Monday, March 31, 2008

Dinner collective

or, some thoughts on creating community

W and I recently joined with her sister and a couple of our friends, making a "dinner collective." For us, this means that once a week (or less often, depending on schedules) everyone in the group cooks a meal that will serve five or six people. Then we pack it into leftover containers, meet up, share a meal with each other, and exchange the containers. For the effort of cooking one meal, we get to have five *different* meals. Plus, we have a low-cost, relaxed social gathering with friends.

I originally had one of these ten years ago, when I lived in Portland. I got the idea from Everyday Acts and Small Subversions, by Anndee Hochman. She described several dinner collectives or co-ops, and the idea struck a chord for me. Why couldn't I get some friends together and do something similar? While the idea of meeting with friends every night seemed appealing, it wasn't a practical option for us. So we settled on a weekly meeting, with containers of food to take home. It saved us a bit of money and a lot of time. I tried to start other dinner collectives later, but couldn't quite get them off the ground, because people were dubious about the concept.

So I'm glad to have one now, and the other members are equally glad. We find that it's much more exciting to cook if we know someone else is going to be eating the food as well. And since we're more excited, we try more ambitious recipes, which makes the food more appealing, which keeps us from walking to the nearest take-out joint rather than facing the drudgery of yet another meal cooked at home.

Even though we eat apart, there is still a social aspect to the meal collective. We think of each other as we're eating, or at least I think of the others.

I have been working to regain a sense I used to have, that it is possible to imagine my life as I would like it to be, and then find a path that will take me there. I can remember how I used to be able to leap from a vision of what I wanted into the implementation of that vision. And this experience with the dinner collective is reminding me that what it takes is making small steps.

So I'm also thinking about the other things I want in my life. What is it that I've been missing? How can I begin to find those things again? And how can I show other people that it's possible to re-shape our lives into a form that is more satisfying?

P.S. If you click on "preview this book" in the link at the top, you can browse the different sections. The chapter I'm talking about is here.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

dance party in my head!

this post is mostly to see whether it actually works to "share" music from rhapsody.

one of the things we've found in my system is that some tasks (say, washing dishes or making dinner) go more easily when we take that time to have an internal dance party. i'll listen to music, either on the stereo or in my headphones, and whoever wants to can hang out dancing. the little kids especially like this. it's also been a way to get in touch with the baby, because usually someone will go find her and bring her to the dance party. not sure how she experiences it, but they usually make a point of including her.

so here are today's tracks from the dance party in my head:

Here's a link. Not sure how it works--I'm guessing you have to have an account, and they say free accounts still let you listen to 25 tracks a month without paying.

And here is the list of tracks:
1. sing, Shout, Dance - Kingdom Heirs
2. I Love To Laugh - Sweet Honey in the Rock
3. Philadelphia Chickens - The Bacon Brothers - Sandra Boynton
4. Hush-A-Bye Hard Times - Dolly Parton
5. Still Gotta Get Up In The Morning - Sweet Honey in the Rock
6. Magellan - Broadside Electric
7. Rock-A-My Soul - Acappella
8. Busy Busy Busy - Kevin Kline - Sandra Boynton
9. Do What the Spirit Say Do - Sweet Honey in the Rock
10. Be Like A Duck - Keith Boynton - Sandra Boynton
11. Still The Same Me - Sweet Honey in the Rock

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Easter bunny

Yesterday in the morning time the little kids here were super disapointed cause the Easter bunny did not come and leave us a basket. but Ellis said if we did not SAY we wanted a basket then we would not get one, and she did not know we wanted a basket so she did not tell W we wanted a basket. so we were disapointed.

We did not say about wanting a basket because we thought probly the Easter bunny would KNOW we wanted a basket and then we would get a basket that way cause the Easter bunny is MAGIC and a magic thing knows when someone is a little kid inside and will need a special thing like an Easter basket. But maby it is diffrent if you live in a stupid grown up body.

But then!! O!! What a suprise! We went to W's sister's house and she had a present just for US! Gess what?!? It was just like an Easter basket only she did not mean it to be like that, it just was. That is how we know the Easter bunny helped cause W's sister maby would have given us the present a diffrent day or she would not have the present.

