Calling my mother is like playing Plinko on the Price Is Right.  A contestant places a wooden disk at the top of the board and watches it fall in a random pattern, bouncing haphazardly between the Love/Support and Batshit Crazy slots.  There is a whole manner of additional available prizes, but they generally fall in between those two categories.  The player’s heart leaps when the piece looks to be headed toward Maternal Warmth only to sink in dismay when it makes a last second detour to Sicilian Guilt.  The outcome waits to reveal itself even to the final moments, as she answers the phone the same way, no matter her mood.

Mother’s Day was no exception.

“HELLO?!” she accused into the phone, leaving me to guess at the direction our chat would take.   To judge by her tone, anyone would think that she couldn’t possibly be more annoyed, that even correcting the grammatical errors of the entire population of Facebook would be preferable to taking my call.  That’s not really the case…it’s just how she rolls.

Knowing her tone is no indication of her mood, I chirped a cheerful Happy Mother’s Day  (!!) into the receiver and was rewarded with a couple of cold responses.  Under normal circumstances (and to save my own sanity) I will beat feet to the end of the conversation when I see it headed in this direction.  If I don’t, screaming matches occur; it’s better to live to fight another day than engage, logic has no place when her voice takes on a certain edge.  But, it WAS Mother’s Day, and as such (I felt), required a bit of extra effort on my part.

After some prying and coaxing (“Seriously, what’s the matter? Why do you sound so hateful today?”) I was rewarded with a solid dose of the truth.

Now, here I pause to tell you something else about my mother.  I’ve shared some shitty things about her on this blog.  Told a couple of horror stories.  Mostly because this seems to be where I work some crap out.  But, beyond those stories, it should also be known that she’s a woman dealing with her own shit.  A really smart fucking woman, dealing with her own shit.  I forget sometimes that she’s spent a considerably longer amount of time trying to figure herself out and get back to even than I have, and as such, has the benefit of experience.  Every once in a while, she pops out with something that sounds completely ridiculous, but turns out to be exactly what I needed to hear at that particular moment.  It’s those times that I know I’m just as Batshit as she is and that there will never be anyone out there who understands quite like she does.  This fact absolutely has TNT written all over it, but sometimes when it manifests, it’s the only thing in the world that helps me know I’m not alone.

This was one of those times.

“I’m not a goddamned business, Jennifer.”

Now, the layperson will read that line and wonder:  “What the fuck does that even mean?!”  But I’m no novice when it comes to my Mom.  I knew exactly what she was talking about.  I’d just spent the previous five-or-so minutes in a state of calm detachment, trying to figure out why she was upset.  My voice had been soft and clear, friendly even, but there was no warmth behind it.  I’d been giving her the fake customer service treatment, and she called me out.  I was instantly fighting back tears.  She knew, goddamn it.  She knew and saw right through.

I use my call center voice when I’m in danger of feeling something.  I use it when I’m perilously close to submitting to weakness.  When I’m so lonely for the touch of the person I’m speaking to that going another moment without it might drive me to desperation; the emptier my soul, the more cordial my voice.  Without that failsafe, that tone modulation, the outside world is in danger of falling victim to the dam breaking.  I’d just been using it on her and she failed to play along, instead, forcing me to recognize something about myself that had (has) become my entire world lately.

There I was, face-to-face with the truth of my coping mechanisms.

These days, I am detachment embodied.  I have shut myself down to only the bare minimum.  Essential systems only.  Reserve power.  Low lighting.  Martial law.  I have declared a  moratorium on the expression of, well, anything.  I live so teeteringly close to a breakdown that I must maintain a state of hyper-vigilance lest this wound opens only to bleed and bleed and bleed.

I have become so careful about how I express myself that I don’t express myself at all.  My closest relationships have withered off of once healthy vines.  My need and drive to write has dried up because in its honesty, it would be admitting to the lies I’ve been telling those around me.  I have no shortage of hands reaching toward me, but I’m afraid they have no idea what they’re offering; that once I give in and let go, allow myself to be comforted by those hands, that they’ll realize the extremity of my need and retreat, sorry at once that they’d offered any contact at all.

In truth, my inner world is a blustering chaos.  I don’t jest when I say that out loud.  It’s more than just a warning or humorous hyperbole.  As my skin screams out for contact, tenderness, soft words, I breathe those desires back inside.  Their ferocity isn’t to be meddled with, and I don’t trust the outstretched and open palms to know what they’re offering.  With certainty I know that once I open that door, that cut, there will be no stanching the flow.  And while I fully expect and understand that those offering aid will retract it once they see the truth in the outpouring, I also know that that abandonment is something I can never recover from.

