Skip to content


July 25, 2016

I don’t actually want to complain about not feeling well. I want to feel well. When I was younger, I thought if I found the right person to tell what was hurting me, it could be fixed.

= = =

I was discovered to have scoliosis when I was around 16.

Before and after, my mother would make me “stand up straight” (i.e., improve my posture) by jamming a yardstick to my back and trying to get my back to conform to it. It never worked.

It was really painful to hold the position that she said was normal, and that I should be “naturally” doing all the time.

But… if I couldn’t fake it long enough and often enough for her, she held over my head the prospect of a back brace one of the neighbor girls had to wear all the time. The neighbor girl was pretty and popular, and her status could accommodate even an ugly back brace.

I still have terrible posture. The physical therapist I saw a few years ago for my recurrent shoulder injury tried to help me correct it. It was still really hard to hold my muscles that way. Hunching over may be unsightly, but it hurts less.

Well, relatively. No position doesn’t hurt at all.

= = =

I still have remnants of a migraine I contracted Saturday when I went outside while it was still light out. Too bright, too hot.

Last night, I was rubbing my cheek muscles, which hurt because of the migraine. Spouse gets migraines, too, but he realized his cheek muscles never hurt. Nor does he “feel all the bones in his head”, as I sometimes do.

= = =

I can feel things you’re not supposed to be able to feel.

And they hurt.

Some of them hurt all the time. The pain with others, comes and goes.

= = =

I have TMJ, discovered by an early dentist. My jaw swings to the right, and I can’t open my mouth very widely, or for long periods of time. Some dentists have used rubber-blocky-things to prop my mouth open when work’s being done — very helpful.

When impressions are being made for crowns, I have to think very carefully before placing my teeth together “correctly”, since that’s not what my jaws would do “naturally”. Lots of trial and error before I figure that out, though.

= = =

I don’t respond well to pain relievers — unless I use doses high enough to be dangerous, the few that work, don’t work at all.

(For my agonizing bouts of PMS, I regularly took 800mg doses of ibuprofen; otherwise, I was in too much pain to function.)

I have unusual reactions to Novocaine.

The one time my dentist used laughing gas was terrifying: I wasn’t numbed at all, so I was in excruciating pain but I couldn’t move, at all. I couldn’t talk. All I could do was cry, which I did.

My dentist yelled at me for crying, because it “made him feel bad”. I never went back to him.

(I also had an out of body experience, which was kind of cool, and very unlike the previous one I’d had.)

= = =

Here are some of the types of headaches I get:

  1. Sinus issues.
  2. Seasonal allergies.
  3. Barometric pressure changes.
  4. Tension headaches.
  5. Too hot outside.
  6. Too bright outside (reflections bouncing right into my eyeballs) — there’s a particular type of “brightness” that I can feel through walls and buildings. I wake up in the morning, with the blinds drawn, and I already know it’s a day I’ll be staying inside.
  7. Fluorescent lights flickering.
  8. Strong unpleasant smells.
  9. Strongly clashing colorways (usually built environment, not out in nature).

I’m probably forgetting some.

= = =

I’ve had extreme myopia since I was tiny. Astigmatism too.

Lately, my left eye turns inward; it’s not strabismus yet. The eye doctor called it something else: presbyopia.

= = =

If my feet are “too cold”, I can’t sleep, or concentrate. I like going barefoot, but in air conditioning my feet get too cold. I can’t wear sandals because my feet get too cold. I look at people without socks in the summer, and marvel. I wish I could do that.

Sometimes, outside in the summer, I’ve gotten so hot that I can feel my brain physically overheating. (Much likelier now that I live in a subtropical climate. Global warming too.) Nowadays, I know to stay inside as much as possible during summer’s daylight hours.

If I have to go out, I wear protective clothing, and sunglasses, and a hat. And still, it’s not nearly enough. I still have to minimize the time I’m subject to the sun’s rays. (Shade is cooler, but the sun is still there, radiating at me.)

My body temperature doesn’t regulate properly.

= = =

I have to be careful of how long I’m in a hot shower. If my heart starts racing, I know to cool the water temperature down, and make sure the water hits my skin below my heart.

I love the idea of a sauna, but I can’t tolerate them very long.

I’ve often been in a bathroom when I passed out. Better to be sitting because you don’t hit the floor.

If I stand up “too quickly”, I feel dizzy and shaky. I have fainted.

