Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the rain

The rain drummed on the roof last night, suddenly torrential, like the sky opened up, like it was summer. I had read on the weather website that the rain was coming, but then when I heard it, it felt different. I can't articulate it but it felt metaphoric, perhaps important. I would have highlighted that section of the book if I had read it. The rain continued steady and true all night and into today. I didn't mind it. I like the rain. I liked that it was more than a drizzle, and that it was either raining, or not. I stood in the rain for a while tonight talking to my friend. "I am getting wet," I kept thinking. "I am getting wet." I just noticed the wetness on me, but I didn't try to change it. I didn't move or mind it. I wanted to talk to R. He is struggling. We cried first together, over different things. We cried in spite of ourselves. Then we laughed at our crying, then we laughed at the rain. 

Earlier in the evening, I called out to her as she walked out the door. She stopped and turned toward me, waiting.

I love you. I said, You saved my life.

I love you, darling.  You can always call me. I'm not going to Mars.

And then she walked out the door. I wasn't sappy with her. I didn't cry often. It wasn't our relationship, but she heard my deepest secrets. The things I never told anyone, not even you. When someone hurt me, she was the first person I called. She told me to pray. She told me to meditate. When I was annoying the fuck out of her, she told me to read page 417. She told me I walked in God's grace. She told me I had twenty good things about myself and if I couldn't write what they were, then she would. And she did.

My hands went to my face when she left. I cried in spite of myself. She is gone. She walked out the door of the church, just like every night. Her life is blossoming. I want her to be happy in the new place, far away from me, but I am afraid to be without her. I am just a drunk, still learning to trust. I am so sad to see her walk into the rain.

My hands are wet.

The women rally around me.

It is a big deal to lose a sponsor. It is a big deal, honey.
It is okay to cry.
You are going to be okay, Angie.
Oh, honey, cry. It is a big deal.
Call me tomorrow, Angie. Call me.

She is the woman who saved my life by sharing all the dark, hurt parts of her, and then sharing the hope. She is the one who showed me how to recover, the one who guided me in meeting my demons, the one who loved me until I loved myself. She is my first sponsor. She was the first person I met where I wanted what she had--serenity. She said that it was okay to want that part of her. She told me exactly what to do with every minute of my day until I stopped shaking and moaning and crying, until I found serenity. She introduced me to God, and to myself. She listened to the worst I had to offer. She abided and then she said, "I have to tell you, Angie, you are a very nice person. I am privileged to know you."

The rain was not too cold tonight. It is the end of November. The leaves are all fallen. I don't even think we will have to rake again. The sky blushes a soft pink with orange streaks in the mornings without rain. Tomorrow there will be streaks in the sky. It will remind me of a watercolor. Tomorrow she will drive away from this town forever. She will close a chapter of her life, and I will begin a new one myself. My chapter will start:

There is a woman who drives through the rain. She saved my life once. 

Despite myself, I am soaked with tears. I knew they would come, but they are steady and torrential at times, but covering my face. The tears are warm, like gratitude, and puddle under me.

some additional thoughts and questions on anger and patience

I just feel like I have to say that the anger we feel because of our children's death is, of course, justified anger, a natural element of grief. And what Cathy said, anger at evil, or child abuse, or sex trafficking, those are circumstances that should make us angry, angry enough to want to change something. But I think the important part is what we do with the anger. Cathy brought up some interesting points about justice, and I just think that releasing anger doesn't necessarily release the need to find justice. We can be compassionate and seek justice. While still understanding, at least with most personal issues between two people, there is no justice, no balance of right and wrong, because truth is a subjective, slippery object.

One thing I feel like I failed to mention is that patience is NOT ignoring. It is actually inspiring curiosity at our own intentions. Sit with the anger, become curious about it. The way we examine ourselves, our goals in confrontation and anger, our intentions in the friendship/relationship. Neither is patience a kind of endurance. While patience is slow, think of it as something like cultivating loving-kindness. You retreat until you can come to the situation with pure heart, pure loving-kindness. That is why this is a hard conversation to have when we talk about the anger of babyloss and grief. We are angry. If we practice patience in regards to grief anger, we simply can't sit with it until we are cool with it. Because we will never be cool with it. We can always dredge up our anger, I believe. We have to live with the anger and the injustice of our losses. In some ways, many of us channel that energy into something else. That is why I find my painting, my blogs, serving as editor on Glow in the Woods, being a HOPE Mentor for MISS Foundation such vitally important work for me, because I channel that anger energy into seeking some kind of justice. Not justice in her death, but justice in our lives, creating spaces to safely explore all the emotions and experiences around the death of our children. I am grateful that I had people to turn to after her death. All of you. I set my anger aside. I don't forget it. I don't ignore it. I sit with it. You witness that in this space and at Glow all the time. The other part of that experience is commenting on other blogs, and reading comments. I love you, the other grieving parents. I feel such overwhelming compassion for others who are just like me, and in that way, learn to forgive myself and the anger I feel at me that she died in me and I couldn't prevent it.

And to follow up on Monique's question: How do you express/release these emotions in a healthy way?

Monique, honestly, I have been thinking about this a ton and I think we release emotions/anger in a healthy way here in this community, by abiding and listening and venting here, and not to the object of anger. I don't know about anyone else, but for me, I used this space to honestly explore and talk about my anger. It felt safe. I did end up alienating some people in my life who saw my anger as unwarranted. Those people visited this blog and read. This space is public, and I suppose I forget that, because it just seems like it is other grieving women and men and me having a conversation. These people did not lose children. They just thought I was being unfair across the board. They didn't like who I had become. I agreed with them. I didn't like who I had become either. But I was trying to be honest with those emotions, trying to handle it in a safe way.

Anger is not a comfortable emotion to dwell in or visit. It is not comfortable for the angry person or the person near the angry person. Babylost blogs have created a safe space for anger, and I think that is a good thing. So, we write about it, we art about it. We smash things in a controlled setting, then make art about it. Generally, we do not engage in the anger with the people we are angry with. To me, that is healthy. I love what Pema Chodron says about aggression and anger--it is such an uncomfortable emotion, our psyche demands we change it, so that is why we lash out. We need it released. So sitting in anger is a rare thing for most of us. How do we accept and not act on anger? I think that is why they call it a practice, because it takes discipline and work, a second by second mindfulness to break the habit of anger and aggression.

