Lenses

I posted a more shorter version of this a while back.  Here it is in more polished form:

LENSES


I wore contact lenses in my twenties and thirties, and even now in my fifties, contact lenses haunt me in my dreams at night.  My eyes are blue, and so are these lenses tinted slightly blue, though some are brown; they appear in dusty corners of rooms, in the backs of drawers smelling like moth balls, rolled up in socks, in toilet bowls flushing around with piss, always in abundance–say, ten or twenty of them bunched together–and these lenses of my dreams are always larger than my eyeballs; or should I say they are larger than my “I,” because they represent a lie, namely, “No, I don’t wear glasses; I’m not one of them; I don’t have this appendage on my head that makes me look like I’ve got windows strapped to my face–no, not me!”  I wanted to portray a picture of normalcy to the world, stating that my “eye,” or rather, “I,” saw clearly, I held the true view, the popular view.  I was not ill.  Delusion, after all, is belief in an unpopular idea, and I was made popular now that I had contact lenses.  I was a geek no more.

To understand the immensity of my feelings, one has to understand the larger picture and come back with me to age seven, when I started wearing glasses.  I had picked out baby blue teardrop frames with stars and sparkles at the temples; quite stylish–for a young girl in the early 1960’s, I suppose–and as soon as I tried them on at Gordon Optical, where my mother simply couldn’t stop talking to the owner, I was delighted that I could see again.  And just as delighted was Miss MacDonald’s second grade class, because now they had someone to ridicule.  Someone shouted, “Look, Julie Greene has glasses!” and the class burst into curdles of laughter, especially Robbie Blake because he was mean.

However, everyone sees the world through lenses, even Robbie Blake.  If one doesn’t wear glasses or contact lenses, there is the lens in one’s eye that one looks through.  The shape of this lens determines the sharpness of vision as does the shape of one’s eyeball.  The lens focuses incoming light on the retina in the back of the eye–or doesn’t focus it–depending on how well your eyes work.

We see the world through the camera lens, which focuses light onto film for a split second, or records the light image on digital sensors.  We see the world through the TV camera, which they say makes the one ten pounds heavier than one really is.  They used to say that one shouldn’t watch TV for too long or too close or one may wither and go blind.

Miss MacDonald taught us the meaning of the words “fiction” and “nonfiction” as they applied to books in the library.  As a second grader, I thought the distinction was clear, because the books were on separate shelves in the Franklin School library, unless some older kids played a trick and mixed them up.  When I was an undergraduate, Bill Holinger, my first college fiction teacher, told our class that fiction is a lie and an exaggeration.  I thought about this constantly that year.  I say memoir is the biggest lie and exaggeration of all–it has to be, because of the “I” factor.  Memoir is written by “I” who has eyes that have their own peculiar lenses; although “I”’s vision may be what they call “normal,” who’s to say that what “I” sees is the same as what “you” or “he” or “they” see?  Do we really know what Robbie Blake perceived when he saw me wearing glasses for the first time?  He may have seen something ten times funnier than I looked to others.  Do we really know that dogs don’t see in color?  One thing we can say is that in memoir, the “I,” as the one with the eyes, the eyewitness, the point of view character, and letter of the alphabet is taller than “you” or “she” or “them.”  There is no such thing as “creative nonfiction,” nonfiction, portraiture, or even photography without lies because of the different lenses–and therefore the minds behind the lenses–that we all see through.

Hypergraphia is a psychiatric term meaning the “overwhelming desire to write.”  It has been said that Vincent van Gogh had this characteristic, as did composer Alan Hovhaness.  When I have been very ill I have written compulsively for hours on end.  Was I writing to cope with my mental illness, or was I compulsively writing because talented people are driven to develop their abilities?  I wrote voluminously in my journal at the time, but I also wrote a handful of essays. 

Here’s a short one:


“The following are reasons to disbelieve in God:
Life is unfair.
Bad things happen for no apparent reason.
Good things happen for no apparent reason.
Self-control is useless.
Nature is cruel.
People suffer.
It is through our suffering that we are healed.
The above are also reasons to believe, with all conviction, in the power and love of God.”


