Holiday Waterholes

Just because you’ve always gone to that waterhole doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.

…Let me back up.

It’s that time of year again, holiday time. Decorated dryad-corpses in living rooms, cranky children in stores overwhelmed by colorful advertising, frazzled drivers ramming each other in parking lots with shopping trolleys AND cars. Also, fudge!

I love fudge.

This is also the time of year I hear a lot of people dreading the inevitable family gatherings. I often make an announcement on social media concerning this, but I figured this year I’d post it here as well.

Here is your yearly reminder that you don’t have to go to that holiday gathering if you don’t want to. NOBODY WILL DIE IF YOU DON’T GO TO THAT FAMILY GATHERING. You can stay home and save yourself the grief.

See, toxic people have a ball this time of year, because not only do they get to ramp up the drama and get that emotional jolt, but their prey will come to the same waterhole and offer easy access. It’s a moving buffet for interpersonal predators this time of year. Plus, there are enablers who will pressure the prey to come to that danger-infested waterhole, because “it’s what we do every year” and “family” and “togetherness” and “you don’t want to ruin it for everyone” and “just get along” and “maybe it’ll be different this time.” Implicit in this, too, is the enablers realizing very well that if the regular prey isn’t there, a toxic predator will turn on someone else–very likely the enabler themselves.

You do not have to put yourself through that. There are other waterholes without predators, and you can visit them for your holiday jibjabber and baked goods. You can even stay home, bake yourself a bunch of fun stuff, and go to bed early, which is my favorite way to spend any holiday.

If you’r looking for permission not to peel your own skin off or stake yourself out in the blazing sun of family drama, consider this it. You do not have to do this thing that hurts you. You do not have to allow predators and toxic people or even just garden-variety family bigots access to you, your emotional effort, your time.

“But I’ll feel guilty!” I hear a lot of people say.

So you’ll feel guilty. Which is worse–a little bit of guilt, or enduring the gauntlet at that particular infested waterhole? My life got a lot better when I realized enduring the guilt I’d been socialized to feel at enforcing my boundaries was way, way, WAY easier than suffering the fallout from making myself available to abusers, predators, and those who were just used to me performing emotional labour at the drop of a hat.

I’m over forty, I don’t have time for that bullshit, I have no fucks left to give, and if a small amount of guilt is the price I pay for holidays that don’t leave me marooned in an emotional mudhole, I’ll pay it and go on with my life whistling.

If you need permission, consider this it. If you need to know it’s okay to make that choice, I’m telling you, it’s okay.

Happy holidays.

Validation

I spent the weekend putting together alternatives to Patreon for my lovely subscribers. I could have been doing so many other things, but oh well. I also had the heaving frustration of my site basically choking every time I tried to upload an image, that was fun. Fortunately, this morning I got in the queue for a service chat with my hosting provider, and we figured out the problem. Ugh, double ugh, I could have been doing something else with THAT time, too, but now it’s solved (for the moment, we’ll see if the solution holds) and I can breathe a little easier.

I am also relieved that the problem was something I couldn’t have fixed on my own. It’s so nice when someone else says, “Oh yeah, it’s X, let’s see if this works.” I wasn’t just imagining things! I mean, I knew I wasn’t, but the validation is still pleasant indeed.

So I’m shivering in my chair, my coffee has grown tepid, and as hard as I tried this morning I could not get out the door for a run at a reasonable time. That means it will have to be unreasonable, and I’m already behind. There’s four scenes to get an acceptable zero draft of Combine Shadow, a weekend’s worth of wordcount to get back on top of, more Beast of Wonder to feel my way around, under, towards…oh, I’m sure there’s more on the list, including setting up workflows and choosing this week’s subscription offerings. And, and, and. I should just get over myself, slather on some sunscreen, and get going. Maybe the endorphins and some vitamin D will make me feel a little less frazzled and more, well, human.

Maybe once I finish my run I’ll turn the heat on and drink some tea. It’s a good thing I work ahead on so many projects, it means I have a cushion for just such weekends as the last one. The only trouble is, once that cushion starts to get thin I get anxious, thinking I’m behind when really I’m slightly ahead or just on time. If I’m not early, I feel late.

