Morpheus Skips Me

Some nights, not even warm socks or an extra blanket can keep insomnia at bay. About once a month, sleep decides it’s skipping me and heading for more congenial shores.

This isn’t as bad as it sounds, really. It used to be I couldn’t sleep at all–the anxiety lay in wait, a sharptooth creature with baleful eyes. Now, at least I can plan around that one day a month Morpheus decides to skip visiting. (Insert Matrix joke here.) And Miss B’s regular breathing, not to mention furry warmth, are far from the worst companions while I’m tossing and turning. Eventually I turned the light back on and wrote iterations of cover copy, then polished off The Vice-Consul.

I’m sure reading Duras wasn’t helping my mood. Her books provoke something very close to depression, kind of like listening to Jandek. Also like Jandek, they scratch a particular itch, and every once in a while I find myself scrubbing said itch until it bleeds.

So today is for the last proofing pass on In the Ruins, season 2 of Roadtrip Z. I’m just cranky enough to snag on details, but not too fatigued to say “fuck it, I don’t care.” It’s a good sweet-spot to hit, and after I get everything done, dusted, and uploaded, there’s a gentle run to shake my fidgets (and Miss B’s) out, with the bonus exhaustion factor to make sure I sleep tonight. I should probably also get the makings for red sauce into the crock pot–I wonder if I should do a roux for a base? Choices, choices.

*sits and stares for a moment* A roux might be over-enthusiastic of me. We’ll see.

Over and out.

Three Words Count

Some things need to be written by hand. Rattlesnake Wind was that way, and parts of Khir’s Honour are proving so as well. Then there’s nighttime, when I crawl into bed with a grateful sigh, rescue my zibaldone from the bedside table, and fish out a pen.

Sometimes I have plenty to record. Things I’ve thought about during the day, sometimes the weather, often I log reading and wordcount. Looking back over those entries, I see just how many days are obstacle courses. Just getting through can take all one’s finesse, skill, energy, courage, and restraint.

Conversely, I’m surprised by how often I note what’s turned out to be a pretty good day. Each time I haven’t been completely drained to transparency by the business of getting through daylight hours, it’s a gift. Maybe it’s bad that my bar for “good day” is so low, but I’ll take it.

Other things go into the zibaldone–dreams that don’t make it into the separate dream journal, memories, complaints, passages from books read during the day, words I want to look up, quotations I’m not sure of the provenance of, lists of things to remember, reminders to pick up this or that, political musings.

And yet, there come those days when I uncap the pen, stare at the page and the date, and finally write: Tired. No entry. I log the usual three-card tarot spread, think about it for a while, and close the journal. I rescue the bedside book from the pile I keep meaning to stack neatly, sigh, and read because I can’t sleep without doing so. Eventually the meds kick in, the light turns off, and I’m ready for night’s restorative journey.

Yes, handwriting is good. Wordcount is good. But even those three words–tired, no entry–count. They keep me in the habit of distilling each day into the journals, old ones ranged neatly on a shelf in my office because I no longer have to hide them.

Certain days might be a slog to get through. But even those three small words count, and keep me on the right track. Don’t ever discount small, incremental actions. They can keep you alive through the secret hollows of the night, when otherwise your grip might slip.

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Different Speeds

A dream of trying to get to a petrol station with a janky old minibus told me it was definitely time to get up this morning. I’m not allowed to run today–stressing my flu-ridden body with easy 5km jogs for the past couple days was just enough to scratch the itching under my skin, but not enough to tip me back into mucus, coughing, and wishing I could just crawl under a rock. The dogs turned their noses up at breakfast, since it didn’t have bacon grease smeared on the bottom of the bowl.

They are spoiled little things. When they get hungry enough, they’ll eat.

Stories often follow the same principle. The surrealist book I’m attempting is a painful word-by-word slog, each one chipped out and deleted three or four times as its sentence is tweaked, honed, and settled like a jigsaw piece. On the other hand, I fall into Broken Profile for an hour or so, enjoying myself by just transcribing the movie in my head. And the nascent YA is somewhere between the two, a steady process of building. Each book is different, but when one reaches the point where they refuse, setting out the bowl of kibble and waiting is often the best (or only feasible) strategy.

You can’t bat if you’re not waiting at the plate. (There, that’s my one sports metaphor, now I can go for months without making another.)