So I keep to the inside and play my grand role.  With abiding grace, I am thankful for the kindness of the people that reach out.  I am quietly awed by their intentions and charity.  But I must, at all costs, maintain this distance; a break in the ranks could mean a break in my tanks, the reserves, what’s left of this crumbling edifice.  It’s not enough to know that she sees me, my Mother.  Not enough to just be revealed.  All I am at that point is revealed, uncovered.  There is no protection in the open, and in the end, just being found out is not the same as being understood.



A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 33rd birthday…celebrated being a euphemism for what I ACTUALLY did, which was spend a significant portion of the day crying while getting royally drunk on red wine.

33 roared up on me, presenting itself in motorcycle leathers, demanding the goods for its payment at my birth.  It had given me enough time, it reasoned, gesticulating with a cigarette, to DO something, BE something, SHOW something, and it wanted proof—just the facts, man—that its loan had been put to use.

My lower lip trembled.

I hadn’t, in fact, done anything with the gift, and was standing there–With nothing as proof.

Instead, I look back at a long road, a tough one, and me, a terminally miserable, ever-dissatisfied wastrel; a mess in her quest toward the unnamed and ill-defined.

Standing in my place, in these shoes, this body, there was supposed to be a bohemian traveler.  A jaunty soul.  An accomplished….SOMETHING.  I was set to see the world, to take lovers, to fit my life into a backpack.  I was to lie on beaches, stroll museums and bazaars, to teach small children English As A Second Language, stopping each day by the box to send the postcards I now beg off of others.

Would have.  Should have.  Could have.

Youth is indeed wasted on the young.

Somewhere along the line, it became too late for those things.  Somehow, the small setbacks got the better of me.

The successes that I push myself toward are only illusions to fool the unwitting onlooker.  “But this!” they shout, “You’ve done this!  And this!  And THIS!!”  Smokescreen, I tell you.  Sleight of hand.  Shadows and mirrors.  For if they knew the image of myself that I hold in a secret pocket, the shock of the disparity would silence the room.

How do I reconcile this failure?  How do I make it okay that my end point is here, rather than THERE?

In truth, I cannot.  And that is the bottom of the well.

Down To Zero*

I might just go crazy this week, if I’m not careful.   School is out for spring break and I am homebound by injury.  Three weeks into this cavalcade of crutches and I’m pretty close to despair.  I can’t remember the last time that I went this long without stepping foot into a gym, and I’m slipping slowly into madness as I daily watch all my hard won successes go to seed.

As the days wear on, my ass sinks lower, and the definition in my arms is fading.  I’ve tried very hard to curb my eating, but going from 3200 calories a day to 1200 is no easy feat, and I just don’t have the motivation to keep my hands out of that pretzel sack.  I’m back to averting my eyes from the mirror when I stand before it naked after a shower, and my “thin girl jeans” have been placed back to the bottom of the drawer in exile.

This does not a happy yawp make.

Yesterday, I gimped down to the fitness facility in my complex.  My orthopedist had okayed work on the stationary bike, (with no resistance), so I thought to get some cardio.  No such luck as 10 minutes in, my leg started aching.  I cannot fathom how I’m going to make it another FIVE weeks.

Being fit was inextricably linked to my feelings of self-worth and sex appeal.  Working out was the thing I was good at.  It kept me going.  I ran on running, thrived on plyos, gave thanks for planks.  This girl who had spent the first quarter of her life in abhorrence of herself, who had finally found a measure of pride in the fruits of her efforts, has been forced back into that world of disgust and self-loathing.  Back to square one.



*The title of this post comes from THIS song.

Requiem In Sulpher

I was a firecracker,

way back when,

in the days before I knew what kind of stretch I was looking at.

I used to talk to cab drivers

and smile for no reason

and count my friends in pecks and bushels and bunches.

I tempted fate

and danced all night

and made the first move with my eyes.

I was all

flying tissue streamers





But there are things you should know

about firecrackers, right?


they only have one fuze


they’re impatient,


in the end,

what you’re left with,

after waiting out the dusk with a lit match,

Is a pile of tissue streamer ash

and the smell of burning.

A Momentary Lapse

There is a beautiful breeze flicking in through my windows and the chimes are singing to me over potted sunflowers.  The day is unwinding with ease and I am sewing up loose ends, reminded of past self-promises as I fill in the blanks of book journals and bedstand reviews.  If I close my eyes tight enough, I can imagine that I’m someplace beautiful and that friends’ physical presences are just a short jaunt in the car away and that my throat doesn’t feel as if it’s growing a marble of bruise on the left side.  Days of sleepless torment stretch behind me in wicked lengths and I’m guilty for skipping the gym this morning, but today is a good day, and I feel a small warmth in my soul that I hope will grow rather than blink out.

