Saturday, January 29, 2011

what do i do if i feel hollow on the inside?

Remember that feelings are fleeting. And if they're not fleeting, negative energy isn't worth putting more negative energy into. Motivate yourself to think "ridiculous" - believe in the impossible, skip some classes, call out sick. Take on a task that everyone else thinks is fruitless or too exhausting or, well, "impossible" is a ridiculous word I've heard a lot in my life - and is well-worth challenging. I know I love accomplishing the "impossible" - go. for. that. adrenaline rush.

Find a good book that moves you - that grabs you from the dust jacket, or the back cover blurb. Rent a movie that either entertains you and makes you laugh, or divulges you so deep into your situation that you cry it out and art it out (I fully believe in art'ing it out, whatever your medium). Write about it. Paint a bit, even if you feel you can't paint (been there, done it). Call a friend on the phone. Read up on your symptoms and your body - find some natural herbs or hit the gym to get the endorphins running. Read inspirational quotes. Listen to leadership speeches.

Call a hotline if your feelings feel too overwhelming for you. Knock back a drink of two (if you can). Spend a night where you focus on enjoyment - however you get that thrill or warm feeling. Meditate. Write lists of positive things in your life: force yourself to. Remember that "haters gonna hate." Find ways to make your passion happen - whether that be a school program, or a new job, or a creative project you can start for yourself.

Cook a great meal for yourself or go out for a really freaking good meal. Take a long, hot shower or bath. Look at yourself in the mirror. Feel your limbs - remember that you are alive - and that life begets life, naturally breeding potential. Let go of your grief. Sing.

Ask me anything

why do you persistently refer to yourself as disordered?

I'm not sure I've ever referred to myself as "disordered," in that exact terminology - and the terminology is important. Do I have bipolar? Yes. Have I struggled with PTSD? Certainly. Depression and anxiety issues? You bet. Am I disordered? Mentally ill? I don't know. If I ever say those terms, it's only out of regurgitation that [that] is the way society labels people who suffer through the same sort of symptoms I go through. And when I say "suffer," I do mean suffer - in the sense that sometimes it is very unpleasant to be in my head - neurotic, stressful, and distorted occasionally. It's not something I would wish upon other people. Is it something I think is an overall hindrance? Sometimes. But, I also find a lot of inspiration in my strife - and firmly believe that my "illness" can very well be used as a great artistic source - which is basically the reason this quote is on my tumblr header:

"If I write RATS and discover that rats reads STAR backwards, and amazingly STAR is wonderful and good because I found it in rats, then is star untrue? Of course I know that words are just a counting game, I know this until the words start to arrange themselves and write something better than I would ever know." - Anne Sexton

"Ugly" can very well be found in "beauty" and vice versa.


“Everything great that we know has to come to us from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and created our masterpieces. Never will the world be aware of how much it owes to them, nor above all what they have suffered in order to bestow their gifts on it.”
- Marcel Proust

Lots of amazing, groundbreaking things have come from people with "mental illness." Just a thought.

Ask me anything

do you still want to be a writer?

Yes, although nowadays, I almost care less about the words and more about the impact of the words. Growing up, my writing was very self-centered and focused on the mere idea of writing (the perfect combination of words)... now my idea of writing is based on "How will this affect everyone who reads it? How can I describe this so effectively that people leave moved, more self-aware, or changed? How can I write a sentence so that other people will gain from it (rather than just my ego)?"

So there's been a lot less poetry and a lot more blogging and memoir. And I'm not sure how long that will last. We'll see :)

Ask me anything

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pushing The Limits Too Hard: Burnt-Out and Desensitized Versus Radical Self-Care

Today was one of those days for me where I couldn't help but think about limits: the limits we have that get pushed too hard, the limits that change and weaken or strengthen every day - either by forces in ourselves, people we know, or society in general. I thought of my tendency to do everything at a breakneck speed. To burn out. College in 3 years. Work multiple jobs. Warnings, anxiety around my natural tendency to speed on highways. Running out into the cold with my hair still wet.

I thought of how I get into a shower every day - waiting for the water to warm up, not too hot or cold - but always, inevitably, what was initially acceptable heat, with length, became too cold. I thought of the mentality I got in where 20 credits became so acceptable that 24 credits was somehow logically self-argued as "manageable" one semester. How I treated every relationship with a guy reverently, every slight improvement in the current dateable's behavior over the prior relationship somehow amazing. I think of car accidents - how, at a certain speed, what could have been a minor accident with a small bump or scratch turns into a massive dent, or even, a death. I think of just yesterday when I was cycling so fast on the cycling machine (professional terminology here) that I was doing over 100 rpm's and my knee accidentally slammed into the machine, scraping it (lots of "ow"s). I remember thinking "this could've been avoided if I had just slowed down." But I didn't. And it didn't stop me from going over 100rpm's on the machine today either.

I then think of movies, and trailers like this:

that serve as a steady reminder that we are growing routinely desensitized to the idea of limits - that we disregard our own limits, we blow-out our limits, we forego self-care, and we forego the care of others. We are shockingly burnt-out. Going too fast. Working too hard. Pushing too extremely.

People try to do more shocking and shocking things to break through the clutter. They resort to violent images or sexually offensive images or demeaning images...

And unexpectedly, I had to grapple with this concept more today as I was triggered for the first time today in over half a year, flooded with memories, every part of me disconnecting so fervently and rapidly, blinking in and out as if you were repeatedly seizing (I would imagine), as if you were deftly and quickly yanking out all the power cords in the house and then putting them back in again two seconds later. Every part of you feeling crusted with panic, electrified with fear.

