Feb 6, 2009

Seriously, are you looking for me? Really? Because I've been waiting for you. I really have. But hey, you need to update your readers with my new location:

Dustpan Alley

I understand if you don't want to actually subscribe to my blog. I know it's hard to commit to things. So if you want to see puppies, spice, mental illness, and everything not nice, come visit me at my new location:


and I promise not to pressure you to commit.

It just isn't a party without you.

Jan 26, 2009

I just want to remind everyone to update your rss feeds and readers because my blog has a new location and I miss you.

Jan 1, 2009

This site has been moved to:

Dustpan Alley.Com

Please come visit the new digs!!!
The Best Event Of 2008
My dad's wedding

My brother Ezekiel.

My sister Tara.


These are my three favorite pictures from 2008. The picture of my sister is only a tiny little lie, the one of her that is my all time favorite is one she would not love and so I've picked one here that I think she'll be happier about. We all met up in Scotland this year to see our dad get married to our wicked step mother.* Each of us came full of our own deeply complicated feelings and memories and crutches and it was awesome!

I loved bickering lightly with them on the Isle of Arron. And in Ayre. And then in Glasgow.

Seriously- I love these two so much it hurts. I'm sure they can tell by the way I am so relaxed and easy going all the time around them. I'm sure they are both wishing I was around to boss them all the time. Yeah.

I see in them so much gorgeousness, capability, creativity, individuality, and forgiveness.

It was an honor, an education, and a relief to spend so much concentrated time with Tara and Zeke. I'd like to think that as the eldest I imbued us all with a calm demeanor and great wisdom.

Unfortunately I think it more likely that I made them happy to get home in the end.

Lovely lovely time. I'm so happy I got to see my dad get married.

*Yeah, so wicked with her soft Scottish brogue that I'm practically in love with her myself.

Dec 31, 2008

Twenty Years Ago I Pissed And Got Off The Pot
Happy New Year!

I have spoken of many dark things this week. I've looked at things that need to change in myself. I've come up with a plan for the new year to achieve what I absolutely cannot fail at achieving in order to walk into my fortieth birthday next year feeling strong, healthy, and gorgeous. I think it might be a little funny how much faith I put into the changing of one year for the next. Life doesn't always show us the best place to begin change but the new year is an obvious annual starting gate. It feels good because January is so quiet and serious. January is when the weak get killed off by hunger, the elements, or frustrated sufferers of SAD.

I believe in mostly simple things. You know how some people get in a car accident and suddenly they get feverish about Jesus and how the light came and grabbed them out of the jaws of death and so now they're not going to beat their loved ones any more or have affairs, or cheat the tax man or take drugs? An accident creates this concise juncture at which point you can take off in a whole new direction. I'm not sure why so many people find Jesus at these moments...I mean, why not just realize that being drunk sucks shit and kills people and feels like hell on the bones and everyone ends up hating you? Why shouldn't that be enough reason to change?

For me the new year is a great starting point. Birthdays are too. My birthday happens to be six days after the new year.

When I was 17 years old I was still cutting myself and I was slowly coming out of an intense nervous breakdown that I'm not actually sure anyone knew about and going out with really stupid boys who mistook me completely for a dolt who follows and worships and pines and all the time I had no respect for them but used them for a very rich fantasy life. I never put out so they all left me pretty quick anyway. I remember sitting at some diner with this guy who was my boyfriend but who was screwing around on me and treating me like trash and I had him (and everyone) thinking I was so smitten that I was really going to marry him. I think my friend Carrie has always been onto my every facade and stupid crap.

I looked at the people I was with in the diner, late into the sleazy night, and realized that the worst thing was that I treated myself worse than any boyfriend ever had. I felt indignation that boys didn't respect me, truly want me, or actually particularly care about me. I suddenly saw that the indignation was because I actually thought I was worth their respect. I realized that in spite of myself I felt I was worth more than their cheap compliments and lack of chivalry. I realized I was better than them but treating myself worse than they were by carving into myself all the time.

