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Dream: 12.31.17

December 31, 2017


  1. The “whole gang” at IDEM (including CJ)
  2. data; working with data
  3. Alabama
  4. CPD
  5. getting fired for “not being a team player”
  6. how could commuting work?
  7. the gang anticipating “pet projects” being assigned
  8. thinking about “second chances” & wondering if it could be worth trying again

In the dream, the “whole gang” was 5 or 6 people I’d worked very closely and well with, and was very fond of. CJ was at the reunion lunch, but I actually spent more time talking to a couple of the guys.

I felt like I had belonged here, and now that I’m not working, I don’t belong anywhere. That (oh so familiar) unmoored feeling.


We were somehow sitting in a room with a bank of data displays, like in a control room. I confided in one of the guys that I missed “working with data, with reams of data”, but then corrected myself, saying (in some confusion) that I now deal with masses of data a lot, just organized differently. (I did not elaborate that no one is asking me for my analysis either.)

Data is often what I think with, what gives rise to my ideas. But now that no one is gathering it up for me, and guiding in which directions I should confine my evaluations… it’s a lot harder to figure out what to do with it. There’s no more certainties.


Alabama is where the Mobile­–Tensaw Delta is located. Some years ago, I planned to drive myself out to the Gulf Coast to experience it for myself.

I got daunted by transportation logistics, and didn’t go.


CPD is the boss I had at IDEM when I still enjoyed working there. He steered plum assignments my way when he could.


In waking life and the dream, CPD left and we got new management.

I never was a team player, but with a good boss, that wasn’t an issue; with the new management, however, it was a big problem. [In waking life, I was miserable and I quit. I was not in danger of getting fired.]

I have been fired, though.

In the dream, I felt sick and ashamed about having been fired, even though I’m not ashamed that I’m not a team player. I longed to somehow “redeem” myself.

I was conscious, though, of having “moved on”. If I were to be offered a position, how could I “commute” across several states? If I telecommuted, the experience would be nothing like seeing everyone in an office every day. I’d still be an outsider.


A male coworker mentioned that management was starting to let people take on “pet projects”. That’s when I really thought I should try applying for something again.



People have a framework for thinking about you, evaluating your “worth”, when you are employed. Now that I’ve been, essentially, retired for 8 years, though, I’m invisible to most ways of gaining recognition. And the alternative paths I’ve tried… haven’t worked either.

Social recognition for (my) competence and innovative ideas has proved elusive.

But when I was working, while I was always valued for being competent and productive, I was almost never valued for being innovative, never mind creative.

I crave being noticed (for good things), but who can I allow myself to be when I’m solitary? When whatever projects I take on are not human-collaborative? When I accept that no one else cares what I do, where, when, how.

Which sets up 2018’s theme.


I’m in a shadowy, grey, misty place, a liminal space, that I’ve been assiduously avoiding for several years, and yet it’s found me anyway.

Who am I when I live for myself?


Creative Year in Review ~ 2017

December 30, 2017

Theme: Stop trying*



  • This year’s version of a spatial–dispersed poem contains information design and visual poetry elements. It also uses more colors, has text oriented in 3 directions, and involved meditatively poking pinholes into paper. Way more fun to construct!
  • Garzota project ended (2015–2017).
  • I’ve leveled up in the types of scholarly reading I’ve been doing: sure, poetics, but also Baltimore history, Black literature, culture/sociolinguistics, Indigenous languages, music/performance art, and other things. This year, I’ve been thinking more interesting thoughts!
  • 5 full years after giving away my previous cohort of indoor potted plants, this year I fell in love with small plants again, particularly stowaways, and t-o-m-a-t-o. Maybe I’m ready to invite a small indoor tree into my life.
  • I don’t “keep” plants so much as plants and I form a household. But there are also important plants that live outside of my household, and are therefore… part of my community? When they’re nearby then we’re denizens of the same watershed, but I mean individuals I’m particularly fond of, and have ongoing relationships with. Similar to the ongoing relationship I have with, in fact, my river. I don’t really have a vocabulary to think about these things, although reading [First Nations–Potawatomi writer] Robin Wall Kimmerer’s books is helping me figure things out.


