Here’s what I posted as a guest blogger on http://thebipolarwriter.blog earlier today. Enjoy!
This morning, unless something goes awry, I’ll be debuting as a guest contributor on another blog. I’ve joined a team collaborating to write about mental health issues on the blog, The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog. I want to thank James Edgar Skye for extending the invitation. I’ll be posting in both places and I intend to vary the content depending on my capricious nature.
You’ll most likely find a lighter tone on Colleen’s Corner and topics with more edginess and a definite connection to mental health on The Bipolar Writer. Cheers if you’re here for the first time. You’ll notice I eschew exclamation points unless absolutely necessary. Today I’m bidding farewell to the month of April and I’m incredibly excited to see all of the blossoms May will bring.
I hope your day is glorious,
~Colleen (aka CBD)
I’m doing the best I can with the current situation. Certain elements are easier than others. Reading, cooking, staying home for days at a time, meditating, exercising…ah, hold up. Physical exertion and I are not close pals.
In kindergarten, I argued with my teacher when she asked us all to perform calisthenics. “Colleen, exercise is good for you.” she pleaded with me. “I do them at home.” I lied, hands on hips. I hated the song (Chicken Fat), the toe touches and the trunk twists. It was the first and probably the last time I was allowed to sit out as a conscientious objector. I hated gym class for the duration of my school days.
My husband, on the other hand, is a life-long athlete. He exercises every day and encourages me each chance he gets to be more active. It’s a tough sell, but in these COVID-19 times I’m starting to rethink the whole sloth thing.
I heard a quick screech of brakes and looked up to see my husband, sporting his cycling jersey, turn into our cul-de-sac. “How about we take a bike ride, Bonnie?” His teasing referred to Ms. Raitt, not Clyde Barrow’s partner. I told him earlier that afternoon my hair had come to resemble the blues great’s. Her trademark shock of gray, along with silver temples had taken over my auburn locks. A well-placed bike helmet would remedy the lack of hair dye, so I agreed.
I donned a day-glo citrine and black spandex outfit and headed out into the neighborhood. During the coronavirus crisis, the streets and sidewalks have virtually exploded with neighbors I wasn’t aware we had. We dodged kids and parents on bikes, people walking dogs and/or pushing strollers and an onslaught of vehicles turning into our formerly sleepy suburb. We pedaled past the park, which was full of cars and folks recreating.
Once we got a few blocks away, we picked up some speed. I think I actually felt what’s left of my graying eyebrows blowing in the breeze. By the time we returned to our garage, I noted a strange sensation between my shoulder blades. Nothing confirmed, but it may have actually been sweat.
So there is hope, in the time of corona. If I could get off my duff and exercise, who knows what awesome, active pursuits are looming on the horizon? Go ahead: Read, write, sew masks, watch TV. Throw a little perspiration-inducing activity into the mix for balance and we’ll get through this together.
It’s supposed to snow in Minneapolis for Easter. Normally, that would concern me. Not this year. The vertigo that has plagued me for two weeks has finally subsided. It was an amazing series of events leading to the successful treatment I received.
I mentioned it in this space after speaking to my doctors. I got empathy from one doctor and a scrip from another, but no real relief. My friends rallied to my aid with lots of remedies, all of which showed promise. I acted on Carla’s suggestion to try physical therapy. There was a clinic in town still seeing patients in person during the coronavirus crisis and she led me to their door.
A sweet woman greeted me at the clinic the next day. We were both masked. She assessed my condition and treated the vertigo symptoms. As if there were any doubt, she looked at my eyes as the room spun and said, “There it is.” I presented with red arrows moving in circles instead of pupils. Of this I’m certain. I passed the diagnostic tests with flying colors. Her treatment took a few days and some home trials but the spinning and dizziness are gone.
This Easter I’m so grateful to my physical therapist, Jen, my friends Carla, Mary McC and Marti, and my brother Brian. You helped me unrock my world and believe me, that’s a good thing.
All things remaining relative, of course. I don’t currently hold a paid position. I’ve recently returned to my sanctuary after a long hiatus. My intention is to resume my meditation practice, get in touch with the Universe and lower my stress level. If I happen to shed a few pounds in the process, so be it.
