Scar, Strong

Running, this morning. A poem hits right between the eyes, and as I sweat I put the lines together, shake them, see the edges. Look at how they fit.

Think about the absences. People I couldn’t save, who didn’t want to be saved. The times I had to walk away, the times I’ve shouted down a dark well hoping to help, pouring love and energy into black holes.

Run harder. The poem comes back on little cat feet.

Turn it over, shake it again. The edges come together, seamless.

Memories. Mistakes. Nothing to be done about it now, did the best I could then, made amends where I could. If it could have been fixed it would have been. All the things your friends tell you when you begin to let them in again after curling around your hurt. Their patience, repeating it until sometimes you hear it in your head because it’s sunk in, finally.

Run harder. Yes, the poem’s there. It shimmers. Not perfect, an irregular pearl, but still all mine. Grit and nacre.

It takes so much for me to give up on someone, and even when I do, I still hope. I can’t break myself of the habit. You can’t man the perimeter against the little chink in your own heart, the space where you just want people you care–or cared–for to be happy.

Glance down at B. She’s enjoying the pace, but she’s not the young dog she once was. She’ll run until her heart gives out for me, but I never ask it. For her, I slow, even though I want to run until I drop, until I pass out, until the world turns over.

I have sentinels in front of that crack in my heart. Friends. It’s a good thing to have people who give a damn, it’s a good thing when caring isn’t a one-way street with all the giving at my end. Most days I am completely baffled by it, but on the good days I know I matter as a human being to a couple people. The good days are getting more frequent. Healing is difficult, but it can be done.

Workout over. Poem still in head, a reassuring glow. B glad to stop, though she’d run more if I asked. We walk, she basks as I tell her she’s a good girl. She noses a couple lamp-posts on the way home, reading the day’s news. Still an aching in my chest, but it’s just the scar tissue.

I can live with it.

Home. B on her bed in my office, Odd Trundles still napping on my bed–he woke briefly when we returned, greeting us before he went back to his ever-important late-morning nap. My hair is wet from the shower and I’m in the clothes I wore yesterday, the poem allowed to drift free into the world. Tea steeping, other words crowding my brain.

I feel around the scars, probing, taking stock.

They’re strong. Supple. They will hold for one more precious day.

So I write.

Empathy Drawback

psychoanalysed Rolled out of bed this morning feeling I could cheerfully hex the face off anyone I did not give birth to. The kids are now safely at school, and I (and my bad humor) are safely locked in the office, tapping at a keyboard. Of course, I have to go for a run later, but if I time it right (and since the clouds have returned) I may not have to interact with anyone. A mercy to all involved, I suspect.

It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s that I get so much overwhelming information from them, even strangers. Being hyperaware of tone, expression, body language, bracing myself against drowning in other people’s feelings or being constantly on guard in case they suddenly explode…it’s exhausting. Years of the habit of observation from being a writer have only sharpened childhood’s leftover vigilance, and a healthy dose (maybe an overdose) of empathy only adds to the problem. I spend a lot of energy in crowds or public places just keeping the wall between me and other people’s feelings strong enough to keep me from going under.

Sometimes I wish I could shut it off. The wish never lasts very long, because I’ve seen people devoid of empathy and I never want to risk that. I know there’s a middle way, but when I get tired, it’s hard to keep my balance. The anti-anxiety meds help, too.

Characters can be just as difficult, just as draining. I feel them just as strongly, even the villains. Getting so far inside their heads I understand each tic and tiny action takes a toll. I am not my characters, I just…feel them. Ache for them. Understand them, and try to translate that understanding.

The mornings when I wake up and feel like hexing, or clawing, or practicing my resting bitchface so strangers don’t try talking to me (it rarely works, they seem to find me irresistible, especially in grocery store queues) aren’t because I dislike people. They’re because I don’t have the time or energy to respond to an ambush of my empathy. The internet is a godsend, really, because I can limit interactions and hold the entire field at arm’s length. I don’t risk going under the waves of someone else’s feelings quite so much.

