Monday, March 27, 2017

Tonya Evinger is up against the ass ceiling

First off, let's get one thing out of the way. I'm a "newbie," or "newb," MMA fan, and if you spend five seconds in the comments section on YouTube, you find out pretty quick that I'm not qualified to lick shit off the shoes of those who've been following martial arts since Chuck Norris first slung a nunchaku.

I'm a poet, and a girly girl. Lip gloss is my life. I've never been much for sports, but one day a picture of Holly Holm cleaning out Ronda Rousey's nostrils with her toenails hit my Google feed and - long story short - a little over a year later here I am with a basic idea of the difference between an arm bar and a guillotine, although I still don't know what the hell a half guard is.

I'll be honest with you. I pick the fighters I think are sexy and I root for them. If they have a good attitude and a good personality (read: are funny), I'll remain a fan.

Cue Tonya Evinger.

I think the first clip of Tonya Evinger I ever saw wasn't of her fighting, but running her mouth, and running it in glorious, unabashed fashion. She was being interviewed. She had a cap on backwards and she kept looking directly into the camera, almost like she was flirting with the lens, and a light from behind the cameraman's shoulder kept hitting her eyes, lighting them up. You got the idea that the camera was flirting back with her.

I watched several more interviews, all the same - Tonya cracks a quick, honest joke like an uppercut, then laughs it off.

I found out that she is a veteran of the sport, successful, proven.

I found out that she hasn't been signed with the UFC, and several MMA fans, reporters, insiders (read: not "newbies") have been wondering why.

This wondering has been renewed by Tonya's most recent redemption - a battle touted as the "leave no doubt" match, wherein Tonya proved that she really would have worked her way out of Yana Kunitskaya's arm bar the first fight if the ref had left her to wrestle in peace.

She won the fight and retained her belt in the second round (of five) by RNC (that's rear naked choke - using acronyms makes me feel fancy, also, knowing what a rear naked choke is).

Tonya Evinger grinds. She works hard, and not just inside the cage - I learned in an interview that when she's not in camp, training for a fight, she works construction.

I was surprised, and the interviewer was surprised as well. I guess I'm not the only one who was riding the fairy tale rainbow in my mind where all fighters at the elite level (Invicta, UFC, the point at which fighters call fighting their "career," which Tonya does) get a pot of gold and enough sponsership to allow them to train full time.

So, Tonya Evinger, quite literally, is a working class fighter. By that I mean that she works hard and has class, of course, but I'm also referring to the cultural designation we associate with certain jobs.

This leads me to the theory I have about why Tonya hasn't been signed with the UFC.

If you look through the comments section of any of the YouTube videos featuring Tonya Evinger, you're going to find more than one sucktard (sucker + bastard) who uses the phrase "trailer trash."

At Tonya's most recent weigh in, somebody called out something about a trailer and I honestly can't tell you if it was trash talk from the opponent's fans or a member of Tonya's own team indicating that they've embraced what the lonely, chronic masturbaters of the internet have tried to use as a slur against her.

In any case, all of the above just confirms that Tonya Evinger is my people.

See that trailer behind me in the picture above? I was brought home to that trailer from the hospital when I was born. My mama was married in a trailer.

Regardless of whether or not Tonya Evinger has any actual trailer in her background, one of the reasons I'm a fan is that I get an outsider vibe off of her.  I know that vibe. I know that life. I also know people can judge you for it, think you are less than them.

Over the past while that I've been an MMA fan, I've watched glossy, polished fighters who may or may not have highlight streaks in their hair be called up and promoted by the UFC.

In direct contrast, Tonya does her own hair before her fights, tying it back in a sort of basket pattern with tiny rubberbands, allowing a crazy ass cloud of fury to happen during her performances as her hair loosens from the ties, like some sort of warrior halo by the end.

I'm not saying that all or even any of the UFC fighters are preppy, bleach-tipped bourgeois - far from it, but I have noticed a trend by the UFC toward a certain persona that would be less likely to have "filthy" as their hashtag.

