Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Edge

I'm on edge. Like walking down the blade of a knife. One side is darkness, the other light. I'm trying to stay in the middle, which is human.

Had to bring the car to the garage to get the snow tires taken off and oil changed. They said I needed a state inspection as well. I had forgotten about that. I told them that I would go eat a bagel while they did the work. Eat your bagel slowly the mechanic told me. I walked down two streets and found out at the bagel store that I was lucky - a booth with a cushioned seat was free. There are only three of them in the store. There were a lot of people walking in and out of store. I had brought a book with me and ordered a bagel and a large cup of coffee. My plan was to read the book until the coffee was finished. That sounded reasonable. I paid to have the right to sit there. My bagel was finished quickly but I left the open wrapper on the table so as to say "See, I spent more money here then just on coffee. I have a greater claim to sit here than if I had only ordered coffee. Nobody dare give me a disapproving thought." There was music playing that I had never heard before, but I recognized the distinctive voice of Coldplay's lead singer. Sometimes the music interfered with my reading, and when this happened, I looked out the window. I looked at people. One girl wore a light green scarf that went with nothing she was wearing. But the scarf was immaculately folded around her throat and hung flat against her chest. It was a scarf with purpose, a stylish prop that succeeded in making a perfect knot, and this perhaps over shadowed the small flaw that it was the wrong color. A mother referred to her young pre-pubescent daughters as "ladies" and told the woman at the cash register that they all were going shopping at he mall. Each small girl was blond, like their bottle enhanced mother, and there was a thick streak of blue eye shadow over each girl's eyelid. A girl came into the shop talking to her boyfriend and wearing pajama bottoms. I envied her youth that made the breaking of rules of conduct so easy. I watched emotions flow over people's faces and ride upon currents that connected them to one another. Everyone had to order something so everyone had to speak. Isolation can't be complete in a bagel store. There was noise, there was jostling, there were secret peeks at each other. I believed (probably falsely) that none of them could be like me, they couldn't be feeling the sort of panic that I was feeling. I felt fragile. I felt like a freak. I felt like all my movements were deliberate and artificial. I know that nothing about my looks identified me as different. My clothing fit well, it was tasteful. I showered last night and my hair was a lovely puff around my head. Gold twinkled on my ear lobs, above my breasts, and on my wrists. It is not uncommon to be reading a book and drinking coffee and I had enough brains in my head to be really reading the book, appreciating the art of what was on the page, and not imitating interest. I read "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" by David Foster Wallace. He really knows how to describe a moment. He can take pages to describe all the details in one moment. Reading his writing made me want to go home and write. The rest of my day was free. But I said to myself, "You have walked from the garage and will have to walk back. You have talked and smiled at a strange mechanic who you are secretly afraid of and have sat, drinking coffee, surrounded by people who you suspect are all more happy than you are. If you get your car and drive straight home, take off your coat and shoes and slip into bed with a computer on your lap, will there be any coherence left in your brain to write sentences that flow together and make sense? Or have you, after being mixed up in the world outside of your house for a little more than an hour, completely used up the small measure of sanity you are gifted with every morning when you wake? Are you strong or are you a mess?"

I have a brain that is broken but I do like to play with it. Push it. Ask it to preform for me. I was at the garage with my car the very moment it opened and flawlessly I acted like a person who it is easy to forget. There were no sharp edges or stumbles in my behavior. I appeared rock solid. And then I came home and recorded everything I did, the little bit of it that cost me so much. I am a satisfied participant, observer, and scribe. There will be a faint residue of bliss when I shut off my computer and close my tired eyes. It is not yet eleven in the morning.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mediocre Writing

