Category Archives: The Variety Show

Silence is the Seal of Darkness. Fuck Silence.

cosmos eatenI’ve been hearing more and more people suggest not talking about mass murderers so they don’t get the attention they crave. So they don’t “win”. It is always said as a solution to the fact that they happen. “The media attention is why they exist” and “Let’s not say their name so they can’t get famous because that’s what they really want” and “If we ignore them then they lose”


Mass murders have been happening long before we had the ability to flood the public with 24 hour news coverage. Mass murderers don’t kill to get famous. They kill to be heard by people who have been ignoring them or slighting them. They kill because they are angry and disenfranchised in one way or another and they want to hurt as many people as they can to send the message that they matter, that people who mess with them will be sorry. Media coverage may be like their megaphone but they would still kill if the media machine came to a grinding halt because in the communities where they commit their crimes their killing spree will still hurt a ton of people and that’s what they want.

I keep hearing people suggest that if we ignore people like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh that they’ll have no power. That it’s us listening to them and talking about them that gives them power.


Their power lies in the fact that there are tons of people who agree with the racist evil messages they shout out in their shows and if all of us non-bigots ignore them then they will still exist and still be empowered and if we put our heads in the sand and pretend they aren’t there they are more empowered and their influence can grow and their opinions can shape law and  cement systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious intolerance into our collective consciousness as ignoring it HAS ALREADY DONE.

Evil of all kinds, both small and large, thrive on your silence.

Hitler thrived on Europeans turning their eyes away from his systematic abuse and incarceration of Jews which was happening long before he invaded his neighbors. It wasn’t until he started invading other countries that people started paying attention. Millions of Jews were forcibly removed from their homes while neighbors watched, too afraid to do anything, and not saying anything.

Evil thrives on people not talking about the bad shit it’s getting up to, it thrives on us turning away in fear or in a mistaken noble idea that if we ignore it it will cease to exist because we are good and if we only give energy to good things and good people then the world will cover itself in butterflies and, being bored and ignored, evil will dissipate into powerless nontoxic vapors.


Evil has never gone away because we didn’t talk about it or say its name or because we turned away from it and took its spotlight away. Evil thrives on fear and silence and inaction.

Abuse thrives on fear and silence and inaction.

If you suspect a person is being abused do you turn your head away from their abuser and not talk about it? Do you purposely not say their abuser’s name in hopes that the abuser will somehow get the message that abuse is bad and you won’t tolerate it?


Maybe you’re saying to yourself now that I’m being ridiculous. Obviously if you knew a person was being abused you wouldn’t be so stupid and not talk about it because you’re a good human and I’m a bitch to even suggest you would turn away from an abuser and expect them to stop abusing because they’re really only abusing people for the attention.

When public figures say racist bigoted shit and people don’t express outrage and everyone simply ignores them they do not go away – instead the ideals they espouse are being tolerated and accepted and this silence further embeds bigotry in our communities. They don’t stop being bigots because we ignore them. And most likely they go out in the world and treat people like shit and if you saw them in action – would you still be silent?

If you’re standing in line and you hear a white checker say something demeaning to a black customer that is clearly racist – do you keep quiet and mind your own business?

If you know that a teacher has raped a student and the student won’t say anything but you could – do you turn away hoping that the student will report the teacher or that the teacher will stop being evil and abusive?

If you witness someone being called a “faggot” do you just hold your tongue and hope that the homophobe will understand that you’re taking their power away from them?

If you know someone is desperately depressed and at risk of committing suicide do you advise them to get more exercise and fresh air and eat some kale instead of talking to them and listening to them?

If you know someone who is constantly being badgered and abused and instead of turning their awful feelings on themselves they begin to grow bitter and angry do you tell them that they’re a fucking mess and it’s their own fault and then ignore them like everyone else? Is that what you do?

Because all the evil in the world begins with someone’s feelings. Maybe they have mental illness or maybe they don’t but bad feelings fester and either they take it out on themselves and hurt themselves and take drugs and maybe overdose OR they fantasize about taking it out on others. Hitler was an angry little man before he rose to power and took out his feelings on 6 million people.

Silence and fear and inaction are what evil thrives on.

Silence and fear allow evil to grow and evolve and plan and then abuse and sometimes kill.

Mental illness used to be a much bigger taboo until people insisted on talking about it and talking some more about it and studying it and then people with mental illness came out of the dark and insisted on being heard and every single time we make people listen to us more light is shed on our dark hell. Silence kills people with mental illness. Talking and listening save lives.

Racism is so systemic in our country and it isn’t just about little racist slurs – those slurs are just the tip of the deeper darker aspects of racism that have reached the surface of our communities. When we ignore people who make those comments we are empowering them and the discrimination of others that we aren’t seeing that they are absolutely taking part in. When we let people call Arab people “ragheads” and we don’t say anything we are absolutely complicit in racism. Maybe saying something doesn’t change much but it is non-acceptance and it is shedding light on a foul darkness that we need to cut away from our communities. Not listening to racists spouting their toxic opinions and pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them not exist, it allows them to continue being racist without answering to anyone. When we don’t call people on their racism we are letting it thrive and grow.

Misogyny is rampant in this country (er – the entire world, actually) and not fighting it, not calling it out when we experience it and letting the little insults go because they aren’t “worth our notice” or because “that won’t change anything” is allowing its power to grow and become stronger and it poisons our blood and our children see us not saying anything and not talking about it and they learn that this is how it is and that it’s OKAY to say bad shit about women as a whole gender and when we stifle our outrage at rapists getting away with shit because it just “gives them attention” then we are also saying it’s OKAY with us that this stuff happens.

