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Autism and a career: signposts

July 27, 2015

7 years ago ~ July, 2008

We’d moved to Maryland the month before. I felt guilty that I still hadn’t physically or emotionally recovered from how grueling the move process [from IN to MD] had been, so I jumped into looking for a job, any job, much sooner than I probably should have.

I’d applied to GIS jobs, but got no callbacks. In desperation, I applied for a bank teller job in a nearby town because I knew I could do it well (although I expected I would be bored stiff within weeks). Their HR dragged the process out long enough that I ran across an office manager job in Baltimore City, working for some art consultants, that at least sounded way more interesting, possibly even design-related (one of my newer special interests).

Neither was what I really wanted, but I didn’t know what I did want, except for the nebulous: “more creative, but also a technical aspect so I can become an expert. An environmental focus would be great!” {What job is that? Neither of these 2, that’s for sure.}

By late August, I picked the Baltimore job. Within the first week, I knew I’d made a horrible mistake. After my first day, I was practically catatonic: Spouse took me out to dinner, and it was an utter disaster in a way I’d never experienced before. I don’t remember much of that evening, except that (I think) Spouse left the food on the table without eating any of it. He was annoyed, but I had no energy to deal with him. All I do recall clearly is me sitting on a bench outside the restaurant, so tired and out of it that staring at the ants on the sidewalk was all I could focus on. I was so beyond-exhausted that I forgot how to talk.

{That’s apparently a thing that can happen to autistic people who are overwhelmed.}

The job got worse and worse. My 2 bosses were abusive, and I was afraid of them. I got injured on the job, and they used that as a way to coerce me into doing even more things that I shouldn’t do. I would get so panicky, I couldn’t think at all. Then I’d feel guilty and stupid and horribly ashamed at how ‘weak’ I was afterwards — there was no way to describe any of it to my friend K or Spouse that made any sense to them, so I started to feel like a hopeless loser who deserved to be treated poorly.

That was the beginning of the end of ‘normalcy’, but… I only figured out the connection this past weekend.

If the move hadn’t been so horrendous for me… well, who knows?

I remember telling my friend K, at the time, “I can feel that something essential, some fundamental resource, is being depleted faster than I can replenish it. But I don’t know what it is! So not only can I not halt the depletion, I can’t replenish either. I can’t avoid the bad stuff I’m currently doing, since I don’t know where the problem is. And when that resource runs out, … I don’t know what’s going to happen.” It felt so dire, I honestly thought I might die when I hit that wall. But… she didn’t know what I was talking about, and I didn’t know a better way to explain it, since I didn’t understand what was happening.

It was autistic burnout.

After 6 months, I got laid off when they went out of business. In a few months, I got a job as an executive assistant, which was, if possible, an even worse disaster. I didn’t even make it through the 3-month probation period before I was fired (for the first time ever).

For the $120/week unemployment I was qualified for, I had to apply to (iirc) 4 jobs every week. Nobody wanted to hire me to do anything. After a year, I stopped looking. Might as well change careers! I’ll become a graphic designer! But then I found out I had carpal tunnel syndrome. And then a whole host of other medical problems cropped up.

I entered a depressive phase that lasted 4 years. When I started to come out of it, I realized my energy levels were extremely low. I couldn’t be sure they hadn’t always been, since my parents insisted I push through that (or injury or illness), because how I felt was irrelevant. But in case this fatigue was a new problem, I entered the maze of medicine, looking for answers and solutions. Many, many expensive tests later, no one could tell me anything useful, although I did learn about other problems I hadn’t known I had.

Was I disabled now? How could I even establish that? It was too overwhelming to think about making a case to the government when I couldn’t get my friends or Spouse to take any of it seriously. Also, I was terrified of being permanently dependent on someone else. I wanted to go back to work, if only to earn money so I could feel like I deserved to exist.

On the other hand, I knew I could never again work a 9-5 job, sitting for 8 hours all day everyday. Pretending I care about the stupid crap everyone else thinks is so important.


