I wish I could get my IG to post automatically to my blog because then you'd see that I actually and doing stuff (and, like, getting cut into) and not just writing something once every gazillion months.
Thank you for all your love and well-wishes!! I felt it! Your gal is home! Surgery was a success. I feel pretty good. 🤞🏻
Would you like a cup of Smooth Move tea?
Also — eventually this house will be a full sanctuary but naturally she needed attention as well this morning as the heat stopped working. Came home to water in the basement shop, too. Cool cool cool! Not too much water and the heat got fixed via team effort. Jeez Louise.
Often in film and stories the architecture represents the character inside. Hopefully as I continue to heal so will my architectural mirror? Don’t answer that. Ha. Point is: I AM DOING WELL!!
I am relieved to have this behind me. I have a jumble of emotions about not being able to get pregnant now (freedom is at the forefront of that for me). I also had a hysteroscopy DNC, fibroid work, and an ablation, so my periods should be shorter. Oh, sweet freedom!
I’m relieved that I get to make choices for myself and my body. I wish everyone could decide whether they want or don’t want to have children. My hope is to be in the spirit of love and compassion in this (and all) department(s.)
Trigger warning: sexual assault
I got mad on my walk. I started to think about how people making decisions about women’s bodies (and people with wombs’ bodies) don’t really know a thing about human sexuality, menstruation, hormones, medication, pregnancy, and how it all works. And they don’t want to know. They are making these choices based on their man in the sky, even though we are supposed to have a separation of church and state.
Hell, even as a person with a womb, I don’t know everything there is to know. I learn thing by thing, year by year, hearing trauma after trauma. Like, sometimes when people are raped it takes a while for their mind to come back online. Shock causes them to forget the event even happened. This is the human brain’s way of protecting us. And the person assaulted might not even realize they’re pregnant until after the six weeks within which they’re allowed (for now) to terminate the unwanted pregnancy that resulted.
There’s a less intense, but still real, thing that I learned over the last decade after having breast cancer. One thing – I’m not allowed to be on hormonal birth control anymore because of the elevated risk of breast cancer. That means Plan B, too. That means if the condoms I use with my husband break (condoms, y’all…I’m forty-six years old), I gotta figure something out. One way to keep this from happening because I am even now more terrified of getting pregnant than I have been my whole recovering-Catholic life, is to deprive myself of this very healthy way of connecting with the person I love.
Not that it’s anybody’s business, but this is where we find ourselves – people with wombs having to self-disclose to beg for a scrap of compassion from the so-called “pro-life.” (What kind of life, I wonder?)
“Don’t have sex,” you might say. Do you really believe you have the right to tell me what I get to do and not do based on your religion? We’re not even talking about babies anymore, we’re talking about “close your legs.” When I think of some of my pro-life in-laws or relatives believing that they have a right to say whether I get to connect with my husband through sex based on their religion (based on ANYTHING) I am disgusted and frankly don’t want to talk to those people. When I think about how they might believe that it’s up to them whether I get to choose to mother I am disgusted. I also feel I am in the dark ages. Because it’s not obvious to them that all of this speaks to the idea that women’s bodies are not our own. That I am not a whole person.
Also, on the breast cancer tip – as if that were not enough of an invasion of my body – I was on a medication called tamoxifen for five years. It’s an awesome med that helps reduce the risk of recurrence by blocking your hormones. One thing, though, that I wouldn’t have known until I knew, is that it causes gnarly birth defects. The doctors recommend you do not get pregnant on tamoxifen and if you do, that pregnancy is terminated. So, for someone who knows in her bones and guts that she does not want to be a mother (and this does not make me evil or broken – just different than some other people), a tamoxifen pregnancy is one I would not want to carry to term. So post-Roe is terribly scary to those of us who’ve already had a terrifying thing with our bodies (cancer!) and then are on this med and must not get pregnant on it and termination is a last-ditch fail safe.
I know, I know, I – my life, me, THIS body that I HAVE – does not count. They keep telling me that. The comments, the Supreme Court, the…family.
