The pages I’ve Dog-Eared

I read, Suspicious Minds in two sittings.  Though I had been genuinely interested since the introduction, around page one-fifty, I got more emotionally involved.  It began with the explanation of the link between of seeming different to others and being attractive to bullies: “It’s possible of course that being bullied is the result of having psychotic experiences rather than the other way around.  Kids who are different are targets for bullies, and having psychotic symptoms is certainly likely to make you different” (124).  While it’s true that this point isn’t presented as absolute fact, it was a new enough idea to get me surprised.  It was like when reading Charles Fort, when he’d said that there is no actual proof that humans evolved from apes any more that there is proof that apes descended from humans.  These are nuggets I’ve found in books that spark wonder, because I’d never considered them before.  Though to be fair, I had been getting more and more immersed in my uninterrupted reading session.  Eventually I had to put the book down for a jazz break; it was getting slightly more disturbing for the next forty pages.  Here’s what happened between me and the book in that short segment of time.

    The chapter “The Madding Crowd” talks about how one’s social life affects one’s mental health (as previously mentioned in the book at this point, mental health is already a very fragile thing).  The above quote was taken from a passage discussing childhood trauma, saying that there is a correlation between it and mental illness.  I think this is a bit unfair.  Obviously we can’t control traumatic events and feeling different, yet these factors can permanently damage someone’s psychology.  And the next passage went on to speak about immigration and race, whereas I was already in the back of my mind making the connection between my social differences (race, deviances from racial and sexual stereotype…etc.) and my own psychologically trifflin times.  “Environmental Illness II: Immigration” on page 126 was dog-eared.

    Moving to a new place makes you feel different.  I know this.  While I was growing up, my father was in the Navy; we moved many times including once from Japan to an insignificant town in Tennessee.  But in the context of Suspicious Minds, the fact that I’d moved so much made me uneasy.  Feeling like an outsider was not only challenging for me, but now that I’m over it I’ve just read that those repetitive moves are a psychological threat as much as being a Black woman in America.

I thought about an old friend who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, an illness this book focuses on, after his study abroad in Vienna, Austria.  I thought about how he’d told me he’d gone without any friends, felt alone, and from there quickly started to co-host parties after he’d taken up smoking socially.  I didn’t press him with questions because I felt it was already such a personal subject, so I’m not sure how his decline in mental health went down.  He mentioned his first big breakup with his girlfriend back in Saint Louis and that by the time it was time to come back he didn’t want to.  I heard it in a way that inferred he’d gone mad while attempting to stay.

    I thought about my schizophrenic older brother, with whom I have only had two comprehensive conversations.  I know little about him because I don’t ask.  His teachers described him as “very different” when he was young.  When the topic at hand is how feeling different can lead to madness, I saw that the desire to stand out (a very American thing.  A celebrated thing.) had a darker side–the danger of actually standing out.  What might this mean for me, since I have plans to permanently move to Belgium?  I believed that I’ve become an expert at moving.  To be an expert at moving is knowing when to detach from your surroundings and your old friends in order to adjust to a completely new setting.  It’s knowing not expect to be completely happy in the new town, and not to consider that you were perfectly happy in the last so that you don’t become nostalgic or deeply disappointed.  I knew after a certain number of moves how to handle the change.  Regardless, I can’t help but wonder if that means my moves might negatively impact my mental health.  Chilled but not completely frightened, I continued on to read facts like “having dark skin raises the risk of psychosis among immigrants” (128).  Dog-eared.

    The next three pages I folded had sentences that confirmed ideas I’d heard about: “Many researchers believe that psychiatric symptoms are really just exaggerated versions of mental states that everyone experiences occasionally” (132).  “That child abuse leaves deep psychological scars in an uncontroversial case in which a social interaction is damaging” (134).  “Racial discrimination, in particular, may increase the risk of psychosis” (135).  “The life expectancy for rich white people who live in the suburbs […] is twenty years longer that the poor African Americans who live [outside of the suburbs]” (141).  These weren’t nearly as surprising as the previous ones, but they triggered emotional response, memory, or concern.

    I thought about how when my mom first found out about my brother’s diagnosis, naturally she was unprepared.  I think she was in denial for a bit and tried to pray his sickness away, but it got worse as he became an adolescent.  By the time he was a teenager, he was very sick but my mom still hadn’t decided what to do about it.  Of course, if she needed a break from mothering she’d go to bingo.  My mentally ill brother, Naji, would babysit me and my sister, Ashley, those evenings.  Reading the sentences about abuse and social threats reminded me of my earliest memory, a time when my brother joked that he was going to chop us up and then grabbed a large knife from the kitchen.  He chased us around the house, and eventually out in the streets, all the while laughing.  It began to rain.  We didn’t live in a great neighborhood, so I don’t anyone cared what was going on.  I think an older sister, Sagirah, was driving home and saw us, picked us up.  When my mom had come back from decompressing at bingo, we told her what happened because it felt like neither myself, Ashley or Naji actually knew if we were going to be chopped up.  My mom, still trying to keep her spirits up, mustered a laugh, said, “children will be children,” and told us to go to bed.