She gave it to us just cause she is a nice person and she likes to give pepul presents all the time cause she likes pepul to be happy. She is a very nice persun.

What the present was is three very big BEE YOU TEE FUL cookies. They are decorated with sparkly stuff. They are a lion, a monkey and an elefunt. They are soooo beautiful. O! we love them very much! Probly we will eat them soon cause that is what you do with cookies. But first we will be happy to have these beautiful cookies. They came in a fancy bag with ribbons and paper grass. That is also how we know it is an Easter bunny thing.

O! It was so nice for her to give those to us! You do not have to give us a present to be nice to us, but when we get a present it makes us soooooooooo happy!

Thank you so much!

PS-We cwaperated on this post caues we all wanted to write. We are getting GOOD at cwaperating!

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

let me know what you think

i(we) have been working a lot this week on figuring out how to write (or, in the end, how to modify) themes on wordpress, so we can organize our website through that, which will mean that even those of us who can't write html can still put up pages. plus, it will be easier to keep links and the overall theme of the site updated, all from one place.

anyhow, we finally got it to the point where we're willing to show people who aren't w, so if you want to let me know your opinion, you can go to coping in crazyville and take a look around. the site is very much still in progress, but i'm pretty proud of having managed to put together as much as i have. (also: if you use a browser other than Firefox, Explorer, or Netscape, can you let me know if it's not working? thanks.)

there are other things i could be writing about, and i might get some of those up later this weekend. but right now, that's what i have to say.

if you have the time, and feel like doing so, we (ie, us in jigsaw analogy) would also appreciate feedback on the content. it's one thing to have the pages in theory, but it would be nice to know whether anyone else likes them!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

unconditional love

ok. before i begin this post, i want to clearly say... generally, i am in favor of unfettered free speech (except spam--i DESPISE spam, and delete it). however. with this post, i'd like to request that people not leave any comments that are just to say things like "oh, poor you for having that experience" or anything like that. sometimes, sympathy is something i can't handle. if you feel you must, go ahead. but please don't feel obligated to say something, ok? thanks.

I wish you hope, that keeps you looking toward tomorrow
and away from yesterday.
I wish you faith, in yourself and all humanity
and the belief that we will finally live as one.
I wish you joy, I wish you peace,
I wish you more than you will need.
I wish you unconditional love.

~~from Unconditional Love, by The Four Bitchin' Babes.

i started thinking about this post because of a conversation i had with w last night. even at the time, i knew i was asking kind of unfair questions. the kind of questions where, even though i wanted her to tell the truth, there was really only one truth that wasn't going to upset me.

you see, i asked her if, had she known how our lives would unfold, would she have chosen to be in a relationship with me. and she couldn't give me an unqualified yes. some of that is just w--she *thinks* too much about these questions, or she doesn't hear the question behind the one i ask. and i ask those questions, because i know she will give the automatic answer if i ask "do you love me? do you REALLY love me? do you love me unconditionally?" and i don't trust the automatic answer to be true. so i ask questions that have less automatic answers.

in my life, my experience of love has not been unconditional. growing up, i was taught that the path to being loved was fraught with danger. and to a child, or at least, to me as a child, love was the source of things like a reliable place to live, food, clothing, shelter. and, oh yeah, that emotional nurturing that is supposed to be so important.

but my experience of love was that it could be easily taken away. if i could not discern what the adults around me wanted, they would stop loving me. if i could not be good enough, or if i asked for things they were unwilling or unable to give, the love would be taken away. depending on the adult in question, that could mean that they would abuse me physically or emotionally, or it would mean that they just stopped noticing me.

and yet, in many ways, being noticed in a way i was told was loving could be equally dangerous. because sometimes, being noticed meant getting something perhaps intended as "positive" attention from people who really didn't consistently understand what it meant to be nurturing to a child, and how just because you're touching someone doesn't mean you're touching them... there. or in that way.

so i was not an especially cuddly child, to say the least. which also led to punishment, because if i couldn't accept nurturing love, the occasionally appropriate kind, the adults in my life would get furious. why was i rejecting them? why was i saying, with my body language, that i didn't appreciate their love? because that's what goes through the mind of a six month old, or a three year old, or even a ten year old. and because, clearly, being furious and raging is going to teach that child to accept nurturing when it's available.

