When You Don’t Feel Like Adulting

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The digital clock on my tablet reads 8:58 am, and it is time to head inside to work. I snap the keyboard cover over the touch screen and put it in my backpack. Standing up from the quaint bistro table, I toss the backpack over my shoulder and head to the automatic doors. Like a magic portal, the doors transport me from a sunny, subtropical paradise into the artificial chill of the Green Library. I find myself slightly annoyed, not because I dislike my job. I love my job. I just don’t feel like upholding my adult responsibilities today. I want to write, read, doodle in my art journal, and enjoy the sun. Basically, I want to relax and play.

I find my resistance a bit humorous since I only have to work five hours today. I have plenty of time to do my own thing; although, the idea of going to the gym at 5:00 pm makes me feel petulant. I have a feeling I am going to be a bit sassy with my trainer today.  I have learned that if I acknowledge and accept these feelings with the same patience I would extended a strong-willed toddler, my day goes a lot smoother.

Would I be happier if I were home today? Probably not. I would probably lament the wasted time and opportunities lost. In fact, when I leave work today, I know I will change into my gym attire then go to the coffee shop right next to the gym to work on my scholarly article for a couple hours. I am just having one those generally dissatisfied days.

Being bipolar, I have learned how to separate feelings and thoughts. Thoughts create feelings and feelings create thoughts, but if you can stop the transaction for just a moment you can see how illusionary it can be. There is no reason why I shouldn’t have a good day at work today, unless I decide my irritation is a valid emotion. So, I recognize it for what it is, restlessness. There are so many things I want to do today, and there’s no possible way of doing them simultaneously, so my brain has thrown its metaphorical hands into the air and said “Whatever!”

I remind myself that there is plenty of time to do everything, and everything will get done as long as I do one thing at a time. I remind myself that what I consider work and play are so closely aligned they are almost the same thing. I purposely designed my life to be that way. I remind myself that I like getting paid. Being free is not fun when you are broke. I remind myself that the sun is almost always out in Miami, and that after a couple hours, I would be so hot that I would want to come back in. I remind myself that I signed up for the gym because I wanted to be strong and active. It’s all about the story I tell myself, so I choose the story that makes me the happiest.

Coffee on a Thursday Evening

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It’s a muggy early evening in Miami. At 6:30, it’s still light out, but the sky is overcast from a brief, torrential rainfall. In other words, it is a typical Thursday in late June. I’m sitting outside a coffeehouse enjoying a short American, and although I appreciate the fresh air, the humidity is already starting to bead up on my freckled skin. My red hair is beginning to stick to the back of my neck as I tap away at the keyboard before me. The clacking of the keys mingle with the hum of passing cars and conversations in multiple languages as I trying to regenerate after an afternoon nap.

I learned how to manage my bipolar disorder before I knew what it was. I work hard when I can and rest when I need to. When managed well, bipolar disorder is one of those “invisible disabilities.” There’s no visible indication that I may need accommodations, and I rarely ask. I don’t really see it as a dis-ability. In fact, I have come to value this condition because it has taught me two important lesson: the importance of adaptability and the value of difference.

Being adaptable requires a certain amount of courage. Adapting often means considering options that might otherwise feel uncomfortable. As a midlife mom, I value financial security. It’s nice to know I can afford food, clothing, and shelter. As a bipolar, I have also learned that the typical 9-5 is not really suited to my unique abilities, so I’ve had to adapt. Through the gift of higher education, I have cultivated a highly valued skill set (teaching, writing, and editing) that allows me to piece together work that is challenging, satisfying, and lucrative. It wasn’t easy getting to this point. I had to struggle with my own discomfort. Unlike a typical 9-5, I have no guaranteed income. Then again, is any income really guaranteed? In order to adapt, I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what life should be in order to accept what it could be. That is how I have come to value difference.

Before my diagnosis, which did not occur until I was 40, I struggled with my difference. Why couldn’t I just be like everyone else? I didn’t realize just how many people where engaged in that same exact struggle.  Difference can leave people feeling vulnerable. Recently, the term snowflake has taken on a derogatory meaning. It implies that individuals who value their uniqueness are fragile and easily destroyed by the heat of adversity, but this is only true if they truly believe someone else has the power to devalue them. Rejection does not diminish the individual being rejected, it limits the reality of the one who is doing the rejecting. When individuals are in confident in their difference, they are not snowflakes, they are diamonds.

Today, my adaptability and unique difference has lead me from the heat of an outdoor café to the breeze of a tropical patio bar where I sip a rum runner and prepare to research, read, and write. Productivity doesn’t need to be painful, and difference doesn’t need to be devastating. Rock on my diamond friends. Show the world what you have to offer.

Begin Again

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The coffee house music spills out of a speaker behind me as I sip my second cup of American brew. I’ve just made a few notes in my journal, indulging my daily need to drag a pen across paper. The leather-bound book helps me unravel the chaos that is my mind. I’m what some might call a high functioning bi-polar. With daily doses of Risperidone and Citalopram, I set aside the anxiety and depression that would otherwise plague me, allowing me to maintain two jobs, my own business, and motherhood. This post marks my return to personal blogging after a ten-year hiatus.

Long before I became an adjunct faculty member, graduate writing consultant, and independent writing coach, I understood the power of words. My childhood was spent in libraries, a safe harbor in an otherwise unpredictable existence. I loved the quiet, the calm, and the rows and rows of books. I devoured the evidence and the imagination, fact and fiction. The world broadened and deepened with each word, every gentle swoosh of a page sweeping open a new horizon.

I began to mold words of my own, like clay on a potter’s wheel: the self-indulgent poetry of adolescence, the surprise twist of amateur fiction. In college, I learned to craft an academic argument, how to identify and cater to a specific audience, and how to determine which literary form best suited my intended purpose. As a graduate student, I blogged my way through my thesis research, connecting with a community of avid wordsmiths like myself.  Eventually, I discovered that the most important stories were the ones we told ourselves.

Without realizing it, I had stumbled upon narrative therapy, a form of therapy that focuses on how individual experiences are transformed into personal stories, giving life meaning and shaping our identities. According to narrative therapy, it is not the event per se that is significant, but how we perceive it, how we narrate the meaning of that event to ourselves. This is a life changing concept. Once you realize that you control how everything affects you, your reality becomes limitless.

Just as I once blogged my way through the complex literature of my Master’s degree, I will now blog my way through the composite narratives of my mind, exploring and rewriting the stories I tell myself about the world and my place in it. I reach out to connect with a community that values the power of those narratives, our narratives, the pushing, pulling tide of question and comprehension. As we share our stories we challenge each other, console each other, and make sense of our world. We each contribute. This is my story.