Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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The Right to Fail

I’m thinking about this in terms of parenting, but I think it’s bigger than that.

My daughter is 21. When I was 21, I had been on my own for 2 years, having been orphaned when I was 19. I knew a lot more than when I was 19 but I still knew almost nothing. My daughter, well, she’s had a hard life and she knows a lot, but she seems to make bad decisions. It’s okay, she’s young and has time to recover from an stupidity she may commit.

I have to keep reminding myself of that. She is an adult. She has the right to make her own decisions, good or bad. She also has the right to bear the consequences. I keep wanting to save her, to make her life easy, to rescue her. She, of course, does not want this from me. So I have to remind myself, she is an autonomous being, she has the opportunity to succeed, and also the right to fail.

We don’t think of failure as a right, but if you want to make your own decisions, failure is simply going to happen from time to time. Some decisions are bad from the get go, others are reasonable at the time but turn sour, some are positively brilliant. If I rescue her from negative consequences, she never learns. She is never fully autonomous, she is simply a human avatar for my ego. And at the end of the day, I want her to be a functional adult. After all, she will outlive me, she has to be able to get along without me.

I got to thinking of this with regards to mental health. So often we who have a diagnosis are treated like children. We have decisions made for us, supposedly in our best interest, but without our input. We lose agency by admitting to our difference. We are seen as so impaired that we cannot decide whether to take medications that have such dangerous and unpleasant side effects.

Now I take meds and I am happy with them, but there was a time when the dose was too high and it flattened me. I had long pauses in conversations before I responded, and I was so slow that I didn’t even know it. Freaked out my friends. I felt fine, but they were worried. Then I had a family member die and I couldn’t cry about it. I told the doctor and he tweaked my dosage. I have the right to cry when things are sad. I have the right to be miserable, actually, though I don’t choose it.

I, however, have never been suicidal or psychotic. Both of those are potential states I could experience with bipolar. So I have been up and I have been down, but I haven’t been truly out of my head. I have mild symptoms. I’m lucky.

But even if I had intense symptoms, I don’t know that someone should be able to take agency away from me. If I am dangerous to other people, sure, but we do that with anyone who becomes dangerous, like the guy who robs a convenience store with a gun, or a mugger with a knife. If I am simply not in consensual reality, well, does that require forced medication? I mean, we as a society assume it’s a sign of health to acknowledge the same reality as everyone else, but maybe it’s not a necessity.

Because for us with a diagnosis, success is seen as partaking in society as it is, as the constituents agree it is and opting out is failure. The person has failed to adapt, to present as typical. There is no suggestion that there is a failure of society to accommodate the other experience. Or that adaptation to an unwell society is not a sign of mental health. And make no mistake, there are aspects of our culture that are not healthy. Which is true of any culture.

So the standard of success is how much I can pass for neurotypical. If I can’t pass, I must be medicated, even though many of the medicines used are no more effective than placebo. I must be medicated until I comply, then I am a success.

What if I don’t comply? What if I am happy with my ups and downs, my creativity and deep thoughts, my highs and lows? Then I would fail to pass. And I have that right. I have the right to fail. I have the right to make my own choices about my health. I have agency over what happens to my body. Or I should.

Except that I am mentally ill, so I must pass as “sane” or “normal”.

We call them “average people”. I am not insane. I am not abnormal. I am not typical. But I might be average. I might have higher highs and lower lows, but you have ups and downs and nobody feels the need to medicate you out of a range of emotions. Average people have the right to fail. I want the right to fail.

I fail miserably at 40 hour a week jobs. I simply don’t have the stamina to keep it up beyond a certain length of time. I want the opportunity to make other choices. I want the right to choose other paths even if it means I fail. I don’t want to be medicated into compliance. I don’t want a job that I need to take happy pills and valium to go into an office every day. It doesn’t sound like a life, even though it would look successful. I want the right to fail.

