Some psychology, some sadness, some funnies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

white crystalline xanthine alkaloids and the women who love them

So often, when I find myself particularly agitated or physically/mentally down, it's because of caffeine. I've never really been a fan of the stuff, but on certain days you just need some wake-up juice...or some feel-different-than-however-I-feel-right-now juice. A friend of mine once told me, after the devastating loss of her mother, that she had created the designations of "A Sleep" and "B sleep". A-Sleep is the solid, deep kind where neurons are nourished and dreams happen. B Sleep is...well I'm sure you know it. You're stuck in the realm of alpha and beta waves all night and upset in the morning because your body tells you what should have been.

I contend that there is also "A Awake" and "B Awake", and for me, B Awake is caused by caffeine intake. Who are these people for whom a cup of coffee keeps them going unfailingly on each occasion? Two thirds of the time, I end up disconnected, mildly dizzy, pissed off or all three. And I can hear the voices now: "Then why do you keep drinking it?" Because I'm in grad school, and taking the chance that it might be a Good Caffeine Day is worth it for me. Also, as mentioned, sometimes you just want to feel...different.

Lately I've been working on not feeling embarrassed by or like I have to defend the ways I contradict myself. I want to continue complaining about how shitty caffeine makes me feel, and I also want to keep drinking it. I could see that being frustrating for friends, especially since the aforementioned sensations keep me from being pleasant and engaged in conversation. Or at least, they would if I stopped forcing myself to pretend to be pleasant and engaged so much.

Allowing oneself to go to contradictory, dark or grumpy places around new friends (or even old ones you don't get to see often) is scary business. You only get so many chances to be perceived as an enjoyable human to be around before it gets decided that, well, you're not. To an extent this isn't a neurotic approach to human interaction at all, and everyone shares and hides things to varying degrees in accordance with their personality, but it's the "why" that needs to be asked. Does it feel like a fearful hiding or a natural one?

So how about another designation: "A Engagement" and "B Engagement". How often are we present, authentic and free to be ourselves when engaging with others? And even when we're not present (a normal occurrence), do we accept that as OK? How much of this feeling "free" with others is reasonable to expect of ourselves and, for that matter, possible? In that annoying and paradoxical way reality likes to function, we can't know the answers to these questions until we do things that demand the trust we haven't quite developed yet. That's why you wake up in the morning, have your cup of coffee, feel the ambiguity, and do it anyway.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


As it turns out, he's married. Which is exactly the kind of thought-stopper I was looking for, though I expected it to be more along the lines of "girlfriend" or "I'm not interested". Instinct or pheromones knew he wasn't quite right, but his curly blond hair, gentle lisp and large vocabulary enticed me otherwise. It was that nagging presence of an anything triggering the circuits wired for a something. Respectable guy.

I've come to know...I need a certain level of immaturity. If you can't recognize a sexual innuendo when it presents itself or are especially focused on things like property taxes I'll inevitably find myself bored.

That guy just said "balls". Come on, that's funny.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rat Pies

There are a lot of entities in this house. Four people, two dogs and two rats. The rats are tucked in my room, repetitive existence, and I keep calling them mice. And I can't stop referring to them as male when they're not.

I'm babbling about this because my conceptualization of the rats, and the titles that help form it, has been a continuous consideration of mine as I become accustomed to their moods and find out where they sit in my heart.

Have you heard about "mirror neurons"? We have specialized nerve cells that are equipped to sense and replicate/reciprocate others' physical expressions of emotions. We are wired to empathize. Those in the mental health field love this concept because it's occupationally validating and also makes incredible sense with regard to what we see as human observers. Physiology so often follows instinct.

Autistic children will show a deficit in social learning such that they don't engage in those reciprocal moments with their caregiver...that is, they tend not to be inclined to share their joys with others or to make eye contact and recognize the emotions of people around them. It must be difficult for the parents of autistic children in that they don't receive loving, reciprocal feedback from the child. It can come with practice and learning, but those parents are initially fueled by love for a being they've created; filled with dedication but pained by the dearth of connection.

So it is with my rats, sometimes. They were lab rats (an amusing choice for a psych major, I thought) and weren't socialized well as pups. Getting them used to me has felt like a chore much of the time, and I've felt guilty for that. You get angry at them. Like when one hides under a dresser for a full twelve hours until you have to force it out by prodding it with whatever object you can find.

