Of course all you have to do is brag about your distress tolerance one time and the panic attacks come back.

There’s definitely a component of “I’m in a safe place to process shit, so shit’s coming up” going on. I’m trying to write about Australia and (surprise!) I have a lot of complicated feelings to untangle about Australia. I need to talk about it in a kind of Darmok way because it’s not rational, or linear, or English.

A book I think about all the time is Jane Jeong Trenka’s The Language of Blood, a memoir of finding your birth mother in Korea and then losing her to cancer, before you have time to learn enough Korean to say what you need to say. My mother and I didn’t communicate very well until very close to the end, when I had slowly, painfully taught myself enough about kindness to counteract my habitual ruthlessness. Immigrants are ruthless, my mother included. We jettison the past. We buckle ourselves into the geographical cure, and we don’t look back. If you look back, you turn to salt.

My bitterest memories of living in Australia are memories of living with untreated, out-of-control mental illness. What I’m feeling now are body-memories of the days when I had panic attacks 24/7. In Ireland, I found some distance (“some” = the width of the planet); in California, I found SSRIs. Now at last I can let myself understand what I gave up in exchange for these: the outlines of sacred animals on the high rocks, the Southern stars, the smell of eucalyptus trees hot under the summer sun. A landscape that made sense to me somewhere deeper than language.

black wave, by michelle tea

Nearly all the queers Michelle knew were fuckups in one way or another. Being cast out of society early on made you see civilization for the farce it was, a theater of cruelty you were free to drop out of.

the argonauts, by maggie nelson

How to explain, in a culture frantic for resolution, that sometimes the shit stays messy? I do not want the female gender that has been assigned to me at birth. Neither do I want the male gender that transsexual medicine can furnish and that the state will award me if I behave in the right way. I don’t want any of it.

promised land, by rose lerner

“Do you think anything will really be different after the war?” Rachel asked. She felt afraid even to voice the idea. Did one wilderness only give way to another, on and on into eternity?

funemployment funtensifies

It turns out that if you let me mooch off Mister Jeremy and spend my time however the hell I like for most of a year, it’ll be one quarter community organizing to resist the Trump agenda (weekly visits to local members of Congress plus get out the vote canvassing in our nearest GOP-held district), one quarter supporting under-represented minorities in the tech industry, one quarter writing gay science fiction, and one quarter snoogling horses. I don’t know why I’m surprised. I doubt anyone else is.

It’s possible my surprise Sabbatical is coming to an end, and I don’t know how to feel about that.

Can I even express my gratitude to my mister of eighteen years and one day for his fabulous awesometude and generosity, signs point to no. My advice for a happy marriage is to marry the kindest, smartest, most curious and emotionally intelligent person you have ever met, and then try to deserve them.

why i love yoz, part 36,423

“I’m scared. It’s so important, and I’m not sure I’m up to the job.”

“Let me put it this way. Do you trust anyone else to do it?”

“Oh HELL no.”

without you there is no us, by suki kim

For those of us raised by mothers and fathers who experienced such trauma firsthand, it is impossible not to continue this remembering.

weave a circle round, by kari maaren

“It will all be terrible,” said Cuerva Lachance, patting her on the shoulder, “but let’s pretend it won’t.”

why i love yoz, part 36,422 in an ongoing series

“Of course if you had a robust praxis around intersectional feminism, you’d’ve already figured that out.”

“You’re so right.”

“No. I’m just lucky that your friendship-orientation is towards heinous bitches. I can be my true self.”

a cyborg manifesto, by donna haraway

Evidently, I should’ve read this years ago.

Modern machinery is an irreverent upstart god… Our best machines are made of sunshine… They are floating signifiers moving in pickup trucks across Europe, blocked more effectively by the witch-weavings of the displaced and so unnatural Greenham women, who read the cyborg webs of power so very well, than by the militant labour of older masculinist politics, whose natural constituency needs defence jobs.”

