art, book arts, creative writing, drawing, graphic design, psychology, self care

Sparked

I’m not entirely sure what happened, except that I recalled — after having had a mood crash not even two weeks out of classes — how much I had been doing before that class started in order to keep my mood stable. In particular…writing, and art. And not just “writing” as in “journal writing,” writing as in Fiction writing: particularly, literature. I was trained in Literature, but…let’s just say that what I have to say about the world could be construed as libel if I should hold too close to reality (but not yet close enough).

Last night I realized that what I might be seeking in that area was SF/F, or for the uninitiated, Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’ve…had a very long relationship with the latter, not knowing it was the latter. Kind of like I was writing a gender-nonbinary character long before I had ever heard of nonbinary gender. Not to get stuck on that — I have gotten tired of Middlesex and Left Hand of Darkness supposedly being about gender — but…I can see where this (writing) could sustain me for a while, at least, psychologically.

There are two large places where my desire to write is being hampered. The first is with not reading enough. Fiction, I mean. I have what is, by now, the same old story rattling around in my head which I have not set toner to paper to, yet. This is mostly because it’s underdeveloped, and a good portion of that lack of development has to do with its being “a nice fantasy” without real-world problems being interjected into it. I haven’t, that is, wanted to burden my characters with suffering of the kind I have experienced. Although that, overall…if I hold to that, it could lead me to some interesting worldbuilding places.

“That,” meaning, my own experience with trying to find enough pleasure in life to willfully drive it to continue…and then the relief from medication with antidepressant action which concomitantly has at times felt…false? The problem is that the pain seems real even though it’s a symptom of a known psychiatric disorder; a problem with wiring and connectivity and feedback, if you will. Runaway focus on pain like tracks ground into hard dried mud. The issue is that the thing I have the most pain over is the state of the world, and that is something I cannot, “fix.” Because I can’t fix it, I have to do what I must so that I survive, despite it. Outwit the thanatos.

In my case, I’ve opted for psychiatric medications over street drugs or suicide: over street drugs, because I was told that going on them would be the worst possible thing I could do for myself. Over suicide, because suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. At least, they say it’s temporary. People being ****heads, though…that’s kind of a permanent problem, I think.

I also know that death is likely to come far too early for me. If things are going well, that is, and life remains worth living. We do tend to hope that things will go well…

The second place where I’m sabotaging myself has to do with creating worlds and relationships which are more hospitable to life than this reality…which in tandem with my tendency to depression, means that I can prefer living in that world to living in this one. And I know that, and that is a problem. Or maybe knowing it means that I can guard against growing closer in my proximity to self-annihilation, while still receiving the benefit of rest which fantasy can harbor.

Of course, it does also seem that a whole LOT of people are close to self-annihilation right now. Not going to lie.

Anyhow, D had me (re-)watch a program on bookbinding, tonight, which got me curious enough to make a small maquette of a binding design. It’s really nothing…huge. :) Simply a way to take a horizontal format and place it on a shelf so that the spine still shows the title, author, publisher, without sticking so far out of line that it becomes problematic to store. As a person who used to shelve books — A LOT of books — and have heavy art books occasionally try to fall on them, I know that this is a fairly perennial problem. You don’t want to be in the Arts & Music Folio section when an earthquake hits, let me just say (although places which actually do have Folio sections are likely to be safer, due to specialized shelving units).

This is actually a reason I was driven to learn Japanese language: I had mostly been exposed to manga, not English comics. The entire flow of the page is different in manga — more often vertical in nature, and from right to left. This makes sense for Japanese language, which can be written vertically, and read from right to left when in that vertical format. It remains a problem for the English-writer who is inspired by manga but cannot write legibly and vertically at the same time. This is where wide-format books come into play, as English runs horizontally.

So basically: I now have puzzled out that three columns of 2×4 units (horizontal x vertical) for each page, laid out horizontally, makes a total spread of 12×4 units which can be used variously as a relatively standard-appearing comic grid (when divided into 2×2 squares), six columns of text, or text interspersed with images — the last two of which, I think I’m going to be using.

This is a different way of thinking about things, but it should afford me some rest from having to draw out an entire world, along with granting me the capability of inserting images by design. It also should give me the chance to play with InDesign…if I really cared that much about it. However: I have the materials for this. I know what has to be done. The next step…hmm. Hadn’t thought about the next step.

I believe it would be scriptwriting, possibly combined with storyboarding. I did start to take a class in this, but there were crazy high race tensions in that class, probably because the instructor was trying to seem anti-racist and…I don’t think they knew the point of anti-racism. Depicting diversity alone isn’t anti-racist. Trying to be anti-racist so you look more woke on the street isn’t the point of…

Let’s not go there. Wusa.

Anyhow. Scriptwriting, storyboarding. In working with a grid format, I would be imposing some limitations on myself, as in how long I can take to complete a thought, or what I’d need to put in place so the reader turns the page. Also: font size. Though I’m thinking of hand-lettering. (I do have an Ames Lettering Guide…)

I also need to be reading, more. At this point, I am wondering how much reading is going to take me away from the beadwork, and whether I’ll realistically be able to juggle reading, writing, beadwork, and library science. It seems I should be able to, at least so long as I don’t have a paying job…and developing skills in InDesign and Photoshop…that will be worth it, especially if I start looking for gig work as a writer.

Gosh, I…forgot I’d be writing all this…!

Maybe it would be best to work it out in text, first, and draw alongside, then see which one comes out as more dominant…

career, creative writing, libraries, LIS, psychology, writing

Hypergraphia?

Given that my last hard-copy journal entry was titled PPP (Pretty Poor Productivity, which I could easily manipulate into an acronym emphasizing more completely my frustration), it seems surprising that I would come back to the blog instead of doing classwork. Especially as we’re getting set up for another heat wave, to begin tomorrow.

I’ve been intending to get my non-deliverable homework done by the end of the night, as I don’t foresee using the computer in the daylight hours between tomorrow and Monday. I also don’t want to fall behind; it’s disheartening. Tomorrow can be used to catch up on my reading (I only have 20 pages).

Beyond that, though: there’s more to be done, really, than putting one foot in front of the other. Long-term…we’ve just made a decision which may turn out to be momentous in its impact on our lives, though it’s a fall-back position. I won’t get too far into it (in public or at this time, at least), but I wanted to note it.

Right now, I’m feeling distracted. I’ve just gotten through cleaning up a bunch of stuff in the craft area; M is there now, cleaning up her things. I have been…likely distracted since a second round of paints arrived, and then there are the pens I have been talking about, which have been getting attention since maybe Thursday? Then there is the language training thing, which isn’t bad…but if the backup plan goes through, I just might be able to take in-person classes, after COVID is no longer an issue. If that ever happens.

And yes, I do suppose it’s possible that I’m a bit depressed. It’s kind of hard, not to be.

I mean, it’s kind of like, “Where am I going with my life?” I know I have strong English skill and Art skill…and some Computer-oriented skill. But I’ve spent the last 10 years figuring out what I don’t want to do, following a career path that I knew nothing about when I chose it, because of a Vocational program which — other than helping finance my schooling and giving coaching for how to apply for jobs — really may not have been all that great?…

It was good to get me into my first job. That doesn’t mean much, though, except that now I have a track record and people who know me.

