Saturday, December 29, 2012

On Obstacles and Goals for 2013

Wow, I can't believe that yet another year has been and gone. This realization never seems to get easier to deal with for some reason. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I always tend to look back on the year in review, feel like I didn't accomplish very much, and wonder where the hell all the time went. How could I have been as busy as I was -- and really, I'm always busy -- yet not feel like I made any real progress?

Occasionally, it occurs to me that I'm probably keeping myself busy focusing on the wrong things and that's why I feel the way I do around New Year's every year. I always fall into a very well-defined trap, especially professionally. I start feeling like the best way to gain the sense of accomplishment and well being I want most is to focus on earning more money. Money -- at least in theory -- buys you choices, freedom, and wiggle room. I feel like people need more of those things in order to feel happier and to have more time to pursue their real dreams and goals. However, the process of earning money takes up the lion's share of your time and energy, so ironically you never actually get what you were after in the first place.

That's totally what happened to me this year. I wanted to earn more money so that I could afford more and I did that. I was able to pay my bills more easily, as well as pay for a lot of things that my loved ones and I needed. However, I didn't accomplish any of the things that were the most important to me. I wanted to try to reclaim my creativity at least a little bit this year and produce at least two or three pieces I felt were good enough to send out to some publications I have my eye on. I also wanted to get off the computer at least somewhat regularly, get out more, eat out more, go to more local events, and make some memories.

I did none of this and it was largely because I spent most of my time inside working. When I wasn't actually working, I was too tired and drained to even consider going to the beach on the weekends or sitting down to flesh out a killer short story to send to The New Yorker for consideration. Yeah, I had the money to do pretty much anything I wanted. However, I had none of the energy or enthusiasm  required... and very little of the time and freedom. Hell, I actually even had a hard time keeping up with FarmVille this past year and that's definitely a first.

........

I'm not a big one for New Year's resolutions by any means. I think they're kind of dumb. However, I do kind of like to pause and reflect around this time of year. Unfortunately, that usually turns into a huge self-flagellation session throughout which I berate myself for not being more successful yet and not having stumbled upon my big break yet despite having worked really hard. However, I suppose even that forces me to examine what's working and what's not as far as my life goes.

It's always been difficult for me to set goals and work toward them. I tend to come at things via the back roads because it's easier for me to identify what I don't want and what isn't working than the other way around. I suppose I hope that via process of elimination I'll eventually hit on something that feels like a fit. I don't have concrete answers for people when they ask me definitively what I want to do with my life or where exactly I'd like to end up -- a huge part of my problem, most likely.

This year, maybe I'll try making a list of definitive things I would like to accomplish. Most of it's little stuff, but a lot of it is stuff that I think will help lead to some of the bigger changes in direction I'm hoping for going forward into the future.

  • Write and submit at least one item to a publication on my short list of "places I'd like to see my writing someday". Some of these are just blogs and websites I follow. Others are magazines or bigger journals. Note that this goal no longer says "get published in thus-and-so magazine". At this point, I'd consider finishing and submitting a piece anywhere to be a very positive accomplishment.
  • Do at least a couple of things to update my looks and wardrobe -- especially the wardrobe. Not having enough clothes I feel comfortable being out and about in is definitely making it tougher to accomplish the "get out more" thing.
  • Work less. I think that one of the biggest mistakes I made this past year was letting money become my priority again. As a result, I focused mostly on getting hired for more projects and not necessarily on finding clients who were willing to pay me better for the amount of work I was already doing... or who were willing to allow me the freedom I was after when I became a freelancer in the first place.
  • Read more -- at least one mid-sized book every two weeks. One of the things that's made me the saddest about feeling overworked has been the fact that I rarely to never read anymore. Reading used to be one of my biggest pleasures in life and definitely one of my staples. I used to burn through at least a book or two a week. Right now I'm still chipping away at Fifty Shades of Grey months after I started it for the LULZ. The shame -- it burns.
  • Get more sleep. Most people seem to want to exercise more or lose weight. I honestly give no fucks about anything like that. I'm not unhappy with my weight and I know that I'm not ready to brush up on my fitness regime yet. What I do need is more sleep every night and probably a little extra on the weekends. It's amazing how big a difference even a couple of extra hours makes for me.
  • Learn more. I'm a self-proclaimed nerd. I love, love, love learning for its own sake and I haven't done a whole lot of that this past year. I want that to change. I'm not saying I need to learn a new language, or pick up a completely new skill, or anything. Even making more time to watch documentaries on Netflix or read actual, informative content online would suffice.
  • Be nicer to myself. If you don't know me quite intimately, I guarantee you have no idea how mercilessly I beat myself up for not accomplishing enough and not making better, bigger, and faster progress in life. Outwardly, I have a very easy-going attitude about a lot of things, but inwardly I have a lot of auto-abusive dialogue going on pretty much all the time. That said, I'm really my own worst obstacle when it comes to achieving the things I want to because deep down it's hard for me to feel like I really deserve to have more fun or enjoy my life more. 
Those are really the only things I hope I achieve this year. I want to be happier, more relaxed, and more creative, so I'm looking to lay some bricks for a path that I hope will get me there. I've even put this stuff down in writing this time (and posted it in my public blog, no less), so now I have something to refer to into the future when I've completely forgotten about writing this and find myself slipping back into old patterns that clearly don't work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Holiday Thus Far

