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Whining About Not Very Much

I have four prompts in my drafts folder. 2 are dictionary definitions of things that either interest or annoy me, and the other 2 are vaguer shower/email thought prompts.

They don’t sound good to write.

I thought about writing about mothers, and the holiday yesterday. The thing is, I’ve done that? It would retread these themes: I miss my mom. I think the holiday has a tendency to encourage fictionalizing/romanticizing some relationships (and I didn’t have a wrought relationship with my mom). I am not a bio-mom for anyone. I feel weird being a step-mom/-mom-in-law to adults, and being shoved in those roles by random semi-strangers. I sometimes feel weird being a god-mom for a long host of reasons. The only mom thing I feel good about is being a cat-mom, and that’s not a socially acceptable thing.

See? Written up very succinctly.

I think I’m just feeling tired, and disgruntled, and frustrated. In part that’s likely work related. It’s also life related. Having recently bought a house, and moved, our life is only mostly settled. We still have dozens of boxes that need sorted and a small storage we haven’t moved yet. I’m not sure if I’ll be all better once that happens, or if it will just be a new thing.

This is the point where I usually remind myself that I’m privileged to be able to whine about the things I’m whining about. I have it very good, in a lot of ways. And even on days when my brain is completely fried and I feel misunderstood by everyone, I’m still doing better than I could be.

I do feel better about one major thing this weekend: after several bookshelf purchases, all of the book boxes that I know about are finally unpacked. And shelved. And even basically organized!

I may still need to unpack miscellaneous office junk. And remaining art. And random hidden boxes of clothes. But BOOKS ARE ON SHELVES WHERE I CAN FIND THEM.

Why can’t I take that success and wallow in it for a bit? I must be a glutton for punishment.

Happy Birthday, Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – The Bed Song

For her birthday, Amanda Palmer asked if folks who loved her things might share them and more importantly talk about them a little.

It’s hard, for me a bit, to talk about what music of Amanda’s I like. Because I didn’t find her through her music. I found her through Neil Gaiman and then twitter, I think, although I’m not actually sure I wasn’t quite on twitter yet when he first posted about Who Killed Amanda Palmer. (I just looked it up. That was released late 2008, and I believe I’ve been on Twitter since 2007, so it very well happened simultaneously or very near to.)

This song though, that I’ve embedded above, makes me hurt in a cathartic way. Because I do sort of think about my first marriage, listening to it. We didn’t grow apart in the bed, particularly. Or at least, the increasing size and quality of the bed wasn’t as obvious of a symbol as it is in the song. But we did grow apart. And it was, in large part, due to not talking to each other and realizing the ways we were growing and somehow integrating those things. I’m not sure we could have. We became very different, over the years. But… sometimes I wonder if we couldn’t still have been friends. Perhaps not? In any case, this is a good song to listen to when you’re having a pensive moment about a former relationship.

I also bought, and really loved The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. It’s interesting to me, to learn what people think and are going through that helps them grow. And learn. And trust. I wish we could trust people more. A lot of the time, it actually is okay. Sometimes, it’s very much not okay. And it’s always a learning experience. This book was wonderful for that. And it just made me feel closer. In a lot of ways, that’s what I love about both Amanda, and Neil, and why it was and is wonderful that they’ve come together as a couple and have a new human between them. They truly encourage community around them. People who love them are open to helping each other, just because of the commonality of the artists they love. It’s the same, and yet different, from so many other fan groups out there. And a pretty amazing thing.

So thank you Amanda, and Happy Birthday!

Is it Imposter Syndrome if it’s about myself?

Imposter syndrome is when you’re successful at a thing, but you secretly believe that someone is going to come and explain that they’ve figured you out, you’re a fraud, and they take away your ability to do that thing. Basically. In a very over-simplified nutshell.

Writers feel it, quite often (I say this based on the number of authors I follow who admit to having had some sense of the problem), but women are also large sufferers – especially professional women, apparently. I know young mothers who have worried about if they’re really a good enough mom, but I’m not sure if that quite falls under the same category or not.

