Conveniences For The Invisible Girl

candleWhen I was a senior in high school, I was enrolled in an advanced physics class that I had absolutely no business taking. I just wasn’t physics-minded, I guess you could say. It could also be said that I wasn’t very academic-minded, but somehow I’d made it through school with decent grades and part of me suspects it is because I was nice and good and never gave anyone any trouble. I also suspect there was a whole bunch of middle-class white privilege tied up in my circumstances as well.

(Which is gross to say but it would be irresponsible and even grosser not to acknowledge. Although I maybe wouldn’t have called us “middle class”; more like one of the bottom rungs of “lower middle class” and the only reason the cops were not at our house once a week is because we had a buffer in the way of one other family on the block that was trashier and even more dysfunctional than we were.)

At any rate, I showed up to class and took notes. I mostly did the homework. I mostly took the tests. And I mostly got middling grades. On one morning, I showed up to physics class and discovered there was a test that I did not study for (see! it happens outside of dreams, too!)

I took my seat, daydreamed my way through the 45 minutes of class, and, not having turned in the test sheet, exited class with the rest of the students when the bell rang. The next Monday, Mr. —  pulled me aside and fretted. “Sarah, I know you were in class on Friday morning. But your test doesn’t seem to be in the stack with the rest of them?” I shrugged my shoulders. “That’s strange,” I offered. “Hm,” he mused. “I’m sorry, it must have fallen out of the stack and gotten lost. I’ll just give you whatever the class average is.”

Was this a lazy teacher? Maybe. He was getting close to retirement. Or perhaps an educator who was merely kind to a struggling student? I had observed him as a thoughtful man, generous with praise, and quick to assist my classmates who were having a hard time. But it’s doubtful he believed me. Or…was it? I was a polite, quiet kid. I showed up. I went through the motions. Maybe that was enough to get by. That’s how I’d gotten by for the past 17 years, after all.

My childhood and young adulthood were rife with instances such as this. Either squeaking by on my reputation of not having a reputation, or being overlooked altogether and being moved ahead with everyone else because that was easier than realizing they hadn’t realized I was there in the first place. “Slipping through the cracks,” I think is how it’s referred to, sometimes.

I have always felt a bit invisible. From a young age, I would often unplug from what was happening around me and retreat inside myself, to my own inner world with its intrigues and machinations and daily dramas. Oftentimes a whole class period would go by and, not really having been there, I’d miss the lesson, or the homework, or the fact that a teacher needed a field trip form filled out for an out-of-class excursion the next day. I can’t count the times I’d show up for school not having some form or another filled out–not even actually realizing that we were going anywhere–and have to sit out a class trip, because I hadn’t been paying attention.

When you’re so withdrawn as to do absent yourself from what’s happening around you, you do start to feel that because you miss what’s going on and you don’t see it—it doesn’t see you. An invisibility cloak made mostly of self-delusion.  And when you’re not present for the memorable things, the class trips, year book photos, graduation ceremonies, you begin to slip from people’s memories. If you were ever in them, to begin with. All of this validates the feeling that you’re beginning to recognize as invisibility.

But, I always assured myself, “you want to be left alone.”  And, “it’s okay if no one includes you, or invites you, or even sits next to you in an empty seat!” I always seem to have a sea of empty seats around me, which is odd because I am certain that I smell really nice, so I guess I must have a really off-putting aura. But anyway, yes, for the most part this is all true. I am perfectly happy to miss out on the parties and the girl’s nights out and the celebrations and the brunches and all the other whatevers. Just let me do my thing, on my own! (As an adult sometimes I do decide to join in,  though, so please don’t stop inviting me!)

This “invisibility” has unfortunately affected my life in more insidious ways. As part of it, I don’t quite feel like I exist, and therefore, I put off doing, or don’t do at all, the typical things that normal people do in this world as part of the whole business of existing. I don’t go to the doctor. I often let my car insurance lapse, neglect to renew my automobile registration. Up until this past January, I hadn’t seen a dentist in over 20 years.

This manifests in lesser ways, as well. Ways that have to do with everyday comforts and just…well, regular useful stuff that I don’t seem to think about. For example: it never even occurred to me to take snacks or something to drink when I have an hour-plus car ride ahead of me. I forever thought I just had to be uncomfortably hungry or thirsty en route. I never carry aspirin or bandaids in my handbag; if I have a headache or a bloody finger, I just always think, “well, I’ll suffer through it for a while.” It’s taken me several years to write things down in a planner or calendar because I’d convinced myself, “oh, you’re not doing anything worth noting, anyway”, or “you don’t have to write it down, you’re supposed to just remember it!” Spoiler alert: I don’t. I probably wasn’t even paying attention to know what to remember in the first place!

This idea of suffering through life is very much tied up for me in this perpetual feeling of invisibility…I can’t work out how one leads to the other, exactly, other than if one does not quite exist, then one’s relative comfort really isn’t all that important.

…and yet. I am terribly guilty, as everyone knows, of frittering away extravagant amounts of money on perfumes and works of art–neither of which are things I need for survival or tending to my day-to-day needs. However…these are the things that make me feel keenly, fiercely, and wholly alive. The one sentiment, one then supposes, really has not much at all to do with the other.

(If you scroll further in a desperate attempt to figure what all of this has been for, and why am I wasting your time, you’ll see it boils down to just this: “Hey! Here’s a list of some stuff I like!”)
Classic Sarah, am I right?

No, but seriously–I have been thinking about this for a long time, and attempting to write this blog post for over a year now. I visited my best good friend last year, and at one point we took a car trip to a somewhat local botanical garden and she packed us a few snacks and some icy drinks for the road. I was flabbergasted. It  just…never even occurred to me that my stomach didn’t have to rumble and there was no need for me to be parched when I reached my destination. As I thought about it more, I wondered, “what are some other useful utilities and creature comforts that I am missing out on?” I’ve polled a few friends and perhaps even unconsciously peeked at their habits, I’ve started focusing more on my own needs and the issues which arise that I’m never prepared to address, and heck, I’ve even been closely watching the media that I consume to see what I can learn about this. I think I may have picked up a thing or two.

What follows below is a list of things gleaned from finally paying attention. They’re not all material things, though some of them are. They may be things that are so glaringly obvious, you’re going to smack your head and exclaim, “Sarah, what is WRONG with you? Everyone knows this!.” Well, everyone, it would seem, but Sarah. Who was too busy reading Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck in a fourth grade lesson, when she should have been paying attention to “its” vs. “its”; instead, because she clearly wasn’t paying attention, she didn’t realize until she was 40 that she’d been getting them wrong this whole time. That’s not a good example, though, because this list has nothing to do with grammar. She probably missed the lesson on proper literary segues and transitions, as well.

And, I am pleased to report, I finally saw a dentist this year. Three times since this past January. I’m even going to get my crooked teeth fixed! At no small cost, of course, but as I’m slowly shedding my invisibility, I’d like to get rid of that snaggletoothed situation as well. I also got my first mammogram this year. My mams exist and are real and they need to be grammed! I have begun seeing a counselor again as well, and now that I have written about these feelings, I think I am finally able to put them into words and share them with another person, as well.