And then all these rape articles began popping up - about Republicans redefining the terms of my body, about trauma studies showing that people with childhood trauma dying 20 years earlier, of the Peace Corps rape increase, another rape kit story that I'm sure was/is both depressing and outraging. And I had to force myself to not read a single one of them because I didn't want to feel as if my heart was a combination of fireworks mixed with poprocks mingled with Minesweeper gone a-rye. I accidentally stumbled upon Blue Valentine, and spoiler alert, discovered a rape and domestic violence scene in the movie - and although I had planned on watching the movie, I had no intention of knowingly walking into those scenes, only to leave more panicked and scattered.

And I left more upset due to the fact that a lot of those scenes were self-justifying - that it demonstrated that domestic violence between a couple was a societally acceptable way to deal with grief, and although it highlighted the possibility of rape between a couple, it still enforced the idea that men had needs that needed to be met (sex) and they deserved it and should have it (despite a lack of a woman wanting to have sex). I left feeling hopeless, and desensitized to grief, but oversensitive to content.

And as I've lived the last few years as a testament to the fast-track, to the do-gooder societal "pay your bills, attend college, make something respectable of yourself," agenda, I've gotten burnt out on reading, afraid of my own tendency to disregard my own limitations, pivotally thrown out of conversations with the frequency I catch myself saying "but that doesn't make it better," or disregarded the moment I point out abuse (which is societally perceived as normal). I have gained an overall sense of hopelessness and helplessness when confronted with the high percentage of justification for violence, abuse, and trauma.... Which is to say: I've lost myself, and have grown highly affronted upon realizing how many others have lost themselves too.

I think of how fast I went. How hard I pushed myself. How easily and quickly I accepted the unacceptable and traumatic. And I get sad that the world reinforces all the behavior I grew up with, learned.

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." - Audre Lorde

So, I've spent a lot of time thinking, wondering, how it is that I could possibly love myself. Where I went wrong that I didn't learn how to love myself. And while there's many levels of complexity to deal with, I would like to say that this post serves as a beacon, a reminder that self-care is important. That slowing down could save a burn-out. That mindfulness is vital. That love for self should be equally important to whatever it is that you may be pursuing. That you should be one with the life you're living.

I want to be a testament. And I want to thank you for every courageous act you may have taken in the name of self-love and self-care. I want to thank you for being curious about your health, for learning to adjust your limits, for striving to be aware of what is society versus what is you. I want to thank you for seeking others whom actively encourage your creativity and love.

I want to remind you to love, to truly love.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Body Tremors: thoughts on somatics, pain, trauma, and healing

I watch as my client tremors, out of control, disabled: genuinely. A belt wrapped around the waist, my hand is lightly tugging, guiding, holding my client in place – helping move one deliberate foot after the next. I am a vessel to guide her: she is a vessel of movement. I am in awe – I think of all our body’s limitations and expansions. How vastly similar and different we all are. I think to myself of how I have never held or felt life so close to me, the spirit of it – the core of it: I watch as my client is forced to display the vulnerabilities unfortunately bestowed upon the body, and yet, still pushes through.

I think of my own struggles with my body. Of how an ex said he could feel me physically dissociate, as if my synapses were fried to the bone. Every communication between emotion, thought, and body: shattered. I think of how horrified I would be if that were to be on display, consistently. I think of the silence I have walled myself into before: letting phone conversations drop when the words became too heavy to announce. Real life conversations with expectant stares and annoyed tones. I try to imagine someone’s hand tugging at the words inside my throat, one stranded stutter of a grief cry after the next – every sad moment, estranged and wandering helpless without proper support. I imagine that to be the best possible metaphor: my writing as the vessel for my body.

It is in that one moment today that I realize how precious the cliché sentiment is of “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” or “even if your voice tremors, you must speak,” more aligned with the thought that even if our bodies tremor in the face of forward movement, we must trust that there is a safety net – that we can create safe spaces for our bodies.

As I convince myself to go to the gym yet again this morning – partially to offput the weight I’m gaining from my medication, partially for endorphins, partially because “I should” – I know I’m not fully into it. I don’t buy what I’m selling. I don’t tap into my body. I know this. Several times over, I’ve tried to write out my feelings towards my body – it is not a love letter, it’s a hate letter: it’s a “you’re getting in my way” letter, or a “you’re ruining my serenity” letter, or “I blame you for holding all the memories of my trauma” letter. It’s not pretty. The ink runs thick on the page and it feels like a stabbing more than a release. My body would be ashamed of me.

I treat my body a lot like my abusers treated me, and I am ashamed of that – and yet, I still can’t turn my eye towards my body. As I cycle away in the gym (literally), I’m sitting there with my iPod touch, tapping into the internet. Go to facebook, get to twitter, check into foursquare: keep the mind busy, preoccupied off the body. The moment I run out of internet things that I can feasibly check on an ipod, my attention is forced upon the cycling machine, and the numbers seem rude. Calories. Time. It never seems like enough. My body wants out. My mind wants out. I only go in for 30 minutes a few times during the week, and I’ve rarely left the gym going “oh was that it? Time’s up?”

My body says: you push me to the limits. You don’t care about me enough. You put me through sleepless nights and go to work when you’re sick. You push through migraines and nausea. You treat me like an infidel – you ex-communicate me. Why don’t you listen to my needs?

My mind says: you are only the vessel to my needs, the means to an end. You are full of emotion and inconvenient feelings, aches that don’t go away. You are stopping the flow of my potential. You ruin everything.

Ah, there’s the rub.

My mind says, Where’s your safety net? You’re a hazard. People have violated you before.

My body says, You need to let go and trust, let the air form around your body so that it knows what to catch. You need to be mindful of the space you preoccupy.