9.5 years ago ~ January, 2006

Business trip to Tysons Corner, Virginia, for software training on ICIS [US EPA database]. The 12 days I was there was the longest time I’ve ever been away from Spouse. Got to know 3 of my co-workers a lot better, plus our counterparts from all over the country.

Despite the cold weather and snow on the ground, took public transportation to DC Saturday to see the Textile Museum, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Sunday, I spent in Alexandria, Virginia, so I could revisit the Torpedo Factory my childhood friend KB had introduced me to in 1981.

Hatched a dream of someday working for US EPA. Region 5, headquartered in Chicago seemed likeliest, but Region 3, HQ’ed in DC, suddenly seemed a lot more appealing.

{By the time I stopped applying to federal government jobs, I’d been doing so, on and off, for 12 years. Never got even a glimmer of interest.}


12 years ago ~ July, 2003

Still new at my Environmental Scientist job at IDEM-OWQ, but starting to get the hang of it. Gearing up for my negotiated ‘special schedule’ for my first semester of grad school, beginning the next month, which would allow me to work the usual 37.5 hours, but at slightly-odd times, accommodating my need for 8 class hours/week. (Requirement of my fellowship.)

Thinking that a M.S. in GIS was going to get me somewhere I wanted to go.

Autism: Dream, 7.20.15

July 20, 2015

In the dream, I half-wake-up, realizing that Spouse is cleaning my bathroom. [We have an agreement in waking life where he cleans the toilets and the shower, but I do my own mirrors, counters and sink.] In the dream, though, he moves on from the toilet to the counters and the sink, which [in waking life] are filthy right now. He’s in there so long, scrubbing and whatnot, that maybe he’s cleaning the floor too! Maybe the walls!

In the dream, I wake up fully when Spouse brings into our bedroom [which is suddenly much larger] my stuffed chair from the big room, and arranges it in the corner. I think to myself, “that’s odd. What made him think of doing that?” So I get out of bed, get dressed, and walk into the big room.

Which is filled with mostly-distant relatives of Spouse’s, from Kentucky; some, I’ve met once before, and some I’ve never met or even heard of.

Apparently, some other relative died, recently, and for some unknown reason, the funeral will be held up here in Big City country, instead of in Kentucky. None of these (rural) relatives can afford to stay in a hotel, so Spouse invited them all to stay with us, for free. Indefinitely, because the ‘funeral’ arrangements go on for days.

Spouse says nothing to me about any of this that morning (or had the night before); I pick it up from moving around the room listening, and putting pieces together.

The big room — now, much much bigger — is packed to the gills with people milling around, talking and laughing. They’re wearing clothes that are unfamiliar [for my idea of what’s appropriate for a wake or funeral]; they’re discussing ‘family business’ that’s wholly unfamiliar to me; there are ‘in-jokes’ I’ve never heard. It’s noisy.

I feel like an interloper in my own apartment.

I also… keep trying to find the flow of conversation and slip into it, but somehow everything I say is ‘wrong’, and offends somebody.

= = =

I’m walking down a long hallway, which has doors ajar on both sides. Before I arrive at the next bedroom, I overhear snippets of an intriguing conversation between Spouse and my brother D (!) — they are both laughing a lot (!). I gingerly approach the doorway, hoping to make sense of whatever they could be talking about so amiably (!), but they espy me, and break apart immediately. First, they laugh some more.

I’m mystified.

My F (girl) cousin D is there. I smile, say Hello, but manage to avoid actually talking to her. Later, walking single file with a large group into another building, I think about my age, I think, “I’m 48, D is 49, and R is 50.” Then I go on to have some thought where that’s relevant [that I no longer recall].

D’s father, who is my godfather, is … even more inexplicably … also present. With a young girl who is his grand-daughter, that he is raising. He is attentive and interested in her. With a sinking heart, I avoid both of them as well.

