writing to survive
. . . only the retelling counts

Postcards from paradise

I shouldn’t be writing, at least not here. I have eight chapters (down from eleven), a big chunk of the DSM-IV-TR,* background on the development of the soon-to-be-published DSM 5, and two scholarly articles to read as well as a practice exercise on statistics and a set of notes to write on psychoanalytic theory. We’re talking hundreds of pages of material, though I can already tell it will be impossible for me to read every single word. I just have to figure out the gist of things, learn the criteria for diagnosis, the tenets of theory, introduce myself to psychometrics and statistics. But a girl cannot live on counseling and psychology texts alone. She needs a bit of poetry, a bit of the emotional flash, an outlet for what gets pent up, the release of excess. So here we are, alone together again.

I want to be poetic, to illustrate the fleeting, transcendent thoughts I have, the ones I sometimes tap into the notes app on my iPhone as I speed walk to the BART station or rush to pick up the boy. But this is the somewhat nonsensical stuff I’m left with:
feed visuals photo writing capture natural world in metaphor veil between and houses on hill like vein on rock, quartz in granite (?). The first is about the urge we have – I have, at least – to try and reveal the greater truth about reality by writing about it, capturing it in metaphor, or about the way I want to take what is in front of me, with its physicality and energy, its itness, and transmit it to others in a photograph. I am constantly taking pictures of the surreal and surprising, of heady nature with its outstretched limbs and tangles of branches, of disembodied concrete hands resting in the leaf-laden grass of someone else’s front yard. This ability to transmit what I experience to you, to make the real more real, emotionally laden, to tug on the gossamer lines to memories you thought were forgotten, is heady stuff. And the houses-on-hill run-on thought? It is an example of my attempt to implement that metaphorical metamorphosis, to convey how the chains of houses in the highly populated Berkeley hills, visible from my bedroom window, the constant backdrop to every walk, form white lines in the dark trees, pale serpentine paths through the brown earth, like veins running through rock.

Sometimes, the thoughts emerge more fully formed, though often mysterious and occasionally over the top. They come in waves, five in a month and then a half year of silence:
You will wake up and see the shimmer in the distance that is me. Regret always comes two steps too late. (4/11)
Every window you pass is a way to enter a new life. (5/11)
I hate my body for its weakness. (5/11)
the places of secret memory (6/11)
Several latex gloves by handicapped seats, at least one turned inside out. (10/12, an observation that became a part of a post)
Tuesday is the day when I am gin-soaked in bitterness.
My affection is a pathological thing, clingy. (1/13)

Sadly, at the moment I have very little poetry in me. I’ve just finished reading an overview of addiction and I’m distracted by thoughts about which beloved activity/substance I will forgo for two weeks for a paper assignment. I’m not going to go all Lenten sorority girl and give up chocolate. I could give up caffeine. I could let go of blogging and its associated compulsions for one painful fortnight. I’ve semi-given up alcohol, though now that my habit has been broken I’m enjoying a glass of wine with dinner on occasion. There’s no fucking way I’m giving up Facebook. Should I do what is hardest (give up blogging) or what will have the most physical effect (forgoing that morning cup and a half of coffee or the occasional latte)? We’ll see.

Look at the time! It’s late. I have to go. I have to run. I have psychopathologies to read about and the afternoon is slipping away. Wish me luck!


*The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV-R is the go-to place for mental illness classifications. The DSM 5 comes out in May.

Image: Yard art just off of University Avenue.
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