I drop into the silence in my car - for once, I am mindful of the space I occupy. Peeling off the static layers of “must do’s” and “ought to get around to”s, I compartmentalize in a way I usually don’t – I am a small body in this car, and this car is occupying a small space on a long stretch of highway and I am moving at a speed that is o-kay when I’m not rushing and I shouldn’t be rushing. I should be observant, mindful. I feel my wheels as if they are my own feet, rolling across the pavement: they move effortlessly forward, gearing towards whatever direction I steer them to go. I am mindful of this. I am mindful of this silence. I am mindful of my body. I feel all these layers of existence at once.

And I wonder how many more letters I will have to write to my body that are full of hatred, when the love letters will come. I wonder about the calm, the settling, the balancing. The mindful chaos. Every tremor a justifiable collapse into the relief of future hope and redemption.

And with thanks:
thanks for letting your body tremor into it’s safety net,
thanks for letting your voice whisper despite the roaring winds,
and thanks for daring to breathe despite the weight of your being. And yes,
thank you for moving when moving seemed impossible.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On Valuing Our Bodies: Roe v. Wade 38th Anniversary edition

I've never known the conflict of maternal instinct versus reality - I have never had to confront the decision of "abortion" or "life," or more specifically, my own life with a child's life - or even, my life and then the life of my child in the hands of another mother. I could not grasp the complexity of the situation if you asked me to. I want to make it easy in my head, because I am human - and human beings want to be in control of things, make easy black-and-white decisions. So, I say now, if you asked me, if I were confronted with a pregnancy scare, I would most likely choose abortion. But it's not for selfish reasons, it's not because I don't care about my body or that unborn child's body - it's because I'm petrified of the life my child could live. I'm petrified of a world that teaches us not to trust each other, and I'm petrified my child would inherit some of my own horrible genetics (see: bipolar), and I don't trust myself to be healed enough to fairly take on the weight of a child and give this child the love she would need to live a healthy life. I barely support myself. I think of these things. I think of two of my closest friends who are both my age (21) and are currently invested in motherhood, who are both pro-choice like I am, and chose to bring life to the world. One of these friends is having a baby that was a product of date rape. I think of how strong she is, how strong that baby will have to be, how tough this world is. I think it takes courage to raise a child correctly - to raise a child with love, and not fear. And I'm not ready yet. And I think it's equally courageous to admit your own limits, your own flaws, to make a jurisdiction over your own body and life, to think cautiously. As someone on the interwebs said in response to the Naomi Wolf rape apologist debacle, "I think we need to remind her that although speaking out about rape is brave, not speaking about your rape doesn't make you not brave."

I think we underestimate the intelligence and power in every woman in her knowing her body and her cycles and her life, the more we lean towards "pro-life" under the misconception that women are just using abortion as "the easy way out" as if it were some fad akin to drugs or as the adage goes, "If ____ jumps off that bridge, would you jump off that bridge too?" The preciousness of life scares me, the feeling in a moment overwhelms me. And I know that to pretend others don't feel this way is absurd. I do not know one person who has carelessly made a decision to have an abortion, who has not critiqued her own self before weighing the options. And it scares me that women who make smart choices are being judged based on the decisions they make with their bodies (whether it be to have the child or have an abortion). It's a trauma in and of itself.

I told my friend Amelia that I would work on doing a blog entry for this blog commemoration, and at first mentioned I had no idea what I would say. My expertise and field knowledge is not in pro-choice roe v. wade liberation movement - it's in trauma. I didn't see what I could write about, until I realized how easily one could mesh into another. Which is to say, women are frequently victims of abuse (sexual, emotional, physical) due to a hierarchy that actively seeks to oppress minorities, and give those who already hold power - more power. And I know that the majority of pro-life supporters are Older White Christian Males who have never first-hand dealt with this complex situation before. And I know that Older White Christian Males tend to top the power scale. And I know that in a high percentage of situations women do something that the oppressor's don't like, the sexuality gets assaulted, insulted, controlled, boxed in. The women become "whores," "loose," unintelligent, etc. And the more sexualized and uncontrolled the woman is perceived to be, the less she is listened to. Coincidentally, although I don't know the statistics within the population of women who have had abortions, I'm guessing there's a high correlation between women who have had abortions and women who's sexuality has been insulted or assaulted... if only because pro-choice sets the standard that a woman is in control over her own body and her own sexuality, and that idea is frightening to society. Similarly, a victim of trauma will also find her body being judged for what's occurred to her and what decisions she made - what was she wearing? what time of day was it? was she watching her drink?

And I get furious. And I go back to my academic papers, and shuffle through to find the quote that's setting off a glaring, loud alarm off as I think of all this:
“Whether or not a girl is targeted because of her sexual behavior, the effect is nonetheless to police her sexuality.” - Leora Tanenbaum, Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation

And I think to myself, yes, Roe v. Wade is more than just pro-life or pro-choice, it's about our bodies - every single one of our bodies, and how precious they are - it's about valuing our hearts, our integrity, our intelligence WITH our bodies, it's a movement of bodies that need to be valued, where all lives (born or unborn) need to be valued. It's a movement that says we need to trust that women will make smart decisions about their lives and the lives that will come after them, that women know their bodies and listen to their bodies, that women want to give the world a precious life if they can bear it - rather than risk the lives of two. Roe v. Wade, debates of abortion, are more than just abortion - they're asking if we trust women to be whole as a whole, it's about giving women a life without dichotomy, with both the intelligence and the responsibility of their own sexuality (rather than name-calling and slut-bashing or madonna-praising) so that they can make the choice to respect every body.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Transformative Language: To Live Validating Love (3/3)

To Live Validating Love
More on the Transformative Language Arts conference and what I learned from my corresponding Transformative Coaching Session

(see prior posts here:
Transformative Language part 1
Transformative Language part 2)

Which is to say perhaps it was a struggle of something different – between chaos and order. Between the inaction and action of self. What could be contained versus what was overflowing beyond my control. The recklessness of my own passions, the truth behind every forward motion: I wanted to destroy what had put me in this place to begin with – I wanted to destroy the thing or things, the set of people (or persons) who had made me hate myself, I wanted to tear apart every person who said the arts didn’t matter, I wanted to start a revolution where everything pulsed forward beautifully from even the most horrific corners of my mind. I wanted my revolution to be that of love – I wanted it to make up for my lack of love, I wanted to drain the anger out of my own system, I wanted to show them how daring a caring towards creation could be. I wanted to make an example of their dysfunction manifested in me.

