F33.1

That cloudy state of mind where

The voices become tinnitus,

And the world beyond the perimeter becomes

As vague and amorphous as the view thru a

Greasy window.

That underlying sound ebbs and flows

From peaceful cicadas to screeching sirens.

The view waxes and wanes

From lava lamp to acid flashback.

And inside this…

Inside this plexiglass box…

I still seek refuge in the corners

Where the screaming mumbles are quietest,

And the melting swirls are more colorfast.

I hate this tardis-like container of mine

That apparates of its own accord,

No warning or pattern.

Neither banging my fists on its walls,

So flexible, they seem liquid,

Nor shouting for mercy thru tears of

Sanity (Insanity?) at its edge

Break the plastic barrier between.

Between me and everything else.

Everyone else.

I give up.

I give in.

I wait for its moment of weakness,

By then too worn and tired to fight,

And instead, like pulling the sword from the stone,

Walk gently thru to the

Other Side…

 

 

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The Artistry of Nuts

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

How much truth there is in that statement! There have been  a lot of articles out lately about the fact that some of our most creative individuals have been decidedly nuts. As if this is a new concept. Those of us who live in that realm would tell you that it’s our predilection to wayward thinking that makes us be able to see, paint, play, design, write things in a different way. It enables us to see the beauty in unlikely things, and also to see the pain behind the beauty. It gives us the ability to make comedy out of things that would otherwise be tragedy. Creativity is our way of dealing with all the unfairness and ugliness in the world. Because we can’t take that ugliness and unfairness. It hurts us. Deeply. Because part of us is the neglected child, the abused spouse, the dehumanized minority, the aching Earth. Those all live within us. A strange type of Empathy that causes us to seek out and create for those phantom persons within us. And the spoils of our labor make us happy, even in the face of the world’s sorrows.

In other words: We have to laugh, because if we didn’t, we’d have to cry. And that’s no way to spend a life.

It’s true, few of us are going to start a revolution or lead the charge of the light brigade… We count on our logical, pragmatist friends to do that. Mostly because we are too unorganized to run anything. (Have you seen our desks?  Seriously, if you have, let us know… We haven’t been able to find it in months for all the mess atop of it…)

Granted, very few of us are Picassos or Einsteins (Yes, he was a creative sort, too. Science and math is an art for those who can see past the numbers. Einstein didn’t stumble upon his theory of relativity. His roundabout way of thinking knew it was there long before the math could prove it.) Most of us are points on a spectrum. Creative versus rational thinking is often an inversely proportional graph. The more your creative mind blooms, the more you are thought to be nuts by the rational people.

What they don’t get is that, when we turn the graph to have ours be the primary axis, they are the ones who are outside the curve.

An aside:  When i say “nuts”, i am talking about the benignly nuts. The quirky weirdos who fight their feelings and poles daily. You might not know what to make of us, but you know we aren’t going to hurt you. The malignantly insane, however,  are on a totally separate graph. Serial killers, Genocidal dictators, Deacons of the Westboro Baptist church… These are people aren’t nuts. They are medically insane. Which is a different issue altogether.

Back to the topic at hand…

To people who are benignly nuts, the rest of the world doesn’t always make sense.  The fact that some other people don’t have a child, or a madman, or a person of a different color or persuasion living within their psyche… No wonder those people have such a hard time seeing things from another’s point of view! They can only see what they know. They can’t see beyond. And they will never be able to see anything from a totally new perspective. They aren’t nuts enough to see beyond their own reality. Which pretty much precludes creativity.

Empaths and visionaries… That’s what we are. But i personally prefer the term “nuts”. Firstly, because it is taking back a term, claiming it for ourselves, and someday, hopefully, removing some of the bad connotations associated with it. Secondly, because it makes people smile. And, in the end, that is what most creativity is about. Making people smile. Smile, feel, wonder, and find peace.

It’s a worthy goal, and not really crazy at all.

