Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Write on!

Despite yesterday's post being a good length, and having required a whole separate post the day before to keep it on track, and having been reliant on a post from the previous week, it was not the whole story.

There were two other elements that were important, and that I want to get to now. 

Man-I-don't-know writes dismissive thing and it leads to amazing insight about myself did happen, and that there was a foundation it was built on was made pretty clear, but also, there was a process there that involved two key things.

I saw his response and I had feelings about that. (That will be more tomorrow's post.)

Then I wrote about it three times. It wasn't until the third time that I realized I am no longer afraid of being annoying, but I had been approaching it the whole time.

(That is not counting my response to him, which may have been part of the process but also could have just been fun.)

I wrote in my journal first. That was the shortest one. I wrote a brief description of what happened and then this:

How male. Wrong, thinks he's smart, and sees no need to listen or learn.

It ties together, because the people who don't have much other than their patriarchal rank over you sure don't want you to like yourself, or be happy as you are, or know that you are enough.

That did not feel like enough. I thought it was that I needed to share it. That led to both Twitter and Facebook.

The interesting thing is that I was initially reluctant to post on Facebook. The first poster (whose friend made the dismissive remark) and I have mutual friends (though that guy isn't one of them). I didn't want it to become a whole thing.

It is possible that considering not doing something in deference to men who do not show any similar consideration was related to the breakthrough.

It is definite that as we go over and interpret and try to explain something, it gives us a chance to realize more.

The funny thing is that the next day I was talking to a friend (about learning, appropriately) and as he was explaining something to me he said "Though I hadn't realized that I thought of it that way until now..."

Yes, of course. That is how it works.

It was easier for me to have a breakthrough on my fear of being annoying because I had been engaging with it actively. Then, getting to annoy someone showed me that it wasn't that bad.

There can be things that we feel, and almost know, but that require articulation before we get there. In fact, they may require articulation in a specific way that we grope toward over multiple interactions. Perhaps that is why expressive writing is generally done as a series of three sessions.

There is one more thing about that.

In February I wrote about three early experiences that worked together to convince me that no one wanted to hear about my problems. 

It seems logical that some of my motivation for writing comes from there; so much to say, but who wants to hear it?

As nice as it would be to explore having someone who listens (and I admit I would be a lot), I do like having the blog. I like putting it out there as a record that I have thought this and learned that, and that if the timing is not right for you now, the post will still be there later.

The thing with the guy happened Thursday. Saturday someone tweeted a veiled reference to dissociative identity disorder. It wasn't exactly an ask, but this was a mutual, so I could send a private message and say -- stressing that I don't know if this is needed -- this is here and if you want to talk we can. "This" being a link to my post on dissociation, which is a relatively soothing one, so not a bad starting point.

I could receive a message of gratitude then, because it had been on their mind.

I was attuned to that (and I had something to offer) because I had written about it.

That's what writing can do.

Related posts:

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Just as I get over my fear that I might not be a good mother, I also lose my fear of being annoying!

This is how it happened.

I have been trying to write posts at least the night before. Proofreading tends to be more effective with a rest period in between, and it gives me more time to refine the thoughts. Therefore, the post on tonglen went up Thursday, but I had written it Wednesday night. Regardless of the details, I believe that it was helpful that my mind had been focusing on my sudden epiphany about being enough.

Someone I know posted about the 2nd Amendment. 

I don't really love conflict, but I will fight to the death for what I think is right. In the past that has meant that while I posted frequently and would argue someone disagreeing with my posts into the ground, I rarely took issue with what people posted on their own pages. 

Ignorance has been running amuck so badly, and violence has been increasing, so it is more frequent for me to feel that I have to say something. In this case, I just pointed out that overthrowing a tyrannical government was not the purpose of the 2nd Amendment, and we had a not horrible exchange about that.

But he has other friends.

One of them replied with a poorly thought out string of sentences. It was full of non sequitur and (false) conservative talking points, but sadly lacking in coherence and originality. It was also pretty spotty on punctuation and grammar. This is your person who has been formed by Fox News for years but switched to OAN because Fox was too liberal, though maybe he still checks in with Tucker Carlson.

It wouldn't even have made an impression except for the last sentence.

"Please dont respond because it will just be bullshit." 

How male.

Seriously? I reference articles of the Constitution and historical occurrences and you vomit up a mix of conspiracy theory and sentence fragments that you couldn't tie together if you tried, and you tell me not to respond?

I did write back congratulating him for being an ass. (I used more words, but that was the gist.)

What was important was that he joined a long line of men being irritated when I disagree with them, or say something that threatens their view of things. I get that it's patriarchy, but perhaps it was also more obvious in that moment that they have not earned their position. At all.

If the conclusion to Thursday's post was that I am enough, the other thing that had been coming up a lot in the preceding posts is this fear that I have carried with me that I would annoy someone or take up too much space or be a problem.

In this moment, I knew I was annoying this man, but it was not a problem with me. Not only was I not mortified, annoying him was deliciously pleasing.

There's not this unknown wrongness lurking in me anymore; I know that was one of the steps on the path. Also, I understand a lot more about how societal conditioning and patriarchy works. None of this happened in a vacuum.

But I am not afraid of annoying people anymore. I will not go out of my way to annoy anyone (with the possible exception of puns), but the fear is gone.


Monday, April 12, 2021

A brief diversion into gun control

When I posted about tonglen on Thursday, I wrote (and believed) that the next logical topic would be my 2008 job loss and the emotional turmoil that followed that. 

Shortly after I posted, I had an interaction that led to some interesting realization and contacts. That was followed by a few days of very interesting thoughts coming via social media interactions. It has been a wonderful few days, and I intend to write about them.

As it is, that first interaction was about gun control. If I don't write about it now, I will keep wanting to elaborate on things with the telling of the story, which will really detract from the story.

Therefore, today we talk about guns so I can get it out of my system.

President Biden announced some new efforts toward gun control. The White House fact sheet is dated April 7th, but all of the conversation was on April 8th. Well, there may still be conversation going on.

In a nutshell, these particular issues focus on things that make guns deadlier or harder to trace, allowing family members and law enforcement to flag individuals in crisis, and doing more to collect data, which has previously had a lot in place preventing it. There is also some funding for intervention, and the announcement of a new ATF director.

I did not see anything in there about seizing already purchased guns, or even banning assault weapons themselves, but in general with the most devoted fans of guns, anything will be viewed as a slippery slope to leaving them disarmed and vulnerable to being herded into government camps.

They don't always go straight to the camps in the arguments; usually there is something about how none of these will work. Chicago is frequently cited as a place of strict gun laws and frequent gun violence, but when your area of strict gun laws is surrounded by many areas of lax gun laws, and free travel is allowed, maybe what that means is a need for stricter laws all around. Perhaps stronger federal laws are the answer.

Another common refrain is that gun violence is a mental health issue. That is more complicated, in that being antisocial and violent would probably fall more into sociology, or at least more into personality disorders than what we normally think of as mental illness. For example, if a kid shows up to school with a gun after his girlfriend breaks up with him, because his ego demands that he does not let a woman humiliate him, maybe a psychiatrist could help with that, but the cultural aspects of masculinity are a bigger problem.

Also, if an argument breaks out at a family gathering where people are drinking, and someone gets shot because the guns were as readily available as the liquor, again, maybe family counseling could have helped them resolve the reasons they keep fighting, but it isn't that anyone is mentally ill. Maybe they are kind of jerks, and have emotional damage, but it's not a mental health issue in the typical sense.

To be fair, I have not noticed that the people who claim that the gun problem is a mental health problem have shown a strong interest in funding mental health care, so there's that.

And none of that was even how the issue came about, because the other big argument is that you can't ban anything because the 2nd amendment was put in place so that we could rise up against a tyrannical government if we needed to.

This is false. 

Let's check with the Constitution.

First, the 2nd Amendment says...

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That does seem to tie it in pretty strongly with the militia, at least based on the order in which it is phrased. What else do we know about the militia?

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15, under things that the Congress shall have the power to do:

"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;"

The militia is under the control of Congress, not for overthrowing them.

The Constitutional Convention did not include a standing army, though the Continental Army did exist. 

Washington himself was pretty keen on having a regular army. With his military experience, that made sense. He pushed Congress for that, and the United States military was created officially via bill on September 29th, 1789, over a year after the Constitution was ratified. Washington still called on militia for help during the Whiskey Rebellion (1791 - 1794). Technically with the National Guard we still have military forces under state governors whom we keep well-organized and bearing arms.

The occasional quote from Thomas Jefferson (who was often a hypocrite) aside, the founding fathers did not picture themselves becoming the tyrants they had deposed. If they had, while it might have seemed possible then, with current technology no amount of Bushmasters is going to successfully take over the government unless they have the help of the military, making it a coup, and not a reliable path to a better democracy.

