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Happy Manic Solstice Lists: Wherein My Daughter and I Pineapple, Mango and French Fries

I make lists. It is part of who I am when I am manic. I have always made lists and they vary in complexity and their relationship to reality depending on my ascent into mania.
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I make lists. It is part of who I am when I am manic. I have always made lists and they vary in complexity and their relationship to reality depending on my ascent into mania.

1. List what to buy for Christmas and Hanukkah for each person, how much I plan to spend and how fun each present is. Are pajamas really fun? Sometimes they are and I must make this fun.

2. Lists to inventory all the yarn, beads, wire, string and other crafty things I have and what I could make with it if that's where mania takes me this time, this solstice. If I am making this list, mania is already creeping in but I might just be hypomanic and still have some control over my free time. Full blown mania means I am driven and some chemical in my brain has a GPS for this instance. It's never the same twice.

3. List of what to make for dinner on Christmaskah (a combined celebration) and what to buy to make the stuff I'm going to make for dinner. Do I need two types of mashed potatoes? I plan the dinner but I haven't cooked most of it in years. That is my husband's job.

4. List every story I've ever written, including the stories (memoir) I have to still have to write and the stories (fiction) I have ideas about writing and should write.

5. List the novels I need to read and the novels I'd like to read but don't need to read and then the novels I think my children should read based on their ages and interests and reading levels so they become well rounded adults. Can you adult, for example, without having read The Lord of the Rings?

6. List the poets I'm going to finally start really reading, not just reading a handful of but their entire oeuvre. Make a resolution to read more current poets. I know about one thousand poets on Facebook. I plan to read all their work, buy every chapbook, go to every website, attend all local readings.

7. List the reasons I don't want my husband to ever fly to space, which, while it's a dream of his, would make me much too nervous. This is not much of a list other than it makes me much too nervous but I could write pages and pages about the anxiety that this gives me. That movie, The Martian, didn't help. And I refused to see Gravity altogether.

8. List the films that I haven't seen yet that my brother badgers me to see because he's a film snob and I respect his opinion but there is something about his badgering that keeps me from seeing them, yet I plan, this year, to see them... and then list the films I actually want to see which are too lowbrow for my brother.

9. List of every surgeon in the tristate area who can do my daughter's gender reassignment surgery in five years because I'd like to be prepared. Part of this list must include the age of the surgeon and how likely it is that he or she might retire because I don't want to pick someone only to have him or her retire. I also plan to watch every video of every vaginoplasty that I can watch so I know what to ask when it's time. She's thirteen, almost fourteen now and she will do this at eighteen (though she'd do it today if anyone let her).

10. List all the bipolar drug medications my daughter and I have been on, the dosages, the side effects and what drugs we haven't tried yet because now it's November and this is the season for mania and both of us are speeding up in our own ways and the rest of the family is just bracing for impact. Neither one of us has ever managed to get through either solstice without whirling into mania.

11. List all the things I'd say when Oprah interviews me (does she still have a show? I know she has a network but my list is based on the show on broadcast TV...) about my writing.

12. List of the lists I need to make.

Then full blown mania comes and I'm off. I'm writing. I'm knitting. I'm making fifteen sets of earrings and necklaces and bracelets. I'm shopping. I'm reading. I'm watching Netflix. I'm cruising the internet, crossing off doctors over sixty and lamenting the state of psychotropic drugs for bipolar disorder. I update Facebook on my thoughts fifteen times a day.

All the while, my daughter, Sammy, is talking a hundred miles a minute about her fan fiction world that is based on Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars and then whatever show or movie she has seen lately. We've got a lot of zombies happening since we let her watch The Walking Dead over the summer.

She draws intently.

She talks everyone's ear off. When she can't think of anything particular to say, she says, "Pineapple!" and I reply, "Mango!" and she says, totally deadpan, "French fries."

She plans her future career as a video game designer/ astrophysicist/ astronomer/ film maker/ billionaire/ first transgender woman to do everything. Or maybe be a math teacher. Or a science teacher. Or an art teacher. But not a writer because, at thirteen, her dyslexia is still weighing her down. I remind her that I am also dyslexic and I am a writer -- she has to practice. She suggests that if I could just stop what I am doing, I could write down her stories. I can usually stop what I'm doing long enough to listen or at least listen while I'm doing what I'm doing but even she knows the absurdity of my stopping.

During all this doing, she and I are nitpicking everyone and tired because you can't do all this and get enough sleep, especially when your brain is a whirling dervish. When you whirl, you cannot sleep. (Although as middle age descends upon me, I find I have mastered sleeping for little bits sitting up...) So we are also irritable. It's so clear to us how everything should happen and it is unbelievably annoying that my husband and two other children and all the other people in the universe don't understand the timetable that is crystal clear in our own spinning heads.

Not that my timetable has any relation to Sammy's timetable.

And, to be fair to my husband and other children, it isn't as though Sammy or I have really explained our timetables. It's so obvious that we think that they should know. Age and experience has taught me not to expect much from other people in this regard and, after eighteen years together, my husband has learned to read the signs, ask pointed questions, guess and guide our older children on my rampage.

But Sammy is only thirteen (almost fourteen!) and every year it gets a little more intense and she has no idea how to navigate it. She gets angry at school because, for example, the other kids in gym aren't playing to win. It's as if they are just playing to have fun! What is wrong with them? And because she goes to a therapeutic school for kids with mental illnesses, all these kids also have something going on with them and they don't especially want to deal with her eccentricities. So she gets in trouble for lashing out and banging on things and three times she's been hospitalized because she gets so angry at herself for not being able to make the world see it as she sees it that she lashes out -- at herself. She may threaten to hurt others but she never has outside of her fictional world. In this world, Sammy is her own target.

And I get it.

She is a chip off the old Mama block. Bipolar disorder and dyslexia are both hereditary and she won the Hall family gene pool. Being transgender isn't a walk in the park, but it isn't the hardest thing she has to deal with in her life. So after yelling at each other we soothe each other and talk at each other and eventually we sometimes fall asleep together because this?

All this?

It's exhausting.