The major issue for me, if this fall-back position goes through, is going to be figuring out what to do for money. Especially considering that there may not be many non-service-oriented jobs in the area. Now that I’ve mentioned that, you may realize what I’m talking about…

…and it may be more worth it for me to do some reading on psychology and anger management, and try and adapt to the world, instead of being upset when people fail to live up to my expectations (which, with the general public, is a regular-enough occurrence).

If nothing were to change, I’d be seriously considering writing and art as venues within which, to sell my labor. I suppose I can still do that. It’s just that — and this is something I’ve been dealing with for a long time — working creatively feels like a waste of my intellect.

I think I’ve gone over that in my private journal, though. It could well hold for any job, though: that working as one little cog in a machine is simpler and a waste of my talent, when I could be working on my own projects.

So maybe I really should look at being self-employed.

I’ve been having a recurring series of dreams about going back into Undergraduate training and into the Hard Sciences like I thought I would as a teenager. I just feel like I could be helping to cure diseases or something, and instead, I’ve been dealing with random hostile **** being a front-line service worker.

But — as I have been learning with XML/XPath/XSLT — if I know from the outset that I don’t like the classes, what makes me think that I’ll like the work that the classes are training me to do? What makes me think, “it gets better?” Being “cool” doesn’t get very far when I seriously have to deal with work that I dislike (and Computer Programming, I’ve found, I dislike).

The most obvious opening, for me, is becoming an author or writer or Lecturer or Professor at the University level…that’s possible, and it’s even…interesting. But that’s going back into Academia. Do I really want to do that?

When the alternative is service work or computer work, the answer is yes; when the answer is art work or writing…there’s actually a complication which occurs.

Seriously, though: do I really want to put in another 2-4 years of work to gain an MA or PhD?

(If the question is if I would do that for an MFA, the answer is an emphatic, “yes”; but then I have to pick a field. Creative Writing, or Drawing and Painting?)

And then there is the possibility of studying Japanese Language and Literature, which…I would seriously, like to do. At least, from here, I think I would like to do it.

And if I’m doing that, I might as well work in a University Library and get free tuition. Getting an additional Master’s would clear me to work in the position of an Academic Librarian, pretty much anywhere. Would I really like to do that, though (especially given that Academic Librarianship also involves teaching at the University level)?

That is — am I actually OK with going through the process of gaining tenure, or traveling around until I can do so?

But that sounds sweet, guys. That really sounds, sweet.

Like hella effin’ sweet. I’d learn to read and write in Japanese, and my reading can enhance my writing, and I’d get to help the University kids, and live in University towns for the rest of my life.

I might also be able to focus on comparative literature; at least, after that’s over. Though Comparative Literature has never really been my goal, I’ve read into at least one book (Articulations of Difference: Gender Studies and Writing in French), which was what originally whet my appetite for non-English writing.

I can’t believe it. I found a bright spot! Through writing! I love writing! :D

There are also accelerated courses at the place I’m looking at, which sounds so good! And I could get to teach at the University level, about something I’m actually interested in!

At the beginning of this post, I typed “Hypergraphia” as the title. That’s basically due to the fact that I’m just pretty obsessed with writing, as I can tell from yesterday. “Hypergraphia” is a psychological term for the compulsive desire to write. I’m pretty sure it’s what was getting me through my Creative Writing training, when I felt like writing was one of the only constants in my life. It’s also likely what I was going through, as a teen.

Of course, though: if I had a mental condition which was causing me to write compulsively, and then that condition is treated and no longer rules me…the question is, what do I do with my life, then?

Learn another language? ;) Read a whole lot? Journal? Get back to writing for its benefits without letting it drive me into the ground?

I’m feeling so much better. I’m going to end this, here…

art, career, creativity, libraries, money, psychology, writing

Rediscovering myself

Or: maybe getting degrees in Art and Creative Writing, weren’t unfortunate mistakes.

It has been almost seven months since I last set foot in a Library as an employee. With that amount of time away, it has become fairly apparent to me that Librarianship is not my life’s work. It’s a way to stay housed, fed, and clothed. It’s also a way to earn enough money to work on my art, have time and reason to read literature, and have enough resources left-over for a computer.

But it’s not my life’s work. It was never meant to be. It finances my life’s work, the latter of which, I was meant to get back to after I finished my degree.

Today, I did something (else) personally significant. (The first thing was to get back to my art, which required breaking through an environmentalist barrier [or alternately, excuse] which may have only been significant, to me.)

I began again to read fiction. Specifically, I’ve had Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides facing me on my bookshelf for months. I stopped reading it at the point I realized that the main character’s intersexuality was being blamed on an episode of incest. Yeah, that could be…rather insulting. I guess it’s what happens when an author feels the need to explain every point of the story logically, even when they don’t understand the situation or the mechanisms pertaining to it.

(I should disclose that I don’t actually know that incest is not the vector that leads to intersexuality, but I strongly suspect it isn’t.)

I need to be sure not to mimic, that.

Anyhow…I started back in on this, trying not to judge it too harshly. It’s been going relatively well. Cal is a sensitive-enough narrator that it’s easy to empathize with him and put the author’s construction of the scenario out of my mind.

I’ve had a thing against fiction ever since the English Department tried to initiate me into multiple doctrines I disagreed with, in Undergrad work. I think they were trying to prop up their opinions/value systems/historical illusions/current delusions with the use of Fiction, while seeming to forget that Fiction is usually fabricated of what many authors would overtly call, “lies.” Having been raised to be an extremely conscientious and honest person, this was incompatible with my outlook and with my ethics.

Well, I found something else that was compatible with my ethics (wanting to sustain a comfortable living while not charging money), and that was Librarianship. Or, so I thought.

I didn’t quite realize how extremely political the situation I was getting myself into, was. It’s not like I don’t consider myself left-wing. I’m solidly left-wing. However, I see people behaving as though they are left-wing, even with multiple layers of hypocrisy (and doormat) riddled over the top of that, because (it seems) they want to feel as though they are “good” people. And they seem to think that their politics make them, “good.” It’s as if they can’t have a positive self-image unless they believe something about themselves that is not only unhealthy, altruistic and unrealistic, but at its root false and untenable.

That is, politics can help lead people to places of inauthenticity, and lack of self-esteem and fear of self-knowledge, can bind them there.

The sad thing is that in my journey through both undergraduate and graduate work, I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between professors so conservative I’ve wanted to intentionally shift the ground under their feet, and professors (and some co-workers) so “liberal” that I had a hard time taking them seriously. Especially when I was living at my first University…I found it troubling when the University itself tried to be so “liberal” that staff made stupid decisions and seemed to dare anyone to challenge them (lest the challenger be seen as a conservative bigot; and not, for example, a concerned member of the primary University community, which should have been the students).

In any case: I did begin to read again, today. You could call it “recreational” reading, or you could call it study of the craft of literature. It’s probably both. I realized that if I did want to write fiction (and a lot of the ideas I have do suit themselves better to the provisional-belief model of fiction, rather than the cemented, well-thought-out, realistic [or, irresponsible] ideals of nonfiction), it would help to have some recent, real-life examples.

