Some Victories, Not All

The dogs are quite upset that I won’t go anywhere without finishing my coffee. I try to tell them it’s for the best, that dragging me anywhere uncaffeinated is a Very Bad Idea, but since they’ve never known1 the glory of tea or a latte they are unwilling to be convinced.

Yesterday was… not very productive. I should have known that two days of normal work would require a day of threadbare wandering the house, muttering to myself and being utterly unable to settle or produce anything like real text. I did roll around in a couple trunk novels and change a hair color in the portal fantasy–what on earth did we ever do without Ctrl-F, I ask you–and savaged myself internally for being so apparently lazy I can’t produce at my usual rate during a pandemic and attempted fascist coup.

I’ll take “Things you say to yourself that you would never dream of saying to a friend” for $400, Alex.2

I do know what we did without Ctrl-F; I wrote two novellas on a manual typewriter when I was a very young sprout. Both are resting safely in a landfill somewhere; I couldn’t go back to retrieve them like a gecko running back to eat a tail they left in a predator’s claws, even if I wanted to. Still, both burn in me, and sometimes I think of them and my old diaries, safe amid tons of rubbish.

When you have to throw away things that matter to you to survive, their ghosts can still comfort you. The important thing was that my adult caregivers–I don’t really want to call them parents–couldn’t grab and befoul them. Some victories, even though Pyrrhic, are still worth celebrating.

Not all. Just some.

Anyway, I’m vertical, if not technically awake, and sucking on some lovely espresso-ground caffeine sent by a dear friend. The dogs are patrolling up and down the hall, ready to nudge me for where the leashes hang near the sliding glass door to the deck upon the very instant I seem ready to take them for walkies. Yesterday held no thunderstorms–for which said dogs are grateful, even if I am slightly disappointed–despite the unsettled rain-sun-rain bands moving through. That’s probably the cause of the throbbing headache I barely even noticed all day, being occupied with kicking myself for being unable to work.

I even went so far as to think “it’s raining, I don’t deserve to be in this house because I’m not working, I should go out and stand in the rain and be miserable.” I know it doesn’t make sense, but apparently control over making myself feel bad is the only control I feel like I have left with the world spinning so violently.

Fortunately I did not go stand in the rain. For one thing, the dogs would insist on accompanying me, and I didn’t want them cold or wet. For another, I realized it was a ridiculous thought, though it recurred at jet-takeoff volume inside my head all throughout the day. Instead, I made myself hot chocolate, texted friends, snuggled the dogs, attempted to read, touched shelves of books, and tried to watch Richard Armitage smoldering in a cravat.

Finally, I settled in bed last night with old war documentaries. I don’t know why they’re so soothing–probably the fact that the situations in them are long done with, nothing I can affect either way, and the narrator’s voice stays at a steady droning pitch throughout, maybe. It does mean my dreams are mostly in sepia with weird flashes of hypersaturated color instead of all-color, which gave me a bit of startlement when I surfaced this morning. I thought holy shit, have I lost dreaming in color too?

I have absorbed a bare minimum of caffeine now, so am probably safe to leave the house for dog-walking and the running of the Boxnoggin. Said Boxnoggin is prancing up and down the hall, attempting to drag me forth by sheer force of will; Miss B has settled on my feet as I type, on the principle that the instant I move she will be alerted and ready to supervise and heeeeerd me.

Suppose I’d best get going, then. This is the downside of priding oneself on sheer endurance; one can’t even mope in the rain like a silly romantic poet.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know it’s rough, but it’s survival, and that is a victory. A non-Pyrrhic one, even.

Over and out.

Week of Small Mercies

The Princess works at a grocer’s; the store requires all customers and staff to mask up or I would be asking her to quit. There’s no denying her paycheck contributes mightily to the household; she pushed very hard to take over a couple monthly bills–it makes her feel Grown Up, which she is; is also is much cheaper than having her own place by an order of magnitude. Like, ridiculously cheaper.

Those considerations are weighty, true. But when I swung by to pick her up from work yesterday, the place was jammed. Looming lockdown has everyone scrambling, and I have been tentatively broaching, “You know, we can cut some financial corners and make it okay if you quit and stay home.”

She’s having none of it yet; I can’t force her. But dear gods, how I worry.

