Category Archives: Uncategorized

hey, i don’t really update this blog anymore

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for multiple reasons. but i would highly encourage you to visit my book website! http://www.mostbeautifulrot.com

i’m casually blogging on tumblr as well. i don’t wanna put the username here for security/safety reasons (another reason why i stopped writing here) but you can email escape_well at yahoo dot com and i will (probably) tell you what it is.

xoxo

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for L., 195?-2014.

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the voicemail said, “call me. something terrible has happened.” my first thought was, L. is dead. when i called and discovered that i was right, that she hadn’t come to work and her son said that she’d died and  they didn’t know what the cause was, my immediate instinct was, she killed herself. i never had any doubt in my mind. she was in her fifties, not super healthy but not super unhealthy either. we worked together, at the crisis mental health residence. at my job, “co-workers” doesn’t mean awkward chit-chat in the ladies room about guarded pleasantries, doesn’t mean being hushed by a boss for talking. at my job, we are together 24 hours a day, we go through so much, and we become very close. my first shift with L. was an overnight that very suddenly descended into chaos. i came back from talking one guy down after the incident to find L. sobbing in the office. “do you want a hug?” i asked, and she said yes, and there we were, in an office in san francisco late at night, her sobbing in my arms, an hour after we’d met. after that, how could we not become friends. she would yell, “hi, sweeetie!” when i arrived, all warmth and glow. but still, that deep sadness that was apparent all around her, that we weren’t allowed to touch. we’d ask how she was doing and she’d say, “i’m fiiiine!” a little too cheerfully. we didn’t question it. didn’t make sure that she was really okay.

my last conversation with her that i remember, she’d mentioned having some problems with her live-in partner. he’d called her a bitch and they weren’t on speaking terms. “why don’t you kick him out?” i asked, half-jokingly. “i can’t afford to live on my own,” she sighed, and in that tone there was so much resignation, such a sense of being trapped. and there was so much i didn’t ask, so much we didn’t ask. not that she would have told us anyway.

at the weird company-sponsored grief-counseling group, i was the one to say it. i think she committed suicide. more than one person agreed with me. more than one person expressed the belief that suicide is inevitable. i wanted to scream, if suicide is inevitable than what the fuck are we doing with our lives? we work with acutely suicidal people, and although the work we do is imperfect and underfunded and understaffed and nowhere near enough time (two weeks! TWO MOTHERFUCKIN’ WEEKS!) clients often tell us that we’ve done a good job with them, that we’ve given them hope. L., in her last week at work, in her last week of life, did a lot of really amazing work with someone who was very suicidal. was that it? was that why? was she hoarding pills while she tried to convince him to live?
human beings are referred to as “the only animal that commits suicide.” but that isn’t true. my ex-girlfriend had a snake that committed suicide. it stopped eating and she took it to the vet. the vet said that reptiles in captivity do that sometimes, once they realize that they’re in a cage and they aren’t ever getting out. they refuse to eat. they’d rather die.

now, in the aftermath, i have no energy. i ignore texts. i don’t care anymore. when clients ask me for things i want to roll my eyes. who cares. L. is dead. every day shift, she was supposed to be there, and they’re that much harder. i broke down sobbing in front of my co-workers, who were all really nice but i felt embarrassed. i have no interest in being, or attempting to be, posi about this. there is nothing good about it. nothing.

the cockroaches in my apartment have finally grown too plentiful to ignore. i don’t want to kill them, my imagination is too good, i think about the social structures that they create. i see them scampering across my apartment, full of life. they often drown in my drain, or in any puddle of water, they get incinerated in the flames of my stove and wander into the freezer and freeze to death, but they keep going. they want to live so badly. i spray them with a spray that my boyfriend helped me pick out because i’m that level of non-functional right now. they run and then they freeze, twitch for a while, then they are gone.  i bear witness to these tiny deaths because i feel it’s the least i can do, even if it makes me feel terrible.

