I believe that nearly all our griefs are moments of tension. We perceive them as crippling because we no longer hear signs of life from our estranged emotions. We are alone with the strange thing that has stepped into our presence. For a moment everything intimate and familiar has been taken from us. We stand in the midst of a transition, where we cannot remain standing.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“Emotions are an inconvenience.” But her tone suggested she didn’t believe the words.
—Hafsah Faizal, Sands of Arawiya, Book 1: We Hunt the Flame
I am glad to be done with March. It’s a rough month for me. Various dates within it mark traumas, some small, some big, that I haven’t completely healed from. The entire month is spent clenching slightly. Some days I don’t know why I feel wrong, until the terrible, slightly suppressed memory slowly sinks in. Some days I wake up and immediately think, “Today is the 27th birthday of my childhood bully.” (lol, I know, that one is kind of funny) (but that shit still sucks)
An entire month spent clenching, while noting to myself that I felt strangely emotionless. The worst day was trying to get through what would have been my brother’s 22nd birthday. I felt completely bottled up, just anxious to get to the next day.
Now that April is here, I feel looser, happier. April is full of memories of good beginnings. When I first started writing and journaling in earnest, April 2008. When we got our beloved dog Keely, April 2011.
I also have felt much weepier this week, which is a relief.
Crying used to seem like a very bad dramatic thing to me, like I finally lost all my strength and resolve in life. “Our tragic heroine crumples to the floor, wracked by agonizing defeatist sobs. The weight of the world has finally crushed her like a bug.”
Once, a few years ago at my house in California, my roommate called me over as he was getting in bed for the night and quietly dared me to go cuddle the other roommate who was stretched out on the couch. I shrugged and agreed. Easy dare. This was the vibe our house had. Anything was liable to happen at any given time. It was the kind of place where you constantly felt tiny sparks of potential in the air. (I had the best of times and the worst of times in this house.)
I went into the living room and, without speaking, laid down beside my roommate, head to toe. I thought maybe we’d start making out or something, but instead he wrapped his arms around me and held me as if he actually needed to be comforted. Then he asked me, “How do you get yourself to cry? I feel like I need to cry, but I’m like physically unable to.”
If I knew then what I knew now, I would have taken the question seriously, but instead I kind of froze up and then made a joke about imagining my sister dying of cancer (sorry sis).
But it’s no longer like that for me. Plain and simple: clogged up emotions are very unhealthy. It’s like if a person never blew their nose. Disgusting. Your body just needs to cleanse itself of built up emotions, the same way it cleanses itself of organic material.
Maybe it seems… unromantic… to view crying and expelling emotions as base level as urinating. But whatever, lol. I have stuff to get done in this life, and I’ve wasted enough time carrying the weight of years of unshed emotions.
When you unkink your hose, the water can flow freely. When you unclench your body, the emotions can flow like a healing balm.
I hadn’t yet shed March’s emotions when I sat down on Monday to write my week’s newsletter. For the two hours I sat there, half of it was spent imagining myself punching a hole in the wall. I felt pinchy, irritated at one person, pissed at someone else, mad at my writing for not being good enough. Pinchy, punchy. I wanted to scream and rip my skin off like a snake. I needed to cry, but I wasn’t in the mood for all that messiness, so instead I let myself suffer a mini panic attack and then stayed up into early hours of the morning doing nothing but feeling angsty.
Hence, no newsletter, as much as I want to be regimented and consistent with it.
I’ve never been the kind of person who can keep their writing and personal life separate.
Imagine “13 Killer Blog Post Templates You Need to Start Implementing Today” automatically scheduled to post to your income-producing niche blog, while behind the scenes your heart is being rent in two. Maybe an efficient way to keep the checks coming in, but it feels soulless to me.
But being on the flip side, infusing my writing with real time emotions and personal struggles means it’s going to be hard to maintain scheduled output. Probably my biggest struggle is my autistic brain’s desire for routine and consistency vs my airy fairy desire for spontaneous magic, working hard and fast and then hibernating for a bit like the phases of the moon, and absolute freshness. Trying to figure out how the borders of my life, like a riverbank, can be stable and steady, and the content of my life, like a wild rushing river, is magical and fresh as a bucket of sparkling ice.
I’ve spent the past several days spending most of my time sitting outside, in a chair nestled in the rosebushes, clutching a cup of coffee, and moments of sobbing in between lots of reading and writing, some meditating.
Crying because the roses are blooming in full force and I’m leaving for a weeklong trip to Idaho tomorrow and I’m going to miss them. Crying because I was daydreaming about someday getting a German Shepherd dog when I’m out on my own for good and then thought about Sam from I Am Legend. Crying because I’ll never get to see my brother again. He won’t come back like seasonal blooms or movie re-runs.
Crying is good. Sitting quietly with discomfort is good. Getting lobster red from the sun is good. Hang-drying clothes on the line so they can flap and gossip in the breeze and collect that fresh starchy smell is good.
I love April, said the tragic heroine.
