Tuesday is the winter solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year; the sun’s daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest. This, apparently, is more evident to those in high latitudes. Portland may not be the highest latitude, but when it’s dark outside by 4:00 PM and I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark, I’d say we’re high enough. According to Wikipedia, “worldwide, interpretation of the [winter solstice] has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.”

For me, this year’s winter solstice marks the end of a ritual, not the start.

As you might recall, in June, on the summer solstice, I began what over the months I’ve come to think of as an identity journey.  I shaved my head, quit looking in mirrors, deleted all social networking accounts, began mediating, and quit having sex. (The guy I was dating at the time said, “I just don’t think I can have sex with a bald chick.” Apparently, this image was so jarring that he missed the bit about celibacy. )

I wasn’t one hundred percent certain at the time why I needed to do these things, but I was going through something – and I was going through it whether I understood it or not. Whether I took control of it or not. I turned 34, became a grandma, was trying to write a book, got tired of fucking for sport, was approaching the year anniversary of my divorce, was trying to adjust to life without psychiatric medication, and, in June, celebrated the 17 year anniversary of a car accident that occurred when I was 17 – and realized: this is the me that I am now. Who the fuck is that?

So how did that go?

Do you know Plato’s Allegory of the Cave from The Republic? Loosely and probably poorly summarized, the story goes like this: there are a bunch of people (in this metaphor we – you and me and the guy reading this next to you – are the people) and they’re all chained up and forced to stare at a wall, upon which shadows from a fire behind them dance. From birth through death, these slaves sit chained watching shadows. Only the slaves don’t know that what they’re seeing are shadows – that is, until one day one of the slaves (that would be me) gets loose and goes out into the world and literally sees the light – of the sun, of the fire in the cave. He sees reality. After this slave’s enlightenment, he remembers the poor saps back in the cave (you again) and feels a desperate need to report back to them with the truth! He needs them to know!

Remember that story? AP English, senior year?

Yeah, well – this summary is nothing like that.

I’m not saying that I didn’t get anything out of my experience, and I’d even do it again. I’m just not sure that the light that I found would burn as bright or be as illuminating for you as it has been for me. I’ve made sense of a lot of private stuff – stuff around the accident, around sex, around My Mom – stuff that’s nobody’s business and is still in its unrefined form. I also realized a few things that don’t seem as profound written down as they felt when they landed on me.

For instance: it’s definitely too late for me to join the circus. The class clown persona quits being funny when you hit your 30s. I’m the shrill, screaming mom and even when I’m not upset this is how I sound – and if I just had a voice changer so that I could sound like a robot or Fat Albert, half my parenting battle would be won. People quit applauding after the eighth time you announce that you’ve quit smoking. And so on.

I’ll be honest –almost every piece of my ritual has fallen away of its own accord as its usefulness ebbed over these months. The first piece to go was looking in the mirrors. My nearly nine-year-old twin boys had a hard time remembering to put the cloth back in its place after they used the bathroom mirror. I decided that in this Pick Your Battles world, the frustration of trying to train them to cover the mirror just wasn’t worth it – though, to their credit, they really did try. After about six weeks, I let this go.

I appreciated those six weeks, though. It was a fantastic opportunity to step outside myself. I realized that I’m not married to my outside image – I’m married to the inner image that the outside should look like. This experience has allowed me to bring these two images into a more harmonious alignment. And, you know – I feel like I look more like me than I’ve felt maybe ever in my life. It feels more honest. It feels peaceful. I’ll go ahead and say it: I feel more peaceful.

I spent much of those first six weeks in my bedroom, unless I was at work. I meditated quite a bit – and by this, I mean less of the “yoga pants on a mat in the Lotus Position” and more of the “lying on the bed throwing a baseball up and catching it over and over while ruminating.” I also started on my manuscript, which has taken on several different lives in these last six months. First it was memoir, then it was young adult fiction, then it was literary fiction, now it’s memoir again. Currently, it’s just sitting on my hard drive in the exact same state it’s been in for two months. I haven’t touched it. After reading cautionary tale after cautionary tale here on TNB, I realize that there’s likely not going to be much of a financial payoff for my book and that truly the old cliché is accurate: I can’t write for anyone but me. I had an agent interested in seeing a draft of my manuscript (a lovely, sweet, sweet man that I wanted to produce for so badly) and every time my mom called or my coworkers stopped by to see me, I was asked, “How’s your book coming?” I started to feel like a greyhound chasing a fake rabbit for bets other people were laying. Which is to say: it quit being fun for me. I’m absolutely confident that I’ll finish my manuscript. I’m just going to do it when I have the energy again, and when I start back on it, I’m going to do it for myself – which is a hard-won lesson I wish I’d known earlier.

