this isn’t about anything, i just need to get some shit down.

still don’t have a job/income. i’m in a “hiring process” rn for this remote writing job and i’ve been putting a lot of my energies towards manifesting that. but it is taking waaaay longer than i think i have the stamina for. i had to turn in a writing sample yesterday and now i’m waiting on the results. i want to believe that i will get the job, but i’m so used to being disappointed i can’t let myself think it’s REALLY going to happen. i can’t visualize myself past this point in my life anymore. i’m so tired. i was manic for a week or two and that powered me through the first part of this “hiring process” but i’ve been just kind of numb for a few days and now i think i’m moving into legit depression. but even in the mania i wasn’t ecstatic or anything. it was more just energy but not the good feeling with it.

my sex drive is nonexistent because to desire sex i would have to feel with my whole self and that isn’t something i’m equipped to do rn. plus i’m having a lot of pain in my back and legs and head and guts and it’s hard to focus on anything else going on in my body. it’s just too much. i’m so exhausted of this world and how hard it is to live in it, and with how many people in it truly believe that this is the way it should be. and i know there is so little i can do to change it. and i have to fight my mind and body and the world and it’s just… why. for what?

oh yeah, this is depression.

i haven’t even been able to do more social media fundraising because i just don’t have the spoons. and if anyone ever tries to tell you that “digital panhandling” is an easy way to make money, punch them in the mouth. just even working up the nerve to say anything about how fucked you are in the first place is labor. and then you have to keep updating totals, reviving the post, making new posts, new stories, all dedicated to how dire your finances are like you didn’t already have that in the back or front of your mind at all times. it’s just a lot. especially when you’re already going through some shit, which you clearly are because you’re out here asking for help. anyway. i am very thankful for my friends, who have continued to share and boost even though i’m not pushing it as much as i probably should.

i’m just fatigued, burned out, done. i’ve had to let go of so many things to be “okay” with where i am now, and a lot of that has been really freeing but a lot of it has been more out of necessity than desire. for example, i’ve let go of my need to look a certain way because i don’t have the money to achieve that look. but it’s to the point where some things i let go are actively making my mood worse, like rn my hair is super fucked because i can’t retwist it myself anymore due to shoulder/neck pain so i “decided” to just let it freeform but that led to it getting super tangly and painful so i kept putting my hands in it when it was dry, trying to pull stray hairs out of locs that were like on the other side of my head. and now it’s SO wack looking, it makes me want to cry. but i can’t get it fixed because no money. other shit that impacts my health that i can’t fix because no money: our 15 year old mattress is fucking up our backs and hips and shoulders, my desk chair/dining chair is in no way ergonomic and gives me a migraine if i sit in it too long, and the chair i sit in to “relax” is pushing my spine into awful contortions and fucking with my hips/knees.

and part of that stuff is my fault because when we had/have money i don’t wanna spend it on boring shit like a mattress or getting my hair fixed or whatever. i wanna buy plants and tattoos and good food and cute stuff. but like, if i had enough money in the first place there wouldn’t be this feast or famine mentality over here. i mean, i’m gonna die one day (probably soon, tbh), why shouldn’t i enjoy my life and be surrounded and covered in magnificence? it’s super hard to convince my mad depressive brain that buying a mattress is gonna make me happier than getting more tats. and like, the fact that good mattresses are so expensive yet getting a better night’s sleep puts you at an advantage in life sends me down an anger spiral. same with ergonomic chairs and what not. the folks who can afford all that shit aren’t the ones who really need it.

anyway, i digress.

universe, i need this job. i need something unequivocally good to happen, not some shit that i had to make good by spinning it round and round and extracting some lesson out of it. i’m tired of turning lemons into lemonade, tired of finding a silver lining, tired of trying to stay motivated and upbeat in the face of an unrelenting stream of garbage. just let me have this, please. i don’t think i have it in me to overcome any more.

TL;DR: Support my work on Patreon.

This isn’t going to be anywhere near as coherent as my last little update on post-graduation life, but that’s okay. Everything in me would rather not write again until things get better, so just getting these thoughts translated into words is enough right now.

Last time around I said I was going to try to write full-time and I did. For about a week. Turns out I can’t take the anxiety, my heart beating out of my chest all day every day. The first day wasn’t so bad. I wrote and polished four pitches and started sending them out. I did a little work on my website and Patreon and I tweeted and such to build platform. I felt positive. But after a few rejections I started second-guessing whether or not what I was pitching was even marketable. The time spent on social media, supposedly “platform building”, didn’t help my anxiety either. By Wednesday of the first week I was in the previously mentioned condition: tachycardia, high BP, whatever. I was hyperaware of my heartbeat and all its seeming inconsistencies. It didn’t help that I was drinking black tea every morning to try to be productive and not getting enough sleep because I had to push myself so hard to work eight hours each day.

