Birthing My Book: Bringing Delight in Disorder to Life

Having conceived and nurtured a memoir for almost a year, only to have it soundly rejected, it felt much like a miscarriage. I went a year without writing a word. It was only when I enrolled in an intensive discipleship training program that I again started to bring words to life, or, more accurately, let the Word come to life by cultivating the soil of stories.

Still, I wasn’t ready to come back to my memoir. It was too personal, too painful, too raw. Instead, I moved onto fiction – drafting a trilogy of short stories – “Life,” “Liberty,” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  More than the quality of the narrative (which is still quite unfinished), the discipline of daily writing as I created characters, developed dialogue, and polished plot, gave me increasing confidence that I had a “way with words.”

Then a very tragic thing happened. A young man I had never met committed suicide. He was playing family board games one minute and the next he was in his room shooting himself. The young man’s name was Matthew, son of Rick Warren renowned pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling Purpose-Driven Life.

My initial reaction was to take to my bed. I didn’t get up for three days. I read what people within the church and outside of it were saying. Some of it trying to be nice and compassion. Some of it downright ugly and mean. Nearly all of it lacking a clear Biblical understanding of mental illness that would drive a person to suicide.

I decided I needed to re-write my memoir. I also knew I couldn’t do it alone. I shared the idea with Leanne Sype, a blogging friend and editor, to whom I had pitched my trilogy. Very soon, she became as passionate about the project as I did. With Leanne’s help, I worked through a second draft, and a third (and in some cases fourth and fifth). With Leanne’s guidance, I pitched it to an agent and went to a writer’s conference to see about pursuing conventional publishing.

We prayed for a clear sign and got it almost immediately. A resounding no. Undeterred, Leanne encouraged me to pursue self-publishing, helped me navigate around some shark-invested waters of vanity publishers. She introduced me to graphic artist Nicole Miller who also has a heart for the Lord and a distinct eye for graphic design. Soon, we had a book cover. Nicole then moved on to a video for our indiegogo campaign where we exceeded our goal.

Along came another young faithful servant, Christina Tarabochia, who took the text and shaped it into various formats uploaded at Smashwords (and soon, for Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Christina helped explain some of the technical aspects of getting our book in the hands of the readers and has been an invaluable resource.

Now that we have a downloadable e-book (soon to be in print), we are only entering another season of the larger “Delight in Disorder” mission. Over the past few days I have been contacted mental health and church leaders from across the country to help us spread the word — to bridge the distance between faith and mental illness. I’ve already received two speaking invitations and am building some very fruitful relationships.

Much has been done — Facebook author page, Twitter account (indy_tony), media kit, business card design, e-mail and phone contact) and much remains to be done (website upgrade, speaking engagements, reviews). I have no idea where God will lead now that the book has been birthed. I only pray I’ll do my part to be a faithful stewardship of the Word calling me to share divine delight in the disorder of the world.

Write your favorite scripture on a canvas for your dorm room. It fills up wall space and it will be a good encouragement.

Birthing My Book: Cultivating the Soil

The years 2009-2011 are pretty much a blur for me. I was on a high dose of psychotropics. I was still recuperating from the effects of E.C.T.. I was dealing with deep depression due in large part to a lack of purpose since going on disability.

After my first attempt to write a spiritual memoir was rejected by publishers, I stuffed it in a dresser drawer and quit writing altogether. I tried some gardening, wheeling aging veterans to worship, painting dairy barns, cleaning furnaces — anything to be somewhat productive and stay out of the pit.

Nothing helped. At least not much. In December of 2010 I enrolled in a partial hospitalization treatment program and was introduced to a relatively new therapeutic approach that was proving successful among bipolar patients. It was called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

I was less than impressed.  I found DBT to be a rather basic blend of pop psychology and generic eastern philosophy.  While I benefited from the support of group therapy and met many compassionate caregivers, I left the program feeling it had fallen short, eager for something more in-depth and, if possible, rooted in my own Christian tradition.

Thanks to the advocacy of a family minister, we discovered a program called Shepherd’s Fold. Originally designed as a re-integration program for prisoners adjusting back to family life, it had become more a discipleship center where men could study deeply the Scriptures, receive Christian counsel, and develop work and personal habits that might carry over for them to become better husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers in Christ.

