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.

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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.

Resetting My Mindfulness

I am self-destructive.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me because I’m not classically self-destructive. I’m not a big risk taker. Never was one for drugs. Not much of a drinker anymore. I’m not going bareback in any rodeos, if you take my meaning. I wear my seatbelt.

My self-destruction comes more in the form of apathy and neglect. Which makes it hard to detect sometimes. Because some days it’s too much work to give a shit. Some days are meant to be tossed into the trash. Some days you’re just supposed to say “fuck it” and drive on without exercising or properly hydrating and eating like a raccoon raiding the dumpster behind McDonald’s.

Okay, you’re not supposed to, but you do.

Okay, maybe you don’t, but I do.

And sometimes these days blend together to establish a kind of norm and one day something comes along to rattle the cage of my existence and I realize, holy shit, I’m slo-mo blowing up again.

The really tricky part about this is that sometimes this self-destruction focuses itself on one smallish aspect of my life so I really don’t notice it until the behavior sprouts little roots that burrow into my existence and then that weed of destruction becomes even harder to yank.

For example, right now I’m having trouble with my eating habits.

What I mean by that is that I’m eating by habit. I’m not eating because I’m hungry. I’m eating because I usually eat at this time of the day. Managing my depression leaves me somewhat routine dependent, so I do tend to do things at the same time most days. I get up at the same time, exercise at the same time, shower at the same time, eat at the same time.  And while this is very useful, it also leads to mindlessness. It leads to eating my snack at three because it’s three and not because I’m hungry.

More troubling is my response to realizing that I’m doing this.

It’s nine o’clock. Time for my evening snack. I’m not really hungry. Oh well. I’ll eat it anyway.

What? No! Bad self!

Aside from the fact that eating when I’m not hungry isn’t a good idea in general, I also have a couple of digestive issues, including GERD, so eating when I’m not hungry is EXTRA not good. It’s particularly distressing that my response to this is, “Oh well,” and doing it anyway.

This behavior is tied directly to the apathy of my self-destruction, the neglect of my self-destruction, the utter not-caring-about-myself of my self-destruction.

So, I must be mindful. I must reset my behavior back to mindfulness. Depending on the situation, it can be quite a task.

In this case it means doing the thing I absolutely loathe: tracking everything I eat. I’ve written before about turning food into math and the guilt that comes with it, so there’s some natural apprehension that I’ll become obsessive about every food particle I put into my mouth. However, this time I’m approaching it a little bit differently.

The point of this very conscious food tracking isn’t to restrict my calories, but to be aware of what I’m eating, when, and why. The point of this is to be mindful about my eating. The point of this to reinforce the idea that I don’t have to eat a snack at three o’clock because it’s three o’clock.

The point of this is to re-educate myself on LISTENING to my body.

And then responding with something better than an apathetic, “Oh well”.

A Boobtacular 15th

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

It’s the anniversary of my breast reduction surgery! Hooray!

Break out the party hats and the balloons because it was 15 years ago today that I went under the knife and changed my life. My surgery scars are now eligible for their learner’s permit.

I’ve written about the struggle of having large breasts and the relief that surgery provided me. I’ve written about the scars that the surgery left behind and the struggle with the insecurities the scars have caused. I’ve even told my favorite boob story.

This year to celebrate, I’m going to tell you all a pre-surgery story.

My breast reduction was scheduled for eight in the morning, so I had to be there at six. My friend Gin had graciously volunteered to come out and take care of me, getting me to the hospital, hanging out with me there, taking me home, and minding me for a few days afterward. When we got to the hospital, we were met by my friend (and co-worker at the time) Josh.

I got checked in and settled into my room. Gin and Josh kept me company until it was time to go under the knife. When the nice nun came in to ask if I’d like to pray before surgery, I politely declined, thanking her anyway. There may have been a comment made after she left that the nice nun praying for me would have been pointless as I make angels cry.

Anyway.

I can’t remember where Gin had gone to, but when the nurse came in to insert my IV, only Josh was with me. Now, I’m not afraid of needles. Naturally, I’d prefer not to be punctured by them, but for me, they’re no big deal. Josh, on the other hand, didn’t like needles. At all. Period. But, Josh is a sport and he wanted to be supportive. So while this nurse tried to insert my IV, Josh held my other hand.

And he also held the hospital menu in front of his face so he wouldn’t actually have to see the nurse trying to establish my IV.

Which felt like it took forever because she said she couldn’t find a vein. And I’m looking at this poor nurse like, “Lady, I’m so white I’m practically see-through. What do you mean you can’t find a vein?” while Josh is looking at this menu like, “Oh, they have cottage cheese. How interesting.” And despite this woman digging around in my arm with a needle trying to strike oil, which stings quite a bit, I’m trying desperately not to laugh at the absolute absurdity of this situation and make it all worse. Because if I started laughing, that poor lady was never going to get that IV done.

