Feminism

The Higher the Heel, the More of a Woman

IMG_2377I bought a pair of nude high heeled shoes from DSW the other day–another pair to add to the mountain of never-worn heels I have accumulated over the past decade. I can count on one hand the number of times I have worn heels in 2017. And when I wear them, I wobble. The ever-present risk of breaking my ankle is a deterrent, but even more of a deterrent is that I will be found out as a fraud. For you see, I am a 33 year old woman who has yet to fully come to terms with the fact that I am not the picture of femininity I want to be. And this desire to be feminine, to be a girly girl, is at total odds with my feminist ideals and independent spirit.

Look, it’s not that I don’t believe those two things can’t coexist harmoniously; every woman can choose to create the persona that she wants, the one that makes her feel her very best self. What I’m saying is that after 33 years of living in this body and with this brain, I have yet to reconcile these two parts of myself. A part of me wants to know how to curl my hair into those loose waves that look so fetching and romantic. Another part of me wants to go hiking in muddy terrain. Yes, these two things can both happen, but I find myself struggling to find a balance, and to accept myself for who I am and how I am.

I hate showering, but I use Korean face masks on the reg.

Shopping and malls make me sweat and give me anxiety but I’d never turn down a beautiful Chanel bag.

I will talk to anyone about pretty much anything but I still live with this antiquated notion that girls don’t fart. (I really hate myself for this one.)

I own closets full of clothing but I wear the same three sweatpants and t-shirts that I pick up off the floor basically every day.

I love my alone time, but I want a man to wake up next to every morning.

Like, who the fuck even am I? I wish there was an easy answer. For someone as seemingly open-minded and progressive as myself, I crave the straightforward labels. And in my case, as in the case of many women of my generation, it’s not that simple. There’s this constant struggle, this push-pull, to be everything (I feel this is akin to the whole idea of “having it all” which to me is the biggest fucking sham of today’s society). I can’t be everything. I can barely be anything. I want to wear high heels and walk in them gracefully, but it’s just not gonna happen, so why do I keep buying them? Why can’t I just be ok with the fact that flats are my go-to shoes? Or that I am a bundle of contradictions that somehow come together to create a relatively decent person?

I don’t have any answers, just a neverending series of questions about identity and what it means to be a woman. I know nothing. I question everything. I try and act on what makes me happy, what makes me feel like my authentic self but is it wrong to want to wear high heels and look good strutting down the street?

My dad always asks me if I go to the salon to get my hair blown out. No, dad, I do not. I’d rather spend the money getting drunk off IPAs at my favorite hole-in-the-wall bar. But I have been known to get a manicure every now and again. So what does it all mean? Can I be both those girls? Intellectually, I know I can, but in my heart and in some deep part of my core, I crave what I perceive as the comfort of being firmly rooted in one camp or the other. Would that it could be so…

I’m going to wear the heels at the next event I attend. But I know how it’ll all shake out: 20 minutes into the dancing, the heels’ll come off, and I’ll be barefoot on the dance floor, the soles of my feet gathering dirt and grime–and me giving very few fucks about it.

Food, Mental Health

Maximize Your Laziness, Today!

  1. Sleep for 1Dirty-Dishes1 hours a night, with a 2-hour nap midday.
  2. Let the dog pee on the patio instead of taking him for a walk.
  3. Eat refried beans out of the can, with handfuls of salt thrown in.
  4. Check your mail on occasion, but always put back the junk mail into the mailbox rather than take it up to your apartment.
  5. Dishes on dishes on dishes in the sink.
  6. Why have sex when you can masturbate?
  7. Buy new underwear every other week instead of doing laundry.
  8. Let your phone get to 6% battery because the charger is in the other room.
  9. Notice that your sweater is inside out while at the coffee shop, but don’t go to the bathroom to turn it righside out.
  10. Write a listicle instead of a real essay.

Lazy people of the world, unite!

Family, Food, Travel

25 Things You Don’t Know about Me

IMG_2200It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving and everyone is gone. I am bored. Just spent 45 minutes re-reading an old US Weekly, hence the inspiration for this exercise. It’s especially challenging because I’m shamelessly open and most people know almost everything about me. Here goes:

  1. I attended 9 schools between preschool and senior year of high school. It became increasingly difficult to make friends with each passing school.
  2. I’ve never seen the Wizard of Oz or The Matrix.
  3. I grew up in a 100+-year-old farmhouse until age 8. The basement was filled with rats and black snakes and my dad would threaten to lock us in there if we didn’t finish our dinners.
  4. I had my first kiss when I was 16. It was in a car.
  5. I’m good at making decisions, and good at procrastinating.
  6. If I had to choose a last meal, it would be grilled cheese and root beer.
  7. I don’t like buying or receiving presents.
  8. I’ve watched the entirety of Parks and Recreation at least a dozen times, no exaggeration.
  9. The happiest day of my life was being published in the New York Times. It was especially meaningful because it had nothing to do with anyone else.
  10. I cried when I saw the movie Bridesmaids because I was a maid of honor at the time and I related way too much to Kristen Wiig’s character.
  11. I used to be a pathological liar when I was a kid, and even told several kids on a playground that both my parents had died. Surprised karma didn’t come for me on that one.
  12. I can’t watch scary movies because if I do, I have to sleep with the lights on for days.
  13. I believe in ghosts and past lives.
  14. I wasn’t brought up with any religion but have experimented with Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. I took parts of all those religions and that’s what I follow.
  15. Kids used to taunt me when I was younger by calling me “Tara-rist.” This was before 9-11, but it still sucked.
  16. I hate to admit it, but I am addicted to my phone and it is gross.
  17. I think the Great Gatsby and Atonement are the two most perfect novels written.
  18. I don’t think I would ever get plastic surgery but if I did, I would get liposuction.
  19. One of my favorite things to do is eat in bed.
  20. If I could travel to one place, it would be Southeast Asia.
  21. Liz Lemon is my #goals.
  22. My favorite word is loquacious. My least favorite word is moist.
  23. I sleep ~10 hours most nights. It’s… problematic.
  24. My grandma, Nijoon, is one of my favorite people in the world. But lately I’ve had to come to terms with some of her shortcomings. It’s been tough.
  25. I’m perpetually trying to lose 20 pounds.
Family

Family Poems

the-madonna-and-child-il-sassoferrato

Mother

Do you remember when
you called me because you’d taken some pills
and you needed
someone to lead you home.

I can still hear
the angry horns through your car phone,
feel my heart tumbling into my stomach,
as I struggled to help you navigate a route
you’d taken hundreds of times.
You made it home in one piece, but I—
did not.

