aimless in archer season ♐

It’s been a strange season as the sun rolls this party college town Sagittarius.  Besides that my birthday is coming up in 22 days, I haven’t been feeling that festive.

There’s a danger in this lull–or usually, there would be. The danger is to reach out for new experiences, at almost any cost. Especially in Sag season. Sag things are about accumulating experiences.

And besides that I have just been trying to survive for the past few years, I haven’t felt much drive to accumulate experiences.

Yet, despite my lack of luck in most areas of my life, I’ve been lucky with travel. This year, I visited Tampa for a short day trip in April. I’ve driven over 1000 miles from Miami to D.C. in May. In August, I went to St. Pete right before the solar eclipse. In September, I visited Chicago for almost two weeks to avoid Hurricane Irma. And, I will hopefully will travel again for my birthday.

Beyond that, though, with the upheaval at home that has been here since May, I don’t really have much drive to try to accomplish something big.

After grad school, I felt like I had come on earth to do what I had to do–write my memoir. It’s not published yet, and it probably won’t be until my parents are dead (don’t want to deal with the immigrant parent blowback).

It’s weird to feel done at age 36.

And then there’s been more life lived, a lot of it humiliating and harrowing. Just this summer, though, my life as a freelancing writer and editor has started to show some sort of stability. I really wasn’t planning to start my own business–even if astrologically and otherwise, it makes more sense to do that.

But here I am, with clients that are starting to look like permanent ones. I am grateful, so grateful. Twitter was a big part of finding that stability, through people and friends I’ve met just this year.

I’m now in expansive Sag season and I feel contracted. I feel stalled. I’m used to having visions and missions bigger than me, consuming me.

The one thing that’s left in my life that I want to do or experience, no one wants to engage me on, which I am taking as a sign to not talk about anymore. So, I’ll spare you, too–and spare myself the embarrassment of glazed-over eyes and silence.

Maybe because I have experienced so many things already–and a lot of them haven’t really been uplifting–I have a small fear of planning anything.

What would be the point of planning if the Universe is just going to do this?

https://giphy.com/embed/gqItoeqRWSBnavia GIPHY

My time here was supposed to be missional. I thought I was signing up for finding my people, my tribe. I got the “Everybody Hates Me” sign-up sheet by mistake.

Besides that Florida is just a tough state to live in, and that I was really awakened to my own proximity to white supremacy (you can never be that close to it before it tries to bleach you)–I still had some hope, some stupid, unflagging hope that this was my home.

Thankfully, and most mercifully, that hope is dead now.

But to be in the holiday season and not really feel anything, not the sense of wonder or the beginning bubbles of joy percolating–I don’t even feel any hatred toward it…it’s a little scary.

I’m used to feeling inspired and awakened to big things. But my life has gotten so small, I could fit it in a pocket.

I wasn’t created for a small life–only an ever-expanding one.

I’ve gone ’round and ’round with trying to create a community for myself here, but nothing takes. There are loved ones across the country and around the globe, but nothing for me here.

Maybe this is what “chop wood, carry water” looks like. It’s not scaling a mountain or fording a stream. It’s very unglamorous, building my business and rebuilding my life. But it’s worth it.

There are times that I see people doing fun, exciting things, and I think, I should be out there doing those kinds of things. But then I think, with whom?

When I was doing NaNoWriMo this year, I got jealous of my main characters. They were doing exactly what I want to do now, exactly what no one wants to hear about. They were having a lot of fun, a lot of fun that I was used to having.

Being stuck in a cycle of poverty, I just haven’t had the space for fun, for mirth, for frivolity, for silliness. But both cycles–of poverty and over mirthlessness, are coming to an end–thankfully and most mercifully.

Even now with this one thing that no one wants to hear about, I remember having people in my life who wanted to hear about that stuff. I remember having people wanting to fully engage with my life. I remember being so irreverent, laughing at my calamity and pain because I knew I would eventually conquer them.

Now I feel like a spinning top that has been at rest for a while. There’s a deep level of inertia that I can’t Capricorn my way out of. I can’t act upon myself. It’s almost comforting, because I don’t really know what I’m missing.

I’m waiting on the Universe for clarity, for these synchronicities that fly around my head like annoying gnats to come into form. I’m waiting for the neon “open for business” sign to click on. I see it flickering…

Maybe it’s not that I am not wanting anything. Maybe it’s that I want more, so much more than I have ever had. I want to be engulfed by something bigger than writing my memoir, than getting through grad school, than pure survival mode for years.

I want to drown in something new.

I know what that new thing is, but I don’t know how to get from here to there–safely. I don’t feel compelled to start shaking every tree and trying to figure out what I should be doing. That’s how I usually would do it.

If I have to use a big term like paradigm shift, then that’s what this ole sea goat will have to use.

It’s about receptivity. It’s about active waiting. These are cringey, uncomfortable things, because it looks like learned helplessness. It looks like depression. It looks like like I’ve given up.

But, I haven’t. I’ve probably doubled down more than anything.

It’s also about just connecting with the Universe and saying, “I’m tired. I don’t know what the fuck is going on or where I’m headed. I want this thing and I don’t know how to get it. Please help me get it.”

