When the cares of this ugly, cruel world get me down, this is currently my go-to innocent happy song! Debrissa McKinney, you are my antidote for Trump! Not bad for a 25-year-old or whatever the hell you are.
Any chance you would come sing it for us Thursday night at our benefit dance party? Check out the current version of the party announcement – complete with new venue at Battery Park Apartments. Healingvalidations.com
Riding it out up in the mountains north of Spruce Pine. No way do I want to go to a hospital. I keep telling friends that I think I’m about to die, but they tell me about other people who also thought they were going to die and then did not.
When I shot this 6-minute video a week ago, I thought I had it licked. But then it came back really strong on Friday and I am way sicker than ever before.
My plan has called for me to ride out of here on Wednesday. I get my Social Security check and can buy propane canisters for the space heater in my camper van. I’m still planning to do it – one way or another. If I am strong enough to pull myself up into the cab of that Ford Econoline, I am going.
Governor Cooper opened up the bars in this state last Friday. If I come to Asheville on Thursday or Friday, drinks are on me – unless they’re making you prove you don’t have the Covid at the door.
I have been scrolling back through Facebook to remember what was happening a year ago. It feels like my whole life is flashing before my eyes.
On NPR Morning Edition this morning they were asking people what was the day they really got it about the pandemic. For me it was March 16. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that was the first day I took it really serious – before then it was mostly background noise for me.
That night I took a poem down to Jack of the Wood open mic, hopefully to collaborate with a guitarist coming down from Hot Springs. He called me to say he loves my poetry but does not improvise. He wanted us to work up a poem for another time. I hope I can find him in Hot Springs and that we can have another time.
There were only three or four people in Jack of the Wood that night. I believe they closed the next day.
I was on fire to perform this poem. I went home, put my doggie on the sofa, set up the video camera and rocked that poem just for her – and now I guess you also.
It’s called “Too Much”.
It is my signature poem, high-attitude – in your face. It is addressed to all the people who, over the course of my life, have told me that I am in one way or another too much – too emotional, too intense, too whatever.
If that has ever happened to you also, you can ride along with me on the poem.
Pretty much everything I know about hip-hop, I learned from my son Terry – when he was a teenager and spending his summers with his dad. (“If he’s into rap music again this summer, I’m gonna have to learn to like it – or I will go fucking crazy.” He was – and I did, like it. Going crazy was later. At one point, I claimed to know more about rap music than almost any other white middle-aged, middle-class man on the planet. That may have been an exaggeration, but not totally.)
I think this very old Kool Moe Dee video is maybe the cutest rap music video ever. (Like I know them all:).) I love the tough black cowboys in their long black leather slickers – doing cute little hip-hop dance steps in unison.
Majo Madden, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Fortune 500 Organization Development management consultant, worked for four years as a cashier at Earth Fare Asheville Westgate store. This store was the flagship store, the first of 40-some stores across the southeast. Because of the unique nature of Asheville, NC – and that unique nature of that particular store – “the hippy store” – Majo’s 20 hours or so per week behind that cash register, with those co-workers and those customers, lit him up as a writer and as a person. This is their story.
Only divine intervention rescued me from their hypnotic story. And when, over the last six months, my true Self surfaced, they fought to drag me back into the nest. It just didn’t make sense to them that – after being “bipolar” for 30 years – I could be fine, really much better than fine, now.
I tried to get them to read about my “waking up” experience last June 26. I tried to get them to read several posts that describe how amazingly calm and quiet andcentered and slow I have become – not at all “manic”, which they think is the only logical explanation for me, as I am reducing my psych medication, to suddenly be non-stop happy for six months.
I tried to explain to them that getting off of Lithium didn’t “make me manic” – it allowed me to finally be happy. But none of that fit their model.
Three weeks ago, when I reached certainty that this was true health now – actually much better than health, genuine spiritual transformation – a bomb of rage went off in me about “30 years of my life stolen from me”.
On that Saturday, I felt sure that at my next psychiatry appointment I would spend most of the 30 minutes pacing up and down the room “raging” at my poor helpless 31-year old PA (Physician’s Assistant) psychiatrist. It seemed to me, in that moment, to be in no way an inappropriate response for 30 years lost.
This story describes how one four-minute song at church the next morning caused me to release most of that rage and replace it with forgiveness. (Thirty years of deep pain mostly healed in four minutes – healing is happening in me so fast these days!)
