With subtle confidence, I close out October. My goal of opening a savings account by October 20th has been replaced with the intention of contributing $500 per month to my current money market, starting in January. As I reflect on this month (the hottest October on record in New York City!), I've come up with some strategies and observations I'd like to share with you in a freehand way.
First, I recommend "compartmentalizing" your goals and starting with baby steps. How does one compartmentalize? By doing one thing at a time, and breaking it into smaller pieces. Be patient, act humbly. I've found this helps when the ride is slow and bumpy over the new terrain of illness.
Right now, my new goal is to change only one scene, a tiny section of the book, from the present tense to the past tense, each night. Sometimes, the farther along you've come, you forget the pleasure of achieving tiny victories. To live in the now, to say, "I can do this and I'm proud of myself" is the first step.
I don't recommend micro-managing every detail. Pick the one or two activities that are important to you, and focus on them completely. Allow the others to wait their turn. If you're immobilized and can't decide what one thing is best, pick any one thing and work on that. Risking taking action will give you the energy to continue.
It was another October, far away in 1987 when I returned home after the first hospital stay. I chose to take a jewelry-making class on Monday nights. That was my "one thing." I knew I couldn't go back to the way things were before I got sick, even if I held out nostalgia for my glory days as a disc jockey on the FM radio.
This fall, my one thing is slowly and systematically changing the book's first 100 pages from the present tense to the simple past. If I do nothing else, I'll be satisfied with that. Here's the consolation: minimizing the stress early on in your recovery by tackling only one or two things is a temporary solution. As you go along, you'll pick up momentum as your goals rise and change.
Bill McPhee, the founder and publisher of Schizophrenia Digest, wrote in an early editor's letter, "The goal is not to set the bar high, but to set it."
As I write this, it strikes me that "deadlines" literally kill the spirit at times. Rather than abandon a goal because you haven't achieved it by a certain date, improvise and revise the time for completion. My own goal of publishing the memoir now has a flexible suggestion of "by the time I'm 45" and I turn 43 in April. Remember, persistence trumps impatience. So I literally crawl along now as best I can. Left of the Dial is my life's work, and I will birth a beautiful baby, not an aborted fetus.
Some good news: the instructor of the memoir workshop I joined two weeks ago loved the new scene I wrote. He told the other women in the class, "Schizophrenia doesn't mean a split personality. It could be a normal person who suddenly has a breakdown. I have three friends it happened to." God has planted the instructor in my life, and I'm grateful.
On October 20th, I had the good fortune of sitting at the family table in the restaurant where we celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. The tables were arranged in a long U shape. My brother rang his glass and gave a toast. I was too nervous to say what was really on my mind, because it referred back to the truth: I'm alive today not only because my mother gave birth to me, but because she drove me to the emergency room within 24 hours of my breakdown.
Ending out this October blog entry on a note of gratitude, I'll write what I wanted to say:
My mother had some kind of fight in her, and I inherited this fighting spirit. She never abandoned my brother and me; even at our worst moments, she was there to bear our pain.
My father had some kind of ambition, and I believe this trait, too, was genetic. He started his business out of a two-car garage, and today it's one of the biggest of its kind. From him I learned to go after my dream and not quit until I made it happen.
I love you, Mom! I love you, Dad!
This, above all, clinches a successful recovery: to be loved, and to love.
Published On: October 29, 2007