PJ Learned to Write

FOLKS,

It happened. I graduated. Immediately upon doing so, I laid down in the middle of the street, threw my middle fingers up and screamed AMEN followed by FUCK YES.

IMG_0132

photo evidence 

This is my first post since graduating and–spoiler alert–it will be my last as PJ of Twisted Diction. I know, I know. I’m bent out of shape about it, too, but it’s time for me to move onto new projects, challenges. This blog has been a wonderful space to put up my writing, to share my struggles, to talk about all the things, from the serious to the silly, to post my favorite songs, to play, to work. After a month of marinating in the sweet juices of post-grad life, I’ve realized that PJ Bent was a lot of things, but mostly she was a chrysalis. I nuzzled into this alter-ego for the first third of my twenties; it was a safe but challenging place to exist. I’ve changed so much, and while I know I’m nowhere near fully formed, I feel ready to nudge my way out and dance in the light. I know that sounds vague. It is intentionally so.  To everyone who’s like: do you have a job yet? What are you even doing? The answer is: I’m working. I’m building and creating and dreaming every minute of every day, and now that I don’t have the school cloud lingering above me, it’s been a sweeter process. I didn’t get to this point by pulling out a recipe card, gathering the ingredients, and following the steps. I got here by mixing metaphors with risk, by singing out of tune, by waking up every day and doing my best to love myself and the world. So, yeah, I guess I’m gonna keep living and doing and dreaming. And writing. Always writing.

Thanks to everyone who read something on here these past years and told me they liked it or that it helped them in some way. I appreciate all the feedback and hope you follow me in future transformations. Once I have more of an idea of what comes next, I’ll post an update here on Twisted Diction, and on my my twitter page. So please, please follow along!!

with all of the love and gratitude one heart can hold,

PJ

 

One last song. It’s a good one:

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please don’t fail me

Picking lint off my hand-me-down sweater in the career office. Hot pink socks, ballet flats, and beat up jeans. Girl, you do not have a resume, do you? Nope. I’m just taking this all in, sipping it slowly. I’m breaking down, regularly, because I only budget $5 at a time for gas. I like the breakdowns, though. They’re necessary so that I am forced to see, again and again, how the world keeps turning even when I’m standing still. 

My talents are not in geographic information systems aka GIS aka the last class I have to complete for my degree. I wouldda couldda shouldda tried to take a poetry class, but, alas, I got rejected from all the creative writing classes frosh year and haven’t applied for any since. REGRETS REGRETS REGRETS.

So here I am. Sitting in my chilly apartment. It’s colder inside than outside for some reason. I’m considering getting my fingerless gloves because my hands keep cramping up. I’m sitting here refreshing my email to see if my GIS professor has responded to my desperate “Please don’t fail me” email (worded only slightly differently). I should’ve thought a little harder about taking a class in which the entire grade is based on a final project that I’d have to complete in the last week of my senior year. Whoops. In a typical PJ fashion, though, I am procrastinating in the healthiest way I know how: moving my body & writing.

I haven’t been really active since turning in my thesis a couple weeks ago. I hit a bump after that deadline and let myself slide into the dark corners of my room, mind. I left my yoga studio because #expensive and also I need to think more about the ways in which paying to practice at a yoga studio contributes to problems of cultural appropriation. When my room’s clean, I’m able to do stuff at home, but that’s been rare the last few weeks. But today I tidied up and stretched out and damn it felt good. Hoping I can stick to a routine for the next two weeks before graduation, even though they’re bound to be rollercoasteresque.

And then writing. Yeah. Haven’t opened my journal in like a week, but when I finally did and started scribbling it was just as “ahhh” inducing as any heart opener. I flipped back through some of the love notes I wrote myself during my thesis and realized that whatever happens with this final GIS BS, it’s going to be AOK.