I'm reading a book. It is by a Vermont author, taking place in Vermont. It's a murder mystery. I'm worried because I'm afraid that I'll be as mediocre a writer as the author of the book. Sometimes the writing is so ordinary and uninspired it makes me want to scream. The author is trying, I'll give him that. It is so naked and obvious that he is trying. He's doing things that I learned in school to try to do. He is trying to be a Good Writer. Got a little sex titillating. Got into the character's head. Put down a wooden, mandatory description where a description is needed. Thought of some interesting metaphors. People talk the way you would expect people to talk. And I have to stop my eyes from skipping over the page, skimming and distilling, I know that part of my intellect is not engaged, that is why I'm sitting back and analyzing the text, half way between despair and laughter. "Why bother reading it?" I ask myself. And there are several reasons. To know otherness. A warning of what might be waiting for me in my future. Hooked by plot, want to know what happens. Be a good girl and finish what you have begun. Finding seeds of redemption. Loyalty to a Vermont writer. I read and I am reminded of the phrases "Nothing is promised" and "Talent is inherent". The author of my novel is smart and no doubt educated. He has learned how to write. He has practiced his craft. Honed, smoothed, and found rhythm. And yet something is lacking. And I'm terrified that in me, when it comes time to write my book, something will be found lacking.

There are very few memories that I can point to and say, "There. That was a turning point." But one such turning point was the words uttered by the psychiatrist I was seeing when I was eighteen. He read my diary while he was on vacation. When he returned he said, "There were some ideas in it which have been thought before, there were some ideas in it which haven't been thought before. Has anyone ever called you a creative genius?" I, who had self-esteem caked in mud, dirty and low, was suddenly raised up high. He was a professor at Yale, and he would say things like, "At Yale this writing would get an A". I confessed to him that success wasn't easy. "When I write I bleed" I complained. His look said it all. "Then why not bleed? Bleed away. Keep on bleeding. And give us more writing."

I could have never gotten into Yale. My grades weren't high enough. And I worked for my grades, they represented my best effort. My test scores weren't high enough. And yet, something funny happened when I wrote an essay to try to get into Barnard and Columbia, the only two schools I applied to. I didn't have the energy or wits to apply to any more, a sign I believe, of my eventual breakdown. My world was narrowing, ordinary things were getting harder and harder to do. I wrote an essay about my parents divorce and the lack of meaningful communication in my household. What was said, I wrote, was that the things I heard were usually angry and hateful and left you feeling empty inside. My guidance councilor read my essay and said that before it I should include a paragraph apologizing for the intensity of emotion in the writing. "Nonsense" I thought, "Hit them hard and hit them fast with the writing. Don't dilute the effects with an apology. And anyway, since it is all true, why apologize?" I was pleased by my guidance councilor's wariness. It felt like I had succeeded in doing something dangerous, I had created writing that had reached out and bitten the reader. My English teacher's reaction was terse and caused me more pause. She looked at me with narrowed eyes, and said, "This will stand out from the rest." What do people think when they narrow their eyes? Something was being left unsaid. But the English teacher wouldn't say more, her body language dismissed me. A part of me then thought that if you bite people with your writing they won't like you anymore. Maybe my English teacher had learned from my essay what I was trying to hide. I had said, in my oh so brief essay, that I lived in a hurtful environment. And the conclusion that could be drawn, although I thought that I had successfully maneuvered away from making any conclusions, was that I was a hurt person.

The college essay that I showed to my guidance councilor and my English teacher was not the first essay that I had written. The first essay that I wrote I showed to my friend Toby's father. He was a psychiatrist who worked primarily with recovering alcoholics. Toby had gotten into Yale. Toby's parents worked hard to make certain that all their children were healthy and successful. Toby's father was emphatic. You don't want to submit this essay. It shows that you are psychologically damaged. The college won't want to take you. I don't remember what I had written, something about me being a wolf and aggressive, take the bull by the horns sort of person, an admirer of Ayn Rand's books. In short, I thought I'd been positive. I had read Toby's essay that she used to get into Yale and she wrote about a mouse. I suppose it was a daring mouse, but privately, I thought it read like a children's fairy tale, hokey. I was dismayed and ashamed by Toby's father's reaction but I took it seriously. A new essay had to be written. I suppose what I did next was to instead examine myself, I took a look at what was happening all around me. So you think I'm damaged. Well, what caused the damage? What I had said in the first essay, and what Toby's father had concluded from the first essay, was all the more shocking because they were two very different things. It was like he had accused of masking myself. So when I wrote the second essay I was emphatic, there would be no mask. Every word would be precise and true.