So maybe I’m not aimless in archer season. Maybe I’m just motionless. I’m at rest.

With astrology, planets travel through signs and the 12 houses that are in your natal chart. Right now, the sun is in Sagittarius, which is going through my 12th house of healing, intuition, secrets, dreams, and the subconscious mind. It’s like the basement of the soul, in my opinion.

It’s also a place of rest. If you’re into tarot, it’s like the 4 of Swords card to me. For Capricorns and Cap rising people, this is like the disco nap before the big birthday party. It’s very weird to be chill during Sag season when everyone else is getting their holiday party on.

There are twinges of sadness that come up when I feel waves of FOMO wash over me. But they never last. I finally have embraced that this, for now, is where I’m supposed to be. Trying to force things hasn’t worked (believe me, I tried, just last month–spectacular failure).

Even for what I want, I have an idea of what it’d be like. But who knows if I’m ready for it, or if what’s waiting for me is ready for me? There’s a lot I can’t see or know.

I don’t know how this will all turn out. A new faith is being forged and I’m flailing around with impatience.

Even though I know what I want, I am like this Camus quote above: she was waiting but she didn’t know for what.

At least I do know I want this, for me and for you:

 

the red brita pitcher

November was a busy month, so much so I wasn’t paying to my normal routines. I was just going on automatic.

Wake up. Eat food. Make coffee. Write, write, write. Sleep. Rinse, repeat.

Last month, with its major boon of work, was a blessing and a curse. I needed the work, but so much of it was tedious. It took me away from NaNoWriMo — and I had to even finish that in a flurry last week.

I was busy for three weeks straight, just writing writing writing.

Then there was a bit of a break and things got back to normal i.e., not so busy I don’t pay attention to the world around me.

One morning a week or so ago, I went to the refrigerator and pulled out my red Brita pitcher of water to make some coffee. I noticed it was full and coated with white, hard water stains.

It suddenly dawned me that I hadn’t been filling this pitcher much at all.

I had a rhythm of filling it probably every other day, and I hadn’t for weeks.

Not by choice, but I live in the same house as a rather mentally unstable old man and another old man that I never see, whom I call the shut-in.

The unstable old man is a chronic smoker and has a horrible sense of boundaries, physical but mostly energetic and emotional.

He is a walking sack of bones and leathery skin. He doesn’t take good care of himself. He’s always having stomach issues, and I assume most of it is self-inflicted. One time, he randomly told me that he was fine. He had had some bad chicken that smelled bad.

Maybe I shouldn’t’ve have cooked it, he said.

Apparently, he must have gotten sick, but between noise-canceling headphones and earplugs at night, I didn’t hear anything. I have heard him get sick since.

These owners brought this man while I was away helping a friend move. Oh well, they get their money.

Meanwhile, I’ve had to be like a den mother without much mothering, because the kitchen was always a wreck. So many conversations about cleanliness. Even now, the kitchen has weird gnats (not fruit flies) that I can’t seem to get rid of.

Months ago, closer to when this unfortunate man arrived in May, the other old man and I had talked him about about getting his own Brita pitcher.

Oh yeah, I’ll go to Walmart and get one for myself, he says.

No pitcher showed up. Of course.

Instead, old plastic half-gallon bottles of milk have been used. Our water has a sulfurous smell. Brita is the minimum to have decent-tasting water. Getting fountain drinks around here can mean great soda soured by tap-water ice.

We had Hurricane Irma roll through in September. I left for Chicago because at this point, after 4 months of living with this man, with his chronic smoker’s cough, and an episode of him smoking in his room and in the house, the horrendous smells that come from his “cooking”–I just needed to get away.

I knew the power was going to go out (shitty power grid), and I didn’t want to be stuck with someone who was a bag of inconsideration and instability.

I told the two old men that they could use my pitcher, just in case that water wasn’t potable.

That must have opened a door in this man’s little crackpot mind…

Even though Hurricane Irma threatened to be devastating, by the time it got to our side of town, it was never that bad besides our home losing power for a week.

I was so glad to not be here for almost two weeks, hanging out with friends and working in Chicago. The ole bag o’ bones was like, and is like, this haunting spirit who drains people of their energy.

The shut-in brought me back from the airport where I learned that this energy vamp had been living in the woods near our neighborhood for twelve years.

12 years.

Maybe a couple of weeks before I noticed my stained pitcher, I had to have yet another conversation about taking the trash out more often–which is why the gnats are there in the first place.

I cleaned the trash can thoroughly. Doesn’t matter, though. The gnats are going to be around for a while until I ask for fumigation, which I will this month.

The other old man has given up on his cleaning duties–OK, he never does, because shut-in. But he doesn’t take out the trash either, because technically it was his time to do it.

Maybe these dudes switch months, I don’t know.

Whatever. Anyway. This conversation about taking the trash in a timely manner turned into a conversation about the nosy neighbor across the street because the woman living in the mother-in-law suite next door had been taken to the hospital via ambulance. Again. And again, we didn’t know about it.

The daughter of this woman had become friends with the nosy  neighbor, so somehow Energy Vamp had talked to her.

He told her, “You’re nosy, aren’t you?”

