Category Archives: Delving into the Psyche

Delving into the Psyche, Depression/Anxiety, Happy Things, Spirituality, The Zebra

Spring

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The kids and I have been on Spring Break and it has been so, so good.

Last week, I struggled under a wet blanket, made of wool and smelling of old damp things. Last week I had a flare up of one of my illnesses: this time it was depression. It was triggered by a small (not really) thing and I wound up spending 36 hours crying and trying not to cry at everything and nothing. Things got a little better after that, but I was still wearing shoes of cement and walking through boggy mindfields. It was a struggle to make it to the end of the week with some semblance of functioning, but the knowledge that spring break was on the horizon kept me going.

Things are scant now, we are in the winter of our life’s path and the seasons leading up to this winter were not exactly fecund so our stores were already low: money, goods… mental energy to handle the stressors that continually arise.

We have never been wealthy; we have always been low-income, but we managed to make ends meet and we managed to enjoy small extravagances through careful planning and resourcefulness. My first divorced Mother’s Day, I had only enough gas to get us to Balboa Park where we took a free tour and listened to a free concert and it is one of my favorite memories. But those days I had not yet been beaten down by all the various Systems that are antagonistic towards the poor or the disabled. It is harder these days to find energy to be resourceful like I used to be.

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But this week has been such a blessing. Slowly, I have begun feeling like the old Me again. The kids and I have gone on a little hike to enjoy the superbloom of wildflowers, we visited the Wild Animal Park to see butterflies and take a tram ride, we visited my university for GradFest and my children looked on so proudly while I had my graduate photo taken. We have been silly together and we have navigated difficulties together. I have allowed myself plenty of rest and forgiven myself for not doing as much work as I had hoped. We have watched movies and played games. It has been the best week we’ve all had in a long, long time. We all feel happy.

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I have felt myself being knitted back together.

I didn’t even realize I had come apart.

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In my chest, in a place behind my stomach and nestled just below my heart: this is the place where I am held together by the threads of family and love and beauty and wholeness. Over time, through traumas and betrayals, my threads have been snipped or have come loose. It’s not something you notice right away; it happens so slowly like being boiled alive. And then you are walking around, jostling the parts of your soul until they are bruised. You walk more carefully like you are stepping on a floor of glass and too much movement will send you crashing through into the void below, but still you never notice.

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Until you begin being knit back together.

It is a physical sensation. A tightness, but not a threatening squeeze like anxiety. Rather, it is a good tightness, like being swaddled, or cuddled. But more than that, really. It is a healing sensation. I am becoming whole again.

This is not the end, I know. Life is still very hard, things are still tenuous. I will likely come undone a thousand times before I find true and complete stability (if such a thing exists – if such a thing will exist in the future). But right now, I am here in this moment giving thanks.

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Ostara (which my family and I did not celebrate because of my flare) is a holiday marking Springtime, fecundity, growth. It is an equinox which is all about balance. In the context of the journey of the Sun, it is a time in between rebirth and death, in between the darkness of winter and the light of summer. If my graduation happening at Yule was appropriate, then so is this. My spring is returning. It may return with winter storms, with mucky flares of swamp walking, but the darkness is already halfway gone and I am facing the return of the Sun.

Onwards!

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Delving into the Psyche, Edumacation, New Year New Me, Onwards, Philosophy, Spirituality, Wheel of the year, Witchy

The Darkness

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Yule – the Winter Solstice – is an ancient holiday dedicated to honoring the sun. For ancient people, this was the darkest time of the year (in the Northern Hemispehere, anyway). It was cold, people survived with food stored from the harvests, preserved by drying, curing, or fermenting. More dark means more danger, for a human is a daytime animal with poor eyesight for night movement. The Winter Solstice is the longest night, but within that lengthy pitch black time is a message that brighter days are to come. After all, if you’re in the longest night, logic follows that the next will be shorter, and science proves that each night after that will be shorter and shorter until the sun is back with a warm presence and the ability to see one’s work and one’s path for the majority of an Earth rotation.

The ancient people were, after all, scientists. We tend to forget that because we have had the benefit of millennia of collective human knowledge to build on and we consider our knowledge superior because it is more correct in the details, but in some ways this is a privileged point of view and it dishonors our ancestors by implying that they are less intelligent than we are. They were not. Their science might not look like ours, but they didn’t have the benefits we do of all the hard work that’s gone before us. They were the first. They marked the seasons and noted the calendar both on earth and in the skies. They learned how to cultivate gardens and farmland, how to breed animals to more fully nourish themselves. Tell me that’s not scientific genius. To take this planet, entirely from scratch, and to use it to sustain life, to eventually create civilization (and, yes, modern life has SO. MANY. PROBLEMS. but when you step back from that and realize that even the “synthetic” things in our life have all come from the genius of humans learning how to use the resources on the planet and nothing else, you can see how remarkable our species truly is).

