Turning 38: Pretty Neat

I have successfully completed yet another trip around the sun. And it was pretty okay.

Last month, one of my cousins had a birthday and the upside down smiley face she used when she announced that she was twenty-four made me think that perhaps she didn’t dig the idea of being twenty-four. I don’t know. I’m barely literate in emoji.

Whatever her intended meaning, my interpretation of it got me thinking about how people tend to have those dreaded ages. For my roommate it was 40. For a lot of women, for some reason, it’s 40. For some, it’s 30. Mine was 13. I didn’t want to be 13 because that meant I wasn’t a kid anymore, I was a TEENAGER, and that just sounded like a fate worse than death to me. Because after teenager is adult, and who the hell wants to be that?

Not me and I’ve avoided it spectacularly.

I think I lucked out getting my dreaded age out of the way early. Now when other people are bemoaning their impending 50th or 25th or whatever, I’m turning 38 like, “Holy shit, how am I still alive? Someone should be fired for this.”

One thing I’ve noticed in my slide down the hill to 40 is that I’m loosening up some. Maybe it’s the meditations and affirmations I’ve been doing. Maybe it’s the realization that I’m getting beyond the age of expectations. It’s harder and harder for society to place expectations of certain achievements, attainments, and behaviors because I’m too old now. It’s too late. There’s no hope for me.

It’s the release of that pressure to live up to these arbitrary benchmarks that’s got me feeling loose. It’s not that I’m now going to abandon everything and become a useless lump. Some might argue that I already am one because I’ve always been one. No, it’s not giving up. It’s the shifting of focus from what society wants to me to be and achieve and the stress caused by the cognitive dissonance of that to what I actually want to be and achieve and the lack of stress from striving for that without any inner conflict.

Makes me feel pretty optimistic about 38.

I think it’s going to be some kind of chill.

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2018: The Experimental Year

When I was younger, my two preferred career choices were either shark biologist or meteorologist with a specialty in tornadoes. Because I only like science when it wants to kill me. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but my interest in science could be the reason why I’m doing a few experiments this year.

Or calling them experiments, anyway.

I suppose it might be more accurate to call them challenges or resolutions, but I already make half-assed resolutions, so I don’t need any more. And I don’t like calling them challenges. I do challenging things and they’re tiring. I don’t want to be exhausted just thinking about these things.

So, instead, I approach them scientifically. Because I love the scientific method. Somehow, that doesn’t sound exhausting to me.

I hadn’t intended to do any experiments this year, but in the last few days of 2017 and the first day of 2018, three ideas came to me and I decided to act on them.

Experiment #1: 100 Days of Exercise

December was a disaster for me fitness-wise. I was only a few days in and I was like, “Yeah, I’m tired. Can we be done?”, which fed into the struggles I’d already been having with my exercise routine. During my reset week (the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve), I watched a lot of videos of people doing things every day for 100 days: going to the gym, doing push-ups, making origami birds. It inspired me to do my own thing.

At least twenty minutes of exercise every day for 100 days. I’m hoping that this will jerk me out of my exercise slump and help me feel better so I won’t descend into another slump later in the year.

Experiment #2: Write a page a day

Yes, I already write a lot. Just about every day in fact. I write whole novels in November. But as it’s commonly said among writers (or maybe I’ve just read it a few times and now I think it’s common), if you write one page a day, by the end of the year, you’ll have a book. And I want to try that.

I picked one of the story ideas that I got towards the end of 2017, one that I really like, but have no idea when I’d write. This experiment solves that. Now, I don’t know if I’ll actually write 365 pages of this story; I don’t think I’ve ever written any story that was that long, even double-spaced. But I will write one page a day, every day, until it’s done. That works for me.

I can also use this as a warm-up page to help me get into my writing work on the days I’m feeling sluggish and a bit procrastinate-y.

Experiment #3: Write four sentences in four different languages

By virtue of Duolingo, I’ve been studying different languages. I started with Spanish, which I took two years of in high school, because I needed to brush up in order to teach it to my nieces for their home school curriculum. When I finished all of the lessons in the Spanish section, I started with French. I hated French, so I didn’t get very far before stopping for a while.

