Caution: Poem on Board!

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Poems are not babies

Waiting patiently to be born.

You shouldn’t give a poem

A due date for arrival,

And then expect it to appear,

On that doctor-predicted day,

Screaming its way into the world.

 

Poems are really traffic collisions.

Sneaking up at just the wrong moment,

Poems happen when you least expect,

And aren’t paying enough attention,

So there’s no time to react, and stop them.

 

But too often in these rush-hour jams,

There are poets who call in that special doctor,

And have a C-Section performed

To get that stubborn poem out.

So it arrives, before it’s prepared to be read,

Without even a car seat for protection

From those other reckless poems

That drove in on their own time.

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

The Spice of Life!

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Dear Iris,

 I think you may have misunderstood my job in your life. I know you are a primarily a writer, but I am a Muse! I am your Muse. Like you, I have lots of interests, so I have lots of areas of creativity in which I can inspire you. Please don’t be so quick to disregard the ideas I send to you.

I know, you are primarily a writer. You keep telling me. That doesn’t mean it would do you any harm to try out these other creative arts areas that I send your way. Nobody ever found physical pain or emotional torment from spending time doing arts and crafts. Yes, arts and crafts. You usually write stories, but I assure you if you’ll only do what I recommend the stories you write will be richer for it.

You resist me, but believe me when I recommend spending time dancing, singing, creating needle work crafts, painting, drawing, or playing piano, that all of those activities are creative in nature, and they will enhance your writing. I know they’re not words on a page, but they are creative. You may not take to all of these other areas of creativity as naturally as you take to crafting stories, but you get to experience variety in your days.

Variety is good for you. You get to work different areas of your brain every time you do something creative that’s different than your strong suit. Besides, when you learn new skills won’t at least one of those characters in your stories learn new skills too? Surely you want your characters to have full lives. After all, you can’t write stories populated with nothing but writers. How dull would those stories be? The more other kinds of skills and experiences you have yourself the better off you’ll be as a writer.

I know you find cooking to be a chore. But, you must eat! And, if you would take the time to explore the culinary arts a bit more I think you’ll find that you will be able to enjoy some creativity in that enterprise as well. And when you’re creative in the kitchen you can eat your finished product.

You can do just about anything creatively, so if you’ll just hang in there with me and follow my instructions I think you’ll find that you will get to have a lot of fun doing many different activities that are all creative.

Remember: Variety!

Agnes

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

Sharing Doesn’t Always Come Easily….

When we are small, we human beings are usually taught by our parents to share with others. Many of us have siblings, and our siblings are usually the first people with whom we learn to share. When it’s first presented to us, many of us aren’t entirely happy about the prospect of learning to share with our siblings, or anyone else either, but in many cases that is where we start learning this important concept.

The dolls who live here in the giant backyard dollhouse known as “Much Ado About Nothing” also have learned to share. Some of them are very skilled at it. Others are less adept at it.

A recent example of sharing among the dolls here happened recently when a new doll came to live here. When the new doll arrived she brought along with her a couple of items which gave the other dolls the impression that she was ready to share, straight out of her shipping box! However, Fran Naomi had other ideas about the items she brought along with her form her previous home.

Compared to many of the other dolls who have joined my doll collection over the years, Fran Naomi arrived with quite a lot of luggage. Fran Naomi is pictured below on the left. She is the doll with the curls in the blue overall dress and the pink. blouse.

The first doll who Fran Naomi met when she arrived here was Portia Genie. Portia Genie is the doll on the left in the photo above, who wears her hair in braids.

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Fran Naomi arrived home accompanied by her very own traveling companion. He is the small oatmeal colored teddy bear seated in her lap in the photo below. Upon her arrival, Fran Naomi  explained to Portia Genie that her teddy bear’s name is in fact, “Oatmeal.” She said that she calls him this name because of his color, and also because the texture of his coat reminds her of oatmeal.

When Fran Naomi arrived she also brought with her an extra pair of shoes. In the photo below the extra shoes are still safely stowed away inside the zip lock baggie that they were stored in while Fran Naomi and Oatmeal were traveling here.

When Fran Naomi and Portia Genie first met, Portia Genie was busy, involved in her own imaginative play with two much smaller dolls, and a soft cuddly Classic Winnie the Pooh teddy bear. Portia Genie was wearing boys shoes when Fran Naomi first arrived and the two dolls discussed this when they met.

Fran Naomi saw that Portia Genie had two dolls she was playing with, and she also noticed that Portia Genie was wearing boys shoes. Fran Naomi though to herself that she was very glad she had two pairs of nice girl’s shoes for herself, but she wished she could have a doll to play with along with her teddy bear like Portia Genie had.

