Dante or Realite

Spring has sprung

Welcome to one of the 2 religious holidays even people who aren’t religious tend to get guilted into setting foot into a church for. I’ve been “outside the fold” for nearly a decade now and I’ve got some things to say to those still inside buzzing about “deconstruction”.

1. If you were told by a Christian what deconstruction is, they were probably wrong.

2. If you “know” why ppl are leaving the church today, but haven’t asked ppl that left the church why they left, you’re probably wrong.

3. If you were thinking about someone you haven’t seen in church in a while and you ask their friends or family where they are, but you don’t ever reach out to them personally, you’re probably doing this wrong.

4. If your first instinct, when hearing why someone left the church is to counter that reason, you’re probably doing this whole Christianity thing wrong.

5. If you do not curb that first instinct to counter someone’s reason for leaving the church, you are definitely doing this whole Christianity thing wrong.

Those who have “deconstructed” actually do have a community, one I happen to live in via the internet since my closest deconstructed friends are too far away to visit. And it is wildly consistent the handful of reasons ppl leave, and the incorrect reasons the church tells ppl they left. It is disturbingly consistent how common it is that the only reason ppl from their former churches reach out is to try to “win them back to Jesus”. There’s no actual concern for the human that left. They are a means to the end of adding a “Star” in the Christian’s “eternal crown”. There’s no, “wow, I hate that happened to you and you’re completely right- it’s messed up”. There’s no, “can I help you by providing food, transportation, or a quiet place of safety where you can think as you grieve and rebuild” but there’s a whole lot of “I’ll pray for you”. Which from the outside looking in is careless at best and a self righteous passive aggressive response that allows Christians to claim they “offered help but were rejected” when in reality they offered no help at all at middling. At worst it’s a thinly veiled threat to “sick God on ’em” and deliver them into any number of uncomfortable and destructive judgments the Christian believes are called for, regardless of what their Jesus actually believes on the subject. And the “lost sheep” notice. And their hearts are broken. They thought they were loved. They thought they had friends, family, people who genuinely cared about more than their intangible eternal destiny. It’s devastating to realize you were nothing but a resource to be used for your money, your talent, your time. You were nothing but a number in a spreadsheet.

At the end of the day, I haven’t met anyone who left the church so that they could “live in sin” or “escape accountability”. I’ve not met anyone who deconstructed whose very life was not torn apart by the betrayal of the church, the loss of the only guiding foundation they were ever presented with, and the sheer devastation of the realization that they were going to have to question everything and then completely rebuild themselves. The process of deconstruction is regularly painted by the church as a human succumbing to temptation and rebelling in some glorious self exaltation and debauched revelry, but this illustration is more Dante than Realite. I’ve read several accounts of ppl that realized early in life that they didn’t truly believe, then waited until much later to actually walk away, but they’re not nearly as common as the stories I’ve read of more phoenix-like fiery crashes resulting in the death and rebirth of a personhood. And it isn’t fast. Some individuals are 30 or 40 years into their deconstruction and still asking questions or for suggestions on how to relieve themselves of some toxic core memory or belief imparted to them by “the faith”.

So listen up, ye Christian heathens: look good and deep into what you’ve done to the world and to your fellow man. Look good and deep into where your text came from, how many times it’s been translated, how many differences in the translations there are, how canonization occurred and how insidiously related Christianity has become to imperialism and nationalism. Ask yourself, “did God put me in this world to be an asshole?” And then practice active listening. Practice active support and active love. Practice knowing where you end and someone else begins. Practice the application of common sense that tells us that offering to pray for a situation means nothing to someone who believes there is no god. Practice having conversations where you never once mention Jesus, church or your religion.

And, most of all, practice the art of inexperience. Realize that there are situations out there that you cannot comprehend due to your personal lack of experience in them, and stop pretending that you know all the answers.

Perhaps, this Easter, as you attempt to shock and awe each other with gory depictions of a literally fatal torture, you take an extended moment to contemplate the religion Christianity overwrote in order to celebrate the “Easter Holiday”, the very real humans that practiced that religion and were literally murdered for daring to believe in a different spirituality. Then look at the way the church is teaching you to behave and contemplate if you’re also destroying people’s lives “in the name of God”.

Are you voting in favor of legislation that will result in the death of the poor, the disabled, the disenfranchised, the “other”? Are you advising your friend to enact cruelty to their family member in an effort to force said family member to relinquish their sense of self to be overwritten by the self your friend would have them be? Are you offering prayer instead of assistance? Are you hushing the voice of a victim because it’s easier to call the truth slander than it is to pursue justice? Do you recognize the difference between pardon and forgiveness?

I look around at the state the Christian church is in today and I’m horrified. I’m grief stricken. And honestly? I’m probably not going to return.

It’s safer out here in the wilderness with the jackals.

