A Different Kind of Crazy

As I sat across from my mother and really looked at her face and tiny frame, I saw her age, frailty and worry lines for the first time. Her life has not been easy. It has been fucking brutal. She has endured and cared for too many loved ones suffering mental illness. Every decade of her life has been spent caring for a loved one, someone other than herself.

Not like in a motherly way, but in a dangerous, ferocious one. She suffers no fools, and fought battles others could not begin to comprehend. She’s grown tired now, the cruelty of age and time have caught up with her, no matter how hard I try to stop the clock. Just stop, so we can be a young mother and daughter having fun without the unspoken, inevitable future speeding up.

It had to be so very sad, watching your nearest and dearest slip away into madness. I cannot understand her tears, fears or the fight from her perspective. I cannot know her sadness, exhaustion or disappointments.
I only know our story, and my earth shattering diagnosis. Having her as my ally, my champion and advocate of my crazy has been my greatest gift, that one that drives me to stay. Here, on earth. To come back when I drift too far off into the madness. Her voice, and stabling presence has made living with manic depression manageable. Bearable. Almost.

Some days, I am not a nice person. I can be mean and ugly and terrified. Some days I am filled with rage and jealousy. I do not want to be here, day after day enduring this pain. She understands, she’s watches me slip away unable to think straight. I wonder how it feels to carry so much weight. Some days are so heavy and dark; it’s hard to breathe. She sees how bad it gets. I don’t tell her, I don’t sugarcoat. I don’t have to. She knows.

I carry suicide in my back pocket. She understands, and still asks me to stay. It’ll get better, there’s good coming around the corner. She wills me to stay. We both understand the gut wrenching pain of suicide, and that willing it to be ok is not how mental illness works. It is a vicious, raging bastard disease and does not discriminate. She is the keeper of my crazy. She knows I will do my very best not to break her anymore than life has already.

I don’t always win, I scream and cry. I rage. She never complains; never gets angry. She waits for the mercurial moods to subside. They do by the grace of god and willpower, eventually. She doesn’t show emotion, at least not in front of me. Lord knows she has good reason to sob and sob and curse for days. But, goddamn it she always finds the joy. In the simplest, most mundane things.

We are so different, her and I. I’m forever jumping ahead, or behind. She’s not, she’s omnipresent. As much as I try to will myself happy, some days my mind has other plans. But this story isn’t about me. It’s about her, and just how much life she has sacrificed and gifted away for her family. I try to imagine all the heartache she’s endured, and the joy too. I try to make her understand that I’m grateful, and do small things to lighten her load. Cut the grass, take out the trash, make the bed. Normal things that responsible people do. All the things she taught me a long, long, long time ago.

As we spend this closing chapter together in her home, the place she grew up, I try not to wallow. I can’t help it; I’m an emotional girl. Some days I despise the small minded, slow pace and my restless soul wants to flee. Get the fuck out of dodge, go anywhere but here. Be anywhere but here. But, I don’t. Because in reality, where the fuck am I running to?

I cannot outrun my crazy.
I cannot outrun my crazy.
I cannot outrun my crazy no matter how hard I pray and barter with god.

I can’t fix being sick. I cannot be a different me. A different daughter. I would if I could. I’d be better. I would be happy and healthy and carefree. Some days, my mind spares me minutes of peace. Laughter. I forget I woke shaking, and that I will tomorrow and probably the day after. I try desperately to quiet the noise. It takes willpower, patience and a shitload of pills.

She knows I wouldn’t want a different mother, no matter how many times I scream I hate you. And I do. Mostly, I hate myself. My mind plays tricks on me. She assures me I’m okay and not crazy. I’m doing fine; everything is good. She lies; she’s had a lot of practice. I wish she didn’t worry, that life had been kinder to her. But who escapes the pain of loving and living? Nobody. Not in the course of history.

I wish for her to young again. To remember a time when she danced with my father, smiling and carefree. I would want those minutes back, more than anything – except an easier life and family tree free from mental illness.

