Have I got a yarn for you…

Hey, you.

psst. Yeah, you.

You like fantasy?

You like politics?

If it existed, would you watch the Westerosi version of The West Wing?

You’re in luck, because that’s what I’m giving away. A long story about a civil war and a government in crisis and the people fighting to keep their nation from falling apart.

The first book is free. It’s right here. I’m happy to share. Follow me on Twitter @CZEdwards for updates. Read my Author’s Notes for details.


Rien’s Rebellion Book One .epub (External site, Onehub download)

UPDATE: 24 AUG 2018: Smashwords download. Always free.

Rien’s Rebellion Book One .awz3 (Kindle, External site, Onehub download)

Rien’s Rebellion – Foundation Specs

Rien’s world exists because of a vague idea I once had. When Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, it only destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. But Mt Vesuvius has the potential to be a much worse eruption, then and now. It’s 150 miles/242km from Pompeii to Rome. Ash fell from Mount St Helens over 7 states. What if, instead of destroying two cities, Vesuvius destroyed Rome as an empire? What if Vesuvius went worst case scenario – a Mt Tambora or a Yellowstone caldera? When Yellowstone goes, there’s a good chance that Salt Lake City, Boise and Spokane will cease to exist, and Seattle, Denver and Portland may not be far behind. It’s 500 miles/800km from Denver to Yellowstone. Continue reading “Rien’s Rebellion – Foundation Specs”

UTS: Team #FeedBabies, or how the Religious Right weaponizes Facebook to make you feel bad about Similac and working, while also exploiting SAH parents & every impoverished parent on the planet in the name of Breast is Best (for whom?) With a side of misogyny & corporate malfeasance.


Usually when people write connections like that, we’re talking conspiracy theories. But nope, this is just corporate evil & exploitation in the name of profit.

Continue reading “UTS: Team #FeedBabies, or how the Religious Right weaponizes Facebook to make you feel bad about Similac and working, while also exploiting SAH parents & every impoverished parent on the planet in the name of Breast is Best (for whom?) With a side of misogyny & corporate malfeasance.”

For #TheResistance: Memory of a Kiss

My gift to #TheResistance: the most wish-fulfillment, goofy, ghost story about Resisters who die before we’re done, and decide not to leave.

Thanks to @WisePaxCat who inspired the idea, and suggested a Ouija board. https://twitter.com/wisepaxcat/status/975525379132686336?s=21

Letting you know, this will be a serial, irregularly updated. If you like it, tell me. Short stories are not my strength at all, so even limiting myself to 3 page chapters in a serial is a talent stretch for me. Like @SeananMcGuire ‘s Firstborn, I build worlds.


Continue reading “For #TheResistance: Memory of a Kiss”

UTS: Activism, mental health, getting to self-actualization, Big Little Lies and racism

This one is just complicated. Lots of moving parts.


The hardest thing about being a therapist isn’t the emotional labor, or dealing with insurance, or even everyone & their brother wanting free help.

It’s patience. It’s being able to clock the client’s problem in the first 15 min but spending 6 months nudging their agency.

(Spoiler: Big Little Lies)




One of the best sequences in BLL is Celeste & her therapist. Doc knows from first meeting with Celeste & Perry that he’s an abusive shitstain, but Celeste isn’t ready for that. Respecting Celeste’s agency demands working through her process of …

…We have a little communication problem


This is our dynamic


I’m just as responsible


We’re okay except when we’re not


OMFG He’s going to kill me if I don’t GTFO.

As far as I can tell, that’s something like 6 months in terms of show and about that in real therapy.

When a client comes in, I’m rarely the 1st person they’ve talked to. There’s a good chance they’ve *edged* around their issue with a friend, cleric, social worker, nurse/doc/PA/NP. They’ve probably googled some, read some PsychToday articles, reddit, written an advice columnist.

But they don’t have the vocabulary. They’re the experts in their body and their mind, but they’re amateurs. To use the car mechanic analogy, they know they hear a whine coming from the hood area. They know it’s wrong & new. They don’t know why/what changed. They need an expert.

With every new client, I have to start over with beginner’s mind. I have to know their context.

What’s prompted this thread is a Captain Awkward thread & the stance that it’s a no quarter given, absolute responsibility of white people to handle other white people’s racism. (H/T to AnaMardoll)

Now, to be clear, I disagree with the absolutist premise. I think when we reach self-actualization & the upper levels of Maslow, then yes, we ARE REQUIRED to police our own. But I’m not going to ask that of someone who is just realizing she’s in an emotionally abusive sitch.

