I let my light shine

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop.

I just got back from zipping up and down the bay on a jet ski out at Middle River. And I am sitting in a therapeutic writing course now. I am doing these things because I am taking care of myself and trying to make sure I am planning time just for me.

It feels new and strange, because I used to have people who would make sure that my birthday was something special. Who would kidnap me and take me to wonderful places, plan wonderful things for me to do, or throw giant parties for me. And now I don’t. But I’m learning to do these things on my own.

I can’t say I’m great at planning these things yet, and so far most of the things I’ve planned have completely fallen through. But I’m learning that I really can do things spur-of-the-moment just fine, and I’m learning to be able to prepare things for myself better.

I am leaning into this. It’s not easy to do. But today, ripping around the jet ski, I felt wonderful. I felt alive. I threw myself off and crashed into the water. I had chicken and drank a Yoo-hoo. I danced with cormorants and ospreys, raced with speedboats and soared over waves. I felt pure joy as the water cascaded over me. And I was reminded that I can feel that anywhere.

Being my whole authentic self isn’t easy for me. I feel like there is so much of myself that I hide from the world sometimes, fearful that I’ll be too bright and scare them away. I’m slowly letting that go.

Part of that has been taking care of my home more. It’s still uncertain whether or not I’ll be able to keep it, but I decided to invest in it anyway. I built a meditation spot in my bedroom, and a shelf in my hallway to house bath and bed linens.

What does Mother’s Day mean to you?

Mother’s Day has always been special to me, because I was born on Mother’s Day, and I am the firstborn. I made Mother’s Day for her. I miss being around my Mother for Mother’s Day. Sending things through the mail or talking on the phone feels empty to me; I just want to be with her. But the connection I have is all I’ve got.

I am doing something for my ex on Mother’s Day. Regardless of how things ended between us, one of the things I told her while we were dating was that I knew she would be a good mother. And I was absolutely right. She’s has helped me grow as a parent in ways I didn’t know that I could. So this Sunday, I’m taking her and our kids out for dinner. We are not together and that’s for the best, but she will always be their mother, and they deserve it.

Perfect weekend

What would the perfect weekend holiday look like? A perfect 72 hours. Who would you spend it with? What would you do?

Just imagining something perfect like that feels… hard. I’m so used to pain and heartache and difficulty. I can’t remember when I had a whole 3 hours in a row that felt like that, let alone 72. All I can really imagine is little glimpses of things.

I don’t have anyone special anymore that I can rely on to be with. And that feels like a really important component, but at this point, I’m so weary that I wouldn’t mind spending it alone.

But like I said, just glimpses. Most of the fantasy just involves sleep. Having just enough money that I don’t have to worry about it. Not being around a lot of people; but just one. Falling asleep on someone’s lap while she plays with my hair. Not worrying about food. Good music. Losing track of time. Feeling rested. Drifting in and out of being present, and not stressing about it. Having no physical pain. Having my mind feel clear. Breezes. Swaying hammocks. Water in the background.

That’s what really feels like ideal. And it feels so simple, so easily attainable, and yet so far away at the same time.

So. What am I going to do about it? I’m saving up. I know that. including airfare and an Airbnb, I can send a week it St. Lucia for $1,500. So, my goal is to raise that by August.

How would you be on a nudist beach?

I’ve never been to a nudist beach, but I have gone to a beach where there was nobody else around and been naked. It was freeing and peaceful.

Does anyone have your interest at the moment?

I think I’m going to stay away from dating for a little while.

I clearly have much to learn. And even more to unlearn.

Although I’m conscious of the damage I’ve endured and some of the warps on the reality that I make as a result, that doesn’t mean I’ve got them all figured out. I have a long way to go.

Things still affect me and trigger me in ways I’d like to have more control over. For myself and for those close to me. What’s been the hardest thing is trying to figure out which things are best healed by leaving them alone, and which are best healed by experiencing things new.

What’s been equally challenging is my own desire for companionship, and for that naked & raw feeling of emptiness to feel the warmth of someone near. That ache is an old one, and one I’m weary of feeling. But I know it’s draw can be raucously codependent and slowly pernicious.

Love is incredibly healing… Being able to give and receive it breathes life into me. It’s a salve on my burns & allows them to gently heal. It quite literally gives me solace when everything else in my life is excruciatingly hard. Even small bits leave me gasping for more.

