It’s Not About the Taco

It’s Not About the Taco

It’s not

It never is

It’s about the tremblings

at the stove

About did I get food?

Should I get food?

Can I afford to get food?

About a long day at work



Do I have a job?

Do they know where

my money goes?

Do I still have a job?



this is all in my head

banging pots

scraping metal



bounding off

dirty wall

over open flames and plastic tools

Don’t stalk in corners

Loud footfalls in hallways



Don’t shout

I can’t hear

But I will burn myself


I will fall

It’s about not

having the leg


to bend and fix

one more thing

About not having the arm


to push down another feeling

About not having the


to stifle one

more scream

Because I

only have


voice left

It’s not about

the flaw and

the mess and

the mistake and

the collapse

not about


But only me



it’s done


Slapping gray over your brain
The same general color
But thick enough to form a barrier

Thick adherent plastic
Over styrofoam of rotten meat
Can feel the flesh under
But it looks nothing
Like what is was created

Some parts manage to shine
Uneven swirls
Or trapped
Driven by the

Or separation
Of the opposing
Elements of
The paint

Knowing you are staring
Knowing you cannot
Scared eyes might
Pull away

Damage rot

Shines thorough

Moth in Motley

Requests are refusals

Needs are needles

Wants are worthless

Asks are assumptions

You didn’t deserve


I didn’t deserve



Like lost stairways

Where trinkets of us

Fall between cracks

And left behind parts

Follow them

Calling out

For lost limbs

every time

A ghost touches

The railing

If I don’t know

Enough to mistrust

Who is more

The fool

Fools don’t know

They are crazy

Or is it the other



Dressed up in a

Harlequin motley








Respective of

The rules of


Is the moth that

Fights the draw of

The light


Or dishonest?

Will she bear

Sharp teeth

Or begin to swim

If pressed




She flies

As she must

Perched to


And flies again


It is her


So Sensitive

So Sensitive

I will never be grateful enough for my anxiety and depression.

That’s what I remind myself.

My anxiety and depression function well. Top of the class—if there was a grading scale for such things, which there isn’t and there positively should never be. It’s mental illness, not a spelling bee or a discus event. Luckily, I do therapy and Celexa because I have zero skills for phonics or field competition.

I have high-functioning anxiety and depression. So I’ve been told and which probably appears in a medical note somewhere. Except in the notes of the therapist who told me I wasn’t depressed because I showered every day. Before he recommend that I work out more. After we’d talked about running. But he meant lifting. Bro. Then showed me his bicep and told me to feel it.

Didn’t go back to talk to that particular mental health professional. The ugly white patriarchy is snarlinglingly pervasive, friends.

The gratitude should come from the gift that I am able to shower every day. I can go to work and take care of my son. That could change tomorrow. That is not the life so many others with mental illness survive. They lose hair because it goes unwashed. Which might seem incidental when they lose jobs and partners and children and their lives.

I make it through. I’m not pretty doing it. But I’m lucky enough to manage. Do I cry at work? Sure. I’m somehow able to do it in bathrooms and storerooms and can bounce back quickly and no one is the wiser. Except when I get caught and then I have to explain. That’s a fun day.

Certainly, I won’t assume to define anyone else’s depression or anxiety. For me, the depression is feeling alone, unseen and worthless. Anxiety is feeling that everyone is watching and judging and that the worst of every second is imminent. And then feeling worthless. Yes. It is as fun as it sounds.

Work families are like home families. You spend enough time with people, even if you love them, personality quirks coalesce and then separate. Aggressively.

My anxiety and depression do not tolerate teasing. It’s silly. Of course it is. “Do not tolerate.” I sound like a boring behavioral guide posted in a low-end dog training course handout.

By “do not tolerate”, I mean I freak out. By the outdated and moderately offensive phrase “freak out”, I mean I cry and spiral into my dark place. Because someone teased me. Teasing that I know was meant in simple, silly, sisterly way.

Weakness revealed.

And the panic hits like a punch in the gut from a jealous, perceived-overlooked sibling.

I’m right, my mind screams. I TOLD YOU SO!!!! Every awful, negative, hurtful, self-deprecating, harmful, reductive, critical, crushing thought I carry in my head, every hour of every day, is real. That easy, breezy giggle meant to break up a tense and challenging work afternoon breaks me.

Ridiculous and unreasonable. What adult behaves like this? What about the grade school trope where we tell kids to laugh along with teasing? Laugh along and don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh first, laugh loudest and they can’t hurt you.

Anxiety and depression don’t understand that. They don’t really adhere to dinner table or playground rules of “they tease you because they like you.” At least that’s how my brain bubbles react.

