So there was this little beetle, maybe an inch long or so, that had found it’s way to the edge of our full-length mirror the other night. Barry called me into the bedroom to ask me if I’d put something there somehow – on the mirror’s frame – and it escaped my view so well that I was practically nose to nose with it (nose to… ?) when it finally did come into focus. The beetle was just hanging out there, blending in; the back of it looking like some kind cross between a tiny section of a tiny turtle shell and a really symmetrical, heavy leaf. It was pretty, but too close for comfort, and I let out a scream-y yelp and made Barry take it outside. (Sorry, babe!)

The beetle lived for a few days, hanging out around the edge of the back door, long enough for me to get up close to it and see it in better detail – by choice this time. I suspect it had been hanging out in a box I’d recently brought up from the basement, lodged between an old sweatshirt and some love letters, or maybe it lived in the little bundle of wedding ephemera that I’d tied up with a bow. Anyway, on Monday, I went outside to have a smoke and saw it lying on its back, legs twitching a tiny bit. Maybe it fell and couldn’t right itself, maybe the cat attacked it. Probably both. I hovered a flip-flop over the beetle so, so gently and it latched on, letting me carry it out to the grass past the steps, where I set it on some leafy dry grass that was all bright and warm in a little patch of sun, a perfect microcosm of a perfect fall day. I sat there with it for a minute, had my cigarette, and went back inside.

Later that day I went back out to check on it, and the beetle had either blended in completely to the point where I’d lost sight of it again, or, found the strength to get away. I like to think it made it’s way to someone else’s back porch, burrowing inside a different love letter, to spend another year in a half in someone else’s box in someone else’s basement.

Either way, it left well.

***

Tonight at therapy Frank asked me what I hadn’t been forgiving myself for lately.

I went in all headachey and tired, almost dreading it a little bit really, even though I only see him about every three weeks or so. I’d cried and told him about the feeling untethered part and how small I felt when I saw the imaginary drone zoom way up out of view when I was in bed one night last week, how we’re smaller than fleas compared to the galaxy, really and how some days that’s a good thing to remember and how other days the insignificance of it all – of us, life, everything we do – is just like, deafening. I talked about old friends that turned out not to be friends at all, and the holes in the fabric of the tent I’d fashioned for myself in the scene out here, and how stupid and naive I’d been about so much. Seattle had failed me. I’d failed Seattle. I’d failed me. And even though I’ve already dissected all of this, even though I understand every moment and every facet of how I got here, now, exactly as-is, and even though I know this is all elevated as a result of my current hormonal state: still, something in me has been snagged here for a long time, and I haven’t been able to give it a proper release.

“So what in your life needs to get off the bus? And what haven’t you forgiven yourself for?”

I can see him and hear him as I type. My brain’s been kind of turned inside out ever since. If you asked me, I’d describe myself as someone who took good care of all her pieces, napping when she needed to and Trying To Make Stuff as much as she could, giving herself a hard time sometimes but doing her best with what she had at hand.

As it turns out, that same person (who is here in tandem with me, and all my pieces and facets, because there’s room for all of our respective everything-ness) can’t even seem to sort out that it’s okay that she dropped and broke a dish that can’t be put back together. Not only can she not sort it out, but she fucking like, annihilates herself for it. At any given point I’m just a few moves away from putting myself in front of my own self-generated firing squad. I want to say that sentence isn’t true, but it is, and I know that it is because of the way my head can barely understand the idea of cultivating some kind of forgiveness for myself. The total and complete unfamiliarity with the concept of the idea is blowing my mind, let alone processing the idea itself, which I haven’t even gotten to yet.

I know me, you know? I’ve been there for everything I’ve done. I’ve heard every thought and remember every dream my consciousness makes room for; every idea, the really good ones and those other really good ones that I never wrote down and forgot about. I’ve experienced every regret and every moment of Awe that I’ve had, like how it was when I saw Alaska for the first time, and how I wish I could talk to my sister again, and all those bits and pieces that are squirreled deep away. I can forgive that part of me that I try to separate from, the part that’s just doing the best she can, because we all are (doing the best we can, I mean), and there’s no reason not to carve out the same space for myself that I would for like, Barry or Gwen or anyone else close to me. But when I contemplate really and truly forgiving my whole self, looking around, lost in thought, it feels like my brain is scanning the overworld map on a video game screen endlessly without result. Looking for clues. Looking for a place to go to even begin to start the thought process around all of it. Finding nothing outside of rooms I’ve already been to a hundred times before.

