January 01, 2007

New Year's Reflections

January 1, 2007, a new year. Last year around this time, I was just starting to take Abilify and having trouble adjusting to it, though noting even then that it helped me write and seemed to take away my appetite. This year, I'm in the middle of arranging a poetry book manuscript for another press, this one Femto, which has a series on books by and about those suffering from serious chronic illness, including the "psychological". I am also in the midst of apartment chaos because I am creating a very large papier mache turtle in my small kitchen, which means that little else can be done there and everything in it has had to be moved out (cat dishes and recycling bins, for instance, are now in the living room).

Last year I felt anxious and iffy, not sure how well the transition was going. This year I feel quite well, the voices being absent and the music almost gone. Only the little people come around to bother me, which they mostly don't: we have come to an agreeable peace with each other such that I mostly don't mind if they talk to me or to one another so long as they don't distract me from what I'm doing. I don't even deal with the shopping paranoia, esp at the grocery store, anymore as I order groceries and most other items over the Internet and have them delivered. So all in all, at the start of the year, things look pretty good.

What about Joe? Well, we got him his Voice, computer-synthesized, from a place called that specializes in communication for those who have lost their ability to speak. The one he chose, "Mike16" sounds terrific. It is a completely computer-generated voice, but is nothing like Stephen Hawkings, who does not need to sound as robotic as he does, but probably chooses to because he is now recognizable as the man with that strange voice. But Joe's Voice is very, very human-like, and on the phone could almost fool you, not quite, as it lacks certain human qualities of intonation and expression, but it certainly is understandably "human" speech.

Now he has to practice getting used to using it, which will be hard for him to do as he never likes to do anything he doesn't absolutely have to...and so he probably won't practice...not until it isn't practice but by necessity and will get a baptism by fire. There's nothing to be done about that, though. I can't nag and it wouldn't do any good even were I so inclined. Joe just gets entrenched in his habits and patterns and won't do anything different once he has set his mind on a course of action or inaction. It's a big flaw, but there's nothing for it but to let him suffer the consequences. What else can I or Karen possibly do in this case? It is not anything we can do for him this time.

The next time they go up the the Clinic, Karen and Joe, I also hope they will be bringing back the handheld AAC device, the speaking machine, that he can bring with him to the store and bank etc. Places where a laptop would be too unwieldy. He'll need that too, and needs to practice with it but won't, for the same reasons. Then there is the simple whiteboard and marker he should get, for easiest quick communications. That probably takes no practice, except that Joe's handwriting is atrocious, as is his typing by the way, which makes practice on his laptop and AAC device all the more imperative. Argh! What's the use of harping on it. He won't do it, and that's just how it is gonna be.

A year ago, Joe was "fine." That is, he didn't know he was already sick, was told only that his speech problem was a side effect of his meds, which I said then was a load of malarkey. Anyhow, he had this mysterious slurring of his speech, but nothing else seemed to be wrong, so we weren't worried, not then at any rate. We had celebrated my first Christmas with the family in 35 years up in Northampton at my younger sister's house and had spent a quiet New Year's Eve, going to bed early as usual. This year, "we" meant Karen and Joe and I spending Christmas with my family, which was fine, and again no New Year's Eve bash for Joe and I, both of us so exhausted from the holidays that we went to bed early.

So what of the year to come? Well, of course, no one knows, no one can predict. So they make New Year's Resolutions that they can predict they will fail at. Should I join them, just for the fun of it? Resolve to do something I know I'll fail to do? I should say not. What's the point? If you know you will fail at something, you are a masochist to set yourself up for failure, especially if it is a matter of the self-discipline you ought to have but you know from past experience you don't. Because then you just feel bad or worse about yourself than you did before: Look at me, I just did such and such and broke my NYR to boot. What a failure I am. I'll always fail at this no matter what I do!

It seems to me that if you resolve to do something, as opposed to aiming for an uncertain goal, resolve, say, to exercise for 30 minutes every day, or to quit smoking cold turkey, starting New Year's Day, you are saying I will do this OR ELSE...Whereas if you acknowledge that the goal is perhaps not attainable yet, though a good goal to aim for...Oh damn, that's not what I mean at all!

"Man's reach should exceed his grasp." That's what my mother always used to tell us. You should aim or reach for something far higher than you could ever attain, and keep trying to reach it, because that way you'll keep going further and further. In the end, the goal isn't the point so much as the growing. I never understood this saying until just now, though. I would always argue and say that it should be that man's grasp should exceed his reach, not really understanding what the difference between the words meant or too confused by the pithiness of the statement to "get it."

This is so much more important than a NYR (new year's resolution) made and broken within the month of January. Whether the impossible goal is to take the meds or to keep a job or to recover completely or to reclaim your Life or help someone else do these things, or something much much grander (I aim to become a major poet) may all of us reach toward the stars and though we can never get there, keep trying, keep trying.

Posted by pamwagg at January 1, 2007 07:19 PM


Dear Pam,

I, too, am very happy that you're back and that you're feeling much stronger than last year. That's excellent! And the turtle sculpture sounds great too. I love imagining you taking over a space and getting down to work on it. I used to paint on primed unstretched canvas on the floor with a variety of housepaints and it was therapeutic, a release. It's good for the soul to get messy and creative. And your philosophy of reaching for the stars no matter what is inspiring. I'm trying to follow my dreams again whereas before there wasn't any room for dreaming. You've helped me and I thank you. May this year be the best yet for you (for us all). : )

Posted by: Kate K. at January 2, 2007 08:57 PM


Am so glad you're back! I love reading your blog and miss it sorely when you're away.

I've commented here a few times but have never properly introduced myself to you, so... I'm Elizabeth, a 29 yr old attorney in the South. I struggle with depression, anxiety, bulimia, and self harming. My meds are lexapro, lamictal, risperdal and klonopin (prn). Although I'm not schizophrenic, I find a lot of your experiences with mental illness to be similar to what I've gone through and really get a lot out of your entries.

I'm so happy that this year is beginning on such a promising note for you. Life is much better for me, as well, than it was a year ago. I'm no longer depressed, I no longer vomit, and I no longer cut. I have a job I love and am dating the sweetest man I've ever met. And, most of all, my sweet baby girl, Zoe, is a healthy, beautiful...whereas this time last year she was a very sick little kitten weighing less than a pound. She is the light of my life.

Thank you again for being here.


Posted by: Elizabeth Grace at January 2, 2007 07:12 PM

Hello Pam!

You ARE a major poet in our book! And undoubtedly you will become a major poet to others . . .


Posted by: Christina B. at January 2, 2007 06:33 PM

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