Monday, December 12, 2016

On Holidays and the Malaise That Sometimes Comes with Them


Every time I randomly decide to blog after not having really blogged for a while, I wonder what my problem is as to why I'm no longer the consistent blogger I used to be years ago. I usually just blame the fact that I write professionally for a living because of the way it burns through so much of my creative energy for the week. And honestly, that probably is part of it.

Every so often though, I realize that it's probably more because I don't truly feel like my life is worth recording the way I used to. I don't do anything or go anywhere. I feel like I never have good news or exciting changes to report. I honestly feel like the only thing I really do with my time is work and lie around like a slug attempting to recover from work. While I definitely like being able to eat, I don't get any kind of personal fulfillment out of working for its own sake the way other people do, so it's a problem that that's the only thing I really have going on. 

I guess what I'm saying is I feel like my life kind of blows right now. When I feel like life blows, I feel very little urge to actually record anything about it. This is despite the fact that I've always found journaling to be therapeutic. I know I need to be taking back some of my creative energy for myself now and then, but it's not as easy as it probably should be.

........

Of course, the holiday season is here again. Gaudete Sunday was yesterday, so we're already halfway through Advent. I also have everything squared away for Christmas dinner already. Safeway apparently decided to stock only turkeys and Cornish game hens as far as birds go, so I went through ButcherBox and ordered us an awesome pasture-raised duck from a fancy farm somewhere instead. Over the past year, I feel like I've become a real hipster as far as some of what I eat, but I don't care. It's a place to put what's left of the fucks I actually give, as well as proof that maybe I'm not as tired of living as I feel sometimes.

I enjoy the holidays to a much greater extent than I used to, but they're still a really weird time for me. This time of year has a way of really forcing you to focus on whatever it is you don't have in life. I see all of my friends and acquaintances posting about their supportive families, the great relationships they have with their parents, their beautifully decorated homes, the time off they have from work, and all of the awesome things they have going on this time of year. Meanwhile, I'm still a cave troll with a never-ending pile of work to chew through and not a whole lot else as far as my actually agenda goes. No fun trips planned. No outings. No get-togethers with people I rarely see (and actually want to). And worst of all, no energy or actual motivation to do any of those things even if I had the opportunity.

And I fucking hate it. This is the only time of year, I really feel what I would call jealous of other people. They have so much that I don't have -- basic things that they probably don't even see as advantages. Some of those things -- like the family relationships -- I will never have. Most of the time I'm comfortably resigned to that state of affairs, but sometimes (especially over the holidays) it really gets to me. I know I'm lucky in other ways and God knows I'm grateful for that... but sometimes I feel like giving myself permission to be pissed off and upset about all the rest of it as well. Especially since collectively speaking there's way more that's wrong with my life than right with it. I'm only human after all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

On Election Day


People have never quite understood why I am the way I am. Particularly in regards to why I don't trust the system, wish to be part of society to a greater extent than I absolutely have to, or believe in the inherent goodness of humanity. Something tells me they're starting to understand now.

The thing is I've understood for a while that we live in a garbage society filled with garbage humans that are the very picture of arrogance, entitlement, vanity, hypocrisy, and prejudice. Our society is infected with an illness you can smell even on people that don't see themselves as being anything of the sort and this has been the case for as long as I've been alive. That society threw me away a long time ago in a way I've been painfully aware of for as long as I can remember.

Nothing has really changed as far as the type of world we live in. It's always been like this. You just see it now. You are realizing how big, and bad, and putrid the sickness really is, perhaps for the first time. This election dragged it right out into the open where everyone had no choice but to look at it, smell it, and try not to vomit at the stench. What I am talking about isn't even about politics, really. It is, however, something that has been exposed by politics as such things often are.

So now each of us gets to decide what to do about it. I suggest cooling it with the whining and the blaming, because that accomplishes precisely nothing. You cannot change the hearts and minds of others, but you can change yourselves. You can choose not to be a garbage person and not to help the cancer spread. You can choose to be a vessel for the type of conviction, awareness, and integrity you want to see in the world instead.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On October and the Mineral


We lucked out for a change this year. It's the 20th of October and that disgusting Indian summer weather we normally get in the fall still has not arrived. By now, it's probably safe to say that we're out of the woods. Usually if you can make it past Halloween without it hitting, you can trust that there are no more surprise heat waves just waiting to descend on you that year. Honestly, our entire summer was really pretty mild. Just a few way-too-hot days here and there, but that's it. Good.

I've been feeling incredibly lethargic and fresh out of fucks to give regardless though and that's been the case all summer. We already don't really do much or go out very often, but we didn't even go to the fair for Labor Day last month. That's... like... the one going-out thing I've been good about actually doing every year and I skipped out on it for the first time in a while. That means I never really did my hair or spruced myself up from an appearance standpoint either. I look and feel disgusting lately as a result. Kind of like a cave person, or a potato, or something along those lines.

I feel disappointed in myself because of that, but I'm also realizing I'm past the point where I'm willing to just beat myself up all the time because I don't meet some imaginary standard I've decided to inflict on myself for no good reason. I will always want to do better and be better where my mental health is concerned, but I've also learned to give myself credit for the things do accomplish, even when things are really bad. When I remember to do that, everything sort of comes out in the wash.

For instance, I've been a fucking powerhouse at work lately. My schedule is very full as it tends to be this time of year, but it's not overfilled. I'm making excellent money and I actually like pretty much all of my clients right now. I'm no longer working with anyone that I feel doesn't appreciate me or undervalues what I do. It's a nice feeling to have -- validating. I may even be experiencing actual job satisfaction for the first time in my life, which is really a miracle. I never thought I'd see the day.

........

While we're on the subject of depression. I discovered a new movie to obsess over -- the Lars Von Trier film Melancholia. It addressed mental illness from this incredibly realistic angle. However, it also told a hell of a story and was packed with gorgeous visuals. As I told Seth at the time, this is another one of those stories that I truly wish I had written. It is the kind of story I would really love to write someday if I can ever get back to a place where I feel like I have adequate energy for something other than work. And the entire scenario with the rogue planet was so very similar to actual recurring dreams I've had -- terrifying, but so beautiful at the same time.

I had a lot more to say about this film and how it affected me, as well as another Von Trier film on depression, Antichrist. I just wasn't quite sure what to do with those thoughts at the time. By the time it occurred to me that I could simply express them in my personal blog, the thoughts were no longer clear. At this point, I think I'd like to have a second watching and go back to those thoughts when I'm ready.

In the meantime, I am stoked at having found a new artist to admire and love. And it's one that not only understands depression and mental illness, but is making beautiful movies about it. I've been borderline obsessed with the pretty blue planet that smashes into the earth in the film -- the planet Melancholia shown above in my little GIF there. It's my current Twitter wallpaper, as well as the wallpaper for my phone's lock screen. I feel like I should find the thought of it depressing, but I don't. It actually makes me happy every time I see it. I call it the mineral sometimes for reasons I don't totally understand -- the same thing I call iron when I'm feeling anemic.

