Month: July 2014

I Am a Weeping Willow

This evening, I was perusing through a notebook of old poems I had written and came across one I had written in tenth grade.  The assignment was to compose a poem in the fashion of Paul Simon’s “I Am a Rock.”  Finding this poem created simultaneously within me feelings of happiness and sadness.  I have come so far, yet feel as though I still reside in such a place of darkness.  Perhaps this poem will have me searching ardently for light.

I Am a Weeping Willow

As sure as the setting of the sun,

My spirits, too, will plummet below the horizon,

Entering a world of perpetual winter, moroseness, and shame,

My soul utterly alone.

I am a weeping willow, I am a cave.

As sure as the rising of the sun,

My spirits will rise above the earth,

Mankind, the heavens, into a world devoid of winter and filled with elation and joy,

But equally occupied with pain, sorrow, and longing.

I am a weeping willow, I am a cave.

When will the sun stop setting and rising,

Tumbling me down from monstrous highs to unfathomable lows.

In my garden, only unwanted weeds of fatigue and apathy grow.

If only someone would tend to my garden before I am drowned in my own weeds.

I am a weeping willow, I am a cave.

And a weeping willow always bows her head to weep,

And a cave is never enlightened by the sun.

© 2014 Alexandra Shall


Connection and Disconnect

At my weekly Wednesday group therapy sessions, I often zone out, floating amongst the clouds far above reality, only coming down once a comment or concept piques my interest. This past session, in rare form, I was actually half-paying attention to the discussion of the group. There was a new man in the group, and he posed an interesting question: What in this world fosters connection between individuals and what fosters disconnect? Other participants listed answers involving meeting people at church, having similar interests/hobbies, attending gatherings, etc. As people continued to discuss the prompt on a more superficial level, my mind started to churn as I truly pondered the question.

I believe that, in life, connection between members of humanity lies far deeper than sharing interests and meeting individuals at gatherings. Yes, those things certainly bring individuals together, but is there permanency? A transcendent component? The strength and vitality of our connection as human beings does not end, does not die, at the end of human life. While it is relatively simple to create more superficial connections between individuals, in order for humanity to thrive and flourish, we must reach within ourselves and delve into the deep.

The Baha’i Faith is a world religion that centers upon the belief in the unity of all mankind and our shared, collective existence as members of one human family. The Faith strives to foster this unity and bring together the different races and peoples of the world. Baha’u’llah, whom Baha’is recognize as the Manifestation of God for this Dispensation and the Promised One of all Ages, says:
“That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith.”

The reason I reference the Baha’i Faith is because it, like many faiths, is an effort to delve into the deep. As a Baha’i and a member of our collective humanity, I have experienced much of my life a feeling of connectedness with other members of my Faith and with others in my life – not just because we share a fondness for crochet and Apples to Apples (which very well may be true!) – but because we share a common goal, a common endeavor: an effort to unite and better the world in which we live, both for the brief existence we spend on this earthly plane and for time immemorial as humanity flourishes and progresses.

Our connection as individuals is dependent upon our shared causes and goals. Disconnect manifests through the discard and lack of acknowledgment of our common purpose, and also through invalidation – not paying attention to or ignoring the needs of our fellow members of humanity.

Keep attending your knitting circles and playing video games for hours on end with your best buddies, as those certainly foster connection and camaraderie, but also be aware of our higher purpose in nurturing connection between members of humanity. That is where our true connection can be found, eternal and transcendent.

Dialectics and Putting Your Life on Hold

As humans, our vitality and existence depend on our ability to create passion and meaning in our lives, and also our capability to form and nurture social connections.  It is when we cannot do so that we diminish, we shrink smaller and smaller on this earthly plane.  Thus life purpose and the holding of worthwhile, sustaining relationships are necessary ingredients in a recipe to human happiness.  In our lives, circumstances often inhibit the cultivation of these factors.  These can include family difficulties, job loss, or poor or compromised health and general wellness.  While we may have no control over these issues, there exists an interesting perspective concerning what we, as individuals, can do to mitigate and lessen the negative effects and find self worth and purpose once again.  

Marsha Linehan discusses the concept of dialectics in her pioneering mental health treatment modality called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT.  Simply put, a dialectic proposes that two seemingly contrary things can be true at the same time, not existing independently of or in conflict with one another.  For example, I cannot be unemployed and still experience happiness and have positive experiences.  A dialectic approach would say that yes, while you may be unemployed, that does not have to hinder your ability to be happy and enjoy life.  Dialectics often keep us from engaging in life in the ways important to our health and wellbeing, as discussed above.  We are waiting for one end of the supposed spectrum to reconcile the other, and this is the inhibitory factor.  By accepting both as true and congruent, such reconciliation is not necessary.

I have been struggling with dialectics in my journey through the world of mental illness.  My crash into depths I previously could not have fathomed has created a state of mind in which I believe I cannot both have a debilitating bipolar disorder and also have a meaningful and purposeful life – such as finishing college, interning and volunteering, having a social life, and engaging in activities I once found pleasurable.  Severe circumstances with hospitalizations, ECT, and medications have certainly contributed to the  neglect of these areas of my life, but they do not have to define me.  My therapist recently pointed out that I have put my entire life on hold for my illness – I have become its keeper, its slave.  It is unknown when I will recover enough to personally deem myself ready to reenter the world.  Why must I wait?  I have hidden in the darkness and depths too long.  Overcoming this dialectic – I can both suffer from a mental illness and participate meaningfully in life – is extremely necessary to my wellness and may improve my prognosis as a whole.

Dialectics have the power to put our lives on hold, to cause us to exist in stagnancy.  Such a state only hurts and hinders.  It is not a matter of reconciliation, but of embracing the ways in which different components of our lives come together.