Monday, October 3, 2016

binge space.

I've talked more openly about my eating disorder as I've come to understand how it works and how to identify the symptoms. It took me a long time to find a name for it, longer still on how to address it. In my case, diet culture makes it worse, makes the strings inside my chest taut and twisted. The harder I try to control, to change, to fix, the farther the yo-yo dips and rises. I once told a former partner, "When I eat well, I eat really well. When I don't eat well, I eat really, really badly."

I distinctly remember moments with mentors that, looking back, were my attempts in asking for help but not knowing how to do that directly. I would talk at it the issue, express my frustration and helplessness, but pride kept the talk strictly cerebral. This was just an "issue" I was "working through," but what I really meant was, "I see where I need to go and end up but I don't know how to get there, please help me." I hoped they would understand. When that inevitably didn't work, I slowly became more pointed, trying to ask for help in more specific ways.

I was disappointed when my mentors didn't follow up with me. In retrospect, I think the people I reached out to didn't know how to help. Pseudoscience didn't help (what a shock). Positive thinking didn't help. I talked a lot of yoga-dogma bullshit while trying to dig at my issues with food and my body. I felt broken because I didn't have a normal relationship with food, and while I became a master at talking about brokenness I had no idea what to do about it. I had to stop teaching, stop practicing, and become pretty damned angry and disillusioned before I cut through the bullshit to make changes. I gained a lot of weight in those months, but my mental space was shifting.

I still struggle to trust I'll be believed or taken seriously when talking about my ED. Sometimes I am believed, sometimes I can tell people are just humoring me. I mean, it's weird, right? No one really eats perfectly. We've all eaten too much at dinner, reached for comfort foods. We all struggle to "be healthy," to "make good choices." Then there's that nagging voice that says, "It's not really an ED unless you're starving yourself/throwing up. You just lack control and discipline."

That last line is the killer. Remember the yo-yo? Higher rises, lower falls, my friend.

It's about the food, but it's not about the food. The reasons are complicated, the triggers are different for everybody and sometimes aren't even tangible. "Binge space," as I call it, feels like panic. It feels like my skin is too tight, noises are too loud/startling, small things feel overwhelmingly invasive. Chills along my arms and hands. I often don't crave anything specific in these moments, I just have a strong need to eat in order to escape the binge space. When I do eat, flavors are diluted and the food is very rarely satisfying.

I don't experience binge space as often as I used to, but it can still happen. Experience and observation have given me tools to figure out alternative coping mechanisms. If I do binge, it stops more quickly and I'm able to shift to another activity that allows me to safely "get out of my head." Once I'm calm, asking questions and checking in with people is INCREDIBLY important. I can't stress this enough. Having one or two people I can communicate with is vital. If I'm feeling shaky, I ask them to check in on me for a few days. If I binged, I let them know, and I tell them what I'm doing/not doing for self care.

For anyone who goes through something similar, these are questions I've found helpful: What can I do in the moment to diffuse the situation? What can I do to make the area around me safer while I "ride out" the episode?

While we can't always anticipate when it'll happen, having a game plan does help. Have a snack if I'm hungry, then decide if I need to wrap myself in a blanket and watch Netflix, or if I need to go for a walk, or put on some music and flail around to expel some energy. Those are some specific steps I wish I had known back when I was clumsily asking for help, so if this helps someone else, just know there are other people who get it. I get it. You aren't alone in this.

Best wishes, and much love!

Thursday, August 18, 2016


As the months have gone by, the strangeness of leaving my community in northern California has eased. I'm not sure I can point to a specific moment when the ache in my chest and the twitching in my hands released but I do notice the difference, especially in reading old blogs when I was smack in the midst of that transition. The after-pangs, the initial couple years I spent down south practically frantic with a desire to escape, to go back, those times I didn't write about so much. I can point to those years and understand why; I can look back and see a pattern of withdrawing and wanting to be somewhere else. The things I did talk about were disconnections, the past feeling dream-like, and wistfulness.

Not having a "home" had a big impact on those after-pangs. I'm a creature that likes and needs to have something grounded; if I can't find it in my immediate spaces, I'll look for it in the past. And that, of course, is nostalgia. A big whopping pile of nostalgia.

Being somewhat more settled in my current situation, I notice not feeling pulled apart. I'm not so busy holding myself together so I can focus on the rusty relics that were gathering dust in the corner.

