Category Archives: The Variety Show

I’m not going to wish I slept more after I’m dead.

looking into the light

Life is too short for bad folk songs and worse country songs – I’ve been forced to hear more than my share this week so I’m listening to Pete Seeger for the length of this sentence.

I’ve already moved on to Bob Dylan.

Life is too short for protracted regrets. Life is full of bullshit, unfair bullshit, and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also all the horseshit to fill up all the spaces not already bubbling with the bullshit. If you want to dwell on the rich ripe hot shit patties, that’s your prerogative, but if that’s what you focus on then that’s what will define your time here the most.

Aren’t you glad I didn’t say “moist” just then?

I love the way sunglasses look but I dislike wearing them because I don’t like natural light being altered.

I was at the art store today and as I was leaving I thought about how weird it would be if I saw Jason Sudeikis in the parking lot.

I find myself cautious about my dreams now but it’s a minor miracle that I still have them at all, so there’s that.

I would like to qualify that last statement with the fact that when I say “miracle” I always mean it figuratively as I don’t actually believe in miracles of any kind.

Don’t let that stop you from fully embracing your own weird belief in “inexplicable” things that amaze you. It’s cool to be amazed by things and if you choose to think of them as “miraculous”, why not?

Except for childbirth. The only thing miraculous about child birth is that women keep voluntarily going through it.

Forgiving a person doesn’t mean you have to continue to interact with them. I think people sometimes see forgiveness as an all-inclusive Vegas-style buffet that includes letting people walk all over your carpet again no matter how worn down it’s become from their heavy tread. Forgiveness is something that happens in your heart and your spirit, where you let someone’s wrongs and lashes against you wash clean and leave your consciousness. It doesn’t mean they necessarily get to come back into your life. Sometimes the most important part of forgiveness is setting fresh terms of engagement.

Forgiveness is about letting go. If your forgiveness depends on apologies, fealty paid to your gravel-filled shoes, or any kind of begging – it isn’t genuine and you aren’t ready.

The thing I keep thinking about the most these past few months is the importance of forgiveness. The true stuff. The forgiveness where you not only let go of what others have done to you but you acknowledge your own part in the transaction and forgive yourself too.

I’ve got a private list of people I’ve forgiven and the last person on that list every time is myself.

I’m going to go on a news-fast for a while. I need it desperately. Being engaged in current events is painful and corrosive even as it keeps you awake to all the bullshit which is necessary if you want to help clean it all up.

Life is too short for self delusion. It sucks at your leaden feet until you sink farther down than you can breath.

Life is too short for – I wanted to say life is too short for sleep – but that’s just because I’m writing this at almost 2am and I have to work tomorrow. I’ll pay heavily but I like to think it’s worth it since I’m going to die at some point and I’m not going to be wishing I got more sleep when I’m dead as much as I’m going to wish I’d spoken my mind while I had a corporeal voice.

Listen up: if you’ve got wings, spread’em. If you’ve got dreams, float them on the river of hope. If you’ve got friends, hold them up in the incandescent light you reserve for heroes.

Stop worrying about what comes after all of this and how you’re going to explain your sad ghost to the living.

 

I’m Definitely Not the Sound-bite Queen

notebook

I always wanted to be the radio Dee-jay (Chris) on Northern Exposure. Sometimes I think about how my blog could function like a radio program and I could dispense daily philosophical sound-bites about the lives around me. Every day I think I’m going to start doing that but then I get mired in the heavy and the dark because that’s what’s going on in the world and lives around me.

Also, I’m not that wisdomous.

In the shower yesterday I had a whole conversation in my head (though, theoretically I was having it with you) about how annoying I find it when Christians mention God’s “unconditional” love but then proceed to tell you all you have to do is “believe” and pray and not sin and if you sin you have to ask forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is only given if you ask for it. His son died so you could beg and maybe receive forgiveness, apparently. And in some Christian sects you have to “do penance”.

Those are a lot of conditions.

Fealty isn’t love. Worship isn’t love.

Then I was answering those Christians who want to know why I feel it’s okay to question their faith and pick it apart. This is the price of evangelism. All my life I’ve had Christians of one kind or another come to the door of my own home to try and convince me that their faith is the only way to be a good person. That without their faith I will perish in a pit of fire. Trying to convince me that God loves all his children equally, except for all the ones that don’t obey his rules.

All my life Christians have been shoving their religion into laws that effect everyone. They’ve infiltrated politics to a toxic degree. To a degree where a lot of people seem to think it’s a requirement for the president of the United States to be a practicing Christian.

If someone’s religious beliefs are brought to the door of my home and if their religion directs the laws that rule my daily life then I have every right to examine it, to question it, to pick it apart. If someone tells me that their belief is the ONLY way to live a righteous life, to be a good and moral person, I’m going to hold them to the standard they claim they live by, and that they claim makes them superior. Even though I know, as a rational person, that all humans are fallible.

Shove your shit in my face and I guarantee you it isn’t going to smell better than anyone else’s.

I’ve never once felt the need to question or pick apart Hinduism. I’ve never once had a person of the Hindu faith try to convince me they’re more moral than atheists or people of other faiths. I’ve never once had a group of Hindus knock on the door of my home and tell me that my way is the wrong way and that I can’t be a good person unless I worship as they do. I’ve never once had my freedom of choice threatened by the Hindu agenda. There is no Hindu agenda.

