Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Life of Illusion: Chapter 1: An American Tune

Dorothy’s Journal, Earth Date 2020.03.23:


I have a chronic illness which affects my everyday life, and a great deal of knowledge about it because of some pretty harrowing experiences. So, I know how to keep it under control, for the most part. Life is complicated, though, and it’s impossible to control my exposure to the things that hurt my health 100% of the time.


While I try not to let my disease control me, sometimes it does. For years I have suffered from depression and anxiety, and in the past two years I started having a lot of panic attacks. Panic attacks suck. I think I may have a Panic Disorder. It is extremely easy for me to have a panic attack under certain circumstances.


They say people who go into psychology do so because there is something wrong with them, and well, the semester I took Abnormal Behavior, I became afraid of developing Borderline Personality Disorder. Maybe that fear is part of my Panic Disorder, even though I have been assured by multiple professionals that I do not have BPD. I worry that my PTSD will mutate into BPD, because that can sometimes happen. I educated myself to understand these things, and so I work extremely hard to be aware of my state of consciousness.


It’s just a lot easier to be alone, because sometimes consciousness can be elusive. It’s so easy for me to fall into that default programming of people-pleasing. It’s so easy to become disconnected from myself, especially in certain company. I will not eat when I need to eat, in order to not be an inconvenience. Not eating can be bad. I think a lot of people with this disease get hanger, but I get hanxious. When I am with other people, I can have a panic attack before I become aware I am hungry. And then the panic attack leads to a depression.


So, for the last year, I have isolated myself a bit out of necessity. I needed to get back in touch with myself. I needed to remember how to feel again. I think because I struggled for so many years with PTSD and major depressive disorder, the social butterflies around me wanted me to be happy all the time. That feels like a lot of pressure, and just not reasonable in a world like this.


There is a lot we can do with cognitive behavioral therapy. There are even apps like Woebot to help people identify cognitive distortions. I know all the tips and tricks. But some stuff is organic in nature. When I am in a panic attack, or post-panic attack, I can’t always think straight. I enter a survival mode, because my body is convinced that death is imminent. This is the stuff psychologists can’t help in just a few sessions. This stuff takes years to untangle, by learning about various states of consciousness.


When I am having a panic attack, I am not myself. There is no Dorothy, there is only Zuul. What I need at that moment is just a hug. I’m feeling overwhelmed by emotions. If I am convinced my emotions might be interpreted as threatening by the other person, then I need to be alone. I can overreact to little things when I am in this mode.


Actually, it’s less like Zuul, and more like Vincent. Van Gogh, that is. My thoughts become destructive toward myself more than they do other people. I have the other creative parts of Vincent, too, thank goodness.


Luckily, over the last year, I learned that I enjoy being alone. I feel fortunate about that, now!


I have more things that I want to do than I have time to be alone. It can be a little Short Attention Span Theater here as I flit from one thing to the next. Somehow, it all gets done, when it’s not the holidays.


And it’s okay, because it turns out there’s some magic in this ADHD approach. Quite a bit, for sure. I see connections between the least likely things! And that can lead to research projects that last for days, or years. It has connected me with people from all over the world. It has helped me build a library that could keep me entertained for years, and helped me get back into art and music. These are all the things that most effectively help me battle anxiety and depression.


When Zuul comes around, it’s hard to motivate myself to research, connect, read, or make art or music. I can’t force it. The best things are rest, and definitely meditation. I can see that now we are going to have to stretch our food supplies for longer, that I may need to meditate more. This helps me stay calm.


Am I forgetting anything?


Oh yeah, what am I doing to support my respiratory health? Sometimes I get panic attacks when I have respiratory infections, so I try to avoid illness. Now here’s a rabbit hole. For a long time I just called myself chemically-sensitive. Zuul came out a couple times in my life after some significant chemical exposures (and sometimes when I have been sick). Because I was so unwell for the last year or more, and it seemed to be much worse after being in newly remodeled spaces, I decided to investigate the role of VOCs and formaldehyde in my health. VOCs and formaldehyde are the biggest exposure risks from construction, because they are components of latex paints and construction adhesives. They are linked to serious health problems like respiratory difficulties, ADHD, anxiety, dementia and cancer. Large exposures to VOCs and formaldehyde can cause seizures or death. I have been identifying sources of VOCs in my daily life and removing them, and it has been helping me feel a lot better. It is surprising some of the places I found them, and in what quantity.


For example, I had acrylic paint in my studio, but had not used it, because I bought it for the kids. I also had purchased a huge canvas on sale - 4’ x 5’ - because I had always wanted to paint a big painting. A family member kept suggesting that I should paint larger, and I had resisted because of the cost of materials and then if the work didn’t sell, I would have to find a place to store it. But so it happened that I had this canvas and a lot of acrylic paint, and that was the start of a torrid love affair. And a LOT of time with Vincent.


I’ve always been of the philosophy that “there are no mistakes, only lessons.” I do not regret my affair with acrylic paint. In fact, I will continue to work with acrylic paint under the right conditions which means ensuring adequate ventilation and using a respirator. Anything I make with it will be left out in the sun long enough to properly offgas. It turns out that acrylic paint is very high in VOCs and formaldehyde.


This is so surprising to me because I know acrylic painters who paint indoors with no protection.


What I experienced is probably not unlike the psychological torture suffered by Van Gogh. He had, however, been an oil painter. I had a period of illness before when I was painting indoors with other oil painters. Most people I knew at that time used odorless mineral spirits, thinking they were safe. Just because something is odorless doesn’t make it safe. Odorless mineral spirits are made of napthalene, different from the naturally-derived turpentine Van Gogh would have used in his time. Napthalene is a neurotoxicant, and the MSDS sheet for odorless mineral spirits reveals both the content, and the health effects. Turpentine contains VOCs, but not neurotoxicants. Van Gogh had exposure to other toxins which have nervous system effects - specifically, like many oil painters of the time, he was not aware of the toxicity of the lead white or cadmium red and yellow he was using, and was rumored to have actually eaten them. He suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, and it has been postulated that he suffered from bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, Meniere’s disease, anxiety disorder, non-suicidal self-injury disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. Poor guy! He gets all the attention, but his “buddy” Gaugin was probably nuts, too, and the combination was both magical and tragic, with all the blame falling on the lesser narcissist of the duo. After Vincent’s death, Gaugin skipped town to Tahiti, where he preyed on teenage girls for the rest of his life. He just turned his psychosis on others, rather than himself.


Another source I found was fairly elusive. It turns out that VOCs travel on dust particles. That blew my mind. Just having our furnace and ducts cleaned reduced the levels of both significantly. This is particularly frustrating because it takes a lot of time and energy to vacuum the whole house, and it hasn’t been a priority for me because it cuts into my time and energy for creating things significantly. The dogs have long hair, which doesn’t help, and it is really dusty here in Colorado. So what am I supposed to do? Spend three days out of every month vacuuming? That is one tenth of my life! There are a lot of other things that I have to do regularly that take that much time, too.


Maybe the dust wasn’t as big of a contributor as I thought. I learned a lot about other ways that forced air furnaces can contribute to elevated VOC levels in the home in the process, and some blind spots in the regulation of residential HVAC systems that may leave many homes with unsafe levels of VOCs. In commercial spaces, adequate fresh air is calculated carefully, taking into account even the number of human bodies in the space. Humans expire CO2 and VOCs, which also happen to be the end products of the metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Human beings increase the need for fresh oxygen in a space. So do other flame sources. So do fans that remove air from a building (like bathroom fans, window fans, and whole house fans). In the event there is not enough fresh oxygen coming into the house, a vacuum can form, causing the dangerous flue gasses to be sucked back into the home. This phenomenon is called house depressurization and flue gas backdrafting, and water heaters can contribute significantly. There is a lot of information on the internet about it. Whoa, Nellie! Doesn’t this seem like stuff that people should know?


The final strange sources that I found were a surprise to me. But now in retrospect, the first time I sort of figured this out, I was also having a battle with Zuul. I thought it was just fragrance, though, which can contain some VOCs. This was a real mind-bender. My dish soap, dish detergent, and laundry detergent, which were all unscented, were all extremely high in VOCs AND FORMALDEHYDE. Formaldehyde! This is what we use to wash the things that go in our mouths and on our skin! OMG, does this mean we are all doughnuts fried in VOCs and formaldehyde? Furthermore, the vapors from the detergents enter our homes when they encounter hot water or air.


These chemicals have neuropsychological effects. What is also scary at the current time is the effect they have on respiratory function. Doesn’t it seem important to clear the air now?


The effects I experience during an exposure are agitation, shortness of breath and forgetfulness. My thoughts become muddled. I get vertigo. This can become a panic attack. Later I may or may not have a headache, but invariably have difficulty sleeping. Sometimes I will get a terrible feeling of pins and needles in my legs. I get joint pain, awful lower back pain and migraine, which can go on for a couple of days. After about two days, depression sets in. I have had enough experience with it to figure out that the pain and depression arise from the same thing and not from each other. I can have pain without depression, and depression without pain during an episode.


Fortunately, I’ve only seen Zuul or Vincent when I’m not watching my chemical exposure. Stress, lack of sleep, and certain dietary factors can make me feel tired and achy, but not like how I get with chemicals. Luckily I know that the person I become is not me. Knowing this has helped me to be a lot more patient with myself and others, since I know everyone has exposures that they don’t know about. This took a long time to figure out.