I digress, but the point here is that these dudes knew their shit. Maybe not as completely as we know it, and maybe in different terms with different meanings, but they knew it.

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So. I graduated.

It is dark in my life right now, but life doesn’t operate as predictably as the seasons and I don’t know whether this day is my shortest one, and income is about to lift me out of poverty, or whether I am still early in the fall and I must wait for my darkest night still. That thought is terrifying. There is, of course, also the possibility that spring will never come back into my life. It sounds dark, but I say it without emotion: sometimes, terrible things happen to good people and that’s just how it is. The American Dream, the Bootstrap Myth—none of that shit is real. Capitalism is toxic and most do not thrive in it.

I am not really as pessimistic as that makes me sound. But I am humble enough to recognize that against the forces of fate and capitalism I am no more special than those who do not survive these systems. Just plain and simple: sometimes shit happens. *shrug*

I know it’s a couple of weeks on beyond the winter solstice now, but to face this time in my life – to graduate at the winter solstice – seems particularly apt. I am comforted by the knowledge that the Universe has a rhythm for this. It doesn’t ease my anxiety completely by any means, but it does comfort me to know that darkness is cyclical. Night ends, winter ends, and life changes take effect and the new normal becomes the expected and the comfortable.

I don’t know what my new normal will look like and if I am being honest, I truly hate that part of all this. But I am taking one blind step after another and eventually I will come out of the darkness into the day and I will see my way back to Summer again.

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Where I will hopefully stay for ever and ever with no more darkness or poverty ever again. Right? Yep. We’re just gonna go ahead and go with that.

Delving into the Psyche, Feminist Shit, Literary Shit

Becoming the Medusa

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Art by Rainer Kalwitz

“[Who] hasn’t been ashamed of her strength? Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives (for she was made to believe that a well-adjusted woman has a . . . divine composure), hasn’t accused herself of being a monster?” (Cixious 876).

We are raised by the patriarchy, carefully tended, wings and instincts clipped so that we cannot escape or even think. We are crippled in our minds, confused. We believe what they tell us even though it feels wrong. Instincts, we are taught, are not scientifically based, not “real.” So we discredit them and disassociate.

“A feminist becomes she even if she has already been assigned she, when she hears in that word a refusal of he, a refusal that he would promise her inclusion” (Ahmed 4).

Something, somehow wakes us up, if we are lucky. There is still major disconnect, but we can see that something is not right, that we have been lied to and manipulated, that we have played a role in this ourselves. We cannot quite put our finger on it, but we know that something is very, very wrong.

“I think of feminism as poetry; we hear histories in words; we reassemble histories by putting them into words” (Ahmed 12).

“Feminist theory is world making” (Ahmed 14).

We see that the world is wrong. We understand that we need to fix it, but we don’t know how, and we are afraid of how we may fit into it when we are finished.

 “When you expose a problem, you pose a problem” (Ahmed 37).

We begin trying to speak up and are laughed at, silenced, threatened, or attacked. It is not safe work.

L’Engle talks about how every act of creation is risky, dangerous, even while it is worth it. “Creation is still wildly beautiful, and it is still wild” (L’Engle 16).

 “’To assess the damage is a dangerous act,’ writes Cherrie Moraga. To stop there is even more dangerous” (Anzaldúa 169).

And so we keep going.

To become feminist is to disassemble oneself. To look around the room and see your various parts strewn about. It is unsettling. It is alarming. You have no manual. How do you go back together?

 “Perhaps when you put the pieces back together you are putting yourself back together. We assemble something. Feminism is DIY: a form of self-assembly” (Ahmed 27).

“So I cut and paste and line the floor with my bits of paper. My life is strewn on the floor in bits and pieces and I try to make some order of it. . . ” (Anzaldúa 169).

There is no going back, you cannot fit the parts back together the original way, you must find a new way now.

 “Feminism involves a process of finding another way to live in your body” (Ahmed 30).

We must rewrite our body. We must stitch it back together like the Patchwork Girl.

 “I see that your scars not only mark a cut, they commemorate a joining” (Jackson).