This journey may break me, but my mother’s strong, tough and ever present love is the armor and anchor of my life. I hope it has the wings to carry me forward. She has given me more love and compassion than any mother should. Only she has seen the depths of crazy I keep hidden from the world. She loves me more, not less. And, that’s a whole different kind of crazy. Wherever I go she is the rational voice in my head, she is my sanity. She is the strength and sword walking before me. Slaying dragons and shit on a spiritual gangster level. That makes me happy by proxy.

Survivor

When life throws shit at you, and most assuredly it will, remember this.
I see you.
You are stronger than you think.
You are kinder, graceful, brighter, smarter, funnier, richer (and not monetarily), and unique.
On the days I forget and think manic depression will most definitely kill me, I dig deep. Who the hell knows where or when life’s reservoirs will dry up.
I don’t, neither do you.
Then, I remember. I am a goddamn, strong ass warrior and there are people who need, support and love me, same as you.
It’s okay to feel down, overwhelmed, anxiety ridden.
We all do, even the ‘normal ones.’
It’s okay to feel all the feels, cry, scream and curse.
I understand it is a hell of a lot harder living with a mental illness.
I was normal once, too.
You know what?
I’m no different than you.
You have your own set of problems and heartache, so remember – I got you.
I see you, I feel you and I’m rooting for you.
In this shiteous, chaotic, beautiful place that is the world right now find a little piece of joy in your heart.
Take care of it and watch it explode.
There is beauty in pain, and healing in holding on.
Surviving, thriving, living.
That’s life, that’s me, and that’s you.
You are the miracle. Rinse, and repeat.
Hate, resentment and anger have left the room. 

Screaming Skies

It is after all, just a life.
No bigger, no better.
I have breathed more shades, more pain, more joy, more crazy, more fear, more sadness than I thought possible to carry in this one body.
Death, song and daydreaming are my respites; temporary escapes from this swirling madness.
I inhale deeply, the rich, sweet smells of nature flooding my senses.
Music coursing the veins like venom.
I wait for signs of immortality, silly I know, settling for small inklings of hope.
I look down towards the dirt knowingly; seasons must change.
Time only cares how well we lived, and how much we’ve gifted away.
Haunting fading voices become chilling echoes of emotion, as new blossoms of possibility push their way through.
God must be in control of something, I pray to the sky and the sun and the music that lingers sweetly on the tongue, this underlying beauty and all her seasonal shifts will carry on.
We are nature’s finest and saddest creation, faceless shadows over time in all her mysterious pain and glory.
I don’t know how my story will end.
I can’t see it, but I can feel the sun inside the melodies of another.
I soak up the light on my face, my bones, on my skin breathing in the sultry colors.
Summer hangs out around the corner filling the abyss, mending the dagger chards of the scarred and broken hearted.
In my dreams, I already forgive you dying, leaving me here to navigate how many steps I must take in this imperfect body.
And I forgive myself too, for understanding far too well the aching need for the quiet night, and dark, brooding silence.
Some respite from the tortures of feeling too much.
And yet, I don’t stop breathing.
I am alive.
I wait patiently for the perfect cosmic moment, when the stars align sprinkling the earth with your beautiful essence, wisdom and woe.
You are all the raw diamonds left behind, and I catch goose bumps of you in between the summertime rain, on the winds of time.
You are home, and I am here, happy, hanging out for now.

 

Image Copyright: Tim Hale

Beautiful You

There is a lack of elegance, sexiness and mystery missing in photographs of women today, especially celebrities and the overexposed, blasé way they brand themselves and how they are portrayed through the lens.
Social media and fashion have made women seem like untouchable objects, loud, fake and even desperate at times.
The “look at me” culture screaming for more and more attention.
I have always had a more hate than love relationship with modeling and fame.
Yes, I realize that sounds trite.
I was a model, white and privileged.
But I was a young, impressionable girl, who today is a woman with decades away from the spotlight by choice and a fresh perspective.
I wonder when future generations look back at images of women will they be curious, or exhausted by the sheer volume?
I can only appreciate now the mystique of a three am shoot in Milan,
a lost era and the simple gesture of adjusting a dress, caught and frozen in time by the keen eye of a sharp photographer.
Women are magical creatures, real and raw and the most beautiful when unaware of themselves.
They do not need a movement to define their power; they have been beautiful, raw, strong, passionate warriors for centuries and centuries birthing ideals, children, and nurturing souls.
Less is more, so do not ever undervalue or compare yourself to someone else’s million followers.
Find your own unique way, and remember true beauty is forever more.

