she wrote it down so I thought ok I will do this one more time

I put a comment on this one blog post that has somehow drawn almost everyone to it: “He Wrote It Down“. I am copying the comment or that is I have already copied the comment I left and plan on pasting it here at the end of this which is mainly just a pointer to where or why or how I decided to make this one comment on the internet.

Because it can happen that I think I have no words until it becomes clear that I do. And also that I don’t.

This is what I wrote over there:

I am not sure how I got here only that I looked at my browser over coffee and here was a tab open right here. From yesterday before I succumbed to what is called sleep.

I am not sure I should leave a comment at all other than to say yes these things happened to me too only not exactly the same things because it is different for everyone only the inability to abide with oneself seems quite similar across all of the way too many stories I have heard from others and the way too many stories I have to tell and have been telling and telling and sometimes I think I am going to

run out of breath and fall right back into the earth and that will be that.

I was a girl when my brother raped me, when my church taught me I was going to burn in the Lake of Fire, when my family let me believe they were going to disappear in the rapture and I would be left behind, when some young man I had never seen before and would never see again tackled me on the beach and led me off behind the dunes and told me to take my clothes off and I remember staring into the sun and then I have my clothes back on and am looking for my grandmother who had left me playing in the sand and she finds me and says there you are and I say here I am and then nothing else.

I tell people I fell silent at 15 and did not learn to talk again for 15 more years which is sort of true although talking even now often feels like not talking at all. There are no words for it or that is no words that will cover it all take care of it all clean it up put clothes on it and take it home somewhere safe except home was not that so somewhere else I have to guess but I have not found it yet.

I am not a girl now perhaps obviously but what gender I am I cannot say or that is I haven’t found a name for it but I look like a middle-aged, balding, bearded, somewhat shall we say bohemian man. I have no idea what it is like to be a male survivor of sexual abuse; what I hear does not resonate with me. For me gender was violently enforced until it wasn’t anymore and I could be who I was except that over the course of one’s lifetime the possibility to be any particular of the ones you thought you would be narrow until maybe you are just you because none of the recognized options fit. It was not clear to me until relatively recently that being a nonbinary-gendered survivor of sexual abuse would be akin to being not a unicorn but more like a..
well there is no word for that either it turns out.

no man’s land. no woman’s land.
land? do you see a place to land?
the map says land here. why do I not see any.

Everyone on my mom’s side of the family has experienced some form of abuse or another–the majority of it sexual. For at least five generations that I know of. Everyone knows but nobody has a clue what to do that won’t upset any of the adults which is apparently the greatest sin there is. The children will be ok. They have to be. We all are ok aren’t we. Didn’t we turn out alright.

Speaking up is a little like talking to earless creatures who stare at you there disrupting the peace so discourteously. It’s not like you are telling us anything new. Can’t we just put it all behind us. We are tired. We did our best. Let it go.

It won’t let me go. Everything you forget I have to remember. The panic you swallow swallows me.
Every drop of denial you squeeze out of your life explodes behind my eyes at the temples the headache almost older than I am now.

I am 53. I was not planning on living this long. My body is starting to need attention in the way bodies will when they spend half a century resisting gravity and friction and oxidation and all the other agents of entropy that will soon catch up with us. I wish I knew what to do. I mean I have a doctor but I am disabled by what is called by some Complex PTSD and the number of symptoms has become bewildering and more than I can even keep up with trying to make appointments for.

And the stories. I dream them, I sing them, I write them, I eat them and drink them for breakfast and lunch by dinner I cannot get any more down so I dream some more and start over.

I am just going to leave this here.

first in a series of series of declared series

I am so frustrated I could file a class action lawsuit! If, you know, I had a lawyer. And money to pay them if they did not want to do all this work for free because I have a hunch the system is rigged and besides I am the most unreliable witness alive.

Ok maybe not the most unreliable. But my credibility and my credit are both shot. Probably it is no coincidence that they would go down together but if I start drawing connections too sharply I am going to look like I am psychotic or something and that would just–

well, underscore the “with psychotic features” portion of my vast collection of diagnoses. Which diagnoses will come up again if I get that far before I die but I am not sure how far I will even get before the coffee wears off or my eyes start aching so badly that I must stop typing and stare at my feet for the rest of the evening.

Personal responsibility. I have a lot of thoughts about that. Of course in late capitalism the persons saddled with personal responsibility are not those persons the Supreme Court saw fit to fashion out of the inherently lopsided autocracies that are corporations. They can do whatever they want; the invisible hand will guide and protect them in its boundless mercy for profit seekers.

The rest of us though. No such protection.

Still I can fantasize that everyone who espouses personal responsibility would actually be happy to take some on themselves and prove to the rest of us that they do believe this responsibility applies to everyone, not just to those other people who are not able to meet the free-market definition of worthiness.

I had the idea today to go out into the world. Because lately I have not been doing a whole lot of that because when I do what often happens is quite a lot like what happened today. I took my camera; I sort of made a new Gregorian calendar year resolution to go take pictures on my block at least once a week for the rest of the year and to try to see things that I have already seen a million times at least differently enough to take interesting pictures. Part of the resolution included posting them, somewhere, for anyone out there to look at. I hope to be able to get to that in between what may be called dystonic storms if what is going on with me is what I think is going on with me.

Really I think this was just an idea I had around the first of the year and I figured well this is a punctual moment so why not start and call it (one of) my project(s) for the year.

Looking up at an old building with columns and wrought iron faux balconies on the boarded-up windows

Today I took pictures of an old building that I am quite certain will soon lose its beautiful crumbling facade when someone buys it and decides that restoring said facade would cut into profits too much and instead they replace the facade with a facile quote of said facade. Because this has already happened to the two buildings adjacent to this one that were built in similar styles some time ago when architectural flourishes were not seen as excessive or if they were seen as excessive then it was still worth the time and money to carry them out in order to simply be excessive.

The point of my field trip was not necessarily the photography although I was aware this might be the only thing I was able to accomplish if I did accomplish anything at all. My general plan was to walk somewhere where there was a place to sit and then to sit there and maybe write a little bit about one or two of the million things that have occurred to me in the last couple of years and then gotten lost in the ceaseless clatter that is my central nervous system looking for itself or America or some other nostalgia-ridden peaceful ideal and that also makes starting andor continuing to write or think on any of these things into a challenge of modestly exhausting proportions.

