Saturday, November 30, 2013

isn't it

“It’s exciting when you find parts of yourself in someone else.”

Friday, November 29, 2013

child and adult

“Your needs don’t make you too much. They don’t make you selfish or weak or greedy. They make you human. We all have needs. And those hungers aren’t something we should feel ashamed of. They’re normal, we didn’t get enough of them as children hungers. Affections we’ve been deprived of by the people who are supposed to care for us. Connections we needed to feel whole and spaces we needed to feel safe. Cravings we’ve been taught we didn’t deserve. Appetites we’ve learned to suppress and fill with guilt. Again and again we’ve neglected our needs because we’ve been taught that they were too much— that we were too much. But we don’t have to any longer. You don’t have to. Whether you need support, alone time, affection, connection, validation, or reassurance that you are loved — it is more than okay to ask for what you need. Making your needs known isn’t about being demanding or selfish. It’s about self-care. It’s about creating a safer space for yourself. It’s about using your voice and speaking your truth. It’s about giving yourself permission to take up space. It’s about listening to your hungers and honoring them. It’s about honoring yourself.”

your person

“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”

Monday, November 25, 2013

regret or lack thereof

He was average. Like every man before. He wore sadness like it was a distancing thing. And spoke of attachment as though it was a fool’s errand. He lived in a perpetual state of preparation for the next-worst-thing—holding everything and everyone at arm’s length, thinking he could outsmart sadness, as though it had anything to do with thought.

Lying in bed one night I asked him a question and in the silence preceding his answer I could feel his mind working so very hard—sorting through the muck and mess. And in the space before his words all I could think was, I’m too well. I’m too well for this particular man’s particular muck…and well…fuck.

I believe we are made by what breaks us. We are forged by the dark and rocky terrain of moving-forward. And I think there’s something holy about the trudge of it—the slow movement, the body’s ability to continue on when every bit of it feels cold and still and tired.

But you can’t give that wish to a person. You can wish something for them, but you cannot wish it upon them. And you cannot get close to–or be intimate–or fall in love with a person who is so mired in their own shit that they’ll do anything they can to pretend there’s not a stink about it.

--meg fee

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Jack was my last psych assessment of the day yesterday.  
Jack came hobbling in with one crutch.  I could hear him reciting his girlfriend woes all the way down the hall to the registrar woman bringing him to me.

Jack was missing a tooth. He asked me if he could take his coat off.  "Of course", I said.

Jack had never been to therapy before.  He told me that his girlfriend whom he is living with has told him he has issues with anger; he dreams at night and is "yelling in tongues to the devil and in different languages".  I nod.   He admits, yes, he is very sad, indeed.

Jack says, "I'm getting hot" as more and more words come tumbling out of his mouth. Mind racing faster than the words can come. Spilling.  He asks if he can take his button up shirt off.  No one ever asks that.  There is rarely consideration or appropriateness.  And why would there be? Consideration and appropriateness are learned. I say, "Of course".  
It strikes me that Jack "dressed up" for our meeting.  Underneath the button up shirt, he has a stained white t-shirt and underneath that an A-shirt.  His chocolate brown arms are wide and his muscles are tightly corded.  I find myself thinking of slaves and maybe it's because Jack is enslaved.  

Jack starts to sob. Out of nowhere, seemingly. My heart constricts.  He says, just barely, "Excuse me".  
I say, "Take your time".  
He cannot compose himself. I sit with him; angling my body towards his.
He says, "Excuse me", again.
I say, "Take your time. Just take your time".
It occurs to me that Jack has never had time to take.  In fact, his time has always been taken.

I ask Jack about his strengths. Qualities, characteristics about himself that are positive. I ask him what he likes to do.  He lights up.  He had a subcontracting business for twenty years. "I like laboring work."
He lost that work. And everything else.  
Crack will do that. So will alcohol.
So will poverty, loss of a parents, gang wars, public housing, judgment, lack of support, no one to believe in you and growing up black in this country.

Before Jack lost it all, he had a girl he very much loved, I think. He had a child with her. He moved her and her children and his own child to Lansdale, PA.  "I got her a real nice house too.  Kids shouldn't grow up in Philly."

Jack stares off into the distance.  His voice cracks.  "I  miss my son.  I call him and he won't call me back.  They make it hard to come back."
His son is 14 years old.

Jack has been clean and sober for three years.  I think to myself, it's always what comes after the sobriety that is the hardest. When life slaps you in the face and condemns you for all you've done and no matter how you try to make reparations, you are reminded that you still have to pay.  You will always pay.  

I wonder about the concept of forgiveness.  I think the concept of forgiveness is kind of part of the problem here.

Jack tells me that a neighbor grabbed him by the shoulders one day when he was coked up and told him he could do better.  That's what it took.  The neighbor died.  Jack is racked with tears and an inability to catch his breath over this loss.

I ask about suicidal thoughts.  Jack says that after his father died, he sat in the dark room alone.  With a gun in his hand.  
I don't even question how he had a gun at 15.  In retrospect, that's even sadder.
His mom happened to come home.  She took the gun from him.
Jack sobs.
I say, "Sounds like you scared the hell out of her."
He looks at me, "I didn't even think about that."
I wonder if it was the wrong thing to say.

Jack joined a new church last week. He said he went to both services. He was there all day.  He says he felt peace.  He felt relief.  He just stayed all day because it felt better.  I give a silent thanks for the power of religion/faith/spirituality. Oh, when it does good, it does good.

We talk more. Well, Jack talks. I more listen. There's never enough listening.  
Sometimes Jack laughs at things I say.  They're not funny nor meant to be.
But his laugh is wonderful and I'll take it.