After that fiasco of a week I decided to start looking for a part-time job again. What I really want and what I have always needed to be creative is stability and it’s silly of me to think that at damn near forty and in such a fucked-up time in my life and the planet’s that I’d be able to change something so essential about myself. I shut down when money gets funny. Periodt. I can’t generate anything when I’m worried about how we’re gonna get groceries. I was just trying to make myself feel better about not being able to find a job. This is just a mutation of “if I’m exceptional enough I can succeed”. Like I think that oh, I can’t find a job so I’ll just make a job. When in my whole life has that ever worked? Folks are even less likely to pay me if it’s me, you know what I mean? Like, people will give me money to survive and I love them so deeply for that, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely do and I don’t mean to insult anyone who has supported me financially when I was desperate, or seem ungrateful. I am eternally grateful for your support to support me in this moment (and I know not everyone has the long-term stability to offer more than that). But it feels like most folks–whether it’s readers or editors–aren’t interested in paying for my work, which would truly sustain me past this moment. I know my writing has changed a lot since 2010, but I do wish that what I’m offering now was considered valuable. Oh well.

(The good femme Shannon Barber wrote about her own experiences with $$$ and feeling like she isn’t folks’ cup of tea and I feel it so immensely. You should read it here, here, and here.)

Anyway, I have so little energy, so few spoons, it doesn’t make sense in my mind to spend them on things that have a low likelihood of success. Freelance writing, especially as a disabled person whose disabilities are exacerbated by uncertainty, instability, and rejection, does not have a high likelihood of success. And the types of shits I think to write about are profoundly unmarketable (by me). And to be honest the kind of writing I want to do right now is not that. So I stopped. If nobody’s gonna read my shit anyway I might as well only write what I want, when I want.

But the job search doesn’t seem to have a high likelihood of success either.

Since June I’ve been on three interviews and all of them advertised as part time jobs but ended up preferring someone who would work full-time now or in the future. I don’t want to work full time because I want to have energy to write and if I earned the same wage I did BEFORE I WENT TO COLLEGE I really wouldn’t need to work full time. Irony of ironies, it seems like I’m gonna be making significantly less than I did before I went back to school to make more money/have more stability. I am so, so, so salty about this shit, y’all. Like, the salt is f e r m e n t i n g the longer I sit here with a college degree and no job.

(And I know I knew it was a scam while I was in it but it just sucks so so bad being in it.)

I can’t count how many jobs I’ve applied to and never heard anything, not even an interview request. Right now I’m playing phone tag with a manager at a call center where I applied to be a rep and it’s been so long that I’m suspicious she’s somehow figured out I’m Black and is trying to avoid ever actually talking to me. Last Friday I drove for UberEATS for about three hours and made $26. NO ONE tipped. My broke ass makes sure we tip every single time we order anything delivered and I feel guilty because I only do 20% but we don’t even have that. I was so mad. Driving gives me migraines especially when there’s an additional stress (like time or making money) added to the experience, so I would have liked to make more for three hours of one of my least favorite activities. I might do it again one day this week to see if Friday is just a day assholes tend to order but I am 99.9% sure it’s not gonna be a viable source of income. Especially since it really fucked my energy levels over the weekend.

There are so many things I’m amazing at, but I’m in the exact same position right now I was before I went to school: I don’t have “legit” experience doing those things, or I don’t have the right degree, or I don’t have the money to start doing them as a business because you need licenses and other garbage. I’m stuck hoping one of these places I’m applying to realizes how amazing I am and offers me a job. It doesn’t seem like it’s gonna happen any time soon, and paradoxically the longer it takes the less motivation I feel to keep trying. That is alarming since our financial situation worsens with each day that goes by where I’m not earning money.

The thing is, of course, that I don’t really want to work. I want money so I can eat and medicate and buy plants and get tattoos and stuff, but I don’t want to have to go into an office every day or write something marketable or deliver food or whatever capitalism has decided is worth getting paid for. I want to do the work in that I want to make art, struggle towards liberation, build community, spend time with my loved ones, worship god, and enjoy my place in nature. Those are some of the most important things in the world, but they don’t bring in the cash. Which is why, every day, I question why the fuck I stick around this godforsaken planet.
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I’m still here, though.

a black cauldron with burning herbs sits among crystals and tarot cards on an altar draped in turquoise ankara fabric. i did this spell last full moon and was pretty sure it hadn’t worked. then, on the last day of the moon cycle, it manifested in the most beautiful way: with my community pulling together to support me financially through the last part of the month.

so far, this spell hasn’t brought abundance and prosperity in the sense that i have a job or a savings or any stability. but i survived last month, and i will survive this one, and maybe the work i’m continuing to do will produce more bombastic results with time.

gather the following ingredients:

* cramp bark for general good luck
* star anise for same
* rosemary to purify capitalist/colonialist connotations of “prosperity”
* hyssop to purify capitalist/colonialist connotations of “abundance”
* sandalwood to grant wishes
* calendula, patchouli oil, cinnamon and chamomile to draw money
* angelica to break the jinx of white supremacy
* sage to reverse the evil of capitalism
* high john oil to draw money and for good luck

grind with mortar and pestle or dedicated coffee grinder and add to cauldron.

write the following (or something like it) on a brown piece of paper:

all earthly blessings will flow to us
the obstacles of colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy will shatter under our feet
the struggle for survival will abate
a new day of peace, abundance, and joy will grow
from our resistance
and our prayers
universe, we call upon all forces for good
for god
to see us here this full moon night
and grant our request
for respite.
let abundance and prosperity coexist with our determined opposition to capitalist exploitation.
ashe.

fold up the paper and place it along with the herbs in the cauldron. set a lighted charcoal on top of the paper. open a window if you’re not outside.

repeat let abundance and prosperity coexist with our resistance to capitalism as many times as you like.

bury the ashes in the earth.

a white sand beach with footprints in it leading to clear ocean water.

this tea is named for my new friend mars, who recently moved to clearwater beach, florida. i made this tea for their going away party and it was so amazing i wanted to share.

9 tsp chamomile flowers
4 tsp hibiscus flowers
2 tsp sweet orange peel
1 tsp holy basil (rama) leaves
1 tsp peppermint leaves
1 whole star anise
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
18 cups water (4 boiling, 16 cold)

bring 4 cups of water to a boil. add herbs and spices to a large mason jar and pour boiling water over them. cover and steep for 10-15 minutes. strain into a large pitcher and stir in sugar until dissolved. add cold water. pour into ice-filled glasses (if desired) and serve with optional straws. can be enjoyed lukewarm or cold.

on the day of the hearing, sing:

let no evil come by you, [name] let no evil come by
you will be set free today, [name] you will be set free
all our love will guide you, [name] as you stand calm within the storm
no evil shall come by you, [name] today you will be bound no more

or whatever words you feel called to sing that invoke collective liberation, breaking chains, uprooting systems of oppression.

as you sing, write the name of whatever system, institution, group, or individual is responsible for the activist’s incarceration 3 times on a piece of brown paper bag in black ink. turn the paper 90 degrees and write the activist’s name three times in red ink. fold the paper into a square.

combine dill weed, galangal root, calendula flowers, licorice root, cassia chips, rosemary leaves, eucalyptus leaves, cascara sagrada powder, and sandalwood chips in a cauldron. light charcoal and add to cauldron. place folded name paper on top of charcoal. open a window.

while lighting a rainbow taper candle (any protection candle color will also work), visualize the activist safe, protected, home with their loved ones. sing. let the candle burn to the end.

make sure all plant material in the cauldron has burned. bury ashes and wax in the earth.

wonder at the miracle that is our collective body of loving support and ferocious action.

image showing degree conferral from UCLA: bachelor of arts, sociology, magna cum laudeSociety—other people, systems, institutions, culture—has so much more power over our lives than the average person gives it credit for. Acknowledging its outsized influence is devastating at first, incompatible as it is with a vision of the individual as master of their own destiny, culpable in failure and deserving in success. But there is a freedom in relinquishing our illusions of control. If I am not charge of my destiny, if my class or race or assigned gender or national origin are stronger determinants of my fate than my individual decisions, it matters less what choices I make. I can make the choices society prescribes for me, or I can choose a different path.

A little less than six years ago, I fled back to school hoping that when I finished, I would be able to avoid the stress and disappointment of looking for a job without a college degree. I had just been laid off from my job as a technical support specialist and was already attending community college part time, so it seemed fortuitous, especially since my partner and were talking about me quitting my job and going back to school full time once he found a teaching job. I made the leap and enrolled in a full load of classes at my local community college.

(Society told me going back to school was a respectable choice, the right choice. I should have graduated from college a long time ago, according to chrononormative* standards, anyway, and won’t a college degree give you a leg up in the job market? They can never take your degree away from you, they say, and promise it will all be worth it, all the struggling and debt and biting your tongue.)

There was no way for me to know five years ago that I would be graduating into a job market even more unfriendly to folks like me than I had avoided by entering college in the first place. No way for me to know that I would be made more disabled by my time in academia; definitely no way for me to know that the world as I understood it would effectively be ending in slow motion, that overt and aggressive fascism and white supremacy would be in power all over the world, that the naively hopeful environmental trajectory I thought we were on would be replaced by dire warnings of our dwindling opportunity to halt the inevitable collapse.

But—this is actually an okay place to be, for me. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Even if sometimes it hurts so bad I wish I could sink into the molten outer core of the earth. Systems are failing, nakedly, obviously. That means there is no way for me to blame myself. There is no way for me to be exceptional enough to overcome an actual apocalypse. If I learned anything from studying sociology, I learned that.

At last, finally, and in the end, I understand: It’s not me, it’s society.

