Yesterday, I covered the 2013 Prize Day, or graduation, of Brooks School for the Eagle Tribune. It was a beautiful morning, especially under the tent set up for the ceremony on a grassy hill next to Lake Cochichewick. The wind was blowing, the birds were chirping, and after a rainy weekend spent babysitting, I was happy to sit and people watch, listening to snippets of conversation. I will admit though, that as the ceremony started, and continued, and went longer still, I was dreading sitting through the notorious graduation speech.
When the speaker, William N. Booth, president of the Brooks' Board of Trustees took the to podium, he said good morning, and then was silent. He glanced at the audience, as people began to look around awkwardly.
"You have just listened to ten seconds of silence," he began. Ten Seconds. That seems like no time at all, and yet, I can tell you that those seconds were long and uncomfortable. Booth had made his point well, showing just how uncomfortable we can be with quiet. He went on to discuss how in our culture we are constantly surrounded by noise, and missing out on listening.
The infamous graduate speech had caught my attention. I often find myself reaching for my smart phone to check email, peruse a new blog, or check-in by text with friends who I never seem to have time to call. Even sitting at traffic lights - let alone withe the radio off - can seem a tedious waste of time.
Booth's speech reminded me of the importance of just being. "Listen to your muses," he said. "To your god, your instincts."
I know that when I get busy my mind is constantly bustling, but producing nothing of quality. Taking time to be still, be quiet, and listen sets me on the right track. Whether it is meditating, doing yoga, or just being present, the investment of time spent being still is returned many times when I am able to think more clearly and produce better work.
So, I'd love to know, where and how do you listen to the silence? Why?
Business has been busy the last few weeks. The spring issue of The Andovers Magazine came out, featuring four of my articles. The cover story of the magazine, which I wrote, was about children increasing their reading skills by reading to therapy dogs. It was lots of fun to work on, and is a story that gets great responses from people of all ages. The magazine also featured my profile on Steve D'Onofrio, the cameraman for This Old House, my profile on a local bridal sales associate who is planning her own nuptials after being a bridesmaid in twenty weddings, and a spring fashion spread.
It is great to see my stories in print, because I fall in love with every one of them as I am writing. However, it's even more rewarding when the people who have trusted me to tell their stories are please with my work. When The Andovers came out, I received this email from Maria Dakopoulos, the bride who I profiled:
"Hi Kelly, I just wanted to thank you so much for the article! It was so adorable! We absolutely loved it and it was written so well!
It's an honor to be able to tell other people's stories. It's something I hope to be able to do forever (with a few of my own too, of course).
I have also begun a new writing gig for a media studio. I'll be writing shorter, informational articles that will appear on eHow, Global Post, and other websites. You can see links to all my work here.
Last week, the New York Times Sunday Magazine ran an essay entitled “The Problem With the Way We Treat Bipolar Disorder.” As the daughter of a bipolar patient, my first reaction was “which problem?” The issues with how we treat mental health are countless and complex. Where could the author even start with just one?
The problem that Linda Logan addressed in her essay wasn’t one I was expecting, but is one I have thought about. Logan writes that through years of treatment for Bipolar Disorder, including many hospitalizations, one of the biggest problems that she encountered was the loss of sense of self. The woman she was before her treatment was different than the patient who emerged. The depressed Logan was different to the manic, who was different to the healthy. So who was Linda Logan?
A daunting question for anyone. But Logan found that throughout her treatment, the issue of self was pushed aside in favor of solving clinical issues. “The doctors could treat my symptoms,” she writes, “But they didn’t much care about my vanishing sense of self.”
When I read Logan’s article, I could relate right away. However, my perspective is different, as I struggle to accept my “new” father. How do I reconcile the boisterous, social man I was parented by, with the subdued, lethargic man to whom I often feel that I am the parent?
My dad was a social butterfly. A magnet. Someone people wanted to be around, and who wanted to be around others. Looking back, it is clear that my father’s “normal,” ran on the manic spectrum through my childhood. But how much of my father’s flamboyance was his personality, and how much was his disease?
It’s hard to tell, since now his Bipolar has swung the other way, and he has been in a crippling depression for years. I know my dad in the grips of mania and depression, but do I know who my father is? What is harder to accept is that the dad I grew up with, is - at least for now - gone. My husband hasn’t met him, and my future children may not. Even my younger siblings struggle to remember the dad I knew, and still love.
I try to be zen about my father’s Bipolar, and to accept that there is nothing I can do to influence the outcome. There is little he can do. It can be frustrating to be patient with the small steps, and more frustrating to handle the seemingly continuous setbacks. However, I know that as tough as the process is for me, it is worse for my father. I may not know who he is, but Logan’s essay made me realize that he probably does not know himself. And that is much scarier.
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