With this mental (and physical) shift, I'm left with a decision to make. This blog began with my departure from northern California; it was made up of ramblings of a wanderer. When my feet landed, reluctantly, down south, that transitional state continued internally. Then my grandmother died. Then I wrote some fiction and actually managed to finish NaNoWriMo two times.

If I'm being really honest with myself, the transition is never over. I'm not someone who does well with stagnation. The act of "change" isn't performed in wide sweeps; I feel it more in the gentle pushing, the mild discontent, and the urging to keep working. BUT, this blog is not about a homeless human anymore. My writing isn't from the perspective of a literal lost wanderer, suffering from the pain and grief of broken relationships. Even when I was in northern California, deep into teaching and practicing yoga, shit, my writing was filled with pretentious, dogmatic bullshit. It was honest to where I was at the time, and some of it still has meaning for me, but I have moved on and grown out of that skin.

But what's bizarre about this is that I still associate my writing with that person. I still associate this blog with that person.

That isn't honest anymore.

All this is not to say that I'm abandoning the blog. I'm just thinking "out loud" to feel out the identity of this blogspace. Maybe short stories? I can think of a couple projects I could post. Maybe short poems.

Time will tell, as the saying goes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

pushing and dangling.

Writing sometimes feels like trying to find a gap in a towering wall; a gap just big enough to squeeze a hand through, and sometimes that's a major victory. Fingers wriggle, feeling into the abyss for a familiar texture or shape.

I stare at written pages and stare even harder at the last sentence. This is the cliff. The jagged, broken tongue extending into dead space, where I crawl down and dangle from the ledge. All the while, the hand is still pushing into a small hole in the stone wall. Both of these images are true, existing simultaneously. Afraid of falling and desperately trying to break into a world you yourself created but left unfinished.

The solution is as simple as putting one sentence down. After that, another sentence. And another. So they continue until I build myself a ladder, slowly climbing down the cliff, slowly squeezing shoulders through an impossibly narrow gap.

This is the work. This is the difficult, no fun, sigh-inducing work. The work that leaves me outside in blizzards, the work that yanks on my arm to pull me into a wild dance. We spin, we get breathless, our hearts pound. We create life from intangible things and it’s like forming flowers from stardust. When we get it right, when we move together like two lovers on a rickety bed, we produce miracles. When we don’t, I’m left sitting with ashes in my hands. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Remembering Grandma

A note about the days referenced in this post: I started writing this last year. It took me 8 months to put down my final thoughts, but these things often come in their own time. The events take place in October 2014. 

This piece describes my experience of witnessing my grandmother's death.


Last Friday I sat at my computer, trying to compose a Facebook status update. I’d type a few words, maybe a sentence, then pause. Hit backspace, start over. Type. Pause. Backspace. Start over. Over and over. I finally typed: “I don’t quite know what to say.” Not eloquent, but it was truthful. “Long day,” I added. That was truthful, too.

The two days following that Friday night felt like the longest game of jenga ever. Wooden blocks and seconds stacked up high until I looked up at that precarious, wobbling tower and realized the experience had been wearying, amazing, and sad.

My grandmother died today.

Some people are so ill for so long that we don’t quite remember what they were like when they weren’t dying. Other folks go quick; alert and active one day, gone four days later.

The latter happened to my grandmother. The swiftness of her death is surreal because of the conflicting memories that fire blanks inside my head. I saw her Wednesday. I ate at her table, she asked me what kind of chips I had to go with my sandwich. She was always asking people questions about their food. Sunday, I witnessed her death.

The suddenness was astonishing, yes, but the people who rallied and gathered in those final days are extraordinary. Roughly 15 family members came together, driving or flying to meet at the hospital. By Saturday night, all of us there understood that Clarice was not going to survive without assistance from machines. By Sunday, the official decision was made to take her off those machines.

I arrived at the hospital on Sunday shortly before 3 o’clock, just in time to join the family circle around Grandma’s hospital bed. We prayed, we were silent, we sang, we cried, and we giggled. This was our vigil; we were committed to sticking it out until she died. A couple people wouldn’t make it to the very end, and while I never spoke to them to ask why, I suspect I understand. Death can be a violent end or a fading whisper, but either way it’s an intense moment to witness.