One thing I wrote to Monique privately is that I don't think we failed at mindfulness because we were/are angry. How could we not be angry? Our children died. It is a primal emotion. It is a natural response. I think this article really deals with anger at other people, institutions, etc. I think for me the issue is misplacing the normal anger at losing my child on people who said benign, but thoughtless, crap to me, or acted in ways that normally wouldn't get me angry. Grief really twisted anger into a dangerous bedfellow for me. What feels so overwhelming about this whole line of thought and patience is the sheer work it takes to deal with every emotion until it becomes second nature to us.

The wisdom of Jill's comment is staggering. Writing down your anger and letting it sit for three days. I love the idea of an anger journal and exploring what makes you angry and if it still makes you angry three days later. My sponsor always tells me that the only response I should give when I am angry is "Oh." or "Ouch". or "I will have to think about that and get back to you on it." I call it dropping the O-bomb. When someone says something unkind, the well-placed "Oh" disarms.

Here is the other question in the comments: Um, yes. How do you pray for people who you are really angry with? Thanks

In recovery, the prayer is called the resentment prayer. I wrote a post about this about a month ago, but never published it. It was intended to be self-deprecating and funny.

I asked my sponsor the other day exactly what to do when I am supposed to pray for someone. You know, when someone hurts you and you tell everyone the situation. Other people get quiet and look like they're thinking, then they clap their hands together and say, "Pray for them." They say it like they invented the concept, and you roll your eyes, and think in your head, "Hell, no, I'm not praying for that douche." And then you remember that changing every little bit of you is about changing every little bit of you, particularly those nasty little bits you rarely admit aloud, the ones that pop in your brain and stick around like truth. But how do you bridge that place between thinking they are a douche and praying for them?

My current prayer involved me telling God exactly what a douche this person is and can you please make him see what a douche he himself is being. In my feeble brain, I somehow put together that I may be doing more self-harm than good with this sort of prayer. Praying for a douche by calling him a douche probably isn't the point. My godliness seems to be degenerating.

So, I just asked her. That is what a sponsor is there for. To guide you spiritually. To answer the questions you are too embarrassed to ask anyone else.

How do you pray for someone? What exactly do you say?
Here, she said, I will tell you exactly what to say. Get a pen and paper. Ready? God, I pray you release me from my resentment towards (blank). Please bless (blank) in whatever (blank) may be needing this day. Please give (blank) everything I want for myself. May (blank)'s life be full of health, prosperity and happiness."
That is really beautiful. 
I didn't write it, but it is and it helps. 

God, I pray you release me from my resentment towards that douche. Please bless the douche in whatever the db might be needing this day. Please give that douche everything I want for myself. May the douchebag's life be full of health, prosperity and happiness. Amen.

Wow, I do feel better.

Melissa asked this question: My heart is sore with anger and resentment, and I need a path for letting it go. At the same time, how do I do that knowing that other people are angry with me? Nobody is at complete fault, nobody is without fault. Everyone is miserable. How do we reach peace?

Man, this question nails it. The pain of that place of being angry and being an object of anger. Thank you for asking it, for sharing your experience here. I think this is the space where we can cultivate empathy and compassion since you are both angry and someone is angry with you. You can understand what your friend is going through because you are going through anger too. One piece of wisdom I have used as a mantra all weekend is this: "What other people think and feel about me is none of my business."

Letting it go is such a throw away statement, but truly letting something go is really incredibly difficult work. My approach to guilt and feeling sad because others are angry with me is to write about it in a very detailed way. I write about the incident in as much fact as possible, then I write the way it affected me, the parts of my life it affected--my security, my finances, my sexual identity, my self-esteem, my reputation. Then I write about how I played a role in the incident and what guided that behaviour--my fear? My selfishness? My inconsiderateness? And maybe none of those things apply. I then identity the kind of character defects that contributed to that behavior and I use that as a kind of mindful practice for the next day. If I was not listening to a friend and interupting or trying to posture and share my very wise insights, then I write I was being inconsiderate. I cannot change the past, but I can change my future. I then work on listening more than speaking the next day. I have to say, I pretty much write this down every day.  But there is always one change I try to incorporate into my life. In the same way, I write the ways I made a positive contribution to the situation, and if I can't find any, then I write five things I like about myself that I can use in the situation.

In this way, you can identify your own behaviour. You only can change, or control that truly. When you feel your heart is full of love, rather than anger, you can approach the person by taking responsibility for only your role in the argument/disagreement.

It was wrong of me to talk over you when you were trying to communicate such an important experience.

Whether that person gossiped about you, whether they were horrible to you, if they are mad at you for something else entirely, that is all you need to take responsibility for--the thing you have done wrong. I have done this with people who have wronged me, and wanted me to take full responsibility for more of our disagreement. I remained loving, but did not waver on what was my responsibility and what was theirs. You are absolutely right that nobody is completely at fault or nobody is without fault. We are all flawed and good people.

I often think that I did the best I could with the tools I had. We gain tools through our life. We amass wisdom. And we would probably react differently today than to the situations in our past. But we don't have that luxury. One thing that helps me to say to the other person is that I never have to be that person again, and I will move forward. Can we let go of resentment and anger? Yes. They are emotions that are not truths. They are not constants in the world. How we let go is to pray for them, even if you don't know who you are praying to, speaking about your hurt, your resentment, asking for help, even if you don't know who you are asking help from, all of those things help clarify.

I hope I got at some of the essence of your question. I found so much beauty in the struggle of what you were saying, because we have all been in that place of feeling angry and feeling bad at someone else's anger at us. What a shaming place to be.

Monday, November 28, 2011

question: anger and patience

Edited to add: This question came in the comments of this post: another post where I kill a metaphor by slow torture. In that post, I talked about how I drew lines in the sand with friends, resided in a place of anger and impatience. And how through recovery, I am learning about how detrimental anger and resentment is to my spiritual condition, and how it feeds into my spiritual malady. I also talked about patience and how I lacked patience, and am trying to work on that aspect of overcoming anger. Cathy asked me this question, and I read this question as her asking me to expand on the philosophies that led me to believe that anger is inhibiting me, and patience is a virtue I need to cultivate. Hope that makes sense. As I said in the comments on this post, I am not perfect on this. In fact, I am just about as far from perfect in this as I can be, but I am practicing letting go of anger.

From Cathy from Missouri.

I wondered if you would expand on some questions that surfaced about today's post?

What *should* make us angry in life? Anything? I can't settle in with the idea that "nothing" is a reliable answer, or that anger always = weakness. I don't think you would say that, either - wondered what your thoughts are?

What is the patience for? As in, what are we waiting for? Patience without an object doesn't seem like patience; more like denial. What about when the "patience advocates" are actually trying to deny the reality of suffering? Or is that the goal?