I got as far as the parklet outside of a cafe over on Valencia just south of 22nd Street. I had thought maybe to try for the library at 24th Street but my back did not like all the standing still I had done while using my camera so I stopped here. I even got some coffee although I could not really afford it because why not go all out?

So I took my coffee to a parklet table and got myself seated which is itself an involved affair for reasons I do not fully understand except that it might have something to do with how I hang half of the things I think I might need from my bag and so they often get tangled up in each other and me and the dozen or so wallet chains I decorate myself wtih besides. Plus today a camera on a strap around my neck and you would think that carrying a bag would make organization easier instead of harder but no. It gets even worse if I put things in or on a backpack with carabiners and velcro and paracord. Backpacks are made to keep things out of reach until you Get There but I usually need things enroute and I should probably just get a toolbelt or something similar that could hold lots of things without using up my hands and neck.

Eventually though I was seated with my iDevice out and my coffee in front of me and I opened a note-taking app all ready to start. And then I realized that my eyes, neck, and head were all throbbing. At slightly different frequencies and also and this has been going on for a while but I do not notice that much here in my house because I guess I do not look down much at home if I look down that is if I bend my neck rather than, say, my waist in order to see something below my current horizon line then my head starts to ache or in this case ache worse. My neck muscles apparently do not like to be stretched that way because the ache starts in the back on one or both sides of my cervical spine and apreads from there to my temple(s) and forehead(s–oh wait. I only have one of those!).

This can be annoying when trying to use an iDevice without holding it up so that I can look directly ahead at it. Holding the iDevice up in that way makes my shoulder muscles angry if I do it for too long especially if the reason I am doing it is because the muscles in my face are angry because they will just spread the love on down to whatever part of me tries to do anything but remain still and as relaxed as possible which often is not at all possible but you have to try anyway if you want to be able to do anything at all the rest of the day.

My nose was twitching. Not so that anyone could see it but some nerve in my right-nostril-flaring muscle(s?) was unhappy or alarmed or something and so sending a repeated signal to a tiny bit of that muscle to contract and then shiver at about 70Hz or so for half a second. A half second of rest and then another signal. You might say it was on a 70Hz over 2Hz sort of signal. Or the other way around.

I don’t know which.

But most of the muscles in my face twitch for short periods at about 70Hz and in the night when it is quiet I can hear them, you know, from the inside, through whatever bone is between the muscle and my inner ear. Because my jaw is trying to shut itself with great emphasis much of the time and with varying amounts of force fueling that emphasis, I can only tell if it is relaxed if I stop hearing it strain against itself. Sometimes this means my jaw can be fully slack, but it usually finds rest somewhere between clenched tight and teeth not quite touching. A point of homeostasis between warring muscle groups, always at a slightly different length of the arc that defines the full range through which my chin can move all by itself. “Slack” jaw for me actually requires continuous muscular effort against the contractive forces almost always exercising themselves. And this generates that same hum slightly higher in pitch than the familiar sixty cycles of AC power. Or wherever those sixty cycles come from. Wall socket I am pretty sure but don’t quote me on that.

My eyes do not hum. They just ache if I try to swivel them upwards or sideways. You know, in their sockets. Not moving my head. Not all the time but if my nose or cheek or eyebrow are twitching it is usually the case that my eyes are not wanting to do any work at all other than the heavy-lidded unfocused meditation gaze at forty-five degrees of nothing. And so that is what I let them do even if I am not formally meditating right that minute. In fact this whole symphony of muscular restlessness will sometimes relent of I meditate on the spot. Or at least I can keep it toned down a little for as long as I look down with my eyes half-closed and my neck absolutely straight or even bent back slightly. If I wait long enough I can say I was meditating even if I was just waiting for the storm to pass and trying to think calm relaxing thoughts to help it on its way as well as to retain my own composure for another few minutes.

Klonopin can help a bit too, so I took a quarter of one and washed it down with my coffee so as to maybe counteract its sleepier-making effects. Oh and also water. Especially if I have eaten recently, half to a full liter of water can hurry my face along towards placidity. Of course then I will be hurrying myself along to the restroom soon enough but I know where all the good ones are in my neighborhood plus if all else fails I can just use the one in my therapist’s waiting room I mean hallway.

And so once the Klonopin and water and coffee were administered I sat somewhat Buddha like in the parklet chair with my head facing forward and my eyes down. People walked past with great commotion of noise and light. They say that the eye thing–if dystonia is the cause or rather the effect become a cause of the twitches and contractions–is a slow spasm of the eyelid muscles, but that does not explain at all why sound becomes all clanky loud and light all knife-edged bright while I cannot look at anything that requires eye muscle movement of any kind not just lid-raising.

In any case. I managed to type two paragraphs into my iDevice eventually but that was all my body would let me do, so I got up and walked home after getting my bag and my jacket and my camera all tied on in the right places. I rifled through the things I keep in my head to write for the one that would be a useful tangent for the story I keep saying that I want to write which is my own story of which there are thousands if not tens of thousands or more and it hit me: fucking class-action lawsuit! The mess I have been in the last several however manies is one that others share and not one of us chose to place outselves here.

But against whom? I start to make a list:

Jack Chick, most definitely, or whatever he left of his little evangelistic comic empire.

The Southern Baptist Convention?

How far back into the multiple, ramified chains of events would one want to reach?

I think the statute of limitations has passed to try to find the dude who raped me.

Not my brother. I know where he is.

The other dude.

How about a class-action lawsuit against the whole of compulsory anatomically essentialist heteronormativity? Who precisely is responsible for that?

Billy Graham Industries or LLC or Incorporated or however his offspring continue to make money by threatening the masses with the Lake of Fire. Oh, sorry. This one belongs up there with Jack Chick. I would not say the Grahams are completely to blame for the heteroassumptions into which they were all born.

I am refraining from naming what might be the most obvious entity to sue if the symptoms that started as soon as I stopped taking Zyprexa and continue to this day are actually somehow even in the most tortuous of ways connected the drug itself or its method of discontinuation. I will just leave this here though.

OK this was going to be a short intro? And I was going to write the story of why Jack Chick is the first culpable party that sprang to mind upon imagining financial compensation for chronic daily annoyance? But probably I have lost most of my audience already so I will try that a little later with some luck and Klonopin and water oh and lots of just. breathing.

