I inhaled the knife

You didn’t encourage me to write or let me know I could do it

you told me; you can’t spell

you don’t speak any language well

you have split ends and are at times

manic like a dervish without charm

but you’re always on time, good at lifting heavy things

maybe you should organize talented people’s lives

because you don’t have any of your own …

talent that is.

I didn’t listen. Not because I didn’t believe you

Oh I did. I inhaled the knife.

Sometimes the road will hurt like a thousand feet

trodden on your back, weighing your down

but what can you lose? 

Still not speaking any language perfectly

you may hate me … but I?

I send you love and I send you love

because that’s all I have.

I remember the year

I found a rabbit on my window ledge

celebrating six months of not wetting the bed

I had peed into nightmares wondering

if you would ever return, but you never did

though you may be surprised

I gained strength through that pain

even when you think I am weak in my ways

I see the courage in being able to feel

the toughness it takes to love when you are not loved in return

because I still can’t spell and you laughed at me and said

what writer can you be if you don’t know

your pronouns from your iambic pentameter?

Hemmingway. Austin. Oh I can name a hundred … 

But I learned anyway and by then it didn’t matter

because you’d already made your pronouncement and left

your wet umbrella still propped by the door.

I thought of all those souls like me

who were not taught words of light

instead the dark shroud of incessant criticism

who did not learn how to believe in themselves

recalling all the reasons you gave

for why I will always be a failure and a disappointment

then I wrote it down

poured myself onto a page

not always perfectly groomed 

with the savagery of one who has

felt so much and loved so hard

in the glaring halo of afternoon

where yellow turns to indigo

suffusing everything 

momentarily incandescent 

Felis catus

I didn’t care as much as the blood on the snow implied

it was after all just a horror show

you, with your nimble ways of

poking holes in my armor

you, with your kind smile and sharp knife

twisting screw

letting good drain out with bad

till meaning held no color.

I didn’t blame you at first

it’s a fact … some bite

they are taught to by pain

it’s a refuge, a coping mechanism, a

twist and writhe in slim net

of sanity and pathology

that’s all they know

the feral in their fur

if you try to be kind

they will purr

then go ahead and bite you.

I took my bleeding hand

stuck it in my mouth

to prevent saying the things I wanted to

Then I remembered all the little ways

you’d been before, the bare indifference

how I’d tried. Why had I kept on trying?

What possesses us to be kind

to broken things whose disapointment

in themselves turns to savagery?

At least it gave you an opportunity

to use that tenderness against me

I did feel a fool until I realized, yeah …

maybe you were my enemy all along

in that slow icing way you left me feeling emptied

which may say something about me

and how I should learn to try less

I’m sure you’d say; “nobody else can make you feel bad

without giving your permission.”

But I think I will disagree

that’s a passive-aggressive crock … Psych101

it’s your fault … no one else’s

with your holier-than-thou certainty

convinced you’re above us all

I walked away from the snow and the blood

a little cross at myself for not remembering

you can’t hand feed

wild cats.

A dying art

(We’re in our 4th day of power and water outages here in TX but I had written this just before so I’m posting it now via my phone:)

I understand when people submit work to the publishing company I work with and they are rejected and feel badly. I understand because there is a formula in the publishing world that goes something like this;

If you are the IT person of the moment, if you possess the right age, gender, skin color, ethnicity, immigration status, political affiliation, tattoos, etc., etc., then you might get published on that basis alone. Whether good or bad, you are the dish du jour.

If you are not the above, then you either graft away for years, building a network until you are published. Or you give up.

But in between those extremes, there are those like myself who work long full time jobs and still want to occasionally publish something. We submit to submission calls periodically and many times are astounded at the rudeness of rejections. Or watch as less talented folk get published because of ‘who they know’ or they fit a criterion.

When we produced The Kali Project, we were told by many, that we were ‘so polite and thoughtful’ which saddened us to think (and know from personal experience) how unkind the publishing world can be and how it doesn’t have to be.

Why would you want to tear someone down just because you can?

We receive some really ‘poor’ work but we always treat people with respect. It’s surprisingly easy to do. Many ‘poor’ writers end up becoming quite accomplished, if you give them encouragement to improve.

