Spouse is in DC today, and I stayed home so I could write. Wrote for a while, got stuck — the usual, these days. And then something (mercifully) a lot less frequent occurred, something that’s not quite an emergency, but is really unpleasant, and none of the ways either Spouse or I have devised to deal with this issue are any fun at all.
Spouse had himself had this issue at a more advanced stage a week or so ago, bad enough that we had to notify maintenance. Except they haven’t showed up. (We’ve been notifying them about issues, small and large, since the end of January; we’re still waiting for them to show up at all.)
So today, I was on my own. I was annoyed, but not terribly concerned — I have a regular procedure I follow. Then I remembered that my usual set of tools . . . had to be thrown out after I discovered my bathroom sink had been leaking all over them for a while.
Luckily the tools I use can be found at the grocery store. As I headed over there, it started raining; we are supposed to get ice and sleet this evening.
The grocery store was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it. But I found my stuff without any trouble, bought it, and headed back home.
Dealing with the problem this time was absolutely the worst incident I’ve had yet.
But I fixed it.
When I was a newlywed 21 years ago, a similar not-quite-emergency happened while I was home during the week. As I sat with the problem all day, waiting for Spouse to get home from work, all I could think about was, “will he yell at me? How bad is it gonna get?”
I didn’t know Spouse well enough yet to have discovered that . . . he doesn’t yell. He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t fixate on finding someone to blame. Nor does he have hysterics, and then need to be soothed (unable to soothe himself). And there are never any “punishments” involved, no matter what happened, nor why.
All these years later, sometimes a minor disaster catches me unawares, so that I worry how the inevitable screaming is going to further shred my nerves. Joplin, Missouri, on a Sunday afternoon, driving back to Indiana after a family wedding. We ate lunch at a truck stop; as we walked back to my car, we saw a flat tire. First we looked for a tire store. We ended up at Wal-Mart, where their service department found the nail, and patched things up. Then we got back on the road.
That one incident sums up how different living with Spouse is from living with my family of origin.
During my initial realization earlier today that a problem was developing, I wondered if it was some kind of synchronicity thing — was there a metaphor involved, possibly something having to do with why I’m stuck in my writing, again.
20 minutes of musing later, I realized I might be coming down with something, due to symptoms I suddenly noticed I was experiencing. If all of that could be considered part of a psychosomatic metaphor, maybe there was something much more serious going on. I mentally put my writing on hold, and devoted my energies to figuring this problem out. Yes, a few times this week my heart has suddenly started racing, while I was sitting down and not exerting myself. I’m not sure if I feel dizzy, or just have a headache coming on. I’ve had a bit of a sore throat for a week and my sinuses still feel clogged (but, happily, the water-in-my-ears sensation I’d been feeling for several days seems to have disappeared). Sometimes I get especially hot . . . but I am wearing a woolly sweater, while it’s not as cold outside as it’s been. And I feel kind of nauseated (although it hasn’t interfered with me eating).
Looking back through my health log, I was chagrined to notice not only had I not been reaching my daily minimum goals for standing and walking . . . since the end of January, but in that same time period I’d also not been drinking enough fluids.
The dentist suggested my mysterious tooth pain in early February might be a sinus infection. Once I cleared things out with Sudafed, though, and the pain disappeared, I didn’t feel bad at all, so I never did visit my doctor. (I really love my doctor — she will listen as long as I need to tell her about stuff — but she almost never knows what’s wrong. That gets expensive right quick.)
Maybe my intestinal bugs have been fighting off some kind of infection for a while now. And maybe in the absence of sufficient water and sufficient exercise, they’re feeling a little under the weather themselves. Which is maybe what bumped my awareness of symptoms up to my conscious mind’s attention.
If any of that is true, once again I just wish there was some easier way parts of my body could communicate with my conscious mind, so that we could solve problems together, instead of me fumbling around, trying to guess what might be going on.
On the other hand, I’m more involved in actively monitoring my daily health and wellness than anyone else I know.
Several years ago, I saw my doctor about shoulder pain. She said I might need surgery; I asked for a referral to physical therapy instead, and that did the trick. Bonus: I got some pointers about my posture, which sucked. (If only standing and sitting correctly were more comfortable, I’m sure I could remember to do so more often!)