Brother

I am sorry:
because at night,
when the dark takes its,
and every answer has been given,
has been wrong,
I wish you were better
I wish you were different
I wish you were not here

My life could be only mine.

Mental Health

Party Done, Party Girl

beerThey tried to make me go to rehab but I said…fine. An essay from a few years back about my time in rehab and struggling with depression.

I moved back home to the east coast after a few years on the west coast. Things felt stable, I felt stable, but maybe a little better than stable. I hadn’t been happy in years, and now I felt happy, with a robust social life, a house full of roommates I actually liked, a steady job, and what I considered to be a fairly healthy work-life balance. I volunteered, I went to the gym, I went out to bars and parties, I worked hard, I spent time with family, I went out, I went out, I went out. I was taking my medication steadily. And then I realized I didn’t need it anymore. I felt good.

* * *

I hosted a big dinner party, and instead of the pleased (and pleased with myself) feeling I was normally left with after such an event went off so smoothly (lots of food, lots of drink, lots of praise—oh, the praise!), I felt empty and used up. This isn’t good, I thought to myself the next day, when the feeling not only lingered, but steadfastly attached itself to the outer walls of my heart. Eight years of cycling—ups, then longer downs, then ups again—and I knew that this was a turning point. If this feeling is still with me in the next few days, I was going to have to address it.

* * *

After a week, the feeling was no longer succubating on the outer walls of my heart—it had burrowed into the recesses and was pulsating and throbbing and eating me from the inside out. I panicked. I cried. I sobbed. I dry-heaved. I grew frantic and inconsolable (although I still continued to send text messages to friends and family to “help me,” the manipulative, yet genuinely desperate plea for any form of respite [of which there was none, and never had been during these downward dips]). Then the suicidal ideation began, and those around me were legitimately worried (my parents called me every day, my roommates grew concerned if I wasn’t home at a normal hour).

* * *

When I couldn’t take it any more, I took myself to a hospital Takkin had once been in, and tried to check myself into inpatient care. The lady who assessed me spent 45 minutes asking me all kinds of questions about my mental health past and present, my drug and alcohol use, my current feelings and emotional state. I answered as truthfully as I could (although looking back at times, I wonder if I over exaggerated, or perhaps under). She told me about her daughter (getting her PhD at Georgetown) and I felt embarrassed about where I was and who I was. She needed to go confer with the doctor. She printed out the notes she’d taken—my fucked-up brain in tidy Times New Roman on one (one!) piece of paper—and left the room. She did not come back for 30 minutes. I was excited, and scared, and on the brink of relief. Here, they will tell me what to do. Here, they will give me a schedule and I will be forced to follow it. Here, I will never be alone. Here, here will be like daycare—except I will have the fortune to stay the night, sleep in a dorm with others worse (or better) than me.

We can’t admit you, she said when she came back. I thought it was insurance related. I told her I had excellent insurance. No, she told me. Not the problem. The doctor says you need to go to detox first. I clenched my jaw so the tears wouldn’t start. What do you mean detox, I asked. Read my lips honey: detox, rehab, drug and alcohol abuse counseling, a place for addicts, a center for the clinically dependent. Read. My. Lips.

So I nodded and said ok and smiled until she stopped talking and went away. She handed me my one piece of paper, which now had script written on the back, and I bolted out of there, out to my car, where it took me three minutes to tell my waiting father what she had said. After a few moments, he said, what do they know anyway. These doctors are all the same. They don’t know anything.

Yeah! I thought. He’s right! Screw those idiots. I’m going home. So I got in my car and drove home, crying hysterically all the way. I went straight to bed, and woke up the next morning puffy-eyed and confused. Did that really happen yesterday? No, it couldn’t have.  I went through my normal routine: dressed, drove to work, drank coffee, checked emails. But my mind was elsewhere. My mind was attempting to unpack the concept of “alcohol and substance abuse.” But everyone I know drinks 30-40 drinks a week. Everyone I know pops whatever pills they can get their hands on. Everyone I know drives drunk and acts recklessly and belligerently. It’s the weekend, come on! I’m young, come on! I’m just a fun-loving girl, come on!

* * *

But I couldn’t kick the feeling that there may have been some truth to it. I went to lunch at my grandmother’s house and locked myself in her bedroom, the one she refused to sleep in after Baba Amini had passed away. I called the rehab center I had been referred to. I did a quick phone assessment, wherein the gentle-voiced guy on the phone suggested I come in for a face-to-face assessment. Saturday morning, 9:30. That was it. From there, the doctor would recommend inpatient treatment or an intensive outpatient treatment. I texted my parents to meet me at Starbucks. I have something I need to talk to you about, I said.

When they arrived I was drinking an iced coffee. The condensation was gathering in a little pool around the plastic cup. I kept tracing its circumference with my finger. Are you pregnant, my mom asked. I wish, I thought. Instead I told them everything, my plan, how much I actually drank and did drugs (so sad was it to see their faces change when they were trying to compute the amounts and frequencies with which I drank—but you don’t drink HARD liquor, do you? I drink it all, Mom. And every last drop of it.), and my intention of getting an assessment at this rehab facility. They were, refreshingly, relievingly, remarkably supportive. It runs in the family, they said. Which part? I asked. All of it.

* * *

After setting up an appointment to check into rehab, I did what any girl in my situation would do—I threw a big party scheduled for the night before my assessment. I’m not going to drink, I said. And then—I’ll only drink a couple beers. And then—I don’t know— because I was already too drunk to remember if I had even bothered to set another pointless limit or provide another excuse. I woke up hung over the next morning ready to check into rehab.

* * *

I didn’t want my dad to come with me for my initial assessment. But he insisted, and I had no fight left in me. So I woke up early on Saturday, cleaned up from the party the night before, cut my hand while absent-mindedly washing a wine glass—there was blood everywhere—packed my bag in case I was to be admitted to inpatient treatment, and waited for my dad.

He arrived at my door well before the 9:30 appointment and we had a cup of coffee while I wrote down important numbers on the back of a receipt, in case they took my phone. I brought my painkillers with me, because I had been instructed to do so, and they were buried deep within my purse, because even though my parents now knew, I didn’t want my father to see them.

* * *

We arrived at the hospital, in front of the small brick building where the program was. I told my dad I’d call him when the assessment was over in a couple hours. You don’t want me to come in? he asked. No, I said, stern, no explanation. He knew things were out of his control, and maybe he even believed a little bit that I still seemed to have some control.

