booster rockets

rocket som

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll try a little, though.


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

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

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

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

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

Where am I actually headed?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not good to be so disconnected.

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

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

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

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

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

I do. Thank god, I do.


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

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

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

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

Too. Much.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

🥺


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I’ve done all of those things before.

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

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

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

And as I was trying, I was evolving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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45 days past

times som

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thanks for your support! Happy Holidays! 💘

friends for all seasons

friendship ali SOMThis dovetails a bit from the last blog post I’ve written, but this is less about awful housemates I can’t currently escape and more about the people I choose to spend my time with.

Friends have meant so much to me. I’ve grown up to value them even over family (more out of necessity). I’ve read plenty of books on friendship.

But as I grow older, I’m starting to see how I need to redefine what friendships and relationships mean to me–and to be more flexible as life changes us all.

The Marriage Plot

While I was away adventuring and examining a new place to live–which you can read about if you’re a patron of my blog at Patreon–I had a conversation with my friend about the limits of relationships, about how American culture has made marriage to be this panacea for all emotional fulfillment. “Leave and cleave” is the evangelical phrase that I grew up with.

You drop all your friends except the married ones, and your spouse is your best friend. I’m not against the latter (even if I don’t find it to be necessary), but I am against the former.

While I was in church, I remember two friendships with fellow musicians, both men, that ended up with jealous spouses. And I understand the jealousy–it’s what we’ve all been taught. As a woman, you should be the only person to satisfy every need your husband has.

And that’s setting up everyone for failure.

I’ve grown to realize that we can’t really fulfill every emotional desire for our partners. It’s a lot of unnatural, ungodly pressure to glorify a human being like this. On top of this, shouldn’t we be personally responsible for our own happiness and fulfillment?

Our Blessed Multifacetedness

I do hope if and when I marry that my spouse has his own friends, of all genders. It’s not to say I’d transcend jealousy, but people are so multi-faceted, and we’re only going to get some of their natural glimmer. Other people will shine through and catch different sides, bringing out sides that no one else can.

There’s an oft-quoted passage of some book or essay about the friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis, where one of them remarked about how they loved when other people joined them for conversation, because they could experience other sides of the person that they couldn’t necessarily bring out. I believe there was something about how the other laughed differently around other friends.

It’s a loving tribute to friendship, and it shows how secure that person feels. They don’t feel responsible to be that 360-light that can shine through their friend completely. They take joy in knowing their friend differently through the eyes of other people.

Really Knowing People

One thing that’s been coming up for me is how I treat my friends. Lately, we’re all running in similar circles, and in spiritual circles, usually you’re talking about heavy stuff.

I’ve been going through heavy things, and I’m glad to have friends that have been able to bear my burdens. I sometimes tire of talking of the same struggles over and over. It ends up being this script that I blindly follow and have memorized–I’ll show my wounds and you show me yours.

How I’m wired (which I just mistyped as weird), I like going deep with people. But I really can’t do that with everyone. There are definitely people in my life where we keep it light and laugh (yet it’s not that I don’t keep it light and laugh with closer friends, either).

The problem is when I go with that script of sharing burdens, and the script is flipped to sharing about other things, sometimes I stumble in not seeing my friend as a whole, complex person.

Recently, I had one of those moments where I was conversing with a friend, and I really wasn’t hearing what they were really saying.  It was turning into a conversation about differing ideologies and where we were on different parts of our life journeys.

The important part of the conversation was that this was more of a very strongly worded treatise of how this person saw life and themselves. Granted, it’s not one I fully agree with for a number of reasons, but the conversation would have been a lot shorter and more meaningful if I had just acknowledged where they were–which is really all they wanted.

Of course, people don’t ever outright say, “Please acknowledge me where I am on my journey.” But I’m old enough and wise enough to see when that’s necessary. I only wish I had recognized this plea sooner than later. But I had been so used to talking about certain things…when the script was flipped, I lost my footing.

Sometimes, it’s really not about being right, but about being a good listener.

An Old Capricorn Habit

This year, I’ve really had to learn how to hold my tongue and listen more. I’m so exuberant with my support and my advice, it’s like tsunami waves. Most people don’t want or need that sort of torrential support.

I’ve gone through a lot of hard stuff in my life, so I’ve gleaned a lot of wisdom, a lot of it seemingly beyond my years. And the knee-jerk advice-giving that I tend to give is usually spot on.

But. If the person isn’t ready to hear what you have to say, it’s something I must acknowledge.

