Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

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Sunday, September 18th, 2011

It seems clear that Flora — AKA Screamy Cat — is in her last days. I took some time off this weekend, am still, and beyond Netflix marathons, it’s mostly been spent caring for her. She’s at the point where walking is clearly painful due to weakness, and getting her to eat or drink is a trial, at best, even after I went and made her a batch of the homemade food all the cats I have ever had have snarfed like nobody’s business when ill. She’s always been tiny, never weighing more than 9 pounds, but now she’s down to five.

About a month ago, we had a crap confluence of pet events around here that seems to have begun with flea season here on the island, something we were totally unprepared for, and so they basically caught us unprepared and seized their moment, investing all the pets and causing all of us to itch for weeks.  I still have scabs on my ankles just from how thick they were outside in the grass.  It’s nuts. So, she got the fleas, then also got a UTI, at the same time one of her nails had a bad injury.  That meant a bunch of different meds, and I think all of that, combined with her age, was just too much for her.  The vet tested her for everything, and save that UTI, which went away, there is nothing technically wrong with her.  She’s just really damn old.

People who know us well know that Flora is really a goldfish.

Around 1992, when I first opened the little alternative school that I ran for a few years, one of my very first wee students came into the place I had set up and created with such care, looked around, then announced, “This is not a real school.” I think I probably gasped, I was so heartbroken. In asking for the criteria of such a determination, he explained to me that real schools have an orange goldfish in a bowl, something everyone knows. Duh. I tried to explain that no matter how much care I give them, I seem to be terrible with fish. I tried to explain that already, there were three cats at the school (and have I mentioned that despite a near-lifetime of having cats around, I’ve always been allergic to them?  Oh yes.), even though they mostly stayed in my office. No explanation would do. I mean, that was all fine and well and good, but it just wasn’t a real school because of this fish issue, and that was just that.

There was a pet store a few blocks away, so — very much needing my school to be a real school, darnit — I asked if we all took a walk down there and got one, with the understanding the kinds would need to help care for the goldfish, if that would fix the problem. This was met with agreement.  So, off we went.

When we got there, did they have every kind and color of fish under the sun?  Oh yes, they did — well, almost. All except goldfish, of course: there were no orange goldfish. In the middle of a desperate discussion with the petshop owner about what fish might look orange under different light, I heard the little guy saying, “Heather, I found it!” Thank christ. I walked to where he was.

He was standing in front of a little cage full of mostly sleeping kittens, save one very rambunctious and especially tiny calico who was jumping all over all of them.  “That’s a very cute kitten,” I said.  “So, where’s that fish?”

“She’s got orange on her,” he said.

“She most certainly does,” I said.  Then we had this same exchange about three or four times.

“She’s got —” he went to say again.

“Orange,” I said. “I know, she’s got orange on her, I’ve got it. Are you saying she’s an orange fish? I know you know she’s a cat. We have cats at the school already, three cats, which is already a lot of cats, I think. And just because they don’t have orange goldfish here doesn’t mean they aren’t somewhere else. I can go to another pet store myself later if this is really important to me — erm, you.”

“She’s got orange,” he said. “And I really like her. She’s funny. She’ll do.”

And so she was, and so she did.

At the time I got her, my hair was down to my waist, and the first few mornings I woke up, I’d be all “Ugh!  My head feels like a bowling ball, what the hell?” This was because she’d nest in there while I slept, continuing to hold on after I stood up.  A few years later, we had an insanely hot summer, and I was also very tired of people mistaking me for Rapunzel and thinking I was in need of rescue, so I shaved my head.  (An experience which taught me many things, the biggest one being that I have a very round head and face, which means that instead of looking hot and butch with a shaved head, I look like a Cabbage Patch Kid. Yay.) She was very unhappy with me for years until most of it grew back.

The other cats made a point of hiding from the kids at the school: not this one. She was playful and friendly and awesome with all of them: they adored her. There were kerfuffles about who got to rest with her at naptime: some years, we even had to make a schedule. A couple years later, in an ironic twist, we were at another pet store and brought back a white lop rabbit who was in a cage with a bunch of dwarf rabbits hopping all over his poor head, after the sympathies for bouncy animals had apparently switched. The other cats were mortified by this: but Flora and Moe often played together.

After I had to close the school  in ‘97, I was in a horrendous financial spot for a while, including having to spend some of a Chicago winter without decent heat and sans electricity or gas. Flora, with the other cats, made it through our awful spot, making do on about as little food as I did, save that the cats could eat the leftover meatstuffs I’d manage to gather from the school lunches at the school I was working at then for my Montessori internship. When I moved to Minneapolis in ‘98, she had to stay with an ex of mine for about six months in Chicago. Flora has always hated being in any kind of moving anything, so moving four unruly cats at once in an 8-hour-drive just was not doable, and she was always the most socially flexible of all the cats. When we finally did get her, she howled the whole. Drive. There.

When Sofi, my pug, came into our lives as a very small puppy, the other cats tried to kill her. For reals. Once I walked into the kitchen and Rita, my eldest cat at the time, in cahoots with another of them, were trying to push knives from the counter unto the unsuspecting puppy below. Flora, on the other hand, often circled the pug, hissing at the other cats. She slept near the puppy, she helped guard her when she ate, she did her level best to teach her all the things puppies ought to know, like why not to grab cat tails and how to clean your face (my dog still bathes herself like a cat sometimes: it’s ridiculous). When Rita began to die, Flora kept her company when the other two cats wouldn’t have anything to do with her. When I was crying my eyes out for days after euthanizing Rita, Flora worked in tandem with Sofi to keep me in fuzzy cuddles.

When I moved to Seattle, Flora howled the whole plane ride over, managing to drown out my own sobbing and very graciously make herself the hated enemy of every other poor fool on that flight so it didn’t have to be me. That’s about the same time Flora learned to yell all night and sometimes all day, for reasons unbenownst to anyone (though my guess is that always living in tiny places with lots of animals, the adjustment to a big old house with its own noises and only one other pet was not easy: it wasn’t easy for me, either, and I felt like howling sometimes, too).

She got a serious kidney infection somewhere in there, something that had felled another cat of mind years back — the lone cat who lived a normal kitty lifetime, unlike my others who all seem to want to hit 20 — and the few days she spent at the vet, they didn’t want to give her back. She’s a very loveable fish: everyone thinks so. They were particularly wooed by the way she lies which everyone instinctively calls Superman: stretching both her arms as far in front of her as possible and just kind of freezing like she’s flying, a posture she often did in the times she spent in my hair when I first got her.

When Blue moved his big dog into the mix, at a time when it was just Sofi and Flora left — a smaller family I think they were both enjoying — Flora was very whatever about it.  Fur did not fly between cat and new dog. When we moved to the island, she delighted in looking out the window at he world outside. When mice found their way in here, despite having only one sad old tooth left in her little mouth, she caught one. She woke us up in the middle of the night with extra-loud yelling. We came out, and she had it in her mouth like, “Umm, okay, I got this thing I think I’m supposed to get.  But I think I’m supposed to do something next I do not want to and also lack the tools to execute.”  The mouse was looking clearly confused. Flora dropped the mouse and it ran away, probably feeling awfully grateful that day for what is, potentially, the world’s most gentle cat.

I have listened to this cat yelling and screaming for hours sometimes, for no reason I know of, where nothing makes her stop.  She has driven me up a fucking wall with that yelling. But you know, I’ll look at her little fishy face, and pretty much think, “Ah, well.  When I get that old, I’m going to annoy the crap out of everyone, too.” Then I’ll bitch about it some more, of course.

She stopped yelling a couple weeks back. I do not miss that yelling. Not even close.  But after a few days without it, it was hard not to know that it probably meant something was wrong.

I’m really hoping I won’t need to put her to sleep.  It’s not a political stance; I’m someone who feels very strongly that if and when life is ending and it hurts and has nothing good to offer, that whether we’re talking about my pets or me, making it better by making it stop is a good thing. But I had a horrible experience putting Rita down, the last animal I went through this with.  Our regular vet was sick that day and his replacement was a shitheel who basically grabbed my cat from me, jabbed her with a needle and put her down while she screamed.  I know that likely wouldn’t happen again, but I’m just really hoping that Flora will pass quietly here while I have her set up to be as cozy as possible and die in a much better, less traumatic way.

Mind, if she keeps going without eating, or barely doing so, or seems to be in real pain rather than just really out of it, I’ll cave, because I don’t want her to be uncomfortable.

It’s weird, Flora dying, weird and so sad.  She’s been an awesome cat, a very strange, very awesome cat. But she’s also the last of my kitty brood, and I won’t be having cats again for a while, something I decided about the time we got Flora. I’m not allergic to her, specifically, thanks to a parent at the school who was a vet tech and who gave me some tricks when she was a kitten, but I am to most other cats, and my skin and sinuses need a break.  It’s also really hard to be able to go places when you have more than one kind of pet, and the dogs really are more than enough for us to care for here, as it is. Plus, I can only take so many vet bills and so many elderly cat experiences.

I was never a “cat person,” whatever that means.  In Chicago, you can’t be a renter and have dogs, so cats it was. Plus, almost all my cats save Flora — though really, even she in some ways — just kind of seemed to find me, rather than the other way round. But I like and understand dogs. I like cats, but I do not even remotely understand them.  I feel about cats the way I think John Gray feels about people: I would need to construct some kind of bullshit philosophy in order to grok their motives or behavior or to make them make sense in my own limited understanding of life.

So, with the end of Flora comes, first of all, the end of Flora.  Flora who I have loved and who has loved me, a big bunch of kids, my pug and other critters and pretty much anything and everyone else she’s come across. By the time a pet of mine gets to this age, I always think I’m so ready for this, but then, you know, I get there and it’s always so much harder than I thought it would be. I’m a very sad camper right now. And it’s also kind of the end of an era, one which started with the first member of my personal kitty brood when I was 18; the end of a kitty family which has, at times — thanks to a stay who entered our midst, had sex with other cats in our building, then left her kittens — been as large a group as eight. There have been some of the roughest times in my life where at least one of those cats was there, and we could morosely sit with booze in hand and catnip on face and say, “Hey, life fucking sucks, doesn’t it? But here’s lookin’ at you, cat.”

And now it’s down to one, this delicate, little one, and then, it seems, to none. And that’s just weird. And sad. Really sad.

Who knows, maybe she’ll turn around: they do that sometimes. But not only do I doubt it (I tried to feed her three times in the midst of writing this, and she just refuses to eat or drink), I just wanted to sing her silly kitty praises and take some time to tell her tales while it was all in my head.

So, here is looking at you, my little cat/fish with the orange on you. May you fall asleep soon, gently, and dream marvelous, endless dreams of hair to nest in, howls to howl, and big oceans it makes no sense at all for you to be swimming in, except to us, for whom you’ve sometimes magically made some important things real.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Last night, I was finished with work, getting started on cooking dinner.

I had the 70s radio station on. I was in my bare feet with an apron layered over a long, cozy skirt, pulling my long hair into a knot to keep it out of the food.  The dogs were lazing around, being a little silly.  I was looking into the forest while I made a beautiful meal with fresh, wonderful ingredients.  I was enjoying a nice glass of wine. I was dancing around a little while I cooked, just kind of grooving out, feeling mellow and satisfied and happy with relatively simple things.  Feeling, as I often do anymore, like I’ve landed in a place and space, literally and in a larger way, in my life where I have pretty much what I need to be happy, and where what all of that is is within my reach.  In a place where thoughts of further attainment — as in, this is awesome, but I really still need that, or that’s great, but it’d be better if I had this — are often far from my mind, even though there are certainly some things that are pretty basic I remain without. In a place where what happens in downtime are things like reading a good book outside in a cozy chair, walking through the forest, hula-hooping in a wide open space, playing instruments at night, lounging in a tub until my fingers get all pruny, tending to the plants, baking delicious things, screwing, talking for hours, getting to know local characters who are as weird as I am in the few local haunts there are. I live somewhere where it’s considered a given that people share things and are kind to one another, where there are peace protests on the street even though the people standing know they’re preaching to the choir. I live somewhere where wearing mismatched socks isn’t just about not giving a crap, it’s about there being something joyful and hilarious in mismatched socks.

It then occurred to me that I had kind of lost my sense of exactly when it was, in the grander scheme of things, and in that, I realized that right now, in a whole lot of ways, I’m basically living the life my father really wanted when he was young and I was wee (soundtrack and all).  This life I have going right now is kind of his low-income aspiration to an almost-middle-income life, where basic needs are met, the luxuries are simple ones, and there’s a level of off-grid that’s still clicked in enough to avoid some major struggles. These are the kind of daydreams my father was having about his life and my life in the midst of Woodstock; the kind of respite he imagined he and I might be able to have if and when the kind of revolution he worked for and wanted — and ultimately, didn’t see happen — took hold and then settled down.

I am essentially living my father’s early 70s dream life, a life he also dreamed for me.  And it obviously was a very good dream, one would think, because I’m really loving my life this way.

Of course, when I think back to college, I realize it was my dream, too, even though it may still be one I inherited or was primed to, at least in part.  There was a while there where I was pretty dead-set on ditching the whole works and trying to buy an old school bus I figured I could somehow renovate to work just fine as a mobile home and use to find a place and a life…well, an awful lot like this one.

I really need to get him up here for a visit. Not only has it been over a year since I’ve seen him, and there’s the given that I always want to get him away from the hell that he lives in, I also want him to be able to experience this. It’s bittersweet, of course, as I know this is a life he’d still like for himself in some ways, and one I don’t have the means to provide for both of us, nor one where he feels up to the adjustment anymore.  But I figure there has to at least be something lovely and satisfying in seeing your kid living the kind of life you’ve dreamed for both of you, right?

I’m not sure, though I’m sure we’ll talk about it at some point, hopefully while taking a lovely walk here sometime soon or being delighted that you can get a $3 drink in an unpretentious pace without also having to suffer the company of racist assholes insulated by a crappy tiny place instead of a wonderful one.

But in the meantime, I’m just going to keep on relishing what I have here right now, what I’m able to be part of, and the time I can spend in this life that feels like such a beautiful dream sometimes.

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Sorry for another long silence from me, here, anyway.  I’ve not been silent anywhere else, just here.  Don’t take it personally.  Per usual, been busybusybusy with work, but also busybusybusy enjoying the time I’m not working.  Which isn’t enough, I’ll give you, but I’ll take what I can get.

I stopped by because I just had to write down something lovely that happened around a week ago here on the island, which was such an excellent representation of why I love it here so much and remain so grateful I was able to move here.

I was in the city for a visit with my sister (who moved to Seattle last year, oddly, more on that another time) and some work at the shelter. After a lovely, albeit brief, run-in with my friend Ben, met up with Blue and we headed back home on the water taxi.  We got to sit with some of his commuting friends, who were lovely and witty and wise, and when we all loaded off the water taxi, half the folks, including us, jetted it over to the bus in a rush.

So, there we are, everyone having finished their workday, tired, but still nice and chatty, something I found Seattle folks tended to lack, but island folks tend to make up for.  As the bus made its way down the length of the island, the sky started to get dark.  We were sitting near the front of the bus, where a teenage girl was also sitting.

All of a sudden, she yelled out, “Oh, wow! Look at the moon!” Before half of us could even start to do it, she was swiftly dialing friends on her cell phone to tell them, too, to look at the moon, a gorgeous, low-hanging, blazing orange harvest moon.  Everyone on the bus joined in in looking and admiring it, and for those who hadn’t heard said teenage girl, the bus driver used the intercom to advise everyone aboard to look at it.

So there we all were, moon-gazing, sky-sighing, all thanks to one of the charming, enthusiastic and kind of mystical teenagers we seem to have quite a lot of on the island, who I tend to notice other adults don’t take for granted, either.  All excitedly gazing at the beautiful moon lighting up the harbor and the rippling topography of our island.

Seriously cool stuff, that.  I grinned for days because of it.

This is a lot of what life is like for me here, save that it’s typically much more quiet.  I so appreciate the quiet and the solitude — with breaks for things like en masse moon-squealing — and the slowness.  I’m still dazed half the time just by seeing and feeling the forest and the water all around me.

It’s an interesting appreciation, too, for this time and place in my life, because it’s based both on the present and the past.  They don’t just connect each other, but my life in the past has been, I think, a big part of my enjoying my life now.  If it wasn’t for growing up in the city and being so urban for the majority of my life, I don’t think I’d appreciate being rural like this now.  If it wasn’t for such a fast and busy social pace at other times, I think the slowness and quiet now would feel boring, instead of peaceful and inspiring.  Narrowing my interpersonal relationships down is something that feels right and good, but likely in part because at other times, I’ve been so much more expansive in that area.

It’s such an exceptional and fantastic thing, loving where I am now because of where I’ve been before; not because what was before was not what I wanted, and this, instead, was, but because I’ve loved both parts and they kind of complete each other.  It’s like having had two cups for everything, where only one was filled, but the other is now also getting full.  It makes all of my parts fit together in really complimentary ways, and makes all of my journeys kind of make a lot more sense than they have before.

It is, however, also a strange thing for me to feel more quiet in my spirit and my energy.  It’s not breaking news to mention that it has been more often loud and frenetic, and also that it’s always been a challenge for me to find a quiet.  Figuring out how to balance that with the work I do, in which in so many ways, I need to still be loud, has been interesting, and an art I have yet to refine.  I’m still just starting to explore it.  I’d say it’s certainly had a notable impact on the way I’ve been working with people directly: channeling my compassion and empathy for them was always something I could do, but it’s become considerably more effortless.  It is a bit harder, I’m finding, to react and respond to anyone — in general — being really out of order or very angry or reactive, but slowing myself down to try and figure out how is easier.

I’m in the midst of some potentially major work choices and decisions, which could potentially change my life (and my org) for the serious better if all goes well, in an area I’ve never had a fast, serious-better change, ever, only slow, gradual progress.  Can’t say more than that about it for now, but this is one more way in which I’m glad I’m living here, because sorting out this decision feels like something I’m capable of doing well better here than I would have elsewhere.

Basics, I know, and little else, but, hey!  Look at the moon!

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Life on the island is fantastic. I absolutely love it here. I feel at home, I feel at peace, and I find it very easy both to work and to relax, the latter of which is, was and always having been the bigger challenge for me. We’ve just had three days of nonstop rain, which hasn’t bothered me, but since the sun is out, I had Blue move my big blue easy chair out back so I could get some sun and some writing here in.

I didn’t mean to let a month lapse since I last wrote. I know this site of late (read: the last couple years) is something I’ve kind of neglected, or at least which has gotten far less of my time than it has in years past.  I want to just kind of sit with this today and thin — and write — about why.

When I started writing over here in 1999, Scarleteen was still in its infancy, the dot bomb hadn’t happened yet, and I was doing just as much work around sexuality and art for adults as I was doing sexuality work for young people. When it all comes down to it, I started this site, and writing here, not to long after I’d made some really major changes in my life, particularly leaving classroom teaching in order to make my work both online and around my arts and I’d moved to Minnesota after Chicago had been my hometown for most of my life.  I’d just come out of a few pretty damn dark years: of illness, of heartbreak, of almost winding up homeless again. I was 29 years old, in a relationship with my best friend at the time, and doing work that most people weren’t yet recognizing as work, or of anything of value, at all.  I was still doing some modeling for other artists, not just for myself (nor had I yet moved behind the camera, which is about 80 million times more interesting to me). I had a lot to sort out and suss out, very few supports in it and frequently fluctuated between states of intense inspiration and intellectual clarity and feeling totally, utterly lost, not knowing what the fuck I was doing in every area of my life. On top of that, very few women — or people, period — were talking about and working about the things I was. This site made a lot of sense then, and it makes less sense now, when so much of all of that has changed.

It’s so cliche, but I’m one of those creative people who tends to be most creative when I am hurting, angry, in a new emotion or in some kind of crisis or conflict.  I’d feel more stupid about that if there didn’t seem to be so many other artists and creative folks who are the exact same way.  All the same, it feels silly; lazy, even. I mean, if you can only artistically express a limited range of emotions, how creative are you, really?

So, here’s one thing: on the whole, lately — as in, over the past year and change — I’ve just been happy. Not the screamy, high-energy kind of happy, but the quiet kind, the kind that soothes and calms and contemplates and doesn’t have a lot to say a lot of the time. The kind that doesn’t keep its mouth shut because it feels silenced or scared, but because it’s just contemplating a gentle hum and finds it has little to report back.

The kind — no sense in being dishonest — I really don’t know much about at all. I’m a newbie. I can think of very few times in my life I experienced this, and the couple times that come to mind, I was so certain I was mistaking happiness for settling or complacency or detachment that I overthought it so much I didn’t really fully experience it at all, and also ran from it in due course.

But right now…okay, here’s my right now: I can pay most of my bills. I live in a rental — but a house — that is both beautiful and not in any way broken. I am in the middle of the woods, every day. More friends visit now that I moved out here than I saw when I was in Seattle-proper, and when they visit, we’re very rarely in the position where one or more of us is crying or venting because our lives suck in some major way. My sister even just moved to this state, a sister I have never really had a relationship with, but who it looks like I finally can, especially with both of us being so far away from home. I’m partnered with someone I have dearly loved on and off for 20 freaking years, who is both a peace and a passion in my heart and my mind.  All the drama around that when it restarted has since subsided. I feel able to be myself pretty much 24 hours a day, every day, no matter who I’m around.

Work is often a lot to manage (I’ll get to more on that in a minute), but it’s going well.  I’ve been doing what I have been doing for around 13 years now, solidly, and I know what I’m doing, I have way more support for it than I used to, it’s recognized as an actual job, and as something of value.  While funding, as ever, is always an issue, it’s not as much of an issue as it’s been in years past, and even when the shit hits the fan, I can usually figure something out.  I’ve been able to do some work through my work — like working for the abortion clinics and the teen shelter — I really wanted to do.  I may soon be writing a second book, which will carry a ton of stresses, but is something I very much want to do.

I could feel better physically, sure: my health is still not anything close to a non-issue.  Some things could be a good deal more stable.  Work could be less stressful.  But I’m 40, an age I never thought I’d even reach as a teenager, a concern that was more than valid then. I’m sitting on an overstuffed chair in the woods on an island, with a nice glass of wine, birds flying around me singing away, the sun is shining, the air is clean and warm and I’m comfortable.  And happy.  And mellow. In a couple hours, I’ll go make a delicious dinner with my sweetheart, which we’ll savor leisurely, then wind down with some lovely way of connecting and chilling, and then I’ll sleep like a baby in the perfect black dark.  It kinda rocks, to say the least.

Not only am I just learning how to be like this, I have yet to learn how to do my own creative work when I feel like this. I’m determined TO learn, mind you, but I’m not there yet.  And I forget, just plain forget, about my own writing or making art a lot of the time because I’m all caught up in my reverie.  When I realize that’s happened, I’ll start to give myself shit about it, and then I just stop.  Because I don’t have to do any of these things if I’m not feeling it.  But what I do have to do is learn to just let my heart be happy and my mind be quiet, one of the lone areas in life in which I am a late bloomer, and something I am actually learning to do at long last.


Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Several years ago, I worked on a sculptural piece about intimate partner violence. I wound up showing it in a gallery show, but installed it feeling like it wasn’t finished, and unsure of what would finish it.

It stayed the same for years, without any changes or additions being made. Both at the gallery show and in my house, people had strong, personal reactions to it, particularly DV/IPV survivors. In fact, my ex-partner and I made an agreement it wouldn’t be in a central part of the house because it was too hard for him to spend too much time with. Eventually, I felt like it would never be finished, or maybe it was finished, and I just wasn’t feeling it. If it was finished, it was such a large piece that it felt like it should be somewhere besides where I lived, especially if it was going to get relegated to a back room. The trouble is, anyone or any place where the topic matter would make sense, and where it would be the right thing….well, it would probably be the wrong thing. Donating something so triggering to a shelter, for instance, just would not work. So, it sat around some more.

