Pokémon Go Figure

The world is a scary place right now. It’s always been scary to a degree, but this past month has been especially bloody and fear ridden. News coverage is a perpetual stream of updates on terror attacks and hate crimes. It’s beyond the “if it bleeds, it leads” adage. There doesn’t seem to be much else to talk about. To let this constant stream of darkness inhabit your mind would be overwhelming; we have to find other things to occupy our time with when we can.

In the middle of all the hate, a game has brought a little happiness back to the world. I’m talking about Pokémon Go.

This little (er- ok, it’s pretty big) game has brought common ground. Yet, there are people bashing it. Not only that, some are circulating the idea that Pokémon is demonic. Again. This went around when I was little during the first wave of popularity, and is the reason I’ve had to learn the lore from scratch now. My mom has tried to tell younger homeschooling mom’s that it was ridiculous when they believed it then and it’s ridiculous now, but people are often reluctant to listen. While this may seem like a small thing, when compounded, the little things I and others raised in similar environments weren’t allowed to do build up to create a feeling of outsiderness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried because I just want to relate to normal people for once. Having this game has given me an activity to do with my peers.

While this game has stirred up feelings, it has also given many of us a chance to reclaim some childhood. But we aren’t the only ones who have benefitted.

There are many people who find interacting, or even getting out of the house, an insurmountable task. Tumblr is abuzz with narratives of people with mental illness finding the motivation to get outside. Well-meaning friends and relatives will often tell someone with depression or anxiety to “just get some fresh air” or “get out of the house,” but these illnesses leave you drained. When the prospect of getting out of bed is overwhelming, the idea of taking a walk is incomprehensible. For some, this game has provided motivation to do things that help our mental and physical health. The game is designed in such a way that you can’t really play efficiently without walking. Different Pokémon are found in different places, so you’re probably not going to find a water type in the middle of a subdivision unless you have a lake nearby. One of the best ways to collect some types of Pokémon is to hatch eggs. You do this by walking. It’s not that we don’t know that fresh air and exercise can help with mental illness; it’s that sometimes that illness takes away the ability to seek those things out.

This morning my facebook feed was graced with the appearance of this image. It’s the mother of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, telling about how her son has found connection through this game. The comments have other people with ASD talking about how it has helped them socialize. Go ahead and click the link, first hand experience is more meaningful than my reiteration.

Pokémon Go has brought people together. Families are going on outings. People are making friends.

From the writing studio where I work, you can see a Pokéstop. You can also reach it with your phone, which is awesome because the nearest one to my house is a 10 minute drive away. Just in the first week after the game’s release, there have been so many families with small children, and some with older teens, out hunting Pokémon together. I don’t know about you, but a family all being engaged in the same thing isn’t something I see all that often. Not on this scale, anyway.

Sure, there have been incidents. People have done stupid things. But before you talk about “how stupid it is” and “it’s just a game,” take a minute to think. Even with the seeming division of team rivalries, Pokémon Go is doing a lot more good than bad, and I don’t think it could have come at a better time.

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Find Someone to Carry You

13087701_1686045468317112_2959808285696922649_nIn deep, intimate moments I’ve often lamented to myself, and anyone who would listen, that there are no more great frontiers.  Sure, there are places with unknowns. The ocean is larger and more terrifying than any land mass. We don’t even know where the expanses of space end, or if they ever do stop expanding. But the era of the everyday man grabbing a bag and a vessel and leaving to explore parts unknown, are over. Now to find new things you have to go to school for years and then be sealed in pressurized metal box. I live in Kansas City. The Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails all cross here. It’s covered in the Railroads that later criss-crossed the land. Now we have major highways and interstates that all intersect in what was last stop of civilization before the emptiness of the frontier. But I missed that. I was born hundreds of years too late.

Last Sunday I woke up. And then Monday I woke up. Tuesday. Wednesday. I keep waking up. And I can’t wake up from what must be a nightmare.

“On any given weekend night I know where some of my closest friends will be. They will be at the gay club down in westport, having a marvelous time. Others drive the uber cars that get called to take people safely home after a night out. We may be in Kansas City right now, but these victims are still our family. My first reaction to events like this is to gather everyone I love and keep them safe, but you can’t live that way. Instead, let’s stand together. Let’s mourn the loss of *so* many lives. But do not stand down. As long as we stand, or sit, or even have to curl up to be held by another, but do not hide, the darkness cannot win. I know those of you I didn’t mention by name are likely still asleep and haven’t heard the news. Sleep peacefully while you can. Stay safe, my friends.”

