“Love is a doing word”


Spiritual mastery from Massive Attack

These are lyrics from “Teardrop” in Massive Attack’s 1998 album Mezzanine:

Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word

These are words of spiritual mastery. You may think you misread that. No. These are words of spiritual mastery.

By spiritual, I mean: using metaphors that are closer to the truth. Hence spiritual growth is using metaphors that are closer and closer to the truth. And in this way, these simple words from Massive Attack are so close to the truth that in terms of spirituality, they can only be called words of spiritual mastery.

Love, love is a verb / Love is a doing word gets so quickly at the core of the problems with some far-from-the-truth metaphors for love that this couplet could hide among the Psalms and no one would notice. They would not be out of place there.

I do not speak to my sisters or my father anymore because when I am in relationship with them, I feel bad. We can’t seem to solve our problems, and I don’t like feeling bad, so I don’t maintain relationships with them and I feel a lot better this way—because it isn’t a lie (the lie that our relationship is going well, the lie that we love each other).

And using Massive Attack’s logic, I can’t say I love you to them when our relationship has no extent—no doing! It would be incorrect because Massive Attack is right with this lyric when they claim that love is a verb / Love is a doing word. Relationships grow stale when people live in the same house, even—even when they make love heartlessly—when there is no more doing, no more verb. Love is built on sincere dinners and kisses and touches and trips and gifts and moments spent looking in each other’s eyes and without all that doing, you can use the word “love” all you want but it’s hollow. If you never text me anymore, don’t respond to my emails, we never call, we never visit..there is no relationship, and there is no love.

Love is a verb. Love is a doing word.

Take away those two and to claim the word “love”..is false.

My best friend texts me every day. We talk on the telephone. We’re about to visit. I can say I love her..because there is extent..there is verb..we do with each other. That’s love.

My father never calls me, doesn’t respond to my phone calls, doesn’t respond when I email him custom-designed Father’s Day cards—back when I used to do those things. He refused to participate with me..but he still claimed the word love (I love you, I just don’t know how to—can’t/won’t—relate to you). Well that’s not love. No relationship, no love. No verb, no love. No doing, and you don’t get to say the word love. If you do, in those circumstances, it’s false, it’s fake, it’s empty. It’s as black as the beast on the cover of Mezzanine.

Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word

Heed that. I don’t care if it first appeared on a Laffy Taffy wrapper or in the lyrics of a trip hop song or in the holiest book of your religion. Those are words of spiritual mastery. They describe love using a simple metaphor that is very close to the truth. When you use the word “love,” ask if the word lives up to this definition. If it doesn’t, then to say it is a lie.

“Why & How You Should Accept Yourself”


by Nika Erculj

This is one of the finest pieces of wisdom I have heard in years. Found it on YouTube. I listen to it every night as part of my sleepy playlist.

When you accept yourself, you can start loving yourself. Before you do that, you can’t fully love yourself.

Nika Erculj

I can’t say it better than Miss Erculj, so just watch the video:

Life is not set in stone


And my rocks are moving and shaking, baby

Photo by www.vincent.photo via Foter.com under CC BY-NC-ND

I adapted this journal entry from yesterday into an email to my sisters and my dad today:

To: My sisters and my dad
Stardate 21 June 2016

Within the context of my life, I’m where it’s at.

When I experience Suzanne’s communication style (selectively ignoring my communiqués) it makes me feel bad. When I experience Amy and Jaymz’ bizarre behavior, it makes me feel bad. Ditto Dad — though he’s a lost cause in my mind.

If these people want me in their lives, they’re going to have to make changes to accommodate me.

I have a valuable, lovable, functional thing going on.

I’m worth other people entertaining me, honoring me, accepting me — not me making all the changes all the time. And if they don’t think I’m valuable enough to do that for, then it truly is their loss and I will (and have begun to) move on without them.


I’m not angry at these three people. I don’t wish ill upon them. We’ve all been close in the past in our various ways and in my mind, my nuclear family is special, worth fighting for, an ideal that I have wanted to preserve.

But all is not set in stone.

And when something is not working, it is time to make a change.

