a writer’s back

love yourself

Working from home, from my bed, I do not have the best posture.  The bed I sleep on is not my own, and it’s hard to sleep on. I sleep on all sides of my body throughout the night, and recently, my left shoulder started to hurt again after many years of being healthy and whole, after tons of physical therapy.

My shoulder was just aching and throbbing, even with meds. Then it started with my right shoulder. It wasn’t just the pain; it was how I was holding myself: stooped forward, my left shoulder pushing forward. Not a good look.

Because this pain wasn’t really going away on its own, I decided to get a massage, just at a chain place near my house. I wasn’t seeing this as a treat. It was necessary. I was in pain, distracting pain, and I need to start healing my shoulders and god knows what else.

The last time I had a massage was on my 35th birthday, on a beach in Key West in a little hut, a dream realized. It was so relaxing and felt luxurious, but it was not therapeutic.

Even further back, maybe another 5 years, I got a free massage after I was done with physical therapy for my knee. Again, relaxing, but not therapeutic.

Even further back than that, probably another 5 years, I got free chair massages from a massage therapist who came to give massages for our employees. That’s where I also learned that masseuse was a passe term and that I should the proper term massage therapist. I also learned how knotty my shoulders could be.

All those other times, I had been carrying a lot of weight with heavy bags and purses. Also, like a lot of people I’m sure that I carry tension in my shoulders. Now I don’t do much of that except sit in bed and write. I knew my back would also be a mess, after hours of bending over at my computer.

I arrive at the massage place (shop? facility?) and was there 30 minute early (that never happens). It’s a benign, bright place of wood and gleaming white surfaces, located in a glorified strip mall. I wasn’t expecting to be seen quickly, but I filled out my health history on an iPad and as I was done, my massage therapist walks through the door.

 

Good handshake, good energy, big blue eyes (oh hey, he’s kinda cute). Also, I just feel so weird and vulnerable. It’s been so long…

Also, to add to all of this, I’m on the rag. Ugh.

After passing this dark brown waiting room that was in stark contrast to the light and bright waiting area out by the front desk, we walk down this dark brown hall of many doors and we go into the room.

This guy is very…quiet. Of course, this is a quiet place–it has to be. But can I imagine him jumping up and down cheering his favorite basketball team? Or yelling at a rock concert? And then those eyes are just taking so much in…it’s like his whole being is doing that, in a quiet way. Maybe his inner serenity is just so easily coming out…at the glorified strip mall.

It doesn’t scare me, though, even though I may be writing like this. It’s not creepy. It’s just subtly intense, the attention. Maybe I’m realizing that he’s good at being present while I tend to live in my head all the time. It’s a bit like someone opening the car door while I’m driving.

I’m also going to be present with this dude for 90 minutes, and it’s just going to be about me. The last time that happened, I was in therapy. Last summer. That isn’t happening often at all anymore.

We’re both standing, and it feels so awkward. Why am I standing? Should I be sitting down? I talk about my injuries. My whole left side, from shoulder to ankle, is basically jacked up that’s what I wanted him to focus on.

He leaves so I can change down to my granny black period underwear. I get on the table face down, under the sheet and blanket. The room is Florida cool, a little too cool. Soon afterward, I hear a soft knock on the door. I tell him to come in, my voice muffled by the headrest of the table.

At first, he starts with the sheet over me. I believe he’s using the heel of his hand and just starts compressing my back, straight down.

I’m frantically thinking, “Dude, is this some chaste version of massage? I came for hands all over me, not this youth group version of a massage.”

It was just a technique, and it didn’t last long.

My mind was even more active that it would be during meditation. I had to internally tell myself to shut up a few times. But the thoughts weren’t necessarily that bad.

As he started tending to (maybe more like deconstructing) my back, I wondered when was the last time someone had affectionately touched me. It had been probably over two months, back when I went to D.C. and that saddened me. It saddens me still. And this massage didn’t count.

As someone who lives in her mind more than anywhere else, it can get really frustrating when trying to live in a physical world. “The life of the mind” is the tagline of my alma mater–boy, do they have me pegged. Yet I can see now, too, the massage gave me time to reflect, so all those thoughts zipping out were also a part of the release. Mainly the thoughts were about deserving to be worshiped, needing this to happen more often so I’m not having so many back issues in the future, feeling good, feeling sad that it’s been so long, and other thoughts I’ll keep to myself. 😈

So many knots. He went after it and I didn’t complain once. I barely spoke to him. I’m sure he used his elbow on my back many times. It was so strange to hear the friction of skin on skin. I could hear his arm hair over my back. All of these sounds are soft, even in this quiet room playing some soft New Agey music.

One time, I heard the loud clatter of rain pound on the roof and cursed that I didn’t bring an umbrella. I was glad I didn’t chat him up–I usually try to have small talk with folks, even though I don’t generally like to do it. It’s usually important, to have some point of connection. But basically, we already had that.

Another time I spoke, it was because he had moved to my arms and I had my watch on, which had been buzzing with a gazillion alerts. I wish I had turned the DND on. Embarrassing.

Here’s a funny unexpected thing that happened: to deal with my shoulder, he had to go through my armpit, many times. It was a little bit stubbly. In all my time with massage and physical therapy, I have never had anyone work through my armpits before. 😂

So all my limbs got a rubdown, with my back, shoulders, and neck getting the most attention. There is something humbling for me to get my hands and feet massaged, like really thoroughly. It definitely felt luxurious, but then I felt him tending to my right forearm and I was taken aback at how junky it was in there. 😫 It’s sore right now.

So after getting the most thorough massage of my life, which I didn’t want to end, he asked how I was feeling. Dammit, it’s over. I told him rather sheepishly and almost with embarrassment that I felt good.  It’s weird to be on your back half naked with a sheet around you and answering that question.

