Speak the Language

“What do you do for a hobby?”

This question has always frozen me in my tracks. I’ve never been very good at answering it. Other people can readily say they knit or watch birds or collect ceramic oysters. Me? Not so much. It seems like the things that I do as a hobby come and go. I made jewelry for a while. I did oil pastels, water color and ink drawings, painted wine bottles. I sewed. By hand, of course, because I never could work a sewing machine. Sometimes it feels like writing is a hobby with my lack of completed projects, submissions, and published works. I suppose Book ’em, Danno could be considered a hobby, but I don’t really think of it that way. It’s fun, but it’s a project and it has a schedule, so it’s still work to me. Yeah, I don’t get paid for it, but you try explaining that to my brain. Try explaining anything to my brain. Let me know how far you get.

Because that’s the thing with hobbies, isn’t it? We live in a culture in which the monetization of your hobby is encouraged, particularly if it’s something creative. Is it really a hobby if you’re not putting the fruits of your fun time waster up on Etsy? It feels like that. Sure I made a nifty thing. Now what do I DO with it? Everybody is getting painted wine bottles for Christmas and now the family is discussing an intervention.

I’ve not spent my free time doing my crafty hobbies because I don’t know what to do with the crafts once playtime is over. For awhile I thought that was my true hobby, but that doesn’t make a good answer to the hobby question.

Then I realized the other day that I DO have a hobby. An unlikely one, for sure, but it fits the definition of doing something for fun, even if I do it every day instead of waiting for leisure time.

I learn languages.

As of this blog post, my streak on Duolingo is almost four years long. FOUR YEARS. And I just recently added my seventh language course. SEVENTH.

For the record I’m learning Spanish, French, Russian, Czech, Hawaiian, Korean, and Scottish Gaelic.

Why?

Because it’s fun.

I also may have a bit of an addiction to it, but whatever. It’s cheaper than smoking.

But really. Even on the difficult lessons and on the days when I can barely work English so I know Russian is going to be a challenge, I enjoy it. I am not at all good at it. My pronunciation in most of the languages is a joke. On my best days I can barely understand French. Czech grammar can give me fits. I’m not going to be freely conversing with any native speakers anytime soon. But it’s magical when I recognize a Korean word without a hint or nail the spelling of a Hawaiian word or somehow get the right pronunciation in Gaelic. I live for that high.

And that’s what a hobby is, right? Doing something for pleasure.

Well, this certainly pleases me.

An Anniversary of Sorts

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This month most people in the States will be observing their Covid-19 anniversary. It’s the last day they went into the office, the last time they ate inside a restaurant, the last time they went to a bar with friends.

My anniversary is March 16th.

That was the last day that the library I work at was open “normally.” I use quotes because even though we were open for our normal hours of operations and people weren’t required to wear masks yet, some changes had already started to happen. We’d taken out the seating and the soft toys, had gone to touchless checkouts, were sanitizing everything, and were washing every item that had been returned with bleach water. That last day was a mad house because the state lockdown was looming and we all knew it.

Our library director along with the board had decided that if the schools closed for spring break early, then the library would close as well, and that’s what happened. That Friday, the governor ordered the lockdown.

And now here we are, a year later.

Over on my Twitter timeline, I saw people starting in late February warning folks about their Covid anniversary, how it might hit them harder than they thought it would. I thought that made sense. Some people were harder hit by the pandemic than others. I consider myself one of the luckier ones. I didn’t lose my job. In fact, I got paid when the library shut down and I was paid my regular hours when I was working much less than that once we were allowed back into the building. I haven’t had Covid (yet) and I haven’t lost anyone to it (yet), though I know many of my friends have. I didn’t think my Covid anniversary would be much of a big deal.

At the monthly meeting, our director said that we were going to do a small acknowledgment among the staff for our Covid anniversary, a thank you to all of us for being so flexible over the past year, which I think is great. We’ve all been busting our asses to serve our patrons during a difficult time. It’s nice to work for people who recognize that.

In the past week, as other people I know have been celebrating their Covid anniversaries, I’ve been working harder and harder to convince myself that mine isn’t a big deal. Because I’m feeling it more and more.

