Paperwork Meltdown, or How to Have a Public Freak-Out

I am applying for indigent people health insurance.  I am doing so online.  Here is what you need to realize about this seemingly simple task, I don’t have internet at home, but I do have panic attacks.  So, I have to tote my things to a coffee shop and plug in.  That part is not so bad.  Doing the application is that bad:  I am having a series of panic attacks trying to leave the apartment to fill out the forms, at the coffee shop accessing an account for which I cannot remember a user id or password, on the site while the words spin before my eyes.  I. Am.  Panicking.

What if I do it wrong?  I read the words “perjury,” “fraud.”  What if they need additional paperwork and I cannot get it to them or something changes in my life ever and I goof up the updates?  They will take away my benefits, ask for money back.  I don’t have any benefits, but maybe if I get some that will be yanked away and I will be fooled and forced to pay more money that I do not have and will never be able to acquire.  Then, straight to prison.

I am struggling not to cry.  I am having a hard time focusing on the words on the page.  Every sound in the coffee shop is irritating, upsetting, a nightmare.  I am having a meltdown in public while trying to complete an application.  I am starting to sniffle.  I want to leave.  I don’t have anything completed.  I cannot tell if I am doing it right.  A bunch of times it logs me out and I have to start over.  I have to allow pop-ups.  I cannot figure out how to allow pop-ups.  Then, I cannot figure out how to stop allowing pop-ups from everything ever.  There is a glare on the laptop from the sunlight and I keep grimacing and re-angling the screen.

It feels like everyone can see me crying and freaking out.  Maybe they can.  Every time the website asks me to review a section of info, I stare at it, uncertain that it is correct.  Why are they asking again and again?  Now anger is setting in, hardening.  Fuck this fucked up program and its questions.  Fuck this laptop, fuck these pop-ups, fuck health care and fuck all of these clattering noises and wailing children and fuck me for ever being fucking born.  Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.

The final questions are answered.  I click “submit,” knowing that it is not really over because now I will be status “pending” and will be called upon to verify all of the things that I just said.  I can do that, right?  No.  Maybe.  The desire to cry and smash everything in sight is rising, even as it just started to subside.

And then, the chore is done.  I am still shaking, but it is done.  I still want to cry, but it is done.  I can go home to the disaster of clutter that I created tearing through everything for papers that I brought and did not need.  I can go home and try to put everything back to together.  I can go to my job.

I don’t know how to say how hard it is, how debilitating.  I can tell you that logically it sounds incredibly stupid to me to struggle this much with a task this mundane.  The same thing happens when I try to do taxes, apply for a job, etc.  I realize on a strictly cerebral level that these are just annoying chores and that I should complete them and move on.

Every attempt is exhausting.  Every attempt.

 

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Start with the Question, the Complaint, the Dissatisfied Ramble

I want to throw out everything I own.  I want to build a ramshackle cabin in the woods and live in it.  I want to quit every job and not take another and just write.  Do you know how hard it is to write when all you do is work at jobs that somehow leave you poorer than you started?

I am tired.  I am frustrated.  I can’t tell you how deep it goes without unleashing a bitter and fruitless rant.  My best energies fall to waste; my best talents are obscured.  My money that I work and work for pays the rent of a shit apartment and little else.  It is difficult to make time for loved ones.  The more hours that I clock in, the less that I have to show for the time spent.

What am I doing?  How do I make it better?  When I die, what will have mattered?  What can I do that will not have been in vain?

I want to tell you that it is fine to feel this way, but I am not sure that it is fine.  I am not sure that I should be ignoring the huge, visceral instinct to stop wasting my time.   It seems like we are encouraged to think that any and all work is of value just because we put our energy into it.  I have my doubts.

What if I opted out of capitalism?  What if I opted out of rules?

Perhaps this sounds like useless dreaming–a ramble about a magical world that is not real.  What I know is this:  my body, my spirit and my mind have needs.  I cannot care for myself without giving them time and attention, but to have food and shelter I am expected to spend every waking moment “earning” them.  I would rather learn to make them myself.  I would rather ask for nothing.

I want this life on my own terms.  I want and want and want.  I have no answers.

 

The Feeling of Yellow

The yellow dress of happiness is a real thing.  It is my favorite dress and was purchased at a Goodwill for $7.99.  When I wear it, I feel beautiful.  The design is simple:  fitted bust with spaghetti straps and a loose skirt.  It is a very feminine shape, but it also shows my tattoos and unshaved armpits.  It makes me feel like myself.  I think that it is the color that I love most about it.

But I don’t really want to talk to you about a dress.  This is more about how we lose sight of the importance of our basic senses.  The world is a very sensual place.  We are constantly bombarded with visual stimuli, food options, and store upon store with mountains of clothes to sift through in search of just the right thing.  Perfume counters offer seemingly endless varieties of scents.

We learn to tune it all out.  Or at least, we often try to narrow our focus.  We have jobs, families, friends, partners, pets, and whatever else.  We are busy.

