Dec 31, 2008

Twenty Years Ago I Pissed And Got Off The Pot
Happy New Year!

I have spoken of many dark things this week. I've looked at things that need to change in myself. I've come up with a plan for the new year to achieve what I absolutely cannot fail at achieving in order to walk into my fortieth birthday next year feeling strong, healthy, and gorgeous. I think it might be a little funny how much faith I put into the changing of one year for the next. Life doesn't always show us the best place to begin change but the new year is an obvious annual starting gate. It feels good because January is so quiet and serious. January is when the weak get killed off by hunger, the elements, or frustrated sufferers of SAD.

I believe in mostly simple things. You know how some people get in a car accident and suddenly they get feverish about Jesus and how the light came and grabbed them out of the jaws of death and so now they're not going to beat their loved ones any more or have affairs, or cheat the tax man or take drugs? An accident creates this concise juncture at which point you can take off in a whole new direction. I'm not sure why so many people find Jesus at these moments...I mean, why not just realize that being drunk sucks shit and kills people and feels like hell on the bones and everyone ends up hating you? Why shouldn't that be enough reason to change?

For me the new year is a great starting point. Birthdays are too. My birthday happens to be six days after the new year.

When I was 17 years old I was still cutting myself and I was slowly coming out of an intense nervous breakdown that I'm not actually sure anyone knew about and going out with really stupid boys who mistook me completely for a dolt who follows and worships and pines and all the time I had no respect for them but used them for a very rich fantasy life. I never put out so they all left me pretty quick anyway. I remember sitting at some diner with this guy who was my boyfriend but who was screwing around on me and treating me like trash and I had him (and everyone) thinking I was so smitten that I was really going to marry him. I think my friend Carrie has always been onto my every facade and stupid crap.

I looked at the people I was with in the diner, late into the sleazy night, and realized that the worst thing was that I treated myself worse than any boyfriend ever had. I felt indignation that boys didn't respect me, truly want me, or actually particularly care about me. I suddenly saw that the indignation was because I actually thought I was worth their respect. I realized that in spite of myself I felt I was worth more than their cheap compliments and lack of chivalry. I realized I was better than them but treating myself worse than they were by carving into myself all the time.

I was going to turn 18 years old in a couple of weeks of that realization. I asked myself what the hell I was doing? I told myself, in my usual habit of having long involved conversations with myself, that if I was going to spend the rest of my life cutting into my own flesh then I was no better than the worst human and I may as well just kill myself. Because if torturing myself was the only way I knew how to deal with myself and my life then it wasn't really worth my investment of love and care.

It was your classic piss or get off the pot moment in life. A completely transformative moment in which I asked myself the one question that mattered more than all the other ones because even though I hadn't jumped off the cliffs like I had planned on doing almost three years prior I had continued to completely fixate on the theme of killing myself and in the meantime I opened myself up with every sharp instrument I could find.

So I asked myself to decide: are you going to live or die by your own hand? Because if you are not going to kill yourself you need to treat yourself like you matter, you old slag!

No, I didn't really call myself a slag, seeing as I never put out for boys.

I took a hard look at myself. I imagined what life would be like if I decided I wasn't going to hurt myself or commit suicide. How would life look if I had just enough optimism to assertively progress forward? How does one deal with the pain and the impossible frantic toxic self loathing that is the other side of my inevitable coin? How does one, as crazy as me, calm that awful threatening in my own spirit?

The most important thing was that I had seen that I really did care about myself and that my need to hurt myself was an irrational and desperate response to disturbing stimulation in my life and to traumatic past experiences that I had not been able to process because I was not able to look at them without wanting to die a little every time I did. Getting that glimpse of self love made me feel that I was worth the effort to attempt to heal.

Epiphanies often seem sudden and finite. You see the light and have all the answers because God handed them to you in a moment of clarity. I don't think that's really what happens. No one gets all the answers at once. The real epiphany is the grand opening of previously closed mental paths that allow something new to be learned. Obviously it's never going to be God with me because I see in terms of nature; human nature; wild nature; natural organization of an enormous universe representing a very well tuned and designed working order.

As I approached my eighteenth birthday I lost the dubious boyfriend (he may have dumped me, I'm not sure, it is irrelevant since he was already fooling around on me and I couldn't care less) and I tried figuring out what my path of mental recovery was going to be. I really couldn't figure it all out. I think I sensed at the time that the path itself wasn't nearly as important as the intention and all the things I was learning in consequence.

So I made a deal with myself: stop hurting yourself. It won't be accomplished immediately. All I promised was to stop cutting my own skin. Stop forcing myself to physically bleed to prove life. To prove pain. To prove that I was broken: message received! All I promised was that I would stop cutting and I would take one step at a time to try and find ways to heal myself. I agreed with myself that it would take time. That it might take a lifetime.

I promised myself that I was choosing to live.

And all that that entails.

For a suicidally obsessed person that is a huge promise. I think there's always a part of myself that still recognizes the risk.

That new year was one in which I was crossing the thresh hold of a new year with a really fresh step. I made that solemn promise to myself and I kept it. Even to this day. I can't tell you how often I have had to fight off the urge to lapse back into the thought of death, the comfort of oblivion. It isn't that I've ever really wanted to kill myself since then, but I've had to fight my mind from seeking comfort in those old grooves of thought.

I have kept that promise to myself ever since. It is the hugest piece of optimism I have ever indulged in: to be alive for another year and happy to be here to celebrate it even when the going has been intense.

That was over twenty years ago.

So when people talk about how they hate New Year's resolutions because they never keep them I can't commiserate. I think that when it really matters you can keep them. But you have to recognize a serious need. Needing to lose five pounds is not serious. Hoping to like your boss a little more isn't particularly pressing. But when you realize that change needs to happen or you may as well be dead-it feels a little more urgent.

The new year is a great stepping off point.

The diving board for reaching yourself. For reaching others.

I wrote my own epitaph and the main thing is that I want people to remember of me that I never gave up. I never stopped trying. I just kept hoping and let that carry me through it all.

I allow myself to hope, always. Without it the human spirit sickens and dies.

I think that's what the new year is really all about. It's about allowing ourselves to keep hoping, through the dark months of winter, that we'll still be alive in the spring time. That the flowers will bloom again and bear fruit that we can eat. We close one chapter so that we can begin a new one.

I nearly lost all my sense of hope this year. The most dangerous thing a person can do. Especially anyone who has lost all hope before and sought solace in dreams of the grave.

So I am one hour into the new year and I feel the changing of the guard like it is meant to be felt: that the new guard brings with it more alertness, determination, and discipline.

We just sat on our "front" porch in the cold and drank champagne and felt our good fortune to be in a house we love, have a healthy kid we love, and to live in a state we love. Life is good.

So right now I am giving a little call out to all my mentally ill brethren who have been where I've been- come with me into the new year, alive, and brimming with regenerative hope for change and for healing. All change takes time. No change happens over night but our intentions of change can take us deep into new terrain. Our intentions to heal can lead us to the answers we need. Don't be afraid to hope again. Don't be afraid to let yourself dream of a better year. Don't be afraid to look to yourself for some strength. Everyone needs others to lean on but we must all, in the end, depend on ourselves to start our own engines.

We can do it!

Happy new year everyone!!!

Dec 30, 2008

Stripped Down When Dressed Up

Hello long hour. I'm listening to the timber of a smoke at twilight, the way it coils itself into the light like liquid air. I want to go back only for the smoke. I remember this day, when I sat for pictures. Devastated, because it seemed like the fiber of the universe had become brittle and dry with age, and had begun falling through my fingers into piles of dust telling time. I was twenty eight years old. It was the first time I had a nervous breakdown in almost ten years. But I never called it that the second time around. There was so much more at stake. Entrenched deeper into the tangle of love and family.

I remember how I cried at some point while we were busy pretending I wasn't going to cry in front of the camera. I don't cry. I'm not a crying female. I am strong. When I hurt I have places to tuck it all out of view. I might never forgive you for seeing me cry.

