Process: Breaking Out of Bias with Symbolism.

There’s a fine line between being a revolutionary and being crazy. I kind of toe it.

I have not been writing here because the last month has been full of personal and complex things that I am discovering are in need of being healed from my own perspective before I can begin to discuss them with others.

With issues like these, the kinds of occurrences in life that make me feel so many ways at once—completely unfeeling, consumed by fear one moment and calm as a fuckin cucumber because life just keeps getting weirder and at this point I’m just along for the ride the next, I tend to withdrawal.

These are delicate and complex issues, issues with no immediate cultural story or language, issues that are new to my understanding. Have you ever realized you are in a lifestyle you’ve heard of before but never though would be yours?

I am not the person I thought I was.

Have you been there?

These are issues that are so emotionally different than the cultural context or stories have managed to convey, that I am gifted a rare opportunity to access a pure moment of curiosity.

What is this?

It’s a bit of a grin and bear it type warrior mentality. Get stronger and persevere. Do not turn back. No one you know has answers for this. This is your experience. Don’t taint it with bullshit.

I listen to A Forest, The Cure. “Into the trees.”

In the subconscious, and in many mythologies of ancient Greece, Rome, Eastern and Western Europe, and even Japan, the forest is the place in which we test our mettle against the elements, a test of ourselves, our abilities. In the forest it is you against the elements and your own mind.

In Japan it is the suicide forest. In Romania, Transylvania where we meet Dracula, the vampire, a cold lifeless being who relies on the life force of others to sustain himself. In this way, Dracula represents the person who has not undergone the process of achieving identity and individuation. In European fables it is Little Red Riding Hood, Robin Hood. In America, perhaps it’s the hood. People laugh when I say things like this. They sound so naive coming from me.

But spend a day in this brain.

The forest is a place where we go to understand ourselves as beings outside the confines of culture. Because I quite dislike the culture of global capitalism and being complicit in it, I’m actively seeking a self outside this culture and have found it difficult to reconcile the self with the modus operandi of our people.

It is what it is. We have done what we have done. I am here.

I believe we are culturally partaking in genocide of the individual and self-actualization in order to continue to fuel the industrial complex. This is a personal opinion based on the general view of the public of the unquestionable empiricism of rationality and science OVER intuition. I think this landscape is shifting. In the midst of this crisis we must stay home and that edge, that desire to get out and be, is painful when repressed. People feel the absence of themselves and are practicing active presence. In the forest, one must use both logic and intuition, knowledge and curiosity. In life, one must use both.

Culturally, we are on the edge of the boundaries of human experience. We are in the forest.

What if wholeness is simply a state of contentment? And what if this whole industrial complex is built on a promise of contentment that is an illusion? And what if we created it just to come full circle and realize it was necessary but is now unnecessary? What if we created this illusion simply to understand ourselves? What do you do with that information? Where do you go from there?

Stranger in the Woods is a book about a man who lived in the woods for twenty years. He was arrested eventually for breaking into the cabins that were slowly erected around him throughout the years for tourists and summer camps. It’s a fascinating view of the evolution of our people away from ourselves as living, feeling, intuitive beings into beings who rely upon knowledge and technology for validation of our being.

What if the most effective form of rebellion is developing intuition using modern knowledge to educate one’s self beyond the boundaries of fear, want, and lack so that we no longer need the industrial complex? What if intuition is the ultimate human knowledge? What if it is precisely developing our intuitions that will allow us to feel content enough as a species that we don’t need to keep being vampires of on our earth and reaching for things to make us feel whole?

Can you sit with yourself for ten minutes?

Could you traverse the forest of your psyche for an hour? A day? A week? How much do you really know about yourself? Who do you become when shit gets real? What do you attach the boundaries of yourself to? What in your life could you not let go of? Who are you when those things go away?

We only know when we are in those circumstances that bring us beyond the edges of our confined identities.

This is why I began practicing minimalism.

If you are an unhappy person who never followed your dreams, for instance, you rely on the realized dreams of others and are, thus, a vampire. You were taken by the forest. The same goes for emotional cripples—people who refuse to feel or to understand and learn from their feelings. To not know one’s feelings is to be a slave to them.

I have been this person. I only know anything because I have been some things. We cycle through these characters in our psyches depending on the changing circumstances of our lives. They are called archetypes, developed by the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

There is currently a docuseries on Netflix called Myths & Monsters that I highly recommend that features an episode about forests. The forest is my favorite element. Both physically and in the psyche, the forest is where I feel most alive, most challenged.

One of my favorite modern tales of man vs. nature is The Grey, featuring Liam Neeson. The wolves.

Dogs or wolves represent divine masculinity and rationality in my dream book. I often dreamt of a dog behind a chain link fence, chained to a pole, of black and white dogs. A contained mind. A caged mind tethered by black and white, binary thinking. Overly rational and analytical.

I always wanted to learn things as quickly as possible. To me, the ability to grasp and understand a concept quickly was an achievement, a success, a measure of my intellect and worth.

To understand a rational concept quickly may be a measure of skill, but to understand an emotional concept is a measure of depth. It always takes longer to get to the bottom of a deep pool than a shallow one. I know both kinds of pools.

After I tamed the dog in my dreams, my dog Anya joined me in real life. I started to dream about water again. Emotions. My emotions have controlled me for a long time. I didn’t know how jaded I’d become.

I am learning self-love. Self-worth. I am remembering bits and pieces of the raw materials that built me, gears and cogs that once fit into a finely functioning machine.

But I’m no machine.

I’m a human being, and an emotional one at that.

I’ve had 3 cars flood and two houses. This means my emotions are controlling my life. Water represents emotion. More on this later.

In Jungian dream analysis, a car is you and how you move through life. Mine often have cracked windows, chipped paint, a little worn, but they’re white. Honest. Truth.

A house represents where you are at in your development or what stage of your development you are working on. Lessons you are learning.

The basement, for instance, is safety, or the deep dark of your fears which must be faced in the psyche in order to be realized.

Not conquered.

Realized.

Fear has a tendency to mutate perception. Perfectly normal beings become menacing apparitions. When we exhaust our capacity for fear in the dream world (through, for example, recurring nightmares) we finally face the apparition only to find perhaps that the werewolves were merely beagles. Fear is enormously convincing and must not be believed.