So yeah, it was actually a sane conversation. It was also revelatory, because he talked about his experiences of social rejection.

  • Apparently, the cops were called on him for allegedly saying the n-word at a local restaurant.
  • When he was riding his bike, someone called the cops, accusing him of theft.
  • Someone else accused him of theft and he spent six months in jail for it.

He went on to talk about how he knows he can get chatty but how people are basically repelled by it.

I could break here and talk about how his mental illness is preventing him from picking up on obvious social cues.

I could also talk about his feelings of oppression may be pointing to psychosis. He’s not working for a reason.

I could also talk about how this reminds me of living with my father during my last year at home–a forced gap year due to my dad’s own unwinding, unquiet mind.

I could talk about how all of this has been clearly triggering me and that I’m repeating some similar behaviors of survival. And hell, those behaviors worked the first time, and they seem to be working again.

But honestly–I’ve worked through most of that. It doesn’t matter to me why this is happening anymore. It is happening. It is draining. And I don’t need it to happen to me anymore.

I had a brief moment of compassion–it might have lasted days–about that, because we all deserve compassion and connection. It helped me heal some things with my father that I didn’t even think needed healing.

Those are big things. I don’t sneeze or sneer at them, at all. One day I may even be grateful for them.

But at the same time, even though in the past as a social worker, I worked with clients just like him, it’s much different living with someone who has a history of homelessness and is on SSDI.

To have my only interactions be about ADLs (activities of daily living) is a fucking drain–and if I even wanted to consider his feelings, then yes, it’s a drain on him, too. This guy is old enough to be my father, and yet, once again, I’m in the parent role.

It’s a fucking drain. It’s infuriating. I deserve better.

It’s a drain to live with someone who cannot have a presence of mind, period. He is not my relative and, even if he was, it is not my job to be his social worker.

So, I avoid him like the emotional plague that he chooses to be.

I’ve lived here going on three years. Although this address has been the most stable address I’ve had while living in Florida, it’s been the most unstable place I’ve lived in.

Somewhat batty owner. A/C outage in August that could have been fixed sooner. Stubborn pestilences. Change of ownership. Lazy owners. Flooding. Coughing roomie #1 (aka bag o’ mucus). Coughing roomie #2 (fka Mr. Cancer Sticks, now known as Energy Vamp). Smoke filling my room from Energy Vamp.

But somehow this red Brita pitcher, plus the weird gnat that keeps going back and forth in my room as I type this, was what woke me up.

And it’s not just waking up from my crazy November of work. And it’s not even that this guy decided to use my water pitcher without asking. I’ve had to talk to him about that, too, repeatedly. It’s not the white dude entitlement that this loser has.

It’s everything. It’s been years of everything, and as I approach the big 4-0, I’ve had enough of “everything.” And I think the Universe has had enough of everything, too.

This chapter of my life is rapidly closing…

But for now, the red Brita pitcher is in my room, and I’m happy about it, even if having to keep stuff in my room so fucked up.

But this is, as an old friend would say, a flea on a flea. It’s already pretty fucked up. It’s almost imperceptible to add on more to this situation, this chronically bad borne out of poverty nightmare situation.

But hey: the less time I have to interact with him, the more I can focus on me.

For now, though–I live in a land of abject absurdity, but I have been entirely too dour to laugh about it–until recently. The laughter has been starting its return which lets me know that I’m strong enough to leave, even if my history has been stained loss, even if that history seems like wildfires trapping me inside of this house.

To mix metaphors, these stains of instability are not permanent, just like those white water stains. They are starting to be wiped away, and my original, impregnable self is being unearthed again.

Work is improving, enough for me to possibly leave here, giving me the foundations of stability that I need so I can be a better adult for myself.

But now the question is, where to? I don’t know. Yet.

I know that Florida is rapidly filling my rearview mirror, but I’m just not sure where I’m headed to next.

And yeah, it’s a little weird, watching the ending credits of the horror movie I’ve been in for years–but also living in the cliffhanger of what happens to this plucky heroine.

But that’s OK, for now…

Sorry, I was NaNo-ing and working…

Dear sun opposite moon reader, 🤗

I had intended for this place to be treated professionally, to write every week, as a commitment to my creative writing practice. But I got called away to other things, paid things. 🤷🏾‍♀️

After the latest post, the greatest wound, the greatest healing, the following day, I was slammed with work for three weeks. 🤦🏾‍♀️

But I was grateful because it was a scary time. I had a huge lull in work in October. 🙏🏾

This is also National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo is the hashtag on Twitter). ✍🏾👩🏾‍💻 #️⃣

I finished my novel in 9 days total (50,182). 😲 🎉

I did NaNo last year and something similar happened. I couldn’t start until the last week. I finished the first half of my novel in 8 days. 😱

Last year, I was a lot more sleep deprived. This year, tired but not deliriously tired like I was this time last year. 😴🤤😪

So, TL;DR, bills had to be paid, a contest had to be won. 🙃

The things I have wanted to write take up a lot of room in my heart, which means it takes time to untangle all the words and the meaning into a blog post. 💗

I have work waiting for me tomorrow, which is a very good thing. But I have to think about my commitment to sunoppositemoon-motion–as in, it needs to be a priority. 🔝

