Category Archives: Personal

Silence Is A Lie

Someone sent this quote to me today, to remind me that one of the best qualities in a person is their willingness to speak their truth and have faith that it will land authentically. Not because it is a universal truth, but because it is your truth. Concealing your innermost self is the surest road to unhappiness. All of us have experienced the growing burden of needing to say what’s on our minds but feel as if we can’t or shouldn’t. If you’re surrounded by loving people, it is very hard to say the wrong thing. Pay attention to your urge to silence what is growing in your mind or things you need to say.

The person read my post about anxiety on my blog and wrote me to say that it wasn’t until that moment that they realized they were fooling themselves into believing they were self-sufficient.

Love, X

Now Fondly Remembered

The fool on the far right with the fluorescent ‘X” on his jacket is me. I was the flower girl when my Mom and Dad remarried each other. They remarried exactly 29 years after their first marriage. 10,483 days have passed since this picture was taken.

My parents really were experts at drinking and driving. But for this moment, no matter how terrible the road behind them, they were happy. Dad died nine months later. Mom was not charged. (That last sentence is supposed to make you laugh.)

It is the only picture I know of where everyone was smiling. Even my brother Mike was smiling with glee. I wish I could always remember him, and Carolyn and Bobby Dean, like this.

Everyone in the picture is dead now – except for me. Dad died at 49, Mike at 54, and Mom at 67.

Fondly, remembered.

Love, X
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Just Thoughts

It’s strange that you can go to the ER with just about anything and be seen. But if you try to go to the doctor for anxiety, you almost have to walk in naked. (Telling them you expected to get undressed once inside doesn’t bring laughter though, for some reason.) Assuming they don’t use Covid as a buffer to keep people out. So many people suffer with anxiety or depression and never step forward to address it, much less be honest with those around them. They carry secret feedback loops in their head forever, the burden of it growing. Some succumb to alcohol, others to anything that might give them temporary relief. For some, those temporary measures become permanent. Or lead them to make decisions that aren’t in their self-interest. Anyone who steps forward in the smallest way is trying to communicate that they aren’t managing their heads well. It’s easy to dismiss it or look away from people around you showing signs of being stuck. Some of it is because we don’t want to embarrass or meddle in other people’s lives. That’s what we’re here for, though. Without people around us, often even as they drive us a little batsh!t crazy, we let the shadows grow.

For people who say, “Anxiety isn’t real. It’s just worry repackaged and something in hour head.” To which I reply, “Love is unreal in the same sense, but it can be the most uplifting and rewarding thing you can experience. How can you believe in love but not anxiety?” Of course, people look at me like I’m crazy. And not just because I’m prepared to walk into my doctor’s clinic naked.

Over the weekend, someone I’d never expect to suffer from worsening anxiety posted on Facebook about his struggle. He’s the quintessential go-getter and intelligent. I recommended he see a doctor and start on low-dosage medication and treat the problem as if it is very serious. Because it is. Intelligent people are the worst about trying to tread water when there is help available. “It’s all just in my head” is a literal diagnosis rather than a way to dismiss anxiety or its more serious sibling, depression.

Recently, someone I’m close to had a shocking mental health surprise in their family. It broke my heart. Not just because they are good people but because I’m certain it was a hammer strike of surprise in their lives and hearts. Finding out put an icicle in my own head. It made my anxiety seem ridiculous but simultaneously warned me to be more careful. I don’t conceal my anxiety issues because I know that secrecy is poisonous. I wish that people were more open to their struggles and that our medical system would help anyone needing counseling or medication. From my observation, it’s more important now than ever.

We like to observe that people are becoming more callous. They’re not. Our world has shifted into a different corner, one in which people are more isolated or disconnected. Disconnectedness invariably leads to greater problems. We’re social animals and as more people retreat away from the world, the greater the likelihood they’re experiencing mental trauma. Not everyone has obvious clues such as excessive drinking. Some look completely normal and in control of themselves. Until they’re not. A great number of our friends, family, and acquaintances have well-guarded addictions and afflictions.

Love, X

A Home That Doesn’t Need Improvement

I don’t work for a home improvement store. This evening, for a few minutes, I did though. After getting electrical boxes, I wandered the store. A man was eyeing the work tables. Because I’d done the same thing before, I said, “You’re thinking about using that as a kitchen table, aren’t you?” He looked at me, surprised. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. But I don’t have a truck to haul it.”

