Garden Nightmares

I wrote this on September 6th and never published it because I wanted to write more about actually gardening as opposed to just my weird gardening nightmares. I hopefully will still do that, but in the meanwhile, I’d like this not to live in my Drafts folder anymore. So here it is!

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I keep having anxiety dreams about my garden. I fall asleep and my brain tells me a slug has eaten all my kale and I stand in the yard watching the green leaves literally disappear in an extremely unrealistic way, like in a video game, where a bad guy might take big chomping bites out of a digitized mushroom until it is all gone and you lose 20 points for failing to stop him.

I fall asleep another night and I dream I’ve lost my wagon. I don’t actually own a wagon but in my dream it is yellow and I was using it to bring tomato starts to a friend in a giant parade but everyone had a yellow wagon in the parade and I stop to chat to a toddler and suddenly my wagon is gone, along with all my tomatoes.

A few nights later I fall asleep and weave a story about the woman who owns this house taking control of the yard, I imagine I look out my bedroom window one day and my tall thick tomato vines have vanished. In their place is a box of store-bought eggplant, summer squash, corn. My housemate comes into my bedroom angrily demanding where his tomato jam is, the tomato jam I promised to make him as a thank you for watering the garden all summer as I skipped town time and time again to go adventuring. I have no jam for him and have to explain the tomatoes are gone so I won’t be able to make any after all.

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I wake up after each dream (nightmare?) and peer out my window gingerly, knowing my plants will still be just where I left them the night before, but sort of wondering what exactly I would do if they weren’t.

They’re always still there.

I didn’t really categorize these specific dreams as “anxiety dreams” until Alley called them that. I was telling her all about one (the first one, the one where the slugs are causing my kale to mysteriously disappear, root systems and all) and she was like, “Oh babe, that sounds like an anxiety dream if I’ve ever heard one!” And I was like, “Oh, huh, yeah I guess that’s true.” And then I just kept having them, and now I’m sort of like, “Okay brain, what’s the deal, are we just feeling anxious and deciding to project those feelings onto my poor innocent plants, or are you like specifically anxious about the garden – in which case, calm down! – or are these garden dreams a deliberate and elaborate metaphor for all the other things growing in my life that you are anxious about?” I suppose the bright side is that my old anxiety dreams (that I also never labeled as such but I suppose were exactly that) used to all center around rape and murder, so if I’m just worrying about wagons and tomatoes perhaps that is an improvement.

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Anyhow, I’ve been wanting to write about gardening all summer, so maybe these dreams are just prompting me to get a move on with that, before the first frost comes and gardening becomes an abstract to dream about in general rather than an action I can do every day. Anytime I’ve typed anything about my garden over the past few months it’s felt sort of ridiculous, like I am a small child proud of myself for something extremely mundane. I know my Instagram posts about my garden are filled with sappy excitement and self-congratulatory hashtags that probably cause most of my followers to roll their eyes. Or maybe I’m projecting, maybe I just feel self-conscious about being so unabashedly earnestly thrilled about this very simple act of putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow into food that I can eat.

Why am I still self-conscious about finding joy in simple acts? I’ve been living in Oregon for just over two years now, but listen, I’m still an East Coaster at heart. My adult self was raised in New York City on Gawker Media Brand Snark (RIP), and even though we’ve said goodbye to Gawker as we all knew it, that jaded bitchy tone has made its mark on many a millennial. Me included, I guess, even as I try to grow a new version of myself.

Hamilton Mountain: An Untraditional Trip Report

My brain races when I’m on the trail by myself, shooting off in different directions, circling some topics for hours while discarding others immediately, sometimes letting them get away for good and sometimes picking them up a few miles later. I often find myself narrating blog posts directly from my thought loops while I hike, thinking through concepts and ordering the words in my sentences as if they were going to flow directly from my brain onto the screen. I recently read an interview with Eileen Myles where she describes something similar:

I’ve always felt like as a poet, my studio is my head. Even if I have a very nice writing room in my life, it’s still where it happens… Like, I’ll be on the beach with my dog in 1996, and I’ll just be like watching my dog walk around the beach, and you just start to have all these thoughts… I’ve basically written a whole book about this on some level. You basically start to have all these thoughts, like you start captioning your dog all the time.

I wonder if everyone does this while hiking or if it’s just something writers will identify with. What does everyone else do with all those whirling thoughts? I can’t imagine. (I’m not just saying that – I really can’t imagine living a life where I’m not constantly trying to arrange my inner dialogue into a mess of sentences that I can write down and share with others. Huh.)

