George Herbert Coughing In My Face

  Herbert died of tuberculosis at 40. I am 41. I have outlived George Herbert, priest & poet. I have outlived Scott Weiland. I have outlived Robert Loggia, many cats, my grandparents, my best friend in college, and it seems I will outlive a little girl who is the daughter or sister of my friends. I don’t know what to do with any of this information. I never know what to do with feelings.

Saint Thomas, my church that I’m always rabbitting on about, has an Advent series every year. We do some kind of educational activity that involves speakers or reading. This year we’re reading I Pray In Poems, & last Wednesday night we all huddled into Father Davies’ home, strewn about like books ourselves along the dining room table & living room furniture. We read George Herbert’s “The Collar” which I always thought of eye-rollingly as “the whinging priest poem”. No more. I get it. Especially after Wednesday’s shock in San Bernardino, when the Inland Regional Centre was attacked by ISIS sympathizers…radicalized persons who don’t care that these are the people who get my Downs brother his bus tickets, help him with job placement & IEPs, like so many other special people they assist. Father mentioned my brother & the IRC many times during the Mass, which was moving & tear-filled, at least for me & my sister, & then we read that poem, & it made a lot of personal sense.

Listening to my fellow parishioners…my family…give their various ideas about it was like a pleasant after-dinner conversation that I imagined normal families had growing up. I have since learned that that rarely happens, as all families pretty much turn on the TV or fight, if they even eat together these days, but it’s always been a fantasy of mine, & I got to live it. I look forward to the next two sessions.

I am reminded today, as I find everyone petulant or didactic or thoughtless or irritating in the face of so much loss, of “The Collar”, but more importantly that I used to write scads of poetry as a kid to deal with my feelings. At least before I discovered food, anyhow. Now that I refuse to use food, I am less stable again, more angry, more anxious, more depressed. But I am also alive. And I remembered that there is poetry. So in addition to the two or three notebooks I completely filled in high school & college (& indeed all my twenties), I may as well shove some down your throats here. It may even help me lose weight. HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT, JERKS.

It’s Still Happening

how can you believe all the things you believe about me when

evidence

 like

  rain

   keeps

    falling in torrents on your face
yet you persist in your madness to declare “You are a desert” and “Nothing grows in you.”

I have seen the desert! We have lived there!

A coyote once came up to me and
licked my jeans. She was so
gentle and
calm

This is not an account you could believe
You cannot remember
You believe nothing except the lie in your head
You will do so until you’re dead.

I have hoped many hopes for you
I have prayed
Some of those hopes have been born
they are the best of children
Some were too high
they are experiments in a lab
perhaps they are monsters
    maybe they should have died
I have stopped asking much of the will of God
My hopes are unnatural
I want to fix all the brains that break
He works His wonders in the darkness
I would shine a light on all
 then cry at what I see
Maybe the problem is me

So see me as a desert but
treat me like a garden at least
You used to have a cactus
I figured that you liked it
You only had to water it a little bit and
it never died like
everything else did

 

Tea & Sin

It took a long time to fall asleep last night.

Almost ten years ago, I tore a tendon in my right ankle, on the medial side, more up the calf than the ankle itself. Subsequently I have this weird instability that, thank God, only rears its ugly head a couple times a year these days.

On the drive to church Sunday, it was threatening any time I touched the gas pedal, then seemed to dissipate as I went about my business. It came back full force last night as I was trying to sleep. I laid there & prayed. “Dear God,” I repeated, “Please stop my ankle from popping out. I cannot deal with that pain tonight. I can’t. And I need to be able to drive to work tomorrow.”

I fell asleep & dreamt I could do parkour, which was handy because I lived in a concrete bunker apartment building with no stairs, & I was on the third floor. I had to dodge a bunch of bad guys to get home. Once I entered, Christopher handed me a program for High Mass (which is pretty much standard Sunday stuff for me), & I found Plucky seated in my kitchen, surrounded by empty liquor bottles, lecturing the floor about cat care.

Upon waking I figured this dream meant church is my home, but then why is drunk Plucky in my church? And then I asked myself, why not? If she ever leaves Ashville, I’m gonna ask her to come with me. Like I do.

