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Writing Life

Wrestling with Resting

It is Friday and I am taking A Rest Day. They’re hard. I love them, and I need them, but settling into Rest Mode is like dealing with new sheets or a new pair of shoes. Every single damned time I have to fuss with things and poke at them until they feel comfortable.

I don’t do rest well. It was easier–emotionally–when I had a Full-time Traditional Job providing a framework for my daily life. Even when my hours commitment and shift times changed week to week, my days off were generally predictable. Work had a defined location and set hours. I was on, or I was off, and I earned PTO I had to use.

So when I was worn down from a Big Project, I felt good about taking extra recovery time. The downtime was distinct from worktime AND it felt earned.

Side note: I know predictable week-to-week schedules are unusual in retail, but even when Borders was being turned to the Dark Side by its vampiric Corporate Hedge Fund bloodsucking board, it was still an unusual retailer. Also, store-level staff dug in their heels and FOUGHT on the days-off point every time their Inefficiency Experts inflicted Traditional Retail Bullshit on management.

Such battles came at regular turns on the company’s spiral staircase trip down to bankruptcy hell. But until near the end, stores had leeway in how they met their ever-dwindling, “needs-based” algorithm-driven hours allotment. And good managers understood changing people’s days off led to more headaches than it solved.

And when the corporate office insisted on a company-wide shift to a gobsawful scheduling tool, my store staff informed our general manager we would quit on the spot if she used it to screw with people’s days off.

(That same manager also refused to post schedules until 1-2 days before they went live. We used to debate over whether that was retaliation losing the variable days off fight, general lack of empathy, bungling incompetence, or all three)

But I digress.

I’m coming up on the 11 year anniversary of Not Working For Borders and still haven’t mastered the Art Of Not Working. I haven’t worked full-time for an outside employer since then. The external demands on my time are more fluid and mainly unpaid. If it seems like that should make things easier, welp. It didn’t.

My boundaries between “work” and “not-work” washed away, and I never properly rebuilt them.

I do not miss having a 40-70 hour per week job. I do miss the clarity. Where once I had well-defined defense against Work Ethic Conditioning guilt, something like, “I have disengaged from Employment Mode, therefore Doing Nothing isn’t laziness,” now I have only my own resources to fall back on.

(In case you’re new to this blog, I am three hyperactive otters in a hoodie masquerading as a functional human. My own executive functioning resources are, um, limited.)

Once I was unemployed, I mainly I officially & voluntarily shouldered most of our home-related responsibilities. (not the doing, that part is an equitable split but the brain-sucking Managing part of it all.) Yes, there was job hunting, but there was also the satisfaction of finishing long-delayed personal and house projects, learning about the joy of EVENINGS AND WEEKENDS, and in general, having free time.

That part was amazing at first, but it also made me antsy. Busy brain likes to be busy. Once I got the hang of a new day-to-day routine, I had too much time on my hands.

I started on Controlled Descent six months into unemployment in large part because I was BORED, about the same time I took on two small regular outside responsibilities–volunteering at the Botanic Garden and working very part-time at the local library.

Through the completion of Flight Plan two and half years later, writing felt like my primary activity, and that was a great groove. But there was still time in my days, so I added in continuing education and upped my library hours. Post-publication, things started to snowball, with professional networking, indie-authoring business distractions like marketing, conventions, and sundry other things like being a caregiver, house-hunting, renovations…and so on.

Somewhere in there the difference between weekday and weekend blurred, I lost the knack of creative thinking first and everyday necessities second, and I lost the trick of taking time OFF.

That got exhausting & frustrating. I wasn’t enjoying writing. I was exhausted. Obviously something was wrong. There was too much going on.

Also, I have significantly less stamina than I had ten years ago. Wrapping my brain around that reality was the first clue. Energy and stamina are not the same. I still have brain energy. But channeling it is more difficult because things hurt more, and I get tired faster and so on. So I cut back on how many things I was trying to do, and I started defending the creative time in my schedule.

It didn’t work. For years I tried, but I felt like a kid at the beach with a bucket, scooping up waves in defense of a sand castle. More time didn’t translate into more writing or more life enjoyment.

I pondered, and I ponderd, and pandemic gave me some time to unearth the answer.

My problem wasn’t a lack of time, but a lack of quality time coupled with a lack of rest. See, some people create to shut out the clamor of the everyday, some people get energy from creating. That isn’t me.

