Measures of Friendship

I’ve been very social for my summer self this week. Dinner with a friend on Tuesday, another Friday, and a Jersey City double header today. That’s well above average for a non-travel summer week. It reminded me of some weird musings I put to paper last summer and other ideas about levels of friendship particular to me.

The core of any friendship has to be laughter, and this week’s hangouts were not disappointing in yielding and/or solidifying inside jokes. I’ll start there, in no particular order:

Girl party!

-You’re his favorite! -Does that title come with a cash prize?

Is that Kavanaugh with a K?

Interrupted work flow.

Y’know that time I got wasted and snorted coke off that guy’s dick.


Your hair is white and your legs are white!

I said, “I want,” and he said “no” (one) I said “I want,” he said “no” (two… up to five).

Comparable loss.

A forum… for stuff. And things.

I’m very lucky to have friends who are as weird as I am and/or forgive my weirdness. I know they’re all excited to see what I do with my “gap year,” “time out,” “walk about,” and that is contagious, especially when I remember they’re all cheering for me.

Now, again in no particular order, some measures of friendship – at least in my book.

You’ve invited me to your home (childhood, dorm, adulthood).
I showed up.
I slept there.

I’ve invited you to my home (childhood, dorm, adulthood).
You showed up.
You slept there.

We’ve road tripped together and you didn’t mind that I sang and/or tried to control the radio (car, van, bus).
We were going to a concert.

You steer me away from stepping in dog poop and/or tell me the ground is uneven up ahead and/or tell me how many stairs I have to go down.

You know to hold out a hand for me to hold when there is ice on the ground (whether it’s daylight or night, whether I’m drunk or sober).

You’ve met at least one of my siblings.

We have performed together (school, church, karaoke).

We have gotten shitfaced together.
You’ve been around the next morning/afternoon when we wake up hungover.

You’ve seen me sleeping and/or crying and/or puking.

We’ve played any board and/or card game.

We’ve watched a World and/or Euro Cup match together.

I’m not a very social creature, so you should feel accomplished and special if I’ve ever left my home and/or pajamas to spend time with you.


Poetic Incubation

When I was a teenager, I wrote a lot of poetry. It was an emotional activity more than an intellectual one. I cared about imagery, metaphor, and other poetic devices, but I cared more about getting the feeling out. As I read more poetry in college, I experimented with different styles and techniques, trying a little more for artistry than raw emotion. It was always important that I stay true to the idea or emotion that inspired the poem. Even though I took more time to think about craft, there was still an immediacy. The time between thinking of the poem and getting it to paper was minimal.

Since my early twenties, I haven’t written very much poetry. There have been a few pieces here and there, but nothing compared to how prolific I used to be. I’ve also noticed that there’s less urgency when I do get an idea. One brewed for months before I got it down. The result is a poem I’m very proud of, though I don’t know if I’ve ever shared it with anyone. Last year, I took about two weeks to get down seven or eight lines that were an unconscious and unintentional homage to Yeats. Today, I worked with an idea I wrote down months ago but only now finalized in a way that I’m happy with.

The time it takes to nurture a poem is so much longer now. I have to let them sit, brew, stew, marinate, simmer… I’m not sure what word is best to describe it. Of course, there’s also the fact that I write them so infrequently that when I do, I feel an internal pressure to make them good – not for anyone else, for myself. And I’m my harshest critic.

“Myers Briggs”
July 30, 2017

Bound by the binary,
There are only two ways:
My needle floats,
Never drawn too far toward
Always hovering perfectly between;
A level placed on a picture
The bubble centered in the sights.
Seesaw on a fulcrum,
I can move to either side,
But balanced on my scale is always a counterweight
To find the middle.
A stasis that allows me to
See the kaleidoscope of possibilities
But paralyzes me
Because there is no third dimension.
I do both equally,
Somehow managing to do
          Nothing completely.
It’s one axis of the matrix,
But it reveals
My strongest weakness,
My weakest strength.

The Plot Thickens (4 of x)

Trigger warnings are bullshit, in my opinion, but this took me a while to write because it is an extremely painful subject. I tempered it with some flashback happiness, but even though it’s fictional, it gave me all the feels. I’m curious to know if it reads as overly dramatized, realistic, cliche etc. It’s a continuation of this, by the way.

Jeremy stared blankly at the line of code he’d been trying to write for the last half hour. This wasn’t like him. He wasn’t easily distracted from his work. At least not until recently. He took off his reading glasses and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. He pushed the chair away from the desk in his home office and spun around slowly, leaning back. Trailing his toe to the ground he came to a stop, pushed out of the chair, and plopped face-down on the small couch that sat opposite the front window. His tall frame was nearly two feet too long for it. He bent his knees up so that at least his stomach and chest were flat, his face buried in a throw pillow.

He stayed in the relatively uncomfortable position for a few breaths until he realized the pillow smelled like Hannah. The exotic floral scent of her shampoo lingered fresh on the fabric, and as he sat up, he pulled one of her long wheat-blonde hairs off the arm rest the pillow had been propped against. Had she slept down here? He fell asleep with her beside him in bed and woke up to her in the same place. Had she been up sometime in the night? Why would she come down here to sleep only to return to his side before he woke? Why didn’t he notice that she was gone?

Jeremy inhaled Hannah’s scent on the pillow. He craved that scent, the woman it was attached to, constantly. Her scent, her laughter, her mind. He wanted her around him all the time, even if  they were each doing their own thing. He wanted her near him; he wanted to be in her presence. It had been that way since the first time he met her. She was setting up a conference room for a research proposal presentation and something was wrong with the projector. Hannah was new to the university, so she didn’t know which IT department extension to call for assistance. Hardware malfunctions weren’t in Jeremy’s purview, but it was his extension she dialed. She was direct about her concern on the phone, and though it wasn’t his job, he knew how to fix the problem. He came up to the conference room to find her standing on the table, ballet flats kicked off, all five feet eleven inches of her stretching on tip toes to reach the ceiling-mounted projector to check that the cords were connected properly.