    I decided I needed a break from reading.  I made dinner, took a shower, watched a show.  It was good to get a bit more engaged in the present rather my head.  When I started reading again, it took fifty pages for me to want to dog ear something, and then another ten.  That’s not to say that the unnoted chapter, “Hell is other people”, was boring.  It was about the Suspicious System.  This section is the first thing that I’ll take away from reading this book.  The Suspicious System, which is controlled by the amygdala, is a part of daily life.  I use it with my housemates, classmates, and coworkers.  I use it with friends, family and strangers.  Before 2014, it had been out of whack from early social interactions with my brother.  Everyone seemed like they might be ready to hurt me until I was twenty-two, when I started taking an SSRI.  Now I can pick up on real social cues as opposed to responding to imagined ones.

    The book ended shortly after “Hell is other people”.  It was a good reading experience and I learned a lot about mental illness.  We are still trying to understand so much of it, but fortunately our culture is currently obsessed with psychology.  And since culture does shape mental illness (by defining what’s acceptable and what’s not) now is the best time to be mentally ill.  Even if we might be a country buzzing with phrases like “I blame my anxiety for my shortcomings as a person,” this major attention on mental health will ultimately produce more discoveries, and move science forward from”it must be the vapors, some leeches will do the trick.”



b’saha, bougie


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When purchasing something in Morocco, people say “b’saha” the same way anglophones say, “bless you” following a sneeze.  It’s like saying “cheers ‘to your health’” in the hopes that your recent decision improves your well-being.  Originally, I thought nothing of it until I noticed that Moroccans have a respect for their possessions.  Repairing is more common than replacing, even if an item is no longer functioning.  Being immersed in this kind of gratitude makes me realize how I shopped like Marie Antoinette before arriving.

During my first month with my roommate from Fez, when I was in culture shock that I hadn’t yet seen a single recycling bin, I bought two cute chairs for the dining table, a pink shower curtain, and other goods to replace the gritty items worn down by previous tenants of our corporate housing.  My roommate was openly horrified that I hadn’t tried to fix the rusty, abruptly collapsing, ones that had been screeching under us the past few weeks.  Not surprisingly, she also wondered why I didn’t just put the filthy, baby blue shower curtain in the washing machine.  The curtain made me think of infant items I’d seen lying about in sad urban streets.  I did need a new one for my well-being.  Despite her disapproval, I got  a “b’saha.”  Since then, I have gotten a grey and white matching bed set to duplicate the comfort I got from my Ralph Lauren duvet I left back home.  I haven’t seen any other matching bedding, but I have slept in some beds, and they were warm as wombs.

While I have no buyer’s remorse, I haven’t been consuming as much.  This week, I bought food and toothpaste.  Were it easier to find a piercer in this city, I would have whimsically gotten my nose pierced by now (as a Sagittarius, I still love the thrill of getting something new).  Instead, I went to the tailor to fix a few holes in my clothes and actually found the time to sit down and sew a button on my Desigual dinner coat.  Wonderfully, “b’saha” fits here, too.







How to be Lost: A Style Guide

How to be Lost:  A Style Guide

Not everybody can have it together at all times.  It’s more likely that you never have it together.  That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you’re doing it with style.  Whether you are traveling in a foreign country or not traveling in a foreign country, you can stride with an air-a je ne sais quoi.  Make sure to have these must-have items and then ask yourself, “How lost am I, exactly?”




Loud Shoes


Handbag (full)


Faux Pas


Cell service

The First Degree

If you are lost to the first degree, you know your destination or original point is not far, wherever it may be.  Know that it’s distasteful, above all, to actually look lost in any way.  In addition to appearing to be a stray puppy, you might be accosted by strangers who have caught on to your disorientation.  If that happens you just might be picked up and taken to their home, which would likely be furnished with rusty, metal cupboards and musty, velvet wallpaper.

Simply put on a pair of sunglasses to hide your darting eyes and keep walking in whichever direction you feel best.  Intuition can be feigned by how loudly and rhythmically you step on the pavement.  Don’t rely on knowledge of landmarks as by now I’m sure you know landmarks look unidentifiable from each angle and, as well, your surrounding buildings begin to all look the same.