All of that is to say, this is a somewhat untraditional trip report of my most recent hike. I’ll be focusing less on the trail conditions and what you should do at the 3 mile marker (spoiler: there is no 3 mile marker) and more on the things my brain did on the trail. If this sounds interesting to you, maybe you will like this post! If you’d rather just read a short and dirty trip report for Hamilton Mountain, I’d suggest reading this instead.

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No part of me wanted to go hiking when I woke up last Tuesday. I’ve been really sedentary this past month; first I was lazy, then I hurt my knee, then it started raining every day, then I got a cold…suddenly it had been a month since my last hike and almost six weeks since my last run. I could feel it. Getting soft is the last thing I should be doing this winter – the exact opposite is the goal, actually – so I promised myself that on my next day off I would haul my ass out into the wilderness and do the thing I needed to do: hike.

I had asked Taylor for a recommendation because I want to start intentionally doing more “conditioning” hikes so I can get stronger and more, well, conditioned, and she has so much knowledge about local hikes and building endurance after taking her Mazama class. I feel really lucky that so many of my friends are so deeply entrenched in spending time outdoors, and that everyone has their own special skill set and their own meaningful relationship with Mother Nature. Farming, biking, mountaineering, researching frogs, maintaining trails, teaching kids survival skills, fighting forest fires, backpacking, ultralight hiking…that list barely scratches the surface of all the ways in which my friends spend time outdoors. How lucky I am that we all share our knowledge with each other, that we all care about spending our time this way, that we all are able to soak up so much of what Oregon has to offer! I feel very cheesy as I conclude this paragraph, but truly, I never imagined that this could be my life and now that it is I am grateful and I want to talk about it!

Tay suggested Hamilton Mountain, and it sounded like just what I was looking for. Not too long and not so much of a climb that it would kill me, but certainly quite enough miles and elevation gain to kick my ass. At 7.5 miles and 2100′ elevation gain, it definitely fit the criteria of being a “conditioning” hike, though its arguably one of the “easiest” conditioning hikes in the area. I checked Jenny’s blog to see if she had a write up of it (as I do before I go on any hike in the PNW area – nine times out of ten, Jenny has hiked it and written about it beautifully and helpfully, so I’ve taken to checking her blog before I look at any of the more generic trail journals out there) and of course she did, confirming what I hoped to be true:

It had been a couple of months since I’d done a “difficult” trail, so I turned to the one I always turn to to get my stamina and muscles back in gear, Hamilton Mountain…The 1.1 mile and 600 feet elevation gain up past Hardy Falls to Rodney Falls was reassuring. The mountain was not going to kill me, just spank me a little too hard.

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In spite of being excited about tackling this trail leading up to Tuesday morning, I woke up completely uninterested in climbing a mountain. I’d had a really depressing phone conversation with my brother the day before, and I just felt super sad. The universe has felt strange recently; I’m so relieved that tonight marks a new moon, a possible chance to hit the “reset” button on my own energy and the energy I’ve been wading through recently. Scorpio season always unmoors me.

I was initially doubtful that I would actually make it out to the Gorge, but I kept reminding myself how shitty I would feel if I didn’t follow through on my promise to hike. I’ve been working a lot more than I am used to lately, which means I have less flexibility about when I have a whole day to dedicate to a hike. I tried to emphasize this to my less than thrilled self as I reluctantly got myself ready to go, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it was the thought of posting some beautiful photos to Instagram once the hike was over that really got me moving. Is it fucked up that blasting a gorgeous view on my social media page is the impetus I need to get the fuck out there when my brain is saying no no no to a hike? Sure, maybe. But did it get me out the door? It sure did. And hey, on a day when I’d rather stay in my pajamas under the covers and feel sorry for myself all day, I’ll take what I can get.

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After a (not so) quick stop to get gas, grab overpriced snacks at New Seasons (note to self: stop buying large bags of chips and pretending they will “last you the whole week” when you know full well you will eat the entire bag, no matter how large, in one sitting and then feel very ill), and borrow Alley’s headlamp (because I couldn’t find my own and what with getting such a late start and the sun setting so much earlier I was fearful I may end up hiking in the dark), I was off! As I drove toward Washington on the slick freeway I said a quick prayer asking the clouds to hold off on any heavy rain. Hiking in bad weather is something one has to get used to if you live in the Pacific Northwest and intend to go outdoors more than two months of the year, but I didn’t think my wimpy disposition could handle a full on rain storm that day. I listened to Buffering the Vampire Slayer the whole way there and by the time I parked at the trailhead I felt almost okay, like at least I knew I could do this hike (probably).

