Dangerous Compassions

you can’t unlock an unlocked door


Hey, I’ve been thinking about some koans.  One arose from a lived situation–You can’t unlock an unlocked door.  Yes, I was struggling with that, yesterday.  Well, I do it often.  I’m clumsy and bad with keys.

Then I also thought–You can’t buy what’s free.

I like those ideas, but I think koans are supposed to be phrased as a question.  And I’m not certified as a Zen master.  I never got past first grade.


“You can’t unlock an unlocked door” makes me think of knowledge, wisdom, passing through doors as a metaphor for learning.  To me, locked and unlocked doors evoke akashic records, group knowing, the library in the sky.

So yeah, struggling to learn a thing you can’t learn because you already know it.  I love that.

Then the “you can’t buy what’s free” makes me think more about big systems like capitalism and how a mentality can be so limiting.  It makes me remember years ago, when I never sold my zines.  That limited my potential audience, since many people would rather pay for something as a safe, comfortable transaction than risk incurring some scary, undefined debt by accepting a gift.

Weird!  So much for resisting capitalism for fun!  I guess they don’t think it’s fun.


“Am I starting to have a manic episode?  Or does everything just smell strong because it’s humid outside?” I asked Ming on our morning walk.  Monsoon season means it rains in the night, often.

“Humid outside,” Ming said.

“Oh, ok.  Good,” I said.  “But you didn’t smell the salami, earlier.”


We hugged, and I smelled salami.  “Did you eat salami?” I asked him.

“No,” he said.

“Oh, it smelled like salami, when I hugged you.  Salami hug!”

We laughed.

“Did you smell it too?” I asked.

No, he had not.

Then I told him that you can’t smell your own nose, which is koan-like also.  What’s the smell of your nose?


“Do you think German Shepherds can be trained to smell mania?”

“Yes,” Ming said.

“Really?” I asked.  I considered the implication of my own idea.  If German Shepherds can smell it, that means mania is Real.  If mania is Real, that means maybe mental illness is real.  Then, if mental illness is real, does that mean radical mental health is false?

I wondered all of that in about half a second, so maybe that means yes, I was on the edge of a manic episode.  “Fast thinking–slow moving,” was my motto, long ago.

“What do you think mania smells like?” I asked Ming.  “I think it smells like pepper.”

feeling state

Yes, asking a question then answering it before the other person gets a chance to answer is classic hypomania, for me.  But I slept almost eight hours, my executive function is ok, my voices are normal, I feel happy, being social isn’t extra difficult, and my choices feel good.  I’m getting zero negative feedback about my behaviors.

Pathologizing my own happiness is one of the saddest things psychiatry has ever done to me.  Friends with similar diagnoses worry too–they feel really happy, and they’re afraid the tide is turning, to feeling too up.

“It’s only a problem if it’s a problem,” is one of my favorite ideas.  Pathologizing happiness is nothing I ever want to do.  If my behavior gets bad or I lose executive function, we can cross that bridge then.

burning bridges

“May the bridges I burn light the way,” is a quote and idea I really like too.  Sometimes I’m so cautious about burning bridges that I get harmed far too long by a person or situation that’s bad for me.

Sometimes I burn a bridge and feel so relieved afterward that I say, “Dang!  I should have burned that bridge years ago!”  Scarcity mentality can make me feel like a hoarder.  “What if I need that bridge later?” is an easy fear.  I have a guideline for myself, not to make big decisions when I’m having an extreme state.

If your way is lit by burning bridges, I think that means you’re traveling backward?  Maybe I’m taking the metaphor too far, which I enjoy doing sometimes.

Love to the feelers, the kind partners, the work dogs, the bridges, the fire.

This song includes the line “what I seek, I have” which reminds me of you can’t unlock an unlocked door.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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