Before I met Spouse, 2 different times, I fainted while out in public. Woke up in the ambulance, disoriented. No one had seen me fall, so they didn’t know what happened either. Tests at the hospital were inconclusive.

(At the time, I wrote them off to having not been eating regularly.)

= = =

My mother and others have called me lazy all my life. It stung.

When I was a teenager, then a young adult, I forced myself to exercise regularly, generally by taking long walks. I waited for the day that I would no longer need to sit down, or take a break, or be out of breath climbing stairs. Never arrived.

I always felt old before my time.

But I guess that’s because I’m lazy. And stupid. Thanks, Mom!

= = =

I can roll my tongue into a tube. I have cousins who can fold the tip of their tongue back on itself, but I can’t do that.

= = =

My joints crack when I stretch my limbs.

= = =

When I was a kid, I figured out I could use my big toes to slide my socks off, if my feet overheated at night. I continued doing that right up until a year or so ago, when I realized that maybe, just maybe, the pain I now have in my big toes might be arthritis.

= = =

3 different specialists asked me if I had Marfan: I’m tall and (still somewhat) thin; have square shoulders; long skinny “piano” fingers, long narrow feet, flat arches. I have a bony, concave-ish chest.

I looked into getting tested for Marfan 18 months ago. Genetic testing was going to be several thousand dollars, not covered by insurance. I decided not to do it.

= = =

My ribs stick out in a weird way.

= = =

A few years ago, I started getting (what my doctor called) “anxiety attacks”, but when I wasn’t doing anything that could possibly make me anxious.

I’d always gotten panic attacks, in social situations. This stuff was different. This stuff felt like an elephant sitting on my chest. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The first few times, I thought it was a heart attack. Then I thought maybe I was developing asthma.

My cardio tests came out within normal limits though. So my doctor put me on anxiety meds, which I never felt right about. I didn’t take them very long.

= = =

I’ve had something like tendinitis in my elbows since 2011. It got much worse in my right elbow when I accidentally banged it into a wall on my birthday 2 years ago. When I finally went to the doctor about it (worried it was a stress fracture), she said whatever it was, was inconsistent with a break. She advised me getting x-rays, but I never did. I was sure it was somehow a muscle thing, and why would that show up on an x-ray?

= = =

Sometimes my right ankle rolls, and I fall.

I had a catastrophic fall in 2000 when my right ankle rolled as I was running to cross a city street: I fell forward onto the pavement, breaking my left patella, and breaking one of my little fingers. Luckily, I had instinctively put my arms out — if I’d hit the street face-first, it would’ve been so much worse. My glasses were cracked; there was blood everywhere. I was in shock. Still, I managed to get myself to the train station. Someone nearby asked me if I needed help; when I stammered that I did, they walked away. I gingerly lowered my broken knee and sprained other ankle down 2 flights of stairs. Boarded my train, stayed standing. No one but the conductor helped me. I called Spouse so he’d meet my train.

It’s very hard to walk on crutches when you’re immobilizing one knee, but the ankle on the other leg can’t bear weight either. The ankle injury actually took longer to recover from than the broken bone.

= = =

I injured my right shoulder in 1996, at work. The doctor couldn’t figure out quite what had happened: it wasn’t a separated shoulder; it wasn’t a torn rotator cuff. And yet, I was in agonizing pain. I did physical therapy. Slowly, slowly, it got better.

But I’ve reinjured it several times. After the last time, at yoga in 2010, I realized this is just part of what my life is. Now I’m always very very careful of how much weight I allow my right shoulder to bear.

My doctor here, when I first met her (to see her about the yoga injury), said my right shoulder “hung strangely”, that I’d probably need surgery.

The thing is, I think all my muscles hang oddly. I think I’m the wrong kind of stretchy. Which, naturally, leads to accidents and injuries. And pain.

After noticing a particular condition that a lot of autistic people I know from Twitter have, I’ve been researching it, and I think I, too, have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

considering success

July 22, 2016

For my friend Michelle Marshall

Paths to well-defined “success”, trod by increasing millions of human beings, become superhighways just as they lose all utility.

Every “successful” person I know feels hopelessly behind, stressed out, worried about the future.

What if “well-defined success” itself is part of the problem?

= = =

{Also, Life is Hard. But you knew that.}

= = =

When I attended AROHO in 2013, I had one published article to my (old) name, and it wasn’t in a lit journal. I’d never heard of AWP.