After the mirrors, the rest of the pieces fell away too. My hair grew back. Eventually, and quite recently, I returned to the dating world (though much more cautious and with a greater understanding of what I want, what I offer, and what I won’t settle for.) Somewhere in there, I went back on medication (after discovering that the voice changer technology still hasn’t been fully developed and that that pesky old brain injury is still there.) But yet, I haven’t returned to social networking – and I probably won’t. And I don’t miss it.

Gloria Harrison has not shared song lyrics that are stuck in her head with a large group of people for six months (mostly because she’s gone to Wichita – far from this opera forever more).

Gloria Harrison doesn’t know what the hell you’re talking about with this “new profile” crap.

Gloria Harrison has stopped thinking of her emotional state in the third person. **

I started to get a little obsessed with Facebook there at the end. A lot of people can be responsible with it, and I get that, but for me it became a world into which I poured too much time. I miss a lot of people from Facebook – it’s where the bulk of my parenting support group existed, and sometimes I feel that lack in my life still. Yet… Where once upon a time I would find myself online, chatting with people about my parenting, I now find myself more actively engaging in it. I don’t fault myself for falling into this trap, nor anyone else who uses Facebook this way. I just realized at some point that I was allowing muscles that could be developed to atrophy, and I finally accept that I’m the type of person who has to do it the hard way, lest I go soft.

Mostly, these six months have been an opportunity to take stock. This is the mom I am. This is the job I have. These are the skills I possess. These are the opportunities for me to grow. These are the children I have. These are their strengths. These are their challenges. This is my grandchild; he is alive; he is here. He’s fat, blue eyed, red haired, extraordinarily good-natured, and he likes me a lot. He has my DNA in him. He is an extension of me – and I didn’t even have to do anything to make him exist. His existence enhances, it doesn’t taint. He’s my family and I love him.

I can’t say definitively that the individual pieces of my ritual were crucial to the lessons I’ve learned in these last six months. If you take any six month period and put it under a microscope – really, truly examine it – you’re going to witness growth of some sort. Sure, maybe it’s just your fingernails and hair (or maybe it’s the hair that falls out if you’re prone to male pattern baldness), but still, it’s change. Nonetheless, I’d do it all again if I had to. Because I don’t think ritual is necessarily about the parts, but their sum.



**I ripped this off from my friend Katie – but she said I could.

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GLORIA HARRISON is a writer whose work has been featured on The Nervous Breakdown, Fictionaut, and This American Life. Gloria was the lead editor for The Portland Red Guide: Sites & Stories of Our Radical Past by Michael Munk, which was published through Ooligan Press in 2007. She was also a contributing editor to Pete Anthony's book, Immaculate, for which she received a high five and a ten dollar gift card to Stumptown Coffee. Gloria graduated from Portland State University with her B.A. in English in 2006 and now focuses on her own writing. She had a work of flash fiction published in The Bear Deluxe Magazine (No. 26). You can follow her on Twitter here.

Gloria lives in Portland, Oregon with her school-age twin boys. She is currently working on both a memoir and her first novel. You can contact Gloria via her Facebook page.

91 responses to “Solstice to Solstice: A Summation”

  1. Amanda says:

    Wha?! i get to be the first person to comment?! but… i always wait to read your pieces so that i can read about 80 comments at the same sitting! hmm… i guess i get to change, too.

    lovvie, changing and growing with you is some of the best i’ve done. not only have i felt like i was justified in doing my own changing, but i felt supported and loved by a sister doin’ the same.

    i love your commitment and courage in it. i love that you find your honest self as you go through the “letting go.” i love that you have the balls to out yourself to the public in the whole damn thing. not a lot of us do that.

    thank you for being the very best Gloria you can be, and for having integrity along the way. Thank you, too, for distilling it down for us to engage in it with you, via words, that reminds us not only of our humanity, and our commonality, but that speaking out has impact. it’s not the guy on the moon who tells us how great he is for doing it, but the one who explores the cheese and not only relates to his companions its existence, but its flavor and its scent… who makes an indelible impact.

    much love, my dear. and happy solstice.

    as an aside, for those of you who “know” this gal…
    (queue taunting music) i get to se-e her. nah nah nah na-ah. she’s com-ing to m-y place… nah nah nah nah-ah.

