What comes next – my two new blogs!

It has come clear to me over the last few days that I am not meant to let go of blogging – just of this particular blog.  This blog has become too unfocused: I have lost my way as a writer.  The focus has been too diffuse: what is it?  To help people grow?  It has too many threads: there’s ecstatic dancing, there’s bipolar disorder, there’s general inspiring stuff.  It’s all too much – no wonder it has started to feel to me less like a joy, a creative contribution to the world, and more like a burden.

I will peel off from this blog the two clear special-interest topics – ecstatic dancing and bipolar disorder.  They will each have a clear focus, a specific niche.  The goals will be more modest, more contained.  Not “I can help anybody grow”, but “If you have an interest in this specific area, this blog could potentially be useful (or fun) for you.

We are meant to dance - in one way or another.

We are meant to dance – in one way or another.

The ecstatic dance blog – “Dance Integrity: Ecstatic dance through the eyes of one dancer” will benefit from the kind of very personal, journalistic writing that is my forte and gift.  It’s meant to be a telling of what these dances are like for me.  It will cover the free-form improvisational dances sponsored by the Asheville Movement Collective, the weekly men’s ecstatic dances sponsored by Steven Jones, and the Asheville contact improvisation scene, sponsored by the Asheville Jam.  So far, this blog has a URL (dancingintegrity.com) but no contact.  I’ll get to work on it next week – will peel off from this blog the stuff I have written here about dance, add a couple of pieces I have written more recently, and then go from there.

The "Bipolar Integrity" blog will attempt to point towards a bright future emerging out of the darkness of a terrible disease.

The “Bipolar Integrity” blog will attempt to point towards a bright future emerging out of the darkness of a terrible disease.

The bipolar blog – “Bipolar Integrity” will be comprised of my own experiences as a survivor of bipolar disorder, along with my understandings (shaped not just by my own experience with the disease, but also by 20 years of practice as a Ph.D. clinical psychologist) of what causes it and how to heal it – how to integrate these two different parts of us that tend not to talk with each other.  This blog is intended for people who like me are struggling with the disorder, for mental health professionals and other healers/helpers, for family and friends of survivors, and anyone wanting to get more educated about this topic.

I have actually breathed new life into a blog on this topic that I was writing a few years ago, will eventually  transfer from this blog the pieces I have written here about bipolar disorder – but in the last week I have been writing like a house on fire and have put up several new posts, most with lots of fun photos.  (I’m not a great photographer yet, but it does get my juices flowing and it’s my commitment to avoid the mind-numbing quality of too many words with not enough images.

The URL for this blog is bipolarintegrity.com.  Come check it out.  If you find it interesting, there is a button at the top of the right column where you can easily sign up to follow it, so you will know what I’m writing and can catch the posts that interest you.  “Out of site, out of mind.”

Thanks for reading this blog.  It’s been a good ride.  Be well.

Posted in Bipolar disorder, Dance, Identity, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Giving this blog a rest, the long version part 3

Bye

I posted a short version of this piece on August 3.  For most of you readers, that will be all you need to read.  If you are another writer you may be interested in this longer version, which started yesterday – perhaps especially if you also write very personal, journalistic sharing.  Or if you are a psychologist or armchair psychologist and love to see what makes people tick – or are simply a voyeur.  Or if you know me or have come to feel like you kind of know me through this blog (this for the handful of people who may have actually been truly following this blog, rather than simply having pushed the button to follow it).

So here’s my plan for what to do with my energy if I am not plowing lots of it into this blog – and agonizing over it, which I have more and more been doing.

I want and need to move more into my heart and be less in my head – and to focus more on others than on myself.  I actually created an extensive action plan in this regard a few weeks ago, after my first fiasco of self-involvement.  It didn’t keep me from majorly screwing up again in a similar self-involved way, but still is pretty solid.  If you want to see that plan, it’s in my July 3 post at http://radicalintegrityblog.com/2013/07/03/post-louisville-action-plan-1-focusing-on-othersopening-my-heart/.

I also got a lot of help in this direction in my satsang with Alayah, described in my July 27 post at http://radicalintegrityblog.com/2013/07/27/hard-lessons-chaos-or-opportunity/.

Here I want to talk specifically about what I want to do with my writer energy.  In particular, for the time being I want to shift most of my energy off of my own writing – my precious words – and into what my friends are writing.