Hannah was satisfied that all the wired connections were secure, the projector was on, and the lens cap was removed. With her hands on her hips, she gave it a last look and sighed heavily. She still hadn’t noticed Jeremy in the room. As she attempted to get off the table, Jeremy cleared his throat before she did something immodest in her pencil skirt. She startled at the sound and turned her head to him. She tried to smile, but the expression was more of a grimace as she not-so-gracefully managed to get her feet back on the floor without splitting her skirt or her skull.

“It’s not the cords,” Hannah reported when she had her shoes back on and her blouse smoothed out. Jeremy was impressed that she’d taken it upon herself to check, so he knew he could skip the old engineer’s trick of turning it off and turning it on again.

“What laptop are you working from?” Jeremy looked toward the lectern near the screen in the conference room. Hannah nodded. He took a look at the laptop and discerned the problem immediately. “This is one of the new laptops, so it works with the projector’s Bluetooth. It may not be set up yet.” He went to the table to peer up at the projector, reading an ID number off of it, and returned to the laptop for some fiddling.

Hannah stood beside him, checking her watch. She was nervous not of presenting but of the possibility of having to present without the PowerPoint she had prepared. She made it a habit to show up early for these very reasons because technology hadn’t always come through for her. She’d done one presentation without visual aids in high school and learned the lesson for life. She wasn’t a dynamic enough speaker to be able to hold the attention of her audience without something for them to look at, and now that her  presentations always included data, it was a bitch to rattle that information off without a supporting chart, even if it wasn’t fancy.

Jeremy liked that she had tried to solve the problem herself, but she was hovering. He couldn’t tell if she was nervous or if she was trying to micromanage all aspects of the presentation. Either way, it made him nervous. She was beautiful and obviously intelligent if she was proposing research for the Brain Injury Institute; plus, her no-nonsense American attitude on the phone had him intrigued before he’d seen her long, curvy body stretched above the conference table.

“Thank you for this. They didn’t tell me anything about the equipment, just that I was presenting in here.” Hannah was genuinely grateful, and she sensed that she’d maybe given this IT guy more than he bargained for by having her butt at eye level when he walked in.

“Sure, no problem. It’s just about ready now.” Jeremy saw that the laptop had found the projector. He turned to look at the big screen as the monitor’s image popped up. “There you are.”

The relief on Hannah’s face made Jeremy smile. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I was worried I’d have to talk through all the data and that would put everyone to sleep instead of getting them interested in supporting this research.” She looked at the ID badge hanging around his neck before going on, “Seriously, Jeremy, you’ve saved me from boring a lot of people to death.”

Jeremy wasn’t used to people being so thankful. Most of the time the best he got for thanks was a nod and grunt when he’d fixed a software problem. Hannah was unlike anyone he’d ever met. He couldn’t imagine her presentation would be boring with or without the PowerPoint. He wanted to stay to hear it even though brain injuries had never interested him before. Brain to computer interaction, maybe, but injuries and recovery and all that, no thanks. He realized then that he hadn’t said anything in response to Hannah’s praise. She was looking at him and the laptop not impatiently but with a question in her eyes.

“Oh, yeah. Yes. You’ll want to get back to setting up. Right. Glad I could help,” he fumbled for words that made sense. Once he stepped aside, Hannah was back behind the lectern doing some fiddling of her own, viewing the slideshow from the beginning and checking that all her citations were accurate. Jeremy watched as the information flashed on the projection screen, catching her name on the opening slide. “Well, I’ll leave you to it, Hannah,” he said as he stepped toward the door.

Without looking up, Hannah said, “I owe you, IT Jeremy” as she continued to work.

The next day at lunchtime Hannah was wandering around the basement where the online directory had told her she could find Jeremy’s office. He spotted her before she found the right door and was surprised to see her. When people say they owe you, they don’t usually mean it, and if they do, they don’t follow up on it quickly. “Hannah, hi! How did the presentation go?” he called to her.

“I think it went well. Thank you for your help. I’m embarrassed that I asked the lead software guy to do such a menial task. I just dialed the first IT number I saw. I’m sorry it wasted your time. You have much more important things to work on than troubleshooting for me,” Hannah rambled a bit. “I owe you either way, and I’m going to get lunch and wondered if I could bring you something? A coffee, anything.”

The woman amazed Jeremy. She was brilliant, beautiful, solution-oriented, grateful, and, from what he could tell, reliable. He didn’t know what he wanted for lunch, but he knew that he wanted to be around Hannah as much as possible, to get to know her.

Still enjoying her scent on the pillow, Jeremy remembered how hard it had been to talk her into moving in with him when the lease on her flat expired. Like everything in their relationship, Hannah didn’t make it easy. One of the qualities he failed to infer from their meeting in the conference room was her independence and her obstinacy. To Jeremy, living together was more than logical, it was what he wanted since the first time she’d slept in his arms. Hannah thought it was just another way Jeremy was being annoyingly reasonable. Hannah knew him well. When he saw a problem, his engineering brain went to work on several possible solutions, evaluating them to choose the most effective one and acting upon it. They were spending at least three nights a week together anyway; he already owned his place; she needed to save money wherever she moved next. Hannah moving in made sense in every way. Jeremy had to give voice to all his emotions to convince her it wasn’t about cold hard logic. He desired her. He wasn’t the emotionless scientist she sometimes thought he was. He wasn’t the emotionless scientist he sometimes acted like.