The thing about depression is that it’s possible to never really realize you’re in one until a day like today comes along.  A day when it’s somehow easier to breathe and the loneliness can be held at bay by with a little imagination instead of pounding on your door like a SWAT team busting a meth lab.  And if it’s a deep funk, one that you recognize every morning right before it throws a bag over your head and beats you with a potato in a sock, then these days are even sweeter.  The black is in such sharp contrast to the bright rays of world’s possibility that you squint, almost snowblind, opening your door to the sweet air outside.

I can’t remember when this cycle started for me, but it almost always occurs during a lull, a period of thwarted forward movement.  I truck along, meandering my path only to be halted by a move, a disappointment, a plan gone wickedly awry; and suddenly my world shifts, and disorientation takes a hold.  Sometimes it’s only days, nothing a couple shots of whiskey and a good PeeMyPants laugh can’t cure.  Mostly though, it’s a long slog…long enough that in the middle, neither the end nor the beginning are visible and IT begins to look like normal.  I’ve never medicated myself, (though it has been professionally suggested on a number of occasions) so these times are hard fought with my own fists and teeth.  Whether this is folly or not, I can’t say, knowing only that my experience with mood enhancers is akin to Febreezing an old couch that smells like cat piss.

The most recent fog has been the longest, blanketing my landscape on and off for over a year, bad days outnumbering the good.  Managing to escape for only short stints, I’ve dwelt, instead, on the craggy surfaces mired in puttied shades of black and grey.  It’s felt like a losing battle, slip-sliding out of control down and down with no way to spot a bottom.  I was told once that the early to mid thirties is when dysfunctional coping mechanisms begin to crumble and their once comforting and effective presence becomes less and less so.  That’s been true of my experience, but old habits die hard, and I haven’t had the chance to develop something new against the constant onslaught of storming thoughts in my head.

Because it’s been so bad, I do my best to smile into the sunshine of days like this, to remember what it’s like to enjoy a day in solitude and peace.  I remember the feel of a normalized mind and the pleasing caress of possibility.  Instead of looking for huge cosmic signs that I belong and am “Allright”  I marvel at my tomato plants grown from seed and the stack of books yet to read.  On days like today, I feel good in my skin and am thankful for my first world problems.  On days like today, babies are born to endless possibility and I’m moving on the path that the Universe set out for me.  On days like today, I think I’ll make it.

Tonight, I won’t get sleep, and I’ll feel bloated for missing step class.  I’ll brush my teeth and worry that they’re getting more crooked by the day.  My stomach will churn in anxiety over whether or not the Old Man’s contract will be renewed and if I have enough money in the bank to cover the time he spends looking for something else if it isn’t.  In bed, in the silence and dark, the world will come crashing back down, it will sit on my chest and bounce the air out taunting me with what it can do.  But now, right now, I feel good.  The sprinklers are painting misty rainbows across the front lawn and my toenails are freshly painted and I am OKAY.

i fall apart when no one’s watching

In a store, I discover,

a hole in my ear

And everything is leaking out onto the floor.


My inside thoughts are seeping their way outside in a slowlavaooze  and I’m staring down in alarm and this liquiddark stain is spreading like molasses in a snuff film.

It doesn’t hurt and world, in a muffle, dances on down a loooong foreshortened hallway past my hollow numb sockets.

I’m staring at this stain,

and at my ear,

and at this stain,

and one is growing and the other is shrinking and I just kind of rest my hands at my sides palms outward.

suspended in solution,

slow-motion leak,

deadened head underwater.

Rasping air pressing past a pressure narrowed pathway,

and on and on, that viscous trickle,


because the seam gave way.

If Only It Were That Simple….


Author Dan Andrews wrote a prompt for the Trust 30 challenge that I don’t find to be much of a prompt at all.  It was kind of a self help book boiled down to a couple of paragraphs.  Regardless, I signed on, and certainly don’t want to cop out.  As such, I took a portion of The Prompt and realized I already had something in the archives that I wanted to say about it.


In regards to the kind of person I want to be, I have the following to say:

I want quiet–quiet in my head;

a hush when I close my eyes.

I want to lay my head down and drop to sleep without the agony of the day’s playback on repeat.

I want to feel effortlessly kind, and less a fraud.