It’s so funny, too, because I sit back and respect your right to have your views and believe in your man in sky. I smile and nod, curious about your beliefs. Even the ones that I think are so destructive to trans people, for example… how your religions say that everyone but you sucks, how your political party says that everyone except for rich, white, cis, hetero men who were born here suck. That we all deserve to be demoralized and put in cages and have decisions made for our bodies and to ultimately die (I am not exaggerating). Are you SURE this is what your man in the sky is suggesting? If so, are you SURE He’s the man in the sky for you? You don’t feel like this is just a little bit blasphemous? But then I am often accused of giving people too much leeway, too much compassion, too much understanding. When often it’s just ignorant hypocrisy I’m faced with. Hypocrisy coupled with the very real psychological trick where when people are presented with the truth of how their beliefs are actually flawed, they dig in harder and deeper, like a moralistic slot machine (I wish I could explain this in a way that could break through, make a difference, be understood). How many cheeks do I have to turn until I have none left?
ALSO – you can freeze an embryo, you can’t freeze a baby.
I think, too, I need to keep on the side of not careening into the pit of despair. Because there are other repercussions of all this. What if I were assaulted? Since like many women are. I think most of the women I know have been assaulted. So what then? And so even my movements outside are more calculated. On that walk today I mentioned earlier I was making the very real decision to choose not to be scared. And then I got really mad. Because I refuse to let this make me move through the world in a weakened state. Especially since I think the overarching plan of this thing (revoking Roe) is to keep women (and trans men) in a weakened state. We are powerful and it’s apparent and if we keep getting knocked down a peg, moved back into a state of victim and survival instead of thriving then maybe we’ll stop doing our very good, very progressive work in the world. So NO, I won’t be scared when I go take a walk. But I have to remind myself of this again and again.
And I don’t have to repeat all the memes and George Carlin quotes about foster care statistics to make the point that YES, this isn’t about the babies. It’s just not about the babies. Read your history about when abortion came on the table as a political bargaining chip. But I don’t have the time or energy to get into all that here right now.
But what about all the people with wombs who will die? What about all the people with wombs who don’t have the resources to make sure they’re OK? The ones who are already behind the eight ball, medically. If you look at a shred of the statistics, it’s chilling. But then the people who are making those decisions, as I mentioned, don’t care about the most marginalized of us. Ignorance is not an excuse.
I wrote this and then came back a month later to edit it. Because the demoralization, mental load, anger, and despair are exhausting. And I’m one of the lucky ones with resources. I just hope on the other side of all this that 1) we can get people the medical care they need, and 2) the people so hellbent on “saving babies” get the afterlife they’re so thirsty for, where they feel the full impact of all this “good” they’ve done in the world: the hunger, the poverty, the death.
A song inspired by the current (and continued) attack on reproductive rights, comments I’ve read, my loved ones’ and my own trauma and personal stories.
As my wise friend and literary mentor Linda Sivertsen says, “Write when you’re bleeding, publish when you’re not.” So even though I wrote and recorded this mid-May, I’ve waited to share. Technically not bleeding, though I’ve been in a pretty intense place on and off for a while.
It took a hearty therapy session with some EMDR to share this at all. But I feel like it's one thing to make something and entirely another to share it. As my dear friend and stellar coach Tanya Geisler says, "Don't hoard your good shit."
We see and love and guide each other. So may this song do something good for somebody feeling similarly.
Full moon offering / release.
I’m here sending love to you from my heart. In a way I’m sending this as an experiment to remind myself I can. To remind us that we can.
I wanted to write a blog to reach out and say hello. To offer my heart and connection. I’ve wanted to do this again and again over the past couple of years. Occasionally I do it. And it feels right. But often I think about putting my thoughts in MailChimp and then I throw my hands up because it feels like – “Get a load of this world stuff, everybody…I have zero answers for it. Here’s a newsletter! Whee!!”
I’m not going to lay down everything we’ve gone through (and continue to go through) collectively and individually. Like I was selling it as a bunch of wares on the sidewalk on a blanket. You can already see it all. We remember.
But I will say – I think of us creators often. And I wonder how many of you are feeling a similar sticky stuck muckiness. Those of us with hearts that want to create, that want to do something better, that want to make a difference. I think of us while I’m working on my book(s), or my writing group’s newsletter, or a song, or performing onstage or getting ready to perform. I hope my moments that seem like silence (when it feels like putting it all into something like MailChimp is too hard) don’t feel icy. I’m always beaming warmth. I’m imbuing everything I do and create with deep intention, and I think that makes a difference too.
I’m sending this because I do have ideas I want to share and I know you do, too. I do believe art is healing and energetically regenerative and nudges and budges more in the cosmos than we even know. I know connection makes a difference. ALL the difference. Just sometimes the bigness of everything that is going on – the horrible stuff – feels bigger than what I can do. Looming.
I haven’t given up. I just get stuck sometimes between the creating and the sharing.
