Archive of ‘scary things’ category

On self-doubt, fucking it all up, and doing better

bullshit

I’m having difficulty putting into words my experiences this past weekend at the Women’s March in DC, and this is extremely troubling to me. I’m hesitant to share, because there is much in the way of whinging, hand-wringing, and fragile white lady tears here. It is also a fairly rambling account, with little in the way of complete thoughts, cohesion, or a satisfying conclusion. My apologies. 

There were no complications about how I was feeling while I was there in the thick of it. My feet were cold, but my heart was filled with love and warmth, and proud–so fucking proud–to be marching with my sisters and over 500,000 other protesters on Saturday. Tears of hope and wonder streaked my chilled, grimy cheeks as I took in the sheer magnitude of the crowd and all of those who were present to be vocal about oppression and stand up for our reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, civil rights, worker’s rights, immigrant rights, disability rights, environmental justice and against those who would threaten those rights. All of these folks were there in solidarity despite the complex politics of the march, and I thought (in retrospect, perhaps a bit naively,) “wow, this is sisterhood”.

As I snapped photos of all of the wonderful, clever, fierce, compassionate signs,I came across a few that gave me pause.”You’re here now, but did you vote in November?” a few of them inquired in bold Sharpie strokes. Yes, I absolutely did, you better believe it.

Great to meet you”, another cardboard cutout enthused, “will we see you at the next Black Lives Matter protest?” Well…sure? Maybe? I guess I hadn’t planned that far ahead yet, if you want my honest answer.

SUPPORT YOUR SISTERS–NOT  JUST YOUR CIS-TERS” a placard directly in front of me admonished. Hm, I thought, glimpsing the neon nethers of a pink, plush, bedazzled vagina hoisted over the shoulders of a few protesters in the crowd the next street over.

I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable at this point. I thought I was there for all of these reasons; I have a responsibility to represent, protect, and protest for all of these folks and their interests. I know I’m all about all of these things, don’t I? So why was I starting to feel challenged and more than a little defensive? What kind of situation did I actually take part in, I asked myself, pressed in from all sides by a sea of white faces.

Back at home, I was reading more and more fed-up commentary from my queer and non-binary friends about the pussy-centric protest language present at the rally. The next day I then read an essay by women’s right’s activist Brittany O., titled Why I Don’t Support The Women’s March On Washington, which asserted that white women co-opted the message of historical moments in Black History, a controversy which caused some of the initial organizers to step down as they felt they could no longer support the event.

At some point during the day, I read this quote, “If it’s inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary,” and I thought about the money that I didn’t have to scrape together to pay for my plane ticket to DC. I recalled the welcoming family (the sister of a coworker of one of my sisters) with the nice home, who hosted our stay, and the cozy beds that we collapsed in and slept heavily in for eleven hours straight after the protest.

we the people

I began uploading the photos I had taken of the signs and posters at the event, and while doing so, I started seeking out at the artists responsible for some of the imagery, at the back of my mind thinking of the We The People posters by Shephard Fairey, which, at the time, I thought quite beautiful. It was then I came across this article written by Joojoo Azad, a Muslim-Iranian writer, “Please Keep Your American Flags Off My Hijab” –and feeling defeated, foolish, and deeply self-pitying, I began to weep in earnest.

I keep thinking of a phrase I’d read, “fragile ally-ship”. I previously didn’t think that applies to me. But often times the problem doesn’t recognize it’s the problem, and it continues blithely on, getting in the way, being a distraction, and fucking things up.

Do I not get it at all? In trying to do something I felt was important and good, did I do everything wrong?

upset

“Get it together, sister,” I berated myself.  Don’t get defensive. Shut up and listen. Listen to what all these folks have to say. Listen to the transgender activistsListen to the black woman.  One thing I read over and over is that “It’s not about you.”

“But isn’t it a little bit about me,” I push back in a tiny voice, “Aren’t some of my rights being threatened as well? Aren’t I mad as hell and scared shitless, too? Am I even allowed to ask these questions?

My sister reminded me that I am reading some things, a lot of things actually, about different people’s experiences at the protest that are statements of truth, but these should not diminish another statement of truth, which is that I took part in the Democratic process by assembling and showing that I am an ally for oppressed people. And, of course, showed up for myself, as well! . I don’t get a participation trophy, but I shouldn’t allow myself to feel somehow less than, or cowed, or like the dumbest fool who ever lived for not being a perfect activist. For not getting it right on my first try.

hellraiser

I have been reading and re-reading this, and trying to be okay with it. Okay with not being sure, with making mistakes. In accepting that more I know, the more I realize how little I know.

 “Part of white privilege is the privilege of being oblivious to racism, unaware of how it manifests, how it feels, who it hurts. White people can learn to become less oblivious, but we will never have the lived experience of people of color. People of color are experts on racism; white people are not. No amount of reading or learning or activism will get us there. And that can be a hard pill to swallow in a society that teaches us that we can be anything, do anything. To be an ally, you will need to practice being okay with not being the expert, not being sure of the answer, not ever getting to some point where you have magically arrived. This requires considerable humility.” (source)

problematic

In trying not to take it personally, the backlash and criticism, I realize how personal to me this protest march really was. As someone who is continually plagued by self-doubt, who always, no matter what the situation, assumes she is automatically in the wrong, who has for a long time tried to make herself as invisible as she possibly could, it really was a big deal for me to be present for the Women’s March in DC. To voice my dissent along with hundreds of thousands other humans. (To actually be in a crowd of hundreds of thousands without having some sort of major meltdown. ) To stand up and be counted. To say, hey, look at me, I am here and I have a problem with not just some, but with all of this shit. And to be an ally to all of those folks who have problems with this shit, as well.