The Rafters

I must not forget, never ever forgo this one shot at an honest life. A well-played beginning, the hold on tight middle, and a serene, admired, beloved end. I have been given this offset jewel of a life for a reason.
Loosening my grip on the serrated edge, I grab tight to the rafters overhead. 

Pure Heart

Sometimes I think I should just quit. The world is too ugly, too sad, too dangerous. You know like most creatives, empaths, humans we question ourselves, we overthink incessantly, coming up with a gazillion reasons why. Why not stop. And, why not? You know what, fuck it. I’m not finished, your story is not finished. Our story. We’re in this chaos of crazy together. Stuck together. What is this one life, without art and emotion? What good are words or photographs or movies if not to fill our broken hearts and empty spaces?

To replenish our souls.

What matters in these troubled times is that you look up and out and around and make something beautiful. Spill your guts, break your heart and then dig a little deeper. Jump into love. Inside the blues, inside the scary, safe nurturing walls of love, you find truth. It ain’t always pretty, but it’s always relatable. We are all wonderfully broken pieces, with smashed hearts and hopes. Humans can be so ugly, and there is so much hate going around. Pick up a pen or a paintbrush, a guitar, some headphones. Whatever makes you feel better. Whatever moves you and please don’t give up on the rest of us. There is good, and then there is good enough. You are good and I am good. Don’t wipe your tears or fears, let the floodgates pour. Humanity is dying, but broken crayons still color. God, I love that line. I love New York. She was the first city to open my eyes to so much imagination, vibration and color. Pure, uninhibited blissful art and joy. To the evil, hate filled human that tried to break her spirit, you won’t. You cannot. She survived 9/11, and will survive you. My heart is broken for the victims, their families and friends. My heart knows New Yorkers will rise, and come together in a tidal wave of good. Come together, and be better than this. New Yorkers are reinforced steel with liquid golden hearts and the frontline dreamers, artists, and inventors. 

Right to Life

How much money and greed is worth even one life?
Shame on you, politicians for not having the decency and moral conscience to fight for gun control, for taking the NRA’s blood money and for not giving a fuck after another mass murder. Yes, I understand that pathetic argument that “guns” do not kill people, but guess what they actually do. Why does anyone need an assault rifle? They don’t plain and simple. Shame on us for being complacent, egocentric, and prideful for NOT saying NO MORE VIOLENCE, death by yet another evil sociopath. A white man who looks like us, no beard, no border, no limitations. Shame on us for offering prayers instead of taking action.
While many of us are saying here we go again, blaming Mental Illness please don’t. Anyone who plans an attack with automatic rifles and opens fire on a crowd of innocents at a concert is deeply disturbed, and Mentally Ill.
I wrote a piece after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, “I Am Adam Lanza.” While I don’t believe I could ever commit such a horrific act, I am well aware of my own psychotic breaks, and smart enough to not own guns in my home.
Shame on you Trump, you evil, narcissistic bastard for signing a bill into law rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.
The gun silencer bill, is that really next on the agenda?
That is what this country’s current administration is about.
Well, I will not be silenced, and neither should you. The Second Amendment does not apply to senseless carnage, and yet another mass shooting tragedy. Which, sadly given the number of mass shootings will soon be forgotten.
To the victims, families, friends and loved ones of Las Vegas, you have my word I will keep using my voice to raise awareness.
I will never forget.
If you think owning a gun is a good idea pray you are never, ever, EVER on the receiving end of the wrong side of the barrel.
The Mentally Disabled I know are the most empathetic, creative, beautiful souls who need support and the government’s help, not evil power mongers threatening to cut Medicaid and repeal Obamacare.
I am embarrassed to be an American. I am heartbroken, but I am not defeated. I have my words, and I will not be silenced behind the cowards who are ruining, not running our country.
– Jacqueline Cioffa

“Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong. Moral judgment may derive from values or norms (principles and rules).”