My thirst for closeness is ravenous, and it scares me. Equally torrential is my desire to give, which I know can be inundating. All the while, there’s anger and bitterness for lost time and squandered love. A maelstrom of desires and affections and passions.

In the center of these is a hurt soul who just wants to be healed and to love. Who’s weary of being in pain and tired of the yawning solitude.

I know that I need to work on myself until I do it automatically. To get better at loving me until it’s second nature.

It’s… not automatic. It’s not second nature. I have to be reminded, even to do basic things for myself. That’s why the workout thread exists. My first instinct is to care for others, not love myself. That’s why I use the #Me hashtag exists on Twitter. They exist because I’m bad at it.

What makes it complicated is that I know unless I learn about dating and love and the basics of casual attention, I’ll be stunted in my growth. I’m less experienced in so many areas that I feel like a land mine to be around. That makes things so hard.

Though love from others injects me with an energy that helps me heal faster and helps me exercise my love for giving affection, it also can hurt people who I know I’m not perfect or ready for. That’s… really hard. And painful.

The reality is that I need to give to myself more. And recognize that I deserve it. I’m never going to be able to fully appreciate someone’s love for me if I can’t love myself.

It’s completely unfair to tarnish someone else’s gift just because I’m not taking the time to work on myself. So. I’ll focus on being single for a while.

Do you feel that there’s been an uptick in women flirting with you on now that you are no longer with your wife? And how does that make you feel?

Honestly?

On the one hand, it’s been daunting. It’s a lot. I’m definitely not used to all the attention and overtures. Some of them have been quiet notes of appreciation, some of them have been deep overtures of passionate attraction.

They’re all sweet. They’re all overwhelming to a degree.

I don’t know what rock I was living under before this point, but I was either oblivious to the attraction before, too lacking in self-assuredness, or just plain blind to my own positive qualities and wallowing in self-deprecation.

Either way; it’s felt like a dam has burst, and getting swept away in the affection while I am simultaneously learning to build my own appreciation for myself has been a wild ride.

The challenge has been to maintain the self-actualization supports I’ve been building, and not letting the attention be the only thing that keeps me afloat.

That was admittedly a problem for me while I was in my marriage; my entire self-worth and self-image were wrapped up in another person. And as soon as their view of me faltered or shifted in any way, I crashed and burned. Hard. Because I wasn’t supporting myself at all.

On the other hand; it feels wonderful. The glow of having people give you attention is like a salve on a burn after feeling neglected for so long. I’m taking great care to not become drunk on that feeling; it’s very easy to.

It’s important to me that attraction goes beyond the superficial. Attention on a selfie is nice, but do you want to build with me? Do you care about me as a person? Do you stick around with me when I’m having a rough day? Does my wildness scare you off? Does my vulnerability?

It’s interesting to see the flavors of attention I get. I’m someone who likes to give my whole self, sometimes recklessly, and it’s also teaching me how to be a little more measured, and how to protect myself.

I’ll likely never stop giving my whole self; I’ll just be careful.

Have you ever thought about changing your career? If so, what would you want to do?

If I knew I could support myself with it, I’d love to write more music.

I no longer judge or criticize myself. I am free to love who I am. I forgive myself.

This is unbearably hard to live up to.

I constantly shoulder the responsibility for virtually everything around me, whether its mine to take or not. This sometimes means fabricating things to be responsible for, or beating myself up for things that weren’t even my fault to begin with. Fighting this habit has been really really hard because sometimes I feel like I’m not taking responsibility for stuff when I finally release the weight of what I had burdened myself with.

Fortunately I have a couple of friends who help me forgive myself and to not take on more than is actually mine, but it still hasn’t become second nature.

I trust and know that all is well in my world

I am leaning into this today. Nearly everyone I’ve come into contact with; my kids, my sensei, teachers, instructors, session leaders, friends, everyone seems to be going through heavy stuff today. Though I feel pulled in all these different chaotic directions and have even caught myself almost snapping back at people, I’m choosing to remain solid and calm and patient with those around me. The Creator is guiding me and is directing my path.

Where is your happy space?

I try to have as many happy spaces as possible. Little ones, so that if one is occupied or crowded, I have options to go to another. Ferry Bar Park down by the water on a sunny day. The pillows by the window in the front room at Impact Hub. The secret beach down by Fort Smallwood. My bedroom, nestled in velvet sheets and thick quilts. A class called Writers Therapy where we share with each other. Between my headphones riding the bus on a rainy night. Flying down country roads straddling my motorcycle. My hammock, strung between my roof rack and a tree in Druid Hill Park. I believe it is important to have as many spaces of peace as possible so that you can have as much peace as possible.

