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booster rockets

rocket som

For years, I’ve been thinking about the concept of booster rockets as metaphors for personal and spiritual development – but in the most depressing and isolating way.

This may sound self-indulgent and self-piteous and haughty all at once. That isn’t an apology. Just a heads up.

2019 has been a pretty chill year so far until Friday night. And even that isn’t disastrous. Just inopportune. But even that assessment is a (blessed) shift in perspective.

It’s been chill because there is barely anyone in my life right now–at least anyone constant. It’s very empty.

My relationships with people have been like booster rockets. They’re intense, fiery, and then they drop off and I’m a million miles away from where we started.

And, I’ve been feeling guilty about it. That has never been my intention. I feel like I use people, but in retrospect, it’s typically mutually beneficial.

It goes back to the idea of me being a catalyst in people’s lives and how I don’t like it anymore.

Last year, when so many people dropped away or were cut off, it was really jarring because it was the exact opposite of what I (thought I) needed.

And it’s not just been last year. It’s been years and years of having these really short, intense encounters with people and then the encounter abruptly ending.

And although it would be lovely to go into detail here, I don’t want to, really–and that’s a story in it of itself. It feels tender to try to probe into this space. 

I’ll try a little, though.


I think (I hope) I’m finally over the incredulity of what happened with my love life last year. It was so absurd and I feel separate from it now. That was another lifetime ago.

And maybe last year has made me able to finally write about this constant loss of people. People were either lost in conflict or lost through consistent absence. Both felt pretty violent.

Now, there’s silence and space. And relief, that the fighting is over and that the battle wounds are healing.

And…there’s a nagging fear that life will always be this way. And another fear: that I will get used to it and become the Capricorn I’ve always wanted to be: independent and needing no one.

But as I’ve watched another perfectly good relationship drop into the ocean and I keep heading towards space, I wonder:

Where am I actually headed?


Maybe there’s no real purpose to all of this, to how I relate to people. Maybe this period of solitude just is.

I know there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with me. There are tons of people who are complete assholes who have more people in their lives, people who actually care about them and actively love them.

But there does seem to be a purpose, at least right now. And that’s what I feel guilty about. Although, again, as a catalyst, I know I’m serving the same purpose.

I’ve grown so much from last year through learning about myself, what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. And it feels like those lessons have started to stabilized within me.

I’m still here. I’m not dead in any way. I no longer feel brokenhearted. I’m further along.

Also, this time alone has made me realize how much energy and effort I put into relationships and how a lot of times, that energy isn’t returned. It can be the most casual relationship to the most intimate – I am grinding. And frankly, that’s just wasteful.

Part of me is just wired to care for others. But writing this, in my head I sound like a martyr. But that’s definitely not what I want, a cross to be up on and people to pity.

I nurture, I guide, I help to heal. But last year, I saw my efforts hilariously and spectacularly fail and flail.

Even this past weekend, I reached out to a couple of people and they don’t actually need my support in the way that I want to give it – booster rocket style.

Although I’m at peace and am feeling better about my life, I’m no Happy Cappy…at least if I compare myself to what everyone else is doing.

I don’t have friends I text or call often – or really, at all. And that’s really weird to me.

But what’s even weirder: I can’t really think of anyone where we’d talk even every week on the phone or via text and it’d feel natural. I don’t think I’ve met those people yet.

And that’s OK. In fact, it’s encouraging. They’re still out there.

I only start to feel like a complete loser when I look around, I think – wow, if this is it, this is really bad. This is not good. I may have always had some existential loneliness, but prolonging this would be bad. 

It’s not good to be so disconnected.

A big part of this experience has to deal with poverty, which basically makes me a shut-in. But then if I had more money beyond basic expenses and had more the time to be out there again…it’s exhausting to think about.

I have been balls to the wall about people since I got here on Earth and I have very little to show for it except, wow, I know humanity pretty well and I’ve discovered that we don’t vibe that well together. Yay?

I was a lot happier as a misanthrope, back in my 20s. Maybe it’s time to bring that bitch back!

But having all this space now, I can appreciate the good times without resenting they ended. Yet I’m still quite bewildered by where I am now, at my age. And as it is Aquarius season, I feel extra alien and unrelatable.

But who gives a shit? Who really gives a shit?

I do. Thank god, I do.


And, I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this here or for my patrons, being so exhausted in giving, there needs to be a break, a shift, a disruption in this cycle of outflow and barren reception.

So as I take this rocket ship to nowhere, I believe one of two things will happen, or possibly both.

I will get used to people just popping in and out of my life and just be surprised if someone sticks around longer than a year. Or, more people will stick around longer than a year.

The thing is, too – out of all the people who have ghosted or left or have been cut out by me, I only miss one of them, but it’s not even in a painful way. It’s more like…well, it’d be nice if you returned. But I’m not going to put anymore effort into it because yowsa.

Too. Much.


To pull back with a wider lens: I live in a society with rampant loneliness, with fragmented relationships, with companies that throw people away like yesterday’s garbage, in a country that has immigrant children in concentration camps.

I live in a land that barely values me as a person with full citizenship – and I mean that in a personhood sense.

So honestly, it’s a miracle, a remarkable miracle, that any love gets to me, or any of us, at all. 

Even though my life looks like a wasteland of used up people, a wasteland of me being used up, somehow, I have some optimism that this will all make sense later. 

For now, I feel like I need to put this nurturing impulse to better use. That doesn’t mean I have to change who I am. The times are just different now and I need to find out what “better use” means – without rushing it.


Before I started writing this, I thought, what if I became the object of all this nurturing and care? It’s something I’ve been doing lately, but as I reach out to others and don’t have that effort reciprocated, I need to continue to focus on myself, as awkward and sad as that can feel.

There’s nothing wrong with the path of least resistance. And there’s nothing wrong with learning how to shift my focus towards myself for a while. I need to heal up from the losses, losses and abuses that go all the way back to high school, or even further back than that.

