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.

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