 

 

plain speech

This is not finished or at least I know I have plenty more to say but today if the voices in my head were still saying things very loudly they would be saying post some shit already!

There are tons of unfinished things and this is one of them. I am going to go start on something else now and if I do not finish it maybe I will still be compelled to post some shit when I wake up tomorrow.

This was written specifically for a certain Thing so if it reads sometimes as though you are hearing only one side of a conversation that might be why. The gist of the Thing was Tell your story in 25,0000 characters or more and since that is more or less the gist to which most of my writing responds–that and Post some shit already–I decided to put it here as well.

20140412 2032 -0800

It’s Sunday. I am not sure I can write this today but I can at least put my name down or in and I can probably figure out how to begin to describe what occupies me much of the time so here those are:

I am named Erik Joseph Martin Schneider and maybe it is overenthusiastic to write it all out like that but there it is all of it so far. I started out with a different name and only became Erik Martin Setc at 35 and there is a story behind that and I will tell a little of it a little further on. We were a few years Erik Martin and then what I really wanted to do was name myself Will after my great-grandfather–Elsie Schneider’s father–but my uncle was named William long before I showed up and then he named my cousin Karl William and so I thought maybe William was mostly spoken for so I took Will Brugger’s middle name Joseph and moved Martin over.

Martin Schneider was my great-grandfather who was gone by the time I could have remembered seeing him or maybe even before that. I have a picture but it says almost nothing to me. If there are stories nobody has told them where I could hear.

Now I am inclined to somehow take on also Maggie Phillips Wilcox’ name but I do not know where to put what remains of her in such a way that I can promise her some rest and if not exactly safety maybe better odds on most days and I wonder was it she who was buried there underneath stones and books and chests of old clothes in the house that visits me still although I have not in some time been pulled down the long hallway dark at the far end with death at the least and sometimes cold soundings through the basement of the earth steep and always narrower and narrower but never reaching the absolute zero itself rushing up and rushing up and rushing up but never taking my wrist as I knew it would if it ever arrived but it never did.

This hell was unrecognizable all the others I used to dream up appropriately aflame and glinting and hot and complete with those recordings of ordinary human voices slowed down and detuned just enough to emphasize that devil’s note the one my mother always hears first before anyone else would suspect a thing.

She knows what evil is she says. Don’t you think that music is sick. No it is precisely the sort of melody I will learn to write as soon as I am out of your earshot but I never said that just shrug or maybe well you know they’re just trying to be shocking because that was my stock answer to throw off any possibility of meaningful connection in the face of such immense and cynical irony or disaffected and ironic cynicism. I threw whole theaters between myself and her questions so that no more questions would make any sense at all.

It worked insofar as the questions would stop but whether she believed me to be as earnestly jaded as all that–well it was not important whether she truly believed it as long as she had an excuse to pretend to so that we did not have to cross words. We were both relieved at the opportunity to say nothing.

But she knew that too already and I knew that she knew but I did not know very much at all about what I knew yet and so I only noted down at the bottom of the list what next never to admit loving until you have studied all the faces for however many years it takes to detect even the faintest distaste some milliseconds before it arises.

They call that hypervigilance or that is I recall the long hours of practice that began there. Today I can always tell you where the cats are or who is walking up the stairs.

Except right this minute I am not sure where one of the cats is and it is making me very anxious even though his distress call is loud and unmistakable and currently not to be heard at all so he is probably napping in one of those spots I never can find when I am looking for him while he silently cats along as he always has.

I am still in San Francisco. This was not the plan but whether that is because there was some other plan I cannot say for sure. I can say that I think I have learned by now that the part you cannot imagine happening even though you need it to will probably not happen in the way you cannot imagine it. The Rhetoric program produced teachers and therefore if I completed my degree I was to have been made into someone who could teach without first having to subdue panic that grew wilder with each and every time it was time to teach.

To be brief, that did not happen in precisely that way. I can teach just like I can sometimes get up on stage and sing or read which is about once a month for short bursts and then not at all for another year or sometimes a handful of years.

So I have the degree and once in a great while I have some chops but most of the time I practice alone or occasionally with a proven ally the rest of the time I cannot face them audiences or students or anyone who wants anything from me even if I do in fact want to give it to them. Sometimes especially then.

This is sort of how I also did not become a rock star even though I was in a band in Atlanta GA at just the right time and then when that did not work we moved to Seattle at just the right time which also did not work or not so much as we would have liked. That said, we do still have fans mostly in Europe. We are not big in Japan. We also have not made music together since 1992 when I decided to return to school to try for that magical transformation into a member of the professoriat.

We mainly referring to myself and the first family member that I chose upon leaving the family that had forced itself on me since the very beginning. I used to walk around as a body sort of recognizable as what is called female–in 1962 the Doctor was quite sure I was female and my parents were quite sure I was female then and mostly later while I myself remember puzzling over why I could not grow up to be a man since I identified with them so but I was a girl they told me so I guessed that was just something I would get used to somehow only I never did and then later on I sort of got distracted with other problems and so I was a tomboy for a very long time and that was that–and since Lisa recognized even herself as female we were lesbians at first that is not just best friends and then I was a dyke a little while later and we were partnered for eleven years and something. She still lives in Seattle where we moved from Atlanta in 1987 and although we are no longer not just best friends we are at least best friends and still even family although we cannot come up with a name for what we are to each other and we celebrate our whateversary every January 19 even if we cannot meet up that year.

In 1996 I left Seattle for San Francisco to start grad school at Berkeley and also to transition physically to what I called at the time male. It took me less than a year to figure out where to go and whom to talk to about the possibilities which were wider here even than I had guessed, and so I have been Erik since early 1997 or that is when the name began calling me out loud. To be slightly clearer, I have been taking injections of testosterone since 1 July 1997 and they have worked pretty much the way I had hoped they would physiologically speaking.

There is way too much story to tell about what my gender is or is not now so I will just note that I do answer to the pronouns labeled masculine but I did not become a man as it turns out which is fine since I did not transition from being a woman either. I think I may be too old to be genderqueer and besides I do not have the energy to perform various permutations of those genders that do not refer to me I just put on whatever smells ok when it is time to get dressed. This is just one of the many points at which I find myself looking over at the language I learned to speak the first time around while it looks at its feet and toes the dirt because it has nothing readymade for me to wear. Which is why when asked for my gender I answer with a short persuasive essay unless it is clear that either I need a long one or I can get by with a deflecting shrug.