That doesn't even mean that there is no room for semi-automatic weapons under private ownership, but just saying "2nd Amendment!" is not an effective legal argument. It is also not effective as a moral argument. 

"Possession is 9/10ths of the law" might be a better argument, because there are certainly a lot of guns out there, but I would appreciate some deeper thought, with less parroting.

I would love to see some consensus that there is too much violence, and some acknowledgment of how it supports existing power structures, where a woman is much more likely to be killed by a man, and people of color are much more likely to be killed by cops (even when the people of color are unarmed and the white people are armed). I would appreciate some acknowledgment that the lack of willingness to address those disparities may indicate that you are okay with the imbalance if it is in your favor, which is evil.

It should now be easier for me to avoid tangents in the next post. 


I mean, I was also tempted to go into something on the intentions of the founding fathers that was going to reference two books, but that was more on general intentions than on guns specifically, and then I didn't. I think I am okay for now.

However, I think if there is another point to be made, it is that I do not say things lightly. I really try and research and think a lot, and that doesn't mean anyone else has to agree, but there is a respect and commitment included with my preparedness that I would like to see respected.

Which is precisely how we get to tomorrow's post.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Review retrospective: Native American Heritage Music

Twitter and the people on it were teaching me a lot about the importance of representation, where people of different races, genders, orientations and abilities are seen and heard. 

That became an influence on the music I listened to fairly early, though with varying results.

Not all of them will make it obviously into this retrospective. There were the posts on women rocking and Black women rocking, and there will be another post on Stevie Wonder (one man, but a man with an enormous catalog). 

There will not be specific posts on my attempts to listen to artists of Asian and Latinx descent (both terribly inefficient terms), but they will show some presence in the section on bands 401 - 500 and the segment on punk. (I have pretty much worked out which topics will be covered now, even though I am still going over old reviews.) My attempts there have not been coherent enough to create separate topics from them, and the same is true as I start to seek out more disabled artists and queer artists.

A lot of what I have found is good, but after a while of searching, there often comes a point where they start finding you. You know enough people making recommendations, or you are reading enough material, or listening to enough similar artists, that the connections start being made more easily.

I am much further ahead with Black and Native American musicians. That makes sense, I started sooner with regular reading, even before I was on Twitter. I started observing both history months in 2010.

At the time I was focusing on reading history, but then you find that there are still people here (should be obvious, sometimes isn't), and they are writing books about now, and they are making music now.

If I go back and forth between Indian, Indigenous, First Nations, and Native American, don't mind me. Different people prefer different words, and that is even more so because I have a lot of Canadians on the list.

My first review of a Native American artist was Bunky Echo-Hawk, who is also a visual artist. In fact I can't find any of his music links anymore, because he is focusing more on the canvas art. However, that I knew of him at all happened because my sisters and I saw an exhibit of his work at the Field Museum in Chicago.

I reviewed him in April 2014, but then I started making a point of finding more Indigenous artists to review in November. I found artists I liked a lot, and artists whose work was personally meaningful, and artists who made me think, often all in the same person.

If Bunky Echo-Hawk's art was not limited to music, he was not unique there. I have read books and poetry by some of the musicians, and others have done beading and carving.

As I started having more reviews under my belt, it occurred to me that I could have a November where not only all of the reviews but also all of the daily songs were by Native American artists. I started looking to see if anyone previously reviewed had new music out, and found almost everyone was at Standing Rock. I had cared before, but then it felt that much more personal.

This year, I am going to do the full month in November. I will also make a playlist bringing in may songs and artists. It is about the only way that I can handle limiting it to seven songs now.

I know there is more to come, and I am excited for that.

Songs for the week:

“You've Got To Run (Spirit Of The Wind) by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq -- A big reason to choose this one was that with so many choices and only seven songs, I have to appreciate the two-fer. But also, it's Buffy! Some of my earliest memories are of her on Sesame Street, and her mouthbow.

“Clash Of The Clans” by Snotty Nose Rez Kids -- I like Snotty Nose Rez Kids for their humor and theatricality. It feels more like early rap to me, before it got all gangster (maybe with some overlap), including skits on the albums.

“Mehcinut” by Jeremy Dutcher -- He has a lot of beautiful music, imbued with a spirit of holiness. This one, though, captivates me so much, that I probably do not take in his other music enough. Some songs do that.

"Walk Alone" by LightningCloud -- RedCloud was one of my favorite reviews, but by the time I did it, he and his girlfriend, Crystle Lightning, and he had teamed up to form LightningCloud. I love all their iterations, but chose this one because the pandemic has made poverty and homelessness worse, and we need to work on that.

“Anti-Social” by Frank Waln -- Waln was one of my earlier reviews, but this video is brand new, uploaded on March 11th. I think it fits with the times.

“Lonely With You” by Tracy Bone -- There is so little country that I like, that I am impressed with Bone that she makes me like her so much. This is probably my favorite of her songs.

“Don't Forget About Me” by Michael Bucher -- Just a reminder that we can and need to do a lot better.

Thursday, April 08, 2021


Tonglen is a form of meditation that was mentioned in Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression by James S Gordon. I thought his other book, The Transformation, was better over all, but it didn't mention tonglen and it was a good experience for me.

Here is a general article on the topic:

This is from January. I finished reading the book early in October, and two months later (in early December), I tried it. The article came out a month after that, so it was not a part of my experience. However, it is good to have another explanation of it, from someone more experienced, because once again I am pretty sure I did it wrong.

This is how I understood it: you focus on someone in pain, and you try and do a trade, taking their pain away, and sending good feeling. Gordon recounted spending time with an ill friend, but noted that you did not have to be physically present. Its purpose is to cultivate unselfishness, but also seemed like it could relate to connection, with the individual and with the greater world. 

There was another meditation I had tried earlier, going back and forth focusing on people who have harmed you and people you have harmed, focusing on forgiveness. I'd had a good experience with that, which I am sure I will write about eventually. Tonglen felt like a similar activity but with a different focus. It felt important to do.

I was also scared to do it. Ready for another mission story?

I don't think this is common knowledge, but my family and I are furnaces. We run hot, which can include functioning well as a source of heat for others. This is why we prefer cooler weather.

Fresno does have hot summers, but there are still seasons. Also this might have happened in Modesto, which would often get a damp fog in winter. I just remember that Sister S was cold. 

I was not. We were sitting next to each other anyway, so I put my arm next to hers so she would feel that heat. That was just arms, though, and I kind of mentally pictured this transfer of heat to her. 

It worked! She felt better, but then I was feeling cold and a little queasy, which was weird. I guess I overdid it, but I hadn't really thought I was doing anything.

Certainly, it is possible to give too much, though it normally wouldn't happen that way. Maybe the issue was not that I gave her my warmth but that I took her coldness, which I had not visualized or intended. Maybe I didn't have enough warmth for both of us.

It was an experience that stuck with me, without me ever having derived a full meaning from it. It worried me in the context of trying this. I was not ruling out a mystical connection where his pain would be lessened and transferred to me, but I was not really expecting it either. However, sometimes you can fall into things. A memory can pull up deep sadness, or anger, or fear, and I was a little worried about that, but it still felt important to do.

I did not feel a mystical connection. I did feel light. 

As my breath went in and out and I tried to visualize, what I felt was tremendous peace. The source of that peace was the assurance that I was enough. I could absorb his pain, or help him with it... whatever it was right to do, I could do. 

The path from undefined knowledge that I was disappointing and lacking to clarity that I was not had a lot of stops along the way, so there had been groundwork laid for it. Even so, this was a profound shift.

I am enough. How was it possible? Yet clearly it was.

And amazingly, I was enough while still unemployed, and broke, and fat, and single, and everything else that had ever seemed like proof that clearly there was something wrong with me.

Still enough.

Which must mean that next week we will get into the unemployment crisis that started in 2008.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

A fear allayed

No, not the fear of never finding love; that one is still a work in progress.

However, that other family fear -- that maybe I couldn't be a good mother -- has been put to rest.

There was a general fear that with my family experience and as messed up as I have been, that I would mess up my kids too. When I have worried about that, never having kids seems better. 

More specific fears have included a concern that in my effort to compensate for never feeling understood, I would end up being really annoying in my efforts to understand them. Given that my fear of marriage was that my inability to accept love and feel secure in it would be annoying for my husband, let us just note that the general fear of being a nuisance is strong with me.

There was also a fear that I would not know what to do with rebellious kids. Yes, developing my own personality and sense of sovereignty did annoy my father, but overall I was a pretty good kid. I have no idea what you do with a destructive child. I hoped that if it came up I would figure something out, but I wasn't sure.

I have also had two people suggest that I was too selfish with my own time and would hate motherhood, but I am pretty sure that was projection. I have handled having my time taken over and over again.

That's the thing: I have had experiences where it is possible to believe that I could have done okay.

