Poverty Math

Talking about this gives me anxiety but being poor is not a shameful state, it’s not a moral weakness, it’s not an indication of personal failure…so I am going to talk about it anyway. 
My brain is caught in a loop right now, 60% percent running life numbers that don’t quite add up. This started this time because I have another infected tooth, right now during the holidays. So it goes like this…

I need this tooth pulled, which will cost me minimum 100 dollars. We will be able to pay for that next pay day, in two weeks. Also there is something wrong with my ear, it’s hurt for weeks, there is swelling, maybe fluid, it may be another sebaceous abscess. My immune system is so tanked these days, I get other secondary illnesses more easily. I need to go to the doctor for that as well. If I go to the er I will need an extra 20 for antibiotics for that…I’d probably need another 100 to be able to go to urgent care instead, for copays. 

Until then I’m just gonna have to take to much ibuprofen and hope I’m not damaging my liver irreparably. 

Spending money on medical stuff in midnovember will push back holiday shopping for the kids until the mid December paycheck and limit is to 150-200 spending for 5 children. Ahhhhhh 

I have three pending commissions, that will be another 150-200 dollars. Will we have the money for groceries next week? It’s gonna be another tight week. If can I can make 2-6 more commissions by Xmas it will help us with groceries and allow us to buy a small something for each one of the kids. That will exhaust me but we will survive. I have been having difficulty writing often enough so that is a missed payment opportunity. I wish my body would just give me a break. I need to be able to do both. Milton is writing a ton, but he never gets paid as often as I do for it, no matter how beautiful and powerful his writing is. If only I could make sure that would happen. Is that what we really need to get by? I better do the math again. 

We will have to wait to go to the dentist for two weeks…

…Around and around I go. 

We work hard to take care of our family with the limitations and resources we have but it never seems enough. It can be deeply exhausting, frustrating, and hopeless feeling. We keep going and we always make it, though to often it is just barely so. One way or another my brain has been semi permanently turned into a bad math hamster, rerunning and rerunning those numbers. I’m always hoping we missed something that will help, that will make a lasting difference to our well being. Sometimes that even happens, sometimes we find something, make an opportunity happen that helps. 
Sometimes. 
Fingers crossed

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That Thing Where We are Expected to Suffer in Inspirational Silence

There is an attitude in our dominant colonizer culture that struggling in silence is both a sign of moral superiority and open suffering is either embarassing or infuriating for those viewing and consuming that pain. This no doubt serves to weaken and divide people, communicate to them/us how little value their/our lives hold for those that would judge that perceived worth. 

If I(and others) suffer in socially accepted and enforced silence* I’m told that I am sooo brave just for living, that they couldn’t fathom living my life which they perceive as terrible beyond measure,  then fundamentally patted dismissively and sent on my way to continue not bothering them with my hardships. 

If i have the temerity to speak up for myself or others, if I have the audacity to name my pains and pressures, I am called a complainer, faker, overly sensitive, mean, fanatical, angry, dramatic, or a liar. All labels meant to take away my value, to render my feelings and humanity meaningless and empty. 

This process is even more dangerous, insidious, and pervasive for IBPOC who are less likely to be believed, empathized with, supported,  or given the benefit of the doubt by white people. Black women and enbies particularly carry intersections of oppression that leaves them most vulnerable to this slow social death in “nice” comfortable middle America. 

My whiteness, my ability to speak in a way socially acceptable to middle-class white America, and my relative stability all protect me from broader and larger social violence no matter what other ways I am harmed by my culture and my people. That is not anything that I can or should ignore. I have much relative and literal privilege and protection.

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Even with those protections, if I am silent I am a sweet nonthreatening paragon of virtue dismissed and held as example to guilt and control others. 
If I speak the shape of what harms me, speak my reality, I am an embarrassment, something to be avoided and ignored, something to be shamed, blamed, and silenced. 