In this picture I have been betrayed in some way by every parent and grandparent I have and I am declaring myself an orphan. I've been disowned and disregarded and sent spinning with this awful mangled heart that leaks fluid mostly for my brother and my sister because I would do almost anything to keep them more whole than myself. And then, at last, it is for myself.

I could have decided not to do the pictures. But I remember knowing at the time that I would regret not doing it. That I would feel it far into the future. That I would later need these pictures for something. I am not a vain female. But I am a piece of work. A real piece of work. I think I knew that other change was coming. Change I couldn't know yet. Change that would cause me to need a physical point of reference. Change that would require me to remember who I was in order to finally become the woman I've been turning into since I was born.

I have never considered myself beautiful. I speak out of the side of my mouth. With or without cigarettes I always talk like an old school Hollywood gangster. My face is lopsided and I am not an elegant person. There is something clumbsy and clod-hopping about the way I push forward in the world.

But I have always been photogenic. In person I am awkward and halting. I will break your finest wine glasses and have to stick my foot in my mouth a hundred times a night, but if I am silent and I let you photograph me you will catch something else. Even when I'm fat. It isn't beauty, I think, but that queer drive to make others feel alive. It makes me wonder if photographs really do have the power to steal a person's soul.

I have no urge to act. I can't deliver a line to save my life and I'm eternally grateful that my life threatening experience doing improvisational acting in a Dicken's Faire workshop wasn't video taped. With a couple of notable exceptions I generally dislike actors and dancers. I don't get it. I don't get it at all.

Yet, how different is posing for a photograph? I think the silence of it and the simultaneous contradictory noise of it appeal to me. Here is an image reflecting something quietly or loudly- but always without words. Not unlike so many vignettes we reel across the silver screen of the subconscious memory. Is it vain? I think it tells the story of who we really are. Stripped down when we're dressed up. It's about the medium. I like to find myself in photographs while some people need to find themselves in dance, theater, or maybe abstract art. We all seek to see ourselves. I am no different than every other Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Except that my name is Angelina. Patron saint of all Mad Housewives. A collection of contradictions. Now grown fat.

What I especially love about this picture is that it's the one that showed me my own nose. I don't care for little button noses. Nor skinny noses. Nor ski jump noses. You know that nose that nearly all American delusional women aspire to? The nose that drives so many women to the nose knife? I hate that nose. It's insipid. It's an offense. It smells nothing. It is pinched and crippled. I want a nose to be a thing of beauty- chiseled from bone and made to smell life! What I love best in a woman's nose is a bump in the middle of a nose that appears to be modeled from a Roman Goddess. Those babes did not have stupid tiny turned up noses- they had gorgeous shapely ones that can smell the feet in the wine!

In this picture you can see the smallest hint of a bump forming. No, really, look closer! It has grown a little more significant with time. But this picture was the very first hint that my nose was not done shaping itself. I am proud of this shadow of character. I have earned it.

Life is like a series of photographs glued together on a cork board. Little stretches of isolated soul to commemorate the diversity of life's offerings. We revisit with joy, with ambivalance, and wtih sorrows inexpressable.
Change Is Under Way
Right now.

A whole lot of work was done today by my good friend Angela on my blog move to Movable Type. I've been planning on moving Dustpan Alley to it's own domain for a long time and being more idiot than savant when it comes to this kind of stuff I am leaning heavily on Angela to help me with all the technical stuff.

Why do it? The main motivation is that I already own my own domain and since it's no longer a store it makes sense to use it for my own blog. I want to be able to have categories in which to archive my articles so that anyone coming along randomly can pick and choose what they wish to read. I don't know if anyone else has tried to find recipes I've posted in the past but I find it frustrating. I don't want people to feel frustrated coming here.

The front page will have whatever is current, just as it does here. But when you want to find all the posts that deal with mental illness you can go right to them and if you don't want to feel like killing yourself after visiting my site you can ignore them.

It feels like Dustpan Alley is about to come of age. I have written 817 posts. I've been writing here for 2.5 years. This blog has evolved a great deal as my writing has improved, my photographs have improved, and I finally got rid of that dark green background with the light type. It must have been such a relief to your eyes when I finally chucked that one.

What's weird to me is that I always have about the exact same amount of readers every day and for the most part- you're the same people who have been coming along for the ride from the beginning. A few people have dropped off, a few new ones come to join us. But mostly I have a small group of loyal readers. You might not know how gratifying it is for me to be able to say that I have "readers" at all. The thought of people looking forward to reading my work keeps me warm on very cold nights.

I have nearly killed off this blog several times. Yet when my finger crawls close to the red complete delete button I swear I stop breathing. Coming here every day, to this little piece of imaginary real estate, is grounding. It is where I look at everything I'm up to and enjoy it again. Through pictures and through retelling.

In addition to moving the blog to a new address, Angela is going to begin working on the Roost template. Philip is going to work on the design and Angela is going to build the site and teach me how to be its keeper. All this change will mean a learning curve for me, but not too bad I think.

The content here will remain exactly as it is now because this blog is a reflection of my personal life. I'm just telling you, in case you were worried that I'm going to change things too much. There will be just as much swearing, frustration, enlightenment (I hope!!), humor, and exploration of everything I love and am passionate about.

It is a fitting way to close the year- by building new templates and getting everything cleaner and clearer.

So if things are a little wonky around here for the next few days...hang in there. I will probably post one more post to this old format since tomorrow is the last day of the year. One during which I generally do a lot of writing.

So I'll see you around. I hope to see what everyone is up to tomorrow. Why do so many people abandon their posts just as it's getting exciting? I want to see your corks popping tomorrow!

Is that also a euphemism for something dirty?

Please don't call your Champagne "champers". I really hate that. I really do. It sounds too much like "chompers" which is really inelegant.

Well, it's time to wind down the night with a little "Will and Grace".

Good night.

Dec 29, 2008

Nothing Left To Say But Thanks
(for not killing me off yet)

There are only a couple more days before this year comes to a close. The year is heavy in my left hand as I hold it up to the light for just a little longer and turn the last few pages. I will not be sorry to see this year shuffle itself behind me. Yet I don't say that with bitterness. I have let go of all those tough days when I wanted to pull all of my hair out. Letting go of bitterness is a big step in personal growth, but there is a flip side to it as well. I don't generally like to get all Mary Poppins on people but if we aren't willing to see what good can come out of bad then we really don't get it. Any of it. And we get stuck in the perpetual replay moment.

So you have to pick yourself up by your boot strings and see everything that has been good. This happens to be a real Maria moment as well, isn't it?* This is where I go all kittens and ribbons on the world and spread all kinds of fuzzy feelings around. Gross, I feel kind of sticky already.

I had reason for gratitude this year:

  • I got five jobs this year and every single one of them was offered to me by friends: Your life can't be all bad if you know five people willing to bail your sorry ass out of the coals and hire you. My headline editor job that I LOVE was offered to me through my friend Laura who has never even met me in person- yet she completely went to bat for me. I can't possibly be thankful enough for that.

  • Penny and Pippa coming into our lives: right when we were feeling so blue for our old cranky cat Ozark who died in February these two half dead kittens came into our lives and have been the perfect silly remedy for so much personal pain. Just looking at Pippa makes me start laughing because she's so bite-ably cute. Penny is more aloof during the day but then she curls up between Philip and I at night and is such a little velvet baby.

  • Support from my blog friends: Much of the strength I borrowed to get through the hardest moments I got from all of my blog friendships which are fully as rewarding as the friends you meet at the coffee shop. Just when I think I'm going to shove a lemon in my eye I read a comment from someone that makes me remember that I hate pain and lemons are best squeezed into hot tea.

  • My Philip: I often wonder how I can be so lucky-to have a man who loves me even when I'm at my fattest and meanest...but we've just about been married for sixteen years and many times this year I have realized how unfair it is to everyone that they can't have Philip for a spouse. He treats our life like an adventure and is willing to take risks as long as they're with me. I am no fool and treasure my marriage even when Philip makes me want to whack him with a frying pan.

