Ask an Aspergirl

Essays and poems about Autistic experience, mental illness, & (post-) ABD life

Tag: poems of sorts

You don’t know me, a rant

No, really, I actively avoid your calls because you don’t know me — don’t try to know me — not really. “Don’t waste your PhD, like your mother wasted her degree,” he said. You don’t know me. You’re living with my grandmother — I talk to her, not you.

That talk at Christmas was a gift — acting as if anything — some semblance of a relationship was there — Here’s who I am and what I’m doing, but you don’t deserve that.

“I wasn’t always a good father — but I loved you — I tried harder than my dad.” Trying to be someone isn’t enough — you need a plan. You don’t know me because I won’t let you in — again, after watching you pretend everything was normal. I’d like to pull out the slideshow sometime:

This is me, hiding in my room — this is you, yelling at mom, her crying, you screaming accusations — needed her to be someone other than who she is. This is me distancing myself; this is you hugging me as I recoil slightly. This is me, watching, waiting, wondering how you don’t recognize your dad in you.

You don’t know how hard I’ve worked to shake off the fear, the memories of silence intermingled with strings of obscenities reverberating in my mind. You don’t know the adult me, who feels like she’s constantly piecing herself back together, returning to the present. Reminding herself that you’re not an authority on anything — then feeling the sadness in that absence.

I don’t trust you to know me. What would you do with me? As I become myself, I’m distancing myself from you, not knowing what you could do to find space in my life — not wanting you in my space — Mine! My quiet, my people, my time; no longer waiting for you to decide what we do with our paper doll family.

I don’t know if you ever  knew me — you knew the cutout paper version of me — still and quiet, waiting for you to leave — surprised at the quiet.

This is what I need now — to see you as a horrible person with no place in my life — in the stark black-and-white, no grey — we’ve tried grey. I’ve seen you in the familial tragedy and saddened adolescent self — BUT you can’t see me! Maybe you don’t want to — I suppose you’d realize what a shitty father you’d been if you did.

In the conversations I’ve been there to repair, in the sads and that would hurt — but I need you to see that, to recognize who you’ve become, if inadvertently — not so far away from the man who’s alienated his sons, and screams at cows. The one whom you’ve avoided across holidays.

I suppose you know what this feels like — to hide and mourn — then pause, to feel stuck — but you’ve distanced yourself from that experience.

You’re too far away to see me.

 

My mind’s aflutter in the quiet (with you)

Sitting, quiet, here with you — my mind’s aflutter — of things to do, questions left unanswered, wondering how you can just sit so calmly across from me; headphones in, fingers to keyboard as we both attempt at productivity.

My mind wanders to the not yet done, making lists, planning — getting lost in the will be. Where are you? The present feels elusive, the past fuzzy, in a created narrative designed to fit my expectations of what is now.

Sitting with you in the quiet, I’m waiting — maybe to pull the scattered pieces of myself back together. Where do you go mind when you’re not quite here? Thoughts going to the not here in the space between our words — anticipating your words; wondering if they’ll express where I am.

In the litany of things, I wonder where I am between —

How are you? (There’s a space between the dialogue.)

Okay — that’s all I’ve been for a while, wondering what’s beyond the managing, the getting through, the doing the next thing. (I suspect you want to hear I’m okay — an emotionless word for a state of being.)

And I wonder what it would be like to describe a state that feels slower — the just getting by — a feeling good that isn’t between periods of not yet. We have slowed the pace for a minute, maybe a 50-minute hour, catching up with myself — as I wonder about the realness of my own experience.

Is that what I’m thinking or feeling? Would naming it help — if a response to alleviate this state feels far away?

I am scattered before you as I attempt to describe this litany of concerns, maybe worries — outside the conversational to the just is — not knowing how you’ll respond and then trying to convey these thoughts — wondering if they’ll make sense to you.

“Managing is hard,” she said deliberately.

“Write about a tradition or ritual you’ve come to observe or don’t observe.”

Scene I: So last year, my sister and I pregamed thanksgiving, she drove in and we sat together watching the food network Thanksgiving special. Alton Brown mocked Giada and we sat transfixed by the comedy displayed on my LCD screen sitting on my Goodwill coffee table.

We made a recipe a friend of ours had invented – cinnawaffles – “you put the dough on your Foreman waffle plates and deliciousness ensues.” In my 1-bedroom space, we created a home.

We both had the feeling that Thanksgiving would be awkward that year — as we pretended to have a normal family dinner with my grandparents — as a man named Pancho was a more welcome presence, if strange, than my dad.

