Saturday, October 7, 2017

Perfect Places.

I was writing about perfect places weeks and weeks ago for this blog post, but it was all wrong and 
 I wrote many words, and I deleted most of them. I was writing about one shallow idea of perfect places.  I was being so literal.  I was thinking about one place, and couldn't think about anything else as perfect: and that place doesn't exist physically anymore. 

It is gone. 
I can't walk through it; the floors telling me I was home as I felt every inch with my bare feet.

I started writing this post in July.  
But it was all wrong.  I had it all wrong... what I thought about perfect places.  
I was torn between the delineation of physical places bodies might be located, and places that exist in the mind.  My mind.  

I didn't want to ever believe that my feet wouldn't touch those floors again.   

You see, my brain is certainly not a perfect place.  It is a place that has frightened me, and has failed me, and confounded me, more often than it has been sane or comforting or of general understanding... not not understanding... of general acceptance of my place in the physical world at this point in my life.   

Every night, I live and die
Feel the party to my bones
Watch the wasters blow the speakers
Spill my guts beneath the outdoor light
It's just another graceless night

I heard the song and watched the video without really studying the lyrics, even though I heard them clearly.  I played it for my sister, and said, "This is so true for us, right?"  And she responded, "Whoa, that's really a dark view of life."  I'm the dark one?  I'm the dark one.

Lorde's song  is really, really... dark.  It's pretty serious.  It is serious.  She is quite young to be singing about such darkness and with such maturity about life.  I mean, I guess I could be Lorde's mother, if I had been a 'teen mom', yet I still relate to this song despite the artist's and my age difference. I believe Lorde is wise beyond her years, or someone much older wrote the lyrics for her.  

Gees.  I hope my children aren't this cynical about humanity and the world at 19 years old, but I admire Lorde's view of the world now that I am almost 40.  At 19 I wasn't dark.  I wasn't in the dark.  

I hate the headlines and the weather
I'm nineteen and I'm on fire
But when we're dancing I'm alright
It's just another graceless night.

I have seen many doctors and specialists who have prescribed medications for me to get to a "perfect place," and no one has succeeded.  I don't think any pills or ingestable substances can take any of us to a perfect place.  I want there to be a magic pill or potion that makes me all better, but I know that is not going to happen.  I'm on a cocktail of medications and I don't feel at all perfect, and I don't like this place I find my self in right now.  And it's been years.  Years.  Years.  Years of trying different combinations of pills, and different doses.  Taking anything into my body to find a perfect place doesn't work.  It won't for anyone. 

Are you lost enough?
Have another drink, get lost in us
This is how we get notorious, oh'Cause I don't know
If they keep tellin' me where to go
I'll blow my brains out to the radio, oh

Is it just me?  I looked up the lyrics, and thought, "This is quite dark.  She uses the F word even.  She's pretty upset.  I think maybe I'm not that upset.  Or maybe I am, but I don't want to swear about it. Maybe I have said the F word in my blog about shit.  Oh.  I guess I use the S word.  Maybe I do believe this song is relevant to my place in the world.  

Like, I mean, love is hard.  Feeling loved is hard.  It's difficult to feel loved.  Love shouldn't be hard?  It shouldn't feel hard to feel love in the place I exist.  I want to feel meaningful love in my home.  My home.  My place.  Where is my place?  

All of the things we're taking
'Cause we are young and we're ashamed
Send us to perfect places
All of our heroes fading
Now I can't stand to be alone
Let's go to perfect places

The song, well, I know I'm not young, but I'm ashamed that I've become how I am.  I'm ashamed that I let everything inside myself fade... everything outside myself.  Me.  I left me fade and made myself be alone.  I did that.  The place I should feel most comfortable, inside my own skin and head, I've made inhabitable.  That's how it feels.  I wish all the things I'm taking make sent me to perfect places...  What the fuck am I taking all these meds for, anyway?  

Every night, I live and die
Meet somebody, take 'em home
Let's kiss and then take off our clothes
It's just another graceless night, 'cause

I'm not sure how to stop.  I'm not sure how to believe that I want to come back to a place that makes me feel so sad.  I don't know if I want to come back to the literal place I'm in.  I don't want to be here, that's for sure.  I hate our bed.  I hate this house sometimes.  I hate the laundry piled around me.  I hate maneuvering through the basement to get to the washer and dryer to do the laundry.  I hate shit everywhere.  I hate the enormous amount of trash bins next to our driveway, that are... what?!  I haven't looked.  Are they full of more shit?  Why do we have so many fucking bins and barrels for trash?  Why is it all right there, visible from the pool, and right when you pull into the top of our driveway?  Why do we even ever have trash bags on our deck, when we know they get ripped apart by skunks every fucking time they are left out and then there is trash everywhere, and a skunk smell, and I just close the door and don't want to go outside.  No.  That's not a relaxing place to hang out.  It's a stupid place.  It's a place that makes me want to scream and ask why?  It's certainly not a perfect place.  Not a physical, tangible place I like at all...  

All of the things we're taking
'Cause we are young and we're ashamed
Send us to perfect places
All of our heroes fading
Now I can't stand to be alone
Let's go to perfect places   

But I know I've felt so perfect and home in places, and in myself.  I have felt that feeling.  As a child it was my grandparents' house, or playing in the yard with my little brother in the snow.  It was being with my little sister.  It was singing to my little babies while I was driving them somewhere, just me and my babies.  It was when my best friends in college hugged me because I was crying for reasons they didn't understand, except they did.  They understood depression and loved me anyway.  They would tell me, "It's okay Jo." And I would laugh a little and say, "I'm being stupid!  You guys are ridiculous to understand me, because I'm so emotional."  And they never, ever let me judge myself.  Very best friends when it's so complicated: when I was 19, and 20, and 21, and 22.  I thought my place in the world was elusive and unknown, and I was scared.  I was scared at that age.  Yet, everything was in front of me, and I knew perfect places.  I had so many people supporting me. That's a perfect place.  It's wonderful to have people believe in you and love you.  Love is home.  Love is the perfect place.

