Self Care as Bowling Bumpers

The other day in therapy I came across a metaphor.

Doing self care (like eating regularly, staying hydrated, taking your meds on time, and resting) is like having the bumpers up when you’re bowling. If you go off course and bounce a little, it’s not a big deal.

I used to wait so long to eat that I was incapable of preparing something, so I would sit on the kitchen floor and cry until someone came across me and rescued me by making me a sandwich.

Now, if I wait a little too long to eat, the rest of my self care shores me up and I am capable of making myself something (or asking for help).

Doing the absolute most to take care of yourself will pay off in the moments that you falter.

my dad

near bedtime, very often and for years now, i get this unnameable WANT

it’s not h*rny of any variety and it’s not chocolate (which is what i always try first lol) (because it’s what my ex would feed me every time i had a ptsd nightmare)

but i think i figured it out? i think it’s cinnamon sugar toast, which my dad would make for me when I couldn’t sleep.

when i was a kid my dad was a really bad insomniac, getting about 30 minutes of sleep a night, and so if i wandered out of my shared bedroom in our tiny house he would be there in the garage, chainsmoking and watching cartoons.

(there are certain key phrases, ive found, that can activate even non-caretaking types into caretaking mode. for my dad, it’s “I can’t sleep.”)

he insisted, at all times of day, that the worst thing you could do for insomnia was lay around. he advocated for flipping your pillow and switching your head to the other end of the bed, and if that didn’t work, he would say the next step is to get out of bed and do something to tire yourself out.

when i whined “dad, I can’t sleep!” he would jump into action, using his rusty diner prep cook skills to make perfect toast with margarine (always margarine in our house). i would grab my star trek novel collection, which was a fat purple book with transcriptions of the episodes. i would read and munch until i was frankly bored to tears by the blow by blow account of the episode Charlie X, and i would then go to bed and finally be able to sleep.

as i transition, i think more and more about what it means to be a man, and what it meant and means to my dad. i wonder if we all become our parents in the end, and which parent I’m going to end up as. i think a lot about laying in bed at age 12 wishing for a “sex change” and then deciding i was going to stop thinking about it because there was no way my parents could afford it. i think about age 9 begging to be allowed to shave my head, and my dad saying he doesn’t want to look at anyone’s knobbly scalp, regardless of gender. i think a lot about how my mom insists she doesn’t snore.

when people have emotions around my dad, he is instantly bewildered. you can see it in the way his eyes widen into circles. he wants to fix you like you’re leaking oil. sometimes this comes in the form of an explosion, the impulse to beat you back into line. other times he is practically begging you to stop. but no matter what, he is absolutely appalled by any show of feeling.

im not like that, am i? when people have emotions around me, do i just wish for it to stop? am i a safe person to cry to? am i a safe person to slam doors around? do i laugh and joke and do a little jig to avoid anything, anything that might smack of strife?

i am my dad, but shorter. i am my dad but ive been r*ped. i am my dad but with the knowledge that my perspective isn’t always the truth. i am just a man, with hands.

this = reality


i found it washing dishes
after sharing supper. i am not
a biographer. i am not
a biographer.

i am just a man, with hands.
the kind that put themselves to work
tearing trinkets off my skin.
i am just a man, with skin.

i have visions of future kitchens,
warm and full.


    this is socks in bed and a lazy eye.
this is the alchemy of the interrogative. this is
every millimeter of eyelashes and
the seashell curl of a lip. this is pouring jaegermeister
and three day warm cider
into cheap sweet wine and
sharing it.

    this is a dropout genius allotting 25 IQ points to crime
at all times. this is warm skin
and depth perception. this is knowing
death in your cells, and with your hands,
and on your mouth.

    this is cutting potatoes in your palm. this is
an obsession with neurochemistry. this is nightmares.


what is in the folds of your brain
is not belly button lint. what leaks out of you
is not shameful. you are not
a wide-eyed deer.
you are not
a place to plant a flag. you are not
a work horse.
learn what it feels like.

you exist.
you exist.
you exist.


i. fifteen months

my brother, head too wide for thin hips,
had been extracted with a scalpel. the new nurse
pressed the afterbirth out of her belly and
she screamed. i screamed longer.

ii. eight years

i smoothed my brother's hair while i held him
alone on grandmother's stained couch and told him
mom wasn't dead, just blown up
like a red balloon, tongue swollen into silence.
i thought i was lying.

iii. sixteen years

when she couldn't carry her own spine,
i held her purse and followed her rented scooter
through the grocery store. she
backed beeping into the fresh pie display
and, jointly splashed with raspberries,
we exploded in laughter.

iv. twenty-one years

bracing one foot against the porcelain,
i fished my mother out of the bathtub
when she had taken one pill too many and

her blood had split apart. she
was coated in spilled shampoo
but i tucked her into bed
and talked to her about the attractive weatherman
on channel thirteen news, until she asked
to be helped outside for a cigarette.