Though I have done a lot of sharing and creating, too, and in some ways am moving creatively more than I ever have. My husband and my band Trippy Hearts played a music festival here in Boise in March that was in part why we moved here in the first place (some YouTubery here!). We’re working on a new album. I’ve written new songs that I’m loving. My first memoir is almost finished (though I’ve been saying that for years – book writers, you know what I’m talking about). Noses and grindstones and asses and chairs have been connected. But in a less, like, shitty late-capitalism, grind-it-to-a-nub-for-the-patriarchy kind of way. ;-) (There she is.)
I hope you’ll accept this somewhat messy offering from an artist who continues to keep going, making beautiful things (yes, I’m calling my own work beautiful – that feels like a breakthrough in and of itself), and intending to shift something with my heart even in the face of the goliath of heart-wrenching tragedy.
How are you if you feel like sharing? Anything you’re working on that feels cathartic/poignant/delicious/difficult/all of the above? Anything you’re working on that…feels? Consider this your hand-squeeze and knowing look from someone who gets it. I’m in it too.
Yeah, so, hey, everything’s great, huh? Haha.
Yeah, baby, YEAH.
I mean, I am in pretty good shape. But this Venus retrograde, Mercury retrograde, pandemic, PMS, various moon phases, living across the country from my people, etc. what have you, has been kicking my ass.
So I’ve been trying to deepen into my connection with the divine feminine, let myself be asea if need be, explore what there is to learn, and continue to trust my life and choices.
See, my husband and I moved across the country thinking we would have a fresh start and then like do all this band stuff we’ve wanted to do and it would all be hunky dory and we’d ride off into the sunset playing our instruments and and and.
Ya cute, Sutkowski, I find myself saying more often lately.
Looking, there are many things that I feel good about, how I’ve grown. But I’ve had to be very mindful about looking at those things and writing them down and seeing that how I feel right at this second (I’m OK, but it’s been the poops, to be honest) is not a litmus test for whether my choices and heart are to be trusted or not.
I remember years ago I was having a bit of an existential crisis and this one thing about having a “mustard seed of faith” I had heard stuck with me. I didn’t even go to Church anymore, let alone buy into those kinds of Church-y things. But I realized if I could just have a mustard seed sized bit of faith in myself, of life moving forward, of trust that I would eventually turn the corner, I would be alright. And I did turn the corner. So I’m thinking about that now. This is not even as shit as that was back then. And I’m far more resilient than I used to be.
Just sharing where I’m at. Wondering how you’re doing and if you’re needing a mustard seed of something good in all this wilderness? Consider this my handing it to you. Because it’s enough. I believe that.
Joan Didion wrote, “I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
This is a huge part of why I write as well, and in some cases, like when I need a dose of guidance, why I write music, too. Besides writing what I need to express, I write to hear what I need to hear. So I came across this bit of guidance writing and recording this song snippet. Maybe you need this message too? XO
I’ve been hiking in the existential hinterland for some time. But I’ve been out to sea too long, to quote Max Fisher in Rushmore. And other mixed metaphors. Home to roost.
About a year ago I lost my niece to Acetaminophen poisoning. A couple weeks later my cat passed. I’m not telling you this for a bunch of sympathy (though that would be fine and appreciated). I’ve been on an inner journey for quite some time, is the point.
Grief was like the ocean just picking me up and I had no choice but to lift my little feet and let the current take me. So I did that. And then it had been so long I didn’t write on here for a while. So now that I’ve been plopped back onto the sand…HI! Cough cough cough.
I figured the start of 2022 would be a good time to reflect and envision. I believe in the collective heft of the turning of the calendar year. I won’t add my two cents to what everyone else has to say about resolutions. Just: I like the turn of the wheel and that lots of people are simultaneously making intentions.
Deepening into my connection and knowing of the divine feminine.
Standing in my own power, and letting the waves of other people’s stuff, viral mutations, and so forth wash over and pass without getting too knocked off my own center.
More music – keep writing, keep recording, share more work.
Get this particular book I’m writing in shape to be seen and published (getting there).
Keep eyes and ears and heart open for where I can be more inclusive.
Stay open and listen for the next right thing.
Trust my life and the lit path.
In 2021, I:
Moved through grief
Put our first Trippy Hearts record out, made a video, worked with a promo company and got some nice radio play, had our first show finally.
Made a video with my other band, East Witch West, and wrote some more songs; moving closer to releasing two records when we can make that happen.
Had adventures with Brent and worked on communication and expanded our family adopting kittehs.