I hope you don't mind questions. Your posts always make me think and that's very welcome.

Cathy in Missouri 

Thank you so much for your question, Cathy. I have enjoyed thinking about this, writing about it, meditating on it.

I engage in two lines of thoughts in regards to my philosophies around anger--Buddhism and what I have learned in recovery. In recovery, anger is kind of a gateway emotion to the behaviors that keep us drinking, drugging, eating, sexing, gambling--those coping mechanisms that addicts develop to deal with normal life. In this way, "I am so angry, I need a drink to calm down." Or "You would drink too if people ticked you off the way I am ticked off." See, it is not that there is no justifable anger. But the line between justifiable and unjustifiable is barely legible. It is hard to discern, hard to recognize. In recovery, there is a line in the main book that calls anger the "dubious luxury of normal men." And it feels like that a luxury, something indulged in, something I cannot indulge in, like bourbon.

In Buddhism as in recovery, anger is a poison. Deadly and potent. A way to justify all kinds of wrong behaviour. Buddhism takes the same line of thought about anger--there is no justifiable anger. All this is being said in the same breath that I can say that anger is a natural emotion. Anger is a response to fear. Anger works in nature to defend the vulnerable animal.

"So what should make us angry in life? Anything?"

Ideally, nothing, but I don't think that is realistic. I also do not think there is one answer that fits that question. Buddhists believe that no anger is justified. That doesn't mean that anger is not a natural human response, but simply that indulging in anger is not justified. Personally, I think anger is a habit. Anger is a conditioned response, and it can be conditioned out. That certainly does not mean that we ignore anger and pretend everything is okay. Mostly, I have found in my own experience, anger is a response I barely recognize in myself. I think I am hurt and the person betrayed me. I often put it in terms of loyalty. I cry. I grow frustrated. I misplace it easily. I don't realize that my anger is there, and it comes out in being overly sensitive, overly critical, overly everything. Anger, in my experience, distorts the truth.

Which doesn't answer your question, I realize. The only way I can think to answer this is to help you recognize and dispel anger rather than tell you what I think is justifiable and non-justifiable anger. My hookable places, as Pema Chodron calls them, are different than yours and different than the next person and different than Pema Chodron's. This is where the patience comes in and what we are being patient for.

There is this saying in Buddhism: Walking in the rain is only uncomfortable if you are trying to stay dry. That is to say, any human experience is suffering if you think it is suffering. If we agree that anger is a normal response to fear and it is natural, then we need to stop punishing ourselves for feeling anger. That takes part of the suffering of anger out of the equation--the guilt of anger. It is only then that we can deal with the anger. The steps for dealing with anger are exactly what you think they are, except they are much harder than they sound. 1. Admit that you are angry. I can't think of anything more frustrating than talking to someone who is clearly angry and keeps denying their own anger. Maybe more frustrating is talking yourself out of your own anger, and having someone continually tell you you are angry. Can you allow yourself the space for anger? Can you honestly assess anger and work towards its elimination? There is the key to dealing with anger. 2. Identify why you are angry. I find most of my anger comes from a fear of not being loved, but that is just me. 3. Cultivate patience.

Patience means waiting out your own anger. You restrain yourself and your responses, because anger comes out in every word you speak to the person. Pema Chodron writes about anger and patience, "Patience means getting smart: you stop and wait. You also have to shut up, because if you say anything it’s going to come out aggressive, even if you say, 'I love you.'"

That is true, no? You can tell when someone is angry with you by their tone of voice. The part of anger that makes it so indulgent and difficult to channel into love is that anger is such intense suffering. It is a ball of differing emotions--aggression, betrayal, hurt, loss, pain, resentment, fear, irritation. It grows the more you feed it and it becomes a planet that has its own gravitational pull. It sucks other emotions into it. In that way, anger demands resolution. You just want to stop your pain and suffering. We scream and yell, or even calmly explain why the other person is wrong and you are right. But the way we resolve issues in anger does not help the situation; it escalates suffering. Patience is the way out.  Patience isn't to deny the anger or suppress it, but to call the thing by its proper name. This is what humility is to me--taking ourselves right where we are. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Patience isn't just waiting--it is fearless waiting. It is reacting internally rather than externally. It is listening. It is breathing. That is scary to our egos--to hear someone's grievances with us, or hateful words, or watch their wrong actions, and sit silently with them, not indulging in the drama, not being right. It is setting a goal to your anger--to stop your suffering and the suffering of others--while understanding that there is no resolution to suffering and anger. Do you understand that? Patience advocates (in Buddhism, at least) are not trying to deny the suffering, but to acknowledge, understand and cease the continuation of suffering.

I am going to stop here and just mention that the goal is to cultivate a loving-kindness with all sentient beings. That is always the goal. The caveat is not "except for those people with whom you are angry." Christians counsel to pray for the people you are angry for*, Buddhists counsel the same thing, to approach each person with loving-kindness. To share your compassion, to want to literally remove their suffering and take it on ourselves.

This really leaves us with nothing. We can never be "right", right? Right. You can be right or happy. Because indulging in that anger, fighting, trying to convince, change, cajole...where does this lead us? To more suffering. When we leave an argument where we "won", the other person is hurt, sad, rejected and dejected. Have we truly won? Patience is a way to diffuse yourself, to react in a way that is going to help alleviate suffering rather than create more. So, what do we do with all this self-knowledge after looking at our own anger and suffering? We let it go.

Easier said than done. I have such a hard time letting shit go. I open my hands to let go of the reins, and I realize I had been holding so long and so tightly, that the rope are burned into my skin. So, we do it  little by little. We let go of our need to argue, first. We let go of wanting to be right. We let go of the importance of our anger. We let go. And we will indulge in anger. We will confront people even when we know this, we are human. But we will try next time to walk away if we cannot sit in silence. To ask for twenty-four hours to respond to confrontation. We set boundaries so we do not have to indulge in anger. And that means the practice of patience is also patience with ourselves. Patience with our own humanity.

I hope this sheds some light on this topic in my life and my approach to anger, which is a new thing. I should say, it is a practice I have focused on in the last eleven months of sobriety. I didn't realize how full of anger and resentment I was before. Seeing that in my has really forced me to understand and confront those anger demons. As always, I love answering questions about Buddhism, grief, sobriety, parenting, mindful parenting, loss, art, religion (I love religion questions) and everything in between. I like riffing on topics other people pick, if I have to be honest. Anyway, you can leave them in comments or send me an email at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com. I can also clarify any of this and welcome any Buddhist or AAer to clarify their understanding of these topics.