Our voices are the first and strongest weapon we all have in combating evil in the world. USING our voices is the most important act of power we have. Just ask anyone whose voice has been snuffed out. Just ask anyone who doesn’t have one or can’t use it because someone has threatened them and the ones they love if they use it and so they live in fearful silence.


TALK. Always shout out when you see wrong doing. Always report abuse when you see it. Put your fucking neck out there and shout the house down to be heard. Maybe sometimes you’ll be wrong. Maybe you aren’t saving the world.

But you are shedding light into shadows every time you say evil’s name and call it out.

Talking about the darkness and the abuses and the things we’re most afraid of is empowering. And sometimes it saves lives.

What has kept me from actually killing myself were people reaching out and listening and also telling me their own darkness so I don’t feel so alone with mine. What has kept my painful past from engulfing me has been to talk about it.

So when you suggest I/we stop talking about mass murderers and bigots and evil politicians I want you to understand what you’re really doing. I want you to understand your complicity with the darkness.

I want you to understand that I don’t give a shit how uncomfortable or tedious it is for you to talk about bad people and bad things and sad things and sad people – or to hear me do it. If you want to choose silence and if you have convinced yourself that if you don’t give evil your attention it will cease to exist – then I will shout even louder to make up for your silence.

Silence and fear and inaction kills people.

Use your fucking voice. And then back your voice up with action whenever you have that opportunity. Say no to racists when you see them discriminating your fellow human beings.

The reason most mass murderers commit mass murders is because at some point they felt they weren’t being heard or respected or that they have been shunned from society. People not recognizing that they were struggling before those struggles became poisonous is why they end up doing it. It isn’t for the sake of fame. They use what tools they can to be heard. Maybe they were mentally ill and didn’t have the help they needed. Or maybe they refused to get the help and no one intervened more seriously. Or maybe they were abused and no one helped them and they felt powerless and so they kill people they think should have noticed they were desperate for help. People not talking and not paying attention and not taking action until much too late is why those killings happen.

So if you want to be part of what created the toxic situation in the first place with your silence and your head in the sand – I’m probably going to stick a huge speaker in your sandcastle of silence and I’m going to blast it to hell with the voices of everyone who’s been abused and killed because people kept the code of silence all abusers and killers rely on to keep doing what they do.

So fuck silence.

I have a voice and it’s not just for saying pretty little things.

It’s for blasting light into the dark.

It’s the hand I reach out to strangers so they know they aren’t suffering alone and they aren’t invisible.

It’s for bringing motherfucking evil to the ground.

Silence is the seal of darkness.

Fuck silence.

Here We Go Again

barren of chamomile

This is how I feel right now: all hard scrabble, dried leaves, and a dirty flattened Q-tip.

Tomorrow my mom goes to Kaiser to get put back together from all the trauma of last summer. There are many reasons why this surgery should not be stressing me out the way it is:

  • It’s not an emergency surgery this time.
  • She’s not getting surgery with a broken back this time.
  • We know about her reaction to the anesthesia and pain killers and that they may need to try alternatives if she starts accusing nurses of setting the hospital on fire.
  • Kaiser does everything internally so there won’t be that head-exploding problem of trying to orchestrate all the different contractors that take care of different things.

I think there are more reasons but I’m having trouble focusing on them at the moment. Resectioning intestines is a pretty high risk surgery even when it’s planned due to risk of infection. They may go in there and find too much scar tissue from last time and not be able to resection her. She knows that’s a possibility. I know it’s a possibility. Because of who I am and the clinical anxiety that’s so hard to wrestle down, I can’t stop thinking about her going through all this only to find they have to close her up and she’ll have to face a lifetime of using a colostomy bag.

Obviously I can’t quite quell the fear that she’s going to die. I made her write a will this week. We talked about what kinds of decisions she wants us to make if things go wrong. Today while cleaning the bathroom I made a mental note to ask her to remind me if she wants to be cremated or something else.

I am the grim reaper.


I have to admit to a certain level of PTSD. This time last year she was in the hospital fighting for her life for a month. I don’t feel over it yet. The whole thing was awful. Not the way death itself is awful but all the not knowing and the paranoid hallucinations, the second emergency surgery, the abscess that formed, becoming obsessed with her white blood cell count, trying to get information from nurses and doctors. It was one long traumatizing nightmare.

Life is constantly reinforcing my anxieties, proving that YES, people can die at any moment and YES, everything can go wrong and YES, you can end up living in a small town in which you don’t belong where -

Oh, hang on, different nightmare. Different PTSD.

I collect PTSD like they’re Pokemon cards.

Life is constantly proving me right. That’s one of the worst things about having clinical anxiety. It just builds and builds because everything you’re afraid of really happens in the world. It doesn’t matter if there’s only a 1% chance it will happen to you.

That person who got killed by a serial killer – do they really give a shit that there was only a .000000001% chance that was going to happen to them? People with anxiety don’t give a chewy monkey’s ass about percentages or statistics. It’s enough that these things that happen to almost no one happen to SOME ONE.

Here’s the best case scenario:

  • She goes in tomorrow morning and they go in and find she doesn’t have too much scar tissue.
  • They resection her and she doesn’t react to the meds.
  • She doesn’t get an infection and she’s discharged in a week.
  • She comes home, we help her recover comfortably.
  • She gets completely back to living a normal life and we all get glass slippers. Or wooden ones that won’t shatter and cut an artery and make us bleed out on the ball room floor.

Cause that could totally happen.

That’s what I need to focus on now. I need to picture that. I need to send energy to that.