on wednesday, three co-workers and i went to her memorial service. it was on the beach. half-moon bay, several miles south of san francisco. so hypnotizingly beautiful, the clear blue water, the white sand. the signs warning that you can’t go into this beautiful water, that people have drowned just by wading. that the waves are unusually large and strong. it was here, standing in a black wool dress with the sun beating down on me, my feet bare, my toes in the pacific, that one of her friends answered my question of what happened. “she took pills,” she said. “she left a note. this wasn’t the first time, or the second time. it was more like the twelfth. we all knew we’d lose her this way. it was just a matter of time.”
we didn’t know. she’d never told us at all. a lot of people at work, myself included, are open about our own painful struggles with mental health issues or drug addictions or whatever has shaped us. it’s about half and half–people who’ve gone to school vs. people who’ve lived it. she’d gone to school, and she didn’t talk about her past. so we all assumed that she didn’t live it. we never asked. we never thought. she was such a good counselor. i said, at some point, maybe on a shift or maybe on the car ride home, if L. can’t survive this job, how can anyone?
her adult son told us that the job was what kept her going this long. he said that he’d visited her at work, how he hadn’t wanted to go because his mom had to stay at places like our job, after every suicide attempt, and they were always so white, so sterile, so sad. he thought it would remind him of a sad time. but he visited her at work and saw the bright yellow and orange walls, the clients all cooking with his mom and having a good time, and realized that it was different, realized why she wanted to be there. her ex-husband told us that the note was addressed to her four adult children, and that it essentially said, it’s not like you aren’t worth it, but i just can’t do this anymore. her daughter had made an altar on the beach, full of pictures of her mom throughout various stages of her life. it was beautiful and sad. i took a picture with my shadow cast over it from the setting sun.

in a cruel twist of library availability, “being flynn” finally came on the holdshelf for me the day afterwards. it’s a movie based on nick flynn’s memoir, “another bullshit night in suck city,” about working at a homeless shelter where his estranged father is a resident, while recovering from the suicide of his mother. i watched it and could relate far too much, especially when they talked about the kinds of people who work at such a draining job–the jesus freaks, the ex-cons, and the punks. (i think we all know which category i fall into!) there’s a moment where they all talk to the camera about why they’re here, the punks shouting, “this job is so hardcore! i could never get this adrenaline rush anywhere else!” lili taylor, playing the front desk monitor, smiles at the camera and says, “i used to be a crack addict and a hooker. i clawed my way up and i got this job. within two years, i’ll be back on drugs and back in the street. because,”–her smile turning rueful–“everyone knows that you can’t stay changed for long.”

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upcoming events in the bay area.

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all are free and will almost certainly be fun.

 

APRIL 30, 7pm

Long Haul Infoshop, Berkeley CA (facebook event page here)

 

MAY 5

Good Bellies Variety Show

Shared feature with Alexandra Naughton, who will be reading from her book “I Will Always Be Your Whore–Love Songs to Billy Corgan” (!!). At Good Bellies café in Temescal/North Oakland at 8pm. Open mic! FB event page here.

 

MAY 6

San Francisco Main Library, Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room

6pm. Radar Reading Series! With Ariel Gore, Shawna Kenney, and Andrew Demcak.

 

MAY 21

Modern Times Bookstore, San Francisco, CA (24th st between florida & Alabama)

7pm! Just me!

the past isn’t dead. it isn’t even past.

