Part 2- The How.
I couldn’t keep him safe- I had to let that go, for both of us. I could do my best but the real key to his success was what it had always been, for him or for anyone else- personal insight into one’s own condition. And who the f*** was I to tell him what was possible for him? Or even for myself?
What kind of caregiver was I, really, when I was utterly hopeless myself? I thought I had to be as small as possible, and just get through this life. THIS LIFE- this one life. I can’t even write about those days anymore without feeling sorrow for the grief I carried with me.
I no longer believed in magic. Schizophrenia had killed the magic- I only had what I could touch, what I could prove.
But just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there: just ask gravity.
I had closed myself to magic, to possibility, but they were still still when I could finally open my eyes to the light once more.
It came back to me when I got back to work. I was so low, so depleted, I realized that I could only do one thing: keep myself alive.
In the most. basic. ways.
It turned out, those were what it took. I couldn’t fool myself, so I started with what I knew for sure. Water. I knew needed water. For the first time in my life, I started drinking enough. Actually enough, every day. I did this by making water my one and most important job- in fact, the only way I would judge a day. Enough water, good day. Not enough, try harder tomorrow. Just keep at it.
The water evolved into a ritual of sorts- I began to say simple affirmations every time I drank water, and then simple affirmations as I released it. These tiny meditations didn’t add any time to my day at all. But they were the spark.
In the depths of some very deep despair, it was contemplating “Good Morning America” that got me thinking. I realized, as unlikely as it was, I knew how to get there, how to get on the show (it could have been any live show). Like, I really knew- not that I would do it. It would take simple things like a plane ticket, a hotel room, poster board, etc. I could make a stir and get in the crowd with a catchy sign. It was really simple- not easy, but simple.
And if that was possible… anything was. And I already knew how to do it- if I was brave enough to let myself.
You might not be able to chose reality, but you sure as anything get to chose how you react to it. My son wouldn’t chose schizophrenia, but he chooses to do the work every day and deal with it with humor, acceptance, adherence to doctors recommendations, and by accepting the support he needs to live a *perfectly* new normal life.
So I started to think… how could I help him the most? And what I really saw clearly was that I couldn’t teach him anything, I could only show him. We could both heal some of our grief by way of deciding not let the story end with schizophrenia.
I needed a way to harness my power and streamline it, focus it and trade it for energy I could use to make real, radical, generational shifts toward healing my family both past and future, both those connected by DNA and those chosen, like my beautiful husband, and my best friends.
I was an incredibly hard worker, and I needed a way to translate that to something I could do without being unavailable for support when and as needed. I needed to work from home.
I tried a few things out. Okay, a lot. I transcribed, I assisted, I wrote copy. I made no money and was not less stressed. It did however, feel pretty good to just…. Work. Engage. Dig in…
I had been through it and knew why I wanted to make my own rules in business, but I still had to decide on what, and but most importantly, I wanted to decide how, in in this case, really, that was who.
I realized that I wanted to work where women are valued and compensated for the work they do. All the work. The creating, the supporting, the emotional labor, too. I didn’t want to spend time pretending anything. My role as support is time sensitive, and there is nothing I won’t drop to be there. I needed to work with people who understood that, who had been or were in the same boat.
I didn’t start with a business plan, I started with a short list.
I didn’t start with a product, I started with a deep dig into the proof of my life- I looked for what I already did naturally, what I was already good at, what I could spend all day doing and talking about. In this, I found products I was already making. It was a lot of plant-y stuff, witchy ways and conscious creation.
I distilled a mean lavender spray, and I meditated my way through the hardest times of my life. I connected with the environment, and I had never, ever, known anything as exciting as the weather in Alaska. I feel deeply connected to the water, to the moon, to the energetic laws of the universe. I am thrilled by it. I am thrilled by growing from seeds. I am made possible by meditation.
I didn’t start an avatar, like I was supposed to. Or a niche. But I found both.
On that short list were three names. These were people I wanted to work with. People I trust with my life, people I admire and want them to have the resources they need to live their biggest, loudest, most *them* lives.