Recently I was recommended to a publisher by an agent friend of mine, as being a good place to submit my own fictional book. The response to my submission was: “We did not find this interesting at all and have no wish to pursue.” Granted, that must be their opinion and they absolutely have a right to it, but could they have said it differently? Given 3 large heads in publishing pushed me to try to get the book published, I’m pretty sure it’s not without merit. There are just better ways of responding.

A dear friend of mine who is a famous, published writer, told me one of her first books was reviled by over 100 publishers before a small publisher took a risk and now, she’s a worldwide best-selling author. So, if this happens to you and trustworthy people have said you have talent, don’t let it stop you.

It is so easy to tear someone down and so easy to build them up. I don’t contribute as much as I would like to this world but I hope I support others and encourage them if nothing else. Obviously positive-criticism has a strong place at the table. But cruelty should not.

Blooding

I made myself a promise I can’t keep

to stay steady, even in times of grief

not obey my gut and flee, bare-foot

into thick forest where birds

never rebuke

not to climb from shaking boat

wet wood and mold, scarred paint and

many gentle hands

cupping despair in her once tree lined womb

ever tempted to fling off effort

abandon the temple of people and their

admonishments

those truthful kindnesses flung back in reproach

by those who have no use of you

standing like husks by the road

waiting to snag your heart to shreds.

The woman across the road lifts her shirt

stuck slightly with glue from hospital monitors

a strange gel they affix electrodes to

when they’re getting ready to cut

she fills her chest with the congestion of the late hour

burning in filament

like fire birds finding song in dark

her dream is to be whole again

not lopsided, scarred in rivet and rent flesh

by hands that delved into her bones.

All my life I have observed

cruelty and condemnation in

its varied shadow forms

and marveled at how, little we pay attention to

the necessity and sincerity of kindness

instead we humiliate it

as if we were telling a child;

stop crying, stop being a blubber mouth, grow up

get some backbone, stand up for yourself, fight back!

Mistrusting those who stoop

to pick up your fallen groceries,

ask how you are, give what they can

though it be imperfect, irritating to

the red welt of anger surging in

collective consciousness, waiting to strike

who needs gaslighting? When we have

a veritable volcano, ready to turn

hearts into stone.

I knew a child once, who

fought well, she wore split lips like this seasons color

and her eyes saw in the dark

wishing to change the indifference she observed

when adults stepped on toys and did not

mend their breakage

that same child grew up into a flawed but kind adult

who wished many times

she wore a thicker armor

for the chill of strangers

has never borne fruit nor become easier,

as if you wore

sewn neatly to your chest

a scarlet letter

made of nothing more than

the dye of words

that look so very much

like blooding

(blood•ing (blud′ing), n. [Chiefly Brit.] British Terms (in fox hunting) an informal initiation ceremony in which the face of a novice is smeared with the blood of the first fox that person has seen killed).

Defacto

And the big ball in the sky and the slit eye of Un Chien Andalou and the upturned chin wielding the knife and the rinsing sink pouring sacred wine said:

Why don’t you believe in yourself?

Others who are fair to middling to pithy served over weak tea (don’t you just hate tepid and the nudity of wearing clothes?).

The result of waiting in your head, as others stream out and strap their wings, the consequence of exile, invariably madness, the quiet kind most likely, sometimes the type they label histrionic

which is really a way of saying get it out, your woman-hood and your messy gore, leave us nothing of who you were, be gone feelings, welcome the sunshine state of not giving a good god damn

They believe. They over believe. They sit fat and grand with crown and chips and mushy peas and rosacea and secret leak-proof underwear

they preen and fetishize their dusty heads with nothing special inside the sagging tent. So why not you?

You who are marvelous, hideous, magnificent, repulsive, malodorous from not washing (did Simone Mareuil wash underneath her arm-pits before committing suicide by self-immolation, dousing herself with gas-lit-fire in a public square somewhere) 

when the rot and the unplanted bulb decays in damp corners and still produces no birth. You who are broken in the long arm of fracture and making an art of surviving by licked many times, thin string, waking to the caw of crows and their beady-eyed-scream. Why not you?

You who succumbed to the Piper and didn’t wake up, not once, somnambulist, you write behind your wafer-thin eye-lids, ink streaming like borrowed tears, nobody reads, water or divination, they simply don’t believe that crap anymore (I don’t even believe in YOU anymore)

We wouldn’t lie to you would we? (whisper whisper whisper) we tell the truth (oh surely, we do, we do) we venerate you on Monday and poach your blue eggs badly on Thursday. Liar liar liar! You let the cat out and she was run over by the hill you never walk UP.