So to all my fellow nuts, whatever it is that you do to bring newness and art to the world: Whether you draw or dance or garden or quilt… Keep doing it, even if others don’t always get it. Even if after they examine your work, they sometimes look at you with pity and fear and pat your head like you’re a cat who brought home a dead mouse to his master. Keep on. All God/Goddess/Universe asks is that you make a joyful noise. She never said you had to be Paul McCartney. Not everyone can be a Beatle. But use what She gave you. She gave you that special case of nuts for a reason. It was a gift. A true gift. Use it.

As Robin Williams once said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

 

 

 

Worth and Nakedness

I am a big fan of photography books. Especially those over-sized, glossy paged, portrait type coffee table books that weigh a ton and where the photographer somehow projects both the outside and the inside of the subject. And i have many of them. Too many, probably. But one of my favorites is a gathering of photos by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. A book of diptychs. On the left side of the page, a well known porn star in their usual street clothes. On the right, in the same pose, the same porn star undressed and made up for filming. TG-S is an amazing photographer. He captures the thoughts and emotions going on behind the eyes. And in the case of this particular book, in nearly every single spread, he captures something that makes disturbing sense. With maybe two exceptions, every subject is visibly more comfortable in the naked photos.

When i first bought the book, the startling reversal of the usual level of comfort, clothed and not, took me a second to wrap my head around. Even knowing that these people make their living naked, it seemed invasive to stare at their bare selves. But it seemed even more intrusive to stare at their obvious discomfort when captured in clothing. The looks on their faces resembling  cats forced to wear Halloween costumes. The awkwardness and antsiness is palpable. And to those of us who make a living with clothes on, it seems strange, and even a little sad.

Why do i bring this up today?

I was side-swiped by a reminder last night that i’m a bit of a Classist. I am distrusting and uncomfortable around people with money and social standing. And while most people associate Classism with the oppression of poor people, it also comes into play in reverse. Some of us who grew up “without” never quite adapt to life “with”.  Even if we have worked hard and earned the right to cross that social barrier, we will forever feel foreign when we get there. Some of it comes from formative years questioning our worth in a society that values wealth. The rest of it lays with the simple human need for familiarity. And just like no knowledge of kale being a superfood makes it any more palatable, no understanding that “worth” and “value” have little to do with money or titles makes it any easier to talk to the master when you feel like the house elf.

Don’t get me wrong, you can dress me up in gilt and pancake, and i will perform like i was born to be at the ball. I will talk and dance and socialize like i am Rita Hayworth’s red-headed step-child.  But it is just a performance. I might as well be playing a giant praying mantis for all the common i have with the character. It feels absurd. Dishonest. And definitely not like my best stage work.

To tell the truth,  my inability to step confidently in that world annoys me.

I try my best to treat everyone as an equal. I strive to treat all with love and respect. I evangelize the need for equality amongst humanity. But i myself feel like a fake when i call my higher-titled coworkers by their first name. And if they speak familiarly with me, i assume there is some need or reason that will turn out to be a play on me and bite me in the ass. It’s just stupid. These patterns in my head. Stupid. I know they are the same types of neural patterns that once caused me to keep getting married… The repetition becoming a bad habit. But where marriage had visible, undeniable implications, a faulty mindset often doesn’t. And it is harder to correct something that doesn’t eventually slap you in the face with a price.

Just like the porn stars and their comfortable nakedness, we grow to accept these bad habits, these self-imposed labels of beastliness, as familiar friends, even tho they are the kind of friends who ditch you at the bar for the first cute guy that walks thru the door, leaving you half drunk and without a ride.

With friends like that, we become our own enemy.

I suppose the solution is the old “Fake it til you make it” thing. Force yourself to behave like you belong on both sides of the tracks, and eventually you will believe it. Retrain those neural pathways to take healthier routes. Accept that the equality you favor for others also applies to yourself. Take stock of your own worth. Reassess your own hierarchy. Learn to be comfortable in the clothing you deserve to wear, lest you end up naked in a coffee table book.

