What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

A Feast Of Liberations (20 year divorciversary)

celebratory waffles and chai, with jaguar


Image: Celebratory chai-flavored mini waffles (gluten-free & dairy-free) with pine needle syrup, halva, a date, nutmeg, flaky salt. A make-shift feast conjured from creativity aka what was left in my tiny trailer pantry aka use what you have. The waffles are guarded by a fierce jaguar, who goes everywhere with me, also accompanied by a jar of homemade oat milk chai. It’s no Greek Night at Shaul’s but there’s no set menu for a Feast of Liberations, we work with what we have and hope for dopamine…

Greek night, twenty years ago

The day of my divorce was completely and utterly miserable, but right now, in this moment, I’m remembering the celebration that sweetened it.

I just looked up the date and discovered that Greek night was actually the day after, not the day of, it was on my birthday, apparently the memories must have merged in my mind, but I like that. It works.

It’s beautiful to me that if I remember the pain of divorce day, I am brought back to the messy joy of Greek night.

Which is also a painful memory but a joyful-painful one, if that makes sense.

It was Srul’s idea, my bestie. I was the one who had introduced him to Thursday night (Greek night!) at Shaul’s, and it was a great and terrible idea, but the terrible is part of what made it great. Srul and I were always on the same page when it came to things that are both funny and not.

Chaotic times chaotic measures

Thursday night was the one night of the week I wasn’t working at another bar, it was my birthday, and I had just gotten divorced the day before.

So of course all I wanted was to sit at Satchmo, the dark, smokey, quiet-jazz whiskey bar in my neighborhood, sit there in the dark, listen to music and be the saddest, but Srul said no, we need wild, celebratory energy, we need to go straight into the madness for this one.

Chaotic times demand it!

Fuck. I miss him so much, every day and especially now.

Where were we? Chaotic times, chaotic measures. So we crossed “the bridge from heaven to hell” and made our way towards Shaul…

It’s no banana stand but

Shaul’s was kind of a rough pub in south Tel Aviv, very south, practically Jaffa, a little tricky to get to. Rough but not rough like the places that didn’t even have a menu, or a sign outside. Shaul’s definitely had a menu and a sign.

Shaul’s was also not like places that didn’t really have names and were just known as “the Syrian guy” or “the Polish guy”, Shaul’s was definitely no Raffi Bananas which was an actual banana stand, owned by Raffi, though everyone called him Raffi Bananas, who semi-secretly and definitely illegally sold beer at all times of day.

Raffi Bananas, both the man and the location, were unofficial Party Central for the day drinking troublemakers who made it to my bar in the evening.

Anyway, Shaul’s was an establishment among people in the know who wanted the feel of partying at Raffi Bananas combined with generous plates of food and a place to sit, and on Thursday nights at Shaul’s there was live Greek music, and the place just devolved into absolute chaos, I don’t know how to describe it but being there on a Thursday night felt like a party that might also be the end of the world.

Peppers and people-watching

People generally went to Shaul’s for the memoola’im (“stuffed things”, the perfect food group), they stuffed everything there, onions, zucchinis, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant but everyone agreed that the best of the best were the peppers, giant red and green peppers overflowing with spiced meat and rice.

And of course people went to Shaul’s for the foaming-over glasses of beer with shots of vodka on the side, the outlandish cast of characters that made for fantastic people-watching, and the high likelihood of a brawl.

A good place to drink to the great falling apart of [seemingly everything]

To be clear, none of my friends were willing to go with me to Shaul’s, ever.

Even Srul would tell everyone that he didn’t dare go in there without me, and he was Greek-Persian, making him much more likely to be welcome at Shaul’s than I should have been, the half-foreigner with what they called light eyes, too noticeable in every way: too young, too pale, too tall.

(Or, as my nemesis, my rival bartender in that part of town, would say while making a face and rolling her eyes, too long, as in: “Well, Havi is just very long.”)

Not to mention too much of a snotty North Tel Aviv accent which I’d acquired from years of imitating my cousins after being mocked my first day at university for sounding like a farm girl, and then found I wasn’t able to drop it when I started working in the dive bars and urgently needed to.

But most of the people who were there for the chaos of Greek Night knew me from Omri’s, and when I walked in there would be cries of “here’s the mozeget!”, the pourer-of-beer, and the old-timers lined up at the bar always made a point of shaking hands and introducing me to their friends. And if someone didn’t know me and asked what I was doing there, they would be told to shut up, the mozeget can drink where she wants on her night off.

Memories

I remember this and the clinking of glasses, the clinking of metal bracelets piled up my arm, the toasts, tears and laughter in the darkness.

To what do we owe this honor?
I got divorced!
Mazal tov, mazal tov, you should be healthy.

The noise, the music, the delicious peppers, the smoke, the hallucinatory nature of it all. Where am I? Where am I and how did I get here of all places?

Where am I

Where am I? Greek night at Shaul’s! A place where my very north Tel Aviv now-ex-husband not only couldn’t find me but would never be able to find me. He would never be able to find me or this place, he would never be able to imagine this place existed.

Even better, if somehow he found out about it, they definitely wouldn’t let him in the door.

Mainly I remember laughing with Srul at the bar, how he put his hand on mine in a quiet moment, “listen, neshama, it will be okay, it will all be okay, I’ll always be your birthday date!” I remember feeling cozy and safe, happy and contained, even after the terrible divorce day, even with all the fear around having to make it on my own for good.

Greek night, and that moment in particular, felt like a sanctuary-moment, both in the sense of safe and in the sense of sacred.

Yes, even in this place of all places, at Shaul’s, on Greek night, knowing that at any given moment we were maximum three seconds away from god only knows what kind of chaos breaking out.

Klezmer

Klezmer music is what I’m thinking of, even though it’s not what we were listening to.

The word Klezmer comes from the hebrew “kl’e” (instrument) and “zemer” (song) fused together to make a new word in Yiddish that sounds nothing like Hebrew.

And I am thinking about klezmer music because of how it can go from raucous to melancholy and back to raucous in a moment, turning on a dime, you’re in one place and then you’re in the other, then back in the first, unsure how you got there, tears streaming down your face, are you happy-crying or sad-crying, how would you even know.

It’s a very Jewish experience but also I know everyone reading can feel the elusive sensation I’m trying to pinpoint and unable to name.

That’s what this particular Greek night at Shaul’s felt like, like a nigun, a repetitive melody that shifts in mood, sometimes steady and calming, sometimes joyous and uplifting, sometimes deeply sad, it covers a lot of ground, even though all you’re doing is a sort of vocalized humming.

Humming our way back to ourselves, sounding our way heartward

If you ever came to a Rally (Rally!) at my first retreat center, the Playground, in Portland, then you remember that we sang nigun versions of sea shanteys, and how thrilling it was.

If you want to feel how a nigun feels, please listen to Batya Levine and friends singing this beautiful nigun for the birthday of the trees, happy birthday, trees, I hum for you always!

And if you want a fun musical rabbit hole to explore, bookmark this fascinating piece about how swing music was born from jazz and klezmer!

Anyway, I am trying to convey the Big Feelings of that night at Shaul’s, the night after my divorce, what I am recalling now on my divorciversary.

Twenty years today

Well, not to the night at Shaul’s, that’s tomorrow apparently.

But today I am twenty years divorced, humming a nigun, feeling the melancholy transform into the zany and back. And then back again.

Shaul’s is not how I’d celebrate now, even not-in-a-pandemic, I’m much more sensitive than I was then, and I don’t do well with crowds, noise, chaos, the sensory overload or the energy overload.

I miss my always-there-for-you birthday friend

I wish Srul were still alive and am furious with him for not being with me, I will never understand how he could have left me, and no matter how much I scream into the void, I receive no clarity, but I know he’d be keeping me company today if he could.

He wouldn’t miss it. So if he’s missing it, then it’s no one’s fault, it’s just sad. Into the chaos we go.

It’s funny too who I miss, twenty years later, not my ex-husband whom I’m not sure I’d even recognize if we passed on the street.

I would like to whisper that to the me of that Thursday night at Shaul’s, so that hurting self might be a little less melancholy, a little less fearful, a little less in the What Have We Wrought.

Things I want me of twenty years ago to know

Aw, babe. You’re the bravest.

It’s gonna be even harder than you think, but you will never, ever doubt that you did the right thing, there will be not one moment, not in the hardest times, when you wish you’d stayed. Brave on, there are some things we regret in life twenty years later, but this has never, not even for a second, been one of them.

What is a feast of liberations?

I like to convene feast days for celebrations, but also for sad days: anniversaries of losses and upheaval, experiences that ask for some sitting-with.

My beloved friend Darcy, whom I first met at one of my retreats all the way back in 2009, I think, holds a Feast of Madelyn each year to celebrate her vivacious mother who loved parties, hosting, conviviality, a great spread. I celebrate Madelyn and the Feast of Madelyn with Darcy from afar. It’s on my calendar of feast days, I’ll tell you more about that some other time.

BLTmas — Brave Little Toaster day, named for this tweet and not for the movie, though BLT can also always double as bacon-lettuce-tomato, I won’t say no to a feast day sandwich, is the feast day I mark when everyone else is busy celebrating Christmas, the loneliest day of the year for me.

On BLTmas, I keep busy making sure I am toasty warm, the coziest most wrapped up precious thing, and that I have the best snacks to get me through the day for I am the bravest of brave little toasters, I am the bravest and the loneliness will pass.

The #itscomplicated of Feast Days

For me, Feasts of Liberations are specifically for days that tend to feel melancholy but also contain a celebratory aspect, some relief, celebrating being free from what was, even if [Mixed Feelings] remain about parts of it, or about the whole damn thing for that matter.

A Feast of Liberations is bittersweet, sad-happy, like a nigun, the #itscomplicated of Feast Days.

I am free of what was, and so I celebrate freedom, and all forms of small symbolic liberations, the letting go that is needed, the releasing that is requested. Sometimes there’s crying.

Haha “sometimes”.

Eat, eat

And there’s food, because even though this isn’t technically a Jewish holiday, it is still a Jewish holiday by virtue of the fact that it is my holiday, I invented it, and it follows the logic of most Jewish holidays: things were not awesome, we lived through it, now we eat.

