Mercury Retrograde and Ripple Exposure

Okay, so I didn’t take the job I described in my last post. It paid much too little and I have decided to be unapologetic about what I know I am worth. Yet — being lost enough to consider it and not take it was very, very important because now I am instead spending my energy on writing, editing and publishing books, and that’s like, kind of sort of what I want to do with my life. That whole boomerang action is another story, but I feel like tripping down into the rabbit hole definitely whizzed me into territory I am glad to be in.

So, here I am, at another rabbit hole. Mercury is in retrograde, once again, and for all the mystics, shamans and seers out there, you know how fucking crazy, confused, unreliable and flaky this makes everyone. Including me. (Don’t like mystic talk and thinks it’s stupid? Then you should probably stop reading, and also, it’s both more fun and logical to experience space and time “beyond the mundane.” And also, now I am aware why sudden lethargy spells sometimes overtake me and rewire my skeleton, so I don’t blame myself so much for these weird times. Knowing how energy affects us is good for everybody!! #endplug)

I’m beginning to think this blog is just a mishmash of my lost thoughts. That’s okay with me. I have so many other things striving to be structured in my life, isn’t that what a personal blog is for? I will warn you, I will not always make sense here. I am a blogger from the original days of Xanga. Yes. Those blogs where you smooshily share your teenage angst with every virtual passerby.

I guess it’s no surprise, then, that here I am, continuing to virtually smear my now-20-something angst all over your Internet face. And you know what. I don’t really care. I know I can structure the hell out of a piece of writing if I want to. And here, I am allowed to not want to. So there.

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I am allowed stream of consciousness. Because everyone is. And there are a lot of weird, tired people out there who would really benefit from thought-dumping today rather than just wandering around like a broken zombie.

Note: I am about to share a journal entry from today, the first day of July, and the first day of the second half of the year. I don’t judge it, so neither should you. Unless you want to, then be my guest. What I encourage doing, dear reader, is taking a similarly hazardous and funkified trip down the tunnels of your mind. All you need is a flowy pen, a few pieces of paper and whatever muck you want to air. It’s the right time and IT WILL FEEL AMAZING. I am posting mine partly because in order to keep writing, I need an audience, and partly just because (note: not because it is a polished, finished piece of writing). Also, who are we writing for if not the one possible reader who might go, hm. I’m okay with #broadcastnation. But, first:

Ripple exposure. I found out about ripple exposure when I was about 12 years old. And I have been experiencing it ever since. Oh, what, you don’t know what it is? That’s probably because I made up the term. But I would be happy to explain.

Ripple exposure is what happens when the fabric of this reality — carpet, desk, table, avocados, breathing, friends, school, work, cats, cat costumes — all peel back to reveal the rippling, pond-like nature of existence. I’m still not sure whether the lake is a pool of time or space or both or whatever is beyond, but it is some mishmash of all of that. The Hindus know this very well. Yoga gets it. Every religion has some version of ripple exposure. You’ve been there.

The universe first revealed itself to me as an infinite lake in which all our actions ripple outward and back as a pre-teen one day when I was reading Animorphs: you know, that amazing series about 5 kids who turn into telepathic animals to fight parasitic, mind-controlling aliens. Therefore, if I had to declare a religion it would surely be Animorphism. Because I believe this pool is where my creativity lives. A few dragons, too, and the greatest bliss possible, and wisdom and maybe even the Loch Ness monster. I’m usually not too afraid of my dark side to go there, but it’s not every day I go scuba diving.

So, logically, today, as the planet Mercury seems to be going backwards, as it does 3-4 times a year, I fell deep back into the pool of ripples and was exposed. I am exposing myself. Because why not? My ego needs a little deflating in order to grow something else. And it feels good.

This is what happened:

It’s like all desire has been stripped from me and I’m watching myself groan, a lumpy frumpy mass of flesh on the floor.

I don’t even have the energy to be obsessed with anything right now, not even whatever this feeling is. I can feel my third eye hovering outside my body but I can’t muster enough interest to care. So there it sits. Still. Just watching me.

There’s a little buzz inside my rib cage, like bees buzzing for a new world, but what is this dullness that shuts them out? It’s been a while since all time left me here in a puddle with only two gooey eyes for looking. My cat is more human than me today.

These are the times when some distant part of me thanks everything for words. What are these little crystals tethering me to this big ball? I somehow remember a time before these words, and now I keep the rope near. The blinds are shut but all movement has vacated to another planet. Is this when I know how foreign I am? Trying to remember all evidence that I am human. Succeeding in forgetting. Tying this rope to my lips just to make some sort of noise because if I stop, if the words stop, some other tribe claims me, and out there I will lose myself. All little dreams become morsels for lunch and everything solid evaporates. My eyeballs expand to cover the blanket of sea and today I am not ready to die, for lack of a better word for this non-place.

So I do care about something after all, I care about these little words, these little saviors from the great beyond that whisper to make me forget how comforting being a non-body feels. I have to funnel these little marbles down the chute I have, otherwise I am pulled effortlessly to eternity where there are no shapes and no lines. Neurons fire in the translator, great neon green and pink squigglies coursing through and beyond skin, transforming non-thought to pen lines in a brilliant display of pure color. To see the world in such a spectrum feels like evolution, and ancient.

