Wednesday, October 01, 2014

time capsule

Up there you see a twenty-one year old wallet. Why? Why do you see that up there?

What's happening is that we're in Week Two of the can't-talks. I mean, I can talk, I'm going about my business, I'm okay, but what I mean is that I can't write, at least not in my normal way. Like I posted last week, my body is doing some deep processing of some difficult material, and there's too much pressure in my head and around my heart and just all up and down everywhere in this old vessel for me to be able to write a real thing. So, once again, we're doing something a little different, and eventually I'll tell you what sparked this.

What we're doing is going through my old wallet. 

Know that I have spared you from many things. This is a highly curated selection. And also, there are no pictures of me because I gave them to Dave, who has them now in his wallet, and it would be cheating to go get them. Which is sad. I had a tiny little proof of a cute old headshot which I would have liked to show you. But rules are rules.

Let's begin.

Phillip J. Griffin, Violinist Extraordinaire. I have absolutely no idea, which is why I like it so much I'm leading off with it.

Ancient business cards of friends who are still friends, which pleases me.


Twenty years ago tomorrow I went on a date with my then-fiancé to go see the Bulgarian Women's Choir in concert, which is somehing everyone should do. (See the choir, that is. You don't all have to go with Thomas. I mean, you can. You can work that out for yourselves.)

There's Thomas now, my first husband, in his old driver's license. I thought that would pair well with the appointment card for the fitting of that wedding dress. 11:00 am sharp on 5. 

Diane Ladd's business card, as you can see. (IMDB, for those who might not know/remember the great Ms. Ladd.) Thomas and I took a weekend acting workshop from her. I did a scene from The Children's Hour and she said that there was nothing she could teach me emotionally that I didn't already know, which I've been savoring for 19 years now. Nailed it! 


"You are always welcome in any gathering." Maybe I looked at this old fortune before parties. 

I might also have been welcome because I could do CPR. 


Or because everyone knew I was always good for a grain or two of Equal. Yes, I've kept an empty packet of Equal for twenty years. 

Missed opportunity.  :(

500 Belgian francs, which tells me we're getting closer to the impetus for this wallet raid. In the winter of 1992/1993, I traveled to London for a month with a friend, and then to Luxembourg for a couple of weeks to visit cousins. 

This is my cousin-by-marriage, Anu, who showed me around Luxembourg.


We possibly went here, to the I.S.T. Bal, mat den Challengers. 


We most definitely ate at the Quick hamburger restaurant.


Okay, pause. 

A few nights ago, I googled an old boyfriend. I don't remember why he came to mind but he did, my unlikeliest old boyfriend, whom I met on this particular trip. After Luxembourg, I went to Italy for three months, and there, towards the end, I met Terence, who was a half-British, half-Sicilian mercenary in the British army. (There's the bit that made him so unlikely for soft, unworldly young me.) We had a brief and sweet little romance which I resisted at first because we were so different, but when I gave over we fell in something very love-like. 

The saint up there, as you might guess, is from him. She, like he, was from Syracuse. 


The back of the saint's flier. 

I met Terence at a hostel in Florence. He won me over when I watched him interact with a group of Japanese tourists, drawing maps for them and joking with them, making them giggle. He charmed us all simultaneously. Then a day or so later, on an afternoon bus trip outside the city, we kissed.

We only spent a week together, but we got somewhere in that week. He told me at one point, with...what will I call it, a sad happiness? A happy sadness? The beginnings of regret, maybe...that I had lit something in him. It's hard to describe. Whether he had wanted whatever it was lit seemed like an open question. 


Here are some poems he gave me. In my memory, he had written them for me. But I remember looking at his signature that he wrote them three years before he met me, so they weren't love poems for me, personally. They were still a genuine offering, a little something from his soft side. 

When I left Italy, he was waiting to be shipped off to Bosnia. He gave me his dog tags and a button-up shirt that I wore for a while, and we phoned each other for a few months. He planned to come to America, and we were going to live together, which seemed to me like a worse and worse idea over time, and I eventually stopped calling him, which made me feel guilty. I wondered whether he had lived or died.

He did both. 

