Promised Better

Chop wood, carry water.

Yesterday was awful, from the meta (news cycle) to the micro (personal). Even space werewolves didn’t help; I finally threw up my hands and retreated to bed and unconsciousness.

It did me a load of good, even if I did wake up with a Sheryl Crow song playing at top volume inside my head. I made the mistake of looking at the news again, and now I’m at my desk, with coffee, and despairing. Pretty sure the space werewolves aren’t going to be able to help today, either. Crawling back between the covers and attempting some kind of escape sounds amazing, but I don’t have the luxury of stopping. There are things to do today, and work has to go on despite how I feel.

I wouldn’t be so upset if I hadn’t spent literal decades warning everyone I could, but you know that. I feel like a broken record, even more than usual.

So I’ve fed the dog, made coffee, cued up Tuesday Night Music Club, and thanked the stars we’re not suffering a heat wave at the moment. When I’m done with this post I’ll try to eat something, then walk Boxnoggin–he’s not yet attempting to nose me out the door, probably because I’m not even halfway through my caffeine yet and he knows better than to try any bullshit until I’ve at least gotten a few more molecules of go-juice into my bloodstream–and run, then clean up and start the day’s work.

Chop wood, carry water. It could be worse, Sheryl Crow sings. I could have missed my calling. At least there’s the writing. July is right around the corner, and that means I’ll have to shelve the silly space werewolves in favor of the second Tolkien Werewolves book, and use any leftover time to keep chipping at the second Sons of Ymre. I’m sure as soon as I get a good head of steam on any project some kind of edits will land, and then I’ll have to deal with that. Publishing is a giant frustrating merry-go-round of festina lente at the best of times, and this is certainly nowhere near the best.

I was promised a better apocalypse, dammit. I was promised a meteor, winged battle, a giant dragon and a Whore of Babylon. I was promised something more dramatic and satisfying than a bunch of rich, petty, hate-filled bigots killing the rest of us despite decades’ worth of warning, with a still-raging pandemic on top. I’d demand a refund, but of whom? I did everything I could, we’re still fucked, story of my life.

So here we are on the last day of June. I keep working while the ship sinks, waiting for the inevitable. I don’t know what else to say, my beloveds. It’s all I can do to keep breathing.

Chop wood. Carry water.

Keep writing.

Blooming, Despite This

A finicky flower.

I was watering houseplants the other day, and remarked that all the African violets are blooming. My daughter looked up from her Switch, and observed that of course the plant I have most of is the finicky type that needs special pots and trimming when they get too lanky and and and. I rejoined a little defensively that they are actually quite easy to take care of, and anyway I can’t leave plants on a clearance or “distressed” rack because they just scream and cry to be taken home and nursed…

…and both of us broke down laughing, because I am a sucker and I know it.

I am allowing myself only a little bit more doomscrolling while I finish my coffee (yes, I saw the news before any caffeine, no, it was not pleasant) and then I may have to just…turn the wireless router off. I simply cannot even right now. I wrote a whole fucking book about this and nobody listened. I feel sick, and hopeless, and afraid.

…yeah, I just can’t. I just cannot.

See you later.

Office of Reminders

Quiet, warm, and grey, morning has swallowed us again. The birds have had the dawn chorus and are still going strong, though without the…exuberance, let’s say, of their sunrise ruckus. The grapevine is about to bloom, I think, though the dahlias still haven’t made an appearance. I think the squirrels dug up and ate them, probably furious that the Yankee Squirrel Deathride 5000 is full of sunflower seeds but impervious to their tricks.

Boxnoggin needed a lot of cuddles this morning; frankly, so did I. He isn’t looking wildly around for Bailey like she did for Max after poor Odd passed on. This is a huge change and a member of the pack is gone. He’s uninterested in brekkie and relatively low-energy–at least, considering his usual self. I think he’s desperately uncertain whether this change means a corresponding difference in his rights and responsibilities, since he was relentlessly bossed and reminded of such every second of the day by Her Majesty. So he needs a lot of structure, and a lot of encouragement. His grief is more bafflement than anything. I think he forgets she’s gone near hourly.