By yesterday morning, some of the resentment had slipped back in. I was determined that today I would maybe not start right in at the beginning of the session with my two upsets with this new woman:
Why the unexplained transfer now – and the mysterious letter from my old psychiatrist, saying they were transferring me because of “your needing a higher level of care”? What need for a higher level of care? I thought we had agreed that I was on my way out of the practice. I felt sure they were calling in a more experienced, full-psychiatrist heavy-hitter to try to back me down into taking more drugs again.
Why, when I called in my request for the new psychiatrist to read three of my blog posts that would give her a glimpse of my non-manic behavior, did the secretary get back to me with a simple, “She says ‘no’, that she doesn’t do that.”After my last 15 years in the business world (after 20 years practicing psychology), I knew that – if you cared at all about customer satisfaction – you would never turn down a new customer on such an easy request. Had this woman not gotten the memo that we were customers now – not just patients? Well, I intended to set her straight on this.
Back in my 20’s, LSD researcher Richard Alpert (working with his Harvard colleague Timothy Leary) turned into an eastern spirituality “seeker” – and was named Ram Dass by his new Indian teacher. He and his classic book Be Here Now turned a whole generation of us towards meditation and eastern spirituality.
At Susan Campbell’s magical Tuesday morning ecstatic dance yesterday, right near the end of the mix she played some gorgeous music with Ram Dass – must have been after his stroke, his speech was labored – speaking over it.
He said so few words that I think I remember them pretty much verbatim:
“On my second visit to Maharaj Ji in India, he took me aside one night and said to me, ‘Love everybody….love everybody and speak the truth.'”
I knew, as soon as I heard these words, that I had gotten my direction for today’s session:
Love this woman, who you have never met, but about whom you already have lots of negative projections (my physician friend Steve, who wonderfully coached me to start slow today – and then went with me to the meeting for moral support) said that “Lots of psychiatrists have God complexes. Doctors in general – but it seems like psychiatrists even more so.”
Tell the truth – all of it, including stuff she might not like hearing. Make sure, even as you try not to hurt her, that you get enough of your story said that you are ready – at the end of that session – to walk away from psychiatrists for good, knowing that you are doing it with pride and integrity.
When this new psychiatrist appeared at the door,
she was younger and prettier than I expected.
her face looked soft and warm and human and nice – not at all the control-oriented, frigid person I expected.
she was wearing jeans! Nice, tailored, maybe expensive jeans – but jeans, for chrissake! This totally blew my expectations. She looked like “my people”.
Over the course of a session that she had scheduled for 45 minutes (not the 30 that I expected, I guess because it was our first time together) – and that she actually allowed to go for 75 minutes – I learned some other ways she was my people:
She, like me, grew up very Irish Catholic. She is well younger than I and was not taught by nuns in the era when they were still teaching that God might hate you enough to make you physically burn to death for eternity – but she was close enough to all of this to know what I was talking about, and why for a young child this had been genuinely traumatic.
When I said that there are so few genuine spiritual teachers around these days to help someone who is actually going through a “spiritual emergency” (as opposed to a mental illness), she rightly protested that “there are some genuinely spiritual eastern-tradition teachers. I’m being very influenced by a Zen teacher named Thich Nhat Hanh.” I really softened and warmed towards her as I shared that I had – for four years – meditated every week with a Thich Nhat Hanh “sangha” back in Chicago. I told her￼ that, during those four years, I very much thought of him as “Thay” – Vietnamese for “teacher”. And that, probably 30 years ago, I ￼had attended two ten-day retreats with him. All this appropriately blew her away. If you are a Thay sister with me, you are my sister.
She was also very intrigued by my passionate practice of “ecstatic dancing” – and asked me a couple of questions about that. My energy turned down a week ago. I am supposed to be “depressed” now. Depressed people don’t dance. I continue to dance pretty much all day every day. This confused and intrigued her.
She was also confused that the core symptom of my “depression” was always physical pain, not emotional. This did not fit for her.
And that I got the “clinical depression” diagnosis (later shifted to “bipolar disorder”)￼ when I was in the throes of having my life blown apart by the surfacing of long-suppressed memories of childhood sex abuse. She said “These days we never would give someone a psychiatric diagnosis when their life is in so much chaos. You just can’t tell what really is going on.”￼
She basically said that she might agree with me that this diagnosis was always incorrect.
I think it was right after we had talked about Thay that I – now emboldened to talk with “the new psychiatrist” about eastern religion – told her about my experience yesterday with the live words of Ram Das: “So I came in here today planning to love you – and to tell the truth.”
I think she may have even blushed ever-so-slightly and sweetly as she thanked me for that. Whoda thunk we could have had a moment like that?
