On Non-Emergencies

Little Darling Now that I blazed through proof pages in doublequicktime, I’m curling into myself, like a snail into its shell. I’m capable of tremendous things, but the aftermath of said tremendous things is me wanting to pull away, lock myself in a trunk novel, full-scale retreat.

I still feel a little guilty about taking time to recover. Building that time into my schedule makes me think I’ve gone soft, that I’m heading down the road of Speshul Snoflake-dom. If I’m not firing on all cylinders, working as hard as I possibly can, I feel like a failure. Of course, when I am working as hard as I can, I feel like it’s not good enough. Double bind. I can’t win, even with myself.

I know exactly where this comes from, though. You’d be such a pretty girl if you lost some weight…now eat everything on your plate, we worked hard to get you that food…It’s an A. Well, why isn’t it an A+? You’re so smart, if you’d just apply yourself you’d do better…You’re only book-smart, you’ll never make it on your own…You won’t ever get a husband if you keep using those big words.

You get the idea.

One of the ancillary benefits of therapy has been the finding of “scripts” to answer those memory-voices with.

“I’ll work better, for far longer, if I let myself recover.”
“Nobody’s in danger of dying, this is not a crisis.”
“The world won’t end if I take a few moments to breathe.”
“This may feel overwhelming, but I’m capable of handling it.”

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but the great secret is merely to have them. I often tell people, “I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to end,” and this is sort of the same thing. Having a script or two to put into play when you feel overwhelmed and vulnerable provides you with the idea that you have a choice. It may be a completely illusory sense of control, but that illusion can lift a humongous amount of pressure and make plenty of things bearable.

Most of the time, I look back and realize it isn’t illusory. Frex, nobody dies if I don’t get copyedits turned around in 48 hours. But my recognition of my own agency and choice in the matter relieves a lot of pressure, and I can get them done without beating myself up mentally.

A useful side-effect of feeding this particular habit is that the false sense of urgency people might use to pressure me into doing things is becoming easier and easier to spot, because I’m looking for it and have developed the habit of thinking, “well, is this REALLY an emergency?” In a genuine, bonafide emergency, I don’t have time to even ask myself that, because I’m too busy dealing with the blood and screaming. (That’s only a little hyperbole.) Generally, if I even begin to feel like asking myself “Is this REALLY…” it’s a signal for me to slow down and look for the catch, for the agenda, for what’s really important. Sometimes the sense of pressure is completely unconscious, because other people are so caught up it feels like an emergency to them.

Sometimes it’s a conscious choice, a sales tactic or forced teaming. Then it’s time for me to get out of the situation, quickly and ruthlessly. There’s nothing I need badly enough to put up with that shit. Of course, I’ve worked hard to get into a position where I can say that, and I’m lucky to have that luxury. Even if I didn’t, though, it does relieve a lot of pressure and makes me better able to cope if I understand how the other person’s looking to pressure me and asking myself why.

It took about eight months of index cards for the scripts to become a habit. Twice a day, every day, looking at the scripts I’d written down on said index cards, repeating them to myself. After a while they became reflexive. I still get caught up, of course, but far less than I used to. And I find myself needing less time to bounce back after I perform a time-critical task, because I’m not frittering away half my energy on worrying about what will happen if I don’t get it done when ________ says I have to.

Your mileage may vary, all disclaimers apply, etc., etc. But if you’re in the position of feeling constantly overwhelmed, or trapped in a sick system, a couple scripts might help. Also, if you’ve got another strategy that’s worked well for you, if you wouldn’t mind sharing it in comments, I’d love to hear it.

Now I’ve got to get the kids out the door for school, and settle into the rest of my day. I spent the weekend poking at a trunk novel to recover, and now it’s back to work. No rest for the wicked, I guess.

Over and out.