I know not all Christians are evangelists. All I can say is that the pushy members of your faith are ruining a lot of shit for the rest of you.

In the same way some asshole atheists certainly make the rest of us look like jerks too. I had no idea there are atheists out there trying to convince others to be atheists and being assholes about it. A friend told me she’s been treated to some of their shit and I said “But atheism isn’t a faith. It isn’t something you believe in. It isn’t something you convert to. There are no rules. There’s no congregation. It’s simply the word for a person who doesn’t believe in deities.” But I guess humans like to turn everything into a religion. Humans like rules and they like groups.

If all Christians tucked their faith up in their hearts and concerned themselves solely with their own life choices, their own relationship with God, and let it be the private thing religion should be – I’d never stand in the shower wondering why God, in his “infinite” love and care of his children, allows so many 5 year old’s to be raped?  Why does he allow wars to happen? Why does he allow the children of faithful Christian followers to die horrible deaths from cancer?

If that’s what infinite love looks like, I don’t need any part of that.

This is why I’m not a light radio philosopher. I can’t keep things light. I can’t keep them down to digestible sound bites.

I’ve been thinking so much about racism in my country too but I haven’t written about it much because it’s too huge, too epic, and I don’t even know where to begin. It’s important, it may be one of the most important things this country needs to address and fix and even harder than religion to sort out and heal from. I’ve been doing a whole lot of listening to what people of color are saying, talking about, and hearing their stories.

I read Frank Rich’s incredible interview with Chris Rock and this is the most brilliant explanation of race relations I’ve heard. Rock says:

“When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”

Because it IS crazy to own other human beings and abuse them and work them to death and take and sell their children and to rape them. It’s not just crazy, it’s fucking evil. And that slavery is what our country was founded on. Not morality, not Christian values, but a barbaric system of human ownership. And there are a lot of white people who never got over the civil war and never got over the civil rights movement.

“To say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”

So I haven’t been talking a lot about racism but I’ve been soaking up all the stories that are happening right now, the awful miscarriages of justice, the shooting of unarmed black people, the conversations around it all, the white people feeling defensive and trying so hard to fight against our own inevitable march towards progress.

Change happens to all of us whether we are ready or not. Whether we willingly change or wait until circumstances force us to. Boiling points are being reached in this country and one way or another, change is coming.

I’m not on vacation even though Philip and Max are. I’ve spent most of today playing with Geronimo, the semi-feral foster kitten, and writing this post. I work tomorrow. Time just slips the fuck away from me.

Lemon Blossoms Quieter Than Me

lemon blossom

As a family we’ve started down a road of volunteering to help feral kittens become adoptable. I can’t speak for Philip but I can speak for Max and I: we care more for other animals than we do for our own species. We understand and empathize with other animals more than humans. Tomorrow we’re going to a foster training and may come home with a feral kitten to care for and socialize. I imagined I’d end up working a soup kitchen as my other deepest conviction is that my hands are made for feeding people. Yet this feels most right.

I don’t know how Chick, Penny, and Pippa will feel about it, but I think in some way this will work. If not, we’ll regroup.

My garden is in chaos. I have one whole bed of sprouted garlic and one that has yet to be planted. A month and a half late. I haven’t planted any favas yet. I find I can’t get that riled about it. My day job is draining, the way they are. I don’t know what I would have done if my mom’s surgery hadn’t gone so well as it did.

I have to stop and be thankful it went as smoothly as it did.

I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t gotten the job I did.

I have to stop and be thankful for that too.

I don’t have a hard time being thankful for the small things. There are so many.

I’m cleaning out my life. I spent this evening going through sewing crap. I’m at a point where I only want to have enough supplies on hand to make my immediate projects. I don’t want a life of sewing. I want a life of writing.

I’ve been trying to get myself to sit down here since the last time I did. When I sat down tonight I had two comments awaiting mediation on posts I wrote a while ago. Posts that have resonated with quite a few people. It reminded me why I started writing in the first place. People need truth-tellers. People who will sear themselves on the grill of life as examples. People who will throw themselves into the fray and report the pain, the pleasure, the weirdness, the resulting questions.

This time of year is MINE. I’m a winter bird. This is my season. This is my weather. This is the time of year I’m most alive, most alert, most happy. I haven’t been reporting much, haven’t written much, but I’ve been alive with possibilities.

I’ve been thinking a lot about coveting, about wanting, about bitterness. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much bitterness I sowed. That I used as my soap. I understand how easy it is to succumb to a path of regret, of envy, of darkness. I’ve been there. I was there for so long. I like to think I was constantly seeking light, but because I recorded it all in real-time, I don’t have the luxury of self-deceit. It’s all here in the archives.

But for all I have sunk so low, sunk to the turbid bottom, dwelt where the silt was thick and the air scarce, I tried shedding the psychic weight at every opportunity. It took a long time. But I did it myself.

I don’t believe in regret.

A belief that has been tested again and again.

Listening to bitter people reminds me of the fruitless tree that grows in that soil.

It doesn’t matter what other people have. What luck, what opportunities appear to drop in their laps. When you focus on other people you dilute your own power. Whatever that is.

My power may never turn to gold. I’m okay with this now. My life may constantly be filled with financial stress and struggle.

