I am constantly talking to myself.
I live alone in a studio on the top floor of an old building. I thought no one could hear me — one of the reasons I moved into an old building is precisely for that reason. However, my apartment is next to the stairwell and all my windows are wide open because it’s summer and the cold front brought a delicious breeze.
I have always talked to myself, but after processing Rick’s death in isolation, living alone, and working alone for more than a year, going through my internal dialog aloud has become natural since there’s no one around to point out that I’m talking to myself all day long.
And it could in fact be because I left my phone by the wide open window, or it could also be because the stairwell window is rather close to my apartment, but as I was coming up the stairs this morning, I could distinctly hear the alarm on my phone go off. I could hear it in the stairwell. I could hear it in the hallway.
Yes, it’s loud — I have the volume turned all the way up — but is it THAT loud?
And does it mean that people can hear me?
I know that one of my neighbors must be able to hear me since he has said he thought he lived next door to an actor rehearsing lines. And while we actually do share the floor with an actor who rehearses lines, I think he means me at work, or me talking to myself.
I probably didn’t have this problem when I had air conditioning and kept the windows closed. That’s what I’m going to tell myself, at least, because chances are that I will never stop talking to myself, and I can’t stop talking as far as my job is concerned.
And I wonder what they think of my taste in music as well.
Perhaps a bigger issue is whether my neighbors can see me walking around my apartment naked…
But no one’s complaining, and in this lone apartment of mine is a place where I can be my true, weird self, hearing and seeing myself change as I focus on self-improvement.
Lughnasadh, the midway point between the summer solstice and the fall equinox, is the celebration of the first harvest. Summer is halfway over, and it’s time to reap what we have sown. It comes in the middle of Leo season, when the sun is still high, the weather still warm, and the last fruits of summer ready to be picked. It’s not quite time for fall — it’s usually hot as fuck out on August 1 — but stewing in the middle of sweaty hot summer.
After a while of hot, wet days and the sting of the wildfire smoke in the air, we’re currently enjoying a minor cold front that has brought the temperature down to the high 60s, low 70s with clear skies and a breeze. This is the kind of sublime breeze that sweetly paralyzes like the way a nice back rub or when your mattress and pillows conform just right around your head and shoulders paralyzes.
Speaking of paralyzing, I haven’t posted since the solstice. I’ve been writing, just not committing to posting. I am doing astrology, and I am working with astrologers even though I’m not doing any chart readings right now. While my conventional job has gotten busier, I’ve been in the full throes of the Neptune transit to my ascendant and the Neptune square Neptune transit, and I just don’t have the hustle in me right now.
Not that I’m not doing anything — I’m doing a lot — just not forcing anything to happen.
Neptune transits = surrender.
Aside from the fact that Neptune will retrograde, and I will find myself having these aspects until something like May of 2023, it would behoove me to work with it and not against it. The problem is that Neptune can’t be worked with in any sort of material way; it’s too ineffable, and unlike a Saturn or a Mars transit, Neptune cannot be channeled and focused any more than you can channel or focus the air or the sunshine. Like the air or the sunshine, you can’t push back against, either, because it envelopes you, creeps up and slowly swallows you like fog — and if you’ve ever tried to drive through fog, you know that you have to slow down or you’ll probably die, even if there’s an idiot riding your ass because their own hubris keeps them from clearly appreciating what’s going on around them.
So you just surrender to it and work your way through slowly and gently, and that’s what you do with Neptune: you surrender.
The Happiness Project
Most of important of late is discovering who I am, in essence, questioning everything I have been told or have been led to believe that I am, and what actually makes me happy.
It turns out that my original inclination is true: simple things, quiet, and serenity make me happy, and that most things we think are supposed to make us happy don’t actually make us happy because there’s a difference between what creates happiness and what merely arouses or distracts.
And it turns out that there’s a lot fewer things a person needs.
You don’t even need to take hot showers.
I don’t miss all my old stuff. I don’t want any more stuff.
I have further whittled down my requirements to what is not exactly a bare minimum, but rather what I think is the core without the extraneous husks. My diet is simple – largely carnivorous – and my pleasures are simple as well: read, write, exercise, be in nature, walk around, talk to friends, listen to music. My entertainment isn’t audio/visual 99% of the time, but rather audio or visual, and I try to get as much quality sleep as I can and take cool baths on hot nights. As some of you have noticed, I’m not doing a lot of readings these days, either. After all, after over forty years, I finally have the kind of life where I can not only make myself a priority, but that there’s no one left in my life to try to convince me otherwise, because they too have been shed as extraneous.
For the first time in over twenty years, I have no air conditioning in my home. It’s energy wasted, and it costs me money. It’s not a necessity in Chicago. It’s loud. Now, I’m acclimated to the summer, and then some – my apartment is on the top floor of an old building with north-facing windows, so it’s usually hot in there.
