Category Archives: The Variety Show

Favagedden

fava harvest

I harvested these favas the first week of May. We just finished eating them. Imwalle Gardens still has favas so I bought 20 lbs of them yesterday. Even though I still felt like crap. I got them mostly processed. But my stomach issues weren’t over and it was a less joyful food processing session than usual. Fava season is as important to me as tomato season. I look forward to it all year.

Last year I did a ton of marinated favas and made the terrible error of not cooking the favas before canning them. I blanched them as usual and thought they’d be tender enough. I was wrong. The bigger beans weren’t tender enough to be enjoyable eating. So I have to figure out what the hell to do with all of them. I’m thinking I can cook them in a marinara sauce until tender? I have to try it.

It’s sunny outside and I want to go do some gardening things. I need to make supports for my tomatoes and I need to get some seeds planted (I didn’t get any planted yesterday) but I also need to work on my survey. I think I’ll do both. Somehow. A bit of each.

Why does my mom and all my neighbors put wind chimes up? I wonder if they would notice if I attached chewed gum to them so they would thud instead of “tinkle”? I will now fuck off on a fantasy of wind chime sabotage. Life is good.

Surfacing From Stomach “Bug” Hell

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Weight on Monday 5/9/16: 270 (Heaviest in life)

Weight on Saturday 5/14/16: 263 (Did not intend to lose 8 lbs)

I started counting calories and getting more exercise. I rode my bicycle to work and back (also rode to the cafe during break) one day, the next day I rode my bicycle to Safeway for a few things we needed. Wednesday I took a break from exercise but still counted my calories and at that point had lost 4lbs. Who knows why so much, normally it happens in smaller increments. I don’t really care. I was just happy to see the scale drop below my heaviest weight ever down to my previous heaviest weight.

Then at 5am on Thursday morning I woke up feeling sick to my stomach and a little dizzy and needing to throw up. I did not throw up because I held that feeling DOWN – also held down whatever wanted to come up. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t sit up for long or lay down for long or stand up much at all.

Gastroenteritis is my idea of the deep pits of hell. The only thing worse than gastroenteritis is having influenza. I never did throw up but all day yesterday my body revolted and did the only other thing it can do in that situation. It continues today, however I feel a lot better in spite of that. I weighed myself and discovered that in two days with the stomach flu I lost an additional 4 lbs. This was not intentional, obviously.

Ted Cruz was in my dream this morning. We were learning French while trying to get some other business done. I was impatient and also angry that that whiny chauvinist creepy son of a bitch was in my dream. The teacher pointed to her necklace of bachelor buttons and told me to tell her how to make such a necklace of her own. So I faffed around with the sentence “Vous achetez …” but couldn’t find the French word for bachelor button plants and I was running out of time. There were also chickens and kittens getting in an out of blankets and cages they shouldn’t have been and a kitten spraying some bedding. As usual there were also very dark themes going on but I can’t remember what they were.

My first batch of kittens for the year is already at the adoption center this weekend. Hopefully having a great time and hopefully about to find great loving homes to live in.

I’m not sure how much longer I can sit here at my desk. I think I need to lay down for a while again. On the couch. Perhaps to watch a garden show. If I can find a good one to watch.

Later I’d like to put in some more time with my survey data compiling. I’d like to get out into the garden. Not sure if I can do any of that. This 48 hour stomach bullshit is exhausting. You do nothing and get worn out by it.

So I’m off for now. Going to get as inspired as I can via the recovery couch and perhaps inch outside to plant a few squash seeds.

 

Time to Lay Down a New Track

Pippa and me

The mind runs on tracks. At least, that’s how my psychologist put it to me many years ago. Some tracks are positive, some are not. We get stuck. Well, maybe you don’t, but I definitely do. I believe that it’s especially easy to get stuck on on the same track when you have an obsessive mind. There is no question that my mind likes to get on a track until forced off of it. I’ve worked hard to destroy old negative tracks and to build healthier ones. But sometimes I build a track that starts off positive and ends up dragging me down to the ground like a thick swamp that smells of death and never-brushed teeth.

I’ve been on a track that started out therapeutic and ended up completely repetitive and unhealthy. The one where I drink late at night listening to music that charges up emotions from a dark place of the past and regurgitates them. Over and over again. It’s gotten to the point where I forgot how to write anything else. I didn’t see it coming until it was a problem and was making me uncomfortable with myself.