Hair

Niebla I’ve shaved my head three times in my life, each time in mourning. The most recent was during the divorce, and it’s taken a while for it to grow back. Now it’s at the point where it’s beginning to be an annoyance while down, and each time I shake it away from my face or tuck it away I feel a sudden, amazed burst of gratitude. Some days the gratefulness is sharper than others.

Every major life change deserves a major hair change, and it doesn’t get more severe than shaving the entire mop off. I don’t feel like myself without long hair or big earrings, so part of getting sheared was acknowledging that my identity was changing. I felt, on some level, that it also removed me from certain social obligations. It probably didn’t, but that perception helped me retreat and put up a defense wall against the outside world.

It’s traditional in a lot of societies to cut your hair in mourning, and there’s also a significant proportion of the world where a woman must cover her hair. Men are generally not under the same stricture. The head-fur is braided, looped, colored, teased, elaborately piled or ironed flat. Hairstyles invite judgment, can place you as part of a certain ethnic group, can define you.

I was the only blonde in my immediate family, and of course there was a barrage of blonde jokes. I could still probably recite most of them in my sleep, a constant stream of attacking venom. If I protested, or showed any hurt feelings, the result was more derisive laughter and a dismissive Can’t you take a joke?

It’s not a joke when you mean to hurt or belittle, and use “humor” to give yourself camouflage.

So I started dyeing it. Any color, as long as it wasn’t blonde. I settled on black-red or black-blue, as far away from my natural color as I could get. For years you couldn’t tell what color my hair actually was, because I dyed religiously the instant roots showed. I didn’t stop with the dye until I was over 30 and tired of the mess and the smell. I’ll still henna occasionally, but that’s as far as I’ll go. You can still see my natural color under henna, it just enhances.

To my relief, I’m no longer really blonde. More dishwater. I can’t wait for gray, though. Gray hair seems like the final stamp on my adulthood, getting me as far as possible from the helpless agony of my childhood. Plus, with my eyes, I think I could really rock some gray.

My hair’s a heavy weight now. It gets in my eyes, my ponytail migrates while I run, it collects on my shoulders and in my brush. On hot days I tie it back, on cold days I shiver until it’s dry. It’s not quite as long as I want it, but it’ll get there.

And finally, it’s mine again. I’ve come out of mourning and found myself still living. Still kicking, after all this, and reclaiming my body one piece at a time. I don’t know if I’ll ever get all the pieces together.

But I’ve got this one.

Too Damn Hot

Thank YouIt’s Wednesday, so a new chapter of Selene is up! Also, SquirrelTerror is moving forward on the paper book front. If you contributed to the Indiegogo campaign and selected a perk, you should have already received your free copy of the SquirrelTerror ebook. If you didn’t, please email me! There are a couple contributors whose emails have gone a little wonky, and I want to make sure you get your perk!

And yes, Indiegogo contributors get the ebook early. SquirrelTerror’s official ebook release date is October 3; it will also be available in the Apple store, on Kobo, at Amazon, for the Nook–basically, everywhere, or as close to everywhere as I could get. Some of the campaign contributions went to buy a chunk of ISBNs today, so SquirrelTerror will have one to stick on the finished book. I’m still wondering if I want hardcover in addition to paperback. Choices, choices!

I finished a short story yesterday–it’s for an anthology based on some of Clive Barker’s work. More I can’t say, except that I hope the editor–and readers–like it. I was just plain giddy at the chance to be involved.

It’s going to be well over 90 today, which for us pale PNW mushrooms is way over on the “too hot” side of the spectrum. I’ve page proofs (for Wayfarer) to eyeball, so it’s time to crawl to the couch with some sharpened pencils and get cracking on that.