Is this my calling? Is Jesus calling me as super weird as He possibly can?

Anyhow, I woke up feeling kind of ok, but off, & went to work. I was there for a half hour. Even after taking pain meds, the pain got worse. My ankle didn’t didn’t hurt so much (though it was unstable), but I was in fibro flare. My shoulders, my back, & my forearms were becoming bricks of pain. I managed to pick up an ankle brace & some food before I caused a vehicular accident–small mercies.

At home I ate & collapsed, but I also now had more time to do NaNo. I have created characters I would want to hang out with, & that makes writing a breeze. Then I dorked around on Facebook for a while.

Father Ian (that’s Canon Ian to you) had posted something about taking confessions, & I replied that I had been thinking about that sacrament, funnily enough. But as I’d never done it before, where do I start? “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. When I was 6, I said something cruel to a boy to spare myself embarrassment & I still fear to this day that I scarred him for life. When I was 7 I didn’t want to get stung by a bee again, so I kind of shoved this boy in the bee’s path & he got stung.” Wait. As an adult, that last one doesn’t even make sense. You can’t actually shove a child into the path of a bee. Bees aren’t trains.

Huh.

Maybe I should confess, so Father can tell me these things! Anyhow, he said to come over for tea & we’ll talk about it. I will see if he means it Sunday. Tea does sound very nice. I could ask him my fornication questions (see yesterday), but I’m not sure anyone short of a brimstone Baptist can take that subject seriously.

I then watched Scream Queens (kinda meh this week) & then got into bed & called the boyfriend. And here I am with you.

He is coming for Thanksgiving. I am stoked! I’ll have to make sure I have a pumpkin pie for him; that’s his favourite. Happily, it is also my brother’s. They can split it. 

A Day At St. Thomas

“HOW ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS?!” you scream at your screen. “You’re doing NaNoWriMo, writing pieces for Phantom Sway, and now you’re going to subject us to your personal blog again?”

Yes. Shut your gob. Because as luck would have it, Len & I sat together in the parish hall today, waiting to have our glucose & cholesterol looked at, & she asked me about my writing.

“Which thing?” I asked.

“All of it,” she replied.

Long story short, she convinced me (in a gentle, subtle, possibly psychologically adept way) to keep some sort of daily diary on my blog. Like I used to. And that became a self published book that has helped a few people with fibromyalgia feel less alone. So why not now, when my life is infinitely more interesting?

I told you about lying around in pain all day in Reno, hopped up on goofballs. I can’t tell you about freaking Hollywood?

Well, part of the reason is that my job requires me to listen to confidential material all day. So I can’t tell those stories. Those are others’ stories. But I can drop a couple paragraphs here each day, right? Sure! 

hold me to it

So let’s start with today. Today I woke from a dream in which I was petting a penguin. It was soft & darling, like a kitten, which I imagine penguins are not actually in real life. The alarm woke me & I was so cross to have to set the penguin down.

I rose, showered, dressed, and ate this, which is irrefutable proof of something many people are jerks about:  

Appetizing.

That is a gluten free breakfast sandwich. That dotted disc is meant to be a biscuit. You know, those warm, flaky things you Norms smother in sausage gravy? Not so for the celiac sufferer. So those of you who think gluten stuff is a fad, you can blow me. If I have to get out the door quickly, I have to heat this up. This. This…disc.

It actually tastes ok. But still! Disc. And the company knows celiac people will eat it because we don’t want to die. A death proceeded by crapping in church. So they can get away with selling us convenient discs.

I then brushed my teeth & did my eyes & took my hair out of the bun I slept in…NO. I cannot wear an Anglo Afro to church! I cannot be both Weird Al & Carrot Top at mass. People behind me need to see! So I wrestled all the curls into yet another bun & somehow made it to rosary on time.

 

15 minutes peace with the Virgin.