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What does it say about our culture that we have so little ability to sincerely empathize with people who have experienced different things than us? What does it say about us that we would rather ignore those around us that are hurt in different ways than we are or were, than acknowledge that we are part of that harm, or that it indeed exists at all? What does it say about us that we protect abusers and ignore the abused?*

It’s been said that existing is a radical act when society wants to peel you away from the world. I think speaking in the face of that crushing pressure is radical as well, even when that speaking is to simply say, this shit is terrible, I’m tired, I’m hurting, I’m not sure I can take this anymore. It matters. You matter. Your life and feelings matter. 

Today I am struggling with financial anxiety, deep painful and abiding dysphoria, physical pain and fatigue, acute asthma, months of autistic burnout,  executive dysfunction that makes everything ten times more complex or impossible, depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and isolation. I refuse to carry shame for saying that outloud. 

I am a person not an inspirational video, you are too. 
Name your pain, struggle, your despair. 

Taste the shape of it without shame.
Share here if you feel comfortable

You are allowed to live, not just exist for others benefit, for others sense of self. 

Please also support, pay, and share writers, activists, and articles that have inspired you to be less ashamed or helped you feel less broken if you would like. Let’s give credit where it is due, spread some of that empowerment around. 

*Rhizome speaks often and with great artistry about the social pressures applied to oppressed people, especially multiply oppressed IBPOC in both wider society and numerous superficially socially liberal microcommunities, to keep them quiet and unobtrusive to the majority. I strongly suggest you check out X’s body of work. 

*Michon created the term abuse culture to describe this phenomenon, it is quite apt. Michon is involved in multiple endeavors to dismantle abuse culture including Cuil Press  and Postmodern Woman. Michon is doing important work that you should definitely check out. 

If you learn something or appreciate their work (and other IBPOC writers, thinkers, activists, and advocates) share resources and funds with them. 

A Brief Repose

just let me breath this night air a moment

let me remember how to feel joy in my heart

cool night air whispers 

whisking away a year and a life of pain

I remember what it means to relish life 

to be thankful for the little things

I remember what it means to love you. 
I do love you 

with every grain of my being
tomorrow we go back to a life worth living

tomorrow we go back to the fight

but just for this brief and shining moment
we rest

Fatigue

​I am tapped out. Exhausted. deep exhausted. The kind that rattles your bones and slithers beneath your skin, weighing you down. soul heavy.

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Still I knit. knit. knit. gotta earn that grocery money. medicine money. dentist money. Gotta earn my right to live. 

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I want pizza, a gallon of coffee, to not have to worry about groceries so much, to not feel so guilty about everything. 

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I want to feel not quite so tired, I want my muscles not to burn all the time. 

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But I am here in this life, at this time,and this is what life is, so I will watch this show, close my eyes a bit, and keep going. 

Knit. knit. knit. 

A History of Sorts

Or a reflection on my relationship with body hair

I’m not sure when exactly I became aware of my body hair. I do know that by 6 or 8 I was regularly shamed for having legs that were too hairy, by both female peers and their mothers. I had so many conversations with supposedly concerned women and girls who felt it really important to tell me how hairy I was, how ugly it made me, how boys would mock me and men would never love me, how it was a clear sign of yet another way that I was “weird” and other. I would sit in the sunlight and stare at the fuzzy blonde halo on my legs with a quiet desperation. 

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By third or fourth grade I started asking my mother if I could shave but she always laughed it off because I was too young and she didn’t have any leg hair to speak of so she didn’t think I would either. “But mom,” I’d wail, “my legs are already more hairy than yours!” She always told me I was exaggerating or being melodramatic. 