Selah

It’s Not About You

I come to this weird place mentally from a society that’s constantly asserting opinions as facts and inundating us with a never-ending barrage of commentary that seems to boil down to one thing: one size should always fit all. But it’s simply not true. It’s not practical. It’s not usually helpful. But somehow that idea that we’re all supposed to fit into the same customs, the same values and the same processes is everywhere, hammering away at us as we try to navigate things as simple as going about our jobs or choosing our outfit for the day. It pervades how we eat, who we are “allowed” by society to love and encourage, who we can support financially, what shows we can and cannot watch… the whole thing is exhausting. And it’s really puzzling here in the US, where individuality and independence is supposed to be upheld as the pinnacle of being (according to stereotypes and financial/political aspirations) to see such a strident and teeth grinding rage manifest whenever someone chooses to exit someone’s idea of uniformity. So we’re apparently supposed to be “unique” and “self-sufficient,” but “not like that.”

Somehow, this clash of ideals manifested in my mind today as I was driving home and passively reviewing things I’d read and seen and felt this week. We have announcements in my gardening class on Monday nights and one of the things that has been announced several times over the last few weeks is how many people have completed enough volunteer hours and education credits to immediately receive their advancement to Master Gardeners at the end of our final class. Those people are celebrated and lauded. A moderate round of applause and a brief crowing of such an accomplishment. And, as I drive home today, I remember this announcement and I feel… something…. inside. I feel like I’ve been slacking. There’s an enormous event being held next weekend that they’ve requested we all volunteer for as interns. They’ve also admitted there’s not very many slots left for volunteers to sign up for as nearly all the required jobs have been filled at this juncture. And I’m feeling this negative feeling, perhaps a reproach, towards myself for not having signed up yet. For not being ahead of schedule in the reading. For not having completed and turned in all my education and volunteer hours yet. But here’s the thing: I was legitimately busy. And I have until the end of the year to complete these hours. And the Expo is nearly full up on volunteers so they’re not desperate or lacking. And there’s a slew of birthdays happening over the next couple of weeks that will be celebrated both this weekend and the weekend of the Expo in my circle of friends. I’ve also just returned from a trip out of state and am still doing the laundry and cleaning the house and putting away the suitcases. On top of that, I still haven’t completely moved into my studio or finished purging and putting away the decor from my major event in January. So why, in the name of dog, am I comparing myself to a retired married couple that managed to leave their home a few times and watch a few videos? They have nothing like the schedule that I do. They have nothing like the commitments that I do. They are apples to my coconuts.

You are so LAZY!”

Dad

And there it is. There is the reason that I compare my life to the life of an elderly retired couple with nothing else to do most days than weed the flower beds and look at the birds. I must be lazy. My dad said so. But here’s the thing…

I’m not actually lazy.

It’s relatively complicated and convoluted how we, the residents of the United States, arrived at the idea that any moments spent in lack of productivity were evil, so I’m going to skip all that and sum it up with “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” is an idea that my dad apparently ascribed to. And because my ADD, salutatorian of my class, involved in multiple extracurricular school activities, taking voice lessons while doing a distance learning course in music theory, choir touring, solo performing in church, songwriting backside liked to sleep until 10 or 11am on Saturdays or during the summer, I must be lazy. And I’m going to tell you right now, Ben Franklin can keep his sunrises to himself because I tend to start productivity around 2pm and don’t stop until somewhere between 2 and 4am. That’s a 12-14hr span of productivity every damned day when left to my own devices so early risers do not, in fact, have a monopoly on “getting it done.” And that’s where The Princess and the Frog comes in.

Dig a Little Deeper | Disney video | lyrics | The Princess and the Frog

For approximately 3 minutes of our lives, Mama Odie proclaims the need for folks to “dig a little deeper” to find what they truly need, sagely pointing out that what they want and what they need are usually two completely different things. What Prince Naveen wants is to be human again so he can go back to loafing about and womanizing while his parents support his lavish lifestyle. Mama Odie obviously wants him to learn he needs to learn to work for things in life. Mama Odie wants him to feel the pride, joy and value of earning his way. So who walks away hearing that message? Tiana. Tiana has already been shown as a complete workaholic that has so little time for her friends she’s a punchline. In the age of the internet those girls would have left her in the dust long ago, only barely remembering her as someone they grew up with. But since this is New Orleans in the 1920s, their world is smaller than the one we know, so they still see her regularly and still have hopes that one day she’ll finally accept their invitation to come out with them. You see the montage early in the movie showing she only sleeps for a couple of hours a night in an effort to “work hard enough” to raise the money for a down payment on a building that’s literally falling apart, all in hopes of making her dream of opening her own restaurant come true. As she jubilantly proclaims this is what she learned from the song to Mama Odie, Mama and her menagerie visibly wilt and you know Tiana’s on the wrong path still. Mama Odie did sing a verse specifically to Tiana in her upbeat serenade, but it was about looking up from your work and opening your eyes to see the love in your life before it’s too late to enjoy it. Tiana isn’t crazy. There was a “work harder” element to the song, but that message was for Naveen. Tiana is missing out on living her best life because she listened to the wrong verse.

