Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Shrubbery and Meltdowns

I trimmed our camellia hedge line today. High. Too high without having discussed it with CK first. It removes some privacy.

Her response, she considered to be moderate, to me felt big. I felt like a complete failure and spent hours at the edge of weeping.

Therapy yesterday didn't seem like it was terribly hard. Yes, it is a terrible memory of my feeling terrified and unsafe with the caregiver my Mother left me with, but it's also one I know. Yes, the details are very hard and yet, it feels like it is all a known quantity.

So what's with the therapy hangover today! That's the only thing that makes my emotional meltdown make sense.

I'm still feeling pretty lousy, kind of emotionally wrung out. I'm also feeling sore from wrestling with our arborvitae hedgerow. After massively trimming I raked out debris under the whole area then lay down soaker hoses. The arborvitae particularly have been unhappy and we want to get some deep watering of them. The overgrowth made it less than fun.

The emo feels; the "I'm a failure" feels, also didn't make the day much fun.

Despite wearing long sleeves, pants, gloves, and socks that came up over my ankles, I still got my arms scratched up and found bits of arborvitae in my bra and undies. I also discovered that my newly curly hair, also COVID long, seems to grab way more detritus in it than my straight hair ever did.

Not my favorite Wednesday. I am glad the watering is working. I cautiously like the trimming. Thinking about blooming, ornamental grasses that grow tall to plant on the other side, between roses, to provide more privacy and interest.


Rescue Missions

Today I began the work to integrate the memory from age 5 that connects to the belief that I'm worthless, even dangerous to people. This is a core false belief I have about myself due to the developmental trauma I experienced.

We've been watching The Walking Dead during the pandemic. CK is always looking for series to comfort watch, I usually watch them vicariously as I do other things. She'd started that with TWD, but I got more and more pulled into the characters. I mentioned this to my therapist today who was surprised, I agreed that I'm generally not a horror genre person, but I find the show really compelling. I'm very interested in how the worst monsters are always the humans.

I brought it up because a thought about these trauma therapy sessions stuck me a few days ago. This work I'm doing is like a rescue mission in a show or movie. It's going to be really hard, scary, and I'm going to encounter the monstrous behavior of the people who hurt me. It's worth it though, because I'm rescuing my child self who is stuck at age 5, terrified and unable to move forward.

Even when I uncover new memories that are painful to bring out into the light, I'm doing the work of freeing my child self from terror. Along the way I might get to discover the ways in which I was learning to be resilient. My memory of age 4 revealed how I was already strong, resourceful, and a badass.

The memory from age 5 feels much less monstrous than the one from age 4. When my therapist read it back to me I felt a sense of near relief. While this memory is terrible, because it is a time when I was feeling like I wasn't worth keeping safe. That aside, it doesn't feel like it has anything lurking within it to bear witness to.

Revisiting myself at age 5, feeling terribly unsafe and terrified, it helped me feel even more resolve to do this work. I'm not leaving me stuck there.

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An Open Letter to Natural Grocers

August 17, 2020

Natural Grocers Customer Service

I suggest that all of your folks dealing with mitigating the spread of the virus inside your stores, for the sake of your employees as well as customers, read Zeynep Tufekci’s article in the Atlantic about COVID and airborne transmission.

This might be behind a paywall to you, in which case Tufekci has a whole thread of tweets related to their article, you can see them starting here:

I started you with this because reading this work made me feel better about the concerns I have about being inside a store, much less within 15 feet, with people who are not properly wearing face masks. 

I’m also going to tell you that I am a person who is high risk for COVID. Moreover, my wife is VERY high risk. This is not an exaggeration, this is something I’ve had our physician confirm for me. I take the need for the personal responsibility of wearing a mask very seriously. We aren’t even having visits with family members without everyone being outside and with masks on. 

Before you tell me about your “special hours” set aside for people like me, let me tell you that those hours do NOT work for me. The assumption that early mornings are an option for everyone in this category is one that’s common, and really unfair. I can’t do those hours, don’t ask me to. 

Instead, I am writing to you to ask that you direct staff at stores to enforce your own policies about wearing face coverings correctly inside stores. Furthermore, in Oregon, where this incident took place, it is a state mandate that face coverings be worn both inside and outside, if near other people. 

