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April 27, 2014

The Dinner Guest

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 8:07 pm

I don’t generally reblog things here, but I know I haven’t posted in a while, and I really liked this.

Bipolar For Life

I went to a dinner party at my parents’ house tonight.

I wasn’t invited.

Only big deal art collectors and a big deal artist were invited.

My parents live one minute away from my rude yet adequate dwelling–my father’s former studio, just a pole building really.

The way I found out about the dinner party was that my mother was whining on the phone about having to cook again, after having had a dinner party last night, to which I also was not invited.  The guests were the same art collectors.  They bought a lot of stuff, you know.

She was having ribs tonight.  I don’t eat pork.  Maybe that’s why she didn’t invite me.

I decided to make an appearance anyway.  I didn’t dress up: I wasn’t an invited guest.  Jeans and a clean shirt, good enough for a “just dropped in.”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence when…

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December 20, 2013

Thoughts upon Passing My Final

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 11:47 am

My body is a scary place to inhabit. There’s a lot of pain there I don’t really want to deal with. “Subclinical pain” my teacher called it. The kind that you don’t know you have until somebody puts pressure on it.

There are two categories of people: People who I trust to only hurt me in ways that are good for me, and people who I don’t trust to only hurt me in ways that are good for me. “People who I trust not to hurt me” is a category so small I’m not sure I can name a single person who’s in it. I’m certainly not.

Everyone is dealing with so much trauma that sometimes I feel like I might be crushed by the weight of it. It’s coming from all sides, all the time, like a big grey cloud of grief and ache. Sometimes, I wish I could just shut myself down, focus only on healing my own wounds, and leave everyone else to take care of themselves alone. But, of course, I know that doesn’t work.

“Sometimes, if you grew up without someone who could hold space for your pain, learning to quietly witness for others can be a bear.” She said that, too. Bear was the word she used. 

November 13, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:53 am

death

Death. The reset button. I haven’t written here in a while. Lots of jumbled thoughts.

Let’s just see what comes out if I type. I’m sad, but I think it will pass. I had this whole entry planned out in my head earlier while I was walking around the block. It was about the idea of the next few months as hitting the reset button on my life. Specifically wondering if I can hit the reset button on my relationship with my mom and what that looks like. I felt really confident earlier, walking around the block in my leather jacket, smoking a cigarette, looking at the stars. That kind of confidence makes me willing to be all kinds of vulnerable in public, and I wanted to talk about my childhood, and recovery, and stuff that’s going on for me in school, and sweet feelings about my relationship with maymay, and this weird fucking thing that happened over the weekend where this girl I’d never met before showed up out of nowhere and voiced my exact hallucinogenic nightmare aloud in the context of a conversation about mental health and hitting her own reset button and what I thought it all meant, and hope.

I didn’t write it, though. And…part of me is sad. Because I’ll never write it. And part of me is relieved. Because it would’ve been really personal and the Internet isn’t actually as safe a place as I’d like it to be. And part of me is like, “Go the fuck to bed, Rebecca. It’s almost 3am.” But it felt really important to write something down. So, now I have.

September 29, 2013

How To Tell a True War Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:24 am

I wrote this in 2007. I’ve never shared it publicly before today. The person in this story does not exist. But the story is true.

. . .

This is a story.  It is not a veridical accounting of factual events; it is an explication of my phenomenological experience.  As such, it is the truest story I can tell.  I’ll need you to suspend your disbelief.

Once, I had this friend.  I met him when we were kids.  We grew up together.  We were friends for a long time.  Ten years.  Longer than I’ve known you.  He wasn’t always nice to me; in fact, sometimes, he was downright mean.  Especially in later years when, by tearing into me, he could make his cooler, more attractive, better-dressed friends laugh.  But we became friends, first, because in the beginning he wasn’t cool.  Because he had Coke-bottle glasses and copious acne.  And liked his cats more than he liked people.  And had a wicked sense of clever humor; a kind of manic, playful creativity; and a deep, deep, quietly wounded vulnerability, a loneliness, which he guarded with iron-edged vigilance, except – occasionally, very very occasionally – when he was with me.  

I loved him.  That is to say, my feelings for him were strong and complicated.  Outside of family members, he was the first person I was ever close to in my life.  For a while, in the early blush of adolescent turmoil, I thought I was in love with him; and this shaped, perhaps to a large degree, my nascent understanding of desire.  But my feelings weren’t mutual.  And, insofar as he was aware of them, they made him uncomfortable.  So, out of both desperation and courtesy, I let them go.  In time, they faded – the way a powerful dream fades: vivid and intrusive at first, but eventually so insubstantial that you wonder if you made it up entirely… 

But there was always something which lingered.  Something like a crush.  So that, when he didn’t want me, I genuinely believed it was because I wasn’t good enough to deserve him – and I would struggle, to change, to be cool enough, interesting enough, non-chalant enough to impress him.  Because, when he did want me – when he was worn out playing dress-up for his cool friends and there was some kind of relief I could give him – it was great.  There were those intermittent moments, when he would bring me back inside his inner world; make me laugh with inside-jokes that spanned eras; embrace me with quiet confidences; and whisper that nobody could understand him the way I understood.  