Anxiety is fun.

That’s my Monday, chickadees. The perennial feeling of needing a weekend to recover from the weekend is getting awful familiar…

Patreon’s Cash Grab

I sent this message to all my Patreon backers. On the off chance that some of them have already deleted their pledges, I’m also posting it here.

Hello Patrons!

By now, I’m sure, you’ve heard about Patreon’s fee changes. This is a cash grab by the company–for details, you can check out Natalie Luhrs’s excellent post–and it is a horrible idea.

It’s horrible because loading up $1-$5 subscribers with “transaction fees” EVEN THOUGH said subscribers’ cards etc are only charged ONCE no matter how many creators they support is unethical, dishonest, and wrong.

Patreon is currently the only game in town–Kickstarter Drip hasn’t opened to everyone yet, and even if it did, the company is owned by Amazon, which puts me off. I’m looking into other options, but it’s going to take a while.

If you need to delete your pledge because of this, I encourage you to do so. I would rather absorb the cost than have it placed on you, because that’s the ethical way of doing business.

Since this is Patreon using a unilateral shit move, however, I don’t want you guys to suffer. **If you delete your pledge because of this, PLEASE DROP ME AN EMAIL AT contact AT lilithsaintcrow DOT com so I can make sure you get the ebook of Season 3 for free when it’s finished.** I don’t want you guys missing out because of someone else’s shitty behavior.

I also have a post up where you can vote and tell me what changes to the reward structure should happen in light of this development.

I depend on patrons for a small but consistent monthly sum that keeps us in groceries, but I don’t want it if it’s a result of screwing over people who generously give because they believe in me and my work. It would be a shoddy way to repay you for your kindness and support.

Again, if you decide to delete your pledge, drop me an email so I can add you to the list of those who will get the Roadtrip Z Season 3 ebook for free. I want to make sure you get your money’s worth, no matter what Patreon does.

All my very best,

Lili Saintcrow

Egg-Carton Treatment

The thing I find most interesting about this is the amount of resources allotted to shepherding a relatively small number of white supremacists to “safety”.

The main group was escorted several blocks to the Farragut West Metro station, which was then temporarily closed to allow the neo-Nazis and white supremacists time to escape. Spencer, meanwhile, was hustled into a waiting SUV. (ThinkProgress)

Can you imagine the same egg-carton treatment given to, say, a small number of BLM protestors? Or a tiny group of Planned Parenthood supporters? I mean, I can imagine the police allowing, say, an SUV driven by a racist misogynist to plow into a group of either and inflict a casualty. But the white glove treatment for either? Clearing a whole Metro station? Something other than pepper spray, truncheons, and zip ties?

I can’t see that at all.

On Little Men

I’ve been reading Victor Serge’s From Lenin to Stalin the past couple days. The hagiography of Lenin is desperate–Serge really wanted to believe the revolution had been betrayed instead of Stalin being its natural consequence–but his portrait of Stalin is one of the better ones. It’s interesting to read as a historical document, especially his assertion that Lenin’s would-be assassin Fanny Kaplan was still alive at the time of publication. (Note: She wasn’t, she’d been shot almost immediately in 1918.) Lenin was a masterful liar and manipulator, dedicated to Marxism no less than to the myth of his own inerrancy, and the only thing that saved him from becoming Stalin was his relatively early death.

What’s also interesting is the absolute predictability of abusive, fascist shitheels. They all operate off the same playbook. The revolution that survives long enough eats its young and becomes tomorrow’s dictatorship. Those who survive the revolution and profit from the exhaustion afterward aren’t the bravest, the brightest, or the best–they’re the most violent, the ones most capable of pulling levers in committees, the ones who can terrify a group into submission to their whims, the already-advantaged. All this led me to a realization.

I am struck, over and over again, by the type of the Little Man.