He left so I could get dressed. He came back and brought me a glass of water and I asked him how often should I come back. He said at least once a month. Right now, I can afford it, and I can’t afford to be in pain as I was before. My shoulders are now pain-free and I like to keep them that way.

It was funny, we’re in the hallway and I had no idea how busy it was, but it was probably because it was at the top of the hour. People kept excusing themselves as they passed us by, but we didn’t decide to go back in the room. He told me I needed to stretch more, which I actually did right after I had put my clothes on. I have an app for this, and if I can’t exercise in this heat or at a gym, stretching is the least I can do.

I signed up for a monthly plan and I’ll go back right before I have this retreat in St. Pete that week. I tweeted later that I was going to marry him. I felt really invigorated instead of relaxed. But that was about it, right then anyway.

I went to Target and picked up a few things. Even that ride back was interesting. Long story short: the lady who picked me up had just been sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver, so we talked about accidents, car insurance, injuries, work, wages, housing, racial discrimination. She gave me a tip for the neighborhood that I want to live in. I may need to take a little excursion out there soon.

But back to that tweet about marrying my massage therapist, though–that’s usually how I am, but I haven’t been in a long, long time. Effusive, bubbly, silly, goofy, a little surly and flirty. Comically hyperbolic. I have only begun to rediscover her as new friends enter my life. My life is a little more stable now, so that could also be a part of it. For once, I feel like I’m not nearly as defined by all my losses.

And then, even deeper: I had read a tweet about a particularly watery astrological transit that I had been backstroking in, and then I realized that yesterday was the anniversary of the best/worst date I had been on, and how it had hurt me so deeply while leaving me wanting this dude who literally abandoned me in the dark. This was all at the beach, too.

What I realized was that I was healed from that humiliating experience. Sometimes, things are so traumatic and awful, you don’t have time to process it all. I never got to mad with that guy–just wondering how someone so seemingly great could be such a dick and just leave. Me.

But the real news is that this wound has closed and healed. The scar is fading. My self-worth is in no way tied to that mysterious, rude disappearance.

The body remembers and stores these old stories, both the painful and the pleasurable. It’s possible that the massage helped me realize that this particular excruciating story of loss and rejection didn’t need to be reviewed anymore. It didn’t even need to be re-written. I could put the story back on the shelf.

Body work is important for physical health reasons. I’m also more aware of my body now. It’s interesting how having someone work on it, especially while you’re in a vulnerable state, makes you hyperaware of everything, of everything outside of  your interior world. That massage probably has opened me up in ways that I have yet to discover and in ways that I didn’t know I needed, like realizing that I was (already!) healed from a traumatic experience.

Afterward, I was thinking I’d feel like rubber, like really relaxed. Instead, I felt more confident and open. I felt taken care of. I felt deserving. Not even being melodramatic here: I felt like I had a reason to live. It had been way too long that I hadn’t felt that good.

But I didn’t want to show it. While I was getting a massage, I was trying to have a poker face, no matter what was going on in my head. I didn’t want to break out in a shit-eating grin or that something felt uncomfortable or whatever was speeding and careening through my mind at that point. Maybe I see sharing my emotions as a sign of intimacy…

Yet one thing I’ve been noticing since Thursday is how my emotions have been more intense and more earnest–like not covered in shame or embarrassment. Unadorned. Raw. Powerful. I’m trying to think of a specific example right now. I just feel like some masks and costumes that I was wearing fell off during that session.

This massage wasn’t a treat. This was mandatory for my well-being as a human being, especially since I haven’t formed the in-person friendships and relationships that I am still seeking and calling in. It literally puts me in touch with another person, and that’s a big deal to me. I pray the Universe continues to provide so that I can continue to go…

The power of human touch is really underestimated–especially in my life. I’m very much into and live for some good hugs, but I am not typically a huggy/affectionate person.

So I am torn. There’s this moat of uncomfortability with my own vulnerability. I must create a drawbridge to cross over the moat so I can get to and receive the care that I need. Getting a massage once a month can be one way to start walking over the bridge.

the astrology of my family

family

The other day, a friend of mine called me an astrologer. I definitely don’t feel like one. I don’t feel like I know enough, especially compared to the astrologers I know, and of them, especially the ones who have been  certified through organizations like the International Society of Astrological Research. I have helped people understand their own natal charts and the natal charts of their children, but I like having some cred.

Whatever I am, an astrologer or just a very curious person, I thought I’d take a deep dive into astrology in this post. My website name is an astrological aspect (sun opposition moon, which means that there was a full moon at the time of my birth). I keep talking about sun signs (aka the sign you look up for your horoscope) in my posts as well. I’ve been in a horribly didactic mood lately, so I might as well go all in and talk about how astrology can help you understand your family.

Today is my brother’s birthday (June 28th). He’s two and a half years younger than me and is also a full moon baby (Cancer sun, Capricorn moon). I don’t know his birth time because I really just started getting into this and my mom is quite evangelical and thinks astrology is ridiculous. So I’m not asking her.

Let’s start with my planets first.

My planets

Sun: Capricorn

Moon: Cancer

Ascendant (or Rising): Capricorn

Mercury: Sagittarius (retrograde)

Venus:  Sagittarius

Mars: Leo (retrograde)

Jupiter: Cancer (retrograde)

Saturn: Virgo (retrograde)

My generational planets are Uranus in Scorpio, Neptune in Sagittarius, and Pluto in Libra. There’s some interesting things to talk about with both Uranus, as it transits to Taurus next year (it is opposite Scorpio), and Pluto, which is squaring, or at a 90 degree angle with the current transit of Pluto in Capricorn. It’s hard to say what is going on for us Gen Xers as Pluto is going through Capricorn. But I will definitely write about how Pluto in Capricorn is affecting me, doubly, in another post.

