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Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Embellished block

During the past two weeks, I’ve finished embellishing the block I pieced. The print fabric of patch #7 gave me my palette. I chose red/pink, dark green, light green, blue, and yellow fabrics. Then I chose threads, mostly #5 pearl cotton, in the same colors. I’ve been wanting to use lace on a CQ block and for this project I chose two pieces, one of which I painted light green. Finally, I put pearl beads and buttons in the patches.  I know stitchers who could finish this block in a day.

Embellished-block

My slowness is because I’m still having to force myself to do any needlework, and I can’t stay with it for more than a few minutes or an hour. But I’ve been encouraged to keep at it until the motivation and pleasure return. The problem is that I’m working without inspiration and the results are not truly satisfying. Oh well. What will I do next?

And how will I finish this block?  Or will it just stay in a drawer with so many other projects?

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Retreat results

The past year has been hard for me. Last year, after helping to care for my dying son, I came back to Charlestown in July in time to help care for two old friends as they died in the care center. Increasingly sick, I crashed in December and went into seclusion. I also began therapy. In April I finally got a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, from which I have suffered since 2009–undiagnosed by any of the several health care providers I consulted here and in Washington state. In May I had two scary manic episodes with a fall that could have killed me. Although I was seeing a psychiatrist, I decided to commit myself to Shepherd Pratt Psychiatric Hospital, where I spent 16 days.

There they got me on the right  medication and my symptoms ended. No longer manic and no longer sick, I felt listless and unmotivated. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like stitching. I didn’t want to go back to visiting in the care center. I didn’t want to practice the piano. I made myself swim and walk miles every day. I made myself kayak from my son’s home on Middle River, spending the night there so I could be out on the water at daybreak. Knowing mentally that I was doing something enjoyable, I was unable to feel joyful. That was pretty much my state of being when Gloria asked my in the locker room how I was doing.

So I went on the retreat with her. (See below.)

The first retreat exercise for individual work was to answer the question, “What would you like to be?” Well, that’s what I didn’t know, haven’t been able to know, for months. Conscientiously, I tried to answer and what I wrote was a list of roles, for example, hospice volunteer. I wrote with no conviction, no real desire for the roles I listed. Back home, I reviewed all the exercises I’d done over the weekend and realized that I had not answered what I wanted to be. I had answered with what I could do. So I set myself to think about how I wanted to be. Eventually words began popping into my mind–energetic, enthusiastic, extraverting, excited, exuberant, exhilarated. All feelings that have been missing from my life, and they all began with E. This was what I wanted to be and needed to be in order to ENJOY my life, another E word. And more came to me over time–elated, ecstatic, and so on. Now I am working with those words as I meditate and go about my day. I’m seeking to generate those feelings in myself.

Meanwhile, I have been taking action on the list of ideas I made for things to do. Already I’ve been to the care centers twice for visits with residents whom I knew. I have volunteered to be part of an organized visitation next week. I’m hoping to identify residents who really need a regular visitor. Yesterday I began training as a hospice volunteer. I have contacted Compassion and Choices to learn how I can become an end-of-life consultant. I continue to read about end-of-life issues, about death and dying, thinking about the possibility of getting such a conversation going here at Charlestown. I’ll see whether these activities awaken the E words in my inner self. I’m hoping the joy of stitching will return. I want to blog regularly again.

Since leaving the hospital on 20 mg Zyprexa per day, I’ve reduced the dosage to 2.5. Getting off that mania-suppressant drug may allow me to feel excited and enthusiastic again. Medication is obviously an important part of my recovery and my sense of being, but the retreat has also contributed. I don’t think I AM bipolar; I think I have had a nervous breakdown with symptoms of bipolar disorder. And people do recover from nervous breakdowns.

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Silent retreat

A couple of weeks ago, in the pool locker room, I met Gloria, whom I haven’t seen in several months. She asked  how was I doing and I blurted out that I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with these last years of my life. “Maybe you need spiritual direction,” Gloria volunteered. “I’m going to a silent retreat. I’ll send you information about it.” That same day she e-mailed me messages about the retreat and the retreat center. I knew I was meant to go on this retreat. It was not an accident that we met in the locker room. So I signed up.

This past weekend Gloria and I were at the Mariawald Renewal Center in Pennsylvania, a two-hour drive away. The center is located at the convent of Sisters of the Precious Blood, a beautiful facility on beautiful grounds. They call themselves a “bed and breakfast for the soul.” Here’s the convent and chapel.

Convent

We met and slept in a motel-like building a short walk from the convent, facing a pond. Here’s that building.

Bed and breakfast

The view from the retreat center.

Pond

One of the many small shrines on the grounds, including into the woods, where there are several trails.