Wearing a mask isn’t fun. I have so much empathy for folks who are wearing them all day long for work. It slows you down, fogs up your glasses (I wear them), and you have to work a little harder to breath. I have asthma and wearing a mask leaves me feeling like I’m having a bad day with my lungs, but I still wear one because it’s safer for me, for the staff of the places I need to go to, and for anyone else I might interact with. 

I never say I feel suffocated wearing a mask. I was suffocated as a small child during an incident of sexual abuse, it is inappropriate hyperbole for people to say they’re feeling suffocated. This is hard information for your to receive, but I’m being up front with it because I firmly believe if I can manage to wear a mask, with an actual history of being suffocated and having asthma, then everyone can wear a mask.

The Natural Grocers marketing campaign assures me you are the cleanest and safest stores, however, I was recently left feeling unsafe in many ways at your store in Beaverton, Oregon. I was shopping there on the afternoon of August 13, 2020. 

I completed my transaction with Christine M. at 3:41:35PM 

I provide the redacted details so you can determine the names of staff I interacted with prior to my checking out with Christine M. 

Christine M. was lovely, sympathetic, and understanding of my upset and agitation that was caused by the unsafe environment created in your store. In fact, she was the only one of your employees who seemed concerned about my well-being.

When I entered the store I was greeted by an employee in a brown apron and white shirt, to me they presented as male with short, light brown hair. Possibly 5’7”or taller. 

I assume this employee is there to be sure not too many people are inside the store AND that people entering the store are PROPERLY wearing a face covering. 

However, I’m not sure this is the case because I watched someone who presents as a woman walk into the store with her nose hanging out over her mask. I was standing waiting for my turn to checkout and pay for my groceries as I watched this person walk into the store, past the employee at the entrance, with her face only partially covered. 

I’ve attached an easy graphic that shows how a mask should be worn. The nose hanging over the top of the mask defeats the whole purpose.

I try not to be the mask police, however, this woman grabbed something and then came to stand in the line to check out. She stood without a properly fitting mask, with her nose hanging out.

I asked her to fix it. I asked more loudly. She pointedly turned her back on me and stepped closer to another person. I walked within 7 feet of her, described what she was wearing and said that she really needed to put the mask over her nose.

She turned around and told me, “Mind your business, Mr. Rude Lady.”

I got upset and noted she still wasn’t masked up and she’d now said something rather transphobic. I have a family member who is trans and I am queer, so perhaps I’m a little more sensitive to being willfully misgendered and called names by someone who was endangering the people around her.

I went to the staff person handing out goodie bags and asked that someone on staff please come deal with the woman not wearing a mask. This employee shrugs apologetically at me, but apparently doesn’t do anything at all. I get that they are busy with the goodie bags and ice cream bars, but they really seemed to not respond.

I went back to my cart in the line.

Nothing seemed to happen. I continued to loudly comment on the selfishness of someone not wearing a mask correctly and the meanness of misgendering me intentionally. 

The woman not wearing a mask now sticks her fingers in her ears, turns her back, and STILL DOES NOT PUT HER MASK OVER HER NOSE.

Instead what now happens is another white woman in the store berated me for “You’re talking too much! You’re going to cause droplets to go out your mask into the store. YOU’RE THE PROBLEM!” 

Then a white woman in front of me turns around, shrugs and says to me, “You know you can’t control everyone! This is why WE wear OUR masks correctly. Just ignore her. Let it go!”

I’ve now been chastised twice by other customers for not being a good girl, for making waves, for raising my voice, and for harshing out the whole day. This is a dangerous game of niceness and “No bad vibes!” that’s so common among white women (I’m one of them, by the bye), particularly in the yoga industry, which I work in. I’m a yoga therapist who specializes in interventions for living with chronic pain, aging into vitality and end-of-life care. 

At this point I spot the employee who was watching the front entrance. I wave to get his attention, I point at the woman in the line not wear the mask. As he comes over, finally she pulls up her mask as he does, I ask him to please enforce the mask policy of the store and the State!

He tells me, “She looks fine!”, and checks with her. He then proceeds to stand there.

I’d thought at the time it was to make sure she kept her mask on. Then I took a step forward to thank him and he puts a hand up and cautions me to “back off”. 

So I get the hand and told to settle down. My guess is because the woman who WOULD NOT PUT HER MASK OVER HER NOSE told him I was threatening. 

This is how white women are dangerous. 

