The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Finding the Voice in the Quiet

Every so often, I get to sit down with a good friend (who also happens to be our worship leader...) to just chat, catch up on life, and of course, down a little liquid happy juice.

And by "liquid happy juice," I of course mean coffee. Or tea. Or iced tea, for that matter.

I especially appreciate the kinds of questions he asks - the kind that go on for days, and actually make you think about things instead of just spouting off a carefully polished and pretty answer. The kinds of questions that open up paths to deep conversation and authentic sharing.

Good stuff, Maynard.

Seems like every time we do this - get some time to just talk and consider, I always come away with something specific that was a "lightbulb moment" - something to think through, to look carefully at, and to work on. A blessing from my Father - God is good, and He loves His kids. Always.

We were talking about the daily rhythm of life, how I have to structure it around the challenges my mind gives me and the tools I use to maintain balance. One of them is going to neutral or "centering" -  when I've had a bit of an upswing in my emotions, become aware of it, and need to come back to center without crashing down to depression, usually by "getting quiet" - I sit quietly, breathe deeply, and allow the mania to pass gently, instead of dropping me down the elevator shaft.

And he asked,  "What happens in that silence? Where do you go? What do you hear in the quiet?"

Ok - he put it much more eloquently, both wrapping it in thoughtful questions and gentle encouragement to consider. But here's what stuck as my head kicked into ponder mode...

How do I think God factors into that stillness? Do I take that time to acknowledge Him, to think about Him, to quietly frame a sentence prayer or two, to open myself to the Spirit and see God as the one who catches me in the long fall and keeps me from crashing?

Like I said, he put it much better, wrapped it in inquiry and insight, and served it up, Holy Ghost style. No garnish needed - I always hate it when they put the wilted lettuce or sad parsley on the side anyway. But those are the thoughts that stuck with me.

After all...

You throw a whole pot of pasta at the wall, and only some of it sticks, after all. So from his full pot of angel hair pasta, that's the stuff that stuck in my noggin.

Al dente.

With a lovely dressing of just a bit of EVOO and some roasted garlic. But no Parmesan cheese - it's a little bitter to my muted taster and my missing sense of smell. Mozzarella, on the other hand, is delicious and always heaped on stuff wherever I can get away with it.

Can you tell I'm writing this shortly before lunch? I thought you might have noticed that, even without the roaring sound of my stomach growling. 

** Random thought: Since over half of my stomach ain't in da house anymore, how is it possible that the little tube that's left actually growls a LOT louder than it did when the whole thing was operating? Weird. Slightly annoying. But kind of cool too. In a weird, slightly annoying way. ** 

So, back to something not involving pasta, cheese, lunch, or growling tummies...

I got nothing.

Just kidding. Ha ha hee hee ho ho *snort* Woo.

That picture I just wrote - seeing God as the one who catches me as I fall into the elevator shaft, gently bringing me safely back to center, keeping me from crashing at the bottom - that's really hitting me. Not just "getting quiet" to try and find balance again, but acknowledging that God meets me in the quiet and carries me back to balance.

I guess I never thought about what fills the silence.

I mean, silence really never is, right? We're never anyplace where it's truly "silent." Quiet? Yes. Less than noisy? Hopefully.

Annoyed by the ka-THUMP of the cotton' pickin' bonehead and his car stereo with the nuclear powered subwoofer that I can hear clearly in my living room, even though his big ol' SUV is a block away and still capable of giving me a whopper of a headache while only turned up to 2.3?

Oh good gravy bones, yes. With cheese on top. But not Parmesan.

I re-think my views on gun control when he parks that thing right in front of my house... Forget assault rifles - I want bazookas, rocket launchers, grenades, and torpedoes. NOW.

Or at least a catapult to launch some Beka fodder from the backyard. Talk about acid rain...

So, silence? Not usually.

Even if I were placed in an acoustically silent space, it still wouldn't be silent. I'm one of the many people that deal with tinnitus - a constant ringing in my ears. It's there all the time, hopefully receding into the background noise, as I try to do the one thing that's most difficult to do - ignore it.

It never stops.

The key is to never be someplace "silent" - in extreme quiet, the ringing becomes a roar, and it's all I can hear. So there's constantly something going on in our home - music, a fan for white noise, Beka muttering, belching, or passing a whuffy for our entertainment and edification, etc. -  to keep the ringing pushed into the background.