I can only nurse a creative spark to life when the ashes of the everyday hubbub are swept away and my brain is still & quiet.

In last year I’ve dropped not only activities, but responsibilities, clawing my way back to having less worldly stimulus so I can be BORED. (Spoiler alert: it’s working!)

Part of the quieting process is consciously scheduling myself rest days whenever I notice I am vaguely unsettled. Lack of focus & fretfulness is my early-warning system that I’m taking on Too Much.

My current peeve is that every time I think, “Hmm. I should step back and reel in my Busy Brain before it drags my body into the Deep End of Ugh-Malaise,” I get ambushed by the Work Ethic Conditioning. And when I spend my “time off” fighting The Attack Of The Giant Guilts, it isn’t so much restful.

Intellectually I know no one cares if I do nothing but eat bonbons for days at a time. (Well. I’m sure someone out on the Internets is Judging Me right this minute, but the internets hate so many things about me, what’s one more?) But for real, no one’s keeping score. Those who die with the biggest bibliographies, still dead, and all that.

There are tricks for getting around the guilt, and I’m slowly filling a bagful. One is publicly admitting I I do A Lot Of Nothing on social media. I do that so the world knows I want to feel good about it. it’s kinda like confession but with more affirmation and less penance.

And on days when I can’t convince myself, I appeal to my Generous Patron Of The Arts, who unfailingly convinces me that rest is GOOD when I’m jittery and my brain is foggy. Does he make that argument in self-defense, because his life is better if I’m happier? Possibly. I can live with that.

I spent yesterday dealing with dentistry, multiple masked-up errands, service people in the house, and an evening of online face-to-face talking. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much (and it doesn’t, to me) but it was enough to be Too Much.

Today, reading, napping, eating, and writing a blog post was just right. And tomorrow will be better.

Have a cute Pips picture. Until later!

Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances Whimsy Writing Life

Gen Con 2021: ready to rock & roll

I’m ready to hit the road in the early AM.

  • Suitcase & car loaded except for last-pack items.
  • Electronics updated & charged.
  • Clothes laid out.
  • All prep lists checked off.
  • “Don’t forget” list of last-pack items updated & ready.

And because a super-kind coworker took my shift tonight, I get to enjoy a restful evening before the hectic rush & excitement of tomorow’s drive, check-in & set-up. Huzzah. TV & comfort food, here I come.

Now I digress.

If it seems like I’m overplanning a 3-hr road trip to a 4 day event I’ve attended a dozen times, let me share this gem: I once left behind my wallet on a 2-hr road trip I’d done dozens of times. True story. I would lose track of my own head if it wasn’t firmly attached.

Left to myself, I am a happily absentminded scatterbrain.

This takes some people by surprise. “But you’re so organized!” they exclaim. Every job evaluation I’ve gotten has praised my organizational skills. I’m one of Those People with a clean desk.
Paradox? Not really. Life is a puzzle, I love solving puzzles. I am INCAPABLE of being organized, but my life is easier when I’m not always losing things, forgetting things, or having to live without. So little by little, I’ve been figuring shit out.

Now I have a huge collection of quirky workarounds that keep me from getting buried by life puzzle pieces. Most of the time.

Many quirky workarounds have become habits–easy homey mental routines that run in the life background and don’t take much monitoring. (Designated zones for chaos & clutter & every Items ALWAYS go back in their spot even if that means having 1 per floor of the house, etc etc)

But travel routines are different. No trip is ever exactly the same as the last one, and that means I can’t trust myself not to lose a piece or five. (Like, say, UNDERWEAR)

I’ve done it enough that I’m good at it, I have lots of SUB-routines to deploy — but the process still sucks up mental energy like an old smartphone sucks up battery power.


So I have to do a lot more planning than some people do, but it’s the right amount for me. I have to put in extra time to make sure I don’t arrive without, oh, say, the ID I need to get into an event, or my phone, or something else that would make the trip a misery.

ANYway. Gen Con prep is officially done. Tomorrow, the fun part begins.

Except for Spouseman, who is holding down the home fort while I’m gone. Poor him, he gets to deal with the kitten. Gonna be ineresting to see if Mr. Pips remembers who I am when I get home on Sunday night.

That’s all for now. Until later!

Categories
3. Other Things Writing Life

Making Big Small Plans, also grumping

I spent a pleasant while this morning pondering how to celebrate the impending completion of my Covid Armor Build. Whatever shall I do first? Grocery shopping? A trip to Ikea? The GARDEN CENTER? So many indoor possibilities! Maybe I’ll do multiple indoor outings on a single trip!

