Not optional.

Life has been a struggle lately. I know; shocker, right? It’s almost as if the world is a political dumpster fire and I’m having a midlife crisis, facing down mortality between being in an accident and also facing medical issues for myself and family. No big.

I hate to say it, but since the accident in September, I’ve been fighting depression and massive anxiety. Thankfully, I have some medication for both and a truly amazing therapist. Work has been fairly understanding and all of my doctors so far are treating my pain as valid, which sometimes still amazes me as a heavier femme-presenting person. We don’t always get heard and believed right away, so I’m grateful for everyone who has so far. I think it has a little to do with the fact that so far, all the medical professionals I’ve seen have been women, but that’s another post.

This post is about floundering, and finding my way out of it. I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what’s…next. I had a job I adored but that ended because I was in a toxic, untenable environment. I miss it so much, some times. The freedom to make my own schedule within reason, working with creative people, the opportunities to be creative myself, helping the communities I believe in and am part of. It took a few years, but I finally got to a place where I felt capable. Intelligent. Good at what I did and like I was making a difference. It didn’t pay all that well, compared to what people who were doing what I did in more corporate settings, but I adored with all my heart. I believed in the events and the most of the people. Some were people that I loved dearly, respected greatly, and to be seen as a peer, to be loved and respected in turn…it was amazing. If I could’ve turned it into a career, I would’ve. Maybe I still can.

Now, I have a job. It’s a decent job. It’s given me time to heal from all the massive upheaval of the last year and my previous job. I’ve met some wonderful people. There is a certain element of helping involved in this job that I like. The hours mean I don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic. But. It’s not a forever job for me. I am doing my best, but I’d prefer to do something that is less capitalistic and more based in helping the communities I love and adore, and being creative.

There’s a lot of stress in my life lately, since the accident. Dealing with many phone calls, emails, doctors, work, appointments. Trying to keep it all straight. And none of it was my fault. It just happened. Similarly, someone very dear to me has a terminal diagnosis. They didn’t do anything wrong. It just happened. And it makes life feel so tenuous, unfair, and uncontrollable. And it scares the hell out of me.

Also, I had decided to get divorced earlier this year. And we have to move by the end of the year. So nothing major.

On the plus side, my spouse and I have decided to live together for another year to figure some things out and to give us both breathing room from too much chaos all at once. But we still have to find a place and move. I’ve been looking, but so far, nothing yet.

During all of this, even during all the “New Year, New You” posts I’ve been making…with all the music making, and writing, and becoming a better witch, and all that good stuff…I have a confession to make. I’ve been living like a goddamn garbage animal at home. There are piles of clothes. I mean, we’ve got the requisite clutter. The one armchair laden with clothes for so long that half of it was winter clothes I never put away and now, I guess the bonus is that I don’t have to! The other half is a pile of stuff to get rid of that never made it out of the house to the consignment and goodwills and friends I wanted to spread them out to. There are piles of papers everywhere. My filing system is in shambles. I didn’t so much unpack from the various events I went to this year as explode in a seldom used corner of the bedroom. When I’ve needed something from that area, I’ve just waded in and plucked what I wanted from the pile…most of the time with minimal clusterfuckery, cursing, and tossing shit haphazardly onto other parts of the pile making it even worse.

My desk is over run with cute tchotchkes, papers, and other shit. The office table is just a never ending pile of old mail, books, little jars that I was keeping for a project I had in conjunction with an interest me and a now ex share…but no longer share together.

I haven’t been able to read much. Or write much. Thankfully, I’m still playing uke and singing. I was behind on my posting a video a month of me singing, until I played a show where I opened for a dear friend in October. There are now four songs online of me singing, which totally covers August, September, October, and November. But I’m behind in my New Year, New You. And my Cannonball Read challenge. And I started eating sugar again. After I found out that I lost a total of 30 lbs from March 2017 to September 2018.

Thing is, I’m on medication now to help with anxiety and I can’t drink while on it. So! 5″ real buttercream cakes have been my go to ways to cope and that’s a GRAND idea, right?

Right?