And yes, that does raise the possibility that the ringing is not all I try to ignore and push to the background. I don't think I deliberately try and ignore God's voice in a quiet whisper, but when the habit of pushing sounds to the background is so deeply entrenched, maybe I push away too much.

A thought for consideration... but not right now.

When I "get quiet," it's never about seeking silence. Maybe it's closer to say I'm seeking "stillness..." a calm harbor to protect my sanity from wind and waves.

So, in those times, I need to see my Rock and Fortress in the calm. A small shift in perception, but what a difference it would make. Instead of running from chaos, I'm running toward peace. Instead of fleeing mania, I'm pursuing calm. Instead of seeking escape from something that I can't always control, I mindfully place myself in His shelter and care.

He was and is always there. He always will catch me, comfort me, and protect me from the long drop into darkness. It's simply learning to see what is always true...

God is my refuge and strength.

"He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
that shadows a dry, thirsty land.
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
and covers me there with His hand."
- Fanny Crosby

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stop. Turn. Take a Step...

"No matter where we are at, we can always make the next RIGHT choice."

- Brian Hardin, reflecting on David and Absalom, Daily Audio Bible Podcast, 5/31/2013

I really, really, really hate making decisions.


If I were to look back at my personal history...

(And who would pass up a wonderful opportunity like that?

... Said nobody, ever.)

I think the trend that would be most clear is "navigation by inaction." I think it's fair to say that a large number of the decisions in my life were made by simply waiting until all the options sorted themselves out or died off as time passed, so the last one left standing got the nod.

Not a great way to steer the ship.

My college path? Pretty much floating along in the general music area, without having a clear idea (or fuzzy or even "grungy beyond the help of glass cleaner") of what I'd do with it.


God loves His kids, so He had, waiting in the wings, a slight aptitude for broadcasting, to give me a place to stand for 20-some years, ALMOST 20 of those full-time in Grand Rapids.

(Yes, I probably do still have some unresolved issues with being laid off 6 or 7 months shy of my 20 year anniversary. Grrr...)

God also made sure that I was in the exact right place to meet the cute little girl that would become Herself, my Beloved and my Best Friend.

He knows that if the decision is too complicated, I'll have a tough time with it. So, He made it simple - see her? Marry her - NOW.

Ok - I can do that. And did. And all rejoiced, especially my mom, who got a much-loved daughter out of the deal.

But as for making decisions, charting a course, setting my eyes on a goal, deciding on a path, or other good adultesque stuff like that, well...

Not so much.

I tend to stumble into things as opposed to sitting down and actually choosing them. Or planning to go in that direction. And really, I can see a lot of grace and mercy from my Father wrapped up in that. He knew that learning to decide, to choose, to find a path under my own power (with His help, of course...) wasn't something that I was up for just yet.

Much of my childhood and adult life was spent with extra baggage - a LOT of extra baggage, in the form of more than 200 pounds of extra weight to tote around. That left me a little passive, since the strength to move, to decide, to take action and choose a path was pretty much out of the question... After all, if you barely have the strength to waddle through the day, the energy to grapple with decisions and choices just ain't in da house.

Fo' sho.

So, peel off a layer - like sleep apnea, for example - treat it, start actually sleeping at night, and then things will be just dandy, right?...

No. Peel off another layer...

Take off 240 pounds, basically rebuild from the ground up, so without having to drag all that extra weight around, things will just be peachy, right?

No. Peel off another layer...

Ok - let's take some steps to deal with depression and bipolar. The meds are working, I'm learning about triggers and behavior and how to watch my emotional barometer and keep a semblance of control through the day. So now we've reached the land of hunky-dunky, right?


*insert sound of crickets here...*

What you have left is someone who doesn't really quite know yet who they are, even though they finally recognize their face in the mirror. Three years of uncovering layer after layer - is it any wonder that the person that's left is still standing there, blinking in the sun after being in the dark for years and years?

Decisions? Choices? Give me a break.

But, those skills - deciding, choosing, taking a path, even if it turns out to be the wrong one, then shifting and taking another one, learning from the wrong ones and rejoicing in the right ones - those are necessary skills for anyone to possess.

I just get to learn mine at 53. Yay me. Woo.