  • The Health of my boy: Bloody noses are a bitch, a real messy bitch. But compared to all the problems a kid can have I feel deeply thankful that he's been healthy this year and growing like a weed. He may be hell to feed and a challenge to groom but this year he had no breaks, no serious illnesses, and he's still in one piece. There are few things more devastating to a parent than to see their kids hurt or decline in any way, so any day/wee/month/year that my kid is in good health is occasion for gratitude.

  • The "new" house: Our old house depressed me. It was not a great financial move for us but every morning I wake up in my funky farmhouse I feel so happy that I'm here. I love this house and I need to love where I'm living. I've lived in a lot of places and I know that it has a huge effect on my overall outlook. I'm so happy to have found this place. My old doorknobs feel so good in my palms. The porch from which I can watch the rain come down is the best perch!


  • Our visit to old friends in California: As stressful as travel is to me with a kid in tow, it has to be admitted that we had a fantastic time visiting our old friends. It felt so good to let all the breath out and drape myself all over their furniture unceremoniously while drinking copious amounts of excellent beer and wine and eating the best food in the world. I was completely at home and it was such a great break in the miserable year. Max got to play with his best friend and didn't want to come home. It was sweet.

  • I learned to grind and cut metal: Although I am not going to pursue a job in metalworking because (as I disclosed a few posts ago) I am a writer I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about metal working. If I didn't have the path I already do I would seriously consider becoming a welder. It was fun, satisfying, and gritty work.

  • It snowed 2 feet in my garden: No, I'm not happy or relieved to see the snow gone. However, I'm not going to sit around being bummed about it either. What an amazing delightful way to end a difficult year. How did the Universe know that it would bring the glitter back to me, that it would help me unload the heavy to see the ground luminescent in the dark. It was wonderful- the cold, the storms, the flurries, and even having to get intimate with my own water pipes was like getting to know your spouse when the honeymoon is over. An adventure! Thank you. Thank you for the snow!

*Oh for Christ's sake- it's Julie's all about Julie and her perky self with that goody goody persona, she's got us all wrapped around her pinky. Wouldn't I just love to read her diaries and find out she was a gin swigging ho! No, don't throw your icky winter tomatoes at me- I LOVE Julie. Julie in a dirndl is what I worship.
Up My Arsenal
The power of food

I have made a decision for my upcoming herculean effort to whittle away the 80 lb weight off my body: I have given myself permission to buy whatever produce I need to until I at least get to the halfway mark in my goal. Why? What do I mean? Don't I already buy whatever I want?

No. Remember the whole local food challenge I took on last year? Remember how I said I was doing it to make permanent changes in how I shop for food and how I eat? I have continued to buy 80% of my produce and food from local sources. This is not something I take lightly. It isn't sustainable to eat mostly produce that has been imported from hundreds of miles away. That continues to be a passion of mine. It will continue to be my objective for the rest of my life. I have committed myself to not buying oranges or other citrus fruit except as rare treats. No avocados, bananas, pineapples, or apples from out of state. Except as rare treats. I believe in rare treats from abroad.

However, in trying to map out my strategy for this extremely important goal of losing weight I have come to the conclusion that I need to make some quick progress- it is daunting to think about how much I have to lose and easy to become discouraged. I must not let that happen. So I need to be sure that I am strictest in the beginning because it will get easier for me once I'm on a roll (this was the case when I was losing the baby weight before). If I don't make good swift progress early on then I will risk ditching this whole plan and will spiral downwards. Not good. Must plan a way to block downward spirals.

So I have decided that I need the freedom to buy as many oranges, cucumbers (not in season), lettuce, broccoli, and possibly even zucchini as I want. I know how to cook for myself with California food: Mediterranean produce, citrus, avocado, year round lettuce, olives, etc. I will need to eat a lot of salad. And a lot of steamed vegetables.

Portion control is the biggest factor in my weight loss routine but when I'm feeling really low and I want to snack on crappy crap, an orange is very satisfying and feels good. I need to be able to eat them whenever I want. I have given myself the power of food.

I have finally got a place in the best local CSA which will begin in February so I will be getting lots of great produce from Oakhill Organics. I'm really excited about that! They always have a waiting list because their produce is so amazing and also because they are a great couple who both have really nice teeth. I'm sure that's got to be a factor. Hahahaha.

So while I am going to still be eating mostly local produce I have complete permission from myself to do what I need to do to get where I need to go. When I have made enough progress it will be a lot easier to see the end goal in sight and to stretch my imagination to make more dishes that rely almost solely on what is locally available.

My Christmas present this year is these Le Creuset stoneware petite casserole dishes. They are 8 ounces. This is approximately an appropriate portion of pasta in a healthy diet. When you see how small these are you will probably agree with me when I say it's hard to believe how much I eat compared to what is recommended.

I love these dishes. They make me giddy happy! I have the dreaded DSM (Diminutive Stuff Mania) and get really excited by the idea of making little tiny individual casseroles for dinner. I've been imagining what I'll make with them for weeks now. But now that they're on my counter I'm in that stage where I just stare at them and smile like an idiot.

DSM is the reason I will probably raise quails eventually just so I can fry tiny eggs and serve them to unsuspecting guests for breakfast on tiny toast. Oh, see, I just made myself chuckle out loud. You see how much tiny food amuses me? Which is what makes my huge dinner portions so ironic. I also (apparently) have a real affinity for birds.

Dec 27, 2008

Stress Relief Manual

In order to reach a goal that has eluded me for three years I think an important step is to list out as many stress reducing activities as possible ahead of time and promise myself to look at the list every time I am feeling stressed, like a restaurant menu, to see which stress relieving activity might work to get me through that moment. All these posts I've been posting this week will be printed out and put in a notebook for reference. To be read frequently as a reminder and to strengthen my resolve. It will be like my personal manual. Incidentally- I'm also going to be writing a family manual for the three of us kooky people. We need rules and regulations and to have strict schedules just like employees. I've also thought of putting helpful labels all over the house like:

"This cabinet is for condiments only" mostly for my own amusement. I think it's seriously funny that me and Philip and Max would actually benefit from such labeling.

So, here is the Stress Release Manual:

  • Quick Change Tactic: If feeling really stressed out about something I'm doing- do something else for a while. Doesn't matter what. It's about changing the immediate energy. It works for dogs. It works for people too.

  • Take Deep Breaths: Every part of my metaphysical cosmic upbringing says this is important and the little rebellious punk in me wants to say "hyperventilate instead!!". However, this really does help. Sit down for a few minutes and just concentrate of breathing deeply.

  • The British Method: Tea. I'm not allowed to drink much caffeine on account of my "delicate" heart condition (I love to make fun of the palpitations) but I can drink as much herbal tea as I want. Best bet for me: Yogi brand "calming" tea. No, it doesn't fix the whole world or turn me into Mother Theresa, but the British have the right idea in taking a tea break whenever the going gets tough, awkward, dull, stressful, or anyone has just said something truly stupid.

  • Stretch Muscle Matter: stretching does help relax the body. It is harder to maintain a deep level of stress when your body is feeling mellow. Even if it doesn't release any endorphins- your body will listen to you better when it's stretched well. It also distracts the mind temporarily.

  • The Roman Method: take a hot bath. Preferably (if you're not Pam) with lots of herbs, salts, and essential oils. Light a candle too. Hot baths with home made herbal infusions dumped in with oils help make my skin feel smoother and less dry which always makes me feel happy. I don't take long baths because I like them hot and if I sit too long in any heat I will pass out. Bathing with additives is a luxury and one that has always had a tremendous ability to make me feel calm and pampered.

  • Work on an art project: I used to calm myself by making collages. I haven't done this is years because all of my art efforts have been for business rather than strictly for pleasure. Now I have the freedom to sit down in my room and make whatever I feel like just because I feel like it and it doesn't have to be cost effective in the production end. Because there will be no production end. I can glue and lacquer, sew and bind to my heart's content. I may not always have time but I have whittled things down quite a bit so there should be room for more spontaneous creating.