I enrolled at Shepherd’s Fold in September of 2011 and immediately began to adopt the schedule, the tasks, and habits they had carefully designed to promote spiritual well-being. While I struggled with the structure, and my pace at work and in chores was particularly slow, I found my overall mental health improved. Most importantly, I was able to read and reflect on God’s Word for hours each day.

I began to write again.  My letters home to my wife were often 30 pages and up (and sometimes I wrote 2 or 3 a week). I began a correspondence with a former colleague in ministry who sent me his sermons and I would respond with lengthy replies. In addition to daily journal entries from Scripture readings, I did a number of research papers on issues with which I had been dealing. After eight months in treatment, I was asked to write a “spiritual autobiography” and I filled over 125 hand-written pages. My writer’s voice was returning.

Sadly, my time at Shepherd’s Fold came to an end in August, 2012 as I left the program early.  God only knows the complete story of why it didn’t work out as we had hoped — to promote family reconciliation.  But it is clear that though the soil seemed barren, there was much cultivation.

Cultivating

Birthing My Book: From Conception to Miscarriage

Finger  Lakes Country. An hour or two from Rochester.

On June 13, 2009, I was driving along the scenic shores of the Finger Lakes region of New York wondering what I was going to do with my life.  I was 45.  I had spent most of the last two decades serving as a pastor while battling bipolar disorder. At my best, I had time and energy left to enjoy family life with my wonderful wife and four beautiful children.  At my worst, I either laid under the covers in a dark bedroom or frantically pursued plans ill-conceived and left undone.  I looked out the window and prayed for vision.

Suddenly, it came to me. I would write a book about bipolar and the faith that either fuels us to distraction or saves us from self-destruction.  In less than 20 miles, I conceived of a collection of devotions, inspired by the Psalms and a title — from Sheol to the Highest Heavens: 101 Devotions for Persons with Bipolar (and those who love them).  By the time I pulled into the driveway, I had most of the introduction in mind (which has remained largely the same), and some thoughts on one devotion (which is now the “Epilogue”).

Over the course of the next six months, I poured through the Psalms and wrote 1-3 devotions a day.  Some days as I felt like working more, I would re-write earlier devotions.  By early 2010, I had a manuscript I just knew would be embraced by countless publishers.  I bought a copy of the Christian Writer’s Market Guide, found 15 publishers I felt were appropriate and sent out quickly composed queries.

I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Out of the 15 queries I sent out, I received a total of one response – a two sentence form e-mail.

It was as if I had a miscarriage.

I stuffed the manuscript in my chest-of-drawers under a pile of junk mail, unfolded underwear and mis-matched socks.

I didn’t write another word for over a year.

The Bible says, “Without vision, people perish.”  I was dying on the vine.  My mind was consumed with grief which actually felt a lot like nothingness.  Each day, I sat in my recliner and stared at the ceiling.  At night, I slept fitfully, listening to BBC radio through my pillow speaker — a reminder at least that life went on — somewhere.

Meanwhile, my wife was fed up.  Understandably.  Here we were, living on a fruitful homestead, financially secure, with four adorable children and nothing to do but delight in the Lord and love one another.  What was wrong with me?

I tried many things – counseling, gardening, volunteering, working with men from the church.  Something was still not right.  We searched our minds for an answer. Was I over-medicated? Did my overdose damage my brain? Or the E.C.T.? Was it my illness? Or just me?

Only God knew.  And for some reason, God was not giving us the answer.

(image above from Jenny Russo)

Was He Only Dreaming?: Hoosier Perspectives on Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the fall of 1975, I opened my fresh new Language Arts textbook and found that some pages had been cut out.  I walked up to my teacher’s desk and his response was,

 ”I did that.  It was a story about Martin Luther King.  I don’t want you reading about some nigger who went around stirring up trouble.”

Yesterday, I was talking with an elderly woman who didn’t realize today was a holiday.

“What holiday is it?”

“Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday,” I replied.

“I swear.  What do you have to do to get a day named after you?  He didn’t do nothing.”

This morning, I was talking to a man in his 70s about King’s legacy.

“I know he preached non-violence,” he said, “but as soon as he’d finish his speeches, blacks would go around breaking into stores and stealing stuff.  I don’t care what the history books say.  I saw it on TV.”