All the nights spent off our faces
Trying to find these perfect places
What the fuck are perfect places anyway?
All the nights spent off our faces
Trying to find these perfect places
What the fuck are perfect places anyway?
All the nights spent off our faces
Trying to find these perfect places
What the fuck are perfect places anyway?

I want my children to know that perfect places exist.  Perfect places are people.  Perfect places are a home we feel inside of someone else that we love.  The perfect place is feeling like home.  A perfect place can seem to go away, but then it just folds up inside of us, and it belongs to us forever.  It's my perfect place.  It's your perfect place.  And we can hold onto them and save them.  A picture doesn't fade until we let it.  

Perfect Places

Friday, July 28, 2017

What on Earth... for Heaven's sake.

I wanted to talk to her yesterday, so very much.  I was looking at my own bloods and body tests and there seemed to be really not good things happening all up in my stuff.  (My stuff is generally defined as life, mental health, physical health in cases such as this).  I know she would know exactly what each test result meant, and what I needed to do to make the results more in congruence with the general population, or if I needed to go see a doctor immediately, and, "Why hasn't your doctor told you that this is very dangerous, and you really should be..."  My nanny.  My nanny always knew.

Her obituary didn't reflect the exceptional and superior knowledge my grandmother retained about all things medical.  It was all true, whoever wrote it didn't get anything wrong, but they missed the most important parts of Estelle Eleanor O'Connor Barry.

BELLOWS FALLS - The world lost a beautiful soul on Sunday, July 2, 2017, when Estelle Eleanor "Topsy" Barry died peacefully at her home, surrounded by her loving family.

Born in Claremont, NH, on May 28, 1925, to Stella (Frenette) and James O'Connor, she became known as the TOP BABY, hence her nickname, "Topsy," was also born. She was lovingly known as "Nanny Tops" to her 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.Topsy was raised in a home that valued faith and family above all else. She spent her childhood in Bellows Falls and was a 1943 graduate of Bellows Falls High School. From there, she went on to graduate with an RN from the Bishop DeGoesbriand School of Nursing in Burlington, VT.

In 1947, she married the love of her life, John P. Barry. They enjoyed 63 happy years together, until his death in 2011.In the early 1950s, John and Topsy moved back to Bellows Falls where they raised their five children. Topsy was a wonderful mother and always had an open, welcoming home to all friends and relatives. She had a special love for children and honored their free spirit. Her living room still has boxes of toys for any child who visits.

Topsy was an insightful, creative person and had a gift for saying just the right words to people in need. She was an avid reader with a curious mind and pursued a bachelor's degree later in life from St. Joseph the Provider College in Rutland, VT. 

Topsy also enjoyed cooking, birding and nature.Topsy always enjoyed the beauty of an ordinary day; she could be found in the woods and fields picking the pussy willows and May flowers of spring, or she could be found standing on her front porch to enjoy the first snowfall of winter or a beautiful rainbow in summer.

Topsy was a lifetime communicant of St. Charles Church, Bellows Falls, and a woman of very strong faith. She prayed the rosary every day.

My grandmother died on July 2nd, 12:30 am,  She went so peacefully, family sitting next to her didn't realize she had stopped breathing.  I was terrified to see her like my grandfather, who seemed to suffer so greatly as he was losing his battle with life over three days.  She told the hospice nurse, "I think I'll live three more days."  I saw her on the second day.  Grandchildren who came to see her on the first day didn't get to talk to her.

She wasn't lucid at most points, or was in a state where she couldn't be very responsive.
(That's what my cousins told me.  They didn't have the chance to talk to her.  I did.  I did.  I did).

And that was our box of toys, by the way.  I brought the box, more than 9 years before, filled with a wooden train, and books, and matchbox cars, and little dolls.
Before I went back to teaching, I visited at least twice a week alone with them, and then we'd also meet at Church in Springfield on Sunday evenings.  I am so glad I wrote about it all in journals and took pictures.

What On Earth (Will You Do For Heaven's Sake)
Did you walk that second mile, turn a frown with a smile?

Did you give a little more than you could take?Did you shine your little light upon the children of the night?What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

My babies saw her that first evening.
It was a Thursday. It was the same day that, although everyone had described her as fairly unresponsive, when Michael and Stella came through that very door which opens in full view to the chair my grandfather always, and where she was recumbent, her eyes fixed on them, she smiled, and she "woke up."  She hugged them and was able to talk to them and smiled at them the entire, when she wasn't too exhausted by the battle she was entering...

They hugged her happily, as they always have when they visited, and she hugged back as tightly as she could, and didn't let go quickly.  She didn't want to let go.  I know she wanted to say goodbye to them, but she didn't want to let them go.  She asked them questions about what they would do in their future. She, in her wisdom, could always see them as adults.  She could see what they will look like.  I look at them and I can't even try.  I guess I expect I'll be there for that "big reveal."  I see them as babies...  I can see them as little kid, and hear their voices.  Nanny wanted to look at them and know what she wouldn't see.  Not on Earth.