I want buoyancy in place of the lead weight in my chest which I think must be my heart.

I want to sigh in contentment at this day’s end, and, instead of rancid ennui, look to the next with optimism and genuine curiosity.

I want pleasing things to feel pleasing, and I want to look at my world with real and unclouded joy.

A Study In Loathing


He shoots laserbeams of hate into the back of her head. Watching her hands move while she describes her disgust with the world’s current events is making him nauseas. Every time she opens her mouth to reply, his jaw twitches and clenches against the sound. He opens the window a crack and watches the exits rattle by.

How had he ended up with this…this…fucking cunt? This fucking crazy, neurotic, ANNOYING bitch?! He wants to slap her. Knock her down. Spit at her feet. She’d MADE him this way. This sniveling ball of almost silent aggression. Her. Fucking always asking for something more. Never satisfied. Always FUCKING BITCHING. What the hell does that mean anyway, “Stop making fun of me.”? Her fucking line right there. “Stop Making Fun Of Me.” Fucking bullshit. His shit was FUNNY, and he knew it. Even she laughed. All the goddamn time.

White divider lines flash past, reflecting off his glassy eyes, like a movie reel. There’s never any PEACE. He can’t ever just HAVE any peace. They’ve always got to be DOING something. (She’s got a vendetta against the TV…a phobia of wasted time.) But today! Didn’t they stay out ALL DAY?! Doing just the type of shit she enjoys? Why shouldn’t he have taken advantage of her rare willingness to drive? Have a few beers. Some whiskey and Coke. Why not? Just to be able to muffle her drone a LITTLE bit. To dull his senses enough to admit he’s unhappy. To let off a little of that pressure.

But NO. Somehow he’s ended up here, folded into this backseat, while she sits up there pretending that she’s NOT A FUCKING STUPID CUNT. Prattling on about nothing. Trying to pretend that there isn’t something WRONG. But she can’t ignore him. She knows he’s back there. He can feel her eyebrow raised in his direction, see the tension running down her neck and shoulders. He’ll hear about this tomorrow. But fuck her. Fuck that princess and her constant dismay. She hasn’t done penance nearly enough for her own depravity. Why feel guilty for that?

Outside, they’re rolling up on their front door and she’s handing the driver his fare. As they exit, she turns her flaming stare to his face and he confronts the full force of its hurt, anger and disgust. He walks to the door after throwing the keys wide right of her reaching hands…they drop to the ground in front of her and he lets out a snort.  Let that bitch bend over and pick them up. It’s not exactly spit at her feet, but the intent is clear. Fuck her. He had a good time.

She closes the door behind them and walks silently to the bedroom to change.  He watches the last of her disappear around the corner and reaches for his cigarettes.  At some point, she’d locked the sliding door to the porch, and its unanticipated weight threw off his already impaired balance.  He’s just gotten it open and stepped outside when he realizes, lighter in hand, that the box is empty.  FUCK!  He stumbles back inside and grabs the keys.  She didn’t know what she was talking about anyway.  He isn’t that drunk.  Before he knows it, he is in the car and looking up into the lighted second floor window.  There she is, that bitch.  Standing there.  Glaring at him.  What the fuck is she looking at?  He pulls out of the space and rolls down the window, middle finger blazing as he drives off toward the gas station.


I’ve been on the fritz lately.  A little light-headed, a little bit spaced-out (as in, cadet) and a lit of bit restless.  The spring is creeping in and the weather is getting warmer and the sun’s been shining on my face and beckoning me out.  It teases and charms, but by itself, it’s a  pale and gaunt mistress.  When set against the backdrop of my Now, it just barely coaxes me away from the impending funk I can feel floating just beyond my periphery.

There’s a Despair that looms just around the corner and I’ve got to be careful to keep on moving so that it can’t close the distance.  In it’s lint-filled pocket, a grimy hand closes around a cancerous pit of an idea:  “What if we never get out of here?”  I make desperate lists of places that I want to see, that can take me away for a day or two or four at a time, knowing that my light grows the further and longer I’m apart from this succubus of a town—like the wick on a gaslamp turned up against the darkness.

How many hours to the coast?  The Oregon Coast?  Would it be easier from here? Or a plane ride.  Yes!  A farther jaunt.  An accumulation of frequent flyer miles.  How much to Salt Lake?  Or Phoenix, or San Diego?  It’s awe that I need/crave/thirst for….to be struck dumb….to have an experience that will whitewash this mildew-ridden mediocrity that I’ve been living.  This isn’t HOME and my soul is once again reaching out, grasping for worth and gasping for air.