I did not have an MFA or even BA in a creative field. In fact, over the 15 years I was an undergraduate, I’d never taken even one English Lit or Creative Writing or Poetry class.

I got my BA in geography, from a commuter school almost no one has ever heard of. I’d dropped out of grad school, for a technical field still almost no one has ever heard of.

I have never formally taught anything. And I don’t want to.

As of July 2013, I’d written 23 poems… in my life.

For a week, I was immersed within all these accomplished successful women. Women who not only had jobs, but had had careers. Women who were published, many in prestigious lit journals (albeit ones I hadn’t heard of; I was such a newbie). Women who’d published books. Women who were editors; women who ran small presses.

I didn’t fit in. (I never do.)

I’m not wholly a woman, but my majority not-so-womanly parts were not welcome in a Retreat for Women Writers, so I kept them hidden.

I often doubt that I’m… well, a human being, if I’m being honest. I feel more like a tree or a river that just happens to be human-shaped. Some of that is being autistic (which I didn’t know about in 2013); a great deal of it, isn’t. I’ve spent more time, certainly more “quality time”, with trees and rivers than with human beings. I definitely understand the former better than the latter, whom I often don’t understand at all.

I didn’t make any human friends, although during that week I thought I had.

= . =

After I returned home, I asked 14 of the poets and 1 of the non-poet writers to suggest poets I should read, via self-addressed stamped postcards I sent them. Just this week I received #9, but the other 8 responded within a few months. Through these women, I read poets I likely wouldn’t have stumbled across.

I found a great deal more poets I liked through anthologies I picked up blindly. Inter-Library Loan, and the Pratt (Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore City) have supplied me with 100s more.

= . =

I count my week at AROHO as a thundering success.

I wrote two poems there, including one that’s among the truest things I’ve ever written. I painted two watercolor paintings. A door inside of me I didn’t know about, opened up a bit; I glimpsed a poem cycle I may yet write. I made friends with cottonwoods, with lizards, with mountains. I met a dead scorpion. I heard coyotes. I saw meteors and the Milky Way. In the library at 2 a.m., night after night, I read about shamans and mythology and archetypes; I read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Someone much older than me mentioned her kinship with Inanna; I told her of my own relationship with Ereshkigal. I performed a poem in an arroyo; the video was later shown to the whole assemblage. I had an ecstatic experience in the Rio Chama.

For the first time, that week, I inhabited Meander. I grew into myself.

= . =

There’s no way to fit any of the above into a “well-defined successful” narrative.

The thing about “well-defined success”… no individual person defined it. They accepted the narrative(s) they saw around them. They fit themselves into something defined by someone else.

I don’t want that.

What matters to me in my life is… process. Having new and fruitful experiences. Learning about the world, learning about me. Finding what I can do that no one else can do.
I am successful at all of those things, but what matters more to me is… I’m alive. I’m doing stuff. I’m discovering.I’m a verb. No, I’m verbs: I’m verb-ing. I am process.

Reading List 8 of 2016

July 22, 2016

Covers the period from 7.7.2016 through 7.22.16

I own 3 of these items. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 9 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 30.


Social activism / resisting authority:

  1. Conscience: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Strohm
  2. Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do is Wrong by Ira Chaleff
  3. Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, edited by Marc Falkoff
  4. Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, edited & compiled by Philip Cushway and Michael Warr
  5. Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement by Simeon Booker with Carol McCabe Booker
  6. The Suffragette: The History of the [British] Women’s Militant Suffrage Movement, 1905–1910, by E. Sylvia Pankhurst // this book published in 1911; autographed by author (!)
  7. Women’s Suffrage and Prohibition: A Comparative Study of Equality and Social Control by Ross Evans Paulson
  8. [Film] Experimenter: The Stanley Milgram Story, dir. Michael Almereyda
  9. [Film] Labyrinth of Lies, dir. Giulio Ricciarelli
  10. [Film] Suffragette, dir. Sarah Gavron


Poetry (originally written in English):

  1. A Northern Calendar by Ira Sadoff {chb}
  2. And Short the Season by Maxine Kumin
  3. Dead Reckoning by Kenneth Fearing
  4. Engine Empire by Cathy Park Hong
  5. Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans since 1945, edited by Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton
  6. Facts about the Moon: Poems by Dorianne Laux
  7. From the Darkroom by Madeline DeFrees (who was Sr. Mary Gilbert)
  8. The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide, edited by Eric Magrane and Christopher Cokinos
  9. Time and the Tilting Earth by Miller Williams
  10. Women Poets of the Americas: Toward a Pan-American Gathering, edited by Jacqueline Vaught Brogan and Cordelia Chávez Candelaria