###

I once believed that higher education was a refuge for the bookish and bright. Being the kind of learner that prefers to absorb a subject through obsessively researching as much as I can on it, I found only misery in elementary and high school. I felt trapped, forced to learn in a regimented way, forced to adhere to conventions set by long-dead colonizers and bootlickers and other types interested in turning children into compliant cogs in a surplus-generating machine. College, I thought, would be different, would be more open to the kaleidoscope of brains humanity contains. Despite having attended college on and off since I was sixteen, I didn’t have enough long-term experience with it to dispel my idealistic beliefs. I was always too crazy to attend class regularly, always withdrawing mid-semester to deal with some emotional upheaval, some mental collapse. And I was so drugged up and indoctrinated into various mainstream viewpoints that I probably wouldn’t have noticed the reality of it all even if I had managed to spend any length of time at school.

This time around, though, I noticed. I noticed all the ways higher education operates to exclude folks like me, all the ways it demands exceptionalism in the face of its own mediocrity, all the ways it perpetuates a status quo of ableism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism. And as I got further into my upper division major work—sociology—I noticed even more. It became too much to bear too many times to count. The small ironies piled up like so much oppressive detritus, my daily commute a recounting of historical and present-day trauma, my thoughts a running tally of injustices: I am currently driving on a freeway system built by displacing poor people of color, past houses big enough to hold every single houseless person I meet on the way, to a campus more concerned with the appearance of diversity than materially improving the lives of its Black or disabled or queer or immigrant students, to learn about the impact of housing discrimination on intergenerational wealth in whites versus Black folks.

I channeled my anger, my outrage and existential despair, let it flavor impassioned papers and pointed presentations, but it felt hollow, was hollow. It meant nothing, and I knew it. I had to endure the slights, had to make do when my disability accommodations were phased out, had to push myself beyond the point of burnout to finish my degree. Because in my mind, if I didn’t, I’d just spent five years and however many tens of thousands of dollars to have my dreams crushed without even getting a receipt. As much as I wanted to be the kind of bitch that says you know what, I’m good and forges their own degreeless path in life—as much as I had effectively been that bitch for the first part of my adult life out of necessity—I felt obligated to finish, not only for myself but for the loved ones who were sacrificing to help me get through school.

To stay motivated, I told myself that I’d find a job quickly once I finished school. I knew this was a fiction, but it was a necessary one—more than once, the specter of graduating and still being unable to find a job almost convinced me to drop out. I pretended as if this degree really would allow me to navigate the job market with ease, picking and choosing from a panoply of well-paying jobs with full benefits, leapfrogging over my un-degreed competition. But even if that were the case, I was using every last bit of my energetic reserves to reach a finish line that had shifted since I started the race, leaving me in no condition to leapfrog over anything. I spent the first few weeks after graduation pretending it was just another summer, trying to recharge a little before I started my job search.

A manic episode lent me the optimism to apply for a dozen or so jobs and write sparkling cover letters to each. The inevitable fibro flare and depression that followed forced me to acknowledge the truth of 2019’s job market hellscape. Several of the $15/hr-and-under positions I applied to expected me to do free labor in the form of aptitude tests and their ilk. (For some jobs, I did these, because I felt the position/salary would be worth it, and the tests weren’t too egregious. On others, I declined.) Out of the positions to which I applied, only one has even opened my resume—I’ve received no response from that employer at the time of writing, two weeks later. One job I was particularly excited about, one whose qualifications I greatly exceeded and whose hours and duties perfectly matched my needs, had over a thousand applicants at last update. A few jobs have “moved to the next stage in their hiring process” without my resume even being acknowledged.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be jobless for a while, if traditional employment is the way I insist on making my living. I can write about it now, find the silver lining in my misfortune, because it’s been a couple weeks and I’m high as fuck. But realizing that I just spent five years under some of the most extreme stress of my life to basically end up worse off than I started broke me for about a week. My always-tenuous commitment to staying in corporeal form dwindled to nonexistence more than once, but I happily do not own anything capable of killing me in a guaranteed manner, so I’m still here.

(Kidding, kind of. As long as the people who love me are here on this planet, I’m staying in solidarity. But things did get pretty pale in my head.)

I cannot Black excellence my way out of being on earth as worlds crumble around me. I cannot young, Black, and gifted my way into insulating myself from climate collapse, into financial security, into overcoming a system built to oppress and exploit folks like me before leaving us to become casualties of their disregard for life. All I can be is open to learning how to live in different ways, how to ride the waves of change such that I can keep my head above water, keep what’s important in sight. And if I can’t keep my head above water, I can learn to take bigger breaths before I go under.