What do you fear?

The same is true for the waking dream. Your enemies, the things and people you hate, the qualities about others that bug you the most—those are yours. Those are you. Your perceptions. They are what you fear to become.

This is how hatred is born in fear. In hating, you become fear. In becoming fear, you align yourself with experiences that will constantly ask you to challenge that fear and you can choose to face it and conquer it and see the beagle your fear turned into a werewolf or continue to sit with the fear.

We cannot rid ourselves of all fears. Fear is necessary. It is one of the ways, too, in which we draw the boundaries of our beliefs and personalities. Humans are not meant to be perfect. We grow and change and encounter all manner of creatures and illusions and personal shortcomings and virtues in the forests of our experiences.

My dog came to me to help me through the forest of my emotions. She mirrors them. She shows me how I’m feeling and I need the reminders because I’m so often in my head I am not grounded in my body. We go on walks and if she’s tense I know I need to breathe and maybe we need a run or a long walk today. She reminds me to feed her and it’s a reminder to feed myself. She gets a wild hair up her ass to be a goof and reminds me to play. She wants to be close to me when I’m sad and reminds me to reach out to those close to me instead of isolating. Dogs are amazing.

The roof, in the house of the dream world, is creativity. Think of the dream world house as a reflection of the chakra system. Essentially, the roof is the seventh chakra, the attic the sixth. Roofs provide shelter, a boundary, a container.

I don’t have roofs in my dreams anymore. I shattered glass ceilings and flew through space and time and found the threads of the edge of the construction of our universe. That’s the shit I dream about now. It’s awesome. It’s a mirage as surely as the others. It’s temporary. I’m revisiting this draft now and I’ve been dreaming of dogs and glass ceilings and communist nations in weird industrial lighting since I wrote this.

Anyways, a flood means an overflow of emotion, water representing emotion in the chakra system and in many pagan systems. The former is the same system upon which Jung drew, kundalini being a practice of clearing and aligning one’s chakras.

I’m a lucid dreamer whose been interpreting my dreams using the same dream book (based on Jungian symbolism) since I was twelve. I built a coastline in my dreams over a period of ten years. Dreams were always at the ocean or a beach or river in this coastline. Finally, I made my way off the beach by climbing a waterfall that went into space where the edges of the fabric of the universe were. I have not dreamt of a beach since. I’m now always in space or a white room. I can create the dream I’m in or change it as necessary since constantly interpreting them has allowed me to understand the language of them. I tentatively wonder about dreams and astral travel all the time.

Yoga and studying the chakras enhanced the symbolic language of my dreams to such an extent that new worlds and landscapes and creatures began to appear. It opened up a new kind of consciousness for me.

A great book for studying and using the chakra system is The Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to The Chakra System, by Anodea Judith, P.H.D. This book was given to me by a grandmother who lived in Port Townsend when I was maybe 14. The only time I’d been to Seattle before moving here was with her. It seemed like a weird gift at the time, seeing as I didn’t practice yoga then. I looked at it like some weird voodoo, and vehemently refused to read it. Even touching it was weird. It was too out there. I think I knew the concepts in it would forever alter how I viewed and experienced reality and I’ve always feared change as much as craved it.

But these are the kinds of things that happen in my family. We are witches but they call it whatever they call it. I’m the only one who identifies as witch. The women in my family know things and pass them down. Yoga became necessary for my mental health when I turned sixteen.

A flooded car and house is a wake up call that I am allowing my emotions to rule me to such an extent it is affecting my safety and my ability to get through life.

Roof=safety, shelter, the boundaries of consciousness.

Car=you and how you get through life.

Water=emotion.

Guess what it was speaking to?

Alcohol.

I know I know. Asceticism isn’t the answer.

But alcohol was what I used to drown my emotions. And it’s fucking bad for anyone in excess and yes I loved it in excess.

Alcohol means shutting one’s self down to receptivity, an inherently feminine trait and one associated with my abilities. To shut off receptivity is to shut out emotions, but it is also shut out abundance, knowledge, love, joy. I fully believe one’s capacity to feel deep love is dependent also on the depth of their ability to endure pain and suffering. More on that later maybe.

Here’s what it really comes down to.

Alcohol shut me off to my intuition.

And when I lost my intuition, I started looking to things outside myself for validation and became a vampire.

One must be in touch with one’s intuition to successfully navigate the forest.

Recently, I was thinking about building my own business and started learning and taking classes. Learning and being open to new information is important and necessary for continued development as well as for the continued cultivation of humility, a trait I think is especially necessary for anyone in a leadership position, as it allows room to question, to be mistaken, to find truth even when the truth isn’t what you want it to be.

But relying on external information to make one’s decisions, from a purely rational and logical standpoint that denies the intuition, is the trap so many of us fall into when we decide to do what we’re supposed to do.

How many of you did what you were supposed to do only to find this is no guarantee for basic security let alone happiness?

Do you know what you want? Like? Fear? Love? Enjoy?

Or do you know, love, fear, enjoy, want what you have been told you should know, love, fear, enjoy, or want?

There is a big difference, but the unexamined emotional landscape is one still held by the scaffolding of one’s upbringing. And if the emotional landscape is held hostage by the childhood psyche, well you have failed to traverse the forest, to test your mettle, to become actualized.

If this question makes your guts twist or spikes a small needle of fear in your mind, there’s some digging to be done in your psyche. Someone has hijacked a part of you at some point in time by telling you some bullshit story about yourself that you believed.

Maybe you were cheated on.

Maybe your teacher gave you a bad grade because yours was the seventeenth paper she read in which there, their, they’re were spelled differently and this skewed her judgement.

There is a lot of evidence that we do not have as much conscious control over our decisions as we might hope. Studies have been done on memory, recall, time, and the role of time on perception of reality through memory.

