A multicolored body of water in front of a forest and a hot pink and blue sky. The image is split down the middle by a rainbow and a glittery gold V. Two firebirds in white sillhouette are in the foreground. The text reads: BE AS THE PHOENIX. A small artist tag in the lower right corner reads: @tashajfierce

(reposted from instagram for accessibility)

The phoenix. A brilliantly colored bird that burns to ash only to rise again & fly away home in an ever-repeating cycle. A resurrectionist, practiced in the craft of making themselves whole after tearing themselves apart. A kindred spirit to those of us with brains that like to upend things.

While many cultures describe an immortal bird that is associated with the sun (i.e. the Chinese fenghuang), the myth of a bird that rises from the ashes is thought to originate with the ancient Egyptians. Bennu, a bird who represents the soul of the sun god Ra, is described as living 500 years before dying in a blaze and rising again to carry the ashes of its ancestral self to Heliopolis. This cycle of death-birth-rebirth repeats until the end of time.

Where the phoenix myth appears, it is used as evidence of the cyclical nature of existence, of our resilience as humans who can die little deaths and still continue on. For me, I see the phoenix myth as instructive of a way of being, a practice: fall apart, come together again, repeat.

As a disabled, multiply neurodivergent person, and as someone who experiences extreme emotional states and altered realities, I find that the human-made world in its current configuration can be too much to bear, too often. Sometimes I can’t move, speak, or process information. Sometimes I just need to detach myself from reality and let all the laundry build up and gnash and wail and moan until there’s nothing left in me.

I fall apart in slow motion sometimes, over a period of weeks, months, years. But always, I come back to reality, gather my ashes, fly home.

Falling apart is a practice. An honoring of the cyclical nature of the self. We need to be able to fall apart safely, but too often, we must fear the repercussions. Falling apart can mean missing work, missing meals, missing rent. Falling apart can get you institutionalized. Falling apart in front of the wrong people can be a death sentence, especially if you are Black. And still, falling apart in safe spaces is how I survive.

I know from experience that the emotions I fear might break me will pass through me like a wave if I lean into them. I know that I can remain tethered to shore by my love and breath and purpose, that I will not disappear into the vast ocean of myself if I allow these realities to unfold. I know that I am capable of incredible feats of magic: I have put myself back together again multiple times despite believing myself irrecoverable.

Right now I am in the process of slowly falling apart again. The world itself seems to be slowly falling apart, and it is overwhelming. It feels like we will not arise from this, that this may be a final disintegration. But I remember having felt this way before and risen the next day. I know that how it feels in the midst of a transformation is not reflective of the final result. I know that no matter how uncertain we might be about the outcome, we can still share wisdom with each other, we can still engage in acts of love and communion and resistance. We have worth even as we are coming undone.

As the phoenix burns, does it suffer silently? Or does it cry out, pleading for respite from its fate? Nothing in the mythologies I’ve read mentions the torment a phoenix must endure, but I can imagine, because the deaths I myself have experienced were not gentle.

The death our society is experiencing is not a painless one, either. And a resurrection from the ashes of whatever is left when this is over will also need us to curse and toil. But there is always joy to be had, and celebration. As long as we remain within the cycle. As long as we live to rise again.

Creating space/time to fall apart safely within will help make sure we do.


If you feel like falling apart… lessons from the phoenix

  • Set up an emergency plan, a mad map (check out pubs by @fireweedcollective), and/or a psychiatric advance directive, so if anyone catches you mid-collapse they’ll know what to do.
  • Talk to roommates or family about your needs. If you’re close enough, explain to them that you’re dealing with x mental health struggle and you need some spacetime to just let things out, so please don’t worry, and you’ll check in when it’s over. If you’re not close, just tell them weird stuff will be going on in your room/space/etc. for x hours/days/weeks, and you need them to be chill about it and not call the cops.
  • Depending how long you plan to be a mess, make a plan to check in periodically with friends, whether online or IRL, or family, so they know you’re still alive.
  • Find a space where it’s safe to cry, scream, throw things, dance naked, whatever you need to let this move through you. Do this for however long you need to/are able to. If self-harm is a concern, remove things from the space you might use to hurt yourself (ask for help with this if needed and available). The closer you can get to creating a space where you can completely abandon societal norms around behavior and masking your crazy, the better.
  • When it’s over, baby yourself back together. Order takeout if you’re hungry, get in a warm shower or bath, masturbate, do art, watch trash online. Whatever best eases you into this reality. Don’t plan too much for the days after a scheduled collapse if you can avoid it. Let the tender edges of your self heal over first.
  • Integrate time to fall apart into your routine if you can. Once a day, once a week, once a month, however often you need. Allowing yourself to feel and experience what you must suppress to get through everyday life is a powerful tool for self-preservation.