It's always so nice when I find a story, a film, a book that sticks in my head this way. So many people lose the ability to feel this sort of wonder over such things. I'm glad that I haven't. It's a gift for sure and one that's helped me immensely when it comes to surviving in this garbage society of ours. As long as art and creativity are alive and well in this world, then I can rest assured that I belong here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On Self-Knowledge and Contradictory Traits


So I took that self-knowledge questionnaire a lot of my friends have been doing lately. The results were interesting and relatively insightful. 

........

RATIONALITY
You like clarity and intelligent simplicity and you get frustrated at messy thinking. This can make you seem unreasonably pushy to some, but it is actually a virtue: you are motivated by a horror at pointless effort and a longing for precision and insight into how things and people work. Your ability to synthesise and bring order is essential in producing thinking which is truly helpful.

INDEPENDENCE
You don’t set out to be different for its own sake; you are more easily guided by what interests and moves you. You are more concerned about what is right for you than about the pressure to fit in. In sex you are more aware than others of impulses which are not entirely conventional. You know the value of selective irresponsibility, of forgetting occasionally about being ‘good’.

PLAYFULNESS
You are good at seeing what’s funny, at relaxing and finding the pleasure of the moment. Play is random, whimsical, fantasy-driven behaviour which releases internal tension. Because it is detached from some pressures it allows you to act on weirder, perhaps neglected, parts of yourself. The downside is that it is no help in sticking with things that are not much fun but which need to be addressed. So it is well complemented by its opposite, Stoicism.

........

I find it interesting that two of my most dominant traits almost contradict one another. Almost. I've always been this odd mix of rational/logic-oriented and playful/imaginative. People that don't know me well almost always know of one of those sides to my personality or the other, but not necessarily both. It's almost always the rational side, as people will notice I'm smart or detail-oriented long before they ever see the side of me that far prefers playing, joking, and laughing to working and being serious about things. I love facts, learning, and reasoning but am completely uninterested in really applying those interests in a practical way that isn't also "fun".

The only time you see both traits at the same time is in my creative work. I remember teachers I had when I was a kid commenting on how unusual a combination it was. For instance, other kids I knew would write stories about the Care Bears that followed the actual imaginary characters through imaginary events taking place in their actual imaginary world. I'd write a story where I imagined my actual stuffed Care Bear toys being sentient and going through the experience of being laundered in the washing machine, spin cycle and all. I'd make what appeared to be elaborate fantasy paintings that had to have come straight out of my child's imagination without any rhyme or reason to them, but if asked, I'd be able to explain how each little inclusion was actually symbolic of some abstract concept. 

On a somewhat related note, I personally wish we lived in a world where society makes room for playfulness and rationality in equal measure. Too often, people want to separate an artist's creativity from the random nature that makes that creativity possible in the first place... or they want to separate a thinker's genius from the eccentricity that inspires them to think outside the box. It just doesn't work like that. It'a package deal. You want one, you have to take everything that comes along with it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

People Are Allowed

This rolled through my Facebook feed earlier. I posted it to my own page as well, but for some reason I never feel like people want to hear more than a couple of sentences as far as why I posted something these days. That's when I start to miss the days when blogging was the go-to way of communicating with others online. Not that I truly mind, of course. Keeping a blog mostly for myself (and the few people interested in reading something longer from me) is therapeutic in its own way.

The fact of the matter is if there is one lesson it's taken me most of my 40 years to really learn, it's the one covered by this graphic. My entire life people have tried to make me feel like I'm some horrible wreck of a person just for ending past relationships and friendships or for putting distance between myself and family members I consider to be toxic. Not because I was abusive or cruel while we were still part of each other's lives -- just for calling it quits and walking away.

Those people failed to understand that I didn't make those decisions in a vacuum. I don't go from wanting to know someone to not wanting to know them overnight or without cause. Those people don't apparently remember me trying to tell them when something was hurtful right before they dismissed my feelings by ordering me not to feel that way or telling me I was too sensitive and "needed to work on that". They don't remember the times I shared an interest, a dream, or a fear with them only to have them mock it and make me regret even trying. They don't remember the constant stream of suggestions, demands, comparisons, and little criticisms they lobbed my way over the years either -- all the little things that never let me forget I wasn't good enough.

Who wouldn't feel unhappy when in the company of people that treated them that way? Who wouldn't eventually decide that that other person just really doesn't want them to be happy? Who wouldn't at least consider ending (or at least marginalizing) those relationships so that there's room to create new, healthy ones with plenty of potential?

Friday, August 19, 2016

On Tall Tales


Prompt: "What do you think of people who tell tall tales that are meant to entertain but not deceive?"

It depends on what's meant by "tall tale". Are you legit telling me an actual made-up story and presenting it as a work of fiction or are you exaggerating something from your life that I'm expected to accept as fact even if there's no earthly way it could possibly be true? I'm going to assume for all intents and purposes that it's the latter.

People that tell tall tales (a la Edward Bloom in Big Fish) honestly really irk me. I grew up around pathological liars that you couldn't trust to tell you the truth about anything. Sometimes the lies were malicious, but other times it was just about making something sound better or more exciting than it really was. My brother in particular really made a habit of this and would often lie just for the sake of lying. You took him at his word at your own peril because there would always be facts left out and other facts embellished at the very least. Every so often a story he told you would be a lie from beginning to end.

I personally don't really care what the person's intention are. I don't like being lied to. Period. Presenting me with a fish story I'm expected to accept in lieu of the actual truth doesn't entertain me or amuse me. It insults my intelligence and it wastes my time. If you're someone I know and I ask you to tell me how you met your spouse out of genuine interest in you, it's because I'm trying to get to know you better. Don't spin me a yarn about daffodils and circuses, for fuck's sake. If what you want to do is entertain, then write an actual work of fiction and present it as such. It's rude to do otherwise.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Stories, Fact, and Fiction

Prompt: "What are your favorite types of stories?"

I've been reading and writing so long, that I legitimately can't remember a time in my life when I didn't do those things. It only stands to reason that I've fallen in love with all kinds of stories over the years -- everything from fairy tales and epic adventures to high-brow literary fiction. However, I think the stories I like most these days are the ones that are anchored in reality to at least some extent.

It doesn't have to be a straight up non-fiction story or anything, but it's nice if it's at least inspired by events, people, places, or ideas from the author's actual life. I like knowing that that person is sharing little bits of their world with their readers. A given story just doesn't really feel "complete" to me without that.

That's been the case for me since I was a kid. Even when I reached for my fairy tale books, the experience of enjoying them was only partly about being entertained by the story itself. My favorite part of the process was actually learning the origins of those tales and the meanings behind them. I absolutely loved annotated versions of different books for that reason. I know it seems weird to imagine a 10-year-old being interested in the cultural context of Hansel and Gretel or in being able to identify the political satire in Alice in Wonderland, but that's the kind of child I was. I liked reading stories and then picking them apart afterward so I could fully understand what I'd just read.

This has only become more the case as I've grown older. I've learned to shape my reality instead of constantly trying to escape from it the way I did as a young person. As a result, the need to understand the inspiration or real-life connections in a given story is even more important to me than it used to be. I love memoirs, historical fiction, and stories that tackle abstract social concepts for that reason. I don't write nearly as much fiction or poetry as I once did, but when I do, I strive to write the same types of stories I most enjoy reading. The type built on a foundation of meaning and personal connection that I like to picture potential readers appreciating one day in exactly the way I used to.