It’s okay. I’m going to meet it as best as I can every step of the way, as honestly as possible. Sometimes I’m crazy-tired but I won’t give up dreaming possibilities. No part of me is perfect.

Those experiences that brought the bitter to the surface enriched my life. I wouldn’t take them back if I could. I don’t want to go back to them, though. I’m still traumatized enough that I’m afraid of dreams that take me back. But I understand why I had to go through it all.

I’m not a quiet or complacent person but I want to be a person with peace in my heart. I’ve met someone so humble, so spiritually beautiful without actually seeing herself that I have been reaching harder and asking harder where my spirit dwells and what’s in my heart. She’s got no agenda, she’s got no evangelism in her at all. She’s Hindu and vegetarian and such a beacon of light to me. She shines. She’s a bright kindred spirit.

I’m not a quiet or a complacent person but I want to be a person with love in my heart above all other things. Love that comes not from blind observance but from empathy.

I have that much to give.

On a base level I know that the reason I got the job I did is so that I could be warmed by my new friend’s light. I needed to feel that from another person. A person praying to an unfamiliar deity for the same enlightenment I seek as an atheist. I needed to hear an intelligent woman, a rational yet empathetic woman shine herself through my uncertainty.

She wears no mantle of obligation to me. She has no idea the light she’s shining on my path and I think she’d be embarrassed if I told her, if I tried to explain to her her own light. She wants no glory, she wants no spotlight. So I keep her name to myself because I don’t feel I’ll ever have permission to throw it across this page.

Finding glory is nothing, it’s meaningless. Finding your spirit mostly whole in the rubble of your toppled house is everything.

ADDED THIS MORNING: I failed to mention that part of why I have been thinking about such things as coveting other people’s material things as well as their apparent good fortune is because of a few people I’ve had to listen to lately cultivating bitterness like it’s a righteous garden. Being jealous of other people’s cars and homes as though those things are every person’s right to have in life, and suggesting that the people who have the things you wish you had don’t deserve them as much as you do or thinking they didn’t struggle enough or work hard enough to have them – it’s an ugly and unproductive view. While listening to this covetous bitterness I was reminded of my own periods of bitterness and how hard I struggled against it.

I don’t want to be one of those people who is always looking at what others have and feeling envy. I’ve talked about how hard it is to see other authors get book deals and agents and to have actual careers writing. What I’m practicing doing is a) celebrating the successes and triumphs of the authors around me, and b) keeping my feet on my own path and asking myself what steps have I taken today to get closer to my own goals?

Lastly, I am focusing on recognizing my own good fortune when it happens. This month I sold 27 salves thanks to my bit of good fortune in being included in that post on The Kitchn. When Christmas is safely past me I need to properly thank the two people who made that happen for me. It’s been such a happy rush getting new batches of salve made and sent out. It has caused me to see my way forward more clearly. I took advantage of the fresh energy around my salve and came up with some inexpensive good ideas to increase my apothecary sales and grow this into a viable source of income that would allow me to also have time to write.

Maybe it won’t pan out, but that’s not the kind of thinking I’m investing my time into. Being me, the anxiety and self doubt is always close by pushing in at my edges but for the moment I’ve been managing to acknowledge that it’s there and yet as it pushes in, I step aside and let it pass.

It’s like being the water instead of the dam. It’s about using your adversary’s energy against them instead of your own. Apparently it’s a Kung Fu kind of morning.

 

Secret Messages on Pancakes

tiny GJ plane

The last thing I did before waking up was write a plea on a pancake to be broken out of prison. I signed my pancake note with spun sugar. Right before that there was a strip of desert and a bunch of people hunting snakes but the last pair of people who galloped after a snake ended up killing a deer. Before that there was an epic terrible time in a small Scandinavian town in the mountains that was also connected with the ocean. I was there to visit a friend and hide out from some bad people looking for me and I sat on a bench in her shallow pool surrounded by artwork trying not to be pulled over the edge of the pool into the ocean or the abyss or some sort of death related scenario. I returned to her living room, a cramped (cozy) little bridge of a room under which you could see her garage. Which was on fire. We couldn’t put it out. It seemed certain she was going to have to relocate and I knew she wasn’t going to. There was a point where I wandered into town for some shopping but it turns out the shopping center was in Australia or New Zealand.

I truly don’t have restful dreams. Maybe no one does. At least it ended with a note on a pancake, you know?

During this week of not writing much at all, again, I did come to the realization that I need to change a few details that mean going back and making a lot of adjustments. It means more rewriting when I haven’t even gotten past chapter 11 yet. I will be working on that today so I can move on to chapter 12. The changes are good and will make the story much better. Designing a post apocalyptic prison life is harder than you’d think.

I have been doing some serious thinking on so many things these days my head hurts.

Yesterday afternoon I started having sharp chest pains and joked about my end of days, as I always do, but after a couple people tried to convince me it was either gas or heartburn, other people were more alarmed and suggested going to the doctor immediately. This fed my initial irrational fears of having a heart attack and made me question my decision to not take it seriously. I’ve had this happen before and I was fine. As a person with clinical anxiety I have to constantly find the line between hypochondria and medical neglect due to fear of just being a hypochondria. When your very first thought with every single pain or weird body thing is: IT’S PROBABLY A TUMOR THAT’S TOO ADVANCED TO OPERATE ON AND I’M GOING TO DIE, or I’M PROBABLY HAVING A HEART ATTACK AND AM GOING TO BE DEAD BY TOMORROW MORNING, or THIS IS THE DAY I FIND OUT THAT WEIRD PATCH OF SKIN IS THE BEGINNING OF MY SLOW PAINFUL DEATH BY SCLERODERMA , you learn to stop and discuss with yourself the vast unlikeliness of any of those dire reasons for the little headache or the weird rough patch of skin.