It started in late 2012, when I inadvertently adopted a bunch of depressed teenagers on Twitter. 

That was the one that made me feel like a hypocrite when I couldn't conceive of deserving happiness for myself. 

It was also the one that really brought home the significance of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and rape culture, and a lot of other problems with the world. 

It was often stressful and scary. There was deep depression, mental illness, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation. There was talking someone through hallucinations, for which I was surely not qualified but suddenly I was in the middle of it, and fleeing didn't feel right.

Of course, that was the genesis of the Long Reading list, but then, that is my answer for issues where I don't feel like I know enough: research and pray, and love a lot. 

That is probably what I would have done with a rebellious child. 

Later with tutoring and teaching youth Sunday school, I got to see other, perhaps easier aspects of adolescence. Before that I got to teach nursery, and explore the world of toddlers. 

That was mostly joy. I get that having my time with them being limited helped, and I am not saying there were no issues. There was a runner once who got farther than was comfortable, and one pair of broken glasses... yeah, things happened. Still, they were cute and fun, and then their parents picked them up. If some were harder to work with than others, I just rolled with it. 

Observing them also really helped me understand my kitten.

If any mothers wish to be offended by the comparison, you may do so. I know there are differences. 

I also saw with the toddlers how a sense of safety allowed greater freedom and calm, and I saw that with Lilly. 

For the kitten we got so young, and for whom I was the main early source of food and affection, she sees me as her mother. We have three other cats and a dog now, and have had many other pets over the course of many years. As much as I have loved them, and they have loved me back, this relationship is different. 

It has also been a source of great joy, even if this source of joy regularly chews up my hands. Oxytocin is real, and is not limited to humans.

The last thing has been the most painful, but it has also been the one that has most shown my mettle. Caring for my mother has tested me more than anything else, but I have passed that test.

There were ways in which she became more childlike. That could be endearing as she slipped her hand into mine, and when simple pleasures worked.

Even more, there were many ways in which she required more patience. There were many times when she was upset or scared, and when I needed to understand her perspective, even if it did not reflect reality. 

There were many times where I had to get up earlier, or stay with her until she fell asleep. 

Keeping her bathed and dressed and feed and stimulated... I did all of that.

Maybe in some ways it was like having that argumentative, angry child. She said some horrible things, and they weren't right, but she believed that she meant them.

Through all of that, I did pretty well.

I wasn't as good as I wanted to be. I had these ideas of what a more energetic person might come up with, but there are whole books about the "good enough" mother. If it were something that applied at the time, I would have read them all.

I did read a lot about dementia, and senior health, and whatever else seemed relevant.

Of course, those were all things that were happening when I was older. Under my original life plan when I was going to get married at 20 and then have a child every two years, until I was 40, I might not have done so well. That plan had lots of problems.

There is a limit to how much you can ever know about what would have happened, but once again it seems possible that I was never as hopeless as I feared. That has been encouraging overall. 

It also means that it is time to talk about tonglen.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

That time I lied to my therapist

No, I have never regularly attended therapy, but I did do two sessions a few months apart with the friend of a friend when she visited from out of town.

She was a member of my church, so we shared a belief system. I was very interested in the methods. She used muscle testing to focus on key ages as a way of guiding the issues. If you think that sounds hokey, I get it, but I had seen some things done with muscle testing for physical health that had impressed me, and I was at least open to it.

In fact, when I talk about things that happened when I was 6 and 14 and 17, it was those sessions with Lisa where it started to make sense to me why some memories were so sharp for me, and the significance they'd had. 

That was over two sessions. One of the most important ages was 31, and Reed, because in fact I had turned 32 by the time the session happened. I still don't think it lasted for more than a year, but the time passed was significant.

As we got to the heart of my problem -- not merely feeling unloved but that love wasn't possible -- she took me through some things and asked me if I could know that I could be loved.

I could not, but I was also sure that if I said that she would want to talk about it more. I did not want to talk about it more. I believed she would try and convince me and I was not ready to be convinced.

So I told her "yes", but I did not mean it.

There are a few different issues here, so it does get messy, but I want to try and touch on them.

First of all, unwillingness to heal is a problem. With patients suffering from combat-related PTSD, there is often a sense that healing would betray the unit members that they lost. Survivor's guilt can be an issue. 

It might be worth thinking about how an overemphasis on the value of the purity of a woman and analogies about chewed up gum might be damaging for people whose trauma stems from rape. That's not my issue, but it seems worth thinking about.

For me, I was used to knowing that something was wrong with me, and that was not tied to any specific event, but predated memory. Furthermore, it had been made quite clear through advertising and entertainment and other sources that beauty was a debt that women owe to men, and that beauty is incompatible with fat. 

It was a lot of conditioning to get over in two sessions.

I think it was reasonable that I did not get past it then, but it does bother me that I lied. Honesty is important to me, and it is certainly important to healing.

There is another thing here, though, in that most of the times that I have lied, it has been because someone asked me something that they didn't have a right to know. There are certainly cases where refusing to answer is a very clear answer, but there is a lot to be said for being able to say, "That is none of your business. I do not owe you that information."

Though it is probably not the most productive way of answering your therapist.

It was my assumption that she would not let me stop there, not ready to move on, but I don't really know that. Not pushing people past where they are able to go is actually a thing that comes up a lot in therapy, and there is probably training about that. I probably could have been honest in that respect, though maybe admitting it would have its own pain.

I believe it can also be good to keep in mind that not being ready for something at one time does not rules out future readiness. Of course, that might have felt like hope, and hope was what got me into that mess in the first place.

At the root there was an unwillingness to be loved as I was; I wanted to get better and earn love instead. 

Getting past that was going to require discovering my anger, and understanding my body better, and even before that finding many people who did not think they were worthy of love either. I knew they were wrong, but knowing it gave me this vague sense of being a hypocrite.

It has been a long path.

Monday, April 05, 2021

31 and depressed again

My second depressive episode came about nine years after the first one. If I had to guess, I would also say it lasted about nine times longer. I did not do a good job of tracking the time periods for either of them; I was too busy wishing them gone.

The trigger was pretty clear, and embarrassing: a boy didn't like me. 

Of course it was more complicated than that.

Really, I was not that into Reed. I talked to him once because I ended up in a situation where I was worried about being rude if I did not make some conversation with him, but he was nice, and that was good to know. I still made a point of periodically going on dates with guys from church back then. 

(Specifying "guys from church" is important, but we are not getting into that today.)

The date went well, and then after the date went well, and I suddenly started to have hope that this could be the one. Usually the dates weren't that fun, or things were weird after, or we talked about his feelings for someone else and then he married her. I was always fine with midwifing that along, because I wasn't that invested in anyone; it's just what you were supposed to do. Honestly, even in my early 30s I was not feeling concerns about being an old maid or my biological clock. Maybe there was a part of me that knew.

Hope, though, positive feedback, was so rare, that it made everything different. That lesson learned at 14 -- that if a boy acts like he likes you, it's a joke -- maybe that wasn't true. 

Except he did not like me. It had been true. No one could love me.

Pandora's box was known for holding all of the world's troubles and evils, but it held hope too, and once they were let out, there was also the hope for overcoming them.

I had survived by shoving all of my pain and fear into a box. I was skilled at compartmentalization, and that is how I survived. I don't even know that I had stored my hope near my pain, but hope being dashed ripped the container apart, and I was never going to be able to put the lid back on the box.

Which, technically was not the best way to be. This was ultimately part of healing, but the path was at least eight months of crying. 

I was still remarkably functional. You can always blame red eyes on allergies. I am not positive whether anyone believed that excuse, but again, if you are getting your work done and paying bills, that takes a lot of pressure off. I was functional enough for that.

I was also miserable, and I did not want to live. I was not suicidal, but if something could have killed me... but first if I could have gotten some many saved up and be debt-free so everyone else would be okay... Depression did not kill my overinflated sense of responsibility, but it did use it as fuel.

One day I was walking to catch the bus. I had worked, then hopped a bus to the gym and worked out, and I was heading home. I was still so responsible and trying so hard, and still completely despondent.

I realized that if I had not gotten over it yet, I was not going to get over it on my own. That night I poured everything out in prayer. I did not feel anything then, but the next morning I realized that the pain was gone.

Back to that persistent question of whether I could have healed sooner; could I have prayed sooner?

Maybe some, but in retrospect, I had stored up years' worth (17, I assume) of procrastinated pain. I think I did need to go through a lot of tears before I was ready to even have the thought. 

If I needed to have that time of crying, did the prayer matter? I believe it did. I know how I felt, and that mattered.

Should I have started medication instead, earlier on? That is a trickier question, and I will probably spend more time on that with the third depressive spell. 

I had gotten some grief out. It possibly could have been more productive, maybe if I had been guiding it out instead of it flooding out on its own. It was not a perfect process.