No matter how many times I had my heart wrenched by the ensuing and inevitable rejection, whenever he came back, it felt like I was being shined on by my own private sun.  Like something about me was special.  Like, at the end of the day, behind that brash and candy-coated colorful exterior, my old friend was there, quietly, looking for someone he could trust.  And our trust was still there; an unshakeable undercurrent; a thread, it felt continuous no matter what tumult and miscommunication and circumstances overlay it.  His trust for me.  My trust for him.  Intimacy.  Closeness.  And, like, this time – this time – I was sure it was for real…

Time passed. My friend and I both grew older.  I branched out into previously intimidating expanses of the larger universe, and found other sources of self-assurance: in myself; in the perspective that cumulative life-experience brings; and in other – less cool but more genuine – friends, mentors, lovers.  In the long stretches between phone-calls from my friend, when I would overhear him in the halls ripping on me for the amusement of the people he wanted to impress, when I noticed the subtle ways he would sabotage my relationships for the sake of his popularity, I started to question myself.  What was the basis of my loyalty?  What support did I have – had I ever had – for my unwavering allegiance to this person?  Was there anything to this friendship?  Had there ever been?  Anything beyond infatuation…? 

And then there would be that phone call.  The e-mail.  The invitation.  And the uninhibited rush of relief.  Could I do him a favor?  Only a small one?  This thing or that thing?  Of course I could!  Because it felt so good to forgive him.  Such a relief.  To realize it had all been my misunderstanding.  My lack of faith. What kind of a friend was I? Every time.

And he knew.  He couldn’t articulate it.  He could never articulate much.  But he knew I’d always be there for him.  No matter what.  He knew how I felt about him.  He knew. 

My friend liked to drink.  And, several times, he got very drunk with me.  Which is not to say that we got drunk together.  There was, for example, the wedding reception, where he gulped down two entire bottles of champagne, threw up on my shoes, and sat shuddering in the car until the ambulence was called.  I was supposed to be on an airplane that night, but I went to the hospital with him and held his hand while he thrashed in terror on the gurney, fighting tooth and nail to prevent the medical staff from helping him.  Needle-phobia.  

Or the time when he showed up at my apartment with a couple of friends, slammed a whole bottle of Jagermeister, destroyed one of my boyfriend’s most prized possessions because he thought it was funny, sprayed my bathroom with 360 degrees of puke, and went home.  The next morning, as I cheerfully scrubbed flecks of vomit out of the paint around the lightswitch, I thought to myself how lucky I was that he trusted me enough to get that drunk around me.  That he trusted me enough to know that I’d understand, and clean up his chunky vomit, and not even need an apology.  He never called.  I never minded.

I was naive.  But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an asshole.

And then, one night, he got me drunk. 

And raped me.

He was sober.  At least sober enough to drive.  I was plastered.  The drunkest I’d ever been in my life, or have ever been since.  I know because it’s the only time in my life I’ve ever blacked out. Been drunk enough not to remember.  But we were celebrating, after all.  I’d just graduated from school.  It was a triumph.  I felt good about myself.  I bought the beers and let him pick the game. “Circle of Death.” Some of his cool friends were there, and he wanted to impress them.  I was happy to oblige.  Why not?  I was in my own home.  I was the girl of the hour.  I was with people I knew and liked.  To all of whom I had said, very clearly, while sober, “I don’t want anything sexual to happen.”  And I knew I didn’t have to worry.  Because I was in my own home with my best friend.  Who I trusted.  I was safe…  

And then I was outside in the moonlight, telling him a secret.  Then he was kissing me.  Then I was in a dark room, not my own, everything blurry.  And I knew something was wrong.  And there was no sense of time.   And I was naked, puking in the toilet, helpless.  And my boyfriend was there, scared and angry.  And I was crying.  And my “friend” was gone.  And it was morning. 

I didn’t tell anybody.  What could I have told them? I didn’t know what had happened. Had only pieces of memories. When I saw my friend, he refused to tell me details.  Only that he was angry at me and that I should know why.  Scornful, insulting and malicious.  So I knew I had done something wrong.  That I had screwed up.  That it had been my fault.  That I deserved it.  Like I had, every time. 

Time passed.  Eventually, I pieced the night together.  And, with it, I slowly pieced the last ten years together.  And I felt very, very, very, very sick.  

I didn’t turn him in.  I had thought it was my fault for so long; on some level, I still did.  Who would believe me?  I was afraid they’d just laugh.  He was so cool and beloved.  I was…not;  not unless his light was shining on me.  I didn’t want to make a scene.  So I just distanced myself.  I stopped talking to him.  I gritted my teeth and turned my back.  From him, and everyone he knew.  I just wanted to forget about it.  About him.  I just wanted to forget. 

When that e-mail inevitably came – no apology, no acknowledgement, just an oh-so-generous invitation to “talk” – my heart jumped into my throat.  Like it did, every time.  But this time, I swallowed it.  I replied that I was very busy and would call him if I had time.  I never called. 

One night, months later, a mutual friend – who I’d been avoiding – invited me over.  I had introduced the two of them, as I had originally introduced many of the people who now constituted my rapist’s inner circle and who considered me persona non grata.  I didn’t know what he’d been saying to them about me since it happened.  I didn’t want to care.  I just knew that they looked at me differently now.  And, worse, that they reminded me of him.  So I stayed away.  But this unexpected invitation came from a friend I’d known almost as long as I’d known my rapist, and so I went.  Because our history pre-dated theirs, and because he was the one friend I had been truly sad to sacrifice.  