* I actually wrote a post about exactly how you pray for people with whom you are angry. I can publish it, if anyone is interested. 

I consulted this article by Pema Chodron called The Answer to Anger and Aggression is Patience. I read it a few months ago when I was journaling about my own anger and resentment and read it again before writing this post. It is worth the read if you are interested in this topic.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


After an early Thanksgiving dinner, the baby started whining and grabbing for my shirt. I try to limit breastfeeding to before nap, but I wanted to be still. To lie on my back and not speak. Nor smile, nor cook. Just be. So I grabbed the baby up took him up to bed, even though it was much too late for a nap. After days of preparation, and Thanksgiving pre-k crafts, and pictures, and airport runs, and no shower since Tuesday, I fell asleep. The baby never slept. He slid off the end of the bed and ran to the stairs and called for someone to rescue him. "DA! DA!" I slept a deep hard sleep that made me bleary-eyed and grumpy, but rested. I forgot where I was for a moment. When I woke, I forgot that I wrote about you. I forgot about Thanksgiving and the tree being gone and my daughter being dead. I just slept without conditions. Then I stumbled to the phone on my bedside table, and saw it was 430, and that I had an email. It was from Sugar on the Rumpus. And then I remembered how fucking grateful I am to be able to sleep.

Can I tell you a secret, loves?

I am grateful.

Not that she died. But that I had somewhere to go when she died.

That in your desperation, you created a place.

I pulse gratitude. It pumps through me. In waves. Circulates through the outer reaches of my body, the extremities of my being, even my swollen, grumpy fingertip still gets some thanking blood.

She died.

I don't say that lightly. I just say it because it happened, and I forget that is how we all met. Well, not quite forget, but I look past it. I am grateful for many things, after all, not just you. I spread my love around, Internet. I scoop up the baby and pretend to smell his tootsies, but I spend ten minutes just kissing each toe, and each cell of him. This week, with all this gratitude talk, I have been staring at him more and more. He lived. Do I say that enough? Do I sit in the grace of that enough? I am grateful for my health, my family, my house, my little dog who is quite big now. I am grateful for being an alcoholic and being able to fix the broken parts of me, because now I know what is wrong with me. I am grateful for my strong calves even if I can't buy boots easily, and my long nose.

I am grateful for so much, the solidity around the absence of her. And yet, when a Sugar column popped up in my email last week, asking people to submit their gratitude, all I could think of was you.

94 Ways of Saying Thank You.

Can you find mine? If not, here is what it says:

Dear Sugar,

I am grateful for the on-line community of grieving parents that formed a mini-country after their babies were stillborn or died early in life. At first, I felt exiled to their barren wintered land. Those brave, vulnerable souls saved my sanity, my humor, my baby’s memory. They saved my life. They keened with me. They expressed outrage and stomped their feet. They asked me to tell them the story of my daughter’s birth, even though they knew the ending. They looked past my daughter’s torn skin and white skin and told me she was beautiful. (She is beautiful.) They made me laugh when the last thing on earth I wanted to do was laugh. They shared their wisdom and their children and their unconditional support. They made me feel normal in a world and society unfit to deal with baby-death, dead baby grief, and the idea that healthy people have stillborn babies.


What are you grateful for, my loves?  
 (Oh, and I am totally answering Cathy from Missouri's question, but this is the first time I have sat to write in a few days. Will do that this weekend, promise. And answer emails. And comment on blogs. )

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

pilgrims and indians.

My daughter came home wearing a pilgrim hat today.

She has this sort of light brown strawberry blonde hair, and she wore a little jumper today with flowers on it. A pair of pink sparkly Mary Janes. She looked edible, that is how adorable it was, except that my insides went all haywire. We are Native peoples, not pilgrims. And what is she learning about American Thanksgiving? She is in pre-kindergarten. What blanks can I fill in? Small pox? Mass execution? Guns? Reservations?

Howard Zinn bounces through my head, and I kneel in front of her and say, "We are Native American people, Beezus. We are the Indians." And yet, I suppose, she, like me, is part pilgrim. She doesn't understand, and I don't know how to explain. She is little and the myth of Thanksgiving is beautiful, healing, forgiving and compassionate. I want her to learn about gratitude. I want her to share her harvests. Strangers sharing a meal, making peace, giving thanks--those are good things, but the whole white-washing-the-relationship-between-white-people-and-the-Native-Americans-through-Thanksgiving-thing depresses me.

I had to make sense of who I was, culturally and ethnically, eventually. How I identified, who I am, what I hold as my cultural heritage.  And now I have to help my children make sense of that. I am a first generation American. My mother came to this country, but her people have been on this continent for a long long time. My mother is Central American. Her family is a mix of European and native--mestizo. In this country, my family were at one point aliens. Foreigners even though their history on this land spans longer than the people making those rules.

I have a pipe-smoking Indian great-grandmother who wore weavings and braided her hair together in a long loopy braid. And another who was Italian and Spanish who grew up in Panama cooking paella and spaghetti. My father is Irish and German. But what I look like is brown. Brown and not white. That is what people see--the brown. The Latina. That is how they treat me. And because I get ignored at jewelry counters, and followed in malls. I identify as a Latina, because I am treated by people as a Latina. I am brown. It does not deny my white father.

When I was younger, thinner and more beautiful, I would get asked where I was from on a daily basis as I walked down the street, waited to come into my building at work, buying my coffee. Mostly from men, sometimes from older women. It was a conversation starter, I suppose. I looked exotic, not American. People have asked me if I am from India, Turkey, Egypt, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, Italy, Mexico. People have wondered if I am half-African-American. Sometimes they would ask me in loud halting English, like my first language had me translating each well wisher. I would answer "Schnecksville, Pennsylvania," because it was like a giant eff off to the idea what it means to be a Latina.

I once dated a man who told me he could hear my Spanish accent when I got mad. Spanish is not my first language, or even really my second. I do not have a Spanish accent. I am able to communicate enough in Spanish to find a communist camp and get us hydrated, but I wouldn't exactly say I am fluent. We all project something onto the person we are with, what we want them to be, why we chose them them in the first place, but there was something about that comment that felt so alienating, so objectifying. In that moment, my identity felt so confused, even to me. I had always felt in between races, cultures, identities. I was seen as white in Latino communities and Latino in white ones. But the Latinos would approach me to say, "Speak Spanish more. We need you. We need you working in our communities, smashing the stereotypes that people have of Latinos." And I felt like I fit precisely because I don't fit.