Resilience is adaptation
I’m actually proud that I acclimated to summer because it was not only a healthier choice for me, but it also means that I have learned what there is to love about summer. Sure, it can be hot, sticky, and awful when both Lollapalooza AND the mustache crawl are happening, and sunburns suck, and so does sweat, but it’s not that bad, and frankly, we in the North should get used to summer being summer again if it won’t kill us because like having central heat in Arizona, it’s not necessary for us to refrigerate ourselves for 12 weeks out of the year if we truly will survive it. The only thing I don’t like is that the sounds of summer also include the sounds of my neighbor’s air conditioning units running.
All Things Relative
Lately, when I think I’m lost, a failure, or somehow simply unfit, I try to remember how I repeatedly failed penmanship through elementary school and had permanently reduced grades for sloppiness simply because I’m left-handed.
To be clear, I went to elementary school in the 80s when they weren’t allowed to hit you for using your left hand, so they had to punish you in other ways, like not allowing you to write so you can actually see what you’re doing. “Proper” penmanship for left-handed people was simply mirroring what right-handed people did, even though this meant you couldn’t see what you were doing, were trying to force your hand forward in an awkward manner, and would inevitably drag your hand over what you just wrote. And God help you if you hovered or slouched so you could see above or under your hand to see what you were doing — I was actually hit for this in 3rd grade.
The words “Palmer Method” still give me anxiety.
To make matters worse, I’m also not capable of “writing big.” You know how a lot of women have that big, bubbly handwriting that is actually not very legible? It’s because we were made to write for teachers who badly needed reading glasses. Both my parents tend to write small; to me, it’s not natural to make every paper a calligraphy, so I would hand in paper with tiny, smeared letters, and sometimes I would forced to sit at my desk, erase it all, and re-do it.
And I was usually the only left-handed kid in class, so I was the only kid who had this problem.
And no, I couldn’t learn to be right-handed.
I can do a lot of things with my right hand. I can play sports right-handed. I can’t write, draw, or make art right handed. I can’t cook right handed. I can’t knit right handed. I can’t eat right handed. And no, I’m not doing to be obstinate.
And there I was, a child who had these poor grades following her through school simply because she wasn’t allowed to write in a way that worked for her biological makeup. What kind of job would I get if the boss can’t read my handwriting? Not a good one, that’s for sure. And forget college. Even if you have a typewriter, you still have to write notes by hand, after all. I wouldn’t even be able to write recipes down on a notecard because they’d be too messy, or write a grocery list. What would my husband think?
Although I was never given an explanation how any of the famous left-handers managed to go to college and get good jobs, like the various left-handed presidents. I suppose they somehow mastered the Palmer Method and their skeletons contorted according to their teachers’ wishes because otherwise, no one could read their handwriting, and then they couldn’t go to college or get a good job.
But it didn’t make sense: how was I doing so well on standardized tests if I couldn’t write legibly? As if the two went hand-in-hand.
And then I got to high school and discovered that not one of my teachers stopped the lesson to point out that I needed to turn the paper upright, or not write “upside down.” None of them came over to me, took the pen out my hand, and forced me to write differently. I was simply allowed to write, and my handwriting became clearer, distinct. I had a style, and it was legible.
I then discovered that I loved writing.
I then discovered that no serious writer uses the limiting and god-awful writing conventions by nasty 5th-grade English teacher taught us, and that no one wants to read anything process-written.
And then as the 20th century rolled into the 21st century, those various teachers grew old and died, and the world stopped giving a flying fuck about handwriting, and the paltry fruits of their labor were all laid to waste at the foot of the Information Age, and I think that’s fucking awesome.
In fact, a lot of younger people can’t read stylistic Palmer-Method type cursive anyway, and I have had to translate draft orders for younger classmates and attorneys who couldn’t read all the loopy calligraphy.
And for the record, I have never written a recipe on a note card, nor do I ever write grocery lists.
Granted, when I think of all my compulsory schooling, I don’t recall learning much of anything. I recall all the anxiety of my childhood, the bullying, the frustration, the fear, the loneliness, the isolation, and the longing for adulthood, thinking that I would magically escape, like molting and then wiggling free of my childhood form so that I become something different.
Surely, there was happiness out there somewhere, and I could get it if I could simply get away from all of these people who refuse to allow me to have any — even the teachers I’m constantly told I’m supposed to trust keep setting me up for failure by not even allowing me to write in a way that is comfortable or lets me even see what’s on the paper.
No One’s Home
I recently had a dream about Korea, but I wasn’t teaching. I was living there, had an apartment, had some sort of job. Just before I was about to go see a movie, I decided to do an edible and hide the rest of the edible inside a pen because South Korea is still in throes of reefer madness: it’s very illegal and they assume all Americans smoke marijuana and will ask you if you do quite casually, even though simply admitting that you have partaken in the past could get you arrested for drug use.
And it was at that moment, I dropped the pen and lost it.
My apartment closet was full of old clothes, blankets, old bedding, things that no one has probably used in years and probably never would, and I turned them over, looking for my pen, knowing if someone else found it and found the edible and actually knew what it was, I’d be in prison for life.