Monday, August 1, 2016

On the Merry-Go-Round of the Past


Normally, I don't truly understand why other people seem to think I'm so young for my age. I almost always just blame it on my youthful looks and the fact that I don't really choose clothing, hairstyles, or make-up that would be considered age appropriate. Then something will happen that shows me it's probably more than that. I'm realizing that I still act young and think young for someone that's 40 years old. I'm also realizing that it's not necessarily a bad thing.

For instance, I don't get nostalgic over dead technology the way a lot of people my age do. I don't think tapes and CDs are superior to digital music and streaming. I don't wistfully sigh and think back fondly on the days when people shared a landline and some dial-up Internet with the rest of their family instead of having their own cell phones and devices. Why would I? Today's technology is so much better, more accessible, and more convenient than the shit I grew up with.

Sure, at the time all of that seemed pretty cool, but it was the best, most innovative technology that was available at the time as well. Sure, I still like listening to a lot of the same bands I liked growing up, but I love that I can listen to perfect, pristine-quality versions of their albums on Spotify now instead of having to pop a plastic disc into some clunky old player. Honestly, if I were still single and dating someone my age? I would probably reconsider them if they were still making mix tapes and burning CDs. It's just a silly thing to do in a day and age when there are better, more efficient alternatives.

The older I get and the older my so-called peers get, the more differences there seem to be between us. Honestly, I can't even talk to most of my old high school acquaintances anymore without being bored out of my gourd. All they want to do is "remember when" and wax nostalgic about times in our lives that are long over with. They don't ever seem to listen to new music or give new television shows a try either. They're living completely in the past and I can't imagine wanting to do that myself. I don't want to do that myself. The 90's are over with. I want to enjoy the era I'm living in right now.

........

Speaking of the past, I actually wound up giving that interview I mentioned in my last post. The one about abuse survival. It was quite an experience -- both freeing and very draining at the same time. Some of the questions I was asked challenged me to look at certain things from angles I'd never quite considered before. It was kind of a lot of work emotionally. So much work, in fact, that I don't even think I did much work writing that day. I just wound up in a different head space that I didn't expect to find myself in.

Perhaps that's part of the issue I have with people that glamorize anything about the past. Although I will admit to missing the simplicity of life back then and the wonderful optimism that seems to come with being young, that's about it. I never want to be back where I was emotionally, mentally, and socially speaking. I never want to know and understand as little about myself as I did then. I never again want to be surrounded by people that don't really accept me and refuse to understand me. 

That is what the past is to me, at the end of the day -- a merry-go-round that wouldn't stop spinning long enough for me to figure out where I was and get my bearings. It would spin so viciously as to make me feel scared, nauseous, and confused at all times. I do not miss that feeling. I like it here in the present -- the place where life, technology, and society is a much better fit for who I know myself to be.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Apocalypse Orange

When there are forest fires in the area, it's not uncommon for the smoke to migrate into the surrounding cities, even those that aren't but so close by. Right now, there are fires in Big Sur. That's definitely close enough to have made our skies apocalypse orange for the past couple of days. That photo there is what the view outside our window is like right now. It's not edited or doctored in any way. Everything really does look like it's in sepia tone right now. The colors are all wrong. You can't smell anything but smoke.

I think it's giving me anxiety or something. The orange sky thing was in full effect when I woke up yesterday and wouldn't stop reminding me of Mad Max. (I wound up with an unexpected day off yesterday, as I was waiting for a client to get back to me with details on an assignment. We actually watched Mad Max: Fury Road on HBO.)

I didn't sleep well last night either. Lots of really weird dreams about the end of the world, messed up weather, and so forth -- definitely phobias of mine. I feel really off today as a result, as I do every so often for no real reason. I never know if feelings like that are actually coming from me or if I'm picking them up somehow from other people I know, either offline or online. I wish I had a better understanding of where my emotions actually come from, but I've gotten really used to drawing a blank by now.

........

As far as other things going on, I was recently approached by an author I know on Facebook about being interviewed for her next book. I don't want to get too into the details here on my public blog, but suffice it to say that the book deals with people that are recovering from long-term emotional abuse. I actually met this lady after reading one of her other books last summer and writing to her to thank her, as her writing was incredibly helpful to me when it comes to unpacking some of my baggage from the past. 

I can't even express how honored it makes me feel that I was one of the people chosen for this project, as I really love this author's work. I also feel incredibly validated. The specific type of abuse this deals with has been a huge part of why I've found certain aspects of adult life so difficult. It's also one of the few kinds where it's still socially acceptable to victim-blame the person that's experienced it. I allowed other people to convince me a long time ago that this was my fault as a result, so I've been carrying the damage it caused around with me for many years. 

I honestly don't think I realized how badly I needed someone else (other than Seth and one or two close friends, that is) to simply validate what I was feeling and tell me it wasn't my fault until I read that book and met this author. It was like some huge, poisonous bubble in my chest just burst all of a sudden. It was a lot to process at the time, but I really started to feel like I was turning some kind of corner at the same time. Another instance where I really do feel like God was looking out for me and trying to make sure I was in the right place at the right time.

To have the person that wrote that book think that my personal story is important enough and noteworthy enough to include in another book that I'm sure will be just as helpful to me and others like me feels amazing. I will be anonymous, of course, and I want it that way, as this is a sensitive topic. But still. It's incredibly exciting. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. It's things like this that make me feel like God is better to me than I probably deserve. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Diversity in the Media


Here's the thing. I actually don't like it when television shows and movies are "diverse", but it feels forced. I don't like it when black/gay/female/etc characters are just thrown into the mix as tokens just for the sake of being able to say "fuck yeah diversity". I very definitely feel like there's a wrong way to approach diversity and I see things being done the wrong way a lot.

But I do not understand people that actually go out of their way to complain about diversity as a concept when it comes to the media they consume. I also can't help but notice that the complainers are always people that have no earthly idea what it's like to grow up almost never seeing people that looked or acted like them when they went to the movies or turned on their television.

I know what that's like and it's really not fun. It really does give you the impression that you're an undesirable of one type or another. Or that there's something wrong with you. Or that society would really like it if you just disappeared or tried your best to hide/deny/erase anything about yourself that makes you different. The characters people rooted for in movies and on television were very, very rarely anything like me. When they were there at all, people like me were almost always the sidekicks, or the comic relief, or -- God forbid -- the villain.

Imagine the type of message that sends to that young person about where their "place" is as far as the world they live in. Imagine the type of message that sends to the young person that does see themselves depicted, but not their neighbor or the kid that sits next to them in homeroom.

If you truly don't see how and why that's problematic, then I don't know what to do with you. I am personally glad that kids today are less likely to grow up feeling that way. I don't think we've perfected the way we handle diversity in media yet by any means, but I like that we're at least fucking trying. That should be a good thing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Writing Lab: On Meeting New People

Prompt: "Do you like meeting new people, or do you prefer to hang out with people you already know?"

I'm more introverted even than most other introverts I know, so I'm generally not a fan of meeting new people. I have to have a very good reason to go out of my way, like actual loneliness because my existing relationships have ended or deteriorated for whatever reason. Otherwise, I'd far prefer continuing to develop deeper relationships with the people I already know.