But he looked at me differently now, too.  Similar to myself and many others who had never been popular in school, he was highly susceptible to the confidence-boosting narcotic in my former friend’s attentive glow.  So, in between episodes of Arrested Development, he asked me about it.  He didn’t really ask me what had happened, per se, and so I didn’t have to tell him.  What he asked was why I didn’t apologize.  He had heard the story, and he was sure that, if I would only make amends, my friend would take me back.  

I explained, despite my queasy stomach, that for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to be taken back.  That returning to his fold was no longer the issue.  I said nothing about vomit, and fear, and confusion, and darkness, and feeling used and brokenhearted and the tears.  I said I felt that we’d…outgrown each other.  That I was certain he believed that he’d rejected me, sure as always that he could safely do so without losing me as a fall-back.  And that, as far as I was concerned, he could continue to believe that.  I had no desire to make a scene.  I didn’t have the energy.  I hated drama.  I had better people to hang out with.  I had more important things to do with my time… All kinds of defensive, sad, confused and flustered noises escaped my throat.  

But in the end, it was enough to get the point across: That it no longer mattered whether this person wanted me or not; because I didn’t want him.  This wasn’t entirely true at the time.  But it was true enough.  I knew this because, when I had finished my explanation, I saw a look cross my friend’s face that was both a little shocked and strangely impressed.  He said no more on the matter – which is rare for him.  And we finished watching the DVDs.  And I never trusted him again as much as I once had, but I felt that he respected my decision and that was enough. 

Acquaintances and other idle bystanders sometimes asked what had happened, too.  “Look,” I told them, “It was…like a really bad break up.  I just don’t want to talk about it.”

I really, really didn’t want to talk about it.

I just wanted to move on.  I tried to put it behind me.  I tried not to think about what had happened that night.  I tried not to wonder about the specifics.  I tried not to think about our history at all.  I made new friends.  I found new hobbies.  I moved away.  Socially. Psychologically. Emotionally. Literally to another town. And overall, I was stronger for it. 

But I couldn’t erase it completely.  Because I was still afraid of him.  I was afraid when I heard he’d talked to people I cared about.  Especially when I heard he’d been drunk with my friends.  Partly because I was afraid for them.  More because I was afraid of what he’d said.  Afraid that, while I had kept my story silent out of fear and sickness, he had aired his version far and loud – a story in which I was a dirty, wanton little slut; an embarrassment; desperate; a whore; a crazy drunk with no self-esteem; a terrible cheating excuse for a girlfriend; in which I had “started it” – whatever “it” was.  That he had painted a picture so convincing and worked his charismatic spell so that, even among people with whom I’d once considered myself close, I had no idea who to trust. 

This story has no conclusion.  He’s still friends with my friends.  They don’t know what he did.  I won’t tell them.  I still don’t think they’d believe me.  I don’t have the energy to care.  But I still get uncomfortable when they talk to him.  I still get edgy when he’s in the room.  

I don’t expect a resolution.  Eventually, I will have to forgive him on my own terms, and let go.  I am working towards moving on.  Moving away.  Moving on.  Moving away.  Moving on.  Inch by inch by inch by inch.  It’s a long road.  Especially traveling it by inches. 

But for a long time, even the sound of his name would make cry.  When I heard it, I would want to put my fist through a wall.  A couple of times, I tried.  That doesn’t happen anymore.

True. He probably didn’t really know what he was doing. True. He probably doesn’t really know that it was wrong. 

But on some level, he knew.  On some level, he knows.  On some level, he chose to take advantage of my vulnerability and violate my trust that night.  And every single other time when he used me for something and made me feel guilty about it afterwards, knowing that I’d take the blame.  And on that level, I HATE him.  And sometimes, that hatred overwhelms everything else.  You can tell that those are the days on which I feel most vulnerable to him – because hatred is the only emotion strong enough to shield me. 

And I have some compassion for him.  How could I not?  I loved him for longer than you and I have even known each other.  

But I would have more if I didn’t have to worry about unexpectedly seeing him somewhere, among my friends, and having to suddenly gulp down hard on all the hurt and heartache that rushes up into my throat, try to act like nothing happened.  Be expected to smile at him – maybe even hug – because, gosh, whatever happened between us was just a silly old thing.  No big deal.  Trivia.  Drama.  Nothing. 

It would be easier to let go if I didn’t, on some level, live in constant anticipatory fear of that composure-smashing shock.  But I do.  Because he’s still there.  Haunting the periphery.  All the time.  

He’s still there.

And he’s not going anywhere.  Any time soon.

August 18, 2013

On Giving My Ideas Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 6:18 pm

This morning, I asked my Tarot of St. Petersburg a question about what’s going on with my writing and it gave me probably the clearest, most useful response I’ve ever gotten from those cards. I think I might’ve finally figured out what that particular deck is for. Each of the decks I use regularly has a sphere or focus area that I find it most helpful for. My Art Nouveau deck is about personal relationships. Dakota’s Revelations Tarot is best for questions about my own psychology. Our Shapeshifter deck is, unsurprisingly, about transformation and change. I use the Thoth deck when I specifically want to talk with the tarot about magic. And I like my Whimsical Tarot best to do readings for other people, because it’s all about telling stories. Sometimes, especially when I’m in need of some extra gentleness, I use it to tell myself stories also. Given that my modus operandi in life is to write and build relationships and that, of the three decks I personally own, one is about relationships and the one is about storytelling (which is the fusion of writing and relationships), it makes sense that the third deck’s sphere of focus would be my writing, my creative self. (And, for various reasons, it seems obvious that the writer’s deck and the Russian deck would be one and the same.)