Masks, temperature checks, and attempts to keep distancing are all de rigueur at the store for employees; there were one or two customers who grumbled about masking but swift action from a couple managers put paid to that. So far we’ve been lucky and I’m not sure if the bug we had months ago was actually the plague, or if my recent illness was a recurrence instead of me just working myself into the ground because stress. It would be nice to have testing capability or a federal government run by actual noncriminal adults, but we make do with a governor (who just won re-election, thank goodness) who is following the science and staying the course in the face of resistance from jackass racist death-worshippers.

Small mercies.

I can’t imagine how parents with toddlers, or with school-age kids too young to be left at home while they’re forced to work, are handling this. I can’t imagine how healthcare workers are coping. The guilt of survival, of having it easier, is immense.

Last weekend I felt some hope. This week seems determined to crush it out of me; I’m checking Is This A Coup? almost daily. I can’t tell if the weight in my lungs is leftover from illness or just plain stress.

At least I’m able to work at about half productivity, which means two projects at once instead of four. So we won’t starve just yet, and we’re extraordinarily lucky that my work is home-based.

Even smaller mercies, I suppose.

Also, since a few of you have asked: No, I am no longer on Instagram. I was going through the settings and found out the platform had been “liking” posts for me.

I never “like” or “heart” or whatever posts on any social media; it’s an anxiety thing. If I like or heart or star or whatever one thing, I start spiraling down a hole worrying that someone else will see it and be hurt because I didn’t see or like their thing, and my feeds move so quickly it’s just an invitation to despair. So I know damn well I didn’t do it, and that only leaves chicanery on Instagram’s part. This chicanery probably cost someone ad money, and I will not be party to this bullshit. So, no Insta for me, though I am still kind of squatting on my name there so no impersonators (long story, I would have thought the world was fed up with merely one of me) can do their bullshit. It’s sad, because I enjoyed doing picture posts, but the Friday photos here will have to suffice; I’m looking into Pixelfed as an alternative.

No mercy in that, small or otherwise. I’m just noting so you guys know what’s going on.

And now, having nattered on and on about nothing very interesting in particular, I shall finish the coffee I almost splattered down the hall on my way to the office this morning and prepare to take the dogs on their daily rambles. Boxnoggin is particularly interested in the prospect of another run today; I think he’s beginning to crave them. Necessary evils can be fun sometimes, I’m sure.

It’s only Tuesday. Time has become as elastic as it was during my sleep-deprived phase of new motherhood, though I haven’t mistaken diaper rash cream for toothpaste yet.

Tiny mercies, indeed.

Smoke Angel

This cherub hangs out in a local park; I took this shot the day before the smoke really rolled in. That evening there was only a faint tinge of burning and the wind was warm and nasty, tossing tree branches and kicking discarded paper along paved walks.

For some reason, this little wing├ęd one caught my eye particularly, mostly because the light was so strange. It wasn’t the directionless, somehow wrong glow of the days that followed, but an odd saturated yellow ambiance. And you can see how dry the grass was; there was a tightening at my nape every time the tinge of smoke intensified.

The animal in me knew something awful was coming, and wanted to run.

This morning, of course, it’s chilly and crisp, and preliminary rains have removed all burning. I should go back and visit the cherub; winter will probably bring moss in its crevices.

But for the moment it remains frozen in this photo for me, an eerie snapshot. I think I’m instinctively avoiding that patch of park for a while, until the too-tight strings inside me relax a fraction. Sometimes one doesn’t need to go back and poke at the scar, even when it’s healed.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. Be gentle with yourselves.

Head Contents

Another lovely grey foggy morning, and the fog is not bearing a tinge of smoke. I did wake up with a cold wet nose in my armpit, which explains some of the dreams.

It was Boxnoggin, of course. I was amazed he could breathe, but he seemed perfectly fine. In fact, when I moved, the damn dog slithered closer and settled his nose as close to my armpit as possible once more.

I can’t think it was pleasant for him, but he seemed determined.

I have coffee, and am looking over yesterday’s work. Stopping for a weekend day, even though it no doubt bolstered my sanity and will give me long-haul endurance, was upsetting in the extreme because I knew it would also give me a Monday of just-barely-enough wordcount instead of the type I need.

Ah well. The barbarians have reached the capital and now the general to the north has gained word of a few things. This sets up the endgame; today I think I write the new emperor going violently bonkers, not to mention more of the siege. I should also do the ride of the southern army, and there’s a lady in waiting with a single blade versus several heavily armed guards to write as well.

