In the Driver’s Seat!

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The photo you see above is one of the first photos I took of my adult doll collection. I took that photo in the late 1990’s. The dolls pictured are all Cabbage Patch Kids, made by a variety of different doll companies who at one time or another were granted the CPK license.  Babyland General Hospital is in fact a real place, located in the very real world of Cleveland, Georgia, USA. You can find out more about it it by clicking here. Babyland General Hospital is where the Cabbage Patch Kids were first conceived as an idea, by creator Xavier Roberts, and it’s also where the Cabbage Patch Kids were first adopted out to happy new “parents.” When I took this photo I was letting my imagination have fun with the idea of my doll collection working together as a group to steal my car and run away back to their ancestral home of Babyland General Hospital.

Most of the time I’ve had an adult doll collection this photo only really reminded me of when I began collecting dolls in earnest as an adult. Here lately, this photo has taken on a new meaning for me. The dolls in this photo know what they want, and are taking action to make it happen. These days this photo reminds me that I am in control of my life more than I sometimes give myself credit for.

In all my years of pursuing and living the writing life I have met with obstacles. Some came from other people. Far more of them have come from inside my own self. This has also been true of my mental health issues. Doctors can only help you with things you are going through that you can articulate to them in a coherent way that helps them find a solution for you. I have more control in both of these areas of my life than I always realize or give myself credit for.

When I look at this photo now, of my doll collection taking their futures into their own hands to make the thing happen that they most desire I am reminded of myself. I can do this too. I can continue to write. I can complete my unfinished manuscripts. I can tell myself those stories, through to their conclusions. I can also take the best care of myself, physically and mentally as I possibly can. I can make these choices. I can make my life a writing life to the extent that I wish by making it happen. All I have to do is show up and put words on the page. To keep my mental health in as good a condition as I can I can choose to follow doctors orders, and make healthy choices in all areas of my life. I am in the driver’s seat in my life.

I feel very grateful today to the members of my doll collection from the past who are pictured above in the photo at the top of this page. Thank you all for reminding me that every day I am living I get to make the choice to make things in my life happen that I wish to experience.

An Unexpected Laugh

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Everyone has days that are up, and days that are down. For those of us who struggle with mental health issues, the down days can be particularly difficult to manage. Recently, I experienced a few consecutive down days that were challenging me in ways that led me to question why I even keep a doll collection at all.

On the third of those consecutive down days I got to the point of telling people close to me that I’d had enough, and I would soon sell off all my dolls. Even when I said it, I knew this was really merely my current down mood talking. My down moods often vilify my doll collection as the source of my emotional distress. That isn’t actually the case though, and once I am out of the down mood, I always eventually come around and find that I am able to acknowledge that the doll collection itself really is not the source of my mood dyregulation.

The day I was telling people that I was going to sell all my dolls I was engaged in moving a lot of them around and yes, preparing to sell some. I had too many dolls here to effectively tell stories with all of them, so I was busy that week in downsizing my collection. I am at a place in my life now when I feel I have moved from having the act of acquiring new dolls as the focus of my having a collection to primarily allowing them to act as muses for my storytelling. Having too many dolls makes it difficult to decide who to feature in stories.

So, I was moving dolls around, and downsizing dolls. The days I was working on this project each day became more stressful than the last, and I became triggered in my mental illness traits. Just after getting to the point when I was telling loved ones that I was going to sell them all I noticed something in the room that made ma laugh out loud.

The photo above is what I captured to share that stopped me in my tracks, and effectively diffused my dysregulated mood. I had been moving dolls around in the room a lot that day, and in the process the little boy doll seated behind the little girl doll pictured above happened to land in the position you see, where it looks like he’s either trying to take her hat, trying to knock the hat off her head, or perhaps he may even be trying to save the hat from falling off her head. I noticed the possibilities in that chance hand positioning from my shifting things around in the room, and I stopped being frustrated and angry, and I just allowed myself to laugh.

That laughter helped me reset my down mood. I gave myself time to take in that scene, and all the possibilities it was giving me for creating a story. Then I thanked the dolls for that gift. Yes, out loud. I expressed gratitude to my doll collection for being the inspiration that they are to me, for being the inspiration they  have always  been. That chance hand positioning which enabled me to change my mood from frustrated and angry to laughing, and even expressing gratitude. That photo above is a perfect physical representation of why I maintain my doll collection. My dolls inspire me, and they remind me of why I’m both collecting them, and why I keep persisting in my efforts to be as healthy and happy as I can possibly be, even though I am continually battling  mental health issues.

