We Wanted Selves

 

“When your lost, and you low, and you can’t get back again, 

I will show you you’re so much better than you know….

you think I’d leave you down when you’re down on your knees? I couldn’t do that…

…when you’re cold, I’ll be there to hold you tight to me 

when you’re on the outside and cant get in

i will show you you’re so much better than you know

when you’re lost and alone and cant get back again

I’ll find you and bring you home

If you want to cry I’ll be there to dry your eyes

in no time you’ll be fine

…If only you could see into me

when you’re cold I’ll be there to hold you tight to me

when you’re low, I’ll be there by your side…”

Sean Rowe, “By Your Side”

After second grade, I can almost draw the picture of myself falling apart and inward–in my bedroom staring into the closet in Green Bay, lining up dolls, the rituals beginning. But that’s another story. My sisters though, we never made a pact, we didn’t have each others backs out in the open–that was dangerous, and I am not even sure why. Maybe it was a matter of self-preservation. But we didn’t need to make one, a pact. We swore ourselves to each other from the beginning. Like my father driving drunk in the car on the back roads, my door flew open, I was maybe three or four, and I remember Nikki grabbing me so fast and holding me in as best as her little body could hang on. And that’s how she’s always been with us. Our sanctuaries, we knew, were not impenetrable to the one person I feared and hated and loved all at the same time; but they were strong enough to maybe remind us that we had each other, and I remember kind of feeling like the world would only get meaner. And maybe strong enough to have the hindsight that we weren’t going to be entirely OK, maybe not ever, but if we were OK together, then that small sanctuary would have to be enough. And it was.

But in the corners of the sanctuaries we were able to create together late at night when everyone else thought we were sleeping, a sanctuary, a home; we respected how each of us was designed (though we hardly understood ourselves) safety, and sort of a reference to each other like-

“–did you think he should have hit her? OK, I didn’t either, maybe it’s wrong? What do we do?–“ Read More

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Gypsy, Stripped Down

So this version, I came across it tonight and it took my breath away, goosebumps, throat hurt. Because that slow, decided piano with those lyrics, and even that low tone of her voice–

for me this song is me saying goodbye to the child/doll that has haunted me, because she was a piece of me I was terrified of, and I have come to terms with her, I stopped fearing the nightmares of her and so on, and some how, I showed her compassion. She has been quiet. She’s gone, and lovable. Damn, this song.Beautiful.

 

Gypsy, Stevie Nicks-

So I’m back to the velvet underground
Back to the floor that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was to the gypsy that I was

And it all comes down to you
Well you know that it does, well
Lightning strikes maybe once maybe twice
Oh and it lights up the night
And you see you’re a gypsy
You see you’re a gypsy

To the gypsy
That remains
She faces freedom
With a little fear
Well I have no fear
I have only love
And if I was a child
And the child was enough
Enough for me to love
Enough to love

She is dancing away from you now
She was just a wish
She was just a wish
And her memory is all that is left for you now
You see you’re a gypsy
You see you’re a gypsy

Lightning strikes
Maybe once maybe twice
And it all comes down to you
Oh oh well it all comes down to you
Lightning strikes
Maybe once maybe twice
Oh
I still see your bright eyes bright eyes
And I’ve always loved you
And it all comes down to you
It all comes down to you

The Point: Difficult Degrees

~the Point, & in a Poem

DIFFICULT DEGREES 2017

(an introduction to a poem/work-in-progress):