And it’s not that I’m reliving and ruminating over the past. The exhaustion is cumulative.

I swear I’ve written about this before, about how sometimes this feels like this is some cosmic punishment. 

Here is what I hear the Universe say to me (but I am completely mishearing them):

You’re too much for people and We’re putting you on an indefinite time out! Sit here and be alone until you’re ready to play well with others!

🥺


Some of these experiences, I really don’t understand what it’s for. And maybe it’s as simple as that I’m incredibly unlucky.

But I will not pathologize myself any longer. There’s enough pain with loss without making it all about me and how wrong I allegedly am.

Last summer, there was one person who left kept telling me, as he was leaving me, before it got ugly: “You’re such a lovely person.”

But. (one of his favorite words, by the way)

It was like it couldn’t be that it couldn’t work between us because I wasn’t an asshole. So he became the asshole.

It wasn’t me. It was him. And we both know that.

He’s not the person that I still miss, either.


My path is strange and there’s still a lot of shame around it. I’m not doing what I consider to be adult mature things that I expect for myself, like traveling, hanging out with friends, being with someone who knows I’m a lovely person and didn’t commit self-sabotage seppuku (actually, yeah, that’s pretty adult, so I guess I’m adulting).

I’ve done all of those things before.

Instead, I’m super isolated. And now I’m mostly fine with it. 

I guess I wish my life wasn’t so weird and unrelatable. It makes it hard to be a writer if no one understands what you’re experiencing (or at least openly says so).

But hey, I feel less crappy about not having anyone local around who cares because I sure as hell fucking tried, for years, to connect.

And as I was trying, I was evolving.

The gazillion dollar question: I really like who I am now, but did it come at the cost of all these people who aren’t in my life anymore?

It’s probably more true that the changes that I went through couldn’t be held within the relationships I’ve had with people. Or the people I was in relationship with were also changing beyond the scope of how we related.

And that is OK. I just want it to fucking stop eventually.

And maybe I finally know and believe that I won’t be poor forever. I know I’ll find the people who will stick around.

But right now, for once, mercifully…I’m really reluctant to open up and get to know anyone new – at least the way that I do it, which is a deep sea dive into one’s soul. I feel like that’s a healthy response! I’m not running headlong into anything, great or godawful. 

There’s just me and for now, that’s all I need. But I look forward to when I have the strength, and the means, and the heart, to open up again, whether it’s to someone new or someone from the past.

So thank you to all the former friends who help me get to this place of emotional self-sufficiency. I literally couldn’t have done it with you.

All through my life there have been
Many rare and precious things
I have tried to call mine
But I just cannot seem
To keep hold of anything
For more than a short time


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January 28, 1986

masterson som

This was one of the first things I wrote about in grad school almost seven years ago. It was in response to a prompt about a moment in history that deeply affected me. This is mine. I’ve edited it quite a bit.

Before the Challenger disaster, I had moved to Alabama with my family on December 30, 1985. I had just had my eighth birthday five days before. 

We were now in a bigger house with a large yard in a mostly Black middle-class neighborhood that had gone through some white flight. My mom said that when we arrived that night, my younger brother and I ran around the basement in excitement. It would seem just by that anecdote, I was happy for the move.

But starting school the following month was a rough time for me.

Although I loved school back then and considered it my happy place, I didn’t have the most uplifting of starts this time around. I had spent the first day of school crying for no reason, something even at age eight I don’t remember being wont to do.

Ms. Stricklin, my second grade teacher, had her arm around my chair in the back of the classroom as she quizzed me on my timetables. We were sitting by a window, off to the side of the classroom.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” I wiped my hands on my face as my trembling lips tried to hold back my whimpering. I remember feeling strange that I didn’t know why I was crying. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be there at school that day. 

Apparently, this was still a time where I cried openly. I was still feeling traumatized from the move.

What’s strange about this time of my life is that I only remember the first day of school in Alabama and January 28th. I can vaguely remember second grade in Nashville, basically one spelling test where I spelled the word “visit” wrong. And that’s it.

I can’t help but think that the trauma of moving, along with watching the explosion erased any other memories I had of being eight.


On that day, a Tuesday, the skies were leaden and flat with stratus clouds, just like the first day at my new school.

But this time, instead of crying, I was excited.

This morning, we were going to go to the library and watch on the big TV the space shuttle, Challenger, take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Our school was courtyard style, so my fellow second graders and I all walked, jumped, hopped, skipped, and danced outside, single file, to the library on the other side of the school. Other classes sat in there with us – some of us seated at tables, some of us on the floor.

We were all so excited, watching the astronauts waving to the crowd and entering the shuttle:

Francis R. Scobee – Mission Commander

Michael J. Smith – Pilot

Ellison S. Onizuka – Mission Specialist 1

Judith A. Resnik – Mission Specialist 2

Ronald E. McNair – Mission Specialist 3

Christa McAuliffe – Payload Specialist 1

Gregory B. Jarvis – Payload Specialist 2

It makes me wonder how many millions more kids were watching in their libraries and classroom. One New York Times poll found that around half of nine to thirteen year olds watched the shuttle launch.

This was a special event for children because a New Hampshire school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, only six months to the day younger than my mom, was one of the seven astronauts. NASA TV was made available to schools to watch the launch. So more children watched the launch than adults, because CNN was the only one broadcasting the launch live. 

Although the skies looked bright grey in Alabama, the skies were spectacularly clear and cerulean at Cape Canaveral. In Alabama, we had had a low of 12 degrees Fahrenheit the night before, and Cape Canaveral had a low of 18 degrees – both unusually low temperatures for the South.

If it even approaches freezing in Florida, meteorologists will make a big deal because of the citrus crops which can be damaged by freezing temps. And because most people don’t have heavy coats here, these days meteorologists will even tell you how to dress yourself and your kids. The densest outwear you’ll see anyone wear around here is a big sweatshirt. 