  • I want to read what my friends are writing on Facebook – be genuinely interested in them, “Like” their status updates, comment on what they have said.  Too much I have been using Facebook primarily as a place to promote my own stuff and not taking the time to read what my friends are writing.
  • One way I have used Facebook well in the past (but less so in the immediate past) has been to promote the good stuff my friends are doing – workshops, classes, etc.  I want to do more of that (and have already started in these last couple of days).
  • When I do post Facebook status updates, I want to use them less to promote my blog  and more to say stuff about others in my life – to give my friends a chance to get to know me better through the lens of what and who I care about.
  • I want to get on Twitter and use it the same way – to be more interested in what my friends are writing than in what i might write and when I do write stuff to promote other people’s good activities and disclose more personal than self-promotional stuff about me.  I want to let my 12-year-old  roommate Ian (Tom’s son) – who is a power user on Twitter – coach me on it.  That will be a good chance to focus on his strengths, to boost him.  
  • Three days ago, my friend Bonnie sent me a story she would like me to read, warning me that it’s 20 pages long.  I want to read it and give her generous appreciation and feedback.
  • Months ago, my friend Carrie shared with me a draft of her new as-yet-unpublished memoir, which is very self-disclosing and kind of precious to her.  Yeah it’s a big commitment to read a whole book, but she did me an honor in sharing it with me – and I love her, admire her story (what I know of it) and genuinely like her writing.  It’s time to get on it.
  • I want to be open to doing some writing, but for the time being not make it for publication – maybe not even for sharing.  I need a more private space for re-finding my creative spark.
  • When I go to Art Church (http://ashevilleartchurch.com/ - another great cause, developed by some friends, which I want to support and promote), I want to make my investment there to be less about the “Get shit done” (working on my projects) pole of that energy and more about the other pole – “Redemption for the broken-hearted artist”.  I want to open myself up to what is going on there feeding and reviving my own creative spark.  In the sharing section at the end, I want to be more interested in others’ sharing than in my own (maybe even forgoing my own sharing for a while).
  • At my last writing class with Nina Hart, I want to also really open myself to being taught – and to be very interested in and supportive of my classmates’ writing.

Doing the writing is great: it’s my work and I will find my way back into it.  But that finding of my way needs to be informed by being less self-preoccupied and more interested in others.

Wish me luck.  I may get back to this blog at sometime in the future and will let you know when that happens.  Maybe then I will have more to say.

Later: oh, wow, Sunday morning I got clear – and it has only grounded and integrated since then – about how to continue to use my writing and blogging energies!  I will peel off from this blog two of its most salient components, ecstatic dancing and bipolar disorder, and create special interest blogs on those topics.  Those blogs will be very naturally disposed to the kind of very personal writing that seems to be my forte.  I’ll now add one more post here, to put up on Thursday, to describe them.  Yay!

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Giving this blog a rest, the long version part 2

I posted a short version of this piece on August 3.  For most of you readers, that will be all you need to read.  If you are another writer you may be interested in this longer version, which started yesterday – perhaps especially if you also write very personal, journalistic sharing.  Or if you are a psychologist or armchair psychologist and love to see what makes people tick – or are simply a voyeur.  Or if you know me or have come to feel like you kind of know me through this blog (this for the handful of people who may have actually been truly following this blog, rather than simply having pushed the button to follow it).

Fishin'

I wrote yesterday about two lines of evidence that my writing for this blog has slid off track – more into the self-preoccupation that is the risk of this kind of very-personal writing and less in any genuine offering of value to my reader.

  1. The first line of evidence is that I am in my life these days feeling more and more lost in myself, rather than feeling the kind of liberation that happens when my creative process is really on track.
  2. The second was that, when I put up a Facebook page supporting this blog and then invited people to “Like” it, I got a very clear internal message that my current motivation for writing was not to offer good to the world, but to seek affirmation of my value as a person.  It’s so dangerous as a writer to let this become our focus – and the message from a truer part of me is that I have too much gone there.

The third indication that I have slid away from real generative creativity and into self-preoccupation is that I have twice now, in relating on the blog experiences I have had with friends, been careless about that friend’s confidentiality.  I got more focused in “expressing myself” – actually looking for some healing through writing about a difficult experience (not an invalid enterprise, but risky) – and less on treating with care the friend whom I was writing about.