I saw my doctor about my anxiety, and almost constant depressive episodes. I did try anxiety medication for a few weeks, but I never took any of the antidepressants. I learned how to manage my stress better, and I gradually found ways to add meaning to my life. I can’t remember the last time I had an anxiety attack; I’m not even anxious before meeting new people anymore (with rare exceptions). And while I’m still prone to depressive episodes occasionally, they seem to coincide with winter most often (which is a long-standing issue).
Not being able to rely on pain relievers helps me be exquisitely sensitive to whether levels of discomfort have reached levels of pain; whether I would say I’m in agony, or not.
I much more conversant with all types of levels of discomfort, disappointments, obstacles, and outright disasters . . . and yet these days, I still get my problems solved. Or at least, my outcomes get improved.
Like today. If I really am coming down with something (and I rarely get sick), all the more reason to go to the grocery store early, before the weather gets really bad, and/or I might not feel well enough to drive. If I have to go to the grocery store by myself, I infinitely prefer it to be almost empty; today it was mobbed. I felt lightheaded and short of breath. In the back of my mind, do I feel physically bad enough to call Spouse, and ask him to come home early? Well, I think I’m okay right now, but that’s something to keep tabs on. Something I needed to do while I was at the store was going to work better if I took my stuff back to the car, and then returned to the store, which I did. Then the thing I needed to do was in a different place. At the end, the fourth long walk, back to my car. I still had to go home and deal with the unpleasant issue, which was kind of horrible.
I’ve not yet gotten back to what I was writing before anything happened. However, I’ve been writing this blog post. Which has nicely distracted me from watching the clock; and now Spouse should be home in about 10 minutes. If I feel better than I felt hours ago, it’s not readily apparent; but I don’t feel worse.
And the proximate problem is solved, for the moment.
21 years ago, on that miserable day, I was a nervous wreck all day. I accomplished nothing.
I’m not the person I was then. I’m smarter, I’m capable and competent, and I’m not easily dissuaded from getting done what I’ve determined I will do.
Even though I haven’t written anything in days that’s directly connected with the writers’ residency application, something about the things I’ve been blogging and thinking about . . . seems to be connected.
Maybe growing up in a family where everything is tangled up with everything else uniquely prepared me for the life I find myself living. How can my long-ago past be part of the same fabric as Chesapeake Bay and as figuring out what’s possible for my life in 2014? Where on earth is the nearly constant stream of new health issues coming from? Could they be a symptom of psycho-spiritual issues, not just for me as an individual, but me as part of a larger, nested system? One of the larger systems I’m nested within is my watershed, which itself is nested within the Chesapeake Bay region.
Ever since writing my long post yesterday, I feel emptied out. Occasionally there are sparks of anger. But mostly, I feel overwhelmed. I feel oddly blank.
Yesterday Havi wrote about needing to release and disperse physical energy. She usually does that through dance, or yoga, but she’s been laid up with illness and then injury for close to a month.
I write often about how I need to move, but for me that generally means walking, especially walks through my neighborhood, often at night.
I think I need more movement, of a different sort.
A month or so ago, I read poems written by someone I follow on Twitter, and one of those poems inspired me to write a response. It got very long. And I knew it didn’t work, although I wasn’t entirely sure why. I shared it with the person whose poems I’d read, hoping for feedback that would tell me something I didn’t know. It took him quite a while to get back to me, which gave me enough time and distance from what I wrote to figure out what my poem was really about.
I think I’ll have to eviscerate my poem, keeping only the middle, but then how do I begin? And how do I end? I don’t know.
The poem is ostensibly about a party. And while I was trying to figure out how I could rethink and rewrite a poem about that party, I started thinking about parties in general.
I don’t like parties. I like the idea of a party. I want to love the execution, but in practice, I haven’t. There’s too much of stuff I don’t want, and very little of stuff I do want.
Is there a way for me to create my own kind of party that has only what I want?
