it starts like this: somewhere, in the deep vacuum of space, something moves.
i've made this place on the internet for stuff that comes out of my brain. i added a couple of things to it and at some point — maybe soon — i will add more things to it.
it's called "sleeping body."
a sleeping body is familiar and strange. sometimes loud and hungry and tangled. sometimes vulnerable and soft. mysterious in its ability to submerge and re-emerge. trusting, often despite itself. i like these things.
moving my blog here, i noticed the few things i've written so far are variations on a handful of themes: grief, vulnerability, queer sex, connection, power, white supremacy, trauma, the aftermath, matters of the heart, etc. these subjects occupy my mind in enormous fields of knots and i'm usually writing to carve a path through the tangles. occasionally, i create a clearing and can take a clean breath. that feels good. some months ago i decided that if i'm compelled to do this, i might as well share it. what if there's another body out there that resonates or finds their own clearing? there is always another body.
here is today's field of knots.
how do we speak about our visions?
my mind produces bizarre imaginings when i'm sleeping but also when i'm awake.
sometimes, they're memories that morph into fantasies. sometimes, they're scenes, with actions performed by bodies. sometimes, they're landscapes containing objects in motion. often, they flicker and are gone before i can register or describe them. occasionally, they linger.
thinking about grief, i see a river in bright sunlight. it fractures and twists into an impossible shape, a non-linear calculus, with severe lines and bright edges. the sun refracts off its surface in all directions. the water continues to move, despite its impossibility.
"when do you feel connected to the ones you've lost?" i asked of my grief group this week.
answers varied. there are so many ways we keep the dead with us: objects, places, scents, foods, behaviors, rituals, etc. as time passes, one or more of these rituals may not work for us anymore, i.e., it might cause functional problems in our life. we become aware of this fact but it feels like to be rid of the ritual entails losing more of the person completely. so we cling.
speaking with a friend recently, i asked him about the state of his room – it's a chaotic mess and has been for months. he told me that part of him wants to clean it but he has experienced an emotional block. "cleaning my room," he said, "feels like lying." the mess is comforting and familiar. it's a manifestation of his internal landscape. he knows the state of his space is not working for him but he doesn't want to perform an action that feels like erasure. the mess is a mirror, a form of validation. he clings.
it's hard to let go of old behaviors, especially when they helped us to survive. it's even harder to let go of old behaviors when the environment around us fails to validate our internal experiences in any meaningful way.
here is, in broad strokes, how our white supremacist capitalist imperialist ableist transphobic heteropatriarchy deals with grief: the griever receives a period of sympathy — lengthened or shortened by privilege or lack thereof. after this period, the griever is expected to sweep the loss away and handle any remaining aftermath out of view. the griever is othered, the loss rendered indecipherable by their peers to mark emotional distance in a culture where death is taboo. the loss is no longer spoken of unless it interferes with the griever's "functionality," i.e., threatens the status quo.
unfortunately, grief does not fit into neat linear constraints. grief is an impossible calculus river. so basically, this is fucking terrible.
it's why having an open weekly space to discuss loss over the past year has been so helpful. it's also why i believe that writing and speaking difficult truths is an act of generosity towards those who may share these truths. when we don't see our experiences reflected back at us, we manifest behaviors that turn our environment into a mirror for our internal landscape. even in their attempts at self-protectiveness and self-validation, those behaviors are reenactments that can damage us and those we care about.
someone i love has two forms of cancer and i am afraid. he was diagnosed with one in november, the other this week.
every member of my grief group has lost a parent or both, most of them to cancer. the advice and guidance they've offered in the past few months has been comforting and validating. it's also daunting, as i've spent a year learning about what the worst case scenario looks and feels like.
over the past few months, i've battled urges to escape my fears with alcohol. it's caused me to give serious thought to substance abuse as its own mirror, its own proxy behavior. from my experiences, i know that substance abuse can kill. i also know that trauma reenactment can too. if we don't address trauma, we act through trauma. this is a restatement of the above and it deserves restating.
i think of my complex ptsd as an illness the way exposure of flesh and vein and blood after blunt force to the body is an illness. that is to say, i don't think of it as an illness, i think of it as an injury. to me, the injury becomes an illness when the wound assumes fascist control over the mind and body, causing us to reenact its point of origin and, in the process, injure others.
my therapist recently taught me the term "dry drunk." it describes an addict who gets sober without addressing deeper issues underlying their addictive behaviors. what occurs are often proxy behaviors, such as dysfunctional interpersonal patterns, and other, more covert self-harming rituals.
this is what i believe: there is no way to treat an injury without examining the injury. we have to look at it, learn about it, identify its to its origin story.
to do this often feels like reliving the experience of sustaining the injury, i.e., reliving an emotional death. i'm not saying it's a walk the park. i'm saying it's necessary if we want to heal.
- are we shaped by the care we receive as much as we are by the damage?
- can we give care if we do not allow ourselves to receive care?
- is depression anger turned inward? an abuser told me this when i was fifteen and i still don't know if it's true.
- is shame misplaced anger, too?
- if not towards ourselves, where do we put our anger when those it belongs to are not present?
- can we forgive without an apology? can we forgive without an apology? can we forgive without an apology?
- can the water move, despite it's impossibility?
- can we forgive without an apology?
i tuned into alok vaid-menon's instagram live recently and they were talking with a friend about how our culture teaches negative associations with alienness, darkness, weirdness, and multiplicitous (/non-binary) truth because these characteristics have historically threatened white colonial heteropatriarchy.
it reminded me of the immense fragility of singularity, of hierarchy, of ivory towers.
it reminded me of the following further questions.