What most people want is to be fully seen and heard. Recently, I even looked up articles on how to be a good friend without dumping loads of unsolicited advice.

Maybe it’s a little scary to just let someone’s words of heartache, confusion, anger, or sorrow just wash over you. Of course, if you care about your friend, you want lessen their suffering.

If you just listen, are you doing enough? Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like it. You see your friend going down a familiar road of heartbreak, and you can only offer that you’ll be here for them.

We can only be responsible for our own personal journeys.

We can walk alongside people through certain parts of their lives, which is always a privilege, not a right. But ultimately, we can’t make people take the steps towards their own salvation.

We can share our own stories. We can offer support. We can empathize. We can ask how we can be of help. We can even ask if we can offer some advice.

But that’s about it.

And this is the gift of healthy boundaries. We can be full of compassion while we understand where the other person ends and where we begin.

The Magic Eye of Friendship

I have this point, where if I’m about six months into anything, I’ll start to really see someone, or a job, or a living situation, for what it is. Sometimes it takes longer, but the truth of things start to comes out.

Usually after this six-month period, the gossamer gauze of perfection fades as reality comes to the fore. And then I see how I haven’t really see this entity in its entirety. I see how I may have glorified it and put it on a pedestal.

Now the imperfections are sometimes ones that I can’t really justify in even tolerating, let alone accepting. I had bent my neck up too high, lost in the glare in the limelight of idolization.

When I start to look through my relationships, like it’s some magic eye picture, and the real image of how things are starts to emerge.

So many times, I don’t like what I see.

I’m learning how intolerant I am, but also how far I’ve come in my own journey of maturation. And this goes back to the idea of using the same ole scripts with friends. We’re all evolving and learning, and there’s a dynamism that I forget about.

And maybe because this is something I’ve been learning to do with myself, one lesson I’m learning is to integrate these disparate parts and learning to love them–if I can.

Another lesson would be to start seeing people, places, and things as they are, without the gloss of forlorn hopes and the dross of desperate dreams.

You have a misunderstanding, or a debate that goes on far too long–and it’s not even what’s being discussed, but how. There’s a condescending tone, or there’s an intransigence, or a lack of grace. Or the person is manipulative or downright mean.

So a couple of questions will arise, mainly: Do I like what I’m seeing here about this person, or do I like myself when I’m with this person?

All Kinds of Friends for All Kinds of Seasons

People are complicated. We’re all carrying things that we don’t like to even acknowledge, but then those unspoken things influence how we see ourselves and each other. Some of those things fit like codependent LEGO blocks. Sometimes their jut out like spikes on a tire. And sometimes, they don’t bother us at all.

Not everyone can be our besties. Not everyone will ever earn the right to know us deeply.

And that’s OK.

We have friends we just do things with. We have friends we can call at 3am in the morning when disaster has struck. We have friends we bare our souls to. We have friends we just shoot the shit with.

We have friends who are drinking buddies, travel buddies, fellow parents, colleagues…

I still love the MySpace term, “activity partner.”

One thing that has been so tough for me to learn, as someone who is practically an open book is that not everyone should read my story; and that I also won’t be able to read everyone’s story.

Going slowly with people, letting them reveal themselves to me…to savor the unfolding of the unread pages and chapters…it really engenders real, well-earned trust–on both sides.

I shouldn’t ever rush this process, because I may skip over things that I should have seen earlier.

Again, that reveal may uncover some non-negotiable traits. We may have to walk back or away from each other.

And that’s OK.

We can respectfully adjust our expectations and boundaries, but that usually involves a level of detachment that I sometimes still struggle with.

Open Hands

Whomever comes in my life now, I try to hold with open hands. I can’t hold onto anyone, and no one can hold onto me.

Life happens, so often. Our journeys switch gears and routes and focus. We change. Our desires change.

But the beauty of how we’re all different means that there are so many ways to be friends, to love each other, to be there for each other.

I don’t have to aim for intimacy every time.

But I can always aim to be kind, to be a good listener, and to make sure I leave people better than how I found them.

Redefining My Priorities

As I learn how to become more healthily detached from people, places, and things, I’m starting to place friendship in a more sober-minded, less exalted place. Friends are important, but they aren’t my panacea for my life’s issues.

This has probably come a deeper sense of self-reliance. I’ve been in a place of forced solitude since I work from home and currently don’t have extra funds to go out.

I’ve also learned to lean on my spiritual support team–which involves entities like angels and guides–tireless beings who are always here for me. I could always lean on them more.

