A Hard Day for the Heart

This morning Aaron went off to play a show fairly early. I was tooling around on the internet, not doing anything much. Saw an article about Sufis, an article about a mosque bombing. Clicked, began to read it and when the fact melted into my brain that three hundred Egyptian Sufis had been killed, my body started to rock back and forth. I cried. No, no, no, over and over I whispered it as I rocked and cried.

I called my mother and my brother but neither answered their phones. I read the articles and cried.

My family is Sufi. They run a center in Minneapolis. Our order is based out of New York. I know not all Sufis around the world practice in the same way or share the same kind of character, but the ones I know are gentle. They are kind. A good portion of them are feckless. They see a world of chaos and madness coming at them full tilt and they open their arms and as it hits them it turns to flowers.

I got ahold of my Dad and talked to him and my Mom. We prayed for the dead, and for those left behind, and for the ones who are so distant and wrapped in their own separation that they could do this.

I went out into the garden, covered my head, wept and did zikr for the dead. Zikr means remembrance.

I came back inside and charted a new song. I put on hijab and walked to the coffee shop. I’m cautious about wearing hijab, nervous of being called a hypocrite, running into friends who might not understand, or harassment by strangers. There was no harassment. Only shy smiles. And I did run into a friend, now working at the coffee shop, who has changed their name and gender identity as they needed to. There was no strangeness, or no more than is normal between friends who don’t see each other as often as they might. We make room for each other’s multitudes.

I wore hijab today to mourn those who have gone. And to say that though I am afraid to be known as a Sufi, for whatever my fearful ego thinks the consequences might be, I must do better. I am afraid of aggressive secularism and fearful patriotism and I am afraid of the wounded beast that believes it polices true Islam. All these things seek to damage. All these things seek uniformity. My existence puts the lie to them. And so does yours.

A Hard Day for the Heart


I’m back in New Orleans. I have bad habits. Bad habits are often linked to place and company. I had good habits on my trip because I was with a judgmental teenager. I have lost my judgmental teenager and now must fend for myself in this jungle.

Things that mitigate back-sliding.

Singing. I haven’t smoked cigarettes for a week and when I went out to busk last night I was so happy to see how much breath I had. How much control and strength. Happy isn’t quite the word for the sensation. It was a kind of calm pleasure, as of receiving a thing that you know belongs to you.

Absence of misery. I’m not quite at this one because I’ve just started a ketogenic diet at the recommendation of a friend with similar brain-being-pulled-into-vortex-of-death mental health symptoms. She has had wild success with not feeling like she’s going to die all the time and not waking up with shock, fear and baseless dread. I am excited for these things, but currently my body is on an intermittent We Need Sugar campaign.

Driving back from North Carolina to New Orleans, I didn’t have any media playing for most of it. It takes me about an hour to calm down into quiet enough to start watching what’s happening inside me without constant, desperate little thoughts trying to seize on some distraction and pull me back. I worry for those thoughts. They are so afraid, and once you settle down past them they have so little power and so little purpose. Why do they even exist?

Turns out, I am addicted to everything. Hyperbole. But kind of. I behave like an addict with everything. Not drugs, I could never fit them into my narrative in a way that let me think I was still in control of myself. But alcohol, cigarettes, food, entertainment, sleep, music, and male attention. Some of those things you can stop completely, but you can’t stop food. You can’t cut out sleep. Male attention, with its bizarre power stripping/power enhancing combo, is also very hard to eschew unless you are going to a nunnery. Spending a lot of time with women helps with that one, gives you a clean contrast so you can tell what feels healthy and what feels gross and it’s not all just undifferentiated mush with some endorphins in the middle.

I’m kind of addicted to Aaron, which is off putting for both of us. I love him and want to spend time with him and I want to spend time with him even when I really really don’t. Even when I want to go do something by myself. Even when he wants to go do something by himself. There is a clutching and a desperation that has no relation to him as a person, that I am identifying now as the exact same response to bagels. He is not a fucking bagel. It is destructive to our actual relationship to relate to him as if he were a bagel.

