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Tag Archives: honesty

Why Halloween Terrifies Me

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I have a confession to make. And since it is Halloween, it seems an appropriate time as any.

I don’t like festivities. I don’t like parties. Holidays drive me crazy. The chaos of multiple events, expectations, and excitement just seems like a magnet for drama to unfold. Halloween is certainly spooky for me. I have challenge enough in sharing myself with others. I have difficult enough time trusting their intentions. When you throw in costumes, tricks, and treats, I just don’t know what to think.

Skull of a cougar

Photo by Rachel Brazil 2006

Since I have had children, I try to be open to possibilities and new traditions. I strive to recognize my discomforts, honor them as true, and adapt ways to celebrate the holidays that will work for our family. But of course they want to do all the things all the other kids doing.

It’s kind of peculiar that Halloween is one holiday that really gets under my skin, as I am in love with all things autumn. Even more, I have a slight biological fascination with all things dead. Skeletons are a normal part of my home decor.

I don’t mind creepy crawlies or the like. In fact, the last year I truly celebrated Halloween, in 2005, I was making my living cleaning animal skeletons for a University comparative collection.

I’d go to work in my laboratory. Surrounded by animal remains and listen to music like Bauhaus, the Raveonettes, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Joy Division.

I dressed mostly in blacks and grays for only one reason: my most recent opportunity to purchase clothes had been for my grandfather’s funeral a month prior.

I was grieving, but delighted in learning about the living through the dead. (I was an archaeologist after all). I took pictures in the lab. Ranging from the cougar skull featured above, to the bat that the director had brought in right around Halloween. The entire process was absolutely fascinating, examining details that were beyond skin deep.


Photo by Rachel Brazil 2005

That Halloween, I went to a party with a boyfriend. Even though I struggle at them.

I wore a costume. Even though in doing so, I felt like I shared more of my true self than I was comfortable with.

I carved a Jack-o-Lantern, working carefully to recreate a skeletal version of my hand. I no longer have a picture of that, sad to say.

As much as I tried to put my best foot forward. I couldn’t do it. I hated the party. I wanted to go home. I was willing to walk 12 miles to get home. Instead, I curled up in the back of the car and fell asleep. When I finally got home I had a full-blown violent meltdown and slept on the hallway floor.

For so long, I let that event become a defining moment in that “there must be something wrong with me.”

But, as I’ve written before, I’m through with believing that.

I am who I am, and when I am expected to be something other than that, it really bothers me.

Having strangers knock on my door and ask for things bothers me.

Going on to other people’s property freaks me out.

Eating loads of candy at midnight usually results in a sugar hangover the next morning.

Acting like I am someone else clearly messes with my sense of being.

Having to interact with people in costume makes me want to run away crying.

The ghouls and the gross don’t bother me. Nor does the fake blood or a random body part. So maybe my best bet is to be a hermit for Halloween. I will stay in, with my loves (who happen to be ill today). We will make creepy treats shaped like eyeballs or ghosts. Maybe I’ll try my hand at homemade caramels or chocolate candies. Maybe we’ll play with costumes and perform spooky Halloween skits.

But really, why should I do something I am not comfortable with, just for the sake of a holiday?

New Pathways to Well-Being

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New Pathways to Well-Being

I am not much of a middle of the night blogger. But seeing as I am staying the night in the hospital, I tend to wake up as suddenly as I doze off. I have few hours yet until it is morning and the silence is stunning. Thus, I take advantage of the opportunity.

I just had my tonsils removed and am quite comfortable with an assortment of liquids as well as pain relievers. And yet, my mind is still busy. The silence encourages my thought processes. I have two things on my mind: my physical being and my physical environment. The two of these culminate into one theme: my small business. My role as a writer, my ambitions as an artist, and the family’s desire to become more involved in alternative agriculture.

I think about how this spring I began exploring my understanding of my physical being through writing.  Well, then I got sick. My throat inflamed terribly. A little ironic, I think.

Just a bit later into the summer, amid deadlines, my husband’s surgery, and my continuing illness, I said,

It is a small step in bringing order to my life.

I’m through with waking each morning feeling bad in some way.