Rain on the My Bedroom Window
It's finally winter and I don't know where the year goes... at all. I seem to remember a day when life seemed to crawl at an intolerably slow pace -- especially through December as I waited for Christmas to get here -- but now it seems as if it flies by so quickly, it's unbelievable. How can Christmas and Christmas Eve be only a week away??

I love this time of year... but up until recent years, that had little to do with the coming of the holidays. I love cold weather. I love rain and snow (when I actually lived places where it was possible). I love the flavors, smells, and atmosphere associated with the holiday season. I love feeling like I really have "permission" to do some of my favorite things in this world, namely eat and relax at home. The rest of the year, I tend to feel obligated by some unknown force to go out more, do more, accomplish more, and be different. I like the winter because there's none of that required. It's fine and even preferable to make merry and take things slowly enough to appreciate what you've already earned, as opposed to focus on relentlessly earning more.

This year, I'm thrilled to actually have a little extra time to enjoy the things about my life that are actually going right. I recently got rid of a difficult client who was taking up all of my time and fully expected to continue doing so over Christmas and New Year's. With them out of the picture, I've had time to reconnect with some of my more reasonable clients, as well as with my fiancé and my friends. That's been really wonderful. I've been thoroughly enjoying my holiday as a result.

........

This year, we're not really doing presents again, much like last year. I'm so over that shit anyway for so many reasons. I don't have a nice living space of my own to decorate the way I please. I have nowhere to go that requires me to wear fancy clothes or have lots of outfits to choose from. I don't really need objects to enjoy the things I love anymore either. Seriously, I enjoy most (if not all) of my music, movies, and television through subscription-based services like Spotify, Netflix, or Hulu these days so I no longer collect CDs or DVDs. Between my Kindle and the free ebook sites packed with classics online, I don't really buy books anymore either.

Instead of worrying about that junk, I gave a nice chunk of money to charity this year. A lot of people say that giving money to charity makes them feel good, but I really sincerely mean it when I say that. I used to give every year, but haven't been able to afford it in quite a while. This year, I donated enough to buy needy people a ridiculous number of meals and I smile every time I think about it. In fact, I'd even say that this is the first year in a while that I feel like I did Christmas the "right" way. As a food lover, I can't think of anything that makes me feel better than having enough to eat and enjoying a good meal at the end of the day. I wanted to give that gift to other people who would appreciate it this year.

Speaking of food and full bellies at holiday time, we might roast a white Peking duck this year and come up with some interesting Asian sides for a change. I'm looking forward to that. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On Thankfulness

Some of my favorite days are the ones where I find myself going back over old posts in some of my blogs or at web accounts like DeviantART. This is probably going to come out totally wrong as far as the impression I'm giving, but I don't have the same problem I see that a lot of other creative people have. I never, ever go back over my old stuff and think: "Holy fuck, I need to just never pick up a drawing pencil or write another word again, because I suck compared to everyone else. I'm embarrassing myself." It's always: "You know what? I'm really good at this. One of the best things I could do for myself is make more time for my personal stuff."

Like a lot of creative people, I'm hard on myself when I actually sit down to create something. I'm pretty lenient and supportive when it comes to other people, but I hold myself to very high standards. I was raised to be that way, even though I am quite sure that my parents don't actually see any evidence that those teachings actually sunk in. I'm not competitive or the sort of person who wants to be better than other people. However, I do very much want to feel like I'm perpetually besting myself as the years go by and I put more and more out there into the world. When I look at all that I'm doing and all that I've done, I have to admit that I'm really pleased with my progress. I'm not where I ultimately want to be by any means, but I do feel like I'm getting there.