They freak the fuck out.

A joke about talking too fast or looking like a lost sheep and I’m in so much physical and emotional pain that I get light-headed.

Personality like that, and it’s a curiosity why I avoid all social gatherings and friendships, huh? You should see me on New Year’s Eve. Hint: you’d have to be under my cover to find me and also I’ll be sleeping.

That’s okay. I’ve come to accept that. I’m not the butterfly. I’m the moth. Flying alone, bumping perpetually into the light that I love but can’t quite access.

I’m okay. I continue to strive to be grateful for my particular strand of anxiety and depression that keep we upright and moving forward, when I’m not flat on my back or sliding down my wall on my way there.

But there’s carpet to catch me. Of course, I’ll end the day with a rash when the pile is too rough.

Because I’m so sensitive.

Sitting Out


Sitting Out

Hello, Friend

I see you’ve come around again.

Was beginning to wonder if you

hadn’t forgotten your way here.


But I knew you’d remember.

I remember.

That time in fifth grade, when we first met,

when I wrapped you around my waist,

tight and knotted.

Because I was afraid I’d forget.

To hold in, to hide,

to stay the way I was,

when I was small and good.

And I remember when that boy,

the nice one,

wanted to steal his dad’s car

just to try and help.

He didn’t.

He couldn’t.

I remember.

Trying to jump off the chair.

Trying to hide them beneath my socks.

Trying to hide, and then hurry.

Trying to hide within a story,

because you can’t tell that tale

the first time,

if you ever want there to be a second.

All it took was a second.

Trying to fit into a box that wouldn’t have me.

Letting people fit inside that didn’t really want me.


I remember trying.

I remember fighting.

I remember giving up.


It’s easy when you’re here, friend.

We know each other.

Our cells know the steps of the dance

and we move together,

without needing music.

Because we’ve rounded this room together

for a long time.

And I don’t know how to move

without you.


But I wish I could.


Because you’re not good, friend.

You’re not a good partner in this

collapse of two.

Because only one of us ever falls.


You’re possessive and clawing,

You take over my soul and I can’t breathe.

When you fill my head with your thoughts

of not good enough,

of she’s better,

of he doesn’t love you,

of you should just give up,


I can’t hear the music

and despite rehearsal

I can’t remember the steps.


I don’t know where to go.

I don’t know where I’m supposed to be.

The spotlight is blinding.


I’ve lost so many days with you.

Lost people.

Lost myself.


And every time you leave,

the sun comes back,

I say, no, not again.

Because the gloaming

might be dark and cold

but it’s honest; and at least

it puts the shadows where you can see them.

But when you knock, you bring a

a flare of bright and heat.

So hot it chills.

So cold,

I answer,

swept into your arms again.

Sweating in an icy room,

being asked if I have a fever.


Because I know these false-caring arms,

I know they are not arms that hold,

to return life.

But ones that suffocate, to bring

Stopped breath.

And then



So yes, hello Friend.

I see you’ve come around again.

I hear the music coming from behind you,

and I see you holding out your hand,

asking for another turn,

around our wooden floor.

nicked with heel marks,

worn smooth from years

of spins and shuffles and falls.


I’m turning off the sound,

even though it’s still rattling in my brain.

Probably always will.

And my feet will tap

to the ghost tunes of

the waltzes I can’t forget,

that left me gasping,


and bleeding.


But I can’t let you in.

I’m not dancing tonight.


I’m standing,

arm across the threshold,

giving myself a chance

to stand.

For me.

With me.

Willing to say goodbye.

For a chance at

an awkward, unsteady,

but real



To a life without you,


For a life with me.


(Taking a break from the novel to consider my next work of a poetry collection. Stay tuned. And of course, the book Drowning Above Water still lives at Amazon.)


Garbage can, not a garbage can’t?

My view of days. Sometimes it’s an awesome NYC subway sculpture. Some days it’s ugly life chewing your undeserving fat ass.

I self-deprecate. It’s what I do. I drink unhealthy level of Diet Coke every day, I have unruly hair, I have a crooked spine and I self-deprecate. Some things are just hard wired.

And that’s not a good thing.

I’ve always had at  least a modicum of self-hatred. In fourth grade, I wrote a story for school about an anorexic teenager who tried to demolish her own body. The poor student teacher just trying to get through the semester was not at all prepared. I only ever remember feeling like this.

It’s absurd. Of course, you know,  mental illness always make such logical sense. So, I talk about it. My feelings and woe-is-mes of hurt and doubt and insecurity. Ad nauseum. And then some god damn more if anyone around me wasn’t listening to my last hour’s diatribe.