I was going to turn 18 years old in a couple of weeks of that realization. I asked myself what the hell I was doing? I told myself, in my usual habit of having long involved conversations with myself, that if I was going to spend the rest of my life cutting into my own flesh then I was no better than the worst human and I may as well just kill myself. Because if torturing myself was the only way I knew how to deal with myself and my life then it wasn't really worth my investment of love and care.

It was your classic piss or get off the pot moment in life. A completely transformative moment in which I asked myself the one question that mattered more than all the other ones because even though I hadn't jumped off the cliffs like I had planned on doing almost three years prior I had continued to completely fixate on the theme of killing myself and in the meantime I opened myself up with every sharp instrument I could find.

So I asked myself to decide: are you going to live or die by your own hand? Because if you are not going to kill yourself you need to treat yourself like you matter, you old slag!

No, I didn't really call myself a slag, seeing as I never put out for boys.

I took a hard look at myself. I imagined what life would be like if I decided I wasn't going to hurt myself or commit suicide. How would life look if I had just enough optimism to assertively progress forward? How does one deal with the pain and the impossible frantic toxic self loathing that is the other side of my inevitable coin? How does one, as crazy as me, calm that awful threatening in my own spirit?

The most important thing was that I had seen that I really did care about myself and that my need to hurt myself was an irrational and desperate response to disturbing stimulation in my life and to traumatic past experiences that I had not been able to process because I was not able to look at them without wanting to die a little every time I did. Getting that glimpse of self love made me feel that I was worth the effort to attempt to heal.

Epiphanies often seem sudden and finite. You see the light and have all the answers because God handed them to you in a moment of clarity. I don't think that's really what happens. No one gets all the answers at once. The real epiphany is the grand opening of previously closed mental paths that allow something new to be learned. Obviously it's never going to be God with me because I see in terms of nature; human nature; wild nature; natural organization of an enormous universe representing a very well tuned and designed working order.

As I approached my eighteenth birthday I lost the dubious boyfriend (he may have dumped me, I'm not sure, it is irrelevant since he was already fooling around on me and I couldn't care less) and I tried figuring out what my path of mental recovery was going to be. I really couldn't figure it all out. I think I sensed at the time that the path itself wasn't nearly as important as the intention and all the things I was learning in consequence.

So I made a deal with myself: stop hurting yourself. It won't be accomplished immediately. All I promised was to stop cutting my own skin. Stop forcing myself to physically bleed to prove life. To prove pain. To prove that I was broken: message received! All I promised was that I would stop cutting and I would take one step at a time to try and find ways to heal myself. I agreed with myself that it would take time. That it might take a lifetime.

I promised myself that I was choosing to live.

And all that that entails.

For a suicidally obsessed person that is a huge promise. I think there's always a part of myself that still recognizes the risk.

That new year was one in which I was crossing the thresh hold of a new year with a really fresh step. I made that solemn promise to myself and I kept it. Even to this day. I can't tell you how often I have had to fight off the urge to lapse back into the thought of death, the comfort of oblivion. It isn't that I've ever really wanted to kill myself since then, but I've had to fight my mind from seeking comfort in those old grooves of thought.

I have kept that promise to myself ever since. It is the hugest piece of optimism I have ever indulged in: to be alive for another year and happy to be here to celebrate it even when the going has been intense.

That was over twenty years ago.

So when people talk about how they hate New Year's resolutions because they never keep them I can't commiserate. I think that when it really matters you can keep them. But you have to recognize a serious need. Needing to lose five pounds is not serious. Hoping to like your boss a little more isn't particularly pressing. But when you realize that change needs to happen or you may as well be dead-it feels a little more urgent.

The new year is a great stepping off point.

The diving board for reaching yourself. For reaching others.

I wrote my own epitaph and the main thing is that I want people to remember of me that I never gave up. I never stopped trying. I just kept hoping and let that carry me through it all.

