Bandersnatch – The CYOA Way

The only spoiler in here is more of a big picture or process spoiler. But even still, it’s probably best that you mess with the film until you’re exhausted, and then read this afterward.

OK. This is one of these experiments where if I was on Twitter, I’d just write a whole thread about what I just did for the past three hours. But I’m not due back, by my own doing, for the next eight days. So let’s see if we can do that “don’t write a thread, write a blog post!” thing.

Choose Your Own Adventure

First of all, I love Choose Your Own Adventure book series (also the less popular version Which Way…and there was some YA romance version, too) and, most likely, I love it more than you do. I have many of these books in storage right now that I haven’t even read.

I wrote some sort of essay in grad school that could have been something similar a few years ago, but I can’t fully recall. I just remember my instructor asking me if she could use this method or was I going to? I said I was going to, but I don’t remember what I wrote. That was in 2012.

Before then, I grew up going to Walmart as often as I could, buying these books (for $1.95 to $2.95) with my allowance. I loved them into adolescence. My favorite title was You Are a Genius. I would read with fingers kept in key parts where there was a seemingly fateful decision where one could mercilessly die. If I died, then I could go back to the last choice and choose differently. Ah, if only life were so easy!

For a YA book, it was pretty macabre–but not in a completely gruesome way. It’s more of a very final, existential way. I would dread reading words like this:

You are never heard from again. 

🥺

I’m not really obsessed with much as a dilettante, but my passion for CYOA books is as obsessed as I could be. Although, I wasn’t obsessed enough to be interested in the authors. It’s just my version of Pokemon-gotta-catch-em-all. I’m a collector if you will. I probably have at least 40 of these books, and that seems like a low number.

It’s more than a book–it’s a philosophy

As a teenager, I adopted the CYOA mindset as a way to deal with the theological conundrum that my friends in my church’s youth group would love to debate on occasion: do we truly have free will or is everything predestined (by God or life or whatever)?

In my mind, CYOA meant that we did have the freedom to choose, but the choices had fixed fates, fates you couldn’t necessarily choose your way out of. Even the choices weren’t up to you. And the choices that you think matter–they really don’t. But then there are inconsequential choices that can completely change your fate.

Enter Bandersnatch, Netflix’s latest film from the Black Mirror series. It dropped today. I actually renewed Netflix for Black Mirror, as I usually do for this series. And being the CYOA freak that I am, I was especially excited to see this on…my own black mirror.

Sidenote:

This would be a great short tweet thread here, but ever since I was researching 2001: A Space Odyssey and thinking about the black monolith, I’ve been viewing my TV as one–which it literally is and also, in a sense, is the same as it was intended in the film–some tool that ended up accelerating human evolution (TV has been revolutionary indeed).

So lately, my TV has creeped me out. It just looms over me in my bedroom. Although I love the images that Chromecast displays–art, space, landscape–when I move, I don’t think I’ll keep a TV in my bedroom anymore–or at least one was big as mine. It’s just imposing and leering and a little too…dark and ominous.

I bring this up because 1) I’ve been dying to share that but 2) it coincides with what Black Mirror is, according to the TV series creator Charlie Brooker.

The “black mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.

I cannot believe I just learned this today.

Anyway, cue “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai…

jamiroquai

It’s Black Mirror, or the “Coming Attractions” of our present dystopia!

Bandersnatch is a choose-your-own-adventure type film–interactive film as Netflix calls it. I had a Smart TV (a rather ancient one from 2012, but it still works…), but I had to watch it on my computer because it requires a mouse for you to choose.

Another technical note: On my Smart TV, I saw that the film was only two minutes long. I clicked to watch it, thinking that this is different from the trailer, or maybe I misunderstood the two minutes length, especially since this was an interactive film. So after clicking, I received a proper British apology about having the wrong technology to watch the movie. And by the way–you can’t cast from your Android phone either. 

Anyway…you have about 10 seconds to choose each choice. But if you’re really not into choices, then you’ll have choices made for you. I found that out while multitasking on my phone. So if you just want to watch it as a film, you could just let the time expire and let “fate” choose for you.

(I think I’m only going to watch this one more time, as a film, without choosing anything. It will be hard to be passive, but after spending so many hours going back and forth, between reality, dream, and delusion, it will probably feel like a deserved break.) 

If you do find a “you are never heard from again” ending (and believe me, it’s Black Mirror–so it’s no spoiler to say that there’s death in this film), interestingly the film does the bookmarking/finger held in place for you–to a certain extent. After a not-so-favorable ending, you’ll be brought back to key choices. “Try again” is a phrase you will hear often and, if you’re crazy or patient enough, you will do often.

I don’t want to give too much away. But, if you know Black Mirror, you know how everything is allegorical. Brooker does not shy from hammering home his points, almost in a hamfisted way. And, well–it’s a British show and I’m a stupid Yank who is a sucker for these limey accents. So the moral hamfisting–I guess I will just allow it.

But really, I allow it because the points being made are good ones and it’s part of the whole Black Mirror…schtick? Schtick may be the wrong word. Ethos is probably a better one.

The interactive quality involves more than the choices you’re making, but how the film is interacting with you. It’s not like going to see Captain EO at Epcot, or other films that bring in smells and sensations (think IMAX). It’s more psychological–and again, I don’t really want to spoil it much at all. Please watch it if you can.

I actually came to write about this tonight because there was one choice I made that I’m sure I made, and the movie chose the other choice. That only happened once. But I was pissed.

Maybe I didn’t click hard enough or correctly? It’s possible.

But even the questioning of myself falls into the realm of this movie. It really is a mindfuck, but not in the typical Black Mirror way. 

Is it art or is it a game? Can a game be art?

But unlike previous Black Mirror episodes, it is a game–and that’s what makes this a bit different. I’ll get into why in a little bit.

Lately, on mobile games (and I can only speak for those–I’m not a gamer with a gamer consoles), there are games that take on this fiction-as-gaming methodology.

There are a plethora of games in this genre, like Episodes (I personally find this platform to be trash because of poorly written stories, but it’s highly popular), Moments which, surprise–it has its moments, and my personal favorite, Choices.