........

I  feel like I complain a lot about life and about work, especially offline. However, I have my reasons for it. I don't know of a way to express this without sounding like a whiny little princess, but life has always been hard for me -- harder than it is for some people. At 36 years of age, I now realize that I've struggled with bipolarism that is characterized by potentially dangerous, depressive lows. I've also come to a place where I strongly suspect I may have Asperger's syndrome (and Seth pretty much agrees, as his eldest son has a pretty pronounced case of it himself and he knows what it looks like). 

I think I'm finally getting to a place where I'm really OK with who I am though, flaws, challenges, and all. At the end of the day, I don't love every last one of my qualities and I will always wish that there were things about me that were different -- but I actually like myself. I'm somebody I wouldn't mind knowing if I were on the outside looking in. We're enjoying the tail end of Thanksgiving weekend here in America. It suddenly occurred to me that I'm not just thankful for having people in my life who love and support me as I am, but also for being someone who is pretty worthwhile at the end of the day.

I'm proud of myself for the way I've accepted myself for who I am and the way I've managed to overcome some of the problems I've had over the course of my lifetime. I'm especially proud of the way I'm in business for myself, making money actually using the talents I was given as a writer. It's a lot sometimes -- and sometimes it's even way too much -- but at the end of the day, it's gratifying that I actually have people beating my virtual door down because the quality of the services I offer is actually that good. I had given up on the idea of being able to become more than a waitress or a salesgirl a long time ago because of my issues. It's pretty cool to be able to say I'm a writer when people ask me what I do for a living.

I'd normally say that I wish I could be that clear with myself all the time as far as my quality of life, but this time I won't. Ups and downs are just part of my existence and always will be to one extent or another. Also, the downs are motivators in their own way and that's something I'm learning to be cool with. I wouldn't be the writer I am today without them, actually. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Musings and Some Photos

Monterey Scottish Games and Celtic Festival 2012
It's a curious thing, getting older. Especially when it comes to things like the passing of the seasons. I remember when I was a kid, summers -- or any season, for that matter -- seemed positively endless. Now that I'm older, I get what my parents and the adults I knew in general meant when they talked about the way things would change as I aged. "One day, time will just start spinning by and you won't have a clue what happened."

Me as I looked on July 7th of this year.
OK, yes. I get it now. I'll be 37 years old on my next birthday  and at this point weeks, months, or even years fly by like they're on speed or something. It's easy for me to lose track of time, especially since I am so terribly busy these days. I've never sought to be a busy person, per se, as I've always preferred it when life moves at a leisurely pace. However, I suppose this is something else that just happens when you're an adult.

Somehow, I did find myself with a serious relationship, a family, and something that really does look an awful lot like a career the way that everyone else did. I love it despite the fact that it still feels as if I'm a child who is merely playing at being an adult... but it keeps me busy and it keeps outside of my own head a lot. I'm not sure that's always the best thing for me as a writer and an artist, but it is what it is. I'm still very much in the process of making adjustments there.
Fish and Chips
Seth and I did wind up going to the Monterey Scottish Games and Celtic Festival last month as I mentioned we might (which you may already know if you follow me on Facebook). That's actually where these pictures came from. We got there late in the day and we didn't participate in a whole lot of activities or anything, but we had a wonderful time.

Seth (sometimes better known as "Wolfie").
I am so lucky to have met someone like Seth. Going places with him is never a clusterfuck or a snore like it almost always is with other people. He's bright and alert, the sort of person who loves to be part of things and to have fun. However, he's not one of those antsy people I can't stand who can never find it within themselves to just be. He likes to do what I like to do at events like this -- enjoy some delicious food and drink, listen to music, people watch, and talk.

Ironically, working as a freelance writer on a full-time basis also keeps me locked inside of my own head in other ways. I'm always thinking, reasoning, and writing for my clients. Remembering to take enough time away from that and pushing myself to leave the house for the purpose of having fun is something I've been working on. I'm not totally sure how good a job I've really been doing, because I haven't done as many things as I'd hoped to, but I've tried for sure.


At the festival, we shared a batch of fish and chips, as well as several very good Irish beers. We listened to bagpipes and some very nice traditional Irish music. We watched other people just being people and then grabbed a take and bake pizza from Papa Murphy's on the way home to enjoy for dinner. We do this sort of thing a lot and we love that -- just chill, eat, drink, and enjoy one another's company.