To advocate for others requires a level of emotional/physical security for oneself, plus the vocabulary of boundaries & self-confidence and social empathy to to push back. Plus, in a roomie situation, the financial ability to walk away. Several steps up Maslow, at least level 3.

I think LW is at the Celeste “minor communication problem” stage. She knows her roommate displays SHITTY AWFUL BEHAVIOR.

But she works w/ him, maybe commutes with him (she mentions a mobility issue in passing), lives w/ him, can’t afford Bye, boy!

She wants behavior to stop.

I never, ever, ever meet clients when they are their best, most empathetic, most socially conscious & capable selves. They wouldn’t be in my office if all was 👍. (Duh.) Same for someone writing for advice. They’ve got a problem. They can’t solve it.

So we must assume the letter writer’s baseline isn’t “I’m living my best life on the way to Enlightenment.”

It’s “pls send help or ballgag. Don’t care which.”

LW may not be short on calories/O2/H2O (Maslow 1), but Maslow 2 is shaky. Housing, body and employment depend…

… on maintaining eggshells around guy.

She says clearly that pushing back will bring a long debate, piss him off, or drunk tears. She’s already using OK strategies to deflect & a metric ton of avoidant strategies. It’s not improving. There’s no route to Maslow 5 for her.

Telling her to DTMFA is counter-productive. He’s in her house, in her job. Yeah, she uses the word friend. That’s not what she describes. She describes someone she socialized with, who seemed reasonable at the remove of work and foosball, which led to shared housing.

Most people have shitty definitions of, and gradations within the word “friend”. English sucks that way. We don’t have specific terms for

—people I see at $Hobby

—Works in same building, we sometimes share lunch table

—can call for bail $$

—will handle my funeral

Friend is vast.

Too vast. It sounds like the LW wants to maintain cordiality with the asshat until circumstances change.

But she’s new to this. She thinks it’s a communication problem, that he won’t take “shut the fuck up about your unacknowledged fetish” without causing more crap.

Narrator voice: Isn’t a communication problem.

This is an emotionally exploitative relationship. Guy’s Cool Lesbian Friend is his emotional dump. He forces her involvement in his emotional/sexual needs, w/o her consent. He’s an emotional flasher who jacks off through his mouth.

We don’t know what she’s not saying (financial & mobility issues never bode well for egalitarian co-housing…) but from her own words, yeah, it’s exploitation.

But that’s an emotionally scary place & she’s just starting to ask for help now.

Vocab not yet installed.

Pls wait.

If she’s in my comfy chair, the first thing we’re doing is affirming her agency, because that’s something she’s NOT getting in the rest of her life. We’re helping her establish boundaries, routines, improving her avoidance strategies while we recharge her sense of self so… …she can progress. If she wants to say, “dude, that’s racist,” then WALK OUT & go to movie/class/yoga, I’m gonna encourage that, because dude’s never gonna hear it elsewhere.

But if she just wants to roll her eyes & walk away, that’s fine, too. He’s not her fixer-upper.

She’ll get to a point of self-confidence & actualization & she will tell him off. (Or she’ll just lose what control she has.) But she’s just starting.

Nobody is born self-actualized.

We don’t download social empathy on our 21st birthdays.

Would be nice if we did.

I’d like this to be an easy conversation about confronting racism & cutting off the shitheads in our midst.

(Which is my 🥇strategy. Isolate the fuckers. But we haven’t yet set aside Nebraska for people who won’t live in peace with others.)

Alas, our housing market. So…

We once had SROs & furnished boarding houses for people starting out/over. Which sucked in their ways, but it was common enough for people to move. Now we do roommates & lock ourselves into year commitments with strangers. Who sometimes behave ok in public & 💩 on floor at home.

And yes, white people, it’s our job to confront the racists in our midsts.

Just as it’s not every woman’s job to take men through Misogyny 101, the job of confronting racism is adjustable. An eye roll & walking away is not a Seminar, but it’s a valid step.

(More to follow)

So white folk. It’s our job, we have to develop the emotional strategies to deal with our asshats. We can’t expect anyone else to do it, but fuck them, they don’t make it easy.

So, to borrow from the Murderinos: politeness is overrated. Walk away when the racists start 🤮

Deprive them of attention, positive and negative. Don’t engage. Don’t give the seminar. Don’t exhaust yourself arguing. (More on this in a minute…) Just stop. Turn your back. Close the door. Go away. That’s level 1. That’s the least we can do, and the broadest base strategy.

