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Transitions

One month until I move out of the convent. It’s hard to believe I’ve lived here since September. This final month will go quick, especially since I’ll be gone for over a week of it. In June I have to visit the college town I’m moving to in August. I also have a trip to Chicago planned to meet with my ind. study instructor. Times of transition are uncomfortable. It’s a challenge to stay present and appreciate each moment. I’m stuck in a mixture of grief and restlessness about moving away from the convent and later moving down south. I’ll stay with my parents for 6 weeks while I work my favorite summer job. It will be my seventh summer working as a teacher’s aid at a summer school for migrant children. It’s the most rewarding job. And what a joy it has been to watch some of the kids grow up over the years. 

I think I’ll keep this blog throughout the summer. I’m not sure what I plan to do in the fall. I have a blog I kept for 5 years prior to this one that I might return to. Or, I might just stop blogging. I’ll have to use the majority of my spare time toward “real writing,” meaning writing I obsess about and may eventually publish and/or turn in for a grade. 

Speaking of obsessing. I got my psychological test results back. I have ADHD (not a surprise), Anxiety (Also, not a surprise), and OCD (HUGE surprise). When I think of OCD, I think of my little sister–with her spotless bedroom and closet organized by color–or my best friend who washes her hands until they’re raw and won’t touch public doors. I don’t do either of those things. I’m, actually, a pretty messy person. There are phases in my life where I try to be more organized, but it never lasts. I blame my disorganization on my creative personality. There are plenty of neat, organized creative people. It just seems to make sense that my surroundings look scattered like my thoughts.

I do obsess about my writing (I can take hours to write a couple paragraphs). Isn’t it part of the job description of a writer? We pay attention to every word more than the average person. I didn’t think it was any sort of disordered thinking. My therapist also suggested that my OCD and perfectionism are how I survived in school even with untreated ADHD. 

When it was first suggested I might have ADHD, after my older brother was diagnosed last year, I thought it sounded absurd. ADHD kids were the trouble makers who never stopped talking and couldn’t stay in their seats. I was a well-behaved kid who did pretty well in school. Once I started researching the disorder, it made so much sense of my childhood and college experience. I always felt like things didn’t click right for me. Similarly, I avoid driving whenever possible, having developed some intense anxiety around it. I felt like something was wrong with me where I couldn’t pay attention to signs or traffic. I thought it was just some personality flaw or new form of stupidity. It’s so nice to know that my brain just processes things differently. It will be helpful to have this diagnosis while in grad school, especially since I’ll be required to take literature classes. Literature classes are insanely hard when they expect you to read complex pieces of literature in days before moving onto the next. Hopefully this diagnosis will allow me to better understand my learning style so I can excel. I’m optimistic about the future. A bit restless in the mean time. 

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Miracles

Many of my atheist friends are uncomfortable with the word miracle. It’s because most folks perceive miracles as being the result of a personified deity. A brief personal religious history: I’ve identified as Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Humanist, Atheist, and Agnostic at different points in my life. As of now, I like the terms Naturalist, Seeker, or Humanist. This angers people. Especially those who are threatened by different belief systems. They want to group me in a box as someone who thinks like them or someone who doesn’t. They can’t deal with someone floating outside of the boxes.

I tend to relate best to Atheists and Agnostics. But I have religious friends who have redefined God in a way that describes what I believe in. Many of the sisters have an evolved view of God that allows me to discuss God and Faith with them without feeling like a fraud. For example, some people define God as love or positive energy. Right on. I just can’t shake the patriarchal, violent etymology behind God. The term makes me uncomfortable. I associate it with guilt, abuse, and fear. I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable using that three-letter word to define my own spiritual beliefs. My experience living with nuns has helped me be more comfortable in my own beliefs. It healed me enough to have compassion for those who do not think like me. I used to be jealous of people of faith. So many of them are unaware that not everyone can make themselves believe what’s comfortable. Because I was not treated with compassion or respect when I disagreed with some religious folks, I didn’t think they deserved it back. I now understand intolerance stems from fear. And how sad it must be to feel so threatened by someone who doesn’t agree with you. I’ve lived in that sort of fear. It’s miserable. I hope by being able to reclaim some of the religious language, I will be able to have more honest and open dialogues with people of all beliefs. There’s something spiritual in respectful conversations about beliefs. When neither party is defensive, we can learn and grow so much from one another.