It would also help for those examples to be taken from published monographs, and not — for example — short stories of the type published in Literary Magazines. The latter are much less of a time and emotional investment, but they are also generally of lower quality than full-length books, due to the fact that many writers get their start in Literary Magazines. LitMags are designed more to show you the next new up-and-coming authors; not necessarily, finely-honed professional pieces.

I’m hoping that this time when I’ve gotten into fiction, I’ll be able to put out of my mind the politics of the authors. This is with the hope that I also will be able to put self-judgment out of my mind as I write my own work. A major reason I stopped writing: I had tried to analyze my own writing as I would analyze the writings of anyone else I had read…and I got a rather disturbing picture.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that my analysis was, “true,” or, “fact.” There are always multiple valid ways of interpreting the same text (though the interpretation often says more about the interpreter than the text s/he is interpreting — when both are the same, however…). It means that my then-self-destructive mind was able to weaponize it as something with which, to take me down.

Of course, back then, I was very young. I didn’t know how not to overthink things. I also wasn’t at the age where I could set self-judgment aside for the sake of expression. There’s a point one reaches in one’s life where one realizes that there are always going to be spots in one’s character that one dislikes. That doesn’t mean one should stop living. To do otherwise is perfectionism, and perfect is the enemy of good.

Seriously. That kind of sums up everything of the place I’m at, right now.

So, I’m back into reading, which should help me get back into writing. I’m also back into art; specifically, painting and drawing. I feel…like this is where I’m supposed to be. And it doesn’t have to be a holy calling, like I dreamed it was when I was a youth. It’s just what I’m good at, and what I’m drawn to. It’s what I actually want to do; what I would do if money were not an issue.

When my XML instructor mentioned practicing with XSLT during all of our down time, I knew it was not what I wanted. My free time has been pre-established as creative time. My priority is creativity, not coding.

I don’t want to get into a place where I have to spend my entire life circling around computers, cataloging, classification, indexing, abstracting, coding, technical writing, etc., all of which seem to center around obeying rules. I don’t want the need for money to cause me to forget who I am and stop me from creating.

I don’t want, that is, to become a non-creative person, or to be pushed into that lifestyle because I’m afraid to strike out on my own.

Right now…I’ve just given myself long enough (two weeks) without too much pressure, to see what I really want to do. Of course…I have two classes going. I’m thinking of dropping the nonessential one — the one that ends in three weeks — and foregoing the technical certificate I had planned on obtaining. We’ve been talking at my house about how the threat of death that could come at any time, causes one to think about what one really wants to do with the time they do have.

Apparently, that’s entirely appropriate. My thought is that I don’t want to go out of this world having spent all of my life doing schoolwork; constantly preparing, never putting my skills to use. Even when I’ve gotten the chance not to do schoolwork, I’ve chosen to do it.

But…in reality, I may be better off using my skills at Writing and Art to piece together a living, than becoming an Information Professional. Without a doubt, the return is less. But I might actually be happy in aligning my interests and my activities; as versus compromising my values for the sake of income which I then can’t enjoy, because I’m too busy with my current work and Professional Development to develop my own set of creative skills.

Language. Reading. Art. Writing. Stories. These are themes I see which…I’m relatively motivated around. They’re things I honestly take pleasure in, even with the psychological risks. I’ve realized that if I can boost myself to the point where I am not afraid to make things from my own experience, and to say what I think; to depict what I wish, regardless of whether there is historical precedent; I may be equipped to take this path on. And, possibly, succeed at it.

The only reason I took up a job in the Library (besides the fact that I didn’t want to be constantly told I didn’t belong; little did I know how much the social difficulties of still being constantly automatically slotted would impact me) is that I thought it might encourage me to read, which would encourage me to write.

I still have neither witnessed nor ever taken part in a successful Reader’s Advisory interview. (Not that I didn’t try.) That is…Fiction collections in the Library in which I used to work, are relatively opaque. They never became less so. The best bet I have of getting into the modern literary world, is just to start reading. Middlesex may be as good a place to start, as any.

In this period of release…I realize how fundamental it is to me, to write. I realize I gain intrinsic pleasure from writing, and from painting and drawing — at least, when I do it in my own way. That feeling: of doing something I want to do, that I honestly derive joy from, that I’m better off for after having participated in the work; is missing in my career. I wouldn’t know what I wanted to do, without having extended time away from work…and being able to choose my actions, in reality. I’m aware it’s a privilege that most don’t get.

But this isn’t over, yet. I just need to make my own way. I hear that, as intimidating as it is, it’s not unusual…

culture, philosophy, portfolio, psychology

Sometimes I Wonder If This Means Anything

Recently, I’ve had the time to think about what it means to be a person who is nonbinary-identified, who otherwise appears to most to be a “woman.” That is, what is the difference between, “me” as “myself,” and “me” as, “woman,” when to the untrained eye, we’re indistinguishable?

Well, perhaps not indistinguishable, but a general sense of civil politeness dictates not to draw attention to that aspect of reality, as divergence is seen as a fault. The differences don’t show up until you’ve known me for a little while and notice that my behavior and thought process is, to a sensitive yet civil person, “slightly different”; to a person who expects conformity, “slightly off.”

When I don’t go out of my way to prove or show in any way that I’m not a woman, that is…when I’m talking about sewing and beadwork and librarianship…what is there to distinguish me from the backdrop? (By the way…this article is my own, not in any way representative of my profession.)

Activities assigned a gender by culture do not imply the gender identity of the person doing the activity

Because I participate in pastimes that have been culturally allotted to me because of my assumed gender, that doesn’t mean that assumption of my gender is correct. To skip ahead slightly, if cryptically: I identify as nonbinary because it liberates me from being trapped in the game.

How do I know I’m not a woman?

For one thing, I don’t.

I can’t compare my experience to experience I’ve never had.

For another thing, how does anyone else know if they’re a woman? Without referring to tautologies, that is, such as the most common assumption I seem to find: that sex = gender. That sex, in short, creates gender.

I would look at this from the other end, however, and ask one to consider the possibility that people are targeted for gendered psychological conditioning which differs on the basis of their known (or assumed) sex. That, over the long term, encourages (but does not cause) the development of societally-conforming gender expressions; even though this may cause quite a large amount of distress for the person being conditioned.

Accepting the identity of “woman”, in short, does damage to who I am at core, because I have internalized concepts of womanhood which are particularly damaging and oppressive to me as an apparently female person, who is interacted with, and expected to respond as, a woman (or “girl”) because of it. The response expected can differ widely from the reality.

But you know what? That’s sexism.

In particular, the level of societal violence (emotional, interrelational, and physical) directed at people who are, as I once openly was, “gender-nonconforming”, is something that severely negatively impacted my mental health. The fact that I knew it was being demanded I conform — to be something I wasn’t; to live someone else’s life who didn’t exist, to pretend I was her for everyone else — in order to stop the torture, didn’t help.

From the time I was about 19 or 20, once I knew about gender variance, and that it happened to more people than myself, I had been considering the option of physical gender transition. Right now there are only so many options for that, however; fewer still which will not result in additional societal violence.