The surprise party for my 30th birthday prompted the poem I wrote. Spouse made other arrangements for my 40th, and many of them were excellent. But not the party-ish parts. I don’t want anyone-who-isn’t-me to arrange a party-like-celebration for my 50th, because they won’t know what parts I consider essential.
So, what are the right parts?
Wearing fun clothes. Good food. Really good dessert. Music. Dancing (but not with partners). Interesting conversations are optional.
I was intrigued to realize that my favorite parts of a ‘party’ are not social.
With rare exceptions, I just don’t really enjoy ordinary social interactions. The conversations I found myself immersed in at my 30th birthday party were drudgery. Mostly with people I didn’t even like.
The person who gave me feedback on the original poem said it was strange, but that I should preserve the strangeness. If I rewrite that party, or maybe just write the poem showing the contrast between what actually happened and what I wish had happened, I’d have to use magical realism. And I’m still not sure it would make sense to anyone else. Isn’t there a threshold beyond which ‘strangeness (In A Good Way)’ crosses into Uncanny Valley territory, and just becomes disturbing?
I think I actually live in that kind of Uncanny Valley territory pretty much all the time.
But I’m getting far afield of where I meant to go.
Under what circumstances could dance in an environment in which other people are dancing too, without anyone expecting me to partner with someone? I definitely don’t want anyone directing my movements (i.e., a man leading a woman). I also don’t want someone I’m dancing opposite to think I should copy their movements, or that we should synchronize, or even play off each other. For me, dancing is not directly social. I like other people to be around (although I also enjoy dancing when I’m alone), but I need to do things my own way. Also, other people are often copying someone else’s steps, so following them means I’d be copying third-hand moves, which is just So Wrong. I need to express the music as I feel it flow through me.
Since I resolved to spend much less time on Twitter or other people’s blogs, so I could concentrate my energies on my own writing, I’ve been writing. A lot. But no poems, or even poem fragments. Should I be concerned about that?
I don’t want to still be writing this at 3 a.m., which happened yesterday. However, it’s already 1:40. Why am I writing about any of this? Does any of this tie together with anything else? What connection could there be between this and the writers’ residency application?
Maybe answers aren’t what I need right now; maybe I need still more questions.
The events of 1985 and 1990 are tricky and troublesome in and of themselves. But the parts I wrote about in the poem and the prose piece have felt impossible to ‘resolve’ because another person is involved. And I do not, any longer, have a relationship with that person. (And I — emphatically — do not want a relationship with that person.) So what could ‘resolution’ mean?
It’s starting to dawn on me that those two pieces are not actually about the other person, at all. They’re about my relationship with . . . someone I do want to be involved with. Someone I do miss very much.
Another piece, or pieces, of my self.
I’ve been sundered from pieces of myself for so long that, when I meet them again, they seem like strangers.
But . . . stuff happened, in 1985 and 1990. The other person did things to me. And I wrote about those things, didn’t I?
Could what I wrote about somehow not be the external events themselves, but . . . upheavals . . . that were internal?
And are those wounds what the wasp witch was trying to heal?
In 1985, I uprooted my imploding life and transplanted myself to a place far from where I was born. The concept of ‘home’ no longer seemed to apply to me — definitely not to where I came from, but not this new place either. I’d had lots of ideas about striking out to ‘find my fortune’, post-high school, but my parents wouldn’t let me do any of them. They made me go to college when I didn’t want to; I flunked out. Shouldn’t I have been allowed to at least try my own ideas at that point? Well, that’s not what happened. How I think my parents thought of what happened next was, they packed me off in disgrace and sent me to live with relatives in another state. I definitely know — because they told me directly — that, unless and until I had a college diploma in hand, they did not want to see me again. But I still didn’t want to go to college. So I was presented with ‘a second chance’ to do something that I had zero interest in doing, and had already failed at doing.
I can’t do things that I don’t want to do.
It’s not defiance, it’s not trying to be a pain in the ass. It’s not a character flaw, at least, not the way that term is commonly used.
If every fiber of my being absolutely refuses to do something — and that was the case here with college, at age 18 — nothing on earth can make me do it. Not threats. Not draconian punishments. Not being kicked out of my family and told I was worthless and stupid, and everybody hated me, which was — obviously! — entirely my own fault, for thinking I could choose a future that my parents didn’t like.
