The Shape of the Wind

The woman sat across from me, ankles crossed, hands in lap, classic clinical posture. The younger woman sat slightly to the side of me, a still yogic statue, big eyed. We made a triangle, sitting there in my office.

“I’ve got skin in the game.”

The women seemed to really like that statement. So real. So peer.

I felt tired of it all.

The crossed-ankle woman, the senior clinician, leaned forward, her face lit up with an idea. “What if…what if you came and told your story to _____?”

I kept my face neutral. “Yeah, maybe I could do that.” I shrugged to emphasize my ambivalence.

Thought to myself, “Well now, how would that go?”

Imagined the scene, the big table and torsos surrounding, the smiling faces, the kind expressions, the hands clasped on the table. The windows and the sharp-lined slats of heavy brown shade contraptions, blinds. The look of the day outside, the look of the light. 

I could feel my chest get tight just thinking about it. What would that be like? I would have probably about 10 minutes, which may be stretched to 15 for people to ask me questions about my lived experience and how that impacts and adds value to the work I do.
Note: by adding value, I mean to say that I give significance to my workplace experiences that other people may not give to their workplace experiences. However, I also mean that my lived experience and the insights it brings to this work adds value, in that it means something to the people I work with that I have experienced some of the things they have experienced, and that I understand that my experiences of things like involuntary commitment are different than other people’s experiences, but that –  hey – I have had something like that happen to me.

I find it so distasteful to sum up entire pivotal life experiences with phrases like, “I got sent to the hospital.”

There is something silencing in being expected to do that, preferred to do that, for the sake of being concise, brief, not going into to much detail, too much trauma, nothing unnecessary, and be linear, do not loop back to how the experiences connect to each other, just like my going into medical shock after I broke my elbow at age 8 never would have happened if I hadn’t broke my spleen on Christmas Day, age 6, and spent those months in the hospital, which I hardly remember at all, save for two distinct memories. What those experiences have to do with me losing my mind years later.

How would I tell my story to those people?

They don’t want to hear my story.

Not the way I’d tell it.

I was 12 in 1988, when the market for adolescent psychiatry opened up in a big way. I had grown up on family land, the land my father had grown up on, the land my great-grandmother still lived on, an old woman with her face slack on one side from a stroke.

I loved her. She played cards with me.

That year, I rode the bus to school from one of the bus stops in the subdivision that had been built, over the two previous years, on our family’s land, which was no longer our family’s land. We still had a pocket of woods, at the back edge of what my great-grandmother called “the neighborhood,” and we still had our house, and the pasture, and my great-grandmother’s house, the little house behind it.

Our road was still intact, up until the paved road crossed it.

From that point on, our dirt road was gone. There were houses on it. A girl I knew from school who was from Connecticut and had yellow goo on her braces all the time lived in the first house that had been built on top of our road. The first “phase” of the subdivision was complete, just three streets, with stubs of paved road edging up to pine trees and palmettos, waiting in the hot Georgia sun, for Phase 2, and Phase 3. More naked lawns, more sod, more stump removal services, more holes dug for pools, mailboxes, the cul de sacs like cocks and balls as I rode my bike on the new pavement, swooping around the streets like I still owned the place. Riding through yards, going around in circles, an adolescent vulture in a tee shirt and white Keds, because that’s what all the girls at school were wearing.

I had never been popular, because I didn’t know how to talk correctly when I went into elementary school, and had to go to speech therapy for four years, and I wore glasses and brought my bear to school, and karate chopped a kid over a marker set in Science class. I lived in the woods and my nails were bitten and my mom cut my hair.

I got a perm in the sixth grade, and started wearing contacts. I knew how to talk by then, how to say my own last name.

I started blow-drying my hair, pushing my bangs up and freezing them with hairspray like a wave. I could get very tan, and my family – suddenly – had money, a white Jeep Cherokee.

Besides, school was full of new kids, Navy kids. Kids who did not know anything about me or my speech impediment, my elementary-years oddness.

The Base had gone into full operation, quietly at first and then with a great influx of personnel and a regular launching schedule for the nuclear submarines that were sleeping out in the water by Crooked River, out by Cumberland Island. The population expanded by something like 20,000 in two years. They had to build a new school. It smelled like paint, and was shaped just like Phase 1 of the subdivision, a line with three lines extending from it, like an E.

There were kids who had lived in Guam and California and Connecticut and Virginia Beach, Alaska even. With the influx of Navy personnel and their families, there was an influx of new cultures and subcultures. Many of my friends had Filipina mothers, Chinese mothers. There was suddenly punk rock and rap and new accents that were almost non-accents, because none of the military kids lived anywhere for very long. One new girl came to school with a shaved head, a fringe of bangs, a skinhead haircut and a bomber jacket.

That was the year I was 12. I had started smoking cigarettes with some of my new friends, had started to like the feeling of rock and roll. I was sobbing in my room, I was laying there stunned in the morning. I refused to go to school. I was on-guard, not at ease with anyone. Only at ease by myself, and not even then. Never at ease.

We pulled into the parking lot in the mid – morning, a low light blue building, Southern office space.

“Faith, we’re concerned about you. It will be good to try to get some help.”

The rooms were bright along one side of the building, the white light of sun through plastic blinds, glaring rectangles in the walls. There was hardly any furniture in the room at all. Chairs, a wicker and glass table, some brochures. A desk.

With each test, they explained what I needed to do. “Tell a story about why what you see,” the psychologist held up a picture of a furtive looking woman, a young man in the distance.

I went on and on, creating an entire exposition of friendship and misunderstandings, family conflicts.

In a room with no windows, they had me lay back on a reclined exam chair, and affixed the electrodes around my hair line and along my scalp, told me to go to sleep. I woke up surprised that I had slept, and they told my mother and I that I do not have epilepsy.

At the end of the appointment, the psychologist lady sat down with my mother and me in one of the bright rooms. “Your daughter is very intelligent,” smiling a peculiar stretched smile in my direction. They spoke for a few minutes about how I was smart, right on the edge of genius.

My mother nodded along, “Yes. She is so smart.”

“However,” the psychologist shuffled papers on her lap, “your daughter also seems to be showing signs of depression, which is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.”

They talked for a few minutes about counseling, about what to do if my depression got worse, and we said goodbye, walked out into the blare of sunlight and raw parking lot heat.

I felt a new sort of quiet, a new unease. I didn’t know what to say to my mother. She didn’t know what to say to me. We didn’t say anything.

I still had the electrode goo in my hair. I felt tired on the way home, crossing over the bridges.

Walking into the wood-smell of home was a sweet relief.

Nov 23 (1 day ago)

to me

Today is the day that I am going home. I will keep driving on the road on I take to work, will go right past the airport, and on down over the mountains, drop into the flat lands and then further down still, trace along the coast in the dark, and I will be there. I woke up early, two and half hours before my alarm went off, and felt calm, a little disconnected from the reality of this trip.

My left turn signal went out last night, on the way to drop off my daughter and then go to the store. “I will go to the oil change place and get it fixed. I want to have a turn signal tomorrow.”

The young blue-clad tech shaking the car as he wrestled with the bulb. Exclaiming a few minutes later, calling over his coworker. Showing me, “See, this looks like the same bulb, but these connection points here, see how they are lined up.”

The two silvery nubs sat right across from one another, perfect orbit.

“Look at yours,” he held the two orange glass bulbs beside one another. The connector points on the bulb they had pulled out my car were positioned at an angle from one another, like 6:05, instead of 6:00, or 12:30. 3:45, 9:15, etc.

I made plans to go to an auto – parts store, probably in my hometown on Friday, because I didn’t want to try to find an auto parts store on Thanksgiving Day, when I have a Mexican Fiesta to attend and traveling to do.

At the grocery store, after paying, I had a brief moment of wondering if I should not go. If I should stay home. Get the light fixed. Write here, in the mountains.

I do not know if I should trust the part of myself that pushes up the idea that if I don’t go, I will have made a grievous error, that I will regret it, that some pact I made with myself will be broken and unfortunate (or simply null) consequences will result.

There is a little bit of pressure with that notion, that this is something I, ahem, must do.

How do things like this, strong leadings, fit into non-attachment, or being in the present?

I guess it is in the attachment to outcomes, the expectation that if one does a) then a desired b) will occur…there’s where problems could occur, attachment and disappointment, hurt over the way things are.

How does that fit in with hope, that motivation to create something, that longing for certain things to come to be?

Acceptance would mitigate disappointment, a focus on the learning and growth that comes from deeply hoping and not getting what you hoped for.

Those who believe in a higher power that works within their lives in “mysterious ways” might trust that something was in store for them, that their higher power had reasons for denying them their hopes.

I think Garth Brooks wrote a song about that once.

I have some discomfort in the thought that our ego’ed perceptions and interpretations of what God wants of us, what we ought to do, are apt to be sorely misled.

I need to go pack, ready the house for caretaking. Go.

There is so much in this life, sitting in front of a fire while the sun comes up and the day begins. With children across town, and family out in the valley, and a place down the road, and objects to move, things to do, so many people, all with their own vast lives.

There is just so much.

I am excited to go home. To see what happens.

I do not know what will happen.

I will be okay.

10:04 PM (17 hours ago)

to me

It was nothing at all, stepping back into this house. Pressing down the latch of the door, pushing it open to scrape across the floor in a way it didn’t before. Either the hinges are sagging or the house is sinking. I haven’t been here long enough to know.

This is the dome. I grew up here. This photo was taken, incidentally, from the same vantage point as where I lay 35 years ago and could not breathe, because my chest and abdomen were filling up with blood spilled from my broken spleen.

Walking back into the house, was nothing at all. I’d done it a million times. Easy. The latch on the front door is still bent from where I slammed it so hard when I was a teenager, walking out or walking in.

I crossed into GA right at the precise moment of sunset, but it was cloudy and drizzling and low-skied, so there was no sunset to speak of, just a quick fade from dim to blue to black.

For most of the drive, I felt glad to be traveling, but not totally engaged with or excited about going home, though a timid happiness was stirring around every once in a while.

I listened to the radio and danced in the car and smoked cigarettes and drove the speed limit. There were hardly any other cars on the road for most of the drive, because it is Thanksgiving.

I got here in under 7 hours, like time had slowed down.

Right after Savannah, it hit me. Just a low rumbling around my heart, a shaky full feeling. I put my hand on my chest, made myself breathe more deeply. Checked my speed. Felt my butt in the driver’s seat, my sore hip.

Used to be that I’d have expected myself to fall apart about going home. I figured I might feel some feelings, but have been fairly committed to staying out of anything oriented around despair. Love can feel a lot like despair sometimes.

A massive joy rolled up out of me, made my whole head tingle, the points across my cheeks and jaws prickly and electric feeling, the very top of my head, where my skull used to be soft, bristling and warm. I felt my whole belly fill with this bright blue excitement, and my face lit up smiling in the dark, driving alone.

I needed to eat something. I was hungry. My blood sugar was probably low. I opened the window, turned off the radio.

I was happy to be going home, happy to have grown up in a beautiful place.

The sensations of my head about to explode with eustress subsided a little, and I took a deep breath,  turned the radio back on, some random country song blaring, but I threw my fist in the air beside me anyway, out toward the empty passenger seat, “Hell, yeah!” I hollered, “I’m going home!”

I threw a couple of right hooks, just to shake off the jolt of thrill I’d been riding with the past few miles.

I thought that it’d be strange, turning onto highway 40. It wasn’t. It was the same as it was, basically. More cluttered, more lanes, but the same straight line it always has been, with pines and pavement.

Before I came home, I drove downtown, to go to the Oak Grove Cemetery, to see if I could find my great-grandmother’s grave, my great-grandfather ‘s grave. It is Thanksgiving.

It was well-past dark and though I remembered which row they were on, it was hard to remember where exactly in the long and haphazard row their graves were. I had to climb over two walls, twice. I tried not to walk over any graves, but it is an old cemetery, very crowded, some headstones only nubs, some graves not marked at all.

I am hardly afraid at all anymore.

It didn’t seem remotely creepy to be wandering around out there at Oak Grove. On my second pass along the row, I almost didn’t look at the two graves near the wall. I was sure that I had checked them before, but decided to check them again anyway, fairly certain they were a King or a Gross.

The name of my great-grandmother lept at me in the light. Bam. There it was.

I wiped off the soggy oak leaves that had piled in the center of the big marble slabs, noticed the simple inscription, At Rest. Patted the headstone. Said hello. Sat down on the wet stone, watched the wind blows through the moss.

A golf cart drove by. This is now the sort of town where golf carts just drive around downtown.

Entering the subdivision, I found the roads torn up and a bizarre mess of cones snaking through the rubble. A bulldozer was operating, at 8:00pm, on Thanksgiving. Huge worm-like hoses coiled up near the cones. Great mounds of sandy dirt were piled along the edges of the road.

There was another bulldozer back near the house, parked where the old Arnow house was, building another road.

I didn’t feel much about it, the bulldozer, the road. I just found it interesting.

I would think that maybe I’d be triggered into some outrage about the machines and the land, the gouged earth. While I found it ugly, brutal, the torn up woods and dug up soil, the machines grinding and roaring, I didn’t *feel* much of anything.

When I walked into this house, it was just like it always has been.

Warm and wood-smelling, seeming to smile in the eaves and in the roundness of the dome.

“Hello, house,” she said as she pushed the old door open. “I’m here.”

9:00 AM (6 hours ago)

to me

I woke up early again, at 4-something. By a little after 5:00 I was running down the dirt road in the dark, passing by the surveyor flags and bright reflective flashes on the hulking dump truck that sat in whatever was once the small pasture by the barn. My plan was to run all of the streets in the neighborhood, and then – if I felt like it, to do it again, and then again. That’d end up being a long run.

By the time I had looped back through two cul de sacs, passing by only a bored – looking small dog and a raccoon skittering up a lawn, I had started to decide that it’d be okay if I only ran the streets once. My hands were cold, my head was hot. I took off the headlamp. I didn’t need it anyway. There are streetlights here.

I felt alright running, an easy pace, but not sluggish, breathing well, thinking about the idea that I’d had, to run around the neighborhood, raising the dead.

Well, not the dead, exactly, but the spirit of this place, the spirit of this land and all the people who have been here before what is here now.

This felt like something I’d like to do, as a way of honoring this place, and affirming all the life in this land, these waters.

As I curved around the cul de sacs, I waved my hands toward me, thinking “C’mon, C’mon, wake up…”

I was talking to myself more than anything, trying to find some alertness or great feeling, some energy. I was awake-but-not-on-fire, running through a boring late-20th century Southern subdivision in the very early morning.

There is an aspect of my experience which involves nearly constantly wondering if I am crazy. This consideration is largely reflexive, and is more analytical than it is judgmental.

“Is it weird to think that just because I was a kid here, and feel connected to the land that I can somehow summon the spirits of this land? Is it weird to even think about these things?”

As I write this, I am grimacing a little, both because I  am cold and because I am realizing that, yeah, it’s weird.

Who is to say that there are even spirits in land?

I don’t mean spirits. I mean electricity, atoms. Molecules. Energy. Who is to say that the things that have existed within and have been a part of land areas, whose bodies and old-time forms have been buried or burned into the ground itself…who is to say that any elemental remnant of sentience or soul remains?

Crossing back by the road that leads to the dirt road that leads to home, a road with a street sign that has my great-grandmother’s name on it, I looked at the silhouettes of the remaining pines and oaks, situated at the edges of yards, at the back of the lots, and felt a fondness for them, a fondness for how familiar they are to me, the look of them. The tall trees are the same trees that were there twenty years ago.

“They are just trees.” The land didn’t feel especially alive to me. It was just a place. I ran a little faster, and imagined my footfalls, tiny vibrations, making their way down through the pavement, into the earth, the small spaces.

The wind felt good, gusty and full of river, cold. I stopped thinking about raising spirits and whether that was weird or not, and just focused on running, trying to feel good running.

The neighborhood is the most boring place ever to me. I don’t know if it is so much boring as it is deeply baffling and disgusting in ways that act so powerfully as to shut me down to any feeling or thinking at all, because what is there to feel, what is there to think.

Oh, so much, and nothing at all. It is just a place. A truck pulled to the end of a street named some made-up name. Two of the streets in the neighborhood are named for my great-grandmother, and one street, the one closest to the highway, is named for the family who owned the land before my family did, the family whose house my father took apart to build this house with.

All the other streets have made-up names. Oak Stump Circle. Longwood Drive.

The truck paused, and I was a woman running in the dark, wearing a hat, my glasses reflecting the streetlights.

“Nobody knows who I am here. I don’t live here.”

I liked that thought, but it was still odd to me, that nobody knew that I lived here before they did, that this land used to be my home. That our road runs right through their living rooms, even if you can’t hardly tell there was a road there at all, except for the gap in the trees running straight up through the neighborhood.

I had a couple friends on every street when I was in middle school. I slept in at least one house on every street in the first section of the subdivision. As I ran, I thought about the people I knew who lived there those first few years after the land was developed. I have no idea who lives in those houses now. I don’t know what their lives are like.

I wondered if it was crazy to be running through a subdivision at 5:00 am. I didn’t feel crazy, though I didn’t much want to be seen, which was part of the motivation for running in the dark. I didn’t want to be looked at. I could wear a hat and put my hair in a bun, and wear long leggings or big socks to cover the tattoos on my legs. I would have a sweater on, so my back and arms would be covered. I would have on my glasses. Nobody would recognize me, would stop their car and want to talk with me. Some of the people back on the land near our house, people who live in my great-grandmother’s house down the river two bends, people who build houses on the pasture, cut down all the pear trees, a couple of them might recognize me. Maybe not.

The chances of me running into somebody at 5 o’clock in the morning are pretty slim.

Besides, the part of me that thinks about what a good time to raise spirits might be figures that the pre-dawn hours would probably be alright. I wasn’t looking to raise anything malevolent (haha, famous last words). I had thought about what the inclination was about, what I was hoping to accomplish by this thinking about raising spirits.

Peculiar, I am picturing a male psychologist type fellow, sitting cross legged in a chair, a clipboard on his lap, khaki pants, a lot of sandy beige tones. “So, do you know what you were trying to accomplish with the, um, spirit raising? What did you hope would happen?”


There is such a taboo about things like raising the dead. Jesus Christ.

I ran down the long swoop of road that is the main artery of the second subdivision phase. Remembered once being out running when I was 14 or so, on that very same road, in blazing summer midday heat, being startled when a car pulled up beside me.

It was my smug and smart-alecky used-to-be-a-delinquent-in-New-York-City-look-at-where-I-had-my-ear-pierced psychiatrist in a Mercedes, smiling, saying he was just taking a drive around. It wasn’t that surprising that he’d be in the neighborhood. His office was right up by the highway. He said it was good that I was out running, that I looked healthy, and then drove on away.

I intensely despised that man.

It was getting colder as it moved toward sunrise, and my knee hurt just a little, my lower back pinching every so often. Another car was coming up from behind me, and I broke into a sprint to hit the corner before them, to not let them catch up to me, pass me.

My hair was down, in thin triple braids all the way down my back, like three ropes. I was wearing purple sweatpants, an old moss colored sweater. I was probably a strange thing to see in the early morning. Running as fast as I could, turning that corner tight.

I got a wicked cramp as I moved from the pavement to the dirt road, and slowed to walk, pressing into my side, breathing slowly and deeply. I was in the section of woods that always terrified me when I was a little kid. The land that had been cattle fields that was then planted over in start straight rows of pine timber.

When I was young, I would get a forceful panicky feeling in those woods, like something was rushing at me. I felt the edge of that sort of fear walking in the dark through that corridor of pines, but I could see the lights from the houses that were built by where the road used to fork, and I asserted that nothing in those pines could hurt me, that I didn’t want any trouble out there in those pines, on that dark road, that no trouble ought to visit me, wasn’t welcome.

I straightened my posture and felt more at ease as I walked past where the old Arnow house used to be, the house my father took the wood from.  There was a tremendous grove of redbuds there for a long time, amongst the stray bricks and old rotting wood, rust – crumpled nails. The shape of a backhoe was sleeping there. I felt nothing.

The water in this house is sulfur water, from a freshwater well dug way down into the earth, down further even than the bottom of the river. Some water underground, a lake under the river. When I was a kid, I could not smell the sulfur in our water, because I was used to it. This morning, the smell was strong, but I didn’t mind it. I liked it. It smelled like home.

I wanted to be sure to be out on the dock at sunrise, though the sky was cloudy again. I wanted to see what they day would start out like. I walked out over the water and sat down on the cold wood, looked over to the new dock built out from near where that my brother and I had found those dead baby boars in the burlap sack.

The day would come on weak and grey, the sun just a dim silver behind the clouds. The light went to blue, and the marsh began to get some detail.  The sky was soft and grey. A November morning. Even with the clouds, I could still see shapes. A rolling wave shape along the upper ridge of one of the cloudlayers caught my eye. The shape of the wind.

1:11 PM (2 hours ago)

to me

It occurred to me that I ought to be reverent. Here I was, back home, watching the day come slow and grey. Here was the sky, the very first skyscape I ever studied. Above the rolling ridge of clouds, I saw a shape like a triangle, and thought about the drawing I had done the week before, last Friday morning, picturing what spirits rising and saying goodbye to this place looked like in my mind, a dispersing strand of triangles over a field that loomed vaguely like the sky, with a river drawn in under the layers of chalk pastel, covered up.

A dark shape like a heart formed up to the left of the triangle shape. It was the sort of heart I have thought about getting tattooed on my middle fingers, there between the first and second knuckle, one heart facing out on my right middle finger, one heart facing in on my left middle finger, little hearts that are clean edged and deep-clefted.

I took some pictures, because that is what I do when I see something I want to remember. I take pictures, and I think about how I might write about that moment.

It was cold on the dock, and right before I realized I ought to be reverent and look around, feel a little fucking amazed why-don’t-you, you are home, you came back to this place, here is the river, here is the sky,

I had been thinking about this interview with the musician St. Vincent that I think about every few days lately, how the artist was saying that it just doesn’t matter at all whether someone thinks you might not be okay, not in this day and age. It just doesn’t matter.

“I have a cowardice in me.”

These words rose up and I sat with them, knowing it was true and feeling all my reasons and all my justifications, all my explanations, rise up behind them.

“…but . . . but…”

“I have a great cowardice in me.”

Maybe that is how I will start the introduction, begin the query. It is not such a complicated scenario. I have been writing for over seven years. I have a book in me. At least one book, probably more.

Driving last night, there on I-95, I thought about the possibility that I might find my team of collaborators and that we might successfully create a book containing this story, which could ostensibly be marketed as a mental health memoir documenting the intersections of fucked up genius, psychiatry, and spiritualism, but which necessarily delves enough into my experience of psychosis and subsequent recovery to explore frameworks of understanding extreme states as a function of unique styles of cognition operating under the duress of sustained stress and trauma responses. In discussing the ways that psychosis manifested in my life, I will not be able to avoid talking about what was going on in my head and heart when I tried to prove God with pictures of clouds on the internet.

“What was I thinking?”

I will need to explain my reasoning, and share details of moments when reason faltered.

I have so much old humiliation around those times. I think that is where my cowardice comes from.

However, I was thinking last night, there on i-95, that I was bound to have to face some flack if I tell this story in a way that helps it to do what I want it to do, what I believe it needs to do. Probably quite a bit of flack. A lot of people will call me crazy, and will make fun of me. Some people will try to discredit me and make me out as a fool.

Some people might hate me.

I have read a couple mental health memoirs before. There are some books that almost every person with a certain diagnosis in a certain demographic has read, e.g. Jamison ‘s Touched by Fire, white middle class American women and their mothers. Why would someone who wrote a mental health memoir be scorned, ridiculed?

In most mental health memoirs, things like trying to prove God are written off as psychotic debris, delusions of grandeur, mania. These experiences are offered up as evidence of how truly sick one was, to be thinking and feeling and believing such outlandish things.

I would like to explore the conundrum of my experience as an atypically intelligent person with a remarkable set of life circumstances happening upon a series of expansive ideas rooted in empirical observation and a priori experience. I have no interest in considering my experience of believing I could prove something like God (or at the very least offer an elegant theory on the origins of human written language and iconic composition, or provide vernacular data to support an existing theory) as a dismissable by-product of mental illness.


The ideas I had about God and clouds and patterns in nature, about sense and language and sky-watching…those ideas are still solid in my mind, tenable. I do not know if my theory would hold up to further inquiry, but I’d like to find out.

Just a little bit ago, taking pictures of vague cut outs and reliefs of perfect equilateral triangles in the thin wisps of clouds out over the river, I thought, “Dang, it’d be nice to know how that happens, how a triangle shape can be cut out like that, how another can form from gathered clouds?”

There are so many things I’d like to learn about.

Sent: November 24, 2017 8:57 AM

2:43 PM (1 hour ago)

to me

The warmth of the dome has a soporific effect on me. The sun hits that room all day long, arcing it’s way across the sky, heating the space up like a incubator. After I came home from running, took a sulfur water shower and wrote for an hour and a half, took pictures of the sky from the dock, sang a warbling and quiet amazing grace, because that is something that has helped me to connect with my own spirit, thinking about the times I have sung that song, various circles I have sat in, singing with elders and wounded folks, lifting our voices. At some point, watching a heavy shred of dark cloud drift down in the mid-day, I shifted my humming, to Prayer in C, a another song that connects me to my spirit, taking segments of video a minute long, a minute and a few seconds.

I took a nap in the mid-morning, woke up feeling warm and logey, dull in my mind, sort of blank feeling laying there in a sunbeam. I remember that feeling, of being tired and sort of blank, from when I was young. Warm and wilted, content to just lay like a cat in a swathe of sun. It was okay. It made sense that I was tired. I work hard, had traveled the day before, got up hours before dawn, ran in the dark. I let myself lay there a bit longer, got up, ate some bread with peanut butter, drank a few tablespoons of honey, sat on the deck outside of my room for a few minutes, wrote some more.

“I have a great cowardice in me.”

Maybe that is how I will start off my introduction, begin my query.

I needed to go to the autoparts store, to get a new turn signal bulb, and I had the idea that I ought to go into town and find some WiFi, go sit at Seagle’s or the Riverview Hotel downtown, copy some of these recent messages to myself into a document that I can edit with no Internet. I also had the idea that I wanted to get the small tattoo project I had had in mind done, here in my hometown.

I thought I might stop in at the tattoo shop I’d seen by where the old papermill used to be, but driving downtown I saw another small shop tucked into a mid-80s shopping center, beside an Army-Navy surplus store. Turned onto the street that ran alongside the building and cut through the strip of grass to the parking lot. Young man with a big ol ‘ beard, like he was from the mountains, a riot of old ink on his arms, a small line-work bird on his left hand. I made arrangements to come back in an hour.

The bar at the Hotel was closed, but the woman sweeping the floor of the lobby said I could use the WiFi anyway. There is a row of typewriters here on the bench beside me. I like this place. It is nice to know that even when the land and the dome are sold, there is a place that I could come to. We stayed here once or twice, at the Hotel, when it was the only hotel here in town.

We were having the house fumigated.

Sent: November 24, 2017 1:08 PM

[Note: I have actively avoided opening my computer today, despite the fact that I came here with the intention of writing. I have been writing, plenty. 8000 words over a couple of days. On my phone. While participating in family and community activities, and then travelling. I haven’t begun the documents that I set out to create. This visit home strikes me as a significant starting point. There is a lot I want to take note of. For example, this evening, as the sun was setting, I decided to take a walk around the old place, the little hemmed in area of land around the house. See how things look.

As it turns out, things looked weird, old and broken, in abject disrepair, covered in moss and leaves.

The old screendoor lay flat on the side porch, the wooden walkway was broken through, a part of the enclosed pool collapsed under the weight of a fallen limb, some hurricane or another. There was a massive mound of fallen and cut branches and limbs near the barn. It took me a full two minutes to walk slowly around it, filming with my phone. I don’t know why I like to do things like that lately. Probably because I am a latent cinematographer or something.]

While I was walking around the big pile of limbs, I caught glimpse of part of an old cedar tree. I could smell it. Decided I’d cut myself off a chunk of it. Got the saw out of the car. I brought a saw, a phillips head screwdriver, a flat head screwdriver, a small trowel, and a pair of bypass pruners, a sharp pair of scissors.  I almost brought a stapler, but who the hell needs a stapler while traveling?

I brought tools in case I needed to cut any branches, scissors for paper. The trowel for any small digging projects I may encounter or be inspired to undertake.

As I sawed, I looked around and noticed more wood I wanted to take home, and also noticed that the sawdust from the cedar tree was a dark pink. When the split end of the torn log I was sawing came loose from the rest of the fallen trunk, a segment split off, exposed the perfectly smooth and dark rose heart of the tree, the first decade of growth.

I pulled the small jagged tears of wood off the main trunk, saved them for my dad for kindling, a holiday gift. Moved the cut log and the kindling over near the car, set them down like luggage waiting to be loaded. In the little tidal wash to the left of the house, where the water comes up high sometimes, there was an old river beaten cedar trunk, bleached white-gray, all the places it’d been cut were worn smooth by water.

I had seen it the day before, and though – hmmm – I should take that home. I like sticks. Branches. Especially if they come from a place that I love, from trees that I know. It was kind of a big stick. The trunk of a small tree. I picked up one end, sizing the length, the potential that it would fit in my car. I was feeling less attached to the idea of taking it home.

I don’t know how I didn’t see them before, but when I was standing there holding that tree trunk I looked down and saw that the tide-gathered marsh grass was littered with bones. Hip bones, shoulder bones, something of leg, an animal leg. Probably a deer. They had been cut in places, and were not old, still yellowy, not bleached, not dry. “What a weird fucking place this is.”

I took a picture of the bones. As I was edging around to check them out from another angle, I noticed an amazing twist of old root. Possibly even from the cedar tree that had stood there when I was a kid, the one I was hoping to take a dead or dying branch from, to sit with. It isn’t here anymore, that tree. However, there under a scraggly palmetto, was a root, damp and smooth and twisted into all sorts of forms and figures. I leaned down to pick it up, half-expecting it to be caught, still attached to something big under the ground, the rest of the root structure, but it lifted easily, was light.

When I was young, and growing up here, and when I was older and coming home here to visit or to live for brief periods of time. I would find things on the river bank, feathers and old bottles, once a broken figurine of two people dancing, both missing their heads and their feet. I consider those objects to be of the utmost importance, the things that I got from the tides, and they occupy protected areas in my home, mantles and high shelves.

The root will go home with me.

I set it with the cedar log and kindling, then moved it to sit atop the electric box, the dull green box that wires this property in with the town’s electrical grid. I could quite get the frame and light right for a photo, so I filmed it slowly, moving along its form. It was challenging, and my hands shook. My foot was in the first effort, and so I did it again, and it felt like tai chi, to hold my hands as steady as I could and to move my body to move the camera. It was fun.

Figuring I’d take a picture of the dumptruck in the pasture and the spot in the woods where in a dream I had when I was a kid I saw a mirror hanging in the branches of an oak and when I turned back to my family, who was walking on the dirt road with me, they were gone. There are more roads back here than there were. A backhoe sitting smack dab in the middle of the spot where the old Arnow house had been, a monstrously huge machine where there used to be a house, where now there is only a chimney standing solitary in the woods.

I looked down the pine road, and saw that it was beginning to take on that creepy feel in the fading light. “I should walk down it,” I thought, “and then walk back. I will walk down the road I was afraid to walk down.”

Because I had been videoing various segments of this trip, small portions of mediated experience, I decided to video my walk down the road I used to be scared to walk down. Such straight pines, so much burnished brown on the sandy ground, bone colored ground. The space around the trees was darker than the trees themselves, so they stood out, straight and in a line. I looked around as I walked, holding my phone in front of me. Noticed out of the corner of my eye that, so far, the video was going to just look like some Blair Witch Project shit. Kept walking. Noticed how, all the sudden, it was dark on the screen, except for the cutouts of the shapes of trees against the getting-dark sky.  Noticed, also, that I hadn’t hit record. I started videoing 1/2way down the road, only slightly disappointed that I had missed the first part of the walk down the road I used to be afraid of.

The tree shapes were compressed into inspecific contrast forms on the tiny screen of my phone. I felt a little nervous, walking down the road, just my footstep sounds and the sounds of a few late-day birds, some early night insects. I wasn’t scared though.

Watching the trees in front of me and on the screen, which was also in front of me, so that I had a split view of the world, in real-size and in miniature, I saw that there was one curve that traced through the branches that looked like a snake, and that there were globs and cuts and triangle shapes shifting up in the trees as a I walked, like a kaleidoscope animation, the overlay of different branches, clumps of leaves. It was beautiful, the shapes and how they transformed as I moved under them, one thing turning into another, turning into nothing at all.

I turned back, still recording. The video was getting long, but I didn’t want to miss my walk back through the woods, especially because the light from the still not-totally-set sun was twinkling at the end of the road, a flickering point that, as I moved forward, became bigger, a rectangle. The trees whirled their dark shapes against the sky, and the moon came into view, a bright white smudge on the screen.

I was having fun, looking at the world I was walking through, imagining different ways to see it.

It is morning now. I went to sleep early, the dome a dark circle, squirrels on the roof, something moving around under the house. There are so many noises here.

Twice, I have heard what sounded like footsteps, felt the house move a little, but nothing came of it, and I wasn’t scared. There are big machines working everywhere during the day, sawing noises, engine noises, heavy objects slammed on metal. The hollow ring of brick on brick. Today, I will saw some more cedar logs, and try to push the fallen leaves off of the porches with part of a broom I found under the house.

“What is going on with all these doors?”

“Doors? What doors?”

“In the barn, in the front part of it, there are 165 doors.”

“What? I don’t know anything about any doors.” Calls to my father, “Do you know anything about 165 doors in the barn?”

She speaks to me again, “He doesn’t know anything about it either. Hmmm, who knows?”

The doors probably belong to the person who is buying this land, who will own the barn. He is in, predictably enough, the construction business. Probably got a good deal on a lot of doors. 165 doors.

That’s a lot of fuckin’ doors.

This morning, I woke up later than I have been, at 5:22, and wondered why the alarm I’d set for 5:05 hadn’t gone off. Ah, it is not programmed to go off on Saturdays.

I checked the sky for daylight, but it was still very dark.

I had ½ planned to go running again, do the same loop around the neighborhood, the most boring run ever. A subdivision in the dark.

It is good for me to do these things, this running in the dark, going down unpleasant roads, because it forces me to try to find something of value in the experience, some way of tolerating it, of not quitting. Today, I got a stitch in my side at the beginning of the last mile before I was set to turn back, and I slowed way down, but I didn’t turn around early, though I almost did once, in the middle of the 2nd road that is named for my great-grandmother, tract houses and Fords, flags and bumper stickers. So many people live here.

Yesterday, when I ran, I pretended/imagined/considered raising the spirits of this land, and this morning I briefly revisited that notion, curving around a cul de sac.

It felt silly to me. Almost something to be embarrassed of. Creepy.

This morning, I wasn’t feeling much of my audacity. I felt a little old as I ran in my purple sweatpants. Didn’t really care.

This whole season has been a process of resolving my core sadnesses and ousting my longstanding insecurities.  Making peace.

Nevertheless, the doubt that undermines, again and again, has been leaching into me this morning. Sits in my belly like a goddam sinker, solid and heavy. This choking fucking doubt.

Doubt and my cowardice are bedfellows.

I have written 10,000 words in several days, and have felt good about what I have written, as I was writing it, but then that horrible doubt seeps into the good feeling, whispering, “You won’t actually do it, won’t actually finish. Even if you do, nothing will happen. You won’t do anything. You’ll embarrass yourself.”


See, the thing is, I know where that voice in me comes from. It comes from motherfuckers is where it comes from. People who have been dicks to me.

So, for that reason, if for no other reason, it is important to me that I go ahead and say fuck doubt, and go through the motions of doing this thing, in the best way that I know how, even if the doubt gets so strong that it crumples me inside. I can edit when I am doubting and have nothing to say.

I probably won’t be doubting so much as I have heretofore tended to, because, like I said: Fuck doubt.

It is an uncomfortable feeling, the doubt. It is in my body as much as it is in my head. Sensations. Feelings. A sense of weight across my chest, forgetting to breathe. My lower lip pushes up at the left corner, my heart hurts. Doubt makes my heart hurt.

She got up from where she was sitting with her back against the warm, south-facing wall. Slumped into an air mattress, the blankets making lumpy ridges underneath her. She was not uncomfortable in her posture, and the sun beaming through the plexiglass triangles of the dome room was warm on her legs. Her heart hurt a little, though. Felt soft with some tightness in its core.  Something bitter, like the taste of pennies. Her head got foggy when her heart felt like this, all the sharpness gone, just vague and distracted thoughts, a rummaging through times her heart has felt like this. Such a basic human tendency, to struggle to turn from discomfort, to remember pain.

She got up from where she was sitting, and moved a few objects around, put clothes back into her bag, put her vitamins away. She’d go back out to the dock. Sit in the sun. Be there for a minute, think about this doubt that had crept up in her. Try to get rid of it.

As she crossed the small strip of yard between the house and where the bank of the river began, she thought about how she had come across those bones the day before, how weird this place was now. Creepy. So much moss. She walked her heavy heart out to the dock, sat in a square of sunlight, looked around.

To the east/southeast, there was a broad swoop of clouds. Cold weather clouds. Wisps of ice hanging up in the sky, barely stirred by wind. She saw that one of them looked a little like a fist, another like a hand. She looked for the clean lines and angles that she found especially interesting in clouds, because she didn’t understand how such a perfect line could be made with something so soft as air and water moving in the wind.

Immediately, she forgot about her doubt. “It comes back to this,” she thought. “The shape of the wind.”

There was no wind up there, so the clouds just stayed in the forms they were in, only slowly shifting, another line, a triangle, a well-spaced grouping of density and light, a graceful curve carved cleanly. “This is all I want to do.” She felt that kickback, that backlash, doubt re-ignited.

She knew that it was possible to construct a life in which she got to spend more time in beautiful and tragic places that mean something to her, to spend more time gawking around at the sky and the trees, taking pictures.

My interior experience when I am watching clouds is one that I have come to think about as a state of attentive awareness, an open, but observational perspective. Noticing what is happening in front of me, what my reaction is, what thoughts and feelings are inspired. What comes into my mind.  I try to maintain focus, but let my mind drift. I am careful to split my attention between the image on the screen and the actual, real clouds.

I like to study them on the small screen, because the image – a big, big sky – is condensed, and it is easier to see some of the formations. When clouds are strewn across the sky, it is difficult to notice and to see the different parts of them, the eye is pulled in so many directions.

I look for lines, and angles. Also forms that look like something, a figure or a wing or a letter, eye-shapes. There are some compositions of cloud clumps that remind me of the points of light around the heads of saints in stained glass windows, such perfect spacing.  Other groupings of clouds look like stories, arrangements of cloud-ridge figures, standing and crawling, a tendrilous arm outstretched. I look, also, for letters, ways that the angles and lines arrange themselves in such a way as to resemble scraps of written languages, strange partial symbols, pulling together and then dissipating.

“Maybe I should call it a project. Just lay the whole thing out.” She balked inside at the thought of it. However, she knew it was a good idea, that these plans and notions she worked on tirelessly in her head were, by definition, a project. A big idea with several different components.

Her audacity is inspired by cloud watching, because her curiosity is inspired by watching clouds. “If nothing else, I really just want to find someone who can explain to me how that happens, why triangle shapes form in the clouds, and at the edges of trees.”

She knows that she could probably research this, and could likely find an explanation, some physics of patterns in nature. However, she thinks it will be more interesting to try to find someone who might help her to understand this atmospheric phenomenon by writing a book and starting conversations about rudimentary patterns in nature and the origins of written human language and religious iconography.

The crowd boos and hisses. “Get the fuck out of here, Audacity.”

The woman pulls Audacity from out behind the curtain, says: “Take a deep breath. It’s no big deal. We don’t have to listen to them. They’re just haters. Doubters. We can do this. I can do this.”

She holds tight to Audacity’s hand, feeling the bones of it. Begins to step forward, feels the resistance, the holding back.

“I can do this,” she thinks. Turns, studies Audacity, who is not feeling so audacious at the moment, who is actually cowering a little, meek around the eyes. “C’mon,” she urges, pulling audacity forward, “I can do this, but I need your help.”

She knows that all she needs to do is to go back downtown, to sit in the lobby of the Riverview Hotel and to upload her 1:00 videos to youtube. To put together a post of the 11,000 words she has written, spend some time in town, write some more. Saw more cedar logs. Write a letter.

She came down to the coast to construct a query, to devise a way of introducing herself and her work which encompassed the scope and vision of the project, but which was brief and charismatic, though not gimmicky, sincere. She thinks that being direct in what she is seeking is probably the best way to go, to simply offer some information about the situation, in the form of a longitudinal multimedia project proposal, and request consideration.

I might need help creating the proposal though.

That is what I was supposed to be doing while I was down here. Creating a project proposal, drafting a query letter. I have gotten off-track with those goals because I have been documenting my experience of coming back to this place, what I have been thinking about, what I have been noticing.

However, I think that I am closer to having a project proposal created than I was before this trip, because I have a better understanding of what it is that I am proposing. A book, yes. However, if a book is created to do something in the world other than to just be a book, a story on bound pages, then it becomes a project. I could – and may – simply write the book the best way I am able, but I feel like I’d be well-served by some guidance and feedback in the process, keeping in mind what the function of the book is, who it is being written for, what the aim is.

[Hours later…]

To make a golem for a book, you must first have the idea, driving alone on an interstate several days before you go out of town. Your friend from New York City told you about golems, explaining as he brought in a bundle of sticks gathered from the perimeter of the woods on the northern California coast that one could bring something into being by creating a representative structure or object of that thing, and imbuing that object with a will that what the object represents will come into being.

“I will make a little book, to symbolize my book, and it will be a golem.” You think this to yourself, though you don’t know anything about how to make a golem, or what materials ought to be used. You forget about the idea, forget to looks for a sharp needle and strong thread, for binding a miniature book. Wonder briefly, when the idea returns to you, feeding the dogs the morning before you leave, if you should you bound the small bookform in the scraps of peacock blue leather you have in a bag in the closet?

You did not bring leather. You did bring paper though, plain printer paper. You found a perfect small box in the backseat of the car, something that came with a cellphone, a tiny flat brown box. No stickers, no printing, sealed by two small flaps. The perfect box for a little book golem.

Driving into town night before last, when it struck you that you should go visit your great-grandmother’s grave, you had the thought that some of the dirt from around where she is buried might be a good thing to add to a golem, to give it the oomph of ancestors that love you, to connect your great-grandmother to you in this endeavor, to help you to remember that it was her, before it was anyone else, who told you that you were a wonderful writer, simply wonderful.  It was her, before it was anyone else, who taught you how stories could take you places, give you pictures in your head, feelings. She was a good storyteller, and you would beg to hear your favorites again and again, for years.

You almost forgot, that drizzly Thanksgiving night at the cemetery, to get the small spade out of the car, the old jam jar.  You didn’t though. You remembered, and said thanks to your great-grandmother as you scooped the dry, soft earth into the glass.

After you got your fingers tattooed yesterday, you saved the section of papertowel with two small blood-and-ink hearts on it.  You saved your fingernail clippings from last night, when you sat quiet against that wall in the room you couldn’t breathe in. The nails were from your hands, built from your cells. You fished a small coil of hair, pulled free in the shower, one single grey strand, out of the garbage, and used a hammer to split a piece of skull bone from an antler you found by the barn.  You took the feather from a downy woodpecker killed by a hawk out of your wallet. Your father had given you three of the feathers on Wednesday. “These are some special feathers.”

My father says lots of things are special.

Lots of things are.

I walked out to the dock, and stood where my friend had been sitting just a little bit ago. My friend and their lover had stopped by to say hello, travelling north. I stood there for a minute, glad that my friend had been there, then walked back to the point, stopping at the end of the dock to pick up a perfect sprig of cedar that I walked over with a friend who cares about me.

I hadn’t made a tiny book yet. I did have a piece of paper though, that had been folded and noted with page numbers on it, for a mini-zine project I did several years back. It had been sitting on my desk since I moved rooms back in the mountains, and before that it was on a shelf with books I value, and those felted wool figures from far-away Hastings Street, a red and white striped giraffe crocheted by someone who was a dear friend for a moment, and a hat I’d made for myself, a hat like a bird’s head, its beak like a pointed bill, stitched from felt, with scraps of red linen fanning back as feathers.

I decided that the sheet of paper with page numbers would be my golem book, and I gathered all the things I’d collected – the box, the cedar sprig, the piece of bone, the feather, the papertowel and fingernail crescents, the coil of hair – and went back out to the point.  Sat down on the ground and wrote a simple statement on the sheet, set a straight-forward intention.

Not asking, telling.

Stating what will happen: This book will be written by me. Stating my desired end: In service to the greatest possible good.

Folded the page and signed it with my full name, unfolded it, I put some of the dirt from my grandmother’s grave on the page, my hair and fingernails.  Poured a small amount of water from the well deep below this land onto the paper, watched the ink run, folded it again and set it down into the box, with the heart-stained piece of paper towel, the piece of bone, the sprig of cedar, the woodpecker feather. Found a spot on the point right between the oak tree and the cedar tree, where one can stand to see both the sunrise and the sunset. Cleared back the grass, dug a little hole. Such soft earth.

I got the thought, out of nowhere, that I needed to include a piece of copper, a small copper bird, in with my golem book and its hosts of offerings.  I ran back upstairs, got a bird that I had already made, that I had brought with me because I thought that I might work on holiday gift crafts while I am here, if I felt like it.

The sun was setting as I wrote out a small prayer on the bottom of the box, set it into the ground, covered it up, and then uncovered it, gathered a small scoop of marsh mud from beside the cedar tree and packed it over the box containing my book golem, covered it all back up.

My friend says that making a golem is a way of setting something into motion, and –yeah- it’s not magic, you still have to do the work of creating or becoming the thing which the golem is made for, but it creates an impetus, an intention, almost like a pact.

It really comes down to a couple of different theories.

The theory that I find the most interesting and worth considering is the one involving metapatterns in nature and how, if closely observed, the natural world may manifest the symbols and compositions that human civilizations associate with divine presence and/or workings, that these patterns in nature are mirrored in our written languages and iconic compositions.  There are sub-theories associated with this idea, involving how/why some people may be more prone to see shapes in the sky than others, and fuzzy concepts about the metaphysical mechanics of forces at work in shaping the world.  Some of the tertiary theories get a little weird, a little out there. They become problematic – untestable, speculative.

Another theory is that I am crazy, and nothing means anything.  That I am deluded.

That theory isn’t very interesting to me.

If I approached this idea of mine, that patterns in nature have a lot to do with how God and gods have been conceived of throughout the ages, and have mightily influenced our iconography and text-based languages, as a scientific inquiry, I would need to do rigorous research on the origins of written language, related theories, the aesthetics of icons across world religions throughout recorded history, incidences in sacred texts that may allude to the physical manifestations of divinity within the natural world, then I would need to document phenomena that I perceived to support my theory, and catalog those incidences, as well as consult with others, specialists in the field…whatever field such an inquiry may exist within…cultural anthropology?

I would need to be open to being wrong. I am open to being wrong. In fact, for a long time, my weblog was called Prove Me Wrong.

It was both a challenge and a plea.

While I was driving to the grocery store, to buy snacks to share with the visitors, my friend and their lover, I saw another triangle in the sky.

So, so many triangles in the sky here the past few days. I think I know how it happens.
If two large currents of air meet, intersecting at an angle, the way two currents might come together in a river…? If the temperature or air pressure or relative humidity within those currents, clouds may either dissipate or accumulate near the point of the two currents meeting (the apex of the triangle)?

Sometimes the appearance of triangles may be an illusion created by the layering of clouds and empty sky?

Yeah. That’s probably it. An illusion.

(Note: I sat in the Riverview for two hours, waiting for pictures to sync from my phone to my cloud-stored photos, tried to find the best ones to add between paragraph breaks. They were slow to sync, and I listened to a white-haired man sing Hallelujah, other old songs. At least three of the songs had mentions of books, of stories. The other people in the room and I talked while the musician took a break. Turns out that I was the only person in the room that is from this town, from this place.)

Nov 29

I planned to come home and work out a study+research of one particular form I’ve noted in the the clouds as being suggestive of some elements of written human language or iconic composition, explore the history and mythology of – for example, a trident or a triangle. That shape that looks like what I’d call a 3, but that someone else, from somewhere else, might see as something different, a shape with a different name, a different meaning. I have a small library of books on symbols and patterns in nature, and I have the internet. It was a helpful thing for me write out what I might need to do to approach this as a scientific inquiry, because while and not equipped to do exhaustive interdisciplinary analysis of weird clouds, I am excited about seeing what I can learn. I don’t know why I wanted someone else to help me to understand why I see what I see, and how these sort of structures in the clouds are formed, whether or not it is possible that other people, in other places, have – throughout history – also noticed these particular forms.  It’d be nice to be able to talk with someone about this, but I can do research, and write about that process, interesting bits of information I might find.

I am not opposed to being incorrect in my ideas. I just want more information.

