Thursday, August 29, 2019

Normal? Or What?

My goodness, someone is a happy busy bee lately! The last few weeks I have been buzzing around my hives (Lewes and here in Oreland), productive as heck and “high on life.” Tidier than usual, accomplishing entire “to do” lists in a single bound, keeping up on the exercise and my correspondence. My often-fuzzy memory is sharp as a tack again, and I feel confident and contented. 

Before that, in late spring, I was definitely in a bit of a slump. Just generally cranky and uncomfortable in my skin. Maybe because work was super busy and I was a little burned out? While I got everything done, I was often irked by the people in my life—and life in general. I often identify with Lucy from Peanuts, and I was certainly channeling her “crabby” most of the time. Then came summer and the switchover from life in a minor, to a major chord.

One of the most unfair things about being bipolar is no longer trusting that my moods and emotions are normal. My radar is so attuned to signs of a relapse that even a totally understandable frame of mind is seen by me as a symptom of my disease. My doctor is pleased with my progress, my meds are regulated (and I faithfully take them), and by rights I should be enjoying the regular ebb and flow of life. But I distrust my ups and downs, and don’t know if I can ever go back, emotionally, to the old days.

I feel a real kinship to someone suffering from a chronic physical ailment. That stomach pain…is it a medical crisis? Or just the three tacos you ate last night? A headache after a day in the hot sun? Logical or worrisome? I totally get it! Whereas John or Jane Doe thinks nothing of that nagging cough or brief spell of sadness, we know better (or so we imagine)! We are hyperaware of our brains and bodies, 24/7, and I tell you it’s NO fun.

Getting out of my head helps, I find—that running/walking thing I did on the boardwalk every morning at the shore, taking time to pray and meditate—the mental static recedes, and I can deal with things logically again. But my head is a place that is always beckoning me back…”Whooo ooo! Come in here, Elise! Let’s just dwell on everything! Life is one big problem and it’s your job to wrestle with it all!!”

This afternoon, the sun is shining, and there’s a hint of lovely breezy Fall in the air. It’s my day off, with nothing pressing on the agenda. It’s been such a good summer, for me and my family, and I’m so tired of borrowing trouble. Here is my prayer, for today and every day: May I learn to love the gift of exuberance, and not fear some sadness. Joy is not a pathology, nor are the occasional blues.

Don’t worry, I tell myself. Be happy.

Hey, that’s catchy.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I am scooped more often than a quart of Ben and Jerry’s. And I hate it.

Every now and again, I come up with a marketable idea before everyone else on earth beats me to it. A couple of years ago, I wrote a humor piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer about breaking up with my Fitbit, and the editor bought it within 15 minutes. That, my friends, is not my norm. My norm is either a) coming up with an idea only to quickly discover the nearly identical thing published already (usually in some stellar publication like The New Yorker, which sends me into a deep funk because IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME) or b) staring, clueless, at the computer screen for hours while all around me other writers are typing away, bursting with the inspiration I obviously lack.

Where, I wonder, is the wellspring of wonderful story concepts that slakes the thirst of my fellow authors? I seek this magical fountain, but instead only find a dry and barren riverbed, with random vowels and consonants lying there, gasping for breath. I ponder my (few) areas of “expertise”: parenting, mental health, church work. There are websites that cater to all of these subjects, and use freelancers to boot. But when it comes time to pitch an essay, I most often come up empty. Why did So-and-So score big with her so-so story about her son’s first lost tooth? Among my five offspring, I dealt with 100 baby teeth lost over the years! And I named the Tooth Fairy Dentina! (clever, eh? Apparently not clever enough for The Christian Science Monitor!) How about the touching saga of Writer B’s struggle with depression and anxiety that went viral? Hey, buddy, I struggled too! I just didn’t write about it fast enough!!

Seems I am always behind the literary 8-ball. Nothing like discovering that it’s National Canned Food Month on the last day of said month (February, BTW), way too late to sell a funny article about the 50 cans of beets I’d stockpiled in advance of Y2K (we all hate canned beets; what was I thinking?) Sometimes I am scooped when a particularly timely topic appears in the news, and I miss the window of opportunity. There’s an annoyingly prolific woman who posts all the time in a writer’s Facebook group about her many “gets” for CNN, The Guardian, etc. She can muse about one episode of a hot new Netflix show and spin it into two or three sales. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of pop culture, to put it mildly, and any swell program I “discover” turns out to have aired back in 1994.

But I am determined to get a scoop one of these days! I have pen in hand and am ever-ready to scribble! There must be something or someone that hasn’t already been exhaustively covered, right?

For instance, who is the President these days? Anybody know?

That might be an idea for a story.

I know who this is!

Saturday, August 10, 2019


Perfectly balanced--how DOES he do that?
I was sitting on the beach this morning, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a paddleboarder? This young man glided through the sun-dappled ocean, posture perfectly straight. I see these specimens, male and female, often at the shore, and every time I do, a devilish part of me urges, “Fall! Go on, fall! That’s what I would do!” But they stay upright, every last one, until they make a graceful descent at the end of their ride. I don’t seriously wish to paddleboard, but I would love to balance as effortlessly as these athletes do. However, at 62, I fear that ship (or paddleboard) has sailed. I have a lousy sense of balance. Which was proven again moments later as I struggled (gracelessly) to stand up (darn those low slung beach chairs!)

The few times I attempted to ride a bike as a child, I simply could not stop wobbling, then crashing. Wobble, crash. Wobble, crash. Finally I decided that I had invested quite enough money in Bandaids, and abandoned the pursuit. But there remained many situations when I would need to maintain equilibrium. The balance beam in gym class (to this day I break into a cold sweat watching gymnasts on TV, recalling my hapless attempts to navigate the beam). My doomed ballet lessons, trying to locate a focal point for my spot turns and stumbling dizzily all over the studio instead.

My summer studio!

Yoga has been a persistent problem for me. Mind you, nowadays I only attend class in the summers on the beach because (trade secret) when you do balance poses you can dig your standing foot into the sand for more support! Try doing that on a wooden floor! But still, after our breathing and our twists and our downward dogs, I dread the teacher’s chipper announcement that we will now work on balance. She reminds us that, as we all age, we will be much more at risk of falling if we don’t practice staying upright. The specter of breaking a hip carrying groceries from the car someday (soon) is enough for me to at least try. My nemesis is Tree Pose, where one leg is planted and the other is lifted and somehow nestled into the other thigh, all while waving arms in the air like a tornado-tossed coconut palm. I dig the supporting leg a good 12 inches down in the sand, and still can’t lift leg #2 an iota without collapsing in a disheveled heap.

Summer is drawing to a close, and with it my annual yoga practice. Next year, I vow, will be different (why? Who knows?) I will magically master Tree Pose, to the awe of my classmates. But next July, to be on the safe side, I will purchase the kind of beach chair my Nana had back in the day—a high and stable perch that is easy to gracefully rise from.

You know. Just like the 90 year olds use. You got a problem with that?