Mostly I tell people I am transsexual and that I used to be a dyke. From there I let them add it up so at least they can get an idea of whose stories they might have heard that sounded similar to girl -> dyke -> transsexual -> bearded deep voiced person.

So at this point maybe it is looking like I grew up queer in a fundamentalist Christian family and it may have taken place in the Deep South or somehow I was there when the major record labels descended on Athens GA in the early 1980s? Yes all of that is the case although I only laughed at the stars on friends’ roofs in Athens from time to time I never lived there myself but Atlanta was just down the street and so it was easy to visit.

I do not know where I am from: born near Tacoma WA but shortly afterward my father got the same layoff from Boeing that everyone else was getting around the same time and then he found a job at Lockheed Georgia and so off we went. We moved to Marietta GA along with a small influx of other non-Southerners. I attended school with the children of Lockheed engineers from all over the country. One of our neighbors was from Ohio. Another was from Utah. All the native Georgians lived in houses a little older than ours there in that new subdivision carved out of a huge forested tract of land that may have been homesteaded by a family named Shaw.

My parents never meant to stay but they are still there or close anyway. Not so long ago they retired to a new house about twenty or thirty miles further north where the city of Atlanta has not quite reached yet. The one thing I do not regret picking up from them was their obsession with moving back to Seattle. They got over theirs but I never did and that is why when I moved here to San Francisco I was from Seattle but while I was in Seattle as an adult I was from Atlanta at least whenever its proximity to Athens was a topic and this was the late 80s and into the 90s and I hung out with other music geeks so it came up rather often. Starting from age two until I got back there at 25, I was from Seattle.

Now when I visit Seattle I am from San Francisco and I have been here long enough that it is credible to say so.

So for the most part I think I may be from the West Coast but a bizarre and awful 23-year detour into the very hide of the Bible Belt made me the non-specifically-gendered person I am today: wary and tenacious; not fond of sudden movement when humans are doing the moving; obsessive . . . [what. obsessive what. I am overcome with spontaneous bedtime!]

Yes there was, over and above the sheer abusiveness of telling a seven-year-old apparent girl that she will be going to Hell unless she follows instructions very closely and those instructions include at least one thing she will be terrified to do right up to and past the moment where she finally does do it about six more years after that and even then only after mortifying intervention from three church ladies. Yes there was other abuse also and so with my current permanent PTSD sideshow I get flashbacks as they may be popularly called of all sorts.

All I want to say right now about the other abuse is that everyone on my mother’s side of the family has experienced it and probably they continue to but I moved far away from almost everyone and I do not hear from many of them anymore just I know of my very large array of cousins many are becoming grandparents one by one as the family is far too fertile for its own good.

The salient details to the central points of my autobiography are these: my brother molested me after he had reached puberty but before I had and a year later I was raped by a total stranger who was probably completely grown up as far as I could tell then on a beach when I had been left alone for a moment. Because all this happened, you know, in the short life span that is childhood and so it all overlaps and collides and nearly any trivial innocuous event that might happen on Earth has the potential to stir up confusion andor panic andor paralysis andor that feeling that does not sink but plummets its leaden cosmic rays shooting right out your feet and through the ground and through the molten iron engine that spins us round and out the other side of the planet into deep interstellar space where nobody can touch it.

You know that feeling?

The older I get the more appalling this all seems. It was normal then.

I think maybe I will try to go backwards from here now. I do not claim any religion in particular but I practice zazen–Zen meditation–nearly every day and I vastly prefer Zen Buddhism’s take on almost everything to any other of the takes my culture has offered me as serious alternatives. That is I prefer it to, say, Christianity certainly but also wider Anglo-European-American mythologies and ontologies not that those two things are distinct at any point that I have been able to tell so far.

I think I stumbled upon Zen in two ways: I had to attend NA/AA meetings for a short while but every single one of them freaked me out because they are inevitably structured like Protestant church services in some alarming way or another. The only one I have ever been to that did not freak me out in this way and I mean by that I was in full panic for a few days after each one was the meeting held at the San Francisco Zen Center. And so I went to that one only for the necessary duration but I went back to the Zen Center to learn zazen not long after my required NA/AA attendance was no longer required.

The other vector was Dialectical Behavior Therapy which although I was not formally doing it did provide me with some remarkable and valuable insights when I read about it on the internet and since it is partially grounded in mindfulness and in acceptance without judgment it folded almost without a ripple into the zazen I was sitting at least occasionally and occasionally even regularly.

My current practice string began last winter that is the one that spanned 2012 and 2013. I was taken off of the ‘atypical’ antipsychotic Zyprexa in August of 2012 after something like fourteen years on it and if all the things you hear about withdrawal or what they call protracted discontinuation syndrome so they don’t have to call it withdrawal are bad it has been at least as bad as you have heard.

If you haven’t heard then it has been way worse than you might have guessed otherwise and it also is another story that will blossom quite out of hand if I begin to tell it so for short: I lost fifty pounds but that was ok they were mostly Zyprexa Pounds™ but losing all of them in one year’s time was rough especially since here at the other side of those fifty pounds I am not very big at all and so now I have to work very hard to get in enough protein to keep from getting smaller still. Most every other symptom made it and still makes it sometimes difficult to eat. Or walk very far. Or sometimes use my eyes.

I am fortunate though because all of the involuntary muscle twitches that remain are usually too small for others to be able to see because if they were bigger my face would be all bunched up all of the time now. Instead the bridge of my nose aches. And aches. And aches.

So I started meditating about six months into this because what else was there to do there is no cure that is not worse than the condition ie more of the same or similarly-classed medications and I am not interested in taking more of those than I am still on. The other alternative is wait until you feel better. Which is happening slowly and I think I can expect it to continue slowly to happen.

Also as I tell my therapist without the sedating effects of the Zyprexa all my emotional responses go to eleven now. Sometimes approaching twelve. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is interesting and the meditation helps me not to be reactive and not to freak out when some slight neurological shift manifests itself as something I am not sure what to do with. Oh hello full force of grief and terror that I swallowed in 1973. Um, come on in? Have a seat? You.. you would rather pace. OK. You can do that. Can I get you anything? Clothes? You would like clothes? I can get you some clothes; take my jacket and I will be right back. Don’t leave the room? OK. Here is a blanket. It’s sort of old but it is warm.