There was one other important result: there was a part of me that now understood that my being unlovable was a lie.  Even though Jason, Matt, and Steve treated me like a joke, and garbage, and even though Reed had not loved me, somehow those things had nothing to do with my value or what I deserved or what was possible.

I say a part of me, because I still didn't understand how it worked. Clearly, no one had loved me, and I had lived long enough that someone should have by then, right? 

Knowing something intellectually is not the same as feeling it, or having habits that demonstrate it. Still, somehow, I now knew it was a lie, and I had not before.

And it is possible that a lie that I myself told had been an obstacle to healing.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Review Retrospective: Bands 201 - 300, 2015

One thing I noticed this time is that I had a lot more songs to listen to.

It is not necessarily that the bands got better -- though there were some pretty good ones -- but I had started making more of a point of naming specific songs in the reviews. If one song was more typical of the sound, or signified a switch, or had an unusually good intro... I mentioned that.

I think that is a reasonable thing to do for a review anyway, but I think part of what led me to do that was that when I was getting to each band's song of the day, it helped focus my picks. Now, returning to the review six years later, it still helps focus.

The really interesting thing with that, though, is that for most of the songs that I am using for this week, those tunes and lyrics have stayed in my brain anyway. Oddly, one of the songs would play in my mind periodically, and I would remember scenes from the video, but I couldn't remember the band name or the song name. Then, as I read the review, I knew when I saw it.

(You could argue that they didn't title well, but there are different philosophies about that.)

Last week's post mentioned a focus on Black musicians, primarily women but not exclusively. 

This was also a year when I leveled up on my reviews of Native American artists, which I am going to spend a little more time on next week. That was largely a matter of taking a reading month that I was already celebrating, and then finding musicians as well. If knowing about the history of different groups is important, it is also important to know where they are now. Representation matters.

It would be very easy to only review white men. Reviewing musicians who follow me on Twitter, that is mostly what I get. I love them, but I also know there is more to the world. Once you start looking, that becomes very clear, and that is a thing I feel good about.

I was writing about race a lot, but I also had Drum Week, and I started writing these lists of problems and things I needed to work on. Mom was getting worse, and I worried about money, but that was all going to get much worse in the next year. 

I only went to three concerts, including one I needed to leave early, but they were some pretty good shows.

Two other things stand out about the third hundred band reviews.

My standard practice was to tweet my reviews to the artists so they would know, but I had written one that I felt was negative. I found the music disappointing because it felt weakened by overproduction. That's not even a slam so much as a matter of taste, but I decided not to tweet the review at him. 

I never thought about how someone who follows me (which is why I did the review in the first place) might still see it, and also that some people search their names.

Anyway, he saw it, and then he thanked me for listening and writing about it. We engaged, and it ended up being a really good experience. It didn't have to be, but I appreciate that it was and I still have great affection for him.

The other thing that was really cool is that I realized I had gotten better at being able to recommend music. I had listened to enough different bands, noticing differences and similarities, that I could extrapolate more and be more helpful.

That I realized that because I was followed by someone I had heard of was just icing on the cake: 

Songs for this week:

“Forget Me Not” by Words & Noises -- This is the one I couldn't place. Sometimes I am not even sure that the song is that good, but it sticks with me.

"Feel The Beat" by Third Place -- I have avoided this song because of the gratuitous profanity in the intro, but I do like the band, even though they were one of those bands of young men where it's like, just get over your dicks; we know you have them. They might have grown out of it by now.

“Glory” by John Legend, from Selma -- Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe Winner, and it deserved it.

“Ghost Town” by The Millenium -- I get mad at this video for making me so sad, but it works for the mood of the song.

“Springtime Out The Van Window” by Anthony Green -- This is really beautiful. I am in general more fond of Anthony Green than his music (a thing that happens), so I am glad he has this one that I can unreservedly love.

“For My Own” by New London Fire -- There will be at least three New London Fire songs used by the end of this retrospective, and I am fine with that.

“Baggage” by Derek Bishop -- Derek is the one who did not take offense to my saying his music was overproduced, and I will always respect him for that. This was my favorite of his songs before the interaction, and has stayed with me, but means more to me because of the interaction.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

A structure of healing

For all of the sadness that is coming up in future posts, it is going to be on the path of healing.

I want to pull one more thing each out of Chu and Herman.

Rebuilding Shattered Lives: The Responsible Treatment of Complex Post-traumautic Stress Disorders by James A. Chu, 1998.

Mind you, since this 23 years later, there could easily be better models, but Dr. Chu did put forth what he called the SAFER model in the book, elements that were helpful for progress.

  • development of Skills for Self-care and Symptom control
  • Acknowledgement (but not extensive exploration) of traumatic antecedents
  • Functioning
  • appropriate Expressions of affect
  • maintaining collaborative and supportive Relationships

Clearly it is a retronym, trying to force a word that makes sense, and not particularly memorably. It still contains helpful information. 

For many of the patients suffering from PTSD, they felt like they had no control. Finding ways that they could detect and mitigate symptoms would be a victory. Being able to know that their trauma was valid (and there) was necessary to sit with before diving into it. Knowing that pain and making it through routines anyway, being able to express feelings without losing control, building relationships that offered support -- especially in contrast to previous damaging relationships -- these were steps that could be managed. 

They prepared the ground for deeper work, and if they were not in place they were an indicator that bringing out more details (that extensive exploration) of the trauma was probably not a good idea.

This is the earliest use I have seen of "self-care" (without having researched). You may notice that in many ways these work as ways of the patients being kinder to themselves, which is often not the first instinct of someone with Complex PTSD.

Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror, Judith Herman, 1992.

This quote from the beginning of Chapter 8 struck me:

“Recovery unfolds in three stages. The central task of the first stage is the establishment of safety. The central task of the second stage is remembrance and mourning. The central task of the third stage is reconnection with ordinary life.”

For the record, Dr. Chu referenced Dr. Herman frequently; it is not impossible that SAFER was a way of getting through that first stage.

It may seem like cruelty, but it is completely logical that you don't heal from a situation while you are still in it. There may be insights and tools acquired that will be helpful, but overall healing is impaired while the injuries are still being inflicted.

We may be more resistant to the logic of needing time to mourn. We have moved past the bad times, so it is only fair that now is the time to be happy. 

No matter how sad you might have felt during the trauma, it is unlikely that you were able to adequately grieve it, and that grieving is necessary. 

I do think part of that remembrance is also about gaining perspective. Denial can still be remarkably powerful, but once we are safe, denial should be one of the things that it is safe to let go of.

Obviously, there is some simplification there. 

I remember getting irritated as a youth when people would say that you can't love others until you love yourself. I was quite sure that I loved others; it was less certain that I loved myself. (And it kind of sounded like if I had a hard time loving myself it was one more thing to feel guilty about.)

In retrospect, I did have some love for myself, but when that increased I was able to love others better. 

Humans are better understood along spectra than binaries, it appears.

Maybe you are partially safe, but there is a danger you still tolerate, and maybe for very good reasons. Our lives are rarely that simple.

For me, I suspect that I have not mourned adequately. There have been hints all along, but lately there are frequent moments when there are tears just at the border, but they don't quite let loose.

There are tips on the internet for ways to lean into the crying, but that doesn't seem like the right answer at this time  They will come when the time is right. 

If I am lucky, the time might even be convenient, but I'm not counting on that one.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

My 18 to 25

I will now cover specifics reiterating that I was already mostly formed, but did get reinforcement during my period of emerging adulthood. Some of it will sound familiar.

To recap, childhood had left me feeling that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, and then identified that issue as fatness, as well as reinforcing that no one wanted to hear about my problems. 

It also gave me great consolation in good books and good friends, and looking forward to a future where I could create my own happier family by getting married.

Early adolescence threw a wrench into that by showing me that boys could not like me, so how could I get married? Except that if what was wrong with me was my fatness then I just needed to lose weight and then my life and I would be perfect. Since I was still imperfect, I got very restless and kept trying to change things, besides multiple failed attempts to lose weight.

(I don't really sound that different from a lot of girls there, I know.)

As I was sensitive to pain, but couldn't believe that my own merited any attention, I focused a lot on helpfulness, which I tried to have compensate for everything that was wrong with me, including the fat. 

(I know I am saying "fat" a lot, but it played an outsized role in my self-image. There is no way of clarifying that won't sound like a pun.)

Just one year short of adulthood, my father disowned me, leaving me with a real hangup about driving and possibly some concentration issues.

My turning 18 was quickly followed by some disillusionment about how being smart and helpful was not going to get me any scholarships. I hadn't been doing it in the right way. That's a cultural capital issue, but I didn't understand that at the time.

I'd had this idea once that I would skip fall term of my freshman year of college to explore Europe via trains and hostels. Yeah, I did start college late, but I was just working retail so I could afford to go. 

