Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).

I label my emails. I color-code and file them. Nested, rainbow-hued stacks of tidy texts that belie the disorder I feel every time I open my inbox. My efforts to control the uncontrollable, unstoppable, unrelenting onslaught of messages from the grid.

But see there? I’ve created a three-item list of words that begin with “un.” I like threes: a sense of completion, symmetry, zen. Feels good. Still I’m compelled to return to that three-item list and reorder the items into alphabetical order: “uncontrollable, unrelenting, unstoppable.” Ah, that’s better.

Fortunately, Gmail automatically alphabetizes labels and sub-labels:

Chrome bookmarks do not do this automatically so I periodically have to “sort” them.

I use verbs for all of my tasks in my Google Calendar: draft self-study, contact references, send agenda. But there again, they’re not alphabetized. So change the verbs or change the time of day I hope to complete each task so that “contact” comes before “draft” comes before “send” comes before “write.”

And the colors in the calendar must correspond to the colors in the email. The contrast between categories sufficient to indicate categories: center, department, college, university, etc.

The kitchen fridge list? Alphabetized. Lower case verbs begin each item. The home screen on my phone? Alphabetized. Nine items per screen.

My friend’s daughter washes her hands obsessively; my daughter used to pluck out her eyelashes, I chew my nails, dig at scabs and zits, pick at the dry skin of my heels until I bleed.

I make sure the three elements in that list are parallel and alphabetized by verb.

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two mornings writing

and a partridge in a pear tree. how many words count as “writing”?

I watched a colleague write page after page in a spiral notebook during a poetry reading. was she responding to the poet with her own poems? was she taking down his words verbatim? was she putting pen to paper for something to do while listening? I mean how many notes can a person take while listening to a poet? is this a passive aggressive way to show disinterest? write while someone else reads? because surely, listening to poetry requires a certain attention that writing page after page of your own words surely elides.

I’ve forgotten how to let words like “elide” show up. or perhaps I’ve simply not provided space for such words to sprout, as they do when I allow for a gap in the conversation, a place for the word to slip through. where the light comes in. lift the hands from the keys. still the voices around and within. and exhale a word: “elide” or “amorphous.” and watch it bloom in the air. a-mor-phous: multisyllabic gift to the blah meh doh chat text of the grind that is work con-ver-sa-tion.

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I read this piece in Brevity. Like the writer, “I feel unsettled, fearful, and unmotivated. Rudderless.” But not just about writing–which has sailed so far off my horizon that I’m not sure I’ll ever catch it back. (sea metaphor?) I’m swimming–another activity which has drifted away from me–but barely treading the water, keeping my head above the waves.

Last night I dreamt that my lone mouse, a single rodent pet, had given birth. Somehow a mate had appeared and the two conjured up babies. I awoke to the chirping sound of the female mouse–was she hungry, thirsty? No, I thought. She’s telling me to relocate the male, so he–or she–would not eat the babies. I searched my room (apartment?) for a box or container to house the father mouse. I taped a torn cardboard box but awoke before I figured out how to pick the right mouse and how to lift him out.

I drink too much. The empty bottles lined up next to the hotpot that I tell myself every morning I will use tonight when I make myself a cup of tea at 8 pm rather than continuing to drink glass after glass of wine. Red, white, sparkling. It doesn’t matter. I chug them all. And every morning I chastise myself, vow to quit TODAY. I wrestle with the reasons I provide: you’ll just have one or two glasses tonight; you’re not as bad as some people; you simply can’t give up drinking because you’d have to give up all the associated things (dinners out, cocktails with friends, etc.); you need something to take the edge off–something to round the sharp bits that never quite leave after a walk, a yoga session, a massage, a romp in the sack, a conversation with someone who gets it. Lost my thread there…I simply can’t give up drinking, I tell myself, because you like it. Even when you count all of the calories and carbs, wake up dizzy and woozy, remember your behavior from the night before, realize that you really do need it to get through the day, the week, the month, the year, the rest of your life. And then I think perhaps…perhaps one day I won’t feel that need. Maybe it will float away, and I’ll swim again. And write again.

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I signed up for an essay writing webinar with Medium, called “How to Write an Essay Everyone Wants to Read: 5 Steps to Craft Meaningful Personal Narratives.” Of course I have no essays in progress, no drafts of anything I want anyone to read, no ideas whatsoever. And yet, I continue to think that if I just had the right nudge I might break through this block and start writing again.