Maybe this is part of the UFC's concern (obsession?) with being observed as a high class, professional, legitimate sports organization, but they should know that it comes off to at least one fan as stinking of snobbery.

Besides, in one fell swoop, Tonya defended her right to be #filthy AND contributed to the legtimacy of a sport ruled by, well, rules and regulations, by taking her fight for foot placement to the commission.

The UFC shouldn't be afraid to be filthy if filthy is written into their rulebooks.

I've read more than once that Tonya Evinger has a chip on her shoulder, but in the vernacular of my people, it seems it ain't so much the chip on her shoulder as it is the blockheads on the shoulders of them UFC people that's the problem.

With the glass ceiling obstensibly broken by other star female athletes in the sport, it seems that Tonya Evinger may be up against the ass ceiling - decision makers who are judging her on something other than her talent and her record.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Some clear fall morning...(a run-on sentence)

Some clear fall morning, first of October, I hear an airplane puttering like an aeroplane, like a first Ford model car, fragile as any newborn machine, and I can believe for a second nothing's ever happened, not even me, or my mother; it's 1954, the year before my mother was born, and no one would even begin to think of a jet slipping silent and red and burning like a sleek needle into the window of a tall, tall building and then another into it's twin, those two gray arms, but this morning the rickety little sky-car didn't even leave a scar of chemical clouds - you might even believe they hadn't invented wings for men to drive yet, if you were sitting here like this with the sky so blue and you hadn't heard the engine.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Julia's Trash