In the past few years, these “interactive novels” have become increasingly popular. I’m pretty sure shoot-em-up games are more popular–but even those have become very entrenched in story. I was blown away when Halo first came out and how story-oriented Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was. I’m not a console gamer, so I can only imagine how story-oriented the shoot-em-up games have become.

So let me say in my most writerly voice: we live and thrive from our stories.

So these mobile games can be played for free, but it’s a freemium model. So, if you actually want to have fun or get a richer experience, it can all get a bit pricey because unlike Bandersnatch, if you want some more appealing or sexier choices, you’ll need to pay for them with diamonds.

You can earn a few gems by watching ads or logging in or reading a chapter…or, if you’re impatient and really dig the story, you can buy them. Dammit, it’s a good profitability model, but one that can easily bleed you dry. You’ll be stuck with a choice you know you want to make, but then it cost ten gazillion diamonds. Curses!

The quality of writing on some of these platforms leaves a lot to be desired–typos, plot holes, overused tropes, stupid characters, etc. These games are mostly aimed at a population which identifies as female (as far as I’ve seen) and most likely skews younger.

But after watching Bandersnatch, it makes me wonder if they will be more films made like this or if there will be even more games created as interactive novels for wider audiences–and hopefully of the same caliber of Brooker’s writing.

From my personal experience, when you’re involved in a story, it’s easier to become more emotionally involved and attached (thus the freemium model being so lucrative and effective). I believe it can make for a more deeply entertaining experience–hey, it’s why I’m talking about some book I bought over 20 years ago.

So why did I bring up gaming for Bandersnatch? Besides the fact that the genre of interactive novels has risen in popularity, it’s how I felt when I watch the film.

When you go through your first passes of Bandersnatch, you start to wonder if you can go back to a previous choice and get a similar result without some other unforeseen outcomes. Unlike a book, you can’t really go backwards at will, so I wrote down what I chose as a way to somewhat keep my finger on a page of the story. But you start to see if you can game the game, in essence.

But the game can’t be “played” like that.

What choices can we freely choose?

And that brings me back to this: the choices we “freely” make and having unavoidable fixed fates–that’s really enough of a spoiler, honestly. A CYOA-type book or game can bring a sense of madness. And it’s easily a metaphor for life.

Even if you could go back and change things–and you don’t have to talk about time-space continuums or changing other things in history or the butterfly effect. It’s not even that sensitive or precise.

Even if you could go back to change certain choices, it doesn’t matter. Some choices are made for you, whether you like it or not. That also means that some outcomes are unavoidable. It’s a bit of a wearying truth that comes from not only Bandersnatch, but from reading CYOA books and playing CYOA type games. We’re not as “free” as we think we are.

And it sounds like I’ve fallen on the side of predestination. But really, it’s a blend that has so many variables, including other people’s “free will” choices. But it’s not some big deity is the heavens making all the choices. That’s a type of dangerous fatalism and nihilism for people who think they have no agency or autonomy.

It’s all of us, together, making choices which affect all of us–including people we’ll never meet.

If you watch this film, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below! What did you most like or hate about it? What left you with more questions? What ideas or lessons did you come away with after watching? How long did you watch it for? Did you go back to certain choices repeatedly? What was your favorite ending? Looking forward to reading your thoughts!


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Thanks for your support! Happy Holidays! 💘

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Immigration is easy. Acculturation is hard.

america som

(I’d add enslaved people here, too.)

Yesterday, I was watching this op-ed video from The New York Times, about the African migrant crisis taking place in northern Africa and the Mediterranean. It was galling and eye-opening, to see people, my people, on a small little inflatable raft leaving the coast of Libya for Italy. This video is about 15 minutes long–and you should watch it, even though content warning–you will see people (needlessly) drown, antagonized, and beaten.

World immigration patterns can be easily lead back to how Europe and America have had their little grubby hands in people’s governments, installed dictators, and caused political and social upheaval–and that’s just the post-colonial part of history. 

What’s happening on America’s southern border is mostly America’s fault. Our involvement in Central American affairs has caused a vicious boomerang effect of displacement. The same can be said for what’s gone on in sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. The same can be said for what’s gone on in Haiti.

And that’s why I’m here in America now, because my parents were escaping some unlivable conditions as medical professionals. They were part of a brain drain in the 1970s that Ghana has yet to recover from. In that video, there was a Ghanaian miner talking about his experience of being on that raft–it was harrowing to listen his story and the story of other sub-Saharan Africans.

Seeing this video reminded me of the cost of immigration–not only for those who immigrate, but for their children as well.


I’ve been of the mind since I came down here to Florida for grad school and wrote about my own family’s experiences of living in the States that basically, it wasn’t worth leaving Ghana to live here. It was out of the frying pan of one post-colonial shit show into another much longer post-colonial shit show–although it was more of a slow grind which took years to manifest.

A lot of what my family went through, I still sometimes think it may not have been as bad in Ghana. We lost the familial and cultural ties that would have at least protected me and my brother from a man slowly losing his grip on reality. We would have had my mom’s mom, our aunts and uncles, our cousins, and all the other extended relatives that we don’t really have now. My mom has said that being in America made my father’s mental health issues more profound.

But then I think about all the people willing to risk their lives to leave countries like Ghana and Guatemala. They aren’t stupid to try to leave so they can actually have some semblance of a life. My parents weren’t stupid or foolhardy to leave Ghana to try to make it here. It just was that the options, as they were then as they are now, were pretty bleak–and even bleaker now.

My parents immigrated quite easily because they were medical professionals and my dad served in the Air Force. But you’ll never have someone’s green card waiting for them at the airport like my mom’s was waiting for her. That brief era of openness is over.


This morning, after waking up from a dream about my former youth group pastor and his now ex-wife, along with my former pastor and his wife (by the way, it was a nice dream), I realized that my lack of thriving here or dreams realized right now is tied to so many things outside of my control.

Yes, there’s the racism and the sexism–things I wasn’t really brought up to think that they affect me personally, but clearly they do.

But it’s also not being American enough and at the same time, knowing that this fish-of-water experience is very American. That’s a big thrust of the memoir I wrote in grad school. 

So why the dream about my old church? I thought how much I was left out of social situations as a teen because of my parents–mainly my mother–being so controlling about my whereabouts. And to be a teenager in America is very much about freedom and hanging out with your friends.