The reading I did looked like this:

Image

 This is a spread maymay came up with that I really like. It’s called The Missing Piece and it’s conceptually based on the Shel Silverstein book of the same name. I think of the positions like this:

ImageThe sixth card, at the top right, is one I added at the end as a kind of an, “Okay, so what now?” advice type of card.

 Here are the cards I got:

 What do I already have a lot of… 

…in the Material realm: THE HERMIT. [Knowledge. Circumspection. Withdrawl. Reflection. Contemplation. Reclusiveness. A period of peace with little to no interruptions.] It’s true. I’m pretty much just hanging out in Stillwater for the next couple of weeks. Dakota’s at work all day and I haven’t met very many people yet and I’m just spending a lot of time at the library. Except for a small handful of logistical loose ends, I have very few demands on my time right now that require engaging with the outside world. In material terms, I have everything I could possibly ask for in terms of solitude, space, and contemplative time to write. Turns out that’s not enough, though. (Notably, in this deck, the Hermit is surrounded by stars — inspiration — but they are all tiny points of light twinkling in the background and he is looking the other direction.) 

…in the Psychospiritual Realm: THE SEVEN OF SWORDS. [New plans. Wishes. Fortitude. Perseverance. Endeavor. Hope. Confidence. Fantasy. Partial success.] Swords are the suit of the mind. Thought. If swords symbolize ideas, the guy on this card looks very much like how I feel. He’s got so many that he’s having trouble carrying them all. He holds a bunch of swords precariously in his hands, others are leaned up against him or falling on the ground, and he’s sort of stuck way out here, far away from either the city walls or the soldiers’ encampment, because he’s got so many swords that he can’t actually go anywhere with them. The imposing city might symbolize the traditional institutions I’m trying to attack with my ideas and the warm, inviting-looking little encampment might be a community of camaraderie that I’m hoping to arm with them. But I can’t get there

What’s missing from…

 …the Material realm: THE ACE OF SWORDS. [Great determination. Initiative. Strength. Force. Activity. Excessiveness. Success. Deep emotional feeling. Love. Conquest.] It’s true that I have all the time in the world to write, but I don’t really have anything driving me to do right now so beyond a sort of vague sense of obligation. Anyone who knows me well knows that feelings of obligation, especially ill-defined ones, rarely motivate me to action. Instead, they operate as the worst kind of stop energy, making me both averse to the source of the obligation (in this case, writing itself and the notion that “a writer ought to be able to finish things”) and angry and frustrated with myself for being a failure. Thing is, I do WANT to be writing. I love writing. I love the feeling of it. It’s what keeps me alive. But I don’t really want to be writing my way through a backlog of old, unfinished projects just because “they’re good ideas and it would be a shame to throw them away.” They ARE good ideas and it would be a shame to throw them away. But I’m missing some kind of material, pragmatic purpose that drives me to do something with them. 

…the Psychospiritual Realm: DEATH [Transformation. Clearing away the old to make way for the new. Loss. Alteration. Abrupt change of the old self. A new era.] I love the Death card. It used to make me uncomfortable. I imagine it makes most people uncomfortable in the beginning. But, as every deck and every book and every tarot reader will reassure you, Death is not about the permanent ends of things, it’s about the pause before a resurrection. For me, Death is “hitting the reset button.” Interestingly, in this deck, Death is a huge skull sitting on a field with swords scattered around it. I had mixed feelings when showed up here because of the aforementioned “it would be a shame to throw away my good ideas,” but, ultimately, seeing Death in this position brought me relief. It seems obvious to an onlooker but probably unfathomable to the man in the Seven of Swords that the solution to his problem of having too many swords is just to drop all of them. This doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t pick some of them up again. But he’s never going to get ANY of them where he’s going if he keeps trying to carry all of them simultaneously. I have a huge list of unfinished writing projects that I’ve been slowly working through over the past few months. Except that I’m not actually working through them, slowly or otherwise. What I actually have is a huge list of writing projects that have been staring me in the face for months like the ghosts of dead things. In fact, many of them are literally summaries or epilogues of parts of my life that are over now. What’s missing might be a burial. 

 What’s connecting all of these pieces together: THE FOUR OF SWORDS [Respite. Rest after illness. Repose. Replenishment. Solitude. Exile. Retreat. Abandonment.] I like the placement of this card because it allows for so many different relationships between the cards and causes me to consider them in terms of a common theme. In this card, a young person lies resting in what appears to be a secluded tower, swords floating above their head like dreams. If I consider writer’s block a kind of spiritual sickness, to me this card speaks of convalescence. The fever has broken, but there is still a process of returning to full strength. Becoming mentally unstuck means dropping my many unwieldy projects and focusing on one firmly held idea. Coming out of my hermetic retreat requires letting some of my ideas die, or acknowledging that they have been dead for a while, and honoring that as the beginning of something new. 

