Comeback

Community dialogue: enter message in the box “Leave a Reply – Enter Your Comment here” at the bottom of this page. Then click “Post Comment”.

To instead leave a Personal message to Majo, send him an email: heymajo@gmail.com

What was valuable for you this evening?

Highlights?

Particular poems?

What did Majo offer?

Others?

What do you want to carry away with you?

Message to Majo

four photodeliajay wRobert ThomasJohn and Ralf

Terry’s task

Yesterday my fabulous friend Terry Mueller49864926_2201556843222091_5875307174057476096_n, back in Chicago (Oak Park), gave me a wonderful assignment:

“I won’t be with you in Asheville tomorrow to go for a walk with you and Pancho, but I want you to walk with me anyway.  Pretend that i am with you and ask me any questions that you want – whatever is on your mind – and listen to what I have to say.  Then report back to me.”

Terry is a real wise-woman – she’s been around the block, she’s suffered, she’s learned deep truths.  She is a teacher and practitioner of Process Painting – inner directed expressive painting (sorry, Terry, if I totally butchered that).  I did some of this stuff back in Chicago, before I moved here 14 years ago, and it’s really good work.  Terry’s total devotion to the creative process certainly shaped the conversation I had with her in my mind’s eye today – what she had to say to me – but I totally trust what came out.

My question for Terry was immediate, obvious, easy.  “Right now, having just come out of the hospital and being the focus of so much loving connection from my friends, I’m having all this fabulous connection with people.  The amazing Karen Vickers,Karen Vickers Facebook friend I’ve been seeing at Jubilee for years but never said hello to, called out of the blue and said ‘Let’s go out to coffee.’ She’s wonderful.  Donna Glee Williams told me about the ‘Fun and Foolishness’ playshop at Jubilee tonight, which sounds like just what the doctor ordered for me right now.  I had amazing phone conversations with Jenn Garrett, Jenn GarrettTom Kilby, Tom KilbyKathy Poling Terry and kathyand my sister-in-law Lesia.Terry family  I had so many wonderful exchanges on Facebook and email.  I scheduled visits with Frank Marshall, Terry Poling, Jenn Garrett, Karen Vickers, Meg Moss, Laura Hunter, and Michelle Baba Raiford.

But my fifteen minutes of fame will pass and isolation – part of the human condition – will start to slip back in.  How do I prevent myself from coming right back to this place of terrifying loneliness and hopelessness?  I asked Terry, “What’s the next step in healing from my isolation?”

Her answer was immediate and clear as a bell.  “Keep doing all that you have started to do in connecting with your friends.  But also – and maybe even more important – you need to connect with Spirit, your essence, your creative spark.”

“How do I do that?”

“You know as well as I that your real pipeline is your writing.  You wrote two pretty good pieces in the hospital – on typewriter paper with that little golf pencil that was the only writing utensil they would give you.  Now you have been out of the hospital for two days and you have all but forgotten those pieces.  But they are your thread – the writing that is on your plate right now.  You will write better things eventually, but right now they are what the Muse has given you.  Honor them.  Word process and edit them.  They will make good blog posts – and good performances at Jubilee, more connection.”

“I have several blogs going – which blog shall I put them in?”

“I think not the blog you were working on before you went in the hospital – ‘Majo’s Last Blog’.  It’s probably a good time to let that puppy go. I have an idea for a new blog that we can talk about tomorrow.  Post this in ‘Write Me a Poem’ – that blog still has a lot of aliveness in it.”

I can hardly wait to see what Terry has to say tomorrow.

Soul friend

Last year I lived in seven houses in ten months.  Some of them were roommate squabbles – I hated them or they hated me.  One was a landlord issue: he hated us and we hated him. One of them hated my little five pound yorkipoo dog – the completely adorable Toni, who was clearly a menace.  This whole saga was as harrowing to my friends following my adventures as it was for me. They were afraid to read their Facebook for fear of what I might have posted now.

So when  my friends heard on Facebook that I was moving into the famous Battery Park Apartments,

building front
Battery Park Apartments

they did victory dances all over Asheville. Famous for the location – right downtown, directly across from the Grove Arcade.

N.Entrance close-up with gargoyle
Grove Arcade

Famous for the amazing history of the old hotel.  Famous for the year to three years it took people to get in. (I was lucky and waited only a year.) Famous for nice large remodeled 1 bedroom apartments right down town rent controlled need-based senior living charging rents that all over town would get you a studio with free cockroaches.  Famous for the reputation that you could live there three months and not see anybody under sixty. Famous for the word that nobody ever moved out except on a gurney.