She was quiet, ignoring me, turning her back on me, putting her fingers in her ears. She was the poor attacked one. 

I, the one who was loud, who was upset, who was demanding that the policy of the store be enforced for everyone’s safety, I was treated like the dangerous one. I was treated like I was the problem.

As I left the store I saw the woman at another checkout line. She had pulled her mask off her nose as she completed the transaction. 

However, as terrifying as it is for me to speak up, I will NOT be silent, complicit in the face of a public health crisis. I will not just smile and put on my own mask, grinning and bearing it when selfish people refuse to follow the rules and GET AWAY WITH IT.

So I want to know a whole lot of things, because as it stands I’m researching all the items I buy from your store to decide where else to spend my money. 

  1. If your store has a policy of wearing a face covering correctly at all times, why are people coming into the store without one in place? Why are they allowed to complete a transaction with a cashier without a mask properly in place? Doubly so if the state your store is in also has this policy.
  2. Why did it take two distinct requests for employees to attend to a SAFETY issue? A customer standing in the checkout line without a mask over the nose is a danger to everyone. This is where I reference you back to the article I started with, did you read it? Why was this woman not treated like a safety issue, why was she allowed to continue her transaction without her mask over her nose. Once I was out of the group line, out of sight of the woman, she clearly pulled her mask down again and was allowed to do so. Seriously, why?
  3. Why didn’t the second employee follow up with me to be sure I was alright? He checked in on the woman who had not being wearing her mask. I was clearly upset, but that employee didn’t bother to be sure I was OK. In fact, the goodie bag employee who also watched this go down, and was the first person I asked for help from, also didn’t check in to see if I was OK.

    I was in a state of distress because I felt gaslit by your employees (except Christine M., who got it) and the white women in the store who chastised me for being loud and not “letting it go”. As a person who experienced developmental trauma, my Mother had a personality disorder and my entire family of origin were abusive, sexist, and racist, the whole event was triggering to the Complex PTSD I manage.

    Once I got into my car I felt the need to lock all the doors for fear of retaliatory behaviors; even though I didn’t think this would really happen, this is how much my anxiety was triggered by the interactions inside your store. Seeing the employee who held up the cautioning hand to me come out of the store again while I regained my composure to go home caused me to feel fearful that I was going to face reprisal.
  4. What steps are you taking to improve air circulation and HEPA filtration system to reduce the ability of aerosolized virus to accumulate inside of your stores?

Signed; waiting for answers and looking for a new store,
Sherri Koehler


Sinus Headaches

The weekend has featured sinus pain. I've been so tired too, it's making my ears ring as well. No boxing today, having my heart rate up sounds painful!

Magnolia Clear Sinus tea as my night cap. It helped me make dinner for us both earlier once I realized I had a terrible headache.

I'm working on sending out patches, a really big project. The ongoing efforts to destroy the USPS leave me worried about all the medications I worked so hard to get to mail order. I'm worried about the envelopes in sending this week,

I'm glad I'm taking off some birthday time. I feel so tired all the time.


Silence or Shame

On Thursday I watched a white woman walk in to the store I was shopping in with her mask pulled off her nose. She's walked in past an employee who let her enter despite both posted store policy and State mandate.

It was irritating, but I let it go until she got in line nearby. I asked her to put her mask over her nose.

She ignored me, turning her back on me and sighing. I note that I still want her to put on her mask.

I ask an employee to help. They ignore it.

I keep talking loudly in line.

I am shamed by another white woman for, "Talking too much and it's sending more germs out your mask!"

A third white woman faux sympathizes and tells me something like, "You can't control everyone, that's why we wear our masks correctly. Just ignore her, let it go already!"

First white woman stands with hey mask still off her face halfway, nose with fingers in ears.

I waved down the employee who had greeted me at the entrance, who let this woman in while wearing the mask incorrectly. He comes over, she FINALLY puts her mask up!

"She looks fine now.", he says.

I thank him for staying there.

I lean over to say that I appreciate that he's enforcing policy when he puts up a cautioning hand towards me to calm down!

So the white woman who was not following the rules and behaving unsafely, selfishly, possibly played the, "I'm feeling threatened by that loud, angry woman!", and I get the cautioning hand for it.

I'm tied of the way being outspoken gets other white women to pile on with the shame because I'm not being a good girl. I'm so fed up with the politics of niceness and kindness and not making a scene.