“This store rents a flatbed truck with raised sides fairly cheaply. They’ll help you load it. Buy it before you change your mind. I made that mistake.”

He didn’t take it wrong. In fact, his eyes lit up. “Sold!” he said. “My wife is going to love this. She loves this sort of industrial look. I’ll get it as her birthday present.”

I smiled, imagining him showing up at his house with a work table for the kitchen. And imagined a wife who’d love to receive that kind of gift. He already won the game, though he might not realize it.

I walked out of the store and stood in the parking lot, watching the advancing rain come toward me. When I got back to the apartment, I changed clothes. As the rain thundered in, I stood outside and let it baptize me in the way that only a good rain can. It was a chilly rain but it didn’t seem to lessen my enthusiasm.

Love, X

Stylish Ghosts

On Oct. 13th, I posted a picture of me on the balcony dressed as a stylish ghost. A couple of people didn’t believe I actually went around the apartment complex booing. That surprises me. Anyway… Here is proof from my neighbor Erika’s cameras. Enjoy.


*Note: ghost’s legs are quite visible, it seems. And they fall over chairs if they don’t see them.

Judge Not The Book

After doing a lot of painting today, I cleaned. Because I’m a minimalist at heart, I also like to combine and discard. I headed out to the dumpster with my arms loaded. A black SUV drove in next to me. As I was throwing things into the lovely dumpster, population 13,436 flies, two of the three people in the SUV exited and walked over to me talking. It didn’t occur to feel like they were up to no good. “What’s up with your shirt, man?” one of them asked me. They stopped two feet away from me. “I sewed it that way. It’s custom. I call them ripshirts. If it tears, you just sew it again with another wild color.” They looked at each other. “Dude, you should totally market that sh*t. That is dope, for sure.” I laughed. “They take a lot of time to make by hand.” One of them said, “Well, then charge a lot. That’s one of a kind.” Though it’s not germane, I should say that they were young black guys. They both fist-bumped me.

As they walked toward a downstairs neighbor, I said, “You should totally bang on the door and shout ‘POLICE!.’ Both of the guys burst out laughing. The guy waiting in the SUV stuck his head out, laughing uproariously at my comment. One of the guys said, “Yeah, for sure, next time we’re going to do that.” I laughed. “Next time? Do it at every house you go to. People say they want excitement in life. Give it to them.”

I love my ripshirts and that they take so much time to make. That’s three times today someone has complimented me unexpectedly on my wild sense of color and creativity. I needed it today, believe me. Four, if you count the clerk who loved my brooch that I made yesterday. I took it off and gave it to her. She gladly accepted it and put it on her shirt immediately. I don’t know her name. I’d like to think it was Joy or Happy.

Love, X

P.S. I love random moments and I’d like to thank the universe for this one. My head was starting to be a cyclone of anxiety. I apologize for the selfies.

A Morning Of Color

I went to Lowe’s for more paint to finish painting my interior doors in the apartment. I also bought some electrical to wire my landings so I can put an assortment of crazy colored lights out there. More accurately, more crazy lights… As I was leaving a man exited his car with his young son. He was so tickled at the color of my car and that my glasses seemed to match it. I showed him the key that I painted yesterday to match. He was laughing as he went inside, and said he wished he could get by with that kind of color. I told him the secret was to simply not care and that if I had my wish everything would be washed in color. His son, who was about five, told his dad, “Can my room be painted like that daddy?” My last comment before they left to go inside was that they might as well get all the paint necessary to do it while they were in there. Lowe’s owes me at least $100 in commission..

A History Of Violence

Plot twist/spoiler: he hit me a lot harder than he thought he was going to. That I was paying him made it hurt a little worse.

This is a personal post. It might be upsetting to some people. Fair warning. As always, I’m setting aside perfectionism or worrying about getting the content or tone exactly as I want it. I can’t control how what I write might be interpreted.

Backing up a little in this story. I have a secret. I hate secrets. I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it.

Several weeks ago, I had a Bobby Dean moment. It was one in which I realized that the only way to diffuse the potential for violence was to step in and confront the person as if I were willing to be hurt or hurt him. I’m glad I did it. As much fear as I felt, I stepped toward him to signal I was willing to find out how far I’d go. Despite his size, he wasn’t certain. I’d already told him that people misjudge me. I don’t want to say that I’m proud that the latch for violence inside of me is dormant but still present. My confession is that a little sliver of me WANTED him to make the mistake of forcing me into action.

