really been a good granddaughter, I felt, I would have called. I would have sent the card I bought for her last week and she would have loved it. I would have gotten my license and seen her on my own, and often. But then again, here was proof that she knew I loved her.

Four months later, my brother said the thing I needed to hear, and maybe couldn't absorb until this moment.

"Grandma didn't want you to be buried with that ring."

He also soliloquized about how special I am and how important I am and blah blah blah - nothing I could believe besides that one thing. I was given a ring in hope that I would have a piece of her, know she loved me, maybe someday find my own love. She could never have thought that I would kill myself mere months afterward and scramble to think of someone more worthy of the ring. She was clear in her gesture: I am worthy. Whether or not I believe it, I am worthy of her love and love from any direction.

I still don't believe it, but I do accept that she believed it. In her honor, I live.

*"Finally" sounds harsh, however, Grandma was fed up with birthdays and suffering daily shame from merely existing in a facility where she did not leave her room or cultivate friendships. Some of that is her own fault. I also find myself saying "finally" to continue convincing myself that death is quite final. It's a one-way street. Unless you're Wesley from The Princess Bride and you wind up "mostly dead," but I digress.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What do you do with a broken JoBiv, what do you do with a broken JoBiv

What do you do with a broken JoBiv ear-lye in the mornin'...

To be honest, I don't care to hear your answers. I don't want to think or grow or challenge anything at the moment. I want to shrivel up and blow away. Alas, that only happens in Indiana Jones movies.

Let's talk about ol' Indy, then. Here I am at a facility where the VCR still works and there are such choices as Karate Kid I and II alongside White Chicks and Somersby. We chose Indiana Jones, which brought up the line (internally) from The Last Crusade, "You have chosen... wisely."

Of course I forget how unspecial the effects can be, how over-orchestrated the score can be, how completely bizarre the plot can be. For whatever reason, the lead actress wound up dressed in long silky white gowns - the better to be torn and frayed and reveal more skin? Clearly the production team looked at the story boards, loved the look of the shroud on the woman's body, and thought, "Hmm... but how can we get her in a gown? Officer's ball in Cairo? ... That's ridiculous. She's a... seamstress! And carries samples with her everywhere! ... No... How about we get a pervy Frenchman to dress her up like a doll in a random drinking scene! Yeah, that's the ticket!"

And then how much more ridiculous is it that I wound up incorporating this idea in my unavoidable nightmares? I have sets of them, to make it easier on myself. There are Exposure nightmares, Responsibility nightmares, Victim nightmares and Oh My God I Have the Sickest Mind nightmares. And then there are night terrors, but I digress.

So the Exposure nightmare goes like this: They (y'know, Them) ask me to put on the same dress this woman wears in the film. Of course it's a size 4 and I'm a size 40 and there's no spandex (was there spandex in 1981? I'll have to research. Or perhaps they were going for historical accuracy.) At any rate, the dress doesn't go on over my head or up my legs. I can't get in it sideways or backwards or upside down. But they're knocking on my door and asking to come in to complete the "fitting." I also have a large wound on my back that's bleeding and it's staining the dress and I know I will be in trouble on top of being too fat to fit in the dress. And then it rips. Ffrrrreep. Fuck.

Now the costume crew come in and they yell at me, and then I'm sort of stuck in this dress but I have to pee, and no one will let me leave the room, and I start crying and they yell at me some more, and there's no more material to make a new dress and it was spun from Chinese silk from the ancient Wang Chun dynasty or some shit...

In case you were idly wondering whether or not I'm able to see the humor in these dreams, the answer is... not while I'm dreaming them. I feel the red hot shame and misery and fear, and any comic elements elude me until at least the next day, sometimes two days later.

Did you know there's a med for nightmares? Or I should say there's a med for high blood pressure that has an off-label use as a nightmare cure. I'm on it now and it mostly works - that is, I've had fewer flashbacks and night terrors. But I still have these Exposure dreams and Responsibility dreams (where I'm juggling nine babies with brittle bone syndrome and the oven is on but empty and my grandmother is slowly but steadily rolling away in her wheelchair toward a massive cliff). Of course, this miracle drug makes me dizzy and - go fig - messes with my blood pressure, but I like to think these are just the adorable quirks of a new friend I'm gettin' to know. As long as it doesn't chew with its mouth open, I think I can take the quirks.

I suppose, then, we have our answer: What do we do with a broken JoBiv?

Fill her up with drugs that make her dizzy! Fill her up with drugs that make her dizzy... etc.  Or perhaps,

Send her to McLean and watch her closely?

Oh, gosh, these are fun... Verse three: Throw out all her shit and plan her funeral!

All right, that's not funny. Outside of McLean, anyway.

Send her off to sleep and never wake her
Make her eat her food and take her showers
Call her on the phone and make her blubber...

Tell her to go back to work already...

Honestly, I could go on. Laugh at all her jokes as if they're funny!