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.

Doubt Merely Looms

Barn Owl
© Donfink | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I’m not sure who I’d be if I stopped writing (other than a corpse), but I wonder sometimes if it would stop the periodic bouts of crippling self-doubt.

I’m not talking the lo-fi “maybe I should be a plumber instead,” or even the grinding envy when you read something achingly brilliant someone else has written. No, those are all normal, and well within tolerances. I’m not talking ennui, or procrastination, or even garden variety low self-worth.

I’m talking about a bleak black hole that rivals clinical depression in its will-sapping, crushing, even-just-breathing-is-an-effort numbness. I differentiate between the two because meds beat back the depression and hold the anxiety at bay, but do shit-all for the doubt.

No, I’m not there yet, but it’s close. Some days I feel it hovering. I’m sure the current on-fire state of the world isn’t helping. Empathy is critical to writing, but it can turn into a handicap really quickly.

The bigger thing is, of course, I finished a book that was huge, complex, better than anything I’d ever done before…and it’s having a difficult, tortuous slog through the publication process. It’s the kind of experience that, if I were a newbie writer, might put me off publishing altogether. It’s like being stabbed repeatedly, pulling the knife out only to have another go in, slow or fast, doesn’t matter. A perfect storm of “whatever can go wrong, will” has crashed into my life, and upended a lot of plans.

I had meant to get some more of the Angelov Wolves written, especially Misha’s book, which I really like. Unfortunately, limited bandwidth means I’m on still on the zero of Roadtrip Z’s third season, eking out only a few words each day, pushing against an elastic, resisting barrier. It’s all I can do to keep going with the serial, and I keep glancing up at the master to-do list and feeling like crying. I have taken to closing the office door, just so I can sit and stare, the engines of story working right below conscious thought, grinding slow but exceeding fine.

The only way out is through, I guess. Punching and jabbing and fending off the hovering black hole, telling myself that even two hundred words a day is two hundred more than I had before, and that with significant portions of my emotional energy taken up with healing after the latest round of oh-my-dear-gods-you-have-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me-they-want-WHAT it’s good enough. The dogs help, of course, since as long as their bellies are full and walkies and snuggles are handy, it’s all good. And the kids are older now, so I don’t have to put on much of a brave facade. They understand when I’ve had a shit day it’s not them, and I can bitch about work at the dinner table a little and get some commiseration.

There’s coffee, and the weather changing, too. Rain is due this Sunday, and that means productivity. At least the worst is behind me, when it comes to this particular publication process. I don’t ever have to go through that particular experience again. It’s a good thing I’ve got years of accumulated experience in this career, so something like this doesn’t put me off that aspect of it completely.

But oh, my dear sweet fluffy bonnet, I need time to recover. The more I try to push, the more damage I’ll do and the longer healing will take. And thank goodness for the meds, since my brain chemistry, already having tried to kill me several times, does not need the provocation of the Gigantic Black Hole of Doubt.

After lunch–spicy, spicy noodles, plenty of curry paste and some Bangkok Blend–I’m going to take down my master to-do list, and make a new one with only three things on it, one of which I’ve already done. Narrowing one’s scope and focusing on details can push away the looming monster.

As long as it merely looms, and doesn’t settle on the roof entirely, I can get through. All this stubbornness has to be good for something. Also, Odd trundles has just settled to lick at my ankles, which means it’s time to get up and make that lunch.

Over and (damply) out.

Can’t Even

There’s a fine layer of ash over everything, courtesy of a fire in the Columbia Gorge. We’re not in any immediate danger, it’s just difficult to breathe. After yesterday’s long run, my body just isn’t having it, even on the treadmill. I suppose I’ll do an hour of yoga later in the day and call it good.

Rarely have I been so aware of the cleaning functions of mucus. I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyway, there are huge fires, Houston’s still underwater and another super-hurricane is coming in, and that orange racist bigot in the White House is doing his level best to hurt everyone he and his circle of cronies can.

It’s gonna be a long week. If you need me, I’ll be writing, desperately trying to find some good in the world.

photo by: Dusty J

Canary Shed Finale

So, when last we spoke, dear Readers, I was crouched inside my shed while a squirrel danced on the roof.

Our shed has its idiosyncrasies, just like the house. I think part of the reason I fell in love with this place was that it seemed just as weird as our little family. (That, and the air-conditioning.) One of those little fiddles, as I mentioned, is the fact that the shed door will not close when the damn thing is unoccupied, but it will slam shut in a hurry if someone’s fool enough to pause inside. (Don’t tell me “it’s the floor.” That fucker is on a concrete slab.)

So the door, which had hit a hummock and shaken the entire structure, began to rebound, and I realized that soon I was going to be in the dark with a squirrel on the roof and dear God, how do I get myself into these sorts of situations?