But as we ate cinnawaffles and cookies from the grocery store down the block, we were content to sit — not awaiting the poorly scripted indie film which was my family — but just sitting on my floor couch with a shared screen in a quiet house.

No expectations or suppositions of what the day should be — no photographic attempts to capture what was never really there — but content with what was and what could be, for us.

And so as my sister and I decided that regardless of the ensuing madness, we’d meet when we arrived in a place we had considered our home, now place only formerly known — we had already had our Thanksgiving.

Scene II: So a friend from the cafe I frequent invited me to spend thanksgiving with her — with the orphaned and far-flung grad students — I hope my sister comes — in a quest to build a life away from my family, this feels like a step.

And yet when I shared this with my mother, she was surprised, not stunned or taken aback, but curious. To build a life apart, does that mean separate? My father is gone, but the place I knew, the space we three developed post-graduation is missing.

And so we build our own it seems, for NOW AT LEAST. A space that is manageable, controllable, and ours. For we have pregamed the holidays before and now the game is ours.

Maybe we’ll make cinnawaffles. Sounds like a lovely tradition.

Kat Murry is featuring her poetry at open mike.

“Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Did any of it? Why do I keep a notebook at all? It is easy to deceive oneself on all those scores. The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.”  ~ Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook”  (1)

I have 2.5 notebooks filled with, as I titled my black polka dotted notebook, “poetry, prose, and other musings — with illustrations.” I’ve even jotted down notes post-therapy sessions when I sat in the space above the racquetball courts trying to make sense of reframes presented and questions posed. Keeping a notebook is a way of seeing my thoughts through and then learning to communicate with others about my vulnerabilities and fears. Sometimes reading what I’ve previously written is easier for me than speaking about painful things for the first time.

So this weekend I found myself crying in J’s car after spending the morning at community writing group.  I should probably provide some context at this point: J asked me to be the featured poet for March’s open mike night, and I felt both excited and terrified by this opportunity.  I was also incredibly proud of myself for learning to speak my truth aloud. I’ve been documenting my coping skills development and emotional growth since last winter, when I started the PhD program and found community amongst fellow writers.

“It’s very sterile and very misleading to hear about battles only from people who either have already won or at least have already experienced the stability of intermediate victories. It presents a false sense of how hard those battles are. It understates the perilous sense of being in the middle of them. It understates how scary they are.” ~ Linda Holmes, “Present Tense” (2)

I’ve had a lot of emotionally intimate conversations in cars with incredibly comfortable seats and adjacent listening ears. Often I’ll find myself sitting in my friend’s truck post-writing circle and in the safety of that space, words come flooding from my mouth. I share my worries and frustrations and feel heard. I’ve been learning that being vulnerable can feel okay.

“It’s remarkable you were able to get into a whole new program, establish a new support group, and be where you are now. I see someone who’s pretty amazing and isn’t so odd, even if she doesn’t see it sometimes.” I remind myself: “It took going there to be where you are and you don’t need to be ashamed of where you’ve been.” “You are smart and I believe you’ll figure this out, even if you don’t sometimes…” My therapist is relentlessly optimistic about my social-emotional growth, annoyingly so sometimes.

The first poem I wrote in a long time — “Cacophony” — happened when I ventured to womyn’s writing circle for the first time as I gradually moved from the espresso bar nearby to the table where a small group of womyn were sitting. That night, I felt heard and supported, rather surprised I read my work aloud to those womyn.

I’m amazed that I’m in a place where I, Kat Murry [pseudonym], am planning to feature my poetry at open mike night. It’ll be during Womyn’s History Month, which seems fitting somehow as I’ve slowly explored and expressed my own backstory. It’s been a long year of writing notes to myself and being intentional about finding ways to connect with people, even as “I felt disconnected and fearful.”

I’ve been well-supported this year as I’ve worked through this process of being present and kind to myself as I practice inter- and intrapersonal skills. I’m learning that vulnerability is scary, but manageable; so I’m sharing, not in spite of these ever-present anxieties, but because of them.

  1. Joan Didion on Keeping a Notebook — http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/19/joan-didion-on-keeping-a-notebook/
  2. Present Tense: Allie Brosh, Donald Glover, and Hurting Right Now — http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/10/29/241585887/present-tense-allie-brosh-donald-glover-and-hurting-right-now

Feeling lost

Write about a time when you were lost.

I still remember that room – sitting before two judges, no trial of my peers or evidentiary hearing; just me, sitting across from two people who knew me — or so they thought anyway.

You don’t fit here — your form, your being, your very way of thinking doesn’t fit here. I am paralyzed — lost.