Eat, eat. Eat and be healthy.

We made it to freedom, and even if it’s still really fucking hard, we’re here, and that counts. It’s a cause for celebrating. Into the chaos. Or into the quiet.

How I celebrate a Feast of Liberations

With food. Waffles are a favorite.

With company, virtual. Checking in with friends, sharing something, asking them to eat something delicious for me or light a candle with me.

I like to go someplace beautiful that calms me if I can. If I’m in Tucson I visit my saguaro friends or walk a labyrinth, if I’m in New Mexico, I drive through Gila National Forest.

Twenty years divorced, today.

A thousand points to me for being so brave and doing what was needed, and facing the consequences, which were somehow even worse than what I’d been imagining in my worst imaginings. The bravest little toaster of all time. Good job, babe.

I don’t feel conflicted about my divorce, I don’t regret it, I also don’t regret getting married, I’m glad I had that experience so I don’t wonder about what might have been, and I never have to do it again. Being divorced works for me. It was a terrible day, and maybe I will tell that story some day or maybe I won’t.

Okay fine I would probably consider offers from anyone offering some of that sweet, sweet healthcare I’ve heard about…

For now, I want to be here, with my warm drink, my warm memories of Greek night. I want to be here, humming a nigun as the sun goes down.

The goddess Nyx

I was looking for a nickname for one of my Incoming Selves, a variation on The Sleek Assassin, but somehow new and different, and then I found myself in a “Greek Night” rabbit hole, and laughed out loud at the accidental double meaning of Greek Night when google misunderstood me.

How could I have forgotten about the Greek goddess of night? Greek: Night!

Of course my incoming is non-binary, but I am okay with goddess as a non-binary descriptor actually. Like assassin.

Nyx and I are going to have a quiet evening at the safe house, we will read cookbooks, stretch on the floor, go to bed early. Today is a quiet feast day, for quiet liberations, and that’s okay too. Twenty years is a long time, and I celebrate differently these days, I do everything differently these days, that’s a celebration too.

Heartward

Sounding my way heartward, to my heart-self, where I tend to my one true love (me), which involves taking care of younger me (that precious little bean) and attuning to wise, loving-self me, and making waffles when waffles are indicated, crying when crying is indicated, and getting on the floor and rolling around more often than I think is necessary.

Appreciating all aspects of self, the parts that are hard and sad too, but also the ways I have liberated myself and continue to do so, appreciating how sometimes I am The Sleek Assassin or The Formidable Panther, and sometimes the bravest little toaster.

Sometimes a nonbinary goddess and sometimes absolutely losing my mind in grief over my dead friend, sometimes making waffles or driving to be comforted by my beloved saguaro companions, it’s all part of the Havi show. In fact, if the Havi show had a tagline, Feasts of Liberations would be a good one.

Heartward, heartward. We brave our way on. Inward and onward.

Tell me about your feasts of liberations…

What might a feast of liberations look like for you, what feast days are you conjuring and naming for yourself?

I support them all and will happily light candles and eat waffles for your meaningful and/or complicated days!

(I mean that. Let me know in the comments if there’s a date when you’d like me or anyone reading to light a candle or do a something to support your hard or bittersweet day, I will make a note of it and make it happen.)

Celebrate with me. Comments section waffle party!

You are welcome to celebrate my TWENTY YEAR divorciversary (and birthday tomorrow and twenty whole years since Greek Night) any way you like.

With candles or imaginary mind-candles if you like. Eat something delicious, sing a song, hum a hum, visit a place, choose towards comfort, choose towards Greek Night, I welcome it all.

You are also as always invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, or brainstorm your own feasts of liberations.

Thank you for being with me today and this week and at all, thank you.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could definitely use some miracles right now with an emergency situation I’m in.

I will happily accept support in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.

And if you can’t support in that way, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

1991

content note: Some tough topics, strong force fields indicated!

1991

The start of the first Gulf War lined up exactly with my first period, announcing itself in blood, an absurd thing to say, yes, I am aware, and also: that’s how I remember both these events thanks to their simultaneity, a synaptic linking in the place where memory points live.

To be clear, if this moment took place in a movie, I would bristle at the heavy-handedness, the unnecessary symbolism, I think we can all agree that the director needs to chill, the director could show a little more respect for the intelligence of the audience, but I swear that is how it happened.

The memory of that evening begins with feeling strange and woozy in an entirely unfamiliar way, a feeling that was deeply unsettling until I saw the blood and then at least I had a reason to which I could attribute the disconcerting feelings which then turned into relief. Or: relief mixed with annoyance.

I was unclear where I stood regarding this bleeding situation, and in that moment became aware of a hubbub of radio and voices in the background. Climbing the stairs I heard my father say to my mother:

This is it, we’re at war, this is war.

How do you know

I was unclear how I felt about bleeding, and equally unclear how I felt regarding this war situation, I remember being very, very scared, but also I just didn’t have enough information.

Even though I was young, I listened a lot, and had picked up in my listening that sometimes the United States really dropped the ball on being a useful ally (cough, WWII), while often the United States caused great harm in other countries (understatement, too many examples to list) and to its own citizens in this country.

How was I supposed to know which situation we were in now? I didn’t know, and wasn’t even sure how to frame the question, and so I kept listening, and the more I listened over those tense months, the more it became clear that the adults didn’t seem to know either.

It was war, and war, even a far-off one, was confusing, anxiety-inducing, everything felt tilted.

Confirming

Regarding the bleeding: in the moment I was relieved, I was already halfway through my first year of high school, the very last of my uterus-having friends to start menstruating, by a lot.

So this Perception of Lateness (new fake band alert!) had been worrying me, what if something was terribly wrong with me, why was my body not getting the memo?

Haha wow. Had I but known how intensely miserable bleeding would be for me, and that it would still be happening every damn month over thirty years later, an unimaginable distance in time, I assume I would have been furious…

More so had you told me that this far into the future, the United States would only have recently gotten around to trying to extricate from Iraq, suffering terribly, multiple generations, ptsd all around.

This madness has gone on so long that I’ve been in two long term relationships in my adult life with people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and okay, I don’t know where I want to go with that thought so let’s just say that no one is okay.

Can confirm! No one is okay!

Time is a mystery and everything else is a scam, probably

Actually, while we are spilling intimacies, I will tell you that the last person I dated was an actual newborn infant back on that cold 1991 day of [this is war] + [first sign of blood], and it doesn’t even feel like a significant age difference now, that’s how much time has passed, wild.

I maintain that time is a mystery and menstruation is a scam, as is war time, I don’t know where I’m going with that thought either but I remain generally and indignantly opposed to all of it.

Similar

It was extremely similar to right now, actually, which is probably why the memory of that day keeps thrusting itself to the scattered front lines of the territory of my beleaguered brain that is still reeling from…from what exactly though, I don’t know.

My brain and I are reeling from everything, from two concussions, covid brain fog, the personality-altering loneliness of the first year of pandemic solitude combined with no steady place to live, an excess of loss, some combination of the above.

Anyway I keep remembering that day from 1991, I remembered it last week when Russia invaded Ukraine and the internet lost its mind, then again last night at midnight while the coyotes were making their howling rounds through the canyon, and again in the morning while sitting in stillness after sun salutations.

I remembered the stickiness of the blood, the strain in the voices on the radio, the rising fear, knowing that some things were going to be different but which ones, curious, apprehensive, unnerved, extremely not psyched…

What do I remember from that winter into spring of This Is War

Everyone was saying it was world war three, that was the phrase you heard over and over, if we’d had social media back then, it would have been the trending hashtag du jour. Kind of like right now, and by kind of, I mean exactly, zero points for originality.

Everyone was panicked about if draft was coming back too, who would be conscripted, who would be lost.

Everyone was suddenly a newly minted geopolitical expert, a specialist in the Middle East and in oil, everyone including ninth graders, repeating the same overheard opinions like gospel (“We should ally with Syria! We should ally with Iran!”), the faux-expertise and over-simplification was exhausting, does any of this sound familiar? Have you been online this week? Uh huh.

I remember trying to explain to some kids from school why “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not in fact sound political strategy, an ally you can’t trust is not an ally at all, and failing completely to make any headway. There was no common sense, no curiosity, just a frantic hum of anxiety.

Similar and different

So it was basically the same as right now, if you’re Very Online or even Mildly Online and watching the invasion unfolding in Ukraine, you are familiar with all those themes, and with the immersive energy of the Big Fear.

Thankfully we did not have social media then, so there were respites, there was ebb and flow, we were scared and also there was some room here and there to experience other emotional sensations outside of the fear. As opposed to All Anxiety All The Time Turned Up To Eleven, which is how things are these days, if you are a sensitive person and all the more so if you spend time on the various apps.

On my mind, more often than not

Here are two themes I find myself thinking about regularly:

  1. how our nervous systems are simply not designed or equipped to handle being flooded with the exhausting amount of high anxiety input we are inundated with from being online
  2. how very different historical events of the last century might have been (or would they?) had we all been anxiety-connected and information-connected as we we are now.

The boat that was turned away

I think a lot about the boat, the MS St. Louis, full of terrified Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany in 1939 fleeing to safety, and how we failed them utterly and completely, how this journey became known as The Voyage of the Damned, some unintended victim-blaming there, the voyage was damned by the countries who would not take them in.

They made it to the United States, to almost-safety, and were shut out. This country I am in right now. That was us. We said no thank you, we said we can’t help, by which we meant: we can but we won’t. We said no offense but fuck you.

They risked everything to make it here and we didn’t care.

So close and not close enough

Hey yeah sorry, no room in this enormous country for nine hundred Jews bound for death, we couldn’t possibly, gosh even Montana is just soooooo super booked right now, and yeah we said that thing on the Statue of Liberty about welcoming “your tired, your poor” but you know how it is, we definitely didn’t mean you, anyway good luck out there, in the ovens and everything!

Best,
The United States

The lamp

The job of the lamp is to be lifted. Our job is to lift the lamp.

Emma Lazarus, Jewish poet and anti-nationalist, wrote the words on the statue:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And there they were, at our shores, tempest-tost, and we did not lift the lamp.

And that terrible thing is only an example of the terrible things

We did other terrible shameful things too. Gruesome things. My god. Rounding up Japanese Americans, internment camps, what we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It hurts to breathe when you think of it.

