I learned late in the day that today, March 30, is World Bipolar Day. Being currently in remission, every day feels like a celebration. I feel it’s important to mark the day by being open and forthright, something that’s not always been possible for me personally. I hid my illness for years, or at least thought I did, by not acknowledging it was a part of my life. We’ve come a long way in de-stigmatizing mental illness but parity with physical maladies is still not common place. I’m not going back to the old days of hiding and denial. It feels pretty great to equalize the pressure between my inner world and how I present publicly.
In book news, we’re 84 days out from launch and hopefully right on schedule. Enjoy your evening!
Things are getting pretty exciting in Book-land. The cover is ready. I also sent the finished files to the interior designer this morning. We’ll work together to get a printer ready version and an ebook version queued up so everything is ready for the launch in June. We’re eighty-eight days away from going live.
I was talking with a friend this morning and she asked me, “How does it feel to be done?” The images that came to me were two separate things. First, it’s taken two years of working almost every day to finish the writing and put this book into production. I hemmed and hawed at pretending to write a book for eighteen years before that. The second image was living the story I wrote about. A lot has changed in my life, for the better, to be able to chronicle a cohesive story out of my experiences. Both aspects feel cathartic and amazing.
Navigating a book through the process of self-publishing can be tricky, especially if you’re detail obsessive. So far so good, although I have visions of my book getting jammed in the printing process. I keep seeing pictures of that freighter stuck in the Suez canal, holding up shipping for the whole world. It’s visuals and consequences similar to that I’d like to avoid by getting my ducks in a row.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress. Thanks for being here with me on this adventure.
I think this is my daughter, but the image perfectly captures how I’m feeling today. I could belt out my rendition of Ethel Merman’s “Everything’s Coming up Roses” and it would be congruent to my current state of being. The photo shows a tiny woman (which leads me to believe it’s my daughter and not me) performing in the Lake Harriet Bandshell in south Minneapolis. Granted, the crowds are not there. But can you feel the possibilities? The throngs are coming and the rehearsals will be worth the effort.
Getting my book to this point has been a struggle, to put it mildly. I recently unearthed an old journal from 2002. It felt archaelogical it was so old. All of my children still lived at home, we had a dog and I started writing what was then a novel. I describe getting distracted, procrastination techniques and a general “life gets in the way” set of impediments to finishing. In the fall of 2002 I had three chapters written yet I was picking out my dress to wear to the Oscars when the book gets made into a movie. Wow, no wonder it’s taken me this long to finish.
All these years later, I now possess the skills and fortitude to know what it takes to bring an idea to fruition. I don’t want to dwell or whine about how long it took. I can’t get any of that time back. But I have a 300 page 72,000 word manuscript that’s been thoroughly edited and massaged. I feel good about it. I’m under no delusions it’s perfect; I gave up on that pursuit because it was impossible. It’s my story and I’m proud of it.
My copyeditor is finished and the proof reader will start next week. I’m in the research stage of recording an audio version. I have registered the versions with ISBNs and I have a Library of Congress control number. My cover designer starts this week. The author photos are finished and I’m changing the screen saver every day trying to find the right one. I am so darn excited to have a tangible product to deal with instead of some smoke and mirrors wish and a dream.
On another note, I’m in day twenty-one of my thirty day “get outside once a day” challenge. Some days were harder than others, but it has been invigorating to feel the kiss of winter on my skin and the squeak of the snow under my boots. It’s one of the reasons my mood is in such a pleasant spot. I would highly recommend the challenge to anyone looking to improve their spirits.
With my book undergoing the Wizard of Oz assembly-line style shine and polish, I want to swing my arms open wide with happiness and gratitude. Thank you for your patience with me. Launch is 112 days away. As was sung about one of my role models, Mary Tyler Moore, I’m going to make it after all.