Deepened into amazing friendships and family love and forged new promising relationship.
Deepened into my resilience.
Deepened into my Knowing born of the divine feminine and my spiritual practices.
Worked diligently on my boundaries and letting go of high functioning codependency while being gentle with myself.
Got a new therapist I love and worked with another amazing one for a while who was trauma-informed and skills-based. I have some pretty great tools now.
Traveled and had fun times (Portland, OR; McCall, ID; Saddle River, NJ; Cambridge, MA).
Hugged many of my loved ones for the first time in a long time.
Had favorite peeps visit.
Finished another draft of my book working with a book coach (onto the next draft…getting there!).
Finished tamoxifen thereby finishing the end of the five-year span of having had DCIS and being out of the woods of recurrence (not that recurrence was expected).
Got published in an anthology.
Got Covid. Was scared. Then was like, Whoa, this famous being came to town. It was weird. We did OK thanks to being vaxxed.
Took major care of myself with meditation, good food, Daily Burn (exercised most days), walking by the river a lot, listening to nature and books and learning.
Found joy where I could find joy.
What have you been up to? Snug as a bug in a rug? Out in space? Looking for the joy? Ahoy!
(As for my band t-shirt in the above pic, here's La Luz's newest album if you need some beautiful tunes...)
Hi! It’s been a while. Grief and some other things have had me tired. Here's what's been up:
My band Trippy Hearts and I released an album this year and I’m quite proud of it. I’m waiting for the vinyl to be pressed – due to Covid it’s taking a bit longer than expected. But when we got the test pressings I cried because I was so overwhelmed – it was a dream come true! And don’t get me started about hearing myself on the radio for the first time!
Currently I’ve let lots of beings and help and poop into my heart and my very personal book and my psyche. I have adopted three cats since our dear boy Oliver passed a couple months ago (tomorrow would have been his sixteenth birthday). I have a new social worker and psychiatrist to help me with the anxiety precipitated by grief around losing my niece and my cat in December. And I hired a book coach. Everybody is helping me! I might have to clean litter boxes two to three times a day, but the love is worth it.
The nice thing about having three new cats (besides love and delight) is D I S T R A C T I O N ! ! I’m finding distraction helpful for anxious thoughts (though I’ve got more of a handle on those thanks to my social worker).
One of the amazing things about cats, therapy, coaching is that it all feels synchronistic and meant to be. I mean, it could very well all be a function of my privilege – I don’t want to forget that. But, for example, the social worker and psychiatrist fell in my lap because I was calling my medical oncologist (I still have one of those because of my DCIS treatment and current medication). I was advocating for myself to be able to have a diagnostic mammogram as my annual screening because it seems I always get called back for another and an ultrasound (dense breast city over here), and last year I had to wait like a month to get in for the additional screening, even though they had “seen something.” So, I spent a month curled up in a ball in my amygdala. I was determined not to let that happen this year.
While chatting with the nurse she very kindly said I deserved not to be majorly anxious months in advance of my routine screening and would I like to talk with the psychiatrist. I was like, “Yeah, OK.” My first call was with one of the social workers on staff and she was so helpful I wept my heart out after.
I have a therapist. He is good. But he is expensive, doesn’t take insurance anymore, and the best work I’ve done with him has been EMDR, which you can’t do virtually. And I’m not comfortable going into his office yet. (I cannot WAIT for my vaccine. OMG.) So I decided to take a break from him and have been talking to this social worker every week. And get this: because I am a patient at St. Luke’s Cancer Institute, she is free. I mean…
I feel very grateful to get to talk with her. She’s giving me so many tools to work with and to know which tools are right for whatever state I’m in. I think over the past month my anxiety has lowered so much.
That’s what’s been going on! I have been actively grieving and taking care of myself and working on writing and music and loving on my pets and my husband and my friends and family. And beaming that out to the world.
And I’m beaming it out to you now!
If you feel like it let me know how you’re doing, too.
Oh, and if you want to check out my band's album you can do that here on our Bandcamp page!
But also you can hear it on Spotify or wherever!
I was a judge’s pick in this (very) short fiction contest at Boise Weekly (I got the news the day my dear cat Oliver died). Reading it tonight on the internets. Words and storytelling have been helping me during this very intense time (personal and public), as always. Reading and writing.
This post is almost as long as the story itself (one hundred and one words short!). But here's the story:
She was visiting to see if she could be a wife and mother to him and his kids.
