by Nancy Davenport
today I wear the
that Andy made me
I haven’t heard from
him in a long
and I miss him but not enough to swallow my pride
at one time
it was okay
I knew he was in his head
so the long silences
I would picture Andy wrapped in blue grey shades of lavender
sitting on a barstool with Rebecca
covered in geometric shapes of his own invention
paint brush coffee and
but now that Andy
to unfriend me
the silences are no longer VISIONARY
they are simply silent
Dear Gabe Howard:
I owe you an apology. I was manic and treated you poorly. I had no right to attack you the way I did. I said a few things I regret. After you blocked me, I had half a mind to publicly shame you. I almost did. However, Julie A. Fastwas quick to respond to my acting out behaviors and call me on them. I deleted my asshole posts. I don’t blame you if you tell me to fuck off. However, if you can chalk it up to both of us having a bad day at the same time, and you can find it in your heart to forgive me, I would appreciate it. Martin Baker also made me question myself. If only we could be one big happy bipolar family! Unfortunately, this illness can be very ugly, which I was, which I apologize for. Thanks, and peace be with you.
losing a friend to suicide.. autumn, 1985
it was during the storm, “Gloria”,
and the high holy days- she took
her own life
I got the phone call one windy afternoon,
while visiting a friend in manhattan
the winds were beginning to pick up speed
there was a warning not to leave
one’s home, and to tape up the windows
that meant not stepping out on the street,
not walking a single block for something to eat,
not being able to get to the LIRR,
and take the train home–
in time for the funeral on long island
my friend Debbie’s sister called me,
and then, i realized since she never
called me before…that something
must be up with Debbie, as she had not
returned my last phone call
Debbie was living in Providence, Rhode Island
she had just begun a new job in her field,
and seemed to be
happy in her new relationship
over the few months
prior to her taking
her own life,
she appeared to be most happy
what she kept secret was this: she stock-
piled her anti-depressants, and then
took them all one autumn morning
then she took a long walk on the beach
and must have felt a bit strange,
but knew she must call 911
her mother on long island
was called, and tried to meet
up with her daughter at the hospital
it was too late, she was gone at the age
of thirty two; I couldn’t believe my friend
was gone–after learning from a letter
in her best hand writing that all seemed well
dated only three weeks before her over-dose,
her decision very well researched- success
for her, but lamentation for all who knew her
a flower child, hippie friend with bright
red hair and bluest blue eyes–who could
whip up a veggie dinner in a flash
before my eyes–and join me
at a dozen concerts, and hikes
when she was living on long island
a port jefferson native, she exists
tangibly here– in the her acts of goodness,
her laughter shaking the hallways
of stonybrook university where we met
we became “instant friends” and maintained
that closeness for just shy of a decade
and now it’s been over three decades-
I shall never stop missing
my dear hippie flower child friend Debbie!
~kate lamberg (c) ’18
How to Find Clarity When You’re Confused About What to Do
By Dr. Amy Johnson
“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” ~Cicero
You know that state of confusion where you feel really unsure about what to do—you’re talking about it with all of your friends, making lists, weighing options, lying awake all night?
As truly confused and unsure as you may feel in those moments, you’re not. You have much more clarity than you think.
Re-read that last line again. You have a lot more clarity than you think. You see, clarity is what you are. It’s what you’re born with, it’s your true nature, and it’s what is always there underneath the mess of confusing thought that sometimes dances on the surface.
Confusing thought is there in spades. Being lost in your own personal thought is what produces the feeling of confusion.
But are “you” actually confused? Nope, not in the least.
If I Am Clarity, Why Do I Feel Confused?
The feeling you call confusion is a big to-do that’s created in your mind when you have all kinds of conflicting thoughts (for example, do it, don’t do it, take a chance, why fix what’s not broken?) and you seriously entertain each of those as if they are helpful or important.
You innocently treat those thoughts as if they are each deserving of consideration just because they happen to be there, forgetting that thoughts are just blips of energy—they don’t possess qualities like “deserving.”
When you’re in a big thought storm and you grab onto each disagreeing thought that wizzes by, it feels like serious brain muddle.