This article from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/time-on-the-brain-how-you-are-always-living-in-the-past-and-other-quirks-of-perception/ states:

“It’s not that our memory is a glitchy wetware version of computer flash memory; it’s that the computer metaphor just doesn’t apply. Roediger said we store only bits and pieces of what happened—a smattering of impressions we weave together into feels like a seamless narrative. When we retrieve a memory, we also rewrite it, so that the time next we go to remember it, we don’t retrieve the original memory but the last one we recollected. So, each time we tell a story, we embellish it, while remaining genuinely convinced of the veracity of our memories.”

This is an older source http://psychnet.wustl.edu/memory/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Roediger-McDermott-1996_JEPLMC.pdf but a fascinating one nonetheless.

Research into the amazing slipperiness of our perceptions and convictions is a challenge to embrace uncertainty and traverse the forest.

I’m a radical naturalist. I disagree with most concepts and practices of modern capitalism and thus I do not function in this society very well if I am driven by what I’m supposed to be or do. I do not break laws though, or kill, though I would to hunt or to defend if necessary. I’m a pacifist, but I try to be a bit realistic. I am beginning to function well in this society only because I decided to pursue my internal compass.

This is a glimpse of the process I use to explore the boundaries of my consciousness and to expand it beyond the childhood confines into an integrated, intuitive knowledge which allows me to reconcile my biases with my actions in a culture I default to not agreeing with:

Dreams, symbolism, emotion, intuition, memory, time, reality vs. illusion.

It’s a drive to find where opposites collide as they inevitably do and to see through illusions.

All I’ve found is there is no way out of illusion because most of what we perceive is illusion on a fundamental level. The reality in which we are fixed is a narrative we tell ourselves around events perceived 13 milliseconds after they have happened, after light has bounced off an object and jettisoned itself into our retinas where it is processed upside down and of which we process only about 10-20% of the picture which, when recalled, is recalled wrongly. Since we are always recalling because the events which we perceived have already passed, we are always shaping the nature of our perception of reality through the narrative we tell of that reality.

If you are used to telling a certain narrative based on past circumstances or old “facts” or what you know is going to happen because red flags, you are going to act based on that narrative and your actions will influence reality as surely as anyone else’s influence yours.

So getting out of old patterns means telling yourself a new story which will feel fake and faint at first because your brain is adapted to a different story, your pathways are pretty well run over like neuron highways.

It’s time to take the off road.

So why does it hurt so damned much sometimes?

In taking those classes to learn about being an entrepreneur, I discovered I didn’t want to build a business. I just thought I wanted to because of what that represents: freedom, strength, independence, wealth. Symbolism is powerful. Keeping one’s mind free of advertisements is perhaps more important than many of us give it credit for.

When it comes down to it, running a business is a lot more stress and responsibility than I currently want or need. I’m happy to work as a gardener and come home and write and read and knit and relax with my man and my dog at the end of the day without checking social media and worrying about sales and paying employees and taxes and editing videos and publishing content and scheduling and insurance and licensing and fucking all the things. I don’t want that.

What’s more, I want to be left alone primarily. I don’t like noise and people are clumsy and impatient and loud and intoxicated and mean and shallow and generally they frustrate me.

I have all these judgements of people which means those things live inside me and are what I fear to become so I probably am all those things.

I am also their opposite.

This is where the ability to consciously choose for one’s self is important and why it is important to overcome the confines of one’s childhood influences and biases.

Tearing down the walls of one’s psyche and consciously rebuilding them is an exercise in choice and autonomy. It is necessary if we do not want to be brainwashed by advertising or “culture.” It is necessary if we want to consciously choose what we believe in.

Look into the neuroscience of memory, perception, belief, bias. Read scientific journals.

You know why the Dude is so cool?

Because he knows control is a bullshit illusion. He gives no fucks. He just moves through life in the flow and goes with it as it comes.

Even trying to unbrainwash yourself is an exercise in brainwashing. Rehab was essentially that. Control is bullshit and we’re all hypocrites and this makes me unbearably happy. It’s hilarious to me.

I have to be careful with those thoughts because getting too far outside the culture is where our over-socialized, rational, ABC, techno culture decides that if you don’t fit into a nice box you are not functioning like you’re supposed to and are thus defective.

I cannot respect a culture that destroys the planet and elects a sociopathic egomaniac to continue to spread hatred and destroy our natural resources as one that is allowed to determine what is effective anymore.

Revolutionaries are often called crazies. But crazy implies a lack of knowledge. Revolutionaries compile knowledge and reveal truths that challenge the culture. If the culture defines crazy or the boundaries of rationality, and this way in which we live is considered rational and not crazy, well fuck it. I’ll be crazy. To defy the culture is the definition of crazy from the perspective of that culture.

But there are plenty of cultures that don’t function like ours. And I believe ours to be extremely arrogant. We have mistakenly dismissed thousands of years of human knowledge and experience in the realm of intuitive knowledge, art, religion, philosophy, and nature to worship rationality, technology, science and math. We need both.

When I withdrawal, as I have done for a month or so recently, I clear out the influence of others and discover my autonomy. I had to because I didn’t agree with what I was being taught because I was taught some kind of fucked up things. Like it’s not okay to live a life without ambition. It totally is.

It’s quite nice sometimes.

For me all of this analysis and research was the beginning of undoing my traumas, my cultural and individual biases, and even the framework of my reality.

I’ve lost my mind a couple times in order to see how so much of what we believe is real is not. I would never condone losing your mind. It’s fucking terrifying. The forest. I’ve been lucky.

It sounds like I consciously intended to lose my mind but of course, we do not control as much as we think we do. We built this illusion of a society to feel like we can control our fates but the reality is catching up in the form of climate change.

The fears are returning to be addressed as they do in our nightmares. Sometimes the choice to not face the fear is one that has mortal consequences.

The fundamental fear that we are being taught by climate change and even this pandemic: control is an illusion.

We are not in control of nature and it’s processes. We are natural beings. To accept our naturalness is to let go of control. To let go of control can equal insanity because our culture is built on a framework of the desire to control stability which is not possible.

Unless you develop intuition.

Every time you buy something, I dare you to ask yourself what it controls in your life. What are you intuitively disconnected from?

Your looks? Other people? Your purpose?

That’s a weird way to understand the self.

To develop intuition, a trust in the self and one’s ability to continue outside of the framework of the culture is the way of the Hero.