The thing is, I know it’s there. It’s there, hiding in plain sight: I may have to go like, free a dragon to get a book or whatever, that I then take to some mystical witch in a hut in the desert, who finally marks my map with the right location – but it’s there. I can feel it, conversations with Barry point at it, Frank can see it, every horoscope I’ve read this week screams it… it might be under a rock or hidden in the uppermost branches of some crazy tree, but it’s there. It’s in me. It’s embedded in my map.

I think that’s all I’ve got for now. There’s no pretty wrap-up here, just my brain doing that scan as my eyes dart around the room, waiting for the thoughts to come into being, and probably a dead beetle in the yard, and me typing this out in front of the fireplace, writing so much these past few days after not having written much for so very long.

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burn_all_cults

I spent a huge portion of my adult life (from 23 until about 2.5 years ago) in Alcoholics Anonymous. The last few years I was ‘in the program’ were mostly me navigating extreme discomfort that I couldn’t articulate, knowing I needed to leave, not knowing how to leave; burying myself in shame and guilt for even considering it. I finally walked away from AA convinced that I was alone and would invariably drink myself to death as the literature (and culture) predicted.

I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, primarily that alcoholism and addiction are not diseases at all, just manifestations of compulsive behaviors that are covering up deep-rooted issues — issues that are much better solved in some type of therapy with patience and logic than they are in the forced faith-healing tents of AA. I was taught for years that my only options were to ‘go back out’ and drink forever, dying if I was lucky, or to accept help for a ‘spiritual malady’ which would then open the pathway to solving all my problems. As it turns out, there are as many ways to deal with compulsive drinking and drug use as there are people having the experience. And more importantly, I am not ‘spiritually sick’ and I do not need to dedicate my life to decades of control mechanisms and forced, shame-based obedience. I am not helpless, I am not hopeless, and I’ve learned more in the time I’ve spent post-AA navigating these mental blank spots that ‘the program’ left behind in me than I did in the entire decade prior.

I’m finally free from guilt and self-doubt (around this, not with everything in my life obviously), and having found my old AA literature this past week, I decided this morning that today would be a perfect day for setting it all on fire. Watching it burn to dust was intensely cathartic in a way I can’t quite explain; if I’d had any rolling papers around, I would have lit a joint off these motherfucking flames.

TL;DR (too late): trust your gut and stay away from cults, you guys. If you find a group of people that tell you that their way is the only way to do something, shunning all other ideas, run like hell. Run to our house if you have to, we can make a pot of coffee (or crack a few beers) and put on some records and talk about it.

#feelings #shamefreesaturdays #mindcontrolisahellofadrug

Words can’t truly describe the experience we had in Tennessee this week — a whirlwind thirty-six hours, all to see Wayne White’s retrospective and a talk he was giving at the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga. So much immersive art, so much awe, so much hope that helps fill the gap between knowing you have art to get out of you + being able to express it.

Wayne is someone who’s been able to tap into his art-vein and just make things like, constantly, and being able to meet him and shake his hand and share in his aura for a few hours was, no exaggeration, such a true gift. When we brought our books up to be signed I managed to articulate some of that to him but I couldn’t get through it without crying, and then he cried a little too, and then our new friend Helen Smith took this picture of us, and as if all that weren’t enough, since we’d missed Wayne-O-Rama (because apparently there’s a time change between Nashville and Chattanooga?), like, minutes after this our other new friend Bryan gave us our own private tour down the street. (!!!!!)

So now we’re home + exhausted + inspired, and PS, speaking of home, I wouldn’t even know about Wayne or “Beauty is Embarrassing” without Barry; the layers and layers that he impacts and enriches in me blows my mind daily and ugh SUCH A LONG CAPTION FOR A PHOTO but seriously, not joking when I say I’ll probably remember yesterday for the rest of my life. Thank you Wayne, and thank you Mimi for all that you do. The world is a better place with you in it and we’re so grateful we got to meet you both, even if it was just for a moment out of all of our long, weird, twisty, impossible, beautiful lives.

#♥️ #feelings #tenderterritory #thrillafterthrill #almostflewintoahurricane #layoverssuck #missedaparty #worthit

notes from a journal entry, the day after a perfect wedding

It’s Monday, 5:10pm. The notes at the bottom of my journaling app show the address of where we now call home, tells me it’s 73 and sunny. Pacific Time.