My thing is, people somehow see me as confident in who I am, in a generalized sense. Now, usually, I attribute this to them not knowing me particularly well. They know a facet of me – Work Me, for example. Work Me often appears to either know what she’s doing, or at least know when she doesn’t know, and then she appears confident because she generally has an idea of who to go to ask for help.

But a couple of weeks ago, a fairly long term friend spoke the thought that I was not like other people, because I was confident. I knew who I was and I didn’t seem to care what People thought, and I was just as happy being me as pretending to be someone else.

I’d had a drink, which was stronger than I normally drink, and very little food, and I laughed at her, or at least, the assertion. She doubled-down. She was positive I was quire comfortable in my own skin, and I didn’t seem to have the desire to express bravada and drama in being more or less than who I was. It was reassuring to be around someone who was that centered in herself, she said. It made me feel safe and like someone that she and others could be themselves around.

I blinked and let the conversation move on. Because what else could I say at that point?How can people see me as confident in who I am when I don’t know who I am, half the time? I have doubts like anyone. There are moments where I’m confident, sure. And yes, I know how I feel about some topics. But I don’t profess to know myself particularly well on all things. I’m pretty sure I evolve and change on a fairly regular basis.

I try to be kind. I try to be the sort of human that a stray animal would trust, for example. Or that a small child who grabs a familiar color denim leg, upon discovering it doesn’t belong to their actual parent, won’t panic. They’ll simply look around for the correct leg. I guess that works for the centered and safe feelings she described? But I have serious doubts about other basic aspects of myself almost daily.

I worry that I’m honest enough or perhaps too honest. I worry that I’m too optimistic, but then perhaps I’m too negative, and I don’t achieve the middle ground realism that I want. On the other hand, a little bit of rainbows and sparkles can’t be so bad … can they? I wonder if I always recognize my inherent privilege in being a white cis woman, but then again, when in certain states, people will speak Spanish at me and assume I understand it. (I do, if they’re slow enough and enunciating very carefully, but no more than a 5 year old might. And it’s not because I was raised speaking the language. It’s barely a second language.) I worry that I come off as cold, or too warm. I worry that my sense of humor is so twisted as to be outré. I worry on a semi-constant state about something in the way I interact with the world at large, or don’t and perhaps I should

I suspect in some ways, that this is part of being human, and maybe a feminine human, and maybe a feminine human who reads and thinks quite a lot. I also suspect it is an aspect of living in my head more than perhaps others do. I know though, that not all humans behave this way. I’ve got enough friends who I’ve asked tentatively that don’t have this in common with me. They aren’t all men. (Although quite a few are.) And quite a few read quite a lot.

So I just don’t know. I wish, sometimes, I could experience myself as they do. I don’t know if it would help, exactly. But it would be interesting to see. As it is, I get startled almost every time someone says something nice about myself. It’s not that I think I’m a horrible monster or internet troll! I just don’t necessarily think I’m worth acknowledging in thanks, either. I feel very much like someone who can fade into a wall and disappear unnoticed.

Which could easily lead into another blog post about other things. For now, I think I’ll just wrap up by opening this to you readers: do you ever have that dissonant moment, where you’re told something about yourself, and you don’t recognize the person being discussed AS yourself?

Emotions

“Yoga newsletter. Negative emotions.”

This is one of seven prompts I have set for myself of random things that I’ve thought of, in an attempt to push myself to write more. For a moment, I couldn’t figure out why I was having negative feelings about a yoga newsletter. I mean, I feel frustrated that the current schedules and locations available don’t work with the time I have available, and where I’m working and living. But then I remembered.

It was a note about how one of the instructors is often asked about positions and practices that can help cleanse the body of negative emotions. And how she has to gently correct those inquiring – while yoga as a practice can help the body and help bring wonderful emotions, it’s about being in the moment and experiencing all of life, in her view. That includes things we often call “negative” emotions, like fear, sadness, and anger.

I was really glad to read that, actually. Yes, those feelings are uncomfortable and no one enjoys having to experience the breath-stealing moments of fear, the electric hot fury of losing their temper or the bone-weary darkness of deep sorrow. But they’re part of life.