I don’t blame you if you don’t believe I can feel the stars move, not everyone is crippled by it, or if you can’t see the clouds ballooning and zigzagging around every life form – there are more colors than the human eye is designed to see. But like there’s a vacuum in my tunnel vision today, I am definitely living fully upside down in crazy town. I don’t even remember rolling off the bed, literally, and this makes me laugh because somehow I scooted my earthly mass toward the floor, and how long have I been lying here.

Started cackling over forgetting my favorite color. What does it even mean to have a favorite color?? I always said a different one when elementary teachers asked, as if that defines your character. How could I cheat on any of them, macaroni orange or lemon yellow or royal purple? I feel like the moon is trying to steal me. No, not yet! My ego hasn’t died enough, it’s still flatulating. I am superglued to the floor. I try to lift my head and just end up in a yoga pose, I forget what but my head is upside down and my butt’s in the air. It’s too early to stand, so I just kind of hover here awkwardly. If I were to live like this as a default, I might be able to run off to a circus and just spout crazy things for money. Or any downtown street. I walked past a woman with the crazy eyes today and I think a little rubbed off. My every morning is already like I’m eating peyote cereal. How many times is it normal to hallucinate a day? My grandmother was a witch, I should probably just ask her. I should also probably never do drugs.

I can’t seem to think and everything is crusty. I do have a filter, though. If I didn’t, I would regret it and people would stare. Not everyone appreciates the sense in nonsense. But this is where the poems come from, this scary immobilizing place where there is nothing left but words scrambled into some negation of order.

And I know my meditation teacher says pain is an outdated way to relate to the madness but I declare today, with help from Rob Brezny, Dare To Be Boring Day, in which all cliches are encouraged and you know what, here’s mine: the pain feeling does make me feel more human. Brings me back. I know. I know. Because this is where the breakdown occurred. This feeling of turmoil and hilarious lunacy is where I met some other soul and I let it out, I let it out big time and I was writing. Secret: this is where all the writing is kept, in this chaotic messy place where no two socks match but they all go together. Where words are the only life jacket. Where metaphors are born because the real things are too… ephemeral. Much more stable to talk about puzzles. Today, my higher self is not as much a unicorn as potatoes. There’s my straight jacket fashion statement for you.

With this person, I had no filter. I lived that way for a while. He said I got tiring. My filterless crazy maybe lost me a would-be love. After that, I shut up. And finally, now, opening again. Maybe it also gained me myself, I know, I know, I’m trying to see the positive side now because if all this is in me and I am made of poetry, or in other words all the muck of lunatics molded into words, it must be too much to have unleashed all upon one person. Poor person. I see now how I Niagara Fallsed him when I thought I was just a tourist, not taking responsibility for leaving my trace or taking the time to organize bullets into compartments.

Because look at all these roaring dust bunnies, who would want to live in that on a regular basis? The only way to manage all the dragons inside — blue, purpose and especially red — is to do it like the stock market. Diversify my options. Spread out. Divide and conquer. For such an unassuming person there is a lot of wonky funk in me. Holy crap. There. It’s settled. The only way to ever really have love is to love publicly and outwardly, just like a fountain, and unleash a billion little craps on the world because somewhere in there is a shit-covered smuggled diamond ring. And that’s a lot of crap, just too much to expect one person to handle, I can barely wade through it myself without sporting the crazy pants. But I’ll do it because I’m fatally attracted to the gleam in the garbage. Say, when is that defining moment in every writer’s life when they realize it is their destiny to go digging in the closet and see what monsters they can snare, when they realize they are a wrangler and even when the lasso arm gets tired, they are still seeking? And to hide would be a crime.

Standing up again feels like I am a little baby deer on acid.

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“Get Lost” Already — With Intention & Wonder

Okay, for all my left-brain reasoning and list-making and bullet points and binder festishes, I will admit something of the mystic in me: I check my horoscope, pretty regularly, and I even sometimes think it makes a huge holy heap of sense. Not always, and please don’t think I’m referring to bullpiles like Cosmo Horoscopes or any horsejunk like that.

No, I have two, and so far only two, sources that I check – Rob Brezny’s Free Will Astrology (which is delightful, playful and sometimes literarily wonderful) and Jonathon Cainer’s Zodiac Forecast (which is humorous, parable-driven and written with the perfect amount of sardonic positivity).

I mention them only because my Free Will horoscope has been bouncing all up in my head all week long, and I think I’ve finally answered the question for myself, “How can you possibly be intentionally lost?” Especially in light of the tragedies that have been throwing a lot of people off lately, with the Boston bombing rattling everyone’s bones just this week, I think it’s important to remember how to get lost, but not lose sight.

I’m a Virgo (ahem, the aforementioned i-dotting and t-crossing) and this week the stars had this to say to me, which I think is worth sharing as solid (if somewhat perplexing) advice for all:

“Never to get lost is not to live,” writes Rebecca Solnit in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost. In fact, she says that not knowing how to get lost is unhealthy. These are useful ideas to consider right now, Virgo. It will probably do you good to get at least semi-lost. As you wander around without a map or compass, I bet you will stumble upon important teachings. At the same time, I hope you will put some thought into how you’re going to get lost. Don’t just leave it to chance. Make sure there’s a method in your madness.

