Happy Things: Hats

I’ve just decided that women’s hats are coming back into fashion. You have no choice. I’ve made up my mind.

Signed,
Silent Sister

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In the Meantime

I forgot to take my meds on Monday. All three of them. I remembered to my two night-time meds last night, but I forgot the third this morning as I rushed out the door to catch the bus.

Yesterday, I spent the whole day feeling sad and lonely and inexplicably weepy. Missing my meds helped, I’m sure, but I’ve been feeling it come on for about a week now. It rained most of the day – the sky was dark, the living room was dark even with all the lights on. The wind was enormously loud, whistling through the trees in the backyard and through the old windows that need new weather stripping. The sound cut through my brain, made it hard to think or concentrate on anything. I got no work done yesterday, and I really need to grade.

I like the rain, generally. Sometimes I love it. I love walking in it. I love napping during thunderstorms. I love curling up with tea and good book while it rages. But yesterday the gray light and the wind just made me even more morose and lonely.

Today I am inexplicably anxious. Considering taking my Xanax, or half of one anyway. My stomach is all twisted into knots. My brain feels hot. My finger cold. And I’m still sad and lonely and weepy.

I nearly texted The Woman Who Broke My Heart a couple dozen times last night. I don’t really know what I would have said. Small talk. Ask her how she’s feeling (without going into details, she’s having a really shitty couple of months). Tell her I’m lonely. Talk about my dissertation. Ask her to see Mockingjay with me, as no one else wants to go. I don’t know. But I didn’t text her. I resisted. I’m afraid to. I don’t want to bother her. I don’t want to bore her. I don’t want to make it obvious that after a year I’m still laughably hung-up on her.

That shouldn’t be something she has to know, or deal with, or feel guilty about (and she would feel guilty about it). That’s my problem, not hers. Something I just have to deal with.

But sometimes I’m afraid that in my effort not to be obvious and clingy, I go too far in the other direction. I stop communicating altogether, and maybe she’ll think I don’t want to be friends anymore, which is categorically not true. But the longer I stay silent, the more awkward it feels to suddenly reach out and talk again, out of the blue.

In the meantime, I’m still sad and lonely and weepy. In the meantime, I still feel hung-up on her. In the meantime, I still feel trapped by my choices, and also by my family and all the things they force on me that I didn’t choose. I feel stuck, mentally, emotionally, physically. I itch and burn to be away, to be gone. And I don’t understand why I can’t “unstuck” myself.

In the meantime, I feel guilty. Guilty about the work I should be doing right this minute. Guilty about missing my meds occasionally. Guilty about feeling bad again despite the fact that the meds had genuinely been helping. Guilty about whining when so many people have it so much worse. There was an attack in Paris. There are people dying in Syria. I walked past a homeless person bundled up and asleep on the sidewalk on my way into work this morning. And I nearly burst into tears as I passed him/her. But what good do my tears do this person? And what right have I to be so sad with a roof over my head, and food in my pantry, and a job – even a low-paying one? I spend my life in a haze of sadness and guilt and obligation, and I am tired.

Apparently College Teaching Isn’t Real Work

In the realm of “seriously, what the fuck?”-ness, my mother declared today that my work just isn’t the same as her work, and hers takes precedence.

I mean, I already knew she thought that. It’s long been apparent in her attitude. If we’re both working from home, or if I’m working on the weekends, it is just taken for granted that I can afford to be distracted, to be constantly doing other things. I’m expected to deal with anything SHE doesn’t “have the time to deal with right now” and I’m expected to be doing things like dishes and laundry on top of whatever actual work I’m doing. Grading, and lesson planning, and researching, and working the dissertation (that she’s been shoving on me since I was five-fucking-years-old) just doesn’t count the same way. I knew she thought that. But she’d never said it out loud so bluntly before today.

“There’s just a difference, and you know it,” she told me today. No, no I do not know that.

Fucking Christ. I hate this place.

How Neil Gaiman Saved My Life

On friday night, Neil Gaiman gave a reading and talk at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, TX. “A Night with Neil Gaiman” included short story readings (including one or two he had never read in public before), a couple poems, and a long series of question-and-answers — the questions were provided via notecards provided to the audience before the show; the answers were thoughtful, or funny, or adorable, or wise, or charming, or all of these at once. In fact, Neil Gaiman himself was thoughtful, or funny, or adorable, or wise, or charming, or all of these at once.

He read “Down to a Sunless Sea,” one of my favorite stories from his short story collection Trigger Warning. He read a couple of the stories he wrote for the Calendar of Tales he did in 2013 in collaboration with his Twitter followers. He talked about his marriage to Amanda Palmer. He talked his adult children, and his new-born son. He talked about his writing process, and gave advice to would-be writers and creators. He talked about books he loved. He talked about working with Terry Pratchett. He talked about falling in love, about nightmares, about ambitions, about death, about the attacks in Paris – which had happened just hours before the event. Despite, or perhaps even because of the somber tone added by the Paris attacks, it was a magical night. Like a magician’s performance — the stage was clear except for the podium and a table set aside for a couple bottles of water, but the feeling was of theatrical smoke and moody lighting and glitter from the ceiling.

I was sad to discover he would not be doing a signing afterward (I had brought a bag full of books just in case), but it was understandable: there were SO MANY people, it would have taken him hours, maybe days, if he had dared to try. Other than that small disappointment, the reading was everything I had hoped for back in July when I got the tickets.