Jack tells me of going to his brother's home last weekend to watch the Eagles.  To eat some food. He tells me how he wanted to leave. That he wants to be with his brothers, but his brothers are also scary.  They're drug dealers.  They have bright, shiny, fancy things as a result.  His brother kept pushing him down when he tried to stand up. Chokehold.  Jack takes his fork and jabs at his thigh.  He can finally leave.
He takes a rest a few blocks down.
He sees his bother's Cadillac drive up. "He wants to fight, I think".  He sees two cop cars following the Cadillac.  Charged with simple assault.  He goes to jail.  Given the top bunk despite having a hurt back.  Falls off the bunk and hurts his leg.  This was the beginning of October.  Finds out it's been broken this whole time. Didn't find out until November 6th.  

He asks me if I'm married. I say, "I'm not".  He doesn't understand.  He asks a lot of different ways how that's possible.  My answers mostly remain the same, "I couldn't tell ya".  And I couldn't. I have no idea.
A knowing look suddenly comes over his face.  He says, "Ah. A bull just hasn't been able to catch ya yet."
I smile.  His sentiment is sweet.  The thought passes of me rejecting offers left and right.  Not so much.  

Jack looks at me. He says, "I'm cooler now. I'm going to put my shirt back on".
His movements are jerky.  He takes odd pauses. His sudden stops and eye contact are slightly disconcerting.  I make a psychiatry appointment for next week. I explain the same things more than a few times. 

He looks at me.  Stares.  Again, I wait it out.  He says, "I feel better. I didn't know I was allowed to talk. I never did."

This is part of Jack's story.  I hope he gets to tell more of it.  I hope someone listens. I hope he can organize his narrative. I hope he can have a space to grieve. 
I'm very still when Jack finally leaves. 
I hope not that Jack survives. 
I hope that Jack lives.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

F. Scott Fitzgerald

“You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known—and even that is an understatement.”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

in which i answer some things asked by someone i don't know on the internet

1. If tomorrow was your last day on earth, what would your last meal be? You get three courses (starter, entree and dessert).
Shit. shit, shit, shit. All of it. I just want all of the food.  Can I get multiple things in each course? Sure, I can. It's my last day on earth. Therefore; Starter: guacamole, ceasar salad, and french onion soup, heavy on the melty cheese please.  Entree: Gnocchi slathered in some sort of buttery, cheesy alfredo sauce. Also, some fingerling potatoes. Also, a shrimp burrito.   Dessert: Any messy concoction of peanut butter, milk chocolate, pretzels, cookie dough, oreos, brownies....all preferably in the form of an ice cream cake. Please and thank you.
2. What are you three all time favorite movies?
Good Will Hunting; When Harry Met Sally; Beginners
3. Best concert you’ve ever been to?
Ray Lamontagne. November 2012. Wellmont Theater. Greatest performance of life.
4. Would you ever move to a foreign country for a year? If so, where?
I would sit my pretty little ass on some cliff perch on the Amalfi Coast. Clearly, I'm not interested in branching out.
5. One person that is alive that you detest.
Chris Christie. I think he is a horrible and evil human being about whom I cannot find one redeeming factor.  And another, more individualized person of the same name, who is callous and self-righteous and selfishly careless with anyone put in his path.
6. What has been the worst and best meal of your life?
Food questions.  Can't get enough of 'em.  Best meal of my life was at a restaurant in Manhattan, the name of which now escapes me.  Well, that's lame.  In Philadelphia, best meals have been at Vedge, Ela and Amada.  I simply can't choose. I won't! Worst meal? Shoot. What does it mean if I can't think of one?
7. Tell us a secret that nobody (or very few people know about).
Given that maybe one person even reads this thing, that wouldn't be such a big deal. But, secrets are sometimes for a reason. So here's a childhood one:  I stole bubble gum from Shop-Rite when I was about 7yo and my mom found it in my dresser and told me the police were coming to get me because that's what happens to people who steal. I sat on the couch in our front room for almost an hour crying and looking out the window waiting for the police to come pick me up.  I would not recommend this kind of parenting.  
8. When was the last time you cried? Why?
Last week, a kid I've been working with around his homosexuality for the past two years sat in front of me and sobbed uncontrollably for almost a full 45 minutes.  Every time he would pull himself together, it would start again.  He didn't understand why he was so triggered when he had "really come so far" in his acceptance of self.  I held it together until he left. And then I cried. Because this "fight" is never really over. I don't care if you're Dan Savage. It's never over. And sometimes I get scared it never will be. And it makes me feel powerless and hateful at all the people in this country who are shadows of human beings and think they have some sort of "unalienable" right to exercise their hatred and intrinsic power of their majority over others.
10. Worst date you’ve ever been on? 
I once went on a blind date with a guido dressed in a partially unbuttoned collared shirt, complete with a gold cross, while rolling up in an M3, talking only about himself, disagreeing with any liberal point I made, offering to buy me a Corona and then saying could I actually spot him, and then freaking out because he thought his car got stolen (who fucking told you to drive an M3 into Philadelphia?).  This all resulted in him making a completely uncalled for move in the car and me running out of the car while trying to disentangle myself from his umbilical cord which was still attached to his mother.  That was my one and only experience with blind dates.  Oh, and the last time I let my mom set me up.
11. Give me three deal-breakers in a man or woman.
Not knowing the difference between being nice and being kind; no sense of humor; shorter than me.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

hurling crowbirds at mockingbars

it was not my intention to make such a
production of the emptiness between us
playing tuba on the tombstone of a soprano
to try and keep some dead singer’s perspective alive.
it’s just that I coulda swore 
you had sung me a love song back there
and that you meant it