The Second Degree

If you are lost to the second degree, nothing around you seems particularly familiar or everything sort of does.  No path is distinguishable as best.  Find a bench or a shop window where you may linger, but never linger idly.  Light a cigarette or perhaps find another place to shuffle through your handbag for nothing in particular.  This will buy you time to question, “Where the hell am I?  What time is it?  What is time?  What is life?” At which point you may want to ask the nearest working person for directions.

When asking for directions, listen well because you can only ask the same person twice.  There are only so many times one can say, “Wait, what was that?” before all patience is gone.  If after the first few instructions have been followed and you have not retained the rest, ask someone else.  

The Final Degree

The final degree of being lost is more of a spiritual journey in the way that your blood-sugar level is probably low and you might be slightly detached from reality.  Enjoy it.  But eat something.  You are in an entirely new neighborhood, with curious people.  The best way for you to work it now is to adapt your mindset while you walk on and adhere to the above instructions for being lost.  With your dark shades, really begin to look around you.  You’ll find that really everyone is lost.


But only you are doing it with style.

Beauty: Argan Oil Night Cream


When I was just walking by shops in Brussels a few years ago, I picked up this Korean Sleeping BB Mask that I liked so much, when I got back to the States, I used it sparingly so I wouldn’t run out and have to find more.  I realize that’s pretty drastic, considering anything can be ordered online, but I was a bit too busy with school to sit down and try to find where I could get this exact sleeping mask.

I don’t even like it so much for what it does to my skin, though it does make it look really good in the morning, I like it because it knocks me out.  As in, every single time that I’ve applied this mask, I had the most amazing sleep that night.  For me, it induces the best beauty sleep.  However, it’s finally running out, and now that I’m in Morocco even ordering it online would probably be $70 for shipping alone, so this sleeping beauty is due to find a replacement.

Today I went for a walk and found a shop with homeopathic beauty items with ingredients Morocco is famous for like argon oils and soaps they use in hammams.  I decided to get this Creme de Nuit d’Argan.  I can’t wait to try it tonight and get some vitamin E.



 “I learned that story — narrated by Scheherazade, the heroine of The Thousand and One Nights— by heart. Its main message is that a woman should lead her life as a nomad. She should stay alert and be ready to move, even if she is loved. For, as the tale teaches, love can engulf you and become a prison.”

Fatima Mernissi, Scheherezade Goes West Different Cultures Different Harems    (Currently reading)


This morning I woke up and listened to KDHX while I showered and figured that with the people who know me back home and the people who know me here combined, I have so many friends.  Even so, moving is the loneliest–the people I have come to love seem to get farther away while the people I will come to love are taking their sweet time in getting to me.  But of course, I look for them anyway.

Minutes before midnight, I was downtown in Ceuta, Spain, looking for a friend I had gotten separated from.  We’d met through work in the fall.  I wanted to wish him a happy new year, even though we had spent the last few hours of 2017 getting irritated at each other in the way that old couples do, openly admitting that the other can be unbearable, but also knowing damn well they are together for a reason.  I thought maybe he left me, so I kept walking in the downtown area when I turned a corner and passed two men.  One of them said something and I grunted, “what?!?”

“What’s your name?” one asked.  I gave it to them, jumping to the conclusion that my friend did leave me in Spain and I, therefore, had nothing else going on.  “Walk with us,” he said.  I did.

The three of us flirted under the full moon, which was, apparently, as beautiful as I am.  I guessed their ages incorrectly, but I wasn’t too far off.  They were 26 and 28 and wanted to know where I was from, why I was alone on New Year’s, if I had a boyfriend, what I thought of Morocco…etc.  Another trio came toward us.  I found myself in a group with five Spanish-Moroccan men who all knew each other.  I liked the crowd because we were all handsome, young, broke, and fun-spirited.  But suddenly, I got tired of being the center of attention.  It can be a lot of work.

And then I looked down the street and saw my friend.  I ran towards him and punched him a couple of times in the shoulder.  “I thought you left me!” he whined.  And the two of us went to the clubs, where I met someone who went to Washington University in Saint Louis a couple years ago. How lucky must I have had to be to have met him then!  And have an easier time making social connections now, in 2018!  Who the hell is in charge of who meets who?

When I got out of the shower this morning, I stuck trinkets like coins and brooches on the side of three candles, pink, green and black.  I put jojoba oil on the pink one, “keep money” brujeria oil on the green one and lipstick around the rim of the black one.  All this ornament to update my vanity for the new year.  I put my jewelry and perfume nearby.  When the display was all set, I lit the candles, wishing for my previous bounty of money, good energy, and love to soon be replenished.






a.nno d.omini

Charlene de Guzman, one of my favorite comedians on Twitter, has been doing tarot card readings and since Christmas was just a normal Monday, I decided to do one as a treat.  Here’s a reading of what my path in 2018 is looking like for me.