And then we sit because in zazen it is easier to hear what those parts of me who never learned to talk the first time around have to say and most of them have to say at least something and some of them pepper us with questions like bewildered rip van winkle children waking up thirty, forty, fifty years later to see that not only did we all survive but we even made it to San Francisco which was a mythical land on the six o’clock news with Walter Cronkite in the 60s and 70s all in black and white but colorful enough to spark my imagination to fashion my hippie self who of course grew long hair but was always puzzled about where the beard was going to come from.

This happened just the other night: I came home from a longish walk through the Mission in the evening where I saw that my whole neighborhood had been swapped out for some other neighborhood while I was mostly at home recovering from neurotransmitter/receptor assault the last almost two years. I was so stunned by what I saw that by the time I got home I did not even recognize my own kitchen at first.

We live here?
Yes.
It’s kind of dingy.

[See we live in an old-fashioned Mission flat where the lease is someone else’s distant memory and the maintenance is DIY and many of the furnishings were chosen by some other punk rock queers in the 1980s or 90s and it is easier to use what is already here than to go buy new things especially when the old ones work just fine. But so some of the dirt is also vintage MTV era and we some of the few remaining longterm residents in this part of town are also a little unkempt because this is where the unkempt people used to find places they could afford among people who knew enough not to stare.

By vast contrast, what I saw on my walk the other night were spotless new condos and storefronts and freshly-painted and redecorated Victorians and restaurants where I could not possibly afford even the tip for walking into one. This is a national story by now but I myself have not been paying close attention until very recently.]

Yeah it’s not as clean as Mom would have liked.
Fly paper? People use that?
My housemates do. You and I we just talk to the flies and try to keep them confined to the compost bin if they prefer to stay in rather than fly out the window when we open it for them.

I don’t feel safe here.
Honey we have been here for over sixteen years and it has been safe this whole time.
It has?
Uh-huh.

Where’s Mom?

::deep breath::
She doesn’t want to see us. You remember.

Yeah.

We have other people now. The people we live with here are not afraid of you. Or me. We’ve known S__ for almost twenty-five years. You remember? Nobody here is afraid of any of us in any way.

::nods::

And so on. This conversation went on for half an hour or so: the questions voiced in my head and the answers spoken quietly out loud so as to sound no different from the various topics I discuss with myself even when my housemates were home which they were at this point but in the other room. When I got to my bedroom finally things looked more familiar and it was clear that whichever of me had just seen the kitchen for the first time had been awake and aware here where I can close the door and be even safer than out in the kitchen.

If I had to specify I would say I was talking to an eight year old girl me. When I was about that age I had been told enough times that I was a girl that I believed that it had to be the case even though I could not imagine growing up to be a woman. And so I started at least that young to stop imagining growing up at all because nothing that was foretold to me concerning my eventual life as a grown-up made the slightest lick of sense.

I did not learn self-compassion. Or that is I was not taught it while I was being taught all the other things that were supposed to be the pillars of security and happiness in this world or maybe just the next I am not sure any of the teachers really knew which or even why they thought it was a good idea to tell young kids that Jesus loved them but they had better make damned sure to demonstrate how much they loved him back or he would do very very very very mean things to them for much much longer than they could ever conceive of having to wait even in the most awful boring ugly empty doctor’s office waiting room ever.

For a long time nothing I did was going to get me any brownie points with the Father or the Son or even for that matter with the angels who would be casting me into the Lake of Fire at the Last Judgment if I did not Repent and accept Jesus as my Personal Savior.

It was not enough that I believed with absolute credulity everything my mother told me, everything the Sunday School teachers told me, everything the preacher told anyone even when he probably was not aware of how absurdly dangerous it was to be lecturing adults and children at the same time in the same way. It was not enough that I had done precisely what I was told the Bible said to do ie ask Jesus into my heart and repent my sins and die to my old self by the time I was thirteen I was doing all of these things several times a week but it never took. Because there was this one last thing I was scared to death to do.

In our church, you had to walk.

You know: the aisle. Walk the aisle.

At the end of every service we of course sang the invitation while the preacher stood up front waiting for anyone who wanted to humble themselves before God and the congregation for whatever reason: to give testimony, to ask for salvation, to publicly humiliate themselves for any of a list of mostly petty and inoffensive sins. This was also the only way to make your decision and to be saved, to be born again. The one rationale for this that I recall clearly is that walking somehow counted as Publicly Professing Your Faith or rather that walking was the only thing that counted as such and if you had not yet publicly professed your faith you were still bound for the Lake of Fire no matter how many times you begged Jesus to let you off the hook for this one thing pleeeeeeeease.

Sorry. No. You know this is not going to work no matter how many times you try to get away with it and eventually you will give in and you will walk but no nobody is going to volunteer to walk with you or anything you have to do this by yourself or it does not count. And if you don’t do it soon we are just going to start the Rapture without you in fact we just did!

**panic**

until I heard the car our 1966 Plymouth Barracuda could be heard half a mile away or at least I could hear it and it was a midnight-hour reprieve each and every time but it motivated me not at all to do anything but cower when a late-afternoon thunderstorm made everyone else late and tortured me with bolts and crashes and the fury of a god who had no patience for girls who did not even know why they were terrified of walking they just were to the point that not even hellfire could move my feet out of the safety of the pew. The aisle was carpeted and it pointed a straight line between rows and rows of stares: the penetrating gauntlet that knew all your secrets as soon as they heard a rustle and plod behind them telling them to turn their heads to get a look at who had been sufficiently overcome by conviction to leave the anonymity of the congregation for the aisle that never held more than one traveler at a time.

As I got older, most of the other kids whose parents brought them to church more than a few times a year walked at some point or the other, got sobbed over by the older ladies, then baptized and sent on to witness to their friends or wait to be called to be missionaries or just to get married and have babies who would then be sorted out by the same mechanism to see who was going to enter the Kingdom and who was going to throw away the marvelous gift they had been given of this choice that was no choice at all: walk or burn forever.