Without further ado, then, a List Of Conveniences For The Invisible Girl.

snacks

Car snacks are a thing! Who knew? My best good friend introduced me to the wonders of the individual serving iced tea press which doubles as a portable drinking vessel, and wow. Maybe I’m easily impressed, but this thing is brilliant. The one I use is from David’s Tea, and I usually go for a blend with some tartness, like maybe lemon, or hibiscus. My current favorite car snacks are the original butter & soy sauce flavored potato sticks that BGF brought along on our trip, as well as these spicy seaweed tempura things that are similarly crunchy and addicting.

silky underwear

During that same visit, we got to talking about all of the things that long-time best friends talk about: gossip surrounding the horrible people we hate and the various afflictions and offenses visited upon us by the ravages of time. When I mentioned how disgustingly sweaty I am all the time (boob sweat, argh! and more, I think, a symptom of summertime in southern climes than age, perhaps) she suggested some dusting powder to sprinkle about my assorted bits and keep moisture absorbed and limbs unchafed. To quote one reviewer, “This product changrc [sic] my life.” No regerts!

Also, do you have a tiny bladder that has a tough time holding in all your pee, even on a good day? But then you’ve got a cold, and you’re unwell you are coughing and sneezing and maybe leaking a tiny bit? Yeah, you don’t have to spend the day in pee-damp undies. You could wear a panty liner when you’re sick. Just worth a mention. Something I only realized, oh, in the past year or so.

desk

I honestly thought working from home would help to alleviate some of the work-related anxieties that I live with. But no. Now I just work at a desk in my house, with the added worry that I could get fired at any moment because I am not present to resolve on-site problems. I either sit rigid with dread or slumped in resignation in my chair and stare at a screen for 10 hours in utter silence, save for the incessant ringing of a phone, which has become an inanimate item that I would gleefully murder without remorse. It’s taken me six years to reach the conclusion that hey…you work alone…there’s no one here to complain about the smell or the smoke if you burn a candle  (or use a diffuser.) You can listen to an eerie, psychedelic soundtrack of pan flutes and ghost wails and no one will be bothered by the sounds. Here’s a novel idea: you even can buy a phone dock charger thingy so your cell phone is not always low on battery or charging up in your bedroom because you only own one freaking charging cord.

Don’t get me wrong. Working–from home or otherwise–is baloney. To quote my sister, “work is for jerks!” But until some wealthy benefactor decides to fund my moderately luxurious lifestyle, I guess I gotta be a jerk, too. I have found though, that with a few adjustments, I can be a working jerk suffering in a  slightly nicer atmosphere.

diaries

I have written before about my more diligent use of planners. As a matter of fact, I attribute 100% of my 2019 dentist visits to the fact that I wrote it down to make tooth health a priority, and so I had to follow through with it. My main planner is an undated book from Passion Planner, just plain black. I added a sticker to cover up whatever was embossed there, and I just keep replacing them as they peel off or break down; currently, it’s some sticker art from Poison Apple PrintShop.

I also use the Open Sea Design Co. Sigil planner, sold at Haute Macabre, for keeping lists of things: books I want to read, movies I want to watch, perfumes I want to try, etc. And lastly, I have gotten into the habit of jotting down my nightly adventures again, in this beautiful dream journal from Cocorrina. Speaking of sweet dreams, I’ve decided to stop waiting for thunderstorms to visit and lull me to sleep; instead, we tune into an 8-10 hour long thunderstorm playlist before bed, and it works almost even better than the real thing, especially considering it doesn’t flood the back parlor like actual rain usually does!

kitchen

My hands always feel awful after I spend time washing dishes. Why did I think that housewives on television were the only ones allowed to wear gloves when scrubbing dinner plates? Good lord. It took me a while, but I eventually realized, that I too could avoid drying out my skin while taking care of harsh, soapy chores. In addition to gloves, I have started keeping a small tube of hand cream above the sink (if you’ve got any sample sizes, or travel-sized versions received as gifts, they are perfect for this!) Even if I’m using gloves, my hands still feel gross when I’m done, so treating them to something moisturizing afterward is a nice thing to do.

Additionally, I have had to fish a lot of rings out of the dish disposal while washing dishes because I either knocked them off the countertop or else they got wet and fell off my finger. Do you know how terrifying it is to stick your hand down in that thing? Have you read Firestarter? Yeesh. I probably never would have thought to buy this for myself but I received a small silver swan ring holder last year from the Tijuanan contingent of my partner’s family, and I think it’s just lovely and perfect. No more having to rescue rings from the finger mangler!

handbag

Despite the fact that on occasion I saw my grandmother and my mother switching out purses, I’ve always stubbornly clung to a “one handbag at a time” rule. Which usually meant carrying something clunky when situations called for something small and discreet or toting around a fiddly, fancy purse, ill-suited to travel, etc. It’s only in recent years that I’ve acquired a small shoulder bag for travel in addition to my everyday bag, which is currently this one from MZ WALLACE. Well, I decided I needed a third one, specifically for meeting/visiting other people’s families. Is this weird? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s a cheap tote bag with a William Morris print.

Two items I have added to my handbag for reasons of humiliation and mortification are a small pill case and a phone battery charger thing. I grew so tired of being that one friend who is always asking to borrow a phone charger, or an aspirin; no doubt the friends I were pressing for these items probably thought I was a bit dim for never remembering to bring them, or else a cheapskate for not having them. I’m not dim or cheap! I just thought…well, I just thought that I should be a person who doesn’t get headaches in public and who always leaves the house with a sufficiently charged phone.

Whether it was grumbling stomachs or soggy boobs, uncomfortable home office environments, dead cell phones, or dishpan hands, with so many of these scenarios, I tended to think, “well, that’s how you’re supposed to do it!” and that preparing for an event in which that was not how you did it, was somehow…cheating? At life? I can’t properly explain it. Maybe because I am actually a bit dim and I don’t want to admit it.

As I’m sloooo-ooowly realizing that life doesn’t have to be nearly as hard as I make it on myself, I’d really love to hear about the things you do to “cheat at life”* or make things easier? What are the things you do or use for comfort or convenience? Obvious or esoteric, I wanna hear your secrets to existence!

*I guess some people might call such things “life hacks” but I really hate that term.

Items in featured photo: spider web under glass from lesquelet; candle by In A Dark House for The Creeping Museum; photo by Brittany Markert /In Rooms

Art Imitates Life/Imitates Art

moonflesh

Long for the love of fragrance and flowers, more recently enamored with the charms of our eight-legged friends– any variation on this trio of fascinations combines to create such a profound artistic treat for me! Such were my musings when I contacted Lyla of Moon Flesh to inquire as to her interest in recreating, in elegance and embroidery, an other-needled variation on a similar piece of art acquired two years ago this August from Black Veil Tattoo.

37078808520_835e815df8_o

I love my work from the brothers Murray so much–they translated the idea so exquisitely, so perfectly–but as it’s on the back of my neck I obviously can’t spend a lot of time looking at it.  I thought it might be lovely to have another artist’s take on the concept for a version that I don’t have to spin my head around like an owl or demon-possessed body, to see and appreciate. Thank you, Lyla, for making this happen!

Now… what manner or medium of this mania will follow? Graphite? An oil painting? Water color? Papercut? Photo recreation? Hm….!
What beautiful genius shall I connect with in the oncoming months, to create the next addition of this beloved theme?