I’ll probably be watching Fringe on an endless loop. I’ll be sleeping in mom’s apartment (a unit in the same house as ours) to keep Rosie from getting scared or lonely. I expect to drink a lot of beer for the next few days.

But the minute my mom is on the mend and clear of delicate risk of infection or complications – I’m going temporarily sober again. Another 3 month stint. I have to do it. I can’t start it right now. I need the beer and the constant Fringe episodes. Then I need to get back on track with taking care of myself.

I may be edgier than usual for the next week or two. Please be willing to forgive me if I snap at you or get weird or horribly maudlin.

If you want to read about last summer’s hospitalization:

The Thing About Life

The Remains of The Day

The Longest Night Before The Next Longest Night

Coming Home: Goodbye Room 108 and 107

Dunno, family stuff keep piling up against my night.

Mill Valley exit

About a year ago I looked for a brother of mine online. A brother I’ve never met. A brother who (used to be) estranged from my biological father but who I’ve wanted to know more about. I found someone with his name on facebook. I “friended” him. Sent a message something like this “I think you might be my half brother but if you’re not Adam Szydel’s son, just ignore me” and I never heard back.

Until the week before last when he “friended” me back and confirmed he’s my half brother and said, breezily, that we’ll have to find time to chat at some point.

I constantly feel my family life has an element of surreality. My whole brother, unacknowledged by our mutual father, is such a brilliant artist his work sometimes makes me want to cry but we rarely talk, he’s not a family guy so much. He loves me in an abstract way and I have always loved him viscerally and unconditionally. Still, I don’t call him very often. So who the hell is not the family person?

Turns out my half brother (the one I’ve never met) is a professional photographer. So now I wish to god I could get Zeke and Orion together because Zeke should be a professional photographer.

What the fuck does any of this matter? Brothers don’t really care that much about sisters. Not the way sisters care about each other. Except that my mother’s sister doesn’t give a shit about my mother the way I give a shit about mine.

My mom is going into surgery in less than two weeks and I’m scared. It’s been exactly a year since she was in the hospital fighting for her life. This time my sister won’t be here. My brother probably won’t be here either. Neither of them can afford it, aside from any other considerations. If I had a million dollars I’d fly them both out.

I’d make a great matriarch if I could afford to, you know, take care of everyone.

I don’t want my mother to die. I love her so much.

This is the first time I’m admitting to myself how terrified I am.  How I have so much family and yet so little. What the fuck difference does having family make if they’re never around, if you don’t know half of them, or half of them don’t give a fuck about you?* While my mom was fighting for her life her sister was insisting on selling her only security. Fucking bitch.

Don’t really have faith in family. Yet I love my sister and would house her with my last penny if she needed it, would do the same for my brother, for my dad (the step), for Philip’s brother, for Philip’s father, for my cousins (even though they wouldn’t likely do the same for me). If my two half brothers, almost complete strangers to me, needed my help I’d do what I could for them.

Goddamn it. If my biological asshole father who I’ve disowned was facing homelessness I’d house him too. Fucking careless seed-spreader who doesn’t recognize his own image in my brother**. God, if I could get him to take a paternity test I have 100% confidence in the results.

Old records. Old tunes. Old tropes.

*Not talking about Zeke or Tara.

**The one he spawned just before divorcing my mom to marry my first half brother’s mother.

Every Swear Word Bursting From My Heart With Love


Here he is with the bacon wrapped chicken skewers he and his dad made together. He doesn’t let me take a lot of pictures of him lately but I think he was a little proud of these.

There’s a revolution going on in this house called: TEENAGER. It’s pretty fucking epic and wonderful. I have no idea what awful hormonal dark magic things might possibly be waiting for us around the bend and I’m not going sit around worrying about it. Not right now. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow.* Max decided to cut his hair a couple of weeks ago, grew another half inch, and today he prepared some bacon-wrapped chicken kabobs with his dad for the grill and participated in his first BBQ. I made vegetable kabobs with a satay sauce and he tried summer squash and red pepper dipped in the sauce. He didn’t like the squash but kind of liked the red pepper.

But I didn’t even ask him to try them. He wanted to try the motherfucking*** vegetables of his own volition.


I’m not a very sentimental mom in general. I’ve never been blind to my son’s challenges and how it impacts other people and his own development. He was most honestly and truly a special needs kid. And I think we still may experience some tough shifts as he matures. But I’ve also never withheld honest pride or failed to celebrate the small steps that have brought him from a self harming and socially difficult place to the person he is becoming.

Tonight he sat with us at the table (with dirty dishes of things he didn’t eat!) and ate with us and then he sat and chatted for a little while without imposing his own topic on the whole group – much. At least – not in that vice-grip way he has of bulldozing any conversation he doesn’t find completely engaging he has had for ages. He listened a little bit. We count these things because they matter.


Today was horribly and uncomfortably hot for me but the evening was filled with close friends, my mom, and my son all gathering around a table and eating good food and feeling connected and cared for and enjoying each others’ company.

I know what happens when I notice that my life is perfect – it falls spectacularly apart. So it’s a good thing I’m struggling so hard with my writing and carving out a career as a novelist for myself. If I’m not struggling, the universe is plotting how it can trip me with a thread so I fall in the alligator-infested swamp with a bunch of motherfucking apathetic canoeing slow-eyed masochists the chance to beat me down with their oars.

There are a thousand things that can go wrong right now. Two minutes from now. I’ve become so superstitious between experience and mental illness that I’m ridiculously cautious about saying:

I’m happy. Right now. This minute. Perfect. Tonight was perfect.

