Mental Health Update

So, I’m about to be going down to 50mg of lamotrigine – I was at 200mg for years, so that’s pretty huge – next week. I’m still at 25mg of venlafaxine, but I was on 150mg for almost the same amount of time that I was on lamotrigine for. I’m hoping to be off of lamotrigine by the end of January if not sooner & off of venlafaxine by March if not sooner.

In terms of withdrawal symptoms, things have been pretty okay. My brain is kinda delicate feeling & sensory stimuli is more intense than it’s been in a long while, but it’s manageable. All in all, I’m not having too many physical issues from reducing as far as I can tell. I am noticing that my emotional states are have been heightened again. Since I’m feeling things more, I’ve been a bit spazzier/all over the place. I’ve also noticed an increase in anger, which is giving me a shorter fuse again. That kinda sucks, so if I’ve been testy with you lately, I apologize. It’s gonna be an adjustment learning how to cope with the intensity of my emotional range in its entirety again. I believe I can do it, but it might just be a bit rocky for a while. All in all, however, I think it’s going well, & I’m optimistic.

The hypnotherapist has been working wonders for me. I’ve only been twice, but she’s actually quite incredible. I wish that I should have tried this ages ago because it’s targeting what’s going on in the body to alleviate the stressors in my mind instead of the reverse which hasn’t ever helped. It’s going to require a lot of practice before I can start implementing these techniques on my own, so I hope that I don’t have to stop going anytime soon.

I’m also looking into different outpatient support services to help “disabled” adults here in Bellingham & really hope I find some that can aid me in changing my day to day lifestyles. I think I need to look into a lawyer who helps cases like me to get access to certain resources, because it’s all very daunting & exhausting trying to do on my own. The system pushes back really hard in order to try to discourage people from asking for help, so unless you are working with someone who knows how to jump through all the hoops, you can get repeatedly denied & screwed worse than you were before. I’ve heard of some services & organizations that are worth looking into, however. I’d love to be able to live on my own again at some point, but just getting out of bed & taking care of daily things would be a nice start.

I have a lot of phone calls to make & appointments to schedule in the next few days/weeks if I wanna get the ball rolling for my plans in the new year. It makes me tired just thinking about it all, but if it might help me be less tired later on, it’s worth pushing forward. I may be going at a snail’s pace, but at least I’m still going. One step at a time…

JAX LIFE ANNOUNCEMENT

So this has been a tough decision for me that I’ve been wrestling with for a few years now, but I’ve finally decided to start my non-binary transition process in the new year once I’m fully off of meds because then I’ll see what my baseline is without any chemicals in my body before starting on testosterone/hormone therapy. I’ll be starting the process for requesting a hysterectomy ASAP and then figure out top surgery (bilateral double mastectomy) afterwards. One step at a time. I figured I just need to be brave and do it since this desire has persisted even after the years have passed by. I know that those who are my real friends & family will still love and accept me no matter what I look like. It may just be a bit of an adjustment period for some to get used to.

In terms of pronouns, I pretty much still don’t care since non-binary/agender means that none really sound right as I don’t even identify with my body & would prefer to be genderless, but if you want a definitive answer, the easiest would be just using gender neutral pronouns as I already do on my facebook/surveys/legal forms/etc., i.e. “Jax Bayne updated THEIR profile picture.” If you wanna be spiffy & call me he/him, that’s rad & preferable to she/her, but if you still use feminine pronouns for me, I’m not gonna be offended or get triggered or anything. I get that it’s tough for some to wrap their brains around non-binary gender identity/expression. I honestly feel more like an “it” than anything, but people have a negative connotation with that as they find it dehumanizing & to most, that’s a bad thing haha. As I already don’t feel human, it isn’t negative to me, but I understand that people wanna feel like they’re being respectful, so when in doubt, just stick with they/them.

