Some facts about pain

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My whole life, I’ve had a desire to somehow measure physical pain in a uniform way. Like so many other important human things, pain is on the inside of us, not the outside. Maybe sometimes we can see the cause of the pain, like a cut or a swollen foot. But the pain itself is just impulses running through nerves and brains, right?

Then there’s the problem that not only can’t we see the pain, we also can’t determine its strength relative to the pain of others. Like, what hurts more, my mosquito bite or your ant bite? I would just leave this tagged as one of life’s imponderables, but my screwed-up mind feels like it really needs to know. It needs to know because, without external evidence that someone else’s pain is actually less, some secret part of me thinks I don’t get to complain about my own.

I never said this was healthy!

Not sure if this is because I am Texan (so tough!), because I was a gymnast (don’t cry in here!), because I have spent a lot of time dissociated from my body (like a brain in a vat), or because my body does seem to have some kind of weird pain disconnect (didn’t realize that bone was broken for days!)

Is it a superpower? A curse? Or just weird?

Rest is the best

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A few days ago, my friend Ona over at On A Thought wrote about Spending Time. I can’t stop thinking about it. Right when I read it, I went in to comment, thinking something like “Amen!” or “Preach!” But as so often happens to me, once I started writing, I started having things to say. Lots of things to say, some of which I said in my a way-too-long comment.

(My comments do sometimes get long. I know it’s not great. My texts are long too. And sometimes punctuated, which my teenager always finds quaint and sometimes finds offensive. But I have interrupted myself! Another thing I do often.)

Ona writes: “Why is it so hard to spend time now? Why does slowing down feel wrong? Why do I feel guilty? Why don’t I sit around and listen to music just to listen to music anymore?”

My response manifesto:

THIS. This is how we feel in a culture that says we are worth only what we accomplish or produce for someone else (usually for someone else to profit). It says our right to exist is predicated on doing things, and not all these good thing that you listed but instead “useful” things that earn money or serve patriarchy or preserve inequity or all of the above. If you’re me, your soul knows it’s not right, and so does your body, and many times even your mind knows it’s not right. But the whole things churns on, and you keep going. And if you’re me, this eventually leads to mental and physical illness, to the point that your self FORCES you to stop.

And this is what happened to the whole world; we all forgot that our worth is inherent in our existence and not determined by these thin and harmful measures, and we all were operating brokenly and in pain, and even when worldwide disease and uprisings and beatdowns and 21st century lynchings and lies brought everything to an actual, concrete HALT, we have failed to turn away from it.

Every nanosecond you spend lying on the sofa looking at shadows is a VICTORY. When you float in a pool thinking, or memorize every word to a song, or noodle or doodle: you are a fxxxing CHAMPION and I commend you. It’s proof that you are a human being and that you still know how to human.

Let all the time be spent! May it all be wasted, squandered, released, embraced, enjoyed! Splash that shit around like it’s cheap perfume!!

Talking About the Weather

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I suspect that spending time with me, these days, is a bit like walking through a land with that kind of weather that changes in a heartbeat. I don’t mean that it just changes the way it does everywhere, like how everywhere I have lived, people say “Don’t like the weather in ____? Wait five minutes!”

[Spoiler alert: they say that EVERYWHERE. The nature of weather IS change.]

This weather changes in ways that show. They are changes that force you to notice. This weather pounds on the roof so hard you forget your work; you get up from your desk and go out to the front porch to watch the lightning. Or it floods the sky with colors that scream “Filter!” and remind you most of the huge eyeshadow palette you had in high school, all blues and purples and magentas and glitter. It’s weather that makes you get your camera out, or run for your coat, or rip off your layers.

My weather changes in ways that don’t necessarily seem to follow reasonably from one another. Reasonable changes would be from cloudy, to light rain, to pouring. Or from cold wind and rain to sleet. My weather isn’t that orderly. It defies cause and effect. Maybe it’s cold and windy, and you’re walking along bracing against it as the fuzz around the hood of your parka gets wet and crusty. And then without warning you are sweating, red-faced and panting, and the sun is bald and burning. I change like that.

