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 thought I rested in your palms like a music box,
when I hung in your grip
like an invalid. 

"I don't have words," I slurred, absolutely stoned
and oceaned with devotion,
and, fluttering, frustrated your questions
into silence.

You only saw my broadest sweeps, the
dashes and dots, some of the inevitabilites
and a wound or two.

You never could focus.


i have hit the cold floor again.

my lovers are sleeping soundly, dreaming
that i am still between them

while i grip the kitchen sink, taking sandpaper
to my frontal lobe,
feeling the solitary sage capsule
rattle in my ribcage.

i have cut my hair and
practiced violin and
thrown out my scissors and
i have been a man and

but at least i have a perfect sense of direction.

There is no such thing as mutual abuse.

There is no such thing as mutual abuse.

Abuse is a non-consensual power imbalance. The Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence thus: “a pattern of behaviors used to gain or maintain power and control.” This pattern of behaviors (which may include coercion, threats, intimidation, and isolation, among other tactics) is not exclusive to any one gender, though abusive dynamics often mirror social privilege norms (which I will address in a forthcoming post).

There is, however, DEFINITELY such a thing as mutual toxicity. Often in relationships where one person has power over the other, neither are perfect. Either person may have been or currently be toxic in their other relationships, and engage in many unhealthy behaviors.

Two people cannot abuse each other, however, because abuse is about having power over another person in a way that they did not consent to.

This may seem like a matter of semantics, but often abusers will say things like “You’re abusing me too!” after survivors push back on the control being exerted on them.

When I was first looking into the matter of abusive relationships, it was to support a close friend who had just left one. She had me read Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? and I was rendered very uncomfortable. Many of the behaviors were things that I had done— that one time I slapped my partner when he was transphobic to me? Telling someone honestly that I thought I might kill myself if they left me?

It was only after quite a bit of introspection (and support from aforementioned friend) that I realized that I was the one being abused. Besides the individual behaviors that one or each of us engaged in, the overall dynamic of the relationship leaned heavily in his favor. He got what he wanted, and I didn’t.

Years later, I found out this was a pattern, and that he had been doing all of it on purpose. The moment of clarity was crystal clear and razor sharp– I had barely avoided serious bodily harm in the four years we were together. After that revelation, I never doubted that all along I was just an unhealthy person trying my damnedest to be heard.

If you are in an unhealthy dynamic, please remember this. No one can tell from outside a relationship who is abusive and who isn’t, but there is ALWAYS hope to leave and/or to change.

Father/Son Dance

I am the child that crunched up near the tire grease and spectated intently
and delighted in the music of your voice, the nonsense rhymes
of chrome&cog mechanics

& when I jubilantly said I'd grow up to be Daddy, the miscommunication made you dream
of blueprints and lava soap, and crescent wrenches laid out like piano keys

but what I wanted
was feet to fit your boots,
complete with hairy toes encased in steel

& not the endless meaningless blood,
in gushes and torrents and nauseous waves,
that was at first a shock, a day of tears, but then subsided
into another dull ache of resentment, bone-deep, chromosomal.

You could have passed on to me
the tribal drumbeat XY chant. Instead
my cells hum white noise, one syllable like the Hindu om, ringing like trapped water in my ears.

The peyote god has granted me a different dance but
there's no shining desert beyond the chrome of the kitchen when,
a decade later, we stand at the sink, arms newly scrubbed of grease

and I spit it up finally and your lips go thin and disappear
into your beard. I know our Anglican world won't abide
any of that silly vision business, or drumbeat dancing, or especially swapping

and so the demon Lady Luck clamps down her teeth,
tightening her grip right where it hurts.

How To Improve Yourself

So you’ve decided your life isn’t working for you and you want to make changes.

Go to therapy.

Yes, you can go to therapy even if you’re not mentally ill. A good therapist will be able to help you in all your self-improvement endeavors and be by your side as you decide what exactly you want to improve. It’s great knowing someone is always on your team!

Set goals and intentions.