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this is what things look like lately, a lot of lying in bed alone, wearing cute tights and having no energy or desire to leave the house. my main squeeze has been too busy to come over lately, and i’ve been too busy/tired to go over there, so my bed has turned into a nest of books, scissors, rubber stamps, (it’s weird because i’m typing this and i see my left hand typing and then i see my left hand in that picture above, it’s a little disconcerting), paper scraps, boxes of crackers, fabric, tinctures, zines, envelopes, etc. when he comes over i make things into a pile but usually i just need enough space for my body. it feels nice surrounded by mess, art tools, words. it feels like safety to me. it feels like my own little kingdom that is horrifying to most people, but the ones who make it there understand, and that’s what matters.

i am an old person lately: sewing while listening to books on tape, taking long, aimless walks to look at graffiti and plants. work has left me too exhausted to socialize and EVEN THOUGH I KNOW IT’S NOT TRUE i often feel like i don’t have friends here. trying to take care, hold on, be safe. be useful and compassionate still. everything goes in cycles. there is one exciting thing going on that i can’t really talk about here. let’s just say that the two of bottles keeps coming up in my tarot card readings. but, as exciting as this potential and spark is, it’s also highly problematic and could fuck everything up super hard, so i can’t let myself give in to it and just be stoked. what does it mean to feel a strong connection with an unlikely person? what are they trying to teach you? i really wish i had someone i could talk to about this.

feeling magical despite all the drama and hopelessness. feeling safe despite all the chaos. listening to high energy songs and also sad songs. about betrayal, desperation, hope and crushes. i just turned thirty-two! does any of it matter?

visual evidence

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I feel like sharing a little bit of where I live. Partially because most of my best friends live very far away and don’t see the little items and spaces that make up my world. sorry if these pictures aren’t the greatest, I don’t have a smartphone. I make do.
hallway

my neighbors put this in the hallway. it felt poignant. we all live in such tiny spaces here, it seems unsustainable for the long term. all of our homes are temporary.

blankey

my patchwork quilt that scarin trashpicked over a year ago. it is torn up like hell, and any halfway sensible person would have scrapped it by now. written it off as a lost cause. not me though. I’ve been patching it up, slowly, using patches that no longer seem appropriate, or cloth pads that I don’t need now that I have an IUD, or t-shirts that don’t fit. clockwise from top left, I have a patch that I bought on etsy that happens to be printed on the same sheets I had as a child, a few cliché bike patches, a cute frowny artichoke shirt that was too big, a repurposed former rag with kiwis and strawberries on it, a lovely silkscreen patch of a bike being carried away by birds that I wore on the back of my hoodie for years until it got too mud-splattered and torn, and a t-shirt for the Berkeley Prison Lit Project (which I am a core member of) that emma gave me that is far too small. this is only one corner of this blanket. to capture the whole thing in one photo is hard. it feels nice to lay beneath.

view

the view outside my window. a tiny slice of brilliant blue sky. the scarf says “another world is possible.” etta made it.

each day

my bike, at aquatic park in berkeley, under some posi graffiti. I live so close to here and I like to go there after an overnight shift, when I’m waking up at 4:30 and desperately need some sunshine on my face. California stuns me, endlessly, with its beauty.

 

apt

the white walls were upsetting me, so I bought some fancy paper and taped it over the walls. I’m not allowed to paint. it made me feel about a hundred times better!

tenofkeys

this card, the ten of keys from collective tarot, is the card of burnout. of loving everything you do but stretching yourself far too thin. I feel that card tremendously, and it looks a little bit like my apartment. am I living in the ten of keys? I don’t know. I mean, I have certainly been busier, stretched thinner, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. I do an ok job of taking care of myself but there never seems to be enough time. Always exhausted, underslept, my book to-do list is so long and I just don’t know how to do it. Trying to teach my impatient Aries self to take things slowly, slowly. it’s so hard sometimes.

a note on myself.

