Sunday, August 20, 2017

Adventures in Spirituality: Pre-eclipsian Amen

FRIENDS!

We’ve made it to the end of Adventures in Spirituality! Thank you so much for bearing with me as I journaled through my existential emergency. You all are real troopers and you’ve been so tolerant.

I started this series in June because …well. the world has lost its collection of marbles and when that happens, we start playing more dangerous games. It was hurting my head to watch the world being divided so quickly & methodically (with a lot of correlating divisions going on in my own life). 

My main conundrum in regards to the spiritual divide is trying to wrap my brain around Conservative Xtian ideals. I’ve seen this faction merge and disperse quite a few times in my ever-lengthening lifetime. When it merges and gains power it always awakens my neurotic philosopher-self. And recently my suicidal I-give-upside.

I wasn’t very old when I understood the vast difference between who i was and who the “family values” mafia were.

As a closeted trans child I feared & loathed their openness as much as they feared my secrets. The way I gather they feel about the openness of queers & transies now—Why do they have to be so blatant about it? Why do they have to flaunt their identities out loud? Why do they think they’re right & God was wrong?

I certainly can’t remember “choosing” my identity and the distressing side effects that went along with it. But I could tell that being a Xtian was a choice people were allowed to make.



I’ll just tell you some stuff about my dad:

******************

I’ll call hm The Pharmacist, because that’s what he was.

The Pharmacist & I had a pretty contentious relationship from the time I was a toddler. He had a pretty short temper and I can remember being afraid of him from a very early age. I can’t remember the exact chronology of events, but I also remember from a very early age, I knew I was a boy and not a girl. I ALSO remember my mom telling me, shortly before my 3rd birthday that The Pharmacist didn’t want me because I was a girl. That when I was born he wanted to trade me in for a boy cat.

That is what my mom told me when I was 3. And I remember feeling like she had punched me in the gut when she told me that. I remember holding onto the coffee table I was standing next to because I felt like falling on the floor and crying. 

No, not even 3 yet because I remember still felt bad on my 3rd birthday, wearing my Winnie-the-Pooh dress and swinging on the swings and watching some boy poop in the grass and all the parents laughing and the boy’s dad picking up the poop with two Dixie cups and I was so toddler-depressed I couldn’t even laugh at a real live poop joke going down at my b-day party…

Anyway, you get the picture—my dad & I did not get along pretty much from the time I was born. And that dynamic continued and intensified til I “divorced” my dad as a teenager.

I also told you that my parents started going to a fancy Episcopal church because the new family in the neighborhood recruited them into the fellowship. I could tell my parents just wanted to be liked by this new family, who had children the same ages as my brothers & me. This was around my 8th b-day.

Up until then, I had not been raised religiously in any way, shape, or form. And even once we started going to church we weren’t necessarily being raised religiously. We did not discuss any of the sermons or Sunday school lessons after church. Nothing about our way of life changed except on Sunday mornings. Nothing resembling “family values” was instilled in me simply because we were attending church.

And of course, we didn’t attend for that long—a year, maybe two—before my parents began their own divorcement. 

It was only during the divorce that The Pharmacist began to notice me as a person. He made a bit of an effort to get to know me when I was 11, 12, 13. This was pretty exciting for me, because even though The Pharmacist was kind of a jerk with a bad temper, he was a Gemini, so he was also funny and cool and popular and smart and interesting. I was finally being treated like a human by someone who had bullied me all my life.

When my parents first started their divorce The Pharmacist moved away to St Pete and became a born again Xtian. That was baffling to me, but it didn’t last long. He was back to his regular self in no time. Then he married my cool, smart, temperamental, quirky step-mom and left all traces of Xtianity behind. They were the most secular, humanist couple you ever met. They read lots of Ayn Rand. They played cards and smoked and drank like there was no tomorrow. This was the only time period I recall spending time w/ my dad and actually enjoying it.

When I was 14, I moved in with The Pharmacist and his new wife for awhile. And that’s when things went really wrong. I won’t go into it all, but I ended up moving out of their house and divorcing myself from them around my 15th b-day. I didn’t hear much from my dad or step-mom after that.

Around my 20th bday, I heard they were getting divorced because my dad had found a younger (stupider, prettier) woman to pal around with. For some unknown reason, I decided to reconnect with my dad when he married his new floozie** (who was about 8 years older than me). I just thought, well, maybe we can all get along now.

[**i’m not using this word to shame any woman who marries an older man, just her]

My 20th year was the worst year of my life, and I thought maybe having family around would be helpful. The young lady The Pharmacist had dragged into our midst was a big-haired, face-spackled, gold-digging, evangelical, born again Baptist daddy’s girl!!!!!!! She was Tammy Fay Baker’s skinnier little sister and I found out pretty quickly she was not someone I needed in my life at that particular time.

So, after a brief attempt at bonding with yet another step-parent, I decided maybe family was NOT what I needed after all. I took leave of the whole paternal side of my family when i was 20, because apparently they’d ALL become evangelical 80s-style Baptist Xtians. And they really, really had it out for me because, well, though I tried very hard to hide it, they knew there was something “queer” about me. Plus I’d attempted suicide and they reasoned that anyone who was that unhappy must be doing it wrong, if you’d only accept Jesus into your misguided heart…

So yeah, I had to get the hell away from that. I went my way and tried to find the best chosen family I could. I didn’t hear much about The Pharmacist …til i saw him on Dr. Phil last year : ))) No shit…there he was with his other family airing it out on live TV. It was an a-ha moment—I’m the normal one!