Did you feed the poor in spirit, and befriend the persecuted?
Did you show the bound how all their chains can break?
Did you sow the proper seed? Would you work out among the weeds?
What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

I had explained everything to them before they went with Sam that night, and they understood she was leaving, and would be with Grampy John in Heaven soon.  They knew she was going to die.  I also told them not to be afraid, and I knew they were sad:  Of course they would be sad. Heavens, and how strange it is to go to visit anyone, particularly someone you love, and talk to them, and hug them, and hear them speaking, and see them animated and alive, knowing that person would not longer be alive in less than a week? That is what my adult brain couldn't process, yet the twins were ready, and wanting to be with her.

 I told them she would want to see them as they were, and who they were, and it was okay for them to talk to her about their school accomplishments for the year, and what they hoped to do this summer.  I told them if they needed to cry, they should and could, but it was okay if they didn't feel like crying. They would make her smile, I told them, (just as she has lighted up every single time she sees them since they were tiny, newborn baby bundles), by acting like themselves.  I said, "Don't be loud or ruffians, she will be tired and she is in pain, but you can show her you are just as you have always been, and will always be."

I mean, I didn't want them feel terrified to see their beloved Nanny Tops while she was still here.  I couldn't go that night, or

Did you turn the other cheek, are you counted with the meek.
Did you lift a lonely heart bound to break?
Did you also give your cloak, to he who took your coat? 
What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

I saw her the next day.  The first evening, I understood that if I went with Sam and the kids, I would ruin her enjoyment of the kids, because I was sick from grief.  I couldn't stop crying.  I was vomiting, then dry heaving over a bowl on my bedroom floor.  (I also know I have major depression issues, and I was luteal).  I didn't do any of that in front of my children. Yes, they can see I am sad, since she passed away, but I don't want the death of loved ones to scare them.

I pulled myself together, for my Nanny (and for Grampy John, because he would want me to), and I was there.  I crumpled over her, my face on her hands, crying.  I didn't mean to cry.  I breathed and wiped my face, and I rubbed her forehead the way Michael loves me to do.  One of my hands held hers, and lightly moved her gray hair to the side with my fingertips.  She closed her eyes and smiled.  The kids had kissed her cheeks, and touched her hand.  Everyone let me be alone with her.  And she was smiling with her eyes closed, just like my babies did when I was helping them go to sleep, and drifting off, when my uncle and sister came in to give her medication, and I had to let go.  I had to let go.

Did you feed the poor in spirit and befriend the persecuted?
Did you show the bound how all their chains can break?
Did you sow the proper seed? Will you walk out among the weeds?
What on earth will you do for Heaven's sake?

-Johnny Cash

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Far too often, the statement, "A person has to hit rock bottom, to get better or change," is made by people who probably have never been heading down in the first place.
I have heard that statement.  People have said it to me about students, or family members, and I thought it was a ridiculous idea every time I heard it.
Hit rock?
Hit bottom?

It's not like people bounce when they hit very hard surfaces; rock for example.  It's not a falling, and falling, and falling, until we stop falling because we're at the bottom, and, with springs in our legs, coming up to salvation.  That's not what happens to the human body.

When human beings hit rock, they don't bounce... up.  They don't move up at all.  Their bodies smack, smash, shatter, break.
Critical injuries.
Survival unlikely.

They say, "You're a little much for me, you're a liability
You're a little much for me,"

And, I don't know if it's television and movies, or just our own understanding of the medical monitoring of human life and death that makes us think that a person can flatline and then be brought back to life. Because that's not true.  Flatline means you're dead. That's the end.  The whole paddles and code blue, drama is when someone is going into arrest. Their vitals are weakening to the point of flatlining, but they haven't flatlined yet.  They have weak signs of life, but they aren't dead.

Don't most people think when the rhythmic zig-zags on the monitors, being watched so closely, the blip, blip, blip sound... when those things change to a straight line, and the endless beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep, there is still hope?  That's when doctors rush in and do their magic?  Maybe on TV.  But, not in real life. No. That's when they know they can't do anything more.  It's all over.

So, think about a person going blip, blip, blip, in life, and then they fall.  The air as they descend to "rock bottom" is the endless beep sound whistling in their ears.

Wouldn't the prognosis for recovery be worse as height you fall from becomes greater?  Consider the homeless population. Consider how our incarcerated population. Consider how many people are seeking mental illness support, and either not getting any help, or spending most of their lives being "treated," but never feeling better.  Consider how many people accept apathy and depression as their norm, and don't remember how to feel happy.  Look at the statistics on drug abuse, alcoholism, cutting, and suicide in our country.  People are at rock bottom and they aren't bouncing up, coming to some great understanding of how shitty things were, then worse, and "finally getting the help they need."

So they pull back, make other plans.
I understand, I'm a liability;

Someone has to want help to really change.  
You can't help them if they don't want help.  

No and no.

I want help.  Fucking help me!  People have tried, on some levels, but it's really hard to help someone who is suffering from depression, or anxiety, or PMDD...  Especially PMDD.  Fix my hormones, right? Come on, fix all the chemical that control most of my body.  I get it.  I understand why people can't really help.

I understand.

I have written it down, how to help my children, if they ever end up in a place like I have been for 5 years.  I know, that you can't just ask the person what you can do to help.  

"I'm fine."  

You can't put off what seems drastic-- bringing and/or admitting someone suffering from mental illness to a hospital specializing in the psychiatric field of medicine-- because... will because that person tells you they are fine.  You see the signs, you don't wait.  Don't wait.  Years can go by, and listen, you're suffering too, not just the person with depression or any other mental illness, and your life will be greatly altered.  Don't let years go by.  This kind of thing doesn't clear up by itself.  You know your love one more than any doctor, and if you see that a simple prescription antidepressant isn't making a significant difference, help them do something more.

Get you wild, make you leave.
I'm a little much for e-a-na-na-na, everyone...

