My illness once was my life, when I was the bipolar poster boy

When I needed, I needed to know, needed help, needed support, community
My illness was all bewildering—new to a shattered world, my world
When the fulness of my life sunk into my illness
My identity reposed in the drop-in center
When the eyes of all consumers waited upon me
My category slotted me High Functioning: the drop-in center super consumer
When my illness was my life and I befriended NAMI’s salve
My life and acquired competences sent me all across the US
When my story lectured at local, state, national, and international conferences
My recovery article published me in university journal and recovery workbook
When my illness was my life and I was a textbook label, the bipolar poster boy

My illness echoes in my every life outside the doors of the drop-in center
My recovery calls me to thriving stories outside psychiatric textbooks
My illness recurs but ritual chant in archaic language of quaque hora somni pills
My recovery fashions me in the image and likeness of a wholeness I always was
My illness wrapped me in clouds, warped self-image flashing fragments past self
My recovery closes the textbook identifiers written upon a terrible chapter
My illness fades in the clarity now illuminating the mind it once dominated
My recovery lives as a poem, a song, a choir of friends, a cathedral of love
My illness shadows my awareness as a backward glance into the dark
My recovery belies the stigmata that would mark me as unholy, unwhole, ill
My recovery nearly makes me an unbeliever, that there ever was a time

My illness was my life, when I was the bipolar poster boy

Technology and Self-Driving Cars

I am not looking forward to self-driving cars.  Technology is already intruding into my life in unwanted ways.  What would technology do to my self-driving car, if it is already bothering me with my laptop?!!

Every time I turn on my computer, I have to wait for a message to pop-up asking me if I want to buy McAfee virus protection.  My computer won’t work until this pop-up fully appears on my screen.  Then, the McAfee pop-up can’t seem to establish an internet connection, so another pop-up tells me to try at another time.  Now I don’t want McAfee, I don’t want the pop-up, and I most certainly don’t want to try again to secure a connection for a product I never wanted in the first place.  No matter what I do, I can’t get rid of this pop-up about a product I don’t want.  Then there are those involuntary updates that my computer does without my permission.  Many times, I’ve had a good idea that I wanted to write right away, but my computer decides it needs an update, so I have to wait up to 15 minutes or so for the computer to update, and recite my idea over and over in my mind to keep from forgetting it.  Then there was that day when Microsoft decided to update the OS on my office computer to a higher version when I was away on holidays.  The upshot was that the printer went offline, and I had to bring in our tech guy to re-install the printer.  Not to mention me learning yet another program when the other one worked just fine.  My email account has decided to remind me after three days if I haven’t responded to an email I know full well about, but didn’t need to reply to.

Now about self-driving cars.  What if I’m late to work, and my self-driving car decides to update its OS and I have to sit in the cold, and wait for my car to update and make me late for work???  I’ve driven cars that started beeping at me because it thought that I was driving too close to another car in the parking lot, or because another car drove too close to me which I clearly saw and the car startled me and almost caused an accident.  How many pop-ups are going to plague me on my dashboard of the self-driving car?  Maybe the car won’t start until I tell it that I don’t want McAfee on my car.  I think that computer programmers have too much idle time and sit around thinking how to take away our own decision-making minds.  I think that they think we need computers to make our decisions for us, and, with AI, maybe ultimately to think for us.  What if my self-driving car decides that I really don’t want to go to the place I do want to go to??

The Clear Mirror of the Mind

There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “My mind is a clear mirror, I must keep it free of dust.”  That line was taken a step further with the words, “I have no mind, where can the dust gather?”  That latter line is a very high, esoteric Buddhist teaching.  It is not appropriate for me at this stage of my development.  I have a mind.  And I have lately been watching it.  I’m discovering the value of keeping the mirror of my mind clear.

It’s easy to allow petty grievances and resentments to fill our mind.  We can dwell on bad experiences, arguments in the past we are carrying on in the present, reasons to think ill of our neighbor, even think ill of our friends and intimates.  But lately, I’ve been trying to interrupt these movements of the mind.  I am realizing that my mind is a clear mirror that must be kept free of dust.  It is just as easy to fill the mind with pleasant thoughts, with happy truths, with friendly ideas.

The present is all we have.  I am realizing that I want to live in a pleasant present, not one filled with uncomfortable thoughts.  I think of that Yes lyric, “There’ll be no mutant enemy we shall certify.”  Do I have enemies?  Not in my living room.  Not when my partner and I are out on a date.  Why rehearse past grievances or past enmities in the present?  There are those words, “Be as prudent as serpents but as gentle as doves.”  While I need to protect myself against enemies, I don’t need to replay in my mind their past actions against me.  In fact, the less I think about my own issues, the better I feel.  When my mind and my actions are on how I can make the world around me better, or manifest goodness in my present, I find I feel better.  One miserable day I had an unpleasant morning, lost some money at the casino, and was feeling bad about myself.  On my way home, I stopped at a convenience store.  A man there asked me for some money to buy a coffee.  I never give out money, but I went into the convenience store with the man and gave the clerk the money for his coffee.  The clerk thanked me, the man thanked me twice, and I felt good about losing another dollar for this man.  Losing a hundred dollars at the casino just made me mad, while losing another dollar for the coffee redeemed the day.  It is my choice whether I will dwell on the money I lost at the casino and get mad, or dwell on the dollar I gave the man for coffee and feel good.  And so in all the other affairs of my life.  Having a mind like a clear mirror free of dust isn’t a bad way to go through life.  It’s a good present.