In July, when I first heard about the reading on Neil Gaiman’s twitter page, I had been almost blasé about it. I was depressed, tired, past the point of caring. But I knew that if I dug myself out of the hole I was currently in, that I would be insanely, painfully excited. So I emailed a couple friends who were fellow Gaiman-fans, and we bought the tickets together. On Friday, we drive three hours to Austin for the performance, listening to the Neverwhere audiobook (read by Neil Gaiman himself) in the car on the way. As it is near the end of a very busy semester, I was understandable gleeful to have an excuse to be out and about and not working for a couple days, so we made a trip of it: a very nice dinner at a place called Zax Restaurant and Bar, then the event, then a midnight meal at the Kerbey Lane Cafe (open 24 hrs), and the next day we had brunch at Magnolia Cafe and spent a couple hours window-shopping on South Congress (the hipster/bohemia part of town) before heading home. The whole trip was a delight.

Unlike my two friends, who discovered Neil Gaiman through Sandman when they were children (8 and 10 respectively), I didn’t discover Neil Gaiman until my Junior year of high school. My best friend had read his short story collection Smoke and Mirrors, and lent it to me to read. The second I finished the book, I was hooked. I may have come late to the club, but I was going to enjoy every second now that I was there. I devoured everything Neil Gaiman had written to that point. All of Sandman, Good Omens, Neverwhere, American Gods, Stardust, even his children’s books. As each new book was released I read them, absorbing the darkness and the glee and hilarity and wonder in equal measure. I follow Neil Gaiman on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr. I read his blog. I listen to his advice. It was only because of him, that I discovered who Amanda Palmer was, and now I am enamored of her work and her social media presence as well. All in all, I am just about as a big of fan as you can be. There are, of course, many of us, and I am not unique, but I am part of that collective.

And yet, back in July I didn’t know for sure how I was going to feel about the trip. I knew once I was there I would enjoy it.  But traveling always makes me anxious (and it did this time, I just had enough fun as well to counteract it), and it was difficult to feel enthusiastic about anything just then. And, frankly, I had been suicidal since June.

I don’t just mean: depressed and vaguely wishing to disappear. I mean: I was making plans. I was writing good-bye letters. I was strategizing when my mother would be away so that I could have a few hours to go through with it before anyone could find me and stop me. I was ready to go.

But I loved Neil Gaiman. And I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see him live. And I had emailed my friends about it, and one friend had fronted the money to buy the tickets collectively. I was, in a way, committed to being around in November. So, I made a deal with myself and the universe. I would put off my plans, and I would try my damnedest to stick around for the Neil Gaiman reading. It wasn’t going to be easy. I might fail. And I was making no promises about what happened after the reading. But for four months, I was going to try my hardest not to disappear.

And here I am.

By September I finally gave in and saw a doctor (again), and revisited my depression medications (again), and went through a series of trial-and-error with types and dosages of meds. But I’m doing better now, as I have been proving on this blog over the last month or so. I’m far from perfect. I have bad days. But I’m definitely doing better, and I’m not desperately wildly suicidal right now.

This is not to say that Neil Gaiman is the only reason I didn’t kill myself. I did it for myself. I tried my hardest, and I gave in and asked for help before it was definitely too late, and the meds have done wonders to steady me. But I am saying that the desire to stick around until November, back in July when I was at my absolute lowest point, was a huge motivation. And I cannot say for certain that if I hadn’t had that extra push, I wouldn’t have killed myself before the month was out.

So this is my shout-out to Neil Gaiman. For doing what you do, without knowing how it might affect individual people, without any expectations of larger impacts beyond telling good, human, touching, strange, hilarious, creepy stories; just for existing: THANK YOU.

To My Lady

"Woman in Hanbok" by Alex
“Woman in Hanbok” by Alex

To My Lady,

In the pages of the lavender sky
your silver feather eyes do not shine
quite so bright
as they did in that darkness
where you filled your vessel –

with the wisdom of the blood,
and of the kitchens,
of the anvil and the hammer,
and the whispering plains;
with the overwhelming noises
of the sky and of the skin;
with the dizzying fragrance
of the fiery sunset;
with the words and the prayers
and the numbers and the names –

and, standing in the doorway with the
daylight on your back and
oblivion in your eyes: standing

between the giving & the pain,
between the birthmark & the rain,
between the broken & the sane,

you snapped free of your bindings
(the words for stars,
the prayers of mountains,
the numbers of faith,
the names for love)
and shattered your candlelit bones upon
the solid knees of Gods.


Signed,
Silent Sister

(Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday” and “The Hollow Men”)

Magnolias

"Magnòlia a Verbania" by Josep Renalias Lohen11 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
“Magnòlia a Verbania” by Josep Renalias Lohen11 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

The heady, sweaty fragrance
in the air
could be magnolias
if I didn’t know
there are no magnolias here.

But there –
where Grandma
makes jambalaya and donburi,
singing old Japanese
nursery rhymes;
where Grandpa
mows grass and picks pears,
muttering Cajun curses
at the Texan heat –
there magnolias drown the air
with wild whiteness
and sweet-scented sex.

Wide, waxy petals drip from
tall, straining trees like
overripe fruit:
Eve’s forbidden apple,
Persephone’s pomegranate.

And I want to
pluck them from the ground,
place them in a bowl,
on Grandma’s table,
on Grandpa’s desk.

But I am here,
where waves of grass are
far more common.
So I will have to wait,
and the magnolias will fall
without me.


Signed,
Silent Sister