After saying the rosary with Stephen & John, I took my place in our usual pew with my sister Caroline & her boyfriend Sam, who joined us today. Jimmy sat in front of us (as usual) & told us a beautiful story I’m not sure I’m allowed to repeat. It was very personal, but demonstrated how God moves in our lives. 
The pews filled, waves were exchanged, phones were turned off, and I blinked at the sculpture of Jesus over our altar because my new contacts do not correct for my worsening astigmatism. The familiar echo of substantial boots came down the aisle right before the procession; Robert was in the house.

We then had a lovely Remembrance Day High Mass in which it was announced that Brit had been accepted by our diocese to pursue holy orders. This is magnificent news. Brit was in the same catechism as me & Caroline. I am inordinately fond of her & had the privilege of writing a recommendation for her. It would not shock me if she were made bishop of Los Angeles by the time she’s 40. She is a universe of love in a 5′ singularity. We are all of us blessed by this decision, across space time.

We sang one of Canon Davies’ favourite hymns during communion, & one of mine at the end. We listened to Jeffrey play us out, & then waited in the reception line with Christopher, who was wearing a penguin tie. So I told him about the dream & he sang “Soft Penguin”. If you’ve even heard of Big Bang Theory, you know.

We had a health fair today so the parish hall was packed with nurses ready to measure us and stick us & give us flu shots. My friend Salvador & our parish nurse Debbie worked hard to put it together (it was our first) & I think it went fairly well. The poor gal who stuck my finger was alarmed at how long it took me to stop bleeding, but I’m B12 deficient so I just kept assuring her it was ok. And it was.

Then Dee, Rodney, David & I had a civil conversation about politics, proving it is actually possible, no matter what social media will have us believe.

Achy & starving, I got home finally & made buffalo chicken dip with celery for football lunch. And now I’m writing this. And soon I will Nano again.

Things I learned today:

  • I’ve been without contacts for so long that there are a number of people at my church who had no idea what I looked like without glasses. Many remarked that my eyes are very big.
  • Don’t use mozzarella for buffalo chicken dip. The bleu cheese is essential.
  • It doesn’t matter what I wear; my Pats will always win. This is a relief.

My subsequent entries will be much shorter because church is always more fascinating than anything else I do. Promise. Well, probably.

 

Taking Offense

 A friend of mine from high school has posted a couple of thought provoking questions on his Facebook page this weekend. I’ll allow you a moment to swallow your disbelief that

A. Finding one’s high school friends on FB is ever a good thing &

B. That anyone posts thought provoking questions and they do not lead to nasty arguments.

I swear both are possible.

Anyhow, miracles aside (I do happen to befriend awesome people fo lyfe), I was forced to admit something to myself this morning that was honestly unrelated in any way to his questions. But the provocation of thoughts sometimes draws out other thoughts. Thoughts are fun like that; they multiply.

I am capable of taking offense.

“So?” you ask. “Who ain’t?” But, I protest, I so frequently tell people I’m never offended by anything. Yet the truth, if I’m super honest with myself, is that I’m actually offended by a ton of things, but I handle it differently. I will enumerate the process so people who cling to their offendedness can understand:

1. A statement is made that offends me, or I see something that offends me (a strapless wedding gown, a Toyota Corolla, a sweeping generalization meme, etc)

2. I choose not to react to it or dwell on it.

That’s it.

Were you expecting more? Offense is now a cottage industry. Nay, it seems a sprawling corporate industry where some genteel lamb of a creature reads a thing that seems sort of mean or whatever & then makes it his/her mission in life to

A. Have a really horrible day requiring endless analysis of the offense

B. Attempt to destroy the offender & everything he/she has ever loved.

 

This would be a real reason to freak out.

 
No effort is made to clarify the objectives of the alleged offender because it’s assumed the person is evil, a half breed, or a full breed, whichever is the opposite of the offended flower. No effort is made to calm down & get on with one’s life because that would end the wild & rollicking roller coaster of exciting offense emotions such as indignation, righteousness, having a mission outside of binging on Netflix, & having excuses to make poor food choices. Or whatever. I have no idea because being perpetually offended seems like a horrible time to me.