Not a great time.

Anyway, that was the reality of the time, antisemitism, xenophobia, isolationism.

Awful orders were given to the coast guard ships who followed orders and wouldn’t let the ship run aground, a last-ditch attempt in hopes the refugees could jump ship and make their way ashore. The ship had no choice but to turn around.

The almost and the not enough

To think you have a chance at survival, to be so close you are basically there, then left to wait and sent back to die, it’s so cruel that it hurts my heart to think of it. Imagine.

The desperation, the hopelessness, the terrible betrayal of it all.

I am lighting a candle for them right now, because that’s what I do when I don’t know what to do.

Cuba

One person survived, if that’s the word, in an unlikely way, via a suicide attempt while the boat was docked in Cuba, in limbo, waiting for us or anyone to let them in.

By choosing towards death, this person was declared a mental health crisis exception, and therefore allowed to disembark from the doomed boat, to remain in Cuba and live. But by choosing towards life, the others were sentenced to return to die. Make it make sense.

I would like to know what happened to the passenger who disembarked in Cuba and got that second chance to live, but also I fear that I don’t want to know.

Brave and stalwart

Good job surviving, I wish that wasn’t what it had to take.

There were other survivors too, who disembarked in other European countries and escaped death through however many thousands of small and large miracles, I doubt they were okay though either, trauma compounded with trauma, such a wounding. God knows I have been absolutely shattered from much smaller betrayals than this one.

Candles lit now for everyone, those who made it and those who didn’t, and for us.

The wondering

This is what I wonder: would or could this tragedy have gone differently if information traveled the way it does now (hashtags and memes, retweeted, reposted, regrammed)….?

Would there have been enough social outrage and fury to pressure President into changing his mind, into saving the people on the boat? I used to think so but now I don’t think so.

Obviously we can’t know this or anything. Things are different now, and also they are the same in some ways. In the way of bigotry and xenophobia, and also the way of anxiety, anxiety, more anxiety, add some anxiety to the anxiety, this is the air we are expected to breathe now.

Lighting a candle for all this too.

The big and little lies

Similarly, I think about the great American pretense that we supposedly did not know about the mass murder, the horrors of the death camps until they were liberated by American soldiers, a wild lie of conscience-soothing, of course it was known.

That was how they told the story in high school American history class, but the horrors were and are very much known. Maybe people hadn’t seen the photographs but they knew. It was known. Certainly President Roosevelt knew.

I learned an untruth. Many, many untruths.

People like to complain today that kids don’t learn civics anymore, but I can confirm, at least from tail-end Gen X, that most of what we learned in both civics and history class was inaccurate, incomplete, skewed, problematic.

Known

It was all known, just like we know now about the camps at the border.

The camps are still here. We voted in a new administration but I still see the Border Patrol thugs roaming around Arizona and New Mexico, smug in their white pickup trucks, resting a hand on your windshield at their fake checkpoints (traffic stops not at borders), where they ask you inappropriate questions and detain you if you don’t agree to answer, even though legally you are not required to answer.

That’s because they have a loophole: they can detain you for “suspicious behavior”, and refusing a search or not answering the questions you are not legally bound to answer is itself “suspicious”. Get it? Yeah.

Anyway. The horrors are still the horrors, the cruelty is still thriving and intact, we are still letting it happen right here, in part because so many things are falling apart at once that our attention is pulled in too many directions, and in part because we don’t know what to do.

Night visits

My mother visited me last night in a dream, in the dream she was alive and in a kitchen, we were in a kitchen, I don’t know where this kitchen is.

I was organizing the refrigerator, and found a pot of hard boiled eggs but some of the eggs had exploded while cooking. Then my mother walked in and said, “Oh, good, hard boiled eggs, what a good idea!”

And that was the dream. Thanks for the visit, mom.

This morning I was thinking about how, in 1991, she told me about the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs invasion, telling me about moments from her life in much the way I am telling you about 1991.

Probably for the same reason, the familiarity of it all, these moments in a lifetime of oh dear god a terrible thing is happening that could lead to even more terrible things, maybe the end, maybe. The fear, and the continuing to do daily life things.

You can’t know until you know

What do you do when you find yourself in one of these possibly the end of the world crisis situations that sometimes are and sometimes aren’t, you don’t know, you can’t know in the moment, you’re just in it.

You clean what you can clean, you do what you can do in your own domain.

You make hard boiled eggs and you find the good. Small grounded pleasure-moments, grounded and grounding.

Or at least, I think this is what dream-mom was trying to get at, I could be wrong.

Memory is funny

I wanted to tell you about another memory, this is a memory from the Second Gulf War.

So maybe 2003, I think, I haven’t looked it up because of how memory is funny and how I am not ready to be surprised again by what happened when. But let’s say we’re in the general area. Close enough?

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, or so goes the baseball saying, thanks Frank Robinson. Horseshoes, hand grenades and long-range missiles.

Mooshon & The Muppets

I was tending bar in south Tel Aviv, and all the discussion among the clients and in the kitchen and between the servers was the Scud missiles, would Iraq send them our way again, maybe, probably, did they have the capacity to wipe us off the map or was that just threats, and was this World War III, probably, maybe, and this is how we die, or not, too soon to call it.

It was early evening, 7:30 maybe, the bar had temporarily emptied out, a lull between the daytime regulars (hard drinking, chain-smoking) and the arrival of the evening clientele (twenty-somethings, hipster-ey).

I was doing the usual things, emptying ashtrays, wiping down the bar, lowering lights, changing the music, when Mooshon walked in. A well-known Tel Aviv character, a contractor of some kind, eccentric but generally warm, someone who somehow knew everyone and made the rounds between every bar in the city, or at least all the ones I’d worked at. He appeared in his own time. I hadn’t seen him in a couple months.

“Nu, l’an neelmu hachabubot?” he asked as his greeting, raising his eyebrows in the direction of the empty bar. Where have all the muppets disappeared to.

The muppets were his name for the regular-regulars at the bar, with their cranky old-man arguments, repeated jokes and ongoing bets. I made a clicking sound with my tongue which is Hebrew for “I can’t be bothered to explain, you can figure it out”, moving my head in the direction of the clock on the wall. “Marcello,” I added.

Marcello

“Ah, got it, Marcello the Romanian had to go walk his dog, and that’s how the party ended,” Mooshon surmised, nodding, putting his cigarette out in the ashtray I’d just cleaned and immediately lighting another one.

This is how everyone at the bar referred to Marcello, even though this Marcello was the only Marcello anyone knew. Marcello himself would get slightly irritable and then apologize for his irritation if you wrote “Marcello” on his bill and not his full name as he was known at the bar, Marcello the Romanian.

Marcello the Romanian with the dog who needed walking by 7:15, and he reminded us every day, so everyone knew, and he wouldn’t let you forget.

You could set your watch by Marcello the Romanian, or most of the daytime regulars for that matter.

“That’s how the party ended”, I agreed.

The end is near, or it isn’t

“You know the muppets will still be here every day, scud missiles or no scud missiles,” Mooshon said, “They’ll have a new name for the show: Chabubot Im Kasdot!” (Muppets with Helmets, but in Hebrew it rhymes.)
Chabubot Im Masechot,” I suggested. Muppets with Masks.
Mooshon laughed. “Did you get yours?”

My latest government-issue gas mask had arrived that week, outside the door of my tiny studio on the top floor of an old asbestos-filled clothing factory. A sheet of paper with instructions had been pushed under the door.

“Sure,” I said, “but it’s at home, which means the missiles will land while I’m at work.”
“Right? That’s how it goes,” said Mooshon.
“Eh,” I shrugged. “In my line of work I’m more likely to be killed by a suicide bomber.”
“Good point,” agreed Mooshon. “Or an exploding bus on your way to work.”
“I don’t take buses anymore,” I said.
“You just have to be walking by one when it happens,” he pointed out.
“Didn’t happen today.”
“Well,” Mooshon said, “It’s still early.”

It was a good laugh that took me by surprise because I hadn’t realized how much I needed it.

Ditto ditto

When he left, he said, “See you next time, whenever that may be, if you haven’t exploded by then, or the SCUDS haven’t arrived.”
“Ditto ditto,” I said.

And now memory fades, and I don’t know if that was before or after the suicide bombing at our bar, but I do know I was less scared than in 1991, even though I was in considerably more danger. At that point I was so jaded that nothing felt real or meaningful, including imminent destruction.

Bartender-me slept well, unconcerned in sleep about suicide bombers or SCUD missiles, bartender-me had no expectation of reaching thirty anyway.

But we did make it

Guess what, babe, we were wrong, we made it and then some, in a few days we’ll be forty five years old, if the gods favor this plan, how’s that for an astonishing miracle.

Though I will be the first to say that we don’t sleep as deeply as we used to, that’s for sure.

Muppet-talk

There are many frantic muppet-discussions taking place online right now, I find most of them draining. The takes. So many takes. And then the takes about how you should be handling the takes and interacting with the takes, and how you are definitely doing it wrong.

There’s you have to practice self-care versus it is selfish and entitled to pretend that ignoring tragedy is self care, there’s coping with humor is the prerogative of the overly privileged versus actually you cope how you cope.

It’s all partly true and not the entirety of what is true, and I can’t even remember the rest because I had to go light candles. Let’s light another one.

A candle is lit, the lamp is raised, inhale, exhale, okay, where were we.

The Currency of Attention

Here’s what I know for sure:

The world we live in operates on a currency of attention: how many clicks, how many likes/shares/re-whatevers, how much time people spend on a page, how much urgency, how much outrage.

The more upsetting something is, the more takes we consume, and the more we doom-scroll, the more attention-currency to Zuckerberg and co. Attention-currency eventually translates to real currency, and that’s why they hire the best brains in the world to keep us clicking and pushing for pellets.

Our outrage-anxiety is what allows them to steal our attention and our time, it’s how they draw power, the currency of attention is how they continue to exist.

The requisite parenthetical disclaimers!

(I am not at all suggesting that we shouldn’t be outraged, or anxious, those are extremely reasonable reactions to what is happening, the most reasonable, and, as the saying goes, if you aren’t outraged you aren’t paying attention!)