Literally, I understand a person may not show the signs you feel like you should see, or you're too busy to see...  You don't see how they are laying at rock bottom and not getting up.  Look at Evelyn McHale, "The Most Beautiful Suicide."  (No, wait.  Don't do that.  I mean, it's morbid and horrible for anyone to look gawk at a dead person.  I was going to post the famous photo here, but I don't think suicide should be romanticized).  What I'm saying is someone can figuratively, and literally fall from a great height and hit rock bottom and maybe no one would see how messed up he or she is inside.  She is probably hiding the cuts on her arms or legs she self-inflict, when she wants relief from mental pain. I've seen too many scars, or new scratches and deeper slices on my students' bodies.  I see.  I saw.  I know my sister's scars.  They are fading, but sometimes, they bleed.  Because who the fuck is listening if they can't see blood?  And what do they say, but, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"  Truly, there is a human desire to believe we may lose someone before we fight for them.  Before we fight... to help them... to keep them here... and that might be too late.

We always think we have more time.
We always think the zig-zag will go on.

They're gonna watch me disappear into the sun.
You're all gonna watch me disappear into the sun.

Does anyone really think someone has to fall so very far, to help them?  Do we think that person won't need help getting up?  Won't we understand that that's when our someone's body and mind is so destroyed that their legs probably won't even be able to walk, and they won't remember how to walk even if they could?

Friday, May 19, 2017


It wasn't just a Tylenol headache.  I knew I had a different kind of sick in my head.  I knew I'd have to see a doctor and get a prescription medication for this brain pain. I already knew.  My mother had been dealing with major clinical depression for as long as I was old enough to understand my mom was human and not just, "Mom."  And you know, I was never going to feel the same again. 
I just didn't know it then.  

I was in college.  It was the beginning of my depression, and then end of my "mental healthiness."  
Honestly, though, how many girls really made it out of college without being a little messed up?  
I mean, I had experienced difficult things in my life already, to be sure.  But I was doing pretty okay, and I was 19.  I though I was...

However, there I was at the beginning of second semester, and a survey handed out to the 200 student-huge-lecture-hall-freshmen-general-education-requirement-Psychology 101 class told me I needed to seek professional help immediately.  Immediately!  I looked around, as my classmates were either still filling it out, or falling asleep, or just fucking around with their fingernails or gum or writing implements.  I was always a stellar student, so I took that survey-quiz thing like it was my job. No fucking around or sleeping on the job for me, ever.  Never.  Hmmmm...

But, damn, my Psychology 101 class materials were telling me I was totally fucked.  I should have had a really awesome reaction to my survey results...  There were so many opportunities for craziness, but I was in shock that I was crazy, so I didn't think of them!  Like, if I had only stood up after tallying my score, announced my results loudly to the auditorium-sized room, and said, "Whoa, I'm fucking crazy. I need to find a doctor Stat," then run up the aisle and through the double doors, and out of that room.  I mean, maybe I could have gone shopping with my friends on Church Street that afternoon instead of shifting uncomfortably in the crappy fixed-row, fold-down seat, listening to all the causes and symptoms of mental illness.  I obviously had experienced most of them.  It said it right there on the survey.

Oh!  alternately, I could have done this: (Why the F didn't I think of this one?) I could also have raised my hand, waving it wildly until I attention up front (because who asks questions in a lecture hall class?) and asked the rotating professor (or TA) of the day, what I should do with my results. They made us take the test, didn't they?  What did they want us to do with that shit?  

Or! I should have descended down the aisle from my theater seat, taken over the microphone, and began a discussion about me, beginning by listing each item that led me to the score of, Girl, you be crazy, get some freaking help, then asking, "So... How?  What? Let's open this room to discussion, instead of another boring lecture."
         I am thinking that my classmates would be absolutely unaware that the professor wasn't lecturing still, or think, "Girl you be crazy," but I would persist.  
"What do you think about the score on this life event I experienced?  Yes, you there, in row thirty in the red and yellow striped rugby shirt." (Then it would dawn on me, Hell to the no, that isn't the guy who grabbed my arm and pulled, until I fell into him, and then tried to make out with me, his arms "hugging me,"at the frat party on Friday night after he did a Milwaukee Best keg stand, vomited into a cooler, and proceeded to do another keg stand? Yes, he sure looks familiar.  I was leaving the party, and standing alone on the sidewalk waiting for my friends.  He followed me outside.  Wouldn't you know it, it is the same guy! Of all the coincidences...  That guy who called me a bitch, and a fucking tease because instead of letting him kiss me, I pulled my head back away from his face with disgust, wriggled myself out of his arms, finally pushing him away and saying, "Gross, let go of me. I just saw you puke." I didn't have to point out that I had never spoken to him... ever...  Luckily my friends stumbled down the porch steps towards us, because he looked like he was going to, well, slap me.  I was a freshman, so I thought he would slap me...  [Thank goodness I didn't enjoy drinking "The Beast," as we called the cheapest beer frats could purchase to get girls drunk, or accept any of the Jello shots offered to me several times before I convinced my friends that maybe it wasn't very fun there.  And I had spent way too much time in front of the big trough of water teeming with little, swimming goldfish, which was apparently provided so guys could prove how manly they were by scooping up the water and fish into their red cups, and swallowing the fish alive.  Nope.  I was going to guard the fish.  Poor little fish.  I would guard the fucking goldfish.  I failed at guarding the fish; very few guys cared what I had to say about those poor living creatures dying a slow death, either suffocating in their esophagus, or drowning in stomach acid. No wonder guys were puking. And holy shit: were the fish coming back up still alive, and then just dying in vomit and beer puddles?] 
Perfect! that's the guy.  His opinion is most helpful in determining why this generic psychological quiz deemed me mentally unwell).  