As it got near time for me to move, I realized it shouldn’t move with me. Given the new space, it would just wind up unseen again. I still couldn’t think of the right person or place to donate it to where it could be shown. It also just really, truly, did not feel finished.

A statement of the painfully obvious variety: I’m stalwart. I tend to often be last man standing in many areas of my life, including with work and creative work. Attachment has really been my central area of challenge with Buddhism and life as a whole. Maybe it’s because so often in my life I had things or people snatched from me so much I never got to let something go of my own action and accord, maybe I’m just acquisitive, maybe it’s something else entirely, but I have a very hard time letting go of things, especially people, objects, work and communities. I wanted to engage in an active practice of letting something this big — spacially, emotionally, topically — go. I decided that I needed to let this go.

I enrolled Blue in the plan — it’s oak, and weighs about 80 gazillion pounds. On moving day, we went to put it in a local park that had seemed like the right place in my mind. But it wasn’t: not only were there people there at the time (you really aren’t supposed to just be leaving large artwork lying around), no placement felt right.

But on the way home, Blue stopped in front of a house on the block that I must have stopped in front of every day. It was the last remaining house on the block as old as ours, and had rather mysteriously been boarded up a couple years back, only to stay that way (and after it spent a year with the inside covered in tin foil, for some reason). It was sad, intimidating, dangerous, lonely and precarious; it felt like loss rendered architecturally.

It was where it wanted to go.

In thinking for so long about what would make it feel finished, it just never occurred to me that more didn’t need to be added to it. That, instead, it needed to be added to something else, then let go to be actively demolished, degraded and abandoned.

It went to where I felt finished with it, and where it also seemed to feel itself finished.

I had another once-gallery piece, or part of one. The window frame which was part of a larger collection within and around it; a frame once representing how I wanted both clarity in my own perceptions, and clarity from others in their perception of me.

That original piece had been dissembled because it felt like something that needed to change and keep changing. While it waited for its next life, though, I changed, too.

I stopped caring so much about being seen clearly, and started caring a lot more about my own clarity of vision, both in how I see myself and in how I see everything around me.

Which is why it lives here now, in the garden, in the midst of the vast green I get to sit in and with every day that has been nurturing exactly the kinds of clarity I have needed.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Even though when I moved part of the plan was to slow things down, I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately.

Mostly, it was just a matter of timing, that a lot of things happened around the same time as the move did, and that’ll be changing very soon.  Last week, the Scarleteen boards were closed to give myself and the volunteers a break from direct service, and during their downtime, I’ve been trying to catch up on some professional writing and a whole pile of administrative work.  I have a desk full of filing and invoicing to get done today, and several email boxes that need some serious cleaning and catchup. Being able to get this kind of stuff done with very little direct service work on my own part has been a lot easier, and I need to make that happen for myself more often.  It’s just really hard to make administrative work a priority when there are young people to care for with all manner of crises.  Especially since not only are they in need, I hate the admin work, which doesn’t help.

In a couple of days, I’m going to be taking a handful of days off so that I can finish unpacking and settling in here.  Then, towards the end of August, I’m taking a full week off.  I’ve been trying to remind myself that not only do I need downtime both to be effective in my work, but to retain my sanity, and as well, I may not always be able to be my own boss like I have been and even have the ability to do that. Considering how much of my life I have been self-employed for, I’ve really kind of blown it a lot of time time.  For sure, self-employeds do tend to work even more hours than folks employed by others, but there is a flexibility we should at least take advantage of.  And yet, year after year, I go weeks without a day off wake up early every day and work into the night, even at times I a) really don’t have to and b) really am not being compensated to.  I’ve just got to get better at that.  Thankfully, moving here seems like it’s going to help.

But I didn’t stop by here to talk about work.  Well, not really.  What I wanted to talk about was trees and their work.

Everywhere I look here, there are trees.  Outside every window, lining every walk. Pacific Northwest trees aren’t the wide, bushy trees I grew up with in the midwest before so many of them started going away to make more and more room for more and more buildings.  Some of them are as tall as city blocks.

I was laying in the hammock last week, gazing up at them above me, and was struck by questions for them I get asked myself about what I do all the time. Why do you keep doing the work you do?  What if nothing huge ever comes of it? Why keep plodding on, especially at times no one seems to be recognizing how hard it is for you to do what you do or why it matters?

Obviously, I can only guess at their answers: I’m not (yet) a tree whisperer.  But when I thought about it, and just kept looking at them, it occurred to me that the trees are self-accomplished.  Certainly, there are big ecological benefits to their being here and doing what they do.  But even if there were not, you look at trees like this and it’s clear that not only are they great just in the being, do they achieve greatness just by their slow, methodical and constant growth, they achieve absolute majesty.  We’re awestruck and humbled just looking at them, trying to grasp what they are, how beautiful and amazing they are.

But I don’t think they aspire to that.  In other words, I don’t believe that greatness or majesty is their aspiration, even though both are their achievements.  Instead, it seems to me that they simply have the desire, the patience and the persistence to grow and to never stop trying to keep growing.

… and that if that’s what any of us have going on, we get the same deal.  No matter what we may or may not achieve, how long we have to plod on without what look like results to ourselves or anyone else, even on the days no one recognizes all we’ve done, we’re at greatness and majesty because we grow and refuse to stop growing.

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Amongst other things, someone called me classist this week. Normally, I’d just write it off as totally stupid: I’m just not sure how you can grow up poor, stay poor, have times of homelessness, have no health insurance your whole adult life, not have part of anyone else’s income to rely on (including your parents and from an age where that’s unlawful), be unable to complete or enroll in educational programs because of poverty, have a homeless parent, work in and around shelter systems, et cetera, and be a socialist and be classist.  The claim also came from someone I know has very little right to make that claim and who made it out of malice.

Mind, we can be whatever-ist within a group where other people can be the same kind of -ist to us. For instance, living in Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago, I heard more than my fair share of racism from my neighbors towards Black people, even though both groups are deeply impacted and oppressed by racism. I grew up hearing my mother’s Irish family talk about my Italian Dad, and even myself now and then, in a profoundly racist way (which you and I know isn’t a race issue, but good luck explaining that to my mother’s parents). Both downtrodden groups/families because of poverty and immigration stuff, but that didn’t stop them from the slurs any. I have also met more than one misogynist woman in my day, to say the least. So, it’s possible, I know. It’s just one of those things where in my case, I have never felt like this one was an -ism I needed to watch out for taking part in myself, save when it comes to how I think of and treat people who live at incomes greater than mine.

But it crept under my skin all the same, most likely in part because I had some feelings earlier this week that were bad enough, though the realization about them was worse, and it fed into those feelings.

I’m in this place where the rent is basically the same my last rent was. My share is $600 here, after $400 goes for rent of the office. That’s even $300 a month less than the rent at the old place was about to be with an incoming increase. I also expect my utility bills to be substantially lower here than they were in the last place.

At the last place, I got to pay all that and go a winter with broken heat and everything else falling down on me. Even in summer, it was bitter cold at night from all the drafts due to 100-year-old windows and walls. I had to fix things on my own all the time, and things were constantly breaking. Often, in fixing or tending to things, I was not able to deduct costs from my rent. I probably don’t have to tell a lot of people here that’s hardly an uncommon experience. I, maybe like plenty of you, especially living in cities, have paid for broken or falling-apart places more than once.

In the new place, I’m paying a reasonable personal rent for something that is NOT falling down. Sure, it’s rural, so that’s part of the deal. The economy sucking is likely another part (otherwise, rent would likely be a lot higher, or the owner would be able to sell this house).  Not only is this place not falling down, it is AMAZING. It’s beautiful, it’s clean, and someone redid tons of it to the apparent specifications of James Bond.

Seriously, maybe living in old, run-down places all my life I just haven’t kept up with the times, and all newer places are exploding with gadgets like this.  But I don’t think so.

Here’s the gadget roster so far:

  • Lights, everywhere. The living room/kitchen/loft area alone has 18 different fixtures, all built in, controlled by  10 different switches, some with tiny dimmers next to the switch.
  • In-floor heating, with a thermostat you can program to go on and off at different temps at different times of day, including making a given setting for weekdays vs. weekends.
  • A stacking, front-loading washer and dryer, also with programmable timers.
  • Disability-accessible door handles.
  • Windows that open with nice, working levers, not with every ounce of energy you have in a day.
  • Drawers with back magnets so you only have to nudge them and they pull in (suffice it to say, this house is very, very well-equipped when it comes to my hand disability).
  • A dishwasher and fridge, both working, spacious and shiny.  The fridge makes ice and has a water filter, as well as drawers you can set for fruit or veg.
  • Hookups built into the walls for speakers, throughout the house.
  • Vents in both bathrooms.
  • A functioning compost bin (which sure, isn’t really a gadget, since it’s as low-tech as it gets, but I’ve never been able to have one I didn’t have to build, so).
  • A sprinkler system in case of fire.
  • A working and properly vented woodstove.
  • Outlets EVERYWHERE (that huge box of extension cords I brought will be gathering dust).
  • An in-wall vacuum cleaning system including a spot in the floor of the kitchen where you can sweep your dust pile over, move the switch with your foot, and it sucks it right up.  I am so not kidding.

I say “so far” because the property manager told us she’d come by soon and show us how to work the house.  That sounded silly to me until we started finding all of these gadgets.  There may be some we don’t even know about yet.

Anyway, when I was packing up last week, I got seized by this really intense feeling I can only describe as abject-stupid with a heaping dose of institutionalized guilt on the side.

I felt very certain I did not deserve to live here. I had moments of panic and worry that this was some kind of cosmic joke, and that I’d get here and it would be made clear I’d been punked, as expected. Even in saying this, and hearing how ridiculous it sounds, some part of me is still wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. Intellectually, I knew and know better, but my brain had little impact on my emotions.  In the midst of that feeling, I was seized with this equally foolish feeling of being a charlatan of sorts; of not only having something I shouldn’t and probably am just imagining, but having something that, despite costing no more, somehow makes me a traitor to the other people in my life and outside it who grew up the way I grew up and who live on the level of income I have and do.

Here’s one of the seriously stupid parts of this. Most places where I have lived before have been crap. In crap neighborhoods or crappy places or both. I have managed to make most places I have lived in, even the crappiest of the crappy, nice enough. I don’t tend to mind that, because I’m a creative person, so see it as a creative opportunity. But the thing is that none of that is free, either. It costs money, time and effort to do that. The pain and the brushes cost. The fabric costs. Whatever furniture you don’t dumpster dive costs.  Cleaning all the time because a place is in horrible shape costs. Spending days and days painting takes a lot of time. None of those things are free, and they all add to the “bargain” cost of a crappy place. As inane as it’s going to sound, for some reason, none of that resonated until now, which really is quite dumb, because it certainly always has had a palpable impact on my wallet which was impossible to overlook.

We came here and….well, nothing needs to be done. It’s already very clean. The pain isn’t chipping off the walls, the floors aren’t falling apart. There are light fixtures everywhere, making most of my lamps unnecessary. I probably have a good five boxes of stuff I just didn’t even need to move here: stuff I have accumulated over the years to makes places liveable that didn’t have what one needed in them to live there.

And yet, here I am, in this beautiful place that not only costs me around the same as other places, but which will probably wind up costing me less, sorting through these feelings. They’re going away fast enough, but that they take up any real estate in my mind at all really bothers me and makes me upset with myself, upset with anywhere I ever got any messaging to support these feelings. Particularly since what I’d like is to just be able to enjoy the place, my good luck and good fortune and have a chance in my life NOT to be stressed out about where I live, but to have a place of peace, solace and function to call home. I’d prefer not to have to keep telling myself that I got a two-year lease, and need to accept that after these two years, I may not be able to live this well again, that that’s okay, but that I also need to not take a second of this for granted or I’ll be a ungrateful (to whom?) asshole.

The big epiphany in all of this that has me really steamed? It seems entirely possible that I could have been living somewhere similar to this way before now, just like I am now without needing any more income than I have to make it happen. I realize that it’s been bred and manufactured into me to feel like I’m feeling, to be sure I can’t do any better, to be sure that this was simply beyond my means and my ability. Plus, I have been way too receptive to suggestions or accusations that I need to be keeping down with the Joneses, as it were, and living the way someone of my means “should” be living, which is to say, poorly. I’ve also had so many messages that so many other people had it as bad, or that someone else had it worse, and took those so seriously, this is an area of my own life I’ve not really allowed myself to sit with, accept and unpack, sorting out what from it I need to heal from and work to get past.

Mind, sometimes we just can’t do better than we think we can. Back in the mid-nineties when a few stupid choices and a really bad set of financial circumstances hit me, I was thisclose to being back on street or needing to be in shelters. A parent from the school I once ran offered me a place that was really pretty crap: no heat, cement floors, no security, the works. But not only was it kind, and what I could afford, I do think it was the best I was going to do at that time with no time to find other options, and no services available for me. I called around everywhere in a frenzy, including to social services, and was just shit out of luck. This included a phone call where a woman at social services suggested that if I got pregnant, I could get benefits I didn’t have, so that might be the time to consider that. I wish I were kidding, and also wish I were kidding when I tell you that when I asked if she had any sense of the impact statements and suggestions like that made on people on welfare, or of what kind of effed up suggestion that was to choose parenting, she was completely unconcerned.

I was also without the kind of freedom then I have now per flexibility in where I can work, which is a pretty huge freedom that makes a very big difference (though Blue reported that his commute yesterday was no big deal at all). I was locked into a low-paying internship I really, really needed to finish to get job training if I had hopes of not living that way anymore. Again, I had also made some idiotic and reactive choices that very much limited my options.

But when you grow up poor, stay poor, and absorb the messages you get poor and from other poor people who have clearly all also been institutionalized, you hear a whole lot more about your limitations than your options. Same goes double for growing up with one poor parent who was a social justice activist. (A la, “It’s fine we don’t have things we need.  Good people are the people who don’t have things. Only bad people who oppress other people have things.”) Out of necessity, there’s a solidarity that forms between everyone that in some ways can be very positive and supportive, but in other ways can assure everyone is kept down and stays down. People who try and reach a little further can be put down by others with suggestions one “thinks they’re better” than those who either are in a place of absolute stuck at the moment, or who have simply given up trying to claw and crawl out, which is a weariness I understand and have experienced. Again, if you grew up like this or around this, or within other systems of oppression, I’m saying things totally old hat to you.

Yes, there are also messages that if you just work hard enough, then you can move ahead.  But since those messages also sound a lot like “You’re only poor because you’re lazy…” or “If you just worked harder, you’d be doing better,” things we know often are simply not true, they’re not very effective messages. Plus, again, sometimes working more or harder works and does help you get a leg up. Other times, it only makes you more tired and just as poor, sometimes even more poor, depending.

I think a lot of this stuff was why my father was freaking out so much about this. Over the last month and some, since we decided to move here, it got to the point where I was having to spend an hour or two on the phone with him daily to assure him this was a good place where everything really was nice and not broken, where we’d be able to eat and be safe: he really didn’t believe it could be within my budget, either.  I had to tell him again and again how big the island was, how I could take a ferry or water taxi to the city, how we do have a downstairs neighbor, how I have my bike, a phone, how there is a grocery store and other people who live here, and so on. Considering we spent some of the poorest years of both of our lives together, including two years in a row where our ghetto apartment literally flooded with sewage from the drain outside it, that attitude and fear is unsurprising. Considering that more than once my father’s “good fortune” really WAS an illusion, I get it a bit more now.  Next time I call him, I’m going to bring all of this up: I think the two of us both have so much of this kind of baggage that we’d benefit from hashing it out together.

I’m not asking for reassurances with this, by the way.  In fact, I think it’s really important that I work on providing them for myself, rather than getting them externally. I also don’t have any grand conclusions here I can draw: mostly what I needed was to try and exorcise some of this, which I’m hoping will at least unpack some of it from my head.

It’s a beautiful day here. Given, even when it’s rainy and grey, it still looks beautiful here, but today the sun is out, the green is blinding and the air is warm.  I’m a bit behind on work because despite all the gadgets, the phone and ‘net didn’t work here for four days.  But right now, I think catching up some more can wait one more hour so that I can get outside.  My appreciation — the earnest kind, not the guilt-ridden variety — is not just about the indoor space here, but about where that space is, nestled so wonderfully into such lush woods just waiting to be explored.  I think it’s pretty obvious that this move, this space, this place all have a lot of lessons to give me that I need, around the issues I talked about today as well as others.  One of them it seems particularly well-equipped to assist is in my willingness to take care of myself and my making that a greater priority. I don’t have to pay a fee to go see the museum that is right outside, find a ride and hours or days to get to somewhere like this, or acquire something I don’t have.

I just need to put on some shoes, open the door and walk right out into exactly what I need. Which is what I’m going to go do right now.

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Ugh, moving.  Always such a joy, especially for a disorganized magpie.

However, the last few mornings when I’ve woken up, grabbed my coffee, a smoke and the dogs to sit out on the porch as I do, I have been able to remind myself that very soon, my view will not involve asphalt, speeding cars and a ton of parked cars, loud sirens and garbage cans.  After the age of six, and up until now, this has been what I have seen every morning of my life, excepting the times I was able to go camp or otherwise escape to greener pastures very temporarily. That’s 34 years of urban life, my friends, which feels longer every day, especially the more urban starts to involve a lot of drywall and shiny-plastic-business and look more and more suburban in a lot of ways.

The knowledge that in a week I will wake up, go outside and see only forest sans asphalt, maybe a speeding chipmunk or two or a parked deer, or hear a bunch of loud frogs (the area of the island we’re living in apparently is chock full of frogs for a month or two every year) is DIVINE.

My coziest coffeeshop here in my current hood, where people were earnestly friendly, closed a couple months ago (RIP Mr. Spots Chai House).  The folks at the closest one to our new place, what’ll be about a 4-mile bike ride, which works just fine for me, already greet us warmly, even though we have only been in there a few times.  It’s also NOT across from a monstrously-sized condo development.  We already know our neighbor, and she’s friendly and hilarious and did this crazy thing where she said hello and talked to us, something the vast majority of my neighbors here, where I have lived for four years, have yet to do, even when I say hello first.  Half the time, given the reaction I get, you’d think I’d said “Fuck you, poopyhead,” instead of “Good morning!”

I’m looking forward to what I also hope will be the stretchier way time moves when you’re out in the mostly-middle-of-nowhere.  I just have had so little time for myself lately that wasn’t about work, and only work-work, not my creative work.  It’s also been so hard to keep up with calls and letters to friends over the last year, which I hate. I want some of that other time back, please.  I’ve also physically and psychologically felt very detached from the rhythms and flow of the seasons and the outdoors lately, which always puts me out-of-sorts.  Want that closer relationship back, too.

That all said, it is weird to be leaving this house and this city at the same time.  I’ve never lived in a city where I only lived in one place in it, for starters.  Even in only six years in Minneapolis, I lived in four different places. I also worry for this old place, clearly struggling to keep itself together with little help.  Vainly, I’m hoping the new folks keep a lot of the things I did to make it lovely intact, like the hand-painted wallpaper I did in two of the rooms and the bursting meadow our front. Of course, I have to let go of any attachment to that.  But still.

I’ve also had some moments of panic realizing that I have never moved where there is a boat involved. What if the ferry with our moving truck on it sinks, taking my piano, my photographs and all of my material life with it? It’s a silly worry, I know, but every now and then I get this vision of the next-to-last scene from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou in my head and cannot get it out.  Now that I think of it, it’s an especially silly worry since both sides of my family came over here on big ferry boats, too, even though they came from islands (or almost-island: the Italian side were living in Venice when they emigrated, so) TO a mainland, instead of the opposite way around. Maybe I just need to think of myself as following a family tradition, which could be good since most of our family traditions are not at all pleasant and should be avoided at all costs.

Between packing, moving and unpacking, possible hiccups in getting everything set up and connected, and the strong desire to just settle into the hammock once we get there and never come out, I anticipate a silence from me for the next couple of weeks.

Thanks to everyone who gave me some tips on professional no-saying, by the way.  Very much appreciated and highly helpful!  Also, if you haven’t seen them via my Flickr feed already, there are some pics up of the new place to peek at here.

Bon voyage to me!

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

(Cross-posted from the Scarleteen Blog)

I moved to Seattle around four years ago from Minneapolis, where I lived for six years after leaving my hometown of Chicago. Growing up in Chicago, living in Minnesota and after an early childhood on the east coast, I was used to old things, to history, to a total lack of shiny-and-new. Growing up poor and in a number of far less-than-ideal living situations, my normal in how and where I lived was often pretty rough around the edges, and often involved a lot of effort from me, typically more than my fair share.

Seattle, however, is kind of the land of shiny-and-new. Almost every place I looked at when I was apartment-hunting felt sanitized and kind of like Barbie’s Dream House to me: without my kind of character and so already-finished that I didn’t see where there was room for my own stamp in them. The allure of the fixer-upper was nowhere to be found. I’ve always liked fixing places up that anyone else would see as hopeless: it’s a challenge, and a situation where I might have the ability to feel like I’m awesome because I took something shitty and made it fantastic. I’ve always felt more at home in places that were a bit of a disaster, probably because that’s just what I was used to, but whatever.

As it turns out, I found this house to rent that seemed amazing: it was over 100 years old, and in a neighborhood that at the time, had more old character and charm than new stuff. It had a ton of kooky little quirks I found really charming. It needed a bunch of work done to potentially make it nice, but it had the raw materials to be something awesome with work. I didn’t think twice about how quickly the landlord rented it out to me, because I wanted it, so that just seemed like serendipity. Like this was meant to be my house, to the point that I had this idea that had anyone else tried to rent it, it would not have been so easy for them.

I did do a lot of creative work with it, though not as much as I’d have liked to. I just didn’t have the time or the resources to do so much of it mostly on my own. As well, even from the start, I should have seen some red flags I just didn’t. For instance, while I was so into working on it, my housemate wasn’t as invested in that as I was. I should have recognized that when a landlord says you can just do whatever you want with a place with no limits, they’re either not being truthful or just don’t care much about the place. I also had to pay some of the costs of fixing it up, rather than the landlord paying me to do labor he should have done himself.

As the years went by, more things kept falling apart and breaking. I tried to keep up with them mostly on my own, especially since when I asked for help, what was given was either substandard or radio silence. Within a year, my lease also got shifted to a month-to-month lease, meaning that the landlord could ask me to go pretty much anytime with very little notice. Having survived that exact situation more than once in my life, and so barely, that felt horribly unstable, but I just accepted it instead of trying hard to assert my needs. Still, I felt more comfortable here than I thought I would have felt moving, both because moving or any kind of big start-over is so hard, and because this place felt so familiar, not just with its style and age, but with it’s whole vibe: I’ve lived almost all of my life in places that were falling apart or neglected. I was used to that, and however uncomfortable that as, something about that did feel like home.

Last year, it finally became clear that I could drive myself batty trying to keep this place liveable and it just wasn’t going to happen. I spent a winter without working heat in half the house, wrapped up in blankets all day working in front of a space heater.  The basic fixtures kept breaking. There were leaks, including one that nearly took down my kitchen ceiling, and a lack of insulation that cost me more money in bills than I have to spend. One day, I was so frustrated with two things that broke that I just gave up, went to get myself a glass for some wine, and when I opened the cabinet, the door fell off in my hand. On top of my house falling apart all around me, I didn’t even like the city it was in very much, and my neighborhood had also changed radically during the time I lived here in ways I did not like at all, and was not going to change back. I sank to the floor in a pile of tears, already upset due to building stress from managing work and some other huge changes in my life. It all felt so hopeless, and I so felt trapped in it, especially since at the time, moving wasn’t an option I felt I could handle financially or practically.