Who is your hero?

How and when do they follow their intuition?

What do you do when you meet a scenario for which sense and reason and culture fail to satisfy your emotional experience?

These are the moments I withdrawal. Explore the boundaries of consciousness.

#Foodfulness

To Eat is to Survive. To Taste is to Live. To Savor is to Thrive.

For a long time, food was only about survival for me.

I liked food well enough growing up, but was primarily concerned with whatever story I was lost in or whatever game my siblings or cousins and I were playing. We weren’t allowed to leave the table until all of our food was gone, so I gobbled it down without complaint, most often as quickly as possible, and went off to do whatever. Read or play video games or finish drawing. I was always (and remain to this day) a nerd.

I didn’t know I had cyclothymia, but I can think back to my second manic episode. It came when I was nineteen. I’d been out of high school for two years, having graduated early to stay at home while my family moved to the foothills so my mother, the breadwinner of the family, could take a better job.

After the miscarriage I discovered pot was nice. I was nineteen. The man I was dating was 9 years older. He decided he didn’t like me smoking so I decided I didn’t like him and went to live with Karen and our friend in an apartment across town. I slept behind a bar in the living room of the apartment, a space about as narrow as a closet floor. This was my room. My earthly belongings consisted of books, clothes, and a Japanese lamp that had shelves to hold the books.

I maybe lived there for nine months before we moved to Santa Cruz. This is not the first time I live on someone else’s floor, but it is the first time since I was a kid that I am in what is considered poverty. They were great times, living with friends, getting high, parties, beach days, little to no responsibility.

It was during these nine months that I woke up every morning at 4 AM, smoked a bowl, ran 2-3 miles, read something, journaled something, walked or rode my skateboard to work, cooked at the local cafe slapping together burgers and waffles and salads and cooking eggs in whichever way whomever pleased all day.

Mountains of wasted food came back on those plates.

It is your typical greasy spoon, outrageous serving sizes, melt in your hungover belly grease-coated, butter laden, oil spackled, nasty delicious food.

I was already hypomanic though I had no fucking idea what that was or that I had it. Just, hindsight is 2020. Welcome new year jokes. Anyways, this food waste and the fact that this is what my life is, that this is what I do, that I produce the food that gets eaten by half conscious hungover party goers only for the rest to be thrown out, it settles unhappily in me. Perhaps my first manic episode came shortly after learning how we treat our food before it gets to the truck and to the cook. I will have to see. I don’t think I have any journals from that far back, but I recall a radical shift in my consciousness towards food after discovering factory farming was something I partook in without knowing. I felt dirty. I felt complicit in something evil.

I stop eating for a while. I start to feel sick every time I look at food. I eat weird snacks like grilled mushrooms in butter lettuce with organic slices of expensive cheddar I can’t afford but do because my conscience hurts more than my bank account. I do not eat enough and am quite skinny when we move to Santa Cruz where I am enrolled for my first year of undergrad. The AA was half finished when I graduated high school and is successfully under my belt after the dreaded Statistics class, so I’m not too worried about managing the study load.

What I do not expect is the rest of it.

We get to Santa Cruz, Karen and I, having left our men in Tahoe. Here we face our demons.

Karen begins to drink more heavily. Once she drank half a gallon of Carlos Rossi to herself in an afternoon. Back then I was impressed. Now I want to scream into the past, “Stop you dumb bitch. We’re supposed to grow old together.”

But I had my own demons to face. I got up to go to school at six AM. Took a coffee with some weed tincture to my literary theory class. Loved that class. Killed that class. I still study literary theory for fun. I AM a nerd. Then it was history, world lit, and literary criticism. I loved school at Santa Cruz. The professors were knowledgeable, engaging. The campus was beautiful and I would get high on the hilltops between classes just staring over the ocean, reading or writing. Then I’d head home, change, eat a huge salad, my only meal of the day, run five miles, and go to work where I waited tables for a sexist pig who tipped based on how short your skirt was that night. I had one skirt but he was more generous after each sake bomb of the night. The nights his wife was there were the worst since he couldn’t drink. When he couldn’t drink, our tips sucked. I’d work until midnight, smoke a bowl in the parking lot with the girls, head home, do my homework, pass out at 12 or 1 AM and do it all over. The lack of sleep was nothing to me. I slept 3-5 hours a night until I was fifteen so this didn’t occur to me as a sign of hypomanic. I was so busy with school and work, it hardly occurred to me I was only eating 1 meal a day.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been better off in the dorms. Working to afford an apartment on our own in Santa Cruz was rough and Karen’s job skills were in retail. Retail jobs in Santa Cruz did not pay a living wage. Waiting tables and getting tipped hardly paid a living wage. Karen came to work with me after a while, only for us to discover that the service industry isn’t kind to people with diabetes.

Once again, I was sleeping in the living room on the couch. It didn’t bother me. I was hardly there anyways. Then my stomach started to hurt. I went to a doctor who told me I had IBS and I could take a pill for the rest of my life. For the next three months I worked on elimination diets, discovering shortly that I was allergic to gluten, or at least intolerant. I tried to deny this later and wound up in the hospital anemic and undernourished.

“I’m allergic to gluten,” I told the nurse. “But I drink beer.”

“Well stop drinking beer.”

I eat gluten today, in moderation, and my body is well nourished. Moderation is an amazing thing.

Anyways, the hypomania leading into the school leading into a schedule that required only five hours of sleep a night and one meal a day saw the full fledged development of my eating disorder, bulimia. It was strange. I found myself throwing up because food just didn’t sit right. I remember clearly thinking that it was strange I was throwing up, that this couldn’t be an eating disorder since I was trying to eat, that probably I was allergic to something or there was something going on in my gut.

Meanwhile Karen’s alcoholism gets worse.

I start to get tired.

A teacher hands one of my papers back near the end of the quarter and tells me to rewrite it. “I know you can do better.”

It does not occur to me that he has at least 300 students and is willing to let me rewrite a paper because he knows I can do better. It doesn’t occur to me that is something remarkable.