A few pointers:

  • Your ascendant or rising sign is the zodiac sign that was rising on the eastern horizon at the time you were born.
  • If you have a rising sign that is the same as your sun sign, you were probably born early in the morning (and I was).
  • Every sign has some element to it:
    • Fire: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
    • Earth: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
    • Air: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
    • Water: Cancer, Scorpio Pisces
  • Every sign also has another kind of quality called a quadruplicity–basically, how a sign functions within a season:
    • Cardinal: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn–they start off seasons
    • Fixed: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius–they keep the season going
    • Mutable: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces–they close out the seasons
  • Every zodiac sign has a luminary or planet ruling it (I use the old school rulers).
    • Sun rules Leo
    • Moon rules Cancer
    • Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo
    • Venus rules Taurus and Libra
    • Mars rules Aries and Scorpio (Pluto is the modern ruler of Scorpio)
    • Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces (Neptune is the modern ruler of Pisces)
    • Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius (Uranus is the modern ruler of Aquarius)

Still with me? All these groupings will impact personality and actions. You start combining these natal planets and put them into signs, and then put them into houses, and then put them at degrees 0 through 29, then you can get a real specific sense about a particular aspect about a person (e.g. I have Jupiter in Cancer at 0, retrograde, in the 7th house).

The planets also have their own personalities and like hanging out with some signs more than others. It seems like if you know some Greek and Roman mythology, some of this will make sense already.

All this information–and I haven’t even talked about what the houses do (which are ruled by both zodiac signs and planets)–is why I don’t feel like an astrologer. It’s a really vast subject. But all these signs and planets and how they relate to each other in transit and natally–they explain things like self-expression, communication styles,  and romance preferences.

So, by looking at how natal charts can interact with each other, you can also get a sense of how people can interact with each other, for better and for worse.

Back to my chart.

My chart has most of the planets “above the horizon”, in houses 7-12 (The natal chart starts at the 9 o’clock position and goes counterclockwise). So that means a public life. I’m pretty wide open about my life, to much distraction. My north node (who I am destined to be) is in Libra, and it’s somewhat conjunct (adjacent) to Pluto in Libra.

A little primer on retrograde planets

Retrograde means that a planet will look like it is orbiting backwards from our viewpoint on planet earth. How that affects us here is that we get to review certain things that are associated with that planet. Mercury retrograde, probably the most famous one, will deal with communication and travel. I was born under one, so it’s been said that for me, I will have an easier time communicating. It honestly all depends on what sign Mercury is in at the time and what house it falls in as it transits. Some retrogrades are easier to handle than others. Mercury retrograde is commonly felt because it’s the fastest planet.

Right now, both Saturn and Pluto are retrograde, and both planets are a lot smaller. What you end up seeing are events that play out on a larger, global scale, like trends in business, politics, fashion, etc. Unless you’re a Capricorn or Capricorn rising, or have some other personal planet in Capricorn, you’re not likely to personally feel this years-long transit.

I’ve heard it said that if you have many planets in retrograde (I have four), it’s the sign of a past life as well as some deep spirituality.

Based on these planets, maybe you could call me a volcano on an island? Fiery planets, some cozy watery placements in Cancer, and some earthy placements. You can see how I compare to the rest of my family.

My brother

My brother, M,  has a chart that is clustered mainly on the left-hand side, with the 12th and 1st houses holding the majority of his planets.

Sun: Cancer

Moon: Capricorn

Ascendant: Virgo

Mercury: Cancer (retrograde)

Venus: Gemini (retrograde)

Mars: Virgo

Jupiter: Virgo

Saturn: Virgo (I have this, too)

Since we’re both in that famous Gen-Xer/Millennial gap, he and I share the outer planets (Uranus in Scorpio, Neptune in Sagittarius, Pluto in Libra–he has all of these as retrograde!). But for this, it’s not really important. Those are generational planets and those are interesting to talk about with global events and how generational beliefs. That will be more relevant for my baby boomer parents.

So what’s interesting about my brother, besides the stellium (three or more planets in one sign) that my brother has in Virgo (in his first house), is that, beyond the astrology, my brother is developmentally delayed (DD). So much of astrology is about how we view ourselves, our self-concepts. I’m not sure how my brother views himself.

The Virgo stellium–I’m not sure what to say about it with the backdrop of DD except that my brother remembers details vividly and at times, even with his DD, he’s able to integrate those details–that’s what Virgo is about. When he was little, he was able to go get something my parents were talking about in another language–they didn’t ask him to do it, he just understood. His intelligence is just different, even though it’s poorly understood.

He’s definitely a Cancer–a very nurturing person who loves to give hugs. But he is quite temperamental. He’s been through a lot–we all have as a family.

I think if he ever was in a relationship (he sort of is?), all that Virgo along with his Cancer placements would make him a very nurturing person.

As you can see, he lacks fire and I lack air. My parents have both of those, but not that much of air. I’ll talk about how that impacted us later.

His north node is in Leo, which is my father’s sun sign. It’s interesting since that’s also a sign he’s probably already progressed into.

My father

Sun: Leo

Moon: Capricorn

Ascendant: Scorpio

Mercury: Leo (retrograde)

Venus: Cancer

Mars: Gemini

Jupiter: Virgo (my brother has this planet placement)

Saturn: Cancer

The generational planets are Uranus in Gemini, Neptune in Libra, and Pluto in Leo.

My dad’s north node is in Cancer which means his south node is in Capricorn. These nodes on the moon show where we have been (south node) and where we are going (north node). Even through my father’s degenerating mental health, I think he was better able to relate to me and my brother on a soul level.