Julius likes show offs, and Dahlia was a show off.  He doubted her real name was Dahlia.  She was already drunk at 5 pm, half slid off a bar stool, challenging Newton's thoughts on mass and gravitational force by stopping her total decent to the sticky floor with one toe, albeit her largest.  It had blossomed red under the nail from it's effort, like Sisyphus's cheeks must have done. Her sandals had long given up, and had folded themselves off to the side, bearing the dark, identifying imprints of her feet like name tags on children waiting for their parents to pick them up from school.
Julius had seen the empty stool beside her immediately, and knew the score a second after that.  All the other men had their caps pulled down or their shoulders shrugged up high, elbows pulled in close, their beers resting on their lips, perpetually taking or about to take sips, so that no one could expect them to speak.  They were all trying to make it to the bottom of the seventh so that they could go home to what would, ironically, seem like peace compared to this brash woman.
Julius slipped quietly onto the stool next to her, and as her attentions were turned to shouting at the guy closest to the jukebox five stools down, it took her several minutes to light on him, but when she did, the evening rolled real quick from there.  She didn't so much speak as overtly breathe her name, and she did this trick of leaning back and extending her pudgy little hand only so far, making the gentleman move forward to take it and try to shake, but she only held on, a little limp and soft and lewd. Her lips were coated with lipstick, an off color of red that didn't suit her, and she kept pushing them out, showing the wet pink that was meant to be up against her teeth.
By 7, he had an arm around, or nearly around, her waist and was helping her out to his car. She leaned more on him than he felt was necessary, but again Julius likes show offs.  They'd settled into play fighting to flirt - he kept trying to get her to tell him her real name, and the most should would give was a cute, shortened nickname for Dahlia, which was Doll - and when that back and forth got boring they reckoned they ought to move onto something else, which is when Dahlia or Doll - Julius guessed it was really Darlene or Doris - mentioned she had tickets to see Lost Kerosene Container at the Marble Street Theater that night.
Heavy metal.  His favorite.  So he put her in his car and didn't mind when the passenger door gave it's long, loud creak as he closed it because she didn't seem the kind to mind.  She had her pocketbook - where had that come from? - set on her lap and she had dug a cigarette out of it, was lighting the cigarette with a tiny little decorative lighter that made her thumb look like Paul Bunyan wearing an acrylic nail.
During the name game play fight, he'd kept trying to find a sincere, inoffensive way to ask her if she were a prostitute, but the concert tickets put his mind at ease because prostitutes don't regularly go see a show first.
At the concert, she became even more drunk, started taking bottles off of strangers when their last dregs got too warm and they were going for a fresh one. She kept trying to hold the bottles up to Julius's mouth like he were a baby, knocking the glass into his teeth.  She titled her head back and hollered the words to the songs as the band was singing, hollered words to the songs they had just sung, words to songs they had yet to sing, and words to songs of other bands not present.  At one point, she howled, and another concert-goer from a group of guys that had been watching and making fun for a while, mocked her, howling back, which Dahlia, Doll, took as friendliness and encouragement, so she started howling over and over, then got tickled and stopped howling because she was laughing, then she sat on the ground and announced she had to go to the bathroom.
Julius took this as an opportunity to get her back to the car, and home.  By the time they made it to the lobby, only partly because of his efforts, mostly from the inertia of the pushing crowd, which seemed to want them out as well as he did, Dahlia was falling down drunk, slipping out of his hands like a fish - a large, dank bass, but he kept her up with quick hands.  Dahlia forgot all about the bathroom and Julius got her out the door, fifty feet from the car when she dropped in one soundless movement, falling comically like Charlie Chaplin, and Julius's lucky catches were up like a cat's ninth life.  Julius let out a rush of air from losing her and then there was silence, not even a note or boom came from the insulated theater in the distance, and there was no one milling about in the parking lot.  Ridiculously, everyone in the universe was attending closely to Lost Kerosene Container while Julius stood over Dahlia's inert body.  
He took her arm at the crook of the elbow and gave it a tug, felt the pain he knew would shoot down his back, into his knees. He dropped the arm with another puff of breath, tilted his face up to the street lights, one a duller yellow than the other.
Dahlia was simply more woman than he was man.  She had him by nearly ninety pounds, which would be no bother except that he was chicken shit, always had been.  He'd been chicken shit at school, chicken shit at track and weights and baseball, chicken shit at vocational training, chicken shit at his last five jobs, chicken shit at everything except finding the one woman in the room that most lacked for being listened to and then shutting his mouth, letting her talk until she let him do a few things he liked to do in turn.
Even if someone came up within earshot, he wouldn't call out.  He was too embarrassed.  He saw her pocketbook, magically appeared again like a wizard's broomstick, and picked it up, pulled the clasp apart then rooted around until he found a tiny zipper at the back, where her cigarettes and lighter were packed. He took a cigarette, lit it and was smoking when Dahlia made a noise, a groan, angry and helpless at the same time, and he tossed the cigarette quick, grabbed her arm in a flurry, acted like she had just hit the pavement that second.
She came to enough that he could get her to the car, but he expended just about all his energy doing it and sat in the car beside her, holding on to the steering wheel, mind-numb from exertion, not turning the keys or attempting any of the other little maneuvers that would get them started toward down the road.
She slumped all the way over, ass up in the air, sandals kicked off and shoved over like at the bar.  Her dress was up and he saw her thighs all the way up to her hips, the indention of the buttocks flattened out by her position, her underwear a chaste slit of white that a young boy will stare at like a laser pointer for hours on a poster of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader for no good reason because he's seeing about as much as he would if he were staring at the crotch of a Barbie figurine.
Still.  That ought to be enough to do something for Julius, always has been, but tonight he finds himself disgusted, a little nauseous.  Drunk, sloppy, and half passed-out has never been a problem for him, in fact he's done his best work when the girls are too far gone to really be watching, but tonight Dahlia is starting to feel like his sister, and he's wanting to pull her skirt over her flank, get her home, meaning to her house, where she can go to her own bed, wake up later and walk herself to the bathroom to finally pee or puke.
But he doesn't know where her home is, so he drives to his own home, the home where he rents a room with some other guys, college guys that laugh at him and fake politeness to his dates, going red in the face from trying not to burst into laughter at the women, which they call "Julia's whores," Julia's instead of Julius.  It's all a big joke.  He's a big joke to them.  He parks out on the street, and here he's faced again with what to do with Dahlia, who still sleeps, her face washed with trust.
He can't get her in the house.  It's a warm but pleasant 86 degrees out, night, cooling, so he rolls down the passenger window halfway and leaves her in the car.
He goes in the house and stays awake all night, listening for the passenger door to creak open and shut, to either hear her bang on the front door or watch her stumble down the street. Finally, he drops near dawn, sleeping hard, drooling on the naked mattress.  He vaguely registers the house waking up, the tin sounds of spoons and mugs and coffee, deep voices being necessary and gruff with each other. Suddenly, one shout after another, he hears each of them calling up the stairs in turn, "Take the trash out, Julia's! Take the trash out, Julia's! Take the trash out, Julia's!" Three calls, and there are four roommates not counting himself, so Andrew must've stayed out all night, still gone.  Julius thinks nothing of it; they were all animals, lived like animals, but would randomly rail on him about some stupid chore. He grunts and rolls over, drops back asleep. A half hour after everyone has left, he wakes, remembers.  He assumes Dahlia has gone, found her own way, probably a way she's walked before in one way or another.  Girls like that tend to figure it out, make do.
He goes downstairs, walks out the front door.  He sees from the front step that his car is empty, but he walks up to it anyway.  The window is still rolled down.  For some reason he thought she'd roll the window back up.  He doesn't know why he thinks that.
He gets a few feet from the car when he sees a crumpled fast food bag. The bag is on top of a pile of loose garbage, mostly fast food detritus, but also household stuff like an egg carton, coffee grounds, waded paper towels, even a used tampon from a female visitor.  Looks like she'd been near the end of her cycle. In the back seat, there are two Hefty bags full as well.
The trash in the front seat moves, and Julius starts to scoop it away, scared to use his bare hands because of the tampon, also thinking it's a raccoon scavenging for food causing the movement, then he sees blond hair, then nails, smooth pink nails and he notices for the first time because it's day now and the light is pure and the world is clean and wholesome that there's tiny specks of glittery silver in the polish, like what a little girl would wear if she wanted to play princess.