I like not having to wear my "social face" around others. I like feeling like I don't have to watch my language or tiptoe around certain topics because they might offend whomever I'm talking to. I don't actually enjoy interacting with others for its own sake unless I can also be free, unedited, and unfiltered around them.

That said, the only time I even kind of like meeting new folks is when I'm doing it online. It seems to be more acceptable not to beat around the bush when it comes to telling other people whatever it is you want them to know about you. I haven't met a lot of people online that expected me to engage in small talk or tone down my real feelings about anything the way they might if we met in Meat World. They're usually in my vicinity because they saw me expressing something real about myself somewhere else anyway, so they already know what they're getting themselves into.

I like things that way, because I hate the alternative. Someone meeting me in a public setting where different rules apply, so I have to observe a million different social niceties instead of just saying and doing what comes naturally to me. They form a mental picture of who I am that inevitably turns out to be false. They become disappointed when they realize I'm not who or what they thought I would be. They try to change me because they don't like the real me. I resent it because I actually don't mind the real me. The person and I grow apart. Eventually I call it quits because I don't see the point of beating a dead horse when there are so many other people out there I could be giving my time to instead. Rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On Mixed Racial Identity and Blogging

Like many female bloggers, I write a lot about what it means to be a woman. But unlike most of the minority bloggers I know, I don't really talk much about race. I'm not completely sure why that is, but I'm sure there are a couple of reasons.

On the one hand, I just don't think about my ethnic background that often and if I'm not thinking about something, I'm not writing about it either. I'm clearly not white, but I'm also a biracial woman that doesn't fit the average non-black person's mental picture of what a black woman looks like or acts like. Because of this, I tend to go through my life without having to think much about my race, just like white people do.

I don't look so different from Seth that people stop and stare at us when we walk down the street or wonder how on earth we even wound up together. I more or less measure up to the going American standard of what female beauty is "supposed" to be -- long hair that flows, light skin, and refined, stereotypically feminine facial features. There are apparently even people out there that miss the fact that I'm black altogether, as they express complete surprise when I tell them or if they find out some other way, as when my ex-husband met my parents for the first time.

In a manner of speaking, I'm probably lucky because I get to sidestep a lot of the problems and discrimination that my darker friends have to deal with. On the other hand, not having to create my life around my ethnicity has meant that I haven't developed the same strong racial identity most of my black friends have. I think about being a woman every day. I think about being a writer every day. I think about being an introvert every day. I rarely to never think about being black. Only when something or someone calls my attention to it, which really isn't all that often.

This didn't use to bother me, as I once truly thought race shouldn't matter or be important to people. Part of this is upbringing, as neither of my parents wanted my brother or me thinking of ourselves as different from anyone else. Like many young people, fitting in was the most important thing to me for a long time, so pretending I was no different from anyone else suited me just fine. But recent years have found me much more interested in connecting with where I come from and learning who my ancestors were. I know lots about the Irish and Scottish parts of my heritage, as I've been encouraged to connect with those. As an adult, I've also been strongly encouraged by my dad to connect and identify with my Native American blood.

This has not, however, been the case when it comes to my blackness. That was simply ignored and treated like it doesn't exist and I'm realizing that I've been conditioned to think there's something wrong with being proud to be black as a result. I've been taught to ignore my own blackness simply because I can. Beginning to consciously embrace, connect with, and identify with my own blackness -- especially with Seth's encouragement -- has been wonderful. I've been unlearning a lot of the negative conditioning I grew up with as a result and there's a wholeness that's coming about because of that.

That said, it occurs to me that it should be more obvious I'm a mixed race blogger and a black blogger. Not because I look black or fit society's stereotypes of what a black woman is like, but because I talk about it, reflect on it, and make it a point to acknowledge it in ways that make sense to me. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of that going forward into the future.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Writing Lab: That Very First Blog

Prompt: "What was the first blog you read online?"

Weirdly enough, I still remember stumbling across someone else's blog for the first time. I didn't know it then, but that discovery would change my life, how I communicate, and how I relate to other people forever.

It happened sometime in the early 2000's -- maybe 2002 or 2003. My ex-husband and I had just gotten a computer and Internet access, the very first experience with such things for either of us. He mostly used it to email his mother and download pirated music, but I had other ideas. I was far more interested in using the Internet to learn new things and possibly to connect to new people that actually thought like me or shared my interests.

As is the case with many people that don't feel like they relate to anyone else, one of my strongest interests at the time was music. Tori Amos was my absolute favorite artist back then, but I knew almost no one in my offline life that had even heard of her. Naturally, it made sense to me to use the Internet to seek out other Tori fans that were as obsessed with her music as I was. That's how I found this wonderful fan site called A Dent in the Tori Amos Net Universe (or "The Dent" for short). At first, I just came to The Dent to keep up on Tori-related news. Eventually though, I felt compelled to start contributing to it as well. I started submitting reviews of some of the concerts I'd gone to -- my first ever experience with sharing any of my writing online.

I also eventually became familiar with the couple that ran The Dent, Mike and Amanda. One day, I followed a link they had posted to their LiveJournal blogs and I was just fascinated by what I found, as I had legitimately never heard of blogging before. I'm not sure who I thought Mike and Amanda were prior to that, but I don't think I realized they were just a couple of ordinary people living ordinary lives just like mine. Yet here they both were, running a really popular site that had been acknowledged even by Tori herself and writing about their daily lives in virtual journals that never ran out of pages.

I found Amanda's blog especially interesting, as I related a lot to the way she thought. I also found the mere idea of LiveJournal incredibly appealing -- so much so that I eventually started a LiveJournal blog of my own and began to comment on some of Amanda's posts. When she invited me to "friend" her, she officially became my very first online friend. I'm happy to say that Amanda and I are still friends across multiple social networking platforms today.

........

My discovery of Amanda's blog, as well as the eventual decision to start blogging myself, literally changed my life and the way I viewed myself in relation to the rest of the world. Before that day, it had never occurred to me that anyone might care about the ordinary everyday thoughts of some small town girl that liked cheeseburgers, owned parakeets, and sold men's suits for a living. But here I was finding Amanda's life completely riveting despite the fact that she wasn't much different from me -- a UPS employee that loved roller coasters, looked forward to decorating her house for Christmas, and was crazy about Tori Amos music.

For the first time in my life, I could actually picture a world where my life, my thoughts, and my feelings actually mattered to other people despite the fact that I was really no one special. I realized that I didn't need to be as famous as Tori Amos for my thoughts to be worth sharing or for people to be interested in what I had to say. I could become part of the bigger picture in any way I wanted to any time I wanted to by telling my own story -- whatever that happened to be -- to whomever decided they cared to hear it.

Since then, I've made many friends online. I've shared countless writings and other creations with what potentially amounts to the entire world. I've explored more than one career path thanks to the Internet. I even met someone that was a much better fit for me than my milktoast ex-husband ever was. I grew into someone with a well-nurtured sense of self worth as a result of all of those things and although I don't think she realizes this, I owe all of that to Amanda.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writing Lab: All the Answers

Prompt: "Do you think life would be boring if we had all the answers to our important questions?"