It reminded me, a little bit, of the movie Inside Out. Joy can’t figure out what Sadness’s job is. She feels like her fellow emotion doesn’t help. And then there’s a moment, where Bing Bong is very, very sad. Joy tries to be silly to cheer him up, and it isn’t working. She’s frustrated, and beginning to panic and turns away for just a moment. In that moment, Sadness sits down beside him and affirms what he’s feeling. She touches him, sits close, and listens to him just talk about it. She reassures him by being there with him in that moment and accepting that he feels sad. She allows him the space and time to feel. And it works. After a moment, the worst bits of the sorrow pass, and he takes a deep breath, says he’s better, and gets up to go on.

Joy is very confused, and doesn’t understand. She even asks Sadness what she did.

We need that. We need moments to be allowed to just BE whatever we are, even the so-called bad things. Should we wallow in those moments, and let them feed on themselves and grow beyond what is needful? No. Like everything, balance is needed. But sometimes, a good venting of anger, a good cry to release a sad feeling, or allowing our hearts to race with fear, and then take a deep breath and go on are exactly what is needed to help us stay mentally and emotionally healthy.

It’s stressful to be happy all the time. It feels forced, because it is.

I sometimes wonder if we get burned out on being happy, or upbeat, and that’s why people have to do progressively more extreme things to cheer themselves up or experience excitement.

I love giggling so hard I can’t breathe and cry tears of joy. But I just as much appreciate a movie that moves me to messy tears of grief, because in that moment, I can re-experience something in my past, or an important part of a story. I don’t enjoy being angry, but I can look back on how I’ve dealt with myself at various points of my life, when I was angry, and see how I’ve matured (or not – and thus have something else to learn and work toward as a goal). I don’t like scary movies, or being scared in general, particularly; but the moment of relief when I realize all is well or that I’ve at least made it through? That is wonderful! The feeling of being safe and sound is a wonderful thing to experience.

Sometimes, we experience all of these things at once. It’s what happens as we get older and grow. I loved that Inside Out showed that as well, with the core memories. I hope that slowly as we all age, we can all learn from people like the yogi who wrote the newsletter that turned up in my email as well. And learn to embrace, as best as they can, all of the emotions they have as well.

I know I can keep trying to do just that, on an almost daily basis.

Marginalia: When you’re intrigued but simultaneously despise it.

A friend posted a photo on Twitter recently, showing a library book she was reading that had notes in the margins. Someone had been writing notes in pen, either for their own edification, or for a class, or other study of some sort.1  Someone else followed later in pencil, critiquing the previous reader’s spelling and adopting a bit of tone. She captioned the photo tagging a mutual friend and mentioned he seemed like the sort who would write the second note, but said she knew better. He noted it couldn’t be him, because he didn’t write in all caps any more. I cut in and noted if I didn’t abhor writing in books, I’d wonder if I’d written the 2nd note (hashtag postitlover). At this point, yet another friend piped in with simply one word: “Marginalia!” At which point, I remembered a half-dozen things and mumbled I should write a blog about marginalia. Font Folly thought this would be a fun read. So. Here is a bit of un-packing of my thoughts.

In college (or high school, but I recall it the most in college), books are bought (really leased) and then later sold back in book stores, and you end up with used books that are loaded with notes; in the margins, on the page, within the tables, and along the lists.

If you were very lucky, you had a book that was previously used by a smart note-taker. More often, you have people who aren’t always paying complete attention to the teacher.

So I developed an extreme hatred for notes in the margin of biology, chemistry, history, political science and theory books. Even more, as I was an English major, I detested notes in the margins of novels; textbooks of essays, short stories, and poems; and plays. Because I could never experience the work unaffected by others. I never could get a first, unadulterated read.

I quickly discovered most professors had no sympathy for that argument:
“Just ignore it!”
But how do you ignore words on the page when you’re reading?
“Well, you ignore footnotes, don’t you?”
NO! They’re there to be read, and put there by the author or the editor! They’re intended to be part of the work.
“Wait, you actually read the footnotes?!”
Why wouldn’t I?!
“No one else does!”