  • Write myself a good old fashioned pep talk: I write every single day no matter what. But writing for my blog (I consider a professional effort in spite of not being paid) and writing to relieve stress aren't always exactly the same thing. I got through a lot of really crazy bad times without alcohol or much cheese by writing the crazies away. I have notebooks filled with pep talks to self. They aren't masterpieces. They are silly and sound like cheerleader type crap- "yay! You're so special! Woohoo! You can get through this little peanut!" OK, I have never called myself sweet little names. More like "Alright old bag, you are strong and you can get through this!" Whatever works. I am alive today because of these little self-talk sessions and it's time to implement them again.

  • Trim The Roses: Going out in the garden has been a great method of relieving stress in the past. Due to all this crazy job hunting and then having five jobs...I have gotten out of the habit of weeding for pleasure and mental pain relief. Deadheading my roses is relaxing and meditative for me. Weeding is like picking off the parasites of life one at a time with violence and satisfaction. Picking flower arrangements is like bringing new life into the house. It's also like art.

  • Review my inspiration binders: I have binders full of fashion pages I've saved for the past twenty years. They are the best of the best of what I've seen that I like. Clothes, jewelry, gardens, and layouts that inspire me over and over again. It's important to remind myself why I'm going to work so hard to lose weight. So I can use that inspiration on myself.

  • Listen to the chickens: Chickens make the best noises. They scuffle, they squawk, they coo like babies, and they chuckle. Plus they're curious and pretty. So, go out in the run and squat down on their level and talk to them. They love it- I love it. We all feel better!

  • Do some hand stitching: Hand stitching is meditative. You get into a minute rhythm with it. The added bonus that my Capricorn soul loves is that all this meditation results in something useful and pretty like a quilt. I could embroider too. A newish skill of mine that is wonderfully relaxing as well.

  • Knit to untangle: knitting isn't something I want to become a master at. It scares me to think of it on that level. However, just making a knitted scarf is very relaxing. Easy and repetitive. I have dreams of knitting a blanket too. I also have dreams of crocheting and if I start to learn to do that too it may turn out to be just as relaxing.

That is a pretty good list. I can add more to it as I think of all of the things I do that make me feel refreshed. The trick is to promise myself that I will review this list every time I find myself so stressed I want to grab something like a hunk of cheddar to gnaw on. If you all have things that help you, don't hesitate to tell me about it. I'd love to hear what things you all do to turn your mind from stress.

Dec 26, 2008

The 80 Pound Weight
I put it on, I can take it off

There is the most enormous task left to outline for this coming year. It is one that needs to be accomplished within the year. It needs to be attended to with the utmost degree of seriousness and concentration. Last year I told myself I was going to lose a lot of weight and I didn't. I wimped out fast. When I look back at the year I can see that I was immediately thwarted by bucket-loads of stress, money issues, moving, two mortgages and then the job hunt. I was deeply depressed and worse than that I lost all sense of self control and hope.

I didn't have good stress relieving tools worked out and available. It's easy to see why it didn't work. It's easy to also say "Well, you look fine. Don't worry so much about it." But don't. Don't give voice to any excuses for me. I don't need more excuses for how I got here.

The reason it's important that I lose 80 lbs this year is because carrying so much weight is hard on my feet, my joints, and most dangerous of all: my hips. My back hurts a lot and I am now prone to embarrassing skin conditions that no woman should ever have to admit to. I get out of breath easily. My feet hurt. I can't see my hoo-ha. All clothes are uncomfortable. Bending over to tie my shoes is becoming quite a comic act in which I fall over like a fat bear. I can't wear my own aprons and I only have about three pairs of pants that kind of fit which I wear all week and which are looking quite shabby. I can't afford to buy more clothes and it depresses me to consider making clothes for myself.

My self esteem is like a little tiny raisin that has been stepped on in the kitchen and is currently squished into the sole of my shoe where it makes little sticky sounds every time I take a step.

I have lost 40 lbs before and I didn't do it by using: diet pills, special diets, gizmos, supplements, substitute sugars, diet drinks, or giving up alcohol and cheese.

I achieved it by: exercising vigorously 3-4 times a week for an hour, not eating seconds, counting calories periodically, eating smaller portions, not snacking, not eating late, controlled amounts of cheese (measured to keep myself modest), and not drinking 4 out of 7 days of the week. Basically it was a simple equation of ENERGY IN/ ENERGY OUT.

I weigh 245 lbs right now. An all time high. I need to lose 80 lbs because I feel healthy and good about myself at 165 lbs. C'mon, you can all agree that that is hardly a skinny goal. 165 is a reasonable weight at which I can fit between a size 14 and 16 size which is reasonable to me. I couldn't give a rat's ass about being in the single digits. It isn't about being able to compare my size to anyone else's. It' s my own meter I am comparing myself to. I know what I felt like at 165.

I felt like I could probably stand to lose 10 lbs but I didn't feel a great deal of motivation. because I felt good. I enjoyed that I could find clothes that fit pretty easily and that my stomach didn't create it's own shadow. I could wear lots of stripes. And did. I could enjoy getting dressed up which makes it so much easier to boost my confidence when it's running low.

If I give myself one year to do it I will need to lose 1.55 lbs per week which is not out of the range doctors consider safe.

Here is my outline:

  • Lose 1.55 lbs a week for a year.

  • Drink alcohol only 3 out of 7 days of the week.

  • Consume no more than 2,300 calories a week to start off with. The number can be lowered as progress is made.

  • Exercise at least 20 minutes a day. Make it longer as stamina increases.

  • No eating after 7 pm. Not because Oprah says so. The reason is because if I'm eating after 7pm it is almost guaranteed to be a cheesy item that I don't need.

  • One day each week is a splurge day. Mostly for use when visiting and eating dinner with friends so that I don't have to be the obnoxious one asking if they could please make a less delicious and indulgent meal.

  • Drink plenty of water. (4 pints is sufficient)

  • Only weigh self one day a week. No obsessive checking please. Pick a day and stick to it.

I know I can do it. There are some finer details I will outline for myself later. Tomorrow I work all day so I will probably sit down on Sunday and outline for myself a list of ways I can reduce stress instead of drinking beer or grabbing my Tillamook. As I mentioned before I am going to be getting a tub that is deep enough to take relaxing soaks in and hopefully we'll have it and have it installed within the first month of January. I have a lot of other ideas but this is one I know will make a huge difference for me.

There is so much more wrapped up in this "diet" I need to be engaged in. I hate how much I've become a snacker when I didn't used to snack much at all. I love it when I'm comfortable enough in my own skin and body that I can put clothes on in the morning and not think about what I'm wearing again all day. Now I feel my clothes cutting into me and it bothers me- all-day-long. It's symbolic of getting a lot more under control than just my weight. A certain amount of self discipline has been gone for so long- self discipline is so important for caring for your mind. Having the strength to do things for yourself that will help maintain balance.

When I feel that my drinking and eating are reasonable and comfortable I feel so much more capable in general.

Don't encourage me to not tackle this one fiercely. Don't encourage me to downplay how important this is. I am not a person who has ever had an eating disorder. I don't have body dysmorphic issues. You don't have to worry about me developing crazy obsessions about food or thin-ness. So please don't, in trying to be helpful, tell me I'm just fine the way I am. I don't want to have to get a hip replacement before I'm 50 years old.

I want to walk into my 40th year a much lighter person who is ready for whatever is next. I want to get to 40 and have reclaimed the strong person I know I am. I want to arrive at January 6th 2010 wearing my Peace apron and knowing that I never have to stop wearing cherries and pom poms again.

I have always looked forward to developing my style as I age and I've spent the last four years becoming a person I don't recognize and whose dreary clothes have made me cry a whole lot. I imagine myself aging like Lauren Bacall, but in technicolor. I want to wear capes when I'm fifty and pencil skirts with work boots. I will enjoy getting older if I can enjoy seeing what new sartorial boundary I can stretch next. Clothes give me flight and they make me happy.

It's time to set the stage for a great new chapter. So I consider this year my dressing room year. I'm changing for a different role. I'm redressing and changing out of this body into the one I left behind.

Except the slightly gimpy hip. Nothing to do about that.

I enjoy getting to commiserate with old ladies about my hip trouble. They always think I don't know what it's like to feel the change in weather in their hip. Ha. I love messing with them!

