New Book Out Soon

My fourth book, Creative Type, will be out soon. I’m waiting for my third–and hopefully final–proof copy, which should arrive next week. I’m tired of making minor changes to the document, not liking the changes, changing them back, then changing them again. I have to release the book. I have to let it go. Stay tuned.

Working On My Fourth Book

Happy to announce I’m working on my fourth book. It’s called Creative Type. I’m also laying the groundwork for my fifth book, The Education of Chris Truman. I won’t be updating this blog much in the near future. After Creative Type, I’m looking to go beyond my usual academic essay format. I’ll still post poetry and personal essays, but you’ll find less long-winded quotes from obscure French philosophers. Stay tuned!

We Now Love Differently

People across the globe are suffering the collective trauma known as COVID-19. Life is far from normal. At some point, though, we’ll be free to leave our homes, greet our neighbors, and hug our friends and family members. We’ll all be trauma survivors.

I’m always in the mood for philosophical discussions, but today I’m especially interested in thinking about the meaning of life. I found a quote from Keith Ansell Pearson’s How to Read Nietzsche particularly helpful right now.

Describing Nietzsche’s approach to life after trauma, Pearson writes, “It is certain that our trust in life is gone, and gone forever, simply because life has become a problem for us. Nietzsche counsels us, however, that we should not jump to the conclusion that this necessarily makes us gloomy. Love of life is still possible, but we now love differently” (38). According to Nietzsche, rather than giving up or succumbing to despair, we must remember to appreciate the gift of being alive, no matter what life brings us.

Stuck inside, we already love each other and ourselves differently. As long as we’re here, let’s be thankful for our suffering as much as we’re thankful for our joy.

The Joy Of Temporary Body Loss

There’s no distinction anymore between my thinking and my writing. I think as I write and write as I think. Sometimes I stay up all night and think-write so hard I lose touch with my body. By morning, which for me is often darker than night, I become an untethered mind with nothing but emptiness inside.

Emptiness is out of this world. Emptiness is divine. I can’t, however, remain an untethered mind. I need my body to survive. When I repeat nothing zero times, my mind and body reunite, and I leave the kingdom of emptiness behind.

If I ever publish a (meta)physical essay about the joy of temporary body loss, I’ll declare in the last line that think-writing, a gift from God, brings me comfort from time to time.

Above A Whisper

I walk on blades of grass
around my father’s grave,
avoiding sunken markers,
careful not to wake
the dead.

I want to say
I found a teaching job,
my own apartment,
a patient woman
who loves me
as I am.

But if such things
still happen,
they haven’t happened
to me.

When I tell him it’s spring
and Vegas likes our Cubs
to win the World Series,
my voice breaks like mist
above a whisper too soft
for sparrows perched
on marble headstones
to hear.

Too Much Information

I sleep too often
alone. I slip
into my sheets
like a knife inside
a sheath. I skin
my knees in falling
dreams.

I’m a freelance
night priest. I write nun
fiction books to fall
asleep. I trace
strongly worded
letters. I mark
typos on my toes
with red felt pens.

I fix comma
splices, I hate
comma splices more
than gondola rides
and square root
canals.

I sleep too often
alone with my phone
on gyrate slipping into
dreams like a knife
inside a sheath.

I wasted four years
in military art school
drawing blood baths
then reversed course
on my high horse mid-
stream of consciousness.

I’m so fucking
alone. I told a priest
my tongue is sharper
than a knife
between my teeth.

Embracing Resistance

In Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays, Hayden Carruth states, “Everything I know as a writer and critic, everything I know about poetry and life, tells me that the effort to analyze a feeling makes that feeling stronger, not weaker” (60).

As a confessional writer, I analyze my feelings often, but compulsive self-analysis can turn into self-judgement when I label certain feelings “unacceptable.” Debilitating sadness is unacceptable. I need to toughen up and become a productive member of society. Chronic anxiety is unacceptable. I need to loosen up and take charge of my life.

I assume that Carruth, who battled depression and anxiety for decades, understood the power of shame to compound suffering. Living with mental illness is hard enough. Fighting the stigma of mental illness, the shame I’ve internalized, is equally daunting.

Shame stifles my creativity and restricts my being. I write best when I acknowledge, without judgment, how I really feel. When I’m depressed, my body feels heavier than a pile of anvils. When I’m anxious, my body feels like a desert trapped in a grain of sand. I worry that sharing details like these makes me look bad, but if my depression and anxiety won’t shut up, why should I stay silent? To write freely, Carruth might remind me, is to heal.

But where my body is concerned, I’ll never have the last word. In the throes of a depressive episode, my body won’t get out of bed. Nothing and no one, not even me, can force it to rise. There’s an anger immune to reason flowing through me, a defiant inner child reclaiming his power.

When it’s fed up with the world, my body says no. It accepts that it doesn’t work right. My body owns what it lacks. Rejecting the false memory of a unity it never had, my body challenges society’s bogus requirement to always be rational, driven, and self-sufficient. My body pushes back against the double trauma inflicted upon it: the trauma of having a mental illness and the trauma of feeling ashamed about having a mental illness.

I keep using the word shame, but defining it isn’t easy. On my worst days I feel like my soul is damaged. I blame myself for being depressed and hate myself for hating myself. Hearing people I care about tell me they love me doesn’t stop my internal critic from judging me. I feel unworthy of love and acceptance despite the fact that everyone, by virtue of being alive, deserves both.

Depression is hidden; it doesn’t look like a broken leg or third-degree burns. People fear what they can’t see and judge others for exhibiting odd behaviors they can’t explain. We’re aware of the stereotype of the madman or madwoman. I know how alone they feel.

No matter how society tries to define me, I live my depression in my own way. I’m free to write that I feel like my soul is damaged, but I can’t prove it. I can’t prove that I have a soul in the first place. But writing that my soul is damaged is my (hyperbolic) statement; it is unique to me. Everything I write is an expression of my singularity. My resistance, too, is an expression of my singularity. Everything and everyone I resist, I resist in my own way.

If I wake up one morning and my body feels like a pile of anvils, the first step I should take to get out of bed is to not get out of bed right away. Stay numb. Be one with my mourning. When I feel depressed, to feel better later, I must do depression well.

It’s important to challenge negative thoughts, to take my meds, and to go to therapy, but it also helps to recognize that parts of me haven’t healed, can’t be healed, or refuse to be healed. My body is stubborn. I need to embrace its resistance.