I should add that social media is only easier for me because of tools like the GGAutoblocker and a very tight curating of my FB friends. Muting, blocking, and being able to just not respond to certain things has managed to keep the regular harassment from being a Woman on the Internet (especially with Opinions) to a minimum, which is an outright boon for anyone with any sensitivity at all.

So I’m about to take myself and my face-hexing mood out for a run, and then settle into a long day of harnessing my weird brain chemistry to pull the writing plow. It makes me feel far less stabby and hex-y to realize this is probably the only job I’m fit for, and I’m definitely very lucky to be able to shut my office door and do it.

Over and out.

Odd and B, B and Odd

B and Odd

Ever since he was a frail, sickly puppy, there have been some days when Odd Trundles cannot settle or sleep unless he is as close to Miss B as he can possibly get. We often (half)joke that she reminds him to breathe. When faced with something unfamiliar, Odd’s default is to hide between my ankles, but if for some reason that shelter is unavailable, his first instinct is to glance at Miss B for guidance.

Miss B was used for breeding too early in her life, and still has medical problems resulting from that. Additionally, if she can’t herd something, she’ll attempt to mother it. Really, it was a stroke of luck we came across Odd, because from the instant he showed up, she’s been ready to unceasingly guide, correct, boss, and direct him about. Odd, bless him, needs such constant supervision, and B’s need to supervise is large enough to cause problems if not properly directed.

Really, they were made for each other. It hurts my heart to think of the inevitable, but I know that if Odd ends his sojourn on earth first he’ll wait for her spirit to tell him what to do, and if B goes first, Odd will have someone waiting for him when he goes.

Such is love.

Bloodstone

bloodstone

Learning that high emotion can short out electrical equipment was an expensive lesson. Fortunately, chunks of bloodstone ameliorate the effect. This particular stone is courtesy of Dina James, my beloved Left Hoof of Darkness. It has its work cut out for it.

At least the light bulbs aren’t exploding anymore. That was always a bitch to clean up.

Reasonably Awesome

ghandi01 This morning, the Princess brought me coffee in bed. “I was just up,” she said when I thanked her, “and I thought, how can I do something nice for Mum?”

She sat at the breakfast table with me, just because she wanted to talk. Right now she’s into Steven Universe. “You’d like it,” she says, and tells me about an episode where Pearl wants to show Steven that physical strength isn’t everything, that there’s a different strength in the people who do daily scut work to keep households and nations active. I agree that it sounds nice, and as I finish my porridge, we talk about being a reasonably awesome human being.

The goal is, of course, to be awesome on a daily basis. But not the jackass frat boy sense. Reasonably awesome.

How, do you ask, can someone be reasonably awesome? Here follows a short list.

* Admit your fucking privilege. I’ve benefited from many forms of privilege in my life, and suffered a few forms of discrimination as well. Discrimination against me in one area (I’m female on the internet) does not give me leeway to be an asshole over my privilege in another (my skin tone means I’m less likely to be shot wearing a hoodie on my morning run). It doesn’t hurt to admit that, especially when listening to other peoples’ experiences.

* Admit your fuckups. Want to know one thing I never, ever heard from parental figures while I was growing up?

“I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

Many are the assholes who think admitting they were mistaken or just plain wrong somehow robs them of something. I say those five words daily, and have ever since I became a mother. It can range from “you know, I was wrong when I put you in time-out for that, I should have been more patient,” to “Remember when I explained Celsius and Fahrenheit to you? I had the conversion wrong, sorry,” or “You guys tasked me with putting together email for the site and I did it wrong. I’m fixing it now.” Getting in the habit of acknowledging your mistakes makes you a better human being. You fix it (or do your best to) and move on.

* Consider shutting up sometimes. In the immortal words of Elon James, when you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, you could just say nothing. I think Mark Twain observed it’s better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt, sometimes. If a rancid bit of asshattery is about to escape your mouth, or you know you’re already irritated and frustrated, take the opportunity to just keep your lips buttoned for a few minutes and think about keeping it zipped until you have something reasonable to say.