I’m through with abusing or neglecting myself.

It’s up to me to know when to say when.

And so, that is why I am here recovering from surgery. Four months of reoccurring throat pain became a great barrier. I spent my days feeling bad. I neglected my garden, I struggled to juggle projects, I couldn’t let go of material things, and I couldn’t move on.

I literally, I could not move on into what the future had in store for me: a space for my office studio. I was told about this opportunity to gain a space the day after I cleaned out my home office. It felt like the universe was fast at work. I was granted access just after July 4.

But here it is October 9th and I have yet to move in. Why? Because the universe was at work in other ways as well.

Here I have access to space in which I can do my work as a writer and as an artist. I had wanted it so badly. But then I came to realize the building has the exact layout of my first apartment. I stumbled. I stumbled back into a time when I felt like my life calling was to be a writer and an artist. I stumbled back into a small sliver of my youth in which I loved being myself.

But, I was only 18 and had so much to learn at that time. It was eerily surreal that this new space recalled many incidents of this time in my life. Some good, some bad. All true, because I was living a true existence. That was until I got derailed, began a pattern of self-sabotage, and soon was unable to pay my bills. It didn’t take long for me to totally abuse my entire physical existence, after all I was only 18.

And perhaps now, I get a chance to do it differently.

Sure, I was scared to make the move into a similar place.

But I know have the courage to say, once again, “That was then, this is now.”

I begin to have a sense that the life I envision is possible.

I think about an article I read this morning about the art of making a living as an artist. 

I think about the business plan I developed one year ago, and how I have the opportunity to revisit that again now.

I think about how far my writing has come in the past year.

I think about a project I am working on now, helping a farmer and local foods activist friend develop her vision statement for an application.

I keep thinking about what she wrote about the growing population of would-be farmers that are prepared to unleash their creativity, but just need assurance that their dreams and plans would be possible.

I think that term farmer could be replaced by any of my potential titles, and she still would have been able to include me in that statement. After all, there are so many possibilities ahead!

And so many ideas floating around in this head of mine.

And more than ideas, but passion as well.

Perhaps in overcoming this barrier of pain, fear, and disconnect, I am better able to pave a new pathway within so that my own great ideas can connect with my true passion in order to freely engage with my own physical environment.

Recovering a Sense of Time

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Recovering a Sense of Time

Words don’t always come easy. Sure, there are times when they flow on to the page.

But, there are other times that the words we want to write are simply hijacked, by the words we need to write.

It is a reminder that writers are a conduit for words to take form in reality.

The words on my mind are not light. They are not easy.

That does not make them any less important or true.

I shiver as I think about writing something so deeply personal.

About something that makes me so distinctly different from many.

But these words, they have been residing in my mind for far too long.

It is time they become part of my pages.

It is time to let go of the illusion that, “Because I am not like others, then that must mean there is something wrong with me.”

It is time for me to share what it is like to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It is not pretty, but it is what I struggle with everyday.

It is my reality.

This is the work that I do.

This is what consumes my energy and time.

Though my reality is not always clear.

Day to day, year by year-

My sense of time is scattered and fragmented, split, and ill-defined.

Hours, weeks, months, they seem arbitrary and seemingly linear.

They are not viable representations of the time that exists in my mind.

Once yesterday becomes part of the past, I plunge further into the future and my history becomes a bit longer.

Yet, the memories are free floating in time.

With no anchor.

Such memories emerge throughout the year.

Some come through as emotions or physical pain.

Some are triggered by emotions or sounds.

Others make it through as a vivid reel of memories with no emotion attached.

Each sensation is haunting.

Like a manifestation of misunderstanding.

These struggles, I thought had overcome.

I thought I had overcome the fear of being awoken in the middle of the night by violent outbursts.

I thought I had overcome the rage that comes along with being a survivor of sexual assault.

I thought I had overcome the sadness that is so real in losing a home.

I thought I had overcome the confusion that surrounded the chaos.

I thought I had learned to talk, accept, and forgive.

I thought I had gotten better.

But I had only shoved each experience away as a fragmented collection of features.