Shrine

The retreat was based on the teachings of Teilhard de Chardin. In the 1960s, when it was first published to much acclaim, I had read The Phenomenon of Man, so I was somewhat familiar with Teilhard’s unorthodox spirituality. Each morning and afternoon we were given materials on which to meditate and exercises for contemplative practice. The rest of the time was for individual prayer and practice in silence. We were encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the out-of-doors, and the weather was perfect.

Since I don’t usually enjoy making conversation with strangers whom I’m unlikely to meet again, being in silence was very comfortable for me. And I came away from the experience resolved to spend less time in solitude and silence and to return to visiting at the care centers. Today I made my first foray there, seeing who is living there whom I might know already. I’m also going to pursue hospice volunteering. So the retreat helped me make some decisions I’ve been reluctant to make.

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Re-set

I’m trying to press the “re-set” button for blogging. For the past couple of years, it has been very hard for me to write. It’s been a very difficult time, during which my husband died, my son died, four close friends died, and I moved myself across the continent and back, by myself. Besides losing loved ones, I lost the ability to stitch, to practice the piano, to read a book, and to write. Now I’m back in Charlestown, working on recovery from “nervous breakdown” or “vital exhaustion” or being just plain done-in.

Blogging, especially as part of the stitching community, was a source of great pleasure for me. A few months ago I discovered I could create needleart again and so I’m designing and stitching –intermittently, but continuing. I’m practicing the piano–not every day, but when I can. In the past couple of months I’ve been reading books, more than one at a time, and more than one a week. I’m definitely reading again. Now I want to try writing again.

Today I’m just going to post the latest TAST stitch, the beaded linked chain stitch. It is worked in black #5 pearl cotton with Miyuki 6/0 seed beads over a seam on my first block for the CQJP 2014 challenge. I’m hoping that participating in these challenges will get me back, not only into regular stitching, but back into the global stitching community. Do go take a look at what others are doing at the links I’ve provided.

Image

And I’d love to hear from you!

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Silence and work

I wrote this post in August 2012, before Ernie died. I don’t know why I didn’t post it. Today I decided to try writing a post and I discovered three drafts from last year and one from a few months ago. Much has happened, much that I could NOT write about. I will try to fill in the gap, but the bottom line is that the last line of this post is true of me today.

 

Recently, it dawned on me that I am now living as I was living with ME/CFS from 1993 until 2009–in seclusion, practicing meditation, and learning to make needleart.

From Spring 2009 until January 2012, recovered from disability, I had ADHD and felt manic much of the time. I couldn’t stop going and doing. Then, in January, I crashed. It was not a relapse into disability; but it was utter fatigue and increasingly distressing symptoms. I prescribed for myself a retreat in silence and solitude, a time-limited period. Gradually, I have completely regained strength and stamina and most of the troubling symptoms are gone. Including the manic ADHD, thank goodness!. All that excess energy disappeared in January and left me calm instead of frantic.

But I have no desire to come out of my silence and solitude in the barn in the woods except as necessary. There’s nothing to prevent me from being as active in the world as I ever was. I just don’t want to be. I am different, and the world is different, as compared with 20 years ago.

So interesting. Forced into seclusion by a chronic disabling condition, I learned to love living that way. These past three years of frenetic activity and tremendous life changes and stress have been harder for me than living with disability. Most of my time was spent with other people–taking care of Ernie, visiting residents at the care center, helping elderly neighbors, and having to interact with people in the Charlestown community. Though I was thankful I was no longer “sick”, I missed my quiet life.

Now I’m back to living that way, with no one else around most of the time–days when I see no one, have no conversation. I do spend time with family. I do whatever I have to do for self-maintenance. Otherwise, I have no desire to go anywhere or do anything. Except, to my surprise, last Sunday when I awoke, unthinkingly I decided to drive to the nearest beach, three miles away. I was there by 7:00 a.m.. (This was while I was living on Vashon.)

No one else around. Three quiet boats passed, and a single kayaker.

This was the first time I’d done this, and for the first time I wanted to be out on the water in a kayak, as I was last summer.

Since January, as I did when I was forced into seclusion in 1993, I’ve been reading about solitude and silence and people who choose to be alone, trying to understand this desire and trying to find other people like me. Currently, I’m re-reading The Perennial Philosophy, from which I quote:

“It was not from want of will that I have refrained from writing to you, for truly do I wish you all good; but because it seemed to me that enough has been said already to effect all that is needful, and that what is wanting (if indeed anything be wanting) is not writing or speaking–whereof ordinarily there is more than enough–but silence and work. For whereas speaking distracts, silence and work collect the thoughts and strengthen the  spirit.”  St. John of the Cross

Among other activities I have not wanted to pursue these past months is blogging and emailing ( “writing and speaking”). I’ve lost touch with many online friends. But I have been able to return to concentrated work. As St. John wrote, silence and work have been for me “all that is needful.”