(I am only suggesting that we do what we can to be conscious and discerning when it comes to where we put our attention, for how long, and in what ways, and consider to whose benefit it might be when we do.)

What else is known?

I said this before but it feels too important to not repeat for emphasis: Our nervous systems simply cannot handle the pheromone rollercoaster of being flooded with new stressful data points all day that comes with the levels of news consumption we live with today.

Yes, sometimes you are in an actual terrifying situation (being in the war, in the bombings, on that boat turning around), and that’s trauma, and also there is this passive consuming of trauma that we can’t do all the time and maintain our ability to be grounded and stable, which means we also can’t help.

Yes, this is more severe for some of us (I am waving to you right now from the corner of Autistic and Highly Sensitive Person), and still we are all reeling from scary-update-overload, including people who are much less impacted by The Big Fear energy of the collective, or impacted in less immediately obvious ways.

And, at the same time, however we choose to spend the currency of our attention, the more conscious and intentional we are about those choices the better. Sometimes making those choices feels impossible, we are just being pulled by the stream, so we practice acknowledgment & legitimacy, we pay attention, we keep trying. You win some, win some later.

We Do Grounding Things

For me, maintaining my ability to function or cope both in the world and in my world demands that I steady myself, that I practice the practice of We Do Grounding Things, a practice of tending, a reminder.

I don’t turn away from the hard things, and I also don’t agree to give the currency of my attention to the constantly streaming timeline of The Huge Panic.

In other words, I tend to myself, so that I can also tend to what is happening, and maintain enough steadiness to support the greater good and help where I can to the best of my ability.

It has become fashionable to take a mocking tone towards self-care, it’s seen as self-indulgent, there is callousness directed at the idea that some people take on the pain of the world more than others, but here’s what I know and where I begin…

Where I begin

The best thing I can do as a highly sensitive and witchy person is to not add to the collective pain energy, and to do what I can so that I can add to the grounding strength energy.

Here is where I start: right now, in this moment, I am lighting a candle for the situation, for you, for us, for steadiness, and I am going to steady myself, and when I am ready to take in more information, I am going to do it in a boundaried way that meets what I am capable of.

I am going to make sure I don’t migrained by the news or give myself internet hangover (a phrase I invented for a friend’s course), I am going to practice We Do Grounding Things for myself and the good of the collective, I am going to be careful and conscious, notice which patterns I’m getting sucked into, and where I am putting my attention for what reasons.

We Do Grounding Things

I am lighting a candle for the reality of how we live, and how the constant streaming of The Big Fear is a thing. I am lighting a candle for Ukraine, I am lighting a candle for the courageous Russian protestors, I am lighting a candle for Safety, Protection & Sanctuary, a candle for best outcomes.

Is this enough? Of course not.

Does it have meaning? I hope so.

Is it where everyone should start? I don’t think that’s even close to being the right question. It’s a starting point that works for me.

For me, the practice of We Do Grounding Things is about returning to a sense of stability that exists outside of the twenty four hour anxiety stream.

When I start from We Do Grounding Things, I make better choices, I am better equipped to be a good friend and a good citizen, and I am able to think creatively about how to be of service.

For me, the practice of We Do Grounding Things is not about shutting out the world or disconnecting (it is not isolationism). It is about gathering my powers, calling up my strength, so I can be discerning, intentional, so I respond to the genuinely scary situations in life from wise-self mind, or really from wise-self body-mind, and not in reactive panic-mode.

Do I have advice?

I don’t, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t give it, because I think people assimilate learning better when they come to their own answers.

What is We Do Grounding Things for you? What might it look like in your world? I don’t know, because I don’t live in your body or your life.

Of course I have ideas about some things that are known to help, and that might need to be another piece. Let me know in the comments. Do we want a how to stop/reduce doom-scrolling manual?

And, also, this is maybe the most important part: you are wise and capable, you know yourself, and you can brainstorm with Slightly Wiser You until you get clues on next steps.

Do I have poetry to share?

Yes, because that, for me, is such a good door into We Do Grounding Things, returning to words, letting words do the work.

I am going to translate a bit of a song by Israeli artist Shlomi Shaban, who is exactly my age, I remember listening to his first album on repeat in the late 90s, we are the last of bitter, apathetic-from-trauma Gen X. This is as a duet with Chava Albertstein who was already getting in trouble back in the 70s for activism. An odd-interesting pairing.

The song is a surreal dreamscape conversation, and the name of the song is Targil B’hitorrerut which I would call An Exercise In Awakening but could also be translated as An Awareness Exercise. Translation is always tricky, but then again so is meaning.

This is the part I wanted to share: If this is just an exercise, it’s certainly a successful one…

If this is just an exercise, it’s certainly a successful one

Here is a snippet from the conversation in the song.

He: Tell me, are we winning?
She: Mm when exactly is all this taking place?
He: At the time when you (plural) wrote the songs.
She: And what of them, if we’re already talking about it?
He: They have been left to those who remember.

He: If so then essentially nothing is wrong, if so then everything is as it should be..
She: You were always given to compromise, you’re breaking my heart, I am right beside you

Together: If this is just an exercise, it’s certainly a successful one. The sky is painted vanilla, the horizon is filled with soot. Everything returns more red, on stretchers and in flowers. Tell me, are we…???

Are we?

One more candle

If you are inclined towards candle-lighting, please light one for Laurie, family friend of my childhood bestie, who had to flee Moscow this week after twenty-something years of teaching at an international school there, may she and her animals have safe passage, arrive in safe harbor, the lamp lifted, safety safety safety for Laurie and everyone else who needs it right now.

Sanctuaries within, too

This piece is getting very long, and I am noticing some urgency-feelings to finish up in some way, but I keep thinking about the early 1940s, how my parents were babies when their parents were learning the full terrible truth, that pretty much the entire extended family had been lost in death camps, that there was no one left to find.

I think about the anxiety and grief they were steeped in before they even knew how to differentiate between what is personal and what is collective, and sometimes it gives me some understanding and sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes when I am feeling exhausted from the companionship of my own anxiety, I think about how it is honestly miraculous that I ever have times without it given that I was brought into the world by the most high anxiety people that I have ever known.

And also I am thankful in my thank-you heart, where I lift the lamp beside my golden door for myself. For myself and my sad, scared, anxious selves.

Thankful for, for example

Thankful for my practice, my training, inhale and exhale, hand on heart, tree friends and animal friends, my porch-bobcat who taught me so much, for luck and privilege and clues, for right-place right-time.

Lighting a candle for easing and releasing, and for strengthening and fortifying inner sanctuary. For the ongoing practice of We Do Grounding Things and then We Do More Grounding Things.

I wish for us to stay brave and stalwart, friends.

Breathe, light the candle, breathe, touch the earth, take comfort in something alive. If this is just an exercise, it’s certainly a successful one.

Come hang out with me in the comments, I LOVE COMPANY!

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, notice what you’re noticing, think about what We Do Grounding Things might look like for you, light a candle with me, or several candles.

A request

If you received clues or learned anything or just want to send appreciation, I could definitely use some miracles right now with an emergency situation I’m in.

I will happily accept support in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing. As always, I appreciate you for appreciating! And I am still giving my beautiful Book of Qualities in ebook form to anyone who contributes.

And if you can’t support in that way, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, that all means something too, and I appreciate it so much.

Thank you for being here, it means so much to me to think about these things in companionship. ❤️

 

You win some, you win some later

prayer flag art

Image: Prayer flag art by Meira Yaer, she gave me this piece and I treasure it, the prayer flags live in her magical garden, the place of the wild winds.

You win some, you win some later

This is what Incoming Me says when things don’t go as anticipated or wished-for.

I love the simplicity of this phrase. I love the steady wisdom this Incoming Self glows for me, how they always remember that nothing is wrong, the way they remind me — with gentleness and humor, no expectations.

The reminder is kind.

You didn’t fuck up, babe. All is well. You’re doing your best in a tough situation, and that’s how it goes, you win some, you win some later.

Things happened how they happened, sure, maybe not the way I was hoping, better luck next time, we will win some more later. There are wins and there are later wins. Those are the options that get to exist.

What are the elements of [you win some, you win some later]

This is one of my favorite questions to ask when following a clue. What are the elements? What does this contain? What supportive magic lives inside You Win Some, You Win Some Later?

Elegance. Hope. Trust. The long game.

Reassurance. Steadiness. Playfulness. Recalibration.

Something about Agility, Resilience, Emergence and a Grounded Enthusiasm in the face of perceived challenges. Courage. That’s courageous.

The long game, is that called Patience, it is a sort of playful form of Patience, a hint of a rush, something about the gamble.

What happens when I put these into the world / my world?

The naming of qualities is an invoking.

Wow, what beautiful wishes. Where do they want to go?

We can put them in a compass. We can add them to the pot.

Draw them on prayer flags and hang them in the garden, let them be moved-and-loved by the wind until they are tattered, knowing that the tattering (is that a word) is how the prayers soar into the beyond. A holy unraveling, being tattered is not the problem, tattered is a door, an escape hatch, a great releasing.

The act of releasing as its own prayer

Or maybe this is what Leonard Cohen meant when he said the crack is how the light gets in, the tattering is how the light gets out, maybe, maybe not, the point is, everything is in the process of coming undone, and what if that is a prayer and not a tragedy?

I don’t know, maybe sometimes it’s also a tragedy, but you win some, you win some later.

A holy unraveling

A holy unraveling, a sacred undoing, like when things don’t go as planned, or the plumber finds a rat’s nest in your broken hot water heater, for example, and the necessary part is back-ordered so you can’t shower for three weeks, for example.

A breath for this.

The sacred, the mundane, the interplay of these. The holy, the tricky, the #itscomplicated of it all, interplay interplay interplay, and: you win some, you win some later.

Heroically existing, a prayer

The interplay, the forgetting-and-remembering, the slow exhale, we got this, let’s ground and release, the ceremonial tossing of the rogue nest into the wild winds, it’s so cold I can see my breath inside, the reassuring sound of water heating in the kettle, the reflection of candlelight in the window, the ways I remind myself that I am safe, treasured, here to tell the story.

