Things Fall Apart, the Centre Cannot Hold

People deploy this line in Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” in broad strokes. It could mean a lot of things, could refer to just about anything, as long as that thing is coming apart. And because it is only a line, what is easy to forget is that the poem itself – written post-WWI – is a horrorshow articulating what Yeats believed to be the unmaking of the world.

But isn’t it more convenient and maybe less terrifying to take just that line (although “the falcon cannot hear the falconer” has its own cellar door-type of special panache, I think) and apply it to our lives? It is. Of course it is. So let’s paint in broad strokes here.

Graham and I split up. It would be much easier to talk about this breakup if there had been a “Second Coming” kind of situation, some deep and violent apocalypse of our relationship that drove us both to scream and accuse and get the cops called. It would be easier to handle if one or the both of us were angry or hateful. But that didn’t happen. We’re not. We’re just people who were always different but then became fundamentally different and grew apart, and in order to take ourselves out of a situation that wasn’t satisfying for either of us and make ourselves better people, we’re not going to be together. I almost typed “anymore” and then almost typed “for awhile,” but the truth is that I don’t know what will happen. It’s entirely possible that we will find our ways back to each other one day, but also it’s entirely possible that we will discover we are better off on our own. It’s hard to tell right now, as we still love each other, but it’s just not working as is. Things fell apart. The centre could not hold.

So what now? I don’t exactly know. I suppose a lot of trying not to be sad, which doesn’t usually work, and a little of trying to be drunk a lot, which sometimes does. I feel a bit stuck between wanting to be a better friend to the ones I have (and even make new ones, which is either cool or just a way to meet my future murderer) and not being sure how to talk to human beings anymore. And maybe this is fine, like I could just stick with animals for now and start re-building my relationship with humanity from there. So if you see a haunted-looking woman lurking around the local dog park, don’t be alarmed. It’s just me.

I’m also going to Iceland, I think. For a week or so, next month. I’ll go to Reykjavik and wander around and take a gander at the penis museum. I mean, geysers and waterfalls and stuff, too, but mostly the penis museum. Which makes just about as much sense as going to Iceland in October as opposed to going to literally anywhere else that has, like, a beach and blended drinks or whatever, but if nothing else, I am an atypical vacationer.

I will hold it together. The centre may be out of my control at the moment but making everything else fit around it is on me.

Posted in Sads | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

That’s Okay

I’ve had this feeling lately of needing to say a thing (or things) but I can’t for whatever reason, like it’s too difficult or too awkward or by the time the words get to the back of my teeth and pressed up against them between the enamel and my tongue they just vanish into irrelevancy and I have to swallow them back down.

I find that I do this a lot more as I get older, too, because I think when you’re young, everything seems so urgent and crucial and that’s why teenagers are so goddamn loud (*shakes fist*). But as I age, while it’s not that I care about fewer things or my level of caring is less, it’s that I don’t feel the need to force people to listen anymore. It’s like shouting at a brick wall. I had more energy for it when I was younger, but now I’m just exhausted and don’t see the point. Which is for better or for worse, I guess, and probably the way it is for everyone.

But it’s not great for getting a point across to actual humans or in writing, and that’s when I’m forced to post a song like this is MySpace and I’m young enough to have words again.

You were a child who was made of glass
You carried a black heart passed down from your dad
If somebody loved you, they’d tell you by now
We all turn away when you’re down

You want to go back to where you felt safe
To hear your brother’s laughter,
See your mother’s face
Your childhood home is just powder-white bones
And you’ll never find your way back

And when you’re gone, will they say your name?
And when you’re gone, will they love you the same?
If not, that’s okay.
If not, that’s okay.

Posted in Playlists, Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Was It Hell Was It Fun

Now that I no longer live in St. Louis, I don’t write for KDHX very often. I expected this; actually, when I first told my editor that I was moving away, I expected that I’d no longer be allowed to write for it at all. But I did a few reviews after moving to Seattle, and every now and then I write a quick piece for a live performance. It’s hardly anything but about what I can handle at the moment, when my brain only has room for one type of writing and I’m trying to finish a couple dozen fiction pieces that have been sitting in draft form for (in some cases) two to three years.

It’s like this for most art forms, actually. I have difficulty focusing on more than one at a time, so if I’m in a reading phase, I’m focusing on words. If I’m in a film phase, I’m focusing on movies. And so on. I’m currently reading, so while I haven’t been able to sit down with an album for awhile, I did spend some time yesterday listening to Jason Isbell’s “Something More Than Free,” and let me tell you something: “Something More Than Free” is a very good album.