*****


Dorothy (who prefers to go by “Dot”) sits at her desk, staring at her computer screen, in her studio which she calls “The Yellow Submarine.” That moniker came out of her time with Vincent and the acrylic paint. The adjacent rec room is now deemed “Area 51” as it is where Dot likes to practice astral projection. It is where she went to learn about solitude for nine-ish months.


What exactly was she doing all that time? Wouldn’t being mostly alone for all that time cause a person to go crazy? She was healing. Her soul had been battered.


It’s hard to learn that you’re a canary in a coal mine. You deal with a lot of disbelief. The suicide rate is very high for people with chemical sensitivity because of this. Dot believes now that we’re actually all a little mad here, it’s just that there are a lot of people who are too proud to admit it.


Much of this is because of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. We are all susceptible to this, even Dot. It’s difficult to objectively analyze oneself. Many people learn about themselves through interacting with other people. When doing this, it is important to get enough time to oneself to be able to separate one’s own identity from that of others. This takes a lot of practice, and is easier the more comfortable one becomes spending time alone. When we’re alone, it’s easier to discern what feels good and bad. When we are with others, sensory overwhelm and desire for acceptance can create confusion.


Because there is a societal stigma around isolation, what this means is that we have created a population of people who are totally out of touch with themselves, their health, and their level of consciousness. It’s precisely the kind of culture that creates shame around susceptibility to illness, and ignorance around one’s own vulnerability. It creates risky behaviors in the name of social acceptance.


And, it causes pandemics.


*****


Dot has just had the rest of the small bowl of cannabis she started up last night, which was a little Alien Dawg and Brain OG. She feels guilty for smoking it - for one thing, because of the deadly respiratory disease going around, and of course because smoking is not good for lungs. But cannabis is the best thing for the symptoms she gets. She is vaping the herb for the most part, but that still carries risks.


Her thinking is a little bit muddled without cannabis, and even more muddled with it. She figured out that it had augmented her satiety mechanism, such that she never really knew if she was hungry or not. And this meant that she could skip meals while high, and end up in a state of panic once the high wore off. Or, in classical stoner style, have a gluttonous case of the munchies, and overtax her digestive enzymes. The tradeoff wasn’t always worth it, especially if there was a mania triggered, which sometimes happened with sativas. While a lot of really brilliant stuff can come out of Dot’s mania, she can really pay for it later.


So, nine months in the desert was on order for Dot. She was actually unwell enough that she was having difficulty with verbal communication. She would have trouble remembering simple words. She tried to communicate this to her immediate family, and the significance seemed to be lost on them, which made her really worry about them! She was actually having stroke symptoms. She was having intermittent problems with her hearing, too, which may be connected, but canceled her hearing test due to concerns about coronavirus.


In looking back at her old journals, she sees the difficulty with staying on topic and word choice more clearly. There was some shame around that - in the early months of her isolation, she had numerous attempts at writing that ended in frustration. There was a lot of guilt for not being able to write, because she felt like she should be doing something.


Luckily, what the Universe pointed out to her is that she needed to take care of herself. And it turns out that she didn’t really know how to do that. Her existence had been interrupt-driven for a long time. She had to learn how to take advantage of that, which took some time. So, that’s part of what she learned in her nine months in the desert.


The more time she spent alone, the more chaotic she realized the world was, and the more she realized that we choose our own hell. We choose it through ignorance, actually. We choose it by being creatures of habit. Sometimes it’s really little things! And not what one would expect. For instance, Dot had a habit of not resting enough.


And that is something that is difficult to do around other people.


Her time away from other people helped her see how much chaos other people choose for themselves, and how much effort it takes for those people to maintain their chaos. Sometimes the chaos people choose is associations with others. Sometimes it is gluttony. Sometimes it is mindlessness.


And unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t have the choice to opt out of chaos.


For people like Dot who can opt out of the chaos, it is increasingly important.


And, it’s possible to learn what chaos we have chosen very easily. It just takes some time alone. If one is in a group, one can just dis-associate from the group for a while, and note how that affects well-being. Right now, most of us are stuck at home, so we can pay attention to how we feel now that the chaos outside our homes is not part of our everyday lives. If we were part of particularly chaotic groups, we might find that separation increases a sense of calm, and decreases stress. Different people see different things as chaos, but for Dot it always comes down to spending too much and lack of concern for how our choices affect others and the environment.


She’s been working on those things in herself, and she wants to let you know that it’s not easy. These are things that are encouraged in American society.


It’s just counter-productive use of our lives and resources.


At some point, the time for talk has passed. This is the time, people. It’s the time to slow down and consider what we can do at the individual level to make things better. We really do change the world by changing ourselves.


Otherwise we are just contributing to the chaos!


*****


How much toilet paper do we really need? How much food do we really need? How are we going to entertain ourselves? It is not someone else’s duty to entertain us. Nobody even has to listen to us. This is the time to grapple with our personal entitlement.


Every single thing we get is from the effort of some other person. And those people probably are not living nearly as comfortably as we are. A palette of toilet paper is a ridiculous idea to a lot of the world. It was ridiculous to Dot, too, even though she is highly dependent on it. On her trip to southeast Asia, she learned that there is a whole part of the world that doesn’t even use toilet paper! She is trying to ration her use, realizing that a lot of body parts have been liberated from societal institutions and now need residential wiping at unprecedented levels. Who knew that toilet paper was a work benefit?


Let’s do some toilet paper math:


In a large pack of toilet paper from a certain warehouse store, there are 275 sheets per roll, 45 rolls per package. That is 12,375 sheets per package. If Dot uses the restroom 5 times per day, and on average uses 8 squares of toilet paper per restroom visit, that is 40 squares per day. So on her own, Dot would use the pack of toilet paper in approximately 309 days. Maybe Dot can use a little bit more toilet paper.


A lot of her own toilet paper use was due to menstruation, but she is trying some other products she learned about from a sex educator on YouTube. She invested in some period panties, and those have been helpful. Dave Chappelle was right; vaginas can be a bit of a hassle.


Say Dot was able to get some toilet paper so that she didn’t have to touch or think about her own poop. Maybe she designed a robot to do her shopping for her, which carefully brought her golden TP home to use with her Golden American Toilet. She could then sell that robot to grocery stores to do shopping, and prevent the spread of a lot of coronavirus.


This allows her more time to think of a new invention, and actually make something useful to the world instead of just spreading worry. This is the kind of stuff we can use boredom for, too.


What if we are quarantined and still think we’re too busy? We can stop answering non-essential texts, emails and phone calls right away. The people who respect our time won’t mind. The people who aren’t just looking to share their anxiety with someone won’t mind. We can get back to the messages two days later, with calmer, more thoughtful responses, too!


By identifying the sources of our own anxiety, we can help not feed the chaos. Imagine how different the world could be!


Let’s all hope!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Divination Project: Afterword: From the Rabbit Hole

It’s July 5th and Alice has awakened with new motivation. Share your story, she keeps hearing, It will help people. She remembers a time when she wanted to be heard, but now she just wants to rest. Venturing into the dark corners is painful in itself, let alone sharing it with others who sometimes choose to use the information against the sharer. Sometimes they do this consciously, sometimes unconsciously, but the effect to the vulnerable is the same - less desire to share, less desire to connect, and less desire to trust, and that is a place where Alice has been stuck for some time now.


The “muchness” she found was lost. The story of how it got lost is both mundane and unbelievable, a story in its own, a story that forced her to reconcile with her vulnerability in a frank way. But that’s not this story. Probably not. If she can avoid it, this will not be a story that writes her, anymore. Not anymore, anyway. Thank you, everyone who happily played along.


***


Oh come on, now. That is not me being the Red Queen. And yes, I have thought long and hard on the game of hearts and how it figured so prominently into my teen years, and how I waffle back and forth between the Queen of Hearts (Cups) and the Queen of Spades (Swords) energy. Yes, I went all Queen of Swords on a lot of folks’ asses. I transmuted the energy the best I could. I just didn’t know how to condense it into just art. You and I have talked extensively about how there is a crisis of consciousness, and while the writing is both a struggle for me, and intensely bad for my health the way it comes out the best, I wonder if the message gets through, for all my effort.


Phew, it’s nice to zoom out a little bit. Maybe in a fourth book we could call the Womb Room Malta or something? Can I tell them the White Rabbit took the Red Pill? Yes, we will explain how Grimm said you have to go through the bottom of the deck to get to the top. And then we learned that the enemy was us, and our response to generational trauma. And we figured out that everyone has a little Queen of Swords energy from time to time, which may crop up when we feel depleted, and many people are depleted all the time, because we want so much. And yes, taking the time to write all this down, thinking I have anything useful to share with anyone else before I die, that contributes to my feeling of depletion, and my tendency to go all Queen of Swords.


I cannot get over the karmic weight of words, especially at this time. I am reminded of when a thought popped into my head that I might mention the increase in the volume of Carl’s emissions after eating so much polyunsaturated fat in Asia to Charlotte and how that altered history in a way that will never be undone, in both good and bad ways. We now know that being emotionally close with other people outside one’s marriage is so stigmatized by tradition and so fucking isolating that we had to come up with a special name for it to make it okay: emotional polyamory. How about let’s just call that “being a good friend.” FFS. I had no idea the level of paranoia the average human being lives with.