Sometimes, we must share body parts and become one, covered in lines, crisscrossing. Another form of skin-writing.

 “Scar tissue does more than flaunt its strength by chronicling the assaults it has withstood. Scar tissue is new growth. And it is tougher than skin innocent of the blade” (Jackson).

Put back together, we need to bring ourselves back to life because, at our core, we still need work. The patriarchy has done quite a job on us.

 “I began to realize what I already knew: that patriarchal reasoning goes all the way down, to the letter, to the bone” (Ahmed 4).

“Stories are medicine,” says Estes (15). This is how we heal ourselves, how we learn to reassemble, how we stitch ourselves back together into a new person, this is how we write ourselves into existence. We listen to stories, we listen to others. We write ourselves, we write poetry and lyrics, we sing over our bones like La Loba.

 La Loba, Wolf Woman, collects bones. “Her cave is filled with the bones of all manner of desert creatures: the deer, the rattlesnake, the crow. But her speciality is wolves.” When she has a complete skeleton “she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out. That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred. La Loba sings some more and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong. . . . La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon” (Estes 25-26).

Once ourselves are healed and whole, again and for the first time, we can see that hysteria is not a problem just as the womb, the hystera, is not a problem. Now we we get to work.

 “Our emotions can be a resource; we draw on them. To be a killjoy is often to be assigned as being emotional, too emotional; letting your feelings get in the way of your judgement; letting your feelings get in the way. Your feelings can be the site of a rebellion. A feminist heart beats the wrong way; feminism is hearty” (Ahmed 246).

“Her appearance would necessarily bring on, if not revolution . . . at least harrowing explosions” (Cixious 879).

“You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful, and she’s laughing” (Cixious 885).

You have gotten past her snake hair. You can truly see her. Why? Because you chose to look at her straight on.

What’s more is that you are not seeing the Medusa, you are seeing you. She is the mirror that was supposed to be her downfall, but that part of the story was a lie because the Medusa always saw herself through truth. The mirror, for Perseus, was his shield, metaphorical and literal, his tool for gaslighting. He saw her hair as snakes and thought it would scare her as much as it scared him so he showed her who she was. Naturally it did not, and so he used it to avoid having to see her straight on, to avoid seeing her truth, her mortality, her beauty and her emotions. Using a mirror allowed him to remain unengaged in the interaction, he remained on this side of the Looking Glass, avoiding crossing into the realm of understanding and growth. Who was really gaslighting who?

To look at Medusa straight on is to see all of this.

We have disassembled ourselves, laid the pieces out, and stitched ourselves back together, singing over our bones to bring us back to life. And now we become the Medusa. We take her crown of snakes and place it atop our own heads in our coronation ceremony through which we become truly ourselves. We reclaim our feminine words and shout them to the world: hysteria! pussy! cunt! bitch! We reclaim our emotions and refuse to be ashamed of them any longer: we cry, we rant, we scream, we rage! Heads turn, confused, because the uninitiated do not know what to make of this spectacle, this sensation. “Feminism is sensational. . . . When you speak as a feminist you have to deal with strong reactions” (Ahmed 21).

And now what? Now, we write.

 “And why don’t you write? Write! Writing is for you!, you are for you; your body is yours, take it” (Cixious 876).

“Write your self. Your body must be heard” (Cixious 880).

Write yourself into existence. Write on you, write you on paper, on walls, on canvas. Speak the language of watercolor and oils and HTML. Become the hypertext; you are the cyborg that is one and all.

Is this, the last form of the feminist, the end?

Dear god I hope not.

The moment we are “finished” with ourselves, we die internally.

It is not easy to be the Medusa, to refuse to be ashamed of those parts of us that we are demanded to shame. “To expose a problem, you pose a problem” (Ahmed 37). It is hard work and it is exhausting. All psyche-work is spiral-shaped. Sometimes you will come back around and need to re-disassemble yourself all over again. Sometimes you will need to forget how to be the Medusa. “No wonder feminist work is often about timing: sometimes we are too fragile to do this work; we cannot risk being shattered because we are not ready to put ourselves back together again. To get ready often means being prepared to be undone” (Ahmed 27). Sometimes we hibernate mid-spiral, sometimes we power forth. But each time around we come closer to being wholly comfortable as Medusa.

This is the gift we give to our friends and to the next generation: a template for becoming the Medusa and a community in which we can comfortably be gorgons together, doing our gorgon work together.

And then?

 “From now on, who, if we say so, can say no to us? We’ve come back from always” (Cixious 878).