That’s why. That’s why. That’s why.

Ooohhhh that’s why
It fits like a glove (big hands, black heart) not your glove, your glove is velvet and lost, your glove didn’t ever feel right when it was on

fits like a mussel in your mouth, squirming. A muscle unused (you don’t desire me, I have lived too long and too short, I don’t drink enough to blot it out, I am a thing of dust that isn’t touched or fucked or run-over) cold mussels in brussels (overcooked always worse than raw)

I tried to be frank (all cold thumbs, warm brain, brain on fire, leaving debris of a life badly lived, in little love bites around her neck, praying mantis wearing jewels)

you turned me down for the jingle jangle and fizz and pop (old hat, large gloves, ashen feet, holes in the middle of you like whiteout) one pierced ear, Queen of Hearts. Black nave of Diamonds burrowed deep in fecund rib.

I would if I could (believe) but your exquisite lie is a third eye in my fever dream, it pulses like Soho

It tells me not to swallow.

(Inspired by Un Chien Andalou, 1929,  Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí).

Two opposite ends of the same breakage

I a child

asked her, an adult

what does it take? To be merciful?

How much effort? Will it hurt much? Why

doesn’t the whole world

try?

And she, an adult

fiddling with her rings, two on each finger,

because she had run out of places

to exhibit her finery, her sophistication,

she, thought of where she would go

when she left our run-down, poky house

and did not return for supper

and what she would do

when she wasn’t weighed down

with runny nosed children and yellowed aprons.

She, who has the mind of three bright men

and a heart that did not really hold space

for people who could not spell, or those who were

slow, ones who did not impress, their light not bright

but stuck in amber, she said naught,

for she liked fine things

over much

and that did not include

wellington boots and children’s well played with toys

dragged through muddy pathway, leading to small houses

where there is life, oh laughing, gainful life, but raw with

the knuckles of everyday, up to their elbows in greese

and the machinations of surviving.

I, a child

asked her, an adult

what does it take? To be merciful?

watching the baby bird, turn to bone and feather

beneath the great conker tree, its crimson roots

like great yawns beneath moss, reaching through

heavy clouds with the hands of imploring worship

and life

so harsh and unwilling, to include ‘fairness’

would steal away humanities belief in kind deeds with its

brutal parsing

which is why , my grandmother, sitting on our stoop, paring apples,

with a sharp knife inherited from her father

told me once

(and she could never spell, for she left

school early to work in poorly paid factories

only once managing to get through

The Communist Manifesto).

Child, we must be good, we must be kind.

For nothing else knows how to be, they simply

act upon their instinct to survive. Like

the lambing season, when a new lamb is

born and the mother dies, we turn our eyes

heavenward but there is no tenderness, only

the brutal knot of nature, felling her herd

till balance is restored. Our human hearts

with our aching over suffering, fit poorly

with the callous hand of nature, she must

cull with her sythe irrespective of who deservse,

there is no mercy as we know it, in this

whittling of life. Only those who survive

and those who do not, dying in bleached

bones by the thoroughfare of our journey.

I thought then of you, with your

fine clothes and your well trained mind

and empty rooms filled with piano playing ghosts

how you were

much like the nature I saw around me

beautiful, wild, out for your own gain,

surviving at any cost

and I

the strange flux of humanity and terror

seeking to be merciful

among the debris of our eternal battle

with light and dark.

I knew then, why you despised me

why I loved you

it is like the fable of the scorpion and the frog

it is your nature

to sink deep into the foaming earth

showing only your glacial tip

as it is mine

to seek mercy, in unyielding hearts,

two opposite ends of the same breakage.

If we always run from being stung, in Summertime

sometimes we miss out on dawn

thus we must permit

the risk to gain, a possible reward

high in silvering trees

where the sleepy bears

hide their honey.

Letter to a dead friend at 5am

Natalie my friend.

Because you are you know. A real friend.

Though you lie beneath your roses now and I

feel as if I lie beneath them, with you.