Links Of The Dead {May 2019}

Vanitas by Chris Jones

Vanitas by Chris Jones

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {May 2018} | {May 2017} | {May 2016}

💀 ‘What Does Daddy Cry About?’
💀 30 Astonishing Facts About Death
💀 Why Do 4-Year-Olds Love Talking About Death?
💀 What would you have as your funeral song?
💀 How Come Big Data Doesn’t Know My Mom Is Dead?
💀 Living our lives with Passion: 5 lessons from a Dying Friend.
💀 Woman Takes Anti-Selfies Stance By ‘Dying’ At Famous Landmarks
💀 The 16 Best Books About Dealing With Grief, According to Psychologists
💀 What the loss of my mum taught me about the burden of care on young women
💀 Bird Reflects On Frailty, Impermanence Of Life After Finding Dead Human On Sidewalk
💀 The Unexpected Practice That Helped Me Cope With Grief — When Nothing Else Could
💀 It’s Okay To Be Awkward In The Face Of Grief. You can’t do it right because there is no “right.”
💀 Sootless in Seattle: Washington State Legalizes Composting and Aquamation of Human Remains
💀 Interview with Musician Ruhail Qaisar on, among other things, death rituals in the Himalayas

Ten Things I Know By Flannery Grace Good

TEN THINGS 8

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

OH MAN. I don’t even know how to begin with all of my feelings about my friend Flannery Grace Good. She’s kind. She’s funny. She’s a wickedly clever observer of human nonsense. She’s an incredibly talented jeweler who has created some of the most extraordinarily breath-taking things I have ever seen, and she’s also crafted small, sweet treasures for some of my favorite humans–sometimes on a pretty tight schedule, too (because I wait until the last minute to float an idea by her, whoops.) But my friend Flan gets shit done! And she has always come through for me. She’s truly one of the most amazing people I know, and one day I am going to show up on her doorstep and say Hi! I’m your surprise guest for the weekend! And we are going to have a fabulous time because she’d be super into it.
One day, Flan!

Flannery is joining us for our Ten Things installment at Unquiet Things this month, and I am so pleased. Thank you for the time, energy, and vulnerability you shared in the writing of these practical insights and wisdom snippets, Flannery. Thank you for always so being incomparably wonderful. Thank you for being my friend.

TEN THINGS 10

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

When Sarah asked me if I would like to contribute to her blog, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! I love and admire her, and felt honored that she thought of me. “Any ten things, I can do this” and I decided “Ten Things I Know” should be easy peasy, despite my fear of writing.

This was not easy for me. The irony of being named after a writer, while struggling with from the heart communication, is pretty funny. My art is the only thing I can speak of with confidence, I consider it my official language, and everything else gets stuffed way down. I’ve been working for myself for 23 years, so my perspective is deep into self-employed weirdo artist territory. This was scary, and helpful to me. I know it’s not perfect, and I sit with the feeling that everyone is going to laugh at me, but that’s a lot like being an artist, fraught with uncertainty. It’s worth it. Thank you, Sarah.

1. Anything Can Be Learned

If you want it, you can do it. I was not a natural when I started making jewelry. My uncle Bubba (who taught me) called me “opposite girl,” because all of my instincts were exactly wrong. I ruined everything I made but I kept going. I wanted it, and put in hours and miles of work. Of course there are people with innate talent, or prodigies, but that is not every successful person. I truly believe that dedication, desire, work, and willingness to fail are all that is needed to do anything. If something truly sparks your interest, follow it.

Growing up in Arkansas, I didn’t have much in the way of art offered in school. I was so bored. In high school, my best subject was French, but I was totally uninspired. My first semester of college, my grades spelled out B-I-F-F. No kidding. The B would have been an A if it weren’t for me skipping so many classes, Advanced French Conversation. After that pathetic performance, I was not in college anymore and got a full-time job at a popular store. This was the mid-90s, so of course, I was making macrame hemp necklaces with fimo yin yangs! They were a hit, and I was able to sell them. That led me to ask my uncle for the millionth time to teach me metalsmithing. He agreed, and in the summer of 1996, I went to his house in Taos, New Mexico, to learn. I will never forget the look on his face when I actually showed up. My first lesson was “don’t touch my stuff, just watch” and that lasted about a month. On the 4th of July, under a sage-scented, firecracker filled sky, I made my first piece. It sucked. Something clicked inside me though, and I have never looked back.

After our summer together, I tried and failed on my own for about a year. Then, I went back to college. I graduated summa cum laude in 3 years, I made straight As. That is what passion will do, and that spark sustains me still. I ruin things all the time, even after 23 years. Bubba says of soldering, “if the wind’s blowin’ out of the south southeast? Forget about it.”

A willingness to fail is necessary, and for me, it is the hardest part, but I have quit having tantrums when I ruin something– it wastes time. I feel so lucky to have found this, and I promise that you can do what you dream of. Just start, and keep going.

TEN THINGS 1

Photo credit: Meredith Mashburn

2. Time Is Our Most Precious Commodity

We’ve all had the experience of standing in an endless line, and there’s that one person huffing and puffing about it. That person is a turd, and one of my biggest pet peeves. As if their time is somehow more important than everyone else’s. When I trade with others, which I do often (it’s a great way to build a collection without money!), I prefer to trade on an hour for hour basis. When someone gives you their time, treasure it, because it is actual treasure.

If you are “that person” in line, think again, it’s unbecoming.

I loathe the term self-care, however, I do advocate taking time for yourself. Give yourself 20 minutes to start, whether that be meditation, a walk, a bath, exercise, dancing, whatever you enjoy, do that. Integrating this into your daily life will improve your quality of life, and you may find that it gives you more time! Being calm and centered makes everything easier. There’s no such thing as being too busy to give yourself 20 minutes, I’ve tried that lie on myself many times, and sometimes I still don that bullshit robe for ego’s sake, but then after a few days I go for a walk or go swimming and realize I was just being full of it. You’re worth it.

TEN THINGS 4

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

3. The Frequency And Content Of A Person’s Social Media Posts Has Nothing To Do With Their Real Life

This one is the hardest for me to write, and I am on the verge of tears and unhealthy coping mechanisms just thinking about it, but I want to help so here goes. You are not alone. In 2017, I made a show about loss. Because I cannot speak or write about my experiences, I transformed them into my best work. I dug into my guts and hung them on the wall of my alma mater, Western State Colorado University. I gave a 30-minute speech to a large audience. It was both excruciating and incredibly cathartic.

What does this have to do with social media? Well, from December 2010 through April 2012, my life was Hell. I call that time Hell Year, and it almost killed me. I was always scrolling and posting on Facebook like everything was normal and fine. A selfie, some videos, a funny joke, look what I can do! When inside I was barely hanging on, and outside I was tempting fate because I did not value my life. I’ve never admitted that before…(at this point I had to take a break in writing, and I apologized to myself and let some tears fall). Finding my dog Mesa, tattered and on the verge of death herself, and then reuniting with my now husband (we met when I was slinging those sweet hemp necklaces!), saved my life. Love saved me. Please, hang on. Don’t make assumptions based on what you see on social media. I am forever changed post-Hell Year, and I still have a long road ahead toward loving myself, but I am so glad to be here and moving toward that goal. I am so grateful that I made it, and I see you struggling. Be you ahead, beside, or behind me–I offer you my hand.