My childhood memories consist of either feelings OR images–feelings in my chest of space and a sort of vacuum…like a nameless, empty thing that can be filled by other things, other people, other parts of myself I could easily call upon and discard, but it constantly emptied, and  I forever got hungrier–and then transparent in how lean I was growing and not developing but filling, emptying, filling, emptying, knowing the walls of this kind of stomach were wearing thin. I am still learning to or trying to learn my autonomy, and I am not sure I want to find out if that sort of loss can be taken back. As for the visions, well that’s the funny thing–the images are steeped in color and sound and smell and more than ever–the feelings in my stomach. I cannot remember much about three years of being a six year old to an almost nine-year-old in a bigger city except that my sisters were starting to slip, or just did, for a while, there, and I felt cornered and afraid a lot, and the nasty green/yellow stain-like flu in my stomach was all the guilt I carried that I didn’t understand unless I released the temperatures and pressure and acted out through play, which I certainly did. But I kept a tight lid on it. I remember my sister in red corduroy’s rollerskating on tin wheels at my command in our basement after schools, the drain wet in the floor. The more I laughed, the more pleased she was. Somehow my sisters and I went our separate ways after moving there, but managed to remain somewhat fragmented together in the house. But fear wasn’t shared, sadness together over our real father I do not recall, though I remember crying alone for him every night for a very long time between my bed and the wall on the radiator.

My visions and feelings tell me we went from four, five, and six year olds who didn’t have a care in the world with our mother married to our biological father, staying out at the farmhouse with all the aunties, uncles, and cousins–I have a menagerie of body memories of the times in around four or five years, I remember very little, but I remember in a sort of tunnel of clips and sounds and smells–music from the seventies, and Pine-sol in particular
. And my stepfather’s shoe-polish and aftershave.

But after second grade, I can almost draw the picture of myself falling apart and inward. But that’s another story. My sisters though, we never made a pact, we didn’t always have each others backs out in the open anyway, where it wasn’t safe. But in the recesses of the sanctuaries we were able to create together late at night when everyone else thought we were sleeping, we were each others’ home, we respected how each of us was designed (though we hardly understood ourselves) safety, and sort of a reference to each other like-

“–did you think he should have hit her? OK, I didn’t either, maybe it’s wrong? What do we do?–“

We entered into a world we were being taught to fear somewhat

and we were completely unequipped in the ways of maturity and functioning growth, etc.

Three degrees in a similar environment

young summer nights found us in imagined sanctuaries

together, not impenetrable–but strong enough

to maybe remind us that we had each other, but the world

would only get meaner. And maybe strong enough to have the hindsight

that we weren’t going to be entirely okay, ever, but if

were okay together, than that small sanctuary would have to suffice.

We share histories, though of varying mass and degree,

we tried to grow somewhere between always losing the ones

we loved most, believing we deserved loss, believing only we could help ourselves

out of violence and harm, no one else would probably–and our safety

would come later when we grew up, or under the witness of others around.

Losing,  abandoned, forgotten, abused, teased and abused on and off as a whole,

…well,

once you get beaten down and played so many times and your humiliation comes at the hands

of thee power position and guardian–at the ages we were ate–

it was

…acceptable.

What other choice did we have?

 THE POEM

Each stage of equations  had spun me out

of my paper-doll dress recital curtain and naked into

the polar sun, white and stale metal hospital warmth,

the decay of my closet no longer able to hold or keep me,

my body repelling from and away from the only other option–a sort of

existential annihilating space, empty

with no reference point or gravity, by body

turning and revolving in the infinitesimal system of disorder.

With theory and law as dense as their own basis–

as a small girl with a highly developed survival skill

of withdrawing and disappearing,

I made a map,

charted by the constellations people left

at my door, or in my prescription bottles,

or in the tone of a voice on the phone

that uncomfortably told me they understand,

to hang in there–my awkwardness

a swallowing of tears and humiliation–because then I had to see

myself through their eyes–at what I had become.

Yes.

A constellation. A brilliant map-

away from the embarrassed acceptance in the eyes of

someone who once loved you but does not

recognize you without your borders

without your smile

without a personality, an identity

you once came equipped with,

–away from him meeting you on the street,

the ache of pretending to not notice their eyes

scan for an exit, scan your face, and

away from their belief that some people

who have gone where you have

never really come back.