© 2016  Amber Shockley

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Writers and Worry: Does being narrative-minded feed anxiety?

Lately, watching television with my mother, I blurt out what's about to happen next.

Mama is amazed.  She'll ask, Now how did you know that? 

The other day I blurted out that Gwyneth Paltrow's character was about to get hit by a car.

Mama asked, Well, did you know she was going to fall down the stairs? 

I did not.

I’ve always loved to read.  I’ve always loved stories.  Through undergrad coursework as an English major, then graduate studies in two different programs, including working toward my MFA as a writer of stories (very, very small ones) myself, I've not just read but analyzed the stories of countless texts, as well as narrative presented through other media, such as television and film.  I like to think this gives me a heads up on guessing that Gwyneth Paltrow is about to get it with the front grille of a vehicle in Sliding Doors.  

But if I put my ego and tens of thousands of dollars of student loans aside long enough to be real with myself, I can admit that guessing what's going to happen in the next few seconds of a movie isn't unique to students of literature or writers.  Especially if the woman is lollygagging in the street like a nut.

We’re all exposed to countless stories, every day.  But writers tend to volunteer to steep themselves in story, to spend time thinking about plot and get to know it at a deeper level.

Plot is difficulty. Plot is when the main character gets hit by a car. Plot is an antagonist showing up and screwing you over.

Plot is when hell happens.

Which brings us to anxiety.

Think about it:

Plot is when hell happens.  And writers think, breathe, sleep, eat, pray to the gods of plot.

Writers are basically people who look for hell to happen, who look for someone to get hit by a ton of steel careening around a corner, and I don't think we keep this tendency contained within the fence of the fiction we create for others to consume; I think it spills over into the outlook we have on our actual lives.  