TEN THINGS 5

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

4. Devastation Is Relative

A dark time is serious business and nothing to dismiss. There’s always someone, somewhere, who has it much worse, but that does not diminish the validity of your/a loved one’s experience. Read that again. I am writing this on behalf of everyone paralyzed by pain, never, ever say the following: “it could be worse” “look on the bright side” “have you tried ___?” “I can’t believe you’re so upset about ___” “think positive.” These things are dismissive, lazy, and downright dangerous to say. If someone you love is hurting, love them. Feed them. Give them your time. Listen, if they feel like talking. Check in regularly with no expectations.

Post Hell Year, I lost a lot of friends, because I wasn’t any fun anymore. My friend Molly got it, and so I would answer her phone calls. She let me be a bitch and has never led me to believe that it almost cost me her friendship.

*cheery voice*: “Hey Flan how’s it going?”
*total dick voice*: “…how the fuck do you think it’s going?”

Repeat that scenario every phone call for a couple years. I need to thank her for that, and I will as soon as I finish writing these. This entry segues pretty well into the next:

TEN THINGS 3

Photo credit: Meredith Mashburn

5. Old Sayings Are Old Sayings Because They’re True

Such as: you really will find out who your friends are when times are tough. Before you go too far into a situation, ask yourself, “are there proverbs written about this?” If so, and they advise against you: reconsider. I am specifically referring to what you make available for public consumption, and behaviors you subject your loved ones to. You never know who you might alienate, and restraint is power. I speak from experience. I have made my share of poor choices, against the wise advice of my family and friends, thinking I know better or that the rules don’t apply to me. I have been humbled, and this is why I am very careful with what I post online. The internet does not get access to my personal life. I am opinionated, and my family and I have weathered extreme devastation, but I will never allow something I post to sully my reputation, or be lapped up by those who might revel in my suffering. Screenshots are forever.

TEN THINGS 7

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

6. See The Funny

I took some classes at Berkeley Psychic Institute and one of the first things they teach is “amusement is the highest vibration”. I can’t possibly describe the surreal environment that is “psychic kindergarten” (BPI term) but I have held on to this lesson and I really believe it. If you know me, you’re probably like “wut” about me using the term “highest vibration” and are Googling “Berkeley Psychic Institute” right now. But the point is that when you are in mirth, even compared to the most devout reverence, you are open, and full of joy. My husband makes me laugh all day every day, and sometimes I get him pretty good too. It’s so important.

Find things that make you laugh, cultivate jokes with your friends, don’t be afraid to laugh at the absurd parts of your darkest moments. Because being able to laugh in the worst times can save you.

TEN THINGS 2

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

7. Networking, Collecting, And Supporting Are Important

I have an incredible art and jewelry collection. Most of it is by living artists I have connected with online. I am not a wealthy person. I live in the Midwest where it’s cheap, and I will never go back to living somewhere that requires my level of hustle just to pay the bills (sorry, California. P.S. I want my money back). By living in a place I can afford, I am able to invest so much more into materials, and support artists I admire, including other jewelers.

I believe that there is room for everyone at the top. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even though that sometimes burns. The art world is brutal, and I am not trying to sugar coat that, but the good outweighs the bad. I know the temptation to be a lone wolf is powerful, I have felt it. Wanting to keep all “my” customers to myself, wanting to call out a copycat, wanting to leave other jewelers out of my veneration, you name it. I am not immune to the darker sides of human nature or the realities of competition. However, you can’t do that stuff and truly succeed. Hate, jealousy, and exclusion will bind you. Fellowship and networking opens doors and creates lasting bonds and friendships. If someone comes to me and wants something that I happen to know is another jeweler’s specialty? I will put those people in touch. If someone starts making jewelry and has questions? I have gone as far as to spend hours giving every bit of advice and assistance I can, at no charge. I share everything that moves me. I buy everything I can. I love my friends and community, and am happy for their successes.

TEN THINGS 6

Photo credit: Jessica Joslin

8. Be You

There is so much pressure in life to be a certain way. Especially for women, and especially if you are trying to make a living in art. I know I am selling myself as much as my jewelry. I am an introvert with no persona to speak of. I don’t look cool, I don’t wear makeup, my hair is plain, and I do not discuss my personal life online. I am not on-brand in any way, because I have no brand. I put my time into my work. I like silly animal videos and juvenile humor, and share those things with reckless abandon. It works for me. I make people laugh. I give my time and my money to those in need whenever I can. I am there for my friends and family. I put my spirit into my work. As a result, people want to be like me, not look like me, and that is a true legacy I’m proud of.

Ten Things more

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

9. Nature Is Magic

When I was little, my mama taught me that Nature is God (for lack of a better word). “Flanny, did you know that some people never even see the moon?” that question broke my child-heart, and the realization haunts me still. Throughout my life I have cultivated and nurtured a relationship with the natural world, and it is one of my best assets as well as an incredible teacher. Yes, I know what kind of feather that is; yes, I know when the moon is new or full; yes, I have been pulled outside because I felt a rainbow coming; yes, I have wild animal friends, and we talk.

Anyone can receive priceless gifts from nature. Go out into it, regularly. Visit the same place in all seasons and get to know it. I believe that a person has not truly experienced love until they have loved an animal, or nature, and frankly I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t. Nature is a portal to other realms, too. I have seen things that defy explanation, which have led me deeper into my appreciation and relationship with the supernatural, and increased my intuition. I am an only child, born on the Day of the Dead, and grew up in a haunted house, so my baseline was already substantial in that regard. Being in tune with nature is something that can be practiced, and I promise that observing and being in the moment can reap powerful, inspiring rewards.

ten things last

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

10. I Don’t Know

I am not religious, because I do not think humans are capable of explaining life, and people seem to do crazy, horrible things in the name of their god. I’m OK with the question mark. It leaves room for magic. Feeling hopeless about the state of humanity is paralyzing, and yet the only option is to keep going. Focusing on the amazing things people do, helps. I am so inspired by beauty, compassion, bravery, ingenuity, and skill. I am also humbled by our insignificance, and calmed by it. I forgive myself for forgetting. I believe in the beyond. That belief does not require dogma, a title, or anyone besides me. I spent a year volunteering in a children’s hospital. Those kids, they have something that leaves most of us as we age. They have a light that is not diminished by sickness or death. They remember. They know.

Find Flannery Grace Good: Website // Instagram // Facebook

Currently {NYC Edition With An L.A. cameo}

ny ny

What a weird, wild, wondrous whirlwind these past few months have been!

I reluctantly visited my least favorite city on earth, and three weeks later, I found a new city to (quite unexpectedly) love; I have communed with quarrelsome goats and curious chickens, I have stood in the shadow of a 305 ft copper lady, I finally met, for the first time, friends I’ve known for over a decade and some I’ve made more recently, and I made new acquaintances of several people who know me or recognize me from my writing (this is a weird one but I secretly love it!) And lastly, I’m sorry to sound a bit schmaltzy, but I also discovered–a little late in the game, but better late than never–how vital and valuable and just…really lovely…that spending time with family can be. Even if it’s your found family. Even if I was resisting it with every particle of my being!

ny wardrobe

In April I tagged along with my partner’s family on a trip to NYC. I know it’s probably impolite to say so and may hurt some feelings, but I truly loathe New York City. It’s just too much, and all of the too much, all at once. However, I was with my love, and his family–so it’s not like I was there hacking it by myself, all alone. His mother had just celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday and wanted to celebrate with her family, doing fun touristy things, in a city that she’d never really gotten to spend much time in.