When I picked it back up, I added Russian to my languages because I’ve always been fascinated with their alphabet and wanted to learn to read it. When Duolingo offered Czech in beta, I quickly added it, too, since it has some similarities to Russian.

Yes. I’m insane.

To help my understanding and memory retention, I thought it’d be a good idea to actually write a sentence in each language every day. Just one sentence per language and it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. It doesn’t even have to be the same one. With Spanish, I can pretty much write whatever comes to my head, but with the others, I’ll probably be copying sentences from the lessons until I get more comfortable.

I have no idea if this will actually help me with learning my languages, but I figure it can’t hurt. It’ll also be a good use for one of my many, many notebooks.

I’m looking forward to doing these three little experiments. If anything, they’ll make my year a little more interesting.

Science must be served!

2018 Half-Assed Resolutions

My 2017 half-assed resolutions were executed better than half-assed even though I forgot about them for most of the year. Go team me!

Obviously, I did not get dead. I also had a better time than anticipated, at least in certain areas of my life. I’m glad that I’m continuing to do well on those two resolutions.

I went through my books and even managed to get rid of a few. I can’t say that I did more belly dance for the joy of it. I did at least do more actual dancing rather than just drills, working dance routines into my exercise regime, so I’m counting that. And even though I didn’t do one big good thing this past year, I did do several small things and you know what? They add up.

So, here’s the 2018 half-ass resolutions that are going to carry me through the year.

1. Don’t get dead.

2. Have a good time.

3. Art once a month. I have art stuff. Hell, I have an art drawer (which I just cleaned out because holy disorganized pack rat, Batman). I should use these things. I like to art. I think it’s good for my creativity. But I don’t do it with any regularity. Setting aside a little time once a month to do art would be good, I think.

4. Make progress on my blanket. The reason this isn’t “finish my blanket” is because these are half-assed resolutions and finishing the blanket would take my whole ass. But the truth is that I started it more than a few years ago and it could stand some significant progress being made. Like finishing the front of it.

5. More rerun junkie posts. If I’m on a podcast (Eventually Supertrain! Everyone go listen!) talking about Green Hornet, then I need to maintain my rerun junkie street cred. Especially if I’m actually going to go through with the idea of writing a book about ’70s cop shows.

Let’s get wild, 2018.

It’ll Be Fine When I Get There

I have anxiety. It’s great fun. I’ve learned to cope with it for the most part. Little tricks that make living with it more bearable. Because anxiety lies just as much as depression, let me tell ya.

I think of my anxiety in two ways: anticipatory and aftermath. The holidays are a great illustration of how this works.

First we have the anticipatory. I literally start having the anticipation anxiety as soon as November starts. I’m thinking of the gifts that I have to make and the places I have to be and the trinkets that I have to buy and the money I have to spend. All of that is pretty understandable. The holidays are overwhelming for lots of people. It’s a stressful time.

But the anxiety means that there’s no release valve. There’s no relief when I get something on the Grinchmas To Do List finished. Is it good enough? Will they like it? Could I have done better? Do they think I’m cheap? These thoughts continually pop up in my head no matter how many times I answer these questions.

And then there’s the actual going of places. I imagine most people who have decent-to-good relationships with their families don’t have much in the way of anxiety when it comes to seeing them for the holidays (except for maybe traffic). Well, I do. In fact, I have anxiety any time I’m supposed to see anyone because what if I’m wrong? What if this isn’t the right day? The right time? Am I dressed appropriately? Do they really want me there? Now because I tend to have low level anxiety whenever I go anywhere, this is easier to deal with. I just remind myself that it’ll be fine when I get there. Because it will be. It always is. But I need that mantra.

Then there’s the aftermath anxiety.