So do I. It’s hard when I glance down before rising from any chair to make sure I won’t step on her. I tuck my feet under my kitchen chair because she habitually settled before it, and going down the hall without her padding behind me is unnerving. Last night I woke up a few times, almost frantic because I could only hear one set of canine snores.

You know what else is weird? For the first time in decades, I’m visiting the loo alone–and when I open the door, there is no reproachful stare and audible huff of displeasure. Bailey didn’t even like that small separation; she was a true Velcro dog. It’s also so strange to use her name here. While living, my pets have noms d’internets; it’s just safer for everyone that way. But now, I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I have to try for some work today. The schedule doesn’t stop for grief, and if I don’t write we don’t eat. There are still plenty of living beings depending on me. The kids have taken it hard–she was their first dog, and taught them a lot–and our dinner last night was full of stories. Remember that time she got Max in trouble with the ham? Remember how she used to sit right there? Oh, man, I just checked under the table for her…remember how she herded squirrels? Remember that time at the dog park where she herded six dogs out into the field?

Remember, remember, remember. It’s what we have left.

So I drink my coffee in an office full of reminders. Boxnoggin divides his time between keeping watch out the front window and coming to check on me, sometimes just for a moment, sometimes needing a belly rub and to be reassured that he’s a good boy. Since we don’t have an elderly companion walkies can be longer this morning; as soon as I move away from the desk and breakfast-ward he’ll be comforted by the sameness of routine and excited at the prospect of a ramble.

Thank you all for your kind words, and especially for the donations to the Humane Society in Bailey’s memory. I can’t respond personally to each as I’d like–for one thing, the sobbing would soon become endemic–but please know I read each and every one, and I am comforted a bit by your kindness. I know everyone thinks their dog is exceptional, and that every dog is exceptional, but Bailey really was the best. Thank you, very much.

It’s a terrible thing, that the world can go on when someone we love is gone. I know it’s how it should be, I know it’s for the best. And yet that’s no comfort. Not yet, not now, perhaps not ever.

So I’ll finish my coffee and try for some breakfast. Then Boxnoggin and I will ramble, and I’ll tell him what a good boy he is. I’ll try to work today, and to tell my kids and friends that I love them. I’ll do my chores, cry when I have to, and sink my grief into stories, trying to find some meaning in All This. That’s the job, that’s the work, and it continues.

Over and out.

A Smaller Sun

The name’s Ra. Ra Nunculus.

I woke up sick with dread, literally nauseous with anticipating yet more bullshit today.

Hyperempathy is a great tool for writing characters. It’s far less great while living under late-stage capitalism in a failing state run by sociopaths and those who collude with them. The worst part of this is a repeat of the exact hopelessness I used to feel as a child trapped in an abusive household. The people hurting me enjoyed my pain and weren’t going to stop. I was encouraged–by school, by television, by songs–to attempt saving myself. I was told I could and should tell teachers or other “authority figures” and the abuse would stop. That it was my duty to say something.

So I did. And nothing happened, except “being sent home to be beaten again because I’d dared to say something.”

The very worst part about this is twofold. The people we voted in at great cost to stop the bloodshed and agony have done and will do nothing except empty posturing to please the sociopaths we hired them to stop. And I have screamed myself hoarse, warning everyone I can as I am told it is my duty to do…and I’ve been mocked, belittled, and outright ignored. You’re overreacting, you’re too emotional, typical female, whatta librul, shut up or I’ll hit you again.

Four and a half decades of being kicked in the teeth when one tries to do something about injustice, about pain, about the rancid hatemongers who are abusing all of us, wears on one. I’m tired. So, so tired.

At least the dogs are reasonable. At least the trees are kind, and the buttercups and daisies do not hurt me. The smaller suns–waxy yellow ranunculus, the dot in the center of a bellis blossom–warm me, whispering in their tiny voices, concerned only with enough light, enough water, enough dark to rest in. Kindness is the lowest and simplest energy state.

I don’t know what to do. All I feel is dread and weary revulsion. The world is so beautiful, yet there is a slice of humanity that will not stop until they have violated, stabbed, broken, and shat upon every piece of it. And the rest of us, who outnumber them by orders of magnitude, will apparently do…nothing, even as the entire planet cries out in pain. No one is coming to save us, and apparently the vast mass will not bestir to save themselves, and will even savagely maul those who attempt to do the bare minimum of describing and warning of the problem.