I'd earned 51 college credits in high school, though there were some duplication issues. I ended up working summer and fall and attending winter and spring terms (while also working) for my first two years at the University of Oregon. In between that, I reconciled with my father.

Toward the end of my second year in college I was inspired to go on a mission. I finished spring term, then worked through January, and then went into the Missionary Training Center at the start of February.

When I came back (22 1/2) I started working to go back to school, but my father had been out of work for a while. He took a temporary job in another state, but there were some accumulated issues. My first paycheck went to pay part of the mortgage and replace some dining room chairs that were falling apart. I remember this feeling very disappointing. Maybe adulthood was not all it was cracked up to be.

I made it back to Eugene for Spring term. Then after having gone 18 months with no income and being old enough that parental income didn't count against me, I finally qualified for a student loan that meant I was able to attend fall term for the first time in my life. I finally got to go to football games! Because remember, I could understand football now, after I took the football coaching class.

While I was at that first fall term, my father left my mother. I remember her calling me crying shortly before I left for the homecoming game.

I wanted to run back home and comfort everyone, but everyone agreed that was the wrong thing to do. It was hard, though.

I had also gotten an opportunity to try out for the Jeopardy! College Championship. That was a few weeks after my father left. A couple of days before my father left, one of my dorm's Resident Advisors (we had two RAs) disappeared mountain climbing. We were still waiting for news when it was time to leave, but he was already dead. They didn't find the bodies until spring.

I remember looking out the plane window, and there was so much pain everywhere; I just wanted to get away, for fun. It felt like it had been a long time. I talked my mother and younger sisters into going to Disneyland for spring break. I let them set it up. 

That actually got a little stressful, because PCC's spring break was the week before U of O's. I was up all night before the flight typing up my final paper for my History of China class, and mailed it from the airport. However, then I had an extra week of vacation. 

That started the tradition of my sisters and I going to Disneyland together. They had to try with friends once to find out that I was more fun. That should have been so obvious, but they hadn't gotten the same disillusionment with friendship that I'd gotten. (Other thing that happened in there.)

I graduated, got a job, and started helping to take care of things. I learned a bit about how unfair employment law can be, but the job market was still good then, and I was doing all right. When I was 25 I landed at Intel, where I spent the next 11 years of my life in one capacity or another. Not long after that, I wrote my first novel. After multiple rejections, I didn't try writing anything commercial again for a while.

A little after that we started having more trouble with my father, but I would periodically smooth things over, and I had already learned some ways in which to not be like him, even if I had not yet recognized his impact on my self-image. I didn't get disowned again until I was 33.

I periodically went on dates, without specifically dating anyone, but of course I was still fat so that was to be expected. I did enjoy my gym membership and I felt good working out regularly; it just had no effect on my size.

Ultimately, I still didn't really trust anyone to like me.

I was putting others' needs before my own, and sometimes I would get frustrated with that, but I was generally okay. There was a lot to do, and I was mostly happy with it. 

The first real crisis -- and my next depression -- did not happen until I was 31, with the next happening at 36. Later the year 41 was pretty eventful, and something major did happen at 46, but I had never previously noticed a 5-year cycle. I mean, other things have happened that could have felt like crises, but didn't, so maybe it's just a matter of losing equanimity and then needing to re-gain it.

And this last phase is still ongoing, but we'll get to that.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Trauma in emerging adulthood

I mentioned in an earlier post wondering about the time period between 18 years old (the cut off for Adverse Childhood Experiences) and 25 years old (when your brain should finish maturing).

It turns out that the difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old is mostly societal. There is additional growth and experience that happens all along until full brain maturity, but that is mostly what society allows and expects.

That changes. People in their mid-teens might already be working in previous times. There are concerns about millennials now because they have not hit the same milestones as previous generations at their ages, like marriage, parenthood, steady jobs, and home purchases. Different people blame different aspects, including the parents of millennials. 

If there are ways in which it is harder to feel like financial security is possible, so that increasing responsibility seems like a bad idea, that is going to affect many groups, and is worth looking at. Now, while much of the stability that existed before 2020 has evaporated... there's a lot to be looked at, though that is not the purpose of today's post.

I am mainly interested in the time period -- sometimes referred to as emerging adulthood -- because of two things that happened a long time ago.

One of them was Nancy Kerrigan getting clubbed in an effort to damage her Olympic hopes, which was in itself an effort to boost the chances of Tonya Harding.

(I have always believed she was hit in the knee, but Wikipedia says it was her lower right thigh. My guess is that the knee was intended, but missed, as a knee injury would have been much more devastating.)

The attack happened while I was on my mission, so I didn't really get the news at the time. I may have heard something, but my memories of it are something that happened later, probably relating to the legal proceedings. I remember people looking down on Kerrigan, criticizing her behavior after the attack and endlessly repeating two things she said that made her look nasty.

I might not even have remembered that, except that not long after -- when I was back home -- a friend of mine got hit by a car as he was boarding a bus. He had a full recovery, but his injuries were severe. 

There were emotional injuries too. He'd always had a pretty sunny disposition, but it took him a while to get over some bitterness. It is very possible that some of that was physical pain, but I strongly felt that it was mainly his sense of safety being taken away. 

He didn't have a car, so he rode the bus everywhere. I relate to that. It had been a safe and reliable form of transportation, and then suddenly it was all disrupted. It wasn't his fault or Tri-Met's fault, but one stranger who was being careless meant that all of that didn't matter. 

I remember it making me think of Nancy Kerrigan, and how much of a violation it must have seemed. She would have had so many skating practice sessions; finishing up and leaving practice would be so routine that you don't even think about it. Suddenly there is pain and doubts about your future and it would take a while to get over that. Maybe it would have been harder for being personal in her case.

What I decided at the time (so late 1994 or early 1995) is that when bad things happen to an adult, where you are pretty set in your ways, it throws you for a loop but you can recover. If it happens to a child -- still figuring out how the world works -- then there is a lot more danger in terms of how they will mature.

Kerrigan was 24 when it happened. I think my friend was 23. They survived, but they were not their best selves for a bit. I don't blame them.

It bothered me then that people were so quick to hold everything against Kerrigan, because, you know, if you have sympathy for her, that would mean she was milking it, I guess. Therefore, it is Harding who gets the movie where she is played by Margot Robbie.

Otherwise, without exploring that much further right now, it seems to me that society does an awful lot to maintain the ability of various people to inflict trauma while putting obstacles to healing in the path of traumatized people. 

If for some young adults, something that happens is the way they learn that life isn't fair, there are others who have always known, and don't have the option of not knowing.

And if we are ever going to address that, now as we try and recover from a global pandemic and a Trump presidency that is not a complete outlier in terms of global turns toward fascism and authoritarianism... 

I don't know when there is going to be a better time.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Let's hear it for dissociation!

Let's give dissociation a hand.

Yes, you should be hearing that to the tune of Deniece Williams.

Dissociation is a broad term for a break in how your mind handles information. I will mainly be referring to gaps in memory but that can also mean feelings of disconnection to creating new identities for handling trauma.

One of the surprising things for me this time has been the things that I don't remember. Obviously it makes sense that I focus on things that I remember, and on things that seem important, but noticing holes this time has been a little disturbing.

At the same time -- and this has mainly come through reading, rather than noticing it for myself -- I have learned to see the value in not always remembering everything.

It is not just that I read these books at all, but I believe that it was helpful that I read them so close together. There was synergy in doing that, which is even more impressive when you consider how much of that was dependent on how long it took for other library users to get through with them. 

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence -- From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Lewis Herman, 1992.

Rebuilding Shattered Lives: Treating Complex PTSD and Dissociative Disorders by James A. Chu, 1998.

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope, 1999.

First of all, let me only recommend Dr. Herman's -- the first -- book. Dr. Chu's book is really focused on treatment. Besides being very academic, I suspect it could be discouraging to patients as they read about ways in which they can be difficult. 

Then I found the yoga one very irritating. This philosophy will not work for me; I just want to be more bendy. 

And yet I learned things from all three of them. 

(My other note is that I sometimes say "disassociation". It kind of sounds more natural to me, but it is not standard use and I shouldn't be pushing for an extra syllable.)

Cope (appropriately named, at least) wrote about a balance between awareness and equanimity. As you increase your awareness of various things -- whether about the universe or your past or your motivations, hypothetically -- it can be a lot. You may need time to catch up before you learn more.

I don't believe he even mentioned that in the context of dissociation; that part was more about how sometimes you will feel like you need to rest, and you should listen to that instead of pushing on. However, because I was also reading about dissociation, and seeing how I would gain different insights at different times, it made sense. 

Previously I had thought of that strictly in terms of having more knowledge and experience, as if deeper intellectual capacity was the only need for deeper insight. It can also make sense that sometimes what you need most is more resilience, or more time away cushioning the blows, or a better support network.