Go ahead and find out how digestible those alligators find my foul mouth. My gristle is ready for those toothy clowns.


*That’s right motherfucker! This middle aged anxiety disorder has got her disorder by the throat!**

**Just kidding, anxiety, no need to give me a heart attack tomorrow morning.

***All these “motherfucker”s are of a joyous nature but so emphatic that no other expression will do. I think most of you who have been following the Max adventures long enough will forgive for all the bombs tonight. ?

#YesAllWomen: The Animal Dark


This weekend has been unexpectedly emotional. Elliot Rodgers shooting and stabbing seven people was not actually the thing that has brought me to my emotional knees. The Twitter hashtag trend #YesAllWomen is what has made me feel gutted and strung out on a line to harden in the hot California spring breeze like pulverized meat.

I’m pulled in a hundred directions of thought. I might not be ready to distill it all. So call this the animal dark in which instinct is all I’ve got to navigate with.

I have always been a feminist but I haven’t always realized it. There was a time when I thought that because I love chivalry I must not be a feminist. Because I want to believe in romance. Because I don’t hate men. Because I don’t get offended by a lot of things that feminists I know get really angry about. But put in a situation that challenges my autonomy as a person, that belittles me based on the fact that I have a vagina instead of a penis and I become a force to be reckoned with.

This weekend I have been listening to women’s stories of rape, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual advances, abuse, discrimination, and how they’ve been silenced. How they’ve been told to stop “whining” and making a big deal out of “nothing”. I’ve been listening to stories of the billions of women who never feel safe.

It felt like an old stale jar of forbidden shame had busted open and suppressed memories came flooding through. The fact that I never feel completely safe in this world and the thing I’m most afraid of is men came not as a shock but as a thing I’m not allowed to express and apologize for feeling when it leaks out because I know that not all men are rapists. I know that not all men are misogynists. I have so many amazing men in my personal life that I can’t let these fears free, can’t admit to them for fear of offending or poisoning the good relationships I have with the men in my life.

The thing is, the good men in my life aren’t the ones who make me afraid. They know they aren’t. They know they aren’t part of this awful culture of female oppression and hate, but I feel so worried about offending the good ones and losing them and offending the bad ones risking physical retribution.

Listening to hundreds of women’s short stories about the insults, rape, abuse, and casual stranger boners being thrust into their backsides was like listening to the dark underbelly of this supposedly liberated free society we’re all enjoying and I remembered all the times I’ve been propositioned by men for sex – men who mistook me for a prostitute because I wore a lot of make up (I guess?) or because I was walking alone in neighborhoods where the only women brave enough to do that were looking for Johns. But I’ve also been propositioned on busy posh streets, ordinary streets, during the afternoon, the evening, and pretty much every time of day. And don’t fucking pull out some talk of provocative clothing because I’ve dressed with as little skin showing as possible for as long as I can remember. Fuck anyone who jumps to that thought.

The most corrosive thing is the silence that has been imposed on these stories for so long by not only men but women who are fearful of them and women who are under the spell of the biblical stricture that whatever a man says is law, even above their choice of God. There has been such a mass silencing and minimizing that has proved consistently stronger than the movements meant to weaken the misogyny we’re all exposed to.

This is deeply personal. This is my skin. These are my scars. This is my PTSD. I can’t share all my stories because I have to protect myself. Because down to my bones I know that the first rule of being a girl is to protect myself from the retribution of men. So when I listen to all these stories opening up I know only half of them are being said out loud.

My heart has been both full and leaking fluid all weekend. I’m riled to full fighting height. Above all the stories of fear, of devastating betrayal and abuse, there is the inherent strength of women shining through. The inherent ability women possess to be both emotional and rational. These two qualities in combination are what many unenlightened men fear. The double threat of being able to care for our helpless young while simultaneously able to work out calculus problems in real world applications. Practical, logical, and emotionally engaged is pretty threatening to anyone incapable of it.

As I’m writing this, the thing that disturbs me the most is this constant feeling that I must apologize for my opinions since they aren’t complimentary to all men. As I listen to all the women’s stories I want to embrace them and give them some kind of healing elixir but here’s the beautiful thing – the incredible thing – they don’t really need that from anyone. Women are strong as fuck. They just need to be heard and acknowledged and respected as equals to men. It’s as simple as that.

And obviously not treated like shit.

Or abused.

Or have hard penises rubbed against them in the subway. Because that shit is creepy.

This isn’t rocket science – what women want. You know how men are encouraged to have a rich sex life and also a great career and no one ever calls them whores? Women want that. You know how men are allowed to wear whatever the fuck they want and sometimes it shows a great wide carpet of chest hair and a thick sausage package in their tight pants and maybe women think it’s hilarious but they never take that as an invitation to rape men? Women want that for themselves. You know how men work hard on the job and get paid a standard wage that other men get for the same job and then when they work hard and get a raise and no one ever suggests they slept with the boss and they don’t earn less than other men in the same positions? Women fucking goddamn want that shit.

You know how men can be dirty as fuck in the bedroom but then be considered great dads by society? Women want that. Because you know what? Most women really like fucking and they want to take part in that dirty romp as equals but you know what often happens when they give men EXACTLY WHAT MEN WANT?

They get called sluts. Or whores. GIVING MEN EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT.

But men are always just being men.

It seems to me that men are the complicated ones. Women want all the things men want but maybe they have different words to describe their feelings and desires. There’s no doubt in my mind (based on experience) that some women and men speak almost completely different languages. But if you take the fucking time to work things out (both parties) it usually works out that men and women want many of the same things.