Poetry (translated into English from various):

  1. Carrying Over: Poems from the Chinese, Urdu, Macedonian, Yiddish, and French African, by Carolyn Kizer
  2. Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva, A Reading by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine [[Russian]]
  3. Modern Malay Verse, 1946–1961, selected by Oliver Rice and Abdullah Majid
  4. Muse in Prison: 11 Sketches of Ukrainian Poets Killed by Communists and 22 Translations of their Poems, edited by Yar Slavutych
  5. Poems by Nazim Hikmet, tr. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk [[Turkish]]


Spanish Literature:

  1. Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, Vol. 3, edited by Ramon A. Gutierrez
  2. The Victorious Expression: A Study of 4 Contemporary Spanish Poets: Unamuno, Machado, Jiménez, and Lorca, by Howard T. Young



  1. A Book About Chapbooks: The People’s Literature of Bygone Times by Harry B. Weiss
  2. Effluences from the Sacred Caves: More Selected Essays and Reviews by Hayden Carruth
  3. Sleeping with One Eye Open: Women Writers and the Art of Survival, edited by Marilyn Kallet and Judith Ortiz Cofer
  4. A Story Larger than My Own: Women Writers Look Back on their Lives and Careers, edited by Janet Burroway
  5. Two Cities: On Exile, History, and the Imagination by Adam Zagajewski



  1. Bill Cunningham New York, dir. Richard Press
  2. Boy Meets Girl, dir. Eric Schaeffer
  3. Brooklyn, dir. John Crowley
  4. Laggies, dir. Lynn Shelton
  5. Youth, dir. Paolo Sorrentino {{truly terrible; such a disappointment}}



  1. The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, edited by Kevin J. Anderson
  2. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead



  1. Cracking Up: The Work of Unconscious Experience by Christopher Bollas
  2. Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
  3. Right by Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs by Jewly Hight


vadeando / wading into it

July 15, 2016

I’ve been immersing myself in poetry in Spanish. The volumes I’ve been reading are bilingual, so the English is right beside the other. But I’ve been reading the Spanish first, often aloud.

If I don’t think, I can often feel the sense of some of the words without directly translating them.

This morning I dreamed a Spanish word that doesn’t exist: Americanarse; my scribbled note says  ‘to turn American’, whatever that could mean.

= = =

If Gramma had spoken Lithuanian to me when I was a child, its rhythms could be within me, shaping my perspectives and perceptions.

I wish she had.

I guess r’s are rolled in Lithuanian, as well as Spanish. I can’t figure out how to do it. That makes me immensely self-conscious when I speak Spanish, beyond how slowly and unmelodiously I painstakingly pronounce las palabras.

= = =

Lithuanian was the first language of my heart, but I don’t speak it or read it, nor do I understand it when it is spoken or written.

Spanish was the second language of my heart, which I began learning in school at 11. I took it for 3.5 years in high school. I can read it much better than I can speak it. When I listen to Spanish-language radio, because of the speed at which people speak, I usually only pick out a few words.

= = =

Gramma was born in Chicago but her parents were immigrants from the old country: her first language, spoken at home, was Lithuanian. Maybe she didn’t learn English until she got to school, I don’t know. All her life, she said certain phrases that were awkward in English, but probably they were correct in Lithuanian. Embarrassingly, the one I recall best was “go to toilet” when she meant “go to the bathroom”.

Gramma took Spanish in high school.

I don’t know if she ever used it. But still, it’s a not-English language we would have had in common. (Although I didn’t learn that fact until I interviewed my mother about her family for a term paper I wrote in college. Gramma died the week I turned the paper in.)

= = =

I’ve known for years (ironically, from reading historical romances) that Spanish has been spoken in the United States since the 1500s, long before English, so “English first” or “English only” movements are total bullshit.

In college, I wrote (another) paper on Arabic words that passed into Spanish and then English.

Since I was 18, I’ve wanted to learn Maltese — not just because Malta is super cool, but — because the Maltese language is a child of Arabic and Spanish and Italian, but written in a Latinate alphabet.

= = =

Back to Spanish. As an adult, delving into the language again, I’ve been frustrated and annoyed at how many terms are militaristic, violent, patriarchal, sexist.