But I suppose even I have been wary of inviting people into my home for fear of judgment about it not looking like Real Simple magazine. I would not have thought to feel that way, except for watching a nationally-broadcast news program when I was a young mother and seeing how a neighborhood feud escalated into a woman having CPS called on her for having crumbs on her counter . My counter looks abysmal much of the time, because my daughter and I are the only ones who voluntarily clean it somewhat regularly. Carl has extreme trauma around house cleaning and housework in general because his parents were militant about it, and his brain just doesn’t work like that. It’s easy to trigger him when talking about home maintenance stuff. I think he’s just not a real estate mogul at heart; he’s more of a philosopher. We’re both making peace with dividing the tasks neither of us really want to do and not being particular about how they are done. That is what I imagined our partnership would have been like, were it not for the tension created by the constant shaming from his parents, who can’t help it because they are just parroting everything they learned working for the narcissists in big business.



Early on the White Rabbit had sent me the song If You Were Here by The Thompson Twins which is a really lovely encapsulation of the way the material world pulls our attention away from each other. There’s no way he could have known that I have different standards than other women, especially since when I left his class Carl and I bought a fancy car because our newest car was over a decade old, and didn’t have the safety features we needed for the driving conditions we find ourselves in. Things at my home, which he never saw, are in various states of disrepair and I am fine with that. It is how I grew up, maybe with my mom complaining a little bit about cracks in the ceiling (which were never a structural concern), but they never complain when they come to our house, and they are caught up on all of Alice and Carl’s strange adventures. Carl’s relationship with his family was really different because they have entirely different values than we do, and so we learned that we have to keep significant distance from them. They absolutely did criticize us, and it was done in this icky psychologically manipulative way that is common in popular girl culture, through things like backhanded compliments, self-criticism or product recommendations. Their behavior was pretty well characterized in a book I read years ago called Codependent No More by Melody Beattie which talks about the fundamental problem between abusers and the abused being that abusers live in a world where materialism trumps love. They are always competing with each other to see who has the best stuff. They don’t even know another way to be, because it has been so long since they actually played with anyone outside their family. It’s a big reason I don’t like to write about product recommendations because I feel like it engenders jealousy. It’s like when I’m around these people I get the sense that they are imagining a fly in the vaseline, and it’s impossible to just breathe. Someone or something always needs attention or fixing. It’s exhausting channeling so much energy just into maintaining a status quo. And then their kids are pretty high anxiety because they are never allowed to become accustomed to the idea of calm.


Over the years I got better at just letting things be, but matters could get out of control when I looked away for even just a bit. I have a lot of bitterness toward Carl’s parents for their classism. I know other mothers can end up destroying their relationships by not knowing how to encourage help around the house in a compassionate and emotionally intelligent way, but Carl’s parents somehow figured out how to keep the family coming back for criticism. And the reminders of that status anxiety that we are somehow just going to slip right off the ladder if we show our true colors are everywhere in our neighborhood and in other middle class white suburban households. That is absolutely not the relationship I want to have with my children. I do not want them to feel obligated to spend time with me, or live their lives in a way that I approve. I don’t want them to feel like a fifth wheel in my life, either. I want them to know that I love them no matter what. I have particular challenges around this when I am dealing with hormone issues, and those are definitely worse now that I am older and the environment is so much more polluted. And we discovered that the chemicals affect the whole family, not just me. Yes, plus the disturbing thing we found about the furnace. And acrylic and water-based paints. And detergents.


The effect of the hormones and chemicals are that they contribute to an amnesia about who can be trusted and a building xenophobia with age, as one’s health declines and one is more vulnerable to psychological manipulation. So ultimately, what we’re running away from when we run away from others is that Red Queen energy of unnecessary criticism, or even punishment. When it comes right down to it, the original punishment was advertising love, when there was only rose painting.


Thank you, White Rabbit, for bringing me witchcraft. You have been a phantasmagorically excellent familiar. You gave me hope when I thought there wasn’t any. You helped bring back my voice. Thank you.


*****


The first "attack" Alice had was the day after she first went plein-air painting. She was eight or nine years old, and the private art class she attended every Friday for most of her childhood had visited a private garden. Alice was not particularly excited about the situation - it was summer and she was sitting in full direct sun on her brand new folding Coleman camp stool, looking at irises? Maybe it was irises. She can't really remember. She does remember feeling like having a table might have been nice because she had to balance her sketch pad on her lap and it was awkward. Her feet barely touched the ground, so the sketchbook wanted to slide off her lap to the ground (which it did a few times) unless she held it with one hand. When she switched between drawing media, she had to stand up carefully as to not collapse the stool because she couldn’t reach inside her tackle box with her short arms without the stool collapsing or falling over. She had a visor made of transparent red plastic with white paw “prints” to shade her eyes a little, in the uncomfortable heat. Her mother remembers that the garden had just been sprayed with pesticide.


The next day she had a few friends over from the neighborhood. In the dining room of the little brick bungalow that was her childhood home, she showed them her new Fisher Price weaving loom, and they ate some strawberries. Sometime after that, she got hives all over her neck and upper chest and her throat started closing up. Her parents, of course, rushed her to the emergency room. She remembers being in triage, and then being rushed to a gurney in a curtained area, where she was given an IV of something. First, the medical team learned that diphenhydramine (Benadryl) just made the situation worse, so then they gave her a sulfonamide antibiotic thinking it was an infection, which also made it worse. Finally, they administered hydroxyzine hydrochloride (Atarax). The hives dissipated, her airway opened. She was discharged with a prescription of Atarax, which she carried with her everywhere for years afterward.


Growing up and into adulthood, she got hives laying in grass, and she got hives at what seemed random times, despite avoiding strawberries for years, worried that even a bite of the delicious fruit would kill her.


She was a creature of eating habit - a picky eater not open to trying new foods, in general, until some of her mother’s friends who grew up in India took it upon themselves to broaden her palate. Alice remembers being at one of their houses as a child, being criticized for not trying some cantaloupe.


"At this house, we have a rule that you have to try at least one bite," the woman said. Alice found out that she liked cantaloupe that day. But at home they rotated through the same selections when they ate - tuna fish sandwiches, tuna fish tacos, fettuccine alfredo from a bag with canned shrimp, burgers, bratwurst, spaghetti with meat sauce (which happened so often that she hated it), chili with corn chips, lasagna. She is probably remembering it all wrong. Seems like she can't remember anything right. At restaurants she always ordered the same thing. Wide spaghetti and meatballs at Paisan's in Aurora. Sometimes if she was really hungry, she would order mozzarella sticks and cheesecake, too. At La Bola, she got a chicken chimichanga and fried ice cream. At Village Inn, she either ordered a burger or a barbecue, bacon and cheese chicken sandwich with fries. They ordered pizza regularly like most American households, and enjoyed the occasional drive-thru burger. Breakfast was often cereal - not the sugary kind - so she added a spoonful of sugar on top. Sometimes they made french toast, her paternal grandmother’s specialty. They used margarine, presumably because it was supposed to be more healthy at the time, and rarely salted their food because of her father’s hypertension. These are the foods that made Alice.


***


In high school, she regularly skipped meals to save money to purchase music and also materials for her Odyssey of the Mind team's projects. Those weren’t the only reasons she skipped meals. Much of it was due to not being a morning person and thus not being a person who packed lunches. Some of it was not wanting to take the time to eat, because she could be working on her Odyssey of the Mind projects instead. In high school, she was a "good student" but not for the effort - because it was easy for her. She put most of her effort into extracurricular activities, and to be honest, that's all she really cared about. That was all that gave her joy in school. Creating things, playing and community. That's still what is important to her, and the rest of it - what she spent ninety-nine percent of her time trying to memorize, sitting in class, is available on a little computer she carries in her pocket every day. It's available on a little computer that most people (over the age of 10) carry in their pockets every day.


She would get home after school in a terrible mood. Alice and her mother would get in a tangle pretty regularly if her mother was home when she arrived. Alice remembers standing in the kitchen entry by the toaster, breadboard and trashcan while her mother asked her if she had eaten at all. When Alice would confess that no she hadn't, her mother would pop two slices of bread in the toaster and make some cinnamon toast to get Alice’s blood sugar back up. Alice remembers how quickly her mood would change. So she made it a habit to come home and make some cinnamon toast to bring her out of her post-school funk. She drank a lot of milk, too. She remembers her parents commenting when she went off to college, the milk regularly went bad, and that had never happened before.


She doesn't remember being one who scrounged in the fridge for food. They didn't buy a lot of produce because her mom worked and was often tired when she would get home from work, so they ate out and produce went bad. If she was hungrier than cinnamon toast and milk, she would bake a pan of brownies, which went nicely with milk.


***


College was a different experience. For one thing, Alice’s milk drinking at breakfast was curtailed by the random punishment of sour milk in the cafeteria milk dispenser. It happened often enough that she gave up her morning cereal and switched to eggs with tabasco and maple syrup. At this point, Alice is not sure if they were actual eggs, or if they were reconstituted egg product, because they were always scrambled. It’s so hard to know in a cafeteria or a restaurant what one is actually eating.


The Meal Plan was expensive, or at least it seemed that way, given what they could buy at the grocery store in order to have choice in what they ate with the same money. The cafeteria, for lunch and dinner, had three meals she looked forward to - red beans and rice on Mondays (wash day), jambalaya, and gumbo. Otherwise, it was various incarnations of bad American food - hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken-fried steak. She doesn't know if this is what really happened, but she had hypothesized that there were two "cycles" of cooking that were repeated over and over. One, Alice called "The Meat Cycle," and the other was the "Pasta Cycle." At the beginning of the week the choices were burgers, hot dogs, and spaghetti with red sauce. Toward the middle of the week, the burgers disappeared and there was spaghetti or fusilli with meat sauce. Then at the end of the week, there were chili and chili dogs. She imagined how the bland tasting food was recombined and remixed with chili powder to become chili on the weekend, knowing there were other food choices to be had outside the long line at the cafeteria. Some people skipped the line and had a salad if they didn't have time, but she had seen multiple cockroaches in the salad bar, and, well, she’s described her relationship with salad at that point, already.


