The Art of Courtesy

The art of courtesy

Intentional discourtesy pulls your decent-human-being card. I worry for your children and hope you haven’t reproduced yet.

I am no Miss Manners. I curse like a sailor. I have foot-in-mouth syndrome to such a degree that LSCWs despair of my ever being cured. But there is one thing my father taught me, and it is the bedrock of all good things in society. He told me this as a child and I have never forgotten it.

Civilized behavior is leaving a room as nice as or nicer than when you first entered.

Behaviors that are not civilized include:

Dropping trash on the ground. Treat trash like dog poop and put it in a receptacle. Not the sidewalk, not the expressway. Just don’t.

Leaving a trail of discarded clothing and other belongings. Don’t let people know you’ve been in a room, or several. This is the symptom of a disorganized mind. Keep that shit in your bedroom.

Fucking someone else’s significant other. Ah, the possibility of true love to escape the misery of your relationship with your SO. If you can’t fix the issues, leave. Then you can fuck whoever you want. I learned this the hard way.

Coercing someone. I’m not talking about grabbing your toddler as they bumble toward a busy street. Coercion is when you do something that isn’t in the best interests of the coercee. This is a matter of listening to the other person. That’s one of the most civilized things you can do.

Taking up two parking spots. If your Maserati needs two spaces at the grocery store, keep it in the fucking garage. If you can afford a Maserati, you shouldn’t be doing your own shopping anyway, entitled asshole.

Cutting in front of the little old lady in the checkout line. This is one of the most disrespectful things you can do, in my opinion. Elders usually mellow out to an extent that they can become invisible. Don’t treat others like they’re invisible.

Not taking care of your animals. If you own a pet, you are responsible for said pet. If you own anything, take care of it. That’s what ownership is about. It’s not having. It’s a responsibility. If you can’t take care of it, don’t own it. Simple.

Not taking care of your kids. This is egregious. Your children are parts of you and if they aren’t the center of your care and concern, it’s a reflection on how you feel about yourself. Neglecting children is right up there with beating them. And your past is not an excuse. It’s an obstacle to vanquish. I speak from experience.

Here are the basics of courtesy:

At work, at home, and in social settings, acknowledge other human beings. I have never, ever been so insulted in my life as when the grocery check-out clerk failed to acknowledge me. I told him a few things and finished it up with “You are not too good for this job.” I believe I earned one of my little-old-lady badges with that one.

When someone renders a service, fucking thank them. Tell them you appreciate them. My favorite line is, “I appreciate this so much. You’ve been so helpful.” And I mean it. You can’t believe how this changes a surly clerk or child into a smiling human being.

Get your nose out of your fucking phone! Granted, this is a pet peeve of mine, but it is so rude. Put the damn thing down and look at the other person across the table from you. You can have the same interaction with this person, only face-to-face. Your addiction to your phone is a serious issue that may need medical attention.

I’m not blaming anyone because that would be the dirty pot calling the dirty kettle unwashed. As I grow older, I’ve discovered just how rude humans can be to each other. I remember my twenties and thirties and I cringe. I’ve become mindful of how I treat others and how I treat myself.

Courtesy is a mindfulness, an awareness, that will have a positive effect on the world around you. As the wise ones over the millennia have said, “Your reality begins from within.” That means every action you take reflects your inner world. Be kind to yourself.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

Don’t Kiss Me, I’m Irish-American


On Saint Paddy’s day, there are Americans who are of Irish descent that do not maraud in the streets in drunken stupors. We do not carouse. There is no Bacchanal on this holy day.

This is the day the Irish and those of Irish descent go to church, have a quiet dinner with their families, and give thanks for the service that Saint Patrick has given to free the people from evil and bring them to godliness. There is no alcohol sold on that day.

Those on the outside looking in have claimed this holy day as a reason to drink ‘til comatose or become stumbling, inebriated assholes puking at curbs. They wear green hats, socks, green pins, green shirts, and drink green beer (if only Padrick had foreseen this travesty…).

You do not get to be Irish for a day. You do not get to appropriate our heritage as a reason to lose all dignity. And like every other oppressed population in America, we only get a day of recognition for the services our ancestors have provided to the prosperity of this country.