As a person who doesn’t have a man’s identity, I won’t be able to transition to male and expect anything better than what I have now. In fact, I’d expect worse. There are differences I’d like to have in this body — unfortunately, the window of opportunity for that (for example, to have a larger frame, to have a flat chest without surgery, to be a fully functional male who didn’t have to take hormones) has either passed, or never existed. Some of the actual possibilities could only have been attained with intervention before or during puberty. In my case, that was in the 1990’s.

Wasn’t happening.

History

If I think on it, my gender nonconformity goes back through my childhood, at least to kindergarten. There were rules to being a (supposed) boy or (supposed) girl that first showed their faces, there. Like not playing actively if one were female, or being targeted for random unwanted kisses (from one particular boy) if one were female. I didn’t know and didn’t care, and that made me something of an outcast — though, of course, I thought the problem was everybody else, not myself.

That pattern has marked my existence since then, though I didn’t have an awareness of it until the sexual harassment kicked in fully at 14. I still have a hard time considering myself to be, “normal.” I have a hard time thinking things are good just because they’re popular, and with the idea of exposing myself to all kinds of media, when I know that some of that media is actively violent towards people like myself.

I think I was perhaps 16 or 17 before I started thinking maybe there was something to the harassment that was thrown at me, and that I could have been, as I was being labeled, a gender-nonconforming female who loved women (two culturally linked but separate things which were both taboo in the institution of high school; I’m uncertain I can say the actual word on this platform, as it is still hate speech). I tried to “reclaim” the label, by actively identifying with it. The theory was that if I built a positive identity around the term, it could no longer be used to hurt me.

That got me only so far, as externally-imposed slurs tend not to leave a lot of space open for identity development. However, it gave me space to break some of the walls of my box, unapologetically, and with minimal loss. Even at that time, I knew there was something wrong — but I didn’t know what it was. This was the period in which I first experienced clinical depression; but I only consented to pharmacological treatment for that after I realized that maybe the thing making me sad was something I couldn’t fix. I can’t fix the world by myself. But avoiding suicide gives me a little more time to try.

It wouldn’t be until I removed myself from that situation (taking my meds with me, of course) that I would learn that I had a choice over who I would be, and become.

Fast-forward: I’m likely around 19 years old, away from my parents — and the community that has seen me grow up — for the first time. I realize, from meeting some people, that it’s possible to alter one’s gender expression, and that I’m not stuck with the name and pronouns given to me at birth; or the roles placed on me by others.

The concept of identities being like clothing in a wardrobe is introduced to me. I realize I don’t have to be what others have told me I am; that I can change out of the leather jacket I’ve been carrying with me, into something that may be more suited. Something that may make me happier.

Woman/Not-Woman: Does It Matter?

It wouldn’t be until far later, in my 30’s, that someone would tell me that they kept hearing me say I was not a woman, but they never heard me say I was a man.

“Man”, never really fit, except within groups where I knew people knew what I meant by it, and within which I tempered the identity by acknowledging my female history. It wasn’t a portable identity, at least not if I paid attention to people complaining about “their” identities being, “watered down.” (Yes, there is exclusion right there; the idea that we couldn’t share the same word for ourselves because we were different. This was before the emergences of the genderqueer and nonbinary communities…and possibly the catalyst for their formation.) I wouldn’t learn that it would be tough for me as male, though, until I was about 25, and had tried living as one — with various interspersions of behavior that I considered distinctly, “unmanly.”

I don’t know where these ideas about men and women came from. But I suspect they’re learned.

The thing is: my society emphasizes two (and only two) genders. If a person isn’t one, the next step, often, is to believe that one then must be the other. However…that’s not where my journey took me. “Not-woman” is not the same thing as “man”. “Woman” is not the same thing as “not-man.” One is a positive assertion: many variations on one truth. The other is a negation: infinity-minus-one possible options for truth remaining.

I’m thinking that we’ve had a tendency to think the terms are equivalent, though (much as “not-woman” got linked with “lesbian” for me in high school), because of our particular historical and cultural locus. Most people repeat concepts in this sense without knowing where the concepts came from or why they think what they do, but ideas in this sense are inherited from the past, and sometimes they’re outdated to an embarrassing extent.

What I know is that trying to think of myself as a woman has done concrete psychological damage to me. Because I don’t fit. I’m not a woman — regardless of the shape of my body. Not-man and not-woman (at least, not as this current culture defines “man” and “woman”) leaves infinity-minus-two possible outcomes for me. Not all of them require medical transition or intentional alteration of presentation. Or, “masculinity.”

If one tries to think of oneself as something one is not, chances are that one is going to be riddled with senses of inadequacy. All the time.

When I try to think of myself as a woman, I expect myself to grapple from an inside position with messages about what women are and/or should be, which rarely ever fit. Which makes me angry, as I presume other “women” like “myself” also find those messages and concepts not to fit.

But is that the case? If so, the world really is a dystopia.

And then again, I see myself conforming for the sake of the approval of others. Trying to be someone who doesn’t exist, so I can stop being hurt and excluded. Only now, I’m the person hurting myself. No one else has to torture me: I’ve taken over that job. And I’m getting the perks of fitting in, knowing full well that the external torture and isolation and exclusion may resume if I let down my facade.

Other people then also expect me to conform to messages about what women are and should be — but they (almost) always do that, except when I let people know that my appearance does not infer my identity. On a baseline, people expect me to be able to relate on a level of commonality that I don’t share. Because right now, I’m a husk of a person. I’ve abandoned myself to take on a role that my heart isn’t in, for the purposes of pleasing others and smoothing social relations.

Boundaries. Somewhere in there, I’ve got to stand up for myself, or I’ll never be able to attain an authentic life. And my life isn’t for the pleasure of other people. It’s mine.

Somewhere in there, I got tired of this. Rebelling against compulsory “femininity” versus conforming to compulsory “femininity”; whereas if I thought of myself as male, even as a gentle one, I realized that what to do with this, isn’t even a question. If I discard the concept of “woman” as outside of myself; as meaningless in my domain; I no longer have to rebel, or conform. The concept no longer holds sway over me; my life is no longer led and controlled by the whims of other people. Let the people who don’t understand fall on their faces. Catering to their illusions isn’t my job.

Risk and Flow

It would not be true for me to say that relative levels of risk and emotional safety haven’t played a role in choosing between life options. At first, I began exploring things that were allotted to me because I appeared female, because I knew they might not be allotted to me anymore in the then-near future. I was trying to find anything good about my situation, before I might change it.

Yes, I’m talking about physical — chemical and surgical — transition. In my situation, the treatments were offered on a harm-reduction basis. It has not been unusual for people to attain things like hormones and surgeries illegally, out of desperation to escape their situations. If I was going to alter myself, it would be better to do it through a compassionate health care system than through the black market.

In effect, I was exercising what is known in sociology as, “agency.” Sociology is basically the study of power constraints on groups of people, and how ordinary people find ways to struggle and survive, despite them. In early college, I took up Sociology as my major, though I wouldn’t stay in it. I was told it was, “the study of groups of people.” That’s an oversimplification.

Sociology arose, most markedly to my mind, after WWII: as people tried to make sense of the Holocaust. Notes online, however, say it began much earlier due to the French and Industrial Revolutions. In my view, Sociology is the study of how power dynamics and methods of social control form among people and how culture is — at times — complicit in, or even driving, that.