I am at Peace

Photo taken in 2010 at a beach.

When was a time that you got into something without reading the fine print?

Today. I signed up for a series of health studies as a “healthy volunteer” last fall, because I didn’t have health insurance and I was worried about not getting check ups regularly. When you volunteer to be part of control groups, they give you health assessments for free. On top of that, they typically pay you for your time, so I signed up for as many as I could.

This morning I had a screening for a study that was worth $4,500. They were measuring the effects of a drug for rheumatoid arthritis, and the side effects were minimal, so I was pretty excited about going.

When I went in for the initial paperwork signing, they walked me through the details, and I realized I hadn’t read how much time it would take. There was going to be 9 visits and 3 days of in-house monitoring, where I’d live in a dorm for a while. And they would be taking a lot of blood samples.

I hadn’t read all the details, so I was a little taken aback. I was still ok with it because it seemed like an adventure to me. But then they did an EKG test.

An EKG is a test in which they attach electrodes all over your body and measure how well your heart is pumping by monitoring the electrical signals it sends out to tell the muscles in the heart to fire.

When I first took the test, the researcher laughed and told me the machine said I was having a heart attack. She said it was probably because my chest hair was so thick, so she replaced the electrodes and tried again.

Again, the machine said I was having a heart attack. The researcher’s brow furrowed and ran the test again. This time, the machine said I wasn’t having a heart attack, but that there was definitely something wrong. I asked the researcher for a copy, and she printed me out one. A set of warnings in capital letters marched across the top of the page.

After putting me into the waiting room for a while, a doctor ushered me into a back room to talk. He was quite convinced that the machine was running fine, and told me while he didn’t think I should run to urgent care, I definitely ought to see a cardiologist within a week.

He told me the condition I had meant that my heart wasn’t sending electrical signals to the proper areas, but he was puzzled because this condition is a rare one and is usually exhibited in younger people, not older ones. I have has several EKGs in my life, and he was also puzzled that it hadn’t been picked up earlier.

He told me most people who have this condition live the rest of their lives with it, and he said I would be ok, but I should check it out soon.

So. Later on this week I’m hoping to see a cardiologist. Even though I hadn’t been fully aware of what I was signing up for, I’m glad I went.

What is my instinct telling me to do?

My instinct is telling me to love openly despite the pain I’ve gone through. It’s telling me to savor the time I feel wonderful, and use it to my advantage. It’s telling me to grow and learn from the hard times, and to never give up on myself.

I am in harmony with all that surrounds me. I am at peace. I am wonderful. I rejoice in the truth of my being. I accept it as so and let it be.

Right now; this is true. I feel so peaceful right now. I think there’s an overwhelming sense of warmth I feel flooded with, and I am floating in it.

That doesn’t at all mean that life around me is peaceFUL. It feels chaotic and rough and tumultuous at times. But I feel like I can handle it. This is always true. Even when it

I know I might not be able to handle it tomorrow. I might take on water and feel like I’m sinking later. But right now, I’m shoring up, plugging the leaks, taking care of myself, making sure I’m using this time in which I feel good to stay vigilant and grow.

I also need to recognize that part of the reason I feel good is because of the love and affection I feel from others. That has energized me. But I need to make sure I’m also giving that to myself. I need to place small potted plants in the empty space I sometimes feel inside, and to water them and let them grow.

When was the last time you felt negative energy from someone? How did you deal with it?

This weekend I got some really negative energy from someone that I used to be close to. Normally, it would have stung harsher. It would have clung to me. It would have hurt for a while before I dealt with it, and normally I would have lashed back.

But I let it slide. I let it go. I recognized that whatever they were going through had nothing to do with me. And even if it did, if they were not willing to confront me directly about it, it did not have to be my problem unless I made it my problem.

When I made the conscious decision to do that, it was freeing. I felt light. I was able to focus on other things that mattered a great deal more to me.

And later, she apologized to me. That would have never happened if I had reacted in the old ways I used to.

I am Guided

I took this photo back in 2004.

I headed to the Impact Hub again for Melony’s writer’s workshop, this time with Nya and Arion in tow. There are 7 other kids that come to this workshop, so they felt right at home. I got them rice from the Chinese carryout across the street.

