Day Two – 12 Reasons to Gift your Loved ones with The Girl in the Iron Lung

Reason #2:

The Girl in the Iron Lung is a holiday story. In the voice of the little girl, you will follow her through sadness and triumph as she experiences the isolation of the holidays alone in a large machine doing the breathing for her. She is completely paralyzed and at the mercy of others, and sharing this story brings gratitude and joy into the hearts of the reader for the life that they have.

From my heart to yours,

Gail

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Prose – Another Mountain to Climb

These days I am engrossed in my next big project: the writing of my next memoir.

The title? “Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown.”

On the cusp of turning thirty in 1985, I suffered a complete nervous breakdown. This memoir is my journey of climbing a metaphorical mountain to recovery and health. There were many mitigating factors, but in the final analysis, I have no regrets about my life choices.

Set in a Victorian institution in the 1980’s, the book offers up huge doses of human frailty, growth and sublime comedy.

My philosophy for writing this book, which I am writing for myself, is that we all have our breaking point. If you’re religious, which I am not, reading it may be one of those “There but for the grace of God, go I” experiences. If indeed truth is stranger than fiction, this book is hitting its mark.

I am being extremely strict with myself about honesty. It would do me no good, assist in no healing, wouldn’t help others for me to fabricate anything within this book. Few of us are as honest with themselves as I am attempting to be. Revisiting this time in my life through the writing of it makes me wonder how I survived, both physically and emotionally. As I write, I am revisited with the pain and horror of my own flawed, distorted, and ill mind of those days. I am also revisiting the love I found in a locked ward. Who would expect through such a human tragedy would bloom hope and love and new life? I didn’t. But that’s what I found.

And I am finding it again. I belong to wonderful writer’s group made up of thirteen or so writers who put their hearts into their own writing to better themselves. They also offer critique and edits and feedback on each piece every person brings in. The side effects of this sharing are kindness, camaraderie, and love. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have the courage to do what I am doing.

While I was writing my first memoir, “The Girl in the Iron Lung,” I kept a scrapbook unknown to anyone. The marked up pages of my chapters which I received back from the writers were full of comments. I cut out the comments and pasted them into a journal to help me keep writing, to find purpose in the pain of it, and to ward off the loneliness I felt with the memories of my past. I still have that journal and turn to it sometimes.

I think it’s time for me to start another journal. This one will be even more meaningful than the first. Rather than exposing the broken heart of a little girl, I am revealing the depth and fractures of the distorted mind of a young woman.

That woman was me.

 

Love,

Gail

 

 

 

 

Prose – Of Loss and Love

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I’ve been absent from my blog for many months now.  I am well and fine. It all has to do with happiness in my life, leaving me content to live it rather than write about it.

It’s time to get back here now and reconnect with all of you.

I did suffer two great losses in the meantime. My loving friend and Frank’s brother died unexpectedly at too young an age and with too many sorrows to his name. We spent holidays and Saturdays together and his wry sense of humor when paired with Frank’s while watching horror flicks at his apartment over take out lunch is missed by me tremendously. The two of them had a comfortable familiarity of mindset with one liners and commentary liken to Mystery Science Theater routines. If you haven’t seen any of these cult classics, or if you have, remember Kevin for me in his straight man brilliance.

I also lost a friend of twenty years, a wonderful poet and DJ of free form radio. I met Bob in an AOL chatroom and although I never met him in person, we were close enough for him to have nicknamed me Sunflower after Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” He knew what I had been through and how I had evolved and risen above the ashes of two painful decades in life. I knew about him, and he was in every sense a true friend.

I think I probably wrote about my move last September into a two-bedroom apartment with the love of my life, Frank. He is the reason for my silent contentment and happiness to such a degree that I haven’t felt a need to talk or write about it, but have been living the happiest moments of my life on a daily basis. He accepts me for all that I am and for all that I am not. He takes care of me as I have never been taken care of before. He is the beacon of laughs and reason where I found none in the past. We had a relationship before the move, but since sharing a home, our love and commitment has grown to immense proportions. I only want for him to be himself and be happy. Life and love really does boil down to this.

There is more to the story of our lives. I’m leaving that for another time when the pictures come back so that I can share some with you.

For now, I spend my days taking care of the flowers on the patio, birdwatching, and at night listening to the bullfrog that’s made a home in the storm drain right outside. Frank and I share the quiet happiness of love and we talk about my cat Mooshi who talks more than the two of us put together.

It’s good to be back. I didn’t forget any of you, I was just listening to my heart and the wildlife in the woods.

Love,

Gail

 

 

 

 

Poem – On Hold to Paris


What is my natural state?
Wait a minute, wait five, wait ten.
The aperture opens, I blink.
In a flash, I switch direction.
I cry at the joy of music.
I smile at the finality of death.
In between, the body
of my mind flinches
at the exposure.

Just let me walk out the door this time.
I’ll take with me all which they carried.
A photograph, a medal, a lipstick.
No medium to conjure the spirits
but the drawing I left on the desk.
I left it with you to remind you
the night flight to Paris is due.

Prose – The Bright Side of the Moon

The last time I posted, I was bogged down in what I cannot do anymore, and losses which were out of my control.

I have those spells, particularly from November through January of each year. It isn’t seasonal depression, I love the winter, it’s more of an anniversary reaction for the time I spent in the iron lung so long ago.