Madness, they do not tell you, is as lonely as it is scary.

But a map of that night, that space,

and I started seeing without knowing how

that the answers were not static, they were not concrete,

they were not written.  They were not

even thought of–they cannot be touched,

they were sketched stars in reverse,

they were the universes in my irises unraveling,

the answers became something changed-something new-

through the radioactive pulse of my unstable heart,

shedding another degree and sparking a new one.

And after that burning

-like a coal mine…like an oil rig…piping and gloved hands and sweat and noise…

-like becoming skinless, an existential skeleton out in the ether
-after that burning-the last of the burnings-(there are no words for the others)–

a period of mechanical, metallic, empty, screeching and unaided disruption, destruction, separation, breakage, dismantling, the numbering of the pieces and counting what piles were left, broken useless ends and corners discarded into space-out into those starless, stale days;

I do not remember my eyes working;

I do not remember recognition even, or fear;

I do not remember my throat or my hands reaching for some kind of comfort;

what I remember is feeling–feeling a feeling for the first real moment in my life

and it swept across days, weeks, months, years

–tears and pain and anger and grief and sadness I had never thought possible

See I was learning that submission to the dark mysteries

my heart and mind and hands possessed

were wounds in the womb of where I had to first

learn to breathe

again

and again.

My body began to build some kind of structure

that could handle oxygen again, in small doses,

but on the inside there was an entire operating system

new and changed

-scribbling words and reading the medical books in my attempts

to gain control were now almost forgotten,

my sutures

my stitches up my skin

healing each part of myself into the other stitched up piece.

With each dominant emotion shaking me, another

department in my mind–the worlds of words

had strewn together an open-ended narrative, stitching up

my skin in sentences I had not yet rehearsed–

but the words were coming nevertheless, accelerating

and then pacing in difficult degrees I was

developing a clarity for.

To not be a girl anymore

lost

in a pale nightgown

in the shutting of doors

To be a woman emerging from

dirt

with dirt under my nails and the armor that comes

with losing it all and having nothing left to lose but you fight anyway,

scarred face, scarred bod–

unblinking and beautiful into the morning.

I reach for the cycles and circles of degrees like encapsulated bubbles-

bubbles tight with my words that arrive on tongue and lip

with tear and bone,

not measure and foresight,

expectation and pride.

The temperature in my beating body,

a body submissive to where I carefully select new order

with a lightness of touch, combined with the old habit

of dread and preparation.

The temperature is new–a falling down of degrees–

but the changes,  the chemistry of this new script, are

becoming new elements entirely–

so I feel with my pen

to chart another way to discover–to discover what I

am not sure at first…

but somehow

each word connects to new connections

in my body, and my body is binding itself

into something real and whole,

self-possessed and by my design alone.

I have sabotaged and rebuilt

and rewired and started

with a fuel I’d never, ever tasted before–Self-Love.

Self-Love and will.

An Afterthought:

My body is my memory. My memory is my narrative, which is my story, which has gaps and blocks and stitchings and bridges,  best forgotten dark alleys and abandoned farmhouses, but also a shared swing beneath apple blossoms with the two girls that grew into women while I was gone, my sisters, but they waited in the wings until I found mine.

–As I write this, right now, they still gently wait in my peripheral-

the only proof for them of my healing and strength being time and consistency–

they wait, nudging me on always and never, not once, crossing my boundaries they

allowed me to build with them over childhood. As if they knew, somehow, they had faith

in ME, that I’d figure it out my own way, alone, as I knew it had to be done and as all

of us who’ve gone mad know there is no taking anyone with you–they waited, all these

years, letting me set the pace and distance and even how far I was going to push them.