How? THE EIGHT OF CLUBS [Swift activity. Sudden progress or movement. Speed. Hastily made decisions. Rapid advancement.] This card depicts eight wands being hurtled across the sky, arcing over the distant city and upward into the night. I imagine them, perhaps, as having been thrown from the window of the tower by the formerly-sleeping person, who has awoken with a new perspective on that about which they dreamed. All the other suit cards in this reading were Swords but this one is Clubs aka Wands. What were formerly solid, weighty mental objects have been transformed into lightweight, flexible arrows of inspiration shot out into the world. 

 So, what does this mean in practical terms? Starting tomorrow, I’m going to give my ideas away.

There were a lot of things I wanted to write this summer. I got some of them finished. Fewer than I would’ve liked. I was about to say, “But I didn’t get much of anything done” except that’s not true. I actually got a lot of things done: I moved across the country once and completed all the preparations to do so again next week. I introduced Dakota to New York. I helped Maymay buy a car. I coordinated a lot of travel logistics around and beyond those trips. I applied and got accepted to massage school and then I coordinated a bunch more physical, social, and financial logistics around that. I reconnected with August in some ways that feel important to me. I deepened my relationship with Lilly and got to hang out with Athil. I journaled and meditated and exercised and ate and slept more regularly than I ever have in my life. I successfully retrained my body to wake up at 7:30 every morning. (That’s probably my biggest accomplishment.)

I actually did quite a bit of writing even if I didn’t get a lot of writing “done”. I published Why I Just Gave a Bunch of Old White Dudes Five Hundred Dollars, Your Kink is Not My Kink but Would You Like Some Doritos?, “BDSM” is Kinky Sex for Rape Apologists, Anarchists are Like the Frat Boys of the RevolutionWhole People Make Better Allies Than Parts of People: My Review of Savages. I said a couple of thoughtful things on Tumblr. And I had a lot of good ideas. 

 Common sense says that there’s nothing wrong with just leaving a bunch of projects on the backburner until whenever I’m inspired to work on them again. But common sense is wrong. I know they’re there and right now I feel like I have about 50 open tabs in my brain. They’re distracting and emotionally loaded in a way that blocks me until I’m sick. I want to close those tabs so that I can focus on one thing. Specifically, I want to focus on massage school — not because I want to “be a massage therapist” but precisely because I’m building a life in which writing can be my vocation without ever having to be my job. Learning as much as I possibly can in massage school is a key piece to that puzzle. Does this mean I’m going to do no writing or other creative projects over the next seven months? Holy fuck, I hope not. It just means I want to hit the reset button. Free up cognitive space. Clean slate. 

The material, pragmatic inspiration that drives me to “do something” with my existing ideas is wanting to have all those tabs closed by the end of the summer. But, originally, I told myself that meant I’d just write whatever I could get written before September and let the rest of it die. But the fear of simply losing all those ideas I was excited about caused me to feel rushed and frustrated and hopeless and stuck and made it harder to write anything at all — even the spontaneous, off-the-cuff, quick-response stuff I’m best at. Also, it’s impossible. I can’t just drop them like they never existed. It won’t work. I’ll just continue to perseverate on them and then trip into guilt-trigger-land when I do. I know. I’ve tried. And now I’ve reached what is essentially the last week of the summer. I want to do SOMETHING with them. Even if it’s just something ritualistic. I want to acknowledge letting them go. And the thing I want to do is not turn all of them into completed writing projects. The thing I want to do is give them away.

This is important: Giving my ideas away doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on them. The opposite, in fact. It means giving them a chance. I might even be giving them to myself. I might send them out as arrows of inspiration into the world and then be hit by one sometime in the future. But that’s different from having it burning a hole in the back of my skull right now. 

My experiment last week was to avoid using social media entirely. I was about…75% successful. I skimmed Facebook and Twitter a few times, liked some things, but didn’t post much. My experiment this week is to use Diaspora exclusively, since that’s what I want to be doing starting in September. So, starting on Monday, I want to spend an hour each day posting ideas on Diaspora. I don’t want these to be proto-drafts. I don’t want to get caught up trying to share every little thought and scrap and sentence I think is clever that I have so far. I’ll never get anywhere. So, I’m going to convert each discrete piece or project idea into a writing prompt, a few sentences, and post it as an individual status update with tags. Perhaps they’ll go out into the world and other people will find them and be inspired to write by them. Perhaps they’ll create something far better than whatever I would have done with that idea. Perhaps I’ll come across something they’ve done in the future and be inspired by it. 

May 2, 2013

The Truth Takes Practice

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:14 am

There’s a thing that happens when the people who love me treat me well. More precisely, it happens when they treat me the way I want to be treated. Which is to say, when they are both very considerate of my boundaries and very gently but persistently affectionate at the same time, there is a thing that happens. What happens is that I get nervous. I get nervous because a little voice in my head starts whispering. “Something must be wrong,” it says, “You’re not supposed to get what you want. The things you want are stupid. And you don’t deserve them, anyway. This isn’t really happening. This isn’t what you think. You’re lying to yourself, or they’re lying to you, or both. It’s a trick.”

And I’m just noticing this voice and writing it down here. Because I think the claims made by this “little voice” — that I’m a fool to believe that, if people I love are treating me the way I want them to, it’s because they love me and that’s how I want to be treated — might be an artifact of abuse rather than a description of reality.