    • Gloria says:

      Hi Amanda!

      You silly woman. Thank you for this very sweet comment. I’m so glad you got to be first here. 🙂

      Much love to you and I’ll see you tomorrow!


  2. Art Edwards says:

    Lovely, revealing post as always, Gloria.

    I used to think the Plato thing was so apt for our current century (20th), and now it seems even moreso with the computer/Facebook age. I do think as a culture we’ve hit the apex of internet attention and people are going to start remembering that real life happens “out there.”

    And I’m so happy someone isn’t on Facebook.


    • Gloria says:

      I’m so happy that Facebook isn’t like cell phones – where it actually complicates life not to have it. I’m glad that I can unplug at least a little.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Arted Wurdz! 🙂 Happy Yule!

      • James D. Irwin says:

        But you were my best Facebook friend!!!!

        At least one of my best FB friends anyway.

        I hate facebook, but the more I hate it the more useful it has become in both shamelessly promoting comedy nights/internet pieces/my own state of inebriation and also in that I can casually let this girl I know that I kind of like and her stuff and what have you without having to actually— god forbid— clumsily talk to her.

        That’s kind of a half joke.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is I MISS YOU GLORIA! COME BACK! JOIN THE DARKSIDE!

        • Gloria says:

          I miss you, too, Irwin.

          Now haul your Anglo Saxon ass over that water and come see me!!

          And no, I won’t go back to Facebook. Though you do make an excellent point. If I ever go into the business of promotions, I’ll absolutely start a Facebook account again. Because, as a tool, it’s useful. As a lifestyle, not so much.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I am finding increasingly that I just use it to harass people into looking at stuff I’m doing.

          I really want to close my account, but I’m weak of will and I like it when people give me attention and facebook gives me 200+ people to potentially pay attention to whatever nonsense I’m thinking at any given point.

          Also so many social events amongst friends are organized on it that I’d probably never go out otherwise… it’s a horrible trap…

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Last night one of my friends had used a thing that tells you which words you use most in your statuses. I remembered using it last year and ‘beer’ ‘whisky’ ‘drunk’ and ‘awesome’ were the most prominent.

          So I used it again and whilst ‘awesome’ was still there, and ‘Jovi’ snuck in at number ten (seriously, I mention Bon Jovi in ten statuses over 2010!) the top words were ‘the’ ‘late’ ‘train’ ‘comedy’ ‘night’ and ‘Railway.’

          The majority of my statuses are no longer ‘wahey I got drunk because I’m awesome’ but ‘come to The Late Train Comedy Night at the Railway.’

          I get bored using facebook for anything else now…

  3. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    This, as a piece of writing, is such a joy to read. It’s knowledgeable without pretense, hilarious in the understatement of its humor and sincere in a way that is so not corny. On a personal note, I hold you in the highest esteem. You’re a solid woman. Only you do what you do. You’re awesome.

    • Gloria says:

      You, Lisa Rae Cunningham, are a doll. This is all very complimentary coming from the likes of you. I’m honored. **curtsies**

      Happy Whatever to you and your guy.


  4. Matt says:

    Awkward question time:

    “This is my grandchild; he is alive; he is here. He’s fat, blue eyed, red haired, extraordinarily good-natured, and he likes me a lot. He has my DNA in him. He is an extension of me – and I didn’t even have to do anything to make him exist. His existence enhances, it doesn’t taint.”

    …Did you actually feel otherwise prior to this experience?

    • Gloria says:

      Well, I mean, it’s not like I felt animosity toward the kid. It’s more like aliens from outer space showed up and dropped this “grandchild” into my world and I was forced to make sense of it, which, metaphorically, involved me running around in circles, arms flailing in the air, while I screamed, “ack! ack! ack! whatthehelldoesitmean? ack!”

    • dwoz says:

      When I read that, I took it as a statement NOT about her coming to terms with the child, but rather to her grandmother-hood.

      • Gloria says:

        Hi Dwoz!

        Yes, that’s exactly right. That was a lot tougher than I ever could have imagined – mostly because it happened at a time when most of my friends are only just having babies. I had to grapple with the connotations of “grandma” – and figure out how it all equaled me. I mean, i was only just getting used to the fact that I had a daughter who was only sixteen years younger than me and towered over me by three inches. It all still freaks me out sometimes. But then I hold the fat little Micheline Man and I don’t care about my own confusion. ‘Cause he’s way sweet.