(And just to get ahead of the Proofreader, yes, I am now 54. And yes, I did actually start working on this "decisions and choices and related poopy" sometime between 51 and 53, so perhaps the blanket statement "In my early to mid-fifties" would be a bit more accurate. But let's face it, sweetheart - if the peeps wanted accurate, they wouldn't touch this blog with a 10 foot [actual measurement - 9.728] pole...)

Why yes, we do actually have discussions like this. Thanks for asking. Back to learning and choices and other fluffy like that...

It's not easy. Imagine taking your toddler, and telling them, "Ok - today you're going to decide what steps we are going to take in the next 24 hours to begin to relieve our financial struggles, including making goals for action steps to get this puppy going."

Wha'? Can't I just have a cookie?

I get to learn toddler skills using adult decision material. Not fun. Even a little.

See, it really is like that, saddlepals. In many ways, my odometer was reset to zero, and I'm starting all over again. Between dumping half of myself, and then finding the mental challenges hiding underneath, I really don't have some of the skill sets a person my age should have.

But I can tell you a fun story. Or make you a little doggie out of a balloon. Homie got skillz - they're just silly skillz.

And yet I have to be capable of those much-loved "adult decisions."

Ok - how about just a graham cracker and some milk? Hello?

So what Brian Hardin said on the DAB was a real gift from my Father...

"No matter where we are at, we can always make the next RIGHT choice."

Choose a path. Walk a bit. Oops - not the way I was hoping...

All is not lost. Stop. Turn. Make another choice. Head in a new direction. See if this one works.

If not... Stop. Turn. Make another choice.

Along the way, the Lord gently reminds me that it really is just that simple. When I see options all around me, making the room spin, and I feel powerless to even try to sort any of them out...

Stop. Turn. Make a choice. Head in a new direction. See if this one works. And if it doesn't, that's alright... Stop. Turn. Make a choice. Learn from the last one, apply the lesson to the next one.

"No matter where we are at, we can always make the next RIGHT choice."

Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Father.

Ok - Decision Making for Adult Toddlers 101. Sign me up - I'll be there. Kicking, whining, and still wanting a cookie, but I'll be there.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Last Ones To Know...

Before we bring this thingie on to the stage, let's welcome the opening act - a random act of randomness...

I had a thought this morning, and though I've tried hard not to encourage Steve, the Mental Hamster, in that sort of thing, sometimes he flexes his furry little muscles and I can't stop it...

I wonder if the reason I'm always trying to do things with my hands - loom knitting, wire jewelry, leather work, sewing, the list goes on and on, including my most recent obsession, crochet - is because so much of my giftedness is wrapped up in bringing the intangible into the world? Music, writing, storytelling - all things that are spun out of nothing into something, but still nothing that really endures.

After all:

Music is real in the ears of the listener, but two people don't hear things the same, so there's no permanence - nothing endures so you can point to it and say, THERE it is! Written music does endure, sort of, but it's only heard through someone else's interpretation. It's not permanent - it doesn't stand on its own.

Words can be written down, so you would think there's a measure of permanence, but words make up opinions, ideas, thoughts - all sorts of things that morph in the minds of the readers. Even facts aren't lasting, since we know that today's fact is tomorrow's statistical spin fodder...

Stories are never intended to be permanent - they grow and evolve in the telling, and will always change as they are passed from one to another, from generation to generation. They endure, sort of, but they aren't permanent.

On the other hand:

A crocheted dishcloth remains a crocheted dishcloth until its shaggy, faded, worn existence comes to an end.

(Unless BekaV got to it first, that is. If she gets a fang on it, it's history. Right now. No judge, no jury, just shaggy, worn, soggy, and shredded - to be "deposited" in the back yard sooner or later...)

I wonder if this whole "trying to find something to create that stays thing" - something made from something instead of something made from nothing - is even more of a deep need for someone like me, dealing with mental issues as well as a skill set that leans toward wading in the intangible? For me, my creative pursuits and my basic abilities take me far into the abstract, and then my mental balance / maintenance demands sojourning there as well.


Crochet (or whatever) gives me something real, tangible, and physical to hold on to, to work with, and to see the results of. (Never mind that it looks like something horked up by a yarn beast who ate too much spicy food and then went on a roller coaster bender - it's still a "real" something that I can touch and see and feel, unlike a lot of the stuff I'm driven to mess with.)

Thanks for indulging me in this random thought. Now, let's get on to what this actually is about...


Why does it seem that when it comes to our gifts, we're the last ones to know?