And here, with these three people (and more people in my extended family) it is time to make a change. I am not dirt and I am not to be treated that way. I am mentally ill, yes, but I see a PCP, a team of psychiatrists, a neurologist, a counselor, I take big-time meds, many supplements, eat an extremely healthy diet, have been sober for two years, off street drugs for many more than that, and I live a quiet, reflective life. My shit is as together as it’s going to get. And it’s good enough to have maintained multi-decade friendships with no significant conflict, to have a best friend I communicate with every day with mutual respect and love, and so when my relationships with some of my immediate family are crashing and burning, the blame-Matthew-for-everything technique is not going to fly anymore.

Other people have to do their part.

They may not want to. They may not be capable of doing it. They may not realize changes are needed and appropriate on their end, but nevertheless, a relationship is a two-way street and I’m not feeling the motion on the other side of the street with these three and some others in my extended family.

Amy, Suzanne, Dad: consider yourselves lucky. The other ones didn’t even get a note. They just got their numbers deleted. You I insanely love enough to voice my hurt to, to try one more time to get you to hear that you are hurting me.

And while the feeling part of me would stay locked forever with you in this abuse, the thinking/logical part of me will not. I need you to listen to me. The cost of not doing so is our relationship. And don’t think, if your behavior is dragging me down, that I will not cut the rope and go on being the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. My life is rocking the house. My spirit is healthy—or as healthy as a spirit gets. The move is on you. It is your turn to see if you can integrate someone happy and healthy and seeking, through therapy and all the means listed above, even more happiness and healthiness. You either have the means to integrate me into your lives or you have not. I want to be there. But I’m not going to beat my head against the wall forever. We can be in relationship with each other, or we can say goodbye right now. I am perfectly capable of either.

“A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the queen.”


— “Let It Go,” Frozen

Photo by Lux-et-la-Liberte via Foter.com under CC BY-NC-SA

I’ve been isolating myself for a long time. Even back in the 11th grade, when my favorite lunch table clique became too cliquey, I moved to an empty table. I left my favorite people in the world and sat at an empty table. All you really have to do to isolate yourself is make up your own set of values and act according to them — you will quickly be alone.

I don’t isolate myself from everyone, which I think is interesting. I have a few friends I’ve known for 18 years or so who I’ve never fought with, never had a clash, whom I’ve never wanted to push away forever.

My dad and I have pushed each other away, I think. But in a way I must take greater responsibility because I am a lot more complex a person than he is. Early in my life he made it clear I wasn’t living up to his expectations. But it was even earlier in our lives that I had decided he wasn’t living up to mine. And instead of accepting him as who he is, I have shunned him — and I think appropriately so. He refuses to be honest with me, so even if I accept him for who he is, there won’t be what I call a real relationship there. To me the option seems to be farce..or nothing. And I choose nothing.

Now I find myself doing the same with my sisters, so the looking glass isn’t on my father’s shortcomings, it’s on me and mine.

I’m not going to blame my actions on my mental illness — I wouldn’t know how if I tried. I really don’t understand my mental sickness well enough to know how it’s affecting my behavior with my sisters now and others throughout my life history.

And I can’t single myself out as the only problem point, because as I currently don’t talk to either of my sisters, they currently don’t talk to each other. So it is a rough time, but it would be inaccurate to say that all the roughness stems from me.

Still, it’s my end of the problem that I want to solve, my actions that I want to change, my life that’s what I want to do better so I can love these sisters who currently seem so alien to me that cutting bait and motoring the ship onward seems the best choice.

I know my problem is about acceptance and expectations. About releasing my hold on what I think reality should or could be and accepting what reality is.

I’m really bad at this.

I mean I’ve had counsellors telling me this for about 10 years, and I still can’t get it right. When I do, things go beautifully. But it’s a sad world for me, because I have a very busy imagination and it has really quite a dense portfolio of ideas about what could be, what could have been.

And they’re all wrong.

Nothing could have been except exactly what is.

My father couldn’t have been any different. My sisters can’t be any different.

But I’m not even sure acceptance can help me here, because I’m so profoundly unhappy with how my father treats me, how one and now the other of my sisters treats me, that I’m not sure I want to be in relationship with them.

Maybe the awful ways they’re treating me are because of the awful ways I’ve treated them. Maybe not. Maybe we’re just really different from each other — I think this is true. But what’s are they providing for me? My dad has never provided enough value for me to consider a relationship with him valuable to me. One of my sisters, yes, sometimes. One of them, I guess yes in a lesser way. They have both housed me when I was in crisis, so they obviously care for me, or love me, whatever that means. But they also yell at me and curse at me and ignore my communication even when I make them a nice card and email it. And I can’t take that. I can’t take the irrationality of the younger and the disregard of the older. I don’t see how I can be in their lives and still respect myself, respect my own needs about how I deserve to be treated as a person. They don’t operate on my level, in some ways — they don’t meet my expectations. So the question is: can I accept them?