Much Like Monday

Odd Trundles
Odd Trundles
So far this morning, Odd has alerted me to:

* the Mad Tortie on my bed. Which I already knew, because she had nested in my hair and was contentedly grooming herself, and my forehead. This came to a short, sharp end when Odd woke up and started howling from his crate, informing me “MUM! MUM! SOMETHING ON YOUR HEAD! MUM! WAKE UP!”
* a pine cone that invaded the deck from above while Odd was eating breakfast
* my shoes set on the end of the bed, where they were clearly a danger to all present as well as being a CHANGE
* a dastardly Monopoly box on the couch

Odd doesn’t like change. AT ALL. Any break in routine stresses him, and things set where they don’t belong drive him into a frenzy of alert barking. (Laundry baskets, if not set in the armchair, are clearly Up To No Good and must be barked at.) He won’t stop until I arrive and touch the offending article to rob it of its dangerousness. Then all is well, and he wriggles in delight, sure that he’s been a Good Boy and Saved Mum From Incredible Danger.

I wish all problems were solved so neatly.

Today I am going to finish the short story currently eating my brain–it’s set in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed universe, and destined for an anthology. I’ll have more on that as it gets closer to the pub date, unless of course the story sucks bigtime. Which it might, I’m too close to it to see clearly.

In other words, it’s a Tuesday, and it feels very much like a Monday. Ugh.

*runs off to investigate sudden barking*

School Daze

ex•plore First day of school. Been awake since 3am, going over my to-do list inside my head, wondering if I’ve forgotten anything. Happily, though, it was just a quiet wondering, excitement instead of anxiety. Both kids are happy to be going back–the Prince more than the Princess, as usual.

So…remember last year, when the Prince’s school burned down? We attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new school that will be built at the old site, and this morning I threw together a before-and-after video.

Continue reading “School Daze”

Pickling!

So yeah, I saw this Smitten Kitchen post, and got a wild hare about…pickling. This morning, bright and early, I went a-marketing for mustard seed and veggies to soak in brine. I even went a little wild…and bought some cabbage. Now, I dislike cabbage as a rule, but I’m going to see if pickling it–and making my own sauerkraut–will help me over my fear and distaste. Also, homemade sauerkraut is supposed to do good things for your gut bacteria.

And now…for the pickle odyssey! (Pickdyssey? Odypickle?)

Continue reading “Pickling!”

Until It Stops Working

Macro Monday So far this morning I’ve run 6k, finished the huge pile of shredding I had to do, and polished off the last of the cocoanut bonbons.

Yesterday I knocked off fifty pages of revisions and got my filing cabinet cleaned out and under control. (Hence the shredding.) I discovered that working in twenty-minute increments, shifting back and forth between those two tasks, made me a lot more productive than just sitting down and finishing one. thing. at. a. time. I’m sure this strategy only has limited uses, but I’m going to stick with it until it stops working.

Also in the category of things I’m going to stick with until it stops working: I’m going to a Transcendental Meditation talk this upcoming weekend. If it isn’t heavy on the cult vibe, I may even pay for the training. Or, maybe–maybe–ask for the people who know my birthday to contribute toward the course fee for said birthday next year.

I should probably explain why this is a big deal: I LOATHE my birthday. I don’t hate getting older, far from. Each year I get older is another year away from the helplessness and pain of my childhood, and that’s a good thing. I hate it because every year I would get panicked and nervous for weeks beforehand wondering what explosion would occur if things didn’t go “perfectly” according to someone else on that day. That sort of stress, year after year, has a habit of echoing. I’m happiest when that day passes in routine, with nothing special to mark it at all. I love other people’s birthdays, I just find the thought of presents or anything else on my own so stressful I’d rather lock myself in a cave during it, and for about a week on either side.

According to the few people who do know about my birthday, maybe I should learn to relax a little bit. So, I might take the plunge.

Maybe.

Anyway, I’d stay and report about the pictures I got of Josephine!Squirrel at the birdfeeder outside the kitchen window, not to mention the grazing Odd Trundles is doing for stray hay and bits of shredded paper on the office floor. (Seriously, it looks like fucking Mardi Gras in here, except no tits.) But my time for blogging is up, and I must dive into these revisions so my editor doesn’t come hunting me down with an axe.

Go on, laugh. I did too, at first.

*winks* Over and out.