bear puppy blonde girl

Listen to me read this piece here:


I went through old writing files, looking for a seed to germinate, when I came across my intentions for 2013. My prolonged illness had struck down at least two-thirds of these intentions. Next was a note to myself from the last time I came to Taiwan over a year ago, in which I mentioned performance evaluations for work to be completed, and the need to schedule a doctor’s appointment for the mysterious pain that had spread through my entire body during the trip. Finally, I found a note from 2011 that I’d entitled “Nonplussed,” which discussed the enormous book deals being offered to a friend, and the advice I’d given her about which publishing house to go with. All of these notes are, in hindsight, enormously meaningful in the bigger picture: narratives of illness, work, the writing life.

Deep and regular journaling became a stronger practice for me after I taught Rawness of Remembering in October and November. What they say about us teaching what we ourselves need to learn is in this case accurate. Having journaled, I can now remember things that would otherwise have been obliterated during my November/December health crisis. (Though I became sick partway through the session, class went well. I still receive heartfelt emails from that session’s students about the role my class played in their lives, and I’m tremendously grateful for that.) Writing things down is a craft and something to master; it’s a lifeline and a backbone.

Twenty minutes ago I sent my mum a voice message about current research about schizophrenia. The social model, it seems, is back. Or rather: schizophrenia is not just about the brain, but is highly impacted by the family and community’s involvement in supporting the individual. People with schizophrenia in India seem to fare better than Western people with schizophrenia; families of those people tend to come to all of the appointments, help to manage medication, and allow their children to live with them far longer. Families in India, the article notes, also yell at their schizophrenic relatives less than European and American families do.

A support system is crucial, is what I’ve been told. And as my life continues, I’ve found that I’ve required more support than I did before, which is by no means a terrible thing.

We all need teams, tribes, communities. In “ordinary” life, they strengthen our bones; in crisis, tribes become essential. (Click to tweet.)

In the middle of writing this, my mum came home with a quiet little black ball of fur in her arms. A week-old (we guess) puppy, found abandoned by her chiropractor’s son at a construction site. “No-Tail Bear,” as he’s been named, is now dozing in my lap, his tiny head in a sunbeam — just the way Daphne finds and settles into sunbeams back home. Cozy. Unsure of where he belongs now, but willing to take the risk of settling in because things are well in the moment, and all there is for him is the moment. After we’ve spent some time with him, we’ll take him back to his new home, where he’ll settle back into the pack that’s claimed him; and if all goes well, he’ll begin to bark hysterically at strangers who come by, as dogs do, and live a long life.

With love,