But it can’t just be a diary. It needs to be art, or at least artful. That takes time, to write about your life creatively. 🤔

I definitely have stories. I just have to figure out how to balance the paying of bills with the art of my life–like most people. ⚖️

So, as much as I can, I’ll try to double up here to make up the time I lost. ⏱

But tonight, I’m going to give my hands and my brain a needed rest.. 🤯

Before I go, though–this month was so transformative. I worked out things in my life through my novel. 💪🏾

Peace lays heavy on me now, which is a wonderful way to go into the last days of being 39. 🕊

Thanks for your patience and hopefully I can get back to writing here this weekend. 🤓

Deborah 😘

the greatest wound, the greatest healing

site of greatest wound SOM

The above quote is from a book I found yesterday called The Journey from Abandonment to Healing by Susan Anderson, a psychotherapist who specializes in abandonment, grief, loss, and trauma.

I was looking for something about this topic because I had felt stymied yesterday when I was trying to do this marketing homework for my business–writing an email series for potential and current clients to get to know me better. It was writing about my origin story–basically, how did I get in this biz of writing.

This month hasn’t been that fruitful, despite a lot of effort in connecting with prospects. Lots of “sure things” in terms of projects became very unsure. There’s been a steep and expensive learning curve with having my own business–let alone saying and really embracing that I have my own business.

But the issue wasn’t the lull in business, or even getting out of the lull. It was writing about this journey. It’s been hell, albeit a now stabilized version of hell. I hit a wall of deep shame when I tried to think about how I became a writer, let alone a freelance writer. It’s something I’m not really proud of yet.

As I sat in immobilizing emotional pain, I started to look back on just this year. One pattern that really started to emerge was how I had opened up deeply to so many people, but how most had bailed, mainly to tend their own shadow work and growth (and maybe I was a trigger for that impulse, too). But I took it personally–and still kind of do.

I then just started thinking about my whole adult life and looked at all the dropouts from my life. This was indeed a long-term pattern, and I was tired of it. As whiny and pouty as this may sound, I know I have helped a lot of people in the way I wish I could have been helped. But it really hasn’t been fully returned to me in the ways I needed, in the magnitude that I needed.

I felt, and still feel, that I have a blindspot when it comes to my relationships. It could probably be explained astrologically, or even in some Big Picture way about the journey I’m on and what I’m being prepared for in my future. But to make it even more brass tacks, as someone who has studied psychology formally, as well as someone who’s a bit into the “woo”–this seemed like something I was perpetuating, since it was cyclical. To borrow from a Caedmon’s Call’s song, I had a long line of leavers.

I’ve known about my fear of abandonment for some time and some events still stick out in my mind, like when my mom left me at school as a teenager and I sat there waiting for her for over an hour as dusk started to fall, not knowing why she hadn’t picked me up. And this was in the age before cell phones were widely used. The wondering as darkness fell, although my mom was very apologetic about it. It’s still a feeling of abandonment that I will never forget.

Years ago, I visited now former friends and going out to see the husband play with his band at a show. The wife was standing with me–and then she just wasn’t. I was an out-of-towner. I didn’t really know anyone except some members of the band and my friends, this couple.

After the show, my friend just disappeared and I was just standing there, in this sort of warehouse space, surrounded by people. I was in a panic, trying to look for her. I’m an introvert and I’m not one to just start chatting up random people.

It felt like an inhospitable act, ditching a friend who had come to visit you, not even telling her what she was doing or introducing her to people you knew. She had wanted to talk to other people but decided she didn’t want to bring me along.

I don’t remember what I did, but I did bring it up to my friend. She kind of blew it off–I don’t even remember her giving me an apology. But it was a bit traumatic for me. It was probably also a good sign that our friendship wasn’t as great as I thought. These same friends came to a theme park near me and never even mentioned being in town. Although that’s a pet peeve for me, this friendship was years long.

We had gone to church together, done Bible studies together, worshipped and sang together, had ridden out emotional upheaval (read: panic attacks), had long talks. These were not just friends but companions. Somehow, though, I had missed the signs of unraveling and just kept pushing forward, trying to be the friend I wanted (which apparently meant ignoring the actions of others).

This isn’t the first time I’ve had that happen, where I’ve been blown off and I’ve ignored the signs leading up to it. Another long-time friend, a woman I grew up with in church, blew me off when I decided to visit her for Thanksgiving almost two years ago. I had bought an expensive plane ticket to fly out to where she lived, which I had to cancel, and not in enough time to get a full refund. We had made plans in August and then she said almost near when I was going to fly out–oops, we’re visiting in-laws out of state, sorry. Also, no offer to cover the cancellation fee.

We had a long Facebook conversation about it which ended with her taking a rather hard line: my relationship and my job come first. And that was that. I told her that she knew what she had to do to restore the relationship, and that she’s chosen her path. We haven’t spoken since. Over 20 years of friendships came to an unexpected, but totally predictable, hard pause.

That event didn’t just come up out of the blue. I had been the one initiating a lot of our conversations and visits (she had never visited me). I said as much, that I had been holding a lot of the space for our friendship–and I owned it. That was on me and I should not have been doing that. I deserved reciprocity.

