The Cypress Tree

On an island called Chios lived the Greek God Apollo, his beloved Cyparissus, and a stag, adored by all of the inhabitants. Especially by Cyparissus. Cyparissus would care for the stag, adorn his horns with garlands, and they’d ride and gallop across the island in merriment.

One hot day, Cyparissus was hunting in the woods. From afar, Cyparissus saw an animal. Cyparissus took aim with bow and arrow and fired a fatal shot. When Cyparissus approached, the animal was recognized as the beloved stag.

In agonizing mourning, Cyparissus prayed to Apollo that he be permitted to be grief-stricken for eternity. Reluctantly, Apollo agreed, and turned his friend into the cyprus tree, to preside over the mourning of others.

I approach the cyprus in the distance. I can see it, wide branches over the swelling tides. It stands alone, and survey the landscape. I am alone in this endless field, approaching the cliffside. The others may not join me immediately. Because, they won’t let themselves see it in the distance.

What does it all mean?

My grandmother had a stroke on Christmas. She has not been well enough to care for herself for quite awhile. The details have become clearer as the cypress tree was coming into focus. She has not been well for much longer than many of us realized. It was a very closely guarded secret.

It was not for the protection of others, but the denial of one. Her caretaker. When the day comes, and she is gone, her caretaker will have no one left. In a way, she was protecting herself from psychic harm.

My grandmother went back into the hospital on Saturday, the 18th. The doctors determined she has pneumonia and congestive heart failure. On Sunday, the 19th, she had a seizure. Currently, she is in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit. She’s conscious and stable. But, her doctor, who has been treating her for years, had deemed the situation to be grim.

They say she’s turned around today. But, I am not hopeful. Her brain is still hemorrhaging, slowly, but continuously. She has developed aphasia now, although she is aware of her surroundings. But, she is mostly immobile. Congestive heart failure doesn’t just go away. Her body is ailing and her brain is failing. She is shutting down, bit by bit.

And, I walk slowing, a lone soul in my procession toward the cypress tree. Each step feels like the terrain grows larger. I am alone in my acceptance that her days are sadly numbered. I am terribly alone in my grievance, crossing those days off of my calendar. And I am seemingly completely alone in the anxiety of the wait.

I know why. No one is ever ready to lose their mother.

But, I ask, what quality of life does she have? Immobilized, unable to care for her basic needs, and losing more of her brain function with each episode. How happy can she be in that state? Is it fair that many cling to her life so much that they fail to see any of this?

I see it. I mourn her life in such a state. I am troubled by her slow disintegration. And, I clutch Tallulah (my Blackberry), in grave anxiety, awaiting that call. I have gone as far as allowing my phone to remain on ring while I am at work. As far as I am concerned, I am on death watch.

I worry. My grandmother is the last bit of glue that binds this family together. Her children refrain from bickering, for her sake. Her grandchildren are only vaguely aware of each other. And most of the rest are scattering to the four corners.

I worry. About my family – about my mother. She is the glue that binds her family and the very mechanism that keeps it functioning. The woman is much more fragile than can be perceived by her stoic exterior alone. If she falls apart, her family will fall. They depend on her.

And I know. It will fall on me. I will have to find the strength to care for five people, when I am hardly capable for caring for myself.

Can I?

I Am Not God : 30 Days of Truth

Day 05: Something you hope you never have to do.

Decisiveness is not my strong point. I realize that certain choices can have long lasting effects. One choice can start a major chain reaction, cascading through many aspects of life, for better or worse. I have difficulty evaluating which decision will yield the best results, or do the least amount of damage. In fact, I’m sometimes so indecisive that mundane, daily selections become a challenge. What to eat? What to wear?

I hope that I will never have to be faced with a life or death decision.

I am not God. Nor can I ever pretend to be any spiritual deity that would be remotely qualified to render that judgment. I do not even have the capacity to make that choice for myself.

As a woman on a slew of medication and also of child-bearing age, this is a hot topic that remains fixed in the peripherals. I’m sure it’s something many women using pharmaceutical treatment for mental health think about. These are black box medications. What would I do if I got knocked up?

I’d love to have a definitive answer. In all fairness, this is a lot more complicated than your average abortion debate.