Melony handed out cards to everyone. and they then had to write about if they felt it was true or false, and mine was the last. The card I pulled read:

I am guided throughout this day in making the right choices.
Divine intelligence continuously guides me in the realization of my goals.


This feels true. Thought it’s harder to feel the Creator’s presence when I am in pain or when I am lonely, I still feel it. I’m still reminded of it. When the wind blows, when the sun warms my skin, when leaves dance around my feet, I’m reminded I am cared for.

Even when things are cold, and loved ones feel distant, and the things I must do to survive life nearly seem an impossibly overwhelming mountain stacked against me, something small will happen, some breakthrough, some kind gesture, a soft smile, a warm hug, and I am reminded I am loved.

And care and love is all I need to reach my goals. That care and love is within me. That care and love is around me.

Where are you not showing up in your life?

Melony told us a story of her life, and then asked us this question.

I immediately thought of my house. It’s just a simple ordinary Baltimore row house, but it was the biggest thing I’d ever purchased on my own 13 years ago. I’m proud of it.

I’m still battling foreclosure with the mortgage company I’ve been with for over a year, but all of that seems compounded and harder since getting divorced. The mounting bills, fighting tooth and nail to get them to recognize that my house is only worth a quarter of what they say it is, and random assessors who show up and take pictures or leave threatening letters has become the norm.

And I’m tired. And I’m trying not to give up.

But all of the chaos surrounding my house and them trying so hard to take it away from me drains all the energy I have to invest in it.

I love working with my hands. I like building. Repairing. Creating. Fixing. The shelves in the upstairs hallway. The storage in the office. The lighting on the front porch. The back yard and its quiet half-acre of forest that I want to build a garden in.

3 days ago, I took the Christmas tree out for the first time since I had brought it in the house in early December. I had told myself it was fine because it was still green. Because it still made the living room smell nice. Because I didn’t want to kill a living thing. But when I brought it around the back and put it in the burn barrel, it only took a tiny spark from my lighter to send a blaze towering 16 feet into the night sky. It offered no resistance to the flame. It had been dead for a long time.

My house is my home. My space is what I’m neglecting. However long or how little I stay there, I must show up for it. I must show up for me.

It’s mid-March. How are you?

I feel healthy.

I’ve been working out steadily for a week now. Since I hurt my back a month and a half ago, all of the workouts I had been doing stopped. The muscles I was growing, the fat I was shedding, even the change in the way I walked felt wonderful. I had been working out since mid-summer, and it felt like a blow to that steadiness that I had maintained.

But my therapist and those close to me had reminded me that I could take it easy, and that quietness and healing is also critical to growth. Sometimes being healthy isn’t just being active, sometimes it is also learning to take a step back and enjoying the rest.

What is my life like when it is in balance?

This is a really hard question for me. I don’t often feel like my life is in balance. Everything seems to be unbalanced all the time, with me obsessing over one thing or another, compensating for one thing, then the next.

In the heart of Philadelphia lies The Benjamin Franklin Institute, a science museum that I remember my parents taking me to as a child. In the middle of the building is a massive pendulum, several stories high, which sways in seeming perpetuity, rocking this way and that and designing patterns on the floor.

My life feels like that, swinging one way or another. I’m never in balance, I’m constantly moving and changing and building patterns. It’s been something that I’ve been criticized for, that I’ve been chastized over. I don’t have a balance.

But then I remember, the pendulum stays in one place. No matter how far it swings, it’s still grounded at its core. Internally, I feel calm and steady, even though everyone else sees nothing but chaos. Maybe that is what balance is for me. Rocking one way, then the next.

I am Gentle

Photo taken while I was out riding somewhere I ought not have been.

Impact Hub, a coworking space that has a branch in Baltimore, has been flooding their Facebook page with new events. Most of them are educational of some sort, and wanting to get more involved, I signed up for a bunch of them that looked interesting.

The first on my calendar was an event titled “Writing for My Sanity, A Therapeutic Writing Workshop” hosted by Melony Hill. I thought it might be a seminar on writing, or maybe a writers workshop where we’d compare our work. But instead, it was a series of short writing exercises with a focus on mental health. I was surprised, but it was really nice.

The first exercise Melony gave us, was passing out a set of cards, and each of them had some kind of affirmation on them. The first exercise was to write on whether or not we thought the affirmation on the card was true or not. Mine read:

I am gentle, kind, and comforting to my inner child as we uncover and release the old, negative messages from family and society.