As much as my brain processes certain kinds of art at certain times, it also processes music in different ways at different times. Sometime before Graham, I dated a guy who told me that he never listened to lyrics and I thought this was insane. Then, several years later, I found myself liking songs for melodic reasons rather than lyrical ones, and in some cases, I liked whole albums without having any idea of what was being said. I’m back in a lyrical phase now, so “Something More Than Free” is a direct hit to my language-processing hemisphere (called Broca’s area, btw, I looked it up just now) and if I didn’t need new tires and brakes on my car, I’d drive for days just so I could play this album and fully absorb it.

As it stands, though, my car does need new tires and brakes so I can’t drive for days. Instead I sat at my desk and played the album twice, and then I played the song “How To Forget” two more times.

“have a seat, have a drink, tell the jury what you think,
was I good to you
Was it hell, was it fun, did you think I was the one,
was I good to you”

And then this of course put in my head Gaslight Anthem’s “The Spirit of Jazz,” in which the frenetic refrain demands:

“Was I good to you, the wife of my youth?
Not another soul could love you like my rotten bones do”

And all this talk of past loves and youth led me to think about how Stephanie is going through a bunch of stuff from her old house lately, including teenage journals, and how I am thankful – unbelievably, ecstatically, might-actually-believe-in-a-higher-power-for-this-y thankful – that I no longer have my teenage journals in my possession. I did have them, though, for quite a long time. I carried them with me from state to state, apartment to apartment, shelf to closet to disused corner and occasionally I would read them, until I realized that any realization of the wisdom I’d gained since writing in them wasn’t really outweighing the discomfort and self-loathing I felt while reading them. I mean, I had gained wisdom. But I also have a thing where I sometimes recount every bad or embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life just before I fall asleep at night and I have a solid 20 minutes of full-body cringing before hating myself to sleep.

So obviously I don’t need to revisit the memories I may have already repressed, and I found that choosing to stop re-reading my adolescent journals fixed the problem (for the most part, at least as it pertained to most memories originating between 1992-ish to 2001). Solution: I got rid of those journals. I got over the idea that I was throwing away actual years and understood that I was throwing away skewed descriptions on paper from those years and once I did it, I felt a lot better. I did the same thing to the journals I wrote when I was first dating and married to the person who would become my ex-husband. After re-reading those, I realized that they were full of glaring red flags that I’d blithely ignored (or misinterpreted) and the very thought of those ideas in my house made me feel sick. So I threw those away, too.

I do still have old journals in the house. Probably beginning sometime around 2004, they’re not nearly as prolific as their predecessors because by that time I had a blog. You wouldn’t know it to read the fucking endless entries on my old old blog (I don’t think it exists anymore, thanks MySpace!), but I did actually censor myself quite a bit. I was already writing for an audience. The truly humiliating stuff, the stuff I couldn’t find the joke in, went into the journals. And I haven’t re-read them for several years by this point, although I’m not sure that I’m ready to throw them away. It’s not that they’re still relevant. It’s not that they can remind me of any lessons I’ve already learned but forgotten somehow. At least, I don’t think so. But I don’t need to read about how much I liked the probably gay guy I dated (mostly because he looked like young Marlon Brando), or how that drunk guitarist was clearly not that into me (which I knew but ignored at the time because guitarist), or about this guy, or that guy, or this boss, or that coworker, or about anything else that I thought was important then but would be loath to recall now.

Which is not to say I wouldn’t surprise myself. I did this with my adolescent journals, on rare occasions. There were glimpses of understandings well beyond my years, but of course, these were quickly buried by a tidal surge of idiot hormones and insecurities. Which I think is the main point of journals, actually, and why it gets easier and easier for me to throw them away.

If nothing else (well, in addition to a repository for curse words and pornography), my brain has an incredible talent for brutally honest hindsight. It learns shame. It learns hurt. It does not learn dirty jokes, unfortunately, because I recently realized I’ve forgotten most of them. ANYWAY. I don’t need the journals to be able to yank my own leash and tell myself to calm down, or to just sit back and be quiet for once, or to rap my chest above my heart and say sternly “I do not want to have to tell you this again.” I remember. I can cringe all by myself.

Posted in I Just Can't, Letters to My Younger Self, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Do Not Startle the Animals

My mom is coming to visit next weekend. I think partially because she wants to and partially because I recently threw half a tantrum over no one in my immediate family having any plans to visit Seattle for reasons involving money, time, etc., even though I’ve visited St. Louis twice already and those burdens were on me. But the important part is that she’s visiting, and she’s staying in a hotel here in Ballard on what is perhaps one of the best streets in America (please remember that I am biased).