 

is this depression?

it’s anticipatory grief

it’s the loss of a future

it’s here-and-now grief

it’s a pandemic

it’s anger for having seen this coming

it’s despair for our chances of surviving

it’s regret for all i couldn’t do 

it’s fear for my loved ones

it’s deep ambivalence about being alive

it’s exhaustion like a thirst in my bones

it’s numbness

it’s a muting of life

it’s an iron veil

it’s a yoke around my neck

it’s amorphous

it’s inescapable

it’s my new normal

it’s all i got 

 

 

 

discern the difference between AN end and THE end

(reposted from instagram for accessibility)

TW: death, suicide attempts, hospitalization, r*pe, IPV, police violence

This moment in time feels like The End for a lot of us. The myriad crises we are facing—white supremacist fascism, climate chaos, ever-mounting COVID-19 deaths and infections —loom apocalyptic, cataclysmic.

Every day is a universe unto itself, yet somehow we string them together, continue putting one foot in front of the other on the long march towards what feels like an ultimate doom.

I want to honor the reality and gravity of our collective situation. We haven’t taken nearly enough space for grief, for feeling these tectonic shifts in ourselves and our human-made world.

A huge chunk of our population has fallen ill and perished within a few months. Black maGes continue to be murdered by police and intimate partners, strangers, anyone. Our country seems on the brink of civil war. For those folks who have died, who will die, this moment is The End.

But for the rest of us, it is not. It is An End. There is a distinct difference.

An End for my personal world has looked like memories of childhood rape flooding back to me in the middle of a school assembly at ten years old.

An End, for me, has also looked like courting The End by swallowing enough pills to kill me multiple times, and being forcibly incarcerated in psychiatric facilities as punishment.

My world has been shattered and remade multiple times, like the Earth in its infancy. And like the Earth, I am continually changing, unfinished. I will meet An End again, just as surely as another cataclysmic meteor will hit this planet in the next billion years.

But: until I die, until The End, I can shift course. I can grow.

Sometimes An End looks like someone we love abandoning us, or losing a job, or getting kicked out of school, or losing secure housing. And sometimes, for some of us, those situations do evolve into The End. But sometimes, for some of us, they don’t. 

Our human-made world is in the middle of An End that could very well evolve into The End of our species if we do not change course. But for now, we are, gracefully or not so, inhabiting the space of An End. And that space is full of so much promise.

Because after An End, there is A Beginning.

__

Beginnings are difficult times, messy times, but they are hopeful. We have survived a brush with The End. The possibilities for our lives seem endless.

Beginning anything, any new way of living, requires care and cultivation. There will be missteps & stumbles. Sometimes we might seem to go backwards, looping like eddies in a temporal river.

We can look to the rocks below our feet for reassurance.

For eons, the infant Earth was bombarded with debris from the still-coalescing solar system. Our moon was carved from the Earth’s flesh by a direct hit from another baby planet. After the Earth re-formed itself, it was tilted on its axis, but still here.

(Do you know that feeling?)

Our planet has nurtured life and then watched it nearly die off. It has frozen over and thawed, taken multiple asteroids to the chin, and endured millenia-long volcanic eruptions. Whole worlds have ended and begun anew.

And after all that upheaval? We are here, today, enjoying this world, this Earth, this beauty. Snow-capped mountains and savannahs and rainforests and glaciers. The expansive ocean. Our pockmarked moon at its fullest.

When I feel my anxiety rising, when I am depressed by the weight of human and non-human suffering and death, I allow myself to feel it. I cry as if I am an expression of collective grief.

Then, I situate myself in deep time. Geologic time. The scale at which the earth moves. I remind myself that this is not The End of The World, it is An End of This World.

And we can still shape A Beginning.


A question of time

Where are you allowing the false urgency of consensus reality to overwhelm your senses?

How can you place yourself or humanity in a broader context (i.e., deep time) to let some pressure off?