Meanwhile, I’ve thought about various words:

languishing – especially my ex-mother-in-law’s existence after my ex-father-in-law’s death two years ago

controlling – particularly my own experience trying to control others and my spouse’s attempts to control my behavior

letting go – the flip side of controlling; recognizing when to stop trying so hard, beating myself up for not living up to my expectations, living in an “if-then” abstraction, hoping for change in myself and others, staying in the moment.

I seem to either admire or fear the tough ones. But I’m wondering if their toughness hides a lot of pain.

Update: I took the first webinar but canceled the other two. And I did not submit any writing.

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Reading an article in the WaPo–sent as part of “The Optimist” weekly–about a newly opened plant in Iceland. The Climeworks Orca will capture CO2 from the air and thus help offset carbon emissions. Fine. But this statement caught my attention: “perched on a barren lava plateau in southwest Iceland.” The article goes on to describe the massive plant–the biggest of its kind–and the incredible contribution it will make to “direct air capture technology.” Great. But who determined that the lava plateau was barren?

More later…

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sodden smoke

I didn’t know that air could smell this bad after a rain. Even NYC in the summer does smell like this. Or Nairobi during the monsoon season. I tried describing it to my mom, who’s chilling on a San Juan Island with Orcas, and all I could come up with was the smell of a campfire after someone’s dumped a bucket of water on it. But times however many buckets it would take to fill up the clouds that for the second day are pouring rain on to our parched landscape. What climactic occurrence continues to swirl the smoke from Parley’s Canyon, to the south, from California, to the west, from Oregon, to the northwest, and from whatever other western state burning this hot-hot-dry-dry summer.

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why I get up early

to watch the mother and baby deer graze in our front yard, to listen to the silence of the house, to read book reviews and craft advice in Brevity, to lie on the couch with the cat and try not to fall asleep, to solve spelling bee or crossword puzzles, to read and perhaps write, to keep the world at bay for a few hours…before the sun comes all the way over the horizon, before the air conditioner kicks on, before my work emails start to ping, before my family wakes up, before the news of the world rushes in.

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what a day

25 years ago today (June 8, 1996), I married. we promised we’d love each other forever. the cottonwoods blew, the sun shone, and our most cherished people gathered to wish us well. this year would have been our silver anniversary–whatever that means. we made it 16 years plus a few rocky months. but we made two lovely babies who’ve grown into two lovely people. and for them I’ll be forever grateful. they make my life worth living.

still, I cannot help but think about that day, the marriage that was, the partnership that was, the life we had on Blaine Avenue, in the Canyon Rim community, and on Tyler Avenue. our pets: Carlos, Henry, and Bubba.

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mood alterations

the menopause

I was reading about weight gain during menopause and happened upon this phrase, “the menopause.” The article stopped me. Not “menopause” but “the menopause.” Not “war” but “the war.” Not “life change” but “the life change.” Not “cancer” but “the cancer.” It reminds of the work usually assigned to a specific noun. The difference between generic and named: professor versus the Professor; woman versus the Woman; mother versus the Mother. But “menopause” was not capitalized. Still it was “the menopause.”

Perhaps “the menopause” is bigger than “my menopause.” More universal. As if “the” can encompass all of the experiences of menopausal women everywhere. We all pass through “the menopause.” A unifying experience. A hand-holding, gathering in a circle, singing songs ritual where we rejoice in the rite of passage known as “the menopause.”

Praise be to our flames of power–firing surges of hormonal heat!

Hallelujah for our hearty middles, jiggling thighs, fluffy flesh!

Amen to the almighty god, the Menopause!


The second meaning:

accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond.
“the doctor tried to wean her off the sleeping pills”
synonym: disengage

I’m in my second week of weaning off my SSRI. From 20 mg a day for the last 16 1/2 years to 15 mg for the last 7 days to 10 mg this week. On Sunday I’ll begin 5 mg for 7 days and then be done. Weaned. After the first couple of days, when I felt flu-like I didn’t notice much of a change. Kind of an anti-climatic end to the journey. I must have been ready.

I want to embrace the synonym, “disengage,” which reminds me of my mantra “detach.”

separate or release (someone or something) from something to which they are attached or connected.
“I disengaged his hand from mine”
synonyms: release, detach

What once was connected, now becomes separate, unattached.