Now, it is true that, I looked at the options my parents insisted were the only ones I had, and I ‘voluntarily’ chose to go live with my aunt and uncle in Oklahoma City. (As an outcast. Dependent on the goodwill of relatives I’d never spent very much time with.)
My reasons were these:
- if I never have to see my parents ever again, that’ll be a win. No matter what else happens.
- If I’m no longer ‘from’ Illinois, that’ll be a win. No matter what else happens.
- The one cousin still living at home is my best friend. I usually have to share time spent with him, with my siblings, whom I don’t get along with. And when he’s trying to curry favor with them, he’s mean to me. But that’s not what he’s ‘really like’, deep down inside. He really is my very best friend, and if I go live with his family, we can be together all the time. That, by itself, is like winning the fucking lottery!
- I still don’t want to go to college. But maybe community college is different. Maybe it won’t totally suck. And maybe it will, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
It’s true that, growing up the way I did, I did not anticipate that my cousin-who-was-my-very-best-friend-but-only-in-private would turn out to hate my guts, for real, and that being together with him all the time would be the worst thing that ever happened to me. Because he tried to kill me, and he came very close to succeeding.
And, in desperation, when I went to my parents for help, they told me I was imagining things. That I needed to ‘try harder’ to get along with good decent people. Because they still didn’t want me back.
Is it any wonder, then, that the parts of me that were kind and gentle, tender and sensitive, sweet and innocent, disappeared from my awareness? They still existed, but they separated themselves from my conscious mind, trying to save all of us. Just surviving the next five minutes was almost too much for the shell of me that remained.
I started drinking. I got addicted to sleeping pills. I cut myself. I dissociated almost constantly. I tried to kill myself, before he could do it.
Somehow, a person I called myself did live through all that. She was a nervous wreck, afflicted with trauma onset PTSD. She in no way resembled the person who had gone to live in Oklahoma City just a few months before.
My parents apparently could not tell the difference. Because they did allow ‘me’ to ‘return home’, a concept that would have had me laughing hysterically if I could spare the energy.
I could not . . . bear to be in the same room . . . with my father or either of my two brothers . . . for months and months, because they were male, and I was afraid of all males.
My parents made me get a job so I could pay them room and board for the privilege of living in their house. I had to work with men, most of whom were very nice people. When I spent social time with men, including some I was attracted to, I had to be drunk to even sit near them, otherwise my skin crawled with fear.
I had actually never drunk alcohol while I was in high school — I had been a total straight arrow. But now I went out drinking a lot. I did enjoy dancing at clubs, especially if no talking was involved, but even more, I needed to numb how shitty everything felt. Nothing felt good anymore. I couldn’t trust anybody I lived with, these strangers who insisted they were ‘family’, now that it was convenient. Now that my life had been destroyed. I was still alive, technically, but what made me me, the unique and amazing parts that I had always loved the best? They were gone. Which meant that I might physically look like the person who had left for Oklahoma City in January of 1985, but ‘I’ was not that person.
This other person who was living what passed for my life? That was the version of ‘me’ that heard the words I had waited all my life to hear — for the first time in my life, my parents told me they were proud of me.
The amazing achievement that had finally gotten their attention? I consistently showed up for work on time.
Not even that I was doing a good job at my job. (Although I was. But they didn’t care about that.)
What made this even more unbearable was that my mother had told me in private (and I’m not sure now that my father knew she’d said it) that if I did anything that she didn’t like — which would certainly include losing my job, but could be all sorts of other things as well — she would throw me out of the house, into the street, and she would not allow any other family member to help me. She told me that some tenderhearted relatives might be ‘taken in’ by my ‘sob story’ of difficulties endured. So, she directly told me, she would tell them ‘whatever she needed to’, up to and including lying about my behavior and character, so that they could not feel sorry for me.