The biggest barrier to me doing this sort of informal-but-purposeful survey of easily accessible information and related, but possibly less obvious, resources of knowledge is time. it is almost midnight now. I have slept an average of four hours a night recently. It’s not that I am not tired (I am tired), or that I cannot sleep (if I closed my eyes right now, I’d be asleep within two minutes). I have a lot I want to do, a lot I need to do. Also, I am experimenting with the possibility that I can train my body and faculties to function more adequately under adverse or stressed conditions, such as slight sleep deprivation.

There are things I want to do and be a part of that will require me being able to stay late and still be thinking clearly, functioning well. So far, my experiments have turned up some astounding insights…I do pretty well on scarce sleep. I don’t feel bad, I am not cranky. I feel a little more…but, I like feeling.

The other morning, when you walked out to add the slip of paper that you’d written the word for truth in Hebrew on 9 times to your little book golem box, you found that something had dug it up, left it laying on the ground, box pulled open, but contents undisturbed. You picture a raccoon, maybe a possum, smelling across the surface of the ground, pausing to smell the faint whiff of my hands, buried under the roots of the grass, pawing through, lifting out the box, pulling the flaps open, finding not much of interest, paper and dirt, human smells, tree smells, dry bone smell.

You set the folded paper into the box, brush off the little bit of mud that is on the cardboard, close it all back up, and take it inside, take it with you.  There is enough buried out there, left out there.  You feel good about the little book resting in the ground for a sunset and a sunrise. You wrap it up with paper, and tie it with a string. Put it your bag to go with you. Something out in the world, traveling close.

12:11 AM

Every Tuesday for the past 3 weeks, I have been leaving core sadnesses in the woods out at Pisgah. I have been running fast in the dark.

I don’t know if am actually running fast, because perception of speed changes in the dark, everything around you sliding by in shadows.

Even with my eyes closed, I know when I am running fast. I can tell by my breathing, and by my body mechanics, the posture of my arms, the way my feet hit the ground and lift. I don’t close my eyes when I am running in the dark. There is no need to.

I make sure to be off the root – rugged trail by the time full dark starts to settle in, back on the flat trail that I know fairly well. My night-vision isn’t wonderful, and the first thing to go after sunset is my depth – perception. I cannot run down rough hewn trails in the dark.

That would be stupid and dangerous. 

Tonight, I even brought a headlamp, but the bobbing light in front of me made me feel woozy, so I turned it off, and ran in the dark.

I have not run during full daylight hours at all over the past couple weeks. Early mornings and waxing sunrise in Georgia. Sunsets in the forest. Looping the dog around by the Hot Spot, down the big road, past the convenience store and public housing neighborhoods, past the store fronts and rowing machines and not-wonderful paintings. Past the people sitting and smoking outside of the old hotel, now apartments. Up the hill, racing up the steep slope at the corner, full sprinting up a hill, the dog exuberant, wide open.

I think I will need to do that run tomorrow night, take the dog out.

I don’t know if I will go back to that trail in the forest that I’ve been leaving my core sadnesses on. It’s a pleasant enough run. Not too challenging, but – overall – not too easy.  The second half, the way back, is easy. The first half is mostly easy…except for that hill. I had planned to run up that hill today, even if I had to go extremely slow, a quick upward March. It starts off with a slow incline, and then becomes steep, going up the hill.

I think it is mental, my resistance to this hill. However, I know – also – that my fitness and strength is still warming up to hill running, and that I probably need to quit smoking again. I can find other ways to modulate my norepinephrine levels, to produce dopamine and raise my serotonin levels. I will not go on a psychiatric medication, like wellbutrin.

“There is an urgent call for you,” my supervisor had come down the hall, down to the basement, to the laundry room, where I was folding sheets that burnt my arms, felt good to fold. I set the sheets aside, a big metal cart with rattling wheels that I loved to pull down the halls, stocking the laundry shelves, that hot dryer smell. The dust smell of the closets set into each long hall, rooms evenly spaced, like a hotel or a hospital, a school.

The place used to be a hospital. It was still a place where people came to die, came when there was no help at home.

My supervisor and I probably made small talk on the elevator ride back up to the main floor. The lobby desk. She liked me, liked my husband.

He worked in the kitchen, managed the day shift. Made me eggs, over hard, chatted with me as I got a bowl of cereal.

All the residents thought it was wonderful that we were married. I had just found out I was pregnant the month before, just a few days after our courthouse wedding. I found out that I was pregnant while we were down in Georgia, with our families gathered for our “real” wedding, there at the place where I grew up.

I had just had my first appointment at the ob-gyn. That’s who was calling, my doctor. There was no small talk. “Are you still taking wellbutrin?”

I felt relieved. I hadn’t taken it in months and months. I had stopped taking it, because it made me gain 30 pounds in one month and made me feel terrible, made me feel sick.

Two years before, I had swallowed about 30 wellbutrin, along with an entire prescription of opioid painkillers, that a different ob-gyn had given me, for a pain near my ovaries, an internal inflammation that I was given no explanation for, only a prescription. I hadn’t taken many of them. I had a lot left. 

“You know you could have really died,” the doctor told me, his face distorted because my pupils were so contracted and I was grimacing, so sick. Sick in every cell of my body. Poisoned. 

“I know.” 

I wasn’t yet glad that I hadn’t died. 

The following year, at the turn of this century, I ended up in the hospital again after “the bad morning,” the era of sitting at my grandmother’s card table shooting cocaine with the man who tattooed wings on my palms. I don’t think that I had experienced a rush of dopamine in a long, long time. I understood that I could easily addicted, because my brain got such a powerful signal that, “Hey, this feels good. We should do more.” Dopamine is how we are encouraged to participate in the activities of survival. Hunting and gathering. Wanting, pursuing, achieving. Grooming. Love. Drugs or activities that stimulate a dopamine release are interpreted by our brains and bodies that this cocaine or this new pair of shoes or this Facebook like or this new date must be incredibly important to our survival, that it really is something we have to do. 

“How are you?” He asked. 

“Immediately glad I did it.” I replied, without any hesitation whatsoever, but a wash of bitter in mouth and my heart pounding, stomach recoiling. I didn’t care that I felt sick. “This shit could kill me.” I knew that right off the bat, one second in. “This could kill me so, so quick.” 

I don’t think I ever really wanted to die. Not enough to do something that I knew would kill me. The thought of dying from a drug overdose or a rapid emaciation, arms addled with pocks and bruises, under the Burnside Bridge, some terrible thing or another happening to me and around me…this was not an appealing potential end for me to consider. 

Maybe I did want to die, enough to risk doing something that I knew my kill me, like taking all those pills the year before. Cutting so close to a major vein on that bad, bad morning. 

They sent me home from the hospital with a prescription for wellbutrin. I didn’t take it long. 

“No,” I turned my body in towards the wall, away from the women at the front desk. “I haven’t taken it in months.”

I had stopped taking the venlafaxine as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Drove cross country with a new husband and two dogs in the wintertime, coming off of effexor.

I didn’t know that what I was feeling, such sickness and volatility, was due to me being in a psychiatric drug withdrawal process. I thought I was just fucked up, that maybe I was sick and emotional, lying in the back seat of the car, woozy and tingling and jolting, at the very edge of vomiting for state after state after state. I tried to have fun, visiting relatives in California, eating pizza, listening to music. 

“That’s good,” the doctor said, sounding relieved. “Okay.”


The doctor passed, then told me that the drug I had been taking causes birth defects. I wasn’t taking it anymore, but I still felt sick.

8 years later, I would get an abortion, because I was pregnant and did not know it, and they did not give me a pregnancy test at the outpatient program I was court-ordered to go to. They prescribed me wellbutrin, which I was court-ordered to take. 

So, no, I will not go on a psychiatric medication. Those drugs only did me harm. I’m glad some people find them helpful, but they almost killed me, were a major factor in severe life disruptions and disasters. 

I would like to run up that hill. So, I will need to find a way to approximate the neurochemical effect of nicotine. Not right now though. Right now, I am enjoying smoking cigarettes.

There are hills I could train on near here. Work up to it. I run further up it each time I try. I could simply keep trying and then, one day, it will be done.

Tonight, there was no way I was going to run up that hill. I had planned to do it, half-wanted to do it. My head had hurt all day, and each footfall was like getting hit in the temple.

I thought I had talked to people for four hours, but as I started the run, orienting to where I was at, what I was doing, reflecting on the albatross of experience that is a day working in a state – funded behavioral health services program, I realized that, no, it’d been five hours. Actually more like 7, because even when I wasn’t doing a class or having an appointment tent with someone, I was still outwardly attending, talking and listening, sending emails while I ate a sandwich.

“What the fuck…”

I felt heavy, tried to enjoy moving through the forest in falling light, head pounding. I had decided that morning that I would dismantle a specific fear as I ran up the hill, a longstanding and especially pernicious fear, a prickly fear, that under its pervasively nuanced operations within my life has the power to completely shift me into a state of experience that, quite frankly, fucks me up.

I had been feeling the fear since it had mostly recently risen up during a conversation had in a parking lot. 

It was probably good that I was talking with people all day long, because if I am talking  with people, that fear eases back.

I think that part of how this works, this process of writing and reflecting on experience, is that I will set forth a statement, such as all my recent assertions that I am not scared of much anymore, and – then – a couple days later, something will arise that challenges whatever I might have momentarily believed was true. I probably, in this process, seek out challenging or incongruent evidence in some subconscious fumbling around trying to confirm whether what I said is true…or not true.

I don’t think I am scared like I have been before. I have fear though. In my body.

Someone told me recently about how to train elephants to stay in one place. How to put a collar on them that causes pain if they move out of a certain perimeter. Eventually, they stop trying to move beyond the boundaries of the collar, even if it is removed.

They just stay where they know they won’t get hurt.

Of course, there is a critical deprivation that occurs when an animal is not able to move about much for fear of being hurt. A slow, deep hurt, a gradually death of motivation.

Learned helplessness, yo.

Psychology researchers shocked dogs to learn how much it to took to make an animal scared to even try to get out of a situation, to give up.

While I had been feeling the fear – which reflexively comes up when I make small progress in my aim to be slightly more free within my life and who I am, what I involve myself with and how I spend my time – most of the day, went to sleep with it last night, waking up with it this morning, I didn’t fully feel it until halfway up the hill, and it closed my throat up, my eyes got wet. “What the hell? I don’t cry when I run.”

I think it frightened me, to find myself about to sob out in the woods with the sun going down, cold and damp with sweat. I kept running, and as the run got easier, the fear got bigger in me, edged into anger, into grief, made my throat tight, my heart beat even harder, my arms numb, my body a strange vehicle for so much feeling, so many thoughts and images, rapid fire reactions, the effort not to fall, to watch the ground, to remember that I am running.

Usually, running makes me forget most everything other than running. The fear, the body response, the felt sensations, the psychological phenomenon of a cluster bomb of flashback moments…it made it hard for me to remember I was running.

I kept going, because the only way back was forward.

While rationally I am so done with that fear, I still have that fear in body, telling me not go outside the boundaries set for me by other people under specific and longstanding threat relating to my family structure, inclusion/alienation within my family. To not even challenge those boundaries, or ask questions about them. Or even acknowledge them. To smile and be cooperative with the agreement, the arrangement. To me, family conflict and the probably – not-great outcomes that may come from self advocacy efforts within the current circumstances of power and reality that define my family, the impossible nature of the situation, in which if someone has a problem with me, it is likely to create problems for my kids…its not worth my sense of self-interested freedom to compromise the peace and relative stability within their family. While no one can take my kids away anymore, because they are too old and there is no justifiable reason, other than . . . oh, snap…other than idiots are likely to read this not as a dynamic work of creative nonfiction by a persistently inquisitive self-documentarian, but as some crazy shit that means I’m not a good mom, because I dont talk much about being a mom here, just talk about weird stuff and banal but sparkling everyday phenomenon that nobody cares to hear about, but that I would like to remember. Talk about big questions, meta-curiosities. Things I don’t talk with people much about, in my walking-talking life. 

I don’t think I can publish this writing, because it is just too personal. It is my most private and real fear. It is the soft core of me, my quicksand.

Who needs it?

I don’t want this to exist anymore, this situation where I have fear that keeps me from doing things that are important to me, like being myself, not a role-parsed and segmented self, all the most real aspects of who I am a secret. 

It is the time of year when I am on my commute during the moment of sunrise, when everyone slows down, because the sun is so bright, and the accumulated deceleration backs up way down the road.

It’s fascinating to me, the sunrise traffic jam.

Nov 29

Epic detours, such a lightness, some fun in crossing back and forth over this river. I am stopped in a parking lot, about to go walk in the forest. I think I killed some fear last night. The songs on the radio are encouraging this morning. Feeling stronger everyday. looking  for the Logical Song, by Supertramp, because – yeah, story of my life, I found this song: 

I am looking forward to today.  I love my life. 

The Apertures of Morning

Yawn, oh great cloud break

not witnessed in the pre-dawn

opening above


The breath of owl song

a thread through trees, pushing soft

making sound-cut spaces


Tilt of the orbit

positions a planet near

closer to the moon


The woman pauses

never noticed that before

Looking up, surprised


There are slim chances

brief windows, prime conditions

sap rise, season shift

Burgeoning, winning

the thrust of diving hawk flight

cutting through the fields


unspool the wires

use the hammer to break glass

open up the line, please


She felt it, knew it

Somewhere over the mountain tops

where Chance is slow born


Full crowning takes years

and it’s easy to forget

we are in birth-time


dailyness of days

the whirlwind blur not seeing

but, moving forward


Sometimes the movements

are small, stuck tight round and round

some motion skitters


There are tangles, traps

vines of kudzu, busy

forever tending

pull back your shoulders

throw your fist in living air

you are really free


Find moments of breath

to see the shape of wind waves

carve dances in trees


The gods sleep gape-mouthed

Crawl in like a dream, settle

as a prayer-thought


They will wake with you

in the turning of the winds

the spinning of time


when widening luck

and rich configurations

clear the space ahead

Also worth noting:

It is muscadine season again. This one is a bronze variety, a rare double grape.

This palindrome felt like good luck. The number 99 bracketed by the 3s that multiplied make 9 – a very satisfying arrangement.

Voice —> Text

[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. 

10:56 0709

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


spartina alterniflora

juncus romanus


in wavelets

brackish reflections

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

get home

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

have names

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.

04/25 7:38pm

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.


04/26 6:55am

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.

04/26 11:01am

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.

04/30 7:40am

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. 

04/29 8:17pm

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.


> 1:04pm


> 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.



05/01 8:02pm

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.


05/03 8:36am

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…

05/04 7:18am

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.

05/05 7:17am

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.


June 23

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

Now, everywhere

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

silent walking

(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)


cryptic verse

persistent seduction

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

about Whitman

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?

What happened?!

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

almost entirely,

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.

June 24

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.

June 28

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.

Such is Life.

The content below has accumulated over the past month or so, and – as I sometimes do – I am dumping it here. This post opens with free writing around the idea of making a zine about personal autoethnographic practice as a narrative recovery tool, or something like that. Then a poem-like thing I started writing on Christmas, when I realized that I had far too much that I had not noted and wondered if writing a poem might be a possible way to summarize a year of experience. I didn’t end up writing that poem, but another poem-like thing emerged. It’s not very good, but it felt good to write – at least parts of it did. Some parts plod along. Such is life.

Then there is a poorly articulated effort to be like, “Hey, all these people buying stuff, myself included, are as responsible for the climate emergency as Big Oil and Big Agra.” Big Oil and Big Agra and the massive consumer goods market place would not exist if we did not participate in continuing to support their businesses with our lifestyles and purchasing power. Of course, we are locked in a system of dependence as part of this neo-colonialist economy and people are blithely deluded in their realities and addicted in their motivations, so it’s not that simple.

Then there are various notes I’ve taken on my ongoing process of trying to figure out how to do my life differently.

It’s the last day of the year, and the last day of the decade. Although I don’t post often here, this record goes back over 10 years now. That’s cr-zy.

Brief Ideas About Autoethnography

In a world that most people can agree is often confusing, chaotic, and troubling, we exist within as individuals and community members through our conceptions and experiences of who we are – our ideas about identity and purpose, our motivations and relationships. 

Our experiences are shaped by relationships between economy, race, gender, social norms, cultural values, and broad ideas informed by religion, philosophy and law about what it means to be human in our modern worlds. 

We live in many different worlds. 

Millions of people struggle to make sense of their lives and worry about the state of the world as we know it. 

Autoethnography introduces a practice that supports the human process of wondering about our lives and gives us a framework for analyzing our personal understanding of how the world works. 

By offering a framework of inquiry and reflection that allows for constructive critical analysis of factors which impact and inform personal experience and circumstance, while inviting curiosity about the ways that we experience our unique humanity in relation to the larger worlds of our families, communities, and countries, autoethnography can be a powerful tool in practices of personal and political questioning. 

Reality Orientation

The process and practice of sussing out what is real and learning more about what we believe is real through observation of experience, objective assessment of events and the factors that drive them, and adjusting for assumptions and errors in meaning-making in our effort to understand what is happening in our worlds so that we don’t get spun out and distorted in our thinking and feeling about the situation, so that we can see things clearly and understand what we do and do not have immediately control over, and what we might need to do to create change in the situation, so that we can be strategic in our thinking and not undone by the enormity of some life challenges. 

Autoethnography can be used to consider any experience, joyful or horrible or mundane. The basic elements of doing autoethnography are questioning, observation, reflection, and holding in awareness social and psychological factors that influence perception of experience. 

All research starts with curiosity.

Some curiosity spins forth from a perceived problem, a need to know more about wha by t is causing the perceived problem. 

Curiosity blooms, also, from desire and delight – wanting to see more, wanting to have experiences that we think will be interesting, pleasurable, or beneficial. 

For some people, curiosity exists as a generalized state of wanting to learn, wanting to see what might happen, wanting to reconcile unknowns, wondering about how things work and always asking “Why?” 

This rough guide to doing autoethnography is for people who think about their lives, or who want to think more about their lives, who want to solve the problems they see in their lives, and to have good experiences of clarity in self and purpose, who want to understand how their lives and the world works so that they can create change. 

Some people lose their minds because they are thinking about their lives. At the very least, thinking about one’s life is usually a component of losing your mind – in that most crises are compounded by the meaning of the crisis as it exists in relation to one’s ideals and sense of identity. If a person is chronically depressed because of illness and deprivation caused by poverty and yet they hold the belief that they should be able to get up and go to work, and they have very few friends, because they are unhappy and unsatisfied in their life and are not motivated to do anything because there is so much to do and it’s hard to even get out of bed, the amount of misery caused by wishing that they could get out of the situation they are in, and out of the situation that is in them…well, it’s enough to make a person want to die, the seeming impossibility of finding a way out. 

It’s hard to think about your life when you’re crippled by fear and misery. 

As I write this, I am aware of a powerful voice inside of me saying, “What? What are you talking about? What are you trying to say?”

Somewhere behind that voice is this: “Tell them that it makes total sense that they are miserable and want to die. Tell them that it’s not their fault and there is nothing wrong with them. Tell them that the systems of economy created this world, and that there are ways out of misery, that they don’t have to be miserable, that inside of them is a gift that has never been lost, some thing they love to do, really love to do, not a habit or a preoccupation, a distraction or addiction, some thing that they can do that doesn’t have anything to do with what people want of them or what people expect of them, that they have dreams and desires that feel out of reach and impossible in the darkened rooms of their life, in the glare and tedium, the brutality of their work, the work they cannot do, the scarcity of it all, tell them they don’t have to be who they are, that they are more than their names and their faces and their histories, that what they have learned can be unlearned, that they don’t have to be miserable, they don’t have to be hateful, they don’t have to hate themselves and their lives. They can make changes. They can change what it all means to them, the impact that it has. They can get out of bad situations, but only if they survive. Tell them that. They can understand and change their lives, but only if they survive. They can be happy, even if it’s just in small moments in the midst of knowing that the world is dying and yet we try to live and to do what we can to live well as an act of justice and to address the things that have caused us harm, have hurt our families, have denied us basic human rights and dignities, have made us sick and sad, have harmed the lands we love, have lied to us and said it was our fault, charged us with crimes of survival, said our misery was ours, our bloodline, our brains, our disorders, when – really – the disorder is in our economies and in our modern brutalities, which stem from our historic brutalities. A lot of people who think about their lives want to change the world. I have met so many people who are anxious and depressed and heart-wrecked over the state of the world, people who come alive when they talk about what they see needs to be happening, what they need and what they would change, and yet the huge mess of their lives pulls them back under the overwhelm, and they retreat back into their desperation, their poverty and trauma and addiction. 

What if more people could begin to understand how ideas about value and worth are rooted in capitalist ethos of work and sacrifice, and that these ideas do little to benefit the individual in the modern economies, but that the systems of economy rely upon in order to keep people participating in the toil of trying to make a living, and if people could begin to consider the toll that racism takes on their humanity, the huge construction that makes the hate that keeps them up at night, the fear and threat of being ‘other,’ of being brown, of being white, of all that the color of skin has meant to us in our shared histories? What if people could begin to unlearn the things they believe?”

“This always happens in how I think. I start off in one place, a simple line of thought, and then I go all over, asking huge questions, making big statements.” 

Participant Observation

In social science methodology, the practice of being a participant observer involves the researcher becoming an active member of a group that they seek to study. 

You can learn more about participant observation in social science research by doing a quick Google search. There is a lot of information out there. 

If you are already a member of the culture or group you are researching, you intentionally begin thinking about the group as a social scientist, noticing how psychological, social and cultural factors influence group identity, norms, customs, and behavior. You consider your own identity and ego in the process of considering the group, and try to account for one’s own subjectivity in perception, how one’s view of things might be biased or distorted by our personal values and motivations, learned fears and preferences. 

In doing autoethnography, we are being participant observers in our everyday lives, and are actively asking: “Who am I in this? What informs my experience? How does this experience connect to bigger themes in my life and to the larger world I am a part of?” 

It might be because I am a little bit twice exceptional in that I have unique strengths and definite challenges in processing and learning, but my sense is that maybe this thing that I think is so fascinating – autoethnography! 🤩 – is not something other people would be into, or care about. 

As I work on this, I am aware of an internal voice that says, “C’mon, people aren’t going to do this being a social scientist in their own lives thing, this participant observation thing. Why should you write a rough guide for doing something that people don’t care about doing?” 

A counter voice tells me that while it is true that I might be geeked out about autoethnography because I am a nonneurotypical weirdo and a person who is inclined to try to figure things out, and am probably a little mind-blind to the experiences of others, like waaaaaaaaay out of the loop around what people are like in their lives and what’s important to them, and that maybe being an everyday social scientist isn’t most people’s jam, that even if this is a totally useless effort, this sharing of a practice that helped me to understand why I was losing my mind trying to figure out what the hell was going on with my life and with the world, even if I am just writing for me, this is still worth trying to do, this rough guide to doing autoethnography as a tool in reflection and consideration of one’s life and the world we live in. 

Even though I am twice exceptional, a lot of other people are, too. Some people may be cognitively inclined to figure things out and to question their lives and experiences and to try to make connections between what they see in their lives and what they see in the bigger world. There are lots of different processing and meaning-making styles out there, and I have talked with a lot of people struggling with serious anxiety, depression, and paranoia who spent a lot of time trying to analyze the problems in their lives and in the world, but had no idea how to think about their lives without getting freaked out and caught up in fear. 

There are distinct neurological processes involved in a tendency to problem-solve, and some people are wired to take things apart and put them back together again, to analyze and ask questions. 

A lot of people are problem solvers and question askers by nature, but might not have access to experiences that support them in learning how to think about solving problems without getting stressed out and overwhelmed and unable to stop thinking about the problems. 

When we understand how something works, we can exert influence over it and develop a strategy to change the factors that impact our lives and how those factors function (an example of this would be racial equity work and justice system reform efforts led by people with lived experience who have sought to learn about how systems of oppression work and are now seeking to change how those systems operate in order to reduce harm to the community), or by changing the power that those factors have to undermine wellbeing or to reinforce and contribute to additional harm so that we might be able to not be destroyed and can stay strong to make changes in our lives and to change the systems that affect our realities in real and brutal, indignified ways. 

(An example would be a person learning to respond to experiences that were previously harmful* in ways that reduced the effect of harm.)  

*harmful in that they created fear and emotional distress in such a way that a person’s wellbeing and ability to do what is important for them to do by their own self-determined designation of importance based on necessity and contribution to health, harmful in that they created suffering or inflicted wounds. 

It is the shadow side of the analyst to want to understand for the sake of being able to control? 

We want to exert control over things that we desire or fear, because we believe these things are crucial to our survival, our happiness, our comfort, our health and the health of our families. 

If we have a human tendency to try to understand, and a human drive to try to control the things that are happening in our lives, and want to understand how our lives work so that we can make our lives work and have lives that we are able to live within, then it is important to have tools that help us to think about all of this. 

People think about their lives, and sometimes lose their minds trying to figure out how to solve the worlds problems. A lot of terrible ideas have come about from people trying to figure things out and solve problems. How many people who’ve committed mass shootings were trying to figure things out and solve the problems of their life as they knew it at first, and then became overwhelmed and seized by a terrible and misinformed totally freaked out idea about what the problems is and how to solve it? 

If people are going to think about their lives, they need to do that with some skill, and some groundedness, and some actual information about what is going on with how they think and how they feel and why they believe what they believe. A lot of people are going around thinking about their lives in ways that are totally non-productive or that created harm-producing conclusions. People lose their minds thinking about their lives. 

Objective assessment 

We can think about and assess our lives and selves and situations subjectively or objectively. The subjective is based on how we feel and what we think is going on, what we understand to be happening based on our perspectives. Objective reality is trickier to pin down, because in anything that has to do with other humans, subjectivity is at play as a driver in our experience. 

In order to solve a problem, one must first try understand what the problem is. 

You are sick of your life and you want to die? Why? Because your family is a mess and you can’t earn enough to live on? Why? 

The world is insane? Why is the world insane. 

Autoethnography provides tools that teach people how to think about their lives and how to understand the ways that how we think about and understand our lives shapes how we see and experience the world. 

It can be extremely confusing and difficult to be a human being. We have complex operating systems. Most people have not been supported in having opportunities to meaningfully learn how to think about their lives and solve problems in their lives in effective and non-harmful ways. We do not, by and large, even know how our brains work, or even think about the fact that we have brains, and that within our brains complex mechanisms of thought and reaction and memory and learning are operating all the time, at speeds that we can barely comprehend, generating our experiences and what we know as reality. 

Our realities are informed by how we understand and define phenomena within our world, how we see events and people and the environment, the value we place on one thing over another, what we believe to be true about the world. 

It’s a complicated mess. 

Autoethnography supports the development of critical and reflective thinking, which in an increasingly complex world full of difficult decisions and complicated situations, are important and potentially life saving skills to have. 

First and foremost, I am an autoethnographer not because I went to school and got a degree in autoethnography or received certification in autoethnographic practice, or because I took a class about autoethnography. I am an autoehtnographer because I do autoethnography. 

Professionally, I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist in a southern American state. To be a Peer Support Specialist is to be a person with lived experience of mental health struggles, substance use issues, and/or justice involvement and homelessness that has committed their life to using their lived experience to empower others in recovery through mutual support, connection to and navigation of resources, recovery planning, and advocacy. Anybody can practice Peer Support and humans have been engaging in mutual aid since the beginning of time. However, to be a Certified Peer Support Specialist, an individual receives training and certification by a state’s licensing agency and contractors, which are often connected to the Department of Health and Human Services. Certified Peer Support Specialists are able to work in formal systems of care which offer Medicaid reimbursable behavioral health services as defined by state service definitions, which – in the United States – are informed the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

I have worked as a Certified Peer Support Specialist since 2011, and my primary areas of lived experience of struggle and recovery are rooted in having a history of severe, persistent challenges in living and in coping with my experiences, which were rooted in personal history, trauma, and neurodiversity factors. I have worked in both state-funded and grant funded services, primarily as a recovery educator and providing ‘direct support’ to individuals who are struggling within their lives. 

As a recovery educator, I have spent literally thousands of hours in dialogue with people about how they experience their lives and ways they make sense of their struggles and what I absolutely know to be true is that most people deeply love their lives, even if they hate their lives, and people desperately want to understand and to resolve the forces that act upon their lives in ways that cause harm. 

Prior to working as a Peer Support Specialist, I worked for 20 years in programs that served people struggling with mental health, substance use, chronic health conditions and complex trauma. As a person who is inclined to try to solve problems, I have had to learn about and consider why some people struggle so much within their lives. The obvious factors are poverty and trauma, which are connected to race and gender, and which all tie into the cultural and economic realities that shape who we are and what our life experiences are more or less likely to involve. 

I am a person who has seriously lost her mind on a few occasions because I couldn’t make sense of the world or figure out why I felt so upset and scared all the time, why I couldn’t deal with school, why people do the things they do, why bad things happen, why there wasn’t anything I could do to stop them. 

For some people, it is important to understand how things work, and why one thing leads to another. I am one of those people. 

Some people are hyperanalytical. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just how some brains work. 

Some people are problem solvers with a deep distaste for easy answers. 

The tendency to be analytical without tools to support analysis can lead to bias and error in analysis, or breakdown in the analytical process in the form of perseveration, thinking in circles, and becoming generally unable to think productively about problems because it is so stressful to have the urge to figure out a solution to a problem and to not even know what the problem really is, or how to get around the barriers in really solving it. 

Thinking about one’s life can be stressful and overwhelming, but a lot of people do it anyway. 

There is a multibillion dollar therapy and self-help industry because people are thinking about their lives. 

Autoethnography presents a set of practices, questions, and highly adaptable exercises to invite curiosity about what constitutes our human experience, and opens the possibility that we can begin to see ourselves and our participation in the world differently through grounded compassionate perspective taking, revising of narratives that create dissonance, and unlearning the lessons of culture and economy in developing our personal understanding of who we really are as highly diverse ever-evolving individuals and communities. 

What is doing autoethnography? 

Whether we are aware of it or not, many people make an effort to understand their lives and why they are the way they are – why we feel miserable and anxious and scared, why there is a sense of unease, something not right, an emptiness or dissonance, vague worry or abject, unspeakable outrage that emerges in the form of depression and crying in parking lots or punching walls for lack of knowing what to do, the mind a tangle of frustrations and conflicting messages and impossible situations, the body flooded with signals to fight, to run away, to hide and disappear while we smile and nod and sit politely at the table, in the office, in the courtroom. 

It’s enough to make a person lose their mind. 

The instinct to understand our lives and what is happening within them runs deep in humans, is likely woven into the synapses of survival. 

When there is a problem, we want to solve it. When we sense a problem, we want to figure out what it is. When we detect fear and unease in our lives, we are naturally inclined to address that and to pay attention to that. 

We can be scared without understanding why we are scared. We can live in fear and know exactly why we’re scared, and know that there is nothing we can do to remove the threat or escape the threat. 

Millions of people around the world are living in fear, whether they realize that or not. 

Fear has many names: 






Autoethnography is about learning to look at one’s life and experience taking into account social and economic and cultural factors. 

Our lives and experiences are governed by innate human processes of meaning making, desire, and fear. 

In order to do autoethnography, a person has to shift into their observational self, the mode of viewing one’s life as a participant observer, noticing what you think and what you feel, being curious about experience, and taking in information about what seems to be happening and why. 

Maybe people don’t walk around observing their lives, and noticing their thoughts and sensations, but everybody is participating in their life, and their participation in being who they are and doing what they do is informed by our social and economic realities, the values we hold, and the things we believe to be true.

In order to inhabit the observational self, a person has to be able to differentiate their thoughts from the slur of conscious existence where we are moving through interactions with the world and saying things and doing things and it’s all just regular life and we are thinking, having ideas and making assumptions, explaining things to ourselves the best we can, but a lot of the time, we’re not really paying attention to thinking as being this stream of chatter and directive from our subconscious and 1/2conscious minds telling us what is going on based on what we’ve learned and what information we have available. We’re just thinking and feeling and saying things and doing things. 

What we think is often what we assume to be real, and how we feel about what we think reinforces our perceptions. 

When I was 13 years old, I looked in the mirror in the bathroom across the hall from my room, and it struck me all the sudden that I had a name and I had a face, and people saw my face and knew my name, but that they could not see my internal world, and that who I might be to strangers was not who I was to family, and that who I was to family was not who I was to myself. I just stood there and looked at my self, my features and how little they told, how my face looked blank, and it seemed very strange to me to be a person, and to think about my life, my hometown, the house I grew up in, the way I styled my hair in the late 1980s, to wonder how people saw me and who they might think I was, what they might assume about me based on what they could see. 

It’s easy to watch your thoughts. When you find yourself thinking, notice what you’re thinking. Don’t assume that what you think is real or accurate. Notice the sensations of feeling that come up around certain thoughts, whispers about what we love and what we fear, what we hope for and feel nervous about, what makes us happy and what makes us angry. 

The human experience is an ongoing construction of thoughts and feelings, sensations and beliefs and perceptions. Two people can witness the same phenomenon and see it in entirely different ways based on who they are and how they’ve learned to see things. 

Autoethnography asks the individual to see themselves as existing within and as a result of a complex intermingling and evolution of factors and experiences, to consider ourselves in context with the larger world. 

Factors such as race, social economic class, gender, and country of origin inform our identities and become the basis for how we see ourselves and our place in the world. 

Autoethnographic Questioning 

Macro Questions

How do race, class, and gender affect my life and experience? 

Do these factors influence how other people see me and what they expect from me? 

Keep in mind that what comes up for a person in considering these questions is basically a summary of their initial, surface-level perceptions of the impact of cultural factors on their sense of identity and personhood. 

Initial thoughts and feelings are never the whole story. What we think in the forefront of our minds and what we may feel in association with those thoughts often overlay complex layers of learning and belief and contradicting information. 

These are big questions. 

However, no matter who you are or what you are experiencing in your life, these factors inform what happens to you, how you are seen and treated, and what is expected of you in different social settings. 

Notice the feelings that come up for you as you think about these things. 

Feelings, or emotions, are created by stress reactions – distress/fear or eustress/desire – coupled with the psychological meaning we make of the situations we find ourselves in and what we don’t want or do want to be happening. 

The stories we tell ourselves about what is going on in our lives create our reality, and our stories are not told only by us. Before we are even born, the lives of our families and ancestors begin our stories. As our mothers wait for us to be born, the experiences they have shape our anticipation of the world, and the arms that welcome us and cradle us or roughly pass us along mold our earliest knowings of who we are and whether we matter and why we matter and what about us is important. 

If a little girl is praised for being pretty, that becomes what matters.

If a child who is seen as a boy goes to school wearing clothing that is seen as a girl’s clothing, they may be socially or formally punished. 

If a young person of color is standing on the corner and a person locks their car door at the stop sign, what messages are sent in that fleeting interaction? 

We learn what is safe and normal and what is frightening. 

We develop both conscious and subconscious survival and success strategies based on the worlds we live in, and who we are and what we do often is more a matter of what’s happened to us and what the world makes of us than it is a matter of who we really are – what our strengths and gifts may be, what we dream of or dread.

With practice, we are able to engage our capacity to be reflective and analytical in our experience. 


It’s Christmas Day, and warm for here in the mountains. Mid sixties, no snow at all so far this year, save for a weak flurry seen in a streetlight at night that may have been more freezing rain than snow. I didn’t go outside to find out. 

I’ve gone to my family’s house, out at the edge of the county, backed up to a stretch of protected land that is pocked by gated communities tucked into the gaps and valleys, perched at the top of the ridges themselves, accessible only to those who care to drive for a bit, whose lives are convenient enough to make them desire a little inconvenience, a little effort to get to the house. 

When designed inconvenience indicates privilege? 

It’s been a while since I’ve been in writing or poetic practice. My energies have been elsewhere, diverted to work and relationship and the ongoing task of improving the feel and functionality of the house. It’s amazing how much I get the sense of having missed something, having missed telling about something, when so much time goes by without taking note.


Beginning with a western wind,

rising tide, blood in the water at dawn,

after yesterday’s waves,

tense sweetness of night,

the glow by the fire we lit

to keep the bugs away. 

You counted out our strokes 

like a military man on day one…

but, that was okay. 


Your voice

-two three four-

got us across the bay. 



Coulda been anyone, from anywhere.


With my hat on, I could have been a man.


I think I said I was scared, 

moving into the mountains at night.


This disappointed you, because I was not supposed to be scared? 


I was supposed to be happy?


There is no reason not to be happy. 


We almost got through the day 

without a fight. 




It doesn’t matter any, that fight we had. 

Not now.

It doesn’t matter. 


I don’t even remember what it was about, that fight. 



In town, we lit more fires.


I went back to work the week it got cold. 


Walk to the church 

just a mile or so, cut through the park, 

across the street,

raise my hand

to the people smoking by their bedrolls, waiting for the doors to open.


Fumble with keys,

unlock the door,

wonder who I am to them –

me with my keys, me with my purse,

me with a home that I walked from.


A ride was arranged for the afternoon,

a person who loves me

to pick me up from work. 


I was a person with a job

and shoes that fit. 


There is no reason not to be happy. 



There was a brief spring,

a month of green before you left,

creeping up the sides of mountains. 


We drove the same road we’d driven

a hundred times,

going south and then north again,

out to the mountain and then back,

to walk to the place 

where we’d held hands in the dark

back when we were just friends.


Two ravens flew overhead like a miracle. 


They were a miracle because they flew, and a miracle because we saw them. 




I had no idea then 

that we might find ourselves in a boat,

lost in the marsh 

near the place I called home, 

before I knew that I wouldn’t know 

what to say, 

when you got the message

and it started to rain. 


The boat was beached

and you spoke to your sister, 

signals bounding 

with the news of bodies breaking down.


…and all I could do was watch the way 

your feet sunk into the mud, 

and consider the possibility 

that nobody had ever stood 

where you were standing,

saying, “My father is dying.” 




That was all a long time ago. 


Ancient history, almost. 


Those time are still with us. 


It’s funny how, to tell 

about now, 

I have to tell about then, 

about how 

I didn’t know what would happen. 


I had no idea. 




We found the orgy at sundown,

followed their voices

to the water in the road, the bodies writhing and clustered,

all moving and bursting through

the surface with the sound

that was at least a hundred voices

crying out for life, life, life

in the still-cold days

of the very early season. 


We took it to be a good sign, 

all those creatures out in the forest. 


We held hands and agreed upon the feeling of Eisenhans at dusk. 


“Everything will be okay.”


This is what we said, on another walk, wondering about what it might be like

if you were to die in the cold, 

wondering what it might be like 

to be alone again. 


I made a solemn vow.


This is what I do before you leave.


I make vows. 


(We’ve been married at least a dozen times.)





I will not be jealous 

of the places you get to go. 



I will keep loving you. 



I will be here 

when you get back. 



I will be grateful for every moment

I spend with you, 

because one day 

you might not come back. 



I will keep trying

 to uphold these vows.



We saw an owl that night we said 






Flew right across our path,

low and then up into the trees,

to watch us stop

to peer into the branches. 


The owl sat where we could not see it,

but it could see us. 



In the days before you left,

I said I was not sad. 


(Most of the time, I was telling the truth.)


I did not want to be sad.


I made a list in my head, 

of all the reasons to be happy instead. 


  1. You are my best friend. 
  2. I want you to see beautiful places 

and to have experiences 

that mean something to you.

  1. I am not afraid to be alone. 


I think I was lying, 

on some of those days 

when I said that I was happy. 



On the day you left, 

you stepped in dog shit 

by the neighbors yard, 

and almost missed your flight to Vegas. 


When I saw that you could laugh, 

I understood a little more

that there is no reason not to be happy. 



I waited for your messages,

sent a hundred hearts. 



You woke up in the desert

and I walked to work, cut through the park, avoided everybody,

sat in the sun by the garden, 

facing the direction

you might be in. 


There was that one time, 

smoking before a meeting

while the day moved toward sundown,

that I met a man named Christian, 

with track marks and a tattooed lady

a face almost like yours,

Perfect American Jesus. 


When he hugged me, 

and told me he loved me,

I would have sworn that it was you, 

that you’d found your way to me. 


I didn’t want to tell you, but I did. 



I ran alone in the woods by the river, 

walked the railroad tracks

to where we’d sat 

across from the old prison,

the broken walls, the flimsy fence,

empty-headed for a moment

during that brief spring.


I ate wine berries, 

thought about bears, 

about how I used to want to be a bear. 


I am not a bear. 



We’re silly creatures,

take ourselves so seriously. 


We are hungry and tired, foolishly driven.


Driving to work.


Driving to the grocery store. 


Do you remember how

we couldn’t even think straight,

wandering up and down the aisles,

blitzed by the bright light

the pop songs, the gleam of meat and plastic? 



I don’t remember what I was doing

when you woke up in the desert,

all those mornings in the desert,

before I knew for sure that I would come, that I would be there,

that I would see that place

where you woke up. 


I did not take a picture, 

and I got lost in the dark, 

walking alone near that place 

where you woke up. 



Sometime in the summer,

I started going to the jail,

leave the phone in the car,

walk past the cypress by the courthouse, enter my name, pass through the doors.


I never could quite tell you

about what that was like,

or the way that I understand freedom differently now.


I told you that I still wanted to be free. 


I want everybody to be free. 


Only then I will be free? 


This is what I think sometimes, 

but I know it isn’t true. 


We are all already free. 


This is what I think sometimes, 

but I know it isn’t true. 



I drove two thousand miles 

to find you in a parking lot,

to walk over slickrock with you,

to eat eggs

in the places where people used to live,

but don’t live now, 

those canyons filled with ghosts. 


I didn’t know 

that I was supposed to meet another man

in another parking lot

while you fumbled for directions

with weak data. 


Maybe I was?


Maybe I wasn’t. 


In any event, 

there were 9 ravens in the sky, 

and a white bird like a hawk,

maybe a golden eagle, 

like we saw a couple of days later, 

in that Cortez parking lot,

drinking melted ice cream,

that warm day when the dog died,

back home, 

right before my father’s birthday. 


I held the drunk old man’s hand

listened to him talk about:

how long her hair was, how he wakes in the night and cries, his daughter that is off to war in Afghanistan, how he used to jump out of planes in the dark, was just a body falling, before he came home to be a Navajo again, before he ever knew that he would wake up at night thinking about the war, would drink himself to sleep for years…

I think we said a prayer together?

I gave him my phone number, 

and he gave me a rock. 


He never called. 


At least I don’t think he did? 


I don’t know. 


I hardly answer the phone anymore. 


I still have that rock. 

It’s in the box

in the back of the car 

with my cobra pin, 

the one I carry for good luck 

and for protection. 


There was that other man, in Cortez,

begging money for a friend, 

also with a face 

that spoke of ancestry and alcoholism, 

saying, “It’s cold out here tonight, 

he’ll freeze to death.” 


You were in the store buying ice cream. 


I gave him three dollars. 


I should have given him my blanket. 


It’s two days past when I started this,  on the day you came back from _________and I painted the walls white before packing fruitcake and frying bacon, making plans to sit by the river at sundown like we used to, on the way home from work, when we had the conversation when I said that it was dumb for humans to go where humans can’t survive with just our bodies and simple tools, that maybe the earth doesn’t want us there, in those places where we never belonged and would die quick of thirst or cold or wet or the simple gravity that defies our soft hands and long shaped bodies. 

It’s a couple hours later, and I am thinking about how I started this as an effort to write down everything I hoped to remember from the year, all the things I may have failed to note, and about how it became about much more than those moments sitting in meetings under fluorescent lights. 

(None of that matters now, writing this.)

It became about the way of words to tell a story that only you will know, that you can never know the way I know it, but how I try to try to tell it anyway.

This turned into a poem about all the poems I’ve written to you during this friendship, about the ways that this love is about the world and our relationship to it, about the people we came from and the people we meet, the things we do and do not do, the quiet times we are in communion 

with the trees and with the water, together and apart. 

It’s not a very good poem, but has some solid lines, a few strong statements. 

It’s about history. 

We have history, you and me. 

End: Today I laid the golden cloths, color of egg yolk, over the white-gone-dirty, and I wondered if that were some small triumph, a renegotiation of what surrender means. 

I wrote that End two days ago, the day you came home and I painted the walls white, when I understood without knowing that I would finish this project, which I conceived of not through thought or plan or effort, but in the doing of the thing, the sitting down to write without knowing what I would say. 

I’ve written this over the days of Yule, and all the days that came before, this whole past decade, all the years that I remember in the person that I am as I sit here writing without knowing what to say. 


Climate Change, Mental Health and Collective Action: An Interview with Jennifer Freeman, By Akansha Vaswani – October 4, 2019

This interview with narrative therapist Jennifer Freeman is so hopeful and compassionate, and yet I wonder how the vast many people who are contributing to the continued degradation of the earth, including workers and those who profit from the industries that drive the economy, might be brought into awareness of the reality of climate emergency and our human responsibility to change our lives and ways so that the earth and its inhabitants might better be able to live? 

This research indicates a denial of the social and economic structures in psychologically based explanations for climate inaction, and suggests that it’s not enough to say – basically – that “people can’t think about it, they don’t know what to do.” To rely on psychologically based explanations of climate inaction is to ignore the role of larger systems (many of which we are invested in and dependent on) in perpetuating climate inaction. 

The article indicates that the wealthy and the fossil fuel industry have a stake in suppressing climate action and that it is imperative to acknowledge the role of powerful economic drivers in shaping our relationship to, understanding of, and response to the ongoing climate emergency. 

It may be important to extend the scope of responsibility and accounting of invested stakeholders to include the millions and millions of people who are not wealthy, who are not fossil fuel executives or big Agra leadership, the millions and millions of people who might identify as middle class, or even working class. 

Psychologically based explanations are impossible to separate out from ecosystemic and economic forces in our understanding of a situation. We know we can’t think about climate emergency. We have to go to work, and go to the store, get the kids to school, pay the mortgage. Our lives, in our minds, depend on these things. We cannot walk out of our jobs in a climate strike. We can’t tell the boss, “Hey, man, this work we are doing? This is murder. I don’t want to kill these cows or work in this disgusting factory anymore. I don’t want to cut down that forest. I don’t want to stand in this one small space for hours on end under fluorescent lights selling people things that they don’t even want or need and having miserable little small talk about the weather outside that I cannot see or feel because I am stuck in this building until long after sundown.” 

In order to address the climate emergency, people will have to change their lives. 

Change their commute, buy less, dis-invest from industries that profit from our participation and consumption. 

Although the struggling middle class and masses of oppressed labor don’t exactly benefit from the economy – and most people know that they are unhappy and unsatisfied in their lives and even hate their jobs or can’t even get a job, but have to try to work anyway in order to have a roof over their head and food for their kids – we all keep these systems and industries going in our participation, in our consumption and lifestyle choices. 

The psychologically based explanations for climate inaction tend to hover around dissonance, anxiety, and avoidance, a pressured apathy. Perhaps the unacknowledged roles of economy and systems of power in creating our psychological responses to climate reality is that most people are literally dependent on the commerce economy, which was built on the larger industries of fossil fuels and agriculture, economic systems in which one sells their labor doing work which does not benefit them or interest them, sells their labor to create profit for an entity external in exchange for wages that are designed to impair the accrual of wealth, that are barely just enough to get by on, that aren’t even enough. 

People are locked into their lifestyles. 


It’s early morning and I have driven to Greenville to take a friend to a train. I have wonderings about the sort of friendship that privileges one to my time and resources in such a way. I can’t think about that now. I am going to stay awake, and try to get some work done for the day, and then go to the homeless memorial service, where they honor all the people that have died living without shelter in this town. 

It’s crazy to think about the brutal disparity that exists here, everywhere. 

Right now, my friend is texting me about population growth and food scarcity, how many people will likely starve, are starving now, while in the US we throw away tons – literal tons – of food. 

I have a lot on my mind, a lot to do. I don’t like the feeling of it – all the things to do. 

I can feel that it causes stress. My stress tolerance is probably lower today than it might usually be, because I am tired. 

There is a grant that is due. This will require me to turn on my computer. I cannot think about it, because I can feel a bloom of cortisol when I do. I will need to do some strength training before I can look at the computer, and before I can go to the homeless memorial. 

Today is the solstice. I’ve been through some hard times recently, stress issues, cognitive blitzing from too many meetings, intrusive thoughts about grants and deadlines cropping up no matter where I am and making me forget where I am, and making me nervous and distracted. 

I have got to find a better way to work. This cannot go on. 

Hahahahaha – how long have I been saying that…? 



The look of the room 

was full of New South 

Palmettos in pines, sweet blessed shade

beyond the plastic lines of blinds 

and brutal swathe of buffalo lawn 

stucco on the outside 

carpet and rush of cold,

compressed air 

on the inside 

all pale blue and grey 

pastel accents 

under khaki, sitting prim 

and civilized, fur sprayed and face made 

to be modern, educated, 

informed behind the convex spectacles

that hide the earnest child

the one who wants to help, 

the one who thinks they know the answers.


The answers were all wrong, 

but she gave them anyway

because she thought they were right,

the answers. 


A common mistake,

very human thing to do. To have the wrong answers, and to think they are the right answers.


“Your daughter,” she said,

“has a condition.” 