Madness? Plenty of it. Method? Working on it. The part that really seemed to throw me through a little bit of a paradox hurdle was this: “Put some thought into how you’re going to get lost.” I put a lot of thought into a lot of things: how to manage my work-hectic schedule, how best to get my students to respond with understanding, how to write integrity-driven emails, how to best structure an article, how to give helpful and critical writing feedback, how to keep calm in unpleasant situations, how to set goals, how to reconfigure my head around making money (I’m an idealist trying to break the bad habit of voluntary poverty), how to BLAH and BLAH and BLAH. Sometimes my brain just needs to go nap-nap.

But to put thought into getting lost? Doesn’t getting lost just sort of happen — usually when you aren’t putting thought into anything?

I have this great air freshener (that is now old and not fresh anymore) that I have kept for its wisdom. It says, “Not all who wander are lost.” I have always liked to think of myself as a wanderer, a seeker, a dirt-on-her-cheeks starry-eyed adventurer poking her walking stick into the depths of new caves, but always on some path. Even if the road ahead isn’t visible, the path is there. To where exactly? I have an idea. But to be lost — to be lost is to be cold, isolated, shivery, when the rain is discompassionately beating down on a soaked-through head with no relief and only blurry eyes closing in on themselves. No, we don’t want to be lost.

However, in turning over this idea of being “intentionally lost,” I’ve found a deep sense of peace, comfort and most importantly forgiveness of my current doubt and uncertainty. There are a lot of things this one little body is trying to do right now — from planning a nonprofit business to finding a new roommate to converting an office into something better to teaching to writing, writing, writing to trying to stay afloat financially — that being lost does not seem like something I would want, the opposite, in fact. Here I am, trying to make some sense out of it all. Yet, once again, I return to the wisdom of magic and letting go, and I see that trying to force all the pieces methodically into place just isn’t the best way to slice the cake.

You can’t predict what wondrous openings are up ahead; you just have to keep eagerly anticipating new awakenings at every turn, even from the bottom of the pit. 

If I am out on this sunbeaten, open path toward some great future (as we all are, if we choose to see it that way), and I am focusing all my might on getting from point A to point B with adequate amounts of 1) food 2) water 3) shelter 4) friends 5) inspiration and so on, checking my list every day to make sure all the little necessities are showing up for their head count, I might not see the next crevice I need to fall into.

And if you’re going to fall into crevices, as we all do, wouldn’t it be nice to have as much free will catapulting us into them as possible?

Finally, aha! Today, after a week of chanting the mantra “let yourself get intentionally lost” in my head around every turn, I think I have spotted my next crevice. And I’m ready to fall.

The situation: I’ve been hanging onto a dead-end tutoring job with a company that underpays me and is also pretty rude and draining. I’ve been looking for something to replace it, but I’ve experienced that inertia that the disgruntled often feel: dissatisfaction with my current situation but fear of losing its familiarity.

Encouraging myself to “get more lost,” I started the application process again, and today interviewed for a position as a teacher’s aide for a nonprofit that offers an alternative education model for at-risk youth in underserved areas. It pays next to nothing, and the interviewer has repeatedly warned me of the frustration, discouragement and harassment that will likely accompany my acceptance of the role. He’s also basically offered me the position if I want it.

Needless to say, I’m so excited I can barely eat my trail mix.

I will essentially be thrown into a school comprised 100% of the troublemakers, knuckleheads and the most despairing, apathetic, rude little shits you can probably ever imagine, the ones who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and who will bloody your nose given the chance, be provided little to no instruction and guidance on how to handle these situations, and be expected to simultaneously discipline them into good behavior while inspiring them to see that they are actually worth something and have the power to change their lives. Yeah, I think you can call this “being intentionally lost.”

I know it will be difficult. Emotionally draining. Impossible at times. Painful. Disheartening.

I can’t wait.

I’m sure that “feeling lost” is so close of an acquaintance for these kids that they don’t even know what it would be like not to have that sort of apathy sitting on their shoulders. P.S. My imagination is already running wild, creating personalities and scenarios before I’ve even accepted the position… but the point is:

Being lost is not the problem — being lost without intention is.

If I can be lost (adrift, unsure, aimless) while identifying and remembering what I truly want to accomplish (my intentions) and basking in the weird glory of things falling into place (the wonder), then I have a solid umbrella over my head, so that even in those thunderstorms, I will be able to find my way. And if I can, so can anyone with this mentality, because all it takes is a mental shift and an environment to support it.

I may be lost, but I know these things:

  • I intend to use the gift of my life to connect to others so they, too, can see what a gift their life is.
  • I intend to express myself with exuberance and joy, so that others, too, may feel the joy of themselves.
  • I intend to always challenge myself to learn, grow and explore, to never become stagnant (that is the easiest way to spread misery).
  • I intend to speak up rather than let die.
  • I intend to help empower the disempowered so they, too, can feel the strength inside them.
  • I intend to meet all obstacles with humility, grace and compassion.
  • I intend to use my energy to contribute to the solutions, not the problems.

Yes, the recruiter did peg me accurately as an idealist.

But to you, my audience, and later, my students, I want to pose that question. Even during times of doubt, fear, uncertainty, loss and despair, what do you know to be your deepest intentions?

Can you allow yourself to get lost with intention and wonder?

If there’s one thing I might take too much pride in, it’s my analytical, overworking logic-brain. I take pleasure in problem-solving, and I’ve trained myself to be pretty reasonable in a world of chaotic over-churning. Yes, I consider myself something of a mystic (or anyone who really talks to me will categorize me as such, I’m sure) but I’m a reasonable mystic, dammit.

