Slaying Dragons and Sharpening My Sword

alice slaying jabberwocky
Read all about it.


I got clarity with Clare.

Sometimes you just have to stand your ground.

An impaired Clare, a sister whom I love but cannot fix, had power of attorney for our mom– my critically ill mom , beloved Ma Lou, who passed away in June. (

Clare is impaired from years of pain killer abuse. It clouds her thinking and her judgment. Her memory is shot. Her speech is slurred. Her behavior inappropriate. She borrows money she can never pay back. Her relationship with the truth is sketchy.

Clare is sick.

But so was my mother – deathly ill and in the ICU at Fairfax Hospital. My siblings and I practically moved into her room and camped out with her throughout.

Every day there were a hundred decisions to make — every one of them critical for critically ill mom: medication; feeding, the ventilator; comfort care. My two brothers, my sister-in-law, and myself were mostly on the same page on mostly everything. Deciding all those last things for my mother’s last days.

Including Clare.

But then impaired Clare – with medical power of attorney – would undo whatever we had done.

Blessedly the social worker and medical staff very quickly caught on. But Clare never did.

So for 21 days, in the month of June, this peace loving, middle child strapped on her armor and sharpened her sword — and she slayed a dragon.

A dragon named Clare.

Swords are heavy. I was so grateful to finally put it down.  But I still kept it sheathed and still very close by.

You never know when you’re going to have to slay a dragon.

Turns out I had to slay one in July:

A purple dragon.

Upon the tragic death of Robin Williams, by his own hand, I. like many, grieved in writing. I wrote a post: “Lost in Space – Maybe, Lost to God – Never” ( The cost of Mork’s manic brilliance was the the darkness of his devastating lows.

Something this bipolar blogger understands.

Then came the clueless and callous response of Bishop Scott Benhase of Georgia. In an E-Crozier post featured on The Living Church,  he labeled Robin’s Williams’s suicide  as “selfish.” Literally “selfish”.

The FB chatter was deafening. People were outraged at the Bishop’s pastoral insensitivity, his ignorance around mental illness, and his irresponsible response to the members of his flock.

But it seemed just FB chatter going nowhere.

I decided to chat it up directly with the Bishop.

I wrote him a letter citing all the above – a letter from an openly bipolar cleric.   I packed it with resources and recommendations: links to NAMI and DBSA; info about Mental Health First Aid;

and a link to U&U of course.

Bishop Benhase wrote me back and patted me on the head. Poor, poor dear, I am so sorry, he said. What I wrote is right and you are wrong.

And he thought he had put it to bed.

So I put on my armor and I sharpened my sword.

I posted it all on U&U, (   asking each of my readers to follow in stead. Write to the Bishop. Write to The Living Church. Write to the Bishop and tell him your truth.

645 followers did.

I slayed a purple dragon.

The pen is as mighty as the sword, a valuable lesson I learned along The Artist’s Way.

For those who do not know, The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron, is a 12 week process to process your soul .Twelve steps to get in touch with your truth: The kind of truth that really matters; The kind of truth that will set you free.

You keep a journal, your “morning pages”. And I was religious about keeping mine. I wrote alphabet poems, and lists of a hundred, sentence stems, and imaginary letters that I did not send. I wrote about a hundred different things: About difficult things. Puzzling things. For my eyes only.

As my fingers flew on the keyboard of my Mac, the contents of my soul became outward and visible. Page after page.

I got clarity.

It’s what got me writing U&U, telling my truth one story at a time, one week at a time, Monday mornings at 8 o’clock.

Like map making, like cartography, this writing life has helped me define my borders and draw my boundaries: To let my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no”.

Recently, I had to slay the biggest dragon of all – the biggest dragon in my life. I had to slay a dragon that I love and have loved and have loved for a very long time: A dragon who lives in the heart of me.


Middle child. Peace-maker. Ever cheerful. Unfailingly supportive. Conflict avoidant. Rarely angry. Hardly raises her voice. Never says an unkind word. Ever patient. Long suffering. Good girl.

She is gone.

After three days of snow storm related, airport hell, she went ballistic (not quite) at the counter. She demanded satisfaction.

She got it.