Why are you convinced that the past should be past? Who taught you the future must remain forever out of today’s reach?

How might allowing yourself to live within a better future today make it more possible for us to achieve collectively?


 

an otherworldly scene. blue-green cliffs and a purple baobab tree are in the foreground. in the background, a rainbow springs from the top of the tree, and it seems as if this landscape exists somewhere in deep space as there are stars and nebulae visible. the moon in all its phases rises in the distance. a small artist tag in the lower right corner says @tashajfierce.

(reposted from instagram for accessibility)

cw: MENTAL ILLNESS, MED WITHDRAWAL

Consensus reality is a postmodern concept, based in the idea that reality is inherently subjective. What we all “agree” is real, is real. That means “reality” is highly influenced by systems of oppression.

We are currently living within multiple consensus realities. The dominant, liberal/neoliberal consensus reality is the WSSCAIP (White Supremacist Settler Colonialist Ableist Imperialist cisheteroPatriarchy), which has us grinding ceaselessly yet somehow still at each other’s necks for scraps, and which is responsible for: the destruction of the planet, the colonization and genocide of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and around the world, the enslavement, colonization, and genocide of African peoples, etc.

There are fascist/alt-right/neoconservative realities which derive from the main consensus reality but are invented fantasies, branches in the timeline. QAnon, for example, believes instead of cishetpatriarchs and capitalists, the world is run by a pedophile cult. Fox News taught us climate change is a hoax, and that COVID-19 isn’t real/was engineered by China, etc.

I clearly don’t agree with the realness of any of that shit. I agree that the WSSCAIP exists, yes. But is it part of what i consider my reality? Not exactly.

What’s real to me? What we human animals need to survive and keep our bodymindsouls thriving. What the non-human animals need to survive and thrive. What plant people need to survive and thrive.  The relationships between all of us, all the things on this Earth of this Earth. The Earth itself, the Sun, the Moon, the relationship between our world and the universe.  Those things are real to me.

Some background: I’m a crazy person. I was diagnosed with a bunch of so-called mental illnesses (bipolar/schizoaffective, DID, BPD, GAD, PTSD, some other stuff) when I was younger, and I was on all sorts of meds for decades. And then later when I was older, I realized they were fucking up my brain and I had to come off them.* It took seven years to withdraw. I had to learn how to deal not only with my underlying craziness but also the craziness that arose in me from the withdrawal fucking up my brain chemistry even more. I faced what i thought was my end numerous times. Slowly, surely, I felt into a way of generative living with my crazy.

I’ve been calling the framework I built around my crazy magical depressive realism, a way of living in the lineage of liberatory madnesses.

Being a magical depressive realist means acknowledging the true, destructive nature of the multiple consensus realities I navigate while, to the best of my capacity, living in and building towards alternate realities. Realities where things that are real are sacred.

It also means accepting and honoring that there are some experiences and affective states that are real, that are created in concert with my bodymindsoul, but somehow exist outside of the bounds of shared reality, and cannot be easily contained by diagnostic labels or symptom profiles, or productively managed by biomedical model-based treatment strategies.

I accept & honor these states & experiences by no longer trying to suppress them in conformance to the WSSCAIP, by caring for myself, allowing my community and pod to care for me, and seeking treatments I can access and that work well for me.

By embodying magical depressive realism I commit to reconciling my personal realities, the universes I hold inside myself, with the realities of others, where appropriate, in order to avoid harm. I am constantly reconciling my reality with the realities of living day-to-day in a world that is hostile to liberation.

At the same time, I do not abide the pathologization of my (our) personal realities and “negative” human emotions/experiences under the WSSCAIP. I respect the lessons depression, dissociation, and other altered states of being have to teach us about our world.

I understand that magical depressive realism is a radical idea in a world where bipolar, ADHD, psychosis, dissociation, BPD, and other so-called mental illnesses are demonized and blamed for lost productivity and profits, for failed relationships and missed opportunities, for the antics of a white supremacist U.S. president. Our ways of being are inconsistent with capitalism. Our existence is resistance. I want us to refuse to compromise our well-being to gain acceptability or access. Our bodymindsouls are too precious to be mined for resource.

__

If you, too, have had your way of being pathologized, I invite you to choose your reality.

Will it be the biomedical reality, the reality of the WSSCAIP, where you are an aberration, a “broken brain”, a useless eater?