I’m enduring, I suppose. I have to believe that telling stories, even the ones that are ignored, is important. I have to somehow believe that providing single, solitary people a few hours’ worth of relief from the mass of violence and hatred is important, because it’s all I can do.

It’s all I’ve ever been able to do.

I don’t want this. I never wanted this. Walking into the forest–or the sea–and never coming back would be preferable to this. I am trapped here, and must endure as best I can, continue working as long as I can. But oh, please, dear gods, I am so tired.

And I feel nothing–nothing–but the world’s pain.

Pain and deep, nauseated dread.

That’s all.

From Roof to Dementia

So I’ve been fighting with the mortgage company, which decided to insert itself into the claims process–remember that freak snowstorm that damaged the roof, the deck, and our fences? Well, the insurance company won’t pay out what’s required (they are not good neighbors, let’s leave it at that) but they did pay out enough to defray the cost of a new roof, so that’s what we’re doing.

The fences and deck, well, they’ll have to wait their turn. We could already have the roof repaired if not for the sodding mortgage company. It’s taken six phone calls–four of which “customer service” or the phone tree hung up on–over the last two days to politely but firmly insist they get their asses together. I’ve been dealing with bureaucratic phone trees and judo-ing institutions ever since I knew phones existed, so this is simply annoying, but the very last bit threatens to fill me with actual anger.

The check they insisted they had to endorse as well? They’re attempting to send it back first-class. No tracking number, no insurance, nothing. Not only does this company try to nickel, dime, and squeeze “service fees” and everything else out of those unfortunate enough to have their mortgages acquired (without our consent, I might add), I have the sneaking suspicion they’re going to try to “lose” the insurance payout check. It’s as if they want to delay repairs until properties becomes uninhabitable, likely so they can scoop up said properties on the cheap and resell them at a huge profit.

I am THISCLOSE to publicly naming and shaming this institution. I don’t have much, if any, social media clout, but by the gods sometimes I’m tempted to use what little I have to teach nasty bullies and scammers the error of their ways.

Anyway. The news at large has also been dreadful, I have been unable to work with all the rest of this going on, and May is also historically a terrible month for me. I’m almost at the point of considering all this absurd and breaking down into screechy laughter, which will be terrifying for anyone in the vicinity but will also mean I’m focusing on the absurdity of suffering life under these conditions instead of the pain I’m witnessing daily.

On the other hand, I’ve gulped and put that damn werelion book up for preorder. Come June 1 it will be taken down from the serial platform, and my plan is to get the bloody thing out in September, though I’ve given myself all of October as well. It’s always better to be able to release a preorder early than to ask for more time to complete it; a padded schedule is just good practice. The book might be terrible, but it’s not unfinished, a few serial readers and beta readers have told me it was just what they needed, and I have to believe that even amid All This the world needs a few stories to just forget about the rest of the nonsense with.

I tell others “trust the work”, and I suppose it’s only fair life arranges things so I’m forced to do so as well. (What? You mean I have to take my own advice? Who came up with that rule?)

At least I’m beginning to see the funny side. Not of the news cycle–there is nothing funny about the cavalcade of horrors we’re forced to endure under late-stage capitalism and its attendant racism and misogyny. But my own particular fight with windmills does have its hilarious bits. My stubbornness has been engaged, and if you’ve hung around here for any length of time at all, you know that’s a recipe for mordant wit and sarcastic disaster.

So today is a toss-up between writing the space-werewolf-pro-wrestler erotica, or finishing formatting a certain other book. I have to believe that telling even my weird little stories has some value, that providing a few hours’ worth of relief for my readers can somehow ameliorate the pain. I have to believe it, otherwise…well, let’s not talk about otherwise.

But dear gods, it’s difficult.