If I could travel through time, I would impart this wisdom to 34-year-old me on the eve of their decision to go back to school. I would whisper in her ear: Do not give in to fear. Leap. You will find you have wings. I don’t know that I would fly, that things would turn out any better if I threw myself into professional writing in 2014 instead of seeking the comfort of official validation, but I might have avoided destroying my health in order to get it. I really thought I needed the legitimacy of a degree. I didn’t. Turns out what I needed was to finally internalize the idea that it’s not me, it’s society. For accomplishing that, at least, perhaps going back to school was worth it. For what it did to my emotional and physical well-being, decidedly, it was not.

###

It’s the end of the world—at least, it’s the beginning of the end of a way of living based in colonialism, ableism, white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, and cisheteropatriarchy—and that means we don’t have to do things the same way anymore. We never did, but we have even less incentive now that doing things the way we were told to do them has been so starkly revealed as a path to destruction and separation from god, god being that spark of the divine we each hold within us, the glue that binds us to each other and the planet and all beings across the universe. The way of living that tells me that I must depend on a boss or a landlord or a mayor or a president to manage my work, my housing, my community, my people, is the same way of living that has cleaved Indigenous land from Indigenous humans, the same way of living that is rendering the planet uninhabitable for large human populations, the same way of living that I will reject every single day until it has been banished from this earth.

We must reject ways of living that perpetuate systems of oppression if we are to have hope of humanity surviving the catastrophic change that is underway. But since systems of oppression also shape the ways of living we have available to us, this rejection will come with pain and sacrifice, especially for those of us who are subjugated under the same systems. I know this, I been known this, been known revolutionary change is full of what we are taught to perceive as negative emotions and experiences, but that there is growth contained within them. If a little pain, a little discomfort on my part, on our part, could propagate through the system all the way up to the institutional level, could destabilize the systems that oppress us, wouldn’t it be worth it? Especially when—in my experience, at least—pain can be a catalyst for awakening, and a pleasure unto itself.

For me, the desire to be traditionally employed is partially rooted in a genuine concern that my disability might prevent me from being able to manage freelance or self-employed life. Putting the responsibility for finding streams of income on myself and not on some professional who ostensibly knows what they’re doing is a terrifying prospect when I consider how few days out of a month I feel well enough to work on projects. At the same time, I do get shit done despite how I feel. I don’t have to feel good about something in the moment for it to be worthwhile. In fact, the most worthwhile things I’ve done have often been ordeals to get through.

That’s not to say that everything worthwhile must be painful, or that suffering is necessarily productive—I would never endorse that idea. Sometimes, though, the only way we get out of a destructive situation is for it to become untenable, uncomfortable, painful. Sometimes pain is a friend nudging you: Are you safe here?  Is this what you really need? I’ve been trying to understand what this pain is trying to tell me, this discomfiting space I’m in where I don’t know when I’ll find work, how I’m going to support myself, where I’m going in life when it comes to career.

Before I got my sociology degree, I might have blamed myself for my inability to find a job. I might have taken the metaphorical whip to my own back, expected that I would be able to make up the gap between economic expectation and reality by hustling, killing myself to meet a capitalist ideal of productivity and employability. Now, I know. It’s not me, it’s society. Trying to be middle class, trying to live up to hegemonic ideals of success, is destructive. What I am feeling is in part the shame of not being able to consume the same disproportionate amount of resources as my parents did, the anguish of believing hard work gets you anywhere, the guilt of having held that ideology against the poor and the houseless and other unfortunate souls I probably thought myself better than, the humiliation of having that ideology thrown back in my face when I cannot succeed under the same terms.

(And when I say I, I mean we. None of us are safe here, and this is the opposite of what we need.)

This job market, this disappointment post-graduation, is painful for me to confront. It’s a bit of the same pain I felt when I came to understand that higher education was not a great equalizer but merely a mechanism to perpetuate the status quo, the same pain I feel when I hear people defend throwing families in cages because they violated some law, the same pain I feel when I see folks saying we can’t take radical action on climate change or abolish prisons or dismantle capitalism because it will cost too much or be unfair to folks who paid off their loans or their debt to society or whatever milquetoast excuse the centrists are offering that day. We insist on adhering to the tenets of a way of life that is killing us. I adhered to them by going back to school, even though I had literally no reason to, was receiving no real benefit besides the false sense of security that comes from doing the right thing. If we just work hard enough. If we get a degree. If we are exceptional. If we go high when they go low, if we open a business in a disadvantaged community for three years, if we are silent as the waves of change crash upon us, as the inexorable tide of exploitation pulls us under, we might become one of the lucky ones.

