Dreams of dragons

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In dreams dragons drag ennui

to the bottom of the sea

quenching the scars of steaming breath

motivated by a necessary swim back to solid earth

quaking with knowledge and visions to put on canvas

the symbiosis of fire and water

scales glitter green with terrible beauty

dripping with long strands of seaweed

two hours and excess acrylic created this .

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Helen and Talia

This post is about two books that affected me growing up: Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClemens and the Arrows Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.

Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You is about Helen Nichols, a girl with dyslexia. Helen is pretty much the opposite of who I was at that age. She was a terrific athlete and a genius in math, while I was always last picked in PE and excelled in English. But the similarities between us were there. Sure, I had no problem with reading, but like Helen, my grades suffered, in my case because I would forget to do assignments, forget my homework, books, paper and pencil.

But the part of this book that really resonated with me was when the school has her meet with a psychotherapist. This is presumably to test her for dyslexia, though that word is never used, I assume because it’s a book for young readers. This meeting ends up getting Helen placed in special education for English, though she’s still with her regular class for other subjects. The psychotherapist has Helen throw, catch, and kick a ball, and tells her she’s very coordinated.

I also met with a specialist, but in my case it was physical therapists, the earliest I can remember being in third grade. They said the opposite about me – that I was very UNcoordinated. I was given a Pilates type ball and a list of exercises to do at home. I also met with a physical therapist in fourth or fifth grade before school. I would do things like ride a Roller Racer between cones set up to form a path. There were other things I did but I can’t remember what.

It might sound like fun, but I was ashamed of all of it. No other kids that I knew had an exercise ball and I was the only one going to the special sessions before school. I was scared of the other kids finding out. One day two boys did see me, and cornered me saying, “You were riding a Roller Racer!” I was also angry because these early morning sessions meant I couldn’t be in the yearbook club, which also met in the morning. Looking back, I think working on the yearbook would’ve been more beneficial, whatever physical difficulties I might have had.

In sixth grade my dad told the band director I should play a brass instrument because that’s what a physical therapist had said. I wrote about my bad experiences in band here . The latest I remember having these weird things I had to do, that I didn’t understand why, was in junior high when my dad bought some kind of rocking platform to stand on while I hit a ball suspended from the garage ceiling with a wooden stick held in both hands. The stick had numbers on it and I was supposed to make the ball hit the different numbers. My brother also “played” with it, but we knew it was really for me.

For a while I was friends with the girl my age who moved in next door, at least until she started hanging out with the popular crowd instead. She came over and I had her try the contraption, explaining it would help her with balance. She gave it a halfhearted attempt before laughingly handing the stick back to me saying, ” My balance is pretty good.”

My dad refuses to talk about this with me. I feel like I have the right to know why I had to do all those things. I also think it’s suspicious that he doesn’t want to tell me, like he knows he did something wrong. Maybe those exercises helped, but I think they did more harm than good, because I felt so ashamed, either because I was made to feel that way or because no one noticed how it was affecting me and tried to make me feel better about it.

I’ve researched about developmental coordination disorder, and suspect that’s what my diagnosis was. I’ve brought it up with my counselor but not my psychiatrist. It could help to talk to him about it. I’m not sure what can be done now and I suspect he’ll say I should focus on the present and my “recovery”. I’m glad my therapist at least will work with me on childhood trauma. Also putting this out in the blogosphere might give me some answers, connect me with others who experienced this, so I don’t feel alone.

I was very much alone growing up. I was alternately bullied and ignored by my peers. I found solace in the Arrows Trilogy because it was a fantasy world where wonderful psychic horses who loved you unconditionally take you out of an abusive situation to be with a select group of other people also chosen by the horses, people who are good at heart and can be trusted implicitly.

Talia, the main character, grows up in a fundamentalist sect where women are married off early to men with several wives. She doesn’t fit in because she likes to read, especially tales about the people who ride the magical horses, who are called Heralds. She is rebellious because of her reading and daydreaming, but also shy and with issues of self confidence. These are exacerbated by her community’s attempts to control her and break her spirit with beatings and other abuse.

Talia finally runs away when her family tries to marry her off on her thirteenth birthday. She’s rescued by one of the magical horses who chooses her to become a Herald. She finally is surrounded by people who care about her, but it takes a long time to finally learn to trust.