Wasn’t that the problem now? He’d acted like a robotic ass when Hannah needed to see his heart and feel his support. He’d been caught up in medical explanations, trying to make sense of something that was too crushing to confront with his heart. Jeremy had to use his head from the moment he was left alone in the A&E waiting area. Hannah wasn’t his wife, so he wasn’t allowed to go with her for treatment. All Jeremy knew was that when he let go of her clammy, trembling hand, Hannah was crumpled in pain and bleeding in ways a pregnant woman should not be. His head was the only thing keeping his heart from shattering.

They hadn’t even known she was pregnant very long. Hannah took the home test when she realized she was six days late. They’d run out of condoms on their hiking trip in the Scottish Highlands. Hannah wasn’t on birth control, so they knew it was a risk, but in the tent, tangled together in one sleeping bag, celebrating that she had moved in with him, neither of them had cared. Jeremy wanted to spend the rest of his life with Hannah even before he asked her to live with him, so pregnancy was a step in the right direction as far as he was concerned. He was delighted to be fathering a child with her. He went with her to the first appointment, a simple blood test to confirm what they already knew. The doctor said her hormone levels were good and that this early in the pregnancy, an ultrasound wasn’t necessary. Even though Hannah was 37, therefore at a higher risk for complications by American standards, the doctor assured the couple that she didn’t need to do anything differently than any other pregnant woman. Hannah started taking prenatal vitamins even before the appointment, and the doctor said besides that and continuing to eat well and exercise, there wasn’t anything she should worry about. Hannah and Jeremy scheduled an appointment for three weeks later when they might be able to hear their baby’s heartbeat and see its shape on the ultrasound.

Jeremy knew Hannah was feeling a million things, not just because of hormones. He constantly asked Hannah to talk to him. He had been asking her to talk to him since the beginning of their relationship. For all her work getting stroke survivors to re-learn how to speak, Hannah was guarded with her feelings when it came to Jeremy. He knew and loved that about her. She was reserved in her affections not because they weren’t deep but because she had trouble trusting people as much as she trusted herself. He figured out pretty quickly that she was independent almost to a fault, but it made her more attractive to Jeremy. Hannah didn’t need him; she wanted him. While it was nice that he could sometimes make her life easier, like the day they met, she didn’t expect him to be her hero or savior, and that somehow relieved him. As the oldest child of five, he grew up with expectations coming from every direction. His parents expected him to take care of his younger brothers and sisters; his younger brothers and sisters expected him to be their protector and leader; he expected himself to set a good example for his siblings and make his parents proud. Hannah’s expectations of him were as annoyingly reasonable as she accused him of being. He could live up to them; he could manage to not let her down.

Except he had this time. This time when it was more important than ever, Jeremy let her down because he protected himself from the pain of the doctor’s words instead of thinking about how Hannah was going to be able to do the same. Jeremy knew Hannah was worried that it was too soon for them to have a baby. They’d only been living together for a few months, were still trying to figure out how to negotiate sharing space full time. Adding a baby made her wary. Hannah’s family history loomed large, Jeremy knew, but he also knew he was nothing like her father. While Hannah’s father was a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, and her mother had chosen the highway, Jeremy, though he thought methodically, was emotionally intelligent. If talking through feelings was the best solution to a problem, he had no qualms about doing so. If trying to understand a perspective that wasn’t his own would lead to a better solution than he could think of alone, he knew how to be a team player.

But he hadn’t looked at another perspective when he heard that Hannah was recovering from emergency surgery to remove her right ovary and fallopian tube because the fetus implanted there instead of her uterus. The baby was gone, and Hannah herself had been in danger had they not performed the surgery. She still faced a lot of physical recovery time though her prognosis was good. Without two ovaries, however, the chance of conceiving another child was reduced. Jeremy took it all into his head because he couldn’t allow it into his heart. Without Hannah near him to give him the strength he needed, he couldn’t find a way to his heart. So he used his head, grilling the doctor with questions about what had gone wrong, why the baby had implanted in the wrong place, why Hannah’s body hadn’t alerted her to the problem earlier, why the doctors hadn’t known sooner, why there wasn’t a medical procedure that could detach the living fetus from the dangerous fallopian tube wall and reattach it the safe uterine lining. Why. Why. Why he hammered.

Sitting on the couch, his nose buried in the pillow that smelled of Hannah, Jeremy was still hammering why, why, why. He was not questioning the doctor or Hannah though. Why had he been so weak, so selfish?  Why had he let his grief wind its way inside him and turn into finger pointing? Why couldn’t he be silent and supportive? Why, the ONE time Hannah needed him, could he not deliver? Sure, he’d taken care of her after surgery, making sure she had everything she needed to recover physically. When she was able to come home from hospital, he carried her up the two flights of stairs to their bedroom and got her comfortable. After she’d rested, he helped her shower and wash her hair, making sure to re-dress the healing incision on her lower abdomen. He’d brought her the ice cream she asked for and anything else she’d wanted. But he said nothing about the baby. Nothing about his grief. He didn’t ask her about her grief.  For the first time in their relationship, he didn’t ask her to talk to him. He got updates on how she was doing physically, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask about her feelings. He couldn’t bring himself to talk about his feelings.

It went on that way for weeks. Hannah’s body slowly healed, but they both lived behind walls to hide their emotions. Jeremy knew it was no good; he knew Hannah well enough to know she was suffering because of it too. One night about four weeks after the emergency surgery, he broke down. He didn’t give Hannah any warning that he wanted to talk, he just started in over dinner. He approached it from the medical side, presenting reasons he’d found from internet searches about why some women have ectopic pregnancies. Throughout the verbal explosion, Jeremy was exactly the cold, hard logician Hannah accused him of being. He was all head and no heart, except that he was bleeding from his own heart, unable to deal with the loss they were mutually ignoring. A loss that he couldn’t come to terms with in a reasonable way. A loss that hurt him deeply because it also seemed to crush his hopes of being with Hannah for the rest of his life. And in his pain, he’d said the worst possible thing before he could stop himself.