The Monterey County Fair will be coming up by the end of this month. I'm thinking that we'll definitely want to hit that as well, since we haven't been to a fair together since that one in Montana after which he got so sick -- the one where we saw Bret Michaels in concert and I milked a goat.

Another thing I've noticed as I get older is that I don't take or share enough pictures of myself or of us together, which is one reason I wanted to make sure to share some of these here before they just got ridiculously old... or I wound up with another batch or two that needs sharing. One day, this will have been something that went down "a long time ago" and I will have no other way of remembering what the experience of it was like without my recorded thoughts and photos -- really the whole reason for me keeping blogs in the first place.
Guinness
In other news, I'm ridiculously tired of my looks right now. I'm tired of most of most of my clothes and I'm definitely tired of my hair, which isn't helping me want to pose for the camera more often. The next time I dye it, I'm going to bleach it out and dye it bright, screaming, candy apple red. My parents will probably hate it, as they've never cared for my messing with my natural hair color very much. Seth will love it though and I myself will definitely welcome the change, as I've never done anything truly "fun" to my hair the way a lot of people have.

This is why I love Seth and why I ultimately chose him to spend my life with. He supports and encourages me to change, evolve, and experiment with myself as the mood takes me... both inside and out. Really, he always has for the entire going-on-8-years that we've been together and that is something I sorely needed in my life and never really had before him. I'm also realizing that that's what a truly meant-to-be relationship (with any other human, not just a partner) is all about. It's been helping me grow and expand the boundaries of my life in all the right ways and I am excited to see how that continues into the future.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Riding the Medium Chill

Contemplating crab shells on the beach...
A friend on my LiveJournal list posted an article yesterday that addressed a concept called "medium chill". I'd never heard this term before, but it intrigued me. In a nutshell, people who might describe themselves as medium chill are people who have taken it upon themselves to question the whole concept so many of us are sold as children -- that life is and should be all about constant and ceaseless striving to achieve on a career level. They eventually come to the conclusion that they are happier with fewer things and less disposable income, but more time to spend with family, doing things that truly make them happy. Once they have "enough", they're satisfied and don't particularly feel the need to continue trying to get "more".

The older I get, and the more questions I personally ask myself about my own values, the more I'm discovering that there are quite a few things that I thought I believed, but that really aren't coming from me at all. They were ideals that belonged to my parents and wound up getting drummed into my head as a young person. They were empty concepts sold to me by society and the rest of the world in general. They weren't my real values and that being the case, they didn't lead me to happiness or prosperity when I tried to live by them.

I guess I first started noticing that there was some kind of disconnect when I didn't get the pay-off I was told I was supposed to upon achieving certain things. I was told that girls are supposed to want to be super pretty  all the time and that they're supposed to feel gratified when heads turn to look at them on the streets. I just found that being noticed and looked at -- even appreciatively -- made me uncomfortable and I wished people wouldn't do it. I was told that it's good to be social and have lots of friends... but actually having what most people would consider a full social life was just tiring to me and I found myself wishing I was at home by myself with my books, and my music, and my cats. 

However, the biggest discrepancy seems to be with the values I was taught in regards to career. I grew up believing that you are your job, so it was important to strive to have a job title other people can respect. It's important to earn a lot of money so you can have lots of things and a massive savings account. It's important to own your own home, your own car, and your own property. If you don't have all those things, you are a failure as a human being. God help you if you don't actually want those things, if "good enough" is as far as you want to go. Then you're lazy and shiftless as well, even if you have a job and work hard. It has to be the right job and the right salary or it simply doesn't count.

The problem with me is I've always been medium chill and I didn't even know it until relatively recently in life. I tried to do what my parents wanted and pursue more serious, stable jobs than the retail and service positions I was relatively comfortable working. However, jobs like those required almost all of my time and way too much of my commitment. I was lucky if I got one day off a week. Many weeks, I didn't even get that. Don't even get me started on the actual length of my workdays. I would often show up at 7 or 8AM and not get home until well after 8 or 9PM... if I was lucky. If I wasn't lucky, I might have to stay until midnight or so. I often didn't even have time to get a full night's rest or eat a proper dinner, let alone unwind in front of the TV for a while or spend time doing anything I actually enjoyed.

Also, the mentality of the people I worked with was completely alien to me. Those I worked with didn't want their days off or their vacations and they didn't think I should either. They didn't work to live. They lived to work. I didn't like my co-workers and they didn't like me. I was miserable. However, I've always been told that I was miserable working positions like that because I was lazy -- I was the problem, not the jobs... and I needed to change.