I’m reclaiming the word miracle, because it embraces mystery. Lately, I’ve been capturing photos of pine cones in different stages of growth. Pine cones are miraculous. I can’t believe I ever took their growth for granted. Watching the brown cap form over the new bunch of pine needles, and then slowly develop into a pine cone is mind blowing. Wildflowers are miracles too. Hopefully the photos capture some of the joy these things bring me. Still loving life.

Blank Pages

“[T]he wound of loneliness is like the Grand Canyon—a deep incision in the surface of our existence which has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and self-understanding” (Henri Nouwen 86).

Blank pages excite and terrify me. Some days I love marking them up with sporadic thoughts, refusing to follow the lines or margins. Other times they induce breakdowns. The break from blogging started when my other writing was going well. I didn’t want to break up the creative flow. Then the silence continued when my writing started going poorly. In those moments, I get so frustrated with language, and my inability to control it, that typing out a reader-friendly update is the last thing I want to do.

I also had an upsetting situation happen at the pharmacy last week, and I needed some time to process it. I went to get my psych meds refilled. They informed me they couldn’t fill it, because my doctor (who is both my therapist and nurse practioner in charge of my meds) has had her license revoked. I’d just been in her office the day before for my ADHD testing. No one working there warned me about this. I also don’t think my ADHD testing is valid anymore. This was upsetting on many levels, and it caused a lot of stress that I didn’t deserve. That’s the way it goes. I coped pretty well, and I’m no longer taking the medication that made me feel drugged out at night. The side effects weren’t worth the results. I’m feeling healthier than ever these days. I think I can maintain health without replacing this last one. I’m keeping a close eye out for symptoms. I refuse to backslide.

The quote above is from The Wounded Healer. I went to a talk on Nouwen recently, and I got pumped up to read that book. Then, my ind. study instructor recommended I read it–without knowing I’d just been to a talk about it. I love when coincidences like that happen. I read it in 24 hours. I also just finished a self-help book about healing. It was a bit cheesy at times, but had some good reflection on why we subconsciously hinder our own healing sometimes and how to seek healing. I moved here to read and write, yet was unable to read or write for the majority of my time here. It was just a concentration issue. I don’t remember the last book I finished. Now, I’ve finished two in the last week. I’m making my second attempt at a book my ind. study instructor recommended earlier that I half read before quitting. Take 2 is going better. I hope to continue reading, especially since writing is going poorly. A poet I adore (Marie Howe) said when her students complain of writer’s block, she asks them what they’re reading. Being well read is just as much apart of the writing process as the actual writing. It feels great to be reading again. I spend hours out on the porch swings, reading and birdwatching. Life is good here. I hope to keep this new found peace with me when I move in with my parents for the summer in June… yikes…that’s sneaking up on me!

Rant

Tomorrow is my ADHD testing. I’m frustrated with my doctor. Today at a support group meeting, I mentioned my doctor’s name, and everyone said bad things. I’ve tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’m done. My treatment plan is completely up to me. I tell her if I want more medication. And I get permission to take less when I ask for it. A friend pointed out that, to a degree, my treatment has always up to me. No one is going to make me take my medication. I agreed, but also reminded her I have a history of being compliant with what my doctor says.

My former psychiatrist gave me a voice in what medications I took, too. I’d go in saying, “I don’t like being on this many medications. The newest one has annoying side effects like lightheadedness. My sleep and mood have been better since I started taking it, but that could be a result of other things I’ve been doing to stay healthy.” Then, the doctor would advise me to either discontinue or continue taking the latest medication, explaining why. With my current doctor, I say “I’m not sure if I need to be on this medication.” Instead of asking for more details, she’ll say “Okay. Stop taking it and see how you feel.” It’s a battle every night whether or not I want to take it anymore. I’m taking it tonight, because it helps me sleep. I want a good night sleep before my 3 hours worth of testing tomorrow. I’m on a low enough dosage, I could stop taking it, see how it goes, and resume taking it if I notice any problems. I’m angry that I even have to worry about this, because that’s what my doctor gets paid to do. I don’t know the difference between when I’m healthy enough to cut back on medication and when my mental illness is the one telling me to cut back on medication so it can take over.

I move back to my hometown sometime in June. In August, I’ll move South. There’s no point in finding a new doctor before moving in August. My family doctor can hold the fort down for the summer. I’m sure thankful I’ve been stable all year. I don’t know what I’d have done if I was unstable and stuck with an inadequate doctor. I probably would’ve had to move in with my parents. Then I’d have missed all the peace and beauty I’ve found here at the convent. After a bitter entry, I want to emphasize my gratitude for stability and my new found peace here.