A huge portion of the country is frozen over and Minneapolis is no exception. The StarTribune issued a challenge to get outside for thirty minutes a day for thirty days. While it sounded invigorating, I respectfully declined to participate. I walked to my mailbox last night and I felt like the Tin Man before Dorothy found the oil can. I logged maybe two minutes in the cold, and the other twenty-eight were not going to happen.
I’m looking at my calendar for next week and I have three in-person appointments and three virtual ones. I hardly know what to do with myself. I haven’t had something scheduled every day since pre-COVID. I may try the new CDC guidelines and wear a double mask. I’ve made it this far and have no intention to risk my health, especially being a low priority person for the vaccine rollout.
As long as I’m on the subject, I’m having nightmares I contract COVID-19. In my dreams, I’m shocked and angry. How could this happen? I rarely leave my kitchen or home office and always mask up. The visions are very vivid. I can’t smell or taste or breathe. When I wake up, I actually welcome the bad morning breath because I realize it was just a dream. Do you have pandemic dreams as well? I think we should discuss them. They are such a creative extension of our psyches.
It’s in these doldrums of winter, between the Super Bore of a football game and Easter, that I have a tendency to waste my most precious resource. Time. I sense, wrongly, that I have an abundance of days. I don’t have any idea how many I have, but as I look around, songs I enjoyed as a college student are now the soundtracks for drug ads and retirement programs for old people. What the hell? I can not legitimately put myself in any age group labelled “young.” I’m in my sixth decade and just when I got the hang of this thing called life, I’m realizing there’s a lot left to do.
So what if it’s cold, and I’m old? I will go outside and watch my breath freeze. I’ll listen to my lungs crackle as I inhale the frigid air and feel the sting of the wind on my cheeks. I will not go quietly into a rocking chair with a shawl. I can’t promise thirty minutes but I will accept the challenge of going outside every day for thirty days. I’ll report back on my progress. Let’s do this.
It’s times like this I wish I played the drums. Or the trumpet. After twenty years of fits and starts, promises and deadlines in the dust, my book will be published on June 22, 2021.
I deliberated long into the night about the direction I wanted to take as far as a publishing track. The prospects of a traditional publishing route, with an agent, dimmed as I researched the market for memoirs. They currently make up the largest category by far of manuscripts rejected by agents. Combine that with a one-to-two year delay before publishing, signing away the cover choice and ability to pick the title, no guarantee of marketing support and I took a hard pass.
I’ll spare you the rest of my tortuous deliberations but suffice to say, I researched all aspects of publishing in 2021. Right after the first of the year, I took steps to self-publish. As I write this, a wonderful professional editor in Seattle is working on a copy edit of my tenth draft. There will also be a cover designed and a book designer will format the manuscript for print and ebook. It won’t be me, but I’d like to hire a narrator to do an audio book as well.
I want this to be done right. Working as my own publisher, I have artistic control over all aspects of the process. This actually suits my perfectionistic, dare I say “control freak” sensibilities. I anticipate a few changes to the website are coming as I transition to providing updates for the launch day.
I wanted to let you all know first. I have been the girl that cried “wolf” so many times when I thought I was finished in the past. That was confusing and humbling, to say the least. The date I chose for the launch corresponds to thirty-two years since my diagnosis with bipolar disorder. I know it seems I’ve been writing some version of the story for that long, but it’s only been twenty years. That sounds like an exaggeration but alas, it’s accurate. Five since I switched the genre from a fictional novel to a memoir. I appreciate your patience.
I’m learning more every day about the process of bringing a book to life. There are restrictions about not publishing any excerpts on the internet before it goes live, but some things are known. The title is The Second: A Memoir of Love and Commitment by Colleen Burns Durda. It came in at slightly over 70,000 words, putting the page count around 290.
I have a lot to do to prepare for June 22nd. Knowing you are in my corner, literally, means the world to me.
One of my pet peeves is when speech writers or journalists seek to define a word by opening with a dictionary entry. I truly hate it. But the word “aught” is special. It literally means everything or nothing, depending on the usage. For my purposes, describing 2020, it is a big fat zero. Most of the time, that is.