Any time we were in her hospital room we had to wear these incredibly fashionable (and uncomfortable) blue plastic gowns and purple non-latex gloves. It didn’t take long for my entire torso to start swimming in its own sweat; I left the room more than once to peel and pry the plastic from my arms to let my skin breathe. But despite the small discomforts, I don’t think any of us complained; at least, not loudly. When you’re holding vigil you just… know to hold the space. That’s all that’s really important. In the moment and in retrospect, I think there’s a certain joy in that reverence.

I watched her breathing slow, become labored. Hours later, after watching, waiting, it finally dipped and rose erratically like an exhausted bird over still waters. It wouldn’t be long before she finally dropped into the sea.

Even so, we were all astounded by how long her heart kept beating in a normal “living” range. Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Her bionic heart was so steady that the nurses were able to move her to a step-down unit a few floors up. By then, her deepest breaths came in rattling, gasping bursts; sometimes she growled like a slumbering lion after several seconds of silent tiny breaths. We wondered just how much longer her heart would last. I watched her pulse on the monitor as it slowly dropped point by point. It’s odd to watch someone’s life trickle away by numbers on a screen; each second is documented like an old school video game you just sit and stare at, waiting for the bumps in the line to stop.

Once we settled into the new room, the hospital staff brought us ice water and graham crackers which we ate and drank gratefully. Most of us were camped out on the floor while others took advantage of the few chairs and bench space available. We took turns playing music on our phones; the Beatles came first. Here Comes the Sun, Blackbird. By this time, Grandma’s big, growling breaths only came once every twenty or thirty seconds, a leaky wind instrument punctuating John Denver’s “I Am the Eagle.” I sat in view of the monitor, still watching her declining heart rate while I munched on crackers and sang quietly with the family. We all agreed: the only things missing were marshmallows and chocolate bars.

Sprinkled between songs, silence, and nurse visits were bouts of giggling and unconstrained laughter. Her heart slowed further, pushing through time like a persistent but weary drummer. The tune is almost over, but there’s still more ending to finish. Once her heart rate dipped below 60, we all stood, gathering around the bed. We waited and we watched. Rather than several seconds, a minute would go by between her gasping breaths. Her pulse lowered to mid-30s. Then back to 56. Then back down again. Is she still breathing? She seems so quiet.

Suddenly, she snort-growled again, startling us so badly we started laughing. Tension broken, that’s when the Young Frankenstein quotes began to circulate. One after the other, we dramatized lines from one of my grandmother’s favorite movies. I think we all have our own memories of seeing that movie for the first time; I’m almost positive mine was at her old house on Wanda Road. Put. Ze Candle. Back.

Uproarious laughter. That amazing laughter carried as we continued standing in a circle around her bed. That was our vigil and I’m still certain that’s exactly how she would have wanted her final moments to be honored. We were laughing as her heartbeat flat-lined. We were smiling when she died.

I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, but the first time watching someone die was, for me, both humbling and awe inspiring. Certainly, it’s surreal watching the machines and inner workings of the body fail, watching the essence of a person fade until a grey-skinned, slack-jawed shell remains. I couldn’t take my eyes away from her and it wasn’t just because of sadness. People die every second of every day, but this was her death. It was important, just like being born, graduating from college, whatever milestone you might celebrate. This was one of those milestones and the fact that we were all able to be there to witness it? That’s extremely humbling.

I felt stunned by how beautiful it was. In the most new agey way possible I was struck by the most intense feeling of awe and grace. It’s like watching a campfire after the sun has long since set and you’ve already made all your s’mores. The embers are growing dimmer and dimmer and you know at some point they’ll flicker and fade out completely. Your skin prickles with goosebumps as the cool air nips at your arms. You can’t turn your eyes away because it’s mesmerizing and beautiful how the light ripples just beneath the surface of what used to be whole twigs and logs. You hear the owls, crickets, and frogs chorus around you, accompanied by an occasional murmur from the people beside you. Time feels insignificant and while you’re aware of the world, your focus is still on that fire. You don’t want to miss its last flicker. The moment the fire is completely extinguished is the moment the vigil ends; you look up at the faces around you and see tired, old eyes. There isn’t much to say, but hugs are shared and a final round of a camp song is sung. The notes ring true and clear in the night before you turn and leave the fire pit. The world is quiet, the earth is still, and above you, the stars seem extraordinarily bright.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bundles of Thread

The pattern: I remember the words that have been written and then imagine the words that have yet to be born onto paper.

The words yet to come inevitably feel enormous in the waiting. As each breath passes, my chest is heavier, made of denser stuff than bone. Someone has surgically switched out my bones for an iron breast plate; I can feel it grinding, pressing, squeezing.

