Sleep, Lover Lies

You sleep with your mind awake.

I see you twitch and worry as I 

Lie inside your watching, along.


Your body tells your story, the 

One about anxious defenses, and

Hilly motoric reflex, fortress wall.


A rage induced, childhood fascists,

A jealous brother usurping control,

Lorded over a boyhood’s landscape.


And the son who became the man, 

Who took fury to the world, coated

Like enamel, wolfish covetousness.


Stuff it all, beers and candy, yearn

To a carefree kid, the promised life

Of firstborn fortune, fiefs forever.


Lost, love, in stifled cries un-yelled

Swallow in dragon-ful dreamscapes 

Yawn fire through loins and islands.


Bleed worlds inside a wall-safe, keep

Cupped palm close a vampire’d lust.

Despise the rest as marauding cheats.


Still I watch, tender-horrified aghast,

Thumb to forefinger circle poked hate

Necessity, wrench-tightens hope-bolt.


Awaken yet, chestnut eye transcribes

Silence to story and mawkish, stolen

Laments death, sleep and secrets bare.


Sleeping with the enemy, I gaze, boring 

Holes in the skull’s soft, vulnerable hind

Sight, believe too in my own enemy-love.


Lovers-valentine-lying: pixabay

Acrophobia–poem 14

When FDR declared the nation had only fear to fear,

he never had a gun to his head,


never had a cobra hood opened at his bare legs


or strolled past the body of a jumper from a Manhattan 32 story high rise,


the thump of the fall nearly lifting my feet off the ground.
But it wasn’t then that acrophobia hit.

No, it was the carefree days of carnivals and Ferris wheels,

free from regulations and safety straps, not even for seats

that turned upside down with the slow-turning wheel.

I was five and my car mates were nine and ten, measurably

larger, taller than I so that the metal bar kept them in as

the wheel spun us upside down and then right side up,

me clutching with all my strength to keep myself inside.
Thanatophobia. I had never heard the word in my five years,

but I lived my way through it many times since, perched on a ledge
peering down thirty floors into a postage stamp courtyard,
pondering the weighty sum of a life’s body at its impact against the immovable.

cause and effect

Though once a huge fan, I have become disenchanted with cause and effect. Formerly hailed as counterpart of or precondition to logic, itself some powerful amulet to ward off irrational emotion since the Age of Reason, cause and effect aka reasons or origins, somehow dissolve into explanations and/or excuses, thereby de-motivating change.

For example, my struggles with anger, judgment and mind-chatter, seem endless. Now, I certainly can and have traced the origins of each of those behaviors as inherent or learned. My father flips into uncontrollable, body shaking, nerve-wracked rage on a hair trigger. His primary feature, besides negative, might be dubbed anger. Whereas my mother never was prone to anger–as much. But she was awfully judgmental, and over the border of cautious into the territory of suspicious. She was quick witted, the product of an agile mind, but also quick to judge. She carried pre-conceived notions and prejudices: “That long-haired boy is dirty,” she once complained to me, though I knew intimately well that he showered–with soap and shampoo–daily. 

The mind chatter may be inherited or environmentally induced or unique to me, though I seriously doubt it. Mind chatter is nearly everyone’s 21st century (and much, much longer) problem. But analysing roots to my own traits and those of my husband, children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and parents is a favorite pasttime in the post-Freudian/Jung era. My family loves to do it. However, tracing origins does little to eradicate unwanted behaviors and knee-jerk reactions. In fact, the comfort, even downright smug confidence, in the careful analysis of reasons–for me anyhow–thwarts efforts to eliminate unthinking behavior by believing the job half completed.

No doubt changing behavior, especially ingrained thinking patterns and involuntary reactions, is enormously difficult for most. It is for me. Most emotional reactions go unrecorded, unthought of. My litany in the driver’s seat on any given day is one such example. An hour of yoga in the morning concentrating on and then achieving a connectedness with the universe, its inhabitants and all that exists flies out the car window a half hour later in the 15 minute, muttering-filled drive to school: “What are you some kind of a moron?” I might ask aloud to the car swerving into my lane ahead of me, without a mite’s notice. The violence of that question, that mindset, goes completely undetected mostly. Maybe not undetected, but completely unrestrained in the uttering. 