Some people feel apprehensive about having surgery. No matter if it’s elective or necessary, life-threatening or minor, anesthesia will be administered, incisions will be made, blood will be lost, and the chance of death will linger. Others feel excited. Whatever had been burdening them is going to be fixed. They’re going to go to sleep sick and wake up better.

I, on the other hand, felt totally calm. Not really apprehensive. Not excited. Just zen and ready.

The comfort of knowing there’s cottage cheese on the hospital menu is clearly underrated.

Learning How to Have Bad Days

Of all of my annoying personality traits (and I have so many), being too hard on myself is easily in the top twenty. Maybe the top fifteen. I have no ability to cut myself any slack whatsoever. In my perception of myself, there is no reason for me not to do or be or achieve and my failure in that regard is glaring.

The fact that I didn’t own the world before I was 30 has weighed heavily on me.

For most people, a bad day is just that. It’s one day in which things are shit for whatever reason. It’s a blip on the radar screen of life, an expected anomaly that happens on occasion. It’s just a garbage day made to be thrown into the trash and forgotten about in time.

But for me, a bad day turns into a confirmation that I am, in fact, a garbage person.

The days that I’m feeling physically puny for whatever reason, that I struggle to get through my workouts or maybe I don’t even get through my workouts, just confirms that I am a lazy piece of shit. God, other people are doing much harder workouts. All I’m doing is some belly dance and yoga and a few push-ups. Being tired isn’t an excuse. Feeling fatigued isn’t an excuse. Being sick or feeling unwell isn’t an excuse.

The bad brain days that make thinking hard, concentrating difficult, that make writing a struggle, those days just confirm that I’m an unambitious, lazy piece of shit. God, it’s not like I’m doing anything hard, right? I should be able to get much more done, much more written, much more revised. Other people are doing a lot more than I am even on my best day. Being tired, having a headache, being overwhelmed by dark thoughts, anxious thoughts, depressed thoughts, is not an excuse.

Notice how I equate bad days with being lazy. There’s no bigger fault in my stars than being lazy. Had that one drilled into me. It’s fine for other people, but not for me.

I am learning, slowly and the hard way because that’s the only way I can learn anything (easily in my top five annoying personality traits), how to have a bad day. That it’s okay to have a bad day. Well, maybe not okay because nobody wants to have a bad day, but I’m slowly learning that having a bad day is not a moral failing. Bad days happen to everyone indiscriminately. The biggest asshole and the sweetest saint have bad days. The bad day isn’t the issue. How I respond to the bad day is.

Slowly, I’ve let up on myself when having a bad day. I’ve stopped beating myself up on those days, stopped stomping myself into the ground when I’m already feeling low. No more insults to my injuries. I’m training myself to rethink those days.

On the bad days, I try to focus on what I do get done. Yes, it wasn’t the greatest belly dance routine of my life, but I got through it. Yes, I sort of rushed my yoga routine and didn’t get as much focus from my postures as I normally do, but I did find a bit of peace while doing them. I didn’t get as much revising or writing done, but I got something done and when I come back to it tomorrow, that’s less that I have left to do.

My brain is a real stubborn bastard and it’s not easy rewiring its thinking ways. But I’m doing it.

It makes the bad days a little easier to deal with.

New and Newish Things

As you know, my laptop crashed last month leaving me in quite the lurch and limbo, necessitating the purchase of a new laptop.

Without a steady day job and two months of no sales, let’s just say that the purchase was an incredibly painful one.

So, here are a few potential salves for that financial wound.

First of all, “Summer Rot”, which used to be over at Suburban Fool, is now available in the Freebies section. It’s quite different from most of the stuff I write and even though it’s a freebie, I think it’s still worthy of a read.

There are two new stories in the Storytime Jukebox, “There and Not” and “Erin Go Bragh”.

“There and Not” is a short little ditty about a man who has trouble trusting his senses. “Erin Go Bragh” is about a terrifying night swim. If you were around for the very beginning of my self-publishing exploits, then you’ll recognize “Erin Go Bragh”. But it’s been out of print for years, so it’s time for a revival.

For those new to this show, the Storytime Jukebox is a pay whatever endeavor. Pay whatever you want and get the story/stories you request.

I’ve also launched paperback editions of Gone Missing and The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys. Consider this testing the waters of Amazon’s new paperback option. The lack of Kindle sales recently and the fact that neither of these stories has sold well as ebooks makes me wonder if they might work better as paperbacks. It’s worth a shot, anyway.

Of course, if $5.99 is too pricey for you, both are still available as ebooks. Gone Missing is only $1.99; The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys is still only $0.99 AND you can also find it in Ghostly, which is also $1.99.

In old news: there’s always time to become a Murderville patron. There’s one more episode of The Last Joke left (plus a bonus episode later in the year) and I’m working on a fun reward for the next goal.

And, of course, if you don’t want to buy any of my work or become a patron, or if you already have, you can always buy me a coffee.

Any help would be very much appreciated, so spread the word!