Since autism is a spectral disorder, different levels of functioning and different areas of impairment manifest for each child. The literature strongly suggests that initial levels of impairment play a large role in how much progress can be made. From the beginning, it was clear that Finkle was a more curious and adventurous rat. Einhorn (aptly named, with its linguistic approximation to Eeyore) tended to be less active and more fearful. Finkle has made a lot more progress since October 30th when I first got them, and frankly, I'm not sure I have the patience to do the things that will push Einhorn toward comfort. An active person like myself has difficultly sitting in one place, hands still as winter trees, waiting for a rodent's natural curiosity to override its fear. We're talking up to an hour of loving persistence when I have homework to do and finals to study for. Add to that the depressive's fear that when I slow down, I stop.

And yet, they're my beautifuls. They're my obligation and my annoying reason for taking action each day. Those tiny paws...they rest on your index finger while they survey the array of thoughtfully chosen munchables arranged in your hand. They let you see their faces while they scan the terrain for danger, heads weaving side to side like they've developed some kind of neurological disorder. Fuck the rats. And they're mine. And they reject me. And I'm their world now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Write, type to feel connected
Clip nails, closer to hands
to touch and feel connected

Calmed down and safe in
home with life on couches
Read pages...hours,

nothing underneath but
thin spindle of a family

Friday, October 14, 2011


Big exam tomorrow (you know, the one that determines whether or not I am able to be licensed as a counselor in Maryland). Can't sleep. And now I will show pictures of the actors I think are attractive. Yes, that's all I've got right now.
Chris O'Dowd. Did you see him in Bridesmaids? Friggin adorable.

Did you know Jay Sean is Punjabi Sikh? Baby, I'm down down down.

Adam Sandler. Fair on the cuteness, but a great personality.

Jesse Eisenberg. He did such an amazing job in The Social Network - extra hotness points for that.
(Special note:  If he and Michael Cera were both hitting on me in a bar I'd give my number to Michael because of the charisma and humor)

Irfan Khan. Despite his playing a bad guy in Slum Dog Millionaire, I saw past
his evil ways to his beautiful face.

Paul Rudd. Eh, I just threw him on here to round things off...he's almost too pretty. We liked him back when he was in Clueless, young bucks!

It would appear I like me some dark haired, beautiful eyed, Irish or otherwise Eastern looking dudes overall. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Proper Chuckles

The tone of comedy we choose says something about what attitudes we connect with or the kind of balance our darker side needs. A little deep for fart jokes? Maybe.

The other night I went looking for a kind of comedy that would vibrate at the exact emotional frequency I needed at the moment, and it took a while before I came across what felt right. The exploration took place in my house mate's fanboy man cave, a beautiful lair with colorful toys and comics, an Xbox hooked up to Netflix and a large flat screen TV. My first try was Mitch Hedberg (may he rest in peace), and I chose his stand-up because so many of my friends over the years have quoted him and I always found those excerpts funny. It had been years since I'd seen his routines on Comedy Central, so I wondered if I would experience the Saved By The Bell Effect (endlessly entertaining then, god awful now).

Mitch Hedberg - Donuts                                                                                                                              

His bits are really clever, but his delivery is so affected...especially in the later stuff where he's maybe more nervous about the pressure and further into drugs. If I had been drinking a few beers at the time I may not have minded the disconnect, but I needed something that felt more emotionally honest. So on to a Brit com called The IT Crowd.

Oh, silly campy disoriented Brit coms. Cute and all (particularly the curly haired white guy) but in my sullen state, they were insulting my oh so deep deepness. So I finally gave in and turned to the previously proven piece of beauty that is Louis CK's first season of his self-named show.

There was actually a clip of the episode I watched (and there aren't many good clips) but that bit was too nasty to post on here. In any case: sarcastic, subversive, defeatist, depressive, offensive, hilarious. Bam. Winner.
 U Louis CK.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Arousal and Attention (and sky diving!)

Today, I went sky diving.

When I watch this video I see me in a sleepy and not especially happy state. It hadn't been a good night for sleep, nor emotions. And it was so strange to enter into an activity like this with no excitement, hardly any nervousness and no real connection with the reality of what was about to happen until that plane door flew open and my dad's step-niece was shoved out. Pulling my legs around to the opening was exciting, but when we began to free-fall an unfortunate thing happened: I panicked.