Maybe you already have ideas of what you want to improve about yourself. That’s great! Make them formal by writing them down. Give yourself half an hour and a blank sheet of paper and write down absolutely anything you can think of that you would want to improve!

If you don’t have any ideas yet, identify your goals and intentions by identifying your problems first. Maybe you don’t feel great about your appearance, or you find yourself acting like an asshole in your closest relationships. Then, brainstorm (mind map?) solutions.

To me, goals are measurable, while intentions are not. There’s a lot of focus on goals, but intentions can still be useful— by reminding you of an attitude you want to embody or something you want to prioritize that isn’t measurable, like quality time with your family.

Journal with purpose.

Journals can be a lot of things. Many people use them to simply record life events, but journaling with the express purpose of self-improvement can be a lot more useful.

You can look up daily prompts to use to reflect on themes in your life as a whole, or you can log what you did to improve yourself each day. Of course, you can mix the two. Writing about your self-improvement wins may encourage you to keep going!

Also: keep a list of your goals and intentions from the previous step IN your journal for frequent perusal.

Rethink your relationships.

Obviously, we cannot change anyone. What we can do is decide if certain relationships belong in our life or not.

If you have someone in your life that isn’t making you happy, I recommend gently talking out your problems with this person first. (You may want to journal-brainstorm what those problems are before this conversation.) Give them a chance to improve themselves and then re-evaluate.

If you’ve already tried to work things out with someone who isn’t making an effort to change, it may be time to step back.

On the other hand, YOU may be the problem in certain relationships. In that case, it is still important to have a conversation with the other person. Be honest with yourself and them about what you need to improve, and then make a genuine effort. Check in frequently about how they feel about your effort.

Take care of your physical health.

I don’t mean that you need to run a marathon. I do mean taking walks as per your ability, eating reasonably, staying hydrated, and going to the doctor if you can. You will feel better, and be better able to show up to your life’s responsibilities.

Figure out what you care about and do it.

Everyone human (and most pets too) needs to have a role to play to feel fulfilled. This could be related to a full-time career or it could be as simple as watering and taking care of your plants.

Make another brainstorming page in your journal and write down what you care about most. This doesn’t have to be extensive— maybe you only truly care about a few people, activities, or causes.

Maybe your career isn’t something you care about anymore. Do you want to change careers or do you want to keep your “day job” and do something you care about on the side? It’s up to you.

Whatever you decide you care about, make a plan for fitting it into your day.

Learn about privilege.

Part of improving yourself is improving the world around you, and learning about how you play into systems of oppression can do just that.

It can be really hurtful and hard to realize that you’ve been unintentionally harming people, but this is an exercise in empathy and de-centering your own experience. We all have blind spots.

Start small— decide to read one book about systemic oppression, or follow some social justice activists who are different from you on social media. Take up an attitude of gentle curiosity, even if you’re feeling resistant to what you read.

Expect this to be a lifetime endeavor.

To avoid overwhelming yourself when carrying out any of these steps, remind yourself that progress is incremental. This might be hard to hear, but improving yourself never really ends. You might reach a lot of your goals but you will always have something else to work on. That might be hard to hear, but it can also be really fun to keep experimenting and find what works for you!

Making Good Choices on the Regular!

Recovery/reclamation (my preferred term for improving your brain) is about making good choices consistently.

Maybe don’t worry about making the perfect choice because, unfortunately, then you might get stuck.

When you are confronted with a crossroads, make it a habit to take a breath (easier said than done) and make a good choice instead of a bad one.

You cannot magically stop yourself from being mentally ill. It’s just not gonna happen. But you can minimize your symptoms by, for example:

  • eating consistently and in reasonably healthy ways
  • prioritizing healthy relationships over unhealthy ones
  • going for a walk when it’s nice out
  • meditating or doing stretches when it’s nice out
  • avoiding self-sabotage in general

Taking that pause definitely takes practice, but you can always do baby steps! Start with making a good choice when it’s easy and move on to when it’s harder!