Pathetic. Ain’t nobody trying to hear that, as the kids say. They also say #pawg and #thot but I’m not trying to hear that. Or maybe I’m just too old and saw too many grunge and ska bands that I can’t hear anything anymore. #toomanyhorns

From my perspective, I’m just giving others full disclosure. Fair warning. Full acknowledgement. Yes. I know what I’m not. Fully aware. Fully perceiving the flaws. I want you to know that I know what a mess I am.

Except I’m really not. I don’t think that’s hubris or ego or id. I really am doing pretty ok.

From other’s perspectives, as I’m coming to understand, it doesn’t come across as my own humble reckoning. It comes across as my own incredibly frustrating jackassery.

I never thought about it that way. “Shocking, ” the selfish girl said in affected horror as she complained again about her own patently false or just irrelevant bullshit.

Surely, I can’t speak as to what it’s like to deal with my constant, constant, CONSTANT, sad sack blustering and snuffling. But I imagine it like this. Someone you care about is banging their head against a wall. Your wall. They seem okay with it. The banging doesn’t change speed or intensity. Just keeps banging. Eventually, blood starts to appear on their forehead and your wall.

They don’t want to do that, they say. It hurts, they say. All they want to do is stop, they say. You, caring, want to help. You steer them away from the wall. Distract them with conversation and yellow cake. But, they keep going back to the wall.

You suggest a solution to stop. They bang. You offer a different solution. They bang. You offer yet a different one. They bang.

All the while, complaining about their headache and blurry vision. Their dizziness and ringing ears. Blood in their eyes. If it’s me, it would take all my power to not scream-

“Then stop banging your fucking head! If you don’t want to, if you want to stop, then knock it the fuck off already!!!”

I say that as the one, forehead bruised, from constant head banging.

This is why people brush their hands of the thing and walk away from the whole damn table.  It’s tiring and soul-sucking and time-wasting and worst of all just really fucking boring.

Time for me to stop. Ridiculous, needy, constant-attention and reinforcement-craving. Fucking stop it.

My family has been sick lately. Actual problems. Emergency rooms and hospital stays and surgical consultation stays. Those are things to get pissed and anxious and to cry and bang your head about. Not because you’re a little chubbier than you’d like. Have another glass of wine and a cookie and shut the fuck up.

Not sure what all the fucks are about in this one. Too many to give? None left? Maybe just the perfect amount?

A few days ago, before the plague his my family, I managed something special. No, not just pristinely organizing a Lego room. I did do that, and it was awesome.

See. I am doing ok.

But more impressive, I chose to be happy. I was having a shit day. Feel like a miserable, worthless letch. But I chose to stop. And I did. And I made myself feel better. It was unexpected and incredible. I want to do it again. A few days later I fell apart again and was thankfully caught and held. He is too good a man. He needs to do less catching. Less steering away from walls. More writing and pictures and music and art and food and adventure.

So, moving ahead. Get my people out of hospital and better. Next, get me better by choosing better things to see and write and think. I’m a writer. Words matter. I want mine to do so along with my thoughts. So I need to make them good ones. The very choice, best ones.

For now, No more head banging. Except in the car.

September 3, 1950

Half underwater, I’m half my mother’s daughter

A fraction’s left up to dispute.

-Amanda Palmer, “Half Jack”

Today would have been my father’s 66th birthday. IMG_7031

He died two years ago, just a few weeks after his 64th birthday. I still have hidden on a shelf the Breaking Bad DVD collection that I bought him to watch during chemotherapy. He loved the show, hard and proud. He made it through one treatment and two and a half episodes before his own season was cancelled.

My dad loved television. He got serious joy and impish I-told-you-so fun out of finding shows before they were cool.

Yeah. The dude was so hipster before there were hipsters, that he didn’t wax his moustache. He left that to grow 70’s wild like Bob Belcher.

The delight he had in talking about new characters he had met on his new favorite series was adorable. If you disagreed, he would get sulky. Even worse, if you couldn’t be bothered to watch the show after he recommended it? It was was like you were trying to be an awful, ungrateful child. You could see his cartoon thought bubble: Yes. I sold my 1969 Mustang so you could go to college. And now you can’t watch Mad Men so we can talk about it? What a jerk.

He always told me if I wanted to write, that I should write for television shows. Or commercials so that I could make money. So that I could take care of him and my mother. And then he’d give me twenty dollars because my mother said so. Hasn’t happened just yet. Sorry, dad.