“I’m not saying it’s your fault. I’m saying you neglected to do something you were supposed to do. Or you neglected to avoid something you were supposed to avoid,” Jeremy blamed Hannah for losing their child.

Hannah looked like he’d punched her in the gut. She remained motionless for several moments before putting down her fork when her hands began to shake. She’d tried very hard not to cry in front of Jeremy because she thought he wouldn’t understand, that he would want her to explain her tears, to talk about what she felt. She didn’t know that he wanted to cry too, that holding her while they both cried was probably what they both needed. At the dinner table, blamed for something that was out of her control but she felt was her fault anyway, Hannah couldn’t hold back the tears until she was away from Jeremy. She sat with her trembling hands in her lap, her head bowed, and cried.

Jeremy was immediately disgusted with himself. He hated that he’d given voice to his most venomous thoughts. He didn’t even believe Hannah could have done something differently, not in his heart. He knew she was hurting just as badly as he was, but he couldn’t see past his own suffering until that moment. He looked at her sitting there defeated, her shoulders slumped, sobs convulsing her body. Not for the first time in the last few weeks, she needed him. Genuinely needed him like she’d never needed him before. Strong, independent Hannah who never let the power balance between them teeter too far to one side or another had been needing Jeremy for the last month and he’d been too grief stricken to even see it. Now it was plain as day that he’d only added to Hannah’s suffering by ignoring the loss that weighed on both of them.

His harsh words remained suspended in the air as Hannah continued to weep at their dinner table. Before he was paralyzed by grief, now he was paralyzed by guilt. What would he possibly say after something so vicious? How could he even begin to make amends for the wound he inflicted with his words on top of the wounds he’d inflicted by being an emotionless ass over the last month? An apology, of course, but he couldn’t erase the things he’d just said. Jeremy had never felt like such a terrible human being as he did in that moment.

Hannah made no attempt to leave the table. She remained in her seat, crying, her whole body shaking with her sobs. Jeremy knelt beside her, wrapping his arms around her waist and putting his head in her lap. He felt the waves of her tears as they rolled through her, her sadness passing into him. He tried to breathe deep and evenly to slow her jagged breaths, but he found himself short of air as his own cheeks dampened. Tears rolling slowly down his face, he looked up at her. “I’m sorry. I don’t believe any of what I said. I’m so sorry, Hannah. I’m lost in my grief without you. Tell me how to do this with you. Tell me what I can do so we’re together in this instead of being alone and apart. I’m so sorry I’ve been selfish in my sadness.”

Hannah ran her hands through his thick brown hair and held his head in her lap without saying anything. They stayed like that, both crying, as their dinner got cold.

I can’t think of any more synonyms for ANGER without consulting a thesaurus

I walked about three miles this morning and grabbed an iced soy mocha before heading home to turn on the news, as has been my habit recently. I know the news is bad for my health, but I can’t justify burying my head in the sand all the time as much as I love escapism. A part of me is still an engaged citizen, even though I hate the government more by the minute.

Simultaneous to seeing it in my facebook feed, I heard the news about Trump’s tweets on CNN. From that moment, I have been furious. It has taken A LOT of effort for me to sit still because I am so fucking angry. I tried to write earlier, not about this, and kept looking at my keyboard, thinking I wanted to break it across my knee before hurling it down the hallway. Blood boiling angry.

I asked myself how many trans people could possibly be in military service, then immediately chastised myself because Trump’s tweets are a smoke screen, a distraction, as so many of his “tweet storms” have been. His children are digging his grave regarding Russia; he’s lost the loyalty of people he hand-picked to sit in his cabinet; he’s passive-aggressively forcing Sessions to resign because he’s too chickenshit to fire him; and Congress can’t figure out healthcare to save their own lives. He needed a diversion. And he targeted a group that should lead a fucking coup against him.

My rage is multilayered. I’m livid that the President of the United States communicates any manner of information through twitter. That all by itself stirs my ire. He has no self-control whatsoever. He isn’t circumspect. He’s too stupid to understand how much power his 140 characters have. Or he knows that power and doesn’t mind endangering the nation every time he tweets.

The next layer is that he chooses to communicate policy via twitter. It’s like he doesn’t know the difference between a casual thought and a binding law. Maybe to him his passing fancy IS law.

Then there’s the underlying hatred in what he’s doing. It stinks of fearing people who are different from yourself, who you do not understand. That gets to me because at the root of my soul, there is love and acceptance. Yeah, I’m judgmental and arrogant and selfish and all-too-human, but the bottom line is love, or at least basic respect, for everyone, even when I disagree with them.

Piling on to my outrage is the Commander-in-Chief saying he rejects able-bodied service members to a VOLUNTARY military. Anyone who joins the military does so of his/her own volition (barring people whose families forced them and people who felt they had no other option). These are people – male, female, in between, something else – who want to DEFEND OUR NATION. Unless they are physically or mentally unfit to serve, who are you to say they can’t put their lives on the line for our freedom?

Moreover, I cannot imagine a transgender person thinking that military service is going to be an easy road to travel. I am a straight bio female who identifies as such, but I understand what it is like to feel like my body is not reflective of who I am inside (*ahem*) If you know the first thing about the US Military, you know it’s not historically friendly toward alternative lifestyles (don’t ask, don’t tell). I imagine a transgender person would recognize that he/she was voluntarily joining an organization that would make his/her life markedly more difficult than civilian life, which can’t be a treat for transgender people in many places. Obviously if they joined the military, they want to serve as much or more than they want to be a different gender. No one signs up for the military thinking, “yeah, this is where I’m going to get the healthcare coverage I need for my gender reassignment surgery.”