And then I wonder if I’ve yet to experience the full effects of withdrawal. Apparently it’s a thing: SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome. Effects ~20% of people who discontinue antidepressant use. Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones?


In 2002 I lost my mind. I was doing the dinner dishes. A pile of recycling had accumulated on the counter and threatened to spill into the sink and onto the floor. Yogurt containers, beer cans, an egg carton. I lost it, it all came pouring out: my pent-up pain. Through tears I raged against everything that had piled up in that kitchen. When I was done, I turned and saw my children in the doorway. They were 2 and 4.

I started with Prozac, which made me “not feel”–something better than the crushing pain I felt before but not a good state. I remember imagining that both of my children died, hit by a car, and found myself incapable of generating any sort of emotion related to such a disaster. I couldn’t cry, couldn’t empathize. When I switched to Lexapro, my emotional range grew. I emerged from that alternative fog.

Now weaned, I find myself racing through memories. Thoughts of my earlier depressive episodes. In the summer of 1990, when I returned from three-week trip to Kenya, I isolated myself from friends–convinced they didn’t like me anyway–and cried at the slightest provocation, and slept and slept and slept. My parents’ friend, an infectious disease specialist, tested me for every conceivable third-world disease. Nothing. Nothing until late summer at a friend’s wedding, where I partied into the wee hours and something let go, something lifted. The parallel story: after leaving a PhD program in English at the U of Arizona, I moved home for the summer and took a job working with kids in day camp at the Salt Lake County Recreation Center. My illness coincided with my post-Africa, post-Tucson stay in Salt Lake City. By the end of the summer I had moved into my own apartment in the Avenues and started a new PhD program at the U of Utah. I guess transitions are hard.

There are more episodes, but I’ll stop here.

Prozac Culture – I related to this piece a lot.

The God of Depression – Thanks to William Styron for speaking out; you didn’t cause it, you can’t control, and you can’t cure it. So suicide may be the only option.

Why Writing Matters in the Age of Despair – Reminds me why I write–to keep track of the trivia that comprises a life. And of course we all need a room of our own–a place to breathe freely, to let our minds race, to gather ourselves together and return to the hearth.

the lure of death

We’ve been talking about death. “We” meaning my kids, my husband, and me. And by “death” I mean the lure of it, the desire not to live anymore. At 2:43 a.m., my daughter sent me this article, I am not always very attached to being alive. It’s a candid description of “chronic, passive suicidal ideation.” At some level, the author and cited sources claim, we all do it: desire to die. Just the other day I imagined driving into the oncoming traffic. I was physically tired, emotionally drained, and thought about how easily I could drift into the other lane and BOOM! be done with it. And last night, after several particularly deep conversations with loved ones, I dove into a crying jag that left me fantasizing about how much easier everyone’s lives would be without me in them. I didn’t so much want to die as to eliminate what I perceived as the stressor (me) from the situation.Then my mind turned to all the mess: the chaos I would leave in my wake, the unsigned will,  the dangling threads of projects at home  and at work, and I realize I’m making lists of things remaining to do, so I cannot leave…yet.

But why stay alive? Really? I can’t come up with any good reasons to give my young adult children. The line, “it gets better,” lacks credibility. How do you know? Can you promise that? At least “I want you to stay alive” carries the truth. But can that be enough? “I created you, nurtured you, watched you struggle to learn how to be alive, so I can’t stand idly by while you throw away all of that hard work.” Too dramatic, too selfish, and simply too silly. Everyone loses things they’ve worked hard for every day.

hot flash

It begins in my lower back, draws up my spine, blasts out through the pores in my neck. I sweat and steam pours. While I’m flashing I cannot concentrate. How do the women playing Vivaldi play their violins? Can they saw through these temperature extremes?

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too many options

short sleeve or long sleeve

capped or tank

turtle, tee, or button-down

crew, scoop, or v-neck

plaid, print, or solid


flannel, poplin, chambray, corduroy, gingham, madras

3/4 sleeve, mock turtle

plain or logo

100% cotton; cotton blend

dress, casual, formal, workout, active

linen or viscose

ribbed, slubbed, brushed, fleeced, bleached

wrinkle-resistant, moisture wicking

vegan, cruelty free, eco-friendly, fair-trade, sweatshop-free

sustainable, upcycled, recycled

bamboo, vegetable, plant-faced


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