I'm only just now finding out that that wasn't and isn't the case. I just care about different things than those people cared about. I care about what I truly consider to be the important things in life. I care about having time on a Sunday afternoon to walk on the beach, or read a book, or take pictures of flowers. I care about spending lots of time with the man I love and the people in my life who are important to me. I only care about earning "more" if I'm in a position where I can't pay for the roof over my head or I don't have enough of the basics. However, as long as I have the essentials, I'm pretty satisfied and I probably won't feel any particular need to keep climbing the ladder at work. What for? To impress people? To buy a bunch of crap I don't even really want? No, thank you.

While I still think owning a home might be kind of cool, I don't like the idea of a lot of the responsibilities that come with being a homeowner. My mother bought a 3-bedroom home. I don't really see where it or the jobs she's had to work in order to pay for it have given her more security or more happiness, just more to worry about losing and more to worry about paying for. Also, I don't even need or want a big living space per se. A little cottage or a condo that's big enough for me, Seth, a couple of pets, and perhaps the occasional guest will be more than enough for me and I don't really care if it's rented. I only care that it's affordable. I don't want a fast, fancy car either. I'd be satisfied with a Volkswagon bug or something.

As far as lots of money for other things? I'd rather buy experiences than objects and I'm finding that really nice experiences don't actually cost very much. Plus, they make memories and forge bonds with others that you can cherish forever. "Things" just gather dust and give you more to clean when it's time to do your chores. You throw them away or replace them sooner or later. These days, if something doesn't have a purpose and isn't something I'm going to use near daily, I'm not going to waste my money on it. I'll save it toward the next possible vacation or fun event in town instead.

After a lot of thought on the matter, I'm actually glad I learned this lesson sooner in life, as opposed to later. I'm pretty sure that most people don't wind up on their death bed wishing they'd worked more. They almost invariably wish they'd spent more time with people they loved or more time actually pursuing their real passions. Personally speaking, if I don't have time to do those things, I don't consider myself to be living a very good life. That's where my focus is and I'm beginning to realize that that's exactly where it should be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Life Update and Some Musings

A Jay Named Scrubs
Every so often, I go through these periods where I feel like life is really boring. It's not that I get tired of things all by myself so much as the natural rhythm of life seems to screech to a grinding halt every now and again. Sometimes there are reasons for that feeling -- like lack of financial resources, relationships with others that I'm not happy with, or a job situation that is really busting my balls. Other times, there aren't any particular reasons at all, but rather a general malaise that just sort of drops over things like a shroud. Right now, I think it's a combination of a number of things, so it's complicated.

This seems to happen to me in the summers a lot. Summer is my least favorite season of the four by far and that's probably not surprising to those who actually know me. It's hot and muggy. It's sunny. I hate the sun and I hate heat, so that type of weather really knocks me off of my groove. When I'm in one of my funks or feeling bored with life for whatever reason, it's already difficult to find the motivation to work as hard as I should or be as productive as I want to be. The sun only anesthetizes me further.

I have been feeling the urge to do certain things lately that I consider to be good signs. One of the first things I seem to feel like doing after being depressed or sort of out-of-it for a long time is change my appearance... sometimes drastically. Lately, I've been really chomping at the bit to revamp my look and I have to admit that it's totally time. I don't think I've changed anything major about the way I dress or about my hair since just after college or so. I'm currently going on 37 years old, so... yeah. It's kind of nice to feel that familiar feeling creeping back in.

I want to bleach my hair out and dye it the most shocking shade of unnatural red I can find. I want to throw out half of my clothes (and really I don't wear them anymore anyway) and replace them with comfortable, Bohemian things that actually look like they belong to me. As it is, I basically have a choice between slumming around in big t-shirts and leggings or doing that whole "pretty, pretty princess" schtick that I used to so I could to go to my old job at Macy's and flash fake smiles at people all day long. Neither one of those looks is really me anymore. I don't just want to find myself, I want to figure out how to look like myself on the outside for the first time in a long time.

Flowering Rosemary
I also really want to get out and start doing more things again. The Celtic games have finally moved back to the Monterey Fairgrounds again after having been in Salinas for years and they'll be going on the beginning of July, I believe. I'd really like to take Seth. He's never been to a festival like that or even a Renaissance fair and I know he'd enjoy it. I also feel a strong need to get more exercise, get in better shape... and take more pictures. One must get out once in a while in order to build a truly interesting catalog of pictures!