And then I judge myself for lack of control, criticizing myself–Miss Yoga–for the irony and absurdity, for its impeding progress to judge and anger less and focus on chatter-free presence more. Now, I might lapse into congratulating myself for a clever analysis of the causes for such “bad” behavior, like lack of sleep, lack of yoga, lack of control, lack of you name it, when that happens. Knowing and admitting my weaknesses is half the battle, right? That is the psychological lore anyhow.

But that comfort in doing half the work–incorrect math–is illusory, justificatory, rationalization. Enormous effort effects change, enables me–or anyone–to cease automatic behaviors acquired before consciousness. First, the mind chatter must quiet, reduced by half at least, so as to hear, see and smell immediate surroundings of the moment. Quieter still, to “listen” to emotional reactions as they occur or watch them arise. And then neutral observation may have a chance once the way is paved–stillness–to regard the workings of the mind and body. If I can watch the anger gather me up in the car (or anywhere I perceive my efforts thwarted or my path blocked), note it and think of it without judgment, I might short-circuit the cyclic occurrence, the connection between driving and anger severed–one street of one drive at a time. Baby steps. 

The requisite discipline overwhelms me just the thought of it, sometimes. I am too tired to separate myself out like that most days. But at least I know I have this problem and how to fix it, right? Wrong. Cause and effect unconsciously, silently and insidiously strikes just like that.


A therapist once asked me why I gave myself appendicitis. I was supposed to move out of my marital home of 9 years that weekend but ended up moving my appendix out of my body instead. It was ready to burst and so was I, especially after such a farfetched question. I quit her after that session and never went back.

Since then, however, her question returns even after 20 or more years. Not exactly the question but the idea that I could induce a physiological crisis in my body in avoidance or in reaction to a psychological catastrophe. Could repression or stress so powerfully indel, cut, trigger or distress the body to rebel in disease? I know what the scientific literature says, but could I have caused appendicitis?

As I sit here with a flu, I believe such unconscious self-destruction possible. I have resisted this Christmas shopping for as long as possible and now that there is only today to shop, I am sick. I cannot remember a holiday season I have felt less jubilant about, and now layering the whole holiday experience is a Rudolph red nose and the vicious taunting of my own conscience. 

The kids will be so disappointed with nothing under the tree. And so, I will trudge through the stores, sharing the sick germs of Christmas spirits past and present. T’is the season to give after all. 

One week 

He keeps referring back to school days

And clinging to his child

Fidgeting and bullied

His crazy wisdom holding onto something wild

He asked me to be patient

Well I failed

“Grow up!” I cried

And as the smoke was clearing he said

“Give me one good reason why”

(“Strange Boy” excerpt–Joni Mitchell. Happy Birthday, JM!!)


Day 7

I was never an outcast. If I was, I never noticed. However, something mysterious was apparently amiss in the first grade to warrant seeing the school psychologist a few times. I vaguely remember. Dr. Richardson, a thin, blonde professional-looking woman in a suit, something notable for the year 1966 to even me at my meager six years or so. She was kind, thin with narrow, burnt red lips. She made me feel comfortable as much as possible given that I was ultimately aware that I joined the good doctor for some reason I neither understood nor cared for. What was wrong?

 I only knew that I sat at a desk stationed near the teacher, Mrs. Moynahan, and suffered from the angst of not knowing what to do at times, lost inside myself. Not knowing the way, the code, the proper steps or a place to start always sliced deeply, caused undue distress. Missing information meant I had no control over my environment and fulfilling others’ expectations of me. 

I recall the first day of kindergarten not wanting my mother to leave me, and she having to wait outside the classroom while I was inside knowing she was out there, or thinking she was, and even considering the possibility that she was not actually outside the door but making me believe she was. That latter idea, the fact that I could not know whether she was out there was more distressing, keeping me on the edge of tears more so than the abandonment itself. Abandonment fears were not in my mental vocabulary. Being deceived piqued my radar more than a fear of being left, which rarely occurred to me.