So here is my daughter, with all the drive of a young person, all the fire, all the dreams. And the best I can do is let her go, and hope she fails gloriously.

Don’t conform, daughter, unless it’s a game you enjoy playing. Do your best. Make different choices. I hope you succeed, but you have the right to fail.

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Failing at Visualization

I missed Recovery International today. I woke up in time if I didn’t need a shower, but I had a job interview in the afternoon so I felt like I needed to be a little more careful with the personal care.

Job interview went well. It was about half an hour. I think they just want to see that you know what it means to dress for an office. I am only looking for temp jobs that are actually temporary so apparently that makes me highly desirable as an employee. Most people are looking for temp-to-hire whereas I have a job, I just need to do some other work while I’m on leave.

I attended a group mentoring session with SARK this evening. She mentioned me by name, which was flattering. It was just a hello but it was like “oooh, someone noticed me”. We worked with Shakti Gawain’s method of creative visualization. I got stuck on the first step. You start by deciding on something you want to manifest. The caveat for us beginners is, pick something you find relatively easy to believe in. Well. The things I want are not so easy for me to believe in.

For example, I would like a boyfriend again. I can be pretty specific about what I’m looking for: Tall, around 6′ to 6’4″. Long hair; this is negotiable, but hair not bald or buzzed. Prefer blue eyes. Good job. Able to pay for things for me; I have had several relationships where I was the high paid one and I am tired of paying for everything. Smart. Gets me. Likes to go places ranging from the museum to Europe to nice restaurants to faires and cons. Likes to drive; I have done a lot of driving for boyfriends in the past. I’m 55 so he should be 45 – 65. Healthy; I am not ready to be a nursemaid to an old man. Adventurous. Maybe an entrepreneur. Likes book stores. Likes cats. See? Darn specific. But I find it hard to believe such a person, if he exists, would be interested in me. I am not pretty or hot. I think I might be a little boring. My worthiness is in question. So I find this hard to believe in.

I would like to manifest a gym membership, and the commitment to follow through with it. I know I have enjoyed working out, but right now it feels like such a hassle. There isn’t a place near home. I don’t want to have to come home to shower so I have to carry toiletries and clean clothes with me. They don’t really offer classes at a time that’s convenient for me. And if I get called for work, I won’t have time or motivation to go. Oh yeah, and if I’m deployed, I need a membership that is good basically nationwide. If I have time to work out while working 12 hour days. Feels like a lot of roadblocks, I don’t really believe in this either.

Education. My own place again. To work in mental health. Leading groups, public speaking. More cats. Buy a house. All kinds of things I want that just don’t feel doable. This isn’t supposed to be the hard part of visualization. Manifesting now that could be difficult, but finding something you believe is possible? That should be cake.

So I will continue working on it. I mean, there has to be something that’s reasonable to visualize. Something that is a stretch but doesn’t seem impossible.


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Working It Out

I am signed up with a group called Succulent Wild World, which is the brainchild of an author called SARK. She teaches about the Inner Wise Self, which many people think of as their Higher Power but for me it is Intuition. One of the activities for this month is to write a letter from your Inner Wise Self and share it. So here I am, sharing.

One piece of backstory so this maybe makes more sense: my parents died when I was 19. My mom had cancer, my dad had a heart attack a month later, and they had been divorced for 7 years at that point. I used to say, “The first thing they do together in years, and I can’t do it with them.”

Here is the letter:

Dear Alive Allison,

You are here and alive. You did not die with the others, stop acting like you did. You deserve to have a life and to live it fully. You are needed just as you are.

Free yourself from fear of failure and survivor’s guilt. You did not kill your parents. Their deaths were the logical conclusions of their lives. It was about them, not you. It wasn’t done to hurt you. It’s normal to outlive your parents.

So take off the shroud and take up your superhero cape. Fly away into love and adventure. Life is available to you, make it a good one.