Under those circumstances, knowing not just a misstep on my part, but my mother having a bad week — possibly for reasons totally unrelated to me — could mean I was thrown into the street, I was very very very careful to keep my job. Despite the flashbacks, and other assorted issues related to my (undiagnosed) trauma onset PTSD. Even though I managed to kick my addiction to sleeping pills, only to have to start it up again, because my nightmares were so bad. Even though my new best (girl) friend was predatory, and my (first) boyfriend was not much better, but I was having trouble making other friends.
Somehow well-adjusted people, psychologically healthy people, certainly felt sorry for me, were . . . sometimes . . . kind, but I guess something about me just seemed . . . off. Too much trouble to ask me any questions. Definitely too much trouble to, you know, help me. I wouldn’t have dared ask.
Nothing good had ever come of asking for help.
Almost exactly a year ago [2.26.2013], I submitted the first of my poems to a contest. As of last night, I’ve submitted 21 poems (some more than once), for a total of 27 times.
There have been 5 contests overall.
Another 7 poems have been shared with individuals.
I have 47 poems that I consider finished, and another 5 that are still in progress. (Plus lots of fragments that I’m not sure what to do with.)
I really like writing poems. But, even more, I love the places they take me. The way they reshape my ideas about the world.
Several times now, I’ve written poems about (what I thought was) a fairly-straightforward issue, only to discover the kernel of truth/emotion is completely different than I had thought. And I can’t rewrite the poem until I make further progress on the underlying issues.
Doing things by feel, though, means I can’t necessarily ‘solve’ anything just by thinking about it. I have to actually act. Often, I don’t know what might help.
For instance, in late 2011, I wrote a poem about [events in my life during] 1985. At the end, it veered off into a tangent about my houseplants. It took me months to figure out that I needed to part ways with my houseplants. Which did happen at the end of 2012. So I removed the parts about the houseplants from the poem. But I still don’t know how to end it.
A few weeks ago, I tried remixing that poem, by visually combining it with something I wrote about [events in my life during] 1990.
That was . . . closer . . . to something, but didn’t quite work either.
Seemingly unrelated altogether, my unconscious mind came up with a title for a separate poem, that references . . . a character/persona I didn’t know existed.
I got the idea to add that character/persona to the remix of the 1985 & 1990 poems. Except that, that character . . . doesn’t speak a language I understand. I wrote . . . noises that they made, and something real seemed to be happening by doing that. But whenever I tried to ‘interpret’ or ‘translate’ what the noises meant, I came up short.
So, as it stands, the poem contains memories of 1985, 1990, and then this not-me character’s attempts to ‘bridge the gap’, or ‘heal by exchanging emotions’, or . . . something.
Which (I think) means that . . . it’s not really a poem at the moment. It’s a proto-poem. It’s ideas for a poem. It’s an experiment. But I don’t think I can show it to anybody else either — it’s too weird.
I have an experimental poem I wrote/drew for the 2014 Sketchbook Project. It also doesn’t quite work in its current form, but I don’t know what it needs. I don’t even know what that poem is about. Well, I sort of do. It’s the very first poem I’ve written that references Chesapeake Bay, albeit indirectly.
Chesapeake Bay has been vexing me for years now. Almost as soon as we moved here, in 2008, I somehow knew that I needed to write a book about Chesapeake Bay in some way. Maybe poems? Maybe photographs? Or illustrations? Some of my own work? Something only I could write, except what does that mean? Millions of people live here, and can and do write about Chesapeake Bay. What’s special about whatever I would write?
When I first tackled trying to figure that out, I assumed the answer would arise out of an environmental job (because I’d had an environmental job back in Indiana, dealing with water issues). Except that, I couldn’t find an environmental job, with water, or anything. Then I volunteered with MDNR, but that didn’t go anywhere.
In 2011, I took a class in science writing from The Writer’s Center. And I wrote a prose piece about my relationship with waterbodies. I mentioned Chesapeake Bay, but didn’t talk about my relationship with it, because at that point, it was merely theoretical. And it still kind of is.
I can’t write about a relationship I don’t have.
[[That suddenly feels like the truest words I’ve ever written about anything ever.]]
Wow. I did not see that coming.
How did I not figure this out before? I look at the satellite photo of Chesapeake Bay on my bedroom door every day. I think about Chesapeake Bay all the time. But I don’t interact with it physically. The closest I’ve even come to it, I think, is driving over the Bay Bridge in 2011, on our way to Assateague.