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My mother who had her own complex relationship with body hair, had barely any blonde hair on her legs, but still shaved pretty regularly. She would sit in the bath tub and talk to me about the miserable necessity of shaving your armpits, dissecting the femininity and ugliness of her own armpits as she went. At the same time she told me about 60’s era feminism, bra burning, and hippie women who didn’t wear underwear or shave. She always spoke with admiration but always ended each lecture explaining to me why I should choose to shave. When she drank too much she had a tendency to take off her clothes. Her friends, via shaming her and lecturing me, always hammered home the point that not shaving might be a theoretically fine choice but in the real world only sloppy, trashy women or unrealistic and naive idealists didn’t shave. 

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By highschool I had become mostly desensitized to it, or so I thought. I had a vague nebulous sense of shame and anxiety associated with my body hair, but that was basically my default setting at that time so it didn’t seem unusual. At fifteen I got basically adopted by the punk and stoner kids who seemed to be more accepting of me and my different way of being than most people. It was a welcome relief but still confusing in many different ways. 

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I remember sitting during lunch talking to two tiny, thin, white, allistic, probably lower middle-class, feminine, punk rock girls about the fact that they didn’t shave their armpits or legs and being amazed that no one ever said anything to them. They had unobtrusive thin and blondish body hair that everyone but the most jockiest jocks either didn’t notice or didn’t care about. That was amazing. It was the first time that I realized that many different things go into how people can respond to the same thing. My larger stature, size, poverty, “oddness,” and hair color, and queerness gender presentation meant I got more negative reactions than they said they did. It doesn’t stop there either race, visible disability, attractiveness by European beauty standards, and body size are among many more aspects of a person’s identity that impacts how much they will be punished for straying from social norms. 

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By this time I had taken to shaving my legs about once every two or three weeks, when the hairs tickled in the wind. The same punk and “alternative” girls who talked about all the punk rock or grunge goddesses and how they didn’t shave or perform perfunctory feminine coded hygiene, would inevitably upon seeing my dark half grown leg hair or armpit stubble, talk to me about shaving. 

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“Don’t you shave your legs? I couldn’t stand that, it would just make me feel gross. But that’s cool, you are brave, my boyfriend would hate that though. Haha.”

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oh. ummmm. Thanks?

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My first serious boyfriend convinced me that I should shave my pubic hair. He told me that all the bad ass, gorgeous, local girls that I was both intimidated by and crushed out on definitely shaved, that it would make it easier for him to “go down on” me, that if I shaved it meant I was an empowered strongwilled woman who didn’t give a fuck about out dated gender norms and expectations. I was 16 and new to relationships so didn’t realize what a line he was feeding me. 

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Throughout my late teens, twenties, and even early to mid thirties my body hair routine was a balancing act of what bothered me less. Executive dysfunction and unrealized dysphoria made it difficult for me to shave as often as women “are supposed to.” But if I went too long between shaving the negative pushback from peers, family, and strangers started making me feel more and more ashamed to be performing “woman” wrong. Since longer hair anywhere on me was an overwhelming and tickly sensory experience I just kept shaving oftenish without much reflection on why I was making the choice. 

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At 27 while pregnant with my second child, I realized I was transgender. Pregnancy had always been an emotionally fraught time for me though it was difficult for me to name why. My pregnant body, and even specifically my vulva, which could not be shaved after five months was routinely shamed for being disgusting, wet, swollen atrocities by my then husband, family, fellow pregnant women, and other mothers. I accidentally cut my vulva trying to shave while six months pregnant so that my then husband could have sex with me without “all that gross hair haha.” Because pregnant vulvas are extremely blood engorged I bled so much from the not terrible cut that the water turned brown enough that the same husband thought I needed to go to the ER until the bleeding slowed down. 

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Realizing I was not a woman was a powerful moment of clarity for me but my relationship with shaving was still not done. By this time I was firmly attached to the sensory experience of being shaved. Even openly declaring myself a femme trans man, partners and friends seemed most comfortable when I was more shaved than not, even as they verbally supported my potentially not shaving. So I continued on not really examining my relationship to my body hair. 