Now I’m old, it’s been 35 years since they passed. I have done a LOT of grieving and I don’t really need to be overly gentle with myself at this point. I am no longer sad in a daily way that I lost them. It’s still sad, but there is distance from the pain, it’s not visceral any more.

I used to compare it to losing a tooth. Do you remember losing your teeth as a child? At first there is a hole and it is tender and you keep poking it with your tongue even though it feels weird. Then the skin toughens up and you can poke it without getting that tingle. Eventually another tooth takes up the space, and it’s different but it becomes normal. Now obviously with a death you don’t just replace the person you lost, but life has a way of filling in the gap until it isn’t noticeable on a regular basis. If you think of it, you notice it; but you are no longer thinking of it constantly.

So this is the theme for me this week: move past my parents’ deaths. It happened. It’s sad that it happened when I was so young. And yet, I seem to have let it prevent me from doing some things. I wonder if it had anything to do with me breaking up with so many serious boyfriends, though I also wonder if that is a result of being bipolar. I wonder how much of my settling for jobs rather than pursuing a career is out of fear of taking the risks that lead to success.

Fear of taking risks. I heard of a friend’s brother who won $8000 at a casino and lost it all. I though, I’d never lose that much money because when I got to that amount, I’d walk away. Truthfully, I’d never get to that amount, because I wouldn’t bet the amount of money it takes to get there, and I’d probably walk away happily with $100. I wouldn’t take the risk. You don’t win big without betting big, and I need to learn to bet bigger.

Now obviously this is a calculated risk. I can’t afford to lose $8000 so that kind of risk is not for me. However, I can tolerate a little rejection, so taking the risk of, say, showing my art might be reasonable. I can live with not everybody liking my work, and I can even live with the idea that some of my art is just plain bad. I am still learning.

All of which is to say, I need to stop letting fear stop me from doing things I want to do. I may not have a safety net any longer — really, who does at 54? — but I can’t spend the rest of my life standing on the ledge. Sometime I have to grab the trapeze and fly.


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Holistic Fair

I went to a holistic fair at the local Unitarian Universalist church today.

First thing we did was walk the labyrinth they have there. It really is a meditative practice. You go around and back and forth and you finally reach the center. This particular labyrinth had a cluster of huge rose quartz rocks in the middle. Truly I mean rocks, they must have weighed a solid pound each, maybe more. They were rough hewn. I felt like they were lonely, like people don’t get out to visit them often enough.

The idea is, you walk from the outer world to the inner world, then you circle back out. This one was laid out with rocks so to be completely honest, we just stepped over the “walls” to get out, we didn’t circle back out. Then we saw some paths through the woods that we decided to check out. Trees had grown over the path so it was pretty covered. It’s winter in Texas so even though it’s not terribly cold out, the trees were bare and the ground was covered with their leaves. The branches met over our heads and created a sort of tunnel through the woods.

We went inside to check out the vendors. They seemed a little pricey to me. Or as the Brits say, proud of their goods. We looked at hemp infused coffee and keto creamer. They wanted $70 for about a pound of coffee, just a little high. I mean that to sound understated.

There was a young man who had made some wands. I asked him about them, he said he made them from wooden beads and adhesive. I feel like the actual stick part, not the handle, was made out of resin so it must have been the adhesive, which I suspect is glue sticks. He wasn’t exactly outgoing.

There was a woman in African or Carribbean dress who made statement necklaces. She had a huge piece of different stones as the focal. The beads on the necklace were quite large, maybe an inch in diameter. These were solid pieces but a little too big for me.

Another woman had body creams and candles. I would have bought some of the Ms Coco body cream but I couldn’t find it except in the tester. She also had quite large tea light candles, the size of the palm of my hand. Some were just scented, others had plant material, crystals, or other inclusions. I felt like she was the most reasonably priced of everyone.