In addition to the college submission package the student had to mail a check to a national testing center and have their official SAT scores sent to the colleges of choice. I knew exactly what I needed to do but I was frozen and couldn't do it. I believe the letter and check sat on my desk in my bedroom. It was the creation of catastrophe. Columbia immediately rejected me. Barnard sent several letters saying that the SAT scores were missing from my file. Eventually the Vice Principle of my school called Barnard and told them that he was an authority figure, he knew me, and this was my score. I don't know what was said in that phone call. I do believe that my acceptance letter was dated from the day of that phone call. My memory is corrupt but I think that I confessed the unmailed check to the Vice Principle, and that this confession freed me enough to send it. The phone call was to say, "The scores are on their way, and by the way, these are the scores." I hope too that the Vice Principal had something nice to say about me. Every time the school won a debate I'd stop by his office and announce our win. I was captain of the debate team, and under my direction, we might lose an individual debate, but overall, the school would always win. It seemed to me that he was the only adult who cared what was happening with debate.

I used to have dreams about being rejected from the Big College all the time. In my dreams I then go to a little school, a community college, near home. These schools only care that they are paid money upon admission. Lots of students, of varying intelligence and seriousness, go to these schools. Sometimes when I dream I am mentally ill, sometimes not. When I dream that I am mentally ill it is never that I have a specific diagnosis, only that everything is very difficult for me to do and the students around me have a much easier time with everything.

When the psychiatrist called me a creative genius I was still in school at Barnard. I had not yet become overwhelmingly psychotic. I was only depressed, not yet schizoaffective. My mind was breaking but it was not yet broken.

Now I wonder what has healed and what has been destroyed. What is possible and what is beyond my reach. I have tried three times to write a book. In June I am going to start to try for a fourth time. This time I dare not fail. I rejected motherhood and had myself sterilized so that I would have the freedom to become a writer. Being called a creative genius gave me hope for success. What I have, so far, is basically failure. No book completed. Bits of writing in newspapers established for the mentally ill. My sister, as I write, is trying to become a mother again. She is busy raising her first. I made a choice when I was in my twenties and now, in my forties, I return to that choice and wish to honor it.

If I had never met the psychiatrist from Yale I don't know if I would have had myself sterilized. I would not have been so committed to becoming a writer. What would I be without the memory of his enthusiastic encouragement? That man has had more power over me then either of my parents.

And in my secret heart of hearts, I ask myself, aren't you glad there is no child clamoring for your love and attention so that you are free, in peace and quiet, to read, and then read some more, hour upon hour of reading? And if you so love to read, would it not have come to you, on your own, that you might wish to write a book? "I bleed when I write" I said before the walls of my mind came crashing down and I faced schizophrenic ruin. But never mind the mental illness. Writing was never easy for you. If you bled then, you will bleed now.

I think Barnard wanted me because I bled for them and they liked it.

I think I can write a book if I have enough courage to bleed, day after day and not stop in horror of the pain. I don't really bleed when I paint. This has led me, for a decade, through my thirties, on a detour. The past two days I have been painting in little fits. I start and then I stop and all the while I am bored. I really don't want to paint anymore. There is not enough challenge.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bright Day

I put on a skirt today and sleeveless shirt. It was, despite the blue sky and strong sunshine, a bit too optimistic. It is spring but sweatshirts and sweaters are still needed. All the heat is off in the house. I'm happy about that because the electric and propane bills will be lower. For the first time in many days I've had enough sleep and my heart is at peace. Not painting. Not yet working on a book. But my morning was productive with errands. Mike has the car so walked around town. Put sunscreen on my face under makeup. Wore black tee shirt, black blazer, dark jeans. Around my neck is a heavy necklace, purple amethyst and green serpentine beads. Went to the bank. Picked up medication. Ate a bagel. No howling emptiness in my chest. No fear that when others look at me they see failure, abomination. No tears threatening to leak out of my eyes. This is sanity. Perhaps I'm a little bewitched by Spring.

