Hibernation Alert

tabby cat peeking out from beneath a blue and white woven blanket

I’m indulging myself with a post on a topic I like to call, “Weird things about me it’s useful to know.” I’ve been clicking “follow” and “friend request” on social media quite a bit of late, so it might be relevant.

Today’s topic: seasonal hibernation.

From mid-November through mid-March-ish I become a sleepy, grumpy cat who lacks the strength needed to maintain a Public Face and handle Other People. I don’t actually sleep more, but I have to warn y’all, I do pull away from the everyday world.

A similar retreat predictably happens in early summer, so it isn’t a light-related thing. Nor is it a bad thing. It’s simply a cycle I’ve noticed. I have energy phases. Not ups & downs so much as shifts between outward-tolerance and inward focus.

This inward phase starts around Halloween, and I’m in full retreat-to-the-den mode now.

This is blog-worthy for two reasons.

1. Buffering.  I never want friends to feel neglected, but my emotional tank drains and freezes. Simple activities that come more easily during other months (never easily, let’s face it, I’m profoundly introverted and let’s not even mention the anxiety) take me ten times longer to accomplish and take ALL my energy.

I’m talking little things like reaching out and making phone calls or sending messages. Things like responding to emails, texts, or social media. Important, adulting, professional things. Necessary-to-modern life things. Yeah.

Conservation gets me through. I limit or put off outside obligations until the season turns and I come ’round face to the world again, about the time crocuses open to greet the returning sun. This allows me to devote my small energies to stuff like washing, dressing, creative projects and research. I do my best research in January. ADHD hyperfocus FTW.

Also I ramp up activities like baking (SO MUCH BAKING) blogging like this, decorating my space with sparkly brightnesss & color & coziness, and so on. Nesting, denning, hibernating things. Wrapped-up-in-me things.

Is it selfish of me to go dark in The Giving & Socializing Season? Yeah, I’ll cop to that, but self-care isn’t only a buzzword.  Gotta put on my oxygen mask if I’m to be any good to others…

…because the OTHER thing I’ve noticed is that if I fight this deep-rooted need for quiet downtime, if I pour energy into Pretending Normal and Performing Enjoyment through the gray of winter, an emotional crash-and-burn of epic proportions WILL follow.

NO THANK YOU.

Which brings us to the second reason I’m bothering writing about this:

2. Boundaries. Guilt trips do not motivate me, but every so often someone treats clearly-defined requests for space as a challenge to be overcome with shaming, or they interpret low enthusiasm for their <insert personal topic here> as a value judgment or a failure to care enough about them. Friendship bridges have burned over this.

I’m hoping this forthright admission now will prevent misconceptions later. So.  If you didn’t know this about me, now you do.

Important caveats:

A. My online presence may appear to contradict what I’m saying here. That’s not ideal, but that’s a professional obligation as well as a personal pleasure, so I ALWAYS scrape up new posts and (nearly always) manage to reply to direct contact. (NOT FB Messenger. Sorrynotsorry.)  I lean hard on memes, GIFS, and my habit of sharing random sock & lunch pics. (BECAUSE WHY NOT? I LIKE FUN SOX.)

B. Needing to be quiet and unsocial is NOT the same as wanting to be alone.  Even when I am a sleepy, grumpy cat, I love being around people doing things.  From a corner. Watching.

Having good friends in my Nice Quiet Space, hanging out doing their own Nice Quiet Things. (Or Nice Loud Things, as long as I don’t have to be loud too) is the absolute BEST. I mean, then I can feed people, and that energizes me. Super-best is when they invite themselves over so I don’t have to spend energy to reach out.

But I will invite as much as I can, and I will NEVER be hurt by declined invitations. I grok needing bubble time.  Second best is when I get invited to other spaces by people who make it explicitly clear it’s okay for me to lurk in corners and not stay long.