It beats the hell out of waiting for Harry Potter to give you a sock.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Do you ever have those days where the thoughts rush thru your head so fast that no thought gets finished before the next begins? Like there is a monkey in your head spinning a radio dial back and forth while making that insane laugh noise that only monkeys can make? Like the mystic being in charge of your brain has decided to play 52 pickup with a deck of flash cards? Like you gave a room full of four year-olds kegs of Mountain Dew and an unlimited supply of Pixie Stix?

Welcome to my world today.

I am resisting the urge to forcibly shut the voices down with wine or Valium or the fishing channel . Instead, i am relying on tea and nature sounds and fresh bed sheets. This is how i self-comfort. I am moderately successful. Sometimes. Well, more than half the time, anyway. I am still learning.

Do we ever really stop learning?

Baby steps.

You may remember when i first started on the road to self-soothing. My unsuccessful attempt to learn meditation (Stream of Consciousness ).  I still suck at it. But i have learned a few tricks that make my mental state more like a ballad by Meatloaf and less like a Megadeath concert. Still not zen calm, but better than mental thrash metal.

Why did on Earth did Marvin Aday want to be called “Meat Loaf”?

Baby steps.

I may never learn to truly quiet my mind. I may never master meditation. And i may end up taking something to help me sleep tonight. But i am still better than i was. More tranquil than i was. The voices are softer and there are fewer of them.

No – not those kind of voices. My own voice. Just multiplied. And i won’t shut up.

I talk too much. Even to myself. Like a one-woman Broadway show that no one wants to see. Carrie: The Musical.

Why would anyone think that was a good idea?

I think i have that book somewhere. Where did i put it? Oh, an i must find that book of funny poems while i’m at it.

There once was a girl from Glen Hart…

Baby steps.

 

 

 

NO MORE

Warning: Violent and honest content about a current news story is discussed herein.

 

Last week, a local high school basketball team was in a vacation destination close to here for a holiday tournament. From the various news stories i have read, this is what we know: At the time of the incident, the kids were unsupervised. They were in the basement of a vacation cabin where the younger players were begin “hazed”. Comments were made to the younger students that it was part of being on a team, and that they would get to do it to freshman players when they were upperclassmen. The younger students were beaten by the upperclassmen  with pool cues. Two of the younger students suffered minor injuries. A third collapsed the next day and was found to have a punctured colon and bladder where he had been sexually violated with a pool cue by three of his teammates. He spent eight days in the hospital being physically repaired. The team continued to play on. When they returned from the tournament, the offending three (As if the rest of the team beating freshmen with cues isn’t offensive enough), were expelled from the team and suspended from school by the county school board. Many members of the school board are infuriated that the team didn’t come home immediately following the incident, that the team wasn’t better supervised, and that the school board hasn’t been give a complete account of everything that went on (At least not as of yesterday, and this happened between Dec 21st and 23rd.) Two of the accused three are being held in jail on aggravated rape and aggravated sexual assault charges. The third was released on bond. The victim is at home, trying to recover from his physical injuries. The emotional injuries will be much harder to heal.

There are far too many vile issues to deal with in this story.

The culture we have in this country seems to perpetuate this archaic and violent idea of manhood: One where sexual violence is accepted as if it were a dog lifting his leg on the sofa to mark his territory. I heard someone say about the incident that she didn’t understand how the kids would think it was “normal hazing”.  I can. Just watch the news. Listen to the things your kids talk about. Listen to what WE talk about. We make excuses for everything leading up to this. “Boys will be boys.”  There are still ignorant people making statements to justify rape based on the victims clothing/demeanor/inebriation status. And then when it keeps escalating until something like this… Well, we really have no right to be surprised. We tell kids not to bully, but the masculine culture is still that juvenile machismo bullshit that has been around since the beginning of time. We tell kids to not buy into it, but just like everyone at that age, they want to be accepted, so they take it. And by virtue of constant exposure, they become it. Or the opposite, we tell them to avoid violence and just walk away. Ignore it and the bullies will give up. And they get their asses kicked (or violated) as a result. How about we just find a way to stop the cycle? How about we fix the problem?

