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.

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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.

September Writing Projects

So, I drove myself mad in August. I pretty much overloaded my circuits by insisting I do ALL THE THINGS AT ONCE instead of, you know, over the course of the entire 31 days. And I did myself no favors by thinking something was due this month when it wasn’t. I am a dumbass like that sometimes.

Despite my need to drive myself insane, I did get what I hope to be the final revision of (Vampires) Made in America done as well as Murderville season 2 revised. This was achieved by shoving the plotting of The Star Reader to the very back burner and turning the forward burners on high so I couldn’t reach it until the end of the month. I’ve got that blueprint about half done.

This month I am not going to drive myself insane because I’m going to do things to help ease part of the pains that were cramping by brain last month.

A big part of my issue is ideas. I have several right now and they’re jumbled in my head and what I really need to do is get them out and outlined so I can free up some space in that hellscape. The objective this month is to get The Star Reader, The Stories of Us After Them, and my untitled space story outlined/blueprinted/organized outside of my head so I can see them.

Speaking of The Stories of Us After Them, this is an idea that’s been percolating for years and the short stories “Take the 55 North” and “Items Left Behind” are part of that. I plan on revising and polishing another story that belongs with them called “The Zookeepers Liberation” and then posting it on Prose as well.

I’m also going to revise the Murderville Mini-Mystery, in the event we reach the $25 Patreon goal.

Hey, just because season 1 is over doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening. Become a $1 patron and get the free ebook version of The Last Joke that will be available only to patrons on September 12th. Become a $2 patron and you get the ebook and bonus material, including a Murderville Season 2 teaser poem that was released last month.

In other publishing news, Come to the Rocks will be published by NineStar Press in March of 2018. More details to come slowly as I’ve got several months to ramp up your interest.

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”.

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.

The Winners Have Been Announced…And I Am One

If you’ve been reading this blog or following me on Twitter or familiar with me on Facebook, then you know all about the Prose Simon & Schuster Challenge that I entered. You know it because not only have I blogged about it, but I’ve also been encouraging people to read and comment and like and repost on social media. Not only was this an actual contest for the intended prize, but also a personal challenge for me.

Last night, I received an email that the 50 winners were chosen.

Imagine my surprise, delight, elation, and absolute “oh shit, what have I done” dread when I saw “Take the 55 North” on the list.

That’s right, kids. Your Aunt Kiki placed in the top 50.

This means that in accordance with the challenge, those in the top 50 (determined by the Prose folks who read every entry and made their decision based on likes, originality, and grammar) will be read by Simon & Schuster editors and if they like what they read, they’ll be in touch.

Just typing that released a flock of Mothra-sized butterflies loose in my gut.

Because this could not be happening at a more batshit time.

Last week, my laptop borked. It is done. Work potentially lost unless I can salvage the hard drive because I backed everything up last month, but not yet this month. A monumentally frustrating occurrence that led to me having a bit of a meltdown and questioning whether or not this was a sign from the Universe to just stop writing. I realize how ridiculous that probably sounds, but I am a ridiculous person. I was also in desperate need for some self-care when this happened and this was more than enough to push me over the edge. Flipping my shit over my less-than-two-years-old laptop biting it was the opening of the ultimate release valve to alleviate the pressure before I went critical. Dramatic, but necessary.

So, while my sanity has been momentarily saved, I am still without a laptop, at least until the new one is delivered. Which may be as soon as next week. Or as long as July 5th. Now here I am, potentially on the brink of something new and wonderful and important, and I’m sans the thing I really need (this blog post is being written courtesy of my roommate Carrie letting me use her laptop). Only so much can be done from my phone.

Or only I can do so much from my phone. Some people can work their whole lives from a phone and to them I tip my hat.

Anyway, in addition to this laptop madness there’s also the sudden realization that I did not think things through. For someone who does such a good job of thorough planning in so many areas of life, I am really bad at it for some things that deserve more forethought.

Like this challenge!

I submitted a story that will ultimately be part of something bigger. However, this something bigger is right now only a sketch. I have very little actually written and the outline is at its most basic. Now, this may not prove to be much of a problem, but knowing that if this story generates any interest, I have almost nothing else to show them in regards to this specific project and that causes me some anxiety.

I was not prepared for this. Because I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just thinking about submitting something, getting some people to read a story, practicing my self-promotion, and then nothing coming of it. Because that’s what usually happens. But this time the usual didn’t happen. And now, here I am. Not ready.

