Directions for this Blog

It’s been a big move for me to start writing semi-regularly in a blog. Sometimes, though, I think I write myself into a corner by divulging really personal, inner thoughts and feelings, and then as a result feeling that I can’t share anything about my outer self for fear of being identified or judged.

Originally, I wanted a place I could post actual, long-form writing, whether it was excerpts from something I am working on, or essays that I want to write but don’t otherwise have the platform on which to do so, but I think this page is lacking a lot. I tend to ramble, and I recognize that not a lot of people are very interested by rambles about depression and inner workings of a person who they don’t know and can’t really get to know. Part of the reason those lifestyle blogs really work well and have large readerships is that, I think, they are ways of getting to know a person through accessible means.

I’m trying to figure out a way to incorporate some more public-facing aspects of my life into this blog, to flesh it out and give it more dimension, without it being shallow or overly exposing. Looking through other writers’ blogs is a good way to do this, I realize. Playing with layout and adding more images is another one. Maybe narrowing my focus in terms of themes and topics is a good idea too. Ultimately, I want to maintain the courage to write honestly about some of the difficult topics in my life, but I don’t want to bore or scare away potential readers.

Off to browse blogs.

About a year ago, I started working at a spice shop.

At first, I couldn’t get enough. I had never been around so many spices in my life, and in such quantities- it was beautiful. I’d gaze into a massive pile of Persian Lime Curry, full of tart Omani black limes and maple-scented fenugreek leaves, and with a tiny metal scoop fill jar upon jar until I had filled hundreds, lined up in military neat rows, little canisters that contained a full sensory experience compressed into one half-cup glass jar. We made thousands of jars of everything in the shop, which was ground fresh on the spot in a tiny, hot room in the back and delivered to us in massive silver mixing bowls the size of sleds, like various fragrant piles of sand.

The smell, yes, was almost always phenomenal, but what amazed me was how sensual spices are. I wanted to plunge my entire hands, up to the wrists, into the piles of spices that I was working with and really feel them. I wanted to pack together handfuls of sticky, ground sumac and build sandcastles. I could see every grain of granulated garlic as it interacted with every other grain of granulated garlic as I poured thousands and thousands of them together and watched the way they fell into jars, watched their current, their speed, their viscosity.

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Insecure Writers Support Group #4

…and I’m late again. I really need to start setting a reminder in my phone, because this is a thing I don’t want to miss.

Since I finished NaNoWriMo on the 28th, I haven’t looked back at my novel. The truth is, even though I made it to over 50,000 words, it didn’t feel done. It wasn’t resolved. If I were actually going to turn what I wrote into a novel, with copious amounts of editing, it would still only be the first part of a much larger story. Even 60 or 70,000 words wouldn’t be enough to complete it.

Today I’m conjuring the courage to look back. Last week I started anti-depressants, and this week I started my old retail job where I’m now just a holiday helper until the end of the month. Both have helped, the meds with the energy and the job with a sense of purpose and a distraction. But still, both are ways that I’m looking back into places I thought I’d left behind. I decided to go back on anti-depressants, specifically a medication I’ve taken in the past, and I decided to go back to a job that I don’t necessarily love to do full time but that will accept me and feels safe for now. It’s reminding me that I don’t need to burn every bridge that I cross, but it’s such an interesting experience coping with trauma while also learning to leave the door open just enough to let the more positive things in if it makes sense for them to come back. I guess that’s why people install cat doors instead of just leaving their front doors open all the time.

At the same time, I’m still waking up in the mornings replaying bad scenes over and over, and the tapes won’t stop playing until I get up and get on with my day. As much as I try to ignore it, my past is always with me, and I hate it. I’m enrolled in a self-defense class right now, and much of it focuses on psychological and emotional boundary setting. This is training I wish I’d had when I was young, and that I never got. It is a painful thing to encounter not only because of its difficulty, but because I am standing in a room of full-grown women, myself included, who feel they need a class to teach them to protect themselves, to use their voices, to say what they mean. It says something about all of us. It says we are strong, yes, but it also says that it’s very likely many of us learned the hard way that learning to protect ourselves is valuable. As humbling as it is to be surrounded by women whose values align with mine, I can sense that for many of us it’s like reopening a wound that’s only just started to heal, and asking it to heal again, but better this time.