The Little Man is a bigot, soaked in toxic patriarchy and raised to believe he is superior but prey to a gnawing sense that his benefit on an uneven playing field means he is secretly weak. (It’s true, but telling him so carries a high risk of being brutalized or shot.) He is the absolute autocrat of his home–or tries to be, and any resistance to his rule is met with overwhelming violence, at first emotionally but then, inevitably, physically. On a larger scale, resistance to his primacy is met with discrimination and violence against women, different skin colors or cultures, or anyone not prepared to ritually lick his boots. If he is rich, his sense of grievance is doubled by the gnawing suspicion of weakness, and if he became rich by trumpeting that sense of grievance, it becomes the hill he will, if at all possible, force others to die upon.

I grew up under the heel of a Little Man. There is practically no difference between his regime and Stalin’s, it’s only a matter of degree. The domestic tyrant’s only variance from the nation’s dictator is scale.

Resistance to the Little Man’s rule is at once treated as trifling and overwhelmingly dangerous. Stalin’s regime at once believed that “Trotskyism” was weak, ineffective, stupid–and so overwhelmingly powerful that only mass arrests and shootings held any chance of eradicating it. The domestic tyrant belittles his victims, calling them weak and stupid, but at the same time malicious and crafty enough to bring down all order within the house. The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming–the victims are at once all-powerful and powerless, a threat to be met with overwhelming force and mere insects easily crushed. He must be at once infallible as a ruler and endangered by the machinations of the weak. For example, let’s not forget Lenin saw the NEP as merely a temporary stopgap, and planned to go back to shooting peasants and confiscating grain as soon as politically feasible; his sole concern was making his backtracking seem like something he’d endorsed all along and making sure the violence would be, too. Or that Stalin’s bugbear Trotsky was everywhere and nowhere at once, the original 1984 Goldstein. Or the current administration’s harping on “Muslim terrorists.”

The Little Man desires, wants, needs to be a god. He will have nothing around him but cringing servility, but when faced with an external authority he becomes the servile cringer. He abuses his spouse, his children, his mistress with seeming impunity, but also threatens them to keep their mouths shut. Sunshine on his private peccadilloes is feared above all else. A totalitarian state, seemingly all-powerful, menaces its citizens with divide-and-conquer and the threat of nine grams of lead–but sunshine on its inner workings lights the fuse of resistance. The Little Man craves legitimacy, and will beat, murder, rape, and rob until he has a facsimile of it.

Above all, the Little Man requires that his victims not only submit physically but emotionally, spiritually, invisibly. It wasn’t enough for the tyrant I grew up under that I was physically incapable of fleeing, that I stopped outward resistance after a protracted beating. He wished, he required, that I make my debasement complete by thanking him for his abuse, flattering his vanity, telling him he was right. The ritual–first physical abuse, then mental and emotional debasement–was set in stone, and refusing to submit to the latter half inevitably brought more physical abuse. The tyrant, domestic or national, wishes to be told he is the best, the biggest, the smartest, the bravest, the alpha and the omega. He wishes hosannas of praise to temporarily drown out consciousness of his final impotence, to temporarily salve the consciousness of playing a game rigged for his benefit and hence meaningless.

God, to the Little Man, is merely the Little Man in charge, made in his image, given lip service. Freedom, to the Little Man, is merely his own to force compliance on others. Justice, to the Little Man, is the deck stacked in his favor and the victims adoring and thanking him. The Little Man is a workplace harasser, a domestic batterer, a domestic terrorist, a fascist functionary, a totalitarian dictator. Again, the only difference between all those species is of degrees, the size of their victim pool. A group of Little Men will smile and scrape at their leader until the time seems right for knives in the dark, then the next Little Man will take his place.

Oh, I grew up with a Little Man. I dated several of them. I married one, and divorced him posthaste. I’ve worked for them, I’ve seen them in power, I’ve had to deal with them every moment of my life. I know their games, their inadequacies, their vanities. I was forced to learn all about them to survive. It’s faint comfort to be able to predict them.

I’ll leave further, obvious comparison to current events and regimes to your own imagination, dear Reader. I’m tired, and there’s a run to get in and work to do. Reading history makes me cynical, and leaves me with only one thought.

May all the gods save us from Little Men.

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.