Eventually, I figured out that not everyone reads in blocks and absorbs at least a general idea of the block of text at a quick glance.

I have to slow down significantly when reading aloud, because I can’t grab all of the text at once. It won’t come out of my mouth right. I recognize that’s not the best example. Everyone has to slow down a little bit to read aloud. Another example: I glance at a sign or ad block, or even a phone screen; and while I rarely get it exact, I can generally summarize what I saw without particularly trying. In fact, I have to work very hard to ignore or focus on just bits at a time. It’s a nice challenge, if I’m looking to do it. But if I’m trying to simply absorb the knowledge I’m reading, it’s a nuisance.

On the other hand, when I’m reading an article about how a historian or archeologist has discovered something new about monks, or normal people, based in part on the study of marginalia, and how those people were interacting with books and papers they found important at the time; I’m incredibly interested and want to read all about it! Yes, I even want to read those pages, myself! Because then it’s historical record, and in some way, my brain has decided it’s okay, even intended, to be experienced in such a way.

I do realize; it’s a hypocritical reaction. But I can’t deny I find the sociological implications very intriguing and even enthralling.

So I can’t say I hate marginalia. Because it’s more that I have a complicated relationship with it. I would prefer to use post it notes myself, when keeping notes2, and not have to see others’ notes when I’m studying something actively; but I do love that they exist and that there are things we can learn from them.

 

1. Honestly, I think the original reader was arguing with the text and couldn’t resist him or herself.
2. A reading journal would be awesome, but I’m not that organized and I recognize that about myself.

A brief update, and a wish for the season

Haven’t blogged in a while.

Honestly not entirely sure what to write about now. But I thought I should check in for a few reasons.

NaNoWriMo – a bust this year. I did worse than last year, which is horribly disappointing. I have some ideas as to why: lack of discipline, an overabundance of depression (how ’bout that election, Fred?) and a bit of seasonal (but not seasonal affective disorder) depression. All are legitimate reasons for my failure, both at 50,000 words and my sub-goal of beating last year’s total (I wanted to manage at least 30,000 words). The very bitchy part of myself says I should have been able to push past those things. And maybe if it had been 2 of 3, I could have. But 3 of 3 was too much this year, and I’m trying to give myself a pass. I did succeed in updating my Scrivener app so I can write on my iPad which is easier to carry than the laptop, and even DID write out and about at least 3 separate times. I just need to make an effort to improve. So, I will.

Not listed in the argh above is the stress of planning a home purchase and move. We haven’t packed as much as I’d like, and it’s throwing off holidays and other things. It probably even contributed to NaNo#Fail. But it’s coming along and hopefully, things will be finalized next month and we’ll be in our first house. It’s the first one I’ve owned, and my hubby is treating it as the first one he has owned – even though technically it’s not – because it’s been so long since the last purchase, and it’s so different, being a stick frame built as opposed to a manufactured placed on a foundation.

Various awesome things have happened this year. Various ugh things have happened this year. Mostly, I’ve wanted to vent about the ugh things, but I don’t feel 100% safe doing that in this space, and haven’t. I’m not entirely sure how I want to deal with that, but I’ve found a tiny steam valve and am starting to use it a bit more. I think it’s safe, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s a short form location though, and sometimes, I want long form. So it could very well change in the future.

Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday. And the anniversary of his death. He’s been gone 12 years, as of roughly 8am (slightly earlier, if I recall correctly) tomorrow morning, and there are days when I miss him dreadfully. On Christmas night, it will be the anniversary of mom’s death. She’ll have been gone 6 years. I’ve missed her worse this year than in a very long time. Most of that is the election. Some of that is the house. Some of it is a couple of movies I really think she’d have enjoyed so much. Sometimes, I blog specifically about those days. But this year, work is… work. And I don’t think I’ll have that luxury, so I’m just going to leave this hear and remember them as best I can in the moment.