Will it be the reality of liberatory madnesses and magical depressive realism, where you can harness the insights our ways of being offer us, to aid in collectively changing the world?

Or will you embrace an altogether different reality, your own unique way of moving towards liberation?


Sources: embodied wisdom, black feminist theory, the sociology of mental illness (ex. Creating Mental Illness by Allen v. Horwitz, [2002, UChicago press]), my ancestors, & so much more.

                  *not the right path for everyone – do what works best for you

 

i want to talk a bit about love and what it means to me on this day for lovers.

love, to me, is inherent to the structure of this universe. hell, even the multiverse potentially, but this universe for sure. i say this because we are able to exist here. the laws of physics arranged themselves into a ruleset that allows the formation of complex life. to my mind that is evidence that our universe is at least capable of love, if not composed of it entirely. and if we are made of the same stuff as the stars, as the universe, are we not also meant to love and be loved by each other? are we not also meant to link ourselves together into constellations of care?

love is the dark matter that holds us together. evil is that which turns us away from love, away from each other. there is no epic battle between anthropomorphized god-creatures that we must choose sides in. there is only the choice to come together and love each other or embrace the systems that are keeping us apart.

when i look at the world as it is currently constructed, i feel a deep sense of mourning. we have been forced so far away from the truth of love. the truth that we are here because we are loved. these systems that we live under—capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, ableism, imperialism, cisheteropatriarchy—are designed to institutionalize evil, to make us forget we are born loved. to make us hate each other and ourselves. they convince us that we must learn to love ourselves despite all odds, or that we must seek love from a partner or a friend, and that we are only worthy of that love if we’ve attained a certain level of social acceptability or popularity or enlightenment. but universal love is accessible to all of us, all the time. it is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the plants and animals we consume for food. we are here because this universe loved us enough to shape itself into something we can inhabit.

in my own spiritual practice i call the universe god, and in a sense that is correct. the universe is so much more powerful than i am, so much more intricate and unknowable, that it might as well be a god. but what i am really invoking with my reference to deity is the idea that love is a force, that the universe itself is a force, and that if we can tap into its love energy we can make magic happen. when we organize together and dream together and work every day at loving each other we are making magic happen. we are counteracting the forces of evil that drive us into our silos of individualism and achievement.

it is from those same silos of individualism and achievement that we are encouraged to love ourselves. self-love is a capitalist substitute for universal love. it is impossible to feel loved consistently in a world built to separate our souls from our minds and bodies, but self-love tells you that you must somehow overcome all the structures set up to separate you from your ability to tap into divinity on your own. that if you only love yourself enough none of it will matter, and if you cannot love yourself you must spend the rest of your life learning how. but universal love tells you that this is all wrong. universal love reminds you that what prevents you from loving is not your flawed psyche, or a lack of will, but the systems of oppression that were constructed to keep you mired in hate.

universal love asks you to look at the earth, at your mere existence on it, and use this as evidence that you are loved.

this philosophy is not dependent on a belief in divinity or magic. if you aren’t about the woo, i understand. but you are reading this, and you are alive. outside of all the bullshit of the human world, life is a gift. it is a result of a specific set of circumstances that may or may not have occurred outside of our universe. i choose to see this confluence of randomness as evidence of love in action.

i believe love is the strongest force in the universe, stronger than gravity or nuclear attraction or even change. when we are tapped into a sense of universal love we are capable of so much. we are capable of dismantling capitalism and colonialism, halting climate change, transforming the world into a place where we can all feel loved and cared for. we can articulate our needs and support others in getting their own met, without shame and bitterness. we can see beyond our immediate crises and into a future where we aren’t making decisions based on the lesser of two evils.

my own magic is centered on harnessing universal love, on bringing people into a mental space where they can realize their divinity and go forward knowing they are loved. and most importantly, knowing they are capable of focusing that love into a transformative force for social change.

on this day of commercial romance and beyond, i encourage you to root yourself in such love. with every single breath.

like all journeys in life, the path to becoming is never linear. bumps in the road can make me shrink to protect against their impact. but here, near the end of the decade, i am leaning into the largeness of myself. i am remembering that vulnerability and authenticity are also protective.

