bipolarity · mania · mental health

To Surger the Stars

mu_constellationsdiagram2015_0It seemed logical at the time.

The sky was brilliant with stars, so I perched on the edge of a lawn chair, the chair wobbling which to me seemed affect and nothing dangerous; I half jumped to the roof, my elbows scrabbling on the tar paper in search of grip. One leg, then the other, and soon I was home atop the attic.

I tucked myself against the apex of the roof and got lost in constellations, one step closer to the sky.

When I was a kid, I got told that the sky went on forever, and it frightened me, just like the idea of heaven. Though a church-going kid, I didn’t want heaven because forever seemed too long; in the meantime I just liked stars. Could name every constellation that was in between earth and the beyond, as if the stars were stopgaps on the way to an unbound Paradise, with gold roads and gold haloes. I never wanted anything gold; I just wanted the novas en route as my particular street lamps. Were I to have a halo, I’d probably want a dimmer switch to accompany it.

Your mind races when you’re manic; you forget danger. You’re invincible and the fact that the lawn chair doesn’t give out serves as proof. You’re on the roof and you’re closer to the stars. You acquire bruises you can’t explain; you fall asleep blissful—just for a wink—before waking up again, blinking at the sight of constellations that have moved a short distance in the short time you’ve nodded off. You watch the airplanes come in, their green and red beacons closer to earth and in deep, moving contrast to the spiraling sky.

“Why are you on the roof?” comes the voice of reason, my wife at 2 a.m.

“Um.” There are things that can’t be explained. Short-circuitry I suppose: the lizard part of the brain looking for happiness without the front of the brain to stop it. I suppose it’s good we’ve developed cortices, but the back of the brain is instinctual and why lizards crawl on rocks to be close to the sun, and why sometimes I crawl on the roof to be close to the stars.

“You certainly suffer from bipolar disorder,” Dr. Jaffur says, and quietly I take offense at the verb ‘suffer.’ No one suffers from mania, which is the diagnostic tool necessary to discern manic depression. Mania is pure joy, unsourced, and highly addictive.

Dr. Jaffur’s office is ugly, with white leather, and she has instructed me to a chair where she believes I can be most comfortable. This is the sign of a perhaps bad therapist; good therapists allow you to choose your perch.

She redeems herself by asking questions in a clip fashion, with a Punjab accent. I answer as quickly, because I want this over with. I’d rather be on a roof somewhere, else at one of my late night haunts on the canyon where I can sit and think without the faux comfort of overstuffed chairs.

“You will need a mood stabilizer.”

Already knew that.

“I can take over your pills for you, yes?”

And I acquiesce: ‘yes.’ <sigh>

I sign my mania away to the tune of a new scrip. Fuck.

Dr. Jaffur is confident: “The mania should be gone by next week.”

Jenn’s with me on the drive home and I’m hiding behind sunglasses. My eyes are most likely glazed. Addictions are hard to give up, happiness without a trigger perhaps the hardest and most confusing.

“Do you take marijuana?”


“Narcotics such as methamphetamines, cocaine, or heroin?”

An emphatic no.

I just want to be closer to the stars, and when the stars land in your bloodstream, override the system and provide you with their hydrogen overload—the stuff we’re already made of—it’s hard to transfuse that out of your body.

These new pills are supposed to take the stars right out of me and I miss the galaxy already.

people · university · writing

The Language of Lines

pablo-picasso-line-drawings-5-638I had this art professor in college. He was Finnish, tall in stature and Scandinavian in every detail; regardless, he wore a NY Yankees ball cap for American affect. He was fond of teaching lines as something less than static, despite the fact that he curated a class on illustration.

“Lines are always moving,” he’d say, in a fjordland accent, his blond hair peaking out from beneath his cap. “Watch.” And he pressed play on a VCR to exhibit ‘Visite a Picasso’, a 1950 documentary done up in silence: a twenty minute time-lapse video of Picasso painting on glass. Every few minutes it’d seem as if Picasso had finished his piece, but then Picasso would change direction and paint over his old lines.

“Stop, stop,” a few students murmured as Picasso would seem to have settled on an image; Picasso would keep painting, though, to prove his near-aqueous mastery of lines, like a river re-carving its basin on the regular.

“So, you see,” my professor said, repeating himself, “Lines are always moving. Perspective is a constant and shifting thing.” He adjusted his Yankees cap, and scratched his jaw.

“What you need to do now is go outside. Watch how angles change once you approach them. Look at buildings, especially. Develop a language of lines.

“Come back in two hours and we’ll talk.”

I was dutiful to a point. I wandered the campus watching as angles changed the closer I approached them, how architecture would go from scalene to obtuse depending upon my approach. I’d back up a few paces and reimagine how a simple change in perspective could completely change the seemingly immutable.