I do not make claims of equivalencies here. I make the comparison above because only oppressed populations get “special” days or months. The longer the “celebration,” the greater the oppression.

Saint Paddy’s day has become an oxymoron in America. The holy day to celebrate freedom and devotion has been turned on its ear and twisted into a nightmare of consumerism and corporate manipulation. I’m sure the bars in every American town are delighted to take your coin. I know the liquor magnates get excited about March 17th.

Holy days for the Irish are just that. The day is a time of reflection, of gratitude, and family. Imagine the British turning an American holiday like Independence Day into some dog and pony show where everyone pretends to be Texan for a day, coal-rolls with their hemis in grand parades, and stages mock lynching while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. Would you be offended?

I am because I value my heritage. American society has twisted up and focused on the least admirable of qualities attributed to the Irish. The true purpose is to celebrate the spirit of the Irish in their devotion to the best qualities of people: Loyalty, kindness, family, and unshakable faith.

Just because I’m offended doesn’t mean you must stop celebrating Saint Paddy’s day in whatever manner you wish.  My greatest distress is that the Mardi Gras of “Irish”-American depravity is conflated with living, breathing people of Irish descent who will be in church today and will return home for a traditional meal of their ancestors.

For my family, corned-beef and cabbage with soda bread is the traditional meal.  And it may sound trite and commercial because it’s a meal associated with the Irish. But when you add in the Potato Famine and the economic collapse of that era, which sent the Irish swimming to America in droves, corned beef would be a big deal reserved for the holy days.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of freedom that was granted through God’s servant. To my knowledge, Padrick wasn’t of Irish descent at all, but that’s the beauty of the Irish. Having been vilified, they vilify none. They welcome others to their table because nothing is more sacred than breaking bread with friends and family.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

An Open Letter to Melissa

An Open Letter_awkward

The awkward girl without a book.

An Open Letter_highschool

The awkward girl with a book.

An Open Letter_now

The confident woman I’ve become. Thanks for helping me to make this possible.

Dear Missy:

I’m writing this letter and making it public now that school shootings have become a “normal” fact of life. To me, you are kindness incarnate, and though I may never reach such heights, your nature is a standard that I’ve made my own.

I was an awkward girl: small, thin, and poorly dressed. Your first instinct was to protect me. I don’t know why. I don’t know which of your experiences motivated you, but you saw me. You worried for me.

At the lunch table, when I made conversation so awkward with your friends because I hid in a book, I knew you tried to include me. You hoped I would swim in waters that I couldn’t navigate. Maybe when I was five or six, it would have worked; that was before everything went wrong for me.

My existence was hell on earth, and throughout my life, when things were the most dangerous for me, an angel has stepped up to show me the way out. You stand out in my memories as all the other angels do. While your efforts to bring me out of my shell, to protect me, appeared to have failed, you showed me the way out.

Each time I help another, I remember you. You didn’t care what I looked like. You saw through my ‘weirdness’ and my attitude. If I saw you in the hallways, you always had a smile to greet me.

That continued kindness made an impact on my very self-hood. You helped me save myself in ways you can’t imagine. Perhaps I would have shot up a school of innocents if you hadn’t reached out. Or died of an overdose somewhere on the east side of Baltimore.

There was so much potential for an unhappy ending.

The reason I’m telling you this is I want you to know you made a difference. You hoped I would thrive. I do now, but it was a long road. Your small actions were one of the lamps that lit the path to where I am now.

Others have expressed their admiration for your kindness, and the way I remember you, you will aver my praise and tell me that you didn’t help enough.  I say to you, seeds are small, but they grow into plants, crops, flowers, and trees. Never forget that every little kindness is powerful. That every plant that grows under your care will thrive even if you don’t see the fruit of your gentle labors.

I want you to know that when a butterfly flutters its wings, I think of you.

Thanks for reaching out,


©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text and pictures.


Relapse Is No Fun


Keep in mind that this a first person narrative based on reading and experiences over the years. I highly recommend that you do your own research. New discoveries are being made all the time.