I don't know if boring is the word I want to use to describe what life would be like if I already had all the answers. I think life would be easier. Stress would be a thing of the past if I already knew the easiest, most effective way to earn a living, become financially independent, or win people's lasting respect. I can't truthfully say I wouldn't love to know what it's like not to feel like I'm constantly beating my head against the wall when it comes to those things.

On the other hand, a life that doesn't include opportunities to wonder, think, and discover hardly seems worth living. One of the only things that consistently makes me feel alive is the act of thinking. No, I don't like the tedium of solving everyday problems or dealing with practicalities, but I enjoy contemplating abstract concepts very much. I love wondering about God, and heaven, and hell. I love figuring out how things work and learning new skills all on my own. I love asking "what if" and exploring the possibilities I come up with through my writing.

I especially like that the future is open-ended and could hold absolutely anything, including the prosperity, peace, and security I crave so much. That said, I don't know if life would be boring, but it would certainly be different in ways I'm not sure would be good for me. My brain would have very little to do, so I'm sure it wouldn't take me long to become incredibly depressed. (Or at least more depressed than I already am.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On the Conundrum of Generosity

Something I've always hated about the phrase "giving back". It takes it for granted that something has been received in the first place. It's also something I hear from other people a lot when they approach me looking for favors or advice right after I politely decline their request: "Don't you want to give back?"

No, actually. That's what happens to a person when they've spent their entire life surrounded by people that were constantly trying to gauge just how little they themselves could get away with doing for others. They don't exactly come out of that experience with a generous spirit that's just bursting at the seams with love for their fellow man. They are probably pretty stingy with their resources and they are very choosy about who, if anyone, ever gets to see that gracious, giving side of their personality.

I'm much more passive and reactionary than people think I am, meaning I almost always treat others the way I feel they've treated me. That said, if you've known me a long time and you consider me to be stingy, or manipulative, or distant but can't seem to understand why, it's probably because I feel you've been that way with me. (Either that or I legitimately just don't like you and want you to go away, but that's a whole other topic for another day entirely.)

On the flip side, it's important to me to feel like it's safe to be generous with the people I do allow to be close to me in life. Part of how I show my love for someone is by sharing everything that I have with them and by lavishing them with attention, kindness, and praise. But there's a catch... a condition. I expect to receive the same back from that person. If I put them first, I expect them to put me first. If I make them my first choice, I expect them to make me theirs. If I don't feel like I'm getting back just as much as I give or more, that connection's days are numbered. It doesn't matter what kind of relationship it is. Even family -- hell, especially family -- aren't safe from having to fulfill that condition. 

On another note, I've been feeling the need to make my Blogger blogs harder for just... people from my life to find. They're still not "secret" blogs and I'm still not particularly concerned with who reads them. But I'm tired of linking to them from profiles my real life family and friends follow. I want those people to have to work a little harder to locate my writings here, as I've grown to like coming here to just vent in general without having to deal with a lot of feedback from people I actually know well. So I suppose it could be said that I'm slowly sliding back to a place where I'm stingy even when it comes to access to my life. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Writing Lab: Tell or Be Told

Prompt: "Do you like to observe things for yourself, or do you prefer people to tell you things?"

I prefer to observe things for myself. I don't trust other people's ability to be observant enough to paint an accurate picture of something that's happened. I really don't trust others not to embellish or twist facts to suit agendas of their own. Far too many people get creative when telling stories because they want to look like a hero or seem better than they actually are.

When I really want or need to know something specific, I probably don't have the time or the patience to sort through whatever was said and make guesses as to how much of it was bullshit. I want to know the facts so I can get right to work making decisions, writing articles, or whatever else I may be looking to do based on the situation. If I do my own homework and make my own observations, I never have to doubt the reality of the situation, as I trust myself implicitly.

I wasn't always this way though. Most people that know me at present really can't picture me being like this, but naturally speaking, I'm a complete Type B personality. If we lived in a perfect world, I'd far prefer to follow rather than lead. I'd prefer to let other people make the great majority of my decisions and take care of things for me. I'd definitely rather not be the one to take the initiative or stick my neck out. But unfortunately this isn't a perfect world. Trusting, passive people like I used to be wind up getting used, especially if anything about who they are could even remotely be considered useful or valuable.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Writing Lab: The Very Knowledgeable vs the Very Strong

Prompt: "Do you believe that knowledge or strength is power? Would you rather know a lot or be very strong?"

Both are forms of power, but given the choice, I'll always choose to be very knowledgeable over very strong. Part of that is just my nature. I'm a bookish person whose life revolves around knowledge. I not only earn my living by being a knowledgeable person, but most of my free time is spent adding to that knowledge as well.

There's a reason why I spend my free time with my nose buried in a book instead of working out at a gym though. Physical strength is great as far as the power it might bring you. You can defend yourself and the people you love when the chips are down if it ever comes to that. If you look as strong as you are, you might even be able to avoid having people mess with you in the first place.

Unfortunately though, I'm not the Rock or the Terminator. Even when I was in the best shape of my life, I didn't look the least little bit intimidating, so strength has never really benefited me very much. But I can and always could outwit and out-think even the smartest people I've dealt with in my life. Half the time, I'm so smooth as far as how I go about it that people don't even realize it just happened. I know what to say to get what I want and need out of other people. I can think my way out of almost any problem. A lot of the time, I'm knowledgeable enough to avoid problems altogether.

That's the kind of power I prefer. That's the kind of power that solves (or circumvents) the sorts of problems I wind up dealing with in life. It's truly a gift and a few muscles really don't seem like much of an alternative, to be really honest with you. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how strong you are physically if someone else can outsmart you with their mind. You'll lose.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Writing Lab: On the News and Where It Comes From


Prompt: "Has the place you've gotten your news changed over the years? Where did you get it 10 years ago?"

As much as it pains me to say it, I didn't even care about the news until a couple of years ago. Intellectually speaking, I was interested in the past (history), but found the present (news) to be insufferably boring. The fact that it was happening right here and right now to the same everyday people I see on the streets made it ordinary to me and I wasn't interested in the ordinary as a young person. That said, I probably got what little news I was actually exposed to from friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. I never voluntarily read newspapers or watched the news on television though. Like I said, I really just didn't care.

The past few years have found me really interested in becoming a well-rounded, informed person for a change though. Digital media and inexpensive all-you-can-consume subscription services were making it so easy for me to explore new topics of interest, so I thought "why not". That's when I started reading news magazines like Time and Newsweek on a weekly basis. At first I really had to force myself to do it, but now I look forward to checking out one or both of those each weekend. There's just so much to be interested in -- medical/scientific advancements, social issues, archaeological discoveries. Politics and diplomatic relations are only a small part of the equation, although those topics can be interesting at times as well. 

Actually exposing myself to more news from trusted, impartial sources has changed me a lot as a person over the past couple of years and I'd like to think it's for the better. I'll always be kind of a recluse that's more interested in my own little world than the bigger social picture, but I've also come to feel I have a duty to stay informed. Anyone who dares to call themselves an intellectual does. The world is actually a pretty interesting place, even right here in the present. Who knew?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Twenty-Five Apples


Every once in a while, my mind will sink its teeth into something kind of silly and refuse to let go of it. It's both frustrating and cool at the same time. Last night it was this lyric from one of the songs on Kate Pierson's solo album. I can't recall what track it is off the top of my head, but the lyric talks about being "split like an apple thrown against the wall".