All the creative nonfiction stuff I write has to be about something that really matters to me; otherwise my brain doesn’t turn on. In other words, if it’s just ‘objective’/impersonal facts, I can’t do it. I need to be curious, interested, and engaged. The topic needs to touch me, move me. Chesapeake Bay, even in the abstract, touches and moves me, . . . but I haven’t touched or moved . . . in . . . it. And I need to. Otherwise I have nothing to write about.
My life is experiential, not theoretical.
Sometimes I hate how entangled everything in my life is with everything else.
How can I resolve 1985 and 1990? Fuck if I know. I’ve been working on both of them . . . since they happened. More than half my life.
I really doubt that the only connection between Chesapeake Bay and my tangled-poem-problem of 1985-1990-buzzing is that I’m blocked about how to write about them both. That would be way too easy.
Trying to ‘solve’ their connection head-on, though, is giving me a headache, which usually means it’ll have to arise organically, from the bottom up. In other words, I’m not ready to face whatever the real connection is; I’ll need baby steps to inch my way to it.
I was already thinking about a writing weekend in Annapolis. I’ll need to see if I can find a place to stay that allows me to interact with the water of the Bay.
Edited to add:
1985 poem, Embraceable You [title is bittersweet & ironic]
1990 prose piece, A Taste of Danger
1985 poem remixed with 1990 prose piece => A Taste of You, Embraceable Danger
1985 poem + 1990 prose piece + character of wasp witch [not poem of same name] => ???
I finally reached 1200 books read since 2010 (which I’m tracking via LibraryThing). Occasionally I consider ‘setting goals’ for reading 300 books this year, or 240, or somewhere in between, but I can’t muster any enthusiasm for actually having a goal – ugh – way to make something fun into a chore. Beyond that, I’ve realized reading as much as I do is partially a way to fill up oodles of time, while convincing myself I’m ‘improving’ myself.
How much ‘improving’ does a person ‘need’ to do?
Plus, even before 2010, I’d already read more books than anyone I know.
Therefore, reading books has likely been performing functions I haven’t consciously realized and/or have been hiding from myself. What might they be?
If they’re from the library system, I have a reason to get dressed and leave the apartment. On nice days, hiking up the hill behind the library eventually takes me to a park, where I’ve taken some lovely walks, often photographing the sights.
I secretly fear that if I stop reading so much . . . my brain will immediately stagnate.
Relatedly, my bodymind wants to be a lot more active, not just my brain. What if reading so much has actually stagnated bodymind? Surely an invigorated bodymind => an invigorated brain. Maybe brain is hoping to stay ascendant ‘over’ bodymind?
Staying current in my fields of interest often gives me topics to discuss with Spouse, usually when we’re eating dinner out. (When we eat at home, we’re on different schedules, so we don’t talk.) Something livelier than asking him about his job.
Spouse is sometimes willing to discuss books either of us have read (he recently finished Moby Dick, which we talked about several times, despite my having never read it). His lack of interest in my creative process means we don’t discuss it, and if I talk about it anyway, he’s bored, which he doesn’t conceal from me. If I’m not reading as much, will Spouse find talking to me boring?
I’ve known for a while that all the stuff I’ve been reading, while educational, is cluttering my brain with other people’s words and ideas.
- In the first 43 days of 2013, I read 46 books. And wrote 1 poem.
- In the first 43 days of 2014, I read 27 books — a decrease of 41% — but I wrote 13 poems. I have 5 more in-progress.
Last month I discovered that, in the crawlspace of my mind, there’s an entire floor devoted to . . . things that want me to write about them. I think they’ve been trying to catch my (conscious) attention for several years; now that I’ve become aware of them, they’re not going to be patient with my reluctance to engage.
I’ve been dreaming about the Southwest again. And a few nights ago, as I lay in a ditch (in a dream) a tornado passed repeatedly over my head.
I’m currently working on the application for a writer’s residency in 2015. I’m hoping to submit it in early March, ahead of the deadline.
I have a bunch of library books through Inter-Library Loan that I really do need to read.