Portia Genie is a friendly and good-natured doll. She plays very well with others. And Portia Genie has always had a very generous and giving nature. When Portia Genie and Fran Naomi first met she quickly discovered that unlike herself, Fran Naomi was doll who was not accustomed to sharing with others. Portia Genie hoped this was not due to Fran Naomi being selfish. Portia Genie figured that it likely meant that Fran Naomi came to live in the giant backyard dollhouse from a household where all the dolls had many possessions that were just theirs alone.

 

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I overheard the conversation that Portia Genie and Fran Naomi had that day, and it went like this:

Fran Naomi: Those little dolls you’re playing with look like fun.

Portia Genie: Oh yes, it’s always fun to play with other dolls. We have lots of fun here.

Fran Naomi: I see you also have a teddy bear.

Portia Genie: Yes, he’s Pooh Bear. You know, from the stories?

Fran Naomi: Of course. I have a teddy too. His name is Oatmeal. You know, like the mushy cereal.

Portia Genie: I like oatmeal. Especially with cinnamon and sugar!

Fran Naomi: I prefer Fruit Loops myself, but he looks like oatmeal, so… Why are you wearing boys shoes?

Portia Genie: They’re comfortable. And we don’t have very many pairs of girls shoes for all the girl dolls who are here. I see you have two pairs of girls shoes. That’s really nice.

Fran Naomi: It is. I can wear the shoes that lace up or I can wear the Mary Jane shoes.

Portia Genie: Gosh, it must be nice to have options like that.

Fran Naomi: Yeah, it is.

Portia Genie:  Do you want to play with us? You and Oatmeal?

Fran Naomi: Sure, that would be fun.

Portia Genie: I’ll play with Pooh Bear and Britney. Do you want to play with Oatmeal and Bailey?

Fran Naomi: You’re going to let me play with your doll? Just like that?

Portia Genie: Of course! You’re new and I want you to feel at home. This is your home now too, after all.

Fran Naomi: Gosh. That’s really nice. I didn’t expect anyone here to be so nice to me.

Portia Genie: Well, Britney and Bailey like to play, but they’re both a little bit shy so they often don’t say much when we play.

Fran Naomi: I see. You really don’t have any girls shoes for you to wear?

Portia Genie: No, I don’t. I don’t mind though. These shoes are comfortable. It would be nice to have some pretty Mary Janes like yours someday though. I’m sure I’ll get to wear pretty girls shoes eventually.

Fran Naomi: You’re not going to ask to wear mine?

Portia Genie: Oh, no. Those are yours. I wouldn’t ask to wear your shoes.

Fran Naomi: But you’re going to let me play with Britney.

Portia Genie: Yes, that doesn’t mean I want something from you.

Fran Naomi: Wow. That’s not the way I think at all. You’re a lot nicer than me.

Portia Genie: You can be nice too.

Fran Naomi: You think so?

Portia Genie: Of course. Anybody can be nice if they want to be.

Fran Naomi: Huh. I hadn’t really thought of it like that before.

Portia Genie: What do you want to play together? A game? Make believe?

Fran Naomi: Well, I can’t just sit here and play with you and Britney and Bailey while you’re having to wear boys shoes. So, why don’t you try on my Mary Jane shoes. I bet they’re just as comfy as your boys shoes.

Portia Genie: Are you sure? You said you’re not really nice like that.

Fran Naomi: Well, I haven’t been before, but like you said, I can be nice if I really want to be.

Portia Genie: Wow. Okay. Thanks a lot! They’re really pretty shoes.

Then Fran Naomi and the two littler dolls, Britney and Bailey, all waited for Portia Genie to switch shoes before they began to play. They all seemed happier once I was able to catch them in this last photo. Sharing didn’t come easily to Fran Naomi, but she was happy when she finally did choose to share.

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My Musical Month of Bipolar Depression

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Staying one step ahead of the symptoms that come with the depression side of Bipolar Disorder isn’t an easy task to achieve. It can be exhausting. It can be draining. And it can seriously rearrange what I want to do with my days.

I’ve been battling a Bipolar depression episode most of this month. I have lots of tools at my disposal to help me in this battle. I don’t always have the best time at accessing the wherewithal to *use* all those those tools I have at my disposal, but this month I think the tool that I’ve been most successful at battling depression symptoms with has been music.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to music. And I’ve always loved to sing. When I was fourteen years old I began formal study of singing.  I studied singing for two decades. I never wanted to be a professional. I always attended voice lessons because I enjoyed them.

I didn’t know at fourteen that I would develop Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder in my twenties. Since the onset of those two conditions I have found that those voice lessons that I took for those twenty years were extraordinarily helpful in managing my moods. I find it just about impossible to feel emotionally lousy when I am engrossed in singing beautiful music.

All those years I was studying singing I also really wanted to learn piano, but my family could never afford to buy a piano. My parents felt that if you were going to learn piano then it was important to have regular access to a piano to practice on. I agreed with them, so I didn’t get piano lessons. Even so, I’ve always loved the idea of learning piano.