No matter how well things went, I am inevitably smacked with this sort of anxiety (it happens a lot after I record a podcast or submit a story). When it comes to the holidays, it means I get home from my merry-making (where I usually have a good time) and the questions start again. Did I say the wrong thing? Did I do this wrong? Did I sound/look like a moron? Was I wrong about something? Did I sound sincere enough when I thanked them for the present? Was I appreciative enough? I have come to depend on meditating to help me purge my anxiety, as I think of it. Otherwise, I can’t sleep and when I do, I dream about it, the distorted barrage of questions invading my slumber.

Between my amped up anxiety and my usual holiday blues, the holidays are a great time. So much of my exhaustion actually comes from trying to maintain some sort of mental health so I can function. A couple of years ago, the blues went into a full blown depressive episode. This year, my anxiety is pummeling everything. At this point, I’m willing to sign a petition to have December cancelled.

But like every other day when my anxiety acts up, like every other year at this time, I remind myself…

It’ll be fine when I get there.

The Seattle Break

The Seattle trip was a good one. We did the touristy things like going to the Space Needle, MoPop, the zoo, the aquarium, and Pike Place Market. We also ate really well as I’m now convinced that you cannot get a bad meal in Seattle. We drank at the hotel bar while watching playoff baseball and ordered room service so we wouldn’t miss any of the final Cubs/Nats game. The weather was cool, but pretty every day but one, when it was rainy and chilly, and we spent that day at the aquarium, so we didn’t notice. We fed penguins and touched sea cucumbers and petted Muppet fur and I ate a donut at the top of the Space Needle. Our hotel had a magnificent view of the water and the mountains, a gorgeous sight to wake up to. I ate breakfast at a little table looking out at that view every morning and watched the sunset from the balcony every evening.

Most importantly, I refrained from obsessive social media checking during the trip. Oh, I posted pictures to Facebook and Instagram and posted a few tweets during those six days (several during the last stretch of the trip home since our flight was delayed and it was starting to look dubious that we would ever leave Gate G5), but the obsessive checking and scrolling that I had vowed to refrain from before leaving was indeed refrained from.

And my sanity feels so much better.

In a way, the trip to Seattle was almost like taking a trip to a different reality. There, the agenda was different. My focus was on the immediate, the tangible. I was there to do some exploring and a little research. I was there to experience. And so I did. I forgot about the rest of the world for six days and I just experienced my immediate surroundings.

It was glorious.

I came back from Seattle feeling better than I have in months. My anxiety isn’t quite as close to critical. I feel calmer, more clear-minded, more relaxed. Refreshed. Hell, even while I was there I felt the shift in my sanity’s equilibrium. I was able to solve the outlining problems I was having on The Stories of Us After Them while I was there. I felt inspired, which helped with the bit of research I had planned. Seattle ended up being a salve on the open wound that was my mental health.

I am restored.

Now, I acknowledge a few things about this whole break. First of all, I know it’s a privilege for me to get to take this break. I’m lucky enough to have a roommate who was willing to drag me along on her trip and provide me the opportunity to get away for a bit and explore and research a new city. Not everyone has that sort of opportunity and I am forever grateful to her for providing this one for me.

I also acknowledge that not everyone has the privilege or the opportunity to disengage, especially for that long. Not with the way this government is operating. I think it is important for everyone’s mental health to take a break now and then, but I understand why it’s not possible for some people.

The final thing I realize is that I think it’s vital for me, at least, to disengage more often, more regularly, to take breaks from the obsessive checking and scrolling, to forget the world for a day. I think that I’m going to start doing this at least once a month, if not more often, just to try to maintain a little of that equilibrium I found out in Seattle.

I like that feeling of peace. I’m in no mood to lose it now.

A Minor Detox

My lovely friend Chris Clayton, one half of the dynamic podcasting duo (with Tom Elliot) behind the new and awesome Lost in the Omniverse (Seriously, go listen! Enrich your lives!), recently returned from a social media detox. He spent a few weeks away and has returned refreshed and while I am very happy to see him back in my timeline, I can totally understand why he decided to unplug for a bit.

In fact, I’ve been thinking of doing it, too.