I can’t afford to go to the emergency room unless I’m so obviously sick or bleeding out that the biggest medical skeptic in the world would be scared for my life too. In my big effort not to give in to hypochondria I am sometimes at greater risk of not going to the doctor when there’s a good reason to do it. Going to the doctor and being gently laughed at for what turn out to be nothings makes a hypochondriac feel like total and utter garbage.

I’m still having the small stabby pains in my chest this morning. I don’t really know what to make of it but since there are zero other signs of problem I’m still telling myself it’s just some kind of anxiety thing. I am simultaneously considering calling the doctor on Monday to see if I should be worried for real.*

The season of artificial cheer has already filled me with the desire to rip down all Christmas decorations I come across and blast Laibach’s “Let It Be” cover album in every place I hear horrible Christmas music.

Every time Philip tells the dog to be “Calm” and repeats it over and over I get increasingly less calm.

I sold 7 salves in the last couple of days thanks to being included in The Kitchn’s list of stocking stuffers.

15 Stocking Stuffers That Don’t Suck

I’ve sold out and am making a new batch. This reminds me how much I love making potions. Doing apothecary work is deeply satisfying. This fresh batch includes some of my home grown comfrey so that’s an extra level of excitement! Oh, and some of the plantain was wild harvested by me and Max. I’m finally going to make my lip balm this weekend too. The oil infusion has been ready for weeks but I couldn’t decide on a couple of other ingredients until now. I’m going to do a peppermint and a chocolate version.

In my wildest dreams I make an actual living selling my herbal remedies and my novels. This week the fantasy is pretty healthy. It frequently dies in my heart during bouts of uncertainty and depression caused by lack of sales or interest from others. But I always bounce back. Been bouncing back from crippling bouts of self doubt since 1980.

My mom goes into surgery again on Monday. They need to fix a hernia and also move her insides around to pull her abdominal muscles back together because they have separated. I’m not scared this time around. This is a much less risky surgery than the previous ones and it’s semi-elective. The hernia isn’t hurting her now nor causing any problems – but if she doesn’t get it taken care of, it’s a time bomb.

It’s been raining a lot in the last two weeks and I love it. I LOVE IT! I hope we get a lot more. I’m greedy for rain. GIVE ME ALL THE RAIN.

It’s time for me to sign off and prepare to get some writing done before switching gears to make potions. I hope you all are having a great Saturday!

Know someone with a bad case of book ennui? I have the solution! Get them a copy of Winter; Cricket and Grey:

Need a great wound salve on hand? Winters Apothecary 3x strength wound salve is the best one you can buy!

3x Wound Salve

*Do NOT attempt to diagnose me, or alarm me, or in any way interfere with the delicate balance I’m trying to achieve between my mental illness and my body.

Magic Happy Shrimp Sex

more desert

The only thing that has the power to make me sentimental is the late-night trifecta: beer+(the right) music + a late late hour.

Flying over endless desert made me incredibly uncomfortable on my trip to and from Colorado. The desert is my mental and emotional hell. It’s dry, hot, empty. Barren of the things that bring comfort and sustenance but is full of snakes, spiders, and scorpions. What the fuck kind of person finds their spirit calling out in such a desolate death farm?

I suppose deserts make a lot of people see, for the first time, through the wrong end of the telescope to discover how small they are and discover God in that smallness. I don’t consider myself a particularly lucky person but perhaps in this one way my life prepared me early for the fact that we’re all specks of nothing against the endless awe-inspiringly epic backdrop of a few thousand/million/trillion solar systems.

Doesn’t  mean shit to me spiritually. I’m always thinking about the spiders, snakes, and scorpions milling around just out of sight.

Wearing striped socks distracts me from the vastness of the universe.

Just before I come home from work every day I have this moment when I hear all the things I need to write, when I feel the elusive words slipping down from the attic that I was grasping for when I was sitting in front of my screen on my day off. I try to hold onto them in the last hour before I head home hoping that I can run inside and transcribe them all like gospels. But the second I walk through the door all the clear strong words evaporate like morning fog, immaterial, barely relevant compared to my son’s immediate need for food.

I forget to settle back into the minutiae. You think the story is in the wide heroic actions, but I always find it in the pancake batter crusted on the fork left in the sink, hard as plaster and as appetizing as eviscerated trash. I don’t care about the large gestures as much as I care about the way a room smells the moment your heart shatters, or all the moments a lover isn’t thinking about sex, or the last onion frying in the pan.

I’m struggling hard to reconcile my day job with my family obligations and the obligation I have to my writing. I came here to my blog tonight because I remembered just in time that this is the chronicle of it all. Of everything. The good, the bad, the ugly.

I have come to treat it as the place I shed my political skin. The place I shed my socially conscious skin. The place I shed my spiritual skin, such as it is. I have made a bad habit of forgetting the real purpose of this virtual space of mine. This is an ongoing letter of sorts, a ceaseless note to self.