I keep seeing the same 2 little girls, together, but apart from everyone else. They seem to be friends, not cousins or sisters. One girl wears a very dull dress, but her manner is very flamboyant, demanding the attention of any passersby — and usually getting it, momentarily. The other girl is very quiet, although her outfit is brightly colored with bold graphics. When I walk past them, finally, I make a point to compliment both of them. The quiet girl looks secretly pleased.

= = =

Looking ahead to the funeral itself, I have no idea what I even own that might be suitable to wear. I definitely don’t want my outfit to be another faux pas.

= = =

At some point, I realize that, even though nothing still makes any sense to me, I have to participate, I have to ‘do the work’, because that’s what Being An Adult is.

And Spouse is worth making all this effort for, even though I mostly struggle with everything (while he doesn’t, having been born to it).


{ I haven’t posted any prose posts to the blog in weeks because I’m struggling with re-evaluating my entire life in light of now knowing that I’m autistic: “So I’m not defective — just different, in a human-diverse way — but really, who still cares enough about me that I could tell any of this to?”

I’m also marking the End of an Era: the last cousin I was in contact with — the one I kept breaking up with — finally figured out that I really meant to break up. So, for the first time in my life, I’m in contact with… zero relatives. }

{ Link from Twitter last night to a thread on a thing I’d never heard of, called MetaFilter. This thread was (mostly women) talking about who does Emotional Labor in their relationships. I sat on my bed, without moving, riveted to reading the 100’s of comments, for over 3 hours. }



Spouse’s remaining grandparent died the week after I married him, so going to her funeral was my first trip to Kentucky, and first time meeting most of his extended family. I didn’t own anything black, but I brought a favorite brown skirt with me. There was a flurried shopping trip to a department store in KY so I could buy the first brown sweater I saw. And then… my clothes were… all wrong, even though I couldn’t put my finger on how. And I didn’t know what to say to anyone. The one person I truly liked, that I felt ‘at home’ with, was an uncle who married in; he reminded me of the great-uncles I’d grown up with.

I’ve spent 22 years trying to figure out KY customs on visits to Spouse’s parents, and I’m… still mystified. It does not help that… (some) people in his family seem to be neurodiverse, but not in the same ways that I am, so with that, plus Culture Shock, we are never on the same page. I still do inadvertently offend people, and I don’t know what I did that was ‘wrong’. It’s taboo to talk about such things, so I just get to know that everyone probably thinks I enjoy behaving like a jerk for kicks, when in reality, I’m actually trying to ‘fit in’ (searching, ever more desperately, for a way to do so that doesn’t feel like I’m selling my soul), but failing miserably.

I mostly don’t go with Spouse anymore to visit his parents. I have health issues that can’t easily be accommodated. But it’s also too stressful, for both of us.

My father-in-law does, inexplicably, seem to like me. I’ve never made sense out of why.

{ They’re Guess culture, while — after all my therapy — I persist at acting like an Ask-er. }

= = =

My family of origin are also Guess culture.

I don’t fit in.

Even though the majority of them are neurodiverse, and a bunch of them may also be ASD (albeit undiagnosed), everything I do is uniquely terrible and inappropriate and embarrassing.

Or, it’s too boring to pay any attention to my life at all.

Or, on the rare occasions that someone will admit that I accomplished a cool thing, all I hear is, “We always knew you could do it!” Um, that’s actually a really annoying thing to say. Because I certainly didn’t ‘know’ I could do it. I don’t bother trying to do things I ‘know’ I can do — the challenge of ‘testing my mettle’ is what motivates me, not the end result (which I usually don’t care much about).

= = =

I don’t think my brother D and Spouse have ever had a (meaningful) conversation where they were talking and laughing. Spouse rarely laughs around my family.

He may find them as inexplicable as I find his family, but… he doesn’t feel bad about it. He doesn’t try to fit in. He doesn’t worry if he does something ‘wrong’. He just doesn’t care, at all, what they think. Some of them liked him anyhow. (And he didn’t care about that either!)