I had my own adventures with Xtianity, which you read about at the beginning of this series. My family had our half-hearted attempt at Xtanity. I would never say that my parents had Conservative values. Even my dad who eventually leaned hard to the right has a dim pilot light of liberalism somewhere inside him. My mom has continued to go to church on & off all her life, same old Episcopal church, same group from the old neighborhood. For her, church has very little to do with religion and everything to do with “fellowship.” Sure I’ll pretend to care about Jesus if it means I get to hang out w/ my friends. My mom is fiscally conservative, but I believe socially liberal (at least I hope she is after hanging out w/ me for the past year).

My brother on the other hand has extremely Conservative values (and has since he was a child as far as i can tell). I think he really enjoyed the church experience, and he continued to go to church with the family friends even after we stopped going. Then he got really involved in the church—like did stuff at the altar and such. And he’s really..uh, indoctrinating?— can I say that w/out offending?—his own family with the Conservative values I think he wishes our parents had :O I’m not exactly sure what kind of church they attend but I see them more as a mega-church power family than just average Baptists.


I only have to look as far as my nearest sibling to see how bi polar the world can be. I spent so many years figuring out & then defending who i was that I didn’t have much perspective on any opposing views. They were just “wrong” in my opinion and I didn’t want to hear about them. And then the internet happened…haha, yes, but no…the internet happened and TrumpoWorld happened  and I had to acknowledge, yes, some people actually are freaked out if you opt to medically transition yourself from female to male. Medically and socially and pronounally change yourself. Significantly.

That’s a lot to ask of people around you. But I don’t think it’s too much.

But now I understand on a deep and visceral level that some people do think it’s too much. That it’s a sickness. That you’re just doing it for attention. That it’s costing the tax payers a fortune. That it’s much more sinful than injecting yourself with hormones so you can make a baby (or eight).

And now, when I ask someone to call me by my legal name, or use male pronouns I ask myself, would I respect their wish if, say, they wanted me to go to church with them? Am I willing to step into their world a little bit so that they may feel inclined to step into mine?

Errrrr……


Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…….


Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……


Ugggghhhhhhhhhhhhh………………..


…………….not really. But I Would. If there really was a mutual trust & communication with the person asking. And they weren’t just attempting conversion therappy!!!

***************************

So there you have it people. That was my Holy Internet Dissertation and you LOVED it!  You wanted to marry it! But seriously…

I’m so glad to be done with that. I was feeling pretty poorly about everything when I ventured into this, to the point of being clinically depressed again. That was something I thought *T* was going to *cure*—that as long as I was allowed to have my hormones & my surgery I should be happy forever (just like Distressica)

And it did work like a magic potion for a year! 

But magic has a shelf life; brain chemicals can slosh around if the shelf gets bumped. All my little electrical impulses learned to be depressed long ago. And I haven’t been great at untraining them. I’ve actually done damage to them and now have to work even harder to deprogram them. Congratulate me. Pity me.

So, my final statement regarding religion et al, is this: I believe in just about anything after I was able to train my brain to stop in its tracks and go back, go back a different way, the way I did on the bridge that day.

“You believe in just about anything??” Yeah, pretty much.

Magick? Yep.

Satan? metaphorically

Nothing? Absolutely.

Shamanic breathing? Definitely.

Crystals? mayyybe.

Jesus? Sure (in that placating way)

Charity? Of course.

Socks & whiskey? Higher powers of choice

[I just heard on the radio that there is a rise in atheist, agnostics and  “nones” — a drop in those who identify as religious. And maybe it’s because of where I live, but I don’t see it!!]

POST IT NOTES:

I’m a little burnt out on WRITING. Claustrophobic in a clown car of poets way more talenteder & dramatic than I. Please send me your poems so I don’t have to write my own.

I think I’ll be concentrating on IMAGES over WORDS this FALL> AUTUMNAL XEQUINOX OF CONSCIOUSNESS


So yeah, that means more ART. You’ll LOVE it. But please also send me YOUR art.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Adventures in Spirituality: Moist Slacks, Blessed Destiny

FRIENDS,

Can I just mention how appalled I am by this weekend’s events in VA? This is a recurring nightmare I thought we’d woken up from (slowly) over the past decade. Many of us are still asleep, scratching the surface of consciousness with curled & uncut fingernails, acting out in irrational dream-like ways.

Who gives a shit about your gross confederate monuments. Kiss them good-bye & move along like a member of a superior race would.

**********************

Anyway…as I start to wrap up my Adventures in Spirituality series, I want to tell you all about the Mystic Faire Moonchild & I went to a couple weeks ago. 

What does it mean to be a “mystic?” Well, it means different things in different parts of the world, but in America a mystic is someone who is confident enough in their “intuitive micro-wave activities” to do it for money. Isn’t capitalism grand?

I’ve been to a few mystic faires in my life. Mostly in hotel lobbies, as a teenager, with my mom. There was always a seedy undertone to the serene roomful of (mostly) older women and (mostly bald) men who sat at the fold-up tables with their Tarot cards or crystal balls. I always enjoyed the experience, but can’t recall ever receiving any earth-shattering news.
TIPTREE ART 3

This Faire was familiar in that way. There were about 2 dozen mystics at their little tables. Some were card readers, one was a palm reader/astrologer combo, several were mediums, and there was one woman drawing portraits of spirit guides (now that was something I’d never seen before!)

