Lessons in Humility

I’m told that when something keeps happening I need to listen. Repetitions of numbers, song lyrics, etc. Certainly this has been true of many major changes in my life–especially the lyrics. Thank you, “Unholy Confessions” for the role you played in 2010. For almost a whole month. Two lines. Over and over and over.

And then I got around to listening to them. And to the ones that danced through the month before. Thank you, “Buried Alive,” though your message quite a bit less obscure than the song that followed.

This time it is not a song (though there was one that I still haven’t figured out the message my brain was sending. Maybe it was just scrambled), but a repetition of events. Namely, failures.

I have a great life. A job and a place I love to be in–the differences from last year are so dramatic as to be pointless to try to describe. I’ve been fairly successful in my endeavors professionally thus far–nothing huge, but still there. And then there is this month. None of them life and death, only one panic attack induced (and talked down by rhyte and then a solid 5-miler), but no less failures. And public ones–a federal grant, a conference proposal (see, none of these are of grand significance outside my own head), a something else that I can’t recall at the moment–none of these private.

On the one hand, given the sheer number, the one panic aside (which was over something other than the failures), I’ve handled this terrifyingly well for me. I might be numb at the moment (oh, I did just remember the other thing. *sigh* yeah, it was important after all), but I’m more okay with this than I would have ever imagined myself being. That reaction is, of course, subject to change without warning and with plenty of drama.

What I am hearing in all of this is a lesson to be learned. I want to ask why I need to be humbled, but why probably isn’t the question. How do I respond from here–to this and to things that follow.  Do I hide from big projects? Do I apologize for my existence <–a personal favorite?

And what exactly am I supposed to be learning here? Ah, right, patience. Humility.

I forget so easily.

And at the same time all of the above is unfolding, I ran two races last weekend–a 5K and a half marathon–and PR’d in them both. For what may be the first (and last) time ever, my athletic-life is more…successful doesn’t feel like the right word, but it probably is (bonus: band on stage as I finished the half was playing Guns N  Roses).  My work life is fine–I’m doing the things that need doing, and perhaps I need to let go of the image of myself as a grand success in the particular area in which the failures are arising. Take steps back. Look at the matter. Turn my energies elsewhere and let that side marinate for a bit. Maybe come back later. And, as they keep telling me, sit with the discomfort.

Oh. I see. Perfectionism, isn’t it? Right, that one. The one I keep having to work on. Gotcha. Comically, I have been tiptoeing into that morass. My bass sits behind me right now, waiting for me to play badly just to play (it had been so long that my fingers are having to relearn the stretch across the neck). I have a sketchbook in which I am learning perspective and color. A poetry notebook so that I can laugh at myself, and a tentative research project beginning to join the nest around my favorite chair.

Clearly, whatever it is that needs to remind me to work on that rather significant character flaw has never seen my drawings, heard my music or read this blog. Perfectionism is clearly not a problem (I kid). Of course, none of the above (save the blog) is for public consumption, either. So I probably don’t get to count most of it.

So, there is more work here, apparently. More of the public variety, I expect.

Be mindful, be forgiving, be honest. <–perhaps my mantra for a while.

So, I checked my journal for the recent lyrics (which, thankfully, have been on a rotation). Today’s (which did not need checking, what with it being in my head at the moment and all): “Until our second chance, just enjoy the dance,/ and find out who we are /(these dreams will never leave you)/Let’s find out what we are/ (the dreams will never leave you)…” (“4 a.m.”). Recent others: “you’ve fallen asleep in denial/look at the way we’re dying” (“Blinded in Chains”); and for several days “There’s something in your eyes/ a part of me that I recognize” (“Lost it All”).  Personal favorite (and the kind of earworm that would not leave, no matter what I did): “Play your game you better walk away/your integrity don’t mean shit/run away you fucking parasite/or I’m gonna take you out.” (“Trashed and Scattered”)<–primarily the second line. Make of that what you will.

There were others, some of which are so commonplace as to have a permanent space for themselves. So: denial, identity formation, dreams, recognition and…threats of violence in the voice of a cocky 25-year-old male.  Creative interpretations are probably necessary.