In the first instance of this, my friend (who has read that post and replied to me about it) never has said directly that she resented me leaving in details that would have made it obvious, to any of her friends who might by chance have read the post, to whom I was referring.  In the second instance, where I did the same thing, my friend did directly and responsibly let me know that she felt badly about me doing so.  She also pointed out to me that I did in the same post essentially identify someone else who might not feel good about this.  I had to acknowledge that I really knew that this person would not like it if they read it, and was relying on them not reading it – a very bad sign.

A final indication that I have gotten too self-preoccupied in the writing of this blog (there actually are others, but this is enough for here) has to do with that Facebook “Fan page” that I put up on Wednesday.  I have felt encouraged by the fact that, in the six weeks that I have been writing this blog, over 50 people have signed up to follow it.  But about 80% of those are other WordPress bloggers and only about a dozen of them friends of mine – some of whom I had very directly encouraged or even asked to sign up to follow it.  And my WordPress stats were indicating that on an average day fewer than ten people were looking at the blog.  I was really wanting more of my friends to read it – and especially to follow it – and hoped that the Facebook page would help that happen.  So it was with some hopefulness, but with a suspicious amount of tension and anxiety, that I invited people to “Like” this page.

And nobody came.  Out of about 450 Facebook “friends” that i invited to “Like” that page, so far exactly two of them have.  This has said a lot to me.  I could take it as evidence that my “friends” are very fair-weather, but fortunately I have not for a moment (before at this moment speculating about it) gone there.  I could say that it’s partly because I spend so little time on Facebook, so my “friends” there – many of whom I do not really know or maybe not at all – have not really gotten to know and feel connected with me.  I mostly just use Facebook to promote friends who are doing interesting things (I feel good about doing this – it actually provides a little reprieve from self-preoccupation) and to promote myself – especially several previous status updates promoting the blog.  The fact that I spend essentially no time on Facebook reading what my friends are saying and doing is just one more thread of evidence that I have gotten too self-focused.

After feeling enormously deflated and sad and depressed about this lack of response to my fan page – staying in bed for almost two hours after waking up this morning, wallowing in discouragement – this final sign that my writing has not genuinely been reaching people has actually turned out to have a very productive impact, which in this moment (and largely through this writing) has me feeling pretty good.  Along with the three other lines of evidence described above, it has helped me let go of my progressively more driven efforts to write and “sell” the blog.  It is helping me to – for now – let go of the blog altogether, and instead to start thinking about where i might invest my creative and other life energy if I am not pouring so much of into this blog.

And this is where I shall focus the next post in this series – and my final post on this blog for a while.  (Later:  Out of the miasma of discouragement and disillusionment about my writing and specifically about this blog, has risen the idea to take two key elements from this blog – ecstatic dancing and bipolar disorder – and create special-interest blogs on each of those topics.  Now I will actually write a fourth post in this series, to say more about those blogs.)

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Giving this blog a rest, long version part 1

I posted a short version of this piece yesterday.  For most of you readers, that will be all you need to read.  If you are another writer you may be interested in this longer version – perhaps especially if you also write very personal, journalistic sharing.  Or if you are a psychologist or armchair psychologist and love to see what makes people tick – or are simply a voyeur.  Or if you know me or have come to feel like you kind of know me through this blog (this for the handful of people that may have actually been truly following this blog, rather than simply having pushed the button to follow it).

A rest

I’m needing to give this blog a rest.  Probably for more than one reason, but the one that comes most forward for me is that I seem to have lost my focus as a writer.

Much of my best writing – prose and poetry – has been very personal, at least in its starting point.  But the best of it then reaches out to a more universal plane that touches the reader, has relevance to their lives.  The big risk with writing that is this personal is that it will stay too self-focused, that it will increase my self-preoccupation rather than stretching me beyond it – that it will not actually reach the reader.  I fear I have slid in that direction.

(As I continue to write, below, and observe all that I want to say in this post, I sense the irony that my self-preoccupation is liable to extend to this post: I am on the verge of writing a post too long for the preferences of the average reader.  Part of me wants to say, “Oh, well, what the hell – I’m writing this post primarily for my own sake anyway – as I have been writing this blog.  Not that many people have been reading it anyway.”   But perhaps I will break this up into a couple of posts.  Later: this is exactly what I have done.  This longer version has become three at-least-somewhat more reasonably-sized posts.)