The way I say to myself “Now we’re getting somewhere!” after I achieve something heroic like washing one (1) dish without getting lost in the brain fog, and then I laugh, because actually I’m pretty sure we have gotten nowhere but it’s okay, each step counts, it’s a brave start, and you win some, you win some later.

Is it long covid or traumatic brain injury or complex ptsd or perimenopause or all of the above? I lose the thread and find it again and lose it again. Now we’re getting somewhere!

We’ll win some more later

Here’s to each brave start, to self-sustaining brave starts, the “later” in we’ll win some more later…

Given to the wild winds

Look at us, existing and being in it. You win some, you win some more later.

We are the living embodiment of the “you’re doing amazing, sweetie” internet meme, braver than the marines, one step at a time, brave and stalwart. You win some, you win some later.

It’s courageous too to name the qualities, to let them land like blessings, unravel like prayer flags, venture off into the wild winds.

Disperse disperse

Repetition meets chance, add intention, let it disperse, may it go where it is needed.

There are many reasons why I write, and that is one of them.

The other day someone who had heard about writing retreats at my former center asked me what I write about, and I was startled, and said “oh I don’t know, personal essays, I guess” and that’s not not-true, but also it’s about the naming, and the giving to the wild winds. The reminding and the collective remembering.

Wishes for you and for me (wishes in companionship)

I am wishing you (and us) abundant joy, unexpected ease, the best clues, the exact right forms of comfort, astounding good fortune, new pleasures, surprise good news, helpful reminders, miracles in the moment of need and maybe sometimes just because. Whatever is needed most, in whatever form is right.

Come play with me in the comments, I LOVE COMPANY!

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you, notice what you’re noticing, name any wishes or themes you’re exploring, skip some stones or play with YOU WIN SOME, YOU WIN SOME LATER or any other hopeful-helpful phrases that appeal to you.

I will happily accept support in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing. As always, I appreciate you for appreciating! And I am still giving my beautiful Book of Qualities in ebook form to anyone who contributes.

Thank you for being here, it means so much to me to play & process in companionship. ❤️

Brave as a verb, complicated passages, hello 2022, and yes, a bonus Story Hour (me versus the scorpion)

sky

Image: That wild New Mexico sky, edge of the forest, edge of my roof, edges in general, it’s a theme. Richard called this skypainting, I love that too.

We made it and nothing more is needed

Hello doorway into the new year, hello passage. We made it, we are here, nothing more is needed.

To exist outside of culture, to recognize its distortions around time

My primary New Year wish is the same as my December wish, and these remain the same every year; I wish to exist outside of culture, outside of the way our culture is about time.

And by this I mean both the way our culture relates to time in general and this season in particular.

Distorted, disconnected, I want to say asynchronous but that already has a meaning. I’m talking about the mysterious pressure to achieve, accomplish, sum up and reinvent coinciding with the worst possible timing for that, it feels so incongruent and disharmonious, and yet it’s expected that we agree to it. Nope!

I reject all pressure to set goals for the new year or evaluate the year that was, hello it is cold and dark here, and I don’t particularly want to do anything, never mind that, or rather it is cold and dark here in the northern hemisphere, and especially in my tiny trailer at the edge of the Gila national forest.

Imagining a different world

How wonderfully healing it could be to live in a culture that celebrated hibernation mode and quiet passaging instead of this collective pressured rush to finish, accomplish, name, review, and plan.

Heaven forfend we didn’t achieve everything our past selves (who had no idea what was coming) hoped for…

What a preposterous, dangerous and out of sync way of doing things.

If I know anything about past versions of me, it is that just like my future selves, they love me with a vast love, and they do not want me to be experiencing anxiety, dread or regret over what did or didn’t happen, and what might or might not come to pass. They don’t put expectations on me.

They want me to put more vegan marshmallows in my cocoa, wrap up in a blanket, smile at the stars. They’re just so glad I’m here. And I am too when I remember to stop rushing and feel the steady companionship of their love.

What is this pressure to plant out of season.

It’s not that I don’t have goals, intentions and wishes, it’s just that it feels off to me that the bigger culture wants me to be in strategizing and review mode when it is the most cold, dark and uncertain.

It’s weird, right?

At the exact time when clearly the most indicated move is hibernation mode and nap time, external culture and capitalism and the various hierarchies of status-quo want us to be making resolutions (the more unattainable the better!) and to finish everything in time.

Hurry! Hurry up and be new and be better and finish all the everything! Do not pause to take in all that’s happened because we have a new list of shoulds! Oh wait, yes, pause and take it in because that’s a should now too! Don’t forget to review your year and post it on social!

We exist in a Culture of Striving, and this cultural agreement that you must pursue and produce and achieve to belong, endless striving with no end in sight, is so strong, pervasive, all-encompassing that I almost fall for the trap every single year, and have to actively remember not to. No thank you. Opting out.

Yes to seeds, candles, tiny sparks, and no to the pressure

Seeding? Sure. I can light a candle for some wish-seeds. I can glow some warmth for my tender yeses and tiny sweet things to come.

But really all I want in December and for the passage into the new year is to be the snuggliest coziest cat, hiding out in a warm bed, amidst a pile of hot water bottles all wearing knitted sweaters.

And no thank you to the frantic invitations to review a trauma-filled year.

We went through a lot. It was rough. As far as I’m concerned, we are the most heroic heroes, braver than the marines, for making it here, to this slow passage into 2022.

Getting here was enough, more than enough, good job, babe. Now we just get to exhale and light a candle.

We made it here (Hot Girl Hygge!)

The “but what did you accomplish this year” monsters are not invited, and I am uninterested in any form of cramming, scrambling, arguing, pushing myself or proving myself. It is not the season of Big Plans for me.

I am interested in blankets, hot drinks, candles. It’s Hot Girl Hygge season over here. We are being snuggly, and waiting it out.

I am trusting that seeds know how to be seeds

For me this is very clearly a season for cocooning, hibernating, wrapping up, taking exquisite care of myself, seeding, trusting that seeds know how to be seeds (!), and that nothing is needed from me other than practicing Safety First, treating myself like the most precious, beloved sweet thing, and waiting it out.

It’s not that the plans aren’t there, it’s that I will meet them when I am done cocooning. The big and small plans will come when they come, when the moment is right.

Obviously if the turning of the odometer is a helpful motivating factor for you in reviewing and plan-making, then absolutely use that, use what you have, I support you in this, I’m not against planning at all, I’m against the cultural expectation that our actions should be dictated by the calendar.

And as for our friends in the southern hemisphere (hi, friends!), I am sure you would like to be enjoying summer and staying cool, and perhaps also be free from the pressure to SUM UP and REINVENT, pursuits that require quite a bit of energy and oomph, actually. Take a nap if you like, enjoy something cool and refreshing.

Would you like a story?

I will tell you a story from this year, and this story can be a form of review but also it is not a review.

Maybe it is like a story told at a wake. Is that dark? Well, so was this year, haha.

A wake / Awake

Yes, I will tell one story, and that will be my stand-in for everything — a placeholder for describing 2021, and invoking the powers I wish to bring with me and embody more fully in 2022, while quietly celebrating still being alive.

Alive? It’s an honor just to be nominated! 🎶

The scorpion

The scorpion was the largest I’ve seen, and too close, maybe three feet from my mattress on the floor.

Everything is blurred in this memory except for the scorpion, but I know I was standing beside the south wall of the nearly empty hacienda, pressing against it with one hand to steady myself, watching the scorpion watching me. A sleepy late-night standoff.

It was the second night after the first concussion.

Woolly, wobbly

My head was full of wool or maybe cotton batting, I was wobbly, confused, everything felt wrong, off-beat, out of sync.

I knew I was awake but it felt like a dream where time and movement are somehow thick and slowed, molasses-paced, you can’t move at a normal speed, each step effortful, to run would be impossible.

I remember that it was past midnight, because I knew the most capable person I know would be up when I called, but why was I awake, who knows. It’s a mystery but by this point I was already getting used to a new reality of It’s Mysteries All The Way Down. I made the call.

Blurry

“It’s longer than my thumb,” I said. “Like a thumb and a half. It is a beige-pink. It is very close to my bed. Everything is blurry. Tell me what to do.”

You are a highly trained assassin,” A said. “You’ve got this.”

“Welcome to the desert, bitch,” said the scorpion. “Kill or be killed.”

True and hardened

“I’ve only ever killed the tiny ones,” I said. “The last one was maybe a quarter the size of my thumbnail. I know those are supposed to be the meanest, and they’re certainly fast, but it was a quick and easy kill. This one is huge and wants to get me first.”

“He is but a humble foot soldier,” said A, who talks like this all the time and not just in my surreal concussion-addled slowed-brain state. “You have taken out their greatest generals. You are a true and hardened warrior.”

“I’m coming for you”, said the scorpion. “Get ready. Get ready now. We fight to the death.”

Powers

In my years in the desert, I have learned to find qualities and superpowers to admire in whatever is trying to kill me in the moment, that is to say: everything, sometimes passively and sometimes actively, the desert is inhospitable; dangerous and boundary-oriented.

And so I practice Admiration.

Yes, I want these powers of Devastation for myself. I too wish to be Dangerous and Boundary-Oriented. Are these resolutions? Goals? Maybe. I name the qualities I desire and toss them into the pot.

I identify, perhaps over-much, with the rattlesnakes, sensitive disabled introverts who want to be left the fuck alone. The most relatable.

They don’t want to get into it with you. And when they rattle, that’s their way of letting you know they’re having a panic attack. Sorry, they might have to murder you because that’s how freaked out they are, I respect that.

No, it’s more than respect, I envy it

I too wish to strike fear in the hearts of those who disrespect my space and threaten my safety.

In fact, I would like every man who has ever stepped too close without permission to feel a bone-tingling deep-spine-chill of pure terror, right before I venom them all into oblivion. Byeeeeee.

Extremely strong Selena Gomez in Only Murders In The Building “I will take you down to the bone, motherfucker!” vibes, yes, this is what I want.

Spiny is a skill

I admire my cactus friends for their spiny commitment to boundaries, I admire the javelina for their persistence and fearlessness, and how they are better than I am at remembering trash day. I admire the graceful, terrifying mountain lions.

You know what, I will even admit to a grudging respect for the coatimundi, the scariest animal I’ve ever encountered, I will never forget the look one gave me outside of Sasabe last year, the way it stared into the truck, then into my soul, and promised vengeance.