I have made a lot of bad choices. Just in general. But they were the best choices I knew how to make at the time and I am still truckin’ and makin’ good choices as much as possible, just like I always have been. I’m just better at it now!

Addendum: Sometimes bad choices feel like good choices. You can be on the lookout for this if something feels too good to be true. Real happiness and healthiness (in the brain and in relationships) feels steady-good and sometimes hard but ultimately worth it.

Using Numbers When Talking About Your Feelings

Something that has helped me and the people around me, when talking about feelings, is to use numbers as much as possible.

“I’m a little bit mad at you” can often sound like “I’M SUPER MAD AT YOU AND I HATE YOU” to people who struggle with black and white thinking. Instead, you might say “I am 15% mad.” It puts how mad you are into perspective by quantifying it.

There are a variety of situations in which using numbers can help you describe your emotions more accurately.

Other examples:

  • “I’m sorry I yelled at you about the milk. I’m 1% mad that you left the milk on the counter and 99% hurt that you forgot to pick me up from work.”
  • “You haven’t done anything wrong. You are 100% okay in my book.”
  • “This is 10/10 important to me so I’d like you to keep it in mind.”

How To Use the Grey Rock Method in Your Bad Relationships

TW: Anti-NPD ableism.

All the resources for the this are astoundingly ableist, so I wanted to make a post about something I’ve found very helpful when dealing with shitty people: the Grey Rock Method.

The term, originally coined in anti-NPD circles, describes a method of dealing with shitty and/or abusive people. The Grey Rock Method, or Grey Rocking, is called that because you act like a wall of plain boring rock. The idea is to be so unreactive that the shitty person gets nothing out of interacting with you.

Of course, the best option for dealing with people who are incurably shitty and/or abusive is to cut them out of your life, but what if that’s not possible for legal or financial reasons? That’s when Grey Rocking comes in.

The original idea revolves around ideas of “narcissistic supply,” which is the vampiric emotional “diet” of a “narcissist,” since they supposedly feel like they need attention to survive. However, it can also be helpful outside of that ableist model, since victims/survivors can reduce the amount of “ammunition” they give shitty people/abusers by reacting to them less.

I discovered Grey Rocking myself by accident a few years ago, after I noticed that every single time I brought up an emotional subject, my parents found a way to make me feel like shit about it— so I stopped talking about ANY emotion, and stuck to “safe” topics and surface-level conversation. It worked! They have no ammunition to use against me, yet our relationship remains civil.

Here are the rules for Grey Rocking:

  • Be as boring as possible. If asked how your life is going, say something like “Nothing exciting is going on. I’ve just been working.” They may say, “How is work going?” “Fine, just busy like usual.”
  • Offer no extra information. Do not pique their interest. Remain polite, but if asked about work, stick to answering the question and don’t offer up conversation about your coworker’s jokes. Are you still wearing masks at work? “Yup.” If it feels like the conversation is lagging, you’re doing it right.
  • Steer clear of topics you have ANY emotions about, positive or negative. Do NOT talk about how stressed you are at work, or a shitty person will make a shitty comparison about how that’s NOTHING compared to their job. Do NOT talk about getting a raise and how proud you are of yourself, because they will tear you down.
  • Don’t interact more than you have to. For example, you might answer a text, but don’t text first. Don’t start a conversation. If there’s some silence, good.
  • Do not cave and do not respond to goading. They might try to get a rise out of you, in which case you need to try to remain as expressionless as possible and say something nonreactive. Do NOT break the rules once you decide to start doing the Grey Rock Method.
  • Hint: saying “mmm” as acknowledgement, but nothing more, will help you a lot.

My own personal addition: Try to interact only when there are witnesses or proof of what the shitty/abusive person said (as in text messages). Many abusers will act better for an audience. However, this is not a sure thing, so definitely continue to keep interaction to a minimum.

Final note: This can be REALLY EXHAUSTING and take a major toll on you. After dealing with your shitty/abusive person, take some time to recharge with people that you can be yourself with. Do not lose sight of your unique, individual spark— just hide it from those who don’t deserve to see it!