Nostalgic

Coming around the corner at the library and being greeted by this fellow made me laugh loud enough that I’m sure a librarian would have shushed me, had any been in range.

Working around happy, reasonable, creative people is so awesome. And yes, I was feeling somewhat nostalgic. Good ol’ Clippy, who used to frustrate the fuck out of me by showing up when I didn’t want him, and being nowhere in sight when I did

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Running the Canines

This is the sight that greets me if I look away from my desktop while wearing running togs. Lord van der Sploot is doing what he does best, while Miss B simply stares, clearly expectant.

Mum. It is time for the running of the dogs. We are patient, yes, but eventually I will crawl into your lap to remind you that IT IS TIME.

Of course, two minutes outside and Boxnoggin began to pull. He thinks that if we speed up we’ll get out of the rain more quickly. I don’t exactly blame him, he’s a slick-coated fellow and Miss B’s all-weather coat has spoiled us somewhat.

So running with him is just like it used to be with Miss B–a constant battle to get him to stop fucking pulling, dammit. He settles down after a few kilometers and begins working with me and B as a unit, which is the whole point. B needed years before she began settling almost immediately and still pulls sometimes, when she gets Very Excited by the prospect of a Strange Dog.

Now that we’re home and I’m in dry socks, with bonus hot tea, Boxnoggin has settled in his favorite dog bed in the living room. He’ll rotate between there and the couch, according to how damn tired he is and if he thinks there’s a prospect of something interesting happening outside he can bark at. Miss B is sacked out on one of the dog beds in my office, whistle-snoring. She’s an elderly dog now, and needs her rest.

You can also see Boxnoggin’s tail going so hard it blurs, which is a constant. Every day is an adventure as far as he’s concerned. Pets all the time! Snacks! Mealtimes at regular intervals, and treats for easy jobs like sitting down. One gets the idea he thinks this is doggie heaven. He’s even started begging for car rides, now that they include good things like going out for French fries. It used to be he’d shake and drool in the car, probably thinking we were taking him back to the shelter, poor fellow.

I’m hoping he’ll realize soon that he’s home forever, that even if he behaves badly he’s not going anywhere. The poor little guy hates to be alone–and little is a misnomer, he’s become quite portly, what with regular meals; his coat gleams and glistens quite shamefully now. Miss B just rolls her eyes and nips him when he starts getting all worked up thinking he’s going to be taken away. His rather, well, energetic nature keeps B active, trying to stay one step ahead, which was the entire point.

They’re pretty much made for each other, my little control-freak doyenne and her enthusiastic sidekick. B has plenty to do keeping him out of trouble, so much so that I suspect he will keep her alive just to see what happens next.

May it be so. In the meantime, they have naps to accomplish, and my tea is getting cold.

Over and out.

Spring, Cartoons, Sprung

Saturday was rainy, Sunday sunny, which worked out well since I ran on the former and could lock up the house on the latter. I hid from the day-star and watched a chock-ton of Looney Tunes.

In the old house, I would fold laundry and write while several DVDs’ worth of cartoons played on the telly. The kids and I didn’t watch much else during the day, and when the Princess got older we’d have the subtitles on. She would, without prompting, correct errors in the subtitling.

She might be an editor someday, that girl. Anyway, the kids would play, and every few cartoons we’d all get up and perform a task. (If you’ve never tried hoovering with helpful toddlers, let me tell you, it’s a trip. )

Anyway, the dogs were quite happy to have me rest in one place between bouts of housework yesterday. And at the end of the day, every blessed creature in the house except the cats had dessert in my office, laughing at antics and gasping “oh, no,” at various points.

It’s been a long time since I heard those musical cues, and it took me all the way back to the good things about the old house. There were a few, but as things got worse by increments it felt more like a trap than a home. I was glad to move out, I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t endured a bad divorce or two knows how glad.

But last night there was cheesecake, gasps of recognition and laughter, and I remembered what it was like to sit cross-legged on the old papasan chair, typing furiously while the kids played and Bugs or Daffy or Tweety scrambled across the screen. In those days, the living room was the center of the house. Nowadays, here, it’s the kitchen.