***


When she first became sexually active in her freshman year, Alice’s period was late by two weeks. It was around the end of her first semester and her boyfriend Carl’s third, a stressful time. Alice had lost interest in her classes about halfway through the semester, much of them being repeats of what she had already taken in high school. The worst situation was Consolidated Calculus. She had already taken the entire calculus sequence in high school, but only got a 3 on the AP exam (the equivalent of a C - most colleges now requiring a 5 for full credit), so she needed to take a special consolidated class which was a review of Calculus 1 and 2 so that she could take Calculus 3 again. The class was at 8 in the morning, and she did not have another class until noon. She had aced the first exam, despite difficulty staying awake, so after that, she had difficulty getting herself out of bed for a class she thought she already knew. Well, surprise, she failed the midterm exam. Alice had never failed anything in her life up to that point. The situation in Physics was similar - although she had not missed any class, she had difficulty paying attention. She had taken AP Physics 1 in high school already, so daydreaming was quite easy. By the end of the semester, she had a C in the class. In high school, except for history class, her grades were good without much effort, so college was a rude awakening.


Carl was worried and said that if she needed to have an abortion, he would pay for it. Having been concerned about pregnancy once before, after her rape, she thought this was an honorable gesture. After she got her period, he apologized for assuming that’s what she would have wanted to do, but it is what she would have done. Alice had wanted to be a neurosurgeon when she grew up, and had entered the biomedical engineering program because she determined it was the best way to ensure entry into the competitive medical school marketplace. A baby would have derailed so many of her options. But alas, the scary part was over, and now Alice could think in a more prophylactic fashion. She was sure she didn’t want to continue in the biomedical engineering program, and was pretty sure she didn’t want to be a doctor, but also sure she didn’t want to become a mother at that time, so she went to the campus clinic and got put on the birth control pill.


Carl was very concerned that Alice would give up on school entirely, and so he told her that she had to study. He locked her in his dorm room. Well, not really, but he vacated it so it was empty and she had a quiet place to study. During Thanksgiving Carl’s strange roommate who carried a pocket notebook every day in order to take notes about people he met had left. The young man from East Texas had coincidentally met Alice’s first roommate who was an Architecture major from Wisconsin and walked with her to class everyday. Alice had forgotten about this until one day she picked up the notebook and thumbed through it, finding her roommate listed amongst other names. She recalled her old roommate returning flustered from English class, recounting an upsetting story about the guy she had walked to class with daily asking her where she was from. When she had said, “Wisconsin…” in her thick Wisconsinite accent, he had quickly replied, “OH. YOU’RE A YANKEE.”


After that, through college Alice and Carl lived together clandestinely. On one of their first dates, Carl had been bragging about his punk ass behavior toward his roommate, and wanted her to come see the evidence in his room. He seemed trustworthy, so she went up to the room with him. The floor on his side was covered entirely by his scattered belongings. To this day, she remembers that he portrayed himself as being this way specifically to irritate his odd roommate, but he claims otherwise. In any case, it wasn’t long before she figured out that his brain just doesn’t work in an orderly fashion. It turns out he has A Beautiful Mind, and Alice may, too. His entire family was familiar with his ability to have his keys “stolen.” Also, while she could sometimes be the Queen of Swords (Wilma), he could be Fred (Flintstone). So they had worked out ways to try to avoid triggering these behaviors in each other. And much of that was just in learning to let each other be.


Alice’s mother and father had been good examples of allowing each other to be quirky as they got older. Her mother used to say things like, “If your father ever mows the yard again…” but then they hired a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn, and the problem was gone. Nolan had been excited to learn to mow, but had a terrible allergic reaction after the first two times, so they never put pressure on him to do it again. They asked Sally if she would like to do it a few years ago, but she was not interested. Carl has a lot of anger about how much of his life has gone toward maintaining lawn, but seems to go around in logic loops regarding whether all lawn with no ornamentation, or weeding a xeriscape garden is easier, ultimately just continuing to do the same. Alice has stated that she just needs some areas to garden, and not because she enjoys it, but because of potential supply chain issues.


They have some disagreements about the chipped rock she put around the raised beds they had to install hastily when he was laid off and they had to drop their CSA share due to the cost , and also what to do about the weeds in the driveway. She finally found some highly concentrated vinegar to try. She didn’t mind things being a bit overgrown; it felt more natural, which to her meant more actual relaxing and less like she was trying to relax around a large dick up her ass. And it’s true that in that yard all those years ago when Alice had her first attack, the one which had just been sprayed, she had not been there of her own volition, was not comfortable, and was forced to be in a space that was not healthy for her, and made less healthy with the ambitious use of chemicals. Kind of like the world we live in.


*****


During finals of her freshman year, when Carl had left her in his room all day and stayed next door with their friend Bill, she studied for her exams diligently. She had not stayed in her own dorm room for quite a while. She had requested a change of rooms along with another female student on the engineering floor who wasn’t getting along with her own roommate, so they had been placed together in another dormitory on the other side of the main street that ran through campus. Twenty-six years later, she cannot recall the precise reason she was able to get the Resident Housing Authority to grant her request, but she does remember her roommate complaining a lot about homework and spending long periods of time on the phone with her boyfriend back in Wisconsin. The new roommate was from New Jersey and had transferred out of the engineering program right away, so she didn’t have the large amounts of homework Alice had.


Nonetheless, both of them spent inordinate amounts of time on the fledgling internet, chatting with boys in chat rooms.


If she’s remembering correctly, her father drove down to New Orleans to get her for Christmas Break, and by the time he arrived, Alice had a gnarly case of the flu. It was bad enough the clinic had given her a prescription for co-Tylenol, and she had a bottle of syrup she used all the way back from Louisiana to Colorado.


It was the first semester of her final year at college (her junior/senior year, as she took 24 and 27 credit hours to get out early) when they decided not to use the cafeteria anymore. It was her half-baked idea, she’s sure. By then she was engaged to her now husband, Carl, and they were living together in sin in the dormitories at school, as they had been for the three preceding semesters. They cooked amazing meals for themselves using one of the few ovens on campus during vacations, and decided they could eat much better daily if they just took charge of it themselves. Plus, they had an evening class on the other side of campus and because the cafeteria opened at 5PM and people started lining up at 4:30, it took too long to get food and make it to the other side of campus for their evening class.


To feed themselves, they would order po-boys from a local restaurant, and regularly cooked a big pan of lasagna that they would work through over the course of the week. They used a lot of packaged “just add water” meal kits because they were both time- and money-poor. They had a friend who lived on ramen noodles alone, and they were pretty sure he had scurvy or something, so they avoided ramen at all costs. Alice still baked brownies, and the occasional chocolate cake.


Probably needless to say, but feeding herself with that course load the final year wasn't easy. She is sure she skipped meals. She remembers their friends complaining that they very rarely saw her because she was always doing homework or in class. She gained a size or two and was extremely depressed.


On top of that, she was very close to not graduating because of a 1-credit hour internship with a now deceased professor of cognitive psychology's unethical behavior which she had to report to the department chair. The department chair gave her a project to take over, coding a developmental psychology study, so that Alice was able to graduate.


She had recurring dreams for many years that she didn't finish her time in college, and that she had to go back.


In looking at their relationship back then, before they had property or children, their arguments probably centered mostly around Alice wanting more connection with Carl. There were several times she threatened to leave him after they were engaged because she just wanted a little bit of attention in the form of true intimacy. Knowing what she knows now, hindsight is of course 20/20 and she got plenty of intimacy from him, it’s just that their needs didn’t always line up in space time. It took her a long time, but she finally figured out how to get around a need for intimacy when Carl was not available, rather than jumping to the conclusion that it all needed to be over.


The fallout from this struggle was probably Alice struggling with a “wandering eye.” In college they hung out with Carl’s engineer friends who were all in the Navy ROTC. Alice was “one of the guys” or at least that’s the way she kind of saw herself. Nonetheless, there were two friends she was drawn to, and she had the sense that maybe there was some sort of “more than friends” energy between them. She only mentioned it to one of them, because the opportunity presented itself in a way where neither of them would feel pressure. It was kind of a “Hey, yeah, I was attracted to you, but I was already with Carl and I dig him,” kind of situation.


***


Their careers often caused them to be out of sync. This started right away in graduate school in the late 90’s, before they owned cell phones. They often had difficulty coordinating for dinner due to him getting lost in a bunch of spaghetti code or her having experiments run overtime.


When Carl finished his master’s degree, the government project he was on didn’t want to pick him up on a regular salary since they had been able to use his work paying him as a graduate student before. As far as he and Alice know, his code is still being used in 3D body scanners. So, he decided he wanted to go to work for someone who would pay him well, and that’s when Alice and Carl would learn just how dry the job economy was for new graduates was in the US. She ended up leaving graduate school early because they needed a second salary (she was only making $14,000/year with her teaching stipend), her research project didn’t get funded, and Carl would have to enroll in the PhD program to continue getting his stipend. This was clearly an ageist move by the person controlling that government contract at the time.


So, they dreamed of Californication.


