From time to time you’ll see Stolen Moments show up on the blog. Words forgotten and misplaced, poetry, anticipatory memories, prose, joy and sorrow, pensive emotion, random and not so random thoughts scribbled in tattered notebooks. To not forget but remember the precious, fleeting stolen moments in time. I’m a writer trying recapture on paper how it feels to be alive.
by Jacqueline Cioffa
I would like to lead a dark, sophisticated life
I dream of a fancy lady in spiked heels, red nails and lips and such
She wears corsets to breakfast
and dines on champagne and caviar
Instead I run away from fame and all it’s trappings
I’m a messy sneaker wearing practical jeans girl
transparent to the touch
I know it’s crazy but I miss you everyday
more not less
I don’t need a prince charming just a soft whisper
“Doing a small survey:
What are your first thoughts when you hear the word “bipolar”. Being that is an illness, I see it used around A LOT as an adjective or a subject.”
Visit the very hip and informative blog Is Ok Not To Be Ok to view some of the varied responses (including my abridged one).
Carol explains, “I did a very informal survey today asking people what were the first thoughts that came to their mind when they heard the word: bipolar. I got an incredibly array of answers from the usual (and often not funny) jokes, to what a harsh reality is to live as a bipolar individual.”
I hate the word, “bipolar.” It’s ugly, an overused throwaway word. Call me whatever. I’m a #Whatever if you must. Jackie works too.
The forward from GEORGIA PINE explains how strongly I feel about the word(s), “BiPolar Disorder.”
I wrote The Vast Landscape, the prequel to Georgia Pine at a dark, scary time in my life. Harrison, the brash heroine, was someone tangible I could cling to. She gave me reason to get up, to go on, to fight, a much-needed respite from what was happening in my real, everyday life. I made the conscious decision not to write about manic depression, the disease that has disrupted every neuron firing through my beautiful, chaotic mind. Bipolar Disorder, the label I detest, is en Vogue. It appears in trendy bestsellers, Oscar winning films and sensationalized television. It’s glamorized, modernized, made to look cool. Trust me, it is not. Mental Illness is the train wreck, the ugly, cruel, exhaustive, intangible, and solitary battle. It does not discriminate among rich, poor, smart, stupid; it brings grown men to their knees, ripping whole families apart. Writing The Vast Landscape freed me to live my dreams on the page. Harrison is I, I am she, mixed together so deeply the lines disappear. The outlines blur, intentionally. Was The Vast Landscape reality or fantasy? That is for the reader to decide. We are all disabled, broken parts, lost individuals, trying to find our way. Truth is what you know, here and happening now. There is only love and love is the bravest character of all. Harrison is the voice in our heads, asking the important questions. Where do I fit? Why am I here? Will I love, be loved? We are born with a fixed expiration date, yet we carry on, walking this earth the best we can until we’re pixie dust. Cherished, kept alive in memory and yellow parchment, we become precarious, aged photographs in a cardboard box. Lives touch, intersect in the most unpredictable yet meaningful ways. The essence continues because you do. Harrison leaves the door open a crack. I seize the opportunity to revisit my whole, healthy self a bit longer, live in the mystic beach home I adore, dream eyes open. Hope is our greatest asset. To choose hope against the worst possible odds is the true measure of life.
The story continues in… Georgia Pine.”
I wasn’t going to write a sappy. I wasn’t. But, I jumped.
My father was and always will be the great love of my life. It’s been seven years, the 5th of May. I know the date I was there beside him. My mom, too. I can’t speak for my brothers, nieces or anyone who had the good fortune to meet him. He taught me everything I know about kindness, loyalty, humor, respect, family and faith. His faith was unnerving, never wavering for one second. I was a hellion, a wild child and my dad never judged. He watched and waited to pick up the pieces. There are too many stories. One I remember vividly. I was 18, spoiled brat, came home drunk, puking my guts out. I don’t even drink anymore. My father cleaned me up, put me to bed and slept on the floor beside me. I can still feel him near, even if I can’t see him.
“Take care of your mother, be a good girl. I love you with my whole heart.”
Okay dad, I’ll try. Although I’m not sure I’m doing a bang up job. Her and I, we fight. Argue. A lot. Rarely agree on anything. I’d like to wring her neck. This woman, the person I call mom I aim to please. She wanted a cordless vacuum for Mother’s Day, not a fancy car, Dior or diamonds. Something useful with a purpose. That’s all. I’d be so lucky and well-adjusted to be more like her. The original, fearless warrior.
I’ve experienced the love of a father like mine, and a mother. Together, they made our family complete. Wherever you are Choff, I hope you’re winning and smirking that devilish grin. The heavens and the orbs are in your favor. It’s your time.
I have to go right on living. It’s rudimentary. Five-year old mathematics, numbers you live a whole life by.
I think they stink. Crap odds. I have to stay anyway, a while longer. I guess. The canvas resets to a stark sterile dove white, a color choice off a paint swatch. The happy, unhappy complicated family colors muted and wiped clean with the stroke of a paint brush. Obliterated by a sixty dollar gallon of paint.
I close my eyes and trust I will see them, the shade memories. I trust they were indeed real, trust they will remain to guide and comfort the remaining journey.
Putrid acid green, Pepto-Bismol pink, sherbet orange and garish gold marble swirls alive in the brain.
Life lived in increments and numbers. The numbers they never lie.