My friends were so relieved that I had landed there that a month later when in one of my bad moods I told one of them that I needed to move out, he said, “No you don’t.. No you fucking don’t.  If you so much as attempt to move one stick of furniture out of that fucking apartment I will come down there myself and rip that chair out of your feeble old hands and sit on your fucking chest until you get your head out of your fucking ass and agree to stay put.”  And then he told me what he really felt.

I have bipolar disorder that in 20 years my meds have never gotten under control.  I have no middle ground – I’m up or I’m down. In the interest of fairness, my raging biochemistry tends to give me roughly the same amount of time up as down. Lately I’ve been 2-3 weeks up and then 2-3 weeks down.

Some parts of my moods are relatively predictable.  When I’m moving – which has been every other week lately – I gear up for the move.  At four a.m. I’m throwing shit in boxes. After a move, within a week I am crashed flat on the floor.  As I was moving into the Battery Park Apartments and for the next week, I loved everything. I loved the layout of my apartment, I loved the views out my fifth floor windows.

living room with dog
My apartment – too much glare to see the mountains out my western-facing windows.

So for a week I liked most everything.  OK, except my neighbors. What am I doing living with all these old people?  Yeah, at 72 I cleared the bar for living there ten years ago, but I’m not like really old.  I’m a young person walking around disguised in an old suit. So I kinda, in that first week, stayed clear of my neighbors.

Then, after a week of being up and mostly liking everything, I crashed and hated everything – especially my neighbors.  Old – I’m not old. Or disabled, mostly crazy – I just have a little bipolar disorder. But the symbol of what I wanted to avoid in my neighbors – the woman I most wanted to avoid (she helped me to write this part – and insisted I use her real name) was the woman out in front of the building – all day every day, in overalls every day.  Chain smoking all day every day. Smoking is not allowed anywhere in the building. Like light the next cigarette off the last cigarette just before it burns your fingers – all day every day. After long hard struggles over a couple of years to get off of cigarettes, I had eight years ago gotten free. Her especially I wanted to stay clear of.

So I went three weeks down.  Then I had a stroke. It didn’t kill me. It didn’t leave me paralyzed – or with any long term symptoms except some balance issues, and the risk of having another.

Three days later, I checked out of the hospital a new man. I had had my brush with death and had come back from the brink.  I was more than happy to be alive. My depression had passed and I was again wonderfully up. I wanted life – all of it. I wanted to embrace my new apartment – including my neighbors.  So when the friend who had been caring for Toni picked me up at the hospital and dropped us off in front of Battery Park apartments with my little overnight bag there were no parking spots. “No I’ll be fine getting myself in, really”.  

In front of the building, the icon of Battery Park Apartments – the woman with the overalls and the cigarettes.  She looked too young to live there – and it turned out she was. She had gotten in for a disability ten years before.

“Ok, I’m gonna make friends with her first.”  “Hey, how ya doin?… Nice day, huh?… Can I bum a smoke?”

From there began one of the most amazing friendships of my life.  I discovered that – although her schooling, back in Mexico and here in Chicago was sparse and lousy – Diana was extremely smart – brilliant in some areas, interesting, a great communicator… able and willing to share deeply about herself as well as being a world-class listener.  Extraordinarily generous.

And adored my Toni. Toni ESAMost everybody actually did – but Diana more than anybody.  And Toni, who mostly loved everybody, especially loved Diana.

And we smoked together.  What started as sharing a smoke, then a couple, became a full-fledged habit.  Two days after having that first cigarette, I went to the smoke shop to buy one pack so I wouldn’t be mooching off of Diana, who clearly was of modest means. (I had no idea.)  When it was my turn at the counter, I totally shocked myself by ordering three packs. “Who is that voice?” When I got outside, I talked to that voice.  “What are you doing? I just want a few cigarettes.” The voice said back, “Who are you trying to kid? You’re in it now.”

Soon Diana became Aunt Diana for Toni.  Diana sat for her when I went out. Toni, who for some reason had stopped sleeping in my bed, napped with Diana.  Toni, who never really cuddled with me, with Diana would sleep here – up against the side of her head.

Diana then went from Aunt Diana to christening herself “Mama”. It accurately reflected her relationship with Toni.  We became co-parents. Never a hint of romance on either side: We have checked in with each other a couple of times. We are blessedly clear of that. But we had become an ersatz family.  When I announced to our smoking posse – all spokes in the wheel to Diana’s hub, people love to be with her – in front of the building that I had to leave to take Toni to the vet, to find out why she was walking even less than usual, Diana asked “Can I go?”  She dropped everything and didn’t smoke until we got out of the vet’s office. After running a lot of expensive tests, the vet said, “She has congestive heart failure. Like people with heart disease, she could have a relatively long life or she could die of a heart attack tomorrow.’