NOTE TO SELF:

The Wilson verdict in Fergason is depressing, predictable, and despicable. I stand with the protesters for justice in Fergason in spirit and in belief. I know I’m white and as such I’m part of the epic problem in this nation, at least symbolically. But in reality I am always going to stand up with my fellow humans of all races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and genders for equality, for civil rights. And I’m not afraid to get hurt doing it if that’s what’s called for from me.

The desert makes me feel parched of hope and vision.

The only reason I am able to travel by plane at all is thanks to my anxiety medications.

VIVA LA MODERN MEDICINE!

Last time I flew without the aid of SSRIs I nearly disintegrated into a feral puddle of claustrophobic panic and disorder. I was certain the flight attendants were withholding water from me on purpose and trying to kill me with cookies loaded with enough thirst-inducing sugar to fuel a rocket.

I can’t choose between “Cracked Actor” and “Loving the Alien” tonight.

I’ve already listened to Miley Cyrus while writing this so please feel free to judge me harshly for being – I don’t know what – a philistine? A music junkie? A person without taste?

Also: FUCK YOU.

Listening to “Loving the Alien”  makes me smell “Paris” perfume and hear the purr of Mercedes Benz motors stretching down the highway through Marin County.

Listening to “Win” reminds me of wool “Willi Smith” trousers, socks printed with Chinese characters that probably spelled things like “Magic Happy Shrimp Sex” and “You Dumb Americans Will Buy Anything”. It reminds me of discovering San Francisco as a 15 year old. Let loose while my mom went to job interviews, I remember the fog and the smell of Macy’s. I remember feeling like I was HOME for the first time in years. The same way I felt when I arrived in Scotland.

Scotland and San Francisco are still the only two places that have made me feel that visceral sensation of being HOME. Being where I simply AM.

I love Santa Rosa and I feel at home here and I hope I never  need to move away again. It feels like home now, but not in the same visceral way as San Francisco and Scotland always feel.

I don’t regret moving out of SF. Not after the 200 rounds of ammunition were shot out a block from my last apartment there. And other shootouts. And other violent noises and daily city aggressions.

This post feels like one long slow bleed. It’s because I’ve written so little in so long.

“Five Years” is the perfect way to end this night.

The only thing I miss about my youth is how brilliantly I wore vintage men’s suits.

I have myrrh should anyone’s life depend on it.

IMG_20140918_115730

This is the fourth week at my new job. I’m still scrambling to adjust to my new schedule that includes 20 hrs of working outside the home. I’ve started (and then stopped) riding my bicycle to work. I have only stopped because this week I’m preparing for a weekend trip over which I’m pretty spastically excited because I haven’t taken a trip of any kind for 3 years. I’ll resume riding my bicycle to work next week.

I’m most looking forward to hanging out in the airport, staying in a hotel room and watching crap tv, meeting my friend Kele, not having to worry about anyone but myself, hogging a bed all to myself, being alone, people watching, writing field notes, drinking everywhere (you can judge all you want and it will deflect off of me like water off a duck’s back), seeing a new place, being alone, change in routine, being el mysterioso woman abroad who rocks a beret, knowing that I’m a person who has myrrh should anyone’s life depend on it.

I’ve joined NaNoWriMo and I still hate that name after all these years hearing about it.

I’ve chosen to work on my idea for “The Nightmare Club” for it. The main character is Perla who looks a lot like Jasika Nicole. This work is close to my heart. It’s what haunts me. It lives inside of me. Perla starts a club for people who suffer chronic nightmares like she does to discuss the psychology of nightmares and to be around other people who understand what it’s like to suffer from them.  But when a member of The Nightmare Club is murdered and elaborately staged in a scene from one of the nightmares shared with the group, suspicion settles on the members of the group and everyone wonders it they’re next.

My online friend John is reading Cricket and Grey and has said such encouraging things about my writing that I had to open up my own book and read a little to believe the good things he said. My favorite scene in the whole book is the first kiss (chapter 10) and I believe it’s because of the scarlet and peaches line. Summer coming before the spring. Another writer acquaintance of mine read my novel recently and also said such kind and encouraging things – it isn’t that writers are necessarily vain motherfuckers, they need some perspective that only readers can give them. The bad things help them grow if they’re willing to listen and the positive things reinforce their passion.

My passion is reignited.

Not that it was out.

But it’s been so hard to write lately with all the changes going on, adjustment to working outside the home again, writing endless emails on Max’s behalf, doing an endless daily mountain of dishes. I have but one professional life’s ambition. I don’t let go willingly. I wrote 1600 words today. It wasn’t easy to push myself but I’m glad I did.

Shit. I’m listening to the soundtrack to Bridget Jone’s Diary. I used to blast this as loud as my stereo would crank it while I cleaned house and I would sing to every song (poorly) and feel so happy. But there’s a song missing. I wonder if it’s from a different soundtrack? Can’t figure out what I’m looking for that isn’t here.

Let it be.

Let it be.

Let it go.

Two days until I get to sit in an airport and pretend to be anyone but myself and no one will know. No one will question.

I get to write myself completely new.