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current mental status: overwhelmed. increasingly disorganized. experiencing an upsurge in hopelessness. how can i not, when that garbage can outside of my apartment says “hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.” i’m starting to believe in that. i wrote why but then i deleted it. not for this forum.

i got my christmas present in the mail from my mom today, after over a month of change-of-address bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. it was a t-shirt advertising a tree grows in brooklyn, one of my favorite books ever. it made me happy. i’m wearing it at the library right now, waiting for a book nerd to notice it but realizing that that probably won’t happen.

i don’t feel like explaining the book right now (you can google it if you aren’t familiar with it or with its premise) but maybe you know that i have a gorgeous picture of an ailanthus leaf tattooed on my thigh. ailanthus, also known as the “tree of heaven”, is the said tree in this book. it represents survival in bad circumstances, perseverance. surviving. survival. surviving.

it’s a gorgeous tattoo, but i won’t post it here, for it seems like a shitty ex of mine is still reading, and i don’t want him to know what my body looks like now. i want the version of my body in his head to forever be the wrong one. it is a tiny bit of control in an uncontrollable situation that, despite all the work i have done on letting go, still haunts me terribly.

a lot of things haunt me. terribly. i’ve had several bad dreams about an ex-friend that shouldn’t bother me so much, i mean, i knew she was terrible pretty much from the get-go, i listened to her patiently because i was trying to be nice, because i sensed the damage and thought i could help, but her toxicity just swallowed me. and it’s fine, we don’t have contact, she was never that important to me, she is stuck inside a miserable life and as my old therapist once told me, living well is the best revenge. but i still have a lingering resentment that claws at me, that i can deny in my waking life, but when i go to sleep it’s all still there.

i have been experiencing an upsurge in insomnia. new schedule. i sleep extremely poorly next to my sweet sweet lover, and not all that much better when i’m by myself. i’m nearly out of ativan so i bought some stinky valerian root & some lemon balm for nicer nights. i just can’t be refreshed. soon i will adjust or things will change. i don’t know.

i sent a text to ______, my good friend and occasional lover in pittsburgh, this morning. it said, i had a dream that you had cancer and i was your support person. i took you to do fun things and held you while you cried. honestly, i think this has more to do with me, and how overwhelmed i am with my job and my life, than you. but i like to tell people when they show up in my dreams :)” (of course, i mean people i like). he hasn’t responded yet, and i mean, really, how could he. what do you say to that. i sent it mostly as an act of courage and love, because i know that he is not going to be scared away by me being my most authentic self, and that means so much to me i can’t even put it into those words.

you make me sick, sick, sick, sick, sick. (trigger warning)

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so. today i got a new job (!) (it’s actually my current job, just with fulltime hours & more responsibility & more $$) and went thrifting in the mission to celebrate. i got some really rad stuff (captive genders for $1! an original edition of work of a common woman by judy grahn for fifty cents! etc) and decided to cut through clarion alley to get to BART–partially because it’s efficient & partially because i love the murals there. they’re always changing & always inspiring and rad.

i saw a new one there that i hadn’t seen before. the link doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s a comic about a girl who overdoses on heroin & is saved by narcania! a superhero giving her naloxone, a drug that reverses potentially fatal overdoses. it’s cool, a much needed public service. what was NOT cool was a well-scrubbed hipster family–a white, hetero couple probably a little bit older than i am now, with their daughter who looked to be 11 or 12–taking smiley pictures in front of it with an expensive camera. the dad and the daughter (as i say this, i realize i don’t know their exact relationship. they could all be cousins or friends or siblings or whatevskies) posed around the last panel, where the girl who’s been saved says, “thanks, narcania! i’m not sure that i have anything to live for, but thanks to you, i’ll be able to find out!” that is the happy ending–a heroin addict who states that she has nothing to live for, but is grateful to be alive, to live another day, to find out if there’s any fucking point to this existence. this is what passes for a happy ending in san francisco these days–or at least, a certain segment of san francisco.

the “dad” and “daughter” were on either side of this pale, suicidal, yet hopeful cartoon. they were smiling so big. the dad had a fist curled, on the side of the cartoon’s head, like he was just about to punch her.  the punch line. like this was all a joke. like youngsters dying, like youngsters having no reason to live, is something fun to take your picture next to while on vacation, no different than a picture of a smiling ear of corn in iowa or something. 

i stood, dead in my tracks, a look of abject horror on my face. the woman turned to me and said, “oh sorry, were you waiting to pass by?” big smile for me, because i’m white and vaguely hip and don’t look homeless or strung out. i wanted to say something. as usual i froze.