I allow myself to hope, always. Without it the human spirit sickens and dies.

I think that's what the new year is really all about. It's about allowing ourselves to keep hoping, through the dark months of winter, that we'll still be alive in the spring time. That the flowers will bloom again and bear fruit that we can eat. We close one chapter so that we can begin a new one.

I nearly lost all my sense of hope this year. The most dangerous thing a person can do. Especially anyone who has lost all hope before and sought solace in dreams of the grave.

So I am one hour into the new year and I feel the changing of the guard like it is meant to be felt: that the new guard brings with it more alertness, determination, and discipline.

We just sat on our "front" porch in the cold and drank champagne and felt our good fortune to be in a house we love, have a healthy kid we love, and to live in a state we love. Life is good.

So right now I am giving a little call out to all my mentally ill brethren who have been where I've been- come with me into the new year, alive, and brimming with regenerative hope for change and for healing. All change takes time. No change happens over night but our intentions of change can take us deep into new terrain. Our intentions to heal can lead us to the answers we need. Don't be afraid to hope again. Don't be afraid to let yourself dream of a better year. Don't be afraid to look to yourself for some strength. Everyone needs others to lean on but we must all, in the end, depend on ourselves to start our own engines.

We can do it!

Happy new year everyone!!!

Dec 30, 2008

Stripped Down When Dressed Up

Hello long hour. I'm listening to the timber of a smoke at twilight, the way it coils itself into the light like liquid air. I want to go back only for the smoke. I remember this day, when I sat for pictures. Devastated, because it seemed like the fiber of the universe had become brittle and dry with age, and had begun falling through my fingers into piles of dust telling time. I was twenty eight years old. It was the first time I had a nervous breakdown in almost ten years. But I never called it that the second time around. There was so much more at stake. Entrenched deeper into the tangle of love and family.

I remember how I cried at some point while we were busy pretending I wasn't going to cry in front of the camera. I don't cry. I'm not a crying female. I am strong. When I hurt I have places to tuck it all out of view. I might never forgive you for seeing me cry.

In this picture I have been betrayed in some way by every parent and grandparent I have and I am declaring myself an orphan. I've been disowned and disregarded and sent spinning with this awful mangled heart that leaks fluid mostly for my brother and my sister because I would do almost anything to keep them more whole than myself. And then, at last, it is for myself.

I could have decided not to do the pictures. But I remember knowing at the time that I would regret not doing it. That I would feel it far into the future. That I would later need these pictures for something. I am not a vain female. But I am a piece of work. A real piece of work. I think I knew that other change was coming. Change I couldn't know yet. Change that would cause me to need a physical point of reference. Change that would require me to remember who I was in order to finally become the woman I've been turning into since I was born.

I have never considered myself beautiful. I speak out of the side of my mouth. With or without cigarettes I always talk like an old school Hollywood gangster. My face is lopsided and I am not an elegant person. There is something clumbsy and clod-hopping about the way I push forward in the world.

But I have always been photogenic. In person I am awkward and halting. I will break your finest wine glasses and have to stick my foot in my mouth a hundred times a night, but if I am silent and I let you photograph me you will catch something else. Even when I'm fat. It isn't beauty, I think, but that queer drive to make others feel alive. It makes me wonder if photographs really do have the power to steal a person's soul.

I have no urge to act. I can't deliver a line to save my life and I'm eternally grateful that my life threatening experience doing improvisational acting in a Dicken's Faire workshop wasn't video taped. With a couple of notable exceptions I generally dislike actors and dancers. I don't get it. I don't get it at all.

Yet, how different is posing for a photograph? I think the silence of it and the simultaneous contradictory noise of it appeal to me. Here is an image reflecting something quietly or loudly- but always without words. Not unlike so many vignettes we reel across the silver screen of the subconscious memory. Is it vain? I think it tells the story of who we really are. Stripped down when we're dressed up. It's about the medium. I like to find myself in photographs while some people need to find themselves in dance, theater, or maybe abstract art. We all seek to see ourselves. I am no different than every other Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Except that my name is Angelina. Patron saint of all Mad Housewives. A collection of contradictions. Now grown fat.