C. Communication is the most stressful part. I do a fairly good job of faking people skills, but it’s ALWAYS an exhausting job that requires constant mental processing and accessing memorized talking templates while monitoring a bunch of verbal and non-verbal feedback loops to assess efficacy. Example below:

 “Did I react appropriately to that exchange of information, why did they shake their head at what I said, what does that expression mean, they said a nice thing but the tone doesn’t match,  why is that posture vibe scraping my nerves, was that a rude comment, was I too loud, too abrupt, what does that smile mean in this situation…aaaggghhh!!!”

Yes, that is what conversations are like for me. Yes, every conversation. Even ones I enjoy with people I love. Multiple channels running all the time, and a lot of saved verbal scripts used. So I guess that’s a whole ‘nother Weird Karen Thing. Point is, it’s never an easy haul, and in the cold midwinter I don’t have the mental muscle to power through much of it.

ANYway.

That’s all there is for now. Next post will be about baking again. Or maybe about more weird stuff. Time will tell.

Happy hibernation, everyone.

tabby cat peeking out from beneath a blue and white woven blanket
Image by Melanie von Gunten from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Unpleasant Possibilities.

Zero forward progress has me feeling down.

I’ll have to trunk Sharp Edge if I can’t get these rewrites moving. I don’t want to do it. I REALLY don’t. I’ve promised it to people. I have Rhiannon’s beautiful cover art. I have paid good money for fantastic, insightful edits, and I have plotted out the changes I need to make this already @#%$! amazing book absolutely %!&@$ AMAZEBALLS.

But none of that matters, because I know how the story ends, and writing new scenes into a story whose ending I already know is like trying to tow a loaded ore boat up a canal by hand, all by myself.

Once I’ve dug into a job I’m a strong and steady plodder, but right now I’m slogging through mud where I can’t get any traction, hauling away ay a massive DONE thing that’s sunk in place.

Stubborn determination keeps me sitting at this computer day after day–but every day I find myself working on ANYTHING ELSE during my creative time (like, oh, writing this blog post…) and I finish single paragraphs in Sharp Edge, if that.

If at this point you’re feeling the urge to share pious, sugar-mouthed chirpy cliches like “Just write for yourself/you have to want it bad enough/motivation comes from within,” please keep them to yourself, thank you very much.

I don’t write for myself. I never have. I’ve completed a half-dozen novels not writing for myself just fine, ditto for a dozen shorts.

I only put the swearing and sweat required to squeeze my non-linear thoughts into writing so I can tell stories to OTHER PEOPLE. Therein lies my problem.

At this stage with past books, I hadn’t worn out the few friends who liked seeing the raw pieces as I wrote them. I could convince myself they were urgently waiting and wanting the story. Believing I would disappoint them if I didn’t have something new FOR THEM was like having a whole team of helpers tugging away at me from the other side, countering the weighty DONENESS of the story I was revising.

I don’t have that any more.

Everyone is patient. And understanding. And busy with their own lives and problems, and honestly if anyone said they DID want to read my raw progress,  I would have to be convinced. Several years of experience with Support & Encouragement as Vague General Concepts have taken their toll. I now suspect it all as coming from a place of kindness rather than objective excitement about the story itself, and that’s quite the anti-motivator.

(Hi, my name is Karen, and  my writing kicks ass, but the way some friends get all tense around the eyes and swiftly change the subject whenever I talk about my books makes me sad…)

ANYway.

Anyone out there craving the next scene from this book I am utterly unable to work up any momentum on? Anyone willing to convince– as in NAG– me and insist on being given material to read weekly? Daily?

Anyone love Elena’s whiny teen angstiness and Valerie’s nervous conflict-avoidance that much?

I’m not expecting a positive answer. But I’m working up to facing the reality that if I can’t find someone to help me haul this load, pretty soon I’m gonna have to drop this rope and go find a different towpath.

Even if it breaks my heart to do it.

 

It’s been a heck of a while

Long time no post. Over a month, I think, since I’ve shared anything but book-focused or fluffy photo posts. I’m not even going to try to catch up on all The Other Things. Spring was a season of mostly lowlights with some big highs that were delightful but also made the dark parts feel darker. It’s a huge effort to share now, but I need to crawl out of my protective shell and  stretch my word muscles.