*headdesk*

I feel lost. I explained to a sister Amazon today that I felt kind of like a kid pitching a hissy fit and part of me feels numb. Can’t process all that’s going on.

But.

That’s changing, too. I had been reading a few months ago about the upcoming autumn and winter and how it was going to be an intense time of going within. To have a reckoning, to heal, to deal with the things I have to deal with. Sure enough, almost instantaneous as soon as the summer ended, the fall came literally crashing into me and changed everything. Now I’m not seeing people as often as I was. My poly life has been stripped down to the very basic relationship, for me, of me and my spouse and me trying to figure out the rest of what I need. I’m not able to drive as much. I have injuries that need to heal, literal piles of personal shit to sort through, and life and death that needs attending.

I haven’t been doing all that well with it. Going back to work has meant that I have a half hour after I get home to eat and decompress before I go to bed to do it all again. On my days off, I’m seeing doctors, running errands, and trying to keep my head on. I explained all this to my sister Amazon. How now is just not a good time. How I don’t know what I want out of life…beyond writing a book, recording a CD, having a poly/creative commune, and a job where I feel like I’m making a different in communities I love. Oh, and get healthier, be a better witch, keep a nice home, and own a Kia Soul.

Her response?

“Okay. So what will you do this month to move you closer to those things?” Because “every time is a terrible time. I’m not trying to be mean. It just is. ”

She went on to say that, “I’ve seen you in that space at cons. You need to bring that for yourself daily. That’s how this shit will happen.”

My problem, and what I said to her was that I have no idea how to get that mojo back.

To which she succinctly replied with, “you know how a bunch of shit is not optional at a con? You need to make that happen for yourself. It’s not ‘if I have the energy, I’ll write.’ It’s ‘if I don’t write 500 words tonight, I’mma have people screaming at me on the walkie’.”

Ooooooof.

That broke through a wall in my head, and I said as much.

And here I am. Writing. I have to sit down and reaffirm and restructure what’s important to me and come up with some clear goals and then, treat them as not optional. I am not optional. So. Tomorrow, I’m going to complete the next “New Year, New You” prompt and then I will have the next Cannonball Read review done by Monday. And I’m gonna get my ass back to posting twice a week. There are three books I’ve read that I haven’t reviewed, which means that I still need to read and review four MORE books on top of the other three I still have to review. But a little under two months is doable for that. I have to remind myself that I did the full Cannonball Read (52 books read and reviewed in one year) once.

And tomorrow night, my spouse and I are going to continue cleaning, keep looking for a place to live, and talk about finances and future stuffs.

This is a good start. More to come. Not optional.

 

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[CBR10 – 5/13] grl2grl

(Cannonball Read book review #5 – original post @ CBR10)

I’d been wanting to read this compilation of lesbian YA short stores from Julie Anne Peters for a few years, so I was very excited when I discovered a copy in my county library collection. As a fan of Peters for a while, since I love how she draws me into believable worlds of lesbian and trans teen characters with humor, warmth, and great writing, this book didn’t disappoint. In fact, it went beyond my expectations in terms of variety. Without going into spoilers on specific stories, it covers the fear of coming out and going to a Gay/Straight Alliance meeting, breakups, cheating, first love, sexual abuse, trans hate crimes & violence, impossible crushes, religion, classism and the complications of friendship, non-traditional families, less common pronouns, online dating, and so much more.

The first story, Passengers, details a budding crush one teenager, Tam, has on a fellow classmate named Andi. How she’s observed her sitting alone everywhere. “In Art, senior seminar, lunch, on the train.” Tam and Andi are drawn as different from the get go because Tam says if she were alone on the train, she’d “find something to do. Read or work on homework or doodle, fake it, so if [she were] alone it’d look like [she] wanted to be alone.” But Andi doesn’t seem to care. Throughout the story, Tam brings the reader along on her crazy whim to get to know Andi. It seems like Andi confounds Tam. She doesn’t understand the other girl. Andi is a bundle of mystery, and Tam wants to know her better. We get a snapshot of one day where they spend time talking outside in the cold and then go into school library’s “Brittanica Boneyard” where all the library and other supplies go to die. It was nice to read a story that was just…a beginning and like any great author, I so wanted to know what happened the next day.