However, I spend much of my time trying to absorb details.  Citrus yellow makes me feel radiant.  Typing on keys that are slick and get oily with use feels better than matte finish keys.  The tang of pineapple juice mixed with orange makes me crave sunshine.  To kiss someone slowly and mean it feels like a decadent ecstasy.

I cannot always tell you that I am invested in the business of life, but I can assure you that I am always experiencing the sensations of my world.  I am alive to it.   When it is so easy to flounder and flub and second guess because our lives are confusing places to inhabit, I will always fall back on small, deliberate joys.  Snapshot_20160724_3

 

Orlando: Thoughts on Fear

I feel as though I should say something about Orlando.  It seems like the right thing to do as a writer, a lesbian, a person.  It is tempting to show you how angry I am, but I won’t.  There isn’t a point to showing aggression in the face of hatred, at least not for me.

What I do want to say is that this tragedy is not mine.  I don’t own the right to it just because I am an LGBTQ person.  Please don’t misunderstand me:  I care.  The sadness of what has happened affects me.  However, it is important to me to be respectful.  I cannot lay my life and experiences over these events and use it as a template to understand their lives.  We are all intersections of race, religion, socio-economics and so much more.  The people who fall into the labels of LGBTQ are individuals, not one flamboyant stereotype to add some rainbow to your heterosexual khaki.

I don’t go to very many clubs.  I like bars that are more pub-style.  I like beer gardens where I can sit in the sunshine and read a book.  For me, clubs are not a safe space because they feel too chaotic.  I don’t relate to that emotion, but I know many who would.  It is a personality thing, no doubt.

My safe spaces tend to be other people.  My safe space is often myself.

That said, I do not walk around this world in fear.  I refuse.  I will go where I please and do as I please.  Is it safe?  No.  But I will not be hemmed in by hatred.  I will not be contained.  This is my world too.  Deal with it.

What a Road Trip Teaches

I took a nice long road trip last week.  I went alone and I did what I wanted, when I wanted.  This trip was for me.  That’s a powerful thing.

I could rattle off cliches about how we could all use a break or about why we ought to make a bit of time for ourselves, but I think it can go a lot deeper than that.  I think taking time away from everything that is familiar and asking yourself what you want, following those desires moment by moment, can be transformative.

I drove out to Boulder, Colorado and challenged myself to enter those beautiful Rockies with my somewhat uncertain Taurus.  I slowed down, got scared, said “fuck off” to a million more able drivers…and I did it.  I saw the Rockies.  I listened to what I wanted.  When I first saw them looming in the distance, I started to cry a little.  I was overtired and they were so lovely.

And sometimes there was genuine sadness.  Driving down lonesome roads in Nebraska, I found myself sobbing as I listened to Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” a song so honest it cuts me down to my soul.

Other times, I felt myself so full of joy.  I hugged a bulldog that followed me around and felt like this was everything.  At least for a moment.

I saw the places I belonged and the ones where I didn’t.  I was greeted by uncomfortable stares from men in Kansas every time I stopped for gas, food, etc.  Their eyes looked harshly at my tattoos, my piercing, my lack of fucks given.  They tried to burn me with the obscene gaze of lust and hate.  I ignored them, unafraid.  This, I thought, is who I am.  This is always who I am.  Forever.  And I won’t give you my fear.  I don’t have any to give.

I can tell you that I saw things there that jolted sharp memories of other parts of my life, moments when I texted friends things that they likely didn’t want to hear.  I can tell you that I was alive to my truths, both lovely and ugly.

My current life is so small.  It could be different.  It still may be.  I looked into those mountains and I felt at home.  There were tourists from South Carolina staying a door or two down.  They asked for ideas, itineraries, a sort of pure breed of tourism.  But I sank in.  I absorbed.  I touched flowers in neighborhood gardens, chatted with random people about their lives.  I drank coffee and sat around.

Ultimately, everything I do is what I have chosen to do.  Even in work, I could so easily just walk away if I chose to leave.  No one tells me what to do.  Only myself.  It was only ever me.

I am just learning that this is true.

Mother’s Day and the Art of Presence

I decided to sneak into my parents’ house for Mother’s Day and surprise them, but when I arrived no one was home.  I set out the card and gift I had brought and sat down.  I spent a lot of years living in this house with them, but now it feels unseemly to open the fridge or muss a blanket on their sofa.  It is so silent, so unlike the banging and yelling chaos of my neighboring apartments.  Their cat is indifferent to my presence.  I would not know where to look for extra floss or toothpaste.

I am a distinct and separate unit.  I have been for a while.

I try to imagine them  out, probably to dinner or for a walk.  But I like to imagine they become entirely different when I am gone, reckless and carefree.  What if they stayed out all night dancing and getting trashed?

A magazine I was published in sits on a coffee table.  My photo of a birthday is on the entertainment center.  There are reminders of me here and there.  It makes me think of the ghosts we carry of the people we love when they are not present.  I’m not talking about death, or at least not exclusively about death, but more about how we hold our beloved ones before us always, imagining them in places they are not.

This is what you would say, I say.  And then I make guesses.  This is what you would do, I decide.  And I make more guesses.

I look at the photo of me, clueless as to that former self.  What would she say?  What was she thinking?  The younger me, forever blowing out candles.  She sits in front of me and I cannot animate her.