For I am not as alive, once, twice, three times

as you ever were

you, who were beloved in life, you, who passed too soon, too well

into the light, beyond to your garden

where those who loved you and there were many

sat cross-legged waiting for you to tell a story

make us laugh, make us smile, radiate with your old world charm

for you were one of the last ones, the best generation

reminding me of my grandmother, those fine ladies of yester year

who did not have our mistakes and our errors, the Booming Boomers, befuddled Gen X kids, lost Millennial’s who

never quite learned, how to wake up early and brush their hair, until

it gleamed.

I keep your photo, I retain your last message to me, I have a quote on my

desk you wrote

and mindful always, you told me; Listen, don’t give a shit

don’t!

People will hate you, especially if you are good

it’s the way of the world, you told me, smell the roses, don’t give a damn

and don’t forget to swear copiously …

I have forgotten many things, my rule book is sabotaged, I keep making

the same mistakes, *stop it!* (say nothing, it’s safer!) I blunder as if I were a child sometimes, unsure

of the etiquette, not able to read minds and plunge my hands into

the mass of wriggling thought, to harness something tangible

I never understood humans ever so well (why are they so cold?)

their mascinations, their secret selves, it were as if being

an only-child I watched from the outside with bemusement

(or horror) (or incomprehension) why do they survive without needing

something? Someone? More than ego? Self-satisfaction? What

urges them to action? If not something meaningful?

One minute they would be saying, they loved me and the next

turning a cold shoulder, the variations, the deceptions, the quiet

subtext I did not relate to, what ever did they mean when

they went silent and I dropped like a dying star (autism is

more honest than what we deem normal, i’m certain)

out of their orbit? How to tell? What to care about? (I am

afraid of not mattering to anyone, and everything I do being futile, I don’t

want to go my entire life as lonely as now, with that hollow

fear inside my mouth, unable to come out, lodged deep

like a burrowing moth will press itself like unbidden velvet).

Natalie – – you said; Child, don’t care so much

for nobody cares as much as they say they do

unless God is watching and even then, they would be loved

without putting forth effort, they would have worship without

knowing the feel of ground skinned beneath their knees

few will truly care, this idea you will have a devotional

following, is only for the wicked and the vain, if you are lucky

I mean — really lucky

you may have friends you can count on one hand

who truly, when the chips are down, and before dawn has come

will turn to you and rise you up

from sickness, in health, in death, who will come and pay their respects?

I recall your funeral, how we passed down the long line

many were your contemporaries, women you said used to

criticize you for swearing overly, even accused you of making it up

about your mother, (surely her life wasn’t that hard!) but that’s why I love you, you said

for you believed me straight away and with the innocence

of children we came together, I had my first seventy year old friend

staying long at the coffin, flowers on top, clouds filled with rain as

if God were waiting until we passed, to let loose his tears

I didn’t believe in God, as you did, I did believe in you and you

were faithful and hypocritical like the best of us

a flawed, imperfect, relic of a human being with

magnificent hair and a dirty laugh.

I should have come visit more often, I said,

as we all say when someone meets their grave and the

smell of dirt is in our nostrils, time being as it is, so fickle

and short, and we, who are still young, think we are far

from this hour, not so far, not so far.

You told me, listen, forget what you’ve learned about

piety and mortality, people are beasts, the world is cruel

but if you can find someone who loves you, then hold on

for dear life, and do your best to help them through

for there is nothing sadder than loneliness in a room

full of people and there is nothing better than one hand

reaching for you in a crowd

pulling you out

into fresh air, where if we were the same age

I suspect I would have stood up to those who bullied you in

your thirties and told your mother to go hang when she

said she found you a disappointment

I know how that feels Natalie, we shared the same stories

forty years apart, when you were born I was not

still feel I am not, I miss you because

you were a riddle in a lesson in a riddle in a lesson and I

don’t meet people like you very often, nor have I in a long while

stood in your garden and smelt the roses, they bloom just

before the light you said, just before it begins to dawn and

that is when I would most like to close my eyes for the last time

and sleep forever.

On that day you died, I watched out of my window

for surely there would be a sign, something of you

gathering into the ether, if I took my glasses off and squinted

maybe I could see in the unyielding darkness a little of what

you spoke about, that stirring of Gods and tempests and

humans lost on their own gloat, people who exist without

giving a damn about, each other, or the basics of care, I never

understood, even if I were well versed as you, on parents who

didn’t really want (me) (us) (you) (I) (anything).