So for the shuttle launch, I was sitting on brown carpeted floor, watching with everyone, the countdown to liftoff. The library erupted in cheers as Challenger’s thrusters roar to life and the shuttle lifts off, with the deep blue Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop. We were chattering with each other, clapping and smiling, but our eyes were glued on the TV.

Then, as the Challenger is rising into the sky, a minute later, I see that flash of orange under the external tank, caused by strong wind shears, coming from the right solid rocket booster. Those O-rings that I would hear so much afterward had been replaced by a temporary oxide seal, which the wind shear had shattered, causing flames to rush through the joint. Had it held together, the Challenger seven would have made it safely up to space.

That image of the orange flame and the consequent explosion was burned into my memory. Then came what I call the Mickey Mouse explosion, of the shuttle and fuel tank, with the two solid rocket boosters flying off as the ears. This is where my memory tape starts to slow down. 

I looked at the TV and I ask Ms. Stricklin, “They made it out, right?”, over and over I’m asking – to her and to myself. I’m hoping that they safely plop in the ocean and we get to see Christa McAuliffe again.

I don’t remember what she said, if anything. I only remember her standing by the TV, looking.

As I’m watching the explosion, McAuliffe’s parents, her students, and the other families of the astronauts are starting to discover what happen. Recently, I watched a video of the raw footage of the crowd. You can see the crowd slowly learning of the astronauts’ fates.

The camera focuses on McAuliffe’s parents and I can’t tell if they know yet or not. Some people were crying. People started leave the stands, with stunned looks on their faces.

We must’ve stayed there in the library for a while, hushed, whispering, waiting – or maybe I’m still waiting to see that they are OK.

Part of me never left the library. I’m still there, waiting.


I read later that some of the astronauts were able to survive the initial explosion, and I saw a picture of the crew cabin in one of the rays of smoke and fire. But they were hurtling towards the ocean at such a speed, at approximately 207 mph.

With over 200 g forces as they are decelerating, they will not survive.

And maybe eight-year-old me knew that, deep down, but just couldn’t face the magnitude of loss I had just witnessed.

The NASA lead accident investigator and astronaut Robert Overmyer said, “Scob [Dick Scobee, the shuttle commander] fought for any and every edge to survive. He flew that ship without wings all the way down….they were alive.”

And that may be true. Maybe some of the astronauts were conscious, and maybe some were not. But it was concluded that the explosion itself didn’t cause their deaths.

I could go on and on about the historic speech Reagan gave on the day he was supposed to be giving the State of the Union address; about the intensive, repetitive, possibly traumatizing, media coverage of the Challenger disaster; the many years of covering up about the O-rings in the joints of the solid rocket boosters that lead up to this tragedy; about the engineers’ ignored warnings, about how it was way too cold to fly the shuttle that day; about the many delays of the mission launch; about how, after the disaster, the shuttle program was on hiatus for almost three years; about the Rogers Commission that investigated the disaster, which included astronaut Sally Ride; about the Congressional hearings; about the redesign of the solid rocket boosters, the schools named after the Challenger and Christa McAuliffe, the tributes and memorials…

But all I can think about is Christa. Is it because I love learning so much, that her death—unlike the ones who died upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere in the Columbia in 2003, or even her fellow crew members—hurts me so?

My heart and eyes found those buried rivers of saline as I saw the footage again, which had been frozen under time and innocence. Preventable tragedies are never easy for anyone to understand, let alone children.

And she was born in the same year of my mother. Is it like my mother dying?…maybe not my mother, but a mother, or nurturer, of young minds that she helped to shape and mold in her classroom every day.

She was one of us – someone who worked really hard to become an astronaut through the Teachers in Space Project.

And she was so young, at age 37.

It could also be that I tried to stubbornly hold onto some semblance of innocence that day, hurtling into an ocean of denial, until my grown-up self could reckon with the depth of the loss.

We go back to places of injury, seeking healing and understanding. But I’m scared to read anymore analysis or watch anymore footage.

It hurts enough. I know enough.

Christa’s gone. Those seven astronauts are all gone, never to return.

There was no way to escape.

And the year I was born, those O-rings were already fated to be lethal. So much time to prevent this from happening, eight years…

And what of the other people my age now? What do they think and feel? Did they burst into tears? Were they frozen, too, like me? Does it hurt just as bad as it did on that frozen day in January?

We must be carrying this generational psychic wound together. Has it been bound and cleansed—or forgotten?

The American Journal of Psychiatry conducted a study of children who watched the Challenger explosion and concluded that a significant number of children experienced PTSD-like symptoms, even more so for the schoolchildren who watched it live and were on the East Coast compared to children on the West Coast.


Now, I live about an hour’s drive from the Space Coast and the shuttle program ended on August 31, 2011, a year before I moved down here. I have yet to go to Space Coast to see any launches made by SpaceX  or any of the heavy-lift launches.

Down here in Florida, there are license plates for the Challenger and Columbia disasters, but even people here have started to forget.

I remember in fifth grade drawing a picture of a shuttle, it may have been Discovery. I believe it was for some contest. When I was drawing it, I don’t recall remembering what happened to the Challenger. I was very excited to draw the space shuttle. So had I already forgotten, too, just three years later? 

Not too far me now is a street called Challenger, a road I have driven down many times in grad school. I never made the connection to the shuttle until years later.

When I started writing this, it was 2012. Now it’s 2019, 33 years since the disaster. Today, I watched the videos again, of the launch, the explosion, the shock and grief of the people in the VIP stands. And I got teary.

Today online, there are a lot of remembrance tweets and posts, but I wonder if over time, we’ll all stop remembering what a harrowing day it was for America and many of its children.


After the Columbia disaster in 2003, priorities began to shift to other space programs and eventually, to commercial space flight. But that remains to be fully realized by companies such as SpaceX.

But that doesn’t mean all space exploration has ceased. Even before the shuttle program’s retirement, there have been amazing space explorations occurring. There are currently over 40 space missions going on right now.