= = =

Iirc, my cousins D and R are both the same age, which is 1 year older than me. They were friends, when I was growing up, but they didn’t want anything to do with me. Nor did the girl cousin K who was 6 months younger than me. Partly, all 3 of them lived in South Side suburbs, while my branch was in the western suburbs. But also, I just… didn’t fit in, anywhere.

Boy cousins didn’t like me either.

= = =

I think D’s father, my godfather, is Aspie. We seemed similar-ish, even to me, as a kid, so I tried and tried and tried to have a relationship with him, but he wasn’t interested. Seeing him in the dream with a little girl that he liked… heart-breaking.

= = =

The 2 little girls were interesting because I’m clearly both of them: the ‘obnoxious’ show-off who demands attention from everyone and the ‘quiet’ one whose outfit tells you she’s just as passionate and intriguing, but she has to like you before you might see that for yourself.


When I began writing this post, it seemed clear to me that I would have conclusions at the end, which would make sense of the dream. As I wrote, though, I saw that…. my feelings are still jumbled and jangled. They don’t want to sort out neatly.

And that’s okay.

Reading List 7 of 2015

July 15, 2015
tags: ,

Covers the period from 6.26.15 through 7.15.15  


I own 9 of these books. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 17 of the books; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 9.


Autism spectrum:

  • [Documentary] Spectrum
  • [Documentary] Too Sane for This World
  • [Fiction] Rogue: A Novel by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
  • [Biography] The Boy Who Played with Fusion by Tom Clynes {partially read}
  • [Memoir] Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters by Jesse A. Saperstein {partially read}
  • [Memoir] Parallel Play by Tim Page
  • [Memoir] Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Elder Robison
  • Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone
  • Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison
  • The OASIS Guide to Asperger Syndrome by Patricia Romanowski Bashe and Barbara Kirby
  • The Partner’s Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Susan Moreno, Marci Wheeler, and Kealah Parkinson
  • Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good Female Life by Liane Holliday Willey



  • Anna Halprin by Libby Worth and Helen Poynor {partially read}
  • Anna Halprin: Experience as Dance by Janice Ross {partially read}



Fiction [SFF]:

  • Delan the Mislaid by Laurie J. Marks
  • The Moonbane Mage by Laurie J. Marks
  • Ara’s Field by Laurie J. Marks
  • Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
  • Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks
  • Water Logic by Laurie J. Marks
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older



  • The Best American Poetry, 2007, guest edited by Heather McHugh
  • The Evolution of the Flightless Bird by Richard Kenney
  • Orrery by Richard Kenney


Memoir & Biography:

  • All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors
  • Everything You Ever Wanted: A Memoir by Jillian Lauren
  • Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach {partially read}
  • The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander
  • Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel by Annie Cohen-Solal
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  • A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father by Augusten Burroughs
  • Van Gogh: A Power Seething by Julian Bell {partially read}



  • Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich
  • A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld
  • Writing the Artist Statement by Ariane Goodwin



Autism spectrum Reading List 1

July 8, 2015
tags: ,

A Twitter-friend who’s wondering if they might be on the spectrum asked me for book recommendations. I thought others might benefit from a dedicated list of what I’ve read.

Covers the period 6.15.15 through 7.7.15


What I liked:

1) 22 Things a Woman with Asperger’s Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know by Rudy Simone

Revelatory! Now, if I can just get Spouse to read it! (I bought my own copy.) Rudy Simone also wrote an earlier book for partners of men with Asperger’s — I haven’t tracked it down yet.

2) Asperger’s on the Job: Must-Have Advice… by Rudy Simone

Excellent. I bought my own copy.

3) The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek

Very good.

4) Different…Not Less by Temple Grandin

Profiles of various autistic people’s careers — very informative.

5) [Memoir] Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison

Just finished this one last night — entertaining, informative, thought-provoking.

6) [Memoir] The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger… by David Finch

Bought this, wondering if it would teach me things to try in my marriage. Um. Book is laugh-out-loud hilarious in places but… I wouldn’t want to be married to this guy! He takes “self-absorbed” to places I’ve never even imagined.