(the first poem Difficult Degrees can be found here, from 2010…my, my, my how things have changed…)

Save

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Raven

I curl up inside her,

the black feathers an oily down,

her paranoid eye

guarding me, for I am small

and cannot speak

her heart’s rhythm a hum against my body

 

but the oil—

catching me, keeping me

like the tar of forgotten marshes, sinews

of rotten muscle and limb,

stretching my weak wings

out of instinct

to be caught and snapped back

my terror

a silent humiliation

and so I shrink towards her ribs;

 

it’s okay to be caged

when you’re reminded how

small you are,

how little your voice is.

 

She shrills a grating melody and

I mimic her quietly,

falling into restless sleeps

so many sleeps

I have aged

I can feel it in my weakened wings,

see it in my crippled clutch

 

I have gone unnoticed

yet

necessary

to her.

 

Save

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Anne Sexton Reads

hear Anne Sexton’s poetry at the Poetry Foundation; the first one is “The Double Image” and the first time I heard it I was in my mother’s garage bawling my eyes out.

The Double Image

By Anne Sexton 1928–1974

1.
I am thirty this November.
You are still small, in your fourth year.
We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain,
falling flat and washed. And I remember
mostly the three autumns you did not live here.
They said I’d never get you back again.
I tell you what you’ll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
struck leaves letting go.
I, who chose two times
to kill myself, had said your nickname
the mewling months when you first came;
until a fever rattled
in your throat and I moved like a pantomime
above your head. Ugly angels spoke to me. The blame,
I heard them say, was mine. They tattled
like green witches in my head, letting doom
leak like a broken faucet;
as if doom had flooded my belly and filled your bassinet,
an old debt I must assume.
Death was simpler than I’d thought.
The day life made you well and whole
I let the witches take away my guilty soul.
I pretended I was dead
until the white men pumped the poison out,
putting me armless and washed through the rigamarole
of talking boxes and the electric bed.
I laughed to see the private iron in that hotel.
Today the yellow leaves
go queer. You ask me where they go. I say today believed
in itself, or else it fell.
Today, my small child, Joyce,
love your self’s self where it lives.
There is no special God to refer to; or if there is,
why did I let you grow
in another place. You did not know my voice
when I came back to call. All the superlatives
of tomorrow’s white tree and mistletoe
will not help you know the holidays you had to miss.
The time I did not love
myself, I visited your shoveled walks; you held my glove.
There was new snow after this.
2.
They sent me letters with news
of you and I made moccasins that I would never use.
When I grew well enough to tolerate
myself, I lived with my mother. Too late,
too late, to live with your mother, the witches said.
But I didn’t leave. I had my portrait
done instead.
Part way back from Bedlam
I came to my mother’s house in Gloucester,
Massachusetts. And this is how I came
to catch at her; and this is how I lost her.
I cannot forgive your suicide, my mother said.
And she never could. She had my portrait
done instead.
I lived like an angry guest,
like a partly mended thing, an outgrown child.
I remember my mother did her best.
She took me to Boston and had my hair restyled.
Your smile is like your mother’s, the artist said.
I didn’t seem to care. I had my portrait
done instead.
There was a church where I grew up
with its white cupboards where they locked us up,
row by row, like puritans or shipmates
singing together. My father passed the plate.
Too late to be forgiven now, the witches said.
I wasn’t exactly forgiven. They had my portrait
done instead.
3.
All that summer sprinklers arched
over the seaside grass.
We talked of drought
while the salt-parched
field grew sweet again. To help time pass
I tried to mow the lawn
and in the morning I had my portrait done,
holding my smile in place, till it grew formal.
