Getting in Gear with a “Career”

Once I read from my memoir Left of the Dial at an event for peers and family members.

The host was raffling off 10 copies of my book for audience members to win.

To my delight one peer who won a free copy of the memoir had told me they liked reading inspirational stories. They had told me this at the start of the event even though they didn’t have a job.

At the end the peer won a copy of Left of the Dial.

I talk about this because the idea of what constitutes a “career” is open for interpretation.

Decades ago in the now-defunct SZ magazine that I wrote a column for there was an article on what you could do when you have negative symptoms of schizophrenia and couldn’t hold a job.

To wit:

You could bake cakes. You could play guitar in a band. You could go to a coffee shop for breakfast and have a latte and read the newspaper.

Having worked with a person who didn’t have a mental illness [and who was rude and hostile] I can tell you that it’s possible for anyone with a pulse to get a job.

Having a job or not having a job is NO indicator of a person’s worth.

It’s why in my original Flourish blog I sang the praises of Rite Aid cashiers.

Those cashiers bust themselves standing up every day for hours ringing up orders.

I refuse to use the automatic payment machine to check out items on my own at Rite Aid.

I don’t want the cashiers to lose their jobs to a machine.

Every day for years and years Rite Aid cashiers have been ringing people up with a smile. For years and years it’s the same cashiers.

For some of us our recovery is a full-time job. Managing our mental health should be the prime focus.

My contention has always been from the very start of my advocacy efforts that I recovered because I had first found the job I love.

I didn’t find this job after I had recovered. It was the other way around–I make this distinction–finding the job I love enabled me to recover.

This is why we need to expand the definition of a “career” for the purposes of recovery.

A multitude of career options exist in the world for everyone living here.

Should my rude and hostile coworker have been exalted because he has a job? While a mental health peer who is compassionate is looked down on because they don’t have a job?

Exactly.

In coming blog entries I”m going to talk more about goal-setting.

About how engaging in goal-seeking behavior–regardless of whether your goal is to get a job publish a book or go on vacation–can make all the difference in how good you feel.

Having a “Normal” Life

I want to riff on where I left off in the last blog entry.

I always thought recovery must be self-defined.

In the 1990s I had a “normal” life with a corporate office job and an apartment. So on paper it looked like I had recovered.

Only I don’t think I had a better life until I turned 35 and started working as a librarian.

Proof that you can be in remission yet not have the kind of life you wanted to have until later on.

In this regard I don’t view recovery as the return to having a so-called “normal” life.

The Merriam-Webster definition of normal is:

Of or having ordinary or average intelligence; conforming to a standard or type; free of mental defect.

Does being average and conforming appeal to you? More power to you should it float you to be normal.

I always wanted to have “an artist’s life in the city.” That was my one true goal when I was in college

Often those of us with broken brains take a detour before coming to be where we want to be.

Thus I’m not keen to accept returning to having a “normal” life as the hallmark of whether a person has recovered.

Isn’t it a relief to know this?

Isn’t it more hopeful to know that you don’t have to fit a mold of what constitutes success?

That you and I can go our merry way having a life of our own design.

As the saying goes:

Sometimes the best raspberries come late in the season.

Voyaging Part One

The postcard shown above I hand-fashioned in the Creativity Lab at the Museum of Modern Art / MoMa. It took me about 15 minutes to choose the elements of the composition.

“Today I tried” reminded me of when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral schizophrenia website.

There the editorial team wrote: “The only real failure is the failure to try.”

That’s audacious telling people living with SZ this. Only:

Trying can be as simple as getting out of bed.

Or cooking yourself a meal. Or taking a shower.

It’s the effort that counts not the outcome.

Michael Jordan is quoted too:

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

This is the viaduct in recovery as I see it: to try, to risk, to fail, and to try again.

To understand that life is to be lived “one second at a time” as we do what it takes to live well in recovery.

For what is recovery if not an act of courage to continue?

Read your 12-Step books. Go for a walk in the neighborhood. Call a friend on the telephone. Paint or sketch.

Engage in healing modalities like these and other habits.

As long as you try, as long as you give something your best shot, there can be no shame if it doesn’t work out.

In the next blog entry I’ll write more about the idea of voyaging.