Ok - I guess I mean we're the last ones to acknowledge.

The last ones to admit?

Modesty to the point of non-existence?

I'm a little confused about what I'm confused about.

See, this notion that I might be a writer is a fairly new thing to wrap my noggin around. Some of my peeps who have known me for years and years find it quite odd that I write, that I actually am sort of maybe pursuing writing, that I kind of possibly find some joy and purpose in writing, and that I wonder or speculate in a quiet, under-the-radar kind of way if this might possibly be something in some vague form maybe kind of worth making a tentative sort of priority (possibly) in my life.

I mentioned the confused thing, right? Ok - just making sure.

But then, others who haven't known me quite as long, and perhaps don't know some of the depths or at least slightly-more-than-shallows of my world, well, they seem to be non-shocked at my quasi-possible, maybe, writing life, and even sometimes actually encourage, support, and are semi-non-tentatively accepting of this whole "maybe I are a writer kind of sometimes possibly" thing.

Sort of.

(Confusion? I did? Ok - just checking.)

This writing thing, as I said, is a new thing to wrap my noodle around. My mom was the writer, not me. I'm the comedian, musician, and village idiot of our clan.

(Why yes, I am the youngest. How could you tell?)

So, let me try this out... Cal, this is for you...

You're a writer.

You're a writer and a storyteller.

You're a gifted writer and storyteller.

Do you have ANY idea how hard it was for me to type those phrases and not immediately hit DELETE about a thousand times?

(That's BACKSPACE or BKSP or something to you non-Mac folks. I'm such a MacDude that I'm surprised one of the many moles on my back hasn't spontaneously reformed into an Apple logo.


Why does it seem like sometimes, when it comes to our gifts, we're the last to know?

A giftedness blind spot? A "pay no attention to those gifts behind the curtain" moment? A "homie got mad skillz, fo' sho" singularity?

Word to yo' alpaca.

Or, maybe our true gifts, our real ones - the deep ones that encompass who we were always meant to be, giving us a little picture of what Kingdom life is supposed to be all about - remain so central to the core of our being that we use them, live them, become them, without even being aware of their existence?

Maybe the gifts that we know about, that we recognize and "use," aren't the real ones - the core ones that point to who and what God made us to be. Perhaps if our core gifts were on the surface, where we can easily see and admire them, exercise them under the guise of "using them more effectively," (Which can be a code phrase, meaning "trotting them around where others can see their fancy plumage...") or otherwise fixate on them, perhaps they'd creep into the center ring, taking over the whole shebang and displacing the One who should sit on the throne...

And oddly, perhaps they'd seem to morph into the shape of a gold cow... Or is that just one of my strange mental pictures? I've really got to get the horizontal hold fixed on this thing...

(A number of you didn't get that reference, because "horizontal hold" isn't something you've ever encountered. Bless ye, little younglings. That's why the good Lord invented Google...)

Perhaps those gifts (Dare I call them our "true gifts?" I guess I just did.) are too easy of a pride target, so the Lord allows them to grow in relative obscurity, protected from the forces in our broken world that would kill them at first sight.

When they're strong enough to pop their heads up out of the soil, when they're far enough along to survive outside the pouch, when the momentum of their existence allows them to roll over the initial obstacles that would stop them before they ever get a chance to get going...

Then He lifts the curtain, switches on the lights, and says "Look what I made for you!"

You're a writer.

You're a writer and storyteller.

You're a gifted writer and storyteller.

And there we are, blinking in the bright lights and the shininess of it all, breath taken away, stunned by the possibility that this is ours, that it's always been ours, and it's finally here.

No wonder we can't seem to speak of what we hope,  just in case we were dreaming, and it isn't really ours - isn't really "us." We keep expecting a knock at the door, where someone in a tidy uniform says, "Sorry - this was delivered to the wrong address. I'll need to take it back."

So this gift, this thing that's so deeply a part of us that we can't even imagine it, becomes more and more visible to everyone...

Except the one it belongs to.

Yes, my peeps - I guess I am a writer. I really am a storyteller. 

Am I gifted?




Give me some time, would ya? We aren't going to walk the whole distance in one day.

So, what say ye gentlepeeps all? What's hiding behind the curtain, just waiting until the lights come up and He says, "Look what I made for you?"

I can't wait to see what yours is.

And I'm thinking I'll see it before you do, 'cause I think that's how it's supposed to be.