For some reason I battled a lot of anxiety throughout the entirety of this trail, most of it centered on my ability or perceived lack thereof. I have been dealing with heightened anxiety in general recently, but usually I am able to let go of that when I’m hiking; it was somewhat disconcerting to be second-guessing myself and panicking on the trail about the trail.

I have been noticing that the more I learn about hiking and the more I immerse myself in hiking culture, the more I realize I don’t know or have yet to learn, and I think the realization of that is what is moving me toward feeling unsure on the trail. It’s weird because of course I want to keep learning and it’s actually quite necessary to continue doing so, but at the same time it was almost easier when I was naive and didn’t know what I didn’t know.

When I first began hiking I didn’t know anything, so I probably made some stupid decisions but because I always turned out alright, I didn’t panic. I never had a flashlight or a compass or a paper map, but I didn’t really think about the kind of scenario wherein I would need any of those things, and because I never did end up needing them I didn’t learn my lesson about why they’re important to carry. Do you know what I mean? Now I am learning so much, so quickly: Cotton kills. You need to set the delineation correctly on your compass in order for it to be any use to you when reading a map. It’s a good idea to carry tape in your first aid kit because you can’t really improvise it out of anything else and if you twist your ankle badly you’re going to want to tape it up.

And it’s good, it’s very good to be learning those things, but it also reminds me that there is so much more I have yet to learn. And that makes me feel more anxious when I hit the trail, because what if my mom’s worst fears are right, what if I actually have no business tromping through the woods with just my city girl smarts to aid me, what if I get lost or fall and break my ankle or or or… Maybe now you see what I mean.

In addition to that I am just a generally fearful person (which I hate about myself and am always actively looking for ways to change that inclination) and while I am usually able to turn that part of my brain off as well when I’m on the trail, on this particular hike I was focusing on all sorts of nature-specific scary stories about men hurting women in the woods, and damn, I was just scaring myself out of my goddamn mind.

Oh, and on top of all that: I must’ve been way more out of shape than I originally anticipated, because Hamilton Mountain? It did more than “just spank me a little too hard.”

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The first half of the hike is essentially all up-hill, so I spent a long while huffing and puffing, using my hiking poles to help haul my body up up up. I saw very few people all day (seven total, plus two dogs) which usually feels like a blessing but on a day when I’m feeling uncertain about every step I take (every move I make…) it felt…stressful. I am so unused to hiking feeling stressful that I didn’t know what to make of the feeling. I allowed myself to wallow a little bit, feel sad that I was feeling so inept on the trail, feel sad that a hike of similar difficulty to one I did with ease in Glacier at the end of August was seriously kicking my ass, feel sad about old friendships that have gone sour, feel sad that Trump is running for president and people who allegedly love me are planning to vote for him… I just let myself feel sad. And then, only about 2 miles in, as I stopped to catch my breath and look out at the amazing fog-filled view and shove a few bite-size salami circles into my mouth, I told myself to get it together and cheer the fuck up.

I took myself very sternly by the shoulders and I said, Self, what the actual fuck. You are alive! It is a Tuesday and you are hiking up a mountain! Your cell phone is on airplane mode and the rain is holding off and the fog is so goddamn beautiful you may as well be in Southern Oregon! You can breath! You have salami bites! You have water! You have sweet queer-flagging gaiters that make you grin every time you look down! You will make it up this mountain today and slowly slowly you will get back to a place where you can take on a hike of this level with ease! You will mend friendships and you will burn bridges and you will march on through this messy complicated gorgeous thing we call life and you will be fine or you won’t be but either way at this very moment you are here, you are hiking up a goddamn mountain, and it is beautiful so maybe you could just try to be happy about it, okay?!?!

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And wouldn’t you know it, I give a damn good pep talk. Cause my brain totally listened. I said a small prayer and sent that energy out into the universe and I ended it with a very earnest “so say we all” which I didn’t know I was going to say until the words tumbled out of my mouth, and then I laughed at myself for being such a nerdy fangirl for Battlestar Galactica, and then I decided I will conclude all my prayers and spells with “so say we all” from now on, and then I kept hiking, because there was nothing else left to do.

I had read that the view at the top of Hamilton Mountain is not as impressive as some of the other hikes in the Gorge, especially because it’s somewhat obstructed by brush. This is true. But I had also read that once you get to the T-junction that signifies the mountain summit you will turn left and continue down-ish, for about 1 mile, and then you will find the most stunning saddle where you will have a much better view and where, if it’s not too windy, you should sit down and rest and eat lunch and congratulate yourself for being a badass since you just climbed approximately 2000′ in just over 3 miles. This is also true.