Now... if an apple is thrown against a wall so hard that it splits, that's a pretty sad state of affairs for the apple. It's now a sad puddle of goo. It will never nourish anyone. It will never become pie or apple cider. It will never grow into a tree. Except the chord structure and melody pattern attached to that particular lyric is actually really bright and transcendent -- not sad at all. It makes it sound like the apple was somehow stronger than the wall even though it split from the impact.

So while I was falling asleep last night, my mind got its fangs into that little thing from that one song I'd listened to earlier in the day. And I kept dreaming about this apple and all the possible things that might have happened to it when it hit the wall. In one scenario, a bird of paradise made out of purple light came out of the apple and flew away. In another, the apple made the wall and the building attached to it crumble into dust because it refused to split at all. There must have been twenty-five different dreams and twenty-five different amazing things that happened to the apple.

I've had people tell me that I over-think things a lot. I can hear those people going "Jesus Christ, it's just a song". On my bad days, I agree with those people and wish I was different. But on my good days, I just feel sorry for them. Like... really sorry. I got to see all those magical apples conquer a wall last night and they didn't, so who's the real winner here?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I Am


I really find myself wondering sometimes where the people of substance are online these days, especially those of a creative nature. I know way too many writers, artists, filmmakers, and so forth that seem to care more about creating a facade to hide behind than they do about creating really good art. I don't get that. When I think of professions that lead to tons of admirers and money to wipe your ass with, I don't think of any of the arts. It really does feel like "I want to be an artist" is becoming code for "I have no marketable skills, nor do I want to work for a living, but I don't want to admit to either of those things". 

Whenever that realization occurs to me, I become aware of how rare it is to have accomplished the things that I have. Not only do I have real skills and real ideas, but I've actually found a way to make those things marketable. And I'm not even close to being done yet. There are so many places I can see myself taking my creativity in the future and I actually have a good idea of how to make successes of those endeavors as well. So many of these sham artists have no idea how to do the same. No wonder I have haters. 

On another note, I'm also realizing that writing really isn't the struggle for me that it apparently is for other people. Any time I see other people that blog or write discussing their technique, there's a lot of talk of outlining, and planning, and editing, and re-editing. If anyone talks about having free-written something off the top of their head, they also talk about how rare that is for them to be able to do. I've  personally never written any other way.  

I don't need to. I am able to get things to sound the way I want them to on the first try. Even the stuff I write for my clients is basically written in one shot and given a quick once-over before I call it done. I always assumed other people were the same way, at least in regards to their blogging and their personal writing, but I guess they're not. And for some reason, I'm feeling appreciative here in this moment of the fact that I am. I can't imagine a world in which writing does not come easily to me and I'm grateful that I don't have to.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Disconnect

Earlier, a LiveJournal friend of mine posted a positively gorgeous photo of herself, a sample from a professional photo shoot she'd had done recently. Honestly, I was taken aback by how lovely she looked -- very refined features, wonderful skin, and the most gorgeous long violet hair.

Up until that point, I'm not sure I'd seen a picture of this particular person that really allowed me a clear look at her. Once I had, I immediately began to wonder why she doesn't post pictures all the time. She is stunning. Her looks are very close to the type of looks I've always wished I had. "If I looked like her, the entire Internet would be so fucking sick of my selfie spam by now," I thought.

Then I actually read the words she wrote. Among other things, she mentioned having a disconnect between the way she sees herself and the fact that she likes the way she looks in the picture. She mentioned having gained weight and being able to see it in her face and a couple of other things. I really didn't see any of that myself. I just saw a stunningly beautiful girl that is very blessed with what I consider to be an incredible dose of beauty. To me, she looked absolutely flawless.

I can relate though. More than I probably really care to admit. Truth be told, I don't usually think of myself as a beautiful woman. I'm well aware that others consider me to be not just pretty, but exceptionally attractive. I'm also aware that many people feel the same way about my looks that I felt about my friend's. However, I do not see that in myself.

At best, I feel like I'm good at hair and make-up. I view myself as someone that cleans up well. I see my beauty as something fake that I can manufacture for myself when I feel like it. It is a cheap, artificial substitute for the natural beauty I don't actually feel I possess. I don't take more pictures or spend more time and energy on my looks because I don't really like having to focus on my looks and on all I feel is wrong with them. I'd rather focus on what I see as my real assets -- my creativity and my wonderful, curious mind. The same things many women that see themselves as "unpretty" cling to because it's a hell of a lot better than being nothing.

But then I'll actually bother to put myself together and take a couple of photos because my social media avatars are getting old. And for two seconds I'll actually see a picture of a beautiful woman and I'll have a fleeting understanding of why other people say the things they do about my looks. And then it's gone again as quickly as it came.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Writing Lab: Full of Stories, Full of Stars

Head of a Young Woman - Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Prompt: "Do you have a lot of untold stories inside of you? How do you feel carrying them around?"

Well, any writer is full of stories to at least some extent and I'm certainly no exception. I don't get writer's block as far as ideas go. I'd even go so far as to say that I come up with at least a couple of viable new ideas a week. However, I'm not terribly disciplined about doing much with any of them. Some of that has to do with how much of my writing energy gets poured into things for my clients these days, but the rest of it is just sheer laziness and apathy.

That said, I do have a lot of untold stories living inside of me to one extent or another. How does it make me feel? Perpetually bloated and full, like a person feels when they overeat at Thanksgiving. On the one hand, there's a satisfaction to feeling that full, because when you're full you're the very furthest thing from empty. On the other, it can be incredibly uncomfortable at the same time. You know it's not normal or healthy to be overstuffed to that extent. I do talk about ideas and whatnot to some extent, which helps. However, verbal conversation and Facebook are really no substitutes for proper stories and poems written on the regular.

I would also say that I have certain stories inside of me that have sort of been told, but not in their entirety and not the way I want. Not yet. One of the things I'd most like to write at some point is a memoir (or perhaps a series of them). But like a lot of would-be memoir writers, I know there would be a lot of fallout as far as my family and social circles go. There aren't many people from my past that would be very happy with the way they were portrayed. At all. That said, I go back and forth between not really giving a shit what those people think and wondering if it might not be better to just wait until at least my parents and in-laws pass on.

One thing about getting older though. You start to realize that you really don't have forever if you want to put something out there or take a real stab at being published in a way that actually matters. Not that ghostwriting for my clients and blogging in my spare time isn't rewarding in its own way. It's just not fulfilling in quite the way I think producing more important work would be.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Writing Lab: On Legacies

Prompt: "A line from the play Hamilton asks: 'Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.' What do you want your legacy to be?"

This is a hard question for me. As I've touched on here before, I've never wanted to become much or accomplish anything in particular, so I can't really say I've ever truly been interested in leaving a legacy as most people would define the term. I'm 40 years old. I'm growing more tired and jaded by the day. I may never manage to create anything earth-shattering or change the world in any notable way. And to be totally honest, it's OK with me if I don't.

