Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Hello Invisible Audience,


Something interesting happened recently.


I finally reached out to a friend who lives in Mexico and asked him how much it costs to live there.


His answer? It was roughly what I spend to live here.


And although there are clearly ways to live cheaper, I was hit with an overall feeling of relief.


I don’t have to leave.


Without realizing it, I was telling myself that I was making a huge financial mistake by staying where I am. And although there are many things that are more expensive here than they are elsewhere, the cost of living is going up all over the world. Moving somewhere else is easier in some ways, but harder in others. If, after the cost and emotional toll of moving to another country, I wasn’t able to relax into a significantly lower cost of living, would it be worth it?


Right now, the answer for me is no.


And although there are certainly parts of the world where the cost of living would be significantly cheaper, I am not drawn to those places like I am Mexico—like I was to living near someone I already knew, who had established a friend group that I could envision being a part of.


But even putting that aside, the fact that my first thought was one of relief gave me more clarity than I’ve had around this issue. Instead of a constant dance in my head of do I? don’t I? going around like a merry-go-round, it became crystal clear: if the financial piece was not a factor, where would I rather be?


Here. I would rather be here. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Maybe not ‘til death do me part, but for now, I don’t want to leave. That’s where the relief came from. That I no longer had to question whether that was true.


And guess what? I’m feeling better. Significantly so, compared to how I felt in the beginning of March, when things felt impossible. And though I can attribute that to many things, I am sure that this clarity helps immensely. Being undecided takes up an unprecedented amount of space in my head.


Although this doesn’t solve all my problems, this clarity certainly makes at least one thing easier. Now I’m looking for ways to stay, instead of fighting with myself about whether I want to leave. And that’s a gift I will gratefully wrap my arms around and hug to my chest.


Love and clear kisses,


Sunday, May 19, 2024

How Do I Save Myself?


Hello Invisible Audience,


I have already written about The Conundrum, but here’s the gist of what I’ve been thinking a lot about the past six months or so. Do I stay in Leavenworth, or do I go somewhere else? If not here, where? If I’m not teaching, what do I do instead?


And although I still have all those questions, the context in which I’m thinking about them has changed since the last time I wrote about it. 


Here is what I have figured out:

I don’t want to leave where I live.

I would rather be here. I would rather be able to walk out my door and straight onto hiking trails. I would rather continue to hear the river when I’m outside, even if I can’t see it. I would rather continue to enjoy the changing seasons, with long summer days and long starry winter nights—although if I’m going to be honest, I could do with less snow. I want to continue to enjoy the cold, clear, glacier-fed water that I swim in all summer in so many alpine lakes and river eddies.

I want to continue to feel like I am a part of this community—that the work I do somehow benefits some of my neighbors and friends. I want to revel in the deep knowing in my blood that comes from having been born in this place. Although I grew up 50+ miles from where I now live, North Central Washington is home in a way nothing else ever has been.


Do you know what I don’t want?

I don’t want to continue to struggle so much to pay all my medical costs, even when the care is either substandard—i.e. the sinus infection I had misdiagnosed three times a couple years ago, etc.—or my insurance that balks at paying for things it already agreed to pay.

I don’t want to continue to hope that I feel well enough that I don’t have to choose between eating foods that don’t hurt my gut or paying for that thing my insurance doesn’t cover that will reduce my pain.

I don’t want to think about how rent has doubled and sometimes even tripled since I moved to this area nine years ago, and how there is no way in hell I will ever be able to afford to buy a house here.

I don’t want to spend so much time looking at my budget, over and over, to make sure what I make covers my expenses plus my debt.

I don’t want to feel like I’m fighting so hard against a culture that tells me it’s my fault if I’m sick, or not thin, or I don’t have enough money, instead of considering the implications of the policies that have brought me and so many others like me to my knees.

I don’t want to think about how hard it is to save for a supposed future retirement when all my money goes to treating my illnesses now, and how that wouldn’t be the case in any other country in the world because our healthcare costs are so astronomically high.

I don’t want to continue to feel so isolated in what feels like a nuclear-family-centric society. I want to be part of a thriving, interdependent community.


I want to be here, Invisible Audience, but I am not sure I can afford it, in more ways than one.


I was listening to an On Being podcast episode today with a climate activist from Louisiana named Colette Pichon Battle. She talked about how it doesn’t matter if she already knows the land her family has had for generations is going to be underwater soon, no matter what. “My last name is Battle,” she said. “I am not going down without a fight.”


So here is my question, Invisible Audience: do I stay and fight toward creating a place for myself here to make it feel even more like where I want it to be? Or do I leave?