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I rolled my ankle twice on the way down. The ol’ “rolled ankle” is my Injury Curse, the one that happens all the time to me, the one that I’ve been dealing with since I was a kid. “People either have a great arch and weak ankles, or no flexibility and real strong ankles,” my terrifying ex-Rockette 70-something ballet teacher once said to me, when I auditioned to dance on pointe. “You have a great arch.” I took it as a subtle sign from the universe, reminding me that after taking a 2 day, 16 hour wilderness first-aid course, I should know better than to leave the house without a first-aid kit (or at the very least, some tape). My right knee also started bothering me quite a bit on the descent, which bummed me out in spite of my aggressive attempts to stay cheery. I first felt this pain after some long hikes at Glacier in August, and it has popped up after various runs since then. I think (hope) the knee pain is related to not stretching properly and also not having enough strength in certain muscles, so hopefully it’s a somewhat easy fix and not a full-blown injury, but I’m paranoid about hurting myself and not getting to do the hikes I want to do, so it was disheartening to feel pain again after resting my knee for more than two weeks.

Whether it was the pain I felt in my ankle and my knee or just the fact that the hike down on this trail is pretty monotonous, I found myself getting bored near the end and wishing I could speed up the final two miles and be back in my car, listening to queer women discuss Buffy and eating a whole bag of BBQ chips. That’s also an unfamiliar feeling: I usually wish I could stretch a day hike into infinity. I tried to spin it positively and reasoned that it’s good to be realistic about hiking rather than building it up as a fantasy sport wherein I am always calm and at peace and happy. Carrot once wrote that thru-hiking is essentially an exercise in always being uncomfortable in some way but wanting to be hiking anyway (she said it more eloquently and I wish I could find the exact blog post she wrote it in so I could link to it – if anyone knows the one I’m referring to, let me know!). I tried to think of it like that. Yes my ankle hurt and yes my knee was concerning me and yes the abandoned road that makes up the last portion of the hike was boring (in the way that eventually trees filled with bright yellow leaves and the smell of wet air and the rustling of the wind all around you eventually get, you know, boring – god I sound like an asshole) but I still would’ve rather been on the trail than anywhere else last Tuesday.

I got back to my car eventually and texted my mom and Alley to let them know I was safe. I consulted my Strava which informed me that the whole hike had taken me 5 hours but I’d only been actually moving for 3.5 hours, which means I took 1.5 hours worth of breaks collectively, which for some reason made me laugh a lot. I guess all those two minute “pant until I can catch my breath and determine that I’m going the right way in this somewhat confusing rocky portion of the trail” breaks really add up!

I posted a photo on Instagram. I ate some potato chips. I took stock of my feelings: did I feel better or worse than I did when I woke up? I felt better.

Then I turned on the car and drove back to Portland.

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Rain, anxiety, and some stuff I’ve enjoyed recently

It’s pouring outside. I know it rains a lot in Portland but for some reason the rain this month is killing me. I know, I know. This is what the Pacific Northwest is like. When my parents visited me for my birthday last year it rained every single day they were here. That was the stretch of December where it rained for 17 days in a row. There are now 18-day-old babies in Portland who have never experienced a dry day in their lives, my favorite news article of that month read. I think it was published in the Willamette Week (okay I checked, it was). My dad hated it. I don’t blame him – it’s not like I love it when it rains. But usually I find it to be fine, and I love enough about this city to not mind the flood-like conditions we live in 9 months of the year.

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But this October in particular the weather is really bumming me out. I’m feeling more anxious in general than ever before, though I’m not sure if my anxiety is making my reaction to the weather worse or if the bad weather is worsening my anxiety. I had my first panic attack a few weeks ago, convinced myself I would die of boric acid poisoning because I’d tried to make a capsule of it while sitting in bed and had potentially accidentally ingested some of the powder left on my fingertips when biting my nails later in the evening. But also, a known sexual abuser racist dangerous man is running for president of the United States and many people are going to vote for him in less than a month. So maybe it’s normal to be really anxious and sort of sad right now. In any case, I can hear the wind whipping the rain drops around outside right now and I know in my heart that there is absolutely no way I’m going out to a party at a bar when I’m done babysitting tonight, no matter what I promised Alley and Mary and Autumn. My sweatpants and my (boric acid free) bed await.