And yet, it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to realize that so many of the people who speak Spanish now, speak Spanish for imperialist and colonialist reasons. You know, like why so many people speak English.

Arabic, Russian, French, German, Dutch. Turkish? Persian? Obviously I’m not much of a student of world history because I don’t actually know off the top of my head how many languages with a lot of speakers achieved that through conquest and genocide.

= = =

If my father’s Irish parents had grown up speaking Irish Gaelic, though, they still would’ve had to learn English when they arrived in the US. My mother’s Lithuanian grandparents did have to learn English when they arrived in the US.

I have complicated feelings about languages.

Do I wish I knew Irish Gaelic? Yes. I definitely wish I knew Lithuanian. And yet…

I deliberately chose my first name to be in English. Partly because… I’m a poet who writes in English. The thoughts I have that are in words, are in English words. (Occasionally Spanish words.)

If my head was full of Irish Gaelic and Lithuanian words… I’d have no one to speak them with.

= = =

Trade languages are kind of a motif in my poetry (and my life). I think about them a lot. I wish there were more that were inter-species. But if there were inter-species ‘trade’ languages, they’d probably be human-centric, and would have come into being through conquest and genocide. You know, like we’re doing right now as we exterminate every other organism on the planet. Why would any of them even want to learn what we’re saying when we do it?

There are so many human being people that speak English that are speaking against conquest and genocide right now, and they are being ignored, or persecuted. Killed, certainly.

= = =

What should I be trying to do?

How should I be thinking about which languages I use?

What could I do differently?

I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.


Dream, sort of, Part 3: 7.13.2016

July 13, 2016

What started when I was seven?

Trying to make my mother happy.

No wait, I was already trying to make my mother happy. But at 7, after my brother was born, it began to feel like it was my job to make my mother happy.

That is, it was no longer a thing I (perhaps) picked for my own reasons, because I wanted to do it (which is likely how early-childhood-narcissist me had previously thought of it). It had become a thing other people expected me to do, counted on me to do. A thing I owed other people.

A thing through which I earned a place in the family.

Having it as a job meant… I could be fired from it.

In the working class culture I was raised to think I was part of, people often die working (rather than live long enough to retire). If you’re not working, if you can’t work, you’re worthless. You don’t deserve the resources that are being wasted on keeping you alive.

= = =

If my job in my family of origin was to “make my mother happy”, that job remains extant as long as my mother is alive. It has nothing to do with me, as an individual: my skill set; what I actually like doing; whether I need a vacation to avoid burnout… whether I want a career change.

I’ve been reading Christopher Bollas’s Cracking Up: The Work of Unconscious Experience.

(This was one I didn’t take notes for because it was so dense, I had to just float on top as I read and hope I was getting it, so my paraphrases may be a little rough.)

People who fear being smothered by other people (the patient in his example of this was actually a woman who feared being smothered by her mother) pre-populate a region of their unconscious with some other concern. Make an internal object out of some other thing (not the mother). And then maybe they find themselves obsessively interested in this other object, so that they’re not developing their self as much as they are stuck in a holding pattern.

While I was working, I think I can safely say now I was obsessed with the idea that there was a career out there for me that would be a good fit. I read every book I could find the subject of careers. I took every test you could take. I spent $600 on a daylong series of tests of my aptitudes. Spouse and I saw career counselors. I worked in a variety of jobs, but I was always thinking ahead to the “career” part — what career does this make me eligible for? How can I fit this job into a career?

I never could. I was a job hopper, which I thought of as a Gen X thing (and now it’s another reason I feel kinship with Millennials).

If I just find a career that fits me, my life will be worthy…

My life will be worthy of having given up on making managing my mother’s emotions my career. Although if you look at it like that, obviously my mother would never ever agree a paid employment career should displace me taking care of her. She should always come first!

Actually I think my mother would say, I should do both. And I should do both well. Even though that’s impossible. You can’t actually manage someone else’s emotions for them. But certainly if you’re trying to do that, you’re going to have very little emotional energy left over for a paid-employment job. And if you’re undiagnosed autistic, as I was, keeping a job long term is going to be a struggle anyway.

The whole enterprise is doomed.


What enterprise have I been obsessively interested in for the last several years? Joining the poetry community as a published poet.

I like writing poetry. I like reading poetry. I like reading about writing poetry.

I can do all of that and be anonymous.

It’s a hobby. It’s fun.

It’s solitary.