That morning I wrote. I didn’t stop writing until I went to bed at 3:30 the next morning. I wrote about my family. It is not just our home, but our sanctuary and church that was attacked, invaded and violated.  I wrote to my family. We are hurting and reeling and needed each other. I wrote until I ran out of my own words, and then I shared the words of others until I didn’t have energy to do that.

“When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.” – Firefly

“Please, friends, be gentle with each other. We are all hurting. We are angry. Personally, I want to punch something or someone really hard, repeatedly, for an extended period of time. But I’m not going to because that wouldn’t be good for me. If you disagree with someone, please don’t react even slightly severely. If you have the energy to do that, you have the energy to simply comfort and offer silent support. We are hurting and scared. We are a family united by love, but today we are also united by intense grief and righteous anger.”

That night I went to a friend’s house and watched The Martian. I didn’t really care about any movie, I just needed to get away and be distracted. The movie and its distraction ended and I fell apart in the arms of my friend.

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I ran out of words. It wasn’t just not being able to speak or articulate clearly. There were no words in my thoughts. The spinning and spiraling of my mind that usually has a constant chatter of words and phrases was just a swirl of lights and noises. That kind of numbness was new. Words have always been a refuge, and that day they abandoned me.

“He’d have you all unravel at the sound of screams but the revolution is comin’.” – Farmer Refuted, Hamilton

There was a post circulating among some in the LGBTQ community, of a series of tweets written by an older lesbian who had fought through the AIDS crisis. She mourned, “this wasn’t supposed to happen to you.” The generation of queers before us fought long and hard for the rights and respect that we now have, however little those may be. They quite literally died so that we could have a sliver of safety. 103 people were slaughtered and maimed in a gay bar. That kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. And yet, some of us were painfully unsurprised. We could see the pressure building. While being gay may be more accepted by the general public, there are still many of us whose identities are denied and even vilified.

Monday morning I woke up with Farmer Refuted stuck in my head and a realization at the forefront of my mind. We don’t need new frontiers. We aren’t done with the old ones. There is still work to be done to civilize our world and make it a safe place. Revolution is coming. I stopped in the office of one of the advisors to ask a short question, but stayed for an hour. This advisor happens to be a black woman. We talked about the correlations between people who refuse to be understanding of both of our families. We’ve both had that lovely phrase “all lives matter” thrown in our faces in an effort to redirect the conversations about our pain.

We must stand together. Love wins.

There is much work to do. But for now, let’s take a minute. Take care of yourself. Grieve the dead. Hold those you love. There will be time for action. When that time comes, don’t just talk about the problems, doing something. It’s becoming more apparent how much our lives actually depend on it.

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Balance as Productivity

A few weeks ago I worked backstage for a musical my sister was in. It was the first time I’d worked a show big enough to be in a theater that had headsets, and since I was the only theater person in a backstage full of soccer moms, the stage manager put me on headset and grand curtain. This meant I was the person who had to open the curtain, tell the people in the booth when we were ready for the next scene, and relay any messages to the actors and crew. It was amazing fun, and I got to better taste what bigger productions look like from the tech perspective. The experience as a whole was great, but there was one person backstage whom I could not bear to speak with. This father was a pastor and, like most of the parents in this production, lived in one of the most well-to-do parts of the metro area. There were many reasons I didn’t get along with him, not 20151217_150328least of all being his incessant condescension and talking over me, even though I was executing directions from the stage manager.

Thursday was opening night, but also my best friend’s college graduation, so I took both shows off to be with my school friends one last time before so many of us left for university or got distracted with summer activities. The group met at Culvers for lunch and then went to a nearby park to play catch and climb on one of the coolest jungle gyms in the area. When I got back to the theater Friday morning I went to my post to do my pre-show checks and was met with a question of “Did you have a fruitful day off?” Not a “did you have a good day?” This man was asking if I had a productive day. He had, at other times, suggested that I get a summer job or go on a missions trip. I responded that I would be back at work when the summer term started at the beginning of June. An in between time of rest was evidently unacceptable to his obviously more learned and enlightened sensibilities.