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When I used to blog regularly in 2008 (haha, remember when McCain/Palin were our biggest national concerns in an election? Oh, to be young and naive again!) I often used to write about stuff I was enjoying at any given moment. “Stuff” could mean anything, like an article I liked, or a brand of tank tops I particularly enjoyed, or even like a really fucking delicious stir-fry I whipped up on a random Tuesday. For some reason it seems excessively difficult to write about that kind of stuff right now. I don’t want it to be difficult. I want to write about mundane stuff in this blog along with “serious stuff” and I want to do it with very little fanfare, just do it, like a regular routine part of my day. I hate that I am self-critical of that impulse right now, that even as I type these words I’m letting the tiny voice in my head belittle me, that I’m actually thinking “no one gives a fuck about an article you found interesting or a stir fry you made for dinner, asshole.” (How dare I call myself an asshole for these simple desires?! Fuck off, belittling voice in my head! Begone, along with this goddamn rain storm, let the high winds they keep warning us about that are making me anxious about driving down to Southern Oregon tomorrow evening whisk you away, never to be seen or heard from again!)

Taylor and Alley and I discussed this phenomenon recently, and its one that truly deserves its own post/book/opus but in the meanwhile I’ll just give it a few sentences: the three of us all used to produce so much “content” before we ever wrote for “a living” on the internet. And I say “content” extremely derisively because ew, my brilliant 16 year old self would never have called her Livejournal entries content, and I say “a living” pretty loosely because have you seen the state of media, let alone queer media, recently? Right. But the larger point stands, which is that before we were pressured to produce words for an audience because of a job, we were fairly prolific, and not only did having media-related jobs stunt our creativity and ability to write freely at the time of said employment, but unfortunately the effects seem to be fairly long-lasting. Perhaps I shouldn’t talk for Taylor and Alley, especially as we joke that everything said at their kitchen table stays at their kitchen table (it’s not really a joke), but I will say for me, all of the above is true. “I’d give anything to write the way I did when I was 15,” Alley said the other night (sorry for breaking the “this all stays at the kitchen table” rule, babe) and damn, I can relate.

All of which is to say, I’m really pushing myself to exercise my writing muscles in this blog. I want to get both my ability and my desire to publish words often back, and I am fairly certain the only way to do that is to do it. (That’s true of so many things in life.) You’ll notice I’ve published three posts in the past three days. (Well, my loyal 4 readers may notice this.) I’m pleased with that. They are not posts designed to “go viral” (LOL). They are not particularly deep or long. I’m just putting my words and thoughts out into the world freely, without self-judgement and without fear and without too much editing or fixating or concern. That’s the current goal, and I’m proud of it. Anyway, the last few paragraphs were probably kind of “insider baseball”-y if you aren’t a writer or if you aren’t a lapsed blogger or if you aren’t me or Alley or Taylor, but they have a point, I swear! The point is that I used to enjoy sharing random stuff I was enjoying, and so I’m going to do that now and see if it’s still fun. I bet it will be.

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+ Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn

This podcast is so good! I’ve only recently gotten into podcasts so I’m catching up on a lot of good ones, but I’ve bumped this one to the top of my queue because it’s really great! First of all, Gaby Dunn is a queer woman. Second of all, I really like the way her voice sounds (a very important component of enjoying a podcast!). Third of all, talking about money tends to be weird and loaded and horrible and taboo and I think it’s fucking rad to do as much as we all can to undo those truths because fuck that shit. Fourth of all, I like the interview/conversation structure of the show (I’ve noticed that I really don’t like some podcast structures and while I can’t discern exactly why just yet, I do know that this one is working for me). Fifth of all, the guests are so good! Particularly Roxane Gay and Carrie Wade. Like, they’re all good, but those two really blew me away. Anyway if you’re a regular in the same corner of the internet as I am you’ve probably already heard about this podcast but incase you haven’t or incase you’ve been waiting for me specifically to tell you to listen to it, that’s what I’m doing! Great good talk.

+ Every Body Goes Haywire

Holy shit this essay was so good. My mom has gotten migraines my whole life and I started getting headaches when I was 20 because of the birth control pill I was on at the time. (Do not get me started about birth control and its hidden side effects and also do not get me started about when doctors casually switch you from a brand name drug to a generic and don’t mention that the generic has different ingredients that may fuck with your system…actually maybe do not get me started about the way women are treated by Western medicine in general…) My headaches were never of the same genre as my moms, or of the author of this piece, but I’ve been dealing with chronic stomach issues for a year and a half now and the way she describes bodies and how women are treated when we dare to complain about pain and was very interesting to me in a meaningful way. Reading this essay made me want to write an essay about my stomach issues and it also made me want to give the author a huge hug, if she wanted one, and it also made me want to text the link to my mom so we could discuss it because it seemed different than many other “headache essays” I’ve read and she’s read in the past. This is a very long way of saying READ THIS ESSAY! You will not regret it.