I rewrite the paper, am told it could go to publication if I’d be willing to edit and expand on a few parts. I leave that quarter and that paper behind, hardly any energy, and head into the next quarter unraveling at the seams. I need insurance to go to the doctor, but can’t get the classes I need for my degree because there are twice as many students at the school now than there were ten years ago and the writing program is impacted. I enroll in a Jewish Bible study course to stay full time to keep insurance to go to the doctor who tells me to take a pill for the rest of my life. I am taking English 103 for the third time since it doesn’t transfer from my AA so I am paying to take a class I could teach at this point. I’m paying out of state tuition because the lady at the admin office needs my birth certificate or social which are with my mom who I barely speak to since the move and the emancipation. I’ve lived in this state my entire life.

Karen is getting so drunk she lays hands on me and I decide this is enough. I make it halfway through my second quarter before I move to Sacramento where my boyfriend is at. He’s cheating. I figure it out and deny it. My eating disorder turns into something demonic and alive. Over the next year it consumes me. I’m tucking burritos at Chipotle, learning knife skills (it’s actually a required lesson in their hiring process at this time, which I think is cool), making friends. Karen moves to Sac too. She and I spend less time together. This is when we grow apart.

And then I turn 21 and we are out at the Irish bar downtown every weekend. I come home hammered. I eat everything in the fridge on my days off and throw it up because it feels wrong. I move in with the cheating cunt boyfriend. My head is fucked at this point from booze, weed, and a lack of nutrition that is about three years running, and from dating someone who gaslights and cheats. I become delusional. I’m thirty thousand dollars in debt for a year of college uncompleted. No degree to show. They call me about paying back my student loans while I kill a black widow that lives under our front door.

This moment stands out somehow. I couldn’t stand being inside anymore, thinking there was some demon living there. This is the house where I start cutting, where I watch reruns of America’s Next Top Model and learn what Americans think is beautiful. I try that lifestyle–being skinny and beautiful. I prefer chillin outside with the black widow and talking to the people at the student loan center.

I’m in rehab six months after turning 21. I’m in rehab because I called someone and said, “If I don’t get help, I’m afraid I’m going to die.”

I went 29 days without eating anything but lemons, cayenne, and honey. Oh and the wine.

I drank super salinated jugs of water to flush out my insides. I threw up until my throat bled. Once I thought I had a stroke over the toilet and that would be how they would find me.

The rehab program gives me a scholarship that is the equivalent of one uncompleted year of school at Santa Cruz.

I still have tons of medical bills after the blood tests and prescriptions.

Three months later, I walk out of rehab eating three meals a day with 8-16 oz protein, some kind of grain or carbohydrate (which feed your brain–carbs are good for you and should take up a quarter to a third of your plate), fats, minerals, and sugars all in proportion, along with two snacks in between, one after dinner if I want. No caffeine. No booze. No nicotine. No processed sugar or dietary beverages. Every ounce of food that went into my body for three months was nutritionally valuable and my brain healed and my gut healed.

I laid on my mom’s couch binge watching Dexter and Weeds for two months. She waited outside the bathroom door when I peed or showered and I had to sing the ABC’s or anything I could think of so she knew I wasn’t throwing up.

I was off the Xanax and Zoloft one month after moving back to Tahoe where I lived in a tiny room that was used to grow weed before I moved in. I meet kind people there and still gravitate towards the cheating cunt sucker instead of moving on.

This is the healthiest my body and mind have been in five years. I’m back working at the greasy spoon. I make friends with old friends who I thought I’d never see again.

I stop eating right and start drinking again and smoking pot.

Healing for three months bought me time I guess. Time to discover that a lifestyle change is more than a trip to rehab. I go to school again because my friend asks me to take a creative writing class with her. I get a scholarship to transfer to a four year college that is forty five minutes away and that I have somehow never heard of despite having grown up in Tahoe. I get a degree. Go through a couple shitty boyfriends.

Life feels hollow and empty. I have forgotten why the fuck I started school. I don’t even like writing anymore because I’ve had so many wonderful writers tell me how to do it better for so long that I’m following all of their bird like chirps in my mind instead of my instincts. The rules make my creativity rigid, then sterile.

I graduate and start teaching. I am too jaded to inspire my students and quit. I go back to cooking. I love cooking. I start to remember that food heals. I suck at cooking and have to learn and be patient and humble and present and I have to taste and smell and be engaged with my food and other people’s food all day every day.

I get frustrated by my lack of ability, by other people who are here cooking as disengaged as nineteen-year-old me was, not giving a fuck. I get angry about how many people around me don’t give a fuck. I become so angry, which is alarming and unlike me.

Anger is my call to action. This means something to me. A good diet could have been the difference between a successful happy life and the weird clamoring for purchase of an existence I’ve been living.

What if all I had to do all along was eat well? What if I was always in cooking jobs because I was meant to cook good food and eat good food?

What if I had learned to value food and nutrition enough to take time out of my day to make sure those needs were being met? What if going to school and work full time are what caused me to not eat…what if doing the right thing by going to school and working hard actually led me in the absolute opposite direction of what was right for me? They did. This is why I do not teach.

Now it’s time to heal for real.

I’m thirty now. It’s been 9 years.

Happy 2020.

The regimen is no caffeine, no nicotine, no booze, no weed, three balanced meals a day, 2 snacks, and a walk.

Fuck.

I start with no booze, and discover that the depression from no booze is rough. I take SAMe which I’ve done a product review of. It sends me into hypomania and I drink to level out I tell myself. Drinking feels bad. My stomach hurts. My body feels icky and my mind is cloudy. I stop. It’s an on and off battle, but I slowly replace booze with knitting and reading and writing and food and tea and phone calls.

There is no reason to drink except that my brain thinks it’s relieving. My brain’s reward center has been hijacked and I have to learn to give it new rewards, other rewards that require time, patience, and work to achieve like a knitted hat, a trip to the museum from the money we’ve put away from not drinking, or a nice home cooked meal.

I am learning to slow down.

I am learning to taste my food.

This morning I have two cups of coffee and I write. I haven’t had breakfast. It’s noon. Breakfast is the most difficult meal of the day to achieve, so I will start there.

Goals:

Eat a balanced breakfast every day. Continue to not drink (which is helping the budget).

