Coach

I’m taking advantage of a chance to work with a new acquaintance who’s training to be a coach. I’ve never had a coach before! The idea of having someone—ANYONE—to look out for me is really appealing right now!!

But also: I’m suspicious of why I’m doing this.

Some things I know:

  • The way I was working pre-Pandemic brought me a degree of financial stability, novelty, recognition, and stimulation that was deeply pleasing to me
  • The way I was working pre-Pandemic spread me thin, encouraged me to keep playing the hits, caught me in a web of social media addiction that didn’t make me happy, took me away from developing deeper and more intimate relationships with the people closest to me
  • I have a big fat A+ Student complex and a Perfectionist streak a mile wide
  • I have at least five personal projects that all feel like they’re languishing at 89% completion and if I could just get them finished everything would change
  • I have a knack for translating complex internal experiences into stories that speak to people
  • I feel pressure to translate every complex internal experience I have into stories that speak to people
  • Making work that connects me with other people nourishes my soul
  • I used to believe that by pulling off impossible deadlines I was somehow training to cheat death
  • My life as a caregiver (and co-parent-habitator) is so different from any other life I’ve lived before
  • I live in a society that systematically devalues the kind of labor I’m spending the majority of my time doing right now
  • I live in a society that systematically valorizes the kind of career I was building before I transitioned to this season
  • Doing more will not ultimately protect me from the grief of slowly and inevitably losing my dad

I’m sniffing around the idea that I might be using a coach as a taskmaster who will “get me back on track” and help me recapture the cadence of my pre-caregiving life. Do I really want that? Or is it just my best guess at what will give me the good brain drugs, and I’m so hungry for something that feels better than the inevitable decline I live with every day that I’m scrabbling for it with everything I’ve got?

Better Late

Put up my 2022 wall collage today.

A collage on a mirror in Lucy's room. There's a veiled woman at the center, surrounded by other imagery. Two halves of a pomegranate. A boat. A seashell.

I’ve been taking these pieces out and shuffling them around my floor for months, stacking them this way and that way, leaving them awkwardly in the middle of the room for weeks before whisking them back to the box from whence they came. I kept chickening out about committing to a single composition to have up for the rest of the year. Something about the imagery I was choosing scared me.

I think it’s about cycles and mortality and isolation. Writing letters to the underworld. I still don’t know, but it’s up.

2021 came down earlier this week.

A collage on a mirror in Lucy's bedroom. There's photos of swarming swallows, kangaroos, a woman standing on the seashore, a lighthouse, dolphins. A crow. Groucho Marx.

That year ended up being about multiplicity and sexuality and ingenuity. A sense of the absurd. Family coming in threes. The ocean as home. Situating myself in a flock. Returning to a primitive sense of belonging.

2020 was my first. Jocelyn put us up to it during Hi-Fi. I’m a wall maximalist, so the idea of putting imagery up wasn’t really new, but she encouraged us to focus on images only. No words. This continues to appeal because I’m shifting my brain from thinking in words to thinking in pictures. Allowing the meaning of something to be layered and evolving over time.

A collage of postcards on a white wall. They features images of the Ojai valley, seascapes with rocky arches, an angel holding a trumpet, succulents with sharp leaves, a tiny hedgehog.

This first year felt very instinctual, since I had no idea how the exercise would unfold. I just went through my big shoe box of blank postcards (everyone has one of those, right?) and picked things that felt…something. Good. I don’t know. And lo and behold I ended up with something that was saying, even before it was something I’d acknowledged consciously, “Time to move back to Ojai, you numbskull.”

I mean, it was saying other stuff too. “It’s okay to feel prickly for a while” “You’re going through a tunnel” “Hey, there’s a lady trapped in here who’s great and you should probably set this other stuff aside so you can get to her,” not to mention “GET IN THE SEA.”

I was a really nice thing to have at my desk, because I could just space out and stare at it between bouts of answering emails or watching city council meetings or drawing or whatever else we were all doing on our laptops for so much of 2020. Like being in a gallery all the time.

The longer I looked at it, the more stuff seemed to come out.

Zip Books

Stumbled onto this page on my local library system’s website while looking for a way to request a graphic memoir about care homes and learned about something magical: ZIP BOOKS.

It does my heart good when I yell about library stuff on Twitter and lots of people share the tweet. The Internet being hot for libraries gives me faith in society. Although it’s also rough that the library’s website is so labyrinthine that I had to stumble onto this program by accident. I wish every library had a website as functional and fancy as a startup meditation app.

(I really liked The Library Book by Susan Orlean.)