This is something I am perfectly capable of achieving and I will do it.

Dec 25, 2008

The Last Apology

We always knew this was gonna be like clawing our way out of tombs. Nails breaking on the weather scrubbed stone. Skin scraping into the light; streaked with blood and the cold of our own breath. We could tell it was going to be a shit time long before we got here to the present.

I know you're pissed at me. Please don't look at me as though I was already dead.

There is no way to apologize to myself without sounding like I have lost my mind. Who cares? Self talk has always been a slightly unhinged affair and is, ironically, the main thing that has preserved my sanity the most over the years.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry that whenever it gets especially tough I make things worse by eating more cheese and drinking more beer. I'm sorry that I have let myself drink so much beer for so long that I can drink any Russian under the table without losing my shit for a second. I'm sorry that for the last three years I have let all my self discipline degrade under the weight of this stress and this never ending crisis our life has been. I know that it has led us here to where we are today. To this point of awful self loathing.

I'm sorry that I have let us gain over 75 pounds in the past three years. I know that it was natural to gain weight after breaking the hip and not walking for months. But I could have exerted more self control to prevent the mental damage this weight gain has created. I could have prevented this amount of weight gain.

I'm sorry that I have spent so much time telling everyone I'm sorry for things that couldn't possibly be my fault and all this time I have neglected myself.

I'm sorry I couldn't protect myself without also breaking myself. I'm sorry for so much.

I slip uncomfortably between the "me"s and the "us"s and the "you"s, all me, all the time. Plurals and singulars weaving in and out with no order.

I can't change what has already passed.

Things are closer than they appear in the rear view mirror.

Can you forgive me and allow us to move ahead? Will you let this awful neglect become the past that we have overcome?

Please believe that I wish I'd saved up all my inappropriate apologies and put them by like a dowry for your spirit. I wish I'd taken each one and layered them with ivory silk in a cedar trunk so that you could see that each one of those apologies I let slip into the air between me and other people were really for you because you deserved more apologies than you ever got. I wish I'd caught them like butterflies and pinned them to your hair because I know that you were too afraid to ask for them yourself.

There is only one left and you can ask for it now. Ask.

Take this apology and pin it to your throat like the jewel it is. Let it be your winter compass, snowbird- let it lead you into spring.

I am so sorry that I couldn't be our own parent, our own friend, our own knight in shining armor, or even our own comedienne. I'm sorry that I was too young to know how to be anything but a frightened child. I'm sorry that I was never able to grow up fast enough. I've never caught up. I'm still breathless from the ride.

But you see what love motivated me? It always looked like self loathing when really I just wanted some way to deflect the real danger from our flesh, from our spirit, because I felt love for this corporeal nightmare, this little light our spirit always had. It got so hard to keep the night light lit. We wanted to die anyway. But you see that it was love and care that made me try so hard? I just didn't know how to be the person we needed.

Looking through the telescoping past you can see that it was always love we wrote.

Come, let's light the path, others follow in the dark behind us.

Note: Next up is the plan to recover my body and bring it back into a healthy fold and it may take more than one post to lay that one out. This is all coming out fast and furious but not panicked or stressed. I want to string the path out before I cross into the new year. I want to uncover as many obstacles that I may find ahead before I get to them.

I think I have passed the darkest point now and I think anyone who keeps reading will find that I am excited and also in the middle of forgiving myself. I've already forgiven everyone needing forgiving for the abuse part of my past. I truly did that a very long time ago. I've been angry with myself though and I'm feeling it slip away now.

I hope that everyone else who has been through similar experiences as I have can do the same for themselves. And any time you see words from Blaize- pay attention! She is a wise lady. So, are you ready to start feeling the warmth and light that are stirring under the snow and ice? Winter protects life by holding it still until it is time for the sap to run. People are not much different.

I'm Sorry For Every Punch You Threw

I am always apologizing. To friends, to family, to the helpless for not being able to help them, to the abusive for not being good enough, to the weak for running over them, to the plants for starving them.

I have let the longest streams of apology trail behind me and they get longer and heavier every day. I apologize to people who have hurt me as though I deserved it, asked for it, or somehow brought it all on myself. And maybe there are times when this is just. We all invoke trouble on ourselves sometimes. But all the time? No. I am hearing my commenter Kim's words now- her suggestion that my anxiety stems from anger, from rage.

I disputed it hotly. I will hold to much of what I said in response, but I think she got a piece of me right. She got the anger right, but the subject of it wrong. I am not angry at the world or at social convention or at constrictions that make me uncomfortable. I am angry with myself. Me. I hear myself saying I'm sorry for causing others trouble, for making a commotion, for making someone else uncomfortable...I am so sorry to have gotten in your space, for not being perfect, for disappointing your endless expectations. I'm sorry I'm fat, I'm sorry I'm insecure, I'm sorry I have mental illness, I'm sorry I didn't make your spotlight brighter.

Each time I say I'm sorry for someone else's disappointment in me or for someone else's bad trip I see myself prostrate at every one's feet like an inconsequential piece of shit wearing a posture of constant shame. It pisses me off that everyone lets me do it when I think maybe, maybe if someone really loved me or valued me they would tell me to shut the hell up and stop apologizing and maybe they would step up to the plate and offer their own. But really? That's so secondary to the real issue.

The person I'm most pissed off at is myself. Just as it isn't up to my friends and family to pick up my pieces every time I lose a few on the floor of my freak outs, it isn't up to anyone else to tell me to stand up for myself and stop apologizing for the sun setting every day, for lady bugs being crushed under the feet of careless gardeners, or for babies passing away in the night across the world. It is enough to feel those events and to carry them with me everywhere I go.

I have only one person to whom I owe a real apology: myself.

I have let myself down. Not because I am less than perfect. I expect to always be less than perfect. I have let myself down because I kiss other people's shoes when I ought to be standing tall next to them without words. Let uncomfortable silences hang. Let conversation shred into meaningless confetti rather than offer up apologies just to fill the silence. Just to evade the fear I might otherwise have to feel in seeing a difficult moment come to pass.

I am so afraid of being hurt all the time I would rather admit that I must be wrong rather than let someone accuse me of it and then have to refute them and defend myself. I put myself in the losing position before anyone else can.

I wasn't really going to say this tonight, but I see that to get to the next step in redesigning my intentions this year I am going to have to face this and it scares the fucking shit out of me. Here is my boogie man. The bones buried in my back yard. Here is what I have been running from as well as trying to protect.

I am used to disappointing people. I have known what it is to be beat down, beat down, and beat down again. The mark of an abused person is to cower at a suddenly raised arm. It is also the mark of an abused mind that it profusely apologize for any transgressions that may be made later...sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry...I will fail you so I will proffer my apologies now and I will lay on my own head all the curses you may be inspired to slug me with so that you won't have to.

I don't know how to say this. I've never tried to say this before. I have, since I was impossibly young, learned that if I anticipate the pain that will inevitably be inflicted on me by others and instead of letting them do it to me I inflict the pain on doesn't hurt as much because I'll know what evil is coming.

You want to tell me I'm not good enough? I'll tell myself that right now, I will beat the crap out of my own hope and pride until it hurts so bad that if you come along and actually do tell me I'm not good enough you will have no power because I will have already turned it on myself.

It is such a dangerous way to protect oneself. Extreme and crippling. Sometimes the cure can be as dangerous as the disease.

I have always had a hard time explaining the cutting until this year when I found the words to go along with the instinct that motivated me to saw at my own skin with steak knives. What blow to my solar plexus delivered by someone I trust could be so bad if I have already hurt myself worse? It is a form of controlled pain. It makes the sting of unexpected blows dull by comparison. I can't control you if you want to split my lip with your fist but I can see my own razor draw my life up out of my veins and if I can see that, if I can live through that, what else could possibly be worse?

I am endlessly frightened of how you are going to turn against me. You, strangers, anyone. The world is a dangerous place for me; it has abused my body and my head. I have never had anywhere to go but inward. I have never had anyone to protect me but myself. When I first remember needing protection I was only six years old and my stomach still feels the blows.