And it can still take a lot of effort to get lost intentionally. 

Intentionally!

It’s not easy. Not as easy as calling yourself lost and whimpering into a dead world, believing that nothing matters. Or looking for a simplistic answer to explain atrocities like the one we witnessed this week so we don’t have to question ourselves. That’s the easiest thing ever. And another quote-punch to the face: “It takes a lot of work to be happy, none at all to be miserable.” During times of collective confusion like these, rather than get up in arms about who’s doing what wrong, the most productive response would be to look inward, reflect and set some personal intentions going forward.

Bringing it back to the moments you experience here and now, and how they interact with others. Then, the wonder is the part that comes in to remind how bleak it doesn’t have to be. Wonder is what keeps us from giving up entirely, from missing the point of all of life’s little delicacies when the resounding “I’m lost” is drowning everything else out.

I know what it feels like to enter the realm of personhood on this plane of existence, when you learn how to connect your mind, body and spirit, and I’ve seen the moment when it has happened for others. I also know that many physical obstacles exist for many people living in dire situations, and that it can take a lot of time, compassion and persistence to integrate the reality of your own existence, when you’ve been taught your whole life that what you’ve got is just your lot. Working with at-risk youth whose lives have been much harder than mine since the day we were born will be new, but I also know how much small and consistent doses of love, support and humanity can mean to someone teetering on the brink.

Especially in the wake of some terrible events lately, from the Newtown shootings to this week’s Boston bombing, I think it’s more important than ever to get lost, but with strength, resolve and dedication to bolstering, not bullying, your values. It’s okay to allow yourself to be lost — that’s how your mind opens to new truths — but retain your intention. That doesn’t mean don’t get angry or confused, because that would be impossible for 99% of us. But the intention to get as close as you can to the ideal on a daily basis is what matters.

As a side note that seems worth mentioning, one of my students in a class I was subbing one week exactly before the Boston bombings decided to “joke” about how he loves building guns and wants to make nuclear weapons. Where does that come from and how can we reach it? Is there not a huge shift taking place in the collective psyche? If you can feel it, you know it’s there.

Even if I am kind of/sort of lost as to why or how or what it all means, or what exactly it is that is driving me in this direction, my intention is clear: I intend to tough-love some spark of intention and wonder into these kids’ tornado of lost. I, like many other young people hungry for the experience of the world, want to make a difference.

Fully knowing that this path may lead me to feeling so lost, hopeless, discouraged and insignificant at times, my intention is to learn and help as I go. With a healthy sense of wonder for it all.

I don’t need to know 100% why.

cartoon_lobster

And this is my alter ego right now: the getting loster and loster lobster

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Mad Woman In A Surreal World

I feel asleep last night thinking I’ve gone mad. I’ve gone mad. It’s finally happened. Again. I’ve gone mad. 

Future poetry compilation by yours truly entitled: Woman Gone Mad

or Mad Woman In A Weird World

or even Woman Going Mad Gone Gone Bye Bye Brain World See Ya Suckas I’m Off Wooey Hooey Hey!

I don’t mean to romanticize the feeling of delving into insanity. Because even though some of the mad geniuses I know periodically take trips into the deep end, and I’ve made my home there many a time, it is not a place of safe staying. It’s not like going to the movies where you can sit down in a plush seat and munch on salty treats while your mind and emotions are titillated by a story intentionally meant to temporarily mesmerize you.

No. It’s more like you look at your hands and you suddenly don’t recognize them as your hands, and you take these alien hands and you try to make them peel an orange, but they simply won’t listen, and then you start thinking, Impertinent hands! Whose bold joke is this to make hands that do not function? and at that point, some switch in your brain goes Okay, it’s started. Here we go, we’re in for a ride! The disconnect has begun and honey, you’re a captive passenger in a jankity cart headed straight to hell. Everything that you once knew becomes silly putty. Every person, every moment, every special belonging in your life dissipates into a vacuum of ethereal absurdity. How long it lasts varies. Sometimes it’s only a couple of hours, but I’ve survived there for weeks on end. My eyes are no longer my eyes. My toes not my toes. The world gets misty with a saturated detachment and the far away part of my brain that can still process cohesive thoughts nonchalantly looks on and wonders whether anyone notices I’m not all there. How good am I at passing.

I recently identified with the quote, “A writer is many people trying to be one person.”

As much as I revere geniuses like Hemingway and Faulkner (who wrote As I Lay Dying in a mere six months and was drunk every night doing it), it costs a lot to venture where the greats do. How many people walk around with imaginary straight jackets reeling in their octopus limbs. How many wrestle with the resistance of the deep end. How many people are in my head alone. How many want to come out and see the light.

No, I’m not romanticizing the feeling of the brain splitting apart into multiple compartments, each one screamingly disconnected from the others. My grandmother, though I never met her, was apparently schizotypal (very similar to schizophrenic) and, consequently, my father is a psychologist. Consequently, sometimes I think I am insane. I have too intimate a relationship with the schizo framework for it to be any way romantic to me. If it weren’t so real a possibility that someday my brain chemistry may flip a switch (my brain is constantly flipping all kinds of switches) and send me into mental paralysis, I might not resist the deep end so much.