Carl got a job in electrical engineering design for a company that made mammography units. They lived in an apartment at the edge of a golf course just a few miles from a university. Alice spent the first months finishing her master’s thesis, which was basically a shortened version of her doctoral thesis on the effect of estrogen on memory in ovariectomized mice. During that time, she made a friend in a nearby apartment, who would walk with her twice a week, and helped her to lose the 60 pounds she had gained in graduate school. Alice had taken to baking regularly because the sugary treats seemed to help her be able to process all the information that was being thrown at her in the graduate setting. She needed to have things on hand because she could have tremendous difficulty focusing while reading journal articles or grading homework if she got hungry. But she was consuming so much that she ended up gaining 60 pounds. She had been on the birth control pill during that time, even though Carl had expressed concern about the extra hormones causing health problems. Her periods were only coming once every three months after she stopped taking The Pill, and so she had gone to the doctor who recommended a strict diet and walking regimen. The diet was about 60 percent carbohydrate, and worked quite well for her in combination with walking with her friend.


So then Alice got a job engineering retroviruses for use in gene therapy. She worked in a little lab for the government, and she was trained to work on biosafety level 4 viruses, like coronavirus. Because of this, the pandemic has been extremely traumatizing for her. It’s made her have to battle her inner Karen every single day, because she is trying to keep her family and herself safe, and she knows more than most people about these things. It took Sally a while to get this, which was stressful for Alice. Sally likes to have her spaces neat, too, and her standards are a lot more strict than everyone else’s. They are all trying to pitch in more.


Cannabis has been extremely helpful for helping Alice CTFO. Alice can notice her body’s reactions to the things other people say and do and simply relax. It activates a sort of observer state in the mind so she can be more mindful. But it’s tricky trying to maintain that state of consciousness reliably, because it is hard to recognize. It’s possible to get familiar with it in many different ways, including meditation, or spending time in nature, or smelling something delightful; it comes through becoming present in one’s body and getting out of one’s mind. It is the state of ego death.


Struggles in Alice’s house around her cannabis use include the HVAC system and having to be a parent 24/7, and not being able to predict reliably when shits and fans collide. But it seems to be a pretty regular thing, regardless of her cannabis use, Alice figures. It seems to depend on the number of mechanized things they have to rely on (which have a tendency to break because they were designed to do so), and also how involved they are with the school system and other “support structures” how many things go “wrong” around the house, because these systems have plenty of tasks for people to do, but don’t consider the time and energy they take from the rest of life. So the simpler their connections to the outside world, the easier Alice’s life is. But it does sometimes feel like she was constantly having to mind the kitchen to keep everyone else out of the doldrums (especially if they have been particularly social), and she is feeling like everyone is a little old for that responsibility to be falling just to her, so she is trying to let them fail a little bit, but has been keeping supplies more than adequately stocked.


*****


When Alice worked, she developed a crush on a coworker. He bore a certain resemblance to her and she saw him regularly. They didn’t have much in common besides working in the lab together. They chatted a lot. Eventually Alice ended up switching jobs because it was not a good match for her. When she left, during her exit interview, she reported her coworker for making inappropriate comments to another female colleague. She did this without consulting either of them. She thought about it for quite some time before doing it. Later she would find out from another coworker that the male coworker had been put on probation and that her female coworker was totally distraught. She didn’t want that for either of them. Was she a narc?


Was there some secret language she didn’t know? Did she split up a steamy office romance?


Who’s what and what’s who?!?


I suppose Alice will be receiving some more owls on that front, huh? Since you wanted to say that flirting should be okay? Yes, Alice has a ridiculous amount of fear around relationships with men, and yes Carl did say that she acted Mike Pence-level ridiculous about interacting with men.


So, yes, that’s what was up with Alice and other men. She was not a slut. Not that slut is a fair categorization of anyone. But she did have a wandering eye and was also frightened, and she hasn’t been sure why, before doing all this writing, but it was multifactorial. She was looking for someone who really understood her, and didn’t make her feel like she had to defend herself or do anything other than just be herself. Since the White Rabbit helped her and Carl both see that what they really wanted in each other was the parent they didn’t have when they were 6-8 years old, it was easier for them to relax around each other again after all the arguing that came out of the stress with Carl’s family. They both have Saturn in Cancer, so what they both needed was a loving father. They learned that they could provide this energy for themselves, but also that in doing that, they were able to do it for others and they were getting along much better.


***


When Alice was pregnant with her son Nolan, she was only 14 weeks along when she developed crippling sciatica. She was still working as a laboratory assistant at the time, in Loma Linda, California, which was a vegetarian town. Her commute to work was 45 minutes, and with the morning nausea, it was sometimes all she could do to get dressed and eat before heading to work - never mind packing a lunch. The sciatica was so bad she had to hold the wall the whole length of the hallway to get from her office to the restroom, several times a day. She had to start wearing an elastic abdominal support to alleviate the pain in the first trimester. Thirty weeks into Alice’s pregnancy, she had a dream that her last day of work would be February 15th, and on that day, she had a hypertensive crisis.


She didn't know it was a hypertensive crisis at the time. Alice was at work and couldn't stay awake. In the weeks leading up to this day, she was increasingly tired at work. Everything felt difficult. The stress at work was incredible; they were a little start up pharmaceutical company, paid biweekly. They were never sure if they were going to get paid or not. She was doing the same assay over and over again for months, as directed by her boss, hoping for different results, knowing intuitively that what he was asking for was impossible - trying to detect amounts of a compound in human plasma that were often below the detection limits of the very expensive and old equipment they had at their disposal. She had to use chemicals that were listed as teratogenic (causing birth defects), and so she requested a respirator to use after calling the California Teratogen Registry and requesting information. The person on the phone said, “Well, it’s going to affect the mother before it affects the baby.” Alice did feel woozy during and after working with the chemicals, even though they were very small quantities (generally less than 5ml), so she requested a respirator. That meant she had to go long periods of time (good portions of working days), pregnant, wearing a respirator (not just a mask, unlike the people complaining now) and not getting fresh air. The situation was compounded by her coworker also having gotten pregnant just a month before, and suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a potentially deadly situation for both mother and baby because the mother suffers from such terrible nausea she cannot keep food down. Alice’s coworker often didn't show up at work because she was home vomiting, and so one of their male coworkers would have to fill in for her. As Alice writes this, she remembers that her co worker's child had a lot of the same digestive and sleep issues in infancy that Nolan did, and she wonders if it has anything to do with the chemicals.


There were four lab assistants in total, two men and two women, all in their mid 20's. Eventually the small company hired another female lab assistant. A young male oncologist ran clinical trials and two managers (one, male, the "boss" mentioned earlier, and another, female, who worked part time) governed the goings on in the lab. There was also an older male chemist from Russia, and the male professor who was the CEO of the company and the vice president who was female. The rest of the company didn't see them except during company meetings. There was an accountant and a secretary, too, both women. The Family Medical Leave Act, which was applicable only to companies with over 50 employees was not a benefit to any of them. However, they were in California, so on the day, February 15th, when Alice’s doctor informed her that she would have to go on strict bedrest for the rest of her pregnancy, she was able to take disability.


She spent those ten weeks mostly alone, laying on her left side on the off-white mushy sectional she and Carl had purchased from her coworker after Alice and Carl’s English Bulldog ate the sofa she bought in grad school at Odd Lots. She spent days and days watching reruns of "A Baby Story." She was allowed to get up only to get food, shower, use the restroom, or visit the doctor, and had to take her blood pressure often. Switching to her right side elevated her blood pressure. Going to the bathroom elevated her blood pressure. Everything seemed to elevate her blood pressure. It started feeling like a head game.


Alice’s pregnancy was classified as high risk, but there was never elevated protein in her urine, which would have been an indicator of pre-eclampsia. Her blood sugar was always found to be normal, too. The only solace she had was in knowing that someday her baby would be born, and her blood pressure would most likely become normal at that time.


On weekends and evenings, she and Carl would watch television together or she would listen to him play Gran Turismo 2 while awkwardly trying to crochet a little hat and one bootie for one unborn son (she never got that second bootie finished). She got so tired of the music as the same songs circled around and around and around in her mind. It was so hard to imagine life would ever be different, especially as sleep became difficult in the last six weeks from the pressure on her pelvic bone, the deep aching nightly as Alice tried to give the left side a break for minutes at a time, risking driving up her blood pressure and putting the baby into distress.


Alice had been reading all about natural childbirth, but stopped when she figured out that she would have to go through labor on her left side, eliminating a lot of the physical accommodations that would help her avoid pain medication and other interventions. Sure enough, at 39 weeks, her obstetrician informed her that she would be coming back to the hospital in a few days to have labor induced with pitocin.


Alice has been in labor four times, despite only being pregnant twice, and has two children to show for it. Most of the time was unmedicated, because as it turns out, epidurals can stall labor if given too early, and she has an iron cervix. Fun fact: if one doesn't know what labor is going to be like, ask one’s mother. Alice’s mother was in labor with her for four days. It's what's called prodromal labor. Hospitals nowadays would never let a mother be in labor for four days, mostly because it's too much stress on the mother and baby, and the risk of death increases significantly. So after being on pitocin during her labor with Nolan for she doesn't remember how long, and her cervix not having dilated to even 1 of the needed 3 centimeters, the medical staff decided to let her rest. Their intervention had done nothing except interrupt her sleep (sleeping through contractions is extremely difficult). Sally had been in too much distress during Alice’s labor, so after the two day of unprogressed labor, she was allowed to take a little nap before starting again.


For the last week of her pregnancy with Nolan, Alice went back to her left-side-lying Learning-Channel-watching hell.