Honestly, I’m probably overdue. The constant stream of endless information has become overwhelming, especially in light of the shit slide the current US government has us careening down. It’s sensory overload of a sort and I’m doing myself a disservice by allowing myself to be exposed in such a continuous fashion. I’m supposed to be doing better at self-care, dammit.

Now, I have my excuses for not disconnecting. First of all, if I take a break, remove myself from the loop, then I will be oblivious to the horrors unfolding around me because I don’t do TV news. CNN and MSNBC are on the other TVs in the house, but mine stays on my rerun channels, CBS (for my NCIS: New Orleans needs), and whatever station is showing postseason baseball games and/or horror movies. I will also be disconnected from the lives of so many of my lovelies. Interspersed between the various dumpster fires set by this arsonist administration are the real-time existences of so many people I’ve come to care quite a bit about. I’d hate to miss out on that.

Twitter is also my primary means of promotion. I have a Facebook page, of course, but I have more followers on Twitter. That’s my homeland. That’s where people get the most up-to-date info about what I’m working on and how to find it. If I haven’t been muted, of course. It’s also where I conveniently retweet all of the neat stuff my Twitter buddies are doing as well.

And now there’s the added need for Twitter as the Cubs are in the playoffs and I need to watch these games with my people. Emotional support is at its most crucial during this time of the year.

But.

There is no doubt in my overstimulated mind that I need a break. My concentration is suffering. My productivity is suffering. My sleep is suffering. My anxiety is tweaking. The holiday blues are looming and if I don’t go into that season in the right mindset, the blues become a depression rather easily. I need a small respite.

So.

I’ve decided that my Seattle trip will be a minor detox of sorts. I plan on posting to Twitter and Instagram a bit, since I will hopefully be having a good time and interesting experiences that deserve to be shared. And I’ll check in on some of my Twitter favorites. But for the most part, I will not be obsessively timeline scrolling while I’m out and about or relaxing in the hotel room. I only check Facebook once or twice a day as it is, so not checking it for a few days won’t be a problem.

I may experience some withdrawal with Twitter, though.

But in the long run, my sanity will thank me.

How May I Entice You to Buy My Wares?

It’s the time of year again. The days are getting shorter. The leaves are turning from green to yellow, orange, red, and brown. It’s getting cooler (in theory; it’s been in the 90’s the past several days). And money is getting tight.

For the past few years, no matter what the state of my income, the late summer/early fall has been the time when the fates have conspired to drain my bank account.

This year it has been the residual effects of a laptop crash followed by an unexpected bill and further hampered by inconsistent income due to the lack of a day job. Follow this with contributing to hurricane relief efforts, an impending trip (half-work/half-fun) to Seattle, and my yearly eye exam, and baby, I really need to make some money.

So, indulge me a moment, won’t you, while I remind you of what goodies I have to offer.

-If you check out the Read Me page, you’ll find all of my self-published works. Everything is available in eBook form and a few are offered as paperbacks. Prices range from 99 cents to $2.99 for the eBooks and $5.99 to $9.99 for the paperbacks.

Murderville is my Patreon project. I’ve just finished with the first season, The Last Joke, and the second season starts in January. For $1 you can read the whole first season right now and get early access to the teasers about the second season. For $2 you get all of that, plus bonus material released every other month in the form of other writing projects that either have yet to see the light of day or are paid materials. There’s a paid episode coming up on October 10th that will give readers an idea of what’s to come for Season 2 and when the new season starts, your pledge is per episode. And, we’re only a few dollars away from hitting the $25 goal, which means a mini-mystery! That’s not a bad deal for less than $10/$20 a year.

The Storytime Jukebox is a pay-what-you-want venture. Drop a buck or two in my PayPal and get the story/stories of your choosing. Right now there’s quite a selection and several options for ways to read them.

-And you can always buy me a coffee. If you like the blog posts, or you dig the freebies here or on Prose, or maybe just want to support me without feeling guilty about not wanting to read any of my stuff, Ko-Fi allows you to kick a little cash my way in $3 increments.