Once I mailed you a picture of a rabbit
and a postcard of Motif number one,
as if it were normal
to be a mother and be gone.
They hung my portrait in the chill
north light, matching
me to keep me well.
Only my mother grew ill.
She turned from me, as if death were catching,
as if death transferred,
as if my dying had eaten inside of her.
That August you were two, but I timed my days with doubt.
On the first of September she looked at me
and said I gave her cancer.
They carved her sweet hills out
and still I couldn’t answer.
4.
That winter she came
part way back
from her sterile suite
of doctors, the seasick
cruise of the X-ray,
the cells’ arithmetic
gone wild. Surgery incomplete,
the fat arm, the prognosis poor, I heard
them say.
During the sea blizzards
she had here
own portrait painted.
A cave of mirror
placed on the south wall;
matching smile, matching contour.
And you resembled me; unacquainted
with my face, you wore it. But you were mine
after all.
I wintered in Boston,
childless bride,
nothing sweet to spare
with witches at my side.
I missed your babyhood,
tried a second suicide,
tried the sealed hotel a second year.
On April Fool you fooled me. We laughed and this
was good.
5.
I checked out for the last time
on the first of May;
graduate of the mental cases,
with my analyst’s okay,
my complete book of rhymes,
my typewriter and my suitcases.
All that summer I learned life
back into my own
seven rooms, visited the swan boats,
the market, answered the phone,
served cocktails as a wife
should, made love among my petticoats
and August tan. And you came each
weekend. But I lie.
You seldom came. I just pretended
you, small piglet, butterfly
girl with jelly bean cheeks,
disobedient three, my splendid
stranger. And I had to learn
why I would rather
die than love, how your innocence
would hurt and how I gather
guilt like a young intern
his symptoms, his certain evidence.
That October day we went
to Gloucester the red hills
reminded me of the dry red fur fox
coat I played in as a child; stock-still
like a bear or a tent,
like a great cave laughing or a red fur fox.
We drove past the hatchery,
the hut that sells bait,
past Pigeon Cove, past the Yacht Club, past Squall’s
Hill, to the house that waits
still, on the top of the sea,
and two portraits hung on the opposite walls.
6.
In north light, my smile is held in place,
the shadow marks my bone.
What could I have been dreaming as I sat there,
all of me waiting in the eyes, the zone
of the smile, the young face,
the foxes’ snare.
In south light, her smile is held in place,
her cheeks wilting like a dry
orchid; my mocking mirror, my overthrown
love, my first image. She eyes me from that face,
that stony head of death
I had outgrown.
The artist caught us at the turning;
we smiled in our canvas home
before we chose our foreknown separate ways.
The dry red fur fox coat was made for burning.
I rot on the wall, my own
Dorian Gray.
And this was the cave of the mirror,
that double woman who stares
at herself, as if she were petrified
in time — two ladies sitting in umber chairs.
You kissed your grandmother
and she cried.
7.
I could not get you back
except for weekends. You came
each time, clutching the picture of a rabbit
that I had sent you. For the last time I unpack
your things. We touch from habit.
The first visit you asked my name.
Now you stay for good. I will forget
how we bumped away from each other like marionettes
on strings. It wasn’t the same
as love, letting weekends contain
us. You scrape your knee. You learn my name,
wobbling up the sidewalk, calling and crying.
You call me mother and I remember my mother again,
somewhere in greater Boston, dying.
I remember we named you Joyce
so we could call you Joy.
You came like an awkward guest
that first time, all wrapped and moist
and strange at my heavy breast.
I needed you. I didn’t want a boy,
only a girl, a small milky mouse
of a girl, already loved, already loud in the house
of herself. We named you Joy.
I, who was never quite sure
about being a girl, needed another
life, another image to remind me.
And this was my worst guilt; you could not cure
nor soothe it. I made you to find me.