Moonchild & I did a quick survey of everyone’s wares and we each chose a mystic to sit down with. Moonchild picked a medium because most of his family has “crossed over” and he wanted to see if he could get any commentary from them on the current state of the world. (He & his family were all into politics.)

I was leaning heavily toward the palmist/astrology guy, because I don’t know much about palmistry, and I wanted to see how he integrated that with astrology. But I decided to wander one more time around the faire, and one friendly mystic called out to me. I probably wouldn’t have noticed her if she hadn’t greeted me and asked if I wanted to take advantage of her Sunday special—a half hour card reading for $50 (Most mystics charge $120/hr just like your average LMHC)

So I said Sure and sat down. I do know how to read cards, and it’s been years since I’ve had someone else read for me. I was really curious to see what would come up.
TIPTREE ART 2

She was using a Tarot deck I was not familiar with and I asked her which one it was, and she didn’t know, which made me flinch a little. But as she pointed out good-naturedly, it doesn’t really matter, the meanings are all archetypal and don’t vary too much between decks.

She was the kind of reader who just pulls cards but doesn’t do a formal layout. That also threw me, because I’m a layout reader, so I wondered if any of it would make sense to me.

Well…the cards she drew for me were all my usual cards. The ones I usually draw when I do my own reads (yes, including The Tower). This made me giggle. Those cards really do pick you! Her interpretations were a little different from mine—I think most working mystics try to put a positive spin on anything they tell you, because who wants to be the bearer of bad news when they’re charging $120/hr??
TIPTREE ART 1

Basically she was able to interpret from the cards that I’m a very reclusive person who guards their personal space/time vacuum. And yet I’m not afraid to go public about my struggles, which makes me feel persecuted & isolated sometimes, but is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. She (or the cards) told me I should have more confidence in standing my ground. I should learn to speak up, I have a lot of important things to say, and I should become more adept at saying them out loud, publicly. That I could one day be an important public speaker [???]

She (the cards) said I have a small circle of friends to whom I am loyal, love animals more than people, and have a way with words.

All this is stuff that any intuitive person probably could’ve read just by looking at me. Obviously I’m not a loud jovial car salesman who loves sports, or an exhausted mother of a terminally ill child. Of course I’m a shy lonely animal-lover who needs to learn to speak up!

But then she drew the 5 of Wands and she laughed and said, “Oh, here we have your family!” And I had to laugh too, because that is exactly what I’d hoped the cards would tell me about. I’ve had a long turbulent ride with my family, and I’ve distanced myself from them for many years at a time, and I have been feeling lately that I want to distance myself once more…but do I really want to do that AGAIN…oh bother...

She told me that I am better off not really listening to anything my family says. She said to keep a strong sense of self, because your family is never going to understand you, and they don’t need to—mine is not their journey to judge. She said there is a lot of egocentric disharmony in the family, and yet a hint of joy.

That sounds about right.
THE GIRL WHO WAS PLUGGED IN 3

So, yeah, I’m glad the stuff about family came up, otherwise I would’ve felt ambiguous like, Did she really read that in the cards, or was she picking up on the physical cues I was giving? And I was also really amused at how I got the same old cards I always get. But I thought that had more to do with me than with her.

Moonchild’s visit with the medium didn’t produce much in the way of astral punditry. She was able to pinpoint some details —his brother’s fondness for Post-It notes, the giant portrait of his mom that hangs on our fireplace—but nothing in the way of politics from beyond the grave. I think he was bummed.

But it was all good—this could’ve been called The Intuition and Common Sense Expo. It’s pretty odd that all this is still considered “alternative” in the way of goods & services. I think we should have Mystic Malls instead of just Faires. There should be mystic booths at the Farmer’s Market. What could the Xtian right do? This stuff should be more available to us. 

And I have no problem with Mystics getting paid for their mysticism. I do love me some hard-working independent mystics!  When I was young I knew that when I got old I wanted to be like Tante Venice. I think when I turn 50 I’ll see what I can do about jump starting my “mystic years.”
THE GIRL WHO WAS PLUGGED IN 2

What I don’t love so much is The New Age Industrial Complex that was kind of built in the 80s, flourished in the underground throughout the 90s and really took hold in the post 9/11 holy war boom of the ‘00s. I think it reached its fever-pitch around 2011-2013—remember the social networks teeming with those pukeworthy platitudes?—some shit about Happiness is a choice and You don’t ever have to remember your past again, it’s in the past!  I don’t mean to profile here, but the New Age industry was created to bank off rich white ladies (liberal and conservative alike, but mostly liberal). You know the ones: yoga pants, Whole Foods, positive designer-attitudes, etcetera, end of profile.

Happiness and enlightenment became “things” that could be marketed to people. In the form of bottled water, and footwear, and Buddhist retreats, and ayahuasca adventures and wild shamanic life coaches. The New Age Industrial Complex has not only commodified our spiritual enlightenment, I think it has brought more “predatory mystics” out of the woodwork (mostly guys looking to get laid by lots of different ladies).