Works Cited

Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. 2017.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. “Speaking in Tongues.” This Bridge Called My Back Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, SUNY Press, 2015.

Cixous, Hélène, et al. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Signs, vol. 1, no. 4, 1976, pp. 875–893.

Estés, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. 1st ed., New York, Ballantine Books, 1992.

Jackson, Shelley. Patchwork Girl. 1995.

L’Engle, Madeleine. The Genesis Trilogy. WaterBrook Press, 2001.

Children of Hoarders, Delving into the Psyche, I Own a Home. WTF?, Witchy

Drainage

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When my mom died and I had to clean up her house, her kitchen sink was clogged. We didn’t get to it right away because, frankly, a sink full of gross water was not a priority in that house. It took a few weeks to drain fully.

Later, as I was sorting through all her old papers, I came across a move out list from when we moved in 1989. This was the house we lived in when she fell apart. It was the worst of all her toxic waste (literally) and her hoarding. She fucked that place up. Once the toilet was broken for I don’t know how long. But we couldn’t call a plumber because of the state of the house. In the move out papers I found that she’d clogged that kitchen sink, too. And then I remembered her telling me that an old landlord of her in the 70’s had charged her for a broken garbage disposal when she moved out.

The woman had serious problems with draining, with letting shit GO. And this is metaphorical as well as literal. She was a hoarder with clogged sinks and grudges that were 30 years old. I feel like the clogged sinks were a desperate cry from the Universe to JUST LET IT GO, WOMAN.

When we first came to view this house, I could tell the woman who owned it at the time was a hoarder. She was clean, but her hallway shower was storage and that’s never a good sign in my experience. I don’t know how I find all the hoarders in the world, but I do, somehow.

Anyway, she put these stupid metal hair catchers in the bathroom sinks and they are forever getting clogged. She couldn’t let things drain, either.

I haven’t done anything about them in almost four years for a few reasons including not really knowing what to do (cause they were STUCK in there), being super busy in other, more important, areas, and, simply, being lazy tired. But today I yanked them out with jewelry tools because that is how I roll and I replaced them with cute little plastic cups from Daiso. I am so ready to let shit drain now. DRAIN AWAY, SHIT. BEGONE. (Certified witchy spell right there.)

I pulled a random goddess card for my altar last night and it was Ostara. Fertility. At first I almost burned it and ran away BECAUSE THIS UTERUS IS CLOSED FOR BUSINESS OKAY (despite the fact that it would have to be the son of god or some shit bc the vagina isn’t exactly a party zone either right now) but then I read the card and it can also apply to the fertility of art, creativity. I read that as: the goddess who motivates you. So, yes, I am choosing to tap into Ostara’s energy of motivation and creativity. I did a deep cleaning of the living room yesterday, pulling all the furniture out and doing battle with the sentient dust bunnies who have been trying to set up civilizations back there. I feel so much clearer in my head without al that dust. I feel so much lighter in my core now that my drains drain. Household cleaning is the same as soul-cleaning and I too often let it go because it feels too overwhelming, despite the fact that I know damn well how much better I’ll feel once I’ve just sucked it up and done it already.

These past few months have been filled with a lot – a lot – of psychological work, much of which has been the Universe’s way of forcing me to do the work of psychologically untangling myself from my mother. I spend so much time and energy worrying about whether I’m turning into her and apparently the Universe has decided it’s time to stop that bullshit and figure it out once and for all. So I’ve been tested by being put in triggering situations that mirror my own traumas and I’ve worked it out each time. When I used to knit more often, sometimes I’d have to untangle yarn. Sometimes I’d have to untangle a whole skein of yarn. I’d declare THE YARN NEVER WINS and it never did. I untangled it every time (except one time, but that was some of that fancy yarn with fringy stuff and so that doesn’t count). That’s what this felt like. I’d struggle with it, and then suddenly, I’d find the key knot and I’d feel it loosen and come undone. And just like that I was me and she was she. And – surprise! – turns out I’m not my mom.

It’s fitting that I’d finally get around to making my drains drain after all that. It was like closure on this chapter of the psyche work I’ve done recently (KNOCK WOOD, UNIVERSE, PLEASE NO MORE PSYCHE WORK FOR AWHILE OKAY). I untangled myself from the shit, and now I’m washing the shit away. Furthermore, I’ve worked to redo my drains in such a way that they won’t clog again. The little cups I’ve got in them are easier to clean, and semi-disposable. In the mean time I’m looking for a more permanent solution, but the point is that things are flowing away again. Just as they should be.