That my brother and my father have north nodes in each other sun signs–my instinct is that they definitely needed each other, at this time, for soul growth. They have the tightest bond out of us four.

So you can see that my brother and dad share a Capricorn moon–it’s within a few degrees of each other, probably conjunct. Sharing a moon with someone makes it really easy to be friends. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they also acted more like buddies than father and son. They also share the same Jupiter in Virgo.

My dad’s Mars being in Gemini–he definitely was a multi-tasker and had his hand in so many different projects. Could this be a foreshadowing of his bipolar disorder? I have no idea. I haven’t studied psychological astrology, at least not yet.

Both my dad and my brother are primarily ruled by the luminaries, the sun (which rules Leo) and the moon (which rules Cancer), as well as a bit of Mercury (which rules Gemini and Virgo).

I myself have a little bit of everything, but Jupiter (which rules Sagittarius) seems to be my ruler. First decan Capricorns (born within the first 10 degrees) are ruled by Jupiter, too.

Across all three of our charts, there is a lot of 11th house (ruled by Aquarius, which is traditionally ruled by Saturn) and 12th house (ruled by Pisces, which is traditionally ruled by Pisces) planets. My brother and I have personal planets in the 12th house, so it’s time to talk about our mother, who I am calling a fire fish (you’ll see why).

My mother

Sun: Pisces

Moon: Sagittarius

Ascendant: Gemini

Mercury: Aquarius (retrograde)

Venus: Aries

Mars: Leo (retrograde) (I have this planet placement)

Jupiter: Sagittarius

Saturn: Leo

Being baby boomers, she shares the same generational planets with my dad: Uranus in Gemini, Neptune in Libra, and Pluto in Leo, with the latter two in retrograde.

And now you can see why I call my mother a fire fish. I can see why my dad was attracted to her. Her Venus trines (60 degrees apart) his sun. A trine means the planets share elemental signs. In this case Venus in Aries (a cardinal fire sign) trines a Leo sun (a fixed fire sign). Her Mars is weakly conjuncts his sun. It’s a fiery, passionate connection, which was for them about evangelical/charismatic Christianity.

All About My Mother

So, what are the missing elements from my mother’s chart? Earth and water! What do the rest of us have in abundance? Earth and water! She basically gave birth to and married what she was lacking, especially with my brother.

Everyone else is much more airy (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) than me, but this lack of air created a very intellectual household. My parents are both very smart and our home had a library of books all over, in almost every room. Although I may not really relate to air signs, all of my family members have personal planets in air signs.

You would think that having a mom with a Pisces with a Sag moon that she has something for everyone. Well, not really. I really think my mother is ruled by her moon (emotional expression). Sags like freedom and expansion (Jupiter, its ruler, is an expansive planet–which can be good or bad).

I’m not saying that anyone with a Sag moon can’t have a family, but my gut says, even though I don’t know her birth time, that this moon would be more about exploring her horizons, meeting a lot of people, having fun outside the home.

And that’s what she does. She is actively involved in church (Jupiter and Sag love religion!) and really loves her friends and her family of origin.

Her north node is in Taurus, and I don’t really have much to say about that, although my Chiron and M’s Chiron is in Taurus. That is interesting to look at: pain. Chiron is the wounded healer. I definitely have a painful relationship with my mother and my brother’s relationship with her isn’t that great, either. His Chiron is conjunct her north node.

There’s so much more I could talk about when it comes to my family, but my mom’s Sag moon seems to be really the heart of my own issues with her. She’s a citizen of the world, and my serious relationships were with men who were just like that (neither of them live in the United States anymore). Knowing this makes it easier for me to accept her as she is and also sheds light on who I am attracted to–just her moon alone!

Neither my Mercury or Venus are close to her moon, but they are conjunct her Jupiter. I think both of those conjunctions is why we can do small talk really well, especially about religion and spirituality (this is in Sag).

The ultimate goal for me is to understand why my family connected and disconnected in the way that it did. Astrology is a tool that helps me to do that. For example, all of us have Mercury retrograde natally. Would that leave to communication breakdowns like we had? I’m not sure. Mercury is retrograde at least three times out of the year, for a few weeks at a time. But it is interesting see that my parents have fixed signs for Mercury and my brother and I have cardinal and mutable signs, respectively.

It can get even more involved if you look at transits during key times for families, as well as looking at synastry (how two people vibe or don’t vibe together). For example, I looked at a transit chart of when I was being dumped by my first boyfriend–there was a Sun-Pluto conjunction, which can be a very explosive time. It helped me understand how and why this happened–even if I could feel it come a few days before.

Astrology can go much further than your sun sign and its particular quirks. It can help you with your partnerships, business, friendships, and children for starters.

I spoke with my Mercury in Cancer brother for a few minutes on his birthday. He didn’t have much to say. He wanted to talk more about old friends of mine than about himself. Cancer and Virgo tend to be other-oriented signs, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. But it saddened me that the closeness we had as children has now disappeared behind a wall of loss and disconnection. All I can do is show up for him when I can.

 

the past future

the future

Last Memorial Day, I went to Cassadaga and spoke with a medium. Even reading that post, I missed some things that I didn’t had forgotten. But I had been looking over my notes that I came across as I was looking for something. I really wish I could have recorded the conversation, but her energy just shorts that all out.

Most of these notes haven’t really come to past. She was able to see my pretty fucking useless Gem crush (damn you, Millennials) from work last year. She thought I was close to real love.

Beyond that, here are some more highlights. I wanted to see how close I was to these predictions coming true.

*Underestimating myself

I put the asterisk when I wrote it. I’m not at all close to where I should be. That’s probably my core struggle and frustration. It’s probably a Capricorn thing. Goals on goals on goals. There’s so much stuff that she listed that was great about me. I know there is so much within me, untapped, unused, unseen. I need to ask my angels and guides to open that shit UP, like right now.