Agency may be, in this discussion, said to encompass ways of individual or group existence alongside social control; defying it, without being destroyed by it.

So there are reasons — I would say at their base, coercive ones — for certain things to be considered either “men’s” or “women’s” work. Coercive, because one runs into barriers if they try to do work which has not been allotted to them by their social station.

I’m not a person who likes to fight. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how long staying neutral is, or can be, an option. These are not usual times. And, as I am learning, my voice can make a difference. This is still a democracy, after all.

There is something that just came to my mind…I’m not certain I’ll be able to communicate clearly enough to really explain it, especially as it has to do with what is known in the West as Philosophical Daoism (or Philosophical Taoism). I learned about this after having studied Chinese Buddhism. I was trying to figure out where the Buddhism ended and Daoism began. One could write books on this, though unfortunately I have pretty much no reading ability in any Chinese dialect, so research would be difficult (even if possible).

It has to do with the concept of water. Or, Water, if you prefer. The element.

Water always seeks the lowest point, the place where it can settle no further. It is stopped by barriers like dikes, and flows where it is given space to flow. But in floods, it can overwhelm and cross those dikes. In tsunamis and typhoons it can destroy towns. It’s a gentle thing that carves mountains. Crushes and splits stone. Comes down in drops and forms oceans.

It is also something which we depend on for life; without which, there would be no life.

I don’t aim to be a fighter. I aim to be like Water.

To know this is useful; to know this is also slightly frightening, because I know that I also will always have to deal with that drip, drip, drip…building up, building pressure, pushing against boundaries and walls, finding cracks, threatening to spill out. Always.

As for whether I’ve recently overflowed (I wonder if the Japanese term あふれる [afureru: to overflow; I don’t know the correct kanji] is related to this)…it’s hard to say. I hadn’t thought of the one recent instance in those terms until I wrote them, here.

There is also the difference between the “soft” martial arts and the “hard” martial arts, which may aid one in understanding what I mean. Hard martial arts, like karate, are force-against-force. In a battle between two martial artists each using force against force, considering all else equal, the bigger and stronger one will win. In a situation where one is going up against a stronger opponent…it doesn’t make sense to fight force-against-force. I’ve always had to be faster, smarter, choosing my battles. Choosing my questions, finding weaknesses, finding my strengths.

So even though I can’t say that my environment had no hand in shaping the person I am now, I can say is that what you see of me now is genuine — even if, under other circumstances, under different constraints, I may have grown in an entirely different direction.

That’s what it means to be full of potentialities.

That’s also what it means to be human.

“Women’s Work”

One of the difficulties of living in this transitional era is what to do with older identities, aspirations taught to us by our foremothers, made for eras which no longer exist. In my attempt to see if there were anything left for me in being female, I was in some respects immersed in pastimes which — in years gone by — I suspect must have been done by people who were stay-at-home mothers or homemakers, or otherwise supported monetarily from outside (as is the case with me and my parents). I can’t imagine their being able to survive any other way.

Implied in this is marriage to a person who can give one children, and financial support thereby. Also implied is the willingness to be impregnated, and to keep and care for the child(ren). It’s not a given that everyone wants that.

My relations with my own reproductive potential have never been easy. But neither have been my relations with anyone else’s. I’ve never given myself a chance to get pregnant. After having written the rest of this, I’m no longer surprised at having some level of discomfort around reproduction. But my dysphoria is minor, as I’m able to use birth control, in addition to abstinence — which may in fact have run on long enough to become celibacy.

Since I was in high school and realized that marriage to a man was likely not to be comfortable for me (given how few males I was attracted to at all, and the fact that the ones I was attracted to had a tendency to be gay or transgender), I’ve channeled my creative urges into the making of, “things”; objects; writings; not children. Instead of raising a child as my legacy, I’ve realized there are other methods of having an impact on society.

The issue — my main issue, at this point — is finding a way to stay alive while staying creative. To find a way of feeding both my desire to create, and my physical needs, at the same time. The system, as it’s set up…is there a method of independently supporting oneself while staying out of poverty, and still taking the time to do “women’s work”? I’m not certain. But then, I live in one of the most expensive places possible, in this country.

Then there is the fact that “women’s work” in the public sphere — nursing, teaching, clerical, childcare, librarianship — presuppose a level of social intelligence (and inclination to be social) that I just don’t have. The only one I can think of that doesn’t, that I know of, is housekeeping — but I’m not about to go there. Germ phobia, remember?

But that’s sexism, again.

I’m not entirely sure what to do about this. I’m a person who was raised to become a woman who is not; who has to enter territory long held by men in order to survive. That’s not easy for me.

む (Mu)

When I began writing this post, the idea of, “myself as a nonbinary person,” and, “myself as a woman,” were looking too close to call. The difference seemed like splitting hairs. To the extent that both nonbinary and woman identities are cultural constructions and not inherently existent in and of themselves, that’s still true. Hence, the question, “am I a woman?” could be answered in the single Zen term, む (or, “mu”).

The answer of “mu” to a koan, or riddle, means that the foundations of the question are formulated so that no right answer can be given. The example I’ve seen is the question: “have you stopped beating your wife?” when you have no wife; or you do have a wife, but you don’t beat her. The presuppositions of the question are faulty in such a way that to answer either, “yes, I have stopped beating my wife,” or, “no, I haven’t stopped beating my wife,” would be false.

Hence: む. Neither, “yes, I am a woman,” nor, “no, I am not a woman,” are wholly satisfactory, because the term, “woman,” is mutable and has no inherent reality. (Neither does, “man,” or, “nonbinary,” for that matter. They’re all terms which, on some level, most of us just loosely agree have similar-enough meanings to be able to get a rough idea of what the other person means when we say them.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean, in a different sense, that no women exist. But I like the opt-in model, based on authentic thinking and deep reflection; better than the mass-assignment model, based on surface appearances or biological statistics.

From the outside, it doesn’t matter on a large scale (likely to anyone except other nonbinary people) whether I’m called a woman or a nonbinary person — although I will get tripped up when I’m referred to as “that woman” (it has happened)! What matters to me most is how I think of myself, because that’s all I have direct control over. It’s much more important that I give myself permission to think freely about my own gender, than it is that other people agree with me about it or support me in it. (Though support is nice, when it’s asked for and given. When it’s not asked for…there may be a reason.)

At this point, however, I’ve realized things are much more complex than I’ve given them credit for.

To a greater or lesser extent, I believe that all of us have been subject to conditioning, based on the way we’ve looked; on our physicality, or on what little is known about us. But that’s not the total picture. There are patterns we have which aren’t immediately visible based on how we look, or which can be predicted by an image. Nevertheless, they are real. Going back over my history, showed me that.

My experiences as a child, youth, and young adult, are not something that everyone would have been vulnerable to in the same way. As an adult, I’m still not typical…even if my experience is more common or relatable than I imagine. And it is easy to imagine…easier, now…that I am actually truly “normal” even in my diversity. That people the world over have experienced what it’s like not to fit in, for one reason or another.

People are not always what they seem. I’m proof of that.