Delving into the Psyche, Political, Social Justice, Spirituality

Women’s March on Washington (San Diego), January 21, 2017

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I am Pagan and I call myself a witch, but I don’t do spells. Not the usual spells Wiccans do, anyway, with an athame or crystals or candles. I’m simply not called to them in any way. I think I’m a little too Atheist for them to speak to me. I have a need to be grounded in a spirituality which is very tangible.

But last night I took sharpies and poster board and did magick with them. I sat with my friend Sofia and made all these signs. I think this is magick. When you create some kind of art, any kind, even if it’s just markers and poster board, you’re constantly thinking about what you are doing. This is a prayer. Knitting a baby blanket is like a prayer for that baby. It is mind work. It is magick. It is spellwork.

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And then we took those signs and joined I-don’t-even-know-how-many other people on the streets of San Diego to show the world that we exist, that we are taking back our power, that we are here and not going anywhere. And we were answering the call of marchers on the other side of this country, this continent. And they were answered by marchers in countries around the world, on every continent, even Antarctica.

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This is spellwork, this is magick, this is a prayer that we all, of every religion and culture, can do together. We raise our voices together and send messages of hope and power together. Of course it’s magickal; of course it’s prayer.

But it won’t fix anything, said my inner voice. It’s not enough.

Of course not. Prayer is not the world’s work. It’s the spirit’s work. As Bethany says, prayer doesn’t change things. Prayer changes the pray-er. We still have to make the phone calls. We still have to vote. We still have to be aware and educate ourselves. We still have to stay conscious.

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But I came home today and, after napping for two solid hours, I watched a White House video and read some news stories without having to scroll past them before I could allow that horror, our new reality, to sink in. This sounds simple enough, but I’ve not been able to do it for weeks now. My mind’s eye is purposely not making eye contact with the concept of this new president, of his inauguration.

So that’s what the spell did: it gave me renewed strength. Where before I was too weak to do the work of the world that needs to be done, when surrounded by my sisters and brothers in that March today, and throughout the world, I was recharged. The spirit’s work lifts a person up to get the world’s work done.

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This is spellwork. This is magick. This is prayer.

Delving into the Psyche, New Year New Me, Philosophy, The Zebra

Word of the Year: Nourish

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Oh my. It’s been more than two years since I last wrote here. That’s a record! Life has been overwhelming. There was a time when I was a stay at home, homeschooling mom who enjoyed cooking nourishing foods from scratch and finding ways to make it all work out even though our income was quite low. And then I became a single homeschooling mom and I still enjoyed cooking and making it all work on a meager income. And then my income became frightening small and I went back to school so now I am a full-time college student raising two kids who are both in school now on very little money and let me tell you that the current me has no time nor energy nor money to make nourishing foods from scratch these days. I’ve never been rich – far from it – but even then I was quite privileged compared to my life now.

I wish I could tell you here that I love it and that I wouldn’t change a thing, but that’s not quite true. As it happens, I definitely would not change anything, but only because the way my life is right now, is just the way it has to be right now. I’m finally finishing college and my kids are in schools that suit them well. There isn’t any room to change. I have no regrets in the life I have made for myself right now, but I cannot pretend it’s easy. These last six years of growth have had a toll on me and I am exhausted.

Don’t misunderstand – my life is not lacking in joy. My kids are growing up into incredible people that I am so proud to know and we have a lot of fun together. I am loving every minute of being at university and the fact that my responsibility right now is to read literature and discuss it and analyze it feels so luxurious and delicious that I have to pinch myself regularly to be sure I’m not dreaming. I somehow wound up with the two best cats I could dream of – they are just the perfect mix of quirky and not too troublesome. My apartment, while not my favorite location, is growing more and more homeish and lovely inside as I continue to, slowly, fix it up. There is a lot of joy in my life.

But I am tried. I am so tired.

And it’s made me get too far from my better habits. Where I used to eat whole foods cooked in wholesome ingredients, now I eat at taco shops way too often. Where I used to be regularly connected to my spirituality, now I find myself too busy to focus. Where I used to have time for art, now I find myself struggling to meet the minimums of all my to do lists. Where I used to feel good, now I feel terrible.

So this year I want to focus on the word nourish again.

