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.

Masks, Dropped

Terrible heat; we who live in the PNW aren’t geared for this sort of thing. Physically drained, and if I even glance at the news I wonder why one should get out of bed at all. Of course, since I can’t really sleep I might as well get up and at least try to work. The plants need watering, too. Might as well–that’s what I keep repeating these days. Might as fucking well.

I’m working on Volume 7 of Anaïs Nin’s Diary, and rationing the poems in Jay Hulme’s Backwater Sermons. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Nin once the Diary finishes, but also relatively glad that I can turn my attention to other things. My only regret about Hulme is that I can’t go even more slowly; the poems are wonderful antidotes for the awful, killing bleakness I often find myself lost in.

The garden is doing splendidly. Some of the dahlias survived squirrel depredations and have come up, which is a blessing. The new hedge trimmer works like a dream and I’m considering taking it to the grape vine, just to keep the bloody thing under control. But that’s not a decision for today; I am not in the right frame of mind to be trimming tender green. Whacking at old growth requires a bit of bloody-mindedness, but the newer stuff needs care.

Does all that sound like I’m depressed and near-broken? I suppose that’s not far from the truth.

Still, I’m enduring. I want to be the weed these bastards can’t kill. I want to survive without being turned into what we’re fighting. The bitterness stands a very real chance of twisting me, just as it did when I was a child, and I am determined not to give them that victory.

I’ve been watching a lot of a particular YouTube channel that deals with explaining the behavior of narcissists. A certain amount of narcissism is present in a healthy personality, sure, but our culture and society prioritizes and rewards the nasty kind far more than anything reasonable. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about surviving narcissists, due to my upbringing, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised–there is just so much more information about how to deal with them, validation if one must suffer their depredations, and new research about why they do what they do than ever before. Learning that they rarely if ever change has been consoling; it means I don’t have to hold out hope or leave any part of myself open for their return. And hearing the reiteration that several of my coping mechanisms aren’t uncommon at all has been oddly helpful, too.

Therapy was wonderful for me, and this kind of knowledge being freely available (again, since I have the hardware and internet connection to access it, I do not forget that) is helping me build a bulwark against the current crop of fascist bullies. Because what are they but domestic abusers writ large? They all–fascists, bigots, cult leaders, intimate abusers, bullies–work off the same playbook, a thin stapled-together pamphlet of nasty tricks and brutalization. The different varieties may have a preference for a certain strategy, but they use the gamut, and are all cut out of the same cloth.

We know what these people do. We know who they are, and they have never been so overt and easily recognizable as right now. They’re practically shouting “I’M TOXIC! PROTECT YOURSELF FROM ME!” at the top of their lungs 24/7. The masks have dropped.

How odd, how strangely hilarious is it that wearing a scrap of cloth over one’s face marks one as a decent person who cares about others, and the lack shouts “I’m a huge selfish asshole”? It used to be toxic people wore camouflage to hunt with more ease. In my brighter moments I think that it’s actually a good thing they’ve been so emboldened–we have lifted the rock, and of course the mass of pale, sickening squirming underneath seems like an explosion. It seems endless, it seems too deadly and huge to fight.

But we can see how far the rot extends, now, and that’s the first step in treatment. We can protect ourselves–and each other–with greater ease. There’s no ambiguity, no “well, maybe X doesn’t mean it, maybe they’re just having a bad day.” It’s gone far beyond that; they have literally removed all cover, camouflage, and the pretty lies they used to operate under.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and what we can see we can treat. Or fight.

So I’m going to water the plants, take Boxnoggin on his ramble, do some stretching since I can’t run in this weather and my body is in full-fledged, miserable revolt. I will pull way back on social media to protect myself for a while, and continue the work. I will try to remind myself not to be bitter, that maybe one or two people heeded my warning(s) and that if I reached even one person it was time and effort well spent. Try to remind myself that even my silly little stories have value, and even if I’m too exhausted to come out swinging I can still build a refuge and offer others some solace, some relief.

I thought reaching adulthood meant I could be free of nasty, toxic, abusive bullies. It seems they’re everywhere now, but I have to keep reminding myself that they’re just loud. In reality, we outnumber them, and their selfish, opportunistic fellow travelers as well. Plus the technology of today means validation for the rest of us, not to mention direct proof of outnumbering, can be had daily.

We’re not trapped on the planet with the toxic, bigoted, fascist bullies. They’re trapped here with us, and we outnumber them by more than two to one. They’re loud, vicious, brutal, and don’t care who they hurt. Yet we are the powerful ones.

Gods grant we don’t forget it.

Validation, Knowing Why

This morning the algorithm served up a video about “When the narcissist knows YOU know” and honestly…it was incredibly validating. It explained and articulated some things I’ve wondered about for a long, long while.

It’s no secret that I went no-contact with my childhood abusers many years ago. (And I have never for a moment been sorry, either. It was the best life choice I ever made.) One of them died last year, and though the loss of any human being is sad, I felt (and still feel) nothing but relief and liberation. Being able to live without the constant defensive worry of that particular toxic person taking it into their head to show up and attempt mistreating me is extremely freeing. I wonder what I’ll feel when the other one passes. I have already mourned the relationship I wish I had with either of them–thank you, therapy–so at this point, the whole thing is merely a, “huh, guess I’ll find out when it happens.”