Because.

That’s where the diamonds hide.

It’s only in those moments of departure that I feel the world whispering secrets too heavy for everyday existence. It’s only then that I take my shoveling hands and dig straight down into the dirt of reality, intending to pull up some gnawing roots. It’s not always dark, either. Sometimes, I’m so light I could fly and I tap into the common fabric of consciousness with delight. But they’re both extremes with a high price. The price is living outside the regular rhythm of social life.

I just finished reading a brilliant little novel called Hunger by a late 19th-century German writer Knut Hamsun. He spent his entire life poor, eking out a living as a schoolteacher, store clerk, farmhand, road laborer and various other odd positions before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920 — and dying in poverty in 1952. The novel is fast-paced, absurd and at times pathetically hilarious, chronicling an impoverished writer on a journey into irrationality as hunger, cold and misery become his closest friends. His mind, which he prizes as his greatest asset, starts to dissolve along with his body. Why live this way? Because he is a writer.

Toward the end of the story, a landlady who has housed him for three weeks on credit, starts becoming suspicious he will never pay her.

Their conversation goes:

“But you won’t ever finish that article, will you?”

“You think so? I may feel inspired to write tomorrow, or maybe even tonight; it’s not at all impossible that the inspiration will come sometime tonight, and then my article will be finished in a quarter of an hour, at the most. You see, it’s not the same with my work as with other people’s; I can’t just sit down and get so much done every day, I have to wait for the right moment. And nobody can tell the day or the hour when the spirit will come upon him. It must take its course.”

…As soon as I was alone, I sprang up and started tearing my hair in despair. No, there wasn’t the least hope for me, no hope at all! My brain was bankrupt!

Oh, the manic exaggerative hopeless compulsion of the writer captured in its most basic essence! Oscillating from extreme arrogance to the deepest self-pity! Why have we chosen this life? Or has it chosen us?

Last night, I was there. My brain was bankrupt, unable even to tell my body to get out of this messy, vapid depression enough to form coherent thoughts. And my thoughts! My thoughts are all I have! What am I without searingly true thoughts? What kind of writer can’t think? And the unique dilemma of not being able to force oneself to think in a way that is conducive to producing words on the page is downright debilitating. Then what am I?! I couldn’t do it. There was nothing I could possibly to do to force myself to write the things I needed to write.

This makes for a very unstable way of living.

Also, at this point in my life, a very, very poor one. All I ache to do is let the winter erupt in some zig zagging vernacular, but that won’t pay the heating bills! Still, I’ve chosen it. I am sitting in a living room that pulses like a freezer but my hands (those hands that last night were not my hands) just type away with the frenetic energy of a bundled up Virginia Woolf. Right now, I’ve chosen this way, this meager living that allows me the afternoon freedom to let play out all the tap-dancing fantasies of inane thought patterns, and for that I can be proud.

I haven’t always been able to choose this way. I have always been poor. Grew up in a small room with no common windows to light the way. But that’s another story for later. Though I choose this way, there is zero romanticism in poverty.

“Poverty itself is only romanticized by fools.” -J.K. Rowling

Yeah, she may be a quadraple-billionaire now, but Rowling was scraping by with canned soup and welfare supporting a child in abject poverty before she became renowned for Harry Potter. There’s nothing glorious about existing in nothing.

Nonetheless, there is a rich vein of truth that only appears in those decrepit, crawling moments of mad possession. When the senses are on high alert to every passing bird, every roaming leaf carried about on the wind, every shaking thought seems drenched in gold. In these moments, everything is surreal and somehow truer than before. Walking around like there’s a vacancy in my eye sockets but some inner light inflamed somewhere else.

The main character of Hunger relates this bit, a little after being kicked out onto the street again:

In all that I observed in this way there was nothing, not even a tiny incidental circumstance, that escaped me. My attention was most alert, every little thing was sensitively picked up, and I had my own ideas about these matters as they occurred. So there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with my sanity. As things were, how could there possibly be anything the matter with it?

Now, look here, I said all of a sudden, you have been bothering yourself about your sanity long enough, making yourself anxious on that score; now let’s put a stop to these tomfooleries! Is it a sign of insanity to perceive and understand all things as accurately as you do?

What great things come to life in the madness of absence! Absence of food, absence of sense, absence of sleep and of security. I’ve been swinging on this pendulum for more than a decade now, not always freely, but these are the crevices I now give myself permission to explore.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman — mad genius! I am nothing short of a mad genius! Nothing short of a pitiful fool! All I have are the words, the words, the words. Catch me in a spirit of nonsense and you won’t recognize me from the grounded body I normally inhabit. There will be no editing of this post! I’m amazed I still remember to capitalize! How deeply ingrained some things are. How to shake even those. How to rebuild in the fire. How to emerge with some granular morsel from the depths, hunched over and protecting a shoddy bit of rough dirt that, once scraped away, might reveal something worthwhile. How to do this.

How to write not in your right mind! What genius is there in drafts?

What truth smoldering in the ash of the common! Pooey on psychology. Pooey on deadlines. Pooey on supposed to be.

No, there is no romanticism here. Only a compulsion to sift through toward understanding. Only a coping mechanism that is born out of some of the deepest despair. These may not be the words that shine toward truth, but at least they are words. They may be the precursor to some great awakening, who knows. After a night of delirium, at least I have these words on the page, however trite they may be. How to get productively lost in the process. How to see.