I feel all my feelings, and also a lot of other people’s feelings, and also I have feelings about all those feelings. And I have BIG feelings. I always have. Even my elementary school report cards said things like “very sensitive,” and way too many partners and family members and even acquaintances have said “too intense.” It feels like I’ve spent most of my life trying to dial that intensity down for fear of not being liked. But really, how does one dial down the weather? You can’t. All you can really do is make sure you have the right clothing and equipment. Or, roll with it and just let the snowflakes melt your tongue. Let the sunlight warm your face. Feel the wind in your hair, and squish your toes in the mud.

Also, I have spent way too much time in my life terrified, and absolutely convinced, that bad emotional weather will stay bad. Every down day is transformed in my mind into a doomsday: “Oh no. What if I’m depressed? It was like this at the beginning the other times. I’m never going to just be happy, am I. What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy? Fuck. I’m going to get so behind at work. And on and on.

But weather changes, doesn’t it? The nature of weather IS change. Even horrible long gray cooped-up interminable sloggy winters in central Pennsylvania eventually do come to an end. Maybe instead of hating the showy, unreasonable changing of my soulweather, I can love it. No weather is forever, and neither is any emotion, and for that I am grateful. Showily, unreasonably grateful.

Photo by David Gylland on Unsplash


Things my house and I have in common:

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  • mismatched
  • colorful
  • cozy
  • welcoming
  • needs some work
  • some projects are perpetually unfinished
  • leaks here and there
  • filled with memories
  • shared with my best people
  • blends old and new
  • lots of blue
  • full of found items: ground scores, curb scores, thrifts, and gifts
  • outer doors don’t always close or open right
  • difficult to heat
  • filled with books and crafts and drafts
  • stuffed with too many things


On an equinox, day and night are of equal length; the dark time and light time balance each other. This Sunday was the Vernal Equinox, but it also was a sort of personal equinox for me. It is a time of turning over to a new season, on levels literal, emotional, metaphorical.

There really have been no appropriate bins of seasonal clothing, no decorative seasonal garden flags, no holiday decor to pretty up this last couple of years. Since a good writer friend told me she loves my lists, I’ll list some of the events and characteristics this looooooong last season has featured:

  • Burnout
  • Panic attacks
  • Pandemic
  • Divorce
  • Money problems (see: divorce)
  • Professional rejections and disappointments
  • Missed opportunities
  • Failures
  • Cancellations
  • Health problems: mental, kidney, brain, uterine, teeth, jaws, joints, Covid
  • Treatments: surgeries (5), braces (1 set), medications (so many)
  • Overwhelm
  • Self-judgment
  • Dissociation
  • Near-total societal badness

Lots of dark in that season, and all the flashlights out of batteries at times.

BUT. I arrived home at 4 am Sunday, on the vernal equinox, from a trip. Climbing into my bed, I thought vaguely, “I made it.” And on Monday, I woke up to these sights:

What you are seeing is living stuff revealing that not only is it still alive, it is growing new stuff! And even though spring/new “leaf” (get it?)/new life metaphors are cliches, they are also true.

New light this spring:

  • Headspace
  • Embodiment
  • New love that feeds, not starves
  • Teeth, jaws and face that cooperate
  • Writing ideas
  • Energy
  • Medicines (different and better ones)!
  • Fun plans
  • Self-compassion
  • No part of my body is cold right now!

There may be a pandemic, still. Education is still full of disappointments and frustrations, both personal and systemic. So is society. And life. There may still be lots of societal badness, complete with wars and oppression and tons of harm. I even still wake up every day with joints that hurt and more ideas than I can ever finish, and I want more money.

But still! Leaves are growing! I made it.