50 Miles to Anywhere

I live in a small town now. Small enough that there are not a plethora of bookstores, and the majority of stores generally close by 7pm. It’s definitely odd. I run with wild turkeys and a vague threat of mountain lions, and I had quail move into my attic for a weekend. Did I mention odd? Within those quirks and myriad others, the cross-country move has proven to be as wonderful Running_Beachas I imagined–and in many cases, far more so:

I took this picture halfway through a 12 mile run that began at my house. As midway points go, even ones that require a climb over a dune, this does not suck. Neither do the views on a 10 miler from Asilomar to Bird Rock (off 17 Mile Drive). Nor from Del Monte Ave. to Point Pinos. Or parts of the wild in Fort Ord (did I mention the mountain lion)? And so forth.  Perhaps moreover, all of these runs can be accomplished during the afternoon. In August. Such was never possible in GA, where summer long runs demanded a very, very early start to beat the heat (though not the humidity, which is often highest right around sunrise). I got to watch the sun rise this morning as I ran toward home. Right up over part of the (I think) Gablian range. Just beautiful (and an unusual sight, since sunrise usually happens while the marine fog is still hanging around).

And so I run. With glee. (note: not Glee). I have miles and miles of coast and trails that I’ve not yet run.

I turned 39 earlier this month, and while I’ve never been a roadie (unless one counts extinguishing fires from cheap-ass candles before Duff’s Cleveland show), I feel like I’m doing pretty well on the so far, but I also feel the need to do *something* remarkable before or around my birthday next year. Because.

I started CrossFit (shut up) last month, more or less on a lark, but that doesn’t feel like “it” (what with having zero desire to do heavy lifting), though it seems to be good for my running strength thus far. And it turns out that I may have somewhat less range of motion in my right elbow than I thought. Doesn’t quite bend far enough to do some of the weightlifting.  This is not really a huge surprise, but it does make for some humerus (*ahem*) moments.

For this “remarkable,” I have to reach into the “things I’ve never imagined I’d do” list, so I’m glad to have some time to ponder/scheme/etc. I probably should cross-reference with the “things neanc has already forbidden” list.

In the meantime, I’m training up for a half marathon (hence the double-digit routes above). I’ll start training for a marathon immediately thereafter. Dammit, I am on the West Coast, I will run/hobble the Surf City Marathon in 2015. Whatever it takes to finish that race (hell, to start that race–injuries immediately before the last several made for too many cancelled trips).

Seriously, I will crawl if needed (which would have the benefit of meeting the “imagined I’d never do” criterion, this crawling a marathon. Perhaps in a tutu? Duck costume?). Granted, the course time limit could create a problem with this solution.  Oh, and the traffic on PCH.

Suggestions are welcome.


**I am publishing this as is. All errors result from a choice to write freely.

A friend bemoaned the coming blog postposts that will forthcoming in the wake of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide*. Posts that will question why someone would choose suicide, the state of mental illness treatment and support in the States, whether addiction (or, for that matter, depression) is a disease, character defect, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.

The last phrase is particularly apt at the moment for me, though it has nothing to do with Williams’ death.

I process the world–usually–through writing. When I don’t write, it probably means I am in denial or otherwise just not working my way through something. Which means, I suppose, that today is a good one.

And perhaps it is also a good one because so many of us are still standing and will remember the Robin-shaped hole–and, I hope, the holes left by the scores of other suicides today, tomorrow…

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. And we can pretend that addiction and mental illness are aberrations and character flaws. And we can decry the “choice.” And we can mourn the losses. And we can love those who remain here. Not always present, but here.

And running alongside the shock on my Twitter feed is the abhorrently less shocking news: kids who can’t get home because of a blockade, residents in fear of a heavily armed force shouting at them, attempts to fight back that are often swept aside in the reports for the sexier acts of destruction.

In Ferguson, MO. Racial tension explodes.

That which is forced into silence–externally or internally–will rise. The emotions that are drowned, denied, or belittled will take over. Eventually. And we can never really predict how, where, or who. We are all subject.

That Williams’ apparent suicide should come after a long stretch of working and time in rehab should come as little surprise. The masking of the highs–through whatever means–can result in pummeling, fatal lows. Worse still are those liminal spaces known as mixed episodes, when you are deeply depressed with the energy and –sometimes–delusion that make it possible to do something about the (lack of) feelings. That something is not necessarily going to look rational to those on the outside. But it might carry its own internal logic. And the end result is the same.