No one else can be impressed by something they don’t know I’m doing. But no one cares when I tell them. It must be I’m not trying hard enough. Hey, why don’t I try to make a career out of it? (Even though almost-nobody makes money at poetry, and I certainly don’t want to teach poetry, or anything else.)

Why do I need poetry to be a “career”?

Because if I don’t make it a career, then all the time I’ve spent since 2009 doing whatever I want, is a waste of time.

{I don’t think anyone in my family of origin even likes poetry. When I had a 4-year career as an environmental scientist, they could not possibly have cared less.}

If I give up on the idea of a career, what happens?

If I give up on the idea of “defining myself”, what happens?

If I give up on… trying hard enough, what happens?

I just live.

Dream, sort of, Part 2: 7.13.2016

July 13, 2016

It was just now that I realized that I had wrote, in the earlier post (now corrected), that my mother’s 50th was 29 years ago, when it was actually 27 years ago. It’s my father who’s 29 years older than me.

Why does he keep coming up, when I thought this was about my mother?


I haven’t eaten breakfast yet or had my coffee. Gonna go do that.


// You can take the girl out of the working class, but you can’t take the working class out of the girl! //

I was raised by parents who still thought of themselves as working-class (although I’m not sure they realized that, then or now). I believe however that my siblings would say they were raised by solidly middle-class parents. (If they ever thought about it all, but it’s very possible they haven’t.)

The year I turned seven, the bottom dropped out of my world.

My littlest brother’s birth almost killed both he and my mother.

I’ve never been certain if she had postpartum depression with all her children, but it certainly seems likely she would’ve had it with this one, her last one.

As far as I’ve been able to piece together, at some point during this year my mother had a nervous breakdown.

I, at 6/7, was on the cusp of leaving the narcissism of early childhood and realizing that other people are separate from me. That they have their own worries and disappointments.

The year my mother was 7/8, her youngest sibling, also a brother, was born. And that displaced her in her father’s affections, which utterly changed her life.

This can’t be a coincidence. It’s known that familial traumas repeat, generation after generation. I believe nowadays they explain some of it as “epigenetics”.

Right at the age that children leave the narcissism of early childhood, both my mother and I were yanked from being the golden children of our families to being nobodies.

My mother never recovered from that trauma.

I guess I haven’t either. I have been aware, for years now, that deep down I feel that there’s something I can do that will make me likable, again. That if I just try harder, my family will value me again.

That receiving regard is something you achieve, through hard work.

So if I’m not receiving it, obviously I’m not working hard enough.

= = =

I was displaced by my brother, but not the one who was newly-born. Instead, the one who was two years younger. I don’t know why, or how, or what the precipitating incident might’ve been where my mother dumped me in favor of my brother. I can’t ask. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

= = =

I would like to have a life that wasn’t riddled with unhealed traumas.

= = =

I would like to celebrate living long enough to turn 50. No one is more astonished than me, I assure you. I grew up believing I would die before I turned 16. Then 21. Then 25. Then 30.

= = =

I had birthday parties at 25 and 30. Nothing special for 16: not a party; not a special gift.

At 21, my mother offered to do something big, but I was supposed to pick it. I’d never been allowed to pick gifts before, so I was anxious, since she said she wouldn’t buy something she didn’t approve of. I feared if I picked “wrong”, I would receive no gift at all.

I decided on a piece of jewelry, a ring. My parents and I went to the jewelry store. An older man waited on us. I picked out a dainty amethyst ring (that I’d carefully noted my mother approved of). The salesman asked what the occasion was; my mother told him it was my birthday. He said he knew which one — 16!

I was crestfallen to have to say no, actually I’m turning 21. (Something that should’ve been fun and exciting to say!) I felt like he’d outed me as some kind of unnatural baby. But I’d never gotten to pick before! And truly, I wasn’t really getting to pick now either. My mother had to approve, and she liked to think of me as…

Demure, soft, sweet, shy. A little dull.

And of course, young for my age.

= = =

I think I did want that party at 25. It wasn’t a surprise party. But how I envisioned an adult birthday party, for me, and how it turned out… didn’t overlap at all.

I don’t think anybody had a good time.

I mean, I know I didn’t, but everyone else seemed bored, annoyed. Like they wished they were somewhere, anywhere else. And then I got all those dorky gifts — “for entertaining” — that I had to pretend to be excited about.

I had to pretend the whole time.