I wanted so badly to get up on Saturday night and cry into that microphone, in front of both of you and everybody else, but I knew I would have stumbled through it, not gotten it all out, and then spent the hours, days + weeks following trying to explain what I meant, rehashing every word.

It was a flood, really. The weather and the hilarity of the house and the terrible sad zoo, the seemingly infinite details; the feelings. It would have been impossible to encapsulate in moments and minutes, with a few jokes and a killer ending… so how do I start, from this starting? It’s a story of love. Not just your love, your relationship, your wedding day — it’s the years and moments and everything until now fused into a point of light, and the space past that light that shines out as far as we are capable of seeing, and longer past that. That’s another reason why I couldn’t give a speech, because I couldn’t talk about the two of you without talking about me and the journey I’ve been on, before you and then with you since we met, respectively.

Not many people have stuck it out with me the way you have. I’m constantly learning, thinking I have something figured out, fucking it up, realizing I don’t know as much as I thought I did, starting over — leaving blooms and disasters in my wake, depending on the day. You’ve come with me full circle several times, in bliss and in darkness, full-hearted and broken down in a ticket booth, holding on for dear life when no one else understood. We’ve been fans, roommates, confidants; brought out the best and the worst in each other. Killorn, you’ve shown forgiveness for the learning cycle I went through that pushed us apart, when I pushed you away — and without hesitation, you picked up the hammer and boards with me and built the bridge that brought us back together. You have been patient and vulnerable and kind, through life and death and shattered dreams and incredible successes. I know I’m not the easiest person to be friends with — to put it mildly — I give a lot, and while I don’t keep score, I demand a lot in return once I’ve passed a certain level of emotional intimacy. I used to leave that door open around the clock, and now it’s guarded and sacred and only creaks open on certain days of the year, when the planets are all lined up and the sky turns that perfect shade of pink, dependable and rare, like solstice at Stonehenge, or that one day of the year in Manhattan when everything lines up and the sunset burns down that one specific street.

We were all so scared for you when everything was coming undone that year in the Ballard house. In my cold and controlling, holier-than-thou state, my love and fear for you turned to anger and too-thick skin. All you needed were open arms, and all you got was this terrible disdain. I can’t ever replay those days and change them, I can’t ever take any of it back, and I can’t ever undo the damage. I know we’ve talked about this at length since, but I need you to know that I carry that hurt and regret with me. Every time my heart overflows with love for you, the pain comes with it, and I think it’s just the burden I have to bear so that I don’t ever treat anyone that way ever again. We spoke in whispers, cross-legged on Lori’s bed, wanting to help you but not knowing how, afraid you were painting yourself into another corner of escapism when we heard you on the phone all hours of the night with someone we knew you’d only met through a joke about a sweatshirt on Twitter.

Oh, how wrong we were.

I can’t tell you with sufficient intensity how glad I am that we, the us that lives between you and I, survived. I don’t deserve the love and trust and vulnerability you show me, but somehow, you keep the line open and you keep letting me in. This kind of friendship is secondary only to the changes in me that have happened since colliding with Barry, as far as the degree to which someone’s unyielding love and grace for me, as-is, has completely changed and shaped who I am, for the better. You know all of this, already. But it seemed like the right time to tell you again.

So now it’s now, and we’re about forty-eight hours past the fishing line and the chicken and the gnats and the happy tears, and years past the nuclear fallout… The thing I kept saying to Barry on the way out, the thing I’ve always talked about when I describe you and Mark, is that he is your fucking whisperer. He sees all of you, complete; your joys and your sorrows, the strong facade and the most vulnerable underbelly, simultaneous. And I kept thinking about how wonderful it was, for you to have found your Person, and knowing we were heading out to the middle of nowhere to celebrate and cherish you both, to support you and witness you and take those vows and be by your side(s). And if that was all that had happened, it would have been enough for the flood, the feelings and tears, the tears that started the moment I saw you coming through the woods and didn’t stop until well after dinner.

But what I quickly realized, as speech after speech came to pass in that room, as the love just poured out of everyone in every conversation, was that you are surrounded by people who see you, the way we see you, the way Mark sees you. And as it turns out, you were that person for Mark, too. Between the friends and the family that have known you forever, to the coworkers who totally fucking get everything about you — I was in total and absolute awe. To be so seen, to be so loved… it’s something I can only dream of, something I’ve only caught in glimpses and moments, something I thought I saw and felt and could touch but almost always wound up having a false bottom to it, a trap door that I fell through right when I was sure it was Different This Time.

