[This is an assortment of writings from the first 1/2 of this strange year. Portions of this were composed using voice-to-text and are distorted in their syntax and precision, words misinterpreted by my phone. Eleven years ago today I started this project. It’s changed over time, like most things.]
Faith got the cryptic text message from her mother after she left the meeting, crossing the parking lot of the grocery store on her way to get the bread and avocados for the sandwich her mother wanted to try to re-create. “It was at the Kona Coffee Shack and it was this good whole grain bread and avocados and tomatoes, with just a little bit of onion.” Her parents had lived on the Big Island for a few years a quarter century earlier, when her mother was just a few years older than Faith is now, and when Faith was still smoking cigarettes between Smith and Kramer before working her student job in serials department on the third floor of a building whose name she no longer remembers, entering the new editions of Egyptian newspapers and Arabic magazines that nobody read but that the university kept receiving in carefully packed boxes with thick soft paper the color of moss laid between the issues of newspapers already a few weeks out of date by the time they made their way to her small work area in the back corner of the 3rd floor by the fire escape, with a narrow window looking over Broadway, pigeon spikes on the ledge.
Since her mother’s diagnosis she has been wanting comfort foods, familiar foods. Faith’s instinct is to create buffets of all the rare favorites – coconut cake, kibbeh, black bean soup from The Columbia restaurant in the historic district of St. Augustine some 10 hours southeast of the mountains where here mother has lived the last 13 years of her life, which – as it turns out – really are the last 13 years of her life. Faith wishes she could get her mother a fried grouper sandwich from the shitty hotel they stayed at on the island of Eleuthera in 1986, where there were ominous schools of remora in the already-bleached corals in the snorkeling coves and mucosal snakes of sea cucumber slime rolling and writhing along the white sands under the shallow water that was warm like a bath. “Those grouper sandwiches were the best,” her father will still declare every several years, usually prompted by a less spectacular fish sandwich. No fish sandwich would ever compare to the grouper sandwiches ordered at the bar in the hotel at Pineapple Bay, or whatever it was called. Faith has no doubt that the place no longer exists. It was destroyed by a hurricane and if it wasn’t, it probably just quietly died as a failed tourist destination owing to the Caribbean trap house cinderblock architecture of the hotel itself and the fact that the waves at the destination surfing beach down the coast was full of chicken feet and feathers from a poultry processing plant just a little further (but, not far enough) down the coast. Her father’s surfboard – the one with the big dolphin on it that he had has since as long as she could remember – was stolen at the airport.
Faith likes to wake up early to go places like hikes or walks. She prefers to wake up early for long trips, but hasn’t been going anywhere lately and so she likes to wake up early to go for walks, to leave the house just as the day is slipping towards pale light. When she was very little, her mother and father would take her and her brother to the beach at daybreak, leaving in the still-dark to drive the 30 miles to the ocean so that her father could surf at dawn. It must’ve been exhausting for her mother, to go the beach with two small children so early in the morning.
Faith is laying on the upstairs deck of her parents house in Fairview, with the sun blaring down on her face and legs. She is wearing a grey spaghetti strap tank top that she got at American Apparel on King Street in Charleston 15 years ago and cotton bike shorts she ordered from the Internet a few months back. The thin sweater she found on the racks of the resale store last week is laying on the patio table with one arm hanging off and barely blowing in the breeze. The sweater is the color of saffron or butternut. It is golden. She has worn it every day since she got it, even though it is summer time. She is writing down her thoughts about her mother being at the funeral home to make arrangements and about how the day is bright and warm and full summer, just a week before her birthday in late July. Her mother’s birthday is on the 30th, and today when she was on a Zoom meeting with the team lead at the respite house and the meeting they had scheduled with the state for the afternoon of the 30th was brought up, she didn’t say anything about it being her mother’s birthday, probably her mother’s last birthday. She will probably make plans not to be at that meeting, but it is still several weeks out, and so she hasn’t said anything.
On Saturday night, she heard a brief burst of a drum line cut through the dull haze of ambient noise in the center of town, the traffic and the drone of lawnmowers in the evening. She was on the porch eating dinner and she set her plate down and stood abruptly, walked down the steps and toward the center of town where she had heard the sound of drums. She never did find the drums that night, but learned where they’d come from a few days later.
People do oral history because the oral historian decides that somebody’s story is worthy of whatever might be called history, which is the written or otherwise documented record of events occurrences and other noteworthy happening in the unfolding of what we understand to be reality. Some very important histories mean absolutely nothing to me. My own history, on the other hand, is of interest to me. I’m driving west on 74A having just been out to visit with my mother and father. I make this drive almost every day ever since my mothers stage four cancer diagnosis. I drive out and visit for a few minutes and drive back into town. The mountains look different every trip. Today they’re lit by clear and hazy sunlight it seems to somehow be shining down through and under heavy hi cumulus clouds. The edges of the trees, specially, or illuminated in the texture of the wooded slopes and ridge lines is very pronounced today all bright sun and dark shadow. I tried to record my mother and I talking for a few minutes, with the idea that I would do an oral history of my father and my process of going through the family papers. So, I ask, when did you first become aware that the person you had married Was a part of a family that had been toting around boxes of old papers and documents for over 100 years? Very early on my mother explained, and then more so when we moved to Saint Mary’s. St. Mary’s is the town where my own history normally began. However as with all families the history of who came before us right histories of who we are within our own lives. I recorded a few minutes of conversation with my mother and what she departed from speaking to me about The papers saved by my father side of the family and begin talking about her own childhood in Miami telling me how idyllic it was how they were these on. My mother would use this word several times in the course of our conversation enclaves. She told me a little bit about her father’s family immigrated from Lebanon and the 1890s intending to move to Albany New York, but instead ending up in Albany Georgia. Her father was born here in the United States which makes her third generation immigrant. I recorded a few minutes of conversation with my father in which he talked about a box to eat found going through the numerous boxes of old papers in photographs found some wonderful photos of markers and more letters. I told him I have tried to contact the Georgia Historical Society, and he was very pleased. I’m looking for a transcription, I explained on the voice message, of the speech that my great great grandfather Marcus Beck gave when he accepted the Stone Mountain monument on behalf of the state of Georgia. Please call me back. I could easily do a history of my father.
It would make a lot of sense to do an oral history of my mother, given that she will likely die in the next five years if not within the next year. She has advanced stage for ovarian cancer spread throughout her entire abdomen. She is going to “try some chemotherapy”, she’s now decided after having previously decided to go ahead and sign up for hospice. She says that she realized the 3 to 6 months she was given to live didn’t just continually renew – stretching on and on as time passed – that as she stayed alive the amount of time that she could be expected to continue living decreased. So 3 to 6 months became two to five months, one to four months and so on. I suppose after three months passed she would just begin counting down from three. Two, one, and then into the borrowed time, the defiant extra time.
I’m not ready for hospice care, she decided After doing the math of how her expected amount of time to continue living would decrease through the summer and into the early fall, until the winter – the last season she is predicted to see if she does not pursue treatment, and she would likely die. So, she’s going to “try some chemo…”
This is the language she uses like she’s trying a new restaurant or going to see a movie that had gotten mixed reviews.
Today she’s sitting in the chair watching the weather channel after feeling sick following a lunch of grilled cheese. She has not started chemo yet, has not even gone to the orientation. She would have been to the orientation two weeks ago, had she not canceled the appointment after deciding to just go the hospice route. Now, she has to wait until Friday to even begin the process of receiving chemo a month and a half after her diagnosis. Everybody is accepting and patient of the process. Today she is sitting and watching the weather channel with the sound off, and she hasn’t been on chemo, so she still has all of her hair – bright white, still thick. My mother has beautiful hair. The other day she was talking about going to get it cut. My daughter may go with her. “Do you want to come?” She asked like a lunch invitation, something fun. I think that for me it’s a waste of money, a salon haircut, and the ritual of going with my mother to get her hair cut feels too heavy, too poignant. I am sure that I will regret everything that I choose not to do with her.
My own hair is long and fine, my braid making a small rope all the way down my back to brush the top of my hips.
I have my father’s hair.
Is it possible to do an oral history on yourself, by yourself? Would you ask yourself questions? If so, what questions? What stories. What stories are worth telling? Or worth telling other people? What stories are important for yourself? I am doing an oral history on myself because although there are many people who I would like to speak to at length, who I would like to interview, whose stories – I would like to hear none of them are as accessible to me as myself. So, because I have a busy life I will start here, and perhaps learn something about how we gather stories and what stories matter. Oral histories can be done with any sort of person, plain or famous. I like the history of the common. The every day. Small moments that are big events and singular lives.
I am doing an oral history of myself as I experience the season that my mother begins to die of stage for ovarian cancer while my father and I begin the project of going through family papers carried around in boxes for over 100 years. There are some letters that were written in 1820, which make them this year 200 years old. That is very old.
I’ve been aware of the boxes since I was a child.
The way that I am doing this oral history of myself is I am taking voice to text notes on my phone while I am walking, or while I am driving. So there is no sound recording. I may record myself – capture my voice. However, that would require some transcription. It’s interesting that – because I have been doing voice to text for about a year now – My speaking voice when I talk to my phone is such that there is a slow cadence to the words… An intentional pause, a clear annunciation… I speak the punctuation.
In an edited voice to text compositions there are many mixed up words in garble phrases objects become strange for a name and actions become objects. [<~ that sentence is an example of what happens in voice to text]
Meaning is slurred and sometimes inverted, as is a code or a subtle message from some that I don’t understand because I personally don’t know Have some words spoken clearly become other words entirely.
Often, people will begin history by telling about the place they were born or the circumstances surrounding their birth. They may give a brief statement about the people that come before them. For example, I might say that I come from a long line of anxious people.
For a period of time I had that statement written on a piece of paper taped to my refrigerator, so that I would Remember. I also come – on my father’s side – from a long line of people that were remembered for being brilliant. My great great great aunt Leanora Ellis Beck for example, has newspaper articles written about her that in the headlines declare her to be ‘A Brilliant Woman’ as if that were the news. My great great grandfather, as I believe I already mentioned here was a supreme court judge in the state of Georgia in the first decades of the 21st century.
The way the people know their stories eerily straightforward, an eight on a logical account vents in the surrounding circumstances.
[voice to text…hahaha]
I personally, I’m interested in beginning this oral history with information about The circumstances that are surrounding its development, and the methods by which it is being conducted.
As I said, this is an oral history of myself and right now I am walking a section of Greenway on the east side rather the west side of one of the oldest rivers in the world which flows through the center of the small southern mountain city that I have lived in for almost 16 years and That many generations before me my ancestors lived near. I did not know this until I had been here for several years.
Good morning – here it’s foggy and cool. It is 8 July, 12 days before my 44th birthday. I’ve just begun walking on a half mile stretch of undeveloped Greenway, which is more like a trail with Sandy Brown unpaved ground and blackberries mullein And Vitex crowding the edges of the path. Their are camps here alongside the river that the city ignores, allowing people to set up temporary shelter.
A lot of the time I don’t much feel like saying anything. I don’t feel like taking notes. I think about what I might say I might take notice but the active documentation isn’t as appealing to me as it once was. I want to just walk, say nothing. This morning I left the house at 6:45 AM and made my way over to the park to walk the big loop that I walk every day. It was cloudy and cool, early morning. The blackberries do not become ripe all at once, But take their time, a staggered procession – with some berries hard and completely underripe, while others are so ripe as the fall off the spiny stems.
I saw a bluebird sitting in the red clay of the dirt path and it was beautiful for a moment before it flew away.
This morning I have been sulking and unhappy for no real good reason other than my own shitty psychology and tired Stance of dumb resentment. Right now I am walking on a small stretch of Greenway to the south of the hill the houses sit on. sometimes you can see deer down in the bottoms by the drainage creek. It’s nice of the city has left a small wild place.
This Afternoon I’m going back to my parents house and I intend to spend two hours looking at photographing and transcribing items from the collection of old family papers. This exercise is one that will teach me patience, slow regular progress toward finishing a job.
I have in my mind The idea that I must be able to throw myself entirely into a project or a task in order to do anything with it. It’s part of my all or nothing thinking. Which is so deeply ingrained in me that it creeps in almost anything that I might do. I just saw a hawk.
723 pm 0709
I am taking a walk after spending some time in Fairview visiting my parents. My father and I sorted some of the old family papers and found that letters from the time that my great great uncle Marcus was in the Marine Corps were stored with letters from the time that he had run away from home to join the circus just a year before he died in the Belleau woods in France.
The experience of going through the letters and papers wasAn immersion, a fit of hyperfocused sorting – the emergence of an impromptu system of inventorying, photographing and storing in archival plastic the old letters. Both my father and I have a propensity towards hyperfocus when we are interested In a task and when we have a system of working together we work well.
it has been a long time since I enjoyed spending time with my father. We had a great time. I Briefly visited with my mother, and pleased her by successfully setting up an email account for my father.
The rest of the day was spent doing workFor wages, and attending meetings on the computer.
I have a habitual resistance to having to work, that is immature unhealthy. I always have had a difficult time doing things that I’m not interested in. This afternoon I went to the gas station and the clerk was saying that she was sleepy and that she was a little bored Because of the person who worked the shift before her had already taken care of everything – the cleaning and stocking.
Can you look at your phone? I asked her. She said that she played around on it just a little bit but not much because, as she explained, they don’t pay her to look at her phone. And I thought to myself that I get away with doing as little actual work that I am not interested in doing as possible. And that I wouldProbably go crazy if I had to just stand at a convenient store register all afternoon and wait for people to come in so that I could be doing the work I was paid to do. I guess I could clean or inventory or stock when there weren’t customers in the store.
I worked in the hardware store for for a little while when I lived in Portland Oregon, during the season just prior to making a big cut in my arm because of a suicidal depressionThat came in the aftermath experimenting with what it was like to be an intravenous cocaine user. The experiment landed me in the hospital with a big cut on my arm that I made in the morning because the thought of going to work at the hardware store was absolutely unbearable to me and yet I thought of calling out sick or simply not showing up was also unbearable and so I made a big cut on my arm and fabricated a story which,Incidentally, nobody believed about having cut myself badly while I was doing dishes. The man that I was living with at the time who himself with a recovering heroin addict who is also an artist with soulful eyes that seem to recognize something in me. Took me to the emergency triage department where I try to get a referral for outpatient mental health services, about my depression with my bleeding armWrapped up in a paper towel underneath my sweater. As I was getting ready to leave they asked if there’s anything else that I needed help with and I showed them my arm and said this might need stitches. The wound was gaping though the bleeding had slowed. I did not get to go home from hospital that day. Nor was I allowed to drive myself to the emergency room to get stitches. I got to ride in the back of a police car, as if my self harm was a crime. It was my second gesture of suicide in less than a year. The first was Following my departure from the graduate Department of sociology at the University of Georgia and could have actually killed me.
I am lucky to have a wage earning job that affords me a small paycheck for doing things that I am somewhat interested in, or that or at least not incredibly stressful and tedious to me. I sound like a spoiled brat when I talk about the difficulties I have with work. I have profound learning differences And significant sensory immigration issues. I am probably on the autistic spectrum in someway or another or would be evaluated as such.
Like many people on the autism spectrum I am in underemployed adult who is very intelligent and yet cannot seem to put together a functional life for herself. I am continually trying to make peaceWith this reality. If it were not for resources afforded me and my family which allow me to maintain a stable pleasant home and to have a somewhat reliable vehicle to drive I would probably be homeless. That is the reality. It would probably be homeless and have severe mental health issues more severe than I have because I probablyWould have experienced tremendous trauma in trying to make a way for myself. Maybe I would have found a case manager who helped me to get onto disability or helped me to get into some sort of housing program. Maybe I could have found friends and a communal housing situation that would have helped me to become an artist or find a job that I could stand it allowed me to make enough to live on. Maybe I wouldn’t be homeless. Maybe I would have a life in which I was happier and healthier than I am. maybe I Wouldn’t have experienced tremendous trauma in trying to make away for myself. Maybe I would have found a case manager who helped me to get onto disability or helped me to get into some sort of housing program. Maybe I could have found friends and a communal housing situation that would have helped me to become an artist or find a job that I could stand it allowed me to make enough to live on. Maybe I wouldn’t be homeless. Maybe I would have a life in which I was happier and healthier than I am nowAlways trying to make my way in a Neurotypical world as a person who is not Neurotypical.
I had a strange experience earlier today when I was walking and they almost exactly the same spot I am walking in now I saw a hawk fly across the road and I thought that it was interesting perhaps a good sign and then I got a message as I turn to walk up the hill from my friend who said that she had just helped a groundhog I was responding back to her asking how she helped the groundhog when she honked and called my name and she was right in the parking lot that I was walking past And the groundhog they’ve been hit by a car the concrete wall and was paralyzed was right beside my friend and my friend didn’t know what to do and so I called animal control and explained that the groundhog was paralyzed and was suffering and asked somebody please come and get the groundhog to help it be humanely euthanized and I sat with my friend and we marveled over how I have been right where she is with the groundhog as she was texting me about the groundhog and how I hadn’t even been planning on going for a walk I had noticed how sunny and warm It was and so decided to just go for a quick fuck it might be a good idea to go up not quite asleep in the sun a little longer and then happen to be right where my friend was trying to help the groundhog.
So anyway, on the way home from my families house at the old papers with my father I thought about our letters are over 100 years old actually off… And how it’s amazing that they’ve been saved for so long and thought about the reasons that people say things. People save things because there’s a story to tell because they want people to know the story they don’t want the story to be forgotten and they save things, Also to reserve people or places if they don’t want people or places and I don’t think that my great great uncle my great great great uncle I believe he was left very much behind only drawing papers from when he was a child photographs of him. So everything that they had of him the letters that he wrote in the pictures that he drew the images of him they saved as a wayI’m not letting him die even though his body was killed in world war 1.
This morning when I was walking up this hill passing by Bartlett arms I was thinking about what it is that for the vast majority of black Americans they may not know what country or village their ancestors came from. They do not know their ancestors names of languages that they spoke and how there is something very tragic about that. I Thought about how children were taken from their mothers and about the people who died in the middle passage- how entire lineages wisdom of their ancestors their family stories tied in with them in their minds and hearts died with them. And I don’t know what sort of reparation there can be for denying people the right to know where they came from, what their ancestors names were. Makes me very sad to think about that.
“You haven’t seen me since Wednesday,” her daughter was mock incredulous in the passenger seat, challenging the woman’s reluctance to go to the natural foods grocery on the other side of town, across the river from the direction they’d be driving to go out to Fairview, where Geeg and B – her parents – live. The reason she hadn’t seen her daughter was because the girl had stayed at a friend’s house the night before, not because of some reason that would somehow cause the woman to owe her anything like vegan sushi and coconut water, like the woman shirking her responsibility to spend time with her 15 year old daughter, or not being a good mother. She didn’t owe the girl anything, but got on the 240 going west, not East.
The day was hot and full of glare, Sunday July the 5th. Summertime of pale hot skies and thunderheads building on the horizons. The natural foods grocery store had shut down a few months ago, suddenly and with only a few weeks of deep discounts that got deeper as the final days before closing drew near. Frozen shrimp cut to 50% off, selling out before they could get to 75%. Hardly anything made it to 75% off. Lipstick made of minerals the color of bloodstained clay, boxes of additives for a high-end water filtration and enhancement system, Gulf wax paraffin for 1.00. These items that the store could hardly give away looked lonely on the shelves as the woman walked through on the second to last day before the store closed, taking a curious inventory and buying three 1/2 gallons of organic milk for 1.66 a carton. The shelves were all but empty in the wake of the sudden bankruptcy closure. All the stores in the southeast were closing. She and her daughter had gone to have lunch there at least a couple of Sundays a month for several years. When she was pregnant with her daughter, a decade and a half ago, she used to go to the store in a shopping center on the way to the beach in a different city, down on the coast, buying little plastic tubs of shrimp salad with fine hairs of fresh dill, the perfect amount of mayonnaise.
The stores had all closed suddenly following a bankruptcy announcement, then only one of them – the one in the stripmall by the river – had re-opened under new ownership, and the whole place looked the same except the wood floors had been replaced with a springy feeling synthetic board in a moss grey tone and something – tho’ she was not sure what – had been removed from the produce section to make more room between the standing islands of fruit and potatoes.