This month while I have been feeling pretty low on a regular basis I’ve been puling myself back out of those lows from the depression side of Bipolar Disorder with signing. In particular I’ve been signing along to the Broadway cast recordings to musicals. My singing training was mostly classical, for opera and classical concerts. I also sang a lot of musical theatre in my voice lessons.

This month I’ve been choosing the Broadway cast recordings that have subject matter that’s pretty heavy. I have a history of acting in theatre, both straight plays and musical theatre, so when I sing along with those Broadway cast recordings I let myself really get immersed in the stories those musicals are telling and go full-on in acting the roles I’m singing. Even though I’m standing in my kitchen with cats watching me.

I have found this month that singing the scores to shows that have pretty dark subject matters help me manage my moods better than the lighthearted musicals. As I’m singing I really pay attention to what’s happening to the characters in shows like Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and Spring Awakening. Then I compare what’s happening with me to what’s going on in the lives of those musical theatre characters. Even when I start the day not feeling well *at all* I still have to admit, every time, that I am not facing the issues those characters are facing.

I’m not fighting for my life in the French Revolution, or in the war in Vietnam. I’m not facing the horrors that take place in Spring Awakening. I’m living my life. And compared to all those options? I’v got it pretty darn easy.  Singing along with those shows gives me a fantastic dose of perspective. Add that dose of perspective the amazing melodies I end up singing to help myself feel better and well, by the time I’m through to the end of any of those musicals I feel a whole lot better.

Last year I purchased a nice electric piano for myself. All those years I didn’t get to study piano but I still wanted to. And still do. So, my new electric piano has been sitting here patiently waiting for me to start learning to play. So, while I’m still fighting the good fight against these depression symptoms I’m finally taking some time to start learning to play piano.

It’s been a long long time that I’ve wanted to learn piano, but I’m still here in this life. So, it’s  not too late. I don’t expect to become a virtuoso pianist, but I have a feeling that making music on the piano just might become another tool I will be able to add to my arsenal to help myself through these occasional seasons of Bipolar depression.

I feel so grateful to life for providing me with singing lessons when I was young, with the ability to get my own piano last year, and for the existence of music in the world. They say that music soothes the savage beast, and I’m feeling really pleased today that Bipolar depression symptoms are the savage beast in my lief that I am able to soothe with making music.

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

What If??

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People who write creatively are called to do so by inspiration; the Muse, if you will. People who write also are sometimes just as likely to listen to the Demons of Self Doubt as they are to listen to their Muse. That’s how people are. Sometimes we feel confident about our abilities and talents, and other times we wonder who we think we’re fooling.

I write. Primarily, I am a playwright and photo storyteller, though I also write novels and novellas. Like many others who have written before me, I am in regular contact with both my Muse, and also with my personal Self Doubt Demon. It occurred to me somewhat recently to wonder what might happen if I were to personify my Muse, and that Self Doubt Demon, and let them say in writing all the things I hear them saying in my head?

How would my Muse and my Self Doubt Demon behave? What sorts of personalities would they have? When given a voice of her own would my Muse be more effective in her efforts to keep me inspired and writing as she already normally was? And what about that Self Doubt Demon? Would she get more power by being given a voice? Or, would the hurtful things she said be instead diffused of their toxic power and seem utterly ridiculous to me?

I had to find out! I had to know. What if??

Since I have already established this blog as a place where I creatively manage my mental health I figure why not seek to answer these questions for myself here. I also hope that while I find out what happens when my Muse and my Self Doubt Demon are given the choice to speak their minds in print, maybe someone else who reads these discussions will find this part of my journey useful. Maybe observing what transpires in these particular blog posts will turn out to benefit other people, creative or not, in their interactions with their own Muse and Self Doubt Demons.

I have always felt that sharing our experiences with others both validates our experiences for ourselves, and it also helps us feel more connected to other people. We often discover when we share our experiences that we are more alike than we are different. Our shared experiences give us power to battle those Self Doubt Demons. I believe we all have both a Muse and a Self Doubt Demon, whether or not we are writers or creative people. I also believe though that we truly are all writers, and we are all creative. We all write our own life stories one day at a time, each day that we live them.

In this journey of personification for my Muse and my Self Doubt Demon I have given them names. My Muse is called Agnes. And that Self Doubt Demon of mine is called Rasi Tripe. I hope anyone who reads the correspondence which will accumulate here from them will enjoy reading it as much as they enjoy the other types of posts I’m making here. I have a feeling that Agnes and Rasi Tripe will have plenty to say to me, and I certainly feel ready to give my responses to them. Really, every post I make on this blog on any topic really is a response to either my Muse or to that Self Doubt Demon, and sometimes the blog posts on other topics address both of them. 

I’m mighty curious to see what they have to say to me. And there’s only one way to find out what will happen!