Just like mine.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Anniversairily Speaking...

So, 31 years ago, August 7, 1982...

Two clueless kiddos dun did da deed...

(with some rather tricky negotiations)

And though all was joy, they really had no idea what was in store for them.

The little girl was very patient...

Because she saw something clearly that others only glimpsed.

So as the years flowed around them both...

She kept her eyes on what she saw from the start...

And waited for the day...

When others could see it too.

She knew what was there all along, seeing past the outward to the beauty within.

She married her best friend...

And with love and a sweet, tenderhearted spirit, started a wonderful work...

Smoothing away the rough places, the scars, the ugliness...

Leaving the joy, the beauty, and the laughter to shine.

She married her best friend...

And is teaching him to see the best in himself,

Which is what she saw in him from the start.

When they look at each other, they see what they've always seen for 31 years...

Best friends.

Happy anniversary, shade of my heart.
I love you.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Intentional Intensity

There are places in life that we have to exert control. And yes, I am speaking in both tangible and intangible ways.

Control over one's right foot when driving, for example - that the accelerator might keep the vehicle within the posted speed limit. Even when all around you think of it more as a guideline than a law.

** Rant alert... **

Really, people? 50+ mph just heading up Leonard Street, where the posted speed is 35, sometimes 30, and only 45 when you finally get to the bridge over the highway? Give me a break... Remember, non-patient personages, you'll be on 96 soon enough, and can get your speedy ya-ya's out to your hearts content. In the meantime, BACK OFF!

(And, since I'm over-generalizing here, I'll be imagining that once you actually get ON the highway, you'll realize that 70 mph is certainly fast enough for anyone to get where they need to go in a reasonable amount of time, so certainly the speed limit will be observed by you and all others.

Ha ha ha hee hee hee ho ho ho *snort* Woo......

I crack me up sometimes.)

Yup, I'm the guy you don't want to be behind, the person you dread when gunning it down a city street, the bane to your existence on any two lane road...

I'm the driver who goes right about the speed limit. (Or even slightly below...) All the time. Even on the highway - I actually drive about 65 there. *gasp* *shudder* I'm the driver that you seem to feel the need to jump on the back bumper of.

And, just to clear a few things up...

NO, getting so close that I can see what kind of gum you're chewing will not inspire me to go faster.

NO, flashing your lights makes no difference either.

As for your horn? Stuff it. Even a lame driver like me knows that gas pedals aren't controlled by Siri - no matter how much noise you make, my car won't respond to your subtle sonic cues and go faster.

And, for the record, if I AM in the left lane going *gasp* the actual speed limit, it's not to tick off the populace in general and you in particular - there's (usually) a reason.

For example, perhaps I'm getting ready to turn left and I'm not a fan of the "turn left from the right lane" technique I see so aptly demonstrated many times a day;

Or maybe I know that the road will shortly go down to one lane, and I'd rather plan ahead and be in the correct lane, than to try and fling in front of someone at the last minute, as again I see demonstrated many, many times a day;

Perhaps since I drive this street, I don't know, a whole honkin' LOT of times in a week, I have intimate knowledge of that upcoming construction project that is woefully undersigned but will shortly bring us all to a crawl, and again don't really want to be one of those drivers momma warned you about that zips up the lane right to the place where it closes and THEN turns on their signal, becoming indignant when a few folks ignore their plight, letting them sit there for a moment. (And only for a moment, since these folks are usually not the patient type and simply ram their nose in front of you - the "No hole? MAKE a hole!" technique that earns them such praise, respect, and commendations from all their peers...

Said nobody, ever.)

So, you're slightly inconvenienced from your pursuit of going like a bat out of Sheol by my pursuit of actually obeying the law? Get over it. Loosen the bone, Wilma. Chillax, dude.


** Rant alert ended. Thanks for your patience. **

So yes, getting back to my original premise, there are times in life to exert control.


"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven."

Solomon - what a wise guy.

Nyuk nyuk nuyk.

In my ongoing examination of how bipolar disorder impacts my day-to-day life, I'm learning to use the intensity knob - there are times where I have to mindfully realize what is going on, and apply control.

But that's true for just about anyone, isn't it? So I'm not really spouting stuff you didn't know already, right? 

Or, perhaps like me, you're still learning. Or need a refresher course. Then let's saddle up and ride on...