Rationalization

Blogging doesn’t feel like real writing. This doesn’t mean I don’t take other blogs seriously.  I just don’t think of my own blog as legit writing. It doesn’t provide freedom to brainstorm like a journal, and it doesn’t allow me enough time to make the words into a piece of art either. It’s an avenue for me to look at my thoughts through the lens of others. It’s also a way for me to feel heard. I always appreciate when someone tells me they read my blog. It allows me to reread entries, imagining what they think while reading my words. It also motivates me to blog when the negative thoughts convince me I don’t have anything worth saying.

Chris, a friend from the first writing group I ever participated in, asked me to critique his blog recently. Quick Back Story: He and I come from a small community, we discovered–through a piece he’d written about his grandmother–that we’re distant cousins. Hence why he gets the name Cousin Chris for his blog. Check it out. He’s a beautiful writer. He’s been an older brother figure to me, and I’ve been meaning to write him a letter about how highly I think of him. I’m way behind in my mail, so for now he gets a half-assed YOU ROCK in this entry. The point of all of this is that Chris offered to critique my blog entries in exchange for my feedback on his. As a writer, criticism is a good thing. I’m honored when someone, whose judgment I trust, offers to critique my writing. Chris offers great constructive criticism while encouraging me. His offer made me realize I don’t want criticism on my blog. If I know my writing will be criticized, I get stuck trying to anticipate the criticism. It really slows my process down. I start obsessing over every flaw (And there are always so many flaws in a first draft).

I’m a slow writer, because of my perfectionism. If I put the energy into my blog that I invest in my other writing, I wouldn’t blog at all. A blog lets my loved ones follow up with me when I don’t have time to give each one of them an update. I treat it like a mass e-mail. So, here I am–trying to convince myself I didn’t betray my writing by turning down an offer for free criticism—in front of an audience.

RATIONALIZATION: As a writer, I try to put myself aside, for the sake of art (Any artist will tell you it’s impossible, but we try!). When I don’t treat my blog as art, it is harder to put myself aside.

In all honesty, I contemplated starting this entry over. I take pride in the “embarrassing sincerity” maintained on here. It’s not like I ever write anything ultra personal, but I do try to capture my thoughts without judging them. I will not erase this entry. I’ll push publish after I type the period at the end of this sentence.

Risks

I’m abandoning electronics for the day tomorrow. My head is noisy. Keeping my phone & computer off all day is the best way I know how to turn it down. I was offered the top financial package at a competitive MFA program, and I’d be crazy not to accept it. It requires moving several states away. I’m afraid but grateful for the opportunity. It’s a risk to step out of my comfort zone, but I have so much to gain from it.

It makes me think of a conversation I had with a religion professor. He was saying that people from his high school assume he’s crazy smart because he has his Phd. He mentioned the sacrifices and risks he took to get his Phd, then saying that many more people could do it–if they were willing to make it a priority in their life.

My brother and I have been talking about risks off and on lately. Our parents are not risk takers. Their impulsiveness, that my siblings and I inherited, manifests itself in things like gambling or shopping because they do not take professional or social risks. To be fair, my parents got married and had kids young. It’s hard to take risks when you have to think about a family.

My ind. study instructor takes a lot of risks in her writing. She’s asking me to do the same, which is invigorating. I once read an interview with her where the interviewer asked her how she felt about her students knowing such intensely personal things from her life. She said she liked it, because she can talk from experience when she’s asking them to take risks and lay it all on the line. In my latest assignment, she asked me to take a risk. It was easier because I knew she was my reader, and I’ve already seen her writing.

Between working on this ind. study, moving far away, and starting an MFA program in the fall, I’m terrified and excited to see where my writing will go.

New Camera

I bought a refurbished camera. It cost a fraction of what I’ve paid in the past, and it takes better pictures than my other ones too. I have some shame about spending more money I don’t have, but my priorities are so different after living here. Money comes and goes. I have a place to live and eat. Everything else is just added bonus. Every day I witness miraculous growths. Never again will I live on 68 acres that I get to roam like my backyard. I use photos to do my drawings. I use them to do my paintings. I even use them for writing. It’s been hard enough to go all this time without a camera. Mine died in the fall, and it’s been killing me not to capture every new leaf or flower. Every day there are scenes I don’t want to forget. More importantly, there are a lot of people I don’t want to forget. Fading memories can be heartbreaking. I want to remember the little things like eye color or the shape of each wrinkle that shows when a person smiles. Only a camera can help me do that.