The other thing that really hit hard was (I believe from Dr. Chu) that children will sometimes see themselves as "bad" because it is easier than accepting a parent as "bad". I don't know how much dissociation can protect your self-image, but there is a big wound that comes from not being able to rely on a parent. 

Most of the Adverse Childhood Experiences relate to a lack of parental support and stability. Your brain might try and protect you from that.

The other thing that was reassuring was from Dr. Herman, in the section of the book talking about groups, where it mentioned that recovering the memories does not tend to be an issue, once you are ready.

It came up in that section because often having a safe place to talk about it, and some reassurance that you were not the only one -- that there was not something exceptionally bad about you -- appears to be very helpful.

I mention this because I know that at least a few readers have things that they don't remember, and I hope it is comforting. 

I also mention it because I need to say that writing all of this out takes a toll on me. That I only blog about it for a few days each week helps, but also, if sometimes there are posts like this that are more detached and less personal, I do it to lay groundwork, but also for the rest.

I may at some point need more of a rest, where I write about movies for a week or I simply don't write at all for a week. I want to keep pushing through, but there could be snags, and I don't know. I am just putting that out there. 

But also, this is kind of a quiet week. I am going to write about something more observational tomorrow, and then about a time period that was not too heavy.

And I hope it will be educational.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Review retrospective: Black women rock!

In 2015, at least 170 of the daily songs were by Black women, plus one agender person.

It started because people kept mentioning various Black women artists. I noticed it more after I started doing music reviews. I had been taking notes, and I decided that February would be all songs by Black women. 

It was not merely that I had more than 28 days worth of notes, but also that the notes kept jogging other memories. Then when I would track one note or memory down I would find other things. 

For example, I remembered girl groups from the 60s. The Supremes were the most famous, but I remembered others; was I forgetting some? It wasn't so much that as that there were so many I had never heard of. I ended up including songs by 19 girl groups. Well, one of them had a man in the video who seemed to be a part of the group, but it didn't seem right to leave them out.

It was also more complicated than I thought. I tried to go in a kind of chronological order, but many of these women have had exceedingly long and varied careers. 

One example of that is Cissy Houston. I have always been told that Whitney Houston's mother was a gospel singer. Well, the Sweet Inspirations were the most religious of the girl groups, but I wanted a solo song too, and the first one I found sounded like disco to me. I'm not saying that she hasn't sung any gospel, but defining her as a gospel singer seems to overlook a lot.

2015 was probably the exact right year to do this. Selma started its wide theatrical release on January 9th (I wrote at least six posts on the movie alone) and then The Wiz Live! aired on December 3rd.

Ledisi was in my notes, but she was also in Selma. That alone would have made me review her (and did). 

Despite my attempts to cover everyone, I had not thought of nor posted a song from Stephanie Mills. Then people were talking about her because of The Wiz Live! in which she played Auntie Em, but also because she had played Dorothy in the original stage version, from whence she got her signature song, "Home". 

I had only seen the movie version, with Diana Ross, but then once I looked her up, she also had a Grammy winning hit single, "Never Knew Love Like This Before" from 1981. 

Yes, I'd heard that before. It had been a while and I had forgotten it, and I had never known her name, but yes, there was something familiar again.

The theme of that whole process really was that there is always more. There is more to remember, more to learn, and with so much variety there will be more that you love.

This was probably also the listening project that inspired the most reviews, though I will eventually review more of the Greatest Guitar and Emo bands. 

Regardless, just from going through and trying to give more Black women the song of the day, I ended up reviewing (in order) Ledisi, Leona Lewis, Fefe Dobson, Joan Armatrading, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Solange, Noname, Melba Liston, and Mary J. Blige

And even though it wasn't part of that, I did get around to reviewing Stephanie Mills.

And at the time I still did not know that Terrie Odabi, or Angélique Kidjo, or Lady A existed. If I were to do another big focus on celebrating Black women in song, I would have to include them now.

There are still artists that I should listen to more. I really should make a play list.

As it is, my greatest regret of that original post capturing the songs -- which has been an invaluable reference -- was the name: Musical Black Girls. I was kind of thinking about Black Girl Magic, and I remember thinking that "women" was better but that some of them were pretty young, and also sometimes it feels weird stating outright that you are making a distinction by race (though less so for me in 2021 than in 2015). And of course, a lot of the songs weren't rock... I worry too much.

It was still a good effort and I feel good about it.

Songs for the week:

“Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis -- I initially got most excited by her Christmas song, "One More Sleep", but this is good too.

“Drop The Pilot” by Joan Armatrading -- It was a fight with "Down to Zero" but this won.

“Throw It Away” by Abbey Lincoln -- This song has a lot of versions, but I think hers is the best.

“The Day I Found Myself” by Honey Cone -- I had not heard this one before, and it is pretty great.

“Everything” by Fefe Dobson -- I listened to my old favorites this time around, and realized I had forgotten this.

“Pieces of Me” by Ledisi -- So many years later, this is still such a beautiful song, with so much heart.

“I Decided” by Solange -- She had three songs that I absolutely had to use after reviewing her, but this is my favorite, and I think the most fun, with many of her other videos being exquisitely serious.

Related posts:

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Laying groundwork when you don't even know

I have mentioned some frustration with writing about my experiences when I was 6 and 14 and 17, because they were so familiar. That has not been the case with the mission stuff (21-22).

Perhaps because it is so new, it feels like the most illuminating. Those events were not as formative, but they help me understand the rest better. 

I suspect it is because they were not formative that I was not thinking of them on my own, but it is very helpful that they came up. How did that happen?

Back in 2015 I was going over some things, and I wrote out a list of Things to Do. One of them was transcribing my mission journal. 

I don't remember when I started feeling like I wanted to do that. I seem to remember it not having any particular logic. For some of the goals, I knew why they seemed like good ideas, or had an idea of what they might help and how.

It took a while to get there. I didn't actually get started until 2017. I made some progress, getting a few months in and adding copious footnotes.

Then my hard drive crashed.

I had hoped for a while that I could recover the data, but that isn't going to happen.

I have wondered whether I could just read the rest, or start typing from where I left off, so still going through the complete transcribing process, though not coming away with a full transcription. 

I am going to have to start over and complete it. I am not doing that now. 

It appears I have more things to learn. Therefore, at the end of this blogging series I will not yet be a perfect and perfectly emotionally healthy person. That is really disappointing.

I still believe that the amount I did brought up enough older memories that I got what I needed for this time around. That's pretty good.

It came from listening, once again reinforcing that I am not on my own in this. I am being guided.

I had thought this past week that maybe I could look some things up and get my memory jogged, but I wasn't finding the right places. 

I did find some more on that Christmas and being scolded by the elders, so at least here is an anecdote.

From the journal, I was short one hour on study, and my companions were short two hours each. I am pretty sure that happened because we'd had to leave early one day, thus getting up early, which made it reasonable to nap in the afternoon. Except back then, once I was up I was up, so I think I studied and made up one hour while they napped.

At the time, a normal day involved one hour of companion study, an hour of gospel study that included thirty minutes of reading in the Book of Mormon, and one hour of language study if you were not speaking your native language.

None of us were even missing a full day.

The elders - on the other hand - had not made their goal of teaching five lessons for the week. I think they got some push back on that, and that made them feel more need to put us in our place, except we refused to go in. That is from the journal, like even then I wrote that I thought they were just making a big deal about us because they had been chastised.

And yet, for all the times when criticism has brought me down, this couldn't. Those missing hours had all gone into spreading Christmas cheer, and we had been exhilarated with the things we were doing. I was riding on a high from that, and I had no regrets.

I still ultimately don't. 

I knew I was supposed to go on a mission. I have no regrets that I went. 

It would have been nice to not have this unexamined void of paternal approval and trust in my lovability, but did I want a completely different family? Who knows how I would have turned out then?

I am still ultimately happy with the life I have led. 

I do want to be better for what comes next.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Coming home from a mission is an adjustment. For eighteen months, I was always with at least one companion, and all I did was church stuff. Sure, you do laundry and buy groceries. We flipped and spun our mattresses every few months. Most of what we did, though? Overwhelmingly religious.

For the first five months back I attended both my home ward and the singles ward. Six hours of church was comparatively nothing. Then, with the schedule change for the new year, the two wards overlapped. I ended up choosing the singles ward, where I stayed for many years.

Obviously, the thing that was closest to being a sister missionary was visiting teaching. You have a companion for that, with whom you deliver a spiritual message and pray. I had always done my visiting teaching before, but right then it probably meant more to me.

I got a companion with whom I clicked instantly. As much as I loved my old friends, after I changed course in high school we were not quite as close. I had become more of a loner. After eighteen months of never being alone, finding a good friend was huge.

Looking back, I can see that there were some inequities in the relationship. I did care-taking for her that was not reciprocated. Once when a lesson was going to be very emotional for her -- hitting on past trauma -- I went outside with her. We talked through the class period and she felt better. 