7) [Memoir] Parallel Play by Tim Page

Good. Quieter guy, who isn’t an asshole.

8) [Memoir] Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Elder Robison

Robison is an engaging, matter-of-fact writer. His son, Cubby, reminded me strongly of my cousin D, but as far as I know, D didn’t have any adult trying to help him as much as Cubby’s dad… tried. Also, kind of shocked at how much help some autistic boys can get, when — I know from personal, painful experience — autistic girls (can) get shamed and demoralized. Anyway.

9) [Documentary] Too Sane for This World

Brief appearance by Temple Grandin; Profiles of 12 autistic individuals, at various levels of functioning; variety of ages and life circumstances. (None mentioned nonstandard feelings about their gender identity.) I enjoyed it, but found all the stimming kind of hard to watch. (Maybe that’s just because I don’t watch myself, and haven’t been around autistic people offline, I don’t know.)

10) “Just Give Him the Whale!”: 20 Ways to Use Fascinations, Areas of Expertise, and Strengths to Support Students with Autism by Paula Kluth & Patrick Schwarz

Fun, but targeted towards teachers of young children. (Painful for me to read, in places, because no one tried to help me when I was a kid.)

= = =


Okay / I didn’t have strong feelings about:


11) Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Revised Edition, by Chantal Sicile-Kira

12) The Partner’s Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Susan Moreno, Marci Wheeler, and Kealah Parkinson

= = =


What I Disliked:


13) Alone Together: Making an Asperger Marriage Work by Katrin Bentley

Bought this, hoping I would learn useful things. It was so awful, I couldn’t finish it. Again, another man who takes “self-absorbed” to absurd places — and gets away with it. How? Why? (Wondered if some of my family members might have marriages like this.)

14) Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone

I like Rudy Simone as a writer, but she can be uneven. I was glad I hadn’t bought this one before reading it.

15) The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be by Martha Herbert & Karen Weintraub

Didn’t finish it.

16) How to Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl by Florida Frenz

The layout — font that looks like handwritten text, all in capital letters, along with colorful hand-drawn (?) illustrations — hurt my brain to read.

17) [Biography] The Boy Who Played with Fusion by Tom Clynes

{Author did not mention autism or Asperger’s for main character, but he sounded so much like Cubby and other Aspie boys I’ve read about, I surmised he’s on the spectrum.}

This boy got everything he ever wanted, from adults eager to facilitate his ‘genius’! Another boy who was so unaware of other people, he’s almost sociopathic. I skimmed the book.

18) [Memoir] Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters by Jesse A. Saperstein

I realize that some autistic people are more verbally skilled than others, but this guy… not a good writer. Also incredibly self-absorbed. I skimmed it, didn’t finish it.

19) Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good Female Life by Liane Holliday Willey

This one marketed as a ‘how-to’, but it incorporates a lot of stuff more suitable for a memoir. I thought it was… kind of a mess.

20) Very Late Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome by Philip Wylie

Bought this one before I read it, but… I shouldn’t have. Very downer tone. Lots of filler. Would’ve been better as a website.


2 Dreams: 7.1.15

July 3, 2015


Spouse and I, talking about taking an art class we’re taking together. He found a small painting that Justin Bieber had done in the style of a famous Brueghel painting. Spouse was going to pass that off as his version of a homework assignment. When I protested because of “honor, integrity”, he threatened me, subtly (with implausible acts of harm — “you’ll get hit by lightning!”).

I was copying the lines of a charcoal drawing of a cat, but for practice in making a cat look like a cat. Later, for my own homework assignment, I planned to look at videos of cats on YouTube and then draw something that I saw myself.



I was in Gramma’s attic, with Gramma and Spouse, but unlike the real place, this “attic” was a warren of rooms separated by half-walls (with the floor covering half an acre). Everywhere I looked there were all sorts of treasures from every period of my life: art, clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry.

Spouse and I were attempting to pack up “just a few things” to take home with us, but that quickly got out of hand — I kept discovering new things that I wanted to take home and look at and think about.