Or maybe it’s fine that I waited. The extent to which it speaks to me right now is a little uncanny.

distress tolerance dinner theatre

This one is for all the other adult orphans out there. Yesterday was the third anniversary of Dad’s death. Tuesday is the fourth anniversary of Mum’s. I call this Shark Week and even though I don’t believe in astrology or the significance of dates, I always find myself glum.

That’s all right though. When I was younger and recovering from depression, I was flinchy around any negative emotion, in case it dragged me down into the dark again. But with age and having watched a lot of sad movies (on dates that Jeremy and I like to call distress tolerance dinner theatre) comes the ability to sit with my grief and not try to stuff it away in a box so much.

I will be 47 this month, and it turns out that I can think about Jean and Robin and how complicated and flawed and wonderful they were, and how their awkward and hilarious and tragic love affair is literally what I am made of, and have a bloody good cry about it, and not die.

documenting light, by ee ottoman

Some parts of our past, Avery Gordon said in her book about haunting and the social imagination, are lost so completely that only ghosts remain. In that way, we are linked to a past we don’t or can’t remember.

simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda, by becky albertelli

Remember the way people would look at you blankly and say, “Um, okaaay,” after you finished talking? Everyone just had to make it so clear that, whatever you were thinking or feeling, you were totally alone. The worst part, of course, was that I did the same thing to other people. It makes me a little nauseated just remembering that.

bird minds, by gisela kaplan

currawongs are intelligent, resourceful, adaptable and utterly loveable (affectionate, patient and accommodating – those who have raised one or two will know what I mean)

what happened, by hillary rodham clinton

It’s bewildering to me when female friendships are depicted in movies or on TV as catty or undermining. I’m sure there are relationships like that, but in my experience, they’re not the norm. Friendships between women provide solace and understanding in a world that can be really hard on us.

walkaway, by cory doctorow

Being in the death cult of money and status marked you. They bore the marks.


By the numbers: I read 156 books this year, of which 105 were by women, 73 by queer folk, 54 by writers of color, and 8 by trans people. I reviewed 30 of the books by POC as part of this Dreamwidth community, and they included some of the best books I have ever read: notably Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and The Color Purple.

My discovery of the year is Alexis Hall, who is essentially Georgette Heyer reborn as a fannish, kinky queer, and thus very much to my taste. In a similar vein I also read everything by KJ Charles and Roan Parrish. A book I keep coming back to and reading a page or two at a time is Marion Milner’s meditative, lovely A Life of One’s Own. A book I picked up again after a long hiatus is Gisela Kaplan’s fascinating Bird Minds: Cognition and Behaviour of Australian Native Birds. But if I could persuade you to read a single book I read this year, I would ask that it be The New Jim Crow.

autonomous, by annalee newitz

…she realized that the woman she saw in the mirror was not a loser. Her life was going somewhere. Maybe not where she’d expected, but somewhere good.


We walked out of the airport terminal into a wall of humidity and cicada song. I had forgotten how good Australian summer smells. I see it now in a way I never could before I left. The ferry ride to Cockatoo Island through a working harbour surrounded by old-money waterfront property. (My family’s steadfast refusal to laugh as I called it Cockapoo Island and claimed that it was made entirely of cockapoos.) Inner western suburbs with their beautiful brick terrace houses and bullnose verandahs and tall and spreading trees. Oyster leases on the Hawkesbury. I can feel my own settler-colonial culture as a shallow, temporary film over this weirdly ancient place. My family has been here for nearly 250 years. The Aboriginal people have been here for 250 times as long.

In Barraba now, I am haunted by my parents. Here’s my mother’s craft studio. There’s where Dad had his market stall. In front of the doctor’s office is where I broke down when Dad said he was sure Mum’s cancer was cured. Last night I sat on their front porch while galahs and lorikeets threw a sunset dance party. Petrichor, all around. Behind me a sun shower and in front of me, rainbow’s end. Today, my brother and I took two cars and a whole expedition party out to Horton Falls. We surprised mobs of kangaroos. We had both forgotten to check if we had full tanks. It’s alarming to drive on a single-width bush track with the fuel light on. We glided back into town as smoothly as we could, running on fumes. But here we are.

ms 14

“You can’t shush the truth!”