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.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Zebra in a Sea of Horses

Everyone knows that I'm sort of... unique. What everyone doesn't know is that it's not something I've ever actually wanted to be. No matter how hard I've ever tried to fit in at various points in my life, I've always stuck right out like a sore thumb. Sometimes that's a good thing, but most of the time, it's not. Or at least it isn't to me.

Part of that has to do with being mixed race. The rest of it has to do with being neuroatypical. Even at my best, I was never conventionally beautiful, nor have I ever had what you call a winning personality. I'm witty, smart, and have a good sense of humor, so I've always been able to attract people or attention if I really wanted to. But I've also always been painfully aware that I'm not what any man -- Seth probably included -- had in mind when he pictured his dream woman as a young man just getting started in life and deciding what he wants for the first time. Especially not physically speaking. That hurts sometimes.

I wonder all the time what it would be like to know you're actually what your partner always wanted and not just some aging, second-rate alternative that probably had to grow on them over time. I wonder what it's like to meet your partner's parents and have them instantly like you and see you as someone they'd actually like to have as part of their family. I wonder what it's like for your parents to ever have seen you as something other than a huge disappointment. I wonder what it's like for people not to have to "learn" to like you or accept you. I wonder what it's like to know that you've always been everyone's first choice. -- exactly what everyone always wanted and had in mind.

Most of all, I wonder if my parents would have even wanted to have children if they knew I was what they would wind up stuck with. I wonder if Seth would have been deeply disappointed if some time traveler from the future came up to him when he was... like... 18, showed him a picture of me, and told him that's the person he'd ultimately wind up with. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder. Because the social ideal of what a woman should be -- whatever it is -- sure as hell isn't me.

The thing is I'm the odd animal on the carousel -- the zebra, or the ostrich, or the random dragon in a sea of horses. The animal that's kind of cool because it's out of the ordinary, but that obviously doesn't belong there. I'm not the menu favorite that made the restaurant famous and got all the customers through the door. I'm the special of the day the waiter has to convince you to try instead. There's technically nothing wrong with me. I might even seem like a better option to people that up and decided they were sick of the same old, same old that day. But I'm never, ever even close to what people had in mind when they pictured the ideal partner/daughter/employee/friend back when all the world's possibilities were still wide open.

Most days, I'm at least OK with that. I mean... it's not like there's anything I can do to change the basics of who and what I am, so I have to be. Other days, I find it seriously depressing though. So depressing that I get urges to hurt myself or punish myself because I feel so much hate for my body, and face, and background, and personality at that exact moment in time. I don't hurt myself, because I know it's not what God or the few people that actually care about me would want, but I want to all the same. Those days are hard.