If music is on in order to avoid thinking and not in order to listen to it, it’s the same creature. And tv or movies or stupid internet stuff.

I’ll sleep in order to not be there with myself. I’ll read in order to not be there with myself, and that one is a crying shame because I love reading. It is one of the greatest pleasures I know. This approach to it, this addictive avoidant approach, cripples the pleasure in it because there is a tension that must be maintained the whole time. If you were to relax that tension, you would realise you didn’t want to be reading right now and have to put the book down and there you are again with you.

Sugar. Turns out I am crazy addicted to sugar, which is also wheat, which is also potatoes and other grains. These things turn into sugar in your body. I’m basically doing uppers and crashing three to five times every day. I’m not telling anybody else they should do this, I have no idea what’s happening in your body so please don’t take this as advice. Do some research if you want. Think about it for awhile. I’ve been thinking about it for about a year and a half and now I’m getting better at putting little markers on thoughts that feel like me and thoughts that feel like sugar addiction. Those thoughts will pretend to be you. You will think they are you. They surge up like a little firecracker, very bright and loud and inclining you to panic and take action. But if you can hold yourself still, or promise yourself that you’ll indulge that firecracker in, oh, half an hour or so, you get to see that the life span of these addict thoughts are tiny. As long as you don’t to indulge them right then, for me, they fade within about a minute. They are many, but on examination they are individuals, not just a wave. And their frequency decreases as you continue to delay them. More and more, you see that they have no roots within you. They are a rider on you, not inherent to you. They whisper that indulgence is self-care because it is what keeps them alive.

It’s been a long time coming that I could do something like this without violence towards myself, without trying to starve myself or hating myself. It has never worked from that foundation because the hate makes you so sad that the promise of comfort is even more alluring, even more effective. I just watch now. Neutral. Sorting the threads of the thoughts and tracing them back to their points of origin. Was that me? Did it sound like me? Did it feel like me? No, it’s a little goblin in a mental attic dangling bait. A scaredy little goblin. Poor goblin. All things strive towards life and propagation. Viruses. Thoughts. Cultures. I pity these thoughts that want to live but I will not be a host. I will not be a carrier for desires that are not mine.

After about two hours in silence in the car, as I was doing my prayers and feeling myself open and open and open, it came into my mind that it was an act of courage for a flower to bloom, to continue to open. Addictions are curtains. They are blankets that make us feel safe. And they do, for a time, make you feel safe. Then they rob you of peace and of sensation.

Physical relaxation is another component of this. It is another thing that feels very very dangerous. When I relax my neck and shoulders it makes me feel like I’m going to die. I’m trying to right now at this cafe and I am crying because it makes me feel like I’m going to die. But I will die, sometime. That’s okay. And look, now I’m not afraid anymore. How sweet. I can see leaves moving in the wind. So much space. So much light.


Back in Asheville


Today was a very long day.

A very very long day.

I got up at eight and went to Target to get polaroid film. On the way there I saw a hawk clinging to the roof rack of an SUV. He was hawkhiking. Or hitchhawking. He flew off into a field. The Emperor Waltz was playing on the radio. It was the best thing that it could have been.

Got back to the hotel, Niece was awake. We assembled our goods, packed them away, got all ready. Ah, but I am a conscientious mama and decided to add oil to the tank (it was low.) There, alas, in a moment of absent mindedness (there is no more accurate phrase. It actually felt as if my mind were totally absent and my body functioning by itself) I began to pour the oil, not into the engine, but into the power steering fluid tank. It quickly overflowed at which point I snapped to and realised what I had done. I mostly didn’t panic, or get angry, or self abuse. I felt all those instincts well up one after another, like fireworks. Maybe more like fish rising up from a pond and presenting themselves for selection. Murkiness to clarity and back to murkiness. I called my Dad. These instincts die hard. And not without good reason. He told me to take it to a mechanic.