And of course I am not saying that this event, or any that follow, should be above criticism, I am not saying that at all. We all need to listen, learn, and do better, on just about every level, including and especially me. In that vein, this is an excellent read: How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101. It references many of the things I alluded to here, and things I need to learn to deal with better; specifically “getting called out” and “listening and sitting with discomfort”. It’s also a kind of hilarious where the author points out in the comments that the original file name for the piece was “don’t be a fucking becky”.

But also I can’t discount that –for me– I did something that scared me. And I am going to keep on doing these things. And probably looking like a fool and no doubt getting it wrong. And for me, that’s scary as hell. But in looking at our fraught political climate and and reading the current dystopian headlines, I can surely conjure some things that are a lot scarier.

As always, I welcome your commentary. What was your experience this weekend? As a POC? As a queer, non-binary, or trans-gendered activist? As a disabled activist? As a white, lower middle-class woman, like me?

Articles mentioned in this post:
Why I Don’t Support The Women’s March On Washington
Please Keep Your American Flags Off My Hijab
Before You Celebrate The Zero Arrests At The Women’s March
How To Be An Anti-Racist Ally
The Women’s March Left Trans Women Behind
Listen to a Black Woman
How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101

All photos included in this post were taken by me in Washington DC on January 21, 2017.

mount nasy

nasty

I also asked my sisters to share with me their experiences of the past weekend, because I wanted to record their perspectives as well. This first bit comes from my youngest sibling, Melissa:

“When I was 25, I was dating a great guy. We were both in our final year of grad school, and he had a job lined up, and we were shopping for engagement rings. I thought we had been rubbing along quite nicely and that we had a splendid, promising future together. And then, one late January afternoon, he sat me down and told me he was leaving me. I wept, I begged, I berated him, and when I found that there was no swaying him, I stumbled home and ignored the phone calls of my worried friends and cried myself to sleep. It was a hellish night, and when I woke up in the morning, I was waking into a living nightmare.

Of course, passing time (and Prozac, and good counseling, and loyal friends, and keeping busy) worked its magic, and gradually the pain faded. But the memory of that first morning has never left me. In fact, it came back and visited me the morning of November 9, when I woke up to a fact that I had to try to drink away the night before. Against all expectation and logic, despite the evidence that had led me to think otherwise, my beloved, flawed, magnificent country had elected Donald Trump to be president the night before. And when I woke up on November 9, it was like I was waking up to the memory of another breakup. But this was a pain that would continue for four years–at least–and that had invaded the entire world. Donald J. Trump had been elected president, and there was no escaping the knowledge that his election was the latest symptom of a cancer that has been invading our country, perhaps our world. There was no escaping this pain, and no way to heal from it, either.

In the days that followed, I wallowed in despair, and wanted to hide under the covers and eat cheetoes for the rest of forever. I wanted to drink all of the wine, and watch reruns of The West Wing for the next four to eight years. (Perhaps not coincidentally, I had a similar reaction during my break-up, long ago.) And I felt horribly, horribly alone. Just like my worst break-up. But even in the depths of my misery, I had enough presence of mind to know that if I, as a white, middle-class, educated native-born American female (with all of those attendant privileges) felt alone and afraid, what of my brothers and sisters without the protection of those privileges?

That was why I marched. My presence there in D.C. might not have made any difference. Or maybe it did. But this was and is my message: I am here. I am present. I am an ally. I do not consent to the descent. I will not be silent. I am not alone, and you are not alone, and neither are the 500,000 people who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my sisters and me. We are not alone. I don’t know what comes next, but I do know there is no escaping it, but we will face it down together. We are not alone.”

Weathering the storm

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When my brother in law called us on the evening of September 30th to warn of a hurricane headed our way that was predicted to be massive and deadly, I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t overly concerned. As someone who has lived the majority of their life in Florida, it seems that every time I hear this, it’s never as big a deal as the general public makes it out to be. It usually spins out at sea, or changes in direction, or lessens in intensity by the time it makes its way to our shores.

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Of course, once I moved to New Jersey, all of that changed. I lived in a flood zone and we were hit back to back two years in a row. The above photo is from hurricane Irene in 2011, on August 28th, taken around around noon (and a month before I was to move back home to Florida.)  At the height of the flooding, perhaps 4:00 or so, not even the top of this sign could be seen.  As a matter of fact, a rescue boat may have zoomed right over it. I watched, alone in my darkened home as the flood waters crept down the street, over the sidewalk, climbed the hill to my front porch stairs, and stopped, silently at the uppermost step. It was too late to rejoice, though, for my basement had already started to fill with water and ruined several hundreds of dollars worth of rare books, as well as a few nostalgic favorites.

So now I guess you could say that my attitude towards these things is not as cavalier as it once may have been…but I nonetheless found myself shrugging it off and thinking “eh, it probably won’t even touch us.”

And then I remembered my grandmother.  A 95 year old woman who is immobile and on oxygen and intermittent hospice care and utterly dependent upon those who care for her. Although my partner and I could hunker down and weather the storm, the same would not hold true for my grandmother and her caregiver, who lived seven minutes up the road from us.

I worried and fretted all week long about this. Hospice, though I appreciate the services they provide for her–free services, I might add–was absolutely useless as it related to providing a bed in a facility for her, or really, any sort of help or suggestions at all. I suppose you get what you pay for, right? My advice to you if you find yourself in a similar situation is this: do not wait for an emergency to find out what your hospice team’s emergency plan is for your loved one. You may find out, as we did, that there is no plan at all.