#

this decade began for me with a small death. the marriage i was in ended after nearly ten years, and i had been laid off the year before. with long-term unemployment made feasible due to the governmental generosity extended after the housing crisis, i had time to think and fornicate and make little moves towards becoming myself more fully. i became a writer-writer, you know, the kind that gets paid. i spent summers on the beach sunning my fat body, celebrating my gloriousness, loving queer friends and femmes, going to conferences and parties. i could visualize my future from there: writing a book, touring the west coast, visiting friends in the east and touring there, dedicating the rest of my life to doing nothing but what i was born to do.

but instead–or rather, first–i had to dedicate my life to recovering my self.

i began withdrawing from all my psychiatric medications in the second year of the decade, a process that would take the next six years. during that time i dated a bunch, got another job, went back to college, met my current partner, saw my first article in print, lost another job, got pregnant and incredibly sick and had my first abortion, had the house we were staying in go into foreclosure, moved into a new apartment, grew my own food for a year, became more disabled, became more radical, and became more of my artist self. and somehow, i did all that while weathering the severe emotional and cognitive shifts that came with removing those substances from my neurochemistry.

in the last year of the decade, i graduated from ucla with a degree in sociology. i’ve been unemployed ever since. it has been trying, but it has also afforded me the reflection time necessary to finish the transformation that began in 2010.

#

the last two years of this decade were the first i’ve spent without psychiatric medication influencing my neurochemistry in 23 years. i feel whole, a strange sensation for someone whose self has been so defined by the places where it was broken. i might still be a little broken, but i am not lost.

part of coming into my wholeness has been recognizing the places where i have cut myself away to become more acceptable to someone else, and reclaiming those parts. my marriage ended because our way of being together hadn’t been truly satisfying for years, in part because i cut away too much of myself. its ending opened the door for me to understand why i had allowed that destruction of self to occur. the journey towards understanding it has taken me backward through childhood and adolescent trauma i thought had been resolved and forward into ceaselessly advocating for my whole ass, grown human being intimacy needs. i have told my partner some really scary, really vulnerable things about my gender and my sexuality and my trauma and how all those things are wrapped up, things that i feared might end our relationship. i have leaped forward in asking for changes in our relationship structure with nothing but my faith in his love–and in my ability to be okay alone if i need to be–to guide me.

i am surely being rewarded for the pain i endured at the hands of men, for the universe to send me this man as a gift, this human so kind and open in heart, so willing to shift and grow and change with me.

#

out of necessity, this decade i’ve cultivated an ongoing practice of radical self-love and ferociously transformative justice-making, and i have been reborn in the process. my tether to the divine has been strengthened. i am re-infused with purpose, reconnected to my sensuality. i am so excited for 2020, for my fortieth birthday and beyond, for writing books and touring and fucking and loving on all the magnificence in the universe. for building something durable and rich with my partner. for growing and learning and spending time with plants and animals and feral people. for magick. for letting go of every single thing that doesn’t serve the divine, everything that pushes us further away from loving each other and ourselves and the universe.

happy 2020 y’all! it’s gonna be amazing, you’ll see.

i am on a makeshift writer’s retreat at our out-of-town friends’ home in the mountains of glendale, california. last night, wind gusted against the house, kept me up half-wondering if someone was trying to break in. this afternoon, the rain stopped, and tonight, the wind has calmed down some, but it is still freezing. 50 degrees and breezy. blessedly, they have central heat, which i have cranked up past the point of financial/environmental sustainability because they love me and i know they would want me to be warm, and i love myself and i know that one night with one house doing the most as far as emitting co2 isn’t going to tip the planet past the point of no return. i mean, we’re probably there already.

not as much physical writing has been accomplished as i might have liked, but so much psychic writing has been accomplished. reflection and solitude are crucial for me to access the sacredness within myself that allows me to create. i love our home, but it is small, and it requires care, so it can sometimes be difficult to cultivate long periods of time in which i can just sit and reflect and journal and then write about what i have learned, or translate that lesson into art. particularly when i am depressed or vulnerable to become it, i need hours and hours of consecutive, simultaneous alone and quiet time before the emotions and experiences that trouble me can be documented and moved through. that’s pretty hard to come by, so i am eternally grateful to our friends for lending me their home, and i am eternally grateful to my partner for taking care of the chores at ours and handling the eventual clean-up here.

this ritual is an oldie but a goodie, dressed up with some oils or herbs. use whatever you have available to make it smell good, cultivate the appropriate energies, and/or attract beneficent entities. the plant helpers you select should promote psychic healing, connecting to spirit/divine, clearing unhelpful energy, and accessing your intuition.