Have had a stretch of days to react to the information that Jennifer is stripping. She told us that she lost her computer job in January and has been stripping for a while. There was so much that she wanted to tell us about the strip club where she is working. Apparently she thinks it is top notch. She even gave us traffic directions so that we could come see her where she works. I said, "No dear, we won't be visiting. We're going to give you your privacy."

I've had trouble sleeping at night, thinking about Jennifer, and had to take a nap yesterday in the middle of the day. When I woke there was one thought in my head. "She isn't your daughter". I think that I've wanted the impossible. I wanted to go back in time and give her a different childhood. I've wanted to raise her myself. The number of times, these past few days, when I've told Mike he was a crappy father. Jennifer wouldn't be a stripper if he had been a better father. That behavior has got to stop. Jennifer knows that I believe her story that Mike was an alcoholic for many years, and when I asked her why she thought he was drinking so much she said, "Because of Debbie." I know what happens when Mike drinks. He is happy and floating. He is removed and unavailable. I guess I must be doing something right with my marriage because now he doesn't drink except for the times when we eat at a restaurant. Social drinking we call it. During Easter at my father's house he allowed himself two glasses of wine, both watered down, and then switched to drinking coffee. I was so proud. I must concentrate on his behavior today and not punish him for his behavior years ago.

I remember my marriage to Bill and I remember the flush of happiness I had when I first had so much money to spend. Jennifer is experiencing this. She told Mike that she earns about a thousand a week. I am concerned that to get this money she is manipulating men's emotions with the sight of her naked breasts and ass cheeks and conversations that have forced cheerfulness and good will. She is learning to seduce and lie. This isn't exactly character building but it isn't criminal either. I suppose it will help her to get ahead in the world. I am certain that stripping will harden her, make her less trusting, help her to build walls around herself to distance herself from other people. And then I wonder, has all this already occurred due to the nature of her childhood? Do strippers come ready-made? I think that if she learns to negotiate the social currents of a strip club she will be able to negotiate the social currents of almost anything the world has to throw at her. I don't think the job will crush her. Strangely, I think it will turn her into a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps this is my optimistic fantasy. The Amazon Stripper. There are so many ifs. She will persevere if she continues to turn down the propositions for prostitution that she keeps getting from customers. She will persevere if she continues to drink cranberry juice instead of the liquor that so many are trying to force upon her. She will persevere if she doesn't get followed to her car and raped. Oh, she has been clear with us. Her job is not for one of the faint of heart.

I said last night at a psychiatric support group that today I would paint. Well, that didn't happen. But I don't hate myself for not painting. I say to myself, tomorrow I will paint, and I feel hope and confidence. In my mind the boundary walls between myself and Jennifer have been sorely tested. Jennifer does not know, and probably cannot imagine, how important she is to me. Should she know she would probably be very frightened. I know, and I am frightened. Today is the first day that I have felt composure and oneness, internal integrity. Jennifer is no longer the beginning and end of all my thoughts. Easter night I considered swallowing all my pills because I was tired of being so crazy. I loved and I hated Jennifer with equal force. Today is the first day I can write about her because I have finally achieved some peace and distance. Too much emotion and you cannot even construct grammatically correct sentences. What put Jennifer so central to my thoughts is not much of a mystery. I am probably a lonely person, who is at an age where the decision not to be a mother has come back to haunt me, and because of the schizophrenic disease the I/thou separation in my mind is permeable. I stay at too much of a distance, I get too close.