Yet I am, truly, not jokingly, offended by a great many things. I get offended by things that aren’t even leveled at me, because I find the level of intellectual dishonesty offensive. I am offended by how I see people I don’t know treat other people I don’t know. I am offended by the zeitgeist. I am offended by my well meaning friends. I am offended by the casual way people don’t care about each other or aren’t concerned about tragedies in other countries. Deeply, passionately offended. All the time. Every day. By the way people smell & make sounds with their mouths. By the way they drive. By how they talk to the bag boy. Everyone. Sometimes a few times an hour, if I’m online.

But I let it go. So many things are not worth fighting about. So many things can be addressed by modeling kind behaviour. So many people are utterly stuck in their behaviour patterns & are so sensitive about them that it’s not worth offending them back.

I used to say things. “That’s not true, though. Here, I found an article for you.” Or “Why do you think that?” That does actually yield results…1 out of 10 times. And that’s still pretty good. But now we’re all on social media, talking to each other passively or otherwise many times a day, & God never wired us to engage on such a level. I don’t even think Satan could have imagined the political meme, or the anonymous troll.

So sure, get offended. With so many anonymous opinions, we are bound to encounter something that makes us insane with rage online & in our increasingly less genteel world. But let it go. Unless someone’s behaviour is literally preventing you from getting on with your life, get on with your life. It’s more fun!

Sage & Frankincense



Today we had a requiem mass at  my church for Chief James LaCroix, a long time parishioner. I don’t think I ever met Chief Jim, as his friends called him. I am familiar with his brother, Albert, a parishioner I see every time I’m there. I attended because I respect & like Albert a lot.

Albert, it seems, is our link to the homeless population of Hollywood. An ombudsman, if you will. I don’t entirely know his situation. I just know that he always says good morning & always has a joke ready & I’ve watched him jump up immediately & protect his fellow parishioners when disturbed persons have wandered onto church grounds. 

He’s a fricken bad ass. He & our sexton, Eddie, are fearless knights in shining armor. Albert’s armor just happens to be a black leather jacket.

You know when you’re stuck behind a broken down Budget Rent a Truck on Highland & are freaking out because you’re going to be late & not get a good seat at church where you can both see & hear? Well, maybe you’re familiar with the situation. Anyhow, that happened. And I am so glad it did.

Because I was stuck behind that broken down truck, during rush hour traffic in Hollywood of all places, I ended up getting there just before 7 & right as Albert was talking in the car park with his friends Mikey & Phillip. Bless you, broken down truck! Albert introduced me to his friends, friends of Jim, & I noticed he was holding a smudge stick. “You’re saging!” I said.

“Yes!” said Albert with a smile. “It’s a Native American thing, & I’m pretty native.”

I told him it was nice to see someone using it in context, as opposed to how it’s usually used in Los Angeles. Which is to expel the negative vibes of an argument with your agent.

Albert & I walked to the church & he told me the true use of sage, which in this context was to help Jim’s spirit go to the good afterworld “with Jesus”, & to send the bad spirits away, so they don’t keep him here on Earth. He told me he had saged the whole church already & had come out to prepare himself. I asked if he wanted to sage me, & he did. Properly prepared, I went in ahead of Albert, Mikey & Phillip so they could prepare.

The whole church did smell like sage, & not the usual frankincense/lemon scent. This did not change the sacred aura of St. Thomas at all, it just changed the flavour. Albert then came in with Mikey & Phillip & they saged the pascal candle.

I have never been to a requiem mass before, or a funeral. It was very peaceful & similar to the regular mass (even down to the whole thing coming to a screeching halt so Father could give me gluten free host). I found I knew what to do most of the time. The regular church incense mingled with the aroma of sage, & I felt very much as though the world was still for James.

The sermon was replaced by Father’s remembrances of Chief Jim & how he & Albert represented the homeless breakfast club at his dedication as the new rector of St. Thomas. Father also remarked that Los Angeles’ homeless population is double the entire population of his hometown in Wales. I think Father choked up a little bit during the Kontakion. It was a wonderful service, blending a little of James & Albert’s traditions with old school Anglican & Orthodox liturgy.

Afterward Christopher & I stood in the car park & talked about being nerds while it started to rain. It was a long day. It was a good day.

Let light perpetual shine upon Chief James LaCroix.