But why was I staying in a city I didn’t really like in the first place? Why was I staying in a house that was falling apart all around me more and more? Why did I keep trying to convince myself I could fix everything when I knew I couldn’t, or that my landlord would suddenly do all kinds of things he’d never done? Why did I keep focusing on the small things that I loved about the house when the big things were so awful? Why was I investing more and more money, effort and love into something where getting a real return on that investment was about as likely as a million dollars falling from the sky? Why was I staying so focused on what this house could be, rather than focusing on the way it actually was and was most likely to remain? Why was I accepting a total lack of help from the people who should be helping me with it while ignoring some potential help others could have given me to be somewhere better? I’m a smart person: why on earth was I being so stupid?

Ultimately, I think it came down to the fact that I was so bogged down and overspent with a lot of things in my life, including this damn house. On top of everything else I was dealing with, the idea of feeling displaced from any kind of home at all, even a poor one, just seemed like too much. I had taken part in digging myself in deeper and deeper into a pit: having to take responsibility for the place I was keeping myself in was harder than being unhappy, but being able to pin it entirely on what the house was doing, what my housemate and landlord were not doing. I had gotten attached and stayed so attached to the “what-ifs” and had invested so much time, money and heart into this place: I was having trouble accepting my hopes for it were simply never going to come to fruition because it seemed like such a waste. I had gotten scared of making a change, and had strangely managed to forget that I was capable of making it and had done so many times before in my life, even when it was harder than this was now. I had become comfortable in being uncomfortable.

In a few weeks, I’m moving out.

I’m leaving this house and this city for one of the beautiful small islands just outside of it. For many years no, I’ve talked about how I’ve spent almost all of my life in very urban areas, yet when I needed peace, it’s rural areas I’ve gone to to find it, and so I felt I might actually be a lot happier living rurally. The way my workday most often is, I can actually get away with only needing to go into the city a few times a month for work, so it is doable. Because it’s just a short ferry ride into the city, I can be rural here while also having easy access to the city. I found a place to move to with almost the exact same rent as I’m paying now, but where everything works and nothing is broken. Sure, it’s only 20 years old, so that feels and looks unfamiliar to me, but it’s beautiful inside and out. I will literally get to wake up every day and walk out into the forest, which is heaven on earth to me. As is often the case, if we can shake ourselves out of our miasma, we can usually identify not only ways to get out of it, but ways that getting out can be part of pursuing more of what we’ve wanted and had as goals all along.

Of course, this means my having to pack up everything and move again. It means money spent on moving and resettling, which is always a major strain. It means all the practical, tiresome crap you have to do to relocate. That means risking that a new place or space may or may not be better than the old one in some ways, even though it most certainly will be in other ways. That means having to deal with change, which even when it’s positive, is often uncomfortable and scary.

You may perhaps be wondering why I’m going on here at Scarleteen about my move. I’d be wondering, too.

I only just realized one of the big things that got me to these realizations about my house were conversations with some of you about your unhealthy, abusive or otherwise crummy relationships. So, I figured the least I owed you for that epiphany was the possibility of doing you the same turn, especially since your bad relationships have the capacity to screw you and your life up you a whole lot more than my bad house has the capacity to screw me and my life up.

We often have users come to Scarleteen who are in abusive, unhealthy, dysfunctional or craptastic relationships. Most of the time, you do know they’re bad before we talk with you about them. Sometimes, you don’t realize how bad until we talk, or have been trying to hold unto denials or the hopes that the relationship will just get better, either by some kind of magic, by someone who has never made any effort miraculously starting to, or by you, yourself, going nuts to try and make something bad into something good alone. Just like me, with this house.

I could stay here. My rent would keep going up and the house would keep costing me more and more while it all kept falling apart around me. I could put in continued effort while my landlord kept putting in less and less. I could freeze through another winter, trying to keep myself warm with the memory of the heat that used to work, the way the house probably was 50 years ago, the beautiful changes I made that could never quite get all finished but still might, and the hopes I had for this house, when it felt like nothing but lovely and positive possibility. I could stay here and risk the whole ceiling caving in on my head, which has become a real possibility.

You could stay where you’re at, too. You could stay and, at best, things would stay just as bad or as substandard as they are now or, more realistically, you could stay and they would keep getting worse. You could stay and keep investing more and more while getting less and less. You could freeze through another winter, trying to keep yourself warm with your hopes, those past feelings of possibility, and the time when things did seem okay, shutting out the reality which has made clear that those hopes will only ever be hopes. You could stay and risk someone abusive and unhealthy doing you the kind of harm that you can’t come back from, which is often a real possibility.

I could stay, and so could you. But I can also go. I can take the chance and the risk of something better, remember or learn what I’m really capable of. I can get the hell out of here and do the grieving I need to about what could have been, but wasn’t, and move forward, putting my time and effort and energy into something or somewhere much more likely to be worth that kind of investment. I can move into something that doesn’t need fixing now or right from the onset. I can step outside my comfort zone and likely wind up feeling more comfortable once the dust settles, rather than less. So can you.

I know that it’s hard as hell to leave a bad or abusive relationship, especially the longer you’ve been in it, the more hopes you tacked on to it, the more promises you believed, the more your whole life got sucked into it and tethered to it. It’s harder still if you have managed to convince yourself or allowed yourself to be convinced that any or all parts of the abuse are love or some kind of natural and unavoidable consequence of your existence.

I could tell myself that he floor that is wasting away in this house was once so, so beautiful, and old things just need my love to be better. I could convince myself that if I made more money, or chose to do something else with my life than I do, I’d not be in this house, I’d be able to have kept it running better, or able to have been more assertive with my landlord. I could figure that all of this would be something I could handle if I had done things differently and had more to fall back on. But I didn’t, so this is why this is happening, right?  This is what I am solely responsible for and stuck with, right?

Wrong. My house is falling apart because before I even got here people who were supposed to take care of it well didn’t. It’s falling apart because it needs a kind of help that my love or my residency can’t provide. For sure, I have some responsibility in what happened here: I could have moved out earlier if I’d have asked more people for help, if I’d taken some positive risks earlier — and maybe even put myself in a temporary space to be able to do that that wasn’t great, but helped me get closer to being able to make positive changes. All the same, while I’m responsible for not changing my circumstances when I could, what I’m not responsible for is for this house not housing me well, just like you’re not responsible for any way someone abused or mistreated you. You’re just responsible for doing all you can to get away from it to a place that’s safe, sound and where your love, effort and care will be returned in kind.

Am I going to miss things about this old house, this neighborhood, this city? Absolutely. There’s an old clawfoot bathtub here that is divine, even though the faucet never stops leaking. I made a great garden here and a meadow up front. I painted things here that are very creative and cool and have my unique stamp: I hate to leave them, they feel like part of me. I have routines here. I have a couple places I go here that I really like. I’ll be further away from a couple of friends. But I’ll deal: new places offer new things to value. When I’m honest with myself, it’s impossible to deny that what I’ll be missing the most was how things were when I first moved in, when the bloom wasn’t off the rose. When my feelings about everything were painted with the exceptional spackle that a sense of possibility is and the desire for something great can be. I had hopes for this house, but they didn’t come to fruition.  That sucks, but it also happens in life, and usually more than once. You accept it, your brush your knees off, and then you find new hopes, hopefully getting a little better each time at identifying where those hopes are more likely to become realities.  You also accept that we’ve got to take risks for the good stuff.

It may be that the change I’m about to make, the next place I’m going, turns out similarly. I’m pretty sure it won’t, because I’ve applied some lessons I learned from this. I’ve set it up, for instance, so that I have a long-term lease: I made clear from the start I refused to sign unto something month-to-month, because I know that doesn’t provide me the stability I need and know I deserve to have my needs met. I recognized that getting a better place, a more functional place, meant the screening process and the way in took more time and was not quite as easy as getting this place was, and I accepted that. I’ve made sure that nothing needs to be fixed by me: walking into this new place, everything already works and nothing is already broken. I’ve asked for help and support from the people around me in my transition, and they’re glad to provide it. I’m leaving things behind here that I just don’t need or that I know hinder me.

Sure, it’s more shiny-and-new than I’m used to, it’s somewhere I haven’t lived before, and I’m going to have to learn to do some things well I’m not yet good at. And maybe the forest that has always felt like a great refuge for me won’t feel the same when it’s where I live instead of where I visit.  It’s totally possible. If and when we do things differently, apply what we’ve learned and make choices based on goals we’ve had for ourselves… that’s when we tend to net different results, better results.

While my move comes with some question marks, continuing to stay here comes with few. The trouble is, the certainty in staying is all about being sure that, at best, things would stay exactly as crap as they are. What’s even more likely is that they’d get crappier. When we’re honest with ourselves, we all know something falling apart is going to stay falling apart once  we’ve done all we can to try and repair it with no results. I have to recognize that things would get worse if I stayed: more things would fall apart, and I’d get more and more hopeless and trapped, especially since the longer I stay, the tougher it is to go.

Am I scared? You bet. Big changes are scary, even when they’re potentially good ones. Even as someone who has taken many big risks in her life and gone through a lot of changes, big change never really stops being scary. I’m nervous and scared and I feel a bit unsteady on my feet, even though I’m moving toward something I have wanted and dreamed about, something that very clearly is far more likely to be positive and better.

So I keep reminding myself that this is living. Trying new things, taking risks that seem likely to be beneficial, stepping outside my comfort zone in pursuit of personal growth and positive change, is all of what being alive is all about. I shouldn’t feel stuck in the ground until I’m six feet under, after all. Staying stuck, sticking with anything that clearly isn’t working, avoiding what’s new and unknown is the antithesis of living: it’s refusing to be fully alive. That’s not who I am, and I’m sure it’s not who any of you are.

I know that my house isn’t exactly your relationship, particularly since, as an object, it doesn’t have the ability to have the kind of power over me another person could have, and I also couldn’t get as attached to it as I could to another person.  While the conditions of my house are awful, my house itself can’t manipulate me or try and control me. My house isn’t doing anything maliciously, nor does it know it’s treating me horribly and trying to rationalize it or someone make it’s actions seem like my fault. My house also doesn’t have the capacity to fix itself, unlike whoever you’re in a relationship with.

My house isn’t calling me names, isn’t telling me I’m stupid or a slut, isn’t accusing me of things I haven’t done or trying to control where I go or who I talk to. My house isn’t trying to keep me from my friends, family or other people who care about me and would make sure I’m always safe; my house isn’t trying to limit me in what I do in my life so that it can feel superior to me or make it tougher for me to go. My house isn’t destroying my cherished belongings on purpose. My house isn’t hitting or punching me, isn’t raping me or trying to coerce me into sex or pregnancies I don’t want. My house isn’t doing horrible things to me and telling me I asked for them. My house, itself, didn’t actually make me any promises it knew it couldn’t keep. My house also doesn’t have the capacity to choose what it does or doesn’t do, and isn’t actively choosing to treat me badly. It earnestly can’t help or change the state that it’s in, unlike the person who is failing or abusing you who has chosen not to work on themselves to get better and to stop hurting you, others and themselves. My house isn’t telling me that I couldn’t do better, that it’s as good as it gets. My house will let me leave a bad situation without trying to trick or force me into staying in something where I’m going to continue to be harmed.

My house isn’t your relationship or your partner. If any of those things are happening to you in your relationship, your house, as it were, is in a much worse state than mine is. Which begs the big question: why are you staying when I’m leaving?

Like I said, I know leaving a bad relationship is hard, and that leaving an abusive relationship is even harder. I’ve been in that spot (which is some of why I feel so bothered by how it took me so long to recognize the problems with this house), and have had friends there, too. If you need help in leaving, come and ask for it. You can ask me or one of the staff here and we’ll be happy to help you find local resources to help you out, you can call any number of hotlines, look up your local domestic violence/intimate partner violence shelter or support group or you can ask the people you know really love and care for you for help, being honest with them about what’s going on.

But if you don’t want to freeze through another winter, have the roof cave in on you or wind up more and more trapped in your interpersonal version of this sad, crumbling house, then you’ve got to take at least one step that’ll get you to the kind of space that will earnestly be a good home for your heart and your spirit, even if those first steps feel shaky or your knees knock when you take them. I deserve and am worthy of that. So are you.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

There are haps for telling. Here’s what they be.

Friday, Blue and I went over to one of the islands, despite it absolutely pouring rain all day.  Knowing we were going to do that, and figuring what the hell, I made a couple appointments for us to see some rentals over there.  We’re not yet ready to move, but I have been looking at ads weekly for a year now, so it seemed time to at least get started, even if we’d be seeing things available way too soon for us.

And the very first place we saw, the first rental I have even looked at on this particular island — which is my island of choice — was PERFECT.  Beyond perfect, honestly.  I have maybe looked at one or two places as nice as this one to rent in my life, and I have never lived in anything even close to this nice.  Even in my dreams about places to live, things are broken or falling apart. Ungodly amazing kitchen with zinc counters and sink, maple shelves and this huge island, open to the living/dining room that is almost entirely windows, floor to ceiling, looking into a gorgeous garden and then the woods.  Loft over all of that.  The office has big stones built into the floor with radiant heat, french doors open unto a side deck the size of the downstairs of my rental now.  Two good bedrooms (the only place there is the wall-to-wall carpet that pretty much covers the whole Pacific Northwest: dunno what is with people and the carpeting here). Two beautiful bathrooms, one with the shower to die, which seems magical compared to the truly gross makeshift shower stall that was added into this place. Very creative little bits everywhere, and everything in good repair. The way the house is set, situated and designed, it feels like being in a big treehouse. The windows are NOT from decades ago, unlike the ones here which are the cause of my weeping when heating bills come in. Dog-friendly.  Smoking only outdoors, but whatevs: I need a new motivation to cut down. Only bit more a month than rent now, a cost that would undoubtedly be offset by the heat actually staying in the house.  Plus, no more fucking month-to-month lease like I have been dealing with, and which leaves me feeling totally unstable. Oh, and a working woodstove, unlike my sad, sad useless one now, which has sat gathering dust over the last year because the chimney here is toast.

Our view is into the woods, and the house is too, with some other houses nearby, but a very generous distance between, however, it’s around a half-mile walk downhill and you’re right at the beach.

We both feel in mad love with the place, which created rollercoaster waves of joy to sorrow, since we were just looking too damn soon.  Went and saw another place, way too big, in an area that felt suburban instead of rural, and some of the scariest wallpaper I have ever seen in my life.  Plus, it just had bad vibes.  Me no likey.

But wait! Since I’d asked about extended leases, the agent called us back later that day to say that was an option, which is when we found out it wasn’t going to even be available until June or July. We gasped.  We sat agape. We jumped and giggled.  And we all but ran home to do a bunch of math and other logistics then filled out the application.  Exciting, but honestly, this place is so nice and so freaking perfect, that it felt very fantastical to do this, because I still really wasn’t believing the rent was what I pay now.  So, app turned in, but we were both seriously managing our expectations and I, personally, just figured some shoe or another would drop.

Got a call today: this ungodly amazing baby be ours to rent, potentially for as long as an initial two-year lease.  Haven’t signed it yet, but the agent says so long as we still wanted it (umm, yes) we could rent it. So, unless something exceptionally weird and unexpected happens, we’re moving to one of the islands this summer.  And I finally have something other than a feeling of dread about being on a month-to-month lease here.

I’m waiting for that paper in my hand to let it really sink in that I finally am getting to do spend some of my life living full-time somewhere where my backyard is a forest, where the sounds I hear at night and in the morning are water and wildlife (and I’m not talking about the pets), and where I get to be all the way in the kind of environments I’ve previously only been able to be in when I am in desperate need of respite and solace and peace.  I can have my coffee outside in the morning in the freaking trees. I can take breaks by grabbing my camera and galoshes and sticking my nose into wildflowers. And all just a short ferry ride into the city.  When the paper is signed and that actually sinks in, my head may well explode.

It’s a leap we’re taking here, and a chance. I mean, it is possible that this idea I have had for a long time that almost a whole life spent urban needs to shift massively to the radically different environments I tend to think I feel more at home in is patently incorrect.  It may be I don’t like it at all, but you know, even if that’s true, I need that answer. If nothing else, it’ll be a much-needed sabbatical of sorts.  Plus, the house here will just not stop falling apart. I have loved this old place, so full of character, but at the same time, I don’t love a winter with broken heat, a door that I have to fight with for twenty minutes to lock or unlock, the carriage house leaning so precariously I’m sure one morning I’m just going to find it toppled sideways in the backyard or any of the other problems.  Being month-to-month in a neighborhood rife with development, it’s gotten to the point where I’m scared to even ask to have anything fixed for fear the landlord will figure he should just sell (or tired of asking for things that just never get fixed).  We’ve looked at some places in the ‘hood here in case it seemed like the islands just couldn’t happen this year, but everything we have seen has cost much more than we pay now for much less space and often no character.

Obviously, this will also be a bit easier for me, who only needs to go work outside the house a few times a month than Blue, but we did the stopwatching, and it’s still only about an hour’s commute, and a far prettier one than the one he has now.  Plus, he feels it’s way worth it.

So, there you go!  For the record, I’ve decided I like the sound of living “on one of the islands.”  As in, “Heather Corinna lives on a crunchy little island across the pond from Seattle.” Obviously, friends will know which one, and at some point, I’ll probably give it away without meaning to, but I like the very silly mystery and the sense of reclusiveness (and let’s face it, safety) not naming it publicly might offer.  I figure I’ll keep Scarleteen’s mailing addie somewhere in the city just for my own safety and to keep things from getting too claustrophobic,   so I get to keep my mystique.

Besides that big news, it’s otherwise just work-busy over here.  Working on the Our Bodies, Ourselves chap I’m writing for the next edition (still very exciting, but talk about difficulty avoiding perfectionism), working on the research, study and whatnot for the book proposal, and then doing everything else I do in a week, which is too much, per usual. Got taxes done early, which is nothing short of a miracle. That means I got the budget for the org laid out for next year, and while it’s not what I’d like it to be, it’s way better than it has been in previous years and far less panic-inducing. Haven’t been feeling all that hot lately health-wise, but I tell myself that this is another way the move will likely help. In case I hadn’t mentioned it, Blue would up getting a job at the teen shelter I do outreach for a couple months ago, and in typical form, is now managing the day shift there, and he loves it.  I certainly don’t require that anyone I’m this close to does activist or teen work, but I have to say, it’s very nice when it happens that way: it makes me feel a lot less isolated to have someone else get it so much.  Job aside, we’re still happy as two little clams over here, which is a little slice of heaven.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I just wanted to leave something from the past today for Blue more than for anyone else.  It’s a piece from around a year ago. Honestly, the both of us were going through hell, though his in a lot of ways was far worse than mine, or perhaps more to the point, some of his hells-of-yore just barely beginning the cleaning-up stage were very hard on both of us.

Life has been really good for us since Blue moved.  For the most part, crazy-good.  As stressed out as my work can make me sometimes, on the whole, our homelife has been such a solace, so much joy, so much fun.  We need to learn to leave the house more often when it comes to our leisure time, but I think we’ll manage that one, especially now that the weather is starting to improve.  But it taking so long for him to find work was exceptionally rough on him (in case I didn’t mention it, he wound up getting a job at the teen shelter where I do some outreach: major career change, but so far, he loves it).  As well, he’s still got a lot to unpack as well as dismantle from his previous relationship and everything that went down in it, as well as the dynamics that were part and parcel of it. His having to deal with those still when it comes to doing all that needs to be done to sever those ties has been really hard for him, and it breaks my heart.

We’ve talked about it, acknowledging we both knew that in some ways, it might have been better to wait for him to move until all the ink was signed over there and he’d had some more time to heal, but that we both really didn’t want to wait, and that was okay. I’m still glad we didn’t, especially given how many years we effectively had waited already. I’m glad to be his support in this, even though some of doing that means working through his learned responses to things from his marriage that just make so sense here and have no reason to come into play here.

Blue, like me, can be pretty rough on himself sometimes, and can sometimes go without acknowledging progress he’s made, or ways things have changed positively via his efforts.  I was revisiting some of our shared writing this morning from the last year and came across this, which seemed a pretty good time capsule to remind us both of how much easier things have gotten, as well as how much we’ve both weathered and come through just fine. Blue is an emotionally intense person, (again, like me), and that given, he tends to leave a lot of intensity in his wake.  Last year around this time it seemed to keep coming from every direction: a year and change later, things have calmed down a whole lot.

There are far fewer worms in our apple now, and to boot, we’ve got each other to lean on every day, rather than having month-long lapses where we both so acutely felt the lack of the other during a time when we needed one another so badly. We are ever-mighty, and only keep becoming all the more so.

in times of storm or drought

There are truths, and then there is truth
and they are not comparable.

It will matter to you — of course it matters,
as it would to anyone — to have facts
lined up neatly, linearly;
to have fictions exposed and
shelved with the rest of the world’s imagined stories,
great and not-so.
I understand that this matters,
it has mattered to me before, too,
but right now, for myself,
it is nearly irrelevant.

There is a truth
which is wordless, boundless, nonlinear.
It is messy, often inconvenient and untimely.
It expresses itself better in
childlike images painted with blood on the walls of caves
than in any one language,
sound or pretty symbol. There is neither
any clear way to affirm nor deny it,
no formula to affix that tangibly validates.
It is a truth rooted not in fact but faith,
and one which feels all the more true
when it fails every proof applied to it.

These other truths or untruths
have little relevance or particular weight:
when I sit them on a scale with
that larger truth, they fly up and away,
landing flat on their ass
as a much smaller-child does
when the biggest kid in school
comes by and idly slides
onto the other end of a see-saw.

That larger truth lives in an effortless
space, be it silent or full of
words, tears, moans, grasping hands,
linked gaze, difficult history,
absolute acceptance, loud frailties,
unresolveable conflicts and the primal
urge to merge completely.
It makes a home where I am at the same time shaken
and yet still as stone.

I feel it when you lock your mouth
to my breast; it lives in that illogical sense
of nourishing you from glands I know
provide nothing, do not leak
or swell, and yet
when I look down at the angel
suckling me, when I feel how,
in those moments,
I soften and you impel
a strength in me. I am a mother cat
then: should I perceive anyone to even think
of doing you harm, I know I would
hiss, scratch, repel.

It lives in the fact
that if either of us are going to have
white-hot, seething anger with anyone
it should be with each other,
however much we have recovered,
and yet, even when I seek it out,
it denies me access. It has dissolved
as easy and invisibly as dew at dawn.

It lives under the soles of my feet.
My legs have always been peasant-thick,
but there is a certain force of will and ground
like the roots of grand redwoods
which could not be felled by word or deed,
no matter how poisoned, and such a tiny axe
is impotent even to seek intrusion by carving in its own petty initials.
It does not require
firm nor solid ground to walk upon, and meets resistance
with the confident quiet of giants.

I look at who comes to tangle with me,
and some part of me cannot help
but laugh: it feels a delusion, a jest
for anyone, at this time, in this space,
to seek battle with me. I feel I can pick them off
and blow them away with a huff and a puff,
as I would a piece of lint on my shoulder.
When you stand, solid-legged
with an ancient blade in your hands,
there is a certain hilarity
when facing the barrel of a Nerf-gun.

None of this is to say
I like seeing a worm in my apples,
I don’t, and it does disturb.
The grey, turning parasite
sours my stomach when my mouth
should be watering.
There are moments in which
it has felt as if my bathroom door
was broken down, my diary read,
a horse’s head placed on my pillow.

There are moments today where I feel
as vulnerable and overexposed as you:
while I often want to shout us out to the sky,
I do not relish intimacies of mine
in the sweaty palms of crooks or liars;
nor a hole for peeking into my heart
shared with an eye seeking an eye.