Another time we were going with a big group to see a movie; and then she heard that it would be inappropriate so was fretting. (It was The Brady Bunch Movie. I went to see it later. It was fine.) That night we did a temple session instead, and she was relieved. I would have liked to do the big group thing, but that's what friends are for.

(I also alerted her to a creepy guy sneaking up behind her with mistletoe at the Christmas party. She was so grateful; but he held a grudge.)

I don't remember her doing similar things for me, but she gave me rides; that was huge for me. It was enough for me to feel liked, and that I could rely on her for fun, social stuff.

Then I couldn't.

It started with another group activity: a hay ride at Sauvie Island. There were three or four of us going together, but I think she was the one that made us late. We missed the hay ride. Then she ditched us.

When the wagon came back we started talking to people. One guy had driven by himself, in his sports car.

He had been pursuing her before. She did not like him originally, but this was where he started winning her over. He offered to take her home via Old Germantown Road, which would be so romantic. We couldn't stand in the way of that.

Off she went. 

My night consisted of riding out to Sauvie Island and then back, in the dark, with my friend for only half of the trip. I should have stayed home.

That was October. A month before, several of us had gone out to dinner for her birthday. As my birthday (January) approached, I really thought we would do something similar. About a week before, she mentioned that she would be going out with him that night. 

I thought she was planning something for me. She hadn't even remembered me.

That night, on her way to her date, she stopped by with a care package. It was bath stuff, which is so generic and so not me. 

She did feel bad, but the guilt didn't change that now that she had a guy, she didn't need me anymore. I know she would not have wanted to see it in those terms, but if there wasn't room for a friend and a boyfriend (who did become a husband), what other way was there to see it?

Apparently this is a common event, but it was a first for me. One thing about being a loner who manages her socialization through activities is that the coming and going of individuals is just part of the flow. I had been coming out of that. This was a major disruption, and I went right back in.

After that, I tended to focus my socialization more on where I was needed. Did people need help with something? Is this a person who needs someone to talk to? Will this person skip the event if someone else isn't going with them?

I don't want to give the impression that I only hung out with people as service projects. It is more accurate to say that there could have been times and people that I really wanted to hang out with but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Pre-pandemic, I had been working on that more. I was trying to make myself socialize more and to override the worrying about it. 

I know it is possible for people to enjoy spending time with me. Likely, even. It is still hard to feel it. 

It gets harder once most people have significant others and children, plus now we are older and get tired more easily. Is that rejection or being busy? My self-esteem has a hard time differentiating.

Of course, a lot of that is that old worry that people have thought of me as annoying or will remember me as annoying. I get a lot of warm welcomes, but those foundational beliefs that get in there don't get out easily.

I am good at liking people and at loving them. Those are two different skills (though it is the greatest thing when they overlap). I have found people who feel it and respond to it and that is all great. 

I still have a hard time believing people will reciprocate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Results of my mission

From yesterday's post, yes, I think I picked up some of my comfort with nonconformity on my mission. 

I'm not even that wild -- most of the things I do are very average and traditional -- but just because something is traditional is not enough of a reason. If tradition is the only reason, then forget it.

I think that was a good change. 

Otherwise, I mainly became more me. 

I learned more about the immigrant/refugee experience, and prejudice, but I already had a tendency to care about that, and I definitely had much more to learn. 

The thing that started in college with the possum, where I started learning that it was okay to show vulnerabilities and flaws? My mission reinforced that, but it wasn't new.

A tendency to focus on the needs of others over my own (but also with sincere caring)? Already present.

There were two things that were new.

I now consider that dark spell on my mission to have been an episode of depression. I did not identify it as such at the time. Back in 1994 -- despite depression already existing -- I don't remember encountering anything that could have guided me on that.

I did not deal with it productively.

Without knowing what I needed, I did ask for help. We wrote weekly letters to the president. I had told him what was happening, but I had not heard back. The feeling of being ignored did make it worse.

Something happened with the car. Right before that I think I spilled something on my skirt, so I changed my skirt and left the apartment key in that pocket. Because of the car thing my companion didn't have her key. So the Assistants to the President gave us a ride back to our apartment, where I discovered that I didn't have the key, so we were locked out of the apartment.

I broke down on the door step.

However, it was not a coincidence that the APs had given us a ride and walked us to our door. They had been tasked with checking on me; they just didn't mention it before then. 

Them mentioning it earlier might have been helpful, but I was so good at maintaining function they probably didn't see an opening. Apparently what I really needed was a dead car battery, a wet skirt, and enough things going wrong so that I had to let all my defenses down. 

Gratefully received (with the gratitude coming later).

We talked about it. It did help knowing that I had in fact been heard. I still didn't know what to do with it. I remember writing out a list of good things about me. It felt unconvincing, but nonetheless, I did get better. 

Remembering a President Hinckley talk, I suppose you would say I forgot myself and got to work. There is a point to that, but there is also a point to actually healing, which could be preferable. What I did instead was shove it all back inside again, but after the breakdown I was able to, and it got me through.

Here is what I have learned from my other bouts of depression: the genesis seems to be prolonged evidence that I am not enough, and cannot be enough.

When I was going through my normal over-functioning with unhealed trauma, there was periodic emotional spillover. I would get frustrated with all that was asked and accepted of me, and the lack of support and appreciation, but if I was still succeeding at taking care of everybody and could believe that I could keep it going, I could manage. I might have an outburst, but then I would rein it in and be back to normal.

That was pretty much how I entered the mission field, and how I came out of it.

Maybe my real problem had been that I hadn't had any real outbursts, keeping them all inside because contention is bad. It is much easier to yell at your family as a regular child and sibling than to yell at companions as a missionary. 

Perhaps this is why it was more common to be passive-aggressive. Obviously the preference would be that we could talk meaningfully and productively about when we were hurting each other or judging each other. Realistically, I am not sure any of us knew how to do that, or had built up comfort with doing it. Many much older people struggle with it and we were mostly kids.

However, this is where we get to the other change, and it was a bad one.

Whereas previously I was mainly insecure about the ability of boys to like me (and we are getting to the point where they will need to be called men, no matter how immature), I now had serious doubts about whether even women could like me and want to spend time with me. My worry of never finding romantic love had expanded to include all types of affection.

As much as companion issues contributed, something after my mission really reinforced that and drove it home.

Monday, March 22, 2021

100% obedient

Disclaimer: This is going to be the most overtly religious of these posts. I am religious. 

If it sometimes seems like I am not, that may be due to frequent frustration with other religious people. It frustrates me when they say things that are wrong, but there is a special frustration when it is something where I feel like I should agree, but kind of don't.

Obedience is stressed a lot to missionaries, and there is a logic to that. These are primarily young people, far from home, and there is a lot of safety that comes from following the rules and procedures that are there for a reason.

It is also possible to become kind of weird about it. 

For example, maybe it feels like obedience that you use your language as much as you can. However, as you increase the amount of Cantonese that you speak between the two of you, and that extra companion who is studying Lao becomes more quiet and withdrawn as she is more excluded, are there potentially some other important violations?

Truthfully, I do not generally think in terms of obedience. When I think in terms of doing what you know to be right, I think of that more in terms of integrity, and then paying attention to others' needs and trying to serve them feels like more of a matter of compassion. Obedience fits in there, but other things are more important to me, without me ever being particularly disobedient. (Though I am not perfect; perhaps more focus on obedience is what I am missing.)

Regardless, in the mission field, obedience is not just the key to your safety, but also to your success. That is why missionaries will get these ideas about being "100% obedient", because then we will get baptisms. 

The philosophical problem with this is the same one the Pharisees had: it is too easy to decide that the key to that is adding rules upon rules, like having to be out the door rather than merely being working once your day starts.

The practical problem for that mission at that time is that there had kind of been too many baptisms already. 

"Too many" sounds like they shouldn't have been baptized, and I don't exactly think that. It's more complicated.

Years before we got there, some missionaries in the area who did not speak Lao or Cambodian or Hmong nonetheless found people who spoke those languages who were willing to listen. They had children translate and they baptized a lot of people with really fast growth. 

On an average Sunday, less than ten percent of our members would be in church.

I have heard very cynical stories about people coming out of the font with requests for furniture. That may have happened, but I don't think it was only that. I have taught people and felt the Spirit there. It is a very easy thing in that moment to feel that this is true and good and that you want to be a part of it.

It is not as easy to maintain that feeling. It is not as easy to break patterns especially when there is strong social enforcement of those patterns. Therefore, when you are teaching people who have not been baptized yet, and you talk to them about attending church and giving up smoking and drinking, they probably know a lot of baptized members who have stopped going to church and restarted smoking and drinking (if they had ever actually stopped, which is not guaranteed).