I've often thought that my past life experiences, which have included some real bad doozies, or the pessimism I’ve learned from my mother and her own hard life, have led me to believe that everything is most likely going to suck just as hard in the future as it has in a disproportionately great number of the days that are behind me. But now I'm wondering if much of this sad attitude has to do with being a writer, which means being narrative-minded, which means hunting for plot, which means looking for hell to happen.

Wouldn't it just be perfect if I came down with the flu this week?

Wouldn't it be par for the course if this blind date were a serial killer?

Wouldn't it be divine if someone slammed into the back of my vehicle at this very moment? 

Seriously.  I would have stories to tell.  Life would be literature instead of listless.

Am I a writer because I'm a pessimist or am I a pessimist because I’m a writer?

There's some debate over whether or not being a good writer can be taught.  Is it talent or is it trying?

Or is it temperament?

Do optimists who grew up relatively unscathed have any stories to tell?  And if they did, could they tell them?

Is literature really the purview of the miserable, the dissatisfied, the troubled?

If you look up "anxiety," listed as a synonym is "unquiet."  That's telling.

Of course we're veering into stereotype here.  Not all writers are neurotics or alcoholics or depressives.

Most.  Most are, maybe.

In any case, clearly the idea that writers are miserable is not a new one, to the point that some have viewed misery as a prerequisite for success in the field. 

In the movie Adult World, Emma Roberts portrays a privileged young woman with a Syliva Plath obsession who unravels when she comes up against a curmudgeonly, reclusive novelist whom she worships. Over the course of the movie, she whines and complains while everyone but the cute shop boy who walks around with a love-interest neon sign over his head tries to distance themselves from her. I'm still not sure if viewers are meant to root for her or be repelled by her, but I thought she was awful.  I hated her, and I remember wondering if this was the way the world views all young female poets: high strung, self-absorbed, naïve twits. 

The movie gets across the idea that her poetry is bad because she hasn’t really suffered, or even witnessed suffering.  She’s miserable alright, but with no real basis for it - not clinically depressed so much as entitled and unused to failure - and therefore has no real substance for her work.  Her contribution isn’t in writing good poetry herself, but inspiring it by heightening the emotions (namely frustration, torment, heartache, worry) of those around her. 

But really, some very successful, complete, thoroughly happy people have written published some wonderful books with the help of ghost writers.

Ghost writers.  There’s a phrase to consider.  Why not background writers, like background dancers only with less spandex? Why not support writers, like spandex?

Everything seems to point to the idea that writers are chain-dragging, howling spirits who happen to still inhabit their bodily form.
I feel both validated and damned by this.  If success as a writer, meaning publication, requires a dose of melancholy in order to produce good work, it also requires a balancing bit of hope, confidence and perseverance in order to muster the motivation and energy to create, much less continue submitting work in the hailstorm of rejections that every writer, even brilliant, famous ones, receive.  

I’m long on the former, singular attribute, short on the latter few.  

With distance, and infamy, the misery of artists and writers becomes romantic.  It certainly held an allure for Roberts’ character in the movie.  

But real life, including real suffering, real anxiety, not just the tension at the climax before the slow, satisfying decent to the conclusion of a story, is not romantic at all.  

In the face of it, it’s a wonder that writers are able to produce and publish anything at all.  

Lately, I’ve been taking steps to increase my energy, hope and confidence, and of course I worry that if I’m happier, my well of misery will run dry and I won’t be able to write any more.

I worry.  

Is worrying about not writing enough misery to keep me writing?

Of course, as any writer knows, there are always more miseries around the corner.  

At the very least, I think writers must be bothered, if not worried.  We must be bothered enough by a potential for hell to happen, or bothered enough by the witnessing of it having already happened, to bother creating the art that makes misery bearable.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

In lieu of therapy...

** Warning **  This blog post is full of cheese and optimism, low on bile and pessimism.  In other words, not my usual fare.  If you can't stomach advice or motivation right now - and, believe me, I hear you, I've swung the sword of rage at the head of happiness myself, and still swing it on occasion, so we can talk, and will talk, about that again later, I'm sure - please feel free to go find one of my numerous, myriad other posts about the bullshit suck of evil's teat that is life. If you've been up and had your Wheaties, though, read on...