The past is the past. I made my choice, I went back to school, I graduated. But now, I intend to break away, take a different path than the one society prescribes for me. A scarier path, but maybe a more realistic path. A path that I forge myself, with guidance from others who have navigated this chaos longer than I have, successfully. I want to write full-time, or as full-time as my bodymind allows. It isn’t my first choice to make writing my primary source of income—it is partially a function of the reality of the job market—and I may end up needing to find part-time work to supplement my income after all. The more I think about it, though, the more I believe that making writing my full-time job is at least something worthwhile for me to attempt. Writing is where I see myself doing the most good on this planet, and despite the awful state of publishing, I think I have a chance—however tiny—at my version of success. It will be hard. It will involve a lot of rejection and crying jags and questioning whether I ought to just peace myself out and avoid all the misery. It could also be the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. The way I find community. The way I build community and leave a legacy of work for the folks who live after I’m gone. I have nothing to lose, anyway. We have nothing to lose but a world that would see us in chains again.

It’s not you, it’s society. And society is in shambles. What would you do if there was nothing holding you back, if you had nothing left to lose, if everything you thought you knew turned out to be a lie? What will you do now, at the beginning of the end of this world?


* Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories. Duke University Press. 2010.

Night stars are benevolent, unlike the pitiless lord of the day. Under the moon’s placid gaze, Sesylie can pull off her goggles and drink in as much ultraviolet as the heavens will grant her. Lest her absence become contested, she resists the urge to wander and sprawl on the chalky jigsaw flats of the Barren. The last time she did, the crisp air tempted her to sleep and she woke to Nyria raising Sol in search of her. If she stays close to the mottled obsidian guarding the mouth of the launch cave, she can trawl the waters of her mind in peace.

As she samples the wavelengths, she considers their source. Any one of these gentle lights might contain a dying moan of radiation that would end the world once and for all. But she can’t hold it against them. Though her upbringing was steeped in Berai superstition, she doubts stars have will beyond a desire to burn bright as they can with what they’ve been given. In that, she has sympathy for the little sun, not hot or dense enough in life to become explosive or exotic in death. No wonder it lashes her people with its tongue of fire, its withering light. It feels the sting of not measuring up.

Maybe sympathy isn’t the word for what Sesylie feels. Empathy might be more like it. Yes, though it will take everyone she loves from her–has already taken everyone she loves, in a way–she feels a kinship with the sun above all stars. She knows all too well what it’s like to question your place in the cosmos.

#

Inside the crystal-lined cave, the humid air is thick with anticipation. Sesylie sinks into the embrace of the vessel as Meroan explains yet again what she can expect of her journey.

“I wish we’d been able to build in a readout, a control panel, something in here so you’d know if you were going off course,” he says. He picks at the vessel’s acrylicine walls, his dark eyes narrow. “This thing is a piece of fesh. Should have spent more time digging around the Domes for parts.”

“It’s fine, Mero,” she says. “It will work. You risked enough getting what you did.”

“Under any other star…” Meroan shakes his head and stops before he finishes the adage. “Anyway, I know, I know we’ve gone over this–but you have to stay focused when the engines are on. You get sucked into one of your spirals and there’s no telling where you’ll end up. Or when.”

“Mmm,” she says, gazing over his smooth brown head at the amethyst formation on the wall. It’s amethyst in name only now. Just the palest hint of blotchy lavender distinguishes it from clear quartz. Another casualty of the sun.

((… read the rest at Patreon for $1/mo))

everything from then on out was going through the motions.
everything from going to work every day to saving for the future to breathing was
a charade performed as defense against the inevitable
a tired eye closed to the light of the oncoming train
a battered heart numb to the cries of the victimized child
a weary soul creaking under the weight of the world
and choosing the path of least resistance.
yet we could not cease going through the motions,
could not stop the motion of the machine grinding towards us
with the threat of growling bellies and chattering teeth.
a few of us figured out that we could stop the motion of the earth
blot out the sun with the moon
compel every human into the street
if we imagined it together.
but most of us were too tired from work
to work on aligning the stars for revolution.
so we waited,
and plotted,
and planned B
all the while praying
for the rest to get as tired
as we were.

    Excerpt from journal of an anonymous Appendage of the Queer Disabled Black Femme Tactical Liberation Body, Third Division (Western Turtle Island). [Archival comments: ….. So, this is written ten years BEFORE the Reckoning. Quantum-temporal collective manifestation or visionary madness? We still don’t understand exactly what the QDBFTLB harnessed to bring us this world, no matter what we might like to think. This begs further research. – taf]
[In the first installment of this series, I talked about my politics in general and how the connections between systems of oppression and my personal experience have become incredibly salient to me. Here I want to talk about how that awakening impacted my attitude towards my various disabilities and how I navigate the world with them.]

I’ve experienced the world in the way I do for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I was officially diagnosed with depression and later bipolar disorder (along with assorted goodies like dissociative identity disorder and panic disorder and PTSD and and and). I’m off psychiatric medication, and for the most part I don’t find my panoply of diagnoses useful anymore, but they were a part of my journey at one point.