Time for new tracks. Please feel free to substitute the word “tapes” for tracks. Same thing. No more late night writing. No more drinking while writing. No more music while writing. At least not the kind that brings me to that place I need to stop hanging out.

I also have gotten right back to where I began with my weight. I’m not happy. I know that I will never feel okay about myself where I’m at now. It’s more than body weight, it’s a huge psychic weight. It undermines all the progress I try to make. Obviously I’m in a pretty tough place with this. In order to lose the weight I have to cut down on drinking by at least 3/4. One of the things that makes me drink the way I do is feeling anxious and also feeling disgusting in body. Low self esteem. I’m in a catch 22 situation where my self loathing and my drinking are the perfect co-conspirators to this stasis.

I’ve been spending a lot more time in my garden. It’s been wonderful. I think it’s part of what has renewed my hope that I can, after a decade of not making an inch of permanent progress, resume my efforts and actually get somewhere without falling backwards to the starting line.

I rode my bicycle to work today and then on my break to go get coffee. That felt good.

It’s time I came back to my blog for the mundane and the daily pep talks. It’s an important but long neglected part of my own self care. It’s time to record the little things I’m doing that I enjoy, the small triumphs, the stupid stuff, the silly stuff. I don’t want to start a new blog. I don’t want to re-invent myself. I just want to reclaim myself. I’ve got all the tools, I just need to use them.

I’m off to eat some home made minestrone, clean my kitchen, and then watch something on tv I’ve already watched a hundred times.

 

Why The Title “Suicide for Beginners”?

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There WILL be typos in this post. If that’s all you have to comment on after you read it, keep it to your damn self.

I explained the title of my book “Suicide for Beginners” in the long post I wrote about the project. A couple of people have commented on this title unfavorably. One person thinks it’s too dark, that my project should be called something more like “how to survive suicide”, and another person has suggested I “be careful” with this title as it may be triggering.

Here’s the deal: first of all, I am not writing a book about how to survive suicide. My goal isn’t to save lives for the sake of saving lives. My goal in writing this book is to offer other people like me peer support and to help people with serious depression feel less alone. If it helps them hang on longer to possibly find some therapies or meds that offer real relief and a better quality of life or if it just makes a single person feel more understood and less alone for a few hours, then I have accomplished my goal.

Secondarily, this book is meant to offer real insight to people who don’t know shit about depression so they can stop acting like turds and offer better support to the people in their lives who suffer from it. EDUCATION. Education from the very people who know most about it – US. The people who live with this shit day in and day out.

Thirdly, while I understand and respect the concept of triggering vulnerable people and would like to not be a person going around triggering people, the title of this book, should it come up in a person’s online search for methods to kill themselves will be a deep disappointment. If someone is already looking online for ways to kill themselves, they have already been triggered. They’re already at code red. Seeing the title “Suicide for Beginners” may make them think they’ve found a handy step-by-step manual for killing themselves, and won’t it be a deep fucking disappointment to discover that instead it’s a title to a book that may actually provide the temporary balm they need to get through another day. At worst, they’re determined to kill themselves and they’ll keep looking for what they need to help them. My book won’t be it.

So to suggest this title is “triggering” seems strange to me.

The other thing is, if we cannot use the words that describe our crisis and/or our worst experiences, even to each other, how the fucking hell are we going to talk honestly? The truth is that if you are like me and have experienced abuse and also have mental illness and have wanted to kill myself (or just never wake up again) at different points in my life, and have horrible anxiety and panic disorder, life will offer constant triggers. That’s a fact. We DO have to take care of ourselves and sometimes that means we have to avoid people/places/conversations/topics etc.

Exploiting vulnerability for entertainment or for shock value is not my gig and I absolutely understand why people in my community are becoming more vocal in their objections to these things. Rape scenes in books and movies that are brutal and explicit are, more often than not, unnecessary and for those who’ve been through it themselves – it’s like being forced to relive the worst day of their lives.

On the other hand, people who haven’t been raped often downplay the brutality of it, think it isn’t that bad, really, because at least you’re not dead. Society on the whole agrees that rape is “bad” but when it comes down to it they also don’t feel comfortable ruining men’s lives when it might have been nothing more than a “misunderstanding” or that the women who are raped are somehow at fault. So, when writers and artists depict violence or dark mental landscapes – do you really want them to soften the blow, turn down the lights, and let people who don’t understand continue to believe in their hearts that other people’s suffering is not something they need to concern themselves with?