I think I may have discovered a new hobby I never really figured I'd have in photography, which I touched on briefly over at Creative Cat a while back. I'm not a great photographer by any means (or even a good one), but I'm finding that I no longer have to be astounding at something in order to get enjoyment out of it. When I was younger, I was solely about drawing, sketching, or painting. I didn't like real life very much, so it was hard for me to understand what anyone would see in the act of capturing it through photos. I suppose I only saw the merit in filtering it through ones imagination and -- I thought -- improving upon it. As I age though, I find I have more and more appreciation for the rhythm of daily life... and the fact that my first instinct when I make a really great-looking meal or see a really pretty flower is now to grab my camera phone speaks volumes to me.

I like that I feel my life in general becoming more and more about coming out of myself now and again. Smelling things, tasting things, trying things, and sharing things with others. I think it started when I met Seth and found the first person in this world whom I believe truly loves and accepts me for all of myself and not just a few shiny bits and pieces. It's continued as I've gotten to know more wonderful people and connect in different ways, even over the internet. I'm excited about seeing how that continues into the future.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts on Candidness, Self Esteem, and Pride in One's Self

I am realizing that I actually know a disproportionate number of folks who live their lives in a state of shame about one thing or another. However, this wasn't something that became clear to me until relatively recently.

I grew up knowing more than a few people who had this sort of attitude. Also, I'm a bit of a late bloomer who is so introverted, I make actual recluses look social. This means that my span of experience with other people was relatively limited for most of my life. Therefore, if I grew up around it, it seemed normal to me until I had one of the many "oh shit" light bulb moments that have characterized my 30's so far.

I've always been a pretty staunch champion of honesty and openness for the most part. Yes, I can be very private. However, I will almost always simply decline to expound upon parts of my life I don't care to have people knowing about. I won't lie or make up stories instead. I won't "technically" tell the truth, but knowingly try to give someone the impression that I'm someone I'm not or that my life is something that it isn't either. If other people don't like something about my personality or my choices in life, then I consider that to be their problem, not mine. If I myself am ashamed of something about myself or my life, then I change it... so I can look my own self in the eye every day, not because I want other people to like me more or something.

If someone gives me credit for something I didn't do, I correct them and tell them who they should be giving credit to. If someone has what I consider to be an unrealistically grandiose impression of what I do for a living or of something specific about my life, I put things in perspective for them. If someone takes one look at my baby face and assumes I'm still 25 or something, I tell them my real age.. or at least mention that I'm a lot older than I look if I don't feel like giving a number. It makes me really uncomfortable not to for whatever reason. If there's one thing that life has taught me though, it's that this is not something enough people I know actually do. I don't know if it's just too difficult for them or what, but they just let people think they're younger than they are... or more successful than they really are. In some cases, they allow people to go on for years with a completely false impression of who they are as people.

They also often tell outright lies about certain things. In a relationship they're not proud of? They just keep it a total secret from the rest of the world and deny that it exists when asked about it outright. Job title not as impressive as you'd like? Just get creative with the wording you use to describe it to make it sound like you're ten levels ahead of where you are. It's like these people can't be bothered to actually make changes when it comes to things about their lives that bother them, so they simply say things are otherwise when talking to others. It's as if other people thinking it about them is all it takes to make it true in their own minds or something. I personally get nothing out of basking in praise I don't deserve or accepting rewards I didn't earn, so this is not something I understand at all.

I'm not even trying to sit here saying that I've spent my whole life feeling ridiculously proud of who I am. Trust me, I know a thing or two about what shame feels like to varying degrees. I've been in relationships with people I didn't even want to be seen with before. I had an unhappy marriage to someone I didn't love just like half of the other human beings on this planet and I stayed in it way too long. I've made a living a million different ways over the years, but I've never been truly satisfied with any of them or considered them brag-worthy to any extent.  (This includes the great majority of the freelance writing I'm doing these days.) I also know what it's like to be the person other people are ashamed of.

Even now when I'm doing much better at life than I was for a long time, I feel like I have a long way to go before I will feel comfortable thinking of myself as a successful person who has anything of substance to brag about. However, I'm also honest about all of those things. If something is a really sore subject (like my marriage was back when I was still in it), I just decline to talk about it at all. I don't spew out a pack of lies instead. Now... if I start feeling like I'd need to in order to come off the way I want to to other people, then that's my cue to start thinking about making a change. It's a pretty good system that's served me well over the years.

