Thursday, March 25, 2010

Purple Haze

Purple haze all in my brain
lately things don't seem the same
Acting funny and i don't know why
excuse me while i kiss the sky-- J. Hendrix

Here’s what’s new today: Purple.

Growing up, purple meant Prince, Bubble Yum, and grape soda. Our Mills college class color was purple, and we heard all about how when we were old we’d wear purple. I wasn’t ever a huge fan. For a while my favorite color was blue, then red, then orange, then green. Never purple: the color of royalty, the color of my parents’ alma mater, the color of berries, bruises, and wine-kissed lips.

Now? Purple won’t let me go, and I have some things in mind that aren’t easily said. I attended an art museum event in February, called The Purple Party, so maybe that’s where my attention started to turn; one of the best nights of my life, and with every smile and surprise, my appreciation for the color grew a hundred-fold.

I’ve recently learned that Friday, March 26, is International Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness. Epilepsy, my dears, is one thing of which I am intimately aware. Even now, I can tell I want to write this in order to bring the understanding I seek so fervently, yet I stumble to find words. It’s surreal.

Most days-- most YEARS-- are free from seizure for me; so far away it seems like something that happened to a different person. I follow doctor’s orders, and, thankfully, quit all the things I’m not supposed to do (like drink alcohol). My personal stumbling block is stress. As with everyone I know, I do the best I can every day, and with each step of self-awareness comes a new level of healing and trust. When I think of seizure, it’s like a descent: a freefall off a cliff I didn’t mean to find myself standing on. Then afterwards, so very awake, aware, raw.
I like the seizure-free me better.

Again, I recall Psyche being snatched off the cliff by Eros, and Persephone innocently reaching for a flower and ending up in the Underworld. I relate strongly to both those myths. I also remember the flip side of those stories- if you don’t reach for beauty & hold out for love, you may miss your destiny. But there are some hard prices to pay.

According to what I’ve read, purple is associated with epilepsy because of the lavender herb. In ancient times, lovers would send each other lavender when they were apart as a sign of devotion, so that neither would feel lonely. I understand this a lot more now. It’s a hardy plant, can thrive even in drought, has many healing applications, and soothes the senses, comforts the skin.

(Also, sometimes rendering or drying the herb intensifies the essence, just as absence serves to slowly smolder affection in lovers’ hearts. Hearts, like lavender, have myriad ways to show how strong, redolent, and resilient they can be.)

I wrote about this in my grad thesis in a memoir. For months, I wrote, studied, and made an academic case for how seizure was the Trickster of my life. And then, I let it go-- by defining the phenomenon I did not let it define me. Funny thing, though: I’ve only shared any of that writing with a handful of people (including my editor and advisor). So, how comfortable do I really feel? Hmm.

I actually do want people to be aware of epilepsy. I have a lovely life that I wouldn’t trade, filled with tremendous friends, family, and experiences I treasure. I was able to earn two master’s degrees, and have been at various times a writer, a therapist, a dreamworker, a PR consultant, and Muse-whisperer (yep, I made up that last vocation, but it works!). I would want people to know what a seizure is, how to help the person having it, what to do next. I’d want them to know that there’s so much more than those few scary moments to cherish and share in a life. I’d want them to understand that holding a hand is a powerful thing when your own is unsteady. I’d want them to know that sometimes we all need to feel cared for, and it’s too achingly easy to slip away.

(People, like lavender, have myriad ways to show how strong, redolent, and resilient they can be. Look for me on March 26. I’ll be wearing purple and smiling- can’t miss me.)

Namaste, Psyche


Michelle said...

Dear Stephanie - Thank you for your AMAZING blog post on Purple Day. I hope today you will wear your purple proud and feel the passion of this incredible global movement. When you have a chance, we would love for you to apply to our Ambassador program at Thank you and HAPPY PURPLE DAY!

Michelle Caplan

Partnership Executive
Purple Day

PS - Your blog will be added to our list of blogs on Purple Day! Many thanks!

SpeakEasy said...

Awesome stuff Steph! Very very very cool.

nikki said...

you rock, are quite the writer...looking forward to searching and reading more! ;-)

gary head said...

I was very near a man having a seizure recently, and luckily it was in a public space were he got help quickly. But I had a hard time trying to explain what was happening to my two children.

Another time in college a friend who I had been with just hours earlier had a seizure while taking a shower and had a fatal fall. I am not sure I ever came to grips with that experience.

Thank you for sharing.

Castro said...

Gary's comments reminds me of Leon Bender, a defensive lineman from Washington State University who was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round. Shortly after a workout and shower had collapsed in the bathroom into a fatal fall. My eldest daughter had febrile seizures up to age five. I can only imagine the Purple Haze of such an experience.

Stephanie~I like how you wove elements of your life experience, myth, and Purple day together. In junior high there were a group of us, about four, that took up the call to proclaim the power of purple. We made baseball hats which read above the bill, "Purple Power." Purple is the color of royalty, and Jung imagined the psychoidal realm of the archetypes as ultra-violet. (I nearly typed 'violent', and then thought of bruises when they reach a purple state. I have even heard of a joke that involves the color: What is the difference between purple and pink?

(and now I'm trying to make a pun with purple and purpose, as in 'purplesful', and I'm wondering what of the experience of epilepsy, from the perspective of the soul, is purplesful and sheds an ultraviolet light on the Necessity (Ananke) of the condition.)

Here's a snippet from Theodore Roethke: "What's madness but the nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?"

Thank you for the link to you blog from your facebook.



jwaits said...

Lovely words of honesty that begin to color in the pictures that I look forward to seeing. For one who has faced, at times, my own struggles (of a different nature and who that claims humanity hasn't in some shape or form) this post gives flesh and bone to a a shared resiliency I believe to be innate in all of us, if we only will seek, and then accept that this life is simply trasnsitory and short spanned. In short: I need to do the best I can, with what I have, where I am, today.

Best, Jonathan Waits

Sahar said...

Hello Stephanie,
Loved to read your simple, authentic and sweet words. Thank you for sharing and the inspiration.
It seems to me that you are peeling the onion mindfully and that's great! Namaste on your journey.


Chew Family said...

As a health care professional, a poet, and a writer of other sorts; I was exceptionally moved by your personal insight on purple. When my daughter was very a tiny tot, I used to sing her to sleep with a made up song called "The Purple Song," and somehow you brought that back to me. Thank you for that gift!