you will need:

paper (preferably brown but i used white printer paper cause they ain’t got brown)
pen/pencil
essential oils or herbs (they have the fancy doterra essential oils here so i used those cause luxury lent with love has got to attract abundance)
the oils i used were star anise oil, lavender oil, cinnamon bark oil, rosemary oil, and sandalwood oil.

for 2020, let go of twenty attitudes, beliefs, practices, and/or values that no longer serve you, or that never did.

write each item down on a slip of paper. fold them up and throw them into a bowl. drip essential oils on them until you concoct a fragrance to your liking. (mine was heavy on the cinnamon, lavender, and anise.) use a spoon and stir it up so the oil gets on all the paper. if you’re working with whole or ground herbs, shake the bowl a bit.

take the bowl outside and dump the contents onto a pyre or other firesafe surface/receptacle. light that motherfucker up.

as it burns, imagine yourself lighter. imagine each of those beliefs, values, practices, behaviors, etc. vanishing into the welcoming and forgiving vacuum of space, once again becoming part of the universe. a part of the universe far, far away from you.

remind yourself of your power. remind yourself you are loved, you are love. promise yourself you will reach for the heavens and never settle for the earth alone. but also promise yourself you will stay grounded. that you will press bare feet into the dirt even as your head floats among the clouds.

gather the ashes and bury them in the earth.

thank your body, thank the land, thank your ancestors, thank the divine. Ă se, amen. peace.

may your 2020 be heavy with prosperity, community, and joy. and may you find something of value in whatever darkness comes.

Hey hey patrons,

This is the second edition of ish I read this week-ish–and it’s actually on time! I had my mea culpas all lined up thinking I’d have to do this tomorrow but here I sit. This will be a shorter edition for two reasons: 1) I’ve been pretty miserable this week because I’ve been in a fibro/IBS flare so I haven’t been able to read as much, and 2) I’m exhausted right now and this actually takes more spoons than I thought it would when I promised it.

For that reason (#2) I’m thinking about making this the LAST edition of ish I read this week-ish, at least the last scheduled edition. I might want to share stuff I read with y’all (or the public) spontaneously, but this being a regular thing I do feels too much like school and I hope y’all know how much I hate school. Because I really really do. So. Yeah. As I write this, I’m making my decision. Instead of doing this feature I’ll post 2 more of my poems every month. That way everything I do here is at least something I love.

Ok, now that that’s settled, I hope you’re all having a great weekend. Here’s some ish I read this week.

When the Chant Comes by Kay Ulanday Barrett (Topside Heliotrope, 2016).

This book was lent to me by a friend in exchange for Audre Lorde’s Collected Poems and I feel like it was a fair trade. I loved how disability and longing, pain and joy, death and transformation, queerness and brownness are all wrapped up in each other here as a gift, inseparable. If you are looking for beautiful cathartic writing I highly recommend Barrett’s work.

TweetCat: “Stray Cat Breaks Into Zoo, Becomes Best Friends With a Lynx.”

OK, I told you it was a light week.

Susan Luckman: “In Our Brutal Modern World, Science Shows Our Brains Need Craft More Than Ever.” The Conversation, 28 Jul 2018.

Since I couldn’t write and read so much this week I’ve been doing crafty-type ish and I happened across this article on FB that reinforces why I do it. I find making things with my hands (when my hands aren’t also hurting, lol) to be so relaxing and restorative, and finding new in the old is a kind of art. I love cutting up clothes I was about to give away and turning them into something I’ll wear for years and sewing fancy accessories that I can’t find in stores for cheaper than they’d sell them. And because I’m making things for myself and not selling them I don’t have to worry about perfection.

That’s all they wrote, folks! I’m almost down to knives, so I’m gonna go lay down.

I’ll put up a separate post another day reminding y’all about the shift to poems from reading roundups, just to make it canon.

Peace!! xo

Good afternoon, beloveds!

So, I hadn’t picked up a book for a few months before the beginning of this one, depressed and preoccupied with looking for a job as I’ve been. Around the Witches’ New Year I started to move out of that deep oceanic depression and into a cosmic microwave background radiation depression: still here, but less detectable under average conditions. That opened the floodgates for me to finish a whole slew of books I’d been unable to before, making this edition particularly literature-heavy. Enjoy.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, 2016).