One quick story, because I should actually go twerk on this assignment: I went to a job recruiter the other day at Yale who looked at my resume and made some suggestions. She made a lot of assumptions about the kinds of jobs I’d be interested in as a Yale graduate, and she couldnt’ve been more wrong. She suggested I move two of the most important jobs I’ve held down to “bullet points,” and it took me all of my patience and deep breathing skills to not scream: BITCH DON’T YOU DARE REDUCE MY LIFE’S WORK TO BULLET POINTS. It was in this moment that I realized that I cannot get a job where I don’t get dirty or to yell. I realized that when I told her I wanted a part-time job so I could spend the rest of the time writing, what I really felt like saying was: I want to be writing full time but I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent. She handed me my resume back with some scribbles, gave me her card, and told me to keep in touch. I don’t think I’m gonna, because really, I don’t want to…and I’m not sure it has to be more complicated than that.

I don’t know what the fuck is gonna happen with this project or after I graduate but I have a feeling it’s going to be good.

Stay cool, tuned.

With love,

[ PJ ]

Kooks because i’ve been listening to them all day and this happened to be the song that came on when I finished writing. 

yo vermisse gestern y mañana

I. I miss yesterday and tomorrow. I miss Superman and the way things were and could have been. I’m working  to accept things the way they are, now, and the uncertainty of what they will be, tomorrow. Working double overtime not only to accept but also to love. To truly, passionately love the struggle and the heartache of being alive.

People move and move on. Like Superman. Superman was a cute dude in his mid-late twenties, if I had to guess. I think he was cute, but honestly I only ever saw the top of his head, his messy black hair. Sometimes I caught a glimpse of his tan face, brow scrunched. For context (not that it’s going to help my case, but I should explain myself): Superman lived next door to me for two years. Every evening when I came home, I could count on seeing him, head down, studying god-knows-what at his desk. I imagined it was some sort of math–there weren’t enough books for it to be humanities, but what do I know. His window was directly opposite my kitchen window, so I would wash dishes and look across the driveway at him, every night, in his red, yellow, and blue Superman T-shirt (hence the nickname), toiling away on what I assume was his dissertation. He was there until the wee hours of the morning, always with the blinds up, never looking up, just staring at his laptop or loose-leaf pages. I admired his work ethic. I took great comfort in seeing him there, even if we did not know each other, I felt that I could count on him. Simply because he was always there. I imagined that if I shouted across the way with some sort of emergency, that he would look up from his equations, put on his cape, and come to my rescue.

When I came home last May from a semester of traipsing around the globe, Superman was still around. Still working. Still wearing the same shirt. But at some point over the summer, when I was distracted with iced lattes and days at the beach, Superman moved out. I don’t remember seeing trucks or anything, but nevertheless, one day he was gone. Off to save another city. His replacement doesn’t leave the light on, so now I have no one, nothing, to look at when I wash dishes. Nothing, except for the sad, poorly measured, but beautifully colored, superman logo I drew on a piece of Xerox paper. I taped it above the sink. It’s not the same, but it’ll do. It has to.

II. In my first year of college, I sat by the window of my favorite coffee shop reading Wordsworth for a class require for the English major (I have since switched majors, life paths, pseudonyms, for any and all reasons, but that’s beside the point. Or is it?). I was sitting there by the window trying to do a make-up assignment for a class I’d missed to go to my grandmother’s husband’s funeral. I thought it was stupid that I had to write a paper for a class I’d been formally excused from via my dean’s office, but I didn’t have the gumption yet at 19 to refuse to turn in assignments that I didn’t agree with. So there I was, reading dead white guys trying to find meaning. I didn’t find any, but I found these lines that I liked a lot: “I cannot paint / What then I was. The sounding cataract / Haunted me like a passion.” It’s from “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” lines 73-75, if you’re curious. I wrote the words down in my journal. I wrote some sort of analysis of them in the form of an essay and submitted it. B-level work (a good tagline for my gravestone, if you should need one), which I was fine with. I was, after all, dealing with extraneous familial, financial, personal stress.