Losing Teeth

In the naked bulb light, your shielding shoulder doesn't hide
your reflection's study of its teeth,
apprehensive, the close-clinging film
a death sentence and now

whimsically, your flowered hair like seaweed
over my upturned face, brushing the blanket
copper-stained & electric, & your voice
oakly shadowed and plastic
like you practice

& my mouth is too stuffed to say
what I want, so instead I offer a smile
and the fishing hook in my lip and a wish
that you hadn't asked me to be your doll,
fluffed by petticoats and beestung lips, to be kept
in the living room, in the dentist's chair


i was told a bedtime story--
a boy had a shotgun and saw a crow
and the crow was gone
in a puff of feathers and a tiny crack.

anyone's eyes on me
and i am gone, same as the crow.
i am an unholy pinocchio and my pine
would charcoal in the sun.
i was not drawn with an outline.

my molecules are safer
in the dark, when the atmosphere
presses heavy on my clothes
to keep me in.


with my veins churning into vials,
someone else's family is leaning over me
hiding me from the nurse's needle

--my vision balloons, filling empty space
with the sterile blue curtain cliff

and the grandmother is telling me that my hair looks like lake ice,
like blackberries, like her dead daughter's dishes

and the grandfather turns to me, dirge-tempo, (i have been told
that his cells are eating him but he
is doing alright)

and he stuffs my eye sockets with gauze

What is a Solo Journaling RPG? (Plus a curated list!)

You’ve heard of Dungeons and Dragons and you’re definitely interested.

However, there may be a billion reasons why you can’t play. Maybe none of your friends are on board, or you’re shy. No matter what your reasons are, solo journaling RPGs are here to rescue you!

About Solo Journaling RPGs

A solo journaling RPG is an outline for your very own adventure, where you get to call the shots. How your game turns out is a product of the RPG blueprint you choose and your own imagination— no one else’s.

Often, the rulebooks are short zines, meaning you don’t have to pore over multiple books to learn how to play— you can get started in five minutes!

Some games are long-term and some are short-term. This means that some will be done in a single 30 minute session, while others may take months of work to complete. It’s up to you what kind you want to play!

Like more traditional group tabletop RPGs, there is often no winner and no loser. You play for the joy of creation and to see where the adventure ends up!

What You May Need:

-Notebook and pen/pencil. Most people who write solo journaling RPGs recommend going analog, but you also have the option to use a word processor or other text-based app.

-Dice. Many games use dice of varying types to add the same sense of the unexpected that accompanies a more traditional group tabletop RPG. (A random number generator will work for this too.)

-Deck of cards. Other games may use a deck of cards for random selection. Some may use tarot cards! (You can also use a random card generator found through a quick Google search.)

-Less than fifteen bucks. Most of the solo journaling RPGs I’ve come across are EXTREMELY budget-friendly. Price will be listed in my recommendations below!

Some Curated Recommendations

Here are some of the solo journaling RPGs out there that I personally want to play:

Over the Mountain

This one is the only one on this list that I have actually played and it is AMAZING. As an introduction to solo journaling RPGs, it’s a great place to start.

You play as someone in a small mountain town who has a secret. As that secret hangs over your head, you meet local people (and spirits!) of your own design and go on adventures.

This one is a lot longer than some other ones, as your goal is to fill up a notebook (whatever that means for you). Therefore, it will probably be played in multiple sessions over a span of time.

Price: Free

Strange Changeling Child

This pick is about something dear to my heart, the legend of faerie changelings and their relationship to what we now know is autism. It takes the form of an allegory, and you play as a changeling who goes through many of the same struggles that autistic people do.

Price: $8

Gender Bending Reflections

This one is a little different, in that you can use it to reach for insight on your real life. You play as yourself or a gender-bending character of your own creation and go through the highs and lows of figuring out your gender.

Price: Name Your Own

Cast a Queer Spell

In the world of this RPG, you are assigned a type of magic as soon as you are born. What happens when that’s not the type of magic you want to do? This one is another allegory that will probably prove to be very emotional for queer people.

Price: Name Your Own


Use a tarot deck to construct your adventure in this RPG, which deals with themes of found family. It only takes about an hour!

Price: Name Your Own


Play as a ghost who doesn’t remember anything about their life, and try to connect with the living family in the house that you haunt so you can finally move on.

Price: $12

Have you played a solo journaling RPG? Which one? Let me know in the comments below!

math class god

we were the ones that survived, the
statistical anomalies: the accident
of genetics and the last man on earth

    --you are the math priest and the lover
of every single sequin and You calculated well
the best bullets to swallow
to send your cerebellum spinning

I am the automaton, dunked like a witch
in a ceramic grave too shallow
to know if i floated, but permanently cured
of any illusions about the metal i'm made of

    i was that bullet when you
bit the trigger because
i've always had to serve your motivations

and you were the water
lifting flakes of living rust
because you've always been my situation