He didn't die in Bosnia, like I'd feared. He lived and went on, Google told me, to become a very successful and well-loved special effects and makeup artist for the movies. He died, instead, a couple of years ago, in December of 2012, while I was very sick and scooting closer than I'd ever been to death myself. I don't know how he died. Google didn't say. 

I was going to make this whole entry about and for Terence, but I couldn't do it. I didn't have the emotional and physical werewithal. I had to go sideways into it. But he was real, and we were briefly real, and although he was already so long ago and far away that he might as well have been in the underworld, now he's genuinely gone, which paradoxically brings him closer. This is something I like about death. It's like a lit match next to the memory banks, blazing them up, giving us a translucent, Technicolor show. But it's more than that. Whoever was yours once becomes yours again with time and space out of the way. Cleaned off, refreshed, reclaimed. That's what it feels like. Not central, maybe, but lightly, surely connected. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

dream break (rain check)

I once had a therapist, an older Native American woman who worked out of the house she shared with her grandson, and what I loved about her is that she didn't always make me talk. If I felt like talking, that was great, but some days I just didn't have it. I just didn't want to. And on those days, she'd hand me some paper and some crayons or markers, and I'd draw whatever I felt like with my non-dominant hand, like having a dream on paper. Sometimes the picture would spark a discussion, and sometimes we'd just look at it and say, "Okay."

(It was a wonderful little house, by the way, with an inviting room for her clients. There were shelves and shelves of wooden animals and statues and rocks and figurines that I'd look at while she made us mugs of tea. And in the bathroom she had this great lavender hand soap and a purple hand towel and a painted wooden stepladder for her phantom grandson, and the bathtub was always filled with his toy boats. It was such a charming bathroom experience that I went out and bought—and to this day still use—the same hand soap.) 

As you can see up there with that drawing/partial collage I've made for you in lieu of a regular post, I just don't have it. I don't want to today. It's closer even to a can't. There are too many things working their way through my body, there's too heavy an energy pressing me down. Half the day I feel like I have some high-powered vacuum attached to the top of my head, reaching down and sucking out all the ancient muck in my insides. There's no fighting it. I don't even know exactly what it's doing, but it's a literal, non-metaphorical, physical sensation. I guess I'm processing some things. 

I didn't want to show up with nothing for you but I didn't have the energy to post something serious, and I wasn't in the right mood to post something light. Goldilocks here said no to both of those options. So here's my picture, presented without explanation. 

Yep.

Okay. See you next week, when I hope to have some words with me. And thank you, as always, for being so damn great.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

the great chocolate robbery

Since I started doing weekly posts at the beginning of this year, I've always gone in with a specific focus, something I'm going to talk about. Well, that's not on today. I'm digging back into an older tradition for this post, where I'm not talking about a *thing* but instead talking to you in a loose way about what's actually going on. 

I'm doing that because otherwise I wouldn't be posting at all, seeing as how I'm reporting to you live from Children's Hospital here in Seattle, where my youngest boy was admitted early yesterday morning. No panic, he's on the up-and-up, but he had a bout of severe asthma, as bad as we'd ever seen it. He came close to getting sent up to the ICU, is how bad we're talking about. And Fred—who's kind of a veteran here at Children's (Fred : Children's = Norm : Cheers), and whose chill nature and joie-de-vivre are tough to knock off course—was brought lower than I'd ever seen him. Real distress. Horrible to watch. I had to turn my face and cry into the wall over and over. But he's turned a corner and is on the slow rise to getting discharged tomorrow, so the crisis part of the show is over. 

I've had no time to think, though, and I don't know where I'm taking you today. This is pure, old-school winging it happening here.

**********

What I'm wanting to talk about, what I'd been planning on talking about in a the-thing-I'm-talking-about way, I guess, is the body. Well, not the body. My body. A little history thereof. What better place to talk about the fraught history of a body than inside a children's hospital, too? That's got something to it. 

If some cosmic police sketch artist were floating by and capturing some lifelong essence of my body to take back to his home planet/precinct, there would probably be a head, then maybe some rudimentary heart thing dangling from the head like a pocket watch, and then some feet. The body would be missing. My body's been missing, or I've been missing from inside of it. 