I had a thought start dancing through my head in the middle of the night a couple days ago.

Why wouldn’t I save myself?


Why wouldn’t I go where it’s easier? Where I don’t have to adhere to the culture because it doesn’t feel like it applies to me? Where the cost of living is cheaper; where I can live better on less? Why wouldn’t I do that, when I have the language skills that would allow me to live more comfortably in 20+ Spanish-speaking countries, not to mention the number of English-speaking ones? Where the kinds of people I would likely befriend have probably also checked out of the American dream and all the lies that stack of cards is built upon?


Why wouldn’t I save myself, Invisible Audience?


Because maybe saving myself is not as simple as leaving North Central Washington behind.


Every day I listen to podcasts or read books or go to theater productions with people who are trying to change their worlds from the inside. People who are eschewing the larger cultural messages of conformity and fighting to bring change to their communities and their world. And when I ask myself if I want to leave and the answer is no, not really, it means the alternative is to become the kind of person who creates the world I want within this one that I don’t. The one who builds a bubble of my values and invites others in and we watch diet culture and bootstrap culture and terrible, expensive medical care press down on our bubble but it does not burst. And we take care of each other instead hiring someone to do it like we’re told we should. We become each other’s families because ours are not right for us. And we move into spaces that do not welcome us and we dig in and we stay. And maybe that is a way to save myself just as much as leaving would be. In fact, perhaps it is even more the case.


Is it possible, Invisible Audience? Is there room there for me? For the me who is tired a lot of the time, and wants to have enough energy to write to you more than I want a paying job? Is there room for the me that is terrified that I will not be able to afford assisted living for myself one day because of all the money I’ve had to invest into my care now instead?


What does saving myself look like, Invisible Audience? Does it look any different than what my life looks like now? It’s hard to know.


Love and life preserving kisses,


Monday, April 29, 2024

Where Do I Stand?


Where Do I Stand?


Hello Invisible Audience,


Last week I started a new 6-week support group/workshop for people with chronic pain. It’s from the makers of the Curable App, which is a roadmap of sorts that helps people with chronic pain find their way out of it using mind-body techniques. Basically, the whole program is about healing the divide we have in Western culture that the physical body is one thing and the mind is another; that the two aren’t really all that connected. Instead, Curable teaches its users the science behind pain, and how often people with specific tendencies like perfectionism and people-pleasing (yes, that’s me raising my hand) are the ones who end up in chronic pain.


We’re also the ones who have likely experienced trauma, and the ones who felt like love was conditional. We’re often the ones who end up with chronic health conditions of any kind. Basically, we’re the ones whose nervous systems were already jacked up, and now our danger signals are crossed and anything that feels remotely dangerous—physical or emotional, whether it is or not—will send us into a pain spiral. Or, as has been my case recently, a long-lasting case of fatigue.


So it’s only been two weeks. Two 1.5-hour zoom sessions with a facilitator and a dozen other people like me. Two 90-minute videos teaching about how our identities have been hijacked by pain or how pain works in general, although I’ve only made it through one and a half of those videos. I want to say it’s making me feel better, but it’s not yet, Invisible Audience. Instead, it’s freaking me out.


I watched the first part of the second video today. The first half was actually very interesting, about how pain is in itself something that occurs in the brain to teach us not to do things that are dangerous. But without meaning to, I stopped the video on a specific slide as soon as they shifted from from talking about physical pain to talking about emotional pain. That slide said in big letters:




Last night, in the second zoom session, I got really angry. There are many rules around what we can and can’t say in those sessions. We can say our “symptoms are worse” but are discouraged from going into detail about those symptoms. And although the facilitator has encouraged us to be authentic, I have not found her methods very encouraging, despite what she says. The first class, a woman said, “pass,” instead of answering a question everyone else in the group had already answered. The facilitator tried to press her. “I was really excited to show up for this, but now I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions. I pass. It’s the most authentic I can be right now.” The facilitator didn’t press again, but at the beginning of our second session, she stated that everyone was required to participate in the next exercise. When another member said she’d realized how she was using pain instead of setting boundaries and how hard boundary setting is for her—something that I also struggle with, and deeply resonate with—the facilitator dismissed her concerns and told her she was just thinking about boundaries the wrong way. That as soon as she realized that she could use them as a way to express love, they wouldn’t feel so hard. I wanted to explode with rage.


This is something I come up against time and again, Invisible Audience. Someone in a position of authority makes a statement that does not reflect my experience, and I start to lose my ability to take in anything they say. Take in, believe, or respect. Which has, I know, made healing difficult. At the same time, the amount of people who have fed me bullshit advice when it comes to healing is very long—especially the number of people who have told me that they know better than I do what I am feeling and how to get out of it.