In the meantime, I knit a few rows, tap a little on Abyssrium, think about the story, test words inside my head like testing a handhold while climbing. Fingertips first, the rest of my body clinging to the rock, then a decision–a slow transferring of weight, or a sudden lunge?

It’s the former more often than you’d think, though I prefer the latter.

Anyway, I’ve gotten my amnesiac narrator onto the city streets, and next comes the meeting with the bargain-basement psychopomp. Maybe I should write the bathtub scene, though–that’s what’s filling my head right now with a ripple of water and clumps of black-tar desperation.

It’s a sunny morning. Maybe, instead of fighting with this, I’ll walk Miss B around the block. By the time I get to the end of the street, the problem will be solved.

Over and out.

On To Napoleon

Traffic on a highway at night
© Adam36 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I finished reading Karnow’s Vietnam: A History yesterday. I have the old hardback edition, picked up at a library sale somewhere or another, or maybe at the museum sale earlier this year. (I think it was this year.) Anyway, I did not find it “free of ideological bias,” since any work of history rests on bedrock assumptions that are culturally, well, biased. Like a worm in an apple–the worm eats, breathes, and shits apple, and thinks it’s air–so are historians, writers, singers, and all others in their culture. Ideology is an exhalation of culture, sometimes fragrant, more likely foul.

The next in line for serious reading–which includes reading in bed and taking notes in my zibaldone-slash-diary–is Brett-James’s The Hundred Days. I realized I have a shocking number of books on Napoleon, as an outgrowth of my quasi-obsession with the French Revolution, and it’s perhaps time I go through them. Especially the newer ones. There’s a fair amount of biographies of the man, but I’m more interested in him during the Revolution (when his “whiff of grapeshot” saves the day) and his invasion of (and subsequent retreat from) Russia. Of course, books that just scratch my little niche interests are few, and the urge to read more bracketing said interests in order to understand more deeply is overpowering.

I’m not complaining.

I have other thoughts on Karnow’s opus, but they have to sit and settle inside me before I can put them into anything resembling coherency. I’m just glad the flu is retreating so I can think in whole sentences again without each clause interrupted by a sneeze or a trip down the hall to blow my nose YET AGAIN. I got more exercise trekking for tissues than from a marathon. (That’s only slight hyperbole.)

Other than that, I finished a poncho knitted from this pattern. It’s green and stripy and lovely. The leftover yarn is going into a very long scarf instead of a hood. Stuck on a sentence? Knit a row. Watching a movie? Knit a few rows. Listening to a podcast? Knit many rows! Since the weather has turned, it’s all knitting all the time. I just don’t want to spend summer with a lapful of scratchy wool. I gorged on Fellini movies while knitting, feverish, and full of decongestant.

My dreams got awful interesting, when I could sleep.

And of course, today is for getting back on the serious wordcount horse. I’ve got that surrealist novel to prep for NaNo, and decisions to make about the next big project. I’m trying to only juggle two at a time. Trying. I think of juggling my usual four books at once and I get awful tired, which could just be the flu. I love my brain, it is a flexible and marvelous instrument, but sometimes I wish it wouldn’t eat itself quite so fiercely. I further wish my body would stop hosing off its internal surfaces with mucus and get back to the task at hand, but such is corporeal life. It’s ungrateful of me to be short-tempered with the physical frame that usually carries me so uncomplainingly.

Happy Monday, my friends.

Cough, Cover Copy

I don’t get ill very often anymore, so when I do, it’s somewhat aggravating. My body is valiantly fighting off what is turning out to be a mild flu, given the low-grade fever and joint aches. I had thought that with enough hydration and rest for the past few days, I’d be running again today.

BOY WAS I EVER WRONG.

*sigh*

So I’m twitchy, well enough to itch under my skin, but not well enough to go out for a few kilometers. Especially since the cough has moved into my chest. Of course, I’d feel great, flush with endorphins, just after the run, but by tomorrow morning the stress on the organism would have me wishing I’d stayed in bed. Not that I don’t normally wish that anyway, but…yeah. I think the expressive writing experiment dredged up some toxins, and my body is pushing them out with alacrity. Overall, it’s good for the health of my corpus, but in the short term, it’s near misery.