I like being obsessed. I like being focused and concerned. When I am obsessed with a writing project or painting this hurts no one and I suffer the least amount of harm. Oh how I long for the nights where I can't fall asleep because I am too excited to wake in the morning and begin work! To be consumed by the color green! If my life has a direction, at this very moment, it is a direction with a very familiar feel to it. I want my pet project. I want to create. I am, at this moment, poised, I think, on the brink of being productive. Jennifer will strip, and I will be busy making something out of nothing, the very act of creating which is the closest thing I know of to natural magic. Jennifer's personal private odyssey is now simply part of the way the world turns and my job, as the world turns, is to bring something new into it.

Spring is here like a gentle blessing, and better days are coming.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

She's A Liar

Last night Mike and I walked to the Sportsman's Lounge. It was eight o'clock on a Friday night. We arrived, having never been inside. It was a small place, about ten customers. While we were there some left and no new ones arrived. Two small groups were having fish and chips and beers and talking animatedly. In a corner was a pool table. Mike was disappointed in their limited offerings of beers, he didn't even finish his. I had a rum and coke. It hit me fast. For about half an hour I was very cheerful. Then I became very glum. Mike talked to the bartender. The bartender said that no girl named Jennifer ever worked there.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Difficult Day

It wasn't boredom yesterday that interfered with painting. As the day went on my head became thick. It was hard to think, like I was on the verge of having a headache but with no pain. I had wanted to sweat on the treadmill but it looked like taking a shower would be a big enough adventure. After my shower I went to Blockbuster to get a movie. I wanted to see the theatrical "Rachel Getting Married". For some reason, as I got out of the car and walked into the store there were tears in my eyes. A five year old boy held the door open for me, uncommon courtesy in someone so young. The clerk recognized me and made a joke. My face twisted. My smile felt so artificial that I had to look away. I hoped desperately to check out the movie without tears falling. There was nothing and no reason that had me feeling sad. I was simply brittle. Fragile. Without will power or a solid center filling me up.

When my husband came home from work I told him that I was sick. But I wanted to go for a walk. I had been in bed all day. All that I thought I could manage was a short walk. We walked slowly and I said nothing and stared at the pavement. Near the end of the walk I could lift my head and look at the sky. But when he took my hand to hold it I know my hand was limp, I could manage no response.

We decided that we had a little extra money this week and could afford to eat dinner at a restaurant. The time out in public had a good effect on me. Maybe conversation with my husband eased my mind toward more normal patterns. He thought that he had a fix to make me feel better when we got home. He wanted to read to me out loud from the romance novel he is in the middle in. I saw no sense listening to the middle of a book. I went to the children and young adult section of books that is against one wall of our library. I took down the first book in a series I believe I read in elementary school. He had discovered it and read it when he was in the Air Force.

Mike has recently stopped drinking wine in the evenings. Instead he drinks strong herbal teas made with two tea bags and sometimes a drop of raspberry extract. Mike made himself some tea and propped up his back against the bed headboard with four pillows. I lay down next to him, my head on his stomach. I listened to him read. He read a story about three children in England that I have absolutely no memory of. I can tell that he has read for children before or maybe it is the natural ham in him. He varies the voices and adds accent. He tells the story so earnestly.

I like being read to. When everything is slowly being said out loud I think you can visualize it better. You have to pay attention though, because if you don't, nothing is re-read. The pace marches on. It did put me at peace.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Slow Progress

Went to art class yesterday. Painted for two hours. Prepared to paint today. Painted for 40 minutes. Just got bored. Hope it was merely boredom. It could have been my schizoaffective disorder or depression playing with my focus, but I don't think so. Have the option of going to class tomorrow or painting again at home. Strangely nervous going to class. All the strangers energize me but make me fearful. Know that if I go to class I will definitely make progress on the painting. But won't go to class if it is forecast to rain. When it rains I turn the painting to the ground and carry it flat. Don't want to get raindrops on the wet oil paint. They don't mix with the oil, they bead up on top, but there is no way to wipe them off without smearing the paint. The car is parked a way away from the entrance to the art school. Enough distance for the rain to make bad mischief.