How madness can be transformed — that is all there is. You need only to cultivate return.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Writing Like A Woman

You tell me to write more like a man. More direct, you say. Just say what you mean.

Right, because James Joyce, one of the greatest writers of all time, was so direct and straightforward. Because Shakespeare never bounced around a clever phrase. Because Beckett’s profound absurdism always made sense. Because e.e. cummings, that batty, brilliant maniac, didn’t revolutionize poetry by talking in some beautiful spirals.

Because the men I’ve dated were always direct and straightforward.

“How are you feeling?” “Unh, fine, I don’t know.”

I think what you’re trying to tell me is not, write more like a man, but just, learn how to write better.

And I agree. Better is always better.

But I’m not trying to be like you.

I don’t really want your hat. I’ve got enough silly ones of my own.

You ask me one time, early on, if I can cook.*

You sigh and your eyes drop in disappointment when I tell you I never learned to cook any better than heating up single mom TV dinners or bicycling to McDonald’s. Because it’s cultural, you know, and if you need me to spell it out for you, we didn’t have a mom who had time or money to cook every night for us. She was always working.

And though I’m learning the sweet formulas of the oven now, I think I need to make an announcement: gourmet cooking ability (or sewing or decorating or folding laundry precisely) is not something every woman is just magically born with, like perfect pitch or green eyes, especially not working class women, who sell their labor for their children’s futures and sacrifice their own dreams – it may be a long time overdue, but thank you, Mom. (Side note: my intuition is something I was born with, and that is rarely as recognized.)

I’m pretty sure at that moment you downgraded me from “potential life partner” to just “girlfriend who can’t cook,” but hey, I know for a fact you wouldn’t know a wrench from a radiator under the hood of a car if we were to be stuck out somewhere treacherous like… San Bernadino, and fixing that motor meant the difference between eating dinner that night or becoming dinner for the hill people (Beverly Hills boys – different hill people – don’t learn how to be mechanics).

Is every man supposed to be born with engine lights going off in their brains?

Can we please let go of the advertisements?

When dreadlocks aspire to be a blonde curl, my kinky hair weeps at the pressure of a straightening iron.

Though I’ve tried, I can’t aspire to be more like a man.

It’s as ridiculous as aspiring to be more like a manatee, and I have a special fondness for those cuddly paddlers. Sure, I can incorporate some external qualities and blend the colors into my own skin, in fact it’s healthy to choose your pallette – I could be more assertive, more focused, more self-important, or more likely to be mistaken for a mermaid by sea-drunk ocean crossers. But more like a man or a manatee – I don’t think so. I’ll be more like whatever I feel like, how about that, sailor?

(P.S. Disclaimer: Please don’t mistake me, I support transsexuals in their quest for identity – honeymuscles, you can go ahead and fully aspire to be more like a man… not trying to put my foot in any mouths here.)

But you know, there’s a reason why movies like The Last Samurai star Tom Cruise, why Pocahontas is beautiful in the Disney cartoon, why Jesus is a white dude. We all want to see ourselves reflected everywhere we can, and project ourselves out onto others – won’t that mean I’m important and alive and real? It’s a lot easier than attempting to step into another person’s bones to see what connects us, what funky cool mosaics can be cut from the cloth of our differences, or what lies truly underneath.

It made me laugh – ha ha! – when my 6 foot 2, light-skinned, muscle-builder of a man buddy became offended (hashtag #perfectexample) by me saying in a Tweet (please excuse the punctuation-less Tweet-speak):**

@fancifulnance: “Men have never been my role models. Lovers, teachers, friends, but it is woman who liberates woman. She who I aspire to.”

@manfriend: “kind of think you are retarded now”

@fancifulnance: “what makes that retarded?”

@manfriend: “likewise, cause your comments stem from feminist ignorance. You know there is a level playing field of capability.”

@fancifulnance: “I can’t relate to being a man so I can’t aspire to be like one. Appreciate but not aspire, so not a role model. So defensive”

@manfriend: “whatevah you got to do woo woman”

It may seem like a somewhat disjointed conversation, but we are dealing in 140 characters or less here, and I’m not posting this to attack my said man friend, but just to point out how common it is for a man to respond negatively when a woman proposes any sort of self-empowerment. (Would a white woman be offended by a black woman saying, I love all my white friends but it is my black sisters who teach me how to be in my own skin? Would a businessman be offended by an artist saying, I know I need agents in my life, but it’s other artists who inspire my work?)

Notice that my original comment lacked any outright attack on the legitimacy of “manhood,” or any sort of disempowerment of men, yet he attacks me for being an ignorant feminist. It was a clearly positive revelation I had just had – it does me more good to look to the leaders of my station in life (in this case, strong women) than to look to leaders whom I don’t necessarily see myself in (close-minded men), and in fact historically have tried to keep my voice silent through backwards berating, doubting my abilities, callous comments, irrational accusations, sexual harassment, blatant objectification and not-funny sexist jokes.

Not to say there aren’t a great deal of men I respect, in fact there are – some of my most enlightening professors have been men (though why did I feel so timid trying to talk ideas with them?), some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers and peace leaders in history have been men (though where were the women’s names?), and some of my very best friends are men. Just like the artist needs the businessman and vice versa, I love and appreciate and admire many men in my life, but I, personally, have got to love my womanness first. I feel this disclaimer shouldn’t be necessary but I know it is:

Lifting myself up as a woman, embracing my femininity, accepting all my assets and flaws, and living simply the way my internal compass tells me to be as a woman DOES NOT emasculate anyone.