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I spent most of my early thirties working in an office as a single parent and only sort of out as trans. I told people, but minimized myself to ease my office experience. Slowly over years of office work, pressure from superiors and implications of promotions that would help me take care of my children I slowly slid into a super geeky femme gender presentation and shaved weekly to keep up appearances. 

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Two years ago I had to quit that job, my health had gotten so bad that I was no longer able to keep up there. My gender presentation took an immediate steady slide back to my default more soft masculine presentation…and still I didn’t quit shaving periodically. If you asked I would tell you that it was for sensory reasons that I shaved, and that as true but not entirely true. 

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Last year I finally decided to try and grow out my body hair (but not my head hair, I can only handle so much hair touching my skin). The first three months were sensory hell, my legs tickled constantly, it was too much. My nervous system was screaming at me. So much so that I even shaved once more only to discover that now shaved was sensory hell as well. Yay? Yayyyy….

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After that it got a bit easier, these days it doesn’t bother me too much though my legs still feel too much for my taste. I have, more or less acclimated. Now that I am older, heavier, more clearly masculine presenting, and more overtly verbal about being nonbinary transmasculine no one really offers opinions on my body hair…but boy do they still look. Being unable to bind, chronic illness and pain weakening my body, always having a toddler on my hip, and not fitting into easy male stereotypes means I don’t ever pass anymore. From the disgusted looks I get these days, I take it I don’t look “right” in regards to what most people see womenhood as either. I don’t mind the confusion too much as a nonbinary person but I have noticed that increase in disgust did seem to coincide with when I decided to stop shaving for good. 

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I still don’t know what it all means exactly but I do have a long and storied history with hair. How about you?

A Different Sort of Debilitating

I have anxiety. 

Often my anxiety is situational, because of concerns about money or lack thereof, my health, the kids, the world, the well-being and safety of my partners and friends, my ptsd being triggered, or one of a million other things in response to real life stress. Sometimes it seems likely to be hormonal and/or dysphoria related, and sometimes it is from sensory overload or Autistic burn out. 

When I was younger I was ashamed of and overwhelmed by my anxiety, as it resulted in my being afraid of anything and everything. Truly everything as far as I could understand it. As I have gotten older I have gotten more self confident, more emotionally stable, and more content with who I am as a person. Anxiety doesn’t cause me to shame spiral anymore but it is still pretty debilitating pretty often. 

During times that my anxiety takes hold, no matter the reason, my fight or flight fear response flares so hard I am frozen. Any sort of activity would usually help me break free, but literally any choice sends me down an anxiety loop of what ifs and escalated fear so deep even my brain freezes up. 

knock knock

who’s there? 

nobody.nothing.despair.


So here I sit, trying to soothe away the hammering of my heart,the adrenaline burn in my joints. Reminding myself that everything is currently as ok as it ever is, and there isn’t actually a saber tooth tiger over that next ridge waiting to pounce on me. 

everything is fine. everything is fine. 
I force one foot in front of the other if I am able, or rest if that is all that is possible, ride the storm out so that I may survive as intact as possible, to move freely on another day, maybe tomorrow, or the day after that. I remind myself it is ok to conserve my energy if it is needed, that I can rest before I am pulverized, that I don’t have to be bleeding to be worthy of rest, help, or healing. 

You don’t have to be bleeding to deserve rest, help, or healing either. Your struggle is real. Your hardship isn’t imagined just because it isn’t the narrative of the easy majority. 

We are both real, both valid, you and I. 

ground to the bone but existing. 

I am always learning to love me better, more sincerely. To embrace myself and let this flow over and around me in honesty and acceptance. Whatever that means on that day, in that moment.

 I love you too my friend, I can’t promise that it will all be ok, but I can promise I am here to listen if you need an ear. I am here to support you if you need a familiar hand to hold. 

Someday I will be able to breathe again

Leaning Towards Overwhelmed

or Coping with Small Changes as an Autistic Person at the End of My Proverbial Rope.  