If I needed more convincing that the human/animal monopoly on sentience is a myth, this book would have pushed me over the edge. As it is, I had my understanding of the Earth as a vast interconnected web of life reinforced by these stories of tree solidarity and family. And I am now immersed in the idea of living on tree time, which is also crip time and CP time and queer time, and trying to hold space for myself to build myself and my body of work slowly. Slow growth equals strength, despite what capitalism might want us to believe. The trees know, y’all.

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018).

Speaking of crip time. Leah, I am so grateful for this offering of yours. (I know they aren’t here, but I’ma speak it to the Universe.) It took me a while to finish this because it is a hard read in ways, as someone who has longed for disability community since I was a crazy achy teenager, because it is full of such beautiful stories of us taking care of each other in the most radical and revolutionary ways. But while I was making my way through those feelings of–let’s be honest, jealousy–I was also doing the work of finding and creating that community that I was longing for. Like now, I’m a member of the Los Angeles Spoonie Collective, and I’ve met so many other amazing disabled activists and friends. That’s in part thanks to Leah’s work. There is so much goodness in here, on femmes and suicide, on access intimacy, on building disabled community and care networks… just, yeah. Get it if you haven’t already. It’s on sale right now via the link up top, so hurry!

The Inheritance Trilogy: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods, and The Awakened Kingdom, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2014).

Oh. My. Gods. So. I am a huge fan of N.K. Jemisin’s work. We read her short story Walking Awake in my Afrofuturism class at UCLA, and I fell in love with the Broken Earth Trilogy shortly thereafter. I got How Long Til Black Future Month on a Kindle deal and of course loved that, but I’d been broke so I hadn’t been able to buy this series or her other duology. But I realized I could check out the e-book from my library recently, so I did, and… oh my gods. I devoured it. The series is about a planet that is kinda Earth-like, but there’s gods. Like, in human form, in non-human form, living among them and doing god shit. The mythology is beautiful, especially the idea of the Three: this trinity/godhead that consists of a goddess, a god, and a genderfluid being that can be either a goddess or a god depending on how they feel. I’m not at all doing it justice. You should just read it.

Vanessa Barbara: “Early to Bed, Early to Rise Makes Me Exhausted, Depressed and Sick.” The New York Times, 28 Oct 2019.

Mx. Barbara’s story is a perfect example of how capitalism forces us to sacrifice our bodies and minds in favor of fitting into an arbitrary 9-to-5 schedule. I don’t have delayed sleep phase syndrome, but I do have disabilities that prevent me from being able to get out of the house earlier than noon reliably. I’ve often lamented how much more productive I’d be if I was allowed to just do what my bodymind needed. This quote sums it up:

Here’s the thing, though. If left to our own devices — if allowed to follow our own biological clocks — we sleep just fine.

Individuals with extreme cases of the syndrome are unable to work conventional jobs. We are also famously unreliable at keeping appointments and participating in diurnal social activities. We learn to make excuses and tell lies. I often say that I work nights, which is true — it’s just not the whole story. Most people respect work-related excuses, but sneer at health conditions they’ve never heard of.

That’s the worst thing about having a circadian rhythm disorder: living in a society that places a moral value on the time your alarm clock goes off. Most cultures emphatically equate early rising with righteousness: As we say in Brazil, “God helps those who wake up early.”

Jessica Jurnigan: “Binding Harm: Generations of Witches Intertwine Rituals and Activism.” Bitch Media, 18 Nov 2019.

So, I don’t know how I feel about the subjects of this article–Starhawk and Amanda Yates Garcia–because there is so much about white witchcraft that tends to be appropriative. The last time I engaged with Starhawk’s work I was in my teens, and much less militant, and I have only heard of Yates Garcia in passing prior to reading this. That said, I was nodding my head YES to so much in this essay. I am a witch because I understand that all systems of oppression are related, because I understand that the continued separation of our bodies from our minds and from Creation is crucial to the colonial-capitalist project. Crip/CP/queer/tree time is in the same radical, anti-oppressive tradition as Yates Garcia’s witch time:

Witch time is Earth time—Earth and its relationship to other planets in our solar system, its relationship to the universe… It’s not this urgent schedule based completely on your productivity and your ability to reproduce capital.

See? YES. I am in a constant practice of listening to the Earth, listening to our collective bodymindsoul and my own, and prioritizing those flesh-and-dirt needs over the dictates of ableist capitalism. That is my everyday magic.