A couple Halloweens ago, I was dressed as Frida Kahlo. I was drinking beers with my neighbors, and I said something about how I am turning into that crazy Chicana who dresses like Frida slowly once a week, then every third day, then every other day, then every day. And my neighbor said, "Oh, honey, you are white." And someone else nodded, and I grew red hot with confused anger.

Do you think I am white because I live in a nice house in the suburbs?
Because I am not doing your lawn?
Because I am not taking care of your children?
You think I am white because I am smart and articulate?
Because I am confident and look you in the eyes when I speak?
Because I dress in black and listen to the Smiths when I get depressed?
Why do you think I am white? Because of the color of my skin? Because of my voice? Because of what?

I said nothing.

It shames me that I say nothing. But I don't. There is a historical and upsetting history of white people passing laws about what it means to be white or black or Native American and making judgments on who is and isn't white. White people assigning racial identity has a long and dark history. Just because you have never met a "Latina Nerd", or a successful, articulate Latina does not mean they don't exist. There is not one way to be Latina, just like there is not just one way to be white. People who diverge from the racial stereotypes about money, education, articulateness, skin tones, and music preferences are not diverging from their own race. I hear it said about our president, the mayor the city near where I reside. It makes me bristle, because I understand what that feels like to be told that even though you are brown, you are not brown enough. I know what it feels like to be told you are not white enough too. I am both in equal measures. I am not white. I am not brown. I am not not white. I am not not brown.

When I just had Beezus, she of the blue eyes and blonde hair, people would approach me and talk about how beautiful she is. Coo at her and then turn to me.

"Is she yours?" 
"Are you the babysitter?" 
"The Nanny?" 
"Her mother must be jealous at how much she loves you."

That is a role people understand--brown lady caring for a white baby fits what it means to be a Latina in the well-to-do suburbs of New Jersey. But brown lady who gives birth to a white baby is confusing. Now with Thomas in my arms, my little baby with brown eyes and olive skin, people seems to understand something more about our family. That we don't neatly fit into a box marked Pilgrim. or Indian.

I am sharing this today, because that is how all these things feel to me--PICK WHO YOU ARE. Mark a box. White. Latino. Native American. And if so, which type? What nation? Are you an alien? Are you legal? Are you illegal? You must be something. Who are you? Let's define you. What is the color of your skin? Where are your people from? What kind of music do you like? What sneakers do you wear? What side of the Thanksgiving table are you sitting? Maize or creamed corn?

I am many things. My children are even more. I talk to Beezus about the Native Americans, the Five Hundred Nations, the myths and the religion, the food and the connection to the earth. I don't speak of the mass slaughter, the disease, the humiliation. I do not speak of Leonard Peltier or Chiapas. One day, but not today. I tell her about the reservations, the loss of their language, the racism. We pray for the people suffering. I speak in ways that explain why the Pilgrims told the story of Thanksgiving and not the Indians. And I include her.

You are Native American. We are Native American. We are part pilgrim too. We have a little bit of all parts of this country. And for that I am grateful. I am grateful to feel a little bit a part of everything. I am grateful to be part of your tribe.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

question: grieving openly around children

This question is from my lovely friend MA who would like to remain mostly anonymous: 

Do you think it is bad to grieve openly around our kids, or not to do it at all? Do you think they are growing up with a sort of ..shadow? I know I always, every day, miss my brother who was my mother's first child and stillborn. My mother only talked about him twice, and I don't know anything other than his name and that he is dead. And I have felt an intense sadness all my life. Is being open about it a better idea? Or worse?

Thank you for this question. I just want to express my condolences. I have known you for four years now, and I did not know you lost a brother in this way, like my own child. I imagine that growing up in this way was confusing--to feel grief and not understand it.

This question was sent to me a month ago and initially, I thought I had heaps to say about it, then I kept staring at it, turning my head, re-reading it. If it were a three-dimensional object, I would have taken it up, spun it around, held it, studied it. I would have allowed the weight of it to sink into my arms. I would have made notes on it. I would have seen it is a loaded question for me, and not coincidentally, issues I have been thinking about lately in regards to my own life. So, I am grateful to visit this topic. Thank you, love.

The truth is I don't know what is bad or good, what is better or worse, but I can only tell you what my philosophy is and what approach I am using with my children and what I experienced coming up. I have written about this here, about raising my children with a dead sister. I'm sure my views will evolve and change. One noticeable change is that the immediacy I once felt to connect them to Lucia is diminishing. Not that I don't want them to develop a relationship with her and grieve for the loss they experienced, but I don't want to force them to grieve. I want to give them the space to come to those questions on their own timeline, and not force them to love and grieve Lucy the way I do. I include Lucia where it seems appropriate. I will always stop any conversation, event, daily routine to answer questions or talk about grief with my children, and to allow them the emotional space to feel sad and to miss. Lucy is my child. I never deny her to my children.

You asked me if they are growing up with a sort of shadow. And I think yes, of course. My husband and I have a shadow too. We lost a child, and that is never really gone no matter how much we acknowledge Lucia and integrate her into our lives. That shadow is our grief. It is the space where we imagined a daughter, where she fit into our family, where she is not. The depth, breadth, weight, height of our girl is simply a darkness. We will always see it. We will always grieve. It is okay. We grieve because we love her so damned much.

I grieved and still grieve openly in front of my children. The early months of my grief were so powerful that I couldn't contain it if I had wanted. I couldn't have grieved entirely separately from Beatrice, even if I wanted to, though often I did grieve alone and away from everyone. I just had to pay attention to grief. It demanded everything of me. Yet the equally demanding nature of having a twenty month old, for that is how old Beatrice was when Lucia died, meant that I was very present most of the time with her. It is not that I didn't feel that claustrophobic grief perched, talons deep into my flesh, on my chest, constantly pecking at my heart all day, but rather, I just did what I had to do, because a twenty-month old needs to eat whether her sister is dead or not.

There were times when crying overtook me while I toasted bread and spread butter on it for Beezus. I sat uneating, head cocked, watching her take her small sparrow-like bites and tears fell in spite of myself. But in general, I used Beezus as a way to hold those emotions at bay and just remain in the moment. My inner dialogue mostly was like this:

Take out bread. Put it in the toaster. Lucy is dead. Holy shit, Lucy is dead. Why isn't this toast popping? Lucy is dead. Bread pops. Pull out bread. Butter toast. Cut it up into squares. Lucy is dead. Put it on plate. Call Beezus to the table. Grab her put her in the chair. Listen to her voice. It is a bell. Her voice is angellic. What would Lucy's voice sound like? I am weeping uncontrollably. Stop crying. Lucy is dead. Baby Bea is eating. She is eating. She is alive. She is so cute. "You are so cute, Beezus. Give mama kisses. YAY, butter kisses." She is perfect. So was Lucy. Lucy is dead.