It’s a cool grey morning, though the weather app says we’ll have sunshine and high temperatures this week. The world continues to stagger on under a load of greed and brutality. I have very little hope swilling about in my veins, though sometimes I think it’s always been like this and current technology just means we can see the pale squirming things under the lifted rock.

…no wonder I am so tempted to remain in bed.

But there’s work to be done, the dog to walk, my own silly corpse to run, and various other bits of the business of living to deal with, since I am not released from such yet. Boxnoggin has turned his nose up at breakfast once more today, though he’ll probably consent to eat a bit once I’m at the table with my toast. (Don’t worry, he’s in zero danger of any malnutrition, between dinners and training treats.) He is a very social eater; if the pack isn’t wolfing down chow, he tends to refrain. Since I can’t handle solid food on any blessed morn until the coffee settles, we’re sort of at cross purposes for a couple hours after waking up, but it doesn’t seem to do either of us any harm.

And to be fair, I’m the sucker who drops a toast crust into his bowl most mornings, so he can be forgiven for holding out.

Tuesday promises to be relatively quiet, and I’m actually looking forward to picking at Hell’s Acre some more. Stepping back into what I love about this story is going to be the way through. Funny how I have to relearn that every time the Chihuahua of Real Life starts humping ankles again.

And with that cheerful mental image, I’m off to start the day. If the amount of work I achieve isn’t what I hope for, at least I have indications that there’s emotional processing (and plenty of it) going on under the surface to explain why. Sometimes, all one needs is an explanation. The surge of validation from knowing why is liberating in and of itself.

See you around.

Up to Us, Drop by Drop

Well, it’s Monday again. My nerves are somewhat re-wrapped, due to a weekend’s worth of reading Anaïs Nin and just generally being a bump on a log otherwise. I have rarely in my life been this low-energy; normally, while I’m awake I’m working, and that’s that.

But several years of ongoing, relentless crisis will wear on anyone, I think. I keep saying “I am full of the world’s pain”; my empathy is battered daily, even when I don’t doomscroll. It’s at the point where I’m numb, which is a great relief from the tearing pain of loss but interferes with work. Having to press through the layers of emotional scar tissue keeping me sane at this point is…suboptimal.

Consequently I’ve retracted, a bruised anemone. I am, after all, only human, possessed of finite time and energy.

I’m on Volume 6 of Nin’s Diary, and while it’s been an awesome ride, I’m glad there’s only about a volume and a half left. (It was surprisingly hard to get my hot little hands on #7, but I triumphed.) Some of her homophobia is jarring, and the terminology of anti-bigotry has changed out of all recognition since her time as well. Her constant willingness to let others, like Henry Miller, take advantage of her also jolts me. I already didn’t like him (despite reading Henry & June several times since my early 20s and still enjoying it thoroughly) but now my distaste for him (not to mention some others) is at white-hot intensity. Naturally my dislike is a matter of seeing myself revealed; I am somewhat known for being a bit of a doormat if I like someone. For me, it’s a holdover from mu boundaries being repeatedly and regularly violated as a child; I had to learn, painstakingly and in therapy, how to enforce them and how to let toxic, abusive people go.

Thankfully, in my mid-forties, I have learned to take a little more care of myself, and have scrawled many an “ANAÏS HONEY NO” in the margins. Getting to this age as a woman is wonderful; learning to give zero fucks and protect one’s space is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s also why our society prizes malleable teenage girls so much and works so hard to make older women feel invisible and unwanted.

But there’s power in invisibility, my friends. Superpower.

One of the interesting things about reading Nin’s diaries is seeing how little publishing has changed. The things she bemoans in dealing with publishers are the things we’re struggling with now, just with jet fuel poured on the bonfire. Even some of the names are the same. They still treat writers as disposable serfs; I think Nin would have bemoaned several parts of the internet but absolutely loved the explosion of self-publishing made possible by its technological advance.

…I could write a whole article about that, but who has the time?

I was also able to settle and watch a movie or two, including 1956’s Forbidden Planet. Seeing a very young Leslie Nielsen was a trip and a half, and the misogyny in the movie was…not a treat, let’s put it that way. It is fully an heir to Shakespeare in woman-hating, especially as a retelling of The Tempest. On the bright side, it makes me want to rewrite the whole thing and do it right, which is a sign that I’m taking in creative nourishment. Filling the well, drop by drop.

Which is good, because I’m parched.

In any case, I should get my brekkie–so Boxnoggin will consume his; he is a very social eater–and take said Boxnoggin on his walkies so I can run. The rest of the day is for a top to bottom reread of Hell’s Acre; that has moved to first on my docket. I’m in the second season now, and as usual, by this point I have an idea of what the next serial will be but have to get this one sorted beforehand. I had such dreams for this serial, but the pandemic really made working on it into acid-test conditions. It’s sad; I wanted to do so much more.