Paths

There is an incredibly fine line between sociopathy & empathy. Some of you immediately grasp the truth of that sentence. The rest are aghast.

First, to the people who grasp it, I’m sorry. You either distrust anyone who is kind to you, imagining there is an angle, or you are a caregiver of some kind, & you know how you get when you’ve given too much. 

To everyone else, here’s a quick run down of the surface characteristics of a sociopath & an empathetic person.

Sociopaths:

  • Seek to soothe you by identifying with your issue & offering a solution.
  • Are charming & engaging.
  • Appear calm in a crisis, detached from chaos & pain to get things done.
  • Move from one issue to the next without taking energy from the last one with them (let things go).
  • Avoid conflict.

Empaths:

  • Seek to soothe you by identifying with your issue.
  • Engage you.
  • Approach crisis and chaotic energy by matching it and appear to detach when things are done (let things go).
  • Move from one issue to the next with no fluctuation in engagement.
  • Avoid conflict.

These lists seem similar, & they are, but the subtle differences betray the motivation of the sociopathic and the empathetic. The main difference is that the sociopath is self centered, but the empathetic person is other centered.

The sociopath wants something from you. They have studied how normal people like to be received, & they have become masters at gaining your confidence. They’ve learned to be people persons exactly how we learned our times tables: by rote.

The empathetic person wants something for you. They have no idea how normal people work, either, because they feel best when the people around them are content. They can’t ignore pain, & they want it to end. 

Frequently the sociopath is more attractive. They know there is a formula to making others feel important. They make themselves look like someone you want to know, & say things designed to make you feel special.

Empaths are usually unconcerned with appearance & have no idea how to be fake. They sometimes say very awkward things or delve into serious issues without the buffer of small talk. This is incredibly off putting to most humans, who devise a carefully constructed identity for the outer world. There’s nothing wrong with that; it is a survival technique. It’s also a technique the empathetic don’t often learn.

Why isn’t she being funny? you whinge in your head. Ok fine. Let me introduce you to two people.

Tom sees a young attractive woman typing furiously into her phone. He straightens his suit jacket collar & approaches her. “Wow, somebody fucked up.”

She looks up, huffy, then softens slightly at his well coiffed appearance & brushes an errant hair behind her ears. Still, how dare this weirdo interrupt her? “I’m sorry? Did you need something?”

He smiles, embarrassed. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I noticed you from over there & you just looked so annoyed. I thought What kind of ignorant asshat would piss off this beautiful creature? And I admit I had to find out.”

She blinks up at him for a second and half smiles. “That’s an awful line.”

He rubs the back of his head and looks down, still smiling bashfully. “And you’re smarter than me, too.”

See?! Already half the women reading this are like OMG he sounds dreamy get me one & the men are like “That works?!” & my answer is “If you look like Tom Brady, yes. If you don’t, you will have to work slightly harder. But the technique is the same.”

This is still not funny, KJ. Where is the wackiness I pay good money to see here?

You pay nothing, so screw you. But I will give it to you anyway.

Terry (combonamed after his mother, Teresa, & his dad, Ryan, so his life already started out ridiculous) sees a young attractive woman typing furiously into her phone. He comes over and stands about three feet in front of her. “Hi.”

She looks up huffily, flits her eyes warily over his jacket and t-shirt, then goes back to her phone before saying “Hi.”

He continues to look at her. “Are you ok?”

She looks up again, confused and annoyed. “What?”

“Are you ok? You seem really upset.”

She glares at him & goes back to her phone. “My mother.”

“Ohhh. Is everything ok?”

She looks up. “Who are you?”

“I’m Terry. Your mother loves you. You guys just have a lot of baggage when you communicate. Ok, sorry to bother you. Bye.”

Terry is now either perceived as an intrusive creep (valid, as many Terrys would just secretly pray for this young woman’s happiness & go on with their lives), or as some sort of mystic angel, which he might be. A slovenly mystic angel at a bar, for some reason. But Tom is less likely to be perceived as a creep, because Tom plays the human game.