None of those awesome things happened.  I mean, I didn't do any awesome things during my Psychology class that day, the puke guy story was absolutely true.  I didn't raise my hand. 

To be honest, at that point I didn't think I needed professional help, or that I was in danger of anything psychologically serious.  I was well adjusted, considering everything I had experienced in my life that far.  18 years.  Let me think about that a bit.  What happened that led me to feeling the need to hide the survey in my backpack, as soon as I had tallied my results, so the people sitting around me wouldn't be afraid to be sitting next to a woman on the brink of insanity?  

    Let me see...  

  Well, my parents got divorced when I was 6.  I didn't really remember my biological father being in my life at that age, (like him even being home), so it wasn't something that could touch me deeply at that age. Although staying with him during his custody agreement weekends, not being sure if it was sexual abuse, or just fucked up neglect to leave us alone in his house, while he worked at the attached mom and pop grocery store, the house filled with pornography, and my older sister putting on movies that showed people being mutilated and violated--I still see every scene so vividly--The men fighting to the gorey death by huge mallets in medieval pits of violence, where guts and blood were shown dripping off weapons, and then the survivors raped naked women chained to walls.  It would be turned off.  But not by my older sister.  When this all started I first I cried and said I was scared, and my sister pulled my hair and told me to shut up.  But then I figured out if I pretended I was not upset long enough, and she wasn't paying attention, I could run through the door that connected the store to the house, through a garage-type redemption area that smelled like garbage mixed with Sunkist Orange Soda, and open the door into the butcher department, where my father would be working, and if I made enough of a scene, crying and begging him to come and stop my sister, he would... and he would spank her.  He wouldn't even take his apron off.  He smelled like raw meat.  But I would cry more, because I didn't want him to spank her, I just wanted to not be nine years old, and traumatized...  He had to work. He would turn it off, go back to work, but then my sister would torture me until she got bored. I quickly learned not to run and get my father, or ask him for help, but to hide from my sister and the television and the magazines, until the store closed.  My little brother would have just stayed watching, or hide in the bathroom looking at Hustler and Playboy, which were in a stack next to the toilet.  He was seven. I was nine, and I remember pulling the magazines out of my his hands, and dragging him away from the smut, and I began standing up to my sister, and she didn't like it.  But she was kind of scared when I finally fought back... 
       Sigh... my older sister.  She told me she hated me and I was ugly for most of our young lives.  She also used to stab me in the stomach with pencils, and pull my hair, and tell me scary stories, and not let me cover my ears.  She was not awesome.  
     I was sad when my great-grandfather died when I was eight, even though I didn't know him as I wished I could have.  My mother told me the most wonderful stories of growing up with him as a central part of her life, because she lived in a multi-generation family home.  Her grandparents were right upstairs, in a small apartment, and she saw them every day.  Her grandfather, my great-grandfather, had a stroke before I could remember, and couldn't talk well, or get around.  I was devastated by the grief of my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. 
       I know many people are close to their grandparents, but not the way my mother and aunts and uncles grew up.  And although I didn't live with my grandparents,  I grew up less than a from their house.  My great-grandmother, Stella, still lived upstairs until she couldn't...  She had alzheimer's disease, which seemed to come upon her out of the blue, because it progressed so rapidly.  I was the closest of all the great-grandchildren to Nanny Stell, (I named my daughter after her), and as a teenager, I used to stay with her most weekends, and during the summer days, and after school quite often, because she couldn't be left alone, and my grandparents needed to live.  I'm so glad, looking back, that I had that time with my Nanny Stell, but also because it allowed my grandparents, who I can see now were still but young, to be alone together.  Even before they knew she had alzheimers, I would go over to sleep upstairs with my great-grandmother, so she wouldn't be lonely.  She brought me or a butterscotch hard candy, or homemade applesauce to eat, when I was coughing at night, and she would sit on the edge of the couch and talk to me. She couldn't sleep anyway, she'd tell me, when I expressed regret in coughing so loud to wake her.  She would comfort me until I fell asleep. Within two years, I was sleeping there because she couldn't be alone. She would wake me, but now it was to ask me where her baby was.  She asked me to please not make her be in the Saint Patrick's Day play at school the next day.  She'd wonder who had the baby.  That was difficult, but I loved her, and knew how to comfort her until she fell asleep.  
       Being raped at 17 was traumatic, but it was a "thing" I could ignore.  I had blocked it out, really.  That seemed like a healthy coping tactic to me.
       I was horribly sad and lonely leaving my younger sister to go off to college.  She was born when I was ten, yet she was my little best friend. I came home often to see her and that comforted me.  I could go home or my parents would bring her to Burlington any time we were missing each other.  Missing Mikhaila felt like a punch in the stomach, but I could still live my life separate from my home life, and enjoy my friends and my classes and experiences away from home.
I guess I should have known and I know now, that it didn't matter really what happened to me in my life, before I broke.  I mean, I've read so many times, it's now what you experience, it's how you react to it, that makes or breaks you.  I didn't think I was broken, yet.  Yet I also know, now, that depression was already dormant in my genetic makeup all along, just waiting for me to hit my head and crack it open. Looking back, (and I actually had to reach into the depths of my memories to think all this through: when did you become crazy, Joanna?), I attribute it to the phone call from my mother, while I was in Burlington, telling me my grandfather, one half of the golden center of my universe, had prostate cancer.  I realized that was the first time I remember feeling absolutely depressed, and unable to shake the feeling...  It was the first time I could not cope with the emotions I was experiencing on my own.  I mean, my mom had always helped me cope with anything that needed some coping. She would tell me things would be alright, or tell me what to do to make it alright, and I would listen. She couldn't tell me everything would be alright and I had no resources inside my own self to make it all feel better.