It was also around this time–maybe a little before, maybe a little after, my memory of my childhood is hazy–that I was diagnosed with two other disabling conditions: irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. I’ve had digestive struggles since I was very young. I can recall missing a lot of school due to stomachaches that were almost certainly a result of internalized stress and trauma. The fibromyalgia did not manifest itself until I was in my teens, but it came on strong when it did. I needed to use a cane to walk for a long time. (Along with all this, I had extremely debilitating menstrual pain that seemed to take up a majority of the month, I developed PCOS as a consequence of being treated with valproic acid during puberty, and I had various other issues crop up–like sleep disorders and RLS–due to the psych meds.)

My teenage years were mental and physical hell, some of it a byproduct of my not possessing the framework to understand the societal underpinnings of why I was experiencing the things I was, some of it a direct result of my divergent mind and body. I was taught to blame my hellish existence solely on my mind and body. The treatments I was given focused on correcting supposed imbalances in my brain or building tolerance in my body to things I felt I shouldn’t have to tolerate. I eventually got balanced enough or good enough at pushing past the pain that I could get off disability and get a job and tolerate injustice for a paycheck. And I thought I was as close to cured as I could possibly be; I was approximating normal, at least.

When my life fell apart and I along with it, I again sought cure. I thought psychiatric medication was the reason for all my disability, and if I could just get that out of my system, cleanse my system with enough detox and healthy living, I wouldn’t be in constant pain, wouldn’t feel like I needed to curl up in bed after a couple hours awake, wouldn’t feel every single worry in my muscles and joints or every single piece of food pass through my digestive tract.

(That wasn’t the case, either. I’m still very much in pain, very much beholden to my body’s need to eliminate fully every morning before I’m able to comfortably start my day, and very much inhibited by overwhelming fatigue on most days.)

Here’s the thing: until 2017 or so, I’m pretty sure I saw my disability as something I could overcome. Much like all the other characteristics I talked about–my race, my gender, my body size–I saw my disability as something conquerable if I was just exceptional enough. I’m not saying I would have ever verbalized this, and I certainly didn’t think it about other folks. But internalization runs deep, is insidious. Uprooting hegemonic thought patterns takes a lifetime, because they are forever changing and adapting as you change and adapt.

It took withdrawing from psych meds and confronting the continual presence of my disabilities to force me to reckon with their permanence. This reckoning is ongoing. I still sometimes find myself looking back at some mythical time before I became disabled, or looking forward to a time when I might be some shade of healthy, that is to say, less sick. And when I envision me as my best self, too often it’s a vision of myself being productive and able-bodied enough to perform activities like running or cleaning my entire house. The goal is to get to a place where my best self isn’t molded by ableist values. I want to make plans for the future that don’t center on the pain abating or my moods stabilizing.

I’ve realized that up until recently, I was attempting to do one of three things to my disabilities: cure, control, or contain. When cure seemed out of the question, I sought containment through rebellion and self-destruction or control through meds and adopting abled culture; when containment and control became untenable, I set my sights on cure through withdrawing from psych meds and convincing myself my disability was an artifact of their effects. Cure, control, contain is the model for cancer treatment, deadly and alien as we know it, and I knew my disabilities similarly. I hadn’t considered that they were inseparable parts of me, and might have something to offer other than suffering and eventual death.

That these parts of me are disfavored by white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy is not a reflection of their true worth. The parts of me that achieve academically or generate income or do sports aren’t better than the parts of me that were too depressed to finish an assignment on time or that were on SSI or that couldn’t walk without a cane. I don’t need to isolate and berate the so-called deficient parts of me to protect the virtuous parts. All together they make me who I am, and I am glorious because of my disability, not in spite of it.

Now I have the language, the frame through which to extricate the struggles I experience due to ableism and the struggles I experience due to physical or psychological pain. I no longer look at my mind and body as something to be overcome. I’m learning to interact with my bodymindsoul in a tender way, to listen and consider and ask for consent, and not to judge or reprimand when I can’t perform in some way that ableist society has demanded. I’m lowering my expectations, because I wasn’t put on this earth to be productive, and I don’t see the point in playing along. What society has to offer me in exchange for breaking myself at its feet isn’t worth the blood spilled.

My disabilities are foundational to how I navigate the world. Having limited energy shapes my view of what is truly necessary to spend one’s time on, and thus dictates my priorities–growing love and nourishing spirit. My mental illnesses have shaped my understanding of the nature of reality: the relative abundance of sorrow and the rarity of true joy, and how important it is to protect the latter when it crops up. If it weren’t for these supposed impediments, I would likely have spent my life pursuing goals set for me by society rather than building a life guided by transformative love principles and seeking pleasure.

I truly believe my disabilities have something to teach me about how to live wholly in this world, something precious. I need only agree to stop trying to fit them in an ableist box, stop trying to make them small or acceptable or part of an inspirational narrative of overcoming that ties up neat in a bow with me as the cured crazy person at the end.

