Where the Past and Present Meet



"I know I'm dreaming. But it feels like more than that. It feels like a memory." – Oblivion (Film, 2013) 

I've been dreaming about people from high school a lot lately. It isn't as though I haven't dreamt of them before. I have. When you attend boarding school, many of those people become as family or, at the very least, more than mere friends.

My dreams are vivid and strange. Like most, they are permeated with images of the present and the past.

In one, I'm wandering around my town in apparent search of my car. Not knowing where I parked it, I decide to walk home – stopping along the way to take a photograph of an historic building decorated for Christmas. I take the photograph and, remembering where my car is located, I head back into downtown. There, on a restaurant boat on DeGray Lake, I bump into a classmate. (Note: DeGray Lake is 15 miles from downtown, but... whatever. In my dream, our town is on the lake.) I discover that for quite some years, he's kept a boat on the lake and he and his family regularly vacation here. I chastise him for not letting me know he's been in and out of town all these years. We speak of our families and he tells me how proud I should be of my boys. Then we part ways and, as I finally return to my car, I stop in the parking lot where an elderly man I do not know serves me stew out of a crockpot located in the trunk of his car.

While the dreams make no sense of any kind, with 2017 looming, I am beginning to develop a theory as to why I'm suddenly dreaming about these particular people.

This next year will mark 25 years since my high school graduation. It's a milestone – an odd one since I don't feel old.

This next year also marks the beginning of my youngest's senior year of high school. This past week we designed and ordered his class ring. Again, I don't feel this old.

While I don't feel older, the reality is that I am. Perhaps a part of me is beginning to long for the days of my youth. Consciously, I do miss Kenya... though I don't believe I truly miss being sixteen again. Even in an idyllic location, high school is, well, high school.

This is likely why, in my dreams, the past is aligning more closely with the present.


Broken



“At heart, I have always been a coper, I've mostly been able to walk around with my wounds safely hidden, and I've always stored up my deep depressive episodes for the weeks off when there was time to have an abbreviated version of a complete breakdown. But in the end, I'd be able to get up and on with it, could always do what little must be done to scratch by.” ― Elizabeth WurtzelProzac Nation

About a month ago, I broke down.

I saw it coming. I did. Somehow I still thought I had it all together. Since about July, I have been smiling my way through my worst bout of bipolar depression in about ten years. I recognized it early enough to consult with my doctor and he prescribed a small-dose antidepressant on top of my usual bipolar medications. This has worked in the past. We both hoped it would work again, but I was not that lucky... and I continued to deny that I was sinking.

The thing about being bipolar is that sometimes medications just stop working and it's time to try something new. 

I didn't see (or didn't want to see) it soon enough – and neither did the other people in my life. That's the difference between bipolar mania and bipolar depression. One slaps your family, coworkers, and friends in the face. They simply can't ignore it. The other is more akin to getting stuck in quicksand and the struggle to survive drags you down deeper into the darkness. Unless you cry out, no one can hear you. 

I didn't cry out.

I couldn't cry out.

And then I was broken. 

The other thing about being bipolar is that it is treatable. Being broken means admitting to everyone that you are broken so that you can get help and not stay broken. I'm not Humpty Dumpty. I can be put back together again. 

Bipolar depression is never, for me, quite as destructive as bipolar mania, but there are still repercussions. 

It's the biggest struggle I have with my disease. I'm a firm believer in taking full responsibility for my actions. Sometimes my actions are not my own. Well... they are, but they aren't the actions of someone mentally stable. I don't even remember all of my "your medication is no longer working" actions, but I still have to live with them and I have to make amends. 

I have to forgive myself. 

So, here I am – healing... and I have a lot to heal. 
_________________________________________


Please, if you struggle with depression or bipolar disorder – get help: 


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance
http://www.dbsalliance.org 


Human Family


"I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou, "Human Family"

I was 15 years old before I understood racism. 

Growing up in Kenya, I was something of an anomaly... pale skin, blonde hair, and green eyes. I became accustomed early on to being touched by strangers – particularly the caressing of my hair – but it was never malicious or sexual. I knew I was different than the majority and that was okay. But, different wasn't bad. I believed people were just people.

Oh, I knew we had our differences. Food was always the obvious one – but food is one of the great planet Earth adventures. And, sure, we worshipped different gods – or the same God called something other than God – or no god at all. Our differences excited me. It made humanity so much more interesting. 

Then we came back to the United States and spent ten months in Louisiana... the "Deep South," KKK country. Don't misunderstand me; there are millions of wonderful people in Louisiana who aren't racists – but there are probably just as many who are and it hit me like a crowded bus traveling at the speed of light.

Every high school has its version of "affinity groups" (aka: cliques) – my multicultural high school in Kenya was no exception – but here, in tenth grade, is when I realized that, aside from the classroom and the sports field, the Whites hung out with the Whites, the Blacks with the Blacks, the Hispanics with the Hispanics, the Asians with the Asians, etc. Even the military kids from the local Air Force base drifted to their like kind, which puzzled me immensely. "Shouldn't they think like me?" I thought... until someone confessed that military kids really have no need to leave a foreign base unless they want to (Why wouldn't you want to?). 

Word spread quickly in my new high school that I had moved from Africa, perpetuated, no doubt, by the youth from the church we attended because they were the only ones who knew. I was uncomfortable from day one, but I was also determined to not let it change me or the way I treated people; however, my efforts to remain friendly to everyone, combined with the collective knowledge of where I was from, earned me nicknames I refuse to repeat. 