Thanks to all the kindness & support I’ve received over the years when it comes to processing all of this stuff. It’s been tough trying to figure out what I feel the right thing for me to do is, but with a lot of guidance & help, I think I’m finally able to see what path I wanna take more clearly going forward. If there’s anything else you wanna know on the subject, please feel free to send me a message with your questions & I’ll do my best to respond as quickly as possible. No questions are off-limits. I’m happy to answer anything you want to know & might feel shy or uncomfortable asking others regarding the subject because the only way to help bring acceptance & understanding is to spread awareness & education 

JAX LIFE UPDATE

I have now reduced the amount of Lamotrigine I’m taking by half & am on a lower dosage of Venlafaxine, too. I’m actually feeling better already. I can feel emotions again. I am interested in doing things, getting excited about stuff, making goals, etc., which is a first in like years. I even cooked last night. Cleaning was still excruciatingly difficult, but I did it.

I did my intake appt w/ the hypnotherapist, and I actually really love her already. I’m more optimistic about therapy than I have been in ages now. We did a lil test to see how receptive I’d be, and while it was only a few minutes & kind of hard at first, very soon my whole body was relaxing, which caused my mind to quiet down. It felt really good. I can’t wait to do it again. I just wish it were covered by insurance. Le sigh.

I need to find a way to start paying for daily vitamins/supplements since they’re not covered by insurance either. I pretty much know which are the best to take, but they’re all expensive. I hope to start exercising again soon, too. Sleep & appetite have even improved a bit already. I’m going to bed earlier than 3am & not sleeping in past noon. Major improvement. Still tired & bleh feeling, but at least I have more day again.

I’m still working on appealing the disability claim & this time I think I’m going to go more of the autism/emotional dysregulation route because I really don’t think bipolar is an accurate diagnosis anymore. It’s primarily biochemical & I’m not responding to psych drugs. All my symptoms/difficulties can be explained by the combination of borderline & autism, too. I wanna start looking into more local adult autism support things, but it’s such a small town, I haven’t heard of many resources. Maybe I can start a meetup group or something.

Speaking of autism support, pictured is me in my new noise canceling headphones & new floofy mongoose onesie thanks to the Amazon gift cards SPARK for Autism gave me in exchange for taking their research surveys for autistic adults! They email me whenever a new one comes out. They’re awesome. Thanks, SPARK! 🙂

Anyway, I THINK that’s mostly all that’s going on currently. There are some other things I’ve been thinking about, but they’re not related to health/life updates, so I’ll mention them in another post.

As always, thanks for your support & encouragement.
You’re good peeps. Much love to all 

Yay for Awe-tism! <3

Someone asked me to explain why I like being autistic. I suppose it’s because there’s still a lot of stigma & misunderstanding about what autism really is. So, for those who are curious, here’s my personal experience w/ my particular flavor of autism (because it’s different for everyone).

Autism is a different way of processing, experiencing, interfacing, & interacting with the world so it gives me abilities & insights that the average neurotypical individual doesn’t get. Often the talents & qualities that come naturally to me are things NTs have to work hard on developing & cultivating. I have proficiencies & talents in many areas, as well as a higher aptitude for certain tasks than most. It’s sometimes embarrassing to talk about because it seems like I’m bragging, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the fact that I literally test off the charts linguistically & that I’m able to assimilate, process, and expound upon new abstract concepts within moments of learning about them.

I love the feeling of my brain working when I’m thinking about subjects that fascinate me & I love how much data I can retain about my special interests. I also would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy wowing people with my knowledge base, inferences, extrapolations, & deductions on various subjects. I don’t, however, flaunt my knowledge for the sake of it & do my best to not come off as condescending or patronizing, though I know I often fail in this endeavor due to my overly formal & pedantic wording. I love how fast I pick up new things that interest me & I am always eager to share my newfound knowledge & skills with others. It’s one of my biggest joys in life. This is especially the case when it comes to academic, artistic, & creative pursuits. I simply LOVE learning ❤