Everyone was wearing masks as she and her daughter moved through the aisles, because everyone wore masks now, because of the pandemic that slowly creeping around the world when the store had closed back in the late winter. She hadn’t been wearing a mask the day she bought the 1/2 gallons of milk, hadn’t been thinking about masks or how far she stood from people in line.
There hadn’t been any lines that late afternoon with the sun almost set. The store had been about empty by then, with only one register open, longtime cashier with graying hair in perfect ringlets tearfully ringing up purchases saying how she trusted that everything would work out.
“Do we need yeast?” The woman scanned the bulk section, where the bins of bulk foods held pre-packed bags of nuts and granolas, sharp edged noodles made of artichoke pressing at the plastic. “No,” her daughter moved ahead of her. “I haven’t been able to find it in the fridge, but it doesn’t matter.” Her daughter moved past the coolers, cashew milk yogurt and grass-fed milk in glass bottles.
The wind that raised me
of a blue that we called ‘sky,’
at the way we try to name things
She wanted to sit in the sun on the ridge line, where the winter trees stood silent as sentinels in the West waning sun, branches rattling in the cold wind of early March. The wind, in its rising and fall, sounded like the ocean, and she imagined that the wind – though it can’t be seen – is much like water.
She has a sense of remembering that when she was very young, she had no idea of herself as a person, or of her home in the woods as being anything distinct or out of the ordinary in the slightest. She was ordinary as far as she was concerned, and her home in the woods was not the slightest bit unusual, despite the fact that it was built in the shape of a half-circle made of plexiglass triangles, a geodesic dome that her father had learned from a how-to book and from talking to an old man at a land co-op in Florida.
There were deer skulls and rattlesnake skins laid on the shelves of the bookcase and there wasn’t anything weird about that in her mind. It was just the house, just the dome, just the things that her parents brought in from outside.
She did not question these things in the slightest, the simple fact of her existence and the place she understood to be home. Probably most children are like this – they are who they are, they live where they live. Their lives are what they are, without questioning, suspicion, or skepticism as to the rightness of what is, even if some aspects of life may be terribly wrong, and perhaps ought to be questioned.
She recalls that when she was very young, she didn’t have any idea that she was strange, or that her family was strange (tho’ not extremely strange, and not strange in ways that were especially scandalous. Perhaps strange is the wrong word. Interesting might be more appropriate. However, whose family isn’t interesting? Even the most boring-seeming and usual sort of families are interesting – especially when you look closely, especially when there are secrets. There are always almost certainly secrets.)
She did not know any of the secrets when she was very young, did not know that there is even such a thing as a secret, or that people (her parents, for example) had lives that she did not see, that they had existed prior to her being born. Children are incredibly myopic in this way. They think that what they see is all there is, and cannot seem to fathom that there was a world before them and that beyond the scope of their limited vision, the world stretches out further than they can imagine.
She knows this now, as an adult who has taken a child psychology class, but as a child she was blithely unaware of the shortcomings of her perception, and so she spent her early childhood in the blissful naïveté of a world that was – if not small – very limited, especially insofar as her awareness of the lives and realities of other people were concerned.
There were no other children or families within at least three miles from their house back in the woods, and the children and families who did live close were out across highway 40. They were black families and black children. When she was young she only knew the Hubbards, Kelly and Caramae, and they were old. She knew the Hubbards because they worked for her great-grandmother, who – aside from Ms. Coleman, who was from Folkston and lived in the small three room house out behind her great-grandmother’s house – was the only person who lived out in the woods with them, in a big White House down the road. The Hubbards didn’t live back in the woods with them. They drove down the dirt road in the morning, and drove back out in the evening. Kelly tended the pasture and the yard and the things that needed taking care of around the house, and Caramae swept the porches and polished the silver that nobody used and made cheese straws that everyone loved. They never worked on Sundays.
It was only her small family back there in the woods and she didn’t think that there was anything strange about that. It was just her life, just where she lived. Similarly, she didn’t think anything about who she was or what she was like. She was a girl with a brother, who wanted to be a bear. A girl with brown eyes and a name that was made of the names of her grandmothers. Faith and Rachel.
She was a girl who didn’t know that she did not know how to speak correctly, that she couldn’t even say her own name. She found this out, that she did not know how to speak correctly, when she went to school and said in the way she had been taught to say, “My name is Faith, will you be my friend?”
She had no idea that she mangled the word friend, turned it soft and inverted in the beginning, saying fwhuh-end, which wasn’t a word at all. Fwhuh wasn’t even a sound in any word at all, and yet she could not hear that she said the word friend wrong, could not hear that she could not say her middle name, her last name. Way-chel. Whine. The word bird was flightless and dumb in the sound buhd.
She has no recollection of knowing that she could not speak correctly prior to going to school.
“We thought it was cute,” her mother once told her. “We thought you’d grow out of it.”
She wakes up in the middle of the night, clock reading 3:31, 3:33. Wide awake, and not unhappy. Not worried about not sleeping. Trusting that she will rest later in the day.
She has a clear mind, focus. Yesterday, she got up at 4:30 to go downstairs to work on a project for her job, her job that now pays her to work from home while everyone else is working from home, everyone that can work from home, everyone that has a job, everyone that doesn’t work in a restaurant.
It surprises her that she isn’t keeping a journal. Isn’t taking notes at all. What is there to say? There is a sickness that is shutting down the world as she knew it. Things are strange. There are some shelves at the grocery store that are empty. Toilet paper. Paper towels. Americans are funny about our necessities.
The other day, she sat down and recorded a 1/2 hour of herself talking about how to not lose your mind during strange and frightening times, ruefully making the point in the first minute of speaking that times have been strange and frightening for a long time, and that – for some people, depending on the circumstances that one is born into and the privilege that a person has access to – things have been strange and frightening since the moment they were born.
She doesn’t like the way she sounds when she speaks, thinks the things she says are not that important. Trying to speak quickly, she is forced to oversimplify.
People don’t have attention spans for any longwindedness.
She woke this morning, as she has been waking up in the morning – at 3:30am or thereabouts – and was aware that she was feeling fear, and that she was thinking about her family and thinking about whether or not she was safe in the house she lives in on the street that runs through town. The fear was like a current in her, making her awake, leaving her to lay in the dark and consider the ways that other people might be feeling, wondering whether other people might be scared, too. Thinking about her father and whether he is frightened. She needs to call her mother today.
She had a mental image of herself holding hands with the three people she’d been meeting with to discuss the possibility of creating a healing space, creating a way for people to gather and share and be witnessed. The way they sat together in their respective homes, almost four corners. East coast and west coast, south and north. Centering and feeling out into the sound of digital currents, the whispered pinging and static of the internet in their headphones when things are quiet on the line. In her vision, they held onto one another’s hands and it was like they were falling through the air, as if they’d leapt from a plane or were suspended in a great open water.
“It’s like we are holding onto one another.”
She woke up this morning with letters to write, posts she might make. She hadn’t said anything on social media in weeks. What is there to say? So much. Where to start.
It seems stupid that she felt silenced for the winter. Seems absurd that she was ever depressed.
She wakes up in the middle of the night with great focus and clarity. She has work to do. These are not times for retreat, not times for hiding.
Sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, when things were still somewhat normal, when I left the house to go to work, and the coronavirus was something happening in other places, I listened to a person who works for the city talk about the amount of work that has been done and the amount of work that needs to have been done.
“We’ve taken some steps, and – yes – we need to have taken like 10,000 steps, but we’ve only taken a few, and – yes – progress is being made, and – yes – it’s not enough and we need to do more.”
The person went on, holding both her hands up like a scale. “It’s both these things. We’re getting things done, and it’s not enough. Yes, it’s urgent – and because it’s urgent, we have to slow down.”
“It’s urgent. Slow down.”
The person went on to reflect on the need for grounded and informed strategy when responding to dire needs, and the ways that people operating under fear and urgency are not thinking about whether how they see things is accurate, are seeing things through the lens of fear and within the frameworks of the systems they are are existing within, are operating on automatic, with a distorted ability to see people and situations clearly.
The statement “It’s urgent. Slow down.” has been like a mantra to me these past couple weeks, as the world has begun to change faster than I can wrap my head around and I feel an enormous call to action, a clamoring to help all the people who need help, a middle-of-the-night urgent human instinct toward survival that makes me want to go to the grocery store and be sure that my family has enough food and – just as urgent – makes me know that lots of people aren’t able to get what they need to survive, and won’t be able to get what they need to survive, because they weren’t able to get what they need to survive even before the pandemic unfurled and the economies began to collapse.
When I think about this reality – that within a city block of where I live, the people who were already not getting what they need are even more dependent on resources provided by grassroots community action and aid organizations and formal services of service I feel a great urgency, a fear and a sadness.
A human instinct to do something to help.
Last week, before everything started to close down, my daughter and I were walking around downtown in the rain, looking around. I carried an umbrella, and kept trying to share it with her, but she insisted that she was fine with walking in the rain, that she liked it. An elder man moved down the street toward us, carrying a plastic bag of cans. “Give him the umbrella, mom. You have to.”
Her voice was serious. “Give him the umbrella.”
It was not a suggestion. It was a directive. I understood that if I didn’t offer the man our umbrella, my daughter would be disappointed in me and that there would not be anything I could do to justify my not offering temporary shelter to the man walking in the rain. The man, as it turned out, did not want the umbrella, but explained that he was hungry and that he needed food. I gave him all the paper money I had.
The other day, my daughter came home from going out with her brother to get a set of string lights for her room. “Here’s your receipt, but I gave all the change to a man who needed money outside of the store. He was kind of old.”
Although there is a lot that I do to try to help, through my work and my ways of living, there is so much more I could do and I am trying to quickly figure out ways I can contribute more to efforts to create protections and supports for the most vulnerable people in my community.
I will be sharing more here in coming days, and reaching out more to people, offering more. I am trying to respond to the sense of urgency with a reminder to slow down and be strategic in my giving of time and energy. To not spin my wheels or waste my breath, to not re-create the wheel or be blindly reactive. To give of myself in ways that matter and ways that make an impact.
After I wrote for a while this morning, I went running in the dark of downtown. I was aware that I felt uneasy, or frightened, and that the streets were empty. My legs were strong and since I’ve quit smoking breathing is easy. It feels good to run, and I am able to run fast. I noticed that I was a little leery, running down the dark streets. The adrenaline of low-level fear was probably making me run faster.
On Haywood Street, the stores all still had lit windows, cute displays configured just right, white paper signs on the windows. COVID-19.
The stores won’t be open again for a long time. I’m sure that throughout history, when everything has suddenly stopped, people have marveled at the ways things were left the same at the moment the great pause settled upon everything, at the moment of departure, doors closed, locks turned, lights left on. “We’ll be back!”
There are signs that say this. Optimism is high.
I slowed my run and took pictures of some of the store windows, aware that things may not be the same again, that some of the stores will close down, displays packed up and put away, sold on eBay to the highest bidder.
The young people will not have school for two months, not until the middle of May, if then.
shakey legs don’t matter a’all
riding a bike down to the corner at the bottom of the hill where there wasn’t a stop sign before, but there sure is now
to slow down all those folks
coming and going
to work at the hospital
at the end of the day
beginning of a new one
legs don’t shake at all
til the feet hit the street
remember gravity again
legs skittering on the concrete
like trying to break through
to fly away to the sky
or sink right down
into the earth itself
there underneath the sidewalk
shakey legs like dancing
in the best pants,
black socks pulled tight up to the knee
almost the same shape,
the calf slimming to the ankle,
as the case that holds the fiddle
except it ain’t no fiddle
it’s a damn vi-o-lin
in a proper padded case
not scuffed or scarred or dirty
in any sort of way
despite the ride down the hill and shakey legs on the sidewalk and the leaving the case there on the sidewalk wide open like that to catch anything that might be tossed
into the soft space
that holds the instrument
the man with shakey legs will play
with a steady hand
at the end of the day
while the sun goes down
they walked slowly
because that is the only way to walk
when you’re old and dying
and it’s springtime
When I see old people walking lately I have to wonder whether they are
moving along the greenway with the grass damp at the edges and the
river swirling lusty green volumes while the cars move over the bridge
sparse, long moments between the sounds of the wheels on the concrete
overhead, the heavy cha-chunk of the metal seams that hold the
sections together and the people driving overhead not noticing at all
that there are elders walking on the path beside the water and not
wondering, like I wonder, whether these elders know that they might
die and whether, because of this fact, the fact that they might die,
they have chosen to go out to walk beside the sun reflecting on the
moving surface of the river that keeps on doing what it does, flowing
on and on, maybe not even knowing that it is springtime, not feeling
the warming of the water, not hearing the calling of the geese as they
travel back north, not gasping at the whisper of petals and dusting of
pollen that falls upon its surface, and surely not having even the
slightest idea or the slightest wondering whether these elders out
walking are out walking because they know that they might die this
season, that it may well be their last spring.
I constantly begin with the phrase, ‘there isn’t much to say.’ I wonder about this, the state of pervasive silence in me. It’s not exactly silent. I have thoughts, nagging little streams about work, bothered nags, grievances. Uninspired thoughts. Ungreat thoughts.
I would think that in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, I would have something to say. There would be things to notice, to pay attention to. And there are. There are things I notice and things I think about, but many of my thoughts have taken on the feel of secrets, a drifting interior narrative, a woman walking down the street and feeling silent, disconnected from herself, voiceless.
She wonders if she has a curse on her, or if she is just out of practice. If she has let herself go quiet because she stopped saying things.
There is a bird that sings in the middle of the night, a mockingbird. The birds call in the dark, sings in the dark.
It doesn’t bother her the way she thinks it would, shelves empty and streets quiet. There is a part of her that is secretly pleased by the disruption of the usual. “Thank God,” she thinks as she walks, nearly basking in the stillness and bird sounds. There’s been a terrible racket, a roaring, for so long. The earth has stopped vibrating quiet so much, has stopped trembling and quaking with the movement of people. There is an article about this and she thinks about how she has never thought about how difficult it really is to get away from it all, how even if she is in a quiet place, the world feels very loud, the movement of cities outside of her sight still busy in her head.
The internet is full of articles on coping with the grief and disruption created by the global pandemic. Suddenly, there are ads for National Alliance on Mental Illness on the I Heart Radio station, encouraging people to seek help if they are struggling.
Strangely, she feels better than she has in a long time. It’s not okay, she understands, to say that the conditions caused by the pandemic – the closure of stores, cancellations of flights, schools closed, jobs lost, the profound disruption of the economy – have resulted in a world that she feels suits her much better than what had been happening before, the hurried pace and crowded streets, the constant churning awareness of a world that just won’t stop, factories in China ceaselessly spilling out smoke and plastic, boot camp soldiers pulling on their shoes, walking out into the day, the world as usual.
The stories smelled
like the underside of leaves
that had just pushed out
through the flesh of stems
in a gathering of cells
quick as lightning to open
without knowing why
into the sun that warmed
the tiny chambers of sap and cellulose
to cast green light into air
and radiate the simple, fervent scent
of brand new life
out into the world
there were other stories, too,
some that smelled like wind,
the wind of the north
and the wind of the ocean
these were different stories
some more quiet than the others
some so quiet
they were barely more than a breeze,
a soft exhale through the epiphyte
they called Spanish
even though it knows nothing about Spain
or anything else in the world
where things and places
The tang of dirt and green oak blood
is at the edge of some of the stories
some of the stories I used to tell,
about who I am, about who I was,
about the place where I am from,
which doesn’t exist anymore,
in the way that it did,
just like everything else, eventually.
The stories got told in whispers,
hot breath and mother’s milk,
smoke and beer,
the cold of ice on the tongue,
hollering across a blazing field,
speaking low into the night,
with the pine gathered close and quiet seeping
the sharp smell of a home
I will not see again.
I walked across the bridge, river glassy cool and green beneath me, taking notes on what I am thinking and feeling once every hour or so, paying attention to whatever narrative is prominent and the emotional resonance that accompanies that narrative, also noting any ideas I might have, inspirations and noticings.
My idea is that maybe doing this rigorous ‘checking in with myself’ will help me to be more intentional in how I am inhabiting my experience and participating in my life, and may help me to identify patterns and trends. Of course, the sheer act of making note of ones experience is going to skew the subjective report on what’s happening, and it’s possible that simply paying attention will emphasize some aspects of my consciousness and experience and circumvent other aspects entirely.
It would be completely fine with me if my taking notes on my experience totally and completely killed some components of my so-called shadowside. My so-called shadowside is the reason I believe that taking notes on my experience may be a helpful – if not necessary – thing to begin doing. I don’t know if the shadowside is the right name for this thing in me that seems determined to destroy my self-esteem. I think shadowside is the term used by Jungians to talk about the parts of us that are the greedy sides of generous people, maleficent desires and bitternesses. Grandeur in the humble mind, etc.
I have those shadowsides, too. However, they aren’t of much concern to me. What is concerning to me is that there is an aspect of my self-concept that believes that…
Ugh. It’s so hard to write it out. I can’t write all of it out at once.
Anyway, the point of this checking in with myself regularly is to take inventory of what I am thinking and feeling, etc. – as I noted above.
So, now – at 8:07pm – I am thinking about how the sky is still light and there is wind outside, and last night I camped under old hemlocks in the cloud forest up by the Middle Prong wilderness, and today we ambled down toward the gap through a few different ecosystems – full of trout lily and false hellebore, May apple and Fraser fir interspersed with red spruce. Little slate grey birds hopping around in the native azalea not yet blooming, clicking chirps that sound like static electricity in the air. Thinking about wanting to write and illustrate a children’s book about what trees feel, and trying to hold onto the experience of yesterday when I was walking on the little underdeveloped trail beside the river here in town and my friend was talking about how trees have sense and memory in their root networks, and I wondered how it is that trees feel, and felt deeply sad and grieving imaging the quiet terror of having ones biggest limbs cut off, being pulled from the ground, and felt very much connected to everything in the world. A few minutes later six or seven vultures began to swoop and circle low over the trees on the ridge above the trail, making shadows that seemed to move faster than the birds in flight and projected huge across the trunks of trees and tangle of honeysuckle on the hillside.
I’m sitting on the couch with my daughter and we’re waiting for a tornado to come, because my mother called and told us a tornado was on the way.
I need to be succinct. It is 8:25 and I feel calm in my body and my thoughts are fairly grounded. I wonder if I should do work tonight so that I don’t have to do it tomorrow and notice a small, stressed feeling in thinking about that.
VOICE to TEXT
I am running around in circles on the middle school track. I don’t run fast and the ground is flat and predictable, so I can type while I run. I am watching the clouds at sunrise, and they are orange. I will try speaking the text for this morning, these notes on how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking with the aim of keeping myself out of the grips of that to the self destroying thing that lives inside my head. It’s morning I woke up with a little bit of a headache… Probably dehydration and eating sugar. Eating sugar is not the best thing. It makes me feel edgy, tired, a little depressed. Running should help, even though I don’t run fast. My thoughts this morning or hovering around and wearing it that often, before the sun even comes up, I am thinking about employment… Things I need to do, without issues that I see with the organization… Thanks I wish I could say… Is things are in my head in the very early morning. I don’t think that that is healthy, so don’t be able to maintain the headspace three from responsibilities to the organization that pays me wages didn’t do work for them. I have a lot of thoughts about things they need to be done about work and I notice for the thoughts create sleep I think I feel the edges of my head. In the shower. Like I said, I don’t think it’s healthy for me. That’s that I noticed, recollections of the meltdown that I had yesterday because some small aspect of myself, that toothy lurking thing that is self destroying and they want to wreck havoc in my life Curity, interpreted it’s all thing that somebody said to be in something slight the other was intended in a great consuming feeling of sadness and dread and shame bloomed inside of me as I was driving the car down the mountain and watching the fog – what was it foggy at all, but was clouds rolling over the types of trees like the heavy vapors spilling over the edges that some kind of gray cauldron that I couldn’t see, felt happy… Delayed even… About the way that it makes so much sense for anxious people believe in spirits of the world, watching those clouds move through the trees like ghost. And then my friend said this one small thing about having been happier a few moments before when we were still walkingSo close to the woods and they were now driving in the car… And a great losing of myself Millatti and I will disappoint and be an adequate still not into me… And I couldn’t speak anymore and said do they could feel my energy that it was heavy pressing thing, thanks Zaidi… The same adequacy and sadness over the fax all exploding from my nervous system and pushing out through the pores Small vibrations me too pleasant for my friend to be feeling which made me feel, even more like I want to just be able to disappear, I’ve been having ability with my toxicity with something they could only be escaped by the removal of myself pushing away the people that I care about. There is a great deal of crying a few miles later it’s not beside the river in another giving up frustrated by the impossibility of not being Just an extremely fucked up person that causes harm to people that care about her and they can never ever really live up to being happy in her 80s. Then I need help and it’s true, I do. But, there’s a part of me that is terrified of trying trying real way… It’s still not succeeding in addressing the issues personality, and my insecure anxious Anxious attachment style… These issues are getting worse… And the fact every aspect of my life, the most basic components of my freedom, which is ease in being myself.