A hole.

That Ferguson’s apparent violence should come after a long stretch of increasing racial tensions and the warfeargasm (thanks, L7) fed by the media should come as little surprise. The masking of the threats and hostilities–through whatever means–can result in pummeling, fatal actions. Worse still are those liminal spaces between delusion and fear, when you are so terrified of your neighbor, the police, the kid on the street that bullets seem like the only way to do something about those feelings. The internal logic will be there. But the end result is the same.

A hole.

A death. A loss. More fear. More pain. More evasion of truth.

Evading the difficult conversations about race that are bound up in a political vision that triumphs noise over evidence. Evading the conversations that put on the table the simple truth that a black man in the Oval Office sent part of this country into a profound state of delusion. Evading the difficult conversation that some of those same delusions bind up the possibilities for treating mental illness and addiction because, like the black man in the Oval Office, too much of the discourse assumes black men, addiction, and mental illness to be something other. Too much of the discourse assumes whatever it is that white and normal are supposed to be.

Fuck that.

Depression kills. Fear kills. Delusion kills, be it the one mediated on TV or mediated in my head by the bipolar cycles that I work to balance every single day.

Cycles that killed a man this morning. Delusions that make us have to question ourselves when the energy is too high (did I see him? Is he real?). Delusions that there is no other way out.

Other kinds of cycles, just as subject to swings, killed a young man this weekend. Delusions, mediated by violent rhetoric and pervasive, inflamed fears that go unquestioned and too quickly smothered by the next great event–this delusion killed a young man this weekend. And the days before that. And before that. And before that.

How long do we let delusions destroy us? How many holes have to be left?

Depression lies.

Fear lies.

Both kill.



*the first line caught my eye on FB. That was too hideous to leave.

Conceptualizing Groupies, Bad Boys, Wonderbread and Water Sports.

In theory, I am writing a chapter proposal on Bad Girls this weekend. Whether or not this will come to fruition is a question that will best be answered on Monday. When the proposal is due.

My academic career and research curiosities (okay, so that comes out really badly) have led me to skirt around the subject on a number of occasions, riffing off of the stories of Lilith, the Queen of the Night, assorted fairy tales, video characters and Diamanda Galás at various times. There exists a thread between these fictional and real women, but I’ve never attempted to suss it out clearly, and I am not certain that what the call for critical responses to the “bad girl” in popular culture is looking for is this binding. I have the shape, the notes, but not that…whatever it is the yanks this together (that isn’t Benjamin).

(Before I move on. Diamanda Galás: “This is the Law of the Plague” and “Skótoseme“. Oh, hell…”Do You Take This Man“, for sport, particularly if you want to go for something more…straight. And the last two are with John Paul Jones. Plague Mass is also worth a listen. You’re welcome.)

Certainly there are elements of the big theme–redemption–is here, though that goes in dozens of directions (though, having typed it…this could be the starting point I was looking for. Violent redemptions. Redeeming bad girls–or not, as is the case so frequently, etc. ACK! I know what the damn thread is! I knew I’d find it if I stopped looking).  I was looking for a story about Joan Jett that I ran across a dozen or more times in the punk oral histories, and damned if I can’t lay hands on it this time.

What I kept returning to as I worked through an outline without the hook (I knew I should freewrite) was the narrative of the groupie.  I even reread parts of Roxana Shirazi’s book, Last Living Slut, reminding me just how degradation was framed throughout. Specifically, I reread a scene I have written about before (misspellings and all), when she depicts encouraging Synyster Gates to urinate on her breasts. (N.B.: Piss is apparently a theme for them. There is something here to unpack, but I suspect it ends around egotistical assholes who know how to play the roles. I swear, if the porn remark on the second link doesn’t scream “no, really, trying to be bad boy,” I’m not sure what does)**. She describes them, on the one hand, as so frightening that she can’t look at their pictures for long, particularly Shadows’ (Matt, though the stage name does seem relevant here). She does note that “though their look seemed aggressive at first glance, their reputation for excessive behavior unfortunately reeked of public-relations press release” (171).  See also, “World’s Most Dangerous Band” motifs.