The place I'm learning to use the intensity knob is when dealing with mania - the "upswing" side of bipolar. When I've been intensely creative - spending a day making something or writing, maybe performing music or telling stories, even buried in a book for a day or watching a movie that drew me in hook, line, and sinker - when that's done, whatever it is, I'll be at the crest of an "up" cycle. And before I realize it, I could be so excited, so focused on creative energy, so wrapped up in a story or visual stimulation, that I'm in the thrall of mania and don't know it.

And that's bad because?

Because unlike someone who doesn't deal with bipolar (honestly, we all move from emotion to emotion, so we all "deal" with it to some extent), I don't come down gently and gradually from such a place. I don't go all in, experience the joy and emotional high from those things, and then calmly settle back to normal. Instead, without realizing it, I'll be chasing the mania, rolling the snowball downhill as it gains size and momentum, becoming an out-of-control monster...

Until it crashes.

Without control, without awareness, the shift doesn't come gradually. I'll go from full-tilt exuberance to absolute frustration and despair when the wave crashes down.

Maybe I'm crocheting, working along, things are looking wonderful, I'm almost done and am really happy with how the project is shaping up. But I don't realize that I'm getting tired - my mind has focused so intensely and totally that it's now reached the "Check, please" stage and is done playing nice with others. It's ready to go outside for recess, and it's going to leave with or without my consent.


Immediately, what was going so well, looking so nice (in my eyes, that is - it might look like a yarn train wreck to someone else, and probably does...), what was coming right along and nearing completion hits a brick wall and crashes. Maybe I drop a stitch, or make a mistake - whatever happened, the switch has been thrown and what was giving me such delight is now frustrating, is bug-ugly, and proves that I should never, NEVER have either crochet hook or yarn in hand ever again.

From there, it'll just head down to thoughts of how I can never actually produce anything decent, wondering why I keep trying even though I never make anything to be proud of or that is useful for anyone else, and, if left unchecked, will result in either such frustration that I'll rip the whole thing apart, trashing it, (or throwing it to BekaV as a new snack) or such a black mood that I'll withdraw into a dark hole and lose myself for a while.

Now, this is what bipolar feels like to me from the inside out. Your mileage may vary, and I certainly hope it does. A lot.

Is this the point where we turn the corner into happy happy joy land, away from the land where Cal eternally sucks us down a deep pit?

Sort of. Maybe. Kind of.

This is where I am learning to use the intensity knob - to mindfully apply the kind of control that comes naturally to most people but (because of a chemical imbalance in my brain) doesn't to me. 

The biggest factor is recognizing an extreme - if I don't at least try to remain aware of my emotional balance, then I will get hit by a freight train without even knowing I was on the tracks. So I'm learning to be aware of the behaviors and triggers that warn of an upswing...

For example, if I'm listening to a song, and keep hitting 'repeat,' so that I'm listening to it over and over again, something might be tilting a bit. Time to open my eyes and keep watch - that's a red flag that something might be lurking over the horizon.

(I think my personal best is listening to a Secret Garden song 15 or 20 times in a row - I'm not proud of that, for the record...)

If I keep rubbing my head back and forth, that's a red flag... and will prompt a remark from Herself that my hair's getting thin enough without me helping it along.

Ha ha ha. Very funny.

Triggers can be things like getting deeply into a project at the wrong time of day - I know that I might hyperfocus on this and get so caught up in it that I can't easily come out, so planning in advance my "exit strategy" is key. Things that I have to intensely focus on can be triggers that move me toward mania. Things that I deeply love can do it too.

Movies and I don't get along so well these days - I tend to either be very neutral about them, kind of seeing the story wash around me like a river flowing around a rock but not really having an effect on it; or I get so focused and "into" the story that when the movie ends, I don't want to come back - my imagination stays in that world, spinning new tales and ideas, trying to keep the upswing going. Trigger. Totally.

Knowing my mental and physical rhythm helps too... I know that my worst time is after 7pm - that's when my mental processing plant starts shutting down, as the little minions head off to quaff a few cold ones before beddie-bye. 

And by "cold ones," I, of course, mean root beer.

The later it gets, the less control I'll be able to exert.

If I need to be doing something into the "Danger Zone," (I heard you running the song through your noggin - don't deny it...) I have to keep awareness right in front of me, and recognize the signs that mean my saddle is starting to slip.

Time to crank the intensity knob down... way, w-a-a-y down.