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Mornings working from home

Some mornings I need a little more quiet time than most mornings have. Time for coffee, for sitting in my bathrobe looking at nothing, just sitting. Time for the dreams to fade and the body to loosen. Time for prayer or notebook writing or a shower or to just take a minute, or to dress or take pills or make a plan or find something I have misplaced and just NOBODY TALK TO ME PLEASE! I just need a minute! I’ll snap, or ignore, or on a good day push my own need away, not so far away that it leaves altogether, but off to the side where I can pick it up once the kids are out for the day. Sometimes I need that time and take it back during my own “work day,” sitting on the couch with a second cup of coffee when I’d normally be settling in at the computer.  Sometimes I need that time, and I take it like that, but that time spreads from a few minutes into the whole morning, spent staring into space or reading “just this one article” or researching hotel rooms for a hypothetical trip. Or the very best socks, or a thermos nobody will use. Which leads to other times when, of course, I need to make up the lost work, which in turn takes away from other time that I need to… and so I… and then I… and so I… and then I… need a little more quiet time than most mornings have.

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“I’m getting to know a different side of you,” he said

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Which of the ones folks know is me? The one who writes, a lot, boldly? The one who has three books in progress but works on none? In one place I’m a leader, in another, behind. Among teachers, an author and friend; among academics, someone who had potential. Or still does? Senior colleague or deadwood? I can’t say.

To a regular person (do I know any of those?), in a regular town (not my college town of super-people), I’m a person who has written a book. Ok, four of them. An Author.

Which of the ones folks know is me? The one whose kids skip grades? Who throws good parties, or volunteers at church or school? Or one who cries, overwhelmed, that she can’t do it until the laundry is put away? And the laundry can’t be put away because it’s piled up; it’s un-beginnable. And I can’t wash laundry until laundry is put away, and I can’t tidy up with all this laundry everywhere, and I can’t work with everything so untidy, and I can’t tidy because I have too much work, and I can’t work because I’m too overwhelmed, and, and, and. That one? And did I take my meds today?

The teacher-writer? The full professor? The ex-wife? Wayward daughter? The program lead, the one who forgot, the committee chair, the fuckup? The girlfriend? The single mom, the MILF, the middle-aged, the grey? The extra ten pounds, the “hx hysterectomy,” the grumpy, the short kid, the bookworm, the blonde? Yes, that’s my real color, no highlights, no makeup. No filter. Except when I give in to wanting a filter. And on Zoom. Every professor deserves a damn Zoom filter.

Which one is me? The wounded kid or this take-no-shit feminist? The liberal, the radical? The Christian, the Sunday school teacher, the mom bringing cupcakes? High test scores, or self-hatred? ADHD or genius? Metal head or choir singer? Optimist?

A light under a bushel, or a fucking volcanic eruption of Big Feelings?

I had a magical friend who gave me the best gift when I was away at summer grad school in Vermont (camp for adults!), missing my female partner and sleeping with a man who didn’t deserve me. (He would write me, five years later, only to learn that by then I had married):

“Anne,” she proclaimed. You’re allowed to be complex.”

And I have been!

From my chair, Akumal, MX

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Clumps of sargassum afloat

Sips of mojito

Two marimbas playing the Super Mario theme

Wisps of cloud and dollops of cloud

Strawberry ice cream

Green coconuts on a shade tree

A spectrum of skin from burnished mahogany to piggy pink

Iguanas mating not far from a cool pool

A pelican cruising for fish, low and smooth

Magnificent Magnificent Frigate Birds

Warm sand chunked with washed-up coral

Woozy bouts of half-sleep or reading

Nothing noisy, nowhere to be


Eating fruit

Swimming with tropical fish

Drinking juices

Listening to waves’ mesmerizing non-rhythm

Finishing a book and immediately opening the next one

Having a bite of sushi, or an avocado

Tapping toes to music wafting over from somewhere

Stretching languidly

Noticing breezes

Feeling temperature shifts as clouds drift across the sun and off again

Breathing slowly

Drifting almost to sleep

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How is it that every task takes ten times longer than I think it will… except for the tasks that I most doom-crastinate about, which end up actually taking approximately 2.7 minutes each?

How is it that I feel better now that my ex has a new person, not worse?

How is it that a whole bag from Sam’s Club sat undetected in my garage for more than six months?

How is it that my feminism has not eroded my desire to be thin and young by now?

How is it that the older I get, the more new and raw and I feel?

How is it that the more I live through trouble, the more I’m grateful to past Anne for all the trouble she got me through?

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