There are some men who are abused by women. I am for the whole truth, always. There are some really toxic women in the world, absolutely. And for any man out there who has experienced the same treatment by women as women have by men – I don’t condone that shit for anyone. Abuse is abuse and I’m against abusing other human beings and don’t really give a shit about their gender when it gets right down to the details.

But statistics and anecdotal stories show that the number of men being abused by women is an exponentially smaller number than that of women being abused by men.

How many men fear walking home alone at night? How many men have been victims of date rape – and how many have gone on a date fearing such a thing? How many men worry about being raped at all? How many men are really truly afraid of their wives? How many wives actually break their husband’s bones? How many wives give their husbands discrete bruises? How many men worry about everything they say to women – hoping they don’t give the wrong message and create a miscommunication leading to a scary situation? How many men worry about sending the wrong message with their tight pants? How many men wonder if their tone is giving the wrong signals in conversation and wonder if they’ll have to defend their casual conversation in court later to prove they really weren’t leading their rapist on?

They don’t. I don’t have to ask every man I know because I already know most of them live day to day not fearing violent sexual confrontation from anyone. Most women do.

I’ve felt choked up and overwhelmed and full of apology I owe to no one all weekend.

I have been made aware of more hatred towards women than I previously knew was out there. Hatred that endorses killing women for not agreeing to have sex with any man who wants it.  Fucking double standard from hell – because when they DO agree to have sex with you without any of the natural and healthy courtship rituals they are slandered as SLUTS and WHORES.

We are disrespected if we do and killed if we don’t.

If the epithets WHORE and SLUT are going to be thrown around then they apply more appropriately to all men. It’s tempting to sling that around at men, to taste that in the mouth of full reversal.

But I don’t think having sex and loving sex make anyone a whore or a slut. Not women or men. Because I see us all as equals and I see sexuality as a normal and healthy part of human life provided all parties are of legal age and able to consent. I don’t give a fuck what gender(s) you prefer. I don’t care if you like to swing or have an open marriage. I mean, I have opinions on how well that works out in general, but I don’t see anything morally wrong with whatever any consenting adults want to do with each other.

Just leave my unconsenting sisters of the world alone because my wrath is waking up.

There’s an awakening happening and I understand why certain men are afraid of it. Women individually are pretty fucking fierce – but if they are mobilized to rise and protect each other they are warriors of the finest caliber and more vicious and brave than any man on earth because they have both the fire of creation and the strength to protect life more than they care about their own skin.

That is a combination to fear if you’re on the wrong side of it.

Women stepping out of their code of silence is an act of rebellion as immense as black Americans stepping out their code of slavery.

Neither of us is finished rewriting the code yet.

All I can say is watch out for women because they’re taking numbers, but not for sex.

Out Here in the Weeds

musard in field

I keep telling myself that it’s time I stopped sharing my own personal meltdowns publicly and instead put them in books where fictional situations and characters can chew on them righteously without making me feel scraped out personally.  Time to truly become the puppeteer behind the curtain pulling the strings and making people believe in levitation and other untrue things.  I think my motivations for making my anxiety attacks and depressive episodes public aren’t particularly nice.  Mostly I want everyone to suffer – I want them to have to go through this shit too because I think there will be a lot less bullshit attempts to convince me that mental illness isn’t really an “illness” so much as a vitamin imbalance or a lazy person’s descent into negativity that is completely avoidable with daily positive affirmations, ditching wheat, ditching meat, ditching sugar, or whatever it is YOU ditched that changed your fucking life forever so that everything is coming up disco pants and summer days.

Fuck that.

Disco pants is #72 on the list of 127 Things That Freak Me Out.

It’s funny because my dad (not the biological father) and I had a great lunch together the other day during which the question of my mental illness came up and, typical of his generation of wishful thinkers, he wants to believe that this mental problem of mine was created by the fucked up start to my life (the commune years) that made me never feel safe.  And then the part where he and my mom fought all the time.  And then the part where they split up and my mom had a major breakdown at the same time I did.  He thinks that these circumstances are why I have anxiety, that I wasn’t BORN WITH IT.

We agree that experiences in life can play a big hand in a person’s mental state. Zero argument.  But he really doesn’t believe that people are born with different wiring.  Like so many other people.

Science has already proved that some brains really are wired differently – that some minds physiologically function differently or less optimally – depending on the brain you’re talking about.  I think it boils down to people experiencing existential discomfort at the idea that human emotions and thought patterns can be boiled down to little more than chemical conversations between the brain and the nervous system.  It implies a lack of control and it also implies that feelings don’t come from our spirits or whatever essence you think makes us uniquely who we are.

As if it’s somehow frightening to think that our chemical makeup, the quality of our blood, the size of our arteries, and the electric pulses in our brains are IT.  I have no patience for that fear.  I am much too busy fearing real things like being murdered or raped or ending up homeless with Pippa living inside my coat.

It’s all well and good to discuss the whys and wherefores and the origin story.  But when you’re in the trenches it doesn’t fucking matter one bit.  You know it isn’t good.  You know you didn’t do anything on purpose to bring it on.  You want it to not happen and you try everything in the world that people swear will change your life and in the end you’re still just in the head you were born with and its now got all the extra baggage it’s acquired from living life as a person whose brain doesn’t work optimally in the world it must function in.

The only part of this that I’m not sure about is whether I can claim that I’m not actually broken, that I’m just different?  When one is in the Autism spectrum it’s much easier to make a case for simply having a different operating system.  People with autism actually have different brains – differences you can SEE with EYES in imaging.  So do people with ADHD.  Their brains literally look different when functioning, work differently than the average brain.  Certain parts are less or more developed than in the average.