The next story is called Can’t Stop the Feeling and it’s about the utter fear of coming out. Mariah keeps wanting to go to the Gay/Straight Alliance meeting at school, and keeps getting closer to going in. However, she has some pretty abject terror: “The dread and fear of exposing myself to them was nothing compared to telling my friends. Did they even qualify as friends? There wasn’t one of them I could trust, or confide in.” It sucks to be that lonely and I found myself rooting for Mariah to get in that Band Room to be part of the Alliance finally.

After Alex hit me pretty hard for some personal reasons. In this story, Rachael’s friends tell her not to take back her girlfriend after Alex cheated on her, but Rachael is still knee deep in heartbreak and pining for the loss of her first love. So when Alex comes back around, begging Rachael to take her back, Rachael is thrown back into remembering the first time they really made a connection and snuggled on a train ride back from a GSA field trip. It’s funny; the story just before this one was about a character who was afraid to join the GSA, and in this story, Rachael talks about finally getting up the “nerve to join the Gay/Straight Alliance at school.” Then Rachael remembers the first time they made love and we come back to Rach’s friends trying to convince her not to get back together with Alex. This is the first story we get a definitive ending on, in that we know what Rachael does in response to Alex wanting her back, and I understand her choice oh-so-well.

Outside/Inside was a clever way to tell the story of a crush, via the outside and inside of cards that the main character, Logan, wants to send to someone she cares about at the beginning of winter break. It ends with the card’s presentation to the crush and I shook my head at Logan’s feelings. I remember having similar ones when I was in high school. I don’t want to cast spoilers out here, even for a short story, so I’m just gonna leave it by saying that things are likely gonna be complicated when Logan when she gets back from winter break.

On The Floor uses a basketball game and two players who’re on opposing teams to build a sweaty, fast-paced, well played metaphor of lust and sportsmanship. I really liked the short, quick sentences in this story and how the way she wrote it really did make give it the stop-start-screeching halt-quick sprint feeling of both a basketball game and the dynamic tension of a couple.

Stone Cold Butch was a rough one for me as it dealt with sexual abuse and how it’s hard for someone who’s gone through that to connect to another person in a romantic or sexual way. The main character, Cammie, calls herself a stone cold butch. She won’t let anyone do anything for her in that intimate way. She’s shut down. Which is heartbreaking to watch from inside her head when a classmate develops a crush on her and pursues her, even though Cammie verges on cruel.

In Abstinence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder, Peters tackles the subject of how abstinence-only sex ed affects queer students. Things like how birth-control wasn’t really a thing for same sex couples because, duh, no risk of pregnancy. Also, when Aimee, the protagonist, asks why should students who were gay wait for marriage when they weren’t allowed to get married and did that mean that they were just never supposed to have sex, I almost threw my fist in the air when reading. Aimee’s teacher gets snarky with her and first tells her she’ll be playing a lot of Solitaire (wtf?! But I can totally see certain teachers I had in school answering that way, and now I’m suddenly glad that I had fairly good NOT abstinence-only sex ed in school) and then later, when Aimee presses her for a real answer, tells her it’s between her and her god. I love the anger that rises in Aimee and also that afterward, in her head, she goes into a rant:

I stormed out after class. My god? My god? What did she know about my god? She probably thought since I was gay, I was godless. Against religion. But I’m not. I have a god. I go to church. My god isn’t her god. My god doesn’t scorn or condemn me. My god is kind and benevolent and accepting. We made a sacred pact. I’d be the best person I could be and God would save me a place in heaven. The real one, where it doesn’t matter who you are or how you look or how you sacrifice your dignity and self-respect most days just to be true to yourself.

The story takes a bit of a twist (to me, at least) from there, introducing an old friend, Peyton, that had dropped Aimee after her parents got divorced and Aimee moved to the wrong side of the tracks and “inner-city housing.” But it was awesome to see Aimee and Peyton reconnect and by the end of the story, with some humor and snark, we get hope for the two girls to be friends again.