New Publications!

I have been lucky enough to have four new stories published in three magazines over the past few weeks!  If you are interested, please consider checking them out.

Granola ran “Mother’s Day” and “The Ugly Us.”  The former is a story about a woman who continuously gets pregnant with twins.  Mayhem ensues.  “The Ugly Us” features a couple who runs into their dopplegangers…with unsettling results.

The Pine Hills Review published “Titanic Built for Two,” a piece about recovery from a breakup.  It mingles humor and sadness in an effort to convey ongoing love in the face of absence.

And lastly, Thrice just released “Everything is Always Now, Everything is Always Gone,” a story about a lonesome woman who finds that her childhood toys can come alive.

If you have been busy at work writing too or have a piece you’d like others to read, consider leaving it in the comments!

Thanks for taking the time to read and support my work.  We all need ways to connect with the world around us.

Night Poetry

Most of my nights are spent on my couch, drinking a beer or two and devouring poetry books whole.  I linger over the same lines, trying to burn them into me.  I circle and star and underline.  I contemplate tattooing the words into my skin and then worry that I do not have skin enough for all the words I long to contain.

I drink in every passage about longing, absence, solitude, and loneliness.  Every broken-hearted misery is a reminder, a kinship.

I spend my nights with Nick Flynn, Sylvia Path, Rumi, and Gibran.  I listen to Patricia Smith slam down hard poetry on my tiny phone, rattling all of me.  Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti consume me like a wildfire.

I listen and listen, alive and wild.  They say to be a good writer it is necessary to be a good reader.  While that is likely true, I am not sure how one functions without these necessary words.

After days of havoc, this is my shelter.

 

Uncontested Winners

Contests, contests, contests!

They are everywhere.  I rarely enter because losing seems like an inevitability when so many are clamoring for a single prize or two.  However, each year I try to enter one literary contest and each year when I do, there is a moment right after submitting that is a huge high.  I fucking did it!  I sent it out and my work could win!

It’s not impossible.  I was a finalist in a Glimmer Train competition once.  That’s pretty prestigious.  That’s why I am telling you.  It is my way of proving to you that the work that I do has some kind of worth.  I was a finalist.  Therefore, I do not suck.  I should continue to enter contests.  I could win.  Need further proof?  I refer you to my previously published page.

That said, I do not think that I will win.  If I actually thought that I would win, then this would lead me to feel like a pretentious, arrogant, dick.  So here’s to the thrill of not having lost yet!

Of course, the next thing we need to mention here is that even the best judges are still making a choice that is not perfect.  It’s not math.  You don’t just select the “right” one.  So that is a part of it too.  Whether I win or lose could be dependent on who makes the choice.  Maybe another good judge would make a different decision.  Maybe the same judge would make a different decision if asked again a year later, or after a big breakfast.  Who knows?

But for right now, I have the high of not having lost yet.  It is sort of like the high of realizing that one day you will be dead, but not today.  Today, you made it!

And to you, the contest that shall remain nameless, I will name you if I win.  And I will say to all the nay-sayers, I do not suck.

 

 

 

Lit Gaps: Don’t Put Me on the Half Shelf

So I have the same conversation about books all the time, just with different people.  I look at the publishing industry and for all of amazing, brilliant work that I love dearly, I rarely find books that do LGBTQ stuff in a way that satisfies me.

A few things:

  1.  There is really not much out there…at least comparatively
  2.  Lots of authors who do LGBTQ characters are telling a “coming out” story. I don’t  want that.  I might have as a teen.  Not now.  But hey, at least it is something.
  3.  The premise of the book is that someone is gay.  So what?

What interests me are great stories in which somebody happens to be a lesbian or bisexual, whatever.  I don’t want the book to explain the identity to me or to reassure me.  They don’t have to be a brave hero toiling for their rights.  They can be an asshole.  That’s fine.  They just need to be an asshole as part of being a person, not as a result of being gay or trans, etc.

The simplest way to say what I want to read is to say: name your favorite book.  Now make a character queer.  Resume story as usual.  My precious Wuthering Heights could have been Catherine and Heather, as opposed to Heathcliff.

Books about what it is like to be a lesbian or how it feels to be bi are usually written more for the benefit others.  They are most beneficial as a sort of minor epiphany for those who have trouble conceptualizing what it would be like to have a different orientation, etc.

We could certainly be having this conversation about other types of diversity too.  I’m not attempting to ignore the lack of representation for any number of races, ethnicities, religions, etc.  I’m not prizing one fight over another.  The fights all overlap anyway.  I’m not just a lesbian.  I’m also an atheist.  I’m also lower working class.  Oh, and I have a master’s degree.  I’m all kinds of things.

When I write fiction, my characters tend to be lesbians.  I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about “representing” them.  They are just people bumbling through the world and (hopefully) keeping readers reading.  I don’t want to be ghettoized on some half shelf for a niche market.  I don’t want to hunt for representation in a cobwebbed corner.  I want diversity to be mainstream.  And literary.  And in genre.  And in local.  I want diversity to be:  DIVERSE.