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

Ridiculous Breakfast Smiley Face

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I don’t know about you, but there are days when I wake up feeling great and happy, and there are other days where I wake up feeling just about the opposite. As I live each day, managing my various physical and mental health conditions, I am learning ways I can help myself feel better on days that don’t start out feeling great, or days that begin with feeling happy but take a wrong turn later and then don’t feel good.

These days I find that the littlest things can sometimes make the biggest difference in the way my moods flow from day to day. The photo you see above was a breakfast I ate sometime last year (before my physical health needs required me to eat a low-carb diet) on a day that I wasn’t feeling so great in the morning. I arranged my breakfast that way on the plate to help alter my sour mood. My breakfast looked so ridiculously happy that I had to smile along with it.

I have been studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy for quite a few years now, and as you read my blog posts I’m sure you’ll notice that I tend to mention things I have learned in DBT study that are helping me manage my mental illness symptoms, and my life in general. One of those skills that I find helpful every time I use it is a skill in which you improve the current moment by adding some fun to what you’re doing. So, that’s what I did by arranging my breakfast that day last year into a ridiculous breakfast smiley face.

I could have gone about eating my breakfast in a lousy mood, and I bet my day would have been less pleasant than it turned out to be. By choosing to arrange my breakfast on the plate in a silly smiling face I improved that moment, and I cheered myself up. It didn’t take much time at all to choose to do that, but it made a difference. I remember giggling while I took that photo, and I also remember thinking how great it was that doing such a simple thing cheered me up and made eating breakfast a much more pleasant experience.

It’s the little things. I find, so often in my life, it’s the little things that I do which make a really big difference in whether I thrive or suffer while managing the health conditions I have. I love that I can make choices to help myself feel better and have a higher quality of life, even though my conditions and symptoms are what they are.

Today I intend to improve as many of the moments I will experience as I can. I appreciate so much that I can use this skill to enhance my days. Today I have some fairly mundane tasks to attend to for work, and other areas of my life. But, I don’t have to approach them as though they will be soul-sucking and dreary. I’m looking forward to seeing how I choose to improve my moments today.

We all write a page of our own life stories each day we live. I plan to make today a good chapter in my life story, even if everything that happens isn’t exactly what I would have chosen. I hope that you who are reading this post also write a good page in your life story today. Let’s all improve as many of our moments in our stories as we can!

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

Accepting myself unconditionally isn’t selfish after all!

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What you see above is one of the first pictures I colored in an adult coloring book. I colored that picture with colored pencils in an effort to give myself some compassion. At the time I have to admit that it didn’t really work. I didn’t believe those words. I did like the colors I chose to use. Colors are pretty.

For many years I had a really hard time feeling like being kind to myself, and doing self-care, were selfish choices to make. I think that’s an easy trap to fall into when you don’t always feel confident, and you’re not always overflowing with healthy self-esteem and self-worth. However, after spending a few years intensively studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and taking the time to learn a variety of meditation techniques, I realized that I can make a different choice from thinking that way.

One of the guided mediations I have been using almost daily since early 2015 is where I first heard an explanation that I could get on board with of why doing self-care and giving myself compassion are not selfish acts. In that meditation the soothing and calming voice leading the meditation explained to me that when I take the time to do activities that are helping me feel good about myself, or helping me feel better for my basic physical health, that’s not selfish because it’s helping me become the best version of myself.

That soothing and calming meditation guide went on to explain that being the best version of myself is an important thing to become because how I am when I interact with others makes a difference in how those interactions play out. The meditation guide described this as a gift I’m giving to myself, and that it is also a gift I’m also giving to every single person who I come in contact with in any way. That clicked.

I don’t want to be that person who yells at customer service people on the phone, or who lashes out at cashiers in stores. I want to treat everyone the way I want to be treated. Including myself. So, now, several years after I colored that picture you see above, now it’s finally working as a great reminder.

Accepting myself unconditionally isn’t easy to do. Encouraging myself and doing what I need to in order to be as healthy as I can be; these are choices I have to make fresh again every single morning. But, you know what? In the end, making those choices IS worth it, because I’m worth it.

And you know what else? You’re worth it too. Yes, you. That’s right. I’m talking to the person who is reading this post right now. You too are worthy of giving yourself compassion and doing whatever self-care you need to become your best self. I know this may not be easy to believe right now, but I’m pretty sure that if I was able to get around to believing it, then you can too. I know it’s not easy though, and it very well may take a while, so I’ll leave this post here as a gentle reminder to you, and also as a reminder to myself.

I know there will probably be days when I’ll have go back to having trouble believing this stuff. So, with any luck, having this post here will remind me on the difficult days why I’m doing this work on myself.

I’m committed to accepting myself unconditionally today. Today is all I have to focus on right now. Tomorrow will be another new chance to try again.

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.