Everything in the bathroom leaked. But he had laid out tiny toiletries for her – toothpaste, moisturizer, deodorant. Her face flushed at his care, until her eyes stung with shame.
“He deserves better than me,” she thought, steeling her eyes in the mirror to pretend for a few hours.
The next day she drove away while he and the kids feigned cheer playing soccer with a deflated ball in the snow.
Her hair still smelled like his house when she climbed into bed later.
I’m not going to pour any of the clichés into your face about 2020. They’re all true.
I’m here to say, hello, sending you so much love from my tender heart to yours to close out that year (<-- side-eye) and ring in the new. Please, please, let there be some shift. For a gal who doesn’t really pray I’ve prayed a lot this past month, especially.
I wanted a shift so bad, actually, that I was already crying at like 12:05 A.M. Pressure!
To be fair:
I lost my twenty-year-old niece in early December, suddenly. And my dear cat died three weeks ago, also unexpectedly. It has been a TIME. Lots of tears. But also, I’ve felt very held. I feel lucky to have the support I’ve had and the concentric circles holding up a corner with me so that I can then support inward toward my sister and her family.
And I felt like it was important to reach out here, too, and say, hey, whatever you’re feeling right now or have been going through – it’s OK. I mean, I know you know this, but sometimes it just helps to hear it.
On the subject of release to close out that year: My therapist said to me once, “Don’t think of naked people jumping on a trampoline.” Thought of them, didn’t you? Yeah. Because, he says, when we put things in the negative, we’re still focusing on them. But I think it’s helpful to think of what we want to release. Like, personally, I want to let go of being steered by the anxious, vigilant part of me that doesn’t want any more loss. I want to let go of giving my power away and making up stories about what other people think of me. I want to let go of binary thinking that, like, I must either be totally spiritual or an atheist. Long story on that one, but it came to me recently during a wonderful somatic healing session with my friend Krista Kujat.
On new perspectives: One of the things I learned this week is that we’re so often in leadership mode. And that is great. Yes, let’s please share our knowledge and lead by example and teach. But also, I realized that sometimes it feels really good to have someone you trust tell you what to do for a bit. I like this in the form of a yoga class, for example, and when the COVID times are over I plan on taking a pottery class. Pottery is something sensual and I don’t have to be good at it. The bulk of the things I spend my time doing I feel like I need to be good at, because they are somehow tied to my life’s purpose. That’s kind of a lot of pressure. So, what if I could do a few things that I could totally suck at and just, like, communicate with the clay? That feels like some major luxuriating. A byproduct of which would be I’d get my mind off my writing and music long enough for them to develop in the subconscious. Like, it’s GOOD for our purpose for us to be off purpose sometimes. Purposefully. ;-)
Anyway, I’m rambling now. But I just wanted to reach out across the ethers with a few things that have been top of mind and heart lately. And yes, they are disparate but connected, and I think that’s OK. We’ve already become super resilient with expansive hearts last year (and many years prior). I’m not going to put a bunch of pressure on myself to like GIT ER DONE.
I’m glad to report that even with staggering loss we can still use our voices and create the beauty we want to create. That flower is always going to grow out of the sidewalk crack.
How about you? Feel free to reply to this email to let me know how you’re doing or drop me a comment on my website. What’s your flower growing out of the ass-crack that was that year?
This is a video I directed for my band Trippy Hearts’ song “Flaming Gold Piano.” It feels right to release it on the full moon on Halloween 2020. It is from our album Lacewing, which was recorded and mixed by Z.V. House at Rabbitbrush Audio in Boise and mastered by Mell Dettmer at Studio Soli in Seattle. The video was filmed mostly at Hulls Gulch in Boise and stars my bandmates and me: Stephen Samuelson, Brent Heiner, and Hyrum Haeberle. I'm playing the Rhodes electric piano, my current favorite instrument.
“You can’t pay a fire to stop / And we call its power in now”
Here’s to the fire in our hearts that cannot be paid to stop, the destruction of old systems, and the beauty (I hope) that can only grow after the flames of destruction.
I wrote the lyrics to this song while feeling despondent about the current state of the U.S. and the broken mirror that we elected as a "leader." And how it didn't particularly surprise me when you see that pic of him sitting at a piano with his now-wife lying on top of it in a gold room. I remembered the piano being gold, like Elvis', and I thought, "OF COURSE this is who we put in power." Full disclosure: I think the piano was actually white. Doesn't really matter, though, if the whole thing were in ashes.
I created these shots of a fire poppy for the end, which only blooms after major fires:
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.