"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Friday, April 25, 2003
Our freedom depends on the walls around us
lib·er·ty Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French liberté, from Latin libertat-, libertas, from liber free
Date: 14th century
1 : the quality or state of being free: a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice
2 : What I do not have in my office
I think I may have mentioned that I work in a closet.
Its not really a closet, it is just a badly designed office in another building from the rest of the company. But it feels like a closet, all narrow and tall and no light. The image I had in my head when we moved here was of a bear trap.
I used to take walks at lunchtime at a local park called Maymont. It is a beautiful place with sculpture, gardens, lots of walking paths and even wildlife. I had particular routes mapped that would fill my lunch hour on a brisk walk up and down the hills, but eventually I would get bored and venture along some other path I had not been down.
One day I ended up in the wild animal area and noticed a cage along a side path, so I walked over to see what was in that cage. The path took me to the second story level, and I found myself looking down on a circular enclosure with a tree in the middle and a raised bench around the circumference. There was one entry to what appeared to be a den of some sort just under me.
It was not long until a small fox came out of the den. He hopped up on the bench and walked around the edge of the enclosure in a complete circle. Then he spun around quickly and walked the same route in reverse, hopping down and returning to his den.
Moments later, he reappeared and repeated every single action again perfectly.
As I watched him, he did this over and over and over, tracing the exact same route around the periphery of his cage. I could now see where he had actually worn a path where he was walking, he had done this so much.
I tapped on the cage (the signs tell you not to but I could not resist) and he looked at me for the slightest moment, then ignored me and resumed his circuit.
It dawned on me that the fox had gone mad.
He had been caged so long that his mind had just snapped, and all he could do now was repeat the same futile behavior over and over and over. Foxes don't live in round cages, and he knew that. Now though, I wonder if he could have escaped even if there was an opening, or would he just continue the same useless circuit till he died.
Caging animals or people up can cause bizarre behavior. There are doctors who think that the mere placing of a prisoner on death row will drive him insane. Solitary confinement is a well accepted punishment, and very effective.
I do not want to live like that, and that's what I am doing. I want people and windows and sunlight, not a computer monitor and a dark corner all alone for hours on end.
I am going to fix this.
I have to.
There are days when solitude, for someone my age, is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.
Colette (1873 - 1954), 'Freedom,' 1908
ad·vance Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English advauncen, from Old French avancier, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin abantiare, from Late Latin abante in front, from Latin ab- + ante before -- more at ANTE-
Date: 15th century
1 : to move forward
2 : to make progress
3 : What I think I am doing
Slowly but surely, I think I am getting better.
It never fails to amaze me how much difference the right (or wrong) meds can make. The doctor changed my medications last week yet again attempting to find the right "cocktail" that would make me as good as possible. It was close but no banana.
I spent last weekend hardly saying a word because inside all I could feel was this vast emptiness. It was even beyond sadness, it was just "blankness." It was not fun. And it was not "right" either, it was obvious we still did not have the proper mix of medications yet.
So day before yesterday, the meds changed again. This time I think we may be closer.
Last night I had some friends over for pizza. I had a wonderful time, was relaxed most of the evening, and just enjoyed them being there. The difficulty I had two weeks ago getting comfortable seemed pretty much gone. I guess it was chemical too. That's a good thing. If its chemical it may be able to be fixed, or may even already have been. I really appreciated the chance to just kick back and be myself a bit. Its been too long, and I've almost forgotten who I am.
My friend seems to be discovering who she is too. Now that her meds are pretty balanced (she was in the hospital the same time I was), she has just started a new job and is excited about working again, even though there are the usual rough edges. She's working at the SPCA and wanted to work only with dogs since she is allergic to cats, and is having a hard time convincing her boss that she simply can't work with cats or she will get very very sick. Hopefully she will get it worked out. She was more comfortable and laughing more last night than I have ever seen. It was good to see her that happy.
It amazes me that such tiny pills can have such a huge effect on our moods and personality. I can only guess that the sum total of the actual chemicals in our brains that are having the effect are less than a drop or two if all placed together. Incredible, that just such a small amount of an imbalance can cause such giant effect, even changing the courses of lives and careers and families. Our bodies are more finely tuned machines than we imagine in our wildest fantasies.
Another guest that we had invited was unable to make it because her meds were still way off base. After several days of feeling wonderful, she had plunged into a dark place where she did not want to have anything to do with any people at all. I know how bad that place is, I've been there. I felt so sorry for her, but the only thing I could do is let her know we all understood perfectly and would be back in touch. It is really the mark of true friendship, I think, when one feels that they can expose their vulnerabilities to another in that depth. She knew I would understand, and I am honored by that.
But for me, I think I am doing better, at least the last couple of days. Hope this is a trend. I could use a trend or two.
Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)
ser-en-dip-i-ty Function: noun
Etymology: from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip
1 : the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
2 : What can happen if you just keep your eyes open
I think it was about a year ago today that I had dinner with a wild rabbit.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was going absolutely stir crazy. My wife was at work and would not be home till late that evening so I got in my car and just drove.
I soon found myself heading out of Richmond towards the Eastern Shore of Maryland taking a route I had never taken before. City quickly gave way to suburb, and suburb gave way to country as the miles passed. Pretty soon I was in that strange place where every third house seems to have an RV for sale in the front yard, and towns are few and far between.
I had some new music for my CD player and plugged it in, listening as I drove, trying to clear my head of the stresses of my job and my life. As I drove traffic became sparser and sparser until there were few cars on the road at all. After a particularly long stretch I came to a country store and stopped in to get some fried chicken and took it to the car. I knew I was close to Maryland and figured I would stop somewhere on the water and enjoy my dinner.
It could not have been two miles down the road when I was caught in the traffic jam.
Cars were bumper to bumper. The road was hilly so I could not tell how far up ahead it reached, but since I was in no hurry I just relaxed with my music and waited. And waited. And waited.
An hour passed, and I traveled about a half of a mile. I crested a hill and for as far as I could see, there were cars and more cars, all pretty much stopped. I pulled out my map and saw that the bridge to Martyland was still ten miles further on, and assumed it was an accident on the bridge that had stopped traffic.
I did not intend to wait that long just to cross a bridge, so I turned around and took a side road.
Traveling was easier once I got off the highway. This was all country, all forest, hardly any houses at all. Then I came to an old plantation that was open for tours. I turned in to the parking lot.
The mansion was less than impressive, and I vaguely remembered being there before years earlier. I looked at the map of the grounds and spotted a picnic area, so I drove over there, took out my chicken, and sat down at a picnic table.
The chicken was quite dry, as is often the case with chicken from country groceries. I got up to get my drink from the car, and spotted something out of the corner of my eye.
On the path next to the shelter, a small bunny had ventured out and was carefully munching on some dandelions.
He looked at me, and I looked at him.
It was one of those moments that are hard to describe, where animal and human seem to touch in some way. I stayed still, and he, thinking I was no threat, kept eating. So I took out my dinner and ate too, each of us watching the other.
There we were, the bunny and I, having dinner together. I the interloper in his world, I the guest, he the gracious host giving me the courtesy of his presence. We did this for at least twenty minutes, and I was transfixed.
There is nothing, I think, more apt to take our minds off of the cares and worries of our workday world than a chance encounter with something wild, something untamed, something out of our experience, even if it is just a wild bunny rabbit.
As the sun set, he turned and vanished quietly into the brush, and I got back in my car and drove home, touched and at peace.
Of one thing I am certain, the body is not the measure of healing - peace is the measure.