But I have never admired the Arizona bark scorpions until the second night of my concussion, when I had to dispatch this particular very large one, who was fully committed to both the fight and the trash-talking, and this might even be what I admire most:

A scorpion doesn’t run away from you. It runs towards you.

Towards

I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered that level of intense, fully-committed bravery that a scorpion exhibits when it is readying itself for battle.

Most creatures run, especially when they are small enough for you to step on. The scorpion doesn’t see the point of that. “Oh, you want some of this? You wanna fight? TO THE DEATH? It’s on. Let’s fucking go!”

I can admire that, and desire to embody those qualities myself. Maybe I didn’t feel admiration in that exact moment, but I do now.

Ready or not, here I come. Battle. Let’s do this.

What if we just run towards this scary situation? What happens then? Guess we’ll find out.

Not a boot

“Listen carefully,” A said through the phone in his calmest voice.

“Don’t use a boot. You don’t want anything with crevices it can slip into because it can and will fit itself to any opening, however small. You need something hard and completely flat, like a dictionary. The first smash is everything, but don’t stop there.”

“The scorpion is a highly intelligent adversary, it will prepare itself for the blow and flatten itself to meet it. Keep smashing, don’t stop. A dozen smashes, harder than you think is necessary, then keep something heavy on it and keep watch.”

“I don’t think I can do this,” I said. “I can barely stand, my vision is blurry. I can’t think fast or move fast, I am not the right assassin for the job.”

Battle

“You got this, killer,” said A. “If they sent you for me, then you’re the best.”
“I might be the best in other circumstances,” I said, “but I’m injured.”
“Call me when it’s done,” said A.
“Ugh, enough with the talking,” said the scorpion. “Let’s go, bitch. BATTLE.”

Towards

I used a sheet pan, I think. Use what you have. Not my finest kill, but I finished the job.

Channelling my best scorpion powers:

I am made of courage, I move towards what scares me. Battle. I have done harder things than this, and I will do them again. I am resilient, fearless, tenacious, ready for the impossible, and, like the scorpion, I choose to perceive in this moment that I am indestructible, whether it is true or not.

“Get some rest, killer,” said A into the phone. “Tomorrow is a new day.”

Never say never

A week later, I had a conversation with a very kind, sweet yoga teacher who had just moved to the Sonoran desert from Sacramento.

Hope you’re ready to kill some scorpions, I said. Oh, she said, I would never harm a living being.

The dead scorpion under the baking sheet laughed and laughed. Welcome to the desert, bitch. Kill or be killed.

Time / Timing / Times

Traumatic brain injury is a form of immersion, and also a way of existing outside of time.

And so I have been thinking about time, my relationship to time, what a more conscious, loving and intentional relationship to time might look like.

How do I wish to mark time, make time, interact with time, give myself time, tend to time, and be in a more harmonious relationship with the calendar? Less pushing, more flowing.

There is trauma time, grief time, cocooning time, recovery time, rewriting time.

There are anniversaries of losses, and sometimes those become invitations to celebrate liberations. And yes, there are times when we can’t do much but curl up in a ball and cry.

Recognizing the days that are those days (and preparing to meet them?)

There are the days in the calendar we dread, for good reason, and I want to be better prepared for those too.

There are the surprisingly hard times that hide in the calendar, those days I wish I could remember fuck me up every single time, but each year it is a surprise, again. Oh, did I schedule an important appointment for the day I got my heart smashed all those years ago? Can’t make it, crying too hard!

Who knows, maybe next year around concussion time I will feel woozy and out of sorts again, as my body-mind remembers the two weeks of bed, the hunger, the fear, the dizziness and the unanticipated battles.

There are times when our only job is to comfort ourselves, to undo these pressures of time, to say, okay, we will get there when we get there. All we can do is take good care of ourselves.

invoking the superpower of We Do Grounding Things

As the Desert Assassin, one of my Incoming selves likes to remind me:

Hydrate, babe. In scary times and in all times, we live by We Do Grounding Things, trusting that this counts, that each thing we do to tend to ourselves, no matter how small, has a fractal effect and supports our other goals and wishes.

Resilience Ritual

My personal ritual of passage into the new year is about applauding my resilience.

I survived and made it here, in incredibly difficult circumstances, and that’s not only enough but a big deal, even if my internal self-criticism monsters say otherwise

The Gregorian calendar year kicked off with tragedy and horror here in the United States as we experienced a coup attempt in action and watched an attack on the Capitol in real time, watched it not being stopped the way one might have imagined an attack being stopped (cough, white supremacy, cough), every moment awful and traumatizing.

Ahhhh and that wasn’t a lone incident, not to mention that some of us were already barely hanging on as it was, between the loneliness, the fear, and the seemingly endless wait for a vaccine.

The vaccine too proved to be yet another form of heartbreak, another public health failure. It turns out you actually need a healthcare system that doesn’t regularly harm people in order for your fellow citizens to make good choices, and that’s not the world we live in.

There’s more I want to say on that but I won’t, this is just one example of how this year brought new variants not only of the virus but of disappointment, tiny and large betrayals, betrayals all the way down.

And yet

And yet, I am still here, a parade of sparklepoints for everything I did that helped the tiniest bit to keep me going, a candle lit for whatever else contributed to that, for luck, magic, every lone spark of hope.

This year I moved towards a scorpion, ready for battle, which is basically the opposite of the story of the stuffed grape leaves, and that’s something too, a rewriting. Let’s make space for rewritings and Do-Overs Forever!

Let’s generate a safe passage into the new

We can reject the pressure to review the year, to celebrate wins, to set goals or do any of that. We don’t have to.

And also at the same time (Safety First!), there is an element of being with [what was] that is a form of tending. I told you the scorpion story because I want to remember: while this year held terrifying moments, I am here to tell the tale.

Also I think sometimes naming what we went through can be a form of generating safe passage into the new. That sounds like a paradox. It doesn’t have to be:

I am not hiding from what happened, nor am I forcing myself to come to terms with any of it. Instead, I’m practicing acknowledgment and legitimacy, as part of the passage, as a way of lighting up the new path.

And so here we go, into the new.

Into the new, which is both the same and different

Lighting a candle for I am ready to be here now.

Lighting a candle for two concussions and the timing of it

A candle for the night I did battle with the scorpion.

How about a candle for the entire month of February, or maybe this is twenty eight candles because February was very rough, or maybe fourteen candles because that’s how many times I had to move from one not-a-safe-house to another, February was genuinely the worst.

Lighting a candle for all the ✨ A N X I E T Y ✨!!!!

A candle for painful surprises and the pain of the surprise

Lighting a candle for those hidden or unexpected potholes in the calendar, like how you think you’re doing okay but you forgot that this is the day when Terrible Thing happened, or maybe you remembered but thought you could handle it and you really can’t, and it’s almost hilarious that you thought you could, still one of the great mysteries.

A candle for the day A left for the fires and didn’t say goodbye, and the six weeks of no focus, waiting for a sign of life, and then the next one.

Lighting a candle for not knowing.

And a candle for knowing things I don’t wish to know.

Lighting a candle for the endless disappointments of existing within a culture that is unloving, punishing, where we won’t agree to take care of each other, and a government that won’t do the minimum to keep us alive.

(A candle for the particular bewildering crushing despair of people pretending it’s business as usual.)

Fires and floods, both in the world and my personal life

See also: the endless mysteries of timing and progressive last straws.

Did I tell you there was a fire in my trailer, it was extremely scary and traumatizing, and I am okay but also not okay, and my trailer is okay but also not okay.

Did I tell you about how the pipes froze and burst, and the last-straw-ness of that?

Lighting a candle for being so cold there was nothing I could do but cry.

Lighting a candle for hopes dashed, and for hope, in general.

Lighting a candle for not giving up

Lighting a candle for all the times I said okay I give up, but then did not give up, good job, babe.

Lighting a candle for the times when there only no one to help me, and the times when people were in the position to help but were the opposite of helpful. Like during first concussion when I was out of food but couldn’t remember where the grocery store was, and an ex, who knew about the concussion and was in town, sent a shirtless selfie.

Oh you lift, bro? Would you like to lift some extra-strength ibuprofen and something to eat off a shelf and bring it over?

Lighting a candle for the times I didn’t ask, and for the times I did, and for friends who showed up. Thank you.

Celebrating

But I can also light candles in celebration, let’s light up the room in celebration for:

  • Surviving, being here and Shehecheyanu (thank you for keeping us, sustaining us and getting us here to this moment when we can pause, breathe and say thank you)
  • Labneh making, morning bobcat stretching, Monday Meetings and ritual ritual ritual ritual
  • Nearly one hundred and seventy thousand sun salutations, two thousand new words each in French & Arabic
  • Meals made, dishes washed, naps taken, repetition as therapy
  • Took care of myself to the best of my ability (mostly staying off social media, mostly in bed before 9pm)
  • I stayed close to nature, attuned to myself and used what works (We Do Grounding Things, Progress Is Fractal)
  • I was so brave, over and over again, very brave, braver than the marines, truly the Bravest Little Toaster
  • Saying what needed to be said, re-establishing boundaries, maintaining hope
  • Beautiful memories like the day A and I went to Mt Lemmon, or the day A returned from the fires
  • Reacting less, loving more, trusting myself more
  • Bravely returning to the place where everything went wrong to rebuild, leaving again when it was time.

I am still here, not summing up and not resolving, just here with my candle and my hope-spark and my words. Trusting in right timing. Braving my way onward.

Brave On

A friend sent me a poem and it was an eleven line poem that only needed to be one line (for me), and here it is:

Brave your way on.

So yes, that one line was the poem I needed, but also I’m writing thousands of words here, and maybe only three or four are the ones for you, though if they are the right ones then I am glad, ignore the rest.

Anyway, I’ve been saying this a lot lately. Brave as a verb. Let us brave our way to the post office.

And so we brave on, into a new year.

Here’s the tl;dr

I know summing up isn’t my thing but let us sum up:

My wish and focal point for the coming year is about Existing Outside Of Time, developing an entirely new relationship with time, and not allowing the external culture to frame or form my interaction with time, undoing all external pressure to plan and review, I can be present with those pursuits when they call to me.