I realize that, as a reader, that may seem intuitively obvious to you. “Of course that’s abuse-based; it’s obviously not true.” But it doesn’t feel intuitively obvious to me. What feels intuitively obvious to me is that I don’t deserve to be treated in ways that me feel safe. That that’s an unfair and unreasonable thing to expect from someone who loves me.

There are some words in my head, and now some words on a screen, that tell me otherwise. But they don’t feel true, yet. And I will probably have to write them many, many, many more times before they do.

This is one time.

April 15, 2013

On Managing My Own Mind – OR – Becoming Cyborg

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:12 am

Harbisson says a dream in which he heard colors made him realize what being a cyborg means. “It’s not the union between the eyeborg and my head that converts me into a cyborg, but the union between the software and my brain,” he said.

Facebook. Twitter. WordPress. Identi.ca. LiveJournal. Google+. Vimeo. MySpace. DeadJournal. YouTube. FetLife. PBWorks. GoogleDocs. Tumblr.

I think it was the Tumblr that did it. I have multiple personal accounts plus various dummy accounts on almost every one of these services and more. Each one holds a piece of my identity — some small, some large — and my brain keeps a map of where all the various parts of me are stored. At least, it did.

I’ve been “feeling weird” for the last few days. I can’t explain what it feels like except…weird. I haven’t even been able to tell if the feeling is physical, emotional, cognitive, or what. That’s unusual for me.

I went swimming this morning. I started off doing laps. But the deep end was full of bugs. There was also a huge-finned shark with gory bloody teeth, a giant snapping turtle 30ft across with ancient alien eyes, and monstrous squid with murderous beaks. So, after a few panicky moments, I mostly swam in circles around the shallow end and talked to myself about the fact that these haunts and terrors are actually in my head. Not in a trivializing, “Rebecca, it’s nothing; it’s all in your head” kind of way. Just reminding myself that these visions are real things and they are legitimately scary, but they’re things that live in my head not in the pool. Which means I can deal with them. I have lots of skills for managing what’s going on in my mind. Far more than I have skills for out-swimming sea monsters.

With the Tumblr account, I think, I’ve reached a critical mass of kaleidoscopic digital identity such that I can no longer keep a comprehensive map of myself in bio-memory. When I try to think about “Who I Am” online, sectors start to flicker on and off. Some get brighter while others get darker. I have the sense that there are puzzle pieces missing. My brain has ceased to contain the universal meta-model.

By the time I got out of the pool, I was swimming full length laps again while composing two new blog posts in my head.

Eventually, I’ll build a tech tool to map all the online parts of myself for me. (The password manager I use, LastPass, seems like a promising start. I can already feel myself interacting with my accounts differently because it’s become so much easier to pop back and forth — just select a self with the click of a mouse.) But for now, I’m kind of in freefall. And it feels, well, liberating. Among other things, since my brain feels less responsible for remembering All The Things, it can focus on just being whichever me I am in a given moment.

The 1st of April was Fool’s Day. The first card in the tarot deck is the Fool. Today is April 14th. The 14th card in the major arcana is Death. Death is the reset button.

Another potential benefit of delegating “Who Am I?” to exo-memory: Less worry that I’ll run out of resources to maintain new identity locations. In other words, I can be as prolific as I wanna be. (Which is very.) If I’m concerned that I might be overwhelming or poorly targeting my audience in a particular location, I can create something new. For example, say I want a place to braindump lots of abstract political analyses of BDSM without it cluttering up the blog that’s focused on technology and methodologies of intimacy. I can just do that. The solution to my existential dilemma around distributed selfhood isn’t to try and aggregate all of my selves into one cohesive whole. It’s to lean into scattering.

April 10, 2013

On Being Crazy in Private

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:53 pm

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like…to just be crazy in private. It’s hard to imagine. I’ve lived on the public Internet since I was a child. Sharing my most private thoughts with complete strangers feels normal. Comforting. It seems lonely to imagine being trapped inside my own mind with my thoughts all the time. And, perhaps not so strangely, the craziest parts feel like the most important parts to share. I don’t want to sit alone in a room and have to look my shadow self in the face. Far better if I can pull a Perseus and only look at the scariest parts of me as they’re reflected off of other people. Other people are far more polite about them.

I sometimes wonder about how having this massive international reflecting mirror changes my psychology. Does it amplify my feelings or allow me to vent them such that I don’t explode or both? But the truth is, if I were just “crazy in private,” what that might actually look like is leaning on my intimate network for more support than they have the resources to give me. Or, on the flipside, it might mean “getting my shit together” in order to prevent that imbalance from happening.

I signed up for this online class: Transforming Our Suffering – Online Family Mental Health Recovery Education and Support Course. Well, by “signed up” I mean I expressed interest to the person who’s running it and she wrote me back and asked about my motivations for wanting to join the course. It took me about a week to respond because it was a hard e-mail to write. I told her that, while I know what I mean when I say words like “family” and “mental health,” I’m not sure what she means by them, so I don’t know if I’m the target audience for the class. I talked about some of my mental health stuff and sent links. I talked a little bit about Dakota, Lilly, and May, as they’re currently the people in whose well-being I’m the most personally invested. I talked about Mom. I told her about going through a process of healing and recovery and wanting to bring what I’ve learned back to my community in general and to the people I’m close to specifically. I told her that I don’t really know where I, or any of my loved ones, fit on a map drawn by the psychiatric-industrial complex. Then, I hit send.