That’s it for this edition, thanks for reading! I hope y’all are having a great weekend.
xo

i was going to write about all the difficult lessons i’m learning this scorpio season about fluid boundaries and respecting others’ wholeness at the same time as you respect your own. but then i crashed back into depression after turning my attention to financial matters again. so instead i’m going to tell you about the darkness, because it teaches us something too.

i have tried to end my life actively twice and passively an uncountable number of times. 6/7 days of the week, give or take, i am in an intentional practice of finding reasons to live. in a world where new reasons not to live manifest on a daily basis, this requires a good deal of my energy and focus. there are nearby things that are reasons to die and far away things that are reasons to die: nearby, financial instability, hunger, and unemployment; far away, climate catastrophe, ableist white supremacist fascism, capitalist ruin. all these things and more weigh on my mind, weigh down my mind so that depression becomes inevitable.

when i look back at each moment i can remember making serious plans to kill myself or actually trying to kill myself i think about whether or not i would regret it if i had died then, if i had missed out on all the events in my life that followed. the answer is invariably no. not because i don’t love the people in my life dearly. not because i haven’t had good times since. the thing is, i don’t think being alive in and of itself is worth anything. i think being alive is worth something if you love your life. i don’t love my life a lot of the time. sometimes it feels like i’m always miserable. but i know depression fucks with my sense of balance in that way, so i don’t use my proportion of good days to bad when i’m doing the calculus of whether or not my life is worth it. what i do is think about the proportion of struggle to reward. for me. i’m sure other people get something out of me being alive, because out of necessity i have shaped myself into a person that others would enjoy being around. but for me, life is also often way more struggle than reward.

of course things might turn around at some point if i stay alive but the way things are looking now in the context of my life history thus far doesn’t bode well for the kinds of extraordinary developments that would have to occur for this to reverse course. plus, i don’t have a lot of life left in me. i have multiple disabilities and i am multiply marginalized. every day a new study comes out telling me this or that trait is a risk factor for early death. being Black, being mentally ill, being queer, being fat, being in chronic pain. all these things wear on my bodymind. and accessing the things i need to counteract them is contingent on me having the money to do that. if i can’t make or raise money, i am on a path towards death anyway, regardless of if i want it or not.

so i am presented with a choice: use my spoons on trying to keep on top of finances/fundraise OR look for a job OR find a reason to live. because at this point i don’t have the spoons for all three. and since i can’t always generate reasons to live for myself i am falling into depression way more often. and i am afraid–no, i am not afraid, not anymore. i have accepted the inevitability that if this continues, if i cannot find some kind of work, at some point i will fall in and be unable to pull myself out. i don’t want to hurt the people i love, but i cannot control the world. i can only do what is within my capacity.

this is what is real for me right now. nothing else takes up so much space in my life. the specter of death. the futility of trying to find a reason to live as a suicidal person when every day brings your involuntary negation closer. i am angry when i think about how i’ve fought to survive for so long and i might just die because capitalism. because i fell for a lie, when so many others fall for the same lie and are rewarded.

this is what is real for me right now. i say optimistic things on social media but i don’t believe them. i don’t really believe the world won’t just let me die. i don’t believe i have the ability to survive. i am scared and hurt and angry and i feel abandoned and betrayed and bitter.

this is what is real for me right now. people die every day. people are abandoned by their families and communities and societies every day. if there is a god they do not discriminate when distributing suffering among the marginalized and oppressed. if there is a god they seem to favor the rich, the white, the depraved. at least in this realm.

(god, please tell me there is a place where this is made right. please tell me this pain isn’t for nothing. please help me understand.)

this is what’s real. i don’t know how i am going to get through the rest of today, or the rest of the week, or the rest of the month. i have nothing to guide me but a shaky faith in myself as a part of the divine and in the divine themselves. i constantly shift between deep, bone-crushing despair and butterfly-wing-beat-hopefulness. i constantly delude myself to keep going and that’s okay. when consensus reality is too harsh sometimes you have to exist in your own.

this is what’s real. i can’t promise to stay alive because that’s not entirely up to me. the world has the ultimate say in my survival. but i promise that i will keep fighting. i promise that i will stare down the darkness until it has said what it needs to say. and if i survive, i promise that i will teach you everything it taught me.