Last night I dreamed of going braless to the store and seeing

an old lover who stared at my chest the entire time, I dreamed

of boarding a plane with nobody on it, except waving oxygen masks

I dreamed of you and I dreamed of my mother

in the dream of you, you were walking through the rose

bushes and in time you were out of sight, and music I liked was

playing through an open window and I saw you take flight

and soon you were high in the sky and my eyes could no

longer follow your trajectory and I thought – – maybe I should

let go, but I don’t want to, I never have wanted to, I can’t

it isn’t in me to let go – – – (God I wish it were!) and the dream was about my mother

and she had always been gone and wasn’t there and

I was (holding her hair brush)

and I was (stepping into a lake)

and I was (still)

left behind to take these memories of people and sustain them

as if a bomb had obliterated everything but my recollection

be it real or wrong or scattered like pollen, I don’t know

I don’t know what to do Natalie, to be loved? Be glad of shrugging

them all and living in a cabin in the woods? Or to matter, to

be of consequence, like I felt with you. Was it because you were

old or just kind or just hurt or just battered by your own mother who

you said told you she had wished she had

a boy and not a girl and not you and not you and not you.

Why do the good ones die? Why will one day I watch them

throw flowers for my mother and long then, to have had her

tightly woven around me like clay

but untouchable is untouchable and yearning is for children

(she won’t have a funeral anyway, she doesn’t believe in God

either, and she won’t invite you, no she won’t invite you least of

all to a wake without a wake).

So grow up and put your shoes on child, your feet will get muddy if

you continue to walk bare foot when it rains and the thorns

will always sting even if you are pricked countless times

there is a sharp edge to beauty you said, did you know, I was once beautiful?

I know I replied, I can tell, you still are, because a woman with

wrinkles like ships on her cheeks can smile just once and

a room is devoured by her radiance

if others can’t see that, it’s all right

I think of you now, and then and in the future

alongside my day as I work beneath the fan, it is still hot

in September, yes you said, it always was in bloody infernal Texas.

People remain alive in our memories or they are forgotten

as I am, before they die

it’s all about how much they exist and what magical

recipe keeps them real and how much glue they possess

and whether they hold on, out of sheer bloody mindedness

or just for the hell of it

or perhaps they swear a lot and eat three over-easy eggs for breakfast

when the sun rises and the day is golden

and we begin over

like fools

like humans

like lovers of people who are warm and good

Natalie, like you.

Not quite natural enough

frida-review-dance2~21044987047..jpg

I would like to be

a bit more toward normal, ordinary, unnoticed

because when we hold hands

people stare

bubbles appear above their heads

they say without moving their mouths

she’s a lesbian?

what a shame.

a terrible loss

I bet her father sexually abused her

surely some man really mistreated her

don’t you remember how strange she was as a kid?

Do you think she watched me closely when we went swimming as teenagers? Gross!

I always thought she looked at me in a weird way. didn’t you?

I feel uncomfortable around her, (she’s not like us).

And so I do not

book double rooms in some hotels

for the stares of receptionists cleave my good intention into bitter twine

I do not cup your hand in mine on every street

sometimes I let go, when I see a certain type of glance

I see their flickering of disgust

read like braille, the unsaid words

Unnatural!

Filthy minded!

Disgusting waste of a female!

Around their pursed ashen mouths

as they talk about their dishonest children

as they talk about their cheating boyfriend’s and husband’s

the new grandchild, the latest form of contraception you

don’t even have to take it every day.

Even Plath and Sexton might have

raised an eyebrow and shuddered it was

so deeply entrenched to be judging even among

fine minds. When I read about you Radcliffe

I clutched the paper so tightly I thought I tore

your very sentiments out of print into my

aching lonesome chest.

I wear my hair long as a justifying act

I don’t use communal changing rooms

in case you think I’m looking at you, or worse, why

aren’t you looking? Why didn’t you desire me? IS

a woman who loves another woman supposed to

be the poster child? I don’t want my photo published

next to your intolerance and dissatisfaction in

your moldy marital beds just leave me well alone

I’m doing my thing, it’s not part of yours

don’t flatter yourself, just don’t flatter yourself

you’re not my type.