And so, I’m really saying “I hate the system that trapped me into thinking perfection was necessary for life. I hate the system that automatically makes us distrust one another, oppress one another, put one another down for another’s gain.” When I get frustrated with labels, it’s because I’ve frequently found they do more harm than good – because every time someone has given me a label, something as simple as a declaration of “You are 21,” they have immediately standardized me into something I might not be and that’s frustrating. And I hate that I have to use the “oppressor’s tools” to dismantle the oppressor’s house, labeling myself for the convenience of mainstream society – some sort of insurgent anarchist linguist, slowly hoping to change misperceptions they more she says “cunt,” and doesn’t flinch, reminding people that Cunt was once a title of respect, thank you very much.

I want to believe in the better of mankind. I want to believe in the better of myself. And I want to trust myself enough to know that I have my anchor firmly planted in healing and not sinking in the dysfunction of a never satisfied society. These are scary waters to be treading, and I ask myself every day, “are you ready for this?”

My life purpose is to live validating love, effortlessly helping myself and others…

Breathe in, breathe out – I make sure to take deep breaths when this happens: my jaw clenches, my chest tightens, everything locks inside me. Hold down the fort, don’t let anything else in. Stress. If my rage at this lifestyle, the one society produces and repeatedly reinforces, were allowed to grow – it’d tear down a fucking nation. I get frustrated at my inadequacy, my sole nature of being only one, of hearing so many people consistently shoot down the idealism that comes with wanting to rebel and be happy about it (as opposed to being consistently, and stereotypically, angry and radical). Abby Hoffman is my hero for that. I would and could and have gotten crushed by the weight of people’s bitterness, depression, hostility, and hopelessness before.

My life purpose is to live validating love, effortlessly helping myself and others…

Transformative: I want to be transforming. Which is seemingly more difficult as I get older and things generally seem to affect me more – learning, absorbing: impact. It involves either the ability to remain in the present moment and treat it with due respect, or the capability to recognize that your daily efforts towards transforming yourself are enough (rather than the guilty voice inside your head chanting ‘more’ may have you to believe). Or maybe it’s both these thing. I’m really awful at both, though.

My life purpose is to live validating love, effortlessly helping myself and others…

And as I think now about how I’ve dealt with chaos and order, with anger and love, with living one emotion so supremely – it’s generally been when so many things have accumulated in my life that I have no other choice but than to accept, acknowledge, and indulge the feeling. Unfortunately, in my case, I’ve frequently adapted to chaotic change through depression or anger – where the world filled me up with so much distress and heartbreak and betrayal, I felt no other option other than to lash back out at the world. Never love. How do we respond to the world in love?

My life purpose…

I think of an article I read lately on Tiny Buddha that provided a very vivid metaphor for me to latch onto – the idea of our love being tanks of gas. Is your love tank empty or full? Due to the fact I’m really awful at self-care, my “love tank” is almost always on empty. But rather than make time to walk or listen to music or write, like I used to, I find all my spare energy is being put into stress. I refuse to accept the reality I live in: one where good intentions and hard work don’t seem to be enough. And I get scared: because I don’t know how to love myself, and I know that in order for me to create any sort of effective loving rebellion around me, I must first be a beacon of that myself. If I refuse to accept the reality around me, I must embrace the fact that I need to create my own separate reality and enforce it upon the world around me, by just my sheer presence existing under the idea and principle of love.

Love is:
- Being in the present moment
- Being a radical self-care activist
- Learning to listen to the news that may hurt
- Embracing pain as part of healing
- Knowing one’s limits
- NOT perfection
- Taking responsibility for flaws and mistakes, and treating the moment tenderly
- Forgiving yourself and others

“Don’t limit yourself to a particular job,” my transformative life coach (Deborah Howard) reminds, “speak your life purpose out loud every morning, every night.” My life purpose is to live validating love, effortlessly helping myself and others… For all my caring, I can’t help but struggle with it – with making sure to not see it as a goal to be accomplished, with putting myself first (rather than the bills or what other people think of me), or even in simply accepting the large proportions of the words and what they mean to me. It was easy for me to turn something I love into a “should” (if I can do this, and I have the potential to do more, I MUST BE MY VERY BEST), lock myself into certain career boxes, and generally follow those “you will be successful if…” tips. I made healing a rigorous agenda I attempted to repeatedly beat over the head and demand into submission. Shockingly, my recovery process does not listen to my authoritarian ambitious type-A Alpha Girl. It listens to 10 year old Victoria who, when getting pissed at her father one day, ran away to the library (that’ll show him) and spent all her spare money on candy (even though she had braces). Fuck yeah, candy.

“You can’t be tight and in control, if validating,” she reminds.

My life purpose is to live validating love, effortlessly helping myself and others....

And the craziest part of all of this was that these words, my life purpose words, were my choices – strung together by my happy, euphoric, fulfilled memories; compiled by selecting words that stung me electric; thrown together randomly, excitably, all active. This is what I chose. And even though it overwhelmed me at first, and seemed like a goal at second time around, it struck me the first time I heard it.

Which voice, amongst all these life demands, is yours? It cornered me. How do you carry this? I asked myself. Where will you take your love, how will you form your love? When can you begin life again?