I’ve remembered the lines to this day, though I will admit that I only just now looked up the definition of cataract. I suspected that Wordsworth wasn’t writing about the cloudy gunk that floats around your eyes when you get old, but I didn’t know and didn’t pursue it further. (She didn’t pursue it further: another good one to put in stone and place above my buried ashes.) For anyone wondering, who did not already know, a cataract is not just an eye condition but also another word for a large waterfall. Knowing this doesn’t change my perception of the quote at all, because I was most drawn to the images of painting a past self, and of haunting passions. I still am.

III. As much as I miss yesterday and am anxious about tomorrow, I am stoked to get to live right now, here, today. I have so much work standing between me and the graduation stage, but undoubtedly it will get done. I wish a big old cataract would just wash it all away, but on the other hand, I’m actually pretty excited to see what I come up with. I love what I’m studying, and obviously love writing since I just sat here churning out little stories on a Saturday night. I’m breaking down the next 51 days into 51 discrete units (don’t ask me how I just pulled out a math term. Maybe Superman is still with me after all). I’ve been writing down the four, ten, fifteen things I need to do each day and crossing them off. It’s honestly working wonders for my general anxiety. I can tell you what I have to do tomorrow, but God help us all if you ask me what’s going on next Tuesday. Minute by minute, day by day, I’ll be chipping away at what’s left. This ridiculous college thing. We got this, folks. Thanks for always having my back. And, as always, for stopping by.

Mit Liebe,

PJ

 

Because themes and stuff:

dry

CW: alcohol & drug use

I was trying to ex-out of Google Chrome when a pop-up appeared; it offered me the options “Leave” or “Stay.” I was filling out an application for some job I’m lukewarm about. As a passionate and emotional person, I don’t like lukewarm anything. I scald myself in the shower, despite dermatological suggestions to choose a reasonable temperature. I waved the mouse over “Leave” and clicked hard. I think Google might have remembered what it’d seen in my bank account, because it was hesitant to accept this choice. “Are you sure?” a second pop-up asked. “Yes,” I clicked, harder than the first time.  

You may know by now that I love taking crazy and odd jobs. I drove Uber for the first time on Halloween, I’ve done “modeling” for graduate art classes, but last September, I took the best gig yet. I began as a research participant in a study that looks at the impacts of THC and alcohol on driving. Yeah, you read that right: I got legally stoned, I got drunk, I played video games, and I got paid. It was every sixteen year old’s dream come true. I was only in it for the money and the story, but I came away with a better sense of my substance-use. And, unexpectedly, a strong desire to go sober.

Before beginning the trial, I had to be medically cleared. This clearance consisted of a full physical, blood work, and a charting of my family history. The most strenuous part of this process, though, was the psychiatric exam and documentation of my substance use. I was honest with the researchers; I told them I’d been depressed in the past, that I’d drank more during that period than any other, that I’d gotten really anxious/paranoid when combining alcohol and weed. Nonetheless, I was cleared and began a several month journey at the local VA Hospital.

Though the study was double-blind and I can’t know for certain, I am fairly certain that on my first test day I received alcohol-placebo (meaning alcohol and a sugar pill, as opposed to alcohol and THC.). I remember being elated and relaxed (while drunk), but when I sobered up I felt something just shy of despondence. As the study continued over the course of the fall, I made a note-to-self that I felt best on the placebo-placebo day and worst on the alcohol-THC day. Short synopsis of that day, which was *crazy*: I got drunk & high, did the driving stuff, sobered up, had lunch, then went in for the final “baseline” drive to get cleared to get home, then was hit with a second wave of THC—I was in the very dark, very cold driving booth wigging out because I had been sober but 30 seconds before. When the researchers came back in after I’d finished the drive, I told them I was “super high” and had to sleep it off for several hours before being discharged. For the concerned out there: I should note that I took the bus home after each of these occasions or had Maddie pick me up; the researchers were very strict about patients not driving home on test days.