I’ve hit a couple of walls during the pandemic. Just splat into the brick of exhaustion, of frustration, of anxiety, of I-want-to be-done-now-thank-you. And I realize that I’m hitting yet another brick wall just in time for my anniversary. Maybe it’s because of the anniversary itself. Maybe it’s because now instead of arguing with people who don’t want to wear a mask because they think this whole pandemic thing is bullshit but we’re still requiring masks according to the CDC guidelines, I get to argue with people who don’t want to wear a mask because they’ve been vaccinated but we’re still requiring masks according to the CDC guidelines. Maybe it’s because with the vaccination, the end is in sight and I want so badly to time-jump to that point. Whatever it is, I am tired of this pandemic and everyone in it and I am splatting against this wall with all I have.

I, like everyone else, am done.

And, like many people, I am looking forward to the end of this.

I don’t want to celebrate a second anniversary.

Turning 41

Okay, so if you don’t count the pandemic and the political unrest, 40 actually wasn’t too bad. I’m sort of sad that it’s over since I really didn’t get to do much with it, though I did make some small personal progresses.

I’d like to do more of that for 41.

In some spiritual beliefs this is called stepping into your power. That’s what I want to do. Or do more of that, anyway. Cross off more things on the Big To Do List and give a few less fucks.

Look, if someone is going to continue to drop the ball at their job and keep letting me have birthdays, then I’m going to continue to find things to do to fill the time. And the older I get, the more I want to do other stuff, the stuff I didn’t think I could do when I was younger.

I’m feeling 41 is going to be a time for new things. I want to try new things, do new things. I realize that might be somewhat limited due to circumstances, but I’m sure I can work something out. It might be nothing more than learning to make a new recipe or learning a new craft, but it will be something shiny.

I think I’m also going to take some time during 41 to plan for 42. I never do anything big for my birthday. So, if everyone cools out for a minute and we get the pandemic under control, I’d like to take a trip for 42.

But, first 41.

Cheers to that.

Everything Is Terrible

Between the pandemic, the politicalization of the pandemic, a corrupt and cruel government that continues to fail the people -Hell, there was a failed coup attempt just this past week which will probably see no punishments and will be normalized- and the constant daily stresses of it all, it’s easy to ask “How do you create in a time like this?”

Counterpoint: How do you do ANYTHING during a time like this?

There is this foolish notion that circumstances like this somehow lead to great and productive creativity. That art is like a diamond and it’s brilliance can only be created through intense pressures. Well, I’m no artist and I don’t create anything that would qualify as art, but let me tell you, this is wrong, especially for a hack like myself.

It’s no secret that I was struggling before all of this shit came crashing down on our heads. My productivity was down, hampered by self-doubt, depression, and stress. I actually felt, though, at the beginning of 2020 that I might be coming out of that. I thought what I needed was a shift in direction to get my productivity jump started.

And then came the ‘rona.

This past year has just been miserable. Writing has been relegated to an afterthought for the most part. I had several projects planned for 2020. I always plan more than I know I can do in a given year just because it gives me a big picture view of what I need to do and helps me pick my priorities. I did two of the writing projects on the list (I did finish Book ’em, Danno Season 1, but that isn’t really a writing project) and one of those was NaNo. That’s it. For most of the year, I didn’t even have the energy to think about writing. Hell, I couldn’t even blog on a weekly basis like before.

And that really bums me out.

I feel like a failure on a daily basis. Not just with the writing, but really, with everything. And that feeling doesn’t contribute to a lot of productivity in any area of my life. There’s a list of things that I’m going to spend my vacation week doing because I just haven’t had the energy to get them done. They aren’t difficult things. Maybe a little time consuming, but nothing that requires a lot of effort. And yet, I don’t feel like I have the energy to do any of it.

I’m just scraping by, day to day, bit by bit. It’s overwhelming, it’s too much. I’m constantly exhausted. I cherish the days that feel almost normal, that I feel almost normal. I try to be as productive as possible then because I know that it won’t last. It’s a drag.