Listen to it
This isn’t the newsletter I was planning to mail out yesterday and this isn’t the day I planned to mail it on, but part of it, part of IT, is to break the tiny rules that get in the way of intuition. Even, or especially, rules set by me. I just wasn’t feeling what I wrote yesterday. Maybe I’ll send it a later week. And I’m not sure a Sunday newsletter is the right day anymore. I realized it’s literally the worst day of the week for me to get focused writing done (why I have to wait until the last minute to write my newsletter is another story). Will officially change to Monday until/unless life changes and a different day emerges. I had this whole vintage idea of a “Sunday newspaper” but I’m letting it go. Plus I remember when I was in high school, I started liking the idea of getting myself to enjoy the universal things everyone else seemed to hate like Mondays and the DMV. So these are gonna be my Monday at the DMV reprieve letters now.
So yeah I was going to finish the newsletter I wrote yesterday, but today I got so caught up and distracted in wonder at the overnight way the earth changed. Half the lawn seems to have gone from soft bright green to prickly faded deciduous colored. A nighttime heatwave? The honeysuckle have started to bloom. They’re early, and I’m enamored with the fact that I know that fact. I save a few blossoms each year and press them into books. I counted five rose bulbs that have begun revealing the colors of their tightly-curled petals. A gardening philosophy book I’m reading, Second Nature by Michael Pollan, has an entire section devoted to the sexual thoughts that roses seemed to bring up, but I’m not going to go there. (But goddamn, open up for me, baby.) There’s a tree that suddenly burst with yellow blossoms that smell like the flavor of artificial banana, like a banana popsicle or Laffy Taffy. The butterfly bushes are getting ready to pop purple.
Today it seemed as if I actually saw what was in front of me. How blessedly ripe my parents’ backyard is. It feels abundant as fuck. So many yards in this town are literally nothing but gravel, front and back. Our yard has a stone wall completely covered with leafy vines that are green year-round. An archway that is wound with the honeysuckle. It’s impossible not to drink in their tantalizing scent if one wants to enter the backyard. They bloom for a very short time in the spring, and the rest of the year they’re just a pretty bushy viney thing. And my god, the roses. There are so many rose bushes, thick, they grow insanely tall without trimming. And they bloom 4-5 times a year here it seems. My dad built a tiny stone path through the middle of them that I like to crouch on so I feel completely surrounded. They remind me of Oregon.
So much grass is randomly growing in my dirt patch, way more than other years. I take it as a good sign. My dirt patch is officially “my” dirt patch to practice gardening in. I got a book from the library called Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert, and Dry Times by Maureen Gilmer. My favorite thing so far is that she went from brief descriptions of the climates and gardening deviations in different parts of the West Coast (high desert, low desert, mountains, coastal, etc) to immediately changing the subject an inch down the page and starting the next paragraph with “You might not believe this, but understanding evapotranspiration (ET) has surprising parallels with spirituality.” It reminds me of when I was reading a series of essays by the writer/farmer Wendell Berry and he wrote a paragraph that compared the nature of soil to the nature of Jesus Christ. Honestly, gardening is making me feel more religious in a weird way. Like enough of this silly simpering New Age spirituality or occultic modern day Christianity. What of ancient religious roots? People connected to both God and the land? That’s what I’m interested in.
Anyway, back to gardening. Flower gardening is cool and all, like I love the flowers already in the backyard, but what I’m primarily interested in growing with my own two hands is food. Growing delicious produce out of the dirt is some real magic. I grew up on ten acres in high-desert Idaho, age 4-19, and I suppose it’s not a surprise considering my roots that I’m finding my way to the same ideas my dad had/has about homesteading and land and making things grow. I was fully in love with the raspberry bushes we had growing up. These golden berries tasted divine and they just grew! In our garden! For free!
And man, divinity, I love that today I was awestruck over the absolute greenery of this low-desert backyard, and then the miracle continued with a pouring of rain. The smell of petrichor puts me in a MOOD. I put on Bon Iver and Agnes Obel and this song I love called “Motion III” by Rone, and danced in the lowering light, refusing to turn on any overhead lights because I love the way overcast feels. I feel safe and stretched out in a good way. Like I have all the time in the world to enjoy in the simple pleasures of life. This is partly why I love the desert. It makes me feel absolutely giddy about the rain. I just spent these past few hours before midnight listening to the rain with all the windows open, drinking black coffee, and eating tomato bisque soup. And reminding myself that intuition is like rain. I’m not really sure what I mean by that, maybe other than that it’s powerful and you should stop what you’re doing to listen to it.
Oil and water
We might also neglect our appearance. We may not realize that our hair is frizzily out of fashion. We know there are metals in antiperspirants and chemicals in skin and hair products which are not good for us, but we don‘t realize that because we don‘t use them, we may look plain and even be a bit smelly. This doesn‘t make us too attractive to others. We have to find our own easy-to-maintain style, and natural products that bring out our best.
—Rudy Simone, Aspergirls
The natural growth of your inner life will guide you slowly and in good time to other conclusions..
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
It took me ten years to figure out how to wash my hair and body. This is the story of my deconstruction from shampoo and body wash. (Dramatic and thrilling subject matter, I know.)