In the time of coronavirus, everything is stressful. I’ve developed a lovely case of vertigo, which two of my doctors insist is not caused by anxiety but the timing is certainly curious. I feel like I just spent four hours on the Tea Cup ride at Disney World. Driving is a challenge I’m not up for, if I had anywhere to go. So I spend the day doing some of the same things I’ve done for years, like reading, writing, taking walks and messing around on the computer. Now, these hobbies are stress inducing because the walls are spinning and my motor skills are impaired.
I filled a ten-yard dumpster with detritus I had been storing in my basement. With a bit of rearranging, and help from my brother Brian, I made room for a meditation space. There are customizable lights that change color to suit my mood, essential oils, noise canceling headphones, yoga mats and a space heater. I’m all set to relax, except closing my eyes makes the vertigo worse. It seems odd to have to work to chill out but these unusual times call for a tough response.
I’m going to practice de-stressing and try to convince myself it really is an inner ear issue that will soon pass. If I try to wrap my head around the fact a deadly virus has invaded every inhabited country in the world, that doesn’t seem to help. I have to think small, be grateful and sleep sitting up. I’ve endured some difficult days in my career as a human and will get through this too.
Hello friends. It’s been twenty-two days since my last post. Things have changed. Like me, you are most likely confined to your home and the forced vacation feels nothing like fun. For obvious reasons, I don’t like to use phrases such as, “driving me crazy” or even “stir-crazy.” There is a distinction between what we’re all going through now and seriously losing your mind, so I’ll try to avoid equating the two.
What I will suggest is finding a sanctuary during this tough time. Whether it’s your bedroom, or if you’re lucky enough to have a spare room, it should be a refuge. Especially now, we all need a spot to refresh our souls. I’m a firm believer in establishing the right energy in your environment. There are a lot of things we can’t control, but our own space and the opportunity to make it comfortable is critical.
I recommend a purge of extra stuff that does not bring you joy. And to reprioritize the elements you treasure. Scent is key. Ambiance that allows you to relax and destress is especially important. We’re in uncharted waters and taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do.
Last night, I took a hot bubble bath. I lit a candle and listened to a peaceful piano playlist. I followed that by listening to a good mystery book. I’ve reframed my thinking of such behavior as indulgent or selfish. It’s necessary for me to replenish my well in order to give to others. Find what does this for you and please, take care of yourself during this time.
Yes, things look dim right now. Like Annie, I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the sun coming up. I’ll be heading home. I’ve been marooned in San Antonio with four thousand brave souls who didn’t cancel their plans to attend the AWP conference. Two-thirds of the attendees and a bigger percentage of the panelists decided to stay home.
This made for a decimated schedule of events. While I’m a glass half full kind of gal, this weekend picked up said glass and splashed me in the face. Of all the circumstances likely to derail my itinerary, I underestimated the terrifying fear of COVID-19.
I fared better than most, however. A friend of mine, MKM, connected me to a fabulous local writer named Wondra. Without both of their kindnesses, this conference would have been a complete bust. Instead, I dined on authentic Tex-Mex, attended an intimate reception where authors read their work and visited The Pearl.
As I prepare to board an airplane again, I’m challenged not to lose faith or be unduly frightened. I mean, really. I finish my book after all these years and then the world ends? How fair is that?
I’m putting my money on the sun coming up for a few more days, at least. Rain or shine, I’ll be above the clouds tomorrow and basking in the rays. Let’s be real. I’m going to wipe down that tray table and armrests. I’m looking forward to seeing my family and making plans for years to come.
We need to support each other during this pandemic and use some common sense. May you be safe and may the sun come up on all of your tomorrows.
~Colleen aka CBD
It’s not perfect, but there is no such thing in the book world. What it is, my friends, is finished. For decades, I’ve wanted to quote Yul Brynner in the Ten Commandments in regards to my book. Now I can.
This project began as a novel. Fear prevented me from telling the real story and God forbid, someone would associate me with mental illness. Three years ago, I switched to memoir. The days of trying to fictionalize and twist my tale into a pretzel for the sole purpose of hiding from the truth are over.