        • dwoz says:

          I remember my mother, a very calm and pulled-together woman emotionally, bursting all hermetic seals and oozing all over the floor when she faced that moment.

          And me, with three children at or older than I was when my firstborn joined us…I am coming up to that cliff, and don’t know how gracefully I’ll make the swan dive. I have a feeling it won’t be pretty, and will involve some kind of serious midlife crisis ritual.

  5. Slade Ham says:

    I wondered when we would see an update piece. I’m glad you get the fact that – just because the there was no huge enlightening moment, no true nirvana to what you did – that it was still very much worth it. Sometimes you just have to shake the tree and see what falls out. Sometimes it’s nothing at all, sometimes it’s life changing. Either way. You sound like you ended up exactly where you should be though.

    I’m happy for you.

  6. Tammy Allen says:

    Thanks for the update Gloria. It sounds vaguely familiar. I just saw Black Swan and I really felt like it was a metaphor for life. Let go. Feel it. I coined “Be Good, Be Bad, Be God, Be Art.” in my twenties. I feel life really requires us to do all these things. And it’s psychadelic (SP too lazy to look it up) It’s a trip. The last couple years of my life have been relatively the worst of my life. I’ve changed immensely but mostly I’m more self aware. Epiphanies, multiple disappointments and immeasurable blessings. Unfortunately, or fortunately, FB facilitated my growth. Instead of chatting away I posted deeply painful feelings as well as joyous ones. It’s been a lesson in humility and a documentation of my insanity and how I’m coming to terms with that.

    As usual my comment is a kind of hijack but I learned in therapy over and over again that sharing how you relate is nonjudgemental and more valuable than empty praise. Not that my praise for you has ever been empty it just seems to me that praise lacks authenticity without some kind of way to relate. So what I’m trying to say is it’s a journey, we all know that and your choices are right your feelings are valid and I think I know what it’s like. Albeit a different experience it is still an experience of growth and coming to terms with who we are and why we’re here and we are navigating. Your experiment was a concious (SP) THIS THING NEEDS SPELL CHECK Sorry. As I was saying your personal experiment is commendable and ultimately was a catalyst for excelerating the process. Take it easy and enjoy tomorrow. I plan to light candles and reflect, cry, laugh and take it all in and push it all out. XO Tammy Allen

    • Gloria says:

      THIS THING NEEDS SPELL CHECK – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. That was funny. Or, at least, the red squiggly lines, right?

      I think you nailed it when you said that my “personal experiment is ultimately a catalyst for accelerating the process…” I think so – and I think I knew that intuitively back then. “This is going to be some powerful shit, let’s hurry through it if possible.”

      Thanks for reading, Tams, and for sharing some of your own process. You sound like you’re finally coming out on the other side of it.


  7. Richard Cox says:

    This is a nicely-realized post, Gloria, but it isn’t what we discussed. And anyway you need to get back on Facebook.

    Hahaha. Just kidding. Hi, Gloria.

  8. David says:

    Gloria, I, like many here, have seen the growth. Not only over the last six months, but over the last four years. You now seem to speak from a solid foundation.

    I often think about the mixed blessing of cell phones and social networking. I particularly think about the impact of this partial connection on kids. It is all to easy to be on the phone or checking Facebook every five minutes and never give them 100% of your attention, to never be fully present with them. It is a trap I have fallen into from time to time.

    • Gloria says:

      On the other hand, David, you and I still provide one another a ton of parenting (et al) support – and it’s all digitally based. I wouldn’t dare suggest that it’s all bad. There are just some of us (and I’m the first to raise a confessional hand here) who can’t be responsible with sites like Facebook. But getting a little bit of props from my digital friends (hi Ashley, Laura, Tawni, Cheryl, Tammy, Greg, David…) is necessary. Kids are better off when parents don’t feel like they’re the Only Ones In The World.

      Thanks for reading, friend. 🙂

      • David says:

        Oh, absolutely. I am not suggesting that it is bad to talk with friends (digital or otherwise) about parenting, nor am I suggesting that Facebook and cell phones are inherently bad. Just that kids need to have a few minutes of our undivided attention every now and then, and that it is becoming increasingly rare to give anyone undivided attention. It is also true, that it is all to easy to substitute safe, compartmentalized, on/off switch protected, digital connections for more intimate personal relationships. My kids are growing up with this this type of digital connection as the norm. I wonder what kind of relationships they will form, particularly if I don’t go the extra mile to have a close personal connection with them.