But I also fall into the target audience of this industry:

I enjoy (lower case) whole foods, 
I believe in the mind as a weapon of self-destruction or an instrument of destiny.

[Ew, I said ‘destiny’ (Least favorite words: moist slacks blessed destiny)]

Oh how I would love to have an ayahuasca adventure!
I think crystals are really cool and probably do have healing powers (even if that healing just comes from admiring them)
I believe meditation is good for the brain, and the blood pressure. As is yoga.

I believe all the stuff. 

I’m just not buying any of it. I don’t believe I need any corporate entity to supply me with ethics. I don’t need to be told what products will make me a good person. I won’t be fooled into buying a $25 head of lettuce (and shame on anyone who would be). I don’t need any spiritual retreat to find instant peace. I’ll take the long way. For free. Well, with my annual trip to the mystic faire.

********************************
THE GIRL WHO WAS PLUGGED IN 1

Hey, we’re almost done with Adventures in Spirituality! Yee-haw. 

I hope you enjoy the new & old Tiptree art. I made it this weekend just for you.

Next time—I’ll tell you about my final Xtian adventures w/ my dad and how that may have put me off of family values forever—including future reincarnations.


Keep those submissions coming. Actually I haven’t gotten any yet. So let’s go, people. Poems! Art!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Submission Call for FALL

‘ello Friends!

Well, it’s submission time again! Since I loved featuring other peoples’ work here, I’m gonna try to do it again. 

I hope to transform The Octopus Diary into The Octopus Review right in time for Autumn Solstice, so send me your coolest thoughts & musings. Your warmest heartbreaks & losses. 

I know my last set of guidelines was a bit Nazi-ish, because that’s how i was feeling in May. I’m really not that much of a poetry nazi but I like to set the bar high.

I still don’t want any “bukowski covers” or stuff that’s too vague and flowery or chaotically unhinged, man!

I’m looking for stuff that is revealing, powerful and personal. I can handle political stuff as long as it’s anti-Trump : )) Just kidding, i can handle political stuff as long as it’s well-written and personal and heartfelt.

But I’m mostly looking for originality and a unique perspective. Like they say in the real world SURPRISE ME.

ALSO, you may’ve noticed that I like ART. I invite you to send original artwork for the Autumn Solstice issue (jpeg files please) And yes, you may submit poetry AND art if you’re that fucking talented, go for it.

Send all words & images to me via Facebook messenger. If that’s not possible for you, comment me and we’ll work something else out.

I won’t pay you. And you’ll get little notoriety from occupying this space. But you’ll be making me a happy old curmudgeon, and doesn’t that count for anything? 

P.S. If you want to send your poems as spoken word video I’ll accept that too! All right. let’s do this.


Zeppline: Sep 22


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Adventures in Spirituality: The Post Blackout La La Years

Dearest of all possible Friends,

Thank you for not hating me, even after I admitted to having an alcohol problem even after I’d reached a state of enlightenment. 

Rest assured, I was a jolly good-natured drunk 90% of the time. It was only that stretch from ’06-’07 that I was an incoherent dysfunctional slob about it. And it’s of no great advantage to tell you all about it except to show it as a long, extended spiritual black-out. A cop-out. The joy (numbness) I got from alcohol is what I was always hoping to get from (GOD). Drunkenness is a kind of rapture.

I know I’m doing this all wrong—life, personing. And I’m not overly original in what I’m saying here about the ethereal side of us—what college student hasn’t pondered all this in one bacchanalian evening? I just happen to ponder it all the time, except when I’m drunk for 15 years. 

I did, of course, have to find ways to cope without booze, and that’s when it all came back to me—life used to be about curiosity & giving a shit. It wasn’t about deflecting unbearable pain all the time. I became curious to know if I could reconnect w/ some of my old habits & beliefs. And yeah… I could.

I guess since it’s August I’ll wind this series up shortly. I’ll tell you about the Mystic Faire we went to, and how I dealt in a post-alcohol world; then I’ll bring it back around to why I wanted to write all this in the first place—why am I so squeamish about Conservative values and the religions that statistically go with them? And finally I’ll tell you all how I’m doing now. I was on a luge-ride down the tubes for most of the year—did all this soul-searching help at all?


***********THE POST-BLACKOUT LA-LA YEARS********

In July of 2007, I wasn’t counting my sobriety in days, I was counting it in minutes. I was sitting on my hands, hiding my car keys, telling myself “Just stay sober for 10 more minutes…” I literally could concentrate on nothing but “Don’t drink.”

It took about 2 months of that before I was able to allow my mind to wander off on its own. I remember the day it happened—I spent about a half hour NOT thinking about NOT drinking and I thought Hey I’m getting used to this. Then I immediately wanted a drink, to celebrate the return of my mind.

Thru my drinking years, I didn’t engage in much spiritual practice, but there was one thing I did that wasn’t overtly spiritual…yet it was. And that was…SINGING. 

I was a pretty good singer in the 90s but I had little range, so in Y2K I decided I would learn how to sing better! On my own, with no teacher! And I ended up ruining my voice! So I spent many years after that trying to fix it! And that became my ritual, every morning, rain or shine, hangover or no—I would patiently do my ever-so-gentle & reparative vocal exercises. 