I hang crystal prisms in the bedroom window to capture the sunbeams washing over my face, remembering the weight and light of a kind of pure and selfless love.
It wasn’t perfect, I’m not deluded I know that.
Life was solid, a true gray with primary colors whirling all around.
And that, you can build upon.
Six feet of dock stretches out over a flat, refreshing cool body of water with no threat of jagged rocks, seaweed, or prey absolutely nothing that could hurt you.
With each breath we count, constantly weighing the risks, odds and numbers.
Me, I love to swim. I need to remember that more often.
Inside every jump right before you hit the water lives the dream and infinite possibility.
“And what I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That’s what I think is revolutionary, and evolutionary, and it’s what’s turning me on.” – Maggie Gyllenhaal
Right on Maggie for sharing the win, for reconfirming the complexities of women are the dimensions that shine, lighting from the inside. I have always known that beauty is most beautiful when raw and exposed.
Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson speaks from the heart and the gut, searing honesty exposing grief, pain, abuse and ultimately love set free in truth. A collection of brave, bold essays unafraid to take us into the dark. The light finds its way into the deepest crevices, caverns of life’s experiences. Ms. Thompson is an extraordinary, actual woman. Those are the best kind.
“This is a book about fracture. About the experiences that make up a life. About the pieces of me.
Delving into naked emotion is a terrifying proposition. Digging into our souls to look for answers that may not be there is a ledge most of us avoid.
Authenticity. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word, gargling, swishing it around in my mouth and spitting it out.
If I only show you the photoshopped, concealed, makeup pretty me you’ll never understand the underbelly. The crunchy grit, rawness hidden beneath. The really good stuff, the honest kind that matters. Most days I can only see how my illness defines me. Every single piece that’s been stolen, the immeasurable, inexplicable loss of self. The shame, self-hatred, feelings of worthlessness, doubt, insecurities, paranoia, fear, inappropriate remarks, irrational behavior and the myriad of negatives that live inside my broken, chaotic mind. Not to mention the physical excruciating pain, dizziness, anxiety, numbness, sweats, chills. Or the forty-ish pounds of added weight, the personal fuck you reminder of the crazy scales. Matters of life and death, I stopped counting the pounds. There are the ‘friends’ who conveniently vanished, stopped calling, texting. I admit, I’ve cried, hid my face in shame, lived with resentment and assumed the worst. It must be my fault.
That’s not what this day or this post is about. Today is about threading the needle and the incredible luck I’ve been dealt. Yes, luck.
Somewhere in-between psychosis, wanting to die and twelve years of psyche meds, twelve years of disappointment, fight, agony, fear, mania, depression and feeling sorry for myself, I forgot. The crucial element. Luck.
My therapist, whom I adore talks it out with me. She said something that kinda’ stuck, “you’re not the norm.” I didn’t quite get it. “Most of my patients (mentally ill) don’t have anyONE. You have more than one, you are not alone.” It’s so true, I am never alone while living with this solitary, suck-ass, fuck-off, bite-me disease. It’s authentic no doubt, there is no room for false illusion.
I am lucky. I’m lucky I have a home, a comfortable safe haven. I’m lucky to have a kindred spirit animal, Lupita lovely who comforts me when I am buried inside the madness, teaches me patience, moral responsibility and makes me smile more times than I can count.
I’m lucky no one asks too much of me, no conventional job, financial stress triggers. Don’t worry, I own that guilt. Guilt is a wasted emotion I excel at. I am lucky I still have the capacity to have a clear thought, battle the bad ones. I’m lucky I live with someone who does not let me wallow and knows when I am not wallowing at all. I’m lucky I have the one who puts her aches, pains and disappointments under her tongue and bites down hard dealing with the crazy that is her daughter. I am well aware even when I’m not gracious, nice, and pretty goddamn awful. I’m lucky there is more than one person checking in, wishing me well. I’m lucky for the ones I didn’t expect with the kindest hearts.
I’m lucky my heart is the bigger muscle and my mind the smaller one. I’m lucky I have a wicked imagination. I’m lucky I can still lose myself in the words, writing and dreaming on the page. I’m lucky god, buddha whoever sent me and gave me some gifts to share. There is something beautiful in the ethers, beyond our fixed expiration date. I’m lucky I believe in that. I’m lucky I’m sensitive enough, intuitive enough, aware enough and kind enough.
I’m lucky I have a stubborn, ugly mean streak too. It keeps me alive.
I could go on and on but that might seem manic, crazy, mad. Stirring up all the uncomfortable feelings, words and foreign adjectives that swirl inside your mind. Forget it, I didn’t write this for you.
I’m lucky if my experience helps the solitaire, lonely person struggling like me feel less alone.
I’m lucky I choose authentic however scary it may be, I am the lucky in-between.
I’m learning luck is not a state of mind but one of heart.
The sun is here, feels funny after months and months, buried beneath white and gray. I think, one day I will move away, escape the blasé. I don’t know. The future eludes me. Maybe, the sun’s shine wouldn’t mean so much, if I saw her everyday. I don’t know. Flash floods require mopping, cleanup, restructuring. I don’t know much, I know hope. I pray, I uncover infinite wells of wisdom, reserves of strength, courage, joy, humility. I know some things, in silence. I place intimate, dark thoughts on the page, where they belong. Sharing my time in the sun. Healing, questioning, replenishing you, and me.