But mine – mine may not really be built differently.  If I’m being honest when I’m looking at all the data that’s available to me so far, it really does look like I’m not a different model of brain but a brain that came off the conveyer belt with some missing screws and a permanent oil leak.

What does that mean for my self esteem.  How can I frame my shortcomings as strengths?  How can I make it seem like having a few screws missing is a blessing?

I’m getting off the boat now.

What if I told you that I have no ego invested in being the top of the line model human being but I wish to fucking god the radioactive emotional meltdowns could be surgically removed?

They used to call that a lobotomy.

Today I’m all calm and post-meltdown philosophical but yesterday I wanted to tear my own heart out and if it weren’t for the mess, I would have done it.

If I’m going to continue being honest then I have to say that I AM a broken human with band-aids holding my pieces together.  It’s not popular to admit this.  Why am I not framing it in a positive awesome superhero way?  Probably because when you spend so much time using all your superhero powers to keep your violence from going inwards you become too tired to parse meaning nicely.

Us broken people and us people who are wired differently and us people who are neurologically atypical all have something in common.

We can see things the average person is blind to.  We know things the average person can’t know.  We feel EXTRA.  We smell MORE.  We hear EVERYTHING.  We see in the dark.  We understand your raw heart and we can fill it with empathy in a way you can’t describe but you’ll FEEL long after we’re just a blurry memory.  We can find answers that live in places most people can’t get at.  We’re intense.  We’re exhausting.  We’re pretty LOUD when we aren’t completely SILENT.  A lot of us die of drug addiction, suicide, heart implosions.  Our natural death rate is higher than yours because we live harder just staying alive.

We have gifts.  Gifts that have lit this world from its first experiments in agriculture and rolling wheels to the elegant quantum theory we take for granted now.  We are the wild ones who leap farther, swim deeper, jump higher, run faster, think more abstractly, and articulate the dumb-water from which humanity dragged itself to find the light.

I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t materially matter whether we were born whole but different or born broken and are therefor different.  What everyone else needs to recognize is that we are your storytellers, soothsayers, and collective memory.

Out here in the weeds is where I belong.  Out here with the body dumps and strong medicine.  Out here between the chain link and the luxury cars.  Out here with the homeless and the litter.

I know you can never be completely comfortable in my company unless you’re part of this wild tribe of mine.

I don’t mind if you lie and say you never feel out of your depth with my violent feelings.  I don’t mind if you lie and say I never trouble you.

Out here in the weeds there is no drowning.

The Devil’s Circus

hills from bus

I want to smash things.  I want to smash everything.  I want to destroy all the delicate beautiful things and all the arrogantly strong things.  I want to rip down the shades and tear the curtains and I want to stab pillows and throw drinks in all the faces.

Except that I don’t ever want to see another face as long as I live.  And please god, erase mine first.

I want to claw into my skin to drag out the toxic disease that makes me constantly self destruct.  I can feel it in my body like it’s got its own corrupt soul, moving around in my bones treating me like a goddamn marionette.  I want to rip it out of my body and smash it against the walls.  But I know, I still know that it’s really just me I want to smash against the wall.  I know I’m the only one in this suit of flesh and I just need to find something specific to burn.  I keep lighting my own skin on fire.

I see it all coming down before it starts.  I try to stop it and everything I do to stop it makes it worse and it happens slowly – this B movie scene I can’t rewrite – so I have to live each frame without mercy.  I give it different words and I make it wear a denim tracksuit but it’s still naked and now I am too.

The words coming out of my mouth are always the ones I definitely wasn’t going to say.

I can’t be around people.  I can’t be around myself.

So many people think all I have to do is meditate or change my habits or remind myself it doesn’t have to be this way.  That if life made me this way I can unmake myself.  Bullshit.

Go fucking unmake yourself bitches!  Tell me how that’s working out for you.

If it’s working for you then go fuck your smug self.

I was supposed to go to the city today but I infected my people with my stress, it seems, and then fucking pounded it into their skulls for good measure.  Because people like me do shit like that.  Then I felt so fucking bad I wanted to knife myself.  No matter what I do, no matter what therapy I get, no matter what meds I take, it always comes back to that inward thrust.  The desire to destroy what wants to destroy me first.  To punish myself for fucking everything up AGAIN.

I haven’t cut myself or intentionally harmed myself for 28 years but it’s always there.  Saying it out loud makes me seem more diseased than I want anyone to know.  I want people to think you can just will that shit away and OVERCOME.  Maybe some can.  I can only speak for myself.  That desire to garrote myself is my second shadow.

I don’t want you to know about it because it will make you see me differently.   It shows my illness more than any other behavior or obsessive thought I can share.  The only human deviance worse than one who wants to hurt itself is one who wants to hurt others.

But I do that too.

The spirals are fast and brutal most of the time.  I don’t have time for last rights or explanations until it’s all over and then I feel like such a loser I let myself slip down the sink drain with the black mold and the tangled hair.

I am not fit to be around people.  Or in the world.  Or in a body.

I get whiplash sometimes between the good days and the bad.  The good minutes and the stopped time.

Animals know when they’re sick.  I know I’m sick in the mind.  It angers me when people try to make excuses for my irregularity.  It’s insulting to be lied to for someone else’s sense of comfort.  So they can feel better about themselves.  If I’m sick it means there are others who are like me who are also sick.  If I admit to being sick they question whether they are obligated to admit they are too.  They fight so hard against it.  Because having my sickness is ignoble.  It’s not nice.  It’s pretty fucking ugly in the corners no outsiders can see.  It’s the devil’s circus in here.

