To Write Love On Her Arms

Friday, August 14

I went to the Co-op in Montpelier hoping to get blueberries.  No blueberries!  what a disappointment!  And a little scary.  What happened to the blueberry crop?

I was on my way to see my therapist Karen.  I started feeling sad about the middle of the day.  I’d been feeling like I needed to cry most of the day but the tears didn’t come.  I kept having little flashes of ordinary things in the past which made me feel very sad.  When I got to Karen I said my life had been wasted.  That having a few moments of how good it could be allowed me to see how bad it had been for most of my life, that my whole life had been a waste.  Karen said that wasn’t true.  If I made a time line of my experiences with dance it would be different. (Reminds me of the book I wanted to write by collecting pieces from my journals.  Three characters, the artist, the shaman, and the wounded one.  Each had written a journal, but when you put them together by date, it is only one journal.)  Isn’t that a better description of my life?  I told Karen about going to Leah’s performance piece, and how she said she had been in my earliest writing group at Lynn Thorp’s house.  Of course Journey into Courage was also part of her inspiration.  She has been going on, encouraging  people to write the truth about their lives, and then speaking it from the stage.  So many lives have been changed — including Leah’s — and changed by her work.  Some of the inspiration for her work was me.  Changing lives one by one.  I think of Meaghan and Cathy Jay and the woman at Kripalu who said my dancing had changed her life.  Laney and the gift of blue stone bookends.  Mary Ellen said I had changed her life.  I remember the people who would come up to me and say when you said such-and-such it really meant a lot to me.  I would not remember saying “such-and-such” but would recognize it as something I had said lots of times.  Something so natural to me that it didn’t seem to me like anything much.  I realized that I help people more by speaking my truth than I do when I try to help.  But of course I forget that I’ve probably changed lots of lives without realizing it.  Only if I get the feedback do I know about it, and that’s probably rare.  Angela saying of my talking about Neskaya to her therapy group: “You are outside all the boxes those people live in.”  Karen helped me make a start on these good memories and it made me feel better.  I woke up this morning thinking about Ninalu and Shaking the Tree (dances I can put in my program for Sunday) and that felt better too.  I’m feeling concerned about the importance of keeping positive memories in my mind.

With Karen I started listing all the things that I find so painful: the Veterans with PTSD who kill themselves or are in homeless shelters, the horrible numbers of women who are raped every day, children who are starving because they are refugees from war…   Karen said firmly “What are you doing?  what are you trying to prove?”  I said I need to grieve about these things, but it also made me stop and see that I was leading myself down a path into depression.  I also told her stories from my past — walking the basement corridors at Kripalu at 2AM because I couldn’t sleep, etc.  I think that I was trying to prove that my life was very unhappy, but also needing to see that I am in fact better then I was then.  All my hard work has accomplished something.

I was wearing the bracelet that said “TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS,” so I told her about the semi-colon tattoo and TWLOHA.  There’s somebody else changing lives.  Upworthy posted a piece about the semi-colon tattoo.  It stands for people who support people with mental illness.  There were stories of 9 individual people.  The one who moved me the most was a young woman who cut herself.  She had flowers, a semi-colon, and Love tattooed on her arm to hide the scars.  She said TWLOHA had helped her so I went to the site.  They offered a book and a DVD about a young woman struggling with addictions and cutting herself.

I ordered both the book and the DVD.  When it came they had also sent me a poster and a bracelet.  I put the poster up on my collage bulletin board.  It has a big picture of Green Tara in the center, and meaningful cards posted around it.  Somewhat like a refrigerator door.  I watched the movie and was overwhelmed by it.  It was based on the real life of Renee, who struggled with addiction and self-injury.  A group of friends, also in recovery, helped her get off drugs so she could check into a detox center.  One point of the movie is the necessity of help from friends and of telling the truth.  Renée’s friend Jamie Tworkowski wrote Renée’s story and started a global movement.  Its purpose is to help people who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicidal thoughts.  It was a huge help to me, because it tells me I’m not alone, and I wear the bracelet for support.

It’s true that I’ve never been addicted.  At one time in my life I was drinking a lot (a six-pack of beer in a day) but it just made me feel sick.  I don’t have the physiology of an alcoholic.  But I did cut myself (the story I told in Journey into Courage) and I did think a lot about suicide.  One thing that stopped me from actually killing myself, was sitting with a few friends, around Halloween, and they were telling ghost stories.  Suddenly the horrible thought came to me that I could kill myself and find myself floating around, still in terrible pain, and without a body to help me change things.  I figured there was a 50-50 chance of life after death, and I didn’t want to suffer unending pain.  But I still have days when I wish I were dead.  Sometimes a little voice pops up & says “You don’t want to die, you want a life that works.”  Other times, death just looks like a relief.

With Karen’s help I started remembering good stories of things I had done.  I saw how changing the world by changing people one-by-one is the only way to do it.  It doesn’t help to spend time worrying about all the bad things that are happening.  “If one by one is good enough for God, it’s good enough for me.”  Dr. Fried, in I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” p18.

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