Diana and I digested the news together, we grieved together.  Our baby might not make it. Our little angelic being – who had always seemed to inhabit a rarified atmosphere, above this earthly plane – now seemed more precious than ever.  

Then came the liver disease.

Diana: “I still have a good feeling.  I think she will live a long life.” Me: “Her liver is shot, Diana – she’s not going to be here much longer.”

I still thought we might have her a few weeks longer.  When two days later my friends Karen and Lisa convinced me that she was looking terrible, that it was time to let her go, i realized how much denial I also was living in.  As I grieved, I feared what this conversation with Diana would be like. Perhaps, finally, this would be our first big fight. When I told Diana it was time to let Toni go, she was amazing, astonishing.  “Hey, you’re the real parent. You know her better than I. You hear her labored breathing all night long. You’ve got to make the call.” And she really, truly, totally fell in behind the plan.

I arranged for the Four Paws Farewell mobile euthanasia groupFour Paws Farewell to come to my apartment the next morning, Monday morning at ten a.m. I called a few of Toni’s favorite people to come be with us.  Amazingly, four of five were free – and each loved Toni so much that there was no question of them coming.

At the releasing ceremony, Diana was as strong as I thought she would be.  She held her baby tenderly. At one point, one of my friends gently said to her, “Maybe you could let Majo hold her now.” I had not even noticed that she might be taking too long a turn. The next day, we wheeled Toni in the stroller she loved three blocks over to Montford, to bury her in Amanda’s back yard, which she also loved.  I dug the grave, we together laid Toni in it. We cried.

A week later, i shocked everyone by saying that – still clearly grieving over Toni – I was going to quit smoking.  I had tried several times lately and failed bitterly. “I’m going to do it the right way this time – get lots of support from the state ‘Quit Line’ help resources.”  Toni’s death made me want life more than ever. “These things are killing me. I can’t breathe right any more.”

Diana and I had the conversation.  We no longer had our baby to pull us together. Toni died on October 1. If i stop smoking on my quit date of October 29, what about us?  I was very clear that there would be no more children to pull us together. “I won’t be ready to let another dog into my life and my heart for a minimum of one to two years.” Diana said, “I’m afraid I’m going to lose you.”  And in some ways she has. We no longer start our days with that first smoke of the day at 7 a.m. I no longer make several trips a day out to the front stoop. If there are more than two smokers out there at a time, my sobriety feels threatened and I stay away.  I hate the cold, while – even with her Mexican blood – Diana endures it out there most of the day.

But we both crave and continue this friendship.  I will leave the building by the front door even when my car is in the parking lot out back.  I will endure the cold for a while to talk with her. Her smoking for some reason never threatens my sobriety.  We go down to World Coffee on a warm sunny day and sit outside and she has six cigarettes. We wrote this story together.  

We are soul friends and we know it.  We will never let each other go – until one of us goes out on a gurney.

I have been totally clean of cigarettes since October 26 and have not had a craving. The Quit Line counselor the other day asked me the two questions: “How much do you want to stay off of cigarettes – 1 to 10?”  “Ten, no question.” “How sure are you that you will stay off them?” “Eight.” I could weep.

Hey, if you have any time after the show, you could walk with me the three blocks back to Battery Park to meet Diana.  Diana hates crowds and knew this was not for her. She was my first audience for the finished story the other night and gave the whole thing her blessing.  She’s sitting for Panchita aka Pancho holding her in Montford– a five year old adorable female chihuahua, my totally loyal Mexican sidekick that I adopted two months ago.

Entropy

ENTROPY (8/10/04)

Fresh start?
Who are you kidding?
This is not going to work
You can’t make something new work
By running away from what has not
You need to hunker down in therapy, heal the old
And pray that somehow that will make some difference

It’s entropy, man
It’s all winding down all the time
Don’t you see it?
You can’t start something new at all
Just struggle mightily against the dissolution of the past
A virus will take your computer
And a virus will take you

Face it
It’s not working, hasn’t worked, will not work
Bottom line – you don’t work
And that’s what you will carry with you
Wherever you go
This is what therapy cannot fix
What no number of geographic fixes will ever mend

Well, but”
No well but’s – it’s just the truth
I say it to you for your own good

But, I think new things have happened –
Sometimes life feels new”
Bullshit – what happened to it?
What do you have still to show?
Where is all that newness now?