Throughout each test day, the research team would supply me with a stack of surveys about symptoms, my perceived ability to drive, and my mood. I realized after day one that my mood was lower at the end of the day than the beginning; I chalked it up to being tired, but now having been more attentive to the way alcohol affects my body, I realize it wasn’t fatigue.

Flash forward a few weeks after the study was over: I spent New Year’s Eve sober–not a decision, just out of circumstance–and greeted the first morning of 2017 with some stretching and a long run by the beach. I did yoga on the Maine shoreline, danced on the rocks, felt great. After my bright morning, I went out for lunch and saw the restaurant had gluten free beer. I ordered one, drank it, and twenty minutes later was deep in a funk. I took myself shopping in an effort to cheer up, but I couldn’t. I went back to the house I was staying in, had a gin and tonic, which, unsurprisingly, did not help, watched some TV and went to bed. I returned home to Connecticut the next day; over dinner, my brother began talking about the effects of alcohol on brain chemistry. He made some comment about how alcohol can reduce your uptake of serotonin and dopamine for up to three days. When he said this, something clicked. I realized that there was definitely a connection between my depression and drinking habits. I wasn’t just hungover in the days that followed drinking (whether light or excessive), I was inviting bouts of depression.

Honestly: I have been trying to give up alcohol for a while. Like, a couple of years. I’ve always admired my friends who don’t drink. My old roommate had an allergic reaction to alcohol on her 21st birthday and hasn’t had a drink since. Every time I came home drunk or woke up hung over I would look at her and think: I wish I was sober, or, I need to stop this. This is hurting me more than it’s serving me. Sure, I’ve had some really fun nights out, and in, drinking. But I’ve also had some really bad ones, followed by strings of bad days wondering why I felt like sh*t. I’ve stopped for brief periods in the past, but it never stuck. The realization that I’d wanted to quit this behavior badly, but couldn’t bring myself to do it, became troubling. When I heard–and then read a bunch–about the alcohol-depression-dopamine connection, I realized that stopping was a decision I really, really wanted to commit to. It’s cliche to come to major decisions like this around New Years, which is why I was hesitant to write about it several months ago. But now it’s been some 80 odd days, and I’m feeling good. Stable. Sure.

I know that I’m really lucky; I wasn’t struggling with a full blown addiction. I have deep respect and admiration for all those overcoming their own addictions; it’s an incredibly decision to come to, and an even harder process to follow through on. We need support from family, friends, God, but ultimately it is a journey we take alone. My alcohol and drug use wasn’t at the point where it was concerning any of my friends or family. But, it was worrying me, and that was all I needed to look in the mirror and say Leave, followed by Yes, I am sure. I knew that I couldn’t commit to this for anyone else’s sake or benefit, which is why I’m struggling to write about it: these kinds of decisions are super personal, and they only work when we’re fully committed to treating ourselves better. That said, I got help and advice from blogs, particularly this one: Hip Sobreity; I did a lot of journaling and talking to myself about what this decision means for me in the present and in the future. I’m in my middle-twenties (sort of? almost?), am graduating college soon enough (yippee!), and am beginning to think about the kind of life I want. I don’t think alcohol is destructive to everyone, but I know it’s not good for me. I know my family history and the way my body reacts to “just one drink;” the risks just aren’t worth it anymore. I’m grateful for the support I’ve gotten from friends and family, drinkers and non-drinkers a like, and know that this piece is a bit of a coming out for the people I haven’t been brave enough to tell yet about this new step in my life.

Peace on this rainy Monday,

PJ

wireless wiz

I usually write to you from the comfort of my kitchen table, where no one can see me, where I can write for free. We’ve been keeping the heat off all winter, though, so it’s a little chilly on the home front. (We’ve saved a ton of money though. Worth it.) Today, however, I am writing to you from Wireless Wiz, a phone repair shop downtown. I’m sitting in what appears to be a large wooden throne. When I walked in, two teenagers were sitting on this the same bench. Making out. Oh, to be young. The throne is just one of the many medieval-dungeon-style decorations in Wireless Wiz. There are large, metal light fixtures attached to the stone wall, a wooden gate type thing affixed to the ceiling, and a row of large, metal chandelier things. There’s also a gumball machine. And a table with two children’s books on it, Goodnight Moon and All Around Busy Town.  Interesting.