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We finally decided to bundle my grandmother into the car (no small feat with someone whose legs no longer work and who is considered “non weight-bearing”), packed up a caravan, and both myself and our capable caregiver/trusted friend Pam headed an hour west with the intent to beat the evacuation crowds and make our way toward my sister’s house. To be perfectly honest, I had all these visions of disaster and chaos on the road (at one point I was imagining a lava flow headed straight toward us), but we arrived without incident.

Poor Pam! While she was supposed to have been traveling this day, it was for lovely vacation birthday purposes; evacuation was not at all what she had in mind.

We were doing quite well for a while. Hurricane Matthew gusted and raged around us in Orlando, though of course not nearly so severe as on the coast. We had electricity the first evening there, and enjoyed air conditioning and cold water and movies and music in company that was only slightly cramped. On the second day, however, we lost power.

We had come prepared for this eventuality, and thanks to a back alley oxygen deal (it was a really weird thing; long story short– we procured a portable oxygen compressor from the back of some guy’s van in a sketchy apartment complex), my grandmother did not go without for very long. My brother-in-law had the foresight to purchase a generator earlier in the week, so we were even able to supply a fan and a light to her bedroom, where she could eat her chocolates and read her gossip magazines in relative comfort.

Me? I knit by the light of a light of a battery-powered mini lap desk lamp. Just like my ancestors did in the olden days, ha. I finished a shawl, as well as, a pair of socks. And three books. 

The power came back on a day and a half later and we celebrated Pam’s birthday with sandwiches, cupcakes, more movies, and the lowest setting that the AC could possibly handle.

If you’re curious:
Books read: The Girl With All the Gifts // The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 4 // Giant Days Vol. 3
Movies watched: The Legend of Hell House // The Haunted Palace
Knits finished: Charade socks // Chinquapin Wrap

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We headed home as soon as we received confirmation that the electricity was back on in both of our homes. Luckily, there was no damage to the houses, although a tree was nearly split in half in my grandmother’s back yard. My beloved Viking immediately suited up and got to work cleaning up the debris and detritus, while Pam tidied up and got my grandmother back in bed, and I restocked all the food we had to throw out. A day later we are exhausted zombie people, but immensely grateful. The storm could have been much worse than it was, and we had a comfortable safe place to hide out, amongst friends and family and folks who love us.

Also: it upped my productivity, and I am always thankful for that!

(The photo at the top of the page is from the yard of one of our neighbors. Yikes.)

 

Dream a little dream… (of nocturnal attacks and sleep paralysis)

Henry Fuesli, The Nightmare

Henry Fuesli, The Nightmare

{This was originally written for After Dark In The Playing Fields,  in 2010.}

I struggle, but I am tied down by that dreadful feeling of helplessness that paralyzes us in our dreams. I want to cry out—but I can’t. I want to move——I can’t do it. I try, making terrible, strenuous efforts, gasping for breath, to turn on my side, to throw off this creature who is crushing me and choking me—but I can’t!

Then, suddenly, I wake up, panic-stricken, covered in sweat. I light a candle. I am alone. – Guy de Maupassant, Le Horla, 1887

When I was 11 years old, I shared a bedroom with my younger sister. We had a tiny, crowded room in a small ranch style house, on a quiet street in a little town on the east coast of Florida. Nothing much ever happened in our lives at that age – one day was very much like the day before and the one after that was not likely to be different.

In spite of our mundane existence, however, we were a very imaginative group of sisters; given to flights of fancy and outrageous story-telling, and if left to our own devices –which we often were – worked ourselves into quite a state in the absence of calming, more rational adult influences.

I do recall at that age I was enthralled with terribly lurid horror novels and more than likely regaled my sisters with gruesomely detailed synopses of the things I had read. We were also influenced by our mother’s gentleman friend who rented several horror films a week for us at the local video store, which we would gather round the television and watch, white knuckled and peeking over our pillows, late into the night during the summer months when there was no threat of school the next morning. I am sure that all of these things contributed to the particular evening’s events of which I am about to relay. Although this was not something I myself observed, I was party to the occurrence and to this day it perplexes me and causes me so small amount of unease.

The air conditioning was not working very well that summer; the ceiling fans did little more than stir the close, humid air of the hot bedroom, and we did not sleep with the windows open to let in a breeze from the outside. Our bedroom doors were always kept shut while we were sleeping, as well. Fire-prevention, my mother admonished, in the convincing-though-not-entirely-logical way that mothers do.

This night the room was stifling, though it was moonless and dark, and we eventually fell asleep. I am sure my sister and I talked about this, that, or the other thing before drifting off, as is the wont of two siblings very attached to one another. At that age, I was a very light sleeper; the slightest noise would stir me, and I was usually up and out of bed several times a night. I recall nothing unfamiliar of that night, no ominous, languid feeling stealing over me, if anything, it was heat-induced lethargy. I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep and did not wake again until it was light, my sister shaking me and crying piteously.

Even now, 20 years later, what she proceeded to impart to me chills the blood in my veins, and sends a shudder right through me “After I fell sleep” she said, “I had a bad dream which woke me up. I can’t remember what it was about. I tried to turn on the light, but I couldn’t move. I called your name over and over, but you wouldn’t wake up at all.”

She continued her tale, detailing how, as her eyes darted frantically around the room, she glanced at the door, which was standing wide open…despite the fact that this night, like every other, we had closed it tightly. In the darkened doorway she saw the shadowy outline of someone –- or something -– looming, standing stock still. As her gaze traveled upward, her terror reached a fever pitch when she saw that the intruder’s eyes -– a baleful, glowering red -– were fixed directly upon her own. At this point the story end, more or less. She cannot remember anything after that, and must have fallen back asleep.