I liked writing in the living room. I liked having the kids right in sight, and being available to them. I liked having Looney Tunes on while I typed furiously; I could work for two or three cartoons then take a break for one to get up and stretch.

But I realized that never, in all my life, had I watched cartoons truly alone.

So, Sunday morning, I got my coffee and settled in front of my laptop, and I watched them for hours. Then, all that afternoon, I did two or three household tasks, then watched a few cartoons, lather, rinse, repeat.

It was just as glorious as I thought it would be. I thought of trying to keep the volume low on Saturdays or Sundays in my childhood, hoping for a few good cartoons and disappointed when my favorites didn’t show. I thought of folding mountains of laundry and writing hundreds of thousands of words while terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it, that I wouldn’t be able to create fast enough, well enough to feed my children.

And now I can take a whole day, press a button, and have cartoons playing. I can even go to the store, get doughnuts, and dip sweetened bread into tea or coffee while I roll around in every single cartoon I like. I can watch the same one fifty times in a row, if the mood takes me.

We value youth in our culture. We crave it. We glorify childhood, but all youth ever brought me was people fucking with me when they knew I was helpless–or when they thought I was. It was exhausting and terrifying.

It’s much better now. I fought tooth and nail to get here. I’m an adult, and coming up on female middle age. I don’t have to give a fuck, and I have my own bank account–such as it is–capable of absorbing a few charges for a smorgasbord of looney tune-age.

I’m listening to Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner while I type. Spring is here, and each time I’ve seen the same cartoon is a ring in my trunk. I’ve survived, and each seven or eight-minute cartoon reminds me of how it used to be, and how good it is now.

I never want to be a child again. But damn, I love cartoons.

Anxiety Bunny

The Princess brought home Kinder eggs from a pre-Easter sale. The Little Prince loves opening them, so he cracked mine for me, and cleaned out the sugar1 as a bonus.

This little fellow was inside. The Prince and Princess both had birds, but I got a bunny with a wheel in his head. Spin the wheel–you can just see it there in the centre of the picture–and different scenes can be viewed through a hole high on his back.2

I immediately christened him Anxiety Bunny, because that’s what it feels like–a multicolored wheel spinning inside one’s head, serving up the worst possible outcomes not only from tomorrow, but from years ago.

Spinning the wheel does give me a certain amount of peace, however. I’m reminded that the wheel is not me, and isn’t even particularly truthful most of the time. This tiny, cheap little toy helps me feel better, and that’s valuable to me.

May your anxiety bunny, whatever it is, grant you some peace.

Mental Mustelidae

The headweasels are particularly bad this morning. Back and forth they go, treating my skull like a flimsy cage. I’d love to let them out–fly, be free, never come back–but they’re stuck inside a bone bowl. There’s nothing to be done about it.

They’re independent of how many books I write or how much my children love me, independent of how much sleep I got last night or how hard I strive to be good and do good. “Do no harm and take no shit” is my mantra; why should I take shit from ghosts of people who hated and tried their best to kill or maim Child-Me?

And yet.

Meds don’t answer the head weasels, though meds can send them into protracted hibernation or blunt their sharp, tiny teeth. Proper pharmacology makes it easier to see the headweasels in their correct proportions, as distorted reflections not of the world, but of what we fear the world might be.

It’s already terrible enough out there, one doesn’t need to make it worse. Even though there’s a certain amount of frantic quasi-safety and illusionary control in imagining the worst so vividly that whatever actually happens looks like a relief. It’s still shitty, but it could be so much shittier really isn’t a healthy way to live your life, though. The wear and tear on your nerves about absolutely imaginary shittiness takes up time and energy one could be using to fight real ordure.

I should run. Make some tea. Lose myself in work for a while. I dread ending up tired, sweaty, and hammering at a book that will never sell because it’s too dark, too complex, too dangerous, too grim. Or not dark, complex, dangerous, and grim enough.