See, when my mom told me my grandfather had cancer, she was telling me something I would never have control over.  I wanted to control things in my life.  I needed to.  I started questioning everything about my life, and my capabilities. That day the dark, numbing substance that entered my ear through the phone, swirled around my brain, and found its way into my weakest parts, and opened them, gaping, filling them up with their poison. Everyone has weak parts.  I knew that.   But...

I had to go to my afternoon classes, but when my mother called, I was thrown into a state of disbelief.  I didn't know how to be myself. As I listened to my mother, that denial allowed reality, (which was just the truth of humanity), to lift me off the ground and slam me against the cinderblock wall;  instead of cracking the mortar and concrete, my own foundation shook, weakened, and shifted.  I didn't know I would never be completely balanced again. I didn't know how to keep acting like anything was normal, when it wasn't! I was not a weak person, but I so clearly remember that I was suddenly sitting in one of my many literature classes, and I didn't remember dragging my body across the quad to get to class, or that I was crying the entire time, until it was obvious I looked a hella mess sitting at the desk in the classroom, and my professor walking over to hand me a tissue.  I looked up and realized everyone was looking at me..  I was sobbing.  Oh my.  That wasn't like me at all.  "I'm sorry.  I just found out my grandfather has cancer," I blurted.  After that no one minded that I put my head down and just listened, covering my face for the 80 minutes, even though I was usually the most vocal, involved, and attentive student in the class.  Haha, can't hide under my crazy freaking wings today, guys.  Hope some of you actually did the reading.

I had lost control and lost my composure.
It was the cracking of me.  
Perfect family, me.  
Perfect life, me.  
Perfect everything, me.

Didn't you know my life was going to be perfect?  I did, when I was 19.  It would be perfect. Everything would be fucking perfect.  It had to be fucking perfect.  I had it all planned out.  I saw it all.
I knew.  And then I didn't...  I can't believe that I'm such a mess now... but here I am... Just a living wreck.

I'm telling myself to get my shit together right now.  I think I end every piece of writing either stating I need to get my shit together, will get my shit together, or should get my shit together...  

Yeah! Get your shit together!  That's exactly what my younger 18-22 year old self would say to myself right now... (Ah, because compared to now, at that time, I was posed, plastered with a smile, and perfectly coiffed in a pink box in the toy aisle.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


How can any person with an active life keep track of so many different types of social media accounts?  It's not possible.  People are choosing to socialize virtually, or be present in their physical existence.  Watching people get sucked into the many apps, and feeling them disconnect from me, as they connected further with the online world.  
It's craziness.  It's just craziness. 

The more apps people use, the more I stopped seeing eyes, when I wanted to talk to someone, and instead faces set aglow by screen light.  had any positive use:  as in, if it were never invented, we might actually engage with other people in more healthy ways.  Who needs more than email and instant messaging?  I've refrained from all that stuff for so long, though I have this blog, (which very few people read, I'll remind you... You, just you).  FB is okay, although it is also cumbersome at times.

I have only had a few gmail accounts, and FB for several years.  I didn't know how I could possibly keep track of anything else... My head would be spinning, I thought... 

Oh, and it did.

You see, I did end up trying out Twitter, and Instagram, in an attempt to understand these people around me, who barely put their smartphones down. (Snapchat just scares me.  Please, I just can't... I can't..).  Anyway, the purpose and appeal of the apps alluded me, but I decided I should investigate.

Aaaaaaa, it was insanity.  What the hang?!  Let me out!  

I resurfaced from the tide of 0s and 1s.  I got away.  I deleted the accounts for both T and I, within a few days of engaging in the activity each one required.  I commented on pictures.  I retweeted and tweeted.  It was terrifying. Twitter, was just a mess from the very first log in.  I found myself  talking to strangers about what is the best substitute for soymilk in a healthy smoothie?  I wanted to log out and get away from the madness.  I couldn't stop, though.  I ended up so frustrated by rapid-fire-rejections of Almond milk, that I suggested human breast milk. That was a turn that I wasn't prepared for.  "Just use freaking Almond milk, you know?"  I couldn't help but reply to rejections of Almond milk because of its "trendiness."  That's why I mentioned breast milk, and because who wouldn't just drink almond milk!  Yet, then I was being told that breast milk wouldn't be economical.  And I was defending what "we" were capable of:  I meant the female ability to make copious amounts when necessary, not that we would ever pimp out our boobs for smoothie stores.  
 I'd lost control of that conversation.  
Get me out of here, I thought.  I had to remind myself that I was speaking to someone who didn't know me, wouldn't know me, and would not remember our twitter exchange about human mammary glands. 
Yes, I still felt exposed. 
Delete that account. 

I could now confirm the time suck these apps were.
I don't have a formal job right now, and I could barely keep track of all of that craziness.  How can anyone with a family, or who is employed full time maintain multiple online statuses?  I've even tried getting the heck off Facebook, a few times, but that never works out so well.  People think I've blocked them, or I'm dead, or people tagged in pictures I had posted suddenly don't get to have those photos in their album... or my comments on their photos are suddenly gone, so it looks like they had a conversation with themselves, and that's just awkward.

And I get it.  I've had that happen to me, the friend deleting her account, and her comments were deleted too.  It was awkward.   In that one example was under a photo Sam posted of my son and I pretending to surf on a boogie board on the beach a few summers ago.  I'm in a bikini. My friend commented: "Holy Abs, Joanna!" Then after I responded she said, "You're amazing.  You always look amazing."  However, when she deactivated her FB account, her comments weren't just grayed out, they were gone. 