These books are good for teenagers, though adults will see problems with plot and characterization. The author, Mercedes Lackey, has a very progressive view of sexuality and includes LGBT characters. In fact there’s a whole trilogy, set in the same world, with a gay protagonist. When I first read that series, I was in junior high and had a pretty conservative background, so I didn’t really like that, but now I appreciate how groundbreaking that was at the time. Maybe it’s time to revisit that series now that I have a more open mind.”””

Diabetes dilemma

I have type 2 diabetes. In some ways it would be better to have type 1. Better because no one blames you; no one says you brought this on yourself, because you’re fat. On the other hand, type 2 is better because, with proper diet and exercise, it’s reversible. Also with type 2 I don’t have to take insulin.

I’m in a bit of a dilemma because I’ve been through this before. About six years ago I was given the diagnosis of pre-diabetes. I freaked out. I have a lot anxiety and worries about my health trigger it. Every time I had to go to the bathroom I worried it was too much. Was I hungrier than usual? If my hands or feet tingled from their falling asleep, I worried about neuropathy. I was also participating in a fitness challenge, so I became competitive about diet and exercise. I majorly cut carbs and was also trying to eat vegan, though not always.

I don’t remember the details. That time is a blur, because during that time I also went off meds. I would cheer when at each weekly weigh-in I’d be two pounds thinner. Again, I feared the needle and the threat of amputation. Even then, I wondered, could I keep it up?

I went from 199 to 126 in less than a year. From size 16 to six. Some people worried that I was anorexic. I personally don’t think I was, but I did start introducing more fat and sugar back into my diet. It took about five years to gain it all back, and then some. I was 230 when diagnosed with actual diabetes at the beginning of last year, and now I’m down to 200, basically back where I started.

From what I’ve read, this is normal. Most people who lose weight can’t keep it off for more than five years. Or, according to a peer reviewed study I read they start to gain it back slowly, and by the fifth year still weigh a small percentage less than when they started.

I have also read about the fat acceptance movement. By Googling “fat positive diabetes” I found a post on fatheffalump.WordPress.com that was helpful. She talks about fear-mongering and fat shaming that are prevalent in medical discussions about diabetes. This fits into my experience with all the talk about amputation and blindness. And about blaming people for getting it.

People can get diabetes who are not overweight, and not everyone who is fat has it. On my mom’s side of the family, we tend to get overweight as we age, and I’m the only diabetic. My dad was adopted, so I don’t know what my genetic history is on that side, so I suspect that’s where it might have come from. When I try to bring this up with him, or my step-relatives I just get a broken record, and they bring up someone they know who is in Weight Watchers. Fat activists have a name for this: Fat shaming.

I’m about to start a yearlong weight management class through the hospital patient education program. No doubt, I will succeed, and will probably keep it off for at least a few years. But can I do it indefinitely? Does losing and regaining every five years count as yoyo dieting? Do I want to spend the rest of my life weighing and measuring portions, or will I eventually decide insulin isn’t that bad – the needles are much smaller than they used to be.

This is my dilemma as I move forward in the new year.”””

Band Nerds

In band I played the baritone.

I joined band because the physical therapist said it would help my coordination

if I played a brass instrument.

The director said in front of the class that the baritone would be the right instrument for me.

I never got to choose.

I didn’t believe I could make a sound on the flute or clarinet.

 

My father taught English.

I had to wait in the classroom after school with the kids in detention.

The band director knew my father.

My dad probably told him about my coordination problems.

If I was less self-conscious,

I’d probably just think, aw, he cared about me.

So nice that people were trying to help me.

 

Some good things about band:

when my section got the melody on “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

 

The worst parts were:

Lips swollen from the puckering, buzzing, and blowing.

And I wasn’t even getting laid.

I can see how could’ve turned it to my favor.

It probably made me better at kissing, fellatio than other girls.

I probably could’ve gotten the stoner guys I stared at

but was too scared to approach to talk to me that way.

And do more than talk.

 

My father and stepmother were progressive,

would’ve told me about birth control.

I can see myself being too scared to have an abortion.

It’s fun to imagine a different teenage-hood than the one I had.

 

The guys who beat me up in band –

“Hey, ugly!” they called to me, and laughed when I looked.

probably liked me

I get that now.

 

I would have been like my college roommate freshman year.

Her nickname was “Team Bitch,” probably the “manager” of her school’s team.

 

So I found out after high school that band kids are “nerds.”

There’s supposed to be this camaraderie.

They stick up for each other – supposedly – when the jocks pick on them.