But mostly, when Beatrice went to bed, I broke down. I screamed and howled. I cried and wrote Lucia's name a thousands of times in a notebook. I allowed myself to feel the full weight of the grief that I had been carrying. I allowed it to crush me and to cry about it.

So, did I grieve openly? I did. Did I really grieve openly? I didn't.

I did not and do not now express all the emotions I feel around my children. And I don't think any adult should. Not joy, or grief, or anger or lust, or...do you get what I am saying? My children are young, and their emotional understanding is limited, so I don't put all those heavy adult emotions on them. I don't scream at the top of my lungs when I am angry. I very often pause and breathe deeply, because that is what we do as parents. And I shake off the immediacy of the anger. We rein in our emotions and parent. It is the same with grief. It is particularly difficult with grief because grief is like the hobo train hopper of emotions--it comes in the form of sadness and anger and guilt and jealousy and apathy and all those emotions we misplace. So, it is particularly difficult not to scream at a two year old for very normal two year old behaviour in the early months of grief. But we cannot succumb to those impulses, no matter how urgent they feel. Anger is a normal, healthy response to something that scares us, but what we do with it defines us.

In my childhood, I didn't see my mother (or father) cry until I was well into my twenties. It was a weakness in our house to cry or express any negative emotion, like anger or jealousy. Emotions were not encouraged. If you feel angry, there is something wrong with you. I grew very ashamed of my very normal emotional responses. My parents taught me that you suck it up. The effect of that has permeated and deleteriously affected every aspect of my life. Swallowing my emotions did not teach me that there weren't problems, or that my parents weren't depressed, it just taught me that emotions were weakness. That I was supposed to be different, or special, or superhuman. It was a kind of terminal uniqueness--death by being special and a-emotional.You suck it up and drink. I have learned through coming to a point of acceptance in my alcoholism that I either have to spit it out or drink it down. Lucy's death was the catalyst for my sobriety and for really looking at my approach to my emotional well-being. I could no longer stuff the grief and negative emotions into the deep recesses of my body where they were allowed to create a rotted out hole in me. I could not hide the crying, or the emotions. I couldn't ignore the very demanding emotional rigors of my daughter's death. And I had been taught throughout my entire life that the emotions I was feeling were weak, pathetic, unbecoming, and downright wrong. Today, I understand that I don't have to live with shame on top of grief.

So, I am trying teach my children that all emotions are okay, but what we do with them defines our character. Being able to express themselves and have the emotional intelligence to understand what they are going through, I think, will be a gift to them. To see their parents experience their emotions in a healthy way, i.e. grieve and cry and light a candle, rather than get loaded and pass out on the couch, hopefully will help them when they face the grief they will feel about Lucy's death. One thing I have learned in recovery is that just because I feel something doesn't mean I have to act on that feeling. Feelings change. But actions remain permanent.

Have you every seen that book Everyone Poops? I tell my children this: Everyone poops and everyone cries, though they usually don't poop and cry at the same time. I think seeing their mother and father cry might make them both more compassionate adults, give her the permission to be true to her emotions that I didn't have. At least that is what I am hoping. What do you think?

For Cathy from Missouri, I am going to be answering your incredibly beautiful comment/question from this post tomorrow. Thank you for asking it. And as always, I am always willing to wax and muse on any questions you might have about religion, parenting, sobriety, kids, crafts, arts and anything else. I read a lot, so there is that too. You can email me at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

another post where i kill a metaphor by slow torture

I feel like I am the precipice of major change in my life. I read the cards, lay them out, one right after the other. Something has to give, but I feel paralyzed by something like too many choices. It's a first world problem. In my card layout, there is beauty and fear in the middle of sticks and wands and cups and...Grounding, that is what I wanted early on. Some ground beneath my feet. My life restarted after Lucia died. I can't integrate that person I was with the person I am now. It's not even that I want to, but in my mind's eye, there is a line. A deep line. I can see it. That line reminds me of the line in the sand that Bugs Bunny draws for Yosemite Sam.

I feel like I am falling. I dared myself to cross a line into the air. I threw myself into the abyss. It was all I knew, now I am searching for grounding.

I was someone else.

I sometimes like that someone else. I mean, frequently, I liked her. It took me many years to like her, despite the teenage angst and the anger I once held. She was ignorant and oblivious, but she was trying to find something resembling serenity. She searched and studied sacred texts, meditated on red rocks barefoot. She shaved her head, and wore beads, and she liked people. I'm not sure how I feel about me now. I don't like me or not like me. I just am a deeply flawed person who is trying to do the next right thing. Before I was a deeply right person doing the next flawed thing. I can see that clearly now, but I still liked her earnestness.

After my daughter died, the easiest part for me was that she died. I could wrap my brain around that. Death happens. It was a medical fact. She was not breathing. Her heart stopped. I understand science in that way.

I engaged in magical thinking, willing her back, praying for something like Lucia in a sunspot or a ladybug or just a sense of peace around me, bartering with God, the gods, the universe, anyone that would listen. No one took my trade, and to be honest, I wouldn't have believed them if they did. It took a long time to realize I couldn't wish her back, or pray her back, or find peace in her gone, but when I did realize it, there was a peace in that realization. Conversely, the hardest part was being so far from my spiritual and moral principles. To be so angry and sad that I could not be the best me, I could only be the angry and sad me. To know it and not be able to change it. To work so hard at being honest and kind with friends and family about where I was, but still hurting them in the process. Yesterday, the Dalai Lama's status update was "Many people think that patience is a sign of weakness. I think this is a mistake. It is anger that is a sign of weakness, whereas patience is a sign of strength."

I never thought patience was a sign of weakness, I just couldn't be patient. And I knew it was weak to be angry. And that heaped shame and guilt and all the other crap that makes us feel worse on top of me. I was anger personified. Daughter-death is a justifiable anger, I thought, I still think. All the anger I swallowed for years while I endured humiliations and heartbreaks, it all came up again when the doctor said my daughter's heart had stopped.


I was being as patient as possible. Pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth. I hear that a lot these days. I think it is true, but it was a resentful petty growth in the beginning.

Fine. I'll grow. But I won't like it. 