*****


It is July 7, 2020. Or 7/7/2020. An auspicious day. Two days ago, I found a pink sticker with “777” on the back of a rock painted with the word “chi” in The Womb Room, and I thought some occultists may have snuck in and put it on the rock. When I was going through the house last summer, I found several things for which the origin I did not know. But then I had the brilliant idea of asking Charlotte if she knew anything about it, since she had given me the rock, and she said that yes, she had put the sticker on the rock, and that it was her table number each day at a conference, and that perhaps she had subconsciously felt it would be important to me somehow.


As the days have progressed, the White Rabbit has been so kind to show us exactly what we need to know, just in time. I don’t know what to say. I think I had a seizure this afternoon, so my faculties are a little dull. It’s been a while since I have had one, hasn’t it? Carl noticed that his friends were feeling pretty low, and we were having difficulty feeling motivated to cook or eat much. Do you think it is because of all the illegal fireworks? I am wondering if other people are struggling with lower states of consciousness because of them. I got a headache when we were outside on the 4th, and then I got another today when a strange plume came through our home when the upstairs windows were closed. I mean, doesn’t it seem important to write about strange plumes containing VOCs and formaldehyde coming through one’s home and then later possibly having a seizure?


How do I talk to my doctor about this? I think I might actually have a long history of seizures, but I had no idea what was happening. It’s so weird because I got all sorts of “messages” in the past few days about this guy in my high school class who died of an aneurysm a few weeks before our graduation. I found out about it on the same day I found out about my cousin dying in an automobile accident. My other cousin’s older brother died several years later also in an auto accident, but on the 4th of July. I am not having language problems this time, thank goodness. This makes four of six of Carl’s family here in Northern Colorado who have had seizures. Something is wrong, FFS! What are we going to do?


My cannabis tolerance is pretty high right now because it takes so much to relax because of the chronic pain from all the chemical exposure. On July 3, 2020, our neighborhood was sprayed for pesticides, and there was also some sort of plume in the water. In the meantime, I have had a lot of sun exposure, and also earlier that week I had taken a bunch of chemicals to the hazardous materials because of a plume that was coming from the stored paint, etc. in the garage. So, I am kind of trying to do what I need to do to recover from that exposure while also getting ready to have the A/C serviced (tidying, weeding), but I guess I still did too much. The communications with people to try to solve our strange phone conundrum take a lot of time.


I still have that headache. Do you think I still need more sugar?


*****


So Alice had to disappear down a few rabbit holes. She distanced herself from everyone including Charlotte for a time, and tried to figure out what it was that she needed and wanted. While certain accidental slips of the tongue may have, in Alice’s mind, been the reason for the developments between Carl and Charlotte, Charlotte, in the editing of this writing, remembered it differently. Through close friendship and a shared writing endeavor, Charlotte had developed feelings for Alice, and had told her about them one day on a walk. But Alice wasn’t attracted to Charlotte in that way, she didn’t think. She thought she was attracted to someone else at the time. The truth was probably closer to Alice not wanting to shit where she sleeps. Charlotte doesn’t always get the colloquialisms that Alice uses, but it was about not wanting to risk their long friendship and other connections, and also because Alice knew that both the women were overextended. While Alice could sometimes feel some sexual attraction toward women, it wasn’t something she had felt for Charlotte at that time, and it wasn’t something she really understood. More recently, she has made the realization that the majority of her sexually intrusive thoughts are when talking to men, and only sometimes when talking to women, and fantasies always involve a man, but almost never another woman. So, Alice was queer, and Charlotte probably was, too. But because a lot of their friendship was built on processing shared trauma, Alice often needed to rest after seeing Charlotte, so an attraction hadn’t developed in that way.


Eventually this became true of everyone for Alice, and she wasn’t really attracted to anyone except Carl and the White Rabbit. Carl and Charlotte also slowed things down, and they all consider themselves friends, even better than before. In the time alone, Alice learned that sometimes she was attracted to people who didn’t treat her well or who were in need because being needed helped her feel less invisible, but now she recognizes that for the sticky wicket it is, and how the need to be needed makes it difficult to have one’s own life.


What was it about the White Rabbit? What was it about Carl? Was it the same thing that Alice found in her discussions with many men? She loved talking with men and wanted desperately to understand their viewpoints. Gender in the world she grew up in was such a defining trait, and she was in a woman-dominated household. She wanted to know what “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” meant, and where that came from. She loved hearing men talk about parts of their childhood they enjoyed. She loves hearing them talk about people who made a difference in their lives, and she just loves to sit in silence, which was possible in a chat, but not always in real life.


But with both Carl and the White Rabbit, it wasn’t like it was with any other men. The experiences Alice had with both of them were powerful and synchronicity-laden. It really was like something happened and she was head over heels with both of them. There was a huge sense of connection, belonging, and physical attraction, even though her relationships with them were like apples and oranges. They were like the Ineffible Husbands. And as their love grew deeper, they perturbed each other more, and their capacity for forgiveness became greater.


The White Rabbit alerted Alice to the fact she could be sort of a mermaid, and she feels badly for that. She had no idea the damage she could do going through the world with an open mind and heart, not thinking that some people might want to go a lot further than she imagined and be willing to put what she assumes was quite a bit of skin in the game. It was kind of a scary thing to find out, especially considering the pandemic.


It was like that Robert Palmer song, I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On with most people. Except she *did* want to turn the White Rabbit on. That absolutely was a conscious decision, and she has no guilt about it. When Alice met the White Rabbit, it was like having her head jammed in a tesseract, and she’ll never be the same again. Trust me.


She tried and tried to tell him she loved him. She told him in emails, and she told him in this book. But that Rabbit, man, he had some other plans. He had told her everything was connected, which she knew already. But she didn’t *know.* Also, he wanted her to know about the different types of love, and that he was looking for agape love. She thought she knew what that was until he started to show her, like Fred Astaire to her Ginger Rogers.


It’s going to be interesting to see how this book ends.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

I See You In a Different Light


Because of my openness, I have found myself in a lot of situations that end up being rather “literature-worthy.” That is because I apparently put people at ease, some friends tell me. So, people volunteer a lot of personal information. Funny because my partner had a fascination with Deanna Troy on Star Trek The Next Generation, and I have one with the companion Inara from Firefly, who were both confidantes. This has had a profound effect on how I see people. A lot of people are lonely or in pain, but the strongest people I know have a passion of some sort. When I say strongest, I mean they are the people most likely to continue to live a life of freedom without threatening the freedom of others in some way. They are usually creators of some sort, even if it is just to jot down a daily haiku. Oh, not to marginalize this noble endeavor; it is an art to use so little to say so much.


To know so much.


Because of what is going on in the world, I can’t stop thinking about the people I have known. Everyone was struggling before this started, even me.


I posit that the reason is because we have all been ridden hard and put away wet. Sorry for the language, I am the son of a son of a sailor. On both sides. My grandfather apparently went AWOL in the Philippines in the 30’s. He was in the merchant marine and a clever man. He had taken an alias sometime in his teens; his mother had disappeared and his father had cast him out. Nobody knew what happened to her; she was of German heritage, born to immigrants from Slupsk, Poland, and it was not a good time to be German. I did find her at the Bellvue Hospital Nurses’ School, I think, when he was registered with the U.S. Merchant Marine in 1930. When I saw my uncle for the first time in a quarter century a few years ago, he informed me about the alias and that led to the breakthrough in finding my grandfather in New York City listed under it. Apparently he was still using the alias when my uncle was young, but my grandmother told him he needed to pick a name and stick with it, so he used his birth surname, which of course is my maiden name. The reason he chose the alias, according to my uncle, was because the social services system had put him into abusive foster homes in the 20’s, during the era of the orphan train. Indeed, I found letters from her and the New York City orphanage she was living in to a relative in the western US asking if this relative (a US Statesman of Irish descent, living as a Scot to avoid persecution) could possibly send money for a coat, or allow my then 14-year old great aunt to come live with him. The relative had replied that while on the outside he may have looked wealthy, he no longer had money to pay the taxes on his land, and was losing it all. That is just one story of the way my kids’ ancestors experienced The Great Depression. My grandmother was not even 16 when they married, and she lied about her age. To make a living, my grandfather did lots of different jobs - whatever was needed. While originally the alias was to escape social services, he had begun regular employment and was listed with labor unions under his alias, and so to not lose his credits for his apprenticeships, he needed to keep the alias. There was something funny about getting favors from a secretary, though. It sounds, from what my father told me, that his father was always working. He died fairly young, at 54 years of age after developing sepsis from surgery. His children were just barely grown when it happened.


So, I have this genealogy hobby, and it can be a little expensive if you want to do a good job of it. To piece together that puzzle, I had to visit the Nebraska State Archives, which was an extra two days tacked onto a trip my son, father and I were making to Omaha, anyway. I once worked as a Title Clerk in a Title Company, and got to geek out on Vital Records every day and get paid for it. So to piece together some of my own personal ancestry in that way was a real gift, and the memories we made on that trip (during the Triton snowstorm in 2013) were unforgettable. I mean, sure, it was bittersweet to see how our family suffered during that time, but to see personal writings that confirmed the relationship to this statesman which had only been rumored before felt strange, too. It was a crapshoot; my great-grandfather’s second wife told me about the “famous uncle” in 1990 through written correspondence, and my father and I were always curious about it, only because there was quite a bit of correspondence held at the archive from this person, due to their influence.