But I think I will stop reading books as of March 1. I need to explore how long ‘detoxing’ takes. And I need to discover what creative impulses I can implement with the time freed up.
I recently unearthed a list I made on 11.28.2012 — Social (and other) Support I no longer enjoy (meaning, I no longer have it, not that I wouldn’t like to have it).
- various friendships ended
- being enmeshed with my family of origin [1966–2005]
- taking art classes at the Indianapolis Art Center [c. 1995–2008]
- meeting people through a job [1985–2009]
- Counseling [1978–2010, as needed]
- left ATA [c. 2007–2011]
- no regular haircut person, since 2011
- stopped obsessively watching TV, esp soap operas [1995–2011]
- gave away my stuffed animals, Alfie [1978–2011] & Little Bear [1986–2011]
- gave away my 4 houseplants, Drugelis [1984–2012], Figgy 2 [1991–2012], Fiddle [1997–2012], Estrella [2008–2012]
- dropped LinkedIn connections to 2 former bosses (who had been my best references), because I eventually realized I never wanted to talk to either of them again 
- disbanding of old Slacktivist/Slacktiverse communities ended a place I’d spent 7 years of my life [2005–2012], where I’d made at least 10 friends. None of those relationships are still extant.
- stopped thinking of myself as an optimist [1966–2012]
- would no longer describe myself as a feminist [1971–2012]
- would no longer describe myself as a pacifist [1971–2012]
- stopped thinking of myself as a scientist [1975–2012]
- stopped being an environmentalist [1986–2012]
- stopped being a Pagan [1986–2012]
- broke up with my best woman friend [1994–2012]
- let go of Laiima persona online [2006–2012]
- messy ending to the only relationship I had with any cousin on my father’s side of the family [2008–2012]
- death of the one aunt I still heard from regularly 
- several attempts at volunteering ultimately failed [2000, 2007–2011, 2013]
- more or less excellent health turned into all sorts of health problems, not all of which have been identified [2009–Present]
- I no longer shop as a hobby, and rarely shop at all
- I buy a lot fewer books than I used to
- even when I’m depressed, I don’t allow myself to sleep all the time
Looking over this list, it’s inescapable that I was self-medicating with everything I could think of, although I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing.
If someone had asked me why I did all these things, I probably would have defended them as coping mechanisms, or even said that they were improving my life. And some of them undoubtedly did improve my life from where I started, but . . .
Over the years, Art has always not only been important to me, but has consistently been a huge part of my identity.
Even though I wasn’t doing much of it. The Indianapolis Art Center was a boon for that. The most successful classes I took there were types of art I had no (or minimal) previous experience with — ceramics, weaving, fabric dyeing and painting.
But there were several art forms (media?) — the ones I was most drawn to — which I’d had traumatic experiences with, as a child. And while I was doing the above self-medicating, I was not revisiting painting, garment making, nor poetry.
The 2011 Sketchbook Project got me turned back on to drawing; revisiting the idea of handmade valentines in 2013 finally got me playing with paper, as I’d been longing to do for months.
(There are social aspects to both the travelling sketchbooks and valentines, but only after you are finished with them.)
While I was still tangled up in dangling threads of former versions of myself, there wasn’t any way (I could see) to move forward into being someone new. I didn’t even have a name (that I ever wanted to tell anybody). And I knew my gender was complicated in ways I needed to explore, but I couldn’t when so many parts of my old identities seemed to require me being a woman. Only a woman. Which also circled back to names.
I needed to be a new me, socially, and find my way by doing. Mostly with new people, because they don’t have preconceptions or preferences for how I should be.
This part has been really bumpy.
Bumpiness, though, means that Other Things are possible. That there’s hope for revolutionary changes. I just have to keep going, keep fumbling my way forward.
I wrote 1 poem in 2011. I wrote 5 poems in 2012. 2013 was a banner year for my poetry – 28 poems. In January 2014, I’ve finished 9 poems, and have 5 more in progress.
I’m already considering which poems belong in my first book.
The project I proposed in my application for the 2013 AROHO Gift of Freedom has continued to germinate, and I now have a much better sense of the scope of it, and what I might be able to do with it. Travel, probably solo travel, will be required.
