I’ve long been aware that the socials are designed to be addictive, and I’ve become pretty careful about how much time I spend scrolling these days. I quit TikTok pretty much altogether and only head over there when one of my kids sends me something they want me to watch, but I only do that when I feel strong and capable of watching ONLY what they’ve sent without getting sucked in, and that’s not often.
What I wasn’t aware of, though, until *today* is that the socials have cleverly leveraged our humanity and turned it into something akin to cocaine, and you know what happens when a cocaine addict doesn’t get their bump?
I have a lot of friends on the socials because, let’s face it, the Internet is my home town. I have people in my life that I’ve known on line since 1997 – people I have *never met* “in meatspace”, but I do consider these “real friends”. Because what goes on in these boxes of light, when we use them in healthy ways to foster connection and creativity, is *real*.
I’ve come to realize, though, that for some of the people I’m connected to via the socials or other screens of light, I am a source of dopamine. Not a human being with a whole life that happens in the flesh, in the world away from the screen. No. A hit. A bump. Cocaine.
And when I am not available or when I don’t provide the bump, you know what happens?
I know I’m not the only one who has had the experience of being treated very poorly or rudely for not answering an email or a message in what the sender considers a “timely fashion”. My peers in the realm of mixed media art e-courses and other content creation have posted now and then about how, when they fall short in the eyes of those who consume their content, it’s as though the consumer has forgotten their humanity.
I’ve wondered about this for a long time now. Like, why do people do this? What makes people believe they are entitled to that kind of instant access to the human beings behind the content they consume? What makes people rage quit over stuff like this? Why, when I am not exactly what someone needs me to be in any given moment, is that so often met with rage?
Because I am not human to those people. I am a service. I am a product. I am a resource.
I am dopamine.
Me being who I am, I now feel compelled to ask myself “who do I use as my dopamine?” so that I ensure that I am consuming their content consciously, intentionally and with a heart for *their humanity*. Enjoy the dopamine, yes, but remember that the dopamine is not *all they are* and that I am *not entitled to the dopamine they provide*.
Because I know what it’s like to think someone is your friend or ally only to discover that they were *consuming you*, and I *never* want to make anyone feel that way. Ever.
I know what it’s like to have someone mistake the content you create for the sum total of who you are as a being. I know what it’s like to have people treat you like your front facing self on the socials or in your programs or via text is your life. I know what it’s like to feel like I’m expected to be responsive no matter what day it is, what time it is, what moment I’m living in and what’s happening to me or around me. I know what it’s like to have someone rage quit me because I didn’t respond to an email in a timely enough fashion to suit them.
And I never want anyone else to feel that way, ever.
The same goes for my friendships. Do I expect this friend to entertain me? To be there for me no matter what is going on in their lives? Do I check in with them? Do I care as much about what’s happening with them as I expect them to care about what’s happening to me? Do I give them the benefit of the doubt if they’re not showing up the way I’d like? Do I *care* about them?
Because friendship is not a service. It’s not a transaction. It’s not guaranteed. It’s not convenient. It’s not something anyone owes me and it’s not something I owe to anyone either.
Codependency has always been a thing. Being addicted to people and how they make you feel has always been a thing. But I think the socials have made it exponentially worse. I think the socials have made it easier and easier for that to become the thing. I think the socials are making us junkies for attention, for instant access, for the parasocial, for the all night drive through of whatever I need right now or else, and whoa.
I’m over it.
I see your humanity. You are not my dopamine. I am not your dopamine.
We’re nobody’s dopamine.
(My dogs, though. They’re my dopamine.)
I am an all or nothing person. I think this might be a trauma response but until I know, and until I’ve managed to be less of a trauma-respondy person, it’s become important to me to make this work in my favour. If I don’t keep moving, I will stop cold, and getting moving again is *very difficult*.
Here’s what that looks like.
If I don’t write every day, I stop writing. If I don’t do the dishes every day, the dishes don’t get done until I’ve run out of dishes and then I’ll order in for a week before I can finally work up the whatever it is I need in order to do the damned dishes. If I don’t paint every day, I stop painting until there’s a deadline and then I paint in panic mode. If I don’t schedule myself to go in to the studio a week in advance AND put it in my calendar, I don’t go to pottery.