And that should give me hope.

color, personal, psychology, writing

Writing with a purpose

I’ve gotten to the point where it’s hard to look at my blog and see that it hasn’t been updated for days. Some of that work is going offline — a lot of it, actually — but still…I feel isolated without my writings. It’s not like I can carry all my journals and pens around with me everywhere, though. In addition to the bulk, I don’t want to lose it. But I’m one of those freaks who thinks information is valuable.

I’m kind of wondering if I should start writing about risky things (intimacy, sexuality, gender variance, emotional pain, trauma, fears), in order to jump-start the content portion of my writing. I’m thinking that I keep concentrating on my handwriting and the form of my words, just to keep writing about anything, and because it isn’t emotionally vulnerable. I started off this post that way, and eventually wandered off into gender topics…

That is, I think I’m avoiding vulnerability, and that’s why it’s difficult to read fiction (I recently started reading Middlesex, 16 years after I bought it, which later incited crying from some childhood memory) or paint (which may force me to acknowledge an inconvenient gender and sexuality) or write (which will allow me to express parts of myself I’m not comfortable with and which don’t fit into my self-concept).

Of course, I can see someone about this, at the end of the month.

It’s just weird, though: getting to the age where taking risks is actually…risky (like, “can affect my livelihood”), is a different thing than being young and not knowing any better. I suppose if I’m lucky, I’ll make it to the age where I can be one of the cool old ladies who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

From what I can tell…at work, it is being acknowledged that I’m different and that it’s OK to be different. I kind of straddle the line between butch lesbian and queer transgender male (not necessarily man-identified: and note, I am using the term “queer” in the U.S. reclaimed and subcultural sense [meaning not-cisgender and/or not-heterosexual] — not any pejorative sense with which it is used elsewhere in the world), which…well, it’s the only time in my life that I’ve been able to really not-hide that. Also, not-define it, which means not-over-defining it, meaning that I get that leeway to be who I am and show who I am, instead of trying to put it into words which inherently do violence to my being.

I’d learned not to talk about this stuff, online. I used to, but that was back when I didn’t have a community or support system. I do realize I could transition, you know, take testosterone. But there are more drawbacks than positives to that. If I were 23 again and didn’t think I was going to live to 30, so I would only be living with bi-weekly injections for 7 years, it might be an option. But the clear point is that I don’t consider myself a man or a woman (though I’m probably closer to the latter than the former). I’ve also passed the date by which I thought I would be gone, and am busy building the rest of my life.

Taking testosterone means coming out to everyone, and changing in front of everyone. And I won’t even be a man at the end, because that depends on the psyche, not the body. I could see doing it if I were transsexual, but I’m not. And it still won’t give me what I want. I just want to be fully male; I don’t want to be in-between, and I don’t want a feminized mind in a body that makes people expect me to be a man. Nor do I want my body torn up by surgery, because the options I have leave a lot to be desired.

The option I have — if I want to be fully myself — is to take testosterone and be seen as an openly gender-nonbinary trans* male. The thing is, “nonbinary” is only understood by a small fraction of the population, right now. There is even hostility within the trans* community towards nonbinary people (some trans* people who consider themselves fully men or fully women resent us for existing both because they can’t understand us, and because they see it as making things harder for them), so that also takes away a source of support.

I’ve been doing some experiments with color and handwriting as relates to my pens. I’ve found that I have to give myself permission to like things (like colors) that are seen as traditionally feminine. When I told M this, she shot back with incredulity: “You mean you don’t like things just because you see them as feminine?” I had to clarify that the case was more that I had been pushing those things away because I didn’t like how I was treated when I was associated with them. But I found I liked some of those things, anyway. And so I was giving myself permission to acknowledge it. (Also part of this thought stream, but one which I’m not sure I ever got to voice to her: I was acknowledging that I questioned whether cis women [as versus, say, men] ever had to give themselves permission to be feminine; this could be construed as evidence against my being cis.)

She seemed to accept that.

What I’m learning from M is that I think she’s gender-blind. She told me that there was no masculine or feminine except in my mind. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’m also pretty sure that what she says doesn’t override what I think just because of her relation to me. In the ink-color experiments…there are some colors which have been designed to be gendered either masculine or feminine. Like literally, designed to evoke that point. Intentionally. I can tell. I don’t know that she can (or at least, that she can acknowledge that she can).

But what I’ve found is that I like the brighter colors better, roughly speaking. There are some that are terrible regardless of gender (by, for example, being unreadable); but the colors I thought I wouldn’t like, now look better than some of the alternatives. Particularly, Pilot’s Tsukushi — a dirt-brown color — I’ve found that I basically hate. I got it because I wanted to see what it would look like or feel like to write in a more subdued or neutral tone. I assumed it was aimed at men, whereas another color — Murasaki-Shikibu — obviously was aimed at women, both from its hue (an intense violet) and its naming (for a female author of the Heian era, the latter of which is noted as a brief time of peace in Japan’s history, and widely [among Japanese] considered feminine).

I also have been on a pink and red kick, because as long as I’m female, that means that the pink and red are allotted to me via my culture and ethnic background. For me, being seen as a female person (女の人) in Japanese culture is different than being seen as a “girl” in popular U.S. culture (which often feels dehumanizing and infantilizing to me). It’s like I prefer being referred to as a, “daughter,” than as a, “son,” but bristle at “girl,” and sometimes feel the need to qualify, “woman.” (“If you just mean by that, ‘adult female,’ then yes, I am an adult female [without implying anything about what an adult female is or should be].”) “Boy,” and, “man,” aren’t even on the table anymore.

If you had looked at me fifteen years ago, I would have been way more conflicted about liking pink. I would have been more conflicted all around, really. I also would have had a lot of shame around being gender-nonbinary, because I had known very few nonbinary people. At the time, I wanted to be a man. I now know that isn’t going to happen, simply because if it could happen, it likely would already be happening. Some things I just have to make peace with. And, you know, it helps to root out some of that internalized misogyny, too.

I wouldn’t call what I have been doing, with the inks and pens, calligraphy. It really isn’t fancy; I haven’t designed it that way. But I have at least three different handwriting styles that I can see, which appear depending on whatever writing instrument I’m holding. I have, that is, a different script depending on whether I’m using a Fine or Extra-Fine nib, a Flex nib, or a Broad or Stub nib. I might also have a different hand with a gel pen, though that struck me as a surprise when I saw how I was writing (about a month ago). Having different hands with different tools might be apparent just from logic, but I didn’t realize until last night how heavily the tools influenced my letter-forms. (Might there be something to be said for context-sensitive adaptation?)

In addition, for some inks, I’ve needed to find the right paper. There is a cross-grid notebook I have; like a dot-grid, but with little crosses instead of dots or lines. These crosses are distracting with my normal (Fine to Medium and Flex nib) pens, but they really fall into the background with a broad or stub nib. As well, the paper doesn’t absorb the ink from the Murasaki-Shikibu-loaded stub nib pen, so the color remains vibrant.