* * *

When first we met, I had all the seeds
of what I’d become, but some had grown mold,
many had yet to find soil or water.
Some had been purposefully stolen, for fear
of how much bigger I’d become
than those making off with my possibility
in their greedy pockets. I have since
not only germinated, pollinated, blossomed, grown,
I have overtaken every small patch
I found myself planted in. I have spread far
by wind, by water, by fur and by paw:
I have dispersed
myself and become hardy enough
to be capable of withstanding any manner of conditions,
and flourish even when it is proclaimed improbable.

This is who I bring to you, to us, to this:
to everything.
I would wish
it is who I had brought before, save that
neither of us were that expansive yet.
We are now. This is who knows
that no smaller truths even when juxtaposed
speak as clearly as that wordless one,
who knows how something rich and lush can grow
even in the most inclement of weather.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Ugh, my poor old cat.

So, for those of who who have followed my pet sagas for the 10+ years I’ve been keeping this journal, I’m down to one. When I started writing here, I had four cats. In the interim, two have had to be euthanized — Rosie got severe kidney failure when she was 11, and I had to euthanize Rita when she was almost 20.  I had to find a different home for Rosie’s sister Zoe in ‘05 because after years of having her, I developed really intense allergies to her to the point I couldn’t even pet her anymore. Which leaves Flora.

People who know me in person know that Flora, while seemingly a very small calico cat, is actually an orange goldfish. (I’ll get to that in a second.) She’s almost 18 now. It was Flora who assigned herself the role of Sofia’s protector when she was a puppy and the other cats clearly wanted her dead. I earnestly watched one of my cats kick a knife off a counter when Sofia was walking under it once, I kid you not. Flora has always been tiny, never more than 8 pounds, but over the last few years, she’s been around 6.  At this point, I’m guessing five.

She’s been one of those old cats that will seem to be taking a turn for the worse, and you worry she’s starting to go, but then she’ll turn a corner out of nowhere and be totally fine for months.  Just the other night, I was saying that she seemed to be okay now, and that I might just get lucky and have a pet go, when she’s going to, in her sleep for a change, like my bunny did ten years ago. She’s still pretty spry, seems to hear and see okay, still eats decently.

I so shouldn’t have said that.  Two days ago, I found blood in her urine, and she keeps just going off by herself.  last night she was just acting really weird and listless.  I slept downstairs with her because I was so worried. She seems a little bit better this morning, but not much.  And I don’t know what to do.

When pets get really old, I don’t like to subject them to a lot of tests or treatments: it strikes me as needlessly unpleasant and painful for them.  With my cats, too, because they’re indoor, I have never done vaccines for them.  They seem to live longer when I don’t.  So, when I do have to take them to the vet, they often insist on those when I’d prefer not to.

I need to switch vets anyway.  The vet I have used for Sofia is very conveniently a few blocks away, but they’re expensive as hell, and I haven’t been very satisfied with them.  Sofi gets chronic ear infections.  Our vet in Minneapolis did great with these, just vacuuming out her ears now and then (with a machine our current vet doesn’t have), while I did gentle ear washes for her regularly.  This one keeps giving her the same round of meds that keeps not working, and isn’t open to trying anything else. I recently discovered there’s a naturopathic vet about 20 blocks away, so have been planning to give them a shot soon to see if I like them better.

So, the crux is, do I go ahead and make an appointment for both of them?  Or do I let Flora’s little old body either work through this like it has with other things before or let her just let go if that’s what’s going on?I have no idea, but I’m leaning towards taking her to the vet, in hopes that since this one is a naturopath, they’ll understand that a) I don’t want to do any vaccines and b) I don’t want to do any treatments for her which will ask a lot of her old body, or potentially cause her to suffer additionally in any way.

No matter what happens, Flora will be my last cat for a while, which is a strange thing. I’ve had cats since I found Rita starving to death under a van in the winter in 1988.  I’m actually not a cat person, but I have loved my cats, and when it came to being a renter in Chicago, dogs were totally out of the question. I had as many as I did due to a stray my college roomie brought in who promptly went into heat, screwed every other cat in a ten mile radius, and wound up pregnant in milliseconds: Rosie and Zoe were from that brood.

When I first started my little alternative school in ‘93, I did so with no capital at all. Nearly everything in there was either dumpster-dived or something I built with my hands. I was exceptionally proud of being able to make something out of nothing like that.  So, when one of my first wee students came in, cased the place, and remarked that it “wasn’t a real school” I was crestfallen.  In asking why, I was informed that real schools have orange goldfish in a bowl.  This little boy could not tell me the origin of this particular standard, but he was quite firm in it.

I tried to explain that I was horrible with fish, going right back to my first fish in the 5th grade, which I’d won at a school carnival.

My mother works in infection control, an amazingly perfect job for her because she is and has always been profoundly germaphobic. If she could have sprayed my sister and I head-to-toe with Lysol when we came in from playing, she would have. There was a year as a child where I kept a secret collection of pigeons under the nearby El tracks. Likely not knowing what I was doing with them, the man who ran the corner grocery would give me plastic milk crates and I set them up like a little aviary condo dealie back where no one could see. I’d grab old bread and whatnot from his dumpster and set the pigeons up there, sitting and playing with them when they came to hang out, making room assignments and gently moderating squabbles between neighbors. The volume and pitch of scream that issued from my mother’s mouth when she got off the El one day to catch of glimpse of her kid and walked back to find me with a dirty pigeon in each hand is one I have yet to ever hear the likes of again. If a casting agent for a B-movie had been nearby, he would have snapped my mother up instantly, heralding her a star. My evening at home after that day is an experience in scrubbing and sanitation I think only Karen Silkwood shared.

Anyway, unbenownst to me, when cleaning out my fish’s bowl, she felt the need to sanitize it in ways you are not supposed to. I came home one day, slipped my shoes off, went to check on my fish, and saw only a bowl with water in it: no fish.  In yelling to my Mom I couldn’t find him anywhere, I then felt a sickening squish between my toes.  Said fish had clearly suicidally jumped out of the bowl and unto the floor.  And I had stepped on him, and had to rinse pieces of him from my feet, bawling. No more fish for me for a long time.  later when I tried, no matter what I did, they always wound up floating belly-up.  I gave up on fish.

Even this story (told in a far less horrific way, mind) did not deter this kid. So, we agreed that we’d take a field trip to the pet store, the kids would learn how to take care of the fish so it could hopefully avoid my curse, and he would then agree he was, in fact, attending a “real school.”

Of course, did they have EVERY freaking color of fish that day but orange?  Of course they did. Then I hear the kid calling my name from across the store saying he found one. Thank christ. Except that when I got there, he was standing in front of a cage full of sleeping kitten, save one calico troublemaker pouncing on all of them, to their great annoyance. He’s pointing at her. I say that is a very cute cat. He says “She has orange.” I agree that she does have orange, but that she is a CAT, not a fish, and there are three cats at school already. He repeats that she has orange several times, firmly. I repeat my end of the conversation. We make no headway at all. I ask him if — if — we get said cat-with-orange if she will fulfill the requirement for an orange fish, a conversation one would only have with a four-year-old. He is quite certain she will.

And thus, we left with a very fluffy fish with orange who made our school real. Suffice it to say, as the token goldfish for a handful of kids, and the baby of a larger cat brood, she’s been through a lot and is a resilient little thing. It’s really sad to realize she may be getting to the end, here.

Like I said, she’ll also be the last for a while.  With the two dogs, now, and a possible move in the next year, less pets is better than more, and I’m also actually mildly allergic to most cats, so I’d like at least a few years without any skin rashes or sinus issues. But I’ve had cats my whole adult life (so has Blue: in fact, he was also there when Zoe and Rosie were born in our living room), and life without them seems strange.

I’m getting maudlin now, perhaps needlessly.  And I still need to decide what the heck to do about Flora right now.

Update:  I went ahead and took her into our existing vet, who was exceptionally great about seeing all of us on short notice, and with getting a look at her and giving me a set of options.

Ultimately, I decided to choose the option of having them take her overnight to get some fluids in her (she was way dehydrated), try and get her temp up (it was very low), try to get her to eat, and to run some tests to see what’s going on.  Euthanizing her today was put out there as an option, but without knowing if this is just about age, something terminal, something that would require a lot of care or suffering on her part, I wasn’t ready to make that call.  She also just wasn’t giving me the vibe that’s what she wanted, and the pets I have had to put down have all always done that.

1/31 Update: Friday afternoon I got Flora and brought her back home.  She no longer looked like (still doesn’t) she was moments away from death’s door.  The treatment they gave her for two nights seemed to make a really big difference, and they landed pretty soundly on a severe kidney infection diagnosis.

So, she needs IV fluids here at home indefinitely, which I think I can swing.  She’s still eating very little, but she is behaving a lot different and looks a lot better.  She’s got a little abode here in the living room on an ottoman with a heating pad, which she seems to like, and has walked around a little bit, too.

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The other day, a friend called to catch up with me and asked how I was.

I answered her by saying that the house won’t stop falling apart on me, that I’ve been beyond overworked and am scrambling to make ends meet, that I spent a week with what undoubtedly was H1N1 that flattened me utterly, but that otherwise, I’m seriously great.

Which is true, even in that context of not-at-all-great stuff.

Sorry to have been so absent. I was first gone for a while because of taking my Staycation, which I completely enjoyed, especially since half of it involved Blue’s arrival. Being able to have real time together without seeing and feeling the sands of the hourglass dwindle to an inevitable and painful separation was amazing. Having the time and the freedom to really spend some time ushering in a life together we’ve both wanted on and off for such a long time was a very big deal and a seriously righteous gift.

Then I forced myself to go back to work again, which included a day at the youth shelter, where it was total pandemonium including a couple of the teen boys hacking up a lung in everyone’s face. Two days later, I woke up feeling a little out of sorts. Four hours after that, I passed down face first on the couch and don’t remember a damn thing that happened the next couple of days afterwards, mostly because I almost entirely slept through them. I was still sick — but much more lucid — for a few more days, but it took well over a week for me to even resemble being back to normal. I thank my lucky stars that Blue was here to be a killer nursemaid.  It’s crazy to be so sick you have no memory of whole days at a time.

After that, I not only had to try to jump back into work again, but into big-time high-gear.  I had abstracts to prepare, a presentation for medical students to prep and deliver, a book foreword to write for an anthology, several local meetings, an interview and all the usual work I already have to do. I read a bunch of libelous commentary in both a printed book and online from a religious conservative about me that made me want to get out a Ouija board, channel Jesus from the dead, and demand he go and do something about some of his apparent followers because some of them are really out of hand and he’s clearly the only one they’ll listen to (if that: they seem to dismiss a lot of his messages, but just showing up would at least scare the crap out of them and get a momentary silence we all could use). After that, I needed to prep a feminist carnival, roll out a huge new addition to the services Scarleteen already provides, and start prepping for the big end-of-year fundraising appeal for Scarleteen that is critical to our survival. In case you haven’t picked up on this about me already, I HATE dealing with, thinking about and talking about money. I hate asking for it even more. I just hate money, period: I’d give just about anything to live in a totally barter-based world. When my days are filled with large portions that are about nothing but finances (especially since it’s usually about finances that aren’t there), I begin to slowly and surely lose my mind. It doesn’t help, of course, that Blue is in a similar spot right now himself.

The night before the fundraising release, my stress levels and way too many 12-15 hour workdays in a row broke the proverbial camel’s back.

I had a meltdown that made almost all other meltdowns in my personal history look downright amateur.

Mind, that was also in part because of the falling-down-house. The house I rent here is 107 years old.  It’s clearly withstood a lot, but the maintenance on it over the years and the time we’ve been here has been less than fabulous, and it’s a typical old west coast house: built fast, not in any way insulated. In the last two months, I’ve had so many things break it’s just nuts, and they seemed to have liked to do so in a way that gave it all a very dramatic build: it started gradual, but then picked up so there were days towards the end here where something would happen almost daily. First it was one broken sink (paired with another that was already broken: anyone who has stayed here recently got used to brushing their teeth in the kitchen). Then a broken toilet, which we woke up to with the floor full of water it resulted in. Already, the woodstove was toast (and the landlord doesn’t want to pay to fix it), and then the heat in the main rooms downstairs broke (which is also still not repaired). Next, one of the kitchen cabinets just fell off in my hand. Then the dryer broke. We’re not provided a washer and dryer in the lease: the last were bought used, so are up to me to replace: thankfully, we lucked out and found a free one. Then the toilet downstairs started leaking, providing the cold downstairs of the house with an oh-so-wonderful urine-scented perfume.  Then — not actually part of the house, but still — my main computer system which houses all my music, all my photo work and what I use to do it with, and my most important software, went kablooie.  And because we’ve had a recent move-out and move-in here, a good deal of the house was already in disarray.

And that’d be when I totally lost it, sinking into a pile on the floor of the stinky bathroom. It absolutely did not help that in that same week, we’d decided to double feature the original Grey Gardens with the dramatized new version (which was exceptionally good, but somehow manages to be even more depressing than the original documentary, which is quite a freaking feat). Both Blue and I could identify the stage the place here was in with its matching Grey Gardens stage, what felt like only a couple steps away from a pile of cat food cans in the corner and water from the ceiling pouring unto the piano.

I needed that big cry, really. It’s hard and it’s scary to work so much, so diligently and for so long in my life and still be dealing with things like not having working plumbing and heat. I was basically raised with very strong messages that I, like everyone else on both sides of my family, should expect to be overworked and underpaid, to always be bone-tired from work at the end of every day of my life and to not find work would net me even the basic the things it can net others. Those messages in some ways were helpful — after all, they have helped me manage my expectations — but in other ways, especially the older I get, they can feel a whole lot like a curse, especially given how deeply I am realizing I internalized all of that stuff.  Perhaps internalized to the point that others read that in me and figure throwing me crumbs is just fine since I’m clearly fine with it myself and will not stop doing all I do regardless of the conditions. It’s also hard and scary to be very transparent in asking for things I badly need, and most others in my position have, knowing that ask is inevitably going to meet with at least some cold shoulders that are going to either make me very angry, or just really hurt my feelings. Some of my meltdown was me bracing myself for some disappointment I knew would come.
It’s also hard and scary for me to have someone else around who very acutely feels my pain and frustration; who I’m both really letting all the way in, and who goes all the way in when I do let them.  Usually when I totally lose my shit, I’m alone, which sucks in some ways, but in others, I can really go whole hog with a freakout when it’s totally private.

While it’s certainly ironic, since it’s not what I want, it’s no coincidence that in my relationship history, it’s more common for me to be with people who keep a certain distance from me or withhold than it is for me to be with those who get very close and go all-in. With Blue back in my life full-stop, I’m acutely reminded that in some ways, I can be somewhat Wild Boy of Aveyron emotionally: a bit feral, twitchy and skittish when it comes to anyone really being all the way open to me and wanting the same in return. I’m reminded that this was part of the issue with us way back when, and that while I’ve certainly come a long way in that regard, I’m hardly all the way there. This Mowgli still has some serious work to do in this department. However, having someone so deep in it with me who will really just let me go and listen to all I’m crying about — both the reasonable and the not-so — is a gift. I also need to remember that especially for someone who knows — perhaps better than anyone — how hard it is for me to really open up and speak to the things that scare me the most, that make me feel the most awful, that my doing so is a gift, too.


Like I said to Becca when she called and asked how I was, all of that aside, I’m actually ridiculously happy. Which might seem completely insane given all the crap I just chronicled, but there it is.

Last night I was saying to Blue that if the two of us are as happy as we have been with everything in such total fucking disarray and utter chaos, it’s kind of mind-blowing to figure how we might be if and when it’s not. Even something relatively tiny, like getting an electric blanket to help with the cold, seems to make us much happier and more giddy than it might otherwise. Life here is very good despite all the other kinds of crazymaking and badness.  It’s amazing having Blue here and continues to be awesome for us both to finally really be together. In setting up some of what we can with the place here, it feels homier than it ever has, and that process has been exceptionally nice. Nice enough, even, that when I had heartburn the other night and Blue pointed out the Tums were next to the condoms on the nightstand, it made me laugh instead of making me feel geriatric. The animals are all socializing well. The meadow I cultivated — where the tree used to be — is beautiful and flowering. I have some good work stuff on the horizon in the next six months, just have to see it all through and hopefully get there.  I have had some great help and company in Blue with some of my work stuff and functions. And while I am not in the position to cut back my work hours, I really, really want to, and that wanting is in and of itself a very positive thing.

It sucks that we have to deal with the crap that is this crumbling Grey Garden right now, but we’re still planning a move to the islands, hopefully in the spring. I think we can get through one winter here, even with busted heat. Thankfully this is Seattle, not Chicago or Minnesota, so even if we had no heat at all, it’d be uncomfortable but hardly lethal. It sucks that I have to keep pushing the envelope so much with work, and have to work so hard right now, but it’s hardly anything new.  And I *did* get a weekish off this year, and that really was a lifesaver.

So yeah: a whole lot of everything really is quite shit. But I’ll work my way through it — and get to some of the bright spots looming on the horizon up there –  and am sure I’m not only going to get through it all okay, but in some ways, all that shit only has so much impact because it hasn’t yet managed to overrun the stuff that’s really, really good.

P.S.  I deeply apologize to site subscribers for the lack of photography updates.  I actually have one fantastic completed set that was ready to go online, and two in the process of being ready, but since the main system died with all of that inside of it, I can’t get to any of that or upload any right now.  I may be able to get the data off of it in the next week, but it’ll still be a bit after that for me to be able to get everything moved over to another computer and get it all up.

P.P.S. For those of you who don’t know, when I’m silent here, I’m rarely silent on Twitter, where you can keep up with my life and work mini-updates, things that politically infuriate me, my irrelevant random thoughts and my attempts to stop eating the pretzels I’m unable to stop stuffing in my gob right now.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Just a couple short hours ago, I began the time off I said I was going to take last month.

To prepare for it, in the last week I earnestly can’t think of a freaking minute I wasn’t working.  But I got one of my local volunteers trained in, deposit-paid, and raring to go to effectively be my body double for the minimum work that has to be done each day to keep Scarleteen running smoothly, and I got a few updates up before I headed out, too.  I had a meeting with my new intern (did I mention I have one?  I do: it’s very exciting) yesterday, so she’s all set to get started on her projects.  The bills are paid.  The clinic knows I’m AWOL through the 14th.  I have my Reality Check pieces for the next two weeks sent in.  I just need to push a couple buttons in a bit to add an update to the members area of this site.

I don’t have an autoresponder set for my email, because the last time I did that, it autoresponded retroactively to every email I ever got.  Oops. Not doing that again.  I do have a form letter ready I can cut as paste as needed, though, and should only need to check the work emails briefly every few days. As much of the world as I can possibly inform knows that for the next weekish, I’m off-duty and Not To Be Bothered.

I have a headache, of course, from all of that work in preparation, but I predict that it will soon pass.  Especially since as I write this, I’m sitting on the futon on the porch during this lovely, sunny day, having taken a walk and ingested a quite delicious lunch paired with a very tall glass of juice.  I’m writing now as a sort of welcoming-in ceremony for my beyond-needed, very-much-desired and first-ever-of-its-length Staycation.

Big breath in, even longer one out.  Sun on the face, sun on the feet.  Pug snoozing happily beside. Headache feels better already.

What’s the plan?  For the rest of today it’s probably utter sloth.  I intend to sit out here, moving on to a book, for as long as it stays warm and sunny.  I might grab a hoop and play in the yard for a bit, but then again, I might not.  A Buffy marathon may happen later, or I may marathon something far more silly, who knows.  Even though I ordered in last night because I was on a work bender, I’ll probably do it again tonight.

Tomorrow, if the weather provides, I want to roll out of bed whenever I do, have some coffee WITHOUT starting my workday at the same time, and then grab my bike and go for a seriously long ride, stopping at the market on the way back to get some dinner goodies, maybe some champagne for mimosas for me, me and only me.  I want to get cracking on one of the rooms that wants tidying, then I’m going to steam my face, take the longest bath in recorded history, sit with a wad of the color conditioner I like in my hair to put some of my red back where it belongs, try and nap, read some books and maybe take the pug on an evening stroll.

Thursday I want to spend the day just out in my neighborhood with no specific intent or plans. I actually got quite a few things done on my to-do-during-vacation list already that would not have been big stressors, but not so much fun, either, like making the garden path and getting kitchen curtains up. So, I have even more free time than I thought I would to do things like just bum around Ballard. I also want to get the damn hoop isolations down that I’ve been so frustrated trying to learn.  Little more tidying, but not much.  Thursday night I’m going out with a friend I have not seen in forever, and have seriously missed.

Friday I just try and keep my marbles together and not wear a path in the floors from excitedly pacing.

Because Friday night Blue gets here, after having driven across the country since Monday with a car overflowing with his worldly possessions as well as a nice, big (well, by her standards) dog for Sofia.  Sofia has always wanted a big dog: when they walk past her, she will often sit down on the sidewalk and moon over them as they walk away, gazing in rapt adoration. So, as far as she and I are concerned, Blue’s dog is a present for her. I know, I just objectified a dog. I’m a terrible person.

We’ve recognized, for the record, that this is — in my estimation — all approximately 33% certifiably insane.  Mind, a compelling argument could be made that the whole of my work and my life is, which either makes everything I do crazy or nothing I do crazy: I’m not sure which.  But even by my lunatic-fringe standards, this is, partially, a little nuts.

There are sensible parts of this, to be sure.  We have been reconnected for over a year and a half, we have been together again for nearing a year, and we’ve lived together before very well, and that was before either of us really knew how to live with anybody.  Blue has wanted great big changes in his life for years: he’s getting them.  We know full well that if we had him come here and we didn’t cohabitate, we’d basically just be paying two rents to still be in the same place every night, anyway.  Plus, I like this old house, I don’t want to move until I can move to the islands ideally, I can’t afford it all by myself nor would I want such a big place just for myself, and if I got a roommate who had to live with the two of us fully reunited after seventeen years apart, they’d be wanting to rip out their own eyeballs and eardrums in no time flat.  See? Crazy = practical.

Know what else?  We both could use a big dose of doing something a bit loony.  For myself, I get few opportunities to do so anymore, and I like the freedom of this, the kinda-unpredictability of this.  I won’t say I don’t certainly have moments where I’m not like, “What on EARTH are we doing?”  I do.  But then I have this pretty simple answer I don’t have to think too hard about, which has something to do with following my guts, what they’re saying now and have said more than once before now.  It also has something to do with this strong, mutual knowing what we want and need, and a knowing we fit both for each other, now and in the past.  Really, the real question when it comes to pretty much all of this isn’t about what we’re doing now, but what the hell each of us, at given times, was possibly thinking in choosing not to do this until now.

Friday night it’s pretty much going to be car arrives, two people squealing like small children and scaring the crap out of the neighbors, arranging the dogs and getting some sort of leg up on making up for a fuck of a lot of lost time in several departments.
So, yeah, that’s Friday.  And Saturday, and…well, no more budgeting days for us at that point. If history repeats itself — which, in our case, it clearly tends to a lot — I imagine that by Sunday night we might just consider leaving the house.  Maybe.  From then through the rest of my days off, I imagine we’ll tackle quite a lot of the things I have left on that list I made last month of what I’d like to do with my time off.  Maybe we’ll grab the dogs and go to Vashon for a day or visit the zoo, we’ll get started on the settling in of stuff, who knows, but I assure you, it’ll all be good.

And after all this, my time for myself, my time once Blue completes his Odyssian journey here — a rather stellar combination, if you ask me — I imagine that when the time to get back to work rolls around again, this girl is going to be feeling a whole lot better.

Hello, vacation. You have no idea how happy I am to meet you.

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

I’ll apologize in advance for being pretty scattered, and also issue a warning that I expect to be for a while longer.  It’s entirely possible I’m saying that more to myself than to those of you reading.