First, there was Dasha.
She is my best friend. I am blessed with a small group of sister-friends who all are a part of me, whom I love dearly. Dasha, sometimes, feels like a continuation of me, we are so entwined.
Now, there is less of me that I am afraid of, but for many, many years- decades- Dasha was the only person in the world who really saw me, shadows and all, and loved me without condition, expectation or attachment.
For the first year, while I was working alone, Dasha was my avatar. She was the point- what could I offer her that she needed? That would be of benefit, of service?
She’s beautiful, there’s nothing I can add to that. She loves natural products, plants and nature like I do- we are kindred green witch types and both have lived and loved some of the most rugged environment on earth.
Bottling my Lavender Spray was my first product. I made it initially as a grounding spray for myself to help with anxiety, and used it in meditation. Dasha didn’t meditate back then, but she loved the spray, which I branded as facial spray.
But, as much as I loved it, if I had to hand one thing to my best friend to make her life better, that wasn’t it. In fact, it wasn’t the thing at all, it was the practice.
The most important thing I had to give was my survival habit, honed in my year of self-realization. It was practicing meditation. Meditation had been the tool given to me by my father even before he taught me to fish. Through every dark time of my life, I have used meditation to survive. It took me a long time to realize that the power of meditation is not just for the shadow, it’s for the intuition, it’s not to soothe- it’s to ignite.
I had been using Dasha as an avatar, but for each of us, the perfect avatar was really the mirror. The niche, well-defined: so small, we were the only ones standing in it.
When I realized that, it completely gave shape to GWGA- it gave a direction for every single product, every post, every offering. Every single thing we do is to encourage the stillness of mediation.
I liked to meditate with a candle, so I started making them myself; I liked herbs and fresh plants, but not so much perfumes or heavy oils, so I used my distillers and infusers to make a fresh, clean scent that has never given me a headache. I came alive making the candles- each one a work of art, each one filled with intention, beautiful, to make a meditation sacred, to really mark it as an event, an act of conscious creation.
Through all this, Dasha started meditating with the candles, being aware of the practice, and searching for her inner-stillness and connection to intuition as she went a dark year of the soul in her own life that led to major shifts, moves and new-found freedom and energy.
The best part- aside from our very strict daily meditation policy- we have so much fun creating together! It’s awesome to be real with my ideas and not hold anything back. Within the first week of working together full-time, we created a set of Affirmation Cards that we have both have absolutely loved working with- and have become daily parts of our practices. I still will write intentions out and do the work when I feel it, and on the days I’m feeling looser, more open to intuition, I pull a card and use it in meditation, or stick it up on my mirror. They’re wonderful.
I can’t quantify the many ways this has improved our lives- but, like always, in business and in life, the proof is in the moments. Our moments aren’t all perfect- it takes work. But they’re open, they allow, and the creativity has flowed.
This has led to line of jewelry in the works that Dasha is designing from the most beautiful, pure, elemental materials: think, the gorgeous patina of weathered copper, sparkling crystals in their natural rough perfection, stones that thrill the eyes. I’ve seen where it begins- I can’t wait to welcome the full collection.
It has also lead me getting super deliberate in my own practices- and to have some faith in my abilities! New art flows as I am enlivened by the joyous offerings I play with in this tiny empire I’ve created. So many ideas, so much time. From our first deck of cards, a deck of Herbal Apothecary cards was born, and I’m just finishing them up.
A year in, and we’ve added another partner, someone else it’s just fun to work with. She came with a product- one she found herself intuitively drawn to creating, much like had happened with myself and my friend. In the process of creation, she dreamed she was selling her soap with three sisters, but couldn’t see their faces. Months later, duh, it’s us!