Counseling/”Not enough hands-on time with people”

Being currently car-less, this will be tough to do, but maybe I should be volunteering? I really love just having in-depth conversations about people’s lives. With Cancer season, I feel like I’ve gotten really opinionated but also very much about relating. The medium mentioned me being a counselor. I’m like, meh, I don’t know, STILL. She felt like my voice will be used to heal.

Teaching

Well, I’ve taught before, but it seems like whatever gifts I have, they are not being used yet. I need to write another book. Apparently, I will be writing textbooks.

Children

Just like last year, this year children and family keeps coming up in oracle card readings. Just by being in a child’s presence, I can change their lives. And, with it being Cancer season right, it’s about nurturing. I really do hope I get to have my own kids, but like my Cancer friend in Atlanta, with her youngest Gemini girl, I’d love to be nurture a lot of kids.

“So serious, but need joy”

I think that sums my life. I don’t even have anything to add. Damn.

And here’s something beautiful, like a song lyric: “someday will be bright and blue.” I’m not sure that even means. I think it means it’ll be really clear what my future life will look like.

The medium gave me a lot of book titles for me to read. My last note: “twists and turns, left turns, right turns, not straight.”  That is so true, still. So there’s that!

I feel like I’m so close to real love (yes, like right now and I can’t really talk about it–although if anything come of it, it’d be kinda cool to talk about because it’s so immaterial right now), to those seemingly mythical kids. Yet, of course, I feel really far away. Kids keep coming up for me, for years and years, and yet now I feel even further away from this future.

But tomorrow, everything could just change. I could have one meaningful conversation. I could find an amazing client. So many things that I don’t even know could happen. It’s hard for me to live in the world of possibility, but that medium saw so many wonderful things for me.

I guess I’m just making those left and right turns…

an ode to OK Computer

thomas hardy

In the next World War
In a jackknifed juggernaut
I am born again

–lyrics from the song, “Airbag” by Radiohead

Those are the beginning lyrics of “Airbag,” the first song on the album that changed my life, OK Computer, Radiohead’s third album. It was released on June 16, 1997 (it’s a Gemini!). The 20th anniversary re-issue, OKNOTOK, was released on June 22nd (it’s a Cancer–how nostalgic!), so a few days ago.

I thought I was going to go on and on about this album–and maybe I still will. 1997 was the first year of college for me, after waiting a year to go to college. The TL;DR version of that gap year is that my father was suffering from paranoid delusions about financial aid forms so I waited and prayed and then, miraculously, he changed his mind. It was a year marked with depression and weight loss and anger and sorrow. I somehow hadn’t heard of this album yet, though, even though I was ardently listening to alternative radio. But this is not a radio friendly album.

How I heard about OK Computer was when I went to college in Chicago. One of my fellow dormmates, Anne, a tall, kinda wild girl from D.C., loaned me the album. And this being 1997, this is the time of cassette tapes still, so I recorded the album onto a cassette. OK Computer was a part of my freshman year soundtrack.

As a musician, I wasn’t really listening to the lyrics of paranoia and alienation. But I was really relating to these themes, especially alienation, on a soul level. There was at least someone else in the world who could see that the world was kinda fucked up and wasn’t afraid to talk about it.

Speaking of kinda fucked up and alienation on a soul level–that was me, in college. Although I had some altogether sane, healthy relationships, I did have a kinda fucked up best friendship with this kid from New York–I’d venture to say it was probably my first real relationship with a guy, even though it was 99% platonic. It’s taken so many years for me to really see this relationship for what it was–I had idealized and idolized it so much, because this atheist dude had rocked my little evangelical world.

Still, we were both probably fucked up on depression and brutally took it out on each other (IMO, him more than me). But hey, I made the Dean’s List that year, all while I was sleeping my way through it (according to my first year roommate).

But OK Computer wasn’t necessarily about all of that for me, the glories and the horrors of dealing with clinical depression in college while my family was being eaten alive by my father’s bipolar disorder and subsequent incarceration. It was really about a sonic escape. It was so future-forward and prescient–the same issues and fears about technology that Yorke beautifully sings about are ones we’re currently battling right now. It was also a really good read on what was going on in our society at the time.  It’s funny, too, because the late 90s had all this hope for the future–except Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity”–I’m posting the video here because it was so innovative at the time:

Maybe the Brits knew something that we Yanks didn’t?

From that album on, I was a devoted Radiohead fan. I have seen them twice in concert–once in downtown Chicago and once in Wisconsin. Both times involved me being super hot and possibly dehydrated, being outdoors, with friends, being young. Twenty years later, Radiohead is all married with kids–and I’m in some weird life holding pattern. They were in their mid-20s in the late 90s. I just feel old typing about it.

With it being Cancer season, it’s easy for me to get lost in these large, warm waves of nostalgia, which now push me on the shores of late 2000, after I was out of college because my parents couldn’t pay my tuition and I think my father was in prison at this point.

I was at this church that was probably the closest thing to a real, ideal Christian community of my own imagination–full of art, music, and people on the fringes of society (OK, in retrospect, most of these folks are middle-class white folks, but their aesthetic was mine at the time–wearing thrift store clothing and retro sneakers, listening to 7″ vinyl aka hipsterish).

And there was a boy, a guitarist and photographer, J–either a Virgo or a Libra, and I can’t remember because we didn’t stay together long enough for us for me to remember his birthday. He was a couple of years older than me, this tall, slim kid from outside of Detroit. Just like the church, he was the closest thing to the real, ideal man of my own imagination. Even though there are so many details that I can’t remember as to why I felt like he was a paragon partner, but there was telepathy, there was real feeling, there was real love, however brief and intense, and there was Radiohead.