A little later, I was cleaning out my inbox and came across this link I’d texted myself a while ago: NAMI-DAC National Alliance on Mental Illness, Dona Ana County. They’d had an event where folks living with mental illness gave monologues about their experiences. I’d wanted to go and was surprised by how disappointed I felt on realizing I’d missed it. I’m trying to understand. I’m trying to figure out where I fit.

I have a complicated relationship with “crazy”. I’m sure that’s normal. I fought the label so hard, for so long, because it was a word that, to my mind, simply meant “like my mother”. As a teenager, I didn’t have any clear articulation of what might actually be going on for my mom mental-health-wise. I just knew that everyone described her as “crazy” and that “crazy” was an epithet and I didn’t know how to disentangle “crazy” from “abusive” and I didn’t want to be either. Then, at some point, I actually started embracing the label and that was freeing, but also complicated because I didn’t know and still don’t know whether I’m “crazy enough” to be entitled to it. My experience of “mental illness”, if that’s what you want to call it and if that’s what it even is, is so extremely buffered by other kinds of privilege including and non-trivially the privilege to afford very good mental health care. (Although, admittedly, as I pointed out in my earlier e-mail today, this is partly because I choose to spend the money I do have on therapy instead of, like, clothes or devices or owning a car. And I prioritize like that for Reasons. So, that’s a thing.)

There’s a part of me that wants to connect more meaningfully with other folks who are thinking about, talking about, working on, and experiencing mental health challenges because…I want more skills and tools and frameworks for myself and to share. On the other hand, I’ll be honest: A part of me worries that if I spend more time around crazy people, especially people who aren’t ashamed of it or fighting tooth and nail to not be crazy, that I’ll end up becoming even crazier than I am. And that scares me. Because this isn’t actually that much fun. And it’s not exactly that I’d want to change who I am…but the crazy parts of “who I am” are pretty challenging for me and for my loved ones. I’ve no need to make them even more challenging than they already are.

But I’m lonely. One thing that’s been a little hard for me, lately, re: the degree to which I’m “crazy in public” is that the public internet has been moving further and further away from being a place to commune with like-minded strangers and become (at least for me) a tool that augments interactions with existing friends, intimates, and acquaintances. This is a great tool to have. But, because I think I relate to the notions of personal privacy and transparency differently from many, I find myself sharing masses of extremely personal thoughts and feelings with people who care about me but who aren’t sharing reciprocally. And that makes me feel a bit like a bug under a microscope. Much more, for some reason, than when I was writing about Winterover depression to a thousand strangers who, for the most part, didn’t actually care about me but found my depression to be an interesting and worthwhile subject.

There’s a difference between people who care about my mental health because they care about me and people whose (at least initial) interest in me is that they care about my mental health. Does that make sense? Both are important to have in my life. Having them in the same space is kind of rough.

I want to be able to be radically transparent about the insides of my brain, and I want to be able to do that in ways that aren’t excessively burdensome to the people I’m building a life with. I’m not sure how to do this yet. It’s one of the things I’m hoping to learn more about.

Anyway. Today was a Crazy day, for sure. But I dealt with it mostly by just going home to the Internet. And that was good.

March 30, 2013

Collation

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 12:22 am

I did something hard this week. I got into a swimming pool alone for the first time in over a year.

In early 2012, I had a major panic attack while swimming at the North Boulder Rec Center. Halfway into the deep-end, I started imagining the entire pool filled with millions upon millions of iridescent black-green beetles crawling all over each other and me. Unsurprisingly, I freaked. Fled the pool, fighting back screams, and stood dripping and shaking and wide-eyed, clawing at the lobby walls until my roommate was able to come pick me up. I had called her for help. I was in no state to drive. I was still seeing bugs everywhere and struggling to breathe.

Up until that point, swimming a few times a week had been a core element of both my physical and mental health practice. It was regular exercise that I enjoyed. I felt excited about it even when dragging myself out of bed in the cold Colorado mornings. There had always been a some fear in the back of my mind that I might panic in the pool some day. Ever since I was a child, scaring myself with visions of sharks and sea monsters lurking in the deep end, water — even the shower — has always stirred up something uncomfortable in my subconscious. It’s also where I tend to do my best and most fluid thinking and one of my favorite places to have a body. But every time I jumped into the pool, the moment I took my first deep breath and dunked my head under, I also steeled myself for the possibility that I would surface into some kind of nightmarish hallucination instead of Morning Lap Swim flanked by Aqua Tai Chi. One day, I did. It was one of the worst and most vivid I’ve ever had. After that, I was scared for a long time.

And I missed swimming like you wouldn’t believe.

Once, the following summer, we were visiting a friend in California and I tried getting in her pool. My partner came with me and held my hand as I walked gingerly from the shallow end towards the other side, taking conscious, steady, deep breaths. I made it about halfway before I started hyperventilating, dove for the side and scrambled out. Curled up in a ball on the pool deck. Cried while my lover held me. Felt frustrated, disappointed, embarrassed and angry at myself. Returned sheepishly to the hot tub which, for some reason, was fine.