In the days & weeks after quitting booze, anytime I felt like flipping out, I would just do a vocal scale, or sing a verse of my favorite song, or make some kind of sound with my respiratory/vocal apparatus, even if it was just a flat dissonant drone that vibrated through me. As the weeks went on, I would spend hours singing & vocalizing to drive away the temptation to drink. It was hard work. Singing properly is a great way to get an aerobic workout, to turn your shallow anxious breaths into long elastic ones.

For about 6 months, this was my sole coping skill. Singing, breathing, feeling the vibration. I didn’t consciously set out to make it a spiritual endeavor, but it became one. I thought of myself as a Tibetan monk doing my throat singing. I felt it was keeping me strong & safe & clear-headed & connected to the world from which I was temporarily exiled.

[Speaking of being exiled, getting sober is definitely social suicide. Or it was for me. I had friends who’d say “Come out with me! You don’t have to drink.” And I would have to say “No. I can’t ‘go out’ anymore. Leave me alone.” And eventually, they would. My social circle shrunk down to single digits. And I was ready for that. I was willing to let “friends” fall by the wayside in order to have a self again.

I realize everyone has their own way of detoxing, and some people do it by immersing themselves in the world rather than retreating from it. ‘Getting out in the world’ was not a method that would’ve worked for me. I had to embrace & love & squeeze my anti-social side, which I’d rejected for too many years.]

In the 00s I lived next door to a guy. He was … uh… someone who (I found out) had struggled with his own substance abuse issues. But he dealt with his sobriety & anxiety by being a busy body. By being as loud & engaged in activities as possible. By firing up his weedwhacker or table saw or drill or hammer or canoe sander at the first sign of sunrise. Sometimes before sunrise. 

It was hard enough to live next to him when I was drinking, but when I got sober & monastic, his ever-presence in my life became unbearable. 

After a few months of not drinking, i was able to start writing & drawing again. I didn’t do those things right away because they were former “drinking activities.” Unfortunately, on top of having the neighbor with a power tool fetish, there was also an empty lot across the street which came under construction shortly after I established a sober living routine.

The serene home/work environment I’d invented was destroyed by the noise of progress and gentrification. It was especially challenging for me to ignore the cacophony, since I was trying to create the exact opposite effect inside my head. I won’t go into detail here, but I began to combat the chaos—especially the obnoxious neighbor’s early a.m. racket—in a very creative way.

I’ll just call it The Karaoke War & leave it at that. Again, it was not something I saw as a spiritual motion, but… looking back at it now, I think my whole stretch in that neighborhood was a spiritual growth spurt, from the abstinence to dealing with opposing personality-types—I know I learned a lot about myself from my type-A neighbor, and I could see he was learning a lot about himself from my reaction to him.

He curtailed some of his early a.m. loudness eventually, but he could not change all the way into a Tibetan monk like I wanted him to : )) So, in a decision that was as financially motivated as it was motivated by proximity to incompatible neighbors, we ended up bailing on our home during the mortgage crisis. 

In our new neighborhood there was plenty of noise. it was a different kind of neighborhood—one that valued upkeep and appearance more than we were used to. There was no single neighbor right next door who was making all the noise, but there was always, always someone mowing, chopping, roofing, paving, chainsawing trees…

….and to my dismay, I had become intolerant to any sound that came from an outdoor machine. I couldn’t think or concentrate if someone nearby was making noise. In this new setting, I recognized this as “my problem” ie, I knew the folks down the street weren’t trying to antagonize me with their weedwhacker the way my former neighbor had often purposely antagonized us with his, but I still had the same angry reaction to it.

I was flabbergasted, mostly at myself for having been conditioned to flare up over the commotion of lawn maintenance. I’d conquered the demon of alcohol, now I had to conquer this disproportionate rage I felt whenever someone needed to putz on their property? How, oh how, was I going to do that?

I was going to become a Zen master, that’s how. I was going to teach myself to be calm & serene even in the midst of pandemonium. So, whenever my work or concentration was interrupted by a mower,etc… I would stop what I was doing, I would listen to the noise and breathe…in, out…in, out… and …in the beginning, I would end up cussing & kicking the furniture after about 1 minute of this.

But I kept doing it. I would stop, listen and breathe. Stop listen and breathe, for as long as I could. Then I would stop, listen, breathe & sing. And THEN cuss and kick furniture. I tried to always breathe and compose myself for a few minutes before the cussing & kicking began.

It was difficult. It made me feel…really stupid. Like, how can this be bothering me? How could I be so weak, and sensitive and easily thrown off balance? Was it the years of drinking that made my nerves so frazzled? Or was it something else—for reasons that I won’t get into now, I began to entertain the possibility that I was not neuro-typical. When I looked at the entirety of my life, this possibility seemed to make sense.

As we learn much more about the autism spectrum, I can easily locate myself, and some of my friends, along it. But I could not let that be an excuse for all my misplaced anger. I had to be proactive about it, or be a miserable fuck everywhere, even if I stayed at home. 

So I continued to practice listening and breathing. Listening and…not flipping out. I got to where I could do it for a few minutes, then I’d have to grumble & cuss & turn on some loud music & try to get back to whatever I was doing. I really wanted to reach a state of Zen enlightenment, where I could be surrounded by jackhammers & still be humming blissfully inside. I really wanted to try meditating for hours at a time, like these Masters recommended we all do. But I had to settle for minutes.