I remember in my teens when I started making my own decisions on what body care products I used, I was constantly switching shampoo/conditioner brands. I don’t know what I was looking for in these products, but something started not feeling right. Then when I was eighteen, I simultaneously developed a crush on a “hippie” several years older than me and learned about the “no poo” movement. My hair had felt yanked around by all these corporate products and their breezy promises, so I wanted to exit the norm and free myself of the man. This was, in a sense, my first real step towards an alternative way of life. In a weird way, scouring these natural living blogs changed the course of my life forever.
But unfortunately I didn’t understand my hair, my body. I didn’t know what I was looking for, just what I was trying to leave. I was trying to be “natural,” but nothing was working, even when I followed blog recipes. Baking soda started making my hair fall out. Apple cider vinegar felt magical at first and then ineffective later on. My hair seemed to have developed a personal vendetta against me. Always feeling waxy, flaky, and itchy, no matter what I did. At one point in time, I got so frustrated with my hair that I angrily scrubbed it with DISH SOAP, some deranged effort to rage the grease out of my hair. I was mad that I’d followed my heart and given up conventional products, because even trying to make peace and go back to them didn’t fix the mess my hair had become. Plus I hated the synthetic way my hair smelled and felt afterwards. And the fact that I’d have to be dependent on these products for the rest of my life, multiple days a week.
Couldn’t go back, but didn’t know how to proceed forward.
When I shaved my head in 2020, honestly about 25% of the reason I did it was because I was hoping that giving my hair a “fresh start” would sort out its problems. But no. Soon enough, the oily gunk started coming back, even while my hair was still extremely short. I hated washing my hair so much that I considered keeping it shaved permanently. It was a constant struggle not to run back to the barber (but I missed bun life too much).
I just didn’t understand this tradition in the first place, of gunking up our hair with expensive goop day after day when all we were doing was living sterile lives in the modern era. Most of the time nobody is getting their hair genuinely “dirty” with mud or dirt or whatever. So why the fucking glop addiction?
This was the final state I had reached, up until very recently: “I hate everything. I’m just going to wash myself with plain water for the rest of forever. If it doesn’t get me fully clean, then that sucks to fucking suck but I’ll suck it up, because again, I hate everything.”
Finally, this month, after weeks of dedicating myself to the practice of silence, solitude, listening to myself and the earth and God (not solely for the intent of getting better hair, it was just a nice side effect lol), I just asked myself: what does my body want? What are these oily flakes in my hair telling me? They keep coming back, no matter what I do. That must mean something.
Oh. Ah. Yes, the answer is coming to me. Transmission received.
The flakes are a part of me. This stuff is called sebum. All this white stuff is the clogged version of the natural oil my body creates. And will continue to create until the day I die. Okay, I’m stuck with this stuff. Now what? Well, why does my body make this oil? What does this oil want? It wants to take care of my hair for me. This stuff is a free natural cleansing and conditioning agent, courtesy of my own scalp. It wants to be unclogged and be able to spread all the way down to the roots of my hair. The “no poo” I was looking for was on top of my head this entire time.
After perusing a couple “water-washing” blog posts, I learned that all I really have to do is give myself a head massage with the pads of my fingers to “warm up” the oil and then spread it down the length of my hair using either my fingers or a boar bristle brush. Easy, breezy, beautiful.
Our bodies are meant to take care of us. A lot of what they need surface level is just oil redistribution. But since oil and water don’t mix, can’t touch, my all-natural practice of throwing water on my face in the morning and angrily scrubbing my hair with plain water in the shower was doing almost nothing. This is where soap would usually swoop in to save the day, which obviously I was unwilling to accept. The molecular makeup of soap is able to work with both oil and water. The part that sticks to oil rearranges and surrounds the oil in a circle and then what remains on the outside edge of the soap circle is the part that sticks to water. This is what gives the illusion of water being able to wash grease away. All soap does is cling to the oil so the water can push it away.
Since I understand this now, I know I don’t need to use synthetic soap products that’ll absorb into my skin, simply to move the oil on my body. Instead, I can use bristles in my hair or a scrubby on my body to do the same, and that stuff WON’T absorb into my skin. Instead of using soap to get oil off my body, I’ll use soap to get oil off the brush or scrubby. That becomes the middleman, keeping soap away from my body.
You don’t know how satisfying it was to figure out all this sciency stuff, because I have about an elementary school level of science education, if that.
Around the same time I struggled with hair soap, I also stopped wanting to use body soap. It didn’t affect me as much as the hair did, but I still felt greasy in different areas and felt like I had a lot of acne on my chest and back. Cuz plain water wasn’t doing shit and I thought scrubbing my body had no purpose unless there was soap on it. Now in the shower I’ve been using this rough hemp scrubby I have, just scrubbing the areas that get the oiliest, like my face, back, and chest. Afterwards, my body is soft and smooth and smells like nothing, which is probably my favorite smell. And my acne is disappearing, even the stubborn patches of blackheads that have graced my chin and neck for years.