I went into the session feeling strong because – rather than the usual power imbalance where the psychiatrist has something you think you need, the drugs – I was clear that I had enough Lamictal left to wean myself off almost slowly enough to not have too bumpy a ride. So, very important to me, I in no way felt one-down to her going in.
And I know – from many experiences over the last six months that literally nobody can intimidate or scare me any more – and that I speak my full truth with integrity pretty much 100% of the time. And I came out of the session feeling just that way.
Very surprisingly, while the doctor told me her concerns about me getting off of this final (of three) drugs, she did outline for me what she thought would be a good pacing for “weaning off” of the Lamictal – and I happily told her that this was exactly the timing I had in mind.
She said brightly, “Well, don’t try to cut those pills down twice – let me prescribe 50 mg. tablets – that will make it a lot easier for you.” It was not a problem for me – after originally committing myself to “want nothing and take nothing” from her – to graciously accept her offer. (And it actually will make reducing my dose much more convenient.)
As the session was nearing an end (we had already run 30 minutes over), she offered that I could come back in a month and fill her in on how things were going for me as I weaned off my last medication. Charming and cute as she certainly was, I was very clear that I had entered a psychiatrist’s office (as a patient, at least) for the last time – and that I would call in a progress report to her.
As I was saying goodbye, I was feeling so genuinely warm towards her that I had a fantasy of offering her a hug. I knew there was no chance of that flying with a psychiatrist, ￼but our handshake – and real looking in each other’s eyes – were just right, perfect.
A minute after Steve and I drove away, I let out a big exhale and said to him (driving me back to my car), “Wow! That was a big deal!“
And then, completely unbidden, the words that popped out of my mouth were, “I’m glad that 30 years is over.”
How do you forgive the rage you got in touch with in the last two days – over 30 years of heartache – through a four-minute song about forgiving yourself? I dunno, I can’t figure it out – ask Jesse Powers, tonight (Sunday, 11/10) at the Jubilee Mystic Cafe (7-9 p.m. at 46 Wall St.), or at her web site. ￼
Over the last four months, I have discovered that the “bipolar disorder” psychiatric label that got pinned on me in my early 40’s was actually a tragic mistake. Stanislav Grof in his landmark transpersonal psychology book The Stormy Search for Self describes how a “spiritual emergency” – a powerful and difficult and potentially wonderful psychological event – can be misdiagnosed as a psychiatric breakdown. The person can be given a psychiatric diagnosis and put on powerful psychiatric drugs that can keep them snowed for a very long time – potentially the rest of their lives.
I will be forever grateful that this psychiatric bondage, for me, lasted only 30 years – and that I “woke up” at age 72. This journey is described in my new blog “Waking up“. I have some potentially wonderful years left – a reprieve that many people never get.
In the last two days, I finally got in touch with the grief and loss and rage I feel over the 30 years that the psychiatric profession “took away from me”. (I know that I will, over time, come to at least believe – if not understand why or how – this path has been just right for me. But hey, right now it’s all pretty new and raw.) This morning this pain seemed so deep and potent that – even in my current context where everything seems to heal fast – I feared it would be a long, long time before I could forgive this great harm.
This forgiveness happened in about four minutes at Jubilee this morning, through a song by Jess Powers about self-forgiveness – it wasn’t even about the forgiveness of others, but that was the healing I needed this morning.
Catch Jess tonight at the Jubilee Mystic Cafe (46 Wall St., 7-9). The wonderful person and very deep poet Aimee Morrison opens the show. If you can’t make the show tonight, you can find Jess online.
These days, when – at the cash register – I tell a little girl that she’s pretty, I always follow that by saying this:
“One day here, when i told a little girl she was pretty, her mama said, ‘You know what we say, honey, when some nice person says you are pretty.’ And then in unison, very powerfully, they said ‘I’m pretty, I’m smart, and I’m strong – huh!’”
The little girl I am speaking to at this point will almost always say, “I’m smart!” or “I’m strong.” And I will say something like, “Boy, you really are, aren’t you!” And the mother (or father) will usually beam with delight at their daughter.
After my first four days back at Earth Fare, after a year away, I have been very keenly reminded that my greatest satisfaction in this job comes from validating people – affirming them. And, while I really love doing this with individuals – especially if they seem lonely or depressed or like they could really use a shot in the arm – the greatest challenge and satisfaction comes from validating couples and families. Here I will describe two families.
Read this post at my grocery store blog, Real Life in the Checkout Line, rlcol.com.