Being a bit of an ingrate and a brat, I suppose, I was not necessarily looking forward to this trip. Spending time with other people’s families is always a dicey venture. Everyone’s got their own routines, their own agendas, their own way of doing things. Three opinionated brothers are going to snip and pick and bicker a lot. Grumpy dads with bad knees and bad hearing are going to (understandably) be uncomfortable and unhappy and probably pretty vocal about it. Me, I was resentful and sullen and anxious about the distinct possibilities of family squabbles but hopefully no one could tell; I would just be the same, old “why is she so quiet?” Sarah that they had grown to tolerate, if not necessarily love, over the past seven years.

(As you can see, above, I was dressed as a veritable ray of sunshine. I packed approximately seven variations of this outfit! To be fair, this is how I dress no matter where I’m traveling, or with whom. Cloak: Phantom Lovely; Leggings: Blackmilk; Tunic: Aakasha; Necklace: bloodmilk)

lady

ellis

hair

Hungry and exhausted, I was brought to tears the very first day in the city, after having just arrived and meeting the family in a small sandwich shop next to our Midtown hotel. The first comment directed my way was a concerned, “oh dear, you look so tired”, and come on–who wants to hear something like that? I bit my tongue but I was tempted to say “nah, I’m just ugly.” Then the quarrels began. Where to sit, what to order, who is going to pay for what, was this really the best place to eat?

GAHHHH. I thought I was going to lose my damn mind. Fussing, cussing, contentious people have always upset me, ever since I was very young. I just feel like…people shouldn’t disagree and argue in front of other people, and definitely not in public. I realize I just might be a little bit sensitive to that, though, and I recognize for lots of folks, this is a very normal way to communicate, and they don’t think twice about it. Especially in close families! I know myself well enough, though, to identify what my triggers are, and what is going to upset me, so I stepped away from the group, took a deep breath, and counted to ten. Visited my safe place (Thanks, therapy! More on this later.) Ordered a falafel salad. Rejoined the fray after I felt the tears retreat.

I must note that this was the best salad I’d ever eaten in my entire life! And though the spot where we dined was probably a chain, and really nothing special considering all the options that the city has to offer–it really was some of my favorite food from the whole trip. Maybe because it delivered a delicious respite and nourishment when I sorely needed it.

I’m happy to say that after our initially rocky arrival, most everything settled down–including me–and it was actually a lovely time. I did so many things that I probably never would have chosen to do, if asked; taking a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visiting the Empire State Building observatory (look at my crazy hair, it wants to fly off my head straight into space!) — these things have never been at the top of my list of priorities. Or…even on my list at all. Part of me might have said that these pilgrimages were very much wasted on me. Midway in the doing of them, I became aware of feeling… not exactly jazzed learning more about our nation’s history… but rather I came away with a sentiment that I have not experienced much in the course of my lifetime, and as it’s not part of my lived experience, I’m not sure that I have the proper words available in my lexicon to describe it.

My own family is so very small. Two sisters whom I adore. A cousin whom I don’t know very well. A father with whom I don’t communicate. That’s it, really. Everyone else is dead, or else I don’t know them at all and they either don’t know me or have forgotten I exist. In my time as an adult, my family has certainly never traveled together; at most, we’ve had one annual holiday dinner for the last few decades. And even now, that yearly Thanksgiving dinner is becoming a thing of the past as we opt to travel elsewhere, to create our own traditions.

To spend time with this family then, who has accepted me (as far as I can tell, and even though often they tell me I need to wear more bright colors) as one of their own, to do with them the things that “normal families” do; whether it be traveling, dining together, sitting around the table for coffee and conversation–I have never had that, even when my family was alive and whole. That just wasn’t our thing, and though I’m not always sure that I want that level of closeness and communication, it has become something I appreciate more than I ever would have thought possible. It took this trip away with them to the city I most dislike in the world to realize that.

cher
cher show

hilma

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I did, however, do other things in NYC than learn maudlin, melancholic life lessons! We got tickets to The Cher Show, a production recounting the evolution of an iconic star, “packed with so much Cher that it takes three women to play her, ” and, I might add, very accurately reviewed as “…an explosion of fabulous excess that survives against all odds under the weight of all its sequins.”

I’ve never really thought of myself as a Cher fan, though I’m not not a Cher fan, I guess? I mean, I know all the words to her songs, but is that because I enjoy and connect with them on some level or is it because they’ve gotten so much radio play that  it’s all a bit unconscious and subliminal at this point? Well, I’ve always appreciated her over-the-top sense of style, at any rate, and the show certainly played up that aspect in the form of the glittering excess of several dozen amazing costume changes!

I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to actually do anything I wanted to do during this visit, but much to my delight, the group consensus was that we might like to stop by the Gugenheim for the Hilma af Klint exhibit. It’s a cliché, I know, to talk about an artist being ahead of their time, but I think even Hilma herself knew that her paintings–imaginative, abstract articulations of her views on mysticism and spirituality–were the sort of experimental, boundary-defying works that the world in that moment would neither appreciate nor understand. Hilma af Klint stipulated that her art not be shown for twenty years following her death; her work was all but unseen until 1986, and only over the subsequent three decades have her paintings and works on paper begun to receive serious attention. I’m so pleased that I was in the right place at the right time, while this exhibit was available to the public, and that I had the good fortune to have seen it for myself.

creeping

Not even a month later I flew out to L.A. (AND I upgraded to first class seats to mitigate the stress of the whole “peeing in airplanes” situation!) The above photo was taken at the excellent and hitherto-unknown-to-me Clifton’s during a lovely meet and greet hosted by the sweet ladies from The Creeping Museum. Lovely though it may have been, I disappeared back to my hotel room shortly after this photo was taken. I was overcome with …is party anxiety a thing? I am quite certain it is. When I encounter a room where people have already arrived and started to congregate, I can’t think straight. My heart races, I get flushed and sweaty and I want to make a break for it. I have a hard time jumping into conversations; I feel pressured to chat, and even if I can think of a conversation topic suitable for the group, I overthink what to say, and I either end up saying nothing or something …really … weird.

On top of a rude, brutal surprise period and being extra-crampy and headache-y, having spent the last ten hours on my feet in another, slightly different but equally high-stress situation, and not having eaten since about 8am that morning, well…I panicked and split. And I feel awful, because everyone there was so nice, and probably just as awkward and strange as me, but I had reached my limits. I vanished as soon as it seemed appropriate and hurried back to my room for a bit of a weep. I was really beating myself up about it at the time, too, like “why can’t you be more like so-n-so? She’s clever, she’s charming, she always tells a good story that holds listeners rapt, she’s probably nervous too, but she keeps her shit together!” But I also know that I tried… maybeit wasn’t a perfect attempt, but it was an attempt, you know?