I have only ever done the best I could for myself. But it wasn't enough.

I am so much older now. I am middle aged and the only person I haven't apologized to is myself.

As though I don't deserve it.

Before I take a step forward I must acknowledge that my habit of trying to take every one's ability to hurt me away I rob them of a genuine right to express their own grievances to me. If I always anticipate what is wrong with me and tell everyone how I will disappoint, or see that someone is gathering themselves up to deliver a complaint and I try to diffuse the moment by apologizing for everything under the sun- I am stealing other people's rights. I am taking something from them that I have no right to take. I never let them tell me off because I'm afraid that if I hear it I will have to shrivel up into myself until I disappear completely.

It doesn't really protect me the way I think it will. It's a subversive way conduct relationships. I would rather die than face conflict with people.

I don't know if anyone will understand what I've just said. These are very steep crags in a troubled personal landscape. I've said more tonight than I ever thought I could, out loud.

I'm not six years old any more.

My fear of people is extreme. To grow up emotionally I am going to have to learn to take other people's blows like an adult. I'll have to learn to let people say what they need to say to me without trying to beat them to the punch and then I need to not apologize immediately. I need to learn to recognize when I've truly done something worthy of apology. I have the right to withhold them and sometimes I deserve them from other people. And I'm going to have to face the fact that I will not always get them.

My heart is pounding right now. In case you wondered what it feels like to write this stuff out. I feel feral right now. I might bite you. I feel like biting you because you're there on the other side of these words.

It's time for that apology to myself.
Chameleon Made Of Words

The big question for me in this very minute at which I am seated at my desk in my recently rehabilitated writing room is: can music fix rifts between the body and the spirit?

Funny writer girl wears underwear made of words- sits at her desk which is nothing less than a 500 pound piece of laminate stripped and shipped from a British correctional institution or some kind of animal house where having unmovable furniture is a major bonus to the staff. Seems entirely fitting. This animal girl is stripped down to her skivvies now- a chain of letters on letters lost in unseemly layers and undulating rolls.

I was calling this room my sewing room but now that the giant drifts of self-propelling trash have been tamed it has drawn me in and seduced me with it's window high above the monastery garden like an Erie, a perch for an imagination. I have yet to sew in it but I write in it every day. I have always wanted and needed a room of my own, a quiet place of observation. A place in which to change my colors without an audience. A place to set down my own rules for living.

I don't know why it is so hard to do anything as simple as saying what one is with a single word. I have spent so much time trying to be so many things and there's only one thing I've ever been in my entire life:


I have so many interests and adventures because I have to feed the words, they don't thrive without care. But I've only ever been one single thing:


I'm a writer who became a wife. A writer who became a mother. A writer who took fencing. A writer who designed costumes.

I will be 39 years old in almost exactly three weeks. In all this time I have fought what is, I have tried to reshape what is, deny what is, wish for something that isn't, and it has wasted time. It has created obstacles and I have to wonder if any one's restart button is as worn down as mine?

When I was 23 years old I admitted to myself that I was first, before anything else, a poet. I realized that saying it wasn't arrogance because I am not a brilliant poet and never will be- but it is how my spirit sees the world. My head sees prose, my spirit sees a more distilled, succinct version caped with boundaries of time and urgency. That was a big moment for me. I was already a wife but I realized that being a wife was a role while being a poet was my skin.

Women have worked hard to bring the pride back into mothering- to make people respect mothering as a life choice and ever since I have become a mother I have tried hard to put "mother" first in the line of my personal descriptors. Because it felt as though putting it second to anything else was belittling the role I played as Max's mom. Maybe for some women being a mother is who they are, the threshold to their spirit, their heart, and the ultimate expression of who they are.

But not for me. Being a mother is another role. It is another mantle of responsibility I took on. Another layer of life I added. But it isn't who I am and every time I put "mother" first on my list of things I am it kicks me down a notch. It belittles what came with me into this world. It belittles my calling, my skin, my soul, and my heart of words.


From today forward I will call myself the one thing I truly am: writer.

Not: "writer and wife and mother and urban homesteader....and the whole miserable etc."

No more milling around with half truths. You, those readers of mine who comment, have often commended me on my honesty, my willingness to tell the truth- mine at least, if not yours. Yet I have not been honest. I have not told you all the truth because I feel scared to have one calling. I am scared to name it because I will probably fail. I can't fail in life if I have ten callings, surely I'll succeed at something if I increase the odds? But all I do by dividing my energy into a thousand fractions is dilute the power I was given for this one thing.

What's funny is that I knew what I had to do when I was sixteen and fresh from not killing myself. It was suddenly so clear to me, making friends cry with clumsy emotional poetry, that there was something living through my pen, however clumsy it was; living and shedding something tangible for others to grab at; like a life raft in the middle of the ocean. I felt it inside like something with a dangerously sharp edge it cut through the summer of dread and didn't hurt til later the way razors cut skin noiselessly first and hurt almost as an afterthought. I felt this blade reflecting light and I knew that it was the words that kept me from jumping off the cliffs. From impaling myself on the alter of my family's collective despair.

What I've found out is that what you are will never not be what you are. So you can bury it under a whole lot of snow and ice, under the dark cover of other lives, and you can run, but you cannot shake it. Maybe you never get famous, maybe you never win awards, maybe you never get a record deal-book deal- studio show-movie role-or even make money at it. That's immaterial. So you do what you have to do to pay the bills but you still are what you are and if you don't own it, do it, and honor it, you dishonor yourself worse than any other person on earth is capable of.

I believe, with my whole self, that we each know what we are without thinking about it. The answer has always been there. It doesn't have to be glamorous, heroic, exciting, or even original. But you know what it is and if you're still running from it or trying to change it- stop. I promise you that you can't. No power on this earth can change your alchemy.

This week I am redesigning my intentions. I have one week until the new year. One week to tell myself how it's going to be this year. I have one year until I'm forty and it seems as good a time as any to step into my own god damn shoes and embrace what I already am and slough off the dead weight I carry.

Everything I do in my life feeds the words. Everything comes second to writing and it isn't something I can change nor is it a choice to make. The only choice I have to make is to use what I have or trash it. I have a choice in how I balance my life so that the writing doesn't hurt my husband and child. But the writing cannot come last ever again. It's the whole reason for breathing.

It is my breathing.

So this week is about redesigning the minutiae of my life. It's about finding ways to recover self discipline. To recover my physical self respect. It's about redrawing boundaries for the three of us so that we will all feel more fulfilled and happy. We are all crazy creative beings in need of daily exercise, better nutrition, and more daily structure. I'm not sure if it's more funny or more sad that we are a wee family of completely obsessive compulsive people. We all thrash against our own restraints when there is achievable order for us.

But today is the second step. The first was to let go of disappointments and sorrows. To let go of what didn't work out, what wasn't meant to be, so that I can move forward with new intention. Today is the second step; to admit what I am and accept the single word that is my everything:


I am a writer.



If you, like me, have experienced similar struggles then I implore you to do as I did and first write out all of your disappointments and sorrows- then do what you need to to let them go. You can print them out and burn them or, if you're afraid of fire, you can bury them, or if just writing them allows you to let go- do it. DO IT.

Then acknowledge who/what you are. You know what it is. Maybe you are a healer and you work as an RN but keep looking for some other answer because you want more glamour- just say it "I am a healer" I am a nurse. And then make yourself into a glamorous one. But don't look away. Look at yourself: say it. Say it. Say it again. Set your course of intention to honor who you are. No more excuses. Are you a singer? Don't worry if you're already 65 and there's no sexy life on stage for you (though, who knows?): you must say it- "I am a singer." And embrace that, honor it, and do it. Even if you only do it every single day in your favorite room. Give it the honor it deserves. Who and what we are isn't about recognition from others, it's about recognizing ourselves and if we use these gifts of ours, whatever they are, it will flood into the lives all around you and the people you love. You will only become more powerful in everything.

So do it with me if you need to and feel free to tell me about it in the comments because I DO want to hear. I want to know.

But don't worry, if all is silent out there, I won't mind either. I move forward regardless of the world of people around me.