I love the word nourish. I love the way it sounds and the way it feels to say. I love that it means more than just “healthy” – it means to feed yourself making holistic health the goal. And I don’t mean just food. You can nourish yourself with exercise, too. But also with kindness and better thinking. And sometimes with a break from everything healthy. The psyche is just as important to nourish as the physical body. Sometimes, let’s be honest, trashy TV is exactly what you need at the end of a long and difficult day. The key is to do it mindfully.

So I’ve made this little doodle. I plan to print it out in various sizes and post it in places in my life that will help me remember that nourishing me is the goal. I’ll put one on the fridge for obvious reasons, but also on my bathroom mirror to help me remember to nourish my health by flossing every night. One on my bedside table to remind me to nourish myself by sleeping well. I’ll make one my lock screen on my phone to remind me to use it in ways that nourish me rather than as a means of escape or mindlessly procrastinate (notice the use of the word “mindless” there, because surely some procrastination is nourishing). I’ve made this doodle in black and white so that, during the year when I inevitably fall into old patterns, I can color it up or decorate it in different ways to make it new and obvious again. Art is meditation is prayer. And new things in the environment remind me to refocus. Win-win!

My life is still overwhelming and it will be for the foreseeable future. I can’t simply decide things like “no more eating out!” when, quite frankly, that will be an unreasonable goal for me at times. Instead I want to relearn to take a moment to focus on the word nourish and decide whether eating out is the most nourishing thing for me at that moment. Maybe it is at that moment. The goal is simply to stop acting mindlessly and to start connecting with my whole self on a regular basis. Remembering to nourish me means to remember to nourish all of me.

Do you have a word for the year?

Children of Hoarders, Delving into the Psyche, Depression/Anxiety, Onwards, Spirituality, The Zebra

It’s like that Greek myth where Pandora cracked open Zeus’ brain and all the crazy came out, leaving him refreshed and way less assholey.

The sunbeams were crazy awesome tonight.  Like the sun was grasping desperately before being dragged down into the underworld against his will. Or something less demonic. Whichever.  Adjusted in #snapseed

I’m in the midst of cracking shit open right now. The cauldron of my psyche is boiling and shit’s bubbling up to the surface that I never knew or consciously realized. I feel like I’ve been in that dark forest that a hero is supposed to head into to fight the monsters and I’m finally finding my way to the caves where the monsters live instead of just hiding in the darkness, too overwhelmed with all the new sensations to move.

I think my writing style is to throw as many metaphors into as small a space as possible with the intent to dizzy my prey readers into thinking I’m a better writer than I am?

Ahem.

As a child, I definitely had perfection issues. If I created something and didn’t like it, I considered it a failure. More often, if I created something and never finished it, I considered myself a failure. But when I was around middle school-age I started noticing imperfections in others around me and I saw that they could be beautiful. Messy handwriting, a botched-then-fixed art project, an unconventionally-beautiful body shape. And the more I began to notice imperfections, the more I began to realize that perfectness is bullshit. So I let all that shit go.

Except. Just a few weeks ago I realized that for the past few years I have been clearly and consciously, and very seriously, trying to choose what my character flaw will be. Will it be my flakiness? That’s adorable and forgivable. Maybe it’ll be my various superstitions – eccentricity is quirky and cute. It could even be my anxiety. I fucking love my anxiety. It defines me and I don’t even know who I’d be without it. The anxiety has to stay. (To be clear – there is actually zero sarcasm in that last point. Which is probably super fucked up.) But I cannot allow my other flaws – my desperate need for constant approval, my inability to be there for people when they need me sometimes, the fact that I sometimes miss jokes if they are too dry – those things have got to go.

So. Um. Maybe I still have perfection issues after all?

I have a fear of failure that I have been unknowingly nurturing and nourishing in the dark recesses of my mind. Coddling it and encouraging it to grow by secretly promoting this perfect me I wanted to create. The more I focused on becoming perfect in all the ways I felt needed to be perfect, the more anxious I became. Trying to hold it all together like a 1960’s Tonight Show guest with a few too many spinning plates, running more and more frantically between them. It’s exhausting.

I imagine that perfection is a goal that my Child of a Hoarder self set for me. From one extreme, I believed I needed the other.

I am pretty open about my various traumas, but I am seeing now that there are things I am still unwilling to talk about, at least until I feel I have a more perfect understanding of them, or a more perfect control of them, or a more perfect acceptance of how imperfect they are. I’m afraid to talk about dating in case a guy might not like me and my friends realize that I’m unlikeable, I’m afraid to show my personal creative writings to friends in case they find out I’m no good at it. I’m afraid to ask too much of people in case I become a burden and they stop loving me.