(Everyplace had a name, 

East Marsh, the Cut, Catfish Hole.)


Way back when, people didn’t talk ‘bout such things. The nervous condition. Spells.

Maybe they spoke a little, in the hush of family. Whispers and simple explanations of a person’s absence, their disappearance. Where they went and why. Gone away for a bit. Had a spell. 

It’s first thing in the morning and I slept poorly for the 2nd night in a row. I did not go to the Y this morning, but will go walk later this afternoon, after the jail and the computer and the talking with people. After it stops raining. I can feel that I am jangly, and a little heavy. Cortisol in the early morning. It’s okay though. I will get through it. 

I am going to the jail to do a listening session with some of the people who are housed there. I am facilitating. My co-facilitator used to be in jail, used to be in prison.



This morning I had the experience of being afraid that there would be a school shooting as I got ready to take my daughter to school.

She was going to stay home today, because it’s finals week and she doesn’t have a test today and so would “just have to sit there,“ and has been feeling a little sick the past couple of days. 

When she found out that it was cool w me and her dad if she stayed home, she decided she wanted to go after all, and so I was getting ready to take her, brushing my hair and letting her dad know about the change of plans and got to vaguely thinking about how everyday outside of and inside of our homes is basically a crapshoot as far as what might go down and how our lives might change based on simple seeming decisions – to go to school, to leave early, to get out of the house a few minutes late because you were scrolling through Facebook, got to work late after sitting in traffic waiting for crews to clear the accident you might have been in had you left on time. 

I try not to think about that too much, about how anything can happen, but the reality of it creeps in, and this morning I had the random fear that there would be a school shooting. 

Back in September, I was out in Big Ivy doing a listening session with the Safety and Justice Challenge grant community engagement folks, taking detailed notes until I saw the message on my silenced phone that my kids’ school was on lockdown and shots had been fired and my entire world dropped into my belly and I disappeared from the room at the community center and the people who were there and I still heard them talking, but my body was flooded with fear, and I just tried to keep typing what people were saying. 

That was scary. A false alarm, as it turned out. 

This morning, I felt real and deep fear, a horror, at the thought of something happening to my kids because of our fucked up society, and felt a huge sadness even 1/2 thinking about it, because I couldn’t let myself think about it too much, something bad happening, what that scene might be like, the sheer grief of losing your kid to a random act of preventable violence, and my heart kind of tore open quietly, sitting in the car line, for all the people who’ve lost their kids to violence.

Passing by the Edington Center, I saw a young black man wearing red hoodie, hood up, and I looked to see if I recognized him, because he looked familiar to me, and I didn’t, but I smiled anyway as I drove by, and he smiled back. 

Growing up in S. Georgia, I mighta locked the car door or stared straight ahead, even though I “wasn’t racist” (🤦🏻‍♀️) and I thought about all the hundreds of thousands  – millions of mothers and fathers – who have to be scared *every single day* that their kid is going to harmed, shot and killed because of everyday racism, and what that must be like to have live with that ever present threat, to have to send your son or daughter out the door into god only knows what kind of violence. 

It’s really enough to make a person lose their mind, thinking about how fucked up it is that we live in such a scary and chaotic world, where young people full of potential die because of this mess created by capitalism, where people are stressed and confused and have fucked up ideas about what the problem is and how to solve it. 

I took my daughter to school, told her I’d see her in the afternoon, then I had to come home and do some resilience practices, drinking cold water, noticing the fear in the body and the power that it has to shift my thoughts, breathing through the experience, and writing this down, because it feels like I am reaching out to not be alone in feeling scared of school shootings and being overwhelmed by how messed up our society is, and sad because so many young people die for stupid and brutal reasons. 

Reaching out is a way people respond to fear. 

I am trying to focus my energy toward protection and benevolence and healing, and picturing everything being okay.

It’s tough, because I know that even if everything is okay in my small life, if my children are safe and healthy and there is no harm, that other people are not okay, that really close to here, on this same street, and all over everywhere, other people are not okay. Their kids are being harmed, and they are being harmed. 

It’s all really big in my head and my heart sometimes. 

I guess I just have to pray in the way that I pray…and also to keep trying to do my small actionable parts in trying to help the situation, which means I can’t be too scared and I can’t be too overwhelmed, and I have to keep feeling and thinking about these things, even though it’s hard to. 

Thanks for ‘listening’ or reading. 


I will begin taking notes on this process, because taking notes on process helps me to remember that I am in a process, and gives me a way to stay accountable. 

As anyone who has read any of this – which may only be a few blogbots from Russia and China and a handful of Europeans and Canadians searching phrases for poetry or tags related to mental health – may have been able to glean, I have been trying to a) makes sense of my life and b) change my life for a very long time. It’s sufferable, really, this persistent going on about how difficult it has proved to become a writer and also to maintain employment in the healing justice nonprofit hustle and tend to an aging house that is more than I can tend to and be a conscientious and engaged steward to two young Americans, and to be – also – a person who is twice exceptional in some ways that present personal variability in stress tolerance and social capacities…well, it really is a quandary sometimes, this question of how to become a writer and to find better ways to do my work. 

It’s a complex situation, this question of life and life ways. I understand that I don’t have to write anything, or be productive in some way, in order to have a worthwhile life, and that millions of people have figured out how to forego their dreams and deepest callings in order to be happy with a life in which they work their jobs and tend to their homes and raise their families and that’s enough…they don’t have to make art or express ideas…they are fine with not doing that…

I also get that many, many people have lives that are brutal in comparison to mine and that I ought to be gloriously happy with every challenge I have, because they are cake walk compared to what some people go through. 

Nevertheless, I really do believe that it is important for me to try to be a writer, or at least to continue to write. I might do my best work as a writer. I might be happiest and most well as a writer. I might be able to help the most people as a writer. 

So, i am going to put together a chapbook submission for a contest, as a practice in trying differently than I have tried in the past, and as an exercise in completing a project that I know I can finish. 

I have a lot going on, as usual – work stuff and house projects, being outside. 

On Friday, I got paid and my paycheck was this almost laughable thing – less than 700.00 for two weeks of schedule addling and mind-consuming intensive community engagement and organizational development work. I’m seriously writing grants for 19.00/hr and I primarily get paid for the hours I spend working on the actual document – not for the hours spent thinking about the document, the proposal, the strategy for completion of the application, the things to follow up on. It’s not like my brain works in such a way that someone hands me a challenge like a grant application and I can just sit down and work on it and then get up and not think about it. Because of the way my brain works and because of the nature of grant writing, there is a lot of time spent thinking about the proposals…I can feel myself thinking about them right now, a bloom into my headspace, with a little flurry of cortisol and adrenaline at all I need to put together by the end of the week. 

I got my paycheck, and it was almost laughable – how utterly crappy I’d felt after entire days spent in intense meetings under fluorescent lights, looking at computer screens and not getting enough sleep…exhausted and depressed and overwhelmed after having to try to be present in friendship and community and family and with myself when I had no capacity to be a part of anything other than just being a somewhat stunned and inert animal recuperating quietly – and how I am supposedly this smart, good person and there has absolutely got to be a better way and – of course – there is, there are multiple better ways, and I have outlined many of them here ad nauseam. 

Instead of going into woe about the paycheck and the things to do and all that, I had a different experience. I was like, “No, actually I am going to do it and I am going to make changes and I am going to get this stuff done.” 

…and I wasn’t overwhelmed and I wasn’t scared. It was all very matter of fact. 

This time really might be different. It’s been 10 years since I started this. The last full moon of the decade just began its wane toward a new year.

Note: No chapbook submission has been produced. 


I’m slow sometimes, to get around to what I’m trying to say. Mess of branches and eddies, eyes cut in spaces between the trees and thought lost in the scrape along the side while the whole scope of road and pines in shadow pushes in with the roar of military plane flying over the swamp and surely making the leaves shudder a little at the crown. 

I like this space, this writing space, because here I can take my time. I don’t have to make a point, or try to communicate clearly to anyone other than myself. I can sit with all that is and let it move as it does, be present with what I see, what I feel, the curious thoughts that come unbidden, saying here, here is what you really wanted to say, all those times you have quieted down, drifted, faltered in your telling.

Talking to other people, the sharing of experience becomes this stripped down and truncated thing, unless you can communicate really well, unless you can drop your intonation and choose the words just right to maybe whisper at the edge of what it was to be there, to be a person in a room, looking at the faces that still look like their mamas, considering the world, and watching how I always think about the river I grew up on, how the sheer distance between that place and this place leaps at me in the sudden remembering of who I am, this person now sitting in a room talking and listening to people talking and listening under fluorescent lights. 

There is always too much to do. No person knows the landscape of lists and measures and messages and images and paper and post and things to follow up on that exists in my head and in my body, the tremors of sheer overwhelm that come up when I remember who I am and what I am supposed to be doing in the midst of everything I want to be doing and many things I need to be doing but am not doing because of the other things that need doing. 

It’s crazy to think that I am a person who needs to spend time alone in order to write out her thoughts about her day and have the freedom to rant away or ramble off if she chooses to, that I am a person who forgets who I am and what it feels like to really be me, to be at ease and whole in myself when I spend too much time in a half-frozen and performative state that moving about in the world of work and spaces full of cars and tasks that my body doesn’t want to be doing. 

So much of modern living requires the overcoming of one’s instincts and bodily needs, the needs truest to the uncivilized self. 

Which means to exist in non-offensive ways in relation to other people and their concerns.

As I write this, I am aware of a sense of deeply feeling the irony of ‘civilization’ being wrought in most impolite and incourteous genocidal and culturicidal ways upon masses of people in colonized lands and in colonized economies and societies, societies in which the economic system is based upon dependence and compulsory participation in the commerce and industries which benefit the colonizing body (corporations and governmental powers) to the detriment of the exploited and colonized population, and the enormity of the possibility that we who are living in the United States are living in a colonized society, a society in which the practices and purposes that built it cannot be separated out from the operations that we consider to normal and acceptable as ways of living, despite the similarities between conscripted undesirable labor as a requirement of having access to resources which meet the most basic needs of living for individuals and their families – such as housing and food and medical care – and economic arrangements like sharecropping, “here, you pay us to work this little piece of land, you give us a portion of what you earn, and we will let you stay on the land, work the land. It’s not your land.” There’s a leap there, because – really – the economic arrangements of wage earning in whatever job you can find and maybe if you’re lucky or privileged you can do work that suits you, work that you enjoy and that is meaningful, and that maybe you earn enough to live on and can have a life that suits your needs and preferences, but you still have to work, you still have to earn wages to buy all of the things that you have learned mean having a good life in America, despite the fact that people are depressed as fuck and the world is going insane, or maybe you work some shit job that is disgusting and offensive to ones dignity or conflicting with ones values or requiring of one to simply shut down who they are, their instincts and boundaries and personal will, how they feel and how they think about the reality of what they have to do just to try to earn never-enough money to keep a leaking mold infested roof over the heads of their children, their children who they never see and can’t connect with because they are always trying to work and are so tired from work that they are not able to inhabit their humanity or to feel their heart because if they did, they might completely break down or explode…I mean, that’s really nothing like sharecropping, in terms of the details of the arrangement, but something of the same cruel requirement to participate in something far less than ideal, something that makes no space for your need to rest and to connect with who you love and what is most important to you in living, that pays a meager wage in exchange for ones freedom to even inhabit their own deep humanity and to explore their unique human potential, an arrangement that makes machines out of men, instruments to perform a task that the instrument has no interest in performing and which may, over time, be damaging to the instrument. 

I guess I better get ready to go to work. 


It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written.

That’s not true – I write pages and pages everyday. Grant proposals, project narratives, emails about memorandums of agreement and grant consultation. I’ve made flyers and phone calls and launched campaigns. I have written out lists of pros and cons in helping other people make decisions. 

On the day before thanksgiving, I drove down to the Congaree with my friend, having made plans to have a meal with family on Sunday. Some of the biggest trees on the east coast live in that park, which exists because of human advocacy to protect the forests and waters there from human industry. 

That night, on Wednesday, we slept without a tarp at a campsite near the park entrance. The early night of late November makes it difficult to get on the water after a day of driving. The fire was slow to stay lit, and my friend made walking sounds over in the dark pine and brush near the campsite, looking for wood. I breathed like a bellow and watched the air from my lungs turn to flame in the week embers. There was little wood to be found, my friend reported, breaking sticks to tuck into the nest of charred branch and red glow. I wanted to walk into the pines at night, to see the flash of spiders’ eyes underneath the leaves, to move around in the woods, to look for fire fuel in the night.

I didn’t expect to find much, because my friend is good at finding wood, but there were branches dead, down, and dry – or at least dry enough – tucked all through the woods, and I felt lucky to see them, to be able to bring them back to our fire. To emerge from the woods with a hefty armful of pine and brittle oak was a good feeling. 

Later, I went back into the woods for more branches, tired and growing ambivalent about staying up to have slow conversation in the fire that we had patiently tended and fed until the bed was hot and the fire more steady. My headlamp casts only a weak glow, like an old, dim flashlight, a pale circle of light right at my feet, making the dark even thicker around me. I might have been leery of spiders at some point in my life, but I loved to see their tiny bright eyes reflecting back at me from the ground, and felt happy to think of their lives on the ground, in the trees. 

There wasn’t much wood on the ground where I walked, bending to pull at soft still-rain-damp limbs that had fallen much too long ago to burn, wood that would never be entirely dry again, that crumbled and split under the light pressure of my fingers, that held to the ground when I pulled a little, already becoming part of the forest ground at the base of the tree they fell from. 

I wanted to find wood, and moved further from the campsite, toward the break in the trees at the edge of a marsh I couldn’t see, stepping high over the smilax and tangled of low brush, trying not to make too much of a racket with my movements.

It was almost like a voice in me, the idea that I should walk off to my right, turn and cut back semi-clockwise. “Go over there,” the idea said to me, in a way that didn’t quite feel like thinking, and I moved in that direction with a curiosity, stooping smoothly to pick up the branches and limbs that I began to find as I moved into a place where a great wind must have blown, where the branches from the pines were all over the ground, with a fine limb of some hardwood laying at the edge. It felt like a present, to find all that wood. Like the forest had said, “Here, I’ll show you. Go over there.” While I broke the hardwood into sections small enough to carry, I felt thankful, and said in my head – in a way that didn’t quite feel like thinking – thank you. 

It seemed like the right way to go, to go right instead of left when the creek split like a tuning fork. The path of the blue line on the map tended south/southeast, and I knew there were marshes and a lake and a smaller blue to the north, could see the map in my mind, in simple park service graphics and satellite image. “We should go this way,” gesturing with my paddle and a nod. ”Eh, I think we should go this way,” my friend checked the map on his phone, and I liked when he said, “No, you’re right, we should go this way,” beginning to turn the canoe. 

The creek narrowed and trees lay across the water. Cypress knees poked up through the black water like stubborn spectators as we angled the boat and pushed off of banks, pulled ourselves under the trees when there was clearance, hauling the gear and dragging the canoe through the woods when there was not. I found a turkey feather on our 5th portage, and we stood very near some exceptionally large trees, trees that have been standing in their place in the swamp since the days of the Congaree and the days of the runaway slaves, perhaps feeling the trembling of the forests falling near it during the clear cuts, sensing the fire across the creek in the heat upon leaves, the currents of heat in the air. 

I bet a forest on fire makes a tremendous and terrifying roar. So many crackings and howlings, great stirrings of the burning ground as trees fall. 

We did 7 portages within a mile on that section of creek where we took a wrong turn. The longest was 3/4 of a mile when we realized that we had not, in fact, gone the right way, and were no longer on the paddle trail. “The river may have changed shape,” my friend said. “The GPS track might be wrong.” We walked to where there was a lake on the map, and found a broad spot on a creek, a flock of grackles flapping and cawing in the trees across the water, their wings making a great whoosh when they moved en masse from tree to tree. 

The sound of grackles lifting by the hundreds is almost the sound of a fire taking air. 

There is no fire allowed in the backcountry, for good reason. “Should we make a fire?” We both asked like we knew we wanted to, the cold light from headlamps seeming a little flat, a little grim as we set up camp. It was early still, and yet dark. We would make dinner in the dark. We would sit in the dark. The air was cool, but not cold. My feet were soaking wet, from walking through a creek to the south of the lake because there was no other way to cross it. 

“What is the moon doing?” I felt briefly hopeful for a full moon, and wondered why I had no idea what phase the moon was in. It seems like something I should know. Like I should know whether the moon is full or waning. 

”It is almost new, a tiny crescent.”

“Hmmm…” We both looked around at all the branches laying over the hog-softened ground, and shined our lights up into the trees to see whether branches were low or lofted. There is a lot of open space in some places in the swamp, places between big trees, where the air is open all the way up to the sky. 

She can’t expect people to understand, her boss, her co-workers. “See, I am going through a thing, a thing where the cars and the buildings, and the lights and the screens…it all seems strange to me, not like real life, and yet I know it’s real, that this is the day and this exists, this building exists, this meeting exists, this meeting in which I am trying to explain to you why I am requesting another week off, just a few weeks since I got back from being off for three weeks, why I feel like I need to do that.” 

“I can’t expect you to understand why I want to go be outside, why I want to stay home, why I want to not have to work for a few days, again, to not have to be in town.”

Since she has gotten back to town, the haiku in her has slowly dried, withered, become fragmented. There is haiku everywhere, surely. The cold of the rail, the close of the door, the glare of the lights. It’s easy to make five syllables with one syllable words. Simple.

Her mind has felt tired. Glutted up with simple communications, jangled with the noises of town. 

She can’t expect people to understand these things. 

She knows that showing up is an act of solidarity. 

Is it the fact of almost-winter, the cold bite of outside and the early dark days, that have stunned her thinking, made her feel so weary lately. Yesterday, climbing to nowhere at the YWCA at 6:05am, she watched a lecture by a professor on the topic of depression. 

‘Am I depressed?’ 

‘Have I been depressed so long that I have gotten used to it, that the feeling of not really wanting to do what I am supposed to want to do, of not really feeling excited about what the day offers, numb and a little flat at the edges, moving but not in flow, a reluctant energy, a lack of delight, has that become normal for me?’ 

She knows that she would likely meet clinical criteria for depression. This makes sense to her. She does not think it is a goal of hers to feel well within a life that doesn’t suit her, and yet she has to wonder if she were less situated at the depression/hypoarousal point on the continuum of experience she might be able actually get her life moving more solidly in the direction of transition. 

It is possible that she is having a really hard time, and does not even know where to begin in getting right. 

The other day, she talked with her friend on the phone about a dream he’d had of a cabin with a name of no-quit, and about writing and the prospect of being able to go somewhere only to write and to live in the daily necessities of living – food and warmth and movement and rest – outside of the spaces of towns and people, traffic and buildings, away from the anthropocentric world. As they talked, she felt a big quivering inside of her chest and in her belly. She wanted that, a place far from town with nothing to do but write and live. Something in her lurched sobbing toward that, but she didn’t cry. She noticed that she wanted to cry, but she did not cry. 

She wanted that so bad. Standing in the bathroom, after spitting out her toothpaste getting ready to go to work, talking with her friend, the house chilly except for in front of the stove, the red glow of fire, she realized that the idea of that – to go and just write – would not be such a bizarre thing for her to do, given the person she is. 

Yet, she understands that in her life, the idea of her transitioning out of her life as a wage earner in service and being in service by writing and by allowing what is in her to say to work itself out and find its voice, to confront itself and tell itself…it seems far fetched. 

She spent time last night working on project descriptions for her project overview website. The idea is to have her work portfolio’ed as broad project areas, with ways she is in service outlined and offered. The projects are learning projects and projects in development, and so the portfolio spaces will be evolving. Thus far, the projects are Community Recovery Inquiry, Crisis and Recovery Consultation, Creative Development and Resource Strategies, Autoethnography and Poetry 

These Project Areas should adequately frame the different ways I work and the work I am interested in doing. I may get some training and add transcription services to the mix, with live transcription and Participatory Documentation services available. It is exciting to me to think about how to describe this service. 

As a trained listener and individual with the ability to type quickly and to recall what was just said in near verbatim text, while noting also the process of dialogue, Faith Rhyne is able to capture meetings, focus groups, and other events of interaction as they unfold and can create a strongly representative reflection of what was said by whom. While it is difficult to record spirited dialogue and expression verbatim, Faith makes an effort to especially note people’s personal stories as they are told. 

Traditional transcription of audio or visual recording is also available. 

Participatory Documentation is the facilitated process of participants reviewing Live Transcription documents and offering reflections on what was captured, as well as offering feedback on the experience of participating in the event that was documented and on the experience of reviewing documentation, if they so choose. 

Note: Nothing further done


Hahaha ^ yes, the comforts and desires are relative. 

😌 I really am a sucker for beauty. Like, to be able to see the ice on the frozen canes and grasses, last summer’s blackberries and phlox, to hear quiet except for the sounds the living things make, scrape of branch, my own breath…such a tremendous beauty…like, I just can’t get *that* in town…I can get it in moments, lulls in the traffic noises, a few steps away from the conversation, near the thin patches of small wild that are tucked between streets, at the edge of town…

The other day, on tunnel road, I had the understanding that I really just don’t want to be around any of this, and I asked out loud “what if I get to a point where I just can’t deal with the traffic and don’t want to go around all these shops?” And——, who I transporting to the mall, said, “well, it would make sense. You grew up in the woods.” 

And maybe the part of me that is so resistant, that is so reluctant to go and do what she ‘has to do’ just doesn’t want to be around all the cars and buildings, doesn’t want to be in those environments?

There is always a voice in me that says “tough shit. People have to live how they have to live, have to live where they have to live. Your life is golden, stop complaining.” 

…and then the part of me that wants to be outside and hates cars and fluorescent lights, the part of me that *will never adapt*…it sulks because it cannot pitch a fit, sulks because i have to go work. 

I understand that…by barring I meant taking into account and holding-for-possibility of…and that the coyote/forces may not want me to have that sort of life and may create other paths…so, barring the action of the coyote, maybe things will work out as I want them to…and by appeasing, I meant respecting and not provoking by hubris and assumption of my power or wisdom. 

So, as this relates to divine vocation – I have had so many thoughts about discerning the ego-interpretation of vocation, or what we think we ought to be doing based on what we believe we want to be doing…and how slick our thinking can be, to the extent of being willful to the point of delusion…when circumstances and leanings are clearly setting a person up for a different path…And the ways that we are such complex creatures and have so many competing or conflicting inclinations, w many illusions. 

Well, I have a lot of them. It’s not like drive-thru drop everything thoughts on demands here. 

…but, I was thinking this morning about how there is this pretty consistent theme re: ‘working for justice’ that has been present in my life and consciousness for a long time in different ways…and I think about how I *want* to be ‘away from the mess of society and I want to be outside and pursuing my own peacefulness’, haha, 🙄etc….and yet have this gnawing *knowing* that there is something very *right* about me doing transformative justice type work, or speaking about/writing about human and environmental justice issues…and I feel that rightness and congruence when I am doing work toward things like contributing to the ways jails are thought of and used or talking about healing justice and economic justice…like it makes something in me comes alive…and I wonder if maybe there are forces in the world that want me to be doing justice work in some way, and if me wanting to be able to ‘walk away from it all’ and just write poetry or something is me being willful and unreceptive to what the world is asking of me by putting me in the positions that circumstance and serendipity have landed me in…there are lots of different ways to ‘work for justice’ though and maybe my way involves poetry and contemplation, participating in processes of transformation, and then stepping away from that world entirely…haha, who knows? 

It’s hard to discern what the world wants of you, and it’s questionable as to whether the world wants anything of us. 

If it does want anything of us, it probably has something to do with what creates that feeling of congruence and purpose and rightness..

But trying to figure out what is generated by my own idealistic narratives about what I believe i want and/or deserve and being humble in acknowledging the value and potential purpose of where circumstances land me…it’s a process…


What she meant, when she wrote that there is solidarity in staying alive no matter how difficult and painful and thoroughly less than ideal your circumstances may be, even if they are gruesome, and you want to die every day, is that in staying alive we honor the people whose lives might be far worse off than ours, who might be living through something similarly terrible or even worse than we can imagine, and that by staying alive, we might be able to find a way to help the situations that create suffering, or to at least be beside people in the struggle.

The ones who decide to stay alive, even when they want to die, assume a personality  responsibility to try to Live and to find things worth living for, and a larger responsibility to find the things worth fighting for. 

There is no shortage of things worth fighting for. 

It’s like our individuals lives are so bound up with the world we live in. If one person stays alive and finds the things that bring them light and strength and learns about the things that cause harm, that alone could save more lives than we will ever know, reduce more suffering, just by showing up and being in the life that one has made after they decided that they no longer wanted to live a life that made them want to die, just by showing up and being a person who is in their light or in their strength or even in their struggle still, but trying…and with a little light. 

When people decide to live because one day their being alive might really fucking matter to someone, they are in solidarity with all of the people who struggle to live and with all of the people whose lives are far more brutal.

That is what she meant, when she said that living is an act of solidarity. 

She woke up early, as usual, though not so early as most days. Her body felt like a tired, heavy thing, with no movement in it, no vigor, no desire to be in action. Her mind was the same, sluggish and without pull, no traction in her thoughts, a dull and thwarted resonance in any idea that she tried to muster energy around, trying out the possibilities of the day, going through the list of things she ‘needed to get done,’ to see if she felt like doing any of them, if any of the things on the list of things to get done felt like the right thing to do. 

They didn’t. She had no energy for any of it, didn’t want to do a thing on her list of things to do. 

There was a slight tremoring of interest around painting a sky on the ceiling of the room upstairs, but it was not deep, this tremoring. It did not come from her gut, but from her head in the thought that maybe if she tried to make something beautiful, she would find herself in that small state of Grace, the seamless drawing of steady hand to surface. Sometimes, when she makes art, she has the sense that the spirits of the world are pleased with her pleasure, that her own spirit is bright and clear, happy as a child at home drawing horses at the kitchen table. 

She thinks that whatever she might do that creates beauty in the world is tied, somehow, to this sense. It frightens her to consider the possibility that she – like some artists do – might lose her ability to inhabit that sense, that she will atrophy, forget – eventually – that she was an artist, forget – even – the sense. 

Waking up, she had none of this sense in her, was only a weighty configuration of sinew and bone, dull pulses, a tired animal that wanted none of the animal wants, wanted only – it seemed – to lay, to rest, to sleep. It did not want to run, or to eat, or to mate, or to be around any other animals at all. It just wanted to rest, alone, and not be asked to do anything, or to have to do anything. 

Surely, if the animal were hungry, it would get up. Surely, if the animal had to move, it would move. 

(I did not feel tired like I felt tired day before yesterday, and yesterday, when I was in the desert, not often, because I knew I had to move, to walk, because I was hungry. Food is amazing when a person walks all day. Here, the food is right in the kitchen, less than fifty steps away. There is no real hunger. I am fed, and tired.) 

She is tired from work, she recognizes, sitting in the old chair that was red and then green and is now blue, that once belonged to her great-grandmother, because she is from a family that holds onto to things like chairs, from a family that has things to hold onto, and places to hold them. Sitting in the chair, in front of a fire made by the combustion of pelletized pine, she considers all the things she is ‘supposed’ to do to keep her loose-held wage-earning position with the nonprofit. She is tired from the week, from the meetings, from having to force her mind to work when she said work, when she had work to do, emails to write, grants to finish, meetings to attend. Listening and considering things she does not see as deeply and immediately requiring of her participation or need-for-knowledge, communicating carefully her perspective, the perspectives of others. 

The house was empty when she woke up tired and there was nothing immediately demanding anything from her, save the old orange cat that eats and quiets, meows in the well-practiced way that he had taught her to respond to, the way that gets him fed.

The place is quiet except for fire noises, the whoosh of hot air. She doesn’t have to do anything, and feels a little sheepish about that, about her sulking, her tiredness. She knows that people all over the world are tired. They wake up tired and they go to work. She does that most days. 

At least she doesn’t have to work in a meat processing facility, or the Department of Motor Vehicles office, or one of the giant box stores at the edge of town, some squalid greasy kitchen where the voices are always barking orders while pop music plays in the lobby, or some job where she has to put together endless, pointless parts for products she neither uses, nor cares about, or even believes in. She couldn’t do it. She knows she wouldn’t be able to. Despite all her tricks and all her efforts, all the ways she tries so hard to find beauty and meaning and peacefulness in simply being, she could not do it. Maybe she’d get used to the loudness, the brightness, the tedium, the smell, the feel of the body sitting or standing all day, the scent of the uniform, the fluorescent lights. Surely, she’d get used to it – adapt, become accustomed to what the day asked her to experience and to cope with, have to cope less and less, become numb to it as a way of surviving. She would adapt. She knows she would adapt, by some process or another, and she knows – also – that peacefulness and lightness of human spirit can be found in many terrible situations that go on and on in their harms and stressors, that stressors can be mitigated, can become non-stressors, can become opportunities for perspectives of peace and equanimity, appeals to the self that cannot be harmed by any everyday brutality. 

She knows that people all over the world have a strength of spirit that allows them to cope with what they have to do in order to survive within their societies, and that people have such grace as to be deeply grateful for a simple job, the most meager of paychecks, the most gruesome of ways to have to earn a living, that people make sacrifices, grace sacrifices, life/death sacrifices, just to try to earn their way, to get a little food for their family. 

She thinks, though, that she couldn’t do it. That she would rather die than live in brutality. 

She knows that isn’t true, that in living there is some solidarity, and in trying to live and to not forget all the other people who are living there is some allyship. 

She thinks, she knows. It goes on and on. 

It is two days past the morning when she woke up tired, two full days of not getting much done, and contemplating the feeling and reality of that, with an edge of overwhelm and urge to retreat, pressing dull tiredness in every move. She ran 7 miles the morning she woke up tired, hoping that it would wake her up, and it did for a little while, and then she became tired again, very tired. 

She went to bed at 6:30 last night, not even caring to talk with her friend in the mountains via text, only wanting to lay in the dark and be quiet. 

She has got to take better care of herself. It’s two days past the tired morning and the day after she went to sleep so early. She still doesn’t feel quite correct. Something is amiss. She is writing because she is trying to find it, sat down to recount the days, figure out where she is with it all, what she needs to do, where her energy is. She doesn’t need to write – she needs to move. 

She doesn’t know what direction to go in. Start anywhere, she tells herself. Go paint the fucking ceiling, if nothing else. 

Just move. 


…and reflects…


I’m sitting on the landing strip outside of Boulder, Utah in the middle of the night. It’s 3 am. We’re camped out in the sage beside the trailhead of the Boulder Mail Trail and I had a bad dream in cinematic style, the scenes of faces aghast as the news report was broadcast over the loud speakers during a track event.

The moon is waning gibbous and a wind is blowing from the east. I feel far away from home and a little disconnected from myself and my life as I knew it to be.

I spent the last three days in canyons, with little time to reflect on what I was doing – sloshing through Death Hollow creek with wet sandy feet.

I think that it is important to me to take time to reflect when I am traveling.


Last night, we couldn’t find a cheap enough room on Highway 60 and so camped on BLM land outside of Socorro, NM after driving through the flats of the SW desert. We set up our camp, an easy process of laying out the tyvek groundsheet and inflating the sleeping pads, pulling our bags out of the packs and eating a dinner of tortillas and turkey, cheese and avocado we talked as friends do under a sky filled with stars, the Milky Way a thin gauze of light above us, waiting for the shooting stars of the Orionid meteor shower to begin to fall.

I found you on the roadside

right where you said you’d be

restaurant closed and desert sun blaring

the radio silent as I went into the turn

you told me to expect

You’re always hungry when I find you, and so I knew to bring food, a fried salty offering that I set onto the ground between us

at the end of your long walk

I brought a bag of oranges, too, and at the end of our first reunion meal, there was a pile of skins and a pile of bones.


I questioned your assumption that I wouldn’t know to bring enough to eat when we went out walking.

You were right. I didn’t know.


the clinkers made new music under our feet

breaking and sliding as we left our mark

made the landscape something different than it was

in the small ways of footsteps

and broken rocks


The hooves of cattle pressed arcs into the sand, forgetting the bloodlines of Buffalo

Thirst as a way of life, a fact unrecognized having never known anything other than the scarcity of water

Mouths tough for chewing spines and thorns breaking down the woody sage hour after hour

damnable heat another simple fact

This place burned for hundred years.

That’s how it became beautiful.

The simultaneous existence of the places I have been and all the places I have not been and all the places I am and the places I am not is a curious phenomenon.

While I was walking in Slickhorn Canyon out in Cedar Mesa, there were women on corners in the darkest pockets of the city and highways everywhere pulsed with their constant flow of metal and bodies moving toward the lights of cities while people sat in their small homes on the sides of the road in the middle of nowhere watching the news, the entertainments.

People slept under bridges, and lights went out in jails while the third shift workers began to get ready to go in for the night and the second shift workers felt ready to go home.

The world exists as it does, no matter where I am, whether or not I can see what is happening.

The sheer fact of all these places and all these lives blows my mind.

Sleeping in canyons, I was almost invisible.

I am sitting on my porch and it is morning, raining lightly and cloud grey. The air is warm and moist here, humid.

It feels like Thanksgiving.


“I think I would stop more often, if I did this again, make it a point to give myself time to reflect and take notes, write down the questions I had as I walked about the names of trees or the history of places, the thoughts I had about who I am or about my life, the small segments of phrase I wanted to remember.”

It is difficult to maintain practice while traveling. I think I figured that I would be able to grab a few minutes here and there to write down my experience, to take notes.

Even though we were out of signal range, No Service, a lot of the time, walking through open, public lands, I could create drafts to email to myself, I could add to and edit Google docs.

I knew that traveling with my friend and not having spaces of aloneness would impact my practice. In many ways, this writing of notes is a solitary practice. When I am writing, I am spending time with myself. We are social creatures, and if there are people around, our attention orients to them.

One of the things that I most appreciate about my friend is that I can inhabit open contemplation with them, laying quiet under the stars, sharing our thoughts about the world and our experience, the things we are most motivated to do and the people we are, the small beauties we might notice in the color of leaves or the shapes of clouds, the way the Milky Way has dark spots and light spots stretching in an arc across the sky.

It is a beautiful thing, to inhabit that space of looking around in contemplation with another person.

It is not a time for taking notes.

I have tried to learn how to remember conversations and the experience of being in a place with a person.

There is so much that is difficult to capture.

We saw the prints of what looked to be a mountain lion in the sand near the canyon wall, looking for a place to camp. There were two sets, big and set deep in the sand and much, much smaller, pressed in a scamper alongside the bigger prints. An arc out to the center of the sand and then a loop back into the cottonwoods and spiny weeds. “A mother and a baby.” We looked around, wondering about mountain lions, knowing they lived there, and decided to walk on. “The babies will stay with the mother for a long time, learning how to be a mountain lion.” “This would be a good place to be a mountain lion.” We walked along the Escalante River, pondering the local range of mountain lions, how big their territory might be. “I think it’s pretty big.”

I had to pee, but decided to hold it for the purpose of urinating around our camp, wherever it might be. We’d begun looking for a flat spot along the river, but out of whatever wind might move through the canyon in the night.

My eyes had become trained to assess the levelness of the ground, the size of a spot in the sand, whether there was a wind break or a potential danger, a patch of cacti or a big stone not yet turned into sand.

The amount of sand and rock in the canyons is truly amazing. They are made of sand and rock, rock worn by water and wind into sand.

When we found a spot I duckwalked and hopped around the far outer edge of the space we had declared ours for the night, peeing in small spots, making a rough circle. It was a silly thing to do, like something from a Boy Scout manual in the 1950s. I know that hunters try to disguise their human smells, so that the animals won’t know they are there. I wanted the mountain lion to smell us, to know we were there, in her territory.

I was trying to communicate, leaving a message. We are animals in your space. Please be aware of that. Do not be surprised by our sleeping forms in the dark. Do not be curious. We are humans and we are here. I left this message with the smell of my animal urine and hoped that any mountain lion that might be moving along our path in the night might understand the message and go around.

We took the 1-40 from Amarillo east after sleeping poorly in an overcrowded state park through howling cold winds and the yelping of coyotes. I didn’t hear them, because I slept in the car while my friend slept in his poncho tarp-tent, using the car as a windshield.

The wind was blowing in cold rain and snow from the north, and as I drove I watched the grass at the side of the road lay flat and the murmurations of starlings lift and twist from the fields of cotton, rising like waves to fly off in a lurching and dipping bundle of black feathers. The sky was heavy and low, a grey blanket holding gold light in strange places. It was beautiful and the closed car window was sharply cold against the back of my hand as I felt the barrier between the inside of the vehicle and the whole world rushing past outside.

The rains came as we entered Oklahoma and did not stop until well into Arkansas. We crossed the Mississippi after dark, but still knew the river was down there by the thick of the darkness below us.

The next morning, we woke up to a weak drizzle that sputtered at us as we drove over to a coffeeshop on the campus of a random Christian university set into the middle of the Arkansas town. The roads to school were named things like Pleasant Plains Ext and Oil Well Drive. I turned around in a parking lot off of Dement. On Oil Well, there were new sharp edged and shiny shopping centers, small chain restaurants, a Tulum, a Panera, a big beauty shop and a small local dry cleaners. The buildings were commercial developments, built to suit for the companies who wanted to come into the town. They were new and fabricated seeming. Modern commerce architecture.

Two days before, we drove through Holbrook, Arizona and were fascinated by the ruins of the Route 66 attractions, the concrete tepees and rusted out old cars. Faded letters proclaiming America’s Highway. It’s amazing how quickly things fall apart. In some town closer to the border, we used the bathroom in a grocery store and sat on the warm pavement behind the car, discussing our plans to get further along, how we might not get so far as we’d hoped.

It was worth it, I felt, to have spent time sitting out back behind the coffeeshop, taking notes.

All under the built-in awning roof of the shopping center, stretching along in front of the vacant plate glass windows, the empty space, pigeon spikes caked with shit and feathers brutal looking up by the ceiling, dried grasses the color of buttermilk had gathered where the wind blew them, a big soft shape on the concrete walkway that nobody walked down.

It’s amazing how quickly things we build fall apart. If left alone, the natural world soon asserts itself through stripping winds and blaring sun, the setting of seeds and the flow of water. Trees will grow right up through pavement, if we let them.

How much human industry arises in the effort to keep the natural world at bay, or to wrangle its powers, seize its resources, control it, try to make it be what we want it to be, do what we want it to do?

I like the broken old towns, the places that are decaying and the boundaries against nature have grown fuzzy at the edges. I like to see buildings that are falling apart, metal that is rusted. These places, to me, seem more true to the way of things than polished and clean spaces, high-maintenance fabrications for comfort and convenience, a certain type of appeal for a certain type of person.

It was interesting for me to think, for a few minutes, about how new commerce developments, corporate commercial designers of shopping communities, supplant what may naturally arise and evolve from the town and the land and its people and cultures – what shops and architecture, what spaces are utilized and how – with an imposed array of restaurants and commercial office spaces, the architecture of the mid-to-upscale mall. People then patronize these businesses not only because of their design and marketing, but because – simply – they are there. Because these externally designed and fabricated businesses exist, small would-be local businesses do not exist in the way they otherwise might.

Interesting music phenomena:

I thought about that song that I liked when I was a kid, about the horse with no name and the desert, and the next day, my friend played it and told me he’d been thinking about the very same wash over the Bisti that I had been thinking about, where we saw the darkling beetle eating it’s own secretion and I found myself walking in the desert for the first time in a long time.

We heard Phoenix’s Lisztomania in a small local franchise bar bq place in Tennessee, by the Clinch River, played between two pop songs. I remembered when that song had come on heading to Boulder from Escalante in the car of a young man who’d given us a hitch on his way to hear live music. He told us about his life and who he is, what he wants to do, his processes and intent. The landscape and the setting sun were tremendous, absolutely breathtaking and I imagined what it might be like to get to drive that road often. “I’ve never been on this road, so this is the first time I’ve seen this.”

When Lisztomania came on, we all agreed that it was a fantastic song and always produced the feeling that great things are unfolding.

We took small highways out of Utah, driving with the sun on our right side, cutting south/southeast talking about our fathers and their lives. My friend’s father is dead, but mine is still living. We listened to the Eagles song that played after the funeral and  I found myself crying for a minute, further down the road, about my dad and the boat he bought when he sold off some more land. He named the boat for my mother, and had it outfitted with all the best fish finding technology of the early 1990s, orange and green pixelated display, a circle-making line suggestive of radar, shapes that looked like sluggish cigars slowly recreating themselves in lurching squares at their edges that formed and then disappeared against the black background while the wind slapped at the bow and the wake pushed at the marsh no matter how slow we went. The boat smelled like fiberglass and marine diesel, hot vinyl fumes in the small cabin. 

I cried on the road in the desert because my father entered a sport fishing competition and only won the prize for the best equipment, didn’t catch a thing. I understood that the road had made me weary and stopped crying almost immediately, despite the fact that it felt good. 

I came out to the porch to sit and take notes, reflect on the experience of coming home. It’s late and the past two days have been filled with almost absurdly challenging driving conditions, the state of Texas being one of them. 

“Wait, a sec, why is Amarillo still an hour and forty two minutes away?” 

It only took me a minute in the town of Sudan to realize the mistake. “I knew there was something about Highway 60 back there, that’s why I asked, I knew there was something!” I felt a little defensive, knowing that – as the driver – I ought to drive in the correct direction, take the right turns. 

I remembered the sign for 60 on the side of the road, black number shapes peeling and curled at the edges by sun and wind, imprecise and worn-out, but the number 60 nonetheless. We considered continuing east, toward Lubbock and a possible alternate route on Highway 82 through the broad section of Texas, then Louisiana, Mississippi and cutting up through Alabama, but turned the car back toward Muleshoe and the northbound 214. 

The setting sun looked like an angel to me, an angel with a dark, dense center. I didn’t say anything about it, about the clouds in front of the setting sun looking like an angel to me. 


As we drove through the gold and green flats, cruising along at the 75 mph speed limit past out-in-county houses, brick and white, low and flat, I wondered if I’d made a mistake, saying, “Here, we can just go this way, but north right up to 60.” We would still lose an hour, but we wouldn’t lose an hour and fifteen minutes, and this way we’d end up approximately where we had intended to be, on Highway 60, heading northeast in a diagonal toward Amarillo. 


We were going to Amarillo arbitrarily, considering the option of taking the I-40, and the possibility of very cheap motel rooms. We didn’t want to go to Amarillo.  We could have just as easily continued east, gone through the deep of the South, the state my friend was born and raised in, right near where my brother lives, passing by the city of a cousin. We turned around though, because it seemed like the right thing to do, to get back on track, stick with the plan we had made, keep to the road we’d intended to be on. 


The sunset was long, like they are on flat land, places with no ridges, no shadows, no close horizons. The backside of Southwestern Cheese over on Highway 70 was a silhouetted monolith in the distance, all block shapes and cylinders, towers and something like steam. It looked like a Russian factory to her, something post-Communist, rusted and complicated and leaking even in silhouette. The map told us that Cargill Meat Solutions was headquartered in Freonia and she remembered standing in the meat section of a big store, holding a heavy tube of meat encased in plastic printed with red graphic depictions of ground beef. “What is this?” She had asked, her bicep flexed with the weight of the thing. “Cargill Meat Solutions.” She read the print on the slick wrapper. “Meat Solutions?!” They laughed about it and she set the heavy tube of meat back with the others, dozens of them, because it felt too heavy to toss, despite the fact that it didn’t seem especially fragile. 


In the parking lot that night at the big store, they sat in the car and read a Wikipedia article about the multinational meat corporation that had produced the tubes of meat, learned the net worth of the company’s owners and the extent of their operations. Now here they were, heading into the small town of their headquarters, the cheeseburger capital of Texas. The windows were rolled up, and the cows with their heads through the grates of the feed fence at the milk company slid by them like scenery. “There are so many of them.” Her voice held something like awe, despite the fact that the milk company was small, almost quaint compared to a stockyard or a factory. The fields were full of cotton and some low shrubby plant that might have been soy. A massive machine slow-rolled down a road we could not see, sending up dust that hung in the air for a moment and then blew away. 

It wasn’t until I turned the wrong way at the stop sign in Freonia, following the road instead of the direction we needed to be heading, and rolled the window down to clear my sense of being rattled by yet another mistake that the reality of the place hit us in the form of a thick ammonia tang overlaying the rich and unmistakeable smell of shit. 

The northwestern corner of Texas is home to more feedlots than anywhere in the country, as it turns out. As we turned onto the road that would take us into Amarillo, windows rolled up, the smell outside became a haze that hung over everything, glowing a little in the last light of the day. The small houses beside the road slumped under it. Cars pulled in and out of the convenience store parking lot like nothing unusual was happening. Nothing unusual was happening. “I guess they get used to it, the people who live here.” Behind a chainlink fence, the water cistern had a giant cheeseburger painted on it. A small billboard declared simply that Beef is Nutritious in classic black script on a plain white background. 


So, I sat down to take notes on the experience of returning home, and realizing that it is – like anywhere – just a place and that I won’t be here forever and that I feel peaceful about it, this place that is home, and that I am grateful for what it is and what it has been. 

Rites of Reconciliation

7:43 AM (18 minutes ago)

It is hard to see it for what it is, at first. This massive thing that just goes on and on.

You can look at a part of it, maybe get a glimpse, but it’s hard to really see it for what it is, the scope and construction.

I am laughing at myself right now, because isn’t this what I do? Come up with all kinds of ideas.


On Jun 22, 2019, at 8:03 AM:

It began with the morning that I thought,

“Pink beds,” quiet,

“I will go there.”


The woman was waiting in the sanctuary where she always waited on Thursday morning, green light from the walls and windows suffusing the air that is the air of all old churches, wooden pew and warmth, surprising quiet that still holds the echo of songs sung loud, muttered prayers, greetings and goodbyes.  

There is a sloped walkway down from the back entry to the sanctuary, and the younger woman always felt the pull of her feet as she walked down to the meet the older woman. If she were a child, she’d run down that ramp, shoot down the side of the room, run back up again. Her feet can feel the ghosts of all the children who have done this as she moves to sit beside the older woman in the first pew on the East side of the sanctuary, where they always sit to talk on Thursday mornings. The older woman has pulled a chair to sit in front of her. Her feet are outstretched, calves tanned and muscled from walking around town all day. This is what the houseless people do, they walk around town all day..*

“How are you?” The younger woman asked, a sensation of self-conscious gladness – a quiet, awkward gladness – rising in her upon sitting down.

“Abiding in the Lord’s Love and Grace,” the older woman declared without pause. The younger woman turned, set her bag aside, put away her phone.

“I got you a chair, put your feet up.” The older woman spoke in a matter of fact directive, the aging hostess.

There is a sigh that arises, to put up feet in a church, and the younger woman relaxed into the hard wood behind her. “How have you been?”

This is the way the conversations always start, with the press of bigger questions, questions of whether or not we had been abiding in the Lords Love and Grace, or whether we had been caught up in traps, snags and snares, whether we had been bound.

The younger woman always comes to answer this question with a trail of chains and shadows behind her. She is resigned. She does not strive toward grace, but knows that it sometimes finds her. She finds it difficult, to reconcile the darkness in her with the gleam of a certain light she feels when her heart is open.

She has been thinking about this a long time, her darkness and her light. She is no longer seeking God. She is trying to learn to trust, and to make beauty through thanks for what she is living in any particular moment in time. Most days, despite her intent, she has a heaviness in her, a heavy quietness. Her soul is not uplifted. She is not abiding in the Lord’s love.

The older woman is always abiding in the Lord’s love. She is Devout Christian by way of New Jersey Catholicism with brief dabblings in Buddhism and Chakras. The Bible and all that. She sends the younger woman text messages with scripture.

Sometimes she reads them, sometimes she doesn’t. She tries to be thankful, to soak up goodwill, to not feel suspicious, guarded. She does not like it when people judge or evaluate her fidelity to ways of living and believing that are not hers. She tries to be trusting.

She keeps it a secret that sometimes when she reads the scripture, she gets chills and believes, almost entirely but never entirely, that this must surely be a message from God. She doesn’t tell anyone this, especially not the older woman, because she does not want to go to church and she does not want to admit to believing, because she doesn’t believe it all, and will not believe it all. Sometimes, when she is walking in the woods on the west side of the river, she thinks about how she will ask the older woman to just cut it out, the sending of scripture, the ever-loving sanctity of her obedience and supplication, her praising be, the pious Amen.

She would not ever really tell the woman to cut it out. She knows this in her wiser self, that the woman is doing what she is doing now because it’s working for her, helping her to be healthier, to make good choices, keeping her clean, teaching her acceptance, non-attachment. She knows the woman is her teacher. Still, there is a part of her that dreads the Thursday morning meetings. It is hard, to be distracted and sit in a sanctuary, to be unpeaceful and to sit beside someone at peace. She is trying to just go with it, to trust, to see what she is supposed to learn.

It is interesting, to watch what comes up in her as a feeling of knowing as she listens to the older woman talk about traps, snags, and snares. She wonders if it’s true, that the things she loves most can be traps, snags, and snares.

She doesn’t trust her mind. Fear can mask as intuition.