On a February morning, I wake up early for another MRI. I’ll go from the appointment straight to work, and I want to wear something elegant. I blow dry my hair and put on make-up. I want the technician to know I’m not a woman who sits at home in her pajamas all day.

As I pull on snow boots to walk to the subway, I realize very suddenly that I am not surprised to find myself in this situation: going from doctor to doctor, dragged down by the weight of my body. I have the uncanny feeling that I am reliving something I’ve already experienced, but really it’s only what I imagined my mother’s days were like. My mother knows the subtle humiliation of removing your clothes and waiting for a nurse to call your name.

Perhaps this is what happens to a woman when she grows up, I think. She might marry or have children, but then she gets sick. She struggles to keep up with work and chores and family and friends until she can’t manage; she gives up her career. She trades silk blouses for hospital gowns. She spends her mornings in doctors’ waiting rooms, her afternoons on the phone filling prescriptions and arguing with the insurance company.

This inheritance awaits many women. Almost 20 percent of women suffer migraines, and 75 percent of migraine sufferers are women. That same group of hard-to-diagnose and hard-to-treat diseases—lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, but also chronic fatigue, chronic headache and fibromyalgia—primarily afflicts women. “Women are more likely than men to be disabled by chronic illnesses,” Susan Wendell writes, “and women (including women with other disabilities) suffer more ill health than men. Women live longer than men, but much of that extra living is done with a disabling chronic illness.”

Wendell points out that those chronic conditions bring with them the kind of invisible impairments that can cripple a patient without appearing notable. “Pain and/or fatigue are major sources of impairment in many chronic illnesses that are more common in women than in men,” she writes. It is exactly these impairments that are easiest to dismiss or misperceive as psychosomatic.

And doctors treat complaints about such conditions differently when they come from women. Kempner cites studies that show physicians prescribe less pain medicine to women than they do to men, even though women are more likely to suffer chronic pain. Other studies show that women are more likely than men to be prescribed antidepressants and tranquilizers—rather than pain medication—for their migraines. Add to this the fact that migraine is more likely to occur in people with mental health diagnoses like depression and anxiety, both of which are more common in women. All of this makes it hard to untangle migraine and other chronic pain conditions from stereotypes of female weakness and hysteria. The characterization perpetuates the notion of the migraineur-as-malingerer, the sensitive soul disabled by everyday disruptions.

Even Sacks isn’t immune. He writes eloquently about the anguish of his own migraines, and yet he sees women with migraines as submitting to a natural order of things. “I have the impression that many menstrual migraines,” he writes, “condens[e], as it were, the stresses of the month into a few days of concentrated illness, and I have observed, in a number of patients, that curing them (depriving them) of such menstrual syndromes may be followed by a release of diffuse anxiety and neurotic conflict into the remainder of the month.”

+ On Female Friendship and the Sisters We Choose for Ourselves

As a huge fan of kids (especially rad 10 year old girls), Cheryl Strayed, Chloe Caldwell, Portland, and first person narratives written by women (especially first person narratives written by women about female friendship!), this essay really hit the spot for me. It also made me really wish that I was Bobbi’s nanny because she sounds like the coolest and I would love to casually hang out in Cheryl Strayed’s library (in a not-creepy way).

The first time I met Bobbi was in 2011, when she was five and I was twenty-five. She was always animated, but polite and somewhat shy. (Now that we are pseudo-sisters, now that she is ten, she is not polite and shy with me. Sometimes I have to tell her to give me ten minutes. Sometimes I have to take her into the other room. Sometimes we yell and I swear.)

In 2013 I lived at Cheryl’s during the months of November and December while her family went to Australia. It was just me and her two cats in the house. The house was medium-sized but felt big for only one person. I was lonely. I knew I wasn’t a child anymore, but I didn’t know myself as an adult yet, either. Instead of sleeping in the main bedroom, I found myself over and over retiring to Bobbi’s small bed on the floor, with the red-and-blue Spider-Man fleece blanket. Last year I told Bobbi I slept in her bed instead of her mom’s so I could curl up next to the wall.

“That is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard in my whole life,” she said.