On the first day, kindergarten felt like fear and restrained tears, despite the sweet, slow-moving, wide-girthed, dark-skinned Mrs. Dudley, who cajoled song from us five-year olds, cheery angled songs that induced amnesia, like the distractions any adult relies on to detour a child’s unwanted emotional expression. Do you know the muffin man? 

I knew being left with questions. But that was all I recall–that and my trips to the psychologist in first grade, moving up two classes in the school smarts hierarchy in fourth grade, being teased by Mr. Muller in fifth grade for having the same name as someone in a newspaper clipping who married someone with the same name as a boy in the class, Robert Pitt. I was mortified. I remember having Denise Eccleston back in class with me then after missing her in fourth grade, the year of my upgrade. She was my best pal in third grade; we loved silliness and laughter. She was my one good friend in fifth. I only needed one–one at a time. 

GHOSTING: Passive-aggressive discourtesy can be a lesson in manifesting the self


A piece I fleshed out from a sketch I posted earlier on this blog, this personal essay on The Mindful Word was published yesterday. I hope you enjoy it.

The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is…(read more here)

Are All Writer’s Introverts?

I googled that question today after teaching two classes, writing a few blog posts, counseling a student, and editing an article. Facing the prospects of a shift at a retail job to finish off the day’s work schedule, I am on the verge of collapsing into the couch and burying my head deep under the pillows.

People exhaust me. I am clearly an introvert, and I have never taken a test to prove it. I know it. However, whenever I confess to this most trendy of trends…”You know you’re an introvert if…” being an introvert, people are amazed. “But you’re a teacher and seem so social.” Both are true. I am a pleasant person, courteous at least, in the company of others and am certainly a teacher. I love teaching. But neither of those facts make me less of an introvert.

I hate to be the living cliché, but I believe most writers are introverts, living inside of texts, which are quieter and less demanding. People require attention, not only of the mind but of all the senses. They must be heard, seen, sensed, smelled and sometimes…touched. It’s all too much by the end of the day.

While I am among the masses, however, I do not feel sapped of energy. It’s when I hit the quiet of the late afternoon, sitting in the sun’s windowed reflection under the ticking of the clock punctuating my solitude among the table and chairs, tablecloth and armoire of my kitchen/dining area that the absolute exhaustion–a bone weariness of the mind and spirit–overwhelms me.


An aphid burrowing into the cells 

homing the pulp of me, crawling 

the synapses ablaze with centipedal

feet by the hundreds across attention

span and heat of the moment glee of

questions answered and asked, again

ticking off to-do’s of the do-nothings

but ply, ply, ply; it’s my trade, my cue,

my plight, but in the end, husked,

devoured, twisted, torn and teeth-

marked, me, hollow, me, cocooned

in respite of the dark, silent sap of

the dead thickening thinned linings

undressed, undermined and stripped

swollen, aching in whispering dawn.


Something Itching to Come

The angst is biting mites today, 

leaving blazing sores, 

small but cumulatively painful, raging.

Yet, the promise unknown …looming.

A gift encircled in the inverted telescope?

My bones marrow in distant headlights.

A missive, visitor or opportunity,

Something approaches.

Ah, but absorption sucks it dry,

sponged back in the dull hum lethargy.

Only a fleeting prick of moment.


Gaslighting: Who knew?

Appearing in Medium, Shea Emma Fett’s 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Gaslighting, though not edited as well as I would have liked, is informative about a ubiquitous phenemenon with a great name. Not merely attributed to abusive relationships but to a culture or society that is duped and bullied–manipulated–into adopting beliefs and “norms” about self and socially acceptable behaviors, gaslighting is elusive but treacherous. Citing Wikipedia’s definition below, she uses her own story to demonstrate how gaslighting works.
Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.