When I was in my 30s, I went back home one Christmas and I was hanging out with another friend who told me about how she and other friends of ours were always hanging out at this lake that I had only been to once. It’s mainly because I lived on the other side of town and didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 18. But it was apparently a big part of their social experience that I didn’t get to be a part of–AND I had only hear about it almost two decades later.

Yes, there’s the pain of having missed out on some social gatherings. There’s also the social education I feel like I missed. There was a lot of American naturalization and socialization that I just did not get as a Black American woman. And that knowledge gap has been costly.

I’m pretty sure I have the mind and heart of a Ghanaian, but if I went to Ghana, I’d be seen as American.

And that’s not just a Ghanaian phenomenon, by the way. 

Last month, I was interviewing this British man who I couldn’t quite place his accent because it almost sounded Australian. But he had been here for about 14 years. He said that when he goes back to the UK, people say he sounds too American.

It’s like what my second thesis advisor said–when you leave the land, the land will forget you.


So America is my land. But unless I have a family of my own here, I will probably never have deep roots here. And I believe that’s why I lament when people leave my life, because I’ve had to construct my own sense of cultural identity and place without the land that has already forgotten me–a land that really never knew me–with every word I would say in Ghana being some shibboleth of betrayal.

I don’t have any lasting traditions of my own, or familial memories of what we do–except one (highly appropriate for this time of year) where my mother would drive me and my brother around neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights.

Other people have been better at this creating roots and traditions in a new land, but I’m terrible at it, mainly because so much of it was centered around church and Christian culture (and thus, white American culture) . So leaving that has made me even more rootless.

It just seems that whomever I meet now, it will never be like having a true family of origin, like my grandmother, like my extended family (which is quite large just on my mom’s side).

To them, like to the friends who were in my church’s youth group, I’m auxiliary. I’m not a part of their base. I’m not foundational. And I never will be.


I’ve had a real nasty, persistent naivete about people, especially white people. And it means that I act a little too recklessly (and that’s partly due to not really having a foundation or homebase). But grad school was a rude and needed awakening to the perniciousness of whiteness.

It was like I had lived with a dormant fungal infection that bloomed when I moved to a different part of the country. It was an education my dad was trying to give me, through little talks we had about his growing up and his life in America. But because it was so wrapped up in bitterness (which now, I can almost not blame him for), I couldn’t really understand it until it basically made my grad school experience a waking nightmare.

A lot of that, again, was tied up in the church, so by leaving that behind, white supremacy was on full display, and the inherent unfairness and hypocrisy that is its bedrock. I got hit in the head with it many times.

Honestly, it’s partly why I’m in this dump of a house with this semi-retiree shut-in. But when I look at the big picture of where my life is situated–the deep shame I’ve felt for my lack of success is completely unfounded (although sadly, it’s hard to let go of).

Instead, I should be proud of myself.

My story is one of resilience despite ridiculously shitty odds, unfathomable obstacles, and just good ole American fuckery.

It’s not about what I didn’t get or didn’t do. It’s about the alchemy I used to get where I am today despite all of the shit that was in my way.

If I can go back in time to change things, there’s not much I could do to navigate my lifeboat in another direction. Maybe I would have had a little less suffering, but not much. Essentially, I would have to have had different parents and have been born at a different time and under different circumstances. But then, I wouldn’t be me. 

So, at the not-so-tender age of 41, I give up.

I don’t care if I don’t fit in here in the U.S.–or anywhere, really. Humanity is quite tribal, and yet my own parents come from two different ethnic groups with two separate languages, two different naming (of children) systems.

I’ve always been out of place…

As I’ve grown older, I’ve strived to fit in with myself–with all the sensitivities, the anxieties, the rages, the passions, the penchants, the peculiarities…in my own private country, population of one.

So now, I’m most always concerned if I am betraying myself. I want to stick up for myself more because at least I can rely on my own loyalties.


So what can I do, in such a fractured world that doesn’t really want me to succeed, with the clipped and edited lineage that I have? As I have always done–the best that I can. If I am not doing my best, that’s really the only way that I have failed.

Although I’ve definitely tried too hard, there’s some relief to know that right down to my cells, I’m divided. This is not supposed to be easy just because I had smart parents, that I am smart myself, that I care about people, that I really try not to be an asshole.

I have essentially thrived in a hostile landscape.

Even though I’ve “given up”,  I haven’t given up on living.

I want to not only be happy, but I want to remain sane and safe. I want to continue to take good care of myself in the best way that I can.

Maybe it’s impossible to find roots anywhere, to have my own lasting community with anyone. But I still have to try because I’m a human being. This is what we do.

I’ve had a lot of barriers and constraints, and yet I’ve thought I was a lot more free than I was. And that’s important because I’ve been so hard on myself because I know what I am capable of–but I’ve never really been a full place of freedom and expansion to be that person.

And, I may not ever experience that seemingly mythical place of true, open space to flourish. And, that’s rough to hear. It’s tough for me to fully accept. I’m a relentless fighter, and I know that’s what’s kept me alive.

But there’s some grace in this acceptance. It means I can stop putting pressure on myself to be this superhuman. 

Now, it’s time to figure out, within this cramped space, who I’m supposed to be, who I already am.

My little childlike heart doesn’t like to hear it but…life is unfair and hard and cruel. But, because it is also brief, you’ve got to try to make a life for yourself with whatever you have, with the shitty hand you were dealt…as you sit with people who know the game better than you and with the cheaters.

I’ve been really mad at myself for not knowing how to play the game, but I’ve done all I can to learn. My parents, even in their narcissism, did the best they could to teach me, but the way Ghanaian society is, it’s never just up to the parents to do that, to offer guidance, love, and support. So they were doing their part without the orchestra of the rest of the family to support us. And truly, nuclear families are really just a recent American construction, but they’ve always been failed states. Family has never just been about parents and their children.

And, I’m pretty sure if my parents knew how complicated America was, especially for Black people, they’d be better at conveying that knowledge and wisdom to me. But they were trying to figure it out for themselves and used church as a crutch to get through. It kinda worked, kinda didn’t. I can definitely hold them accountable for being narcissists, but nothing else. America is a hostile place to live if you’re not a rich white cis straight male. 