Speaking of verses, let’s circle back to my Dad and the idea of uniformity and conformity, blah, blah, blah. I grew up in a very conservative Protestant Christian environment. We weren’t Quiverfull, but I knew those people. My dad admired those people wistfully. I wasn’t stuck in dresses with my hair in a bun, but my dad definitely thought about it when he saw families with an even stricter policy than the one he imposed. And a part of that policy that was rigorously enforced was that when the church doors were open we were there. I went to 2 services on Sunday and Sunday School. I went to AWANA. I went to youth group. I was in the choir. I assisted in set up and tear down for events. I started working weddings with him when I was like, 11. I started performing solos on the church platform when I was 6. We were questioned Sunday afternoon about the sermon (no children’s church for us) and about what we learned in Sunday School that day. We were supposed to memorize scripture and the lyrics to hymns. We went to a Christian school instead of the local public school. We had family devotions. We were supposed to do personal devotions. We were supposed to attend Bible studies. To say that I was presented with scripture and doctrine regularly doesn’t even remotely touch on how much of my life was permeated with “The Word.” Something I realized about midway through highschool was that there were just sermons that didn’t pertain to me. I was sternly informed that there was always something to get out of every sermon and I was supposed to look closely in order to find the way that sermon did, in fact, apply to me, but I’m a bright girl and there were just things that got preached about that had nothing to do with me. Unfortunately, like Tiana, I started paying attention to verses not meant for me in that moment and graduated with a whole slew of beliefs about myself that were completely incorrect. I’m not lazy. I’m not usually spiteful, although I do have my moments. I’m not usually greedy and the culture there actually had to teach me to be jealous. My confidence was mistaken for pride. My intelligence was confused with arrogance and my curiosity with challenging authority. My asexuality was mistaken for a strength against temptation to lust. My anorexia convinced people I never struggled with gluttony. I had no idea who I was until over 2 decades later. Because all these sermons and verses that I listened to I had been convinced had to have something to do with me.

Two Weeks Notice (2002) - IMDb
“Not now! EVERYTHING is not about YOU!”

I have a thing for sidekick characters. In case you’re unfamiliar, this is Heather Burns (may she live forever) playing the best friend character, Meryl Brooks, in Two Weeks Notice. And BLESS her delivery of this line. I hear it in my head now when it suddenly dawns on me: not everything is about you. See someone ranting online? Not everything is about you. Friend didn’t text back for a couple of days and starting to wonder if it was something you said? Not everything is about you. Someone’s shooting off the mouth online about “those millennials and their entitlement” again? EVERYTHING is not about YOU!

Eh. Those sorts of things maybe are a bit more obvious. So let’s get philosophical. “Today’s culture is unwilling to get involved and do the work because they’ve just had everything handed to them all their lives…something, something, participation trophies.” This used to burn my buttons. I mean really just lit me straight on fire, Inside Out style.

Characters | Disney Australia Movies
GET OFF MY LAWN

Then I got ludicrously in my feelings frustrated about how so many people I worked with, now well into adulthood, were doing the bare minimum or less and I was over here burning out trying to keep everything going and to do everything to the highest degree of excellence. And it hit me… that there really are full fledged adults out here running around being bad at their jobs and sleeping completely peaceful about it through the night. I literally cannot fathom. I’m still embarrassed about missing a deadline because I got sick 5 years ago. But those people are getting their paychecks direct deposited on Thursday, same as me. And, get this: there are people out there that do not care at all about their jobs. Hand me a pumpkin spice latte, my yoga pants and some Uggs, because I white girl cannot even. I do not have a box for that in the filing closet of my brain. So when people are out there complaining about there being people that don’t want to work, it’s actually true, even though I cannot FATHOM even having the capability to do it. When there are people out there complaining about service being substandard and the provider behaving like they don’t care at all, that stuff actually does happen every single day. But I didn’t do it. It’s not about me. I don’t have to look at my schedule and see how I can work harder for the company because we had a team meeting and it came up that we’re missing the mark as a team. I’m already giving the place my all. It’s time for someone else to step up, not for me to buckle down harder and overcommit. I can let it go because it’s not about me.

What other things in life are we holding onto that have nothing to do with ourselves? Do we believe that we need to be productive every minute of every waking hour? Studies show that’s incredibly unhealthy for humans. Do we believe we need to be friends with everyone at work or church or in Bible study? Again, unhealthy. It’s entirely sufficient to be courteous, nice or professional without actually befriending anyone. Not everyone is a good fit for everyone as friends. Is that retired couple making you look bad because they had the time and availability to complete their outside class requirements early? Honestly, who else is even comparing the two of you but your own self? If “studies show that” people with a certain BMI have a higher chance of heart attack and stroke, but you are Lizzo and capable of singing, dancing and playing the flute simultaneously for 2+ hours straight on the regular, maybe you need to pay more attention to your own personal statistics regarding your heart health and cholesterol and discuss them with your doctor instead of with internet keyboard warriors armed with cherry-picked statistics. (And Lizzo does, which I find highly admirable.)