The real emasculation occurs when a man isn’t comfortable enough with himself, or how he interacts with women, and he responds negatively and defensively to try and throw the attack back on the object of his discomfort. A woman asserting herself makes a lot of men seriously, seriously uncomfortable. Like, sitting in the dentist chair looking at the drill and blaming the dentist for all the times he never flossed kind of uncomfortable.

I’ve found it especially true when that assertiveness appears unexpectedly, like in the form of me, a generally good-spirited, warm, agreeable and understanding, totally non-threatening, non-violent sort of person. But hey buddy, step on my toes and I will not just stand there.

The thing is, I understand why my Twitter friend was offended – he perceived that I was attempting to strip him of his power because he feeds off of the weaknesses of others. A vocal woman who happens also to be clever may seem like a big, fat threat to a small mind.

Yet, no one seems to be offended by Shakespeare.

“To thine own self be true.”

We are in a very exciting time when women are to themselves being truer than ever before. When the culmination of the last century of feminism is starting to take root in the brainstems of even the most dull, when women are joining together and starting to realize that something’s been missing for a really long time, and even if we can’t language it out exactly to the tee right now, we know we’re continuing along a path that history has been carving for us all along, and it feels right where we are going.

Racial integration didn’t just happen overnight, rather it took a mass movement to shift the consciousness of the population politically and ideologically, and many, many years for it to be normal for all races to sit at the same table in a restaurant. The same thing is happening right now for women, fueled by the writings and actions of female leaders before us, as we take these rising, resonating voices to the White House and beyond.

I, personally, want to be recognized as the owner of my own body, as a valued part of society in both the public and private spheres, and as a keeper of my own wisdom. It’s a labyrinthine time we’re living in, and there are dots connecting many circles.

This year was a very tumultuous year for women in politics in the U.S. (and of course, various parts of the world experienced major uprisings from and for women), but the issues that are being raised – rape, abortion, birth control, pay discrepancies, and in other parts of the world, basic rights like voting and driving – are actually doing something amazing right now. They’re forcing the woman’s voice to the forefront of the world stage, and the shift is pulling. It’s pulling and pulling, and there’s no going against this tide. Whether you believe in energy work or the pattern of the universe or the Mayan calendar or not, we are entering a feminine age. I will be happy to expound on that later, maybe when the ideas form, but for now it’s enough to say, embrace the change.

Women, straight women, bisexual women and lesbians alike, it’s time to realize what power we have. I know you feel it. Whether you admit it or not, some great internal mechanism is clanging in our ears, in our bones, in our thighs and it’s all we can do not to just rip our heads back and cackle. Our great-grandmothers are laughing with us. Simone DeBeauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, Kate Chopin, Sylvia Plath, Rosa Parks, Virgina Woolf and all the other tide-driven women before us are letting out a relieved guffaw. Their work will not die.

It’s understandable that there’s still some good breeding in some of us – still some desire to be a lady, to sit quietly and smile and be chosen like a budding rose. The change won’t be sudden, but I aspire to make close frenemies with those desires, and I aspire to let them expire.

I aspire to be a lot of things: a great writer, a productive activist, a strong community leader, an enlightened spirit and a positive role model. But to ask me to aspire to be more like a man, to ask me to write more like a man, well, honey, I’m just simply not going to.

Write better? Write more honestly, more vibrantly, more wholeheartedly? Yes, that I can try to do. I’ve been gathering up around me all my feminist poetry, all my female philosophers’ essays, all my sea-tasting foremothers’ words to cradle me to sleep at night so that in the morning some brilliant new piece of the puzzle may emerge.

I’m making love to the lightning bolts of feminine wisdom, I’m playing hopscotch with my mother’s tears, I’m throwing rocks ahead at the path that seems to be leading to our collective awakening.

And the more I wake up, the more it seems I have to say.

Men—I’m not asking to stamp out your voice. I’m just asking you to make way for mine. ‘Cause it is a-headed your way and it is whistling like a jailbird stepping out, finally, freely into the light.

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*I’m great friends with this man now, and he is one of the most inspiring figures in my life, so there is no mean sentiment here.

**No offense intended here either; these are words lifted from the public domain of Twitter, and Twitter man friend, if you read this, though that was nearly the last I heard from you, I would be happy if you were to correct me in your line of thinking :-}

Hail to Hegel’s Dialectical Explosive Synthesis

Let me name for you some of my contradictions. It’ll be fun. And then it will be your turn.

I’m a lazy… activist.

I smoke cigarettes after yoga. (Only sometimes!)

I teach reasoning skills to high school students. My psychic supports this.

I am the straight girl co-founder of a queer rights/ feminist/ group for equality, but I have a pretty singular attraction to rich white men whose debonair style and nice hair conceal an undercurrent of (blech) misogyny.

You felt the need to bring me down because sometimes too much joy is just too much and I still love your stupid face.

Enough about that, I’m reading Nietzche and a self-help book called The Happiness Makeover at the same time – it’s a race!

I’m the wisest person I know and also the most naive, the brightest and the dullest, so beautiful sweet and such a cold-ass bitch. Depends on which superlative you seek.

