If No One Died, Can I Still Be Sad?

parting waysI have, these past several silent weeks, been searching for a way to process grief. Most of what I’m finding follows a back-and-forth formula of the dehumanizing expectations of emotionally stunted and immature Western culture and the reality of those who have lost a loved one. The bit about our culture being emotionally damaging and even abusive is validating, but the large majority of articles I’ve found on grief are not helpful. No one has died recently in my life. I am mourning the loss of three core friendships. And our society has so discarded or misused the word “friend” that, if you find it a struggle to get over the ending of a friendship, you’re weak, “too” sensitive, codependent and just need to get new friends. Continue reading If No One Died, Can I Still Be Sad?

Sad Lady, Sounding Mad in Mourning

cliffside pathUnless you are willing to take care of me for a while, or take something off my plate, or spend time with me to ease the burden of aloneness, stop telling me to practice “self-care.” That’s a nice-sounding excuse not to show up. Self-care? How about community care? As Bessel Van Der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score, “We barely exist as individual organisms.” A genuine thank-you to friends who have made a consistent effort without making me feel guilty for “taking” their time. Continue reading Sad Lady, Sounding Mad in Mourning

What If My [Mental Illness] DOES Define Me?

Finger pointing to word in dictionary
Finger pointing to word in dictionary

It’s heartening to see the media take up the call to action to talk about mental health after decades of silence. The problem is how its talking about it. The first major issue I see is with the unquestioned propagation of the biomedical model as if its science-verified fact. Look, folks, even mainstream The Guardian is running pieces that are saying that it’s pretty clearly not. Mental health advocates, communities and support networks perpetuate this model – not as a highly specious one or one of an array of options but as back-uppable fact – not because they’re trying to be deceptive but because they really want people to understand that it’s not the sufferer’s fault. If something is wrong with your brain, then your depression is not a moral failing, your anxiety is not a choice, your OCD is not a character flaw, etc. You are the victim.  Continue reading What If My [Mental Illness] DOES Define Me?

Wishing Well

Wishing Well

First published in Ballard Street Poetry Journal in March 2012.


Wishing Well

Every morning, we all go to the office.

We pull up our roll-y chairs and wait.

We’re working, of course, but we’re waiting


The e-news reports increased hunger in the Horn.

Also, they’ve shot another probe deep into space.

Deep. Do we really need to know just how small

We are?

We can feel it, here in our creaky chairs. At least

I can. It’s with me like a toothache. My smallness.

My weakness. That I have to practice how to feel loved.


The last time I spent so much time waiting was for something

I’d whispered while flicking pennies I’d found on the sidewalk

Into a fountain at a park in the downtown of my childhood.


Was in the perfect ping of penny from the tip of my thumb.

In the arch of otherwise worthless copper toward a tiled

Floor. In the glint of many pennies who’d gone before.


To the bottom. Tiny round relics of wishers past – but they

Are only so small as their wish. I heard one girl at that fountain

Wish for world peace. Another for food for her family.

But me?

I wished to be at the bottom, with other things my size.

Maybe I could learn how to make a wish come true. Maybe

Just how to lie still. Or maybe, with enough waiting, how to


Life and Death is No Laughing Matter

hand gun“No one asks you why you cry but if you kill yourself, they all ask why.” A few weeks ago, during the Friday afternoon soiree we had at my office for a co-worker’s last day, this was how she explained her capstone research project that she was expecting to spend this coming school year finishing. That line was how she introduced her plan of interviewing people who live outside around Seattle investigating the question “Can love really change the world?” That line is the first thing one of her first subjects said to her (she’s already started some interviewing) and it arrested her. Honestly, it should. That line.

Continue reading Life and Death is No Laughing Matter

“5 Reasons I Wish We Would Stop Talking About ‘Recovery'”: A Response

SraMorakot-NatureTrail-UnmarkedIntersection-2035_mdI know I was in the middle of something else here, but I wanted to take a few moments to respond to an article posted in one of my FB groups.  Liza Long, most popularly known for her “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” piece a few years ago, wants us to stop using the word recovery.  She may name some pretty important things to remember – like mental illness is not a choice – but overall, I’m annoyed (though not surprised, HP is rather mainstream-y after all) that this would be published.  What little she gets right isn’t worth the constellation of stuff she gets wrong, not to mention that this reads like a globalization of a personal grudge. Continue reading “5 Reasons I Wish We Would Stop Talking About ‘Recovery’”: A Response

The Gratitude Time, Part 1

Hands Holding a Lit CandleI’m getting over a committed and bombastic head cold so please forgive the raw tinge to the audio.  I learned my manners as a kid, but it was always hard to say thank you.  As an adult, I celebrate the free grace and love of God, emphasizing the freeness of it, with other adults.  As well we should.  But even when we do admit how hard gratitude can be, we don’t always unpack why.  I think we all have our moments where we feel we need to earn love and that we don’t deserve it for free.  But why? Continue reading The Gratitude Time, Part 1