My tenacity and drive may work really well for overcoming obstacles, but it seems to overlook since of wear and tear in a relationship. It makes me wonder how I came to where I am this year, what I was ignoring and avoiding.

With the friends who have taken leave and have somewhat come back in my life, it’s been strange and strained. It’s not the same and it never will be. Something (beautiful and real) got lost in the interim and it’s most likely irretrievable. And I want to know what part I played in the demise of all these friendships.

My transparency, along with my almost chosen ignorance of how the other person really feels about me and the relationship through their actions, have become huge liabilities in terms of how I relate to myself and to others.

So how do I stop this cycle of prematurely undressing emotionally as well as holding onto dead things for too long?

I have to go back to the beginning.

When I think about my mother, I don’t feel anything. That’s another good sign of trauma. And trauma here isn’t about abuse, but about neglect. I may feel more of a motherly bond towards her, as if I’m her mother and I’m looking out for her, than the other way around.

This fear of abandonment goes back to my birth. My entry into the world was a rough one. My mom thinks we both nearly died thanks to a jonesing-for-a-malpractice-suit anesthesiologist. I just don’t think she and I really bonded.

I know when I was four years old, I got lost in a mall or shopping center. That may have been another traumatic incident, but I don’t remember it.

And not to get too psychological, but when a person doesn’t have a bond to their mother, that’s a big ole hill to climb in terms of developing one’s own sense of self. I don’t know if I have anyone to individuate from, or to mourn that they weren’t there. It’s eerie and unsettling, but that’s been my life.

So I am pretty darn sure I have repeated this dynamic by choosing people as friends and lovers who aren’t that interested in intimacy or I push them away somehow if they are. Yesterday, I hit what I hope is that final wall with that Sisyphean journey.

It is so exhausting to chase, to spurn and be spurned, to yearn and wonder, to leave and to be left.

Desperation is never an attractant.

I got all this from some homework that I didn’t feel ready to do (and still haven’t done– yet).

This is also to say: a trigger can be an invitation to healing, not something to avoid. I RSVPed yes yesterday and googled about abandonment and found Susan Anderson. And now I’m reading her book.

Today, I woke up to overcast skies, but later on in the morning, the skies became brilliantly clear. That transformation is how I feel about dealing with this core wound and my hope that it can be healed. There’s an alarming and amusing alacrity I have about it–like this time, I really am gonna get this right.

I’m sure it’s been hijacking my happiness, causing my business to be a bit halted, and has prevented me from being truly successful. It’s like being stuck in survival mode, no matter what the circumstances are. That is truly exhausting and not really living.

So as I heal, I will focus on the friends who aren’t leaving, and really work on my emotional self-reliance–and I won’t resent having to re-create it.

As Susan Anderson says in her book, a lot of our lives are lived alone. I don’t mean that in some dystopian, post-modern way. Even in community, we still have our own individual lives and journeys.

Through all of my harrowing circumstances, I’ve become a highly resilient person, but yesterday reminded me that I have to learn new, healthier ways of being, and loving, myself.

Coping mechanisms are just that–for coping. For thriving, we have to learn how to find our inner grit, to loosen the grip of codependence, and be fully ourselves as whole and healthy, interdependent people.

I don’t have to feel doomed with existential loneliness. I can now choose to learn differently so I can be a better friend to myself and others.

It’s time for this long line of leavers to end. It’s time for me, and for others to stick around.

newton’s cradle of grief

newton's cradle.gif

This month has been a lot for a heart to take and to process.

A massacre. A rock legend’s death. Potentially hundreds of people dying in on an island with barely any power or not enough clean running water. The exposure of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of one movie mogul. The cascade of stories of survival and the exposure of other perpetrators. Wildfires destroying more acreage than the size of New York City.

Another rock legend dies from brain cancer last night.

I took yet another break from Twitter because I was starting to sound shrill and sucked into this vortex of pain and anger. For me to leave because of an emotional contagion is saying a lot, because that’s not usually my bag. The people I am friends with on Twitter are my main community, which I am chagrined, but they are real people, real people who really matter. So it’s kind of a big deal to me when I’m not there.

And I’m not the only one who has left for Twitter for a spell. It’s more than OK to take a break from things when they aren’t serving you.

I also left because astrologically, Mercury is conjunct Jupiter in Scorpio and I wanted to focus more on improving my writing and editing business, to dip my silver tongue in the stars and say all the right things to all the right people. But emotionally, I’ve been a lot distracted, even with my sabbatical from Twitter.

And actually, Mercury conjunct Jupiter, in Scorpio, has probably created the climate of this fixation on sharing pain and anger.

And my heart just pours over…

Gord Downie’s death last night was one that Canada has been bracing for since he announced his battle with brain cancer and the subsequent final tour with his band, The Tragically Hip. It was a band I knew about back in 1996. I loved the song, “Ahead by a Century,” but I had no clue how big the band was in Canada and how much Downie meant to his nation. I learned a lot about that last year.

It’s weird how his death allowed me to shed at least one tear for Tom Petty. I’m listening to him right now (Highway Companion, for the record) and I can finally do that a little more, listen to his music. It’s like all the pain and trauma from this month is in a Newton’s cradle. This new loss of Gord Downie, and the grief of a whole nation, knocks through all the grief from before and starts at the grief at the beginning of the month.