Even though I may only have a few close friends, I feel encouraged to expand who I’m friends with and to keep a looser, open hand.

I want to see people eye-to-eye: not as people to be worshipped because I have some sick friend crush on them; or people to be disdained because they don’t meet my friendship needs.

The equanimity and blessed diversity of friendship.

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you are my Sunshine

the sun SOM

Hey, Sunshine–

I don’t know why you decided to pop up in disguise to my friend, but I’m glad you stopped by.

But can I say this now, with the confidence I never had when you were around:

Dude, you’re a fucking weirdo.

You must have known that I had been thinking about you–although just in passing…while I was waded in the murky marshes of Mercury’s  retrograde motion.

You really got us, man. We’re those way-too-serious Saturnian types. So you loosened our prim ponytails and lassoed us with your Jupiterian jokes.

Child of Purim, I’ve wondered if were we ever this jokey in the last millennium?

Yes and no. But isn’t that the classic answer of true-blue Maroons?

It’s that our jesting was poisonously laced with a bit of stubborn, respectful sobriety, a little too much reality.

Too much humble earth, not enough raucous light and connective illusion.

Yet once we faced it, in your student ghetto apartment–

you stood by the window, garish street lights illuminating you like some wearisome ghost of carnality, and, oh god–

I wanted to be haunted.

We chose to solemnly spoon, sighing and whimpering into a long-standing, unyielding no.

We’d live in the smothering blankets of our sticky insinuations.

But damn–did I respect you for respecting me.

And then, somewhere north along a long, dark boulevard, I saw you again, that one last time, with Neptune’s ziploc bag of herbs.

“I have a cold,” I said as we sat on my bed, looking at each other with steady eyes and wry smiles.

We both knew what that meant.

Sitting in Lula’s on a lonely, empty night, underneath those dim, white Christmas lights, eating dessert.  I was still so fucking high-strung.

I couldn’t relax into the moment, into you…

And you knew that, and you wriggled, far East and away, in your weird fishy way that drove me mad.

“calm. down.” you wrote replied to me after I wrote you some long screed of worry.

I know now you were feeling all I felt, even more than I could or even express, and how that feels like an inescapable rogue wave of emotion.

If I had only known that I was a seagoat and you were a fish…I would have swum differently…

So you showed up on Friday night in old man cosplay. I can only assume where you are now has surprised you as an atheist–

(can you even call yourself that anymore?)

Well…it’s not over…is it?

Maybe you showed up in tweed and pipe because you’re Classic that way.

And maybe that’s what you wanted, in the end, here.

I wanted that for you, too. I assumed. I fucking assumed.

And when I went to look you up, knowing you wouldn’t be caught dead on Facebook…

I didn’t expect to catch you dead in a ditch.

How banal, darling.

You always had some cantankerous old man, screeching inside of you. And you had probably seen a lot that a kid didn’t need to see, before we met in the middle of Jenny’s genius talks and in the never-ending parade of Echo and the Bunnymen t-shirts.

I knew there was more to it, to you–

And then I learned that you were mad because the world wasn’t fair. Shit, I was just as mad.

An alluring anger burned between us that could never be cooled.

There’s so much I’m leaving out here–besides that we couldn’t quite sync up.

But really, all that there’s really left to say is that you were there for me when I needed you, not when I wanted you.

So, for now, we travel endlessly on this Möbius strip of grief.

And, just so you know, I’ll never have a cold again, but it doesn’t matter now…

I just wish it did.

 

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mercurial swag

I have been gifted, or cursed, with the gift of gab.

But I don’t automatically start talking someone’s head off. That comes with a little more intimacy. The Effin Birds picture above does show how I feel others think of me when I’m talking to them.

Way harsh, Tai.

The point of this post is to put on some kid gloves and give this most loathed part of myself some love (yes, even on Valentine’s Day!)–to reclaim my mercurial swag, on Mercury’s day (aka Wednesday).

Star Lessons on the Trickster Messenger

Astrologically, this incessant chattering comes from the planet of communication and self-expression in my natal chart–Mercury.

Planets have places (or zodiac signs) that they prefer to be, or domiciled. With Mercury, it likes to be in Gemini and Virgo.

On the zodiac wheel, Gemini is opposite Sagittarius and Virgo is opposite Pisces. Sagittarius and Pisces are both ruled by Jupiter, a planet that tends to amplify and expand things.