I don’t love this about myself. It frustrates me because when I do the things, I feel better. When I don’t, I feel like shit.
Some of the things I have difficulty doing have been the subject of many of my therapy sessions. “Why can’t I eat breakfast? Why don’t I call the doctor when I should? Why do I have so much trouble filling out forms/doing paperwork/signing my legal name/taking my business seriously? Why do I neglect myself? Why am I letting myself go blind? Why am I letting my teeth fall out of my g_d head? Why am I like this?”
Why am I like this?
The shame that all of the above once cloaked me in has disappeared of late, so I know the work we’re doing in therapy is *working* but what it isn’t doing so far is making any of the above *easier to do*. I suspect that’s next. I suspect this is a growing edge I’m on where I can say “Look, I don’t know why I suck at these things, but I know there *must* be a reason, and I know that reason isn’t because “I’m lazy, stupid, bad, possessed, evil, provocative, crazy, borderline, narcissistic, not enough, too much” or any of the other labels applied to me in my early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
I’m starting to think there’s nothing actually wrong with me, and that everything I do or don’t do is some kind of survival mechanism gone too far. I’m starting to examine the things I don’t love about myself with a gentler eye. I’m starting to talk to the self that is so very frustrated by these things with a firmer voice – a voice that goes something like “Listen, you. I love you. You’re part of me, but pushing us to behave as though we DON’T have C-PTSD is not going to cure the C-PTSD. Simmer down. Give us some space to heal.”
No shame allowed.
Today is better than yesterday. The cat has not peed on anything. The gums are still sore, but they’re less sore. I haven’t made the phone calls I’ve been meaning to make for six months now, but I did other things. Important things. I ate a salad the size of my head. I ordered toilet paper and paper towels – the “no plastic packaging” kind that I discovered a month ago. I finished up the dishes. I cleaned my desk.
I sent my kids a message that was designed to encourage them to be gentler with themselves and each other, and it worked. I checked in with loved ones who are in transitions of one kind or another to ensure they know I love them. I filmed. I edited video. I emptied my inbox.
Opening this box of light every day is a thing I want to do. I won’t promise. I know there are going to be days when that’s just not feasible. I have a pottery intensive coming up this weekend and I will be gone from ten in the morning ’till four in the afternoon. I know I’m going to want to come home, sluice off and collapse after. Month end is coming up and I know what that’s like. I’m filming a twelve week immersion WHILE I continue to run all the things I usually run – Moonshine, A Year Of Oracles, Prayers To The Moon…
…but this is a thing I can work on. It’s not going to the doctor. It’s not going to the dentist. It’s not getting my health card.
Those things feel too big for me right now.
No shame. No shame.
But opening this box of light as a matter of course and letting my heart flow out of my fingers and into your eyes – that’s a thing I can do. It’s a stretch, but it’s a stretch that doesn’t feel like it’s going to send me back into the kind of trauma responses that have had me on the edge of the abyss over the last three years.
I called a person in charge of one of my issues recently and I said “I know you want me to do all these things at the same time, but my mental health *requires* that I take this at my own pace. I need to do this one step at a time. I am *not capable of multiple steps right now*. I have no wish to be hospitalized, which is what is likely going to happen if I push myself beyond capacity right now. It’s not a simple matter of “I don’t want to do this”. It’s that when I try, my heart rate increases alarmingly. I get dizzy. I can’t focus my eyes. My mouth goes completely dry OR I start to salivate enough that I choke on it. I vomit. I shit through the eye of a needle. I burst into tears and I cannot control it. I shake so badly that I can’t sign my name let alone fill out a fucking form, so cut me some slack here. Let me go at a pace that doesn’t threaten to undo all the work I’ve been doing.”
Or something to that effect.
I cried after I made that phone call, but I did not feel ashamed.
Because, listen. The way I am is *not a choice I made* and it is *not my fault*.
The way I am *was done to me*.
Healing from it is my responsibility if I want to have any kind of life free of this constant feeling like there’s a velociraptor just around the corner that’s going to rip me to shreds, but I did NOT choose this for myself. I didn’t do this to myself. I didn’t make my own self sick.