Days that are down can be very difficult. They can be difficult, but I find that there are little things that can happen during those down days that help me to always be able to move on to the next day, which nine times out of ten, is not as much of down day as the previous day was. An unexpected laugh saved that day for me, and I feel happy and proud to report that it did. I feel grateful to myself for all the hard work I keep doing to promote my mental health wellness. And yes, I feel grateful to my doll collection for being here to support and inspire me along the way. Those little things that get me through the difficult down days I have, it turns out, really those aren’t merely little things at all.

Basil Dill’s New Friend

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Basil Dill was a lonely little doll. Basil Dill was lonely because, unlike all of the other dolls who lived here in the giant backyard dollhouse called Much Ado About Nothing, Basil Dill was only a head, still growing inside cabbage leaves, nestled inside a plastic flower pot. Basil Dill didn’t have a body, so you could say that Basil Dill was not quite born yet. Basil Dill may not have had a body, but he did know who he was. He knew with absolute certainty that he was definitely a boy doll.

When Basil Dill arrived to live in the dollhouse with the other dolls, Scary Shirley, who had the most intimidating name out of all the dolls, decided to name him Basil Dill because at that time she had recently spied new Basil and Dill plants both growing in pots inside the nearby greenhouse. Scary Shirley and the other dolls wanted Basil Dill to feel just as complete as they all did, so they found him a little baseball cap to wear. Basil Dill enjoyed wearing his baseball cap as he watched the other dolls playing and enjoying having adventures together.

Despite having other dolls to observe having fun all around him every day, Basil Dill felt very alone. Basil Dill was the only doll who could not do the Hokey Pokey when it was music time. He was the only doll who could not hold a book to read books at story time, and he was the only doll who could never go on picnics with the neighborhood teddy bears. Basil Dill so longed to attend a Teddy Bear’s Picnic with the other dolls. Basil Dill liked sitting in his flower pot by the window, where it was warm and sunny, but he wanted more. Basil Dill wanted to run and play with the other dolls. Basil Dill’s loneliness seemed like it would never end.

One day a package was delivered on the porch of the dollhouse. All the dolls gathered around to find out what was in the box. Scary Shirley opened the box. She was able to do this because her name instilled such respect for her in the other dolls that they were more than willing to go along with her assertion that she was the most adept at using full-size scissors safely.

“Is it new uniforms for us?” one of the cheerleader dolls asked Scary Shirley.

“You’ll see what it is once I’ve opened it, won’t you?” Scary Shirley replied.

“Is it a rocking horse for me to ride on while I sing my songs to all of you?” asked the Johnny Cash  cowboy doll.

“Oh no! This box isn’t nearly big enough to hold a rocking horse for you,” Scary Shirley told him with a friendly laugh. The dolls kept on asking what could be in the box, but again and again Scary Shirley’s answers revealed that not one of the assembled dolls had any idea what was in that box.

“Is it my passport, finally here so I can travel again?” asked Hitty, the tiny carved wood doll.

“Your passport won’t be delivered in a box nearly as big as this,” Scary Shirley replied.

From his place by the window Basil Dill could not see what was in the box once Scary Shirley began the process of opening it. The other dolls were all blocking Basil Dill’s view of the box contents.

Finally Scary Shirley had the box open. From inside the newspaper packed in the box, the dolls all heard a little voice calling out, “it’s dark in here!” When he heard that muffled little voice, Basil Dill figured he knew what was in the box. It was another doll. Like all the others. It was probably another doll who would be able to run and play, and have fun in all the ways that he couldn’t.

Scary Shirley opened the newspaper and she held the new doll up high, so everyone could see. Basil Dill gasped when he looked over the heads of the other dolls and saw another doll just like himself! It was a doll head wrapped in fabric green leaves.

“Scary Shirley, who is that!?” Basil Dill asked after Scary Shirley had snapped her scissors menacingly at the other dolls to quiet them down. The other dolls weren’t even a little bit scared of Scary Shirley, and she knew it, but they quieted down just the same.

“Basil Dill, I want you to meet someone very special,” Scary Shirley said with a smile. “This is Heather Fern. she was delivered here today to become your new friend.”

“A new friend, like me?” Basil Dill asked, his painted eyes wide.