Indian Red

Hate has no place in the home, on the mean streets, or the man-made war zones.
Of this ugly 21st century that is so unkind.
United as one, we are not.
We are not even close in these chaotic, heartbreaking times of epic, earth shattering cosmic shifts and distorted evil proportions.
Terrorists, murderers and violent, you are most assuredly unwelcome.
The time has come to become one voice united against all that has come undone.
You are your mothers and mothers and fathers and fathers only daughters and sons.
There is no do over.
Become something better, something way better than this bloodshed battle red.
Strong, confident, educated, kind and able.
Human.
Unclench those fists and do the work.
Peacekeepers with Statue of Liberty steel spines.
Gatekeepers of a new and improved united nation.
Dump the bad man and his arrogant posse of abhorrent greedy bastards
Stirring violence and divide.
Funny how fast we forget
Green is flimsy paper and cannot till the seedlings of a good, honest life.
One voice united will not be silenced or denied.
Lead with purpose, with love, with brothers and sisters on your mind.
Hearts wide open like our ancestors.
Indian red, backbone straight, oh so pretty, honorable and dignified. 

Highfalutin Sequins & Glitter

I must get moving I suppose haunted by a past and future, overly cautious and wickedly sentimental. I must walk in the present decked out in sequins and glitter in honor of the brazen one. There is magic brewing in these parts and honest living in the routine. Small town life is fine, filtering the air with H2O, and hyperbaric clean, 100% pure, brain oxygen.

Just when I think I am no more. I’m proven wrong. Just when I think I have absolutely nothing, to give, to fight, and to live. Not one piece worth living. Just when there is not one breath inside and my veins have dried up and turned purple. Just when there is nothing except black hole, bottomless tar pits and green-eyed pond scum monsters, my dreams shake me from a trance. My spirit guides dust me with just the right amount of determination while I sleep. I awake shaken, yet refreshed from the pretty rainbow, mirror ball glow of sequins dancing across my ceiling. Pinching myself, the night fairies are the miracle enough to keep on living. I get on with the daunting task of getting up, out of bed, dressed, and greeting the new day.

Is it all a dream? Did I imagine this? Which piece is the reality to hold onto? Was I ever really here? Am I living? Who can say?

My dead don’t speak to me now, so I can’t be sure of anything. The where I came from or the direction I am heading. I can only sprinkle the earth with kindness, fondness, and graceful living, learned over time and with age. The talking parrots fly above me now in bouts of beautiful memory and happy colors, the life reminders that unexplained, mystical beauty remains.

Maybe, some God gave me this curse on my head so that I would be forced to stop, slow down and listen, taking in all the enchantment around me. I would not be this kind, sensitive, flawed, gorgeously imperfect or caring without the slight touch of insanity. I would have stayed the small-minded selfish, ignorant young girl never bothering to look up to take in her surroundings. That is the only way I can justify the horrific pain and suffering running through this broken brain and body.

And the joy in knowing, that one day I will no longer be bound by the minutes, the blue planet a faded memory. I will no longer be labeled the lunatic or crazy, but will be ananta happy, safe and sound.

I won’t have to fight the spinning, dizzying head, the out of nowhere panic attacks leaving me doped up exhausted, or the unbearable despair pulsating my blood and my veins. I will no longer silently scream inside from pain and anxiety, the spinner top raring to explode.

I will be free to roam unencumbered by the weight of time and space. 

I thought if I went way back in time to the glimpse of a young, healthy, happy, carefree young woman floating effortlessly on the waters, you might take pity on me. One never knows which murky waters they will find themselves thrashing about, life spares no one the suffering. The ripples shift and shape as they see fit, taking us all on our own personal journey of hardship, joy and grace. My struggles came a bit sooner than anticipated, leaving me grappling with a sickness I was ill prepared for.

Still I swim float and sink, always fighting my way back to the surface for breath and a bit of fresh air.

Clearing the cobwebs out of the way, I brace myself for the walk. I make room for smooth take off and safe landing.

 

excerpt from THE RED BENCH