Though she twice uses “serial killer” to describe one or more members of the band, she also uses “instant cake batter”, “cute as puppies” and “soft, Cheerios-fed, California beach boys,” which may be my favorite description ever. Brian gets an additional nod toward “blue collar machismo” (which is interesting in light of the rest of the chapter). With respect to Matt, she later remarks “[his] face was actually less of that of a ravaged serial killer than that of a lovely little boy. That damn marketing department didn’t do them justice” (173).  I’m still trying to figure out the ravaged serial killer bit–that marketing department (and the band) was never unaware–no matter the characterizations–of the, um, attractiveness of the band members (for the love of Pete, you need only see them once to recognize that they are perfectly aware of it too. Watch Brian identify the young ladies who are seeing the band for the first time. Trust me, he can. He flirts shamelessly and wins their hearts. Every. Single. Time. Man knows how to perform. Then there is that vocalist and his dimples. He can get away with pretty much anything with just a smile. I feel certain he’s known that since childhood).

The chapter’s structure seems to bear some of the dichotomy of bad boy/wonderbread out: Brian and Roxana go off alone, engaging in an act neither have done before and subsequently return to the bus in silence.  Her following descriptions of her infantilize him: “He was mumbling, and I just wanted to hold his hand and tell him it would be okay” (179). Here, she sees herself entirely empowered in the situation–he is merely following her lead. He subsequently disappears only to return in a bizarre…not sure what to call it here…Brian ex machina?  He stands at this point as the confirmation of the archetypal PR-created bad boy (heart of gold near the surface, of course) that she thought they would be in the first place.

He comes of as so much the little boy, which was, I suspect, the point, particularly as he serves as the foil to the Rev in the next scene. While the first scene was shrouded in sort of privacy–though outside, they were alone–this sequence is public (even though on the bus). She follows the Rev and her friend Lori upstairs… I can’t do justice to this paragraph in summary, so…here:

I can only describe what ensued in the next half hour as nerdy frustration. The Rev tried to fuck me while the singer, M. Shadows, watched [***]. When Synyster showed up, though, The Rev’s dick died. He kept trying to fuck, but his dick was spaghetti limp. He tried to shove it in again and again. (179)

That “nerdy frustration” apparently comes out as a fairly violent, perhaps drug-induced assault on Roxana by The Rev. She grabs Lori and her clothes and leaves furious…”because I hadn’t got proper sex’ (180). I don’t even know where to start with this. The humorous: where exactly was Lori (who goes unmentioned between upstairs and exit)? Unless bus lounges have gotten somewhat less cozy, we’ve got a considerable number of people stuffed in here. Not going to touch the Magical Brian ™ arrival. And then there is the obvious thing–she brushes off having had her head slammed into the ground, angry instead at sexual frustration. Granted, I’m making a judgement here about how she “should” react–certainly she has her own agency, but it’s troubling, particularly as it is hardly the only denial of violence.


I confess that my recall of her depiction was off–I thought she had described Matt in some detail during this scene (including some reference to the omnipresent aviators), but I apparently made that part up. Which means I am rewriting this book in my head. I’m not sure I want to follow that too much further.  But, now that I think on it…The Rev and Brian are both framed as little boys, aren’t they?  One is shy and mumbling in the face of her empowered self, and the other is an angry little boy who doesn’t get what he wants (and, to that end, she doesn’t either). The whole damn chapter is about children, isn’t it? Right down to Matt as “lovely little boy.”

How in the blue hell did I end up here?

Well, at least it’s getting research out of my brain and into the ether. Even if it is research I would never submit.

Though apparently I’ll happily post it publicly.


*What are the corollaries for bad girls on this? I suspect there are more similarities that I was assuming at first blush. Bad Boys with hearts of gold are, after all, stock in trade.

**Important reminder: immaturity. Eye-rolling, remarkable, immaturity. One hopes this is at least partially self-aware caricature. Actually, it’s damn difficult to ever read Zacky through any other frame. As the world’s finest internet troll (retired), he knows something about how to stay in character.

***Fits nicely with the porn remark, yes? Straight on, dude.

“There’s something in your eyes, a part of me that I recognize…”

Well, it must be getting on toward September, since I find myself wanting to write. Though, I admit, I haven’t the slightest idea what exactly it is I want to write about.  Perhaps I just need to hit the keys for a while (monkeys and typewriters and whatnot). 2014 has certainly been a hell of a lot more interesting than I thought it would be when I was pondering 38 and sanity last year. That I would be on the correct coast and in a new job, home, etc., would never have occurred to me, even as much as I may have wanted such changes. And here I am.