Initially, I only read the first portion: “I am gentle, kind, and comforting”. I immediately said this was true. I am gentle. I am kind. I am a comfort. I am constantly described that way by people who are close to me, and so I felt really good about my card.

But then I read further; “comforting my inner child”, and it threw me for a loop. I don’t think that I take care of my inner child very well. I am gentle with and comfort everyone else, but I am hardest on myself.

And then I read some more. “as we uncover…”. We. As we uncover. I don’t think I’d even considered working with my inner child for a long time. And for a moment, I felt him reach out to me. And in that moment, I hugged him.

Family & Distance

When Melony shared about family, the first thing I thought about was “distance”. Everything about the way I think about family now is connected to distance. My parents and my little brother live in an entirely different countr, my sister lives many hours away and travels for her livelihood.

The distance with my family is heightened because of how young I was when I left them for college. Last year, I crested the marker that denotes that I have now spent more time away from my family than I had with them. And it feels lonely. I miss them.

My siblings have become entire adults without me around, and I have grown and hurt and given and moved in ways they are completely unaware. Connections online feel hollow and echoing, but show no signs of becoming anything different. It feels like neither I nor they have the words to bridge the gap. The time we spend together slowly heals this, but it feels like there is so much to do.

Even what I would call my adopted family, the Naskapi people I grew up with, are even more distant my blood family. The distance from them feels even greater not just because of how physically far away they are, but also because of how many of the people I grew up with and loved are now gone. And with every passing of an elder, every suicide or murder or accidental death of an old peer, feels like a piece of me is crumbling away to dust.

But then I remember the family I have built. While I am no longer with my partner, my children are with me. I am building new bonds and growing with them. They are growing with me. We are strong.

I remember the adopted family I have built. The connections with those who love me and who I am friends with now.

Time

The next exercise was a question on a couple of cards, which we had to answer. My question read as so:

What is this feeling that won’t leave me alone; what would I do if I had enough time?

Time is one thing I feel like I have a constant burning desire not to waste. It feels like the most valuable thing I have, so I try to burn it as much as I can. I am constantly shovelling time into the furnace that fuels my creativity; drawing, designing, writing, creating.

Long Point Beach

I went to the beach today.

And; I know. If you’re thinking “Who the hell goes to the beach in Canada on the last week of December?”, then two things:

1. You clearly haven’t been following me long enough; I do this kind of stuff all the time.

2. It was the warmest day of the week, it wasn’t bad.

My first stop was in the marshlands. They had this tower you could go up and look out from the top of. The sky was mostly overcast, with bits of blue peeking through. And the clouds were moving FAST.
It has rained the night before; which meant that every trace of anything having ever walked on the beach before was erased. It felt like walking on the moon. In the direction the wind was coming from, a thin slice of gold lit up the sky…
Knowing I was truly alone; I let music fill me as I walked. @
jboogiejustin
filtered in my earbuds, syncopated with the sounds of the surf and the buffering of the wind.
The coastline was golden and inviting, but dipping my hand in revealed it was anything but. Maybe if I had some heated towels and warms arms waiting for me in the car, I might have risked a swim. But not this time.
The clouds churned as I walked; the band of gold growing wider and wider. I headed south along the beach, knowing it could take me forever. I wasn’t going to get another workout today, so I walked until I got tired.
I found a heavy log nestled among some dune cliffs, and sat to meditate as the light grew.
As I sat, the light exploded around me as the sun shot through the opening in the clouds. Instantly everything felt warmer, and I closed my eyes, basking in its glow. This shot is completely unedited; the colours are exactly as they were.
The sun wasn’t long for this hemisphere; and though this was its first appearance of the day, it was ready to rest. The wind picked up, sending waves chopping upward as the sun lit them. The log was cold all alone, so I left it.
It seemed impossible to take a bad photo at this point, nearly everywhere I went seemed stunning. Walking back took much longer, I kept stopping to drink everything in.
As the sun crested the horizon, the water grew dark and glassy, a mirror refracting the dark swirling clouds above.
As I crossed the dunes, the magic faded behind me, and the sky drew dusky. A rustling caught my attention as I pulled my earbuds out. A red heart lay tangled in the branches of some driftwood. The air grew cold and crisp. I breathed deep and walked on.

About Relationships

There’s a website called Curious Cat which allows people to ask you anonymous questions. I signed up for a profile a while back, and occasionally go on to answer what people have asked me.