The first few cards tell me more about you and your life and what’s going on right now. The first card, Melchizedek tells me that this an important time of higher learning for you. Things may have been overwhelming lately. But this card is a reminder that it’s not for nothing. If you look over your shoulder at your life, you will see how everything has served you every step of the way, to get you to right here. The things that are showing up right now are also serving you tremendously. It probably doesn’t look or feel like it, but I promise this will all make sense eventually. This card is encouraging you to trust it all. The lessons being learned right now is everything you need to get you to where you want to go. It’s all good.

The second card, Sanat Kumara, wants you to know how powerful you truly are. It is a time to shine right now. It may feel easier for you to shrink, but it is your true purpose here to shine. You are being guided right now and you can trust this guidance coming to you. Recognize the light. Be the light. You are the light. What you focus on, whether good or bad, will grow. So focus on the light.

The third card, Mercury, tells me what supports your happiness. It’s time to speak up. You’ve got something on your chest and it’s time to let that weight go. It’s time to recognize that you are worthy of your voice and you are worthy of being heard. It’s one of the most loving things you can do for yourself, and you’re the only one who can do it. Just as important as speaking up, is listening, too. Helping others be heard. Find the balance. Open the communication. Without the open communication, we get stuck in whatever stories we make up. Get those stories fact-checked before spiraling too deep.

The fourth card, Jesus, offers guidance for an obstacle you may have been facing. This card wants you to forgive. Mostly forgive yourself. It is no longer serving you to hold on anymore. What aren’t you letting go of? All the universe wants for you is to thrive. Be happy, feel good. You are the one keeping you from this as you continue to hold onto the past. What could your world look like if you just let go? Only you are holding yourself back. Get out of your own way and release yourself from the prison you create!

The fifth card, faith, is a message from your angels. Your angels want you to see the light in the world. So here’s this message coming through the SECOND time which means you’re truly meant to hear it today. Your perspective needs to be shifted right now. Your reality will always be a reflection of what you’re thinking. Experiment with focusing on the good and watch what happens. Things will change almost immediately. In fact, try writing down 5 things you’re grateful for as soon as we’re done with this reading. Once you’re in a place of abundance, of receiving, everything you’re asking for can come to you. When we get stuck in that lack vibration, all that can come to us is lack. I remember a time when I was so broke and someone told me to write down what I was grateful for. I thought it was stupid until the next day I got my tax return. Try it. You’re worth the opportunity to at least see.

The sixth card, Gaia, is a message from your guides. Your guides want you to connect with nature in order to get grounded. It makes sense this card would show up since you mentioned stability. Nature is where you will find connection again. Even if that means sitting next to a tree or taking a walk in the park or looking at the ocean or looking at the sky. Breathe. This card is awesome because it means Mother Earth is with you and supporting you. Go get your feet in some grass and feel her love!

And finally, Quan Yin, this card is a message from your heart. Your heart wants you to have compassion for yourself. Really be with yourself right now. Things may have been feeling tough and you are in need of self-love, self-care, gentleness, and patience. Be the best friend you need right now. Think of your little girl self and be there for her. Tell her you got her back. Be your number one cheerleader. Be kind with your thoughts. Your words. This self-nurturing is important right now. Where can you be more kind? I like that this shows up after getting the forgiveness card too. It all ties together. The messages are clear.

Trust everything showing up, it is for your benefit. It is a time to shine. A time to speak up. A time to forgive yourself. Keep focusing on the light. The good. Acknowledge it and you will receive more. Get grounded in nature. Be gentle with yourself.

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During the last few days when I’m on my way to the third floor, I get glimpses of an apartment on the first floor because the door has been wide open.  Women are dressed up in traditional Moroccan clothing and sitting along the walls of the living room.  Music plays.  I keep going upstairs even though I have no idea what’s happening.  My roommate thinks someone’s passed.  We live on the third floor and it’s surely emptier than the one on the first floor, but it feels like a good, temporary home base.  My worst enemy told me I’m good at finding places to live and also that I’m strategic and I’m starting to think he’s right because it took strategy and skill to be where I am, which is Tetouan.

Beneath the Rif Mountains, the city sleeps late into the morning; shops don’t open until about eleven.  Noon to midnight, more pedestrians are on the streets than cars.  So far, meaning exactly three months, this place is the easiest for me to just exist.