The building was exactly what I expected, half hospital, half dorm: there was a nurses’ station with people milling about looking at charts, holding vials of this and that. And then there were small rooms with bulletin boards that had informative flyers tacked to them. A man stood behind a small, rolling countertop handing out pills while people meandered by, some stopping to get their doses, some coming to talk to nurses. I waited for the intake specialist who would come assess me. I sat very straight up in my chair, taking sips of water, my legs crossed and I attempted to exude something like confidence, or pride, or sanity. I was not like the people in here. I was not.

But it turned out, I was.

The psychiatrist tried to force me into inpatient care, and I grew hysterical when he and the nurse confronted me with the prospect of having to live sober for the rest of my life. Please don’t make me, I repeated over and over. Don’t make me. Despite my heaving sobs and shaking, I convinced them to allow me to participate in outpatient treatment. They admitted me and I let my father know when to pick me up that afternoon. I joined the group in a small meeting group and I began the week-long program.

* * *

There were so many worksheets to fill out in group. So many probing questions to answer. So many different ways to face the same problems—every worksheet and every question just kept poking and prodding at the same base issues. It felt as though someone was jabbing a bleeding sore on my body with a stick. My first worksheet aligned with Step One of the 12-step program: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or our drug of choice). That our lives had become unmanageable. The question: Discuss attempts to control use of chemicals. Give specific examples of times you’ve tried to control your addiction in other ways besides complete abstinence.

I’ve barely ever tried to control my substance and alcohol use—it just ebbs and flows. Sometime I’ll tell myself that I’m going to go out or hang out with friends and not drink a lot—just have a few beers. And I almost always end up getting trashed. Other than that, I’ve rarely even attempted to exhibit control, and worse than that, even a desire to control.

* * *

So much information was coming at me that it all got twisted up in my mind. We had lectures from nurses, spiritual and meditative readings, scientific information about the chemical effects of alcohol and drugs. I had completely disregarded—forgotten—the physical effects of all those substances being put into my body, being put in there by my own hand. I had forgotten what a night of Adderall, mixed with vodka, topped off by Vicodin would result in. Everything mixing itself up together inside me—being shaken up and stirred, each building on the other, to form the strongest, most potent elixir, eventually creating the perfect cocktail that would make me feel perfect and happy and whole.

* * *

They drug tested us and took our vitals twice a day—once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. I always tested negative for everything, but others didn’t. One guy was positive for ecstasy. Many were positive for pot. We even had our own blood pressure arm bands. They gave me mine on the first day and it had my name written on it with a sharpie. Tara E. it said, like it said on my pencil pouch from second grade. My temperature was always low, which apparently could have been a withdrawal symptom. I had my blood drawn twice, once in the beginning of the program and once at the end. Both times the tests indicated that my iron was low, which was unsurprising to me.

* * *

According to the Jellinek Chart, which outlines the disease progression of alcohol and drug addiction, I suffered from basic addiction: the individual begins to lose control as to the time, place, and amount used. He/she indulges unintentionally, uses to overcome the hangover from prior episodes, and tried new patterns of use to try to maintain some sense of control. He/she attempts cures by moving to new locations or changing companions.

* * *

There was a man who joined group on my third day. His name was Dwayne, and he had that burst-blood-vessel-in-the-face look that older men get when they’ve been drinking all their lives. He came down from the inpatient unit and he was like a zombie. A few days later, he was much more coherent. He had a good job with the government, loved watching baseball with a cooler of cold beers nearby (his aftercare plan was to replace those cans with diet iced tea), and he often talked about how much he loved his wife. She’s a great lady, he’d say. I love her to pieces.

* * *

I was given pages and pages of information about various resources and meetings: therapists, psychiatrists, 12-step meetings, outpatient services, AA meetings, NA meetings, inpatient treatments (should I relapse), various medications that could help in my recovery. I was encouraged to explore all the options and outline a specific plan. What is your aftercare plan, the counselors would ask me at least three times a day during our one-on-ones. I plan to go back to work, never go out with my friends, and sign up for an art class.

* * *

The spiritual readings were helpful sometimes, but sometimes they simply felt tedious. A tree stripped of its branches will die unless new branches can be grafted onto its trunk. In the same way, addiction stripped us of whatever direction we had. To grow, or even to survive, we must open our minds and allow new ideas to be grafted onto our lives.

The process of grafting something onto myself did not appeal to me in any way.

* * *

There was another elderly man in group. He was funny and cursed along with the younger people. The first time we heard him say fuck, we all snickered and giggled. What’s something you regret doing while using your drug of choice, asked the counselor. He thought for a long time before he answered, and I thought to myself, well if it takes him that long to come up with one thing, and I can come up with about twenty in that same amount of time, then he must not have been so bad off. He talked very slowly, almost with a slur. Well one time, many years ago, he said, I drank and then drove. My daughter was six at the time; she was in the backseat. We drove to the liquor store. It must have been around 10 pm. It was raining hard.

* * *

I drank to cover up the loneliness, but being sober made me feel lonelier than ever. I was without hope. And it wasn’t as though being drunk made me feel hopeful. It just made the whole concept of hope go away—recede like wisps of smoke born of someone’s spit-slicked fingers hushing a flame. But drinking was the symptom, not the underlying problem. I guess they’d said that all along. And I guess they, like me, took the easy route and put a bandaid on the wound without understanding why the wound was festering in the first place.

* * *

When the week ended, we had what they called a camel ceremony, where everyone in the group would go around and say something nice about everyone else. We were also given our sober coins. Tara intimidates me, one girl said. But in a good way. She has a job and seems very on top of things. I left group feeling hopeful, fingering my coin as I bounded up to my car to drive home. I lost it a few days later.

* * *

I was isolated. I walked around in a haze, slowly, with every thought focused on my next move: what will I do to occupy my next hour, what plans can I make this weekend, what invitations must I decline in order to follow this path that I didn’t even choose and I’m not even sure I should be on. I was in disbelief. I was skeptical about whether it all really happened—it happened so fast. And I was skeptical about whether it needed to happen at all.

* * *

Sober friends from the program called me a few times to come hang out. I never even answered the phone. It’s not that I wanted to forget. It’s that it felt disingenuous. I’m not like you, I never was. My life was still essentially the same, I was just living it on a different plane than I had been a few months prior. I discovered I could cut my friends down by 75%. I could count the people I enjoyed hanging out with sober on one hand. Did this make me a bad person? Maybe just an honest one.

I did not want to go to AA meetings. I found the whole thing irritating and overdramatic. And then I felt like an asshole for feeling that way. The farther away I got from rehab, the stupider I thought it was. Not in general, just for me. I decided I would be sober yes, but I would take sobriety out for a test drive instead of buying it and stupidly driving it off the lot without asking the necessary questions. Three months, I said. If I can do it for three months, then I can reassess.