Using this (presumably) small subset of people who are willing to serve their country as a diversion tactic disgusts me. Trump is a shit storm who tosses feces in the opposite direction so you look at the small shit show instead of the tornado of fucked up things that are crashing down on him. That he has chosen transgender military personnel this time makes me ferociously mad. Transgender people are treated as less than human in this country, so the fact that any of them want to stand up for it amazes me in the first place. That they now have to deal with this added persecution blinds me with rancor.

In a moment of levity, as I am wont to have because if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry, I wondered what gender the Unsullied from Game of Thrones are, technically. Would Trump allow them to serve? By adding this to the conversation, I don’t mean to minimize it in any way, it’s just one of my coping mechanisms so that I don’t tear my apartment to pieces.

The two take aways from today are:

  1. Any moron can be president of the US, but you can’t defend a nation that constantly treats you like a non-human if you are transgender.
  2. The current US President will attack ANYONE in an effort to distract people from seeing that his whole administration is failing.

Smoke and mirrors have never made me so irate.


I wrote more pages about Hannah and Jeremy. I’ll post it later this week depending on how far I get, but it got me thinking about the poems I have bouncing around in my brain too.

The way I get at a poem is different from the way I’m getting at Hannah’s story. I’ve written some short stories, I’ve outlined a few novel ideas, I’ve scribbled a ton of poetry, and I’ve definitely vomited a volumes of personal journals, but how I go about each is starkly different.

I have to write poetry by hand. It doesn’t feel right if I do it any other way. Last year when I was in Ireland, I got a little lost in Galway around sunset. It was after dinner, and I’d only brought my phone and a clutch with some money, my credit card, and my ID. I didn’t mean to take a wander. I meant to get to a pub that had been recommended. So much for plans. As I walked, a poem, or something like a poem, was bubbling up inside me. In the last rays of light, I sat on a stone wall and composed it the only way I could without even so much as a receipt to write on. I used my phone. I needed to get the words out before I lost them, but it felt all wrong. Later that night, I copied the poem from my phone into my journal. The wrong was righted.

A few weeks ago, I was forced into a similar situation because I didn’t have anything to write with or write on and the idea was bursting. Again it felt wrong. I sometimes use my phone to remind myself of phrases or ideas, but the full composition of a poem has to happen with pen and paper or it doesn’t feel pure. Maybe that’s because my poems have frequently come from an emotion that was overwhelming me. Maybe it’s because the things I usually create electronically are academic in nature, whether they are analytical papers I used to write or assignments I construct for students. Typeface seems too impersonal for my poems. The whimsy of having little bits of paper scrawled with lines hidden away in the pages of something else or tucked into a corner of my wallet seems more poetic than notes saved on my phone or files on a flash drive.

When it comes to fiction though, especially Hannah’s story, I rely on Microsoft Word. I can’t imagine trying to piece Hannah together by hand. Maybe because I imagined this story a hundred different ways for at least a year before committing to write any of it. Maybe because it’s going to be longer than anything I’ve ever written before. Maybe because it isn’t one of the first three novel ideas I have, two of which I’ve vaguely outlined by hand, one of which I’ve written a short story version of by hand but then typed. I don’t know, but as I go along, I cannot fathom trying to hand write any of it. I am dependent on seeing it on screen as I write and revise and reread and reach for the right way to tell the story playing in my mind.

Personal journals can go either way, which kind of nullifies my theory about my poetry being too emotional to type. If nothing else, my journals are emotional or at least thoughtful about my emotions. I’m just as comfortable writing down my personal reflections as I am typing them. Typing them usually means I’m going to make them available for public consumption, so there’s some self-censoring that happens, but less than you might think. What’s the point in self-examination if you aren’t doing it honestly? Whether I make that public or not, it has to be worth my time, so why hide something? That said, there are always things that I know about myself that I don’t publicly reflect on, not because I don’t think them but because either they are too painful or I don’t give a shit what anyone else might think about them or both. Those kinds of things I might hand write or keep inside my skull for me and the voices (ha ha, I don’t actually hear voices in a schizo kind of way).

If I want these brewing poems to make their way out, I guess I have to step away from the computer. Who says kids are the only ones who need limited screen time?

Works in Progress

Sometimes I can tell before getting out of bed that the day is going to be a disappointment. It’s not that my expectations for any given day are all that high, but there’s a sense that some are just duds and you shouldn’t even try.

Today is definitely a losing day. The water in my taps is leaving me thirsty – there’s a poem in the making if ever there was. The vet I usually take my cat to is permanently closed. I went to the grocery store thinking I’d be inspired to decide what I want to eat but walked out with a bagful of stuff I don’t really want. Nothing’s going to satisfy me, which is partially my fault because I don’t know for sure what I want.

There’s no predicting when this kind of day will strike, but it is predictable that everything is a bummer. The best course of action is to curl up with a book to escape into and go to bed as early as possible. Chances are good that the next day will be better, less blah.

But when I’m trying to make new habits, including writing every day and taking care of myself physically, days like this feel like failures. They aren’t. They’re just inevitable down days. They’re opportunities for me to figure out how to go easier on myself, to not beat myself up, to look at the progress I’m making.

I’ve only been at this “new routine” effort for two weeks. It takes at least a month to develop a habit, so trying to break several bad habits while I make better ones is bound to take longer, to have some road blocks along the way.