Was she dreaming the entire time? Or was it perhaps a form of sleep paralysis with accompanying hallucinations? Or…was something sinister indeed lurking in the threshold of our childhood bedroom?

Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, The Nightmare

Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, The Nightmare

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought since then and I’ve come to the belief that she suffered an episode of sleep paralysis – a “brief state of being unable to move ones body upon either falling asleep or waking up,” and is “usually accompanied by an ominous feeling that there is some kind of ghost or demon in the room, or even visual or auditory hallucinations.”

Research indicates that sleep paralysis is a natural state of the body. In deeper states of sleep, the brain stems engage in processes that block out certain neurotransmitters in order to stop one from physically acting out their dreams. Occasionally an individual will wake up “before their brains have completely de-activated the induced paralysis, and experience hallucinations which are thought to be either vestigial dream fragments or attempts by the brain to reconcile the waking state with the otherwise unexplainable muscular paralysis.” This hallucinatory element makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision. Some scientists have proposed this condition as an explanation for alien abductions and ghostly encounters.

J. Allan Cheyne of the University of Waterloo speaks thusly regarding initial studies on the phenomena and how we view it today “In 1876… an American Civil War surgeon, neurologist, and writer of historical fiction, Silas Weir Mitchell reported a curious malady, which he called –night palsy, during which soldiers reported a temporary but terrifying nocturnal paralysis. Although the phenomenon was subsequently reported in the medical literature under a number of different labels, the term coined in 1928 by Samuel Wilson, ―sleep paralysis, finally stuck.” It is worth noting that this was right around the same time Guy de Maupassant wrote Le Horla (see opening quote, above).

Nightmares and sleep paralysis, or nocturnal attacks have been closely connected to myths and monsters spanning across time and cultures, language and geography. Anecdotal reporting, shared stories, etc. shows how incidents of sleep paralysis seem to manifest itself in culturally-relevant terms and mythologies; whereas today we might attribute these occurrences to aliens or alien abduction, our grandparents might have seen ghosts, and their ancestors might have chalked it up to a demon attack or a witches hexing.

Cultures around the world have their own myths and folklore surrounding this phenomena. In Newfoundland & South Carolina, when one experiences waking with a feeling of terror and being crushed, and is unable to move, one is referred to as being “hag-ridden”. (The ‘Old Hag’ was a nightmare spirit in British and also Anglophone North American folklore.) In Chinese culture, sleep paralysis is widely known as “鬼壓身/鬼压身”, or “ghost pressing on body. In Vietnamese culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as “ma đè”, meaning “held down by a ghost” or “bóng đè”, meaning “held down by a shadow”. In African culture, isolated sleep paralysis is commonly referred to as “the witch riding your back”. In Malta, folk culture attributes a sleep paralysis incident to an entity in Maltese folk culture that haunts the individual in ways similar to a poltergeist. As believed in folk culture, to rid oneself of this one must place a piece of silverware or a knife under the pillow prior to sleep. (more examples of sleep paralysis across the world can be found via Wikipedia)

An interesting bit of information provided by J. Allan Cheyne through his research is that “first episodes of sleep paralysis typically occur to adolescents”; my sister would have been right around that age, maybe a year shy, when this occurred. But although his data indicates that many people have more than one episode – some report several times in a lifetime or several times a year, one large group reports monthly attack, but weekly or nightly attacks are rare – as far as I know, this never happened to my sister again.

That morning, as I listened to her tale and attempted to assuage her fears, I remember being terrified, myself. Whether or not it was real, I thought, it was awfully real to her, and if something like that could happen to her, well, couldn’t it happen to me too? Whether deeply slumbering and caught in the depths of a powerful nightmare, or trapped, immobile, by your own body and helpless against the tricks your own head is playing on you –- either way the shadowy intruder, or the ghost, or the alien is something conjured from the darker corners of your subconscious…and how can you possibly hope to escape that?

Unresolved

I’ve been beating myself up about something for several years now and I honestly don’t know what to do about it.  Every atom in my body that loves its comfort zone and drama-free existence is screaming at me “LET IT BE, YOU MORON!” but I am feeling like a crappy human being for this decision.

I have some unresolved issues with a parental figure in my life.  I don’t want to get into all of the details because I am not always sure who is reading this, but I will say that he was there for my sister and I when we really needed him. He stepped up, as they say, in a really big way–and he did not have to do that. But he did. We had a roof over our heads and food to eat and the best bit of stability that he could provide while our lives were in a great deal of upheaval.

Later, he provided me with what would come to be the best job that I would ever have.  Of course at this time in my life if I were still working for him I would be an utter pauper, but at that time it was enough to pay for my small apartment and my few bills and it worked out quite nicely.  It was just the two of us working there, and most days it was really just me, and a storage facility of rare books.  I will never forget how happy I was amongst those musty old companions and how grateful I was to have that job.

I moved away and the business closed. After that, I am not exactly sure what happened. He made a series of (what I would perceive to be) bad choices in lifestyle and relationships and I don’t think things worked out very well for him. Well, to be honest, I think he had made some not-so-great decisions long before that–who knows, maybe he considers being involved with my mother one of them.

When I moved back to FL, he was 50+ years old and saddled with two twin babies; their mother, with whom he had been involved for a few years and who was my age (which honestly sort of freaked me out), had overdosed. At least I think that’s what happened, I am not entirely clear on that point. He was living in a crappy apartment in a shitty part of town and due to some health issues which I suspect were entirely lifestyle related, was in chronic pain.