Ah, well. I know myself fairly well. I know I am best equipped for circumstances where I’m communicating and interacting one on one; add a few other folks in the mix and I think that’s nearly too much stimulation for me. Make it a roomful of people, and, 99% of the time, I will probably straight up shut down. I’ll keep trying, though! And hopefully people will continue to understand. Your weird friend Sarah is weird, guys. Sorry about it.

But of course Los Angeles was more than uncomfortable social situations; that was truly only one minuscule part of my visit!  There were wonderful friends met and made; friendly farm animals and feral cats; art and artists and books and cocktails and both the most liberating breakfast sandwich I have ever devoured as well as the most elusive sushi burrito that I never actually ate at all. And much, much more! All of that though, is a tale for another time and place …like over at Haute Macabre sometime in the near future, hint hint! Once I’ve had a chance to parse and process and parcel it out, there will be loads more details to share in a ginormous collaborative post with a few of my HM coven-cronies and travel-mates.

I will instead leave you with this image of some the beautiful things I brought back with me. As we all know, the best part of any travel is returning home to spread your newly gotten treasures over your bed and bask in the glory of acquisition and collection!

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this, that, and the other thing {xlviii}

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The Los Angeles Oddities Market is happening this weekend, and I will be there! I hope to see you!

#MetGala2019 looks as minerals: a twitter thread

8 Modern Witches Share Their Daily Beauty Rituals

The Fantastical Sketchbook of a Medieval Inventor

The Secret Language of Jewelry in Women’s Portraits

Frida Kahlo’s Garden Is Still Thriving—Six Decades after Her Death

Alien spaceship, Hammer horror? The pulsating visions of Harry Clarke

Rare and Endangered Butterfly Species Recreated in Glass by Laura Hart

Yes, Giant Technicolor Squirrels Actually Roam the Forests of Southern India

Who’s the Darkest of Them All? The Arcane Origins of the Tale of Snow White

Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Dark Times, Resisting the Defeatism of Easy Despair, and What Victory Really Means for Movements of Social Change

Book Stuff

Book stuff

So…some recent book stuff!

…not to be confused with “butt stuff”. Which…don’t ask me how one could be mistaken for the other, but as someone who frequently mishears and misreads things, I know it happens!

Book stuff the first is our Stacked reading compilation over at Haute Macabre, covering the months of April and May. Among others, I really enjoyed In The House In The Dark Of The Woods by Laird Hunt, a witchy woodland fever dream of a tale, set in colonial New England, is utterly immersive and twisty and strange. Not mentioned, because I didn’t even know how to begin to tackle the material, is The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang. I feel funny saying that I “enjoyed” this book, a woman’s exhausting struggle with chronic and mental illness, but it was intimate and candid,  beautifully written and immediately compelling, and provided perspectives and insights that were surprising, terrifying, and sometimes even quite empowering.

Book stuff the second: I interviewed Mallory O’Meara, best-selling author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent PatrickMilicent Patrick was an illustrator and artist “who designed the iconic monster from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but, unfortunately for decades, no one knew much else about her.” Mallory’s book is the incredible true story of Milicent Patrick’s life and legacy, and an exploration of why her accomplishments still matter today and why her story needs to be told now more than ever. Bonus: if you’ve never seen Creature From The Black Lagoon, you can watch it over on archive.org!

Links of the Dead {April 2019}

art credit: Isabee

art credit: Isabee

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {April 2018} | {April 2017} | {April 2016} | {April 2014}

💀 When Your Best Friend Dies
💀 What Cancer Takes Away
💀 To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time
💀 Why Pet Sematary refuses to die
💀 Why is death left out of wellness?
💀 When Cemeteries Became Natural Sanctuaries
💀 Suffering Blows: One Woman’s Journey With Grief
💀 6 Bricks Under: Vienna Cemetery Introduces Funeral LEGO Sets
💀 Washington may become first state to legalize human composting
💀 The funeral as we know it is becoming a relic — just in time for a death boom
💀 R.I.P. to a Startling Facebook Feature: Reminders of Dead Friends’ Birthdays
💀 A photo essay from the morgue that works as a description of what death looks like 
💀 From Jack the Ripper to Ted Bundy, why are dead women’s bodies still being used as entertainment?
💀 Caregiving can be overwhelming, but there are some ways you can prepare yourself for this new chapter in your life.

 

Ten Things I Tell Myself to Make Life Worth Living by Ariel of Carpe That Diem

© Janice Gobey. Used with written permission.

© Janice Gobey. Used with written permission.

I first met Ariel on a strange and stressful day during a very strange and stressful chapter of my life. It was on an afternoon spent surrounded by strangers, talking about potentially uncomfortable things, and though we were brought together for a common purpose and it was in fact, a gathering which I myself had initiated and facilitated, I very much did not want to be there. I am not sure if Ariel picked up on that at the time, but as we’ve come to know one another during the course of our friendship, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are one of the few people who just gets it. And is okay with it. And doesn’t judge me or think less of me for being a weird, squirrelly hermit.

Whether we meet up for scintillating discourse on matters of mortality, or deliciously unhinged Gothic cinema; were we to spend an emotional hour together discussing a local tragedy and its personal implications or just run into each other on a busy street corner (yes, this has happened! and we don’t even live that close to each other!) I always know I will come away astounded by Ariel’s brilliant insights, awestruck at their tremendous sagacity and, of course enthralled by their incisive wit–and I am astonished, to be frank, that this incredible human,  this one-of-a-kind (in the truest, purest sense) person actually wants anything at all to do with me! But …they do? This makes me indescribably happy and fills me with the sort of delirious, demented joy that I’m pretty sure only other lonely weirdos understand fully. And though we don’t get together often, when we do, it calls t mind Doctor Who meme I sometimes see floating around on Facebook, the one that says “Spend Your Life Doing Strange Things With Weird People.” Except, well. It wasn’t weird enough.

I had to make a version for Ariel and I. Here you go! You’re welcome!

I am lucky to have met Ariel when I did, and that we grew to become friends, and I am beyond thrilled that they are this month’s Ten Things guest blogger. See below Ariel’s Ten Things I Tell Myself to Make Life Worth Living, and I will share with you the same thing I said to Ariel, that I am awestruck and utterly humbled that they would write any of this at my behest, and I feel so incredibly undeserving of what they’ve shared below. It is beautiful and difficult and wrenching and absolutely perfect.

 

Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Woman Before Rising Sun’

Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Woman Before Rising Sun’

1. It’s Okay to Delay

This is a mantra that I’m just learning. It is a challenge, and by no means am I proficient. And while on the surface this phrase seems to echo sentiments that it’s “never too late,” it means something a little bit differently to me.

There’s a popular rationalization for transness out there that implies that a trans person is X gender trapped in a Y-sexed body. Personally, that is not my trans narrative. I have perceived myself, however, as the hapless protagonist in a cosmic narrative of a Can-Doer trapped within a Do-Little. I am predictably-unpredictably hindered, hampered, prohibited and limited by disabling chronic illness.

I idealize the tenets of minimalism and idolize the gurus who promise that the key to a fulfilling and adventurous life is the process of simplifying day-to-day tasks and purging material objects. The irony is that I live a fairly consistently low-impact lifestyle. I don’t have much to “declutter.” I don’t have an overflowing calendar brimming with engagements. I don’t keep many obligations. I scarcely have anything to write in a to-do list or planner or place in a twee inbox.