* * *

They say when you quit drinking and drugging, your life opens up in a whole new way. There were adult art classes, trips to the driving range, long walks in my neighborhood. Things I never did on the weekend, when I was usually sequestered to my bedroom, hungover and watching tv, waiting for the night to begin when I would get dressed and get drunk and go out. Now, there were Friday and Saturday nights of cooking elaborate meals, baking pies, planning the following weekend day with endless activities. Sure, I was doing new things, trying to be open to a life that was allegedly opening up for me, but there were still evenings spent watching old re-runs of “Beverly Hills 90210,” eating extra salty popcorn in bed, and going to sleep at 7:30; I knew the night had nothing in store for me.

* * *

When I was asleep I wasn’t aware that everything had changed, that I wasn’t who I was, that I had no immediate future of the promise of a rollicking night out with friends, the frisson of energy that sparks inside you when you know—when you can just feel—that it’s going to be one hell of a night, and who cares how you come out on the other side of it, because for that moment, there is no other side, there is only now. Perhaps I would feel that again some day, and perhaps I wouldn’t. Perhaps I would regain myself, or find a new girl—a better one—who would wait for me patiently, willfully, on the other side of this unknown, strange night.

* * *

I spent Friday nights trying on dresses, organizing my books and shoes, hanging pictures in different places in my room. I indulged all of my weird food cravings, like pineapple and mini ice cream bars. I guess I was looking for anything to fill that hole, as I was completely incapable of sitting with that hole inside of me—sitting and just letting it be. Letting it breathe and expand, and contract, and expand. Almost like a balloon, like if it grew and grew and grew, bigger and rounder, filling me up, with thin breath blowing into it, and then it would burst and be gone. But I needed to let it be. I needed to let it grow and I needed to stop trying to shove things into it.

I showered a lot. Three or four times a day. It was a good place to cry and scream. I didn’t feel dirty; just itchy, and as though caterpillars were crawling across my skin. I sat in my backyard and smoked whole packs of cigarettes. I found stupid things to occupy my time. I experimented with a variety of organizations for my books: color-coded, weight, alphabetical by the last letter in the author’s last name. I was tempted to order them page-side out, spines to the wall. That way, I could pick at random. This was what occupied my brainspace now.

* * *

I would come up with new tattoo ideas to join the four I already had.  I was partial to black inky letters in secret places on my body. I would scrawl different phrases on a piece of notebook paper with the intention of getting one of them scrawled on my body:

“99 bottles of beer on the wall.”

“Two days at a time.”

“You are not all that is sorrow; sorrow is not all that is you.”

“Sorrow is my life.”

“Tomorrow, there will be no more sorrow.”

“Sorry sorrow, sayonara.”

Eventually it would just degenerate into tongue twisters.

* * *

I lamented the girl I was, falling asleep to memories of being a party girl, being the life of the party, feeling dead and isolated and soulless, like I’d lost a part of myself, like I’d lost the person I was, it may not have been a great person, but I’d gotten used to her, I’d gotten comfortable with her, and now she was gone, and I was stuck with this new, different person, an “other,” a person I didn’t recognize.

* * *

After three months, I started drinking again. But not like I had before, not even close. What was most amazing to me was that I could see the change in myself. I had undergone a process and come out different on the other side. I hadn’t even done it willingly. But here it was, the new girl and the old girl meeting somewhere in the middle, shaking hands, and deciding they could make a go of it together.

 

 

 

Mental Health

Syamatara, Sitatara, Kurukulla

downward-dog-yoga-pose*This is an old essay, but one I am very fond of. I hope you like it too.*

Yoga has become a thing in my life—to the point where people ask me what I did last weekend and I say “yoga.” Yikes. But yoga does for me what it claims to do, which makes me not a poser: yoga gives me moments of mental respite. There are actual moments in yoga, when I am inverted, or bending laterally, or feeling the strength of my arms and legs hold up my torso, where I do not think. And I never recognize it when I’m there, only when it has passed. Thankfully.

There are so many poses, each with their own mystical name—names that harken back to nature, to another mystical place: Compass, Bow, Wild Thing, Ragdoll, Grasshopper, Monkey. I am not good at many of the poses, but I am getting better. My muscles seem to remember things that I do not. On the yoga mat, I am the most connected to my body, but also the least aware of what it is doing, how it is behaving. My mind does not seem to control much. It is a relief.

* * *

Bad things have been happening all year. I text my brother to let him know how worried I am about Israel and Palestine. “People are bloodthirtsty savages,” I type. “Things were way worse a thousand years ago,” he responds. “It’s only getting better.” I know he’s right but there’s got to be something said for not feeling that he’s right. As I’m thinking of a rebuttal to his optimistic (realistic) outlook, I get another message from him: “go to bed”.

* * *

As Chicago begins to thaw, so too does the thick layer of ice that encapsulated me—I was becoming unstuck, able to move again, and breathe freely. I took pleasure out of things, small as they may be: a tidy living room, an overheard conversation between mother and son on the train, the sunny side of a street. These are not big things, but they are enough to keep me going so that I can get where I needed to be without mentally collapsing.

I wouldn’t say there was much joy or fun in my life. In fact, I’m not sure how much fun I’ll ever have. I have not yet come to terms with this, but I’m on my way. And not in a woe-is-me-life’s-so-hard sort of way. And not in a defeatist, but I’m pretending to accept it way either. I am just changing my expectations, I think. Redefining what life can be. I think what I want is for my life to be meaningful—meaningful to me. I want to be proud. I want to say that I gave everything I had, that I wasn’t afraid. That I really tried. Maybe I didn’t enjoy every moment, or even half of them, but I felt every moment. I allowed them each to carve me into the shape I have become, the shape that changes with each experience.

* * *

I lay on my back and work my way into Wheel—bend and fold around, my head hanging down as I push against my hands and feet that are holding me up in this inverted pose. Things look different here and I try and stay as long as I can before I must go back down. Allow yourself to remember the space without holding on to the pose, my instructor Sharon says. I am not entirely sure what she means, but I think I have some idea, and I am confident I can feel my way from the hazy understanding to something more solid.

* * *

I have purchased a membership to the Shedd Aquarium. I am both pleased with how often I go, and also slightly embarrassed that many of my trips there are solo. What’s your favorite thing there, a coworker asks me. The shark embryo.

In the basement of the Shedd, there is a shark on the verge of birth. You can see the embryo in development; it is backlit and the sac shines a deep orange with the dark shadow of the shark-to-be. It’s held in a tank-like box, at about knee-level, probably for small children to enjoy. When I crouch down to look at it, it is constantly quivering, gentle vibrations of a beating life.