At the end of my last blog, I indicated that I wasn't sure if I would continue with therapy because of the cost.  Indeed, these past few weeks, I haven't been able to afford it.  I had to have the starter on my car replaced, and I had to take a pet back to the vet.  Either one of those events could have wiped me out, but both together were financially catastrophic, even with help.

Luckily though, just prior to my last therapy session, I had put some things in place that have proven of enormous help in maintaining a sense of health and progress without therapy.  I'm going to tell you, in list form, what I've been using/doing in lieu of therapy (and, in the process, reveal some embarrassing realities about how my mental illness(es) affect me).

1.)  Google Calendar "Goals"

I make heavy use of my Google Calendar app on my phone.  One day, I did an update and the next thing I discovered when I opened the app was that Google had included this nifty little button called "Goals" alongside with "Events" and "Reminders."  If you press "Goals," it will take you through a series of screens that lets you select a goal from those common to humanity, such as "exercise" or "learn a new language."  Or, it lets you customize. Here's where I put my pride aside and admit that one of my customized goals was to take a shower every day.  I'd admitted this to my therapist at one of our last meetings, and now I'm admitting it to you, my one or two readers.  This is the reality of poor mental health.  Google didn't judge me.  It simply scheduled a time for me to shower and dinged a little notification.  Using this feature of the app, I've not only showered every day, but I've been going for a walk every day, doing chores around the apartment, taking some time to read, practicing my violin, and even meditating.  I'm filling up my day with more and more goals as I go along.

2.)  Motivational Videos on YouTube

One of my goals, other than showering, was to get the to the park early and walk every morning.  Way early, before the heat index is one hundred and satan's ass crack degrees.  Some days are easier than others.  When my alarm goes off, I open my eyes (this actually, physically hurts some mornings) enough to look at my phone, turn off the alarm, then I immediately hit the icon for the YouTube app and do a search for "motivation."  I watch a quick 5 or 6 minute clip, and that gets me awake, with the proper input to put my feet on the floor and go.  Much better than scrolling through Facebook.  Most of the videos feature athletes, and I realize, once again, how remiss I was to not participate in some sort of sport when I was younger. Shy, clumsy, bookworm types need sports.  We need to be led to them and through them gently, but we need sports. Exposure to sports - and coaching - are beneficial to the mind as well as the body.  They both really do go hand in hand. There are a few excellent motivational video creators out there, but here's an example from one that I find consistently produces good work:

3.) Home Ec 101's Weekly Chore Chart

This is something I've used off and on for years, as well as the multitude of tips and advice you can find all over her website. By reading what she has to offer in response to reader's questions or of her own volition, you get honest, direct, doable-for-the-average-human-being lessons on how to cook, clean and not go crazy.  I'm still not there on the cooking part, but her cleaning chart has given me a sense of direction for my living space, preventing me from being so overwhelmed by the mess and trying to clean All The Things, All At Once, Now, Today.  It's also helped minimize my level of perfectionism; because I know that I will get around to the kitchen again next week, I'm okay if I didn't get the refrigerator spotless this time.  Eventually, with consistency, week after week, it will get to some semblance of cleanliness, and stay within the neighborhood of hygienic.

4.) Inertia

Here, I was very tempted to put "willpower" or "my own pure grit," and while those things are present to some degree and have helped, I think listing them can be highly frustrating, if not downright damning to someone who might be sitting in the depths of depressive despair reading this.  When you are in the depths, you don't have the grit to get yourself out.  It's not about grit until you get started.  Getting started is the hard part, then you get the grit that gets you through, and, here's the thing - having done the things gives you the grit to keep going.  Once you get started, you get this inertia in the direction of continuing rather than stopping, of going back to stagnancy and the horrible rot of your own juices.  So, it's not my own willpower or grit - it's all the mornings previous to this morning that I got up and walked that got me up and walked this morning.  I guess you could call it habit, or you could call it a taste of the good life, of health, of pride, of something better.  But if you don't have that experience behind you to feed you, if you don't have that memory of how good and accomplished it felt to get up and walk three miles yesterday morning, you have no food for today.  If you didn't walk yesterday, if you didn't shower yesterday or meditate yesterday or work toward any other goal yesterday, you're starving today.