Poor blood circulation, clogged pores, oil buildup. Get outta here.
How was I unable to figure out these issues after a decade of trying to be “alternative”? Because I didn’t understand or accept the natural order of my body. I only saw its problems. I didn’t see the “problem” as the “solution.” White oily flaky stuff = immediate embarrassment and damage control.
It was the alienation of my body, separating myself from it with a layer of man-made goop, that made it so I couldn’t understand my body and therefore couldn’t accept it. And then in trying to exit the matrix of soap, the detox caused me to panic and enter crisis mode. I didn’t listen to my body for ten years, unable understand how it worked or what it needed. Just got pissed at how it was behaving.
Now that I understand and accept the way my body works, I can problem solve easier. I’m still a bit in the transition phase, so my hair is still kind of waxy and sticky, another symptom of oil buildup. I read that an applesauce hair mask would do the trick. After letting the sauce get lost in my hair for an hour underneath a very floral granny shower cap and rinsing it out thoroughly, I was briefly dismayed to discover my hair was three times as flaky as it had been before the applesauce. Instead of letting myself panic, since everything is simpler now, I was able to figure it out quickly. So I said, “Hmm, the acid in the applesauce must have dried out my hair immensely, causing my scalp to freak out. But some of those flakes must also be applesauce bits that didn’t completely wash out. By tomorrow, with some brushing, most of the flakes will be gone and my head will have created a new batch of oil to take care of the dryness.” And I was right. The next day almost all the flakiness was gone, the pervasive wax was greatly reduced, and my hair felt softer and fuller than it had in years. 1-2 more spaced out applesauce masks might be necessary to fully clear out the waxy buildup, but should be good to go after that.
Things make much more sense stripped down as low as they can go. I hated science in school, but maybe I would have liked it better if I’d understood it through the lens of deconstruction. What is the essence of a thing? What is its base form?
This is like the process of deconstructing from Christianity, which is a subject I’ll touch on more later, or perhaps not at all. lol. We’ll see. Something just wasn’t working and I began to question and seek outside ideas and influences. That should be the normal response to something not feeling right. Not doubling down with extra doses of the thing that doesn’t feel right.
The transition phase of exiting religion was itchy and angsty and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Until I boiled down the truths behind Christianity that people sought, the foundational things they hoped to gain from this belief system. Peace. Alleviation from fear and anxiety. Empowerment. Hope. Love. Freedom.
I went straight to the source, as best as I could figure, straight to God, without the clogged confusion of church, the bible, and, even though this man is one of my heroes and worthy of great respect and admiration—Jesus too. I didn’t necessarily “get rid” of Jesus, because he’s one of my greatest inspirations and models for how to live, but I got rid of the concept of having to “go through Jesus to get to God,” because that shit makes zero sense to me, especially if they’re supposedly one in the same. Now, my “faith” or “spirituality” or whatever you’d like to call it is much simpler, cleaner, softer, more effective. It makes more sense to me, stripped down to its purest sense.
Going both “no poo” and “ex-Christian” were similar experiences because within both things, I felt stuck in the middle, wishing I could go back to how things were before but knowing I never could. Not knowing what I was walking towards or how to get there, just knowing what I wanted to leave behind. Being willing to walk blindly for a bit paid off. Because with enough walking, I eventually gained clarity to know what I then wanted to walk towards. I finally knew what I wanted to know. And that clarity speeds up the progress. My hair journey took ten years to figure out (2013-2022). My religious deconstruction journey took four (2017-2021). I’m getting faster.
Even though leaving religion and quitting conventional hair care products seem like laughable comparisons, they represent an important singular lesson. To trust that gut feeling, that intuitive desire, and follow it all the way through to the end. Because though it’s gross and uncomfortable in the middle, it’s leading to a gloriously clean, silky smooth, new beginning.
He spends so much time in front of screens he has a near-compulsive need to let his eyeballs rest on paper.
—Erin Morgenstern, The Starless Sea
it feels like i’m watching my life happen through a fuzzy television
screen. i feel far away from this world. almost foreign in this body.
—Rupi Kaur, Home Body
Sometimes I make lists of things I could do that don’t involve the internet. A way to spend my days without looking at a screen. But the lists are created in the Notes app on my phone.
I don’t know any facts and figures about adverse health effects caused by prolonged screen usage—the only thing I know is that it makes me feel scooped out and husk-like. A field that has been shorn down over the years, mono-cropped, the soil stripped of all nutrients.
That is how I feel when I stare at my computer (technically an iPad Pro with a keyboard case lol) all day. Even if it’s only turned on for a couple of hours, my life is still dependent upon the contents stored behind the screen. I can’t be “productive” away from it.
It feels so intangible. The digitalization of my writing has at different times in my life made me hate my own craft because there’s nothing for me to physically hold or touch. Not without getting oily fingerprints on my expensive sensitive piece of fucking glass.
The world is obsessed with sterility, not remembering that bacteria is essential to survival. We need to swallow one fat probiotic pill, rebalance that collective gut health. The outside layer of our bodies (aka, the skin) is literally an organ and we have brain cells in our stomachs—what the hell are we doing to ourselves? The more technologic the world becomes, the more it pushes for sterility, to protect its electronics.