Start with one week. Seven days of balanced breakfast and another seven days of no booze. We are slowly adding responsibility, slowly adding quality to action.

Things are slowly, steadily, improving.

It is very clear to me that my choices could have been better. It is clear to me, also, I have done my best.

We go to the ER this morning. DJ is sick and I’m worried sick. They prescribe pain meds after a cat scan for an unspecified abdominal pain that is preventing him from eating. They offer no solutions for what to eat. They offer saltines that hurt his stomach. I ask about what we can feed him and they say the BRAT diet. Bananas, rice, applesauce and the nurse says, verbatim, “The T thingy. I forget T.”

T is for Toast.

They prescribe pain meds for abdominal pain for a patient who cannot eat and offer no dietary suggestions other than an Acronym the nurse can’t remember. I mean, he’s probably been working some grueling hours, not going to harp on him.

Many doctors are not required to learn much about nutrition. They are trained to perform miracles on those who have already been hurt. They aren’t trained to tell you how nutrients feed the brain and body and why it’s important to eat balanced meals three times a day with snacks in between to keep your brain and metabolism functioning.

Nutrition is preventative health care and if you get to the ER, well, it’s already an emergency.

Here is a link to a table describing symptoms that can be caused by simple vitamin B and C deficiencies. This website, mdedge.com, also has tables describing symptoms of deficiencies in Vitamin A, D, and E. In order to look at the rest of the site, one has to be a member as it is part of a professional network.

Sometimes the information is there. Sometimes information is kept from the general public. Sometimes information comes at a cost. Access to information and knowledge have historically been the rights of the privileged. Just read about what the printing press did to religion and how illiteracy contributed to the Christianization of Western Europe. Did you know 1 in 5 Americans is considered functionally illiterate?

“PIAAC defines literacy as “the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential” (p. 61, OECD 2013),” says NCES.ED.Gov. “By race/ethnicity and nativity status, the largest percentage of those with low literacy skills are White U.S.-born adults, who represent one third of such low-skilled population.”

“Through the International Activities Program, NCES supports a variety of activities to provide statistical data for cross-national comparisons of education. On behalf of the United States, NCES participates in the International Indicators of Education Systems (INES), a program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of 35 member countries,” from ( https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/SurveyGroups.asp?group=6).

Those stats come from this site: https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019114 which allows for public access to literacy studies, though there is another link that is purely for private access and requires a special licence to access for reasons of privacy.

Here are two other sites proclaiming the U.S. literacy rate with completely different results and their own methodologies should you be interested in further pursuing this subject on your own.

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-highest-literacy-rates-in-the-world.html

Back to that privileged info thing. The internet wasn’t always here for us to learn from. This is wealth at our fingertips, if we can interpret it, which requires literacy and critical thinking which can, for many, increase with practice. That means the more you read, the better your life can become because you are better able to process information. On the other end of that, you can be like me and read so much you forget how to do normal.

Moderation.

Moving on.

Vitamin B deficiencies can cause:

  • “strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
  • difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
  • anemia
  • a swollen, inflamed tongue
  • difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
  • weakness
  • fatigue”

From Health.Harvard.Edu

That is one deficiency in one vitamin.

Some people have gone so far as to say that vitamin B12 can prevent Alzheimer’s. This article specifically states, ” Although there is a relationship between low vitamin B12 levels and cognitive decline, clinical studies—including those involving people with Alzheimer’s disease—have not shown improvement in cognitive function, even doses of the vitamin as high as 1000 micrograms,” which might be a good indication of the preventative nature of proper nutrition.

Keeping this in mind, I may have some damage done that mere nutrition cannot reverse, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that proper nutrition can significantly improve my current quality of life.

This is what #foodfulness is about. I believe that along with mindfulness, kindness, taking responsibility for one’s actions and position in life (whether or not that’s exactly your fault), and humility, foodfulness, or respect for and appreciation of one’s food, where it comes from, and how it heals, is essential to a healthy life.

There’s a lot Americans do not know about food. There are a lot of foods that are inaccessible to some Americans. Those are topics for their own essays.

Next up: What is a proper diet?

An Attitude of Gratitude

Like many, I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. My parents divorced when I was two, so two holidays was normal. Then they remarried and we had step families and four holidays was just unreasonable, although I remember years where that was sometimes the case. Thanksgiving started to feel like a bunch of jumping through the hoops. The teenage girls are jumping on the fad diet train with their middle aged moms and we need a tofurkey, the right brand of cornbread stuffing mix, and something seasoned without garlic, salt, or butter for grandma’s graves disease. Make sure to get the step kids something for Christmas–they’re coming this year.

The fact that my step mom hated my mom, that sis and I looked a bit like her, and that we got presents from her also, made my step mom dislike us during Christmas—she generally disliked me anyways and I her. Nevertheless, the three girls (sis, step sis who was really just sis in our eyes, and myself) always got the same gift in different colors or styles according to our likes. Sometimes we traded. One year there was an unspoken competition between mom and dad to see who could do the better Christmas and we got a Playstation at mom’s, gameboy handhelds at dad’s. Every year after that, Christmas was about feasting and video games and I came to enjoy it quite a lot as long as we were allowed to clean up our mess from unwrapping presents and play the new Kingdom Hearts or GTA or COD. Whatever. Christmas was about virtual war.

Happy Black Friday by the way, speaking of war. This is the part of the holidays that I think gets people down, if we’re talking about the holidays and the whole “suicide rates increase by an insane percentage during the holidays” thing, I can’t think of something that rattles my cage more than a bunch of salivating shoppers, eyes alight with the vision of owning, holding, buying, that new shiny thing because it’s in.

Yesterday was Turkey Day and I woke up do DJ telling me the bread isn’t dry because I stacked a pan on top of some of it. He’s been tasked with stuffing for the feast and the bread isn’t dry. I’m not a morning person and the holidays are something I’m only coming to embrace again slowly for the sake that they do bring people together. But I don’t want to hear about the failed stuffing first thing in the morning.

I’m not going to shop and find that perfect thing at that perfect price. I’m a cook, cook’s wages, and you guys are getting hand knit goodies and pickling packages.