While King is celebrated as a saint by nearly all African Americans and a vast majority of white Americans as well, there is still a pervasive racial attitude among some – perhaps those who find themselves on the wrong side of history – that King was anything but heroic.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”   ―  Martin Luther King Jr.

day 154  Martin Luther King jr. Day by ms.Tea

 from ms.Tea, some rights reserved

{I first posted this on MLK day last year and received a tremendous response. This year, I will be sharing it with my reading and writing classes as I also feature King’s classic book Strength to Love.}

Finding Life (in obvious places): Me and Claudia Matson

Some time ago, inspired by Leanne Sypes’ post about her accordion-file time capsule, I dug through my big-bin of writings.  Like my mind, there was great disorder — to-do lists from last month crammed in with devotionals from 1983.  Father’s Day notes my daughters had written to me brought a smile to my face, love letters from my wife that brought tears to my eyes.  I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness.  I am not at all at peace with who I’ve been –  as a husband, a father, a pastor. 

To cope, I retreat to my writing studio with a book I found — a book I wrote before becoming all these things, back when I was a 21-year old, single, aspiring writer totally unprepared for the war that would rage within (with mental illness), ill-equipped for responsibilities I would frantically assume.

What follows is the opening of Life (in obvious places).  It is a work of fiction, but as I do not possess a wild imagination, it is firmly based on experience.

Seven years ago, in Freshman English, I was staring at Claudia Matson and her large breasts when I heard Miss Farkas explain what keeping a journal meant to her.

“When I write, it’s as if I were tapping into hidden resources of images, ideas, and thoughts. My journal is an expression of my sacred Self.”

I laughed.

“You find that humorous, do you?” she asked me.

“Well… yeah.”

It was funny, you have to admit. Still, she made me apologize to the class and write, “I will not laugh at the teacher,” five hundred times.

Miss Farkas died last summer and Claudia Matson is in college becoming a nuclear physicist. And I have this journal. It’s personal, but it’s sure as hell isn’t sacred.  I’m writing for myself, but with people in mind. In my mind. Just about things that go on. It’s not a novel or anything.  Just a journal, for Christ’s sake.

It has something to do with my father, I guess. Or my family in general. Dad took off on his motorcycle one Sunday while we were in church. He didn’t leave a note or anything. He never did write much.

My sister started a personal diary shortly afterwards that I stole one night to read. It was mush. A bunch of emotional crap about love and how it should last forever and how horrible Dad was for leaving. I don’t know. Miss Farkas may be right, but how can you tell a story without laughing? It just doesn’t make sense,

So, I moved out of Mom’s house right after high school, started work at the factory, and took to apartment life like an ant to a molehill. That was four years ago. Now I’m wondering what I’m doing here and why I can’t just get married and live normally in some suburban white house district.

No, that’s not it. I’m just trying to figure out where I am and how I got here. And what I’m looking for when I go on walks for hours. I know it’s a pretty tall order.  Maybe I should have gone to college.

The Walk - Fallen leaves - Vincent van Gogh  -  Completion Date: 1889    Place of Creation: Saint-rémy, Provence

“The Walk – Fallen leaves – Vincent van Gogh – Completion Date: 1889 Place of Creation: Saint-rémy, Provence”

from Carlos Leiro in Van Gogh, Picasso, Joan Miro

The Safe and Secure Path

Keep me safe, O God,

I’ve run for dear life to you.

I say to God, “Be my Lord!”

Without you, nothing makes sense.  (Psalm 16:1-2)

Apart from a few encounters with bullies growing up, I’ve rarely faced external threats of violence. My enemies have primarily come from within, as I have battled bipolar disorder. Facing the demons of depression and mania, my mind has turned against me such that I have no longer been safe in my own skin. I’ve posed a distinct threat to myself and others.

At such times, I’ve run to God for shelter and found God already reaching out for me. God has brought me to my senses and led me to secure shelter in which to stand. Once there, I’ve found loving companions to keep me safe.

And these God-chosen lives all around –

what splendid friends they make! (Psalm 16:3)

Through the faithful fellowship of friends and family watching out for me, encouraging me, caring for me in so many ways, I have seen the face and touched the hands of God.

With such loyal companionship as God has provided, one would think I would gratefully and gladly hold on tight. Yet, I am prone to wander. David’s words serve as a warning to me.

Don’t just go shopping for a god.

Gods are not for sale.

I swear I’ll never treat god-names

like brand-names. (Psalm 16:4)

I am fickle when it comes to faithfulness. My lips profess there is one true God who is my Lord and Savior but my heart is often far from Him. I talk the talk yet fail to walk the walk. God help me to be a man after God’s own heart — like David.