Boy, those Mothra-butterflies are really feisty.

The truth is, nothing could still come of it. It’s entirely possible that my story is very nice, but not for them, and they’ll pass. And that’s fine. That’s a kind of rejection I understand. Considering that I’ve already accomplished more than I thought I could with this challenge, I’m more than willing to call this a victory. And honestly, my anxiety probably wouldn’t mind because right now it’s screaming in my ear, “What have you done?! You’re not prepared for this! Are you crazy?!”

To which I reply, “Of course.”

Because as unprepared as I feel that I am, as disconnected as I feel that I am without my laptop, because as overwhelming as I feel that all of this is, I’m game.

I’m already on the roller coaster.

Gotta finish my ride.

June Writing Projects

Last month was fairly easy. All I had to do was revise Come to the Rocks and outline season 2 of Murderville. Which I did.

But that left me with time on my hands. Like two weeks worth of time on my hands. Which meant that I needed to find a way to occupy my time. So, I ended up revising “Take the 55 North” for the Simon & Schuster challenge on Prose and then revised and posted another, related story called “Items Left Behind”.

And then I proceeded to drive myself crazy trying to come up with something to enter into the Writer’s Digest Annual Contest. I ended up writing the first 15 pages of a new script called Stateline, which is a rewrite of a short story I did years ago and decided that was the winner. Okay, not winner, but the one that I felt had the best shot at earning my entry fee back.

And then I wrote a little short story that’s set in the Murderville universe that’s going to serve as the teaser for next season. But you’re going to have to wait (and pay) for that.

This month is all about writing Murderville season 2 and hopefully giving it a title.

And because that’s the only thing I have planned to do this month, you know what happens if I finish early.

It’ll look like May all over again.

The next episode of Murderville: The Last Joke, “Finding Chester R. Ewins”, goes live June 13th. Become a patron, catch up on the last five eps, and be all set to read the latest. Reminder that $2 patrons receive bonus content, so treat yourself!

Let It Be

I have a yearly motto.

Well, I do now.

It started unofficially last year. I wrote a question on my quote board so I could see it and ask myself throughout the year: “What would someone who loved herself do?” And this became my sort-of-motto for the year. The idea was to ask myself this question in certain situations as a way to break me of constantly shoving myself down on my own priority list. It allowed me to be selfish in a healthy way.

This year I intentionally set a motto: Let It Be.

Yes, I know it’s also a Beatles song/album.

The point of this year’s motto is for me to learn not to obsess over and try to control things that don’t need to be obsessed over/controlled.

I have a tendency to fixate on the speed of things. I need everything to happen sooner than it does. And I obsess over the fact that things aren’t progressing at the speed that I wish them to progress. And I try to control that speed.

What I have discovered in doing this repeatedly over the years (because you know I do everything the hard way) is that it only succeeds in driving me crazy and sometimes forcing things to happen before they should happen, usually to unfortunate ends.

Because I am a hard-headed donkey of a person, it makes sense that I would come up with a motto for 2017 to remind me to…well…let it be.

Put in the work, put in the effort, do what needs to be done. Then let it be.

Let things happen when they’re supposed to happen.  Let it be.

If you have to force it (most of the time), then it’s not ready/time/whatever. Let. It. Be.

I am hoping that a year of this motto will drill it into my fool head that my time can be better spent doing something that’s actually productive rather than screwing myself into the ground trying to control something that’s not meant to be controlled. Maybe I might learn that it’s okay to not control everything. Maybe I might learn that it’s not really me giving up control, but in reality recognizing what I truly do control.

Not something exactly revolutionary to those not prone to being uptight (and man, can I be uptight about some things), but I think my blood pressure will thank me in the end.

Yeah, man. Let it be.

Am I Numb or Zen?

peaceIf there’s anything funny about my dealings with depression (and there’s little really ha-ha funny about it), then it’s how paranoid it makes me when I’m feeling okay.

I wrote about how my holiday blues in 2015 started too early and ended up deepening into a nice depression that hung around until April like an in-law in a not-funny sitcom. Because of that experience, I was paranoid about that happening again this past holiday season.

We’re talking extremely vigilant.

How am I feeling? Am I sad? Do I hate everything? Am I operating on the frequency of do-not-want more often than not? Do I want to run away? Do I want to give up? Do I want throat punch people for a legitimate reason or just because?