-If you’d rather go strictly garage sale, I’ve got a bunch of books listed on eBay that might interest you. I’ll also be doing a huge re-list of jewelry on Etsy in the next few days, probably with a huge discount. I’ve also got a tiny Zazzle store with a few trinkets.

And remember, sharing is caring. Passing the word helps me tremendously. This might not be for you, but it could be for someone you know.

Much appreciated.

Can You See Me Now?

This week, September 17th to the 24th is BiWeek. The idea is to raise awareness and visibility for the bisexual+ community.

I am bisexual. If you’re not sure what that it is, very simply it is someone attracted to two or more genders. I came to realize at a very young age that I liked both men and women*, and I’ve been out as a bisexual since I was 17. In fact, I often say that I was never really in the closet because I never hid my sexuality. I never thought it was a big deal.

However, now that I’m older, now that I’ve been around a bit, as they say, I realize that maybe I never had to hide my sexuality because nobody saw it. Nobody saw me.

Hell, I didn’t even see me.

There’s that joke that bisexuals are unicorns because no one believes we exist. And that sticks us in a weird sort of purgatory. We’re not straight. We’re not gay. And there’s this outdated idea that you have to be one or the other. Pick a side, pick a team. This is why we straight up disappear in relationships. Our sexuality is immediately invalidated the second we make a commitment to a partner. Now we’ve decided.

Years ago, when I was in my early twenties, some new friends of mine were talking about another one of our friends. She’d apparently dated a woman for a while, was single for a bit, and then got interested in and began dating a man. My friends said that she finally “figured it out”, that she’d been “confused”. Well, maybe she had been. But the idea of her being bisexual never entered the conversation and I felt like I didn’t know her well enough to introduce the possibility.

They probably would have just written me off as “confused”, too.

For years, I’ve been championing queer causes. I’ve been supportive of equal rights and marriage equality and civil liberties and all of that. But never once did I feel like I was working for my own cause. I had somewhere along the line bought into the myth that I wasn’t nearly as oppressed or discriminated against because I could “pass”. I wasn’t queer enough for that unless I was dating a woman.

I’ve been out for twenty years but only recently began to accept that even though I can pass, I’m still queer. That the validity of my sexuality doesn’t rest on the perception of others. That there is no unicorn fairy that will come and sprinkle rainbow dust on me and POOF! My sexual orientation will be valid. It already IS valid. Just by virtue of my existence.

Only recently did I finally start seeing me.

I am bisexual. I am queer. I am queer enough. My letter is right there in the damn rainbow alphabet. My sexual orientation operates independently of who I am in a relationship with. I am attracted to men and women whether single or partnered. That’s how it is, my friends.

So.

Can you see me now?

 

*For clarification purposes, yes, I like men and women. No, that doesn’t make me transphobic. As far as I’m concerned, trans men are men and trans women are women, end of. As for people who are non-binary or gender fluid or people who are intersex, I honestly don’t know. I’ve never been sexually or romantically attracted to anyone non-binary, gender fluid, or intersex before, but I’m certainly not dismissing the possibility.

The Girl With the Loud Brain

I have a loud brain, that’s how I think of it.

There’s always some kind of noise going on in there. Story ideas, blog posts, random bits of dialogue, craft projects, essays, observations, bits of poetry, my ever-present To Do List of Doom, daydreams, ruminations, memories, and if there’s nothing in particular I’m thinking about, then there’s a song playing. Hell, even my dreams are loud. My brain is just loud.

It’s been loud for so long that I don’t notice how loud it is most of the time. On rare occasions I’ll wake up in the morning and it’s like my eyes are open before my brain realizes that my body is awake and the split-second of silence in my head right then is deafening. That’s how I know just how loud my brain is.

And sometimes, my brain turns up the volume.

Sometimes it’s tornado loud in there.

You know what I mean. People say that tornadoes sound like a roaring freight train. The winds are violent, destroying everything, creating the loudest chaos. It gets like that in my brain. Too many ideas churning around, too many projects I want to do, too many items on the To Do List of Doom, too many fucking songs with their needles stuck in the groove, all playing at once.  So damn loud. A roaring freight train would be quieter.