And I wish to acknowledge that reflection on [the year that was] is, or can be, deeply unappealing for many of us when we went through so much upheaval, and I wish to acknowledge that passaging into a new year is or can be very fraught, especially when last January was particularly terrifying and overwhelming.

We really went through it this year. Well, I don’t know about you. I did.

And so finding our own safe and comfortable way through this passage is important. External culture would have us believe that comfort is a bad word, but let’s comfort ourselves, let’s layer on comforting experiences of both meanings of comfort.

For me, right now, I am lighting candles of passage, I am tending to small sweet wish-seeds, and mostly I am tending to myself.

A pre-announcement of sorts!

I am not ready to announce anything yet because December is hibernating-cocooning and slow-passaging time for me, but I will be offering a not-a-course collective experience this year that is a play space where we play with time.

We will be inventing our own personal holidays and Feast Days, and making safe space for known hard times as well as strategizing backup recovery plans to deal with surprise hard times. Reconfiguring, rededicating and reclaiming the calendar so it works well for us instead of being a source of expectations and shoulds.

More on that to come, and if you are on the Very Occasional Announcements list, there will be an email.

In the meantime, if you are brainstorming words and qualities to call in for the new year (or if you need a gift for someone!), I am still giving my beautiful Book of Qualities in ebook form to anyone who gives any sum of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. I appreciate you for appreciating!

Come play with me in the comments, I LOVE COMPANY!

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you, notice what you’re noticing, skip a stone, or brainstorm ways to rewrite the passage into a new year.

You can always use a made-up name in the comments whether in service of safety or playfulness, this will drop your comment into moderation, which I do not check every day, so we will apply patience to that process and every process. What if nothing is wrong?

We are all going through what we are going through. We make this a sanctuary by not care-taking or problem—solving for other people, we can offer each other warmth and witnessing, and the trust that this is enough. Thank you for being here, it means so much to me to be able to process in companionship. ❤️

Use What You Have

Labneh

Image: Three glass jars filled with labneh made in my tiny trailer kitchen, rolled in spices, preserved in golden olive oil. Behind them an array of cooking utensils framed by blue New Mexico sky. The Labneh Maker is a proxy identity I called on in a moment of need, now a regular in my pantheon of selves, I can write more about that process later, lmk in the comments if that’s something you want!

The first concussion of 2021 gave me five gifts, that I know of.

Possibly more, probably-for-sure more. Truly that concussion is the gift that keeps on giving, especially if you are a German speaker and you want (need) to capitalize Gift and receive this word in another form or meaning, Gift in the sense of poison.

Five gifts, poison or antidote, or possible poison-and-antidote together, here ya go, a full combo plate of the wronging and the righting, not sure yet, who can say.

Five gifts, only two of which I was able to appreciate at all at the time; my appreciation is a late-blooming flower, which is to say that it is a flower blooming in exact right timing, its own.

And LATE is a judgment I will not make about flowers, or appreciation, or most things these days.

All timing is right timing, because it is and because it has to be, all the more so in concussion life which is also recovery life, one breath at a time life, aka regular life, just with heightened awareness of [fragility, beauty, our complete and utter lack of control over anything at all].

Things take their time.

Things take their time. They just do. Use what you have.

Then.

Before First Concussion (BC), back then in the Then of it all, I was doing a shocking amount of sundulations each morning.

Sundulations is a name I invented for my undulating sort-of sun salutations, abbreviated and flowy, a trance state that doubles as assassin training, but mainly provides a way to entrain my ADHD brain, a way to get in a groove so I can get anything (something?) done in a day.

I put myself through these paces, giving myself an layered experience that is steady, repetitive, grounding, playful and reassuring, and then I am able to function, somewhat, and focus, somewhat. I take what I can get.

My practice of sundulations is a gift (and also ein bestimmtes und besonderes Gift) from the pandemic, though don’t make me find anything to appreciate about the pandemic, I’m not ready for silver linings.

You know what, fuck silver linings, we’ll get there when we get there.

Except

Anyway, SCOOBY DOO FLASHBACK, I was up to 1,111 morning sundulations and headed to close out June with a count of 22,000 sundulations for the month, except…

Except I got into it with an aggressive and possibly haunted dining room chair, and that little tussle (you should see the other guy, no actually I’m sad to report that the chair was unharmed) put me into bed for twelve days.

Twelve days later, and I was able to haul myself through three sundulations, though I was unable to remember why sundulations mattered, or why most things mattered, in fact I am still not entirely convinced regarding these matters of which practices matter, but I knew there was much to be rebuilt and rededicated, strength training included.

Rebuild and rededicate.

Numbers

It took until October to feel strong and capable in my body again, obviously the second concussion didn’t help much, though Second Recovery was less fraught.

Anyway I closed out October with the glorious and beloved superpowers of Finishing Strong! Brave & Stalwart!

And I am not making predictions about November because if I have learned anything about anything, it is that nothing can be predicted, nor should it.

But if current trends continue, which they might, and assuming I do not get in any fights (knock on hard objects, but let’s not knock on them with my face this time), then November might look like 21,000.

So let’s say it took me half a year of training hard to regain anything like the strength levels of then.

Except there is no back, there is only here, and maybe a here plus intention plus hope regarding what’s next. And there is no better, if I am going to be impressed by 21k then I also need to be impressed by any non-zero number, as well as by rest mode, hibernation mode, chrysalis mode, all the many forms of waiting it out.

Everything is fake and

It’s like Drew Carey’s everything is fake and the points don’t matter, some of you might be too young for that reference, but the point is the practice, and not the numbers, and yet the numbers are also sometimes like a guide rope.

A guide rope? Is that what it’s called? I am flashing on the cave of the Minotaur, and something about Huck Finn, and oh, maybe a Trixie Belden mystery involving spelunking? Okay, now I am googling “what do you call the rope people hold onto in a cave”, that for sure is the wrong turn of phrase but how else do you say this?

Ahahaha maybe this is an additional gift/Gift of concussion brain, I am completely at peace about not knowing what anything is called anymore, I just ask the computer, and if I don’t have signal, or the internet rabbit-holes are unfulfilling, then I use what I have, and describe.

What you reach for when you are in the dark…

What is the rope for?

Here is what I wanted to convey with that image:

I like keeping track of my sundulation numbers, even though the numbers don’t matter, because the tracking is like the rope that will help me find my way through the cave, something I can grasp.

The rope is not the same thing as the solution, it is not the answer or the way through, it is the reminder that I am in the process of moving through, and that this process is safer than it feels.

The rope is for comfort and steadiness and hope. I am not alone, someone put this rope here for me, past me or future me, someone set things up for me with love and care, and I may have forgotten how this and everything else works but I am finding my way at the pace of right now.

Does that make sense? Maybe.

Mariah Carey is right

During first concussion, my brain was on strike, which, to be clear, I approve of, what a baller move, at any time, and it simply would not agree to do most of its usual things.

Like, where is the supermarket I go to at least twice a week? NO IDEA

How do I stand up without holding onto a wall? WHO KNOWS, WHY ARE YOU STANDING UP

What are things called? I DO NOT KNOW AND DO NOT CARE

Why would I (do a thing, any thing, something someone is asking me to do), and why do people want these things from me anyway? WOW, A MYSTERY

What was I like in the era BC (Before Concussion), what did I care about, what was important to me? WHO CARES, I DON’T KNOW HER. Like, full on Mariah Carey levels of I don’t know her.

Writings in the cave

Strangely, the one thing my brain was really good at in this time was remembering words in Arabic and French. I had been attempting to slowly improve my vocabulary in my fourth and fifth languages-to-be using an app, a slow-going and painful process, but also a bit like another rope in another cave, or possibly it’s the same cave, there might only be one cave.

Ahhhh maybe it is the cave I’ve been lost in since early March 2020, or maybe I was always in a cave, who can remember, but a saving grace of 2021 was discovering that giving ten minutes a day to language learning does something good for me, I needed that particular rope and did not know it.

Anyway, in the time Before Concussion, I would routinely get 92% accuracy on my daily vocabulary tests, mainly because (ADHD!) I am impatient and don’t always pay attention, but after my brain went on strike, boom, 100% every day in a row for months. I couldn’t make a mistake.*

*In this one particular area.

I occasionally mix up a word now and then but it’s rare. I can’t remember how to say pretty much anything I want to say in English, but for whatever reason I don’t forget words in Arabic or French. They are vivid and alive to me, and I feel tender towards them, sweet word-seeds in my mind.

Cooking-writings

Kitab u’tabkh is a cookbook in Arabic, and what a beautiful and perfect name.

Kitab, like the Hebrew word Ktav (writing), and Tabkh like the Hebrew word Tabakh (chef) or Mitbakh (kitchen), this word now exists in my brain like Cook Writings or Kitchen-Scribbles, more poetic and more meaningful than cookbook, a better word. Cookbook has the rhyming going for it, but otherwise wow, kind of boring.

A bonus concussion gift-Gift was the way I got extremely into cookbooks, I like looking at them even more than reading them, a stack of cookbooks, filled with sorcery and potential. What a wonder to feel excitement again.

Hand on heart sigh of thankfulness and relief, I like things again, not many things, but cookbooks, and their Arabic name.

Another gift: the way words in Arabic and French feel right to me in a way that words in my other three languages do not, there is a clarity to the newness. Does that make sense?

Hand on heart sigh of thankfulness and relief for this clarity, any clarity-port in a storm.

Seconds

I am not sure what gifts the second concussion of 2021 has given me because I am not ready to consider that question yet; there is a time and a place for the naming of gifts, a slow-release sweetness that comes in the form of thankfulness and re-emergence, but that’s not a process that needs to be rushed. It can’t be actually.

I will name the gifts when the time is right.

It will happen, because I am the namer who names, forever inspired by the naming process (Kitchen Scribblings for cookbook, absolute genius), and so I have to trust that I will know when the time is right for that particular naming, not yet, not now.

This steady clarity I have re Not Rushing, in matters of Thankfulness and in all matters, is one of the gifts of First Concussion, and I will take it. Thank you, deep knowing, thank you, thank you.

Not rushing

I am not rushing, and I am not beating myself up about the not-rushing, and this is important.