* But not when someone is an asshat in your presence. From the jock father who was letting his sons roughhouse in the baking aisle (right next to glass containers of every kind of oil known to cooking) who said “Don’t yell at my kids!” when I told said spawn to cut it out (“Parent them and I won’t have to,” I snapped in return) to the woman calling another woman in a hijab nasty names in the produce aisle (“Just shut up, she’s not making YOU wear a scarf,” I said, hefting an apple and visibly considering bouncing it off her fool skull), I try not to let people get away unscathed from asshattery. Of course, this is a rule best applied with a little forethought. But if you see something, say something. Even something as simple as “I’m sorry that person is being an asshole,” can change the entire situation. Especially if you have a bit of privilege, you can often perform a bit of interpersonal judo to even things out. And yes, in volatile situations you might get yelled at. Most people will do just about anything to avoid being perceived as the asshole in any particular situation, and calling them on it is a powerful tool evoking powerful responses.

* Stay done. Remember the SquirrelTerror plagiarism incident? Something I said then has stuck with me since: when I say I’m done, it doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven or forgotten, or have accepted anything at all. It simply means I am not wasting any more energy on that asshole. If someone isn’t arguing in good faith, if someone is an inveterate racist and they don’t want to be anything else, if someone is toxic and doesn’t give a fuck for other people, fine, they can do all that somewhere else. I don’t have to lend myself to it, and I do not have to keep throwing good effort after bad. Staying done means just that: don’t respond afterward. Refusing to deal with someone is a powerful tool, too.

* Share the limelight. Success for other people means more success for me, too, and nowhere is that more true (and more ignored) than in publishing. I do not lose anything by drawing attention to something awesome someone else is doing. Rather, I benefit from more awesome in the world. Find ways to spread the word about cool stuff instead of banging your own gong all the time. It’s far more satisfying.

* Take a notebook with you. Remember that scene in Hot Fuzz where Simon Pegg is simply making notes in his little journal? Nothing calms a situation down–or makes people behave–like you writing down everything they say. You don’t even have to be expecting trouble; I take a notebook to every meeting, and at the beginning write down the date and time. Just in case. Also, when you hear a particularly good bit of dialogue you want to write down for a story, nothing beats having pen and paper to hand.

* Don’t just be quiet. Think. Listening is an active state. Pay attention, whether it’s a dog whining to tell you it’s time for a bathroom break to the LGBT activist on Twitter detailing insidious behavior you’ve never thought about before. Sometimes, it’s not enough just to shut the fuck up, you have to exercise the meat between your ears as well.

* Be kind. Even the most reasonable person has certain days where their Wheaties have been pissed in. Even the nicest kid has a hormone rush or a meltdown every now and again. Even the most socially conscious blogger has a rough morning. I’m not saying to excuse intolerant fuckwaddery here. I am saying, you can be a kind person and still not allow fuckwaddery in your presence.

* Listen to reason. Friends are good. Invest in your friends, once they have earned your trust. And when a friend you trust says, “You are being an asshole,” listen. (Do you know how many times the Selkie has saved me from being an asshole? A WHOLE LOT.) There is nothing so precious as the person who loves you and will call you on your bullshit. Don’t ever minimize, overlook, or ignore that.

* Admit your own fuckwaddery. You know, this is really another way of saying “admit your fuckups,” but what the hell, I think it bears repeating. I’ve been too harsh on people. I’ve been dismissive. I’ve been critical, unpleasant, high-handed, and sometimes even just plain selfish. Admitting it is the first step to apologizing and making amends where one can. Where one cannot, admission is the first step to regret, and all the above leads to the whole point: doing better next time.

One of the highest bits of praise in my particular lexicon is “X is a reasonable human being.” It can mean they’re kind, or truthful, or that they admit when they’ve made a mistake, or they’re willing to listen to reason. Often, it means the person has shown they are all of the above, and more. So when I say, “be reasonably awesome,” you now understand what that means.

I know this isn’t an exhaustive list. (And really, this is like the Pirate Code.) So, my darling chickadees, it’s your turn. Fill up the comments with more Guidelines For Being Reasonably Awesome. Given what day it is, I think it’s a fine idea.