Household habitat {previously Potager}

  • January: Bought a snake plant for my writing nook, but decided it suited my studio better. Sharing its pot part of the year were a small trailing forb (wee white flowers, bean-like fruits!), and brown fungi.
  • (early) April: Cacti drooping, so I experimented with repotting them into a windowbox, putting them outside. They seemed happier.
  • (late) April: Tomato plant bought already flowering; eventually 8 fruits developed, staying small and orange. I was inspired to sketch the plant while fruiting, 2x, even using a copy of the drawing as stationery for a letter. Plus, I now know the word tomato is of Nahuatl origin.
  • Transplanted various oxalis into windowboxes. Most thrived for at least a few weeks, flowering and fruiting; some did well for months.
  • Rescued 3 mint plants, which went into a windowbox (which were brought inside in November). They did reasonably well into December.
  • Cacti flowering in November, December.
  • Most of the year, spider in residence on studio windowsill. Many happy photos of spiderwebs!
  • Have seen tiny soil organisms in the dirt of the windowboxes.


River time

  • (Something I’ve been doing, irregularly, for years, but only this summer realized I should include on my frequent Cosas Hacer lists, and note when I went.)
  • Known instances = 15, across 10 months.



  • Still doing it. A lot of it. Almost every day.
  • [[August: Spouse attended a weekend photography workshop in upstate NY.]]
  • November: First session photographing an art model (shared a session with Spouse). I got many opportunities to improvise and I hope to do more sessions in 2018.



  • June: Upstate NY – Corning, Elmira, Ithaca, Watkins Glen ~ Susquehanna River
  • October: Upstate NY – Hyde Park, New Paltz, Phoenicia ~ Esopus Creek; Hudson River


Social Media

  • Still on Instagram.
  • Reactivated Postcrossing account (dormant since mid-2014): postcards mailed to 80+ recipients in 35 countries; plus 20+ direct swaps to 10 countries, 2 Canadian provinces, and 7 US states.
  • Quit Twitter.
  • Part of crowdfunding Noel Arthur Heimpel’s The Numinous Tarot.
  • By December, I was supporting 5 writers (3 of SFF), 1 photographer, and 2 SFF magazines on Patreon.



  • I sent 52 letters, and received 29 letters.
  • Mid-year, I broke up with my poetry penpal.
  • I actively looked for more penpals, finding people through a penpal newsletter, the snailmail community on IG, and the Letter Writers Alliance.
  • I’ve been writing letters for 40+ years. I’ve always enjoyed writing letters — they are appropriate venues for clarifying my thoughts and feelings, noticing connections between things, as well as, potentially, developing and deepening emotional intimacy with their recipients. In 16 months of letters, though, I never felt like I got to know my poetry penpal well at all. Moreover, I wrote far too many letters this year — needing to write more letters now fills me with dread, rather than delight. Debating with myself about how to handle things in 2018.



  • Read 293 books all the way through;
  • Read (at least) 25 books part of the way.
  • Aversion to reading poetry: 2.20 – 5.1.
  • 4 other periods of non-reading books.
  • 88 Films; 40% (35) were foreign, documentary, JHU film fest, visual art videos online.



  • Class on chapbooks at The Writer’s Center.
  • Wrote 24,392 words in 30 blog posts (including this one). This year had the fewest number of posts, 60% of last year’s (previous-record) low number, but the number of words was 4% more than 2010 (the year with the previous record of fewest words).
  • {10.19.09–12.30.17 inclusive, wrote 593,126 words in 760 blog posts.}



  • I’ve finally realized I need to rethink my whole approach to even everyday activities. New self-talk: “I’m disabled, and that means I have to be especially careful of certain things (even though other people don’t)”.
  • March: Broke finger of my left hand. 2 months PT regained me ~50% of its former range of motion, and somewhat more on 2 adjacent fingers.
  • IBS being managed fairly successfully [small portions; low fiber; avoiding dairy, tree nuts; >80% gluten-free eating].
  • November: Recording “Standing & Walking” times again. I’ve ranged from 2 to 9.6 hours per day, but am averaging >3. I’d like to work up to 5 to 6 hours, but that’ll likely wait for warmer months. {Body temperature dysregulation}
  • B: 11 (27), 12; P: (3), 3


*Not Yoda’s bullshit.

