Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


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The Last Shall Be First — The Million Step Program

Hot Pink ASICS Size 7

Hot Pink ASICS Size 7

First off I will tell you that I was last both times. And both times I survived.

Last November 16th, I went trailblazing with the Alexandria Meetup Group. We embarked from Fort Ethan Allen Park. The hike was described as of moderate difficulty, with a few water crossings, and rock scrambles, and elevation changes. It promised a scenic overlook of the Potomac River. Only five and a half miles in just under two hours.

Piece of cake.

I almost died.

At an early water crossing I slipped on a rock and fell flat on my face into the stream. I hit my head and bruised my left shin. I was soaked head to toe. My shoes and socks were sopping wet. It was 35 degrees. My lips turned blue. To avoid hypothermia, I stripped down to my skivvies in front of fifty of my new best friends. A handsome stranger lent me his dry coat and warm gloves.

I should have turned back. But…

It seemed there was just one dangerously steep hill to descend and then I would be in the clear and back on solid ground. A transgendered park ranger held my hand all the way down. I would love to thank her but I forgot to get her name. And I thought the worst was over.

I was wrong.

It turns out “rocks” meant “boulders” and “scrambling” meant “scaling” and a “few” meant “way the hell too many”. The hills turned into cliffs, breathtaking, death dealing cliffs.

I prayed for a helicopter.

God in three persons answered my prayer, namely three handsome (and sadly married!) guys: Gordon, Joe, and Luke. One in front and two behind, they took turns literally holding my hand and guiding me each and every step of the way – “Put your foot here, grab a hold there”. If I looked down, I was a goner. Instead I looked to them. I listened to them.

Thanks be to Gordon, Joe, and Luke, I came in last. Exhilarated, shaking like a leaf and kissing the ground, I came in last.

But not for the last time.

Just one week later on November 23rd I finished the Real Girls RUN Half Marathon in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The race started in Crozet, a picturesque village in the horse country outside of Charlottesville. The field of 100 plus runners quickly outpaced me. I was blissfully left alone with my thoughts to walk the course: 13.1 miles of serious hills but no cliffs and no boulders!

Piece of cake.

When I was finally in sight of the finish line, a fellow contestant – who had long ago finished herself – cheered me on from her car window. “It’s my very first one”, I told her, “and I am coming in last!” She pulled over and walked the last half-mile with me. “You may be last” she said, “but you finished the hardest damn half marathon in in the state of Virginia. And that’s a first!”

I recovered from the five-mile hike. I recovered from the 13-mile walk. But more importantly, in the process, I recovered myself. Not an overnight process for sure. But with every little step I took, I got a little bit of myself back – body, mind, spirit, and soul.

photo-10

Coming in last, Real Girls Run, Nov 23rd

And looking back, I took thousands of steps long before I ever stepped out in my hot pink size 7 ASICS. Steps that did not seem to matter. Steps that were daunting. Steps that were awkward. Steps that were clumsy. Steps that were steep. Steps that were halting. Steps that were scary. Steps forward. Steps backward.

The Million Step Program.

So far I have been in the program for a dozen years. I will be in it the rest of my life. It’s about lifelong recovery. Not recovery from bipolar disorder. I will never be rid of bipolar disorder nor do I ever want to be. The program I am in is about the lifelong recovery and embrace of my bipolar self.

To help quantify what it takes to get with the program and keep up with the program, I pulled out my calculator and compiled a few statistics from just this last year:

  • 24 biweekly trips to Marvelous Mary’s, my therapist’s office
  • 6 trips, every other month, to the psychiatrist
  • 1,095 little pills swallowed
  • 12 group therapy meetings along the Artist’s Way
  • 48 times in the pool
  • 1,460 walks with Bailey the dog
  • 10,220 Hail Mary’s
  • 208 trips to the Bishop Payne Library
  • A dozen times in the pulpit
  • 200 Christmas carols on my Ipod
  • 36 dozen eggs
  • 36 blog posts
  • 1,095 cups of coffee
  • too many books to count
  • too much money spent
  • countless meals with friends
  • too little time with family
  • more time listening to music
  • more than my share of sleepless nights
  • 718,522 calories
  • 1,116 miles
  • 2,634,125 steps

A dozen years of coming in last — to finally count myself as first. And what is true for me is surely true for us all.

There is no magic pill. There is no miracle program. There is no bipolar magic wand.

