Of Mice & Death
here we go again
tw: mental health
Three Fridays ago I had a breakdown.
I know, hello to you too!
It came after, like, the twenty-second day of cleaning mice poop (yes, plural, we’ll get to that) across sporadic spaces in my beloved apartment. It was there, at that exact moment, on the morning of the twenty-second day, while cleaning fresh poop in my bedroom—yes bitch—that I hit my proverbial rock bottom.
As I cleaned the poop, I kept thinking about a friend who was also writing a book and had recently told me how lucky they were to have a partner who could feed them, clean up after them, basically take on the responsibilities while this person, my friend, could write. I listened with complete admiration, thinking of what a blessing it was to have a partner who could (and wanted to) support you during difficult or arduous moments.
Of course, the entire canon of male writers from Flaubert (who lived off his darling mother’s wealth and inheritance) to Fitzgerald (don’t get me started on Zelda) relied (understatement) on the women in their lives to thrive, to do what I now do — think and write all day. So it’s quite sublime to hear my fellow queer / femme friends that have masc/ male partners speak about how they are actually taken care of. This profession of synthesizing what is in your mind onto the page is a game that requires resilience, both of yourself and the people around you. So you need partners that can stabilize you to propel yourself into the ether to dream and create.
Last year, the person I was seeing told me that the reason they were unavailable to support me during the release of a book I wrote for 18 years was that they had spent two months straight with me and that they were exhausted by that and needed to rest. The partner before that never read any of my books as drafts, though I asked profusely & even though one book was partially about him & even though I was reading his own work diligently. In retrospect, it’s not surprising to me given that this is what I was attracted to. In the last few months, there’s been a lot of grief in realizing my own limited imagination when it comes to love and what I deserve. I’ve put up with so much in my life that sometimes the pain obliterates me. This is why I find it inspiring to talk to friends in healthy relationships, it shows me what’s possible.
After being with myself for thirty-one years, I’ve noticed my breakdowns often come after I reach a point of extreme exhaustion. At the point of getting mice, I had already been carrying a lot. I was also three chapters away from finishing the first draft of Who Is Wellness For? Though a book I feel like I’ve been writing for years, I was finally at the point where everything felt as if it was coalescing—then bam I pulled my neck and got mice in the same weekend. They both took me by surprise. I was not expecting to get tested in such a major way. Again, so soon after the last blow. I feel like my Saturn Returns (entire life? #ruledbySaturn fml) just keeps kicking me, even (and especially) when I’m down.
Home instability is incredibly painful for me to bear, it might be the most triggering thing for me, personally. In the past, the fear of not having a home made me feel catastrophic. Childhood conditioning is not rational, and in moments where my physical home has been threatened in past, I always feel as if I am so close to death. Maybe because that felt like such a present reality as a child, to be close to the precipice, lingering by the sidewalk of death’s parade. I left home at nineteen to get away from a life of turmoil but sometimes when I feel like my life is collapsing I’m scared that I chose loneliness. It’s a scary and all-encompassing to feel like I did this to myself. It’s scary to think how close everything can be taken away from you. How close it can all disappear.
When it was never there to begin with you can get clingy when you finally get the thing you so desperately wanted. I knew my family, maybe even a partner, couldn’t give me the life I wanted so I’ve been working toward my own freedom as a teenager. Every step was a step toward this home that I was able to build for myself, in a home that was just mine. For the longest time, I felt like my home, this sweet sweet home, was the thing that brought me the most peace. I was at sanctuary here. Nobody could take it away from me, right?
The mice kept bringing up deep deep deep childhood shit and I felt insane for how dark I felt, how unhinged these mice had made me, restless and sleep-deprived, cocking at any squeak or rustling sound. Then they started coming into my room. I know the feeling of hiding and wanting safety but never finding it. As a child, I forever felt as if my space was being intruded upon that by the time I had my own room in my mid-teens I wanted to remain in the dark, in the shadows, so I wasn’t easily identifiable to anyone, including myself. But things have changed since then. At a certain point, I had to stop and realize that—I was no longer a child I told myself as a hurtled into disarray, I was an adult now, I could look after myself. These mice were not my mother, they weren’t evil or trying to purposely hurt me. I was not being attacked. I had a choice in how I wanted to handle this and so what was I going to do about it? Was I going to feel like a victim and feel sad and angry that my life was so hard and had been so hard? Or would I just try and figure it out and accept that this is exactly where I was in my life? That wasn’t right or wrong. It just was.
In the interim of this, Like A Bird came out on paperback and I performed to a dream audience only to return home too afraid that mice would be pooping on my bed when all I wanted was to come home and smoke a big fat j in peace! They reminded me so much of my mother, which made me feel so dramatic and inaccurate. But it was something about how little they cared about my things, my life, my altar, my safety, my needs, that bothered me so much. I felt like I was at the behest of them and that they, like my mother, could eradicate happiness from within me in a second.
Every day I prayed to ask God: “Please get these mice out of my fucking life, God!” I prayed, in all seriousness. I waited, trusting my prayers would be answered, also fully knowing it might not look like how I wanted it to look. After the third week of mice shitting on clothes, my books, my bed, I finally accepted there was something bigger here and that it couldn’t just be prayed away lol. You usually, spoiler alert, can’t pray things away… but I tried. I have not tried to think about it but they have definitely been in my bed which had already begun to make me feel like I was dying, my body so close to nature, so close to decomposition. I felt stuck, completely frozen, and instead of acting on behalf of myself, I sunk into myself, crawling into my body with disgust and shame that I was going through this, and no matter how much I cleaned my apartment (a lot) they just weren’t leaving me alone.