I know that I’m not the only one that feels like this. It’s a collective trauma that we’re dealing with here. We’re all tired, pushed to the brink, doing our best to get through.

I guess that’s what this post is.

Acknowledging that we’re all doing our best while everything is terrible.

Wrapping up 2020

I normally don’t do posts like this, but given the nature of 2020, I felt that it was warranted. After all, I haven’t really posted about much beyond writing projects, Book ’em Danno, and Murderville.

So, what about 2020?

Well, first of all it should be noted that I achieved all but one of my half-assed resolutions (which I won’t be making for 2021; if 2020 taught me anything, not getting dead and having a good time is enough of a challenge). Not getting dead and having a good time is difficult during a pandemic, but I managed. I also did a better job of reading consistently by using a habit tracker and I did better with the whole self-care thing. I did not clean out my sewing drawer. Honestly, I don’t even want to think about it.

There’s a lot of things I don’t want to think about. 2020 was exhausting and I’m grateful for the things I was able to accomplish.

I managed to cross off two items from my Big To Do List. The Big To Do List is a short list of things that are in some fashion daunting for me to do, either they’re cost prohibitive (because I am usually money-less) or time consuming/labor intensive or in some cases, virtually impossible. But even before this year went weird, I’d decided that I was going to buy new glasses (my other pair is only 13 years old) and get the tattoo cover-up I’ve been thinking about for years. The pandemic added another degree of difficulty, but I can’t deny that I feel pretty proud of myself getting them done.

I also finally went to the doctor about my persistent knee pain. Turns out I have severe tendonitis in both knees and ended up doing physical therapy for six weeks. It’s better, but I’m still not back to normal yet.

This doctor’s visit also informed me that I’d lost the battle with my blood pressure and needed to be put on meds for it. Looks like I can’t handle the stress of a pandemic too well. Who knew?

In other disappointing news, my writing really suffered this year. It took four months for me to revise The Support Group Meets on Wednesday and two months to write the novella Early Snow. Along with two entries for a 100 word contest and NaNo, that’s all she wrote. Literally. It’s a very good thing that I had Murderville done a couple of years ago. This soul sucking year just exacerbated the writing malaise that’s been plaguing me the last couple of years.

On the other hand, I kept up with Book ’em, Danno. When I first started it, I wasn’t sure I’d make it through the first season. Now I’m half-way through the second. The last couple of months have been a bit of a struggle, but I’ve been getting it done and it’s been getting a decent number of plays. That’s always encouraging.

So, yeah. 2020 has been a thing on all sorts of levels. Personally, I managed a few victories to prevent it from being a total loss.

And as foolhardy as it sounds, I’m going to try to build on that for 2021.

Life in the Time of Isolation

In the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett there’s a novel called Interesting Times and in it is a curse that goes something like, “May you live in interesting times.”

Pretty safe to say that we’ve all been cursed.

Covid-19 is no joke. It’s turned the world upside down and inside out. Or should that be outside in given how many of us are in quarantine, in isolation, sheltering-in-place, safe-at-home, social distancing, or whatever other euphemism they come up with that basically means we’ve all drastically altered our lives in an attempt to flatten the curve and minimize the damage of this awful virus.

My descent into interesting times happened back in March.

Monday, March 9th it was business as usual at the library. By Wednesday, we were sanitizing the public spaces more often. By Thursday, we’d gone to a touchless checkout to minimize personal contact. Friday, the public computers were spaced out, homebound deliveries had been suspended, and we were sanitizing every book that came into the library. Saturday, all events at the library were canceled, chairs were removed to discourage patrons from hanging around, and the meeting rooms were closed. That next Monday, we were washing everything that came in with soap and water and allowing patrons to stay in the building for no more than an hour.

March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, we were closed to the public and the building has been closed ever since.

A week before it had been business as usual and then…

Interesting times happen fast.

Interesting times are stressful.