Sitting down, with her feet up in the church, the younger woman is pleased to notice that she is, today, at peace. The stage behind the altar is covered with plywood and plastic sheeting, with orange platforms of scaffolding set at the fresco, which was still just a massive white space, a blank white space where a figure of Jesus on the cross might have hung, if it were that kind of church.

(On the street, walking on the sidewalk, a slow moving group of aging men are talking about crack cocaine. “You don’t buy crack,” they say like conversation gospel, with a lilt on the end. “Nah, fuck the crack.” One man is wearing a bright orange sweatshirt. It is the same color, the exact same orange, as the jumpsuits at the jail.)

*The younger woman pauses as she writes this, what does she look like, this woman you have just suggested is houseless, which means homeless? What does she look like in this word? Is she dirty? Is she old? Are her teeth broken, nails bent and bloodied? Do her clothes hang off of her in soiled tatters?

How do you see her, in this word?

The older woman is healthy, tanned, calves muscled from walking around all day. She wears clean, sporty casual clothes that come into the clothing closet at the church. They call the clothing closet God’s Outfitters. It is a bright room at the end of a small, dark hall. It smells like a thrift store, the intermingling of the smell of people’s lives and closets, a dull bleach and dust. Cotton twill pants hang like flags on the racks.

The woman’s hair is brushed back and held in a ponytail like a girl playing softball. She wears no makeup, and has the look of New Jersey in her cheeks and the curve of her nose. Her eyes used to be brown, when she had a different life, but now they are turning green in the most beautiful slow striation, like light coming up through the water.


On Jun 22, 2019, at 7:01 PM

The artists are going to paint Beatitudes.

All the wet cold winter long the artists had been doing portraits of the people at the church, the people without houses and the people in recovery, the people who will never recover. The walls of the campus care minister’s office were covered with renditions of the church’s most familiar faces, old and aging and old before their time, toothless and eyes beaming, proud as fuck, humble. The people would say, on some days, “He’s going to draw me today,” and the younger woman would notice then that they were shining, face scrubbed, shirt tucked. Ready to be seen, waiting to be seen.

Art is just another human creation. This is what the younger woman thinks when she notices that she is excited, glad to be working at the church during the summer the first pigments are laid into the plaster.

Sometimes, everything feels like an invocation. She has to be careful what she believes, and reminds herself that there is no evidence that the painting of a fresco in the forms of real lives, with a spirit of real blessing, can somehow muster forth the vigor of the meek and return blessing to those who are favored by the Lord.

The painting of the fresco will not be an action of spirit.

“That’s not true.” She has a voice in her, a solemn voice, that tells her when she is lying to herself about what she really believes. She does believe that the fresco can work like magic to restore the wounded heart, that the spirit – the goodwill! – of the artists will guide their hands to craft a work of great beauty and love immemorial in honor of the lives that pass through the sanctuary and all the lives connected to those lives. To everyone.

“It is going to be an interesting thing, to see the fresco being made.”

Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in fresco.

This is her rational mind, calming down her righteous excitement.

It will be interesting. That is all.

The two women don’t mention the fresco, the sheeting or the scaffolding, but begin, as they do, with the question of “How are you?”

Sometimes this is phrased “How have you been?” or “What’s been happening?”

These are big open ended questions, a formality, a prompt to talk about anything, or nothing at all. “How are things with the program?”

The older woman spends one week at a time at different churches around town, rotating with a group of women that do not have homes, that are in the program. “I have slept so well. Yesterday, the Lord told me to just lay down, I’m tired, just lay down. So, that’s what I did, and the other girls, the other women, they were like “what are you doing? It’s 6:15?!” and there was noise and people were walking around and then, boom, they all leave, that’s how the Lord works. Praise God.”

What really makes things ‘right’?

What are we hoping to achieve in reconciliatory accountability processes around transgressions of action and ethos?

Are we hoping to achieve a deep and meaningful change in the relationship and how that relationship is conducted, the participation and roles of the entities involved?

A change in the culture that arises within relationship, a redefining of value and worth?

A change in old habits that reinforce the underlying power of an ‘ism’ – racism, sexism, classism, speciesism – which is to assume authority to see and/or treat another entity as what you define the entity to be, in your interests, be they economic or egoic, without regard for the facts of that entity’s existence unto itself, as a person or as an ecosystem?

Or do we want to reconfigure the underlying belief that drives old habits like placing your hand on the shoulder of a woman as though you have every right in the world to touch her and she must smile?

Do we want reconciliatory accountability processes to address not just the manifestation of underlying assumptions and beliefs, but to support processes of unlearning and relearning how one sees some facet of the world in relation to other people and the environment?

Yesterday I was thinking about rites of reconciliation as I woke up in the morning, before going to work, after writing about sitting in the church with the older woman, and reflecting on how there is a ramp, a sloping near-seamless connection down from the door to the floor of the sanctuary, which brought to mind a friend’s account of seeing, in a church, that the balcony was kneeling down to the floor, that in the design was an apology to the people who were sequestered away in that loft, separated out by dark stairs and narrow passage.

Which led me to think about rites of reconciliation and what practices create and embody reconciliation, what we are talking about when we talk about reparations, reconciliation. 

What is the substance of reconciliation, the effect, the feeling of it?

How do we enact deep reconciliation, which is not simply the arrangement of new ways of speaking or the erecting of monuments symbolic of an apology, but the true restoration of trust and goodness in relationships that were once toxic, exploitative, unfair, angry, hurt, resentful, harming?

It’s not a simple thing, this business of reconciliation. The ways I have experienced reconciliation in my life have been through the mending of relationships both personal and professional, the making peace with concepts and institutions that embody practices that I experience as harmful, that harm me, the making peace with concepts and institutions that harm others, that harm the environment, that harm…

Okay. I have not made peace with all the concepts, with all the institutions that cause harm.

I do not want to reconcile with them. I want them to be destroyed. That’s what reconciliation looks like sometimes, that is how it is enacted, through the destruction of concepts, institutions, symbols, designs, arrangements, treaties, laws that cause unjust harm to people and to environments.

As I write this, I am having sensations of strident indignation, which relates to what I understand to be dignity, in that the word indignant refers to the human experience of feeling aware and angry (fear and defense) that something or someone has compromised what we feel as our dignity, our being respected as persons, or as a field of ancient trees, or as the water of the ocean. The dignity of being seen and related to and with as something that has value unto itself, value in the mere fact of its existence, the dignity of not being fucked with, abused, consumed without reverence or regard by an entity other than oneself, raped, exploited.

I am feeling the sensations of indignation, and noticing the response to the sensations of indignation, which is a “Oh, hell no. That must be made right!” in the wake of a scrambling assessment of how to make it right, how to correct – to deeply correct – for the wrongs that have been done, how to really truly reconcile the deaths of despair…and the conclusion that sometimes reconciliation requires destruction, or at least de-construction, the taking apart of one thing and replacing it with another, restoring, repairing.

My head feels like it’s about to explode, because these things matter to me, these questions of reconciliation, both at the micro and macro levels.

Why does it matter to me so much?

There is a flabbergasted and stammering self that is shaking her head and waving her hands, like, “Duh, over here! Hel-lo.You love the world! You do not want the world to die! You do not want people to be hurt! You do not want the animals to die!”

It really does come down to that.

I want to be able to be at peace in my life, and while I can be peaceful in moments, recognizing that the world is spinning and people are dying and forests are on fire and there are shopping carts being pushed through the endless aisles, while the hospital cries with birth and death and here I am, with the bird singing in the tree and the voices walking up the street and I am relatively safe, relatively well, my life is golden…

Except for all the mass atrocities unfolding all around me.

Which, I can accept, with the zen of blithe compliance with all that is without knowing, the perfectness of the inevitable death, the trust that, hey, maybe we do have to destroy the planet and keep raping people, maybe that is the brutal path to perfect peace and eventual renewal, perhaps by way of smoldering nuclear war field and cosmic mutation…maybe that really is how all this has to go down, just do what you can and ride it out, try to enjoy the moment, because in your lifetime, things are going to get very, very strange.


It’s best to take a deep breath, dispel the feeling that your head might float off for all the sheer enormity of everything that is packed into the need for deep reconciliation.

Why can’t I let it go?

There is a stubborn part of me that desperately wants the world to be okay. This is my child-fear, my most fervent loving of the world. It is connected to my ability to rejoice in the sheer beauty of trees and sunlight. If I want to love the world, I have to connect with the part of myself that very much wants the world to live and to thrive and to laugh and flow like clean rivers. I do not want the world to die. I know this in every moment that I love the world, and it is a difficult knowing to know, because all around me there is evidence of needless death, needless harm, animals dying, species disappearing.

Astounding creations and destructions.

My heart might explode.

Let it explode.

Take a deep breath.

No justice, no peace.

I really do think that every person has within them a part of themselves that might deeply love the world and want it to be okay, a part of themselves that is scared of war, that sees with a child’s simplicity that war is horrific, that does not want to see people get hurt, to see beautiful places destroyed, that instinctively knows that fire is frightening.

I think that, as I alluded above, that to even look at the world and to see it with love and wonder, we must face the fact that, God, we have made a tremendous mess of things.

Like, seriously, what.the.fuck.

(This links to Joanna Macy’s ideas around apathea? Conversation in beech trees.)

So, looping back, practices around reconciliation, rites of reconciliation. What are we trying to achieve in deep reconciliation? How is this measured and accounted for? Do our efforts toward reconciliation result in reconciliation?

I will have to think about this more.



I just realized that all wars result from the effort to reconcile a perceived wrong.

So, the potential usefulness of this as a project that is achievable… Well, any resource of information that might inspire a small ease of suffering is a good thing… But, as far as working on this, I know the material fairly thoroughly, and the parts that I need to expand on, to research around, well… I know where to find the information, And what information is necessary to include…

There are all these resources on how to put together a successful e-book, and well… It might be an achievable project…

I really like the accessibility of digital formats… And, digital formats are much less made out of trees than paper books are… and a person can, especially with help, self publish an e-book… This isn’t a new idea but the rehabilitation that my focusing ability has led to this feeling like a much more achievable project than it has in the past.

There are parts of the outline that are sparse, because I was just trying to write down an overview of the bigger body of ideas

Begin forwarded message:

Date: June 17, 2019 at 5:55:54 PM EDT

To: Me 

Trauma Healing Crashcourse

  1. Defining trauma.
  2. Popular definitions and common understandings
  3. It is only something that people who’ve been through life-death situations like war and severe harm or insult to their physical bodies go through. Ex. The trauma unit, where severe bodily injuries are cared for
  4. Defining life-death
  5. Fear of death or predicted risk of death can be traumatic
  6. Thinking about fear as death, the body responds to fear about what is happening to or what might happen to the person we are, our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our possible futures, the things we love and what makes us who we are, our freedom and safety in existence. Fear, both acutely profound and cumulatively chronic, triggers the body to respond with the same mechanisms that dictate that, as animals, we  tend to avoid death, (at least at the beginning, when we are driven by our biological instinct and processes to keep living, rather than our psychologies and the learned responses of our pain/pleasure associations and experiential reactions. Our psychologies and how we feel in response to something impact what we lean toward and what we are afraid of, what thrills us and horrifies us. Sometimes we want what we are most afraid of, but that is another conversation.[insert conversation]

*Trauma as the physiological reaction to fear and concurrent psychological orientation around fear, what it means to us, what might happen because of what is happening, how events shape our lives and perspectives of ourselves and the world.

How we experience and recover from fear-producing events, whether these be tragic assaults on one’s physical self and personhood or the threat of social exclusion, witnessing something terrible happening, sexual abuse and emotional abuse and psychological abuse. Not having enough food, a safe place to sleep.

Notice the body. Is your heart beating a little faster? Do you notice an amplification of your thoughts? How they jostle and have an urgency? Is there a slight tightness or heaviness in your chest?

There might not be. You may be feeling nothing. Lots of people feel nothing. This is, for some people, a survival strategy after experiencing the sensations we call feelings, or emotions, as harmful and painful and maybe also a little useless, to feel hurt, to be scared. Or dangerous, because the sensations are bigger than our ability to lower the voice, unclench the fists.

I notice in myself some sensations of sympathetic nervous system response

fight, flight, freeze, tend and befriend, submit, collapse

…in me when I write about the feelings of how my body responds to stressors. I appreciate this, because it lets me know that I am stress vulnerable, or more likely to experience reactions that are out of proportion with what might be happening. There is no reason for my heart to begin beating hard while sitting on my porch on a beautiful afternoon. I didn’t get quite enough sleep last night, and that alone can make me more stress vulnerable. Some people can go for days without adequate sleep and be relatively fine. Some people don’t have any reason to have to think about these issues of what their nervous system is doing, whether they are in flight, or fight, what might be happening in the internal workings that determine how they might experience any given moment. I do believe, however, that the vast majority of human beings – at some point in their life – experience a fear that is bigger than them, or suffer a slow erosion of their peace of mind, become restless and anxious, depressed and/or numb. The paths our lives take depend in large parts on what resources we have to cope with adversity. These can be internal resources, such as a naturally robust parasympathetic nervous system due to genetic luck and family lineage, the safety and security received as a child, the positive reinforcements of healthy environments and joyful activities, exposure to healthy relationships and mentorship in developing into a healthy adult.

Or internal resources of learned perspective, learned from books, from songs, from teachers and natural mentors in our life, people we trust and who we allow to teach us, people we listen to, people we believe. We can learn through watching an elder move through their days, or listening closely to the difference in a person’s voice when they talk about what makes them happy. We develop resilience in connection to the environments and communities we are a part of, the people who are our people, the people who know us for our strengths and capabilities and for who we really are. Human beings have some element of an innate desire, at first, to seek out healing, to find the songs or voices that lift us up, the ideas and beliefs that give solace.

This is the space where the internal and external meet, because what is happening outside of us affects what is happening inside of us.

External resources are experienced internally, meaning that if you love a song, you can sing the song in your head even if you cannot hear it, if you have learned from a book, you can call up those lessons even if you are swimming in the open ocean with nary a page in sight. If you love a place, you can go there by thinking about what it feels like to be there, by calling up a memory and savoring the way the wind sounded in the tops of spring trees.

Our immediate environments and the resources they hold are heedlessly connected to the larger landscapes we are a part of – our cultures and histories, the cities and open spaces that make the map of the world we find ourselves in.

Thus, some people live in environments that are full of harm, scarce of resources in both the literal and figurative sense. Literally in the form of food scarcity and an absence of safe shelter; figuratively in the form of the experiences we may inherently have access to in communities which meet criteria as being ‘Healthy Communities’

  1. The body
  2. Stress reaction basics
  3. The brain and body, working parts
  4. Basic mechanisms of response
  5. How these mechanisms of response create sensations
  6. Factors that affect stress reaction systems
  7. Basics – food, etc.
  8. Chronic stress and adversity


The conceptualization of stress reaction and subjective experience as a complex adaptive system primarily impacted by variables such as physiological baselines, previous experience, and the presence of exacerbating or mitigating thoughts/meaning-making around events.

  1. The mind
  2. Common definitions of the mind
  3. The rational mind
  4. Memory
  5. How fear-spurred and reward-spurred memory functions differently than, say, remembering the grocery list*

*I struggled to find a meaningless affectively-null example to use here. At first, I thought, “your childhood phone number.” Quickly, I realized that for some people there can be, in association with one’s childhood phone number, all sorts of fear-spurred memories, or difficult memories, powerful memories, beautiful memories, terrible memories. Home is never null-affective.**

**In using the phrase null-affective, I mean that some stimuli has no significant affect on our nervous system activity, meaning that it doesn’t make us feel anything too strongly bring up associations and memory. Even the grocery store list is not null. I have had plenty of times when going to the store stressed me out, so I notice a minor tension in my chest and irritation at the edge of my mind in considering the grocery store list.

  1. Personality and perspective
  2. Natural and learned tendencies in how we interface with the world and solve problems
  3. Self-concept and trauma
  4. Cite research on ‘self esteem’ and PTSD
  5. Frameworks and schemas and complexes
  6. Victim perspectives
  7. Revisit how it all works together, synopsis and review, integrating narrative re: using skills to support my body and mind in shifting out of a stress reactive state.

“Without turning another page, what is one thing that you know that you can do to help yourself feel calm, present, safe, and otherwise grounded? What can you do to help you ease out of a stress reactive state? Are there things you have noticed always help you to feel better?

What are those things?

Go spend some time with them.

Note: If there is nothing that helps you to feel better, ever, what is something that helps you to survive, to get through it? This might be a song or a place where you go by yourself, either in your mind or in real life.

Go there.

  1. Spirit
  2. Existential crisis
  3. Demoralization
  4. Loss of faith in the world’s ability to not be brutal and stupid

VII. What does it mean to you?

  1. How do you operate?
  2. General stress reactivity tendencies
  3. Prompts to consider experience of this.

[Note: need to have some sort of grounding getting present process early on, and repeated, so that people can engage with the material and reflect from a place of grounded perspective.]

Consideration: Start from identifying positive or neutral sensations.

  1. Sensations. What does it feel like when you know something has pushed your buttons, triggered you, or upset you?
  2. Thoughts
  3. Thought watching, curiosity, non-judgement
  4. Acknowledge that trauma-rooted thoughtlines are intrusive and stimulating of affective responses meaning that they make a person feel something. Usually, for me, trauma-rooted thoughts produce sensations of fear, disgust, self-loathing, deep sadness, etc. it is not easy to just watch these thoughts and not be judgmental. The very nature of these thoughts, and the sensations that are linked to them is judgmental. We are judged, our lives are judged. Everything is terrible and threatening. These thoughts come from the ancient and very confused part of our brain that is terrified of all the bad things that might happen and sees the worst possible outcomes. These thoughts get our attention because we are wired to pay attention to thoughts that create or reflect fear.
  5. Negativity bias


  1. Connection between trauma, mental health, and substance use
  2. Research – brief overview, key statistics, ACEs, etc.
  3. Anecdotal evidence re: behavioral manifestations of trauma states and their similarity with diagnostic criteria for miscellaneous mental disorders.


  1. If a person has a severe and persistent mental illness and/or an active addiction, they have almost certainly experienced trauma, if not as the cause of their struggles, then as a result of their struggles. This is not to say that all mental health challenges and substance use challenges are tied to trauma and can be potentially alleviated through trauma-centered recovery skills and practices. However, in the event that any aspects of suffering in one’s human experience may be alleviated by exploring personal resilience strategies, it is worth considering the ways that dysregulation of the mind/body/spirit integrated stress response mechanism may impact one’s mood, behavior, communication, ability to be present, ability to make plans, ability to just have a decent fucking day where you feel somewhat alive and at ease in who you and in the potential your life holds.


VIII. Skills Exploration

  1. Different solutions for different problems
  2. Up regulation, down regulation, overview of all skills in CRM and RfR
  3. WRAP and T-MAPs
  4. Wellness tools
  5. Support
  6. Systems thinking and strategic thinking as skills
  7. Establishing a practice
  8. Habit formation
  9. Motivation
  10. Transformative change model of recovery

Begin forwarded message:

Good morning…

This is all free-write from this morning, but instead of going on and on, I wrote out a draft with imagery of an illustrated book I have wanted to create. This is an achievable project.

I have identified several achievable projects. Now, I must choose the achievable project I want to work on. This may require me to make an inventory of required steps to completion, what the work toward completion would require, anticipated barriers and drawbacks, complications, and likelihood of potential efficacy beyond the immediate satisfaction of doing the work, as well as likelihood of satisfaction in doing the work. Which project will be most likely to be enjoyable – joyful – to work on?

In the morning, there is all stratagem and list, the gray of the road and the block of the building, these everyday matters of where we must go and what we must do, and it fills the mind like the city fills the window of the plane, tilting and closer, severing the view of the sky and all that stretches out into nothing.

Note: that was just free-write for the sake of getting started, writing down what was most immediately on my mind, which was a vague awareness that I am thinking about things I have to do today, and that these things are giving my mind a cluttered feel.

Then, I remembered the story of the wildebeest, and turned it into a wild boar in a re-telling of a story I told to myself to gain compassion for difficult feelings.

I think it would make a good illustrated book, and be useful for readers of all ages. I am writing it to be fun to read, and utilizing devices from children’s literature (repetition of phrase and image, for example) to engage attention in reading.)


The Wild Boar


She sat on the steps

in the quiet neighborhood

right by the town

right by the street

no wild woods anywhere near her


On her arms there was sun,

skin clean and unbruised


There was nothing she had to do,

Nothing she had to run away from


And yet she felt like running,

in her body

There was a great feeling of running,

as she sat there, perfectly still

she felt the stampede

tear through her chest

like horses, thundering charge

wild dogs, a whole herd

tussling and snarling

yipping and growling

running like a freight train

Yes a freight train

a freight train in the night moving fast

through a cut in the forest

and a tidal wave, yes, a tidal wave, too

bigger than running, a great cresting build

a towering wall

that trembled under its own weight

and crashed into the world,

into the horses and into the dogs

into the freight train

and it’s cut through the forest


She sits on the steps,

With the sun on her arms

And knows her face looks like crying

“What is tearing me apart inside?”


Her chest was hot and crumbling, her belly tight and queasy.


Breathing came quick and ragged,

like she really had been running, like she needed to cry.


She would not cry.

                                                                                                                                  “Go away!”

She scowled at herself. “What’s giving me this feeling?”

The boar crept up, to the edge of the fence, right where the gate was swung open. Snuffling and grunting, nosing the ground, scraping it with its face. [more here, developing the character of the boar, why it is so antagonistic, what it has to do with the feelings alluded to in the earlier text]

The woman felt angry. Her arms wanted to push or punch something. She wanted to spin and throw things. “Go away!” She commanded. “Go. Away.”

The wild boar looked up at her…

…and snorted.

The woman kicked out her legs, clenched her fists. Closed her eyes.

She could still see the boar standing there, and she willed it away. “Go away, away she said, “go…away.”

The boar smirked a boar-ish smirk, all tusk and black wired fur. Pawed at the ground with its hoof.

[more here. Transition to the willing of the boar away]

She pictured it wandering, back out from the gate. No, running! Scurrying away, tumbling down the steps. Disappearing into a poof of air. Never existing. Walking alone out into the desert, vultures flying overhead. She wants it to die, to never have been. She wants this boar, this digging, snorting clawing creature standing at the edge of the yard to go away, to go away and die, to leave her alone, to let her be.

She feels her shoulders slump, relieved to see the boar staggering into the horizon, vultures flying overhead while the sun bears down and there is no soft soil to dig in, no grubs to find, no water to catch on the sharp black hairs of the snout.

“The boar!” She thinks, a rush of great urgency blooms in her chest. “The boar!” She stands where she stands, where she sits on the steps and, without thinking, her arm reaches out, the boar seems to feel this, this nudge of reaching, the small stirring of the air between the tip of finger and the turned back.

The boar paused. She saw the shape turn back, stand still, the shadows of the carrion hunters casting over the sun-blasted land.

There is a knowing, when something needs love.

[describe sensations of compassion]

She began to walk toward the boar. The boar walked back toward her.

[these are just image notes, not draft of actual text, which will need to be more prose-driven and Demi-dramatic]

[what happens then? What is the resolution?]

One thing that occurs to me, in relation to our conversation the other day about how we get these big, gleaming ideas and then they sputter out, is that part of the problem is not being realistic or informed in accounting for how long something may take, or how long the completion of a project’s constituent parts and processes may take.

I think that because we can see fantastic potential outcomes and have the imagination capacity to visualize what we want a project to be, the space between visualization and actualization can become vast.

For example, tonight, I spent about an hour drawing boars. I learned that I do not really know how to draw a boar. Nor do I know how to draw a train. Fortunately, I know how to draw well enough that I could learn how to draw a boar, a train.

However, if a project involves a growth edge or learning curve, that has to be taken into account in deciding whether the project is a reasonable investment of one’s time, something you can commit to, if not seeing through to completion, then at least worth exploring, ideally in a way that will build skills that may be employable in other projects if the project you are working on dead ends or becomes exceedingly joyless.

Another thing that occurs to me is that we can not compare our work to other people’s work.

Our work is our work. Our style is our style.

Especially in beginning.

In the media-and-talent saturated landscapes we live in, it is easy to, for example, see impeccable illustrations on instagram and think that i should not even waste my time.

I think that if we strive to do our authentic- work-that-is-joyful-and-engaging in the best possible way we know how to do it at the time, we will inevitably grow and improve, not necessarily towards being comparable to others’ works, but towards being exceptionally skilled in the work we do and how we do it, and we will learn how to share that work, and even if it goes nowhere, if it does nothing, well…I guess that just has to be okay.

I really do think that when people step into their own unique ways of being brilliant, that they figure out what they need to do with that.

Plan update – now with more encouraging self-talk!

⭐️ Devote as much time as needed to developing drawing skill, focusing on fine tuning the lady and boar-skills

⭐️ Use need for storyboard of images to practice drawing, focus on the skills needed to develop, don’t try too many hard

⭐️ Determine an end-point in skill refinement and plan to begin illustrations. You know what it feels like when you are drawing freely, when you have a confident hand. You know the aesthetics you enjoy creating, the media you like to work with. Stay within those territories in approaching this project.

⭐️ For coherence of line form and flow, experiment with sketching the basic forms of the illustrations in one or two sittings, or identify sketches that may be done in the same sitting, e.g. water sketches, animal sketches, lady sketches, to ensure consistency in line and flow throughout the project.

⭐️ Apply layers and colors strategically, meaning use the same palette and be working in the same process across multiple illustrations, to – again – ensure consistency across pages. *this will require a table and blocks of at least two hours to engage in focused work in a relatively uninterrupted fashion.* [things I know I can do when I paint: have someone else in the room with me, talking deeply and casually, talk on the phone sometimes, listen to music]

⭐️ Document the creation of the project. This is documentation.

The container

Add page to existing moldering website devoted to this project. Update regularly – remember, this is *fun* – you love this shit. This will impel attention to existing moldering website, and will engage you in thinking about ways to spruce it up and re-organize.

Create Instagram account (done, haha. How many bold projects went no further than their 1 post Instagram accounts?)

Link to website – just do it. Update a couple of things and do it. Do not allow the need to update website be a deterrent or stalling factor, just do it. Remember: this is *fun.* Be stoked!

Notes for Profile

This is an illustrated book in progress. Documenting the process.

The book is about making peace with snarling, tusky feels…healing the relationship we have with the wild and howling aspects of ourselves.

[Note internal reaction re: hokeyness of wild and howling aspects of ourselves. Observe doubt re: project’s quality. Remind self that you can make this beautiful and effective. You have the skills. You have the motivation. You have the reason/s…so many reasons…]

Regularly post excerpts of documentation of the process. These can include select phrases from draft text presented in a visually pleasing meme-like manner, or – better – as hand-written notes, as this would improve my use of the hand as an instrument of making lines look a certain way. Include notes re: things like handwriting and the brain. Or facts on wild boars.

Each post is a small art project.

You know you can do this. You know how to do this. Remember, you finished the project to draw every day for a year. You finished NaNoWriMo. You posted to your blog compulsively for waaaay too long.

You. Can. Do. This.

But, first, the drawing of the wild boar…

As a person who has been justice-aware for most of her life, I have worked in healing and education services for the entirety of my adulthood. I have worked with and been in community with a myriad array of folks who are struggling, ranging from adolescent girls in group homes to people dying of AIDS. For the past decade, I have worked primarily in areas relating to mental health and substance use recovery, including serving as local groups coordinator for a grassroots radical mental health movement that seeks to create spaces for connection and dialogue about mental health in our communities and to encourage people to explore their own unique understanding of why they struggle and what helps. I have facilitated hundreds of groups, classes, and workshops on various topics relating to wellness and the human condition in the modern Western world. Additionally, I coordinated and/or contributed to multiple community organizing efforts. Although I am a high school dropout, I earned a Masters Degree in psychology, with a specialization in Transformative Social Change. I currently work for a small peer-led nonprofit, where I facilitate groups, provide support to people who are struggling with various complex life issues, and assist in organizational operations.

Although I understand that your program is not intended for artists, poets, or memoirists, I do recognize the value of the artist’s vision, the poet’s heart, and the memoirist’s recognition of how deeply powerful our stories are. I am largely self-taught in arts and letters, and though I rarely call myself an artist, I have spent the past ten years experimenting with drawing, writing, and design. I have talent, meaning that I have something in me that shines, that I naturally delight in engaging with. My project, although primarily a resource to provide practical and useful, factual information about trauma healing processes and modalities, includes elements of story and prose, as well as intentional aesthetic design, to engage the reader in the process of reflecting on how the book’s content is meaningful and interesting to them.

Through my work as a facilitator, I have learned a lot about what connects people (and disconnects them) from learning and from healing. Skillful inclusion of artful and poetic elements in what could otherwise be a heavy read increases the accessibility and appeal of the project.

My dream is to be able to find a more efficient way to offer my experience and skill to people who may very much need support in navigating their unique human experience. Many popular paradigms of understanding mental health, substance use, and human struggle fail to account for the dynamic and deeply personal histories that shape our experience, and offer few tools for understanding the individual tendencies in cognition and feeling through the lens of learning, association, and trauma. I have worked with everyone from ex-CEOs to people who grew up on the side of a mountain and have an eighth grade education. I grew up in the American South and have traveled a fair amount, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. Nonetheless, I have had the opportunity to learn to connect with and have meaningful dialogue with all manner of diverse folks.

My dream, as I mentioned, is to find ways to do my work more efficiently, so that I can reach the people who might find the ideas and practices I am passionate about sharing to be helpful…even life saving. It is my anecdotal experience that many of the people who struggle most in their lives are – at their core – powerfully brilliant and sensitive creatures who see and experience the world in deep-felt ways. There is ample evidence that the connection between creativity and all manner of madness is strong. Every human being is a creative genius in their own right. We all have talents that are especially ours. When we are wounded in lives that do not account for what we need, lives that harm us and threaten us, we cannot shine. Life inherently holds a tremendous potential for beauty and goodness. Even terrible lives have the potential to improve, to heal.

I want to help in the most impactful way that I can.

So, I’d like to put together an accessible and amazing book, and begin consulting with people selectively.

Haha, there are a few steps missing in that summary.

It’s probably pretty clear to you that I have ideas, inspiration. I need help channeling that into a process that will result in completion of the project and progression to next steps. I have a busy life. I work in a nonprofit that serves mostly houseless people, and have two teenage youth in my stewardship.

I have a lot of potential. I need help.


Quick Like That

The wind pushes her back a little, drives her head down and hunches her shoulders toward her chest. It stings, the wind, and she can feel the thin metal hoops in her ears begin to burn. It is good for her, she decides as she steadies herself in moving forward with her new rounded shape, her body made small and curve-edged, like a cypress knee or a torpedo.

It happens just as quick as that, the place where she is from rises up into her words as metaphor or image, cadence like the people used to talk down at the gas station, like they still talk. She used to think they sounded stupid, words slurred and garbled together like mud and brackish. Now she knows that they don’t sound stupid, and that there isn’t anything simple about the sound of their voices, or even about what they say, even if they just talk about the weather all day long, how hot, how cold, how wet, how dry. How long will it last. Lord only knows.

The reasons that this is all they say aren’t simple at all. Just like the reasons she feels a little sad and angry aren’t simple at all. They might be stupid though, stupid reasons. Not good reasons at all.

She doesn’t have a goddam thing to be sad or angry about. Nothing. She lets the wind remind her of this, feels it cut through her sweater, her other sweater. Hit her warm skin hard, make her face numb, burn her up in just a mile when some folks will be out in the wind all night. Some folks have already froze to death. She wonders about the man at the coffee shop, the one who sits there all day, used to live in his van in Detroit, sleeps somewhere over away from the river. “It’s cold down there, by the river. People don’t realize that’s a terrible place to have a camp. They think it’ll be good, but it’s no good. Cold in the winter, ten or fifteen degrees colder down there by the river. They don’t care none, drunks. They’ll just start a fire, burn up their clothes, whatever they can find. They’ll go around to these places and get all these clothes. More clothes than they can carry around, and then just leave ‘em laying in the mud or try to burn ‘em. Trash, they’ll burn that. It’s too damn cold down by the river. You see people camping down there, you know they don’t know what they’re doing.”

The man at the coffee shop will go on and on, talk and talk, grinning vitriol about case managers and the systems, how people have so much important work they are doing, but don’t get anything done at all. He says he has been homeless for months. Can’t get housing. Has a case manager. Forms filled out, name on lists. “Last year, I survived 10 degrees. I’ll be fine.”

He wears a black technical jacket like you’d get at the outdoors store. He gets disability payments, can afford a warm sleeping bag. His legs are thin like spindles.

The coffee shop people don’t care how long he sits there. He reads the New York Times. They refill his cup.

Tourists come and go all day, getting artisan lattes down by the river, down by the gallery district that used to be the depot district and then for a long time was nothing at all, just the train tracks with the trains that don’t carry passengers, trains that don’t stop, an old steel company. A plastics company further up the river. Waste treatment.

Her fingers hurt if she has her gloves off, so she leaves her gloves on. They are beige cashmere with a hole in the palm of the right hand. She got them from a free box and they fit her fingers well, are long up the wrist, up the arm.

It doesn’t take her long to get to where she is going, just a walk up the street, cut across the park, a vacant lot, sidewalk uphill, a crosswalk, a parking lot where pigeons surge and scatter around a hard piece of bread, grainy snow swirling on the grey frozen ground. She wonders if she could be out in the cold all day, all night.
She knows that if she had to, she could, because that is what people do. They do what they have to do.

When she got there the other day, she found a camp by the front door, a person huddled with their dog under mounds and mounds of grubby pulled blankets and free box sweaters. There was garbage mixed into the bedding like the little shreds of paper and plastic that mice make their nests out of. A machete was tucked in beside them, close to the wall.

The man who used to be bow-legged but now isn’t anymore for reasons she doesn’t understand and will never ask about comes into the office yelling about how someone he works for called him asking about where is the goddam gas, and how if he is gonna come at him like that then he better watch the fuck out because I’ll take a machete and cut his head clean off, clean off I tell you, motherfucker calling me cussing me when I’m on the phone with my caseworker.


If one ceases in a habit that is important to them, to their health or sense of well-being, to the functionality of their life, then suffering – be it relatively mild or catastrophic – will ensue, and the individual will necessarily reckon with the abruption of habit as having a negative impact upon their life. Sometimes people falter in their habits without even realizing it. A busy week without stretching in the morning, becomes a busy month. Slowly stretching is forgotten, and mornings become something different than what they were. Depending on the activity that is ceased – or begun! – a person’s life will change, their health will change, their state of well-being will change. Sometimes, entire lives will fall apart.

I didn’t intend to stop writing almost entirely. I just shifted my attention and focused my time on other things. Slowly, I quit writing. Put it off one day, chose to hang out with a friend, decided to go running.

It is hard to even begin to explain the impact that not writing has had on my life. Observably, it’s no big deal, nothing really. I am fine. Good even. I changed jobs. I quit smoking. My relationships are relatively healthy. I continued to run and am in good shape. My house is fairly clean. Things are in acceptable working order.

However, I am unhappy inside myself. I feel like I will never catch up, like I lost time, lost opportunity. Fucked up.

I know these things aren’t true in the slightest. That it doesn’t matter if I barely wrote for a year. It’s not even like I didn’t write. I wrote a fair amount, tried to put together a book, compiled pages and pages, wrote new content.

Despised it.

Had to question whether or not I am even a good writer. Had to face the fact that I might not be, that I might not even love writing the way I told myself that I do. If I loved writing, wouldn’t I be writing?

Most days, I dreaded writing. Did I really just like smoking cigarettes, the nicotine on the front porch, the pouch of tobacco, the sparkling water, the rush of drug across synapse. Feels like genius some days.

This morning she walked in the cold back down to the car, cut across the big grassy triangle of median, waited for the light at the corner. Stood up straight and was aware that she was being seen by all the cars at the intersection of Haywood and Patton. Tall woman, tight red pants. Very long braids. Pale orange scarf like sherbet, a little bold to be called peach. She should have just written the fucking book. She’d be working with an editor now if she had. One by one, benchmark days came and went, goals falling to the wayside, flat on their sides.

It wasn’t even that it was a difficult book to write, or that she didn’t know how to write the book. She wondered if she had a psychic block. She knew she had a psychic block, that maybe even dark forces or a family curse had silenced her. Rubbish, she said to herself and knew that this, too, was true. Really, she was of two minds, maybe more. On the one hand she was a calm, confident lady, clear-headed and methodical, realistic in her approach to writing out the story of how she once tried to prove God with clouds. She was, however, also a superstitious and mildly deluded neurotic who knew that she would never actually write the book, that she would go round and round with it and that it would go nowhere. She would fail.

No. She decided while walking across the grassy triangle of the median, wind swirling dirt at the corners of the street, just down from the mission, just over from the park, highway just a little ways away, could hear the cars moving, dim hum, the growl of a truck shifting gears. She would write the book. She could do it.

The steam from the shower smelled like chlorine and something about the soap smell and the plastic-smell from the shower curtain liner and dusty warmth from the heater reminded her of being in the hospital, being in treatment. It caught her off guard, the smell of the hospital there in her home and the cache of memory that was linked to that sensory reminder. The small plastic lattice squares of the basket that held her shower supplies, the weight of it as it was hands to her by the nurse at the big desk that separated the boys hall from the girls hall. Right across from the dayroom, where she had slept on the floor the first night on unit. Line of sight. Suicide watch. She’d never much thought of suicide, but had to lay there anyway, right across from the nurse’s desk, sleep there. She’d never be able to sleep. Surprised by waking up. She could sleep anywhere. She knew that now.

Aug 6

It’s fitting, perfect perhaps, that the ninth anniversary of her beginning the project that led to Rachel trying to prove God with pictures of clouds found the woman curled on her bed in a stultifying depression, tears sliding from her eyes as she stared blankly out the window.

On Friday, I went to my first ever figure drawing event. It wasn’t a class. It was a room full of artists gathered in a space, drawing a model that they pooled funds to pay.

So, we all were just there to draw – no instruction, only brief introduction.

“This is my first time ever drawing from life,” I mention to the older man sitting beside me.

“Oh?,” he looks surprised, forehead wrinkling up toward his greying hair.

“It can be kind of intimidating,” his face was kind.

I laughed, “Oh, I’ve been at work all day, so fortunately I didn’t have time to even think about it much.”

I wasn’t thinking about work at all as I set the borrowed drawing board on my lap, fidgeted with my pencil, my eraser.

The whole day disappeared when the woman’s robe dropped.

I studied her left foot, and tried to find the lines that would transpose the 3D form onto the piece of blank paper in front of me.

Would I be able to do this? I let myself look at her entire body, at her face, her expression. Tried to find the anchor lines, noticed how oddly the human form lays against itself at certain angles. Felt a rush of minor anxiety over how transpose the fingers of the right hand, marveled at the strangeness of the  right breast overlaying the upward tilted chin.

I didn’t know if I could do it, draw from life, find the right lines, the right scaling of figure to page, the accurate proportions to foreshorten.

“We’ll start with 10 second poses,” the host of the event said, with no great fanfare, almost absentmindedly.

The model moved into her first position, and suddenly I was drawing, not thinking or trying, just looking at the woman and drawing the curve of her back, noticing the valleys of her scapula, her collarbones. The indentations of her knees and the stark line that separated her calf from her thigh.

The model moved again, and I drew her arm, connected it to the slope down the backside of her ribs.

It felt like a game, a challenge. It didn’t matter if what I drew was good or not good. It didn’t matter if I messed up. I could just erase, or start over.


There I was, in a room full of artists, drawing a real, live human being.


I’m here in the brightening day on the porch.

Today is a day of lifting, and I am again inhabiting my grounded deep-felt optimism.

The birds have come back to the yard this morning, bringing the reassurance of their company, the reminder of what is real and what is beautiful and what cannot be taken or lost or failed within.

It’s worth me taking a few minutes to write down what has occurred.

I began. Yes. I know. I have begun many times. This time is different. I have said that many times before. Seriously though, this beginning feels different. I found a conceptual niche, a way to begin, a voice to write from.

I will do this. My life depends on it. I have a plan.

Oh, I have said all this before.

This time feels different. Is different.


Prove it.

Aug 11

She is sitting on the porch as the sun goes down, rain clattering on the metal sawhorse in the corner of the yard by the steps up to the house. It is her favorite color light again, diffuse rose, with gold.

The light is made by the glow of a thin-clouded, gentle rainy sunset getting caught in the near infinite droplets of water in the air.

“The air is full of water,” she thinks, writes this into her phone. Her hair is a long, damp rope behind her, and the bones of her back press into the slats of the hard white rocker.
She is at the house alone.

She likes it, being at home alone.

She feels lucky that she doesn’t mind being alone, prefers it even. She knows that this makes her different from some people, that some people cannot imagine being peaceful in being alone.

Sometimes, it is very hard for me to feel peaceful when I am with people.

She has begun writing in first person. She notices this, wonders about it, why she shifts back and forth like that, what it means.

She thinks that it means she is stylistically sloppy, and forgets sometimes that she is she in the writing, and that I am her.

It’s possible that I just get confused.

This is not, its worth noting, some dissociative situation, where I have an alter-ego that I call She.

The use of third-person simply creates a different point of perspective, a participant observer of her own existence, her physical sensations, her thoughts, her internal dialogue. The space she is in.

As she is writing, she makes a mental note to say more about where she is at, what she looks like, how her body holds itself, the aspects of her existence that are usually sorely underrepresented in her accounts of a day, huge missing pieces of landscape and song and the tightness of her long braid held in a coil at the back of her head with a bamboo apple skewer, the press and pull of it, her crooked glasses.

Her children.

She hardly ever writes about being a mother. She has thoughts about being a mother, and certainly has a great many experiences relating to the fact that she is a mother, an entire wing of her conscious awareness devoted to her existence in her children’s lives as their mother.

She doesn’t talk much about any of that.

She loves her children, and wants them to be the best possible people that they might be, as measured in terms of embodied happiness and self-determined quality of life.

For the past ten minutes she has been writing about being a mother. There was a swarm of thoughts and feels, remembered and imagined potential realities associated with motherhood, with her children.

She doesn’t say much about that, but will probably need to at some point, because motherhood (and her marriage, which she also does not say much about) is a keystone factor in her experience and how the summer and fall of 2010 played out, how the past decade and a half have been shaped.

It’s amazing to her to think that some things that happened twenty years ago, twenty five years ago are still shaping her days. She understands that this is how life works and what we choose to do, or simply drift into doing, shapes what our lives might look like in a year, or twenty years. Still she wastes a lot of time. Puts things off, even things she wants to do, things she is excited to do.

Sometimes this is a matter of simple time and attention, of her brain being blitzed after talking with people about their difficult and beautiful lives all day, solving big problems.

Sometimes, she wonders if it has to do with fear, or with not really believing in herself.

Many days just don’t hold enough hours for her to engage in immersive work on projects, so she just thinks about the ways she might create a particular painting, how she might depict the glow of underwater, how she might tell a part of the story, what ideas feel resonant in her.

She takes notes and keeps trying.

The greatest challenge to her as a writer is to concisely capture the essence of an albatross of experience concisely, beautifully, and effectively.

She thinks that poetry might be the only way she can tell about the parts of her life that she doesn’t talk about.

These neglected-in-the-telling major life components may, she realizes now, be primary barrier in her telling the story that she has been trying to tell for years, as factors relating to her family were integral drivers in the confluence of events that led to her being asked to step away from the knives in the kitchen by armed officers because that is what police do when they arrive at somebody’s home to take them to the hospital under involuntary commitment orders.

“Oh, yeah,” she’d said, an amused smirk in her voice, a half-hearted half-laugh, “the knives.”

She felt clever when she rolled her eyes, that she’d emphasized that what the officers had requested was utterly dismissable.

She wasn’t dangerous.

If anything, she was in danger. Two armed male officers had entered her kitchen. She had let them in, after the knocking on the door woke her up, brought her downstairs. She felt fear when she saw them, because people feel fear when they see police at their door.

“What’s wrong? Why are you here? Did something happen?”

She knew within moments of the officers entering her home why they were there.

Inside the cavity of her chest her heart felt like it was made of steel, and yet was being struck with lightning again and again. She felt slack, almost numb. It was hard to breathe, and there was shaking at the edge of her.

She understood what was happening, and she understood why it was happening, had ideas about how it might have happened, what might’ve gone down to bring the officers to her home to take her to the hospital, who went to the magistrate.

She knew that she had be cooperative, and that she could not do anything that was perceived as crazy or volatile.

Despite beginning to shiver, she felt completely calm.

“Hmmph,” she thinks, noticing the words she had written, letting the small incident report she had issued sink in. “Where did that come from?”

She scrolls up the small bright screen to try to figure out what the hell she had been talking about that landed her in the kitchen with those cops come to take her over to the ER at the hospital where her then-ex-spouse worked, to be involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit on the 4th floor in a process that involved people I had met and who knew my name and my children’s names telling me that, no, I could not have my bra.

“Daaaaaamn,” she thinks. “There’s that I again.”

That first person voice.

She shifts back and forth, depending on what she is writing about.

She was talking about family, about how she doesn’t talk about family much.

Before that, she was talking about what she does write about, which is mostly her thoughts and her perceived experiences, ideas she has while driving to work. Things she wants to remember.

Sometimes, she writes about memory, and about how she thinks it works. How other things might work, how experience is made.
Why she thinks the way she does, feels the feels she feels, and sees things things that other people don’t see, while missing other things entirely.

She takes inventories of what is on her mind.

Occasionally, a tedious account of too much to do and not enough time will take up her attention in a fit of perceived scarcity and anxiety, frustration. She tries to write her way to reconciliation in her thinking about the simple mechanics of time and energy, what is important.

Once, she intended to create a collection of beauties, small accounts of moments when she felt the feeling that she understands to be beauty. She lost track of the documentation of beauties, but still continues to collect them, and saves them in poems.

She just goes on and on, talking with herself about whatever is on her mind, trying out different approaches to telling, to showing.

I get depressed when I’m not writing, depressed in a quiet and relatively non-obtrusive way, at least at first, until the gnawing death of a part of me, a part of my voice, the voice that comes out in writing, begins to slowly deflate my spirit and blanch the day of its sense of story, fill it with a dozen small mournings of beautiful moments that will go unrecorded, or ideas that flood me with a giddy adrenaline, scraps of phrase that make me feel something that I like or find informative.

I don’t think that it’s just writing that seems to keep alive this thread in me that feels tethered to some hint about who I really am…not that I am trying to find out, at least with any specificity. Writing does, nonetheless, help me to keep track of what keeps seems to keep my heart alive.

The person that I am, at least my conditioned self, has everything to do with how I grew up and where I grew up and what experiences I had access to, and what experiences were put upon me by my environment, by rules, by circumstance, by accident, all of which was impacted by the culture and economy that I grew up within.

Is there a part of me, some centrally resonant constellation of qualities characterizing my existence that is more important and more lasting that any of the manifestations over time of personality or interests, endeavors of some era or another within my life? Some part of me that is singularly mine, that would exist independent of the people who raised me, the place where I am from, the things that happened to me?

“Do I have a soul?”

Earnest, beseeching, hands clasped, an upward gaze. She likes that she can laugh at herself, at all her big vague questions, her hapless wishing that answers would fall from the sky, right down on into her head.

Sometimes, I consider the themes that show up in my writing, the topics and activities that are most prevalent across the thousands of words. I think about what doesn’t change about me, my relatively static traits – lasting interests, core personality attributes.

She was on the porch earlier, before it got to be full dark, and what she had been meaning to write about was the fact that she had to wear earplugs to work in the morning, because everything was so loud.

She was smoking a cigarette after substance use supervision group, where she and her supervisor and all the clinicians and peers sat around and ate lunch, talked about the pre-contemplation stage of change and the protocols for the new suboxone clinic that the psychiatric nurse practitioner was beginning, a clients impossible situation, their IV methamphetamine use, their abusive relationship, their homelessness, their pending charges, some combination of adverse experiences and circumstances attached to a name, a life.

She always went out there to smoke after being jammed into the small classroom for supervision at the Recovery Education Center, the program that hired her as a peer two months after she finally got out of court-ordered intensive outpatient services.

All that was years ago. 

She hardly remembers the person she was, probably because she was scared, in shock, and heavily medicated for most of the longest winter.

The pavement was hot, and she talked with a co-worker about the non-profit industrial complex, and how fucked up the organization they work for is, how fucked up the whole non-profit sector is. She liked her co-worker, because they could have big conversations and he didn’t seem to care if she smoked. He seemed to listen to what she had to say.

She doesn’t know where the idea came from, in that moment, but she wanted to sit with her back leaning against his back. To backsit with him. She didn’t think much about it, just asked if he would do something with her.

The breadth of his back was surprising, and she tried to find the center of it with the small line of her spine, sat up straight, more a meditation pose than a lean-against-a-friend.

She knew how to drop into a semi-thoughtless variably altered state of relaxed consciousness, because she had to facilitate the noon meditation class at the center. She used to meditate with a man who once ran marathons and go to Buddhist retreats, who wanted to be a writer, but had been diagnosed with schizophrenia instead, put on neuroleptics for almost three decades. He lived in a trailer out in the county, on the red clay side of a piney hill, surrounded by other trailers, singlewide and streaked with rust, black with damp at the seams. He used to live in New York, but somehow ended up in the mountains of western North Carolina.