So what about when the message is good but the messenger sucks?


I know this is a worthy program. I’ve been using the app for quite a while and found it helpful. I know that figuring out how to calm the nervous system—the whole point to all of this—is a logical way to address not just my fatigue, but the revolving door of health issues and symptoms I’ve had my whole life. The premise makes sense to me. And I am aware—VERY aware, Invisible Audience—that the strong emotional reactions that I’m having to some of this content is good. It means I’m digging into patterns and beliefs and emotions that have kept me stuck in a spiral of illness for a long time.


But do I feel safe? No. I most certainly do not.


Fortunately, I am not dependent on the Curable group for all my emotional support needs. I have friends to talk to about this; I can bring it up with my therapist. And it seems like an important step at the moment is to try to separate the message from the messenger, and continue to work through some of the prompts and all of the educational pieces as best I can. I am aware that trauma survivors fall into black and white thinking; that this could be an example of doing that.


I want to rage against the facilitator. But am I actually angry at her, or at the idea of letting go of what I’ve held onto for so long?


I don’t know yet. And trying to figure out whether one of those is true or it’s somewhere on a spectrum between those two extremes is one of my least favorite places to stand.


Love and lost kisses,




Saturday, March 2, 2024

I Was Feeling Better. Now I'm Not.


Hello Invisible Audience,


The last time I wrote to you, I was feeling better. It felt like this time it was going to last; that things were finally changing for the long term.


For several weeks since then, I have felt awful again. It feels this time like it’s going to last; that things are changing unavoidably for the long term.

Neither, of course, are true. Just today, I woke up, felt ok, then felt not so great, then felt ok again so I tried to go for a walk; then had to turn around six minutes in because I don’t feel so great anymore.


But I have some decisions to make, and it feels like those decisions depend a lot on how I feel.


Like, for instance, if I want to keep teaching kids.


I wrote a letter this morning to the parents of my students. It says that I am going to teach classes through the end of the school year, but I’ve decided not to teach summer camps, despite the fact that I already said I would. As much as I want to wait and see how I feel before canceling them, there are several reasons why it makes more sense to do it now. For one, March is the month when most summer camps open registration. If I’m not offering camps, parents have a better chance of finding other options right now instead of if I wait until, say, May to decide.


But more importantly, it’s because of this question that I don’t have an answer for: am I as tired as I am because I don’t want to teach summer camps?


It seems woo-woo and wishy-washy, I know. But ever since it became clear to me how much of my pain and illness seems to revolve around the state of my nervous system, I’ve paid more attention to how any number of things make me feel.


  • Almost always, writing a blog post to you or my Semi-Invisible Patrons makes me feel better.
  • Very often, teaching a class of kids makes me feel better.
  • Saying no to an invitation that I didn’t want to do in the first place gives me some life back.
  • Having a hard conversation that I was dreading makes me feel less anxious.
  • And many, many times in the past, making a decision not to do something that I thought I wanted to do has filled me with not just relief, but also a renewed vitality.


The thing that makes this decision hard is that, as I said, teaching kids makes me feel better. But that’s mostly teaching kids after school, or once a week, like I do during the school year. That’s different than the burn out I can experience teaching week-long summer camps, even if they are only 3 to 4 hours long.


I keep trying to apply logic to this; to try to convince my body that week-long camps every other week is really not that much. But when I felt worse this morning, I was thinking about doing summer camps; when I felt better, I had just drafted that letter saying I wasn’t doing summer camps.


If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’ve been questioning since last fall whether continuing my business teaching extra-curricular Spanish classes is sustainable, not just in terms of my energy, but also in terms of the money I bring in. It’s a tough balance: the amount of energy I have to teach does not equate to enough to cover all my bills. But I keep running up against a wall around this: I choose my own schedule now; if I’m having a rough day energy-wise, I can take it easy and just do the essentials. That means teach the classes, but otherwise lay on the couch if necessary. But are those short bursts of the intense energy it takes to facilitate a class of kindergarten to second graders costing me more energy than, say, a desk job, especially a remote one, even if it was more hours?


I love to teach, Invisible Audience. I really do. And I think that’s why this decision has been so hard. I get a lot of joy out working with my students. But is there a better fit out there for me? Something that feels as rewarding, and doesn’t take as much from me energy-wise? Or isn’t as rewarding, but covers the bills better and doesn’t leave me as zapped by the end of the day or the week?