I’ve been trying to work through a call for a book chapter recently, and I have found myself stymied. I can’t even get pen to paper (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) to begin the damn thing.  Hell, I can’t even get my head around what it is I want to do, though I know what I want to do (these things are clearly related). It feels like starting my dissertation all over again (that right there is about the most terrifying sentence I have ever typed)–knowing where I wanted to go and getting stuck behind the first letter.

So, I’m here instead. Perhaps trying to tell any tale whatsoever.

Before I moved, I took a week to do something that could be regarded as absolutely nothing, but was something I’ve really wanted to do but never took the time nor had the money (well, the latter was probably still debatable).

Virginia Beach, May 2014

Virginia Beach, May 2014

I followed Avenged Sevenfold for 4 shows in 5 days, calling it something like “fangirl trip” as I posted pictures and the obligatory swoons. And then I got a chance to see them again in July. Twice. I’m familiar enough at this point to warrant being poked fun at by a certain vocalist, who (rightly) pointed out as he left the stage in that ever annoying “hey we’re done, bye-bye-get the crowd screaming before coming back for the “encore” we were going to do anyway” crap. Apparently, I made a face at them (lack of poker face?). Said vocalist looked at me and smirked, saying “you know we’ll be back.”  I am probably far more amused by this than I can or should explain, but I am. Seriously amused.

I’m grateful as hell that I’ve been able to follow them around so many places–even to Montreal, where they came on after GWAR (several hours after, but after no less). That was one of the first shows that I realized I had crossed into that familiar zone–hey, we just saw you… Only, I had pink hair from the stage blood (and, as it turned out, a considerable amount of said stage blood on my face. I was a hot mess. The dude at the sandwich shop after the show–well, that my French sucks ass did not keep me from being able to follow his remarks. At all), so I was on the receiving end of some very strange looks. And I really didn’t care.

Part of me wants to wander through these memories here, and part of me wants to keep them to myself. And I don’t know why that is. It is, however, strange.

At risk of running into the maudlin (I really need to find some topic to wander through that isn’t me), much of what has happened in my personal growth has come alongside various *things* (no idea what to say other than that) with respect to this band. It was extraordinarily difficult to make some of the choices I made to leave home to see them–ridiculous as it sounds, even to me,

 I’m not sure I could have made the steps to land here without having made the smaller ones that landed me in their pits over and again. Being able to say that I want this. That I am not too afraid to just launch myself in to whatever space or place is available and then just detach from the world for a few hours. That I can be a fan again. That I can be okay.

That’s not quite right. Not quite what I mean. It’ll have to do.

I’ve met some fantastic people in these travels. I have some wonderfully odd snapshot memories (I get so lost in the music that there is little space for more).

Montreal, August 2013

Montreal, August 2013

A squeezed hand, a laugh, an unexpected kindness, a hunt for a book, forgotten words, “you rock”–moments.

They are playing in Dallas in two nights, and I am not going, much as I want to. I need to settle in–wait until next Spring, when they’ll likely headline their own tour again (if they do more than one offs this fall–or even those, really–I’ll eat my still-dyed-pink hat). Be here now, in this gift. In this world.

And writing. Seriously, I need to get with damn writing.

Blogging 3.0: The Obligatory Resolution Post

In an attempt to make myself write regularly (I seem to do this all too often), I’ve set up the most self-serving challenge that I could think of for myself: do one thing for me every day.  This was inspired by my massage therapist (!) and that communal meeting I regularly attend.  Because active alcoholism (sidenote:  3 years sober on 12/28/13.  Yay!), I am a champion of constructing ridiculous rules for myself, so I thought I’d revisit that old and relatively harmless (albeit funny) quirk. So, the “thing” must be at least 10 minutes in length, is primarily for me (but can help others in the process), and I cannot judge the thing as selfish, etc (even if it totally is). It cannot hurt others (making sure I don’t use this to talk myself out of things will be…fun). It simply is/will be.  Cheap (as in, no cost) is better, but spending on thing is permissible (that said, it need not turn into shopping as therapy). Writing these updates does not count. Meditation doesn’t count b/c that’s a “supposed to,” as are the various forms of therapy that I engage in to make me an easier person to be around.  You’re welcome.