I wish the merriest of Christmases, and the happiest of holidays to all of you. Whether you’re a dear friend who happens to stumble on this space and we speak daily, or you’re a stranger who just sees it in passing, know that there is a person in the world who does, honestly, hope that everyone is able to enjoy a moment of pure joy this season. We all deserve it, no matter what anyone anywhere says or does.

What feels “normal”?

I was thinking about it the other night, when doing the dishes, and I can’t really remember not knowing someone who is not straight. I can remember not having a word for it, or not completely understanding why we never got to meet the person they were dating, but for as long as there have been “not blood family” people that interacted with my family, there were always men who didn’t have girlfriends or wives, and occasionally women who didn’t have boyfriends or husbands in my life. I’m 43 years old. I’m not a kid.

So when people would say things about men being bad to little boys, I’d have extreme doubts they knew what they were talking about. Because J was one of my favorite babysitters. He was an awesome cook, he would listen to the reasons for building cushion and tinker-toy forts the way we built them (you have to use the tinker-toys so you can make a tent roof out of sheets), and realize that yes; I’m a girl, but I still don’t believe he’d do bad things to little boys. And when I finally got around to asking mom why he didn’t have a girlfriend or wife, because he’d be an awesome daddy, and she explained he didn’t date in town and why, my first reaction was: Oh, okay. And then I was sad. Because it was stupid. I was so excited many years later to know he DID get married and he and his husband had a daughter they adopted. And I was even more sad to know that he passed away later, and I’d never gotten to hug him again. I think I first met J when I was 5.

There are others, obviously, that have been in and out of my life. Students and co-workers of my dad’s, my own teachers, students I went to school with (and occasionally had crushes on). But non-straight people have been people who were normal (and yet very quiet and careful) for more or less all of my life that I’ve been aware of other people. And to me, literally the only different things about them were: they loved someone who was the same gender as them (mostly, I don’t remember many people as a kid who said they were asexual, although I wonder about a few and if they just didn’t have a word for it then), and they were almost always scared to talk about it except with very trusted close friends and family. And I always accepted what they wanted, because it’s their life, but it still made me sad.

A lot of those friends and family are scared now, and I believe they have every reason to be. And I keep trying to figure out why there are still people in the world who judge people who are LGBTQ+ as evil, or sinning, or anything negative, and I wonder if it isn’t because they’ve never known that they know people who are. I grew up in a town of under 9,000 people, you see. Yes, I had the advantage of that town being home to a four-year university of about that size enrollment, but still. It was in Texas. There were more than 100 churches of various faiths (but mostly protestant type Christian – some evangelical) there. And I still was aware. On the other hand, I have also been aware that my habit of taking people at face-value can be rare. I’ve been accused of being overly optimistic by those who are more jaded. At the same time, I’ve been accused of being pessimistic when I’ve tried to be careful – because of being jaded myself by people’s reactions.

So I still get trapped in a circular headspace of how? How do you decide that just because that woman on TV loves another woman, she’s a sinner and horrible; when you know nothing else about her? Why assume that a man who loves men is broken in some way, when you know nothing else about him? If they have done something else – robbed a store, thrown a burning match into a school, stolen their neighbors identity to buy a car – then fine! They are obviously not nice. But just about who they love or want to have sex with?

Bi-sexual people are not immediately kinkier than anyone else just for being attracted to two genders. I myself, for a very long time, have noticed women more than other women seem to. Yes, quite a few women look at other women or will objectively note that one or another is pretty. But I really sometimes wonder – am I actually attracted to them? There have been feelings for individual women that have been really close to what I’d call a “crush”, based on crushes I’ve had on men. I still can’t decide if that makes me bi-sexual. And frankly, writing this paragraph scares me because I am putting it out in public, and my face is on my blog. But beyond being supportive in my votes and my charitable contributions, perhaps I ought to just also be more open about myself.

Because I would be very willing to bet that the straight cis people who keep othering those in the LGBTQ+ community know more people in that community, trust more people in that community, go to church with and shop with more people in that community, than they think they do.