Dec 24, 2008

You Can't Get Off This Train Without A Rope

Before true hideosity set in.

A girl in her element.

Chickens moult, people do too.

Time for a 100% overhaul.

For those of you who read the post I wrote and then deleted yesterday, I am sorry. I am sorry if I hurt friends and would-be friends. I cannot take back the sentiments because they were raw and true. I can only say that if I had the money for a therapist I would have saved that one for the couch and not put it here. A lot of things end up here because I don't have anyone appropriate to tell my most troubling and grief inducing feelings and experiences to.

I missed the chance to symbolically acknowledge the solstice and to go through the ritual of writing my troubles and disappointments down and then burning them. Which I now realize is what I need to do. So I'm going to do it late. There's still the less mystical more Roman approach of the New Year coming up and it's just as good a time for a personal overhaul and a release of past disappointments, of which I have quite a few.

The disappointments that need burning are these:

The infamous incident of the Needle Junkie t-shirts which marked the complete collapse of all trust I had left in the universe and in myself: It had to be. This whole year was about scouring out the last of my faith. Down to the funky-ass crumbs.

That when I hit rock bottom my support system turned out to be somewhat absent: It isn't the responsibility of friends and family to pick up the goddamn pieces of me that cracked up and fell all over the floor. The bulk of comfort garnered during the toughest moments came from people I've never met in real life. Thank you for that.

The therapist who made me more angry and lost: Well, there's no excuse. I can't put that one on my own shoulders. But there's nothing anyone can do about the fact that chemistry rules our lives. Her chemistry and mine- OIL AND WATER.

The teacher who made my kid's school year complete torture: She sucked. I've since found out that mine was not the only kid whose year was completely rotten for the same reason. We never liked her. She didn't like us. That's the way it goes.

Friends not liking my kid: It's a fact of life that not everyone you meet is going to like you or your kid. There's nothing to be done about it. I don't like every one's kids either.

Not getting a job with the city: They're still the big time losers. As bad as it made me feel that my own city wouldn't hire me for work I would have given 150% to, if they were ever to get a glimpse of what they missed out on? They would feel way worse than me.

Death of a business:
Lesson learned. The Etsy shop goes next.

My inability to apply proper strength of will to weight loss goals: Disappointment in myself is much worse than disappointment in others because I have to live with myself until I die. I not only didn't make any progress in this department this year, I actually got bigger to my limitless shame. The black hole of shame threatens to devour me and I can hear voices out there saying "just do it". I'll get on that right after I amputate my own foot.

Me not being enough of an advocate for my son:
I let him get stepped on by too many people, made unnecessary excuses for him, and let my concern for other people's opinions of him matter too much. Fuck everyone else's opinion of him. I'm lucky to have a kid with such a strong sense of self. It's time to get him the support he both deserves and needs.

Guilt for getting us into a deeper financial pickle:
Shed the guilt lady! Buying this house has done me a world of good and we'll get out of this mess this coming year. This house was one of the actions that helped me restore some faith. It was worth the pickle.

That I have continued to tell people "It's alright" to make them feel better about something when it isn't alright with me and won't be until they make amends:
An old habit that is as tenacious as a cockroach in a nuclear meltdown. There are a lot of things people have said to me, or done to me that aren't cool and I continually excuse them from having to say they're sorry. Probably because I know they won't and I don't want to find out that people I care about aren't sorry for hurting me. Time to stop excusing the behaviors of others and if they don't excuse themselves? Let 'em loose.

It's been a rough year times 100. I obviously have a huge load of crap to unload into the fires in order to grow something fresh from the nutrient rich ashes. I was thinking that I might erase this entire blog. Kill all trace of Dustpan Alley. But that comes only from a place of frustration. Instead of killing off what has been a conduit of strength and support from strangers, I should let go of last year completely now. Start fresh inside. Like an engine overhaul. I have sooty engine and I won't go anywhere until I clean out the gunk. We had to do that with our Volkswagen a few years ago. It was really expensive and sucked big time.

I don't have a lot of money to rework my engine. The one last real extravagance we are going to purchase for our anniversary present which comes up in a couple of weeks is a new bathtub. One that is great for soaking in. That will be my meditation center and my detox unit. Whatever else happens this coming year- I'll be damned if I go another year without one of the most significant methods of de-stressing that I have ever known that didn't come out of some form of bottle.

Now it's time to go downtown in the snow. With snowshoes on. And be mellow. And free of this sooty stupid crap I've been wearing in a thousand pound locket around my neck.

May you also let go of all the crap that's holding you back. Let's move forward together and see what we can make of 2009!

Dec 19, 2008

This Is My Point Of Origin

A snowbird wakes up to snow.

Today is my only day off each week. I got to sleep in. When I went to bed the sky was very busy with itself. When I woke up the sun was shining on three or four inches of fluffy crunchy snow! I had to run outside in my pyjamas to investigate before cars, kids, dogs, and industrious snow shovelers came out to muck up the painting the night drew for me. Yes, for me. But I'll share with you too.

This is my very much loved Japanese snowball tree actually covered in snow! I adore these little trees and laugh when it is dripping in white happy pom poms.

All the light here is blue. Hard to get good pictures. Here's the "front" of our house. Sun shining on my little kingdom.

It piled enough that today is all about watching accumulated snow drifts drop randomly from branches as the sun warms them just enough to loosen the grip. Wonderful!

This metal gate leads to our funny little enclosed garden area which I plan to cultivate much this year. I love that it is entirely closed in. I want wild flowers in there this year. I think I'll dig up parts of the lawn in a couple of weeks when it's less frozen and sprinkle some wild flower seeds. You need to do this in the fall or winter so that they'll get frozen or cold enough to bloom well in the spring.

Chick loves the snow. My Internet will be temporarily turned off today while we get fiber-optic wire connected so I'm going to do two things: make real snow cones with strawberry syrup I froze from the summer and I'm going to throw snowballs for Chick to catch.

We are wondering if I can buy chains for the Vespa. If I could, I'd totally learn to put them on. How awesome to go for a slow ride in the snow to the store on my sweet little Vespa! Without chains, riding this thing would be like asking to die today. That would be a lot less fun than, say, enjoying a Friday with hot PG Tips tea and real snow-cones. Yes, I'm going to invoke Laura Ingalls Wilder's spirit!

One thing that makes me sad is not being able to dress like her anymore. One of the reasons I get so angry at myself for not being capable (so far) of having a little self control and losing some weight. I used to dress like her all the time.

Ah well.

In spite of the spiritual lows of yesterday- I am enjoying every minute of this perfect winter because it's the winter I always dream of having. The last two years here we've gotten a little snow, enough to make me laugh and run around in it and feel so glad not to live where it never snows! But it is so fleeting usually. Melts fast and stops too soon. We've been getting this snow for days now and just when I think it's all over, it starts again. It was almost all gone yesterday (perhaps a little part of my low ebb) and then like magic it starts up in the late afternoon in huge dry flakes sticking to everything and piling up so fast I couldn't believe it.

Winter is my literal point of origin. It's when I was born. It is the season that wakes me up, turns my mind on, and I am generally less depressed in the cold, dark, rainy, (and snowy!) days of winter than I am at any other time of year. Although gardening has allowed me to come to appreciate all the seasons, winter will always be mine. Something I cherish and think of as my personal, I don't know, there really aren't a lot of words to tell it. It's mine.

I have a lot of friends who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and I totally respect how so many people feel the opposite of me about this season. The dark short days, the low temperatures, the lack of sunshine, the low clouds, the winds, the storms, the bleak dying off of everything that used to be growing and sprouting and flowering.

I am sorry that the season that makes me feel the most alive and happy has the opposite affect on others. But it doesn't diminish my own joy and I can't help but take my smiles out in the world with me. I've learned to commiserate with those who don't share my excitement at 40 mile an hour wind and rain storms because when the heat of summer comes and everyone around me is glowing and smiling and reveling in it I will be moaning and hiding and breaking out in heat rashes. I always appreciate it when a sun lover stops to acknowledge my discomfort. So I try to return the generosity.