Always, now.

And so I will end this blog entry in a way that my friend Jen seems to consistently end hers: with thanks.

Thank you for your presence. Thank you for learning, knowing, and healing. Thank you for struggling for life. Thank you for your unique purpose. Thank you for your words.

Transformative Language: An Inner and Outer Sense of Justice (2/3)

An Inner and Outer Sense of Justice
On the Transformative Language Arts Conference, and then some…

(see prior entry: Transformative Langauge part 1)

"Kheuta: an inner and outer sense of justice."
"Where language and naming are power,
Silence is oppression,
is violence." - Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence

"It is possible that I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through
and no space:
every thing is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don't have much knowledge yet in grief -
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master, make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me
and my great grief cry will happen to you."

- Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Robert Bly

In all honesty, I think the poem chooses me, and I’m not quite sure if it’s just a human penchant towards finding meaning where none actually exists, but nonetheless… Rainer Maria Rilke seemed to appropriately summarize what I was going through at that point in my life. And it didn’t take me long to grow entranced with my own discontent there, muddled deep down in the “stuff that matters,” the psychological catch-up. The economic chutes and ladders. I remember walking into the conference, thinking how desperately I wanted a cigarette, and yet I didn’t see anyone else smoking. Exaggerated malcontent. Peer pressure. I noticed the age gap. I noticed how fervently they believed in what they were doing - and in the cynically romantic way I lived in that moment, I didn’t realize that I was living a life where I didn’t believe in anything. I both sought out their guidance and resented their degrees. I didn’t want to keep feeling the need to defend the negligence of my physical age. I felt tired and small, worrisome and overloaded. I felt overambitious and unenthused. I kept pressing my pen to the paper, only to discover the faucet was tapped – there would be nothing coming out. And yet again,

"birds sing to call us back from our many deaths" and Kim Rosen’s voice floats inwards, towards the “psychic,” as the mind is called, and immerses me in the sadness of my own creative expiration, the rejuvenation in the movement of phrases, the hope in simply clicking into the rhythms, listening to tone and accumulation.

Yes, the same old story plays itself out again: artist seeks a community, an abandoned child seeks love, a beaten down woman seeks redemption when even she cannot forgive herself.

the air is charged with unsafe syllables, I begin to write in my notebook,

echo of the children's murder, I continue,

one house wall crumbling beside the next,
brethren in war.
All the mirrors elongate their eyes for
the shoulders that are still searching
for their shadows. How beautiful the
apocalypse of an unexpected moment
To grow up constantly measuring one's feet,
arching backwards, looking forwards,
leaving every surface untamed. The mirrors
hang their heavy heads on the lightposts,
curling around the lonesome tongues
peddling for the scraps of creation. So many
homeless phrases, texts crawling forward from
the sewers, the gutters in our veins. How
desperately we have been betrayed by our
silence, bound by the ellipses curling our
toes. Stumbling forward from the timid
ache of realization, the trauma of
the cold sun that yearns to break the frost.
These children have beckoned the seasons...

Yes, the rare unburdened moments of natural breathing upon paper, my body guiding my hands to write as Kim Rosen slides through her “poetry dive.” My notebook knowingly shoulders the truth I only barely admit:

"How I do not trust the world to provide for me,
the lungs of hypocrisy.
So curious, the strangers of fear..."

And yet, my mouth places the filler in the gaps a few months later: My life purpose is to live validating love, effortlessly helping myself and others….

It’s a tall task, I’ll say on the phone, and I’m competitive – I just want to view it as a goal at first, something that can be checked off a to-do list, accomplished in a liner “if… then” fashion. As if life was that simple, but remember:

“I can’t fake it. I get afraid. I get afraid they’re going to take it all away from me again – that I’m going to let them. I’m afraid of opening myself up for the loss. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And these are scary sentiments for me to admit, no matter how simplistic and obvious they may be. But it’s shut me down.”

It was easy, natural to begin cupping myself into the pockets of my own loneliness - a word perhaps ill-advised for the sentiment. Independent: another inaccurate word. But there I stood like a beacon, pushing everyone out so that I could let the words come in. One night, half-desperate to break my own silence, I huddled in a corner with laptop in hand, alternating between crying and staring into the blinking white screen. People walked by, and I clutched to my silence, attempting to strangle the truth out of it. A forceful liberation for a self-learned abuse. Feeling like they all looked at me as if I was something meaningful (a message of the future of writing, a message of transformation, a message to be dismissed, but a message nonetheless), rather than a younger person grappling with the frustrations of my own healing. I came from the mental health profession in the sense that my own mental health was of utmost importance, and writing is something that has helped this - and writing is a profession that I always seem to swivel back to. And again, different than the majority of people who can consolidate and simultaneously extend.

We must be bigger than the sound, but smaller than the ego." I scribble in one corner amongst all the pieces of paper flung together in my folder. But I do not share most of what I’ve written – the word absurd seems to stick and knead itself into the majority of my experiences there.

Absurd: a lot of my time spent within the conference was divided into the two minds of the modern society - torn between self-nurturing, and the mechanical self-seeking mind that tries to motivate oneself to survive, the careerist. This is to say: I spent a lot of time out of my body and in my head. I divulged the words, the paths, the college, in isolation. I purposely splintered off, living a life at whole, in general, something akin to this: How to Be Alone. I spent my precious moments during the POW (Power of Words) conference searching for, as the video states it, "peace and salvation." And, considering the reflective nature of writing, it was not hard to splinter off and be reflective and let the understanding pool around me. "Lonely is healing if you make it."

"a lovemaking, not a conquering" - it sticks with me, even though I forget who said it. "Most of my dreams are of fear,” I reveal anonymously, hidden amongst the pack of dream-weavers, “distant,” I reinforce, “- I am running away from, falling out of, failing. There is rarely a dream I have that I want to be dreaming. Nightmares."

“Lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. A woman like that is not a woman, quite” - and, as Kim Rosen instructs us to come prepared with our favorite poem, to practice memorization, I catch myself proclaiming: “I have been her kind”. Yes, “I have ridden in your cart, driver, waved my nude arms at villages going by, learning the last bright routes, survivor where your flames still bite my thigh”


“and my ribs crack where your wheels wind”

so loud, these labels

“A woman like that is not ashamed to die”

I am pumping back and forth on the swingset – age, sex, gender, education, survivor? victim? survivor? victim?

“I have been her kind.”


I am responsible for every moment, every response – and I spend the majority of the conference stuck in my own consciousness, debating these labels as if measuring my own importance by the amount of checkmarks I fail to meet. I could not say anything glamorous about the conference, if you asked me - but, to be honest, I could not fully convince myself to say anything towards any thing with a gushing amount of praise. I could tell you that rather than poetry, I got lost in the linguistics of my existence – the politics behind my presence. I saw what I wasn’t rather than what I was, I saw the ghost of my perfectionism, and embodied it. I moved around singularly, cautiously, jaded - cynical in the sense I believe that to the greater extent, the change must come within me - and as an ex once said to me, "Anything you got out of this was all you."

But I can say that the reason I did attend the conference was to be me, which is to say it was to make beauty from my pain, and it was to remind myself that I have choices - each one of these aspects phenomena within themselves.

Every atom of me wanted to understand why I kept circling towards pain, this conference: another manifestation of my struggling, every moment a seizure-split between beauty and chaos.

Transformative Language part 3

Transformative Language: Riding the Line Between Death and Creation (1/3)

Riding the Line Between Death and Creation

I can’t fake it. I get afraid. I get afraid they’re going to take it all away from me again – that I’m going to let them. I’m afraid of opening myself up for the loss. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And these are scary sentiments for me to admit, no matter how simplistic and obvious they may be. But it’s shut me down.

As I was driving to NY to see my friends on New Year’s Eve (after almost talking myself out of doing the same exact thing), I began fiddling through the radio stations and fell upon this one song:

I remember years ago
Someone told me I should take
Caution when it comes to love
I did, I did

Tell them all I know now
Shout it from the roof tops
Write it on the sky line
All we had is gone now

Tell them I was happy
And my heart is broken
All my scars are open
Tell them what I hoped would be the
Impossible, impossible
Impossible, impossible

Falling out of love is hard
Falling for betrayal is worst
Broken trust and broken hearts
I know, I know”

- excerpts of Impossible by Shontelle

I had never heard this song before – probably because I usually don’t listen to the radio too much – but I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect song to summarize my 2010 experience. Not in the cliché romantic “I lost a great love sense,” but “I gave all the love I had, and the world around me warped it. I had such high beliefs, and the world crushed me. I was so great in all I wanted to give, and was shattered by the same strength of my own ignorance for what the world had in store for me.”

Most people who know me will identify me as one of the most passionate people they know. I use to love this, revel in it – it was who I was – if I was going to be invested in something, I was going to do it fully. Even in high school – a teacher wanted 6 poems in the portfolio? I DID TWELVE. You want a research paper? I’M GOING TO READ ALL BOOKS, RATHER THAN STUDIES. Ambition and passion are qualities that seem to occur in me naturally, but seem to backfire when I don’t know my own limits – when ambition and passion forgo self-care.

So, let me sum up 2010 in all its destructiveness (and out of all the best intentions it may have been orchestrated):

I started the year in the midst of transitioning: from the fall semester of my senior year to the spring one. My fall semester ended with me somehow miraculously getting all A’s and an incomplete, with me recovering from a semester of continuous nausea and migraines that lead to a severe weight drop, where I sat firmly at 103 pounds and could consume nothing other than smoothies and medicinal marijuana products. That’s right, so severe that I had gotten a medicinal marijuana license for it (and even though I’m in a different state now, I still keep it in my wallet, because no one believes me). I then spent my whole winter break divided between working 20 hours a week and working on my 50 page paper for the Independent Study I got an Incomplete in. I got an A on that too. I kept the year of 2010 going with taking 20 credits and working 13-18 hours a week (which is surely downsizing from 24 credits the prior semester). I left school so burnt out that I still don’t write and read as much as I used to. After graduating, all I did was go to work and then go home and watch netflix. I somehow still kept my GPA up, but my passion sure took a beating. I graduated college in three years, despite Fort Lewis being my third college, despite moving from NY to MA to NY to IL to CO, despite personal issues, and still did it with honors. I formed my own major. It would really stand as the definition of impressive if I didn’t hate it all so much. I hated all of undergrad. Even after I made my own major, I couldn’t get invested in my classes too thoroughly. And it was that last factor that was heartbreaking to me. That I was spending all this time and energy on things I was supposed to love – until learning became systemized, until passion became constrained to due dates, until what I felt was important had to be passed and proved in front of an administration who then capped what I could and couldn’t do with my studies based off what they had available and thought was okay. My own vision didn’t matter in my own major. At the end of college, there was nothing left of me: my love, my good intentions, my passion.

My personal relationships fell to shit – 2010 was one bipolar fit after another (literally), and in one existential crisis after the next, I realized I was surrounding myself with all the wrong people. And I lashed out at them for this. And they lashed right back at me. I was not even slightly compatible for the environment I was in.

My body fell apart – after recovering from chronic migraines and nausea, and severe weight loss, I would be hospitalized for severe insomnia. I’d bounce back from that and my migraines would come back and dissipate in waves.