Most of the questions are pretty simple, but sometimes they go really deep. My answer turned into a mini-essay, so I’ve distilled it here.

Are you in a rush to get back to a relationship?

Yes. No.

I realized the other day that I’ve never in my life been purposefully single. I don’t know how to feel about that. It shook me up a lot a bit and like so much that’s been happening lately, really rattled me off track.

When I was in high school, I always wanted a girlfriend. I was daydreaming and fantasizing about just holding someone close.

It never happened.

When I look back and try to remember those times, it feels like a long, intense, ache.

When I moved to the states after graduation, something shook me loose. I took an extra year of high school to mitigate some of the culture shocks of moving from the village to the States.

I was popular for the first time ever, but not as a typically handsome jock teenager. I was rough, wild, aloof; I reinvented myself as a class clown and rapidly built a long list of meaningful but shallow friendships. But the girl I had a crush on was the one thing I wasn’t able to relax about.

I tensed up, was awkward, and instead of being wild and aloof, I was a brooding piano-playing poet. I couldn’t pull off the suaveness that later attracted her to someone else.

After my extra year of high school in the states, I left for college, losing ties with every last one of the list of friends. Freshman year was tough, but I eventually found a tribe of people who I felt at home with. I gave up on love, and on being able to satisfy the ache.

I fell into a relationship. One of the many girls I had a crush on kissed me out of the blue, and it turned into a 2-year relationship.

I was happy.

But I tried everything in my power to make sure that ache never came back. She didn’t see a future with me and one day cut off all connection with me.

I was broken.

I tried staying away from relationships for two years. My friends pulled and pushed me to leave my room. I had girls I had serious crushes on. But either they didn’t want to move forward, or I didn’t. The ache was cacophonous. It drove me mad. I was miserable and played it off while being wild.

I became best friends with a girl I had a crush on, but then let the crush go.

We did everything together.
She kissed me.
We were married for 12 years.

I was happy.

I did everything in my power to make sure that ache never came back. She wasn’t. I was too immature to separate what she was dealing with from my own issues. My own scars and my own aches made things worse.

I ended it.

For the first time in almost a decade and a half, I feel truly alone. So much of my purpose was wrapped up in the relationship, in making sure she was ok, in making sure we were good, in running toward the horizon and fighting for us.
And that’s gone.

Now I’m supposed to wield all that energy and intensity and pour it onto myself and help myself heal and grow. But most of the time it feels hollow. That ache feels like it is all I ever feel anymore, and sometimes it feels like it will swallow me whole.

Glimpses and possibilities of relationships peek through the haze, and though the crushes are rising up again, I’m petrified of them. I’m scared of messing it all up. I’m scared of the ache coming back even more. I’m scared that I’m too broken. I’m scared I haven’t healed properly.

So. Am I in a rush to get back into a relationship?

Yes. I want to feel that glow again. I want someone to give to. I want to be held.

No. I am tender and sore. I have an ache that would swallow you. I haven’t grown enough. I’m unstable. And I’m really afraid of being hurt.

There are even people close to me who want to help, who want to ease me along with the healing, and I’m afraid of overloading them and crushing them.

I’m even afraid of answering questions like this, afraid of what my own reflection will look like as I unearth it.

Some days I feel good. I feel loved, and feel secure, and feel like I’m actually growing and healing.

Then there are days like today, where I feel like I’m disintegrating in a heap of flames. I’ll probably feel better tomorrow. After I get some real rest. But right now I feel fragile.

Do you still believe in marriage?

Not in the way I did.

It’s a patriarchal mess of a tradition that was designed to put women into bondage. It only works if we check in on each other every year. Open a time capsule of memories. Reminisce. Make new promises. Make sure we keep them.

To be honest, even thinking about marriage wears me out. I don’t even know how to date. Like, all my relationships were friendships that turned into something else. I’ve never dated, I have to figure out how the hell it works. I don’t even know if I’m ready.

I have to trust that it will get better. That I won’t collapse in on myself. That the friends who are close to me are right, that I will eventually be ok. That I’ll get through this. That I’ll feel whole. That love will come.

For now, all I have is the ache.

What’s the benefit/virtue of purposefully being single?

I really honestly do not know. Better knowledge of the self? But I never felt like I didn’t know myself when I was in a relationship. But maybe that was blindness.

What’s next? By that I mean, what do you want the next part of your story (outside of a relationship) to look like and what steps to get to that?