- whose voices do you to tune into? whose voices do you trust? whose lives do you defend?
- which voices inside of yourself do you to tune into? which parts of self do you trust and defend?
thinking about fragility, i see a pendulum swing into an expanse of white tissue paper, pulverizing it. the tissue paper is replaced immediately by an invisible source. the pendulum swings again. the tissue paper keeps reappearing.
radical means of, relating to, or proceeding from a root. i define myself as a radical because i believe that we cannot move forward as individuals or en masse without addressing the origin points, the roots of systemic injuries that lead to enormous tangled fields.
this is what i know: i was living with a fraction of myself until i examined the root of my own injuries.
this is another thing i know: the violence of whiteness is at the injured root of this country. as a white person, i have to examine this, expand my capacity as to feel shame and guilt without shifting further burden to systemically oppressed people. that shame belongs on me and it is my job to carry it.
why do the guilty or ashamed so often lash out and get defensive? when something we are faced with doesn't fit the story we tell ourselves about ourselves, doesn't fit into our own neat singular narrative, we reject it. if we don't learn to sit with the violence inside of us, the multiplicity of our own stories, we will be re-enactors. re-enactors are fragile and, in fragility, perpetrate further injury.
if someone holds a marginalized identity that we don't hold tells us that our behavior or words hurt them, it's no time to defend ourselves. it's no time to lash out. it's time to listen, trust them, make it right.
thinking about shame, i see two bodies. one has heavy stones made of steel magnetized to every inch of her. with enormous effort, she removes them and carries them to the other body. she places each stone on him. he remains silent and motionless in reverence. he knows they belong there. he begins to sweat. she adds stone after stone. he collapses. a child emerges from the pile and stands next to him, watching. she keeps coming.
a few weeks ago, i told one of my closest friends something personal that i carry shame about. i was afraid to share this thing with her and had talked about the fear in therapy for months. at a certain point, i decided it was time to take a risk and trust that the ones i've chosen to love will help me to remember there's weakness and strength and terror and magic in all of us, will help me to trust after pain, will help me to recognize my instincts, will help me to not let what i carry crush me, will help me to believe in the truth of my most vulnerable parts.
i took a risk and i was right to do so. i knocked loose a handful of stones from my body and placed them on the bodies of those they belonged to.
thinking about anger, i see a line of abusers doing mundane things. making toast, turning the page of a book, smiling at a dog, breathing clean air, filling a car with gas. there's a boulder, though, in every scene. it follows them, hovering.
these past few years, i've done a lot of lying in bed praying that people tune into to their more vulnerable voices. this bed-praying usually occurs after someone has revealed to me a difficult truth or series of truths. i know that what often comes next is an absence or a lash-out born from shame.
so i lie in the dark hoping they won't. i know there is nothing i can do: it's their path, their work. all i can do is keep believing we're all capable of this work.
i remember floating in the ocean with a woman i cared about, our bodies face-up to the sun, breathing sky. "this feels good," she said. "i need this."
i remember her shadowed form that night in the twin bed next to mine, whispering about her fear that she doesn't deserve the love and attention she receives.
i remember, a few days later, ordering enormous airport hot dogs in a fit of indulgence. we loaded ketchup on a mountain of fries and pretended to conceal them from travelers who wanted to steal them. her, nearly 70 years old, me 26, giggling like children at the thrill of secrecy and junk food.
i remember you, marina.
i remember the moment i recognized that she had tuned in to oppressive voices inside of her, given them the floor. i felt a heavy stone moving towards me. i did my best to brace myself. i did my best to move out of the way.
i remember an intimate phone conversation with a man i cared about. i remember feeling honest and vulnerable and full of motion.
"at this point," i said, "we could use each other to reenact our fears. i could use you to prove that men will hurt me. you could use me to prove that you are unlovable or incapable of intimacy. let's not." he agreed. he told me he wanted me in his life for a very long time.
i remember the moment i recognized he had tuned in to oppressive voices inside of him, given them the floor. i felt a heavy stone moving towards me. i did my best to brace myself. i did my best to move out of the way.
ultimately, this man did not prove to me that he was unlovable or incapable of intimacy.
he proved to me that he really wanted to prove that.
thinking about vulnerability, i see a body wade into a pool of rainwater. his skin turns to soil and sprouts buds that open their mouths and moan. vines spawn and die across his hips. fish dart in circles around his chest. some giggle nervously, some sob, some spit an angry hiss. he runs his fingers along their bellies and one by one, they hush. he lets himself go.
this is a word that healed me: and. its power was taught to me by a person who helped me to save myself from a life of constant trauma re-enactment.
as in, yes, and.
as in, and what else is true?
when i experience something that feels shameful or unbearable, i try to tune into the multiplicity inside of me. the vulnerable voices. validate. ask for more.
i believe it is possible to live your life differently than how you've lived it before. if you are in re-enactment, you have two choices — keep re-enacting or seek support (professional, community, or otherwise) in addressing the injury at its root.
if we can increase our ability to turn internalized violence into connected action, it breaks the cycle. if we can allow ourselves to examine the injured root, it makes us less fragile. i believe this not only because i want to believe this. i just believe it.
maybe it comes down to knowing that when we touch another person, we touch someone real and sometimes all of their multiplicity too and that this multiplicity is real and also matters.
earlier tonight, i was in the shower massaging the knots out of my body and untangling my hair.
standing under the water, i panicked, realizing i couldn't feel the heat on my skin. i thought about drinking glasses of cold whiskey: one solution. i sat with the thought. i exhaled the thought. and.
and maybe i'll try to write myself into my body.
when you tell your story, i hope you tell the truth.
ciao for now,