These oppositions mean that Mercury in Sagittarius or Pisces means that it doesn’t really feel comfortable here, also known as detriment.

My Mercury is in Sagittarius. And you probably know some Sags who are chatty as hell and you wish they would shut up, right? I say that with all love and affection.

Mercury likes getting to the point and being exact, and Gemini and Virgo are much better at that than the Jupiterian planets who are about exploring. In my opinion, Sag would be about exploring knowledge and wisdom, and Pisces would be exploring spirituality and emotion.

The point of language, then, is not to get to the point. It’s a tool of exploration. This is an important point that I’ll get back to.

You can learn more about Mercury in Sagittarius here and here. (There’s actually good things about this placement!)

Mercury’s in the Lemonade or Gatorade?

So on top of Mercury being in its detriment in Sag, it’s also retrograde.

So you’ve probably hear of Mercury retrograde–and don’t worry, you won’t have to worry about this for at least another month–when communication runs amok.

Travel gets hampered. Emails get lost. Computers and cars break down. Exes pop out of nowhere. This happens for a few weeks every year.

And that’s what I have natally. Not necessarily all that phenomena, but more of the communication hiccups. And last Christmastime, Mercury retrograde happened in my sign, close to the degree, too.

It was really overwhelming. It was really great, because I could just see everything so clearly. But it also meant that I wanted to communicate it all.

Sag energy can get very didactic and sanctimonious, so I actually logged off from Twitter for about a month until the entire Mercury retrograde transit had been completed. I was so sick of hearing myself talk!

Mercury in the 12th House

So on top of that, my Mercury is in the 12th house.

In your natal chart, there are 12 houses where your planets reside, covering different areas of your life:

  1. Self-concept
  2. Money and possessions
  3. Communication
  4. Home and family
  5. Creativity
  6. Routines and health
  7. Partnerships
  8. Death,
  9. Higher ed and travel
  10. Career and fame
  11. Friendships and community
  12. The subconscious

As you can imagine, it’d be great if you had Mercury in Gemini in the 3rd house vs. Mercury retrograde in Sag in the 12th house.

Here’s what The Dark Pixie Astrology has to say about Mercury in the 12th house:

Mercury is the planet of communication and how you express yourself and learn, and so those of you born with Mercury retrograde tend to feel very misunderstood. The energy of Mercury retrograde in the natal chart is actually very similar to that of Mercury in the 12th house (and how misunderstood you must be if you have natal Mercury retrograde in your 12th house!). You have difficulty communicating clearly with others, with being heard, with understanding others as well, and with using your mental energy properly. You can be someone who has a ton of mental energy and is far more intelligent than people realize. You just don’t know the right way to show it.

Oof. Yes.

So how does this show up for me?

My mom said that as a child, my mind went faster than my mouth. I believe it!

More recently, I was writing some affirmations out and I kept making mistakes because my mind was two to three words ahead of my hand. I cannot tell you how much I was happy to have email take over handwritten letters when I was in college. No more writer’s bump on my finger! Even now, though, my hands cannot keep with my brain when I type.

I can see the big picture of everything all at once and I’m not good at self-editing, choosing the most important parts. I always joke that I wish I had a Mercury in Virgo editor, because Virgo is great at synthesis and putting things in the right order.

As Walt Whitman says, I contain multitudes. The problem is that I try to tell them all at once.

So why am I even talking about this at all?

Friendship as a Mirror, and the Fear of Seeing Yourself

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that it’s been a really tough time living here in Florida. I don’t really have friends here, but thankfully, I have a lot of them online.

And even still, last year, I went through a lot of upheaval–I had to let go of a lot of people, and a couple of close friends left Twitter.

Even before I get into that, I want to say that I don’t want to be so self-identified with astrological placements and aspects. It’s just that, for my life right now, it’s really easy to explain who I am and what goes on in my life and in the world. And even me saying, “I have this really tough placement,” is just affirming the trouble I’ve had with communicating in my life.

Anyway, I’ve been really sensitive with the people coming and going in my life. I’m not really used to so much turnover. And yes, there’s some astrology that explains this, so the TL;DR version is that Saturn (your favorite tough love life coach) demolished my 11th house during grad school and now Jupiter is coming in and rebuilding, but there’s also some washing away.

A lot of my identity has always been tied up in my friendships, and that may be because I don’t necessarily identify with my family of origin (another blog post for another time.. My life history seems to be tied to what I was doing, and not doing with my friends.