I won’t be eating out, though. No. Look. I didn’t enjoy eating in restaurants Before Pandemic. Some things haven’t changed. Okay, maybe I’ll hit our local pizza joint (outdoor seating) and/or my favorite breakfast place. (no bar) On occasion. But that’s it.

Anybody else got big plans?

I’ll be masking up when I go into buildings, obvs, because there’s still a mandate but also because *other people* can’t tell I’m vaccinated. It would be unkind to upset & frighten strangers for my own convenience or worse, to “prove a point,” and I dislike deliberate unkindness. Maybe that’s because I’ve been providing customer service to the public for most of the last year. The only hostile, nasty people? The ones who believed with the fervor of religious converts that no one should be wearing masks.

Here’s a funny thing. Not funny-ha-ha, but funny strange. I have known people who physically couldn’t wear masks. Guess who never made a peep about not being able to go places during the pandemic because they would have to wear a mask? Yeah. Them. They also have health issues that made curbside service & delivery big things in their lives already.

I admit I’m not looking forward to the awkward social phase between mandatory mask wearing and the eventual new cultural set point. My hope is that people accept the supreme healthful usefulness of masking up in public during any pandemic, like our annual flu seasons or when rhinoviruses and tamer coronaviruses make the rounds of the workplace. Or outdoors during freaking pollen hell season. If wearing a damned mask in shared indoor spaces while not eating, drinking or having a direct conversation w/someone hard of hearing means I don’t have to deal with sinus infections eight months of the year? Watch how fast I mask up.

Look. No one has said people have to wear a mask on their own property or outdoors where they can keep to a safe distance. If you’re determined to Own The Libs, if you like to watch people scatter before you & get flustered because you’re Free and they’re sheeple? Fuck yourself AND don’t go into shared indoor spaces to hassle strangers.

Oops. I digressed into a rant. Hm. Quelle suprise.

Anyway. Knowing that being exposed will no longer put me one bad dice roll away from death or permanent incapacitation is already making a major improvement in my life. Lightening the stress load creates some serious giddiness, oh, yes.

There are always dangers in the world. There aren’t many I can mitigate by something as simple as getting a shot. (Once, or once a year, whatever. Vaccines work. Even ones that require boosters.) Yah, variants, yah, still risks, but going into buildings is now no MORE riskier than it ever was. That’s hallelujah time.

Anyone wants to talk about why these new vaccines are safe, effective and also why the mRNA ones are a freaking aMAYzing, exciting world-changing scientific advancement? I’m here for you. You have questions? You have worries? I can answer questions without mockery and I respect worry over new things. NEW SHIT IS SCARY. I’d be happy to chat. I don’t expect to convince you. But I can listen. And share what I have spent a LOT of time learning.

But if you want to insist that these new vaccines are Bad By Nature Because <insert reasons you read or heard from someone?> and you won’t answer my questions about the provenance of their expertise? No, thanks, then. That isn’t conversation. That’s attempted prosyletization, and I’m not into that.

“You have your opinion, I have mine,” and “I guess we listen to different experts,” are the defensive shields of bullshit collectors. If you raise a bullshit shield at me, I will walk away from you. Admitting you would rather defend your position than meet in the open marketplace of ideas is admitting you have no interest in learning.

Expertise isn’t “elitism.” It’s a skillset. Being a doctor doesn’t give it to someone. Being a scientist doesn’t give it to someone. Getting older doesn’t give it to anyone. No professional title or amount of time reading about a thing GIVES expertise. You getexpertise from doing the work of critical analysis and crunchy data research. By questioning and then accepting new information. Collecting arguments that back your existing suspicions is the opposite of science and the enemy of personal growth.

Argh. Here we are again. I started off this post just wanting to share a bright thing in my day and detoured into harumphing. Twice.

On balance, I’m still happy & hopeful. But the cranky is clearly still there, simmering underneath.

Probably best I sign off for now. Until later!

Here’s a grumpy penguin picture as a reward for getting this far.

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Categories
2. Worldbuilding 3. Other Things Writing Life

This isn’t over. Not yet. Maybe never.

Look. I’ve spent years into studying societies, how people fuck them up, and how they unfuck themselves. Politics is history happening, science fiction is the history of the future, and I write hopeful dystopian fantasy & science fiction. So of course I’ve been glued to the news for, um, ever, but especially the last few months. It’s mesmerizing.