My choice is you, God, first and only.

And now I find I’m your choice!

You set me up with a house and yard.

And then you made me your heir! (Psalm 16:5-6)

David enjoyed many blessings in his life. God chose him when he was only a shepherd boy to become Israel’s king. God moved him from the fields to a palace. God prospered him more than he could have imagined.

No doubt God can and does  bring us temporal blessings in this life. More than this, however, God promises us a home in the next — part of His blessed family. In Christ, we are made heirs of God’s abundant life that begins now and lasts forever. In this promise, we rest secure.

The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake

is confirmed  by my sleeping heart.

Day and night I’ll stick with God;

I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go. (Psalm 16:7-8)

God’s gift of adoption into His family should not make us complacent. Instead, with the conviction of faith we are motivated to do more by grace than if we anxiously tried to earn God’s blessing.

I’m happy from the inside out,

and from the outside in, I’m firmly fixed.

You cancelled my ticket to hell –

that’s not my destination! (Psalm 19:9-10)

More than being protected in this life, God has rescued us in Christ from eternal destruction. Without Christ, we are without hope. With Christ, we have all in the world — and well beyond.

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,

all radiant from the shining of your face.

Ever since you took my hand,

I’m on the right way. (Psalm 19:11-12)

With Christ leading us by the hand, we are no longer lost. More than this, Christ shines through us to light the way for others to follow.

As I write this, snow is falling here in the Midwest. The roads will be hazardous. I pray for travelers’ safety along the way. In a larger sense, I also pray for all travelers that they find the Way that leads to Life.

Snowy path

Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

smiling children

… Christmas is not only the mile-mark of another year, moving us to thoughts of self-examination: it is a season, from all its associations, whether domestic or religious, suggesting thoughts of joy. A man dissatisfied with his endeavours is a man tempted to sadness. And in the midst of the winter, when his life runs lowest and he is reminded of the empty chairs of his beloved, it is well he should be condemned to this fashion of the smiling face. Noble disappointment, noble self-denial are not to be admired, not even to be pardoned, if they bring bitterness. It is one thing to enter the kingdom of heaven maim; another to maim yourself and stay without. And the kingdom of heaven is of the childlike, of those who are easy to please, who love and who give pleasure.  (from “A Christmas Sermon” by Robert Louis Stevenson)

Sometimes we think we are doing good when we are our own worst critiques.  We count ourselves “noble” to set unattainable goals then feel miserable when we fall short (and repeat the cycle, or do even worse the next time).  We see this a lot this time of year, with new year’s resolutions, promises we make to ourselves or vows we make to others that this year things are going to be different.

I have a number of regrets in my life.

– I regret I’ve not been a more loving father.

– I regret I’ve not been a more attentive husband.

– I regret I’ve not been a more effective pastor.

I have so many regrets and now, perhaps foremost among them, I regret most that I have so many regrets.

In his “A Christmas Sermon”, Stevenson shows that this human instinct to become embittered with ourselves when we fail only leads us to be even more critical of others.  This was precisely the thing Jesus accused the Pharisees (the religious leaders of his day) of doing.  Trying to live not only by the letter but by the brush strokes of each letter of the law, they wound up enforcing it on others and overlooking ways they could improve themselves.

So what do we do instead?  Does this mean we set no goals, have low standards or no standards at all.  I don’t think so.  It means we re-direct our focus away from ourselves and to… children.  Children, says Stevenson, are easy to please.  They love.  And they give pleasure.  (I would only add that children properly raised display these “natural” qualities.  When you see a child whining about getting clothes for Christmas instead of electronic toys, you have to wonder what’s going on.)

But children can be good teachers.  Not that they are innocent, but they are more at ease being in a dependent relationship, being grateful for what they are given, sharing love freely instead of trying to bargain for something at a price, being pleased and giving pleasure.  Laughing for the sheer joy of laughing.

As I celebrate this Christmas season and look forward to a new year, I’m still going to set some goals, but I’ll base them on the right models.

Goal #1:   I’m going to be more grateful for what I’ve been given.

Goal #2:  I’m going to love more freely.

Goal #3:  I’m going to be pleased – in God, in others, and in myself.

How about you?  What are your goals this Christmas season (and beyond)?