I’ve been having a tough time getting and staying motivated with a lot of things lately.  I think most of that comes down to a strange combination of grief finally coming to a head (in terms of Mark and myself), anxiety around all of my work, a need for some big changes in every part of my life but feeling overwhelmed about how to make them happen, as well as a sense of very profound excitement and a continued sense of flabbergast when it comes to Blue and myself, especially Blue’s impending move here in just a little more than two weeks.  All of this comes on the heels of a feeling of exhaustion from the last year or so, which has been full of a whole lot of struggle and confusion, and nothing close to enough sleep.  Thus, scattered.  To say the least.  And that’s something I tend to give myself a very hard time about, even when I know it’s completely understandable for me to be this way.

Of course, now that I’m also here living alone for the time being, I’m also having to try and get that groove back on.  I’ve always liked living alone, but it’s been a few years, and my management skills when it comes to the nicely stretched-out periods of time are rusty. The last time I had them wasn’t that long ago, but in the interim, I also seem to have lost my ability to stay awake for more than 18 hours at a time, which used to be fantastic to marathon work and art with when I lived alone.

This is an exceptionally large space to be living alone in.  Until I’d lived here, I’d never lived anywhere this big, even with housemates.  Being in it completely alone feels bizarre: like I’m some sort of vagrant squatting in someone else’s space who is going to be pretty surprised to come home and find me here. I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning, moving things around, going through closets, cursing my magpie nature.  I’m finding it easier than usual lately to throw things away, a change I think has to do with my wanting a tangible representation of some clear space in my head and my heart.

I’ve been resuming some simple routines I haven’t done for a while, and something about some of those routines is very compelling when it comes to trying to get grounded again.  For instance, there was a dishwasher here.  I hate dishwashers, especially when you’re not running a school or cooking for 12.  The dishwasher got in the way of the sink; having that sink back and fully accessible and washing the dishes by hand is a quiet ritual I missed, and I’ve got dishpan hands from my fixation on constantly doing it again.

* * *

One thing that’s been bothering me work-wise is feeling like Scarleteen is the ugly duckling of online sex education. I’ve felt that way for a long time, but it’s just been getting more and more tiresome over the last few years. It’s not something I talk a lot about because it feels like a pity party, but it’s been gurgling in my gut very strongly of late.  It just gets so frustrating because a decade-and-change of doing the work with really tireless (or perhaps, tired) dedication, millions of users in that time, countless hours of constant overwork — some years without pay, and in the good ones, making around minimum wage — a girl’s gotta wonder what on earth she has to do to get some solid credibility. Or if she’s ever going to get it.  In this field, betting on never getting it would be the smarter bet, honestly.

I had a conversation a little while ago with another online sex education leader that, in hindsight, really upset me. The conversation wasn’t about this, but in the midst of it, I was essentially told how fantastic we are, and how great it is that we’re so understanding that this particular site can’t very visibly support us because we don’t fall in step with more conservative attitudes, and I mean liberal-conservative, mind, not fundie-conservative. And those sentiments were hardly unusual. I’ve tried right from the start of running Scarleteen to form relationships with other similar organizations and I have completely failed at that for those most part. Heck, once a year I used to email the other existing orgs just making clear that I think it’s crazy we aren’t all pooling resources to work together given that all of us together STILL don’t fill the level of need young people have, offering up our ad space for free for their PSAs, what have you, but to no avail.  Sometimes, we just don’t even get an email or phone call back, despite our placement, tenure and the millions of young people who have always found us invaluable.  Despite my never even asking for anything in return. Now, I know some of that is other orgs worried about losing funding via any strong association with us, that’s what is sometimes said anyway, but I have to be frank and say I really don’t think that’s a bonafide issue most of the time. I think it’s hooey, honestly.

It’s a tough spot.  I always want — and have always wanted — our content to be primarily led by what our users are asking us for, and also have always wanted to talk to our users with a certain depth and confidence in their maturity, as well as an acceptance for where they actually are sexually, rather than where many adults would prefer they be.

Mind, there are some exceptions to some of that based both on questions we really just can’t answer without making shit up or being overly anecdotal or without doing what I think is a disservice to our users.  For instance, we do get a lot of “How do I give a blow job?” or “How do I make my boyfriend/girlfriend more horny?”  We don’t tend to cater to that stuff because a) I am absolutely, positively certain I have never engaged in oral sex with their boyfriends so have no idea what said boyfriends like (and will usually respond explaining as much, and that he’s the one to talk to about what he likes), and b) save the barest basics, I don’t want any of our users to get robbed of the joy of experimentation and communication with partners by feeling like they should need a cheatsheet with them to partnersex.  As well, we watch some things, certain language, certain links, simply because I do want the site to be accessible enough to all that it both doesn’t freak out the younger or less experienced users, but also to be age-appropriate AND do what we can to limit how often the site gets blocked.  Plus, some of it is just a matter of taste: I just don’t talk about sex when educating (or heck, during sex for that matter) like I’m running a phone sex line.

Point is that overall, our model has always been user-led, and that’s also my own core philosophy as an educator. I keep hearing that we’re “radical,” and I guess we are when graded on the curve, but certainly not by my definition. We actually feel pretty conservative to me, but I know that my idea of what really is radical is hardly in alignment with many people’s ideas of what is and is not radical. I don’t know how we’d be less “radical” and actually stick to our mission or really educate honestly and well. I’m well aware how we/I do things and want to do things means making some sacrifices, like not getting funding the way other sex ed orgs our size do, but it just seems like it shouldn’t have to be this hard, and still this struggly, at this point.

Who knows, maybe the Obama administration will change this, but I have to say that I’m not particularly optimistic.  So far, what’s come out of that administration around sex ed doesn’t look much different to me than what did under Bush, and it’s also one of those issues that often gets relegated to the back page because it’s so divisive among adults (to say it’s practical, not political, for young people is stating the obvious).  Expecting a focus on inclusivity as far as what’s LGBT-friendly goes, or some recognition that what orgs like mine do when it comes to be fully inclusive is important?  I expect neither.   I’d love to be pleasantly surprised, but I’m not holding my breath.

It’s just rough.  We continue to have the widest reach and highest traffic of any of the YA sex education orgs, and yet our funding/donations are dismal and I can’t ever get enough volunteers to help run things, either.  When I listen to other people in similar positions as myself organization-wise bitch about money or staffing, I have to reign in some seriously homicidal urges because I know other executive director’s ideas about what a crappy salary is, or a low budget is. It’s a salary far higher than mine, a budget way larger than ours.  I just mostly lost one of my very best volunteers to another org because I couldn’t possibly even have one paid full-time staff position to support him properly with and keep someone fantastic. I also really don’t want us to forever be in the proverbial back room of the bookstore.  I just don’t know what to do to change that, and suspect that it’s the biggest thing that keeps us largely unfunded.  In a word, I think I, and my org, might just like sex too much.

I never really know how to talk about all of this, especially professionally.  It’s obviously totally unprofessional to shout out that everyone’s idea of how well we must be doing is off-base and that nearly any other org running this way financially and practically would have shut down years and years ago, but at the same time, I worry that our need for funding, for volunteer help, for more support overall won’t be understood unless I’m frank about these things, either.  But I worry that when I am, because of how things are, it always gets disseminated as this big panic that we’re on the verge of shutting down. We’ve been there twice — and when we were, I did say as much plainly — but we’re not there now, and haven’t been there for quite some time, even though, when you look at everything on paper, it probably looks pretty unsustainable.  Mind you, some of why we’re still around is that I am capable of living very simply, and living without some of the things many people are not. I only have myself to feed, I don’t own a car, I don’t own a house, I don’t have a credit card. It also has just the weest bit to do with the fact that our executive director is just a little bit stubborn. Plus, as I’ve said before, I was raised with the notion that activists not only needed to accept that we may never see results of our activism in our lifetimes, but also that we may scrape by the whole of our lives if activism is what we decided to do full-time.  And scraping by, I know how to do.

It’s probably obvious, but I hate, hate, HATE having to deal with money or any of this stuff.  Growing up with the idea that money is The Big Evil probably didn’t help, but marketing also just isn’t my skillset, and there’s always something really uncomfortable about having to do marketing and fundraising when it’s not about someone else. I’m a much better cheerleader for other people’s causes than I am for my own, and way more comfortable doing fundraising and marketing for others than I am for myself, even if I still don’t like doing it.  Even when it’s important, it just always feels like money-grubbing.

But I need to work that out, big-time. I need to work it out in terms of our funding and finances, and I need to work it out when it comes to our place in all of this.  Because it really is preposterous that in something we really blazed the trail for almost singlehandedly, we wind up often going unrecognized by others who stepped unto that trail after we cleared the freaking path for them. Maybe I just need to get a little more irritated about that; maybe I need to be less irritated.  Again, I just don’t know.

One of the tricky things coming up with this is that this is Blue’s skillset: he’s an amazing communicator, and an incredible marketing person, especially for progressive initiatives and causes.  To say he’s willing to help is an understatement, and he is going to help (read: I am going to grudgingly let him help), but I also want to keep very clear and firm boundaries around that. I have a pretty intense rule that I mix as little business with my personal life as possible, and when I’ve bent or broken those rules, it’s never gone well for me or others. He’s also coming out of a relationship where there were NO boundaries with any of that, where his work was 100% merged with his relationship, so it’s going to be important for him, too.  But we always did have a seemingly-natural inclination to merge (and that’s very much his individual nature, as well: not so much mine, I am my father’s daughter) we’ll have to keep in check on this.  I need my own space, a good deal of it. I also need for my work not to be overly influenced by the dynamics of close interpersonal relationships or vice-versa.  I know there are couples and families who work out running businesses together, but for me that just feels too precarious, especially since on a personal level, work as a whole is a haven for me; a place I can go and put my energy even when everything else is problematic.

To lighten the tone here, I had a meeting this week about adding a new service to Scarleteen I’m really excited about, through a company who came to me because they really wanted to work with us.  It’s a plunge I have been hoping we could take for a while, but until recently, I didn’t know how to accomplish it, and now it seems we have a great way to do so. It’s also something the other online orgs like us haven’t done just yet, and something I think is going to prove incredibly useful for a lot of young people.  Given it has a cost, and also requires labor we aren’t already doing, I’m seriously hoping it helps with funding.  I don’t mean to be obtuse, it’s just that the ink isn’t yet dry.  When it is, I’ll shout it out, I promise. I also had a different meeting about some potentially very good news per funding next year as well as for me overall when it comes to my work with Scarleteen and the clinic.

I think I need to remind myself that what I do know how to do, and know I do very well, is take leaps.  I know how to jump, and I rarely struggle with any anxiety or worry about jumping. I just feel like I’ve fallen on my face a lot when I’ve jumped over the last couple of years, personally and professionally, so I’m struggling with feelings of dread about continuing to do so. However, here I still am, right?  I’m not my best ever, I’m not super-great, but I’m okay, I’m fine, so clearly I CAN leap and wind up falling on my face and it’s not the end of the world. The theme in my life of late seems to be that jumping is the thing to do, no matter how I land.

I’ve told this story here once years ago, but I feel the need to retell. Back in college, my Blake professor made our first assignment to go out and find heaven (we were starting with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). My first thought was that I needed to be somewhere outside and beautiful, with a horse to ride, just chilling out. So, I asked John, my financial aid advisor, if I could borrow his horse.  He told me Mango was old as dirt, and may not even take any steps at all, but I figured it was worth a shot. Due to an injury, at the time I was walking with a cane, and I also hadn’t ridden in some years, so a mellow horse sounded best, anyway.  As it turned out, old Mango clearly decided this was his last chance to get a big run in and bolted like nobody’s business. I wasn’t even saddled, and I had not ever learned to ride bareback. At a certain point, he clearly was not going to slow down, I couldn’t get him to slow, and he was also about to run across a highway. So, I just let go, figuring falling and breaking my neck in a meadow beat being splattered under a horse by a truck.  Apparently, even from a distance, John had seen all of this, including my attempt at flying when I let go.  Once he came and found me in the mud, the very first thing he said was, You fall exceptionally well and with astounding grace.”

Need to remember that, too. (Mango, for the record, had gotten across the highway just fine, and was back in his stable when we got back, with seemingly no awareness about anything that had happened.  I, for the record, reported to my Blake professor that my discovery was that there is an incredibly fine line between heaven and hell, and their borders are closer than one would presume.)

I also think I need to consider that it’s entirely possible — maybe because I have to to push through, but maybe because it’s true — that I’m on the apex of getting TO being my best ever. I did most of the work I have, after all, in a completely unsupportive administration, and a largely unsupportive culture, and the former has certainly changed for the better, and the latter just might. It is entirely possible that in the next year or two, I will be able to get myself to somewhere a bit more rural, which I know feeds my spirit better than cities do, despite spending most of my life, save my very early childhood, so urban.  And however rough all of this transitioning has been for everyone, I may both be about to discover a much better relationship with Mark than the one we had been having, and I’m also about to be fully reuinted and rejoined with someone who has been a tremendously large part of my heart for 20 years, who is as amazed, excited and is feeling as equally spaztastic and relieved about it as I am. And to quote everyone’s granny, I do have my health: it’s still been on a strong upturn and that’s quite the relief.

P.S.  I should also note that in the middle of writing all of this, I had two people/small groups I really like email and ask about doing some kind of joint work together. Go figure. That given, I’m going ahead and also voicing wishes for a million dollars, a vet who loves to work pro bono, a farmer who wants to give me her land just because she thinks I’m awesome and my 18-year-old ass back. ‘Cause you just never know.

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I just needed to remind myself that, per the terms of my one grant, I am really only expected to work around 30 hours each week at Scarleteen.

And that when I literally never go a single day without at least doing a couple hours of work on it, even if I only worked four hours on it every day I’d be at about that level.

But that what I, in fact, am logging when I usually not only never do less than a minimum of those four hours, but tend to do more like a few nine hour days, a couple six hour days, and a couple four hour days, is seriously surpassing those hours. I’m nearly doubling them.  Factor that into all the hours I work on other things and even if you don’t consider everything else I have going on, it’s easy to identify the why of my creeping burnout.

So, on top of my promise to myself about time off in October, I’m also promising myself that I’m going to start logging my hours and set those 30 hours as a goal. Our donations this year overall have been incredibly miniscule, so it’s pretty easy for me to logically justify why it only makes sense for me to dial back my hours. If I’m not getting paid for more, and the site can do fine (which it can) without my doing more, doing more starts to look a lot like masochism rather than devotion.

I say all of this because after doing a few hours of work on the site, it occurred to me that what I wanted to do today instead was do some housekeeping, edit some more photos, write a little here, take a long shower and go to the Storm playoff game without working until the very last minute.  It also occurred to me that having to struggle with myself about that is mighty silly when I haven’t taken a day off from any work in days. While I logged a lot of hours doing photoediting last week, a lot of it was about work; about prepping sets for the site.  Thus, work.  Had to remind myself of that, too.

Mark has set his moving day as the 19th.  It’s a mixed bag, my feelings about that.  Many are sad and not at all comfortable, but overall, I know it’s what needs to happen here for both of us as well as for the sake of our friendship.  And when I get past the sad, and don’t guilt-trip myself about the feelings I have that aren’t sad, one thing I’m really looking forward to is a few weeks of being able to have the place here to myself before Blue gets here.  I’ve been a bit of a social hermit lately, and I’ll probably keep that up, because frankly, I want and need the time to myself.  I’m really relishing the notion of being able to have a lot of time and space to regroup, but also the opportunity to kind of regroup the house, as well.

While as I said, I’m always reticent to talk too much about an ex-partners side of a relationship changing or ending, I don’t have a problem talking about my own. I think I’m allowed that.

If I’m honest with myself, one responsibility I bear in all of this is not having taken enough time not only away from working, but where my head was all the way away from working, in the time Mark and I were together.  Mind, I don’t think that would have changed anything as it is now in any essential way: in fact, I think we may have just gotten to this point a lot sooner. (I also think we both share this particular error.) But I think us having gotten here sooner also would have been a lot less painful for us both, and my being more mindful, more truly present in the time we spent together, and making time for more of it is something I think would have made a big difference; a positive difference no matter what.  It’s not a mistake I want to make again. If I’m not all-in in that way, it’s only going to make so much difference if someone else is, especially since I can be very stubborn, it’s very difficult for others to drag me away from work and I should be the one dragging myself away in the first place.

Mark and I are, and have been from the start, very different people: our interests only strongly intersected in a few places, which is not nor has ever been the case with Blue and I. So, something else I need to remind myself of is that making that kind of time is going to get a whole lot easier no matter what, because things like tending to my garden, going to the market or the nursery, riding my bike, boxing, setting things up around the house, going on some wild, random rampage for new shoes, sitting down and writing, reorganizing the fridge… these are things where I am now going to have opportunities to do them with a partner, rather than trying to squeeze them in on top of everything else so I have time for a partner AND all of those things.

Of course, I’m going to have to remind myself of that, especially with my lifelong case of  “I can do it by myself!” syndrome. Shouldn’t be too hard, though: I’m really looking forward to it. Like, I’m earnestly dizzy in the head at the idea of someone wanting to plant flowers with me.
And that stuff is another bit where I feel awkward talking about it. Shifting a secondary partnership to a primary one, and then also ending the primary partnership at the same time is sticky and tricky.  I’m really incredibly excited about what’s to come with Blue, especially given our history and how long we both feel like we’ve waited for this, but I don’t know what is and isn’t graceful when it comes to how much I express that here and elsewhere.  I’ve never been all that confident in my own social graces.  But Mark is excited about his new place, and has voiced that plenty, and is also excited about moving back into life as a single and has talked plenty as we’ve gone through this about his dates, so I may just be being overcautious.

Still uncertain about that, I veer.  In figuring out how to restructure things, I want to be able — both in the weeks I’ll have to myself, and then after Blue arrives — to have days where there is plenty of room for all of the parts of my life, all the parts of life, period.  Where I don’t feel like I’m shirking my duties because I want to tend the house and garden for a day (things normal people make time for all the time, Corinna), or work on art for a day, or write something that isn’t for Scarleteen, or even step away from there altogether for a few days at a time now and then.

I feel a bit silly saying that, because I often feel like most people my age seem to have this stuff down to a pretty decent science by now, whereas it usually confounds me.  But, I yam who I yam, I suppose, and I get to have my own challenges.  I’m allowed to be daft with some things, after all.

Friday, July 31st, 2009

This is the twentieth time or so I’ve tried to write here in the last month and a half.  I’m determined to succeed this time, despite my fear of doing so.  I got a few notes from people starting to earnestly worry about me: I certainly didn’t need to make anyone worry, but do appreciate the concern.  Given my time lapse, and how complex everything is, there’s going to be a lot to read here today, and it’s going to read a whole lot like a confession, even though I’d prefer it didn’t.  I don’t really know how to do this: I expect to be clumsy, which feels like my default these days.

A lot of my silence has had to do with waiting for a very, very big shoe to drop.  The long and the short of it is that the once-primary relationship — a marriage — Blue has been in for over a decade has been troubled and deteriorating for quite some time: years before we even started talking again, let alone renewed our romantic and sexual relationship last winter.  And it has now led to his taking the first steps of a divorce.  I haven’t felt comfortable sharing that aspect of all of this until now because…well, wait.

I still don’t feel comfortable sharing, but I feel even more uncomfortable not doing so.  I don’t like keeping secrets, especially big, nasty ones.  I don’t like being secrets, either. All the same, I haven’t felt okay about even thinking about disclosing that until this point.  Both knowing (which I have for some months) what choices Blue wanted to make, and having those choices begin to be enacted was something I needed before I talked about it publicly, for everyone’s sake.

Let me get this out of the way: in general, I don’t care if someone is married, so long as it isn’t me.  However, I have always had a hard and fast rule about dating or sleeping with anyone who is married, even if it’s an open marriage by full and glad agreement: I don’t do it. The one time I was with someone who I found out wasn’t truthful with me about the status of a marriage, I put an immediate end to the relationship, even though it was an important one I didn’t want to sever.  If I went into all my reasoning around why that’s been my rule, I’d have too easy a distraction, but the crux of it is my feelings about marriage, honesty, honoring people’s existing agreements (and dating people who honor their relationship agreements), emotional availability, how much drama I’m up for and what I want and need in my life. I also have been close to too many messy, ugly divorces in my life, with family, with friends, and I want to be as far from divorce — always a possibility with any marriage — as humanly possible.

I made an exception this time, which I’ve had mixed feelings about. Because I did go outside my own ethics, ethics I tend to broadcast, I feel a need to explain why. I made that exception because of the nature of both my and Blue’s relationship, now and in the past, because of my understanding of Blue’s relationship with his wife, because of existing nonmonogamy over there for years before I was back on the scene, and because my feelings for Blue and vice-versa are very strong and enduring.  I’ll also be honest: given our long and complex history and how we have always been when together, beyond my usual bristling at the idea of anyone having ownership of someone else, the idea that Blue is “someone else’s” just isn’t how this feels or has felt.  Not to me, not to him. I made an exception because we both felt gypped at not having another chance to be together at a time in our lives when we could finally handle it. I made an exception because a lot of this — most of this — just felt right, and because in weighing my options, not pursuing this as we have felt like a choice I’d regret more than I would in pursuing it.  I don’t intend to absolve myself of any responsibility for my choices, but in terms of how it has felt and it feels, this hasn’t been one of those things where I’ve been all, “I’m not proud of what I’ve done, but….”  I’m neither proud nor not proud.  In making my choices, I consulted at great length with my heart and head, and with people close to me who I know care about me a lot, understand me, and hold me to the same kinds of standards I hold myself to. I also made an exception because we both intended the way things have been to be temporary.

The end of this marriage isn’t about me: it’s been creeping towards this for some years now after efforts to repair problems for a very long time, and also has not been a sexually active relationship for a long time. Both for longer than I’ve ever even been in a romantic relationship, which is an odd perspective to have.  As far as nonomonogamy over there has gone, they have had is what I describe as a passive agreement to active ignorance (and not the pejorative meaning).  There’s essentially an agreement to denial, rather than to an open relationship, and some interpersonal structures built to provide certain freedoms for nonmonogamy while keeping a strongly padlocked silence about it.

It has not been something workable for me in anything but the short-term, if that.  Even in that limited way, I don’t see my ever agreeing to this with anyone but Blue.  I’m not down with multiple partnership like that where everyone isn’t talking and negotiating as a collective, especially with relationships as serious and loaded as these.  I also feel conflicted with anything — even when it’s a choice one woman has made — that keeps women from connecting with one another.

However, it’s not my relationship, so I’ve tried to be a grownup and not project what I think is kosher for me or in general unto them. Suffice it to say, I can have a certain arrogance about things like this as an occupational hazard, especially if I’m not mindful about it. I’ve tried to deal only with my and Blue’s relationship and how their stuff involves me.  What I could address, obviously, is our relationship, and both what I can live with and want to live with.  I had my ducks in a row over here on my end, and my agreements with Mark sorted already; I had from the get-go.

So, back in March, Blue and I made an agreement that by fall, he would either a) create an open and fully honest agreement per he and I within his marriage — which included the honesty that he wasn’t with some random person, but with me, as well as that he wanted me to become a primary partner — b) for that relationship to switch to a fully acknowledged platonic relationship and/or for the legal marriage to be dissolved, or c) for the model of our relationship to change so that it became a platonic friendship, either permanently or until one of the other options was wanted and chosen.

It wasn’t an ultimatum.  In fact, if his marriage wasn’t in disrepair already, and it was meeting Blue’s needs, in many ways I’d have preferred the first of the three options.

The why of that is complex, but I know part of it is that I just hate any a situation where one person is chosen “over” another or perceives things that way no matter who it is getting chosen, even when it’s me.  (Maybe in some ways especially when it’s me.)  My internal sense of fairness revolts at it, as does my core feeling that we all have room for infinite love in our hearts; room for far more than one person we love in life, and I don’t understand why we accept that as a culture with friends and family, but not with sexual or romantic relationships.  This “pick one” thing just doesn’t sit well with me when it’s about people.  I also know that Blue has a lot of love for the person he’s married to, and has valued many aspects of their relationship.  I hate to see love lost.  However, this is another area in which I’ve needed to work on being an adult when it comes to what other people choose and what they want.  I didn’t have a say in their relationship, to how they structured and lived it: that was all about their choices, choices made a long time before Blue and I reconnected and renewed our relationship.