But to me, it’s not the same as sending people out into space.

The glory of the space race (which was mainly with Russia) from the 1960s through the 2000s seems to be a gilded age of time. 

Although SpaceX has had some successes and innovations with their rockets, to me it doesn’t feel the same as when the space shuttle would be launched – mainly because there were astronauts aboard.

Other countries are also exploring space. For example, this month, China landed a robot on a moon and even had a plant sprout there (but it’s already dead). There’s also a joint mission to Mercury between the EU and Japan.

The wonder of space still continues to inspire and enthrall us.

And yet.


I never really talked about this much with anyone after the Challenger exploded. I had read a version of this essay at a public reading and afterward, I spoke with classmates around my age talk about it. It was interesting to swap stories of what we could and could not remember. Some people remembered crying. Some people remembered parents coming to pick up their children or school closing earlier that day.

On another level, I can imagine it’s similar for how Millennials feel about 9/11, although the magnitude of terror is larger and yet more targeted.

Watching people die on television, in real time – and later, repeatedly on the news – is something no one should be subjected to, including and especially children. But both Gen X and Millennials have been scarred by tragedy through television. 

Knowing how traumatizing it was for me to watch 9/11 events on repeat for days, I wonder how many Gen Xers still have PTSD from the Challenger disaster. I wonder how they’re all doing now. It seems this man was able to remember a lot more than I was, and he was a year behind me in school.

How did we cope with such a brutal loss of innocence?

It’s hard to tell how traumatized I was, but the memory failure seems to be one of the symptoms – and probably, it is a merciful one. I have no idea what kind of fallout happened to me emotionally, or if it affected my grades, or if it affected anything else in my life, like my relationships to my parents or my brother or my friends.

But it’s OK that I don’t remember or recall, although I am curious about how not only I, but the rest of my classmates dealt with that day. Maybe one day 1986 will open back up for me, but for now, it remains closed.

I am grateful for what these seven brave souls did for the space program, for science, and for humankind. But I am still so devastated at the cost.

I’m sure they inspired to take an astrophysics class in college, which was much too hard for me with my depression-addled brain.

But before the class started to dig deep into the very difficult calculations of the distances between planets (which caused me to drop the class), I was able to go on the roof of our classroom building and look through a telescope and see planets like Jupiter. This planet wasn’t just bright stars in the sky. I could see the multi-colored bands of gaseous clouds which swirled on Jupiter.

It’s still one of the best moments of my life.

Eventually, there will be human travel to space again (besides the trips to the International Space Station), and hopefully the management issues which caused the failures with the Challenger and Columbia have been addressed and resolved.

And when that next space mission happens, I wonder if I’ll be able to be excited…or will some dormant fears will be reactivated. I’m not sure.

But I do look forward to when the U.S. – whether it’s through NASA or some commercial entity – is able to try again and is successful.

And I hope that all who have suffered from that day, the families of the astronauts, the schoolchildren of McAuliffe, the schoolchildren and adults who all watched with me – I hope we can all find healing and peace.


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some lessons learned

truth

Well, it’s been a minute since I was here.

I was really busy with work and now I’m back in an ebb state. Such is the name of the game of being my own business.

There are a few things that have come to mind in the past couple of days that I’ll just list out, because it’s hard to tie them all together (maybe I need more coffee–working on that!)

Poverty is isolating and terrorizing. And so much of this blog is just me reacting to poverty. And, I won’t be ashamed of that any longer. Meanwhile, white men can make oodles of money off of the poverty narrative. This thread is full of how poverty can really fuck with your head and your overall well-being. I couldn’t read too much of it because I related too much. But at the same time, I’m comforted that I’m not alone in these feelings. 

Companies really don’t care about you. I know that and that’s one of the reasons why I dug Fight Club so much (toxic masculinity aside). It really got to that Gen X core of life being more than things and possessions.

This week, there were massive layoffs at digital publishers BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, as well as at publishing conglomerate Gannett and whatever the fuck Verizon Media Group is (formerly Oath, including Yahoo and AOL).

About 1,000 media folks lost their jobs with more to come since BuzzFeed couldn’t get their shit together and stave off the rumors of layoffs. So now, there are people who are having some shitty weekends while waiting for news. BuzzFeed is probably preparing for a merger with another group call Group Nine, which specializes in…wait for it…video. 

I just had something similar happen to me last night, as if the Universe wanted me to embody this fact. I was expecting the cut, but couldn’t really put my finger on why. Thursday night, I could barely sleep because I felt I had already lost it.

Prophetic intuition can sometimes come as a form of fear.

The only other time I’ve felt like that about a job was almost 20 years ago. I was freaking out about getting laid off at a crooked personal injury law firm. My colleagues thought I was being paranoid, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. I learned later that the powers that be couldn’t find me on Friday to do let me go. So I was let go on Monday.

Sidenote: I really have to start honoring my intuition and not doubting myself.

So today, I feel…free and happy. I am repeatedly repelling any shame or resentment. I don’t have to do work I hate like that anymore!

I’m constantly shutting down the typical internal conversation of what went wrong, of what could have been done better, of why this is happening now, of the shitty email that was sent. All those thoughts are unhelpful when acceptance of this new reality makes it so much easier to move on.

I did the work because I needed the money–that’s all. In one Facebook group I’m in, a colleague had posted that they had also gotten this work but decided it was too much and wondered how to get it. And they were right, it was too much. But, it kept me afloat for three months, and I’m really grateful for that.

But this month was incredibly hard for some reason. Part of it was allergies (the pollen count is high right now down in Central Florida). Part of it was doing other work. But maybe my heart had finally checked out of the work I was doing. But I felt like such a snob.

I kept having this conversation with myself about how I needed to be grateful and honor this work. I know I can be elitist because of my background of being a doctor’s daughter, of going to an elite university, of having a master’s degree.