Over the past year, I’ve worked my way back into the water slowly, starting with showers, hot baths, then hot tubs and hot springs. I suspect, in part, that having my head underwater is the biggest trigger, as well as being fully immersed and suspended — none of which are things that happen in my bathtub. I also think that warm water is better because relaxing my muscles reduces my anxiety. But I miss swimming so much.

One thing that happened after the panic attack in the pool is that I had a major breakthrough in understanding the shape of what I’ve been struggling with. I woke up the next morning and spent several hours on the floor with a big sheet of butcher paper and a fistful of colored pencils, mapping the three major mental health issues that block me from being okay, connecting them to specific aspects of trauma from my relationship with my mom, locating each one within the epistemic cultural context of my privileged and marginalized positions, attaching them to the types of intervention that had historically been most effective for each one, and tying those healing practices together into an overall plan. Then I spent the rest of the day sitting under a tree in the sun and just sort of…staring. Not long after that, I quit my job.

Over the past year or so, I’ve also been on what the Boulder hippie in me can only describe as an “intense healing journey.” I’ve undertaken several kinds of talk therapy — psychoanalysis plus a kind of music-based guided visualization akin to hypnosis, relationship therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and EMDR — each focused on addressing a different aspect of the whole puzzle. I’ve gotten a lot of massage and received several months of Five Elements style acupuncture from a friend that, although I don’t really understand why, seemed to have a dramatic impact on eliminating my panic attacks. I changed the way I was eating, the ways I was exercising, and started meditating and journaling daily. I went “into seclusion” in the desert for a while and eventually decided to stay. I ended a number of long-term relationships, including my relationship with my mom. I took some drugs. I started a more serious study of whatever passes for “spirituality” in my life. (That basically just means messing around with tarot cards, reading the Tao Te Ching, and indulging myself in a lot of esoteric magical thinking about digital technology.) I wrote more prolifically than I have in years. I fell in love. Twice. And that’s just the stuff that happened on the surface. I don’t have words for what the actual healing process involved.

In short, I spent more time, money, and energy than a lot of people in the world will ever even have just learning how to nourish myself. I still feel like I’m only at the very tip of an iceberg. I feel incredibly grateful for the privileges that allowed me to even get to that tip. I hope, of course, that the recovery work I’ve done will help me be more present and supportive of and fully in community with people who lack privileges that I have. But I’ll be honest: First and foremost, I did this for me.

So, on Monday morning, I got in the pool. I hadn’t even owned a swimsuit for months. I bought one at Goodwill the previous day; very full-coverage, a kind of Easter egg pastel blue. It’s an outdoor pool at my friends’ apartment complex in Austin. Austin in March is warm but not THAT warm. The water was icy. I was scared. I put one foot in and thought about getting out. I put the other foot in and thought about giving up. It was so cold that every slow inch of submersion was accompanied by gasps. “Just jump in and get it over with” wasn’t an option; I wasn’t ready to risk my head going underwater. By the time I got to my knees, I was crying and by mid-thigh I was screaming into my hands. Thank god.

The way trauma works — at least, according to the TL;DR reference my head — is that we survive a life-threatening or sanity-threatening event but the mechanism by which we survived doesn’t allow us to fully process the experience. For example, when threatened with physical violence, we receive a massive adrenaline dump meant to fuel a fight-or-flight response. But in an abusive situation where neither flight nor fight are possible, those powerful survival impulses and their ricocheting after-effects just stay locked up in our muscles — including the muscle that is our brain. We can’t think or talk our way out of trauma because trauma actually requires a physical release.

In my case, I think my panic attacks themselves — with their symbolism of infestation, contamination, consumption, alien intelligence, sudden total helplessness, mindless and bottomless destruction — were attempts to process trauma from childhood, albeit at the worst possible times. (Like while I was DRIVING! Seriously, brain?) But the panic attack in the pool was, itself, an experience of unresolved trauma. Because I didn’t actually go through with it. I started to panic because I literally believed I was on the edge of going insane. But I was alone in a public place surrounded by strangers and children, so I didn’t scream or cry or meltdown in terror or try to run away. Instead, I used every ounce of willpower I had to fight myself into submission, get out of the pool, walk to the lobby, and call my roommate for help. The panic attack got far enough to shake a lot of subconscious things loose, but it never actually completed. And this fear that water will make me go crazy has been locked up inside me ever since.

Water symbolizes the unconscious where all the scary, nasty, monstrous stuff I’m afraid of lives. My fear of being immersed in water and my fear of my own unconscious are the same thing. I needed to get back into the water somewhere it was safe to scream and cry and convulse and just let myself be afraid and live through that fear. The physical pain helped me reach that point of catharsis — but it wasn’t THAT cold. I just really needed to scream. I’d been needing to scream for a year.

Things feel a little less fractured now.

I’m looking forward to checking out the Las Cruces Rec Center pool when I get home.

December 30, 2012

Another Foxtale

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 3:25 pm

I’m starting a little experimental writing project on Twitter, a “collaborative micro-memoir”. You can find it at: http://www.twitter.com/anotherfoxtale 

My goal is to write the story of my life: One tweet for each month I’ve been alive. I’ll begin tweeting on January 1st and aim to get up to realtime by my 31st birthday, April 16th, 2013. That’s 372 tweets — roughly a hundred tweets per month (or about two years a week). I’ll also incorporate tweets from other people who have memories of me. I’m pretty excited about it, and a little nervous, and I’d love to have you read and/or participate. 🙂

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