there were adults in my life, people in my life who were not violent, who were not abusive in any way. but for my first five years, i didn't have any extended experience of that. so by the time i got to school, i understood the positive attention i got from teachers as being based entirely on my ability to be good--to learn quickly, to not ask for any extra effort, to help where it was needed without getting in the way. and let me tell you, it was much easier to follow the explicitly stated rules of school than it was to follow the invisible twisting path at home.

but here's the thing. you know how they say in trainings for people working with kids, that kids will seek out negative attention if they aren't able to get positive attention? that may be true for some kids. not so much for me. i didn't fully trust positive attention anyways, since i never could understand when positive attention was going to be safe. so i certainly avoided negative attention, and was fairly undemanding of other attention. if it seemed freely offered, i would take it. but i certainly didn't seek it out.

i learned not even to rely on family members who weren't abusive, because for whatever reasons, they tended to... well, to be unreliable. my father is a big example of this. i didn't meet him until i was eight. then, for the next 2 1/2 years, we wrote to each other, and i spent some vacations with him. and then he stopped writing, stopped having me to visit. he never really said why. he just stopped. for a lot of reasons, that just reinforced the message that there was something wrong with me, something that kept people from being able to care about me, to love me, to give me attention in ways that were safe.

yes, i had teachers. and i am grateful for them. but for the most part, teachers were something transitory. built into the relationship was that it was time-limited. it was a teacher's *job* to teach, and the would do it no matter how you behaved. when a teacher was kind, it still fell into my vision of what they were supposed to do.

looking back, with all the various times i can remember teachers going out of their way for me, it occurs to me that they actually cared about me, as a person, separate from what they were "required" to do. but it never once occurred to me, growing up, that a teacher would want to see me when they weren't being paid to do so. it never occurred to me to go back to see a teacher after i was no longer taking classes with them. because my baseline experience was that people only spent time with me when they felt they had to, that people only allowed me to be around so long as it benefitted them.

growing up, i somehow picked up the message that one's family is supposed to love a person unconditionally. and since it was pretty clear to me that my family did *not* love me unconditionally, i took away the lesson lots of kids in that situation do: that there was something about *me* that caused me to be less lovable. that this wasn't the fault of the people who were unable to love me, but something about me, as a person.

at some point in high school or college, i found out that my mother had had an abortion. (disclaimer: don't get me wrong. even with this particular experience, i am 100% pro-choice. people have every right in the world to determine for themselves what happens when they are pregnant.)

the thing is, my mother's story about how she had decided to have the abortion reinforced some really negative lessons i had already learned.

when i was a few months old, she divorced my father. and then she found out she was pregnant. i assume there were a lot of reasons she would have decided to have an abortion. i mean, being a single parent with three kids already, and not much money, having an abortion or giving the child up for adoption, would probably have been a good idea. had she decided to do this because she didn't think she could be a good parent, while it might have been kind of sad, i could see her point.

but the thing is, the reason she told me she had the abortion was because she was concerned the baby would be dark-skinned. my father is black, my mother (and the rest of my family) are white. she didn't feel she could go back and not have *me*, but the subtext as it came across to me was, "had i known what would happen, i wouldn't have chosen to have a biracial child."

i know there are parts who have often understood that the "wrong, unlovable" thing about me is the color of my skin. too "white" for my black father to want to have anything to do with me (or for the black kids in middle school not to beat me up for it); too "black" for my white (and rather racist) family to fully accept me. they coped with me by insisting i wasn't "really" black, but at the same time, my skin color came up pretty often. the conditions i understood for being loved required that i deny basic parts of who i am; and also that i not cause trouble, that i be hyper-good, simply because i was only loved on sufferance, and should i ever be difficult, i would be dangerously rejected.

and knowing that there had been the possibility that i would have had a sibling, someone who would have been my full-blooded sibling, who would have looked more like me, who would have been close to me in age... how much of the pain and loneliness and isolation i experienced growing up, how much of that might have been alleviated if my mother had chosen to carry the pregnancy to term, and have the child? at the same time, knowing what i know now... would i choose to subject someone else to what i grew up with? no. so i'm not going to say my mother shouldn't have had the abortion, because i can't see that it would have benefitted whichever soul eventually came to reside in that collection of cells.

okay, so where was i going with this post? oh, right.

so knowing all of this, knowing all of my experience of rejection, i was talking to w about my difficulty with trusting her. and i said, "it's really unfair to you, the fact that it's so hard for me to trust. because no matter how trustworthy you are, the hurdle you've got to get over to achieve my trust is set immensely high."

and w gave me the strangest look.