And the hard answer, right now, is that I’m not sure that I can.

Or maybe—and this is even worse, but maybe—I don’t want to.

It’s crazy, because I know I could be the bigger person and accept the shortcomings and humanity of these two people who have loved me when they could, helped me when they could, and who are lovely people, amazing people—and they’re my sisters! Maybe my own mind doesn’t have enough resources to do it. I don’t want this to be the final chapter..2016 was the year we stopped talking and never started again. But why would I relate to people whose communication patterns are so coarse as to cut me when they use them? And then I get mad at myself: why can’t I just give them a break? They’re imperfect, so what, we all are and are they really hurting me? I mean I don’t like the anger and the cussing and the disregard, but I’m a very smart 38 year old who doesn’t have to let any of that get under my skin. I have all the people skills needed to handle my sisters, my brother in law, my dad. I just don’t want to use them because isn’t it someone else’s turn to be nice to me, to comfort me, to be the bigger person for my sake? Maybe not. Maybe my being the bigger person falls on me rightly simply because I can do it.

When you play that role, you most often play it alone. It’s like the sheep and the shepherd: there are many sheep but only one shepherd.

It’s probably too late for me to save my relationships with my sisters. I have no desire to save my relationship with my father because to me he is an empty person. The shame is mine for not being the bigger person with him all along, or else we might have a shell of a relationship. I’m sorry, Suzanne and Amy. I have not been strong enough to accept you. I guess our relationships are trashed at this point — they are for me. I wish you good lives with people you deserve, and who deserve you and your love. Sadly, I am not that person.

[This was never sent to those involved, only published here. I don’t really care if they read it or not.]

A day that I would be proud to be my last


Live that day today

Rebecca singing in my warehouse space in 2000

A few of us in our families were talking about wills recently, realizing we don’t have them, and (as usual) I act on discussions like this. I don’t just talk about making a will and let six months pass, then maybe do it.

So I was making my will last night. Of course it invited thoughts of my death and the world going on without me, as the world will someday do. But I wasn’t thinking about it in an extremely personal way, I was just answering the questions on the forms and considering it a creative task: who do I want to give my few things and little bit of money to?

Then I remembered my friend Rebecca who died a long time ago and I remembered that her family set up some sort of scholarship fund and I thought I could give something to that. So I searched for the fund and I didn’t find it but I did find a memorial article about Rebecca with a picture of her smiling and holding her sister’s hand.

I probably should have been more careful before searching for anything Rebecca related, because seeing that picture of her beautiful face while I was filling out my own will pushed me over the edge a little bit in terms of mortality thinking.

I know life is a cycle and we’re constantly living and dying. I’m 38; I’ve thought about mortality before and pretty much come to the conclusions that:

  • It doesn’t make sense to think about it because there’s nothing I can do about it.
  • I should live my life in a way that I give the greatest value I can to others, such that when I die, there will be something to miss.

And I guess that’s it. I don’t have to agonize about mortality like I did when I was younger. The deaths of people I love are more important to me than my own—I don’t believe mine will be of much significance to me (I could be wrong!). I certainly don’t believe in an afterlife—although that would be cool!

I will always mourn my people who have died, Rebecca especially, because she was so young and died so tragically. And because Rebecca and I never got to say goodbye. We never broke up. So she—and we—are frozen in time for me in a fiery moment and it will always be left that way, undone, unclosed, unfinished. I love her; we had a unique connection. I’m not living in the past but she’s a part of my past that is so great it is truly unforgettable.

But with time the human-to-human part of my thoughts about her fade, and the fact that she encouraged me (lit a fire under my ass) creatively, comes sharper and sharper into focus. She read one of my early plays and (an actor herself) loved the complex, dark female lead. Wanted to play the part. We were both people of light but we liked our art dark, and she loved my dark art more than anyone did. I wish she could read what I have written since, because she’s one of the few people who would probably like all of it, even the stuff where I cross the line and then keep on running. I miss her.