Even when I first started journaling in 1st grade in class, the two entries that I remember (before my brother destroyed my journal in a blind rage), was having some conflict with my friends R.W. and Jerry–these were my two best friends, both boys. One entry was about how we weren’t talking or something. And then the next one was how we made up.

My journey down here was to find a community–not just to write a book or get a master’s degree.

And, that didn’t happen. The exact opposite happened, specifically betrayal and ostracization (which has happened before, in high school). And years later, that still kind of hurts and stings, even as I write this.

Mercury is also about how we learn, and I feel this retrograde part is about me re-learning a lot of things. This seems to be about re-learning how to connect with others.

So, as I anxiously sit on the wet rubble of my friendships, waiting for my new house to be finished, I’ve had some awesome come into my life and I want them to stay.

But this desire is reminiscent of how I felt in high school. I was very sensitive, overly eager to connect and to fit in, but ultimately getting ostracized even by the people who were on the fringes.

With that in mind, I definitely do not want to contort myself to have someone accept me. I’m freaking 40 now.

But.

I’m very sensitive again. Jupiter has blessed with me some cool people, and I have becoming more self-loathing about how I communicate with them, like not in a cute self-deprecating way, but in a very neurotic way.

I’ve been trying to contort myself to be likable in ways like I’m still in high school. And it’s really upsetting me.

Specifically, I’ve had this habit of thanking people for listening to me, like I wasn’t worthy of people listening. I think at first came from actual gratitude–finally, I feel heard and understand. But then it mutated into a desperate plea to stick around–don’t leave, don’t get tired of listening to the multitudes of thoughts that I can’t stop from pouring out of my mouth or fingers.

So the other day, I was having a conversation with someone about Sag things, and it was actually quite funny and fun.

I basically got encouraged to be myself, to let all that Sag stuff fly. But then I quickly demurred and listed how much my Mercury in Sagittarius placement annoyed me. And then I got even more encouragement anyway.

In response to that, I just unloaded all this encouraging stuff on this person, mostly out of gratitude. I felt like it was true and on point, but I still anxiously wonder, days later, if it was a nice rain shower of encouragement or a tsunami of feelings.

The response was succinct but positive.

I felt really…stupid.

Not again! I’ve been too much and have overwhelmed someone!

I felt stupid for a number of reasons that I can’t really talk about, but this sort of interaction happens more often than not–a bucket of words from me and terse responses, and I don’t know why I didn’t really notice it until now. I’m sure it’s happened for a long time and I just brushed it off.

Whenever I’m speaking, I’m slowly emerging out of the black fog of my subconscious and shadows. There are stairs and stairs I have to climb to talk to someone, and the stairs I’m climbing are my words.

So I talked about this possible gaffe with a friend, and ever so wise, she said, you have to trust that people will take care of themselves.

It had definitely crossed my mind to add even more words, I’m sorry, I wish I could stop talking, I hope I didn’t overwhelm you–but I know that would only make it worse. I was talking to an adult who can take care of themselves. I really do have to trust that.

And then another friend said, your people are out there and can handle you in your full glory.

Is that really true? Can I believe that there isn’t actually anything wrong with me?

What I See, What I (Long to) Accept

I never thought I was one to reject compliments and encouragement, but I’m quite chagrined and saddened that I’ve been doing it.

And this is why, again, I don’t want to be so identified with Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius that it starts to eclipse the totality of who I am. There are days when I don’t even speak to anyone.

This isn’t all of who I am.

For one thing, I do think it’s hilarious that I’m a writer with such a godawful placement for being good at it. And yet that’s the very thing–astrological placements like this can be areas for growth and even glory. I think my writing is pretty decent. I’m making a living from it somehow. It’s not some fluke. But I’ve had to work extra hard to get good at it.

Still, surprise! I’m really hard on myself. I’m not this exacting and cruel to other people. I’m trying not to cry as I write this.

I’ve been told that Mercury in Sagittarius is great for storytelling. The life I’ve lead, I’ve had some crazy stories to tell. But I’ve always envied people who are succinct, riveting storytellers. I’m always like–oops, I forgot this important detail.

It’s like knitting some scarf and finding that you left out a couple of stitches near the end. It’s really hard to go back in the middle of the story to fill things in.

But I’ve learned that with knitting, those errors or misses (as long as it’s not detrimental to its structure) are what make a piece unique and even beautiful.

I thought I had gotten over my perfectionism, aggressively so. In high school, I started to not care as much about grades (still graduated tied for 5th in a class of about 120 students). I learned someone would always be smarter, take harder classes, do more than me. So I had to just learn what my limits were and compete with myself.