* * *

There was a menacing man on the El one day. My racial stereotyping made me think he was just like everyone else boarding the train from the platform—he was Asian. How many crazy Asians do you see walking around? I read my book and he paced up and down the center of the train. He stopped in front of a father and his toddler daughter. The father was holding her on his lap, and smiling and talking to her. I had seen them almost every morning of my commute.

The man lumbered over them, turned to face them, and started laughing maniacally. The toddler looked up at him, bewildered, wide-eyed. The man turned and walked back down the center aisle, toward me. He stopped at me. I pretended to read. This man is going to smack me against the side of the head, I thought. How will the train folk respond to that? This man is going to pull out a sword and slice off my head, like that man in Canada did on a cross-country bus. What will the train folk do? How will the toddler look at me? At my head rolling down the center aisle. None of it came to pass. The man walked away from me, and continued pacing up and down the aisle for the next 20 minutes until I arrived at my stop.

* * *

In yoga, there is no stillness. Yes, there is the illusion of stillness. You hold a pose. But the micro-movements, the constant adjustments that create the pose are what the pose is actually about. I stand in Warrior 2, my front knee bent, my back leg long and strong, my arms outstretched parallel to the ground. I tighten my leg muscle around my bone. I reach farther with my fingertips. I push my shoulders down. I soften my jaw. And then I do it all over again.

Everything can change, and does, even when it feels like it never, ever will. I don’t always believe it. But here is the proof.

* * *

It feels like the world is crumbling. It seems like Malaysian planes are constantly falling out of the sky, the most prominent HIV researchers on board. A young couple is tortured, murdered, and beheaded by a Craigslist killer, and then a college student or two or a dozen get raped and murdered. Iraq—at war. Gaza—at war. Ukraine—at war, and we have already forgotten about Syria, and the missing Nigerian girls, and drug cartels in Mexico. The Chicago night cracks with the sound of stray bullets that careen toward little girls playing on the floor of their bedrooms.

And here I lay in bed, the dog cozied up to the crook of my knees, the ceiling fan whirring a gentle hum, blowing a soft coolness onto my face. I am so lucky, and so very guilty.

* * *

I was agitated, not a good way to start the yoga session. My gym was in Boystown, meaning plenty of gorgeous, incredibly groomed gay men. One of these gorgeous men tried to steal my spot—my favorite spot—the corner of the room I always unrolled my mat. Ex-CYOOZ me, he said, and backed his toned butt up to lay his orange mat down right in front of me. I was forced to sit in a new spot in the studio, a lesson Yoga Sharon had been trying to teach us for weeks (“Get out of your comfort zone! In more ways than one!”). So I did, but not by choice. As the room quieted down, she began to speak. Let’s start the class with three Oms, she said. Three Oms, at your own pace, following your own breath. Don’t wait for me, she said. I closed my eyes, placed my hands palm up in my lap, and opened my mouth in a round O shape. The room—my god, the room. The sound was like nothing I’d heard before. Every voice, and there were fifty or so, complemented every other voice, none the same, but not one bad note, not one off key pitch, not one wrong tempo. It moved the earth underneath me. It changed the force within me. It would have knocked me off my feet if I had not been sitting cross-legged. The final mmmm sound finished. That first burst of light after you close your eyes intentionally, then flutter them open. You are birthed anew into the world. It is light for the first time ever. Wow, she said. Was it just me, or was that something spectacular? She knew it. I knew it. We all did.

* * *

I hear myself talking about Ebola all the time. To poor, unsuspecting souls. I rattle off facts and figures, quote newspaper articles and historical information. I sound like a know-it-all asshole, and worse, a worrywart. Not that I’m worried about Ebola spreading to the United States, no, I am worried about the state of humanity, and I say so. “What I’m worried about is how far we have sunk as human beings when we can watch thousands of West Africans die without doing a thing.” At dinner, they all nod in agreement. I know they want me to shut the fuck up. I want me to shut the fuck up. But I don’t. For me or for the West Africans? Unclear. I donated to Doctors Without Borders this week. And I didn’t tell anyone, so I think probably my intentions are pure.

* * *

After a few classes with Yoga Sharon, I knew I had to write her a friend love letter. To let her know that I thought she was a special being, an enlightened person, and a really good yoga teacher. I wrote to her on a Wednesday. She didn’t respond for almost two weeks, during which I set my mat in the back of the yoga class, in case she intuited that I was the freak who had written her a stalker email. I told myself she was too enlightened to answer, that email was a transient artifice to her, that she got so many love letters there wasn’t enough time in the day. I felt dumb. And then she responded and was kind. And I started doing downward dog in the front of the room again.

* * *

Be sweet to yourself, says my therapist, then continues talking. I am lost in thought within milliseconds, trying to find a way out of this maze. Instead of thinking about ways to be sweet to myself, I think about why good equals sweet. What if you prefer salt? What if that’s what makes you feel good? Could you be salt to yourself? Who decides these things anyway? Because in the end, when all is said and done, when it is written and stone, and revised to perfection, salt and sugar, both, wear away at everything they touch.

* * *

I will tell you the truth. Sometimes I feel like a real pretentious shmo for writing about yoga. Sometimes, my ideas for how to organize a piece around yoga are so inane, so gimmicky, that it fills me with disdain for myself, for yoga, and most of all for Lululemon and the commodification of the practice. At least I can say I have no Lululemon clothes.

That’s a lie. I have one pair of yoga pants. They cost $80 and I bought them five years ago and I am regretting that decision still. I almost never wear them, and usually opt for holey, thin stretch pants—the kind reminiscent of stirrup pants from third grade. The pants are generally accompanied by a ratty wife beater. I pride myself on this look. Then immediately scold myself for priding myself on something so dumb, something that makes me no better than the Lululemon girls. Everything is complicated and nothing can just be. Except the occasional magical and fleeting moment in yoga.

* * *

It is spring in Chicago now, which means weather oscillates between 40 degrees and 85 degrees. On my walks with Ernie, I often see these shriveled up purple berries clinging to vines that climb up the beautiful 1920s art deco buildings in my neighborhood. They look like the dried up versions of the purple berries that I used to smush between my fingers as a kid, the ones that stained my clothes and that I’d rub against trees and large rocks, writing my name surrounded by hearts and stars. These berries may or may not be the same one; what saddens me most is that if these are the same berries, they represent the transition I have gone through as a woman—once full of juice, once full of color, once painting the world around me; and now arid, wrinkled, lacking of life force. I’m 30. Trust me, I know how I sound—an exaggerating, overdramatic worrier. But I can’t help how I feel. I can’t help that I spend my late nights researching cryogenic egg freezing and the cost of artificial insemination. The one thing that makes me proud: I will accomplish what I want—what I need—no matter how I get there. There is still life in me, there is still life that will spring from me. There is no doubt in me about that.