CK suggested I come up with a phrase I'll just repeat loudly about refusing to be silent and complicit on behavior that furthers a health crises.


When We Speak Up

⚠️Content Warning: Child Abuse⚠️

I was afraid of my Mother. Trying to set boundaries or advocate for myself brought on physical violence. She'd get me alone and use a belt, wooden spoon, or hair brush on me until it hurt to pull clothing on over my body.

The phrase, "Don't rock the boat!", was used during the time we briefly lived with my Mother's sister when we were homeless. I was four at the time

I tried to stand up for myself over dinner one night. The next day she waited to get me alone.

That phrase became a way of shutting me down.

I was so shut down in my family. There's a way that white women shut down voices of dissent that feels so like the way my family silenced me.

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Asking for Money

A task I am working at, so slowly, is getting a working budget together and keeping on top of the household checking account. This involves telling CK how much money to move over.

This doesn't sound at all like a big deal when I write it down. My brain thinks this is a very big deal. For the longest time I really couldn't ask, which put a lot of burden on CK to constantly have to figure out how much would cover things, on top of working a very mentally taxing job.

Today I planned to go to Costco to pick up some things, like paper products, we were starting to run low on after I'd gone in March. We also planned to invest in a Foodsaver, which they had on with a rebate deal. It was going to be an expensive trip, we planned for it.

Then I added up forthcoming bills, the money for the trip today, etc. I then texted CK the number I hoped would take us through the rest of the month.

All the while I kept feeling dread. There's all this somatic static when I'm doing these tasks. There's this fear that I'll be humiliated for needing money, for asking for too much, for being greedy.

It wasn't as hard this time after integrating the memories around being homeless at age 4 and shamed for it by my family. This is the subbasement, as it were, of shame around money for me. There have been incidents over the years that connect back to this wound, especially during my first marriage, but now that it's integrated I'm hoping all of those will loose their teeth.

It is getting easier each time I do this. CK responds with a quick, "ok", and I fret that it means she's irritated, but then she'll respond a few minutes later with a screenshot of the money moved. Later, when she's done working, she'll thank me for helping her stay on top of it.

I remind myself each time I do this again that we've had several iterations of the above routine. I ask, she responds that she got the ask, she does the transfer, and thanks me.

Eventually my Trauma Brain will trust that this is really how it works and will spare me the feeling of dread. Not quite yet though.



I most often wake up a little nauseous. My pain level is higher on the morning and I'm often congested from allergies. This makes breakfast pretty undesirable.

By the time by body decides food is acceptable I usually needed to be commuting. I'm not really a morning person and have always found the, "just wake up earlier!", camp of people to be infuriating. My time going to retreats has taught me this doesn't actually help. I'm just nauseous for a longer time.

When I was commuting I'd have a protein bar. Pandemic days have found me struggling with food being unappetizing. Clif bars especially so.

Rather than find something new, I realized I was just fasting. I'd go 14-16 gifts without eating. I'd have tea with a lot of soy milk, butt that's it.

Given my somewhat disordered eating throughout my life, I've fallen back into restricting. My blood tests were playing into it too.

I'd just see all the things needing attention and start, ignoring my body because I'm very good at it.

When you grow up feeling like you're worthless, it's easy to ignore your own needs, your body's needs. When you're consistently praised for the shape of your body, that ignoring becomes a superpower.


Headache Day

It was with me all day. Aching, throbbing behind my ears. Temple spikes. Sinus aches. It occurred to me by the afternoon that I had both a tension and sinus headaches.

Ibuprofen and a nap didn't help much. Hoping tomorrow is better.

I'm grateful we're getting takeout. I'm feeling a little extravagant this past week, but I'm glad I got wok bowls for us.


Stay or Go

During my doctor's appointment she confirmed what I'd believed:

I am high risk for COVID.

CK is VERY high risk. Our physician said to me, "CK can't get this. I don't think she'd die, but it would be very bad."

It's good to just have it out and clear. I feel justified in all my caution and my willingness to set boundaries with people.

I go out, with lots of precautions. She stays home unless she needs to be out.

Today we had our first physically distant visitors. Christie's sister and her two partners stopped by. They were all nearby, having hiked at a nearby park. I set up folding chairs in the driveway. We showed off the veggie garden.