My sister, her husband, and I visited him upon my return.  It was a strange, upsetting visit. He seemed strung out, not entirely all there. He pressed us, almost frantically, to go next door to the liquor store and pick him up some cheap booze.  It was a very uncomfortable, disconcerting visit, especially considering the small babies that he was taking care of on his own. Babies, which I thought at the time, looked small for their age and, in my memory of the event seemed underfed, but I think that’s probably just because I was upset.  I have seen photos of them since, and they looked just fine.

In any event, I walked out of that apartment that day and haven’t spoken with him again. Typing it out just now, that looks awfully cruel and unforgiving of me, I guess.  No one’s perfect. Everyone has their demons.  Am I punishing a loved one because I happened to witness him losing to his demon on a particular day?

This man was a huge part of my life growing up–in a good way–and I was so quick to shut him out.  Why have I been so hard-hearted about this? I know that both of my sisters still talk with him, so if they can get over it, why can’t I? He has expressed some hurt feelings over my reluctance to talk with him or see him, and I wish I could articulate to him exactly why I have felt this way.

I am starting to suspect it is as much to do with me as him.  I think, at that time, I was very vulnerable. I had just gotten out of a situation that was very bad for me; I had left New Jersey and arrived back in FL not two weeks before, and I immediately encountered him acting in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable. (And now I think about it, he was acting a lot like my mother when she was drunk and acting nuts – so that has something to do with it too, I am sure).

Over time, and in my memory ,this brief afternoon visit has become weirder and more distressing and I suppose I have chalked this up as a valid reason to end a relationship.

I think he’s gotten his act together since that day five years ago.  I see his photos on facebook; he’s a proud papa and always sharing pictures of his twins and what they are up to. I hope things are looking up for all of them. I really want the best for him.  I have never hated him. I think I was only terribly afraid. And not even afraid of him, but rather for him.

And I am left with this: that was an awful time to abandon someone.

I think I have waited so long because I am just so goddamned ashamed of myself, and at this point I just don’t even know what to do.

Currently {1.20.16}

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Doing: attending birthday parties in public places –the idea of which which will never fail to freak me out because: people & conversation. However, I always forget that in this particular group there are also people like me who are similarly freaked out, which is great because misery (and anxious weirdos) love company. We always seem to find each other, and a corner to cozy into, cringing away from the crowd.  Look at this guy! It’s a Mexican Salamander, or Axolotyl. He is a cold-blooded, live-in friend of my corner-companion and her husband. These are the kinds of things we talk about.

 

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Reading: Beautiful Darkness, a thoroughly charmingly illustrated graphic novel that is savage and unsettling and not at all what I expected.  Although I kind of figured out what I was in for by the second or third page.  Beauty, also illustrated by Kerascoet and is supposedly an “immersive”, “dark, feminist parable”; I’ll know more tonight, after I’ve settled in with it!  And lastly (well, not really lastly, I’ve got stacks and stacks of unread books) is Wylding Hall, by Elisabeth Hand.  Here’s the synopsis–doesn’t it sound dreamy?

“After the tragic and mysterious death of one of their founding members, the young musicians in a British acid-folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with its own dark secrets. There they record the classic album that will make their reputation but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers (including a psychic, a photographer, and the band s manager) meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell his or her own version of what happened during that summer but whose story is the true one?”

 

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Knitting: Terpsichore Street, by Romi Hill.  This pattern gave me extreme agita around this time last year, and I eventually called it quits and felt like a failure and moped about it for the next year. Well, this year I am attempting it again, and I am seeing that a great many of my issues are directly related to misreading the pattern, misinterpreting the instructions, and making assumptions that aren’t accurate.  So far progress is slow–we’re talking a glacial pace– but I am reading and re-reading and correcting myself every time I go astray. Except for a potentially huge mistake that I made at the beginning…but I think that’s only going to affect the size of the finished shawl, and I’m over that.  I’ll just give it to one of my tinier friends.  Problem solved!

Oh, and what’s that, you ask? Another book?  Yes, you caught me.  This one is Death’s Summer Coat by Brandy Schillace and touches on a subject close to my heart: death awareness and death acceptance.

“Death is something we all confront―it touches our families, our homes, our hearts. And yet we have grown used to denying its existence, treating it as an enemy to be beaten back with medical advances.

We are living at a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point? What drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar?

Schillace shows how talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers. It also brings us closer together―conversation and community are just as important for living as for dying. Some of the stories are strikingly unfamiliar; others are far more familiar than you might suppose. But all reveal much about the present―and about ourselves.”

 

Listening: Daughter, Not To Disappear. I am happy to report that Daughter’s second album sounds very much like the first, which is to say: lush, beautiful sadness. Hushed, desolate dream-pop. Heartbreak and doom and gentle glooms.  Perfection.

 

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Wearing: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Mother Ghost, from their Crimson Peak line {a cold, sheer white musk gleaming with black orchid, benzoin, labdanum, and blackened amber, and embraced by white rose, tea leaf, and vanilla flower.} This is a pearly, translucent delicate scent that reminds me very much of my lost (discontinued) love, the delicate, gauzy, Antique Lace.

 

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Anticipating: The release of our Occult Activity Book! Co-conspirator Becky Munich and I have been working with several splendid several artists and writers to conjure forth this wicked little book …and for true believers we have concocted a Deluxe pack which includes the 24-page Occult Activity book, two 5×7 color prints and a sticker by contributing artist Casket Glass Studio .

We should have them available for purchase sometime in the beginning of February, but be forewarned! Only 250 of these marvels will be printed, so you’ll want to nab them while they are available on this plane of existence!

