Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Soon to be Made into a Major Motion Picture (In My Dreams)

In ten days, I fly out from LAX to New Zealand to see my baby grandson, Little Teddy (and my daughter Emily and son-in-law Hamish). Which means cranking out 30 days of work prior to July 22. Following is part of a publishing proposal I'm putting together for the book I have been working on: Raccoons Respect My Piss - But Watch Out For Skunks: My Metaphor for Life on a Planet Not of My Choosing and How I Finally Came to Terms.

I'm looking to get this sent out before I board my flight ...


No matter how many raccoon triumphs I may enjoy, no matter what state of acceptance I may feel I have reached, I know - some stinker is always out there, waiting, with its ass pointed in my direction.

Early October, 2006 saw the publication of my book: Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You That You Need to Know. It's amazing, in hindsight, how I didn't see it coming, but we never do. One day I was winding down from a round of book-related speaking engagements and radio interviews, making a mental note to pick up a Thanksgiving turkey, the next my marriage broke up.

I had been married (for the second time) for nearly three years, living in central New Jersey. On December 1, ten days after my break-up, I boarded a one-way flight to San Diego, wanting to sleep and never wake up. I woke up anyway, 40 miles out in the country, to a searing Van Gogh sun against a brilliant cobalt blue sky. Where there should have been a Walmart was a valley surrounded by 4,000-foot peaks. Time to check out my new neighborhood.

Raccoons Respect My Piss - But Watch Out For Skunks
is a metaphor for life on a planet not of my choosing and coming to terms. Who was I? That Elvis-loving six-year-old who on a dare climbed on a bull (okay, maybe it was a steer)? Or that small skinny nerdy 12-year-old afraid to board the school bus?

What was wrong with my brain, anyway? A prominent psychiatrist said that no one understands depression and bipolar disorder inside and out better than I did, and I had a new book to prove it. But what was really going on beneath my skull? Here I was, my life in ruins, stuck in some kind of weird quantum singularity way out in the middle of nowhere, with the skunks and raccoons, unable to so much as go out and buy mouthwash without planning a Donner Party expedition days in advance.

Why, of all things, was I feeling better - much better - rather than worse?

I didn't go searching for recovery. Recovery came looking for me. Recovery is for YOU to figure out, I wanted to scream to audiences who kept pestering me about it soon after my book came out. It has nothing to do with me. But I was changing. The person talking about my book in 2006-2007 was not the same person who wrote it in late 2004-early 2005. Something happened after I got off my one-way flight at San Diego.

Raccoons Respect My Piss - But Watch Out For Skunks
is my quest for answers: Listening to a prominent brain scientist discuss the fine points of a gene variation with a Nobel Laureate sitting five empty seats over in the same row as me. Experiencing a Zen moment - stepping out of my own shit for five seconds - as a distant peak caught the last rays of the setting sun. Dealing with whatever life threw my way, including whatever happened to walk in through the cat flap. Slowly, I began connecting the dots. Slowly, my writing began to change.

As Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living," and who am I to argue?

First Seven Chapters

Chapter 1. The Truth About Raccoons (and Some Lies About Skunks)

An introduction to my life, as seen through two separate amygdalae - my own and that of a skunk.

Chapter 2. Seriously, I'm the Wrong Person to Be Talking About Recovery

Ask me, instead, how to spell ophthalmologist.

Chapter 3. Cool Brain Science Stuff

It's all about nature via nurture.

Chapter 4. Zen Moments, Ramen Noodles, and Other Weird Shit

Healing happens, but don't expect to stay in the same place.

Chapter 5. Peanut Butter People in a Tofu World

It's not easy being illogical.

Chapter 6. How a Six-Year-Old Superman Became a 12-Year-Old Wimp and Other Mysteries

Who the hell are we?

Chapter 7. Me, Captain Ahab, and the Anterior Cingulate

Why can't we just get under the hood and fix the damned thing?


Very much looking forward to my New Zealand visit ...


Lavinia said...

I will be curious to see how your trip goes in NZ and how your daughter views your book. After all she is the one that knows you well for years, with or without marriage.

I have been thinking about the life you don't choose. I have been working on my book proposal for the last few weeks based on the life I got and did not choose and it is very interesting to read other books that inspire me in this way.

Now reading Janet Cromer's book, Professor Cromer Learns to Read: A Couple's New Life after Brain Injury. Janet's life changed in a path similar to mine, but not exact. My life involved two elderly parents complicated end of stage with one most probably bipolar and complications for me and my daughter. I don't feel good about being public about the aspects of my life tied to my daughter because it is her life too.

But last night after I read an entry from Joan Borysenko, who had a loss this week in her family and numerous other losses this year, I began to think, it feels like the life you don't chose is charter to teach others how you dealt with the uncertainty and what was imposed on you you did not chose.

I am still reflecting on this. My humor and style is so different than yours, so I am struggling to find my way without copying anyone else.

I am just noting today how much grace people I know who have struggle have in their life and what came to me in grace. It is not exactly the package I asked for and it is grace based on generosity and love of good friends.

John McManamy said...

Many thanks for sharing this, Lavinia. Until about 18 months ago, I was planning to write a very different book, one that included as little of me as possible. Then my good friend and favorite blogger Therese Borchard of Beyond Blue encouraged me to get up close and personal and lead with my humor.

I've been following her advice, but I'm being very selective about how much of my life I put on display. Likewise, friends and family members are only very peripherally mentioned.

My focus is definitely not on me. It's more about the things I encounter - "as seen through my eyes." This is a very similar point of view I take here at Knowledge is Necessity.

It took me a good while to develop this style and grow comfortable with, again with Therese's urging.

When I began mental health writing 11 years ago, 90 percent of it was straight reporting, with occasional forays into personal stuff and some commentary, with clear lines of demarcation. Book #1 was an expression of that.

Now the lines are gone. It's practically all commentary, with a lot of personal overlay. Book #2 will be very different than Book #1.

I don't think we can ever be entirely comfortable with our writing, and that's a good sign. That's how we grow. What's important is that we feel a crying need to write, no matter what comes out.

It's a struggle, but it's also healing. I trust that's what you are going through right now and I encourage you to trust your instincts, have faith in yourself, and keep forging ahead.

And please keep me posted ...

Willa Goodfellow said...

Best wishes on your proposal. We need a few funny books on depression.

John McManamy said...

Thanks, Willa. Funny is how I've survived all these years.

Gina Pera said...

I'm so happy to hear you'll be going to NZ for the visit. Have a great great time, John!

John McManamy said...

Thanks, Gina. :)