Some years ago, I had the honor of being invited to spend a number of weekends and some weekdays staying with friends on the Zuni reservation located in western New Mexico. I remember the warmth of a grandmother's home there, breakfast and sometimes feasts not unlike those I shared with my grandparents and parents when I was a child. There were many, I should really stress the word many, lessons I learned on the reservation from a family of friends about what real work was (not that my work ethic was lacking); but the real takeaway was how to find that center place.
It is something I have treasured since and alongside the many great experiences as a child, it has been the good experiences in life that kept me fairly grounded as I have struggled with bipolar disorder in adulthood. For myself, bipolar disorder is a disease of the emotions and of rationality. On the worst of days rationality is nearly non-existent and depression can leave me in bed or mania can leave me writing perhaps as much as fifty pages of material in a day. On the best of days depression and mania are in check, and rational thoughts are within reasonable limits. For the last year, however, the worst of days seem to have passed. Fortunately, experience keeps my senses always aware of impending highs and lows and for some time now I have been able to control them almost on my own...medication tends to do the rest.
I think dealing with bipolar disorder is really about getting back to that center place. It is about finding balance between doing too much, and not doing enough. It's about keeping the wood supply stocked in the winter, and the weeds pulled and the vegetables watered during the summer. It's about building at a pace you can sustain instead of trying to do it all at once. It's about taking care of those when they can't completely take care of themselves and it's about giving first and receiving later. Of course with all that work, one should always find time to play a little.
The reading I now do while work begins on another novel is teaching me once again the importance of finding that center place. I am learning now about how to do more with less, something our neighbors to the west in Wichita Falls are doing now that they are down to about 180 days of water left. I am also trying to understand the failures of a society that does not live in balance, one that is facing an increasing amount of air pollution, hazardous waste, acid rain, disappearing wildlife, groundwater pollution, and the massive piles of garbage.
I remember writing one time that people tend to destroy that which they fail to understand. Maybe it's time to stop destroying so much and to begin to find a sustainable way to build and to return as a nation to a center place of balance.