So I recollect, this morning, so if those scenes from yesterday by the river… And how I said I don’t want this to happen anymore… And I meant that. So, that is why I am going to try to check in with myself, as frequently as I can throughout the day… Check on into that Tuesday lurking thing and me, to make sure that it does not burst forth in a way that causes harm to me or to anyone else. I understand that with the lurking thing is not a bad thing he scored… In internal family systems theory they might call it the projector, and I have a very strong protector and wants very much for me to not be hurt shame, very much for me to not suffer any humiliation Or betrayal by people that I trust… Which, unfortunately, has learned that there is nobody that I can trust… This is what happens when the most trusted people cause great harm… The ability to be safe and being oneself with anyone is compromised… I can, occasionally she’ll glimpses of who I am… Mostly, these days, to strangers… Because they Who are their opinions do not matter to me it is suffocatingly difficult to be open honorable with people within my inner circle especially, the person who I understood to be my best friend… Until they tried to fix me… Or, rather, try to help me in such a way that I felt that there was something about me the tragically needed helping… And, obviously, there is…
I’ve been speaking these words as I’ve run, very slowly, around the middle school track trying to get my miles in a little early, at least some of them. Since the pandemic started I have been walking him combination of walking and running for at least 10 miles a day… I’ve only fallen ever so slightly short of my 10 mile a day goal a couple of days… And there are many days that I exceeded the goal. Running and walking, Staying moving, it’s pretty crucial to my middle health. I stop smoking before… Or, rather, while the pandemic was still slowly burning through China Iran and establishing a foothold in Italy… When the children were still going to school and I was still going to do groups at the jail and going to meetings all around town. I haven’t use nicotine in over a month.
I think, the walking and running I’ve taken the place of that drug for me… Which, it’s OK. As I have been running very slowly, around the track the day has become brighter with blue skies and clouds… It’s so cool in the morning because we are in the mountains… Even though it’s almost May. I’ve mostly been thinking about the things that I have been speaking. But also, having small thoughts at the edges about what I’m going to do today and noticing the sunlight hitting the tops of trees and the site smells something that would drive vultures over near the fence on the west side of the track. And, I am going to go home and I’m going to take a shower, And I’m going to ride out to visit my family in the side of the county with my daughter, where we will say hello to the dog and visit for a few minutes before riding back into town where I will take another walk… And then proceed on with my day. I have had a great deal of creative energy lately… Thinking about painting and a sense of poetry and me thinking about writing books. There is a lot of frustration and pain Around creativity… And myself as an artist… Is it sort of learned helplessness, I think where tries and tries and tries again and again to do a thing and they ““ fail in doing that thing we learned that it’s best not to try even if something is yearning to do the thing there gets to be a lot of sadness and frustration built up around the edges like a moat or four first wall covered with barbs…
It’s been a life death thing for a long long time this issue between me and my creativity and I wonder sometimes if I follow the way of death… In terms of having a tragically had a practice that I can’t possibly resume… Having much damage in the relationship with my creativity that it is difficult to even go near the practices and processes that used to be such a home for me. I know that these things are only true If I allow them to be true… And that if I choose I can quietly see the resenting the world and everything I have decided to blame for me not creating and I can live out my life as a sad quiet and a better person… If I choose that… However, I could also choose to continue to try to keep trying to do some small thing every day closer to who I am and my healthier self And so I think I’m annoying before I really truly give up, to try that and I really try… And this checking in with myself which may not be every hour although it may be a brief check in very often with a few longer check-in‘s, like this one… Well, this is a part of that effort. I have noticed calls this morning and a lot frequently these past few weeks and I’ve been taking pictures of them again… There is no great in mind blowing sense that the universe are some great power is communicating through the suspended elements in the sky… But there is the persistence of patterns the resistance of shapes that I see reflected in so many other things and language and water and my whole body even the whirls it make the shapes hands. And really, it’s just self similarity As above so below, etc. Etc. yesterday, before I had the feeling of great empathy in connection with the trees and with everything, my friend had mentioned that there is evidence that all life on this planet evolved from a single shared common bacterium a single shared rudimentary structure… And that makes so much sense to me and, if it is true then really we are all very much connected To everything.
I am walking along the undeveloped trail by the river and am noticing that the question “Did you have any interesting thoughts this morning?” inspires a huge amount of social performance anxiety.
I don’t think that I slept well last night up feeling edgy a film over my body or I sweated. Somehow got into the room and was a distraction in the night and I friend was awake a lot as well, getting up and moving around is hoping to worse. I woke up this morning and felt as I went over things that I need to do a definite feeling reaching critical overwhelm in terms of tasks sponsor billet he‘s Voice to text is such a piece of shit sometimes I don’t know why it wouldn’t do it but responsibilities has anything to do with billets what is a billet even? I feel like the part of my brain it is orderly and task focused the working part of my brain is very much overactive and kind of feel this in my head heavy sharp sort of sensation in the left hand side of my frontal lobe. The good thing is is that I’m not caught up in The miasma of my amygdala and I don’t feel like I am in having any sort of trauma response. I do recognize that the state of being stressed and having too much to do and the sense of not having enough time end of having too much to do across too many multiple areas that that is going to increase my vulnerability to being troubled and getting upset at some point in the day. That will be compounded the vulnerability by me not having slept well. The miasma of my amygdala and I don’t feel like I am in having any sort of trauma response. I do recognize that the state of being stressed and having too much to do and the sense of not having enough time end of having too much to do across too many multiple areas that that is going to increase my vulnerability to being troubled and getting upset at some point in the day. That will be compounded the vulnerability by me not having slept well.I think that it’s going to be important for me to try to take a nap and also for me to write out the things that I need to do because maybe then and get them out of my head. For years I have been trying to figure out how to be efficient enough to do all of the things that I want to do and all the things that I need to do. And really possibility, but I have developed some tactics and strategies to help me to be more efficient and I’m always trying to find new tactics and strategies to help me do use my time well. I can’t really think of things that I can cut out of my schedule. I don’t watch television I don’t watch movies I don’t really spend time with friends other than my primary friend… I’m walking but, that’s probably the time that other people would spend resting relaxing watching television or spending time with friends and my walking time is an important part of my getting things done, because I am able to take mental breaks but also at times able to think through what it is that I’m doing and what it is that I need to do. I haven’t even mentionedI haven’t even mentioned yesterday morning while I was walking I saw a man always jump off a bridge. He was on the big bridge the Haywood Road bridge that goes over into West Asheville and he was standing there in the bridge was closed and there are police officers and he was on the outside of the railing is yelling fuck you fuck you and I feel my heart go down to my belly when I saw with compassion with empathy because I know what it’s like I want to die but I’ve never stood outside of the railing of the bridge I want it badly to be able to talk with him and I stood there for a moment with all of my energy and all of my attention focused solely on figure standing outside of the railing And I wanted so badly to say something to him however what I wanted to tell him it’s not a thing that can be easily condensed into strings of words and sentences it is a feeling the feeling of help I wanted to somehow help him to believe just for a split second because that’s all it takes is there a reason to be hopeful and that he could possibly create a life that he wants to live a life that is not full of pain and suffering and that there is a lot a beauty in the world and there are things that he will see inside appreciate that nobody else in the world makes you appreciate it if you died in those things won’t be seeing those things will be loved and that will be a loss for the worldI saw a bright red cardinal flying over the path and I wished very hard with the cardinal will fly over so that he would see just for a split second because that’s all it takes for the world is a place that is full of light and beauty even though it is also a terrible place is full of sadness and suffering. When we got back to the car after I did a brief Facebook live video because were in the few moments standing and staring at that figure who is outside of the railing on the bridge getting ready to jump that I really really need to get overWhatever fear or insecurity leads me to stay silent about things like mental health and about things like suicide I have a lot that I could say about these things some of which might really be helpful to people. I don’t think that I’m being grandiose or rotations when I say that something I might say or the way that I might say it could be helpful to another human being. I don’t think that is being on patients. Everybody has a potential offer something to the world that may be helpful to someone and perhaps the way that one person might say a thing to be helpful in ways that whatever anybody else might be saying simply are not in so I feel like it’s very important that I self learn how to say the things that perhaps only I might be able to say in the ways they perhaps only I might be able to see them. So I did a brief Facebook live video on the subject and then I posted it in later I deleted her later after walking up the hill after I had sent to theOfficer who’sWho’s vehicle was blocking the road that I was a peer support specialist in the organization I work for and told them that I was a suicide survivor and that I would be happy to help needed help and the officer told me people at the bridge it so I ran in there and by the time I got there the person was already over back on the same side of the bridge and they were on the ground and they were screaming but they were not going to jump off the bridge that morning so I walk home. I haven’t said anything about that yet.
I deleted that FB video.
It’s evening time now right about sundown they’re still light outside though and I’ve gone out for a walk… The most immediate thing on my mind is that I only have 8.5 miles on my phone… Even though I just took a 5 mile walk and should have 13.5 miles on my phone but, because I left my phone at home for five minutes my phone. There’s a definite sense of compulsion around this and an irritation this is been bothered by the fact that I did not report this is my house the same thing happened last week when I left the house and left my phone in so did not get a segment of the. This, I know rationally, does not matter in the slightest however I feel bothered by the fact that there is not documentation of those miles and those miles will not be a part of my weekly average. I am out walking for mile and a half to get to the 10 miles that I would like on my phone which will really mean that I will have walk about 15 miles today which is a lot of miles into something that I actually feel kind of good about because walking 15 miles a day is better than smoking cigarettes.I think that my dopamine is getting rehabilitated and that is creating a motivation there are some very dark clouds right approach to me and I’m wondering if it’s going to rain it’s cold outside in the low 50s possibly in the high 40s even that was the last day of April and I live in the American south I’ll be in the mountains. For her to go for the walk I had a brief conversation with a person who runs a nonprofit start up is focused on supporting communities of color and healing justice and wellness. I did some voluntary grant writing work for them a couple months back I got an idea and what’s wrong with compelled to write it out. I was called to. The ideaWas based on what I heard community members at a listening session say that they wanted. So I wrote it up into a grant proposal which I develop and submitted for the organization. I had a brief conversation with the director of the organizations afternoon and I was filled with this very distinct joyful exuberance that makes me feel young and excited the way that I used to feel before I was broke out in a shaded in relation to this work in a nonprofit human service says industrial complex. Stoked excited and full vision. I’m going to go and meet with them next week.I have more to do than I have time and I don’t really know how I’m going to manage to get all of it done. Part of what I have been thinking about is developing a community or public messaging project related to people not killing himself or people saying alive as it may be I think that the messaging keep living is stronger messaging don’t kill yourself but I think those messages are important. I’m walking up a hill and it feels good everybody to be moving. I think that I may be a thingI may be developing into a person that walks a long distance every day. That’s OK with me. I like it it’s good for me. Better than smoking cigarettes. I need to resume doing artwork and I kind of trust that I will it some point start doing that again but it seems that a lot of my time is taken up by work in my way turning. I feel motivated and very task oriented but also a little bit serious in a little bit businesses. I think Some lightheartedness and some playfulness would be good for me.
> On Apr 29, 2020, at 9:33 AM
> 04/27 8:10am
> I thought, last night, about taking some notes that. After eating a dinner for Calvin beans and rice, which is favorite meal Celine and reading a short story and a book very fiction. Prior to doing all of that I’ve gone for a walk on the envelope trail by the river, and saw a family of docs with at least 10 ducklingAnd also a family of swans no… Not swans keys. I’m going to pause my speaking because I’m walking right now and I see a small female bluebird and I’d like to look at her for a few minutes. Chippeway. As I was saying, I considered taking notes before I went to bed because that would seem like something that would be infidelity with this practice I am trying to establish paying attention and noting through the day the way that I’m feeling and the things that I’m thinking about. I wasn’t feeling any sort of distress last night, that I felt good calm and centered… And I think that is as important to take notes when I’m feeling that way as it is to take notes when I am not feeling so well. The purpose of this takingI’m paying attention is, as I’ve said, to try to get a handle on some darker aspect of my narrative in psychology which have been really disruptive polity of life and of my positive participation within relationship. It’s possible that I may be in the process of letting go of some of these old narratives and that’s why they become louder, more intrusive, quicker to be triggered… However, I really can’t allow myselfTo get in to those sorts of states anymore, or some small thing that I thought you said something somebody has said shit for me in to this really dark in to the place you’re thinking and feeling in with my self worth is not all my advocacy as a human being is laughable, and it’s not safe to be around any other human beings. I mean really, that she was toxic. And I agree grassy field where the range time down by the river in there two crews that are walking in the grass. I’m going to look at them for a few minutes.They flew away. So, things that are on my mind this morning are hovering quite a bit around work… And ask for the day will entail. We are lucky to have a job there allows me to work and that it’s not too tedious. Probably about 75% of the time I enjoy my work and find at least a little bit of purpose in it which, I mean come on, so lucky to be able to say that. This afternoon I’m going to become facilitating a meeting With the state about restructuring some of the professional certification and licensure aspect the field that I work in. And I’m going to be interviewing somebody for service learning internship or a community capacity building project that I’m going to be working on for the next few months.I still think about art basically all the time take pictures of things to serve as references the paintings that I might want to do and sitter whether or not feeling any poetry noticing thinking about… And it’s there… I just haven’t given it a lot of time in terms of productive creation of work. But I really need to do is work on the website… That would be a good investment of my time Some of the times when I’m feeling resentful of my job but if I put even half of the energy that I put towards developing this organization toward developing my personal work I would probably not have to be employed as a wage earner and that would be much more ideal in terms of self determination of energy and endeavor and I commendation of my unique needs. It’s interesting to think about why it’s so easy for some people to give them selves overTo the needs of something external to them and organization of family… I think that women in particular they have a tendency to doing this to meeting other people’s needs into trying to wedge their own personal needs into the small spaces of time with the limited shreds or G they may be left over from doing things for entities external.
> voice to text.
> Anyway, is interesting to me that even just after a day and a half of making a conscious effort to check in with myself about how I am thinking and how that is impacting how I’m feeling, I feel much better… And that even though this is an exactly writing… This is speaking of my face as I am walking… Which is a different thing than writing… But is still giving voice to… That even after just doing this a few times and feel much much better. My friend, down by the fast flowing river while I was crying, call meThat I needed help… And that I wasn’t able to help myself. But, I don’t think that’s true I think that for years all of that writing that was helping myself and that if I presume that checking in and noticing and support myself and then having that state then I will be helping myself. I already a.m.
> I’m out for another walk… Queen work meetings and noticing the warm room for the station in the center of myself and I recognize joyfulness… I think this is in relation to a relationship because I’m feeling grateful appreciative person that I am with feeling deeply loving. It’s a nice day… And go to my children is out riding around like this with The friend of theirs. It’s nice that you’re able to see him during this time. Right now that we relax. I have a lot to do, room. I noticed an email that gave some information about publishers literary fiction submissions without an agent. I think that made me feel hopeful and interested as well.Really. As possible came out we are losing touch with.
> 04/27 5:55pm
> Well. Eating people nobility to do that sort of thing is not exactly personal narrative in which I am person
> Ha ha ha ha well, there seem to be some type of issues and using voice to text in doing these chickens with myself and what I am thinking about and how I am feeling. What I was trying to say was that I just had an interesting experience in which I facilitate a meeting with 20+ people some of whom were state representatives and I did a good job and doing a good job at that sort of thing flicks with my personal narratives which you know me that I am a, ineffective be cup and see, basically Not the sort of person who would effectively be able to facilitate a large meeting with diverse stakeholders.
> It was a really good example of ways T personal narrative a.m.
> 04/28 7:08am
> I am slow running around the middle school track and it’s cold outside my hands sprain with the cold and my eyes are running. It’s almost me and so there’s a little bit strange to me in the morning should be so chilly. I didn’t sleep incredibly well last night, and had some issues with the blanket. On the morning I noticed grumbling in my attitude and the resentment about nice person that I was sleeping with because I have been laying on the blanket and keeping it keeping me from curling it around myself. This would be a very stupid thing to let foul up my mood and my feeling in the morning. I need to get up early anyway, because I have work to do… And then a meeting at 8:30. I was able to get a little over an hours worth of work done. And I am now running very slowly around the track at the middle school moving towards my mileage for the day. It’s interesting since I’ve been walking at least 10 miles a day I don’tDreaded or resist it in the slightest. I really feel good heading out the door. I think my body has adapted to this level of activity and now understands that it feels good to move. Even though I have been an active person for years, I still had to push myself or convince myself a lot of days that I want to get up and go move that I want to go to the why. But I wanted to go for a run. Dreaded or resist it in the slightest. I really feel good heading out the door. I think my body has adapted to this level of activity and now understands that it feels good to move. Even though I have been an active person for years, I still had to push myself or convince myself a lot of days that I want to get up and go move that I want to go to the why. But I wanted to go for a run.No, I kind of craving… And I’m excited when I’m able to get out the door to go and walk. I’m running very slowly and in kind of a Jocelyn way because I am taking more voice notes on my thoughts and experience for the purpose of checking in with myself and ultimately checking myself so that I don’t become a bitch over some dumb shit it’s lodged in my head and contributes to my bed psychology. My friend said that I needed help and that maybe somebody would be able to help me… I think I really just need to talk about this stuff I mean, that is what I would do if somebody were helping me… I will talk about this stuff and the act of doing that would help me aware of what was happening and that awareness is what we’re not really help me. I don’t need to pay somebody $75 an hour to talk about this stuff. I think that the huge part of why I have become somewhat unwell over this past year so it’s because I’m falling out a practice of self reflection and writing. That was a huge way for meTo take care of myself and keep my thinking is Felix right and he giveaways do things they were traveling to me so they didn’t just fixture in the way that things will fester if left on tinder to. This morning I recognize that I feel a little bit edgy I’m not sleeping in a little bit stressed because of the tasks of the day. I have a meeting at 8:30 that is of a somewhat troubling topic involving the miss use of state mental health grant funds for a poorly managed Program. Then I need to find someway to address racism that has become apparent in the organization that I work for. Actually it’s not so subtle… It’s pretty obvious, when people in leadership positions are making dumb ass comments about peoples race and that’s the city in the course of meetings. So, I noticed that those things were on my mind in the middle of the night… And I have a lot of frustration around the fact that I’m not being paid full-time wages and yet I’m doing the work That consultant and grant writers would typically be paid at least $50 an hour to do. And, I know that other people who work for the organizations are basically not doing shit during this work online pandemic situation and are getting paid their usual 40 hours a week wage. That’s fucked up. I noticed when I think about these things that I feel angry and indignant. I think that for me a lot of times anger is how I’m crossing of my boundaries shows up…And let me know if there’s something that is happening in my life is bothersome to me, but across as my boundaries values… That is not OK I think that a lot of the time I am in courage to flatten my anger to not be bothered by things and it’s true that it’s important to not be bothered by things do not let relatively minor things of little consequence unsettle ones peace and contentment in being. However, I think that if something is fucked up taking vantageOf or not respected or see something happening that is not right… That the feeling of anger coming up in them is not necessarily a bad thing… Of course anger comes up because of the tendency to want to defend oneself against a perceived threat. And so the orientation to solving the problem can start off wrong if it’s coming from anger. It sets up an offense defense dynamic. So I guess then it would be better or to neutralize the anger for the purpose of theThen being able to address the problem in replace of grounded Gallery or compassion and without that sort of judgment or defense that often comes with anger. So, that was a really good example of the way the talking through something or riding through something processing something on my own can help you lead me to a resolution of the issue. That’s why I’m doing this so that I can help to put my proper my feelings rather thinking in their proper place. So that I do not feel unhappyOr trouble in my life. It’s a sunny day… And I know that it will be warm later. I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully, I can go for a walk with my daughter. I think it will be a good day. I plan on doing most of my work early in the day and then having some time in the afternoon.