This guy was proto-hipster, listening to so much vinyl, listening to stuff from the 70s, and he felt our musical tastes only connected on major streets, like Milwaukee and North Ave and Damen. I still liked Creed at the time, unabashedly.

We had our favorite OK Computer songs, “Let Down” (mine) and “No Surprises” (his). He dubbed so many albums for me on cassette with his almost graffiti tag-like handwriting, including a mixtape that was definitely devoted to me. I still have it somewhere…It’s how I got into Slowdive.

One evening, he came over to my apartment and we were watching the documentary based on the tour for OK Computer, Meeting People Is Easy. We sat next to each other on the couch, and I was trying to watch the TV. I don’t know how far into the documentary we got–not very, maybe like 30 minutes in, but eventually he was staring at me with his wide blue eyes, eyes that seemed to take so much of the world in…

He said something like, “I’m a little too distracted to watch this.”  If he is a Libra, then he said it that seductive, Libra way that makes it hard to resist, that made it all about me.

Incredibly flattered (shit, I’m still flattered that I can be a distraction), I gave him a sidelong look back with a smile and walked him back to my bedroom.

My memory gets hazy here, because this may have been the night he told me he loved me. Let’s pretend it is, because he wasn’t over much. I came to his place more often.

I had leftover Christmas lights from college, multi-colored ones. Those were the only ones on, and they were strewn on my desk. It left my small bedroom with a full-sized bed–my first real mattress that I had bought months earlier–awash in a warm, pinked light. We were lying on my bed and I don’t remember how love came up.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you wholly,” I replied (yes, I was trying to one-up him, or at least be like–yeah yeah, I believe this, for real).

It had only been a week together, and then three weeks later, we broke up, on that same bed. He told me that being with me was like being on drugs. Again, I am flattered, but this is part of the reason we broke up. He didn’t think we didn’t had enough in common.

His BFF actually called me later to tell me that he thinks he was scared. I think he also wanted to affirmed that whatever had happened was real. that we weren’t on drugs. There were so many people rooting for us…

I tried to get him back once, in a letter where I only remember typing “Perfect love casts out fear.” He responded that he was “cold and locked up inside.” I wrote my first real poem after that.

“…and I am locked up right there with him…”

Shortly after our breakup, but before 9/11, weary of living in the land of  Pres. W., he left for Brazil to probably be a permanent ex-pat. A friend of mine, half-jokingly, said that he probably left the country because of me. We only got back in touch one or two other times via email some time later.

Maybe now we could be friends, but I can only imagine, after how many hims and mes that we’ve become and thrown away–would we even recognize who we are now?

I am fine to leave us in my bedroom in Logan Square, swimming in pink light and tipsy on new love: frozen in time, as first love should be.

Maybe back then, I would have used the lyrics from the last song of OK Computer, “The Tourist” when we said those defining words to each other:

Hey man, slow down, slow down
Idiot, slow down, slow down

He did try to pump the brakes, because our short love affair was two parts–two weeks of passion and two weeks of silence. But we were already lost…

Because of the rapid speed, it was a love I questioned, out loud, to an older friend, who said–hey, if you’re feeling it, then it’s real.

Either way, there are no regrets. If love is there, you take it–especially when you’re feeling so out of orbit, so out of sync. For a brief but memorable moment, he was the square hole to my square peg. And from the day I met him until the day I die, that will always mean something, because life can be so hard and lonely. For all of that, I will always be grateful: for the respite, for the adoration, for the passion, and for the music.

OK Computer definitely punctuated a large chunk of my forays into adulthood, and in love. I know it was a defining album for a band who so wanted to get away from the song, “Creep” from their first album, Pablo Honey. Radiohead allowed me to be not only oh-so-cool and in love, but also curious and a little afraid of what’s happening to humanity. For all of that, I will always be grateful.

we are in it

we are in it.

I created this image when I was feeling a little more hopeful about my life. But now, I feel just exhausted. I just wrote this post which details some of that exhaustion, and it kind of left off at some thoughts about faith.

First of all, Richard Rohr, OFM is my favorite living Christian. Maybe he’s my favorite Christian of all time. If more Christians were like him, we’d live in a much better world. I feel like the contemplative realm of Christianity is probably the best part of it. Anyway, Rohr’s writings really helped to shape my faith as a Christian, especially in his book, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. The book beautifully details about how joy and suffering both belong in our lives.

But let me focus on this quote and be a little astrological about it. As you probably know I am a Capricorn sun and rising/ascendant. That means upon first meeting me, you’re like. “Yep, total Capricorn.” And then, as you get to know me, you’d also realize that yes, she is a Capricorn: workhorse, kinda bossy, weird sense of humor, loyal, stubborn.

Although the rest of my chart has a lot of fire and some water, with a little bit of air, I’m pretty earthy. I need to see things. I want contracts signed. I want instant communication. I want to see it, right now.

It’s a human trait, and we all share it, but faith isn’t really like that.

Also being a Capricorn, I want to just do it myself. I’ll start the conversation. I’ll shoot my shot. I’ll convince you to do x. I’ll “push the river” as it were. And all of that is about control–I’ll control my outcomes. I want to be safe. I want to feel secure. I’ll make it happen. And so much of life contains people and circumstances that we cannot control.

This isn’t to say that faith is about passivity. This river has kinetic energy. It is moving. It’s just that I am not the one moving the river. It just goes. And there is support as I am going along with the river. I am in it. I don’t have to make sure the river was turned on before I get in my canoe.