Not me. I would much rather that truths be revealed with as much raw honesty as possible, in conversations between individuals, in art, in culture, in education.

I’m not okay asking people to NOT depict rape, suicide, illness, or murder in their works of fiction. For at least a millennia, telling stories has been the best way humans have found to tell their real stories in a way that others will remember and repeat. Fiction has been an important mirror of ourselves, well, forever.

Rape is a horrible thing that happens to thousands of women and some men every single day and is accepted by society to a shocking degree – this stuff needs to be in the open. You can’t tell fiction writers not to have rape in their books. It’s like saying you can’t have characters who get divorced or have  babies. Rape, abuse, depression, suicide, mental illness; these are every-day things millions of people experience. That’s a fuck-ton of stories needing to be told in one way or another. You can’t ask anyone not to tell the stories they experienced in real life in fiction, or to not share the brutality of abuse they have gone through or seen others go through just because it reminds you of what you went through and it hurts. Demanding we not use words like “rape” or depict rape or other “triggering” words is another way of trying to silence people.

I will NOT be complicit in silencing truth.

Suicide is a real problem for people who suffer from mood disorders in particular and mental illness in general. We do not create it, we do not fixate on death (or on simply not existing, a passive form of suicidal ideation) to shock the people around us, and we do not kill ourselves because we are desperate for attention or because we’re selfish assholes.

The title of my book is deliberate. It’s what I would have given to myself when I was a teen first beginning to unravel, when I was just a beginner to the damnation and darkness I was plunged into and have never been free of for the last 33 years. Suicide for Beginners is the book I wish had been already written when I was 13 and self harming for the first time. It’s the book I wish I could have given to people around me too, who didn’t understand what I was going through and whose ignorance made my journey even harder.

While this book isn’t only for beginners to suicide, but that’s the concept that started it. If I could have known how many other people there were out there with the same struggles as mine, the one thing I would have been spared was feeling desperately alone in a sea of humans who are wholly alien to me. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties and started talking openly about my struggles that I began to find others who knew what I was talking about, who empathized and understood. It didn’t fix my depression to know others were going through the same thing as me but it DID give me courage, it did make me feel less isolated, it did give me more strength to face this lying asshole called depression.

My ultimate goal isn’t to save lives but to improve the quality of living for people like me by providing messages from hundreds of other people with serious depression that say “we understand” and “we care about you” and to provide data from those same hundreds of people on things like what are the five most important things we can do to manage our depression/anxiety. Useful information straight from other sufferers, not from a lab or a statistics farm.

I would love to see the numbers of suicides drop dramatically in my lifetime but before we can reduce those numbers significantly, we need to educate the masses and stop them from making us all feel infinitely worse. We need to listen to the mentally ill more and to the media’s interpretation of mental illness less. We need to reduce isolation, reduce the stigmas, and we need to remind each other that, collectively speaking, we’re a pretty  vibrant, funny, empathetic, and awesome community of people and the world needs our perspective.

I’m interested in the truth. All of it. There is no gentle conversation we can have about suicide. There is no gentle version of killing one’s self or of passive self destruction. So let’s not tip-toe around it, okay?

One last thing. A pivotal moment in my life as an aspiring writer was when I wrote a piece of first person narrative for an English class in 10th grade. I chose to write an interior monologue of someone trying to kill themselves. The character I chose for my fiction was male but the monologue was mine. It was a scenario I’d run through my own head many times. I fictionalized something dreadfully dark I was going through and I spared no one’s feelings. It didn’t even occur to me. I wrote honestly and when I turned it in I was suddenly terrified. Why the fuck did I have to open my own jugular in front of my teacher’s eyes? When the day came to hand our papers back to us I was all nerves. He chose the best few stories to be read aloud to the class. He read them himself. He chose mine.

The other stories were about the spring break vacations students took. The students laughed and nodded along with the stories. But when Mr. Pierce read mine the class went dreadfully silent. The class remained stunned and silent as we were dismissed for recess. He talked to me after class about literature I might enjoy. He spoke to me about continuing to work on my writing. He was impressed with the rawness of my story, with the choice of subject.