Where are you sabotaging yourself because you’re applying standards and verses and opinions and whatever…when EVERYTHING is not about YOU?

New New Beginnings

During my last post I said I had 186 followers on Facebook, which was my only active social media at the time. Today I have 218. So from October 2020 I have managed to grow my audience…*checks calculator* by 32. I’m a year and a half that averages…1.7 audience members a month. That’s abysmal, but it’s still growth. The studio I’d just moved into has taught exactly 2 students. Again, abysmal, but still growth. And I still haven’t set up a Patreon or made a new YouTube video or started my Etsy store.

So what have I done? I downloaded and started using Habitica, a free app that’s supposed to help you be more productive. And, weirdly, it’s making me more productive. I know now when it’s time to change the sheets, vacuum carpets, and a few other chores I tend to forget. I run the robotic vacuum regularly and the pet hair isn’t building up. I post regularly on my Facebook and have downloaded Twitter to my phone (but really, does anyone even tweet anymore?). I found out I can actually use the WordPress editor on this new phone of mine so look forward to more regular content from me going forward. I’ve been applying to new jobs and getting all rejections. I did a wedding and a honeymoon. I increased my daily step goal gradually from 4000 to 9500 and don’t feel like I need to sleep all the time. And I reached out to an artist for the logo package for my Etsy that I started to set up but have no content to post so I’m stuck for a minute there. Oh! And I started getting my certification as a Master Gardener for the state of TN.

Sunset over rollercoasters at Six Flags, CA

So it’s not like I’ve been doing nothing. But I look at my friends and I’m so happy and excited for them because they’re finally gaining decent traction with their stores, blogs, podcasts, social media personas… Whatever. And I admit it; I covet their success a bit. Today I feel brave. Today I look at the process of getting myself out there and I feel like I just need to start something and everything will fall into place. It’s raining today, though. So after pushing through the pain all work, will I still have the energy to pursue progress when I get home? I honestly don’t know. I’m still fighting jet lag from being in California last week on top of everything else.

I was recently inspired by a comic strip that discussed how difficult it is for those of us who are middle aged to keep up with the changing medias and formats and subjects and content styles and I realized: I’m waiting for a really that will never be. I’m never going to be able to “git gud” with crafting videos with one media before another one replaces it in popularity and expectations. Like, what even is Instagram? And Tictoc? Why would you tic? Toc? Before it was Twitter, then Tumblr and this weird nebulous “why do ppl spend so much time on Reddit?” What is even the point of Snapchat? There is only 1 student in my studio to keep me educated on the current tech and that’s an awful lot to expect of an 11 year old. So I’m going to have to just dive in. I’m going to have to make mistakes and create content no one sees or likes even though I’m sticking it out there. I’m going to have to face the void and, this time, I’m going to have to win.

Lately I’ve been thinking to myself that perhaps the way to get over my fear of the inevitable silence would be to just…create for myself but post it where it can be seen or purchased. And, honestly, that seems to be how my friends got successful. They put themselves out there and eventually their fan base found them.

How do cats always seem to find my butt? I need fans with Jak’s level of awareness regarding my location.

So here I set out again with the grandest of intentions, a bit wiser and with better technology. Perhaps this time, something will stick.

Before I go… Just because I’m curious: did anyone actually put a cape on their toothbrush? I need to know.

PS: every one of you is still my hero.

Blank Slate

photo by Dave Goodwin of Green Doors Studio

Today I cleaned a bunch of my white boards from … I dunno … way back in 2011. They had projects on them like “Christmas photoshoot for CD” and “write Christmas piece for local wind ensemble: Due Sept 25th.” The first one I definitely completed as the CD was successfully released and the copies are collecting dust in my closet. It was a good shoot though. Dave is really talented. The second deadline I definitely missed.

So here I am, starting over again. New studio. New house. New support network. New opportunities. I’ve started over more times than I can count. I wish I had told myself that life was just like that back in high school. I feel like I might have been more open to trying new things. I feel like everyone should just … chase the experience. Nothing is permanent and the worst thing that could happen from chasing an intimidating gig or goal is you fail completely and learn something. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from starting over so many times, it’s this: learning things is worth it.

So if it’s worth it, why am I always so paralyzed whenever I even think about researching how to successfully start a Patreon or trying to record something new? Sure. I may need to sit down with the instruction manual to my fancy camera for an hour or so. I may need to (ugh) watch some YouTube tutorials on video editing. I may need to swallow the panic and actually sign up for a service that advertises my private teaching for me. But I can’t. I freeze.