My version of love became hard to get a hold of. I looked towards all the wrong sources. I became so confused – living under the assumption that life just had to get better, that I’d learn things and apply them and never make the same mistakes again, that I’d progress – you know, linearly. I figured I could approach new situations with clarity and some sense of calm neuroticism, being able to distinguish between “do” and “do not do,” and furthermore, “who will be a loving person,” and “who will be an abusive person.” Towards the end of 2009, I discovered a person who I thought was very much a loving person (and treated me the best of any guy I had dated) was very much an abusive person to someone else. This put me in a world of very self-loathing-confused grey for the majority of 2010. That was my new version of “love,” and it was being tossed down right back down the drain.

And no matter what happened, I frequently kept running on energy I didn’t have – I’d take on projects and volunteer for efforts I couldn’t put my all into. I kept trying to convince myself things would just go back to normal now that I was no longer in school. I began working a job with the conviction that it was something I wanted to do until I realized that my combination of neuroticism, passion, and ambition was going to kill me again – I was caring so much about everyone and everything else in my life other than basic needs of my own: such as doctor’s appointments and rest. Burnt out. I’ve lost track of how many older adults I’ve spoken with recently who assume I’m 26-27 just by the way I talk, and what I talk about, and how stressed I am.

"I remember years ago
Someone told me I should take
Caution when it comes to love
I did, I did

Tell them all I know now
Shout it from the roof tops
Write it on the sky line
All we had is gone now

In the summer of 2009, I was so hopeful. Hopeful for my new major, hopeful that I was getting emotionally better (since it seemed I was making better decisions with my romantic life), hopeful about my new apartment, about my senior year. I was ready to make a world of difference. Until the world collapsed upon me. And my feet were sticking out. And someone stole my goddamned ruby red slippers.

"Tell them I was happy
And my heart is broken
All my scars are open
Tell them what I hoped would be the
Impossible, impossible
Impossible, impossible

Falling out of love is hard
Falling for betrayal is worst
Broken trust and broken hearts
I know, I know”

The best way I can come to terms with all of this is recognizing and explaining to others that I feel like I’m riding the thin line between death and creation: both metaphorically and somewhat literally, with every moment caught in the anxious fibers of how to create the next moment. For, the more I do what the typical me would do/would’ve done, I almost feel like I’m setting myself up for eulogizing. I feel like I’m paying tribute to the past that died. Old Victoria did this and Old Victoria collapsed from doing it. It becomes a very dangerous “should.” “I feel like I should go to the art galleries, I feel like I should be writing a blog post on this, I feel like I should be emailing and networking and ahead of the game like I always am.” But New Victoria?

What does New Victoria want? New Victoria gets very scared, as aforementioned above: “I can’t fake it. I get afraid. I get afraid they’re going to take it all away from me again – that I’m going to let them. I’m afraid of opening myself up for the loss. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And these are scary sentiments for me to admit, no matter how simplistic and obvious they may be. But it’s shut me down.” New Victoria looks at Old Victoria and thinks, “You put me through a world full of shit.” New Victoria gets afraid of the amount of responsibility Old Victoria took on, and wonders how Old Victoria got so freakin responsible so young anyway.

New Victoria gets inundated with deep, philosophical, and political questions on formspring that Old Victoria would love to field, but New Victoria thinks “psshh, I just want to live my life, man. Don’t make me some sort of leader. Don’t follow my example – I might break you too, I might hurt you. I could give you the worst possible advice and neither of us would even know it! Why are you people asking me anyway? What is it that makes me so reliable and wise to you?

My dilemma is that I still desperately hope for and want to believe in a world where words can transform us, where social deviance is valuable, where love and respect are vital components of how we treat each other and form our relationships, where disadvantaged and abused populations get the treatment and advocates they need that can support them. I still desperately want to believe in a world that believes, deep down, it’s valuable to give everyone the voice they need to have to live a life worth living. But then I couldn’t find it anymore, that belief – in 2010, it felt like I lost everything I believed in. And now, when I’m on the next playing field in life, about to head off to grad school and start off my professional career, I find myself running on the hope that I will somehow learn to reinvent myself so that I can integrate the passion I used to have with a renewed belief that I have not yet been able to retrieve. And since my old approach backfired, New Victoria isn’t even sure how to go about it.

Which isn’t to say new Victoria isn’t trying. New Victoria is slowly getting back on track, and is at least now able to solidly feel a life purpose. And reads a little bit everyday. And pushes herself to write entries like this. Entries that only begin a mission of self-exploration: Cut and differentiated for length and subject purposes, but all interwoven for a sense of commonality.

Continued on:
Transformative Language part 2
Transformative Language part 3

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On being bipolar, on being a survivor, on just trying to live...

Grit and glamour. I was born for this sort of messy talent. I used to be some sort of messed-up god in my own eyes, so torn down and raw and fresh in every moment. I lived for what destroyed me. I resented the mundane. I came headflung into the mindfuck of my own bipolar: so vibrantly alive in every bit of my decay. I knew I was alive by the amount of pain, I repeat: by the amount of pain I was enduring at the speed I was enduring it. It became so easy - switching addictions, making memories, weaving stories. It never left me. The writing was mine, and my voice mattered. It had to matter - the thick of me broke apart with every moment. It wasn't easy being around me, but it never was - and it only got increasingly more and more difficult. And this - this I need to get off my chest: I wake up every day wondering when I'm going to start loving myself - I wonder when I'm going to be at peace with my life, when I'm going to live without feeling this gap I'm routinely trying to plug up with the stressor of the year. "The Escape Artist," I once entitled a poem, writing stream-of-conscious about some of my most difficult experiences, still burning triumphant at the end of it. I felt alive. And maybe that's what I need to get off my chest: how absurdly this all crept up on me. My own, slow, mundane dying - my own quiet climb into the predictable, into the lifeless, stressful monthly routine of bills, into the shittalking of work, into the "sensible" things where I began working more than I found myself actually enjoying life. Where I was so focused on proving to the world I could provide some sort of verifiable form of success, that I could make it - that I could refute the statistics and my labels, that I could stifle the bipolar, that I could ignore the doctors, that I could put the trauma and the trouble behind me, that I could be just as normal as everyone else.