And as for my son. He is working. He is insightful. He is fighting the symptoms of schizophrenia every day, even as he is constantly having to be aware of his needs- to realize freedom isn’t being alone- it’s the ability to be fully supported. It’s the allowance of one’s own best, biggest, brightest self to emerge, however that looks. We work everyday to keep open, to keep talking, to calibrate the support to match the need. Some days it’s a lot- and I am so happy to be working from home, happy to have both the escape and the flexibility of an outlet: plus the excitement of all that potential, right at my fingertips. I have a new network of people I’m excited to work with and support, and it’s easy to be who I am, all the time. I understand how to care for myself, and I do it- he’s learned more from this than he ever did from my preaching what I wasn’t practicing. He sees the work I have done, and he respects it. He is proud of the little online apothecary, and I know he feels relieved of guilt or pressure- now he knows for sure, mom is good. Mom has all the choices in the world, this life is her choice. We have overcome so much, and the proof is in the days. We are healthy, happy. We drink enough water.
Together, we are working on a book about advocacy for schizophrenia. This started with me writing furiously- feeling stuck, like I couldn’t progress in any other area until I wrote what happened, what I found from it- I felt so desperate to give the pieces of information I was so desperate for in the early days. But it is a moving target, and I couldn’t finish the book- it just kept growing. Finally, I took my own advice and set it aside. I just let it be.
Ultimately, suffering from schizophrenia is not my story to tell, it is his. Last week while I worked on an outline, he had a hard time sleeping through the helicopter noise directly outside his bedroom window, sounds of screaming, etc.
The approach we’ve come to, the way we have found success would not work for everyone. We believe strongly that with normalization and education schizophrenia does not have to be as terrifying to address as it was for us. If I had been able to get him help a year sooner, it would have been a year less suffering. Without judgement, it would have also been a year less of psychosis- and psychosis causes permanent, irreparable brain damage. It takes 18–36 months to recover from an episode, to even know the extent of the damage.
By not admitting what was going on in these early days, I was telling him it wasn’t okay. Now, I am beyond open about it- I am loud and I am proud. I am not ashamed of my son, I am not ashamed of schizophrenia and I am damn proud of what we’ve done and what we will keep doing.
With this in mind, I realized that the story wasn’t just mine- and until we went over it together, and he got the chance to give his parts, to disagree where he disagrees, to reinforce and to say his piece, I couldn’t finish it. To my overwhelming joy- he was in!
I understand how easy it is to blame the messenger, but he now has the insight to realize (usually. I will not diminish the on-going work he does to battle this disorder.) that there is no amount of evaluation that will lead to a diagnosis that’s not there. We also see that the diagnosis is not a death sentence- it’s an invitation to a life bigger, wackier and more exciting than any fiction. For real.
I am his mother. I am proud of him. I want him to be proud of himself- in a society that continuously tries to tell him he’s not okay, I want him to really feel how okay he is. How supported, how deeply, deeply loved. This is the same society that tells us all we’re not enough, in one way or other, and we have learned together to just. stop. listening.
We now adhere to the Brene Brown school of thought- if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked by schizophrenia, or spending an hour with someone who is, save it. We don’t need to listen. We’re good. We know who we are, and most importantly, we decide how we are.
Now, he jokes, mom, what would you do if all of a sudden, you heard voices, or what if you saw aliens, or…. And the punchline is always the same: first, take me for an evaluation. We both laugh, cause, heck, laugh when you can. Feel good when you can. Notice that you are safe when you can.
My son trusts me because i tell him the truth: it could happen to anyone. It could happen to me- a head injury, Alzheimers, dementia, any number of things could affect my ability to differentiate the stimuli I am experiencing from “real” or not.
There is no way to keep safe- we were never safe, we never will be. We chose our safety, our ultimate safety as matter, space and energy in a universe of the same.
Meditation is a time to intentionally affirm your ultimate safety.
We are not surviving. We are thriving.
Not everyone is ready to step completely out the way I have, but the truth is, it’s not necessary. We are all just fine, perfect, right where we are. We are right on time.
The acceptance of reality and the desire to live life on your own terms at the same time is for everyone, and this is available through meditation. It starts with self-love.
Trust is next, as you practice un-betraying yourself by being scrupulous when meeting your needs.
What you find next is a sanctuary build of your very best self: a place where anxiety is second to potential, where the difference between stress and excitement is comprehensible, separate.
This looks different for everyone- but there is enough for us all.