As I could have predicted, my malaise has passed with January’s passing and I am now living on the bright side of the moon. Physical problems have receded into daily routines, and I am once again loving, laughing, and playing my days away.

It was a dramatic shift. After months of feeling like I weighed 2,000 pounds and couldn’t lift my head from the sofa side, I feel energetic and in control of what I am able and wanting to do each day and night. Over the course of one weekend, the compass turned 180 degrees.

I am happy.

But credit is due where noted. Frank came to my therapy session and the two men, through some magical act of osmosis became ancient tribal medicine men and healed me in a fortnight. Sure, I had something to do with it, but honestly I was falling deeper into the pit than I have in over ten years and suffering immensely. At the time of my last posting, I really couldn’t separate my emotional deadness from my physical obstacles. I think this may be true for many people who suffer chronic illness, with or without pain. Yes I have that too, but I have a new approach to pain as well, and am avoiding most of it by conserving my physical and emotional energy. I have that luxury over others who have true chronic pain syndromes. My heart goes out to you.

I began my recovery with Frank and Peter and went on to start doing small things against my tendency to isolate. I visited my new neighbor and stayed and talked. She seems unhappy, but it didn’t sway me and my forward motion to feel better. She’s had a lot of real life loss as well, and it helped to feel not so alone with it.

The next day I made a bracelet. I had had the materials for over a month, and was unable to do that which I find such pleasure in when I am in a level mood. It’s a genuine blue sapphire and fine silver bracelet. All of the silver is handmade either by the Karen Hill tribe in their family forges in Thailand or by Bali craftspeople. I seek out these people to buy from to support their efforts at self-sufficiency and creating beautiful works of art.

The next day I used materials I had had for three months, and created a glass and crystal light blue necklace with an Italian hand blown Murano butterfly heart pendant and large silver heart shaped clasp from Bali. I still have the matching bracelet to create.

I go on about this because right now this is my affirmation of life. Creating the jewelry gives me a purpose, an artistic outlet, and something about which to feel accomplished. It’s meditative, it’s spiritual, it’s the real deal for me.

I hope by reaching out to you, you find an affirmation, too. I recall when I was in the iron lung at age five, I learned to paint on a paper using my mouth to hold the brush. I know a little about finding purpose and self-expression in life in a movement toward joy.

Until then,

Gail

Losing Time

I had paralytic polio at the age of five in 1960. I recovered fully and went on to raise a family, climb mountains, and live a full and exciting life.

In 1991 I was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome and put back into leg braces and was told I would experience slow progressive weakness and fatigue. I have.

I use leg braces and a walker and have an power chair for being in the community.

I am a writer and a poet and have published books and created some beautiful jewelry as well.

I never expected to be homebound, though, and here I sit on that threshold, not just unable to tolerate the fatigue of going out, but coping with immense fatigue without any exertion at all.

My days are being stolen from me. I sleep an average of five to eight hours a day now, and am very weak when I am up.

I am frightened, I am angry, I wanted more time just like the rest of us.

We never know when time will be stolen from our wishes and plans for our days.

I implore you to take the risks you have been thinking about now, before something unseen comes along and takes your time or energy away.

That’s all for now,

Gail

On Being an Artist

Being an artist came with the territory in my family. Just like a family business of repairing cars or installing carpet or any other well respected craft, becoming an artist had its ropes to jump and came with an immeasurable amount of self doubt.

My mother was the standard bearer with her painting, her handmade items, and her seemingly endless ability to manipulate material into beautiful creations. She designed and sewed her own clothes, and did so for her daughters as well. At Christmas time our home was filled with her handmade pinecone wreathes, balsam sprays, and most notably her agile figure moving from one project to another until weeks before Christmas the house itself was a work of art. She was beautiful in an exotic way, with long dark wavy hair falling below her shoulders over the red chiffon dress she had made for herself for an annual cocktail party.

My dad was an artist too, having done characatures of his teammates when he played on the high school football team. But shortly after they married he was called up to serve in the Korean war, and knowing now what I know about his missions and how the Marines formed his character, I understand why he no longer had the inclination to create cartoons.

All of my siblings have been, collected, or viewed the world through the prism of an artist. And all have them have had their measure of history of self doubt and nonconformity. I love them dearly.

I am the type of artist who uses words to paint my pictures, and have had two books published. The first was a memoir which took five years in the writing of it. The second is a lifetime collection of poetry. I have always considered myself a poet first, and author second. But I am forging ahead on a second memoir more personal than the first. I write memoir to move through experience in the aftermath and finally purge them from my conscious mind. I imagine it’s much like laying the final brushstroke to an oil painting. It’s finished, move on.

I also design and create handmade jewelry and the discovery for me was that it’s in the act of creating I get most of my satisfaction, whether I sell them or not is important, as is with my books, but not foremost.

I have found a fiancé who supports me in all of my artistic endeavors and understands the heart and mind of my creative soul. I am lucky in that. I am loved and cherished for all of my quirks and faults and self doubt.

However, lately a pall of failure has come over me as I am not succeeding with sharing my art with an audience, whether the memoir, the poetry, or the jewelry. Writers and artists work in isolation, but most want desperately to connect with others and share their creations. This is not the time for me. I go into the Christmas season missing red chiffon, balsam sprays, and a remarkable oil painting of the ocean done live on Star Island in New England.

The only remedy for my malaise is to keep writing and creating. I am stalled on both due to self doubt.