I set a goal for myself, to be finished by the end of February. After writing at least half a million words, I’ve chosen less than 70,000 to comprise my memoir, The Second. It’s a substantially rewritten fifth draft. I wrote almost every day for over a year. My efforts for the past years were fits and spurts without a clear focus.
It seemed like a big deal when I sent the fourth draft to an editor over Labor Day weekend, 2019. When she thanked me for letting her read it and wished me luck, I was crushed. Revision was a lot of work, especially when you have to practically start over. I tried to check my ego at the door, dig deeper and slash what no longer served the story.
I’m no longer working with that editor, and that’s okay. I took the advice of Mel Robbins, (life coach, author and motivational speaker) and realized I had to give up the quest for the perfect book. It’s nothing but a hamster wheel of nit picking, editing and tweaking.
Now what I’ve got are a couple of copies I’ve had printed and sent to a group of Beta Readers. Picking up the box of manuscripts from the printer was a thrill. As I drove the addressed envelopes to the post office to be mailed, I actually braced the stack with my arm across the seat to prevent them from falling. It reminded me of my mom keeping her children safe before car seats.
I really tried to savor the moment and be in the present. It’s finally going to happen. The time has come to give up protecting this story and let go. I’m ready.
It’s been a long and winding road and I see the end, finally. I wish I had an accurate word count for how many I’ve typed in the process of writing my memoir, The Second . If the average book is 80,000 words, I’ve easily written eight times that. Yikes. The versions are legion, as well as the titles.
Twelve chapters and an epilogue lay between me and the finish line. They are written, needing only a little fine tuning. It feels like I’ve been working on this forever, probably because I have. Really, actually slogging through day after day, it’s been about twelve months.
To celebrate, I’ve scheduled a trip to the AWP Writing Conference in San Antonio. It will be thrilling to immerse myself in all things books. I wanted to check in and let you know I’m still on track. The first twenty chapters are in folders marked “final” so I won’t keep tweaking them in the interest of improvement.
They are what they are, the most important of which is finished. I’m still a way from any sort of publishing date, but when I have that figured out, you’ll hear about it.
The clock has been ticking for so long. I’m still shocked I’m close enough to say it’s very nearly finished.
When I accomplish a goal, I wish I had a button to push. It would play a recording of one of those European soccer announcers celebrating the ball making it in the net. I don’t speak Spanish or Italian, but their passion for the game is contagious. I’m going to start my next writing day by finding a clip of of that drawn out, Goooooooooalllll! It’s fabulous.
At this point in the year, I’m still pretty pumped about my hopes, dreams and resolutions. Everything is still possible and I don’t hear that giant egg timer in my head ticking away the days and weeks quite so loudly.
My writing goals are going quite well. And it’s about time. I have enlisted as many pressures as I can tolerate to push me to finish my memoir, The Second. Yep, I named the book. This is a big deal for me as I’ve changed it at least six times. I’m sticking with this one.
I heard about a very successful life coach, speaker and author (Mel Robbins) who admitted she rewrote one of her best-selling books twice. I was like, what? Try seven or eight times on this God forsaken tome. The difference is, her book sold very well and mine is in my computer. It’s the perfection trap and a lot of other excuses that have held me back. But no more! I’ve promised myself, my kids and my therapist (and now you) I’m done as of March 1, 2020. No more editing, tweaking, fixing or supposed improvements.
It started out years ago as The Great American Novel. What a ridiculous quest that was. In trying to be everything to everyone, I lost sight of my North Star; my voice as a writer. The inner critic ran roughshod over my drafts, grinding her heel on the pages and laughing as she reminded me, “You’ll never finish.”
When I switched to memoir, I thought I was going to complete it quickly. Oh, the angsty crap I generated in that endeavor. I have nixed ninety percent of the scenes I thought I needed and it now has a central theme: faith. That’s it. Not the life and times of every good and bad thing that ever happened to me. That’s not memoir. It’s just a mess.
I’m eager to have you read it. It will not be perfect but that should never have been the goal. I’m shooting for good enough.