I was born in 1960. This year, I turned 60. I’m not a mathematician, but that was an interesting number phenomenon. Two years ago, in the time before COVID, I pictured hosting a huge party to commemorate such a milestone. I actually visited venues and priced out food options. The price tag for my shindig quickly outpaced the reasonable cost of a birthday. Canceling the party plans disappointed me and saner heads prevailed. I am so thankful to have pulled the idea off the table before the coronavirus did it for me. I ended up having a beautiful private dinner with super spouse instead. The evening and the meal were definitely two highlights of 2020.
It wasn’t possible to make it through this year without something you were looking forward to being canceled. It reminded me of the first time my (then) four-year-old grandson experienced a power outage.
“Just turn the lights on, Nana” he began.
They need power.
“Let’s just watch TV” he continued.
We can’t, it doesn’t come on.
“What about a movie?”
Sorry, not available.
“Okay, how about we watch videos on your computer?”
Nothing in his world worked without electricity. We ended up playing cards by candlelight. He thought it was an odd adventure. Now a middle school student, I asked him about distance learning. He took it in stride. “No, Nana. It’s not weird. It’s just different.” What a refreshing attitude, I thought. Must’ve been the Crazy Eights.
Yes, a lot of things didn’t happen in 2020. But there were some silver linings, too. People began to view their homes a bit differently. I cleared out my floor to ceiling storage area in my basement and between the dumpster, donations and diligence I reduced the detritus by half. My brother helped me set up a meditation sanctuary in the new space, which has worked out spectacularly. A lot of people used their quarantine time to reevaluate what didn’t serve them and to find joy in the rest.
I saw pictures of cities whose air quality improved almost overnight. Businesses discovered the real meaning of essential travel and most of us remembered to wear pants while video conferencing. Then there was the election.
Determined to change the trajectory of the current administration, I clocked many hours in Zoom Rooms and on the phones to Get Out The Vote. And people across the country responded by voting en masse for a new president. This is a wonderful event we have to look forward to in 2021.
So, this was supposed to be the start of a fabulous new decade. Instead, we got a major reset. With all of the dire consequences suffered by so many this year, I can’t help but look back with gratitude. I didn’t have a job to lose. I didn’t gain weight. There’s a vaccine on the horizon. And I still love my athleisure outfits.
Take care, friends. I wish you a very Happy New Year.
In general, Covid quarantine started out quietly terrifying while I tried to look on the bright side. What a wonderful opportunity to hangout together. We’ll spend quality time watching movies with oil-popped corn or playing cards. The cabinet, full of board games, will be revisited. We’ll wait out these few short weeks until, like magic, coronavirus will all go away. It’s been nine months and I’ll spare you the Captain Obvious realities.
As the constant proximity and togetherness began to chafe an otherwise happy relationship between my husbandand me, I took stock in my options. Building a second story on my house. I ruled that out as slightly impractical and a tad out of my budget. Moving to Fiji might do it, I thought. Same objections prevailed. I came up with a winner: establish better boundaries.
My alone time felt trampled on and in the course of the pandemic my home had shrunk. My beautiful workspace, with family pictures, silk flowers and a door that closed, was soon replaced by a folding table in the middle of the living room for me. My husband needed the nice room to work from home. It seemed the physical closeness my husband and I shared caused an odd synchronizing of bladders and even in the bathroom I couldn’t find uninterrupted solitude.
I devised a plan. It required assertiveness and some new rules. From now on, a closed door meant I needed my space. Or I’m taking a moment. Do not assume you’re being punished or excluded; I simply want some time alone. Satisfied, I told Wonder Husband about my wishes and he agreed to comply.
The next day, the planets aligned for me to put my boundaries up, no exceptions. My husband would be gone for hours, work and volunteer activities were complete, the dog let out, my COVID-19 test had been negative and all was right in my world. I would give myself a spa treatment in the middle of the day.