She claims the drive behind gaslighting, which goes beyond the natural manipulating we do to get what we want in others, is ownership and its aim is to change someone. Detecting it early in destructive relationships is critical as sustaining such a relationship leads to psychological erosion, a growing disbelief and mistrust in one’s own instincts, values and understandings of one’s motives, behaviors and actions. Getting captured in another’s subtle web of growing intricacy will leave the victim eviscerated like the fly whose guts the spider sucks out for dinner.

But the most enlightening passage is this one:

Gaslighting tends to follow when intimidation is no longer acceptable. I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality. You can see it in the media constantly. For instance, every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, what you know to be true, is not true. Domestic violence wasn’t seen as a serious crime until the 1970s. So, did we, in the last 40 years, address the beliefs that cause domestic violence? No. But now if you beat your wife you’re usually considered to be a bad guy. So what do you do, with all the beliefs that would lead you to violence, if violence is no longer an acceptable option? You use manipulation, and you use gaslighting.

When our government redefines words and re-classifies behaviors, say, calling terrorism, just good old frat house abuse (Think Abu Ghraib photos of U.S. soldiers “abusing” prisoners–to death–under George W. Bush administration) or interprets waterboarding as acceptable investigative techniques, not toruture, then you have manipulation of reality to accommodate an agenda, a form of gaslighting, I propose. This is not the only example of government dissemination of manipulated ideas, i.e., acceptable, sanctioned practices.

I had heard the term before and remembered it was the title of a movie, but I had not realized the precise definition. It’s a term of explosive imagery for such a subtle power.

You Can’t Always Get


It’s a familiar trap, a pattern many recognize–getting caught between wanting to do the “right” thing for someone else or for the self.

The conflict pits ahimsa, or non-harm in thought or deed, against satya, truthfulness in the Yamas.

Trying today to unwind my thinking, past my feelings, habits and impulses, to identify my needs. I am caught up in the should’s. And I dislike it.

Yes, I grew up with a mother who attended co-dependents anonymous and that may explain why, in the past, I instantly responded to calls for volunteers for the school, sports organizations, non-profits, family and friends whenever I could. I built habits for some need I had to fulfill to help. But what about now?

The balance of helping others and helping myself is the challenge. Getting it right is not always easy, but I am more interested today in examining these knee-jerk reactions and judgments that come with “I should help this guy out” compulsion.

I give a lot of time and attention to a long-time friend who cannot reciprocate, and I am becoming resentful and disinclined to see this friend any more. This would seem like a no-brainer, dump the freeloader, but it is not that simple. I don’t want to (thinking) be beholden to a give to get something or quid pro quo value system. The impulse to give irrespective of gain is in line with my values.

Resentment (feelings) arises for sure in this equation, but the more important question, if I give myself time to respond the next time my friend, who I will call Ash for convenience, calls and asks to go out to lunch to talk (read: monopolize the conversation), is why I feel compelled to be the sympathetic ear, ignoring my own therapeutic need to be heard and share thoughts and feelings.

Mind you, this friend does not always take but often enough where the obligatory “should’s” hit me whenever I see that text or telephone number on my screen. The first reaction is a tiny wince and inaudible sigh. I have known Ash a long time and spent countless hours being a friend. Is it habit?

I wrestle with passive-aggressive responses too–unavailability, calling back much later, too late, and just plain ignoring. That is not a good friend, I chide myself. Feeling guilty is not helpful, either. The spiral of internal chain reactions is exhausting…I shouldn’t ignore…just say what I feel…don’t want to hurt someone for what I perpetuated…time I cannot afford and don’t want to give…others who need it more…giving unconditionally…compassion…

…and on and on.

How to get past the stuff, the gunk (too much thinking or not enough), to the discerned need, my real need in this relationship, occupies my day today. Being truthful.

I know the answer–for me, anyhow. Time. Give myself time to decipher my need–for that moment, any given moment–before saying yes to engaging with Ash. Examining the relationship a bite at a time may lead to the larger answer that I sought today, too overwhelming, as to what I need in this relationship, not want, project, hope or atone for in it.

The Stones got it right: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.

Given enough precious time.