I often use repression and denial as coping mechanisms, and when they get out of hand it affects everything I don’t want it to affect: my ability to stay on top of things, like emails, cleaning, bills, and appointments, and my ability to finish projects that I start. Going back into a piece of writing that was, at times, incredibly painful to produce in order to reflect on it and shape it into something better feels…unsafe. But I’m understanding that it’s ok to look back sometimes, and not only that, it can be necessary.

I Finished NaNoWriMo

and I am going to call my book “Depression can Suck it” because I am depressed as shit and I still wrote a novel in 28 days.

It’s a meandering, nonsensical story and I didn’t even get around to the main event, so if I were to keep writing it would become much longer, but even if the plot sucks some of the writing isn’t too shabby if I do say so myself. And most importantly, I hit 50,000 god damn words tonight and I am closing my computer for now to finally take a shower.

Edited to add before my shower: I also dropped out of grad school right before I started this, so it has a lot of meaning for me. I proved I can still reach a goal or two without being in an MFA program, and it’s helping me forgive myself for a decision I know was right, but that I still have guilt about anyways. Suck it, guilt.

Here I am, stressing about how bad I think my story is, and how I should’ve outlined the plot instead of just making it up as I go along, and I keep forgetting that I’ve never written this many pages of one piece before*.

Even if I don’t hit the NaNoWriMo goal, it will still have been a personal record. And even if the story is bad, and makes no sense, it’s still something to remember: that I’ve never committed to a single story like I have this month.

*coffee in the morning and wine at night

If all of our souls met at a bar, today my soul would be the one in the corner seat waiting its turn to ask for a shot of the strongest whatever you’ve got. My soul would be eyeing your soul’s aromatic elixir, and the beautiful way the absinthe makes your translucence glow a pale gray green, like the way the ocean looks up north where it’s cold and uninviting and the froth of sea blends into the fog. That’s the way my soul likes the ocean best.

I would like water, your soul would say to the bartender, and I would, like water, spill you onto the floor and lap you up if I hadn’t come here already attached. Instead, my soul would be murmuring to the beast that holds it between tenacious jaws, asking if she wants brandy, or whisky, or something else completely, darling, it’s all on me, just please, please loosen up a bit, you’re killing me.

On Being Invisible, On Shame

I have always wanted to be able to become invisible. Out of the major superpowers usually rattled off among children (or at least the kids I hung around, and don’t quote me on this because I was never really that into superheroes) like super-strength, invisibility, mind reading, shapeshifting, and the ability to fly, I would always choose the ability to move undetected through worlds and spaces, to have impact in a way that is not attributed to a physical form. I wasn’t a prankster, rather more of an observer, someone whose very first journals from age 6 are logs of my spying from various posts in various bushes, and who in second grade dressed up as a private investigator straight out of a noir film complete with khaki blazer (my dad’s, and on me, a trench coat) fedora and magnifying glass. I was a voyeur in the making, and someone who only flourished under the spotlight if I was performing, or more accurately if I was being anybody but myself.

In my attempts over the years to belong to social groups that seemed stuck on maintaining an identity through exclusivity (read: I wanted to be in with the popular girls) ((read: mean girls)) it became apparent that the more I tried to squeeze myself into a tightly-laced outfit, the farther and more forcefully I flew away from these groups when the binds were finally released, usually by my own hand. I was drawn to people who seemed to know who they were and who they weren’t because I had no idea what I was, and the notion of being as empty and vast as I appeared inside was terrifying. I tried to fill, stuff, tighten, repress, and ignore that hole, the overwhelm of which may have been exaggerated by depression and emotional disregulation, and at times still is. Instead of floating in the uncertainty of my identity, I focused all my energies on belonging to groups who not only fit in, but who defined what it meant to do so. The result was damaging. I was not a person who I liked, and I spent time working for the validation of people whose values do not resonate with me. I was self-centered, vain, and sometimes mean. If not outright mean, I was catty, petty, and insecure. I left these groups in volatile ways, exploding when the pressure of repressed disappointments and disagreements built up and sent me over the edge. After that, I floated. After years of wanting so badly to be seen, after years of failing to fit into the mold I had created for myself, all I wanted was to be forgotten about so that nobody would see that I had failed to live up to my own expectations.