Watching my father put a cigarette out in the palm of my hand while he was drunk did that. Watching him beat my mother did that. The man who raped and sodomized me when I was five, six, and seven did that. My mother, and her valium addiction and her utter neglect of her children did that. My uncle and his roaming hands and fingers did that. My step-father and his rages and bending my twelve year old ass over his knee so he could hit me with a hair brush did that. His name-calling and the way he triangulated my sister and brothers and I did that. My mother letting him do that did that. My first boyfriend who knocked me up at 18 after plucking me out of foster care at 16 did that. The man who choked me unconscious while I was pregnant did that…
My ex husbands – the one that died and the one that still lives – did that.
And some of you who come here to “check up on me” to see if I’m telling yet did that.
You did it.
I am about the business of undoing it.
If you know me at all you know that I’m just now coming out of a very long period of what can only be described as OMGDOOOOOOM. For three years or so now – pretty much since the pandemic started and my kid went off his meds (so, June of 2020), I’ve been in a very dark place, and by “dark”, I do not mean the rich, moist soil where I’m putting down roots kind. I mean that I was looking into the abyss and the abyss was looking back.
Over the course of this three year period, I’ve experienced a lot of loss. Friends who turned out not to be a good fit for me (by which I mean they were more interested in what I could do for them vs. actually being in relationship with me). A lover who tucked tail and ran when the going got tough. A bestie who succumbed to cancer. Half my income (which is what happens when you are too depressed to work at the pace you’ve always worked/market your courses/stay on top of your socials, etc.). A metric fuck tonne of weight, and even at one point, hair.
I joke, but not really. It really felt like I lost the plot there for a while and I woke up every morning wishing there was some kind of reset button that *wouldn’t* devastate my friends and family. Alas, there is no such thing. Or, maybe I should say “thank goodness” because if there were a reset button that met my requirements, I would have hit it, and I’d have missed this part right here where I am coming back to life.
I’m not sure what changed.
And I think that’s really important to note because everyone and their grandmother is out there selling this idea that if you just do THIS ONE THING or THAT ONE THING, things will improve. They have programs to sell you with step-by-step instructions in how to walk yourself back away from the abyss and if you just give them your credit card and your trust that your life could look like their life, you’ll be okay.
That’s bullshit, though. We all know that, right? Because there is no one-sized fits all way *into* the dark places we find ourselves in and there is no one-sized fits all way OUT of them, either.
For me, the way out was a combo-deal.
An absolutely unshakeable devotion to my therapist. Not necessarily to therapy because you can bet there were times when I showed up but dialled it in. My therapist, though? Devoted. I let her know the way when I couldn’t.
A continued devotion to my students. Even when I felt like I’d rather eat glass, I showed up. Even when I showed up MESSY, I showed up. Even when showing up meant I might get my stuff all over them. I showed up.
A continued devotion to my children – even the one I’m no contact with for reasons I won’t go into here. I have a contract with them. Until there is no more breath left in my body, I will be here at the other end of the line. I brought them into this world – a thing they did not actually agree to (unless you believe in that pre-incarnation agreement stuff, which I don’t think I do), so it would be the ultimate betrayal, I think, if I *left them here on purpose*. So I won’t.
Pottery. This is not something I am devoted to so much as I feel it is devoted to me. I show up and it serves me. I sit at the wheel and stuff happens that sustains me. I pinch a pot and I feel alive. I show up and I am nourished, grounded, the empty well refilled in a way that *nothing else* has ever refilled me.
Music. The curation of playlists that reflect where I’m at. The opportunity to break into song on the regular.
My return to my fest fam.
And something I can’t quite name that feels like a supernatural power that lives somewhere in the middle of my body like an opalescent orb of spinning light that has an unquenchable thirst, a ravenous hunger *to know what comes next*.
I think the normies call this “the will to live”.
I’m not a normie. I’m a poet, so we’re going to stick with “thirsty opalescent orb of the need to know whatthefuckcomesnext”.
I like the way that rolls off my tongue.