*

I started writing this post on Thursday evening and now it’s Saturday afternoon. Alley and I were supposed to drive to Southern Oregon yesterday but there’s a big storm hanging around the Pacific Northwest and we decided it wasn’t safe to get on the road. I’m not sure if that was the right decision, but it’s the one we made. I texted Susie this morning to ask what was up. I wanted her to tell me I’d made the right choice. That was all I wanted yesterday, too – “a grown up” to make the decision for me. She told me it’s raining heavily at their place. “And windy, and we don’t have power!” I told her I was second guessing myself, thinking maybe it would’ve been okay to drive. I could’ve been sitting around their kitchen table with them today, trimming pot and drinking PBR. “Who knows darlin,” she texted back. “Life is like that!”

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Digging through my Nostalgia Folder

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a coffee shop with Courtney, working on various things on my computer: a gift for Alley for our upcoming anniversary, some annoying bank-related admin tasks, and this blog. I also took on the task of cleaning up my desktop, because I have a bad habit of saving a million files there so I can “find them easily” but then I never actually ever open them again and it slows down my already slow MacBook. So anyway, I was moving documents around to get them off my desktop when I stumbled upon my Nostalgia Folder.

Everyone has a folder like this on their computer, right? Maybe it’s not called “Nostalgia Folder” but it’s pretty common to have a folder dedicated to old girlfriends, old versions of yourself, old art…right? Well I assume it is. It’s human nature to put away details from our old lives so we can examine them later, turn them over in our hands and our brains, try to make sense of who we are by looking at who we were. Maybe that’s not human nature, maybe it’s writer nature. In any case, I’ve got this nostalgia folder on my computer. And yesterday I decided to dig into it.

Depending on one’s mood, looking down memory lane can either be really fun or extremely upsetting. I’ve spent more than one occasion obsessively going through my inbox, reading old emails from humans who were at one time tremendously important to me and who I now no longer speak to for whatever reason, and I’ll tell you what, that kind of exercise can fuck you up for days. But yesterday I was feeling carefree, and the content in my Nostalgia Folder brought me joy. The thing that brought me the most joy and made me laugh out loud? The screenshots from my old OkCupid profile. Here they are:

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And then I edited it shortly after, I guess, because here’s the next one:

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And then there’s this:

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And finally, here are the dazzling photos I chose to show off my charms and good looks to potential future babely dates:

This all cracks me up for a million reasons. First of all, this profile marks the first time in my life I was really presenting myself to the world as a queer girl. I made this profile in the summer of 2010, right before I left New York to go live at home for two months before leaving for Israel for a year. I hadn’t had a serious girlfriend yet. I had barely any experience hooking up with other girls. I had basically spent the entire year leading up to making this profile (a) being in love with Emily (a person who was definitely not in love with me) and (b) coming to terms with my queerness.

By all logic I should’ve been really shy and insecure and felt weird about making a dating profile. I mean, I remember I was pretty insecure in my queer identity and did feel a little weird about making a dating profile, but look! I did it! I fucking took the OkCupid form by the horns and just fucking filled it in! Look at me (suggestively? Did I think I was being suggestive? Oy…) biting that sparkly cupcake necklace! Look at me earnestly announcing to future dates that I am “queer not gay” and also that I spend a lot of time thinking about “how to fix the world.” WHAT A LITTLE TINY BABY! (I was not 24. I was 21. I am LOLing at my old self lying about my age by 3 random years? WTF, Old Self?) I AM SO PROUD OF THIS GIRL, THIS TINY 21 YEAR OLD WHO WAS TRYING SO HARD TO GET OVER EMILY AND EMBRACE THE OVERWHELMING SCENE THAT WAS QUEER NEW YORK CITY IN 2010 AND WHO FELT SO AWKWARD AND BEHIND THE REST OF THE PACK BUT WANTED TO GO ON DATES AND FIGURE SHIT OUT SO BADLY. LOOK AT HER! LOOK AT HER GO!

Anyway, I thought it was pretty funny that I stumbled upon these screenshots yesterday, on National Coming Out Day, because it reminded me that I am in fact quite the baby when it comes to being a queer adult. In queer community we often talk about “queer time,” or the idea that the actual number of years one has been alive on this earth is sometimes less relevant when parsing their behavior than the number of years they have been out as a queer human, because of delayed milestones, replaying adolescence, etc etc. I don’t 100% subscribe to this – I think, like most things in the world, there is a healthy mixture at play and this theory is not relevant to everyone – but I do think there is something to be said to the way I feel young when I am around queers who have been out forever, who have known themselves deeply for longer, who were making out with other queers at raves while I was sitting in AP History class and crushing on random cis boys because I didn’t know I had more options in this life.