I’ll remind myself what I’ve been working on. I’m brewing something about invisibility and untouchability that might turn into a poem if I ever pour out the words from where they’re stewing. I’m working on Jeremy from the story about Hannah and Katie, which is proving very emotional because there’s love and loss there, and lots of history. I’m taking care of at least one piece of personal business a day, whether it’s making a doctor’s appointment or researching COBRA for when my leave insurance runs out. I’ve been thinking about a week’s worth of blogs about song lyrics and what I think of them – this might produce something concrete fastest because I realize that I haven’t written much about music yet, which isn’t me at all. Music is air; I have to have it around all the time.

Yeah, today’s a wash. But my iPad is almost charged so I can get back to another world soon. I got a bottle of water because I am literally and metaphorically thirsty, even after drinking the requisite 8 cups of tap water yesterday. The weather is perfect by my standards – cloudy, breezy, cool. I’m going to hang out on the couch by the open window, maybe the cat will come keep me company, and I can go back to bed before I try again tomorrow.

Pardon Me

There is no doubt that the current president is partially responsible for my existential crisis. The way words have lost all meaning certainly would shred someone like me who lives in the words, for the words, with the words, by the words. Not only do all words have shifting, subjective meanings now, those of us who demand that language still be useful to communication are called elitist or overly sensitive.

And it’s not just words that have lost common meaning. Everything I learned in 8th grade civics and 10th grade government about what makes America special in history and the modern world has been stripped away. Checks and balances? Three branches of government with a free press to serve as watch dog? Elected officials who work for the people they represent? Educating the populace? Accepting immigrants from far and wide with open arms, knowing those immigrants strengthen the nation?

Now people are asking if a president can pardon himself for crimes he committed because he was too inexperienced to know they were crimes or too slimy to give a shit. “Can a president pardon a chief of staff? An attorney general? Himself?” Well, since nothing means anything anymore, I guess “abuse of power” doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. In which case, SURE. A president can pardon himself. What are consequences anyway? Why would I want a leader who holds himself accountable to a higher standard than a simpering child?

While he’s pardoning himself, he can pardon me for saying, “You are a fucking joke. A bad joke that no one finds funny because you’re so stupid that it’s terrifying to think people support your ignorance.”

The O Doctor

Ladies, doesn’t “The O Doctor” sound like a great name of a sex toy that guarantees an orgasm? A quick Google search tells me no such product exists, so I’m going to claim the name and marketing rights while someone else develops the product.  I’ll be rich!

What I’m really talking about is optometrists and ophthalmologists, even opticians, because we’re all so confused. (Not OB/GYN, though I’ve also scheduled that appointment in my quest to catch up on being :::mumble::: years behind on making sure my body is working the way it’s supposed to.)

The type of Albinism I have impacts my vision as well as my pigmentation. People can only see the pale, but the bigger problem is my low vision. As I’ve explained before, it’s congenital, so I don’t know any other way to see. I have tried to explain, and I will again for the benefit of people reading who haven’t heard me talk about it. But please keep in mind that I have no accurate point of comparison because I’ve never had “normal” vision. I’ve had my eyes my whole life. The vision problems that come with Albinism are not degenerative, so I can’t even compare to something in my own history. My visual acuity has been the same as long as I’ve been able to say which letters and numbers I can see on the chart.

A few ways I can explain it:

  1. If you woke up tomorrow with my vision, everything in your world would be smaller, appear further away than it ever has, and be fuzzier around the edges. If I woke up with your vision tomorrow, I would be thoroughly disoriented because the opposite would be true – I would be able to see finer detail in things from farther away, the edges of things would be crisper, more defined, everything would probably appear bigger.
  2. Visual acuity is measured as 20 over a number. I don’t know what genius decided that’s the way we’d do it, but anyway, it’s 20 over x. The x is how far away the object appears to your eyes. 20/20 means your eyes see the object as if it is 20 feet away. 20/100 means that the object, though only 20 feet away, appears 100 feet away to a person with that visual acuity. (Seriously, who came up with this? And what amazing science that we can measure it with a stupid piece of paper with random letters). My visual acuity in my right eye is 20/200 – meaning with my left eye closed, an object 20 feet away from my open right eye appears to be 200 feet away. I don’t know that because I’ve always seen like that, so I’m horrible at guestimating distances and seeing things that are far away. My left eye is a little better at 20/160, but most charts don’t measure that closely, so on record I’m 20/200 and, at least in the state of Virginia, that means I’m “legally blind.” Some places call it functionally blind instead.
  3. If you are standing across the street from me anywhere in NYC, I probably can’t see that it’s you, even on the smaller one-way streets. I once startled my best friend because I DID recognize her from that distance, but her big purse gave her away, not any detail of her face. She’s my seeing eye human and was my college roommate all four years, so besides my mom and big brother, she has the most experiencing living with me and observing what I can and cannot see.
  4. Take that same distance – across a major cross street like 14th in NYC – I don’t know how far that is. Look it up of you’re super interested. At that distance, I can see clothing colors, general body shape and size, hair color. I can tell if you are facing me or not, but I cannot tell any distinguishing facial features. I can’t tell the shape of your eye brows, nose, mouth, whether or not you are smiling, your eye color, whether your eyes are open or closed.
  5. From a car, if we’re on a road that’s lined with trees or farms – grass is textured green to me whereas you might be able to see individual blades. The same with corn stalks. Depending on how fast we’re going, trees I can individualize, but I couldn’t tell you if there were squirrels or birds in the branches. I can see and count the farm fence posts, but unless the animals are very close to the fence, I only know it’s a farm animal of a certain color whereas you see for sure that it’s a cow, horse, sheep, something else. The flowers we pass are colors with nebulous shapes, not specific species with petals and other identifying features.

People who spend enough time with me know that they’ll have to steer me away from stepping in dog poop, read overhead menus to me at fast food joints I’m not familiar with, whisper subtitles to me in the movie theater, tell me if someone is waving at me from across a room, alert me to someone staring at me (that’s mostly my mom’s job because then she glares at them with an evil mama bear protective thing going on), read street signs to me, give me directions with landmarks and number of blocks rather than street names, and point out ice on the ground in the winter. Some friends also make it a point to tell me how many steps there are and how big they are.