I don't usually look at photos of myself, so it was quite a while before I came across that picture again, and oh my, it looked like I was just commenting on my own body: "They look more pronounced than they are.  I don't have a crazy six pack or anything," then, "No, you're amazing, lady."  You see how that's a bit weird to read those comments, written by myself, under a photo of me, which clearly seem to be stating I think my abs are worth pointing out, then I'm telling myself I'm amazing, third person.  Oh. 

Yeah. Luckily most of these social media sites are for individuals' personal egos.  If one has accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, who really is most closely paying attention to what that person is saying most of the time.  It's them.  They are the ones who are paying the most attention. I mean, really: It's personal time, (so much time), spent by individuals...  On their self-image.

Social media sites are encouraging (or more frighteningly not) people to consider how to phrase something, or think about what profile picture speaks to their mood or personality/yet also also makes them look attractive at the same time?  I mean...  It's really a lot of work to be charming in social media.  Charming in every way.  Every way charming.  

Like, right?

Look how clever I am in only 140 characters.

I can't sunbathe and not take a picture from my knees down, manicured feet included in foreground near the pool or on the beach, because, duh, that's a cute angle if I kind of point my toes, and flex my calves.  Nice.  

What's the freaking point of doing fancy, contortionist yoga poses just for my own health benefit? I'm going to Instagram that shit.  Everyone is going to tell me I'm unbelievable, and super hot.  That's right! Acroyoga, bitches! None of you can do this shit.  

Youtube!  Let me humbly sing in my bedroom with my guitar, and post videos...  But, um, yeah, I can sing!  Listen to me sing those covers!  I will get discovered and I'm famous!  Famous!  I can apply makeup so great.  Watch me and learn.  Learn and watch.  I  get free "hauls" from skincare and makeup companies, and test their products and tell you all about them.  I'm hilarious!  Oh, gosh, especially when my pet just jumps up in front of the camera.  It's so adorable.  Bad kitty.  Where was I? 

Aaaaaaa!  #Selfies!    

("My hair is sooooo cute today, and I'm driving, but look how cute my hair is!" Ducklips, and peace fingers at red light... So cute.  Love it!  Oh, not red light, I think... Oops, green light. My bad.  #caraccident. Love my new highlights!") 

"I'm an amazing parent! Watch this adorable video of me interacting with my children. I'll even vlog about it.  Being a parent is really tough, but you just have to love your children unconditionally and feel blessed that they are part of you.  Blessed by my amazing children." (#Ilovemychildren #amazingparent!).  

#Workingonmyfitness...  "Trying to get in shape for summer, y'all"  See my abs, and workout outfit? I'm totally not in shape, but I totally feel comfortable in a sexy sports bra, yoga legging ensemble.  


I bet most people wouldn't be motivated to do a lot of the healthy things we do, if we didn't get to digitally brag about it, and show how good we look doing it, or because we've done it, or just, like... You know. Who climbs Mount Everest and doesn't tell anyone about it?  How many famous people do humanitarian work in secret?  Remember that quote from The Catcher in the Rye?  Who doesn't?

It's actually Mr. Antolini quoting Wilhelm Stekel:  "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."
And no, Mr. Antolini does not touch Holden inappropriately, and he isn't a creeper.  I hate that analysis. Rubbing his head while he sleeps is something a parent does to their child, and you know, it doesn't seem like his mom or dad really made him feel safe and secure in the world.  Mr. Antolini seems to be the only person in Holden's life that actually understands the kid at all. Maybe I'm wrong.  I do think J.D. Salinger would tell people to stop analyzing and dissecting his writing at all.  That's right, it's as if J.D. Salinger wrote because he wanted to write, and he didn't give a damn what anyone thought about it, or want phony press or any press at all. He wanted people to leave him the Hell alone.  He wouldn't have "Twittstafaced" if he was offered hundred's of thousands of dollars...  Just never.  He never would have. 

But you have.  You did.  And you can't stop yourself, can you?  Admit it. It's true.  
Our society is dominated by a need for affirmation, (albeit, virtual ego-stroking), so individuals can feel self-worth? 


Can we love ourselves, if we aren't constantly receiving "hearts" and "likes" and compliments from our online social circles?  (You know, "our friends.")   
Our friends should be openly appreciating us, right?!  Right!!!!  Of course.  Look at the pictures!  Look at those yoga poses! See how witty my words are!

 The current president of the United States, who shall not be named, is a Twitter, social-media-freak. What is this country/social reality coming to?  He-who-shall-not-be-named makes grammatical errors in his Twitter posts!  Often.  Gagging.  Blech.  Nooooooooo...

So, in this blog that somehow is public, (yet so obscure and impossible to find unless I tell ya how), I'll write that I couldn't possibly post 140 characters before I'd proofread it until my eyes crossed.  But, I realized I was wasting a whole lot of time on something that meant absolutely nothing in the scheme of human life--Not the living part. 

And, you know, I'd rather work on living in real life.  I need to work on that. 
And if that's what I should be doing, I'm thinking there are so freaking many other people who should be doing that too...

Do it. 

Look how clever I am in only 140 characters.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


I'll just keep with a music theme in my writing until songs stop being the main precipitator, (Eh, more like condensator)l of my most current feelings and ideas.  That's okay, yeah?  Good.

I can't even remember how I "discovered" Regina Spektor:  I think most possibly from the youtube video suggestions that are stacked on the right side of the screen, when I looked up a video by a similar artist.  Oh. I think it might have been NPR! Fresh Air with Terry Gross.  I'm sure of it.  Spektor famously left the Soviet Union during Perestroika, leaving her piano behind.  All of this was important because finding out she was Russian, I bought the CD for my little sister.  My sister graduated from high school in 2006.  She is half Ukrainian (Transcarpathian), and was interested in and excelled in Russian Studies in high school and college.  She continued to read and learn on her own. She is very smart, that sister of mine.  She recently shared books with me written by Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, which have educated me greatly.