I also like the fact that things like societal norms & mainstream media-dictated values don’t really affect me. I’ve always questioned why humans do what they do & challenged the idea of just blindly accepting & obeying. I’ve gotten in trouble my whole life for doing, but I have never cared. I’ve always believed it’s more important to think critically than to obey arbitrary established rules. I try to get people to wake up from the hive mind consciousness that’s keeping everyone down, keeping them miserable, thinking that they need to be a certain way or value certain things to be accepted & worthwhile. It’s utter tripe & I will never stop trying to show people why this is the case. I don’t know why it requires bravery & courage to go against the norm, but I attribute this to the autism as well. People have called me these things, but they only apply if you have a fear of being rejected. I have always been rejected no matter what I’ve done, so there’s nothing really to fear since it’s just kinda life for me.

Furthermore, being on the outside, regardless of whether I like it or not, enables me to see things most people don’t when they’re living in the midst of it all, not realizing that their paradigms & opinions have been forced upon them since birth. I constantly point out things that never even occur to most people & have been told that others appreciate my candor & “fresh perspective” on things. I assume that this means it’s an unusual perspective, but that it’s a welcome one when it helps to shatter the oppressive paradigms people unwittingly subject themselves to. I think I provide some level of hope to those who weren’t able to come to certain conclusions on their own.

I help people learn to think in new ways, critically & analytically challenging the world around them as well as their own internal dialogue. I care so much about helping others break free of the pain of conformity & tribalism because I know how much it can hurt to be ostracized for not “fitting in” to the standardized model of an “appropriate” & “successful” lifestyle. Being “different” gives me a level of empathy for those that society casts out as misfits & weirdoes, those who won’t even belong in their fabricated ideal of a perfect society. So many people commit suicide or have self-loathing issues because they don’t conform or live up to these insane & unrealistic standards of “success” & think they’re losers or have no value because they can’t attain the same feats or because they can’t see through the facade that is being projected by those who want to be revered & accepted. It’s disgusting & I’ll never shut up about how backwards this society is & how detrimental it is to a person’s health.

I could probably go on, but this post is already long enough haha. There’s so much to say on the subject & I can refute almost any argument that people make when it comes to “autism is a disorder” or “autism needs to be cured” or any of that. The truth of the matter is that autism just means that a person has an atypical wiring in their brain. Due to that fact, there are a lot of disorders that CAN be co-occurring or co-morbid, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually symptomatic of the autistic brain structure itself. The more research that’s being done, the more we’re starting to understand the difference between what are actually autistic characteristics & qualities themselves and what are symptoms of disorders/diseases that are also present in that particular autistic individual. Just like being NTs are more susceptible to some thought patterns, and like some people are more likely to inherit/develop certain disorders/diseases, autistic individuals have their own tendencies & predispositions, but this doesn’t apply to every autistic just like those other ones don’t apply to every neurotypical.

It’s been super liberating & validating getting the autism diagnosis & learning about how many of my innate abilities & character traits have to do w/ my different neurological structure. Growing up feeling like an alien or some kind of defective human for reasons I couldn’t understand now has an answer behind it. I’m so happy that I have discovered this aspect of myself because it explains so much about how I perceive things & respond to them. Because it’s helped me so much to know all of this stuff, I’ve inadvertently become an autism advocate primarily because I want to help educate people on how autism can be awesome & not something to “worry” about or feel needs “addressing.” Autism often needs accommodation, but all humans are individuals so to a degree everyone needs different accommodations. It just so happens that autistics often need a lot of the same kinds of accommodations, so if anything, that should make it easier! At least we know a lot of what helps autistics to feel better & more comfortable interacting with others & being themselves. If only it were so easy with NTs! 😛

TL;DR: Yay for awe-tism! ❤

A Collection of Poems

Shadow of the Colossus

These giants
Loom over our water-coloured world
Like stone statues of
Ancient guardians
Turned against us.