What Mr. Pierce did NOT do is call the infirmary and get me committed to a psyche ward, which if I’m being honest, would have been a welcome relief to me. Mr. Pierce recognized truth in fiction and he treated me with respect and I believe he was offering me an opening to reach out as well. I didn’t take the opening offered but I did feel empowered by having a teacher actually listen to, and share, something so deeply personal to me. He saw value in the truth and that’s the first time I understood what one of the societal roles of writers really is. To mirror reality.

The title of my book will not be changed to reflect a falsely positive view of depression. It will not be changed to comfort those who want to believe that it’s really just a matter of changing one’s perspective. The title is completely intentional and an honest reflection of the purpose of this project.

I will not apologize if it makes anyone uncomfortable.

try to follow if you can

In my mind I live life operatically. In reality I live like an animal balloon wheezing out its last squeak. I run towards arrows like a reckless soldier who knows her luck, such as it was, has diminished into negligent margins. I make wide gestures of living because I don’t know how to keep my thoughts and limbs tight. I’m a constant explosion of raw thought and strange spaghetti words stuck to peeled paint ceilings falling deftly, silently, into the mouths of witless dreamers.

Most of the time I doubt the substance of my own bones. I’m the bitter ghost of all abused children, the patron saint of broken skin. Most of the time I feel myself disappear  beneath the weight of human suffering. I can’t breathe when you can’t breathe. I can’t move on when your nightmares burn through your last defenses and you construct walls to hold your bleeding fear in check.

Whatever I am is less important than holding your wings out for your free-fall from earth’s atmosphere. Whatever I am is less important than helping you find the light burning quietly through your solar plexus, the same light that will ignite bonfires across a universe of unquenchable thought.

I can’t make you see yourself in your own mirror. All I can do is reflect you in mine where you shine like a spirit without anchor, where you shimmer into a pool of collected precipitation.

I will always break your fall here in the cotton mornings.

I will give you my skin. I don’t need it where I’m going.

I will give you my voice. It’s the only weapon I’ve ever mastered.

I will give you my heart, because a lifetime of shattering couldn’t prevent it from mending under the protective film of poetry.

You are magnificent. This morning, right now, in every stumble towards the next frame, the next conversation – YOU. ARE. MAGNIFICENCE.

Go on. Close your eyes and dream.

I will never be far from you.

 

The Truth is Brittle

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This seedling, beacon of hope, adorable, and gambler against the odds is dead now. But that’s not the moral of the story.

Yes it is. That’s always the moral of the story. Shit happens and then you die.

When I cry in front of people I have the overwhelming urge to hurt myself. This is something I started admitting out loud about 5 years ago but I suspect people always assume I’m speaking either hyperbolically or metaphorically. Or that they wish I was.

I’m not.

I still harbor a lot of secrets when it comes to my mental landscape. Over the years I’ve been leaking the truth drip by drip like some torturous archaic coffee machine that delivers your brew viscous, strong, and cold. You have no idea the lengths I’ll go to protect myself.

Unless you’re part of my tribe, my community of mentally ill people, in which case you do.

This process of opening up the dark vaults, exposing the wild colors and noises, the involuntary x-ray sight through the human heart, it’s slow and deliberate. Every step feels like it might be the end of the tracks, the point of no return, the final evaluation in which we’re fossilized in our own emptiness.

When I tell people about picking at my skin I want to shiv myself. I feel dirty and disgusting. I didn’t start admitting to the dermatillomania until recently. There’s so much shame in it. ABJECT SHAME. Even though I know, intellectually, that it’s a response to the condition of my brain, to the environmental landscape of my youth.

I will always have secrets from everyone, for their own protection. Every year I say more, share more, shed light on new corners of my psyche, and yet there is always more that remains in darkness.

There are times when I look around me and all I see are vaginas and penises. Genitals walking around, pontificating, gesturing (!!), and orating. I’ll be on a bus and every single human I see is a giant genital. It’s not a hallucination (I’ve had those too and know the difference), it’s a perspective. Not knowing a person’s gender is perplexing and intriguing because they don’t appear clearly to me in any particular way.

I can often see into the hearts of people, whether I want to or not. I can see the pocked diseased tissue, I can see the secrets they’ll never confess to, and I can see the way love seeps into crevices into which love has no place. I can’t fix what I see because I’m not Jesus, Muhammad, or Buddha. Whatever. I can see the dust of hopelessness, I can feel the damp loose lullabies of the pitch spirit, and I feel the ton of rocks pinning my chest to the great wide nothing.