I also kept uncovering caches of food, some of which had been up there for years, like, 15 years. That was mostly dried up and mummified.

There were cool art things that Gramma had made, letters she (and other people) had written. I found a pile of letters my mother had written to someone else about me.

There were pretty dresses I vaguely remembered buying years before, but most of which I’d never worn. One such was an empire-waist dress in floaty chiffon of off-white, with a vertical stripe down the front in shades of purple. There was also a dress I had worn: the kelly green coatdress I wore to AC’s wedding near Detroit.

There were lots of luggage and duffel bags, made out of colorful prints of woven cotton.

I ran across the cognac-colored cardigan*, folded, and thought to myself, “That’s the second one.”

As I came around a corner and saw the stairwell and its walls of yellow-gold, I cried, seeing the warm color. Felt anticipated grief: “gonna miss this house”, when we finally get everything out of it.

There was so much stuff on this storey that I thought Gramma might be a hoarder, but so much of the stuff was precious to me, and beautiful — I couldn’t blame her at all for not wanting to let go of it. Plus, hadn’t Gramma had her share of traumas? Same as me.

I kept being surprised at how intricate the patterns and designs were, how colorful, how appealing.

= = =

My sister E and cousin P showed up. P was getting married again — I saw a group of the favors she’d bought for her bridesmaids this time. It vaguely occurred to me that she might have asked me to be a bridesmaid this time, but (if she had) I’d turned her down. I hadn’t met her fiancée, but my sister had.

I was briefly confused when P said something to E about “David”, but it turned out that “David” was the name of E’s boyfriend. The two of them were getting serious as well.

I was glad to be with Spouse.

= = =

In a ballroom-like room, with crimson damask fabric hung on the walls. I was dancing like no one could see me . . . although E and P could see me, and they thought I was nuts.




“Honor, integrity” — those exact words — surfaced in an interaction with someone recently.

In the dream, I was confused about Spouse’s actions because he first had to remove the painting’s frame, then mount it in a shadowbox (to make it appear to be his own work) — it would’ve been so much quicker to just do the assignment himself! Why go through all that bother?

All I know about Justin Bieber is that he’s a pop singer who became famous as a teenager through YouTube; I’ve never heard his music. Wikipedia says Brueghel was a 16th century Dutch “painter and printmaker of landscapes and peasant scenes”. The colors of the painting on the Wikipedia page look dreary; my dream’s painting, while a “landscape”, was more abstract-looking swirls of reds and blues. I only really noticed the details of the brushstrokes.

Red and blue are both “masculine” colors to me. Bieber and Brueghel are both men, both artists. Music, painting, building with wood vs. drawing lines with charcoal.

= = =

Part of me is trying too hard to appear to be more capable, in media I’m not skilled with, than I actually am? But another part asserts it’s better to ‘walk’, when it’s my own work, than ‘run’ when it’s someone else’s?

= = =

Most of my poems are pretty short.

I’ve been struggling for several years now to do a visual poem about Chesapeake Bay, but nothing I’ve tried has worked. Maybe I need to go ‘back to basics’ somehow: Stop trying to make it look Really Cool, and just get something down on paper that’s a decent draft.



I don’t dream about Gramma’s house all that often anymore, but when I do, Gramma herself isn’t in it, like she was in this one. And Spouse in the dream as well? Very unusual.

Gramma and Spouse were puttering around doing their own things, and I barely interacted with them at all, but since in my dreams they’re both ‘manager’ type characters, I infer that they trusted me enough to get done what needed to get done (i.e., no micromanaging necessary).

Lots of colors in this one, and not the same colors as the earlier dream.

Green is a color of change and growth; when I wore that coatdress in waking life, I felt strong and capable and confident.

{This dream inspired me so much that I took a Big Leap into a project I’ve long aspired to doing.}

= = =

I think the colorful and intricate patterns and designs of the stuff I wanted to take ‘home’ with me symbolize possibilities of reinterpreting my past experiences in ways that are pleasing and offer insight.