        • Gloria says:

          My kids are, too, David. It’ll be fascinating to see how this all shakes down. You know what though? Life finds a way. I don’t think that a generation raised to take it for granted is going to be as obsessed as a generation who was delivered this novelty after they’d already adjusted to a certain way of life. Our kids? They’ll be fine. 🙂

      • tammy allen says:

        I’d hardly call my track record on FB responsible but like I said ultimately it helped me. People that were sick of my posts defriended me. As ridiculous as it is that often stung. But I do love and cherish those who’ve chosen weather the storm and stay my friend.

        It’s all about me Gloria. That’s the secret to life. And when I say me I mean ME Tammy Allen.

        JK XOXXOX

        • Gloria says:

          See there? That theory completely disrupts the Larger Truth that it’s all, in fact, about me. And should know, now that I’m enlightened and shit. 🙂

  9. dwoz says:

    This essay makes me think of something that is done in the arts, to hone and refine your sensibilities about things:

    “…working with an intentionally limited palette.”

    So in painting that means, working with 5 tubes of paint. In photography, only black and white. In mixing music, working in mono. In life, well, you explained that pretty well.

    • Gloria says:

      Life is a bit like art, I suppose. I think my life is less modern art – with its clean lines and comprehensible geometry – and more Jackson Pollock.

      I like the metaphor, Dwoz. Thanks!

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Constraint art.

      Constraint living?

      Sitting here, watching a program on the Amish and realizing that’s basically what religious practice is. Constraint living.

      • Gloria says:

        Right. Not living to your boundless possibility, but living within bounds – and getting it right. I totally see what you’re saying.

        • dwoz says:

          I think it isn’t REALLY about living within bounds…but more like taking your boundless possibility and making it explode in a single cohesive direction.

          “Me,” for example, is a creature of incredible possibility. “me” radiates out into all directions, and by the time “me” has taken ten steps, it’s spread so thin that it’s like a soap bubble, and it hits with an impact every bit as hard as a soap bubble can hit. Which is of course, not much of an impact. If only “me” could learn how to push energy down one axis at a time…

  10. J.M. Blaine says:

    See, I would completely
    be bonkers
    for any bald celibate chick.
    Back in college
    KMart deli had all you can eat chicken
    & it was two for one at the skating rink.

    I had to take remedial English.
    We’d try to unpack the symbolism
    in like, Garfield.

    You think I’m kidding.

  11. Becky Palapala says:

    I struggle to find something to say here, since I’ve had the rare pleasure of seeing so many of these changes as they transpired and talking to you about them, so I feel like I’ve already said most of what I would say. But it’s cool to see a synthesis of their net effects, since the individual situations that create growth/change/regeneration/whatever can so easily pass as mundane. So often pass as mundane.

    I mean, in anyone’s life. I suppose that’s what all that religious business about being in the moment and in the present is about.

    It seems like that’s what you did in a lot of ways. You sort of hacked the mundane aspects right out of things with these conspicuous gestures…so they couldn’t pass your notice…so you had to notice them.

    • Gloria says:

      It seems like that’s what you did in a lot of ways. You sort of hacked the mundane aspects right out of things with these conspicuous gestures…so they couldn’t pass your notice…so you had to notice them.

      Wow, Becky. You know – that’s exactly right. What a mind-blowingly beautiful summation. Thanks, lady!

  12. Hmmm…this gives me a very, very good idea. Thank you.

    • Gloria says:

      You’re welcome!

      (Are you gonna shave your head? Are ya? ARE YA???) 😀

      • Actually, I have hopped on the shaved head train more than a few times in the past, so I think I will skip that part. But, to my credit, last May I did chop it from my waist to aroundabout my ears.

        No, I was thinking more like I’d spend the next six months actually getting my shit together, instead of declaring that’s what I’m going to do and promptly getting lured off track.

  13. Greg Olear says:

    I was going to say, “Wow, that six months went fast,” but I feel like they didn’t. Lotta change in half a year, from where I sit.

    I’m glad you stopped boycotting mirrors. I miss your Facebook updates, but that’s certainly no reason to return, not when you managed to escape. (A Seven Nation Army should be necessary to get you back to it).

    Anyway, I’m glad you shared the update. The eclipse and the solstice on the same day is supposed to have more meaning than usual. 2011 will be a good year.

