Daily Archives: August 25, 2013

Mindfulness and Mania

One of the (many, as regular readers will know by now) pleasures of riding a bike is the fact that it allows you to enjoy the scenery and be at one with Nature.

I have written at length about the positive value of this and how cycling is  – for me – such an effective way of ‘being in the moment’. I have also written about the benefits of Mindfulness. I have been (erratically) practising Mindfulness since I did an eight session course in at the beginning of 2012 at the behest of my psychiatrist. In this edition of my blog I want to take a detour, take another look at Mindfulness and it’s possible impact on people, like myself, of the Mood Swing Tribe.

One of the defining elements of Mindful practice in regular daily activities is heightened awareness – of one’s breath, of one’s feet on the ground, of all the parts of one’s body during a Mindful Body Scan. Noticing one’s physical surroundings in all its detail is also encouraged as a way of being in the moment, of curbing the impact of what my Mindfulness teacher called ‘the monkey mind’. These practices of noticing one’s body, one’s environment, are all aimed at steadying one’s distractions, bringing a sense of perspective to the clatter – the ‘Sturm und Drang’ as the mid 18th century German philosophers had it – of daily life.

Recently I have begun to have my misgivings about all this ‘being in the moment’ stuff, though. I was reading a book by the well-known british comedienne Ruby Wax recently called ‘Sane New World’. She is certainly a high-profile, articulate advocate of Mindful practice and is not hesitant to share the considerable mental challenges she faces, and how being in the moment has help to steady her ship. It was while I was reading this book that I began to recognise some startling parallels with hypomania.


O.K., before I go on allow me to don my white coat, and affect a look of empathy and condescension while I explain what hypomania is. It is the stage of elevated mood that is the kindling for the roaring fires of full-blown mania. The type of frenzy that has some of us taking personal responsibility for the planet, the solar system…well, the whole darn universe, in fact. The type of energy from which sleep and stillness flee; in the throes of which so little and so much is done.

Hypomania is the good part. It’s where I can feel the every breath, every gasp and murmur of the wind in my ears – and it is only in my ears as I ride through the traffic in town on the way to the station in the morning, or out in the countryside for miles and miles and miles. Hypomania is the creative energy behind these very scribblings. It is the electricity I feel in every pore as my mind and body fertilise….manure most of the time; but sometimes, some exquisite times it is the white heat of clarity, understanding, of love, of, of…where was I?

Get the picture?

I think that Mindfulness for some one like me might feel good for what the doctors (but not me, I have to admit) are the wrong reasons. My psychiatrist would say that hypomania is something to treat – much in the same way that depression is something to treat. To treat means to dull for people like me. I thrive on hypomania. And Mindfulness, for me, fuels that fire.


Anne Sexton’s Last Letter to God

This is the last letter I will write

sitting at my kitchen table

with the blue coffee mug

at my elbow and the pot

roasting each bean to perfection:

faraway continents

in my cluttered suburban kitchen.

The sun is sharp through the blinds,

crisscrossing the kitchen’s

clean tiles with yellow and white.

I walk a knife-edge of light.

This is the last letter I will write.

I have been a witch, clothed in rags

and shreaking. I have borrowed

the wings of angels and given them back:

a poor fit, and yes, like Icarus

I had no sense and didn’t much like

falling back to earth. I have had lovers

by the dozen, some poets and others

and a faithful husband that I left

in the end. I have written painfully evocative

letters from Europe and many poems,

but this is the last letter I will write.

God is in your typewriter, the old priest said

and I wanted a father so badly, that for months

I believed him, transfixed by small miracles

and clutching my golden crucifix

on my knees by the empty bed. Lately

I have given a few well-received readings

in my high heels and my favourite red dress,

the posters that displayed me in defiant pose.

I was always dramatic with my husky voice,

my fingers curled around a cigarette

and the ending always upbeat.

I have just lunched with an old friend

saying goodbye and something

‘she couldn’t quite catch’.