All the talk I'd heard about this sport was the usual "thrill of a life time", "intense experience" sort of thing, but no one really made clear the idea that you are plummeting to the earth with nothing to grab onto, the exact scenario that would occur if you were falling to your death. I couldn't handle it. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and dissociated until the parachute was pulled.

The floating we did at that point was...pretty. But I was still shaken and also disappointed in myself. I felt like I wasted the experience or that I wasn't hardcore enough to enjoy it, despite the pride I'd gained from being a front seat of the roller coaster kind of girl.

My jump-mate actually cried this morning thinking too much about the realness of parachutes not opening, etc (she really enjoyed it none the less). Should I have forced myself to indulge in more of that kind of thinking so the shock of it wasn't so brutal? And what about the disconnecting I did while in the air? I'm very good at disconnecting, in general, because I'm so frequently and firmly dedicated to the feeling of being at peace. Maybe this dedication, and the strong distaste for anxiety that fuels it, goes too far sometimes.

I know, jumping out of a plane is fucking crazy and I shouldn't measure my appropriate arousal levels by it, but it's something to think about. I mean it's been a while; I don't even know if I like roller coasters anymore.

Still, I'm glad I did it and have the video. I think my favorite part was actually the act of being ejected from the plane...just before I realized I don't like what comes after being ejected from a plane.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I have since established that this human body part chewing is an, erm, undesirable practice according to Dee Dee's owner. Good times while they lasted though.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Part of the concept of this blog (if I can say there’s a coherent concept) is brevity. I was always intimidated and fatigued by having to work through longer creative pieces. So with this in mind I wanted to explore haiku and how it’s meant to be written. Well, I found out that there is a truly “classic” form of haiku, but it’s difficult to adhere to if you’re not writing in Japanese. In the haiku history timeline, once haikus go English they start running all over the place…forms are altered, devices are modified. It’s to the point now where (alongside some traditionalist criticism of course) every new rule that’s offered is followed by a “but you can do it differently if you want” sort of phrase.

So now, attacking these three-line works has become an act of research and decision making akin to writing a short story. Not that I’m giving up the idea, but I need to sit with these potent little things for a while. In the meantime, I spent entirely too much time online gathering a handful that I really appreciated…

With his 1988 publication, Selected Haiku, Nick Virgilio introduced a form of haiku that became known as “lily and bass”. These are the two poems that chiefly introduced that concept.

out of the water
out of itself

picking bugs
off the moon

And another of his that I was attracted to.

my dead brother...
hearing his laugh
in my laughter

These two are from a woman named Stella Pierid who writes a haiku every single day and posts it on her blog. She’s good. : )

Moving house -
a snail and the same old

Just because
the sky is navigable -

The Irish Haiku Society’s International Haiku Competition produced the following entries. Interesting how they reflect the times. (the last won the grand prize)

where the maple stood
a shroud
of sunlight

the things
we never did

more tree
less leaf

memorial flowers
tied to the ash in full leaf
bowing and sighing

forty seven
and no pension
all the starry heavens

chill wind
the windowsill tomato
still warm

There are those who like to write “minimalist” haiku, and I find most of that to be crap (whilst feeling guilty for shitting on people’s art), but this one from Angie Werren works for me somehow.

black crow

Juxtapositions and contrasts all over the place in that tiny thing.

And last, I was really impressed with a form of haiku developed by John Carley. Actually I’ll just paste in the description given by a dedicated and prolific haiku blogger, Melissa Allen (

"At some point around the turn of the millennium John got fed up with all the squabbling about what constitutes an English-language haiku and decided to invent his own form of haiku that would be unique to English and capitalize on its special properties. You can read his essay about this yourself, but basically he got all scientific about it and crunched numbers with translations and did a little rummaging around in the basement of linguistics and ended up with this 15-syllable poem, divided into two parts, that he called a zip haiku”.

A light search revealed these two:

orange and tan | tan orange and tan
the butterflies | beat on

buoyed up | on the rising tide
a fleet of head boards | bang the wall


With regard to the classic form, I think what tends to be maintained throughout most haiku is that element of a switch or a turn-around. This “cutting”, the stimulating juxtaposition of two images or ideas, is haiku’s essence.

And with that, I leave you with this vital piece:

Haikus are easy
but sometimes they don’t make sense

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Petty Damages

Back in August I had the privilege of traveling to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as a chaperone for ten high school students on a community service trip. It was wondrous, spiritual and transforming.