Fortunately there was one just across the parking lot from where we sat. I walked across and inside. Keep in my mind I am wearing a black pleather ankle length skirt, plaid button down, massive black wool coat and my hair in two tiny buns on either side of my head. I had not anticipated needing to look any particular way today. Nor being a representative of my sex to two chain-smoking Eastern Pennsylvania mechanics. I fear I did not raise the bar, but confirmed them in their low opinion. That’s alright though, because I had a low opinion of them as well. They laughed hollowly when I told them what I’d done and told me gossipy horror stories of seals swelling, brakes failing, the entire system needing to be replaced. They flushed it and put new fluid in, made me sign a waiver saying I was an idiot and wouldn’t sue them, and sent me to the dealership. The man at the dealership said I was fine, there was no way for it to get to any of the brake system, and that I should buy a bottle of steering fluid just in case and go home.

I did not enumerate the emotional ups and downs of the above paragraph because it would be repetitive. There were a bunch. Trying to plan. Knowing it was no good to plan until I understood what was going on. Being very suspicious towards God and critical of the lack of subtlety displayed in this interference. It worked out, as these twists often do. It broke my brain out of thinking I had any control over anything, including continuing to be alive, and I had a restful period of peace, expansion and pleasurable mischief. I think my mind is getting its ascendancy back now that I am safe, still, indoors, but I remember.

I thought I would be angrier at the first mechanics. I would have been in the past. It seems like an awful lot of work now.

We got on the road around two. It got dark at five thirty. It began to rain at six. We hit fog somewhere in Tennessee. I had to stop at a rest stop and drop kick some things and hug a tree and then I felt better.

My eyelids feel swollen. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to take off my bra until I wrote this. Bra beats prose. Good night, dears.

Back in Asheville

Writing is Boring

And I’m sleepy.

It’s not boring actually, it’s fun once I start, but I have a whole smear campaign against writing that my brain has down to a script by now. It starts with writing is boring, goes to you have nothing valuable to say, does a pirouette with that was too poetic, triple axel into aren’t you going to edit this and often sticks the landing with I’m too sleepy to finish this.

I am too sleepy. But if I make it very very short then I can finish it and damn the smear campaign.

Here is something I said earlier in a telephone call to my very smart husband.

America is like a teenager who got a job and just figured out he has money. He realises he can spend his money so he decides that he’s not going to let his mom dress him anymore, he’s going to go out and buy his OWN clothes. He goes to the mall and gets big striped sunglasses, a windbreaker with lurid blocks of colour on it, baseball cap and parachute pants. He has a bad haircut and a pimple creating a land bridge between his eyebrows. He might have pulled off looking cool in that outfit, but he is too young, too scared, too full of swagger and cheetos and very odd ideas about women to see himself clearly. To pause. To consider. Any interaction between him and another person even moderately at peace with themselves will probably not go well. He will be bumptious and pointlessly aggressive. They will be confused and bored. Any interaction between him and someone like him will lead to bellowing and the clashing of antlers in the parking lot outside Chili’s. (We’re still in the mall of analogy. It has both a Simile Central and a Comparison Cabana.)

Now we are leaving the mall of analogy. We are going through a brief wander in the woods of things that actually happened.

We got lost in Yonkers today. I’m told that’s a movie. Which is nice. But it wasn’t great in life. We ended up eating pickles in a Costco parking lot in the rain. We weren’t even trying to be in New York but it happened to us anyway. For verily, Fate has a big bum and may sit anywhere she pleases.

Now we are somewhere in Pennsylvania and I’m going to fall asleep doing my prayers in eight to thirty seven minutes.

I feel like I had some realisations today but I’ve forgotten what they were. Something about being lonely? I think it was realising that if you are alone more in your formative years than you are in groups (not you, family, don’t get in a huff), then as an adult you may be better at being alone than you are at being in a group. Not just enjoy it more but actually do it more skillfully.