= = =

There is actually only one cognac-colored cabled cardigan, but in waking life, I had just unpacked it the day before (it had been packed since our move last November). Gramma was involved in how I acquired the sweater 23 years ago, although it wasn’t a gift, exactly. {I’m wearing the sweater right now.}

= = =

Dream-E and dream-P were really chummy, and I’ve had dreams where that would’ve really bothered me, but in this one, I felt like they were almost ghosts to me. Like they were… neighbors from our old house (whom I hadn’t seen in 25 years), or people I vaguely recalled might have been in a pottery class I took in 2001. I wasn’t even curious about their new loves!

= = =

Yellow and yellow-orange, to me, are colors of inner power.

Not sure what the crimson brocade was about.

Although… uXomeia, my personal goddess of writing, has the colors of yellow-gold and ruby red.

I do actually dance like no one’s watching, even if they are, but could ‘dancing’ in the dream be a metaphor for writing my own stuff, even if no one else gets it? Or is it just ‘being myself’?

career and meaning and purpose

June 29, 2015

When I re-read my previous post, I get a gestalt sense of what ‘my life’s work’ is, but I can’t describe it in words. Nor does it seem like, if I could describe it in words, I would gain any insight.

I can ‘dimly perceive’ it, which means… my mind’s eye isn’t involved. Instead, it’s my mind’s skin, my mind’s fingers, maybe even my mind’s nose. In other words, I’m feeling it.


My experiences at the (mostly) 10-year intervals nest within each other. And they cluster.

They are… self-organizing.

(I am not ‘directing’ them. There is no plan.)


I’m process-oriented, not results-oriented, so… I’m not going to ‘arrive’ at Something. What I’ve been doing, all along, is what my ‘career’ is.

This is why ‘mentors’… don’t make any sense for me. I don’t need advice about How to Get To X. I’m not solving for X; I’m discovering it. I’m figuring out what to do next, doing it, deciding how it made sense; do I want more of it, less of it, it combine it with other things, go in a different direction next time, etc., etc. … that’s my creativity. That’s what I’m good at.

Mentors ‘save’ you time and effort; mentors help you gain resources you couldn’t get on your own.

My processes… take a long time. For example, I still haven’t figured out how to write about HUC 0206 or HUC 02 [Spring/Summer 2011] or any other watersheds/waterbodies of interest [Autumn 2012].

Various people have given me advice about how I might try to do those things. None of their advice resonated (‘felt’ ‘right’ / seemed useful).


I need to… find… things, when it’s the right time. I don’t know when or where the right time is, until I get there, and things that had mystified me ‘suddenly’ Make Sense.

No one can help me with that. No one can directly help me with that. No one can try to help me with that.

{I have often wished that someone could. I have often thought I just hadn’t found the ‘right’ people yet.}

Mentors ‘saving’ effort would… negate my enjoyment, which would destroy my motivation to do anything at all.

Resources… that’s been the really tricky one all along. I yearn for resources unlike the ones easily at hand — I want More Flavorful / More Influential / More Important.

And yet…

I already have More Flavorful because of the sheer variety of flavor notes of the experiences I keep accumulating. They can be combined in all sorts of ways, emergently adding insights to my understanding. They can be enjoyed as they are. They can give me ideas what I might try next.

Circa 10 years ago, I was one nameless / unacknowledged supplier of data on the ORSANCO project, that was nested within a larger dream of North American Water Standards. I still feel part of that larger entity. That experience is still shaping me.

Maybe I’ve been looking at More Influential from the wrong end? Not me influencing and changing others, but me being influenced and changed by what I enfold into my life. What becomes part of me.

What could be More Important than learning How to Live / Be a Good Neighbor?

I read an article today about a man in the UK who underwent a desensitizing program at London Zoo for arachnophobes. At the end of it, he was able to handle common and not-so-common spiders without fear. Later, he captured a house spider at his home, and released it outside.