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Bonus! Another one from the cutting room floor, from How To Wear A Séance over at Dirge. That dress is utterly killing me.

Ghosts of Halloween playlists past

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Things have been a bit frantic around here over the past month and I regret to inform you that I have not made a Halloween playlist for 2015. However, I think you will find plenty of sounds for haunting and the haunted in the ghost of playlists from previous years, which I have conveniently collected for you below.

Happy Halloween, weirdos!

 

2014: all of them witches from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

House Of The 7 Witches, Mater Suspiria Vision | Season Of The Witch, Karen Elson (Feat. Donovan) | Witch’s Hammer, King Dude | Burn The Witch (Featuring Clare Manchon), Uncovered Qotsa Olivier Libaux | Ghuleh / Zombie Queen, Ghost | BLIND ONE, Black Mare | Death’s Kiss, Purson | The Witching Hour, Bloody Hammers | WITCH MOUNTAIN, Witch Mountain | Sleeping Witch, Royal Thunder | Night Witches, True Widow | Witchwood, Blood Ceremony | The White Witch Of Rose Hall, Coven | Boneflower, Avatarium | Spectral Queen, Ides Of Gemini | Full Moon, Mount Salem | Hex Mark, Demon Lung | Night Child, The Oath | Wicked Ones, Ruby The Hatchet | Digital Witchcraft, thisquietarmy

2013: Was it ever, will it ever be, enough? from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

Murder Of Crows, Lindi Ortega | Revolver, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan | Fields Of June, Emily Barker And Red Clay Halo featuring Frank Turner | Skeleton Crew, Michelle Vidal & The Fur Traders | Burgandy, The Hollows | Willow Tree (American), Rasputina | The First Mrs. Jones, Mark Erelli & Jeffrey Foucault | Black River Killer, Blitzen Trapper | Arkansas Murder Ballad, Angela Easterling | Old Sledge, Pretty Polly | Two Sisters, Tom Waits | Black Swells, Ora Coogan | Bury Me Tomorrow, The Dirt | Cheyenne, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club | A Beautiful Murder, Gorgeous Machines | Omie Wise, Okkervil River | Shankill Butchers, Sarah Jarosz | The Chieftains Ft Bon Iver, Down In The Willow Garden | Goose Walking Over My Grave, Jay Munly | Matty Groves, Alela Diane & Alina Hardin | Madeline, 1796, Bob Frank And John Murry | Long Black Veil, Joan Baez | Bobby, Baby, Lera Lynn | Bury Them Deep ( The Backwater Gospel ), Ghoultown | Down By The River, Deerwood | Caleb Meyer, Gillian Welch | Blood Under The Redwoods, Kat Jones | Poor Ellen Smith, Neko Case | Love Henry, Jolie Holland | Oh Death, Pine Valley Cosmonauts

 

2012: Final lessons in despair from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

Dies Irae ( The Shining Theme )| Kristallnacht Shtetl (Ghetto Life), John Zorn | Uaxuctum , Part One Scelsi | Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima, Krzysztof Penderecki | Lucie’s wounds, Seppuku Paradigm (Martyrs OST)| Lux Aeterna, György Ligeti | Rectum, Thomas Bangalter (Irréversible OST) |Lascia Ch’io Pianga, Tuva Semmingsen & Barokksolistene (Antichrist OST)

2011: The horror of life and the ecstasy of life from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

Tick Tock,  Jamin Winans (Ink OST) | This Is Going To Hurt, Hans Zimmer (The Ring/The Ring 2 OST) | Hellraiser Theme (Unreleased), Coil | The Funeral, Danny Elfman, (The Wolfman OST) | Promise(Reprise), Konami Kukeiha Club (Silent Hill OST) | Bloody Tears,rey187 (Castlevania) | Music Box, Philip Glass (The Candyman OST) | Suspiria, Goblin (Suspiria OST) | The Others (Instrumental), Claudio Ianni  (The Others OST) | Into The Woods / The Witch, Danny Elfman (Sleepy Hollow OST) | The Brides, Wojciech Kilar (Bram Stoker’s Dracula OST) | A Nightmare on Elm Street – Prologue / Main Title, Vitamin String Quartet | In the house In a Heartbeat, John Murphy (28 Days Later OST) | Alien (1979) – Main Title, Jerry Goldsmith (Alien OST) | Plasma Pool, Howard Shore (The Fly) | Friend?,Carter Burwell (Gods and Monsters OST)

2011: The silence after the screams from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

Trio in E Flat, Franz Schubert (The Hunger) | Main Title, John Carpenter (The Fog) | Haunted, King Black Acid (The Mothman Prophecies) | Main Title, Goblin (Dawn of the Dead) | Ave Satani, Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen) | Eli’s Theme, Johan Söderqvist (Let The Right One In) | Mae’s Theme, Tangerine Dream (Near Dark) | Redemption, Panu Aaltio (Sauna/The Filth) | Main Title, Don David (House On Haunted Hill) | Le locataire, Philippe Sarde (The Tenant} | Main Title, Krzysztof Komeda (Rosemary’s Baby) | End Credits, Fernando Velazquez (El Orfanato)

2011: Until we ourselves are ghosts from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

The Stendhal Syndrome Theme, Ennio Morricone (The Stendhal Syndrome OST) | Emily Rose, Christopher Young (The Exorcism of Emily Rose OST) | Theme A La Flute De Pan, Philip D’Aram (The Films of Jean Rollin) | Grey Wolf, Joe Loduca (Brotherhood of the Wolf OST) | The Double, Clint Mansell (Black Swan OST) | A Proposal, Conrad Pope (The Presence OST)| Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula, Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet | The Tram (Main Title) Angelo Badalamenti (Dark Water OST)| Nosferatu (Cue 6), Hans Posegga | Voci Dal Nulla, Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond OST) | In the Evening Mist, Asei Kobayashi & Mickey Yoshino (Hausu OST) | A Place Where the Sun Cannot Burn, Fernando Velázquez (Shiver OST)