This is the part where I get a hitch in my typing finger/a contracted feeling in my gut, the internal shut-the-fuck-up-Tina mechanism kicking in. The words stop flowing. They back up into each other, take turns shoving each other to the front so they can hide and not have to walk on stage. Nobody wants to say it. This happens every time I talk publicly about my sexual abuse, which looks like it's on deck today.

Every time. That's funny. I've talked about it here all of twice, and then once I kind of talked about it on Facebook. And after the two times it came up here, I sort of thought, okay, well, good. I talked about it. All done! I shall never bother the world with this again! Because I thought that to talk about it was unbearably depressing and maudlin, and it was my job to be neither of those things. But it's not unbearably depressing and maudlin; it just is, as they say, what it is. It's a common thing, and a tough thing, but I'm not forever tainted by it, like I might have thought and not wanted to draw people's attention to. And furthermore, that is not my job, to be neither of those things that I'm not anyway. 

So, heads-up. This is probably not the last time I'm going to talk about this here. I may just be getting going. I don't know. It needs talking about, no? This taboo is oppressive. I want out from underneath it. 

But let's get back to the body, the birthplace of it all. 

**********

I had a psychic reading at the beginning of the year. I like to get those every now and then, although I don't come at them with anywhere near the same frequency/urgency I used to when I was in my twenties or thirties. I have much more of an "I'll find out on my own eventually anyway" and "I got my own internal compass working fine" thing going on these days as an old lady in her mid-forties. In any case, it was pretty interesting, this reading, but one part particularly made me laugh. The reader told me that one of my superpowers was my body. 

Ha! Oh, ha, hahaha. That's adorable. My body! A superpower. Oh, go on with you. 

I might have laughed or snorted aloud, because she went on to say, smiling, that a person's superpower isn't usually an area that gives no trouble. The opposite, actually. And then I stopped laughing, because I suddenly felt like she was on to something. 

I thought about the concept of the daimon, which I first read about in this very quirky and wonderful book I was in love with in the mid-late '90s called We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse, which is a conversation in letters traveling back and forth between the famous Jungian psychologist James Hillman and a writer named Michael Ventura, who was (is?) a columnist for L.A. Weekly. (Read it, it's a joy.)

Let's see how garbled my explanation/comprehension of the daimon is. I'm going to see if I can wing it without the help of Google. So, my understanding of the daimon is that it's a combination of an individual person's destiny/innate genius/central bugaboo. It's your thing, you're born with it, it lies latent in you, and it will fuck with you until you solve it/conquer it/own it/live its expression. I don't have my copy handy, but I remember Hillman and Ventura giving a couple of examples. Winston Churchill was one, who apparently struggled in school, had problems with his speech and language. And the other example that sticks with me was a great Spanish matador (whose name escapes me), renowned for his bravery, who was a huge mama's boy as a child, perpetually hiding behind her apron. The theory of the daimon says that something in you knows your fate from the beginning, and so you unconsciously struggle with it/fight against it. Winston Churchill, Hillman and Ventura explained, will have understood somewhere in his being that his words were eventually going to shape world events, and he buckled in advance under that pressure. The matador, similarly, could feel that that the bull was out there waiting for him, so when he clung to his mom, he was dragging his feet against facing his future opponent. 

So when I think of my body as connected to my daimon, somehing stirs. 

**********

Before Fred went into the hospital, before last week's Emmy post, I was sitting at a cafe brainstorming about and starting to make an outline for what was going to be my next post, which was going to be about the body. I was going back through time and chronicling the struggles my body had given me, back from the beginning, to search for threads. I was in the section about my childhood, jotting down some words. Heart murmur, I wrote. Eczema. Sick a lot. And then I wrote down allergic to chocolate and before I could get the word chocolate out, an existential nausea took hold of me. A shoe dropped. 

Fuck. I knew it in an instant, for the first time in my life. I was never physically allergic to chocolate, as the story had always gone. I got it, I knew it, I knew it before the thought could form itself into words. My chocolate allergy was psychological. 