The tricky thing about my vision is correcting it. I don’t wear glasses or contacts because in addition to all the stuff that goes along with Albinism, I also have astigmatism, which means my eyes are shaped more like footballs than softballs. They’re a little pointy, so the focal point is slightly different. This makes it more difficult to prescribe a lens that can both enlarge and sharpen what I see. The compromises for everyday glasses is bigger objects with fuzzier edges or smaller objects with sharper edges. No thanks. So I have reading glasses for holding things close.

And what doctor do I go to for treatment and glasses? All those Os, but what’s the difference? I haven’t been to any eye doctor in longer than it’s been since going to the dentist, and I wasn’t willing to admit that here, so you can just imagine. The last doctor I went to was an optometrist who specialized in low vision. He was amazing. He helped my big brother force the state of Virginia to create a pathway to drivers’ licenses for people with low vision. Growing up, mom took me to an ophthalmologist though, so who am I supposed to go to now? And what’s the difference? And what’s an optician? Thank God for Google, right?

Opticians are basically the lens grinders. They aren’t doctors, I don’t think. They are like the pharmacists of glasses and contact lenses. They fill the prescription written by either of the other O doctors. They can make sure your frames fit on your face right so you aren’t the kid with crooked glasses. I don’t think they perform full eye exams. They can probably tell you what shape frames look best on you, but they might be trying to up-sell you to the Kate Spade frames that make them a bigger commission. (I don’t have anything against opticians. I’m guessing at some of this.)

Then there’s the optometrist. That IS a doctor who CAN perform full eye exams, and give you those damn drops that dilate your pupils and make the rest of your day horrible even if you do wear sunglasses out of the office. They prescribe the lenses that the opticians then make for you. They can help you with any number of vision problems, but their treatment stops at medicine and low vision aides.

The ophthalmologist (which I still cannot spell right) can perform surgeries in addition to doing all the stuff the optometrist does. These guys do LASIK and re-attach your retina. They can remove cataracts.  So they’re more comprehensive.

My mom was probably right to start my brother and me at the top because she had no way of knowing if our vision could be corrected surgically or if we would develop conditions that would require surgery. Science moves quickly, and my eyes are a great example of that. When I was little, there was no possibility of correcting my vision using any type of surgery because of my nystagmus, a lovely symptom of Albinism. Nystagmus is an involuntary nerve movement of the eye. My eyes shake side to side unless I am in physical shock or I am sleep walking (both fun stories for a later time). I do not see the world shaking because the movement is so fast. Nystagmus made surgery impossible because the slight movement was too difficult to navigate with the precision required when doing laser surgery. About 10 years ago, I heard about a surgery created to stop the nystagmus. The results were improved peripheral vision, but it also opened the possibility of other surgeries. Of course, I’ve also heard that surgeries like LASIK, even after a surgery to stop the nystagmus, wouldn’t help my vision because of other factors related to Albinism. It doesn’t matter though because I don’t think I’d ever get surgery on my eyes for fear that I’d go completely blind.

So why go to the ophthalmologist now? One reason is I can do it through NYU Langone, where all my adult medical records are centralized and where I’ve received stellar care in the past. Another reason is because I don’t know where science is now – it’s been THAT long since I’ve been to an eye doctor of any kind. Also, as we age, our eyes change. What if I’m developing baby cataracts? I WOULD have eye surgery to remove cataracts. Plus, there are a few people at the NYU practice who specialize in neurology as well as ophthalmology (still have not spelled it right on my own) who might be able to explain more about my optic nerves and how they are connected to my brain, something I’ve heard about but don’t totally understand. (Left brain controls right eye? Right brain controls left eye? Except not me because I’m not normal?) And neurology also covers nerve movements like nystagmus. But mostly because mommy knows best and she told me I should be going to an ophthalmologist (GOT IT RIGHT ON MY OWN THAT TIME!)

I’m seeing the O doctor on August 1st. I might have more to say after that. Or sooner as I develop that sex toy.

Inspiration On Screen

I haven’t watched the season 7 premier of Game of Thrones yet. I needed to remind myself of what happened in seasons 5 and 6, so I’m still playing catch up. I’d watched all six seasons before going to Ireland last summer, but I didn’t realize how much of it is filmed in Northern Ireland, where I was for two days. Looking out at the sea, I wrote, “Northern Ireland’s rugged coast line owns a piece of my soul.” Now I drool at scenes and say “That’s Northern Ireland.” Because he’s just too pretty, Jon Snow is less of a draw than the scenery.

Later during the trip I was sitting in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. I wrote two pieces while sitting across from Joyce’s bust. I don’t know if they are poems or not. Prose poems? Are they complete? Are they terrible? I don’t know. One of them, the one I’m not sharing, is something that I’ve gone back to often because it begs to be better, for me to express the idea better because the idea is so important, so pure. I don’t think I can do it justice, so I keep picking at it, knowing that it’s something I could be very proud of.

This piece, written moments before the one I’m not sharing, doesn’t demand perfection from me but is no less true. And every time I see Northern Ireland on Game of Thrones, I think of it.

No Title Yet ~ LJD August 28, 2016

I have words but not the power to use them. I set them down, examine them, feel how they roll around in my mouth, how they might echo in your brain, which way they may twist your heart. I combine them, trying to convey the brimming energy in my veins when I see something glorious and ache so badly to share it with others. I shuffle the phrases and re-deal them, still falling short of the song in my soul that swells with each blade of grass, every rocky coastline, the shale faces announcing mountains that rise to the ever-changing sky. 