The first week, week and a half after the library closed I found myself stress eating quite a bit. I think a lot of people did. But I’m not normally a stress eater, so it was a little disconcerting. By the time I got that under control, shelter-in-place had been extended and I was told I wouldn’t be back to work until May 1st at the earliest. At least, not back to work in the building. The library staff have been doing our best to do some work from home, doing projects to keep our online patrons (and some of our offline ones as well) engaged. I think we’ve been doing a swell job, given the circumstances.

Other than not leaving the house to go to the day job, a big chunk of my daily routine has remained unchanged. Actually, in some ways it’s improved. The time off work has let my knees heal, which in turn has allowed me to get my fitness schedule back on track. The end of March was rough because of the stress of everything, but here we are in the beginning of April and I feel on track, productive even. The excessive anxiety that had been plaguing me since the beginning of March has finally lessened and I think I’ve gotten my sleep straightened out. At the very least, I’m sleeping through the night more often. My dreams are still pretty stressed out most of the time, though.

That’s not to say that everything is fine. The world still feels like it’s on a massive tilt in a lot of ways. I dread going grocery shopping even more than I did before all of this started. Running errands used to be a chore; now it’s a gauntlet.

As an introvert with a dash of social anxiety, staying at home hasn’t been that much of a challenge. Sitting out in the backyard, reading a book, feeding the squirrels, life feels almost normal.

But it’s not.

Bad (Sleeping) Habits

Every year I get a new planner because I like to feel like I have my life together. Yes, it’s an illusion, but I get to personalize the planner anyway I want to, so it’s all good.

In this year’s planner, I put a habit tracker. There are a few goals that I have for the year and I thought the habit tracker would be useful for them. One is one of my half-assed resolutions. I want to read at least 5 days a week. I color those days with light blue.

I also want to increase the duration of my workouts. I try to exercise at least 10 minutes most days. Those days are purple. Fifteen minute days are pink. Twenty minute days are red.

And I also want to be more consistent with my sleep schedule. The days I’m in bed, lights off, TV off, phone off before 12:30 AM are dark blue.

Now the thing is I track my sleep and my workouts in my phone. But the habit tracker gives me a different kind of visual record. I can see everything all at once, color coded and easy to interpret.

In January, I read every day except for two. I worked out every day except for four and most of those workouts were at least fifteen minutes. Filling in those squares really motivated me to keep filling them out.

The same could not be said for my sleep goal.

I didn’t make it to bed before 12:30 AM nearly half of the month. I couldn’t get a streak going longer than four days. And there are too many times that I stayed up too late two nights in a row.

Sleep has always been a challenge for me. It’s gotten worse in the last few years. And my bad habits are surprisingly resistant to the slightly self-competitive nature of the habit tracker. I like besting myself. I like creating long streaks and then trying to break them. Hell, I’m well on my way to hitting 1,000 straight days on Duolingo for the second time.

But when it comes to my sleep habits, I just can’t seem to find the groove.

Of course I’m not giving up on the habit tracker just yet. I think that in this case, with this goal, it just needs a little more time.

Rest assured, I’ll put my bad sleep habits to bed.

 

No, I’m not apologizing for that.

Turning 40

Is turning 40 still a big deal? I guess for some people it is. I know I’m excited about it, which is kind of the wrong reaction. There’s still that stigma of 40 being old. It’s an age that women especially deny. I never quite understood that. I’ve earned every year.

It’s possible that because I never thought I’d live this long I am so chill with it. I figured that I’d do myself in at some point, either as the result of my depression or a fiery explosion of my own creation, most likely some sort of car accident because I’ve had far too many close calls. Or I insisted on petting something that I shouldn’t. That’ll probably be the way I go. Anyway. Getting to 40 seemed like an impossibility. I figured I’d biff it long before then.

But I didn’t and now I’m here. Granted, I’m not in the place I probably should be, not the one I want to be. I have failed at so much shit and have achieved none of the milestones I should have. And yet…I feel okay. I’m not depressed (and I’m usually clawing out of a winter depression during my birthday). I’m not down on what I haven’t done. I’m not bummed with getting older (honestly, I still feel 25…that’s probably part of my problem). I’m just kind of enjoying the moment.