The human game has rules everybody knows, so they are more comfortable with it. Everybody plays a role & advances according to the dice rolled. People who are good at the human game tend to go pretty far. The unscrupulous ones know how to game the system to their benefit.

The angelic approach (there’s no game) is confusing and weird because it’s like the Spanish Inquisition: nobody expects it. Some people actually react hostilely to someone acting completely outside the rules of the Human Game, even when they are totally benevolent.

Here is your wacky analogy, jerk. You’re playing Clue with Tom & Terry. Tom shows you his cards with a reluctant, play-acted mortification. How dare you be figuring out what I have, his devious winky eyes say. Terry meanwhile is showing you extra cards and skipping his turn so you can go again. 

Immediately register your reaction to Terry’s game play before scrolling down…






This is exactly how you are looking at Terry.

Terry isn’t being fun! You ask Terry “Bro, what the fuck are you doing?” and Terry says “I know it would make you so happy to win!” And you say “Bro, not this way. Not this way.”

And yet, he genuinely wants you to win. And it makes no sense.

And?

Jesus.* 

Thank you for indulging me.

Fin.

*Your angry comments will be mocked. In a loving way.

*Also this is why you hate empaths.


One of You! One of You! Or “How I learned to Stop Worrying & Loathe the Crush”

Yes, you stupid, spiteful, hateful “friends”…I am now playing Candy Crush. You probably sorted this out all on your own after receiving 97 pitiful pleas to help me open Chocolate Mountain or Fudge Ravine or whateverthehell it is.

“You elitist prig!” you laugh/scream like a drunk Wicked Witch of the West. “You said you’d never play. Not in a million years. Not after 4000 Facebook requests, not after every game on Earth had died & gone to Game Purgatory like so much Sega Genesis.” And now you swirl your bourbon in your glass & sneer at me over your smoking jacket or ACDC t-shirt or whatever, because you’re a prick.

Fine, you told me so, I broke down, “One of us,” all that jazz. But why? I imagine you asking, because I’m naive enough to think you care.

I’ve been very sick. As y’all know, I have fibromyalgia…even wrote a meandering journal booky thing about it (which can be purchased here (yes that was totally subtle! You nailed it, KJ!). Weather changes are super bad. October is hard on me & April or May are, too. Coupled with some mild food poisoning that sent me into major flare & I was susceptible to my friend Quan’s Candy Crush invite.

Why Quan? Why Quan, indeed. Probably he is Satan. But also there’s this thing with Quan–a churning competitiveness unmatched by Southern pageant mums or astronauts qualifying for space walks. It’s like if Quan is doing anything, I have to do it better, & I know the reverse is true, isn’t it, Quan?! You are Q to my Picard, Moriarty to my Holmes, Hordak to my She Ra. I must best you!!!

*cough*

Anyhow I was sick & I started playing.

I imagine we all have the same reaction to The Crush, at first. “THIS IS BEJEWELED. DOES NO ONE ELSE SEE THIS? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!” You are also off put by the old-timey turn-of-the-century salad-days look & electronic soundtrack.

Then that freakin scary voice says “Sweet!” “Tasty.” “DELICIOUS.” I’m pretty sure the MC in Hell sounds like this. Equal parts child molester & Top 40 DJ, this voice sounds whenever you do something that scores a lot of points.

Additionally, the game crashes (at least for me) randomly and then the bastard takes one of your five lives you only get regenerated every 2 hours. If I try to send lives to my FB friends, CRASH. If someone sends me an email during play, CRASH. If a Romanian orphan sneezes in a cave half a mile beneath the earth, CRASH. Lives lost, never to be returned.

Yet an hour later I was still playing, cos I was on a roll.

Hating every minute of it.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see hard candies glistening in layer after layer upon fucking jelly. The game never makes me hungry, because I find hard candy repulsive.

But I live for the click.

You know what I mean.

It’s kinda more of a cluck. Cluck.

I’m only writing this cos I’m waiting for lives to regenerate. Also I’m pretty sure it’s preparing us for Chinese communism.

HEY DON’T YOU JUDGE ME. I saw you, back in the day, playing Farmville like farming is fun or something. How is that a game? Farming. Geez.

Anyhow shut up.