“That’s right. A new friend just for you. Go on, you can say hello to her if you want,” Scary Shirley said. Scary Shirley placed a lace headband on Heather Fern’s head, and then she gently placed her inside a flower pot like the one Basil Dill was sitting in by the window. The other dolls exclaimed in an overlapping chorus about how pretty she was, and Heather Fern politely thanked them for their compliments. Basil Dill felt a little envious that he could not talk to Heather Fern right away, like all the other dolls could.

But then, Scary Shirley carried Heather Fern in her flower pot over to the window where Basil Dill sat alone. “Basil Dill, meet Heather Fern. Heather Fern, this is Basil Dill.” Scary Shirley introduced the two little dolls to each other quite formally. Heather Fern spoke first.

“Hello Basil Dill,” Heather Fern said softly. “I didn’t expect there to be another doll like me here. I am so happy that I won’t be alone.” Upon hearing those words, Basil Dill’s little leaf wrapped heart leapt with joy.

“I am happy that you are here too!” Basil Dill cried. I have wanted someone to sit here with me, and talk to me, someone who would know what it feels like to not be able to do all the things the other dolls can do.”

“Well,” Heather Fern said, “Now we have each other. And as long as we live in our flower pots I will talk to you whenever you like, and about anything you want.”

After a moment of consideration, Basil Dill cautiously asked, “Can we talk about what we would do if we ever got to grow bodies? The other dolls never want to talk to me about that, for some reason.”

“Of course we can!” Heather Fern exclaimed to Basil Dill. Scary Shirley agreed that the two of them would certainly find many things to talk about sitting together in their flower pots.

Basil Dill and Heather Fern quickly became very close friends. They would sing little songs together for the other dolls. they made up a song about flowers and other plants and the other dolls all loved to hear their song.

One day, when it was quiet and a lot of the other dolls were either reading or napping, Scary Shirley and the Johnny Cash cowboy doll  came over to the window. “We owe you an apology, Basil Dill,” Scary Shirley stated solemnly.

“Yeah,” the Johnny Cash cowboy doll agreed. “We didn’t realize how lonely you were sitting here alone all that time.”

“Now that Heather Fern is here you seem much happier now. Are you happier, Basil Dill?” Scary Shirley asked somewhat hesitantly.

“Oh, yes!” Basil Dill exclaimed. “I have never been happier. Now I know what it’s like to have a friend just like me, the way the rest of you dolls do.”

“And I’m happy to,” Heather Fern chimed in. “I didn’t expect to find a friend here who would be just like me. When I was traveling here I worried all along the way that I would feel lonely in my new home. But, I’m not lonely at all.”

Scary Shirley and the Johnny Cash cowboy doll smiled at the two little flower pot dolls. “I’m glad that you’re both happy,” Scary Shirley said.

“I’m happy too,” the Johnny Cash cowboy doll said, smiling. “It’s nice to have a friend just like you, isn’t it? In my last home I was the only musician doll. I’ve been here so long now with Elvis, Debbie Reynolds, and the Fabric Four Beatles dolls,  that I’d forgotten how out of place I felt in my other home.  I can’t imagine how lonely you must have felt, all alone by the window all that long time by yourself, Basil Dill.”

“It’s alright,” Basil Dill said happily. “I’m glad to be a flower pot doll now! Having someone who understands me is the best feeling I have ever had.”

“And I will never leave your side,” Heather Fern assured Basil Dill. They smiled at each other, their leafy fabric green leaves, quivering with delight.

“Will you two sing a song for us again today?” Scary Shirley asked the two happy dolls.

“Oh let them spend time together on their own,” the Johnny Cash cowboy doll suggested to Scary Shirley. “I’m sure they still have plenty to talk about being the only two dolls in flower pots. “Besides, I think I remember you said you were finally going to join all of us musicians today to do some singing for the rest of the dolls. Isn’t that right?”

“That’s right! We did plan that for today,” Scary Shirley said. “I hope you’re all ready for me to sing with you. Because I’m always ready to sing.”

“Well now,” said the Johnny Cash cowboy doll, “I guess that’s something we have in common with Heather Fern and Basil Dill, isn’t it?”

“It sure is!” Basil Dill and Heather Fern called out together. And together is how they did everything from then on. They sang together. They daydreamed together of what it would be like to be more like the other dolls. But most importantly, they talked together about how special it was to be dolls just like themselves.