I’m running low on time, here. In another entry, or in the future, maybe, in my notes — I should get back to the question of whether I’m actually asexual or just celibate. The truth is that I don’t know, however:

There’s just a lot of stuff that comes up when you’re female and people think you are sexually active (and not with a man), which can be sidestepped when you aren’t, and have no intention to be. But maybe I need to look at issues of guilt around being harangued as, “lesbian,” as a youth (like any of those kids knew what they were talking about — I doubt even most adults know anything about the content of their hate speech). That is…it’s very easy for someone who is female and attracted to women, to be made to feel like a predator because they’re attracted to someone who is a woman…whereas, if one is male, it’s supposed to be a good thing, I’m thinking. Even if it actually is predatory (or otherwise stupid) behavior.

That kind of polarization is one of the things I grappled with as a very young adult, who was beginning to realize that gender diversity existed. I haven’t dealt with that so much, recently. However…the question of whether I’ve identified as asexual (and lived as celibate) because of not wanting to be seen as a disgusting creep, is one worth exploring. Maybe not here, just yet; but, still.

I mean, I seriously know what it’s like to have men whom I’m in no way interested in or attracted to, try to force their way into my life. If I reverse that, maybe I can see why some people have responded as they have, to me. Only, it’s like one in 15 will actually even have the potential to be interested, if I’m remembering that figure correctly…

Then, there’s the question of how much the exterior really matters…

personal, philosophy, psychology, self care, spirituality

Reclusiveness?

Today, I didn’t go to work. It was intentional. Unfortunately, the vast majority of today was spent asleep. That…may have been a good thing, if I’m looking at keeping up my immunity. However, it did feel like time wasted (especially as I was called at least three times yesterday and this morning, to pick up an additional position).

I’m getting better at laying out my future Substitute positions. Last night I figured out when and where I’d work for the next two weeks, though I expect to be called in for more. As it stands, though, I can predict the minimum amount I’ll be paid — at least, unless I get sick. I’m starting to get concerned about the latter. I have a hint of throat irritation, though in the scheme of things, it’s nothing. What it means is that I need to continue to eat, drink water (especially), and rest. Some Zinc and Vitamin C probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

Over the past week, the weather has changed from Fall to Winter, rather dramatically. Of course, it isn’t quite Winter, yet: though I have always said that it would make sense for the solstice to mark the midpoint of Winter, rather than the beginning. But I can’t really change the Gregorian Calendar by myself.

Last night, I did lay out a number of things to do today, but to be honest, most of what I’ve been doing is eating and sleeping. I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s what I’ve needed to do…considering that one of us is already sick. There are a lot of things I could be reading: in particular, I bought a number of books on Reader’s Advisory which would help me out with work. I am concerned, though, about my vision, particularly when I’m looking at digital displays (e-books): if I read for too long, my vision blurs and doubles, and I can’t really get it to un-blur. I usually end up sleeping it off. It’s a bit disconcerting.

There is that 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes you focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, but in an interior environment, I do have to get up and find something that far away — like looking down a hallway. Generally, where I read, I don’t have anything that’s actually 20 feet away for me to focus on. It’s also extremely easy for me to lose track of time while I’m reading. 20-20-20 is easy when I’m reading something I don’t want to be reading, as it breaks up my reading time into short bursts. But when I’m actually absorbed; when the writing is actually good; it can be a bit difficult.

But if it will make it so that I can read for more than a couple of hours at a time, it will be worth it.

I’ve been intending to write in here over the past several days, but it has been a bit of a challenge, as I’ve also been questioning the use of sharing my inner thoughts with others. The difference between the way I feel now and the way I’ve felt before likely has to do with the fact that I’m more socially engaged on a daily basis.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I have had a tendency to not have a lot of real-life friends. However, with the new job, I’m dealing with people almost constantly, including co-workers, patrons, and more distant colleagues. When I’m not at work, I have my family. It’s alleviated some of the need to be social.

On top of that, there are some upshots to communicating in ways that aren’t…you know, publicly recorded.

What I have been doing is writing by hand, but I’ve also been watching my blog languish. It’s just one of those things where, if I don’t see myself putting out some form of generativity or creativity, I get…well, a little sad. Since I’ve been blogging for over a decade at this point, I have a tendency to look online for evidence of my own existence.

The major issue I’m dealing with is anonymity, the lack of it; or possibly entering into a phase of my life where discretion matters. Either this, or I’m just experienced enough now to do things differently than I did as a youth. I knew the time at which I would know better, was coming. I’m just not sure now, at what time it’s going to actually fully kick in.

There is, that is, the question of what to do when you know that actions can elicit consequences, positive, negative, or neutral. As a youth, a person has the excuse of not knowing better. As an adult, one actually knows that they should know better, because they’ve made enough mistakes as a youth. And it helps when we can leave those mistakes behind.

In an era when we’re all free to publicly surveil ourselves and each other, however, I don’t know to what extent that is possible. Nor do I actually know to what extent it ever will be possible again, in my own lifetime.

So the thing about writing…is that it displays some of the innermost parts of one’s own sense of self, and experience of life, to others. Of course, some of this is by choice; a lot of it is unconscious. But it seems that to participate in public life, it’s required to show others a bit of who one is. While it is granted that in my later years of experience, this has been more positive than not — the earlier years were fairly nasty.

As a child, I learned that the more others knew about my own identity, the more accurately they could target attacks directed at me. So I learned sometime as a pre-teen to hold back information and promulgate disinformation, so that when they attacked me, they were (from my perspective) attacking someone else. They didn’t really know who I was, and that made it clear.

I haven’t had to do that for a while. The major difficulty here is not knowing who you are, because you’re too busy throwing people off your trail to practice being yourself. It wasn’t until around my 35th year that I began to get a good grasp on who I actually was. That, in turn, required a lot of unraveling social constructs, learning about people different from myself, and realizing that one of my most salient identities was not a positive, culturally preexisting statement, but a negation of multiple other identities. Despite that, it also includes elements of what I am not: I don’t force myself to conform wholly to being or not being one thing, because those “things” ultimately don’t exist. I have the choice to believe in them or not; I choose not to.

And then, there is the point that pretty much no matter what happens, this is the life I’ve got now, maybe the only one I’ll ever get; and that I really shouldn’t have shame about who I have been or who I am. It’s a work-in-progress. There’s also the point that it isn’t like anyone else is perfect, either. It’s kind of a “human condition” sort of thing.

Earlier tonight, I started to get into more depth on what I’m referencing…but those thoughts aren’t fully formed yet, and I know from past experience that maybe I should wait and think on them, and in three to five years, they’ll be fully formed and available for discourse. Until then, my discussions are speculation, because my thoughts and experience are relatively incomplete.

As a note to my future self, though: these thoughts are including the possibility of being agender/asexual (thus why I have spent so much time on the Internet without my body or sound with me, to code my gender) and having an atheist tendency (though I do have my own, “spiritual,” or at least, “contemplative,” bent; my beliefs have been challenged recently by the specter of our species destroying all life on this planet). I don’t think I would go nihilist, but there is the question right now of what is happening in this country and globally, that brings into question the value (particularly, pragmatic) of “faith” as versus the vulnerabilities that are inborn in faith.

But that’s another question. And I don’t have it in me to answer it, right now.

money, personal, psychology, self care, work

Saying “no”? (TW: mention of sexual assault)

Yes, yes…it’s Thanksgiving. I am at home with the heater on, in bed, with the computer. I could have gone to a family gathering, but seeing that actually eating there is gambling with my gastric health (I’ve gotten sick from eating extended family’s cooking more times than I can count), I’ve decided not to go.