I can’t even comprehend what happened in Las Vegas, though. It’s unfathomable, even though people die of violence here, and elsewhere, every day. What’s going on in Puerto Rico is closing in on genocide due to chosen negligence.

My conscience is seared all the way around, but maybe it’s the only way to get through the day so I don’t collapse under the weight of the all the pain and sorrow that’s been very heavy lately. It’s fixed, like Scorpio energy can be.

And then there’s my own stuff.

Not to roll out the scroll of my own suffering, but living here has been triggering memories of living with my family of origin, of how unpredictable it was due to living with someone who has untreated mental health issues. That came to a(nother) head today when I once again woke at 5:30am in the morning to the smell of brewing coffee, which derailed my whole day. It took forever to go back to bed, and then I woke up too late.

If something gets tripped up like that, over and over, to mean it means it’s time for healing. So today, I was planning on doing some work-related things, but today was a day to work some of those old emotions out: forgiveness and self-compassion and grief and anger.

New things knocking around old things.

And I imagine that’s what it’s like to hear these survivor stories–being triggered as others tell their stories. I only hope that healing can occur as Newton’s cradle of grief goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

This may sound really rah-rah and strident, but in this increasingly fixed and stubborn energy, I want to think about solutions. Especially if you’re any kind of marginalized person, you already know the world is a fucked up place. You’ve tried, in your own way, to heal yourself, to bring healing to your corner of the planet. Yet sometimes Twitter can just become an echo chamber and all you can hear are endless screams and cries and groans and yells. It could be an empath’s burden, feeling everyone else’s feels so easily. But one can only feel so much…

As I was telling a friend today, I’m so tired of hearing people glibly say that we’re all gonna die. I’ve gone through hell and back too many times for that sort of existential resignation.

I don’t have any overarching solutions right now that don’t involve a lot of money–as my friend today has surmised. So right now, the best thing I can do is to make sure I can make some so I can donate to causes that support marginalized people, i.e., take care of myself so I can take care of others.

What else can I do?

I love the people who love me back hard.

I continue to find compassion for myself as I look at my old stories with fresh and kind eyes.

I try to push back the dark, rolling clouds of doom that tried, and failed to overwhelm me today.

I keep hope close to me, but not too close so it smothers me with exaggerated optimism.

I cry if I need to.

I attempt to be more grateful and rejoice if and when I’m successful.

I look for the threads that hold things the good things together. Tie those thread tighter.

I do the best I can and know that it’s enough.

I can even look forward to things, like having my own family and not living here and/or in Florida anymore.

For now, I have to focus on the work that’s in front of me, which includes fighting to be here and not drowning in doom. If I’m sleep deprived like I am today, it can be really hard. But the fight is worth it.

To find joy and hope in the midst of immense suffering can seem impossible. But in order to survive and really live, it’s necessary.

May we all keep fighting to be here and to be happy, loved, and safe.

lengthen the fuse 💣

learn to savor SOM

Again and again and again…hasn’t really been my thing.

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life on repeat. It just makes me want to lay on the floor and smoke, maybe cry. It’s very airy (and Lana is a Gemini).

I’m not really used to listening to albums over and over—which I believe it what most people do if they like a song or an album. Usually a few times is enough, or I’ll spread it out over time. I don’t want to get tired of it so soon. I want to make the pleasure last as long as possible.

I’m not sure what kicked this over for me, to allow myself to listen and watch things repeatedly. When I evacuated to Chicago to escape certain power failure at my house due to Hurricane Irma, I stayed with a friend and her 3-year-old son. He loves the Disney movie Moana—and (now!) I do, too. In the 12 days I was there, I saw it on at least three times. I never do that with movies, even with the few that I own (then why the hell do I own them?🤷🏾‍♀️)

But then, a couple of weekends ago, I watched the “San Junipero” episode from the Netflix TV show, Black Mirror again. It was really transformational the second time around, and I watched it to feel better. I ended up feeling like my heart had been busted wide open—I got a lot more I bargained for.

Beyond Lana Del Rey, someone who I didn’t even want to be into but Lust for Life is a damn good album, this week I’ve been listening to music I like over and over. This week, I also kept listening to The Cranberries’ Something Else, which is mostly an acoustic version of their hits with two new songs. Listening to that has been grounding somehow, very calming. I keep going back to certain songs and listening to them.

Turn towards the good (especially) when things are bad…

One thing I forget is to turn to music when things are hard—or even just to turn to it at all. But it’s been there for me so many times.

I remember being semi-homeless around this time 3 years ago. I was driving the big hills of Clermont, leaving my last Airbnb for another itinerant stay on the other side of town. I was driving with the sunroof open and the windows down, singing to this K-pop/rock dude in Korean. It was such a liberating feeling, with my consolidated life in plastic bins and suitcases, with the wind whipping through the car. Even though I had no real home, that felt really…good. I felt at home in myself. Even going back to that memory feels really good.

I do wonder why I don’t turn to good things, especially when things are bad, or just not so great. There’s even science behind how savoring is good for your wellbeing. 