Real as it seems, the confusion is an illusion. You nearly always know what you want to do—but you have too much thinking about it all to just go with what you deep-down know.
For example, I have a ton of thinking about leaving my kids for a few days. I mean a ton. My separation anxiety is unenlighted to epic proportions.
I can very easily rattle off a dozen or more reasons to not travel without them, even for very short trips. If I were to make a decision based on my emotions or on the availability of solid “reasons,” I would surely never go.
So when an opportunity for me to learn from some incredible people next month—for four and a half days, thousands of miles away (the kids will go to bed without me tucking them in for five nights; it literally makes me nauseous to type that)—I knew I couldn’t do it.
But just a tiny bit more than that, I knew I had to do it.
And so I told my husband about the opportunity. That was a huge step because, although it’s ultimately my choice, he rarely lets me bow out of things I truly want because of something as minor as insecure, wavering thinking.
I was right. As soon as I told him, he told me to stop being ridiculous and book the trip. Even though it means he’d be alone with two toddlers for four-and-a-half days, he said “It’s a no-brainer, book the trip.”
I can’t. I can. I can? Can I really? I couldn’t. I went on and on like that for the better part of an hour, while he lovingly said, “You’re a basket case; just book the trip already.”
That basket case state where you are honestly entertaining the flurry of competing thought and you’re completely unaware of the calm and clarity beneath the thought—that’s confusion.
Although it still seems wrong on many levels, I booked the trip because something deeper and calmer tells me that the wrongness is narrow and subjective. Not just because my husband tells me it’s crazy, but because the wiser part of me sort of knew it was all along.
Why I feel conflicted couldn’t be less important.
I’m sure I felt abandoned as a kid and don’t want my kids to feel that way, or something along those lines. But it couldn’t matter less because what happened in the past is not the reason I feel the way I feel now. My current, in this moment thinking—and nothing else—is why I feel the way I feel now.
When I jump on the “Can I? I can’t. I can?” merry-go-round, I get whipped all over the place in a grand gesture of confusion and uncertainty.
But here’s the magical thing I found: when I stepped away from that merry-go-round, something else was there.
I want to be very clear about how that something else looked, felt, and sounded. It did not speak loudly—in fact, it was very easily drowned out by the “I can…I couldn’t” tug-of-war.
It was not an overwhelming feeling of conviction, and it certainly did not erase all my doubts and fears. The doubts and fears were—and are—still spinning.
Here’s the best way I can think to describe it:
If I were to pit the knowing voice that arose from the confusion against the confused voice, the knowing voice would be like me after eight hours of sleep and a good breakfast, and the confused voice would be like me with no sleep and a shot of tequila.
The former just feels a little more trustworthy, a little sounder, and a little more grounded. The latter is louder, more repetitive, and maybe even a little more passionate, but it lacks substance. I get the very clear sense that I might be better served by the former.
That’s how I know that the knowing voice was clarity.
Well, that and the fact that I know enough to recognize insecure, personal thinking by now.
I recognize the merry-go-round. I’m quite familiar with the feeling of jumping on board with flip-flopping, fast-moving, fear-rooted thoughts. And I definitely recognize the fast-talking, passionate-sounding voice that feels like me with no sleep and a little mind-altering substance.
I’m familiar enough to remember that when I stay grounded and off the merry-go-round, the thoughts eventually die down. They sometimes come back and rev back up, but then they simply die down again.
And when they finally die down enough—which tends to happen faster the more I stand back and let them do their thing—that knowing voice is still there. That voice is constant while the others aren’t.
Yet another sign that it’s my always-there clarity.
Multiple Versions of Reality
Since I’ve committed to going on the trip, it’s been really fascinating.
There are ways I can think about it that make me break out in a rash. When my mind creates images of my kids feeling abandoned, or when it creates feelings of those four-and-a-half days being the slowest….days….ever, I suffer.
But those images and feelings always fade at some point and I stop suffering.
There are also moments when my mind creates totally different images and feelings, and I feel enthusiastic and eager to go on the trip.