I can barely stand to look at social media, let alone the news. I suppose I’m close to despair; even when it’s so manifestly obvious that hatred is a losing game, so many people are still determined to stay until the bitter end. They could walk away–all of them could simply find something else to do that isn’t mass murder, suicide by virus, and hatefulness. It lies well within their power to just… stop.

And yet they won’t.

Of all the difficult-to-swallow things lately, the number of people absolutely determined to keep propping up a death cult with their own bodies and health because it once paid them a bit more than the average serf is perhaps the most personally shocking. I fully admit I did not grasp the extent to which white supremacists not only wish death on others but also seek it in the most painful and degrading way possible for themselves. Dying of choking on your own sputum while a cytokine storm rages through your body is deeply unpleasant, but I suppose they think whiteness and ill-gotten gains will save them.

The money might make misery slightly more comfortable, but in the end you’re choking to death on your own snot anyway, not to mention carrying the burden of all the people your selfishness infected. It boggles the mind that these people worship death and white supremacy so much they actively pursue such an undignified end.

…these are the contents of my head this morning, and they’re not pleasant or comfortable. I’m already tired and waiting for the caffeine to kick in, hoping beyond hope I can finish this damn zero draft this week and maybe, maybe find a little hope somewhere in the world.

At least finishing the zero is something I have a small amount of control over. Hope seems beyond me at this point. I wrote a whole goddamn book warning people about the risks of putting Corona Caligula and his criminal cabal in charge, I’ve been telling people for decades that regressives (those people who call themselves “conservatives”) are dangerous, murderous, racist asshats, and nobody listened. Even now a significant proportion of people aren’t listening, or are minimizing the depths of the emergency in which we find ourselves.

I’m tired. I’m so tired. Even the coffee isn’t helping, and dragging myself through the end of a zero today seems insurmountable.

So it’s time to take the dogs for their morning constitutional, force myself to run, and do all the things I know I should. There is no happiness for me today, merely habit to carry me through until I can perhaps find some tomorrow. Or the day after. It’s endurance now, and while I am quite good at sheer stubborn enduring it’s also exhausting.

Be gentle with yourselves today, beloveds. And if you have a little hope, good. I have none today; keep and burnish it for me.

Over and out.

A JoCo Day, Calloo, Callay

A half-pony, half-monkey monster would be a distinct improvement over a lot of what’s happening right now.

…maybe I should back up. I’m listening to Skullcrusher Mountain this morning, since I woke up with Code Monkey playing inside my head. (Long story.) Pretty sure the day’s going to be all right, especially with that soundtrack.

It’d getting more and more difficult to crawl out of bed in the morning. The dogs need brekkie and loo breaks, of course, and that’s pretty much the only thing that dragged me forth this morn. It just doesn’t seem worth it to resurrect on my own account; suffocating myself with my pillows has rarely seemed so enticing.

Life goes on, of course. It could hardly do otherwise. There are books to write and a box of author copies arrived yesterday; I should open it today and see what lurks within. The dogs have had breakfast and a loo break, but they need their walkies like I need a daily run. The children need their mother, no matter that they’re adults now–and isn’t that strange?

I thought motherhood as a job–not an emotional state, which is constant–would be over once the kids reached a certain age. It’s somewhat of a relief to find out they still need their mum, albeit in different ways, as they embark upon adulthood. More relief springs from the fact that they actually seem to like their mother, and are not frantically attempting to escape me by chewing their own limbs off as I did at my son’s age.

Finding out I’ve raised a brace of adults who actually like their parental figure and actively want to spend time with me is a deep gift, one I’m absolutely grateful for. I suppose there really are things to get out of bed in the morning for.

Go figure.

Maybe it’s time for a rousing rendition of Re: Your Brains to get the day truly started. Boxnoggin has interrupted the typing of this post at least four times now, excitedly informing me of such things as a leaf blowing down the street or someone walking a trio of dogs near our mailbox. Both events send poor ol’ Lord van der Sploot right over the damn edge.

He needs a walk; I suppose one wouldn’t do me any harm either. At least the smoke has cleared out again, and we’re looking at enough rain to extinguish the local forest fires. Small mercies; eventually, the rain always comes.