At least this is not the week I lose Miss B. The time is fast approaching, but I have a few more days to spend with her. That’s a bright spot even if her doggie dementia is rapidly getting worse. She gets anxious if she “loses” me in the house, though she does accept Boxnoggin as somewhat of a substitute when I have to go for a run or a quick shopping trip. Fortunately, she doesn’t get violent at all, just confuzzled and attempting-to-herd, and Boxnoggin doesn’t mind her bossing him about. He treats it like play, and wears her out until they collapse in a puppy-heap.

When she chose him as a companion, she chose very well indeed.

So that’s the state of the Lili this Thursday, my beloveds. I hope your day is much more peaceful; barring that, I hope you can see the absurd side. It’s better than screaming, I guess. (If it’s not…well, don’t tell me.)

Over and out.

Habit’s Candle

I’m vertical, and coffee has been not just attempted but achieved. All I want is to crawl back into bed, but tossing and turning there will do no good. I’m tormented by news of the outside world, of course, and struggling with the feeling that my stories don’t matter in the face of all this horrific destruction, all this hatred.

I know I started writing because I was unsatisfied with the ending of a Little Golden Book. I think I continued, at least partly, to figure out why my childhood caregivers hated me so much and kept harming me. Sometimes Child-Lili thought if I could just find the right words I could make them understand they were hurting me, and that would naturally make them stop. Later, I realized that they already knew, they had known from the start, and they either didn’t care or actively enjoyed my pain.

Maybe that realization constitutes growing up? But in any case, I kept writing. By then the habit was too strong.

I write because I must; I also write to transmute the pain of daily life into something else, something a little better. All creation is transformation, whether of materials or of grace. How many times will I create only to see it ignored, torn down, cast aside? How much more of this despair, abuse, pain, and hatred do I have to watch? I know my job as a writer, as an artist, is never to look away. Yet I’m only human, and I’m so, so tired.

It could be that it isn’t writing itself which has me exhausted, but publishing through all this–pandemic, fascist coup, rising tide of hateful xenophobia and misogyny, all the pain and horror and death. And really, what use are my stories in this current mess? Great stories might change things, but mine may be, well, other than great.

I used to tell myself that if a story saved even one person from the deep end, if it ameliorated the pain even once for one person, it was more than enough and I could consider it time and effort well spent. I don’t think that’s entirely wrong and I don’t regret a single story, and yet I find myself wondering if I should just…give up, sink, let the water take me. Nothing I do seems to truly matter, especially when I go to the grocer’s and the vast mass of people wander around with naked face-holes, breathing disease, not caring if they kill an elderly person, a child under five who can’t be vaccinated yet, an immunocompromised person. And then I come home and a fresh hell descends with the news cycle.

The selfishness, the uncaring, is just my childhood caregivers repeated over and over again. They get what they want, and don’t give a damn about–or they actively enjoy–the pain they cause. Ever since 2016 I’ve felt trapped in my childhood again, beaten both physically and emotionally with no relief or escape in sight. I thought there was some small hope with a change in administrations, but the people we voted in with such sweat and heartbreak won’t fight on our behalf. Instead, they seem content to cash their lobbyist checks and make performative gestures, like the teachers who reported my bruises and lacerations but in the end did nothing to save me.

I fled, I saved myself. But now it feels like I’m right back in the middle of that, albeit with no physical wounds. Where it hurts can’t be seen, and consequently hurts more.

Intellectually I know this is trauma speaking, retraumatization and revictimization. I know it’s the depression, and that depression lies. I know I have to continue because this world doesn’t have honor enough to simply strike me down–even if the meteor is approaching, there’s no guarantee it will get here before we starve to death so I’m forced to keep going, keep trying. I’m still caught between knowing there are people and creatures who depend on me and the irrational, deep, unavoidable feeling that if I vanished–this moment, today, next week, next year–nobody would notice or care. It’s a hideous place to be in, and the worst thing is, it’s familiar.

I’ve lived here before.

This isn’t a call for help; everyone else has all they can handle just keeping their head above water and no rescue is coming for any of us. This is simply a record, because I realize, after all, that I am incapable of stopping. Even this–even this–is a sharing, so that if others are feeling the same way at least you know you’re not alone. This is my candle in the darkness, guttering but still alight, and I am holding an inadequate shelter against the hideous hateful storm, inviting you to share it for a moment or so. To rest, before you continue your own battle.