But hey, faith ain’t easy, right? No, it’s not. It’s not meant to be easy. It’s work.  It’s dedication. Sometimes, there’s the gift of faith, where we just know things will work out. It’s usually something we can hold for other people.

But most of the time, it’s a moment-by-moment experience. Sometimes, you’re just in your canoe, paddling, enjoying the scenery. Other times, you’re just trying to hold on for dear life. Right now, I have to believe that I’m even in a canoe and not just being thrown around in the rapids.

And, this has been my life, in very dramatic ways. My life story has been conquering the impossible over and over. There has been so much triumph and success–most of it hard fought. But, as I said, I’m just exhausted. And I wish I had written this post when I was traversing calmer waters, buoyed by more hope.

But the river is flowing. I am in it. We are in it. I have to trust in new ways, for bigger things, for scarier things. I have to trust in this very extensive life transformation that’s happening. I have to believe that the healing is coming, that the healing is already here and is already happening. I have to really embrace with gratitude the small, everyday joys that come my way so that I don’t become frozen in jaded ingratitude.

I have to. I have to.

I’m going to end with this song that is going to be obscure to even most white evangelical Christians, but it sums up how I feel.  I may be a tough warrior, seemingly implacable and unflappable. But deep inside this armor…

“The Warrior Is a Child” is a song I grew up with (it’s from 1984), written and sung by a woman who has created a lot of Christian worship songs that people still sing today.  This is a more modern version of the song and aptly has images depicting Joan of Arc.

May you remember that you are in the river. We are in it.

break

breaking

When everything falls apart, it is a good sign that everything is about to come together.

from Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser

It’s been said that you should write from your scars, not from your wounds. Welp, this is a wound with a scab forming, and I don’t have time to wait for this to scar over.

Earlier this morning, after tossing some trash in the outside garbage bin, I walked down my now bare driveway and went to the mailbox–something I used to do every day before my car was taken back by the car lender. It was a daily way for me to stretch my legs which doesn’t happen enough for me as a writer.

It’s been raining almost daily. It’s rainy season in Florida and we desperately need the rain since we’ve had a severe drought and subsequent brush fires for months. Usually, the weather wouldn’t deter me from my daily little walk. But I haven’t been interested in getting the mail. Maybe it’s because I’m still little heartbroken.

Although the mailbox was closed, the mail was damp from all the humidity, which can reach full saturation (100%) especially in the mornings. One of the letters I received was from my now former awful car lender, telling me how much I still owe after the car was auctioned off. The amount is basically the interest of a high-interest loan, which would have been OK 9 months ago when I was working a full-time job with an employer. But that four-figure now just another drop in the ocean of debt that doesn’t even reach my shore much anymore. I live in the small lagoon of survival now.

This car situation has been a tough one to overcome, and it’s not because I no longer have reliable transportation. Sure, part of it is the pride of being a self-sustaining adult and not being able to hold onto what seems to be a basic necessity in a city that has some godawful public transportation.

Admittedly, though, when this first happened, I felt some instant relief. I no longer have to deal with this money drain for a vehicle I used like maybe 5 times a month? Based on what I make now, I can be just fine as I build my freelance writing and editing business, even with the occasional Lyft ride.

Through another bill that I’m actually fighting since I was not driving the car, my toll transponder told me when my car was taken: early in the morning, in the 1 o’clock hour. That night, I actually slept so well–how ironic.

Also, I’ve been here before, 2 years ago when I was teaching and making even less than what I make now. I could take as a moral issue in one of two ways. The first is a (self-)judgmental, (self-)blaming route–how can you have this happen to you again? You’re irresponsible with your money. The other route is just seeing the larger landscape of where I live right now. I’ve done the best I can in a shitty job market and lower income people are routinely taken advantage of. I’ll take route #2, because route #1 is a well-worn path that doesn’t head anywhere except to more heartache.

The heartbreak isn’t over the car, per se, but what my cries for help represent to me–only three people helped me: a total stranger and two friends.

My cries for help went unheard and unheeded.

There are so many reasons why: race, gender, the lack of a cult of personality online, the bootstrap mentality that isn’t applied equally. Not really here to dive into all of that, into the politics of what gets funded and why.

I’m also not here to make this about abundance, prosperity, believing enough (or not), manifestation, or any other things that many times just seem like American capitalism dressed up in spiritual garb, but has no semblance of compassion or empathy.

Over a month later, there’s quite a lot of resentment that I have to burn off or hand off to the Universe. As I try to gain a better perspective, I am accepting what is.

Simply put: no one likes being inconvenienced. That’s the ethos of America. It’s the heart of innovation, but it’s also the heart of our mores and social structure. It’s the mentality that tells you that asking for help is some sort of entitlement. Even the way Social Security is framed is as an entitlement vs. an investment that people make so that they had some income for their twilight years. How dare you ask for help for your basic needs! You should just get a job (or else you’re clearly just lazy and want a handout). There’s someone in the current administration who said just that about Medicaid recipients, millions of those being children. It’s a pervasive mindset, no matter your political leanings or religious beliefs.

What has been really hard but necessary to do is to not make this seeming failure be about me or my worth as a human being. Even knowing that culturally, there’s still a lot of shame in asking for help, this still stings, a lot. I’ve been helped in the past, so why am I feeling abandoned now?

How this all happened still marvels me, which makes me believe that something bigger is going on.

At the time I started to think about writing this particular post, I felt very broken. There are still parts of me that feel very shattered and irreplaceable. I was concerned that I was depressed–and if I was/am depressed, then of course, it makes sense after such a loss like losing reliable transportation.

Nothing seems to be going right and things seem to get worse as I spiritually grow leaps and bounds. There are synchronicities all over the place. I know that Spirit is moving in my life–and maybe it’s because of the destruction left in its wake.