(photo “Smile” from  Literally Photographysome rights reserved)

“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” by R.E.M. in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

We married and moved to a three-room row house in South St. Louis.  Steam rising from asphalt. We passionately loved and more passionately fought. Out of our conjugal clash a child was conceived.

Seeking safety, we moved to the countryside and I became shepherd of a frozen flock. We welcomed our baby home to a Noah’s Ark nursery. I turned her first week into a music video – “God’s Masterpiece.” After a week, I was spent (or thought I was) and retreated to ancient texts and tired truths.

In the disorder, there were moments of delight and we conceived again.  Our graceful pilgrim. We followed a call to a church looking for an infusion of youth.

The delight became dangerously disordered.  It was the end of the world and I was bouncing off the walls. A light fixture fell and I was convinced it was a sign from God.

The next day, I found myself in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital.

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid

Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
World serves its own needs, don’t misserve your own needs
Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt, no, strength
The ladder starts to clatter with a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
Left her, wasn’t coming in a hurry with the Furies breathing down your neck

Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh-oh, overflow, population, common group
But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Six o’clock, TV hour, don’t get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh-oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline

It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)
I feel fine (I feel fine)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

The other night I dreamt a nice continental drift divide
Mountains sit in a line, Leonard Bernstein
Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right? Right

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

(It’s time I had some time alone)

(“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” is the ninth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“Dancing in the Minefields” by Andrew Peterson in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

With all the hope of a man desperate to not be alone in life and eager to find what he’d never been looking for, I bought you a ring at a mall kiosk. I placed it in Eeyore’s lap and wrapped it up as a Christmas gift.

We set a date then set about debating all the details of navigating life together in faith, clinging to the promise we would one day be One, bonded in a holy union that would somehow keep us together and prevent us from falling apart.

At our wedding, the minister fed me vows but I was too choked up to repeat them. I was crying. Amazed at the grace that the brokenness in me might finally be mended. At the prospect that what God was joining together no one could possibly separate.

It’s been over twenty years and the promise remains true, though we are miles apart. We’re still in the minefields, waiting for our song to play.

Well I was 19, you were 21
The year we got engaged
Everyone said we were much too young
But we did it anyway
We got the rings for 40 each from a pawnshop down the road
We said our vows and took the leap now 15 years ago

We went dancing in the minefields
We went sailing in the storms
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for

Well “I do” are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I’ve heard is a good place to begin
‘Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down
And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found

And we’re dancing in the minefields
We’re sailing in the storms
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for
That’s what the promise is for

So when I lose my way, find me
When I lose loves chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith to the end of all my days
when I forget my name, remind me

‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of man
So there’s nothing left to fear
So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands
Till the shadows disappear
‘Cause He promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of this chaos baby,
I can dance with you

So lets go dancing in the minefields
Lets go sailing in the storms
Oh, lets go dancing in the minefields
And kicking down the doors
Oh, lets go dancing in the minefields
And sailing in the storms
Oh, this is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for
That’s what the promise is for

(“Dancing in the Minefields” is the eighth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“February Seven” by The Avett Brothers in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

July, 1989 in “The Office of Friends.”  You were on the phone with South Central Bell, debating a deposit.

A spark from your words deflected off the receiver and landed in my heart.  I was slain in the Spirit.

You won the battle with the phone company and I determined, “I need this woman on my side.”

From “Shakespeare in the Park” to shopping at the mall, losing at hangman and going dutch on dates. I crushed your spirit then blended it together with sour milk and sugar, serving it back to you as Friendship bread. Complete with nuts and blueberries.

When you wrote “I love you,” on my back in Hebrew, was it God’s Word or just something people don’t speak anymore?

I went on the search for something true
I was almost there when I found you
Sooner than my fate was wrote
A perfect blade, it slit my throat
And beads of lust released into the air
When I awoke you were standing there

I was on the mend when I fell through
The sky around was anything but blue
I found as I regained my feet, a wound across my memory
That no amount of stitches would repair
But I awoke and you were standing there

There’s no fortune at the end of the road
That has no end
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready and I’m ready to begin

I went on the search for something real
Traded what I know for how I feel
But the ceiling and the walls collapsed
Upon the darkness I was trapped
And as the last of breath was drawn from me
Light broke in and brought me to my feet

There’s no fortune at the end of the road
That has no end
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready and I’m ready to begin

I’m rested and I’m ready to begin

(“February Seven” is the seventh song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)