And I’m sad to say that my path to Zen mastery was interrupted by an unexpected…psychotic break? I STILL don’t know what to call it or how to describe it, so I won’t right now, but let me tell you… it was intense, and scary, and I needed it to happen to get where I am today…but it sure put an end to any pursuit of Zen mastery for awhile…

It was during this break that i sought help for something that had plagued me all my life, but I never knew how to handle—gender dysphoria. It was on this journey of dealing with the immediate & acute symptoms of a mental breakdown, caused ostensibly by long term suppression of a bigger issue, that my extreme anger seemed to … vanish…dissipate…float away in an endless torrent of tears…

…and then we moved. We bought another house, in another neighborhood, and I started hormones, and got my nervous whatever-thing under control. All this dynamic external stuff uprooted me & airlifted me to a better, less-angry place! I knew it had nothing to do with me achieving Zen masterhood (something I still wanted to do).

And as you know, I had a miraculous, blissful year on hormones in my new home and then…some things happened in the world. Things that shook me up and brought back some of the negative emotions which I frankly thought had uninstalled themselves from my system.

They hadn’t. There they were again. Both the anger and the sadness. The extreme anxiety, and paralyzing worry. The baby tears. the monster tantrums. WTF. I couldn’t have been more disappointed—in the world, in people, in myself, in EVERYthing. From Jan—May 2017 I was cruising downhill so fast, i almost didn’t survive (I’ll tell that story another time, maybe next summer).

The scary thing is—I was trying to blame this year’s downward spiral on “the current administration” but I knew it couldn’t be that simple. Sure this whole government travesty has me shaken—has a lot of people shaken. But it is not the reason for the resurgence of terrible emotions in my body. It’s much more complicated than that.

I worried that it was the testosterone. I’d been warned that the 2nd year on T can be pretty rage-y. But I felt like that was not it alone either. 

The truth is—I do have a lot of sadness and anger. And i process it slowly, like a cow stomach. Like an old Univac computer. I get some data entered and saved and printed and shredded, then I rest for a period, and then more data comes creeping in. I am back in contact with my family, which if you’ve read any of my other summer series, you know must be a huge strain on my precious organic operating system. And it is. I am thankful to be reconnected with my family, and very thankful to the few who are supportive of the changes I’m going through.

But they don’t really understand. They accept it, but probably amongst themselves, agree that I am silly, embarrassing, immoral, just doing it “for attention.”  No one else in my family has gender dysphoria. Or has ever been interested in anything besides sports sports sports/money money money. They are not folk who traffic in emotions or creativity or out-of-the-box thinking. They exist. They stay busy. They watch the game. They are what they do, not who they are. To them, i am a ridiculous fool.

And that’s okay. I’ve gotten used to being the ridiculous fool. It’s not the worst thing to be (though it isn’t great). I would love to just be a normal person someday. But this year I’ve had to face the ugly truth—dealing with the kind of depression & anxiety & rage that i hold inside is a lifelong proposition. It doesn’t just vanish because you move to a quiet neighborhood, or inject the right hormones into your blood.

So how am I still here typing up all this pseudo-spiritual bullshit? What has kept me from drop-hanging off the branches of the big pine tree in the backyard—besides Moonchild’s threat to stalk me in the afterlife if I ever did?

On particularly bad days, when the beast of rage is clawing from the inside, or if I feel the sorrow building like a wave beneath my sternum, I stop, I sit, i breathe, and i clear my mind of anything resembling thought or worry or imagery with a simple chant. That’s right, i’ve returned to my pursuit of Zen mastery. Except instead of external noise, I’m chanting away internal noise.

I returned to doing this in April—which I almost didn’t survive—and it was just like when I first quit drinking. It was hard work. I could barely get through one minute, then the next, and the next without crying or screaming or breaking something. But I persisted!

I’ve never tried so hard to clear my head of all noise. I’ve never been in such desperate need to do so. And it is not easy to control the flow of your mind. It is not easy to not think. Or to notice when you’ve gone from not thinking to thinking non-stop again. And to breathe deeply and gently without filling your lungs and holding it. Inhaling without exhaling is something I do a lot, and I recognize how it makes me feel—pretty shitty.

I worked hard at this meditative therapy through April & May. I was in a pretty foul mood at all times unless I was in active meditation mode. And I really didn’t believe it was working, until one day (May 31) I woke up boiling with anger, then automatically & effortlessly fell into meditation mode. And, like a fast acting shot of whiskey, a calm washed over me. A clarity about who i was, despite what anyone else might think of me. A panoramic view of the whole picture—the macrocosm baring itself to my frontal lobe, then imploding into my amygdala with a laugh. 

I had trained my brain to protect itself from …itself. I had trained it to revert to a safe zone the moment it tried to turn itself into a war zone. I did that by meditating mercilessly for 2 months, relying on no other methods of relief. Just pure mental ballet & gymnastics. And it did work after all.

I did have my dose of Gabapentin doubled but I waited til June, after I’d mastered a meditation regimen. I didn’t want to rely on any kind of medication before I figured out how to shut my head down naturally. And I continue to meditate and breathe correctly and chant, at least for a moment, before i reach for any medication. I would love to never have to rely on any big pharma product ever again, but life doesn’t always allow for one to stop, drop & meditate pretentiously like a Zen master in the heat of the American nightmare.