Not surprising that the next thing I wrote is something that I’m still shuffling because I can’t get the words right. If you’ve never been to any part of Ireland, you should go. It’s more beautiful than my words and the GoT cameras can capture.

On the Other Hand

It’s no secret that I think way too much. I suppose the plus side is that I’m never bored, but that means little when weighed against the feeling that I’m crazy and the exhaustion that comes from never having a moment of silence. I’ve come to accept it about myself. I wonder what it would be like to be able to turn it off, but I don’t hate myself for not being able to find an off switch. At least I don’t hate myself as often or as deeply as I used to.

Part of the thinking too much is reflecting on what I wrote yesterday about my body being my enemy. That’s too simplistic. Or not clear enough. If it is an enemy, it’s an enemy that fascinates me, which I don’t think came through yesterday.

The human body, not just mine, is incredible. I think I said yesterday that healing is miraculous, but so is every function of the body. I obviously have a weird relationship with food, but on the physical level, it’s amazing. We put something in our bodies, chew it up and swallow. It’s out of sight, but that’s when our bodies get to work on it, breaking it down and using it. Our bodies extract what they need and then discard the excess. The fact that a body can do all that is very cool. It’s even neater when you can track the progress in an infant. When I was with my niece, I fed her, burped her, rubbed her tummy as I felt her digest, laughed when she sharted, and charged her when she pooped.  The same thing happens in adult bodies, but our intestines are a lot longer, so the process takes more time.

That’s just the everyday stuff. When I think about how a body heals itself… I’m blown away. Healing more than the mundane bodily functions have always fascinated me, though if you judge by the amount of time I talk about puke and shit, I guess those things hold my interest somehow too. When I’d get sunburns when I was little, I loved the peeling skin stage. I liked to see how big a piece I got get without breaking it. I liked to look at the colors of bruises – how dark the heart of the bruise was, blue or black, and then how the bruise yellowed as it spread. Then the colors would change as the pain decreased. Cuts that scabbed over or scrapes that gradually faded… the body, MY body, was kind of magical, even if I had disconnected it from my mind. If I think about what I said about adapting, that was my body too – my brain was doing all that work to figure out how to move my body through the world around me. That is miraculous.

Maybe because I disconnected my mind from my body, I also have a very high tolerance for physical pain. I didn’t understand this until I had a gall bladder infection. I live with pain every day because of my fallen arches. I don’t know what a day without foot pain would be like. I might freak out. Because I’ve viewed my body as an enemy, I also haven’t felt very comfortable in my own skin, something that has improved a hundred fold over the last decade. Physical pain was just a part of that discomfort. When my gall bladder was infected, which I didn’t know was the case until a trip to the ER, I was in so much pain that I actively thought of ways to divert the pain to another place of my body. It felt like a had a vice around my abdomen. It kept tightening. No matter what position I was in, it felt like I was being squeezed until I could hardly breathe. I was thinking about running out in traffic so that I could injure another part of my body just to make the pain in my abdomen stop. That’s when I decided to go to the ER. They asked the common question – how would you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10? I answered 11. They didn’t know me or how I respond to pain, so when I saw my records later, I was only a little pissed that they recorded it at a 6. They thought I was overreacting. Eight or so hours later when they determined my gall bladder was severely infected and full of stones, they said, “How have you not passed out from the pain? This is notorious for being one of the most painful experiences people have ever had.” No shit. That’s why I said ELEVEN. (I wasn’t at a hospital I’d ever go back to). In fact, my infection was so bad that they were worried if they tried to operate, they’d risk spreading it. I took two full weeks of antibiotics after a 48 hour IV drip in the hospital, and my infection was still so bad that my surgeon took two and a half hours longer than expected to get it out, contemplated ditching the laparoscopic surgery (with a camera) in favor of opening up 9 nine inches across my tummy (luckily that didn’t happen and I don’t have a huge scar that can add to my body image issues), and had to treat some damage to my liver. She told me it was a mess, the worst she’d ever seen. And because I’m fascinated with my body, I kind of wanted to see it before it went to whatever medical waste center it was destined for.

So the enemy I’m fascinated with has given me a few gifts too. I’m not squeamish, so things like my peeling skin or the color of my pee when my gall bladder was infected don’t bother me. I also wanted to see what the doctor extracted from a cyst on my food. He was good at reading people because I didn’t even need to ask, he could just tell that I wanted to see what had been making that big lump on the top of my foot. It was gel-like and a champagne color, for those who wondered what fills a cyst pocket. That is, if it’s healthy. He said if it looked different, I might be in trouble.  Then the nurse injected my foot with steroids, and again amazing, my face was swollen two days later. What mechanisms make THAT possible?

I’ve seen more substantial healing at work in my mom. Her cancer journey also punctuated how not squeamish I am. But I also wonder if my disconnect between body and mind is what helps me stay calm under pressure. Maybe because I’m not too concerned with injury to my own body, I can keep my head when crises arise that could threaten my body. Maybe it’s good to be disconnected in some way because I don’t respond physically to blood, shit, vomit… things that make other people throw up or pass out. The one thing that I can’t look at without a physical reaction is bone on the OUTside. Everything else, I stay super calm. Case in point, after my mom’s final surgery, the surgical team didn’t put steristrips on her incision. The inside was stitched up well, but the outside was open. Yeah, skin heals, grows back together, regenerates, sometimes even without scaring… but she had about 14 inches of her chest where the two pieces of skin weren’t being held together on the surface. I was displeased to say the least, but I knew I was the only one who could deal with the problem, and I couldn’t freak out because that would alert my mom to a problem.  She figured it out on her own. Luckily her surgeon, though not very communicative, knew what he was doing. She healed well, despite our initial worries.

Maybe the relationship between my body and mind is better described with the more complex term frenemy.