America can make you feel so entitled to things you should have, and I don’t mean basic needs (America does the opposite of that with the basics). I should be further along in my life. Why am I doing this terrible survival work?

But I needed to pay some bills and without a car, this was what was in front of me. So I did it.

Yet the nagging feeling, that I was just felt like some replaceable cog in a wheel, lining someone else’s pockets, only grew and made me feel terrible. I never felt any real connection to this group. It doesn’t seem like they can hold quality people, but they don’t really provide that much support. I only was spoken to when I was wrong.

And I wonder if all these veteran journalists, editors, producers, videographers, etc. now feel the same way, like a replaceable cog in a wheel. They were doing a lot more important work than creating content for who I imagine are bored retirees. But with all those layoffs, 1,000 people could form their own newsroom right now, and a really good one.

So, to sum it all up:

You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Capitalism is a dehumanizing affair, and it doesn’t belong in journalism–or in most places. And if corporations are people, then they lack a lot of empathy (as do most people, sadly).

Despite life being full of suffering, we must find joy in life. So the season finale of The Good Place, the only American sitcom that I can stand, was on Thursday night. And the ending made me cry because of all of the shitty things that happened last year in particular. If you haven’t watched it and you’re a fan of the show, go watch it and then come back.

Eleanor asks Janet, the all-knowing android, what the meaning of life is, if it’s just full of pain. Janet responds that if she told her, then life would just be some stupid machine. Life would lose its mystery. Since life doesn’t really make much sense, when we find someone or something that does make sense, it’s miraculous. And it’s those glimmers of happiness that we should strive for as we embrace the suck of being human.

I remember saying this to a friend in an email a couple of months ago because I had heard this same message in a podcast about leaving evangelical Christianity. Life is suffering, so when there are moments when we’re not suffering, we should savor them.

Those insights made me cherish the people I had in my life. It made me feel lucky and fortunate, not abandoned and alone.

It’s funny, when I left social media for the holidays and Marie Kondo’s Netflix show came on, I came back to so much xenophobic snark about the concept of what sparks joy for someone.

Clearly, Americans don’t even understand this concept, and a few people have said as much–specifically that we’ve been trained to believe that things bring us joy. So when our houses are full of shit we don’t even use, Kondo’s gentle suggestions about how to store and sort through what you need and don’t need felt like indictments.

So joy…is not happiness or exuberance or giddiness. It’s deeper than that. For me, it has to do with connecting to your life purpose and your essence, the things that make you really you. Deep satisfaction with who you are and the life you have.

And yeah, sometimes it’s hard to find that when your basic needs aren’t being met and you’re treated like some object that has lost its use. But after last night, I felt a new sense of determination to find real joy, even in the midst of loss. I can’t wait for the perfect client, place, friends, relationships or time.

And the time is now. It is always now.

So what’s deeply resonating for me and who I am is working with people who honor my time, talents, and efforts. I want to be with people who are thoughtful and kind. I want to live in a place where my life matters and where I can be useful. 

None of that is happening right now, and honestly, I know that’s a lot to ask for from humanity. But I must commit that I will die trying to find it. There’s no other option besides just giving up completely and dying. My life has to align to these values or I will wither inside.

And, that’s a process. I sometimes think at the end of writing something, whatever lessons I’ve learned from the process of writing will somehow just be permanently imprinted. 

But then life happens, loss happens. Something doesn’t go my way. I screw something up. Taking it so personally is suffering. And I don’t need to suffer any more than I already do.

Anyway, this blog is, in essence, me trying to remember what life for me really is about. And it takes a lot of keystrokes and conversations to remember and to keep remembering that I am not even the poverty I live in nor the people I don’t have in my life.

I am so much more, and I find it hard to find the right words to say what that exactly is besides the word “me.”

Not knowing isn’t a bug—it’s a feature. So now that I don’t have this soul-crushing client anymore, I feel more space opening up. All the people, places, and things that left, that didn’t work out, that I messed up–now there’s space to explore what I do want. 

Until maybe this morning, I really was exhausted by the question, “So now what?” I don’t know, and that’s not a problem. It’s how life is.

I know there are a lot of obstacles in my way towards being what I deem to be a financially stable, well-loved person, and they’re ones I don’t really think about.

But then I think about how so many people have stable lives because of their race or gender or good looks or wealth–very arbitrary, meaningless things. Despite the meaningless, immoral riches of billionaires who decide the fate of people they don’t even care about, despite all the noxious -isms that are on my back and blocking my path, I still have to try to figure this life stuff out for me.

It’s tough because it’s been a very lonely road and the further along I walk, the less people walk with me. That’s also by design, it seems, and something I’ll get into in another post. 

But I don’t necessarily know where I’m headed. For example, right now, it’s a brisk 57 degrees outside, and where I was thinking I’d be living now has wind chills in the negative 50s.

I was telling my writing accountability partner this week that I hate fumbling around to figure things out (she hates it, too). That’s what I’ve been doing since I left grad school. Going on five years of fumbling.

Doors open and close without warning. People appear and disappear. We grow older and hopefully wiser. And that’s (part of) life.

And I know that wherever I’m trying to get to, as soon as I “arrive”, another journey of fumbling will begin. My hope is that it won’t be as hard as living with an inconsistent income and that better people stick around for that journey.

So in between here and there, it’s just more reminders to myself to hang in there, to see the good, to find the silver linings when I can, and to be kind to myself when it’s too painful to smile or see anything redemptive of a FUBAR situation.

I can finally see how my resilience is a blessing. I can see how I’m rebounding more quickly from failures and setbacks. I’m already starting to forget what happened last night and soon, I’ll even start seeking failure and rejection out as learning experiences and ways to move forward. That takes some inner strength and wholeness that I haven’t really had before, but it’s being developed.

My hope for you is that you journey well and have the best traveling companions, that you don’t grow weary when you journey alone or come upon obstacles, and that you become stronger and more whole with each step you take.

Godspeed.