My mom told me I chewed on rocks when I was a little kid, and that’s the nature I want to reclaim. Dirt in my body and on my skin. A real hazard to all the robots. Like that kid Pig-Pen in the Peanuts comics—a walking dust devil.
When the world voluntarily shut itself down—man, what a great idea that was! It was totally fine for humanity! You could still virtually tour famous museums, join a book club over Zoom, put in extra hours at your WFfuckingH job, learn a Tik Tok dance to make a reel for your Instagram side business, and don’t forget the absolute staples of keeping up with your Newflix shows and favorite podcasts.
Zoom™ out and see yourself from an outside perspective—you’re just a pale figure hunched over a glowing screen. Or you’re reclining in bed and the glowing screen is hunched over you. The way it should be, because it’s your master.
I say you but I mean me. I’m mad at myself. My childhood started off great in the classic nineties, but I let myself become shaped by the environment of the digital age, and I’ll never forgive myself for this atrocity.
I got sucked into the allure of the “digital nomad” starting when I was 18. Minimize and digitize all your possessions, work from your laptop, travel all over the world, be happier than everyone else. It’s very enticing. I’m still enticed.
Possessions are scary to me, emotionally. People become hoarders for emotional reasons—I became a minimalist for emotional reasons. There was a certain period of time in my teen years where I was an absolute bitch to my mom and she was at her wit’s end with me. She started taking away my writing notebooks and favorite novels to punish me (I don’t blame her, honestly—that was the only way to get my attention… that, and grounding me from church LMAO). I remember frantically duct taping my notebooks closed as my mom stomped down the hall towards my room to take my stuff, terrified that she would read my stories and see my soul, how it differed from hers, how it deviated from the way my upbringing was supposed to shape it. That period of time was when I learned that attachment to physical things could hurt really bad. The less I owned, the less people could take away from me.
I thought the digital age was a prayer come true. I could be so suave slinging one single backpack over my shoulder, the picture of freedom. A way to live so I could always have everything I owned with me. To protect it. But it kind of just made me a hoarder in a different way. A fearful pack rat.
Now it all feels like a trap. A good portion of my life doesn’t feel real anymore. When I exit out of my digital devices, I have nothing. No music. Barely any books. A few random photos, but thousands stored intangibly. Most of my writing is trapped behind a screen (hi from the screen!). I don’t know how to do anything, so any new hobby would have to be googled first. I don’t know how to make any food besides scrambled eggs and tacos (and even then, my ground beef browning + seasoning skills are shaky at best). I know how to boil noodles “al dente” because my little brother taught me how maybe a month or two before he died and I’ll never let slip that sweet simple knowledge he shared. He loved to cook and bake. What I’m saying is that I can learn things, but I can’t riff on them comfortably. Not with the ease and comfort that I can research online, using the correct keywords to produce the most relevant results, opening thirty new tabs in less than a minute.
Sometimes when I read a physical book, I press my finger down on a quote I like so I can highlight it. But when that doesn’t work, I’m forced to take a picture of it with my phone. But that feels wrong and defeats the whole purpose of not reading an e-book. So I tentatively dog-ear the page, wondering if this is okay, if it’s allowed. “Okay, deep breath. I am now going to interact with the physical realm in an irreversible manner.”
Since I don’t know how to do anything without consulting the internet and also feel absolutely miserable about that fact, I’ve started burying organic materials in the dirt patch in my backyard. Not gardening or planting per se, just… burying stuff. There’s some overlap with the sprinklers so I know something could grow there. I see tuffs of grass come up, little agave shoots poking out of the stone wall, a tiny palm tree that popped up amongst a scattering of rocks and weeds. I wonder how these things can survive like this in the desert, barely any water or soil. It gives me hope and encouragement for myself.
But I’m afraid if I ask my dad if I could officially use that plot to start a garden, then it’ll become a Thing and I’ll have to do it Properly and because I don’t know how to do anything I’ll have to employ the services of the Internet. And that’ll ruin everything. The idea of getting a gardening book from the library won’t cross my mind and if it does, then I’ll think “Without my precious screen I won’t be able to use my refined internet research skills to determine the absolute BEST gardening book specific to my amateur skill set and arid geography. Not to mention, if I need any gardening tools, how the hell would I procure them? Where does one find gardening supplies in the Real World?”
(Ironically, I actually recall seeing a few gardening tools available for borrowing the last time I was physically at my library… rakes and hoes and other suggestive items.)
Since the thought won’t occur to me to use the library instead of the internet—I’ll instead just keep burying things, little scraps of fruits here and there, random seeds, things impossible to grow out here like a massive mango pit the other day. I comb through the dirt with my hands and feel happy that I’m doing something real that isn’t on a screen even though I’m not really doing anything at all, nothing skillful at least.
I love to ground in dirt and grass with my bare hands and feet to center me back to the earth. But it feels like I need more. I need a way to ground with my eyes.