"unfair for me?" she asked.

because, ok, sure, it's kind of difficult for me, too. but i guess i'm used to it. i'm used to not being able to trust that anyone will love me unconditionally. but w isn't. she has mostly known people who were able to give and receive unconditional love. and here she is, in a long-term relationship, kind of stuck with someone who is always braced for rejection.

so yeah, to me, it seems harder on her. because she isn't doing anything wrong. because she isn't the one who hurt me. and yet, she's the one who gets the fallout from all of the pain i grew up with. and i'm less able to be a good partner to her because of that. we won't even get into the fact that she thought she was getting into a relationship with an adult, and seems instead to have gotten stuck with this whole mess of teenagers and little kids, and the adults have now been gone for seven months, with no idea of when they will return. so to me, it seems like the one getting the really unfair part is w. (yeah, i know. it's something i'll discuss in therapy.)

i do wish for hope, and for the ability to look towards the future rather than the past. but sometimes, the past gets in the way, and makes it awfully hard to build up the faith that unconditional love is even a possibility.

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Monday, March 17, 2008


i keep starting this post and erasing it and starting it over. i guess the problem is that there are several things i want to blog about, and i can't get them in order. or maybe there is more than one part trying to get something said? that might be why i'm thinking four or five separate things at the same time.

so what's the point of this post about religion? i guess to just write about some of what's going on for me right now.

first, there's the whole RA thing. i am relatively certain i didn't experience ritual abuse. but this is a hard time for people who did, and there's this... backlash, i guess. where i feel guilty talking about the things i enjoy about this season, because i know that some of it is really triggering to other people.

so i get mad--that there are these jerks in the world who do what they can to pervert and ruin holidays for little kids. i mean, what the hell? (um, sorry, i'll address that later....)

and the thing is, spiritually, i'm most comfortable as a pagan. and here we are, with the spring equinox falling on a full moon. this should be a happy, positive thing. i should be able to feel free to talk about rebirth and all of that. i should be able to feel comfortable with writing about my pagan experiences.

but because of those a$$holes who do things and abuse kids on a seasonal calendar, i feel like i need to be super-careful talking about pagan holidays, because even more so than the christian ones, the pagan ones got taken over by those jerks who are using them for really evil purposes. this is more of an issue for me around samhain/halloween/pagan new year. and even MORE so around winter solstice/christmas/yule. i'm generally more casual about the spring holidays (well, more on that later, too). but there's the whole ritual abuse thing, and i really don't want to go around doing the equivalent of kicking people where they're already bruised, so i don't write about it.

so there's that part.

and then there's where i am, religiously. i was raised christian. i was raised christian in the kinds of churches that just weren't really... uplifting. the kind where your experience of christianity is a whole lot of judging and shaming and all of that. the kind of churches that justify what i can now recognize as child abuse, but which they insisted was just parents trying to raise "godly" children. the kind of churches that say to stay in an abusive marriage because it's god's will, and the woman's duty to behave in a way that will "save" her husband, rather than to cut her losses and protect herself and her kids.

the kind of churches that discourage people from doing anything "worldly" like reading books the church hasn't approved, or listening to music the church hasn't approved, or really, doing anything that gives evidence of really enjoying the world, or thinking outside of the incredibly narrow little box the church defines for them. i don't just mean "don't drink, smoke, or chew, or run with those who do." i'm talking about "christian rock is evil because it's too worldly. you should only listen to music *we* say is ok." and "don't read anything ungodly, like (i kid you not!) c.s. lewis, madeleine l'engle, susan cooper, or, heaven FORBID, j.r.r. tolkien." (for those who haven't read them, these are all deeply christian writers of pretty darned christian fantasy novels.) i mean, seriously, my churches when i was growing up thought these books would lead us into sin.