Don’t ask what it is that will satisfy.  Some days, I imagine that its scent floats on the wind ahead of it, like lilac blooms on early spring mornings.  Others, it’s a train that I run along side, reaching hard as I sprint, only to have the bars just touch my fingertips as it pulls away.  I feel like I am losing time–just missing something that is obvious and grand.  Too little too late for the party that everyone else will be raving about on Monday.

There is something out there just for me, and it beckons…a flickering light through the fog.  I’m squinting very hard now, but can’t make it out.  I’m wishing for a sign, a star, a sigh or a glimpse.  Something.  Anything.  A hint or a clue that I’ll get there and that the journey and unease are merely the tickets to ride.

With What’s Left….

Reverb is back with monthly prompts, I found out the other day.  March’s?  What would you do if March was your last month to live?

With 31 days left I would immediately and without hesitation stop waiting for things to get better.

Time is an odd thing.  With the impression of leagues of time, we believe in the barely possible.  With the benefit of hindsight, appearances are positive; time creates beauty and progress and change.  The scales of justice are balanced and equal punishment is meted out to all transgressors.  Grand Canyons are formed, skin color overlooked, polio cured.  Long spans guarantee a tomorrow, a next day, a later.  Limitless horizons of future opportunity allow for procrastination, or pushed deadlines; a surety that we may try, try again, believing in that slow train of evolution.

But to cut that length short?  To know, somehow, that your length is edited, curtailed?  Quite a different story.  With little time, small moments are momentous.  Change the proportion, and nothing remains equal.  Suddenly, the idea of WASTE grows in the foreground, an ominous check making sure that what that specific moment is being spent in pursuit of will hold against hindsight and historical scrutiny.  Nothing can change fast enough, progress is gauged impatiently and only hard, sought after results are rewarded with praise and contentment.

With leagues of time, I stay here in Pasco, WA, quietly (?) biding my time for something better.  I allow the Old Man his opportunity to grow in his new profession, knowing that this is a stepping stone for him.  I maintain my gaze on the cloudy and unknown distance, willing myself to believe that there awaits something better, some future adventure/happiness/pleasure/contentment.  I overlook my dire boredom and lonely, friendless solitude.  I plod on, making do with my bookshelves and Skype and this lovely community I’ve found in the blogosphere.  I regard my marriage as a whole, as a process, as what it CAN be with work and elbow grease and…time.

But take away those leagues, and it isn’t the amalgamation of moments that matters anymore.  It’s the moments themselves.  The tiny things.  Without eons or years, the landscape changes and so do my priorities.

With 31 days left, I will pack my flip flops and a couple of dresses, my Tweezers and some books and I will get the fuck out of dodge.  I will stop waiting for Happiness At a Later Date and begin indulging only Things That Make Me Happy Now.  Piled in the car with my dog and my cat (and the Old Man if he so chooses) I will drive, stopping only briefly to see Old Faithful or the Grand Tetons and some old friends in Salt Lake City.  With a quantity of marijuana sufficient to see me through my end of days, I will head stalwartly east, back to my home, back to my heart.

For one week and change I will surround myself in my parents’ love.  I will listen raptly to my father’s guitar and to the songs of my life.  I will teach my mother how to make an actual Cosmopolitan-not those horrendous things she came up with on her own.  I will tell each of them in no uncertain terms how dear they are to me and how much I love love love LOVE them.

We will have a huge party and all who are able or willing will attend.  I will pour my love out in buckets and laughter and hugs and rue.  I will tell each person with direct eye contact why I’ve kept them in my life and what their friendship has meant to me.  I shall hold Blondie’s baby boy in my arms and whisper secrets to him about his momma that he could only learn from me.

And then, I will adjourn to the beach.  Maybe Costa del Sol, perhaps South Beach or Wrightsville.   I will spend the rest of my days by the roar of the ocean, insisting that those with me treat it as a holiday.  There will be bonfires and beers and quiet naps in the sun.  Strolls along the shore arm-in-arm, dancing in the sand, glinting smiles and sun-baked skin.  I will charge each person in my company a task; to each visit a place I had longed to go and to perform a local tradition of remembrance.

And on my last day, someone will take a picture of me.  I won’t worry about it, or fret that it will turn out badly.  I’ll turn toward the camera and smile a genuine smile.  Me with my giant sunglasses, perfect tan and a joint, passing on in a cloud of love and hugs.

(Post Script:  I felt the need to make clear that I’d also have put my financials in order and bequeathed my body and it’s organs to wherever they could be used.)