> 04/28 05:39
> It’s late in the afternoon and I walking up at Hill. It had a pretty full day for most of the computer meetings it was an effective day and a decent enough day… I also have been noticing that I’ve adapted pretty well with all my work probably because I have experience in working remotely from my time with you Chris project a few years back. These past couple years self very much I’m sort of centered around being a person who is disorganizedYou couldn’t manage my time things done. I can see objectively that I get a great deal done and often was surprised and capability throughout the week. A lot of my narratives are being challenged. That’s a good thing, because my narratives have forgotten pretty lousy. A lot of my energy has been going towards work recently I have my creative energy being dumped into those endeavors. I guess I’m pretty lucky to have a job where I am able to use creative energy and where I’m able He is creative energy who I’m able to bring personal strengths and interests into the work that I do. This afternoon I feel somewhat tired and my body a little weary… My head feels good mood is good. I don’t feel edgy or irritable. This afternoon and that was a good thing because I needed to rest. Somehow I have 17 hours in this pay period even though it is only Tuesday.
> 04/29 7:29 am
> I am at the track again running slowly so windy this morning the skies strangely overcast a little bit of metallic sheen flat Clements the sunrise is full of glare. I woke up this morning and strange dreams. All of my dreams have been single potluck deck, and this isn’t anything new… They been that way for years, perhaps forever. There’s always some kind of washed out please Summary please. Last night our flights… Scramble to try to work out lodging in a weird motel. The grocery store Shells we’re almost empty save for a strange Santa hat hanging and an N 95 mask which I considered buying because I recognize even in the dream that they are rare. Back. A small child the person of color, hugged my leg and looked up at me with absolute adoration and love… And I don’t know what this means that my ego is telling me some kind of antiquated wait save your bullshit perhaps!? This morning I woke up and felt ready to get out of bed because I enjoy the challenge of getting up and working for at least an hour before heading out the door to run… I updated the website sent you couple of emails out reach for a project and I considered making an introduction of myself Facebook group I have joined that is ministered by a local person of color who supports small businesses… And I considered making an introAnd went on and on in the way that I do… Hit select all and delete it saved it in the notes. I think I will ask how members of the group prefer the new members introduce themselves. Before I just go on and say a bunch of stuff. I feel fairly good in my head into my body this morning I’m meeting my goals which is encouraging goals for work goals for movement each day. There’s a wind this morning and I like it. Yesterday I read a Raymond Carver poem about hockey lost rivers and it occurred to me that simple poets are probably more brave and complicated or audacious poets. I haven’t written any times since the other day when I won’t grow one point.Prior to that I hadn’t written any forms. I see by glancing down at my screen that the accuracy of voice to text it’s somewhat lagging and that a lot of nonsense is showing up in this that I say. It doesn’t matter. Last night my friend asked me if I thought that when I spoke with her as we close approximation to the way that I write and I know it is not. Rain, yes. The part of the brain that speaks is different than the part of the brain that writes. And that my speaking voice is different writing voice unless I’m being oratory or rhetorical in that flourishing way when I’m feeling impassioned about something sometimes my writing voice slips out in that. We had a good conversation my friend and I about psychology and helping and healing doesn’t help. And I almost woke up my writing voice when I was saying something about self-determination be in the foundation Of any healing growth that may happen and that if there’s anything in the relationship that undermines her compromises our self determination, and ultimately healing and growth cannot happen. Especially, I said, for people who have long histories of having their autonomy compromised and having their boundaries repeatedly violated by forces or people external to them. Innoway, I think everyone because it is such a common thing in human relationships for us not to respect Or appreciate another person’s autonomy and to try to direct them where to control them or to manipulate them to meet our needs and desires and to be in integrity with what we think are to be happening he thinks they got to be doing this, I think it’s basically the foundation of every problem within relationships. Anyway, it was good to talk with my friend and I mentioned that I thought that it might be good but I reengage in my speaking voice in this process that I started with the AmyTo check in with myself so that I don’t get into an unintended and unruly headspace her way to feel it. It makes sense that I should call unaware and spaces I thinking and feeling they’re off and we just have an agency because to be honest I process things very quickly and I have a distinct visual and affective component to the way that I experience what might be called that. So, very quickly and outside of the scope of my conscious awareness,I can finally begin thinking and feeling about things in ways that really are very distorted and upsetting. Yesterday, I had an experience where my friend was being lighthearted and kind of playful in response to something I said I’m at the distance that I walk every day saying that I was basically as Walker now and he went on and on and I began to feel like he was making fun of me like he was making my practice of walking 10 to 12 miles a day out to be something more than it was. My friend is an endurance athlete and actually knows people that for all practicalRepresents our insurance walkers. I am not an endurance Walker. So, if you’re going to feel like my friend was making fun of me joshing with me a little bit like it at all it will do a child making more out of their accomplishment and it actually is in a kind of belittling way. It’s complicated, this thing that sometimes adults will do the children where they make a big deal out of something in the child is done and basically treat the child like an idiot as if the child cannot accurately estimate is her her complement and also it was ifThe child is gullible enough to send a hyperbolic ego inflation. I’m only feeling uncomfortable feel quiet and I said stop I feel like you’re in front of me. No I’m not in durance walker please stop I feel like you’re making fun of me. And then I could feel myself kind of shut her up go closed off not feeling it is anymore at the garbage and went for a walk and came home and ate dinner and it one point on the walk I told my friend I don’t not being distant because I’m hungryI’m being distant because I don’t feel socially safe. And I was like hell and, like I said dinner and we had a good conversation and I did not feel socially and safe anymore and I understood that my friend was just being playful. I knew that cognitively at times, but still my body reacted to it I could feel my heart beat faster and I felt embarrassed something like in dignity. In my experience like a child is being made fun of. Since then I would have this reaction so quickly With such ease because I was very much a child that was made fun of. The voice of Bel Air to me while I was feeling so sheepish and embarrassed and belittled was then I want to be taken seriously. And this is kind of a silly thing to want because how serious is it, really? This issue of us and our lives and our identities. I should be taking myself less seriously. This is like the serious year, Robert stop laughing and I get very very seriousAbout almost everything.
> And I hope that sometime I will be able to be less serious again Andrea have a lightness of being in the joy in being I think that if people feel that the very basis of them is not respected or held and dignified worth but a lot of their energy goes towards trying to defend that I’m trying to build that up and said they cannot and have it a lightness of being because they feel that some
> substance of there being is threatened.
> 04/28 7:50 am
> It is much easier to run slowly around the track while I am doing this voice notes because I am distracted from the fact that I’m running slowly around the track and that really running so late or on the track it’s not that interesting. I try to run 45 miles because that was helpful for me and meeting my mother calls today when it is supposed to rain it 100% chance of rain later in the day. I’m not opposed to walking in the rain and I may end up doing that. I don’t feel like I have much more to say on the subject of my thought of And feelings so I thought that maybe I might practice describing the wind where the light where the feeling of my footsteps just exercise kick you lading brain there’s a wind blowing from the south across the top of the new green trees and it begins the uppermost branches so that they look like sales and make the sound of wrestling and sighing a very gentle movement like rocking or dancing slowly I’m pausing as I’m looking at it because it takes much words away to watch the treesGo in the wind and the sun is risen to be well over the mountain that separates the east side of town from the west side of me in the peculiar glaring great clouds that I’ll get a slant in the sky this morning he burnt off that they’re still over the freshly risen son so that the light still has a behavior plan quality not bright her clean or clear but a little bit flat still a little bit glaring it’s right now it’s the impression of being yellow in the way that sunlightSometimes seems, especially in the spring grass is very green I can see the sunlight Glenn takeoff the small bits of shining rock that are in the asphalt that makes up the track but only at certain angles right now I’m running through the shadow of the school and on the other side of the track I can see that it is bright and it is lit but here it’s almost like the sun is still rising. I can feel my left hip the soreness my left knee also and then my right toe at the base of itDespite the Sorensons feel strong even though I am running slowly I feel like I could run for a long time my breath is coming very easily as evidenced by the fact that I’m able to continue talking in this way. I can’t think of any art projects that I wanted to do recently other than take a picture of the toilet paper in the bathroom which I took a reference shot of the other day in the afternoon light was shining through the old green curtain in a way it was early luminous.I got that curtain 20 years ago when I was living in Portland Oregon. And it’s silly to me that I still have it. I should get a new curtain that old one is worn out dingy. I snag leave my black thread or hindered from a long window panel years ago and didn’t bother to use the right color thread and didn’t bother to address the string tension on my sewing machine. In many ways I am careless person. A piece about that.There’s a bird that is singing off to the west side of the track in the trees grow on the hillside that the school since the top of. It sounds a little like a Mockingbird. I have noticed the birds a lot this season just like any other season but, it seems like they’re noticing of me has also increased somewhat this year we stop in regard another. At least this is how it seems to me. There is a big playerLayer of dark cloud hanging high up in the sky it is raining it and it reminds me of the coast like it like that I want to be hanging over the ocean I can see miles from here that there is a slight rain that’s falling from the cloud but here it is sunny.
> 04/29 9:13am
> The mockingbirds chase away the crow, just like the crow chases away the hawk. Everyone one trying to protect the nest, protect the eggs, and everyone trying to get fed.
I did not take any notes or do any observation this morning… Sleep for a couple of hours in the cloud on ahead with the plans as I conceived of them which were to go over to Luna court perhaps sleep out tonight. The interview was weird… And I got activated the restraint of boisterous social interaction well I was going to the grocery store and got very carsick… And then the trails were closed. So we drove back to Asheville and I took a walk and I cried a little as I walk because I felt so sick and upset still… And it was bothersome…And then we are going to drive up to Craven gap… Tired and it’s super far and so we decided to just go and walk by the parkway near Biltmore… They were lots of cars going bye and loud motorcycles that, that was OK. So I tried to do a thing today and it didn’t work out… And isn’t that what happened sometimes they try to do something and it just doesn’t really work… I had a headache most of the day and now as I’m walkingI feel a cramp in my side which is peculiar… I don’t think that I feel well I’m still trying to walk to get the 10 miles a day that I am compulsively committed to getting… I thought all day long but maybe things weren’t working out because they were something else that I was supposed to be doing… And figured that there was probably something very important that I was supposed to be doing that I was missing because I was trying to go and do some conceived an unnecessary outdoor pursuits thing… That was silly. I wonder what it was that I was supposed to be doing? This morning I woke up with a short story in my head about how people will leave notes for one another on some of the street signs and posts along the corners and I thought about notes that I’ve seen hey Billie, we had to break camp we have your stuff… Please call Jay. But I wondered what sort of story my school out from the beginning having to do with people leaving notes for other people on holes in the street corners maybe even written on the edge of the sidewalk. What were the note say? What would the story be that was told to mentioning them. Anyway, I didn’t have a very nice day because I felt sick and upset most of the day and I wonder about whether or not part of my feeling sick and upset had to do with me not having checked in with my cell and not have a take a note. I was aware of when I got triggered and why I got triggered and how it made me feel a hell son like the bottom has been dropped out I was literally kind of staggering and lightheaded… Because I was so surprised by what it happenedAnd then I felt angry… And I could feel myself I don’t get sugared up the way that I do and I stop saying anything stop speaking and just throw it in the passenger seat in silence… That was how I spent most of my day of sick and have to associated… There’s no way to live.
May 2, 8:05am
I am walking past the big brewery by the river the one that makes the city like Portland while they’re making their beer… Funny how some places become analogues for other places based on ascent geographic feature the way a River runs through the center of this town like so many other towns got through with bridges. The house that I live in there is the tunnel Japanese flowering cherry And overgrown privet short little tunnel just the distance in front of the house and it’s like that longer tunnel that led to the house that I grew up in. As I speak these words because I am recording this on my phone using voice to text a little bit of a pressure in my chest… When I mention the house and a part of this comes from realizing that I almost do not remember…When I was younger I thought that it would be impossible to forget something… It seems like the reality of the place and the feelings smells the realness of that place it seems like that would always stay close… And I marvel at how older people claim to not remember the claim only remember a few things… How could that be? I think In order to remember one Hass to tend to their memories to spend time with them… The mind can only take care of so much and we can’t rely on memories to maintain themselves and get overwritten by whatever is right in front of us whether we want them to or not… It isn’t it kind of sad that the places that have been lost in the things that maybe only we know that may be only remember they are gone Just like everything I guess… There is some rightness in the slipstream of all of that there’s nothing last truth in that however, there’s also for me anyway some truth in that there’s something very human about wanting to hold onto and reserve the things that we love the places that have meant something to us. And as I speak these words I notice a feeling in my chest again something something big is bigger than me… And I think about howYou may not realize it but we are well into the process of losing so many places that we love already lost so many places that we’ve loved probably everybody has lost a place that they love and I wonder if that in this new world that is being forged what is another thing that connects us all… That everybody has seen the world change in ways that are sad… But everybody has lost something that we love.
What I am noticing in my thinking and feeling this morning is that I woke up with a bad headache with my sinuses congested especially my left sinus pressure all along the side of my face tired and kind of ill… Didn’t want to be in the house and I feel tired tired I’ve been saying that for years but I didn’t feel especially bad this morning… Anyway yesterday was very difficult day for me did not feel well and I had emotional troubles in part because I didn’t eat quite enough and I’m part because I did not move quite enough and in part because my usual practice and routine has shifted and in part because I had an unexpected social situation in the entrance to the grocery store that was surprising and confusing and unsettling to me in ways that someone activated some Of the difficulty that I have in how I feel things. By the end of the day I felt OK… But, I didn’t think that I could use the day and the best way he said it may have been used… I felt like I have been missed lead missed lead myself and my goals and that my plans and that that misleading have compromised qualityOf my experience. I’m walking on and developed part of the trail now… And it’s quiet. I like it.
I am at the track at the middle school doing my very slow walking kind of jogging thing… A very very slow but it doesn’t matter I woke up this morning I felt so fucking stressed out because of the amount of things I have to do tomorrow and the way these things thinking about them look up magnified like something that will take 20 minutes seems in my head ache five hours and I feel like there’s no possible way that will be able to do all the things that I need to do tomorrow and before tomorrow… Creates a breathless panic feeling in meI don’t like it… This feeling is the primary reason why I struggle with working and why a visit by job because anything that I have committed to do creates a feeling of me it seems… And I don’t really understand how that is or why that is or what I can do to make that difference… I think that is because I have low stress Holleran’s… But it’s also about the way that I think about things… Like I feel that anything anything that I have on my schedule it’s something that I have to do and then I reflexively just have all these feelings of resistance and apprehension and resentment about the things that are on my schedule to do so it is Lawrence he’s thinking about things in a way that’s really probably not very helpful… Thinking about things in a way that a, I have to do them which automatically creates resistance and resentment and be, thinking about things in a distorted magnitude Kind of way like oh this thing then I’m totally capable of doing only take 20 minutes is really really a Normas and it’s going to consume me and I feel this incredible amount of pressure… And so I’m not really sure how to adjust to that kind of automatic thinking about things thing is that I apply urgency urgent… And that creates stress I’m a fucking stress case. How do I get this This way? It’s not healthy… So these are things that I’ve noticed this morning am I thinking in my feeling that I woke up early with a feeling of overwhelm and stress about the amount of things that I have to do tomorrow and things that I need to do today in order to prepare for tomorrow… And I look around the house and I see all the stuff that needs to be done… And I think about all the things that I want to do today outside my daughter and I don’t know Do you want to spend time with me and how I want to spend time with my friend but I don’t think that we’re spending time with my daughter it’s complicated and that there’s like what do I want to do and what do I need to do I need to clean the kitchen floor I need to haul my laundry and I need to clean the bathroom… Possibly do these things and get out and go somewhere… It is feeling on the conveyor and then every corner there’s something pulling at me demanding of my time and attention And it’s not helpful for me to be thinking about these things feel that it’s more stressful… And although it was necessary for my nervous system to release the stress and urgency distress signals that I created in the way that I think about things it’s not helpful for me to reinforce the stress by speaking in this breathless kind of panicked way I need to use my skills and look around and recognize that hey, there’s nothing that I have to do right now other than run around the track…And that I feel OK… And then I’ll get everything done because I always do and that the less conflict I create because of my stress levels the better.I want to have a nice chill day… And that’s totally possible and that’s totally OK…
There are interesting heavy Roos colored clouds to the north end of the west this morning and yet to the east the sky is more clear and so the bright golden sunlight of morning is shining over everything the flashlight under a blanket I feel well this morning despite not having had quite enough sleep and despite waking up in the middle of the night right in because I heard a cat crying and I knew that I had left the cat out it was terrified in the middle of the night that she would be hurt
I feel like I have too much to do and perhaps not enough time to do it… But, I am hopeful that I’ll be able to work it out… Am I feel strangely quiet this morning probably because I am tired… I miss writing poetry maybe morning as I run around the track very very slowly focus we’re taking notes on describing the grass illuminated by the slant If the sun while the rain heavy ceiling hangs low… And the field is empty a brand new green… Benches top game on scene… I don’t have a lot of poetry in me lately gotten very very serious because of all the work. I feel that I have allowed myself to become almost entirely colonized by my job Despite the fact that I earn less than $2000 a month. When I think about this but I have given myself over almost entirely to the task of an organization that I don’t even really respect for less than $3000 a month I feel kind of sad and angry. What does that say about the extent to which I value myself… Then I’m willing to show upAnd do really strong work minimal reimbursement and at the cost of my headspace joyfulness mobility to be present… Yesterday, my friend was telling me stories my friend is a good storyteller… And I listened and I laughed… And I also thought, what the fuck happened to me? Are used to tell stories… Are used to be lively in my mind in my sharing memories were close And I could paint incredible pictures just with words… Voice so that I am able to earn wages… And that makes me sad that I’ve become a doll person anymore so that I’m able to focus on work. There’s something that is not right in that… That is not right at all. However, I also recognize that you’re reinforcing the phone Phenomenon of my silence saying it’s not helpful is not productive. If I want to be less silent than I should be less silent if I want to speak freely then I should begin slowly at first to use my voice again. I should have experiences that are worth telling us stories not experiences that I feel bored by experiences that I feel ashamed of what I feel or waste of my time and potential serious does that make me feel like a fool. I have to practice And storytelling. I wonder if it is healthy for me to be trying to walk or run some combination there of 10+ miles a day. I wonder if it is breaking down my body? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem especially healthy… If I’m not on a through wear, the only thing I am tasked with doing is walking all day long and resting… It seems like a little too much to be walking running so much while also trying to work so much and also trying to shop for relationship and not thinking at all about art about relaxation… I think there’s a part of me that feels like there is a lack of solidarity and relaxing… That if other people are having to work so hard that I also should be working hard… That I should not be enjoying my leisure there’s some kind of solidarityPrint stress… But, that’s not healthy I think the back that is bullshit.
It rained last night and they are slick we are puddles on the track. There is cool, like the slow build toward summer is even slower this year. Cock in a perpetual interest season between warm and cool. The clouds look like clouds over the ocean, remind me that sometimes I think about the ways that we are in I just first Oceana of sorts vapors pulling and flowing streams and currents all around us surrounded by water. I feel calm this morning, and slept well. I fell sleep I was immediately after I lay down. I still feel like I have too much to do but, that doesn’t stress me out the way that it stressed me out yesterday.As I move through the events begin to happen and even really think about them now I will do this and I will do that and all of the stress And dread about everything that I needed to do seemed silly and unnecessary as a move through the day of doing these things… The day did not go as planned, but that was OK. There was a major technical difficulty with the zoom link for a workshop that I was supposed to be facilitating because it had been scheduled for 4 AM rather than 4 PM. I didn’t up being all right because the community theater for the group hosted in the workshop with and I were able to discuss a grant opportunity they are consideringThat would support the development of a community culture of peer support in a rural unity county not by the border. It’s exciting for me to think about those sorts of potential developments peer support for everyone we are all peters the building cultural movement of good neighboring. As I think about that this morning I noticed the smell of wild onion in that wet grass is beside the track and lightning and enlivening in my body. It’s work that’s exciting for me.