This post contains meandering musings about this & that, life the universe, and so on. No particular idea where it’s going, so bail now if you’re looking for a Dramatic Point or a Conclusive Proclamation.

I wish I was surprised by the direction politics have been heading in the US since, oh, since we hit the twenty-first century, but I’m not. I’ve been doing deep research on the history of religious cults, separatist groups, American fascism, racist organizations, Confederate true-believers, insurrectionist movements FOR 35 YEARS.

All this time, I’ve been disappointed and fearful about national politics more often than not, but I cling to hope that my country’s leaders would avoid total collapse. I am too optimistic, perhaps. Still, I remain confident the world won’t end, no matter what.

That’s because I’m a biology major who studied ecology. I have immense respect for matters straightening themselves out on a planetary scale. Global warming may wipe out all life down to bacteria, but life will go on. It’ll be different, it won’t be a place anyone human can live, but…okay, maybe I have a weird perspective.

AND I DIGRESS. Ha. Big surprise. Moving on…

Here’s one thing that sank in early in my fascination with studying ways the future might careen towards hell in a handbasket: wars don’t happen the way I learned about them in history classes. They only look obvious in hindsight or from a distance.

The questions history likes to answer are ones like, “what caused the war?” “how bad did it get?” and “how long did it last?” No one can answer those from the happening side of a conflict. Worse, war in the modern world is messy. To borrow from Dr. Seuss, war can happen without uniforms, it can happen without guns, it can happen without declarations, legislation, or sides.

“War: a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state” (italics mine, definition courtesy of Oxford Languages)

By that definition, the United States has been in a state of war for months now, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near over.

Skirmishes have been happening for years (Occupy movement. Bundys. Border detentions, Charlottesville…the list goes on and on.) Since June 2020 fighting has broken into the open and gone through multiple cycles of violence, truce, and renewed conflict. BLM protests. Pandemic protests. Pre- and post-election Trump rallies. The mob assault on the Capitol.

Yeah. That last one. That’s the one that seems to have finally tipped the scales into “HEY WTF IS GOING ON” for a lot of people.

Looking back, it’s always much easier to connect the dots.

I’m gobsmacked by how stunned people were that the “pro-Trump” rallies “turned violent.” It takes a whopping big dose of denial to ignore the open calls for sedition from a movement so obviously, violently fascist that it embraces the use of the Nazi swastika, one whose followers put bullseye targets on pictures of their enemies, and who call for lynchings and firing squads against their own elected officials.

But hey, denial and lies have served conservative political representatives so well for so long that maybe they forgot that the people they were lying to believe the lies. There’s a dangerous false security in downplaying calls to violence that don’t meet the historical standard of “warfare.” (They aren’t fascists, pfft. That was 1930’s Germany. This is now. They aren’t racist, they’re making jokes. They aren’t proposing the overthrow of the elected government, they’re merely objecting to results they don’t like, and, uh, talking about holding the people who disagree hostage until they change the result…or lynching them…or…yeah…hm.)

I’m glad the Capitol incident made an impression. It barely escaped being a bloody, gruesome wake-up call. Call it a rally gone wrong, call it a riot, call it an organized insurrection–those labels can be discussed. But it escaped being a mass murder only by a chance combination of heroic actions coupled with good luck. It was almost an undeniable act of insurrection. It was almost the first battle in an undeclared war. (have you noticed how Americans only tend to call things wars if they happen somewhere else?)

I wish the immediate aftermath gave me more hope. Sadly, there was also an immediate return to the same old playbook of minimizing, and that doesn’t stun me in the least. The whataboutisms, misdirection, false equivalencies, ad hominem dismissals, and wholesale denial of reality–those tactics have served certain government representatives for so long they can’t seem to accept that they’re not riding the tiger any more, that they’re being batted back and forth by it.

It’s been a quiet fortnight since January 6, in the news at least. It hasn’t been peaceful, and too many people are suffering under the awful laws of the current regime, but the insurrection threats are being taken more seriously by the institutions that are still functioning. So there’s that.

And tomorrow, if all goes well, there’ll be a new president, one who has plans ready to go, a commitment to make the job more than a 4-year series of election rallies, and a team of idealists who want to make systems work better, not just make life better for some people under the current systems.

But those insurrectionists? They’re not going anywhere. Most of them are home, and they live all over the nation. They live in my town and your town. In our neighborhoods. In our families. They work where I work. They shop where I shop.