I made my child cry.  My wonderful child who suffers from some of the same things I do.  I made him cry because I was hanging on by a thread to my plans and he had the audacity to be barely hanging onto his.  I lashed out at him for deciding, right as we set out for the city, that he was going to have a bad time.  I tried to help and inadvertently made things worse, as I do.  So I got angry.  He cried.  He was so stressed out and he’s new at this stress of the unknown.  Poor kid inherited my awful awful anxiety and I fucking lashed out at him for it.

I am having a hard time forgiving myself for that right now.  That kid of mine is pretty fucking amazing.  I have the opportunity to give him support and empathy and teach him to live in a world that doesn’t understand people like us, and what I did was make him feel like shit for being sensitive to stress and outings he’s no properly prepared for.

I already apologized to him when he came into my office where I was busy not breaking everything and said he was sorry for ruining my day.  I apologized to him for making him think my ruined day was his fault when it was really mine.

My guys have gone to a movie and are, I think, recovering from that madly awful hour.

I am not.  Not yet.  I lie in bed for a couple of hours forcing self harming thoughts from my head, listening to my cat purring on my shoulder.

I want to break things.  I want to break everything.

I think I’m going to go get more beer and some Chinese food.  How’s that for a strong shot of bathos?

Far from done, but now I have a hammer.

bad intentionsI never do anything because of Jesus or for Jesus but I like to think that as far as icons of belief go – a Jewish carpenter who consorts with prostitutes and people losing limbs to disease while spouting messages of love and acceptance and nonviolence – he seems like a pretty cool drinking partner.  I just can’t figure out how American conservatives and the people leading the Inquisition got themselves hooked up with a guy who wouldn’t let you stone a whore without stoning him with her?  I consider this the ninth wonder of the world.

I said I was going to be sober for 90 days and lose at least 20lbs during that time and I did both of those things.  I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol for 3 months and I lost 31lbs.  I didn’t overeat during that time or crave cigarettes as the chemical dependency counselor suggested I might.  She should have listened to me.  I also didn’t ever actually crave alcohol the way I craved cigarettes when I quit smoking.  I was über-cranky for the first week and then most Fridays.  I discovered that life without alcohol isn’t bad – it’s just BORING.

Last night I had a few beers in celebration and answered a question I didn’t know I had: yes, your tolerance level goes way down after 3 months of not drinking.  People, I can’t drink very much without getting tipsy now.  And that’s fine because even though I don’t regret partying last night (I did, after all, accomplish something amazing) I am now going to discover how to have alcohol in my life in a moderate fashion.

Except for at parties or events where there are a lot of human beings I don’t know and have to interact with.  All bets are off when I must interact with GROUPS.  Even small groups.  ANY GROUPS.

Socializing, period.  Shut up.  Just because your nervous system is shiny and solid and mine has the tensile strength as wet tissue unless held up with old sticks and booze is no measure of superiority.

I want to thank all of you who did this challenge with me – in whatever way you participated – and for all of the support you’ve all given me for months now.  It made a big difference to me. !!

What now?

I’m so far from done.  I have set new goals for the next 3 months:

Lose at least another 20lbs – as of right now I still have 82lbs to lose to get to where I want to be physically.  I want to get most of the way there by my 45th birthday.

Drink only moderately on the weekends (see above exception) - I want to be able to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at home or a couple of beers out – but not both on the same night.  I want Saturday to be the same.  “Moderate” for me would be somewhere between 1-3 drinks a night.

Don’t drink at all 4 days a week* – I need to keep up this lower tolerance and I need to remember how easy it is to not drink most of the time.  When I forget this my liver cries.

Eat more whole foods and fruits, less cheese – already happening but I want to continue working on this.  Aside from being a vegetarian I refuse to do any exclusionary diets.  (All kinds of opinions on stupid-ass diets that will NOT be names are being held  back that would otherwise be filling this space)

Exercise 20 minutes a day at least 5 days a week – walking, bicycling, whatever.  I’ll lunge across the house in tight pants if I feel like it.  I’d have to get tight pants first, obviously.  You fitness nuts can hold your tongues right now.  For me, just 20 minutes a day on a regular basis will be a great improvement.  Don’t give me your statistics on how much more I should be doing or what kind of movement I should be doing.  It’s none of your fucking business to school me on your religion.  Fitness isn’t my faith.  Getting back to my usual level of physical activity is what I want and need at this part of my physical recalibration.  I was always a really active person and the only thing that’s held me back in the last few years is all the physical pain and injury that results from being active and also obese.

That’s enough for the next 3 months and it starts tomorrow: April 9th and will end July 9th**.  Anyone who doesn’t believe I can lose another 20lbs in three months or that I can’t learn to drink more moderately can get off my boat.  I don’t need anyone around who doesn’t trust me to meet goals that are this important to me.

This is not three years ago.  Three years ago I was waking up wishing I wasn’t.  You can’t look at failed goals back then and hold them up to my face now.  I succeeded in surviving my secret suicidal ideation and getting myself out of purgatory.  I kept saying I was going to lose weight but then not dealing with the bigger crisis in front of me.  I was trying to run a race from inside a locked cell.  I was trying to knock down a wall with my bare hands.

Now I have a hammer.

*As before, I will not count bitters in mineral water as an alcoholic beverage.  My goals, my rules.

**Not counting precise days now – just months.

An Elusive Beast: The Extraordinarily Good Mood

jesus and pills

I am in an extraordinarily good mood.  I woke up after another bad night of nightmares and poor sleep (seriously intend to try the melatonin – I even have it next to my bed now) with my back in a lot of pain.  Not an auspicious way to start the day.