I begin to take these notes he is a voice to text is an effort to check in with myself and to note how I was feeling and what I was thinking about going to figure out the possible connections between those things what I was thinking about and how it was feeling. Just the act of paying attention seems to help me to better regulate my mood and experiences of reality.
She runs slowly around the track not even running at all really. Every so often the flash of her shoulder and her peripheral vision makes her startled like someone is running up behind her that she had not heard. She notices the clouds, like the inside of a pillow today piled like that soft like that with, darker shadows giving texture to the loft.
There is a sweetness in the air that she only notices if she pays attention. The smell of new green and grass is already gone to seed hundreds of timelines unfolding the earth around her in orchestra that isn’t heard unless you pay very close attention unfolding of life to slow build of insects calling out to mate, to live, to move towards the hot days at the end of the season when they were slowly thrown out the final hours of their lives without even knowing, the lease not in a way that we know, that they are dying. She has an inhabited much poetry. Remind his friends working in ways that are concrete and precise. Designed to make sense to those who were moving about in the material world designed to be Consumable and desirable products. Deliverables. It’s a different sort of mind state in the mind state that elicits poetry that brings forth the details and subtleties have since association and impression. It’s not conducive to poetry to be working on budgets. Unless she can come up with a poem about how it How it feels in her body and then the specific firing of her synopsis to be filling in numbers, column throws, doing math that is intended to quantify and represent some reality in the world of objects and movement. As she speaking these words, she thinks about the look of a spreadsheet and how that look is replicated in the feeling in her body. Flat, Grid lines. Cells that look like boxes. She hasn’t seen the ocean for the past couple of years that her friend is quick to remind her that she saw the golf of Mexico in January 2019 for a few days on a brief trip. She doesn’t know how to be in Fattic in a way that will help him to understand the significance that for the first time in her for decades of living she has gone a year without seeing either The Atlantic or the Pacific ocean. Not the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean the big expanse of water on either side of this country that she lives in. That, the fact that she has not seen the ocean in over two years, is significant to her. She will need to do something about that soon. She is running around the track, running very slowly. It’s not even running, it’s the shuffling gait of the aged and And firm. Her knees are sore and her ankle hurts there may be a foot behind the knuckle of her right big that is fractured from her kicking the cabinet a week and a half ago when she was frustrated, the day before she declared that she would not get angry again in the ways that she had been getting angry which were like the ways that she used to get angry when she was younger and frustrated and felt there was no voice and her and no place that she could speak herself safely. She doesn’t mind that she’s running slowly, and she is shuffling. It is better than no movement and it is easy to speak if she moves slowly. She is not doing this shambling run for the sake of trying to be any sort of athlete. She is trying to stay sane, and thus, stay alive. It helps her to feel calm and strong in her body even ifShe runs slowly. She’s noticing that the sun has risen behind the clouds to the east end that polarized saving diffuse rays are pushing their way out from behind the clouds in Erie silver blue light golden edges.
She likes it she is able to move her body around in these circles and speak whatever comes on without worrying over his brilliance or relevance. Lately she has thought about how her social spaces she has become a witness, and observer, not a participant. She spoke about this yesterday, walking with her friend. Saying, I need to start speaking again, I need to start participating, not just as a listenerOr an observer but as someone who offered something of her self into the conversation or exchange. She has become careful these past couple of seasons through the long and difficult winter watching her words not feeling sure of herself a clanging damp depression stimulating doubts and second guesses for value, the value of what she might contribute. The winter has been very difficult, and she’s Struggled some with not exactly wanting to live in the way that she felt the blaring of hostile thoughts and impressions in her mind frequency. She’s not suicidal in the winter, not in the sense that she was seriously considering ending her life. She would not do that that would not be an action that she would take. However, she had the feelings and the thoughts of suicideAnd she spent a great deal of time trying to cope with those experiences of feeling suicidal even though she didn’t want to die, even though she wanted to live. The other day after she gets in the man on the bridge holding himself who are the railing and the physician the suggested but he would jump, all he had to do was looking forward to that girl. That was all he had to do. I made a commitment to herself that she would get over her fears and insecurities and she will begin to say things about living and dying, and what she had learned about living and dying. So far, she hasn’t said much, in saying something now that she’s running slightly around the track, she is holding herself accountable. So much of her writing and her notetaking was an accountability practice, And exercise so that she would not forget what was important to her what inspired her motivated her crucial to her survival and central to her experience of being. Sometime over the next few days, she has decided she will go through and find all of the messages that she sent to her self over the past several months and she will put together a post. She may not edit these messages that she is writing to her self using voice to text. Because there’s something kind of artful in the imperfectionOf what we try to say oh you’re speaking out loud to ourselves.
05/06 8:23 am
I’m on my way home now after running for about an hour or so… I worked on two different grants for community peer support projects… And that was good… Because I woke up again this morning overwhelmed and feeling like too much to do. And because I had things to do I was experiencing the resistance and hesitation around the things that I needed to do. This created stress response So, my solution was to get some work done on the things that I was supposed to do… And I was able to do that while I was running… Which was a really good thing. It’s nice to be able to run really really slowly and have a focus of mine. I got one of the grant narratives almost completely finished, which is amazing. And I feel much more ready for the day. So, that’s a good thing to know… That the solution feeling overwhelmed I have a few minute things to do is, sometimes, to a watch the way I’m thinking about the things that I have to do and make sure I’m not thinking about the things I have to do it’s more stress and be to just get some work done on the things I have to do because then I have less to do and feel less stressed. It worked out really well to do some work while I was running this morning. And reminded me of the ways that I would go to the Y and at the bike while I was doing some work. I think the movement It’s good for my focus.
So, how does a person figure out what their gifts are?
During times that I have really been struggling to live, the idea that I might have gifts and strengths seemed pretty foreign to me since the space I am inhabiting whenever I’m having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about the prospect of continuing to live tends to shape my perception of myself and my self-worth through a lens of deficits.
That’s part of the narrative of my personal struggles with wanting to live – it’s a narrative of deficits.
That’s part of my experience of suicidality and part of how I know (when I am well) that the state of suicidality is a liar.
When I am well, I know that I have value and worth. I know that I have gifts and strengths.
However, states of suicidality obscure those truths and so when I’m struggling in that way it’s hard for me to think about what my gifts are. Sometimes, it seems like if I try to think about positive things about myself or my potential to have a good life there can be a really vicious internal voice that comes up in a backlash against the truth of my worth and potential, the truth of my gifts and strengths.
For me, a lot of what I experience during times of suicidality is rooted in compound psychological and relational trauma and is the echo and amplification of all the terrible things that people (who themselves were wounded and hurting) have said to me about who I am and what I’m worth.
That’s a part of it, anyway…
So, how does a person identify potential strengths when they’re in the midst of struggling to stay alive?
I don’t have a real solid answer for that.
For me, it’s been good to try to have a short list of things that when I am well I understand are true about myself, and a few reminders of concrete times that my strengths have shown up or that I have felt strong and happy in myself. If there is a memory or a moment or a song or a saying that helps you to connect with the part of you that is strong and hopeful and happy to be alive you can use that to help to tether to the part of yourself that wants to live.
(Note: If you feel sad or upset about feeling like you want to die, that’s a clue that a part of you wants to live.)
When I’m struggling with wanting to stay alive, it can be really painful to think about some of these things because sometimes trying to tell myself good things about myself makes that same internal backlash voice that says “that’s not true. that’s not true…not worth anything and your life is shit” come up in me, and that can be really painful and confusing and frustrating.
So, sometimes it’s better for me to not try to think about gifts and strengths and things I hope for when I’m really really struggling, because it can be painful and provoking of additional harsh self criticism and self-worth second-guessing.
For me, it works better to wait for a day or a moment that I feel more neutral or even good…
Even if I am really really struggling, there are still days or at least moments within days that I feel halfway OK, where there is a little respite from suffering, a small shred of ease or hope.
For me, it works better I think about strengths and gifts when I am feeling either neutral or good.
A big part of my personal path to a life that most days I am really happy to be alive in has been to learn to pay attention to the things that make me feel good about myself in a way that is deep and authentic – not good about myself because I am showing up how other people want me to show up or doing things that make other people happy, but good about myself for me and in me…
Those times when I am feeling strong and at ease in who I am are clues to my strengths and some of the things that might be my gifts – when I feel happy and at ease in being who I am and doing what I’m doing.
This afternoon, I found myself saying that it is important to me to ‘do the work that is mine to do,’ and that it is important to ‘do work that aligns with my values’ – and both those things are totally true, but – wow – what a privilege it is to get to *choose* the work I do and to get to do work that actually matters to me, when a lot of people have to just work any job they can get.
The work that matters to me has everything to do with doing my little part to help create a world where everyone gets to do the work that is theirs to do – the work that uplifts their strengths and gifts and affirms their passions, the work that they are divinely inspired to do – not because it earns them a lot of money (though I wish that every person was paid supremely for the work of their hearts), but because their spirit sings when they are doing the work that is theirs to do.
I am not lucky that I don’t have to work some crummy job that I can’t stand and that does not benefit at all beyond providing a paycheck that is never enough. I am privileged to be able to choose the work that I do and to do work that means something to me. That shouldn’t be a privilege. That should be a Human right, extended to all people.
She sitting in her kitchen you Apple cider vinegar and where they were here I’ll be
Well that was silly she has been speaking for at least a few minutes about cutting up kale in the smaller pieces so that she could soak it briefly and apple cider vinegar to soften it enough to eat raw it’s part of us it’s part of the slaw that she’s discovered that she enjoys a great deal she mentioned that she had contacted a friend of her spontaneously usually she doesn’t call people spontaneously usually she puts off calling them if she contacts them at all or she calls them on a schedule resist and apprehend the the timer call She standing in her kitchen cutting calendar smaller pieces so that she can soak in an apple cider vinegar and she thought for a minute after she called her friend that it was 106° where they were which is out in the desert and she had mentioned that here it was cold in the high 30s this morning and it reminded her of the Pacific Northwest or sometimes the day would be quite cold if it was supposed to be she’s noticed that she’s noticed that lately she is head and that this may not actually be a healthy thing track instead she worked on document To help you keep track of grant funding that they are organization so that the organization actually do the work for the most part she doesn’t always always know if organization
May 10 7:40a
She’s running around the track, your energy is low today… In the morning it’s cold and bright, too cold for me but with the look of string with the early sunrise blue sky green during warm spell several weeks ago… It’s Mother’s Day, but it may be any other day. She does not do the breakfast in bed, and her children teenagers now can’t to forget that there Is the significance in her being their mother. She woke up early despite the fact that it is Sunday and despite the fact that it’s Mother’s DayBecause you had work that had rolled from the week prior into the weekend. It wasn’t unpleasant, simple really but still I think that she needed to do attend to. I think that made the day play entirely hers. It’s been difficult for her to get psychological space recently, the sense of an open it’s self directed mine. The impression of having too much to do but she spoke about last week hasRight on, regardless of the fact that she has insight into the phenomenon in which her feeling like she has too much to do tends to make her feel like she has too much to do. Walking through the woods day before yesterday before the rains came she said that anything on her schedule tends to represent it self with an out her portion magnitude, meaning the things in her mind it’s a bigger more complicated than they actually are in this understandably create a stress response She has a lot of altered and her practice of making notes to her self, noticing her thoughts and the way that she feels in her body. She may have even missed a couple of days entirely. She doesn’t know. She learned that she is able to work on documents as she runs because she runs to slowly and so she has been staying on the clock while she goes to the track is working on documents as she moves around and around. Today, she is going to make an effort to pay attention becauseEven though she tries to remember and to keep close to her who she is and the things that are important for her to do they get washed over and I’m scared for the demands of the day and the task that other people desire of her. Somehow, taking a few minutes to talk to her self either in this way speaking into my phone and she runs around the track who is writing helps her to connect with you she is it was important to her. She spends a lot of her time thanking about art projectsHand writing projects that she’d like to be doing but she doesn’t speak about these things anymore if she doesn’t make notes about these things anymore and so they are a little further from being real just thoughts, daydreams only. One thing that she thought about yesterday and she was running around the track and not working on a document and not taking notes but just running around and with a little tiny bit of psychological space was the idea of being a secret genius. Actually she thought about the phrase secret genius as a possible name for a small limited consultancy Business that she could conceivably start with a focus on nonprofit and community initiative organizational development and project design and grant writing. The idea of the secret genius is that she really actually is a genius, at least in some areas measurably and documented as being such. However she cannot say this thing about herself that she is a genius in some areas because this is noxious and offputting to people because she lives in a countryWhich values and is friendly towards the stupid end which scorned intelligence if it is forthright. However, she continually finds herself in these positions with her intelligence is leveraged and utilized to the point of always being exploited and yet she is not recognized or knowledge for being intelligent Nora she recognized for their experiences and do the hard work they have led to her intelligence she is an expert but experience in many ways… And yet she finds her self in these rules for people want to use her expertise and use her intelligence in these limited ways and then adds her out of other conversations and exclude her from other processes. That is fucking obnoxious. It’s stupid that she settles for such work, win and she has been saying for years and years she could make her own work and probably be more successfulAny more satisfied. Anyway she doesn’t really want to think about any of that right now because aside from those aspects of her life she is a body running in the morning with the cold air I guess her face and a vague collection of memories of the person the animal that she was before she entered into the world of commerce and value social capital need to make one’s way. In reality she wants very much to have nothing to do with any of that… She doesn’t really care about it… And she wants mostly to be able to look at two different ways but the light is held in grasses all the different modes of green. She wants to be able to spend the day outside not under fluorescent lights she wants to be able to laugh… And to be light in her being she has gotten very very serious over the past year or so and this is in part because Of the amount of concern that she has for the world. Over the past couple of years the climate emergency that she has frightened about since she was a child has become dire. And let’s search capitalism has become a rabbit force of busyness and distraction driving tire country into a state of frozen and panic collective trauma. And she sees this things the evidence of the brief segments of news that she may catch the front page of the paper as she exits the supermarket, And she feels as she’s help her years a great sense of urgency in the sense that she needs to do something. It is not going to help the world if she is only spending her time walking is relaxing and watching the grass grow. Even though that’s all she really wants to do. That’s not true, she wants to save the world she wants to help to save the world
May 10 6:27pm
She’s walking around the neighborhood looking over the little bottoms between Gaston and talk to her we’re drainage stream runs through and their rounds of kudzu from years past tall trees it’s a little green area in the middle of the neighborhood… The day has been good, and this morning when she ran around the track feels like a very long time ago She wrote out to the edge of the county with your daughter… Said hello to our mother had a work meeting is due tomorrow… Came home played still for period of time and then went out to walk… And then came home it’s pouring herLet’s talk at what she did when she did it she gets tired by the end of the day and doesn’t want to do anything much other then.
Sent have any amazing thoughts as the day wore on the way today is due.
May 11 7:25am
It’s a little warmer than it has been in the morning sweat under her jacket, finally mid-May. She’s running around the track gotten up early and done some work on a project that she is doing to outreach recovery resources under resourced areas. But she has realized the past several days is that people are not nearly as text inclined as she is. We’re not nearly as delightedTo see who all of words how she is she’s going to have to figure out other ways to communicate with people if she is going to do this project well and had a way that reaches people. She feels good this morning fairly clear in her head and it is in her body although she wore her old worn out shoes to the track by accident and she can feel that the impact is rattling her bones and she knows that you’ll probably be sore later on today.
[Inaccurate partial family history deleted.]
There’s so many things that she wants to say something about. So many things that she wants to do something about. It’s overwhelming to her and so she says nothing it does nothing.
May 13 7:40 am
Sometimes the clouds look like whales and remind her that we’re not very far there is a deep called ocean with great bodies moving through water.
glabrous shine dark red
to black, a critical mass
sweetness building slowBeautiful people
all over the world, living
sad lives, scenic places
a chart, scatterplot
would show no going back now
too much ripe, ready
what is it to live
the last summer of one’s life?
…asking for a friend.
Next year’s cane reach bold
soft green, fleshy thorn, straight tall
not knowing, they’ll wait
Someone fired shots
into the crowd, a party
four lives are gone now
Last week, a surprise
to find the dark half globe hid
among the blood red
more than ever, dominant
look…then they are gone.
It’s not surprising, really, that I would feel unenthused in the morning. My mother has cancer. My job feels empty. I have taken the same walk almost everyday since mid-March.
I noticed that the wild black raspberries were ripening at an increased rate, the early ripening fruits having been sparse surprises last week and the week before. There will be a brief abundance and then the stragglers will have their short span of days, and then the fruit will be gone for this year. I’m sure it is a bell curve – the distribution of ripening.
Then I thought of the word glaucus, trying to remember the word glabrous.
DRAFTS without Recipients
She sat on the porch with a clipboard, filling out the form. The form was supposed to have been filled out the week before, at the beginning of the class. She forgot to, sitting in the group of people and listening close to what was said.
What is a punitive justice system?
What did she know about restorative circles?
She had never heard of a restorative circle before.
She wanted to tell her story, felt this rise up in her, honest, the desire to say to this room of people the words that would spell a story, that would put them there, and put there in them. To show them who she was, because – increasingly – it felt strange to sit in rooms with people, being a tall lady with glasses, a funny way of sitting, a voice that speaks too loudly or too softly, a voice that shakes. None of these people knew who she was, and she did not know who they were. Names and bodies, scraps of undetailed lives offered up in the go-around at the beginning of the weekly class.
She could make a list of the week’s work, the week’s ideas. The way that she would name these things, if she were to try to tell a person about them, about the way they slipped from one thing to another, bright catches and a span of a day here, a few days there, the tumble into a slipping stream of work half-done, tasks forgotten. This was the way she did things now, imprecise and impulsive, drifting at whim or distraction. She told herself that she was in flow, but sometimes it felt a little like her mind might be going.
She didn’t care what she thought about restorative justice. The only thing that was important about her ideas was the urgency in her around the word ‘restore.’ The way it spurred a flood of stammered statements, a give-it-back desperation, a muttering about humanity.
The problem with doing brain work for wages is that it takes up a lot of my head space and orients my cognitive functions and purpose toward the needs and tasks of the organization I work for. When I worked direct service, my headspace was glutted by work – but, I got to the point that I could leave work at work and shift into thinking/feeling about the things that I might a) personally choose to think about and feel out of my own self-directed interests and motivations or b) what might arise from my consciousness through open contemplation
Doing brain work for wages has led to what might best be described as a co-opting of my mental energies to serve the purposes of entities external to me, and it feels like colonization of my head when I can’t maintain mental boundaries.
This is seriously affecting my mental health.
The girl grew up in a house without butter, knew only the shallow plastic dish of Fleischmann’s, bullets of corn shapes ringing round, the snap of lid and chick colored oil that rumpled and folded like damp sand under the pressure of the knife edge – and Crisco, a similarly snapping lid on a dissimilar container, a cylinder of cardboard that would seem to keep nothing fresh, but with a papery foil interior that somehow suggested freshness. Sometimes, she ate margarine, for the oily salt taste of light yellow and sometimes – but not often – she snuck a half spoon of shortening, for the slick, fatty taste of nothing at all.
There was butter at her great-grandmother’s house, sagging-edged slab on a cut crystal dish shaped like a casket on the dark wood ovoid table that silently rested under the tiered chandelier that once a year was deconstructed and cleaned by the black hands of the women who worked for her great-grandmother, the crystal beaded strands dipped in vinegar water and wiped clean with paper towels that formed a damp crumple at the head of the table where her grandmother sat, wearing yellow gloves and fussing with the clear glass teardrops like they hadn’t been cleaned clean enough.
The table was too big for their family, and except for the day that the chandelier was cleaned, hardly anybody sat at it except for the three days their family suddenly expanded to include two pale-skinned cousins and an aunt and uncle from south of Atlanta who they only saw on those three days – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – when the butter from the previous holiday was set out once again, the stick slowly diminishing as the year wore on.
surely as anything
the gleam of West waning sun
on tender needle swaying green
gleaming unseen save for their gaze
(because what is there to say
after all, after she said
that her anger, her grief
her dumb opinions and analyses
mean nothing, are worthless)
young branches quietly illumined
at the end of the day
before time will leap forward
set the rising sun back
more grand than the overwrought courts
the 16th century
(whatever that was)
making women magic
not for birth or basket weaving
for warrior’ing or ululation
for rising bread
the alchemy of prayer and tincture
but, for the desire of men
(Romantic poems don’t move her anymore. Not like young trees do, anyway.)