It’s been a rough few years down here, but I withhold feeling good until circumstances are good, like I need to feel safe to feel happy. And, well, that’s terrible. So why not be like my friend’s son and watch the same movie over and over, play the same songs over and over?

The ever-annoying Mr. Cancer Sticks 😤🚬😷

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know the ongoing saga of living with this wizened old white dude in his early 60s, whom I disaffectionately call Mr. Cancer Sticks, because he’s a heavy smoker. His excessive coughing along with his not working (he’s on SSDI and lived in the woods for 12 years before living here starting in May), makes him a constant presence in an otherwise peaceful and quiet home. He was even smoking in his room for a few days. 🤦🏾‍♀️

These are the sort of stressors that can cause me to have a short fuse. I don’t ever blow up at this guy, although I’ve resented having to teach him how to clean up after himself and just be a considerate person while sharing a small house with two other people.

Turning towards the good, though, can help lengthen my fuse before I explode (or implode). Lifehacker had this post on how to teach kids to calm down, based on their age. For teenagers, the advice was to learn how to “lengthen the fuse” when you’re going through a stressful time. Engage in activities that you enjoy—talk to a friend, listen to your favorite song, exercise, etc. It also helps to know when your fuse is already starting to shorten. Maybe it’s teeth grinding or shallow breathing—we all have our things.

To be a kid again

I don’t have kids (yet?) but I better understand this impulse to continue to make yourself happy with the same thing over and over again. It may be annoying to hear that stupid toy make those stupid sounds for the umpteenth time, or to give your kid that piggyback ride, again, as she giggles in glee.

When I first got to my friend’s place in Chicago, I played with her son. We played this game of throwing couch cushions at each other. It was a workout because it seemed like an eternity as I pummeled him with the cushions and he’d collapsed in peals of laughter.  From hanging out with him, I remembered that as an adult, I’ve made pleasure and fun a rarity and not a right.

I could stand being a little kid again.

Back to the promised land

From when I was little, music has always been the milk and honey from my Canaan. It was a sanctuary as I would listen to music (mainly Christian, but increasingly alternative and R&B) with big headphones on my dad’s fancy tape decks. I could block out the world and just be in the space that those musical artists created.

Playing classical piano music, first on a keyboard and then on a piano, was a haven from my family’s devolution due to my father’s growing issues with mental illness. Even those lessons ended because my dad was unwell, something I haven’t been able to forgive, although I understand and can comprehend the source of the irrationality and inherent selfishness of his decision. It still hurts, over 20 years later–the untimely separation from my first love.

I look back at my time here and I still don’t know why I didn’t just immerse myself in music. It should be a habit, like brushing my teeth. I always feel better after I listen to music.

I want to create music soon, but I am still on this path of creating the foundation of stability from which all other things will grow. But in the meantime, as I deal with obnoxious housemates, financial instability, and an extended period of aloneness, I must find the good where I can.

I have to find my own pillow fight, my own Moana movie, my own song that I cannot stop listening to, my endless pleasure center that I can hitting and hitting and hitting, again and again…

The promised land isn’t when my circumstances get better. The promised land is where I go to feel better. It is a land within me, created with melody, harmony, rhythm, and silence…and I can visit anytime I want.

It’s time I set up a permanent residency…

 

 

it’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

time to move on SOM.jpg

I have been dreading writing this blog post that I didn’t think I had to write until Monday evening. I don’t think I will be able to get this right. But I’m going to try.

tom petty RIP.jpg

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had just finished their 40th anniversary tour, playing their last show on September 25th at the Hollywood Bowl. At this point in my life, I wasn’t really following much of what they were doing as a band. I knew that they had played Wrigley Field in Chicago this summer, and I had kind of wanted to see that show, just because of the historic venue. They had played Tampa in May but I was out of town. I didn’t even know there had been a couple of albums of unreleased music that had been released in 2015.

The only time I saw them was at the United Center in 2008–and that was enough. It was a bucket list concert for sure, and it was a lot of fun. I went with a friend that I used to sing with–a singer-songwriter who played guitar and piano. It was like a big ole sing-a-long.

On the heels of one of the worst massacres in history, when I read that Tom Petty had had a massive heart attack, I was in disbelief. Could there be even more loss today?

He’s 5 years younger than my father and two years younger than my mother. I’m almost as old as his band (I’ll be celebrating my 40th year of life this year). Heart attack? I didn’t think of him as a hard-livin’ man anymore. He was chillin’ in Malibu.

Then Twitter killed him, via the LAPD and CBS News who had erroneously confirmed his death. But TMZ had said that his family had removed life support and that he was clinging to life. After what TMZ had done with bungling the news of Li’l Wayne, I wasn’t trusting them. So I’m angry, but then hoping he’d miraculous pull through.

But eventually, Tom Petty did pass. He was another part of my childhood and adulthood unexpectedly stripped away from me and so many other people.

And just like Prince, he still had some music left in him. I didn’t know there was going to be more music from the Wildflowers session that was going to be released–and who knows what else.