2011: Echoes from beyond from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

Musica Ricercata, II, Dominic Harlan Dominic Harlan (Eyes Wide Shut OST) | Revelation, Seppuku Paradigram (Martyrs OST) | Transylvanian Lullaby, John Morris (Young Frankenstein) | Symphony fantastique, Op. 14: V. Songe d’une nuit de sabbat, San Francisco Symphony | Pan’s Labyrinth Lullaby, Javier Navarrete Javier Navarrete (Pan’s Labyrinth OST) | Jacob’s Ladder, Maurice Jarre (Jacob’s Ladder, OST) | L’anniversaire D’irvin, Angelo Badalamenti (City of Lost Children, OST) | Prologue-Menuetto and Storm, Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra & Alwyn (Bride of Frankenstein OST) | Artic Love, François-Eudes Chanfraul (A L’Interieur OST) | III. Marche funebre. Lento from Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Cyprien Katsaris | Dies irae, Zbigniew Preisner

2011: “Denn die Todten reiten Schnell.” from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

1 Orville Stoeber/Walter Sear (Let’s Scare Jessica to Death) | Introducing Vanessa Buren, James Bernard (From “The Legend Of The 7 Golden/The Hammer Vampire Collection) | Jack Tells a Story (Part I,) Elmer Bernstein (An American Werewolf in London) | Jack Tells a Story (Part II), Elmer Bernstein (An American Werewolf in London) | Gramophone Lullaby, Marco Beltrami (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) |  Candles for Christine, Pino Donaggio (Don’t Look Now) | Audrey Rose, Michael Small (Audrey Rose) | The Book of Evil, Joseph Lo Duca (Evil Dead 2) | You’re Just What I’ve Been Looking For (Angela’s Theme), Frankie Vinci (Sleepaway Camp) | “Ménage a Trois,” Daktari Lorenz (Nekromantik) | The Ossuary, Manuel De Sica (Cemetery Man) | The End, John Murphy (The Last House On The Left)

2010: Summoning the Gloom from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

(No tracklist for this one)

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The blarghs

June 1970

Art by gwendal (inspired by Young Love #80, June 1970)

I’ve got an unfortunate case of the blarghs. You know that feeling – nothing you do feels good enough, you feel like all of your friendships are the built upon pity (for you are a sad, pathetic creature) and you really just don’t amount to much of anything. Why are you here? What’s the point? You just can’t even, and it feels like maybe you never could and never will again.

The blarghs have plagued me for going on a week now. I took ill with a wretched head cold and it all went downhill from there.  When you’ve low energy and feeling unwell I think it’s a lot easier for those fat-dumb-ugly thoughts to start sneaking in, and man, I am afraid they’ve hit me super hard.

I know you are supposed to be kind to yourself during times like these, but I really just feel like slapping myself in the face and maybe lying down in the middle of the road.  I mean I don’t want to get run over or anything – Jesus, calm down, I am not that bad off – but I sort of feel like I just need to lie face down in a muddy puddle or something.  Like, rub my own nose in how bad I am feeling.  Why would I feel like that?  Why would I want to do that? I don’t rightly know.  But I can tell you that I am having a hard time mustering kindness for myself at this moment in time.

It’s funny though…I always think that when I am feeling badly about things and myself and life in general…maybe kindness toward others will help.  Maybe I should be giving away what I need the most?  I don’t know. My brain is fuzzy and dumb today and I can’t think straight or articulate things real good.

What do you do when you’ve got the blarghs and the ughs and the blues and the worst feelings? I could use some suggestions folks, because I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, this is not a nice way to feel.

On thick skin

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My sisters jest that “Sarah had a feeling once. It made her very uncomfortable.  She didn’t like it.”

I don’t know that I have always been this way.  I recall being very tender-hearted and sensitive at a young age, but somewhere along the way I must have learned that this is a dangerous thing, allowing oneself to feel things too deeply, and worse – letting the world see that you feel things too deeply.

I have known my fair share of people who value cleverness over kindness, those who would pride themselves on their “brutal honesty” and that they “pull no punches”. I believe you can’t have brutal honesty without a brute at the very core and I am no brute; rather than fight like with like, I learned that I must toughen up and develop a thicker skin to deal with these people and deflect their unkind cuts, their churlishness and rancor.

Over the years this thick skin has become an intangible but very organic feeling armor,  calloused in some places, worn through in others. I’ve learned not to cry, or if I must weep, I steel myself against my tears, allowing them to fall and harden and become stiff patches which I will harvest and use to mend those tears in my armor where the chinks are beginning to show. These tears, now fortifications, are protection against the very things that caused them – and those things will not make me cry again.

Later in life I am learning that this thick skin, this armor, does not always serve me well.  It has allowed me to only to half-feel, or not to feel at all…. and this lack of feeling, this numbness, this blocking of emotion and engagement, has stunted some relationships before they had time to flourish. Or perhaps it inhibits me from pursuing the friendship or relationship or opportunity at all.

I am learning that this skin is not one in which I can live in permanently…but nor is it one that I need to shed completely. I think it is something I can don when I know I will be in a situation during which I can become hurt, where there are people whose motivations are suspect, whose words are inconsiderate and thoughtless at best or harsh and hateful at worst. People with personalities that jab and poke and dig, and from whom I need protection

And yet I am realizing that to live fully and immersively, I need to be able to quietly slip this skin off, fold it up and stow it away and allow myself to be unguarded and vulnerable with those whom I feel safe. I do have these people in my life, and they are good people, and they deserve that part of me.  And I know I deserve that experience.  Of being fully loved, of crying if it comes to that, and allowing myself to feel.