So the people trying to escape Central America and Africa are just like the people who escaped Nazi Germany and famine-stricken Ireland (which I would blame the UK for)–just all trying to live a better life in hopefully a better place. I’m still not sure if America is that better place for me, but I really am done with blaming myself for being “too much” and “not enough” in a such a capricious place.

I mean look at who is POTUS right now, along with his whole corrupt family. I’m definitely not the problem.


I remember hearing when I was 18 or so about how being 40, you learn about how much you don’t know. And I can attest to this truism. I know so little.

But the more I learn about myself and the world I live in, the more freedom I have to be myself, even when there’s poverty constantly nipping at my heels or as I try to withstand existential loneliness’ daily campaign to try to take me out.

There’s some strange comfort to know that it’s not supposed to work out the way I had it in my head, that these “failures” were baked into the cultural fabric of American society.

It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be horrifying. It’s supposed to be dehumanizing and demoralizing. 

You’re not crazy–the system is.

But when you’re an immigrant to America, that’s the exact opposite of what you’re told. And capitalism will just tell you to work harder (for who and to what ends?). 

And it’s OK to say that life right now is a hellscape. It’s not fatalism–it’s reality. And by embracing what is, then you can have the knowledge to change it.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are things I still want to achieve. But I can’t accomplish this to the tune of the “American Dream”.

That I’m still here and alive is something I need to be more and more grateful for instead of resenting. I was never meant to survive this–from my very birth, which was fraught with complications. 

And this is where saying that life is about the journey, not the destination really makes sense. I may never get to that place of “home” or “community” or “family”, but I still have to journey to these places. Maybe they won’t look like how I thought, but I have to believe they exist, and that they exist for me.

It’s why people make arduous journeys leave their war-torn, coup-riddled countries to come to an unfair place like this one or one like Italy. These foreign places are just a little less unfair enough, and they have a just little bit more room for people to just be.


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Thanks for your support! Happy Holidays! 💘

 

 

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

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Photo by Graham Hunt on Unsplash

After six weeks of hard hustling and work, I’m taking ten days off of work. That’s one way to start #CapricornSeason! 😉 But sometimes all that free time freaks me out, especially after working so much for so long.

It reminds me that I don’t really have anyone to spend that time with.

It’s two days before my birthday, what the rest of you call Christmas, and all I have planned is to read a romance novel and eating chocolate cake…and possibly listening to Christmas music.

This year, it hurts a lot to listen to Christmas music. I have a lot of it. But I don’t feel very merry, even though it’s finally gotten cold in the Sunshine State, and…I’m not broke, for once. I’m deeply grateful for both of those things.

But I will be here, in my room, alone. And, I feel like I’ve let myself down–and not just for Christmas. But with everything. And sure, I’m entirely too hard on myself, but maybe it’s a reckoning of how much I don’t have in my control while discovering what I actually do have in my control.

Things, things in my life, should look better and brighter than they do.

And, somehow, by committing to being a writer instead of…I don’t know what else, really besides being a doctor…I’ve dug myself into this hole that I can’t seem to get myself out of. It’s a bit of a miserable, dingy hole, but it is my hole. At least I can be honest with myself in this hole.

So this week, I won’t be painting on smiles and hanging out with people I can’t stand. And most of my adult life, I’ve spent Christmases with other people. As I get older, I’m spending more Christmases by myself. I was doing this before it was cool to do–and it’s still apparently not cool to do, as I read about people dealing with relatives they can’t stand.

All it took was one bad Christmas at home after I came back from my first quarter at college to make sure I wouldn’t come back often.

Even if I may sound tough and hardened, it still feels pathetic and awful, especially since it’s my birthday. Society compounds those feelings.

But this is my choice. I just haven’t found anything else worth choosing more than solitude.


And this spills out more from just the holidays, although the holidays make it more acute and painful (unless you decide that Tuesday is just another day that you get to be alive).

It’s time to crank out the old refrain again: this year has been one of grief and loss, one that I can scarcely believe that I lived. Some crazy ass highs and some fathomless lows.

At the beginning of the year, I said mainly to myself, but also to others, that I wanted to be more aligned this year. But I had no idea how misaligned I was when I said it. And how much it would take to become more aligned.

And aligned to what? Well, to what’s best for me.

My constant refrain has been about all the people I’ve lost, people I thought would be around for a long time…I’m frankly still in shock about it.

So when I think about trying to meet new people next year, I feel incredibly gunshy–for once. I’m scared there will be more leaving and abandonment, more rejection, more misunderstanding. And that’s really tiresome, even though that’s a big part of life. In this moment, I don’t feel up for the risk.

I recently joined another community of people who are more like me, and I just couldn’t bear to write some introductory post. 

I was catching up with the TV show “A Million Little Things” and I burst into sobs as one character, who is so beautifully open with his feelings, was celebrating his first year of remission from breast cancer. But his friend had committed suicide a few weeks before (kind of the premise of the whole show) and he was livid that he wasn’t alive. It was so raw and real, the anger and sorrow. I understood it so well. And it felt good to cry over similar losses.

My unending shock about people taking a hike from my life is not about this year alone–I think it’s about 40 years of living, loving, and losing. It’s all caught up with me, and it feels heavy and unbearable.

Last night, I had a dream about a former friend. We hugged so tightly, it hurt. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged someone that hard in my life.

And as I was letting go, they held onto me. So I hugged back longer. That’s never happened to me, either. I always hold on too long…

It felt so normal and then when I woke up, it took a while for me to realize that was a dream and not a memory…and that I had dreamed about that person, again.

Grief is weird.


I had written a friend this amazing email this month and it hasn’t been responded to. I seriously doubt it will be. I am so tempted to publish it because it was so good.

I did feel afraid, after the fact, that I was being so honest about how I felt about myself, about how I saw life, that I had said so much so passionately. Maybe it was a premonition. And then I felt so much shame, like I wasn’t taking care of myself, like I was open to someone who maybe hadn’t earned it. Maybe I misread…

But it felt so good to be really, unabashedly me, yet I was afraid I wouldn’t get a response–and then, my fears were realized.