And she drove back from the conference, back to the mountains, she reflected on the experience of her heart beating so fast that it was difficult to breathe. Scary, she had explained, to speak in front of people. And it occurred to her that it was more scary to speak in front of people when she was really being herself, when she was really there.
She keeps waiting for the unifying phrase, the sentence that will form the guts of the paragraph that will – finally – hold the whole thing together, that will form the fibers that connect one segment to another, that will allow – finally – all of these disparate parts to cohere.
She doesn’t want journal anymore, to keep a record of what is happening in her days, in the world, and how she feels about it. Yesterday, walking in the forest, her friend remarked that it was a quiet walk and then – a few minutes later – asked if she’d had any thoughts or ideas that day.
“I don’t feel like talking.”
She was unapologetic, looking at the buff and soft glowing gold-white dancing forms that beech trees make with their winter-dead leaves, studying the ways that dead fall dissolved, crumbled, eroded back into the forest floor, wood becoming dust. “Sure, I had thoughts and ideas, a couple, and there were a few synchronicities, but I don’t feel like talking. I am trying – “ She paused, briefly thinking and considering the irony of talking about not feeling like talking. “To de-center myself, to keep my attention on what’s outside of me, this place that is not about humans and what we think.”
Her words, her voice, felt invasive of the air around her head. “I don’t think that my thoughts are very interesting, and – sure – I could make them entertaining for someone else, but I don’t really feel like doing that.”
More and more, she liked to be quiet.
Yesterday, she noticed a tufted titmouse in the trees in the woods beside the forest service road, and – a little further down the road – a nuthatch. She never would have seen them if she’d been talking.
An interesting thing happened as she walked down the little trail that cut diagonally between one forest service road and another, the little trail with all the beech flats. She became aware, as she walked, that she wanted to walk off the trail, and to go to a stand of trees that she saw in the thin woods. It was not a strong wanting. It was a quiet wanting, a whisper wanting. Barely noticeable. “I want to walk over there,” she told her friend and – of course – he said that she ought to, if she wanted to. She didn’t expect to find anything, just a small clearing between sourwood and beech, pine. The small metal tag in the bark of the sourwood was the size of her thumbnail, aluminum and stamped with the number 3. The bark had grown tight around it, so that it wouldn’t move, could not be pulled out. It had been there a long time, the tag. She could bend it up and down, but not side to side. She didn’t want to break it. She wanted to pull it out, but would need pliers to do that – something she could hold tightly with, something that would let her pull hard. She had no tools and so she left it alone, but noticed that she had seen it, and noticed that she had seemed to walk right to it.
She looked around and wanted – without really wanting – to walk slightly Southwest, where she found an upturned aluminum can, that may have held Vienna sausage a long time ago, with the bottom pushed and rounded out, and small scratches all around it. The can was tucked into the base of a tree, and she picked it up, looked at it, and set it back down. “I’m finding all the metal,” she said, wondering about why she seemed to walk where things had been left by people.
This morning, I woke up with the feeling of poetry in me, tenuous and slippery, grass in flowing water, the idea of a poem that had come in the night that – in the daylight – wasn’t a poem at all, but just a feeling, a few images of people and streets, sunlight golden and warm like in the morning. The glow of moss on stone. Not really a poem at all, just the feeling of a poem that came to her in the middle of the night.
She was grateful for the idea that she might still be able to write a poem.
Woke up and thought maybe she would be able say something beautiful, considered the possible way forward from the silencing winter.
She didn’t know how to begin moving forward. Felt strongly that there was something she might need to make note of or to reflect on in regard to the silencing winter.
There was no flow in her writing this morning, and she had to be okay with that.
There was a woman hanging out on the porch of the sober living house next door that had a laugh like a jack hammer.
Two days prior, she and her friend had been visited by what may have been a minor demon or catalytic purveyor of chaos inhabiting the form of a man driving a bullet-grey pickup. He stopped the truck right in the middle of the street coming off of the interstate called over the wood rail fence to where they walked in the park at the edge of the softball field. The day had cleared up some, flat grey giving way to partly cloudy, surprising pale blue and a gold afternoon light that surely meant that everything would be okay. “Hey,” the man called, leaning across to the open passenger window, “I need directions. I’m trying to get to Asheville.”
“Well, you’re in Asheville right now.” She told him. “Where are you trying to go?”
She and her friend had been walking back from the end of the greenway, where they had stopped by a bench to make an offering in the form of a mud-crusted baby food jar her friend had pulled from the bank, that they’d held together – her with her left hand, him with his right hand – putting their intentions and goodwill and energy into the grubby little jar. She’d held it until she could feel her hand begin to tingle and until the only thing in her mind was the desire to be able to help the forests and to help the people, to be able to write, to find help to be able to speak. “There,” her friend said, “now throw it in the water.” She wanted to throw it far out into the middle of the river, but when she threw it her arm bucked oddly, and she threw like a little girl, releasing the jar too late, so that it shot into the water right in front of her at a hard, frustrated angle.
She felt like she’d made a terrible error, had ruined her chance. Had messed up. Tears stung her eyes. “Maybe we’ll try again next year.”
Her friend looked at her, incredulous. “Are you being serious right now?”
She nodded, feeling embarrassed over her impotent throw. She’d wanted to throw the jar far out into the water, confident and powerful, to sink it surely into the deepest waters, but she’d fucked it up.
“Don’t you get that you’re missing the point? Listen to me. It doesn’t matter. Your throw was perfect. All of this is perfect. It doesn’t matter how you wanted to throw the jar. The jar doesn’t even matter. The point is that you tried and what came out was what came out.”
She felt crumpled and confused, because somehow she had messed up messing up. Not only had she messed up, she felt bad about messing up, and that was – itself – messing up. She felt too foolish to even exist. She knew she was missing the point.
They reached the end of the greenway path and her friend was still going on about how she was missing the point, and about how her trying to do anything was going to thwart her in her doing of anything.
“Can we walk back yet?” She was standing with her arms crossed and looking flat-eyed out at the river, her face held in stony neutrality, the posture and countenance of someone who wanted to disappear.
“No.” Her friend was sitting at the concrete picnic table, benches made miniature by the burying mud that build up the ground to be higher than it was when the bench was installed. “This is important and I don’t think you’re hearing me.”
She moved to stand slightly closer to where her friend was sitting and noticed that someone had written the name “Lauren” inside a heart on the stump of a tree. People wrote things on trees in the park, and she didn’t understand why. The name made her think of her friend who died, who tried to kill herself and then called for help, but called too late and died anyway. Her friend who died would want her to try, and she felt a small motivation rise in her.
Someone said today, that it would be important to get a paper notebook and to write down what it’s like to be living in the end times. This isn’t what they said, of course. They said that we should take notes about what it’s like to be in the pandemic era, the COVID-19 era, where everything is closing down and the streets are as quiet as Christmas. The children’s school has closed down – like all the other schools in the state – and the YWCA closed on Tuesday, after the YMCA shifted the purpose of its facilities to providing emergency resource support and food delivery to vulnerable people.
I’ve been working from home all week. Making lists of online resources and sending out newsletters, scheduling zoom meetings. It’s not work that I love – the computer work, the document work. At least they closed the syringe services program at the health department. I was scheduled to work there this afternoon, but they finally got around to issuing the order to close the harm reduction clinic because it didn’t make sense for people with compromised immune systems and fragile lives to be going into the basement of the health department where the emergency services clinic was located just to get their needles.
Before I went to work this morning I went for two walks, one by the river with my friend in the early morning fog and one across the river with my daughter.
My daughter and I were going to feed the cats over the by the bridge. She is fifteen, and in some ways is very mature and in other ways is still very much like a kid. She is mature because she wears clothes that are too tight for her and has mascara under her eyes and she is like a kid because she still wants to go feed the stray cats. It turned out to be a waste of time, the feeding of the cats, because there was only two and they had already been fed, cheap cat food set into a paper bowl by the side of a dirt access road that led to under the bridge, red clay muddy ground, scrubby honeysuckle and catalpa growing up the hillside, last year’s kudzu vines grey and messy looking on the land sloping down from the highway. There were crumpled paper bowls all along the access road, and only two black cats. Both of them ran away as soon as my daughter and I walked up the road. We poured some of our expensive cat food on top of the cheap cat food, and walked up the road to under the bridge where random garbage was pressed into the dirt, and a camp was set up a little bit off into the woods.
We walked back down to the road and made our way across the bridge and up the hill to the shopping center where the cafe was closed, and
Today there was a young person of color walking beside the busy street leading up into north Asheville. A man. A young black man. He was leaning over and rapping his knuckles on the windows of cars, walking aggressive, carrying a small cardboard sign that said homeless and diseased, all block letters. Mighta just been fucking with people.
(In the morning)
there is something fleshy
in the early light sky,
colors like muscle fiber
pulpy and bleeding before the day settles into the grey it’s been leaning toward,
the mockingbird has been noisy
at 3:00am almost every night this week
singing an alarm,
proclamation songs in the star magnolia outside the window
and so I’ve been starting out tired,
but somehow buoyed
by the secrets sung into the dark
Why does the mockingbird go on like that? Is it an idea that the bird has, a desire? Or is it just impulse, to open the beak and sing in the middle of the night?
It’s been almost a week since the schools closed, and we still have two gallons of milk unopened in the refrigerator, which is still keeping the food cold, bulb still springing on when we open the door. Some things we can still rely on.
I have forgotten about writing a book. It seems dumb now. An idea from another time, from when I was another person living in another world.
I went for a walk in the thin woods up by the river north of here and had to admit that I like walking alone, that I feel happy and relaxed, wholly untroubled, when I am walking alone. It’s easy for me to be socially distant. Social distancing is my norm, my comfort zone. I don’t get lonely when I’m not around people. I feel relieved, to be honest.
The other day, walking with a friend in the park before the restaurants and bars were ordered to close, we ran into people my friend knows and I wondered if they thought I was strange. Tall lady, older, hair too long and visible tattoos. I didn’t care if they thought I was strange, but I wondered if they did.
“People, ya know, they see us in these partial ways, these constructions based on what they observe and their assumptions about what their observations might mean.”
I am always a little curious about who I am to people, about what I seem like.
The planets shifted as planets do. Moving into a different alignment with one another, edging and urging new ways.
There is something missing in me, something gone silent. I am consciously aware that I should have a lot to say, a lot to reflect on and think about. Many opinions and perspectives. The world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down so much that seemed impossible to shut down, seemed like it would go on and on.
There is nothing that I might say that any person could not say. I guess I could talk about my experience – but I don’t even care about it anymore. It’s not that interesting. I am a person. I have thoughts and feelings. I notice things. I have desires and aversions.
It’s just not that interesting to me anymore.
The weather report suggests that it’s time
in the broad forecast of things
to consider the open road
at least that is what happens in a dream
where people wouldn’t shut up
and what does it matter anyway?
Ain’t no one going anywhere for a good long while, whether they desire to or not.
The raccoon ran toward the fence like a dog, climbed fast and looked down at us with something begging
a worried starving look
It’s always some ruined city, some flooded place. Rickety bridges and roiling water swirling around. Buildings that were the shells of buildings. Light coming in through the spaces that used to hold windows.
Even though it is almost April, it’s been raining and cold for most of the day, and she is sitting in front of the fire, wondering what to do next. She had a moment of remembering scenes from all her lucid dreams about ruined, washed out places.
I am very sorry that people taught me that use and it be with me if it is easy convenient or economically beneficial to them… Those lessons impact how they perceive and pay attention to things with in this relationship… I really don’t want to believe that you I like that and I know you’re not… And I know that you love me… It’s just hard if something triggers that feeling of being taken advantage of… It’s probably good, actually, that I get angry and I don’t want people to take advantage of me… But I’m sorry that shows up in ugly ways
She wakes up when the morning still seems more like night, dark and still save for the few ambitious birds that begin to sing long before the sun rises. The aim is to get work done early – before anybody else is awake, while the house is still quite and there isn’t much happening in her head yet. She doesn’t bother with coffee, takes a caffeine pill instead and turns on the computer, gives her attention over to whatever task has been given to her by the organization she works for.
She has all but stopped writing, and her humor is almost totally dead. It doesn’t really matter.
She doesn’t care anymore about saving the world or saying anything beautiful. She used to think that was tragic, the death of her art and creativity, but she doesn’t much care anymore.
She might have to start over entirely.
This tells her that she cares a little bit, that she would write this about starting over. If she really didn’t care, what would it matter to her, why would she start over?
Her friend is always asking what she is thinking about, and she usually says nothing, but a lot of what she is thinking about is writing or art projects. She thinks about how she could try – if she cannot write an essay – to write a poem, and she watches the wind in the tops of the trees out the window as the day becomes stubbornly lit and listens to the sound of very few cars driving by, and thinks there must be a poem in that, the way the mornings are so quiet now that the world is staying at home because of the virus. She should have a lot to say about the whole situation of the virus. It has changed everything.
She cannot shake the idea that she must have a curse, or maybe brain damage or something because where in the fuck is her voice? Where are her ideas?
Is it possible that the simple fact of her being in a partnered relationship and having a job to earn wages has undermined her capacity for art making and word saying?
She doesn’t want to think that her relationship has taken away her voice, but if she looks at the concrete information available to her, there is a definite correlation between the relationship and the saying less.
Interesting that as she was beginning the relationship, she was in a period of time in which she was strongly re-determined to make a book. There was a lot of power and a lot of magic feeling in that time a couple of years ago.
God, she is so not into her voice lately. It’s the most boring thing ever. Her Broca’s Area is a motherfucking wasteland.
This – she understands – is a waste of her time. Maybe she should sign on to working for the day, and at least be earning some money or take a walk, and at least be getting exercise. This that she is doing is a waste of her fucking time and that makes her angry, because it used to be a joy – the writing. It used to be a place for her. Now it is not a place for her. Now it is just something that makes her feel dumb and like she is wasting her time, and that makes her angry. She is so angry. She doesn’t want to be angry.
She cannot begin to associate writing with being sad and angry. It was the most important thing to her. Maybe that was the mistake. She just wants to be able to feel poetry again. She wants to be able to feel alive in her mind again.
This is such rubbish – this that is at the forefront of her mind, this messaging about how she has nothing to say. If she just wrote down what she spent her time doing, what she was inspired about, she would have plenty to say. A lot of her life happens in secret, in the secret of her own thinking, which is a murk most days.
She walks down the hill, feeling the soreness of her feet, her knees, her hips. Since everything closed, she has been walking at least 10 miles a day. Something happened when she began to do this thing, this walking. She wants to walk more and more, even though her knees are sore, her feet are sore. It feels good to her now.
Writing used to be a bright and bounding thing. She feels like a stroke victim learning to speak again. The words slow and uncertain, pushing to find their form.
This is what happens with any practice if a person falters in their regular doing of the thing. Their ability atrophies. Gets rusty. Gums up.
There are walls in this neighborhood that are painted the color of unripe papaya.
The rain stopped in the middle of the night, but the water is still running down the street in streams reflecting the blue sky, bright white clouds. Bluebird day, is what they’d say, old country people reflecting on the way a storm comes and then goes.
She is speaking as she’s walking over the bridge over the river rather cross the bridge and your chest feeling great happiness, something like sadness… Earlier in the day staring at the computer screen a little bricks in the face is smiling in this week she found herself saying “maybe I’m not OK… Maybe I shouldn’t feel this numbness, this flatness. Maybe I’m not OK? “
She self excludes… And it makes perfect sense that she does this for all the reasons that the lady on the webinar suck about, the difficulties with other people, the trauma and harm. The self exclusion under minds and stronger than any effort to create community inclusion she self excludes, home… It makes perfect sense that she does she was a child first contact with other children of them laughing at her Every time she spoke because she did not know how to speak in the way that was considered correct. Shouldn’t know this about yourself, that she did not know how to speak. She learned this about herself when, every time she spoke, the other children laughter. The person not to be her friend, but who is quickly becoming like all of the other people that she’s talk to me Dash someone who she doesn’t feel safe around, someone that she feels guarded around, hesitant around Dash Says that she needs to drop this victim shit. And she understands psychologically but that is true. But the thing is the new matter how much she tries to unbelievable that people are harmful if they will eventually hurt her and betray her like almost every single person she’s ever trusted in her life… Or how hard she tries to unbelievable that, she can’t seem to shake it. Feels peaceful with this reality and only wants to the extent that perhaps your fine self living somewhere out in the woodsLike where she began in some sort of cabin or shop or in the bowels of some giant city where she can disappear in the anonymity keep your eyes down spend the entire day just walking around… Truth of the matter is that she really only feels peaceful when she’s by herself, that is the only time she really feels deeply it is… For a period of time she felt that sort of years with the person who is her friend, but then the old ones open back up and she began to Notice the way is her friend so many other people that she has not felt safe around… Feel unsafe. This is really hard for her, recognition of this transition within the friendship from being a relationship with safety and ease – a rare and singular relationship of safety and ease – to being a relationship like so many others in which she feels but she must hide her self so she cannot show herself in the mechanismsThey protect her are so terrifically strong that even if she wanted to speak… Even if you wanted to share her work her ideas her vision and her passion her secret world she could night. Her voice falters her throat closes up your mind goes blank. She doesn’t know what to do about this, but it makes her very sad.
She has learned that it’s possible to walk around the track and write. Run even. She can type reasonably well if she moves slow enough, and she likes to think that maybe this will be a game-changer for her, a way to re-engage with her voice, so to speak. The only problem is that a lot of what she has to say is dull to her and – she imagines – would be dull to anyone else.
She reminds herself that poetry exists.
Lately, she’s been confronting aspects of her psychology that seem to want to destroy her and she wonders if these parts are all stirred up because something in her knows that it is more important than ever to step up and to speak out.
Over the past couple of days, she has been to a lot meetings. Computer meetings, zoom meetings. Three webinars. One was on community inclusion among people with mental illness. This was the language they used. Mental illness. She spoke up at the end when they asked about topics that would be good for future webinars – “Practical ways to create environments that facilitate inclusion, that take into account things like sensory integration issues or processing differences. I’m a person with lived experience and I self-exclude because a lot of environments and events that most people might think are fun are not accessible to me because of sensory issues and processing issues.”
My voice got tight and my breath closed off when I spoke, because that is what happens when I speak sometimes.
I have shifted over to the I.
“and in the moment that I finally turned, knowing that in the reasonable world I could not stay, could not simply live there beside the tree or curl up and die there beside the tree, and so turned to continue on the walk that I’d been on, I didn’t have any sort of name anymore, and scorned any idea that I might be called by sounds other than the utterance of my beating heart and the small vibrations at the edge of my breath, and there was a weeping desperate keening in me, like something surely that a small child must feel when pulled away from a safe embrace, a howling and kicking sort of sadness, with hot tears and shaking shoulders, not wanting to go, not wanting to go.”
It was kind of like that.
Also, “She saw that it could all be torn away, cut and bulldozed, and that it had been cut before, and she pictured the forest on fire and cried about it burning even though there was no sign that it had burnt recently and she knew that the tree would die, that the forest did not last forever, and felt a huge sadness and fear in her about these things and yet because already she had begun to think again as she moved toward the road she’d been walking on she knew that everything dies and even though she knew that it was not a grown-up or equanimous accepting way to feel, not a mature way to feel, she hated that about the world, that so much that she loves gets taken away or hurt, eventually dies.”
The periderm is a word
for what we say as bark
which is a single syllable for a billion
cells and bindings,
small exchanges of acid and water,
warming, cooling, slow arc of sun
gather of rain in just the right wind
an empire for ants
and other things we never see
To break a curse of silence
you lay in the bed for hours each morning
before the sun comes up
considering all the words
that you haven’t said,
the way you stopped speaking
save for words like, “good.”
and “fine” and “yes,”
And you feel the weight of all those words
in your blood and how your heart beats more slowly.