It’s also not as cut and dry as giving up teaching, though, is it? Which is why I want to first try cutting out summer camps. Because it doesn’t have to be a binary decision: I can choose not to teach summer camps, but continue with classes during the school year. I can cut down on how many classes I offer during the school year, and do them in tandem with some as-yet-to-be-determined part-time job.


Or I could get partway through a summer free of summer camps and realize that I’m done teaching and needed the space to let myself realize that was true.  


Love and tired and confused kisses,



P.S. I've had a hard time keeping up with my blog lately, but what writing I have done recently has gone mostly to my patrons on Patreon. You can check out my profile here. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons. When I can't find time to post both here and on Patreon, I prioritize posts on Patreon instead. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

I’m Feeling Better. I Think This is Why.

 Hello Invisible Audience,


I have a stuffy nose today, that started as a sore throat and a headache on Friday. But unlike other recent illnesses, this one feels different: it feels like it’s just a minor physical symptom that will fade, instead of the portent of an unending illness that will slowly erode my will to live.


It feels different because I am different, in some ways that feel remarkable. I want to share those ways with you, but not because I think I’ve figured out some hidden formula to help others get better. I want to share it with you first so that I don’t forget what’s been working, and second so that, if you chronically feel terrible, you know that the way out is not something you can adopt from someone else’s treatment plan. You have to find your own treatment plan that works for you.


The Nervous System

The biggest change in my life has come from learning something from a friend of mine who works with people trying to recover from chronic illness. According to him and the research he’s done, the reason some people recover quickly from illnesses and some just don’t has to do with trauma. If you’ve experienced trauma—like I have, and like my friend has—your nervous system is already jacked up, to put it bluntly. Add in a long-term bout of pneumonia, or a case of Lyme disease, long COVID, etc., and your body’s already panicked outlook on life is going to skyrocket and stay there. This is also true of chronic pain.


Learning this made my entire life make sense, Invisible Audience. I have been sick in one form or another for as long as I remember. I kept trying to treat the symptoms, or the illness. It would work for that one thing, but then I’d get sick in another way. One thing after another after another. So even though Lyme disease has been the latest and greatest, it was not even remotely the first thing.


Most of the following things that have worked for me have worked because I’ve been able to put things in the context of trying to calm my nervous system. After I found the things that worked for me in that framework, things began to change rapidly for the better.


Find the People Whose Words Make Sense to You

“Being a human is weird,” my friend says. I bought him a website domain name that ended in .guru as a joke, because he’s supremely uncomfortable with the idea of being lumped in with other healers or coaches who claim they have the one right way to help someone. He talks about the science behind the tools he suggests, but he also says, very often, “If this tool doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”


There are undoubtedly others who do similar work, but use vocabulary around God; the Universe; Divine Light. None of those words or dogmas hit me where I need them to: in a way that I can take in and appreciate fully. So I don’t seek them out. I seek out more people who speak in the way my friend does, because what he says makes sense to me.


Stop Listening to People Who Won’t Listen to You, and Stop Trying to Convince Them of Your Validity


Boundaries are hard for me, Invisible Audience. It feels like I am risking death to tell someone how I really feel about how they’ve treated me sometimes. But it turns out this is a really big part of healing a jacked-up nervous system. It turns out that there’s more than one way to traumatize someone: the first is the act itself, wherein I learned that what I wanted or needed or felt didn’t matter. The second is learning from that trauma how to perform that same act on myself, over and over and over again. Staying friends with people who don’t listen to me, validate me or show up for me. Saying yes to things I don’t want to do. Spending all my energy trying to convince people that my experience is real, and valid, and that they should believe me.


Stop Doing the Things That Make You Feel Worse or Have No Impact

It is true that there are some foods that make me feel worse if I eat them. However, none of them have conclusively shown up on a blood test or stool test or any other test. I eat it and I don’t feel well. It sounds simple, but it took much longer than I wanted it to because I was too busy listening to what everyone else said I should be eating instead of just listening to my body. This led to some doctor-prescribed disordered eating, that connected nicely with an eating disorder I had in high school and continued body image issues I’ve had to make me feel awful and blame myself for not being able to eat well enough to feel better, or lose weight. Invisible Audience, getting a dietician who practiced Intuitive Eating was the very best thing I’ve done for myself, ever. Now I eat what sounds good. Period. I am less likely to choose things that make me feel like shit. I eat a lot of healthy foods, because they make me feel good. And so, so much less of my head space is taken up by thinking about what other people think about my body. It is the most amazing gift I have ever given myself.