There was another jewelry vendor there. She had lovely crystal point necklaces. The points were probably an inch in diameter and a good 2 or 3 inches long, very clear. I would have believed they were glass but they were quartz. Or amethyst. She also made pyramids and pendulums that were designed to clear an area from electro magnetic pollution. It was interesting. But again, a little high priced.

I got a reading from a lady named Sherry. She called it a wisdom reading, not a sort of fortune telling. I’m fine with that. It’s a little blurry, everything that she did. Her technique is to attune herself with me and contact my higher consciousness. She put oil on my palms and had me inhale it and pull up an image. I got baby dolls, particularly the kind with painted on hair. Then she asked me to listen to my heart and tell me if there was something my inner self wanted to let go. I said “weight”. I felt a little self conscious about that, since I am a fat person and weight is always a politically correct answer for me. But I couldn’t change the word, I couldn’t turn it into anything else, so I had to go with it. She said weight is often related to emotional states, and that the body often uses weight as a form of protection. On the physical level, toxins and other things can be caught in fat as a way of keeping them out of the body systems. On an emotional level, stresses cause the body to hold onto fat. So there could be both health and mental health reasons for letting go of weight.

She put more different oils in my hand, had me breathe in and out, and asked me for a memory. I remembered the day the priest told me that my father died. It made my heart hurt. I felt great loneliness. As we worked, the loneliness morphed into sadness. I felt sad for the little girl who lost her parents. Sherry had me remember the scene in detail and I remembered how Judy had been so upset and even teary eyed on my behalf. The sadness literally caught in my throat and stole my voice. Eventually it dissipated and there was a sort of release.

Sherry then shared an image she had for me, one of those jewelry boxes with the little ballerina in it. I don’t know if they still make them. I had one as a child. She said, my higher self wanted me to dance with freedom, not stuck in one pose like the ballerina. She asked what was stopping me. I told her, fear. Fear that if I fail, there’s no safety net. I don’t have parents or siblings to help me out if I get stuck. I have to do it all myself so it feels like there’s no room for mistakes. She had me visualize something that means strength to me (tigers, of course) and absorb the strength of it into myself.

So what I take from this, is that my parents’ deaths have affected me in ways I am not fully aware of. After all this time, I still make choices and behave in ways that are underscored by that experience. And maybe it’s time to find a new way of being. Just maybe, I can find a safety net and take a risk to do or be something more than I currently am.


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Can I Do This?

Last Monday, I facilitated a group.

On Monday afternoons, I attend the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance support group, because I have bipolar II, which I’ve mentioned before.  I’ve been going for about 3 years now.  I’ve worked through the book more than once.  I know the answers, haha, as if I could know the right answers to mental health when it’s different for everyone.

The regular facilitator was having a hard day and asked me if I would lead.  None of this is surprising, since he is a peer and the group could be led by any peer.  I said yes, and I was happy to do this favor for him.

It went surprisingly well.  We worked our way through 2 pages in the book.  That may not be much but it included some conversation and it was the end of a section.  Didn’t make sense to start a new section with only 15 minutes left.  The group appreciated the chance to chat during the session.  It was a little more active than the usual facilitator likes, but we have different philosophies.  He is trying to get through the book, whereas I use the book as a jumping-off point.  Nothing wrong with either one, just different.

At the same time, I have been hearing about women who lead seminars to help other women.  I think I could lead one about vision boards and creating goals.  It would be maybe 3 hours, give or take.  Part of it would be about setting goals, where do you want to be in, say, 5 years?  Or indeed, ever?  Part of it would be making the actual vision board.  And part of it would be about sharing our dreams and visions.  I think I could manage about 10 women, and they would have to bring their own scissors since I don’t own that many pairs.  Glue and magazines I’ve got, scissors not so much.

So I am looking for goal setting exercises.  They are surprisingly hard to find.  There are a lot of sites devoted to professional development and goal setting in that regard but really almost nothing about personal goal setting.  The principles must be the same however so I just need to tweak them.  Of course I would need to tweak them in any case to make them my own.  I’m about being inspired by other people, not stealing their work.