Right now I am pretty mad about Second Concussion, and so I’m making space for that, this too is part of compassionate Not-Rushing.

Use what you have

Sometimes morning sundulations give me clues, and sometimes they give me a sudden peacefulness, and other times they give me very clear intel, occasionally in the form of instructions but often more like a guiding phrase. A guiding phrase? Less like a mantra and more like that rope you hold onto in the cave.

The other week, they gave me USE WHAT YOU HAVE.

This phrase reverberated, circling, the way we used to ring a singing bowl in the dome, a great echoing.

I didn’t lose my count. I kept flowing. USE WHAT YOU HAVE incorporated itself into the phrasing and pacing of the movement practice, which is based in word-poetry, like everything else I do.

Like this: I am the fierce spell-caster of fierceness and I USE WHAT I HAVE, I am the wildest wildcat and I USE WHAT I HAVE, I remain grounded in my clarity and I USE WHAT I HAVE.

Incoming Incoming

My favorite gift of First Concussion is that it gave me two new Incomings, two selves or aspects of me I had not known about before and possibly never would have gotten to know without having my mind (as I knew it previously) go offline, only to return altered.

Concussion Me, who also goes by their nickname Zero Fucks / Zero Quarter Given, is so much more fun than I ever could have guessed. Concussion Self uses they/them pronouns. What can I say, they are smart, hilarious, extremely refreshing and truly give zero fucks.

Concussion Me excels at saying no.

Concussion Me does not see the point of politeness, niceties, placating, all the “Please Like Me!” things that I do almost unthinkingly as survival strategies; instead they get straight to the point and don’t care if anyone else has opinions about that.

Then my Villanelle Self emerged while binging all of Killing Eve in the first week of bed rest mode. Did I know I have a hot, fun, manic-depressive murderous sociopath side to me? Not sure how I didn’t know that, she is so fun, I don’t know how we ever did Monday Meetings without her.

Monday Meeting

I convene a Monday Meeting nearly every day, not just on Mondays. The Monday-ness is more of an idea. It’s the meeting that matters.

And this is not a meeting like the boring meaning of meeting that happens in a board room. This is a meeting like an encounter, and who I am meeting is myself. I meet my selves, my Incoming selves, we get to know each other, we talk shit out.

Sometimes the meeting is two minutes, sometimes an hour or more. Often I just ask my various selves for counsel on literally anything. What are we making for lunch, yes/no to a post office run, which cookbook to read next. We meet up and meet again.

Lately when I ask them for advice, they don’t want to give any. They want me to use what I have, which turns out to be, and this is hilarious, that exact phrase: USE WHAT YOU HAVE.

The Selves weigh in on Use What You Have

Villanelle self: “Use the safe house, for starters. You’re a devastating dangerous bad bitch with a GETAWAY safe house, you are basically Angelina Jolie as Mrs Smith, your cover is amazing, your hair is perfect and the trailer is space to recuperate, so use what you have.”

The Labneh maker: “You have everything you need to make labneh, and what you don’t have is a refrigerator so it’s now or never, let’s get into a groove, food is ritual, and We Do Grounding Things. Use what you have. Use the hook where your bottle-opener lives to hang the cheesecloth with the sheep milk yogurt. You don’t even drink wine, you don’t need to see the bottle-opener, you just like the Arabic and French words for bottle-opener.”

Highest High Regard self: “It may appear that now is a repeat of then (living in a tiny trailer without adequate heat) and yet, every aspect of this now-version involves Enhanced High Regard, from the physical to the mental-emotional. This is new. Use what you have = use your vision. And get creative. Sure, you don’t have a chair, but you have an inversion trainer, throw some cushions on it and it’s a chair. Is it the most High Regard version of a chair? No, but we are where we are, a symbolic chair is the first step.”

The Desert Assassin: “Your powerful training is working, early to bed is working, ritual is working, you have a Steadiness you couldn’t imagine a year ago. Use what you have does not mean “make do”, it means use what works: grounding ritual, supportive habits, tinctures, anything that makes you stronger.”

The Sorceress: “You have your place to do your particular magic, now we consecrate it and work with it, good job getting us here. Use what you have means use the symbolic meaning of what is here, each object is here for a reason, channel the qualities, stay attuned to intention.”

Villanelle Self: “First of all, when I said I would kill Hélène with the tiny chair, I was being silly and lightening the mood, it was a playful moment, like a panther yawning, a way to casually demonstrate my prowess and my boredom, but if I’m gonna use what I have, I’m gonna use the most interesting thing I have. Anyway, USE WHAT YOU FUCKING HAVE, what is not clear about that?”

Concussion Me: “Why are you still asking us for clarity when you already have your extremely clear Clarity, you were given the answer, and now you’re requesting the next answers when you haven’t done anything with the first answer. The instruction is right there, kiddo. Use what you have. You don’t need to keep asking for examples. LIVE IT AND FIND OUT.”

Use what you have

Do you get it, babe? They really want me to get it.

They’re like, okay, you were given a really sturdy rope to lead you through the cave, and now you’re asking for a new rope. YOU HAVE THE ROPE. OMG JUST PLEASE USE THE ROPE.

Use what you have, and what you have is the phrase Use What You Have.

What you have is the UKC

The UKC is the Usual Known Clarity, aka when my movement-meditation practice gives me the same information as before. Ah, here we are, the Usual Suspects!

USE WHAT YOU HAVE
STAY FIERCE AND DEVOTED TO YOURSELF
LET EVERYTHING SOLVE ITSELF
PAY ATTENTION TO HOW IT ALREADY IS SOLVING ITSELF
DO LESS TO GET MORE
WE DO GROUNDING THINGS
PRACTICE IS FRACTAL, SO TAKE A STEP, ANY STEP
WE TRY THINGS
RECOVERY HAS ITS OWN PACE

Okay but

Okay but what if I don’t like what I have?

Use what you have.

What I have is fury, grief, two concussions and a bewildering lost year. And the aftermath of these tumultuous experiences, which is also a form of cave, rope not included.

On the other hand, I also have the gifts from concussion.

Gift as poison, but sometimes it’s the poison and sometimes it’s the antidote, and I feel a fondness towards German for both ruining and re-rescuing this word with a rewriting, and isn’t that how we always rescue things around here? The righting that comes from using writing to bring about a rewriting.

We write things and right things. Write the spells. Right the ship. Wind in our sails again.

In the hard vs in the soft

Hard and soft are my terms for differentiating between those things and practices that are tangible, in the physical plane, versus everything invisible, from feelings to concepts to spiritual qualities.

Use what you have. What do I have?

In the hard: I have sheep milk yogurt in the process of becoming labneh, I have a glorious array of spices in which to roll the labneh, I have olive oil to preserve the labneh (who even needs a refrigerator), I have a not-a-chair that can act as a chair, an incredible view, friends who check in on me.

In the soft: I have my resilience, I have my rituals, I have my practice of We Do Grounding Things And This Is Enough For Now, and the knowledge that these grounding things have fractal effects, I have the companionship of my incoming selves, I have a theme for this coming year (Emergence & Recalibration), I have a hopefulness I was not able to channel a year ago, the blessing of perspective…

Some presents I am trying to be present with…

Here are five gifts from First Concussion that I am sure of, and that I have come to treasure:

  • Villanelle Self, she just wants to have dinner with you, she’ll kill you later, but she won’t, but she could
  • Concussion Self and their full commitment to I Don’t Know Her, no point in missing the Havi that was, whoever she was, now is now, we’re here now, let’s do this
  • The way my physical practice was just demolished, and how that meant needing to rebuild from zero, and all the frustration in that but also all the learning in that, finding the rope and holding on for dear life
  • Discovering that new brain delights in Arabic and French
  • Not being able to do anything included not being able to attempt to please and placate any of the narcissists in my life, which resulted in an abrupt and powerful break of a whole tangle of old unhealthy patterns

Concussion Self weighs in

Concussion Me: “I mean, if you’re not going to exit a situation on your own, then a concussion is a great form of forced evacuation actually. Each day is a gift, maybe with a new form of poison but also a new antidote. Use what you have. And what you have, my love, more than anything else, is a clear knowing about what you don’t want. All the decisions you have been trying to make do not need to be made, they have already been received. Clear your view. Discover what remains.”

Here now, with you

As you know, we don’t do forced thankfulness around here, not on American Thanksgiving and not ever, as far as I’m concerned it’s an act of violence to force ourselves to find treasure in pain when we aren’t ready for that exploration.

And at the same time, we know from experience that sometimes naming the good helps us feel tender towards ourselves.

So we don’t push, we just notice and make room. Sometimes naming what is hard makes it easier to remember what is good.

I am feeling fullness in my thank-you heart about being here, and about reaching some perspective on what I’ve been through and what is important to me.

Concussion me says to just keep writing, as a practice, and so I will.

Thank you notes & dedication (double meaning)

This post is for Lorinda who sent me money every single month this year, and each time I was brought to tears by the notion that people want to support my work even when I am not sharing it, even when I am mysteriously lost or missing or on far-off adventures. This faith in me, and this continued loving unconditional giving kept me going, so much gratitude for this, thank you for wind in my sails.

A huge thank you as well to Agents Lavery & Sloan for helping me out in a tight spot and reminding me of the Trade Winds aka the superpower of receiving support to set yourself up for ease of passage.

Thank you to Amanda who managed all the way from Utah to get me painkillers in Arizona during First Concussion. Thank you to Darcy who set me up with all the episodes of Killing Eve.

Thank you also to everyone who bought things from the gift shop or gave any sum of Appreciation money to Barrington’s Discretionary this year, it was received with love, you are all wind in my sails, and I needed that reminder, so thank you for the love and the reminding.

Play with me in the comments! I LOVE COMPANY!

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you, notice what you’re noticing, skip a stone, or brainstorm ways to Use What You Have!

You can always use a made-up name in the comments whether in service of safety or playfulness, however this will drop your comment into moderation, which I do not check every day, so we will apply patience to that process and really to every process. What if nothing is wrong?

We are all going through what we are going through. We make this a sanctuary by not care-taking or problem—solving for other people, we can offer each other warmth and witnessing and trust that this is enough. Thank you for being here, it means so much to me to be able to process in companionship. ❤️

The Fluent Self