We struggle
With our ancestors,
Attempting to defeat
Ideas
With effort
And sweat.

We fight
with shadows
Lurking like vacant arachnid skins
In the fortress of our mind.

There they stand.
A reminder
Of the unattainable ideal
The immutability
And despair
Of our plight.

Towering over us
Silently
Stoically
Crushing our every attempt.

We climb.
We fall.

Titans
Are they who
Arising from the dirt
Our breathren by birth
(We are all of the Earth)
Turn
From protecting us
To protecting against us.

I wonder if it was always so
Or if it is not indeed we who turned.

Attacking our roots
Attacking our thoughts
Are we not simply attacking ourselves?

Forever at war.
Not realising
That we are always
In the Shadow of the Colossus.


The Lone Bird

The lone bird.

She is not moving.
She is not going anywhere.
She flaps her wings
And stands still.

The lone bird.

Is she looking for someone she lost?
Or maybe hasn’t found yet?

The lone bird.

Is she trying to get somewhere?
Or is she stalling?
Putting off making a decision
Of which way to go?

The lone bird.

Is she struggling against her environment
Trying to make some progress?
Or is she nonchalantly, unconcernedly,
Not going anywhere at all?

The lone bird.

Is she unique or is she us all?

A lone bird.
Standing still.


By the Beach

There is an overbearing levity brought by the sand, sun, and ocean air.
The laughter and sounds catch in these bags of bones
Causing them to rattle about with jittery motion.

The upturned facial contortions matched by “happily” occupied hands
And lazy gaits mosaic around the maze of blocked off streets
Winding through more of the same accompanied by the occasional mobile structures.

I contemplate the existence of a veil of impenetrability between us
That causes my own brown to molt to green.

I hold more than they’ll ever know in my hands, more than this will ever be,
Yet can it be that I still yearn to be
By the beach…?


Hummingbird

One bird always will follow the other.
Humming past, the innocent dance (to human senses)
Startles and alarms
Like motors of cars
And stars
Falling
From their orbits.

The soft whirring, purring, of a motion so fast
Mimics the sound of the last enemy desired to attract – cats.

Fraught with agitation so great
They chase (or are chased by)
One another never satisfied
In their restless attempts to find
Some peace of mind.

One bird always follows another.
Both unable to attain their aim.


Keep Up With Me Now

The darkness of night
The silenced time
During the absence of light.
The rush, crush, flush,
Pull of it, to fill the lack,
The black
Attraction
To danger.
Noir.
Scar, so far, so hard.
Don’ t gum it.
“Keep up with me now”
The film on skin is not just within
The scene, the mean blown dream.
Juice, junk, bims, and bumps.
Life in dives and dumps.
Boxes and cans, what can we do?
Yeggs were born of broads, too,
Jakeyloo.
Clam and wise up.
Time’s up.
Dust left to waste.
No other world.
In or out.
It’s here.


Newborn Broken Glass Stars

Broken bottles litter the Earth’s surface with their coloured glass.
The stars catch the light refracted from the pieces.

Their messages are absorbed, burnt, and spit into the universe
In an explosion of fire and pain.

The stardust collects and is swallowed by the moon
Who lets the words fall from her eyes, in her tears.

Each tear cradles a newborn.
Each child has a heart of gold.

Each heart is broken like the bottles of glass.
They are born broken.


The Fear of Ego Stands in the Way of Love

When the leaves are stripped bare,
Their skeletons protrude,
Stabbing the paved sidewalks
Like monstrous claws of despair.

Their existence is fading, faltering,
Shriveling up and blowing away.
The fall wind is cold and harsh;
There will be no survivors.

I see people here and there.
They’re walking, talking, unaware.
All of these zombies are asleep.
So why is it that I care?

Despite better sense and understanding
Psychological disturbances prevail.
Unbeknownst to me, I fail,
And l drown in my perpetual fearing.

To lay our whole heart on the line,
That is true love – something very hard to find.