I say I was dutiful to a point, because I never returned to class. At walk’s end was a cup of espresso, a scone, and an unlined sketchbook at the college coffee shop, where I sat scratching at paper.

“Lines are always moving,” my professor said, and—considering that true—even the definition of ‘line’ is a malleable thing. I stopped illustrating, began writing, where the idea of ‘lines’ are just as important.

My professor gave me the best advice by accident; now I do the same walks he inspired, just translating the scalene and obtuse angles into strings of words, always narrating, always developing a language of lines.

bipolarity · mania · mental health · neighborhood

The Beatitudes

kiddush-kadesh-wine-haggadahI’ve been meditating at night with Jenn; I don’t pray, but there’s something Vonnegut wrote (paraphrased): ‘If it weren’t for the Sermon on the Mount, I’d rather be a snake.’ Vonnegut was great: he read this to a gathering of Humanists who—not all, mind you—can sometimes be vitriolic against religion. Vonnegut was president of the Humanist Association at the time, following Isaac Asimov. The snake thing was coy reference to both Nietszche’s Zarathustra and Genesis.

I love Vonnegut. He was the modern day Mark Twain.

I think about him tonight on my nightly walk, because I’m joyful and the Beatitudes are the Bible’s perfect distillation: like if you could decanter sacramental wine. You can essentially edit out all the other parts, especially everything Old Testament (except for Psalms and Song of Solomon—those can stay). Jesus is my main man. Not my savior, perse, but my spiritual teacher. Alongside Siddhartha and Gandhi and MLK and a host of others.

I meditate with my hands cupped as if filling them with water, my legs crossed.

I walk down the alley where all the apartment kids are asleep, but where a Mexican couple are always awake at odd hours, just like me, TV on, never conversing.

There is broken asphalt on Upas , a van always idling on 31st and I wonder what they’re selling.

On Grim, there’s a new family that’s moved in—and my friend Nicole and I met them while on a breakfast date. The wife has a job at Donovan where Sirhan Sirhan resides, a Menendez and one of the Toolbox Killers. They have too much stuff and now a small house, so—nightly–things are jettisoned from their garage like untidy satellites: stools, curios, ottomans.

Above Grim, there’s a running fountain and a lady who burns incense, else lets her perfumery decorate the street—this olfactory factory—and it is lovely passing by her doorstep.

All these people, all this beauty, which must be accepted lest—like Vonnegut said—we become snakes in the dirt. Blessed are the pure in heart.

anxiety · Findlay · home · mania · mental health

Hands, hands

nails-1420329_960_720I don’t write about Finn often. Not any more at least.

But I post pictures because he’s a unicorn and he not only make my heart burst every day, but he also makes other peoples’ day.

I took him to the Store on Sunday, where he, of course, grabbed everything off the shelves and kicked in the grocery cart kid seat, happy as can be.

Sunday was a bad day for the Store because the power went out briefly; the meat freezer had to be cleared, there was no radio, and the registers lacked the capacity to speak to the robot overlords. Store was a wreck.

Maybe I was, too. I’m having problems with anxiety again, which is counter-intuitive to how happy I am.

I can’t gauge or radar my dysfunction; I just deal with it.

I laid down on the bed after our outing and Jenn was with me. Finn said: ‘Hands, hands.’ Not perfectly, but clear enough.

He took my hand, put it into Jenn’s, and wedged his palm in the middle, then smiled.

“Mommy. Daddy,” he said, which was clear enough.

Cayden · mental health


felixI’m leaning against the hood of my car, on break, watching crows do free-falls off a building across the way, symmetrical and plunging in turns, and though I worked with birds for twenty years, their language of flight–what they do when they fold their wings and plummet before regaining lift—is still a mystery to me, what it is they’re communicating by purposefully falling.

And I remember watching Felix Baumgartner’s space-jump with Cayde a few years back, we being excited that someone could skydive from the stratosphere, and me being late to work because I wanted to share the moment with Cayde. Partially through, I had second thoughts, because the jump could’ve gone wrong, and how how awful it could’ve been had Felix fallen.

Somewhere in the middle, Felix went into a spin, this digital apparition played on the interwebs, to us a blip on a screen, but Felix spinning like mad somewhere between the sky and the ground, unsure if he would land as planned.

Cayde and I watched, transfixed.

Felix landed on his feet, parachute unfurling behind him. In a similar way, I think Cayde watched me this year, old enough to understand the idea of free-fall, and seeing if I could pull the ripcord in time.

And I did. Like Felix, I landed on my feet, a crow in free-fall extending its wings in time, and before the pavement, with Cayde watching, with the all of us fine.