    • Gloria says:

      It didn’t go fast at all. You’re life has totally changed. You don’t even live in the same state anymore. How’s that going, anyway?

      I’ve thought, on occassion, of sending status-like updates to a pre-selected forwarding list. But I never do. Facebook makes it frustratingly easy and convenient to do so. Do you NEED a live, on the ground update every time one of my children says the next hilarious thing regarding life, religion, or feces? No. No you don’t.

      The eclipse is less than an hour away (in Oregon.) Hopefully you’re somewhere where you can see it – with those remarkably curious short people of yours.

      To a great 2011, Greg! **clinks glasses**

  14. New Orleans Lady says:

    Gloria, as I said last night, your writing has grown as much if not more than you. I’m so proud of you! The point to this whole thing was to grow, right? Find yourself?

    Although some things didn’t go as you had planned, the ultimate goal was conquered. You did what you set out to do. Amazing.


    love you.

  15. Irene Zion says:

    Good job, Gloria,
    I always knew you’d come out of the other side
    with more knowledge of yourself
    and your place in the world
    and in your family.

    • Gloria says:

      Well, in that case, Irene, in the future I’m going to do what I should’ve done in the first place – just ask you. Prepare for longwinded phone calls. And thanks!

      • Irene Zion says:

        Naa, Gloria,
        it never works if someone tells you,
        you have to live it.
        Always the hard way, eh?

        • Gloria says:

          Indeed. There’s **bound** to be someone in the world who learns from other people’s mistakes and journey’s, though, right? Otherwise, what’s the point of storytelling?

  16. Gregory Messina says:

    You are fascinating, Gloria. Very powerful (and so is this essay).

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      You know, Gregory Messina, those are my thoughts exactly about you.

      And thus concludes tonight’s meeting of the mutual admiration society.


  17. I couldn’t agree more with Gregory above. You are fascinating and powerful, lady!

    When Victoria Patterson posted her wonderful list, I mentioned to her that I shouldn’t make a list because I’m hardwired to then resist such a thing. Same for imposing any restrictions on myself, for the sake of growth or anything else. I’d blow it for sure within hours. So kudos to you for having the moxie to try it and stick with it as long as you did! I did buzz my hair off with electric clippers once (not bald, but maybe down to an inch) and kept it that way for years because that seemed like a good free-spirity, rebellious thing to do. I at least did that much ….

    I have to laugh at myself for asking you the other day, “why aren’t you on Facebook so I can talk to you?,” as if there’s no other way to talk to anyone … heh, heh. Sad.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Do you know that I don’t even know what you look like? Not really. So I can’t even picture you with buzzed off hair because I can’t picture you with… Well, I can’t picture you! Though this has been discussed ad nauseum here on TNB, it’s funny how intimate you can feel with people and not even know what they look like. Not really. I’ve talked to Richard and Becky online every week for nearly a year and I’ve never touched them or smelled them. Weird. (Yes, I touch and smell all my friends. Don’t you?)

      Anyway – – see how intimate TNB can be? Don’t let me fool you with that whole Facebook thing – clearly I’ve found its surrogate. 🙂

      • Well, I smell like peanut-butter sandwiches and pancake syrup, of course, and I look *just like* Angelina Jolie (heh heh heh). So there you have it! And you?

        Funnily enough, the only photo I have with my hair that short is my old NY driver’s license. I kept it for this reason. It’s funny because I’d taken the electric clippers to it (my husband was in the Army at the time, therefore I used his clippers and looked like G.I. Jane) a few days before getting the license and I was wearing a yellowy top that made me look naked in the photo. It’s hilarious!

        • James D. Irwin says:

          TNB is better than facebook, although 2.0 was better for the whole community feel in my opinion. Although that might be skewed by the fact I was on TNB way more often in the 2.0 era…

          I had to have my photo taken for my student ID a few weeks ago and I’d blow dried my hair in a hurry and I was wearing a blazer over a pastel t-shirt. It looks unbelievably 1980s…

  18. Joe Daly says:

    Very meaty read here, Gloria. A great reminder that when we make a big change in our life, we need to really look at our reasons before shaking it up. But more importantly, we need to revisit those reasons after the fact to see how they measure up to the results.

    Fantastic emotional journey. Amazing how something seemingly cosmetic could actually be a bullet train to some very deeper truths.

    Rock on, sister.