He also loved music. LOVED. MUSIC. Couldn’t play a single note on a single instrument. He did have a sweet, tuneful voice, though. But it never saw the stage. Just the walls of our house, and our cars, and the office where he worked, and the grocery store, and the gas station, and…

Dude sang constantly. Anything. His favorite 70’s songs. Jingles. Christmas song. Old church hymns. While some teenagers ask not to be embarrassed, my only request was ever, ” Dad, when my friends come over, please don’t sing.” He’d smile and nod. And launch into full Led Zeppelin, “D’Yer Mak’er”,

OH, Oh, oh, oh OH!!!!!!

You don’t have to go, OH, oh oh, OH!!!!

complete with air guitar the minute my friends walked through the door. He thought it was hilarious. I vowed to run away.

He was my influence in music. It’s why I like rock and roll. His collection in vinyl, even if some of the choices are extremely suspect, is one of my treasured hauls. It made me endlessly pleased to watch him love every second of my brother becoming a talented musician. My dad drove to every show, from which he hadn’t been banned by sulky teenage ennui.

He loved movies. Because of him I saw Full Metal Jacket and Bad Lieutenant, Midnight Cowboy and  The Deer Hunter. Although none of these would even be as good as Top Gun in his opinion.




In this instance, I am my mother’s daughter.

I don’t look like my dad. A bit of the crazy curly hair, maybe. The light eyes. But side by side, you’d never tag us as sharing DNA. I’m more the image of my mother. As I get older, and my wrinkles get deeper, and my grey hairs grow  more wild and unwilling to be covered, I see the  physical resemblance to my mother more intensely, more concentrated.

The older I get, I also see more and more the things about me, inside me, in my marrow and my grey brain matter that are my dad.

My father struggled with mental health issues for most of his life. I don’t know much about the details. As a kid of the fifties and a guarded and private person, he wouldn’t have talked about it. The upbringing in his house with a stern, bordering on abusive father, didn’t make it the most safe of spaces. Problem? Have a drink and shut up about them. It explained much of my father’s delicate personality and difficulty with conflict, but the kindness that he kept always surprised me.

Because we didn’t talk about it, I don’t really know what my dad went through. I don’t know if there were awful things that swirled in his brain and yelled lies and misdirections at him. I know he had dark times and dark places. I know anxiety was sometimes so intense and acute that he couldn’t leave his bed. I know that multiple times in his life, so disgusted by the whole cycle and infinite nature of the whole thing that he stopped his own medications. Trying to convince himself he was fine, he’d just stop taking his daily, needed and critical doses, without telling anyone. And he would be fine. Until very soon he wasn’t.

My own problems with depression and anxiety are small compared to what my dad dealt with for most of his life. But, even on my scale, I know a bit of the road he travelled. To have miserable, harmful thoughts flooding your brain. To not feel like there is anyone who understands or who can make it just the smallest bit easier to bear. To feel so hateful of your own mind and body and actual person, that you can’t imagine anyone else possibly seeing any worth either.

I wish we could have talked about that more. It’s something I try to include with my own son as part of our life and family. Sometimes people have bad days. Sometimes there are reasons. Sometimes not. But let’s talk about it. Not to fix it. Just to acknowledge it. Just so you know you’re not the only person on the road, even if it’s long, and shitty and full of holes that could wreck you. Could be that first child vanity and hubris, forever and always, needing parental approval. Just wanting to tell him how I pulled myself out of a depression and anxiety cycle a few days ago. That I was truly able to change my thoughts and choose positive and happy instead of destruction and hurt. I wanted to share that victory and I think he really would have understood. I don’t know.

Maybe knowing more about my dad and what he went through would have given me a better perspective on my own issues. Probably not. And maybe I didn’t know more because he didn’t want me to know. It was his war to fight, and you fight that whatever way you need to so you can win. Loud and thrashing screaming. Or silent and grounded and resolved. Or softly singing “Wish You Were Here” while smoking an “unfiltered cigarette” behind the garage.

But my dad was never a fighter.

My dad was, however,  cool as hell.

I wish I could call him today. Let him say his always “Hey, Alyss!” and then after barely a minute, “Well, okay, let me get your mother” while he yelled from his chair. The man enjoyed a good sit. Another point on which we diverge.

I’m thinking about him today.

Comparing the men in my life to him as daughters of fathers have no choice but to do. (Hmm… an impressive guitarist and singer  who also drinks Rum and Coke, and is funny and endlessly kind…  excellent start)

I hope my dad was happy while he was here. Hopefully, despite all the difficult patches for him,  he was. He sang and he laughed made the people around him smile. And I want to keep that and use it to be more my father’s daughter.

Happy birthday, Dad. Keep singing.