Had our monthly dinner date with Jennifer. I sat in the car while we drove to the restaurant with pent up emotions. I was silent but the silence was obvious and foreboding. Jennifer and her father chatted but I was the elephant in the room. I was trying not to be angry, I was trying not to bring up the fact that I did not believe she was making large amounts of money stripping rather than bar tending, I was trying not to label her a liar, I was trying not to add to the stress of Mike's life, I was trying to remind myself that I am not a parent, just an onlooker, I was trying to lay low, but oh, was I failing. As I sat silent emotion poured out of me. Human beings do that, we can communicate without saying anything.

At the restaurant I sat facing Jennifer and tried not to let my gaze brush her. There was a small window behind her and little else to see. We were situated in a corner of the room. Finally she said, "What's going on guys?" And Mike gently explained our dilemma. Her response was maddeningly elusive. I guess I hoped for some righteous indignation. "I'm not stripping! How dare you think so!" But since she obviously sees nothing wrong with stripping, or even, strangely, with us questioning her word, that is not what I got.

"If this is how you guys would act then of course I would not want to tell you that I was stripping."

"I don't want to strip if my parents get this upset."

"You know, there is a high class strip club nearby where I could work."

I think Mike and I did our best to assure her that if she was stripping we still supported her and loved her. I said, like a dork, "If you strip and go to school that would be o.k." She replied, "I'm planning on going back to school." Now, did I inadvertently give her my blessing?

I hope that I said something that got at the root of the problem, which is for me, I don't want to be lied to. Lying drives me nuts. I believe that I have tendencies toward paranoia, and justified paranoia is a situation that lying creates. I do believe that I have read Jennifer's body language and that I can see the signs that she is lying. I do believe that I've got some smarts, and that logically the things that Jennifer is telling don't add up. If there are 60 minutes in an hour and she gets one dollar every minute, without rest, that is $60 made in one hour. She works for 5 hours, no rest, no break at that rate and she gets $300. How can she have made $550 on a Saturday night? She explained that if she brings 6 beers to a table she gets $6 tip. Yeah right. Do people tip that much? The bar closes, they say on their door, at 1am on a Saturday night, all other nights at midnight. She told us that on Saturdays she works until 3 or 4 am stocking the bar after closing. Do I believe this? No. It sounded, as she was saying it, like something she was making up on the spot.

And yet, I'm getting tired of wondering and worrying. Dinner proved one thing; if she is stripping it isn't having an obvious effect on her. She is the same as she's always been. Youthful enthusiasm, happily effervescent, a joy to be with. The big news that she was excited about is she is going to Ireland in May with her new boyfriend. I volunteered to help walk her dog while her roommate is at work. It doesn't seem to bother her that she has no legitimate job and no thought out plans to go back to school. Certain things about her two week old boyfriend bother her, his physical imperfections and the tendency to want public displays of affection while they are in in the mall, and she seemed a bit taken back that we gave no protective act about her plans to go with him to a foreign country. He at least wants her to meet his family before they fly away. But we assured her, we don't care who you sleep with or how you choose them. That's your business. And you get stuck on your own in a foreign country we trust that you will figure out how to survive. Mike suggested she take camping gear with her. Like should she get ditched she will spend her time in Ireland camping in a field. I'm going to advise her to bring as much as she can manage in traveler's checks.

It is odd. Her father and I are united in our confidence that Jennifer is old enough to make her own mistakes, and that it is inevitable and hopeful that she will learn from them, but the one mistake of stripping, seems to signal alarm. And for us, in all the soap opera of her life, alarm is usually lacking. I suppose I figure that there is healthy sexual activity, and unhealthy sexual activity, and that stripping falls into the category of unhealthy sexual activity. Her last three boyfriends all turned out to be losers and nothing lasted very long. She found out their flaws in due good time and dumped them all. I don't think that in the beginning she is very discriminating. She is easily seduced and impressed. The men are always portrayed as so wonderful and so special when she first introduces them to us. But to her credit, she has a temper and doesn't put up with poor behavior for very long. Nobody is going to make a victim out of her, and that is, in my book, healthy sexual behavior. So what if she is a little promiscuous. I see her as a bit of a hopeless romantic. She always hopes, that with each one, things will work out in the long run. They all seem to be at one time a candidate for marriage and babies. If she is indeed lying to us about her current job, then she lies with as much ease to herself as well. She shares traits with her father - they both love to be immersed in fantasy.