Yes, I’d keep the baby.
Taking a life is wrong. It’s not up to me to decide. If I took every precaution, and I still managed to conceive, then it was really meant to happen. I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak of losing a child, and the resentment toward myself for doing it purposefully. It would be an impossible decision to live with. Every life deserves a chance. Every child is a blessing.

No, I would abort the baby.
Sometimes, a woman has to do what is best for herself, the child in question, and her family. It would not be right to bring a child into this world that may likely have extraordinary special needs. It would be wrong for the potential child, cursing them to a life of physical and / or mental disability. It would be criminal to drain precious few resources from the rest of the family, such as time, money, and energy. And it may be extremely dangerous, if not fatal to both fetus and mother if I were to quit medication cold turkey.

This could turn to a very heated dialog. I have to cut it off at some point. We’ll cross that bridge if we get there.

That’s the only definitive life-and-death decision I can produce. There are thousands of scenarios.

I’m holding my husband by one arm and my son by the other from a ledge where they both slipped. I only have enough strength with both of my arms to save one. Who do I choose?

Life and death. It’s too big of a moral dilemma for me to ever want to handle. There are some moments where I could make a hard and fast decision. Giving my life to protect my loved ones? Yes. Taking a life to protect my loved ones? Only if absolutely necessary. Taking a life for vengeance? No.

Otherwise, leave me out of it.

Admissions of a Birthday Girl

Tomorrow marks another year closer to three decades of my existence on Planet Earth. Admittedly, there is, and always has been a strong contradiction between the number of birthdays I’ve celebrated, the age of my face, and the age of my soul. If everyone in the world forgot the year I was born, I would be very confused about my age.

A few months ago, I gazed in the mirror one day to see my first noticeable signs of aging. Before that, I had a face as smooth and white as a baby’s bottom. A baby face, that took at least five to ten years off of my chronological age. When I was pregnant, people gazed at me in shock and horror, as if I were a teen mother. I went to complete paperwork at the bank for my name change, and the teller was taken aback. “I swear, I wouldn’t have thought you were old enough to get married.” I got that, a lot.

Tick - tock.

Quite the oddity, I was actually excited to see the fine lines across my scarred forehead and around my mouth. I may be the only woman on the planet that was excited to see my face start to catch up with my chronological age! I despised my youthful appearance. I have never felt as if my chronological age fit, nor did I take it as a compliment when someone thought I was a teenager.

I will make an admission; I am one of those people that typically loathes their own birthday.  Yes, I find it absolutely pretentious.  Except, I do not detest my birthday for the same reasons that everyone else does.  As previously stated, I like the aging process.  I have always been excited about gaining more numbers.  My birthday just falls in a bad time of the year.

Growing up, I secretly envied peers that had birthdays during warmer months.  Pennsylvania has reasonable temperatures between March and November.  My friends would have all kinds of fun parties, because they weren’t all trapped in the house, buried in four feet of snow, and huddled around the heater in subzero temperatures.  Camping parties, pool parties, outdoor parties, indoor parties where we could run around the yard, parties in the park, and every other conceivable party I couldn’t have.

As an adult, the problem grew worse.  In the last ten years, I have had two nice days on my birthday.  My 22nd and my 24th.  Neither of those birthdays had anything planned.  I can’t plan a party.  Every year I have tried, I was doomed for especially bad weather.  My 23rd had to be moved to the weekend of Superbowl Sunday, when the Steelers were playing.  Living in Pittsburgh, the Steelers in the Superbowl is more important than anything.  When they win the Superbowl, the city gets shut down for two days, because everyone is too busy celebrating to go to work.  If they’re not going to work, they sure as hell aren’t going to my birthday party.

People don’t want to come out in January if they don’t have to.  I have been cursed with ice storms, heavy snow, and subzero temperatures.  So, I stopped planning parties.  I stopped planning anything, actually.  Because each year, I have been brutally disappointed.  Those disappointments mounted into resentment for that day.

Not this year!  I don’t especially care what the weather is like.  It does not matter if my friends or family notice the date on the calendar or not.  I like my birthday.  I am celebrating me, and everything my life has amounted to.  I am happy with myself, and all that I’ve created and become.  There is no need for anyone to justify my thoughts or emotions about me.