Though I never expect them to apologize for it. Why should anyone apologize for loving any kind of weather? We all have our season, the one that brings us the closest to nature, and therefore to ourselves.

Mine is now.

When is yours?

Dec 18, 2008

Anxious Bloom
A continuing discussion about anxiety

I sometimes think that no matter how often or how carefully I try to explain what anxiety is for the clinically anxious, there are always people who cannot accept that anxiety doesn't follow rules of reason nor rely on cause and effect to furrow itself deep into a nervous system. There are so many people who still, no matter how much we learn about it to the contrary, believe in their hearts that it's a choice we are making; to be depressed, or anxious.

Am I deficient in vitamins? Am I not getting enough sunshine? Have I not squared my shoulders and faced it all? Could it be that I need more meat in my diet? Do I just not assert myself enough? Do I just need to look on the bright side? If I was a stronger person would all the dark disappear? Would the emotional roller coaster ride turn out to be just a gentle bicycle ride? Is it possible that it's not anxiety I feel, but rage? Is it possible I've almost made it 39 years without being able to tell the difference? Am I angry rather than panicky? Could warm milk before bed take away the incessant buzzing in my head? Did the St. John's Wort not work because I didn't believe in it enough? Have I been choosing to hear the world around me fall apart in my head because I LIKE being crazy?

No. I spent 19 years looking for answers. All the while my anxiety growing, my depression obscuring the mushrooming panic. 19 years without help from anyone. 19 years without therapy, medication, or a diagnosis; knowing all those years that what I was going through was like "normal" on steroids. In other words: not normal. I knew when I started cutting myself that it was not a normal expression of anger or depression or anxiety. It worked, it helped, it ameliorated a terrible splintering in my head and then brought me back from complete physical numbness. It soothed when no one else had the power to sooth or even noticed the need in me.

I have tried every herbal concoction said to aid in all that ails me. Every tea. Every supplement. Multivitamins for months and months. Herb pillows, warm milk, Valerian drops, tinctures of every description, meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy food, positive visualization, creative outlets, writing, writing the brutally boring minutiae of my head just to release a valve, just to get it the hell out, talking with friends, pep talks, hot baths, discussing my problems with cockroaches that lived with me (not my choice), walking, deep breathing, spa treatments, shopping, educating myself.

And those are just the healthy things I tried.

I knew that what was wrong with me wasn't something a cup of tea could fix. The tea might help incrementally, but not nearly enough to keep me from wanting to smash my hand through a window just to distract myself from myself.

You know how when you fall down and you hear a big crack and you suddenly can't use your arm anymore and it hurts so bad you think you're going to vomit and you just know that you broke your arm, even before you get to the doctor? When you're broken in the head or nervous system you know it in the same way. You just feel it. Maybe you spend a long time denying it, but you know.

People- lots of people- probably you (because there are very few people who haven't thrown this one out there) are fond of asking "What's normal anyway?" or "No one is really normal." Or "Aren't we all a little crazy?" or "Everyone is fucked up in one way or another." Not all these statements are true, but the more important thing is that none of them are remotely helpful and when I hear people say them I feel like I've just been told that I don't know myself, that my discomfort, that the danger inherent in being me, is bogus.

It throws doubt on all the experiences I've had. It makes me question my carefully honed and honestly earned judgements. It takes all hope of help away from me. If we're all crazy then what could I possibly complain about? What could I possibly need more than what I've got? That my problems don't matter. Don't count. Aren't worth talking about. Are nothing. I'm a big baby. I'm a whining idiot. I'm not taking responsibility for myself. I'm choosing to be miserable. I'm choosing this hell for myself!

But when someone complains about having heart problems do people say "Well, don't we all?". Lots of people do have heart problems. Sometimes from their diet, sometimes from their lack of exercise...but for a lot of people with heart disease, they inherited the tendency from their family genes. Regardless, when people discuss their heart problems others don't fall into the same kind of talk that they do around people with mental illness. They don't say things like "Well, if you just exercise more it will be fine." Because, if they're wrong, a person could die.

If a thyroid stops regulating itself and a person is suffering and tells friends that they're all messed up and miserable and are going to have to take medicine to regulate it for the rest of their lives, do you hear friends saying "Well, maybe if you just meditate it will start regulating itself again!" or "Why don't you just stop eating wheat, you're probably just allergic to wheat." or "Everyone has some kind of medical condition..."? No, because if anyone talked like that to someone with a physiological condition only a complete ass would talk like that.

But when it comes to the brain and the nervous system people always want something else to be the reason a person is wanting to die, or to never leave their room again, or to pick at the skin on their heads until their scalps bleed. It must be curable and there must be some simple remedy.

But there's not. There are a lot of things a person can do to support their mental health but even if they do everything known to help, they are not ever going to be fixed. And nothing is going to change the fact that their brains don't regulate the chemical messages sent to the nervous system, or make enough of the right ones. It is what it is.

And one thing it's not: normal.

My anxiety isn't unrecognized anger. There are plenty of things I feel angry about. I know the difference. The anxiety I feel is caused by my body not making enough of the chemicals I need in order to be more balanced, or my body is making enough of the chemicals but my brain (for whatever reason) is unable to use those chemicals properly.

Basically, when I feel panicky at the sight of carolers my brain is sending my nervous system a false message, or too strong of a message. What might ordinarily be annoyance at having to deal with an uncomfortable experience and hear music I hate becomes something I would much rather run from than face just to ease the racing heart and the blipping fritzing mind. It isn't rational, or reasonable, and what's really going on isn't a thought out response to a situation but a physical reaction brought on by a physical malfunction.

Mental illness is a physiological problem.

Which explains why getting exercise, a balanced diet, plenty of sleep, and sunshine all help ease depression and anxiety. But until we understand exactly how all these chemicals work, until we can map out exactly how the brain doles out the chemical messages to the nervous system and what precise function has gone wrong when things aren't working well, nothing will really fix it.

Medications such as the one I take help a great deal. They help people like me come back to near-normal brain function. If I wasn't on Paxil I would be obsessing about imminent earthquakes*, serial killers, death of my child, wood rot, my friends not being my friends, slipping and falling again, and meteor showers destroying my house. I would not be getting any sleep. I would be worried all day long about everything I've said in the last week having caused someone offense and wondering how I might have said things differently; replaying every conversation in my head over and over until I get it just right. I would be yelling at my kid and my husband all the time just because of the crazy amount of noise that three people living together makes and constantly dreaming of floating away on a boat by myself to a little cabin where no one can find me and I can scream the primal scream on the top of my lungs until my throat bleeds.

Is this how you are without medication? Because if you find yourself saying "That's exactly how I am." then I have news for you: YOU ARE NOT NORMAL EITHER.

So today I am on the low ebb. I am feeling lonely even though there's people all around me. The snow is falling which I love, but part of me is riding around an old groove with old songs and messages and I have a hunger for something that doesn't exist. I keep reaching out and feel disconnected anyway. Maybe Internet life is unhealthy for me. Maybe constantly throwing words out there hoping it hits something or someone is like casting a net of fragile thread across the milky way.

The kid has been home for six days straight and I'm tired of the noise and filling needs and not being good enough and soothing frustrations, wiping away tears, brushing off everything I can't fix. But it's all still in my lap. I am not good at this game. I need an empty house. Empty of everyone. Of dog. Of boy. Of man. I need to not be needed all the time. Tomorrow will most likely be another school day, followed by a two week vacation from school. I feel shredded already.

But this is just how it is. There is always going to be low ebb. Like low tide. Everyone feels that rhythm in life, that part of my experience is normal. Off days and good days. It's just that they're amplified for me and people like me. I get tired faster and for longer.

There may be no Christmas cards sent out again this year.

Even as I speak the kid is combusting with his own imperiousness which is stressing out the man and they bicker and the dog is whining for something I can't give her. I need a safe empty place to curl up and not be.

Anyone have a padded cell I could borrow?

*I've been known to go on six hour crying jags over earthquakes that haven't happened yet. I've also been known to not sleep for three weeks after experiencing small ones.