But obviously this keeps me imprisoned with only myself as cellmate, and I’m not always nice to me, or reliable in the things I tell to myself. And I don’t want that life. So I am forcing myself to write about things and talk about things. Transparency keeps me sane.

Those character flaws I considered keeping grew bigger and stronger, became my jailers, pacing back and forth in front of my cell all night long (and all my days were nights). I remember at one point last summer, in my deeply religious fear of Murphy’s Law, I nearly panicked when I dropped something and commented, “Dammit, gravity!” For a moment, I was literally afraid gravity would hear me and, just to prove a point, stop working and everything would float away. I immediately caught the ridiculousness of the thought and laughed it off. Mostly. A kernel of that fear lingered.

It is because of that general thought process, I think, that my entire spirituality has been shattered. Caught between the atheistic beauty of the tangible world and the metaphysical mysteries that also ring true for me, I couldn’t orient myself. And I was afraid to publicly stand for something that might not be understood by everyone. So I turned to science because no matter what science is unfailingly there and real and right. But in the process I lost my faith. After all, if there is no bigger message in the world, than what are the gifts I have been given? Why was I granted sanity when my mom wasn’t? If there’s no ultimate purpose, then maybe I am just a spoiled child? I still don’t know any more than I did before about what my spiritual thoughts and leanings are, but at least I can now see the pieces on the floor for what they are and I can take time to put them together in new ways to see what fits for me.

But I honed the good traits until I was crazy, too. My desire to see all sides of every story is a beautiful and important trait to have, but it grew so strong that I could no longer see which side was my side. Like a tulip made of glass mirrors, each petal was broken and on the floor, reflecting every thought I might have on a subject. I had no sense of north, again with no way to orient myself. I couldn’t find me anymore, lost in a sea of concern for balance and justice that was more important than having an identity of my own.

Over the last couple of years I’ve stopped talking and writing. All of these things were growing like weeds and muzzling me. Sometimes I was too afraid to speak, but sometimes I just didn’t know where to begin. Interestingly, over the last year, I’ve become physically weaker, I’m in more pain, I hardly sleep, my depression and anxiety are through the roof, I’ve been sicker, and I’ve gotten fatter. By coincidence (or divine intervention?), I got the chance to participate in an interview for an upcoming series on NPR about the ACE study. I met with the doctor here who has been working on this for close to 30 years, and we talked about how childhood emotional trauma can affect our physical selves as adults. Science has found a link. It’s there. It’s clear. But because it’s so intangible, I tend to discount it. I feel like it’s crazy to find connections like that, despite the fact that, apparently, they are there. Despite the fact that I have seen connections like that over and over in my own life and body, I still wonder if I’m making up excuses (probably, hilariously, a leftover trait of my childhood trauma. How appropriate).

I don’t know what science might have to say about Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body, but I looked up “feet” because I’ve been having various problems with mine – from internal pains to the fact that I cannot stop dropping things on them. The suggestion was that feet problems can mean that you are standing, or lingering, in grief. AND HOLY FUCKING HELL AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH.

All of this has come up in the past few weeks. And a lot of these words came out of my fingers tonight in the past tense, suggesting that I am healed from this Crazy. The truth is that I probably have more to travel on this particular trip into the dark corners of my psyche. Hell, the last few days have been a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows. But I do feel like a major shift has happened. Like I’ve got a map, or a flashlight, or like at least I know the monsters I have to fight on this journey.

I can’t ever stop talking or writing, you guys. It’s dangerous, both psychologically and physically. Now here’s hoping that pain in my foot goes away. You hear that, Psyche? I’m leaving the grief behind.

Children of Hoarders, Delving into the Psyche, Depression/Anxiety, The Zebra

Where I get emotionally naked for you.

oak leaves

For most of my life, I didn’t actively choose my life’s direction. I have often described it as allowing myself to be carried by the current of my own personal river, or by following the strong, yet subconscious, pull of my own Oak Tree. I don’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing, to just allow myself to be passive about where I went. Is it even passive? Or is it highly intuitive? Is it a result of having been raised in an abusive home? That I had to let go and just go wherever Life took me? Or that my conscious mind shut down and allowed my intuition to guide me? My inner core of self-hatred would tell you that I’m just lazy and undriven. I don’t know what the real reasoning is or whether it is a good or a bad thing – and right now in my life, I’m right on the cusp of fully believing either (or both). Although I may have some regrets and, if I had the chance to re-do some things in my life, I might find that tempting these days, ultimately I do acknowledge that every thing I’ve done had led me to where I was supposed to be.

peaceful river

But I’m a grownup now (it took me longer than most people) and I felt like I should make some decisions about where my life should go. Last year I made some major changes and intentions for what I wanted my life to be and where I want it to continue to go. And this past year has been really, really hard. I feel like I’m suddenly swimming against a very strong current in my River. And I can’t help but wonder if that means that The Universe doesn’t want me making my own choices. I resent that idea. I want to be able to choose my own life now. I want to go to school and find a career and maybe not be broke someday.