If learning things is worth it there’s something else underneath. Several of the “build good habits and organize your life” self-help books and blogs discuss the matter of obstacles. Identify what’s in the way of your success and remove the obstacle. It’s not really a fear of failure as failure is merely an avenue to learning. Honestly, I think my big fear is that no one will care. There are 186 fans on my Facebook that show me that I’m not completely off the radar. And, hey, I can’t even argue that those followers are only my family since my family really isn’t all that big. But, on the emotional intensity level of a Gen Z with FOMO, the idea that I’ll throw something out into the world only to experience … silence …………………..

“The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.”

—Eli Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Human Rights Activist

I can’t stand the silence.

(Great. Now I have one line of a song stuck in my head on loop and I have no idea what the song title is or who sang it. Just a vague sense that it’s from the 90s or aughts and has a male lead singer. That’s going to keep me awake tonight.)

Speaking of songs, there’s that country song by…. Reba? No. Martina Mcbride.
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway

Now I have that song stuck in my head.

Anywaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-ay! (haha, I’m funny) If you are looking for something that means a tonne but doesn’t take a huge amount of effort, drop a reminder in your phone to regularly interact with an artist or a musician or a craftsperson you admire. Trawl through their social media sprinkling likes. Share some of their posts on your own social medial. Send them a short message about how something they did was meaningful to you and thank them for sharing. Kids, we legit live off of those interactions. And, if you can afford it, buy from these people instead of a big chain store. The Waltons can live without you. The 20-something kid trying to sell paintings out of his bedroom cannot. The 30-something mother of 3 that’s homeschooling because of the pandemic and making jewelry in her closet cannot. The 40-something divorcee trying to start over that’s selling quilts and doll clothes cannot. You get the point. These people need you.

If it helps you to remember, put a little cape on your toothbrush, because you’re our hero. Your interaction gets us through the day.

New Normal

What even is normal anymore? I’ve seen so many posts discussing this in light of the current Presidency and staff or in light of living in a COVID-19 world. We discussed it in depth after 9/11 when I was in college. I have to admit, it’s wacky listening to those younger than myself criticize a pre-9/11 story revived from the depths of someone’s forwarded emails. They say “that’s not even possible because airports don’t work that way” and I see the second plane hit the tower in my head again. I just kind of… check out… right there.

I can relate, little fox.
pic from Reddit

The thing is, we’ve been encountering “new normals” all our lives and I want to maybe take some of the scary out of it. When we went from staying in the same classroom all day to changing classes, that was a new normal. When we started dating we suddenly had to wonder if eating tuna for lunch would be too gross for kissing later. New normal. Some of us got braces and had to brush or mouthwash after eating. Temporary, but still new, new normal. After a diagnosis of a medical issue- new normal. Someone we love dies- new normal. Get married or move in with someone- new normal coupled with the discovery that they are not nearly as normal as you imagined… and maybe you aren’t either…

Humans are remarkably adaptable when you get right down to it. But there’s this weird thing where we don’t talk about it much. It’s like taxes. When you reach the time where you need to start doing them you’re expected to either just figure it out on your own or to pay someone else to do the hard parts for you. (Seriously, tho, capitalism has really schnookered us into this. Taxes do not have to be this hard. There’s an issue worth voting on.) So because we’re out here just slugging it out most of the time, thinking we really should have learned it along the way and wondering which day we slept through class that they taught this particular thing, I want you to take a well deserved moment to gain perspective.

Especially for those of us who are creatures of habit, adaptation is hard. All those earmarks of success that tell us we’re doing ok are suddenly missing. Maybe you can’t even handle what you used to consider the most basic human functions. Maybe, even though you could handle those functions, the loss of your routine is making it difficult for you to even remember what those were. (This was particularly true during the wild and wooly shutdown for COVID-19 earlier this year- an endless sea of Saturdays…) Whatever is standing between you and what you remember as normal…just set it down and remember the fox above.

What is he doing? Himbs best. What iz u doin? Ur best.

I want you to remember that when you’ve walked into the same room for the umpteenth time and realized that you’ve just walked a circuit between 3 rooms for the last 10m because you were trying to get something done and just ran into a series of obstacles. I want you to hear it in your head when you drop the toilet paper roll and it rolls across the room and out of reach of your crutches. I want you to think of it when you run your tongue across your teeth and feel the fuzz (you know what I’m talking about). I want you to replace your anxiety and despair in this moment with a fox meme. Because you are himbs and you are doing himbs best.

That’s enough. Your best is enough. It’s one of the things I really love about actual Japanese flavored anime: “I’ll do my best” is all over it. Even when someone fails, the important question is “did you do your best?” Hold onto that. Wallow in it. Marinade if you prefer. Because your best is enough. Even if today’s best generates less desirable results than yesterday’s.