I've had haters say in the past that they're not really sure why I seem to get so much respect from other people in general, because I'm "not that great" (usually behind my back, because that's how haters roll). Yeah... duh! And I'd be the first person to tell you so, too... but perhaps those people should consider something. Maybe it's not that I'm "that great". Maybe it's that I'm that honest. People know what they're getting with me and that's probably a relief in a world that seems too full of deception and dishonesty to me. More people should try it sometime. They'd probably be shocked at how much more readily they're accepted by others in exactly the way they want to be.

On Documenting Life and Evolving into the Future

I've kept some sort of journal for organizing my thoughts and recording my mundane little life for as long as I can remember. I don't exactly remember how old I was the first time I started one, but I do remember that I was really super young. We're talking "little kid" young -- well before my teens or anything when most people get angsty and start keeping a diary.

I think I got one of those cheesy "Dear Diary" type deals for Christmas one year. You know the sort. They're designed to appeal to young girls. They're pink or have flowers printed on the outside and have a page for every day, each one of which starts with the heading "Dear Diary". Even as a little kid, I was a shy person of few spoken words, but who was full of thoughts and feelings all the same, so there was something about that diary that really appealed to me. I couldn't wait for January 1st to come around so that I could write in it for the very first time and I've remained hooked on journaling ever since that first New Year's Day.

Obviously, I've changed a lot over the years as far as my journal-keeping habit goes. My writing style evolved and the things I wrote about got deeper and more complex as I matured into a person who is now an aging adult, not a child. The frequency with which I journal has fluctuated some as I've grown older, gotten busier, and expanded my horizons as far as the different types of writing that I do. After I joined the digital age and started relying on my computer for more things, I made the switch completely from paper journals that I hid under my mattress or kept in my night stand to online blogs that I actually share with other people. However, journaling remains a big part of my life... even when I'm neglecting it in favor of other responsibilities.

All that said, I've been feeling a number of changes brewing lately as far as how I write and to what extent I really want to share it. This extends beyond blogging in many ways, but it also very definitely includes it. Being an introvert who also writes in front of people for the most part, I waffle back and forth a lot as far as how I feel about that. As I mentioned, I journaled in private for the greater part of my life. Then I made a drastic jump to public (or at least semi-public) blogging where I was pretty share-happy for years. Now I feel myself settling back into something that strikes more of a balance between the two.

I still very much prefer blogging to private journaling for the most part, because for me personally, it's begun to feel like a bit of a waste to spend time writing things that aren't available for other people to read to at least some extent. I also adore the internet and the whole at-a-distance social dynamic connected to it. Getting feedback on my thoughts and the things I write has been a big part of my evolution as a person and I would like that to continue. However, I can tell I'm changing again in that I'm tired of broadcasting everything I write absolutely everywhere. It's starting to make me feel over-exposed. It's also been making me feel more pressure to compose fully fleshed-out posts each and every time I blog in public at all, as I don't want to be all "hey read this" unless we're talking about something with at least a bite or two of meat to it. This in turn reduces the frequency with which I write in the first place.

If you follow my Creative Cat blog on Blogger, then you've heard me dropping cryptic hints about feeling overly visible and even monitored to some extent, often by people I don't particularly want following my life. (It's fine if they do, obviously, or else I wouldn't be posting public entries here or anywhere else. Doesn't mean I want to encourage it though.) You've probably even heard me openly bitching about feeling writer's blocked in many ways. I think this steadily growing feeling of overexposure is a big part of that and I've been taking little steps here and there to fix that.

Today, for no real reason at all, I cancelled my blog broadcasting set-up on Networked Blogs. I'm just sort of sick of the auto-posting to Facebook and Twitter every time I make a post on one of my public Blogger blogs. Not everything I want to write is broadcast-worthy in my opinion... and sometimes I just don't want to for whatever reason. This is even more the case now that I have as many different blogs as I do. I feel like people don't know what I'm about since I do, write, and think about so many different things. I feel like all this needs to be compartmentalized a little better so that people can pick and choose what they care about without being forced to bother with the rest. I'll pick and choose the posts I think are actually important enough to broadcast to my entire social network, which by now is pretty expansive.

So I guess that's where I'm at right now. I think it's part of a larger shift toward writing and creating more for self-expression than the cultivating of opportunities or social connections. That can only be a good thing, as that's a massive part of my creative problems right now. I'm excited to see where the gods take me in that arena.