That’s all the realisation I got, I need to fall over now. Good night, heroes, lovers, soldiers, swedes. Sleep tight.

Writing is Boring

Dresden Dolls Show Internal Narrative

This is going to be a collection of the thoughts and feelings I experienced before, during and after the show. I don’t particularly want to write them down but I know that I have to before they eel away, or pretend they were never there at all

Fans in line judging each other on fan points, clothes, previous experience, perceived length of fandom

Hiding my corset/bra/boobs/self under my big coat while I walked down the line

Opening the coat inside the club

Theater people and gay boys

Initially crying when I saw her

Pulling it together and then not being able to feel very much

Trying not to worry about not feeling

Trying to exist in the moment

Ceasing to think and experiencing the moment in the body rather than the mind

Ceasing to care if I looked good or interesting while I was there

Being looked at (maybe?) by Brian

Being ashamed of how little I try

Being ashamed of not playing my own music

Being ashamed of being insincere in my chosen path

Not trying to do anything about being ashamed, just sitting with the release of saying to myself in words that I was ashamed of myself

Hating her a little for how good she is

Loving her with soft eyes

Resenting her

Wishing to be like her, or move like her, or look like her. Not wishing very hard. Remembering that the thing that makes her pull in love and attention is her lack of compromise of herself, not any particular feature. Forgetting that. Remembering again

Total and complete pleasure when she sat down at the drums with the kazoo

Struggling with singing along. Not wanting to be like the people around me, the poorly socialised, overly sexualised, shouting-things-with-no-timing Rocky Horror people. Thinking that there were probably A LOT of loners (self-hating?) in this crowd who were all mushed together and that it was hard for all of us to be in a group

Dismissing the crow of ownership, the peacock of wanting to be famous, the duck of urgency (Rumi)

Singing along with my mouth open huge on Half Jack. Feeling the tendon in the jaw popping and working to keep singing

Dancing in a not sexy way. Bobbing up and down.

Feeling unable to identify with the crowd, sort of able to identify with the band, alienated but unable to romanticise it

Wanting to be better so that she would meet me somehow sometime

Being ashamed of how little I put on the line personally when I play

Reflecting that the women musicians who inspire me and make goosebumps are NOT pretty when they sing

Releasing any sense of possession of her or the band to all the other fans in the room who need to possess their relationship with her so hard



Stopping myself looking at my phone

Squatting against a pillar while I waited for Not My Niece to get our coats and realising that I prefer to enjoy the sensation of lofty loneliness than to wade into the sometimes uncomfortable and compromising feeling of belonging


It was a hard night in some ways. The good nights are hard, sometimes. It seems to take a lot more work just to exist at this age than it did five years ago. But, v’la, I persist and improve, insha’allah. May we be honest with ourselves. Surely the vilest thing is to come to the end of your life and discover a stranger lives in your body.

Good night, doves, I’ll see you tomorrow.


Dresden Dolls Show Internal Narrative


Hello. Or, as the English say, Helair. I am only writing this nonsense because I said that I would and I am trying to establish just a soupcon of discipline in my slipshod breast.

I am in Pennsylvania. It is misty and people tail gate. I am lying in the left most motel bed, my niece in all-but-blood is in the right most motel bed. We spent the day driving and listening to recordings of other people playing Dungeons and Dragons. That sounds rather sad, but it wasn’t, it was lovely. And all the trees across Virginia are turning colour, so the hills are blotchy like kid paintings are. Blotch of brown. Blotch of red. Blotch of yellow. Greeny grey. Niece and I talked about emotional processing and got all keyed up on Women’s Vitality ™ trail mix and figuring out our mutual experiences. It’s women’s vitality because it has chocolate and cranberries and some other fluff in it. The cranberries are for our parts. And the chocolate is for our hearts. In this way, we shall be soothed and smoothed so that all we want is to buy chakra scented candles that leave us with glossy hair and the gentle smugness of inner peace.