In any event, Blue wound up choosing door #2.  At this point, discussion of he and I has not yet happened between he and his wife.  I sit on that precipice very, very nervously, the same way I’d sit in the open maw of a lion.  I don’t know what’s going to happen when they get to that point, especially since it’ll mean his breaking an enforced silence on a bunch of things she/they clearly just has/have not wanted to face or address.  His disclosures around nonmonogamy are going to be one thing when talking about other partners, but most likely something else when it comes to me.

I’m not entirely sure if it’s okay for me to talk about this here, but it’s really heavy for me and no small part of all this, so I’m going to say it for now and hope I don’t trespass. I’m a very loaded person in that relationship, and that’s age-old: in many ways I’ve been the most loaded person in that relationship since it began. I started out the bad guy (or rather, girl) for them both: I was the terrible person who broke Blue’s heart, who in some ways he was treated as needing nursing from.  In some ways I’m sure that he did, of course, but there was a lot of demonization there, some of which I understand now, but still don’t like.  I, or the history of myself and Blue, seems to have been a foil for some of their problematic dynamics.  Mind, I don’t think that was fair.  I was 22 years old when I left Blue and in the middle of very terrifying, overwhelming and unanticipated PTSD that took some things away from me (or seemed like it did) that I deeply cherished and felt utterly lost without.  As well, Blue and I had some shared issues, and he had his own missteps. I had a fight-or-flight impulse, and I flew. I handled it all badly, without question, and only after finally really working through all of it together last year did I stop feeling horrible about some of what I did which I know was awful.  However, I didn’t mean to hurt him: I was trying to protect and guard myself with limited skills and a mind that was in total disarray.  So, not fair, but that’s not all that relevant: a lot isn’t fair in life and love, and it’s very clear at this point that they were probably more hurt, and will be more hurt, in creating that dynamic around me than I was or will be.

It’s a bit tough not to feel like something of a homewrecker, though, even though I know that’s not what went on, nor what is going on, and not at all what anyone intended or wanted. But I anticipate it may be perceived or presented that way, especially since it’ll probably be more comfortable in some ways to point at me rather than acknowledging tougher or more painful truths.  If it is, if I am, presented that way, I don’t know how I’ll deal with it.  If I’m honest, I have to acknowledge that I have equal parts sympathy and a total lack of sympathy in that department.  I feel some guilt around this, particularly because I know that there has always been a good deal of jealousy in terms of the strong feelings he has had for me, as well as a (obviously valid) fear he’d choose to be with me instead of her.  I would never want anyone to feel like they were in or lost some kind of competition to me for someone else’s heart: that just sounds abhorrent to me.  I don’t even want to be even a tangential cause of someone’s pain. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of sympathy for anyone losing Blue in any way: I know too well how painful that can be. On the other hand, I have to be kind to myself and cut myself a break knowing that this is not a dynamic I set up: that was someone else’s choice, not mine.   I made clear what I felt and wanted a long time ago, and that last time around, in Act II of all of this, I stepped aside without argument to allow Blue to choose to go to her when a “choose one” was their deal, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, it hurt like hell and I was the walking wounded for a couple years afterward.

It still sucks that this dynamic exists, regardless, and I still don’t look forward to facing it, but expect I will have to.  That everyone will have to.  But maybe we’ve all needed to, perhaps for longer than any of us have realized.

Okay, taking a breath.  Now another one.  One more.

I realize there’s another reason why this has been so tough for me to voice here, even once I had the criteria I thought I needed, we all needed, for me to do so.

It makes me feel small to admit it, but one benefit of having and living very stringent ethics is that it allows you a certain lack of vulnerability. In some ways, a perception of you being superhuman and perhaps not as flawed and fallible as everyone else.  Even if it’s not why you choose your ethics, certain standards of living and thinking do put you on a pedestal to some degree.  They can protect you from some measure of judgment. Of course, if that is the case, however rough some of this is, that’s very important for me to ditch, especially since it may well be part of some treatment or perception of me in life I don’t actually like and which can feel very isolating.

Let’s also face it, I’m hardly anonymous, and putting this out there does make me nervous in terms of my job and position in the world.  I know all too well that there are some individuals and groups who will relish evidence that I am the immoral, skanky harlot who is out to wreck families and traditional relationships it’s been sometimes suggested I am.  I’ve joked about it among friends sometimes, that that’s my easy out, my being everything some have said or implied I was in the first place. But my jesting there comes out of guarding how vulnerable it makes me feel and my desire not to be that person.

I’d be remiss to leave out that disclosing all of this means that if I wind up with egg on my face I can’t hide it.  (I was so close to typing “…then the yolk’s on me” instead.  I’m very sorry that I still did it.)

And that’d all be some of why I was so quiet.  Believe it or not, that is only some.

It’s been rough to figure out how to talk about Mark and I, too.  Some of what came out in all the communication around the poly agreement last winter was a level of honesty Mark had withheld from me –  and himself, really — that was so rough for me.  It wasn’t anything malicious, cruel or purposefully deceptive.  At worst, I’d say it was careless, but at the same time Mark and I have had very different lives, very different levels of experience with relationships and very different personal growth experiences. All the same, what came out hurt me deeply in some ways, and was a dealbreaker for me when it came to us having the kind of relationship we had been building, or that I thought we had.  I don’t mean to be obtuse, but it’s not my right to spill Mark’s guts for him on the Internet, so what I’ll just say is that I want and need certain things in a relationship of this depth and level of commitment that just didn’t mesh with how Mark was feeling, thinking and constructing his own frameworks.

It’s not an honesty I regret, and it was a brave one on Mark’s part that I’m exceptionally grateful for.  I think when this kind of stuff comes out of poly — as it tends to since you’re usually deepening communication a lot — it’s so convenient for people to blame the poly, and this just isn’t poly’s fault.  A lot of good things have come out of us opening the relationship up at the end of last year: I’d number those tough truths among them, even though the outcome of that truth led to a split.  I think, though, it’s probably also going to lead us both in directions that will result in both of us getting what we really want and also coming to whatever our best relationship is.  Mark still feels like my family: I have a hard time imagining Mark will ever feel like, or be, anything but. Mark’s family feels like my family, and they’ve made that clear on their end, too. Mark also remains, however sticky some things are right this second, one of my very best friends in the world.  Visualizing a life without him in it makes no sense to me.  And some of all that is why it’s been tricky to talk about what went down with us: I’m a ferociously loyal person with those near and dear to me, and can be very protective.

Over the years, I have kept finding that one area where it gets tough to write here about my personal life is all about loyalty.  Sometimes, it’s hard to be truthful about the not-nice stuff interpersonally, not just around protecting the privacy of other people, but because I also know that how I talk about someone, how I present someone or a situation with them creates a representation of them a lot of people read here.  I never want anyone I care for and love to be disliked by anyone — heck, even if and when I dislike them, which isn’t the case here, but certainly has been in a couple previous relationships of mine I’ve journaled about.  I absolutely don’t want anyone to think someone in my life is a jerk because of what I say, or because people who know or read me feel a loyalty to me, rather than to that other person.  Talk about unfair.  I can see how, over the years, from an outsider’s view it probably looks like I’m with someone and with someone and then BOOM: I’m not.  I can see how it probably presents a lot of my relationships as a bit one-dimensional, since I tend to talk more about their strengths than their flaws.  But again, I’m not anonymous here, and often, neither are the people I’m involved with.  I think being responsible around that inevitably means presentations that are often fair-weather.

That’s played a part in both of these relationships and my silence around them of late.  That loyalty made me want to withhold that Blue was married because I felt protective about anyone leaping to cliched notions about him and thinking he’s a bad person: I know he’s not and I have loved him dearly for nearly all of my adult life.  That made me want to withhold some things about what has been going on with Mark and myself because I love and care for him deeply and hate the idea of even someone he’d never meet having a fleeting thought that he’s a jerk because it’s so easy to do with only slices of a picture or only my own words.

To keep you in the loop with more practical stuff, Mark and I have stayed living together throughout, which has been okay sometimes; not so okay at other times.  It’s come to the point where we both clearly need some more space.  That means one of us leaving the big old house that we rent, and based on a bunch of issues (I’ve done much of the work to it, it has things I need or like but Mark doesn’t, it’s trickier for me to find a good place because I don’t have a car, etc.) we’ve decided I’m going to stay here.  I still intend to try and move to the islands, so Mark may even come back here and take over when I can do that (probably not until next summer, mostly due to the health stuff and its expenses).  And Blue is planning to move to Seattle to be with me in the next few months, which most likely means moving in here.

I keep going on tangents which I know are coming out of left-field — a very defensive left-field, no less — but I’m going on them all the same.  I feel the need to say that this is probably, from an outside perspective, seeming a bit fast.  From the inside track, though, it feels like something we have both waited for for close to two decades. We were also Olympic Gold U-Haulers when we got together in college.  Our first “date” lasted three solid days and we moved in together right on its heels.   It’s probably the most stereotypically dykey thing I have ever done, and I did it with a guy.  Figures.  All the same, we loved living together, it never felt too fast, and we lived very harmoniously for a few years at a time in our lives when we barely knew how to live alone.  We figure we’re probably better at it now. To boot, when we were together the first time we always basically headed these small collective households.  They were lovely — I often miss our shared house with Becky and Thai and all the kittens a ton.  However, the idea of actually being able to live by ourselves for the first time is pretty exciting.

Where things will go from there, where we’ll want to take them, we don’t know. We’re not there yet and don’t feel a need to be there yet. It’s been one of those things where you just jump.  You don’t have to, but you so want to and you can, so jump you do.  We’re still mid-air, so who the heck knows where we’ll find ourselves when we land.

The timing of all of this has been seriously rough, or maybe perfect, depending on how you look at it.  If Mark had not shared with me what he did, and our relationship hadn’t changed markedly because of it, then we’d still probably have been negotiating switching from primaries to secondaries a few months back.  We’d probably also still have been doing that even if Blue had wanted to choose for he and I to stick to a friendship, or if Blue was going to stay in his marriage.  Hell, the this of this has been rough.  Even from when Blue and I first just started talking again, I was endlessly checking in with Mark because he knew how I felt about Blue: he knew in the first six months we were dating, as I told him about the relationship way back then, before we got to Act III of it.  But of course, I didn’t tell him about it with any expectation that that relationship was anything but over. (In hindsight I’m glad of that: I never had to wonder if I was honest about my feelings.) I never thought any of this was going to be easy, but I do think all three of us thought it wasn’t going to be this hard.  We’ve all been clumsy, we’ve all had our moments of thinking and feeling we have loused everything up or taken missteps.  Maybe we have, any of us, all of us, but all things considered, I think we’ve all done alarmingly well in caring for everyone involved.  And that’s not something I’m simply saying out of loyalty, either.

On a strangely bright note, my parents, who got along for five whole minutes of my life and have agreed on things less often than the fingers I have on one hand (the one without all its original fingers, no less), have both been incredibly supportive.  Oddly enough, my father was the one with some issues at first — usually, it’d be my mother with the finger-wags — but at this point, they’ve both been great. And that’s been a real and unexpected source of comfort.  My friends have also been totally amazing.

On the health front, for the last two weeks, I have finally gotten feeling in my left arm and hand 100% back.  I also have been almost entirely without the constant pain in that arm and shoulder.  I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it is to have months of that be over, even though I am still enormously behind in everything from the months it went on for.  I’m still having weekly therapies for that and some of my other symptoms and issues — muscle work, acupuncture, nasty-tasting herbs — and we still don’t know why it happened, or why I have some other things going on.  But to be plain, the pain and numbness being gone, having full use of that hand back, is enough for me for right now.  I can live without that question answered at the moment.

However, in a lot of ways, all this health business has been a bit of a straw breaking the proverbial camel’s back.

I need to accept, I’ve been trying to accept, that I simply can’t do 60+ hour workweeks anymore. I need eight hours of sleep a night. I need to take plenty of breaks during the day, especially breaks to play outside where I can move my body around and turn off the incessant furnace of my brain.  I need downtime in the evening, and I need something close to two days off a week, not two hours.  I turn 40 next year, not 20.  I need time for my freaking art, including creating things I have no intention of showing or selling.  I also need more flexibility to call it a day when I’ve worked with someone in any given day who has just emotionally tapped me out: the longer I work in the fields I do, the more easily people very deeply connect to me, the more rough stuff they disclose and ask me to help them hold.  Sometimes I can hold it and move through the rest of my day, able to hold more.  Sometimes I just can’t.  That needs to be okay: I need room for that to be okay.

And on top of all of that, with as much diplomacy as I can muster, have to say that I want to be able to have the time when all of the preexisting context of all this is sorted (which may be a seriously long haul) to simply enjoy Blue and being with Blue.  Without attaching any sort of hierarchy to any of the relationships in my life, including my relationship with Mark, I am on the precipice of being able to spend a lot of time with someone I have loved for an age, and to be with him in a way that it seems we are both finally ready for.  In so many ways, there was an unwieldy enormity to our relationship and chemistry the first time around, and for us individually in terms of dealing with very difficult issues in our own lives.  It was a LOT of relationship, a crazy-quick depth of connectivity, some very strange fateful details, and no small measure of drama; a lot of for two relatively young and very passionate people with poor relationship modeling growing up to handle. At this stage in our lives, we are much more capable of both handling it and appreciating it for the rare, mighty thing that it is and always was.  Then, it felt like trying to be out in a thunderstorm holding nothing but an umbrella, more likely to get you electrocuted than it was to offer any shelter. Now I think we’ve both got handfuls of thunderbolts and a far greater strength, care and power to use them wisely and without so much fear.

The both of us, albeit in different sorts of ways and on different schedules until the last year, have been hoping for a chance again for a long time. The only things I’ve waited for this long in my life have been health insurance, world peace, the passage of the ERA and a perfect vegan donut (I at least got the last when I moved here). That it seems we’re going to have it feels pretty miraculous and incredibly unlikely.  I get to find out what happens when you get, and take, the second chance you never thought you’d get but always wanted.  Strangely, this is one of the few times in my life where I find I am not worried about what happens after, not even thinking about what happens after.  I don’t know why I’m feeling that way, especially about something so huge and potentially disastrous, but I don’t particularly care.  I’m just delighted TO be feeling that way for a change.  It’s very freeing.

So, sometime soon, I need to sit down and figure out what has to go in my life: which projects, which jobs, which way I use my time.  Some things simply have to go or get cut back to make room for everything else or I’m either going to lose my mind or do myself in with sheer exhaustion.

Okay.  So, that’s what I’ve got for now.  It’s a lot, I know.  Believe me, I know.  The funny thing is, it feels like I’ve only addressed a little, just kind of opened the door a sliver.  But I had to open it: the longer it sat closed, the more uncomfortable and dishonest it felt, and the more was going to bust out of it when I finally did open it.

I have some silly, light stuff to tell, but putting that here before I just spit out some of the other stuff felt disingenuous, so I can get to that stuff soon now.  Writing those trifles is easy as pie.  The other stuff?  Not easy.  And perhaps not graceful either, but at least it’s done.  I’ve got trembly fingers, but I’m going to push that button that says publish, even though “save” seems more fitting.

P.S. I think the most gracious way to handle this per saying so much, including about other people’s private lives as well as my own, is to password this entry in a little while.  So, I’ll leave it up for all for around a week, then it’s going somewhere more protected.

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

On Sunday, this journal turned ten years old.

Here’s that first entry, just because:

I woke up this morning to the sound of thunder, echoing off of the window beside the bed.

From the breadth of the sound, I assumed there would be sheets of rain, pummeling the grasses and sidewalks. The sound of the thunder woke both B. and I, and I slunk into my jeans, through the glass doors to the wooden porch to ingest my morning take of nicotene and take in what I expected to be a strong storm.

Though it sounded like a storm, it was the gentlest rain I’d experienced in some time. The drops fell down so lightly; it was like the softest kisses one could imagine, fleeting and teasing in their lightness. Shy rain, I would call it, just a little warm and very timid. I sunk my bare feet into the puddles on the walk and stood outside for several minutes, kissed gently again and again by the tiny droplets, inhaling the scent of morning, and all things new.

With that feeling, I start yet another journal. I have journals as far back as 1976, when I had just begun to write; six years old at the time. They often dissapoint me. I am an impetuous person: I embrace new projects with all the vigor of war, but often, as soon as something which seems bigger looms it’s voracious head, I drop the former notion before cobwebs have had time to settle.

I have many times sat and read through the pile of journals, looking for inklings of myself - as I am now - hidden in the pages written when I was a child, an adolescent, a blossoming woman. Often, I find them, and it amazes me how little - on some level - we truly change from what we were born as.

It is with these things in my mind: the newness of things that are in truth not new at all, and the compulsion and determination to begin, always, again and again, knowing there will be some lapse, but hoping there will not be; knowing it is nearly futile. Though living may be a continuum, there are always lapses, and they come and vanish in an instant that can swallow years.

By way of introduction, I warn you now: a journal for me is not a confessional. I was not raised in that cultural sect which keeps secrets and then feels the need to purge them somewhere secretly. Instead, I was raised with the notion that a large part of being an artist is to bear witness: to record events through individual eyes for the purpose of marking personal history, and perhaps bringing the personal to history in a way that is unique and diverse. By virtue of what I am - an artist who has, since I was a child, been a sensate creature, engrossed with touching, tasting, feeling, and the union of body and soul - I expect, like any journal I have kept, this one will be a bit more salacious than another artists memoirs may be, though I similarly suspect what is sensual, sexual, and considered an event by myself may be those things considered less noteworthy by others.

Being kissed by the rain this morning was an event. It may or may not have been as noteworthy an event as the falling of the Berlin Wall, the day women gained the right to vote, as a death, or a birth, or the union of two souls, but from moment to moment - and in an individual life - those moments spent with our feet in the puddles, the rain kissing our cheeks, are those I never wish to forget.

(I cannot help but laugh out loud at the “not a confessional” monologue.  If a journal never was for me before, it most certainly has been one here far more than once over the years.  Oh, hindsight: you briny bastard.  It’s also a bit hilarious to read my little warning about the fact that I would likely talk about sex and sensuality here: the internet most certainly is not the place it once was.  There really was a need for that statement then, for serious.  There was not a need to be so pretentious about it.)

When I first started journaling online, very few others were doing it, and no one was blogging yet: we didn’t even have the word “blogging” yet.  I also had far fewer gray hairs.  And I think my bottom has started migrating south since, no less.  If it’s heading to South America, I hope it takes me with.

I was thinking I’d sum up everything that has happened in the last ten years, but I started to do that and became dizzy very quickly.  It’s been one hell of a decade, and I can’t fathom how very much I shoved into it.  Meetups, breakups and makeups, nearly the entire development of my career in sexuality with all the ups and downs that has entailed, the whole of my photographic work behind the camera, four moves (two to different states), struggling with money (there is a post back when where I was literally unable to get myself a warm coat in Minneapolis, and a very kind reader — thanks, Kat — sent me an old coat of hers), struggling with family, struggling with life as we know it.  I’ve been single in this journal –sometimes gladly, sometimes miserably — I’ve been with partners, I’ve been cohabiting.  I’ve been flush and in scarcity, high and low; there has been high comedy and high tragedy.  There have been trials (literally) and tribulations (and how). Writing here has at times made me feel very comforted and with community, and at other times very isolated and overexposed. In many ways the world has changed massively throughout this relatively short span of time.

The arrival of Sofia even happened during this journal’s tenure.  And no, I can never turn down the opportunity for a gratuitous shot of my dog, so here’s us when she was around six months old.

As insane as I kind of feel for doing this for so long and in this way, this has actually been the most consistently kept journal I have ever kept in my life.  By all means, it has its limitations, but it also has its boons.  While I’ve had to make some adjustments over the years due to the way life has changed, how journaling here does or doesn’t work for others in my life or for all aspects of my life, and it’s not the same journal it once was in many ways, I don’t see any good reason to stop writing here.  I like writing here, and I also feel really blessed by those of you who read here, some of whom have offered me generous feedback, solace, comfort, help, humor, love, compassion, understanding, counterpoint, friendship, lust, confusion, sadness, cheerleading and silliness. I’m even strangely grateful for the occasional vitriol and bullshit left in comments here over the years.

So, moving forward, here’s my right now.

There is a spirit of candor I’ve tried to keep over the years I have written here: most often, I think, I’ve managed it, though sometimes I’ve slid, particularly unsurprisingly, when things are tough, awkward or painful, or when I have been worried about invading someone else’s privacy or having such a lack of my own that I just wouldn’t be comfortable. Certainly, when I first started journaling online, the audience was much smaller, and I didn’t imagine I’d be read by as many people as I have been over the years, nor as visible with everything else I do: thinking maybe ten or twenty people are reading you and knowing thousands do is a pretty huge discrepancy.

But I’m going to try to write today with that same spirit, even though there have been some things that have been difficult to talk about, certainly personally, but particularly publicly.  I’ve been avoiding them with no small measure of intensity.

One is that I’ve not been well lately.  I’ve said a little about it, and over the last few years, have also made some mention of some things that have gone wrong with my health.  But in the few months, things have gotten pretty scary over here at times.  The long-story-short, sparing you my whole medical history ad nauseum and giving myself some semblance of privacy, is that I’ve had various neurological issues my whole life.  I was epileptic for years in high school have had heinous headaches off and on since I was a kid.  The deal in the last month and change is that…well, two fingers of my left hand have gone numb, and my left arm has periods of either numbness or pain. Needless to say, when I already have a disability in my right hand, this is even more scary.  (However, the weird part is that I’m so used to adapting for those two fingers on my right than shifting the same behaviors to my left at least isn’t something new I have to learn.)  I get some weird tremors, shakes and spasms these days, and every now and then, my speech also seems to simply run away with itself in a really disconcerting way.  I’m also just plain exhausted, despite getting way more sleep lately than usual.

So, what’s going on?  I don’t really know yet.  By virtue of not having healthcare for decades, and public health in Seattle being beyond heinous, I’m limited in this process, which blows in part because the not knowing bites, and also because I’ve no management for the pain this has involved yet, and am very tired of being in pain all the time.  I do, thankfully, have the benefit of the services of the Barstyr clinic here.  I prefer eastern  or holistic healthcare to western anyway, and I can both pay cash to go there and get a discount due to my income.  I don’t have a ton of dough to do this with, but for now, I’m managing.  As of this week, I’ve had a bunch of tests done, and just got the results of my bloodwork back yesterday.  So far, nothing terrifying, but I do have some low levels of a couple things which may be a cause of, a contributor to, or signals of something else, or the problem all by themselves. My care team has some theories, but they’re all still murky.

By the way, am I the only person who did not know — and being in any branch of healthcare, I feel like a particular dipshit about now knowing — that very LOW cholesterol is a problem?

I’m going to start some physical therapies this week, have been given some nutritional therapies, too, and then they’ll determine if we want to see about getting me an EEG and MRI, which will be a bit of a trial because they can’t do them there, and the one place we found I could pay cash for them did not exactly have a nice-looking price tag.    I’m also groaning at the prospect of those tests: been there, done that, more than once.  I swear, high school was a blur of having shit stuck in my hair.  If it wasn’t a whole can of aqua net from making it all stick up, it was the rice from Rocky Horror shows.  if it wasn’t the rice, it was someone’s beer or whatever from a mosh pit.  if it wasn’t beer, it was glue from some brain scan or another while they tried to figure out the seizures and the headaches.  Apparently, I have come full circle.  Maybe I need to go buy some Aqua Net.

What else?

Well, Mark and I have been in the process of shifting our relationship to a friendship and family relationship.  That perhaps has been obvious.