It’s already hard to breathe; writing feels impossible. But the ache is still there, the ache is always there. It’s the quiet festering, it’s the bulb slowly forcing up through soil. Thick green sprouts will surely burst from my rib cage soon, poking between bones like fingers thrusting through prison bars.

It is an ache that burns worse when I am still; I understand why so many keep busy like compulsive liars. If the choreography becomes more frantic, more manic, the floor doesn’t turn to lava. If the floor doesn’t turn to lava, the acrobats don’t slip through.

This is an ache of an old family friend I’ve shared tea and scones with while discussing cello music and what it feels like to fall. It’s the itching skin of a former lover that pulled on my hair, jerking my head back as we wrestled to whisper pie recipes and names of crayon colors in my ear.

Timberwolf. One pound of blackberries. Grated lemon zest. Bittersweet. One cup of sugar. Jazzberry Jam.

The ache is a mute child that never learned to speak on her own, so she relies on me to communicate. Everything comes all at once, too much liquid down one plastic funnel and you wind up with milk all over your hands. What’s the best way to get all this across anyhow? Efficiently? Consistently? Creatively? With the stubs of crayons that have lost their wrappers scratched into newsprint or on plaster walls? It changes, as do the thoughts and the words. They build up and up and up like cardboard bricks until the only way out is pulling out a single brick and letting the whole tower wobble. Maybe the tower crumbles.

Then I’m left with a mute child and a toppled castle tower. And the ache.

Always the ache. It never, ever goes away. Writing doesn’t make it go away, neither does painting. All these things do is lubricate the iron breastplate; the machine moves more easily and stretches into the ache. Not to diminish, but to relish. The ache becomes a well worked muscle; vulnerable in the microfibers, but stronger as a whole.

Oh, if I could tell you all of the thoughts that have spun themselves into thread inside my chest. Soft thread, brittle thread, golden thread, invisible thread; I gather them into neat bundles and pass them to friends in the form of love and reminders. Often, that thread is all I am capable of giving. I reach out to you not because I demand something in return; I reach out because I ache and need to stretch towards something meaningful and beautiful. I reach out because otherwise I would be buried beneath the thought threads I create.

I am careful to whom I offer my bundles; they are often still attached to me, wrapped and knotted around my lungs and my throat or the connective tissue between my joints. If you pull too hard or I thrust too quickly I very well may bleed. If I take too long to offer, I may leave the pile of thread at an empty door, an unattended post. Some bundles people mistook for straw, or perhaps they saw something I did not wish to admit. I have not decided if these moments were my fault, or simply just were.

Winter symbolizes a turning inward. An eye swiveling back to inspect what beats underneath the flesh, or a hand pausing before it reaches out to offer another coil of thread. Have I felt frantic? I suppose I have, at times. This year has been full. Important people have died. Important people die every year, but this year was my family’s turn to feel that weight. My family and my friends; you lovelies know exactly who you are. It has been a very full year, has it not? I’ve begun to feel over extended, even as I feel isolated and wrapped up within my thoughts and feelings; I’d like to try a different approach.

I’d like to write you letters.

Will you take a letter? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

In which we go... everywhere. Cause there's just a lot of stuff to get through.

Occasionally, when I walk out of the bathroom or into my work building, I imagine a stranger, clothes tattered and dirt dusted, hair wildly askew, a pair of spectacles perched crookedly on the edgiest edge of their nose. They look at me, sagging mouth and bruised eye sockets, and whimper: “You… you didn’t blog. Why didn’t you blog?!”

Only then do I realize this person seems familiar.

Only, you know, not. But for dramatizing the niggling guilt I feel over ignoring this little home base, it isn’t terrible.

Here’s the problem with slacking on a personal blog: enough time goes by and suddenly your next post isn’t just about the bullshit or inspiring stuff from last week. It isn’t about the thought you had a couple hours ago, or the new project you’ve been spending the last few days tirelessly pouring over.

Suddenly, you’ve got months’ worth of mud, rock, and gold flakes to try and sift through. You’re helplessly staring at a mountain thinking, “Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.”

Shit, so how are you? Been good? Ups and downs? Yeah, I feel you. What have I been up to? Oh, well, been thinkin’ about a lot of stuff, but you know, since when is that new.