I got sick a lot, as I said, as a kid. Missed lots of school. Apparently, every time I ate chocolate I got bronchitis. I was frail, I'd always been frail, it was just who I was. Oversensitive and frail. We all accepted it. We were all frail. We were frail together, as a group, our family. It was our thing. 

What I knew, bodily, in that moment in the cafe, was that chocolate figured into my sexual abuse. My dad had given me chocolate as a lure, or a reward. And so later I was "allergic" to it, and fell ill when I ate it. The knowledge dropped in a wordless, complete package. It popped open, all mine, irrevocable.

Son of a fucking bitch. I'd never questioned it. Yep, allergic to chocolate. I was given a whole lot of fucked-up carob brownies as a child because, aw, poor Tina, she just can't metabolize it. Son of a goddamn bitch. 

I sat there in the cafe and wept, a complex weep. Something was simultaneously being taken from and returned to me. Awful, gratifying. 

My mind doesn't remember everything, but my body does, and it's starting to slip me information. It's starting to tell me what it knows. 

**********

I never liked using my body, when I was a kid. I hated P.E., hated sports, hated anything where you had to put your awareness in your body. I didn't like having my awareness there. It felt weird, dangerous, vertigo-inducing. I was not interested in dropping into my body long enough to figure out how to throw or kick a ball, or how to balance, or do a cartwheel. Fuck that noise. If you want me, I'll be indoors hiding behind my brother's bed with my face in a book, eating purloined loaves of bread. 

Early carb cravings. Comfort food. Repression mechanism practice. 

Bear with me while I wander around. I don't know where I'm going, exactly, or how far I'm taking this today. 

Here's what's new. I've been taking yoga. I've always resisted it, but it started calling me lately, and I started taking classes at a studio in town that teaches something called Viniyoga, which translates to something like "yoga of adaptation". It's a gentle form, meant to be adapted to the needs of each student. From my very first class, my body loved it. The class moved so carefully, so respectfully, and never asked of us anything our bodies didn't willingly want to give. I had a hard time not calling out THANK YOU FOR THIS CLASS during poses, it was such a revelation.

For whatever reason, something in me has stopped fighting my body and shutting down awareness of what it knows. I've stopped struggling. I'm open, I'm willing to go in, whatever I find in there. I'm to the part in the story where I stop fighting my daimon and let it drive. I do cobra and butterfly and lion and cat and cow, unlocking myself. 

**********

I've mentioned here before that when I sit in session with my teacher, Jim, I've been getting these shooting pains up my spine, along with more pictures of my abuse. In the session before my chocolate revelation, the pains were so strong they made me cry, and they wrapped around my waist. I saw a picture which I will not describe, one that gave me horror, and no sooner did I see it/narrate it out loud than a pain shot through my head, like my brain was getting squeezed by an invisible hand, retribution for having seen what I saw. I cried out and held my head when the pain struck, and at the same moment, Jim said, "You have to let go of doubt."

**********

I'll tell you what makes me mad. I scan back over my life, and I see myself struggling along the way, struggling in my body, struggling with self-doubt. All that sickness in my childhood. The painful, disfiguring masks of eczema that started visiting me in my early 20s, just as I started to suspect somehing was amiss back in my past. How I froze so easily, got paralyzed by doubt and shame, hid my problems and made them worse. How my hands used to shake. How easily and often I cried, and how I wondered what was wrong with me, why did I take everything so much harder than everyone else? Why couldn't I deal? Why couldn't I function? How I was afraid to give my opinion because it was probably wrong because I was made of doubt, I was practically a solid block of doubt. And then closer in the past, the illness I had just a couple of years ago which almost killed me, where my body went on strike. No more, it said. No more until you listen to me. No more until you respect me. No more until you pay attention. 

The whole thing, all of that, all stemming from this grave violation to my tiny body. This whole life operating unconsciously in response. This disembodied head floating over some feet, this needless frailty. 

No more, all right. 

**********

Fred comes home tomorrow. It's for sure. 

I'll tell you one last thing I know, and then I have to sleep. I know that what mom and dad are carrying in their bodies unresolved gets passed down to their children. Here, a mysterious burden. Good luck. I didn't want to deal with it, so you try. 