Anne Sexton, “The Double Image” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sll/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Source: The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

Science of Change

Mental Illness has taught me maybe a few things about grander schemes in life. Just a few. Like on my bike ride to Allison this morning and I’ve been mulling it over for a while but never worded it—there is not an end to everything. Anything. I was thinking of this because I was thinking about how I have always pushed and pushed myself to just “get better” and to make it go away and cure myself, heal, recover, that the hell would end. But the thing is “recovery” is a sinful word. Because it implies getting back what you lost. You never do. What is lost is gone, irrevocable CHANGE. But it’s like evolution. You change. You change, change, change—good or bad, your choice. Like the springs that shot from that embodiment of the death–that piece you lost– are now fueled with a new strategy, protons and neutrons and whatever-the-hell-have-you imploding your neuroplasticity, and you wake up, and one day you just know, chemically in your soul—the science of your heart–that you are of some kind of substance. So many things that kept you transparent, floating about as a million different selves, had ruptured, and made you sick. Made you mad. Made you hide from the world out of fear that you were dying, when really parts of you were. A midnight bloom. Jacynth. And like I said, you wake up, and you actually look down at your hands, your forearms, your thighs, to your words, to your feelings, to your thoughts and reactions—and they are there, you can actually feel these things as you–as your own. Your own—like living in a world where you were owned and almost destroyed by others—yourself, your one God given right, was never given to you. And one day, after what so many faiths and poets call the darkness—you emerge not in grandeur and answers, but in your own skin, under your say, your command, your voice. “I AM THE CAPTAIN OF THIS SHIP, THE MASTER OF MY SOUL.” Walt Whitman wrote something like that.
And this realization has proven wrong to me another theory of mine. Are we invincible if we are good or bad? Is there such a thing as bad and good?
We don’t recover; we do not heal because healing implies “better,” we change, and that direction is partially choice and partially what our mental capabilities will. The “soul” is not either good or bad, and neither is the body, but they are both amazing, and they are both beyond our comprehension, but they can also both be toxic, and they are not friends. But merging a mind of logic and skill and emotion and function with the destruction of its parts to the mending or altering of its parts (the uhhh fall-out of your, well, death in a way—a nuclear sub-atomic-spiritual-soul-against-the-sweating-wall-poetic-flim-flam-waste-of-a-dying-star)—change as far as we have seen has purpose, and brighter and darker things can come of it. Do come of it.

Voices and Comfort

I can’t open up to my psychologist yet.  I realized this when I finally took a breath after weeks of relentless cycles of giddiness and tears and I knew it wasn’t medical or needing a check.  No.  It does this; when something bothers me–in my heart and who and where I am–it manifests in my body until the truth hits.  I cried and let it all out to my grams.  I told her all my secrets NO ONE KNOWS.  And she told me I was still so sweet.  That I had to be better to myself, that I would figure it out–because I always have.  And I sat for awhile in the silence in the dark and let my mind finally rest.  Finally.  And it hit me.  The time here lately has been a progression of the positive–I am changing.  And my “epiphany” was to make a change.  I am going back to school with my writing/soc/psych and I am going to teach art therapy/trauma writing to women and children of trauma (Vets w/ PTSD would be amazing).  I told my grams “I feel so big inside–whole worlds are opening up in me–but my outer life is so small…” And this decision to finish school and USE WHAT I HAVE BEEN THROUGH TO HELP OTHERS GET THROUGH IT.  I know I’ll do it like I know I’m getting better–a well-known FACT.

I wish I could talk to my psychologist, Allison, like this.  After all that’s why I am seeing her.  I had a sort of assignment because I busy myself so much because I am trying to find purpose in my days, and we started talking about the voices I have heard.  THe challenge is to try to listen to them, and to not fear them–see what they say.  And somehow, last night (I’ve sought out the old woman and small boy that talked in my head and i can’t find them) so last night I stopped thinking, I just listened.  Listened to the heat click and kick in, my breath, Emma’s sighs from sleep in the other room…until I noticed a relaxing familiar hum coming beneath the real world, and the hum is what’s really real.  A woman was talking, she didn’t sound old.  I kept listening and tried so hard to remember what she was saying for later but i knew if I did try I’d lose it, so I just listened.  And it at first sounded like my older sister Nikki talking about the television or something, But the voice came closer, and more clear and I knew who was talking in my head to the others–it was me.  ME.  And I remember I said something about finding something and I had it the whole time.  I don’t understand but I don’t think what she/I said was of any importance.  But it was me.  My voice.