Shame builds up. It wants to make you invisible to the world, and wants to make sure its sources are never seen. Living in shame means constantly wishing you could disappear, that nobody else could ever see the things you spend every minute meticulously trying to cover up. I’ve done a lot of stupid and risky things, and I have behaved in ways that I’m not proud of and that I don’t speak of to many people. As a result, I’ve become more comfortable in the shadows. I find fascination in the world, but only when I am able to remove my own being from the scene at hand. I try not to stare too hard, or to tread too loudly, or to make my presence known as definitely one thing or another. If I could I would transcend categorization completely, not out of some religious individualism but rather in order to be forgotten, to be utterly unremarkable. Unfortunately, I too often act in ways that categorize my identity, though I still don’t know as what. My Italian roots mixed with a hefty dose of mental illness and resulting black and white thinking make it so that I cannot be invisible, no matter how I fantasize about embodying the trope of the quiet girl, as transient as the wind whose impact on her surroundings is equal to that of a leaf falling from a tree. And try as I might to correct it, my gait will always be clumsy and my footsteps loud.

My desire as a child to claim invisibility as a superpower stemmed from curiosity, and from the desire to dig deeper. I wanted to taste the depth of knowledge that something like moving through the world unnoticed could supposedly afford, to look in the desk drawers of strangers, to read journals not intended for public viewing, to stare as long as I wanted at the details without fear of being judged. I think, too, I wanted to be safe, and I thought that not being seen would keep me that way. I still want to be safe, but now from judgment shattering the fragile identity and semblance of confidence I have only recently started to build. Invisibility is security. It is release from all the heaviness.

I started writing a story about a woman who one day turns invisible. I want the readers to know that she is depressed, and that she is living with shame and trauma. I want to write about her transformation as a literal metaphor for an emotional state and a longing that is brought on by an inability (or a refusal) to accept one’s past actions. Repression and shame make us heavy, and they make it so tiresome to live that we wish to simply not exist anymore. I started this story, but I stopped writing it when I realized I didn’t know what she was going to do now that she was invisible other than go about her daily life exactly as she did before the metamorphosis. But of course she can’t do that, and that being the only place where I perceived any conflict in my story is largely why I put it away. Because the only negative side of being invisible I could possibly see, the only obstacle I could create for my character was utter liberation from the world. That’s no story at all.

As the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva wrote in her diary, “I don’t want to die. I want not to be.” She later committed suicide. While I am not expressing that desire, I think many resonate with the sentiment of wanting to be rid of their weight, their existence. Consciousness is a heavy thing, and affords us much joy, but also much pain. So does the body. The dissolution of the body, as in invisibility, makes certain that only our consciousness remains. This is the split, the riddance of the grotesque, selfish, hedonistic flesh and the inhabitance of the “pure” or even holy spirit, isn’t this the dream of many or most religions? I could go even further and bring up the fact that in most patriarchal religions, the body is associated with the woman and the wisdom and purity of the spirit and intellect is seen as a male symbol, but I will save that for another rambling, spontaneous essay. The difference, here, is that my desire and my character are not shedding bodies, the bodies are simply not a public spectacle anymore. Their physical beings are taken, at least to the reflective surface of the world, out of the equation. (And can you tell I was raised going to Catholic church?) The idea that by taking the body out of the equation the depression will be gone is naive. I will try my best not to subscribe to it, but I do want to follow this thread.

When I came up with this story, I was writing with the theme of literal, physical manifestations of emotional states. I like that theme, but I’m a little plot-deficient in most of what I write. I wrote this post on a whim to start feeling excited about exploring this topic again. I still long to be unseen, but nowadays I satisfy that urge with hanging out in dark places and wearing black all the time like the tortured, overgrown, vitamin D-deficient, teenaged goth that I really am deep inside.