That said, I think what I'd like most is to know I might have inspired other people to approach life differently while I was still here. I am a firm believer in the notion that human beings are taught to swallow bullshit their entire lives from the moment they're born. They're told that there is this one right way to be a child of God, to be a women, to be a man. One right way to look and one list of right ways to earn a living or exist in this world. There's not. There are as many possibilities as far as who you can be and how you can choose to live as can be -- too many to ever count.

I grew up and came of age not only being told otherwise, but taking every last one of the lies I was told completely to heart. I've also struggled with my self-image my entire life because of it. I don't want that for other people. At all. I'm not perfect by any means, but I do think of myself as honest and forthright, so I try to be transparent with people about my life and especially about how hard certain things have been for me. I try to be an example of a person that lives with integrity, accepts herself even when it's not easy, and actively chooses to be herself. I'd like to think my belief in the importance of those things is relatively infectious and that knowing me might inspire people to rethink some of what they were taught to believe about themselves or about life.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On the Passing of Prince and the Loss of Childhood Heroes


I was so sad to log on today and hear that Prince passed away. Not only was he only 57, but he wasn't really one of those celebrities that partied so damn hard you just knew it was a matter of time. Actually, although there hasn't been an official announcement as to the cause of death yet, it sounds like he spent the last few weeks ill with a very persistent case of the flu and just wound up collapsing suddenly at home. He probably should have been in the hospital if he was that sick, although who knows if that would have made a difference.

Like a lot of people, I'm astonished at how many legends we've lost recently. Seriously... legends. People like Prince and David Bowie are icons that seem to transcend their very humanity on so many levels. It seems surprising somehow when such people actually die eventually just like everyone else. It's even harder to swallow when they die for reasons like this. You want to think someone as superhuman as Prince could never be killed by something we've all experienced, like the flu, but there it is all the same.

I've always heard that one of the hardest things about entering middle age is that you start losing older family members -- people like your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. No one warns you that it's also hard to start losing your childhood heroes -- the people you grew up in awe of. The people whose creations shaped who you eventually became and helped you get through your younger years in one piece. 

Prince was very much one of those people for me. Like Bowie, he challenged stereotypes and refused to wedge himself into anyone's box. He was so unabashedly himself. So creative, profound, and inspiring. People like him gave me hope when I was a kid that couldn't seem to fit in to save my life. They reminded me that the people I admire most in this world don't fit in anyhow. They still give me hope now that I'm a middle-aged adult that doesn't fit in. I'm a better person because Prince existed and that's a fact. I'm running out of heroes though. When they're all gone, who will I look up to and be inspired by? 

Monday, April 18, 2016

On Getting Organized for Spring and Contemplating Feminism


I don't know if it's because I sometimes get inspired to organize in the spring or what, but I finally got Google Calendar set up a few days ago. I'm not using Elance, or Upwork, or anything to deal with any of my main clients anymore. Unfortunately, that also means I no longer have a preexisting organization system that keeps me in check as far as deadlines. Instead of continuing to try to hold onto everything by memory, I thought I'd take the opportunity to actually figure out a proper system for keeping work stuff organized instead. You know... the way someone that isn't a child disguised as a 40-year-old would do. 

Now I see why respectable people do maintain day planners and appointment calendars. It's a hell of a lot easier to remember something's coming up when you have a visual representation of your life to look at than it is to just try to store it all up in your head someplace. I even created other calendars in addition to the main one I have for deadlines -- one each for deliveries, astrological events I want to remember, personal occasions, and a couple of other things. I even set up sharing on the ones that are actually relevant to Seth's life so that he can also take advantage. It's great. I feel so fucking together. Like I actually accomplished something useful for a change!

........

In other news, I finally discovered Amy Schumer and her comedy over the weekend. I've been hearing about her ad nauseum for a while now, but I had yet to actually check out any of her stuff for myself. For some reason, I had this impression of her as being loud and obnoxious, which is really not my thing at all. Then yesterday we watched Trainwreck on HBO and later on (somehow) binged an entire season of Inside Amy Schumer. She's pretty outspoken, but not particularly loud or obnoxious at all. Actually, she seems... nice, relatively gracious, and like someone I could probably be friends with. 

I liked her style of comedy a lot and honestly speaking, I related to her as a person to a greater degree than I'd like to admit most days. She knows she isn't conventionally attractive and doesn't fit the stereotypes a lot of women are raised with and expected to adhere to. And she doesn't give a shit. I'm the same on a lot of levels.

Although I will also admit, that a lot of the time, I do give a shit. Even at my youngest, skinniest, and most meticulously maintained, I never really fit people's idea of a conventionally attractive woman. Even though it's never been hard to find men that were interested in me, I've still always felt like I'm people's second choice. Even in the cases of dudes that should have considered themselves lucky any woman was willing to be with them, let alone someone smart and relatively likable. I feel like I embarrass my family. I feel like I'm not even close to being what any of my partners' families wanted for their sons. 

I wonder all the time if my lack of conventional femininity is the "why" behind all of those things. I accept myself and try to stay comfortable in my own skin (because what the fuck choice do I have). But I also have moments where I feel unwanted and deeply wish I was someone else so I could feel differently. Sincerely and profoundly. I've been feeling like that a lot lately for reasons I don't really care to get into here. Amy made me feel a million times better somehow. I guess that's why people -- especially women -- like her so much. I think God knew Amy would help me and pointed me in that direction yesterday, because I honestly have no idea why I decided to spend an entire Sunday afternoon and evening watching any of that.

As an aside, I wish I had more female friends that I can actually relate to. Seth and I are best friends. We can relate to each other on a lot of levels. But it's not possible for him to understand from personal experience what it's like to be a woman in today's society, let alone a minority woman. What it is truly like to be seen and treated like you're less than a human being because you don't look like something out of Playboy and act like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. It's the cause of so much self-hatrid of a variety it's hard for me to put into words.

I tend to hate the word "feminism" because of all the negative connotations it carries for me, but... I guess that's why we need it. So that women -- and men as well, I suppose -- don't have to feel like that anymore. If God made you -- and he made us all, of course -- you should never have to feel like you need to be something different just to feel like you have the right to be alive, to accept yourself, and to be loved by others.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Writing Lab: In the Eyes of Readers


Prompt: "How do you think a reader would describe your blog?"

If sharing my journal-style writings with other people has taught me anything over the years, it's that I don't usually have an accurate picture in my head of how other people view what they read from me. I don't see my blogs as having a lot of potential appeal to anyone besides myself. When I'm not working, I spend most of my time reading, thinking, or hanging out with Seth watching TV or something. I don't get out a lot. I don't really travel or care to maintain much of a social life, so... like... 98% of what I post is pure navel gazing. I'm talking about myself. Or else I'm reacting to something that happened more than I'm recording it. It's hard for me to imagine that not being kind of a bore to an outsider.

Even so, I'm consistently told by people that do read my writing that they enjoy it. I've heard that I have an interesting voice and an unusual outlook in regards to a lot of things. People have told me they enjoy my humor, my candor, and the unapologetic way I choose to express myself these days. Those that don't like me or my writing have accused me of being a lot of things -- too cynical, too self-absorbed, too blunt, too much of an over-thinker. However, I've yet to have a reader tell me they find me boring, which is really my only worry.