With a complacent doctor, his indifferent receptionist, and unresponsive answering service, she went ballistic (not quite).

She fired them.

In a lopsided, long term, frustrating friendship, she went ballistic (not quite).

She ended it.

She sharpened her sword, got in touch with her anger, and slayed some dragons.

Anger can be manic. But manic anger can also be righteous and just. And it can get you just right where you are supposed to be —

if you manage it just right.

So “beware the Jabberwock” and sharpen up your sword.

The truth shall set you free.



  1. Hello again my friend, I just re-read your post…and see that there were four separate incidents or occasions where you used your sword. When I read it the first time I somehow thought it was just about the doctor. So you used your sword with the airline people, with a now former friend, with your doctor and with your image of yourself as a good girl. And when I looked at the “good girl” that you slayed I felt…well, I felt sad. I asked myself, “ Why is Joani slaying this good girl?” Yes it’s true that some of those adjectives could be tossed out but surely not the whole girl! What’s wrong with being a peace-maker? ” Blessed are the peace-makers for they will be called children of God.” You are a child of God. Cheerful is good too. Take away the “ever” but leave the cheerful, right? Supportive. Again…an amazing trait. Take away “unfailingly.” You can’t always be there for someone. And no one’s responsible for another adult’s happiness. Rarely angry. Take away rarely and what’s left? Angry. Anger is a feeling and feelings are data for discernment. It’s a good thing to be in touch with one’s anger and ask, “what does this mean?” To get at the root and take it to the Lord. Hardly raises her voice. I know I raise my voice more often than you do but you were never that quiet. I think we made a lot of noise together. Happy noise. Never says an unkind word. Come on now… I’ve heard you say unkind words. (Again though I’ve got you beat there.) We all say unkind things once and awhile. We’re human and we get upset or we get snarky. Ever patient. Patience is a virtue! Patience is essential! Patience is good! I rejoice in your patience, Joani! I’ve profited by it many times. Long suffering… again another virtue. A fruit of the Holy Spirit for heaven’s sake! Here’s how Evelyn Underhill defines it: “patient endurance as regards what life does to us.” She goes on to talk about God’s long-suffering. “How God looks past the imperfections of men, with what unexacting love he accepts and uses the faulty. See how Christ deliberately chooses Peter; while completely realizing Peter, his unreliable qualities, his boasting and cock-sureness, his prompt capitulation to fear. Christ did not just put up with him. He offered him a continual and special friendship, knowing what was in the man.” Good girl. What’s so bad about being good? Or is it that you think you have to be good to be loved? That’s a trap I’m always falling into. God loves us just the way we are. Here’s a quote from the Cloud of Unknowing: “It is not what you are nor what you have been that God sees, but what you desire to be.”

    These are my thoughts, Joani. I write them out of love for you. Nancy

    > > Middle child. Peace-maker. Ever cheerful. Unfailingly supportive. Conflict avoidant. Rarely angry. Hardly raises her voice. Never says an unkind word. Ever patient. Long suffering. Good girl. >


  2. Thank you, Joani, once again for your honesty. Because you’ve been so forthright thus far, I was surprised to read your description of yourself… that is SO me (although I am a 4, not a 9). After being turned down by our bishop to become a postulant for the diaconate (even though my call had been affirmed and confirmed by others at every step of this journey of over 3 years) I have been struggling with feeling lost and unworthy. I am slowly working with a spiritual director to claim my own authority and find the mission to which God is specifically calling me. I pray for healing for your sister and that you will find a doctor and others to help you live in recovery with your bipolar disorder as you witness to God’s immense love and creativity!


    1. Speak your truth in love. This is an evolutionary process. I encourage you to seek out a therapist and not just a spiritual director to help you gird your loins and stand your ground. You are worth it.


  3. just when I was thinking maybe you were a 7 on the enneagram the words you used to describe yourself were so 9. And that anger that came out? That’s what the 9 buries. They are part of the gut center and anger is the emotion of the gut people. Fear goes with the head people (that’s me) and Shame goes with the heart people. The Gut people seek autonomy. The Heads seek security and the Heart seeks Attention. We all seek and want all three but each center focuses more on one over the others. My question for you is now that you’ve fired your doctor…have you hired a new one? love, Nancy


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