If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. I blog about things that I don’t post here.

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal. Also, here’s my Amazon Wishlist.

Thanks for your support! 💘

45 days past

times som

So over six weeks ago, I took a long break from social media. I was really busy with work and needed to focus on it. But also, I wanted to avoid all the holiday hubbub that had absolutely nothing to do with me, even with a Christmas birthday.

Bah humbug, basically. It does make me wonder if Scrooge was a Capricorn.

Ultimately, this has been something I’ve been wrestling with for years–what is social media’s use to me, besides making me feel like I’m not enough and too much?

I’ve reckoned with the looming fact that as much as I have been online for my entire adult life, I don’t really understand social media anymore. And maybe I never did.

It makes me feel competitive and jealous over appeared differences, and that makes me feel ill–mainly the humblebrag that isn’t humble, just bragging. I imagine if I was in a face-to-face conversation with someone, telling me about great their life is…well, no one wants to hang with that person, and very rarely do people talk like that. But on social media, it’s totally OK!

Recently, I was reading posts like this on Instagram and Facebook and it made me punchy. It’s not that I begrudge anyone of their successes, nor their celebration of them–even if for me, 2018’s only true success was that I SURVIVED. It’s just…I don’t know how this discourse became so braggadocious.

And maybe posts like that inspires or heartens others. And sure, I’m definitely in a place in my life that could use some inspiration and uplift. But somehow, when it’s said on social media, it doesn’t feel inclusive. It feels very impersonal, and like we’re competing for some unattainable prize of most awesome.

If you have even one modicum of dissatisfaction in your life, social media will exploit it. 


Anyway, it’s nothing new, right? We’ve all felt less than after reading someone’s post about how fucking amazing their lives are. And then the winter holidays make those albeit natural but very weighty feelings even more heavy. I felt both like Scrooge and Tiny Tim at the same time, even before Thanksgiving.

So, I mercifully logged off, because no one needs to feel even more alone during the holidays while watching people celebrate with friends and family (as they edit out all the tough conversations and heartache and grief), and you are a party of one–which there should be no shame in. 

So while I was away, I finally decided not to be ashamed of my life, which goes beyond the holidays. It’s not easy to not compare your life to someone else’s when you’re online, even when you know that so much of this fake or at least not the whole story. So logging off solved that. It may be something I do every year, no matter how awesome or awful my life is, because it really fucks with your head and your sense of worth, even if everything is OK.

What if life could be better? Why aren’t you having people around that love you? Why aren’t you financially successful? Why are you hashtag blessed? 

Well, the messy and complicated answer to these almost ridiculous questions is–well, there are a lot of reasons–many of them you can’t control, and some of them you will never be able to ascertain or perceive. 

I believe, I hope, I filled all those heart-holes that social media is always trying to widen and fill with resentment. It’s probably going to be a process because part of me is like, whoa, how did I get here? I used to not give a flying fuck about this stuff. And in that way, social media isn’t necessary the root of that problem. That’s just my life sucking. 

But here’s the difference for me–I remember back in the 90s turning to social media when my life was sucking. I found a lot of amazing people to be friends with. There was no competition or bragging or curating or branding or selling. It was just people talking about each other’s lives.

So back then, social media was a savior and a beacon during a long bout of clinical depression. But now, social media has become completely the opposite. And I’m not even talking about harassment. That’s a whole separate topic, which thankfully, for now, I have rarely experienced. 

Whatever deeper connections I was looking for online, like I found in my youth, I don’t really believe they are there like that…anymore, like ripened fruit dropping from trees. Now, I tend to just luck upon them, and even then they don’t last very long.


So one of the biggest things I’ve had to come to peace with is the age that I live in now. It’s not the 90s or the 20th century anymore. We are well within this millennium and century and decade, and for me, it’s too impersonal and transactional for me.

Also, there’s a generational shift. I’m not millennial enough to get this social landscape anymore (although it’s arguable that some Gen Xers created this mess we’re). And although there are probably plenty of Gen Xers killing this game…well, that’s the thing. This has never been some game for me. If social media is just a popularity contest, then I will always lose. I’m fine with that since I understand that is a game. In 1997, it was just me talking to people about stuff. Now it’s commerce and buying fake followers and YouTube views. 

This has been the longest time I haven’t been on social media, and I finally feel like I fell out of step with the emotional tone of this…place. For example, I was lurking a couple of days ago, seeing people I know and love rage-tweet about something that just didn’t seem to be worth the energy. If I had been on there all the time, I may have been more into this, but it just seemed almost like a privilege to sit around and bitch. I could be wrong about the topic, which I will not mention, but it was something that wouldn’t really directly affect me. 

And maybe that’s something I should digger deeper in, too. Maybe I get caught up in rage storms just because I’m there, like I’m a piece of driftwood. It’s not like what matters to me is rage tweeted by others, either.

That speaks to the cult of personality that I have never been into or never will be. My personality doesn’t really invoke a following, but that’s how you make it in the world today–which, whatever, I’m opting out.

So I suck at this, hardcore. And yet, I didn’t used to. The landscape has changed. And I’m tired of being frustrated about it because that’s what social media now is designed to do. It’s like one long commercial provoking you to hate yourself and other people. It feels dirty and gross.

I mean, clearly–it’s not the only way social media works. At least one of you reading this right now found me through social media. So I’m not completely terrible at it. But in a numbers game? After 10 years, there should be more to show for it. Allegedly. And I don’t even need to invoke quantity vs. quality here. Twitter, for example, is a very transient place. Lots of people I knew who were on more regularly have gone.

Still, being myself, being “authentic” doesn’t work in the way I’ve “marketed” myself as a brand. What “value” am I adding? Who the fuck knows?

All those truisms work for some people, but not everyone. Yet everyone gets on this mindless treadmill to get to this unreachable place of popularity because that’s what all those stupid likes and retweets force us to do to be allegedly relevant.