That’s not the secret, though.

My Dad violently taught me to fight by hitting me unexpectedly. He also hated that I was non-violent and passive. But one of the lessons he taught me is that it is always a mistake to delay the pain. You have to step in and strike as hard and dirty as you can. The first punch often determines the entire outcome of the altercation. Most people spend a bit of time talking or trying to lull the person they’re threatening. If you know you’re going to be hurt, it is always better to hit them with everything you have, quickly. (If you can’t walk/run away.) Though my Mom had great dental and health insurance through Southwestern Bell, I only went to the doctor if it were a case of imminent death or blood spurting. When I was 18, I had a massive cavity that almost crippled me with pain. When the dentist examined me, he said, “How’d you crack your jaw? It’s almost aligned perfectly again.” Although I had many mishaps in my youth, I knew the break probably happened when my family lived on Piazza Road in Tontitown. Dad came home drunk to our luxurious trailer. I’d lost a lot of weight at the end of my 9th-grade year running the roads there. Dad hated that I’d gotten into shape running several miles a day, lifting my brother’s weights in the downstairs storage space, as well as doing pull-ups until my arms were dead weights. I don’t recall his exact slurred words, but he said something like “I’ll teach you to be a man!” Despite being on my guard, or so I thought, he hit me with a savage right slight uppercut. My head snapped back and I fell, hitting my head on the stone fireplace at the end of the trailer. “What did I teach you? Always expect to get hit.” For weeks, I knew something was wrong with my neck and jaw. I kept running, though. And even though it hurt to play my French horn, I still made the All-State band that year. Only the band director Ms. Ellison knew at the time that something was wrong. I’m sure she knew the cause, too, though she never said anything out loud. In time, the pain disappeared. Until the dentist mentioned it, I hadn’t thought it was anything serious. I was lucky. Not only that time, but dozens of others.

My brother Mike, who was a big, well-trained ex-military meathead and later a policeman and detective, often got exasperated at me, especially when we were younger. I still have a tooth imprint on my left index finger, though. I hit a bully so hard that I thought I killed him. His tooth hit bone when I punched him. He underestimate the anger I had toward him. That anger was honed by my brother Mike screaming at me that if I didn’t confront the bully, HE was going to punch me silly. Growing up, Mike and I had infrequent conversations about why it was that a higher power didn’t protect us. We both knew that the world didn’t work that way, but we still fantasized about someone stepping in and either beating our Dad senseless – or killing him. There is no question that Dad would have deserved a brutal death a few times. He had violent demons, ones which combined with alcohol and anger, made him capable of incredible acts of inhumanity. How he survived as long as he did still astonishes me. I do know that before he died, he realized that he had done considerable evil to us; I’ll never know how much road he would have needed to directly admit it and change his life once and for all. My optimism tells me that he would have made amends. He died at 49.

Because of that recent near-miss with violence, I decided that as contradictory as it might seem, I had to learn to hit more effectively – and to be able to turn off the switch that controls aggression. Living where I do, I don’t worry per se about getting robbed or hit. Let’s be honest, though. It’s much more likely. It turns out that the biggest threat I’ve faced so far has been extremely close to me. That’s usually the case.

The secret?

I have paid someone for 1/2 sessions to teach me the mechanics of responding harshly to being threatened.

I messaged two people, asking them if they’d teach me the harsher side of self-defense, one that would enable me to channel a version of my Dad’s loathsome philosophy about fighting. Only one person replied – and he had misgivings about distilling his method to what I wanted to learn: not to diffuse, but to hurt. He relented when I explained that I am non-violent and had no intention of being the aggressor in any situation. I went on to tell him that circumstances in my surroundings necessitated that I be prepared if I couldn’t escape the threat of harm. He understood that he couldn’t hit me in the stomach, for obvious reasons, or throw me unexpectedly.

The first time I met him, he taught me the basics. Don’t go for the chest, as it never works. Don’t try to sweep the knees as a beginner. He liked that I understood that the first few seconds are critical in avoiding getting really hurt – and to try to get away if at all possible, but if not, hit hard to dissuade the attacker from choosing you as a target. It’s not about winning, because it’s not a competition. It’s about getting away, diffusing, and if that’s not possible, hurt the attacker as brutally as you can, immediately. (And get away as soon as possible.) Any altercation that drags on is almost always going to end badly for you. Run – or end it quickly.