the kind of churches where they spend weeks in sunday school teaching little eight year olds about the book of revelations, and how good christians will have to suffer and starve because they won't be raptured until after the tribulation, but they won't be able to buy food or anything because to do that you'll have to get the mark of the beast, so you and your family will starve to death and not be able to have anything, and go through a whole lot of terror and suffering, just to prove you're worthy of god's love.

now, don't get me wrong. it's not that the people were evil or bad. i totally get that they thought they were doing the right thing. i mean, if you really believe all of that, and you honestly believe that there is only one way to get to heaven, and it involves a lot of pain and suffering, then maybe you are doing the right thing, by your beliefs, if you push other people to follow impossible rules. i don't know. i guess if i believed that the only way to be saved was to go through pain and misery, and i wanted my children saved, maybe i would do that too. i just don't know. because i can't bring myself to believe in a god who aims for all of the "true believers" to be in pain and suffering. i mean, what would be the point?

but anyhow. what it ends with is that, even though i know there are a lot of devout christians in the world who don't have that worldview, it's hard for me to hear people doing a lot of talking about christianity without all of this being triggered. and so i just kind of shy away from the god-talk, because i feel like my own religion isn't gonna be accepted. (i describe myself religiously as culturally christian, spiritually pagan. and that gets thrown off because in terms of actual practice and religious observance, i'm closer to jewish, because i do that with my partner.)

and because all the god-talk is just triggering to me. but i feel guilty about not reading blogs, because i just can't cope. and i feel alienated from some forums, because even when they call it "spirituality" (or even on totally unrelated threads) lately, it seems like it just turns into this whole christianity thing.

i keep losing track of where i was going. i suppose i could've made an outline and stuff, but i'm just not feeling it.

right. the whole being triggered by christianity thing. i mean, i know that people aren't meaning to be triggering. but there's a level where i feel like... why is it ok to be spouting all of this stuff that is really immensely triggering to me, that brings up all of that guilt and shame and fear and pain.... but i can't even say a little bit about my *own* positive religious experience, because it's too close to things that people are triggered by?

i know i can't be the only person who was abused in a fundamentalist christian context. i can't be the only person who was scarred by the people who did all the god-talk, and were always doing something that i've considered the true meaning of "taking the lord's name in vain" where they bring god into discussions of things that are totally unrelated (like, "i got this toilet paper at 75% off, praise be to god!" ok, that's a *slight* exaggeration. but only slight.)

and i can't explain how it is that *some* people talk about god, and it's not triggering, and other people do, and i want to run out of the room and start screaming.

and then it's even weirder, cause it's not like a bunch of us in this system find nothing of value in christianity.

i mean, i guess religion is like sex. no, really. there are some parts who need to avoid it totally, and there are some parts that have learned it can be a healthy thing, done in a caring and respectful way. and there isn't any one true way.

maybe that's it... some of the people who have been bugging me write in a way that reminds me of the christians who insisted there was one true way (theirs) and no one else was going to get to heaven, and actually, anyone who didn't do it their way was basically either uninformed, or a deliberate sinner.

i really hate the whole attitude of "one true way" pretty much anywhere it shows up. because, honestly, there ISN'T one true way. there are different ways that work for different people, and there's nothing that says any one of them is better than the others.

ok. not sure what my point was, or anything like that, but that's some of what i wanted to write about.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I hate the subway. I hate the subway. I hate the people who jam onto it with no regard to personal space and i REALLY HATE the people who put on their make up on the train. I hate everything sometimes.

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Monday, March 10, 2008


so today, i sat down with the mail, meaning to just make sure that the letters with the "explanation of benefits" from our health insurance we all correct. and lo and behold...

nope. they were trying to deny the claim for mental health benefits for me, saying i had exceeded my maximum. given that my maximum is "unlimited," i think that this was wrong.

so i called the number on the letter, and proceeded to spend twenty minutes trying to get to an actual person who could explain what went wrong with the coverage, and what to do to correct the problem (since we're talking about ~$1000 worth of therapy from last year, plus however much it would come to for *this* year, it's an important problem to correct!) the first two times i made it to an actual live person, they said they weren't the ones to answer my question, and then i wound up getting bounced back to the very first part of the voicemail system. i hate voicemail.