Well the very fact that I want to go
That I could somehow emerge a vision of something new
The part of me that believes I could
Take off without a plan and trust what is ahead
The part of me that sees you
This voice within me that
Certainly speaks for entropy
And is not totally cowed
That yes has feared you
Has feared, does sometimes fear
But will not live in fear
Will not back off from my truth just
Because you say ‘face it’

Somehow ‘face it’ from you does not really mean ‘face it’
Does not mean look at the whole truth and take it straight
It means, ‘listen to my right-now mean and nasty version of the truth –
Listen to my painful, limited, destructive picture of the real,
Emerging honestly from my own pain’

OK, I’ll face it – on my terms
I’ll face your despair – and mine
I’ll face the call of the new
Which comes to me from more sources than I will ever know
I will face the love of those who love me
Which I know that I would sometimes dodge
I will face the energy and aliveness
Present in this world in more forms and places and people
Than there are words to tell
And I am going to go see some of them
And see what they do for this aliveness in me
Which, yes, has suffered its share
The slings and arrows
And all manner of psychological crime
Which sometimes therapy can help
And sometimes maybe not
I will go face this energy outside of me and inside me
Why might not some new place
Help me find and see and face
That source of new life sleeping always within me?
Perhaps this is my testimony of faith
That there is something new
Over that hill I have not yet crossed

hills

Something might be calling me that I have never seen
And that things are present within me that perhaps
Can never find life except in that next place

Or not –
But if I do not climb that hill I will never know
And so I gotta go
And that voice inside of me and you
And in the air we breathe, it seems
That says that change can’t happen
That risk is wrong
That I can’t, we can’t – and shouldn’t try
I love that voice, because it speaks so poignantly to
So much of what we have suffered, do suffer
But I gotta respectfully submit
Entropy this!”

 

Majo Affirmative Poetry

Majo Affirmative Poetry

There are at least four reasons for learning to create and offer Affirmative Poetry:

  1. Maybe the greatest source of human pain is not knowing who we really are.
  2. The most powerful way to be woken up from the sleep of not knowing who we really are is to have someone in front of us reflecting the full truth of how beautiful we are.
  3. Most of us are good at blowing off affirmations – even really strong ones.  They will have more chance of really landing – of having a powerful impact – if they come in some creative package: dance, song, drama, poetry/poetic expression, etc.
    dance 2
  4. In the process of creating affirmative poetry/poetic expression for others, inevitably the positivity of that act attaches to us. It may actually be impossible, as my therapist used to say, to give a genuine affirmation to someone else that is not also true about us.

God’s favorite dog

Lorrie S. bought this poem to celebrate her dog Zadie on 12/18.  She loves it and I love it – and we both believe that Zadie loves it.

God’s favorite dog

Elegant, graceful, gracious, grounded
A dog who knows her roots
Knows that she has experienced life
From many perspectives
These other lives peek out
She winks at us
“I am more than you see
Even if you are very perceptive
Very respecting and appreciative of dogkind
Still I am more than you see.”

Yes it’s true that
Barring a major infraction
The general direction of spiritual evolution
Is ever up
Ever more sophisticated
“I have been a human person
Now I am a very evolved dog.”

“I love my Lorrie
She is so good to me
She has no idea
How inadequate was my treatment before her
How disrespectful of who I really am
I never had reflected back to me
The integrity and wisdom and beauty of my soul
You are giving me all of this
And I am remembering who I am.”

“I’m God’s favorite dog
Or so I feel, on a good day
And, based on how she treats me
That’s what my person thinks too.”

 

 

Gift certificates for a poem

Write Me a Poem gift certificates are great for lovers of poetry, for friends or family with a special creative or artsy streak, for people who are hard to find a gift for – or just for that last minute gift or stocking stuffer.

GIFT CERTIFICATE: One “Poetry on Demand” customized poem from Write Me a Poem! by Majo John Madden, Ph.D.

IMG_0109

 

Here’s how it works – or actually two ways it can work:

  1. You buy the poem, tell me the topic (“my sister Louise”, “my brother’s dog woofy” – whoever) and a couple words, sentences or paragraphs about that person, dog (whatever, but I do specialize in dog poems).  I write the poem and send it to you through some medium – or meet up with you and give you a hard copy (or mail it, if time is on your side).
  2. You send/give the gift certificate to the receiver. They get together with me – in person, by Skype or email, whatever – and tell me what they would like the poem to be about, and I write it for them.  Then I read it to them and follow up by emailing it to them.

The cost is whatever amount over $10 feels right to you – something that reflects the value of the poem for you.  Keep in mind that these poems regularly make people cry and can significantly shift how they think about something in their lives – or how they think/feel about themselves!  So far this holiday season, the rate people have paid me has ranged from $10 to $60 (for his troubled grandniece – he just knew it was going to be helpful to her).

Call or text (828-582-9822) or email (heymajo@gmail.com), Facebook (heymajo) me – or catch me at church or something – if you are interested or have questions.