We'd had some baptisms. People we'd taught and with whom we'd shared great experiences did not always keep going to church. Some did, but there is a lot that goes into it. Transportation was huge. I get why some churches buy buses, but that's not our way.

At times we tried various ways of increasing our contacts so we could teach more people and have more baptism. This mainly ended up with us meeting a lot of people who weren't Lao, where even if they were interested we had to refer them to other missionaries.

That's why my companions were standing outside the door; they thought that would get us to more baptisms. I thought that using our time more effectively would be more likely to get us there. In theory, there were people out there who would be glad to be baptized, if we just found the right ones and taught them effectively.

Concurrent with coming out of my depression was a moment of clarity, and my focus shifted to member work.

Those temporary conversions were not fake; they had felt something and could feel it again. We started focusing on reading The Book of Mormon with different member families, and helping them set goals for that.

I am grateful to Sister M for going along with it. It was counter to our training, except for the part about being guided by inspiration. Probably one thing that helped was that in Modesto we had taught some younger people who did not have parental permission to be baptized. In helping them find ways to keep the fire alive until they were adults, we had some experience with that.

Also, yes, there is effort involved in receiving the Holy Ghost, but we often saw that with the people we talked to --  especially children who were baptized with their families and then the whole family stopped going -- that they still remembered things and responded to them. 

We wanted to harness that, so we started setting up visits and talking to members, and finding out who could read and who needed scriptures. It was a really wonderful time.

We never got chastised for it. Even though it would have made sense for Sister M to train the first incoming sister, we were able to stay together until it was time for me to go home.

Shortly before that, there was a possibility of me being transferred to Merced. That area was picking up. Word was that there would definitely be baptisms there, I found that I didn't want to go. I was where I needed to be, doing what I needed to do, and I wanted to continue with that.

I don't regret that at all, and I did not consider myself disobedient or a rebel. 

I may be a little more skeptical than most of doing things the way they have always been done.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Review retrospective: Bands 101 - 200, 2014

The first 100 bands -- especially with all the concerts -- was exhilarating. The second 100 was more about continuing strong.

Concerts played a role again, but one of those was a wishful thinking fulfillment. 

Dave Hause was going to play a free set at Music Millennium. I really wanted to see him, but there was a conflicting family activity. We took Mom to the Evergreen Aviation Museum, and I can't regret that. They've had trouble staying open, and at that time she was still able to enjoy it, which was not going to last.

I wrote a review for Dave Hause's music anyway; it was my hope that somehow it would guarantee that he would come. That may sound silly.

He was my 85th band, and my 82nd review (sometimes I would double bands up for different reasons). Just a few months later he came to the Hawthorne Lounge, and I got to write up that show for my 117th review.

That was a bit of a trend for that year. I also wrote reviews for Torche, Alkaline Trio, and Lit, hoping to bring them my way. I have not seen Lit live yet, and the Alkaline Trio show was kind of a bad experience, but nonetheless Torche came and that was a great show!

Also, it is nice to remember being optimistic and thinking the world was full of possibilities.

I had quite a few bands from New Jersey, US and Manchester, England, but also I reviewed quite a few bands from Portland and Seattle, and that was good. As much as there clearly were "scenes" that appealed to me, I didn't want to forget home.

If there was not an obvious musical theme, the theme of my life was writing, and lots of it. 

I had been wanting to do a month where I wrote one different 6-page screenplay every day. I finally did it in October 2014. I even did it on a day when I worked a full day and went to a concert (Lemonheads and Psychedelic Furs).

Perhaps the theme was that I had established my writing rhythms. I had gone through the comic book writing, and the screenplay inspired by that first concert, while also blogging regularly; I could do it all.

It is amazing to remember that was once me, and that theoretically could be me again.

A lot of that writing was about music. Over the summer I had done some series on music videos. There was quite a bit of writing about comic books too, and libraries, but I had gotten the hang of writing about music and I was doing it all the time.

(Drum week wasn't going to happen until the next year, but I might have been thinking about it.)

One thing that has been coming up as I choose songs for the week is what to do with those bands whom I like more than usual, but who have not been a big enough influence where doing a whole post and week makes sense. That is especially the case with Dave Hause and with New London Fire. 

Of course, I have given them songs of the day many times, but more than that, in addition to remembering to periodically go back and visit the bands you absolutely love, revisit the bands you really like as well. Maybe you like them only because of good music, and not that they wrote the soundtrack for an important part of your life, or got you through a hard time. That's okay; good music is worth a lot.

I am taking notes for after the retrospective is done, but probably I should revisit any of those bands that are still going for it after all these years. 

It is terrible to see how many kept it going for a decade or so, but then couldn't make it through the pandemic.

Daily songs:

“Feet on Fire “ by Slow Readers Club -- Best video concept.

“Half Awake” by We Are Forever -- They kind of border on boy band for sound, but I like them anyway.

“Pray for Tucson” by Dave Hause -- I have no connections to Tucson, but this hits me really hard this year.

“Write It Off” by Fox & Cats -- Good energy. They had a stripped down sound but really elevated it.

“Under the Mushroom Cloud” by Birds in the Airport -- This is almost a novelty EP, because he is usually collaborating with other musicians in totally different veins, but it is so brilliant,

“Away From Here” by High Pressure Flash -- The album cover doesn't match the sound, but I do like this song.

“Here I Am” by New London Fire -- Out of many good songs, this is the one that most represents me now.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

How it comes together

I have had three episodes of depression in my life. This was the first one.

Before that, once or twice a year everything that I was tamping down would spill over and I would be crying and angry for a few days. Then, having gotten some of it out of my system, I could go back to functioning normally. I was completely aware that the things that I was sad and angry about were things that were always there, but sometimes I had a temporary loss of the ability to handle it. 

This was different. Instead of an overflow of emotions coming out it from inside, it was at least a perception of outside judgment crushing me down. I was still able to pull myself together to go to appointments and teach; those were good distractions from the darkness inside but the respite was only temporary. Possibly it being so new made it feel more hopeless. I definitely did not know what to do.

I didn't associate it with the incidents in the previous post; that literally only happened this year when I was looking at some other stuff. Once I had the thought it made sense, but up until then it had all been a mystery.

The information in the previous posts matters for a lot of reasons. You can hurt people without meaning to. You might only mean to bug them a little when you end up devastating them. That is one reason kindness is so important.

Yes, my father kind of was trying to devastate me when he disowned me the first time, but -- and it took me a long time to understand this -- that was on him, not me. Understanding when it is you and when it is someone else and when it is partly both is a big part of healing.

I looked competent (which was mostly true) and confident (somewhat less true). I was also the person who'd had a sense of something being wrong about me that predates my earliest memories, but with many memories of that sentiment being reinforced.

I would sometimes be caught of guard by this wave of nausea, and a feeling that there was something disgusting about me or around me, that I couldn't trace or explain. Upon returning to college I would take a class on the French novel, and Sartre's La Nausée was in there. It didn't explain my problems, and his understanding of it was different from mine, even now, but it was interesting to know that it wasn't just me.

I did mention it to one of my companions. She said it probably wasn't anything to worry about -- just Satan -- and it didn't happen that often. Regardless, none of my companions knew how deep some of the hurt inside me was. I didn't know myself, how could they? The most common feedback I got during that part of my life was that I was like a rock. People would feel all this strength emanating from me. That was true, but I was also vulnerable.

Similarly, I did not know about Sister M's previous trauma, or that things in Modesto were reminding her of it. I am not sure that finding out sooner would have kept me from that one correction, because it seemed pretty harmless. She was on a trajectory where things were going to spill over anyway, though in some ways it might have gone down differently. Honestly, things could have been worse.

There are a lot of things that are hard about being a missionary; they aren't reasons not to go. (They might be reasons to have some experience with real life and jobs and to get out of the bubble before you go.) So, that two consecutive young missionaries found me lacking... it's not really their fault that they were wrong. (But they were indisputably wrong. I stand by that.)

For Sister W, the color thing was pretty stupid, but for someone who valued being cute and bubbly so much, it may have been a burden being fat (which she was). Maybe another fat sister who was well-liked and cheerful and appeared confident seemed like a threat. She could have been a mean girl in school (sadly, her church membership does not guarantee that she wasn't). She may have had disappointed feelings about not being married. There was still some stigma that sister missionaries were girls who couldn't get married. 

Mind you, I am not criticizing her for being fat, and I have a lot of sympathy for it messing with someone's head. I am against being mean because of it. With that said, I feel so much better having been a little mean about her. I realize I have known a lot of people like her, and I could be fine never thinking about her again, but I am glad that I posted about her sucking first. It appears to be part of the healing openly acknowledging that in this way, she sucked. Sue me!

That just leaves that early experience at the MTC, and then those two sisters waiting outside the door while I stubbornly tried to ensure that we could have a productive day. Those are the "100% obedience" cases. There are some specific things I need to get into there, but that will be next week.