So for example, at rehearsal on Thursday nights, I might seem distant or withdrawn as we get near the end of practice. That's not the case, really - I'm just pulling inward, using whatever resources remain to keep focus and maintain balance. To do more - to be gregarious and engaging, to be chatty and smiling, could start a snowball that I can't stop.

Overdramatic? Milking the situation for all the sympathy I can? Becoming one of those people you really don't like talking to, because they give you a catalogue of all their struggles every time you even say "Hi?"

No, I don't think so. Frankly, going through the laundry list of all the crapola it takes to keep me moving through the world isn't all that much fun, so trotting it out there and hoping others will pat me on the shoulder and tell me it's alright isn't really worth the effort.

Check out this little window into my world...

We were hanging out with some friends a while back... Ok, I was hanging out. Herself was digging into our friend's computer, helping to figure some stuff out and doing things that I'm pretty well convinced are allied with dark powers...

I love my wife, but I really don't understand what she does for a living. But hey - as long as the checks keep coming in, ignorance is a whole honkin' huge truckload of bliss. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Anyway, we hung out, Herself muttered incantations over technology, we enjoyed supper together, Herself summoned strange and unpronounceable characters onto the screen, we had an impromptu crochet lesson, Herself was buried up to her lovely neck in files, names, extensions, and other poopy that I shudder to consider...

So the two wifely personages were making technology succumb to their collective will, and I was teaching my buddy how to crochet. Good times.

Oh, I also read the kiddos a bedtime story -  "Charlie The Ranch Dog" by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman). Want me to read it to you? It's on my iPad - just ask...

And a lovely afternoon / evening moved on. Before we realized it, we'd crossed the 7pm line and were running on borrowed time.

We started getting on toward 9pm, and I knew it was just a matter of minutes before I shifted into waka-waka mode, but between this and that, we delayed...

And mania hit. Freight train.

I was trying to be aware, I knew it was coming, but I didn't reach for the intensity knob early enough.

The mania showed up in my conversation... I started babbling. Ok, it wasn't like incoherent mumbling or speaking in tongues or anything that should result in me being strapped into a special chair and hoisted off to a padded room...

Not that there's anything wrong with that, just for the record.

No, I just got "chatty." Kind of bubbling on, chatting about this and that in the euphoria of having spent time with good friends, without "this" or "that" necessarily being related to each other OR anything we were actually talking about.

Then I was trying and trying to find a really funny picture on my iPad that I just HAD to show them before we left. I mean, trying really hard. Looking through my "iPad Humor" file again and again, pausing to show them another funny picture, then back on the search. On and on.

Then, for my encore, I felt the need to lovingly mention that, boy, that dish we had for dinner was REALLY spicy, (which it wasn't...) and didn't work with my system at all, but it was still really tasty...


After we finally left, and my Beloved was driving home, I realized just how far my control had slipped, how much of an idiot I had acted like, and how embarrassed I was at having even mentioned the lovely and very slightly spicy dinner...

I swung straight down to the opposite extreme. Crash, bang, boom.

Now add to that deep sadness and embarrassment this little tidbit: When I stop focusing on something, anything, at that time of night, I'm going to "crash" very quickly - my head is going to shut down, I'm not going to be able to concentrate on much at all, and there's not a great deal I can do to stop it from happening.

Oh yeah - that'll help curb the darkness and depression. Yup.

So my Beloved had the joyous task of getting me home, riding herd on me like a rebellious toddler as she tried to keep me moving forward, keeping me focused on getting ready for bed while assuring me that things were alright and helping me use what little control I had remaining to step away from the darkness so I could have a chance of sleeping.

Thus endeth the little window into my world. Please close the drapes - quickly. No need to yank the cord off, tho...

(Our friends are aware of what we deal with, are very understanding, and for some odd reason love us. They'd never seen it in action, tho... Now they have.

My beloved apologized on my behalf the next day at church - I was so embarrassed, I couldn't even talk to them. Thanks, guys - we love you.)

That little scene from my world is, in a nutshell, why using the intensity knob is so very important. If I'm on an upswing, I've got to work hard to come down softly - before my head leaves the party with or without me.

Turn down the intensity gradually, step down instead of jumping, use whatever technique I can to exert control.

But that's true for just about anyone, isn't it? So I'm not really spouting stuff you didn't know already, right?

Or, perhaps like me, you're still learning.