I never tell people how often I want to not exist or how often I want to die because normals aren’t strong enough for that truth. And that’s the fucking truth. But I’d tell anyone like me how often I want to not exist or how I want to die, because I know you won’t become hysterical, judgemental, or scared.

I’ve asked a lot of people to open themselves up to me in my survey and as I tally up all their answers and make categories all of us can fit into I am deeply humbled by my community. I’m aware of things I haven’t opened up about on my blog where I’ve professed to be completely honest and I have to admit to my own limitations. I feel an arrow wreck my heart with every new survey response.

I know you. I know all of you. It’s as though I was given a conduit to the valves of your hearts when I was born and through my life I’ve felt you all out there like sisters and brothers in spirit.

Pretty sure my arteries have been open to you since you were born too.

The best medicine for depression is as unquantifiable as love

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Sometimes we have to stop talking, stop breathing, stop thinking so we can hear the shadows singing to us under its sweet breath. Sometimes a voice reaches us that is so gentle, so ethereal that we travel across a weightless universe into new skin. People like me need new skin as often as we need new arrows.

Listen!

You feel let down, sorrowful, destitute. I know there’s no easy answer for this ague, I know there’s no cure or water to drink against the terrible dark we face every day. But perhaps there are sounds so angelic that some of us can feel love in the barracks when we’re standing on the sharp edge of yesterday.

This imperfect life is colorful if completely painful and suffocating.

If you’re standing on the edge of a precipice in your life right now, if you’re thinking about jumping into the dark merciful death you’ve been dreaming silently of for years – I still love you. I AM you. You aren’t alone. It isn’t just me that hears you, understands you, and values you – it’s all of us. We are many.

I would like you to stay with us another day. Maybe just another few minutes. Whatever you can give us. We want you here with us. No one can understand you as well as your brethren in emotional perpetuity.

The best medicine for depression is as unquantifiable love.

But it has sound. Many sounds.

Share yours with me.

Share yours with US.

This is mine for you:

Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

This is what love feels like.

The end.

All Roads Lead to OCD

strange life

I grew this peculiar mold on some mushroom stuffing and I couldn’t be prouder of it if I’d done it on purpose. Part angora bunny, part alien spore, and part sea anemone, I think it has the potential to inoculate us all against congenital misconceptions, diseased ideals, and tumors of ill will. Because – LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL BEAST!

Today was a big day for our household (in a good way) and I’m over-stimulated, tired, wired, unquiet but desperate to find a great big static void in my head so I can wake up refreshed and continue with my most important project – the Suicide for Beginners project.*

One of the things buzzing loudly in my head is the discovery of “Pure O” or “Purely O” which I never heard of until one of the respondents of the survey said they were diagnosed with it. So I looked it up. SHITE. IT’S A DESCRIPTION OF THE STATE OF MY BRAIN AT ALL TIMES. WHETHER SLEEPING OR WAKING THE SAME SHIT IS GOING THROUGH MY HEAD AT ALL TIMES AND IT’S THE REASON I WAS FINALLY DRIVEN TO SEEK MENTAL ASSESSMENT AND THERAPY.

My assessing psychologist was reluctant to diagnose me with OCD because, while I clearly had the obsessive thoughts, I seemed to lack the compulsive behaviors that are generally associated with OCD. So he simply put in the notes “shadings of OCD”, though a few years later a psychiatrist said I definitely had OCD, no shadings about it.

I think it’s important to note that I was much too ashamed to tell my psychologist about the compulsive twisting of fabric around my thumb and fingers that I’ve been doing since I was 7 years old. I have a permanent callous on my thumb from this. I do it all day long if I’m not consciously NOT doing it, which takes a lot of work. I also failed to mention my dermatillamania that results in my scalp being covered in scabs and sometimes I pick at my arms and legs too. It’s shameful and awful and until I realized I was purposely not telling Dr. Judine about these two compulsive habits I hadn’t openly admitted either of them to myself.

Does it matter? Maybe this shit doesn’t matter to people who don’t live with a constant flush of violent, inappropriate, and horrible images flashing through their heads all day, but it matters to me to find out WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS FUCKING SHIT THAT THERE’S NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MY DAYTIME BRAIN ACTIVITY AND MY NIGHTMARES?