I have a strange relationship with the pastime, because I got into it to learn more about what forces my ancestors experienced that ended up shaping me. A lot of people I meet who have some casual interest in it get really excited about finding a relationship to Charlemagne, and I kind of figure that far back would be an extremely long book to describe how that relationship actually influenced a person. People get really excited about cousin relationships to famous people, but I don’t really see people being transparent about the ways that economics over the last 150 years or so impacted their family. It’s like if people’s ancestors had to overcome some sort of economic or health hardship, they want to hide it, because those kinds of hardships were greatly stigmatized, and still are. People see these things as being at odds with success, because nobody really understands what success is.


In my other writing, I described the numerous names my maternal grandmother used during the post-War era after her short-lived stint as a secretary in the Richmond shipyards before becoming pregnant with my mother in her teens. It’s kind of interesting to think about this on the level of perhaps having wondered “what kind of people” have aliases and why, and that it might be because of hardships. I actually found much sadder stories doing research for other people, and it is not difficult to see how the people were affected by these stories on some level, although I sense a general reticence about thinking too hard about it. That kind of growth takes a lot of time and energy, both of which are in short supply for most people.


Anyway, the general point in bringing up genealogy is that I learned that big events in history absolutely had an effect on my family and who I became. Also, looking generally at the U.S. population, we have come a long way in our awareness about what freedom is.


I suppose this is all to say, that I have been perplexed by the behavior of Americans with respect to how they choose to spend their time and attention. Perhaps it goes back to much of the immigration here to escape the forces of oppression, but because thinking larger than the sources of our previous oppression requires time and energy, we only advance so far each generation. But we do advance. It only takes looking at one’s family history back to the Depression to see that.


The tragedies that beset my family actually originated during the tuberculosis epidemic and were a direct outgrowth of society’s failure to perform as a community. I am wondering why anyone “fails” when our communities have the resources they do, and the conclusion that I came to is that we are living outside our means, which makes it harder to help each other, because we perceive that we need more, which robs us of time and energy.


I have been conversing with a gentleman friend regarding writing, art, inspiration, and motivation. For a long time I had trouble getting motivated to make art in my studio alone. I don’t have any trouble writing alone; the barrier to writing is just making the time alone a priority. I conquered the battle with art, for the most part. I am just going through a period where I am having to reimagine some of the ideas I have a burning passion to complete in media that do not pose a risk to myself or others, but in a way that still conveys the original spirit of what I perceived. There were many things I imagined 3D printing, but we really need to install ventilation in the garage to do that safely. The fumes do indeed permeate the bedroom space and the rest of the house. I had read that keeping chemicals in an attached garage is the largest source of chemical exposure for most people, but it wasn’t until I got a cheap portable VOC meter that I actually got to *see* the difference. So, long story long as I like to say, as things started heating up this summer I had to do an emergency “evict all chemicals from the garage” day because we have all become sensitive from being isolated indoors with chemicals for so long. I am not preventing other people from printing, but my efforts to try to get fresh air into the garage in an old skool way were not always appreciated. Not everyone was affected by the plumes as intensely as I was. Anywho, that was a left turn! Or as my mom likes to say, "There goes a bird!"


And that is why I need to be mostly alone while I work. I am easily distractible. I was trying to explain that to this friend, who like all of my single friends is pretty isolated. He said he just can’t seem to get motivated to paint unless he is around other people, and wondered if maybe he came to paint at my studio, he would be motivated. It is clear that we see things differently. I once also needed to be around other people to make my art. But for myriad reasons, I learned that I need to make it on my own without a lot of distraction. My stream of consciousness is very important in my work, and because it is traveling at light speed most of the time, it’s kind of hard to get the canoe in and out of the water so frequently. I already have a lot of distractions from personal health needs - things I may need to take care of without most company around. I think if I were ever to share studio space with someone, they would need really strong self-esteem because I tend to be really independent, strong-willed, and sometimes easily frustrated by people needing my already not great listening skills when I am in lower consciousness states. Staying in higher levels of consciousness requires a lot of time and effort on my part, and I like to use that time to create things that can encapsulate the messages I want to share in the most efficient way, which is more difficult if I am trying to listen to someone else. I suppose I am not opposed to all smalltalk, it’s just that what I’ll tolerate is pretty specific and uncommon. I suppose that’s to be expected or maybe comes with the territory of being an artist. But suffice it to say, I can be an unpleasant person if my canoe trip gets interrupted.


I get to spend more time in the canoe than a lot of people. And that, to me, is freedom.


Wanting to create during the pandemic is a no-brainer for me. There is inspiration everywhere on the personal level. The pandemic has created a lot of material complications that are both an impediment and an inspiration for creation, specifically around the realm of emotional labor. From the standpoint of a caregiver, it is a very BDSM thing. I have guilt for the time I need to create, and guilt for not creating, and not taking care of myself and others while I am creating. It can take a long time each day to wind out of the guilt to a place where I can create. Luckily, I learned the art of stoicism as a child, so my outward face can be calm, even when I am falling apart on the inside. When I was 7 my father nearly died of an infection. When it happened, my mother told me she didn’t know what she would do. I was privy to a lot of my mother’s secrets, and I think this is important because her open humility let me know that she never saw herself greater than me. There was of course plenty of authoritarian undercurrent in my upbringing, more so than some of my friends, and less than others. What I got to see from my mother sharing her experience with me (I was sort of her therapist as a child) was the soul inside the monster. I’m not saying that my mother was a monster, but she certainly had some old fashioned views of society because of being raised by a man who was born in 1899, the grandson of a prominent politician, who was disowned for adopting a bastard. There’s a story in there for sure. Gotta love how easy it is to manipulate politicians and businessmen through family shame.


For some reason, I get offered a lot of sex. It is kind of destabilizing to me. It is difficult to navigate consent as a mother. It caused me to have to do deep meditation on my personal sex drive and how it relates to my life satisfaction, to know what my own personal needs are. As I have stated before, sexual satisfaction is an important part of my health regimen. And as an aging person, entering the years of perimenopause, libido can be a challenge. I think this is because of metabolism, and so I have, for years, been tailoring a diet which maximizes my libido. It is pro-metabolic and has had some miraculous consequences for my health, despite all the challenges we have had from the environment.


Thank goodness for vasectomies and slightly bigger houses and writer friends who remind me of all the sex I had to turn down over the past few years. I was thinking about why I turned it down in each case, and it wasn’t due to lack of sexual attraction (although this was the reason I gave), it was because I do not want to decouple love and sex. There are some strange reasons I feel this way, mostly owing to the nebulous territory that is friendships, sexual favors and feelings. I learned that it is an insult to assume a single man would be satisfied with a “friends with benefits” relationship (I’m sorry), and how difficult it is for bisexual and non-cis-gendered people to navigate the long-term relationship world. There was no road map where I was, and all the while I kept wondering how I would feel to be my children in these situations. The situations caused me tremendous angst because I was worried about hurting people, but the truth is, a healthy sexual relationship outside of my life as a mother might be a beneficial thing for me, and the best way I could be an example of a sexually liberated person for my kids. I did have multiple people suggest this to me, including my therapist. I didn’t really know how to talk to my family about that stuff, though. It was probably unheard of when they were my age for a therapist to suggest an alternative marriage arrangement.


Sort of by accident, my husband and a good friend of mine became very close, and I had said that I was okay with them going as far as they wanted, but they didn’t get very far. They really enjoyed each other’s company and she helped him understand a lot of things from a menstruating married woman’s perspective that I was unable to over the years. They didn’t have the little frustrating things between them that we did. Ultimately, though, the time element was a tremendous problem because we had poor communication around scheduling and I often ended up being abandoned with an empty fridge after a long energetic push with the kids, bills, or some other thing I didn’t have a choice about. This is around the time I got sick from all the VOC and formaldehyde stuff and had to push everyone in my life away to be able to handle all the things I had gotten behind on.


I have had to engage the services of repair people for my air conditioning and my washing machine over the course of the pandemic, and in both instances I went to lengthy efforts to discuss the way my home would be entered and exactly what the problems were before they came. In both instances, the service person who arrived was not wearing a mask correctly, and in the words of The Lobster, “His entire snout was showing!” This guy had his paws all over his face, and violated my personal space repeatedly. Our roof needs repair, but because of previous experiences with workers in my home, I am wary of having work done on my property at all. I am a small business owner, so I understand the need to work during the pandemic, but the right to work does not equal the right to expose people to a deadly disease. I have not decided how to best channel the energy about that situation other than to write about it. Should I contact the business owners? I feel like business owners should have to provide appropriate personal protective equipment for their employees. This is a no brainer.


When my great-grandparents died of tuberculosis, it was incredibly difficult to get work, especially if one was sick. There was no social system to catch them. The stigma made absolute sense, but the failure of society to support workers who could not work was inexcusable.


I feel like this is an important discussion to have right now due to Mary Trump’s new memoir about the President. I have read the Prologue, and in it she states that Donald is the way he is because he “never knew hard work.” I don’t think she means that. That is ableist and meritocratic thinking. I just think he has the beginnings of dementia. He learned everything he knows from a man who had dementia for who knows how long, and whose song, line and dance was about work, because it wasn’t creative, because he had dementia. He doesn’t know any other way.


Over the course of my isolation I learned that for my best mental health, I need to experience something magical every day. It’s up to me to make this happen. I have to have a certain amount of time that is left for my mind to wander. I think that’s basically it. If I can’t get that, then I can meditate or have an orgasm, and that usually does the trick. The shorter I am on rest, the less effective those methods are. I think it probably helps on a number of levels, but the one I’m thinking of is how meditation increases theta waves in the brain, and also cleaning of cellular debris by glial cells. Through these processes I have near death experiences which kind of consolidate all the data I have taken in from the recent time stream, and then when I have a dream or near death experience, I get a message from the aggregated and simplified data regarding whatever I have studied. I am essentially using my subconscious mind like a supercomputer. This is an important learning process for me. I often get insight into situations I am dealing with in the process.