Sheer genius, I guess. Anyway. True to form, the shed door began swinging closed. But what was this?

Oh, my dear Reader, I’ll tell you what it was.

Silence. Deathly silence, except for Emphysema Joe getting warmed up on a string of obscenities breathtaking in scope, style, and sheer vitriol. (I gather some of the roof detritus had slid off the roof and onto his poor wee head.)

Now, things happen very quickly after this. Bear with me.

Picture Your Humble Narrator crouching in close quarters, mildly surprised that she fits next to the lawnmower and far too close for comfort to the rake-and-catcher duo used to scoop up the dogs’ daily peristaltic offerings. Overhead are the rafters, full of implements which might be of use–cultivator, two business-sized shovels, pitchfork, you get the idea. There’s also the compost turner and the rake on the back wall, but getting there requires balletic contortions and for reasons that will soon become obvious, time was of the essence.

Now, as the silence deepens and the door begins to swing shut, imagine the gloom of the shed growing deeper, and imagine my face changing as I hear a skitter-stomp overhead. It may be dark inside there, but there’s nothing wrong with my ears, and said ears are busily triangulating the location of an arboreal rodent on the other side of far-too-thin sheet metal.

Skitter-stomp. Skitter-stomp. Skitterskitterskitter.

STOMP.

The door, suddenly weighted on its top edge with however-many-ounces of flying rodent, swung wide again.

Because you see, my dear Reader, Canary!Squirl had only vaguely remarked my presence, but she sure as shit noticed the door, and its top must have borne a striking resemblance to a moving branch she could use to catapult herself to some precarious safety elsewhere. Now, I’m sure a squirrel knows a lot about branches, and even more about leaves, and all there is to know about pinecones. I remain, and will definitely continue to my dying day, firmly convinced that no squirrel, no matter how intelligent, grasps the concept of hinges.

I can only surmise the door, momentarily confused by Schrodinger’s Tree-Rat being neither inside nor outside the shed, couldn’t decide what the fuck. Canary!Squirl’s application of force sent it careening outward at high speed, while she clung to the top. But then, well…remember that hummock? The one that charitably stops the door each time it’s flung wide?

Yeah.

Well, the door hit that collection of dirt, castoff cedar fingernails, pebbles, and what-have-you. And, confused even more by my presence inside the shed, the urge to close, the urge to continue on its outward way as kinetic energy demanded but the hummock halted, and Canary!Squirl’s sudden, hellish, and extremely loud scream, it opted for closing.

With a vengeance.

While I may not be blessed with much in the way of youth anymore, dear Reader, I do still retain some excellent reflexes. One of them is the quick darting motion of the hand for anything nearby that can serve as a weapon when my hindbrain decides enough is enough and there’s self-defense to be done.

I’ve told you about the rafters, and about the back wall of the shed. But on the left side as you come in is a small occasional table, one I used for my laptop many ages ago when I was in a small-desk phase. It holds smaller things one uses in gardening, right near the shed door for easy access. Things like, oh, you know. Gloves. Small clippers. A bulb-dropper. Plastic plant identification tags. The prospect of being locked in the shed with a crazed, screeching, anarchist tree-rat was not pleasant, to say the least. The door was closing quickly, the darkness was rising, and I had to ride into battle, so to speak.

I gained my full hominid upright stature with a lunge that would have made my old ballet teacher proud, pivoting on the ball of my left foot, and my right hand flickered out, closing around a rubbery handle. Veteran Lili, the part of me that has endured many a bar fight, was not quite finished, though. I was armed, after a fashion, but the old battlemonger in the back of my head made a number of calculations, looked at the results, tossed them out, did a few sums she liked better, and sprang into action without pausing to ask the rest of me (especially my executive functions) for an opinion or even a quorum.

In short, my dear Reader, I saw the ass end of a scrabbling squirrel clinging to the shed door and approaching at high speed, right about head level. My right knee came up, my foot pistoned out, and I heard one of my ex-boyfriends saying, softly, don’t kick it, kick THROUGH it. (Now he was a LOT of fun. Only time I ever dated a Marine, though. Once was enough.)

For once, friends and neighbors, when faced with a squirrel, the gods were on my side. It was a beautiful fucking kick, even if I did almost fall over onto the lawnmower and the dogshit-gathering tools at its end.

BAM.

Me: JESUS CHRIST!
Emphysema Joe: –AND I’M GONNA DENUDE YOUR TAIL LIKE BRIGITTE BARDOT WITH A POPSICLE, YOU PUNK!
Canary!Squirl: SKREEEEEEEEEE!

The door, now thoroughly confused but still subject to physics, made a hollow cracking sound and retreated from my sudden application of foot. Like I said, I almost fell over, saved myself just in time, and regained my balance with a lurch. My shoe flew off for the second damn time that day.