To know that others experience this, that there may be a bunch of people like me, who live with this same shit – that matters a lot to me. To have a name for it or a succinct summing up of what this shit IS matters a lot to me.

In any case, I did some reading tonight (much too stimulating, should not have done that after a long big day) and I discovered that not all mental health professionals recognize Pure O as a real diagnosis. I read one irritating article that was totally interesting that pointed out that there are covert and overt compulsions and that many professionals may not recognize that many compulsions are largely invisible.

I will have to do more reading on this all later.

It’s already 1 am as I write this and my brain couldn’t be more wired. My body is so fucking exhausted from a long week and a constantly hurting back. I want to spend all day tomorrow working on sorting the survey results for Suicide for Beginners. I should try to sleep. Not sure I can.

I’ll try. Soon. You should too, probably.

 

*Philip doesn’t want me to call it a “project” when it’s clearly a book I’m writing. I would argue that it’s more than a book, it’s arguably the most useful thing I’ve ever worked on and because it didn’t start with the survey and it won’t end with a book – it feels distinctly project-ish. I almost said “project-ile” because my brain won’t stop. “Assicle” happened earlier today and just a couple of hours ago it started repeating “Sarah, syrup, syrup, Sarah, Sarah, syrup – ad infinitum”

Tomorrow Isn’t Every Day

spring skeletons

I’m watching my alpine strawberry seed tray nervously every day, ogling the great nothing that’s happening in it, wondering what deity’s ass I’ve forsaken (all of them, no doubt) for my trays to exhibit such barrenness. I wish my own reproductive organs were this shut down by now, but the machinery keeps churning on with depressing regularity.

Thankfully a few of my zinnia and tomato seeds have sprouted, so all hope’s not lost.

Except that El Drumpf* is looking more and more like he’s going to win the primaries and I can’t fathom a world in which such a hideous post-script of the human species gets to make rules we all have to follow. Mostly I can’t abide the thought of having to listen to him and see him for the next 4 years. I thought I couldn’t be more ashamed of my country than when Bush was leading it, the fact that my country elected his father and then him for 8 long torturous bloody devastating years still stings.

So maybe all hope really IS lost.

It has rained triumphantly all weekend. The northern California reservoirs are all full! This is cause for joy, truly, in this drought-prone chunk of land. I have done nothing but watch garden shows on youtube all weekend. It’s a minor miracle every day that I get some dishes done and get dressed when I don’t technically have to, because my inertia continues to drag out into a thousand damp dark sunsets.

I watched SNL tonight and I’ve come away obsessed with the idea that Leslie Jones should have been cast as Maria in the Sound of Music skit because that would have been hilarious. I don’t think she was in any of the sketches tonight. I love her.

I’m feeling my kittenlessness this week.

When I woke up this morning the first words in my head were “Don’t be a scary Barry, be a harry cherry” and I thought “this is my brain without caffeine!” but then I remembered that my coffee has very little caffeine in it and this is just my brain pretty  much ALL THE FUCKING TIME. So, you know, business as usual.

Something I’ve been thinking about is the irony of writing a book all about depression but having to struggle hard against the inertia and exhaustion of my depression to get any work done on it. I’ve logged 542 people’s responses to the questions “What are the 5 most important things you do to manage your depression?” and “What are the 5 biggest pitfalls to managing your depression?”. I’ve got 42 more to go before I sort through at least 3 other very important sections of the survey before I really dive into the meat of the book. So sometimes I find myself wondering what the fuck I’m doing to myself trying to write this thing.

But every time I sit down to read the survey answers and catalog them I’m reminded to take my medication, to remember that depression is a lying son of a shit, and I’m with my tribe when reading the survey responses and I feel less alone and I remember that this is what I want to share with everyone else in my tribe. This connection, this sense of normalcy in an alien world, this sense of shared torture and the demand that the world listen to us, accept us, understand us, and help us when we need it.

So maybe it’s going to take me a long time to do this thing, or maybe the sudden bursts of energy will propel me farther and faster than I imagine possible, but I know that this is the thing that I most need to work on besides my own self care.

Sometimes I think if I had a perpetual soundtrack of Gregorian chants and pre-1900’s choral music in my head I’d always be okay, that the world would have a timeless context. A kind of serene meditative simultaneously uplifting vocal expression that would over-ride all the hate in the world and fill it with meditation and love.