So I did the only sensible thing: I went home.
But even being there, I had no comfort because my contraband was still sitting in my apartment in a pen and I could go to prison FOR LIFE if someone found it.
There was a relative in my dream who, in real life, has really never provided much comfort, or has in a way that is hollow, self-serving, and comes with strings attached. I told her about the pen that I lost, the trouble I would be in, and how I’d have to go back to Korea to find it and hide it so I wouldn’t be in trouble.
She kept telling me to stay here, stay home. Don’t go.
I kept saying that I had to go back. I had to go back right now to get rid of it before anyone finds out.
Then she said, “But no one’s home.”
And as I pleaded with her, knowing full well that I could simply just go back if I wanted, she kept replying “but no one is home.”
No one’s home.
At one point, she took my face in her hands and pressed her forehead against mine and said
“You don’t understand: No. One’s. HOME.”
And then I woke up.
And that’s true, I guess: no one’s home. No one else exists in the past, and no one actually exists within the shifting stages of a person’s memories or materialized again because of one’s emotional response to the memory.
Memory is a product of the imagination, and no one’s “home” there…not even me.
I have the Moon in the First House. We first-house-moons tend to be steeped in memory, struggling to stay in the present, even fire moons: we are always aware that we are the center of our own attentions, and we don’t forget.
No one’s home. No one else cares about your trauma as much as you do unless you’re lucky enough to be well-loved.
But I think about childhood and compulsory schooling, and church, and growing up in a bad neighborhood, all the other traumatic experiences of childhood, and how much penmanship really kind of sums it all up: conform or else. Conform at all costs, conform or be forever on the outside, excluded from all the good things that frankly, you don’t even have now and really don’t have anyone to show you how to get them, conform, obey, march. Obey the parent. Obey the teacher. Obey the preacher. Obey your peers. Obey the guidance counselor. Obey the boss. Obey the mortgage lender. Obey the advertiser. Obey the spiritual guru whose hands have been in your wallet longer than you realize. Obey the privileged rich person who insists you believe that they’re self-made.
But no one’s home, so if you tried this and failed, and if you were punished for it, there’s no one living in those memories to get your revenge, to say “look! Remember me? Fuck you!” There’s not even a god to hold responsible there; there never was, never will be.
I get up early nowadays because eating a very low carb diet tends to make me diurnal, and I can’t complain. I like it. I get up, I exercise, I bath, I listen to music, and if I must go to the office, I leave very early to beat the traffic, and by early, I mean early enough to only listen to music and not have to hear any of the DJ morning shows on the radio, because I’m old and I still like the mild surprise of tuning to a radio station to hear a song I like.
It’s not that the night doesn’t still hold wonder for me, but rather, the freedom of having the morning to myself after everyone else tasted the nightlife is the kind of freedom you don’t appreciate until you’re older.
And I do sleep very deeply every day, somewhere between 5 and 9 hours, depending. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night. I don’t lay in bed wanting to fall asleep. I don’t wake up tired.
And I always dream. Once again, I dream every night.
Perhaps I’ve come to appreciate the morning because I don’t need the din of night to find peace before the chaos of the day begins because there is no one left in my waking life to cause chaos. I can go to bed in the dark and quiet, with the door closed, with privacy, safe and comfortable in a clean, soft bed. I can sleep nude, I can slumber above the covers on a hot night like some wild creature, an apex predator who fears no other creature in her territory.
But there is luxury in being able to sleep at night and wake up in the morning, you know? This is the kind of luxury that is also relative: if you live in a fishing town in New England lobster might not be fancy to you. If you live in the Midwest, a good steak isn’t hard to come by. If you live in Hawaii, fresh pineapple is ordinary, if you live in New York, good pizza is just around the corner, and if you know how to cook, nutritious bone broth doesn’t have to cost $12 a quart if you have some bones and an Instapot.
If you don’t need a bottle of wine and Netflix to transition you from day to night, you’re living your best life. If you can ignore any emails that come at night until you’re ready to start work for the day, you’re seizing life. If you can silence your messages so you don’t find yourself staying up all night to text someone in an effort to ensure you have friends, you’re living the high life. If you can simply turn off the television, the phone, the computer, the tablet, and not need asmr (so creepy — for people who equate whispering with imminent violence or social aggression, asmr makes absolutely no sense) or a video games to distract you from your anxiety long enough to trick you into thinking you’re relaxed, you’re living like a king.
Because if you can simply go to bed at night, you’re not trying to stave off the inevitable morning of a new day, and if you’re not constantly trying to fill up your calendar with various things you think other people would think are fun, or make you seem productive or worthwhile or in touch, then you’re free. And whatever you’re doing during the day, you’re fortunate to be doing it.
And if you’re really lucky, you’ve not documenting the minutiae of your life on social media, to the point where you think that’s your home, where you live, and that the purpose of this one is to excavate for material for the digital one.
Because all over social media, no one’s home.
And no one’s been home on this blog for quite some time, and I don’t know if that will change soon, but I’m going to try.