In their words — in my own thoughts; stay here, I willed myself. Mind don’t run away from me now. So all I can think is How do I run from here — this place of loss and confusion; without them thinking I’m a crazy person — who’s lost her way.

Remember that plan you thought you had — it’s gone and only replaced with questions — So what do I know? Why are you only telling me about this now? If only there was a support group for loss of certainty.

So meanwhile I sit across from those whose questions only leave me feeling blindsided — I am lost in their words, their meanings; their attempts to help. But how?

I feel ambushed, surrounded by my own fears, struggling to hear their comments — I just came here for help — why are you bombarding me?

I am lost in my own questions. In this in between place — done with one place, but the other not yet a possibility. My words have been stolen away — shared in confidence, in a moment of weariness, only to be unveiled when I am exhausted, lost in my worries — fears of fitting in.

I am sitting here, in this room with two many people and not enough chairs — in a place I only thought was secure.

I am lost in my own words; in the me I must portray and thus betray who has things together, if managing, is coping, is merely being — I wish I could just be; but today I find myself in this place with people who spoke of supporting me.

I don’t understand, instead I try to lose my emotions, only left with reason and rationale, with a plan for becoming someone other than myself.

I hope she fits here because I don’t. I feel odd and out of place — I feel your words are coming too fast.

Why is this information new to me — how could I have not realized this, recognized this before; there must be something wrong with me.

Why else would I be trapped in this tiny room with intentions left unknown amongst my sea of thoughts.

I am swept away by its waves — in a place I was never expecting to be, no map, no compass, just me and a few flares for the road.

And so we sit as I try to tie these inquiries and notions together wishing I hadn’t arrived here — only to realize I have no idea where I’m going

All I know is that I must abandon here — “I am here in this place; I fit, I belong.” If only I felt that way here. I am spinning solutions in my mind and I wonder where I am going.

I pretend to have answers as I sit here waiting for the confusion to pass. — For I’m lost in the meantime.

Where are you from?

Write about the intersection of place, identify, and being.

Depends when you ask, I suppose — are you talking about where I grew up? The spaces and places I inhabited, although to be honest with you — I spent a lot of time in my room waiting for things to be over or maybe to begin.

I’m from a lot of places — from the Northwest, where our apartment, one of several, overlooked a hill with cows and a highway behind, from my grandparents’ guestroom and the rental house that followed, while that space was still mine.

Or perhaps the college town, the one where I found myself speaking my narrative aloud, in the space between a chair and a couch — the apartment I shared with two Deboras, their mothers, the Isabels, and a Megan.

The place where I learned to cook for myself with countless googling and scanning through books, only to pull out a microwave entree another day — man, that was a comfy couch — I remember sinking into the blue fabric — then there was another apartment after that, shared with roommates I sort of knew.

My current apartment is mine — in its scatteredness — as dish mountain can be seen in the distance, projects in progress, things waiting to be done; something called a floor-couch in the living room — I always expected to move next summer, before the shift.

Now, I’m in stasis or something — maybe I should buy a couch — I’ve never planned more than a week and a half in advance; that was much too scary. I live on my own now — with cafes that have become my office space, my living room, my home perhaps.

Familiarity is home — space of one’s own is home and I am from a place where things were terribly uncertain, so I long for the fixedness and predictability of my own space — and yet I’ve grown familiar with the temporary — in a rental I’ve claimed and yet I don’t feel settled.

Where I’m from, “things weren’t so fixed.” Plans were muddled over only to be changed again, so maybe I’m waiting for something more permanent — to know where I’m from will remain.

Womyn’s writing workshop

Write“We live in this space between thought and word as we try, struggle it seems, to bridge this chasm. So after this happened I felt __________ and now I feel __________. I don’t know. No one’s ever asked, so I find myself grasping for words. This meaning-making is an incendiary beast — not easily tamed. It defies words or even bits of description. It looked like… it felt like… oh, I don’t know, but I wish I did — it would be oh so much easier.” – Selection from my poetry notebook written during the womyn’s writing workshop I attended recently

J, the facilitator at the womyn’s writing workshop, gave a list of freewrite prompts on a handout reminding us that there were “no rules, just write.” So I sat at a long table, surrounded by a few women I knew from the local circle and some others I’d never met before that afternoon, and scribbled furiously in green ink. I’ve attended workshops that J has held before, and she’s good about letting people finish their current thought before the group sharing time begins. We went around the table, introducing ourselves and mentioning the kind of writing we did (be it poetry, prose, blogs, short stories, or anything else we wished). Then we shared our respective work, some from the day’s freewrite, others recently published, and even read from cell phone displays.