So, on Jan. 1, I got a hot stone massage.  I have recently returned to massage therapy to try to undo some significant damage I’ve done to myself over the last year of not doing massage therapy (my shoulders were residing somewhere in the vicinity of my temples).  Such therapy has the benefit of making me a generally easier person to be around.  You’re welcome.  But, I’ve never had a hot stone massage, and it did seem an interesting way to begin 2014 (especially given what 2013 was departing with), and it was definitely a groovy experience that I likely won’t do again (at least this year).

Today will be a touch harder.  I am working from home owing to what 2013 gifted me there at the end (yay, asthma), so whatever it is has to be here, which is fine, but I am presently baffled.  Surely I can manage to come up with something for today.  It’s only the second day of this…



I’ve been sober 981 days today.  I’ve  been sane for considerably fewer.  I’d be hard-pressed to say when it starting getting better, but if forced, I’d pick when I started meds–though it was months before anything resembling sanity took hold.  So, maybe not January 18.  Let’s go with the day I ran the Portland half-marathon: May 19, 2013. Why?  Because I can.  I had recently increased to a dosage I’ve remained at since. And because I ran the fucking race dressed as Wonder Woman.

Ok, so maybe that isn’t my best example of sanity…but, it’s a date, and it was 108 days ago.  If we had chips to mark our time in sanity, I’d have three.

Go me.

My birthday (the natal one, not the sober one) is typically the herald of a fall decline. I probably first noticed that in these pages.  I was nearly always melancholy at my birthday.  Is this normal?  I’ve no idea.  I know I am not alone in this, but I’ve no idea how “normal” it is–especially unlinked from a fear of getting older.  Surprised?  Yes.  Afraid? No.

The shorter days play hell with my moods, and this is the first year I’ve known why, though the diagnosis we were working with last December, when I last bothered to write here, was modified around that same time to Bipolar I (I go for the big dogs, thank you)–additional proof that I am batshit crazy.   That I am aware of the “why” doesn’t really change the likelihood of an impending depression (and, in fact, I can say with some confidence that said depression is knocking on the proverbial door), but at least I can see it coming and know what it is.  Whether I can do anything other than–as a friend says–lay on the floor and be sane and sober–is another matter entirely.

If that is all I got that day, that’s all I got.  Feel free to wave.

Traditionally, I run the Virginia Beach half-marathon on Labor Day.  I missed it this year because, in my efforts to stave off the arrival of my annual fall depressive cycle (which needs a name.  Suggestions are welcome), I overtrained and screwed up my Achilles’ tendon.

Again, go me.  Spring: run half-marathon at PR.  Fall: yeah, well…you know.  And not being able to run plays additional hell with my moods. (Clarification for those who have to live, work, or otherwise deal with me: I’ve got this covered.  Not running, but I do have something.)

ImageI’d kind of like to imagine that 38 will be some sort of majestic improvement over 37.  I mean, the tail end of 37 did involve an amazing and excellent new album from him and his gang–>.

And, in related news, 38 will involve more fabulous live shows (complete with top-notch spectacle–screw Aristotle and his “less artistic”.  Spectacle is amazing, necessary, and Avenged does it with unabashed style and excitement). 37 did provide two–such as the one to the right and the day in Montreal that followed.  Heavy MTL was just…let me put it this way, when I say my feet were not in contact with the ground–that I was floating–during Avenged Sevenfold’s show, I am not being hyperbolic.  I really was not in contact with the ground for most of that show.  A terribly impressive pit, that one.

But, for whatever challenges 37 dished out–and it did, with ferocity, the year wasn’t exactly a failure, and I have to remember that–I did finally find out what was “wrong”.  37 brought me adventures with great friends in scattered places, Disneyland and glitter ears, and Foofighters & Pearl Jam & Duff.  I spent nearly 5 weeks total on the west coast, and most of that time was bathed in sunlight.  I short, I’ve been around long enough to know that expecting up, down, or stable is unreasonable.  38 will be what it will be.

It just might have a few more pits (the ones at live shows, not the ones in a Poe short story) in it.  And that, my friends, is the best sanity-inducer my money can buy.

Thank you, thank you, thank you–for all of you.