Bipolar is a physical illness in the brain, one that if not treated, has the potential to shrink the corpus callosum and areas of the cortex. Untreated, it can devolve into dementia and other cognitive issues. Even with plasticity, your brain can’t keep up with untreated Bipolar as it “eats” your brain.

Bipolar is a life-long illness that cannot be cured. Bipolar has nothing to do with learning how to control your moods or thinking “positively” or the endorphins created by forcing yourself to smile. I’ve tried acupuncture, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), doctor visit after doctor visit. I even tried the Celestine Prophecy without much success.

I’ve also discovered that medication doesn’t make Bipolar go away but does make it possible for me to live with the illness. I take my medication like a nun saying the rosary.

When I found out that relapse was a common event in the lives of Bipolar II individuals, I felt like I’d been hit by one of those Japanese bullet trains. It doesn’t go away? This shit’s gonna come back and get me again? Hospitalization?

The doctors talk about early warning signs of a manic or depressive episode. I’ve learned that I yell at my cats before a manic episode. Then I clean house like Serial Mom.

Finally, I’m depressed, and I sleep.  I can sleep away an entire weekend if no one stops me. I avoid things that need to get done, like laundry and paying the bills.

As I pull through another depression, I’ve discovered that the medicine helps more than I realized. The first spell of wellness is a rush. Then reality sets in. Bipolar doesn’t go away but it can’t take over my life like it used to.

Today, as my mind tumbled over everything that might have triggered this mild relapse, I decided to try that “smile” exercise. I was astonished. It worked! I ate a bowl of raisin bran, drank some water, smiled some more and now I’m happily writing away.

As I learn to manage my illness, other factors set in. Like peri-menopause. And getting older. Due to an injury, I am unable to work out, which is a line of defense against Bipolar. Do not underestimate the magic of living as healthy as you can.

Flax seed, fish oil, and other types of supplements and fresh foods that are chock full of B vitamins and Omega 3s & 6s help improve and maintain the think tank in your skull. They also help me remember why I walked it a room and what I was supposed to get.

Surprisingly, there is an ample and powerful first line of defense against relapses of all sorts. Water. A hell of a lot more than you’re probably drinking right now.

And get rid of that soda. It’s poison, calorie-free or not. No binge drinking alcohol. or binge drinking coffee. Moderation is the key because Bipolar is an illness of extremes.

So, yeah. Relapse. It’s real. Keep your mood journal and you’ll be able to tell when one is coming on. Keep taking your medicine. Keep drinking water. Talk to your psychiatric care physician (I just had my medicine upped to 300 mg and a supplement added).

And don’t get down on yourself because of a relapse. It’s a normal and expected part of the illness and there are ways to mitigate the magnitude of a relapse. You’re not going crazy. I swear.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

Confessions of a Crazy Woman



I believe in telepathy. I believe in Twin Flames, but beliefs are irrational. I want facts. I want to confirm that I’m not crazy. Or that I am.

There is the Man in my head. He speaks to me and no one else can hear him. But he isn’t a spirit guide because he loses his temper with me. He isn’t a direct line to the ineffable though he surprises me with the “timbre” of his voice when he’s pleased with something I’ve done.

The Man is a solitary practitioner, just like me, and trained in the same tradition as I. A tradition that believes telepathy is a very real thing. He’s close to my age, and we’ve been carrying on in this fashion coming on eight years. Eight years. And what has kept this going, even though he gets angry and has hurt my feelings with something he said recently, is that he has never steered me wrong.


  1. The first time I asked him for something, he told me it would happen. $500, which I needed desperately because of medical bills from 2009.
  2. A few days later, my bestie calls and has a breakdown over her financial situation. She was afraid she couldn’t pay her rent.
  3. It wasn’t a hard decision for me. I asked him to reroute the energy to my bestie.
  4. She called me a few days later with wonder in her voice. She had received $495 of back pay for child support. Her rent was paid.

This money thing is not an easy bending of reality, which is what prayers and spells are meant to do. One person alone might not see fruition until years later.