I admit, it would have been unfair to the rest of the team to cut the tournament short and leave when the violence came to light. But certainly no more unfair than to the player who had to have surgery as a result. It seems highly doubtful that the rest of the team had no idea what was going on. I am stunned that the coach didn’t see a need to report the incident and head back immediately. Yet another example to the kids that “It isn’t really that big a deal. The ‘fun’ just got a bit out of hand.” What the hell, coach?!?!?!  You KNOW you are the main example of what it means to “be a man” to a lot of these kids, and THAT is the message you give? You need to be relieved from your position for that alone, never mind for being totally unaware of what your team was doing in that cabin. Never mind that you closed your eyes and ears while it was being planned. Never mind that you have socialized a team to believe that violent hazing is acceptable practice.

The school board: There have been a few comments by the superintendent that sound suspiciously like he just wants it to go away, tho he hasn’t said anything that could be considered condoning it. He has taken a stance to investigate and punish accordingly. One female member of the school board, tho, has been very vocal about her outrage. To quote Rhonda Thurman, “I wasn’t elected to guard the cat litter box, to cover up crap, that is not why I’m here.”  Amen, Rhonda! I don’t think it’s coincidence that the most outrage is coming from a female. We know what it’s like to be a victim of such violence. We know what it’s like to have it passed off and our perpetrators be made out to be victims as much as we were. We know what it’s like to have everyone act like it isn’t a big deal. If it didn’t happen to us personally, we have someone very close to whom it has.

Men have less experience in the publicity of sexual violence. Men aren’t generally allowed to acknowledge when they have been victimized in this way. The public has a much more visceral and disbelieving reaction to their plight. After all, males aren’t weak, so why didn’t they just fight back? Just like lesbian culture vs. gay male culture, the public has a much harder time accepting men being anything but Ward Cleaver or George Clooney. They can’t stomach the thought of anything else. I never have understood why that is. Granted, i grew up in a house full of women where effort was made to accept us all as we were, so i am lacking in a lot of the typical American socialization. But the fact of the matter is, in any major city here in the U.S., you will see billboards, PSAs, and pamphlets making the public aware of rape crisis centers and counseling available… And you can bet the bank, the picture accompanying it is of a female. It’s as if male rape doesn’t exist.  We need to face the fact that being raped is not dependent on the victim’s sex. Nor is it about sex. As much as we hate to think about it, we are a violent people. This situation is the result. And we have no solution available for it because we don’t talk about it.

So this poor 14 year old kid, who is at home trying to walk again after the surgery to repair his destroyed guts, has very few places to turn to get help healing the emotional scars that accompany his physical ones. And any woman will tell you that the emotional scars are far deeper and worse than the physical ones. There might be a  therapy group in this city for sexually abused males, but i’ve never heard of one, and i make it a point to be aware of the mental health services available here. He isn’t the only young man who has been raped in this city, but you’d never know it if you were looking for support services. That is a shame and totally unacceptable.

You can say that rape is rape, and gender doesn’t matter, but i don’t believe you. We’ve spent the last 40 or 50 years working hard to strengthen our women in this country. Teaching us how to be strong in ourselves. What we deserve and what we don’t. What we are to blame for and what we are not. To blaze our own trail. And to turn to our sisters for help when we need it. However, in this same amount of time, we have done very little to change the way our men think. There aren’t many groups out there to teach young men what a man really is. (Shout out to my coworkers and friends and their ilk who work, mostly,  thru their churches with these young men.  I salute you making the effort, and i promise you, you are making a difference!)  There aren’t advertisements for places to turn when a man is violated. Or when he sees a violent trait within himself. And far too many of our typical socialization groups, like team sports, still perpetuate the caveman as the model for masculinity. No wonder so many young men are so screwed up.

I am not, in any way, saying that rape of men is worse than women. Only that there is far less available to help a man heal from rape. Because we don’t talk about it. We don’t want to think about it. We can’t imagine it. And we don’t know how to reconcile “man” as “victim”.