And hey, I could be wrong. It’s the holidays now. But as soon as I sent it, it felt like too much–even if it was right for me. But I have no regrets in what I wrote.

What was unexpected was what happened next. This brought up old (self-inflicted) wounds from high school, where I wrote a lot of letters. Although I don’t think about this a lot, I’m still ashamed of this part of me, how epistolary I was.

There was one guy I had a crush on that I wrote and he never wrote back. I quite stupidly pestered him and he just kept blowing me off. Wow, this actually happened with two guys. I couldn’t even tell you what I felt so impo

I keep wondering…this part of me hasn’t changed in over 20 years. Is being this open and honest a good thing for me or not? Should I be choosier? Are these people all swine, and are my words pearls?

I keep hearing about how being yourself really pays off. But it feels like I haven’t hit paydirt yet.

Boy, this sounds snobby, but remember…or, um, let me let you in on a little secret: I’m the weirdo here–the levels of honesty and candor that I have are higher than most and most people are just not cut out for that level of transparency. For me, this came from living in a house where people weren’t honest or open with each other. My life has been an outright rebellion against silence and hiding.

And yet, I still have many levels of opacity, too. I’m not as clear as a newly-washed window. None of us are.

I admit that sometimes I’ve used the transparency as a way to blind people and push them away. But I don’t do that anymore.

Also, I keep repeating the parental dynamics I grew up with (spoiler alert–we all do). That dude from high school might as well be my mother.

My parents weren’t very cuddly or hands-on with me, and so I developed a talent of drawing in people who were on the outside. I thought it was because I felt on the outside, too. And I’m sure that was a part of it.

But it just seems to be me that I have been trying to connect with people who aren’t actually that interested in me (like my parents). Because it’s a challenge to convert the unconvertible. And then, when you do succeed, you get extra special gold stars. Or something like your parents’ love and affection. 

(Pssst. You don’t get anything close to that.)

And that’s just a part of it. The other part is my expansiveness. It’s like a flood of information and feelings, and it can come without warning. I’ve seen it perplex people into silence and laughter.

And that’s when I don’t really feel like I get how to be human, here and now. I know it can be a turn-off to most, because most people like hiding. That includes me sometimes. 

But I realize, as I sit in the alleged ash heap of my allegedly ruined life, I can’t stop being me. I refuse to retool this part of me any longer, especially since I’ve spent most of my life trying to bundle this up and keep it hidden. If (I think that) this is the worst thing about me, then I know that there are so many worse things to be.

This isn’t the worst thing to be.

It’s a bit of a vicious feedback loop, though–the buds of rejection from others can bloom into self-rejection.


Earlier this year, in one of the last times I talked to this rather dreamy person, I remember them encouraging me to keep talking and how I could barely handle that encouragement. And it was so genuine…*inwardly swoons*

I was so used to not hearing any encouragement like that, I just kept going with the same song and dance that I was terrible and annoying for being so talkative and opinionated. And interestingly, my encouragement of them was somewhat rebuffed in the same way (which is actually why I stopped talking to them–because there was way too much ghosting).

And this is just a sidenote, but one worth mentioning: handling each other’s wounds, even if you’re a gentle as a dove, it can still feel like a serpent’s bite. It helps to have some self-compassion and compassion for others if the grace you offer to extend doesn’t get received well. Most of the time, it’s not about the giver, but the receiver. The pain can be too overwhelming to see that relief is near and available.


Being myself is so costly. There are no parades or parties being thrown in my honor.

Congratulations, you’re a loquacious person with big, scary feelings that you express with aplomb and with extra vigor, and that overwhelms most people! You’re so open about how you feel, people are scared to fall into the abyss of you! You make space for other people’s feelings but it’s not being well reciprocated! Well done with this being a human thing! You are killing it.

So this is me, embracing the suck of being me.

But instead of being neurotic about how I am with other people, I can be more comfortable with my uncomfortableness, with my awkwardness, with my loneliness, with my big scary, feelings, with all the lack–and then find my inherent value in my essence, and not in any of these things that I or society deem to be terrible.

I can embrace that I try really hard to make people comfortable, that I’m super effusive over people I really like, that I overshare because I see my life and my feelings as gifts and lessons to share. And when people do the same, I feel like I’m being gifted with something really precious and wonderful.

I can maybe even start to laugh when people predictably react to who I am. Oh boy, we have another runner! Buh bye, buddy, buh bye!

And actually, I used to be a lot more laugh at my calamity type when I was in my 20s. But I think it was because 1) I was less serious and 2) I felt like eventually things would work out, that I had time for things to work out. But turning 40 was like an uh-oh moment…I haven’t gotten to “eventually.” I don’t like these “things” and I’m still not sure they will work out.

Of course, if I tell this to someone who was 70, they’d maybe say I have a lot more time than I think…

Look. I know that I’m not for everyone, and I’m ultimately glad that people who have left have left–but it’s hard not to have this erode one’s sense of self or self-esteem, because I don’t live in a vacuum (unfortunately). And then you read stuff like this and think…well, I could have written this.

If people keep leaving, there’s something wrong with me…right?

I have to stop seeing myself as some problem to solve. I have to stop seeing people as challenges to win (hello, I’m a double Capricorn). 

I must start appreciating my fearlessness about love, even if it has yet to be appreciated by anyone else for very long.


Something I said in that long and glorious unanswered email to my friend was how I couldn’t understand how two men in my life this year were so afraid of whatever we were creating (and me) that they both imploded in a fit of self-sabotage. And yes one of them was the dreamy person I was writing about earlier.

I don’t really understand how you can be afraid of love.

And maybe that’s because growing up without it for so long, when you really experience it, there’s no way you can take it for granted. There’s no way you’d be willing to settle for anything else.

So knowing what life and love that I could have, I’m deeply sad and disappointed that I don’t really have that love in my life right now. I feel like I’m at least a decade late in receiving it and being able to give it without thinking I’m the unlovable weirdo. It’s very bizarre to me, to be living this life, instead of the one I envisioned when I was 17.

So as the holidays are great at magnifying, I’m sad and actually disturbed that I don’t have a family of my own, that I can’t seem to find my step or stride here in Florida, that I had take some job I didn’t want to take to stop being poor, that I feel washed up and yet completely unused and unseen at almost 41 and I haven’t accomplished anything of worth to me except survival.