Then I remembered a book that I read, Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser (yes, it’s basically a book about manifestation–but there’s nothing wrong with writing down what you want and need and leaving it up to the Universe how it provides those things to do).

Klauser has a chapter aptly called, “Handling Breakdown.” It basically talks about how things may have manifested in a way you weren’t expecting; or, if your desires haven’t come to fruition yet, that you shouldn’t give up.

Two key quotes: “There is no failure, only a delay in results.” and  “There is no failure, only feedback.”

Why I remembered the book wasn’t for those quotes. It was because she talked about how when everything isn’t working out, that you are close to a breakthrough. She compared this to the process of childbirth, ten minutes before delivery which is called the “transition.” It’s the toughest part of labor.

I saw this happen recently with this reality TV star who filmed a special about her pregnancy. She wanted to have her baby at home, and while she was in labor, she hit a wall of exhaustion. She was just done, just through, no more. She got up to go to the bathroom, but before she and her midwives could leave to go to the hospital, she had the baby on the toilet!

So maybe I’m proverbially on the toilet right now, wanting to go to the hospital and have this baby of a profitable writer’s life. I know I need to keep pushing, even though I am exhausted.

So who is holding me up as I push? I do have a few good online friends that have been of great emotional support. But I have no one local like that in my life right now. Astrologically, I can easily blame this Pluto in Capricorn transit that is transforming me from the inside out, as it has run roughshod over my very essence and ethos.

This struggle is beyond the car now. Yet the car was a breaking point for me. Like what gives? I know I’m supposed to be a writer, to be a writer here. But I can’t connect to anyone permanently here. I lost my car twice. Grad school was a nightmare, so was life afterward. I’ve survived horrible living conditions–and I’m enduring one now. How many L’s can I take, and then take them like a champ?

What gives?

I’m not used to things being bad for this long, especially not with work. Eventually, I find the community, I find the better job, it all comes together. To have the reverse Midas touch is not my style. I always find help. I always Mentos commercial or MacGyver my way out of shit.

I’m super can-do-without-you, and that’s by necessity. For better and for worse, I grew up highly resilient, priding myself in not needing others. I’ve been humbled since I moved down here in 2012, realizing how I can’t be who I need to be without some help. And, for the most part, I’m actually quite OK with asking for help now, even as I face the fear of rejection.

So rejection has come and I am starting to be able to accept what is–I don’t really have the supportive community I need, not yet. I can also see the thin yet gleaming silver lining of this tough circumstance–I’m saving hundreds of dollars.

That brings me back to the spiritual support that I need to access. Yes, the loss of my car brought me to my knees. It was sad to repeat a loss like this, thinking that I would be better off this time around. Can I rejoice and be happy like Klauser says? Can I “count it all joy” like the writer James of the New Testament? Can I be grateful for my faith being tested and producing patience?

It’s really like holding onto a seedling, knowing one day it will be a tall tree. Depending on the day, the hour, the minute, I can hold onto this tiny hope or I can drop it and drown in despair.

At least in the spirit realm, I’m not alone. My cries for help were heard. I matter. To be able to really believe all of that, in the face of disappointment, of loneliness, of heartbreak–emotions I’ve felt often in my life–it takes some faith, faith at times I don’t have or want to conjure up, faith that something new is breaking through, something better that I could ever imagine.

So I have two choices. I either keep playing this shitty game of Tetris where I feel like none of the blocks are clearing, or I quit the game altogether.

The latter doesn’t even feel like a choice, so game on.

a to-do list

lost

Here’s a honey-do list for myself (this would be so much better if I drew it, but I’m not a…drawer…), for those quickly disappearing golden hours:

  1. Stop chasing people. I sound like a dog, but really. No true lovers or friends will need me to chase me. I guess this is more of a note-to-self.
  2. Visit Miami for real. Technically, this month I was in what used to be called North Miami Beach. I’ve been all over the state except there and Sarasota/Ft. Myers.
  3. Go back to the Keys. I just finished watching Bloodline and Islamorada is where this story takes place. Monroe County, the county of the Florida Keys, is so beautiful. So many keys, so little time.
  4. Get back into music somehow. I miss it, but the world of music is so vast. Maybe I’d start with taking classical piano lessons again somehow. But I need a piano…
  5. Go on an airboat ride through the Everglades. I could probably do that here in town, too, but yes. Gators and things.
  6. Read more. I just finished reading Trust Your Vibes by Sonia Choquette and it made me feel so much more on track spiritually. Writers read but ever since college, I haven’t enjoyed reading as much.
  7. Visit Chicago soon. There’s a possible job opportunity back at my alma mater, which is kind of wild, thinking about living there again. I miss the food and the culture, but my town is start to come up on both fronts.
  8. Maybe finish my novel. It’s the novel I started in grad school and fleshed out during National Novel Writing Month. It kind of turned into a rather steamy romance but it can still be literary. I think.
  9. Sleep better. This may be a part of some spiritual awakening, or it’s just that I live in a house with another insomniac who likes to make coughee (I should say coffee, but he coughs a lot, too) at 3am in the morning. Tonight might not be the night, since after this, I have two articles to write.
  10. Be a lot kinder to myself. It’s been a long journey down here and I’m not sure how my dreams and goals will be realized, but in the meantime, there are so many ways I can practice some self-compassion like: let myself feel things (which as a Cancer moon is nearly impossible), eat a little better, not try so hard so often, be OK with failing, drink more water, speaking more kindly to myself, and making my spiritual life my priority.

There’s a lot of things out of my control, but there are a few things that are. Even if I did #1 and #10, I’d be in a much better place.

Do you have a honey-do list for yourself? What’s rattling around in your brain for you to do for yourself? I’ve never asked my readers to comment, but if you want, comment and share one of those things.