When he was a young man, in the winter of 1977, he went to the Farm in Tennessee, where as a baby in the winter of 1977, she went with her parents to live. They left before Spring and it unlikely that her path had crossed with his when she was a baby and he was a ex-military runner, a former deli worker who wanted to be free, to be a hippie philosopher, some kind of Kerouac.

He left the Farm after just a few months, too.

Her life would have been very, very different if her parents had stayed there instead of going back home to the land that her father grew up on.

As it was, she grew up in South Georgia and never much hung out with people who meditate until she had to facilitate the class, and learned how to forget where she was, to forget that she is anything at all.

She shifted the weight of her hips and let the small flat of her back press into his lumbar region. Her eyes were closed, the sunlight blaring orange-red through her eyelids. She felt sweat beading at her brow line, heard cars going by, and was surprised by the stark animal fact of her coworker’s back, the knob of his skull against the back of her head, her coiled hair pressed against his neck. Then, she stopped hearing the sounds as sounds, and the hot asphalt beneath her dropped away and it felt like the whole world of her began to seep out from the space between her ribs.

She doesn’t remember how it was that they shifted weight and agreed to stand up, to go back to work.

He looked different to her, almost radically. She felt her face wide open, and understood that she probably looked different, too.

The results of the test were printed as a folded two page booklet, a booklet like the test had been. The paper was stiff and her name was printed right there, inked indelible on a line with the name of my school. It was not the first time I had seen my name printed on a piece of paper. I had blearily regarded the bracelet on my wrist in the hospital after I fell, my name in little fuzzy-edged block letters, held in plastic that scratched at me.

Here she was again, a person with a name, letters and sounds that mean who she is,  that she is a person, a person with a name.

Standing in the kitchen at the house in Georgia, circa 1984, just a little kid standing by the counter, the yellow-thick lacquered cabinets rising up to the ceiling, looking quietly at the results of her basic skills testing, the test she took at school, the longest day, the most quiet and warm, sunlight cutting through the oaks outside, eraser fibers all over her fingers, her left hand smeared with graphite because she drags her hand over the paper when she writes with her hand. Tiny, hard little circles.

The numbers in the rows of lines and words, different tests, different measures, didn’t mean much to her, except she knew that bigger numbers were better, meant you’d done better. The results offered the average score along with the person’s individual score, provided a percentile ranking.

She did not know what it meant to have such a high number, what that meant, to be way up in the biggest number before the biggest number, how that could be possible. She pictured all the kids in Mr. Harrison’s science classroom, the smart ones and the ones who were just regular, or not smart, and wondered about their numbers. Would it feel sad to not have a good number, a high number?

She didn’t care that much about being smart. For the most part, she hated school. She learned to go, and even to have fun there, find things to be interested in, people she liked to be around, spaces that she felt a fondness for, quiet bathrooms, shady sections of sidewalks, the feeling of waiting for a bus at the end of the day, so many arms and legs and smells and voices, all going home.

Even when she was having fun, she always wanted to be somewhere else, doing other things. Staring out at the sun-blasted grass and thin, out-in-the-county pines, she’d feel an almost animal pull for the shade and river smells of the woods at home, the cool on her eyes as the car left the bright highway and entered the tunnel of oaks and pines that led to the house.

Her grades were good, except in math. She didn’t care that much about math, beyond the basics of knowing how to figure out what she needed to figure out. She thought she already knew how to figure out all that she might have to figure out, and that fractions weren’t that important.

She had trouble at school though, was a little troubled. For a long time, her trouble with school didn’t show up enough to be recognized as troubled.

Even when her trouble with school, which had generalized into a trouble with life, did begin to really show up, in the form of long absences, sickness both feigned and manifested through both will and self-harm, minor intentional injuries, bad sunburns, induced nausea. She became good at sensitizing herself to headaches, focusing in on the pulse in her temple, finding the grain of pain there, imagining the blood flow, pushing pain, her head filling with it. She did not know that she was doing this, exacerbating her headaches by how she paid attention to them. She knew that she would not have to go to school if her head hurt so badly she literally could not move, if every movement exploded in a breathtaking pain in her head, if tears were sliding out of her eyes and every sound, any light was a brutality to her senses. The knife slipping in under the door, the footsteps on the other side of the house, the grind of the air conditioner.

The headaches started when she was little. She had them all the time, her face slack, head throbbing. She got them after sunburn, maybe just dehydration, a day with too much noise, to much movement in crowds, so much blending sound, the 4th of July parade, the sharp mild smell of the church basement, Girl Scouts, a day spent laying on the couch watching cable in the strangely dark and impermanent seeming living rooms of her few friends, being in places that weren’t home, going to the mall, the cloy of perfumes and fabrics, clattering hangers, a wash of music and voices, echoes, the detergent aisle at the grocery store, the hold of her breath.

She hated the headaches. They became the only thing that was happening when they were happening, a pain that was immobilizing because it was so uniquely distracting, because it pulled at all her attention, became the defining experience.

On the drive home from work, she thought about whether or not it was crazy to think that maybe there was some contract, that what is being asked of me (oh, hapless first person, stumbling in with a dazed vulnerability, a quivering hope tinged with doubt) is that I do everything in my power to create a life for myself that is more free, to put my time and energy toward better use, to make things happen for myself. To get my shit together.

In her mind, she has hitched the idea of writing a book to her longing for freedom, supplied as a potential means to an end, or as a possible vehicle to make a life for herself that is more fun and more useful, to make more win-wins for everybody involved, to be able to do more of what she wants to do, more of what seems most important to her.

She wonders if it is crazy to want to write a book, to be trying to write a book, some big scheme to do something useful, to make a good way for herself. She has to be honest with herself about how that involuntary voice in her catches her attention with certain ideas, shapes the way she thinks about her tactics and strategies, her assumptions, and the details of possible outcomes. She has to admit that there is a part of her that really does think she is capable of writing a book that is lovely and effective, a book that does something, that might help a person out, some person that maybe is struggling with some of the things she has struggled with.

When she is driving, she sometimes thinks about how there might be some person out there, some kid in a basement that nobody can help, and I wonder if maybe I could help them, because maybe I can understand some things in some way that others cannot because of the limitations of their understandings as imposed by some algorithm of raw cognition capability, capacity for awareness of alternative modalities in seeing the world, ego attachments, emotional reactivity and reaction styles, investment in perceived power, and all the other hangups that combine to distort perception and block understanding, to enter into a disjointed reality, where two people may be in a room having a conversation, but their experiences of what is happening and what is being talked about and what is best and what is needed and what, the fuck, is actually going on anyway, what the hell am I supposed to do, just let you not go to school, get up, move, go outside, be alive, be okay, be happy, I only want you to be okay, I only want you to be happy.

It must be agonizing to be the parent of a troubled kid.

My family spent thousands, and I am talking thousands, of dollars on trying to help me to not be unhappy, to not want to die. To not be crying and having despairing fits so often as I did.

She is sitting on her back porch, about to go inside and clean the kitchen, then meet up with her oldest child to drive to the bright road of stores and enter the slick purveyor of cellular technology, resolve an issue with a phone.

She is an adult, sort of. She feels sheepish when she admits that, really, she’s still just a kid, still just that same kid, trying to figure out how to feel good in her life, trying to be free, trying to make a life she can be good at.

She is a person with unique strengths and capabilities, valuable experience. She is also a person with limitations, both in her abilities and in her values, the things she wants to or is willing to participate in, whether or not she finds an action or endeavor ethical, worthwhile. Does this help or harm? Who does it help, who might it harm?

She is always figuring. Sometimes she figures right, and sometimes she figures wrong. Often there is no right and there is no wrong. There is just the tumbling phenomena of our lives unfolding.

In many ways, she is not an effective adult. She is beginning to embrace this as a wealth of information about who she is and what she is capable of. There are many things she cannot do. There are many things she can do. She can run up hills and she can spend days not talking to anyone else. She can feel awe. She can spend hours emailing herself on the phone, holding multiple realities in her head at once. She can help people make sense of their fear, solve problems in their lives, find ways to survive the gauntlet that is living.

She can draw, and paint. A little.

Her eyes close and her head rolls when she plays piano alone in the house.

She noticed that the white hydrangea behind the hexagon shed that she and her father built had, for the first time ever, small tendrils of blue edging into its petals.

She can figure out how to make a building.

She is not good at tying knots, but she is very good at untying them.

It is a couple hours later, and she is back on the porch, one of her regular ports, places to pause. She has written in a lot of different spaces during the past nine years of emailing herself, and she is almost invariably most comfortable on her porch, though can achieve that ease in writing in other settings, parks and strange rooms, airports.

She hasn’t yet figured out where the best place for her to write fiction might be. She has written characters and brief dialogue, brief fictive actions, made-up settings while here on the porch, but her life sleeps in too much, and she gets distracted by the wonder of her sitting there writing about one thing, and thinking about other things, being in one place in her mind, her body in another place.

She went to the phone store, and they were playing Weezer and The Doors. The Solutions Manager wore a top knot man-bun and had sparkly eyes. The scene was chill and she stretched by the phone cases. On the way out, her oldest child held the door for a grandfather and the toddler he was carrying, and it was a small, important act in the world.

There is a softness in the sunlight of today. Some days are like that, like this. Benevolent.

She knows that this is only her experience, and that all around her, the day is toothy as hell and difficult for all sorts of people, all sorts of creatures.

Her day is nice though, and she feels curious about what might happen next.

Her best friend is going to be in the wilderness for 7 to 10 days. She wonders if she can write a book, out together a book, in the time that he is gone. She wants to have the experience of telling him, “Well, I finished Phase 1.”

Phase 1 is a document that can be refined into a book.

Depending on how she thinks about her vast digitally-stored slushpile of narration and efforts, it’s possible she finished Phase 1 a long time ago.

Perhaps this is Phase 2, the construction of a secondary document which is partially made of parts of other documents, other writings. Excerpts of formerly immediate experience presented as glimpses of how she was thinking, what she was thinking, what she was doing during the months she was losing her mind.

She has very little interest in writing a straightforward recovery story, or mental health memoir. That is not what this is.

She thinks of it more as a study of experience, an inquiry into the ways that her own experience unfurls and how some sets of factors can collide to catalyze transformative processes, which sometimes look a lot like going crazy, like a nervous breakdown.

If one’s capacity to cope is exceeded by what they must cope with, they must either find new ways of coping or change the things they cannot cope with.

If they cannot do these things, functionality collapses, the system collapses.

It is now the next night, and the day is a collage of sunlight and traffic, the smell of stores, the smell of the house her parents live in now, out at the edge of the county, tucked back into a little seam at the base of the hills that roll on out toward the flat land to the east. Conversations with her children, small transactions. Intermittent laughter and her usual thinking.

Yesterday, she was certain that she could do this thing, put it all together in a week for the pleasure of completing Phase 2, and of being able to tell her best friend that she had done a remarkable thing. He had been doing remarkable things, walking over mountains at a clip of 25 miles a day.

She had been getting by, muddling through days that felt heavy at the edges, sad at the center.

The plan was for him to go and be out in the world, to walk over mountains, to be free in that way. She would stay, because she has to, because of how her life is. However, she would work on changing her life, moving toward the goals she had set for herself, her plan to create a life that is more useful, more fun, a life that she is better at living, a life better suited for the person she is.

She wants everyone to have good lives. Lives that allow for and nurture the best that a person might be. Lives with ample freedom and beauty, freedom from fear, a feeling of peacefulness.

She is a naive idealist, and doesn’t understand why a part of her feels sad when she admits this to herself.

It is a simple hope she has, a child-hope. “I just want everything to be okay for everyone.”

Last night, it seemed entirely possible for her to spend the next five days writing every chance she gets, to just stretch out the thread and trust that what needs to be told would be told, that she will find the pieces of writing that correspond, that supplement, that she could manage to put something together that she might be able to work further on, perhaps even seek help with.

She imagines writing the email, explaining her project, seeking assistance or consideration, and she wonders how that would feel, to finish something enough that she could show it to other people.

She thinks about everything she might need to do to prepare to ask for feedback, the editing, the tidying and updating of her digital self, her archival self.

Then she thinks about all the other things she needs to do and feels a tightening in her head, a pressing on her chest.

She pushes these things out of her mind. “You can do all of the things. All of the things will get done.”

Last night she ran up a huge hill, 650 feet of elevation gain in a mile, and then kept running for another hour, down through the arboretum.

She is trying to think about this like running up hills, how you just keep going.

The difference, however, is that when running, there is often a trail, and here – laying out these words in their accumulating lines – there is not trail, just a rough path, a fuzzy list of things that must be accounted for and a vague idea of how I might put it all together.

She can feel a familiar doubt, a slide in her footing. “This will be utter shit,” a voice rises in her, and she counters with a brief recollection of a couple of moments that she knew she had said something worth saying.

For months, she has held the idea that maybe the only thing she can do is her best, to not try to make it anything it isn’t, to let it be what it is.

This is a layered account of one atypical American woman’s experience of being different and losing her mind, about how she almost lost her kids trying to prove God with clouds even though she didn’t really even think she believed in God.

This is a story about how she got better, about how she learned to understand her experiences in a way she could work with and improve, about what helps her to feel better and what does not, about what she needs to feel well in her life, who she is and what she can and cannot change about that.

The primary reason she is writing this is that sometimes, as she mentioned, she has a strong sense that there might a kid in a basement somewhere that is losing their mind.

That is something that is happening right now.

Part of her knows that, hey, if this important, if you want to be able to actually reach people, you have to make sense and make it worth people’s time.  You can’t just throw a bunch of writing together and expect anyone to take the time to read it, even if you think it is important.

Why is this important to other people? What’s in it for them?

What impact might this have on their lives, if any?

She is in her room, eating dry corn cereal and wondering where she is going with all this.

Aug 12

Oh, man, it is so clear to me, this ongoing pattern, where I am on fire with confidence and vision for two and half days, and then the bottom drops out somehow, and I look at what I have done and think, “What shit.”

I stumble. I falter. My vision is gone. I feel silly for having felt confident.

In the kitchen, right now, there are pots clanging against one and other and I cannot figure out why. There is no breeze. Nothing was touched. It may be the vibrations of what sounds to be a large truck out by the street. The cumulative build of small motions, enough to unsettle the largest pan, tip it into the next-to-largest, make a small pinging noise.

I decided I would try to video it, but was only able to capture this one slight turn. Sometimes watching makes things not happen. Trying to see sometimes makes it impossible to see.

It is afternoon, a couple days after I was all, “Yeah! I can totally put this together in a week. I can be diligent! I can be determined! I AM Determined.”

It’s worth noting that I had had insufficient sleep over the previous few nights, because I had pushed myself to stay awake to be in touch with a friend who is far away, because they are not always able to be in touch.

Usually, when I don’t get enough sleep, I kick past the fatigue into a peculiar adrenalized vigor. After work, I ran 7 miles at the arboretum, and then came home and began writing what I was certain at the time would become the foundation for the construction of this project that won’t leave me alone until I complete it.

That is the truth.

I don’t know why I cannot just let it be. Forget about it. Move on to something else.

That might be the healthiest thing that I could do, and yet when I think about doing that, forgetting about this project, doing some other project, going in a different direction, setting it aside, putting it out of my mind as thing that I ought to do, I feel a rush of heavy sadness, and imagine myself flip-flopping into a future where, surely, there will be a small note of regret until the day that I die that I never did tell that story.

My heart feels heavy as I write this, because I know better than to care too much about doing any particular thing, and I know that the contracts we make with ourselves about what means what and why can create some mighty fucked up feelings, distorted perceptions of reality.

It is totally feasible that I could mightily enjoy my life and never care about the telling of this story, that it never trouble me, this thing that I did not do.

The pans are making noise again.

It must be vibrations, a perfectly angled breeze.

While my rational mind must agree with the possibility that this project is an unnecessary waste of time and that maybe I could be happier without it, there is still that heaviness in me when I think about discontinuing my efforts, aborting this beginning along with all of the other beginnings.

I have known plenty of people who’ve thrown entire years of journals into the sea, who’ve burnt letters up in campfires, who’ve thrown the records of themselves into the garbage with the cat litter.

She feels the familiar resolution.

She is not going to give up, she is going to keep going.

Aug 13

at the rising end of their short lives.

Looking back through old writings, trying to figure my way forward, I have noticed a tendency to romanticize in reflection. In many of my writings about those seasons of disjuncture, that time I spent immersed in a reality that, alas, may not have been entirely real, I seem to focus in on the ways it was amazing, the ways the world became new and richly beautiful in the way I was seeing it, the wash of awe and wonder.

I avoid, it seems, any telling of the fear, the disorientation, the frustration and wild, desperate hope.

She is sitting on the front porch in the middle of the night. This is not unusual for her, at least not over the past few weeks. Her body is fully awake, almost jangling. She spent hours in front of the computer, loading the day’s photos, studying them, trying to find the ones that most clearly show what she had seen.

As she writes this, years later, she can feel her heart beating faster, remembering. It amazes her, the way her body responds to thinking about certain times, the ways that her mind is pulled along with the trembling that comes up at the edge of her, the whirling collage of images and thoughts that suddenly crop up in the background of her headspace.

She notices the use of the word ‘whirling’ again, that movement word, and she thinks she ought to make a picture of this, how so much clutters (also a word she has used before, to describe her mental environment) and then all the sudden a dozen examples, pictures she has already drawn, come to mind.

This is part of how her mind works, she understands, part of what makes her a poet, how the pictures in her head make her feel, how she tries to name that feeling.

She observes a reflexive self doubt, a sheepishness in calling herself anything at all. A poet. A writer. An artist. She is a mother, a screw-up, a community mental health worker. She barely has her shit together.

Oh. The feels.

All of this is true. Every word.

However, it is only true in some frameworks of understanding, and – in many ways – it makes perfect sense, that she would be living such a bumbling, constricted life in the things she is doing. The limitations in the ways she exists outside of her own mind, who she is on the basis of her observable endeavors and her efficacy in those affairs.

She is not really a screw up, not in the broad span of all the ways people can totally fuck up their lives and create harm to themselves and others.

She is actually a pretty good mom, and occasionally, and in some ways, is a great mom to the young people who are her children. She does well at work, has maintained employment at the same organization for almost 8 years. She wants to do different work, and has put in her resignation three times over the past two years. She has stayed though, because it is the reasonable thing to do. She cannot leave until she has some other way to earn enough  to buy food, to pay bills, to provide shoes for her children.

She has no savings account, no health insurance. No 401k.

It is costing her to stay at her job, because as much as she tries, she has not yet been effective in simultaneously creating new work for herself and maintaining her current employment. So, she treads water, shows up, keeps thinking and trying.

She does not want to go get another job in the mental health system, go through all of the training and orientation, sit in those environments, under those fluorescent lights, to have to learn a whole new set of coworkers, a whole new set of workplace norms, to have to learn a whole new group of people she would work with, new practices.

She feels a crumbling dread at the thought of it, and knows she cannot do this. She doesn’t want to do it.

“Oh, boohoo, you don’t want to do it. Well, people do things they don’t want to do every day. All over the world. Think about it, all the things that people do that they don’t want to do.”

She isn’t strong like that. She might be able to be, if she killed a part of herself, her raw instinct of what is good for her and what she enjoys doing. The way it feels to powerfully want to walk out of a room, to go be outside, to be writing or making art, to be at ease, to not be at work.

God, she is spoiled.

She wants the world to be a place where nobody has to do things they deeply don’t want to do, where nobody has to degrade their vigor in living to earn a wage, where nobody has to harm themselves or to be harmed to feed themselves, to have shelter over their heads.

I want to live in a world where people are supported in doing more of what they love, being more of who they really are.

She is so naive.

So idealistic.

She forgets where she was going with this, and recognizes another tendency in her…that where she ends up going is the bigger picture. Even the smallest little thing involuntarily and irrepressibly blooms out macro.

She scrolls back up the page, trying to figure out what she was talking about. Oh, yes, she is sitting on the porch in the middle of the night, and her body is wide awake. She had been looking at cloud pictures for hours, adjusting the contrast, marveling at the way they looked like they had bones, a perfect composition in density.

Now, she sat on the porch in the middle of the night, fervently thinking about how she might manage to tell someone, to tell someone what she saw, what she noticed, what she thinks it might mean, such a simple and amazing idea! It could change everything, could make everything stop. She looked over to the east, to the ridge line where the cellular towers are, and sees that the moon is there, low over the mountain, where the sun rises. It is glowing bright gold and is a crescent on its side, lit from below, a slow smile over the dark hulk of land, due east.

Her mind reeled, and her face lit up. She began to tremble with the strangeness of it. It was the middle of the night. The moon was in the wrong place. It had the wrong look. It was not right.

It was beautiful, but hung at the wrong place in the sky. 

She wanted to tell someone about it.

It is not unusual for she and her mother to exchange commentary on matters such as the moon, or the weather, birds in the yard, the general natural world. She knew she could call her mother in the middle of the night if she really needed to. A part of her briefly wondered if it would be strange to call her mother in the middle of the night to tell her to look at the moon.

It’s behaviors like this that caused her family concern, because while it is not inherently strange nor inherently problematic to want to spend the day doing art work and considering big ideas, these interests must not compromise the endeavors that one’s life is structured around. Working and raising children. They must not cause one to act bizarre, talk about postmodernism, or stop in public to take pictures of the sky.

Being as naive as I was, and still am, I really didn’t think there would be a problem. I mean, art is good, right? Spirituality is good? Right? Taking time to reconnect with yourself in the wake of a difficult year is good?

None of these things are inherently problematic, not in the slightest.

However, it was the way I responded to the pull I felt in me to be still, to look around, to spend time in the familiar feeling of myself, alone and doing artwork. It was the way I responded to my inspiration, and it was the convergence of multiple factors in my life circumstances and relationships that drove me to quick slide my way into what, reluctantly, is best described as psychosis.

It would be easy to cob together a causality structure that blames the whole thing on my mismedication, or on my decidedly rough divorce. I have done that, at certain times, explained it all away as the fault of factors external to me, as something created in me as a reaction to or as the result of the actions of others. Like, I was totally fine, and then this doctor increased this dosage and that guy was being a real fucking jerk when we have to talk about the kids…and then I went crazy.

That’s not exactly the whole story.

In reviewing my reflections and assertions from that period of time and the months prior I notice that there are definite themes that tie into what, over time, in a barnacle-ing of thoughts and beliefs and patterns in perception, became a psychotic episode.

In the first week of writing about my drawing everyday for a year, I am writing about perspective, and about reconnecting with seeing the world in different ways, the strangeness of my life.

I am already grandiose, imagining my coworkers learning about my website, the drawings. I am triumphant at 3 weeks, foolish and noob.

There is a rise and fall in tone. Victorious and maudlin, writing about the rain.

When I think about my behavior and communication over the fall and winter and spring before I went psychotic about the clouds and thought I was supposed to prove god, that there was some big plan that I was somehow involved in…well, I can see “signs” that I was already beginning to get a little magical in my thinking, a little exuberant in my behavior and communication, slightly edgy. Hypomanic, hypermagical.

It had been a long time since I really considered myself bipolar, but I knew I had a difficult time. I was doing okay though. Employed full time at the museum and getting the kids to school on time. My marriage had fallen apart, but I was okay. Adjusting.

I remember finding The Icarus Project when I was researching creativity and mental illness, bored at work and wondering why I was feeling so mercurial. Reading the text posted on the screen, I was surprised to find myself identifying with it. “Yes,” I thought, suddenly remembering all my hospitalizations, all my medications, the scar on my arm. “My life has been affected by mental illness.”

I honestly hadn’t really thought much about my history of mental health challenges, despite the fact that I had a prescription for lorazepam and venlafaxine from my primary care physician. Just to help me cope with the stresses of being a working mom going through a divorce. Not because I was mentally ill.

I had stopped disclosing my mental health history on doctors forms, because I was ‘over it.’

I adopted a bias of omission in my thinking about it, my identifying with the experiences of being mentally ill, having mental health crises. I chalked it all up to a fucked up adolescence, and could see a little of how it all went down, how I was a kid with problems and those problems led to other problems. I was an adult now. I was better. I had gotten married and was maintaining a household and being a very good mom. I was not mentally ill. I was solid.

Except that I cried a lot, and was edgy as hell. Distractable and overwhelmed as my marriage fell apart under the stresses of two people ill-equipped for one another, for trying to build a life together, two people going about the whole thing all wrong, all wounded, all confused about who they were and whether they were happy, frustrated and tired in their busy, crumbling, life-building lives.

I was a little concerned about myself. I had started to feel that sinking into myself, that pull to be alone, that panic in having to talk with people. Things had started to get loud.

It was harder not to cry. I started to lose weight, smoke more. My eyes took on a wild glint through the fall of 2009.

I remember a lot of the years before, the years of my marriage and its decline, the kids’ youths, them being babies, the years before I met their father. I could, if I started from the beginning, probably remember quite a bit, in image and sensation. A lot of my life, the experiences I have had.

I probably could find a bigger pattern in my evolving wellness and/or lack thereof, a series of seasonal rises and falls, year after year, a larger curve, while segments of years between crises, a slow build, a month to month wave pattern, the spikes and flatlines of a long day, any day.

I have wondered if getting swine flu that winter, and having that fever, that pneumonia, if that created a critical state of inflammation in my brain. It might have. It certainly did for a moment there, when my whole body was exploding with pain and I couldn’t move my limbs from the floor in the hall.

I don’t know how an illness like that affects one’s mental health.

I was quite ill.

Aug 13

She becomes aware of a familiar doubt as she considers the few dozen pages compiled over the past several days.

“It won’t make sense to anybody.”

She feels a dampening in her spirit, wonders if she ought to go on. “You’re supposed to have all this worked out,” she thinks to herself, her mouth set in a half-frown, considering. “A book is supposed to be polished, coherent. It is not supposed to include your doubts.”

There is a quiet, bargaining voice in her, that says that maybe this is what her book is, that maybe her book tells about the process, tells about the doubts, tells about how difficult it is to tell…

“Who wants to read that?!” It is almost laughable.

“No.” She says. “It’s not laughable. It’s real.”

She feels a standing like her fists at her hips, squared-off like that, something like indignant, something like defensive.

Takes a deep breath. “Maybe, if nothing else, if I do my best in the time that is available to me, and I put together something the best I am able to, and I show it to somebody…they will see that I need help with this project, and they might know someone who could help me.”

My god, she thinks, is this whole thing a cry for help?

She wrote almost 3,000 words in the morning, without even having to try much at all. She just kept writing.

Aug 13

I don’t know how I talked them into letting me change schools so much, why they went to such great lengths to try to find something that worked.

I guess they didn’t have much choice when I started flat-out refusing to go, became violent when they tried to make me go.

I got kicked out of St. Patrick’s two months into my eight grade year, because of the incident with the stealing of the peppermint schnapps and the being-a-passenger on an idiotic joyride.

I finished the year at Mary Lee Clark Middle, but was different. My hair was still permed, but I stopped spraying my bangs up. I still hung out with some of the same kids I had hung out with before, kids from the subdivision, Navy kids, but I was different.

I had joined the ranks of kids who got sent to Charter. There were lots of us, at least a half dozen, people’s older or younger brothers and sisters. Mostly brothers, mostly because of drugs.

Aug 14

…was in the forest over by the arboretum, running for a long time. It gives me peace.

Hey, I was thinking a little at the beginning of the run, and I ended up writing a lot at the end of this message. It’s pretty strident, but also compassionate…sometimes it is hard for me to see people play out the same patterns and end up in the same places.

I know it’s waaaaaay not that simple…but, I don’t know what to do to help, other than be here

( albeit remotely, because a/I am locked into a determined flow around a longstanding project and b/never much hang out with anyone anyway except for one or two people who seem to be able to understand my asociality and need for nonanthropocentric time. I’m usually pretty wiped out as far as the realities of other people’s lives after work and being a mom and stuff. I don’t have the social capacities to maintain moderate or even light friendships in any proper sense)

I can help you to brainstorm solutions or coping or ways out of this, explore other options…but, I can’t do that too much, because then I run the risk of being in the position of being someone’s only person, and that is not a safe social space for me to be in, nor is it safe for the other person, especially if they are vulnerable to abandonment, because of the way I am, I can drift quite a bit, or become resentful due to falterings in my ability to maintain boundless compassion, or unmet needs for self care that cause me to become anxious and fray at what I perceive to be scarcities in time and attention and spirit.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like to be a support for you, but I am not sure how to best support you. I want to be there for you, but have to recognize the limits of my ability to do so, within or outside of the role of being a person you met at meridian that you have a unique and powerful seeming connection with, that is kinda awesome and rare and something to be taken seriously.

I guess my knee-jerk thing would be to be like “faith you’re being selfish you have to help ______ however you can because she has no one.”

“Forget the rules of not involving yourself socially with people you from work, both your rules and your organizations rules.”

“Be human. You have to help the other human. It’s the only thing that matters.”

But I recognize these reasonings to lead down the murky path of taking responsibility for fixing someone else’s life out of a sense of ethos and guilt…and, man, I can’t do that.

Anyway, I guess I wrote a lot here, too…and I’m sorry if it’s like, whoa, wall of words. I care about you and respect you and want to be there for you…but, I have to be transparent about my capacities and limitations in being a good support, even to a person who I know it is really important to support.

Okay…I have to work on the project for a while…check in though…try to be okay. Sit outside. Breathe. Remember who you are. I, at the moment, am long winded. sorry…

I’m sorry you’re in the situation you’re in…and that you feel like you will never be ok again…

Try to see out of the world where the people you choose to care about and let into your life hurt you and leave you…

I will be around the place next week, but not sure what my schedule is just yet…

You’re not a burden…*and* you can’t live life longing for a anchor with other people, especially if the people you drift toward are sinking ships that you (and I totally get this and it comes from a good place) you want to help because you believe in them and care for them…but, it is not up to you to save all the complexly wounded and crashing and burning people. Ultimately, people only save themselves…or they don’t…and that is a sad reality.

You’ve chosen to be there for people who *cannot be there for you* who *cannot love you* with any sort of real love with integrity…which hardly anyone can love anyone with anyway…but, really, this is a bad situation…and you have choices and options as to how to proceed, not just in your actions, but in your spirit, too…you can choose what you let destroy you…and what you let sever you from your connection to everything that is so much bigger than any argument or hurt caused by people…there are things in this world that will never let you down…and they don’t want or need anything from you, and your joy feeds the wind and your loneliness will go away when you are not scared anymore to be alone.

Aug 14

Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 8:45 PM
to me

This morning, driving to work, she thought about this project, and how she knows how to proceed now, what it is and what it isn’t. What it could be. She is confident she can be the niche in multiple markets. She feels sheepish when she admits this to herself, wonders if she is being grandiose. She considers the facts as she understands them, taking into account that she doesn’t understand quite a bit about anything, even herself, her perception of who she is and why her lived experience as a human being might be worth talking about. She doesn’t know if it matters that she was one of the unseen twice exceptional kids of the late-70s and early 80s, who was not exceptional enough in either aspect of her exceptionality – her brightness and her difficulties – to cause concern or garner interest beyond correcting for a speech impediment in a small dark classroom on the short hall by the library, through the breezeway, past the sidewalk down to the street, under the pines, the town beyond, a small, dark classroom where she sat with a man who was nice enough in beige and who explained the sounds I needed to make in order to learn how to say my own last name.

(There is the first person again, slipping through.)

There were other kids in the class, a boy with cerebral palsy and bright orange hair, a clattering brace on his leg, a girl from Sand Hill Road, across the highway, right past the tracks where the nuclear protestors had started to lay down, right there on the tracks, trying to stop the trains.

The girl had a lisp.

I don’t think they ever stopped a train.

I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I was in the speech room, which was also the Special Education room. I was thinking about how to make a rrrraaaawwwwrrrr growling noise, trying to make my mouth make the sound. Trying hard, as hard I tried to write the lowercase cursive r, my hand always drawing a wave instead, almost a u.

My hand remembers the feeling of the warmed and slick-wet carton of milk that waited by the classroom door for me when I rejoined my class after speech. I missed milk break, and drank my chocolate milk silently, hand dripping sticky water onto my desk from the sour carton, nubby fibers of cardboard brown with milk.

I was not identified as having any learning disabilities or differences. I did well enough.

I could figure things out, learn how to get by. I was a participant observer from a young age. This is likely due to the fact of growing up in the woods, and maybe seeing other kids now and again, spending time with the family of a fellow park ranger, or some random mom-friend my mother had somehow made, who we might see one or twice, and then never again. I spent my early developmental years primarily in the company of my immediate family, my parents and my little brother, and my great-grandmother, the women who worked for her, and the tiny sinewy woman from Folkston who rented the little white house behind my great-grandmother’s big White House.

Her name was Ruby, and she sat in a big white chair along the same wall that my great-grandmother sat in a replicate big white chair. They sat there together all day long, facing forward and talking with one another, looking over the expanse of the heavy side table that sat between the chairs.

My great-grandmother was an old white woman of withering relative wealth. Born in 1894 to a Georgia State Supreme Court Judge whose picture is hanging up in that building with the gleaming golden dome that you can see right there from the highway.

When I was very little, I didn’t know a thing about what it meant to be an old white woman of withering relative wealth in the Deep South, or how my life was any different than any other people’s lives, except I liked being at home, in the woods, much more than I liked being in town, where it was crowded and bright, even though when I was little the town of St. Mary’s only had the two lanes of Highway 40 running to turn into Osborne Road, go down by the river, to downtown, where there was only the Cumberland Island office, and the shrimp boats and the Riverview Hotel with Seagle’s Bar tucked right there behind the old tall windows, under the second story balcony that was the tallest building that we had in town except for maybe Plum Orchard, which was the Greek Revival broad-lawn gem on a big corner lot. Except for the paper mill, the Gilman Paper Company, heaving out plumes of acrid smoke that hung over town if it was foggy, and caught winds all the way over the edge of town. The mill rose out of a bend in the road like a chaos of pulp pyramids and broken out windows, ladders and pipes and smokestacks and train cars.

She didn’t think much about it, other than it smelled, and her dad told her that he worked there for about a month, and that walking on the floors had eaten the soles off of his shoes because of all the chemicals.

Aug 14

At the place where I work, they call call crying or getting angry a ‘Big Moment.’ These can any sort of upset ranging from benzo-withdrawing panic attacks to despondent fits of suicidality, a relapse, a slip, a cut on the arm, voices in the dark.

Someone being sent to the hospital usually isn’t call a Big Moment, it’s called Had-to-go-to-the-Hospital.   A disorientation of finding you can’t move your wrists, the blur of the nurse behind you, your mother crying on the phone or sounding wooden.

Aug 15

I read over the assessment, the “evident psychosis,” the “flight of ideas” and even “word salad.”

I didn’t feel anything, not like I used to. For a long time, clinical language – the words of diagnosis, symptoms – caused a small flood of feels, a sheepishness, a tight ball of defiance, a morbid curiosity.

The made-up and Latinate syllables are strangely loaded, whole stories encased in black type, literal codes for human experience. Signifiers of something much bigger, much more personal, than the word psycho.

She understands that people need to be able to describe things, to name them and to understand how they work, what they mean. They need to know what to do, especially if something is a problem, if it destabilizes the organism or the colony, the clan, the family, the community.

They must be able to name the problem, to know what the problem is, before they can do anything about it. So, they give some problems names, and when they see something that looks like that sort of problem, they will give it the name they know to describe it, to help them to make sense of what, exactly, they are dealing with here.

Some things – a great many things! – are only problems in the context of the system that they occur within.

If the system cannot be changed to solve the problem, the problem must solve itself by ceasing to become a problem, adapting functionality within the system. If the problem cannot adapt to become less of a problem, the system continues to destabilize and pushes to resolve the maladaptive problem create a myriad of outcomes.

Okay. The thing is happening where I lose focus. A lot of thoughts rolling around in my head.

Myriad out outcomes is murky as hell. Be specific. What are you talking about?

She wonders, sitting on the floor at work, during the Tuesday morning meeting, rocking slightly back and forth, if the clinicians that she works with have diagnosed her, have noticed that she meets diagnostic criteria for at least a handful of Axis 1 and Axis 2 disorders.

She knows they can’t help it, that that’s part of how they’ve been trained to think about things, to observe and notice things, to describe aspects of human behavior through a clinical framework of functionality in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and pathology, symptoms of disorder, illness, crisis.

She thinks about the people who come to the Recovery Education Center in the same way, with words and classifications attached to them; she knows what’s in their Electronic Client Record, the diagnostic codes, the descriptors. She thinks about these things, because she knows the words mean something, mean that a person was seen in some way that suggests a tendency toward engaging in behaviors perceived by the diagnostician. The words mean something to people, and they list them off, a string of diagnoses recited like catechism, like a sentence, like badges. Like they will tell her something about who they are, or what they are like, and they do tell her something, suggest certain likelihoods in how a person might behave or think or feel or react. Relational styles, cognition tendencies. Patterns of fluctuation, instability. Stress vulnerability.

The words don’t tell her much though, and sometimes they tell her the wrong thing, the wrong diagnosis, a biased diagnosis, a diagnosis made with partial information.

She wonders if it is because of the ways that naming a thing works that we are more likely to see what we think we will see, if it is confirmation bias that pulls us to find evidence of what we expect will be there.

Aug 15

Okay. Some days will be like this, where my writing will be off, my energy and focus off.

Sometimes there is no coherence, no flow, or just the hints of flow, pulling me this way and that, shiny ideas, things that catch my attention and then go flat.

I am reminding myself to keep going, to just fucking focus.

I can do it.

It’s just so big…

The first time she left it was a Dodge pickup truck, red like your daddy’s life that paid for it with a government check after all those chemicals, all that cancer, and it was Slayer and Pantera on the interstate over to Alabama, to your mother’s trailer out on a flat, flat road where it rained everyday and did not smell much like home.

She loved him for his long hair, his green eyes, his sadness. He had been there, to that place where she had been. She had visited him there, after he began to withdraw from the Xanax and the cocaine and everything else he’d been doing with the greasy haired head cook at the Huddle House, where he was also a cook, his hair in a ponytail. She didn’t know him. He was a military kid, whose family somehow landed, like so many families, there in the town she grew up in.

He lived in the north county though, almost out of the county, and she had dropped out of school, so she didn’t know him until she saw him at the Huddle House where she went to eat grilled cheese sandwiches, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes in the corner booth wearing a heavy dark sweater, hair short and sleek and dark purple burgundy.

She introduced herself by writing him a poem, entitled Beautiful, in which she wrote in careful letters of what she questioned to be a quality of a minor god, a Demi-god, and concluded that no, it was his humanity, the something-like-sorrow in his eyes, that she found to be, predictably, beautiful.

It is easy, she learned, to make people fall in love with you through poetry, but only if you really feel something like love for them, or for whatever it is the poem is about, some small string of love, that makes a sound when you find the words that make the images that bring to heart the light that cannot be named, a certain feeling.

She loved him for exactly who he was, spindly and bird-like, with a fragile mouth but hard eyes, pretty hair, a dark side. Death metal. A dead father.

In the apartment in the basement on the hill in northern Michigan, when she was 17 years old, she burnt a ring in the old rose carpet, eating ramen noodles from a hot pot while watching reruns of The Golden Girls while the snow came down outside. They lost the security deposit when they moved out after their landlady overheard her screaming at her mother on the phone.

They were living in the upstairs walk-up over a garage at the end of a scrabbly, snow covered street when she left in the middle of winter, tired of the snow, of being away from home, of living with her boyfriend. She wasn’t even 18.

Her mother drove her home to Georgia, and she got food poisoning from a Burger King near the Ohio border, vomited and shat the whole night in a motel room, shivering. Sicker than she’d been in a long time.

She would go back to school, that was the plan, and she enrolled in classes at the Georgia Military College satellite that was out on the base, dispersed across meeting rooms and military classrooms around the base. She had to pass through security to go to class, be patted down to attend English Composition 101 in the Trident Training Facility conference room.

Aug 15 10:40AM

It’s a really challenging day with this project, like every known barrier in process and productivity is throwing itself down or clamoring up, tugging at my attention, scattering my thoughts.

I think I am tired.

I consider the utility of pushing forward, getting to a point where I am excited to work on this again.

Aug 15 1:45PM

This is not just the story of her “struggle with mental illness,” a telling of her diagnoses and symptoms, glittering and muddied accounts of the times she went to the hospital, shards of visual and dialogue to convey the grinding and falling of what she remembers in vivid detail as whole days, weeks, full of long punctuations and violent non sequiturs, volatility and intrusive thoughts.

Nor is it a recovery story, how she “got better” and learned to accept her illness, her disorder, found the treatment that worked, the right pill to take, the right way to calm down. How she has a good life now, and is – if not exactly normal – mostly happy.

This is a deconstruction and representation of a person’s experience, an imprecise analysis of being different, but not understanding the ways she was – and is – different, of being hurt, but not recognizing the wounds incurred as being wounds.

Because of the way she thinks about how experience is formed, how lives unfurl, she cannot tell the story of her disorder and of the various impacts it had on her life without telling the story of the place where she is from, the themes that informed her reality, her identity, her fear responses and how she feels when she feels happy, when she feels sad, what she wants to do when she is angry, what she thinks about, where her mind goes, what she makes of the world and herself in it.

This is the story of a project, into which an entire life seeped and then exploded, lines erased and reconfigured to spell out something she’d never seen before.

She would draw a picture everyday for a year, as simple as that. Lots of people do it. Something daily. A drawing. A photo. A haiku. Anything. They make a project, and do a thing everyday for a year, tell about it on social media, write about it.

So, she began drawing, and began writing about drawing, and posting her drawings and her writings on a website nobody read. She felt like everybody was reading it, or might start reading it at any time. Exposed.

She can see in her early writings how defensive she is, how she is already defending herself, learning not to care. She is already talking about perspective and the importance of doing things you love, of knowing what you love. She was already beginning to wonder who she is, and how her life had turned out the way it did.

Her marriage was dead. The father of her children was being a jerk. She was being passive aggressive. Working full-time, taking the kids to school, trying to help them through the transition of their father not living at the house. She thought a lot about how differently people can see things. She had to think about this, because everyone in her life seemed to be seeing something different, inhabiting an entirely different scenario. When she got upset because something sad or mean or impossible happened, and cried and closed my door, it was because I had a mood disorder, not because I was a human being whose life within her family had fallen apart.

Her husband knew about her mental health history, her disorder. He’d met her just a few months after she cut her arm open, but was “doing better now.” Happy, exuberant even, in the Portland springtime. Happy and still employable, because she had a degree and a few years of spotty experience working with people whose lives were a struggle, a lot of volunteerism, hanging out in parks with homeless people, having conversations. She had a job, and could tell her family things were going well. The sun was out. Her co-worker had magnetism, an accent from up north, dark eyes like hers.

He knew though, that she had had mental health challenges, had become terribly volatile while withdrawing from Effexor while driving cross-country in a van with two dogs in the wintertime, in her first trimester of pregnancy.

She had to get a psychological evaluation, because her ‘mental health’ had become an issue in the divorce, in the considerations of what was best for the children, only 6 and 8.

It is ironic that, at that time, she was a good mom, and was actually handling things rather well. She was a little stressed, a little edgy, but she was handling things okay, still working, getting the kids to school on time, picking them up on time, playing with them and trying to keep their lives happy even though their Pop had moved out and they cried more than usual. They cried a lot.

She tried not to write about any of that, because it felt weird to have her family’s life on the internet, but sometimes it slipped in, as lives do, and it helped her to see the situation noted in brief prose, small analyses.

It helped her to try to make sense of what she was dealing with, and to keep track of who she was in the midst of being a mother, and a museum worker, and a soon-to-be ex-wife. Sometimes, in those early writings, her tone is obnoxious, and the things she says are stupid and strange.

Mostly, though, she wrote about drawing, brief notes about the experience of posting, how she might like it on some days, be getting the hang of it, and then not like it other days, feel pressured. She made notes on the weather, brief mentions of mood and energy, activities, things she thought about.

Nobody read it, but she kept posting.

As the winter set in, the website became a place for her to talk openly with herself about whatever was on her mind. Her drawings were improving and sometimes interesting things showed up in the sketches.

She cannot trace the confluence of events that led to the steady and then profound decline in her mental health and functionality, the origin event that led to her radically launching into a different reality, in which she was an unrecognized genius and God was alive in everything, the world full of currents and signals and codes.

It is possible that she was already in an elevated state when she took the psychological evaluation in the sunny upstairs office on the north side of town. She was wearing a loose orange skirt, a purple top, bright green shoes. Her hair was platinum blond.

The questions were easy. The answers flew out of her. It was fun. She was a delight, a clever delight, as the sun slanted through the afternoon windows and spoke about her occasional anxiety, the lorazepam prescribed by her primary care physician.

She did not meet with the psychologist to review he results, just had the report sent to her.

She has spent the past 8 years trying to figure out how she really believed that she could prove God with pictures of clouds, how she really believed that what she saw in the sky was real and meant what she believed it to mean.

How did that happen in her mind, in the reality she was inhabiting?

At the hospital, they called it psychosis, and chalked up everything she was saying as delusional and grandiose. They noted her body odor. Wrote down her prescriptions. Gave her a shot.

She felt foggy and feral in the pale room. These people did not know her, they could not see how it could all make sense. She had started to believe that everything was a test, that she was being watched and evaluated, challenged in order to prove a point, that she was strong, that she believed, that she really believed.

How could she believe what she believed?

Aug 15 7:09PM

The idea that perhaps differences that result in difficulty is less a matter of disorder than it is a matter of diversity is not a new one.

Aug 15 7:48pm

The girl knew she’d almost died, when she fell the way she fell, right off of that swing at its high upward arc.

Aug 15 10:38pm

“We all have a secret self,” she thinks, listening to the night insects out on the porch.

She has been doing research on the internet about delusional disorders.

As she has been reading through her old writing, she has been struck by how crazy she sounds.

She knows she was delusional, but it was a glitch, a temporary thing. This is what she told herself, reflecting on those months of actively believing that she was somehow involved in an international consortium of enlightened people and influencers that were seeking to destabilize the economy, end wars, and ultimately save the future of humanity through a multimodal campaign of peace and justice. She believed that everyone was watching her, all the time, and that the task to prove God with pictures of clouds had been put upon her.

By actively believing, she means that this was the primary belief that shaped her perceptions of events and experiences, her dominant framework of reality. Sure, she knew she was also who she was, with her name and her family, her small little life. However, she believed that she was right on the precipice of proving something tremendously important, and that the evidence of the numinous that only she could present would surely help the world.

She believed that God, or something like God, was watching her all the time, and knew her thoughts, knew what was in her heart.

If she thought about it in just the right way, she could rationalize the glitch and it’s resultant craziness by considering her formative psychological constructs relating to awareness of interconnectedness in nature, exposure to revolutionary espionage plot lines in popular culture, and a protracted state of profound loss and life transition stressors that, in conjunction with an increased dose of a prescribed antidepressant, launched her into scrambling realms of hypervigilant analysis,  an instinct to try to solve the problem of her life circumstances, to solve all of the problems, an amped up dopamine level reinforcing her preoccupation with stressful and exciting ideas that set off a profound motivation to believe almost anything she thought, but especially made her believe whatever made her heart beat fastest, what thrilled her and scared her.

She talks sometimes about her experience of psychosis, the delusions she held, but she doesn’t tell the whole story, she doesn’t tell anyone what she really believed, what she sometimes still believes.

She no longer believes that she is a part of an international revolution of consciousness and ethos, a new world order.

Aug 17 9:56PM

She doesn’t remember the specific thoughts or small actions she made around the house on the first day she tried to die. She recalls trying to write some sort of note, and giving up there at the small table, body wracked with a searing despair that turned her hand into a clawed fist gripping the pencil.

She has broken many pencils, trying to write something down while her body exploded, first snapping the lead, jabbing into the paper, then splitting the pencil in two, collapsing into sobs or standing up so quickly and violently that the chair scraped and clattered, sometimes fell.

It’s unclear to her, whether the memory of writhing in the darkened room as great rolling waves of grieving terror, sharp metallic dread, tore through her, clenching her jaw, kicking her legs, screaming into her pillow, tearing at it with her teeth…whether the memory of that, the image and recollected feeling of it, is from the day she tried to die, or a memory assembled of the many days and afternoons and nights she spent wailing in her room in the rented house on Hull Road, just outside of Athens, Georgia.

She’d wanted to die for four of the six months she was there, after she dropped out the graduate program in Sociology, got a Sexually Transmitted Infection from a person she met at the tattoo shop where she had wings tattooed on her palms in the heart of winter, and broke plans to go to New York with the girl who’d lived downstairs from her on 7th Avenue. The girl who had been her first best friend in a couple of years, who had the woman’s name tattooed on her arm when the wings were done.

The woman sobbed, angrily explaining that she could not go. She just could not go.

She was scared, because she did not know why she felt so upset all the time. Quitting school was a relief, a great decision. She hadn’t been able to do the work. It was too tedious, the research and reporting. The formatting.

On the metal cover of the old fireplace opening, she painted a full moon and a river, just like the one at home.