To that end, if you haven’t watched the holiday special Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas on Netflix, you should (here’s a review from io9). 


My “game” has always been to connect and I saw the internet as a way to connect to people I otherwise wouldn’t AND as a way to keep in touch with people I rarely saw. But, at least on a metric level, I just can’t do this here. I can barely stand that it’s OK to tweet to someone and not reply–and this person can be your friend. I still find that to be rude because there’s no way that would fly offline (although it’s happened to me offline, too). Yet somehow, if we’re online, it’s OK to (pretend to) be distracted.

It makes me just ask: so…why are you actually here? 

It’s not to say that I still don’t have some good people in my life from the internet. And the internet IS IRL. More and more, our lives are being reliant to being online. I couldn’t work without the internet. But it’s more that my offline life isn’t being augmented by my online life–like it used to be.

So maybe if I made connecting offline more of a priority in all ways, I can find what I used to find back in the happy, shiny 90s. Even connecting with myself more these past six weeks has been great, dare I say a necessity. I loved this story from over the holidays where this woman logged off for a week and tried to read 30 books in this time. She read 12, but good for her.

And, while I was away, I’d be remiss to not mention all the ridiculous news re: Facebook and how it handed our data on a silver platter to companies. Social media is a gotdamn shitshow.

Oh, one last rant about online life and then I’ll update you on my offline activities–people suck at email. For example, I’ve been trying to write a few stories and talk to my sources. I know it’s still kind of the holidays but seriously?! Maybe I should have taken off some more time.

I really don’t feel like I was made for these times. Maybe I was born too late, but that would make me an insufferable Baby Boomer. Ugh.


Anyway, so I’m back online now. And I feel like I’ve changed a lot, which I will write about later. It could be coincidental to having lived a life where I wasn’t curating my thoughts online, but I doubt it.

Here’s the running list of things I had to say while I was away:

  1. The Pet Shop Boys are perfection. I believe I started listening to them in earnest because I was listening to a lot of Robbie Williams, whom I also love and adore. He did a cover of their cover of “We’re the Pet Shop Boys” so I was intrigued. I listened to their whole discography and pretty much liked everything. It was great to listen to while I worked, but then I would get distracted. I really want this book by Neil Tennant One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem which is on my Christmas Birthday Wishlist if you want to get it for me. *wink wink*
  2. Australians have given us a lot of slang. The word “selfie” is an Aussie word. I learned that from this side work I did which took up a lot of the time while I was away from social media.
  3. Motown really is amazing. Another thing I learned from my sidework. I watched In the Shadow of Motown later and learned about the greatest bassist who ever lived, James Jamerson. I wrote about that for my patrons on Patreon if you want to read it. 
  4. I’m from Alabama and had no idea that Muscle Shoals was a thing at all. I watched the music doc Muscle Shoals and had no idea that Helen Keller, Sam Phillips, and W.C. Handy were from there. I also had no idea about the music studios and producers that helped to create iconic albums from the 60s and 70s. I honestly thought it was in southern Alabama, too, not northern Alabama. I once had a friend who lived in Florence, which is a part of that area. So basically, I had no idea where she lived.
  5. I listened to the top 2018 songs on Spotify and it all sounds the same. I decided on New Year’s Eve to listen to Spotify’s playlist and it was just variations of The Hamsterdance Song. I really wasn’t missing out on much except maybe the Black Panther soundtrack. My ears bled otherwise.
  6. OMG, the Chicago Bears are doing well! WTF? I really missed Twitter when the Bears were playing. They freaking beat the Green Bay Packers. And then I watched them play the Minnesota Vikings and win. I cannot believe we’re headed to the playoffs!
  7. The is macabre, but the Catherine wheel should have been one of those times God flood the earth again. I was listening to a Crowded House album, one of the deluxe versions with outtakes and demos, and they had some lovely song about the Catherine wheel, which I never knew what it was. I knew it was some 90s band that I never listened. It was a medieval torture and killing device which I still don’t even understand because it was so ghastly. I’m not even going to write about it, but man–Europeans have some fucking issues, and that is putting it mildly. That would have been an epic tweetstorm, but alas, I was offline. 

Anyway, that’s just a few of the things I almost wish I was online to talk about.


I tend to want to come to complete answers and solutions quickly, but my relationship with social media is more of an ongoing conversation. The conversation has changed over the past decade. So while I was offline, I mourned that this virtual place has become a place of longing and not lasting connection. It’s an early adopter issue, for sure.

So basically, I don’t know how to be a healthy, connected human on here like I’m used to. I can only do that by being on here less. I put way too much of my heart and emotions into something that has given my diminishing returns. That insanity ended last year. 

I just can’t take this place as seriously anymore, even though there are clearly serious ramifications from being online.

So when it comes to disseminating my own thoughts and feelings about anything online, I realized I was mainly speaking in a cold, dark room with very little light. Or, like a few years ago in grad school through a Facebook and blogging mishap, I was speaking to people who were insecure (just like I was). So at the very least, I’ll speak to people who want to listen.

If social media had helped me with my immediate needs, with poverty and loneliness, I’d be a lot more grateful. But really, a big lesson from this sabbatical was that I had to learn to deal with this stuff myself–at least this time, that’s what was required. And I’m really proud that I dug myself out of this hole. I feel less anxious, abandoned, and ashamed. I feel more like myself, more expansive, more like a real person with real emotional needs.

Social media isn’t really about my relationship to the rest of the world or American society, though–it just pretends to be that conduit. Yet it can be a very powerful distortion that unfortunately starts to affect society and the people in it. The past few weeks, I had to remind myself I had more control of how I feel and how I communicate with others–if at all.

This isn’t a zero-sum game. And it’s not even a game I have to play at all.

So my hope is that my life will look a lot more like it was in the early aughts than it does now–more balanced, more with people I love and who love me, and less concerned about people I may never meet offline.

This may be real life, being online, but it doesn’t have to be my whole life any longer.