I love that it’s on a Saturday, because there are no expectations.  I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.  And, I have all of the time in the day to do anything I do want to do.  I will go out and have a lovely dinner on the house.  (I already have the voucher).  Then, I will buy myself the things that I actually want for my birthday.  No expectations, no disappointments.

This past year has been one of the harder ones, but not the hardest.  I have made so much progress in all aspects of my life.  I am managing my physical and mental health well.  My marriage is solid.  My career is taking root.  And my son is growing.  My family is happy and healthy.  I am happy and healthy.  Those are all of the things I’ve ever wanted. This birthday, I have them all.

The best birthday present ever is the pride that I have in myself.  I have walked through fire to get to this point.  I may not have done it all gracefully.  But, I made it out stronger, wiser, and better for it all.

As The Pendulum Swings

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my blog and the psychology of color.  We are all aware that colors around us alter our perceptions about the place, people, and situations we encounter.  I live in Pittsburgh, and I experience The Grey Season throughout months primarily between November and March.  Part of this is also known as Winter.  In The Grey Season, my perceptions are altered.  Everything is just more, well, blah, for lack of a better word.  It’s depressive but not necessarily depression.

Here’s a run-down of the psychology of color.

  • Black: considered to a serious color.  Usually is representative of any subject that is exclusively serious.  It usually revolves around death.  Invokes feelings of seriousness, gloomy, and despair.
  • White: considered to be a color of purity, cleanliness, and impartiality.  It can be thought of as a clean slate and new beginnings.  White bears no judgement.
  • Grey: thought to be a color that represents mediocrity.  It is not a moving color.  It is absolutely uninspiring.
  • Red: is considered to be a color that represents aggression and anger.  Think of the bullfighters holding the red drape.  The bull naturally feels aggression when seeing the color red.
  • Orange: is a vibrant color and typically represents change.  Orange is a color that is found most in the fall.  It is the color of pumpkins in the harvest, and leaves falling from trees.
  • Yellow: thought of as a joyful color.  Yellow is the color of the sun, and the light that it brings into this world.  The sun brings warmth, and is necessary for plants to grow.  It is considered a high energy color full of happiness.
  • Green: is thought of as an intelligent color.  Green is the color of money, but also the color of plants.  It is often representative of fertility and luck.
  • Blue: considered a color of serenity.  Blue occurs naturally in the world as the largest entities.  The sky is blue.  The oceans are blue.  Many people don’t realize that the water represents the fluidity of our emotions.  Blue water is calm water.  It is healing for the mind in nature.
  • Purple: is a regal color.  The robes of kings and queens were made from precious and rare indigo dye.  It represents wisdom, respect, and stimulates the brain for problem solving.
  • Brown: thought of as a stable color.  It is the color of the very earth we walk on.  It is reliable and constant.

As you may have noticed, my banner changed.  The banner was a hand-crafted graphic of hand selected clocks.  Each clock represents a frame of mind.  And every clock represents the seconds that are passing in our lives, during this very moment.

As the Pendulum Swings is a term that represents a number of ideas and concepts.  First and foremost, it represents the swinging of a pendulum in relation to the nature of bipolar disorder.  For every swing in one direction, I experience a swing in the opposite direction.  Whether they are long swings, or short swings, the pendulum will never stop until I am dead.

As the Pendulum Swings is also a play off of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”.  If you are interested, the link will take you to the entire text for your reading pleasure.  Poe’s writings have always resonated with me, even as a young teen.  There was something in there that seemed to describe my very nature.  I felt the title of my blog was an appropriate reference to this work.

And finally, As the Pendulum Swings represents the swinging of the pendulum as it ticks our lives away.  Each swing is a second we have either gained for ourselves, or forever lost in the folds of the fabric of time.  It is a constant reminder that we should be constantly aware of our precious mortality.  Our physical lives are actually not exclusively owned. Rather, they are on lease, and we cannot be sure when that lease will expire.  We may lose our mortal flesh, but our souls are ours to keep.

What will you gain today from your mortal seconds to assimilate into your undying soul?