Set My Soul Alight

Is this heaven or hell?
Is not knowing the point?
The world so dark and light
Made bright only by sight.
Made night only by plight.
Who fights? Whose might? What’s right?
“Set my soul alight.”

I am floundering.
I am lacking in me.
I need a change of scene
To do the deed, be freed.
Of my own cage of self.

I am not free, but gain a temporary reprieve
To breathe and believe in lies.
I am waterboarded, but alive.

I have a choice
To serve or to die
And sink back into this life to cry.

I have a hunger that will never be filled
An ache never to go away.

How can I survive this high?


Together

I want to travel the world with you.
Live life with you.

Have tea and crumpets with you.
Curled up together inside a wood and brick cottage
Watching the rain.
Stroll hand in hand with you.
By the Mediteranean shoreline, bright and beautiful,
With our toes in the sand.
Shiver in the howling wind with you.
Staring down the craggy -cliffed canyons, fearless and stupid,
Because we are together.
Dance under the stars with you.
The warmth of the humid air kissing our skin, heavy rythyms
Sinking deep into our hollow breaths.
I want to see the sights and smell the smells
Knowing they’ll be made all the sweeter by your presence.
The plane trips alone, full of spiritual thoughts,
Touching heads, and clutched hands,
Will be an adventure worth having.
I want to live with you, to travel with you,
To laugh with you, to cry with you.
I want to love with you.
And to meet God with you.
Together.


A Portrait of Nervous Delirium

I’m building these structures around themselves,
Aticipating a certain nothingness that arises
From pushing through the mistakes
We make
In taking
A chance.
Let’s take some risks now.

Starseed

It took me a long time to remember who I was. I’d forgotten where I’d come from & why I chose to come here in the first place. My memory was always hazy, but there were impressions I felt that were hard to shake. Somehow I’d always known I was different, that I wasn’t from around these parts, but rather somewhere far, far away. Realizing that I wasn’t even from this planet, maybe even this galaxy, however, was more than I’d ever dreamt to be the case despite how strongly the suggestion resonated within me.

I don’t know if I’d come to the conclusion on my own or if it had been planted in me, but it became a theme that I’d stumble upon throughout my life. I felt a disconnect from the world of illusion that surrounded me, that threatened to drown me. This plane of shadows never fooled me, and I knew that the body I was tethered to wasn’t who I really was. This constant feeling of dissociation helped me stay clear of a lot of the usual pitfalls, but other challenges plagued me instead.

“Starseed,” she’d called me. This word echoed in my mind, bouncing off half-formed structures crafted from similar substances. There was something to this; I knew it. There was something here, exactly what I’d been struggling to uncover for years. It was like she’d given me some integral part of the puzzle, yet I still wasn’t sure what to do with this new piece of information.

“Sit with yourself,” she’d said. “Let yourself feel what you know is true. Trust in your wisdom & hibernate until you’re ready to break free of your cocoon. Your time will come, but you are not ready yet.”

What did it mean? What would become of me if I followed her advice? Would the pain & suffering, confusion & desperation finally clear up, finally allow the light into this world of darkness I’d lived so long in?

When I closed my eyes and rested against the firm ground, I opened myself up, freeing myself of all I was keeping locked inside. I was tired of carrying the weight of the world inside of me. I cast out the chaos, letting it seep out, emptying me so I could finally be rid of its heaviness. I drifted into the heavens & the stars welcomed me like they’d missed me, like they recognized me as one of them. I breathed in the cosmos & was rejuvenated, full of energy and purpose in a way I’d never been before. I felt supernovas exploding inside of me, the swirling stardust being thrown back together and creating new life within me. The universe was talking to me, embracing me, and I had a sense of comfort I’d been searching for my whole life. My purpose had been shown to me, my path finally revealed. I opened my eyes and at once remembered who I was.

“Starseed,” I whispered. “I am a Starseed.”

Pour Déplacer des Montagnes

“Éloïse.”