I’m not going to call everyone on Thanksgiving or Christmas. There. I said it. I don’t have to talk to my whole damned family just because it’s the time of year to do so. If we talk, excellent. If we meet at the Christmas party, great. But the promise of encountering random family members has always been overshadowed by the promise of free booze by which to enjoy them. I’m that person at the Christmas party who drinks all the wine, gets the kids riled up on candy and some dark nursery rhyme game, and leaves to smoke a joint in the woods and say a prayer to the mother goddess. Crazy aunt Courtney. Here I come world.

In college, my favorite paper to write was on the Christianization of Europe, a process which involved Romans taking over pagan temples and stories, attributing their own gods and stories to the rituals and traditions of the pagans. You might do the ritual this way, but our god is the right way.

Ritual and story literally drowned the pagan gods. Enforced ritual and story from Catholicism became law, and law became forever intertwined with Christian values, which are essentially just normal human values with a make believe man attached to them threatening to send you to burn in hell if you don’t do as he says. The man is capitalism and he tells you to go out and buy shit.

So, I’m getting over this whole the holidays are responsible for the scarification of my young psyche thing because as I get older I remember gatherings around the table with my family, good company, good food, and even the most random members of my family, and these are some damned good times. The best. I don’t plan on having kids either, but seeing my sister’s kids or my friends’ kids run around while the adults cook and drink and the kids let loose reminds me of when we were kids running around, makes me grateful for those times, grateful for these times when I’ve figured out what the adults are up to and am realizing it’s not at all what I expected, but it’s better with good company and good food.

I let go of the hatred for the holidays and their meanings, the bastardization of pagan stories and the burial of a way of life that might have kept us closer to the earth. Instead, we have this, and it is what we make of it. I started celebrating the holidays again because they brought me closer to my family, all of whom I stopped talking to for about a decade after high school. I got emancipated at sixteen and peaced the fuck out. Working on holidays was a relief. Bonuses, no family to stress about pleasing. But later, the more I got to know them, see them, and sit down around a table with good food with them, the more I came to realize that I’d forgotten all the good times and was pleased for the reminder that these are the times we must value.

The more stories and memories I hear being related, the more I understand that my memory is awful, my perspective was very limited, and I missed out on a lot of good times. So around the holidays, getting to know and see family again became a way of getting to understand different perspectives of a story that is this life, and this life is richer for it.

And on years when I couldn’t see family, Friendsgiving was just as excellent. I’ve had thanksgiving with my dog and a bottle of wine and a movie and pizza. Plenty of service industry workers work right through Turkey day and celebrate at the bar, which I might have done but honestly can’t remember. Wherever Turkey day brings you, whomever you are with whether that be yourself, your friends, and your family, I hope this holiday brings you plenty to be grateful for.

Trust as a Radical Act of Self-Love

I have trust issues.

I don’t know anyone without trust issues.

I know very few people who are the kind to trust first.

Personally, I don’t remember the last time I fully trusted anyone.

This is the story I’m working with around trust.

On the last day of rehab at Summit Eating Disorders and Outreach Program (shout out to those saintly people–I’m better and I’m a cook!) everyone is given a journal with a note written inside from their primary therapist and a bracelet with a word on it.

“Trust” is written on the little silver bracelet I receive and at the top of the page of this new journal, followed by this excerpt:

“Courtney–

“When you first began treatment, you were very protective of yourself and struggled believing others were there to help and guide you. I sat with you in many sessions observing your inner struggle with making decisions for yourself. Slowly, as you began to take ownership of your life and use your voice I watched you begin to ‘trust’ and follow your own intuition! It was so cool!”

-year 2011

It seems strange to me that I remember this moment today. I once had the first page taped shut, hoping no one would see it but knowing one day I’d want to reference it. Now it’s up for the world to see.

So I guess I’ve come a long way in learning how to trust, but I don’t trust YOU (no offense, it’s just…we’ve barely met). Really though, I believe I am able to trust because I believe I’m strong enough to deal with whatever comes of putting this out there.

Trust in relationships is similar I think. We are capable of trusting others only insofar as we become capable of trusting ourselves, our desires, our instincts, our minds.

We leap into a relationship or drag our feet into one perhaps expecting this one is going to be just like the last one and why even bother?

We see the signs and the red flags.

He hasn’t texted back in 24 hours.

She’s doing her makeup differently. Has she met someone else?

Is he interested? Is she cheating? Do they care about me? Am I being stupid for caring about them?

Firstly, these kinds of thoughts are exhausting. It’s one thing to be caught up in your own version of these thoughts. Have you ever listened to someone else’s version? A woman at work recently opened up to me about liking someone for the first time since her last breakup and all day, despite working a double, going out to drink the night before, and holding down two jobs and a school-full-time schedule, she could only talk to me about how he hadn’t gotten back to her over text since that morning.
I happen to know that the dude she is speaking of doesn’t even look at his phone until after six pm as a personal preference, and upon telling her this she said, “Yes but he went 24 hours without responding once.”

At this point, what can I say? It seems to me her brain is caught in a program of “Can I trust this guy or not? Should I trust this guy?” and while she was talking to me to get it off her chest and get a second opinion, it was clear nothing I could say was going to change her mind. She was in a conversation with her selves: The one that wanted to trust bickering with the one that did not.

Similarly, same day, another friend hasn’t heard back from a newish fling in almost 24 hours and is convinced this is the end because this is a red flag.

Red flags, for one, do not mean BAIL, although if the discomfort is too much, there is no reason to indulge. At the same time, red flags also do not mean that her suspicions are well-founded. Well he hasn’t texted back and the last time a guy did this and before that and this time it’s like and…

Those of us with trust issues will often jump on the first train out of any budding relationship that promises to make us face what it means to trust until we are ready to trust. If you are the kind of person who finds it very difficult to trust because of past experiences with trauma no matter how big or small that trauma is, I hate to break it to you but learning to trust is a giant terrifying leap into a pit that could be filled with pillows or pins or fucking clock swallowing crocodiles for all I know.

But damn is it worth it.