I have lots of work to do, but it's okay. I can work faster now that I'm not erasing all my work with this endless, godforsaken doubt. 





Wednesday, September 10, 2014

bringing the emmys alive in 5-7-5

Welcome back, everybody! Boy, do I have the post for what you're still talking about three weeks later around the water cooler, and that's this post about the Emmy Awards. From 2014. 

Here's the thing. You know I love the red carpet. You know I do. Also, you know how you find a fresh song you love and you play it 12 times a day for weeks and you know you're sucking the magic out of it but you keep cueing it up anyway because tomorrow when the song will be dead is the future and the future is some stupid rumor that's probably not even true? The future is true, everybody. I'm there now standing on a mountain of dead songs, and maybe if we're not careful a pile of dead red carpet posts. 

I want to talk about the Emmys but this is the fifth red carpet post I've done this year, which might be more than all the red carpet posts from all the previous years of my blog. I have to protect this form from extinction. I have to be wily. So I'm doing somehing new. With every photograph, I'm giving myself three minutes max to write a haiku about it. I'm timing myself with a timer. Here, look:



A timer. And then I was going to say, "And listen:" but the Blogger app won't let me upload the video I took of me pressing the button and playing the 'Alarm' sound for you, which I've decided after extensive sound trials is the best way to clock out of writing a haiku. It sounds like this:

 {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} 

But more horrible. 

Let's begin!


Poofy risk taker
In blood-dipped maxi-tutu,
I salute you{{{BLONK BLONK BLONK BLONK BLONK}}} 

(Three minutes is hard.)




Here, fresh from battle:
Samurai Debra Messing.
She lost but she lived.


Lucy Liu looks nice
In my Mommy's old nightgown.
I loved that nightgown. 



Orange creamsicle,
What are you hiding in there?
Floral lace bike shorts?



Christina Hendricks
In flaming persimmon:
That shit is not fair.



Cylons and Klingons!
Commence fighting over your
Cranky, pointy bride.


Modest lady in
the most popular color,
So sweet and so smug.



I'd love this cape more
If Christine Baranski would 
Fly around in it.


Cheerful PoMo elf!
Tell us about Thunderdome!
That sounds super fun! 


Kate Walsh looks like a 
Statuesque jonquil
In this flippy gown.


Your shiny gold can't
Distract me from my question:
Are you wearing braces?


Camilla Alves
Has mad sophisticated
Paper snowflake skillz.


Little pink bundle 
We call Zooey Deschanel:
You take teeny steps.


Once upon a time,
A dress that was a mullet
was Jon Hamm's girlfriend.


Vanessa Williams.
I don't know what to make of 
Your minty peplum.


Katherine Heigl
Is the benevolent queen
Of this parking lot.


This lady looks great.
I just really, really think
This lady looks great.


Allison Janney's
Rosy, wine-y velvet gown 
Looked brighter on stage.


Everybody loves
Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
That's all. Move along.


I love blondes in red,
And five syllable names like
January Jones.


Hey! Howard Johnson's.
That was a line of motels
With this color scheme.


Seth Meyers' lady.
Like a star high school athlete
All girled up for prom.


It's Freaky Friday!
But with Mayim Bialik
And Kate Middleton. 


Hey, look at my ass.
Oh, gross. You're looking at it. 
But look at it, though. 


Saturday Night Live.
Katie McKinnon from it.
She seems kind of mad.


Looking tough in a 
Fancy army parachute:
Sarah Silverman!


Hi, I'm Danielle Brooks.
Does Tina like me the best?
Fuck yes because RAD.


Look, Kelly Osbourne.
I'm always gonna be like,
"What'd you do THIS time?"


Lampshade-shaped lady,
You made time and space stand still.
Is what it looks like.


Listen, you fuckers.
Robin Wright can kick your ass
Even without feet.


Michelle Dockery
Is a flight attendant on
Heavenly Airlines. 


A little mesh bell
With a confusing waistline
For Kiernan Shipka



Kaley Cuoco!
Technicolor butterfly,
I rescind old snark. 

The end.