Everyone waited for me to walk. I wouldn’t do it.

bring me the pill for infelicitous birth

This was going to be mainly about what is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but now since two of its very close relations–abuse, especially sexual abuse, and narcotics addiction–have entered the internet news cycle for which I am probably way too late at this point but I am actively ignoring myself as I offer myself rationalizations not to write or not to put it anywhere anyone will find it if I do write something and so because virtually anyone with a decent-sized megaphone with which to address addiction gets it completely and horribly wrong just as those speaking about trauma and PTSD also get it completely and horribly wrong I found myself with more to say than what I started out thinking I was going to say.

Neither of them, for instance–PTSD nor addiction–are diseases.

psych drugs and warning labels in psychedelic blue and hot pink

take this medication with resignation and bare faith

We would like them to be. For a million reasons but mostly nobody has to address anything they themselves might be doing to exacerbate a problem if that problem can be relegated to medical management and pinned on some vague notion of inherited disorder for which we have almost no empirical evidence that is not deeply founded in the sort of already-given interpretation my culture demands regarding health and disease, order and disorder, normality and perversity, function and dysfunction, productivity and loss, and–this list is endless as these lists always are. The point is still that blaming (genetic, medical, physiological) fate is slightly less odious than blaming those suffering under that fate but still too easy when problems are manifestly rooted in the specific cultures in which they appear, and in very complex ways that might cause discomfort to many who consider themselves beyond reproach because they did not really enjoy heroin that one time they tried it or maybe the painkillers they occasionally need to take are effective for the bluntest of physiological pain but no more than that and so they have managed so far to avoid becoming junkies of any kind.

Lucky them.

Three things:

In North American cultures, addicts of what are called hard drugs are almost always survivors of trauma–trauma severe enough that anesthesia from life itself can become the only thing that makes life bearable. And so addiction is what you do if you cannot kill yourself on a punctual, finalized schedule.

I cannot put it any more concisely than that. Probably one could investigate neural pathways and what sorts of environmental variables affect endorphin production in some cases or dopamine in others and oxytocin in other others and probably some indefinite several of neurological signaling agents we do not know very well yet. But my experience tells me that when a drug can simulate family in the absence of, you know, actual family, it answers a primal need that will not be denied once it finds what it thinks it is seeking. The idea of “will power” is laughable in the face of this sort of need, but my confused critique of whatever it is we call will–I haven’t a clue, honestly: I cannot find will in any of my personal faculties and would not recognize it if it were there staring me in the face and enacting things all on its own power as I squinted in incomprehension because where on earth did it find this original power because I have never come across any and believe me I have looked everywhere–ok well besides that much critique I am leaving the rest for later.

This will probably not make sense to you either: addiction can signal a tenacious sense of self-preservation and something like an inextinguishable hope: whatever and wherever my place is here on the planet I am doing all I can to stay here and make it into a dwelling place familiar enough not to set off serial panic even if my life will turn out to be nothing much else beyond surviving my own murder/suicide. The junkie shooting up is refusing to die even while taking into her body what may be that one bad hit. The chamber with the bullet. The all it took. The we knew this day was coming.

Sometimes that day never arrives. Contrary to legend, addiction is no surer a predictor of death than any other dangerous and desperate bid to stay alive long enough to give sunrise one more opportunity to justify its arrival.

Not entirely unlike life itself: a mortality rate of one hundred percent. Not one of us has survived it yet. I know some of you believe that to be untrue but the evidence is overwhelmingly pessimistic on this one.

That was just one thing.

Here are the others or some others or something:

somethings, I mean:

In the cultures I might call my own, PTSD is usually figured solely as either a soldier’s burden or the occasional outcome of large-scale disasters. Of those I have spoken to who are diagnosed or diagnosable with PTSD, I have known a handful of soldiers and maybe one or two survivors of the flood fire famine sort of disaster that we recognize as disaster. I have not counted up the rest but that is mainly because they are one of those vast majorities that are really hard for one person to count especially when every other day I meet another one of us. The rest of us are survivors of the more private disasters of childhood abuse, domestic abuse, andor rape.

“andor” because abuse is almost always sexual at some point whether it is primarily sexual or also physical, emotional, spiritual, or some terrible cycle of All Of The Above and so abuse and rape often as not are synonymous and even simultaneous. Other times they happen in succession. And maybe some more abuse later on because you were taught that it is part of the natural order and so it just looks like another day to you.

That’s two things. Here is where I stick my neck out:

The medicalization of addiction and of many conditions called mental illness, including PTSD, functions in part to divert public attention or maybe the public itself is diverting its own attention this way which seems a more faithful description but we whoever we are we cite models of disease for this among other things in order not to have to address our own complicity in one or another tradition of abuse–traditions which precipitate what is called mental illness and what is called addiction. Repeatedly. Predictably.

Those traditions of abuse are endemic to that culture or cultures with which I am most intimately familiar because they permeate me. Or us.

This is something I proclaim as a strong strong hunch and one for which the research necessary to show it conclusively is more than a single person could do or at least if I were the only single person doing it it could take a very long time and not just because I spend most days tending to some PTSD-related intermission or another. Statistics on childhood abuse, for instance: completely unreliable, and by the researchers’ own admission almost every time I look up another batch of them, almost certainly leading to gross underestimation of the extent to which the practices addressed in their studies are accepted as normal or at least tolerable by the participants/respondents.

Here is an interesting study on public perception of child abuse in the US (pdf file).

The Framework Institute has done other research on child abuse as well, all of it interesting.

That is almost all I have to say right now. But the other day I ran across another glib homage to the power of modern medicine or that is the power of the myth of modern medicine and it was so cheerfully reductive that I wanted almost to curse the very idea of research because no animal who forces itself to be as obtusely optimistic as we have seemingly become should be trusted with the care and feeding of a whole planet based on whatever knowledge it can produce for itself.