And like with a tornado, the pressure changes. In my head, it rises, making my head feel unbelievably full, putting pressure on my eyes, making them close. An excessively loud brain shouldn’t exhaust me, but it does. The fatigue trickles down to my limbs and I am tired the whole time my brain is turned up to 11.

The cure for this is to release some of the pressure by getting some of the thoughts out of my head. This involves writing out my thoughts: the story ideas, the blog posts, the essays, the poetry, re-organizing the To Do List of Doom so I can better visualize it. Doing that, the physical act of taking some of the storm raging in my mind and channeling it through my fingertips onto a computer screen or a piece of paper so I can see it plainly in front of me instead of trying to catch glimpses of the madness as it ricochets off the walls of my mind, calms the storm. It brings the noise level back down to the dull roar that I’m used to.

Therein lies the catch-22. I need to empty my brain of some of the noise, but the excessive noise has made me too tired to empty my brain.

There are times when the noise dies down on it’s own, like a tornado suddenly dissipating as quickly as it formed. Most of the time, though, I just push through, emptying my brain bit by bit, hoping that the pressure will come down enough to allow me to do a full purge.

There’s nothing I can do about the songs stuck in there, though.

This is America

Someone posted a meme on Facebook showing pictures of people being rescued from the horrible flooding due to Hurricane Harvey. The caption read: “America is not what happened in Charlottesville. America is what’s happening in Houston.”

Bullshit.

America is both.

America is Joel Osteen not opening up his megachurch to Harvey refugees just as much as it’s a preacher going through floodwaters to search cars for people who might be trapped.

America is a Nazi running down Heather Heyer just as much as it’s two young people rescuing folks with a kayak.

America is the people price gouging water and food during a disaster while people share and donate to aid charities.

America is a president screaming that CNN is fake news while those same reporters are rescuing folks trapped in their houses.

America is “17 year old male found fatally shot in the backseat of a police cruiser in Akron, OH” while SWAT team members in Houston, TX are carrying children to safety through floodwaters at the same time.

America is ICE leaving immigrant women and children stranded at a bus station and a community group swooping in to save them.

America is the richest citizens criticizing those who didn’t leave Houston while a 60 year old woman wades through waist deep water to get to her $10 an hour job.

America is the $700 billion military unable to assist in a major disaster while the Cajun Navy is deployed.

America is Texas politicians asking for financial help for Hurricane Harvey after denying help for Hurricane Sandy.

America is a place that experienced Hurricane Katrina, but learned very little from it.

America is all of these things.

America is a brutal. It was conquered by genocide and built over their graves by the bodies of slaves. It’s racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic. It’s prejudice and oppressive to the poor in favor of the rich. A person’s worth is determined by their job and their bank account. Right now, the voices of hate are being emboldened by those in power as they demand walls and pardon men who violate the Constitution. You know. That sacred piece of paper with all of those amendment and the Bill of Rights, though it seems that most folks are only keen on the first two.

But America is also human. There’s a lot of love and kindness confined in these arbitrary borders. There’s hope, too. There’s resilience and courage. And you see that when you watch a woman rescue bats from underneath a bridge so they don’t drown. You see that with the teenagers rescuing people from Hurricane Harvey in their boat. You see that in the small group of young people who stood holding up a sign denouncing white supremacy while they were encircled by Nazis bearing torches and throwing salutes. You see that at every Pride parade. You see that when 15,000 people turn up to shout down hate.

It’s all America. All of it. It’s a tightly woven tapestry of horrible and terrific. You cannot untangle one thread from another.

When you say “this isn’t America”, you’re discounting the experiences of others, you’re disregarding history (if you even bothered to learn it outside of those standardized tests in high school), and you’re turning a willful blind eye to the injustices and suffering around you so you can focus on an ideal that doesn’t even exist.

America is not great. America has never been great. But, America could get better.

The first step is admitting it.

This is America.