I am nattering. I hate being sold things. I hate it less than selling things (I was a girl scout for two months. all sales), but it makes my skin feel the wrong size. As though if I relaxed for just a second all their subliminal jostling would barge over my mental thresholds and I would be stricken with the longing to be cleansed and perfected by the new no calorie chocolate cherry long lasting 2 for 1 all natural sugar free douche and sanitizer. Ah, to be sanitized. There is nowhere safe for someone afraid of the unclean. Even in a white room, in a white suit, with all your stray hairs sucked silently into pure white vents, you’re covered in mites and you’re guts are overflowing with bacteria (hopefully) and so are your gums and the only way to get out from under all this nasty, teeming, squirming life is to vacuum seal yourself so nothing can survive in or on you. At that point, you too will be deceased and unable to enjoy the quiet. Give up.

Tomorrow, God willing and the creek failing to rise, we will be in Boston. My meat will be in the same room with the meat of Amanda Palmer. My meat doesn’t want to think about this because it might become hysterical. Niece has sewn her a sampler. You can imagine the sort of thing it says. Wish me luck, that I do not become hysterical and that I do not totally sacrifice my dignity in my longing to be acknowledged.

Good night, and see you tomorrow.


Assorted Musings to Get My Hand In

On my way to Boston to see the Dresden Dolls play. I left New Orleans yesterday noon and drove all afternoon in a podcast haze. Ellen Burstyn was on Death, Sex and Money (the best podcast) and she said she has days where she decides there is nothing she should do. Should-less days. These to counteract the voice in her head that says she’s lazy and should be accomplishing something. I would have everyday be a should-less day. I’m afraid that I would never do anything. I’m really afraid that I would be perfectly happy and drift like a balloon and finally admit what a silly sham the way we live is. All this pushing. All this struggle. Manufactured. Silly. It’s hard to admit that because after you admit that your society and the life it promotes are impossible and unpleasant, you don’t quite know how to conduct yourself or what to do. But since my whole plan is predicated on not doing anything in particular, I should be fine.

I remember being a child and knowing (somehow) about politicians being bribed and I always kind of thought that the things they were bribed with were things beyond my ken. Things only adults knew about, of some terrible and impossible value. To find out that they fold for big dinners, pretty women and golf was deeply disappointing. Almost like finding out that Fairyland isn’t real. You assume, as a child, that the things that make grown people sell their honour would have proportional worth.

I was looking at billboards this morning and disparaging their lowest common denominator copy, but it occurred to me that internet advertising is trying to do the opposite and I recoil from that equally. Internet advertising wants to know you as intimately as it possibly can. I had this mini vision of a future where the advertising algorithm specific to you understands you better than any person could. It tailors its language to you. It becomes what you identify with most, because in a way it is you. And then your best friend is a robot that makes you buy things. Everybody’s best friend. I think that is kind of the ideal vision of certain companies.

I declined podcasts today and spent the morning driving into Autumn. It was all gold and orange and lion brown once I got into Tennessee and I had the windows all the way down, as I do when I’m alone. My hair blows around and catches in my eyebrows. It’s the same colour as the hills in my peripheral vision and I feel a satisfying desolate feeling and vow to move somewhere that winter comes to properly.

I love to be alone. I love it more than cake. Which is not saying much, because cake is pretty much last on my dessert island list. Ahah. Hah. Ahah.

I love to be alone more than I love olives. That is saying something. I do not say I dislike people, although I used to. But when you are alone, away even from loved ones and those who best understand, when there’s no media pounding at you or addictions pricking at you, your voice comes shyly out and it is so fresh and sweet and full of observation and delight that you never want to see another person again. That is why I am in a coffee shop right now instead of where I ought to be, because I couldn’t bear to let the voice get buried again quite so soon just after she was unearthed. That is who I am on here. You hear my voice. That is why it is so hard to write sometimes, when I have no quiet, no time for her to spread into.


That’s all for today. See you tomorrow.

Assorted Musings to Get My Hand In