I shall plant my eyes into some soil and let them rest for a few weeks, grow some roots, and develop a new perspective.
Maybe I can dirty my eyes enough so they can no longer see the evil screens of our AI overlords.
Sorrow and solitude
I felt no need to speak to anyone ever again. It was enough to stay inside, to read his notebooks and look through his drawings, and to write down everything I could remember about our time together.
—Richard Powers, Bewilderment
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
—Rachel Carson (quote found at the beginning of Bewilderment)
It’s been several months since I last sent out one of these newsletters. I’ve been dying to write again, but lots of “big stuff” has happened lately. They kept piling up, making me feel more and more hesitant to share.
I seem to have an aversion to laying heavy news on people, yet I find it impossible to speak when I can’t be completely honest.
Hence, the silence.
But I hate not writing. I love this newsletter and what it could transform into too much to let it rot away from misuse. So it’s time to rip the bandaid off.
In July 2021 I discovered I was on the spectrum with autism. In September 2021 my sweet little brother Zach left this earth. In November 2021 my dear friend and writing accountability partner of seven years, Dylan, was crushed by a semi truck and had to be revived back to life at the scene.
The world as I’ve known it has shattered.
It probably seems overwhelming and callous to lump these three things together, to bullet list them, to not even give them their own paragraph. Of course they deserve more attention than these short sentences.
But it’ll take me months and months to slowly work and write through these things properly, find the right words, the memories, the emotions—and I don’t want to be silent in the meantime.
Although, I have been increasingly silent “locally.” Avoided the people I know in town, stopped reaching out to my long distance friends as much, even got ghosted by someone I had a mad crush on and felt relieved. Being a recluse feels comfortable.
Some people assumed I’d fall into a deep depression following my little brother’s death. I can’t even talk to the one friend I had who actually knew him and had memories of him—because it’s Dylan, the friend who was severely injured by the semi truck and is hospitalized and on a ventilator. I had another friend who knew my brother—my brother was actually friends with him first—but he’s the guy I was “talking to” and got ghosted by. I miss talking to all three of these guys, mostly Zach. There’s been a lot of silence.
But I’m not depressed, even though I’m dealing with several traumatic events, even though my instinct has been to isolate. In fact, I feel more filled with life than I ever have before. Death puts life into stark contrast.
I’ve been avoiding people, not because I’m overwhelmed by tragedy and pain, not because I find death too tricky a topic to navigate in conversations—but because I feel like I’m changing too rapidly.
I feel myself changing in like an all-encompassing DNA kind of way. I’ve become extremely sensitive to alcohol, that favored social lubricant. Even the smallest mildest glass gives me a wicked headache and stomachache. I’ve fallen out of resonance with most, if not all, my friends. Not that they did anything wrong or I love them any less, but I feel more and more restricted by verbal conversations, by social excursions. I’m at a loss for words most of the time, or my voice is trembling trying to express this new growth inside me. Or I find my vision blurring and my ability to focus on the conversation completely non-existent, I stare off into space more and more when I’m around people. The normal foods I used to eat don’t feel right anymore. I can hardly listen to music or watch any media. Leaving my house has become exhausting.
I realize those sound like a cocktail of trauma responses.
But I know that’s not what’s happening. At the risk of sounding “extra,” I just have a deep knowing that all of this means I’m evolving into the person I’m supposed to be. Like full blown metamorphosis, melting into goo inside my cocoon and turning into a different creature—one that was already inside of me from conception.
I’ve been writing like a mad woman and I can’t keep up with myself. Pages and pages are filled each day, ideas are implemented, problems are solved, creativity is bursting.
And it is from reclusively and solitude, listening, feeling, writing, that I experience my deepest joy and contentment.
Last summer I sent out a newsletter called “my Emily Dickinson year” but it feels like that sentiment has expanded and amplified into “my Emily Dickinson life.” The more I live like her, the happier I feel.
People think it’s such a curious mystery that Emily Dickinson secluded herself more and more as she grew older, eventually reaching a point where she hardly left her room at all. Not to be “not like other girls” but I understand her completely. It’s more isolating to be around people who don’t understand you than it is to live a life of solitude with the one person who gets you completely. Not to say people didn’t appreciate or relate to her poems, but I’m sure very few understood how she arrived to them. What she saw and how she thought. Plus it’s suspected she was on the spectrum, so I’m sure the clattering and clammering of life outside her room was a lot to take in. She was witty and brave and willing to face death and new ideas, but she was a sensitive soul.
When you have that much awareness, it doesn’t take much external stimulation to fill you up.
This book I just finished reading, Bewilderment, is about a young boy suspected of autism who is beginning to have intensified struggles with regulating his emotions. His father doesn’t want to put him on medication, so he volunteers him for experimental emotional therapy treatment, which basically trains his mind to be more open, calm, and empathetic.
This boy’s awareness expands so much that he realizes he’s both “up there” looking down on the experiment and “in here” experiencing the experiment.
Holding still and looking had become his favorite activity in all the world.
—Richard Powers, Bewilderment.