The most recent upsurge in despair followed this which is how this all got started insofar as my deciding to write something down goes:

A comprehensive PTSD drug would be the holy grail, of course.
well.

no.
actually.
the holy grail would be

a culture that does not deliberately impose multiple traumas on its offspring over and above the unpredictable and inevitable injuries that are standard-issue living.

the holy grail would be

a culture that does not use shame and silencing as its primary methods of discipline when overt violence seems unacceptable if that ever happens to happen.

the holy grail would be

directing some of the obsessive energy devoted to identifying the neurological and genetic causes of psychiatric disorders toward identifying and eradicating the cultural, social, and familial causes of those myriad physiological changes that so often result in syndromes we call mental illness. because we cannot bear the possibility that we may ourselves be the primary vectors of this sort of pathology we look for isolated, simple biochemical interactions where nothing isolated or simple ever takes place: in and among the bodies of complicatedly social, intelligent, and sensitive animals.

the holy grail would be

examining cultural assumptions about family that chronically make children open targets of abuse while simultaneously depriving them of the security they would need to be able to talk about what was happening to them without fear of retaliation for telling the truth.

the holy grail would be

asking ourselves with unhesitating honesty why our culture predicates itself on scarcity, competition, conformity and exclusion, deprivation, and a general hostility toward life as it occurs on Earth as the pillars of social, spiritual, and economic order and security. we have chosen homelessness as the guarantor of stability and I mean that both literally and metaphorically although the metaphor is itself as real as any shopping cart and tarpaulin city.

the day after after that other day

Written the day after Christmas ie about a month ago

26 Dec 2013

As usual I do not know where to start but I do have some idea or inspiration or compulsion or something to remark at least that this year’s Christmas day was one of the most grueling of my life even though–and I mean this emphatically and truly and truly emphatically–it was one of the nicest Christmas days to unfold in my house in quite some time. Which is to say one occurred and it was one in which we all gave each other however much room we needed to tend to the noises in each of our heads while also making it clear or clear enough that company was to be had if one wanted any.

Or at least that is how it looked to me. It may have occurred in an entirely different way for my housemates but their stories I have only heard bits and pieces of. Despite this low-stress atmosphere I only lasted for ten hours of consciousness before I threw in the towel and decided to reboot which took another ten hours and had me up at dawn instead of noon and so this might be the Quarterly Circadian Rhythm Shift.

I know I am not the only one whose voices were being noisy yesterday but I do count myself fortunate in that mine have quieted down to the point that I could almost say that we have quiet civil conversations instead of the shouting matches we used to have with their screaming liarliarliar at me and my screaming shutupshutupshutupshutup at them and neither of us managing to get our points across to the other in any useful way at all. Both sorts of exchanges bite off big chunks of what I always hope will be productive days and turn them into little spasms of almost no practical use from anyone else’s point of view but at least with the conversational method we stand some chance of reaching an agreement we are all comfortable enough with to let the organism get some sleep.

The lady sitting near the ATM yesterday seemed to be having much greater difficulties with her voices than I was with mine. Unless she was on the phone but I did not want to lean over intrusively to see if indeed there was not one that I could see. As I walked away I wondered what would have happened if I had asked her who was bugging her and trying to take Samantha away while she was reading to her but I did not really have it in me to talk to someone else’s voices so I took the Billy Don’t Be a Hero way out and walked around the block continuing to find no stores open and beginning to wonder if macaroni and cheese were really going to be Christmas dinner (they didn’t have to be but I fell asleep before the dinner being cooked was fully cooked and so they were what I ate. Sort of. My stomach rebelled halfway through for no apparent reason and so today I am eating everything in sight now that there are things to see and to eat that it knows it can handle).

I could say a little more about my day yesterday but I only have a couple of vignettes: in the first one Mission Street is quite nearly dead that is nobody is out there who has anyplace else to be and I am thinking this is not quite right or this is new or something. I am not sure of this though I mean I did see several people passed out on the sidewalk who must not have lasted their whole days either so it was surely desolate but whether I have seen non-desolate Christmas days on Mission Street I cannot say for sure without asking around first. So I might get back to you all with that. Two Mission Street Gift Shops were open and at each one a family was looking over the bicycles but there were no other customers in sight. My guess is they opened because they have done business on this holiday in the past but maybe they too had nothing better to do.

In the second I am talking to the housemate who speaks in ellipses because what else can you do and we are throwing out phrases to the effect that on this holiday you are damned if you do have family and damned if you don’t. Nearly every one of my close friends has a home to go to for the holidays of their choice and the rest of the year does not bother me so much but the way in which family spirits all of them away at one time for at least twenty-four hours and up to two weeks in some cases creates a kind of pre-determined and very local interpersonal drought whose menace is maddeningly self-fulfilling in that no matter what happened last year and how consciously I plan to keep it from happening this year this year is never anything like last year and so whatever precautions I take turn out to be completely orthogonal to the actual problems that arise.

But so my elliptical comment was something to the effect of all that but sounding more like “mmggppphhh…family…” and then considering how reports from family holidays usually turn out, I reckoned maybe I was not the unlucky one in my version of things.

· · · · ·

1940s Christmas Day Peoples

There is a story in this picture although I cannot say that I know what it is. I would hazard a guess that there are at least eight stories in this picture and probably more than that since in my own experience the stories I even tell myself about this or that thing we all lived through change depending on which one of me is narrating and even each of us change it around at least a little every time through and this is one reason why I cannot stop writing although not so many know this about me but that is a slightly different writing problem that I also have but am trying to work on and that is all I will say about it right now. Suppose though that each of these stories however many there are in this picture or were since not all of them are still here to unfold themselves suppose each were worth ten thousand words then that would be some piles and piles of stories just to go through once much less fifty times or sixty times or seventy times or more.

Here is what I think I know about it or maybe I should say here is some combination of things I have heard and the things I think I may not have heard but maybe glimpsed waiting silently and not even patiently and not even resigned but maybe only on the bare energy of having once or twice come to mind but there where there is not enough time even to get to all the stories that can be told and so those that cannot will bide but not their time so much as their will to remain through every iteration that cannot stop and wait for them.

The year is 1940something. I do not know which 40something but I am guessing there is still a war on only maybe not for much longer. Each kid has one toy: Santa’s gift perhaps if Santa was a part of this scene which I also cannot say for certain. There may have been other presents but those would have been things like fruit in the stockings and maybe boxes of underwear from an aunt or uncle or maybe aunts and uncles did not gift children with underwear until the fifties I do not know the precise origin of this gently dystopian unless you were the one who had to say thank you for the socks in which case it was not so gently dystopian of an American tale.

In any case money is short this year and the presents homemade in some cases and make-do in others. I am not sure which are which except for the little wheelbarrow which is still around somewhere and was crafted by hand and necessity if I have the story right which I cannot claim actually to have but the wheelbarrow looks sturdy from here so its continued coherence seems credible to me.