At the same time, I’m supremely proud of myself that I have survived, that I didn’t succumb to the darkness that was swirling around me, that I even banished darkness and evil from this house, that I do have money in the bank, that I have work to do, that I still have a chance to get all the things I still want.

I know this year was taking the harder road (which feels like it chose me more than I chose it) the more-worthwhile-in-the-end road, the one that’s beyond goals and even self-fulfillment.

I can see how I’ve reached to the core of me, to that part of me that is indestructible…


It’s interesting how when you lose so much, you start to realize what you really want. You don’t get the luxury of being cute or coy or arch about it. The desperation and the desolation are ungraceful but true.

I want to belong to someone who can match or exceed my fearlessness. I want to pass down that fearlessness to my children. I want to be a part of a loving community that works to create a better world for everyone. I want to work with people that value me, my work, and my time. I want to see more of the world, as much of it as I can. I want to create music that I’m proud of. I want to write for people who like what I write.

And I have to be OK with not getting any of this, because none of it is guaranteed. But I have to keep working towards it anyway, even if every day that passes and my arms remain empty, it seems to strongly suggest that I don’t deserve it.

Even if I choose to be alone during the holidays, I don’t deserve to be lonely. But I also don’t deserve to be with the wrong people for the sake of temporarily shoving aside my loneliness. That has been my Christmas credo since I was 19, and I’m glad I’ve stuck to it pretty mercilessly.


One last thing, because I plan on not talking about this year of disappointment and grief here anymore–not because I’m done grieving, but I’m just bored with the topic and have been for months…

When you’re just stuck with just yourself (as we always are), there’s an open invitation to learn how you treat yourself and how to treat yourself better. Long periods of solitude and aloneness make this invitation almost impossible to pass up.

There’s still so much more room for self-love here, which again…this is a little impossible without some help from others (I just downloaded a worksheet on this).

This year, I really have had to lean more on my spiritual side than I’m used to. And yet, there’s still so much more I could be doing that doesn’t involve nitpicking myself to death.

So yeah, I did fail my 17-year-old self, but she had no idea that she wasn’t going to be this evangelical, myopic, Bible thumper anymore, which usually means you’d partner with the same kind of person. She got something far better than the societal inevitability of domestic “bliss” and a secure job.

What she instead was a truer, more expansive version of herself–a lot more than what she bargained for. It’s not as glamorous or cuddly or polished as I’d like for me to be, but this version of me is real–wrapped up in big, scary feelings, loquaciousness, and unyielding intensity.

I am worth the continued search for people that can support me in reaching the things I want as I support them in doing the same. It’s exhausting, scary, and sometimes humiliating, but just like it is with love, it is always worth going full tilt, balls to the wall (which is a term from the United States Air Force about flying and nothing about testicles, I might add), unbridled.

So a lot of people bailed this year. OK. But that isn’t who I am. It’s just things that have happened to me. What’s more important is that I never bailed on me. And there are still people around, even if they aren’t close by or people I talk to often.

There are close to eight billion people, and I won’t even meet most of them. But I’ve met some wonderful people in the past and I can meet great ones again–especially now, since I’ve grown so much and I’m much more aligned than I was a year ago.

You and I, we live in this neverending tension, between being true to ourselves and doing what’s good for the group. It really comes up during the holidays, and it can be quite painful. But I hope that we both learn that by choosing ourselves first every time, we end up doing what’s best for the group, too.

I’ve been so afraid I have a terrible people picker–and that may be true. But I haven’t been choosing myself enough. My hope is that by choosing myself more, that I will choose better people to be in my life and not just reaching out to anyone because I’m blind with desperation.

So. This feels like the end, and that’s because it is.

It’s the end of feel ashamed of how my life is and isn’t. It’s the end of trying to contort myself into something that can be packaged. It’s the end of being self-identified by my unfulfilled desires and dreams.

It’s the beginning of embracing the suck as well as the the not-so-sucky. That includes my frustrations, my impatience, my envy, my disgust…as well as my gratitude, my resilience, my wisdom, my fortitude, my creativity, and my self-love.

There’s room for it all.


If you’re celebrating my birthday also known as Christmas this week, I hope that you’re with people you love–and that includes yourself if you’re not around loved ones.

The great thing about Capricorn season is that it marks the slow march back into the light. The Winter Solstice may be the shortest day of the year, but every day after that, we gain back a little more light.

This holiday season, I hope you’re able to gain some new light, whether it’s from within or without.


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cold mercury nights

Mercury_in_color_-_Prockter07-edit1

Enhanced-color image of Mercury from first MESSENGER flyby

Just spent the past two days learning about the solar system and then writing about it.

One interesting thing I learned about the planet Mercury is that it has no atmosphere. So the temperature fluctuations range 1100 degrees, from 800F during the day to -280F at night. That makes Venus the hottest planet in the solar system.

And maybe this is a metaphor for 2018, that I’ve had a cold Mercury night when I thought day was approaching. Of course, I don’t want a hot Mercury day, either. 

I don’t want extremes. I need atmosphere.

When I lived in Chicago, I remembered learning that the bright sunny days of winter would actually be colder than the more frequent cloudy days.

The clouds kept the heat in.

Having an atmosphere not only keeps temperatures more even, it protects you from cosmic radiation and solar winds. A lot more protects us from that, too–like the magnetosphere, Van Allen radiation belts, and the Sun’s heliosphere.

(Don’t worry, I’m not extending this metaphor any further from the atmosphere.)

This year especially, it seems that I had no atmosphere. It was so extreme. And it’s only been about a month of having life the cover of an atmosphere.

And quicksilver astrological Mercury, with their quick turns of fate…still under that foolywang shadow until Christmas Eve…

A bit of a sidenote, really, but it still relates to not having an atmosphere…just the other day while writing (not here), I really was feeling myself. I felt the muses were having a party and just releasing all these great things for me to say.

And I thought my audience was feeling me, too. This is the good shit.

I’m still not sure if I’m what crickets I’m hearing–of busyness, of embarrassment, or of revulsion.

But boy, are the crickets so fucking loud.