I learned a lot about Tom Petty this past week. Although I’m an erstwhile musician and singer, and I’m an avid lover of music, I’ve never really cared that much about musical artists’ personal lives. I only seem to care when they were gone, which is probably why I love musical documentaries. I watched a four-hour documentary on Netflix, Runnin’ Down a Dream. It was really great to have a better sense of him and his bandmates. But I didn’t need it to appreciate their music as is.

I read most of the obits and tributes I could stand. Some were stupid and clearly written by people who didn’t do their homework (not even worth noting). But most were pretty laudatory, as they should be. I loved reading what my friends had to say about how much his music meant to them.

Petty was a gifted singer-songwriter who wrote for the underdog because he was one. I think Petty was an everyman for a lot of Americans. He was able to capture that American type of restlessness and drive to do better, to be better, to transcend one’s problems and station in life. His songs also have a sense of place that is easily accessible, even if you’d never been in the San Bernardino Valley or in an Indiana town on an Indiana night.

He was also the guy that hipsters and indie rockers aspire to but maybe will never become–because it’s really hard to do. You’ll never hear any of his songs on commercials. He assiduously fought record companies to be paid fairly and to keep record costs affordable. From the documentary and all the articles I’ve read, I learned a lot about Petty’s sense of fairness, his struggles with drugs, his depression after his divorce, his deep sense of loyalty, his championing of the marginalized.

My favorite tribute/obit was from The Bitter Southerner (what a great name for a publication!) because it wasn’t completely fawning–although he more than deserves it. It showed a bit of his Libra double-edginess (which, fighting with lawyers and record companies is pretty Libra already). It was a fuller portrait of a musical legend. The not-so-shiny parts made his shiny parts even brighter in comparison.

My Twitter friend, Bearded Stoner, and I have been kind of mourning online together. I kept sending him tributes that I thought he’d find interesting. It’s been helpful for me to have someone who gets it, as we’re both Southerners. It’s made this grief a little more bearable, especially since what I haven’t been doing is listening to a bunch of his music. It’s too painful still.

And it’s not to say that “Yankees” don’t get Tom Petty either. That’s the beauty and genius of writing great music is that if you’re really good, then it’s not just about the musicianship–it’s about everything. But it’s just different, in my opinion, if you grew up in the South and listened to him, since Petty was from Central Florida (Gainesville, which is just 80 minutes up the I-75 from me) which is pretty rednecky and Southern (well, certain pockets are). The only regret I have is not being able to see him and the Heartbreakers play with the Black Crowes–a band from Marietta, Georgia. I probably would have lost my shit, since I loved that band, too, for very roots rock/Southern reasons.

Even beyond what the album Wildflowers meant to me and other memories of his music, like singing “I Won’t Back Down” in church, what matters to me most in the wake of his untimely passing is me living here. And maybe this is where the blog post should truly start.

Tom Petty inadvertently welcomed me to Central Florida when I moved down here five years ago. I was in the middle of a terrible move with a disreputable moving company. I had to stay with my cousin and his family for two weeks as I waited for my things to bump their way down the East Coast.

The first full day I was here was a Monday, and everyone had gone to work or school. I was watching some cable channel and they were showing Tom Petty, I believe, in some high school gym or auditorium in Gainesville. There was a show back in 2006 when he and the Heartbreakers went to University of Florida, but I don’t think that was it. This seemed to be more of an intimate show. He was really happy to be back. Watching that show, while I was waiting for my new life to start, I felt like he personally welcomed me home.

Even though the next few years were humiliating and gut-wrenching, playing any Tom Petty music, especially the album Wildflowers, made me feel like I belonged here, even if it was just for a few minutes. Besides the warm weather and having access to beaches, this being his home turf was the only thing I could take pride in. Even Wildflowers reminded me of those few good minutes I had with my friends in my youth group while it was hell living at home.

Tom Petty, with or without the Heartbreakers, had been part of the soundtrack of my life for at least 25 years of my 40 years of living. In particular, the wisdom from the song, “The Waiting Is the Hardest Part,” is something I’ve championed over and over. It was something I constantly would quote–partly as a pacifier for my own impatience, and partly as a way of commiserating with others, “I get it. Waiting sucks.”

Yet with Petty’s passing, it definitely makes it even clearer that it’s time to move on from Central Florida. Waiting for something decent and good to happen here is not what I’m destined for. It’s a weird and eerie coincidence and a strange bookend that I never expected, but it is definitely a sign that I will take to heart.

There is a magic and a beauty about living in the South, even with its bloody history. Some of that magic and beauty left last Monday night…

I’ll leave you with a song, “Walls (Circus),” that I was obsessed with right before Tom Petty passed. I don’t know if that was some omen, or just that with better headphones, I could appreciate the brilliance of this song. For me, it’s the background vocals of Lindsey Buckingham that make it so wonderful. The song is also definitely emblematic of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers mantra: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” because I immediately just get stuck in the chorus in a beautiful earworm loop.

I know that Tom Petty knows how much he was loved by his family, friends, and fans, but I didn’t know how much I cared about him as a person until he was gone. It’s a cliche that no one wants to find themselves in, but it seems to be part of the human condition to not be able to fully appreciate someone until something like death, or close to it, happens. I hope he was able to feel the love from all over the world streaming into his hospital room in Santa Monica as he transitioned.

Thank you, Tom, for sharing your gifts with us.