Now I have locked the front door behind me,

squinting a little as autumn spills down

from the skies and the trees. Here

is a small miracle and I am walking away.

I wrap my mother’s fur coat

tightly around me, although I have

no need of its warmth today. The sun

is a cat stroking my neck, winding itself

contently around my long slender legs.

I pause by the garage door to admire

the autum leaves in their sourball colours.

A drink is in order. A double.

A toast to old friends, to those

on the other end of the phone and to those

who for one reason or another

have abandoned me. I pull the car door

closed and turn the key.

This, God, is my journey.

I have cut the lines

between us: no more tantrums.

No more poems. I am not

your daughter, your mother, your lover.

No more letters then, from me to you, God

and it amuses me to think of your

impotent displeasure

as I settle myself

comfortably into the driver’s seat.

Tracey Herd (1968 – )


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Retail Therapy

Weekends here in the Midwest mean county fairs, antique/estate/yard/garage sales, flea markets and farmer’s markets. I’ve been feeling rather awful physically, in contact with my doctor to find out what is going on. The awfulness is having an impact on my half marathon training, which in turn depresses me and it’s just a big mess. Retail therapy has always made me feel better, but I’m still attempting to follow some sort of budget. So my mother and I hit the garage sales/flea markets today. I’ll include my favorite scores of the day, soon to be added to the urban farmstead!


got this charming little table (looooove the distressed finish!) at the flea market today. Plan to add it to my spare room, just have to rearrange and consolidate first.


Also got this vintage inspired medicine ad reproduction, with a little bottle attached to it. Really liked the look and of course the fact that it has to do with headaches! It’s going in the guest bathroom.

The retail therapy helped me not think about the pain (despite the fact that it did make walking tough) but it was a good distraction for a bit. Figuring out the redecorating and rearranging is also helping and the fact that I stayed under the amount I budgeted to spend (by quite a bit!) is great.  I’m really trying to make the most of this difficult period as far as making my home beautiful and the crafts turning out successfully is doing wonders for my self esteem.

Look for more updates to the urban farmstead soon!

Filed under: Crafty Tagged: antique, crafts, DIY, rustic, urban farmstead, vintage

A Bit Too Sharp

IMG_2138I finished sewing up Cardigan Mark 2.0 last night – yay! I made the same mistake with the shoulders again, but now it’s sunk in what to do and what not to do — I should have started the seam from the neck and worked outwards. I might try to unpick it and see if I can fix it, but I’m not overly confident about that. The seam blends into the knitting so smoothly that it’s going to take some luck and prayer to actually figure out a safe place to pull it out from. :s

But hey, at least I actually ended up with a bit of wool at the end, so that IMG_2139gives me materials if I manage to get that seam unpicked. That pleased me — I bought two fat balls of wool thinking that I’d be using both of them up, and instead, I’ve got a whole spare one for another future project. Obviously, I’m excited — it’s a gorgeous wool and it knits up beautifully, so whatever else I can make from it is going to be gorgeous and lovely to touch. Which, of course, circles back around to why I’m wary about trying to pick out and fix that seam — it’s gorgeous and I would hate for all my effort to end up being for broken nothing. I might also ask my husband his thoughts, as he is the better seamster out of the two of us.

IMG_2141But anyways, that is, in essence, complete… which means I can move on to the next project in the book! This one is on two different sized needles, and the new stitch is slip, slip, knit (ssk). I found a video that looks like it will translate it well enough to left-handed-ese, so that’s pleasing. Have I mentioned that I’m really enjoying learning knitting? Well, yeah, I probably have on several occasions. *chuckles* I’m still finding the patterns easier to follow than crochet, though I probably do need to make myself pick a crochet project keep developing my skills in that regard as well.

For now though, I am going to go get some lunch, maybe some of the banana bread I baked yesterday (this is my preferred recipe), and get back to some lovely lovely knitting. And Simming. ‘Cause that’s how I weekend roll. Hope everyone is having a great one!


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