This morning did not start as a pure moment of crystalline beauty. It started with an awareness that I have an abscess brewing in my gums, no health insurance (thanks, ex-husband, you fucking dick), no health care card (thanks, executive dysfunction, you fucking dick), a bill for 200 grand (also thanks to executive dysfunction), a super messy house, (executive dysfunction is also the villain here), no idea how I’m going to pay my rent next month, an elderly dog with congestive heart failure, a cat who is taking revenge on me for leaving the house for a few days and leaving her in the care of a stranger by peeing on anything I leave on the floor, laundry to do as a result, and no idea what to do, really, about any of it…
…except make coffee and do what’s next on the list. Swish with salt water. Give the dog a million treats and pets and all the loves. Assure the cat that she can live without me for a week now and then and do the laundry. File the paperwork. Take my vitamins (especially B12 and milk thistle – if you know you know). Sit out in the sun with a true crime podcast in my ears and my iPad in my lap while I doodle. Go to pottery. Spill into the art journal. Keep my appointments with my clients and students. Go to therapy. Hang out with friends when they come in from out of town or have a day off. Wander around in Victoria Park with an iced coffee. Let cobra chicken nibble my toes while I feed them frozen peas.
A part of that, I think, is staying honest – with myself, with you. The thing I do where I get really quiet and isolate through the very hard times is no longer a thing I *want* to do because that is a shame-based decision. I don’t talk about the times I drink myself sick out of boredom because I am ashamed. I don’t talk about struggling through weeks of suicidal ideation because I am ashamed. I don’t talk about the betrayals I’ve experienced or the ways my INFJ door slams have harmed me or others because I am ashamed. I don’t talk about the fact that I was a sixteen year old when my baby daddy plucked me like a ripe fruit right out of foster care because I am ashamed.
Or, maybe I should say that I *was* ashamed.
I’m not ashamed anymore.
What I am is someone who has suffered a lot, who has been in the process of unravelling all of that, who has to claw her way back from the abyss on the regular, who fails and fails and fails and yet, keeps trying…
…What I am is alive.
What I am is here, now, in the liminal where I am a dumpster fire butandalso a masterpiece. Where I’m broke butandalso I bought myself a ticket to see The Tea Party. Where I am terrified butandalso I am hopeful. Where I am broken butandalso I am strong in the broken places.
I just wanted to tell you.
The thought that keeps arising lately is this one:
I am living in the liminal.
I’m surrounded (and encroached upon) by the binary. The good or bad. The rich or poor. Love or hate. The right way or the wrong way. Perfect or imperfect. Light or dark. Him or her. Easy or hard. Healed or wounded. Ordinary or enchanted. Sacred or profane.
This is, I think, by design. I think we are being funnelled by the powers that be (billionaires, mostly) into a false narrative – a “pick your own ending” storybook, but they already picked the ending.
You can choose this way or that, but really, there is no other way but the way we think you should take.
And to that I flip the bird, because there is always a third road.
Between black and white, there is grey. Between rich and poor, there is enough. Between love and hate there is “what the fuck ever” or “I like it but I don’t love it” or “I don’t hate it but I don’t choose it, either.” Between perfect and imperfect, there is done as well as I can do it or I didn’t do it at all because it didn’t matter enough to try. Between him or her there is an entire wild garden of variety. Between healed and wounded there is *this is being alive and human*. Between ordinary and enchanted there is “it’s all fucking enchanting when it comes right down to it”. Between sacred and profane…
…there is no such thing, really.
There is no such thing.
I live in the liminal.
The messy middle is my home.
The angel? The devil?
I took delivery on a hammock chair after having my inner covetousness activated by seeing it in action (and yoinking it from Kimi for a bit) and instead of leaving it in the box for a year like I might have not too long ago, I unpacked the thing and took it on a test drive in my front yard.
I loooooooooove it, though I will admit, it’s a bit of a trial to get in and out of the bag and set up – not like those easy camping chairs that you can practically toss in the air and expect to land in a usable position BUT the whole “swinging in a hammock chair in the evening sun” thing makes it well worth it. Here’s the little vignette I set up out there.
Something about rust and teal makes me ridiculously happy. I don’t know why.
