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.

Wise Fools, Everywhere, All at Once

I meant to get a chunk of the line edits done up yesterday, but the world had other plans. I ended up driving down to Molalla to get Bailey’s cremains.

It was a lovely drive, traffic was easy both ways and there were beautiful fluffy clouds in an achingly blue sky. Miss B got to return home in the front seat–always a great ambition of hers, she never liked to be in the back. It was entirely too much distance between her and her beloved human, even though said human insisted it was far safer for her royal self.

I suppose it was the last thing I was waiting for. Now she’s home, in a box of pressed mulberry fiber. Which is nice enough, and I’ll find a sturdier (all-weather) urn in a little bit. Once I can look at the container without bursting into tears.

Yeah. Did a lot of crying yesterday, and was useless for any kind of work. Ended up going to bed early and watching Everything Everywhere All at Once, which Skyla recommended. She said it was like the end of Hyperbole and a Half’s “Depression Part 2, which at once explains everything about the movie, gives nothing away, and also told me it was perhaps what I needed.

I ended up sobbing so hard my chest hurt. I thought I was having some kind of cardiac arrest. But Boxnoggin was supremely unworried, he just wanted to snuggle and lick my tear-wet cheeks. I figured that if I were really having a heart attack, he would be a little more perturbed. As it was, he seemed to consider what I was doing weird but necessary, so I just…went with it. That’s the difference between Five Years Ago Me and Present Me, I suppose.

It is a really good movie, and if you’ve seen it you’ll understand the humor of me snort-laughing through my tears and saying to my dog, “Oh, shit, *Boxnoggin’s Real Name*. I’m Waymond.”

Ever been crying so hard your ribs ache, laughing at the same time, caught between sorrow and absurdity, a rope between two black holes? Yeah. Like that.

Anyway, I turned off the light once the movie was done and commended my soul(s) to the gods, just in case it was some sort of cardiac thing. It was somewhat anticlimactic to wake this morning to a heavy marine layer, Smashing Pumpkins’s 1979 playing in my head for some reason, my heart continuing its weary work, and Boxnoggin grinning at me, demanding belly rubs.

See, he seemed to be saying, like the wise fool he is, I told you it was fine, you just needed a good cry.

So he gets a long-ish ramble today, and I swear I’m going to start those line edits. The last week and a half has been bloody endless, it’s felt like a year, and I am tormented with the sense that I’m months behind as well as the deep aching hole of missing my shadow. At least she’s home, where I can touch her, I can hold the box when I need another good cry now. It hurts, certainly. It hurts a lot.

But that pain is a measure of the love, and I would not trade that for anything. And she didn’t go alone–that would’ve been ever so much worse. Nothing loved is ever truly lost, thank goodness.

The coffee needs finishing. The ramble needs doing. I have to pull my own weary corpse through a run as well, and then, by the gods, I will open these line edits and go back into The Dead God’s Heart. And when I need to I’ll retreat to my bedroom, hold the box, and cry some more.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my beloveds. Everything is hard right now, but maybe…well, maybe it’s not all hopeless bullshit.

Maybe.

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.

Deck Grin

Of course I anthropomorphize this.

It’s not much, just a hole in the deck where one of the massive fir branches knocked down by the freak snowstorm slid off the roof and punched straight through. It looks like a smiling mouth, and the glimpse of greenery below gives me a bit of the willies. I’m not precisely afraid of heights–I haven’t been terrified since I did my own form of exposure therapy–but I don’t like them.

All the same, I don’t want to hurt the deck’s feelings. So I smile back whenever I see the hole.

I should absolutely start getting estimates to repair the damn thing. Maybe once I get revisions done I can get on that, but I’m already dealing with the roof proper and…I’m tired. A boat is a hole in the water one throws money into, a house is a cave one…throws money into. At least under our current system of property rights, that is.

I do have a list of subjects for Tea with Lili today, so there’s that to look forward to. But at the moment I am absorbing coffee and looking at the revisions I also have to get done. It’s going to be a busy day.

At least the deck greets me with a weary grin, and Miss B is still holding steady. This isn’t the week I lose her, and I’m utterly grateful for it. We’ll see what the next one holds.

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.