  19. Erica Uhr says:

    I applaud your courage to step outside yourself and take an inventory like this. Really. As I’m getting older, I’m realizing how uncomfortable it is to accept constructive criticism, even from myself. Even scarier is making an effort to put those lessons into practice. This growing up crap is harder than everyone said it’d be. I miss your facebook posts. But. I guess I can use the phone for more than texting. I love you, and I’m really glad you write!

    • Gloria says:

      Hey everybody! Look! Look! My cousin Erica stopped by, read, and commented. Say hi to her, everyone! She’s 24 years old now! (Unless she just turned 25 and I can’t count) and one of the most amazing family members and people and I love her!! I haven’t seen her in ages, which is a shame because she’s Admiral Rad!

      I told you it would be this hard, Erica. I did! I told you!! I believe it was one night while we were drinking whiskey on my porch when you were still underage.

      You know how to use the phone? Did you only just learn this skill? ‘Cause your outgoing voicemail message is the same one you’ve had since your sophomore year in high school. I figured you just forgot what all the buttons did…

      I love you!!

  20. D.R. Haney says:

    I spoke to a friend last night who abruptly left Facebook a few weeks back, and I asked him why, and he said, “I just want to run into people and ask ‘What have you been up to lately?’ without already knowing they’ve taken a trip to Brazil or whatever.” I saw his point. A lot of the mystery has been stripped from life.

    I don’t think I’ll ever have the problem of getting too carried away on Facebook. I was active at social sites beginning with Friendster a long time ago, so I’m kind of burned out on the whole thing, and if I were ever to undertake a journey of self-discovery akin to yours, I’d already have the Facebook thing pretty much covered.

    • Gloria says:

      Duke – you know, of all of it, I wonder if what I needed most was to just get rid of Facebook. You’re a wise man, D.R. Haney.

      What does the R. stand for?

      Merry Holidays, Duke.

  21. angela says:

    thank you for summarizing The Cave, gloria. i could not get through it in college. maybe because my philosophy professor was so very boring.

    i love the last line: “Because I don’t think ritual is necessarily about the parts, but their sum.” so true.

    for the month of august, i had a huge project for work and was almost never on Facebook. it was actually very freeing. i wasn’t sure why but i think i know now: i wasn’t constantly thinking about what everyone else was doing. it may be just me, but when i see all the stuff people are doing, whether it’s a project, or some fancy vacay, or pics of their little ones, sometimes i get panicked, like, how come i’m not doing all that stuff too? hurry me, do that stuff! ALL OF IT!

    i’m still on FB now, but am trying to be much more chill about it.

    • Gloria says:

      Angela!! It’s Angela!! Woooo!! It’s always a pleasure, lady.

      Boring teachers can suck the joy right out of a subject, no? Maybe my “Metaphysical Poets” class wasn’t really torture?

      hurry me, do that stuff! ALL OF IT! <—– I totally get this. This is why lists are good. You write all the stuff you want on a list and then you look at it and you realize there’s no way you can do all of it, so you do all the high money things. It’s easier. Bite sized.

      Happy Holidays, Angela. 🙂

  22. I could never get rid of Facebook. When you live so many thousands of miles from friends and family, it becomes necessary. In fact, I live in a country where Facebook is ILLEGAL and I still have to use it.

    There’s something wonderful about shaving your head. I let my hair grow in cycles of several years – shave it and then leave it to grow out. For some reason I’m always surprised at how it grows.

    I get you about the meditation thing, too. The whole tradition style of crossed-legs and intense thought tends to send me in search of something amusing on Facebook, but it’s important to take a few hours a day to just think about stuff.

    • Gloria says:

      The whole tradition style of crossed-legs and intense thought tends to send me in search of something amusing on Facebook. – – – Ha!

      Yeah, you know the whole “clear your mind” thing? There are only a handful of things that allow me to do this: throwing up, explosive diarrhea, orgasms, the Redwood Forest – basically, not things that I can do (or would even want to do as the case may be) intentionally and for long periods of time at any ol’ point I choose in my day. (Most of these, for instance, would make my coworkers uncomfortable.)

  23. Like our Becky, I have been having a hard time trying to think up something to comment here because you and I email and text, so I already feel pretty up-to-date on your life bidness, and the latest hijinks of the boys. I’m glad you are happy, and that you accomplished what you hoped to accomplish during your identity journey. Love, love, love to you, my dear. xoxo.