If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. I blog about things that I don’t post here.

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal. Also if you’re feeling generous this holiday season, here’s my Amazon Wishlist.

Thanks for your support! Happy Holidays! 💘

The End

RWS_Tarot_21_World SOM

Today, my tarot card of the day was The World. For you tarot readers and aficionados, you know how fitting it is to have the last card in the Major Arcana at the end of the year. I believe it’s a great sign for me. If you’re not into tarot, it is a card that marks endings and completion.

There are a few ways of viewing this, so I’ll just make this post a reading of sorts.

A Welcomed End

The first thing I thought when I saw this card was that the troubles and challenges that I’ve faced this year are complete. This year was very chaotic for me, but I feel like I squeezed as much knowledge and wisdom and healing and growth as I could. 

As we look at the world, with all the upheaval, strife, the disasters both human-made and natural, there’s still a lot of hard and terrible things that we’re dealing with both individually and collectively.

New challenges are always arising, but I’ve found that being forever a student about life is one way to make sure that you can remain flexible. You can learn how to drop old coping mechanisms that you used in your youth and find better ways to cope and deal.

There are a lot of things I’m still seeking out in the world. But within myself, I am whole and complete–and so are you. That’s what The World card reminds us.

And although we’re all whole and complete by ourselves, we do need each other to unearth all the treasures that we have. We need others to support us on this journey of becoming (or rediscovering) who we are.

An Unwelcome End

It’s strange, too–I’m a little sad that this year is ending the way it is because I feel like I’m in the middle an ellipsis, or like I’m the bouncing ellipsis you see when someone is writing a Twitter DM or text back to you. My “moment of triumph” is still being written–and that’s a good thing. The World card also says to me that it’s not even necessary to put an exclamation point when only a period is necessary.

It’s done. Period. 

But back to The End…this year sucked a lot, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Even though there are challenges we’ll carry into the New Year, it doesn’t mean that you have to continue to carry the emotional baggage that came with those struggles.

Granted, healing from trauma usually begins when the painful events ends.

For example, it took me many years to emotionally heal from having to take eight years to get through college and how that long circuitous journey of stops and start was one I couldn’t really control. That period of waiting and attending and betrayal and exile and return took up most of my 20s.

The bleeding may have ended when I graduated at age 26, but the pain was still there and I still have a scar. Now I could really deal with the trauma because I had stopped fighting. The war was over and won, but I was still wounded on the inside. 

I had to work through (and sometimes still work through) the shame and disappointment of not being able to graduate with my classmates. Besides the career detours and blocks (which apparently is why I’m a writer and not a doctor (and I don’t regret the path I am now now, by the way)), I lost practically all of those relationships, and part of me will still grieve not having close friends from college anymore.

The expectations of having college being life-changing were met in ways I didn’t really welcome.

Sometimes, things end prematurely–a marriage, a beloved job, a loved one dying. So sometimes, The World card isn’t a welcome sight.

Another Ending, Another Beginning

But things end and start again all the time. If I hadn’t gone through the premature ending of leaving college after my junior year, I would have never met the lovely soul that I was my first boyfriend.

When I was looking at the card, I thought it was an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail. But whatever that is, there’s the representation of a circle, a cycle of life, beginning and ending and beginning again.

Life is always in flux and is cyclical (Sing it, Elton).

Things may be over and complete, but then there’s always a new journey to embark on–one of healing and personal restoration.

So if you’ve have experienced trauma and harm this year, I hope that these events have ended and the healing journey begins, even now. 

Goodbye to another shitastic year

I believe this is a custom to clean a house either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. It’s not one I grew up with. So symbolically, I cleaned the common areas of the house today.

I mainly focused on the refrigerator and freezer. I cleaned the dusty top, the oil-splattered side, and the filthy interior.

I took out all my food and all the shelves and drawers and cleaned. I am going to be right sore tomorrow–so help me (please), naproxen!

Proud and petty sidenote: I left the shut-in’s door section unclean because that lazy ass fucker doesn’t do anything except take the trash to the roadside when it’s his month. 😏😒 Also, there’s this cream cheese that has been on his shelf that’s been expired for months. 🤢

Anyway, I wanted to be rid of that racist shithole’s energy, Sir Coughs-A-Lot (the renter before the racist lunatic) energy, and even the Russian kid’s energy. Be gone, be gone, be gone!

I also wanted to literally wash away this year. I don’t really have enough cleaning agents for that, but it felt good to take out my frustration, sorrow, disappointment, and shame on a fridge and a house and have it turn into something orderly, clean, and beautiful. The house now has the light scent of lavender–which I hope will usher in even more peace and calm to this place.

The Peace Within and Without

But lavender aside–it’s a peace and calm that started from within–a very hard fought peace in a time of conflict. I mean, sure there was some meditation involved, but a lot of it was making sure that insane in the membrane shitbag hit the bricks and left this house.

The cool thing to me is that preserving the peace within usually will spill without, into other areas of your life, into other people’s lives. It’s difficult and almost impossible to do in our times, but it’s difficult and almost impossible to not pursue inner peace–however you can healthily achieve it… 

 

So. I don’t know what you need 2019 to be for you or what 2018 has been like for you. 

Maybe you don’t feel whole and complete. Maybe you feel like this whole year has been The Tower. Maybe you’ve had a string of years that look like The Tower or Five of Cups. I know what it’s like. I know what it feels like to be proverbially falling out of a burning building, or to have some cups of precious things spilled–and to mourn all of it.

Whatever you’re hoping the New Year brings, even if it’s just relief that it’s not 2018 anymore, I hope that you can find and usher in peace within–the kind of peace that brings personal and collective clarity in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile world.

And, I hope that we will be that kind of peace for each other.

HNY.🥂


If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. I blog about things that I don’t post here.

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal. Also if you’re feeling generous this holiday season, here’s my Amazon Wishlist.

Thanks for your support! Happy Holidays! 💘