Instead it’s really just another case of the cycle of abuse:

Dad hits Mom, Mom hits kids, kids kick the dog.

c. Arlaina Ash 2011

Tentative

Tentative touch
so your hands don’t leave
black and blue marks on my skin.
Tentatively avoiding my eyes so
as not to frighten with your intent.
A lilt of the voice,
again a light touch on my hands to stop their trembling
as you savor my trepidation’s
gooey center beneath a hard, brittle shell,
so bittersweet it hurts your teeth.

You back away and I run to the door
and stand, shaking, my back to you,
waiting for someone else to unlock it,
but mercilessly you turn, leaving through another exit.

c. Arlaina Ash 2016

Feminist Poem

By the time women are allowed to be ministers
People stop believing in God.
So many influential
Women in my life were not feminists.
My mother lived alone for many years without a man
Which I can’t help but see
As a sign of strength
Yet fiercely believed that man was the head
Of the household and women should submit.
She once told me that my younger brother
Had authority over me because he is a man.
Mom made us go to church —
What was that poem by Alice Walker
About women whose hands were strong
And who had clean words to say
And dragged her off to church?
She only had eyes for the Bible.

Mom tried to get her Papa to stop drinking
When she was a kid.
He told her if she didn’t stop being so religious
She’d end up in the mental hospital like his mother,
Her grandmother, who was in an institution for 20 years.
That was back when they could lock you up for good.
Ironically Papa’s unkind prediction came true.

My mother said in therapy that she wanted to talk about gender roles.
The therapist tried to redirect her to talk about her case manager
Whose appointment she’d missed.
Mom just said the caseworker was a good friend.

I’m going on about my anger at anyone who says women can’t be ministers
Speculating that in that case I have a calling
Thinking in 5 or 10 years I can see myself as a Unitarian minister.
I called God She to my stepfather once
And he said, “That’s a deception of the Devil!”

I reject this.
I reject my mother’s gospel of non feminism.
I reject her gathering up the wretched of the earth,
The rejected of our small town
Into her arms and her red car and carting them off to church.
I reject the husband who would beat his mentally retarded wife
Leave her doubled up on the kitchen floor
Then pose beside her in the church directory.

I reject this.
I reject submitting to your husband.
I reject the man as head of the household,
Even if this means I will live in my own solitary household
With no man to call my own.

She says she’s praying for me to meet a Godly man
And I think of dear closely held Southern archetypes
Like the Gentleman Caller who I’d sip ice tea with
On a cool summer evening
In a veranda wearing a white lace dress surrounded by jonquils
And A Good Man is Hard to Find
Who Flannery O’Connor writes about as a serial killer.

But that’s not what she means. She wants a man–
And it must be a man–
To pray and read the Bible with me
And go to church and raise a family,
Like she wrote on a wipe-board magnet on her refrigerator:
My future spouse and children.

c. Arlaina Ash 2014

Too Sweet for You

My blood’s sticky sweet like the corn syrup used

for pigs’ blood in Carrie.

I feel kinship with her because we were both the ultimate outcasts

and both had psychotically religious mothers—

but my blood is not from pigs.

 

(Do pigs get diabetes? My cat has it.)

 

I have never tasted my urine to see if it is also sweet,

though that’s one of the diagnosis criteria,

but I do regularly prick my finger, though not on a spindle,

squeezing out a crimson bead.

Then the countdown begins:

 

5-4-

 

Sugar courses through my veins,

granules scraping the tender walls of blood vessels

like I imagine sickle cells do.

 

3

 

My heartbeat is audible and if I exhale slowly

I don’t have faith that my lungs will ever again fill with breath…

uh-huh  uh-huh

breathe in, breathe out

slowly.

I’m here, she says offering her arm for me to hold

onto for dear life.

 

2

 

“Obesity,” accuses my list of diagnoses, “This is of your own making.”

I have eaten myself to death.

I want to show the doctor photos from seven years ago:

123 pounds; model beautiful; shaved head only accentuating my conventional attractiveness.

Those photos—and a closet full of size-six jeans and dresses that no longer fit—

are my only proof of how for years

I kept this disease at bay—adding a prefix,

a preview of a movie I never wanted to see

that made me check the backseat for the man with the knife

in the dark who crawled into the car window while I was

still in the theater.

But now I got front row seats for the feature,

so I sit back, sip Diet Coke through a straw, and can’t look away

from the jump shots ’cause what my imagination comes up with

will be worse that what’s onscreen.

 

1

Here. Eat this granola bar. You bottomed out.

 

Beep!

 

Omigod, I can’t look!

 

c. Arlaina Ash 2015