Wildly Artistic in the Wilderness of Bipolar (Part 1)

I long ago abandoned the notion of a life without storms, or a world without dry and killing seasons. Life is too complicated, too constantly changing, to be anything but what it is. And I am, by nature, too mercurial to be anything but deeply wary of the grave unnaturalness involved in any attempt to exert too much control over essentially uncontrollable forces.

There will always be propelling, disturbing elements, and they will be there until, as Lowell put it, the watch is taken from the wrist. It is, at the end of the day, the individual moments of restlessness, of bleakness, of strong persuasions and maddened enthusiasms, that inform one's life, change the nature and direction of one's work, and give final meaning and color to one's loves and friendships. ~ Kay Jamison

I have always been artistic and prone to episode of intense productivity and equally long spats of lethargy. I work best at night between the hours of 11:00 pm and 6:00 am. When I lived in Miami, Florida before the birth of my son, this schedule fit nicely with the laissez-faire tropical lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. Long, lazy days before gently lapping aqua marine waves that licked long stretches of freshly groomed sand.

From time to time I would traverse Florida from the East to the West Coast, then just as unexpectedly travel to New York City and work there a while. If I happened to meet someone who could provide that zest for life 'excitement' that I craved and they were not bad looking; I usually ended up overseas until the inevitable day when my companion would announce that I was not the woman that he met.

I would vehemently argue that such a statement was patently untrue, hurtful, and an excuse designed to allow the speaker to extricate himself from the relationship without guilt.  Each time this happened, I barely missed a beat because I was young, vivacious, intelligent and attractive and could  generally sleep with had I desired any man or woman on whom I may have fixated.

This mercurial nature was at times attributed to my astrological sign of Aquarius the 'Water Bearer".  For those who believed in these portents, they tended to rebuff my advances to initiate a relationship by stating that I was quick to engage and equally adept at discarding.  But is was this alacrity that fostered the myriad of artistic expressions which started in my early teens.

I can't tell you how many musical instruments, particularly guitars, that my mother purchased for me.  I love guitar, and to this day, have a passion for American Folk and County Music.  My heroines were Joan Baez, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchel and Bonnie Rait, and I would spend hours composing poetry and setting them to melodious refrains.

It was my solace, my solitude, my quiet in the face of the storms that raged in my head and eventually spilled out into my life.  But that was before.  Long before.  At this time I was 14 years old and had recently escaped from Africa with my mother back to the United States.  My life was tumultuous, the escape traumatic, and I was suffering from prolonged exposure to the stress of daily threats of grievous bodily harm to either my mother or myself at the hands of my tyrannical father.

Because I survived, because I fought, because I did not withdraw like my siblings, I thought that I had come through the fire unscathed; however, no one escapes abuse.  Neither the victimizers nor the victims.  It is why issues of domestic abuse and violence, rape and sodomy, child abuse and beating and killing of women resonate so much with me.  I have experienced all of these heinous acts as a victim or witness.

It is only now with age that I am able to turn the anger into something constructive, instructive and educational through the venue of this blog and my G-d given talent as a writer.  But then, as a young, bruised, battered girl, I found solace in my guitar on the front stoop of a small post-war brick house that my mother could barely afford.

Hours upon hours, day after day I created Ayanna's greatest hits as I imagined myself singing to wanderlust crowds of hippies in vacant fields, dancing, twirling and chanting my name.  Then a speeding driver callously struck and killed my dog and didn't even have the decency to try and get him help.  For me that was the day the music died.

I spiraled into uncontrollable sadness and rage. The type of rage that caused me to narrowly miss stabbing my brother to death because he was, as little brothers do, aggravating me.  Then I turned upon my mother with such vengeance, that she could barely contain the wrath and tried without success to reach me first through therapy then through boot camp.

I was sent away for the summers of my 16th and 17th birthday to a camp in the Pocono Mountain region of Pennsylvania.  It was beautiful, enchanting, soothing and would have provided the perfect quiet for the beast which raged within had I known that it dwelled inside me. Because of my ignorance this tranquility was not to last.

I remember the coolness of the dark, clear depths as the icy lake waters slipped smoothly over my brown tanned skin.  Always a strong swimmer, I passed and received my Red Cross Lifeguard certification while working as a camp counselor.  I would spend hours alone whenever my duties would allow, preferring the solace of the environment to the chatter of silly girls.  I had never been allowed to be a girl, so I didn't know how to socialize with girls, much less children my age.

It was during this period that I learned to paint and fell in love with abstract landscape painting and Abstract Expressionism.  It was revolutionary for me because it was the first time that I regarded an outside representation of my inner emotional landscape.  I became deeply invested in the images and color and addicted to their soothing nature.  What for most people looked like nonsensical splattering of paint, for me depicted a place akin to heaven, a place to which I desired to retreat.

So my mother switched from purchasing guitars to buying me whatever supplies I required from Utrecht.  Though she struggled to make ends meet and to feed my growing brother and sister, she would beg and borrow to ensure that I not only had my supplies but also a small studio in our basement.

I was voracious and for a time these activities quelled the angst, the sorrow, the confusion and the rage.  But as with previous respites such tranquility also slipped through my grasp.  During my second summer at the camp I began to act increasingly reckless. We were allowed one day off a week, whereupon, I would hike down to the main road, hitch out my thumb, and jump into or onto any truck, car or motorcycle that came along.

Any number of times I could have been killed by any one of these strangers and no one would have known because I did not inform people of my flights of fancy.  In one instant after spending a day with a man who lived out of his car, we ended up at a local motel.  He promised that he wouldn't try to molest me and I felt confident that I could handle him because I had my pocket knife.  I was a fighter and that night we ended up fighting until I could barricade myself in the bathroom.

In the morning, the man knocked on the door, told me to come out, that he would drop me back at the camp.  As I emerged, I saw that he had all of the electronics in the room piled by the door.  He asked that I help him load the items into the back of his El Camino, which I did.  45 minutes later, he kept his word and dropped me off a the service road that led up to the camp.

To be continued...........