The Good Noise

IMG_20140807_140710

I declared an intention I didn’t fulfill. I was going to drag John out of his case and play the crap out of him even if I can’t remember shit. Instead I went back to work and didn’t have time. It’s been too long. I admit I’m scared the note memory has fled the building and all I have left is a bewildered fuzzy memory of being able to play some songs.

If this is true then my epee thrust is also wanting.

(Things I used to practice and commit to the twilight driveway lined in ivy and buzzing with wasps)

Keokuk Street. Books. Musty garage smell. Pill bug highway. Vases of lilacs on the solid oak big-cheese desk. Playing “O Sole Mio” for the bread dough rising in the garage we called the kitchen. Chasing toxic childhood ghosts from my life. Grouting a doorway while Cash complained of Folsom Prison Blues and Mahalia was five times more proud than me.

I don’t work tomorrow. Max goes to school. Philip goes to work. It’s important to try to remember the notes I used to see in my mind. It’s important to reclaim the madness, the good madness, the good noise.

I’ll Be Your Usher If You’ll Be Mine

self portrait

Self Portrait of the Author Listening to Lies

Reality has a way of rearing its hideous head at the most awkward and unusual moments, catching us off guard and under dressed. Monday, Philip emailed me when he got to work to let me know how much we didn’t have in our bank account and I went into an instant tailspin. We have a water bill and an electric bill due and 90% of the next pay check will go towards paying our rent. We made some poor choices this past week buying too much beer, taking our kid out to eat. Taking our dog to the vet. Paying my phone bill. Now we can  barely afford coffee and cheese is not in the budget.

Max has an infected ingrown toenail and the advice nurse suggested he wear a pair of open toed shoes and I explained that he thinks flip flops are an abomination. She said his shoes might be too tight and should wear a looser pair. I explained that he has only one pair of shoes. I can’t explain the feeling that blossomed in my gut – but any parent who’s ever struggled to provide for their kid doesn’t need this explained.

Ever since last fall we’ve been struggling to make it on one income because we function best as a family when I’m home full time to care for us and to write. Because that’s the life we actually want to be living. We came so close, and yet, not so much. So on Monday I got the message loud and clear that this isn’t working, that the next four weeks are already promising to be pretty dire, that I can’t get a job soon enough.

I instantly spiraled deep down into a freak-out of epic proportions. 48 hours later and I’m cautiously crawling out of the fuck-fest of my own dark hell. I have smeared my social media with my sticky tarry thoughts and shot down every person who tried valiantly to improve my outlook and mood. I’m a fucking professional when it comes to these emotional roller coaster rides and yet I can’t get off of them come hell or high water.

Right now I feel ragged with an emotional hangover so bad I’m going to feel it for days. I’m ashamed of my profound loss of hope, of my determination to be the loser I believe I am when I’m not vigilantly guarding my successes. Of how ready I always am to curl up into the dark and let it subsume me in one big hungry bite.

Whatever I’ve said in the last two days is a part of me, a part of my story, my studied lines. That darkness is real, the despair is honest, the brokenness is so real you can rub the rust of it off on your fingers just reading about it and taste the metal blood of this life I’ve cut myself to survive.

I’m ashamed to have let it all show. And yet I know that part of the honesty I’ve taxed myself with in this life demands that I not shove this ugly under the rug so you all think I’m some special light shining through all adversity and never breaks. I BREAK ALL THE TIME.

I do nothing by halves. Ever. It’s all technicolor fox trots and suicide with me. It’s the one thing you can always count on – I’ll never hide the real show behind the velvet curtain. All this ugly is public. Because I know that someone else out there is struggling to gulp air into waterlogged lungs of hopelessness.

I’m mentally ill. Not in a mild and fun kind of way. I’m seriously mentally ill and I strive to live a life as full of inappropriate laughter as I can muster because it’s where I gather my strength from. The irreverent, the ridiculous, the ironic. That’s my food, that’s my drug.

But of course I also have psychiatric drugs and I thank my fucking stars I have access to those because my son depends on me to keep some semblance of evenness. Of the calm that comes with vespers and flooding night blindness. In spite of support from medications I will always be vulnerable to epic losses of faith, of hope, of light. They are real to me. You need to know this. I FEEL them as strongly as some people feel a rise in hope as summer approaches.

Thrown off course I will spin violently against my own will. I’ll watch as I do it, a hapless victim of my own wild permutations of mood and despair. I can feel myself revving up with the fire of a thousand matches set to light abandoned cars on fire, to watch life burn to the ground all around me, ghosts rising up to meet the toxic smoke, lung for lung.

This is mental illness. It tells me so many lies. In the quiet moments I can recognize them. I can meet them with a chartered smile and an artificial grace. I can smell the lies for what they are. I can kick them aside and cry foul. I can recognize the false voice that tells me hoping is for losers, that everyone else has lost hope for me a long time ago. It speaks for people it’s never met, it speaks for people it’s met with lies.

That’s the main thing about mental illness – it lies to those that suffer from it. Constantly. It’s exhausting fielding the lies and digging through the spiritual rubble for the truth. Every time I succumb to its seduction of failure, its stench of quartered moldering dreams, I don’t see it until afterwards. Until I’ve screamed into the darkness like a child seeing death for the first time. The words I’ve said, the despair I’ve earmarked for myself is false. It’s built on a pyre of lies.