I believe I can do this.  It seems very do-able.  It also doesn’t overlap the government job so there should be no conflict of interest.  The first one or two would be free while I get my feet under me, then I would have to start charging.  I wonder if I could even do it monthly.

Words of encouragement and suggestions only, please.  I have enough nay-sayers in my own head as it is.  I could stand some support around this idea.


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Don’t Get Cocky

The Universe has a way of evening things out.

Today, I got a call from my support group facilitator.  He is also a peer.  He’d had an active weekend and just didn’t have the spoons to lead this week, so he asked if I would.  Of course I said yes.  I want to be helpful but also I like facilitating.

I went in early and set up.  J and B arrived.  Then 2 more B’s, E and M.  It was a full house.  I started the group at 5 after, just in case anyone arrived late.  I started off by reviewing the rules, which the group mostly stated to me.  I think the facilitator would be pleased to know that.

We did two pages of exercises from the workbook we are using, and the rest of the time we just talked.  Now the usual facilitator is very book oriented.  I am more relationship oriented.  I was glad to see people reach out to each other and provide feedback.

M brought up a good question.  A doctor can, for example, prescribe a particular kind of mattress if someone needs it.  Most of us have doctors who want us to attend these meetings.  There is a cost to the book.  Only $25, but for some of us that’s a lot of money.  If the doctor prescribed the class, would the cost of the book be covered by insurance?  Oh, probably not, because that’s how things work out, but if I went for physical therapy and needed equipment it would be covered.  This is psycho-therapy – at least loosely – and the book is the equipment.  I think we should try it out.

Anyway, I felt pretty good when I left.  I feel pretty good about my facilitating.  People enjoyed the meeting and I think they got something out of it.

I was driving home, minding my own business, when the Universe decided to make sure I didn’t get too cocky.  Suddenly my engine didn’t sound right.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  I looked down at the dashboard and saw that the temperature was redlined.  I pulled over and shut off the engine.

I pay for good insurance, so I called my roadside assistance and they sent someone out to tow me home.  I waited about an hour in 100 degree heat for a 10 minute tow.  So be it.  It was covered.  I checked fluids and oil was low, so I bought some oil that I’ve added.  Now it’s too dark out for me to be able to check the level again so it will have to wait for the morning.

I hope the low oil is the whole problem.  If not, I don’t know how I’ll pay for it.  I mean, I have 6 hours of training to do in the next week or so, so that’s a few dollars.  There is always unemployment.  I just need to drive the car around the block or something and see if the temperature shoots up again.

I’m just glad I had The Artist’s Way with me  while I was waiting.  It’s a good read.  More about that later.


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Being unfriended

I got a private message from someone saying that my comments on her posts only make her feel worse so she was going to unfriend me.  She must have already blocked me because I just happened to be online so I read the message almost as soon as it was posted and I wasn’t able to reply to her.

This makes me sad.  I didn’t know I was bothering her with my comments.  I wish she had said something before it got to this point.  I wish I knew better how to connect with her.

I know her from a mental health support group.  I assume she has issues, but then I have issues.  We all have issues there.  That’s why we’re in a mental health support group in the first place.  I would usually go to that group for feedback, but I don’t feel like I can.  I don’t want to piss her off even more, for a start, but I also don’t want to open myself up to trolling if I really am a jerk.

I don’t think I’m a jerk, but it matters what other people think of me.  Not a lot, but some.  I mean, you can hardly be a jerk to yourself but you might not see how you are being a jerk to other people.  We all get nearsighted and can’t see how what we did affects others.

So tell me I am being difficult for you before you get to the point where all you can do is run away.  I thought we were getting to know each other, but apparently that didn’t cut both ways.  I am sad.  I’m sad that she unfriended me and I’m sad that she didn’t speak up sooner and I’m sad that I don’t know what I did.