So you have to start on starving.  That's what makes it so hard.  You have to find some way to eat air today, eat imagination.  Imagine how you will feel if you take a shower because you can't really, really remember.  Imagine how you'll feel if you put on your shoes and go for a walk because you can't really remember.  If you do it today, if you feed off imagination, tomorrow you'll have a morsel of memory, and you can eat that morsel, and the next day a larger portion, and some day hopefully you'll have a feast of memories to keep you off the couch and out of despair, and you'll have created your own inertia.

5.) Fear

This is a cousin to, but not the same as the anxious type of fear that paralyzes me on occasion.  I am simply and utterly afraid to continue my life on the trajectory of inaction, of passivity, of despair.  If there is anything more frightful than not succeeding, now, at the level I wish I could, it's not doing anything at all, ever.  Ironically, I've let my sense of underachievement keep me from attempting to accomplish anything at all.  Yes, I'm behind.  Yes, there are others that are ahead of me, but there are also those behind.  And they're gaining on my heels.  But if I speed up, there's the possibility that I could catch up to the place that I want to be. Besides, I've had the mental equivalent of a broken ankle the whole time. I've had the life experience equivalent of being in traction. I can't let the shame of small steps keep me from moving forward.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Notes from Therapy

My new therapist is a tiny woman, with very round eyes, thin lips and curly hair.  I liked her right away because, my guess, we go through the same difficulties with eyeliner, hair stylists and lipsticks.

Our first meeting went the way most meetings with most therapists (I’ve had a few) go.  She went through the usual series of questions that meant an awkward unfolding of trauma after trauma.  I would much prefer it if I were allowed to simply pop into the chair, get everything out in one concise burst, highlighting the clinically relevant bits I know, by now, therapists are looking for, and dive into a hearty first session with the remaining 30 minutes.

However, I know they have a set order of questions meant to make sure they cover every nook and cranny.  I’m an old hat, so the first visit always feels slow, repetitive, the information given inconsequential, though of course it isn’t.

I’ve given up on exploring and dealing with most of the things that any therapist would assume I’d want to work on in therapy.  I’ve come to realize, at 36 years of age, which wounds are scabbed over and don’t need to be picked at.  This isn’t repression or minimizing.  It’s simply acknowledging that I can’t make it so the trauma never happened, I can’t get that clean of a slate, so I best take my marked, scratched slate and get on with life the best that I can.  So when the therapist asks about my childhood, I hesitate, then take a deep breath, and rush through the mess.  I’m sure that probably looks like discomfort with talking about my trauma, but really, it’s just that I’ve given the information so much, it feels like giving a customer service representative my account number over the phone.

My goal is to deal with my life, as it is now, and with myself, as I am now, a person affected by all the small and large traumas I’ve experienced.  I understand that the therapist needs my account number, and I’ll give it because that’s the way this works and I can’t get any further until I give them my account number, but I’m here to talk about my whole account as it stands today, not just my account number.

In any case, my new therapist is tiny, with a way of carrying herself that begs pliés, but she has a look about her, something in the set of the jaw and the eyebrows, that lets you know she can mean business, if she has to.

She has a background in movement therapy, she’s studied and still performs as a dancer, so the pliés weren’t exactly a wild guess.  I imagine her only trouble with ballet might’ve been flying too high into the air at the slightest toss.  She really is tiny.  

The last couple of sessions, she’s gone through some breathing, posture and movement exercises meant to calm me down.  Of course, going through the exercises with her in her office makes me nervous, which is the opposite of calm.