She saw the biggest moon she’d ever seen, driving west on the loop road. On the last day of the year, the college radio station played REM’s end of the world song for 24 hours straight, and she listened to it a few times, turned the radio off.

On the day after Valentines Day, she bought all of the day-old roses she could find, and strung them together into garlands that she hung around the house like she was hosting some kind of deadhead wedding party. She painted a near skeletal man, with a raven on his head, hated it because it scared her, because it was a good painting and the man was aghast, made her feel aghast. She painted a vaguely female form over it, but he bled through, and she slathered on silver paint, but she could still see the line of the bird’s back, so she faced it toward the wall and wasted the paint.

She was already depressed the day she moved to town, missing the misty air of the northwest and with the reality that she had just driven cross country with her mother, and was moving back to the South settling into her as twisted, trapped, oh-shit-what-have-I-done feeling in her gut. She didn’t want to die though. She wanted to be stoked. She wasn’t stoked, but she didn’t want to die. It was just depression. To be expected. A major transition. A new set of stressors, a whole new town to learn.

It was a foolish pride that bloomed in her about being a graduate student. Her father had shed a tear at her college graduation, and – perhaps because she was such a fuckup throughout her adolescence – she wanted to do well, and being a graduate student with a full assistantship was doing well, much better than expected.  

She went into the program wanting to study either female boxers and gender identities, or the use of the still-new popular internet by white supremacist groups for recruitment and proselytization purposes. She’d gotten into the program with a mediocre essay lamenting that, growing up in South Georgia, she had been told “that’s just the way it is,” as a means of explaining basically everything from racism to war, and that this had seeded in her a desire to understand why things are the way they are. Sociology had given her tools to think critically about culture and economy, and had provided at least a little understanding of why things are the way they are, why there is racism, why there is war, why some people are poor and why some people are rich and why some people get into some truly outrageous shit.

She loved it, that way of looking at the world, questioning all the different ways that a situation could be seen, could be measured, could be explained.

Her exceedingly hip undergrad professor, whose mother lived on the very same island that she had gone to the adolescent inpatient unit on, who grew up in Georgia, gone to Emory, talked about Foucault, and had studied white supremacy with participant observation methodology, meaning that he joined up with the groups in order to learn more about them.

When he introduced the concept of being a both a participant and an observer, she realized that a part of her had been doing this her entire life, being a part of things, but not really a part of things, always a little disconnected, at the edges watching and wondering what she needed to do to fit in, to be a part of the group.

She had best friends, and semi-best friends. Assortments of people she was close with for a while, and then drifted from, became uncomfortable with, or awkward around, or she began to become an undesirable friend in some way, clingy or moody or unfun, uptight about small things, getting crazily upset over nothing. Not being chill.

“Do you know why they don’t like me anymore?”

They were sitting together in the Thai restaurant on the edge of NW Portland. They went up there to eat together after they fucked in her apartment. They were friends, still, but all the other friends they’d been friends with didn’t talk to her anymore, and she didn’t know why.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “I really don’t know.”

She believed him and so stopped asking. She’d been ghosted by people before, and she’d ghosted people. She understood that sometimes things just change. She had friends, and now she had this one friend, who she slept with every so often and who she had had an epic penpalship the summer he was traveling and she was traveling, the fall and the winter before he came back, slowly dwindling to just a postcard or mailing every now and then, an inappropriate nostalgic letter sent years after she’d moved away and he’d gotten married. They were friends.

He felt something from her, he said.

People will say this to her sometimes, and sometimes she feels it, too, a sort of resonance or sense of connection in the space between herself and another person, a clarity in their face, the details of their eyes, their voice. It happens with old people and young people and handsome people and dirty people and big people and poor people and rich people and people of all shades of human skin.

She thinks now that it is oxytocin, that sharpens the senses and creates that sense of warmth. Dopamine, too, because it feels good, the oxytocin, and we want to connect with people, to be connected. She doesn’t know why she feels oxytocin more with some people than with others, the algorithms of connection.

Sometimes the connection is so strong and self-reinforcing that entire relationships, entire lives, are built like an arc around that certain feeling of having a real friend in the world.

She has had legendary and beautiful friendships. Life-saving adventures in simply loving the feeling of being around another person, talking with them. The solace and simplicity of being able to just be myself, because that is what makes the feeling.

“You were beautiful to me, the tattoo on your hand, that number thirteen on the back of your neck.”

She wanted to talk about big ideas, to find truth and justice. She did not want to use parenthetical referencing. The look of it was bloated and clunky, names tagged on to the edge of sentences as both awkward distractions and things she was supposed to pay attention to.

The winter after she moved into The Mitchell, she began to pause when she passed by the Grand Avenue Boxing gym on the way to the Lebanese restaurant where an acquaintance from the punk house scene gave her free spinach pies and bread on Friday nights. Every weekend, she would go to the library or to the used bookstore and she would look for books and read sections of books and find books to read through the weekend. Then, she would get an enormous amount of Lebanese food and stay in her apartment all weekend, eating corn Chex and cold shatta with hummus, reading and smoking.

She had started to pause by the boxing gym though, to glance sideways through the condensation on the glass, the sparse gear, the open space, the ring itself, the figures moving through the water on the glass, not fast like boxers on television and in movies, but almost clumsy through the fog, flurries of movement, long pauses, pacing. Yellow light light a painting on the rain-slicked sidewalk in the early-dark of late afternoon.

Aug 17, 10:39PM

Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 10:39 PM
to me

“A person cannot write a book that is all jammed up with their ideas about writing a book.”

What this means, in her mind, is that there is some rule (at least in her mind) that books ought to be what the book is about, not about the process of writing the book, or the author’s laments over how fucking hard it is to write the book, why it is hard, why every time they try to just tell the story, they feel like they are lying, like they are plastic, like they are telling a story, but not telling the whole story, or not telling it right.

That is not what the book she wants to write is about, not about how hard it is to write the book.

She wants to write the book, but is beginning to think that she cannot write the book, because writing a book is fucking hard.

“Especially,” she thinks, “the book I want to write.”

“That book might be impossible to write.”

She has a feeble hope that if she keeps writing, even if she is just thinking-writing her way through her options as to how to proceed from one or the other of one of the conceptual or stylistic impasses she encounters on every time she tries to add to the document that she is trying to make into a book.

She considers a possible summary,

“In 2009, a quirky mother of two who grew up in the woods of South Georgia and once was told she was almost a genius began a project to draw a picture everyday for a year.

As she drew and took notes on what she was thinking about, posting low quality scanned images to an unread website, her little began to fall apart in a series of small tragedies. A divorce, a dead dog, a lost job. By the following year, Faith Rhyne had spent months slipping further into an alternate reality, a psychosis, and was desperately trying to Prove God with pictures of clouds on the internet.

Faith did not intend to blog her way through psychosis, or to keep writing as she slowly muddled her way back to stability through developing an evolving understanding of her atypical tendencies and vulnerabilities and what she needs to do (and to not do) to keep her head straight and be able to live a life that she feels good about more days than not.

She never wanted to have a sad life, and when it seemed that her life had become sad, it made her sad.

Aug 20, 11:21AM

When the morning came, she pulled her body out of the bed, feeling out the soreness and strength of her limbs, her bones. She is always thinking. Even in the very early morning, even half-asleep. The thoughts are imaginings and ideas, sometimes stern voice messages from some corner of herself that blare out other thinking about the day, about herself. She has learned to keep moving in the morning, to get up, because if she doesn’t, whatever feels the thoughts might create might catch her, take hold, flood her first thing in the morning with adrenaline and cortisol, make her heart hurt, send her mind toward anger or grief, fear, the vast landscape of her insecurities.

She has learned that she can look to these thoughts, first thing in the morning, for clues about what her fucking baggage is, what belief or fear is running in the background of her life, and she knows – oh, God, she knows – not to listen to whatever detritus of her most fearful self is spun into her consciousness by some bad dream or avoided core conflict amplified by the early morning cortisol rise.

She is still surprised, again and again, by how real the world that is made up in her mind can seem, first thing in the morning.

“It’s the feelings.” She is sitting on the front porch, in the din of late-summer insects, the sky a low grey drum, holding all the sound close. Traffic moves by on the street below the house, buffered by the hedge-trees, the apple trees, the black locust, black walnut, silver maple, Virginia creeper growing through it all. It’s still loud, the rush and sucking, rolling hum of tires on the street.

Monday morning, and here she is. Same as it ever was. (Talking Heads) Smoking, still, the hand-rolled cigarettes that she knows with a gravity of knowing that makes her pay attention will likely kill her if she doesn’t stop, that already are killing her.

She always pauses when she thinks about it. Let’s that sink in, feel a little fear of death. Then she takes a deep breath, and pushes it away again, and she knows she should not do this, that she should feel that fear deep, that she should learn to see cigarettes as snakes, smoke as sulphuric acid.

This is part of her ‘routine.’ The sitting out on the porch, smoking too much and trying to write a goddam book. She does this in the mornings, and she does this in the nighttime.

She does this every chance she gets, because it is one of her favorite things to do. She likes to sit other places, too, Parks and old broken places, by water, docks, smoking and writing, or just thinking, thinking and feeling. The porch, however, is her habitual haunt, the most frequent place she finds herself, a place for long pauses in the movements between work and home, youth, and running. A place for the activity of trying to write the goddam book.

She shouldn’t say goddamn, since it’s disrespectful to people who might take offense to using the Lord’s uncapitalized name in vain, or something like that.

She knows that the dismissive tone of ‘or something like that’ could potentially be read as additionally disrespectful.

It’s unnecessary, she tells herself, to be antagonistic when it’s possible to not be, to be neutral, to play an even hand.

She doesn’t have to curse.

Words have power.

This, she knows, is absolutely true.

However, they only have the power that we give them, the feelings we couple with them, the way we allow them to shape what we perceive and experience, how we understand the world or ourselves.

She thinks about why she curses, and how sometimes the words give an emphatic charge to what she is saying, or the particular rhythm of their syllables melds well with the subject of said profanity. Sometimes, when she says “motherfucker” she feels like she could just about punch somebody in the face, and it feels good.

She can feel it right now, that little bit of sharp tang adrenaline, the rush of blood to her arms, the keening of her senses. Fine pale hairs raised from the blue roses tattooed down her right arm.

A deep breath, a small shiver. It’s gone. She’s moved into to something else. As she sits, there on the porch with her smoking and her book wrestling, she occasionally wonders what she looks like there, sitting on her porch. She doesn’t like to imagine this, who she is from the outside, because it disorients and disturbs her, opens the door to a smorgasbord of possible projections and unhelpful imaginings of how people see her.

Sometimes, like with the thoughts first thing in the morning, or the thoughts when she is feeling “upset,” she can notice what comes to mind in an inquiry of how others might see her as an indicators assumptions and beliefs, information about how she sees herself. She is so off-put by the fact that she still has ‘low self esteem,’ and it surprises her, just like it surprises her first thing in the morning, how real it can feel, to see herself as such a total fucking loser.

“I mean,” she thinks to herself, “I am not a total loser.” Then she quick-remembers that she is not a loser at all, unless being a loser means a person who has lost things.

If that is the case, she is a loser.

Everybody is a loser, if that is the case.

She imagines herself sitting there, too thin again in the late-summer, her glasses slipping off of her nose. Her hair is way too long. “You need to cut that,” her daughter tells her. Pointing like it’s something supremely distasteful, her mother’s too-long hair, held always in a thin braid that turned to coppery gold at the tips, the oldest end of the strands.

She forgets she has tattoos, even though she sees them, right there on her hand and on her wrist, the insides of her palms, to tops of her feet. These are the ones she can see, when she is sitting on the porch, her back convex, slouching over the phone she writes on, her sudden adjustment, the straightening of the spine, the pulling back of the shoulders, into a librarian posture that she will slowly slouch back out of. She is always taking deep breathes, to remind herself of the health and functional vitality of her lungs. She can run up hills, and though she knows she could run up hills so, so much faster if she did not smoke, she can run up hills. Big hills. Long hills.

“It feels so fucking good to breathe,” she tells herself this. Trying to deep-feel the breath in her, to really love to be able to breathe.

She spends an hour, sometimes two at a time out there. Writing on her phone, pausing to sit up straight, slouching back down, looking around, sometimes putting her feet up on the cypress bench her father made for her wedding a long time ago. Sometimes with her legs crossed, her foot moving, vibrating like a piece of marsh grass caught in a little current.

The house next door is a men’s Recovery house. A sober house. She wonders how they see her. They say motherfucker all the time, loud out on the porch, conversations on speaker phone. She laughs to herself, about what she would sound like if she used voice to text to email herself, instead of typing into a little screen like she does. Mumbling and imperious proclamations, didactic lectures to herself, frustrated goddam and motherfucker, how in the fuck is a person who is supposedly a person with a supposed mental illness who is a mom (at least for part of the week, for part of her life)…

There is a sudden break in train of thought, distraction by a reaction to the fact of her being a mom.

(She hears, in her thought-realm, an imagined perfect American mom say “Girl, your children are your whole life! Your whole life!” She imagines the expression, the open palm held up, pushing the strident words of whole life. She can only shrug in her imagined response.)

(These imagined people and their perspectives, what people might think made into caricature that involuntarily bloom into being, nudged by a thought. In this particular intrusion by a haughty perfect mom, the thought was the ever looming, “Am I a bad mom, because I sit here and smoke and write about my stupid life because of some stupid idea for a stupid book about the time I lost my stupid mind and fucked up my family?”)

(She has to laugh a little at the almost-cartoon stands of perfect moms rising from their seats, like a football game wave, but all at once, so many, all of them with clean hair that’s not too long, clean hands with no tattoos outstretched, pleading for her to get it, not even mean, but exasperated en masse, a whole stadium of them, saying, “Yes! Yes! Girl, you are a bad mom!”)

She is not a bad mom in the way that her children are sorely neglected, not abused or unloved. She loves her children, and is good to them. At least good enough.

She is a bad mom. Her priorities are fucked.

“This book is really causing problems in my life,” she thinks, sometimes. When she thinks this, she feels what a better writer would never dream of calling merely a great weight, but there it is, a great weight. Heart clattering like tin in the sun. Shoulders tensed in.

She knows that she could stop. She could stop the smoking and stop the writing of the book, the goddam book, and she could volunteer more and she could whole-heartedly throw herself into these last few years of stewardship in the lives of the young people that are her children, who are amazing people whom she loves dearly. She could make them central, devote her life to orbiting around their lives. She could work harder, clean more, and categorically disregard her needs, transmute her needs into her children’s needs, so that if all their needs are met, her needs are met. She could learn to have no needs. She could learn quick.

There is something not right about that though, not for her. Not in her family. Not for her children. They do not want her to hover over them and glom onto their every activity. They are good young people. Amazing.

She is grateful everyday that she does not have to put up with the sort of shit her parents put up with during her adolescence, her early adulthood. Her whole life.

Part of her wonders how having a kind of fucked up mom has shaped their individuation into the people they are. They are really good kids. Not perfect kids, or kids trying to be perfect. They just are who they are and do well in the things they care about. They both love school.

She hated school. Haaaaaaaaated it.

(She wonders if the American standard adolescent deviance from the perceived norms and preferences of one’s parents, as established by developmental processes as augmented by cultural tropes about rebellion and teenagers in The United States, causes some kids of good parents to turn toward delinquency and smoking?)

At work, she teaches the parenting class, and it’s okay that she is a kind of fucked up but good enough and maybe perfect for her kids mom, because nobody in the class is a perfect mom. Nobody has a perfect family.

It’s not just the book that causes problems in her life. The book is just a manifestation of the bigger problem that is the person she cannot seem to help being, her persistent self.

Her persistent self is not so severe as it once was. Still, there is severity. Like she severely knows that when she is not writing, or drawing, or making, with time to gawk around and think about things, or to clear herself of all her thinking, of she has to rush from one thing to another, existing only in service to other people, if she cannot have time to adjust her thinking and sort through her reactions to the environments and situations she must make her way through in the course of a day, she doesn’t feel well.

She doesn’t feel well in a way that makes it hard to do anything. An acrid sadness settles into her, and she becomes heavy in her thinking, slow. Stuck.

Her preoccupation with writing the book, or doing this painting, or some drawing, keeping her creativity alive, trying to find some footing in some project, is bound up with her desire to have a life she is good at and enjoys living within.

The jeering critics of entitlement and equity are right on the heels of this earnest wish for a better quality of life, mostly for herself, so she can be ‘who she is.’

“Why should you get to have a good life? A life you enjoy?” Oh, there is a feeling of pure scorn towards the notion that any privileged fool such as myself ought to have an easeful life when all over the world people are living lives that are wretchedly hard in ways her own life has not even allowed for her to begin to imagine. Not to even begin.

“Why should you get to be who you are when people are enslaved, enslaved. Enslaved.”

This is not even a question.

It rises in her mind like an accusation.

It’s true.

She knows that she should get over herself, be grateful for her privilege, her education, the opportunities she could take advantage of to advance in the ranks of the nonprofit behavioral health industrial complex, or work three jobs at the Burger King, the grocery store, some random place that is terrible to spend time in, doing something that is terrible to spend time doing.

Man, when she thinks about the jobs people do, she literally cringes, and she doesn’t, she knows, even know the half of it. Not even a smidge of the filth and poison, not a decibel of the loudness, a glint of the light, a shade of the dark, the smell of the blood and the shit.

She gets to lay down on the floor at work, and do body scan meditations, her palms laid flat on her belly, in a dim room with broken people she trusts because she knows their lives.

She is so lucky. She is so spoiled.

Why can’t she just be happy and effective in her life? Make the life she has be the life she is good at?

She can do that. She has been doing that.

She has been at her job for almost 8 years.

Her house is good-enough clean. There is always food. She is encouraging the youth to cook their own meals, to direct their own days and time in between busy schedules of cross-country, band, and honors academics. She drives them where they need to go. She feels moderately happy, with periods of intensified happiness and deep gratitude and love for her life as it is.

There is, however, also a certain ever-present yearning to have a different sort of life, a life where she had a reason to sit and write and gawk around, to do art work.

Is it so simple that she mostly just wants to do art, to write, because she feels so good doing it, so at home in herself?

She has tried for years to think and plan and diligently experiment with different ways to continue doing artwork in the context of a busy life, being the person she is, taking into account the ways she engages in her creativity.

There is something quiet and terrible about living a life where one often feels that they would be happier doing something else with their time.

Yet isn’t this what life is? Aren’t most people’s lives like that?

Her life has not been like most people’s lives.

She cannot do what most people might be able to do.

For years, she has tried, and for years the results are the same. If she tries to just have a normal, middle-class American life, with a focus on her children and her stewardship of them, with constricted and appropriate adult interests, nothing too weird, nothing to time-consuming…well, she begins to feel miserable and bitter. Wooden inside. She laughs less. Feels blank in who she is.

She has tried to get around this a thousand times, and she can muster different outcomes for a period of time, or manage to hold some awkward balance between her lives, the person at work, her motherhood, her being – in her most true self – that woman on the porch, smoking and thinking about why it is that she can’t just let the idea of the book go.

She understands that the idea for the book itself was born of delusion, and that that alone could be grounds for dismissal in the viability of the idea that writing a book is something she wants to do.

Sometimes she loathes, loathes, this aspect of her voice that is always explaining things to herself, going on and on.

She doesn’t feel like she needs to call the book the goddamn or God Damn book. It’s just a book. It’s a great book, a blessed-be glory hallelujah book.

Okay. Maybe it’s not that.

Aug 21 5:18PM

She back here again. Same porch, different day.

“Nothing is ever the same twice. There are too many variables, too many combinatorial possibilities. Even on a one inch square of tile, nothing is ever the same twice. Except for an atom, I guess. A molecule.”

She writes this into her phone, and listens to the mid-afternoon birdsong and breeze hum on a Tuesday. On any other Tuesday, she’d still be at work, watching the clock until she could get out of the air conditioning and go be in the forest somewhere. She runs further on Tuesdays than on other days, though she runs as far as she used to run on Tuesdays on the other days she runs.

She’s not running today, because yesterday she got stung by two yellowjackets, and her feet are waterballoons filled with an itching burn, swollen and red, like they’d been boiled.

She didn’t need to go home from work, but she could, so she did. The appointment she had cancelled, and she co-facilitates the class in the afternoon, so she just left it to her co-worker to cover.

Last night she only slept for a few hours, not because she couldn’t sleep, but because she stayed up late, texting with her best friend who was camping at the edge of a disaster-filled town in southern Alberta, sleeping under a tarp on the side of a mountain they call Hill 60, home of a graveyard and a prostitution history.

They were talking about spirit animals and trading banter about strange signs, an old white dryer with the word GARBAGE spray painted across it in a shade that looked very much like fresh blood. He told her about visiting the Frank Slide Interpretative Center, how the mountain fell over and sprayed rock for three square kilometers. She told him about the yellowjacket stings, one on each ankle, the left leg as she was running down the hill, the right leg as she was running back up.

She didn’t quite know how to articulate the questions she had about why she believes what she believes about some things.

This is the crux of her quandary, both in the not understanding why it makes so much sense to her that the yellowjacket might be trying to communicate something with her, or to teach her something, or that there may be more to encounters with the natural world than simple biologically and botanically driven forces at work, and in the difficulty saying anything at all about these things, in even formulating the question, even finishing a sentence, because the questions just go on and on about how it could that something works through the forest, or through animals, to embody them as messengers and teachers, how might that operate?

They unspool into everything, these questions.

She wonders if she’s crazy.

Then she thinks about the story she’d forgotten, the memory of running, crashing through warm late-summer leaves along the bank of the river, wheeling through underbrush to cut up to the main road and running, running right into a groundnest of yellow jackets.

She remembers stopping, but doesn’t know if she stopped.

She doesn’t remember anything else, but the insects flying at her everywhere.

Aug 21 6:16PM

Perhaps the big challenge with the book has been that she has been trying to consider how she might make the most use of her story, if she were going to try to make use of it in some way beyond it being, oh, just her life, seldom mentioned.

She understands that it might be much, much better for her to buckle down and try to, like, be normal for a minute, and write a straightforward mental health recovery narrative highlighting the role of integrative health and neurodiversity in…

“Ugh,” she makes an audible sound, sitting on the porch alone. “Psychosis Recovery.”

She knows that it wouldn’t have to be like that, that she could write some zany account of her struggles with mental illness and leave out all the half-ass deep analysis and big, deconstructive questions. She could leave out every single story that has anything to do with believing that the land might sometimes speak to her. There is little reason to go into detail about her intelligence, her cognitive processing style, the way that she conceptualizes ideas, experiences thoughts, and accesses memory. Nobody wants to hear about that.

They want to hear about the illness, the mental illness, and the recovery. The getting better part.

People need hope. They need to believe that they are not alone in their confusion and misery, that someone who maybe even had it worse off than them might be able to get better, that maybe there is some way to not want to die every single fucking day for waaaaaay to many seasons.

They don’t want to hear about how, in America, capitalist culture shapes ideals about what is normal and healthy, and about all the ways that these ideals are woefully biased toward functionality and social desirability in the marketplace, and don’t always have much to do with being healthy or sane.

Do they?

She knows that the idea that capitalism makes people crazy and miserable (a stunning oversimplification) is not an especially new, or unique idea.

She doesn’t think that most people sit around the dinner table and talk about capitalism and how it is affecting their life choices and opportunities, how this economic model in the 21st century United States might be disastrous to people’s mental health.

She doesn’t know what people talk about?

Sports. Movies. Schedules. Food.

Do people talk about whether or not they are happy?

People don’t want to read about how she learned to be happy after being so tremendously unhappy for such a long damn time, do they?

She thinks she be of more use keeping it simple, introducing a well-researched and accessible compendium of perspectives on traumatogenic psychosis, the role of human learning in sensitized stress responses, and skills to shift biological processes to support optimal mental health and resilience.

Maybe she could leave her story out of it entirely?

That’s be a worthwhile book. She could write it. She knows the landscape of ideas, enough starting off points for research. She has a MA in Psychology from a progressive humanist school, and has worked with trauma-informed practices for years in the community mental health industry.

Aug 21 8:59PM

She wouldn’t say anything about the military, or how her hometown changed when the Navy came.

Maybe she would.

It’s a big part of the story of her mental illness, when the Navy came.

She isn’t suggesting a case of singular, direct causation, the Navy coming to her hometown, a place she thought of as hers, and changing it so dramatically that it became an almost hostile place, an ugly, quick-built place, with flashy cars and cheap housing, all the fast food, roads spreading out, the perpetual smell of hot pavement, of new asphalt, all of this catalyzing her mental illness.

It was a factor. A big factor. A fundamental destabilization.

She understands that some people will not agree with her and that some people will hate her. That they might call her names, if she manages to do this thing that she is trying to do, in which she writes a book that is useful and interesting, a book that starts conversations, that creates questions.

She asks a lot of questions.

One of the questions she asks, of herself, is this:

“What the fuck are you talking about?! Seriously, you’re just rambling on and on. Stick to a point. Finish a sentence. Focus, lady, focus.”

She learned how to pay attention to what she was thinking, and to be able to shift attention, but there is always some part of her thinking and interpreting and projecting mind that is just churning all the time, stringing together loose connections, chasing phrase and image, not even watching where anything is going.

There is something about writing like that that she loves.

Besides, she reasons, wouldn’t it be appropriate for the author of a work of creative narrative non-fiction to write of their thoughts and impression in the way that best represents, in their estimation, the modalities through which they experience the world?

She doesn’t think it would be entirely inappropriate. Unreadable, perhaps. Not inappropriate though.

As she was writing earlier, about her mind not watching where it’s going, she remembered the point she’d intended to make earlier, about the yellowjacket sting, her running through a groundnest. It’s hard to watch where you’re going if you can’t see what you’re trying to avoid. Nevertheless, watch where you’re going.

She has to think about this, where is she going, what is she doing, basically all day long. It’s not that she forgets, exactly, but sometimes she gets so lost in thought that she will realize, all of the sudden, that she is still at work, that she is arriving home. That it is Tuesday.

She didn’t go for a run today. Her feet are still swollen by the yellowjacket stings that she can half-believe, if she is in the right mindset, might be some kind of medicine from nature, some kind of lesson from universal thematic consciousness, or something like that.

Currently, they are simply stings incurred while running in the forest, disturbing a groundnest and creating an aggressive response in the yellowjackets.

They’re just insects.

Aug 22 10:41AM

I have wondered why I don’t write more, why I didn’t write more, about some of the beautiful things we did, we have done.

There is so much in those things. Those things we have done.

Aug 22 4:24PM

She has a remarkable memory for things that she doesn’t want to remember.

The EMS worker wheeling her past the washer and dryer by the backdoor, the flat black non-taste of medical charcoal. The smugness of the intern on the psychiatric unit, just a couple miles from the stadium and the campus, where the early Spring was filled with pink dogwoods and damp golden light. The intern wore shined black shoes with an old-fashioned, late-90s buckle across the top of his foot. It was the new millennium now, and he told her to quote taking money from her parents and get a job, smug, as if it were so simple as that, as if she were an idiot for not having figured this out.

Her hair was oily and lank around her face, lips pale and dry from the side effects of the medication, the inside air of the hospital caked into her mouth. She hated to speak, to be watched and listened to in places like that. She kept her arms around herself, aware of the fact that she was basically wearing pajamas, socks with rubberized tread.

Talking with the psychiatric intern, her vision was still blurry, two days after the toxic blast of what she’d taken. Her pupils still tight constricted by the opiates prescribed by a gynecologist for the persistent pain she’d felt in her abdomen that Fall, sitting in the hard chair of the lecture hall, being the graduate assistant for an Sociology 101 class.

She hadn’t taken the pills. The pain went away when she dropped out of school.

She had a whole bottle, 60 of them. Opiates, with acetaminophen.

That’s what would have killed her, the acetaminophen, they said, if, as she was losing consciousness, she hadn’t called her mother 8 hours away, and must have said something, because an ambulance came.

When she thinks about this, her mother receiving that phone call, she feels terrible.

Even now, two decades later. A heavy sadness comes into her, thinking about what that must have been like for her mother, to receive that phone call.

Those other phone calls.

Her father later sat in the rented back yard, head down, sad and worried because of what she’d done. “You just have to find a thing and do it. Just find a thing and do it.”

She understood the concept of this, and even believed that she could possibly pull it off, this thing of finding a thing and doing it.

However, there was something of resignation in his words, and something of the intern’s tone, of ‘get the fuck over yourself and get a job and make a life and just do it.’

She knew, even then, that there was something deeply wrong with her, that made it almost impossible to do some things. The thought of working in the Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, create a stir of images and sensations, fluorescent lights, sticker-smelling air, plastic. Quiet. Paperwork. People.

“Oh, man,” she thinks to herself, “there is no way.”

Working at the DMV, that couldn’t be the thing. There was a long list, already, of things she knew she could not do, or things she thought she could not do. Things that, based on her experiential evidence, may present significant challenges  to her, so far as her ability to tolerate particular environments and to deal with tedious environments, to have to be a certain way that she finds it hard to be, smiling and constrained, modulated as fuck.

She was smart though.

She could figure it out. There were lots of things she could do, and things she liked doing, felt alright – even good – in doing. Mostly, she wanted to be an artist and talk to people in parks and be useful in some way.

She also wanted to solve problems, and liked trying to understand things.

She liked being outside, and in old buildings.

She did not like the mall. Not anymore.

It was something about the smells, the meld of pretzel and perfume, popcorn, plasticky newness, but not quite clean, the pawed over, rebreathed air of the mall.

It was so different than the smells of the woods, the smell of the kitchen at home. There weren’t old bones anywhere. So much was new.

She laughed earlier, at the oddity of her sitting and writing about the suicide attempt at the turn of the century, and then getting up to go inside, to make sandwiches for her daughter to take hiking. Making chipper small talk, completely shifting gears.

She does that all day long. Shifts gears. Inhabits different aspects of herself to suit the situation and the role she might be operating within. Some days she is better at it than others, the shifting. Sometimes, she is not comfortable shifting, or doesn’t want to shift. Occasionally, she cannot shift, and the state she was in bleeds into parts of the day where it doesn’t belong.

What she has been doing, lately, is trying doggedly to just keep writing, and to keep writing as though she is writing for the book, the damnable book, the delusional book.

She remembers that she’s not said what she set out to say yesterday, that she believes the book is delusional, the whole idea of it.

Perhaps she did say it, and perhaps it’s worth repeating. The whole idea of this book is delusional.

Aug 22 4:25PM

She drifted toward the edges of things, was at a school and then away for a few days, a semester. Her burgeoning mythopoeticism, seeded by the images of people dancing in the desert on television ads for freedom music and the shaded illustrations of a few of the books she had read as a child, that she had been shown, those worlds of shadowy forest and magic, drew her toward the pale-white gothic boy who wore his father’s shined military shoes in lieu of combat boots and daydreamed on the phone with her about kissing someone in the snow though it had only snowed once in the whole time she’d been alive. She didn’t really like him that much, but liked that he could talk about The Cure, talk about songs and hating the town they lived in. She was drawn to the handful of punks and metal heads because of her anger, and her loathing of school. The fast music, the screaming voices just like she screamed, hating places, wishing she had never been born.

For a while she desperately, still, wanted to be normal, wanted to ride in the cars of clean boys, to snark and gossip like life was easy and fun, sun-tanned and laughing like nothing was wrong, wearing pastels.

Then she stopped trying to be normal, because she could not be. She could not talk with the kids who were her friends in early middle school about the depression that made her want to die.

More and more, she only felt comfortable with the kids whose lives were messy, who had fucked up families and wore torn up clothes.

They sat with their legs hanging off of the dock, swinging into the open air above the river, where the water slapped against the dock likings, sheer amber at the surface, showing the barnacles and occasionally scuttling blue crab. The tide was going out, the sun was going down, and the whole world was filled the thrum of summertime, like a golden light itself, pulsing out from the oak trees by the cemetery, rising up from the marsh and the currents itself, rush and slap and lull. “Man, did you see those trucks on Friday?”

The boy hung his arms through the railing, moved his hand up and down, watched it. He had just started the 10th grade, and his friend was in the 11th, but she’d probably drop out soon, or change schools again. She he’d known her since the 8th grade, since his dad was transferred here from Virginia. She had already been sent away once when he met her, and she changed schools a lot. She hated school more than anyone he knew.

She spat into the water, because she did things like this. She was always acting tough, unless they were in the woods or walking on some not-yet-paved road or wandering through the frames in rooms of houses that did not yet have doors, then she acted like a little kid and was fun.

She was alright to sit by the water with, because she could just sit there for a long time. She never seemed exactly bored.

“Fucking assholes. So fucking stupid.” Her voice was flat, dismissive, but with an edge. The trucks had driven through the pasture lawn in front of the school on Friday afternoon, flying a rebel flag, another hand-made flag saying “It’s a white thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

They didn’t talk about racism, or even name it.

Just said it was stupid what those trucks had done, driving through the grass like that.

Then they got up to walk over to convenience store, where she would walk right in and buy cigarettes like she was 18 years old.

Aug 22 4:25PM

It was 9 years ago

today or yesterday,

that I got started

and it figures that last night

I hit a wall

came up on a cliff

had to really look at what I had done

and the expanse of what I aimed to do

how far I am from capable


It was okay.

I went to bed peaceful,

having given up for the day,

but with a new resolve,

a new understanding,

that this is life,

this is death.

I can get start again tomorrow.


What this asks of me is to admit,

that I was wretched, that I was foolish.

To show my foolishness to the world,

to all the other fools.


“It doesn’t matter.”

“This isn’t a confessional.”

“This is a deconstruction of foolishness.”

These are the things that are crowding my mind.

Aug 22 4:26PM

This is the nature of the impasse where I find myself. I have been aware, for quite some time, that is unlikely that I can re-tell of my efforts to tell the story in some kind of comprehensive and yet concise overview. I know that such a telling is theoretically possible, and that a more skilled writer may be able to pull it off.

How do I tell the story of a human being who was born into a family that lived in the woods  on a river in a father-built geodesic dome, who rode up by the captain on the Cumberland Queen, because her father was a ranger on ‘The Island.’ Her great-grandmother was born in 1894, and lived a quarter mile away, across the road from the pear orchard. She didn’t die until the girl was sixteen. The girl spent her childhood watching age take her great-grandmother. Being in hospitals.

The girl almost died, when she fell off of a leaf swing on Christmas Day, 1982, and “broke her spleen.” She was in the hospital for months, but it wasn’t until…

…who had artists and runaways and racist judges in their bloodlines? A human being who, likely both by blood-writ tendencies toward intelligence, sensitivities and anxieties and the impact of significant medical trauma at a young age became troubled about the world and the ways that some things made them feel. The ways things don’t make sense, and are brutal.

How do you tell a story that is about trying to tell a story, without talking about the ways you tried to tell the story.

My mind is scrambling around in a lot of directions right now, a total overload of significance. I cannot unpack the manifestation of my psychosis from formative experiences and inherent attributes. Who I am. What my life has involved. Where I am from. What ideas informed my emerging personhood.

I absolutely do not want to write a self psychoanalysis. That is not what this is.

Aug 224:27PM

She sits on the porch alone, nine days after he arrived in Edmonton just a few hours before her alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning, waking herself up early.

She had set the alarm and made the ambitious hiking plans in an effort to stay a few steps ahead of any lurking sorrowful fears that might swallow her up if she let them.

A sharp-edged doubt crept around her as she pushed up fog-soaked rocks with his old backpack settling its weight again and again in her stride.

It wasn’t until yesterday, over a full week later, that the doubt which had gnawed its way into an idea, a scenario – nagging at her, bothering her, to the extent that she literally prayed it would go away, she did not want to believe it, she knew it wasn’t true…that doubt fell to pieces as she came out of a different forest, where she’d run in a storm for reasons she doesn’t fully understand beyond the  when she runs, she figures out how to not be scared.

Now, she is sitting on the porch and the day is beautiful, perfect even, with sun and clouds and warm and breeze. She is wearing a sweater, her feet are bare. “Is it crazy to think that those ravens meant something?” Earlier, he had texted her a video of glaciated mountains all around, scooped out valley land far below, a river winding through it, just the hush of the wind and some unseen movement of his body, the crinkle of a jacket, as sound.

“It’s so quiet up here.” He texted. “You know I’m at 1,000 feet above tree line?”

“Yes. You are way up there…up above it all.”

She laid in her bed, the room dim in the afternoon on southwestern side of the house. Sometimes, she remembers to try to lay so that her head is facing northwest, the direction he is in. She is laying north-south today, looking out the window at the cloudy afternoon, feeling drowsy.

She told him she was thinking about how sometimes, when they are outside together, sitting in the wind or still, walking over seeping ground, they talk about what it is like for them, what the sensations are of being there, the general state of mind, what they are thinking about.

Sometimes they chatter on and on about this thing or that thing, silly and grand ideas, people, their own small histories.

Sometimes they say nothing, and are deeply, peaceably silent with each other.

She imagined herself there with him, his hand near. The two of them tiny and with no walls together in the bigness of the Canadian Rockies. How it might feel, to be there with him. She thinks she knows, and a light happiness settles into the space right below her heart, up near the top of her stomach, that brief expanse between the curve of her ribs.

The phone chimed.

“Two ravens are flying over head, cawing!”

“One just buzzed me”


Is it crazy, she wonders on the front porch, in the breeze with the sunset caught gold in the maple, to think that maybe those ravens had something to do with friendship, with her wanting with the part of her that dreams to be there with him.

These are the things she thinks about alone, after her children have gone back to their father’s house across town.

They have seen ravens together for months. She looks up the meaning of the raven as a spirit animal. Gets pop-up ads for gift cards and weirdly loading websites. Images of sleek black birds and words like “transmutation,” “magic,” and “mirth.” She closes out the tabs. She’s read enough to remember that ravens mean magic, and that is enough for her. She is a sloppy researcher, a sloppy believer in anything.

Aug 22 4:27PM

The collapse of a person’s life can come about in large, obvious events, or the collapse can come about gradually, in a series of minor malfunctions that have the culminate effect of totally obliterating the functionality of a life.

I can peel back the teeth of days

Collage the fragments

(Calcite shards overlaid with sinew

That moves just like water

Or fabric

The skin of us

All the hard and soft of many living days)

On the morning of my birthday I decided that I wanted to take a wounded mother to see above the tree line and to say a prayer with me. Of course, the clouds socked us in and we couldn’t see a thing, but we prayed anyway. For all the mothers, all the children. Everyone.

On the afternoon of my birthday, I hefted the canoe off the truck and got into the river alone, figured out fast how to paddle with a j-stroke, a little rudder kick at the end of a strong paddle stroke, to keep the boat straight. I had a moment, out there in the river alone, of alarmed wondering.

Aug 22 4:28PM

I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus these past few months, because that’s how these things go sometimes. Occasionally, I have had the thought that I might just drift into not writing at all, but then I realize that at least I am still thinking about writing and that is moderately reassuring.

It takes me a minute to find my voice when I don’t keep clear writing practice times and a great deal of the heretofore structure of my life has simply ceased to exist for long periods of time over the past several months. My writing time has been used for other things – walks in the dark and canoeing, drawing, talking with my best friend, holding hands and feeling like maybe I don’t have to do anything with my life after all.

Ironically, a lot of what I’ve talked about these past few months has been doing something with my life, or rather what I want to be doing with my life.

Aug 22 6:28PM

She could write a poem about all the things she cannot say, the things she cannot tell about.

She is certain that there is already a poem that begins like this, probably hundreds.

Maybe all poems begin like this?

With the seed of a dusty, desiccated frog found up under a bookcase in the hall, where she had been lying with her face against the new carpet, smelling that new carpet smell, and looking at the fibers, how there was red and green in what looked like plain blue.

She thought it was just a pile of dust, old hair and she reached to pull it out from under the bookcase, because it was something to do. She saw an object, she picked it up. As soon as her fingers touched the silty soft mass, she could feel that there was something inside.

There in the hall, with the delicacy of a surgeon, she pulled the fur and web and fibers away from a tiny, brittle frog shape, almost made of paper, its skin brown and grey, sucked tight against the structure of its back, its tiny feet, triangle head with sunken eyes.

She does not know why she put it in water. She may have wanted to keep it, because it was, she thought, so well preserved. As she sat on the back steps with a teacup full of well water, poking the almost weightless frog body down into it when it floated up to hang just below the surface.

She did this for a long time, because once the frogs skin got wet, it started to change color, to brighten, and she became curious.

In the water, the frog transformed from withered husk to small green tree frog, like the kind they would find in the pools of water at the base of the bromeliad. It was alive. Very alive. Almost as if nothing had happened to it at all.

She understands, logically, that this could only have occurred because the frog was dehydrated and entered into a state of metabolic dormancy, as many amphibians will do if faced with adverse conditions, and that when she patiently rehydrated it, the frog resumed its usual bodily operations.

She didn’t understand then, not exactly. She knew there must be an explanation for how a dried up seemingly very dead frog could come back to life so vibrantly. She just didn’t know what they were, those explanations.

It seemed like magic to her.

She put the frog in the bromeliad and was happy that it was alive.

She felt like she had saved it, and that that mattered.

Aug 22, 2:53PM

“The book was born of delusion, and so it is a bad idea.” When she is feeling especially sane and unmagical, she thinks things like this.She knows that a great many things, both terrible ideas and wonderful ideas, were born of delusion – the belief in something that is not observably or verifiably true.

However, she also knows that the idea tha

t she could write a book that could radically shift the way we commonly think about how experience is formed by telling the story about how she lost her mind trying to prove something like God with pictures of clouds…it’s a crazy idea. A grandiose idea. A self-important idea. Like she has anything to say.

August 22, 2018 9:32PM

Exit Strategy

Continue to work at_______with reduced difficulty, develop writing, make submissions, finish beautiful book, explore creative alternative income opportunities, transition smoothly.


Continuing to work at _________is harmful to me. I understand that we are only harmed by what we allow to harm us. However, in order to reduce harm (emotional and psychological stress), I have had to basically deaden my heart for large portions of the day, which is a harm in itself.

I have performed mental and emotional acrobatics for the past year, trying to continue working for _______ without incurring harm. I have progressively cared less and less about what happens there. Now, I no longer care.

Use accrued PTO payout and final wages, as well as funds generated through the sale of unplayed musical instruments, antique typewriters, and things like records and shoes in good condition, to take a couple of months off of work to sell unplayed musical instruments, improve the house, work on developing aforementioned alternative income streams, and figure out a sustainable direction for the next several years. Communicate with people as needed re: plans. Remind people that you have been living with yourself for a long time, and you know all your tendencies toward bullshit haphazard escape plans.

That is not what this is. This is not Faith freaking out. This is Faith trying to avoid freaking out.

Remind people, also, that you are a mental health professional and know what you need to do to be optimally well in mind, body, spirit, and relationships.

Reassure people that you are not shirking important relationships with your children, but are trying to ensure that you will be a happier and more effective parent if you take care of yourself.

Because I am a person who is outside the statistically normative range across multiple measures of cognitive function, sensory integration, and incidences of atypical and/or adverse life experience (such as significant medical trauma, lengthy illnesses, other severe physical injuries, including medical shock, various interpersonal harms, witnessing people hurt, being hurt by people, causing harm myself, knowing a lot of people who have died…none of this is to say that “oh, my life is so hard, poor me, I’m special.” My life is great and I know lots of people have been through hell and back like I can’t even imagine and are still able to be okay and to have a normal life.

However, I have challenges, and I have tried to correct for those challenges to the best of my ability.

It is necessary that I accommodate these challenges within my life and this impacts how I participate in my life, what I do and don’t do, so that I can be effective in doing the things that are important to me, in which the youth are a priority.

It’s important for me to stay well.

I need to make changes in my life and get a few things out of my system.

August 23, 2018 10:37PM

On the very first day, she walked boldly in alone, and only felt a little scared. She was excited, for a while. She liked the new, the different.

Then, she didn’t.

When she was in 3rd grade, she thought Boy George was beautiful and fascinating, like some kind of fantasy creature, not at all like the men in her town, who had short hair and stupid mustaches that looked strange on their faces, who would never wear teal or pink. Boy George looked like a bird to her, and that was why he was beautiful.

Sometimes, when she talks about how she might have been a little autistic or something, she cites the time she had to have all the combs, the entire set of fluorescent Afro combs in the clear plastic tub at the Mom and Pop #3 Exxon Station on Osborne Road. She could not pick one color over the others, could not choose even two.

She wore them all fanned out in her back pocket, with her twister beads thick around her collarbones. She thinks now that this had less to do with a spectrum disorder than it had to do with being a kid who wanted things, who liked to get things, at least for a time.

She did not learn to delay gratification, and she learned – also- that being sick afforded one outs and special privileges.

The morning was grey and they had to drive all the way to Jacksonville, to get to Dr. Buckingham’s office, which contained a human brain in a jar and a number of yellowing diagrams of the human skeletal system. There was a bookshelf, wooden and with books, right beside the treatment and exam table. Dr. Buckingham was the doctor who fixed her broken elbow, put pins into it, stitched up a four inch scar that looked like a thick-legged centipede across the pale skin on the inside of her arm.

First, however, they had to drive in the opposite direction, all the way downtown, to Bennett’s Rx, to select a special stuffed animal from the glass shelves across the aisle from the Peppermint Bon Bons and the boxes candies. One aisle over from the hemorrhoid pillows and cardboard cartons of cotton balls. The pharmacy itself was elevated across the back of the store, with a mint green back wall that cast the white shelves filled with bottles and jars in a distinctly medicinal glow.

I got to go to Bennett’s and pick out a stuffed animal every time I had to go see the orthopedic surgeon.

It is worth mentioning that she remembers, or believes she remembers, looking down to watch the doctor cut open her arm, and pull the pins out of her numb bones with a pair of the shiniest pliers she’d ever seen, and that she thinks that it’s possible that the doctor only used local anesthetic, or perhaps not enough anesthetic to perform this procedure without an 8 year old girl being conscious, watching with aghast curiosity the blood streaked metal pin come out of her bone.

Sixth grade was a trailer in field full of mud-slicked grass out behind the parking lot of the county middle school, where kids from Kingsland and clear out to Woodbine, even Harriet’s Bluff, would continue to go, while the kids from St. Mary’s would go to a new school, which for the time being was a cluster of trailers in a field.

She wrote her very first ever short story about a little kid who lived in a trailer park, because by the time she was in middle school, she had friends who lived in trailers, friends who lived in cheap apartments. Friends with step-parents and mothers and fathers who fought.

August 25, 2019, 7:27AM

She wakes up early, after just six hours of sleep. This is part of her effort to be tenacious.

She knew they were afraid she would die.

She knew about the box of letters, old photos tucked into yellowing envelopes.

There was a connection, she understood, between what happened to her and how she felt. She knew that she was angry about specific things, that she had gotten hurt.

The yellow-gold painted metal, rust coming through at where the body of the machinery was creased into angles, scraped or dented. Earth crusted into corners. Everything about the machine was big. Even sitting silent in the late afternoon, it seemed to make a low growl, just in the look of it, the arm drawn up, the body a hulking mass set down into the torn up ground, pine trees spaced around the edges, mute witnesses.

She had to climb up onto the heavy steel treads to get into the cab, seat hard and plastic, the knobs of the shifts and levers perfect, shiny spheres. Through the flat glass window, the spire of the upper arm rose up, and she could see the hand of the thing, the toothed thumb. Her father’s voice saying, “There’s a lot you can do if you have a thumb on one of those things. You can pick up whole trees. Without the thumb, you can only dig and scrape.”

The keys were in the ignition, simple keys. Two of them on a single silver key ring, one hanging, one in the ignition. The touched them, and when they moved, she felt like she’d done something wrong.

The machine smelled like oil and sweat, hot plastic. There was a Mountain Dew bottle on the small space of floor beside the gear console. It looked like it had dip spit in it.

It was hard for her to tell, already, what had been there, at that spot where she was sitting in a backhoe in the late afternoon, her bike laid in the dirt across the tracks of the machine, trucks, footprints broken by the tangles of roots that sprayed up from the ground, upended into the air, drying out.

She knew where her road was, the dirt road that led to home, but she could not figure out, already, where the smaller road out to the blackberry thicket had been. That might be where she was, or near it. The canes and brambles, toothed leaves and the spines on the fruit itself, tiny hairs, the fur of a bee, the spine of a wasp. Everything clawing and sweet stained purple in the sun as she tromped along the edges of the thicket in the sun of her childhood, her mother and brother there, too.

She thought she might be near there, where all those blackberries used to be.

The key felt sharp between her fingers when sh

e pulled it from the ignition, loud scrape in bubble of silence, her sitting there. She closed her fist around the keys, and without thinking, a quick animal movement, jumped out of the machine and walked in a straight line to her bike, stalked, she lifted the bike, steered it with her hand tight on one side of the handlebars, her right fist pressed against the other. As she moved toward the perimeter of the scraped-clean area where a tennis court would be built, she shot her fist out into the air and opened it hard, spitting the keys out into the smilax and muscadine, scraggly pine that hadn’t yet been cleared.

08/256/2018 [Draft, unsent]

It would be easy to write a sensational collection of graphic, gritty crises.