She gets in on Friday night and is leaving Monday, so it’s more of an extended weekend than an actual vacation. And I have no idea what we’re supposed to do, although I guess I should leave that up to her. My idea of a good day in Seattle is taking the bus or walking wherever and not doing much of anything, and as long as I’m not getting rained on (even though we need the rain) or getting shouted at by a crazy homeless person (although we also need those, apparently), I’m just fine.

I guess Graham is working later on Saturday so he can make lunch with us then, and maybe if it’s a sunny day I’ll take her over to Seattle Center. Not for the Space Needle, though; remember, we are St. Louisans. We have our own history of paying money to go up in pointlessly tall monuments and then realize it’s good for a field trip and that’s about it. But it’s a nice park, and the fountain is one of the most hilarious pieces of entertainment if you like watching giddily terrified children, and both Five Point Café and Lake Union are near-ish. Although I might have to reconsider my estimation of “near-ish” as no one walks anywhere in St. Louis and so far everyone has been less than pleased with me about my insistence on self-ambulatory travel. But I’ll take her to get coffee, and we’ll hit up the chocolatier, and we’ll walk along the Burke Gilman and probably cross over the Locks. I kind of want to keep it a Ballard-centric visit, actually, because like I said, it’s not really a vacation. I want her to see where I live. And outside of work and work-adjacent activities, I don’t really leave Ballard all that often. Why would I?

It’s funny to me – I’ve lived in Seattle for nearly three years but I still don’t feel like that’s long enough. It’s sort of like when you start dating someone and you get a little bit jealous of their ex. Not because they used to sleep with the person you’re with, but because of their history. Because they know them better. You have all this catching up to do and there’s someone out there who beat you to it. But that’s how Seattle feels to me. I’ve been here for three years and am intensely jealous of those who have been here longer, to the point where I constantly feel like I have to prove myself as a Seattleite. Which is pointless because a) I am a library card-holding, condo-griping, registered voter Seattleite and b) I already passed the two-year Seattle Freeze mark so as far as everyone else is concerned, I belong. But I think that’s why I was so driven to figure out the neighborhoods and bus schedules and weird little quirks (guys, quit saying “bag” like it rhymes with “vague,” please).

Tourists don’t know the difference. See, I like to think that I’ve developed my own brand of disaffection that is common here in the Pacific Northwest, but there must be something still Midwestern and earnest about my face, because even when I assiduously avoid eye contact (like a true Seattleite), the tourists seek me out for directions and general conversation. And I really do think that hotels should start briefing visitors about this, because it really freaks us out. It’s like having a sign at the zoo that asks people to please don’t startle the animals. We can’t handle that kind of thing here.

But because I am a native Midwesterner and being thought of as impolite by a stranger is just unacceptable no matter where I am, I give them directions. Good ones, too, ones that make sense to someone who doesn’t live here, not the shrugged and confused directions common with many people who don’t look up from their phones while walking or riding the bus. I answer their questions. I try to keep my responses short but I will play along for a bit when they suddenly open up with a piece of their life story. And they do. Because no matter how many times people have told me that the look on my face is cold and unapproachable, a person with a camera slung around their neck and some baggy khaki shorts at their waist will invariably find me wildly attractive.

Posted in Seattle, WTF | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A Cup of Tea

Okay, first thing’s first. I wrote a thing. It’s not an important thing or probably a very good thing, but it is grammatically-sound and from what I’ve seen of other horror writing contests, that counts for something.

Second, more importantly, my friend Alexa wrote a thing. I have probably a gazillion things to say about it, not just because of the subject matter and what it means to be the gender that has to care, like, infinitely more about the subject matter (because the other gender is taught not to care as much), but also because she is my friend, and I think this piece is so incredibly brave and scary and important and I am simultaneously saddened by it and so, so proud of her for writing it.

Want to know what’s really fucked up? That piece – or rather, the event that caused it – is what made us friends. Kind of. We’d seen one another on Twitter for a long time and I followed her, and when she named the person from the piece and posted the e-mail mentioned in it, I attempted to reach out to her via DM. But I couldn’t, because she didn’t follow me yet, and I went to sleep that night feeling sick for this person across the country who’d had to experience something so fucking horrifying. This is a person who didn’t really know me yet, but I so hoped she would follow me so I could talk to her. Which she eventually did, and we did, and now she’s the ringleader of the best group DM the world has ever seen because it is made up of this cabal of ultra-smart, hyper-talented women who talk a ton of shit and support each other and crack me up on a daily basis.