A couple of days ago, he walked me through strategies to hit someone in the nose with the palm or side of my hand, strike the throat, hit in the stomach, or in the groin, in that order. He further instructed me, if you know you’re going to have to hit, hit immediately, and don’t pull back one iota of everything you’ve got. Break your hand if you need to: just hit violently. If you’re defending yourself, you need to ensure your safety without needlessly hurting the aggressor. As we repeated the same moves, he moved faster. Because he told me to keep moving, I went to the right just as he tried to hit me in the neck. He didn’t hit me with full force, but the side of my face felt like I’d been whacked with a stick. “Ha!” I said as I stepped back. “Picking on a post-surgery client like that!”

He laughed but also said, “Your attacker won’t care that you’ve been in the hospital, X. If they’re out to hurt you, it might entice them. You dropped a lot of weight. You’re in great shape for 54 but not having the weight means you have to be much faster when the time comes. If they get you on the ground, your options go to near-zero very fast.”

I thought about that for a few seconds, especially about the would-be aggressor not caring about my physical condition.

He added, “Your dad wasn’t wrong. If you’re surprised by an attack, use anything nearby as a weapon. Anything. Just use it with full force when you pick it up. Don’t hesitate. The other guy is the bad guy and you have every right to protect your safety and life.”

He spent a few minutes telling me that because my hands aren’t large, it would help me to improve my grip strength and to practice punching something relatively firm. I demonstrated that I’m quick – and doubly so if I need to run, no matter ridiculous I might look doing so.

I’m not violent. Fighting is ridiculous. There’s always someone stronger, faster, and probably armed. No one wins.

But if I get into another Bobby Dean situation, please remember that I want to be cremated. After I’m dead, for those who would do otherwise.

It’s a strange juxtaposition to go to a counseling session and then thirty minutes later to be discussing the physiology of hurting someone in self-defense.

I didn’t expect to ever go to counseling. I certainly didn’t expect to be living where I’d more likely need to channel my aggression effectively. Here I am, though.

The person I had to confront several weeks ago is one of those people who seem like they aren’t violent. I know better. I shut him down by convincing him that he needed to be wary of me. I trust my instincts: it’s obvious he’s hurt a lot of people in his life and doing so didn’t bother him like it would a good human being. There are a lot of “hims” in the world. He said a lot of vile things, ones which telegraphed that he has hurt several people, including women.

Learning these basics won’t make me over-confident. I’m a terrible fighter. The truth, though? I had a premonition that I will need the skill and ability to channel Bobby Dean at some point. And if I do, I hope the aggressor realizes that I, like so many other people, have a history of seeing (and feeling) how failing to defend oneself is a greater danger than being able to let the fire flow when it is necessary.

My brother Mike died a year and seventeen days ago. He would be laughing at me. “You JUST realized this?” he would say. “What have I been telling you your entire life, dipsh*t?”

I will probably need a neck tattoo to add a little menace to my appearance. The brooches I wear probably send the wrong message.

Love, X

Sunrise’s Optimism

May your day tomorrow start with a flash of energy and love. And if it doesn’t, look at this picture and imagine the beauty of the woman and the spectacle of a sunrise.

I made the picture, merging a real photo of a sunrise and a silhouette made from the profile of a woman. It is the juxtaposition of real and imaginary, color and light that makes this picture work.

I hope your day contains the same mix of real and whimsy; real to earn a living and whimsy to drive your imagination.

Love, X
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The Fire Inside

When I came home, I let the cat prowl the deck as I painted two metal birds. The sky darkened and the wind grew a bit chillier. As the traffic increased due to the hour, I could hear the approaching train as its horn crescendoed. It was the Arkansas & Missouri excursion train, its middle cars dotted with observing faces. I waved like Forrest Gump. This time, several people returned my wave.

Went I went inside, someone wrote me a message through my blog: “I hope you don’t mind. I made a poster out of your picture after you posted it the second time. There’s something about it that just hits me and reminds me to stop worrying about being so weird.” I smiled as I read the message. What a small world it is, where I can make a picture and have it resurface periodically on the internet. They went on to mention another picture, similar in composition, that they have printed in a smaller frame. I’ll put it below the sign-off.

I’m going to go back to the landing with G├╝ino and watch the slow rain dampen the October air. And I’ll think about the importance of not hiding my light under a bushel, even as time pours increasingly fast into an invisible funnel.

Love, X

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“It’s not just about language; it’s about the futility of not expressing your thoughts.” – X