When I do accumulate tasks, I embark on a journey of epic proportions to hit all the high notes. When the mania strikes, I start plotting. I scheme out several “appointments”.

And then I hit my nadir.

For me, fatigue, flares and malaise are byproducts of ambition. I quickly become sobered by the humiliation that I have to suspend my schedule. And then I feel ashamed for it.

But then I defer back to what I learned all along from my minimalist icons. I appreciate what has “sparked joy” within me in my accomplishments. I appreciate the effort of taking on days, weeks, even months’ worth of accumulation and pre-planning to achieve. I appreciate that a “rest period” is an opportunity to regenerate. If delaying means reveling in the highs and charting a new course, then it’s okay to delay.

To Write Love on Her Arms for World Suicide Prevention Day

“To Write Love on Her Arms,” for World Suicide Prevention Day

2. Tomorrow is Another Day

As someone who dissociates on the regular, time is an alien and abstract concept. Don’t get me wrong, I comprehend the science of the planetary rotations and the lunar cycle. I understand the guidance of the almanac and the shift of the seasons. I defer to the sacred obligations of my religious calendar.

But I’ll be frank. I don’t follow a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, etc. schedule. I divide my days by shifting between pajamas and civilian clothes, going outside for extended periods vs. remaining indoors indefinitely, or days when my partner is at work or at home. Sometimes the ‘pajama days’ are disproportionately longer than the ‘civvies days’. Sometimes my partner picks up extra shifts or flips his schedule around, and I’m sparked into spontaneity. As you can imagine, these units of measurement do not translate well to real-time deadlines.

Over the course of these ‘days’, I lose huge chunks of time to no recollection with nothing to show for it. And in the periods where I am cognizant of my presence, I’m often unable to project myself into ‘meaningful’ activity.

I still haven’t quite de-conditioned from the stress of a metered week. I used to live a very professional and organized life. I agonized under the weight of timed obligations. I grit my teeth and asked for extensions.

That’s not my life anymore. Maybe it will be again some day, but for the here-and-now, tomorrows might not necessarily be “tomorrow” in a traditional sense. It might be several days from the current day. But every “tomorrow” is a chance to center my presence in the present. It’s another opportunity to push through the fog and orient myself to the novelty of a new day’s offerings.

3. Yesterday is a Thing of the Past

This is really the same face of the Janus coin as the preceding truth. The pursuit of tomorrow means leaving yesterday in the past. This isn’t to say that the past is irrelevant. The past is a hard-packed foundation for progress. But no one can reach for the heavens if they’re wallowing in the dirt. (Disclaimer: this is by no means a diss on archaeologists.)

I have a hard time putting things down. I’m sure I could blame Aries energy. There’s countless astrological interpretations as to why I just won’t leggo my eg(g)o. I’m slowly learning to leave yesterday in its grave by meditating on the Jewish honorific: zikhronam liv’rakha. This phrase translates into ‘may their memories be a blessing’ as well as ‘may their memories be for a blessing’. The meaningfulness of for whom this blessing is for (for the deceased or for the living) may be debatable. In both senses: I am blessed that yesterday occurred, regardless of what happened there, and yesterday is blessed by the fact that I lived throughout it.

Henry Clarke’s illustration for “Cask of Amontillado”

Henry Clarke’s illustration for “Cask of Amontillado”

4. Forgive, But Don’t Forget

Yesterdays haunt me from beyond the grave with the ghosts of people, events and circumstances that have deeply wounded me. Much of my trauma has manifested into trigger points that are part of my everyday life. When a new mental health professional pushes me to express how trauma manifests, I often find myself trying to suppress the details.

My regular therapist noticed this veneer right away. He also identified what he suspected was going on. I was already re-living the trauma, but I was attempting to protect myself from experiencing guilt, shame, self-loathing, and all the other usual suspects. Most of the people and places associated with my triggers are removed from my life. Rightly or wrongly, in my headspace, I’m the only one left to absorb the culpability of what happened.

I will never forgive the people who did badly by me, partly because I logistically cannot, and partly because I earnestly do not want to (and nor should I have to). I can’t ever forgive the places where I was wronged, because to anthropomorphize a space in that capacity errs too closely to de-burdening humans of their accountability.

I can, however, forgive myself for subjecting myself to my own internally recurring unkindness. And by learning to forgive myself, I can eventually learn to recall my histories in ways where I can continue to practice compassion in my life.

 

5. Old Dreams Die; New Dreams Are Born

Even though I strive to live a death positive life, I grapple with thanatophobia every day. This isn’t always demonstrated by the anxiety of my own mortality. Sometimes it manifests in struggling to accept that I am not the same person as I have been previously. The current me often feels like an impostor masquerading in the skin of the older me, mainly because I am not fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the older me.

The older me is Oxford-educated and was en route to doctorate status. The older me eagerly wanted to be a parent. The older me was a working professional who volunteered for special projects and promotion opportunities. The older me practiced yoga daily and researched teaching scholarships. The order me sang in the choir and fantasized about the opera. The older me drove a car and had aspirations of being an air-conditioned vagabond. The current me is not a realization of any of these.

The current me, however, is the descendant of all of these. The death of my old dreams was the birth of new opportunities. Those dreams, too, may age out of me in the tomorrows from now. But new dreams will be birthed from those dreams, and so on and so on.

this is a clever lyric shot from the 88rising video for “Midsummer Madness,”

this is a clever lyric shot from the 88rising video for “Midsummer Madness,”

6. Expectations and Standards Are Only as Real as You Make Them

In the words of the prophet Joji: fuck the rules.

At least 30% of my therapy sessions in the span of 5 years have covered my anxieties, my resentment and my wallowing grief regarding my deep-seeded fear that I’ll never produce a life worth the monetary value. I routinely agonize that no amount of expensive surgery or recurring costs of hormone replacement will ever convince the public to perceive with my gender; that no amount of emotional, physical or skill-based labor will equal out the debt of my student loans; that no temple will accept my patrilineal heritage and consider me a worthy investment of “birthright”; that no mounting medical bills or adaptive tools will enable me to maintain pace with my abled fellows.

Every time, I have to re-educate myself that the gospel of ‘Being Human’ is actually an arbitrary set of guidelines inferred from a messy collage.

Some folks over the years have approximated what “gender” looks like and whether that gender’s presentation amounts to being “ugly” or “beautiful”; others have calculated how the “value” of a human being can be measured; some have proposed what amount of competency in one flavor-of-the-victors language amounts to “literacy.”

For the most part, we unconsciously enforce the ‘rules’ of humanity. We make baseless accusations and judgments from precognitions that were taught us by parents, siblings, friends, television personalities, magazine advertisements, history books, religious doctrines, billboards, neon signs, stump speeches, inspirational speakers, etc. We mount these on a vision board that coats our minds’ eye with the color lens of our choosing. Such lenses are ableism, white supremacy, classism, xenophobia, misogyny, heterosexism, cissexism, antisemitism, etc. We may identify these lenses by different shades or hues depending on our learned perceptions (what differentiates ableism from internalized ableism, for instance?), but ultimately, “blood orange” by any other name is just fucking red.

