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.

Not with that attitude, you won’t!

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In the years since I was diagnosed with the first mental illness condition I discovered I am living with as a challenge to enjoying this life I have been given, I have been doing my best to maintain a steady course as a writer. My steering hasn’t always been steady, constant, or successful, but I have always felt driven to write. Obviously I’ve also felt a very clear desire to keep company with dolls, hence the creation of this blogging website. Since I was very young I have found my dolls to be muses of sorts for me in my nearly lifelong writing endeavors. However, I didn’t fully realize that my doll collection was a source of significant inspiration until relatively recently.

One thing that has unfortunately been nearly constant in my writing journey has been a pernicious habit of people I encounter, people who don’t write, to quickly offer discouragement when I expressed my desire and drive to make a life for myself through my writing. Like many other people who live with mental illnesses, I was for much of my life very easily influenced by the ideas and opinions of others. I eventually learned that this tendency of mine to care too much about what other people thought was actually symptomatic, and as such it also contained the potential to be altered.

Initially, when someone would urge me to reconsider my vocational choice because they felt the writing life must be too challenging, particularly with someone facing challenges like mine, and probably not nearly profitable enough to be worth the effort anyway, I admit I often felt swayed to believe the discouraging things those nay-sayers were nay-saying.

Fortunately, my desire and drive to write have always been far stronger than my wish to believe things said to me by people who actively rained on my writing parade. I feel proud to state that no matter what challenges I face in my life, I always come back to my writing. One tactic I learned in the past few years that has become essential in aiding me in maintaining belief in myself, instead of in the disheartening words of nay-sayers, came to me by way of an old friend of mine.

This friend of mine used to very patiently, and regularly, endure what had to have been the uncomfortable experience, of listening to me beating myself up verbally in far too many of the conversations we shared. When I would say something self-defeating about how I couldn’t do this or that, demonstrating for my friend just how effectively the doubts of others were seeping into my view of myself, my friend would always firmly tell me this simple rebuttal: Not with that attitude you won’t!

When my friend first challenged my negative views of myself with that statement I laughed, and I didn’t really listen to the words, much less take them to heart. But, as my friend continued to state that same rebuttal, every time I put myself down in conversation, those wise words eventually started sinking in.

Time passed and my friendship with that particularly helpful friend became less of a constant. We drifted apart, as friends often do, but those words remained with me. They haunted me with the persistency of a slow leak in the bottom of a boat. I kept trying to steer my writing craft, and even while I would falter and seem to all but give up, my friend’s words kept leaking into my consciousness, helping me steady my course.

These days, many years later, when I occasionally find myself slipping back into old patterns of being unkind and unsupportive of my own writing ambitions, I feel very grateful to my friend for giving me that suggestion with such regular and reliable predictability. “Not with that attitude, you won’t!”

Many of the upcoming photo stories I will be sharing here at Mini Mansion Memoirs contain within them the trials experienced by dolls working hard to overcome limitations they have placed upon themselves within their own imaginary lives. It is my hope that the dolls living here in the Much Ado About Nothing giant backyard dollhouse will all be able to better succeed in their imaginary endeavors, thanks to the hard work I have been doing on myself all these years which has now enabled me to to reach a place where most of the time, I both believe in myself, and in my ability to share writing that is worth reading.

Emory Corbin, the busy boy pictured organizing doll paperwork above, is my steadfast companion in creating these photo stories to share with you all. He is the doll who I have assigned with that most important job of reminding me, when I slip up and say something self-defeating: Not with that attitude, you won’t!

Thank you so much, my old friend. You know who you are. You made this blog post possible.