Perhaps the strongest indicator of this slide is that I am just feeling, day-to-day, more lost and self-preoccupied.  When writing is really working for me, I feel in touch with something larger than myself, feel used by the Muse – know that my writing will have meaning for my audience.  Some of the writing I have done for this blog has felt that way, but more and more it has not.  And, at the same time that my writing has not stretched me out into the world and human community to which I belong, not much else has been doing that either (more on this later).

Another major indicator of this slide is that I realize that I have started to write for the wrong reason.  Yesterday and the day before, I invested a lot of energy pulling together a Facebook page to support this blog.  Friends of mine have made good use of this device to increase readership of their blog: when one of your Facebook friends “Like”s the page (tellingly sometimes called a Fan Page), they then – if you write a status update about new blog posts – get those updates, along with a link back to the blog post, in their news feed.  So, voila, more readers.

As I pulled together that Facebook page – and even more so as I went through my Facebook friends, clicking them to receive my invitation to “Like” the page – I got more and more driven and tense.  One natural and plausible explanation of this was that us artists are good at creating, but not good at promoting.  It’s out of our comfort zone, makes us tense.  I tried to convince myself that this was all my tension amounted to.  But I wasn’t buying it.

Having finished my address list and – after some moments blessing the enterprise, wrapping it in white light, but even more taking a deep breath before jumping off the diving board – having clicked the magic button that sent these invitations out to about 450 of my 500 Facebook friends, rather than feeling relieved and a sense of completion, I felt even more tense.  I couldn’t avoid the sense that something was off.

I very keenly remember that moment yesterday morning, when – standing in my room, facing my closet, I asked myself, “Why are you really writing?”  And the answer came back very clear: “You’re not writing because you have something to say, because you want to add something valuable to the world – you’re writing because you want validation as a person, you want affirmation that you are valuable and good.”

The Facebook fan page was not simply a device to get more readers, to extend the reach of my writing, to allow it to do more good in the world.  Liking my page meant liking my blog meant liking me as a writer meant liking me as a person.  The truth was staring me in the face – there was no avoiding it.  It felt harrowing to face it, but paradoxically I also finally felt some relief.  If the truth did not necessarily set me free, it did actually give me just a little modicum of piece.

Well, that’s enough to ask of you my readers today.  I picture two more posts to finish this thread: one more to finish up the evidence that I have lost my thread as a writer on this blog, and one to convey some thoughts I’m having about “If not write this blog, where do I invest any creative energy I may have moving in me next?”  That’s the part that feels best, a glimmer of a way out from this miasma of self-preoccupation – that gives me some sense of hope.

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Giving this blog a rest – short version

Sabbatical

I’m needing to give this blog a rest.  Probably for more than one reason, but the one that comes most forward for me is that I seem to have lost my focus as a writer.

Much of my best writing – prose and poetry – has been very personal, at least in its starting point.  But the best of it then reaches out to a more universal plane that touches the reader, has relevance to their lives.  The big risk with writing that is this personal is that it will stay too self-focused, that it will increase my self-preoccupation rather than stretching me beyond it – that it will not actually reach the reader.

I fear I have slid in that direction.  So I need to give it a break and do some other things – including for a while getting much more focused on what other people, especially my friends, are writing.  And maybe do some writing that is not for publication, maybe not even for sharing, to see if I can find the thread back to some more genuine creativity.

Thanks for reading – whatever you have read on this  blog, and this.

For most of you readers, this short post about giving the blog a rest will be all you need to read.  But I’m also going to post a longer version tomorrow – actually a much longer version, broken into three posts over the next three days.  If you are another writer you may be interested in this longer version – perhaps especially if you also write very personal, journalistic sharing.  Or if you are a psychologist or armchair psychologist and love to see what makes people tick – or are simply a voyeur.  Or if you know me or have come to feel like you kind of know me through this blog (this for the handful of people that may have actually been truly following this blog, rather than simply having pushed the button to follow it).  But if you are none of these things, this shorter version is probably all you really need or care to know.  

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Dancing and healing

At the early Sunday dance wave the other morning, I arrived having already had a tough morning – depressed for the last couple of weeks and on this morning into lots of negative self-talk.  It was the kind of morning when dancing often doesn’t work for me: I can remain in my head the whole time, full of damning judgments of myself, my dancing, my interactions with my fellow dancers.  And those other dancers are not immune from my judgments (as if it makes any difference to them).  It can be a miserable scene.

Dancing with other people has the most chance to bring me out of my head (and my judgments) – and it’s even more powerful if there is at least some physical contact, even just mixed in with simply dancing around each other.

