Out at Night

I was at the Powell’s Authorfest last night, along with a host of other fantastic authors. There were a lot of people, and quite a few of them told me they liked Cormorant Run. Which was great to hear–it’s one of the books I like best, but it seems reviews have been mixed.

Not that I look at reviews often. You know how I feel about that.

Anyway, driving home in the dark, my brain in that strange liminal place of juggling time, speed, distance, and the current stories I’m working on, I felt my life loop over and catch on another peg. I’ve done a lot of driving or wandering at night with my head full of stories, trying to shake out pieces or fit them together. I got out of the habit when the kids were younger–you can’t leave your house empty except for sleeping children, not unless it’s an emergency. I realized how much I missed being out at night.

I suppose I could go out walking with my camera after dark again now, since the kids are well into their teens. Miss B, of course, would ache and pine to go along. At the same time…I love being out at night, it’s my preferred time, but I’ve just arrived at the point where I can sleep reliably. A small but significant proportion of my used-to-be-usual insomnia is the fact that I am a night owl; my internal rhythm is set to rise and resurrect about noon, get to work around 2pm, go until 11pm-midnight, wind down, and go to bed about 2am. Given my druthers, that’s how my entire life would be arranged.

But it’s a daywalker’s world, especially if you have children who are Day People. School means getting up when daywalkers do, consequently I’ve been doing it for years. Now the kids are largely capable of getting up on their own, but shifting the dogs’ schedule would entail a lot of moaning and groaning. And I am on call while the kids are out of the house–just because they’re not home doesn’t mean I’m allowed to sign off.

So, obeying the schedule my body wants would require shifting the dogs’ schedule, possibly being out of commission during a Grown(ish) Child’s emergency, and moving my meds schedule. That last is the least worrisome of the three. I can’t accept the thought of being out of commission while one of my spawn needs me, no matter if one of them is technically old enough to smoke and go to war. (Not that she’ll do either, she reminds me, thank you very much Mum.)

I guess I’ll impersonate a daywalker for a little while longer. Maybe until the Little Prince is out of school and settled on his trajectory. At least I can consciously decide to do so, instead of feeling trapped by circumstance.

Driving at night and feeling that internal catch, the sense of a life decision being reached or coming back to a particular angle on the spiral of one’s current incarnation, is precious. So is arriving home, pulling into the garage, and having Grown(ish) Children and dogs clustering at the door because they missed you and they’re glad you’re home. Hugs and the high-speed downloading of what happened at work or while I was gone, cold damp noses pressed against my knee and wiggling hind ends, grins and “I put the stuff for your dinner right next to the stove, Mum” all add up to another soft, beautiful realization.

Sometimes, I think, I long to go out at night just to come home, now that I have a safe warm nest to return to.

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.

photo by:

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.

Monday, Running

It’s been a while since I talked about running here, other than just noting mileage. Like any practice, it changes over time. When I go back and look at old posts about running, it’s both amusing and terrifying. I pushed myself pretty hard, initially. Of course, you guys know I have two speeds, and two only: full ahead and complete collapse.

This is perhaps not healthy, but oh well. Here’s a list of things about running, to start off this autumnal week.

Runkeeper. I used to log my mileage in paper running diaries like this one. Shifting to outside running with a smartphone drew me away and towards apps, and I tried a couple before settling on Runkeeper. One of the most recent updates included graduated training plans, which was a particular boon to me. When the infrastructure goes down, I’ll probably have to return to analog logging (try saying that a few times fast) but honestly, by then there will be so many other problems I won’t have time to miss my phone.

Shoes. I’m funny about my feet. I can’t stand to have anyone touch them, and I obsess over the fit and feel of my hooves with the fierceness of anyone who’s ever strapped on a pair of pointe shoes. Every brand of running shoes has slightly different sizing, and even in a single brand yearly designs can change to the point of unusability. The quest for running shoes is eternal. Shop for them late in the day when your feet are swollen, and don’t overlook your socks. It only takes one session without padded socks to rub right through foot-skin and bench you for days. Once you find a brand/size that fits, buy two pairs, and alternate wearing them. This gives the shoe interiors time to dry out and bounce back after each session, and lengthens the life of the cushioning.

Pants. It is a fact universally known that once you find a good pair of running pants, they will be discontinued, and this shall be true lo unto the breaking of the world or at least the demise of capitalism. I don’t like running shorts, so even in the dead heat of summer I’ll be out in full-length togs–your preferences will no doubt vary. Buy cheap until you know what you like–there’s not much as awful as investing in expensive gear that chafes in all the wrong spots. I loved a particular kind of Prana pants until they went out of stock, and I’ve had good luck with Title Nine bottoms. Once you start reliably breaking 5km, it’s time to invest in good pants. Especially if you’re chubby like me, which brings us to a related issue…

Chafing. There’s just no way around it. A lot of people swear by paper-backed medical tape; I manage to avoid a lot of blisters with really tough pant material and padded socks. When you’re buying running pants, look at the inside of the thighs. Rubbing there can get particularly painful, and when pants wear out there, well, sewing thigh-patches is not how I want to spend a Saturday morning. (YMMV.) Once you’ve got a raw spot, the problem becomes ameliorating discomfort and keeping it protected enough to heal. I like cocoanut oil for mild rawness, but when I’ve pushed myself and worn away more layers of skin, Aquaphor is my go-to. I’ve found that flexible fabric sticking-plasters stand up the best to repeated rubbing. Again, find what works for you.