But if she is stripping, I fear, that makes a victim out of her. She is forced into role playing sexual arousal and interest in men that she really has no interest in. And her body is no longer a secret sacred thing, it is marketed, on display, an object. I don't doubt for a second that Jennifer believes that a stripper is in total control, and that this makes her the antithesis of a victim. But I think it is an occupation that insidiously gets to you, corrupts and mars the psyche. Jennifer having private, consensual sex is healthy, Jennifer making herself into a sex object for men in a bar is unhealthy.

After dinner as we were saying our good-byes, Jennifer promised to call me the next time she is working at the bar so I can come visit. I said yes please, I would like to order a diet coke and give her a dollar tip while she had her clothes on. And then as way of apology, I said "You know, paranoia is a symptom of schizophrenia." Just to cover things if in fact Jennifer has been telling the truth all along. Let her think, if she is legitimate, that her step-mom is a bit nuts. I can take it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Be selfish"

"Be selfish" my husband said to me, "and focus on Karen. What Karen needs and what Karen wants. Two years ago we let Jennifer go to live her own life. She has to be able to make her own decisions and make her own mistakes."

We met Jennifer yesterday going for a walk. The job at Staples was a bait and switch swindle. Since the job offer was verbal, not in writing, there was nothing she could do. They offered her a job at $12 and hour, management with benefits, and then said that the employee she would be taking the place of had decided not to resign. So instead they offered her a part-time job without benefits at $9. So Jennifer is thinking about going back to school and working...... I don't know where. She has no definite plans. She talked about her bar tending job but none of it seemed to be convincing. I said, "you"ll be there this weekend" and she said no, that she had taken time off to start her new job. So we'll have to wait until next week to go there and have a "drink" with her. She tried to explain to me how easy it was to earn $200-$500 dollars in tips by everyone who buys a beer giving her a dollar. I still don't know. She said that in Vermont you don't need to have a license to work as a bartender and that her entire job was "off the books".

If I was fated to have a close relationship with Jennifer it probably would have already happened. I do this, I pick people who I would like to have a close friendship with and the friendship doesn't happen. I really liked Mike's sister, who he swears up and down is very sick emotionally and due for a nervous breakdown. I didn't care, I didn't see it. I just would have loved to have been her best friend. She lives in California. She is a professor of psychology at a college. A real powerhouse of a mind. A little elitist. So far out of my league.

Jennifer has a close phone relationship with her own mother. She doesn't need me. And do I need someone who is deceitful with me? My job with Jennifer is to be a mature role model. I'm supposed to be someone to look up to. Go chasing after Jennifer and she is going to run in the opposite direction. Jennifer doesn't benefit by having a needy step-mother or an interfering step-mother.

Am I being a strong, productive adult role model? No, not really. Went to art class today and painted. But I haven't been working on art. I haven't been doing much of anything except blogging and reading books and being depressed. Went up on my anti-depressant four days ago. Last night I was crying. Mike said, "Your depressed." I said, "No I'm not. I'm not suicidal." In one way I can say the extra anti-depressant is working. I don't think about death constantly. But oh, do I feel fragile. I see my nurse today. She has to authorize the increase in my medication, I did it and then left her a phone message. I know that should this increase not be enough, there is yet one more step higher we can go in the dosage. However, there may be food restrictions. I probably can't eat things like aged cheese or aged meat or soy sauce. Will find out today.