* * *

Yoga Sharon begins and ends class with a brief discussion on some aspect of yoga—mental, physical, spiritual. I sit with my eyes closed, palms face up on my lap, and try and focus on the words floating in the air, her tinkling laugh lighting up my insides. One class, she talked about samskara. In Hinduism samskaras means impressions; the imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience in this or previous lives. Samskaras change who you are, they leave the grooves we spend our lives trying to understand and outwit. They paint your life. You are not you without these samskaras.

* * *

As a girl, I was proud of the bruises and scrapes on my legs, the callouses on my feet. It makes me wild, I thought. And that is what I wanted. To be untamed. No. To have never been tame at all. To not know the meaning of the word.

* * *

Whoever tells you that being single is as good as being with someone is lying to you.

I was brought to the verge of tears when trying to figure out how many withholdings I should take on my W-4. Starting a new job, I had to decide what type of health insurance was the best for my needs, how much I could afford to contribute to a retirement plan, and other financial conundrums that I can’t seem to decipher, no matter how many internet resources I use.  Someone please help me figure this shit out.

I have to take the dog out even when I’m laid up in bed with the flu. I can only buy so many groceries on each shopping trip because my arms give out halfway through the walk home. Sure, there are ways around these issues, but navigating life without a partner to take some of the load off isn’t easy.

And I’m not even taking into account the love aspect. The comfort and joy brought on by having someone in your life to talk about a day at the office, or eat half the meal you cooked, or lay in bed with you at night.

I sound whiny and weak, and maybe even financially dumb. But I am starting to see why people settle. Can I create the life I really want alone? No. I can’t. And no matter how confident I feel in my own skin, how much I love myself, how content I feel on a given hour during the day, I can’t just will a boyfriend or husband. And that means my life will be very different than the one I imagined for myself.

* * *

Everything Yoga Sharon says makes sense. Pure and simple. I question nothing that comes out of her mouth. How is she even possible and how can I be like her? I am in triangle pose, my legs outstretched along an invisible line, my torso leaning down with my hand on my shin, my other hand stretched straight up. I am struggling. My thigh muscles are shaking, and my neck is craned in an uncomfortable way. She glides over to me, moves my limbs in microadjustments, her hands cool against my clammy skin. Effort and ease together, she whispers to me. I want to cry because it is so simple and so, so difficult.

* * *

I love to watch Ernie fall asleep. He starts to sway slowly forwards and back, his eyes getting smaller and smaller. He is like a child who wants so badly to stay awake, to not miss any of the fun, regardless of the fact that the fun is me wiping nail polish from my nails. Eventually, his head starts to sag. Eventually, he inches closer and closer to the bed, lying sideways. I try my best not to wake him, but it is no use. The slightest movement, a breath too deep, and he’s wide awake. I search for meaning behind the pleasure I take in this. It does not reveal itself to me. Maybe there is no meaning at all. But believing that means you might as well go to sleep and never wake up.

* * *

Stuff that gives me anxiety: the fact that I have too many bottles of nail polish—when will I ever use all of those colors? Will I have enough money to retire? What are we going to do when we run out of natural resources because we’ve developed all of the land? Is my brain rotting away because of how many pop culture magazines I read? Will I be able to lose the baby weight from the hypothetical child I will carry? Will I ever have a child? How will I have the time to read all of the books I want to read? Why do I only wear 1/8 of the clothes in my closet? Will the homeless man on my corner starve or freeze to death and if I gave him more money would he live?

Long stretches of time alone lead to long trains of terrifying thought. The small stuff leads to the big and too many bottles of nail polish leads to questions of mortality, soul-crushing aloneness, and my sense of purpose for being on this earth. It is exhausting. Is it all chemical? And if so, why are the several chemicals I put in my body not helping me enough?

* * *

November 2014

Dear X,

I am blocked, I can’t seem to write anything. So I thought maybe a letter would suffice for this week. I think it’s because I have been skipping work and sleeping a lot. I am lacking in energy, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it has something to do with the change in the weather—it is now 25 degrees here on a regular basis. Not even mid November. My mom keeps asking me how I’m going to survive winter, and I have to remind her over and over that I survived winter last year. She asks me the same question during the next phone conversation. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t listen when I speak.

Lately I have been thinking about love, a lot. Well, not lately. Probably 85% of my waking hours for the past decade or so. I haven’t had a boyfriend in 5 years. That’s a long time. That’s a long time for a person who is not heinous looking and doesn’t have serious social issues. Or, maybe I do, and I just don’t know it. I am now at the age where I have to think about “what if…” What if I don’t get married? What if I don’t fall in love? What if my life doesn’t follow the traditional trajectory I always thought it would? Don’t tell anyone, but I have started saving money, in a special account and all, for the baby that I foresee myself having as a single mother circa age 35. That is less than 5 years away… five years is not a long time from now. There is already $5000 in the account. So I think the babies’ first few months are taken care of. I don’t want to be a single mom. But I will do it if I have to.

My dad and uncle and little brother came to visit me a month ago. I hadn’t seen my uncle in almost ten years; he came from Iran. I had to sit down and talk with him and my dad about what is to become of my brother when my dad is no longer in the picture. It did not go well. My dad is 75 already, and not in the best health. These are real things. Real things that need real answers. But there are no real answers. There aren’t even pretend answers. There doesn’t seem to be any solution, and everyone would rather say “things will be taken care of” in this strange, nebulous, the-universe-will-take-care-of-it bullshit philosophy as opposed to sitting down and trying to map out a plan. I already know what’s going to happen: my dad will die, my mom will try and take care of my brother, she will fail, it will end up on me. I know that’s how things will turn out. And it scares me. But I know.

Tara Ebrahimi: age 38, single mother with a small child  (father unknown), currently residing in a small two bedroom apartment in Chicago with the small child and developmentally delayed brother and aging beagle mix. Income: $60,000/year. Celibate for 8 years, and counting.

It’s kind of funny but it’s not all that funny when I tell you that it is my worst fear to live the above life. And yet, that is how I see things panning out for myself. Sometimes I tell myself if I stop wanting so much, that’s when good things will happen. But sometimes when I stop wanting, I tell myself, if you stop wanting, it means you’ve stopped hoping, and if you’ve stopped hoping, you might as well lay down, shut your eyes, and stop breathing. Tell me what to do, X. I would rather follow your directions blindly than have to make any choices or decisions for myself. That’s how tired I am. 