That wouldn’t be the whole story.  Even as I was emerging into adolescence as a ‘girl with problems,’ I still had friends, and I still had hopes, things I almost desperately wanted to do in the world, places I wanted to go, glimmers of feelings I wanted to feel.

I wanted to go places. I wanted, also, to be a scientist, and a writer, and an artist, and someone who helps people or the planet.

I was a young idealist.

08/25/2019 9:03AM

She has a remarkable memory for things that she doesn’t want to remember.

The EMS worker wheeling her past the washer and dryer by the backdoor, the flat black non-taste of medical charcoal. The smugness of the intern on the psychiatric unit, just a couple miles from the stadium and the campus, where the early Spring was filled with pink dogwoods and damp golden light. The intern wore shined black shoes with an old-fashioned, late-90s buckle across the top of his foot. It was the new millennium now, and he told her to quote taking money from her parents and get a job, smug, as if it were so simple as that, as if she were an idiot for not having figured this out.

Her hair was oily and lank around her face, lips pale and dry from the side effects of the medication, the inside air of the hospital caked into her mouth. She hated to speak, to be watched and listened to in places like that. She kept her arms around herself, aware of the fact that she was basically wearing pajamas, socks with rubberized tread.

Talking with the psychiatric intern, her vision was still blurry, two days after the toxic blast of what she’d taken. Her pupils still tight constricted by the opiates prescribed by a gynecologist for the persistent pain she’d felt in her abdomen that Fall, sitting in the hard chair of the lecture hall, being the graduate assistant for an Sociology 101 class.

She hadn’t taken the pills. The pain went away when she dropped out of school.

She had a whole bottle, 60 of them. Opiates, with acetaminophen.

That’s what would have killed her, the acetaminophen, they said, if, as she was losing consciousness, she hadn’t called her mother 8 hours away, and must have said something, because an ambulance came.

When she thinks about this, her mother receiving that phone call, she feels terrible.

Even now, two decades later. A heavy sadness comes into her, thinking about what that must have been like for her mother, to receive that phone call.

Those other phone calls.

Her father later sat in the rented back yard, head down, sad and worried because of what she’d done. “You just have to find a thing and do it. Just find a thing and do it.”

She understood the concept of this, and even believed that she could possibly pull it off, this thing of finding a thing and doing it.

However, there was something of resignation in his words, and something of the intern’s tone, of ‘get the fuck over yourself and get a job and make a life and just do it.’

08/27/2018 [Draft, unsent]

I drove out west from Alabama with a kid who would end up on heroin in Oakland. In Los Angeles, we walked to a shitty Burger King, and looked at people on the street, real live prostitutes.

All the prostitutes at home just look like poor women, which is what they are. They do not wear short skirts or bustiers. The women at home stand awkwardly on corners or at the edge of parking lots,

I dropped him off in Berkeley, just a random, busy place. “I’ll find somewhere to stay,” he said. Shrugged.

08/27/2018, 2:25PM

She comes back to the same themes, the same questions, the same efforts to explain.

The morning is loud today, with the insects singing their dying songs and the first-day-of-school traffic going by a little too fast, more cars than usual, people from all over the city pouring towards the middle school up the street.

Monday morning, and here she is, on the porch. Her children got to school early, because everybody was up and ready to go. She is grateful everyday that her children are not like she was when she was a teenager.

When she sat down to write, after days of scarce time, the first words that came out of her was, “I don’t want to write about any of this.”

She has been trying to create small episodic pieces of writing to fit together into a whole, some broadly cohesive and well-seamed work depicting her experience as a ‘person with a mental illness.’

“Haha,” she laughs a little in her head, a smirking feeling in her as she sits in the worn-edged white rocker on the porch. “It’s not about that, but it is.”

When she drives, she thinks – with an effort to be objective – about whether or not she is strange, observes her grubby car, the coil of her too-long braid resting at her hip, the tattoos on her hands and the thoughts in her head. She thinks about people she knows and people she doesn’t know, people she sees and how they sometimes look at her, and do not look at her. How in some places she is not noticed, and other places she is.

When she is noticed she tells herself that it is because she is tall and maybe interesting looking, because she wears clothing that makes her feel most like herself, clothing she feels comfortable in. All solid colors, layers of tight and loose, pants like a pirate.

She’s always had a personal style. This is something her mother has said to her. The country people at work say she is unique, drawing out the u like chewing gum, snapping the hard final sound. They all say unique the same way, the country people. It’s a word that is hard to say in any other other way, the syllables like a one-two punch, the softness of the vowel, the bite of the word’s ending.

She knows that a lot of other people do not think about words in this way, they don’t feel the feel of them or get them stuck in their heads, repeating over and over with a host of vague associations and the mental image of a short little woman with a child face and a 4th grade education, smiling and declaring, “You are uuuuuneek, ain’tcha?”

They don’t involuntarily remember everything they know about this woman and her life story, the names of her pets, the incidences of her childhood, the way she looks when she is dancing, being silly in the classroom at work. They do not have to fend off the gaggle of secondary and tertiary associations that clamor into her mind, images and partial thoughts.

They do not have to take a deep breath and pull themselves, their train of thought and attention, back to what it was that they were supposed to be thinking about, what they were supposed to be doing.

She knows she seems distant sometimes, and that sometimes her face is troubled. Sometimes she has to take deep breaths.

She forgets what she is doing.

As she is sitting with herself on Monday morning, trying to bring herself back into writing, into remembering the project she is working on, after scrambling to get through a week of working and driving, a suicide, a half-time show, a cross country meet, a funeral, a birthday, a first day of high school, she feels a small rush of accomplishment and appreciation for the fact that she has not completely fallen apart, and has been able to move through the gauntlet of these past several days, weeks, months, years.

Her life has felt a little like a gauntlet for a long time. Not always tremendously hard in big, noticeable ways, and downright benevolent in the small stretches between obstacles and incidences, but nonetheless the days feel, and have felt for a long time, like a near-constant challenge of determination and navigation.

She still thinks that she ought to be able to do everything that everybody else does.

She catches herself quietly believing that there is something wrong with her that it is a stress-producing event to go to a football game, to go to work, to buy new shoes at the shopping center.

These are things that other people do, all the time, and it is no big deal. It is just their life, and they do it and are happy to do it.

She reminds herself that she doesn’t know what other people are happy to do, that she knows nothing of other people’s actual internal experience of their own lives.

All day long, she daydreams about running away. As she rides in the backseat of the car, she watches the woods slide by along the highway. She catches glimpses of hot breaks of sun and shade, sometimes fences, No Trespassing signs. Sometimes roads behind a thin stand of thin trees. Passing thick forests – not cut or burnt, turned into fields, torn down and replanted – she tried to keep her eyes moving with the car, but holding to the forest, peering into it in split second stillness, seeing into the woods.

The feeling in her chest, peering into the woods, was one of wanting to go into the trees, to walk away from the noise of the car on the road, the talk of other people, the place they were going, wherever it was, the sense of known destination.

It was a feeling like she had walking out into a hot beach, and running, running to the water, how she knew the feeling of cool on her feet, her body hurtling towards the water, running without thinking toward something your body wants, some seeking relief or comfort or fun.

When she looked at the woods, she wanted to go into them. To walk away, to disappear.

She mostly understood a deep, disgusted scowling, a loathing of all the cars,  the endless bulldozering and paving of places she had looked at her entire life and had never known to change. Many places were suddenly gone. Where there was woods one day, there may be a carnage of split pines and torn palmettos by the afternoon of the next.

She knew she was scared of war.

The old trunk was in the loft in the dome room where her parents slept. Cracked leatherand a half-broken latch, full of old papers. She could read, but she didn’t read the pamphlet she found. The one with what she would later learn was a nuclear reactor, two of them actually, standing in what was rendered in black and white on yellowing paper to be a wasteland of some sort, with great billowing tentacles of thick menace oozing from the tops of the buildings like buildings she had never seen before. In thebackground there was something like a cloud, but the most fearsome cloud she’d ever seen. She didn’t read the pamphlet. Only the word NUCLEAR. She just stared at the picture.

She knew that people laid down on the railroad tracks, though she’d never seen this. She knew about it, because she’d heard her parents talking about it, how nobody was hurt, that they’d been trying to stop the trains from going out to base, because they were carrying something to do with the nuclear submarines or with Lockheed Martin or the Trident Training Facility.

Nuclear war was her biggest fear.

Bigger even than the death of her family, or even her own death.

It was a fear too big to think about, a choking fear.

She only looked at the picture. She could not read the words. She was scared of them like she was scared of the pictures on the boxes at the movie rental store.

It was hard not to think about the possibility of war. Her hometown had become a military town.

The task of determining why a person ‘turns out’ the way they turn out is complicated, but it makes total sense to her that she would be the person that she is, and have the values that she does, after growing up in the woods with a park ranger father and a plexiglass geodesic dome for a living room, and watching the United States Navy transform everything she knew into something different. Not only different, but actively representative of her biggest child-fear, and full of new things to be afraid of, bulldozers and muscled men, conversations with people.

Because her parents were a little-bit hippie, enough so that they had a VW van, once moved to a commune, and built a house on stilts with a dome by themselves, she knew about peace symbols, that they existed on record albums and on the ads for Freedom Songs, spinning on the screen with a disco light pulsing behind them.

Her parents were normal by the time she started middle school. Her dad no longer worked for the park service. He sold the land. Her mother listened to Huey Lewis and the News, Steve Wynwood. They got a Suburban, big and black and grey, a hulking beast of a vehicle.

It was time to design the sign for the subdivision. Her father was talking to her mother in the kitchen. “Let me draw it,” she said, because she liked to draw and was good at it. “We want it to look real nice,” her dad said, “but, go ahead. That’s a great idea.”

She didn’t sit in her usual seat, but in her brothers, so her back was to the stove, and she wasn’t facing her parents by the sink. She drew out the letters like boards, like old boards, with old board lines and ragged edges, segmented together with nails, several bent, just like something from the Berenstain Bears. She thought it looked cozy, humble. Pleasingly rustic. It reminded her of home, of the house she was sitting in, the way there were some nails not flush, little edges of metal, uneven boards, spaces between.

She has pictures of the day they hung the sign, taken from an old envelope of photos in a storage bin at her parents home. When she was 20, she went through the bin, and tried to find photos that might represent her childhood, because she was on the brink of emerging into an uncertain adulthood, and was still gripped by powerful waves of what she felt as nostalgia and homesickness.

She still loved her childhood, ferociously she loved it.

It would be years before she realized that there is something cruel in teaching a person to love something deeply, to love it like it is a part of them, and then to destroy, or to allow to be destroyed, what is loved.

It would be even more years before she realized that we all do the best we can to protect what is loved, and that sometimes there are forces beyond our control that make situations impossible.

“Well, the annexation doesn’t start until next year, so we have time to plan.”

Her father slapped the envelope against the counter, not angry, but almost resigned and shaking his head slow like his mind was blown. “They’re gonna go through the roof,” picks up the envelope, “through the roof!” slaps it down again as a sort of punctuation.

“What are you talking about?” She is at the table, awkward-stage slouching over a bowl of cereal. It is afternoon, and the river is gleaming like a ribbon of swift blue under the sky. The kitchen was warm and smelled of wood and salt breeze, of moss.

She is still learning that it is always worth it to love something deeply, to know it well and to love it and to be grateful for it, even if it becomes lost, or dies, or is destroyed by things that you have no control over. Even if it ends up breaking her heart, she knows it always better to love.
This is about her mental illness. It is about her experience of being the person that she is, the effort to understand why she sees things the way she does, why she feels what she feels and believes what she believes.

Because she is a person who was diagnosed as having a mental illness when she was young, she grew up reflecting in the concepts of normal and disordered.

Happy and imbalanced. Depressed and inappropriate.

She was not okay. She almost died.

Did she have a mental illness?

Does she still, in fact, have a mental illness?

What does mental even mean?

08/28/2018, 7:32PM

She left work early again. Last week it was the yellowjacket stings. This week it was the internal shaking and strange dropping feeling she got in between surges of what felt like a desperate, keening heartbreak. The feelings of loss that blanked her mind and made words sound hollow, people seeming plasticene, her own no

Psychologically, she knows how to deal with suicide. She knows how to expect that shewill feel feelings, and to mitigate those feelings by reassuring herself of her belief that the best of us never ever dies, and just goes on to be a part of everything as she understands it. She knows how to think of the person laughing, and to expect that a flash of their face in pain, the heaviness of their eyes, the turn of their mouth, will push its way in, and she knows to feel compassion and to hope the person found some mercy, but to still hold sadness that the person did not get to experience the feeling of consistently loving life.

She is so fucking happy to be alive. Even on difficult days, during long seasons, she is still so happy to be alive.

(Her curiosity helped keep her alive, helped her to learn to love being alive just to see what might happen next, for the challenge to find beauty, the feeling that must surely be grace when she does find it, when she can find something that makes her deeply happy to be alive just to see it, a small bird on a wire.)

She knows that these are the things she needs to orient herself to when someone she knows commits suicide, or completes a suicide attempt, or kills themselves. She knows a lot of people who kill themselves. Some in slow ways, some in fast ways.

“You seem to be really good at dealing with this,” her son remarks in the kitchen, as she stoically sweeps the floor, preparing to go to the memorial, her heart a numb tangle inher chest.

“Well, it’s one of the hazards of the job,” she shrugged, “you get really good at shutting down your feelings, because you have to.”

She knew she was sad about her friend’s death, sad that another friend had to track her down via email to tell her, because she doesn’t keep in touch with anyone lately, she just sits on the porch and writes, goes to work at the Recovery Education Center, where she’s worked part-time since three months after her hospitalization back in the worst winter of her entire life, almost 8 years ago.

She is approaching the anniversary of that last involuntary commitment. Some years she hasn’t even thought about it. The first year she didn’t remember it, she almost cried with gratitude that she could forget, despite the fact that she had – in fact – remembered, but only briefly and at the very end of the day.

She was texting her co-worker, her office mate, about his break up and about the weird places they were from. Her coworker was one of the only people she’d ever met, here in the mountains, that had been to her hometown in South Georgia, who had actually lived in Yulee, Florida, right over the Highway 17 bridge, first town after the border. Her coworker was her friend. They both had social anxieties and worked as ‘mental health’ Peers. He had not ever lost his mind like she had, but he could understand her eccentricities because they are both artists.

“Oh my god…I just totally realized that it’s the anniversary of the worst day of my life and I didn’t even realize it until just now. Do you think that means I’m healed or something? Haha…”

She felt light-hearted, happy that she could think about that day and feel nothing. She quick-texted back.

“I mean, seriously, this is amazing.”

He responded: “that’s good. Must be all that dopamine from the almonds.”

She felt a little bummed that he didn’t get it, that he attributed her elation and over-sharing to possibly increased dopamine from the almonds she’d been eating huge handfuls of in an effort to increase her dopamine levels naturally.

She got sick of the almonds and was possibly slightly more motivated, but there are too many factors to consider in experiences of motivation to attribute causation to her gaining three pounds from over-eating almonds.

This year, she is thin, almost too-thin. It’s from the running up hills, the increased smoking. She smokes and runs up hills. She does not feel hungry because it is hot and she has been feeling emotional. This year, she is thinking a lot about the anniversary of that last time she went to the hospital, that whole series of events in sharp-detail still.

She understands why she is thinking about it more. Why the time of year might feel the same as it did that summer, that the insects in the yard might be droning the same humming buzz and chirp, that her feelings of uncertainty, of transition, of loss have been stirred up this year in ways that perhaps they weren’t that one year she forgot what day it was.

She doesn’t want to remember the day. She just does. Remembering just comes into her mind, makes her feel things, makes the feeling of the time kind of echo in her, swell andthen recede.

She can sit with it now. More than she could before. Before, remembering would get her in its grip, and flood her with feeling. She would go quiet, scowl at the sink, mouth turned down like she might cry, body heavy and trembling inside.

There were a couple of years that she had minor tough moments around mid-September. Mostly, she is happy to not be in the hospital, and this is what she remembers when she notices that it’s that time of year again.

She wonders if she will remember that her friend died two days after her daughter’s 14th birthday, that the memorial was the day before her son’s birthday. She is okay with remembering that. She learned a lesson from her friend, that helped her be a better mother to her own daughter.

She is happy to remember her friend, despite the underbelly of sadness because her friend killed herself, and called for help, but did not live. She reminds herself that the other side of sadness is love, and that we are only sad about things that matter to us, to think about the love, to hold that with the loss.

Psychologically, she knows how to accept and find peace with someone’s death. Emotionally, she still feels sad.

She has learned to think about her emotions as sensations. This is what she talks about in the trauma recovery class, how what we feel as feelings is our nervous system reacting to our perceived lives with either distress or eustress, feeling that feel good and hold positive associations and feelings that tear us apart in the chest and can be hitched to almost every bad thing that has ever happened to a person.

She knows there is nothing wrong with being sad. That being sad is okay. It troubles her sometimes, though. The way she feels when she feels sad, what it reminds her of, what it does to her. Makes it hard to breathe. Floods her eyes. Turns her body heavy or light, like she might pass out, sends heat and flex and stab and tear all through her chest, up into her neck where she swears it feels like a ghost hand, closing up her throat.

She knows how to not feel sad, but that means not feeling much. Being neutral inside, only a little edgy, because she can still feel the sadness pushing at her muscles, and she takes a deep breath and reminds herself that she is okay, she is doing it. She is making a school lunch. She is going to work. She feels alright. There are things she is excited about. Her hair looks like shit, but whatever.

She can numb out, at least for a while. Then some combination of factors might combine to create an irreconcilable cumulative stress load that exceeds her capacity to regulate, to cope.

Then she cannot help to cry. Then it becomes hard to even speak, because if she moves at all, or tries to make a sound, all the feeling in her might fly out and break her wide open. She knows, rationally, that she is okay, that she can move. That she can change her posture, speak. Shake it off. Go outside. That her feelings cannot hurt her.

Except they do hurt. They hurt like knives and weights. They hurt like burns and scissors.

These comparisons are not helpful to her. She knows this. They are only sensations. They are not knives, they are not scissors. They are how her body has felt when it is scared or tired or overwhelmed or confused or sad or all of the above, in fear. Struggling.

She knows that the feeling of heartbreak is to be expected when someone commits suicide, but she cannot let herself feel heartbreak and simultaneously work in the community mental health and substance abuse recovery industry.

She left work early today, because she was falling apart inside in a way that she was having a difficult time managing. It was an easy explanation, and justifiable bail-out.

She cannot help but to be a little testy when she explained to her supervisor, a kind younger woman with big eyes and a gentle face, that a friend had committed suicide and that it had really brought up a lot, and that she hadn’t even really had time to sit with the grief and implications of the loss.

A rush of words, “It’s really been since last Thursday, because I found out Wednesday night and then I came here on Thursday and Friday and then there was a football game and a cross country meet and the memorial and then my son’s 16th birthday and then we hiked to Mt. Mitchell and it was my daughter’s first day of high school and I just haven’t even been able to cry or anything. I’ve had to just keep going.”

In the back of her mind there is a voice that says that that is what people do. They keep going. That is what life is.

A counter squall of “What if a person can’t keep going? What if they can’t do it?”

Some asshole sneers, “Well, then they’re a fucking ——-.”

Fuck that guy. She is constantly countering all the different ways of looking at a situation, of looking at herself.

She doesn’t ‘hear’ the voices, like an external voice, like some voice-hearers. She has heard voices, and static, and music, faint singing, but only in extremely dysregulated states, and in a way that was neutral if not slightly worrisome but at least interesting, as a phenomenon, because she knew enough to know that what she was hearing was not real, that it was coming from inside her head, but just sounded like it was coming from outside her head. She did, imagine, that there was a crowd at the middle school, a rally, a military rally. She wondered, also, whether her mother had just come into the backdoor and was calling to her from the kitchen as she walked up the stairs, alone in her house. She tried to commit to memory the lilting notes of the song, because it sounded like it might be sung by angels.

She has never been able to remember the song.

She had insight. However, her initial perceptions of the experiences were fraught with strange conclusions, that she then had to work out. To really look at the plausibility of a military rally at the school, with guns and propagandizing, booming voices, angry cheers. Maybe it was a football game?

Reality testing came naturally to her, because she had had to consider how her behavior might be seen by others for a very long time, just like everybody else has had consider alternative perspectives

August 29, 11:59AM

he left work early yesterday, and came home to write. Something is happening with the mountain of accumulated false starts, experiments, and pure slush she has been trying to sort out in her mind as some kind of telling of a story.

She does not know how much writing she has done. She only knows she has been writing for nine years, and that nine years is a long time. She wrote before, a lot. Letters and short stories. The beginnings of journals that she abandoned in a few days.

There were times she didn’t write, long depressions and loathing of the sluggish muteness in her, years when her mind would not slow down for all the things she had to do, when she sat down to write about being a mother, too much flooded into her and the baby began to cry.

She has tried to stop writing before, to see if she felt peace of mind, if she could just be present in her life and cease with the internal narrative. There are times that it quiets, naturally, that aren’t depressions. Times when she forgets almost about writing, when she is just happy to be where she is at. Sometimes, later, usually when she is feeling grateful to have had some small experience or another, she will try to write about those experiences where she forgets everything about herself and is simply where she is, doing what she is doing.

It was inevitable that she would be upset, riding in the car to the bus station in Jacksonville, to board a Greyhound headed north to New York City, where she would go to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library primarily to stand in those spaces, look at those objects, step into rooms of quiet and stillness from the rush and hustle and infinite layers of sound that was the city outside. She will not ever forget the moment she stepped out of the bus, passed through the Port Authority tunnels and crowds and stairs that smelled like piss and dirt, already invisible, as soon as she stepped off the bus, infinitesimal as she found herself on the sidewalk, people flowing around her, the city seeming to explode with movement and structures and sound and light. She had tried to start keeping a journal, had taken a Polaroid of herself reflected in the bus window. She looked bewildered and young, like another Polaroid of her at a skating rink birthday party, age 8. Slumped against a wall, hands clasped and fingers twisted together, head lilting, eyes with a seven mile stare, face neutral. She was tired. Birthday parties made her feel weird, gave her the clown feeling.

That is what they called it, the feeling that she got, that made her not want to get out of the car. It was a feeling in her stomach, a feeling in her arms. “It feels like a clown,” she told her mom, naming the association she had, which was not a specific clown, more the idea of clowns. She wasn’t scared of them, but she didn’t like them. They were loud, and touchy. Garish with their plain human teeth stained yellow right there, little beard hairs pushing through the make up, knots in the wigs. They looked plastic. Gross to her.

She didn’t know it then, when she was a kid, but she thinks, now, that maybe it had something to do with not liking a thing, and feeling this enormous pressure to smile, to like it, to not run away or push the grinning lurching person away from her, because that’s not what you’re supposed to do.

She might call it childhood social anxiety now, but when she was a kid, she called it the clown feeling. It usually went away.

By the time she was upset while her father drove her to the bus station, her ability to regulate emotion was glitchy as hell. She was 22 years old, and was going to graduate school in the Fall. She didn’t know why she was upset. She didn’t yet know that within the next year she would take all of the pills in the house and almost die.

She was going to graduate school in the Fall, just taking a summer trip, alone to Nova Scotia, by way of the East Coast, riding buses, taking ferries. She had a backpack for her things and planned to walk the cities that she had bus layovers in, because she liked the impressions of changing neighborhoods and the feel of places, the look of them, what she could read about a place in its aesthetic, its peeling paint or polished surfaces. She looked to look at things, at places, at the layers of them.

Sometimes though, she felt numb, disconnected, watching the weigh station pass by on I-95, her father driving her to the bus station. Then, great sobbing cries, almost child crying, would pour out of her, snot and tears everywhere. She felt angry. Sad. Hugely angry and woefully sad.

She didn’t know why. She had felt like that for a long time, in between feeling alright, feeling pretty good, doing okay. Whenever anything sad or troubling happened though, even if it was just something she thought was happening, some significance or spin she put on a situation, nothing even real, her body was flooded with feeling that freaked her out, made it hard not to cry, hard not to slam doors.

She was strong. Tall like her father, naturally strong. Physical. In ninth grade at the boarding school in North Georgia where she went for just one year, she and two other girls were comparing bodies. “You’re like a model,” the thin girl was told, though she was too short to be a model. “You,” her body was surveyed by the girl who had a ‘classic figure,’ “you have kind of an athletes body. You look like an athlete.”

When she was angry and sad, all the strength in her seemed to surge and recede, bursts of violent energy, strong desire to lash out, to hit, to kick, to run, all bounding through her limbs at once, followed by utter weakness, like her legs are made of wood and her muscles are like string.

It was exhausting. To feel so much, to be so moved, to be so outraged, to be so frustrated, so sad, so utterly thrilled to be alive and so dreadfully grieving to want to die, all the time, churning in her, making her strange, hurting and confusing people she loved, sending her home from the party.

She still managed to have friends, to find people she could be around. It was easier when she got older, and could find places like the trailer out behind the Chinese restaurant on Atlantic Blvd, the band set up in the living room, the 24 year old drummer that she hung out with the summer and Fall she turned 16. Dyed her hair purple, smoked cigarettes at the kitchen table by a half-empty can of Milwaukee’s Best, watched the band practice and felt alright.

She could always find some weird guy to hang out with, some other girl who had given herself tattoos and liked driving around smoking and taking photographs listening to the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. her friendships didn’t last too long. She sort of drifted away from people, started to feel weird around them. Didn’t know what to say.

She liked being alone, setting off alone.

August 29, 2018 2:00PM

The history of this

Is a history of small marriages

The first being laughter

After the prelude of meeting

In a dumb office with broken chairs

Wearing a jacket the color of dried blood


We talked about nicotine addiction

And Edward o Wilson at the gas station

Evolutionary biology and books


“What book are you reading?”

I named the one that I was not reading, but had brought to the bedside table with the intent to read.

The Insect Societies

And on that day, that very first day,

You heard my most embarrassing story

Of the cute wrestler and his parents house

Watching Dolomite

The clogged up toilet

The dash to the garbage

Laughter bonds people in some way.

August 31, 2018 8:10AM

She will only use Google searches to conduct her research, and will cite appropriately using MLA format.

Bipolar Disorder





Mental health and creativity

August 31st, 8:31PM

It’s always so clear to her in the morning, what she needs to do.

She doesn’t notice the clouds like she used to. She sees them, and can sometimes catch some angles or densities that she knows, if she sat quiet and watched for long enough, she might be able to see something in, some shape or figure, a straight line or a curve. Something that looks like something else, a cloud that looks like a letter, that looks like a sharp-eyed animal, a massive wave, an arm outstretched. The number 8 on its side written in water and light, the undulations of winds, cross streams of air.

She knows that if she sat still long enough, and watched closely enough, and thought about how the sky might look to someone if they’d never watched television, if they didn’t have written words, if they didn’t have books. If all they had was the belief that what happened in the sky was important, because it could bring rain, storms, snow and ice. The sky could, and still can, destroy everything a person knows of life, crops and shelters, paths and families.

She wondered what people felt, a long time ago, when they looked at the sky? She wondered what they noticed, looking so closely at the clouds, the shape of the wind writ against the water and dust of the earth, gleaming and glowering from above.

It was easy to understand why people thought God lived in the sky, in the water, in everything.  

The basic patterns are the same. Elements endlessly reconfigured, each form and component of a form, down to the atoms in our cells, all held together by tiny bonds of lightning and charge.

Of course, she learned this from watching television, nature programs, and reading books about patterns in nature. She also learned it by observing the branching pattern on the pale inside of her own wrist and seeing, like everyone sees at some point or another, a river, a willow tree.

She knew that if she sat still long enough, and studied the ways the clouds formed and stretched, blooming and receding, endlessly in motion, never entirely still, that she would be able to see something in them, and that she would remember, not just as a concept, but as a feeling, a deep understanding that the world is very old, and that it is alive in ways that she knows she cannot even conceive of.

She likes to imagine that people made up stories about what they saw in the clouds, and she wonders what some of the figures she saw would mean to someone who believed that the shapes of clouds meant something.

She does not know if she believes that or not. She did believe that. She used to believe that. Sometimes she believes that, a little, because – to her – it is a wonderful thing to believe.

Believing that the shapes in clouds meant something played a big role in her losing her mind in the way that she did.

The clouds don’t look different to her now, but she looks at the differently. She still notices them, spends a few long moments looking up while in parking lots or driving. She cannot see the sky from her porch anymore, not like she could the year she took all those pictures, sometimes hundreds a day, trying to document what she believed was Proof of God.

The trees in the yard have gotten too big. She can only see the sky in patches through the leaves. No details, just general suggestion of blue or grey, sunrise and a bright spot of moon.

It took her a long time to understand that she had probably not proved anything at all, but her own stubborn naïveté about what constitutes proof as well as the power of a person such as herself to change the history of the future of the world.

They called it Delusions of Grandeur, after she tried to explain, there in the emergency room on involuntary commitment orders, that she was a genius, “Well,” she said, “I have an atypical intelligence.” She rushes on, knowing that if she paused at all, the nurse would interject, would cut her off. She felt like it was important for them to understand. “It affects the way I think about things. I…I…”

The nurse was making notes.

This morning, as she entered the town where she works at a state-funded Recovery Education Center, she had the thought that, as she knows, what she most wants to do is be useful, to make good use of herself, to maximize benefit of her time and energy, of her personhood, for both herself and the well-being of others.

She doesn’t understand why she feels sheepish when she thinks that she might really be able to help some people. It’s strange for her to feel a rush of humility, almost self-deprecation, an uncomfortable self-consciousness in response to her considering the possibility that she might really be able to help some people. Not with the whole proving God thing, but with how she has figured out how to live with big ideas and a bounding heart, a seriously glitchy nervous system and the legacies of being a teenage mental patient. She used to want to die, and even tried to die, once or maybe twice, and thought about dying and felt like dying, like maybe she was actually dying, and now she is grateful not to have died, because the world is still an interesting and beautiful place to her.

She doesn’t want to write an inspirational mental health memoir about how she always knew she was different and how her family history was riddled with reclusivity and anxieties, a possible suicide that nobody talks about, a rebel in the bloodline, nervous disorders and melancholias, spells. She didn’t write about how getting her diagnosis helped it all make sense, and how she finally found the right doctor and the right medication and could lead a healthy productive life and have a successful career.

She can’t write that story, because it isn’t her story. Some days, she doesn’t even know if she wants to tell her story, or what she hopes would come about from her making some sort of book about her life as an atypical person with non-usual experiences.

What would be the point of telling this story?

She knows that she is not the only person in the world to grapple with strange and intense human experiences that frighten, elate, and disorient reality. She knows that she is not the only person in the world whose life has been impacted by having an out of control nervous system that always thinks you’re in danger or dying. There are probably millions of people who have a cognitive processing style similar to hers, that makes quick associations and tests probabilities and notices patterns and is always figuring at all the different possible ways an event, even a tiny event, a song on the radio, might be interpreted.

Lots of people feel things deeply. Lots of people have strange ideas.

Some ideas are dangerous.

She knows that she is not the only person who has tried to die, who has wanted to die.

“If I really wanted to be effective,” she thinks to herself, sitting on her porch with mosquitoes lighting on her arms, blowing them away, a sharp stream of air from the side of her mouth, “I’d just…”

She knows that she could make YouTube videos where she talks about how she learned how to not feel so freaked out that she wanted to die, and how sensations of fear can steer our experience into distress, how she learned how to not be so afraid, not to have so much fear in her body and in her mind. She could put on makeup and be interesting.

There are people arguing down on the street as she considers all the ways she might be able to be more useful in the ways she does her work as Certified Peer Support Specialist  and Qualified Mental Health Professional.

She feels a little bit of a wry smile in knowing that she doesn’t really want to approach this from a Mental Health Professional angle, whatever that might be. There is little consistency in what exactly constitutes a Mental Health Professional, or what that might bring to how something is discussed.

People don’t usually listen to people who don’t have Ph.Ds and professorships at prestigious universities. Sometimes they do, but not usually.

She used to be an unemployed, ex-genius mother of two who lost her mind and tried to prove God with pictures of clouds.

Now, she is an underemployed mental health professional who sits on her porch at night and endlessly tries to figure out how to write a concise pitch for a book that details the formative events and fundamental mechanics of cognition and perception that contributed to her experience of psychosis.

What happens when someone experiments with seeing the world in a different way? That depends entirely on the someone, and what they pay attention to, what they see as important, significant.

She got laid off from her job, her marriage was dead, and her dog got hit by a car. When she couldn’t stop crying in the office, her doctor increased her prescription of the anti-depressant she had been on for years, and while she did not stop crying, she she did stop sleeping, and began to stay up late thinking about things.

Because she was unemployed, she had time to sit on the porch and smoke cigarettes, draw pictures and look at the sky. Type out notes and long explanations, internal dialogue, partial thoughts, veiled and cryptic musings about what, really, was going on.

She’d started emailing herself almost a year before, when she started her blog about drawing a picture everyday for a year. There wasn’t anyone else she could talk with about the things she thought about, the things that were happening, what she saw in herself and in her life, in the world.

In the Fall, as a ritual in her dying marriage, she was required to receive a psychological evaluation, even though she was still mostly okay, the year before she lost her mind, the years before that, when her children were young. She got upset when she and her husband had an argument, some strained grievance with one another. She didn’t know how to calm down sometimes, until everything was alright again. But, she was mostly okay. She hadn’t fallen into a depression in years. She was happy to be alive.

Nonetheless, it was required of her to receive a psychological evaluation, because she still had the scar on her arm from the bad morning when she was twenty three, and her husband knew about the times she went to the hospital, had met her when the scar was still brand new. He knew that she’d been ‘sent away’ when she was a kid, that she’d struggled with depression. He had watched her withdraw from Effexor on a cross country road trip in the winter with two dogs in the van while four weeks pregnant. Sick and shaking and crying on the backseat, the smell of coffee and dogs egging on her persistent nausea, adding accent to the strange bolts of numbness and tingling that shot through her arms as the drug slowly left her system. She had no idea that withdrawal from a psychiatric medication could make a person so woefully ill and unstable. Her doctor had simply told her to stop taking it. She was a mess.

These things are remembered when one is looking for flaws, vulnerabilities, concerns.

There were mental health concerns, even when she was still mostly okay.

Within the results of her interview and reported history were the results of her Intelligence Quotient tests.

She had forgotten that she was smart in some ways, smarter in some ways than in others.

It bothers her, sitting on the back porch in the falling night, that she should feel a cowering feeling in the core of her. That there is an impulse to retract, to mitigate the boldness of her statement of smartness with some fun-making remark about how foolish she really is.

She is smart enough to know that the best evidence of her wisdom is in her knowing that she is a totally fucking idiot in a lot of ways.




Those tests don’t measure wisdom, they don’t measure grace. They do not measure the genius heart. They measure something though, albeit imprecisely and by methods inescapably biased. They measure something about how a person thinks, how they solve problems and make associations, how well they can utilize things like working memory, how adept a person is at seeing patterns and making connections between seemingly disparate information or concepts.

She is a statistical outlier. She was a statistical outlier when she was a kid. Always a couple standard deviations away from the norm. Nothing much was ever said about it, other than that she was smart. She wasn’t that smart though. She didn’t think so. School was a drag. She liked to learn about things though, and liked a focused task, an essay or a book to read. Dates to remember. She liked the feeling of learning, of registering new information, of seeing things differently than she had before, of understanding something about the world.

She didn’t think there was anything unusual about this, and assumed that other people probably experienced the world in much the same way she did. Other people seemed more at ease, but she didn’t imagine that she was much different. Her living in the woods and only having three channels of television and having a park ranger for a father and a house filled with books and interesting things like the rattles of rattlesnakes had as much to do with her auto-didactic science nerd leanings as her cognitive processing style did. Her mother was a librarian at the small library near the elementary school and she would walk there in the afternoons, lay on the floor and read book after book, many of them two and three times over. She edged into the adult fiction, Stephen King.

She  lied about the number of times she had been hospitalized, left out the two worst, because she did not know if the results of her test would be brought into court, or what the results may say about her if she told the whole truth about what she experienced and what she thought, about her life, the things that define her in herself that she doesn’t tell anyone else about.

September 1, 2018, 9:26AM

The writing becomes a problem when she cannot take care of other things she needs to take care of, the house, the job. When she is pulled from her relationships with people in her life.

She becomes distracted, absorbed in either writing or thinking about writing.

It is possible that the more she writes, the more the quality of her writing declines. However, the experience of writing, the exhilaration of accumulating words, phrase and sentence weaving jumbled elegant onto the page. She knows it’s just a flow state, that makes her want to keep writing. She knows, also, that what she experiences as jumbled elegance while she is writing may well merely be producing a heap of unintelligible detritus as read by any other human being.

She doesn’t know what she is doing. She feels a rush of fear. What would she give up for writing. She ought to be doing the dishes right now.

Is she obsessed with this idea for a book? Is the whole thing a fucking delusion? Is she just crazy and can’t write at all? Will never, ever finish the book, will just go all to the entropy of trying.

She understands that these things are possibilities. Can reckon with that.

It is stupid to not be able to let an idea go. The idea is a delusion. The delusion is that she had a series of life experiences that formed her up into being a person with what may be measureably unique insights into challenges with mental health and emotional well-being. She believes that she can help people, because she learned a lot in trying to figure out how not to want to die and in how to see and experience beauty in the world, how to love being alive.

That really is the crux of it.

She believes that if she can write a coherent and engaging enough book that utilizes experiential narrative prose to beautifully communicate key concepts in reframing perceptions of mental illness through taking into account factors of neurodiversity and adverse lived experiences, that people might be able to make sense of what is going on when people lose their minds, or at least have an example of one person’s experience.

unlearning fear and understanding personal mechanics of experience (thought and emotion, reality formation) that she —

September 26, 2:32PM

She has worked as a Peer Support Specialist for the past seven years, in a semi-rural college town in the western region of a southern state. The place she works is called the Recovery Education Center.

In 2015, she got her MA in psychology from an easy-to-get-into school in California with roots in the humanistic tradition.

It is strange to her, that even without considering what she learned in her own experience of dealing with significant mental health challenges, that she should question whether or not she can help people. I mean, that is what she does for a living.



What is this terrible self-defacing doubt in her own potential usefulness?

Why would she think that being an ex-genius who used to want to die and now loves to be alive might not have anything of use to say on the subject of her own lived experience and perspectives pertaining to her own mental health and reasons to live?

It comes down to the question of whether her experience and her telling about it may be useful and informative to other people.

She does not know if it would be. It absolutely would not be useful to a great many people.

She thinks about all the people who are creative thinkers and the strange directions that big ideas can pull our lives in, and how she learned how to live peaceably with big ideas and a lurking sense of some greater purpose. She has had to renegotiate her perception that her current life is ‘not what she is supposed to be doing,’ and the belief that certain aspects of her life are actively preventing her from rising into what she imagines her full potential to be.

She knows she is enough, that her life is enough. That even if she doesn’t write a book, she can be happy in her life.

Still, because she knows that everything that we do and everything we do not do has some impact on our lives, creates some effect in the world we live in and in the lives intertwined with our lives, she cannot help but to consider the possibility that her telling the story of how she managed to lose her mind and make sense of it all might help some person who is struggling better understand their experience, or help them to figure out how to deal with problematic realities and beliefs.

She really doesn’t want to write a mental health recovery manual. She just wants to write about her life, and how she has figured she turned out the way she has turned out, why she believes what she believes and feels things the ways she feels them, thinks in the way that she does.

She wants to write about how she learned about happiness and feelings of peacefulness, about how she learned and experienced fear, the things that scared her most, how she learned to pay attention to those fears and adjust the power they have over her nervous system and perception of herself and the world. She wants to write about how she learned to make sense of reality, because she believes that everybody – at some point or another – struggles to know both what is real and what is really important.

The second level of the delusion that this book is born from is that she really can write a book that stimulates dialogue on the crazy numinous beauty in the world, or inspire someone else to look at the everyday

phenomena of their thoughts and feelings with a deeper understanding of how everything is connected in creating our experience.

There is a part of her, a persuasive kernel of belief, that still considers the possibility that maybe she was right, maybe there is something to the idea that if people could look at the world and imagine what they might notice in the sky if they’d never watched television, that maybe something in their humanness would find it beautiful, that they might be able to feel beauty, not just the beauty of a sunset, but the beauty of knowing for a split second what it might be like to see something in the sky and to believe that god or the spirits are talking with you, telling you something of yourself and of the world in the ideas that you have while watching the wind, in the sensation in your gut as you face a simple truth.

The simplest truth she had to face was that the world as she sees it is immeasurably old, and that her entire life experience means very little, is minuscule beyond her imagination, and that everything always is changing and that everything always is connected.

The deeper delusion is that something like God wants her to use her experience, the fiber of her being, everything she is that she never asked to be and all that she brought into life within herself, that she stubbornly kept alive within herself, to make something beautiful in the world, something that might help some disaffected and disconnected person in a dark room somewhere at the very least have something to think about other than their own numbly writhing misery.

The very deepest delusion is that, somehow, through telling the story of how she lost her mind trying to prove God with clouds a series of remarkable epiphanies may occur in the collective consciousness that will somehow ‘make the world a better place’ through helping people to understand what is most shared among us, these fleeting constructions of our lives and economies, what we are all scared of and long for, and that maybe people will see that they don’t need all of the things they have been taught to believe that they need, they will see that the simplest solution is to look at the people we love and the people we hate with the same curiosity, with the same love, with the same same deep appreciation for the people that they are and the strange phenomena of circumstance that create us, and that somehow this will perhaps help to end war.

She understands that this a great leap, an absurdity of her most unrealistic child-mind and her most fervently hopeful heart, her most fearful mourning.

September 2, 2018 9:11AM

She is one of those people that “everyone always says should be a writer.”

She is one of those people that everyone always says “should write a book.”

People told her she should be a writer before they told her she should write a book, before she had anything observable in her life that may indicate that she had some story in her that is worth telling.

They liked her letters, the essays she wrote for school. The way she talked or explained things, moving her hands in the air, making punctuations, drawing out pauses.

“You should be a teacher.” This is another thing that people told her.

“You should be a clinician,” her co-worker, a clinician, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, told her, just day before yesterday in the hot morning behind the dumpster, smoking cigarettes and staffing clients, students.

“Why aren’t you a clinician? I mean, that’s the work you do, you’re doing clinical work.”

“No, not really. I’m just teaching people practices. Talking to them about their lives and how they think about their lives.”

“You should totally be a clinician.”

The reason she does not want to be a clinician, would never be a clinician, is because of, a) the licensing process that she understands would be a pain in the ass to go through, b) the work within the non-profit industrial system or the hassle of becoming a private provider, c) the diagnosing, and the requirement that she become educated in diagnosis, that she sit in classrooms and have discussions of Case Studies and learn to apply the correct differentials in determining which disorder ought to be applied to the person’s name in their Electronic Client Record.

She could not do that work, because she does not entirely believe in the accuracy of diagnoses, and believes that sometimes diagnoses can confuse people about their experiences, muddy their understanding of where it comes from and what they might be able to do to change it.

The effort to create a reliable and functional classification of the mental disorders, of all the ways that people can be troubled in their heads and hearts, in their behaviors and lives, is appreciable. She appreciates the effort, and sees that, yes, there are consistent ways that things go wrong, and these ways manifest in a sometimes predictable manner, and that, yes, there are similarities, some patterns, in the ways people are scared and miserable and confused about what is real.

The etiology is all wrong to her though, the murky explanations, the lack of explanation. The recommendations are all wrong to her, to seek professional help and the requisite proper medication.

Maybe they are not wrong for everybody. They are wrong for her though, and she doesn’t want to participate in systems that invest in the validity of the diagnostic medical model of mental illness, because she thinks it’s unethical, to give people misinformation, or partial information, about what is happening in their lives, to deliver dire simple answers, a biological imbalance, a disease, a disorder, possibly genetic, often lifelong, from across a desk, a space of floor, calmly, almost placid, wearing clean shoes and drawing a paycheck, making the referral for a medication evaluation, sending the person out the door with a card, come back Tuesday, to walk back into their life, their precious singular life, their life that is coming apart in some way or another that matters to them, their life that they mourn the loss of the desire to live, their life fraught with fear or blasted open with the adrenaline of the big ideas that they can’t stop thinking about. To sit down at a table, elbow on Formica, to hear the sound of the television from the dark living room and to feel the brightness of the day outside pressing into against the closed blinds. To think about what’s really wrong. To put the appointment card on the refrigerator.

September 3, 2018 10:49AM

The question is not whether or not I am still crazy. That’s debatable. There are aspects of my experience that may well fall within the catchment of crazy, depending on how one defines the parameters of what is sane and what is not sane. Some people believe that once a person becomes as crazy as she was, they are not the same, that they are vulnerable to additional episodes, further deterioration.

She considers the objective, observable facts of her life, her self. Is she deteriorating?

Has she never actually recovered?

Did she really only dodge a potentially worse fate, and not actually end up bounding into a life of self-realized potential and a wealth of happiness as she tries to imagine that she has, as she has experienced?

Is she ignoring reality?

She doesn’t have health insurance. She doesn’t earn enough money to live on. Her house is messy and too much to take care.

She is happy though, because her children are healthy and well-adapted to the people they are, the circumstances of their adolescent lives. They have positive interests and show no sign of delinquency.

She is happy because she is loved by a remarkable person who sees her with unconditional positive regard, and loves her for who she is. “You don’t ever have to write a book,” this person tells her. “I don’t care if you have a house or a book or a dime to your name. I love you. You are my best friend.”

In the late-afternoons, she runs up hills, and believes that anything is possible.

She is able to feel like she might fall apart at any minute and still pull it all together and go to work. She is able to live with complicated glitches in her experience and how she feels. She knows who she is, and what she loves. She has activities that please and engage her. Friends that she deeply respects, but hardly ever contacts, because she is trying to write a book. Always trying to write.

Although she can look at her life and recognize that she is waaaaaaaay better off than she might be, she also knows, with that sort of deep solemn knowing, that she is happiest when she thinks about having a different sort of life, a life where she could just be the person she is and sit around and write all day, go walk around in mountains and deserts.

That is another delusion. That she should get to have a life in which she is able to do the things she wants most to do, which are to love and to write, and to look around at people and nature.

It reflects her privilege, this belief, that she should have a life that she enjoys.

She feels guilty for wanting a life that she enjoys when so many people have miserable lives and jobs that are much, much more difficult to tolerate than her job.

She doesn’t want any sort of luxury. She doesn’t want anything fancy or indulgent. She wants to live in a van, or in motel rooms, in a tent. She doesn’t want to have to go to work, to structure her life around the impositions of set repetitive schedules, things she has to do in order to keep her life from caving in. She doesn’t have health insurance, and yet she must continue working in her job, because she cannot figure out how to find another job that she could actually do without falling apart under the strain of meeting and knowing new people, learning new tasks. She doesn’t want to do it. She has spent her adult life anchoring to jobs, and she knows what it takes to get a job, to show up for an interview, to present some version of oneself as employable. To be seen in some way based on the information contained in her resume.

When she thinks about changing jobs, getting a different job, she feels like she cannot breathe. She doesn’t think she could do it.

After her last hospitalization, she did not apply for disability, because she did not want to be disabled and because there were things that she could do. She has a college degree. She has valuable occupational experience as an educator and human services professional. She knew that she could pull something together, when she had to get a job after her last hospitalization.

She knew that she could find something part-time, because she could not work full time. She had never been able to work full time without beginning to fall apart in ways that made working impossible and which she did not know how to control.

She doesn’t think that she doesn’t want to work because she is lazy or entitled. She doesn’t think that she deserves an easy life.

She doesn’t think she has had an easy life. Her life almost killed her.

She wants a life she can be good at, a life that doesn’t slowly stress-wreck the person that she is.

The woman who did the parenting class she was required to attend told her she ought to “clean up, don’t wear those ratty sweaters, don’t talk about the writing, whatever all that is.”

The woman was kind, trying to be helpful, making suggestions as to how she might become more employable.

September 3, 4:40PM

She knows the idea is a delusion, and wonders if – because she knows –

it still counts as a delusion.

Last night, she laid in her bed with the computer on her lap, with her

hair fuzzing out from her long braid, her glasses crooked on her face,

and read over what she had written, was able to see it objectively,

with the eye of an editor, a researcher.

“This is sad,” she thought neutrally, not feeling much of a feeling of

sadness, just the flat reckoning with a reality that she did not

especially want to see, but nonetheless was there, spelled out, page

after page of fragmented memory, the tone of bargaining, the dead ends

of reason.

Her room held a thin scrim of clutter around her, wires bent and

twisted on the desk, a dust of dried tobacco, laundry in a basket on

the blue chair that used to be green, that used to be in her

great-grandmothers house.

Downstairs, there were cheap empty white shelves in the main hall. She

had moved them there two days before, after emptying them of their

contents, an old olive jar filled with stained paintbrushes, a pocket

Hebrew dictionary. A small wooden chest she had had since she was

young, which used to hold the thick and yellowing prayer cards she

took from the drawer of the end table by the settee in her

great-grandmother’s cavern of a living room. There was a moment of

thin excitement, not knowing what she’d find, opening the chest after

she pulled it from the shelf. The chest was empty save for a thin

spill of beads across the bottom, green and blue, glassine and milky.