Meditation makes me feel worse. So does focusing on my breath. This is not true for everyone, but there is a growing body of research that shows that many people with trauma and PTSD have similar experiences to mine. I have stopped trying to convince breath coaches and yoga teachers and meditation enthusiasts that this is real, even if it still enrages me that they’re shaming people like me for not “doing it right” if we feel worse instead of better when we try. But I’m no longer trying to get them to own that they’re wrong. I just don’t do the things that make me feel worse, because it was teaching my body that what I felt didn’t matter.



Writing makes me feel better, Invisible Audience. Last week I felt so, so tired. I wrote about it, and the feel immediately went away. I have no idea why this works for me. I’m going to keep doing it.


Safe Touch

I live with two, super-cuddly cats. I’m single. It turns out that I need human touch, and that, until now, I’ve only allowed myself to get it from people who were helping me recover from pain. The problem was that these people were aiming at seeing me less as I improved, when what I subconsciously needed was to continue to get the validation and touch they were offering. So I’m going to start scheduling preventative massages that aren’t dependent on feeling awful to go in. I’m just going to go because it feels so good to have someone I trust touch me. Hopefully, with time and more work, I will feel comfortable enough to try to find others I trust who I can enjoy even simple amounts of physical affection with.



I have been in talk therapy for years, Invisible Audience. Recently, I started with a new counselor, who is fantastic. Not only do I feel like her general approach to therapy is helping me, we also started brainspotting recently. She describes it as a cousin to EMDR, and it is impacting me SO. MUCH. Some things can’t be talked out. Some things must be felt through. Brainspotting is helping me identify and clear those kinds of things that have been stuck for a long, long time.


This isn’t anyone’s pathway to health but mine, Invisible Audience. I hope you can find yours, too.


Love and better kisses,


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Where’s the Line?

 Hello Invisible Audience,


Have you noticed that I think a lot? It’s hard for me to gauge how much I think compared to anyone else—I don’t live in anyone else’s head, after all—but man, sometimes I wish I were better at shutting down the thoughts. Sometimes I wish things felt clearer to me, when, in reality, I think a lot of life just exists in murky gray spaces that are hard to define. And even as the world tends to lean more toward black and white, I’m finding myself standing in more of a gray area and trying to figure out how to be comfortable here.


I always want to know where the line is. It doesn’t even matter which subject we’re talking about, but that question constantly haunts me.


·      Where is the line of trying to stay friends with someone who frustrates me or doesn’t show up how I need them to?

·      Where is the line of how many lies is too many in a conversation with a potential new friend?

·      What is the number of times a promise is broken before it’s not worth keeping the promise-breaker around?

·      Where’s the line of how much I can exercise before I will tip myself into multi-day fatigue?

·      Where’s the line of number of voice memos it’s ok to send a friend in a day?

·      Where’s the line of trying to hold onto a job versus trying to find a new one?

·      Where’s the line of medical appointments that help, versus the number that simply exhausts me more?

·      Where’s the line where I start to feel better?


There are so many lines, Invisible Audience. And I don’t know what to do with most of them.

To be honest, I want someone else to define these lines. I want a concrete number of lies I can catch someone in before I give them the boot. I want the number of minutes I can exercise to be the same every time I try, regardless of whether I’ve had a busy week or a bad night’s sleep. I want to just clearly be making so much money that I don’t have to ponder whether it’s time to throw in the towel on the business I’ve built because I’m too tired to grow it but I don’t want to let it go. 

I want black and white lines, Invisible Audience, lined up in neat little rows, spaced exactly equidistant from each other.


But here’s the thing: when I have tried to live in that kind of black and white world, things have been worse, not better. People are shittier to each other. People judge each other more, because they say things like, “If I can do it, so can you. It’s easy,” because to them, it was easy. And that’s the kind of black and white thinking that has made things worse.


So I have to slog through each of these questions for myself, Invisible Audience. I have to decide for myself what works best. And dammit, that’s a lot more work than just deciding it’s one way or another, always and forever amen. 


I listened to a podcast last week with a woman who kept her father in her life, even though he was verbally abusive. The podcast itself was about how boundaries are not black and white, either: the question is not whether to cut someone out of your life completely or not; it can be much more nuanced than that. In this case, the woman would allow her dad to be part of her life as long as he didn’t drink in front of her or her son, and wasn’t mean. As soon as those things fell apart, she’d stop talking to him again until she was ready to reengage. 


She said something that I’d heard before, but it stuck with me this time: There’s no right way. There’s just the way that I pick.


Certainly, there are things that really are black and white. If you don’t eat, you will die. Children should be loved, not abused. Peas are disgusting.


But most things aren’t, Invisible Audience. And the more I try to make them that way, the less it serves me.


Love and gray kisses,