If I was smart I would close into myself when I feel the shit storm approaching. I would cut off all communication until it passes. I would protect you all from the dark clouds and the stench of human frailty. But I promised myself I would never cover it up. That I would be honest and ride it out and take the blows as they come, take the damage dealt as part of my illness, as it IS.

Not just for my sake. For my whole tribe. Some of whom can’t begin to articulate this torture we experience and who lose themselves in it. I will not lie, because of them as much as for myself. So I let it all come out, oozing at times with the toxic sludge of self doubt and rushing at times with the passion of creativity so many in my tribe are gifted with. I remain honest through good times and bad.

I can’t divorce myself from myself. I tried that when I was a teen and almost fractured my personality. I still have issues related to this. I can’t be other than I am. I WILL ABANDON SELF or I WILL KILL SELF or I WILL BECOME A MIME – distress calls from my spirit.

I bleed true. Always. Whatever you know me to be – I am she. I am that. I am IT.

I am strong so much of the time. I will support you with my life. I will shield you from your worst self. I’ll jump into the chasm between your work and your heart creating a bridge between the two. I will hold you above the fucking fires – but I will always fall underneath my own goddamn flag of genius.

Please forgive my hopelessness. My mental illness tells me terrible lies that I believe every single fucking time.

I’m shaking the fire from my bones. This takes a while. The more I make jokes about not being a cannibal the more restored I am to my equilibrium. I said I gave up as a writer. I etched this declaration with bits of flesh and blood because that’s how much I have given up. Except that I can never give up.

When I’m telling you how completely I’ve given up I’m still in my heart and I’m still bleeding when I say it. Look away until it’s over if you need to. This bit is pretty fucking bloody and vile because I’m still in my heart as I say it. I can’t leave it. So the truth is that I have to keep trying, keep hoping, no matter how much abuse or shit gets between me and the truth.

I always end up back at the Happy Super smelling the slush of fish guts the trucks drain into the gutter underneath my bedroom window. I always end up standing motionless at the back of the truck talking to the gutted pig with dead eyes. I always end up talking to the packages of squid and buying boxes of Thai Tea.

If you remember me in your life beyond this morning I hope you remember that no matter what, I hoped for myself I always had room to dream the stars for you. If you remember me beyond today, let it be that I believed (against all odds) in love, love, and true love. If I make a mark in your life at all, let it be that the mentally ill are a magnificent crowd of people full of stories, a darkness so dark you never have to worry when your own lights go out – we’ll still see you. If you remember me, let it be that an atheist spoke to God and got the same answer the devil got to the question: what does it all mean?

It means we crossed paths and now you’ll be the person I have affairs with for the rest of my dreaming life.

You and David Bowie. Some day you’ll see this for the deep compliment it is.

I was going to apologize for my steep fall from hope. I’ve decided this isn’t necessary. Some day you’re going to find yourself in this same place and I will be your usher out of the abyss. All for love.

All for fucking love.

Monday Thoughts

IMG_20140823_161013

On my mind right now:

Definitely not war. Or politics. Or hatefulness. Or bigotry. Or stupid asshole people. Or guns. Or violence. Or rape. And most of all – DEFINITELY NOT WAR. I’m on a news fast right now. No clicking on links that will depress me and hate humankind more than I already do.

Tomatoes. I have a lot of tomatoes in the house and I’m already lusting for MORE. This is how I get with food preserving. I don’t even have any shelf space left for more canned goods. Rearranging must happen. Plus freezing more things. Today I’m going to make a summer vegetable soup to freeze.

Clothes. Partly because I have very little to wear. The pants I made myself a year ago need some fixing (which I can do now that I have my serger back). I need more clothes. But I’m also thinking about clothes for my dystopiian fashion line for my Etsy shop. I’m excited by possibilities and a little overwhelmed with where to start. Meanwhile I have two more smocks in progress.

I’ve been getting in my own way again. Fuck. I’m a pro at this.

Some day I want to kick a door in with my boots.

I don’t want to get a part time job outside the home. I don’t want to stop doing all my homesteading activities. I’m living the life I want to live now minus the income. I need to be patient and work hard towards making money but hold tight to what I want.

Beer gotta go. Yeah, still drinking and it’s much harder to commit to going sober again this time around. I’ll get there and I wouldn’t even have said this out loud but I’m still trying to keep myself honest on my own blog. Not interested in starting conversations about this topic, certainly not in person with anyone. I’ve got to get myself where I want to go on my own volition.

Max made a self portrait in Photoshop at school and I said “That’s a great self portrait! But you look like you haven’t slept in weeks and are maybe strung out on drugs” He says “The title of that picture is ‘Max as a tired 40 year old'”

Max and I went out to happy hour to two places on Friday and decided that Santa Rosa is an excellent city to be in during a zombie apocalypse. Does your family have a zombie apocalypse survival plan? If not, you should work on one!

Max also ate and enjoyed shrimp ceviche. With avocado and cucumbers. He didn’t eat the peppers or onions.

Worried Chick has mange. Must investigate and probably make her a vet appointment.

Time to go process tomatoes!