I know what you think, when I say I’m a feminist

you think; well those types usually are

I want to buy you flowers and bring them to your office

I want to propose a wedding no-one would attend

because people don’t think we’re the same as they are

we’re just girls who haven’t met the right guy

wounded, unnatural birds with confused identity

our parents lament us like Thalidomide babies born

without limbs, bespoken to no-one

if they could, they wouldn’t talk about us at all.

I couldn’t go to some countries, with you on my arms

they’d stone us for who we are

and I’d carry the stones in my mouth and walk into a lake

before I expressed my shame

my shame at being natural

for me

and not quite

natural enough for

everyone else.

Outcome

lungs of hte worldShe came into town

breathless with excitement

they were dying around her

but she wanted to go for coffee

to get her nails done, her hair, wax the city

burn the little temples of obedience

she didn’t think a swath of fabric

let alone standing apart like courting

birds

could slow the spread of something

fictional

she was young, though not as young as others thought

Botox took care of that

and a little filler

her heart was set on

kicking up her heals and the virus

was just a news cycle

nothing to take seriously.

Waking in hospital she

momentarily forgot to

smooth her hair down until

she felt her fingers brittle and cracked

her beautiful face marred with fever

“at least I survived” she smiled

with yellowed teeth, hot with flux

half joking at the scared nurse who

was working her second double shift.

They decided not to tell her yet

until she was out of danger, if indeed she ever

was

that her father, mother and little sister

were not going

to wake up again

and join in her

merriment.

WHAT WE VALUE

Our society worships entirely the wrong animal, venerating them and reducing others to ash.

The news recently devoted a good portion of the sports coverage to how much money certain sports figures were going to be paid for kicking a ball across a field. And this in a time when our jobs are dissolving, our society is being wrecked, our economy may be irrecoverable and certain industries will cease to exist en mass. Put simply, there will not be jobs to come back to folks but apparently we still need to pay these guys billions for their service to humanity?

I cannot understand how ANY society and how any of us can tolerate/accept a sports figure being paid anywhere NEAR that sum for what they do when those who really do jobs worth paying, are dying in droves because they are not receiving enough personal protective gear to protect themselves.

When did we start paying someone to kick a ball millions and a nurse who saves our life, hundreds?

What’s wrong with us?

If I were an alien observing our planet, I would seriously wonder if we all were crazy in our assessment of VALUE. What we value. What we do not. If nothing else, Covid-19 has given us a chance to see this once and for all and try to do something about it.

We have marched for Black Lives Matter during this time because it was over-due and our raw emotions on the subject burst out of their polite shell and filled the streets with ire and a desire for equality but how many of us really want equality? Not all of us that is for sure, look around and you can see it in every facet of life, a desire to be above someone else somehow.

We still routinely under-react and permit by our inaction, serious hideous crimes like rape to go unpunished in this country and others.

It’s the year 2020 and we still think inequality for women is acceptable in some forms and fashion. Let us not forget what Maya Angelou said about wanting to vote for a white woman over a black man. She said – women were the original oppressed group, thus we should work backward until all oppressed parties are equal. I agree with her.

We still think hate crimes against Jews and telling Jews that Israel should not be their country is somehow acceptable, despite those Jews having descended from that country. Would we say the same to Black People about Africa. Of course not! So why do we say it to Israel? Because of the Palestine Question which Europe in particular has decided to side with, uncaring of the history of persecution toward Jews and their right to have some land of their own. Of course we shouldn’t persecute Palestinians either and of course, Israel has made mistakes but it’s now about what optics politicians choose and what side of the story is half-revealed via inaccurate news reporting. It’s essentially about which side looks right to support? Because Trump supports Israel, most left-wing supporters are against it. Yet it is not that simple and never should be. Lest we forget our history.

We still think homosexuality is unnatural and abhorant and that being queer isn’t natural. We don’t say it out loud because it’s not popular to say it, but we think it and we act it and gays know. They know.

We talk about slavery and how horrific it was, but half the time we just pay lip service to the deeper issues, because we don’t know our history so we don’t mention Native Americans and how they were exterminated en mass and continue to be disenfranchised. We’re so proud of ourselves for changing the Red Skins but we think that’s enough. Or how slavery has never really gone away, it’s just changed hands and outfits, but it’s still well and thriving in many forms.