So it’s tea, knitting, and doing cover copy surgery. Cover copy is the stuff on the back of a book, or on the inside flap, that makes you want to buy it. I flat-out love writing cover copy, which, I gather, makes me somewhat of an oddity among writers. I suspect I’d also like writing catalog copy, especially if it was for Harriet Carter. Of all the catalogs I love paging through and snaking, the old HC has to be #1. I fancy I’m a bit of a dab hand at it, and I like it when friend-writers throw a cit of copy at me and say, “WORK YOUR MAGIC.”

I damn near chortle with glee.

It’s perfect for days when I’m physically not tiptop, too, because each project has a definite starting and ending point. Working in twenty-minute increments makes for appreciable progress on cover copy, where it might not for novel-writing. I might also get super crazy and do some yoga today. If I can breathe deeply without coughing this afternoon, that is.

So that’s the state of the Lili today. I’m sexing up descriptions of books from people I love to read and hang out with, which is pretty spiffy. Even though it’s not a perfect day, there is tea, rain on the roof, tea, dogs to snuggle on every work break, and I get to do something I love.

Not bad, my friends. Not bad at all.

A Gentle Day

Lock, Rain Drop, After Rain, Drops
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I woke up with a scratchy throat, fever-sweat, a persistent cough, and the frustrating knowledge that going for a run would just tip my body over into full-blown Yes, Congrats, You Have A Cold.

I’m on Day 4 of an expressive writing cycle. In a nutshell:

  • Day 1: Write for twenty minutes about a traumatic incident.
  • Day 2: Write for another twenty minutes about it, since you’ve had time to process.
  • Day 3: Write about it from another viewpoint–not your attacker’s or abuser’s, natch, they don’t deserve it. But perhaps in third person, or as your younger self, or as an older self.
  • Day 4: Write the story you want to take forward about the incident.

Of course, that’s the idea I gained of the process listening (while knitting) an episode of the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. I am no doubt be missing some refinements, nuances, and/or key points. However, it being something about writing, I dove right in.

That may have been a mistake, since the #MeToo thing hit as well. Reminders are everywhere lately. I know it’s because harassment and abuse is endemic, and I do not choose to speak openly about many of my own experiences for a variety of reasons. This leaves me feeling somewhat voiceless–a strange and vanishing experience for a writer.

This evening I get to write the story I want to take forward. So far, though, my overwhelming feeling has been gladness that I went to therapy. The EMDR in a safe therapeutic environment, in particular, had a marked effect. I’m sure I would have had nightmares the past few nights if not for the (blessed) desensitization I gained from that.

So, body and mind have been under somewhat of a strain, between finishing the zero of Season 3, a couple professional setbacks, revisions on a stressful project, the murderous dumpster fire of the current administration, reminders of past trauma, and the pressure of not being able to share details of that trauma with certain people I could normally expect support from. Add the weather change and my running mileage increasing, and the auld corpus that carries me about (largely uncomplaining, it must be said) needs some care and cosseting. Hydration, rest, and some soothing things are all called for.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my friends. Especially if you, like me, are unable to speak openly about some things. It does not make your experience any less valid. If it helps, I am with you.

Over and out.

Meeting Louis Darrul

Miranda was right, as usual. It wasn’t raining the next morning, though the forecast said thunderstorms later. So I bopped out, holding a mug of scalding coffee. I rather suspected I’d need the caffeine; and it’s handy as a weapon if the mug is big enough–or the coffee hot enough. I reasoned a crossbow firing toothpicks wasn’t likely to be out of coffee-flinging reach, either.

What? Yes, I do occasionally reason, my friends. Not often enough, to hear my exes talk, but hey, there’s a reason they’re ex.

Miranda: HELLO, DEAR.
Me: Good morning, Miranda. How are you?

(She, like me, prefers a little formality.)

Miranda: RATHER SHORT ON SLEEP. WE STAYED UP LATE, TALKING. BUT I’VE CONVINCED LOUIS TO MEET YOU, AT LEAST. HE IS…SOMEWHAT SHY.
Me: Im sure his habit of shooting at people doesn’t help.
Louis: THEY AIN’T PEOPLE, MA’AM.

