In T.S. Eliot's famous poem, J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons. I measure my life in small, cherished moments. My definition of recovery is each year I'm able to stay out of the hospital. Your definition of success will differ from mine, and yet the main thing is, it's up to you to define it.
How I stay out of the hospital is by taking the meds, keeping active, and doing my writing. I've learned that the act of stirring coffee with those spoons can be gratifying. I take pleasure, of course, in the work I do-and more than that, I take comfort in the small things. I toyed with calling this blog entry "really simple" in recovery or "simply real." My goal is to keep my life simple-and real.
The day after Barack Obama won in a landslide, I went to Starbucks where I bought a classic chocolate doughnut and tall peppermint hot chocolate. I took them to the bar, where I sat reading the New York Times election coverage. I would be happy if all I had was that: a trip to a coffeehouse every day to enjoy an hour or two reading a book or working on writing projects.
I love Starbucks. I also love a café in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, called Tillie's where you can hear jazz on a summer night. [Their red velvet cupcake is legendary.] My first article published in SZ magazine was "My Life, My Friends, My Coffeehouse." These gathering places are welcoming to everyone, poets and posers, street folk, and folk sirens taking the open mic on a Saturday night at the Muddy Cup on the Island.
When I first began attending the support group, everyone met at the Muddy Cup afterwards to talk. I found out we shared a love of music and fashion. I'd buy six salt caramels and a mug of latte as big as a bowl, and make them last as long as the moment.
The whole of recovery is to "be here now" to quote Ram Dass. This is all we have and nothing more: one day. I wrote in an earlier Connection entry, "Life will tell you, if only you stop to listen." It has my attention now. The future can take care of itself; I'll turn that page when I come to it.
That's the beauty of living in the now, and finding your own third place to go to where you feel accepted and can distract yourself from the symptoms, or your worries, even if it's out on the back porch with a tall glass of lemonade and a good book or an iPod.
My theory is that I have every hard time to credit for making me who I am today. Maybe it isn't easy for you to see the good in any of this, and that's OK, I wouldn't want to take away from what you're going through. So what can I tell you? Find one good thing each day to hold on to that wasn't there the day before. Fire up the computer and write a SharePost. You are not alone. That's why if it is at all possible, I urge you to find a coffeehouse in your neighborhood or town, or even just inhabit the public library for a couple of hours, tootling on their computers or reading a magazine.
I titled this blog entry, in the end, "Really Simple in Recovery" because I wanted to riff on the magazine, Real Simple that I sometimes buy at the Container Store when I pop in to buy organizing supplies for my apartment.
How do I keep things simple-and real? In my apartment, I have "a place for everything, and everything in its place." Rather than move out in 2009, I'm considering staying here another year so I can save up money; I'll have a contractor slap a coat of paint on the living room walls. Having a nurturing home where we can retreat is another way of taking care of our mental health.
I also strive to clear out the unruly thoughts that grew like weeds over the last couple of years. I've decided I can change my perception of what goes on-that is within my power. Slowly as the Geodon began working, I was able to accept the struggle and let go of the need to be in control at all times.
Zig Ziglar's book, Embrace the Struggle, hits the bookstores in fall 2009, and I'll review it here as soon as I read it. He's a motivational speaker whose book, See You At the Top, I read in the 1990s. I'm hoping his new book will put into words what I've been trying to express all along: that there could be a purpose in why sometimes it's hard, and we must bear the pain with courage and meet it head-on.
Of course, I don't know what that purpose is, it eludes me, and so all I can do is take it on faith that there's a reason it's here now in my life, in other people's lives. I can live with the not knowing as long as I feel there's some benefit in the struggle.
The concept of a third place we can go to when we need solace is one that resonates with me because it's the perfect way to be part of the life around us even if we're not interacting with other people as friends or romantic partners. [Of course, my waistline could start to look like a classic chocolate doughnut if I ate too many of those, but that's another story.]
Keeping it real we accept the things we cannot change, and change the things we can, and are wise enough to know the difference. To have a routine that is as simple as going to a coffee shop once a day or once a week could benefit us. To simplify things by not taking on too much allows us to live our lives in balance. This balancing act is one we all juggle: to be true to ourselves at the same time we live in a world that expects us to be a certain way.
After a diagnosis of SZ, it's my contention that we get to choose how we want to live. We can push out everything that doesn't support our recovery in one way or another. My role here is to be a writer and advocate, as well as a daughter, and an aunt to Rosa and Christopher. That is all I could possibly hope to do and be in this lifetime.
You will find your niche, too. It could take time. Like I suggested in the last blog entry, volunteer work-a labor of love-is the greatest job you could ever have. You could also make it your job to be good to yourself, and finding your own third place could bring you joy as well.
At this point, I'll close by recommending the Starbucks Espresso Truffle-a Product (RED) drink, five cents of whose profit this holiday season goes to help end AIDS in Africa, like other Product (RED) offerings at retailers. It's an espresso hot chocolate that will rev you up and costs only $3.95. Enjoy.
Published On: December 16, 2008