i had been thinking about freezing, because earlier that day i was gossiping with billi in front of our workplace while we smoked cigs. an argument at the housing complex across the street got heated and a man held a woman by her hair and bashed her face into the gate. i said to him (his back was to them), quietly, “holy shit, look what’s happening…” and before i could even get the sentence out of my mouth he was running down the street, yelling, “HEY STOP IT! FUCKIN’ STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” in all his faggy glory. i stood with my feet rooted to the ground, my voice ground down to nothing. i hate myself for not fighting back more. always. i hated it then and i hated it in the alley. i should have said something. it could have been a moment like this one for that young girl, where she realizes certain things, where it changes her life forever.

instead i just kept walking. can’t stop. can’t talk, my voice will break. can’t start talking too much, what if i say everything. what will happen to me. i walked down the alley, i gave my spare change to the guy who asked me for it, he asked where i’m from but i kept walking, didn’t answer. i just couldn’t.

why yes, it has been a long december.

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at work, we keep all the knives in a drawer or a locked cabinet, sweep the house to make sure that there aren’t any laying around. most people won’t do anything with them besides chop vegetables, but you never know. one of my co-workers is traumatized by something awful that happened recently with a pair of scissors, while she was working all night alone. i worked with her on christmas day and she kept asking, “where are the knives? where are the scissors?!” hypervigilant. i don’t blame her.

i’ve been working a lot and i am exhausted and burned out. one co-worker, who i met for the first time on christmas when he was coming in for the night shift, talked to me for ten minutes and said, “you need a vacation.” my sister sent me a letter yesterday where she said that i sound “tired” on my blog. i dunno if she means this blog or the one related to my book, but she’s right! i am tired, the kind that sleeping or coffee can’t touch. yesterday i worked thirteen hours and it was exhausting but i did a workshop based on a piece from doris zine which some people really seemed to like (it was from the Q section of the encyclopedia of doris, the piece called “quitting”). i got to share it because it changed my life when i first read it and i thought it could change someone else’s life too. i got to share it because i wanted to and nobody is going to tell me no. i also got three hugs, a few high fives, a few sincere thanks. all of these things make me feel good, keep me going in the face of trauma, despair, and futility.

it was good but i’m glad i have the next two days off, where i can wear inappropriate shirts and be restoratively silent and go to the vegan coffee shop with my boyfriend and generally chill the fuck out. my apartment feels a little like a hotel room, temporary, like it will never be a real home. i had a moment of genuine loss for a second but i don’t want to write about that. the white walls kind of bum me out & i can’t paint them. the white curtains. everything coming into my life seems to be white, or at least i see the white spaces more. i am a colorful person and it’s kinda harshing my mellow–although, of course, i am still infinitely grateful to have a home at all in this city, and a safe one at that. i’ll ride it as long as i can, and then do something else, i guess.

some things will always be true.

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right, right, never use the word always, it’s overrated and often inaccurate. but there are some things that i can’t seem to avoid. no matter what bike i ride, the brakes are always shitty and nobody can fix ’em. it’s ok, i’ve adjusted my riding style. slow down way before the red light. my room will always be messy and no amounts of threats or cajoling or withholding will change that. (although moving into a tiny studio apartment just might! we’ll see. don’t hold yer breath).

last night i was talking with a friend about how we experience love so much differently than we used to. romantic love, i mean. how we both used to be so obsessive and now things are so different. how the person is not the center but just part of a life. there was the unspoken sentiment hanging in the air that a certain heartbreak had made us both this way, that we were damaged, that we can’t love the way we used to because it just hurts too much.

the next morning i wished i’d said maybe what we think is the result of heartbreak is actually the result of maturity. there’s definitely multiple upsides to being this way, in fact i think i like it better. but, you know. there’s always that residual sadness. someday, maybe, we will be so used to it that we don’t even notice it’s there anymore.