= = =

My 30th was a surprise, but… I’d had suspicions that something was going on. And then a few days before, I’d talked to my father on the phone (unusual enough), and he was extremely snippy with me. Jumpy. Totally out of character. That really got me thinking.

I already have a poem about the party itself. I don’t want to think about it; I definitely don’t want to write the whole thing out, now.

But… the pretense for getting me into my parents’ backyard was such a horrifying idea that it pushed every other thought (parties, or otherwise) out of my head. So I didn’t register at first what was happening, why there were all these people in the backyard. Why they all seemed to be staring at me. (Absolutely unprecedented.) Why they all clearly wanted something from me.

It all took a very long time for me to figure out what was happening.

I was worried sick about my trees [the pretense].

The party was long, but… I was never quite able to switch gears to being happy and celebratory, when my mother had used such a mean trick to start things off.


I had to pretend and pretend and pretend.

The guest list was padded with a bunch of relatives I don’t even like.

The cake wasn’t special. I mean it wasn’t especially tasty, flavorful, interesting. That’s actually one of the elements that really really matters to me.

There weren’t any special festive (nonalcoholic) drinks.

I was wearing a dorky outfit. (At least the colors were pretty.)

There was no dancing. No music.

Besides Spouse, I had two girlfriends there. They didn’t know each other, but one knew enough of the other not to like her, so it wasn’t a girl group.

= = =

At other people’s parties, people are happy to see each other.

But when I go to a party, no one is ever happy to see me. Even when it’s my party. Why show up at a party where you don’t like the person it’s for?

Oh wait. Since my mother threw some of these parties, I bet she strong-armed people into attending. I bet that’s why they seemed bored and annoyed.

I mean besides the fact that nobody in my family likes me.

= = =

It’s only in the last… hmm, 2 years, maybe… that I’ve started to figure out who I am, that isn’t hedged in on all sides by what my family of origin expects me to be, will only allow me to be. (Even though I’ve been out of contact with my parents since late 2005. It’s taken 9 years to detox as far as this.)

And yet, I rushed into an entire year of planning… a party… when I hate parties. When I’ve never, once, in my entire life, had a good time at a party. Not mine, not anyone’s.

Why did I do this?

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of choosing.

Fear of allowing myself to want what I actually want. (Whatever that is.)

No wonder I don’t feel like celebrating.

Dream, sort of: 7.13.2016

July 13, 2016

++ Dream this morning that was so bizarre and disturbing, I’m not going to recount it here. But I do want to thrash out the things it’s made me think of. ++

What’s something I can legitimately claim I’ve wanted since I was seven? I think a birthday party actually fits.

But I had a birthday party at 11, and it was a total disaster. I didn’t have another one until I was 25; it was meh.

Spouse spearheaded the surprise party at 30 (that I did think I wanted). I have an unfinished poem about it. ‘Disaster’ isn’t quite the right word but… it was really awful.


I have this big milestone birthday coming up in a few weeks. I’ve been puzzling over what to do about it — that is, how to properly celebrate it — for months and months and months.

It’s puzzling precisely because how do you “celebrate” when you hate parties? When you come from a family where parties = celebrating? What can you do instead that feels celebratory?

Spouse put together a shindig at (my) 40. Parts were truly excellent. The actual birthday parts, though, were… meh. I felt so horrible for so long even admitting that to myself. To me, “birthday” means a delicious special dessert, something festive to drink (non-alcoholic). Dancing. Wearing a pretty outfit. Cool gifts to unwrap are a bonus.

Friends to share it with… you know, in the past, this is the part where it all fell off the rails.

If I’ve had friends at all, I’ve tended not to have the kind of friends you could invite to a birthday party. So to “fill in” other people’s ideas of how many people should be there, people were invited that I don’t care about at all, and then I was guilted into spending more time with those people than the people I actually wanted to see, because otherwise I was a Bad Hostess.

Except that, now that I think about it, I can’t be the hostess of my own surprise party. My mother was the hostess. Why wasn’t she making herself spend time with these people I didn’t like?

{Why has it taken me all this time to notice that discrepancy? Hmmmm.}

= = =

I still own two items I received at my 25th birthday party: I kept them among all others because they both have fish motifs.

= = =

I believe every single item I received at my 25th birthday party related to items a person would need for entertaining. Yes, I was about to move into my first apartment. But in the year I was in that apartment, I didn’t entertain once. In all the years Spouse and I have been married (23+), we’ve formally had people over… a handful of times I think. And those people were our parents. In no way, though, could those times be considered “a party”. I hate parties.