I really have no idea. And it scares me. I don’t know what being a bachelor looks like. What going solo looks like I’ve got my own goals. Dreams. Things I want to do, ways I want to move. …I just always wanted someone to share it with me.

Do you still believe in love?

No matter what happens to me, I will never not believe in love. Either I’m especially foolish or just loveblind. That’s never going away.

It’s a new dawn; it’s a new day.

Dragonfly out in the sun,
You know what I mean.
Butterflies all havin’ fun,
You know what I mean.
Sleep in peace when the day is done,
That’s what I mean.
And this old world,
Is a new world,
And a bold world,
For me.

—Nina Simone

Today is the first day I live as someone who is divorced.

Though it was years in the making, the process ended with a quick thunderclap. I worried about it, and like most things I worry about, I tried doing research into how divorce worked. But I couldn’t find anyone who could tell me what the process was like.

My ex and I got up early, took the kids to school, and headed to the courts. We stopped to get our Separation Agreement notarized at a small mailbox shop on the way, and picked up some Dunkin Donuts. It felt like rocks in my gut, but I forced myself to eat. I knew going in on an empty stomach would have been worse.

Baltimore courthouses are in a cluster just Northeast of the harbour, and because they’re all together, we didn’t know exactly which one to go to. A friendly sheriff helped us in the right direction, across the street from where we thought we were to be.

It was odd being there; it was the same courthouse that I had done many protests at, where my friend Randy Gloss had been arrested, where Keith Davis Jr.’s court hearing was… it was strange.

We went in and the sheriff in charge of scanning people with the metal detector was barking at everyone, clearly having a miserable morning. I stuffed all of my electronics and my belt into my jacket so that it would be easier to get through. But then he told me I HAD to wear my jacket. I fumbled everything back out and got through.

3 massive LCD screens bolted to the wall had the names of everyone who was assigned to hearings for the day, and what room they were meant to report to. However, though the list was sorted by name, not all the cases were by last time. Ours was by first. My ex finally saw where we were supposed to go, and we got in line to board the ancient elevators to the third floor.

The courtroom was different than I expected; beautiful art-deco-brutalist woodwork, punctuated by technological additions like CCTVs and mics and something that looked like an XBOX motion scanner. It was cozy, with paned windows lining one wall looking out over a roof; it felt like a small chapel. Several other people were already in the room, but nobody sat together. We took a pew together in the front.

Immediately, the court clerk asked if I had provided the proof of how I had done the calculations for the child support figures I had put down. My heart sank. Though I’d gone over everything in painstaking detail, the tool used to calculate the figures wouldn’t print. I’d saved a copy on my computer but didn’t have it with me. Fortunately, I remembered all the numbers and managed to fill it out on my phone.

There were several cases before ours, which felt awkward. We watched several divorces play out in different ways in front of us; couple’s heartwrenching moments playing out feet in front of us. A couple in which one parent almost lost child custody because they were 30 minutes late, who then argued with the magistrate. A couple who had been married for over 25 years, who were battling over the deed to a house in foreclosure. And then… it was our turn.

After verifying the pronunciation of our name a bunch of times, I asked about a law that had just gone into effect in Maryland. Starting October 1st, a full year of separation is no longer required for a Mutual Consent Divorce. Though I understand the goal of the original law; to make sure that a couple had a waiting period before they rushed into a divorce, the law essentially made it a tax on the poor. Couples who couldn’t afford a second residence (like us) really could not get a Mutal Consent Divorce, because housing is so expensive.

The magistrate said we did qualify, but that we’d have to file an addendum, which we could do right then and there at the clerk’s office downstairs. We went down, filled out the paperwork, and came back up. The magistrate wanted time to look over our separation agreement while we did that.

I had put in a lot of research and time into the separation agreement, and my ex and I worked through the details in minute ways. It’s an odd thing; it is essentially a set of compromises between a couple that gets solidified into law when a couple gets divorced. It details out things like child custody, alimony, child support, dividing up debt and assets, and a bunch of other stuff.

The magistrate spent a good amount of time on it, carefully questioning us about every detail, making sure we both consented to every line item. I started to feel odd; why was she doing all this? I thought that this was just supposed to be a scheduling meeting so we could come in later…

She kept going, and then finished up with “very good, you’ll get a certificate in the mail.” I was confused. I raised my hand. “You mean we don’t have to come back to court?” Had this just happened? She smiled. “Not unless you really want to.”

