Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mapping lately

A never-published post from November 2011.

I was feeling poorly two weekends ago and didn't leave my bedroom much, so I decided to tell you about its walls, where I have been keeping track of some ideas and words I've been connecting. Topical mapping, I suppose. I didn't get to finish this post until now, though.

The north wall is the happening one lately. The theme is narration. The relationships between narration, past and present, self as subject, and on.

I want to know: the integrity of a life, of a person's experiences, how we find it. We want to understand it before we tell the story, but how can find that clarity without the process of telling the story?

We don't know how to find meaning outside of our conception of unidirectional time, which is to say, an objectified past, a past that we can act upon and master.

The process of narration, self-narration, in order to glimpse an in-process version of that integrity.

"The Puritan use of the spiritual journal to 'frame' life is a technique to forestall the incomprehension seemingly entailed by our 'continued existence,' to achieve some sense and articulation of a life's shape even as it is being formed — to see, if only through a glass darkly, something recognizably meaningful, something useful to us as we attempt to navigate the often troubled waters of experience" (Jacobs).

I realized that the word "journal" is from the Latin root of "diurnal." By the way.

Have you ever felt the grief of thinking, There is nothing story-like about this? "The clumsy and apparently meaningless bludgeoning of much of real misfortune and the prosaic littleness which usually rob real sorrows of their dignity..." (Lewis).

That clarity — an intense sense of integrity of experience, a certainty that "everything has been leading up to this" and an understanding of just how — you can take certain drugs to get that feeling. Isn't that weird?

I'm interested in the ways that we deal with and act upon the past, through retrospection and "re-vision": "the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction" (Rich). Interpretation and reinterpretation. Continuity versus rupture.

And the way the past acts on us. The "pastness of the past" and the persistence of the past (Persistence of Memory?), which, "of course, presses on the living from all sorts of directions and in any number of ways..." (Keane).

Shared narratives versus individual narratives, and what is lost and gained in dressing one's experiences in shared narratives. "[L]ocal social realities that cannot be fitted into any overarching narrative...without doing some violence to those realities" (Keane again).

Academically: I want to write a paper comparing second-wave feminist consciousness-raising with Protestant conversion narratives.

Personally: I think I am constantly retelling the stories of my life to myself, changing them a little bit each time so that the sense and coherency of them is constantly becoming more accurate. I need them to make sense. INTP drive for understanding combined with the INFP search for meaning. You know how we do.

- 11/27/11

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dissociation + loneliness

Here is an anxious response my mind sometimes produces: The sensation that I am possibly inside a movie, alone, and this movie is all that exists, and no one else in it is real. I see sort of from the camera's perspective as well as from my own. If I put on my headphones and the right/wrong song, my mind wants to go swirling out the top of my skull.

(Is that tiresome of me to talk about? Possibly. Bear with me.)

The feeling of being alone lingers. The world sometimes this very large and silent thing that I rattle around in.

Tonight on my train ride home I am thinking, Alone alone alone and feel so sick and sad of it that for once I stop and think up another thought to correct that one and dissipate the mood it brings — Supported and loved, and exploring my freedom and space, and tonight honestly, yes, it does help, and honestly it is more accurate too.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The only way I can fall asleep is clutching a heating pad to my chest

In the thirties at night. That wouldn't be notable for, say, Chicago, but this is coastal California; consider the limitations of our wardrobes, how our houses are (not) insulated, for example...

The hardwood floor in our place feels cold enough to burn the soles of bare feet. Tonight before bed though I microwave the last inch of coconut oil until it is transparent and liquid, strip and stand in the lamplight, bend to dip the cup of my fingers into the jar. The best moisturizer. Considering myself through the lens of a nonexistent camera, considering myself through the eyes of an absent lover (think: that part in The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and I hurry. Open-water swimmers smearing their bodies with goose fat. Bending down, the cup of fingers, straightening, how quickly a drip of oil solidifies on the cold floor. Of course I regard myself during this exercise, and I am somewhat exasperated. Body strange, what are you doing — keeping secrets from me with such indifference. I admit I am angry about the excuses I feel compelled to make for you, even if only in my head. Control must be released again and again.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Read in November 2013

1. Three Russian Women Poets: Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetayeva, Bella Akhmadulina, ed. and trans. by Mary Maddock

I shared the poem "Winter" from this anthology. A melancholy and very lovely collection.

2. Queer Theory: An Introduction, by Annamarie Jagose

Picked up in a used bookstore, persevered through for intellectual curiosity's sake.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Unpublished drafts


Poetry under my umbrella, as I walk
As I am pacing my bedroom floor late at night
As I am waking slowly on a Friday morning (hello, unemployment!)
In the sun on our hammock


When my older sister was my age, she was already married and pregnant with her first child.

When my mom was my age, she was assaulted on the street and almost died from the injury.