It’s been pretty somber in the Fierce household this fall and winter. I would say I’m approaching burnout, but I know that boundary was crossed long ago. I’m fueled by sunk-cost fallacy at this point. I don’t want to be in school anymore, haven’t wanted to be for some time. Me doing something I absolutely loathe, day in and day out, can’t help but set the tone for how my partner feels, the household aura poisoned by my thinly veiled rage.

I’d already decided by the end of last academic year that I didn’t want to get a Ph. D. in sociology because of my inability to reconcile the exclusionary nature of academia with my belief in divesting as much as possible from structures that produce and perpetuate inequality. For a while I planned on getting an MFA so I could spend the next few years writing and not having to deal with the shambles of my finances. (I went back to school full-time after having been laid off in 2014, and I have a bunch of credit card debt that I haven’t been paying because we don’t have the money for both of us to have good credit.) But I don’t need to go to school to write, and I don’t need to buy further in to the lie that higher education is a means to break down structural barriers. Why go further into undischargeable debt? So I can assimilate into a system that would much rather I not participate in the first place, a system that will put up innumerable obstacles to ensure I only make it if I’ve proven myself exceptional? Nah. Being exceptional is the opposite of being free. (I still gotta convince my anxiety of this.)

Over the hot, depressed, miserable summer I even considered leaving UCLA without finishing my bachelor’s. After agonizing over it, taking into account how much work and sacrifice went into me being here not only on my part but on my family’s, I finally settled on just not giving a shit about grades anymore. I figured GPA means nothing when I’m 99.9999% sure I’m never going to want to set foot on a university campus again once I’m done with this degree. As a result, I’ve pulled back a lot when it comes to studying and reading. That freed up some time for me, but I’m so broke or anxious or depressed or exhausted or achy that I can’t enjoy it. Whenever I do something I want to do, something that would normally bring me joy, there’s this buzzing in the back of my head reminding me that I should be reading or working on some paper or whatever for school. Right now I have two final projects I need to start, and I’m writing this. Oops.

I tell myself that it is participating in a system I no longer believe in that is driving my mood instability, my fibro flares, my chronic IBS issues. But there’s a deeper truth that I elide with this narrative, the truth that the world–at least the man-made part of it–is in itself a system I no longer believe in. I still haven’t figured out how to live with that in a generative way, but I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life working on it. I still think things will get better for me once I get out of school. I also know there will be new struggles and obstacles to overcome.

person with locks and light skin in blue and purple dragon pajamas
I’ve been wearing this dragon onesie all fall/winter. Yes, even outside.

In other news, I’ve been writing poetry and fiction, trying to improve so I can one day produce something publishable at the pro level. I have a lot of self-doubt about my writing skill. I’ve gotten over it to a certain extent when it comes to nonfiction, which I (inaccurately) see as “not creative”. When it comes to “creative writing”, though, I falter. I know good writing when I read it, but my feelings on my own writing are tied up in my doubt. Not to mention the mindfuck that is grandiosity in mania and self-loathing in depression. Meaning, when I read my writing while manic, I think it’s amazing, but when I read it while depressed, I think it’s straight trash. I’ve had walking depression for like, a year, so it’s been hard to accurately judge my work during that time. I’m trying to be generous and not force myself to write when I’m so depressed I hate everything I’ve ever produced, especially since I have to save some energy for my schoolwork.

On the theme of saving energy, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone, so if you’ve been trying to get my attention on Facebook or Instagram, I apologize (but I doubt my absence has been greatly missed since I wasn’t active much to begin with!). I can’t help looking at web Twitter every now and then, though. Hey, I also deleted the news app, so I gotta go somewhere to keep up with the latest political fuckery and the dankest memes.

Spiritually I haven’t had energy to do all the work I’d like to; I’ve mainly just been celebrating full moons and pulling tarot cards when I need direct messages from god. I haven’t been able to keep up with my studies on that front since I transferred from community college, to be quite honest. Haven’t been able to move my body regularly or eat the way I want to either. I’m sure the lack of psychic and physical nourishment is contributing to this pervasive feeling I have that I’m dying. Being in chronic pain doesn’t help that either! My “rational” mind tells me I’m not dying any faster than I was before I started school, but the way my body feels… it’s hard to dispel that belief. The fact that I’ve felt like I’m dying for the past year and I haven’t died yet is probably an indication that whatever I’m feeling, it’s not a result of my body being riddled with cancer or something. I am really looking forward to going back to my old doctors once I get a job with some decent insurance, though. (I’m especially looking forward to going back to acupuncture once I have a job.) I don’t have the energy to deal with all the obstacles Medi-Cal puts up to getting good care, but I do need to spend some time working through my issues with someone who is paid enough to act like they want to find a solution.

Anyway, this has gotten long and disjointed, and as I said, I should be working on finals. Will probably be on radio silence until spring break. Stay strong during this Mercury retrograde & assorted upheaval, y’all.

P.S. Happy tropical Aries, sidereal Pisces season in advance–my 39th birthday is in twenty days.