Quickly shoving it deep into my baggage, straightening my shirt, standing up straight, and choking out: “I’m fine.” “Really I’m fine.”

Over and over again, until I believed it.

And so the cycle continued.

Each traumatic memory is unique.

Like the time that I found myself in solitary confinement.

Or the time that I saw my mom get thrown to the ground, heard her skull crack, and had to fight with all my might to keep the same (or worse) from happening to me.

Or the time I hid with my brother and sister, trying to keep warm after the electricity was purposely cut, trying to convince them everything was okay.

Or the time that I was called a slut, pushed down onto a pile of someone else’s dirty laundry, and had to use every bit of martial arts training to get the hell out from underneath that sorry excuse for a boyfriend.

Or the time our house was on fire and I called 911, only to be redirected to the local fire hall… who’s line was busy.

Or the time the police broke down my door, guns drawn, only to find that they had the wrong house, and the suspect next door was already on the run. 

Each of these happened.

And they are only a brief fraction of the chaos I speak of.

Each event was real.

Each one is in need of excavation and repair.

Because the common thread running through all these incidents is the fact that I did not feel the emotions that were a natural response to the trauma.

I disconnected, but continued to move forward.

I did what I needed to do.

Without feeling.

Working through through these events is not as simple as setting aside time to do so.

Recovery does not happen in real time.

A certain stance, movement, phrase, sound, or smell can trigger the sensation that an event is indeed happening now- complete with a full set of physical responses.

Escalated heart rate, shortness of breath, hot chest and face, cold hands and feet.

The urgent need to respond, sweating, dry mouth, ringing ears, a full heightened sensitivity, intensified reflexes.

Sometimes for no reason at all, in the current reality. For everyone else, everything is okay.

For me… I become consumed by the displaced anxiety, fear, anger, despair, sadness, and rage, each living out its shelf life in the wrong place and time.

No matter it is an inaccurate interpretation of reality- it feels real.


Each day is new, even if it feels old.

Old feelings and responses need to be sorted, assigned to their appropriate site of origin, and be contained.

Filed away in a safe place for later reference.

It is almost certain that it will be connected to another incident in space and time.

As each displaced memory is restored, categorized, and filed away, new path ways open.

New possibilities emerge.

New perspectives allow me to experience the now.

With a crisper and clearer lens.

And a better sense, of what was then.

And what is now.

Am I Really an Artist? (or) Why I Need to Paint

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Am I Really an Artist? (or) Why I Need to Paint

Seeing as I am a writer, I am much more confident in communicating through written works. When it comes to face-to-face interactions, I do my best. I try to listen, have a sense of humor, and display compassion. And that works pretty well… until it comes to talking about myself.

All those questions! The most difficult of which, “What do you do?”

I can usually get through that one with a confident, “I’m an independent grant writer.” But sometimes…. sometimes someone gets me good, “Are you an artist!?” They ask it with such enthusiasm and genuine interest and somehow my answer is rarely confident. “Well….” “Uummm…” at best I squeeze out “I’d like to think so!”

But then comes the question I fear, “What kind of art do you do?”

“Ummm…. I’ve made some jewelry.


and did some photography this winter…”  winter woods

“And well… I used to draw.

The Axis. Graphite. RP 2003-2004.

The Axis. Graphite. RP 2003-2004.

And in high school I painted…”


(I don’t even have photos of any paintings!)

All the while in my head I am waiting for the person to say, “Yeah but, what are you working on NOW?”


“But why?”

“Because… ” (and continue with a list of excuses)

I’m tired of the excuses.

I manage a gallery, but have the least amount of work displayed there.

I coordinate creative art classes, but don’t share much of my own creative talent.

Sure, I’m scared and hesitant and busy and reluctant.

But I need to start making it a priority.

Because I am a artist! (I’m sure of it!)

I dream of a point in my life where I say, “Oh I can’t do that today, I’ve got something planned for this afternoon…” And then cut to me working in my studio, on a piece of art.

I could do it.

It could be a priority.

I could pick up a paint brush and get started.

I could let go and play.

I could work on something everyday, if I wanted.

I just need to make the choice!