I’m here because my phone is a broken piece of shit and I can’t afford the new one I want. I can’t afford it because I already bought it, and then lost it, and suspect that it may be one of the dented, scratched ones under the glass that’s being resold at market value; it did fall out of my pocket on this very block, after all. But whatever. Will never know. Moving on.

Moving on to the tune of $90 for screen repairs. Repair: what I should’ve done in back in December, since I’m someone who used to believe in reducing, reusing, and repairing instead of buying the shiniest, new thing. I double-backed on my values and fell into the trap of consumerism. It’s not hard to do. It’s so comfortable. Everyone does it.

“Everyone does it,” is what you tell your parents when they try to lecture you about smoking pot. Or not-smoking-pot, rather. “Everyone does it” is what you tell your friends when they sleep through class. “Everyone does it” is often a trap. An excuse. At best, I use it in attempt to forgive myself for doing something common, but something I disagree with. At worst, it’s being complicit in systems that produce and reproduce social inequality, that does little to protect the planet and those who are most vulnerable with respect to the changing climate.

But what if I don’t want to be “everyone”? In my clowning class (yes, i am enrolled in Yale’s only seminar on clowning…please ask me any and all questions you have. i love talking about it.), in clowning class we practice being vulnerable as we try to express the stuff that churns deep within us. The molten lava. The birthplace of weird. Different. We are told not to do things for a quick laugh, but rather to take risks with our bodies and our voices. It’s a practice of unleashing your inner weirdo. Fortunately, my inner weirdo lives a few centimeters below the surface, so I can tap in pretty easily. Especially if I’ve had a cup of coffee. It’s terrifying and satisfying and gratifying. And it’s a reminder of just how important it is to foster social-emotional connections, to flirt with our honest emotions, our primal selves. Being like someone else, no matter how funny that person is, doesn’t serve you or anyone. It’s identity theft. Being yourself, no matter how different, no matter how difficult, is the way to go.

I spent a solid chunk of Tuesday evening setting reminders on my calendar about when what bills were due and how much they typically cost. I have other calendars full of reminders for other things I wouldn’t otherwise remember. But I’ve been thinking lately about other kinds of reminders, spiritual reminders. Remember: Social media can be a tool, but it can also be a weapon of mass distraction. Phones can be useful, but they can also be weapons of mass distraction. Bills need to be paid, but we are here to serve a greater purpose: to be present to ourselves and others. Small acts of kindness, generosity, are important. Taking strong stances on issues, especially at a time when our government is as truly frightening as it is at this moment, is important. When you have the ability and privilege to do so, giving your body, your mind, your time up to serve others is essential. Resting your body, your mind, and giving yourself time to digest, heal, take care is essential. Write love letters. Take hot showers. Be grateful for the ability to love. To take hot showers. Say ‘thank you’ to people who have helped you, mean it, and repeat it. Dance–spontaneously and often–as you would if you were four years old. A reminder that this life is short and we can spend it in and out of a rut, the trap that has been set for us, to live like everyone else, or we can take individual approaches, create the new thing, abandon it, and start all over again. It’ll be terrifying. But surely gratifying, satisfying, too. 

HOKAY well, my iphone screen hath been repaired by the medieval knights of Wireless Wiz. Thank you, medieval knights of Wireless Wiz. I’ve been listening to some badass, weird women lately. Found this gem from Imogen Heap. Enjoy. Be true. Be weird. Be brave. With love,

PJ

ONE HUNDRED, MFer!!