Some of the White boys became progressively uglier in their taunts. Their obvious malicious intent was countered by a handful of Black football players who took it upon themselves to escort me safely from one class to another. Eventually, thankfully, the novelty of the blonde girl from Africa wore off. Teenagers have notoriously short attention spans. I continued being friendly with anyone who would allow me and I become close friends with two like-minded military girls who made the remainder of that academic year tolerable

But my eyes has been opened.

Racism was no longer something I read about in a history book; it became a living, breathing, thriving entity... and I loathe it. It makes me more angry than just about any other abomination. 

When I returned to Kenya, I began to see and experience White privilege where I had been blind to it before. I am even guilty, in my adolescent years, of blatantly taking advantage of it. I realized at sixteen that, being White and blonde, I could waltz into any club in the country without showing proof of age. Some would say it was my relative attractiveness that earned me such special treatment. No. That's White privilege making excuses for White privilege. 

I came back to the United States for university in 1992 – Arkansas, one state above Louisiana – back in the "Deep South" – and, 25 years later, I still struggle with racism every day.

I am here to tell you that white privilege is real and more people need to recognize it. 

I am also here to tell you that Black Lives Matter. 

Sure, all lives matter, but that's not the point

Black Lives Matter because, as the mother of sons, I fear for the boys of my Black friends like I have never had to fear for my own dudes. 

Black Lives Matter because good people are turned away from the most basic of jobs and forced into the system by the same people who then accuse them of milking it.

Black Lives Matter because, in a town that has two universities, but is still the size of a postage stamp, a person of color should be able to walk across the street from one campus to the other without a shade of suspicion. (Unless it's Battle of the Ravine rivalry week, of course, and then we are all suspicious of one another.)

Black Lives Matter because they are still treated as though they don't belong – generations of people who have helped build this country into the nation it is today. 

Black Lives Matter because those who choose to speak up about the freedoms they deserve are still perceived as "uppity" or seeking to incite violence. 

Black Lives Matter because this degradation and assault on basic freedoms is far too often met with grace, forgiveness, and hope... when they have the right to be angry. 

Hell, I'm angry. It makes me livid, but I have hope and I want my Black friends to have hope too. It's there. 

My sons are now 21 and 16. I've watched closely as they have grown up in such a wildly different environment from the one in which I was raised; but, like me, they don't really recognize color as a divide between people. Many of their friends – White, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Mixed – they feel the same way. Of the oldest's three closest friends, two are of people of color... one Black and one Middle-Eastern. And my teenager? His girlfriend is part Japanese. Oh, there are still cliques in high school (and college), but they aren't all separated by race like the one I attended all those years ago. 

This is our future. 

If we let them... if we stop taking one step forward and five steps back... these millennials have it in them to end racism and build us into the Human Family I have always longed for us to be. 


F*ck If



“It’s fun to think of the what-if. Scary, but fun. It’s like, I thought this door was closed before, but here it is open just the tiniest crack. What if?” ― Jenny HanTo All the Boys I've Loved Before

This moment of clarification came to me in 2010 while I was writing elsewhere. It's a reminder that seems oddly relevant today – though not for the same reason. Still, the sentiment remains. 
______________________________


          Fuck If

          I fell in love once. Twenty years ago.

          Uh…
          Right. Yes, I was sixteen.

          Everyone thinks they found love in high school.
          Sure. I thought I was in love…

          … at fifteen. Nope.
          … and seventeen. No.
          … again at twenty. Tragedy.

          No, this was different. My love was intense, forgiving,      
         whole, unconditional and volatile.

          Time. Two busy decades.

          Dating. Delusions. Divorces. Distance. Disport. Deliveries.
          Delights. Death. Drama. Demons. Dogma. Drudgery. Diets. 
          Doctrine. Deception. Dreams. And always…

          Doubt.

          Damn “If.”

          What if…
          If only…
          If he…
          If I…
          If we…

         Fuck “If.”

         I did... instead of him. And, I am free. Finally.


Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost



"We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. Sometimes we see the way out but wander further and deeper despite ourselves; the fear, the anger or the sadness preventing us returning. Sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering, sometimes it's easier. Sometimes we find our own way out. But regardless, always, we are found."
~ Cecilia Ahern, Thanks for the Memories

I have been wandering and though Tolkien tells us that "not all those who wander are lost," my wandering has been a bit aimless. I have been lost. It has been six years since I last posted here. I did leave a departure message and I have not been completely idle. 

I began telling stories of my childhood in Kenya and then I abandoned that project. I also returned to university (finally) and earned my Bachelor of Arts in English with honors. With degree in hand, I took a better job and I have been, in a word, busy. And while my professional life has a path and purpose, my personal life has been neglected. I write for my job and I wrote an absurd amount of research for university, but I haven't written anything for personal reasons in months — no, years. I even stopped keeping a journal. 

This is where I got lost... "♬ knee deep in the hooplah. ♪" I denied a special part of myself for far too long. I may never publish anything of note (beyond this blog), but I am still a writer and I must write... even if my ramblings are of no use to anyone but me. 

So, here I am. I have found my way out of the labyrinth of the lost. 

If you are out there. If you are listening. 
Welcome back. 


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