Exeunt, humming Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write goddamn login page himself“, pursued by politics…

Small Signs

After a morning spent chasing the sound of squirrels on the roof and attempting to break down the sliding glass door because one of the little fuzzy bastards was on the deck, the dogs demanded walkies. I was forced to comply, with the hope that said walkies would wear them the fuck out and halt the sonic assault, not to mention the bowling-me-over thing.

There are small signs the smoke is thinning–things have shadows now, the sky is dingy white instead of nicotine yellow, and (amazingly!) I saw the sun behind a shifting veil of smoke and vapor. Not to mention the birds are screaming in every tree they can find, and the squirrels are out in force looking for snacks. It’s warmer, too–the eerie chill of the past few days is breaking in bits and pieces.

Back home now. The walkies were too short, just barely scratching the canine itches for movement, but it was getting hard to breathe. The deep drilling pain in my lungs is matched by the eye-watering, my nose filling up, and even my ears aching. I’m so ready for this to be over.

Today is for avocado toast (I have one ripe avocado left and plenty of good sourdough) and an epic battle scene, not to mention a villain-motivation scene. If I can just get those two done I can call it a day. I suspect it’ll be easier now that the smoke is thinking somewhat, though not nearly quick enough to suit.

At least Boxnoggin hasn’t attempted to fling himself through the sliding glass door more than once this morning. Small mercies. The light is strengthening outside my window; I never thought I’d miss blue sky. I’m generally more comfortable with the grey of a rainy Pacific Northwest winter, but I find myself longing for a clear day. Being able to run will do me no end of good; the smoke has worked its way into the garage so even the treadmill is off. I haven’t quite collapsed in a breathless puddle yet, but my lungs are telling me it’s close.

And now, breakfast. Tuesday is looking to be as quiet as can be expected. Maybe I can even curl up for a nap sometime this afternoon. Frankly the prospect of crawling back into bed is the only thing getting me through today, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Onward to a morass of blood, swords, cavalry, and trumpeted charges–no, in the book, not out here in meatspace, although the way things are going I wouldn’t be surprised. 2020’s looking to fill everyone’s bingo card.

See you around.

Art, Transmute, Possibility

I have often thought–and remarked–that the creative process is one of transmuting. An original alchemy, absorbing the pain (or joy) of being alive and transforming it into a piece that not only mitigates the burden of experience but also invites others inside as well.

You are what you consume, what you transform, in creative terms as well as physical or emotional. Which is a maxim of greater or lesser degree–one’s body turns everything to energy, heat, and shit no matter the nutritive “value” of what’s consumed, and one’s emotions have deep internal as well as external wellsprings.

…I’m even qualifying my metaphors today. Let me try again.

I have to confess I have often prided myself on the amount of punishment I can take and turn into art. But even my ability to transmute pain is being severely taxed right now. The constant retraumatization is fucking awful–and I’m in a relatively privileged position so far. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who don’t share my immunity, and the added load of guilt for being relatively safe while others suffer is crushing.

I have no great shining theme or call to hope today. All I’m after is the ability to get through until I can retreat to bed and escape the burden of consciousness for a few hours, probably assisted by some antihistamines since alcohol gives me hives anymore.

The next stage after hives is anaphylactic shock, but even that isn’t proving the deterrent it could be.

I thought once I’d finished with the recent mini-breakdown it would be easier to get back to work; I thought it was a gauntlet I had to run through and I could skid past the finish line, bloody and battered but still whole. But the hits just keep coming, and even retracting into my shell doesn’t work the way it used to.

One of the few things stopping me from plunging over the railing into the abyss is the fact that I have three paying projects unfinished. People are depending on me, so I have to buckle down and at least turn them in. Then there are the kids, and the dogs. All these considerations are getting thinner and thinner as I stare at the catastrophe unfolding, and that worries me.

It worries me a lot.

Like I said, I have no ringing call to hope today. All I have is brute endurance, which I happen to be kind of good at but which does have its limits. This morass was completely avoidable, but nobody cared enough to listen to the people shouting caution while the ship headed for the rocks.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. We might get through this. I don’t see how, but I admit the possibility–which is another function of art. To be able to admit possibilities one doesn’t believe in is a form of alchemy all its own. It’s not quite a superpower, but every time I sit down to write, it lingers behind every word.

The possibility is slim, fragile, and ghostly, but it will have to be enough.