I’ve attended womyn’s writing circles for a while now, but I’m still amazed at how moving it can be to hear a woman share her felt experiences and then watch the group respond. On such occasions, we murmur along in agreement (mm-hmm), snap (an exclamation of that’s true for me, too), and of course, clap towards the end of the piece. At the workshop, I read the poem I quoted from in the beginning of this entry and felt a sense of connection with these women as I tried to describe what it was like to feel completely muddled, yet try to verbalize that experience.

J helped to create a non-judgmental space in which first-time writers could feel comfortable reading their pieces in front of the group. As a fellow participant, I was encouraged by the comments other women in the group made about my poem.

I remember one of the women mentioned that we were “eight people who choose to write with people they didn’t know.” “Sounds crazy,” someone else in the group quipped; and yet I felt the process working. During that hour and a half, I felt heard, and better yet, understood as I reflected on our shared experiences. J reflected on women poets’ experiences with writing about their lives and remarked, “We say out loud what is going on.” That statement resonated with me.

“This sense-making is an illusory space — not easily finished it seems as the structure is — unfinished. Not linear, but part of this curvy process of putting pieces together and mixing them up and leaving them alone — unfinished.”

Open mike nights in enchanted spaces

Words and ideasThere’s a wooden house outside of my college town that’s become a community center for the local artists, poets, and musicians (and their families –biological and surrogate ones — and friends). When I visit this seemingly enchanted space, I’m welcomed by the kindly proprietor who offers me a hug and  a cup of herbal tea as I walk past the kitchen to find a bench by the window. The wall by the benches is covered with the signatures of people who’ve visited the space or played at the monthly open mike nights, serving as a plaster covered guestbook with names and quotes in permanent ink. I remember after reading a poem at my first open mike night there, the proprietor invited me to sign my name on the wall. First, I wrote the “at a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by” quote, and then realized I’d forgotten to sign the area beside it. That was the same night I learned that a close friend of mine could sing and play piano after she finished performing a piece that she’d written herself.

In this community, I feel a sense of calm and connectedness with others who frequent the space, especially on open mike nights. I’ve noticed that when I settle into a new place, I tend to either talk way too much or fade into the wallpaper. When I find myself fading into the background, I feel like I’m playing conversational tether-ball. The people around me are talking, but I can’t seem to find a point to enter the discussion, without interrupting anyway. At open mike nights, I’ve been free to sit and talk with the person beside me when I’m ready, but there’s always music in the background or people-watching to do in the meantime. It’s an accepting space filled with the sounds of drum beats, singer-songwriters, and neighborhood children. I’ve enjoyed bringing friends here because it’s a place where one can go after a long day of homework and sit with bottomless cups of tea, surrounded by people genuinely interested in each others’ passions.

Last time I was in this space, listening to local musicians and poets under a pink sunset, I reached for the notebook and colored pencils I stow in my bag for such occasions (same materials I use in womyn’s writing circle) and started to sketch a wispy tree. I wrote a few lines in the blank area:

“The collected light frames the trees; we sit below. The scene before us stretches out as it envelops the trees and the land — the wooden places below it surrounds.”

So for now dear readers, I’ll continue to remind myself in the midst of the busyness (and often uncertainty) of graduate school that “I am here in these places — the cafes and the community centers where I encounter such kind people. I fit. I belong.”

Measuring a week — in poetry

It’s been a weird week and a half, so today’s a bit of retrospective day. I was thinking about “Seasons of Love,” from Rent, specifically the lyrics about measuring time:

“In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.”

So this is newish for the blog, but I’ve been writing what I like to call prosy poetry since the end of January. There’s a womyn’s writing circle that meets once a week, just to check in with on another and discuss our work, that I usually attend. Something about writing helps me to make sense of an otherwise chaotic space. Between grad school and my poor lizard brain (when the GAD gets bad enough, I try to remember that my brain may not be evolved enough to think rationally — just need to help calm it back down the best I can), life feels like such a mess sometimes. This thought quickly evolves from life is a mess –> I am a mess, which is not necessarily the case. As my therapist likes to remind me every time we meet, “You’re doing the best you can all things considered; I would be more surprised if you weren’t anxious about this.”

fucking train station

March 29 — After processing emotionally-fraught things with a friend after sharing the Sophie sessions of In Treatment with her, so maybe I was ready.

Easter Sunday — I wrote this in church as I reminded myself why I was staying in my college town for Easter weekend.

April 1 — began with the phrase, “The tech bubble burst, and my dad went with it…”

April 7 – Bridges — Dealing with interpersonal relationships is ridiculously frustrating. We’ll just go with that, dear readers. Make of this piece what you will.

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