But this blog is about some asshole I ran into at the airport on the way back.

This morning I get a call from an insurance agent telling me that the man whose van I backed into when pulling up to the Rapid City airport for departure was filing a medical claim. He was behind his vehicle when I carelessly rammed into the front of it, and the rear bumper collided with his leg. This guy was pretty easy going. Favored his leg but didn't make a huge deal out of it at the time.

The douche-baggery to which I'm currently referring was from a Sturgis leftover heading home on an airplane instead of his bike like a pansy. The alarming crack-thud that resulted from my inattention brought me shakily out of the SUV and toward the other driver. As I walked to the rear of my vehicle, this cocky white-boy voice came from my left: "Hey, you know you almost just ran that guy over". The interjection carried not a tone of worried concern, but a smirking, accusatory emphasis that waited to see my reaction. At that point I had no information on what had occurred behind me, so I think I just gave him a brief glance, mouth agape, and continued on.

So here's one of those internal dialogues people generate as a fanciful redress of a missed opportunity. Always wanted to put one of these in writing.

"Oh thank god you were here! I never would have found out what happened and nothing would have been solved! And since I'm mentally impaired, even if I had gotten the story from someone I would have no real sense of its meaning or severity. I mean, you can't be sure that someone driving a car full of young adults that are under her care would feel like total shit when she backs into a poor, unsuspecting man, right? So you gotta make sure she feels like total shit! Like I said man, I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't been walking by. Thank you so much."

What a dick.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lugubrious Is a Great Word

Having lost most of the people with whom I was at one point or another intimately connected, I become more melancholy than I’m proud to say. Sometimes it can be difficult to descry the margins that separate valid and wistful. But frequently, both are the halters that pull me back inside myself.

Tonight I thought about a story – or really a whispered report – that a girl named Darian gave back when we were friends. She was in a counseling graduate program at the time, as I am now, and went to see a psychologist because it’s “good practice” to do so. Without hearing much at all, she said, the psychologist knew about her inappropriate spending sprees, her excessive sleeping. She felt found out, but I knew she also felt a little special…heard.

Before this summer, when the warming memory of one of our good interactions would bubble, the thought was always accompanied by the idea that Darian and I might talk again. I questioned whether we would still look into one another and see the same things, but I missed what I used to see. I saw another version of me.

It was July when I found out Darian died from a blood infection that would have been treatable if they’d known. And the scenes of our connection still come, still followed by a hope; the more deeply I become engaged in a good memory, the more achy that brief jolt to the chest feels when I remember that she’s gone. It’s selfish, really. The thought is, “What girl will see my universe now? What friend will know me?” And the irrational fear that follows is, maybe no one.

With love to Darian. She was self-indulgent, too.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dear Blank, Please Blank

Hand selected for your pleasure...

Dear Titanic,


Sincerely, Iceberg

Dear (360) 553-0049,

This should teach you to prank call me at 3am.

Sincerely, have fun with that

Dear Amish,

You shouldn't be reading this.

Sincerely, Anonymous

Dear Internet,

Please stop with the talking ads that start on their own.

Sincerely, I just had a heart attack

Dear Kids,

There is no Santa. Those presents are from your parents.

Sincerely, Wikileaks

Dear Asian people,

Can you at least wear name tags or something?

Sincerely, the rest of the world

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I started talking to her at a small farmer’s market. My age or a little older with pale skin and freckles – long, curly black hair. She spoke without filter, describing the process of how she made kimchi and of how a “problem tenant” situation was solved only by way of alerting the civic association (because people want to “protect their investments”). I said I’d come to visit her stand, and patronize it, at HamdenFest.

So I found her there near the end of the avenue, black dress and a red cowboy hat under triangle streamers. Took a picture while she coyly smiled. Kimchi Girl offered free samples, gave signs of openness, and said she sees herself as kind of a yente, excited about introducing me to the town. I threw up my hands and said, “Yes, I need that!”

We exchanged information and I texted her a few days later to ask about finding Hot Sauce Guy who'd been selling beside her. Receiving no response led me to her FaceBook page where I appropriately wrote "Hello!", smiley face, referenced the phone attempt.

She deleted the comment and also a post from her personal profile that was just below it. I never heard from Kimchi Girl, and I still think that’s strange. Probably the best kimchi I’ve ever eaten.