Boi deals with an FtM trans character and opens with some fairly explicit talk about children being curious about body parts and how one moment with a cousin was a tip-off for the main character that ze wanted zir own penis. Over a decade later, the same cousin helped Vince get zir first packing penis. Vince’s cousin Kevin were raised by their grandparents. I really liked this story as soon as I started reading it, so the assault that happens to Vince utterly gutted me. Fair warning, this story ends on an incredibly upsetting note and I hate these fictitious boys for what they did to Vince. The damage they did may’ve been fictional, but it’s indicative of the real damage and hate that gets carried out everyday all over the world towards trans people and it’s horrific.

I think TIAD was my least favorite story. I certainly relate to it. It mostly takes place in a chatroom online and I remember what it was like to connect to someone in a chatroom, think that you have something in an LDR, and then to have it all fall apart. This one just felt a little flat to me. However, it is funny that the acronym and it’s meaning has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently wrote a piece about how Tomorrow Is Another Day, so that’s important to remember but this one just didn’t really stick in my brain and I had a hard time connecting to the characters.

Aaaand whereas I couldn’t connect in TIAD, I did nothing by connect with the story and characters in the last story of this compilation, called Two-Part Invention. This was definitely my favorite, but that’s likely due a lot to the fact that it was music-based. Whereas On The Floor was all sweaty sports-filled adrenaline, this was pure lyricism, ripe with music references, and I love how music can be a metaphor for love. This story centered on Kat and her yearly pilgrimages to an elite camp for musical prodigies and the girl, Annika, she’s fallen in love with. There’s a beautiful tension where Kat is trying to bring herself to tell Annika how she feels about her and also trying not to freak out about how Annika has been recently talking about a fellow male prodigy musician named Bryce, throwing a wrench into things for Kat to figure out if Annika might feel the same way. I won’t tell you how it ends, but I was a fan of the ending and think it was the perfect story to end the book on.

Have I mentioned how much I love Julie Anne Peters?

[New Year, New You] Week 10: What Motivates You

This week’s writing prompt is about finding what motivates me.

Given that I’m currently taking part in four challenges (Body Positive Yoga [physical & artistic], Cannonball Read 10 [reading & writing], posting my top 10 favorite albums [it’s silly in the grand scheme of things, but it’s helping keep me going with regular reminders of things that inspire me] and this New Year New You [writing]), I’d definitely say “A Challenge” is high up on the list of things that motivate me.

Achievable, understandable goals are definitely on the list. If the goal is too big, or I don’t understand it well enough, it gets too muddled and too big and I give up. Sometimes, for bonus points, before I even start!

Connection is also something that motivates me. Nurturing healthier connections, learning, growing with those connections.

On a related note, surrounding myself with people who are motivated and also want to learn and grow and be healthy motivates the fuck out of me. My therapist and I have taken to calling the amazing circle of women that I’ve cultivated open, honest tribe ties with my Amazon Network. Because they are truly Amazons and I love them all in different ways. They motivate the hell out of me to be a better person and to love myself along the journey, and both are so necessary.

Music can motivate the fuck out of me, whether I’m listening to it or I’m playing/singing it, music has always been a driving force for me. Currently, this song from my past just popped up this week and is motivating me to keep going:

Adjust Your Dreams/Shining My Flashlight by Christine Lavin

What can you do
When it is clear to you
That your dreams
Will not come true

Where can you go
When everything you think you know
Disappears from view

You can hang your head
Roll over and play dead
Curse the world
And all it’s evil schemes

Or you can
Adjust your dreams

Just a trace of gold in the leaves today
There’s just a touch of gray in my hair
The stream along this road runs a little colder
There’s a hint of a chill in the air
The blue sky is fading into purple
Late afternoon is gliding to a close
With my hands on the wheel
I wonder how it feels
If you’re the last bloom of the summer
Or the first autumn rose

So I pull off this highway
Drive these winding roads instead
Thoughts of the bad years
Disappear ’cause up ahead
Off in the distance is a strange and soothing sight
The mountains look like sleeping manatees this cool September night

I leave the car by the roadside
And I hike up that hill
Stars circle in slow motion here
As they always will
A million miles away
From where I was this afternoon
I wrap my misgivings in a tune
While I’m Shining My Flashlight On The Moon