In any case, there’s my marching orders. Oh, and happy Juneteenth Observed! It’s high time for this holiday to be given attention; it should be even bigger than Fourth of July. (And if you have a problem with me saying that, tough. It’s still true.)

Happy First Weekday, my beloveds; be gentle with yourselves and each other. The rest of the world will not, so it’s up to us.

Flood Stage, Numb

Woke up to find out some Reply Guys had found my massive thread1 on watching the Netflix documentary about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. I really shouldn’t check social media before coffee; my patience for mansplainers, sealions, and red herrings is at an all-time low before caffeine works through my tissues.

Of course, it’s never really high to begin with, so…yeah. I used to respond patiently when I responded at all, but to hell with that. If you’re going to ask me for emotional labor or try to roll a barrel of bad-faith bullshit, you’re going to get ignored OR get the unfiltered response you deserve.

The rain has slacked off a bit, and the river is at flood stage. I think the numbness of grief has passed, and now I’m tetchy. The fact that I have to get back to bloody work doesn’t help. I mean, work is the only thing that’s going to save me, and it’s the only thing making me feel better now…and yet.

And yet.

I have those bloody line edits to get underway–I’m glad I asked for the extra time, good job, Past Lili–and Hell’s Acre needs a great deal of attention, loving or otherwise. The board is set and the pieces are moving there, and today I have to write Rexton (the overt antagonist) visiting the Greatfather of Taurrock. Neither of them are going to be happy with the result of that visit, I think. Of course I could not care less what Rexton feels, but the Greatfather is a tragic case.

Before that, though, there’s walkies and a run to get through, not to mention finishing the damn coffee. On the bright side, my cinnamon tea should arrive today, and depending on when it does I might be able to have a cuppa and see if I like it. And I spent most of yesterday doing housework and reading Way of the House Husband. It’s rare that I like an anime as much as I like a manga, or vice versa, but in this case I find both utterly charming. I can’t wait for Volume 8.

Oh, and Friday’s Tea with Lili is up on YouTube; it’s about hating your heroes and the duty to escape. I’m getting a flood of questions about the Valentine series lately, so I might answer some of those in the next tea. We’ll see.

…I suppose I should bloody well get on with it. The line edits won’t do themselves, more’s the pity, and I need to work ahead on the serial a bit in order to be comfortable. I would like to do a bit more in the Space Werewolves story, but at this point it’s procrastination instead of actual work and I’ve got to Be Responsible. (Bother.) Which means I shall bring this to a close, bolt the last remaining swallow of coffee, and get some bread in the toaster since running on an empty stomach isn’t allowed any more.

As it gets older, the body takes its vengeance. Poor thing, it’s had enough of my hijinks.

Happy Monday, everyone. May we all get through intact. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for…

Green Fire

Tender? Yes. Weak? No.

The rhododendrons suffered badly under the heat dome last year. (Thanks, corporate-fueled climate change!) I was afraid we’d lost fully half of them. They straggled through the winter, and the only reason I didn’t take them out was because suppleness still lurked in their limbs instead of the dry-bone feeling of dead wood. That, and my stupid, persistent kindness, the willingness to see if things will get better, to whisper “do what you must, I’ll help all I can” to maybe-dead plants.

Now, in a wet spring, fresh growth covers them. On my low days, I wonder why they’ve bothered. And there have been a lot of low days lately, what with All This.

It also makes me wonder if it hurts a phoenix to burn. Renewal is at the end of the fire, certainly, but it never comes without cost. Does the fragile, sticky, delicate new growth ache as it bursts free? Does the phoenix feel a sweet pain, cold air hitting wet wings as a butterfly struggles out of necessary confinement? Will I endure long enough that this agony becomes simply something that was instead of it hurts, it hurts now, it hurts so much?

I don’t know, and the rhododendrons aren’t saying. I touch their trunks, feel the living weight of their branches, examine the raw, downy leaves. For a bare moment the pain lessens a fraction, and I take a deep breath. Sometimes, simply enduring is the only courage possible–or necessary.

Gods grant me strength to sing through this fire, and to cover the scars with green when it’s over.

Dogwoods, Irreversible

Rust, or blood?

The dogwoods are in full, exuberant flower–there’s a legend that they were used for the cross bearing the Christian Jesus, and that their flowers bear nail-marks in sympathy. Lilacs are beginning their dramatic show, the white violets have returned to simple green growing but the purple ones are a creeping mat of flowers. Lithadora and vinca still putting on a good show, as is the alyssum.

By the time the dogwoods bloom spring is irreversible, and I let myself believe winter is over despite all my armor of coping. (If I expect the worst, I cannot be disappointed, only wearily unsurprised or happily wrong.) Plus, it’s getting warm enough for the bees, so I have to be ready for them to attempt nesting in my hair during walks, or crawling into my mouth or ears during a run.

Miss B is holding steady. Though it won’t be long, this is not the week she’ll leave me. I am…grateful, for that. Give me another week, a few more days, a few more hours. I will use them well.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. Be gentle with yourselves, and each other. And since it’s Friday the 13th, remember our vow: Do no harm–and take no shit.

Over and out.