Stop behaving from (discredited, but not fully eradicated) internalized ideas that I’m inherently unworthy of notice and fond attention. End (even congenial) relationships because I’m unhappy in them, rather than persisting until I amass abundant evidence that we’re not compatible. Recognize and acknowledge what & how I really am, and embrace that.

taking stock

December 27, 2017

One of my Yule gifts to myself was Priscilla Long’s book, Minding the Muse, in which she suggests assembling a List of Works you’ve created, tangible, written, whatever. It’s an interesting idea, but emotionally-fraught — maybe I can work up to it.

At present, here is a catalog what works are visible to a casual observer in our apartment.


Bedroom ~

Carved, glazed, rectangular open vessel. (Currently holding a dried rose.)

Carved, glazed curved lidded vessel. (Assorted pieces of metal, dried fruits, rocks.)

Twice-glazed bowl. {My 1st ceramics piece.} (Seeds, dried petals; NM ring; 2 candles.)

A pile of my old photographs.

A pile of my Instamatic photographs.

[[Spouse’s Instamatic photograph of t-o-m-a-t-o, 2017, in the dryad frame I’ve had almost 30 years.]]

[[Photograph of Gramma at her 80th birthday party, 1993, with her remaining 2 sisters.]]

[[Large vertical matted, framed photograph of trees in a forest – 1st fine art photograph I ever bought. Circa 2002. Indianapolis.]]

[[6 other pieces of art, made by others: art glass, stained glass, ceramics, mixed-media fiber, painting.]]

{Cacti, thistle, dead oxalis, in window box.}

{2 tree branches.}



Writing Nook ~

Photo album of my photographs (many of our 2003 trip to the California coast).

[[Copy of photo of a badger in a meadow, unknown photographer. 1999. Indiana.]]

[[Reproduction of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass panel of a tree. Gift from Spouse.]]

[[4 other pieces of art, made by others.]]

{4 foot high rubber tree leaf on stem.}



I cannot do an exhaustive list of every piece of art in my studio, as (1) I keep losing track of who’s been counted, and (2) it’s not always clear which somethings are art in themselves. However,


Studio ~

Various rocks, dried flowers, fruits, and leaves. Shells. Metal. Wood. Glass. Beads. Tiles. Fibers. Fabric.

My bottle collection. Colorfully-stained wooden cubes. A 40 y.o. set of children’s wooden blocks.

Baskets of all sizes.

{3 windowboxes of plants, including t-o-m-a-t-o}

{Snake plant, on windowsill}

{12 freestanding tree branches; 7 branches in vases; 1 liana}

[[flowery wreath on the back of the door]]

[[Framed photograph Spouse took of himself, c. 1992]]

[[2 of Spouse’s photos of t-o-m-a-t-o]]

[[4 pieces of art glass]]

[[14 ceramic pieces made by others: 6 vessels, 2 sculptures, 3 figurines, 2 plates, 1 painted tile]]

[[1 small wooden bear figurine]]

[[1 colorfully-enameled metal canister with lid]]

[[1 painted clock depicting a fish. A long-ago gift from Spouse.]]

[[3 paintings by others; 4 prints of paintings by others]]

[[1 small-scale art quilt by NoVa fiber artist Joni Seidenstein]]


My art:

1 unframed photo, November 2017.

2 framed photos – double-exposure, Europe, 1990; gardens of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, c. 1995.

Pile of photos from New Mexico, 2016.

Large basket and box filled with 30-some years of my photographs (along with a few by other people).

13 color wheel (2016).

2 mixed media (wood, fiber) pieces.

1 piece fused glass (c. 2010).

Spatial–dispersed concrete poems (2016, 2017).

14 ceramic pieces: 10 vessels, 2 sculptures, 2 flat pieces (2002-03).

9 paintings: 1 oil (1978); 7 acrylic (2010); 1 watercolor (2013).


I have 30-some years of photographs to figure out what to do with. Drawings — I have a large-scale freestyle one that dates back to circa 1983, but others, too, from a class I took in 1993. I have more paintings. I have various weavings, mixed-media fiber, and 1 quilted-thing, none of which I know how to display, or where to put them.

I should dye more fabrics; create, or reconfigure, more garments.

I have an entire padded container full of test-glaze tiles, many of which are 3-d in odd shapes: I’d love to be able to easily handle them while pondering a design problem. I foresee rocks tracing sinuous streambed curves on my floor. I’d dearly love a fold-away labyrinth on my ceiling.


This version of a studio has taken me 22 years of experimenting and iterating to achieve. I’m finally getting the mix of elements in good proportions where they’re comfortable enough to inspire and delight me, but unexpected/varied/overlooked enough to invite curiosity and play.

Reading List 13 of 2017

December 26, 2017

Covers the period from 11.6.2017 through 12.26.17


{break from reading books: 11.20.17 – 12.7.17}


I/we own 5 of these items. I watched 7 items in the cinema/on Netflix/Amazon/HBO/ YouTube/podcast. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 5 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 24.



  1. American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780–2007 by Robert Shaw
  2. The Fauves by Nathalia Brodskaïa
  3. The Fauves: The Reign of Colour by Jean-Louis Ferrier
  4. In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage by Alan Schroeder, illustrated by JaeMe Bereal
  5. Kandinsky by the Guggenheim Museum
  6. Performance: Live Art since the ‘60s by RoseLee Goldberg
  7. [podcast] Terry Gross interview of Greta Gerwig



  1. Frozen, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy 2, directed by James Gunn
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, directed by David Yates
  4. Kedi [street cats of Istanbul], directed by Ceyda Torun
  5. Lady Bird, directed & written by Greta Gerwig
  6. Princess Cyd, directed & written by Stephen Cone
  7. Shakespeare in Love, directed by John Madden
  8. Star Wars 8, directed & written by Rian Johnson
  9. A United Kingdom, directed by Amma Asante
  10. [TV] The Crown, season1



  1. Juniper, Gentian, & Rosemary by Pamela Dean
  2. Kingfisher by Patricia McKillip
  3. Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange
  4. Strange Practice: A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel by Vivian Shaw
  5. Where the Stars Rise: Asian SF&F, edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak
  6. Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress



  1. The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
  2. Camino del Sol: 15 Years of Latina and Latino Writing, ed. Rigoberto González
  3. Poems by Joan Murray 1917–1942, edited by Grant Code [1947]
  4. We Troubled the Waters: Poems by Ntozake Shange


Writing & Creativity:

  1. From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler
  2. Improv Nation: How We Made a Great American Art by Sam Wasson
  3. Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators by Priscilla Long
  4. The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcón


Memoir & Biography:

  1. Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa by Pauline Butcher
  2. Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders by Cole Cohen
  3. Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery by Maxine Kumin
  4. Life Detonated: The True Story of a Widow and a Hijacker by Kathleen Murray Moran
  5. Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom



  1. All About Dreams by Gayle Delaney, Ph.D.
  2. Faking It by Jennifer Crusie
  3. Iconoclast by Gregory Berns, M.D., Ph.D.
  4. Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt by Mary Kay Carson
  5. …Super Safe Living [for Autistic Women] by Robyn Steward



Dream: 12.23.17

December 23, 2017

{My unconscious is clearly working overtime, but I remain confused.}

What I recall:

I’m an adult in midlife, but not quite as old as I am now. I’m apparently back living in Illinois because I’m situated in my parents’ house. My sister is also living there.

When the dream opens, 2 of my women friends are visiting, for a sleepover. One of them didn’t bring night clothes, and my mother insists that of course I have pajamas to lend her. I get anxious right away: as far as I can think right then, I have one mismatched pair of pj’s, and 1 nightgown, and I’m not sure either of them have been laundered recently. Maybe I can sneak a load in when nobody’s paying attention. (If I can even find them…  Ugh.)

The woman who needs pajamas, CJ, currently lives back in Indiana, where we met. Her car has Indiana license plates, and she is wearing a T-shirt that says “McCordsville”, an Indiana town, in old-timey lettering.

There are also, inexplicably, 2 young girls hanging around, wearing colorful clothes. They are somebody’s nieces, but I don’t think mine because, well, I don’t recognize them, or know their names or anything about them. Maybe they are friends with my sister.

I want to spend time with my friends alone but somehow my sister or my mother, or the 2 little girls, or random other people keep wandering in, distracting us. It’s annoying, but I don’t put a stop to it; I go along resentfully.

At some point I am informed “it’s been decided that” the 3 of us will sleep in my sister’s (basement) bedroom, which has had all the furniture removed. She smugly shows off the space, which is quite large.  When she leaves the room momentarily, I explain to my friends that my mother joined 2 rooms together, knocking out the middle wall, to create this large room for my sister. I say, “it should’ve been mine”, just as my sister returns. I’m mortified that I’ve been caught out again, looking childish and ridiculous.

Later, somewhere else in the house, I’m alone with my 2 friends. CJ, in the dream, stayed on at the workplace where we originally met, so she’s now been there > 10 years. She says management has changed again, and now the working culture is just a mess. She relates a recent anecdote where she got reprimanded for something really stupid. She clearly hates working there now, but feels trapped for some reason, and won’t be leaving because of this crap.                           I am heartbroken. I cry and cry, finally sobbing out, “All this time I thought at least IDEM was a great place to work, out in the world, and now I find out it’s just as bad as everywhere else??”



My sister, her room, CJ, the 2 little girls, pajamas, Indiana, IDEM, working.

I don’t want to be rivals with my sister, but somehow we always have been. And somehow, when I do a private reckoning in my head, she’s always on top. Even though it seems like things should advantage me, at least sometimes. But they don’t.                           {This description strongly calls to mind my mother’s relationship with her older sister, that I heard about ad nauseum growing up. On paper, at least, it seemed to me that my mother was far ahead of her sister, but my mother herself never saw it that way, and was always trying to “catch up”.}

The room is empty and therefore, pregnant with possibility. Anything might happen in this room. Why didn’t I receive a room like this? (Even though the carpet is ugly. And the tracks running around the perimeter that so impress everyone else seem dumb to me.)

CJ is a real person whom I’ve recently reestablished contact with. She really has moved back to Indiana, where she is originally from. But she left IDEM before I did, got married, and is now the mother of 2 sons.

I have 2 nieces, whom I last saw in 2011, when they were a little older than the girls in this dream. I know of them, but I do not know them, and they do not know me. I regret that, but it’s out of my control. I kept waiting for them to show interest in me as a person, and, since they never did, I stopped trying.

I practically live in pajamas now, like any writer who works from home. I would never volunteer these comfortable, but disheveled, clothes to anyone else to wear. They’re “good enough for me” because I’m a slob, and “only care about comfort” [patently ridiculous concerns, amirite?], but sharing them with other people — even under duress — would just broadcast how inadequate and pathetic I am. I Must Keep Up Appearances {even though that’s my mother’s mantra, and has, I’ve always thought, never been mine. Hmmm.}.

Oh, Indiana. So many good things happened there, that never would’ve happened anywhere else. So many cool people I met, sometimes became friends with. Some many awesome natural places. And yet… I felt “buried alive” there, and was ever desperate to escape. I almost didn’t care where we went (as long as it wasn’t IL or OK), as long as we left Indiana, which we did in 2008.

IDEM was, hands down, the “best job I ever had”. I was really really happy with ~1/3 of the aspects of working there, and quite unhappy with the remaining 2/3. Nobody understood me there, or cared that they didn’t. But I kept thinking (up until the last miserable year anyway) that I could somehow customize my working experience to suit me. And I really couldn’t. So I left.

I have a love/hate relationship with the whole idea of working. My father always said anyone could find a job they love, but I never did, and I sure looked everywhere. I liked always learning, and striving for subject mastery. I liked being a resource for other people. I liked being respected, being acknowledged to be smart (in a place that was valued). I liked earning money which I could put to my own purposes. I liked the variety of people I came into contact with. I liked that people gradually got accustomed to me, and often came to like me at least a little, after long exposure.                 In the case of IDEM in particular, I liked where the building was located: I could, and did, take walks to the courtyard (trees, forbs, songbirds, chipmunks), the canal (catalpa trees, among others; fish, frogs), the “prairie” at the Eiteljorg (meadow plants, butterflies, bees). I dearly loved that I was part of a broad collaborative effort to protect and defend Indiana’s waters.                    But the actual job was… disappointing. And, for me, it was clearly not going to lead anywhere. I left there, too.


Putting it all together:

{I kept feeling like this was somehow about social media, but clearly, it’s not that at all.}

I want people to judge me on what I still remain capable of doing, even though I’m not actually trying to do any of that. Hence the resentment.

And what I am doing, most days actually [writing, photography, conceptual art], I feel doesn’t measure up to how “the world” has always judged me. I’m “working below my potential”, I’m “lazy”, “a slob”, I’m “not actually working”, I’m a dilettante, a hobbyist, a pathetic child.

What if all of those judgments are irrelevant?

I am Mea of Maryland, a person of water, of trees, of rocks. I like slime molds, salamanders, and spiders. I wish (some of) my hair had leaves, so I could photosynthesize. Maybe I’d turn green! That’d be cooool. I wear pink and orange and blue, sometimes all at once. I respect everyone in my household, and try to apply that standard outward.

I am childlike in a lot of ways, and I love that about myself.

And clothes can be fun, so it’s even more important that they also be comfortable. (I’m wearing ½ pajamas right now, and they’re sooooft.)

This is who I am.

Dream: 12.22.17

December 23, 2017

{Having recently read one of Gayle Delaney’s books on dream interpretation, I’m going to try something different here.}

What I recall:

My sister has recently returned from a trip with my mother to Lithuania. I keep stumbling across either mementos they acquired on the trip, or letters from the people they visited (written partially in Lithuanian, although I can somehow read some of that). I’m angry I wasn’t included.

My sister and I are going through our stuff, and I keep discovering items I’d long forgotten I even owned. Lots of beloved, tattered old books too. Astonished that they were somehow saved from my mother throwing them out!

At times, my sister and I squabble over just who owns the books we’re finding.

My mother and I set off on a driving trip that’s supposed to console me for not going on the other trip. Except… I have been allowed no say in where we’re going. My mother’s car been outfitted with a weird proto-GPS system in which pre-programmed routes will appear, in text, on a screen on the dashboard, and I’m to read the words to my mother.

At some point, I can feel an epiphany about all these things making me angry and upset trying to erupt from my unconscious mind. I need some solitude to sort it all out, and then I’ll know what to do!                    But instead, I rush back into the scrum, subconsciously hoping they’ll recognize how they’ve wronged me, will apologize (!), and I can keep ignoring my inner self indefinitely.

I’m feeling especially aggrieved over the trip my mother and sister took to Lithuania, because the soonest my mother and I could take a similar trip would be 2018. (The dream seems to be occurring in 2015. My parents’ vacation for 2016 is already set, then they have a ‘world cruise’ in 2017.) I’m convinced that the elderly Lithuanian women relatives I should have met on the trip I didn’t take will have all died by 2018. This is so unfair!  My sister smirks about how I wasn’t even invited to go, and now whatever trip I would take will be hopelessly inferior to her trip.


I wake up with this thought running through my head: “Why am I so angry about not receiving something I would ordinarily have no interest in?”


Elements to consider:

HBs: My sister, my mother, “elderly Lithuanian women relatives”.

Things: the trip to Lithuania, childhood books, letters written in English & Lithuanian, my mother’s car’s GPS-thing, “the scrum” of my noisy contentious family, the potential trip in 2018.


Descriptions of elements:

My sister once, infamously, described me to me as “a paler, less interesting copy of [her]”, which infuriated me, not least of which because I’m 3 years older. I happen to think I’m way more interesting than my sister is, but “being interesting” is not at all prized in our family, so it’s not as though me being more of it would afford me any social advantage. We have loathed each other since childhood.

When I was a kid, my mother and my sister seemed to me to be twins mysteriously born 30 years apart. The same self-absorption/narcissism, the same histrionics and dangerous tempers, the same obliviousness to anyone else’s feelings (unless they were manipulating you just for the fun of being mean), the same aversion to logic.

(I don’t know how old I was in the dream, but) Any “elderly Lithuanian women relatives” would be well over 100 by now. No one in 3 American generations could possibly have met these people, or know anything about them except for words they told us in letters. There’s no stories about them anyone grew up hearing.

The “gift” of a house figurine from my mother was purchased on her first trip to Lithuania, which she went on with my father, her 2 siblings, and their spouses. (Nobody’s kids.) I’m not entirely sure when it was, as I was already estranged from them. I have never wished I’d gone on it.    I did take a trip to Eastern Europe with my mother, though, when I was in my early 20s and she was in her late 40s. After the first part, and the last part (getting ourselves back to the airport), our itinerary was left open to whatever interested us. We had maps and a guidebook, I could navigate, I’d learned a bit of Serbo-Croatian (and had a phrasebook), what more could we need? We had a blast.

Letters from people I’d never met, writing in a (heritage) language I have a love/hate relationship with, and only know a few words of… This feels like the issue is my inheritance, and getting cheated out of it (even though I don’t think I even want it). Why was I bothering to decipher these letters at all? Yeah, they were ostentatiously on display, probably so they’d grab my interest, but… I never met any of these people, nor knew anything about them. We had zero relationship. Why would their letters be interesting? And they weren’t interesting, but they did make me mad (no doubt the reason they were there).

The scrum is going back to approaches that have always failed, but at least they’re familiar, and don’t require me to rethink who I am, and what matters to me, and why.

Beloved-amazing-books-from-childhood-rediscovered has been a motif in my dreams for 40+ years. I recently reorganized my bookshelves such that my childhood favorites have pride of place in my studio, while books I came to love as an adult are on the shelf below. Books were how child-Mea escaped the misery of my childhood, and grew into a different kind of person than anyone I’d ever met.

The projected 2018 trip really reminds me of… one of the last holidays I spent with my nuclear family, my mother made a scrapbook of my brother D’s accomplishments for Christmas. My sister eagerly put dibs on one for herself, for the next year. I remember thinking to myself, “There’s no point in even asking. My mother probably doesn’t even remember anything worthwhile I’ve ever accomplished (or we’d completely disagree on what’s suitable to be included), and the photos… I know she’d pick all awful ones. I know it.”


Putting it all together:

Instead of seeking out things (like best-beloved childhood books) to help me steer a course towards what truly matters to Real Mea, I’m falling back into destructive old habits of letting myself get wound up by things I know are bad for me, things that, in fact, prevent me/my unconscious from making the connections/realizations I need so I can improvise my way further.

Following a plan is bad enough, but following someone else’s plan — that I had no input into — is super bad. And then judging myself harshly because this super-bad plan I followed isn’t nearly as satisfying as an original improvised route would have been? Recipe for, well, alienation, frustration, bad coping habits. Rinse, repeat.


I can’t figure out the specific issue that I’m mishandling though.

And I feel like there’s also something connected to “inheritance”/ ”heritage” that I’ve overlooked.

changing houses

December 20, 2017

Some years ago, I unexpectedly received a “gift” from someone I’m no longer in contact with: a little ceramic house, around 3-4 inches tall. I didn’t want to keep it, but I felt conflicted about what to do with it. I shut it up in a bin, stuck it in our storage unit; it stayed there a few years. At some point, I allowed it to migrate into a bin in our apartment, where it coexists with letters from people I’m no longer in contact with.

I think I’ve had it for 8 or 10 years. When I looked at it recently, I believe that was only the 3rd time I’ve ever seen it. It wasn’t as fearsome, or as ugly, as I remembered. But it went back in the bin all the same.


3 years ago, I received 2 house figures from someone else. Much bigger in scale, and attached to each other.

I was initially pleased, but living with a structure that large, I began to feel… surveilled. I stuck the figures in a back closet. I don’t know what to do about them, and no matter what I decide, I feel like I’m already in the wrong.

I need to figure out what’s going on here.


I wish conversations with people (who are not Spouse, and not psychologists) were more satisfying, and, more to the point, I wish I could have a conversation with someone about this issue where the other person would actually say something helpful, rather than clueless, condescending, or worse.

Since that’s not possible, I must write.


There is someone in my extended family whom I receive gifts from on an irregular basis. This person has given me earrings made from peacock feathers 3 separate times.

I got my ears pierced at 15, and happily wore funky earrings for many years. Until my earlobes developed an allergy to something, and regretfully, I allowed my piercings to close up. That was 20 years ago.

3 times, I’ve had to write thank you notes to this person explaining, yet again, that while the earrings are lovely, I can’t wear them.

It doesn’t seem impossibly hard to remember that I don’t have pierced ears. And yet, somehow, I guess even that little tidbit is too much work. And/or, remembering it about me is too much bother.


I have different preferences for things. My taste is not like other people in my family.

For me, “it’s the thought that counts” is ridiculous, gibberish. If you’re going to give me a “gift”, and it sucks, then please just don’t give it to me.

When I was still part of my nuclear family, I kept trying to get the adult kids to stop exchanging Christmas gifts for exactly this reason.


I don’t like gifts that don’t take into consideration what my preferences are.

If, every time I think about a gift you gave me, I clench my teeth, get a sick stomachache, and/or fight not to cry… Is that really the reaction you were going for?

(And if it is, maybe you’re an asshole.)


I believe I have 2 main problems with the 2 connected houses: scale; and that they are permanently joined.

I do have several figurines, made from various materials. A small smiling clay pig Spouse gave me when we were dating. A small carved wooden bear from the Smokies. A small glazed-clay baby tapir that I bought from someone I followed on Twitter. Each of them is about 1 inch tall. They fit nicely in my hand, where I can examine them closely, but mostly they sit on my desk or shelves.

They can’t loom over me. They can’t crowd my space. They are not aggressive. We coexist peacefully.

Figurines a foot tall, 2 feet tall… I don’t think there are any circumstances under which I would pick out something that size.

And then there’s being permanently affixed. That means I cannot handle the figures individually. I hate that. And there is no one that I am so fond of that I would want to be permanently adjacent to them physically. It’s just gross, and wrong.

And it, inevitably, dredges up comparisons to my mother thinking I am her appendage, rather than a separate person.


It doesn’t matter that I like houses, both as figurines and as real things in the world. I would never, in a million years, have picked out this particular item for myself.

And, given how the 1st house came to me, I can’t be 100% sure that my mother wasn’t also involved in this gift, in some fashion.

Hence, that creepy feeling of surveillance.

So this particular item is triggering for 3 separate reasons.


And yet I still feel guilty and ashamed that I don’t want to keep it. That I don’t like it.


This year, for the 1st time, I’ve bought myself gifts for Yule. I know that I will like them because I picked them out, according to my tastes and preferences. I’m looking forward to opening them! Using them! Being delighted by them!