Folks. I have cold, and it’s disgusting. I don’t feel human. I feel like snot. But excited snot, because guess what…yesterday marked 100 days to graduation. That’s right. I’m writing you from the other side of one hundred! Double digits from here on down. May 22nd is right around the corner. Are you ready to party?

I celebrated yesterday by picking up cupcakes (totally invalidating the dental cleaning I’d just endured) to eat with my mom. Since I’m sick, I couldn’t really taste them. It also was hard to eat because I can’t breathe through my nose, but like, it was symbolically celebratory.

I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and May 22nd…so I’m gonna cut this post short. However, things to look forward to: A post about attending a really ritzy dance, eating all the gluten free cookies, then leaving to drive Uber. A post about how much I love my car and how we’re gonna go to the car wash this week because the snow has made her really, really dirty. A post about post-nasal drip. A post about Valentine’s Day–actually, probably not.

 

JK…I’m really, really ready. However, this is a great song.

depresh-yawn

You know when you wake up from a night of partying, how everything’s a blur and your room’s a mess? Clothes thrown all over, a wine bottle lying on its side, a big Merlot stain bleeding out of the neck like a word cloud that I imagine would say something like “WTF PJ?” or “Really, girl?” That was my room this week. Except instead of one night it was one month, and instead of partying it was depression.

I didn’t wake up from depression, but rather, I woke up to it. The more aware of it I became, the more desperately I wanted it to vanish. To go back to where it had been hiding. To never bother me again. I scrunched up my face the way you do when you realize you have to face something you wish never existed in the first place. I rolled out of bed, put on a hat, and walked my butt to therapy. The appointment was long overdue. And it showed. As I sat there discussing medication, something I’d only flirted with as a concept, my mind started rolling through a list of common, but destructive, thoughts:

How did this happen? I take good care of myself. I quit drinking (more on this later). I do yoga, meditation, acupuncture. I exercise. Take vitamin D. And B12. And magnesium. I sit by a sunshine lamp. I drink smoothies and herbal tea. I journal, practice gratitude, pray, go to church. What am I doing wrong? What did I do to cause this? What went wrong?

The answer, of course, is nothing. What can I do better? is also a trap. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & all the self-care things are great, essential, but sometimes they aren’t enough. The last time I felt this bad, I left school. If you’ve been following along, you remember those weren’t the best of times. I had a cushion then; I had time then. I could take time now, too, I guess, but I don’t want to leave. I want to complete the next 112 days in this Institution. I told this to the doc lady, and told her, too, that I was terrified. And exhausted. Unable to do my work. When you’re depressed, she said, things that take two points of energy now take twenty. Yeah, I said, slumping down a bit, I feel that. And since I have no appetite whatsoever, I can’t fuel all the extra energy I need to get through one day, let alone one hundred and twelve. I told her that it’s been a particularly hard week, no, a hard month, and actually, now that I think about it, this has been creeping up for the better part of a year.

As someone who loves caring for herself and others, it’s been hellish being unable to do so. To do basic things. Recycle a milk container. Open my car door. Remove my eyeliner. Gather my tax papers. Schedule appointments. I have to ask for more help than I’m comfortable receiving. For forgiveness. Patience. Love.

I’ve been here before, and have dealt with it in different ways. When I was a teenager, I powered through. Destructive, but effective at the time. A few years ago, I didn’t have the capacity to do that again. I lowered or removed all expectations. I withdrew, hid, collapsed. I apologized for the time and space I was taking, time and space that were mine to take. I’m not doing that again. I’m trying new strategies to cope with this nasty disorder. I’m going the pharmaceutical route. The yoga-every-single-day route. The write-and-talk-it-out-even-when-there’s-nothing-I’d-rather-do-less route. The honest-conviction route. The hold-tight-and-wait-it-out route. The whatever-it-takes-to-graduate route.

I was driving home the other night and was behind a car that had a license plate frame that said: “With God, anything is possible.” I turned on this song, reached up to grab hold of the rosary I hang from the sun visor, and tuned out.