A Brief Essay on the Toxic Culture of Hustle and Urgency within the Nonprofit Human Services Industrial Complex and the Mechanisms by which the Overcompensatory Tendencies among Trauma Survivors and the Well-Intended Motivations to Create Change and Healing within Poorly Designed Systems while Desperately trying to Earn a Fucking Living are Leveraged to Create an Exploited Labor Force of Helpers
She was born into a world at the edge. A hospital beside a river, a house beside the marsh, outskirts of town at the end of a dirt road. Ocean stretched out beyond the line of horizon, led to the slow-crumbling coasts of lands on the other side of the world, places that were only ideas to her, colored splotches on the curve of a globe, flat shapes on a page, the enormity of the world reduced to glancing scale. “Oh, here is the United States,” smaller than her own hand, “and here,” tracing a journey in a few seconds with the tip of her finger, “here is Lebanon.” She found Germany, and England. Norway. Pivoted her pointer finger from the anchor of her thumb like a compass, connecting the places that had become bound in the chromosomal twining of her DNA – her brown eyes from her mother, her strong jaw and the silky fineness of her hair from her father.
There were no edges – really – though she did not know this when she was young.
When she woke up in the morning, after going to sleep as a strategy to avoid the fact that she did not feel belonging anywhere in her life, with anyone, not for more than a moment, went to sleep to avoid this knowing and dreamt of a huge mountain house left behind and full of lamps, woke up to the same knowing that she felt belonging only with herself and only when alone, she noticed that there were spider webs strung between the power lines, strung with droplets of water and thus visible.
The sun is going down on the day that I found out that my mother has stage 4 ovarian cancer. “I didn’t know that stage 4 just meant that it had spread from the original site. That’s all it means, just that it has spread.”
I was walking down the sidewalk, and the sun was hot. Stage 4 cancer, I thought. She has stage 4 cancer.
She told me that she and my dad had talked about it, the what if’s and the quality of life questions. I told her to get off the phone with me and call the doctor she needed to call about the biopsy appointment that she would have. That came next. The biopsy, and then chemotherapy to “try to shrink it” enough to do surgery.
None of that sounded good to me.
The 5 year survival rate for stage 4 ovarian cancer is 17%, thought outcomes are better for women under age 65. My mom will be 70 this year. 70 is a long life. It is a long, good life. Maybe she’ll survive it all.
I sent her the poem antidote for the fear of death by Elson, in between picking serviceberries and crying hot tears, real tears out in the open by the sidewalk and not caring at all. Not sobbing loud tears, just got tears that slid down my face, thick feeling tears.
She send me a picture of a row between bing red flowers at flying cloud farm where she goes to buy strawberries. “I will try to make informed decisions,” she wrote. I took this to mean that she might choose to forego treatment if that is an option. That she might choose to just let the cancer kill her as slowly or as quickly as it chooses to.
I don’t want my mom to die. This feeling is felt with the same child like intensity that when I was a little kid I did not want my mom to die.
May 29 2:33pm
I guess in the first few days of reckoning with the possibility that someone you love might die, there is a surprising flood of memory and associations – scraps of the substance and details of a person entering into the mind with surprising clarity, distilled.
I had an experience this morning, of realizing that my mom won’t always answer the phone. That a day will come when she doesn’t answer the phone, and I won’t hear her voice anymore. This makes me tremendously sad and I don’t want to be away from my mom at all.
She is being so cavalier. “Did you know that stage 4 ovarian cancer is one of the things that you can get guaranteed to go into hospice for?” She sounds chipper, like she’s learned a fun new fact about hummingbirds. “Did you know that the smallest mammal is a bat that is the size of a bumblebee?” She finds these facts in the newspaper, because she is still a person who reads the newspaper. She clips articles and puts them on a bulletin board near the laundry room, by the treadmill that nobody uses.
May 30 9:42
I’m sitting at the river park, under a serviceberry tree that I did not know was here. I’d never seen them until this year, and suddenly they are everywhere. I can’t stop finding them. They have become the defining fruit of this late-spring season, the week that I found out that my mother will die. There is a dusky winged woodpecker flying around – three of them actually, two males and one female, the serious business of a competition dance between the trees.
I haven’t said anything here about the state-sponsored killing of George Floyd because I realized a while back that even though it feels good (to me) to say how horrified I am at the persistent reality of American white supremacy and everyday racism, getting on FB and saying a bunch of stuff to people who (for the most part) agree with me…well, that really doesn’t do anything other than make me feel like I have proven myself as a conscientious white-identified person…which is gross to me.
While it’s crucially necessary to break the silence about white supremacy and cultures of everyday racism, Faith Rhyne going on and on about how upsetting the reality of American white supremacy is to Faith Rhyne is not actually doing anything other than satisfying my personal ego needs as they relate to my being a person with anti-racist values.
Saying things on FB to people who will mostly agree with me isn’t enough, and I’ve been trying to figure out what is a more substantial way to be an ally.
I write grants for free for POC led organizations to support projects that benefit communities of color and I want to expand that form of allyship.
I have conversations with other white-identified people about race and racism, and I give money to organizations that support liberation of oppressed and marginalized people.
Most recently, I have noticed this big call to action for white people to break the silence about racism and for businesses and organizations to meaningfully address racism.
While it’s great that so many ‘woke’ people and justice organizations are speaking so openly about racism and white responsibility to be in allyship – I’m pretty interested in encouraging ALL people to talk about racism and the ways it shows up in our lives.
I haven’t written in a while – aside from writing grants for work, and sending emails and putting together presentations. All of my writing energy has gone to those endeavors lately. That is how I get paid to write – haha. Eye roll.
The past several weeks have brought the news of my mother having stage 4 Ovarian cancer that has spread to her colon and liver and possibly other places. At first it was something that she intended to address by “having the bad parts cut out” – that, however, was not an option. Chemotherapy may “slow it down a little.” The doctor has told her that without chemo, she will likely die 3-6 months from now. She is still considering whether she wants to try the chemotherapy – or if she will be simply wasting her last month of feeling relatively well for a few months of brutal sickness before dying anyway. There aren’t a lot of good choices in a situation like this.
Right after I found out, I made a commitment to make notes everyday – but only did that for a couple of days, then stopped – not out of a decision to stop, but because of this strange slipstream of consciousness and activity that has begun to define my experience, where I start out the day and then a million small things happen and I completely forget what I intended to do. The cumulative effect of living this slipstream life for the past six months is that I kinda have lost my footing in who I am. I don’t have much personality to speak of because a lot of the time I am silencing myself to have to show up well, and have been struggling with a lot of unhappiness and frustration, some sullen boredom.
It’s been 90 days since I began working from home and the young people ended their school year. Thank goodness they are not tiny children and I was not trying to keep them entertained and educated while also trying to work from home. It is good that I was able to continue working from home, still earn a wage.
(I feel like I am caught out at sea most of the time, swimming in circles, occasionally being pulled under the waves and fighting my way back to the surface to find the land in sight has disappeared, has moved.)
Lately, I get the distinct impression that I am not needed in the roles I have inhabited and for the work I have been trying to do. Things have not been working out. I’ve been making mistakes, and my schedule is full of misspent energy and wasted time.
In the morning, I wake up and run or walk for a couple of hours, walk more throughout the day…about 10 miles a day.
June 21 – it’s the 2nd day of summer and also Father’s Day. I slept later than usual, and baked the cheese things in the mid-morning – still wearing my pajamas. The cheese things are an adaptation of my great-grandmothers cheese straw recipe, at least that’s how I think of it. In actuality, the cheese things are an adaptation of a New York Times Southern Cheese straw recipe that I found as a clue as to how to possibly make the cheese biscuits that I recall from my childhood – which were an adaptation of southern cheese straws, sliced into thin rounds as an alternative to pressing the thick dough through a cookie press, snaking out the straws. The cheese things are cut thin and flat, formed by chilling a brick of cheese and butter dough until it slices clean edged and holds its shape – a flat water like shape, baked at 375, usually a little burnt at the edges.
It’s a dingy seeming Sunday evening, Saharan sand muting the air over the mountains and casting a dull glare across the river.
She doesn’t feel like saying anything, doesn’t feel like speaking. She rides silent in the passenger seat, looking at the way they’ve torn up the road for the new greenway, new bike path. Red clay scraped and rutted, waiting for asphalt. In a few months, the job will be finished. Bulldozers moves on, grass seed sprouting, maybe a haze of dust still at the edges of things, a newness in the cuts of the young box elders that crowd in along the place where there wasn’t a road, but now there is.
The sand came all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, a massive storm that gathered itself up in the desert thousands of miles away and carried these particles over the ocean to the mountains here, blunting the view and making the blue of the ridge lines a flat grey.
She doesn’t feel like she wants to say anything or do anything. She doesn’t want to walk the miles today. Doesn’t want to converse.
Lately, I have been getting up and running 5-5 miles at the track before my morning walk, so that by 9:45am, I will have 7-8 miles logged. The reason for me doing this is because I have been in the toothy maw of a terrible melancholia for at least the past several months, much much longer. The state crept in over the past few years, difficult days hung on a little longer, intermittent anxieties because blaring and persistent, until over the past few months my experience has come to be dominated by a bitter and sullen dark-minded melancholia. I haven’t laughed much this year. Seriously, maybe 3 or 4 times. I can understand how something might be theoretically humorous – but, I have had no mirth. Yesterday, I lashed out at my best friend – again – and then cried for a lot of the morning, pulling myself together long enough to do a meeting with a community leader in a rural county south of here. I felt completely insane – crumpled up inside and with my eyes still red, and yet talking clearly and articulately about peer support and the potential for a community culture of compassionate support for human struggles. It was a performance, like the majority of my work lately. Showing up and saying the things, feeling wooden inside. Writing the words like a machine. There have been a few projects that I have felt passionate about, times I have been briefly inspired to transform the system. Slow-running around track and working on a Z Smith Reynolds bid in the early morning.
I have been deeply antagonized by having lost track of what I was planning for my own work – my own writing and art. I painted a picture of a tufted titmouse for my mom, to cheer her up. The little bird looks brave. I started a picture of my oldest child – who will be 18 next month – walking at dusk down a slope at the park, tree silhouettes in dark, without a plan yet for the lightning bugs that may be lit across the fields.
Several times over the years since I have gotten off of psychiatric medication I have considered “getting back on meds.” I usually only think about getting back on meds when I am feeling especially mentally ill – when I can recognize that my thoughts are fucked up and my body feels ill and my nervous system is exploding in tearfulness and fear and rage, then going numb.
I have no doubt in my mind – even when I recognize that I am not in my right mind – that many of my struggles are rooted in complex trauma interfacing with neurocognitive and emotional processing differences. That is my mental illness. I am a person with measurably significant learning and processing differences that has been through significant injury and loss across multiple life domains. I have disordered sensory integration and am socially atypical in my motivations to be around people and in my low tolerance for social environments.
I am absolutely able to manage my so-called mental illness if I am able to structure my life to allow me to take care of myself – which means lots of time to decompress after social interactions or time spent in busy, loud places, the freedom to not show up if I need to not show up, and time alone with interaction with other people or sensory stimulation. I need to be outside everyday, and have a hard time tolerating rooms where multiple people are having different conversations because I have auditory processing issues that pull my attention to all the conversations all at once and I can’t understand anything and I quickly become overwhelmed.
I am absolutely able to manage my so-called mental illness without medication if I am able to take care of myself.
Here’s the deal: My life is not structured to afford me the time to do what I need to do to not end up frayed and jumping at every sound and numb and angry and crying. That is how I have been for months, most of the time – since last summer at least.
I don’t have a mental health practitioner because I don’t trust the mental health system and certainly don’t need uninformed and misinformed strangers analyzing and diagnosing me – that’s not safe or remotely helpful for me.
I have an IQ of 151 and am probably on the autism spectrum in some way or another that was never identified because of the era in which I was born. I have had many deeply meaningful atypical life experiences – like growing up 2 miles back in the woods with a person who was born in another century at the edge of a town that was colonized by the US Navy for the purposes of establishing a submarine base which would become the location of the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in North America.
I am not going to have a 26 year old who just got out of social worker school tell me that I have bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety.
I myself, however, know that I have been suffering with states that undermine everything good in my life and that – frankly – are a struggle to live with. My employer provides a ‘health membership’ to a small integrative health practice that is designed to be a resource for uninsured or underinsured people. It is the best medical care I have received in years and years. I actually trust the doctor I see there, and so I talked with her about going back on an antidepressant that I found helpful years ago. She let me make the decision, and didn’t push me at all. Even though I was sobbing and a wreck in her office, practically begging for help.
She started me at the lowest dose and I took one pill last night.
This morning I woke up and felt better than I have felt in a long time.
Many factors contribute to how well a person feels. I ate a healthy dinner last night. My hormones have shifted from the premenstrual dysphoria profile. I have run every day this week.
I took medication.
This morning, I noticed something conspicuously different in the way I felt and my perception, the quality of my experience.
It’s entirely possible that what I was feeling was the placebo effect. However, I am not entirely unconvinced that what I was noticing was the presence of serotonin and norepinephrine on their respective receptors.
There was an absence of anxiety. A feeling of quiet optimism and even gratitude for the morning. I wasn’t jubilant or ecstatic or in an elevated state. I just didn’t feel horrible.
Recognizing that I didn’t feel horrible was an amazing relief because most mornings this year and a lot of mornings in the latter half of last year I did feel horrible – edgy and uncertain, clang-y and bitter, sullen and a little numb. Angry some days. More sad on others.
They say that cortisol levels rise in the morning as our bodies prepare to wake.
It’s Saturday morning now and I am at the track. My vision seems more precise today, like I can really notice the depth and shadows in the full-summer leaves, really are the branches distinct. I have run around the track about ten times and haven’t really thought of much. Just felt my breathing and my muscles, the sweat gathering on my face. It’s humid today, and I like it – the thick silkiness of the air. My body feels good. I am physically healthy. At the doctor the other day, my resting heart rate was 55. I have a blood pressure of 110/70. This is probably because of all the walking and running, the active lifestyle.
I am so lucky that I don’t have a chronic health condition that impacts the functioning of my heart and muscles.
Depression makes me sick and miserable – but, I can still make myself run, and that probably helps the depression immensely. Who knows? As bad as it is with me staying active and me using skills and me paying attention to triggers and trying hard to take care of myself – and yet still the depression was tremendously bad, extremely painful and erasing of who I am – well, if I had been using all of those tools and trying so hard to keep it at bay, it may well have killed me, because it seemed to be trying to kill me.
Anyway, it’s interesting to think about the dogma against medication in the mental health recovery movement and how I myself had inhabited periods of time when I believed that really there is no such thing as a mental illness and the psychiatric industrial complex was just pathologizing normal human distress to create a controlled and profitable populace of miserable people.
It’s true that the roots of Western psychiatry and conceptions of mental illness reach back to asylums that served the purpose of holding anyone who created any problems within the developing civilizations of Europe.
The next day:
Last night I was walking home from downtown, where I had headed after opting to walk alone, and to miss the river at sundown, to move instead toward the sound and grime of the city’s small center. The sidewalks were torn up and orange plastic fencing cordoned the jack-hammered rubble. Ever since the pandemic started, the city has been tearing up roads and sidewalks, laying down new bricks in a parquet pattern. Perfect angles and spacing, the labor of Mexican men.
The previously disbanded drum corp from the housing project by the interstate had reformed, and a cluster of aging men stood in a circle in the park notorious for being a place of congregation for those who had no place to go and were intoxicated, needed to lay down or find a little something to help them get through the day. Some parks feel the same no matter what city you’re in and for a moment the place could have been in Portland, could have been in New York. San Francisco. There was a rush and chaos at the edges of the park, people entering and exiting, cars driving by, pedestrian tourists hurrying past, skirting the street because the sidewalk was torn up. The empty containers of charity to-go lunches were scattered along the brick fence of the park. Pigeons were blithe, happy as they always are.
I had moved on down the street and gone up another, stopped in an import store run by a young lady who liked the big black tattoos on my back, visible because I was wearing an old tank mouse-colored tanktop, bright pink linen shorts, my ruined trail running shoes that I haven’t yet been able to replace, hair in a long braid and pale skin showing in lines on my shoulders where the sun hadn’t hit. I was looking for a ring, two rings actually. Silver bands. Plain to wear on my middle fingers, the ones with the hearts tattooed on them. They only had rings with stones, and rings shaped like cobras to coil around the finger. I considered the cobra and then left the store, walked toward the library up at the north end of the street, my face half covered by a grey buff pulled up over my nose and mouth. I stopped and looked into the Woolworth’s, where my daughter has a job interview on Monday for a soda jerk position. Somehow, my fifteen year old daughter got called for almost every job she applied for. I took a picture of the darkened space, the counter and the red vinyl chairs, the walls of art that had taken the place of drugstore goods years ago. The store I was going to look for rings in was closed, out of business, and so I turned to go down Wall Street to head home. The sidewalks were full of tables spaced apart, people having dinner, hostesses and servers wearing masks. I moved quick and was not a tourist. Was a local woman walking alone, wearing the same outfit I had worn all day – to vacuum the house and to go to the store. To drive out to Fairview where my mother was sick from chemotherapy. To take the dog out in the yard and try to throw the ball for home even though he only wanted to go back inside. To pull the corn snake out of its cage and set it onto the hay-covered ground of the dog yard, watch as it the snake raised its russet head and smelled under rocks with its flickering tongue as thunder came and rain I could not feel sitting under the branched canopy of trees began to fall in the heavy drops of the edge of a storm.
Inside, the storm moved the branches like waves of water, tossing them in heavy gusts, making them seem to roll. A green ocean.
I wore the same pink linen shorts and mouse-colored tanktop, but had on my sweater that is the color of goldenrod or saffron to lay down beside my mother and to put my arm around her middle, her belly large and distended from cancer, the bones of her ribs easy to feel when I rubbed her back. Shoulders sharp and knobby like cypress. I laid with my mom for a while, spooned her while she was still and resting, almost fell asleep but could not quite. Tried to be present, but was distracted by the feeling that I would need to leave soon to go back to town, to see my daughter, have some sort of dinner.
I was only half thinking about that as I walked downtown, about my mother being sick and dying just on down the road and how I should be there as much I can to offer comfort. I wasn’t thinking too hard about that, but had noticed a dull sad feeling on the way back to town earlier, like something way down in me was mourning and I could only hear the crying faintly.
On Wall Street, I heard the crack and roll of drums and I ran down the street to try to find the stairs back down to College St, but they’d been gated and so I ran back up around the corner to get to the park where the men with drums were assembling in a spaces out circle, and playing a few staccato measures to warm up. My body moves so easily to drum line music, knees and shoulders finding the segments of rhythm, anticipating and following, like the drums are playing me. I stood with my feet planted and moved in what to passerby might seem like strange small twitching movements, but to me were an echo back of the sounds that filled the small amphitheater of the park.
I walked home alone and the sky was filled with pink clouds and drifts of gold. The tall grass I’m the field alongside the road at McDowell was coming alive with fireflies and I felt happy.
It’s a foggy morning, and cool. I think about yesterday and the way the sun broke over the mountains in a wave of warming gold light that hit my face so bright that I closed my eyes as I moved round the northwest turn of the track. The few clouds of the morning were curved and thin, strung like fish swimming against the blue sky.
This morning, there is a thick grey that hangs over everything and the air is cool and damp. Wind stirs the trees alongside the school property in small bursts, less like a wind and more like some great unseen thing may be moving in the branches.
I haven’t thought about much this morning as I move around in the looping ovals that add up to miles, breathing deep and steady through my nose, sending the oxygen to my heart, to my lungs, to all my soft and vital parts.
I am trying to distance myself from mournful thoughts of my mother’s sickness and picture, instead, a miracle – a mass cell death, a sudden halt to proliferation. I open and close my fist fast as I run, a movement like flinging something out of my hand, and I picture light slamming into the thickest and most sick center of my mother’s illness.
The dog has had strange mats in his golden fur, mats that have gathered out of nowhere, and he worries them like they are burrs, but there is no burr, just his own heavy hair knitted into hard felt. My father and I cut them out carefully, but he won’t let me bury them. “Throw them in the garbage,” he says, pointing to the open mouth of the can beside the microwave. I don’t argue, figuring the excised mats will end up buried eventually, at the landfill as soon as next week, and perhaps that will do, despite the lack of solemn ceremony, the returning them to the earth.
The reason I have the idea that the mats should be buried is because my elder friend got a strange look on her face and said that spirit told her to tell me that when I am cutting out the mats, I am also curing up my mother, working on her tumors, and that I should take the mats and bury them or burn them.