I poured cedarwood scented salts into the tub and ran some hot water for a bath. Candlelight flickered against the ceramic tiles and I rolled my shoulders under the steaming water while the portable speaker soothed my mind with a Serenity Playlist. I’d done it. Broken the code of quarantine and found some “me” time. Then I heard footsteps.
“Can I come in?” said my husband.
After almost forty years of marriage it seemed silly to say no. But what was the point of alone time if I didn’t lay down a little Granny Law?
“No, I’ll be out in a minute.” It pained me to do it but it would’ve hurt my psyche more to cave. Afterall, the barrier was artificial because the door didn’t lock. I heard the steps retreat. Minutes later they were back.
“How about now? Is it all clear?” he sounded almost desperate.
“We talked about this. It’s important to me.” Again, the footfalls walked away and I heard water in the kitchen running.
And just like that, I asserted my rights as an individual in my own home. Feeling proud and satisfied, I smiled to myself. Boundaries? Firmly established, thanks to yours truly.
The bathroom door opened at that moment and as I was about to rage, I see my husband reach for a band-aid in the cabinet.
“Yeah, I wanted to surprise you with flowers, but I decided not to disturb you. Then I cut myself when I trimmed the stems putting them in the vase. Happy birthday, sweetheart!”
At that point, I felt like two bits waiting for change as my Grandma used to say. Chastened and sad, I dried off, left my spa experience and went to check on Super Spouse. How is it the one time I attempt a personal line in the sand he cuts his hand? Hopefully, when the next opportunity presents, our timing will be better. And timing is everything.
Today is the highly productive, Tuesday after Labor Day. It also marks five years since I was released from the psychiatric ward after treatment for a manic episode. It wasn’t the first time, but hopefully it will be the last. I’ve accomplished a lot since then but I’m most pleased with maintaining my emotional sobriety.
In the midst of my mania, I thought I could publish my unedited journals instead of actually writing a memoir. Yes, that’s what unbridled delusional thinking is like. Once I recovered, I set out to write a memoir by taking a master class, putting my butt in the chair five days a week and churning out enough words per day to create a manuscript. I sent said draft to an editor. She gave me her review and ended it with, “Thanks for letting me read it.” Hardly glowing praise, that was twelve months ago, exactly.
I’m actually celebrating both anniversaries today. Realities take time and hard work to accomplish. My book has been reworked, massaged and pulled into fruition harder than a batch of salt water taffy at the State Fair. It’s back on my desk with comments from my husband (aka The Last Word) and I will be querying agents very soon. My mental health, despite the pandemic, racial unrest, climate crises and the looming elections, has never been more stable. Hallelujah.
There are many reasons for my enduring stability, most of which are included in the book. One I came across recently was the concept of self-care.
I feel like I’ve been taking care of babies since I was nine, because I have. I was a pro at diaper changing by the time I turned ten and my youngest brother was born. Now Brian is teaching me to care for myself.
We spoke this past weekend about “babying yourself” and what that means. Nurturing myself is not about buying things or spoiling. Keeping myself safe from threats to my mental health (lack of sleep, not taking my meds, extremes of all sorts) being kind, allowing self expression and getting regular exercise all are part of a regimen I’ve learned to do to stay on track.
So today I celebrate five years of freedom from the hospital. My real, actual memoir has been created. I will continue to be vigilant about my mental and physical health like my life depends on it, because it does. And I will care for my needs, baby.
I hesitate to write about how I’m feeling during quarantine. I want so badly to be positive and upbeat, bordering on Pollyanna-ish, but my outlook is being tested as of late. Work on editing my memoir has settled into the doldrums. It’s not for lack of material. It feels like I’m in mile twenty-four of a marathon and I’ve hit a wall. Not close enough to get the final kick, yet far enough down the path that I can’t quit.
I’ve been so focused on generating content for the book that other tasks, like editing, feel like a slog. It’s all part of the process and the closest thing I’ve got to a job so I’ll get there.