A month before we move DJ and I are fighting quite a lot. We’ve been together eight months. He’s working a lot at R***where we met and started dating. I’d quit two weeks prior after discovering I was getting paid less than most cooks there while working on the most labor intensive station 6 days a week. I asked for a raise or a couple prep shifts and was told I’d work saute when chef said I’d work saute so I walked out. Chef is now opening a bagel shop and seems much happier and the people at R****are still working hard and playing hard I’m sure.

So DJ is working there and there are a lot of fine ladies who work at R***whom he knew long before he knew me and I’m packing our stuff, looking for housing, bartending at a little place by our house, thinking all this time about the what ifs.

For the first time since we started dating, DJ is out all night. He’s at a friend’s, saying goodbye. There’s a girl a woman at work who pitches in to buy him knives with the chefs, hugs him, hands on his chest, staring straight at me and I want to jab my fingers into her big blue eyes and drag her around by the sockets. There’s another who sells him weed, has a boyfriend, and is rumored to fuck other people anyways. She called me Britney once, asked me what I thought of her spandex another time, and is rumored to have slept with one of the managers to pin down the bartending gig that at least three other people with seniority over her were in line for. Rumors.

So I’m thinking about these things while he’s out all night and freaking the fuck out and let’s just say there’s a hole in the wall of my old apartment I didn’t know I was capable of making with an open palm. Imagine what I can do with a fist?

This is insanely unhealthy. There are so many, many things about this narrative that are unhealthy it’s difficult to share here because to me, being in this space of lacking trust in myself, in him, and in other women is the sickest place I’ve been in a long time. My dad punched a hole in the wall when I was younger and I remember every time we’d go to his house thinking that it was stupid of him to punch a hole in the wall, and here I am some two decades later finding I’m perfectly capable of being just as stupid.

I boldly asked DJ if he had cheated on me then or since we started dating and he said “No.” What else? Whether he cheated or not, most people are going to say “no” if asked that question, so where is the logic in even asking?

Further, where is the logic in choosing to spend your life with someone you don’t trust?

So I reflect on this word, Trust, the encounters I’ve had with it, what has happened in life recently. At that point I’d started bartending instead of cooking, I’d quit teaching some few months before, we are barely managing to save, our credit is awful, we’re both exhausted and snappy and are drinking a lot. My confidence is way lower than it was eight months before. Everything I’ve used to identify myself–my career, daily routine, home town, direction in life–have all changed or are about to change and I’m putting quite a lot of faith in someone else, or at least trying.

What if he doesn’t? What if, in the midst of all these changes, he changes his mind?

And it occurs to me that it doesn’t matter. I’ve chosen this. I want what is on the other side of this hardship and this weird ship we’re steering elsewhere.

When we started dating, we’d fuck and go a week without talking to each other. There was no discussion about where this thing was headed. We started from a mutual understanding of “I don’t date and am not interested in dating,” but found ourselves drifting together anyways. It didn’t matter to me what he was doing or up to. He is himself. He has his own life and yearnings and dreams to fulfill. Who am I to walk into someone’s life and ask that they allow me to depend on them emotionally, financially, sexually, or otherwise?

The traditional relationship model baffles me, and yet today that is what we are in after deciding we liked it. I’m finding it works best for me to remember that a relationship can only be as strong as the people in it and I am only responsible for my part. Every time I wonder if I can trust him, I remind myself that this is what I have chosen, that trust is an act of bravery, and that he’d be crazy to put up with my shit if he didn’t like me.

Did you ever have a friend you could be in the same room with doing completely different things, hours of not talking to one another, without it ever getting weird or awkward? You can always be yourself around this person? They are your best friend? Aside from my siblings and my cousins I’ve had maybe a handful of friends like that in my lifetime. Two are gone, victims of diseases Americans are perfectly capable of treating and yet still die from, one who has been my friend for almost a decade and whom I speak to at least once a week, and DJ. All became my friends quite by accident and unexpectedly and all have brought magic to my life. Looking back, memories of friendship are like little warm candles on an otherwise pretty dark road. I have a terrible memory, but the best ones involve friends.

The Cyclothymic Part: One thing that really sucks about having cyclothymia is that when things get tough, it’s difficult to remember better times. It’s like blinders go up, I can only see the possibilities ahead and the consequences of not measuring up to possibilities in the the past. It’s like my mind switches into fight or flight mode for 2 straight months. I get shit done, but I forget how to feel, how to slow down, how to stop and see others, be seen. It’s tunnel vision like boarding a train through life and watching it blur by outside the window. During these times, I want to drink and smoke a lot because my mind is running a million miles a minute, but this is the worst time to be intoxicated. Rational thought, fresh, 1 ingredient foods (Beets, Kale, Apple, Beef, Farro, basically food that hasn’t been processed) meditation, yoga, and music are the best antidote to this state of mind that I have discovered. Also, if you’re a coffee drinker, switching from coffee to tea is a good option during these times.

That being said, sometimes I manage to jump into these healing practices…sometimes I don’t. On the days I did yoga, we didn’t fight. On the days I didn’t, or got drunk, or too high, we fought. It sucked. I am still working on figuring out a method that can snap one out of the depressive state and kickstart motivation for engaging in healing practices. Routines are a good start, as well as getting up early and writing before doing anything else. Something about awakening that narrative voice helps me stay present during the day.

When I come out of this adrenaline state, as I did this morning, a kind of switch like the one that first flicked me into an episode on my mom’s kitchen floor when I was 14, turns on or off, whichever, and the blur clears. Things slow down. The train pulls into the station. My mind becomes more rational and my moods more even. I feel again in a way that is not this overwhelming tidal wave but subtler, happier. This brings back nice memories that I forgot existed and really could have used as a reminder in the darker times but hell that’s my brain.

For a while, it was a struggle every day to make sure that I was not listening to the part of my brain that wanted to sabotage me. The part of my brain that had hope and felt strong was the faintest little voice, barely loud enough to hear, but that’s the voice we have to listen to. The story in my head might be so loud sometimes that I cannot see the silver lining anymore. This is when I have to create the silver lining. This is the power of storytelling, something I’m coming to discover all over again after losing sight of it in the process of getting a degree in English. Ironic.

I don’t have an ending for this post. Just Trust. Take the leap. Be the hero of your own story. Be kind to yourself and others always.