A moment that I probably should have planned something super cool for to celebrate, but my long-term planning skills suck, so never mind.

Honestly, I’m rather looking forward to seeing what my forties brings. Since I haven’t done all of the things that I’m supposed to do, I won’t be doing the next things that I’m supposed to do. There’s an unplanned feel to it that I’m rather enjoying.

Here’s to hoping that it’s a good time.

Cheers.

2020 Half-Assed Resolutions

My 2019 resolutions were mostly done successfully. As you can see, still not dead, and 2019 was a better time than 2018, so we’re calling that a win. Book ’em, Danno is happening. I cleaned out my craft drawer, but I have no memory of doing it. It was either me or clutter elves, but either way, it got done. As for my art…I hung up one piece. Okay, I didn’t do something with all of the pieces I created in 2018, but I did do something with one of them and since these are half-assed resolutions, that totally counts.

2020 is a big year for half-assed resolutions. New decade and I’ll be 40. Gotta make these good.

1. Don’t get dead.

2. Have a good time.

3. Clean out my sewing drawer. I have to come to accept that I’m not sewing very much right now and that I don’t need all of the fabric and scraps that I’ve accumulated. Other people could put that stuff to better use and in the now, not in the metaphorical future.

4. Read consistently. I do read, but I’m a sporadic reader. Meaning, I can go all week without reading and then read half a book on a Sunday. As nice as spending a Sunday that way is, I’d like to read more throughout the week as well. I’m going to aim for at least 5 days a week. And since this is half-assed, the bar of how much to read on those nights is set on the floor.

5. Self-care. I am crap at self-care. I tend to wait until I’m about to fall off the ledge before I take the step back and go, “Hey, self. We should probably take a breather.” I’d like to make it more of a regular thing. Even if I could just take one day a month to assess and ask myself the necessary questions that gauge my well-being that would be great. I can work on addressing the answers for my 2021 half-assed resolutions.

Okay. Let’s get this new decade started.

Have a Bad Day

I woke up from a dead sleep at 4am with an anxiety attack. It had something to do with the day job, an insignificant thing that my broke-ass brain decided was a much bigger issue and decided to flail about it despite my repeated attempts at logic and reason. It took almost two hours for me to get back to sleep and even then, I ended up having fitful anxiety dreams.

This set the tone for my day. It colored everything I did. How I interacted with other people and dealt with them, how I went about my writing and my day job shift. When I finished my exercises in the morning (because I made myself do them), I sat on the floor with my head in my hands for twenty minutes, inert. I knew that it was going to be a day. I was going to be out of sorts.

And you know what?

I let myself have a bad day.

There’s this idea that bad days should be avoided at all costs. Do whatever you can to not have one. Don’t let that one moment ruin your twenty-fours hours. Change your attitude, change your perspective, other people have it worse, don’t let it get you down.

Granted, no one wants to have a bad day, but I think so much of that is because people don’t like dealing with other people having a bad day. It makes them uncomfortable. It’s awkward. They don’t know what to say or what to do. So, they tell you not to have one so they don’t have to deal with it. Which perpetuates this idea that bad days are some kind of failing. To have one means you’re not fighting hard enough to be happy and therefore not burden the other people in your life with your unpleasant, unkempt shit.

In the past, I would have struggled to turn my frown upside down and that struggle would have made my bad day worse. I would have pushed and everything I touched would have gone to instant shit. Like the Midas touch, only crappy. Instead, I knew from the minute I woke up with that anxiety attack that I was going to have a bad day and I accepted it. I didn’t wallow in it. I didn’t take it out on anyone else. I just acknowledged that this was the day that I was having and it was okay. I was allowed.

The result?

My day wasn’t great, but it didn’t get worse. It was bearable. I was more productive than I thought I’d be because I didn’t push myself. I gave myself an out for everything on my schedule. I forced nothing. I took nothing personally and I ate comfort food for dinner. I let myself be, I had my bad day, and I didn’t make anyone else uncomfortable in the process. My day ended up being grey instead of black.

And it ended better than it started.

Two bowls of cereal have that power.