The longer I meditate, the less I feel I need to do. I could sit in the backyard for hours on end, in the sun, watching a trail of ants, or the woodpecker hammering a hole into the side of the neighbor’s palm tree, or the hummingbird who I swear has a little crush on me, or wondering at the tufts of grass that suddenly sprang up out of our random backyard dirt pile. Grass! In the desert! In a dusty dirt pile!
Solitude makes me incredibly happy. Not to say other humans don’t also thrill and delight me. But I feel like at some point I must have traded my authenticity and writing ability for charisma and social skills. If it’s a trade-off then I’ll gladly give those up to get myself back. I know it sounds dramatic but I want to withdraw from society in many ways. I want to regain my solitude and skill as a writer.
Plus my human design type is manifesting generator which is the least collaborative type. I abhor being in groups unless I have some sort of leader power (but I don’t really like that dynamic so I’d rather not be in a group in the first place). I’m just uninterested in three legged races when I can run so much faster on my own. Which is probably why, still, as an almost 27-year old, the longest relationship I’ve ever been in was three and a half months. Seven years ago. And that was even with weeks of putting off the breakup. lol.
I don’t want to isolate in an unhealthy way, a snarling wounded animal way. I just want to connect in a meaningful way. I don’t want to sit around talking about how sorry, how sad, with people who don’t know. I honestly just want to talk about my brother with my sister, because she’s the best person to reminisce with. We have the same mind when we think about him.
But for others I want to write. Writing is the best way to connect outside of myself because it’s easier to be honest, to explain myself, to resonate on different ideas and feelings.
And like the Rachel Carson quote at the top, nature has been my reserve of strength. Nature and solitude, meditation, words, the sun, the earth. And myself. I am my own solace.
Everything feels so different and wrong, yet so right and completely me at the same time. I don’t know who I’ll be when I emerge from the cocoon, but I do know that no longer will I munch on leaves for sustenance, but instead I’ll feast on nectar.
And I want to translate that taste into words.
Flowers for him
If a woman has artificial flowers in her house, flowers that need dusting twice a year but never die, she is closing herself off from any understanding of death.
—May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude
I see my brother in the halls. He flickers and doesn’t speak. At night, if I’m lucky, he visits me in my dreams. I wish he came every night. Maybe he’s busy, maybe he’s resting. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough yet.
If I could, I’d bring him outside with me, to stand in the sun. But he never follows me out. So I whisper to him instead, in the wind, to the trees, hoping he can hear me. Maybe I’m not listening well enough yet.
The last time we hung out, one on one, was in the backyard gazebo. Warm stone, smoothed over with dirt and leaves. It was windy that evening. I’ve swept it clean. I sweep it every day now.
I wish I could give him flowers. People never give flowers to boys until after they die. I’ll plant him flowers and sing to them until they grow tall. Taller than me and the room and the house.
Flowers always die, but still we plant them in the ground.
I wish I could cut you down and take you with me, dry you and keep you pressed in my pocket, but I want you to keep growing so I’ll leave you there and visit often.
I dream in words
My writing goes like this:
I write a lot in my head.
Even last night, I was having a very emotional moment, sobbing violently, and while that was happening, my brain was processing all the tricky problems I was trying to deal with, solving them, soothing me, and also writing an entire narrative about it in my head.
The problem is that I write really well in my head, whisper words to myself all day long. But it’s almost like trying to recall a dream. You know it won’t be as vivid and clear when you wake up, so you try to stay half-asleep, remembering and reimagining this dream. When you wake up completely, you’ll be able to recall the gist of it, but the magic might be a bit faded.
This happens to me when I try to exist the subconscious stew of my head and get the words onto paper. They feel flatter, duller, more confusing.
I live within the dream of the words in my head, trying to call myself a writer, and failing for everything left unsaid.
Mush inside a cocoon
Imagine a caterpillar feeling the mysterious urge to make a cocoon and then turning almost completely into mush, having no idea what the fuck is going on, because it basically just turned into nutrient-rich soup. And then imagine some fellow caterpillar friends coming along and asking the cocooned mush “heyyyy what’s up, what’s new?”
How the fuck does the caterpillar answer that in a way that doesn’t sound insane?
That is what I’m going through. I feel like mush.
It feels selfish to basically turn all my energy inward to focus on this metamorphosis I feel happening, but it’s necessary for the process. A caterpillar can’t half-ass their transformation. Despite having “transformed” many times in varying degrees of intensity, this is the one that feels—though not as emotionally intense as the one I went through in 2020—like I cannot spare any energy for anything else during this time.
But it’s weird because I accidentally created a bit of a “life coach” dynamic with a lot of my friends last year, where I held a lot more space for them than I expected in return, out of fears of being rejected for being “too much” (a common occurrence among autistic females). I spent a lot of energy last year maintaining my long distance friendships, and basically collapsed from the imbalance of being leaned upon but barely being able to lean. So going from very involved supportive friend to basically ghosting everyone might have been a bit of a shock to them.
But still, they ask after me, because they’re not assholes and they care about me.