So yes Friends! June, July and (so far) August have been an uphill trend. And I owe much of that to an ancient Eastern spiritual practice, and a little bit to big pharma. How’d you like them odds???

(Well. I was going to save the How Am I Doing Now for a separate blog, but I guess it was the ending of this particular story, so there you have it. And I think since this was so looong, I’ll tell you about the Mystic Faire next time…

….and give you some new art next time…

…in The Octopus Diary.


But hey!!! Be prepared, because I will be asking for submissions again soon! In fact, start sending them now, before i even post new updated guidelines. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Adventures in Spirituality: The Champagne of Blogs

Well FRIENDS, what can I tell you…

…I did NOT drink on my 10-yr anniversary of sobriety. What do you think I am, crazy??? I understand how foolish it would be to reconnect w/ alcohol. Nothing short of going back to an abusive lover.

We had a lovely adventure in St Pete—stayed in a hotel downtown, explored & dined & shopped, visited friends, went to the Phantogram show—and the temptation to drink just wasn’t there. Which surprised me. I really thought I would be playing pong with the moral gatekeepers on my shoulders. Should i? Shouldn’t I? I’m too paralyzed with uncertainty to have a good time!

But that’s not how it went.  Considering how much I’ve dreamed of being able to taste the magic elixir again, I was surprised at how blase I felt about it. Barely a day has gone by in these 10 years that I didn’t yearn for a cold beer, or a shot of warm bourbon or a delightfully frothy boat drink. I’ve been plagued by a sense of deprivation this whole time…

…deprived daily of the Spirit of Alcohol…

…but now that I’ve been granted parole, the pressure is off, and the cravings are quiet. I still plan on having at least one drink before I leave this planet, but it may have to wait til I’m on my deathbed.

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I’ve already regaled you with tales of finding a spiritual path that didn’t clash with my over-analytical & highly skeptical sensibilities. From 14 - 21 I was on this feverish quest to discover why people matter, why life is an important journey, and why I could “see things” before they happened. At 21, I was initiated into Wicca, having decided that was the “religion” for me.

With that, I’d hit my “enlightenment plateau.” Life quickly became less about exploring the esoteric zones and more about the unpalatable survival pyramid. 

Believe it or not, there was a time when I had contempt for people (ie, the adults in my family) who used alcohol to cope. I was NOT going to be one of those people. I had done my share of underage drinking & knew alcohol was there for me if I needed it. I knew I liked it a whole lot, and could easily become hooked, so I was always careful not to rely too heavily on it. 

I could go on a long rant about how much harder it is for me to interact with people than it is for the average person, but I think you all know that about me by now : )) I watch you all, and I see how much easier it is for you to talk and laugh and mingle and socialize.

It was hard enough in school, but out in the real (phony) world of business/commerce/adulthood it was torture. Being around people, working with people, having relationships with people, connecting, conforming, placating people alllll day long was killing me.

I found out that having strong spiritual beliefs could not make me feel fine after a long day of facing the public onslaught. I needed something powerful & instantaneous to create a cushion between reality and me. I also needed a magic potion that could transform me into a people-person. 

And I knew I could find that magical potion on any street corner!



So yeah, around my 23rd bday I scrapped my rigid stance on booze and started drinking pretty much constantly for the next 15 years. I won’t bore you with alllll the details of being an alcoholic from 23 - 38, only some of them. 
Initially, of course, alcohol turned me into a super hero! I was one of those people who transformed drastically under the influence—I could talk & socialize like a pro; I made friends I never would’ve been able to meet; I was able to do things (like play guitar onstage) I never would’ve been able to do; I could drink & drink and still make it in to work (and I would often drink at work).

I was a successful & highly functioning alcoholic and life was great. (Not really, but my close relationship w/ alcohol made me feel like life was great.) As they say in AA, I was self-medicating. Without question, the magnificent spectacle that was my 20s never would’ve happened without alcohol. I don’t know if that’s amusing or pathetic…

I became a funeral director when I was 27, and let me just say…formaldehyde & alcohol do not mix well. It was around this time I began worrying that I may have a PROBLEM with alcohol. It was affecting my job performance. I tried many times to abstain or cut back, but I just could not do without it.  

I really loved the social benefits alcohol gave me, but I also knew deep down… that the person I was when I drank was not the REAL ME. All my life I’d been told “You’re too quiet. You’re so negative. Smile. Speak up. What’s wrong? I can’t hear you. Why are you so sad? You look tired. You look mad.”

Basically, You have a shitty personality.



No one ever complained that I had a shitty personality when I drank. I felt obligated to drink in order to be liked by people. I was truly afraid that if I quit drinking I would lose everything—friends, job, social skills, creative abilities.

I met Moonchild when I was 28 and alcohol was a big part of our dating adventure, and continued to be a major part of our lives after we got married. He could tell drinking was problematic for me and we tried together to make alcohol less of a priority, but somehow it always returned to being front & center in our lives.

By my early 30s I was really trying to get a grip on it. I was losing my super hero ability to be a functional drunkard and wanted to feel “normal” (ie, not sick all the time). I was 31 and drinking pretty heavily when I started the “psychic safari”—writing the streams-of-consciousness that turned out to be foreshadows of 9/11. 