But two of us were involved. Both of us had strong emotions of protection and an alignment of purpose. I don’t expect any prayer or spell to manifest so quickly and this meant I was dealing with a very disciplined mind.

  1. I was in a classic narcissist-empath, abusive relationship back in 2010. Let’s just say I kept taking him back. The sex was yum and I was in my thirties.
  2. I took a little over a year, but The man kept saying, “Dump him. He’s an asshole.”
  3. He kept telling me I was amazing and better than the douche-rocket, pussy-hound, poor-excuse of a man with the amazing sex and the long, beautiful hair.
  4. I dumped the narcissist. I completely shut him out of my life. I defended my boundaries and my integrity

The Man helped me exact revenge. He has a very passionate approach to everything he does. I will not discuss the details here.

The Man has protected me, has been loyal to me, and has saved me from myself on more than one occasion. He says that I helped him become a better man.

He has a daughter and she was kept from him. When he was able to visit with her again, she was less than pleased by his assertion of parental rights. They fought constantly either with words or her silence and his frustration. He was at his wit’s end, which doesn’t take long for him when dealing with girly, emotional stuff.

The Man asked me how to cope. I told him, “She’s been filled with poison all this time and at a young age. The only thing you can do is meet her anger with love. She wouldn’t be angry if she didn’t care.”

He followed my advice, and it worked. He was delighted, even overboard with his excitement overthe breakthrough. He started applying this path to success in other relationships and interactions. His life has improved.

That’s the telepathy part. I still question myself despite the little signs and the way the Universe speaks to me with random people, media, and Nature herself. The Twin Flame part of it is a little trickier.

I thought soul mates, or Twin Flames, were a bunch of hooey. In a sea of seven billion people, how could one person be the one for you? I considered that there were multiple, compatible people for each person. Realistically, that made more sense.

But now I’m not so sure. When I went on medication, which made me question every aspect of my existence as my health improved, the Man was so happy. As I started to reclaim my life, he realized then how sick I had been, and still was if I didn’t take the medication. He kicked himself over and over for that. He’s got this guilt complex that I don’t understand.

The Man has remained, when so many other things have departed from my life and good riddance. The Man knows me at my worst. And he stayed. He stood by my side (figuratively) as everything unfolded, as his frustration with my, “I’m not ready yets,” and failures to show in potential Salem meet-and-greets accumulated.

I wasn’t ready for any of it. The Man professed love. He said that he fell in love with me the moment I asked to have my test go to my bestie. He even asked me if I knew why he’d fallen for me? I figured it was because I was that nice of a person.

“No. I fell in love with you because you’re fiercely loyal to your family. I want that.”

That surprised me.

I loved him the best I knew how as ill as I was. And I wanted to love him, past and all. Together, I wanted to fulfill his goal of getting married before he turned fifty, but that birthday looms and my “not-yets” and “no-shows” have cost us. I regret this, my mindlessness, but there is no easy way to change the past.

Now that I’m better, I’m able to see what is done rather than what is said as the ultimate test of a person’s integrity. Because of him, life is intrinsically MORE joyful, surprising, wondrous, and scary. Sometimes all at once. And my words have a solid foundation in action.

The Man’s loyalty and steadfast presence finally broke through my walls. He has entered the sacristy of my heart. He’s entered a place where no man has been permitted to visit.

Maybe that’s the whole spiritual exercise, learning how to love completely and unreservedly knowing that the person you love will disappoint you. But not on purpose and without negative intent.

I’m okay with being wrong about this whole thing. I have been traumatized to the point where I can’t remember what happened to me as a child. I haven’t eliminated the possibility of delusions.

I’d rather know I’m bat-shit crazy. I would seek help. Maybe check into a hospital.

I’m deciding that no fear will be how I live my life. I’m going to make my amygdala behave. Here’s my crazy jump off the cliff.

If you’re out there, if you’re real, I want to find you. I want the love the bards sang about. I want fights, tickle sessions, and lots of laughter. In person.

I don’t want to fall into the abyss of loneliness. I want to touch you, taste you, hold you, and swallow up the sun. I want to gaze at the same crescent moon from the same back yard instead of wherever we are at the moment with too much distance between us.