anyhow. the thing is, before i started going to therapy as often as i have been, my therapist and i both called to make sure that DID is covered under mental health parity in new york. and the people my therapist talked to assured her that it was. and the first time this bill got sent back unpaid, she called again, and they assured her again that it was covered. so we're working under the belief that... you know, it's covered.

after spending so long trying to get to a person, and dealing with people who spent several minutes taking my information, and then telling me they weren't the ones to answer the question, i couldn't help but think, "boy, it's a good thing for them that the hospital people who diagnosed me as borderline weren't right, because if i were borderline, i would SO be screaming at someone by now."


brought this up with my therapist today, and she had already talked to them, and they *insist* that they've corrected whatever, and she should get a check in the mail. we'll see. i just hope they finally get around to paying her. and i'm grateful she's willing to put up with the stupidity of insurance companies, because she's a good therapist, and i couldn't afford therapy if she weren't on insurance. and certainly not the amount of therapy i've been getting!

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

a silly comic strip

today's For Better or For Worse comic strip reminded me of the way that they say "everybody has different parts." plus it was really cute.

for those who don't read it, it was just an adult spending a bit of time with a kid, acting like a kid. and the kid enjoying it.

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Monday, March 03, 2008


so the new couples' therapist w and i are seeing who (knock wood!) appears to be working out for us, has talked about trust several times.

and i was thinking about this. she asked whether i trust w, and i can honestly say i trust w more than i trust anyone else in the world. and that's a collective answer. we all trust her more than we trust anyone else.

which isn't precisely to say we *trust* her, just that we trust her *more*. the therapist (e, we'll call her) asked me to rate it on a scale of one to ten, so i'd say, overall with w, it's about a four. although probably it's a bit higher, but i was doing an average, you know. so maybe a five.

but then, i'm never quite sure what people mean when they ask me about trust. i mean, i trust pretty much anyone i interact with routinely not to be physically abusive. more or less, at least. there are parts who don't feel that trust, but they're also the parts who aren't entirely certain that anything actually exists. so i'd say, of us who are out often enough to have a sense of reality, we trust the people we interact with routinely not to be physically abusive.

i trust that when i buy canned food, the contents of the can will be what is marked on the outside. i trust that when i use my debit card, they will only take out the amount of money they are supposed to. i trust coffee shops and restaurants to give me food that isn't poisoned. i trust people driving cars to have some basic awareness of following traffic laws.

so where is it that i'm not trusting people? i have trouble trusting that they will remember i exist when i'm not right there with them. i have trouble trusting that people will follow through on things they've said they would do for me. i have trouble trusting that i will be able to depend on anyone outside of myself.

i'm able to trust people *not* to do things pretty easily. i trust people in my life not to go calling my family and letting them know about the things i've told about. i trust people not to tell me that i'm lying. mostly, on that last one, because there is still a lot of fear around people not believing me. but mostly, i trust that people will believe me.

i trust most people not to go out of their way to hurt me.

but at the same time, i really *don't* trust most people (or any people) to go out of their way to help me, or even, to go out of their way for me at all. and i guess that's where the lack of trust comes in. i find it really difficult to believe that people will make much of an effort, or respond well if i ask that from them. and i don't have much faith that people will continue to want to be friends with me, or whatever, if i ask for too much. and since i don't know where the line is, what "too much" is, i try not to ask for anything that hasn't been expressly offered, and try to avoid asking for too much of that, either.

and i guess there are parts who don't feel safe allowing emotional vulnerability to show, so probably, it's either just a long-ingrained habit, or we don't really trust people to be safe with emotional vulnerability. i guess we don't really trust that people aren't going to be critical of us, and reinforce the negative messages that run in my/our head: that i'm just lazy and selfish and not trying hard enough or working hard enough or that i'm making all of this up. a little bit, we're starting to trust a few people, and it's not like we've had too many negative experiences like that for a while (well, there was the hospital and right after, but that was so *clearly* messed up....)

maybe it's that it doesn't feel safe to allow myself to rely on anyone else. much as i and a lot of other parts are desperate for help, it doesn't seem safe to believe that someone else will be willing to be there to help us cope. and so we close off and withdraw, because sometimes, coping is the only thing we can do, and figuring out how to cope and also be with people becomes impossible. i don't know. and i *do* know someone else has been waiting to do something else, and i've held on for a while, but i guess i need to be done now.

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