I only grew in the way I wanted, toward the other babylost people I met. They received my patience, but no one else. Another line I drew, I suppose. I don't resent it anymore, the growth that came after my daughter's death, it just came much much later than I initially thought. In the early months, I was able to see through this dimension. I saw all the death around me, the suffering of people. I couldn't see the normal people going about their business. The funeral homes on every corner were lit from behind, beckoning me to look more closely at the suffering and the death. People hold grief in their shoulders, in the bags under their eyes. They hold it in their haunches which slow them down. I could see it hanging on them. And that, I thought, was my growth, the seeing and empathy part. Maybe it was, but I had no tolerance for the unsuffering amongst us. And even though I could see it, I drew a line in the sand, and said, "I dare ya to cross this line."

Someone said to me a few weeks ago, "Do you want to be right or happy?" And that is where I am now, trying to choose happy, even though right now, I am not happy. I am saying all this because I have to live with the consequences of drawing lines in the sand, keeping people at arm's length, of being a flawed creature succumbing to the demands of grief on a daily basis. There was room for understanding, but I chose to ignore it, instead choosing to dwell in a rickety cabin alone on the edges of the wilderness writing manifestos about grief. When people made mistakes in my grief, I graciously told them that I needed space and never came back. I suppose I didn't even draw the line. The line cast by my daughter's death was a ravine, long and deep with rabid weasels in its basin. Maybe I am just slowly filling that line, trying to rebuild the gap between who I once was and who I am.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

an arm

I have an arm. It is this long.

It is the length of you from me. It is the length of a bourbon from my lips.


When I hear the word bourbon, I get all misty-eyed. I miss cracking the wax. I admit it. I miss the smell. I miss the burn, and the vanilla aftertones. After all, I drank bourbon primarily until I stopped drinking. The expensive kind. The small batches. Don't get me wrong, I probably would have drank the Thunderbird, but times were never that tough for me.

I am romancing the drink. You are witnessing it. The old drunks warn you about it. "Don't romance the drink. A drink is only an arm's length away."

Everything is only an arm length's away, Old Man. Self-pity is only a chewed fingernail length away.

My ass is still tender and mostly asleep from the terrible chairs in the basement tonight. But the stories were good tonight, the hope. I feel inspired to stop whining about my beautiful life and the state of my old ass. Then I come here and write it all back. Another shitty day in paradise. When I talk about connecting with people, it disconnects me from others. I am awkward. My arm is straight out and I am measuring people's distances from me. I hold onto my magical deer horn necklace.

Help me know, Magical Antler, whether I should just stop now. The first step is to admit that I am powerless over blogging.

I put out my arm. It is long for a woman my size. I keep blogging. I shake a hand. This is real life I am talking about now. I try to draw them closer, but I don't know how without typing my words. I am friendly, but awkward. Most people don't notice the awkward, they are simply pleased about the friendly. I am good at hiding the awkward. The church basement people know nothing about my daughter's death, or any of the other stuff. Sometimes when I think I have had a hard life, I tell someone about Lucy, and then they tell me about how they lost their child, then another, and their wife, then after some years of grief drinking, they lost their home, their car, their job. There is a lot of grief. You hear it night after night if you listen. It is sandwiched in between normal drinking and suicidal. My particular story sounds like someone who hasn't ever really suffered.

My dead baby. Boo hoo. And my expensive liquor. Boo hoo.

I have an arm. It dislocates when I move it like this.

Son Of A...God, that pain. All I can pay attention to is the pain of that...arm...and the weight of its length.
Is there a wall to bang into? Or a floor? 

Oh, right, OUCH, I am standing on it. I feel the hole in my shoulder, and the hole in my soul. I don't like you getting close to my arm hanging uselessly by the skin, except I want you close because i need help with this blasted arm.
Oh, that is better, Arm. You in socket is better than you out of socket. 

It is so painful out that the relief of having it in is worth the pain of the out.  It is the Catch-22 of masochism. I like the pain when it stops, perhaps because it stops, but then I want to go right back into the pain so it can stop again. Perhaps I am a masochist at heart. After all, I have a hole in my soul.  I fill it with things that hurt, including the not-you.  I fill it with self-pity and overindulgent grief and impatience and righteous indignation and justified anger. I fill it with booze and ice cream with sea salt and coffee. I have a hole in me, and I want to fill it with my bloody arms and my goodness and my serenity and God.

I sometimes stay up late and stare at her picture. It doesn't change. I have changed however. She is differently beautiful. I wouldn't trade her for a live baby anymore. I wanted that baby, Lucia, and that baby happened to come dead. I don't get to trade places with people, or get a different life. This is fucking it. She is dead. I am not. I will reconcile that for the rest of my life. Her death doesn't mean I am special and get special rules about the world. It means I now have to learn decency while narcissistically obsessed with my dead daughter. It is so depressing to keep coming to the same obvious conclusion, but I need to remind myself. My default mode is self-pity and self-justification. That is what happens when you have a hole in you.

I lost many friends from the awkwardness of grief from the expectations that led to resentments that led to confrontations that led to me having an arm. And it is very very long.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

wild injuns

I am listening to Joni Mitchell's Blue and drinking black coffee. I gave up walking back and forth to the kitchen and placed the entire thermos on my printer. I am wearing my husband's boxer shorts, Uggs, a black t-shirt, and a deer antler strung on a delicate ball chain. The deer antler was found by this hippie in the Oregon rain forest. A women in Philly strings them and sells them. There is something lonely and strange about the antler. Yesterday, I called it a deer horn and people laughed at me. Then I told them I killed the deer with my bare hands and they stopped laughing.

I am painting this scene because I can't capture the particular mood I am in any other way. The mood I am in involved moss, antler, black coffee, men's underwear, and something not quite loneliness, perhaps solitude. I miss Jess in a way that I hadn't noticed before I could see her walking around my little house, talking about the differences between American and British supermarkets.

My truck is larger than one of those Tokyo pod hotels. Seven Japanese business men could sleep in it. When it is just me and the kids, I feel so bloody American. I am self-conscious about it in the parking lot of Whole Foods, and when I pick Jess up from the airport. We don't need this big truck, yet it feels like we need this big truck. We build things. We camp. I don't explain it. I am a bloody American.

There are things you can't imagine about a person when you read their words, like what they are wearing when they write, or how they take their coffee, or what kind of car they drive. But most things are unsurprising in a surprising way. The most surprising thing about her is that it felt like we spend the weekend together all the time. It felt like someone pressed the "pause" button on a conversation we started a few months ago and when stepped up into my large truck, we hit "play" again.