As a small aside, I've also decided to change the name of this blog from The California Cat to The Curious Cat, so if you're here wondering if you're in the right place, I can assure you that you are. I keep worrying about people mistaking this for a California living blog into the future once it actually develops an audience and I can already feel that that's not even close to what it's going to be. I tend to blog a lot of observations and random ruminations. Sometimes I blog personal accounts as well, but they almost never have anything to do with where I live. Hopefully the new title will be more representative of who I am and what this blog will wind up being about.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Greetings and Salutations... Again

Monterey, California
The first post in a new blog is always something of a snore, don't you think? It almost has to be an introduction of sorts so that people at least have some sort of a clue as to what they're reading so they can decide whether or not they want to be bothered to read more of it in the future.

If you're reading this at all at this point, the chances are pretty good that you follow one of my other blogs on Blogger. I have three of them -- a food and recipe blog, a spiritual and astrology blog, and a creative blog that revolves around my artistic endeavors and my life as a full-time freelancer. Either that or you're one of my friends from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. That being the case, there's probably little need to spend a lot of time introducing myself.

Suffice it to say that my name is Shannon (or "Cat", depending on who you are and from where you know me) and that I'm a freelance writer and artist from Monterey, California. I'm engaged to a man named Seth who is also a freelancer in the arts... but then you very likely know and understand all that. Instead, I'll sort of introduce the blog, I guess.

........

Despite the actual name of the blog, this isn't really a blog about California or California living, although I'm sure those subjects could show up from time to time. However, it could well be described as the everyday diary of a California girl. The other day, I was spouting off about some random thought I was thinking about writing down and posting somewhere. Seth actually asked me off hand if I even have a public blog anymore that I just treat as a journal for recording thoughts, daily doings, and just stuff about... me. Not who I am as a writer or an artist either, but just who I am as a person.

I guess... I don't. I still have my old LiveJournal, as some of my better online friends may know. I even made a passing attempt at posting publicly there from time to time. However, in the end it just didn't feel right, not least of all because people like clients were constantly finding it and lurking on it. That's... my place for working through personal dilemmas, feelings, and emotions these days, so having just anyone who was passingly curious about me hanging out there and absorbing what I wrote felt a bit like a violation. Naturally, it wasn't long before I simply locked it back up so LiveJournal could go back to feeling safe and private again.

I guess that's why I decided that if I wanted a blog to treat as a public journal, it would be best to just start fresh with a new site so I could simply allow it to accumulate a completely new readership and develop its own unique vibration. Then I'll be less likely to feel violated or intruded upon when clients, business associates, and passing acquaintances get curious about me and start Googling my name hoping to find a blog, or a journal, or a Facebook profile. I've always enjoyed Blogger for that. It's easy to use, new readers seem to find you without you really having to bother very much, and it comes attached to everything I personally like my public sites to have including a "timed post" option that lets me write when I feel like it -- which is typically super late at night when no one is reading -- but schedule the posts to actually appear some other time.

........

To go off on a slight tangent, as much as I love the Blogger service, I'm not particularly thrilled with some of the changes Blogger has apparently made since I opened my older blogs here. To begin with, I really dislike pretty much all of the layout options that they currently offer for new blogs. They appear to have done away with anything that actually looked simple and classy. These days, everything seems to be this "new", distracting, completely overdone style that I loathe.

I honestly prefer the really very basic design my other three blogs have and I am disappointed that I can't simply have the same thing in a different color for this new blog. I don't need all these fancy-schmancy picture backgrounds, transparent layers, extra columns, and other disco garbage. It took me forever to find one that I felt I even might be able to tolerate, but I still think it's pretty ugly.

That said, the look of this blog is likely to change several times before I finally settle on a layout once and for all. I just don't have the time or the inclination to design layouts for this stuff from scratch anymore, so hopefully I can eventually find something free and ready-made somewhere that doesn't make me want to wretch. Otherwise, I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and design something some weekend.

The content here will mostly just be about my life and daily thoughts though -- a sanitized version appropriate for family, clients, or people I barely know to read, of course -- because I feel like I'm losing that part of myself as far as my public internet life goes. That said, it will probably be of the most interest to people who actually care who I am as a person outside of my work and niche interests.

Food posts, spiritual or philosophy-centric posts, or posts related to my writing and artwork will continue to be posted at the sites set aside for them as before. Those subjects don't and probably never will feel like they belong in a journal-type blog, so if that's what you're interested in, see my sidebar for links to the other blogs I manage.