Though there have been fresh waves of ideas and ponderings, I suppose you could call them, that chew at my ear when I’m not paying attention. Mostly gaining my equilibrium back and, you know, paying taxes. I still believe that people are always in a state of flux about what they think and hold true about the world (if they’re self-aware, actively curious folk). Not that we should never take a stand on anything. But in a constant exploration, even one that builds upon a specific world/universe view and foundation, it’s so important to push a little, to challenge, to doubt, swing back to center, and then doubt again.

I guess that is a theme for me of late. The push and pull of faith and doubt. Not in the biblical sense, but relishing in live and creating, focusing on something that feeds my soul, while simultaneously examining my thoughts and assumptions. Not self-deprecating self-doubt, but “I see potential or good in this and I want to keep getting better/making it better.” And it’s strange. There are still a lot of things that I haven’t balanced out since moving down here but I feel okay. Exciting things are still happening.

One big update: I’ve been regimenting hours to work on stories and other writing projects. (Just because I haven’t been blogging, doesn’t mean I’ve been letting the teats go dry, I promise! Milk’s a flowin.) I kept burning myself out on the weekends or psyching myself out, so every night after work for the last couple weeks I’ve spent time writing or editing. My current project is a fairytale of sorts, something close to my heart. I grew up reading fairytale-esque short stories; one of my favorite childhood books was this anthology called Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters. That book contained fables and tales from all over the world and I would read and reread it beginning to end countless times. Working on one of my own was the perfect place to start given the head butting I’ve been doing with the first round of rewrites on the novel.

As beta reading, further editing, and other projects unfold, I will make a point to keep everyone in the loop of what happens next. All I can really say is a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me these last few months in their own ways. Some near, some far, some offering encouragement, some just offering a hand reaching out to connect, I love all of you. In this turbulent time I’ve felt lonely, sure, but I know I have a solid foundation of good people. I just want you to know that I don’t forget that.

Best wishes, and don’t forget to be awesome. Until next time, soon!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Good Knight.

My eyeballs keep rolling back to the little time display at the bottom right of my screen. Has another minute passed? Oh. Okay. Okay, focus. Has it passed now? No. Oh, oh, wait, 11:09! Shit. Shitshit. I ned to get to sleep.

As I told my mother, my Night Owl alter-ego is quite grumpy about my 6am alarm. Insert obligatory joke about my Knight in Owling armor advocating for my obscenely late bedtime. He just wants to spend more time with me, that’s all. Hehe. I’m dating a Knight Owl.

11:12. Shitshitshit.

So all of this (meaning the above ramble) came about, as they say, because of reasons. Namely, extreme writing constipation. Earlier, as I sat in a bookstore glaring sullenly at this exact same computer, the revision of my story mooned me from across the screen like the cheeky bastard it is. I’ve been stuck at this one particular part for weeks. So conversations were had, I twisted my mouth disapprovingly at the scroll of text and keep repeating: “No, no. It just doesn’t work. Something’s not right. Something’s missing.”


Sometimes I get stuck. Sometimes the thing that’s doing the sticking needs to be reexamined and possibly changed so the sticking can become unsticky so the stuck becomes unstuck. Follow me?


I put the chapter away. I went to watch YouTube videos and let the tantrum-inducing knot in my stomach subside. I can come back to this later. I can retrace my steps a little to approach my problem from another angle. Because sometimes the way I want my characters to be is not the way they should be.

But I knew I needed to write something. My fingers get itchy. I get itchy. And I think about how Neil Gaiman is like the close uncle who I grew up with and continues mentoring me with old stories and new advice, how you never really learn how to write, you just learn how to write the thing you’re writing and the next thing will be a whole new meeting and lesson. How this thing that I do, blogging, journaling, is a voice in my head that is unlike and so like the voice I use as an auditory expression and as you read this you probably have your own voice speaking this run on sentence to you.

And I think that’s weird. And interesting. It’s a different kind of space to share with people.

11:28. Even Sir Owl is admitting I need to sleep. But you’ve wound me up so thoroughly, dear Knight, how do you expect me to sleep?

11:29. I often mutter out loud to myself. When I’m solving a problem, walking through the steps, pondering an idea, having a conversation. It’s like a hand leading me through a process, focusing me and encouraging me to explore. When the voice stops, when my characters stop speaking to me, the knot in my stomach returns and I sometimes search and listen too hard, groping blindly for the frayed end of the rope.

11:33. I hear you. I will follow. Good Knight, may we dream of adventures to bring to a waking world.