Haven’t been blogging because my brain is really excited about thinking in images right now and also I can’t seem to muster the follow-through, so this is one of those “done is better than perfect” posts.

Two EXTREMELY Different Phone Lines

Since launching The Right Number in 2020, I’ve become more and more aware of the ways people are using phone lines in creative projects. There’s services like Dialup, where you can connect to strangers for live conversation, and SARK’s Inspiration Line (a formative one for me), but there are two new ones that I caught this week and needed to put next to each other:

A photo of a hand holding a slip of paper torn from a sign with many such slips on the bottom. It's blurry in the background, but says There are things missing in us all. This isn't one of ’em, but maybe it has the shape of ’em. Call 503-928-7008.

My friend Anis, who happens to be the current Poet Laureate of Oregon, is running a phone line this month where you can dial every day to hear a different poet read you one of their poems. It’s lovely.

For poetry: 503-928-7008

A black and white image of a hand making the "call me" sign with pinkie and thumb extended, beside a mouth with its tongue out. The text above reads bureau of telephone fornication

My friend Shing, who happens to be A MENACE (and brilliant creator of the absurd), just launched an existential horror phone sex hotline. You will definitely not be speaking to any live humans if you call, but you will probably shudder and then laugh and then shudder again. Make sure you Press 8 for aftercare!

For horrible bureaucratic phone sex: 760-993-5828

Poetry for Everyone

I contend, though, that there is poetry for everyone. Everyone. Folks who don’t get it just haven’t read the right poems. The stuff we are educated in poetry with during our school days doesn’t help. Too often, “classic” is just a euphemism for worn out. What do I have in common with some crusty old English aristocrat who died 100 years ago? Give me an ill-tempered, one-eyed old birdwatcher who swigs red wine and eats fried chicken from Albertson’s instead.

But I was one of those people, for years and years, who didn’t get it. Then I read a particular poem that knocked my lights out. Words and lines formed together that felt like they were pulled from my own brain. I never looked back. I never had any idea — or intention — that anyone would ever call me a poet until it started happening. It felt pretty good. It felt a little subversive. I love that about it.

Now poetry is part of my every day. I read some every morning. I don’t so much as write poetry as live it. “The purpose of poetry is not to learn more about poetry, but more about life,” Robert Bly said, and I believe him. I tell my poetry kids that poetry is life, how they live their lives, how they share their lives. The study of it is the study of what it means to be alive. What ends up on the page is the least important part of the process.

I really love Chris LaTray.

Things I’m Noticing After Last Week

(Prefacing this post by saying I’m safe, just processing what’s happening and trying to keep tabs on what it all looks like on the inside. I’m too scattered to make art about it, so a list will do for now.)

  • I’m on a zero-to-sixty short fuse, which is uncharacteristic for me. Screamed at my phone when my bank wouldn’t let me log in for more than ten seconds before telling me my session had expired, scared myself.
  • I’m exhausted, all the time, tired even after nine hours of sleep.
  • Feeling pressure to return to “normal” and pick back up where I left off. Whiplash.
  • My heart arrhythmia’s kicking up. Usually I only notice it happening once every couple months, maybe less, but I had a real big one the other day that got my attention.
  • Hyper-aware of how little water my dad is actually drinking on a day to day basis, starting to roll new behaviors into my routine to make sure he hydrates. Resentful about how much work this is while also feeling guilty that such an obvious issue has escaped my notice until now.
  • Higher than average number of body chills. I’ve started to wonder if they’re a sort of micro-stress cycle completion attempt. I don’t know. I started trying to pay more attention to my body chills last year, because I get them a lot and they often feel like information—typically positive, or at least linked to allowing my body to really feel rather than clouding emotion with action.
  • Weird appetite stuff.
  • Higher-than-average need to control my work and surroundings, hungry for certainty and logic.
  • A lot of sobbing, often (like the anger) appearing and disappearing very fast. The feeling of a summer storm.
  • Spending a lot of energy reassuring people that my dad is okay, while deeply conscious of the fact that I am not.
  • Time doesn’t quite make sense, can’t grasp that the ambulance ride was five days ago. Doesn’t help that it was 90º the day that it happened and now it’s cold and overcast. Feels like another life.
  • A floating awareness from things I’ve read and friends I’ve helped support and experiences I’ve been through before that this is trauma making its way through my body in a completely natural way, but still feeling a sense of horror and powerlessness.

Just writing this all down helps me recognize the signs and patterns of a mental health downswing, and to understand that this will pass with time and a lot of care for my heart and my body, but also it sucks in the present. That’s reasonable.