This incident is exemplary of our obsession with raggedness. Everyone must be busy all the time. You are expected to always be in top condition. When asked “how are you?” the response is nearly always a cursory “fine, thanks.” If sadness is shown, it’s often out of place. It’s acceptable to be maddeningly busy; a hectic day is more desireable than a peaceful one. I’m glad to notice this tendency changing and people being more open to sadness, or simple ambiguity and neutrality. However, this has given space for another problem.

It’s cool to be introverted. It’s fashionable to not like people. We have t-shirts that say things like “Go away” and “Ugh. People.” There are innumerable blog posts and articles about the struggles of being an introvert in an extrovert oriented society. And that is certainly a struggle. Being expected to be socially active when you don’t feel like it is unreasonable. There is nothing wrong with needing alone time or wanting to avoid social interaction. Some people need less than others to feel balanced. That’s great. Honestly, I envy them. It’s when this acceptance of the one becomes rejection of the other that the problems come up. There’s a stereotype that introverts are more intellectual and bookish. They are the ones who will spend hours curled up with a book or off in a corner pouring their hearts onto a page. This is unfair to everyone. What should an introvert who isn’t academic do? Are they a failure? Or those of us in my position of being an extrovert, who loves people, but also adores the smell of books and rain, and the thrill of finishing a piece of writing. There are so many inbetweens of introvert and extrovert. Polarized stereotypes leave a lot of people out.

Relying on people is very hard for me. I want to be independent and self-sufficient. Yet, living like that is unsustainable. Everyone needs support, extrovert, introvert or some variation of ambivert. One person can’t fulfill all roles needed to care for a human. Realizing that I am an external processor was arduous. In a time when grumpy cat is one of the most popular memes and venting is seen as attention seeking, being a person that needs and loves people is scary.

So here’s a proposition: Instead of deifying one temperamentality or another, let’s idealize a balanced soul. Rather than bragging about how little sleep we got or how many cups of coffee we’ve had, let’s talk about what self-care practices we’ve found helpful lately. Finding balance isn’t easy; let’s congratulate each other when we have a moment of harmony. It’s much easier to get a to-do list done when both your body and being are energised.

When asked if I had a “fruitful day,” I simply responded yes. My day spent relaxing and just being with people I love was productive in one of the most fulfilling and lasting ways.

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You Comin’ Blondie?

I have a confession to make. I love those stupid personality quizzes. The ones that tell you which element is represented in your soul (always fire, btw) or what kind of food you are (usually something I don’t like that much), but my favorite ones are Disney related. Disney princess quizzes, to be exact. Based on your favorite color and where you would put your dream house, they can magically decipher which princess you are most like. It’s wonderful. I’m to the point now where I take those to see how accurate they are, because it’s been verified by nearly every quiz and several of my friends, that I am actually Rapunzel. She is creative, gets excited about little things, usually barefoot, and has a fantastic love of lizards and unconventional use of housewares.
Rapunzel by Hannah-Alexander

It’s not just because of the personality aspects that I relate to Punzie. I strongly relate to her story, which you could argue helped shape her personality. While I wasn’t literally locked in a tower, I was fairly isolated growing up. Even when I was around other kids, I didn’t fit in very well. Also like Rapunzel, I learned to entertain myself (see also: “When Will my Life Begin.“)

And then there’s Mother Gothel. Rapunzel was gaslighted and brainwashed my her mother figure for her entire childhood. Her sense of reality was skewed. Her sense of what “love” is was skewed. She had to get out and learn what the world and relationships were supposed to be like. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and exposed to new experiences has been painful and scary; I’m still not always sure that the potential is worth the risk.

Near the end of the movie something terrible happens. But it’s the most wonderful thing that could have happened. Rapunzel is freed from her hair, and in that, her bondage. The best changes are often the most frightening ones.

I have always had long hair. By the age of 15 it was all the way down my back and I could almost sit on it. It was thick and soft. The most frequent compliment involved its shine or a new style. It was so admired that I grew to subconsciously associate all of my beauty with my hair. All my value was in my hair. It was the only thing about my body that was of worth. Sound familiar?

My hair had always acted as a security blanket and shield from the world. I hid behind the fact that it let me blend in or be different, depending on how it was styled. Other times I literally hid behind it. It was a common occurrence that I would leave my hair down so it could obscure in my face. Next week will mark a full year since I got my hair cut short, and the last time I had it professionally cut. While there is sometimes a lot of regret that follows  body alterations, that didn’t happen this time. It felt good to be free from such a long held crutch. Cutting my own hair has been another freeing step. It gives me control and a safe outlet for any destructive energy. You would think that taking that energy out on my hair would lead to some really bad haircuts, but it has worked pretty well this far. Maybe it’s my tendency to hyperfocus when I’m feeling out of control.