And then how much of this is a desire to JUST BE NORMAL FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE? A side-effect of growing up in a hoarder home is that I’ve always been desperate to live in a way that at least appears to be a regular middle-class lifestyle. As I write this I am realizing this is also tied directly to my intense need to always be liked by everyone. My self-worth is the same as my appearance or the appearance of my home. (This is why I need to never stop writing. Remind me, okay?) So maybe The Universe feels I need to live an unusual and quirky life, and it’s trying to steer me from the life that isn’t supposed to be mine?

Fuck if I know.

I just wish I knew what I’m supposed to do next. What my direction should be, or whether I should stop trying to pick a direction at all. When I decided to get divorced, I was heading into a long tunnel I couldn’t see all the way through, but even then I felt more sure of myself than I do now. At least a tunnel only has one way to go. These days I feel more like I’m lost in a misty forest – I can see a lot of way to go, and I can guess at some of the outcomes, but I don’t know which path is mine or if I’ve even stayed to the one path or if I’ve skipped around, confusing the issues at hand. Does anyone know where the manual to my Life is? Can I get another copy from my manufacturer? I think I’ve lost mine.

(If you can count and navigate all those metaphors, you win a cookie. But a theoretical cookie. Unless you’re local and I’ll see you soon in which case just remind me and I’ll bring you some cookies. There are these really good gluten-free ones at Costco these days.)

Delving into the Psyche

Sticks and Stones

The Universe recently celebrated the end of my school year by gifting me with free streaming episodes of Six Feet Under on Amazon Prime. I’ve missed the Fishers. So much. But I was watching the penultimate episode of the first season – the one where David comes out to his mother – and I noticed a thing. It’s a thing that happens every day in real life, a thing that we defend passionately without, perhaps, really considering the ramifications. It’s a thing that is as specific as this particular instance, and as vague as an old childhood rhyme.

In the story, a young man is beaten to death for being gay and having the gall to, you know, exist. The ramification in the story is that David begins to confront his fears surrounding his own sexuality and begins his journey out of the dark place he’s been forcing himself to live. It’s a painful but beautiful episode.

At the funeral of the young man, protesters show up. They are holding all those signs you know so well and screaming the same cruelties vocally. David, finally, is done with their bullshit and attacks them and a reporter comes up asking about a possible story.

The thing that struck me is that, had it escalated, David would have been the one in trouble for physically attacking them. But they were attacking first. And the thing about that is that sticks and stones may break bones, but words can destroy a psyche. And, yet, we support those who verbally attack a person, while condemning those who are pushed absolutely beyond what their souls can bear and, because they have only shrugs from those who should be supporting them, finally give in to the pain and physically attack.

What. Even. The. Fuck.

Obviously freedom of speech is vital to the freedom of a nation. And obviously physical violence can all too easily get out of hand and can end a life thereby eliminating any chance of healing (whereas, even a destroyed psyche has the chance to heal if given the right circumstances). So I am not advocating any changes to our actual laws. But it’s time to stop making them our own personal American religion.

Stop hiding behind freedom of speech. Your words are designed to hurt. That’s not okay even if it is legal. Stop telling kids that words don’t hurt, you’re only setting them up to accept abuse as an adult.

It’s so ingrained that two paragraphs ago I originally wrote “actual violence” instead of “physical violence” while I’m trying to make the point that emotional violence is at least as damaging as physical violence is. (This is deeply relevant to the new layer of healing that I am currently working through regarding my own childhood abuse. Even just writing that word “abuse” there is difficult. Because. I mean. I never got hit. So is it really abuse? YES. IT IS.)

We have to stop this. We have to draw attention to it and to disallow it. We have to speak openly about it. Because until we do, we’re only allowing abuse – both public and private – to continue. And worse, we’re putting the burden of it entirely on the abused, who aren’t allowed to acknowledge it and therefore aren’t allowed to heal from it.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have more Six Feet Under to marathon.