What’s really bugging me is the sensation I’ve reached the end of my personal allotment of coping mechanisms. I have nearly forty years experience with hanging out at home. I have a lot of hobbies, love to cook, read and when pressed, will even clean. For crying out loud, I’m tapped. Just because I can do all the things that keep boredom at bay, doesn’t mean I have the mojo to keep at it for months.
I know, I know, it could be worse. I’m healthy and I don’t take that for granted. I need to lighten my own mood. The news is terrifying if you watch/read a lot of it. I’ve tried “news distancing” but it’s tough in a 24-hour news cycle. One thing I am over: People writing BREAKING on their tweets as if they are an actual news source. What’s with that?
I thought I’d put this out there to see if anyone else is handling the pandemic with a renewed sense of “We’re all in this together.” Or if you’re like me and you’re depleted in the ideas department. Just to be clear, I am nowhere near despondent. Simply in the mood to whine. I walk, play a little tennis, sew, write, read and Zoom.
I’m going to take a few days off from these non-strenuous tasks and conduct a personal retreat. I’ve been to the grocery store (masked, of course) and cooked last night to provide me sustenance for three days. In other words, I need a break from doing nothing and will switch to being intentional. I’ll report from Nirvana when I return.
Absolutely nothing is as we expected it this year, including Mother’s Day. My daughter and grandson had to play “Ding Dong Ditch” when they delivered the card and beautiful flowers shown above. Sure, we could’ve broken the stay at home orders currently in place but I’d rather have these gifts than an accidental case of COVID-19.
Griping about the pandemic, which is clearly out of my control, is not a good use of this space or my mental resources. Instead, I want to gather my thoughts of gratitude.
When I was a little girl, I decided I wanted to have four children when I grew up. Fortunately, I met someone who was amenable to my grand plan. When I was twenty, baby number one arrived, a few years ahead of schedule. I stomped and kicked at having to adjust my timetable. Once I laid eyes on that precious face, however, I was instantly humbled. “You are not in charge of timing” said the ancient eyes set in the body of my newborn. “I am here to fulfill my own destiny.” I shook at the sheer responsibility of mothering. My son, swaddled in the generic pink and blue striped receiving blanket gave me a quick thumbs up and whispered, “You’ve got this.”
Fortunately for me, I had the world’s most gifted child, speaking upon birth. I made a lot of newbie mistakes with my son, but he turned out amazingly well. He bought me these wonderful flowers for Mother’s Day and thirty-eight years later he and I continue to get along famously.
Eager to have my son enjoy the sibling experience, my husband and I chose the month of May for the next baby’s birth month. As my due date drew near, I was offered an induction. I grabbed it and delivered my daughter naturally, but by appointment. She was not impressed by me exerting my timetable on her arrival and told me so. She said, between wails, “Geez, Mom. I know you were eager to meet me, but my birthday was supposed to be my choice.” She continues to assert herself to this day, and I’m incredibly proud of her.
The time came around to add to our family and fill up our recently purchased minivan. I chose March as a good birth month and tried to back off. Nine months later and a week overdue, I chilled. On her own time, another daughter arrived. She smiled and said, “See? I knew you could do it. You’ve got this mom thing down.” She has grown to be happy and confident, a spark of energy.
Feeling smug at this point, I decided to re-think the whole four kids thing. I felt content, settled and my control over my fertility was firmly established. We had two perfect kids and my .5, my baby, was an absolute delight. Yes, we were set.
When my youngest child was fifteen months, I became pregnant unexpectedly. I went through the whole stomping and kicking process again, this time more shocked than the first. “What do you mean I can’t pick the birth month this time too?” I shook my fist at the Universe. Nine months later and three days before his sister’s second birthday, a beautiful baby boy arrived. He yawned, stretched and looked me in the eye. “You’ve given me this wonderful family to be born into. You are not in charge of timing, I think this proves it. We’re all here now. Thanks for waiting for me.”
He was a wonderful baby and has grown into a terrific man. The six of us had a Zoom Mother’s Day hangout today and I was inspired to write this post out of sheer and total gratitude for the Fab Four who call me Mom.