There are times when I crave long hair. It was fun to play with. It was comforting. It reminded me of a time before I was disillusioned, and for a while, I could slip back into ignorance. That ignorance is so appealing, sometimes. I miss living in the darkness and having no idea what it looked like to pull back the blinds. In some ways it made the darkness more tolerable. Now I have to live with the knowledge of what lies in the dark, and there’s no magic song to sing that can light it up. After all, the hair has been cut. But now I can see that light can come from other places.

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Pieces: Dishonesty by Omission

Anniversaries are important to me. Every now and then I go back through blog posts and read what I wrote a year ago on a certain date or time of year. This spring semester has been full of that kind of nostalgic activity. My Papaw died at the end of February. Looking back and remembering how genuinely sweet and gentle of a man he always was helped bring peace. But not all of my reminiscing has been as tranquil. When I wrote the first blog post about my childhood I hadn’t come to grips with how far reaching the indoctrination of that stifling, poisonous environment was.

While I started opening up about my mental health struggles and eventually seeking help to deal with them, that wasn’t the only aspect of my life that was exposed last March. It was one year ago that I began coming out as– not straight. This probably won’t come as a surprise to most people; I haven’t been very secretive about my sexuality, but I haven’t ever actually come out. The exact terminology is a bit fuzzy, IMG_20160307_134641and the way I identify varies. Sometimes I’ll say biromantic lesbian, but more often the term bisexual seems fitting. Exact labels don’t really matter to me, as they change as a person grows. I like girls and feminine people almost exclusively and the general public really doesn’t need to know more than that. I would say they don’t need to know at all, but there’s a problem with that and it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.

Invisibility is incredibly painful.

Not only is invisibility invalidating, it’s isolating. It isn’t good for me to be left to my own devices; they can be pretty nasty. Much like keeping my pain and past hidden left me feeling imaginary and craving realism, being completely in the closet didn’t last long. I started figuring out my feelings and it became obvious that hiding that part of myself indefinitely was not a viable option. When I first started going to meetings of our campus LGBT club I snuck in, careful that none of my friends saw me. Gradually, those meetings and other events became the majority of my social life. One year later, I’m the vice president of that club where a confused and scared Annie first found acceptance as a queer girl. I could, and probably will, write more about this process, but that’s not what this blog post is about. I want my self to be known for the same reason I blog at all. I share so that others can know they aren’t alone.

This year has been my hardest one in memory. At times it feels like I’ll collapse under the pressure and stress of resurrected memories and ideologies that have nearly literally killed me. Like so many other parts of myself, my self inflicted scars are more visible now. When you are taught from infancy that you deserve death, it is hard to come in as an adult and feel that you deserve not just life, but a happy one. Rewriting those recordings isn’t as easy as swiping a magnet over the tape.

Yet, when I look back at those writings from last year, I can see how far I’ve come in so short a time. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m not as scared of relationships and have allowed myself to be more open to being loved. With that openness and love and support, has come a newfound hope and, dare I say, happiness. And it feels good.

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I’m Not a Midwife

When I was 9 years old my first brother was born. I was thrilled to be designated official videographer of the homebirth. After all, that obviously put me at the same rank as the actual photographer, and he was a wicked cool guy with an amazing camera. “Click,” as 3 year old Claire called him, wasn’t the only person at the birth I was taken with. Miss Kathy, the tattooed, motorcycle riding, short little grandma midwife whose house my parents practically lived at for the month of February. I decided that I wanted to be just like her. She is kind and gentle, but also strong, physically and emotionally.snail

For the next 9 years I would grow more and more passionate about my eventual career as a midwife. Since Mom had started working as a lactation consultant again when I was finishing high school, I was already in position to start studying. For the last two years of high school I was around midwives, doulas and other birth workers, attending homebirth classes, first with my Mom, then by myself once the teachers knew me better. This wasn’t just some passing fancy of a teenager; I had my apprenticeship worked out.

The first step was to become a doula. The August after graduation I enrolled in a birth doula training course. It had been said that this was where most potential midwives were weeded out, but I was determined that I wouldn’t be one of those undedicated, dispassionate students.

But I was. And at the same time, I wasn’t.