The thing about being in this DM group of women – in being in a group of any women, or even knowing women – is that statistically (well, statistically as reported, anyway), 1 in 6 of them have been raped or sexually assaulted. And again, as Alexa points out, rape is stomach-churningly underreported, so the real number is probably much higher. I’ve said before that, considering this statistic, I consider myself lucky to have never been sexually assaulted, but at the same time, I am aware of how fucked up of a concept “lucky” is here. I should not be “lucky.” I should not be an exception. I should not have to reflect on always having been able to provide consent and have that consent respected and, even knowing what I know, be fucking grateful to people for that. I shouldn’t be grateful. That should be the default. Always. Without fucking question.

It’s not just this one friend. It’s others on Twitter. It’s others on Facebook. It’s women I know in real life. Women who are living with this piece of themselves inside, who might have reported it but usually didn’t, because we live in a society where some women are “lucky” and others get to have their stories questioned and their characters assassinated and their bodies turned into crime scenes that the law rarely treats with respect. Women who have to just cover that piece up and keep moving and wonder if the person who hurt them did it before or will do it again. They might have to see that person’s face in public. Can you even imagine? I feel like my heart is going to drop out of my butt when I see someone who looks like an ex-boyfriend on the bus (my nearest ex-boyfriend lives 2,000 miles away); what would happen if that face belonged to the person who had raped me? And who knew they’d raped me, and knew they’d gotten away with it? And not just that person, but suggestions of them, or what happened that time (or times), or scenes in movies or plays or in books? Or fucking everything fucking everywhere?

Rape isn’t about sex. It’s about power and the egregious abuse of it, and retaining power over someone else long after the act is over. It’s about ignoring someone’s agency, not respecting their personhood or dignity, and bulldozing over the utterly and stupidly simple issue of consent because…why? I dunno, why is it harder to teach boys not to rape than it is to enforce puritanical dress codes on school-age girls or continue slut-shaming women? I can’t figure it out, either.

Posted in I Just Can't, Sads, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Very Big One

If you live in Seattle, you’ve probably read that New Yorker article about the probability of a cataclysmic earthquake striking the (ultra-sexy-sounding) Cascadian subduction zone and obliterating our corner of the Pacific Northwest. If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll wait. It took me until this morning to finally feel up to reading about my imminent death and I understand if you need a little bit of preparation time.

I remember when I was in grade school, someone – maybe a psychic, maybe a seismologist, I can’t recall – predicted a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault. This faultline runs through northeastern Arkansas, eastern Tennessee, and mostly southeastern Missouri. In 1811, the New Madrid earthquake hit and caused significant property damage in St. Louis and, it is rumored, rang church bells in Boston. And when you’re a kid in the late ‘80s, this is one of the most dangerous things you can image. I remember parents keeping their kids home from school on the day it was supposed to happen. And, being in the Midwest, we didn’t even know or need to be concerned about tsunamis.

“Four to six minutes after the dogs start barking, the shaking will subside. For another few minutes, the region, upended, will continue to fall apart on its own. Then the wave will arrive, and the real destruction will begin.”

See, it’s not just the earthquake that will do it; it’s the tsunami that will come afterwards. As the article notes, “Among natural disasters, tsunamis may be the closest to being completely unsurvivable.” Also, should the Cascadian subduction zone rupture, “It will not look like a Hokusai-style wave, rising up from the surface of the sea and breaking from above. It will look like the whole ocean, elevated, overtaking land.” You know all those natural disaster films you’ve seen where people sprint through the streets and scramble up the sides of mountains and somehow, the protagonist escapes danger? Nope. Not real. A tsunami is no joke. It is a behemoth wall of seawater moving under a volition more powerful than anything mankind has ever produced and it does not stop until it is fucking done. Or until it smacks into a fucking mountain range that is massive enough to traverse an entire continent.

Think that’s bleak? Read the fucking article. Paragraph after paragraph of doomsday prophecy, only in actual true scientific context. The official estimates of human life damage are over 27,000 injured and 13,000 dead from Northern California to Vancouver. The worst of the damage will occur west of Interstate 5. Hey guys, guess who lives west of Interstate 5? (Raises hand, waves it desperately!)