Let’s all get to at least that page, and we can start talking next steps.

But arguing/debating/ engaging is often counter-productive, too. The asshat in question wants to use other people as an emotional dump, so he doesn’t have to process his own shit for himself. He’s outsourcing his feelings.

He’s an emotional flasher, jacking off via mouth.

If you’re into that, go for it.

If not, turn your back, walk away, go away. Close the door.

Let him get constipated/blue balls.

(Oh, fuck, this metaphor is gross.)

Yes, he’s likely to immerse himself in the slime pits of reddit/MGTOW.

(Narrator: he’s already there.)

They’re consenting to their verbal circle jerk.

It’s icky, it’s causing harm, but we have to build the baseline of Everybody Gets Boundaries!

That means shunning this behavior.

I don’t like it. It’s messy therapy & messy prosocial behavior.

But expecting the t-ball team to play Yankee stadium just makes the t-ball team feel like they’re failures.

People just starting their emotional journey don’t need to take shit from the experts. Empathy for all. End

PS: Now, the last fragment, from the social empathy perspective.

This is my job. We therapists build and foster social empathy in people whose empathy-ers have been injured or infected or atrophied.

We’re in the trenches, doing base work. We don’t see people at their best.

When advocates present an absolute – that all people should do thing – that adds pressure on people already not in their best places.

Truly, one of the easiest ways to turn a moderate into a MAGAt is to tell them they suck at everything and should be shunned for Doin It Rong.

Because vulnerability is exactly that. It’s a soft, open wound. We protect ourselves. So when advocates say you suck, you will always suck, you cannot be redeemed…

well, the deplorables say awful things, too, but they don’t think I’m horrible because I’m stressed & scared.

Remember when you’re an advocate, you’re something of an expert. Far beyond beginner’s mind. You have vocabulary, you have practice. You have the mental and emotional musculature to see and act on social empathy.

You’re not a beginner. Don’t expect your performance from a noob.

Because in beginner’s emotional submind, the dialogue sounds like this:

Pick one… people who hate me, or people who don’t and hate the people who hate me?

Congratulations, this is how MAGAts, and a whole lot of other antisocial behavior, breed.

Isolate the ones who are active and noisy and are CURRENTLY BEING AWFUL.

But give the noobs & undetermined just a little latitude. Just a little. Tiny bit of patience. Let them know that we have tools to help, and we understand that you have to put your own oxygen on first.

Let them know we want them on our side when they can, that we want to help. That whatever their privilege, it will help them get out of their hole, and they need to use it now, so when they’re ready, they can help everyone else.

That it’s OKAY to use your own privilege for yourself when your situation is bad. But you have to use it to alter your situation.

You can’t just wallow & complain.

That alteration takes time.

And we don’t hate you because you’re stressed and scared.

Empathy for all. End.

UTS: A Case Study of the Insecurity and Anxiety that underlies gun ownership/collecting


In my pinned thread, I talk about insecurity & anxiety of gun ownership. This piece is a textbook example.

He needed talk therapy for decades. Instead, he bought guns.

After his family died, he threatened to kill himself. So the police took his guns.

⬆️ Washington Post article that inspired this. Read it first.

Let’s start with career: a police officer. He seems like he was a good one, but two aspects of personality are drawn to law enforcement: a need for control, and authoritarian thinking. These are the two traits that tend to lead to dysfunctional behavior.

Then there’s his child’s severe, ultimately fatal, devastating illness. He’s self-aware enough to directly associate his gun buying with crises in her illness (and that makes him an EASY client) but he continually chooses the avoidance object (guns) over letting go of control.

During his wife’s illness, he’s basically alone & caring for a dying woman’s body well after her personality faded. This is devastating, watching your loved one die hundreds of times. And he was alone. This is a failure of his community: the police fraternal, neighbors, friends.

This is a guess, but I’ve done enough geriatrics work to make the bet: at some point, he started listening to AM talkers &/ Fox News. He was lonely, he needed adult interaction and respite, he wanted to hear human voices, he needed something to think about that wasn’t dementia.

There are some strong neurological reasons why people in distress turn to Fox/AM talkers, but the simple one is this: they serve as a tiny dose of uppers. Anger/fear stimulate neurotransmitters associated with elevated heart rate, better O2 uptake, heightened attention (panic).