One thing that is nice about yoga is that I have almost completely let go of ego when I’m on the mat in the studio. I can tell you with all honesty, that I don’t look at what other people do on their mats, for almost the whole time I practice. It would be false to say that 100% of the time, I focus only on me, but I truly believe it’s like 95% of the time. And the funny thing is, I don’t even look at myself. I don’t look at myself in the reflection of the window, or look how straight I’m holding my leg up. Instead, I feel. I feel the muscle clenching around the bone. I feel my strength during my first down dog of the day versus the last down dog of the day. It is tremendous how much you can learn and feel when you put aside vanity. But maybe if I were more vain, I would have a boyfriend. Maybe if I curled my hair and wore blush every day, someone would love me. Maybe if I were thinner and dumber, I would be happy.

I’m not unhappy, I guess. I just know there are things out there that I want, that I don’t have. God, how greedy. But it’s just love, I swear! That’s the thing I want. And if I got it, I’d use it only for good, I promise. I would be a nicer person, a more patient one. I would be better.

I met Jeremy the night of my birthday party. He was getting his phd in English at UCLA, had graduated from Yale. He was a friend of a friend, and we talked all night, and danced at the bar. I asked his friend if he had a girlfriend. They just broke up, she told me. He asked me if he could buy me a drink. I said no, but that he could walk me home. And he did. And we talked about poetry and other pretentious things, and some less pretentious things, and some pretty inane things too. Outside of my door, I invited him up. He said he couldn’t, he was trying to work things out with his girlfriend. We dawdled for 20 minutes. He wanted to come up. I wanted him to come up. Stop looking at me so sexy, he said. Ok, I said. And I walked up to my apartment and left him. Inside my apartment, I cried, and started eating birthday cake in bed, like every female starlet in every terrible romantic comedy. I guess the trope came from somewhere…. I got a call. It was Jeremy. Buzz me in, he said. And I did. And I quickly wiped the cake off my face and opened the door to him.

Goodnight birthday girl, he said, holding my hand in bed as we drifted off to sleep.

What did you dream about, he asked, when we both fluttered our eyes open the next morning, ribbons of sunshine beaming in through the blinds, imprinting stripes on our bare legs.

Love,

-t

* * *

I admire Yoga Sharon from afar, like she is a movie star. I’m not one of those Yoga Sharon groupies, who bring her gifts from travels to India or are overly handsy with their hugs. This is perhaps the one time in my life I have practiced boundaries. She has so much to give, but she must want to keep some of it for herself and I don’t want to dim her light by absorbing more than what she has offered up to me. Those of us in her class, we feel we know her but we don’t. I’ve created a narrative for her in my head, crafted from bits and pieces of information she shares: she recently got engaged, she has a website but not a Twitter, she recently had a death in the family and in the mourning period students would go up and express their condolences and hug her. So many hugs. It made me exhausted and drained just to watch.

I wonder what she thinks of me? Probably nothing. I hope at least she recognizes me as the girl who always sits in the same spot next to the window, and who removes her glasses before the oms. That I simply exist as matter in her world is enough.

* * *

There are only so many causes a girl can care about. I’m not sure which to choose, and I’m not sure my choice matters anyway. “That Tara,” they say. “She has a strong opinion about everything.” I even annoy myself.

  1. don’t order Jimmy Johns—they make their employees sign NDAs
  2. don’t buy stuff at Walmart—they pay their employees like shit
  3. don’t get manicures and pedicures—those women are essentially indentured servants
  4. only use biodegradable dog poop bags—regular plastic destroys the earth
  5. don’t watch the Duggars—they are right wing nuts jobs

 

  1. 80% of my coworkers order Jimmy Johns at least once a week and I probably would too if I liked the taste of the their sandwiches
  2. Sometimes on my way home, Walmart is the only place that has cheap toilet paper.
  3. I don’t get them anymore but according to numerous news outlets, not supporting these stores basically does shit to help the employees, so…
  4. When I run out of the “green” poop bags, I use the Walmart plastic bags from my toilet paper purchases—the really thin flimsy kind that definitely kill aquatic life
  5. I read Us Weekly—it features the Duggars 40% of the time.

I think about these injustices, mostly to torture myself or convince myself I am better. I am only better when it is easy. When it is hard, I am like everyone else.

* * *

After class one day, I walked up to Yoga Sharon and asked her a question. It was the first time I spoke with her after a year of being in her class. I had latched onto something she said during practice, and tried really hard to hold on to the idea but of course it broke apart into pieces and some of those pieces slid away, the harder I tried to hold on. So it goes.

What was that thing you said about binds, I asked her. When we were practicing our Warrior 2 bind?

Oh yes, she said, and smiled. Talking to her was like staring into the sun. I could barely form words and stopped listening for a moment because I got lost. But she looked at me and gave me a moment to regain myself.

The binds show you where you’re bound, she said. And that allows you to find the room to get free from them.

* * *

What kind of mom will I be? I think about this often.

Is it bad that I let Ernie eat his eye boogers? Is it bad that I only sometimes wash vegetables and fruits? Or that sometimes I wear dirty socks off the floor? What habits will be transferred to my kids, either through education or osmosis? What habits am I not even willing to admit to those closest to me? I let Ernie track dirt into my sheets, as I am a firm believer of god made dirt and dirt don’t hurt. And those are just the dirty truths I’m willing to commit to paper and sign my name to. But we must guard some things. Full disclosure feels selfish in it’s unfiltered purity. Don’t air your dirty laundry. Only air it when it’s clean. Or when you’ve sprayed it with febreeze and blotted out the stains with a wet rag.

* * *

Because we have the culture we have, because we as a society have a hard time comprehending nuanced emotion, feelings that do not fit neatly into columns and rows, I feel the need to make something crystal clear: I am not in love with Yoga Sharon. I have no romantic or sexual inclinations toward Yoga Sharon. Besides she is not even my type—far too beautiful and good. But she is special. Everyone sees it. Being in her orbit makes me feel like a better person. She heals me, for 2 hours every Saturday.

* * *

What kind of person am I?

The kind who doesn’t use paper toilet-seat protectors in a public bathroom.

The kind who wishes she could wear high heels and still be able to walk fluidly.

The kind who wants a man to help her carry groceries the five blocks back to her house so she can buy the sparkling water she likes without worrying about tensing her shoulders under the weight.

The kind who thinks it’s acceptable, even adorable, to wear ripped, holey jeans to a party.

The kind who spends $300 on a designer dress for a wedding, in order to impress an ex boyfriend.

The kind who talks to her dog while tying him up outside of CVS.

The kind who says inappropriate things at work.

The kind who cries at work.