I thought the sun was rising on Mercury, but it was a false alarm. I’m still choking in the airless cold.

And today I had a reading with my favorite intuitive, just to see where I’ve ended up on this craptastic voyage. And it’s as I thought–still a little banged up, still looking back at the past as if those catastrophic fires could bring any warmth to me now.

But, whatever internal shrieks and shouts that were a constant din in the back of my mind have now been quieted. For now, building a new atmosphere has been about creating a place of stability and shutting everything and everyone else out that didn’t contribute to that.

(I had always been focused on the former, but never got to the latter.)

So this is even beyond just creating an atmosphere where I can breathe, where it’s not a hostile or harsh environment for me to live.

It’s about world-building.

So what do I want?

For now, I just want to not feel so deflated. It’s not even about healing up anymore. During that reading today, I released a lot of old shit from this year. I had already energetically released a lot in some other ritual earlier last week.

One thing the reader kept saying, it’s done, it’s over.

Well, that’s the thing about trauma, isn’t it? The events may be over, but now is the time actually start the reckoning, within your body.

I’ve been lucky and fortunate to have that happen already. Now it’s about getting up off the floor, fixing my face, and heading in some sort of direction.

And guess who’s leading the brigade into someplace new? My heart.

Oh, how precious.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next–vocationally, relationally, or in any way. Well, except that I have a lot of work to do this week, of which I am grateful to have.

Beyond that, I’ve figured out what I want generally already. I just haven’t been able to get it yet.

But since my mind can’t be the one leading the Pleasure Parade here, then it’s good that I have a few things in mind that I want to accomplish–just no new plan on how to get them.

Capricorn season starts when the work week ends, on Friday evening, and it’s funny to go into that season sans a plan.

I don’t have a feeling of adventure. But I don’t have a feeling of dread.

I can’t think ahead to anything pleasurable, not even my birthday. Turning 41 feels like another step towards death (because it is, because every waking moment is), but this blog post is not (solely?) about that part of my mid-life angst.

Today I was told that I needed to have more fun and not be so hard on myself–ageless advice for me. And to connect with others–that part I’m working in new ways…but I still feel like the long, cold night is one I should get used to instead of preparing to leave for a more habitable planet.

It’s hard for me not to think–oooh girl, if you try to do anything new, then you’ll get the same disappointing results. 

And it’s not true.

I’m listening to this Elton John vs. Pnau song called “Phoenix” (I can’t believe I didn’t know this album existed until about maybe a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been out for six years).

I’ve definitely died and have been reborn. I have to trust in this regenerative process. I have to trust in the results–the results of me, being a different, wiser person.

It takes bravery to seek a better world, to get up and try again and again and again, to keep seeking, knocking, finding.

And, I know I’ve lost my nerve (which is a new thing for me)…or I’ve had it stripped from me. Hearing how flat my affect was on the phone today, feeling waves of enthusiasm and passion wash over me like lukewarm oatmeal…

*sigh*

But as I told the intuitive, I can only take things day by day.

But sadly, like a true, tortured Capricorn, I’ve felt guilty about any breaks or fun I’ve had. I can’t allow myself to have fun along the way.

So I keep putting it off until I’m done with work…or, I end up revolting and playing around for hours.

It’s like how you can’t really hold your own breath to die because usually your body will just kick in and allow you to breath.

Maybe I should stop holding my breath, though…

And yet somehow, I’m still not as productive as I could be–and that isn’t the workaholic talking, just the realist. All that avoidance and sacrifice, and there’s only misery.

As I preached to the cricket choir a couple of weeks ago–it’s not about ending the misery, per se. It’s about enjoying the good times when they come.

Admittedly (and thankfully), I’ve gotten better at that. But now I have to start being more proactive about creating those times, when possible–and not be afraid to make that an aim.

It makes me meta-sad that having fun frightens me. And it’s not even the “there’s no one to have fun with here” problem–that’s a whole other existential hell. 

Part of it is…wait, how do I do that again? And another part is, well, I want to do something musical…how do I do that? By myself? With whom?

Some of it is the scarier thought that I’ve lost pleasure in most things, which I don’t think is entirely true–I hope not. But that’s one sign of depression, which I wouldn’t blame me for being. 

But it’s more like–everything has changed, including me. So what I found pleasure in has changed. I have to figure some of that out, along with getting reconnected with what still works.

And, now that I’m older, I hear that ticking clock of death more loudly. 

What are you doing with your time? What are you doing that’s worthwhile?

It’s a lot of pressure to live up to, especially with Capricorn fantasies of legacy and longevity. I’m lucky to get out of bed in the morning with such mounting pressures to live up to.

I’ve been grinding at work for a few weeks. It has helped me to eat and keep a roof over my head. It’s helped to quell the pangs of feeling unsafe and uncared for.

But I’ve hit an emotional wall with the “all work, no play”–and thankfully, it’s during a week that should be a lot easier than previous weeks.

Ah, so much babbling, but it all boils down to this–I’ve known what I’ve wanted for years, but I’m not sure if I should keep wanting it or if I need to do something entirely different.

Do all these roadblocks me keep going or find a new path? I sincerely don’t know.

But, I will–I can trust in this eventuality, wholeheartedly.

I just can’t use the ole tinker to do it–have to use the ole ticker instead. 

What’s scary, and at the same time liberating, is that there’s possibly no right answer except for what I prefer.

I’ve known so many lonely, cold Mercury nights and blistering hot Mercury days.

But it’s time for a change.

I need real atmosphere…


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clear(er)

So, hey.

I’m still alive–just have been working a lot, which I’m grateful for, even if the pay leaves a lot to be desired.