This sort of interrogation happened on a nearly daily basis starting at the end of October. I thought that not dressing up and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters might be a sign that the holiday blues were settling in early once again. But upon reflection, I realized that I was just burned out and not feeling the spirit and therefore, I didn’t feel like forcing myself to do something my heart wasn’t in.

Okay. That’s cool. Very reasonable.

As the holiday season progressed, I kept waiting for the blues to hit, to come rumbling through, maybe dragging a semi-trailer of depression behind it.

Only I kept asking the questions and I kept responding that I was okay. No, really. I’m okay.

This okayness, in turn, jacked up the paranoia regarding my mental state.

Was I really okay? Or was everything in the world at the moment such shit that it fit my mood and it only felt okay? The latter might have been true to an extent. I didn’t even get a real dose of the holiday blues this past season.

So, here I am, a couple of months into the new year and I’m still feeling okay. Things that should be throwing me into a rage, the little things that I’ve become so used to pissing me off, aren’t having that effect on me. I feel okay. I am maintaining my okayness.

Maybe it’s the shift in thinking that occurred at some point late last year. Maybe it’s my 2017 motto, “Let it be”. Maybe it’s the nightly meditation I’ve been doing since late December, which includes chanting certain mantras designed to calm me and keep me optimistic.

Maybe I’m fucking zen.

Or maybe, as my paranoia has repeatedly suggested, I’m numb.

Maybe I’m existing in some sort of dulled stated that has rendered me non-reactionary to certain stimuli in my daily life. Maybe my depression, which I’m so used to operating in a certain way, has now taken on a new dimension, a dimension of numbness that resembles okayness and therefore tricks me into thinking I’m okay when I’m really depressed.

Boy, that mental health paranoia is a real dick sometimes.

But those mantras I’ve been chanting at night before I go to bed have influenced me to think positively about this. Instead of caving to the ravings of my paranoia (which has a long track record of being wrong), I’ve chosen to view this period of mental calm as something to be embraced. It’s almost like I’ve achieved a kind of clarity here. I’m not numb; I’m just not at the mercy of my emotions and my hellscape brain. For now.

I am okay.

I am zen.

I Do Not Christmas Well

cookiesYesterday, I made some sweet treats for the Christmas Eve get together that will happen later today at my mom’s. I normally do not contribute because between my mom and my nieces, plenty of sweet treats happen. But this year I told my mom that I’d made puppy chow for my sister and brother-in-law and she requested some.

And I also said that I’d make sugar cookies.

Here’s the deal.

At Thanksgiving, my great-aunt gave me two batches of sugar cookie dough that she’d made from my great-grandma’s recipe and colored red and green with food coloring. Now, I do not bake. I have no baking skill. I can fuck up cookies from a tube. But my great-aunt thinks that because I can cook, I can bake cookies from pre-made dough without incident. She also thinks that I will eat red and green cookies. I will not. My issues with that is worthy of another post.

However, red and green pre-made sugar cookie dough was right up my nieces’ alley. I was going to take the dough to my mom’s house for my middle niece’s birthday Sunday and let the girls bake them.

Then winter happened. Between the ice and cold, I wasn’t able to see my niece for her birthday (we have a plan B for after the new year; such is the life for us with winter birthdays).

When my mom requested the puppy chow, she also mentioned that my youngest niece wanted sugar cookies.

“Oh, I’ll bake the sugar cookies that auntie gave me and bring them up,” I said.

And so my fate was sealed.

In addition to my lack of baking skills, the stove in our house is questionable. My mom bought it for $100 at a yard sale in 1986. Really. It no longer heats quite evenly, you can’t tell when it’s pre-heated, can barely read the numbers on the knobs, and sometimes it will electrocute you. Really.

The potential for disaster was high. Just the kind of thrill seeking I like.

I baked the first batch of cookies, the red ones, which were more pink than red, and looked like I was trying to bake Laffy Taffy.

They…survived.

It was impossible to tell if they were done because red cookies don’t brown like plain sugar cookies. But the bottoms of them were browned to just before burnt, so they had to be done, even though the tops looked not done.

For the second batch, the green batch, which also looked like Laffy Taffy, I figured out that I had to put a second pan on the bottom rack to help diffuse the heat, rotate the pan of cookies half-way through baking, and pray constantly to a crotchety baking goddess.

The green cookies came out a little better, but any sort of browning on colored cookies just looks wrong.

I’m told from my taste tester that the cookies are fine. Which is good. I hope the nieces enjoy them.

But they look better in the container.