I finished the training, but afterwards I didn’t even attempt to continue with the certification. Throughout the class my passion, dedication and adrenaline had heightened. I was learning a lot, but most of it was only a continuation of things I already knew. It was easy for me. Then, near the end of the week, we had a session on working with abuse victims.

On the way home that night I sobbed.

It wasn’t only because of the emotional drain of talking about abuse all day. That had been fine at the time. I cried because I knew I was done. The road was taking me elsewhere and the destination wasn’t at all where I had expected. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but there was a sense of completion. What needed to be learned was learned. I didn’t know it for a long time, but I have come to realize that this was the beginning of my journey to reconciling my past with my mental health, and beginning to seek healing.

The next 6 months were tumultuous. It was too late to enroll at community college, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, or if I was smart enough. What was my purpose? The passion I had felt was real, I have no doubt of that. It just didn’t lead me down the path I originally thought. Finding its location has been one of my missions this past year, and I still don’t know exactly where it is.

I’m halfway done with my second spring semester. There are still plenty of things I’m unsure of, but I do know that going to school was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a completely different person than I was, even only a year ago, and I’m a much better version of myself now. But if I were to be truly honest, even with the reinforcement of an invitation to the honors society and a job in the tutoring center, I often feel that I’ll be found out to be an idiot at any moment. I just finished my application to study theater tech at University of Central Missouri some time in the next year. There are a lot of things I don’t know about, but underneath the insecurity, depression and anxiety, I know moving forward is a good thing.

I still want to be like Miss Kathy. I want to be strong and kind. I want to inspire; to change people’s lives for the better. I want a little girl to look at me and say, “That. I want to be like that.”

I know I’m not a midwife. I don’t know everything I am, but I do know that I am a storyteller, a collector, a writer, and a teacher.

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I really hate the predictability of writing a post like this at the end of December. It’s so cliche, and so not me (she said, her voice dripping sarcasm). I get more retrospective on my birthday or the beginning of the school year than around New Year’s. The fact is, I’ve been working on this post since August. I’ve started and stopped at least three times.  There are so many drafts, on all different topics, just sitting on the virtual editing table. Some of them may eventually be finished and published, some may just gather cobwebs. I’ve actually been writing more in the past few months than I have in a long time, but most of it has been journaling.  I’m probably going to continue focussing on journaling for a while, but I felt like saying a couple of things here.wheresanniebw

This year has been– I can’t really even think of a way to end that sentence. It has been, at the same time, the hardest and happiest year of my life. When I posted in March about my depression, I really didn’t comprehend what that realization meant. When your foe is invisible you don’t realize how big it is; you aren’t as scared of it, but it’s more dangerous. After you see clearly what it is, you’re more able to be afraid of it,  but also more able to fight it. I’m still
depressed, and I’ve lost a lot of weight because of it, but I’m getting help and finding ways to cope. I’ve had self harm relapses, some of them have been pretty bad ones, but the shame that kept me in hiding has lessened. Learning to let go of old ideas and relearn who I am and what I want has been my focus this year, in a way.

School has played a huge part in my life. The post from my first day on campus is almost funny now. For one thing, the gamers are my friends and I can hold my own in a game of Super Smash Bros. I’m pretty sure I remember seeing the person who is now one of my best friends playing that day. Most surprisingly, I’m vice president of one of the most active clubs on campus, and have somehow managed to be on the honors list every semester I’ve been here. The club means so much to me, and a little over a year ago I wouldn’t have even joined. The members have grown to be my friends and often call me mom (especially if I know they have a test coming up). If you had told me at the beginning of last fall that I would not only be considered a good student, but also be elected vice president of this club, I would likely have laughed in your face.

I think I know how to end that sentence now. This year has been big.

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Last week I opened my email to find that one of my pieces had been selected as the winner of a poetry contest I had all but forgotten that I had submitted to. (Again, actual content is forthcoming, I have two drafts in the hopper at the moment)

My heart is filled with churning emotion
I don’t understand
A longing
A drawing
She’s calling to me
I must answer
Frantically I search for–
Wandering among her branches and leaves
Finding a place of rest
The air is cold everywhere but here
My body is weak and tired
I lie down

Everywhere my back meets her surface
A warmth surges through me
Her grasses hide my face
Invisible to all but the lights above
And those lights
They sparkle and crackle
They whisper secrets