 

 

 

Is There a First Aid Kit for Life Decisions?

first aid kit 1

The Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit

I remember all the years of not knowing which bills we could afford to pay on time and which ones would have to be fobbed off until the next pay check, or forever. I hoped we could leave those years behind us. We got a reprieve for over a year, and for that I feel such gratefulness. To know what it feels like to be able to pay all the bills and be able to afford the normal comforts of a modest life without having to look at the bank balance every day. To be able to afford to get the dentistry we need when we need it. To be able to buy light bulbs as they blow out. To have more than one pair of shoes.

I know how to be thankful for these blessings.

Coming back to that tight place – juggling bills from week to week, always two weeks late paying the power and water bills. We don’t even have credit card bills or car payments. Our rent takes up half our income. I imagine this is pretty normal for most Americans. I imagine there are a lot of Americans paying a higher percentage of their income to keep a roof over their heads than we do.

We’re lucky that we’re still able to afford some luxuries like rot-gut wine during the week, beer on weekends (though we shouldn’t because, clearly, we can’t actually afford this), and Philip taking the kid out to share a plate a fries and wings instead of a full meal. There are so many people not able to have these little luxuries. My thoughts are here this weekend, not feeling bitter about tight financial restraints but feeling tired of them.

It’s looking more and more necessary for me to return to looking for a job outside the home. Not gonna lie, it depresses me. I belong at home. I’m a writer. I’m a homesteader. I’m a mom. I’m a mentally ill person who is healthiest when close to home, to my kitchen, my laptop, and to my people.

A close friend has told me about a possible job coming up that I might be qualified for. My friend Sid thinks I would be great in the mental health field and has been suggesting I would be skillful in an advocacy role. This job has yet to be officially posted and maybe when it is I will find that I’m not even qualified to apply, a common problem I encounter. Philip and Max want me to apply. They want me happy but our financial restraints are a big stress on us all so they’d kind of prefer me to step up my efforts for supplementing our income without prostitution.

It doesn’t matter how grateful you are for what you have because you know a billion other people have less – the day to day stress of living hand to mouth and coming up short is stressful and anyone who says otherwise is lying their fucking asses off.

I’m so torn. I’ve just come up with ideas for my Etsy shop, for making things that tie in with my book and for the first time in a long time finding myself excited about sewing but the reality is harsh and firm. At the best of times I’ve sold very little. What makes this time different? Am I being hopeful with no foundation for it?

Going to a job 20+ hours a week means I’ll barely have enough time to parent, do those things I need to do for my mental health, and write. Forget making things to build a nebulous online store.

But to work in mental health, even as an administrative assistant, has its pull too. To serve my tribe in any way is honorable. To do it while also easing my family’s financial strain? I think Philip and Max get instinctually how stupid it would be for me not to at least apply.

I sound pretty sad-sack I suppose. I know what I want, I just don’t know how hard I should hang onto my preferred way of getting there. I don’t know what is the best way forward. I don’t know the best pass to get across the finish line.

This weekend I finally finished putting together and listing my Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit. Tonight, while thinking about other paths forward, I had to stop and recognize that no matter how bad I am at selling my designs and ideas – I can tell you that I’m fucking proud of the products I’ve designed and assembled over the years just as much as I’m proud of the kind of employee I’ve been. I was a great color specialist at Mulberry Neckwear. When I was a shipping manager I put my boots and soul into the job and kicked ass. I loved it. When I made cards and aprons for my own company, Dustpan Alley, I knew the quality was superb and the style notable. When I opened my retail shop I filled it with the best products and other people loved my shop – business was growing steadily (and healthily for retail stores) and could have grown to be successful.

I put 110% into everything I do.

My first aid kits took me a year to plan and design and to assemble. I’m putting one in my own bathroom because it was my own family’s need that inspired them in the first place.

I’m stressed. Super stressed. Anyone who knows me knows this is the usual status quo, more and never-less. Even when I don’t have stressful stimuli affecting me – I have clinical anxiety that’s no joke. Fuck you if you don’t want to GET IT.

I don’t know how we’re going to get through this week until Friday (payday). I don’t know if we’re going to end up with overdrafts in the bank account. I don’t know what will happen after this week. I don’t know if I’ll manage to get my Etsy shop to take off enough to let me stay home. I don’t know if that job listing will end up being a perfect fit and my path diverges in a direction I didn’t plan or expect, again.

I will say that if working away from home means I’m serving, in any capacity, the mentally ill community, there is a poetic beauty in that. A justness, a rightness, a visceral attraction I can’t deny. It would mean I’d have to give up my Etsy shop. I can’t do that and work outside the home too. But if it produced a steady paycheck, there’s beauty in that. And I’d still write. Because I have to write. I need to write.

I haven’t been writing my thoughts out enough lately. I can tell by the longitudinal way I’m getting around to the center of what’s in my mind right now.

I’m throwing seeds into the air. The hot stillness of our late summer isn’t likely to carry them far, but I’m hopeful they’ll land just where they need to. There’s old fight in me for the way I thought my life would and should go, old ideas of the plays I should make and the ones I make out of desperation.

Until a direction is forced, one way or another, I will continue to fill my Etsy shop and work on my ideas for creating dystopian inspired products. If another clear opportunity arises to use what I have to make, create, soothe, fill a void, help my tribe, lift up others – I will give it my fullest attention. Whatever it is.

No matter what I have to do to help my family pay bills – I will continue to write.

The one constant, always, throughout my life, has been writing.

I’m taking this to bed with me tonight.

I’m not scared.

Not more than usual, anyway.