The kind who offers up her house to stray friends.

The kind whose hair is always frizzy, even when smoothed down with water.

The kind who can’t imagine ever referring to herself as anything other than a girl, not a woman, even at the age of 30, even, most likely, at the age of 40. Girl until grandma.

None of it means all that much. But I guess it means something. Ask me again some time. Maybe then, I’ll know for a fact it means everything. Or maybe I will be a different kind of person then.

* * *

What does it mean to be young? To make mistakes over and over again? When do you start to learn? And change? When does it stop being ok? When does it cross over into being an object of pity? When does real life begin? Did I miss the starting line?

* * *

I live near a lake now and a lake is very different than the ocean. Nevermind the logistics: the depths, the expanse, the temperatures, and the sealife. I’m standing on a pier in the northern part of the city, it is a full moon, and the lake is silver black. Why am I standing on this pier on a work night, holding a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Look up, says my friend. Look up, I’ve been wanting to show you this for a while. There are small dots of light in all corners of the sky. One, two, three, four, I count as my head swivels. Some are small, some are large, but they are all following an invisible trajectory to arrive at the invisible line directly above my head. One dot, followed by another, then another. This is the flight path to the airport. I crane my neck up and watch them fly over—silent, except for the whispered hello, goodbye, hello, goodbye of the current against the sand. The planes fly out of sight, I picture them landing on a lit-up runway, but new ones appear on the horizon, making their way to the path overhead. One moment, they are far away, and before I know it, they are gone. Before I know it, it will be morning, and time for work. I walk up the pier, out to the street, and catch a cab home.

Ernie, Family, Mental Health, Travel

On the Eve of My Trip to Portugal

IMG_1923Well friends, tomorrow I head to Portugal, first to the capital city of Lisbon then down to the Algarve Coast to a beach town called Albufeira. I am really excited but there are some things I have on my mind that I wanted to share.

  1. I’m nervous about how my brother Takkin will behave during this trip. His mental health issues have been really bad lately and he’s basically a loose cannon. I’m worried he will be impossible to handle, and even more selfishly, I’m worried he’ll become my problem. God, that makes me feel like a bad sister, but that’s the truth.
  2. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a city where I don’t know the language and have no one to guide me–it will be an adventure but part of me questions whether I’m up for it or I can handle it. Will I be able to get around ok? Will I spend a lot of time being lost? These are things that fully excited and energized me but now as an old hag of 33, I fear I won’t be able to hack it.
  3. I am sad to leave Ernie behind for so many days.  I know he is in good hands at his boarding facility but will he remember me???
  4. I’m taking my goddamn laptop with me. I did all I could to avoid this but it seems that work has taken over my life. I can’t go one day without working anymore and I swore I wouldn’t be one of those people and now here I am taking projects and emails and timesheets on a European vacation with me. Kill me now.
  5. I am v. proud of being a light packer. Is that dumb? Oh well.

Wish me luck everyone; more pics and posts to come from Portugal!

Dating

10 Reasons Why My New Boyfriend Isn’t the Worst

IMG_1853We all know I’ve had my share of interesting dates and boyfriends throughout the course of my dating history, but I have been lucky enough to share the past couple months with someone who seems very different than the rest. The following list might seem generic or simple, but the truth is that these are qualities and actions that previous boyfriends did not possess or act upon. He is special. And all of this feels very new to me. It can be scary sometimes, but now that I’m getting more used to being treated with kindness and respect, I don’t know how I lived without it before.

He:

  1. Does not play games.
  2. Genuinely wants to spend a lot of time with me.
  3. Tells me I’m pretty every day.
  4. Knows movie trivia better than I do.
  5. Listens to albums all the way through instead of just the top hit songs of an artist.
  6. Asks me question AND he remembers my answers to those questions.
  7. Is ready to see my home town and meet my family–and is unafraid to take that “step.”
  8. Loves his mother, sister, nephew, niece, cousins, family, friends.
  9. Respects me.
  10. Puts up with (and is supportive of) my dumb Whole30 diet.

The best thing is, I could go on and on. There’s so much more and I am somehow happy. It seems a miracle, but folks, I am finally happy.

Family, Mental Health

My Mentally Ill Brother Might Be the Next Headline

FullSizeRender (3)I just came home from a 4-hour long session with a psychiatrist who deals with mentally ill, developmentally delayed patients. He is one of a handful who has this role in the entire state of Virginia. “Many mental health clinics and hospitals don’t want to deal with people who are the ‘R’ word,” he said, apologetically. My mother, father, and I were in his office discussing whether or not to involuntarily commit my younger brother to the hospital—his violent behavior had gotten worse as he continually punched my parents and kicked random strangers in the street. He would start fights in banks and cell phone stores and grab the steering wheel while my dad drove the car. He was completely out of control. I wonder, on a daily basis, when will he swerve our vehicle into an oncoming car.

I advocated for a stay at a hospital, while my parents waffled. They worried about the quality of the facility, if my brother would resent them, how they would handle the days after he was released. But I believe his institutionalization would level him out. After all, mental illness gone unchecked, untreated, and unrecognized for the grave outcomes it can yield has become par for the course in this country. The Virginia Tech shooting, Sandy Hook, and so many other incidents and tragic events have become part of the daily news cycle, and we have allowed it to affect us less and less each time. I wonder, on a daily basis, when will my brother’s headline be next.

I am reminded of the Creigh Deeds’ incident—when the Virginia Senator’s son, Gus, stabbed his father then committed suicide. Gus had been denied access to healthcare at Virginia mental hospitals because there weren’t enough beds. That act led to an unavoidable tragedy. I wonder, on a daily basis, when will that unavoidable tragedy strike my brother and our family.

My brother does not have the language to advocate for himself because of his developmental delay. He has to wait weeks, if not longer, to see one of the half a dozen doctors in the entire state that can treat a patient with the myriad issues he deals with on a daily basis. He is a harm to himself and to others and yet there are no guarantees he will have access to the resources he needs to get even marginally better.

Tonight we did not end up sending him to the hospital, against my recommendations and my deep wishes. He is sitting at the kitchen table, a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, his attitude changing on a whim. For all I know, he could pick up a vase and throw it at my head before I am done writing this article.

Last week, I had a solo rally on the street corner in my neighborhood. I wore a sign that read “Did you know 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental illness?” I handed out fact sheets that I had printed out from the NAMI website. I tried to engage people in conversations about mental health. I stood in the heat for hours while hundreds of athleisure-clad people walked right by me, like I was invisible. My brother doesn’t have a voice in this fight. And maybe neither do I.

I wonder, on a daily basis, does anyone give a shit?

Please prove me wrong.