She walked past the shelves in the hall yesterday, and wondered how

long it would take her to move them down to the street.

The house was full of half-finished things.

If she didn’t write, she’d have plenty of time to move shelves, to

move the two decommissioned aquariums from the front porch down to the

weed-filled strip of grass and dirt between the sidewalk and the

street in front of the house. To set things down there for people to

take away.

She’d have plenty of time to clean the house, to wipe away the thin

webs of spiders that gathered in the corners of the windows, to wet

down the floors and remove the dust of the street and the trees, the

dust of the house slowly crumbling, the minuscule detritus that

drifted in from the world outside and down from the ceilings


The idea is a delusion. That she should be a writer, that she has some

book in her.

She has tried for 8 years to write a book.

It is ruining her life.

She cannot let it go though, and she knows this is a problem.

If she were some other person, she might be able to simply set aside

her pernicious idea of writing a book. She could settle into her work

at the Recovery Education Center more fully, become a Lead Peer, go

running in the forest like she does, more fully enjoy being at a high

school football game, listening to her daughter play in the marching

band. Not be distracted all the time by thinking about writing, about

writing the book.

She could spend time painting, and make a garden again.

Maybe she would have friends again?

That would not be a bad life.

The book she wants to write was born of delusion. There are quiet

motivations that run in the background of her thinking about why she

wants to write a book, what she thinks might happen if she writes a

book. She can recognize these quiet motivations as delusions.

She will not win the Nobel Peace Prize. She will not end wars.

She knows that this is not possible.

The thing that nags her though, everyday, the thing thing that has

nagged her for years, is that maybe she could help someone make sense

of their reality, so that they don’t completely lose their mind and do

something terrible or foolish, hurt themselves or other people, that

maybe she could help someone better understand why they feel the way

they feel, why they believe what they believe, how they might think

about the world or see the world.

She knows that she might not be able to help everybody, that she

cannot save the world, but she also knows that she might be able to

help some people.

“People will find the help they need,” she tells herself. “It’s not

like what you have some special help that people can’t get elsewhere.”

She knows, however, that this is not true.

There are lots of people who need help and don’t get it. Or they get

help, but it is not the help they need. People die. It happens.

She tells herself that it is not her responsibility to save anyone.

She only has to live her life in the best way that she possibly can,

to just do the best she can to help where she is able.

When she was 15 years old, disaffected and glowering in the passenger

seat of the Jeep Cherokee, driving into town with her mother at the

wheel, she saw a rare apparently homeless person standing on the side

of Highway 40 and King’s Bay Road, there right in her little hometown.

She’d seen plenty of homeless people before, in Jacksonville, driving

through the streets near the river, going to this doctor’s appointment

or that one. The hospital, the orthopedic surgeon, the

ophthalmologist. All of the neighborhoods surrounding river were

filled with people walking slowly in the heat, limping and lurching,

silvery and rusted carts piled with bags and bags, slumping in the

shade of the oaks and azaleas at the edges of the parking lots,

sleeping on benches, not waiting for buses. She’d never seen a

homeless person in her town though, not in her hometown. He was

holding a sign, asking for work, for food. “Hungry,” the sign said.

It was not unusual for her to have thoughts come into her head. All

day long she was thinking. The thought that came into her head when

she saw the homeless man by the highway was different though. It was

clear and solemn. It came with a feeling, a certain gravity in the

center of her. It felt like truth. “If you see a way that you could

help and you turn from that, if you do nothing, that is as good as


She didn’t know where the thought came from. She didn’t care about

sin. Didn’t think about sin. She wasn’t religious. She hated religion,

listened to hyper-analytical punk rock deconstructing the mammoth

pogroms of the world, God and capitalism.

Still, this thought lodged in her as some kind of truth, and made her

feel badly if she didn’t help in some way that she saw that she could,

made her feel selfish and cowardly, guilty.

“Turn the car around,” she told her mother. “I want to go home.”

Her mother was confused, hit the brakes. “What do you mean?”

The girl could feel a quick-blooming urgency in her, an upset rising.

“Just turn the car around.”

September 3, 2019 5:23PM


More about school

Moving, more about moving




Essay on google

The first day she walked into the classroom at the Recovery Education Center, she didn’t know what to say to the double-tabled rows of adults looking at her. They were worn out and beleaguered looking folks, one too-thin young man sprawled with his legs out, appeared asleep. A woman wore bright blue eyeliner. Her hair was falling out. They were poor people. Adults. They weren’t kids or teenagers. They were adults.

She got the job, in part, because she’d been able to talk about inquiry-based education and working with adult learners when she was a literacy tutor out in Oregon. “So, today is my first day.”

September 5, 2018 1:31AM


September 5, 2018 12:41PM

I wish that I didn’t have this perception that you seem to think that I am inevitably on the precipice of some major breakdown.

That makes me feel like shit.

I’m going to go into this store and continue to be okay and even well despite having had insufficient sleep because I knew I got good rest on the weekend, and know (though do not always heed, due to necessity or foolishness) my limitations and what I need to do keep myself reasonably well in the ways that matter to me.

I appreciate both your reflex to be concerned as well as your setting boundaries around participating in things that may position you in a role of concerned caretaker…I am not going to let anything bad or critically destabilizing happen in my life.

I wish you didn’t worry about me in that way. That’s not really a position I am comfortable with, the person who people are concerned about.

I get it though, why you’d be concerned.

September 8, 2018, 11:49AM

She met him downtown while she was playing her banjo on a dark bench near College and Lexington, those same three chords, C, d minor, Open G.

Compared to the raggedly jaunty or impressively skilled music that drifted from the real buskers over near the more crowded corners, the broad sidewalks of Biltmore, her playing was atonal and pausing, almost mournful drifting from the edge of the pay parking lot where no one hung out.

He was an old man, short and like a sea captain, white hair and a stocky, limping body. He set his styrofoam container down on the bench, “Can I sit down?”

She settled the instrument, the banjo with the curling name of Silver Princess arcing across its headstock, so the neck lay across her chest like a sword at rest.

He was a little winded as he carefully leaned his body to the bench, straightening his right leg in front of him and then pulling it up at the knee to plant his cheap padded work boot firmly on the sidewalk.

She wasn’t scared of him. She wasn’t scared of anyone anymore, because she could not care what happened to her, so she didn’t care what happened to her. She had to be fearless, because when she was scared, she could not move and her whole internal existence tumbled into everything she most dreaded.

Before she went to the hospital, she’d gotten into a car, a man’s car, and asked him to simply drive her around the block. There was a FunYuns bag on the floorboard. She could smell it. “Why are you doing this?” The young black man had stopped to ask if the woman needed a ride, because she was standing by the side of the road like someone who was trying to flag down a ride, even though her hands were by her sides, she looked a little like she needed a ride, or needed help.

“I’m just practicing. I wanted to prove to myself that I could.” She stated plainly, as if this weren’t a strange answer at all, and thanked the man before he dropped her back off near her house.

She is ashamed and frightened when she remembers this about herself, that she had done this thing.

“You have to tell the truth,” she reminds herself as a she writes, but knows that while she will not lie, there are some stories she will not tell, because to tell them would mean that she would have to look at all the crazy, stupid, sad things she had done and thought and believed. Those things would be written in stone, if she wrote them. Every crazy person has their secrets. Every human being has their secrets.

She was humiliated as she sat there, regarding the man she saw as a sailor, a captain even, in the look of him. The humiliation was constant. She tried to be bright in her spirit, braiding her hair and putting on mascara, the soft gold dress that she wore with a sweater, fancy but worn out and demure. She had no idea why she was going to play banjo downtown. She hardly knew how to play. As constant as the humiliation, there was an unceasing drive in her to find or to make something beautiful, something redemptive, something interesting. It was maddening and sad to be at the house alone, with no children, taking pills, laying stunned in bed, not knowing what to do, suffocating under the weight of neuroleptics and the grave truth of how royally she had fucked up her life.

She’d been out of the hospital for three weeks. The days were still warm, but getting colder.

She didn’t care what happened to her. She just wanted something to happen. Nothing was happening sitting at home. There was no telepathic consortium contacting her. The clouds persisted in looking like faces and bones, but her feeling about them was flat, bludgeoned by dopamine antagonists.

She wasn’t scared of him. He had, she believed, a kindness to him. A benevolence. He was old, with bright blue eyes, a truckers cap and worn work pants.

“I like your banjo playing.”

“Eh,” she shrugged, “I’m just learning. I don’t really know how to play.”

She’d had the banjo for years and had learned just enough to play alone for a long time, variations around the same chords, fingerpickings and strums. She couldn’t stand the way the instrument sounded beyond the fifth fret, so there wasn’t too far she could ever go in the half-songs she played over and over again, until she wasn’t thinking about playing at all, until her fingers found some rhythm or falter that they liked, until some energy rose in her and she was just playing, vibrating with the space in the open back of the Silver Princess.

She got enough out of that. She didn’t need more. Still, she had needed something to do. Somewhere to go. “I’m just practicing.”

He sold tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market, and slept in the cab of his big old Chevy. Told her about this, and seemed perfectly happy. His leg was bad, a vascular problem. He has diabetes, offers her part of his left-over meal, chicken strips and limp lukewarm fries.

“What do you do? Are you an artist or something?” She felt ashamed, being asked about herself.

“Not really.” She is always shrugging lately. “I am…”

“My life is kind of a mess.”

That is how they became friends. He talked to her on the phone while she cleaned the kitchen, getting ready for the visit from the DSS worker. They drove all the way to Hendersonville to eat a random Bojangles. She recorded him talking with her about his perfectly ordinary life, his childhood in the Northeast, his time in the service. He wanted it for his daughters, who he lived with, one and then the other, when the market season paused for the winter. He showed her vast expanses of chrysanthemums, a million perfect Fibonacci expansions of brilliant yellow sprawling across the pavement of the backside of the Farmer’s Market. He told her about the problems with his neighbors, their fights in the RV, the kids at the very backstall, the less-than-prime stall.

“Nobody comes down here,” holding his arm up toward the busier central stalls of the market. “They don’t send anyone down this way, so we just sit here and wave at the people who do come down here so they can turn around and get out of here.”

They talked about God and praying to saints while they ate fried chicken. He was Catholic. She didn’t know what to believe, but was glad to have someone to talk to.

When the season ended, he moved south to live with his daughter, and she went back to doing what she was doing, which was being a crazy person with no friends. Peter, the elder sailor, said they’d call, they’d keep in touch. She said they’d call, they’d keep in touch. She knew she wouldn’t, and was okay with that.

He was her friend though. She understood that maybe he was helping her. That he was doing her good by keeping her busy, by showing her flowers, giving her somewhere to go. Listening as she didn’t say much about her life. Praying for her because he was a person who prays.

She doesn’t know why she thought about the Illuminati. This is what people in America think about when they go crazy? She had never cared about the Illuminati, other than liking the sound of the word, it’s meaning.


When one believes to consider, in the effort to try to make sense of why they are experiencing what they are experiencing in their head and their perception, the possibility of things like international telepath consortiums, they eventually happen upon the idea of the Illuminati, or the US Government, or some other shady powerful shit that people have seen a dozen movies about. We love spies.

Because she is an American, she had access to these ideas of espionage and orchestration and programs and people who may have the technological capacity to infiltrate and manipulate and surveil the happenings in the world. She had visuals of dark rooms and hundred-light control panels, bays of computer monitors. She could imagine herself a bright pulse on a screen.

She also thought, perhaps, that there are some great and powerful metaconsciousness running the world, doing some work of covert advising and monitoring, creating of impulses and scenarios, puppeting the world by some means of a dispersed network of Supra beings and primary channels of electromagnetic flow. She lives in a city where the bulletin board at the health food store is plastered with purple and blue and golden flyers for yoga retreats and transcendental meditation workshops, electronic dance music concerts. She knows what hive mind looks like.

She thought that everyone was connected, but that maybe some people were more connected than others and that, somehow, she was one of those people.

It made sense to her. Of course. She was a person with a weird-ass IQ who had lost her mind at least a few times, was all broken-as-fuck. They’d never see her coming. She was a genius. She grew up in a dome on land she believed was haunted. She almost died, but didn’t and was once visited by an all white bird that beat its wings furiously against her closed bedroom window. She was, she thought, good in her heart. She had a good heart, a strong heart. This is what she knew of herself and believed of herself.

“It was just some overcompensatory shit that I made up to not feel like such a loser.”

“I needed to have something to believe in.”

“I felt all alone, forsaken.”

“Something in me broke open, and the world became strange.”

I did not understand why the things that were happening were happening. How something observably strange, but nonetheless also observably real, the held substance of a book pulled from under the oven, where the cat is meowing and meowing, trying to get at something. There is nothing there except the book, an old paperback copy of Chaka from her African literature class fifteen years ago.

This might be dismissible to a person who was not her. Possibly strange, but ultimately dismissible. The day prior a wasp had been sitting right in the sunlight by her open front door, she moved to walk past it, because she is not scared of wasps, and goes about her business near them. It doesn’t move, and she pauses, looks at it, seeing if it is alive. It’s abdomen moves up and down, like a tiny metronome. It’s antennae slowly waver, sending something she cannot see.

She left her phone on the stair post just last week to return and find a massive praying mantis posed upon the black plastic.

The clouds had begun to look peculiar to her, like letters. She had seen, the other evening, what she would have sworn was an eye, a perfectly proportioned human eye wrought in rain-building clouds.

She wondered how she could be losing her mind if these things were really happening. Suspicions and murky explanations began to show up in her thinking. She felt increasingly strange, as though something in her was shaking, and humming. When she was around other people, she was nervous and flat, her mind elsewhere, wondering what was going on. She only felt peaceful alone, drawing and thinking.

In many ways, the delusion saved her, gave her a sense of purpose, some way that her life and her recovery might be important beyond her damaged existence as a mother, beyond her own life enjoyment. The prospect of having a life where she was an umemployed mother of two who couldn’t see her kids was not enjoyable to her. She tried to imagine a different future, where she gets over herself and her crazy, stupid ideas and, sure, she can still do art, but she can get a job and straighten up and clean the house and stop hurting people by being crazy.

For all her great ideas and bounding analysis, she could figure out how to get out of the mess she’d made, or who she was within it. She was a nobody, a loser.

She prayed fervently to a God she was not sure, after all, existed and tried hard to muster the feeling of belief, the sensation of being protected, loved, looked out for.

She felt nothing, was alone.

Still, the idea, because it was a big idea, a powerful idea in her consciousness and experience, persisted. In the context of a story where an undetected half-mad genius light stumbles upon a simple proof of something that might have been seen and felt as God a long time ago, if she really had somehow pushed through some veil in herself, broke herself wide open to the sort of metaphysical planes she’d only seen on album covers, well, in that story, well of course she is going to have a trial, a gauntlet, a great many of them. In that story, built of delusion, she had to persevere, to make something worthwhile in the thing that she was, by virtue of her divine vocation as proffered upon her by the bright spirit of her favorite dead uncle, the purpose of her type of intelligence, her way of being. She is a creative, doing what creatives do, which is make things out of other things, and try out different ways of seeing how things work together, solving problems, exploring.

Even as she was losing her mind, she understood that this was a part of it, her creativity, the person she is, the way she thinks.

September 12.2019 10:45AM

When she went to boarding school in the mountains, she stopped getting

angry. She could not get angry at boarding school. She was rarely

alone. She still felt strange though, disconnected in herself somehow.

Not excited to do much.

One night, she fell out of her top bunk bed, after sitting straight up

and pointing at the floor, exclaiming, “A snake, there is a snake



They walked up the side of the mountain in the late-Winter, when

everything is brown and dead and damp, thin pine trees straggling up

the slope toward the worn down ridges, not even a real peak, just a

slow curve and dip down into the saddle of land that joins it to

another mountain. They called them mountains, because in the state of

Georgia, they were the closest thing to mountains that they had, the

small tendril of the Blue Ridge Parkway cut through by highway 441.

There were only four of them, the English as a Second Language teacher

and her husband, who lived on campus with his teacher wife and made

chairs out of old muscadine vines, old twisted laurel he found in the

higher elevations north of them.


She and a boy from the Hollingsworth dorm were the only students who

came. He was quiet and thin, moved like a skeleton through the woods

ahead of them, some boy from Tennessee that didn’t talk to anyone. She

liked him, because while she talked to people more, she felt the same

sort of quiet in her, an okayness in being alone.


She breathed hard going up the hill, and listened as the teacher, a

young blond woman with short golden hair and a Master’s from Columbia

disclosed that she had miscarried, that they had planned to name the

baby after her sister. Camille.


The teacher was her friend. They had sat in the clean sunny kitchen of

their small faculty cottage and listened to Chris Isaac sing about not

wanting to fall in love. The teacher had told her about going to the

city, to New York, and how she had stopped shaving her legs, because

she wanted to feel protected.


She felt calm around the teacher, calm and at ease with herself,

understanding that people can be scared and quit shaving their legs

and still become teachers, can still have nice lives. Can work through

the cold winter in the city.


When there was a cold front down from Canada, she signed out from the

dorm and took her bike out onto the road behind the school, riding up

and up and up, past tiny shambling houses, trucks hugging the middle

of the road to pass her as the cold air burnt into her lungs and her

legs pumped hard up the hills. The air was damp and cold, full of

woodsmoke. She felt like she could ride forever. Coasting back down

the hill, she saw the buildings of the school peak through a clearing

at a bend in the road and saw how far she’d gone, knew that she’d be

in trouble for missing her sign-in time, being late for dinner.


She woke up at 5:00 am every morning and called her mother using the

1-800 number her parents had set up for her to contact them from the

payphone in the upstairs hall kitchen. Everybody else slept until at

least 6:00. She liked to get up early, when everything was quiet and

the halls were wide and still, the yellow-gold light of wall-mounted

lamps punctuating the early morning dark of the place.


She didn’t mind boarding school, no more than she minded the public

high school that she had finally simply refused to return to mid-way

through her first semester as a ninth grader. The school used to be a

reform school, but was “transitioning to a preparatory academy.” The

kids were a mixed bag, troubled and privileged. There were rumors of

sex in the vestibule. Almost everyone dipped tobacco and drank

robitussin in their rooms on at least one Saturday night after an

outing in town, where they’d file through the aisles of the Revco drug

store, gathering candy and cough syrup. On Sunday mornings, they were

supposed to attend church, either in the chapel or in town. A bus

would drive them to the church they wanted to go to. Sometimes she

went to the Episcopal service, and never knew the words to the hymns.

Most Sundays, she pressed herself under her bed until she was

perfectly still against the wall, straining to hear the sounds of

rooms being checked by the house parent so she could ready herself, so

she could stop breathing, be even more still, so still she wasn’t

moving at all.  The house parent’s Reebok’s would creep across the

carpet, varicose veins on her ankles, pause, and then turn, closing

the door behind her. She spent the whole morning eating sugared kool

aid mix out of the container and reading, small red stars of dyed sugar crusting

down into the spine of whatever book she held.


Over the summer, she and her brother took wilderness trips, a month

long, backpacking and rafting through Wyoming and Montana and parts of



She didn’t know why she did not want to go back there in the Fall. Why

she wanted to try to go to public high school again. Again, she could

not tolerate it, began to refuse to go. When she had to go, sullenly

stalking into the building, scowling at the smell of school that

poured out from the front doors, she only stayed a few hours. She

would get a headache, and go to the office, call home, get picked up.

September 11, 2018 11:33PM

Proving God With Clouds: The Autofiction of an American Delusion

She did not know she was doing autofiction. If she were honest with herself, she didn’t know what she was doing at all. She’d been doing it for years. Going back and forth between first person and third, slipping into the She and bounding in with a declarative I, sometimes in the same sentences.

Is a person doing a thing, if they do not know what they are doing?

She may not have been doing autofiction. Truth is important to her, and she admits it when she lies about something. (See p. re: lying on a psychological evaluation so that she might appear to have a less troubled past than she had, because she understood that what people know or think they know about your past can change the way they see you in the present)

However, she leans heavily toward a bias of omission in a great many areas of her personal history and experience, who she is.

“You’re very secretive, aren’t you?”

This question was asked by the person who may know her best among all the people who know her.

There is a lot that even this person does not know.

“Sometimes it’s better to keep things to yourself.” Her soon-to-be mother-in-law pulled her aside in the wood-smelling kitchen of her childhood home by the river in Georgia, spoke the words in a low tone of advisement. Faith had smiled along, and nodded as though to say, “Yes. Yes absolutely. Totally hear you on that. Keep it…to…yourself.”

Something in her withered, but she kept smiling, and understood with just a little bit of heaviness, that withered hope for ease, that her soon-to-be-mother-in-law was absolutely correct. That sometimes, yes, it is a very good idea to just keep it to yourself.

In the beginning, before she began to write in third-person about her day and her thoughts, how her body feels in response to experience, what she notices and considers, when she was still writing from the I, for the most part, it was her writing openly on the internet, albeit on an unread weblog with shitty pictures of amateur drawings on it, about her crying, about her family, about who she is and how she didn’t really know. That was what raised concerns.

She did not begin writing personal non-fiction narrative in an autofictive style for the purpose of writing an autofiction, because she did not know that such a thing existed, because she has barely read a book the past few years, because she has been working in the community mental health industry and running in the forest, and being a mom of some sort to the two beloved growing-up young people she birthed in some splintered different life of some person who she was, is, will be. (Neruda)

When she is not “spending time with the people she loves, working, or running, she is sitting alone on her porch writing thousands of words to herself via email through her phone, sometimes for hours and hours, all these scraps of days. Her thumbs become numb, but she keeps writing. She goes on for pages upon pages about her drive to work, the songs on the radio, half-assed theories about everything, whatever she found beautiful or interesting that day.

Over the past 9 years of emailing herself, Faith has slowly settled into a life that, from the outside, looks to be the life of a moderately eccentric, semi-reclusive artist kind of crazy lady, whose yard looks like shit and has poor social niceties, but is alright enough.

“It’s a big house, too much for her to take care of, just her there.”

“You can’t even see your house from the street. It’s in a little forest.”

“Oh? You live in the Boo Radley House?”

“Well,” she had shrugged, “I’m kind of like Boo Radley on the inside.”

She didn’t know, exactly, what this meant, but it came out of her mouth and felt true.

Curious and creepy and leaving small gifts. Trinkets and wonders.

She laughs at herself. She is ridiculous. She’s not like Boo Radley. I mean, she goes to the grocery store.

Haha, there I go. Slipping. See, a real autofiction writer would not skip tense like that. She’d remain in the She. The third person.

Or not? She doesn’t know, like she was saying, she has hardly read a thing, because she has been too busy writing emails to herself about what she is trying to remember from the day. Trying to learn how to encapsulate great swathes of experience into poetry. Reading some books would probably help her to be a better writer.

She wants a life where she can do all of the things she loves to and needs to do.

Last week, she put in notice at her job at the Recovery Education Center. She has worked there for almost 8 years, which is a long time.

She sat on the floor in her aunt’s small house in Marin County. In two weeks, she was supposed to go to Australia, where she was going to ride a bike along the southern coast, because she liked the name of the town of Adelaide and wanted to go somewhere far away. She put the ticket on a credit card she’d gotten when she was in college, before she became a graduate school drop-out living at her childhood home and working part-time at a dog kennel out in the county where she would, one afternoon, find an entire horse skeleton in the pine woods behind the kennel, and quickly snatch the skull from the ground and run like she’d stolen something to her car, where she tucked it into the trunk, now a sacred object to her.

She did not question why she loved it.

Sitting on the floor of her aunt’s small house in Marin County, still believing that she would go to Australia, planning to walk in the city the next day, unaware that that night she would dance erotically in front of the sliding glass door in the bedroom to the deck, and wish she weren’t alone. She had learned to be alone. She liked being alone, but sometimes she got a bored and lonely feeling. She slid the thin volume of poems by Pablo Neruda. Of course her aunt would have these poems, gentle yoga-doing aunt in California. “I have no never again. I have no always. In the sand, victory abandoned its footprints…I repaid vileness with doves.”

It is the only poem that she can remember most of the time. It told her about herself, about something shifting and bewilderedly forgiving in her, some plain-faced benevolence and the blithe detachment that she had begun to notice as people drifted in and dropped out of her life, as she herself spun slowly off into some eddy or another, completely disappearing.

She was beginning to understand, sitting there on the floor of her aunt’s house, that everything changes and that what matters is to try to be good.

Some reflexive part of her rolls her eyes at this, snarks.

Still, she thinks that a lot of people try to be good, that a lot of people who might even be doing some really horrific stuff, even genocide, might be trying to be good. Trying to do the right thing.

People are sometimes atrocious idiots about what they believe the right thing to be.

September 12.2018 12:31PM

It made her feel weirdly sick sometimes, to remember what she

believed, what she imagined and hoped for.

The girl pulled herself out of the backseat of the Suburban, dragged

her bag across the bag seat, got her bear. She was thirteen years old,

and she carried the bear by its arm. The place looked like a boring

hotel, with its sets of glass doors, it’s lamp in the lobby, curved

desk at the entrance. The sun was beginning to go down, but a person

sat at the desk like a clerk. This wasn’t a doctors office. It never

closed. It was always open, because it was a hospital.

They had to be buzzed in, and they walked stoically across the no-slip

mat between the first doors and the second doors, none of them

speaking, her father leading. She felt a numb electric heaviness in

her as she and her mother went to stand off to the side while her

father talked with the clerk-lady.

“Yes, good evening,” she heard him say, pleasant and southern, the

faux gentility he’d learned from growing up with old ladies. When in a

terrible and awkward situation, like taking your daughter to an

in-patient psychiatric unit, it’s best to just be polite, to not say

anything about what is happening, to get through it with the minimal

upset or expression of emotion. “We’ve spoken with you.” A cordial

introduction of the family name, “We’ve brought Faith. She has an


The girl stood off to the side with her mother, the voice of her

father drifting across the empty space of the place, hitting the doors

in every wall, pressing against the glass windows to the small central

garden, where people who looked like tired normal people smoked

cigarettes in loose clusters. Adult patients wearing no-slip socks or

slippers. Lighting their cigarettes on a small installed hot coil,

pushing the button and leaning their faces to the wall where the heat

sprang up. Nobody could have lighters

There was a list. Her mom made notes on the same yellow legal pad she

wrote grocery lists on. “You can take razors, but you have to check

them out.” “You can’t take anything aerosol.” “You can have one pair

of shoes, but no laces.”

The girl stared at her old white Keds, stained grey at the edges with

the dirt from home. She pictured her feet, riding a bike, hot sun on

the new-paved roads. There was no way she was going to cry, though

feeling in her was a great building wave, a thick heavy pulling, a

sucking toward the bottom.

It was hard to breathe. If she said anything, she would cry. A nurse

came. A lady. Her parents were told to leave, to leave her there.

She felt an enormous panicking inside, but understood she could not

move, that she could not do anything, or say anything. It was hard to

breathe. Her hand was sweaty hot still holding the bear. “You’ll need

to give that to me,” the nurse held out her hand. “You can have it

back later.”

“Faith, we’re going to go.” Her father made the

sad-sounding-but-factual declaration. “Give her the bear.”

“We’ll talk to you soon. In a couple of days.”

Her mother looked sad. Her father looked sad. They were leaving her

here, because she’d done a stupid thing. They were getting her help.


She gave the nurse the bear, dropped her head, felt her entire face

trembling with the child-grief she’d known for as long as she’d been

alive, that ocean of crying in her. “Okay,” Her voice broke. “Bye…”

There was a payphone by the river, down on Second Avenue, and she

cried on the phone with her mother. “I don’t even know where to go!”


She was standing in the middle of a beautiful city, a brand new city.

A place that is real and existing and that she is standing in,

thousands of miles away, finally, from home.

Of course, she wants to come home.

She is always wanting to go home. This time, she will not, and she

knows this, even as she is going through the motions of her

homesickness, talking on the phone with her mother, she knows this.

Underneath the confused big feels of being far away and in a totally

new place, there was a bright and vital excitement. She was far away

and in a totally new place.

It was hard for her to find friends, because she is strange, with

short bleached hair, wearing massive flat knit sweaters, old army

fatigues, dirty boots. She is not a stylish punk, sitting in her

student housing room, listening to Born Against and eating pizza while

staring out the window at people walking by the science building,

teams of white and green crossing the field to the Athletics Complex.

She was friendly enough, and met a nice lesbian girl down the hall,

who she could not kiss because she did not want to be loved by this


When she lost her favorite brown sweater, she made a flyer, “Missing

Sweater,” drew a picture of it, an amorphous alive looking thing.

“Beloved Brown Sweater, Call With Any Info.” She only got one call, a

message, a guy laughing, saying she was a fucking loser. Lose-er.

She didn’t understand why, but it made her feel bad.

It was easy to find the record stores. They were everywhere, all of

them different, dust-and-plastic, paper incense smelling caverns

filled with sound and pictures, patches and studs, used microphones,

rickety racks of t-shirts, flyers taped to the counter. This was no

mail-order. All of the 7” Screeching Weasel Eps were there, all the

Jawbreaker, the J Church 10”. She didn’t care if she didn’t have

friends, not really. She liked hanging out, talking with anybody or

not talking to anybody.

The smallest record store was right at the foot of the bridge, and

half of the space was gutted out for a plywood, black-painted stage

for shows. It used to be Thee O, but that place was gone, and a new

place was there. It was only her and the tall slouching guy behind the

counter, bangs like a Ramone. It surprised her when she asked, “Hey?”

and made the guy look up.


“Do you know where the punk rock scene is around here, or where the

punks hang out?”

She had seen people with mohawks in the park, rail-thin and scowling.

She had seen a small gang of Skinheads-Against-Racial-Prejudice type

kids, tight-laced boots with their pegged pants. Kind of Ska kids.

The guy laughed, was bemused, “Hmmm, well…”

She was listening, curious. “If you take the number 12 bus to Sandy

Blvd. and get off at 47th, there’s a house there, called the

Powerhouse, you’ll see it, just walk right. It’s by this big

electrical thing.”

September 12, 2018 3:28PM

The corner booth at the Huddle House was her favorite.

There aren’t any gaps in her memory, at least that’s what she thinks. It’s not that she doesn’t remember. It’s that she is lazy about writing down the grit and shine of a couple of decades of her life. It’s fascinating to her, the way she seems caught with one foot in her youth, one foot in her madness, the decades between just brief mentions, phone calls and small occurrences. It’s not as though the years she spent moving back and forth across the country were not important, or that nothing happened during the years she lived in Portland, or the years when her children were young, the years of her marriage, it’s not as though these things do not matter.

In the things she comes back to, however, she finds herself re-telling the same scenes again and again, bounding between her childhood and early adolescence and the time she lost her mind about God and the clouds.

Although she has been living out the years of her peculiar recovery, those years, too are under-represented, at least in the details of the specific things she did to ‘get better.’

She wonders if it is okay if she doesn’t tell about all the moving, about all the different rooms she inhabited, her long trips alone, her education at the university, her friendships and walks over bridges.

Is it okay to say little of her marriage, indicating only that it existed and then ended, that there were concerns about her mental health?

She doesn’t like to write about being a mother, because it is too difficult to be honest. She loves her children. She does not like how white middle class 21st century American mothering  in the 21st seems to erase who she is, the way she does not fully exist as a person within the role of mother.

She supposes that it’s a matter of how she wants to tell the story.

The first time she left home, they towed her car behind the truck he’d bought with his father’s death benefits, drove north through the grey and green of Ohio, Michigan, up to the edge of the biggest lake, where they had a small apartment in a basement and stayed up late at the all-night Mister Donut, playing Gin Rummy and drinking bad coffee while it snowed and snowed after a fall of red leaves and burnt carpet and doomed efforts to go back to high school, where she managed only to do a half-assed report on daguerreotypes in the Civil War and all the kids were much, much smarter than the kids at home, and she was weird, with headaches and a boyfriend she lived with, a GED. She didn’t have to be there. She quit again.

Eventually she went home, broke his heart, that boy she loved who she found at the Huddle House across the street from the county high school where she’d sit and drink bad coffee and smoke cigarettes and glower at the shimmering heat outside. He had pretty hair, long and clean, tied back in a ponytail while he cooked on the line. Rail thin and green eyed, sad all around him because his father had died. He was beautiful to her.

She would be there when he began having seizures coming off of the Xanax he bought from the head cook at the Huddle House. She went to visit him at the same place where she had been, except on the adult unit. They walked through the woods behind the house where he lived on the porch, slept on the floor in the small space that the friendliest waitress had offered up to him. He lived with her and her family, out in the county.

She had panic attacks and went on vacation with her family where she had sex that she doesn’t remember with the owner of the resort on her last night there. She got trichomoniasis and had to go to the health department out by the old county middle school, talk to the nurse, tell her what happened.

“You don’t remember at all?”

“No. Not really.” She looked at her hands in her lap. “I mean, I remember looking down at one point, but I don’t remember much else.”

She took the medicine and moved to Northern Michigan with her metalhead boyfriend. She’d break his heart, move back home.

The year she lost her mind, he randomly got in touch, and stayed in touch. Emailed her back, told her about his family, his work, how he got through his own divorce. He showed up out of nowhere, was a friend to her.

The following fall she was living in Jacksonville. Working at a Subway and feeling depressed with her new boyfriend, a drummer who was still in love with his ex-girlfriend who looked just like Meg Ryan.

She moved home.

When she went to the mountains, she went alone, stayed for nine months, sat silently on the couch of the long-haired man in her English Composition class while the Statw Bureau If Investigation searched the house, walked the boyfriend of his roommate out in handcuffs with heroin trafficking charges. She slept with her neighbor without being his girlfriend, worked in a deli and dropped her classes at the community college, moved to Alabama in the spring to live with her brother for 70.00 a month rent. She worked the day shift at the burrito place that her brother’s girlfriend’s father owned, fucked up the chile rellenos. Slept with man who worked at the Auto Zone, who was attractive, but who she wasn’t attracted to. Drove drunk, went to shows. Said dumb things. Didn’t learn to play the guitar on the porch.

She moved to the west coast in the summer.

September 16, 2018 [Draft, unsent]

She sits on the back porch with the steady rain of the dying hurricane creating a dull noisy ensconce around the house. Big, square house. Dirt on the white paint, day grey and dripping, the kudzu and wisteria hanging down from the young oak and privet, the roof of the shed.

Everything goes to wild, if left to it’s own devices long enough.

She is curious about the unrestrained world, the growth of the hedges if they are not cut back.

September 17, 2018 1:52PM

The wind after the storm was full of cool gusts. The sky a saturated blue with perfect stratocumulus billows drifting steady and lazy up above the mountains.

She watched the currents of air push through the trees of the yard, the spin and rustle of the leaves, reminded herself to just chill, to not be so urgent in her aim to write down the conversation she’d had with mother, which had ended just moments ago as a yellow cement mixer roared by her house.

“I gotta…I gotta…”

Her mother was still saying goodbye.

“I gotta go. It’s too loud here.”

The truck moved up the street, but the sound of it still gnawed at her attention, her mother’s voice sweet and chirping on the phone. She felt like she was going to jump out of her skin.

She hadn’t wanted to be on the phone long, just wanted to check in about how things were out at her parents’ home in the county, where power goes out and roads flood during storms. “Oh, it’s all fine here. Dad’s sweeping the porch, and I’m picking up some plants that got knocked over.” Her mother coughed, something deep and ragged. As Faith listened, she looked at the leaves of the calycanthus down in the yard, big and broad on the under-branches of the woody shrub, adapted for the lack of light. She wondered, briefly, if her mother would die of lung cancer, if she’d get emphysema. She feels briefly sad, picturing it, her happy mother dying and unable to breathe, then puts it out of her mind.

“So, no power outtage or anything?” Faith felt restless. She doesn’t like to talk on the phone, but knows it’s important to call, to make the effort to check in, see how things are going.

“Nope. Everything is just fine. Isn’t it a pretty day?” Her mother is easily delighted. “How are things in town?”

“Oh, fine.” Faith was weary, reporting that everything was fine, sharing segments of schedules, plans for the day, complicated arrangements to leave her daughter volunteering and pick up her son, go back to volunteering. “I went to the store, and I guess I’m just gonna try to get some writing done. I’m trying hard to get this manuscript finished, a draft, a solid draft, done by late-October.”

“I was going to ask you about that! How is it?”

Faith had woken up at 8:00, because schools were on 2-hour delay. Her neck hurt, a sharp grinding pain on one side. She felt upset, and she didn’t know why. Cried for a minute, feeling like a loser who is writing a shitty book.

“The whole thing is a delusion.” The words rose up into her, settled as she walked through her morning. The taking of her children to school, the driving to the store.

“I need help with it,” she told her mother. “I am trying to just get a draft done that is representative enough of what it might be, with help, to find the help I need.”

It is a crazy idea. A dumb idea.

She pictures it on the way home from the store, day sprawled out all sunny and rain-clean. How she will reach out to people, the people she will reach out to. She pulls into the driveway to park under the overgrown canopy of wisteria and kudzu that is encroaching on the house. Feels a little smirk of her clever self, thinking about why she isn’t scared to contact a stranger. She wonders if she will include the emails she sent to strangers in her telling of the story.

She ought to.

Those emails are, themselves, telling.

For the most part, what they say is that she is ridiculous and idiotic. Self-righteous and deluded. Sad, crazy lady trying to prove God with clouds. Thinking people ought to know.

She doesn’t mention to her mother, sitting on the porch, talking on the phone, that she is aware, and has been aware all morning, that eight years ago, on this day, she was one week in from a two week hospital stay on involuntary commitment orders issued by the magistrate on petition by her family.

This year, she has thought about that a lot. It is on her mind, although she tries to put it out of her mind, to pull herself back to the present, to remind herself that it doesn’t matter, was done, turned out okay, etc. etc.

For days, she has had crying coming up close to the surface, confusion and self-doubt churning up her thoughts. She tries not to take it seriously. She is okay, in some broad scheme of things, she is okay. In some ways she is better than okay. She will be okay.

She offers these reassurance to herself, looks around, checks her reality. See, she is not a sad, deluded crazy lady with an impossibly terrible manuscript and a regrettably naive ambition. She is a calm, competent mother of two, driving to the store.

She understands that in working with any large project, an artist will experience moments of destructive self-doubt, agonizing recrimination over how idiotic they are to try to make something beautiful and then to only have shit on their hands.

None of this is mentioned to her mother, who is asking some thing about editorial processes that Faith doesn’t have the slightest clue as to how to answer. “So, would someone then help you to figure out what parts might need to be changed, or rearranged differently?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what would happen. I’m not sure who I will reach out to, or how I will reach out them.”

She doesn’t tell her mother that she saw a young woman in the line at the grocery store with her own mother, a weary tan looking lady, stringy like a smoker, Pink Floyd t-shirt, and her daughter short and plump, greasy hair in the back, a plastic tiara of golden cat’s ears, black lace sleeves on her dress. Kind-child brown eyes.

She didn’t say that she felt strange, wanted to tell the girl something, said “Excuse me…” stepped toward the girl, “Excuse me…” The girl turned. “I like your ears,” Faith knew her eyes were beaming. “Keep being who you are. You’re great.”

The girl smiled, smiled like she was tucking some small found thing into her pocket. Turned, walked away.

“They’re from Hatteras,” the cashier, aging herself with pink lipstick, hair ragged orange-y tufts. “Just going home today.”

“Oh,” Faith handed her store card over the small counter, “Hard to imagine what that must be like. It’s beautiful here.” She looked toward the big windows of over the customer service desk.

The process of beeps and sliding objects that would time out their transaction began, and Faith moved to bag the few groceries, sparkling water and paper towels. “I guess you just have to go, and leave some things.” The cashier shook her head, set the cardboarded brick of canned drinks toward the bags with a thud. “You just do what you have to do, I guess.”

Faith noticed that she sounded uncertain when she said, “Yeah, you can’t just fall apart.”

“You’ve got to be prepared, too.” The cashier was no-nonsense.

“The best you can anyway,” Faith set the bags into a cart. “Seems like most people can barely keep up with what they have to do in their everyday lives, much less get ready for storms.”

She moved to pay, “I’m from South Georgia, down on the coast, and my family finally moved up here, because every year it was drag the plywood out and cover the windows.” As her card was fumbled back into her bag, she disclosed, “My father is still obsessed with weather. He watches it all the time.” Wondered if maybe she’d said too much, shared something that was not hers to share.

She tries not to talk about people other than herself, unless she is talking about people in a general, hypothetical sense.

“Well,” The cashier loosely folded her receipts and the unwanted coupons, once and then twice, handing them over like a small gift, “the more you watch, the more it’s outside, out there.”

Faith stood still for a minute, thinking about this that had been said. She smiled for real and said goodbye. Called back to the lady to have a nice morning.

As she walked across the sparse-filled lot, she felt like crying, and she thought it had something to do with the girl, what she had said to her. “Keep being who you are.”

She wondered if the girl would remember it, if she would remember it if she ever got sad about who she is. Faith knew the girl had noticed her, tall lady, worn grey jeans, flip flops and those tattooed birds on the top of her feet, her too-long hair in a thin braid down her back. People notice her sometimes. She is tall and her hair is too long. She has tattoos on her hands.

“I like your roses,” the checkout guy at the smaller, fancier store toward the northside of town had said the day before, when she and her kids went to get chocolate and popcorn because it wouldn’t stop raining. “It’s funny, because most people, they have sleeves, but they don’t have tattoos on their hands.”

“Yeah,” Faith glanced at her daughter bagging groceries, “the first tattoo I ever got was on my hand.” She laughed a little, “My mom was like, what did you do?!, and…” She paused, “Well…I knew I didn’t want to be a banker.”

She didn’t tell her mother any of this, sitting and talking to her on the day after it had rained all day, the anniversary of her admittance to Copestone. She didn’t mention any of it.

“Are you looking forward to not having to make the commute anymore?” Her mother sounded excited.

“Yeah,” Faith thought for a minute, “I’m really gonna have to get some things in place though, so I have structure, things I need to show up for.”

September 18, 2018 11:29AM

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”


“Isn’t that kind of exciting?” Her mother is an optimistic person.


Faith’s voice had a flat edge in replying, “It’s actually kind of scary.”













October 4, 2018 6:01AM

I do not like to say

that something is like

some other thing

to make these comparisons

naked metaphor

exposed as a fraud

Potemkin village

on the banks of a river

that is like a river

doing what a river does

which is go on and on

like everything

October 20, 2018 1:45PM

I need to remember that if I feel weird, it’s usually because I’m not putting my energy where it needs to go, or am avoiding something I need to be working on or thinking about something in a way that is not useful or that is harmful.

In an old box of papers, i found an early draft of an old short fiction story that seems to not die, about a young man who lives with his grandma (or in some versions, his aunt) and steals a bicycle.

I think I miss writing, and also understand that I need to continue this purification process, and getting rid of stuff, that right now that is important…

I don’t know why I’m going running, other than that my body feels restless and my mind is a little scattered and I have feels.

When I get back, I am going to pick up the young man, then maybe I will get rid of and sort more things and maybe tonight I will sit down and look at writing…I never did write a poem yesterday, didn’t take a single note…

(I probably feel weird because I had stress-dreams about _____ last night and then also this morning, when I went back to sleep.  Oh, I just remembered that _____was in my dream, too, but I don’t remember why or how. )

October 21, 2018 9:18PM

I aimed to write a few notes

on the mystery of dust

millimeters thick

whether old objects can have a gravity

of their own

like black holes in the attic

Questions like this

and like the mildew on the underside

of the mattress

how’d water end up there

The microclimates of this home

This moldering life

I meant to take notes

So that if remember how easy it was

to tear up the bridge

Between this house

And the field next door

screws loosened like first teeth

Easy to pull

Damp cracker wood

Under the redbud that’s full grown now

Old like me

The Leland cypress

that scrapes the roof edge

The smaller tree long dead

Like I am not


I filled an entire dumpster in three hours

Baby toys covered in dust


I meant to say something

About the cathartes aura

Flying overhead

October 22, 2018 9:25AM

Through these small and intermittent conversations, we are slowly becoming better and more intentional people.”

She says this to the barista, pulling the heavy door to open toward her, stepping back into the day. Under her hat, light green cotton flat knit, pulled from a free box four years ago, her hair is unbrushed. The morning is cold, surprising frost on the ground, breath in the air. Somehow the summer is gone, and there was no autumn, just a few lightly brisk days between the warm and the damp chill that will be in the mountains until spring. Yesterday, she noticed herself missing the glaring heat of June, July. The heavy buzz and sweat in her eyes of August. She knows it will be a long time until it is warm again. She wills herself not to miss the summer.

It has been one week since she left her job. Last Monday, she was still an employee of __________. Signing off on her unfinished service documentation notes at a small table in the upstairs kitchen of the administrative offices in a town she hardly ever went to.  There was brochure about schizophrenia on the windowsilll. “A serious brain disorder,” the clean typeface told her. “Symptoms often disabling.”

Her long hair was wet and plaited into three separate ropes, like whips or tentacles, snake cords, one for her, one for each of her children.

“I never knew your hair was so long,” the Human Resources assistant commented, as she slid the checklist to the edge of the desk for Faith to initial. Yes. She had returned her keys. No. She had not returned her name tag. ‘Melted,’ was noted below this box, a summary of her telling the story of when she had found the plastic warped and ink-bled in the side pocket of her driver’s side door, her face bruised black and distorted in the crisp plastic sleeve.

“I guess I’ve always seen it up,” the woman handed her a pen. Faith had worked for ___________for almost 8 years, since the winter she got out of the hospital. She glanced down at the curled ends of her braids, coiled at the curve of her hip where she sat. “Yeah, it’s pretty long.” She felt awkward with the lady, like she felt with a lot of people. She was not normal.

A person can spend years doing something, and then – bam – it’s done, no fanfare, no crashing or celebration. A simple walking away, a vertical line of checked boxes, a form slid back across a desk.

She took a picture of herself on the day standing in the parking lot, smiling and with crinkling skin around her eyes. She looked old, but happy.


Her hip felt like it had bees in it. A buzzing ache and sting. She’d been dreaming about the people from work again. For the past three nights, she had dreamed about them. During the day, she did not think about them. The pain in her hip woke her up.


When she was a child, she was terrified of nuclear war.

She used to be scared of nuclear war

and imagined the girl asleep by the tree

In the painting hung behind the couch

To be a refugee of some sort

In her frilled edge dress

Alone with a town in the distance

Sleeping under a tree

Like she might be dead

Or like everyone else might be dead

There in the painting

Hung behind the couch

With its upholstered hourglasses

Like ladies

No arms no legs no heads

Just body shapes repeating

While the television talked about Gorbachev and Reagan

Nuclear weapons

Blaring out to her grandmother

Sitting in a chair like a throne

Too old to care if the world might end

Because of angry, serious men.

October 31, 8:23AM

It is not unusual for a person to have unwanted belongings, to have piles of old things wedged into the corners of their lives, into the closets and spaces above the rooms. Faith didn’t like the feel of these things, lurking in the dark of her house. She wanted to be rid of them.

The pangolin is born without knowing

that it is a creature in a dying world

it scuttles across the earth

with no idea

that the smoke in the distance

is terrible

the bitter in the ground


born with just a few others

Soft scales and the pull of the muscles

Across the back

The safety of a ball


a tight-fist

In the hollow of a tree

Where the roots washed out

A hole in the ground

November 9, 2018 10:01AM

Warm sky in your eyes

The glow of underneath leaf

Water in the air

Rain carries the scent

you warm in the heat of day

cooled now, grey comfort


November 11, 2018 9:06AM

feel it again

Gathering as leaves

Warming as the day peaks

promises of ‘next year, next year,

By this time next year’

The rake scrapes across the stone

And something like laughter

makes her shoulders rise and fall

Just a little

Almost a shrugging off

old convictions, mislaid goals

The pages of books never written

Drifting unseen as always

To join in the spinning of air

The making of promises

Can you feel it again

November 11, 2018 [Draft, not sent]

The late-model sport sedan pulled up to the curb and the driver, a young man with a soft body and a nice enough face, eyebrows raised in question, half-concern, leaned over and opened the passenger side door, pushing it open toward Rachel. “Do you need a ride?”

Rachel didn’t need a ride, she was standing in front of her house and didn’t have anywhere she needed to go. It was nighttime.

She was standing down on the small strip of scraggly grass between the sidewalk and the street. She thought that maybe people were watching her, and she wanted to show them that she was not scared.

I shrugged though, and got into the car, which had a smell like old foam going yellow under the dusty fabric seat covers. It was an old car, a Nissan or a Honda, small and boxy, no aerodynamics, close-feeling in the front seat. The door was made of metal, creaked on it’s hinge and clicked shut. Rachel held her legs close together, her arms pressed into her side. She could smell herself, acrid and full of smoke, oily sweat from the hot day sitting on the porch taking pictures of clouds. “Where are you going?”

Rachel thought for a moment as the car moved her away from her house and up the street toward the middle school and downtown. “I guess just around the block.”

There was a Funyun bag on the floorboard, open and empty, gaping and silvery. “Around the block?” The man looked confused. He was trying to be helpful, or maybe to get a date.

11/16/2018 [Draft, not sent]


To understand my personal experience, and to explore ways that reality is constructed in human consciousness. To develop a *simple and straightforward* overview of ways that learned per