Here be the major doings.

Firstly, my much-loved and amazing mother-in-law died in February. Not a surprise, she was 95 and suffered a bad injury leading to a sharp decline before Christmas, but it was a hard blow all the same. She was a powerful, complicated, wonderful woman who told the worst best jokes and was a shining example of how good a human being can be.

Logistics put the memorial in April. Spouseman comes from a large family. Gathering together the three  children’s households + eight grandchild households, including assorted lifemates, 2 great-grand-children & other loved ones from all the round earth’s imagined corners = some heroic scheduling.

My sister-in-law is a goddess. That is all.  While still steeped in the first raw pain of grief, she organized a huge multi-family celebration of poignant joy with grace and strength.

It was a hard trip for Spouseman and me, but also a good one  filled with bright moments of laughter & hours of shared stories, with interludes of desolation and tears.

Secondly, a week after returning, late in the month, our Scootercat went overnight from being a dear, cranky cat with a failing digestive tract & horrible arthritis who  still enjoyed sunny naps, treats, and petting to a pain-wracked, incontinent old kitty who couldn’t walk more than a few steps and  had no more happy waking moments.

He was our very good boy, the bestest of the best, but he was ready to go. With help from friends w we found our way to a very good emergency vet who got us in after hours the day we realized it was past time to say good-bye. I couldn’t rest the next day until I cleaned the house from top to bottom, and while I did that and randomly leaked tears, I also struggled with guilt over being relieved that I wouldn’t have to clean up after random puddles & poops any more. Grief is weird.

Weeks later, I still glance at Scooter’s usual sit-spots whenever I pass them and feel that aching hole inside because there’s no one there.  All of his good, favorite beds and toys that a new kitty might like are set aside to await the day we’re ready to embrace another fuzzball or two. Or three.  It’s going to be a while before I’m ready. And even longer for Spouseman, I think.

Thirdly, on the professional front, I did Indy PopCon with Bard’s Tower, which was an interesting and entertaining con that took place on Pride Weekend, wherein the number of people in all kinds of cosplay boosted my hope for the future of humanity.  On the same weekend, good friends in Chicago took my books & bling to Printers Row LitFest, whereupon I learned people like book-bling even if they haven’t read the books. (Go, Mercury Battalion!) So…that was a grand good thing.

Same week, I found out a good and wonderful, talented friend was in the hospital, and another is facing the return of a deadly cancer. SO.  THERE’S THAT. Anger and helplessness just simmering away in the daily mix.

And lastly, we expect to be moving in a couple of months. I’ll post more about that shocking development when it’s all finalized.  The whole thing came together super-fast, but it should be perfect and delightful…once it’s a done deal. I have a deep, abiding fear of jinxing the whole thing by getting too talkative about it until All The Papers are signed.

It’s long overdue. It’s a thrill to consider having enough living space for a guest bed and a dining table and a cushy bean bag chair AND a Spouseman’s office plus mine. It’s also going to be All New and Unknown, and thus I am scared 24/7 right now.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, I do NOT uproot well or enjoy environmental change. Yes, I do change my surroundings regularly, (okay, obsessively) but it’s a defensive strategy–if I don’t push that particular limit hard and often, I will calcify, emotionally, into a fragile barnacle who would shatter if pushed to move or change at all.

And I don’t want that. So I seek change stress, and I’m all in on this move. All the same, getting used to a new space is going to be uncomfortable, stressful, and terrifying even though it’s chosen and wanted.  There’s no getting around it. Gotta just push through.

So. That’s what’s happening in my world. We’re all caught up.

A lot of media has been consumed since the last Other Things post, but it was mostly brainless visual re-watches and comfort re-reading to offset the heavier topics trending in reality. I’ve also struggled against a blast of creative apathy that has yet to abate.

Next up in my life, preparing for Gen Con, plus a whole lot of panic over ohmygerdIhavetofinishthesefershlugginerrevisions for Sharp Edge of Yesterday, and also SOMEHOW finishing the last 25% of my cozy ghost mystery.

But that’s all for now.