Well FUCK everyone else. And I say that with all due respect to everyone else, but fuck everyone else. I am only one person. Or rather, I am too many people. As the statistics go, we are the summary of the five people we spend the most time with. And I've grappled with this - in too many senses to count, shouldering the burdens and the responsibility of all my potential. I made too many compromises to fit into my surrounding environment, into the environments that construct themselves around me, until I hit the point that I began writing myself out. Where every voice inside my head was telling me to be someone I'm not and I can't help but think like this:

“There is no escape. You can’t be a vagabond and an artist and still be a solid citizen, a wholesome, upstanding man. You want to get drunk, so you have to accept the hangover. You say yes to the sunlight and pure fantasies, so you have to say yes to the filth and the nausea. Everything is within you, gold and mud, happiness and pain, the laughter of childhood and the apprehension of death. Say yes to everything, shirk nothing. Don’t try to lie to yourself. You are not a solid citizen. You are not a Greek. You are not harmonious, or the master of yourself. You are a bird in the storm. Let it storm! Let it drive you! How much have you lied! A thousand times, even in your poems and books, you have played the harmonious man, the wise man, the happy, the enlightened man. In the same way, men attacking in war have played heroes, while their bowels twitched. My God, what a poor ape, what a fencer in the mirror man is- particularly the artist- particularly myself!”
- Hermann Hesse

And I think of all the labels people give me and the labels I fail to align with, the person that people would so desperately like me to be. The person it could be so easy to be, but so difficult. How flaky I became to everything and everyone that meant something to me the more I became sucked into the internalized lie: I became a walking repellant, the "should"s in life. The irony of the gifted: everyone is a critic. I think some days, most days, that it would be nice to be sane and alive - fulfilled. Rather than stuck feeling like this:

"I should have known right then that it would always be the same - I had to be madly in love or utterly revolted. No happy mediums for me! […] No compromises in life for me - I wouldn’t settle - I’d rather not go out, just live with my dreams."
Lauren Bacall, By Myself and Then Some

And I'm stuck focusing on the dysfunctional - something I used to triumph. I still remember the professor I had an altercation with who said I had the type of presence that commanded a room, that I had a talent of making the traumatic, the heart-breaking, "beautiful." I recall my friend turning to me and saying, "Victoria, every time I hear you read a poem, I want to cry because the subject is so sad, but I want to hear it again, because you write it so beautifully," and how everyone lingers onto the words I have to rip out of me. Xylophone trauma, orgasmic gonzo psychology - living in the terrains of a deliberately suicidal mindset, a guerilla warfare with russian roulette. Will I wake up manic today? Will I be okay? Will I be so severely depressed it takes me an hour to get out of bed? The survivor survives - er, lives.

You begin to hate the term survivor, because you think you survived nothing (I think I have "survived" nothing) - "survivor" implying triumph over the elements. You think, "No, I carry that shit with me everyday." There was no triumph - there was years of chaotic re-integration into "normal" life, there was learning to live with it. There was advocating for it. There was struggling to speak for others when even your own voice shook. There were too many tears - but you are, I am, not a victim either - if only because you wake up everyday to live with the truth, no matter how unbearable it becomes, how restless and uncontrolled you feel.

Either way, it feels as if you're letting some massive crowd down.

"The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot--
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees."

I am more than the moments that have made me, you want to tell yourself. This moment is for me, you want to tell yourself. "I am bigger than the sound," you'll believe - half-desperate. But the moments do not escape you - they cling with expectation, even your own expectations, which are at some point, a recognition that society has engrained it in me that no matter who or what I am, I'll never be enough. And there are times, frequently, often, mostly all of the time, when I don't want to tell people who to be, what philosophy to follow - I don't want someone else to feel their extremities need to be fixed, their existential line-swaddling death-defying creation exhibition needs to be stifled. I don't want to politicize my identity - I'm not out to sell my life. I'm not out to be a teacher. These words are not commodifications. My life is not a recipe for a tried and true survivor, a last-ditch flashlight and matches effort towards freedom. It's not to be admired, it's not to be dismissed. It's just meant to be lived, and honored for it's living. It wants its own grace - in the stumbling over air sense, lip-synching disaster sort of way - it wants its own room to fall asleep ablaze, and demands its right to have rights.

Essentially, my life wants to fucking fight and have a fighting chance in its never-ending fight. It wants to know there will be people fighting alongside. My life wants to know it has a voice that's needed and valued and can be left well alone. My life wants to light up and chill out. It wants intellectual discussions and valuable, trustworthy friends. It wants "understandance," as my 10-year-old self wrote in her first poem ever. My life would like your life to live its dreams, as my life would like to live its dreams. My life would like to focus on healing and spreading happiness. My life would like to be bold for you, as it is very entranced with the concept of being boldly and inherently one's self, no matter how times this mission gets thrown overboard. My life would like to get drunk with your life and drunkenly spew translations of Rumi poems, because, trust me, that could really turn out fabulous... I would like to live aesthetically - in the sense that we all remember that beauty is important, and that everything can be beautiful and that we should always always always find beauty. I would like to be beauty - in all my dangerous, unkempt, reckless, moody, raw, confused, nostalgic, fucked-up, half-redeemed, genuinely trying, but still laughing, destructively creative, well-intentioned self. And I would like you to be yourself. I would like all of us to be our beautifully untamed selves: the rarest form of existence that seems to know what to do best.