I've come to the realization that quitting my vampire book right while I was in the middle of writing it was bad for me. I have to feel like I make gains, make accomplishments. I quit because I feared it was too flawed for publication. Why spend a lot of effort on something that is going to be rejected by all publishers? But my brother has read my work, and he believes in me. I've thought about the book and say to myself that eventually I will re-write it and I can fix the problems then. Even if the book doesn't eventually get published I have an idea for a second book, and that second book with benefit from the experience I gain finishing the vampire novel. It is true that the more you write the better your writing becomes. But the experience of finishing what I started is key. I will not like myself very much if I view myself as a quitter.

At one time in my life I made a huge sacrifice, in the spirit that I was committing myself to becoming an author. I had myself sterilized so that I could concentrate on writing. I decided that I would rather write books than become a mother, because with my illness, I saw no way of doing both. Well, perhaps I have gotten off track by painting. Painting has not turned out the way I had hoped. It is hard to sell my work, hard to make any money. I doubt the extent of my talent in the visual arts. It is there. But it is not huge. And it does not progress the way my writing progresses while I am working on a book. I think my talent as a writer exceeds my talent as a painter. And then there is the history. I have spent many more years trying to write something of value than I have trying to paint. In my bones I'm more used to working with words. It doesn't help that schizophrenia is a cognitive disorder, and that writing is so dependent on cognitive power. I'm relying upon a tool that is diseased. I do have a little hope though that the more I do it, the more things in my brain will heal and branch out and work around what is disabled. Part of my motivation when I blog is the knowledge that I am challenging and working my brain. It doesn't matter what the subject matter is, vampires or painting or depression, all writing is a practice of the art of literature. It is practice thinking.

My course is settled. I will finish my vampire novel. During the next several days I plan to re-read my husband's book "The Judas Crux" that my novel is based upon. I will also re-read everything that I have written so far and try to get to the point where I have a vision in my head of what has already been written and what needs to be written next. I quit typing in the middle of a chapter, but everything that was to have happened in that chapter was already planned in a hand written rough draft. By my estimations I could be working directly on the book by next week.

However there are two mitigating factors. I am still attending art school and have a painting that needs a lot of attention. I painted the sky today and so three quarters of the painting is covered in wet paint. I have to wait for the paint to dry. But once it is dry I can start glazing on my thin, transparent layers of color. My teacher is used to seeing me do a lot of work at home. I don't want to disappoint her since she is primarily responsible for me getting my scholarship. The painting holds promise to be quite lovely. I have to use many of my mornings working on this painting and doing drawings for the next one. The course is through to the end of May. This is enough time to finish one painting and at least start a second. I said that it hurt me to quit my book, I think it would hurt me too to quit giving my art class my full attention. I may be able to divide my attention, I don't know, it really has never worked before. It has always been painting or writing, full steam ahead.

So I don't think I will use these next several mornings preparing to re-enter a writing project. Instead, while the paint is wet on my current canvass, I will draw. It is a relief to say that the depression I've suffered has withdrawn enough that I can envision a morning of drawing. In the evening, when my mind is not as sharp as usual I will revisit the Judas Crux and re-read my writing. Evening times are usually for reading and watching t.v., it is rare for something creative to happen at night. But who knows, maybe I've got some ideas that will go down in a notebook.

There is a unique task on my horizon besides drawing. I want to write my sister a long letter. She returns to California with her toddler daughter today. I want to tell her how precious the time was that we spent together on her visit. She is family who, unlike London, expresses her love for me and who I am certain values me simply for who I am. I want a better relationship with London, but I already have a wonderful relationship with my sister. I want to tend to the family that I am certain and not conflicted about. And my sister, I know, does not lie to me. The deeper my sister is revealed to me the more wonderful I think she is. As with any person there is mystery, but I don't fear the mystery of my sister. The letter will certainly surprise her. I plan for it to be full of love and good cheer. Something to make her feel warm inside.

So, write a letter, paint and draw until May, and then a push to finish my aborted vampire book. It is wonderful to have a plan.