“Éloïse what?”

The shorter lad’s amber eyes widened in dismay.

“Fait chier! It occurs to me I never thought to ask her surname!”

The young man’s sandy haired friend laughed in a good humored manner as though this were not an uncommon occurrence.

“Oh, Albert, were you so enchanted by her beauty that you forgot your common sense once again? Tell me, when is it you last saw your good reason? I can’t seem to remember.” 

“Tais-toi, Pierre! I don’t see you having any greater success in romance.”

“That’s because I don’t try.”

“Because you’re afraid to fail.”

“Non, because I have more important things to do than chase skirts.”

“What could be more important than love?”

Pierre laughed again.

“Love, Albert? You think you’re pursuing love? You have much to learn, mon jeune ami.”

“Boucle-là! You’re not so much older than me yet you act as though you’re already close to the grave. Why must you be so grim, Pierre?”

The taller boy took a bite from his croissant to avoid answering. Albert simply sighed. He swirled his coffee idly in its cup, staring past the waitress at the next table, lost in thought. Finally, Pierre broke the silence. 

“That which you have, you cannot take with you,” he said somberly. 

“Quoi?” 

“Ce n’est rien. Forget it.”

“No, tell me. What do you mean by that?”

Pierre’s sky blue eyes darkened as if rainclouds were passing before them. Albert had felt his childhood friend to be troubled of late, but couldn’t come to any conclusions as to why. 

“Have you never considered what it’s all for? What any of it is worth in the end? Why do we strive to move mountains when earthquakes will come to crumble them afterwards?”

“Why do you say such things, my brother? Are you ill?” Albert’s chest tightened with apprehension.

Pierre sighed and stared into the distance, admiring the bright morning landscape. There were birds singing overhead, and the ocean was calmer than it had any right to be.

“Albert, life is something that escapes us. Every day we waste time chasing after this and that, thinking that when we attain something, then we will be happy, but it’s never the case. We are always left wanting more.” 

“I don’t know about that. I’m pretty sure if Éloïse were mine, I’d want for nothing.”

The lads laughed heartily and fell into comfortable silence once more. After a moment, Pierre called for the waitress, paid for their meal, and stood. 

“Albert, it’s been a pleasure as always. Shall we do it again tomorrow?”

“Bien sûr, but tomorrow I pay.”

“Comme tu veux! Bonne chance with Mademoiselle Éloïse! I look forward to hearing her family name!”

“And hear it you shall! À bientôt!” 

Albert gazed after his friend momentarily before grabbing his hat and coat and proceeding to head to the shoreline. He briefly wondered why his friend had been acting so strangely but soon his thoughts once again returned to Éloïse.

Terrae

Oh, how I wanted you to last forever.
Oh, how I never wanted to leave.

The golden patterns rippling across the shimmering waters were magical. The soft clouds that encircled and dissolved me permitted me to melt into you slowly. Sweet scented iridescence perforated me, disintegrating me, and I merged into you. l felt like I’d become a core, integral part of you. This state of existence was so subtle and sublime that anything tethering me to our concrete constructs of destruction would only taint it, so I had to give it all away.

You murmured to me from beneath the grass as I dug my fingers into your moist dark earth, trying to ground myself, desperately trying not to slip away from everything again. You assured me that all I’d been seeking was already here, inside you, inside me. I was afraid you weren’t real, that your voice wasn’t your own, that you were mute, deaf, and dumb just like the rest of the surface dwellers believed.

I was frightened by a life I didn’t understand, forms and formless entities within and without me, which came before, still existed, and would continue existing after everything else was gone. I didn’t know I was missing anything, yet somehow, still, I felt a void within.

I felt you embrace me, though, that one day I finally chose to listen when you whispered to me through the cool breeze, rustling grass, bushes, and trees. There were barely any sounds, but I heard your echoing voice calling to me, soothing yet powerful, and I couldn’t resist. I wanted to know you, to be with you, but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know what to do, but you came and took me away.