What I especially love about this picture is that it's the one that showed me my own nose. I don't care for little button noses. Nor skinny noses. Nor ski jump noses. You know that nose that nearly all American delusional women aspire to? The nose that drives so many women to the nose knife? I hate that nose. It's insipid. It's an offense. It smells nothing. It is pinched and crippled. I want a nose to be a thing of beauty- chiseled from bone and made to smell life! What I love best in a woman's nose is a bump in the middle of a nose that appears to be modeled from a Roman Goddess. Those babes did not have stupid tiny turned up noses- they had gorgeous shapely ones that can smell the feet in the wine!

In this picture you can see the smallest hint of a bump forming. No, really, look closer! It has grown a little more significant with time. But this picture was the very first hint that my nose was not done shaping itself. I am proud of this shadow of character. I have earned it.

Life is like a series of photographs glued together on a cork board. Little stretches of isolated soul to commemorate the diversity of life's offerings. We revisit with joy, with ambivalance, and wtih sorrows inexpressable.
Change Is Under Way
Right now.

A whole lot of work was done today by my good friend Angela on my blog move to Movable Type. I've been planning on moving Dustpan Alley to it's own domain for a long time and being more idiot than savant when it comes to this kind of stuff I am leaning heavily on Angela to help me with all the technical stuff.

Why do it? The main motivation is that I already own my own domain and since it's no longer a store it makes sense to use it for my own blog. I want to be able to have categories in which to archive my articles so that anyone coming along randomly can pick and choose what they wish to read. I don't know if anyone else has tried to find recipes I've posted in the past but I find it frustrating. I don't want people to feel frustrated coming here.

The front page will have whatever is current, just as it does here. But when you want to find all the posts that deal with mental illness you can go right to them and if you don't want to feel like killing yourself after visiting my site you can ignore them.

It feels like Dustpan Alley is about to come of age. I have written 817 posts. I've been writing here for 2.5 years. This blog has evolved a great deal as my writing has improved, my photographs have improved, and I finally got rid of that dark green background with the light type. It must have been such a relief to your eyes when I finally chucked that one.

What's weird to me is that I always have about the exact same amount of readers every day and for the most part- you're the same people who have been coming along for the ride from the beginning. A few people have dropped off, a few new ones come to join us. But mostly I have a small group of loyal readers. You might not know how gratifying it is for me to be able to say that I have "readers" at all. The thought of people looking forward to reading my work keeps me warm on very cold nights.

I have nearly killed off this blog several times. Yet when my finger crawls close to the red complete delete button I swear I stop breathing. Coming here every day, to this little piece of imaginary real estate, is grounding. It is where I look at everything I'm up to and enjoy it again. Through pictures and through retelling.

In addition to moving the blog to a new address, Angela is going to begin working on the Roost template. Philip is going to work on the design and Angela is going to build the site and teach me how to be its keeper. All this change will mean a learning curve for me, but not too bad I think.

The content here will remain exactly as it is now because this blog is a reflection of my personal life. I'm just telling you, in case you were worried that I'm going to change things too much. There will be just as much swearing, frustration, enlightenment (I hope!!), humor, and exploration of everything I love and am passionate about.

It is a fitting way to close the year- by building new templates and getting everything cleaner and clearer.

So if things are a little wonky around here for the next few days...hang in there. I will probably post one more post to this old format since tomorrow is the last day of the year. One during which I generally do a lot of writing.

So I'll see you around. I hope to see what everyone is up to tomorrow. Why do so many people abandon their posts just as it's getting exciting? I want to see your corks popping tomorrow!

Is that also a euphemism for something dirty?

Please don't call your Champagne "champers". I really hate that. I really do. It sounds too much like "chompers" which is really inelegant.

Well, it's time to wind down the night with a little "Will and Grace".

Good night.