Mental Tricks. “Eh, I’ll just run for twenty minutes, and if I REALLY feel like stopping, then I can.” Or, “It’s going to feel so good when I finally hit my goal…and stop.” And the ever-popular, “[X fictional character] wouldn’t stop now, so I won’t.” Figuring out how to game yourself is probably the most useful life skill possible, right after learning how to not give very many fucks about random internet opinions.

Safety. It can be something as simple as taping one earbud to your jacket while you wear the other–that way you can listen to music and still be aware of your surroundings. I run to be alone, despite knowing that I’m safer in a group. Nevertheless, if something happens to you while running, you are not to blame. The onus is on the asshole driver who wasn’t watching where they were going, or the asshole attacker/harasser who thinks they’re entitled to your attention/body/whatever. Take appropriate cautions, and know that you’re not responsible for all the jackasses in the world.

Tiny Increments. When I first started, I couldn’t even run for thirty seconds without my heart feeling like it was going to explode. I’ve had injuries, and had to take weeks off at a time. Playing the long game, in running as well as writing, is all about increments. Two hundred words on a bad writing day is still two hundred more than you had before, and being able to run for ninety seconds was more that you had before. Walk-run-walk intervals are okay, and if you never graduate past them, you’re still a runner. If you need someone to validate that you can do it, that you’re a runner, I’m validating. Small, tiny, concrete gains build on each other, and one day you might find yourself running for some ungodly length of time, finishing an ungodly number of kilometers or miles, and thinking, wow, that wasn’t so bad. That, my friends, is a fucking great feeling, and one I love to share.

I’m off for a run. See you around.

photo by: fabbio

Frustration Saturation

Quiet intersection
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
October hath arrived, that most blessed of months, wherein I can finally buy house decorations and candy comes in reasonable bite-size pieces BY THE BAG LOAD. Also, pumpkin spice. I love me some pumpkin spice. Not the chemical syrups, no, but ground nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, all in a handy shaker. It’s like crack, I put it in my coffee, in my morning gruel, in pies and other baked goods. PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYWHERE.

The world is burning, but Samhain approaches, the turn of the witch’s year. I have a lot to think about since the last time the Wheel reached this particular spot.

I took some time off in September to luxuriate in the aftermath of a creative frenzy. Now I’m itching, and I long to get back to work. The pressure behind my eyeballs has reached its normal level, so to speak. There’s the zero of Roadtrip Z’s Season 3 to finish, edits on Steelflower at Sea, and I’m sure now that Afterwar is up for preorder I’ll be getting copyedits and proof pages soon. That’s apart from the epic fantasy I’m currently being consumed by, and now that the weather is cooler I really want to finish the zero of Dog Days.

There’s no shortage of work, and forcing myself to take two weeks of 200-word days, as wearing on my nerves as that was, means I’ll be able to do it more effectively now.

I’d talk about the current fascist mess, but I just can’t. I’ve hit frustration saturation. My resistance today is self-care. And working. It feels wrong to be joyous about Samhain, candy, and work, but I need that joy to get through to bedtime, now more than ever.

I hope you have some joy to get you through your day too, dear Readers.

Glass Apples

I love glass apples. One can find them in the oddest places. Sitting in my office window, they catch the morning sun at certain times of year, and seeing them glow fills me with a deep wordless contentment.

Joy is precious. Find it where you can.

Too Quiet

Hear that?

Do you? No? Well, that’s it precisely.

It’s quiet.

Too quiet.

Even the squirrels are hushed.

The kids are back in school. That means, once again, there is silence and solitude during the day. Productivity will skyrocket–once I get over the persistent feeling that the quiet is too thick and something is wrong, wrong, wrong.

A great deal of creative work happens in tension, in-between. Wanting solitude and having to concentrate without it, or suddenly having the necessary solitude and being uncomfortable because you’re so used to blocking out distractions. It’s not quite that I pursue discomfort, it’s just that it makes me acutely aware of the writing process.

So today is for working on Season 3 of Roadtrip Z. The immune start to die from secondary causes, and survivors start banding together in larger groups. These two things are possibly related. Teasing out the implications of a zombie apocalypse is the closest to fun I’ve had in a while. Falling into that world will keep me occupied.

Still, every twenty minutes or so, I’ll be jolted by a sudden wave of something’s not right, what’s going on? It will take me a few seconds to think oh, right, school’s in again. The concomitant anxiety, even though low-grade, is fuel.

I can’t wait for the kids to come home.

photo by: