Fashion, Stings, Threat and Resolution in Mid-August, Three Years Later

My mind has felt messy lately, dull at the edges with being a little tired from the long summer and the expectations I place on myself.

The sentence that ended my last slapdash post, re: what this says of me and what it says of how I see the world, has bothered me. There could be a whole essay on the extent to which how we see the world informs us of ourselves and so it was a moot statement, as are many.

My children return to school on Wednesday. We purchased folders today and wondered about whether the binders were of the right sort. My son mused about fashion as we walked around the store.

“Why would someone spend 75.00 on a curling iron? Shouldn’t they be thinking about other things?”

“Like what?” I selected a pair of faux flower clips for my daughter’s hair.

“Like doing things or taking care of other things or being outside? Not just how they look?”

“Some people have disposable income. Fashion keeps them busy, entertains them.”

“Well, I don’t find it very entertaining.” He sounded disgruntled.


I wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation. I wanted to get out of the store. People were walking around aimlessly and I felt like we would run into them, or they would run into us. It was distracting and my arm hurt.

On Friday, getting ready to take the dog for a walk, I felt a sharp pinch on my arm and saw that I was being stung by a yellowjacket, that it’s body was curled into my arm and that it was stinging me through my sleeve. I pulled at the fabric and the insect buzzed around me angrily for a minute while I tried to protect my head, scurrying down the driveway with the little dog on a leash, unaware.

I could imagine wanting to cry, the sting hurt so badly, but I just walked it off, rubbing at my forearm.

The next day, yesterday, my arm appeared to have a lemon lodged in it. It was hard and hot.

I could see the tiny hole that the stinger had made.

I worried about infection and the fact that I have no health insurance. I studied the edges, looking for red lines spreading. There seemed to be some, but they were faint.

This morning, the swelling had distorted 1/2 my forearm, causing the skin of my elbow to be shiny and puffed. There was a heat around my bones that I didn’t like, a warm pain that reached down to my wrist. The hole seemed to have gotten bigger. The edges of the red were definitely lacy.

I thought that maybe my smaller veins seemed darker. Did I usually have so many visible veins in my arm?

I thought about how close my arm is to my heart and how just one small microbe can kill a human if it can make itself at home.

For most of the day, I was woozy and feverish feeling.

However, shortly after not really paying attention to my 10 year old’s critique of fashion culture, I was absent-mindedly pawing through the racks of clearance items – disqualifying possible purchase on the basis of texture, embellishment, and price – and I realized that I hadn’t thought about my arm for almost two minutes and that I’d probably survive the yellowjacket sting.


I could not remember if I had been stung by a yellowjacket since I stepped into a nest of them as a child. I imagine that I probably had been, and have a vague recollection of an inflamed ankle. I know I’ve been stung by bees, which have a different sort of sting – sharper at first, less of a punch, a softer burning – but I couldn’t recollect a yellowjacket sting over the past 30 years or so.

So much for remembering everything…

Tonight I sprayed poison on the place near the backdoor where the nest was. I had been putting it off. It makes me feel sick to think of poison seeping into the ground, into the nest.

“Kills on contact,” the bottle read and I thought about how it must be to find one’s home suddenly flooded by poison and I knew that the death would not be immediate, because most deaths by chemicals are not.

Even if they are fast, they are not immediate.

I have a part of my mind that tends to believe that I will bring misfortune upon myself if I kill an insect.

It’s all because of that spider, that black widow in Athens, 14 years ago.

It was around this time of year, possibly on a date very near this one.

Spiders are not insects.

I am hopeful that the killing of the yellowjackets does not result in bad luck of some sort. It had to be done. I thought about using boiling water, but then I imagined those not burnt bursting out of the cracks in the steps and up from the ground and so, when they were sleeping, having returned to the nest after dark, I sent rivers of poison down into the crevices and seams in the wood and soil, making sure to spray thoroughly and deeply, feeling sick the whole time.

In my walking and talking life, aside from back-to-school commerce and killing insects, I have been not getting a project done and not writing the essays I need to write and not looking at my registration for my upcoming classes and not writing a letter.

I did have a good talk with the kids about the mechanics of seeing things from a strengths perspective, as opposed to a deficit perspective.

I have decided that I’d like to write a story about a teenage boy in a church community who begins to see something like “God” in the clouds and starts to lose his mind in believing he understands the origins of written language. This story might already exist. If I were to write such a thing, it’d be a matter of adapting elements of my experience to a fictionalized character in a fictionalized setting and a context constructed to tell of the forces and variables that impact our stories and how we see ourselves and one another in the world.

I’d like to write his family compassionately, even in their fearful state of misinformation.

I probably won’t get that done either, though I did actually outline it.


I have noticed lately (lately being the past couple of years) – that my life is not structured to allow me to do much of what I’d likely be best at doing. Such is life and I’m not alone. Odd that it is such a hard-won privilege (for some more hard-won than others) to be able to do a simple thing like spend all day writing.

I figure that, unless my life derails again – and it might, not due to neglect on my behalf, but simple exhaustion and the limitations of ability, what can and cannot be supported and the possible impact of pressures, expectations, and demands placed upon me by others who have little interest in seeing me be able to live my life in ways that are suitable, sustainable, and successful…unless something like that happens, an additional derailment, chances are good that I will eventually get to have the time I need to write the stories I want to write.

Nothing is immediate.

I have decided that if my life derails again, I am not going to struggle to return to work, to get back into school, to prove to people that I am okay and that I can do well.

I am just going to write stories and keep writing stories.

Of course, depending on how one’s life is derailed, the effects of derailment can impact one’s ability to do what is important to them, or – in the case of forced neuroleptics – really much of anything at all.

That is the biggest risk I face, that some person – probably someone tangentially in my family – will decide to check up on my online presence and will determine that I am being “inappropriate” or communicating in a way that is “concerning” (because the people in my family, for the most part, do not read things such as the early notes of forgotten postmodernist poets or real love letters or any other sort of honest writing) and, most importantly, that they do not approve of what I am saying or appear to be doing and that I require forced psychiatric treatment.

It has been almost 3 years since something like that happened before.

It’s on my mind.

They did not realize that their treatment would only make me more determined to never let them write me wrong again.

I do not think that people who know me, the allies I’ve found over the past few years, realize how brave it is to be myself. I do not think that they realize that I could lose my children, just by being myself or that there are people in my life who would try to make me choose or decide that they ought to choose for me.

I don’t think people know that.

It’d be much safer for me to be more quiet, more compliant. It’d be – in many ways – much more safe for my children, as well, because then they wouldn’t be at risk of losing me because of what someone who does not know me may think of who I am and why I am and what that may mean. It was not so much me that presented a threat to my children, but what people made of me.

So, given that such threats are a reality in my world, it’d be wise of me to live a life that nobody could think anything of.

What sort of life would that be?

If I were to try to be someone I am not and to not love what I love or know what I know, then they would have a mother who never had light in her eyes and who was very quiet all the time, alone with the world that she could never speak of, not even to herself, and she would never get to try to be what she had always known she should be and they’d know why…

Who would want that for anybody involved?

There is something sick in our culture, some belief that tells us that nobody gets to be what they know they should be, that nobody ought to follow their heart too loyally, that we should settle and make do with what we have to do, even if it means not being ourselves and compromising our values and trying to adapt to that which we cannot adapt to.

The only solution I have been able to determine is to simply figure out a way to make anything anyone might use against me into an artform and an asset, to build alliances and protections, to legitimate myself in context.

So, now, instead of being “crazy,” I am a mental health professional and a student of psychology in the humanistic tradition. I am studying, among other things, the human condition of madness and how it may inform us of the many different and vital ways of being and experiencing the world. I am interested in the interplay of context and condition, the cognitive and emotional processing styles associated with madness, modes of experience and signification as they relate to repressed creativity, madness and irrepressible gestalt sense…other things, too…but, not so interested that I want to devote my whole life to overtly explaining things to people or trying to prove some point about mental health.

Even if I were “crazy,” that means nothing and, besides, may actually be a good thing. It could, in fact, be an indicator of my sanity and of my honesty, depending on what world one lives in and what they care to admit.

There are lots of ways to explain and many points that are already proven, many ways to prove a point.

This has gotten long.

It’s an email to myself.

Tonight at 6:30pm, I suddenly felt like turning right instead of left, walking with my kids up to the top of a mountain. It was raining, but just a little. “It would be dark by the time we needed to come back down. It’s probably not a good idea.”

“Pleaaaaaassssseeee….” They wanted to go, loved the idea of it, that we could just decide – out of nowhere – to walk to the top of a mountain in the early evening.

I loved that, for the first time in a good long while, I felt inspired to do something unplanned and that it felt like fun, to think about that we could do such a thing.

We agreed to go tomorrow. “If it’s not raining too bad,” I said, placing a reasonable motherly condition on the outing.

I have since decided that unless it is pouring, we’ll go anyway, because it will be fun and I’d like to see the fern forests and smell the Fall on the way up.


All these pictures of clouds were taken 3 years ago, on August 18th. Only if I look at them closely can I see what I thought I saw in them, which I now realize was just clouds doing what clouds do, which is make shapes, gather water and hold light.

At the time, not having ever quite realized the depth and density of the sky, how it could have so many layers, so much movement, I was completely amazed by how beautiful it was, that so much is over us and all around us, all the time.

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