That said, I think a reader would probably describe any one of my blogs as more of a journal than anything else. They'd see it as a look into the head of someone who's smart and contemplative, if a little eccentric and disenchanted with life at times. It would probably feel like you are having a look into a personal diary that someone just happened to leave open on the coffee table. Or at least that's my speculation, which is based on people's reactions to other blogs I've kept over the years -- blogs that were pretty much exactly like this one in nature, tone, and content. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Writing Lab: On Being a Diarist

Prompt: "Do you look at your blog as a way to tell your story? Do you consider yourself a general diarist?"

That's definitely how I look at my blog. I would also probably say that I think of myself as a diarist, especially these days. I've tried to branch out and embrace other types of writing to the same extent I've always embraced journaling and diary keeping over the years, but it never seems to hold my interest for long.

This has even been the case with my other blogs on Blogger. They started as attempts to build resources for other people's consumption or write more generally about topics I care about -- like food, or astrology, or spirituality, or freelancing. However, they ultimately wound up settling into alternate diaries -- places I can go to record my thoughts and experiences as they relate to those topics. I do occasionally write or include resource articles as well if I decide I'm in the mood, but those are few and far between.

Narcissistic as it might sound, I fascinate myself, so I'm my own favorite topic. I love using writing to explore my thoughts and feelings about different things. I love recording things that happen in my life. I love exploring my past and my relationships to other people, as well as to the rest of the world, through my writing. I enjoy the act of at least potentially sharing what I write with other people, but I write mostly for myself.

I suppose it is my way of telling my story. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the future or anything, but when I do, I realize that I'm not the sort of person that will leave much of a legacy behind. I don't have children, nor do I want them. I've never been particularly driven to "make society a better place". Nothing in me ever wanted to cure cancer, or invent something that changes the world, or be the power behind the next big household name either. People -- and society in general, for that matter -- make me dry heave the great majority of the time.

What I am driven to do is create. I've made art and written fiction here or there, but I've been the most productive by far when it comes to my personal journaling, diary keeping, and blogging. In other words, I've been consistently focused on telling, preserving, and remembering my own story since I was little. I've done this without even really thinking much about it. That's how natural and instinctive it is for me to sit around and journal my ass off when I'm in the mood to just... write. I don't lead an exciting life, but it's my life all the same. And I suppose the story I'm weaving it into over time will be my legacy. I'm hardly curing cancer over here or anything, but it works for me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Writing Lab: On Writing About Others

Prompt: "Do you write about other people? Do you think it's fair game to write about others without asking permission if they're part of your story?"

I'm not sure if this is addressing my blogging or my fiction writing, but either way, the answer's exactly the same. I absolutely do write about other people. To be totally honest, I find it impossible not to.

I'm a big believer in the "write what you know" approach, so everything I write under my own power these days is incredibly personal whether it sounds that way or not. If I'm not writing directly about myself and the actual people I know and have crossed paths with, then I'm writing about characters that are strongly based on real people. Probably to enough of an extent that the people in question would easily recognize themselves if they were to ever read the material.

And yes, I absolutely believe it's fair game to write about other people. There's an Anne Lamott quote I really like that addresses this. Something to the tune of owning your stories and telling them no matter what, because people need to treat you better if they're worried about how you'd describe them in your writing. That really sums up how I feel in a nutshell. As for asking permission, why would I bother? The story of my life is 100% mine and anyone that's at all familiar with any of my writing already knows that I tell it and then some. I'm not going to write something just to smear someone's name or anything, but you can trust that whatever picture I do paint will probably be unflinchingly honest for better or worse.

That said, I don't know why anyone would ever dare treat a writer badly if they're concerned about this type of thing. Especially if you're talking about a writer that publishes public or semi-public narratives based on life in whatever form. I also don't know why it really matters one way or another. Surely people realize that those they've crossed paths with speak of them aloud to other people. Why should writing it down be any different?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Writing Lab: Good Old Black-and-White

Prompt: "Have you ever had another blogger write about you? How did you feel reading the post?"

It hasn't happened at all recently, as most of my social circle has long ago forsaken blogging for Facebook or Twitter, but yes. Looking back, I'm realizing that I've seen myself show up in other people's posts quite a lot over the years. However, the context varies, as does the tone.

I'm not even going to sit here and pretend I don't know why some people find me hard to stomach. I don't get up in people's faces or force them to listen to my critiques of who they are or what they're into. (If you approach me and ask though, it's another story.) I really do keep to myself for the most part, but people nevertheless can tell when I don't really return their interest in me or don't see them as being in the same league. I'm told it makes people feel dismissed, invisible, or otherwise unworthy of notice. Apparently that's much tougher to deal with than it would be if I were just... like... a hater. People can usually deal with being hated on, but they don't like being dismissed or ignored, so I've inadvertently made my enemies over the years.

Sometimes those enemies eventually decided they were going to let it all out in writing, usually someplace they know I'm likely to see it or eventually find out about it. They were too chickenshit to say what they wanted to say to my face and most never dared use my name, but it was nevertheless pretty obvious they were talking about me. I'm thinking of ex-friends mostly... and maybe a few acquaintances that wanted to be friends, but that I wasn't really interested in for whatever reason.

I don't know what these people thought they were going to accomplish. Maybe they thought they were going to put me in my place or make me feel bad about myself. Maybe they were desperate to provoke whatever sort of reaction they could actually get from me. I really don't know. What usually happened is I abruptly decided to cut the person off at the knees and end whatever friendship we might have had without a word. I guess I thought they didn't deserve my words or maybe I just couldn't muster the fucks to give. In most of the cases I'm thinking of, I barely cared about whomever it was to begin with anyway, so... at most, it felt like finally swatting a mosquito that's been buzzing around your office, irritating the shit out of you all day -- a relief, if it's anything.

That type of thing happens with people that once had more legitimate ties to me as well though. There are a couple of ex-boyfriends I have in mind, one of whom has been following me around and obsessing over my life since we casually dated in college... like... 20 years ago. A couple of Seth's exes used to do the same thing out of jealousy and anger that I was prettier, smarter, or more talented than they were. There are a couple of family members I've chosen not to remain on speaking terms with in this category as well.

It's not all doom and gloom though. As much as some people can't seem to stand me, there are others that say they find me inspiring. They like that I don't take people's shit or settle for less than what I want out of my relationships and friendships. They tell me that they wish they had my confidence or my self-awareness. And sometimes they express that in good old black-and-white right out there where everyone can read it. I even had an old middle school friend that I wasn't even sure remembered me write about how much it meant that I befriended her and stuck up for her at a time in her life when she had no friends. I've even seen people write about things I've apparently inspired them to do or become just by being who I am.

How did it make me feel to read all of these things? Well, I'd like to say that at least the positive posts overwhelmed me with emotion, but I'm not really wired that way. I most certainly appreciated what those people had to say, especially in cases where I hadn't realized I'd made that kind of a difference for the person. In general, I find it interesting to read what other people have to say about me in their own words though, positive or negative. All of it lends me insight that I wouldn't probably have had otherwise. I also like that I tend to leave lasting impressions on people, for better or worse. It reminds me that I have more personal power than I tend to think I do, just as a rule.