Faraway lands, they sing of
Lands of light and color
Where lights and sound swirls together
In an ethereal dance
I long to see those lands
A drop slips down my face
“Let me catch it!” a light cries
It leaps from its dark home to mine

I feel arms wrapping around me
Invisible bands holding me down
Not just my limbs
My every fiber becomes part of her
I can feel the pulse of my every cell
The air rush and fill every corner of my lungs
My mind, firing and processing
Then I become aware of her

I feel her move beneath my skin
The rotation that lasts beyond memory
Speed unimaginable
She has seen so much
She knows every secret
We commune and she tells her stories
Every foot that has passed over this spot
Every paw that ever will
She tells me her hopes and dreams
Her pain and woes
We share burdens and they lighten
I spread my hands and feel her surface
Intertwining my fingers in hers
Touching one so old and infinitely finite

The parliament across the meadow begins
They call to each other and to me
Asking probing questions
“Who, who?”
“I am Earth.” I respond
“How, how?”
“We are One.” I reply

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Contest Blame

Perhaps I’ll have an actual post eventually. For now, life is busy; school has started again and I’m heavily involved with some campus organizations doing great things, I’m working through some things and learning a lot about myself. I was reading through some old journal entries tonight and found this from a few weeks ago. The things you think of in the shower…

Contest; v. to argue against, dispute, call into question

Up far into the night
Try to sort through my heart
Try to still it’s restless churning
Still it doesn’t make sense
Though I try as I might
My whole soul feels as though it is burning

I lay out the pieces
Connect all the dots
Fit together a past for myself
It looks broken and shattered
And I bleed where it cuts
Is this really what’s best for my health

And how can I move on
I don’t know what is real
Scars as invisible as they are deep
But they still mar my soul
Break what’s left of my heart
Lose my mind as I also lose sleep

They shouldn’t still sting
It was all in your head
Says the shrill voice as it tries to shame me
Says my feelings aren’t real
Wrong for this reason or that
Causing more hurt with all of it’s blaming

It’s alright to hurt
It’s alright to feel
That sharp, impish voice is a lie
Sure some have it better
And some have it worse
But pain isn’t a race
You don’t have to be first

Memories; a life I left
I can’t remain the same
I must move on
Accept myself
Stop trying to place the blame

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Creativity in Hindsight

Sometimes you don’t really understand what your art means, or why you make it at all. But that’s the thing about being a creative person. You can’t stop making things just because you don’t understand them. When I wrote Volumes of Rows, I didn’t realize that what I was describing was probably dyslexia. That swimming around before the words are finally stationary long enough to convey their message is what goes on in my head every time I try to read. It’s as if the characters are on a rubber band that bounces away and back in the millisecond after my eye touches it. I didn’t notice this until recently, but it’s comforting to have an explanation of why I read so slowly, have a hard time with spelling and punctuation, and trouble doing basic arithmetic.penandink

When I’ve explained what I see to friends, the general reaction is something about how terrifying that must be. The first time I heard this, I laughed. It never occurred to me that vision problems were scary; they’re part of my reality.

But reality can be a scary place. Some of us don’t even have to read the news to see that. Some of us just have to remember. I’m still undoing years of brainwashing and manipulation. There are parts of my self, my personhood,  that I have such a hard time accepting because of what I was raised to think and feel about my body and role as a woman. I’ve felt overwhelming embarrassment when I see a picture of myself that shows some evidence of boobs, or even one that simply makes me look good. The amount of shame I felt after going out with friends and dancing with an attractive stranger left me in a state of extreme anxiety for weeks, resulting in more than one minor anxiety attack (one at rehearsal, in front of the whole cast of about 30). Processing my adolescence is taking much longer than I had expected. I keep finding myself upset about things that I thought I had gotten over.

Creating helps. Writing isn’t something I choose to do, it’s something that happens. To be honest, sometimes I hate it. It burns. It feels like drawing a long thread out of my diaphragm, and looping it into letters and words and thoughts. Both the exit wound and where it contacts my fingers feel as though they are being rubbed raw. But I have to do it. To leave that thread in place would burn even more; eventually eating me up from the inside out. When I journal I don’t know where the entry is going. Most begin with something about how I don’t know what to write or how to articulate my feelings. Journaling is cathartic. Writing poetry helps me articulate my emotions that I’m still trying to accept. I create to find out what I feel. And I share some of what I create to validate my feelings and those of others whom have had similar experiences. But I can’t share unless I create in the first place. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

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