But I am here now, as that young woman was fond of reminding me, and my job is to live each day to the fullest. To live in this moment. I try to..

  1. treat myself well,
  2. treat others well, and
  3. write

..every day—that is the best I can do. And when I do that, I live a day that I would be proud to be my last.

Life is ok again


by some combination of mental health, resources, and love

Yes, life is ok again. I am bubbling over with tears just thinking that this happiness may last one day or one month or one hour but even if it’s only one minute it’s a little piece of happiness, of ok-ness, that is here right now.

I just met with my social worker and she gave me the information for a group of mentally ill people who does art together, socializes, and puts on shows. That would be so good for me. In psych hospitals, that has been one of my favorite things to do—make art alongside other mentally ill people and talk with them about our lives while we do it. It’s so simple, but something that’s had a profound effect on my perception of this world..specifically, to compare the competitive meanness of neurotypical corporate work teams with the kind collaboration of crazy people making art together.

My social worker also gave me a directory of homes and towers of homes for the mentally ill in Nashville. It’s just what I’ve looked for on the web and haven’t found (a reference with this much detail). So, in a non-urgent manor (since I’m no longer a manic terror that my mom—understandably—wants to kick out of the apartment), we are going to explore housing options that I might take in the future..but for now, now that dealing with me is easy again, Mom is willing to live with me and that is a relief.

Every day I enter data into a program that tracks my moods and sleep, and on a good day, I check off usually all but one of six categories indicating how I feel. And the one most often left unchecked by me is: “Loved.” I might feel happy, excited, inspired, and other feelings, but only in a blue moon do I check “Loved.” Today I feel a little bit loved..and that little bit is enough to overwhelm me..it is enough. I feel loved by Davina, my BFF. I feel loved by a couple of people on Twitter who noticed that I was gone for a week and said something. I feel at least liked by a sister who chats with me about once a day. I feel paid the tiniest bit of attention to by my other sister who returned my call for the first time in four months. And I feel loved by my mom, a person who refuses to understand me by reading my mental health wellness plan—a document she asked me to make, which explains my mental illness in many facets. But I forgive everyone else’s shortcomings as I love them just as they have forgiven my shortcomings to love me, and today I can check “Loved” on my program.

And I feel one more type of love—certainly the most important. Grown-ups, when I was a kid or a young adult, used to talk about loving yourself. I did not understand what they meant. I have spent so much time hating myself. But I don’t hate myself today.

Of Bicycles and Boardwalks and Oceans and Ships


Of that first moment of love—2012

Read for free now

Of Bicycles is my NaNoWriMo from 2012. Until today, I hadn’t read it through from beginning to end, but when I spot checked shortly after writing, I saw one place where I thought there was too much repetition. Then, flipping through, I could never find that place again, and it’s annoyed me since. So today I read through it and made about 10 changes, mostly regarding misspelled words, crammed-together double words where I decided the standard way was better (though there are still plenty of crammed-together double words!), and I removed one or two commas. I studied all the repetitive places and found all of them to be correct spinnings out of a single idea, and didn’t find any too repetitive for my current taste.

I only changed one sentence (and I changed this long ago, at the end of 2013). “Taking people to their lovers,” used to say, “Taking women to their men and men to their women.” The book is heterocentric to begin with, and this sentence bugged me for a year before I came up with an alternative which is better. I don’t mind a heterocentric character thinking a heterocentric thought, but the original sentence—while in the first draft I wrote down the best thing that came to mind—the original sentence is just too exclusive to belong in a book about love.

Other than that one sentence, the single-word spelling-oriented changes I made today, and the removal of a comma or two, the fourth anniversary edition is the same as the first draft. But this tiny bit of extra polish on the book that I regard as my best, means a lot to me. Now if I die, the book will be presentable. The ending has haunted me with the question of its correctness/sufficiency, and I read today an ending which I can now lay to rest in my mind—it is as good as I can make it. I am pleased.

So, please, have a read.

A tidal rhythm, a cyclical rhythm as cradle to the endless love that is being professed, an (almost) unbearable endlessness for the reader. Of Bicycles isn’t a long book but I needed to put it aside several times. I couldn’t bear to read it in one breath, not only because it was at times so beautiful that I wanted to savour the ache of beauty, but also because at times it erred into hyperbole (imo). You’re right; it would choke a grazing zebra *;)

Joan Barbara Simon