WHAT THE FUCK

But I am not afraid–I am utterly curious.  The mind fascinates me.

Thanks Grams, for sorting out my tired head, you in your yellow floral sweater you used to wear with the embroidered collar on it.  I miss you.  I love you.  Sorry I haven’t talked to you out loud since I was in the mental ward, but I know you see into me–you see me getting better.   Rest in Peace.

Dolores Gurske (Aug 2008) with my girl, Emma at Flying Eagle camping resort–she knew from the beginning that Emma was going to be hilarious, and one hell of a little kid.  The way she looked at her.

Dolores Gurske with my Emma at Flying Eagle Resort
Dolores Gurske with my Emma at Flying Eagle Resort

My Yellowed Reminder, The Bell Jar

FB_IMG_1425902949292_edited“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”

“but when I t came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn’t do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get.” bell jar

So I have three copies of The Bell Jar.  Well I only need two–because one of them I still can’t bring myself to look at.  But I refuse to let it go.  It means too much.  When I do look at it I feel that old familiar feeling of dread, the bad kind, the kind that is a glimpse of what you know inevitably is 1111111111112wedfcoming.  I was in high school when it became really strong.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew something was mentally off with me around sixth grade, and had cried and worried so much about it in private by then that I had become accustomed to that level of panic.

…until I got a copy of Plath’s The Bell Jar.  An old yellow one with browning pages.  The bold, curly letters in the title.  Her gnarled name–the woman who didn’t make it.  And she was me.  She was so much like me.  Or IS.  I couldn’t read as I read it in class after class.  I was nauseous but unafraid.  When you know something is going to happen to you that cannot be helped, you somehow brace yourself for more pain, and the fear becomes a numb root in your gut.  And these roots had taken their initial digs years ago, and yet I felt too mildly mad at this time of The Bell Jar reading, that I dared myself to continue and explore what felt like a schizoid terror.

I read and read and read, ill and beyond uncomfortable.  My head fell asleep like a limb, and I couldn’t shake it out.  My friends looked different, they talked different.  I was suffocating.  And I learned only later why Sylvia named it The Bell Jar.  Because that’s what I was in–and it was what I remained in for over a decade after until I broke it.  I decimated the mother fucker.  But it took years away from me…  Years away from my life.  I was dead.  I died.  And then it’s as if I had to just be let be for a few years, which came at a very high cost, but I did come back.  Well, no, you never come back.  Someone else does.  But it’s someone better.  Someone who knows that that rot is gone, it is over–I know that better than I know myself.  Okay, okay I’m sidetracking….

Toward the end of week two (back in high school now) I still hadn’t dared to explore my mind or question my “off-ness.”  I was terrified of it.  And looking back, it’s almost like I could see my future splayed out before me.  A rot.  Some of the parts in t Read More

When it Makes Sense (Temenos)

“And it is so simple…you will instantly find how to live.” –Dostoyevsky

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, I contradict myself.
I am large.
I contain multitudes.

–Walt Whitman

Temenos:a Greek word which refers to a universal instinct to create a protected, safe space in which to heal, reorganize and regenerate the fragmented personality; taking shape in circular shapes like Mandalas (Jung)…