There are more facts I suppose that I could mention: facts like I do not know if this family was farming yet or if that happened later on after they moved north a little ways which I know they have not done yet. I do not know what sends them northward (slightly) nor how they decided where to go but they will move to a rural town in the Pacific Northwest of the US. They are already in the Pacific Northwest, which is why they will not be going far when they do go, but whether this house is in the country or a small town or a medium sized town I am not sure except that the area is certainly not a small town now. But you know, addresses being what they are, a person can live in a city without, you know, living in the city. So this house could be almost anywhere within maybe a hundred square miles or so and parts of it would have been more densely inhabited and others less so.

None of that makes much very clear does it. I will guess though that at the time nobody else in the US knew where the Pacific Northwest was, really. By the time I was nine or ten, which was much more than nine or ten years later than this, the east coast still had no clue about anyplace that was west of the Mississippi except possibly for Los Angeles and stories about the Yukon. And the Wild West wherever that was but it was not so much a place one could go although it may have been once but I would bet it was always already a scene that one carried around everywhere and maybe romanticized depending on the quality of one’s seats: much easier to do from far away.

There is a lot of space in between Los Angeles and the Yukon. Whole civilizations had already been decimated and were trying already to rebuild from almost nothing and people of all sorts were living in those spaces and doing things that might be forgotten by now except for those things that will not be forgotten until memory itself gives out and who knows when that will be.

I will confess: I do not know why I am writing about this picture or that is I could trace easily enough the chain of events on the outside and associations on the inside (to whatever extent those exist distinct from one another which extent I do not believe in all that much really) that led me to think I wanted to write about it but what to say next escapes me. This is an unreconcilable picture precisely because it contains more stories than it can actually hold. It whispers half-formed hints much like that strange and sweet mix of Douglas Fir and clover-fed manure rushing up and wrapping me in promises of comfort and escape there in that rocky driveway for just a moment before the always nameless always inarticulate apprehension arose telling me to keep to myself and away from everyone who might be even a little bigger than I was.

It was a feeling that like any other feeling never asked its rights before it arrived and never listened to reason although certainly it could be temporarily injunctioned at the behest of shame. But only temporarily and at a price that I would wager few would be willing to pay if they realized just how high it was or how long its memory of credits owed.

I do know that for me the greater destructive potential lies in deliberate not-knowing than it does in anything that I could possibly become aware of at this point and one thing this picture says to me is that I do not know the half of it.

so I said this is not finished so I said post it anyway so I said ok I hope you know what you are doing so I said of course I do

I do not even know where to begin.

I have begun. I have begun and I have begun.

So many starts that by now fifty thousand or so of me are deeply involved with their chosen labyrinths each one as necessary and urgent as all of the others combined which presents a logical difficulty but not a phenomenological one.

I cannot wait.

I cannot hold my tongue.
I cannot hold my water.
I cannot hold my liquor.

I cannot hold myself to any promises this I only learned in the last couple of years. Apologies if I promised you anything before approximately now. I would give you the world but I probably would not be able to complete the process of packaging it and printing out the postage and taking it to wherever it needed to be taken in order for you to receive it in this lifetime. It is not a matter of will or laziness or disregard nor have I yet been able to articulate what it is a matter of so far I can only watch myself spend hours trying to choose a direction to move in and being unable to intervene in the thought process that takes each direction up to look at its pros and cons and trace its dependencies over and over again until I run up against the hitch enough times to recognize it for what it is at which point I must deliberate how to resolve the hitch which usually requires much the same process in a slightly different direction and this can repeat indefinitely until if I find the lynchpin before five years have gone by I congratulate myself for a job well done.

Because it is a job well done even when the original job gets lost in the trash heap of what I could not do at the time some months or years prior to that.

We learn to heap praise upon ourselves for brushing our teeth.
For putting on shoes.
For washing something. Anything.
For walking down the street without panic on one side or exhaustion on another.
This is not me complaining. This is me carrying water and chopping wood.
This is life. This is what life is.
Trimming your nails without shame.
Can you do that.
Looking in the mirror without averting your eyes.
Can you do that.
Hercules himself would have collapsed in the effort.
Which does not make me a hero.

I cannot find the right words at the right time.
I cannot allow myself to speak even and especially when I have finally worked out with exquisite detail and exacting turns of phrase to evoke precisely the right scene with precisely the right amount of pathos supported by clear but not overbearing arguments to show that I mean no harm and I do not wish to win or that is I do not wish to be able to defeat or conquer even when I cannot do without what are called fighting words because the occasion calls for them and I cannot ignore that call.

There is no way as it turns out to keep everyone comforted or comfortable and so there is no way to guarantee my own safety even when the last word for me must be to stay out of harm’s way. Nothing I say (saw was the typo that snuck out before I caught it) can be without painful consequences because it is the issue of painful consequences which were the issue of painful consequences: the terror of generations terrorized into clinging to and defending to their deaths the most ruthless most bare and absurd imposters of comfort or calm or peace because comfort and calm and peace themselves fled so long ago none of us can remember when they last showed up as anything other than violation under gag orders.

It is not only that one side of my family is abusive without realizing it except when it looks into the windows of a sister or brother to see someone misbehaving and then all is consternation and confusion. That I recall the hushed conversations and puzzlement over why this kid was being bad or why this one here was showing signs of being unable to maintain even through grit teeth the brittle naivete that had brought us along so far to wherever it i was we had got which was itself widely known to be completely unknown. Nor is this the whole story because I am only here where I am and was only there where I was and only saw and heard what I saw and heard and only remember what I remember if that much.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that another side of my family has successfully ridden its own stoicism all the way to the underworld enough times that at this point there is practically nobody left to answer to. All of us amiable ciphers to all of us or maybe that was just me. In any case we the survivors are of a loose knit to put it in amiable terms. There would be other stories to be told but the storytellers are dying out.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that I live in a culture that enshrines violent domination exploitation and competition over its naturalized delusions of unending lack as not just necessary because hey life is hard toughen up but because we actually believe these things to be divine givens, moral imperatives, and the most perfect and just ideals ever conceived by human beings. To judge our own lives as miserable and in need of salvation immediately upon leaving the womb: the fetus is innocent and even sacred until it crowns into original sin and a personal responsibility so abject as to suggest that all of history is reset at every moment of birth in turn starting over and over and over and over until we are not only each our own island but each our own universe with time and space immaculate for that instant before the mark of Cain sets us against all the others vying for the reassurance that ours and only ours is the righteous and sanctioned path. Even the irreligious believe this religiously.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.