To be in the presence of that, to be by your side for such an incredible day — I am not exaggerating when I say that it was an absolute privilege, and it’s causing Barry and I to take a serious look at who we are, what we’re surrounding ourselves with, and whether or not it’s moving towards what we truly want. Once again, the person you are, the love that you exude, has changed me, and continues to mold me for the better.

I don’t know how to close this, except to say that I can only hope to one day be half the person you are, and to be surrounded with a fraction of the love that you give and that you generate around you. That period when everything was so, so dark? It turns out that the light at the end of your tunnel was you.

I love you both. xo

Like any other moderately depressed person riding out the winter in Seattle, I’ve done my share of binge-watching on Netflix, and like many of us I’ve plowed through all the seasons of The West Wing (more than once).

There’s a moment where CJ says something to the effect of, don’t act like I don’t understand that I’m living the first line of my obituary right now. That moment has always stayed with me, imprinted. I want to have that feeling — I want to know what that means the way that I know my own name. And just like everything else, getting there starts with taking down the things that are in the way, between me and that truth.

So far I’ve dismantled AA ideologies, many toxic friendships, and I’m chipping away at day-to-day worklife adjustments. I’m in one of those stages where my old car (life) is in flames behind me, and my new car (life) isn’t on the horizon yet, and I just have to keep walking away from that fire, knowing that heading in the right direction will eventually pay off.

No matter what, I have to keep walking.

it makes me sick to think about the things I threw away
old thought-it-was love letters
true mementos of my life
because I gave in to a man
who couldn’t take me as I was
decades-old moments, now dust under the sofa
I still have the memories
but I lost the little pieces

those crazy scraps of paper
that had me rushing to my mailbox every week
that one letter sent on music staff —
how could I forget you?
who knows what I lost, that those little pieces could show me
today
those were the things that mattered
(we are what we archive)
and if so, I am:
lost, shredded, recycled, disintegrated
forgotten cosmic stardust somewhere in the atmosphere
ash from a fire,
shapeless and discarded

of all those little pieces gone,
I miss myself the most.

lots and lots of dreams lately. I should be writing more of them down.

there was that one a while ago about the indoor miniature golf course / abandoned puppet prop rooms, kind of a kid’s maze with a waterslide as the last section, suddenly you’re through and in an amusement park. a ferris wheel as tall as a skyscraper. I think it rained. I don’t quite remember.

and the one I kept having over and over that rarely shows up anymore, about how I had to go around the house and keep re-closing and re-locking all the doors and windows, over and over and over. someone kept leaving them open and I’d come home from being out and there was someone or something on the loose (murderer, stalker in the woods, huge monster dinosaurs and gorillas) and I’d never know if he / they had gotten in or not. I kept saying to myself, who in their right mind would leave all of this open? but never knew who it was.

the ones about friends lately: jen leahy in gold with a downtown job, alicia and jamie and slaven all moving to chicago, jesse keeping me on the phone for hours but unable to tell me why and unwilling to let out his story.

and the other night, the one about the sex casino where nothing happened, save for the abandonment of the little boy at the door; the one about the wedding-slash-wake… one where my aunt was trying to turn my mom against me… lots involving dead relatives. barry is in most of them too. I came close to lucidity the other night, he looked over at me and said something to the effect of, can you tell when the scary part is coming, I can and I was like YES ME TOO and we were able to get around scary part before it caught up to us, somehow.

I don’t know if any of this means anything, or if it all means everything, or something in between. I guess I could ask my therapist.

last night was especially vivid. I was actively violating the temporal prime directive to try and keep my sister from killing herself (that part happened in real life two summers ago), and there was also an alternate existence at play — I’d somehow gone back in time to another plane, where barry and I didn’t know each other, and the suicide was about to happen but so was her wedding. there was a photocopied packet with an image on the front, and she scolded me when I made a jesus joke.

I told my husband and he understood how heavy it was. I told a coworker and she asked if I thought it was my sister coming to visit me, in the spiritual sense. I didn’t know how to answer. I haven’t told my aunt because she’ll think It’s A Sign having to do with how my brother-in-law played a role in her death, and that my sister is trying to reach me to tell me about it. (not joking.)  and now I’m telling the internet for some sort of catharsis, perhaps? I don’t know. blogging is still part of my processing.

I think that’s all I’ve got for now.