Here’s to you, my thick skin. For growing and developing as I needed you, for protecting and preserving me, and for changing and adapting to fit my transformation as I move forward, feeling my way through this world.

 

 

You’re OK, I’m not so great.

Skeletor Is Love image exclusively for unquietthings.com, created by ghoulnextdoor

As I may have alluded to in the past, and well, if you’ve been paying attention or if you know me, like, at all – you know that I’ve got some Issues.  Of course, who doesn’t, right? But your issues aren’t my problem, and I can only work on me.  Sorry about that.

And so the time has come for me to actually put in that work.  I am nearly 40 years old and that’s a long time to be hauling so many hurts and anxieties and problems around. I don’t want to continue into the next decade of my life without at least having tried to address some of these things.

A local therapist was recommended to me by a friend and I have already been to two sessions. Hooray for follow-through! Normally that’s a problem for me, too.  The office is located -literally- about three minutes from my house, in a small plaza with ample parking. She’ll see me after work in the evenings.  So many things that might make me anxious about the act and process of simply being there are already resolved! I feel good about this.

Our first visit was more or less a “getting to know you session”; she asked a lot of questions about the issues I am facing now, my history of certain things, my family and my family’s history. She told me a bit about herself, how she got started, and what she focuses on now; when she mentioned her background in addiction and substance abuse, as well as trauma, I knew this was probably a good fit.

I spent most of my second visit biting my lip and desperately trying not to sob as I found myself going on and on for nearly 40 minutes about my mother.  I couldn’t cry.  I wanted to, but I am not there yet.  And it’s not really a sad cry; it’s more an anger thing.  I can’t seem to properly express my fury, it usually ends in a deluge of tears.  But I am not there yet with this lady, and I don’t cry in front of strangers.  My sister points out that your therapist is the one person you definitely shouldn’t worry about crying in front of.

Maybe I’ll get there in time.

My initial reason for being there was my constant anxiety, however, she believes that I suffer from dysthymia – a low-level, persistent form of depression – and seems to want to focus on that. I’ll go along with that for now.  I don’t think she’s wrong, and who knows, maybe my anxieties are a symptom of that.  Maybe it stems from something else altogether.
I’m open to exploring different possibilities, and I am not so naive as to think that there’s an immediate fix to be found. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

She shared with me this article, written last year by Therese Borchard: 10 Things I Do Everyday To Beat Depression. I expected it to be kind of cheesy, but in attempting to keep an open mind I gave it a read and I think there are some really helpful things to be found in the items that the author lists, and I would definitely recommend this as a worthwhile read.
The first thing Borchard talks about is how she swims early every morning, noting that “exercise is the most powerful weapon [she uses] everyday to beat the demons”, and that all aerobic workouts release endorphins,which,”while helping to block stress hormones and produce serotonin”, also can relieve depression.

I haven’t got a pool and I am not going to schlep down to the Y every morning, but I have begun taking a half hour walk every morning around 5:30am, just after I get out of bed. Once you are actually out of bed, there is something so wonderful about that time of morning. Though people may be just waking up, the world is mostly still and silent.  No cars on the road, no children playing in the yard, and most importantly – no one is ringing me on the phone at that time of day.  It’s glorious.  I wish it could be 5:30am all day long.

I have found, in the past few days I have got much more energy and I am probably twice as productive.  Is this sustainable?  Can I keep it up?  That I don’t know.  But I did it today, so that is what I am trying to focus on for now.

I may slowly begin implementing some other suggestions from that list; for example, I like the idea of taking a minute or two to record the little joys of the day. It is the little things, so often, that provide unsuspecting moments of delight when one is fraught with anxiety and sadness.  Taking time to collect these moments and appreciate them seems like a nice thing to slow your racing heart and still your crazy thoughts for time.

Power smoothies, however, can fuck off.  Not in my house.

*The Skeletor Is Love image has been created exclusively for this post.  We are not making a comeback.

 

 

 

Peeing in airplanes

A text from my sister earlier this week, after a conversation which very nearly escalated in a panic attack for me, but which didn’t, because I think I am too repressed to fully experience a full-blown panic attack.

“..I worry that you have developed this pattern throughout your life where you NEED something to agonize over, dread, or freak out about in order to feel normal.  This impacts your capacity for joy and hurts my heart for you.”

Yes, she is a mental health counselor, so she is certainly qualified to recognize these things.

I don’t remember ever not being this way.  Even as a little girl, I recall, for example, sitting in an airplane seat and dreading the part of the journey where I might have to pee; I’d have to get out of my seat, disrupt my seatmates, make my way up the aisle and hopefully not trip over anything, find the bathroom, hope that it’s empty, hope that I can look nonchalant if I have to wait, hope that there’s not a long line of disgruntled passengers after I’m done, make my way back to my seat without incident, and disrupt my seatmates again.  As an adult, I still carry this fearful scenario with me, and now, as then, I will just hold it in until my bladder feels like it is going to explode – yes, even if it is a six hour flight – and just wait til we have landed.

My whole life is like that -an extended airplane ride wherein I have to pee, but I don’t want to disturb anyone, make a fuss, look foolish.

I think it might be time to start thinking about how my life, and my “capacity for joy” is being impacted by my nervousness and anxiety and neuroses. And I think it might be time to look into getting help for it.

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