Maybe that is changing?

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Collapse

After 30 months of frenetic activity and enormous changes in my life, I am back where I was three years ago–14 to 15 hours a day lying down, in silence (I mean silence) and solitude.

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STITCHING!

As you know, the past year has not been very productive for me, at least, needlewise. Because of my state of being and events, it was almost impossible for me to use a needle.

It was January 2011 that Ernie moved to RGT (assisted living). During the week prior, I managed to make fabric cards for Ara and Ola and I danced at their party.

In April I collected myself enough to embellish grandson Josh’s jacket as a gift for his graduation.

In May I created Tangie’s bag.

In July I designed a needlebook cover and I pieced two crazy quilt blocks but I was unable to work on them during the process of moving to Vashon. I was too distraught, too overwhelmed–emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Finally, in October, after I’d gotten my new digs somewhat organized, I finished the needlebook cover.

In November I made a card case for DIL Carol.

And in December I finished embellishing one of the CQ blocks. Here are both of them on my portable design board at my makeshift work place.

I’m still working on the one on the left. Don’t yet know what I’ll do with them. Put them in a drawer with other studies? They were only intended as busy work. (The pattern is from Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting.)

Meanwhile, I signed up for two online challenges–TAST 2012 and the Crazy Quilt Journal Project. I was hoping they would help overcome the inertia or whatever it was that was keeping me from routinely stitching.

From a stack of white and off-white silk fabrics, I pieced the first block for CQJP, which I intended to use as a sampler or showcase for TAST stitches. Even though I was feeling rotten, I made myself work the first two stitches on the block, with this result.

I had done a trial of the nested fly stitches (on the middle seam) on an evenweave doodlecloth and thought that, if I marked the spaces between the diamonds, I could do the same pattern here. Not acceptable. The next day, I unstitched that seam and started over. Here are the seam treatments using TAST Weeks 1 and 2 stitches–fly stitch and buttonhole stitch.

Better. (But the camera is cruel.)

I worked buttonhole stitch over white sequins with silk buttonhole twist thread and added tiny beads. The fly stitches are in #8 pearl cotton and a fine wool yarn. The buttonhole and fly stitches on the lower seam are also in that fine wool.

So far, though it’s a struggle, I’m keeping up.

Now, back to the question, the larger, existential question, “What am I doing here?” I mean, why am I here? For what purpose?

I thought I was coming here so that I could fully recover and so that I could be helpful to my family. I came because son Geoff invited me, saying that I didn’t have to live out my life in misery at Charlestown. He would help and take care of me as needed if I were here. I knew daughter Nan felt the same way. Ernie also wanted me to be where I could live a satisfying, productive life.

I arrived expecting to feel instantly well. I plunged into the activities available to me here–joining Vashon Allied Arts and the athletic club, subscribing to concert and lecture series, going on tours, participating in family gatherings and just hanging out with them; and I felt worse and worse. As you know, I felt so bad that I was willing to try Chinese herbal medicine treatment.

By the end of December I knew that I had to put myself back into seclusion. It became clear to me that silence and solitude were what I needed to recover from the past two years, which have been traumatic. Instead of family and fun, I need rest and being alone.

At Charlestown I could not have solitude and silence. I was living in a community where I had to be out and about. I had to go be with Ernie at RGT every day. And my ADHD wouldn’t let me just stay at home quietly. Am I here so that I can have silence and solitude? It’s what I want and couldn’t have before I got here.

When I recovered in 2009, I regained functionality and lost contentment. I was no longer able to sit in meditation, read, and stitch–those aspects of my life that give me greatest satisfaction. Since I’ve been here, my ADHD and related symptoms have almost gone. I’ve read 14 books and, as you’ve just seen, I’ve been stitching. But being around people is another thing. I feel scared and nervous–like bad stage-fright. And I am not a fearful person. Being with people greatly exacerbates my insomnia. Only being in silence and solitude can I feel calm and well.

I don’t know how long this will last. I think I did not allow for the accumulated effect of the past months, the stress I’ve been under. Maybe I will soon be just fine anywhere. Or maybe I’m here so that I can live in silence and solitude.

I’ve come to the right place, here in the forest. And Nature piled on.

I’ve been snowed in since Sunday. Not going anywhere.

Yesterday at around 5:30 p.m. the power went out. I spent last evening in front of the little propane stove in the darkness,

resting, eating a hard-boiled egg sandwich, and occasionally reading by candlelight. Without power, it was utterly silent. I was alone and at peace.

Is that what I’m supposed to be doing here?

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