In a small step towards supporting our young men, more and more adult men are starting to speak out on surviving rape. Manly men, by American standards, who no one could think of as weak. Ice-T, for example… When his badass self appears in a PSA against rape, it makes a small nick in the rock of machismo.

icet_nomore_psa_printad_9_17_13

Enough of these nicks, and maybe we can chip away at the rock that is the distorted view of men in this country. A nick for every school assembly on violence that includes where boys can go for help if they are victim or horrified perpetrator. A nick for every man who speaks out against ignorant comments made by a peer. A nick for every billboard for rape crisis centers that shows a male as well as a female. Pretty soon, a small movement will take hold and we can make bigger nicks.  A nick for every coach who talks to his team about the issue of hazing, and personally confronts violent players. A nick for every student who stands up and says, “Not on my team!” A nick for every woman who stops talking like rape is only a woman’s issue and remembers that it is a HUMAN issue and not about sex at all. And a nick for every generation to come that tolerates the bullshit less and less.

I have a 13 year old son. I have never spoken with him about sexual violence, except to note, when it appears in the news, that it is vile and unacceptable. And i have no excuse. I know the devastation it can cause. I have lived with it. And, i know others, both men and women, who have been violated and suffered lifelong for it. And still i haven’t mentioned it. But you can bet your life on the fact that i will be having that discussion now.

The first step in becoming part of the solution is realizing that you are part of the problem.

I won’t be part of the problem anymore.

 

For more information on help available for ALL victims of sexual assault, this is a great website with a lot of links available to other sites and services as well:    http://nomore.org/about/  You can also check with any local outpatient mental health facility or your local hospital to find qualified help. 

Stream of Consciousness

My therapist has taken to guiding me thru meditation. Because, you know, it’s too frigging difficult for me to figure out. Breathe in… Breathe out. Yah. WAY too difficult. Two flipping steps. Two flipping steps that I can’t manage to master.

I love simplicity. Food, art, architecture, fashion: I love when they are seamless and with clean lines. I am, however, incapable of producing such things. I can’t just fry an egg. I have to glaze the pan with bacon grease first, dose it with smoked sea salt and freshly torn herbs from the garden, lay it on a plate with toast and frou-frou jam and perfectly cooked bacon. Even if you told me you only wanted an egg. I can’t help myself.

I tend to complicate things. As my son pointed out to me earlier in the week, I can’t even just say, “I’m sorry.” I have to apologize profusely and explain the screwed up reasoning that devoured my head and made me think that tossing the condiments in the jumble bin in your car console was a good idea. Even tho you don’t give a shit and have already moved on. I should have moved on with you.

I’m supposed to quiet my mind for 15 minutes a day. This is supposed to bring me one step closer to serenity. I need some serenity. Like, I REALLY need it. I’m wired and frazzled and buzzing with short circuits. Serenity seems about as likely for me as waking up next to Liam Neeson. But I know if I can manage to get some, things will get better. SO WHY THE HELL CAN’T I DO IT?????

I am a smart woman. A resourceful woman. Other than pie crust, I’ve been able to manage everything I’ve set my mind to, sooner or later. I can do and do and do and do. The only thing I can’t do is not do. Apparently, God/Goddess/Universe forgot to give me an “Off” button.

For a lot of my life, it hasn’t been much of a problem. I can multi-task like a champ. I am good with creating things on the fly. I awaken with all the ideas that rushed thru my head during sleep. It has served me well, for the most part. It’s only when I need to reboot that I realize I’m incapable of shutting down.