And the squirrel? Well, she clung to the top of the door, and for the umpteenth time, the hummock served its ordained purpose of stopping said door.

The Canary Anarchist, bold and brave, flew.

Over the fence.

Between two cedars.

Through small branches.

Across the neighbor’s yard.

And landed on the neighbor’s nice new deck.

Still screaming.

And that, dear Readers, is how I ended up hobbling out of my shed at high speed, searching for my shoe for the second time that morning. It wasn’t until I finally found said shoe that I realized I was holding a weapon.

Canary!Squirl: FIGHT! FIGHT YOU ALL!
Emphysema Joe: COME BACK HERE! COME BACK AND TRY IT!
Miss B and Odd Trundles: *inside the house, hearing strange sounds through my open bedroom window* MUM? MUM WHERE ARE YOU? WE ARE ASCAIRT!
Me: …sonofabitch.

I decided discretion was by far the better proportion of valor and hightailed it across the yard, stopping only to grab a poor coffee mug, thankfully unbroken, I luckily encountered along the way. I made it into the house, shut the patio door, and the dogs scrabbled out of my bedroom and down the hall to greet me, since I had clearly been gone for YEARS and they had waited PATIENTLY and now I was BACK and they had to tell me how SCARED they were without me and how GLAD they were I was back.

And, my dearest, most faithful and constant readers, I realized I was still armed. Want me to tell you with what?

Are you sure?

Okay.

With a tiny, handheld gardening shovel.

With all the adrenaline going on I barely needed a second dose of coffee, Miss B had forgotten all about the squirrel atop the shed, and Emphysema Joe is still upset about the lavender. The shed door will probably never be the same. Odd Trundles, of course, just wanted to know if the little shovel was food, and if it was, if it was intended for his gaping maw. I did see Canary!Squirl later that day, when I went out to close the damn shed and put the shovel away…

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. I’m gonna count this particular interaction as a win, even if I did lose my shoe. (Twice.)

Thus ends the Ballad of Canary Shed.

An Unserious Post

Coming Home
© Kwest19 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
One of the things I always loved doing was walking at night. Especially with a camera that functioned well in low light settings. I am, by nature, a night person. (Which surprises nobody.) Having diurnal children means I’ve been fighting my body for years now. The entire world is set up for the daytime people.

I always told myself that when the kids were older I’d allow myself back on my preferred schedule. But then…dogs. Especially Miss B, who is a BRIGHT SHINY HAPPY MORNING DOGE. Of course, as she grows older, she’s more inclined to have a bit of a lie-in, but her idea of one is a full fifteen minutes of hard snoring before nosing me hopefully or sticking her paw in my armpit to make sure I’m still alive.

She does so love to be helpful. It absolutely torments her if I shut her out of the bedroom while I do twenty minutes of yoga. Apparently that is an eternity of cold loneliness, so bleak and terrifying she has to howl at the door. It’s kind of hard to relax, even in Corpse Pose, with a dog wailing that she MISSES, and LOVES, and CANNOT BREATHE without, YOOOOOOOOU. Then, of course, Odd Trundles, who doesn’t understand quite what’s going on, thinks that because the smarter dog is wailing something must be wrong, gets in on the act.

It’s either deal with that noise outside the door or let them in, where they decide to helpfully nose or hip-check me in every pose. Downward dog? They have to be underneath me! Plank? Try to knock Mum over or take out her arms! Reclined side twist or Figure-4? Sit on Mum’s hair! Reclined Goddess? Crawl over Mum’s knees to give her a Van Damme groin stretch! Tree Pose? HIT HER ANKLES! AGILITY TRAINING!

…yeah, so either way, those twenty minutes of yoga are probably far more…active…than any swami or guru ever intended. At least the last time they decided to cavort under me while I was trying to stay upright in Tree Pose, I fell onto my bed instead of Odd’s crate. Small mercies.

I did have a Serious Post planned for today, but apparently I’ve become distracted. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Wandering around at night to take pictures.

Maybe there will come a time in my life when I can do that again. Sadly, it’s not yet, so I have to do other things I love. The bright side is, I have so many things to love and be interested in. Even if I have to drag my protesting body out of bed and subject it to wakefulness when it’s genetically designed for sleep.

*shuffles off to find more caffeine*

*also, dodging dogs*

Language Morning

Single
© Twds2 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Get up. Stumble through yoga. Stagger into kitchen. Let dogs out, feed cavy his morning treat. Let dogs in, feed them. Breakfast with French and Spanish.

Make coffee. Trip twice heading down the hall, manage not to spill any coffee, open up Rosetta Stone for Latin. Stare at “hoc, hic, haec” and curse every goddamn part of speech. Startle-jump when phone buzzes, reminding me I’ve a 5K slated for later this morning. Eye Caesar, trying to decide if it’s worth opening him up today.