= = =

Wait a minute. If I’m writing this to myself, about myself, and yet my unconscious keeps inserting the words “I hate parties” — I mean, I know that — I must be skipping over a blindspot.

I think I need to leave that for the moment.

= = =

What I actually intended to write about this morning was…  celebratory gifts.

I shouldn’t have saved up money and spent all of it on a gift for my mother, for her milestone birthday. This morning, I realized that deep in my unconscious I believe I feared that my father would not celebrate my mother’s milestone in a way she could appreciate, so I was going to save the day.

{Technically, even if that had been true, the $200 a daughter could afford (to save up) to spend could not in any way match the thousands of dollars a husband could afford (to save up) to spend. That seems… incredibly obvious today, although it never occurred to me then.}

It turns out she did like the gift my father spent thousands of dollars on.

She’s probably still talking about it.

My gift she never mentioned. She almost never wore it. I would almost say… it was a dud, except that… I really loved it.

Why didn’t I buy it for myself then? Well, it was the wrong colors for me. It was extravagant. Back then I would’ve never bought myself a gift that cost $200. Even if I saved up for it. It was… showy.

When other people were watching me, I appeared to be… shy. Muted. Dull.

I wasn’t any of those things but… No one else perceived me any differently. If I had worn a necklace like the one I gave my mother, instead of indicating to everyone else they been wrong about me, they would’ve instead assumed that I had terrible taste. That I didn’t realize I was “making a spectacle of myself”. They would’ve felt pity, not surprise. Definitely not admiration, for the beautiful necklace or for me.

= = =

The dream I had this morning… What if I don’t actually want to celebrate my milestone birthday as a milestone? What if I don’t want to do anything that invites comparison with my mother’s milestone birthday 29 27 years ago?

What if I want something completely different? Except that I have no idea what it is.

= = =

Yesterday I found a festive nonalcoholic drink that I thought to myself, “I could drink this for my birthday”. Yesterday I also planned and executed a trip to a local gourmet cupcake bakery, so I could taste stuff. They weren’t there anymore.

I’ve spent most of this year trying to pull together elements for this milestone birthday of mine. These elements (that I defined for myself as being necessary) have defied me at every turn.

That should have been a clue.

Instead, I thought, “wow, this celebration stuff is hard when there’s just one person doing all the work!”

The thing is, if it’s one person planning to celebrate one person, shouldn’t it be easy? Shouldn’t it be fun? Shouldn’t it be kind of… a delightful romp?

It hasn’t been. It’s been one headache after another. One disappointment after another.

So something is terribly wrong.

= = =

If there even was a party for my mother’s 50th (and I don’t recall if there was, or not), the Really Big Gift from my father overshadowed everything else.

= = =

I don’t recall a big deal being made over my father’s milestone birthdays.

Did he pick the Really Big Gift as his own proxy? Given how things played out, I think maybe he did (unconsciously of course).

Interesting, if so, that both he and I acted similarly in the same situation. His effort pleased my mother and mine didn’t, but surely what matters for a proxy is that it pleases you.

Every account I’ve heard of how the Really Big Gift went {it was a trip}… it was my mother telling me how much my father… eventually… enjoyed it. But did he really? I mean, how would my mother know? My mother is terrible at discerning feelings. I think she might have alexithymia. She doesn’t know her own; she definitely doesn’t recognize other people’s.

What she likely “knows” is that my father put a good face on it. And maybe he really did have a good time. But maybe he didn’t, but he said he did, and that’s all my mother really cares about — appearances.

= = =

A party… is all about appearances, isn’t it?

Oh, fuck.

= = =

In my godawful dream, just as I was realizing how the situation between me and the other person was… kind of a crisis, actually… and omg, why am I even here? Now?

Somehow, just then, 3 other people were suddenly there with us. My brother-in-law and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, sharing a sleeping bag (?!), and some random country singer guy.

And I thought to myself, “How is this going to look to them? How can I explain this? I can’t explain this.”

= = =

I don’t know what I want.

I don’t know how to figure out what I (might) want.

But I do know… I don’t want a party. I don’t want a proxy for the party I don’t want.

I don’t want the wrong food. I don’t want… birthday gifts.

I don’t want to have to put on a social face {like I suddenly/inexplicably had to do in the dream}.

= = =

I no longer want what I wanted when I was seven.

= = =

What do I want?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,466 other followers