Begging my landlord to call yet another exterminator I was eventually told by him that the mice were my fault and that there was nothing that could be done. I felt angry, I felt shameful of myself, afraid that I was disgusting and had caused this. At a certain point, I was like this man is insane if he is going to blame the mice on me and it was that, with the addition of realizing these fuckers are also eating my weed that I began to realize that there might be … a full-blown infestation. By the time I had my breakdown, I was coming to terms with this but still very much in denial about the reality of it and what my next steps could be. I was still that scared child, angry that no adult is taking ownership over her safety… until I realized I’m that adult. I can find safety, and I sure as hell can find resolve.
Later that night, ironically, I went to watch The Green Knight with my friends Zeba and Arabelle. (This is an inappropriate time to say Dev Patel is sexy as hell but it bears repeating!!!) Besides Dev Patel being sexy as hell, the movie is a trickster film that reminded me why I loved and hated Arthurian tales as a child. They were always so cruel, so merciless, but there was also a humor to them—that despite it all, a life was lived and served and fed. Through the rhythm of the film, I did find a redemption for my day, the breakdown, and the mice as I realized my hardship and solitude were not purely my own but such a human experience of a quelling and untenable ache. I realized, as my friend Angela recently articulated to me, that life is a quest. It’s a series of tasks and tests and I imagine for those of us who choose more interesting paths, ones on the road less traveled, the path is rife with difficulties.
As I watched the film, Dev contending with one fuckery onto the next, I realized that I too am a knight. And this is my motherfucking knight’s tale. I realized, also, that the mice were speaking to me.
This Monday, I woke up to two different kinds of mice poop at the foot of my bed. At this point, I’ve counted upwards of maybe fifteen different kinds of poop which means there is, indeed, an infestation. The nest is near! After a 4-5 seconds of craze, I watched one of my favorite Tarot readers do a Capricorn Lionsgate reading. When I tell you Baba Jolie read me like a book… I was relieved. She warned of an unexpected issue that would need my immediate resolve, my quick attention, and though it would be difficult, I would be met with an amazing amount of support on the other side.
I’d been thinking about death a lot these last few months. With the mice and the virus, it felt like an ancient prophecy. It felt like I was being given a message, get out, but find safety. After rationalizing to myself that I am safe in my own self, I realized that the impermanence of a home was something I was avoiding. “Death awareness…” my friend Sebene writes in her phenomenal and important book You Belong. Maybe I had kept telling myself that if I had a home I would finally feel good, but that journey is a long one and I’m accepting it requires a whole life’s dedication and attention. A home cannot save me, making one for myself still means it might burn down, it might be infested with roaches or rodents and it might stop serving me at a certain point. At that point, I can be an adult, my own mother, and nurse myself to safety.
Reading When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back, gifted to me by my wonderful friend Meetra, I lingered on the line, “So it appears that when death comes to a man, the mortal part of him dies, but the undying part retires at the approach of death and escapes unharmed and indestructible.” I cried so much on Monday but I also finally felt ready to let go. As soon as I did, First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes came on. I hadn’t heard this song for maybe half a decade. It felt like a sign. So, following my own intuition, I decided that what I really wanted to do was put all my stuff in storage and just fuck off and be free for a few months.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m packing everything up and leaving New York. For the interim. I have zero plans but I know it’s right because I feel elated. The part of me that wanted this life is dying, but I also know what awaits me is my life’s prayer unfolding. As my friend Fariba reminded me a few days ago, a mouse always sits by Ganesha and is seen as a vehicle. On Monday, I pulled the chariot card. I hardly ever pull the chariot card. The time feels ripe. A bad thing doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes it can be an offering, a new perspective, a shove in the right direction.
Choose your own adventure.
I have one and a half chapters left to finish off this book and in true Capricorn style, I’m handing this book in and putting my life into storage the same day. I feel both scared and alive but I’m betting on myself, I’m trusting that it will all work out. I’ve never felt like this before. I’ve lived in fear my whole life but now I feel held. I’m realizing people love me. I know I’m not alone.
But this is where you come in.
I won’t be writing this newsletter for the rest of the month, because I’m packing and have to finish this book, but I will be sharing stuff if you’re a paid subscriber. Studio Ānanda is starting a publishing press, and I’m writing a cookbook for the end of the year so I'll be sharing some original recipes I’m working on here, some new work and also Twenty Things and an update at the end of the month where I also want to answer some reader questions if you have any.
I’m extremely grateful to those of you who subscribe to this, thank you thank you thank you. But! I have almost 5,000 subscribers (bless) but only 336 paid subscribers. Thousands of people read my newsletter each time it drops (also bless) but I’m trying to lean on my community here. You’re all my community, and I’m asking for your support. If you’re in the position to donate please do, it would mean so much. I’m betting on myself without a lot of monetary support and this would otherwise make me feel psychotic but right now it makes me feel trusting that I will manifest an even greater place of safety for myself.
Here’s my Venmo, here’s my PayPal. Also — please subscribe to this newsletter! Clearly, a lot of you get something out of it so if you support me you’re also supporting my dreams. I’m launching myself into the next plane. Won’t you join me?
P.S here’s my latest playlist, songs during crisis.