But observing myself, being kinda naked and afraid, being seen for who I was and appreciated–instead of confident of who I was, beautiful errors and misses, I just felt like I was on the outside, looking in, imprisoned by my words.

But clearly, Sag vibes are not this dour and unfun. Sags are actually a lot of fun–as long as they don’t get too preachy! They totally know how to party (probably too hard sometimes). Sag energy is jocular and witty.

And even during that Mercury retrograde period, I definitely experienced a nice bump in humor with my jokes–which are still kinda weird and out there sometimes…I definitely have a niche audience.

I actually have Venus (the planet of love and values) and Neptune (the planet of dreams and illusions) in Sagittarius, too. So I have a stellium, a cluster of three or more planets in one zodiacal sign.

So, it’s not all that bad!

I’ve come to realize that I really am an external processor with people I’m closer to — I really have to talk things through so that I can figure out what the truth is for me, and even for the person I’m talking to. It really helps me to unpack my brain and have someone observe it. I’ve had so many revelations that way

Usually, though, in conversation I’m observant and won’t say much, which annoyed my high school friends who thought I was being rude.

I really do like listening to others without saying much at all just as much as sharing everything that is in my head all at once. It’s pretty extreme, and I’m the fulcrum of this tension. I don’t handle it well (enough). I tend to seesaw, but that sounds like the natural rhythm of conversation, right?

So back to what my two wise girlfriends had to say. I have to trust that people will take care of themselves, that I don’t have to do the thinking and feeling for them. If I’m feeling uncomfortable with my loquaciousness, that’s my shit to figure out, on my own.

And if I’m loquacious because I’m nervous, then I’d better find some ways to freaking relax–or at least love myself more for feeling vulnerable and at risk for being rejected (even if those feelings aren’t necessarily based on the truth of the situation).

And then finding people who’ll accept me for who I am. We talk a lot about self-love, like you should just do it and that’s that. But I do feel like that sometimes, it can be tough going without some help.

Whether it’s from the Divine or from friends, family, lovers, children, pets–sometimes there are parts of ourselves that we just simply cannot love that well. It’s like an itchy spot on your back that you can’t reach but needs to be scratched. We need each other to see ourselves more clearly, holistically, and truthfully.

In that cringeworthy conversation I had, I automatically went back to how I saw myself vs. how the other person saw me. It was a reflex, and it was rude to me and the other person. What you see couldn’t be true because of this, this, and this. That’s essentially what I was saying when I listed how awful this placement was without even acknowledging the encouragement (I did later, but it was after the torrent of encouraging words–and, that response, surprise, could have absolutely nothing to do with me).

Gross. But also–important that I could see myself not as grotesquely through someone else’s eyes. It made me pause and think–this isn’t that bad, is it? Why am I so hard on myself?

I’ve been through enough humiliation and shame in my life where I do not need to heap more on while simultaneously rejecting encouragement and support when I need it (I mean, hey–we always need it, no matter how good things are).

So here’s what I can do instead.

I can be grateful to people who listen to me without being desperate and ingratiating.

I can observe when I’m being talkative and be especially appreciative of those who love it.

I can choose not to take terse replies personally and remember that my natal Mercury retrograde in Sag in the 12th house is a really challenging placement for communication–and then be extra compassionate to myself.

I can fucking relax and not use my words like water on a grease fire. I won’t get it right all the time, but I can, do, and will have people who see and accept me for me, all of me, without having to hide.

I can just…be. Sagittarius is also about freedom. I can be free to be myself, even as I squirm at my own foibles and faults. I can be loved, even while I squirm! It’s so humbling and ultimately empowering when that happens.

I have a friend with a similar Venus in Sagittarius placement and I call it Venus in Swag because it’s a fun placement for Venus, where love is about freedom and travel and new experiences. It’s probably my most favorite placement.

I can’t yet bring myself to call my Mercury placement Mercury in Swag. It feels more like Mercury in zig-zag.

But, I’m working on it. I’m working on accepting there’s nothing wrong with the way I communicate. It’s just different. And even though this placement makes me feel very isolated and misunderstood, it’s not my whole story for who I am and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ll end with something that’s pretty simple, something that’s been on my mind since I feel like I haven’t been allowing myself to fully do this. And with this being Aquarius season, which is all about finding out who you individually are and how you fit into the collective, I think it’s a good reminder for all of us. 💘

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