And if you’ve got someone in your life that is a “fixer,” you feel free to tell them to put the Coldplay down and, if they just REALLY need to be that guy, this tree is the best audience to apply that song to. There is a short in his wiring somewhere and I need his lights to guide me home. If you can’t send them my way, send them to a local spay and neuter center. It’s not creepy at all to sing, “I will tryyyyyyyyyy to fix you” there. As for you, you don’t need someone hovering and overwhelming you with suggestions. It’s ok to set boundaries on how and when someone is allowed to help you, even if the how is “don’t” and the when is “never.” Your life. Your choice.

Time for me to close. I cannot tell y’all how incredibly peaceful it was to log in and not have a bazillion spambot comments on my Phys Rep Wings tutorial post. I had to turn off comments on that post entirely to shut the bot down. I hope someone spills Coke on its motherboard.

So if you’re trawling through my posts and have a question or comment on that particular post, feel free to comment elsewhere and I’ll get back to you. Sorry for the inconvenience. I didn’t need a medical dissertation posted one comment at a time and interspersed with ads for snake oil cremes and what is most likely sugar pills on my tutorial.

Sleep well, kids! Mama Goat is hopefully back more regularly for good.

2020 Just…Why?

This is a pretty accurate depiction of my status this year…

I cannot even begin to properly express how I feel about this year. My SO and I went through the heartbreaking and incredibly intense emotional experience that is house hunting. A tornado passed through right behind where I worked and near the location of a home we had under contract. COVID-19, enuf said there. Navigating unemployment. Coming back from unemployment to a retail world changed completely by COVID-19. Having just cleaned up that mess to be sent home from work and be out of work for approximately 2 months culminating in surgery. Coming back to work under post surgery restrictions. Trying to clean up that mess while finalizing our house shopping because we actually lost the one near the tornado path due to my SO’s house not selling in a timely fashion (terrible realtor). Finding out my place of employment was being sold to a multi-location and profit-minded company that had no idea what I did in my job position and refused any and all offers to provide them with a job description, statistics on volume and profitability or even to walk someone through it on the phone. Realizing that I’ve now had 4 medical professionals tell me to quit this job for health reasons in the last year. Quitting (I HATE quitting jobs and have rarely done it.) The closing day for our house moving back one day at a time for an entire week. The housewarming for our house being moved as a result. Having to return the U-haul truck as a result. Having to reschedule the professionals that were moving my piano as a result. Finally having our housewarming party and being surprised with a proposal from my SO (I said yes ­čśë ). Rescheduling EVERYTHING to get the house set up. Spending the main focus of my life for the next 3 weeks moving…and I’m still not done yet.

Y’all… I am TIRED…

Meanwhile,

  • I’ve discovered Last Week Tonight.
  • I’ve been able to play my custom piano for the first time since 2014. (It sounds terrible because it doesn’t get tuned until next week, but I can play it.)
  • I’ve finally begun teaching private music lessons again (virtually)
  • I’ve had the chance to just sit and watch the pets enjoy the screened in back porch we worked so hard to acquire for them.
  • I’ve very nearly gotten my gut to recover from pre-surgery testing.
  • I’ve been able to look at so many things from my previous way of life and just…let them go… because I don’t need them anymore.
  • We have a jetted tub, y’all, and it’s been so helpful for this healing process.
  • I have a partner that is actively encouraging me to rebuild my business, create an online store and set up a Patreon.
  • I finally feel like I have the time to be a person, not just a productivity machine.

So 2020 has definitely been terrifying with the virus and the protesting and the Us vs Themism that’s rampant right now, but it hasn’t been the worst year of my life. And I’m really grateful for that.

I miss expressing myself. I really don’t know that anyone is even reading this stuff, but I miss just being able to gather my thoughts on a subject and leave them here in this virtual box.

So here’s to getting back into costuming, quilting, cross-stitching and music. Basically, here’s to being a person again.

Temperature Quilt 2019 thru July

Arrive Alive

The touch, the feel of COVID
The terror of our lives….

I don’t think this is what Cotton had in mind

Furlough has got to be the strangest experience I’ve ever had. And I assure you that as an empath and a larper, I have had some strange experiences. It’s days full of “what should I do next” followed by either a thousand ideas and no energy, a clear thought pattern and no idea where to start, or the inability to think at all and the mind just goes blank. I am very confused by these weird posts where people are “gotcha” blasting anyone that isn’t being hugely productive and living their furlough to the minute with hobbies, clearing task lists and accomplishments. They’re indicating that anyone who isn’t high level achieving is lazy and undisciplined because now we literally have all the time in the world. But I think they’re forgetting something really important: furlough is not a vacation.

I’m not ok. No one I know is ok, and, honestly, the longer the shutdowns for the novel coronavirus continue, the more personal it becomes that, for some of us, merely surviving the experience is an accomplishment. And I don’t mean that in the “hur dur, I’m so inept” self depreciation for humor’s sake kind of way. I am realizing more and more that lofty goals in a time of uncertainty are just not a thing that will happen for me. My mental health can’t do it. I’m having to come to a place of acceptance at the end of isolation week 5 that being fully functional for 3 days a week is my normal. And I’m pretty far leaning into the introvert side of the spectrum.