There is no solid timeframe for an event like this, but the odds of a big earthquake, between 8.0 and 8.6 on the Richter scale, is about one in three over the next 50 years. But the very big one, at anywhere between an 8.7 and 9.0, the one that will trigger the most horrifying, decimating, long-lasting damage, is estimated at one in ten. I have no idea where I will be in 50 years (honestly I kind of hope I’ll be dead because the thought of living to 83 is just impossible in my head). Likely I will already have been priced out of Seattle with the rest of the poors and the only ones here to withstand the very big one will be tech billionaires who we’ll all be a little bit happy to see disappear under the waves. But I might still be around, and let me tell you something, if I have to die, it might as well be in a version of the apocalypse.

As depressing and anxiety-inducing as the information is – or maybe it’s not, like maybe you don’t live here or care about anyone who does, or like maybe you just hate-read this blog for some complicated psychological reason and are actively rooting for my catastrophic demise and if that’s the case then I can’t say I blame you – it’s still very fascinating. In much the same way as it is fascinating to read about super droughts or the Yellowstone supervolcano. Or maybe I’m a freakshow who is just exhausted all the time and is therefore reasonably comfortable with the concept of her own death. I suppose I am a fatalist. I dunno.

Posted in Seattle, Stuff I Didn't Know Before, WTF | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Touchy

It’s been a weird week. Everything started out okay, I guess, but after a few nights of little or fractured sleep and an unexpected nosedive in mood (partially thanks to a Cowboy Junkies song playing on Pandora that holds no real significance for me but made me miserable for some sad bastard reason), I was lying in bed on Friday at 2am with my eyes wide open and no hope of getting back to sleep. So I did what any masochist would do. I got out of bed, made some coffee, and was at work before 6 in the morning, vibrating down to my bones with sharp pains shooting out of my eyeballs.

Way back when I first said something about being depressed, Mike texted me to say that if nothing else, I had to make sure to get up and do stuff. He said it would kill me if I didn’t, if I just sat there and never left the house and let it consume me completely. And he was right. So I get up. I go to the store. I mail a rent check. I go to work early and stare at e-mails and will myself not to be meaner than is absolutely necessary.

Even when everyone in my department left early for a “team-building” exercise at a bowling alley and I was tired enough that I could hallucinate hearing my hair grow (sounds laborious, at least when you’re exhausted) and I just wanted to sleep, I went, anyway, and drank free beers and looked like a doomed spectre of myself.

And when I left early to make a massage appointment, I was buzzing with enough nervous energy to be on 3 different buses within a 10-minute timespan, although I am happy to report that the creepers are still alive and well, everyone, don’t worry, for although I looked entirely strung out and weird, some rando kept staring at me for the entire bus ride home. The public transportation freakshow economy system is intact.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be relaxed enough for a massage. For one, I felt like I was physically unhinged. For two, when I get depressed, I get socially anxious, and when I get socially anxious, I find it difficult to gauge how I should react to other people. People I know are one thing – they’re used to my voice and my cackle – but people I don’t know can be taken aback, and I never quite know how to strike the balance between speaking in a barely audible murmur and just fucking screaming everything I say. So I was a little nervous about freaking out the massage therapist, and that was on top of my normal anxieties about massage.

I don’t get massages. The thing is, my father is a massage therapist. He hasn’t always been one, though. He didn’t go to massage therapy school until I was in my early ‘20s, so basically, I got to live most of my life being yelled at by a crazy strict Catholic disciplinarian, and then, in my ‘20s, I was presented with this weirdo who wanted to talk about chakras and shit and I still don’t quite know how to deal with that. Part of me feels cheated, most of me is just confused. ALSO during that time he took up with some lady who became his mistress and she had a family, too, and it just got really ugly and unfortunate and I don’t blame massage therapy, but the residual psychological effects have sort of skeeved me out to the intimacy of a massage situation. Know what I mean?

But I’ve been dealing with a hurt shoulder for about a year and a half now, and since I don’t want to go back to the doctor for muscle relaxers, I thought I’d give massage a try. And in the meantime, I’d use the opportunity to get over my issues of being touched by a stranger. I was a bit worried that I’d fall asleep. I was more worried that I’d fart on the table. I wasn’t worried that I’d cry, at least not until I read a comment on the bus ride there about how some people just lose it and start weeping. But I did none of these things. I kept it together and the therapist and I talked about Chris Pratt while she worked on my scalp and I was finally able to sleep that night and you know what, I’ll probably go back.

It still feels as though I’m holding on like grim death, psychologically-speaking, but as I get older and learn ways to work around that (get off your ass, go out in public, write mean things and then delete them and then congratulate yourself for being so progressive and kind, etc.), I realize that at least it feels like I am holding on. And that’s an improvement.

“Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show.

— Terry Pratchett

Posted in I Just Can't, Sads | Tagged , , | 4 Comments