I have traveled some and worked a little and I have a bachelor's degree, but I don't have much to show for the last five years of my life other than the fact that I am alive and even in relatively good mental health.

I'm still terrified of job applications. I'm still living at my parents' house. And this is my life for the time being, which is to say, for now, which is to say, this is my life — I


days made of beautiful small things and beautiful big thoughts.


on the inside of my forehead aches
a wide empty horizon named
afraid (I am) alone and sorrowing


What this year is about for me: Doing things my way. Wanting. Testing the limits of apparent mutual exclusivity.  Growing roots and making myself at home.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jeanima (November)

Hello friends,

We currently need $5 more in order to pay Jeanima's November sponsorship fees. ($25/month; we have $10 left over from what Shana, Quinn, and Amanda donated last month. Hurrah!)

This money will pay to keep our little sister in Haiti healthy and in school.

Please give what you can to help reach that total. When it comes to keeping her continued sponsorship possible, it's all you, and it makes an immediate and real difference. I suggest $5 or $10.

[donation button may not be visible in your feed reader]

Once we reach $25, I get the partial match from our co-donor to make the total sponsorship fee of $38/month. As donations come in, I'll update by editing this post and in the sidebar.

If you're new around these parts and curious to hear a little more, it all started with this post. Don't miss the letters she's written us.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It's been raining all morning.


Goodness knows California could use it, though.

And I am in bed, taking care of my sick self instead of earning money, which makes me a little nervous, but given that I'm not in dire need, in this regard I am not one of those people who's good at ignoring their own body.

Lately I have been luxuriating in this album from U.S. Girls, and rediscovering Writer's Block.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Winter," by Bella Akhmadulina

This same poet wrote one of my favorite autumn poems, which I have posted here twice before. I discovered this poem just a few weeks ago, and it continues to hold me in thrall.

Winter became my season during my years in the Chicago area — the sensory sparseness and the deep cold lent themselves perfectly somehow to the different moods and struggles of each year, and my memories of what was so striking to see, feel, and hear hold the emotional memories tightly. I mostly look forward to it now as a time to turn inward, read closely, turn big ideas over and let my thoughts steep without hurry. This coming winter will also bring the time to celebrate a year spent with my love.

The feeling of these memories has accumulated, though; I feel them lying layered and translucent against each other. And I read and love this poem because of how well it evokes (and invokes) some of my winter selves.


Winter's gesture to me is
chilly and persistent.
Winter has something
mildly medicinal.

Why else does
my unsuspecting sickness
stretch its hands toward it suddenly
out of darkness and pain?

My love,
practice witchcraft.
Let your icy ringlet's tonic kiss
brush my forehead.

The temptation continually grows
to meet deception with belief,
to look dogs in the eye,
to press myself against trees,

to forgive — playfully —
to run and turn,
and when done,
forgive again.

To equal the winter afternoon's
empty oval,
its nuances,
and always be aware of it.

To reduce my self to nothing,
so from behind the wall I can shout
not to my shadow, but to the light
not blocked by me.

– Bella Akhmadulina
trans. Mary Maddock

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ghosts and nostalgia / dancing and panic

After a hot shower, which is the best thing one one has a head cold, as my hair was drying, I lay on my bed in my underwear and listened to "Two" by The Antlers several times through, wanting to catch that part where he sings, Two ways to tell the story, because I needed to hear that part today.

I have always loved watching the play of afternoon light across my ceiling, no matter where my bedroom was. And there is something very soothing about the exercise of beginning a sentence with that phrase, "I have always loved..." or "I have always liked..." Something to say, I am here, I am all of me here, all twenty-three-and-a-half years, I have not been made new and thrown away every year — if I have been inconstant and filled with fear over the years about the ways in which I seem to leave myself behind, tear myself away, the days when I feel like someone has sent my body off walking without me and sent it back with unfamiliar clothes, a haircut I do not recognize — well, even then it has not been quite as terrible as I thought, not so terrible as to keep me from being able to remember and describe myself, my constancy, in some ways.

When I am confused in those ways about what I have done, the ways I fear I have flown off away from myself or whether I have, I practice telling the story in different ways, in stages, a different version for each friend, a different version to mull over each day. Was this what happened? and each time, hesitantly, some statement of truth about myself to try on.

I was full of love and hate. Hate, and I loved it. I did exactly what I wanted. I wanted everything.

Just some fun. Just a laugh.

I feel myself floating away under the memory of strange hands. Empty flesh. Bold and stupid. Throwaway girl.


November 24, 2012, 4:49p

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jeanima (October)

Hello friends,

Edit: We currently have enough to pay Jeanima's sponsorship fees through October and part of November. Thank you, Shana, Quinn, and Amanda!

This money will pay to keep our little sister in Haiti healthy and in school.

Please give what you can to help reach that total. When it comes to keeping her continued sponsorship possible, it's all you, and it makes an immediate and real difference. I suggest $5 or $10.