Always with these calming exercises, the first thing is to close your eyes.  (I take this as a validation that, if you have your eyes open, you have good reason to be anxious.)  But closing my eyes with someone else in the room makes me nervous.

Then there are further instructions, which I’m nervous about completing because I don’t have my eyes open to see her modeling the instructions (she does the exercises along with me – maybe she needs to calm down? maybe I make therapists nervous?), so I don’t know if I’m doing it right.

Are my hands resting properly on my knees?  Am I holding my arms up the right way now? Does she want me to say “I am calm” five times out loud along with her, or just in my head?

Of course, I’m also nervous about breaking the exercise flow to ask her.

Last time, I did ask, opening my eyes just slightly and looking sideways toward her, and she said either way – out loud or to myself –  was fine, which made me even more nervous, because now I’m definitely making a choice, not just correctly (or incorrectly) following directions, and what does my choice say about me?  Or what does my choice say I am saying about her?  And what does she say to herself about what I’m saying about myself or saying about her by saying or not saying the say out loud?

Also, last time, I was exhaling when she did a very audible inhale, and I had a whole identity crisis about my breathing as a metaphor for my inability to be in sync with others.

The first time she led me through the exercise I repeated “I am calm” out loud along with her and I definitely wasn’t calm doing that, and the last time I said it to myself along with a zillion other things and I wasn’t calm doing it that way either, but maybe a little calmer than when we were chanting it out loud together.

Chanting with your therapist is a little weird.

Chanting is weird.

I like monks chanting, though.  Here are some monks chanting:

Anyway, my new therapist is tiny and I like her, though money is tight (always) so I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep seeing her. After our first couple of visits, she recommended that I see her weekly (ever want to know how big your pile of shit is? ask a therapist how often they want to see you.), but I was only able to see her every other week, and that was a stretch.

Honestly, liking my therapist aside, I’m starting to wonder if therapy really does me any good at all beyond what exercise, keeping busy, or talking with a friend could do.  Having a therapist is a lot like having a wise, educated friend that you pay to talk to.

Actually, it’s exactly like that.

And I have friends that are wise and educated (maybe not in psychology or movement therapy), but that don’t charge me to talk to them.

For now, back to chanting.  Here’s some more:

I learned why they ask us to breathe out through our mouth when we do breathing exercises, by the way. Expels more air, empties the lungs better.

Breathing out through my mouth in front of people makes me nervous.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I've decided to start a meditative practice where I count all the people that can lean right on over and kiss my ass.

It will be like counting sheep, but instead of falling asleep, I'll fall into a blissful state of not giving any damns whatsoever.

It's been two days and I'm up to 187.

A good many of these were people I encountered in traffic while I was maneuvering my vehicle.

Another many of these were customer service professionals.

A few were people who looked me in the eye at the grocery store.  They didn't smile and I felt mildly threatened.

One of them is the guy who thought I was trying to race him at a red light and took off like a bat out of hell when it turned green.  I was trying to get the static off the radio station, fool.  I'm back here driving like a normal person but you can turn around, come find me, and kiss my ass.

A few of them have been on television and will more than likely have to take a plane to come kiss my ass.  That would be so thrilling!  To have someone travel to come kiss my ass.  Imagine.  A destination ass.

I lost count a few times, but on those instances I just started over at 150 instead of zero because I figure there's probably a ton of people that have crossed me and I didn't know it, or will think about crossing me but not get the opportunity to carry it out, and I want to count those people.  I want to make sure I don't leave anyone out because I am all about fairness.

I'm going to need more ass space but don't worry, I'm working on it.

I'm finding that simply counting the person-who-can-kiss-my-ass instead of taking up valuable time and mental energy plotting their doom has really calmed me down and freed up a lot of time that I can use to get other stuff done.

Besides, when a cashier says, a little too harshly, that she can't take your coupon and you say "172," it really throws her off, which is fun to watch.