So it’s never enough. Until everyone is equal and inequality and racism are a thing of the past. But will they ever be? With people who seem to thrive on discrimination and putting themselves ahead of others and putting others down? If people think wearing a mask is too much, is it any wonder they really don’t give a shit if you are sick or you are vulnerable? Don’t they just want you to die and bugger off?

Likewise with illness, with chronically sick people, it’s never enough to just have laws that allow them to not be discriminated against because discrimination comes in a myriad of differing forms. Subtle. Unreachable. Devastating. People of color have to put up with this EVERY SINGLE DAY as do women, as do gays, as do sick people. Just one roll of the eye says everything. Says; ‘we think you are pathetic‘ invalidates an entire moment.

Chronic illness is a little like amputation. Obviously anyone who has suffered an amputation will refute this and rightly so. But metaphorically it remains akin to the loss of a limb. You are left flailing, unsure of how to right yourself, and continue as once you were. A part of you is lost.

They talk of periods of adjustment. The stages of grieving: Anger for what you have lost. Shame imposed by a society who now judges you weak. Acceptance of a ‘new normal’ that includes intolerable things such as chronic pain etc. For many, those stages of grieving never really end, they cycle and you go through different dilutions depending upon how you progress.

But progress is perhaps not the right word. In our linear society where so much is expected. For someone to drop off and no longer thrive, in nature they would be left behind to perish. In our society they are carried along but reminded frequently, of their burden, of their ineptitude.

For many who suffer mental illness, physical illness, both, there is a lot of shame attached to their existing after this fact. Even as people do not come out and say it directly (and believe me, many do!) there is a thin veil that is easily penetrable. People know when they are treated differently, seen differently, worse, judged without jury.

Being ‘sick’ in any manifestation is seen as a ‘weakness’ by our society. This invariably goes back to the ‘dog-eat-dog’ notion of surviving. The weakest link perishes or is a burden to the whole. But these days, with our so-called faith and mercy in place, one might imagine a little more compassion? And if you did, you would be sorely disappointed.

Since getting sick in 2017 I have felt intermittently well enough to continue working and ‘accomplishing’. But as with any pendulum, when it swings deeply toward illness, I am right back at the horror point of when it all began, down on my knees, imploring the universe for healing. And for the most part I have done this alone, because as all those who have been sick for a time will attest, most people do not stay by your side. Even those you expect to.

You can’t plan any longer. A trip is a fear because what if you get sick? Then someone suggests; maybe it’s in your head, maybe you are making yourself sick? And no matter how many times you prove otherwise, they think maybe it’s a choice, just like being gay is a choice, right?

Wrong. You can’t rely upon yourself like you used to because you never know how it’s going to be, how you are going to be. And usually you could be relied upon 100 percent and now that’s gone and somehow you still have to plan a future, but how do you plan a future if you can’t rely upon yourself?

I try to take something from every experience I have, including negative ones. Without learning we don’t grow we just regurgitate and I would rather grow even if I’m throwing up and in pain as I do it. I have taken from this experience what is obvious, but I have also tried to take from others experiences, and have noticed disturbing patterns among those I know who have also been sick for a while or a very long while.

People leave.

People don’t care.

Poverty goes hand in hand with illness.

Anxiety and fear are natural outcomes for a plethora of reasons.

Loneliness can kill.

What I have come to see is this. Sick people are TRUE WARRIORS.

They fight the unimaginable that most of us never have to endure. They have to get pacemakers in their 40s, they have to struggle through taking 2 hours to get dressed and STILL MANAGE TO SHOW UP and this strength – this strength is what I have learned the most from my experiences and listening to others. Strength comes in many forms. We dismiss most of those forms but they are real.

I watch people who have seizures and brain tumors, fight and fight and fight and I realize, we’ve got it backwards. We should be applauding these people not marginalizing them. But we do everything backwards, because as a whole we are poisoned by false ideas of what is valuable and what is not. We toss aside those we deem un-valuable when they are perhaps some of the most valuable people in the world.

So if you are disabled in any way, be it in your head, or your body, remember that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world. Let nobody ever let you forget that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world.

This is written for my sister Angie. You inspire me every single day. You are that light in the dark that refuses to give up and because of you, I refuse to give up too.