I think about my coming out the first time around, how confused I was, how elated I was, how I didn’t really give a fuck about language or labels or words, I just wanted to kiss Emily all the time. I think about London, of course, where I first met Emily, where she held my hand on Ardi’s bed that night in February and kissed me in front of all our friends. No one noticed, because they were all busy making out with each other, but I noticed everything about her: the way her teeth were stained red from wine and her lips were too, the way she raised her eyebrow and looked almost mean when she said, “I can’t believe you’ve never hooked up with a girl,” the way she held my hand for a second longer than I expected her to and then grinned before asking, “So can I kiss you?” I think I knew she would. I had never kissed a girl before. I was so into it. I was terrified.

And then I think about everything that came next. Coming home from London. Living in NYU dorms for the summer of 2009, going to my internship and my job and finding as much time as possible to pine over Emily (so basically pining over Emily all of the time, especially at said internship and said job). One night we all went to her apartment and I got too drunk on red wine because I thought maybe if we were all drinking red wine again it would be like the beginning except it wasn’t at all and then everyone went out to a bar and I stayed at the apartment by myself and cried and fell asleep in her bed and woke up soaking wet because the window was open and it had started to rain. I remember not knowing what the fuck I was doing but feeling okay about that, because I was 20, because I was sure Emily was The One, because I was so excited and also so confused to realize I was gay, because I was living in New York! By myself! Being young! Fucking up! It all felt exciting and honest and I wouldn’t give it back, not for anything, even if it felt like The Worst at the time. I’m so grateful that I was allowed to be that version of myself. And I’m psyched, to be honest, that a relic of her still exists in these screenshots of my Very First Dating Profile that I decided to stow away in my Nostalgia Folder.

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Here I am with Sam on his birthday in 2010 – of all the photos I browsed through while thinking about this post, I loved this one best. I’m drunk and I’m holding a fucking whisk and I was probably internally freaking out about not knowing what ~the future held~ but also I am happy and I’m with one of my best friends and I’m in New York and I’m gay and everything is gonna be fine and I think I knew that even then, which is magical.

 

It’s beautiful because it’s so unbelievable

I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica for the first time and it’s breaking my brain in the best way possible. I’ve been taking the utmost care not to spoil any storylines for myself (please please please do not post any spoilers for me anywhere, pleaseandthankyouiwillkillyouifyoudo), but I can’t wait to be finished with the series so I can deep dive into the treasure trove of reviews and criticisms and academic papers about the show that I know exist on this glorious world wide web. I’m currently in the middle of season 3 and have just been reading the episodic reviews written over at The Mary Sue, careful not to click through to any that I haven’t seen yet and grateful that the editors over there published the posts with closed comment sections to avoid spoilers. It’s quite the time to be watching a show that explores whether humanity deserves to survive the apocalypse, I’ll tell you what. Most episodes end with me shaking my head and thinking maybe we don’t deserve it after all.

Tonight is Kol Nidre, which is technically the holiest eve of the Jewish year. We’re supposed to have reckoned with our sins from the past year over the 10 days leading up to this evening (the time period between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement) so we can cap it off with proper atonement during our fast tomorrow. I won’t be fasting this year or going to synagogue this evening, but I was raised Jewish and I can’t shake our traditions (nor do I want to) so I’ve been, well, reckoning the past 10 days. I personally am extremely interested in the ways humans interact with one another, in the miscommunications and the hurt feelings and the unintentional pain we all cause each other just by existing. I’m also profoundly curious in why we continue to forge relationships and love and forgive in spite of these realities of being a human. It’s beautiful because it’s so unbelievable.

I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to take stock of our actions and the ways they inadvertently and intentionally affected others in our lives and make sure we get right with the people who matter to us (and sometimes even the people who don’t). “How does the world work, is what you’re asking, I think,” Danielle said to me last summer, when I asked a series of unanswerable questions all in a row as we sped down the I-5. I’m always asking that, I think. But less, “how does the world work” and more “how do human beings work” or maybe even “why do we work” and “what happens when we don’t.” I’m reckoning with myself and my actions and my emotions right now, is what I want to tell you, because my religion dictates that I should. But I also want you to know that I’d be reckoning with myself even if my religion did not dictate it, because I think it’s important. I think it is why we are here, whether we deserve to be or not.

I’m glad Judaism gives me the reminder. I may not be going to synagogue tonight, but asking these questions is a form of prayer.

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