It wasn’t having the triad that got us here (yes, I say that defensively: I really hate that bullshit perception that when you go poly, some relationship will go to shit).  I do think it can be said that all the deep communication that went on in that process made us realize we already were or were heading here for the last year or more, maybe even for the last three, but I don’t think that’s a bad discovery or by-product.  The more we’ve talked it all through, the clearer it becomes that this has been the direction for more time than the both of us had a real, full awareness of or wanted to have an awareness of: we like and love each other a lot, and this isn’t the outcome either one of us really wanted when we first got together.

I write about that today in part because I’m reminded of how tough it has always been to write and publish here about these kinds of times and spaces.  Obviously, one of the big things to manage when you journal so personally and publicly is how you write about others in your life, especially those closest to you.  While certainly, everyone I’ve gotten intimately involved with over the last decade has known or been made aware that I publicly journal, that doesn’t mean anyone is automatically signing up for their every detail, shared moment or feeling to be shared here: that’s not my right.  I’ve often done negotiating around what I write, and my default setting with intimate relationships tends to have been that both for myself and for others involved, everyone is — unsurprisingly — a lot more comfortable with me going on about the good stuff or the easy stuff than the tough stuff.

I haven’t usually tended to write about arguments, about huge conflicts, about many incompatibilities, about some of the changes that have gone down.

Obviously, that’s a big flaw when it comes to the integrity of writing because of course, the way I present my relationships are often going to appear a bit fair-weather.  And I know more than once that readers have felt like a breakup or interpersonal change of mine has seemed like it came out of left field for that reason.  At the same time, I’m not quite sure how to remedy that, especially with such a public journal, especially with always having kept it under the same name I do rest of my work and personal life with.

I’m not going to go on and on about the deal with Mark and I right now, save to say a few things, both for clarity’s sake and because they’re so important.  We’re still living together.  We likely will be for at least a couple more months, and perhaps even a good deal longer than that.  It’s hard to say, finances, practicalities and the whole soup both either of us moving and no longer being housemates entails, emotionally and otherwise. Blue may also be moving out here in time, too, which is another complex ingredient to factor in. We are no less friends than we have ever been.  We also still very much feel like family, and both of us have a tough time envisioning that ever not being the case.  By all means, we’ve had some rough moments and have been very sad at times; hard truths on both sides have whacked both of us upside the head lately, but we love each other very much.

This is coming off like a parent talking to their kid about an impending divorce, no matter what words I use: sorry about that.  Mommy doesn’t mean to talk to you like you’re six.

In short, no one has done anything wrong here. There’s no bad guy in this.  Without unfairly disclosing someone’s feelings and experiences which aren’t mine, this feels primarily like both of us facing certain limitations we each have, and those of the situation we’re in.  This is about us figuring out the difference between things we want and things we need, dealing with the fact that the overall arc of our lives and our relationship history have always been incredibly different, and that in some ways, we each want to head in different directions, or have a different timetable for the directions we’re heading in.

I’m still involved with Blue, and while that has its own kinds of complexity, as well as its own brand of not knowing where anyone will land in many ways, it’s been a very good thing.  There are a lot of old fears involved, some new ones, and I really wish someone had written a guidebook for having a new relationship that is also one of the oldest ones you’ve got.  It’s also a relationship that for a big batch of reasons I’m not up to discussing over much here yet.  Too, Blue is far more of a private person than Mark is or I am, or than many other partners of mine have been for that matter, so we’re just going to have to feel this out as we go in terms of what I write here.

I’m still hoping to make a move to the island here in the future, but I just don’t know when I can make that happen.  Finances are a usual issue, and until I have the word on what the hell exactly is going on with my body, what I need to/can do about it, and have some idea of what to expect per getting better or getting worse, getting there soon isn’t exactly a doable plan.  Putting myself in a rural space alone when I’m having days where I can’t open a can or am feeling dizzy and disoriented all day long?  Not so smart.

From the Department of Things Far Less Heavy, the SSSS weekend at Monterey Bay was just lovely.  I got to have quality time to sit down and talk with some people I respect the hell out of (like Joani Blank and Susie Bright), catch up with some folks I haven’t seen in way too long (being able to sepnd the Aquarium afternoon with David Steinberg and gab for hours was a real treat: the last time we had a lunch was in 2000), meet some new people, see some excellent presentations (the Sex in the Sea lecture from Steven Webster at the aquarium and Gina Ogden’s and Remi Newman’s talks were big highlights), and also enjoy a breathtakingly beautiful place for two days.  I did a lot of solitary walking meditation, which I’ve very much needed.  I went to bed very early both nights and didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn, either.  Getting the award was really awesome and flattering (even though with the recent shakes and other unpredictable body stuff, I felt self-conscious about standing up in front of people), and it got all the more compounded by winding up getting two awards for my work in one week, which is seriously something else.

This last weekend, I was up on the island at Sacred Groves with my buddybro Ben, both looking at some places and options, and just chilling out.  We built a vulva out of branches and leaves, because we’re like that.  We made a nice communal dinner.  I got to sit in a meadow bathed in sunlight for a half hour Sunday morning.  We got to have the talks brothers and sisters who are close do.  Good stuff, all of that.

Work has been….worky.  Not a lot to write home about, since it’s the usual stuff, sparing a lot more travel in the last year than I’ve done before.  I’ve been doing more of that in order to get myself more comfortable with it.  I’ve gotten a lot better over the years at speaking publicly to bigger groups, but it still isn’t something I love to do or which I find fun, so more practice always helps, and it’s a smart thing for me to do more of career-wise.  I am also trying to create a plan so that, ideally, sometime in the very near future I am burning the candle at both ends a lot less, for both my mental and physical health as well as so I can be sure I’m doing the best job I can when I am working.  Perhaps off-topic, today I have been asked more times about this by press people than seems reasonable, and am apparently the Pulling Out Poster Girl even though I’ve never used withdrawal as a method myself, and I haven’t been asked about something like this with other methods of contraception before.  So, I don’t know what that’s all about.

me, on this journalversary.

And that’s really about that.  Or the best I can do with all of that for now, anyway.

Again, I want to express my love and affection for everyone who has been on any leg of this journey with me, and particularly to those who have been readers the whole damn time.  I think there may be something seriously wrong with you for reading me for this long here, but that doesn’t make me love you any less.

Friday, April 24th, 2009

it said it saw itself as a very tall tree, and so I saw it that way, too.

After the weekend before last, I feel very, very clear on the fact that life on the island would fit my wants and needs very nicely.  I’ve known for a long time that I wanted, at some point in my life, to live more quietly, more rural,  I just thought it was going to be a bit more down the road than this.  But I think the only reason I thought that was that I didn’t see it as feasible any earlier.  It is, in fact, feasible sooner, as feasible as living exactly where I am is.  In some ways, it may be even more so.

The whole weekend, I kept doing that thing one does in a heavenly place, where you say to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could live here?”  Usually, when I’m somewhere where I say that to myself, it’s a pipe dream.  In this case, every time I thought that, I’d then remember that I CAN live there.  The rents and expenses are really no better or worse than they are in the city, everything I have here on the mainland I could have on that island, and getting to the city from Bainbridge (there are other islands, but this would be the most convenient for me) is exceptionally easy and highly pleasant.  I know locals here kvetch about the ferries a lot, but having grown up with subways and inner-city buses, I tend to find them a far more pleasant means of transportation than what I usually ride on.  I wouldn’t have to take the ferry much anyway, as I really only need to be in the city for outreach/clinic work two times a week at a maximum.  And two of our clinic staff live on the island, so carpooling is also an option.

I just felt better there, separate from the fact that I was also there visiting with Blue, who I hadn’t seen in five weeks.  I breathed more deeply, my skin looked immediately better.  I could walk out on the porch in the morning stark naked without anyone’s notice or care and take a soak; have my first sip of coffee with the moist breeze on my skin.  The quiet both soothed and inspired, and the company of trees, ferns, birds and water felt more like me these days than the company of tall buildings, construction detritus, bar mania and a ton of people everywhere I turn.  The rhythm of the day there fit my own so well, sending me to sleep early and rousing me to wake before the sun came up.  Doing the dishes by hand felt better than loading them into a machine: doing simple things and doing them more simply is so grounding for me.  Taking a long hike on the dirt felt better than a walk on the pavement.  The people were warmer, everything was smaller; more intimate, yet more private all at once.  My head felt more clear, my heart more at rest, to the point that I could put most thoughts of work away save flashes of inspiration.

I felt much more like island people than mainland people.  I felt much more at home. I felt much more like myself, much more like I fit, than I have felt in Seattle.

While I was there, I started to do some planning.  Ultimately, if I could sell another book in the next six months, I could handle the financial aspects of this move with incredible ease.   It’d be doable without that, but that would make it nearly a cash cakewalk. I will need to find myself some kind of reliable junker to drive, which means a) getting a new license (I let my old one expire ten years ago, having no need of it), and b) purchasing said vehicle.  I may also need to consider finding a roomie, but I may not: it really depends on what I can find to rent for myself or not.  In a lot of ways, I’ve felt so alone in my own home over the past couple of years, as well as in this city, that literally being alone, not just feeling alone, seems very important and like the right thing for me.

I do think that as much as I have always loved the solitude of being in more isolated spaces, and as much as I need to be alone in the near future, it will probably take some adjusting on my end to be out there alone.  But I realized there is a very easy and fantastic solution to that matter, which is simply calling and emailing some of the people in the world I love and miss the most and inviting them to come stay somewhere beautiful with me for a week or two during the first few months after I move.

Briana is going to come up here to visit in June or July, and wants to come see the island with me, too. (Mya is coming around then, too, maybe I’ll drag her over for a day, as well.)  I’d love more than anything for she and The Baby Liam (who isn’t a baby anymore, but I plan to call him that well into his adulthood, in alignment with my job as his obnoxious auntie) to be close to me, even to live with me, but given custody arrangements with his father, that may or may not be an option.   But it’s likely also possible for the two of them to be on one of those visits when I love, regardless.  I can also ask Becca, Elise, Christa, Mark, Mya, Heath, Fish, my mother, my father…any number of people who I’d love visits with anyway.  I think it’s a workable plan.

I don’t know when it will happen, but I’m thinking fall or winter.  Like I said before, one of the toughest parts of this is that my moving out of the city at all also equals my moving out from my living arrangement with Mark, and even thinking about that is so very hard and makes me feel tremendously sad. It’s probably right for us, regardless, to start moving towards not living together,  but that doesn’t make it easy, and it’s something very heavy in the lightness of my feelings about being somewhere else where I think I will be happy as far as my location goes.

And as I’m talking about somewhere else, I’m packing to go somewhere else yet again. After a week from hell where I have had to be on way, way too much, I’m heading back to Chicago for a week to visit family, get some grant work started, to spend a few days with Fish (who moved from here to there a few months ago, go figure) and to see Blue.  AND, perhaps coolest of all, to have a 5th grade slumber party reunion with two of my other closest friends as a child who I haven’t seen in decades.  I don’t know if there’s much cooler than that.

What I do know is that I’m wiped and need a soft, warm bed.  And that the idea of having it somewhere as lovely as the islands is a marvelous — and attainable! — daydream.

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I know that of late I’ve been talking much more work than the rest of my life (and I’m still due to blog about sex::tech), but the work stuff is a lot less complicated.  Given what I do, that’s seriously saying something.

The thing is, there is a lot of limbo right now, and it’s not just my own.  Since I accepted that no, I’m not digging Seattle and I seriously doubt it’s ever going to feel like a home for me, I’ve started looking more at elsewheres.  My feeling right now is that I’m in no way ready for an out-of-state move yet, for a whole lot of reasons: financial limitations, because that’d also mean moving far away from Mark (he wants to stay here, and it’s also more complicated than that), and because I’m also not sure I dislike Washington state yet.  Just sure that I dislike most of Seattle-proper.

Of late, I’ve been thinking about trying life on one of the islands here.  The rents are about the same if not better than in the city, there is water everywhere, loads of trees and green stuff, beach and, in general, a slower, more quiet life. The social dynamics also seem to be less chilly, cliquish and painfully hip, which is my primary complaint about Seattle. That’s sounding very nice to me, more like a life I have wanted to head towards for a while, but didn’t think would be able to happen until much later.  It also sounds like a much more suitable place to write a second book.  Oddly, just as I was starting to think that early in the week (I haven’t known when I’d get going on another since I finished the last), an editor from an imprint I like wrote me asking about something else, but we also may start batting around ideas, since apparently they’d love to publish me. I need to spend some time later today, in fact, creating my writing wishlist for her, then hop to more photo editing: it’s been great to have whittled out time to get back to my artwork.

Next week, I’m heading to a cabin on Bainbridge island for a few days to feel life there out some more, and to get some serious downtime, solace, creative inspiration and a visit with Blue.  I figure that’s one of several little minibreaks-with-purpose I’ll do over the next few months, trying a new island each time.  I’m just going to make-believe I live there and see how I feel about it.

Lord knows I could use the downtime anyway. There has been so much travel, so much work of late with both Scarleteen and the clinic.  I’ve also been putting so much of myself out there in life and work in a way that does take a lot of energy, and is a bit more than even I’m used to.  I can do all of this for the rest of the year, I think, but I’m going to need more downtime than I usually take to manage it.

The relationship limbos are even tougher than the locational ones or the work ones.  Well, tougher in some ways, anyway.

I find I’m frequently inarticulate about what’s all been going on in my love life, despite babbling like a brook about it with both my partners and with some friends.  Things are tricky and sometimes tough, though I don’t know if I’d say they’re capital-H hard.  There have been some moments of sadness, but in so many ways, things are also really good with everyone, too.  Where some aspects of the relationship Mark and I are in have been seeming to be stagnant or go on the back-burner, over the last year or so, other parts have been growing; they’re just not the parts either of us expected to be at the forefront of everything, especially when our relationship was new.  There’s not really anything hugely wrong, per se, with our relationship right now, it’s just been transitioning over the last year or two as it is, and us getting to adding other partners — and the deeper communication involved with that — seems to have amped up or illuminated some of those changes more over the last six months.  Even just in talking more and more deeply, some things have come to light coming from both Mark and myself about our relationship, not about anything outside of it, which have made many things more clear which were murkier before.

The quick-and-dirty on all things interpersonal right now is that both of my most intimate relationships have been changing, and both have their own kind of intensity.  While some of the changes are certainly challenging, I also think that things are all moving in the direction that is likely most right for everyone, even if it’s not what any of us expected, even if sometimes it’s been a bit rough and bittersweet and scary.  There’s a whole lot of surprise in everything, really, whether we’re talking about Mark and myself per how we saw this at the onset four years ago and how we see things and interrelate now, or talking about Blue and I: heck, after Act II of our relationship in ‘96, we were both absolutely sure (actually, I more than he, as he tells it) that we’d never even see one another again, let alone be involved like this.

I know I’m being annoyingly obtuse. It’s so damn tricky to write much about this or Blue and I here, despite there being a whole lot to say, and a whole lot I want to say. Mark and I’s courtship was so all over this journal that, understandably, he feels some sense of ownership with this space and it feels uncomfortable for him to not have that same ownership or, more accurately, that singular focus.  I get it completely, and want to honor that because I love him and want him to feel good, but that doesn’t mean I can easily figure out quite how to walk the line here.  It’s just as tough to talk or write about new-old relationship energy (still haven’t figured out if you can have NRE in a relationship with this much history) at the same time our relationship is in transition.  And it’s always tricky to write publicly about the parts of any relationship when it’s not just mushy-gushy stuff: I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to read about the tough parts of their relationship online. We’re all three of us (Mark’s other partners have so far all been very casual, one-time folks, so none of them are involved in the big stuff yet) pretty tender-hearted about everything lately, and sometimes it feels like everyone is getting the shaft in some way, but that may just be my own guilt talking; my own need to have everyone taken care of all of the time.

A month ago, in a wonderful but very intense therapy session I had in Austin, I came to some conclusions about how I have been living my life and some things I really need to work on changing.  Some of these led me to a desire to have this be the year I worked on learning how to be more… well, self-centered.

The therapist talked a lot about my nature to be a caretaker — in work, in my interpersonal relationships, even just in my worldview at large — which also made me think about parts of how I grew up, and how often I parented my parents more than they ever parented me: it’s crazy in how much of my life I’ve felt like an orphan, even as a child.  My last couple moves, for example, have been about what was most convenient for others rather than for me, about making sure the other person was comfortable, even if that meant I wasn’t.  What I’ve said to myself about them in the past was that I had the ability to be more flexible than others. But when I take a long, hard look at it, that’s just not true: it’s that I was willing to be flexible when others were not. I have to take responsibility for some of that, too, because I often don’t even ask for concessions to be made for me. And I often see myself as more flexible and able to give than everyone else, in work, in my personal life, in a ton of even just simple, daily interactions: as the person who needs to provide comfort, to help and aid others, who needs to step aside or yield, who needs to fight for so-and-so’s rights, with my own stuff second.

Long story short: I need to seriously knock it the fuck off, because I’m at an age where if I don’t soon, it’s likely to stay a pattern through the whole of my life.  So, I’ve proclaimed 2009 as The Year of Being Selfish.  We’ll see how well I do with that, and obviously, there are limits to it beyond being just not being a total asshole.  I have no desire to do different work than I have been doing: I just may need to deal with the doing of some of it differently. I want to be yielding, flexible and giving with the people I love, I just need to require more mutuality in all of that, and step into these things with more already intact in the first place. I need, I think, to recognize, that everyone has the ability to be just as adaptive as I have been, it’s just a matter of whether or not they want to, and also a matter of whether or not I keep shouldering everything by default.

(As an aside, I did manage to do this even with my father lately, who is the toughest person for me to do it with, since I am his lifeline in so many ways, and the only person he’s really got.  I also love him to bits, and his opinion of me very much matters.  But he’s been very strongly judgmental with me lately, especially about my relationships, and was kind of going to the place where it’s my job to take care of everyone and give everyone what they all want, even if it isn’t in alignment with my own wants and needs. I was able to draw a very serious boundary about this with him, which included making clear that I’ve clearly shown myself to be more capable of managing my relationships, and having healthy ones, than not just both of my parents, but than most of the people on either side of my extended family.  I was also able to make clear that he gave me the message loud and clear growing up to create my own models, so it was a little late now to have a problem with my doing that.  He’s still a bit pissy with me about my refusing to talk with him about certain things, and my insistence that I am making the best choices I can despite his feelings to the contrary, but I think we’ll work it out in time.)

I also have been thinking about how much of my life has been about fighting for survival.  Mind, much of that was unavoidable if I was going to survive, or others — like my father — were going to.  However, it’s so easy to kind of get stuck in that place, and be fighting and struggling even at times when you don’t need to anymore, or don’t need to be fighting quite so hard anymore.  I also find myself in the position, now, of having some more resources than I have during much of my life, and thus, have the ability to restructure so that I do that less, especially when we’re talking about the ways I do it so unconsciously. Heck, I fight enough with my work: needless struggle or needless battles elsewhere is just freaking silly.

… and as I hear myself say that, while struggling with writing about this when I’m really not required to, one supposes I’d best heed my own advice, figure I did the best I could so far, and get on with the rest of the day as I want it to be.

Friday, December 26th, 2008

My poor dog.  Everytime the last few days I’ve taken her out for a walk or let her out back, she’d had to effectively try to learn to ice skate or swim.  The remaining snow here — which is of course, everywhere, since no one in Seattle owns a shovel — is so hard, and she weighs so little that when she walks on it, she either slides right over, or her little feet fall in an inch or so, leaving her stuck.  Her other option is to try and swim in the huge pools of melting snow which are the other half of the landscape right now.

She also did not get our annual ritual of an early yule morning walk, something we both (well, I can only assume) have enjoyed in the past here.  Ballard is total Goyville, so pretty much everyone else is in their homes celebrating Christmas, which leaves our usually bustling neighborhood beautifully silent and empty.  But it decided to rain here much of yesterday, so all she got was a round of toy-wrestling in the living room followed by the daily ear-cleaning she despises.

I’ve been fairly lazy here the last few days, only working half-days, and spending the rest of my day in the tub, reading, cleaning the closet, writing for myself, and starting to go through some photos.

When I was at my mother’s earlier this month, we sat with a big box of some of my childhood art and schoolwork, some of which is completely hilarious, so I have a bunch of those shots to edit.  I also left home with a handful of photos, mostly from childhood, and some slides (most of what we have from my childhood is on slides, because that’s the age I am).  I say some of which because looking at things like an earnest will written at the age of 12, not long before my first suicide attempt, is not hilarious.  Suffice it to say, things like that are not going to be making it into the archives.

When I was looking at those photos, there was a whole lot of bittersweet that started happening, and then some outright meltdown, some of which has continued since.  Most of what that comes down to is that I actually had a pretty good childhood, despite a lot of tumult (some of which I didn’t really know about until later in my life), and when I see photos of myself as a kid, I’m looking at a kid I really like.  But I’m also looking at a kid whose childhood came to a crashing halt due to a confluence of events — my mother’s second marriage and the nightmare of a man she married, my pre-teen assaults, some other things.  Seeing, for instance, a photo of me at 11 the other day, seeing what a baby I was with my shirt covered in rainbows, barrettes in my hair, I realized I was looking at what some vile man in his 40’s decided was ripe for the picking and it just left me floored and furious.  I cut my hair after that primarily to try and cut him out of it.  So, while in some sense, I love seeing me and aspects of the childhood I cherished — and honestly, thank the powers that be I had, otherwise things that happened later may well have left me a vegetable — in another, I find myself feeling angry at the world-at-large for taking that kid away so fast and so suddenly, and, in some sense, robbing me of enough of her left over.

I’m not going to get too into it, because so much of it feels so private, but my visit with my mother this last time was exceptionally healing for me.  I got the chance to tell her something I have simply needed to for some time.  That was that while there are things from my late childhood and adolescence I just don’t think I can ever forgive, and certainly cannot forget — some of which she was part of or very much enabled — the older I get, the more I understand not just the greater context of her life, but the lives of so many women like her, and can see the bigger picture of what landed her and us there and fed so many of the dynamics at play.  I was able to tell her that the more I understand, the more I accept, the less I blame, and that no matter what, she’s my mother and I love and accept her.

Being able to say that was a huge deal, and also had an unexpected impact on her: it seemed to make her feel safe enough to finally ask — just outright ask — about some of what had happened to me in the last handful of years before I left home at 15.  She was able to be honest enough to say that she didn’t think she could handle hearing all of it — an honesty I really appreciate, particularly since it reminds me that that’s some of why there was so much denial about what was going on with me then.  And we were able to talk about some of it, and she was able to really listen, to hold what I was telling her, to take responsibility for some of the things I have very much needed to.  Mind, I found out some things which were in some sense a relief, and also in some sense had already known or strongly suspected, but which were also tough for me to hear: for instance, finding out that it truly was only me who was the object of my stepfather’s malice made me glad that my mother and sister were not done any real harm.  It also validated how totally alone in everything I felt then, how singled out and victimized. But at the same time… well, it wasn’t a pleasant truth.

That process also invoked her to tell me some things about her life I hadn’t known, particularly in my early childhood, when my mother, at only around 21, wound up the head of a household that included 2-year-old me, my Dad (who stayed at home with me while my mother worked), and my fathers two teenage brothers who survived the accident that killed the rest of his family.  Unbeknownst to me, my mother even had to be the one to identify the bodies — my Dad just couldn’t deal — and this image of my so-freaking-young Mom with too much already on her plate having to literally look at bloody heads in bags just gutted me. (Not to mention that both of us having to deal with bloody heads and dead bodies at a point in both of our young lives was just eerie.)