When you swallowed me whole, engulfed me fully, the soil filled my lungs and throat. I felt like I was drowning, being buried alive. When you brought me down deeper into you, I let go, transformed, given new life, new breath, in a way I’d never even imagined possible. You, your world, your being, your essence, you filled me, deconstructed me, and drew every speck of my being back into you. We were together, reunited, and you showed me Earth as you were meant to be seen and known.

And it felt like home. More so than any other home I’d ever had. I was yours and you were mine. And I was whole, like you. With you. Together. Inseparable. Intertwined.

You showed me birth and decay, life and death, darkness and light, and how none of it is separate, none is right nor wrong, good nor evil. You showed me how all of it is part of you, of me, and of all of us who belong to you, belong with you.

Your touch, your scent, your existence was life itself, but you showed me that being alive meant dying eventually.

You showed me how you were dying, and I myself wanted to die with you, too.

Story of a Selkie

She’s standing barefoot on the boulders overlooking the crashing waves. The deafening wind blows her long pale hair across her face. She barely notices as the loose strands whip her skin forcefully. She’s in a trance, fully captured by the mesmerizing scene before her. She’s numb to her icy surroundings. There is no sun peeking through the overcast sky to warm her. She wouldn’t feel it anyway.

She’s paralyzed, transfixed to the spot, an ethereal statue on the edge of the cliff. There are scratches on her body, tears in the thin nightgown that gave no protection from the dry brush she frantically ran through to get here. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t feel. She was already numb. 

She can’t hear the voices traveling on the wind. She can’t hear anything but the sound of the cascading waters below her, the waves breaking onto the weathered rocks. The foamy waters are pouring into every crevice of the craggy coastline. Her breath is shallow, and while she’s suffocating less than she was, she’s still struggling just to exist. She can barely see through the tears searing her wide eyes, the droplets carried from her ivory cheeks by the wind. 

Her chest is swelling with the tide. She’s breathing in the salty ocean air, letting it fill every inch of her. She wants to dissolve into the atmosphere and be swept out to sea. She wants to escape this prison she’s trapped in. She needs to be free again, to merge with the world instead of being separated from it. They’ve captured her and taken her from all she knew, all she was. The pain resounding in her is unlike anything she’s felt before. She needs to go home. 

Her thoughts stray to the hide tucked away somewhere out of reach. She may never find it. She can’t go home like this, but she’s desperate. She will die if she tries to go back now, but she’s dying anyway. This isn’t how it was meant to be. This isn’t who she is. She only ever wanted to learn, to explore. Was that such a crime? 

She hears the footsteps now, the voices shouting to her. She’s running out of time. She has to decide now. She closes her stinging eyes and breathes in deeply, decisively. At least she’ll be free one last time. At least she’ll be home again, even if not for long. They’re frighteningly close now. It’s now or never. She jumps, diving head first into the water only a foot past the rocks, but the boulders just below the surface catch her fragile body, and it breaks. 

They’ve fallen quiet when they reach the cliff, approaching in silent apprehension, afraid of what they know they’ll see. She floats to the surface and is rocked back and forth by her watery cradle. The weight of their guilt pains them as they watch her lithe body being carried out to sea. Her face is peaceful.

She finally made it home. 

Eulogy for Grandpa Ric, 10 years later.

My last memory of Grandpa Ric was when he was on his deathbed. He was fortunate to be in his own bed, in his own home that he himself had built, surrounded by his family as he began the process of shedding his mortal coil.

I remember the dim lighting, the quiet sobbing, the intimate embraces, and the hymns being sung, softly & gently at first, then growing louder & stronger as everyone tearfully joined in.

“Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.”

The raspy gurgling sounds he made after he slipped into his coma were uncomfortable, but almost soothing in their constancy. He was drowning before us, and there was nothing we could do but be there for him, with him, with each other as he faded away before us.