I am creating meaning out of this suffering, putting it into words, and setting the work free to find and comfort who it can, in whatever way it can. Even at my lowest, even amid All This, the habit is too strong to break. Turns out I don’t need hope, I simply need to continue.

I hope it carries us both through, my friend. I’m so sorry it’s like this. I wish it were better.

But it isn’t. And it’s all I can do to keep this candle alight, even as I sink.

Back Online, For Now

I took some time off social media last week, and it did me nothing but good. Of course, I was also burnt out to the point that actual work was impossible, so I couldn’t do anything useful through the weekend. For every silver lining, a cloud.

I did finish Volume Three of Anais Nin’s diaries; it covers the years 1939-1944. Nin has been transplanted to New York, and mourns the loss of Paris as she’s trying to deal with the war as well–it’s a repeat, as a matter of fact, since her mother moved to the States with young Anais and her brothers after the father of the family’s bullshit reached a certain point. (It’s clear the bullshit had been going on for years and didn’t stop afterward.) So, while Nin isn’t entirely at sea, it’s still a shock. What with world war and the same people who were gaslighting and taking advantage of her before being moved to New York too, Nin’s in an unenviable position.

Watching her struggle with her feelings, with her grief, and with several people who seem to view her as an ATM instead of a human being (since she gets a small allowance from her banker husband and is generous to the point of going hungry herself) is difficult reading sometimes. I found myself wincing along in sympathy, especially during her breakdown proper. Not to mention some of the semi-familiar names aren’t covering themselves with glory–it was no surprise, for example, to find out Kenneth Patchen was a misogynist piece of shit, but the story of Max Ernst painting over Eleonora Carrington’s canvases, then gaslighting her, was new and both stories filled me with the same irritation at men I normally get from reading a Reddit “r/relationships” post.

Nin also writes a lot about witnessing the violence without adding to it.

I feel I must remain an instrument of perception which must not allow itself to be destroyed by great violence, deafened by machine guns, callused by harshness, though it is quite possible that I may not survive life in America.

–Anais Nin, Diaries, Volume 3, p.194

I underlined that bit. (Hard same, girlfriend.) It’s comforting–useless to deny it–to read her struggling with the same feelings I am, peering across decades to share a moment of similarity. It helps, sometimes, to know one’ s not alone. She’s much more focused on small, personal, day-to-day work holding back hunger and illness for the small circle of limpets clinging to her than the overarching news of the day, while still being affected by the news of the day to the point of trauma. It’s completely familiar. She knows she can’t save the world, and is struggling with the difficult lesson that one can’t even save those one wants to, if they are averse to the rescue.

Anyway, I’m back online but that could change at any moment, for along with the hideous news cycle and firehose of terrible things social media is justly famous for, there’s also a smaller, more personal drama here, too.

Miss B is not doing well, though she’s rallied from a recent frightening nadir. She’s an elderly dog, after all, and I’ve known for the last two years that she’s in something of a holding pattern. The time when I’ll have to make the most difficult decision and arrangements of all is not quite yet, but I can see it from here. It’s extremely unlikely she’ll last the summer, and given what’s going on…well, hug your own fur-friends for me, my beloveds, and pet them gently.

It will absolutely gut me to do what needs to be done, but the alternative would be to selfishly hold on while she’s in pain and I cannot, will not do that. So I watch, and wait, and she gets the lion’s dab of bacon grease in her bowl–as always, you know, she’s always been mad for the stuff and I see no reason to skimp or scrimp now. And I make very sure to tell her what a good girl she is every time I happen to think it, which again is no change.

She’ll tell me when she’s ready, and that will be that. But oh, it hurts.

So…things are terrible right now and I’m taking what solace I can, wherever I can find it. Both dogs are performing their usual morning, “Mum, get moving, we need toast and then you need walkies,” and though Miss B has decided that walkies are no longer for her–even short jaunts around the block–the forms must still be observed. No doubt the habit is a great comfort to her, and as long as that’s the case it will remain.

Monday’s started out with a bit of a bang. I suppose I should go get some toast wrangled. All I want to do is crawl back into bed, but even if I’m aching the work has to be done.

Nin knew about that, too. Plus ça change…