That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight. losing my religion. trying to keep up with you…and I don’t know if i can do it. oh no I’ve said to much. I haven’t said enough.

R.e.m. lyrics, a comforting internal echolalia i have had since I was a teen, when I am feeling adrift in the universe.

I thought that I heard you laughing. I thought that I heard you sing. I think I thought I saw you try. 

I’ve been in various degrees of Autistic burn out for months, a result of the standard complexity of being disabled, broke, and in this world I suppose. Stress, the sort of stress you have to negotiate with on a daily basis just to get from one end of it, to the other. But it’s fine, it’s just life. I say that a lot. it’s just life. What else is there to say?

I have been plugging along like this for awhile now…and then school got out which is a major schedule change that has just about everyone in the house out of sorts. On top of all that the weather changed pretty abruptly. Heat and humidity working together to give everything an apparent damp, sticky film. My pores feel water logged. I feel water logged. 

The heat also means the loss of several sensory requirements. Oh you sleep under two fuzzy blankets, one quilt, and hate drafts? To bad because now you are going to lay in front of a fan all night, sweating, and being acutely aware of the movement of every single hair on your body. At three or four in the morning you may dramatically whisper “this is hell” to no one in particular. 

Then there is day time, heat is hot for everyone but probably not everyone has to navigate the heat with pre-existing practically non-negotiable sensory requirements…like shorts which have to be super soft, but not too hot, or too lightweight because that just feels off putting, but also not too short because my skin thinks it chafes if I sit around bare ass on things no matter how soft they are…..also my shoulders probably have to be covered unless it is just ridiculously hot, airflow on that skin is extremely abrasive. Compromise in these clothing requirements, while possible to avoid dangerous levels of over heating, leave me out of sorts and on edge.

Don’t even get me started on shoes…most sandals or flip flops are unacceptable for a list of sensory reasons I will not bore you with …even low tops are incredibly uncomfortable unless they are low enough to not touch my ankle at all while still holding my foot firmly…but high tops are so hot. UGH! 

These things are always extra annoying for me to get used to, but this year because of the preexisting stress and burn out it has become a small private but utterly exhausting ordeal. For the last week almost every spare ounce of energy I have (and a few I don’t), has been devoted to just getting used to the factual sensory truth of summer time. It’s exhausting, I’m ready for fall and squishy sweaters already.  

Also many members of my family, including my toddlers, have sensory sensitivities and difficulty acclimating to new routines and sensations. My toddlers and one of my teens in particular are having trouble sleeping, are wound up, and cranky over the changes as well. It is a given that it is a parent’s job to ease that transition and assist our children re-acclimate as well as we can. I do so gladly, it’s part of parenting.

 In the mean time I am getting little sleep and have very little down time….of course when do the lactational parents of toddlers have down time? I’ll have more space and independence as they grow and need more space and independence, which is all as it should be. I gladly expend the emotional energy, though loving them and appreciating them still can not unspend the emotional energy parenting sometimes or always costs. Parenting, even on the best days, adds a layer of complexity to everything. Thank goodness. Things would be so boring here without our small people. 

This is just one example of how stressors can accumulate for autistic folks in specific ways that can result in overload or meltdown at things that may seem small to an outsider…or how coping through change can swiftly become an all encompassing task that makes it impossible to do other things we typically do. 

For myself, I am slowly adjusting to this new summer situation, trying to remember to take care of myself, and to give myself time to adjust with some personal forgiveness for needing the time.  Sometimes it is easier for me to remember my kids or partners may need time and patience sometimes, than that I do as well. So here I am, I was able to write this even through a fair amount of brain fog and autistic burn out, and that is a great start for me. Hopefully in the next day or two I will be re-acclimated enough to be able to add other things back into my routine beyond bare survival and caring for children. 

One can hope…as long as there aren’t any other changes on the horizon. *wry laugh*