I don't know if it reflects where I am in my life, or the connection between Jess and I is just different, but I was remarkably unanxious to have her here for an entire weekend. I remember the first time I had coffee with another babylost mother. I was a month out from Lucy's death. My uterus was still hanging outside of my body. My breast dripped milk. My heart slow-danced on my sleeve to maudlin accordion music. I felt like I was on a first date. I emoted some inappropriate vocal responses between giggle and ugly cry. I was still wearing maternity clothes and cringing at babies. My hands shook as we spoke. Occasionally I wept into my latte. It was awkward, but cathartic. I had wanted a few weeks in between meetings to recover and prepare emotionally.

There was nothing maudlin or emotionally taxing about meeting Jess. It was easy in a way that makes me feel so much more easy than I actually am. We just hung out for a few days. We found an ofrenda in a bodega on ninth street in South Philly. We had a tarot reading from a women whose left eye rolled up in to her head right before she nailed something. Mostly, though, she went fishing with a hand grenade. I took her to the Italian Market where the cheese guys at DiBrunos swooned and flirted with her. You could see the gears shifting into another mode around her.

She speaks beautifully. She is stunning. This woman can talk about Shakespeare and gangsta rap as easily as a Pecorino. She really knows all about cheese, just like me. I know about cheese. Let me tell her everything I know about cheese. I have a tattoo of Montgomery Cheddar on my ass. I should show the beautiful British woman my ass.

We went to the art museum. I quietly mentioned if she wanted to see the dead baby picture, and she got excited. "WOULD I?!?"

And we stood in front, and took snapshots of it. We grew solemn and talked about the piece. We briefly discussed if we should get a tourist-y picture of our thumbs up in front of Rachel Weeping. (Come on, that's hilarious!) and a tween girl asked her mother why the mommy was crying, why the baby was laying still and grey as Jess and I walked away. Jess whispered in a perfect dead baby mummy cackle, "Because the baby is dead, Kid!"

I can't explain it. It just was perfect.

I am convinced there is a strange shop somewhere in the world. It is on an alley with junkies and drug dealers loitering about. When they notice us holding hands, they point to a door without a sign. There is a small makeshift shrine next to the door covered with marigolds and moss. The door has a rope of small bells on it. There, they sell small dead things strung on chains, and faux fur vests. They paint your face like a calavera, and pose you in front of 19th century paintings of babies dead from the small pox. The women dress you Nauhatl textile dresses with large chunky belts. You hold a large beeswax candle lit with the end of a cigarillo from the old cowboy photographer waiting for you to stand still. The old Mexican women make cafe con leche for you and add dried flowers to your hair while the mustachioed cowboy photographs you and your bestie from the dead baby world. He looks at the British woman, "How does it feel to be away out here where the wild Injuns grow, Kid?" And he points to me. We laugh, but try to pose with no expression. The women read your palm, and tell your fortune very specifically. She holds up four fingers. "En cuatro semanas, the dog will bring caca into the house." They feed you cannoli and cheese. And you will never want to leave.

When I find that shop, I can post pictures of Jess and I that accurately reflects the weekend, but until then, here is a photograph on top of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. We didn't run up them like Rocky. That is the magic of the internet. We just made it look that way.

Tell me about our internet besties. Ever meet? Ever want to meet? What kinds of things do you think would be in the shop on that alley?

* That is from Benjamin Capps' book The Trail to Ogallala.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The baby keeps bringing me markers to open. I don't connect that the eighteen month old is asking me to open markers and then running away into another room. I am writing, dammit. I can't be distracted. Stare at the screen. Peck at the keyboard. Open a marker. I crouch, peering into my post-apocalyptic world. I don't know what genre this novel is. I lead a Girl Army. I have dreams. Except it is not me. It is the me of novel world. A better me. I tick off words. 739, 928, 1125, 1667 words to write today, leading into 50,000 this month on the same story. Must. Not. Divert. Focus.

My couch is beautifully decorated with little marker scratches. My writing for today is done and the marks are easily erased. The baby dances when I find his artwork. It seems a small price to pay for fifteen minutes of uninterrupted writing time in the morning. It is November again. I am writing a novel. In a month. NaNoWriMo. AND I am doing a piece of Art Every Day. I do post about each day's drawing at still life every day.

This year, my sister is writing her incredible book idea, which is so exciting to me because that means one day I get to read it. I actually finished my book last year. (It surprises me as much as you.) I am picking up where the story left off and writing the second part of the book. Or I am writing a new book all together. I never quite finished the book I started last year. I had intended on writing a memoir about my weird life, but the truth is, I want to get out of my head. I want to write about someone else all together. So it is the me after the apocalypse, if I don't die.

Last year, if I am being honest, writing a novel in a month and  painting one watercolor a day for a month for AEDM helped me understand myself more than accomplish anything concrete. I barely revisited the 50,330 words I wrote last year. And yet, every day, those words impacted my life. It is strange revisiting those emotions that come with the chill of autumn settling in. The crisp air blows into our lives and the late night writing jaunts settle onto my bones. Lucy's birthday steps into the background of the opening scene of my novel, stands still and staunch, waiting to be recognized. I am ignoring the imposing figure right now. I have a novel to write. On the other side of November is December. There are many emotions that comes with writing--elation, earnestness, feelings of inadequacy, strength, fears of failure. Last year, I pushed through those feelings with the false bravado of bourbon behind me. This year, it is just me and a novel without a plot quite yet developed. If I fail, at least I have some writing to mine later on. But I don't think I will fail. I am just crossing off another year of firsts. First novel without bourbon.

One part of NaNoWriMo that I love is the social aspect of it. I connect with writers, and we do sprints. We go into chat rooms, or chat via gmail, and use an online stopwatch. We write for ten minutes, the timer goes off. We compare word counts, and plot points, and then go back for another sprint. We do this until we hit our word count, and it is much easier to write when I am accountable to someone other than myself, the Dictator of Distraction, the Princess of Preoccupation, the Viscount of Work Avoidance. If you are taking on this fool task, write with me. Comment here, and let's connect that way.

In other news, my head is about to explode because tomorrow Jess from after iris and Glow in the Woods is coming for the weekend. TO MY HOUSE! I can't stop bouncing. I will get to hug her in real life. Walk around the city. Just hold onto her arm and say, "You are a real person. Not just the voice in my head who makes me laugh and echos my darkest thoughts." I think what I am looking forward to most is just being normal with her. A weekend gives you the freedom to have a long cup of coffee and chitchat like it happens everyday. We will talk of Iris and Lucy and art and work and marriage and just love her. Every bit of her.