Taking the time to do this has had a profound effect on my psychological health. So it’s not difficult to see how having someone I’m not comfortable with on a very intimate level in my studio space would be an imposition. This may come from trauma during my childhood around my mother’s surveillance of my behavior. I haven’t had a lot of time alone in my life, so I have complicated feelings about what constitutes voyeurism vs. what is potentially helpful if shared with society. My methods are certainly unconventional, but they are healthy and sustainable. Our cultural knowledge comes from stories of real people, and I am, last I checked, a real person living a very different life, which if I felt confident sharing, could help others. I just don’t know what level of sharing is acceptable for my level of anxiety.


My art muse is much gentler and more about just doing. The doing itself is the reward, so I don't really need other people around to want to make art. I do, however, love me some good artistic dialogue about process, unique uses of materials, and sustainable methods of self-expression. I am not short on ideas, just time away from the BDSM muse.


Every day I spend some time gazing out my basement window. This time is religious for me. Right now there is a beautiful pastel gradient behind the cottonwood on the other side of the ditch; the greens are muted with lavender, or at least that is my instinct if I were mixing the colors with a knife. I have not painted it, but I do it in my mind. I notice new animals and plants, noises and sounds every day, from the very same window. I hear messages on the wind and see them around the earth and in the sky. In this time I can become aware of my own energy and my connection to the life source. It fills my cup. There are rabbits who live outside my window and I have seen them frolicking together, and dragonflies mating, and baby grasshoppers.


This is so different than my upbringing in the city; we have had several bears in our yard, elk, raccoon, bats, owls, foxes, and turkeys. It's really wonderful to remember that we are part of a living earth. It gives me peace in a constantly changing reality to be in tune with the cycles of the earth.


I know I don't owe anyone any explanations for my love history, but it occurred to me that some explanation might be helpful for others.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Life of Illusion: Prologue: We All Live in a Yellow Submarine

Is the road to hell paved with good intentions?

Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t the major lesson of my lifetime. I have tried so hard to be a good person, but who actually decides these things?

A lot of acts of goodness have unintended consequences, and right now, because of the situation our world is in, a lot of people are pretty certain they know what good is, and they’re willing to go to the grave defending what they think is right, whether it is or not.

Writing is one such territory; I never know who is actually reading my blog. I only see numbers. I know not how my words and ideas are taken. All I can do is speak the truth the way I see it.

I get frustrated by the mindless chaos I see in the world, like many people do. I think some people like to have me around when I’m in this frustrated state, because I can be quite entertaining, but I can go away from those experiences feeling miserable for what I let escape my mouth. Yes, it is kind of a personal hell in that regard. It’s why I don’t post here much anymore. Who am I to proclaim myself an authority on anything besides myself?

But I can say that I have had some experiences around infectious disease and the behavior of others that have given me unique insight on that critical line of whether our “good” words and deeds are healing, or destructive. It’s never entirely one or the other; that is the way of the Universe.

I will be honest and say that I was an early mask wearer. This is because I am a cystic fibrosis carrier. For most of my life, being just a carrier didn’t mean anything. My doctor doesn’t even take it seriously, as far as I can tell. But I met a pulmonologist from National Jewish at a barbecue once who says he sees carriers all the time - they just get less sick, and later in life. People with CF catch things fairly easily, and it’s generally recommended that they not be in proximity of each other because it is so easy to catch disease. And just this past winter, science finally decided that maybe Mendel made some mistakes, too, and that the holy child of recessive inheritance was actually just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Cystic fibrosis is the most commonly inherited deadly disease. I didn’t even know I was a carrier until I did consumer genetic testing in 2012, and while I have plenty of the symptoms, the medical establishment doesn’t consider consumer genetics tests to be valid.

So imagine you’re a little family of four. And you have family nearby, and they consider themselves quite tight. Half of them aren’t carriers, and they don’t care enough to figure out what that means. They are extremely social, and not particularly honest about how they are feeling, ever, because they were raised to feel shame about being anything less than perfectly healthy.

Then you have the other side of your family, at least half of them carriers. Two of them are doctors, and all of them are die-hard churchgoers and volunteers.

Now imagine that you have been silently poisoned in your home, and you don’t know for how long. Imagine that you discovered this via becoming extremely unwell whenever you visit the “perfectly healthy” family because their professions revolve around real estate and interior design, their self-worth is directly tied to interior fashion trends, and they were always painting the walls, getting new floor coverings and furniture, and remodeling kitchens. One of them was even LEED certified, and yet they did not know how dangerous their behavior was, even for their “superior genetics.” Imagine you didn’t know how to say this to them, even though they had unexplained seizures, and even cancer, and you had even found research explaining the whole thing. But somehow, even with all that research, you just couldn’t find the words to explain this in a way that they could understand, without bumping up against their cultural values. They also value health; they just didn’t know how they were undermining it, with what seemed to have become an addiction.

Out of that addiction sprang many others in the family, to cope with the emotional and physical pain.. Mine used to be community.

That is my CF-carrying family’s addiction; service to the community. They always have something going on, and so I rarely get to see them. I actually share those values, but because of my illness, I have to be isolated.

Any change I wish to see has to start inside me.

My gateway into self-transformation was through contemplative yoga. I have a friend who calls it “sleepy yoga.” These classes are typically attended by older people who are dealing with chronic pain issues. It is a process by which one is able to achieve healing from pain through actions of the mind. Much of the worst part of pain is the belief that it will be interminable. This tenses the body, which increases the pain. By focusing on each part of the body and “reintegrating” the energy network within our own body - waking up all our sensory neurons to the reality of this exact moment - we can release natural endorphins. This is achieved through moving into an entirely different state of awareness, leaving all that does not have direct bearing on the present moment of reality in another realm. But don’t be fooled - this is not playing ignorant. Our brains are amazing things! While we are taking care of our immediate needs for pain relief consciously, things are free to then bubble up from the subconscious, revealing to us truths we may have been suppressing.

Pain can have a tremendous effect on mood, and vice versa. In order to get out of that kind of loop, when my mind machine just wants to keep playing the same story over and over, sometimes I desperately need to try something new - anything - to get a broom handle into the clockworks and get it to stop. This is what meditation can do.

Remember I said my family was addicted to service to the community. I suppose you could call some forms of service to the community, “love addiction.” I have a strange astrological secret. I was born on “The Day of Popularity.” My birth buddies are Bob Marley, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ronald Reagan, and, my daughter’s favorite to bring up, Rick Astley. Yes, you just got Rick Rolled. It took actually reading that to see it. I always felt like an odd bird, because I am. But that feeling of being unloved or unappreciated was something that just wasn’t true. It was all a story my monkey mind made up. My monkey mind is a glass-half-empty kind of gal. Oh my God, if she would just shut up! She is always telling me ridiculous stuff, like so-and-so is going to make a mistake, or that there are things that I need to do to be “good,” or judging others for their attempts to be “good.”

When I was a social butterfly, this made for a kind of psychological hell. I became a little bit obsessed with health, because when I’m not, I can become sick easily. The state of the world is actually a big part of my wellness. I have a different view of wellness than most people, because of my professional background, and being a mother. A couple years ago, I thought I had healed myself, and so I got busier in the community again, and stopped paying attention to getting enough food and rest. This was all going on in the midst of some chemical exposures, which I did not figure out until I stopped going to the remodeling family’s house.

Right before Thanksgiving, I went back. I had not seen them in a long time, and I thought that they might be worried that I did not like them. I still rode in the same car with my family, so that nobody would think I was itching to get out of there for emotional reasons. I have wanted to leave for emotional reasons in the past. I think if one needs to get out of a place for emotional reasons, that is perfectly acceptable, and other mature human beings will let that occur without shaming the other person. I had driven separately before and that wasn’t a problem, but Erick was worried about how it would look. I had a gut feeling that I could not stay longer than 2 hours, and so made the agreement with him that if we rode together to their home, we would come home at that point. Here is the level of problem we had with people-pleasing. We went for lunch, which was served relatively promptly, but still took two hours. I often lose track of time when I am with others, especially if engaged in deep conversation. All of a sudden, I started getting a headache. I looked at my phone and saw that six hours had transpired, and asked Erick if we could please go. We gathered up our immediate family and left right away. When we got home, we both had headaches, and our thighs had terrible pins and needles. I ended up struggling with fatigue and shortness of breath for three weeks after that. He recovered more quickly. It was a physically painful holiday season for me. Luckily, I didn’t catch any respiratory or GI illnesses since I was largely isolated from others for… well… over a year. I have only spent quality time with one friend ONCE since before Thanksgiving last year. Once I finally got well enough after the next things that happened, the virus hit American shores.

What happened during that painful time after Thanksgiving was an incredible odyssey.

I am writing a novel about my journey. It was a painful one. I had to face a lot of devils lurking inside my own home that I encountered every day - volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde. They may be in many American homes, too, even if you think you are being careful, like I did. I am fairly well educated on these subjects, too. This information is just not well publicized in the United States. I don’t know why.

If you want to join me on the odyssey, you can read my upcoming novel, A Life of Illusion, which I will post in installments here on my blog. There will be ample coverage of how I deal with pain and being alone, in various contexts. It will cover caregiving, and self care. I am taking artistic license with the situations.