The fact of the matter is that these hypothetical ’truths’ are based on centuries’ worth of tradition, rebellion, assimilation, appropriation, aggrandizing and the existential need to apply meaning to every little thing. It’s a social neurosis that’s demonstrated perfectly in the Garden of Eden narrative: Adam is charged with identifying every animal and plant in Eden, yet humankind is cursed by the malady of sin when he and Eve seek to qualify their knowledge from the tree. Is it our own desire to categorize and define the world around us rather than simply identify and appreciate the beauty of diversity that pollutes our souls?

Who knows? Judging our current human relevance off of archaic presumptions shouldn’t be how we define what it means to “matter.” “Mattering” should be determined by our compassion (however we choose to express it), our presence (however we make it known) and our impact (however we manifest it).

At the Alfond Inn in Winter Park

At the Alfond Inn in Winter Park

7. We Are the Gods, Now

If everything around us is, at best, subjective, or at worst, built on fakery, lies and creative exploits, then where do we go from there? As Gabriel Byrne-as-Byron once bellowed to Natasha Richardson-as-Mary Godwin in a delightful 80s romp: “We are the gods, now.”

In the context of Ken Russell’s Gothic, Byron, Godwin, her paramour Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, and Byron’s [strikeout]#1 Fan Please[strikeout] biographer John Polidori are questioning their own personas, desires, grievances and dreams. Guilt, lust, heartbreak, grief, insecurity, mortality, anger and fear plague the fivesome when they are imprisoned in a labyrinthine villa by an atmospheric dark-and-stormy night. Godwin herself becomes the Promethean bringer of the dawn when she channels her negative energy into the momentum for her first published novel, Frankenstein: a piece that in real life would see revision fostered by the same manipulation of tragic energy from within her inner circle and drawn from a changing European social climate.

Frankenstein relays much of its explicit religious overtures from English comprehensions of Christian mythology. And from the exclusively Abrahamic perspective, a fallible god that lives, dies, achieves or fails is inconceivable. A god who is driven by passion and by mundanity is unfathomable. But these are the very tenets of godhood in other mythologies globally: the Olympians, the Teotl, the K’uh, the Deva/i, and so on and so on. The winking acknowledgment is in Godwin’s subtitle: the Modern Prometheus, a Titan who is credited in Hellenic literature for both bringing fire to the first people manifest of clay… and for drunkenly mis-applying genitals to many of the clay peoples he personally created (Aesop’s 517th Fable on gender fluidity and attraction model fluidity).

By no means do I want to portray myself as sacrilegious or anti-theistic. Rather, I want to celebrate my status as a vessel of divine power, from wherever and whomever I may have inherited that divinity from. I want to learn to perceive my mistakes as opportunities for vernal growth to replace my ingrained doctrine that successes are the only tales worth celebrating.

via quote fancy

image via quote fancy

8. ‘Failure’ is Another Word for Everything to Gain

If ‘freedom’ is just another word for nothing left to lose, then it stands to reason that ‘failure’ is another word for everything to gain. The basis of this one isn’t very novel. It’s preached in sermons, penned in self-help books, bulleted in business seminars and parroted in virtually every Hero’s Journey that sees the protagonist stumble before they run.

It’s a redundancy because for as true as the statement is, the mantra that ‘failure is not an option’. It’s a phrase that in its popular application is, at best, apocryphal. In practical translation: it’s a fucking lie. It’s a lie that has become a commodity. It is a provocative phrase that evokes fear even in the most humble of practices.

Failure equates to destiny. Failure draws out the possibilities of what were previously sketchy boundaries. Failure identifies goals and stretch goals. Failure articulates purpose. Failure generates motivation.

Every failure I experience is just exposition to my next accomplishment, which may be totally unlike that I initially projected for myself. Taking the path of Ls may lead me to a road that I never would have discovered if I only stayed on the straight and narrow. The terror of being and feeling lost is outweighed by the sublime sights of possibility.

@muertosruz

image: @muertosruz

9. You Live Your Own Obituary

I have lived long enough to see my friends die. In the LGBTQ+ and in the disabled and chronic illness communities, it happens disproportionately more often and sooner than in the general population. Not all of them were honored in ways that did justice to their legacies, namely due to a lack of respect to their core identities. But even if their services were all-inclusive, I don’t know if words and actions alone would have been enough to eulogize their memories.

For every grim and sober detail, I have several living memories, anecdotes, recollections and flashbacks. However brief my friends’ lives may have been, they were rich. Like a spectacularly fudgy, heavy slice of cake cut into a deceptive sliver on a comically large saucer. Had they lived longer, how would it shift the narrative of that presentation? Where would my memories trail off to?

Every day that I thrive, I add another chapter to my living obituary. I generate more content for an everlasting eulogy that will be curated and maintained by those who survive me.

Atlas and Caliban snuggling on it’s a small world

Atlas and Caliban snuggling on it’s a small world

10. Your Friends Will Bury You

At the time of writing this, a friend has been dead for several days. My partner and I lived with him for a time. When we moved out, we made plans to stay connected. It didn’t work out. We were on opposite sides of town living opposite lives. When we had the news broken to us, we were told he was living in a group home just down the street from us. That crushed me.

We never explicitly related to each other about living as severely mentally ill people, but it was definitely the baseline of how we were able to be friendly toward one another and respect one another’ boundaries. Our unspoken civility was refreshing at the time. Now it’s a weight in the pit of my heart. I feel equal parts culpable for not being present in his life and equal parts fearful that I could flicker out in the shadows cast by the people surrounding me.

My life has very much been pillared by isolation, loneliness, drifting and severed relationships and by agoraphobia. It is only now, as I crest on my 30s, that I’m forging friendships that are forgiving to my less-than-sociable tendencies and nourishing to my hunger for human connection.

Part of this I can credit to my personal growth, particularly my learned talents of pruning back toxic relationships and nourishing what I’ve managed to germinate within inspiring people and compelling communities. Part of this I want to credit to the fact that as I’ve aged and matured, so have the people I choose to surround myself with. But I feel most confident in and grateful to what emerging technology has enabled me with in order to stay connected to the friends I rarely see and the friends I’ve never seen in the flesh.

Tangential to the above, if I have faith in nothing else when I die, I will have total faith in the fact that my friends will be the ones to memorialize me. Regardless of whether they may be physically present, I will know that they will hold space for me because of how I have pushed myself and how I continue to push myself to hold space for them while we are alive.

Find Ariel: Carpe That Diem blog  // @carpe_that_diem on instagram

Goodbye, Sweet Meepster

My heart is breaking for my sister today. One of her dear girls has gotten old and very unwell, and they’ve come to the conclusion it is time to say goodbyes and gently facilitate little Megan’s journey to the next world. I spent the day with them yesterday, but am back home this morning, weeping all morning with sadness for everyone, and still mourning my own losses of this kind, when I had to do the same for my own beloved companion back in 2010.

Anyway, here’s to Megan, lil Mama, the meepingest Meepster to ever meep. See you in another life, you sweet, silly thing.

(If you’d like to see more ridiculous photos of these lovelies, my brother in law made a tumblr for their ridiculousness a few years back: Mallory and Megan.)

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