But then I had some coffee and Philip made me an amazing omelet and then my mom came home with two roses for the garden (Mr. Lincoln and Sterling Silver) which made me super excited.  Then I ordered the rest of the soil needed to fill the beds in the front yard and it cost $173.46 including delivery and it turns out I had $173 and some change left in my garden fund.  How weird is that?

Then I went and bought three bottles of high proof alcohol for making bitters and a liqueur.  Then I got to geek out with people at the Beverage People – our local home brewing store.

When I picked up my medication from Kaiser I checked Facebook and someone well known in the food writing world responded to a comment I left and -


I know it could get worse.  A day can always get worse.  But the sun is out in the only acceptable way for it to be out – not too hot with a cool breeze.  I was out there on my scooter smiling at absolutely everyone enjoying the gorgeousness and the fortune I’m enjoying in not being dead, in being able to pay for my psyche meds, in being able to pay our rent, and possibly even getting my Vespa tires replaced (it’s becoming dire).

Max is out with his dad because they like going on drives together and when they get back they’re going to get sushi together.  Max eats raw fish wrapped in rice and seaweed now.  If you had told me a few years ago that one day he would be eating raw fish and craving it I would not have believed it.  I have certainly had my suspicions that eventually he would like some interesting things and might even develop a gourmand’s palate – but the idea of him loving sushi or tolerating rice in ANY form is one of those things only other people’s children do.  Plus he’s been accepted into the high school’s well respected arts program in the digital arts specialty.

A couple of days ago I pounced on Max when he came home and asked if he wanted to go on a foraging walk with me and he said “Let me get my knife!”

He’s also started reading Cricket and Grey.  On our walk he asked me if I based Cricket’s mom on myself.  I think because of the interest and herb knowledge.

My kid is reading the novel I wrote and enjoying it.


Life takes breathtaking dives from the top floor to the center of hell – so you have to enjoy everything while it’s in front of you.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring and with people in my tribe it’s pretty common to go from thriving to diving within a matter of hours.  I’m used to such change-ups.

So you have to enjoy being 31lbs lighter now than you were three months ago because who knows what you’ll be carrying on your bones in another three months?

I backed up all my computer files and then cleaned out some files I no longer need (copies being on my backup drive) and then I defragmented my computer.  I also photographed and made new banners for both my blogs and made the executive decision to put post apocalyptic kitchen content on Stitch until I have enough to build up the PAK blog.  I must keep things simple right now.  I was so depressed on Thursday about career crap I am not going to ruin this day recapping.  I’ve set everything up for a fresh spring start.

As the day wears on my happy spazzing is turning to a happy calm.

This has been such a deliciously perfect day.  I hope you all are having one too.  And if you’re not – I hope you get yours soon!

Fighting My Invisibility


79 days of sobriety.  11 days left.  27lbs lost.  86lbs left to lose.  3lbs more to lose to reach my goal of losing 30lbs in 90 days.  Those are the numbers.

I’ve continued to be blue over my non-existent writing “career”.  I have tried crushing the feelings and ignoring them and laughing at them.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself anymore, exactly.  Just blue.  But that doesn’t mean this is where I get off.  I never get off.  I might not be meant to get paid to write.  I might need to be murdered and then discovered posthumously.  Something that happens to an unfortunate number of authors.

I’m 86% sure I’m going to be murdered some day.

I’ve been working at my circular saw skills this week and I have to say that being able to design and then make raised beds for my yard feels as empowering as being able to throw a strong punch.  Before the rains came I spent a whole day cutting wood and screwing it together and I felt strong.  I felt capable and useful the way I do when I am able to put food in jars that last for a few years on the shelf.  The way I do when words I share uplift someone from the gutter into the light.  The way I do when I chase my son’s fears away.  So I was thinking about all the different things we draw power from.  I was thinking about how important it is to spend life doing things that make us feel stronger and fearless and capable.  If what we’re doing makes us feel small and prematurely old – we have to change our own course.

Trying to get paid writing gigs – selling my book or applying for freelance writing jobs makes me feel stupid and useless and worthless because I have only really been able to sell my book to friends and friends of friends and I have never been chosen for the freelance jobs I’ve applied to.  It gets discouraging.  That part of what I do is hard.  It’s hard being rejected over and over and over.  However, no amount of rejection will make me give up.  Just like no amount of kicks to the gut from the universe will keep me floored forever.  I’ve come close to the edge of the cliff many many times.  It’s the darkness I have to live with being me, it’s the constant risk people like me face, and it’s very real.  But I keep getting up off the floor because I’m a tenacious bastard.

I am feeling invisible.

But if I’m invisible I’m the most tenacious invisible person you’ll ever meet.  You can beat me up, you can shut me down, you can ignore me til you die but I will still jump my fat-ass in front of you and scream to be heard.  If you kill me I will live in your nightmares.  I will always get back up off the floor because I’m like a pitbull with Michael Vick in my jaws.

If I’m not going to succeed at making a career of writing, if I’m going to remain invisible during my lifetime, I still require myself to leave something worthy behind me for others to find amongst the dust of my bones.  Someone’s going to need it.  I still require myself to get up off the floor and keep at it.

My hair is dirty.  It’s 2pm and I’m still in my pyjamas.  I need to shower.  I need to get dressed before my kid comes home from school and sees his mom sitting at her messy desk with the dirty half empty cup of cold coffee and this ludicrously sorrowful face staring into the middle distance like a drooling idiot.

My hands smell of bitter orange.