I sit out here often now with my iPad and a podcast in my ears, and it is exactly what I wished for myself in July of 2020 when I first moved here. I couldn’t quite get myself to do much more than stoop sit for a couple of years there but that’s shifted, like so many things have shifted, and I’m grateful.
I went live on YouTube yesterday and talked a bit about the struggle of getting any kind of traction on that platform. I think the fact that I talk openly about mental health, trauma, and other things that the YouTube gods have deemed “controversial topics” means I’m being throttled. My subscribers report that I *never* pop up in their “recommended for you feed” and despite hitting the bell to get notified when I go live, that never happens either.
I’ve done over 40 lives on YouTube and my subscriber count hasn’t budged. I’m lucky to get twenty people in there – twenty!
So, I give up. I’m going to move the lives to Facebook because that’s where my peoples are AND the test live I did yesterday got more views and comments than anything I’ve ever done on the YouTubes.
It was a good try, though. I’m not counting it as a failure, though I admit I did have a moment when I wondered “Is it me? Am I boring? Am I not worth showing up for?” and then I recognized that for what it was – bullshit.
Anyway, here’s what I made during the live.
The blackout poem I created:
The first time I had ever seen big water
the strength of lace
bobbins and threads trailing
with full open heart(s)
a sudden Holy Spirit.
The book I’m using for this project I started in March of 2020 and abandoned is “Untie The Strong Woman” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. If you’re going to work with blackout poetry, starting with beautiful prose sure does help!
The next poem I’ll be painting to (on the right hand facing page) feels so poignant to me…
I ran laughing.
I ran more – laughing, laughing
laughing as though crazy drunk.
For punishment they
set me down hard
in the dark
It conjured memories of the way I was “grounded” in childhood for the tiniest infraction – months in my room, forced to eat in the bathroom so I wouldn’t get food on the bedding, plate perched on the toilet seat while I sat on the floor, my siblings forbidden from speaking to me but taunting me anyway, my parents faces, stony, cold.
This morning as I sip my coffee and slay the list, I know this to be true:
No one will ever set me down hard in the dark by myself again. I am and will forever be in the business of finding or making light.
I wrote a poem and someone commented “Somewhere out there, Mary Oliver is smiling…” and that made me cry because she is my matron saint and so much a part of my literary and spiritual lineage. I felt so seen.
Someone who used to make me really uncomfortable and doubt myself and feel like I didn’t belong now has the exact opposite effect on me and I am shocked by the amount of tenderness I feel towards his curmudgeonliness now that I see it for what it is. He makes fun of me, because banter is his way of saying “You’re okay, kid”, and while he is in no way old enough to be my father, I have taken to thinking of him as one of my “Clay Daddies”.
Don’t tell him, though. He’d *HATE* it (while maybe secretly liking it?).
I am drinking coffee in my first hand warmer mug and feeling smug because I’ve got about eight more in progress. Harvestfest folks! I’M COMING FOR YOU!
I’m painting a thing for new moon in gemini that feels so good to paint. I’ve dropped down out of my head and into my body with this one and that is delicious. Also GOLD LEAF.
There is a steak the size of my head waiting for me to cook for dinner.
Walking down Central Ave is so weird now because someone I just met recently grew up on this street, and we had no way of knowing that, and it was such a surprise to feel how small the world is and how the universe conspires to put us in the way of beauty, and somehow, knowing that has anchored me here and made it feel even more like home.
The fact that the pottery studio is walking distance from my little nest feels like a Godswink and I am paying attention.
P.S. Speaking of Clay Daddies, this is another one
. Watching him throw is like watching witchcraft in action.
P.S. The poem in question:
Not An Ode
I once found
a bee on the
all curled up
like the number nine,
like a question mark
or an ending,
dead at first glance
but upon closer inspection
(because I notice these things)
I saw Its wings shiver,
and its legs pump in the air.
You would have
stomped it without
swept it off the step
like it was nothing
but I made a bee line
into the house to
and drip water
on a spoon.
I tucked the rim of it
and all my hope
up under its
that is who I am.
is who I am.
If I do nothing else
of value in my life,
I’ll have done that.
P.S. The bee lived,
and so did I.