The last time I felt like this I was unemployed and the ennui was absolutely making me feel brainless, helpless and hopeless (albeit neither friendless nor living in Greenland).

There’s no set schedule. You go to bed on time and stare at the ceiling for hours. You accidentally sleep through your morning alarm the next morning as a result. You make coffee and forget to eat breakfast. You know you should be doing something but can’t remember what. You miss a dose of your medication. You clean the rabbit litter but not the cat’s. You start feeling like Robin Williams in that Jumanji meme.

And that’s the introverts, who were basically born for this sort of society. How are the extroverts doing? Forgeddaboudit. They’re DYING to have in person human interaction. The Pokemon GO nerds (who are the largest group of extroverts I’m actually keeping tabs on during SIP) are completely unsettled by how distinctly … quiet … it is when they go hunting. They’re trying to figure out how to raid with proper social distancing. Can you in person battle a trainer that’s standing 6ft away? You sure can’t understand what anyone’s saying through their appropriately nerdy themed homemade mask. My party friends are twitchy to go get a beer, have a birthday, go bowling, go out to eat, take a pottery class…. just about ANYTHING that will get them in the presence of a group of people. Even if they’re essential workers and still seeing a wider variety of humans every day than those of us Sheltering In Place, somehow it’s still not enough. There aren’t enough cars on the roads. The bars are all closed. The parades were all cancelled and, in our area, even the public parks are closed. Don’t even get me started on the people that needs their sportsball to survive. It’s like making Nana miss her stories. And don’t you DARE make Nana miss her stories. It’s a serious world ender.

Back to vacation. Vacations are a finite period of time wherein you and your place of employment have agreed that you will not come in to work and you can do basically whatever you like instead. If you want to watch Netflix in your boxers while eating cereal at 3pm and scrolling through Hulu on your phone, they tell me that’s what vacation is for. If you want to build a deck, have at it. If you want to write a novel, good luck. Because it’s a finite period of time we find it more acceptable to accomplish or to not accomplish as you will. People tend to not be very judgey about whether you had a productive vacation or not.

Furlough, on the other hand, is vague. It’s nebulous. It’s got a lot of financial worries and regularly changing rules that are sapping some of our time and energy. No one planned to get furloughed. No one planned to be suddenly unemployed. Furlough is defined by uncertainty. Vacation happens on purpose.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? An itty bitty tiny change in the perspective of things. But, like the difference between a butt dial and a booty call, perspective changes EVERYTHING.

So I want you to know something:

If all you manage to do this furlough is come through it alive and relatively healthy, you’ve accomplished enough.

Stressing about why you can’t seem to motivate yourself into anything “productive” is going to tax your immune system and rob you of the chance to find what baseline living looks like for you. Everyone should know their bare minimum. Finding out during furlough is enough. Have a bit of extra energy one day? Cool. Do something extra. But don’t beat yourself up if you wake up the next morning with all the ambition of a salted slug. Let’s take one from the incredibly corny highway campaigns:

Since I’ve Been Gone

I knew I’d been gone for quite some time, but I had completely forgotten about how much volume a set of spambots can put out in a short period of time. 13,000+ comments deleted later, boy howdy. Just…boy howdy.

Gizmo felt sorry for me

I think the first misunderstanding was an algorithm whoops. Russian spambots obviously do NOT speak nerd. I have an article where I discussed my use of a tutorial to make wings for my LARP harpist, Winter. So the Russians thought that Phys Rep had something to do with being a physician and I came back to a series of comments that were akin to the medical declarations of a doctoral thesis. And they were written in Botlish. My people, it was very, very bad.

So I started playing a game. I searched every comment with the word “physician” and marked all those comments as spam. Then I started pulling other specific words. It passed the time. After it got below 3,000 comments words like “doctor” and “pulmonary” weren’t going to work anymore… because so many of the comments WERE IN RUSSIAN.

  • A few more reflections on spambot comments:
    • No, I will not write your paper for you
    • Did you really think that insulting my writing style was a good way to get me to hire you to edit my content? Also, there’s several grammatical errors in your copy/paste critique. Just in case you care.
    • No, Kristina, I am not the man you are looking to date/smash/boink/hook-up/skype-sex/whatever.
    • No, I do not need viagra, cibalis, or any of the other weird namebrand drugs you want to link here
    • Why are you critiquing the YouTube video in an article with no YouTube video
    • “I really liked the content of this article. It was well argued and had a good opening statement and summary at the end.” Wut. Even.
    • “I have been following you for a while now and I read you to my son over my morning coffee every morning. I guess I will finally have to subscribe because I love your content so much.” Let’s be real here: I don’t post that much content.
    • “Click this link.” No. Just… No.
    • And what’s with the weirdly specific porn flavors?
    • And can we take a second to reflect on the fact that the bot OBVIOUSLY thinks I’m male. Because the abbreviation “Phys” is in the title of the article. And, obviously, all Physicians are male…
    • To the bot that described itself as “a beautiful 21 year old girl with long black hair”: Call me. … Just kidding.