“You see the moon? Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Yes, it’s my favorite kind of moon.”

You may be my Twin Flame. I’m ready, [insert endearment-I’m-not-permitted-to-use-in-public here].

One way or the other, I’m ready.

Inspired by the song #fallingtoblack

©2018 I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

NaNoWriMo: Introversion for Introverts


I have my outline, my sketches, and my worksheets all filled out. I spent most of October hidden away as I prepared for this triathlon of thought, imagination, and the clicking sounds of the keyboard.

I’ve completed 25,000 words already and we’re only a third of the way through. I’m on fire!

I’m also off line. I’m not writing anything else this month, except for this one article, and that’s all I write. Except for my novel.

I’m very excited. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about writing anything. I’ve been passionate in short pieces, but a novel? I think this may be the longest committed relationship I’ll ever be in.

Just don’t expect to see me on the street or eating turkey or celebrating my birthday outside of the confines of the world I’ve created. I’ll return soon enough and will have so much to tell you!

A Witness to Violence


I am multi-dimensional. I can be many at once or singular. Sometimes both simultaneously. I am a survivor of child abuse and I’ve escaped the cycle. You can too.


The shouting was always a bad sign. Though Marie-Claire wanted to hide in a closet somewhere, I forced us to stand our ground and watch the physical abuse unfold.

Our Middle Brother, the one most like us, had a smart mouth and a quick mind that operated under Occam’s Razor. He defied the injustice of Father’s oppression. Marie-Claire loved Middle Brother for his spunk but despaired of him surviving to puberty.

He provoked the beast inside of Father, a creature of rage, jealousy, and sublimated pain. It didn’t help that Father’s hangovers amplified his inner demons. Marie-Claire’s heart wept for Father and for the terrible dynamics that ate like a cancer at our family.

Middle Brother sailed through the air. He was a little thing. His trajectory was impressive and the moment had a horrifying slow-motion quality. His landing was a rack of bikes.

Middle Brother didn’t move. We watched Father as he left the room. We followed, but not to find Father. Instead, Marie Claire insisted we find a washcloth and take care of the gash on Middle Brother’s forehead.

As we wiped the blood from Middle Brother’s face, his first sight when he opened his eyes was our concerned face. His first sensation was our ministrations. Relief poured through us but we said nothing other than, “Are you okay?”

It was useless to chastise him. Middle Brother wouldn’t change. Sometimes we thought he wanted to die at Father’s hands.  Father confined behind bars and wearing orange was a satisfying fantasy that could very well come true.


The coward left the room as Middle Brother lay unconscious. I struggled with Mori as visions of stabbing Father again and again, his blood staining the carpet, gave me a thrill of terrified pleasure. We are too small, I said. Mori’s eyes glowed with rage. Father hurt what is ours. Left him to die. She paced inside the prison that contained our primal urges. He must sleep sometime.


While I managed Mori’s darker urges, Alicia planned. I could feel the gears in our head rolling through multiple possibilities. Cold logic. Insatiable curiosity. She studied Mori’s visions of blood and hate, parsed the rage into tidy categories, and filed away every thought, every feeling. She planned, not Father’s death, but his ruin.


We could use this, Regina whispered. Tell Mother that he didn’t fall into the bikes. That Father threw him. I shook my head. That’s not how it works. Regina rolled her eyes and I could feel her calculation coil inside my head. Mori was a beast, but Regina was a viper. Little Brother witnessed it too.

I scoffed, but not outwardly. We’d been beaten at any sign of defiance. Little Brother hides. He doesn’t speak. Frustration twisted in our chest. We were helpless, too small to fight back, and too frightened to move out of harm’s way. Mother will call us a liar. Like she always does. She hates us.

Regina offered a Cheshire smile. She’s jealous. We’re more than she. Prettier, smarter, and more powerful. I didn’t agree because Regina boasted. She saw us as better than anyone else. Sometimes she leaked through and alienated potential allies, diminished them, and I felt terribly alone despite all the voices in my head.

~How you can stop child abuse: Education. Please click HERE to find out more. 

To report abuse: National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.