What’s been interesting about the work is that I get to choose the topics and in the past three weeks, I have

  • a greater appreciation for trees
  • a deeper respect for Motown (specifically the Funk Brothers, the exceptional session musicians featured in the doc Standing in the Shadow of Motown)
  • a more nuanced view of my journey out of evangelicalism via a podcast on the same topic
  • a more complicated, less nostalgic view of what happened in the 1980s (assassinations galore, major disasters, so many plane crashes, the Berlin Wall came down kind of because of a lack of communication (but also a ton of protests and defections?)…seriously, though–so many assassinations and assassination attempts…Grenada invasion was super sketch, but wow, technology improved a lot)
  • a bigger disdain of the Bible–seriously, the Old Testament is fuckery AND I really don’t like how Jesus talked to his mother at the wedding in Cana. Being the Son of God does not mean you get to sass your mom in public when she asks you a question.
  • a larger knowledge of how evangelicals and others view the Rapture and the end-times–had no idea eschatology was even a thing until last month,
  • a greater desire to travel the world, and
  • a deeper sadness and utter frustration over what’s happened over sub-saharan post-colonial Africa. For example, The Gambia was basically created around a river for the slave trade?! What?! And there were Ebola health workers killed in Guinea because people thought white folks were going to harm them, and well, it’s hard to blame them, but again–colonialism caused this shit.

With the above, I’ve been able to quell at least one of the two constant miseries I had–poverty of money. Being broke was really fucking with my head because of course it was.

And now that I’m not as broke, and I have a bit of a routine, I feel less buffeted by stress and more clear-headed.

New knowledge and reckonings aside, I’ve found, or re-found, my new but old companion is music. I am getting clear(er) about its importance in my life. I’ve written about this before here, how I keep forgetting its importance in my everyday life, listening to it.

Now I’m at the point that I want to be making music… but not sure what that’s going to look like, but I hope a year from now, I’m not just writing about this desire.

Yet even as I sit here, I’m starting to see how I missed so much in my youth by not having my parents kindly me in the direction of the arts.

When I was young, I wrote. I played music. But both happened when I was a tween or teen, both of which I wanted to do on my own.

It’s hard for me not to feel like I missed out on some window of not only greatness (yes, that sounds arrogant, but both writing and music come a lot easier to me than other things) if not just a room of solace and pleasure while my family started to implode.

So yeah, sure…I feel like I’d be a lot further along as an artist–if I’ve going to use that title for myself.

Some of this is stupid to think about, though. I am now pretty amor fati about where I ended up.

I did (and continue to do) the best I could with what I had.


It’s strange and yet very sensical how much was decided by my parents–what I believed, what I did as a child and when I did it. Even leaving the house to go to college–that was still throttled by my parents.

But I’m almost 41 now. My parents definitely do not have control over my life. But the fingerprints of what they did and did not do still mark my life.

So now, I’m thinking about what I want as my life’s center. It’s been survival for so long, but that isn’t really enough to get me up in the morning.

It used to be the Church, which almost made it easy for me to check out on or table my own desires.

And then it was relating to people, which was probably some leftover hangover from Church.

And then, as I keep saying here and over and over, people kept leaving.

So what makes me happy?

What would my life look like if I just focused on the things (and people) that make me happy?

And this isn’t about blind hedonism. I’m definitely not one to avoid discomfort or challenges. It’s about balance, along with just realizing I do have some choice and power.

One bad habit I picked up in church was to hang in there a bit too long for the “greater good”, a greater good that never arrived. I put up with people, places, things and ideas that I would never choose otherwise.

So between my evangelical upbringing and my autocratic parents (the two are tightly related), there were decisions that I never had the freedom to consider. One of them was that I could make my life about what I want to do, not just about what is the right thing to do. 

There’s a tension here, because I do have some power and control, and yet I recognize that I don’t have that much.

When I dance with Fate, who is leading?


This autumn, I realized I was waiting around for things to get better and that in some ways I had been doing this my whole life.

Another bad habit picked up from evangelicalism.

One inherent belief I’ve had that I’ve never really challenged is that things, mainly the things out of my control, always tend to work out…well, do they? And what “things” do I want to happen? How am I helping them to come into being? And are they the “things” that I truly want?

Maybe I have a little more control than I thought. Maybe the Universe is waiting for me to act differently. Maybe the way I look at divinity in general is wrong.

Maybe life is more random than I thought. Maybe I’m just incredibly unlucky. 

I didn’t think that I was just floating through life, but since this year of 40 has been a heart-rendering and embarrassing failure, I 1) understand why we believe in deities because 2) so much of life is not in our control.

It’d be nice to think there was Someone who had your back, no matter what.

But there’s some freedom in knowing that maybe there really isn’t (OK, I have guides and angels I chat with, but I mean like a Supreme anything)…

I can’t really control most people or circumstances. A lot of life’s unfairness is based on some really stupid shit that isn’t worth worrying about since I can’t control or change it. And that sounds like I don’t care about social ills like poverty. But I mean this more on a smaller scale–like how the landlady here may mean well, but there’s still things left undone in this house.

The Serenity Prayer really makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?


Today, I went into the bedroom of that subhuman piece of shit who used to live here. The Russian kid moved out a couple of weeks ago. He left the door wide open.

The room still had the faint but insistent smell of cheap cigarettes–and that’s after it had been professionally cleaned.

I had been haunted by that room–and part of me still is. Evil definitely lived and flourished there.

But I felt compelled to face my fears. I went in and sprayed a juniper sage smudging spray–copiously. Then I sprayed it all over the house, including my room.

Living with that pathetic, bony sack of fuckery…I can’t believe that I ever did and that he’s really gone. I can’t believe what I’ve endured this year at all, really–but how peaceful I feel in the aftermath.

For my own psyche, I knew I needed to go in there today and face the space that tortured me for months. All that was left was the light of a setting sun, a couple of hangers, and some random things in the closet.

There was a lot I couldn’t control in that situation–being yelled at, smoked on, and ultimately ignored by the owners without receiving due compensation.

But he did eventually leave, because I forced the issue. And I’m really proud of that.


I didn’t plan on this being a normal-length-for-me blog post. I just haven’t had the time, energy, or space to devote to writing here. And I’m taking a bit of a social media break until the new moon in Capricorn for now.

There’s so much more to ponder and consider, now that it seems like I’m done mourning my circumstances. The clarity of thought and feeling is just pouring through now.

For now, what gets me up in the morning is curiosity. And, I feel very repetitive right now, like I’m ending this blog post in a way I’ve ended it before, so forgive me if you’re a long-time reader and know where this is going…

This story is continually unfolding, as all of our stories are. And I’m not yet sure how this main character is going to pull this caper of having a good life off.

But I’m rooting for her, hard.


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

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

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