Caring for terminally ill people alone is exhausting. You never get enough or deep enough sleep. You can’t read, eat, meditate, pee by yourself. Exhaustion means you slip on cleaning/maintenance, which adds shame, which makes you less likely to ask for help, so more fatigue.

And this is a person in desperate need of control, has been his whole life. He couldn’t control cancer. Nor dementia. Nor exhaustion. But he’s got these voices — the only voices in his life who seem to talk about things other than diapers & meds — offering energy through anger.

So yes! He’s grabbing every bit of the drug that right-wing media offers. It’s his lifeline.

What’s sad? He’s an easy client, if we’d gotten him when his daughter got sick. He needed an own voice shrink – preferably someone with EMS service – who was an absolute ally. But easy.

The point we must take away from this article is the one the author also missed: the community failed this man so often that the only option left was the civil temporary seizure of his guns.

  • His police union should have been keeping up with him.
  • His wife’s church.
  • His town.

I often say that 80% of a shrink’s workload is a social work issue; loneliness and overwhelm that can be fixed with help and money are not psychological issues.

Medicare is partly responsible here: it doesn’t cover either mental health or social health in a functional way.

But this is also the world that the authoritarian mindset wants: a world where all people are islands, where we cannot trust anyone outside of ourselves, where people paid to take an interest in us are to be despised. Because in that world, it’s much easier to *sell* things.

There’s a reason that authoritarianism tracks closely to laissez faire capitalism: the authoritarian wants to be the one with the solution, and wants to be able to sell it with no restrictions.

Then there’s the misogyny side: Toxic masculinity devalues emotional labor, including the emotional labor of social work, which doesn’t pay the authoritarians for their One Simple Solution, therefore, social work is devalued. Paid help can’t be real in the authoritarian mind.

Even if wife’s hospice had offered this man help, his need for control, his authoritarian mindset, and the RW media/toxic masculinity conditioning would have led him to devalue any assistance offered if it didn’t come from a volunteer (friend.)

And the end result is, in this case, ultimately not a disaster. We have an angry, traumatized, bitter, lonely survivor but he has a few strong connections. (Though those connections may be damaged because he’s ashamed of the civil order.)

But he’s alive & people are listening.

Too often, it ends the other way, with his body found a couple weeks later.

So what’s the alternative? His police union should have stepped up. Other retired cops should have been dropping in, picking up a mop or doing some laundry. Talking about grownup shit that has nothing to do with dementia or cancer. They should have provided HIS mind respite.

Hospice should have provided at least one weekly 4 hour respite caregiver so this man could go elsewhere or just have a shower all by himself. That’s $80 a week, so even over a year of hospice care, it’s still only $4K. It’s cheap.

His own doctor should have been able to refer him to a house-call therapist who came by a couple times a month to talk to him.

House call, because putting the logistics on someone who is already overwhelmed just leads to failure. Again, Medicare can cover this for minimal money.

And let me be clear: Mental health is not the same as mental illness or injury. Someone can be mentally or behaviorally unhealthy – have detrimental habits of mind and coping mechanisms – without a chemical imbalance, neural/cognitive disorder or dysfunctional context.

Unhealthy behavior happens because we’ve learned it works for a short-term result. Yelling at your spouse gets you your way. Hitting your kid makes them comply. Drinking two shots provides an immediate calming effect. Humans like maximum result for minimum effort: we’re lazy.

We also don’t do long-term thinking well or naturally. So when we’re stressed, we turn to what has offered some relief in the past and fail to evaluate if that relief

1) lasted

2) improved the situation

3) affected others.

We reinforce our dysfunctional behaviors when they offer simple, quick relief or anodyne. Which is not to say self-care, even our less perfect coping mechanisms, are specifically bad for us. Some are, some aren’t. But they’re all temporary.

When we break our ACL, we take NSAIDS & ice for immediate comfort & healing, but the fix usually requires surgery or serious PT or both. Dysfunctional behavior is like popping Tylenol but never doing the exercises. The knee doesn’t get better; the stress situation remains.

The point of self-care is to recharge enough to do the mental work of changing the irritant. Often, when we start self-care, we’ve got such a deficit that we need weeks or months of charge, but we have to make the change.

And that’s why we need a lot more access to therapy & social work at all levels.

Because right now? We’re using guns to compensate for lack of control and anxiety. RW media to compensate for social isolation and loneliness, the police to compensate for a frayed social network.

We’ve got to break out of those social dysfunctions, those short-term behaviors that don’t fix the underlying problems.