What has become very clear is that there are multiple versions of reality available to me at any given time.
Luckily, I know that. I know that even in the middle of an anxiety-provoked rash, I’m only experiencing my own very biased perception of events, not events themselves. This is especially obvious when I consider that I haven’t even gone on the trip yet. I haven’t been away from my kids, and yet I’ve suffered over being away from them. How crazy is that?
So, knowing that my suffering is only due to my current-moment version of reality helps a lot. It also helps a lot to remember that nearly every time I’ve been totally positive something will be a horrible experience—yet that tiny knowing voice suggests I do it anyway—it ends up not being so bad.
You can remember these things too, because I’d bet anything they are also true for you.
The more you learn to recognize your own knowing voice and distinguish it from the loud, repetitive, flip-flopping doubts, the more you naturally cut through what looks like confusion and simply do what you already know to do.
Photo by Aya Demeter
About Amy Johnson
Dr. Amy Johnson is a psychologist, coach, and the author of The Little Book of Big Change: The No-Willpower Approach to Breaking Any Habit, and Being Human: Essays on Thoughtmares, Bouncing Back, and Your True Nature. Please sign up here to receive free weekly insights and wisdom from Amy.
Suicidal Ideation: Part One
“Suicide rates have not slumped under the onslaught of antidepressants, mood-stabilizers, anxiolytic and anti-psychotic drugs; the jump in suicide rates suggests that the opposite is true. In some cases, suicide risk skyrockets once treatment begins (the patient may feel not only penalized for a justifiable reaction, but permanently stigmatized as malfunctioning). Studies show that self-loathing sharply decreases only in the course of cognitive-behavioral treatment.”
― Antonella Gambotto-Burke, The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide
This is a subject I am oh-too-familiar with… Until Monday, I spent the last month practicing suicide, literally. I would wake up each morning before my wife did, and I would get a rope and practice hanging myself from a doorknob. I chickened out. I didn’t have the courage. Rather, my instinct for survival was stronger than my will to quit. Yesterday, I had my 88th electroshock treatment. ECT is the only thing that has helped me…
(to be continued…)
About me: I am a writer, artist, and teacher, although not necessarily in that order. I am a self-taught artist in the abstract expressionist style. I have degrees in Social Science, German, and Special Education. I have a 17 year old son with special needs (he lives with his mother) and have no time for head games. I was burned once on CL before but decided to post my own ad—Dum spero speri (Where there’s breath, there’s Hope). A good friend of mine from undergrad recently wrote me and said:
What do I find attractive about you?
1. I like your intelligence…most people are just too stupid for me to tolerate. You hold up your end of the conversation. You read interesting books!
2. I like your twisted sense of humor. I laugh nearly every time we talk. I’m pretty bitter so it takes a special person to make me lighten up.
3. I like your strong sense of self. You aren’t intimidated by me enough to let it interfere with our friendship.
4. I like your honesty. You usually respond to a direct question with a direct and complete answer – even if it’s not a comfortable topic.
5. I like your artistic outlook on life. You take painful subjects and turn them into creativity. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when you (finally) try to put some of the positive emotions on to the canvas.
6. I like the fact that you are basically an optimist- but realistic enough to not be annoyingly cheerful.
7. I like how you argue your point, but once you’ve said your piece you let it go – even if I don’t agree with you.
8. I like your generosity. You’ve always shared your art, books, opinions, music, etc with me.
9. I like the fact that you are easy to train…usually you’ll do what I tell you to do when you want to play. You take compliments and criticism well.
10. I like your gentleness. Some people get defensive and their instincts for self-preservation in response to my acerbic words. You never confuse my mouth with my heart.
11. I like the pretentious titles you give to your artwork.
So, if you have read this far, thank you for your indulgence. My cats are named Nietzsche and Kafka, if that gives you any clue as to where my head is at…If you want companionship, I am there…I am coming out of a 20 year relationship—it has been almost two years since l have been close to a woman (in any sort of way). Tried Craigslist once, got burned..willing to give it another shot, however. At least we could be friends, if there is no primal connection…Let me know your thoughts.