See? Headweasels, whispering in the corners, padding around the skull’s shadowed nooks, pressing their claws against the soft folds of a vulnerable brain.

The weasels just don’t seem to understand if I go down, they go down with me. They’re still determined to crash this fleshly bus into the nearest abutment at high speed. They’re not even good villains, as such things go. They’re just…balls of anxiety, with sleek fur, red eyes, and needle claws. Short-sighted, poo-flinging, nasty-tempered little idiots without even a cat’s gracefulness or (abstract and imperfectly applied) loyalty.

So I hunker down. I endure the brainweasels. I let them play and do my work while they try to bleed off precious energy. I use every strategy the therapist gave me and a few I picked up on my own. I write about the weasels to perform an old variety of sorcery: naming my enemy so I may gain power over it.

They’re uncomfortable, yes. But they’re just…thoughts. I know the power of a thought, and I know what a thought isn’t. It takes hard work over a long duration to turn small thoughts into reality, and while I’m not in charge of the thieving little mental mustelidae I am in charge of my hard work and effort. I’m the spaceship the weasels are loose in, and I can open the doors and fling us all into space at any moment.

New ones will generate if I somehow get my hands on the old, I’m sure. But I am the life support system, and I am the one living this life, and I am the one who will steer on down the highway, grimacing and pained but still in charge.

First on the agenda is a run to bring my mood back into line. Then it’s tea, and work. The weasels will scream or whisper, threaten or cajole, blandish or brandish, but I remain unmoved.

Or at least, I’m going to pretend to be unmoved, and go about my day. Good luck, everyone.

Let’s hope it works.

Cold, Critical Gloss

I find myself muttering, “Christ I wish I still drank” more and more often these days. Breaking out in hives the morning after I indulge in any alcohol isn’t as much of a deterrent as it might be.

It’s a busy month. Birthdays, tax preparation, phone calls to be endured. At least I have a few recipes to work on and perfect. I’m considering leek and potato soup in the Instant Pot, but we’ll see. I also want to try focaccia with the method in SALT FAT ACID HEAT. Normally I’m not a fan of enriching bread with anything that’ll coat the starches and keep the gluten from firming up, but there’s always room in life for experimentation, right?

All the social and life obligations mean less time for writing. I’ve been working at white heat for a while but apparently, it hasn’t been enough. I wanted to have a zero of HOOD‘s Season One by this point, but it just hasn’t happened. Plus, The Poison Prince needs steady filling work, being the middle book in a trilogy. Everything needs to be balanced just-so, and being called away from the work at this point is frustrating in the extreme.

It’s also very chilly, which means the dogs don’t want to go outside unless they can use me as a windbreak. And each time we do so, my hair rises up in rebellion and does its best to strangle me. I suppose I should tie it down but then my nape and ears get cold. At least there are no bees nesting in my mop; they generally wait for warmer months.

I also have, by virtue of an excellent best friend, a tea bush–an actual tea bush–that was raised locally so is hardened to our peculiar conditions. I want to wait until it’s no longer so frigid to get it in the ground, maybe right next to the butterfly bush or in one of the southern garden boxes. Just imagine–one’s own tea leaves, hyperlocal and hand-dried.

I did get a few books knocked off this weekend on the reading instead of the writing end, including a kind of useful but startlingly stuck-up review of just-before-modern Japanese literature. I’ve been defeated by The Tale of Genji numerous times but with annotations, lit crit, and glosses, one day I might climb that mountain, and critical works are a good way to begin to figure out what to look for in books I don’t understand the milieu of. I want to value what I read properly, and that means I must search for understanding.

My TBR has a dent in it and I should shelve everything on the “this has been read but not yet put away” section of my office just to get some breathing room. Maybe I’ll just take March as more reading-friendly than working-friendly, throw up my hands, and call it good…

…but I wouldn’t bet on it. I am, I suppose, a stubborn pumpkin, and one who needs a run no matter how cold the wind.

See you around, my dears.