I was 18 when I first witnessed Death. I am still ever so grateful for this experience. I am so glad I got to be with him, with everyone, as he passed from this world and into the next, escorted by the merciful Reaper who gets such a bad rap.

As an awkward teenager, it was difficult not only to be losing a beloved family member, but also to witness & share in the mourning of this devastating event that seemed simultaneously to go on forever, yet over too fast.

“Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home”

I think this was one of the few times I bolstered myself into joining in with the “Masten von Trapp” family as they sang their farewells to the great troubadour & self-dubbed bard. I’d always been too shy and self-conscious to perform with them all at what was then known as Morgan’s Coffee Shop, downtown Monterey, near Alvarado Street. It was a yearly event they engaged in for a while that I’d missed out on, just like so many of the other poetry recitations & musical performances Ric Masten & his family participated in like First Night & the Thunderbird Bookstore readings.

I now lament my foolish teenaged egocentricism in retrospect, but I was too young to even appreciate what was going on & the depth of the words my grandfather wrote & recited. I even felt irritated that I’d be dragged along to such functions when I had my pubescent existential misery & self-loathing to wallow in. Oh, if I’d only listened properly, perhaps my myopic woes might have been assuaged ever so slightly by his profound realizations & poetic transcriptions.

I listened to him gasping for air that night, though. I listened to the grief & love that was thickening the air like a comforting blanket to ease his journey into the beyond. I wasn’t scared of death in this moment, interestingly enough. It wasn’t scary to see him this way, only painful thinking he might be suffering, desiring to see him finally get relief in sweet release.

When grandpa’s noises waned, my aunt who had been monitoring his pulse, feeling it slow and presumably stop, declared that he’d passed after a final moment of silence.

Only for him to breathe one more, rattling and incredibly loud breath, startling the whole room into laughter, breaking the reverent quiet.

“Oh Ric, always insisting on having the final say, surprising everyone, and making us laugh in spite of the harsh and biting realities of life.”

This eulogy comes too late as it’s now been over a decade since he left this world, but it’s only now as I near 30 that I really am starting to appreciate the gifts he left behind for us, for me. I am so glad I got to feel his spirit lingering in the room, bidding us all a final affectionate farewell, before abruptly leaving the room cold, letting us physically feel the loss of his presence before us.

His third (and final) installation of his self-published book series, “Words & One-Liners” entitled “Take Three (Not Dead Yet)” arrived the next morning. How apropos in some way. I helped another aunt make a death mask for him, touching his cold, lifeless face the way no one else would but her. Later on, when I missed him, I hugged one of the masks she made & wore one of his sweaters, simply to spend some time with him again.

The strangest thing happened that night after he passed away. He came to me in my dream. We were leaning on our arms on a table, gazing at one another lovingly, and he had a camera pointed directly at me. This was long before I decided to face my crippling fear of performance art & start to dabble in modeling, choosing to face the camera instead of continuing to hide from it. The dream, to me then, remembering it the next morning, signified that he was taking a piece of me with him, telling me he wouldn’t forget me. It was an artistic catharsis & one last goodbye.

Only now am I thinking about how funny it is that he, friends with photographers, but never really one himself, bid me adieu in such a manner. Perhaps, now that I reflect more on it, it was part of the reason I chose to step in front of the lens despite all of my panic & dread when it came to attention being directed at me. I muse upon it all now & think about how interesting and cyclical life and all of its nuances really are, and why his song, “Let It Be A Dance,” became known as his magnum opus, added into the Unitarian Universalist hymnal after he’d been ordained a UU minister.

Just as you said your final goodbye to me that evening, I say my final goodbye to you now, Grandpa Ric. I’ll see you on the other side, and until then, I’ll try my best to always let it be a dance. I love you ❤

“A child is born, the old must die.
A time for joy, a time to cry.
So take it as it passes by,
And let it be a dance.

Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
Through the good times and the bad times too,
Let it be a dance, we do.”