Again, not going to get into too many details here, especially since a lot of it is about someone’s life that isn’t mine.  But I think this may have been the first visit I have ever had with my mother that left me feeling even remotely like this: it was intensely liberating, very healing for the both of us.  We’ve even made tentative plans to, for the first time ever, try and take a vacation together somewhere in the next two years, something which, before this month, would have been a daunting, rather than pleasant, prospect for me.

* * *

On the home front, Mark is back in Ohio visiting family after getting waylaid in Philly on Christmas Eve.  While I usually enjoy the time to myself when he goes home for the holidays, having him leave this time was a bit sad, because it drew our all-night conversations we have been having on the couch every single night since I got back from Chicago to an end.  He was just saying the other night that he has never felt closer to me than he has in these last couple weeks, and indeed, while I didn’t think we needed a turning point in our relationship, we seem to have landed at one, and it’s so, so good.  I feel like we wound up going to this totally new place that’s really exceeded where we thought we could go, where we thought we would go, which is seriously huge since I already have thought we’ve got something really damn good.

Next week, we both have dates: Mark has one out where he is, and Blue is coming to see me for a couple of days.  In our heart of hearts, we were hoping for a magical harmonic convergence during which we could both be in those things at the very same moment, but alas, it didn’t quite work out that way.

All of this moving into a much more tangible and physical reality is all the things one’d likely expect: exciting, nervewracking, anxious, exhilarating and more with the anxious.  Obviously, it’s a bit like a moment of truth is coming, where we’re going to find out if everything that seems like it feels so right to all of us involved really is.  I keep having these small moments where I second-guess what we are are saying and feeling, how harmonious it all seems to feel so far for everyone, and then I second-guess (or is that third-guess?) my dismissal of those moments, worried it is coming from a selfish place because exactly what I want appears to be something I can have that is also in alignment with everyone else’s wants, even though we all seem to have such different sets of needs.  When I voice this to either, the both of them effectively sigh and suggest I start trusting all of us — and myself — more, which is apt advice.

Having such history with both of the people involved on my part vacillates from being a total comfort to being completely daunting.   But I just got off the phone with Mark (clearly, we both want to continue our couch-conversations, even without a shared couch), and one thing we noted that seems to make this such an unusual scenario — and which I actually think makes it an easier adjustment for all — is that the person who is my domestic partner is also the newer person in all of this.  In other words, he’s already well used to Blue being in my heart and  being a part of who I am: when he walked into my life, that existed before he and I, and he obviously has coexisted with it just fine.  I can’t figure out if I envy Mark that, for now, anyone he’ll see is likely to be very new to him, or if I wish he were in my position on his end.  I do envy him some for having the ability to just ring Blue up and talk together, and I can’t say it wouldn’t be nice to have the same opportunity, but hey, maybe I will at some point.

This is one of those times where I wish I knew a bit less than I do, particularly about sex and love and relationships.  I was sitting last night in a stack of books from the shelves which addressed open relationships, and feeling very much like it was all so 101, and of such very little use to me.  I wanted the AP versions — even though I don’t think we really need them — and they don’t seem to exist.  I sat scrolling through my head with my own history with things like this, save that I don’t really have anything like this in my history.  Anything remotely close has felt like splitting before, or sharing, and it doesn’t feel like that, perhaps because both of these people have been in my heart already: no one is taking up any new real estate here.

I’ve also gotten to the point in my life where I know I am big enough, wide enough, AM enough for this.  Oddly, I think working at the clinic has been part of that: keeping a lot of distance is so typical in anything remotely medical that my being very open to clients, really kind of letting them in has occasionally worried my co-workers.  And yet, the way the clients have been with me, the way they want to disclose so much and have me hold so much while they’re in with me stands counter to that. I’ve heard more than once that I “just can’t” be as open to them as I have when it comes to kind of holding their truths and their feelings and really being in it with them for that brief period of time and possibly deal with it…and yet, I know full well that I certainly can, and that it’s one of my gifts as a person.  It’s not one-sided, either: it doesn’t just benefit others, but it also deeply enriches and expands me, too.

* * *

And I suppose that’s my rather random set of bleats for the day.  A Scarleteen once-user, since-volunteer and someone who feels very much like family to me is moving into the neighborhood next week, and will also be housesitting for me with her kid while I’m staying downtown.  They’re coming over the evening before for some hangout and dinner, and our place is so far from toddler-proofed, it just isn’t funny.

Thankfully, this week of the year is always exceptionally slow at Scarleteen, so it’s one of the few times where I feel able — without guilt or worry — to take some time for myself and work a short shift.  So, I was able to spend some time just talking more to Mark and Blue, and can now go spend some time housecleaning (which needed to happen anyway: bless houseguests for making you have to hop to it), maybe going through some more of those photos, doing some languid yoga, writing a bit more just for myself about everything going on with me, taking another bath and setting up a new computer that needs setting up.

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Meet Gerald.Several weeks ago, on the way home from the movies, Mark, Heath and I drove by a shop with this hat in the window, which caused a great squealingy ruckus on my part.

A couple weeks later, Mark surprised me with it as a gift.  Much leaping followed.

I have named it Gerald and taken him in as a permanent guest.

Since that time, Mark has made what will go down in history as one of my favorite Mark-quotes to date.

“I want to snuggle up to a woman who wants to jump in puddles with a monster on her head.”

And with that, Gerald and I are heading home to Chicago together.  See y’all next week.

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

For the most part, I usually do one of two things on Thanksfornothing.

I either a) wind up cooking a meal for people who do celebrate the holiday but who are, for any number of reasons, sans a place to go and sad about it , for I cannot stand to see people I like both sad and hungry, or b) get to spend the whole day by myself, enjoying the relative quiet that happens when a great many people are very busy doing something that has nothing at all to do with sex.

I like the latter best, and was very much looking forward to having a quiet day this year.

I did a bit of work that morning, and had my living room floor spread with OB/GYN texts for some extended research I was doing so we have some better material on yeast infections.  It was a bit chilly, so I started a fire.  At a certain point, it started to die down a little, so I opened a pack of wood from the front porch.  It was pretty moldy, but I didn’t think anything of it, save that it may well not catch.

However, within just a couple of minutes it did catch. Well.  A bit too well.  As I stood in front of the wood stove, I noticed that, in fact, what had minutes before been a slacker of a fire seemed to have become quite the overachiever.  The flames were going a bit higher in the back of the stove than they ever had, and then I heard a strange sound, something which sounded a bit like some kind of something had fallen in the exhaust pipe.

Then the flames got big.  Very big.  I went from wondering if maybe this wasn’t a little weird, wasn’t a bit larger of a fire than was such a good idea to knowing, for certain, things were very much not okay.  The exhaust pipe started to glow red, and little sparks could be seen at some points.  Then the fire in the stove started licking out of the stove altogether.  Shortly thereafter, the iron grate that sits under the exhaust pipe fell into the fire, sending out another whoosh of flames.  My dog — smart little thing that she is — ran out of the room and vanished, clearly considering it was every pug for herself.

My first thought was to grab the ceramic garden gnome on the stove — Save the gnome! – which had been sitting there since Mark got it for me, as I had not yet decided where it should go in the garden. Then I pulled the top log off the pile: that didn’t seem to help.  Then I began running back and forth between the kitchen and the living room hurling pitchers of water into the stove, since (something I have voiced concern with for some time) we are sans fire extinguisher.

In the midest of all this, there was a knock on my door, and I ran to it, threw it open, and probably scared the bejeezus out of the neighbor as I stood, breathless in blue zebra pajamas, face half full of soot with a pitcher in my shaking hand. He casually — as if I were not in the midst of fighting for my life — asked if everything was okay, as their apartment next door was a bit smoky from our chimney.  As, “I am in the middle of trying to keep the house from burning down right now, lovely to see you, but could you please come back later?” did not seem the right thing to say, and as I am terrible with other people in the midst of a crisis, and my brain was a bit addled, I said something about a log just sparking (what that meant, I do not know) and it made a hotter fire than I expected but I’vequitegotithandledrightnowthanksforaskingbutIreallyHAVEtofuckinggonowBYE.

And I think I basically then slammed the door in his face.  This from the woman who complains that Seattle sucks for having any kind of relationship with one’s neighbors.

I got back to my water hurling, and finally got the damn thing to go out.  Then I resumed breathing for the first time in a good ten minutes.

Then I sat in front of the stove trembling and covered in cold sweat for something close to two hours, willing my heart rate to go down, enjoying some lovely post-adrenaline nausea, and feeling generally betrayed that fire, so often my BFF, had not only decided it didn’t want to be friends with me anymore, but had apparently also determined that my number was up and it was time for me to die.

When my knees finally stopped knocking, I spent another hour or two walking around upstairs obsessively, sniffing the floors, the closets, the walls, because it occurred to me that I did not know the exact path of the exhaust pipe from stove to chimney, and there may well be a fire still somewhere in it that would burn the house down.  It’s taken me until today, to be honest, to feel pretty certain there is not some sneaky little fire brewing somewhere in the innards of the house that’s going to burn us all to a crisp in our sleep.

Mark was back with his ex-roomies in south Seattle that day eating dead things, but I resisted the very strong urge to call him.  For one, I don’t know what on earth he could have done from 45 minutes away.  But more than that, I had this flashback to the time a few years ago when I was here visiting, when he was making his second short film, and when I got the migraine that wound up literally freezing my body up to the point that I had to call him in the midst of movie-making to let him know I had something of a concern about…well, part of my body seeming to be paralyzed.

So, I then had this extended solitary sob session about how I couldn’t call Mark and ruin his day, or give him the impression that if he went somewhere out of reach all hell would break loose.  Silly, really, since he’s been quite out of reach many times without incident, but welcome to my dysfunction.  Suffice it to say, we had a very interesting, “Hi, honey, so how was your day?” conversation when he got home that evening, save that we mostly had to have it in the morning because I wasn’t yet ready to relive the events of the day at that point.  It says an awful lot about our relationship that I can say something like, “I think I almost burnt the house down, but can we talk about that in the morning?” and get an easy nod.

After I finally told him my tale of woe the next day, he went out and bought me Wall-e (which I consider the film Pixar surely made just for me, since no one loves an apocalypse with a gender-neutral romance as much as I).  The boy’s the bee’s knees, I tell you.

So, the wood stove is currently closed for business.  I solemnly shut the doors Thursday, and I have no idea when I will open them again. We’re going to get a chimney-sweep out here, but even after that, I’m not sure how comfy I’ll be with a fire in here without not only the much-needed fire extinguisher, but perhaps also a flame-retardant suit to wear, as well.

I’m off a bit later today to another homeless youth drop-on center, to see about adding them to my outreach roster.  The beginning of the week is going to be business as usual (save my morning fires, sigh), Thursday I go to the clinic in the morning, and then within a few hours, will high-tail it to the airport for a visit back home to Chicago, as well as to see my sister in Indiana.  I’ll be with my mother and sister for the first few days, then have a couple of days to spend in-city to see my Dad, my friend Erika, maybe a couple other folks, and a possible meeting with someone I’ve been sorting through some old stuff with and forging a relationship anew (yes, I’m being obtuse).

The fact that I expect to freeze to death, not having gone back to Midwest during the winter months since I moved here, is something I’m trying to keep from having ruin my trip. I pity the poor soul who kindly suggests making a fire to help warm me up.

(Oddly enough, the fourth fire of the year in my father’s SRO happened not the day before, on the floor right beneath his room.  He told me this the next day on the phone and I immediately thanked myself for deciding it was best not to tell him about my own little flaming adventure.  He, no doubt, would have considered it prophetic as he does nearly anything anymore.  Hell, maybe he would have been right this time.)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Well, that was unexpected.

So, an 18-year-old girl came to my door selling magazines for one of these work programs (which are very questionable, to say the least: they’re often basically migrant worker situations which prey on young people).  Even more questionable than I thought: turns out her boss has told the young women there they will get fired if they become pregnant.  I’ll be making a phone call in a few days to assure she’s not linked to that disclosure. Grrrr.  Suffice it to say, I went inside and got her NWLC contacts in case she or anyone else should need them.

She had caught me photographing spiders when she walked up, and we wound up talking for a bit. I do have some mercy for door-to-door folks…well, when they aren’t trying to sell me religion.  Last week the Mormons came.  Telling them I was Buddhist didn’t get them gone (”That’s cool,” they said.  “If it’s so cool, you can respect it and go now,” said I.  They didn’t) and in trying other ways to get them gone, the pug ran out.  She doesn’t care why someone is there, just if they’ll pet her — so I wound up telling them as they were oh-cute-pugging her that she, too, was Buddhist.  That got me enough of a pause to be able to scoop up the pug and shut the door. It was at least more polite then the time years back in Chicago when I walked out naked to scare them off.  That works very well, for the record.  It was just too cold that day, and I’m a bit less emboldened to use that trick with my 38-year-old-ass than I was with my 23-year-old one.  Anyway.

But folks like this, PIRG canvassers and such… it sucks having a door slammed in your face on those jobs every few minutes, so I do tend to offer a porch seat and tea when I’m not smack in the middle of something.

As anyone who knows me knows, I have a strong confessional vibe: people I barely know tell me their unsolicited life stories on a daily basis. I sometimes know more about someone I have just met within minutes than others close to them know after years.  When I take quizzes to find out what job is the best one for me, clergy always comes up first.  G’won and laugh: it’s okay.

She’s the mother of a three-year-old already, was taking about how tough it was, and I mentioned what I do for my living in the course of sympathizing.  She then lets out a long breath and tells me that she’s three weeks pregnant again, only recently relocated to here, and has wanted an abortion, but had no idea where to go, how to go about it, what it entailed.   She also starts talking about her birth control history and how much Depo sucked for her.

So, there I was, just back from counseling the homeless teens — and truthfully, looking forward to a bit of a slow afternoon — basically doing a gratis options counseling session, as well as a birth control and DSHS-benefits consult, on my front porch. (And yes: for the big worriers, I know. I know that it was entirely possible this girl who looked and sounded just like the teen mother from Jackson she said she was was someone else entirely, and I took a risk.  I know.  But I also know that look, that sigh, and how this conversation goes with someone who really needs to have it.)

Obviously, I didn’t have to do any of that, I volunteered it, so it was hardly like my day was ruined.  Her day was apparently made, mind: she thanked the powers that be for landing at my door more than once.  It was just…very unusual.

Note to self: when really wanting a few hours of downtime, don’t answer the door.  Because apparently, it’s not as simple as not going to the work: it can also come right to you.

It’s been a strange day, period, actually.  On my way to the residental center, I got stuck sitting still on a bus for a half an hour because we just happened to pull up to a corner downtown in the middle of a freaking bank robbery.  Thankfully, when the cops poked heads into the busses, I didn’t set off anyone’s radar.  I tend to be one of those folks who authority figures immediately identify on sight as trouble, so I was glad my silent mantra about not being searched when I was barely awake was successful.

I think I need to be done leaving the house or opening the door today.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

I’m crazy-busy with a ton of work this week (including some rather unexpected whistle-blowing), but I just had to pop in for a minute to share.

I just walked away from my computer to make some tea, and when I came back, I found Flora, my cat, perched on top of my laptop…where she’d entered “BV” into the Mac spotlight application.

Now, I have no idea why, exactly, my cat decided she needed to research bacterial vaginosis, but I’m mighty impressed with her ingenuity.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Kicking federal government attempts at censorship is so the gift that keeps on giving, man.

I swear, this just never gets old. Ever. If I could send the feds a card that issued the world’s biggest zurbitz – is that how you spell that? — when opened, I really would. Of course, knowing they keep paying to try and reprise this stupid thing with our tax dollars does take the bloom off the rose a bit, but still.

Had a small, but nice presentation at the youth residential center this morning, got to wake up and see a bunch of new plants I put into my garden, solidifying a fall trip hosted by two libraries in one of the toughest hit places in the states when it comes to unwanted teen pregnancy to go help get those kids edumacated (my love for librarians: another thing that never gets old), and heading out to supper with my sweetie.

Good day today.

P.S. Mr. Price and I are beginning the serious couples trial of trying for… a second dog! Wahoo! We expect it to be a long, arduous journey, full of false hopes and times when we are certain we may never find out exact second dog (particularly since with Madame Sofia, there is much to live up to), but we’re now — as of this evening — 100% committed. Wish us positive, perky puppy thoughts!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I did my first day here at the home office where I was doing both jobs — Scarleteen and working on CONNECT and the CRC website — at the same time.

This is what a ludicrous amount of multitasking looks like. My corner desk, with…

• to the far left, my home office laptop on a freestanding table, where an ashtray that so isn’t anything close to empty also lives
• the CRC work laptop to the right of it on my desk, with a mouse plugged in because this business with PCs (first time I’ve been stuck with one of these stinkers) having two buttons drives me batty with a touchpad
• my stationary computer on while I downloaded cards from my camera and kept a little music going
• my phone on the desk to the right of that, with my headpiece attached to my ear
• one legal pad of notes and to-dos for each gig to the right of that
• a cup of perpetually tepid coffee on one of the legal pads
• a jade plant at the end of the desk, desperately trying to represent
• the birth control comparison chart for CRC stretched out over my office chair behind me
• and me, in the middle of all the melee, rolling around on a swiss ball I use as a chair

For most of the day, I couldn’t figure out if I was doing the kind of work I think I do, or somehow electronically responsible for the fate of the free world. I had several paranoid moments of feeling like there was probably some sort of button somewhere I shouldn’t push that had the capacity to delete Australia. Halfway through the day, I shouted “Mayday, MAYDAY!” into the phone just because it seemed like the thing to do.

Want to know the big funny? All this, and I am the girl who, in the early eighties, was completely incensed with my father, who had been having a field day for a while taking apart and putting together Ataris, who thought this whole newfangled computer business would be all the rage, endlessly nagging me to learn DOS so that I could manage the amazing and oh-so-useful feat of making the letter A blink on a black screen with orange text. I HATED technology. I even got my stray cat at the time, Bowie, to pee on one of the keyboards in a shared protest.

I still have to confess that while I know full well how I fell into this tangled-cord-spaghetti, beepedy-beep-beep, creepy-chrome digital business (in short print publishing = instant bankruptcy), it’s a full-tilt love/hate relationship.

Which is why I must head to my garden immediately, now that much of my workday is done, and get as stinky, muddy and full of pollen as is humanly possible. I might even kiss a slug.

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I leave today after an all-day clinic meeting, and this trip couldn’t be better timed. Several times this month — likely in part because sparing this weekend, we still have yet to see any real signs of summer here in the Pacific Northwest — I’ve kept finding myself thinking, “I really wish I was back in Minneapolis right now.” And lo, after clinic tomorrow, I will be, for a week. I have a photo gig to justify the trip’s expense — and thank christ, found yet another used model of my camera, since the repair on the one I had was explained to me as complicated and spendy — but mostly, I’m going to just rest, reconnect and regroup.

It’s still so strange to me that that place, which isn’t and never was my home city, remains the one that feels most like home. When I get homesick, it’s not usually for Chicago, but for freaking Minnesota. When I feel out of place, that’s the place I want to be, even though a lot of time time, I didn’t feel like I belonged there, either. But most of my self-made-family is still there. I know the weather is getting to be just like I like it there. I miss lunch at the Evergreen, not dogs, half-assed smoking lounges and tequila at the Bulldog, biking at twilight around the lakes, sitting on stoops, drag at the Bowl (which blissfully, I will be able to catch this time around). I miss my dentist and his staff, who I will see, and who are wonderfully with the laughing gas. I miss being hot at night, and look forward to Bri’s stuffy apartment, and Becca’s steamy attic room. I miss some freaking semblance of queer community, goddamit. I miss Hidden Beach. I miss Uptown. I miss my Minneapolis family.

Though I remain greatly displeased that our secret gem of a neighborhood is no longer anything close to a secret, and the Sunday market was packed to the gills yesterday, I had a good time doing a present run for the two babes — the Baby Liam (Briana’s kiddo) and Odin the Great (Becca’s newbie) — a culinary school grad gift for Bri, and Elvis the pug, who sadly, will be away on his own vacation the whole time I’m there. I love coming back there all stocked up with goodies for everyone. I got to spend some time last night with my piano and one of my dulcimers, since I will be without the comfort I take a few times a week in sitting alone with a glass of wine, playing and crooning into this echo-ey house. Mark and I got to have a lovely early evening dinner on the porch.

I’m also quite proud of myself. A few weeks ago, on my to-do list, I had all these work contacts I was telling myself to make: to call District 202 and tell them I could do another sex ed session there if they wanted, to grab a quick meeting with Midwest Women’s Health, talk to this bookstore or that one. Last week, I deleted every single one off the list. I don’t need to do more work right now. I do more than my share. What I need is downtime, and it’s really silly how hard it still is for me to give it to myself, even when I’m working more than one demanding job, around 60 hours a week, and know that the very day I get back home, things are about to get even more nuts when it comes to work from here on in. When slacking has become an achievement, something has gone seriously wrong.

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Being able to take twenty minutes this morning to snuggle with my sweetie (have I mentioned, ever, that that boy has got the softest skin on the planet?), and get out of bed at 8, not 5 — with some glimmer of light, not total darkness — makes today a winner right out of the gate.

I don’t care what else happens today: that alone made me very, very happy.

I am reluctantly getting used to this wake-up-in-pitch-black, get-home-in-pitch-black thing. And it’s not like I haven’t dealt with worse. I had a teaching gig many years ago which meant getting up at 4:30 five days a week, and where the working conditions were so horrendous that the alarm going off filled me with dread. For the eight or nine summers I did the Chicago farmer’s markets, I had to drag my ass out of bed at 5 on the good days, for the nearby markets, and as early as 2 for the ones that were a long haul, and go from bed to clothes to driving to manual labor to cheerful, overalled sprout-selling. When I ran the school, I usually had to start working around 6:30 and be done at the same time, often with no breaks at all. So, this is hardly some new form of torture, especially since I am a morning person, but I have gotten spoiled by being able to work from home for all these years. It’s a lot easier to wake up at 6 when starting work at 7 just means putting a sweater on over your jammies, plopping your dog in your lap, and starting a morning fire as you leisurely enjoy your coffee. When I’ve had people ask how on earth I can work for as many hours as I do in a week, I usually remind them that even a 60-hour-week in your house, in your pajamas, even with difficult work, is a very different beastie that 60 hours out and about.

Making this work with everything else is also proving the challenge I thought it would probably be. With Scarleteen in particular, I’ve been there full-time for so long now that the rhythm of the thing isn’t so great when there isn’t at least one person basically always around every day and night to keep the question queues from becoming unmanageable. We’re so behind with questions and answers right now, I just don’t know what on earth to do about it. As I expected, the days I work at the clinic, I have to come home and do something else, or just do nothing: I’m just way too wiped to do more counseling at night. I’m pretty much having to kiss the days off I usually gave myself at least in part goodbye for now. Again, I knew I probably would, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant to have it verified.

Morning misery and workflow issues notwithstanding, all is still awesome with the new gig. Once I’m there, not getting back and forth, it feels like home (sans dog, disarray and a toasty fire). I am going to add one extra day there to my workweek for a while: I can do it, I like it a lot, it’ll move me faster into where I need to be, plus, I seriously need the cash. I’d decided that before the bill from the ER came, and once I opened it up and had a very satisfying primal scream, I was all the more glad I’d asked for the extra day the day before. Jaysis.

Had a very enjoyable night out with Ben, Mark and tequila last night (the middleman of whom, though I gave him a very close, fair fight, kicked my tucas at darts at the evening’s end), and today I’m shuttling off to get a couple graphics done for new Scarleteen piece, work on another unfinished piece there, and keep slogging through the backed-up photo processing that remains formidable. This weekend will be more of same, and some much-needed housekeeping. I still have little trails of toys and the lot all over the house from The Baby Liam’s visit that really need picking up. However tempting it may be for me to leave out my Playmobil collection to play with it myself, I do have other things that need doing, and finding the right place for the little plastic sheep to sleep in the little plastic house isn’t a priority I can particularly justify.