    • Gloria says:

      Miss T – I appreciate you reading, even though all of this was basically in my Christmas card. I did debate whether I should post this one or not, as it felt… not quite right. I don’t know. Bloggy? I tried not to write it that way. But there it was – my first post where I announced that I was doing all this stuff and it ended with a kind of ellipses and I hate ellipses sometimes because I’m like – WHAT? How does the damn sentence end? So I went back and forth and decided to just post and promised myself that I would redeem myself by writing something dizzyingly amazing for my next piece. 🙂

      Hi Tawni!!

  24. Sorry I’m so late in the game in reading this piece, Gloria. I found your story extremely honest, revealing, and moving. As for the guy you were dating right around the time you shaved your head: I don’t know what his problem is. I bet you were a totally hot bald chick. Here’s to more illuminating revelations now, and always. Peace…

    • Gloria says:

      Never apologize, Rich. We’re all so busy and there’s so much in the land of the Nervous Breakdown. I’m just pleased you stopped by.

      Peace to you, too, you dear man.

  25. Dean Parent says:

    Gloria-Just read the piece, and was so pleased you did this for yourself. What an amazing opportunity to discover more about oneself, and reduce the mental clutter that bogs us down. I hope that you can express yourself in future writings with the gift of inhibition and clarity. I still thank you would be a sweet circus clown, and not the psych scary type. Glad to hear you are well. Be Amazing!

    • Gloria says:

      Dean Parent! Wow, man – it’s been… well, about six months! 🙂 How are you and your family?

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for commenting.

      I probably would be a perfectly good circus clown. I just meant that I took the other fork a long time ago and it would be a lot of work to go back to those divergent paths to and go in the other direction. Time is short. Onward and upward.

      Best to you, sir!

  26. Jessica's mother says:

    This is great Gloria–you are AMAZING! So no mirrors, no make up, no . . . well no vanity at all. I think it’s hard to see how attached we are to all these things (our own image, our own image WITH mascara on–I’m talking about me, of course) until we challenge ourselves to take them away.

    About your novel/memoir/YA/book: just keep writing. Really. Just. keep. Writing.

    • Gloria says:

      Thank you Jessica (who’s doubling as Jessica’s Mother) – for reading and commenting but, especially, for the encouragement with the writing. I need to get back in that saddle. I think I’m nearly there. Honestly? I don’t think I actually get to choose to walk away from it. It won’t let me. 🙂

  27. Jessica's mother says:

    OH, and the above (and this as well) is not “jessica’s mother.” This is your fellow TNBer Jessica Anya Blau on her mother’s computer. I’m in CA and didn’t bring along my computer. I’m taking the week off!

    • Gloria says:

      How adorable is it that your mom’s default screen name is “Jessica’s mother?”
      So sweet. But then, does this mean that you have no siblings? Or are they just chopped liver?

      • jessica Anya Blau says:

        I have two siblings, but I think this was the screen name she took for commenting on my TNB pieces (which I have urged her not to do!).

        I’m such a computer dummy it took me three comments to figure out that I can change it to my screen name. Duh me!

  28. Judy Prince says:

    A deeply fought-for and deeply won self-acceptance, Gloria. It takes oodles of guts to do as you did—-to insist that you see yourself and your circumstances without coatings, decorations, distractions and ambient noise. You didn’t run and hide from Gloria.

    “If you take any six month period and put it under a microscope – really, truly examine it – you’re going to witness growth of some sort. Sure, maybe it’s just your fingernails and hair (or maybe it’s the hair that falls out if you’re prone to male pattern baldness), but still, it’s change.”

    This struck me so boldly and tangentially hit some long-ago memories. I remember a couple times when truly I felt I had no options, no hope, no actions to get me out of the situation I’d put myself in. Both times, an incredibly simple thing gave me hope. The first time, I distractedly began projecting shadows on the wall with my hands and became fascinated with the shapes and movements, the grace and expression of my fingers. The second time, many years later, I could only manage a few things and began to file my nails, and it made me feel I could create some small measure of beauty. You no doubt can see that I was in a low state both times, yet the tiniest creation of beauty gave me hope. It is the same today; that is, my creating even the smallest beauty will buoy my spirits, carry me through. I now have years, as well, of culled helps for getting over the inevitable difficult challenges, the excruciating frustrations and moments of despair…..and still I find that joy and beauty, patience and love are ballasts to my very soul.

    I salute your careful, thoughtful and searching spirit, Gloria.

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