[donation button may not be visible in your feed reader]

Once we reach $25, I get the partial match from our co-donor to make the total sponsorship fee of $38/month. As donations come in, I'll update by editing this post and in the sidebar.

If you're new around these parts and curious to hear a little more, it all started with this post. Don't miss the letters she's written us.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Self-cures / this evening

Lonely and restless, as I have been lately —
My instincts surprised me and said, find a yoga class, now,
tonight. It had been more than a year since my last one, but:
a place to be with other humans
without worrying about having
to talk or shake hands, just a place to be (sweat
and breathe) with other humans, it sounded,
and was, just right. Nights like this are why
I trust myself these days, knowing I am no poison
I am my own cure, this heart that
knows what I need and will say,
go to yoga
come back to your body, do what is
familiar and dripping with sweat
come home to your body

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Some of the pieces

Some things your brain will not permit you to think about until you are in a place where it is truly permissible, where you have free mental space. I have gained some of that recently.


• In the spring semester of my freshman year, when I myself am in the beginning of a year-long depressive episode, three alumni commit suicide. At least two of them are gay.

• The trigger for the last major relapse of my eating disorder there: being set up with a friend of a friend.  A cool and respectable Wheaton dude; I didn't know why it made me feel so terrified and despairing, but I promised myself I would get sick again and make it go away.

Waiting to be discovered:

• That professor with the fresh, shiny, postmodern explanation for why gay people don't really exist that all the more liberal students swallowed so eagerly? He based his argument entirely on concepts appropriated directly from queer theory, but failed both to give credit and to mention that the gay scholars who created those concepts had found it possible to follow them to different conclusions.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ghosts and nostalgia / Sydney

September 2012.

1. St. Andrew's Cathedral
2. Cockatoo Island (site of the Sydney Biennale, which I also wrote about/shared photos from here)
3. One of the warehouses used to house Biennale installations
4. A detail on a Biennale installation
5. Part of a Biennale installation
6. My friend Belle in Newtown.
7. The Sydney Opera House
8. At Circular Quay, a tree I also photographed on my first trip to Australia three years previous — see the third photo in this post

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An anniversary

Sunrise from inside Nadi International Airport (Fiji). September 2012.

Just a little over a year ago I left California for three months in Australia. Though my time out of the country was mostly quiet, spent in a little beach suburb where I had few social connections or formal obligations, I think my life would be quite different right now if I hadn't had that experience.

The anniversary of my leaving has me reflecting heavily upon that time and its impact on me. Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to share some previously unposted 35mm photos I took there, and perhaps some of my reflections as well.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


• This sweater smells like my dear one. I just got it in a secondhand store a few days ago and I haven't bothered to wash it yet, and it smells like her now and this is lining my entire night with happiness.

• Hungry. If I make some mac and cheese, will one or two of you please come help me eat it up?*

• I turn off the lights and raise the blinds on all of my windows and sit in bed facing them, looking out on the street lights, the night, the Berkeley hills. Sometimes I feel like this is not real, like I am still catching up with all that has happened in my life in the past year.

• My regular cafe closed early tonight, which interrupted my workflow — by which I mean, my ability to handwrite the same thirty words another seventy-five times tonight.

• I love this time of year. The light is changing and autumn is in the wind and I feel free. I live in a wonderful place, and I have family to visit when I please, and a person solid and lovely as the earth to belong to and with. And I have work that allows me to buy groceries and eat in cafes and get enough sleep and pay my own rent and spend time outside on my bike, and that is pretty great even if the actual work ("work") is pretty unimpressive and unfulfilling.

• Realization: my affection for/preoccupation with the past has more than a little to do with the fact that in retrospect, unlike in the present, I know what is going on.

*edit: I can't wait for pasta right now, or you. Slicing cheddar off the block instead.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Days, craving some wonder

It feels like I have been filling my days only with the non-negotiables these past few months. Work, commute, eating, sleeping, seeing my girlfriend. Spare moments exist, but they are brief; I use them to space out or to scroll through my social media apps. I've been saving money and I haven't been unhappy, but I realized I've been missing time to do the "unproductive" things that I also need to feel really whole and satisfied.

This week my fingers are lighting on that wholeness again. Two things: 

I let myself stay up very late a couple nights in a row, late enough to catch a certain feeling of electricity and deep focus that I associate with winter, sleeplessness, and driving very fast. Sleeping irresponsibly is something of an indulgence when one is gainfully employed (and therefore obligated to be functional) during the daytime hours, but my creative aspect has been craving that late-night energy.

And I went on a photo stroll with an acquaintance from Flickr, who is lending me a very beautiful old camera. There was a time when walking around with my eye to my SLR was one of my favorite ways to spend a day or night — it still is, I think, but it's only now as I'm getting tentatively back into the habit that I notice I've missed it.

I am pondering what changes I can make to keep this needed balance.