You know when you go to turn off your computer and it gives you that belligerent pop-up saying “Your Thesaurus program is still running and preventing you from shutting down…” ? Welcome to my head. Words, numbers, lyrics, jingles, memes, every mistake I’ve made that day, did I remember to lock the front door, the possibility that a spider will crawl in my window, into my ear, and lay a new colony, and the realization that there has never been a Weird Al tribute album…. All these things still cycling thru my mind. And the bitch is sitting there in her oversized easy chair telling me to “Breathe in…”

I apologize. She isn’t a bitch. She’s actually one of the better things in my life. She lets me vent and helps me distinguish between things I need to fix and things I need to suck up and walk over. She’s been with me a long time now and she’s kept me out of the bin for all this time. No small feat, I’m sure. So now all she has to do is help me find my power button so I can turn myself off.

“Feel your scalp relaxing… Your face… your neck…” I’m trying to do what she says, but instead I’m becoming acutely aware that NONE of these things is relaxed at all. It’s like straightening your leg when you’ve been sitting on it for an hour. Existential ponytail headache. She has already moved on to my shoulders, arms and fingers, and I’m still focused on the stiffness of my ears.

This isn’t working. I’m never going to be able to do this. I must be an idiot. All I have to do is breathe. WHY CAN’T I DO THIS??? Listen to her voice. Just her voice. Concentrate on that. ‘Breathe in… Breathe out…’ I wonder if this is the voice she uses with her daughter when she is upset? Does she use this voice with her husband? Oh, ick! Get that thought out of your head. Not supposed to be thinking about stuff like that. Supposed to be concentrating on breathing. My right nostril is a little stuffy. Must be the leaf mold. All that rain over the last few weeks. I wonder if it’s going to be a rainy fall. Maybe it will be a snowy winter. Remember that winter a few years back when we actually had snow on Christmas? That was really cool. ‘Feel your toes relaxing…’ Toes? What happened to hips and knees? Have I been talking to myself this whole time? God, I suck at this. “

Maybe I should just give up and accept the fact that my hard drive does NOT turn off. That the lags will get more and more and eventually I will crash. Wait. Bad analogy. Computers that have crashed get replaced. I’m not ready to be replaced. (How awesome it is to finally have reached the point where I don’t want to be replaced!) There must be a way. An emergency switch or something. Maybe she can hypnotize me and give me some magic word or something that will turn me off and reboot me. That might work. Because right now, she’s going “Breathe in…” and I’m thinking that I need to pick up mustard at the grocery.

Got any Grey Poupon?

Ok, session is up. I’ve failed again. Still no off button. Still no reboot. BUT I WANT SERENITY!!!!!!! Sigh. I’m going to make myself a cup of tea. That at least slows me down. It’s possible I am getting better at this meditation thing and just don’t realize it. Maybe I am actually calmer than I was. Maybe the planets will align, i’ll wake up with Liam Neeson, and he’ll hit me with some Valium. Maybe he’ll hit me with a hammer. It’s Hammer Time. Hit me with your best shot… Fire away…

Breathe in…. Breathe out.

Forget it. Where’s my tea?

I Am Atlas

My eyelids weigh 1000 pounds.
Akin to Atlas, the world is my eyelids.

I went to bed last night hoping they would be lighter this morning, but it isn’t so.

Caffeine, the alcohol of fatigue, has failed to artificially convince them they are light and beautiful.

Lumps of clay, unable to be spun into any sort of vase or vessel or anything useful. Just big, gray, heavy blobs of clay.

It takes all my strength to hold them up. If all my efforts are keeping my eyes open, how do I get my tasks done? My life done? I am afraid to rest even one weary arm, sure that if I do, the lid will fall and stay closed forever.

That will not do.

It rains around me, and still I cannot let go. I hope the rain stops before I drown like this, holding my eyes open instead of treading water and staying afloat.

What a choice to have to make.

Drown or let the sun go down.
It’s true, the lifeguard may save me. It’s true, the sun may rise again tomorrow. On which shall I lay my hopes? Would that the gods Who have me holding this weight would tell me which cure will lighten the burden. I am without a clue.

For now, I keep my hands up, supporting the heavy gray masses. I watch the water rise and keep my chin up to breathe.

I believe I can hold it for

One more day.
One more hour.
One more minute.
I can do this.
I can do this.
I can do this.