Though the change in the law had happened a week earlier, we were the first case she’d seen it actually play out. Normally it takes months between filing and your first court appearance, so nobody had even applied for this new method. We were on of the fastest divorces the magistrate had ever seen. “I see the worst of people in here,” she said, “you two actually have your stuff together.”

We walked out, shell-shocked. We talked about a few things as we made our way back to the car, but I don’t remember any of it. Had this just actually happened? It felt sudden. Unrushed, but quick. We’d done all the work. It was over.

It felt like a tooth that had been waiting to come out for a long time. That needed to come out. And now that it was finally out, it was good. But also a deeply strange feeling.

I was exhausted. The weight of everything hit me all at once; slamming into me like a cold front rushing down the mountains. The pain was gone, but the labor it took to make everything work, to make everything just right, the mental preparedness I had to do just to get through it… the release of that was overwhelming.

Divorce is not something I had ever wanted. But it was something that was necessary. I knew it had to be done. It had been a last resort; a way that finally allows healing I needed, to grow in the ways I needed to grow, to protect the kids, to be able to be who I needed for them.

As I woke up today, everything felt different. I stepped outside; the entire sky was lit up in gold. The sun peeking through the limbs of the trees on the horizon. The air was cool, crisp. It is the first day that felt like fall.

It is a new day.

Goodbye, Facebook. It’s you, not me.

I talked about it before, but within a couple weeks I’ll be gone from Facebook.

It’s going to be complicated to disconnect, because I’ll have to turn off Messenger, and Instagram, and a bunch of other services. The sheer volume of applications and sites that use Facebook for me to log into is astounding.

Why are you quitting?

There are a bunch of reasons people quit, from proven studies about how Facebook worsens your mood, to how addictive it is. Some people quit because of how toxic people can be on here, or how invasive the advertising is.

However, the main reason I’m quitting is because of their egregious record on privacy. I recently downloaded my Facebook data (which you can do too), and I was shocked at how much information they tracked.

Here’s how to do it if you’re interested:

  1. Click at the top right of any Facebook page and select Settings.
  2. Click Download a copy of your Facebook data below your General Account Settings.
  3. Click Start My Archive.

It may not work immediately. It took me a couple tries to get my data.

Another thing you should check is if credit card info is stored on there, which you can do by clicking on Settings > Payments.

I’m also disturbed by how little they tell you about new policies or changes, and how easy it is for them to give your data away to the highest bidder.

Zuckerberg has been consistent in his message that he does not care about people’s privacy, so long as he can make money.

There are other companies that do that too, but Facebook is a beast that harms other through my interaction with it.

So it’s about privacy?

Mostly. I also really dislike the way they deal with cyberbullying, fascism, and racism. Facebook is lax in all those areas. Even though I’ve done things like report the account of the Maryland KKK member who fired a gun at anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, his account is still active.

Facebook is NOT a great place for activism outside of groups, which I’ll remain active in. I’ve been monitoring the views on my regular wall, and with each algorithm change, those go down.

Not only that, but they’ve REALLY changed their course on a lot of things. For example, here’s an interview with Facebook’s CEO saying “This is their information, they own it”.

Then, not even a full year later, Zuckerberg stated: “The age of privacy is over”.

But what about your family?

I have a lot of stuff on here, which I’ll slowly be cleaning out. It’s been over a decade that I’ve had facebook, there are family photos, all kinds of stuff. And there really isn’t another place like facebook yet, where nearly everyone is on it. It’s sad to lose that.

But I’d rather not be complicit in a system that harms people. And my being here keeps other people here. So I’m cutting ties.

So what does this mean going forward?

I have a lot of groups that I manage on here; like Naskapi Radio — (418) 585–2111 and #BaltimoreUprising. I’ll still manage those.

I also have several businesses that I manage on here, from Zerflin to a bunch of my own clients who pay me to help them with social media. I’ll keep doing that.

I’m going to be slowly archiving and deleting my content on here, especially photos. I have a giant photo collection on here, which Facebook uses to identify all of you. That makes me sick, especially since they can sell that data to other people.

I’ve made my last Facebook post ever. Unless they do some serious work to change, this is it.

Can I talk you out of it?

Nope. Though you’re welcome to talk to me about it, just not on Facebook. This decision has been 3 years in the making.

Where can we find you?

That’s easy. My website has links at the bottom left to every social media I’m on. I’m sure you’ll find something we have in common.

What if Facebook is the only social media I have?

I actually have a mailing list. You can sign up for that here.