But the legacy of such music that I find so soul-soothing is actually founded on a religion responsible for so much violence and evil and – dammit – it’s this shit I want to keep my mind from pinning its wings to all the time. Nearly everything humans have done in the world is evil except for art, music, and storytelling. I  need to shout this until my lungs burn with the truth – that no matter what bloodshed humans across the planet get up to, (and they get up to a lot), the love expressed in music and art most often reflects our better wishes, our truths (both dark and light, but honest) and honesty is where enlightenment begins. Whether the inspiration is from Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or from secular mediation – music and art is where we most often find true humanity.

When we were in Israel, the morning prayers of Islamic families were so hauntingly beautiful to me, I could see into the human heart through their worship. When I’ve listened to Christian choral music I have felt so full of light and peace I can see into the best instincts of humans. When I listen to gospel I hear such a mix of pain anchored in faith and hope I see straight into the human spirit.

On and on the world goes, whether or not I care to share the ride with it. Whether I live or die, it will all keep spinning. The evil will continue to jostle the good for space. Light will muscle through the dark and the dark will turn the lights off, over and over and over.

So what does any of it matter anyway?

I may be terrified for my country, feeling the stranglehold of bigotry continue to consume it, and I may despair for humankind – all these terrible things. Yes. All these terrible things. But I want to be here tomorrow to hear a little more music, to tell a little more story, to smell the sun evaporate the wet winter. I want to be here for that because even though I can’t illuminate all the darkness, or even a fraction of it, the inch I can light will help someone else see. I want to be a small torch in the darkness for others.

If you’ve never struggled with suicidal ideation or the obsessive thought that to not-Be would be infinitely better than Being, then you might not appreciate how important it is to be able to say, at any given time “I want to be here tomorrow”.

I don’t always want to be here tomorrow.

Often when I’m driving around town on my Vespa I consciously think “I don’t want to die today” and every single time I can honestly say that, it’s a gift. Every single time that thought comes into my head I remember the thousand times I didn’t really care if I died or not, which isn’t the same as wanting to be dead but is its insidious cousin. To care is worth celebration.

This isn’t something I generally express to anyone because this is scary to people not like me. The idea of being cavalier about whether one lives or dies is anathema to most humans.

I don’t wish that everyone on earth stay alive just for the banal sake of being alive. Life is cheap, ultimately. The universe doesn’t particularly depend on any single one of us to be alive to keep on keeping on. We’re all just tiny specs in the great earth eco-system.

What I wish for everyone is that as long as they’re alive they find light, however small, in their existence. That they feel loved, even for a while, to know that they’re lovable. That they experience the desire to wake up tomorrow morning, because it’s such a good feeling to go to sleep hoping that tomorrow will be worth getting up for.

 

 

*El Trump-O.

James Murphy 1968-2016

James in Strawberry

James Murphy 1968-2016

If I only ever remembered one thing about you it’s that no matter how little you had, you always let me have half your noodle-roni when I didn’t have anything to eat. That when you had one cigarette left, you’d hand it to me for a few drags if I was already out and getting edgy. That when Carrie and I were evicted from our apartment and I had no place to live you let me move in with you in your tiny studio apartment on Jones street. There is no greater thing I can say of anyone but that they’re the kind of person who shares whatever they have during lean times with friends who have even less.

I haven’t seen you in over 20 years and on Friday you died. I’ve been watching all your friends and loved ones post memorials and it’s made me wonder if the James they knew was the same James I remember. I can’t grab hold of who you were to any of them because my memories of you are all from so long ago. The James I knew was technicolor the same as everyone else says you were, but you were also a dark sylph sucking all the marrow from life with a long wicked-sharp beak. You were Pan in a land of dancing naughty children, gathering souls to you like wildflowers choking to reach the sun of your misadventures.

We met over cheap FIDM vending machine coffee that cost 25 cents a cup and was occasionally decorated with a floating cockroach. The old Woolworth’s building was a monolith of aging tastes and teachers who couldn’t see beyond the cowl neck and pressed slacks that were chic when they were young middle class hopefuls themselves.  They didn’t know what to do with you or me. But like the obedient person I have always been at heart, I followed rules, I attended my classes and bided my time. You couldn’t be bothered with their bullshit and so they sent you packing.