Shortly after writing this essay, I stopped wearing contact lenses and went back to glasses.

Writing is a way of deciphering what we see, and rehearsing our lives.  The Bible is a work of creative nonfiction.  Someone needed to decipher what he or she saw, and needed to rehearse his or her life.  We read the book.  Religion is belief in something that cannot be scientifically proven to exist. 

Delusion is belief in an unpopular idea.  Some say people with mental illnesses are looking through the wrong lens, or the lenses they have don’t work right.  The answer is one or more of various “cures” for the eyes to make sure the ill person sees clearly, just like everyone else does, free from the unpopular ideas he or she previously held, free from what the majority may feel are delusions.

Rebels may argue, “Who is to say which is the correct lens?  Perhaps the world is topsy-turvy!  There is no such thing as mental illness!”  I had a weird roommate who saw the scars on my arms from cuts I’d made with razor blades, and remarked, “Cool!  You made tattoos!”  If I recall correctly, she wore some pretty weird glasses.

Which brings me to this question: Are people with mental illnesses just “different” from the general public?  Are we more “artistic” or “reclusive” or maybe just “weird”?   Or does something need to be done;” is our “crazy” way of viewing the world totally wrong–does it need to be corrected, as my vision needed correcting in second grade?  Taking this a step further, what’s worse–the poor vision or the treatment itself?  Or perhaps what’s worst of all is the public’s reaction to the way we look.  “Julie Greene has glasses and a Thorazine sunburn and scars on her arms and she doesn’t know how to dress and she talks out loud to her dog and she walks around looking lost all the time and she’s always writing–what a nutcase!”

My answer is this: Everyone looks through a lens or lenses.  It’s not a matter of correct vision, incorrect vision, different vision, or even no vision.  Let’s go back to my dream.  Imagine contact lenses popping up in bread dough while one kneads it.  Imagine finding contact lenses in one’s armpits.  In one dream, I found a lens as big as my fist.  I tried to put it in my eye.  We forgot about something very important, and when I repeatedly tried to put that hard, giant, jagged-edged blue lens in my eye, from every angle I could think of, I knew exactly what we’d left out.

A person with a mental illness wears an ill-fitting lens, a lens that hurts.  Mental illness hurts.   Perhaps the lens was scratched early on by poor handling.  Perhaps the lens curvature or size is wrong, or the lens could have dust or dirt particles on it.  A person with a mental illness may have a scratch on the cornea, on the “I,” that only time and patience will heal; for others, a lens correction is necessary.  Mental illness isn’t an alternative, and has nothing to do with morality or right and wrong.  Mental illness is painful; mental illness hurts.  There may be more than one way to see things, but let us not forget suffering.

Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for!

The videos are coming!  The videos are coming!   Don’t shoot unless the camera is loaded!

Yes, as soon as (ahem) Godaddy gets my video online at www.juliegreene.name, I’ll provide a link here, and you’ll be able to view the video.  This is the 21st Century, folks, plug and play, no special software needed.

These daily videos will generally be brief.  The last thing I want to do is to bore you. 

To be viewed while drinking coffee.  Caf or decaf, Starbucks or DD’s, just don’t spill it on your keyboard.  It’s not nice to try to drown QWERTY.

Remembering Walter Chesnut — 1936-2007

Hi everyone, I’d like to share this link with you.  Walter Chesnut was a major influence on me when I left home for college in 1975.  I was only 17 and I knew I had a lot of growing to do, but wow–little did I know just how much I had to learn!  Walter helped me through some rocky times and helped me get my chops in order; even when the other kids were poking fun at me, Walter still believed in me and stood by me.  I wrote an essay about the Berlioz Requiem, which we put on in 1977, I believe) which I’ll post here when I can find it.  But here’s the link to a memorial page, where you can find a Public Radio segment.  Do have a listen.

http://www.ummbalumni.org/chesnut/index.html

Link – a great book!

http://www.amazon.com/Media-Madness-Public-Images-Illness/dp/0813522137/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-1508261-1613615?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1183495254&sr=1-1

“Media Madness” by Otto Wahl

A book about public images of mental illness in the media.   I used the book for a school paper in 2002, so the information you’ll find is a bit outdated but the book is still an eye-opener!