“Heart on your sleeve”—I had been doing it for years. I’ll admit that for the first one or two years after breakdown, I had to. I didn’t know who I was otherwise, or where I was, or why I was here. Yes. A diagnosis became a light out—a red-pinned focal point on a map of black behavior that was almost sociopathic, because there were no feelings or compassion or empathy behind the wheel. Just actions. Behaviors. Thoughts. An almost death.
I realized I’ve stepped out of my laziness a little—I no longer define myself by some diagnosis or history or trauma. Why do we need to define ourselves by such intangible things? But enough is enough. I’ve been spending a lot of time in silence, and quite a bit making a few new friends online—and woo-hoo one in reality. That was tricky shit at first. But on the real level, the level I care about–I am seeing changes. I am making changes. I have been changing rapidly for the last six years, and things are finally feeling…right. I am feeling forward motion. I am even having flashbacks of beautiful things—that smell in the country air with Erica on our bikes by that shaded plateau of forest where the ground was moss-covered and fragrant. I can smell it. And sunscreen. Mello Yello out of the clean hospital cups her mother worked at outside of town, us on our bikes, thirteen, Walkman speakers connected to the handlebars. Or walking in the cold winter mornings—the world is blue and suffocating and it’s beautiful. Puddles reflecting branches in the cloudy sky, the way water rivulets on pavement, sounding like Spring is coming and then I smell Easter candy and marshmallow peeps and I see Emma the year she was four and got a new bike—bubbles in the chilly air, her orange hair and squinty eyes not so amused, and I smell the carpet of that upstairs apartment and how I climbed the roof to clean windows when she napped, black coffee on the counter and wet lilacs from the rain in my antique mason jars—this is the strange shit I can’t help but notice lately. Smells are overwhelming. And physical oh my god physical–sexual—which is also at its peak. My prime must be here, and I’m only learning my sexuality. I have slept for so long. I was asleep before I got sick. So this being okay and kind of healthy is a whole new trip for me. I define my health. Or I’ve always been sick. And this is me now. And I’m creating who I want to be—or what I want to be. I think we already are whatever we were born for—be it reincarnation, or, what I believe, stardust (the ever-present connection of Taoism and Science)–and our choices and desires only direct a life. And that life is small. Insignificant. And beautiful. When everything is taken away, and I have been completely annihilated and there is no god anymore and there is no purpose, I was forever changed. I cannot unsee. And at last I learned how to stand—because I chose to. Because it was time. It’s easy to lay low as I did for a few years. I could be gentle on myself and say I was recovering and heavily medicated, and that sometimes it’s too much– or I could be harsh on myself and say I was weak to be so afraid of myself. I had not prepared myself for something I had always known was coming. I refused to look in the mirror and be brave. Face myself. Face illness and rot and emptiness. I guess because I didn’t think she’d make it. Huh. I dreamt the other night that I was assigned to this beautiful futuristic apartment in London, and I went to my sister’s apartment to check myself in the mirror. I looked. I was stunning. My dimples, the high cheekbones, the long lashes. Pink lips. So I stepped closer and I startled for a fraction of a second, but didn’t trust my instinct so I leaned closer. I’m suddenly wiping all the makeup off, and beneath the colorful layers, my face is a blackness, a vacuum, a shapely hole of what I imagine to be hell, because it reminded me of being in the mental ward. It scared me but not enough. I was more so curious and imploring.

A few years back I felt like I woke up. I was sitting in the sun and it was spring and there were fat bumble bees. I could smell the mud and budding grass. I believe Sonny Boy Williamson was playing through the window screen. But I wasn’t quite ready. So I kept on, but I knew it was building somewhere in me. Then one day, maybe 2 years later, I woke up to words, as if I’d never used them before. And they began to heal me. And then I found I wasn’t waking up to anything but myself. More and more every day. And I was curious and am curious about this woman. I don’t take any pride anymore in my “wounds”—that’s such a sad way to exist. They are not wounds but just parts. No name to them. They are there and that’s that. Small parts.
I used to fear being so many fragments and pieces. Yet somehow they are all managing to start to fit together a little. I have many masks. I am many people. I change all the time. And I like it. I like that I don’t believe in something or feel I have to. Because I know in my gut I come from something—something as vague and enormous as the universe, and as small as an atom. I’m starting to crave things too, things I was unable to find before or even fathom. I’m hungry for everything and my god, it feels so good.
It’s all become so simple, and it took the most complex existence to figure that out.

“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”

Thanks for listening dear readers.
–Amy Jo