But — bipolar or whatever – you can recover yourself one step at time. Walking this way may seem endless and discouragement a given. Yet every step along this way may take you places you need to go – a hospital, a doctor’s office, a friend’s couch. And on this road the slower you go, the more miraculous people you are likely to meet : Neighbors become friends, coworkers become companions, and strangers – wilderness guides along your way.

Like the  park ranger, like Gordon, Joe, and Luke, like the woman who walked with me that last half mile. God in all these persons witness to the truth – that the last shall be first.

Just take it one step at a time.

JoaniSign


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With Apologies to the Washington Post….

wash post 2006 list in and out

Washington Post Ins & Outs, 2006

 

I can think of no  better bipolar way to analyze the yins and yangs of the last twelve months than the infamous list of 100 Ins & Outs and Ups & Downs of 2014.

So with apologies to the Washington Post (my hometown newspaper!) and without editorial comment, and in no particular order, I submit this list for your kindly consideration. And I kindly encourage you for the sake of your brain to make a list of the same.

The Top 100 Ins & Outs of 2014

1. Size 10/Size 16

2. Emmanuel/All Saints

3. Big church on the boulevard/Little church behind the trees

4. Asics/Chucks

5. Reign/The Tudors

6. Writing/Reading

7. Orphan/Daughter

8. Guest Room/Kid’s Room

9. Dragging Bailey/Walking Bailey

10. Spotify/Itunes

11. Steady Teddy/Theodore Roosevelt

12. Dress up/Dress down

13. Huntley Meadows/Huntley Meadows

14. 100 mph/35 mph

15. Target/Target

16. Dresses/Pants

17. Tights/Socks

18. Libraries/Kindle Fire

19. Blogging/Journalling

20. More Coffee/Coffee

21. Staying alive/Scaling boulders

22. Greek yogurt/Ben & Jerry’s

23. Scrambled eggs/Fast food

24. Renting books/Buying books

25. 59/58

26. Plants/Flowers

27. Fruit smoothies/Rotten bananas

28. Patty Griffin/Emmy Lou Harris

29. Half marathon/Wii Fit

30. Honest/Polite

31. Boudica/Joan of Arc

32. Ghost stories/True stories

33. Jetsons/Flintstones

34. Cards/Email

35. Tumblr/Twitter

36. “Transparent”/”Scandal”

37. Lip gloss/Lip balm

38. Camera hog/Camera shy

39. Swimming/Floating

40. ccmccjr/cng

41. Liturgist/Chorister

42. 10,000 steps/5,000 steps

43. Irreverent/Reverend

44. Commentary/Commentaries

45. Dancing/Sitting

46. Heart/Head

47. Seminaries/Cemeteries

48. Second comings/Second helpings

49. Diva/Wouldn’t want to be ya

50. Single/Divorced

51. Credit/Debit

52. White Reindeer streaming/White Reindeer in theaters

53. Hyundai/Kia

54. Cosmologist/Scientologist

55. Neil deGrasse Tyson/L. Ron Hubbard

56. Challah/Bagels

57. Therapy/Therapy

58. St Nicholas/Santa Claus

59. Camelbak/Back pack

60. Episcopal/Anglican

61. Crazy Evangelist/Crazy

62. Differently Wired/Bipolar

63. BCP/eCP

64. Scully & Mulder/Mulder & Scully

65. Lucy/Ethel

66. Dragonflies/Fireflies

67. Selfish/Selfie

68. Hydrangeas/Sunflowers

69. Hardbacks/Paperbacks

70. Starlight/Sunlight

71. Heretic/Heretic

72. Rosary/Meditation

73. Yoga/Stretching

74. Epiphany/Christmas

75. Open Stacks/Circulation

76. Fiesta Ware/Hardware

77. The Steeldrivers/Stainless Steel

78. Late Night with Stephen Colbert/The Colbert Report

79. SpeakeasyDC/Speaking out

80. Mancini’s/St. Elmo’s

81. Shredding/Recycling

82. Turtleneck/Cardigan

83. Solids/Patterns

84. BMI/BVM

85. Pensacola/Rehoboth

86. Manic, manic/Hypomanic

87. Irish Thanksgiving/Regular Thanksgiving

88. Gay Wedding/Same-sex Blessing

89. Middle Management/Middle child

90. Warrior/Pacifist

91. Priest Associate/Priest

92. Brainiac/Maniac

93. Celebrant/Celibate

94. Sister-in-law/Sister

95. Sorrow/Grief

96. Like the bird/Peacock

97. DSW/Toms

98. Talking/Texting

99. Origins/Genesis

100. Fire starter/Fire fighter

and of course

101. Unorthodox & Unhinged

Happy New year!

JoaniSign