Residencies and fellowships could certainly help me with that, and I have several in mind that I will be applying to in due course.
I have recently found myself doing things with poetry that I had previously only done with prose. Or only knew other people could do with fiction. I need to develop these skills further.
Right now, most of the left side of my mouth throbs in pain. I seem to have multiple dental issues. I’d greatly prefer that none of them necessitate me visiting the dentist before my scheduled appointment in 1 week, but it’s clearly going to be a very long week, no matter what. In any case, the interesting thing to me is . . . I can think, and I can write. Really bad pains started 26 hours ago (although they’ve waxed and waned, not been continuous), and most of yesterday I also had a bad headache, and yet, I still experienced an essential epiphany about my poetry. I did 2 unpleasant chores I’d been putting off. I ran errands. I interacted with people. I photographed.
And even before this physical pain started, I’d been noticing that . . . feeling ignored or marginalized still hurts as much as it ever did. But now I have something I can do with it. I can transmute it into art.
I won’t let myself regret the many years I was self-medicating which consumed the emotional energy I could have used for art. Maybe I needed that buffer of time and space to heal and grow and evolve.
To not be entirely an artist. Or entirely any 1 thing.
I think perhaps a 47 year gestation period may aid me in writing better poetry, and living a more satisfying life (than might’ve happened if I’d started sooner).
I have stuff that needs to be thought through, but I can’t find a door leading inside. Maybe Havi’s prompt [“what do I want?” repeatedly asked, and answered] will work.
What do I want?
A page of my 2014 Sketchbook Project contains words, motifs, ideas, for what I originally thought would be one poem, but the list so quickly snowballed (n = 44 items) that I believe I need to write a series of poems. I yearn to write these poems but . . . this series will take me to treacherous and perilous places.
I cannot immerse myself in where I need to go / what I need to do, and then switch gears to resume a ‘normal’ evening / weekend with Spouse. I need continuity with myself, my personal biorhythms, and as little social contact as possible. Solitude would be ideal.
A place I’ve never been to would also be good. In a setting of natural beauty — one that I could ramble around. New environments and new neighbors (in this sense, nonhumans) spark new ideas. I think I also need a different setting to be a container for whatever I unearth, so that I’m not constantly tripping over reminders as I walk around our apartment. (My memories tend to have a spatial component, such that I clearly remember the physical environment/my surroundings when I remembered, was reminded of, or thought about something significant.)
Trying to figure out how to write about the food problem has completely derailed this post. I’ve been revising and rewriting this one paragraph for almost an hour, dammit. I don’t enjoy having to think about food constantly, and doing so saps energy that I could be using for creativity.
A bunch of people I sat with during meals at Ghost Ranch complained about the food, but that was the first week . . . maybe in my entire life . . . that I never had to think about food. I showed up for meals, the food was there, it was tasty and filling, I ate it — the rest of the time, I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. Which, for once, did not involve worrying about what I might be eating next.
And I had good-brain-energy the whole time! I didn’t crave chocolate, or sweets! I literally never thought about food when I wasn’t at the table eating. It was . . . amazing.
What do I want?
I want to be accepted at a writer’s residency that does not have fees, and provides meals.
If references are required, I want to find someone(s) who would recommend me.
What do I want?
I want to write better poetry.
What do I want?
I want to explore my complex gender identity without being paralyzed by fear that the few people who do talk to me now will stop talking to me. (This fear is not without foundation. I’ve “come out” to 3 family members. None of them responded directly. I received an oblique/confusing response very recently that was certainly not supportive.) I also fear I’ll get beaten up. Or that the world will somehow end.
What do I want?
I want people to call me by the name I am now going by.
What do I want?
I want to go to Andalucía. Malta. Mallorca. Portugal.
What do I want?
I want to fold paper. I want to fold fabric. What can I learn from the one to use with the other? Is it possible to create baffles like I can envision in my mind? Can they be used the way I want?
What do I want?
I want to play around with creating garments to be worn by people of my gender. Garments that I myself want to wear. And then I want to wear them, in public.