I told one friend “spiritual journey.” I told another “I can’t really explain what happening to me but I’m changing a lot.” Many of the conversations I’ve had are uncomfortable, because I’m no longer the “self” they’re used to, but I can’t articulate who I’m becoming or what’s even happening to me right now.
I was venting about this to my sister today, and she’s actually the one who brought up the cocoon metaphor. I’d had the metaphor in my head for a bit, but hadn’t verbalized it to anyone as a way to describe my current condition.
My sister said, “It makes me sad that your friends can’t understand that you’re in a cocoon right now, going through all these changes, becoming the person you’re supposed to be.”
I was momentarily shocked that she was able to so easily see and verbalize what I’ve been going through. I seriously underestimated her. It feels so good to be seen like that.
One of my hopes for this blog of mine is that it’ll help me better articulate the changes I’m going through, the evolution, the ascension, whatever the fuck it is. I have a vague inner knowing and I’ve seen a few random pieces of writing on the internet from “spiritual” people or whatever they are, who talk about this kind of thing—but I think I’m not going to understand this until I reach the other side, however long that’s going to take.
The friend who I told “I can’t really explain what happening to me but I’m changing a lot” asked me if they were good changes, if I was happy.
Yes, they’re very good changes. Yes, I’m very happy.
Confused and mushy, but happy and good.
Romanced by the sun
I am alone a majority of the time but I rarely ever feel alone.
I do not feel alone when I’m sitting in the sun, pleasantly warm with little covering up my skin. It’s no coincidence that they call it “sunkissed” for that’s how I feel with the sun heating up my skin, bringing out the natural toasty smell of me. How impossible it is to feel lonely when the lord of the day is caressing me, making my entire body blush.
Even better for not feeling lonely when one is alone, is when the sun is accompanied by a breeze, softly. It makes me feel like something is happening. Like I’m at the beach or riding a bike down the boardwalk or cruising down PCH with the windows down (can you tell I miss California?).
The last year and a half has felt like waiting and like growing. But I’ve learned gentleness and slow living, and that in the silence of the mind, the desert actually makes a lot of movement and noise. I end up feeling grateful that my life has emptied out and slowed down and simplified so much so that the sun and the wind have become my companions. I think this is how someone like Emily Dickinson gets made. Slow down and listen and feel. The earth comes alive. The characters of nature reveal themselves.
Sometimes in the quiet revelry of worshipping the sun I wonder what it would be like to instead be caressed by a person. My skin is so soft; shouldn’t anyone else know this, touch this? It’s been 18 months since moving to Nevada, 18 months since being in the arms of another, four years since I was in an “official” relationship. Yet when my energy is not focused on the missing but instead on the other beauties of life, I hardly feel the desire to belong to someone. Don’t be mistaken: I have overflowing bucketfuls of love to give. But I suppose I feel that for now, me and my words and the sun and the wind have more need of my love than a lover.
Write or rot
I need to write more frequently. I feel like I need to publish every day. So I will until my body tells me to disappear and go inward for a while. Like a true manifesting generator.
I was reading the newsletter of a writer I love, Peta Kelly, and she was saying she can only put out fresh stuff. Like she was editing some stuff she wrote in 2020/2021, and barely any of it was salvageable. It felt too “old” to publish.
Her words are EXACTLY how I feel. My old writings feel stale. I feel like I need to share it ALL and share it FAST.
I can barely stomach reading the stuff I wrote in 2020, nevermind publish something I wrote last MONTH. She and I are both manifesting generators (and I’m CERTAIN she’s also on the spectrum like me) so maybe that’s why. We like to work quickly and independently in phases and bursts.
Which is why it’s been vital for me to get my platforms figured out, go inward for a bit and sort out what’s authentic, and then slam forward like a train. I’ve read that spectrum brains are like trains anyway.
Once I figure out where I’m going, what I’m carrying, I’m moving and never stopping. Until I feel like it of course ;))
I’ve always liked the idea of letting my words simmer—in theory—but in reality if I set something aside, it doesn’t feel like it’s simmering but rotting. I can’t put this out once it’s sat outside of my head, molding, rotting on paper, to be decided upon later. It either needs to stew in my head or be published immediately. I’d rather something melt away and be forgotten floating around in my head, than rot on paper, waiting for the right time to be released. Or worse, when I get something amazing out on paper but then overthink the editing process and it never gets put out to be read.
Let things thaw out, but prep, cook, eat them the same day. Or they’ll spoil.
I wrote this out on paper in the sun this afternoon and it’s midnight by the time I’m getting this up on my blog. I told myself to go to bed and finish it tomorrow but I literally know I’ll wake up and despise it. It will be oldy and moldy and need to be tossed for the fresh new thoughts of the day.
This is kind of anti- the slow timeless work I’ve idealized. But for some reason I feel differently about the book I’m working on than I do about the stuff I want to share online. My book is a coming-of-age memoir, so I don’t feel the need to be fresh. It’s timestamped in my body and soul already. It’s just about untangling the right words from my head, shaping the story of my heart.
But this damn blog, agh heaven help me, I need raw and fresh and wriggling.