That isn’t going to end when control of the executive branch of the government changes hands.

But that’s a good stopping point for my post. Time to go do some dreaming, hoping that the world will get better tomorrow and the next day, and maybe for a few thousand tomorrows after that.

Until later.

Categories
Writing Life

The latest in thinks

I hear an author blog is s’posed to be an Authentic but Also Curated Internet Presence, topical, focused, even in tone and always showcasing the author’s brand.

I…uh…problem is, authentic me is a bit flaky on the outside, thick and juicy once I get going, sometimes salty, sometimes sweet, relentless and omnivorous in my research & reading interests but unfocused in same, opinionated and cranky. It’s impossible to tell whether I’ll feel like writing a until I dig into it. And some posts are both. Hm. I think my brand is “pie.”

2. True story: my brain is weird,

The weirdnesses run in my family, so because of that, I didn’t know I wasn’t “normal” until I went out & about in the world in my teens and later. Some examples:

From the time I could tell time & read, I was given a reading light, lots of books, and tacit permission to do whatever I wanted all night long as I stayed in my room and was quiet enough not to get caught. Quelle surprise to me that other people slept all night EVERY night, not just some nights.

It turns out most people’s parents did not read bedtime stories backwards as well as forwards. Or make games out of recognizing full words and phrase rather than alphabet letters. Or encourage little kids to memorize long passages of text. My dyslexic dad did all those things.

Things I learned from classmates: other people did not go outside and play (read: burn off energy running around) BEFORE doing homework. or again afterwards, after dinner, as a reward for sitting still. The concept of napping after a meal remains alien to me to this day.

I was taught from forever how to set up my personal spaces and daily routines to counteract an innate inability to find anything stored inside another thing. Dressers and desks are like magic disappearing devices. I have solid “put it where it goes” habits, EVERYTHING I OWN has a specific home, and all important items are stored in full view. Wall hooks, open shelves, and nothing layered inside shelves.

3. this week’s grouchy voting rant.

I do not care if you hate the system or hate Joe Biden because he’s a rapist or too moderate or too progressive OR you feel your vote doesn’t matter OR you want things to change some other way. I don’t care.

Look. I don’t do hyperbole here. I wrote a whole scifi series set in a United States that collapsed like a socio-political soufflé, deflating into death one crisis after another, and I did a LOT of research into trends and danger signs and what makes good countries go bad…

and I gotta say I am pretty pissed off to be watching it happen in real time. I keep hoping we will step back from the precipice, but we are already witnessing–and too many of us are enduring–civil warfare at the local & state level while our national leaders publicly flout the rule of law, gloat about it, and bring down the full force of those same laws on everyone they dislike, guilty or no. Oh, and then there’s the climate collapse & the virus disaster and-and-and UGH.

If you think not voting means you don’t have skin in the game, you are so, so very wrong. That isn’t how civics works. SOMEONE gets into every office. Not voting only guarantees that you’re stuck with someone else’s choice. And the fewer people who vote, the more likely an extremist will get in and do things you don’t like. At. Every. Level. This is how Home Owners Associations go bad. This is how bad people become mayors who give their buddies big pensions. This is how creeps voted up through the ranks into the Senate.

“IT DOESN’T MATTER/IT DOESN’T AFFECT ME” IS HOW WE GOT HERE, careening through history into a future I have really, really fought hard to prevent.

4. Once more thing.

Not to end on a brooding grouch, here’s a recipe for fresh pickling solution that works with a wide variety of veggies. I went to a lot of trouble to make sure if was reproducible using measuring tools I’ve been winging it for literal decades without any, basically doing it to taste to fit whatever size receptacle I had. The below proportions work.

  • 1 c vinegar
  • 1 c hot water
  • 1/2 c sugar or sweetener
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • dealers choice of aromatics. I like to slice in a yellow onion, maybe some fresh seeded jalapenos, a few peppercorns. Garlic clove & dill leaf or seed are a popular choices, but I don’t like it. YMMV, whatevs.

That’s it. Mix up until everything dissolvable has dissolved, then pour over sliced or small veggies in a container you can refrigerate. If you use plastic, be warned it will take on the scent of the vinegar & veggies inside.

And that is that all there is to read from me until later. Unless you want to go out & buy my books, insist all your friends buy them too so you can enthuse about them together, and then write reviews all over the internet. In which case, you have lots more fun ahead of you.

No? Okay, then. Until next blog!