The topic of this post gives me a most unsettled feeling – as it should.  I am reminded to remind myself that I am not always the best at being able to keep myself safe in the world.  Yet having to trust my well-being to ‘dumb luck’ also makes me feel most unsettled.  As it should.

Let’s see.  How can I most simply describe what in the world I am talking about?

Start here:  I made the 26-mile round trip out to a feed store today – spent $121 on a 6-month stock of chicken scratch, minerals, laying crumble – also ‘meat as first ingredient’ cat food, great dog bones for the pup along with two 120 pound bales of alfalfa.  I needed this feed run taken care of before my upcoming 3,400-mile round trip up north to see soon-to-arrive new grandson and family.  I do not want the man who will take care of my house, garden and animals to run short during the 3-4 weeks I am gone.


Not too exciting.  Made the trip fine in my ’78 old worn El Camino.  Next comes the job of how to store the feed away from rodents and rain.

Note:  It really really rained yesterday!  Our yearly high desert monsoon has been off to a very slow start, but yesterday’s rain was the real thing.  Thus, our normal humidity of 5-7% jumped today to 35-50%.  Is this the culprit for my unsettled feelings?

I am used to working outside in the heat, often the 100 degree-plus heat — working hard – but today at 88 – sweating like nobody here is used to, dripping like a personal carry-around shower — was I dehydrating out there as I moved in hard-work mode around the yard cleaning out 5-gallon plastic storage pails, hauling the 40-50 pound bags around……

This storage job included emptying a large 35-gallon blue plastic garbage pail I used for soaking cardboard before adding it to the compost bins.  I plan to break the alfalfa bales apart and store the hay in these blue wonders.


And here is where this small strange (to me) story really began…..

I tipped the blue pail that had spent a year sitting in one corner of the yard to the side — and there skittered for cover a rather large centipede.  I DO NOT LIKE those critters!!!  They give me the WILLIES!!!

And — my dissociational brain………?

Looking back – what exactly was going on at this pail tipping centipede spotting split second of my life?


Dissociation, I believe, ALWAYS involves a distortion in one’s perception of the ongoing experience of time.

Time can slow down, speed up, seemingly stop completely — and, most uncomfortably, dissociation can create the experience of being in two ‘places in time’ at the same time.  Or, as when depersonalization-derealization hop into the picture of the experience – it can seem as if we cease to exist in time at all — and/or that things are going on of which we are not really a part of — as if we are aside from, apart from, outside of – space and time.

Severe early abuse and trauma creates alternative brain states and ways of processing information during critical early windows of infant-child development.  Duh!  HUGE “OF COURSE” to this one!

How do we survivors experience our life through our different body-brain?


Back to the tipped blue large tipped pail under which this centipede had evidently been happily living its life.  Back to me staring at this critter who at this second had to decide itself exactly what it was going to do next in its state of surprise ——

And me?


Now, I have to jump ahead about an hour of hard work later – large sacks of feed emptied into their clean white 5-gallon buckets and stored – etc. – me having stopped several times to consume large glasses of water mixed with powdered red G2 — sweating like I am SO not used to — now stopping to sit for a moment in the shade, take a break, smoke a cigarette — and…….

What NOW at this moment jumped into my thoughts was this – “Did I really see a snake just recently since I returned from the feed store?  Am I remembering a dream that I saw a snake?  Did I make this up because of the picture of the small bright green snake half coiled hanging off a tree branch staring down that hummingbird in mid-hover that I viewed last eve when a facebook friend posted it?”

Into my mental imagery brain slowly came the image of the snake that I MIGHT have seen or not seen – along with a dimly creeping creepy memory that I DID see this snake not long ago – in MY yard – that it was about two feet from my feet, that it had stopped in mid slither because I was there, that it was not coiled — along with a ‘memory’ of its size — not large, stretched about 18″ – not real fat, a young snake —

And here came my backwash of “What it is like to live with an unusual dissociational brain.”

I ‘remembered’ in this memory that did not feel like a memory of seeing a snake that did not feel like seeing a snake – that felt like it had happened in a dream – that felt like it had happened to somebody else – somebody whose memories I HAVE????

It took me at least 5 minutes of concentrated thought as I sat on my work-break in the chair to ‘remember’ – realize – where I MIGHT have REALLY seen that snake.

Over there beside the big blue garbage pail…..

“Linda, you have to go back over there – retrace your steps – stand exactly where you were when you MIGHT have seen that snake RIGHT NEXT to where you saw the centipede at EXACTLY the same moment…..”

So I walked over there – and yes – this really WAS a memory – how STRANGE!!

What part of my desert-dwelling brain would have CHOSEN as a consequence of HOPEFULLY assessing RISK to attend to — associate my attention and entire focus — on a CENTIPEDE rather than on a SNAKE???

I KNOW and clearly remember watching the centipede squiggle on the ground while I thought about whether or not it would ‘attack’ me – or even head up my ankle – what would happen if I tried to stomp it as it tried to ……. whatever it would try — my thoughts including an assessment of how fast it could move, how fast my foot could move, how much weight I carry – how soft might the ground be — knowing how DIFFICULT it is to step on and squash and KILL a hard-crusted ugly old centipede….

meanwhile – in this place of all kinds of venomous snakes….



As I again stood at the spot where maybe memory and real memory coincided – part of me ‘knows’ though cannot CLEARLY own the memory that some dissociated part of me made an instantaneous assessment at the split-second I was in range of both these creatures that the SNAKE was not a threat — I did not see rattles on its tail, though young rattlers of that size might have only ONE rattle, very difficult to notice – young rattlers being aggressive and extremely deadly should they strike because they have to learning about how to and why to control the amount of venom they eject ——–

DID I assess the danger of the snake?  How can I be sure when this entire ‘experience’ feels so surreal and remote from me?

Was there a snake right there?

What part of me decided a relatively UGLY but in comparison to a poisonous snake not one bit dangerous centipede needed ALL my concentration??  Did I accurately assess the risk the snake may or may not have offered?

I do not know.

I did not again look back at the snake.  Nope.  The centipede had all of my associated attention.

I thought about whether or not I would/could kill that creepy centipede as I watched it disappear into a crack in the dry earth where the blue pail had stood – as my brain slowly pondered in its altered state of time and space, “Can a centipede dig itself trenches in the earth?  Tunnels in the earth?”  As some other part of me snapped in response, “Obviously they can, Linda!  Who do you think dug that hole for that centipede to escape into?  You sure didn’t!”

In that slowly moving time I even had time to remember all kinds of memories of times I have had chickens – times I watched them attack centipedes – their favorite food – as they race and dart and chase around while every one of them finally gets a snippet size snack of centipede.  I had time to wish I had a chicken right by me right at that instant?  (And the snake?  Who was paying attention to the snake?  Not me!)


Great.  How can I trust myself to keep myself safe in a snake zone like this desert is – if…….. ??

Well, I am still here.  I was not attacked by either of these creatures – both of which had no wish to be bothered by me in the first place.

But what about next time?

I do wonder….  I also surprise myself that when push came to shove I would dislike a centipede more than a snake – and, again, what kind of snake was that?


And I STILL do not FEEL LIKE I really saw that (real?) snake, even though I could draw the exact position ‘that snake’ seems to have been in, and I can point out exactly where on the ground I ‘seem’ to have ‘maybe’ seen a snake because I ‘seem’ to remember seeing one….

Very unsettling way to live…..


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