I knew right away that you had the kind of raw talent that could turn Chanel on its tired ass. You inspired me constantly to expand my own design imagination. You predicted the return of platform shoes. You constantly stood at the junction between genius and self destruction. I’ll never know how far you took your talent, but I know that you could have bought the stars with your imagination if you set your mind to it.

You were behind most of the misadventures I had during that time in my life. I spent just as much time laughing with you as I did wanting to strangle you for not thinking about anyone else if it got in the way of your desire for novelty and fun. You’d share your last meal with me, but you also left me to walk home from that club on Brannon Street after you and Kurtis promised me you would give me a ride back home. You invited others back to our apartment and didn’t have room for me in the car. So I walked home alone.

That was the night I got mugged, you fucker.

You opened my world to new things in a way few have been able to do. Mostly because you were so damn tenacious. Like the time you wore me down until I agreed to read Bukowski. Because of you I know I hate Bukowski’s work, but reading Hot Water Music was a rich formative experience you gave me as a writer. I learned that you can hate a writer’s work but still admire the fuck out of it. I don’t want to ever be sunk into his world again  but I learned something from his use of language. The weekend you went away and left me alone in our hot little apartment to read that damn book is one of my favorite memories. You gave that to me.

Because of you I know what it smells like when pints of blood pool on the floor and congeal. I’ll never scrub that smell out of my memory: sick thick cloying iron that fills your airways and then your stomach until you want to throw up. I thought you’d killed yourself or been murdered. I have never approached a bathroom with such horror and dread. When I didn’t find you in the bathtub dead, I spent hours calling everyone we knew and trying to imagine what could possibly have happened to you to lose so much blood.

Then you came limping through the door as cheerful as you always were, as though I hadn’t spent the last three hours in a mad panic. I came down so hard on you for that, that was probably the moment you realized you were living with a pinchy old lady instead of a 20 year old. You left me no note, I accused. You couldn’t understand my anger when it was so obvious to you that you’d just stepped on the glass next to your bed and had to go to the hospital for stitches.

I remember that time you got those fat frozen steaks from your grandmother, wife of THE EVIL CATTLE BARON, and you decided to defrost a couple of those bad boys for supper. But then you went away for a few days on a whim. It took me two days to locate those rotting steaks in the oven where you left them. Another smell I couldn’t scrub from my nose for all of eternity.

You taught me that if someone suddenly has a pile of cocaine who has very little pin money for luxury drugs and offers you some:

 ALWAYS ASK WHERE THEY GOT THAT SHIT FROM OR YOU MIGHT END UP SNORTING A SPEEDBALL FROM A STRANGER’S BACKPACK DROPPED IN AN ALLEYWAY, PROBABLY WILST RUNNING FROM DEALERS THEY OWED MONEY TO AND WHO’S PROBABLY DEAD IN SOME DUMPSTER WHILE YOU GOT FUCKED UP ON YOUR NINETEENTH BIRTHDAY FOR NO BETTER REASON THAN THAT YOUR DEVIL OF A ROOMMATE OFFERED IT TO YOU.

I discovered how good baked garlic is smeared on expensive bread because your mom took our sorry asses out to a really nice restaurant to attempt to make amends with you. Making baked garlic always reminds me of that night.

We haven’t seen each other for over 20 years and our parting was one of those natural things that was right and necessary for us because we needed different things, needed to take different roads to different ports. I regret nothing.

Except that I never got to see your lumberjack beard in person. I regret that. The picture I’ve seen of you with that lush full beard, bald head, and plaid pants is my favorite look you’ve ever had and I never saw it in person.

You’re the first and only person I’ve ever thrown a hard object at with the intent to hit. I’m glad I wasn’t such a good shot then. Do you remember that hideous ceramic vase? A few years ago I threw it out  but I admit it was hard to do because it reminded me how you could bring out the very best and very worst in me.

I’m not going to miss you in the same way so many of your friends are desperately missing you right now. For them your death is visceral, fresh, and mean. But you and I said our goodbyes a hundred years ago, so I’m used to not having you in my life. Even so, I can tell you without hesitation that the world always takes a cut to the jugular when spirits like you leave it.

You lived and loved magnificently, my friend.

Don’t know where you’re headed but I’m willing to bet you’re trailing willing souls behind you like drunk lanterns lighting the places you’ve already been and holding up your beaded feathered train like mischievous acolytes of hell.

I will always love you, James.