So if you’re entertaining the idea of starting a blog, just keep in mind that you’re going to have to check into it regularly to keep the spambots cleared out. Also, it’s a good idea to have your comments set up to “Approval Only.” Better yet, get someone else to moderate your comment section entirely. Because we all know the cardinal rule of the internet: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.

It’s 10m to dinner.

The cat is calling and I must go…

Reboot

See no evil…

I didn’t die…and I missed you

I know it’s been a very long time since you saw me here. There’s so much I was unable to share with you. I moved. I’m about to move again. I fought depression, anxiety, allergies, physical injuries that chained into one another and lasted for a year and a half with some still-lingering symptoms. I fought writer’s block. I wrote. I hated it and never posted. I fought impostor syndrome. I discussed the pros and cons of writing a blog with my mother, who is both keen on and terrified of starting her own. I entered a relationship. I watched a friend of mine begin a Patreon and slowly grow his following (so proud of him). I lost what I thought was a solid relationship with a convention I’ve been heavily involved in and dearly loved. I pulled side gigs. I started a year long quilting project for 2019 that is (not surprisingly) not finished yet, but taught me so much about small daily progress.

I’ve been medically prevented from playing the harp since October of 2018. It was like I died. And then I died again. And then I died some more. No one wants to say the injury is permanent. The word is carefully and daintily avoided. Every milestone: you should try again and see how your body reacts to the harp. Nearly every time the result was the same: I paid for 5, 10, 15 minutes with 1 or 2 weeks of constant pain. After developing a second sympathetic injury in January 2020, a doctor finally stopped pussyfooting around. If you want the pain to go away, you have to quit your job.

Was I relieved that I finally had a medical reason to leave and pursue something else? Was I terrified of job hunting again? Was I afraid I’d make everything monumentally worse if I went ahead and continued to work at my job while I searched for another? Did I even qualify for short term disability while I searched for something else? Was I worried about my clientele and the current disputes I was working on their behalf? The hands on repairs sitting in my queue that no one in the house but me was qualified to handle? Was I brave enough to imagine a world where I controlled my day and rose or fell on my own ingenuity, skill and determination?

It was a very confusing time for me. I hauled ass through St Valentine’s. It’d be too much of a lurch to leave before then. In March, the Coronaclosures began. I was furloughed during the first wave, having already been away from work for several days as I had become symptomatic for influenza the previous Saturday.

I have been in social isolation for 5.5 weeks. I can finally play the harp for about 45m with only minor issues the following 2 days. I’m finally able to build up my strength again. However, if I do anything akin to the benchwork I perform at my job, I go right back to nearly a week of recovery. My former occupational therapist said she thought the bar minimum time off bench that would be necessary for me was 6 weeks. She’d prefer 8. How unexpected to have a global pandemic provide me with just that reprieve.

So here I am, getting back my typing strength, considering subjects for future posts, and packing my house for the next move. I’ve missed you all terribly and am hoping that if I take anything away from this experience it will be:
1. Stretch your hands and arms every day. Especially if you work with them. Even when it’s something you consider simple like typing. You’ve only got one set and it ruins so many aspects of your life when they’re not properly respected.
2. No matter how hard I close my eyes, the reality isn’t going to go away. Not my pain. Not the injury causing it. Not the virus. Not the depression. Not the fears. It’s time to go back to taking life by the goat horns.

To Arrive

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I have arrived. It is an odd feeling, honestly, to have reached such an achievement at such a late point in my life, but I blame my somewhat nomadic lifestyle up to this point.

Today I successfully and completely confused someone with the word “pen”. I think he even unwittingly recited his actual pin number to me in response. I have lived in the south for almost ten years and it finally happened, people. Who knows what I might accomplish in another ten!?

I have also managed to acquire my first personally┬áprocured permanent residence. I have a cat. The dog is still alive and well, still helplessly adorable and still jealous as … a ridiculously jealous little dog can be. I am about halfway to two thirds of the way finished unpacking and am also about to pick up the venerable harp, hopefully to never set it down again. Please, dear Universe, don’t make me out to be a lyre.

I’m funny. Admit it.

I have obviously managed to set up my computer again as well. So while I’m swinging into the holiday season like George of the Jungle I’m also sitting at home practically giggling to myself because I’ve finally managed to achieve so much that was incredibly important to me. And because of those achievements I’m able to begin pursuing other achievements that were put on hold for so long, like pursuing music again, composing songs and writing this blog and getting back to my novel and making quilts and …

It’s a very exciting time, everyone. I’m so glad we’re all still around to see it.