Me: JESUS CHRIST.
Miranda: LANGUAGE, DEAR.
Louis: FUCK!
Miranda: *rather loudly* LANGUAGE!
Me: What the hell are you?
Miranda: LANGUAGE, DAMMIT!
Me: *shifting backward on my haunches, lifting my mug* Yeah, yeah, language. I repeat, who the hell are you, dude?
Louis: *eyeing my coffee mug warily* LOUIS DARRUL AT YER SERVICE, MA’AM.
Me: You’ve been shooting at my backyard residents?
Louis: FRIEND OF YOURS SENT ME.
Me: *bracing self, with a sinking sensation* Oh yeah? Who?
Louis: A MISS MEL. I WAS…WELL, HER CHICKENS ARE KIND OF…LOOK, I DIDN’T KNOW SHE KEPT THEM FOR EGGS, ALL RIGHT?
Me: *digging for my phone* Oh, hell no.
Miranda: IF YOU TWO ARE GOING TO USE IMPROPER LANGUAGE, TAKE YOUR CONVERSATION ELSEWHERE.
Me: *texting furiously* Miranda, you are the backyard oracle, and due respect, but for right now, my friend, shut up.
Louis: DON’T TALK TO HER LIKE THAT.
Me: I will settle your hash in a minute, Mr Darrul. Be quiet.

Now I shall present to you, my friends, an excerpt from the text conversation with my lovely, wonderful, mischievous writing partner, the Selkie.

Me: WHAT. THE FUCK. MEL.
The Selkie: What?
Me: You sent me a hillbilly with a crossbow?
The Selkie: Oh, yeah, him. He was irritating my chickens.
Me: FOR GOD’S SAKE.
The Selkie: What? You like zombie hunters.
Me: He thought your chickens were zombies?
The Selkie: It’s a long story. Enjoy.
Me: I swear I will get you for this.
The Selkie: *smiley face*

I stuck my phone back in my hoodie pocket and eyed the fellow. He eyed me right back, and his tiny finger twitched.

Me: Don’t even, dude.
Miranda: HE NEEDS A PLACE TO STAY.
Me: Oh, of course. Of course he does.
Miranda: IT’S NOT HIS FAULT, HIS HOME WAS OVERRUN BY–
Me: Oh, sure. Sure. I’ve got ceramic squirrels, a koala in a corset, a fucking Batman, what’s a psycho with a crossbow? Sure, great, wonderful, welcome to the goddamn backyard, Louis.

I was not very graceful at that point, I guess, but can you blame me? My nerves were somewhat shot. Miranda, thankfully, did not tell me to watch my language. I suspect she knew I would not take the suggestion kindly.

Louis: I WON’T MAKE NO TROUBLE, MA’AM.
Me: You are going to have to stop shooting at Willard. And at Joe.
Louis: WHO? YOU MEAN THE…BUT, MA’AM, THEY’RE UNDEAD.
Me: They are productive citizens of the backyard realm, sir.
Louis: …YOU SURE?

I tipped my head back, my jaw working. I could feel my teeth groaning under the strain.

Miranda: YOU SEE? DESPITE HER TEMPER, SHE IS A VERY GOOD RULER.
Me: I doubt I’m in charge here, Miranda.
Miranda: WELL, NOMINALLY, AT LEAST.
Me: *bringing my chin back down* I suppose I deserved that one.
Miranda: *quietly* YES, YOU DID.
Me: Okay. Fine. Sure, what the hell. If you stop shooting at Willard and Joe, Mr Darrul, you can stay.
Louis: WHAT ABOUT THE SQUIRRELS? THEM’S TASTY, AND A MAN’S GOTTA EAT.
Me: Oh, good Lord.

So I ended up gingerly closing my hand around Louis’s middle, trying to avoid the crossbow–

Louis: CAREFUL, WOMAN. THAT’S MAH KNIFE.
Me: I could hold you by your head.
Louis: *extremely quiet*
Miranda: VERY GOOD, THEN.
Me: Sorry for cussing, Miranda.
Miranda: THAT’S ALL RIGHT, DEAR. YOU WERE IN SOMEWHAT OF A SITUATION. OH, YOU’LL NEED BURN CREAM.
Me: For…? *standing up, a bit too quickly* Oh, fuck.
Miranda: THAT.
Louis: BE CAREFUL, DAMMIT!

I’d forgotten just how hot my coffee was. I swore all the way carrying him inside, ran my hand under cold water while swearing, and introduced him to Fred, George, and Tiny!Batman in a rather perfunctory fashion. George got him a cuppa, Fred clucked over the state of his boots, and Wendy did not take to him but she was polite.

Later, of course, I found out he really was a good ally in the event of squirrel attack. But that’s (say it with me) another story.