All we need is balance, balance, balance, I battle cry on my turbo dive directly into the deeeeeep end. Oh, the deep end, my bitter friend.

If I had a resume of ailments I’ve diagnosed myself with it would include, but not limited to: urgently exploding appendicitis, recurring anorexia and simultaneously a propensity for obesity, bipolar disorder, high-functioning autism, gluten allergies, a thyroid imbalance, schizophrenia, paranoia, clinical depression, neuroticism and hypochondriacism. Those last two are probably correct.

I lament that in all that, I’m not a little more OCD. My room would probably be cleaner.

I’m a messy perfectionist. An embracing critic.

I will cry with my whole body, quietly but deep breathingly, sometimes at things happening on television. And I will laugh until I shake, until tears squirt out of my eyes and I grab onto someone just to remember where I am, sometimes because of things happening on the television. Oh wait, laughing and crying ain’t a contradiction – but ask my ex-manfriends and they’ll tell you it is.

They just get angry. Human evolutionary psychology is some kind of crackpot joke in itself, but that’s altogether another story.

Paradoxes can get tiring, but what other kinds of truths have we got? I’m no painter but I’d like to paint a pair of docks shackled to each other. Somewhere deeply inland. With a tagline that reads, “Enough metanarratives already!”

Anyway. I’m a writer who usually prefers a meaty conversation to flashy devices.

All I want to do is leave my ego at the door and help people genuinely, authentically, the way my soul begs of me to do in the ways that I know how. I want to reach people who think they don’t deserve to be reached. I want to pull them out of the muck and laugh about how funny it is that once you thought that’s where you belonged. But then I doubt myself and become one of those people who needs some rope myself. Stuck in the muck. And maybe that’s why I do the pulling. Plus, that’s where most of the funny weird things are born. What would I do without those swampy friends?

I think there are too many people on the planet and too many dumb words already been said, but I want to nurse my own children eventually, and see my name in print again and again and again.

I love to backpack – up and down streams, boots soaking wet and tired and sore. The best meal of my life occurred out in the foothills – tuna fish on crackers. But I will binge on five star hotels that serve you oysters with lemon wrapped in meshy plastic whenever I can, oh honey, take me down to never never land.

I will compost my veggies like a mountain hermit and wipe worm poop all over my pants, then don an evening sparkle dress and throw cocktails down my throat like I’m a hotshot on some Real World trash.

I strive to live richly, richly, richly poor!  But I’d also kind of like regular sushi lunches and new things someday, maybe, finally.

My city friends think I’m a well-adjusted hippie. My hippie friends wonder how the city doesn’t kill me.

I have social anxiety so bad sometimes I don’t leave my house for days. But when you meet me at a party, I will radiate. It won’t be fake. It’s in me.

I want to express in wordy colors all my blah blah, sing out on the walls all my yeah yeah, spin and dance around all my hee hee, and also guard it up, not for the world to see. How much energy for you and how much love for me?

I’m an overgiver who doesn’t quite know yet how to fully receive.

“For such a colorful personality, you sure wear a lot of black.” Has been said about me.

I’d like to not care what you think of me. I’d like to stop saying me, me, me. I’d also like to stop this rhyming spree. But what other vehicle do I have to express what funny weird backward beauties I and you and everyone are, all the time, concurrently?

I want more than anything to feel life coursing through my body full and rich and light and true. But I am attached to the darkness like a shadow I can’t shake. I’m afraid if I shook it, I’d be floating, and floating and floating, but somewhere out there all alone. No safety rope. Misery loves company and maybe there’s another way to be, but I need dark company; it’s dangerous to be so light.

You can absolutely be too free. But rebirth is your right. As many times as you want it. And integration is the key. You can have your own language and speak another tongue, too. You just have to want to.

I’m telling myself, you can fall for the stars and still live a little large.

You can drown science in formulas, then close your eyes and rocket off to Jupiter.

You can wear your contradictions like a robe entitling you to be whatever you feel today. Right now.

And hey, news flash, you there swimming in TV ads and fake boob pornos and consciousness raising questions and comparisons with your peers, and all your wonderful, titillating confusion: you don’t have to be perfect. That’d be nonsense. And actually really boring. But you do have to try. To figure it out. You will have to work to let the old goo morph into newness or else what is it worth?

You can be as genuine as you are pretending and I know you’re good at pretending. Just take the real stuff, take the other stuff, take the inner and the outer stuff, take the messy stuff, and the gorgeous stuff, mix them all together and shake.

Look at me. Identity crisis ice cream sundae.

At least I’ve made hesitant friends with my shadow side – I’ve named her Rikoklyn; she’s snide and has mean teeth. Sometimes I like her. Just for something different. Capiche?

So it’s pretty much guaranteed – your multiple heads with all their silly hats will fight and fight and fight. But don’t fight the fight. There is no should, no supposed to be. Just you, some different outfits, and how every different day you choose to be.

So that’s it. How I let Hegel dialecticize me toward every new resounding, explosive synthesis. How every idea gives rise to its opposite, and something new is born. How you can learn to train yourself to let things die when they need to die. It’s simple but hard. And sometimes it takes a while before the birth. Survival is a spiral, adaptation on a level you can see. Slowly winding forward.

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The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. -F. Scott Fitzgerald