I'm not really planning on writing any more about Soviet/Russian history, but I'm giving you some background on the context of how I heard Regina Spektor's songs when I first heard them.  You might better understand how I viewed her music before I happened upon her song "Fidelity" several years later in my life, with a different brain. 

Spektor isn't only a "Russian" singer, but an Indie singer.  She's a beautiful singer:  unique, folksy, and very intelligent. 

I never loved nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting my heart truly
I got lost in the sounds
I hear in my mind
All these voices
I hear in my mind all these words
I hear in my mind all this music

I loved many of her songs, and really enjoyed most of her albums... but she wasn't an artist that I kept in my regular rotation.  I'm not sure why.  I really did like her.  I loved her albums Soviet KitschBegin to Hope, yet, it wasn't until I heard the Jasmine Thompson cover of "Fidelity" on a "Sia Station" I had created on Pandora, that I really felt the words, as opposed to hearing the quirky style of Spektor's version, when I was younger and in different circumstances.  We change every day, I think.  We change and hear, taste, smell, feel things a bit differently.  We should change and grow.  We shouldn't stop moving.

And it breaks my heart
And it breaks my heart
And it breaks my heart
It breaks my heart

I was cleaning the house, and the Pandora station was playing from the television.  It was the song, and hearing it from her voice, and her pared down, acoustic version, that I truly listened.  And I stopped.  I had never heard Jasmine Thompson.  She mostly does covers.  I sat on the floor staring at the screen, which as you probably know, doesn't change when you listen to Pandora.  It's a black screen, with the artist's album artwork, and then the title of the song and name of the artist in white lettering. And I listened.

I never love nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting by heart truly
I got lost
In the sounds
I hear in my mind
All these voices
I hear in my mind all these words
I hear in my mind 

All this music
And it breaks my heart
It breaks my heart

Did I think she was writing about regret for having fallen in love?  Maybe it's more that cliche idea that "it's better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all." She does say "suppose" before what seems to be the recollection of fond memories.  Is she trying to imagine who she would be, as an individual, without those experiences and memories?  Or, did she learn to let go and open herself up to love, even if it seems bittersweet.  And...

And suppose I never ever met you
Suppose we never fell in love
Suppose I never ever let you kiss me so sweet and so soft
Suppose I never ever saw you
Suppose we never ever called
Suppose I kept on singing love songs just to break my own fall
Just to break my fall
Just to break my fall
Break my fall
Break my fall

...Maybe she's just living in an imaginary world, though.  Was she just trying to believe in and feel things that didn't seem possible for her?  Did he start to find a way to make meaning out of all the music, and voices, and words in her head to try to stop breaking her own heart.  She had to break her own fall.  Otherwise she'd be falling... She'd just be falling forever. 

How about me?  I was listing on a Pandora radio station, playing through the speakers of a television.  I was staring at that screen, and listening, and I thought, oh... I have been lost for a long time:  and I knew it.  I knew I was looping.  I was a needle stuck on the vinyl LP, and the record player wasn't balanced, was it?  It wasn't level.  I was trapped in one groove.  And who do you talk to about that, because being in my own head for so long was obviously very destructive... Hmmmm...   

"Hey, so... I'm not here... um... I'm not sure how to come back.  You have any ideas?" 

Oh!  Regina Spektor has a song called "On the Radio", which was also on her Begin to Hope album. Maybe I should also mention that song, since it expresses the, "Hey so..."  moment in time, quite clearly. Hear one song... feel another...  That's poetry? That's life.

(...On the radio
We heard November Rain
That solo's really long
But it's a pretty song
We listened to it twice
'Cause the DJ was asleep
This is how it works
You're young until you're not
You love until you don't
You try until you can't
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath
No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood
You hope it don't get harmed

But even if it does
You'll just do it all again...) Here.

Oh goodness...  I'm off the rails and this post is getting a little confusing, me thinks. 
Original artists.
Belarusian journalists.
Song covers.  
Song Lyrics. 

I'm either doing an exceptional, adept job weaving all of these subjects together to explain a greater message, or I'm scattered and losing my focus, and your attention...  Boo!  

Wake up!  Obviously I'm super thoughtful and everything I write makes sense.  I don't lose my focus, blah, blah, blah.  I'm so super, hyper-focused you probably can't follow what I'm saying... You don't even know where I'm going for paragraphs, and then you get to the end and your mind is blown. It all makes complete sense.  

And Fidelity! Fidelity (fi·del·i·ty fəˈdelədē/ noun) *faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support. "he sought only the strictest fidelity to justice" synonyms: loyalty, allegiance, obedience.

antonyms:  disloyalty.
*sexual faithfulness to a spouse or partner. synonyms: faithfulness, loyalty, constancy, true-heartedness,
formal troth.
antonyms:infidelity, disloyalty

Is it ironic she chose to title the song "Fidelity"? So often we are not faithful to our true nature, and not really showing up in life.  I mean, by not living in conscious awareness.  She's lost in the sounds.  If rehearsed often enough, do we begin to believe the folklore we script for ourselves. We drift so reflexively into ignorant, yet steadfast-held beliefs, keeping our world small.  Its smallness might serve to make it all the more
comforting, or help us feel in control, when we just aren't.  Can we protect our hearts truly?  Should we?  Or couldn't we let it beat to its own rhythm.  Our hearts.  Our lives.  Ourselves.  

I hear in my mind all of these voices
I hear in my mind all of these words
I hear in my mind all of this music

Breaks my Heart
Breaks my heart