Up until 2012, even though I was fascinated by spiderwebs, I was terrified of spiders. That summer, a large orb weaving spider moved into our balcony garden. Her daily web anchored on the threshold of the sliding glass door, so I had to overcome terror just to exit into the garden. Wanting to Be a Good Neighbor {my own philosophical/moral practice of several years}, I got to know her as an individual. I took lots of photographs of her. I observed her behavior at different times. She became part of my world, part of my household.

Without her, I would not have been receptive to the wolf spider that moved into my car circa 2014. {I have a funny story about that spider from last summer; I keep forgetting to write about it.}

If I’d just paid money to a zoo and gone through a program, would I have changed, deep down? It doesn’t seem very likely.

What becomes possible, now that I have changed, deep down?


I’ve a litany of Deep Down changes, that were my own ideas, that I made happen under my own power. That is the work, my life’s work.

I’m Becoming.

dreaming my w’s

June 29, 2015

timeline: late June



1st visit to P, in Prince George’s County, south of Annapolis (but still in my home watershed). Therapy incorporating dance/movement for processing and releasing bodily traumas.



  • Impatiently waiting for my name change to go through.
  • Assessing what went wrong in Philly & thinking differently for NM.
  • Preparing for Ghost Ranch writing retreat.



Home alone while Spouse went back to Kentucky. Only then realizing how much time I generally spend doing only what I think other people expect me to do, rather than what I want to be doing. Resolving to change that, even when Spouse returns.



Finishing up the Science Writing class at The Writer’s Center. Realizing I’m not ready to ‘write science’ just yet. Wondering how I could write about all the watersheds in HUC 0206, or even in HUC 02: what could I write? Who might want to read it? Where could I get it published?



Fieldwork in a fen. I wasn’t able to do almost anything I’d thought I was there for; I snapped some intriguing photos though. At lunch, listening to others talking about their favorite experiences of fieldwork, I realized my own previous experiences were precious to me because they weren’t sitting at a desk, inside a building; because I was immersed in the outside; because I was doing unusual things… but not because I was enjoying myself ~ Making myself do something I was terrified of. Spraining my wrist. Chiggers munching on my ankle. 8 hours of weeding while being wetter than I’ve ever been in my life. Heat stroke.

But if fieldwork isn’t what I want, what is?

= = =


  • Quitting grad school, with exhausted and demoralized relief.
  • Giving a talk about my life in OKC in 1985 to a group of violent juvenile sex offenders, so that they might learn empathy. There were tears, and they weren’t all mine. I helped.
  • Continuing to revise letter to my parents about cutting ties with them. {Sent in October.}

= = =


  • Decorating and organizing our new house {Indianapolis}.
  • Preparing to begin my “freshman” year as a biology major at Purdue University.

= = =


Living back in Illinois with my parents, wondering what to do with my life now that it was “over”.

= = =


Probably picking dandelions. Hanging out with chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace in the Triangle; imagining I was a rabbit, or a rock. Swimming in our family’s pool. Basking in the sun like a turtle. Reading a book.


We’re in Cancer, a month of Water, of emotions and memory. Symbolized by a crab, and why shouldn’t it be a blue crab, a famous icon of Maryland?

I’ve seen a great deal more of Maryland than I ever did of Illinois.

Spouse would say, “You’re not really ‘from Illinois’ so much as you’re ‘from Chicagoland’. Illinois is the Midwest, but Chicago is its own thing. You’re not really a Midwesterner, exactly.”

After living in Indianapolis for 13.5 years — definitely the Midwest — I would have to agree.

All of which feels irrelevant now: I am ‘from’ Maryland because this is where I grew into the person I should be.

I took what I learned from Indiana, and planted it. Here, it grew. Here, I am blossoming with flowers I never even imagined.

Here, I have boundaries.

Here, I can choose.

= = =

Who ~ MWF, with none of the names my parents picked.

What ~ my life’s work.

Where ~ northern Baltimore County, Maryland. HUC 02060003. In the region of Chesapeake Bay.

Why ~ discovering & creating what only I can do {joy}, and growing into doing it skillfully.

When ~ now.


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