Check out the link.  You can use the “Look inside” feature to browse the book.  It’s a worthwhile read and I would recommend it to anyone working in the mental health field.

“Telling is Risky Business” is also a good book.  It’s about discrimination.

Now, why the heck don’t day programs have groups about discrimination and how to deal with it?  Why don’t they teach patients in the hospital how to deal with the discrimination they’re going to face when they come out of the hospital?

Your friends aren’t your friends anymore.

Your family treats you weird.

You lose your job (they give you some wild excuse as to why they’re “letting you go.”

You lose custody of your kids.

Your landlord finds out.

And so on.

There are things they don’t tell us in hospitals.  But back to Wahl’s book.  It’s fabulous.  And funny in a weird way.  You wouldn’t believe the advertising he finds to use as examples.  He argues for political correctness in language pertaining to madness.  I have mixed feelings about that…..

After all, what am I supposed to say when Puzzle is–er, acting, er, crazy?  I can’t say she’s “having a fit” because that is offensive to epileptics.  She’s not “going mental” or “having a nutty” either.

How about, “Having a Schnoodle”?

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An exercise – try it!

Here is a poem by David Ignatow:

ABOVE EVERYTHING
By
David Ignatow



I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with water and seed,
plants and animals, others like myself,
ships and buildings and messages
filling the air – a beauty
if I have ever seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.


Okay, now that you’ve read the poem, try this: Here’s the poem with some lines missing.  Fill in the blank space with words of your choosing.  Copy and paste the poem onto a document and print it out so that you can write your words on paper.

ABOVE EVERYTHING
By
David Ignatow



I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with         





– a beauty
if I have ever seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.



Okay.  Did your poem contain words like “love,” “gratitude,” “God,” “faith,” “kisses,” “hope,” “sharing,” “hugs,” “warmth,”  …oh, the list goes on and on….STOP!!!!!


Here’s an example of what I was looking for:

ABOVE EVERYTHING
By
David Ignatow

with a little help from me

I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with coffee
in a styrofoam cup, a jerk on
a motorcycle, cigarettes
stashed in a shirt pocket,
the commute home–
a beauty
if I have ever seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.


The difference between the cigarettes stashed in the pocket and the less concrete words, such as “love,” and “hugs,” that I mentioned above is–well, just that–they are less concrete.  I am looking for “things” that have “details.”

Slightly torn moth wings
last night’s lipstick
cookie crumbs on the pillow

Have a nice evening.

Proud to be a student at Goddard College

Goddard’s MFA program is the toughest college degree program I’ve ever encountered.  The college is also the most liberal that I’ve ever attended.  I wish I’d been at Goddard in the 1960’s!  Wouldn’t that have been cool!

Read this:

http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070524/OPINION02/705240303/1022/OPINION02

Now read this:

http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070530/OPINION04/705300354/1024/OPINION04

Goddard is no longer a “residential” college.  Contrary to what most people have heard, the college did not “downsize” due to “financial problems.”  In fact, the college is flourishing from what I can gather.  They had to close the dorms because structurally the newer dorms did not conform to standards set by the college accreditation committee, and it would have been too expensive to upgrade those dorms.  The “low residency” programs are going strong and the college keeps adding more programs!  The latest is the BFA in Creative Writing program.  That is the undergraduate degree that I hold from Emerson College.

The residency I will be attending in Washington State will be taking place from July 14th until the 22nd.  I will leave the 13th and return the 23rd.  Goddard’s Creative Writing MFA program got so big that the college started the Port Townsend, WA program in addition to the one at their regular Plainfield, VT campus.  I’m one of those rare people who had the privilege of attending both campuses.

Be back in a few minutes.