And that morning that happened in spades.  After dancing regularly with many of the same people for as long as 2 1/2 years, I have some strong connections in the group – people whom I trust and like, and who trust and like me (even if some mornings I don’t know why).

Shortly after the music started (enough into the dance that most people had risen off their starting point on the floor and begun to move around), I got into a delicious partner dance with a woman friend with whom I have now danced several times.  But today was especially juicy – warm, playful, sensual, tender.  Dancing around each other, brushing against each other, leaning into each other.  It was beautiful – in my state this morning, absolutely healing.

Then there were many other sweet connecting dances – with men, women, small groups.  It did not all come easily – in fact, on this particular morning almost none of it came completely easily.  I was aware that I was pushing beyond the limits of the isolation in which I had arrived.  Frequently I reached an edge where I could no longer tolerate the intensity of the connection and I danced away by myself.  But when the impulse arose to criticize myself for needing to break off connection, I disciplined myself to give myself an emotional break: “You’re doing good, you’re doing just right.”

When I noticed myself sliding into judging others, I tried a new strategy which this morning worked really well for me: I internally thanked them for being who they were.  “Thank you for dancing in your own unique way” (not “I hate the way you dance”).  “Thank you for dancing so sweetly with each other and making the dance floor safe for communication and intimacy” (not “I wish I was dancing with one or either of you”).

One of my best friends and regular dance partners today for various reasons rubbed me the wrong way, but I remembered all the ways she has been good for me, and when we finished a little dance together, I very sincerely whispered “Thank you”.

I encountered my old roommate, who comes to dance sometimes, but whom I had not until that moment seen this morning.  Living together had been hard on us and we ended the situation with our relationship in shambles.  But little by little, over a couple of years – dancing and in some other community situations – healing has come for us.  And this morning was a breakthrough.  We easily and immediately fell into an extremely tender slow dance.  After maybe two minutes – which felt like a deliciously long time – we sensed almost simultaneously that this dance was complete.  As we gradually stepped back from each other, I very genuinely and whole-heartedly mouthed “Thank you”.

Lori  Creason Powell photo

Lori Creason Powell photo

I had had a light agenda to stay for the second dance, but knew when this dance ended that I was stretched to my limit.  I was full – and also right up to the very edge of how much connection I could this morning tolerate.  I left still somewhat wrestling with my demons, but much more lightly so – and very grateful for all that had transpired.  Grateful for the dances, grateful for my friends, grateful for the Asheville Movement Collective which sponsors the dances, grateful for all the healing that has occurred for me in the last 2 1/2 years that makes it possible for me to do this.

In this moment, I was still somewhat hearing the echoes of some self-criticism, but paradoxically also feeling grateful to be me.

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Boys being boys…

The boys in the pool this afternoon were playing around the way 15-year old boys do – splashing and churning up the water in ways that us more serous lap-swimmers can get grumpy about.  But their obvious good-naturedness and appealing lightheartedness softened any judgments I might have had of them.

Boys roughhousing - how long does it last?

Boys roughhousing – how long does it last?

As I allowed myself to pay some casual attention to their play (while doing my laps), I mused on some things (musing being something I tend to do in the pool, in between attempting to count my breaths and empty my mind).  Their roughhousing and throwing each other around in the water seemed totally typical for boys their age, but – having been part of a men’s dance just the previous evening – I couldn’t help but think about how free of homophobia they seemed.  There they were, having a lot of body contact with very little clothes on.  At what age do men tend to get more awkward about so much body contact?  I remembered the wrestling scene in some heavy-weight 70′s movie, which drew so much attention for the steamy energy between two apparently straight men.

Then one of the boys was guiding the other around, floating on the water, by cradling the other boy’s head in his hands.  I remembered doing things like this in the pool with my new wife when we were in our early 20′s, but never with a guy.  Then I remembered a scene, a couple of years before that, when my best friend in college – a very muscular high school football player – very inebriated, gave me, equally inebriated, a piggy-back ride two blocks back to our fraternity house.  I was not so drunk as to not have that etch an indelible memory in my young psyche for the tender intimacy of it.

Society has sure done a number on us men – straight like me and even, in public, many gay men.  I have some memories over my adult years of consciously breaking taboos by being very physically affectionate with other men – but not really all that many and usually not in public.  The scene between those boys seemed especially sweet.

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