And as I told you, I was able to stop drinking—strangely, miraculously—on Sep 4, 2001. From Sep ’01 to Aug ’03 I had no alcohol but lots of spirits visiting me : )) Then in Aug ’03 I went to spend time with my family when my nephew was born, and under those auspices I fell off the proverbial wagon.

I kept the drinking minimal for about a year, but in 2005 I went back to my old habit of just drinking all the time. And unlike in my 20s, I couldn’t even pretend to be functional. Much of ’06/’07 was a rollercoaster of blackouts & withdrawals.

By 2007 I was sick & tired of being sick & tired (to use more AA speak), but I was also powerless to overcome my addiction. It was getting to the point where I needed to go to the hospital to get through the withdrawals. I started to feel like I was going to die from drinking.  But I also thought I might die from NOT drinking. 

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So…how did I end up getting sober and staying that way for 10 years?
I started to realize the toll my drinking was taking on Moonchild. He was just about done with it, and he told me so around Jun 2007. I’ve never felt like a worse human being than I did when I could see on his face how serious he was. I knew I HAD to quit drinking immediately. But the thought of that scared the shit out of me.

Also in Jun 2007, I got a phonecall from an old friend I hadn’t seen since high school. This was just before the social network floodgates opened and every friend you ever had was right there at your fingerprints. It was a totally random, unexpected call. My friend was in town visiting family & wanted to meet up after all these years.

She called on a Wednesday, and luckily wanted to meet at the beach that Sunday. I had 4 days to sober up. Because I could not have driven to the beach, or sat on the beach for 3 hours, or had any sort of coherent conversation w/ my friend if I didn’t. So basically as soon as I got off the phone I began the process of withdrawing. I was able to sober up and feel okay enough to make it to the beach.

That day I learned my friend was also an “alcohol addict” and had sobered up at 28 when her dad died. She had been sober for 10 years! And what I really wanted was to be able to say that too—I’ve been sober for 10 years.

My plan was to find a way to quit drinking as soon as possible. So I made an appointment with a doctor who was highly recommended by another friend. The appointment was for Jul 19; I had about a month left to drink before I got help from the medical community. (Notice I didn’t say the religious community)

So I had my last binge…from June to July of ’07. Then around Jul 15 I knew it was time to stop so i could make it to the appointment. I count Jul 17 as “the day I got sober” because on the 16th I got desperate & drank the drops at the bottom of all the bottles in my closet. (yes, judge me)

I made it to my doctor’s appointment and managed to convey to him how desperate I was to quit drinking, which was difficult—a lot of doctors will tune you out or profile you as a liability if you speak candidly about addiction. But this doctor seemed to take me seriously, and was willing to help.

I credit Moonchild, my beach friend, and the doctor for getting me across that threshold into a new life that did not include alcohol.     

I would say getting sober was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot of hard things. (har, har It’s a dick joke for ya!) I had to change everything about my life—the way I interacted with the world, the way I processed emotions, the way I celebrated, the way I recovered from painful situations. All the things we think of as difficult in this world are nothing compared to rewiring your whole nervous system.

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Well…enough about my adventures with the fine spirit of ethanol. Now how can I put a spiritual spin on this? 

I’ve read several stories/articles about alcohol’s unique property as a distilling agent. How alcohol can extract the essence from just about anything, including a human body. And when your spirit has been extracted, what then takes its place? Is it our personalities undergoing a chemical transformation or is it more like a surrogate parallel-soul fills the gap?

The word alcohol comes from the Arabic al-kuhl meaning (depending on the source) “the kohl,” “a distilled or rectified spirit,” “body-eating spirit,” or “ghoul” —all words that remind me of waking from a black out.

Of course i am regretful (I won’t say ashamed) that I used so many years of my life solving the alcohol dilemma, and most of all that I put Moonchild through that. I’m surprised he is still with me. 

But here’s a deep & poignant ask—does addiction cause a spiritual collapse or does spiritual collapse cause addiction?  Can spirituaI beliefs cure addiction, AA style? 

My years with alcohol were pretty devoid of any spiritual practice. Ingesting alcohol was such an easy fix, requiring none of the patience or discipline needed to meditate or chant or pray or do any Wiccan spells.
I dealt with the alcohol without once querying the spirit world. And yet it seems fate lent its hand anyway—especially in the form of the phone call from the one friend I needed to hear from at that moment. 

I like to believe a guardian angel helped me because it’s heartwarming. No, because random coincidences are sketchy. Does it seem like more people are committing suicide than ever? Is this the Hammers & Eggs war?

I can understand why people do drugs, become addicts. I don’t judge, because I know how much I would love to just check out. I fight hard against being a drug addict and I hope you all appreciate that.

Having a body hurts. The inner workings of the body can hurt even more. Drugs are the fastest scariest solution, a belief in a bigger picture is the slow boring solution.  So…depends how much time you got…?

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Okay that’s all I’m going to muse about booze. Is summer almost over yet? I guess we have a month yet or more in FL.
Moonchild & I went out to the Mystic Faire this weekend, because it’s been a long time since we’ve done anything like that, plus it was research for The Octopus Thesis. So I’ll write up something about that.

I also have stuff to say about: 

Spiritual Tactics Employed in the Sober Life

My Dad Was A Born Again Promisekeepin’ Amway Salesman  

The New Age Industrial Complex


Sometime. In the Octopus Diary.