Sometime in the first terrible days following my psychic death experience, I was told very clearly and very specifically that I could not donate blood or organs; in fact, I was given to understand that my effluvia in general had to be contained and prevented from coming into contact with other people. Casual contact – shed hairs, a dirty t-shirt, the food I cooked was fine but things permeated with vital living force had to be held back.

This was not a welcome set of instructions because I believe strongly in donating blood, organs, and tissues; also frustrating was that no explanation that I could understand was given. At the time I gathered that my parts were simply no good. Gradually I learned that the death current that rocked through me plus the grand high weirdness that I’ve continued to run on ever since is not good for most people. My leftovers are bad luck in the most straightforward sense. (Considering how my living presence tends to disrupt systems that I hang around it’s probably a good thing that I’m not, I dunno, having nosebleeds all the damn time or something.)

A few months ago I cut off my hip-length cappuccino hair in an effort to look like a real person and not a wild thing from the wild woods. The stylist wound most of it in a braid before cutting it off. She asked if I would like to donate it or keep it; I figured the sort of people in need of extra hair did not need the rotting luck of the world’s worst spirit worker so I opted to keep it. Only recently has the braid stopped feeling like some kind of radioactive dead animal lurking in my dresser drawer. Is that how hair is supposed to feel when cut? Is that how *my* hair is supposed to feel when cut?


Seven or eight years ago I began using a prescription drug typically marketed for seizure control but also used as a mood stabilizer. I was in rather desperate need of a pharmaceutical solution at the time as I was going out of my goddamned mind from stress and what turned out to be advancing bipolar disorder. I was experiencing somatic hallucinations and weird perceptual disruptions that fell somewhere between hallucinations and delusions. (I should emphasize that all this was rather to the side of the severe high weirdness I was in the midst of and probably had most to do with the constant stress I was under.)

The medication worked fairly well; I felt helpfully flat and even if I felt like my creativity took a knock I could at least get through the day without seeing other people stuffed full of humus and rusting metal bits. Unfortunately, over the slow course of months and years I started to notice certain words slipping out of place. My mind would reach for a volume of mental vocabulary and find its place on the bookshelf vacant. I was tongue-tied when I shouldn’t have been and would struggle to finish sentences that had started off just fine. This – along with tinnitus that eventually interfered with work-related communication – was a known side effect of the medication. Although my hearing returned to very nearly normal many months after eventually stopping the drug my memory has some holes in it. The fine edges of my verbal vocabulary have chipped off and I sometimes struggle with words, especially if I feel stressed for some reason. I’m also really bad with date/time coordinates. Do I need to be somewhere doing a thing at a special time? There’s a very strong chance that I will forget it entirely, like it was erased from a chalkboard. I might remember weeks later – I might not remember at all. Earlier this month I missed a friend’s wedding celebration because the entire appointment fell through one of the holes that a seizure drug ate in my brain. Never mind that I’d been invited, received email reminders, received a personalized text reminder just a couple days prior – the day of, I forgot. I think I remembered two days later. I’ve been too embarrassed to contact her and apologize.

I purchased a plane ticket for PantheaCon just a few days ago. My finances were looking OK, I found a flight at a great price, and I was excited to go and present; for a little while it looked like I wouldn’t be able to go because the money just wasn’t there but it came together at the right time. I paid and happily went about planning the rest of my trip’s details. Then yesterday a passing comment someone made told me that I had messed the dates up. I booked my ticket for the wrong weekend entirely. Maybe this was the holes in my brain, maybe it was sheer laziness and just not checking the calendar. I don’t know. Either way, I fucked up.

I spent some time on the phone with a ticket agent and got it worked out but between the change fee and the additional cost of the new flight I essentially purchased an additional ticket. That $200 was my travel money – food, incidentals, ground transit, etc. I could use the little money I’ll have left over at the end of the month after rent, etc. is paid but that’s all I have. That was going to be my cushion when I returned jetlagged and exhausted and needed to order take-out because I tossed all my perishable food before traveling.

It’s not a disaster – thankfully – and it’s not financial devastation – thankfully. It simply puts me into a position that I really don’t like to be in, that place where I am fearful of every decision in every moment because I don’t know when disaster will strike and tear down the little protection I’ve scraped around myself. I still have to buy prescriptions this month.

Once again I find myself where I’ve found myself many times before – looking at the websites of the local plasma ‘donation’ businesses and knowing that a little bravery and time out of my day is all that’s required to get the extra cash needed for those prescriptions or those groceries, or those whatevers that would make it so this extra $200 I spent correcting a mistake I made isn’t going to leave me disadvantaged far from home and safety. I just have to break what might be the only taboo I’ve ever really taken very seriously. This isn’t a commitment I made, not a choice that comes from ethical or moral considerations – it’s a rule I have to follow as a result of a thing that happened.

Some people would question the wisdom of such a rule. Why would the gods do something that resulted in such a disadvantage to everyone? Would the gods really outline a rule that eliminated something with only positive outcomes, such as blood donation? I personally struggle with the rational argument – in what world do gods and spirits exist, and in what world are they so potent that they disrupt some kind of vital energy, and in what world is it better to withhold assistance that might bring life and safety to others? How can I reasonably believe that not, say, giving blood is actually the better option when to all scientific measure my blood is entirely sound? And right now especially: how can I reasonably stop myself from solving a problem that has a very obvious and simple solution?

I keep wrestling with these questions and I keep coming back to the ever-present sense that things have happened to me that leave me no choice but theism. It has nothing to do with faith or belief – it just is. The fact of my physical embodied presence on this earth in this time is my constant evidence.

And of course, I know that if I broke my taboo I would lose more than I’d gain. $50 compared to spooky radioactive blood-stuff? Guess which one is scarcer. I know that money comes and goes like the tide; trying to sell my pieces and parts for more of it is like trying to retain the ocean in a measuring cup. I know things will work out because they always have – eventually. I’ll have a busy month of Etsy sales and have an extra $25 or I’ll participate in some medical study for $10. It’ll be fine – but in the meantime it really hurts.


7 thoughts on “Taboos

  1. Krei says:

    I think for be me, taboos can be broken as long as you’re willing to deal with consequences. Eg I’m supposed to stay away from hospitals except as a patient. I still spent the night at one at my wife’s side when she had surgery. I had migraines and dihorrea the whole time, but it was worth it. Can you do divination to find out what the consequences are? Like if you read at PCon and donate 1/4 to an environmental charity, are you good?


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