Feel guilty for even contemplating skipping a day. Startle-jump again when a cold wet nose touches my ankle. Let cat out, muttering imprecations.

Head back to my bedroom without tripping, so the coffee must be sinking in. Brush teeth, mumbling “hoc, hic, haec” and various versions of “Fuck this noise.” Grab running shoes, wonder which of my children is stealing my running socks, decide it doesn’t matter. Maybe the dogs have eaten them. Head back to office, stare at Caesar, daring him to open up and say one. goddamn. thing. Have longing thoughts of traveling back in time and stabbing Caesar before Brutus could.

Open Caesar. Blink. Begin reading aloud, checking each sentence against translation on facing page. Startle-jump again when someone slams a car door across the street. Drop Caesar, begin swearing softly so as not to wake the children. Pet Miss B, who has decided I obviously need help and many snootboops this morning. End up sitting on office floor, dog under my arm, reciting Caesar interspersed with “goddammit, fuck you, alliteration, what does that mean…oh, okay…fuck you anyway…”

I have longing thoughts of adding Korean to my daily language practice, but I’m not sure I’d survive the experience.

And that, my friends, is what a Monday morning is like here a la Chez Saintcrow. It’s like every other morning, except with about ten percent more swears.

Weekend Reading

The weekend, with alternating sun and drenching cool rain, has spun spring into high gear. Fortunately, the winter’s hard freezes seem to have put a dent in the slug population, or my hostas have the jump on the things, I can’t tell which. It’s nice not to have them blasted by slug-trails as soon as they sprout this year. The apple trees are in bloom, the cherries are exuberant, and even the hail has been moderate. Of course, the squirrels dug up most of my favas, so I have to replant those to get some nitrogen-fixing into the soil, but after the winter I kind of don’t blame the little furry fuckers.

They’ve grown amazingly fat now. And they’ve taken to showing up on the deck during our dinner hour, which makes me frantically check to make sure everyone’s wearing shoes. The kids laugh at me, but I don’t find it very funny.

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Last American Man this weekend. I thought it would feed Roadtrip Z, and my writing partner was reading it for her own purposes, so I picked it up from the library.

It’s been a long time since I hate-read a book, and this one I had to get furious over to finish. Not because of the author–Gilbert has serviceable prose, and does her best to present the subject fairly and honestly. I do wish she would have read The National Uncanny before spouting off about the “frontier”, though. (To be honest, I think The National Uncanny should be required reading for every American.)

No, what pissed me off to no end was the massive, entitled selfishness of her subject Eustace Conway. It’s similar to how I felt reading Krakauer’s Into the Wild–here are white boys from comfortable if not wealthy homes, leaving a trail of broken promises and people behind while they go off “into the wilderness” and, as if that’s not enough, have the sheer unmitigated gall to look down their noses at other people’s embrace of modernity. These jackasses keep being treated as if they’re somehow special, and it irks me to no end. Selfishness on this scale, while de rigueur for mediocre white men, is always irritating. I’ll use just one example here: Eustace Conway’s TED talk. Not only is it billed as him living a “deeper life” somehow, since he shits in the woods, but you’d have read Gilbert’s book to know that the horse trips he talks about were taken with other people–his brother and a female friend in the first case, and Conway’s then-girlfriend for the buggy ride. He completely discounts the work of others that make his little Davy Crockett dreams possible.

…yeah, you can tell what I thought of all of that. Massive, blinding privilege is all over this guy, and yet he gets kudos for being somehow “natural.” How many indigenous speakers could have used some of the PR air his blowhard self took up? Imagine, if he was a minority, how differently several parts of his story would have played out.

My fury, it has many parts. Suffice to say I finished the book, read some news articles about Conway’s legal troubles, and rolled my eyes so hard it probably caused a few of the neighbors to think there was spring thunder. To be stringently fair, my feelings about camping may have influenced me somewhat. Thousands of years we’ve spent as a species, getting away from being naked in the woods with no toilet paper, and some idiots think they want to go back.

Anyway, I’m on Sydenham’s The Girondins, after finishing Mathiez’s After Robespierre and a newer edition of Bruun’s Saint-Just: Apostle of the Terror. There really are no good in-depth biographies of Saint-Just, at least, in English. Part of that is probably that Robespierre eclipsed him, and another part is probably the paucity of documentary evidence. I have to say Tanith Lee’s The Gods are Thirsty has the best portrait of Saint-Just around, and it’s a novel, he’s only a secondary character.

The weekend encompassed much else, of course, including the washer acting up. Now that the coffee’s sunk in, I’m going to go prop it up and take a whack at fixing what I think the problem might be. Wish me luck, and if that doesn’t work, let’s hope the home warranty covers washers.

Over and out.