I didn’t even try to suggest to my father that the mats should be burnt, as I knew that he’d have no part of that.
Why is it so hard for white baby boomers to believe in unseen workings, to believe in the powers of spirits and ancestors, the earth itself?
It’s the end of the day walking by the Greenway on the street named for an indigenous people’s nation where there is a broad field and a drainage stream down in the trees.
I feel calm and present. The easy answer would be that, after 10 years, I got back on an anti-depressant and I actually have norepinephrine in my neurochemical landscape again.
It’s really stunning actually to reflect on the months of severe depression, profound melancholy… Sullen bitter angry numb and yet walking through my days and trying my hardest to feel better.
I feel better.
In the morning there is the show of clouds as the sun pushes over the mountains. A pair of bats lives near the school, whirls and flits in the pale of dawn, a quick-spoken secret the night tells the day.
The woman moves around in Ovals that may as well be circles, stays in the outermost lane so that only 3 rotations equals the distance they call ‘mile’. She doesn’t need to see because the ground is flat, predictable save for the tufts of grass that grow through the cracks here and there, not tall enough to trip on if she lifts her feet. She can run in the dark here.
In the morning, the roll of the tree line looks like waves and the she is familiar to the crows that perch on the lights by the ball field. She is a creature that comes with the morning.
Her friend has been going on and on about a theory by a physicist mathematician type that basically says that space and time don’t exist.
She thinks this is a dumb thing to say because of course space and time don’t exist, at least not outside of the human frameworks for understanding the length of a day, the length of a year, the distance of a mile – the measurements we made up to set order to the world and allow us to gauge the shape and duration of our movements, the length of our lives.
Our measurements don’t really tell us much, are full of inaccuracy. A swathe of land doesn’t know nor care the breadth of itself and the inch to an amoeba is a mighty long way. The sun rises and sets and a vast number of lives begin and end within these brackets we call a day. Some insects live out their whole lives in a day, and many people rush to make the time pass there is so much of it.
Some days she feels like she has lived for at least a hundred years and other days she is brand new.
Hours pass quickly and drag on.
Sometimes one mile feels like three.
Space and time are full of subjectivities.
In her new calendar, the passage of seasons is marked by the way that the sounds of insects lengthens and the way the light takes on a brassy feel.
She understands that it is necessary to standardize the way we perceive the world, to create means by which to name things, means by which to measure. This allows for hours to be clocked, miles to be calculated against the costs of gallons, configured with the almost arbitrary dollar, the cost of ones labor translated to payday.
It is dumb to say that space and time don’t exist when your mother has been given 3-6 months to live and your father is tearful sitting on the couch and telling you to get as much weed as you can because she is going to need it and the chemo that made all her beautiful white hair fall out doesn’t seem to be shrinking the tumors that push her belly out, stretch the skin smooth and tight across her abdomen, make her belly button convex like it has never been.
Your mother holds her shirt up to tell you the new pants fit and you are surprised by the size of her midsection. Her legs are spindle thin.
In the morning when she runs, she thinks about animals in migration, how they move without trying and with some will that need not be mustered.
The hummingbirds have been at her mother’s garden all summer, but they will fly soon to the south. They cannot stay.There have been what must be a dozen of them these past few months and she is glad they’ve been there for her mother.
She runs between 5 and 8 miles a day, first thing in the morning. There have been days she has run 10 miles before 8:30 am. She doesn’t feel like this is a lot. It doesn’t feel like a lot. She doesn’t post triumphant photos on social media. She just runs, slowly and methodically, breathing through her nose and keeping her form tight, a steady rhythm. Most days, it is more like meditation than it is exercise and she realizes that real meditation is like a work out, an exercise. Some days she listens to wordless songs, tone songs or drum songs. Some days she listens to nothing, and practices keeping her attention on her breath, staying present in her body as she moves through her orbiting.
If her mind wanders, she tries to keep it in the direction of gratitude, and of wonder, noticing the slightest breezes in the leaves and allowing them to be beautiful to her, delicate fleeting moments.
This afternoon she is walking on the track as the day moves into the last few hours of daylight. She is barefoot and the asphalt is hot, but it feels good, burning like the beach parking lot when she was a kid. She hasn’t seen the ocean yet this year, and she may not, but that is okay with her. She feels peaceful about whatever is happening.
There is the possibility, she realizes as she watches her father become tearful sitting on the couch while her mother is on the porch talking with her granddaughter about going to school online, that she may not end up doing a lot of the things she had so fervently wanted to do, that she may just stay here in the mountains and bring her father dinner, maybe work on transcribing the family letters in the perideath and post death months.
She doesn’t think she will be able to leave her father to go travel. She may have to wait until he, too, is gone. Isn’t this the way with family, the constant ties to home, beholden for better or for worse.
The end of day comes
with my mother looking far
down the field, away
Father talked to owls
Calling soft the other night
now I hear them, too
dying has a gaze
all it’s own, mortality
written in the eyes
Oval loops in dark
running fast to feel Alive
before the sunrise
The curve of the track
Catches footstep sounds, echoes
I saw this morning
a bright star beside the moon
never seen before
Remember the night
at the mouth of the canyon?
The galaxy edge?
We could only see
if we didn’t try too hard,
only with soft eyes
My second born child
asked me to watch the sunrise
Of course I said: “yes.”
We saw a raven
flying low, everything
These past couple of years, I am tired in the evening, making small talk and staring quietly at walls, biding time until sleep, mind fuzzed out from the tasks of wage-earning that mental work, those performances. I forget this in the morning and will often have daybreak stretches of enthusiastic plans for the things I will write about, the things I will think about, what I will do when I get off work.
Then, by evening, I am tired and my mind feels sluggish. If I cannot write essays or stories, I am going to at least write haiku. Small journal entries of syllable-bound mutterings that are codes for myself, brief notes so that I will remember the far-off look my mother has these past few times I have seen her, like she is staring at something far away, like she is lost in thought.
It is the look of someone who knows they are going to die.
Maybe we all have that look sometimes?
Like my daughter who drove to the overlook to watch the sunrise with me this morning says: “Everything dies, Faith.”
She calls me by my name now. She only sometimes calls me mom. I am okay with that. It makes me more of a person and less of a role, her calling me by name.
Last night, I started reading Julian Jaynes The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I’ve had the book for at least 6-7 years, have only read sections, a few pages here or there. Last night, I was able to really immerse myself in Jaynes’ way of thinking, and the cadence of his prose.
She sat down to give herself a half hour to write and 19 minutes in she briefly shifted screens to check on the number of syllables in the word grasses which was a stupid thing to have to look up, except the sound of the word was slippery like one long strand and felt broken when spoken with two syllables, and the writing she had been doing disappeared, vanished from the screen.
She had gotten distracted by her friend coming downstairs in a blue shirt and saying good morning as she sat on the golden couch typing into her phone. He ran his hand along her leg, the outer plane of her calf, and said the cats name several times in a row in a low, lilting voice that completely derailed what it was she had been saying.
It’s not like writing comes from thinking. It comes from a small opening, a fragile aperture, the configuration of her voice is a state of consciousness and it is difficult for her to hold that consciousness when someone is rubbing her leg and making a whispering sound with their hand on her leg and saying the cat’s name. Maybe if she were stronger in her practice, she could stay focused, but she is not strong in her practice and as soon as her friend came downstairs, she lost the feel of what she was saying, talking about how she has no business being a community organizer.
Now she has 5 minutes to write before she has to go to work.
Now – actually – it is the time that she was supposed to stop writing and begin what she had called the process of her wage-earning workday in her earlier writing of the morning, the writing that completely disappeared when she shifted screens and was not retrievable, a small event that felt like pure fuckery and that made her exclaim out loud “What!?” – a confused and frustrated voice in the house, and then – as she understood what had happened – “Noooo…” the dull of disappointment at having lost writing even though the writing wasn’t especially interesting, it wasn’t terrible and it had been produced from that delicate state of mind in which her voice is engaged and she had felt for a few minutes that she could easily write all day, which is how she often feels when she writes from the place of voice.
She felt like writing this morning was important, she woke up with that sense of having something to say, of needing to say something. She didn’t know what exactly it was, but she understood that she could just write her way through the events surrounding this sense and that eventually she would find herself in the midst of phrasing, syntax, and statement that dispelled that need to speak further, that gave her the feeling of having said enough, or having come upon what it was she needed to express.
This morning she woke up knowing that she is not a good community organizer and that she really has no business doing anything like community organizing despite the fact that she knows – in the technical theory way of knowing that those who are somewhat autistic know how to move about in the social world – how community organizing might be done, none of the knowing comes natural to her and because she has been busy with her dying mother and her teenage children and her running around the track before dawn and thinking about poetry and how bicamerality exists as a factor in her experience while trying to remember whether it is the left nostril or the right nostril that corresponds to the workings of the brain that are tied to schizophrenia according to the book that taught her how to breathe through her nose when she runs in circles before the sun rises…well, it doesn’t occur to her that she should enthusiastically rally her co-workers through a social media messenging application to share the announcement of the National Recovery Month events that nobody is paying attention to this year, just like nobody paid attention to them in years prior.
The one thing she wants to remember is that walking to the middle school in the very early morning, it did occur to her that all of her efforts – her years and years of efforts – to contribute to social change, etc. have all been basically failures except in the sense that learning-from-failures-is-a-success!!!
…and that it is entirely possible that she could do far more to contribute to healing in the world as a writer.
It is the evening of what may be the 10th anniversary of the night which is easy to think of as the worst night of my life, but that may not have actually been the worst night.
I’ve been through quite a few bad nights, most of them involving, in some way or another, psychiatric hospitals. I’ve been hospitalized five times in my life, which for some people isn’t very many times and for other people might seem like an awful lot of times to be sent to the psychiatric hospital.
I haven’t been to the hospital in 10 years, not since that last time. I will never go back to the hospital again.
(The night time came fast as she sat on the grass in the field between her house and the house the father of her children had built in the months after she asked him to leave, a house that emerged on the vacant lot beside the house with the field, a house that faced her own and was painted her favorite color green. She understood what had happened. She was crazy. She knew this as she sat on the grass and watched the dark shapes of the officers approach her. Her knees were pulled up to her chest and she felt like something were caving in around her heart. She could not stop crying, but the sounds weren’t sobs. They were whimpering sounds, quivering mouthed and quiet, small-voiced. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said, understanding that the officers thought she was crazy, and that anything she said would be understood to be the utterances of someone who was, as the father of her children had said on the phone with her mother, “psychotic.”
“You need to come get your daughter. She is psychotic.”
There were lightning bugs in the field, rising up through the grasses even though the summer was almost over.)
Today, it is raining in the mountains and the full dark came early with the clouds, the season suddenly tumbling toward autumn.
In the morning, I think about all the daily practices I might begin. Writing haiku by hand to exercise my synapses and rehabilitate my voice, practicing writing character descriptions, the rheumy eyes of my great-grandmother, the bones of her hands, how her hair was thin white curls like down feathers, her voice warbled and breaking in pitch with the wear of all the years speaking.
My mother lost all her hair. She only has thin coarse strands in a light fuzz under her hat. I can feel the bones of her arm under her skin, could circle the bone with my fingers. “She is dwindling away,” my father says on the phone. He begins to cry, explaining that she has stopped eating again. “It’s too sad.”
My daughter and I go to the store and buy her special foods. Tortilla chips shaped like autumn leaves in different colors of corn, cups of miso soup, apple cider donuts, tiny perfect green grapes the size of jellybeans, anything that she might eat. I bring her a small bowl of a kale and kidney bean and corn salad that months ago she said she liked, with a side of bright saffron rice. I pack up 1/2 of it to bring back home, realizing that she will not eat it. She looks small and tired, sick and dying. My mother.
My 16 year old daughter tells her we will come again tomorrow, first thing in the morning. “We’re leaving at 8, right?”
“Yes,” I tell her, “that sounds good.”
I will wake up at 5:00 to go run at the middle school track in the dark, possibly in the rain according to the forecast. It will be okay to run early in the dark, to go round in those big loops, loosing count and watching the tops of the trees in silhouette against the sky. Watching the light slowly lift.
When I run, I try to just watch my breath, to breath in through my nose and out through my nose, imagining a shape like a teardrop as the path the air will take, through the narrow passage of my nostrils to fill my lungs and then make a loop back out. The movement of my legs and arms feels like a machine, steady and rhythmic and working without thinking.
I pay attention to the feeling of the air, and the small sounds around me. Small animals stirring in the leaves on the other side of the fence that surrounds the school.
The other morning I saw a fox run from the front of the school across the parking lot to disappear into a secret-feeling segment of woods behind the YWCA, where there are three or four tall old oaks and great tangles of kudzu and vitex and poison ivy crowding out the ground.
Kill cells good and bad
bone marrow suffers
stops making blood, hair falls out
the Pacific Yew.
My father cries now
Talks about morphine, hospice
what will happen next.
My mother’s hands, birds
resting quiet and folded
at peace in her lap
“Please come tomorrow,”
“Come whenever you can,”
“Please visit with me.”
“I’ll miss you too much,”
she says this by the flowers,
blooming brief, brightly.
How can I help her
to know and to deep-believe:
the dead miss nothing?
Ten years ago, I was sent to the hospital. I have done plenty of writing on the topic of that hospitalization, including writing here from the time immediately prior to and immediately following that two week stay on the 4th floor, and the weeks of intensive outpatient hospitalization that defined the Fall of 2010.
When a person has a life-altering event, a major occurrence like an illness or an accident, a birth or a death, or being involuntarily committed by your family because you’ve been letting homeless people stay at the house and are saying all kinds of bizarrely cryptic things on a website that nobody reads and sending emails to major news outlets around the world about the discovery you are beginning to believe you made, which involves divine compositions in cloud form and a haphazard theory about the origins of human language that despite the fact that you are a wreck because your marriage fell apart and your ex is being impossible and your children are crying a lot and you lost your job and saw your dog get hit by a car and your primary care physician increased your dose of venlafaxine until your legs were bruising and you didn’t feel like you needed to eat or sleep at all and became almost certain, while smoking weed on your porch in the middle of the night with the insects droning their late-summer drone, that you had a telepathic connection with the president and a number of other people and that everywhere there was someone watching every word you wrote and posted, every thought you dared to think, that something like God itself was suddenly very real and very much running the show that had previously just been your small life.
(She stood at the kitchen sink, peaceful in a sudden and surprising way. Her old life, the person she was – all that was gone. She was different now, and would never be able to be the same again.)
It is natural for a person to reflect on the anniversaries of significant events, and to consider the ways that they have changed, the way that their lives may have changed and that the world may have changed in the time since whatever happened to them happened – birth, death, whatever.
This morning, I woke up at 5:00 even though it was Sunday and ran 7.5 miles at the middle school track, not listening to anything, only breathing and moving and looking at the clouds catching light from the parking lot, the thin haze of drizzle lit in nimbus around the sodium arc globes, cool and whispery on the leaves. She felt strong and fast, and the laps were easy, went quickly. Some days are like that. At one point, the rain became briefly heavier and two screech owls called to one another in the woods, lilting sweet calls like shivers in the pre-dawn.
The other night, as sun set, she sat on the porch of her parents house, with her mother and her father and her friend who is her partner and listened hard to the sounds of the woods going to sleep, the calls of cicadas, the still-busy wings of hummingbirds, straining to hear a screech owl. All of them sat with their eyes closed, and listened, hearing that even the dog seemed to be trying to be quiet in his panting as he lay at her mother’s feet.
When the call of the screech owl finally came, it hardly seemed real.
Sometimes, when you’ve waited and waited for something, strained for it and hoped for it, when it actually happens it is hard to believe.
Screech owls will always sound a little like a miracle to me and they will always remind me of my father and my mother and my friend who is my partner, but especially my mother because she is the one who is dying.
I ran 7.5 miles at the middle school track, finishing right as the sky became light. I pre-heated the oven while I took a quick shower and then made the biscuits while the bacon was on the stove. By the time my daughter came downstairs to go visit my mother and my father, I had breakfast made for them.
I hoped my mother might eat a biscuit with honey.
There was a visit and talk, a female towhee hopping on the ground below a pair of cardinals in the Apple tree that had all but died early in the season and was now sprouting new green leaves like something hopeful despite the waning light of day, the coolness of the mornings.
My daughter drove part of the way there and part of the way back and I felt completely at ease.
My son and I went walking, up the first section of the trail that leads to Pisgah and all the way to the coast from down by the river, and then made a big loop down towards the lake and then back up to the trail to cross ridge lines.
I walked 17.5 miles today, and climbed over a thousand feet.
10 years ago at this time, I was fighting with my father and everything had gone to chaos.
I was not allowed to see my children and police came into my home and took me to the hospital in handcuffs even though I hadn’t done anything wrong and was only trying to prove something beautiful.
Today was a very different day.
I am deeply grateful.
I’ve thought a lot about practice and about projects lately – about things I could commit to doing everyday. I have drawn a picture everyday for over a year (2009-2010). I completed NaNoWriMo in 2016. For long periods of time, I’ve written everyday – though I’ve faltered in that practice. Since March, I have walked/ran 10 miles a day. The few days that I have fallen short in my mileage due to fatigue or schedules, I walked/ran at least 6.5 miles and I made up the different the next day. If I walk or run more than 10 miles, like today’s 17, I still aim to walk/run 10 miles the next day. I have the capacity to be very strong in my practices and my habits.
It is only a matter of setting them.
I have several books that I would like to write, a couple of them already well underway, others just outlines and plans for research.
I will see how I feel tomorrow when I have to go back to work.
I notice that i am not feeling especially enthused.
I have been meaning to mention that the other day (was it Wednesday?), I felt so absolutely desperate to change my life and to get out of my current situation with wage earning (in which I am woefully under-employed. I earn 19 dollars an hour and the organization I work for only funds me to work 25 hours a week, due in part to me requesting an adapted schedule because of my needs for scheduling flexibility and accommodations due to my being twice exceptional and having sensory integration challenges and social fatigue/autistic burnout difficulties that severely undermine my wellness and ability to consistently function) – well, I was tired and overwhelmed and literally felt the prayer in my chest as I ran, a big full feeling like hope and like yearning, saying “Please, please lift me, please help me. Please, please lift me. Have mercy.”
I believe it was a year ago today that I submitted this video to try to win 100k so that I could quit my job and write poems and travel around and talk with people. I did not get chosen, but I learned a lot in making this video.
The Watery Grave
(A 5/7/5 haiku series)
of waves, storms, tides, unseen depths
do nothing these days
The whole blessed world
blessed with two syllables
All we can do is…
What? Compare the storms with storms
and calculate loss
Numb like the ice melt
don’t even notice wet shoes
or the silence of night
We say ‘it’s like this…‘
but, it’s not remotely close
Metaphrand or -phier
Caught with silt after raining
the world reflected
The man stands aghast
trying to measure the damage
“There can’t be no God,”
mutter the children, crying
they pray anyway
If not for themselves
for the animals, the trees
the very earth itself
sounds they make sighing
secret wishes escaping
into waiting air
They doesn’t know yet…
Life is precious to the young
Then we get weary
It is hard to watch
all that we love die
again and again
There is illusion
pale light above the surface
if we could only…
Break, swim, punch upward
Hands open as if to grasp sun
find a line, hold on
surface never comes
rays from a distant pinpoint
diffuse in your hands
The weight of blue grows
and despite your buoyancy
You begin to sink
never a line there
no shore to swim to, no beach
You were way too deep.
I wrote this tonight as an activity after a full day. I ran in the dark this morning and heard another screech owl. I tried to call back to it, but instead of answering, it grew silent.
I had a dream last night that my mother’s hair grew back coarse and dark, thick, and it did not fall out unless I pulled at it. This afternoon she said she was ready for it to grow back and took off her hat to show me her tufted nearly bald skull and I rubbed my hand over it like a baby’s head and wished that she could stay alive.
I worked most of the day and, for the most part, it felt like a waste of time. Some days are like that.
I had an idea for a small book and series of posts about how to not kill yourself. A mix of peer support, trauma theory and resilience skills, written in a conversational survivor-to-survivor tone, with some sub-sections on quotes about wanting to die, and tricks for finding beauty, an overarching theme of suicide being a glitch of trauma-laden problem solving.