Well, there’s that — plus the fact that they try to force me to eat — plus the fact that those gatherings are bizarre due to the people invited and/or present, whom I am expected to get along with. As someone who appears to be a young female (I’m not that young), I’m at increased vulnerability for things like uninvited attempts at gaining and holding my attention and groping, although the latter will almost definitely instigate immediate hostile retribution on my part. That is, the one person who I know would try something like that is afraid of me. :D I also keep my guard up around him, so he doesn’t have an opening to sneak in.

You get my point.

Why has he historically been invited, even though he has a record of this? Why are his friends invited?

“Why is your family dysfunctional?” you ask, rather. I don’t know. Not entirely. But I have a feeling it’s because no one in that family has learned to say (or insist), “no.” Or to accept, “no,” for an answer.

It’s also really, extremely cold outside, at least for here. Yesterday we had hail that didn’t melt, for a very long time. This is basically the first serious storm we’ve had since Spring (if you don’t count the windstorms that caused our power company to temporarily shut down service, about a month ago).

Right now…well, I go back to work tomorrow, because I haven’t yet learned how to decline invitations to work when I try and TAKE TIME OFF. So…yeah, I guess I have that problem, too. I’m hoping to carve out some more time for myself in this next month, however. I’ve been trying to work at least ten out of every fourteen days, even if it’s just a four- or five-hour shift.

I think I got a little spoiled on getting paid for putting in 75 hours over two weeks, so getting a paycheck for half that much when I work about 40 hours over two weeks, is a bit disappointing. It’s still about twice as much as I got when I was an Aide, however. The major difference besides that is that I’m allowed to work up to full-time, whereas before I could only work up to half-time. Still no benefits, but if I make it through Probation, I’ll be allowed to settle at a permanent branch as a salaried employee, with the possibility of health, dental, and vision coverage.

So…looking at where I stand right now, I am…I’m okay, financially. It helps that I’m living with family, otherwise I couldn’t do this.

The thing about work is that the more I work, the easier it is, to work. That makes it kind of scary to consider taking time off of work. But I’m pretty sure I could use it.

As regards the holidays…there’s nothing right now that I really want, that I don’t have. That’s part of the reason I’m okay with going to work, tomorrow. I’m offsetting what I’ve done already. :) Today has been…nice, but, you know, boundaries. If we all had appropriate boundaries, it could have been nicer.

Christmas, in particular, has been historically tough for me. When I was young, it was the day when all my relatives (aside from nuclear family) showed me how much they didn’t know who I was. So I learned, eventually, that my close family had a much better idea of my identity, aside from a “little girl” stereotype. (I’ve found, over much of my life, that people have tried to guess at my identity from seeing my appearance — which is a poor way of gauging anyone.) I also eventually learned that if I wanted something, I should get it myself, for myself.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that. Not to rely on other people to know who I am, or what I want. Right now, I have what I want.

I guess this actually is turning into a Thanksgiving post, isn’t it? I’m happy to have a job, and my family, and to be able to just stay home and warm when I could be out. (It doesn’t make sense to be out in this cold, though.) I’m also happy that I’m beginning to be able to set boundaries and just not go to a place which is more emotional labor, on my part, than celebration.

Coming up…coming up, I’m hoping to spend more time at home. I’m still not sure what the optimal amount of time is for me to be working, though I might know more about that, next month. This was my first time of actually trying to work 2/3 of the days I could (approximately 5/7). Yesterday at work was tough…mostly because I was categorized as an Opener, and hadn’t been told so. I shouldn’t be in charge of dealing with some of this stuff (I have been told in Training), but apparently that doesn’t mean I won’t be put into that position.

I can smell food warming, right now. I should probably sign off, so that I can have some time to rest my eyes before heading off to eat.

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving, though I know it’s likely just a U.S. thing. :)

art, comics, creative writing, drawing, illustration, psychology, spirituality

I can’t believe it. I used the Copics.

I made one illustration before midnight last night, and…it really surprised me. I haven’t been drawing in a long time, so to have something turn out nice is almost entirely unexpected — even with all that time I spent as a kid doing illustrations. It also helped to watch Supergirl and be able to study people’s face shapes, out of nowhere.

I did see it when I began to overwork my drawing. I had to rescue it a little with acrylic paint marker (insofar as that was possible), though I’m certain this wouldn’t work if I were working professionally (the white didn’t have enough coverage). I need to remind myself that I don’t have to go all the way from white paper to black shadows, or to let my logic-brain screw up my pictorial-brain’s work. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re different brain regions, and my logic-brain wants to help (but it’s not always wisest in this area [even though it thinks it is]).

I’ve also got to remember that there’s always a next picture, and it won’t necessarily be worse. :)

I found that the Copic Ciao line that I had in Cool Grey was almost enough for the illustration I did, which is nice because the Ciaos are the least expensive of any of the Copic markers (not including their fineliners, which they call Multiliners). I also…realized that I may want to use Copic Multiliners regularly, as I’ve found the tips on Sakura Micron pens to widen (fray) with use, making the grading of their nib sizes misleading. I haven’t often used the Copic Multiliners, though, so I’m really not sure if they’ll hold up better over time. I do think, though, that the Multiliners get finer than Microns run (either that, or my tiny Multiliners are drying out).

What I do know is that Copic does have a line of refillable (not disposable) fineliners (Multiliner SP) which allow replacement of the nibs. That…is attractive, especially as I know how a fineliner with a broken nib works, and also what happens when the pens get old and dry out (and then I have to throw them out and get new ones, which isn’t very environmentally-friendly).

After having watched some of an episode of Long Island Medium which caused me to remember a story I had forgotten, I have gotten back to doing comic art and taking notes on story. It seems I also have a relatively good workflow going on, which caught me off-guard.

I’ve begun using a sketch journal, and — another surprise — I’m liking it. That’s also unexpected — in addition to needing: scissors, narrow washi tape, translucent marker paper, a copier, (just) a 2B pencil, an eraser, and a glue stick. (Well, I didn’t really need the copier, it just helped give me permission to work and possibly mess up my drawing. Having the extra copy made it easier to keep working.)

What I did was draw in my pencil art (outlines), then tape a piece of marker paper over the top, work through that paper to lay in my inks, take a photocopy of my inks, then lay in greyscale markers for value rendition (lightest color first), and work over the top to regain lost highlights with opaque white acrylic pen (not opaque enough). Then I glued down the photocopy of my inks without marker, on the facing page. (In the future, I might want to deal with this on Mixed Media paper — after I have the confidence to know that even if I do destroy what I’ve done so far by working further on it, I’ll still be able to work the drawing over again.)

What I didn’t realize until last night is that if I’m working through both marker and sketch paper, these two together are enough to annul the bleeding of the Copic marker (which normally will leak through a sketchbook page, fairly immediately). That’s basically because the Copics are alcohol-based. All of the solvent-based markers I’ve ever used (as versus water-based), have immediately soaked through most papers. That includes alcohol and xylene. There are also oil-based markers, though I only got one of those to work one time, on one project (I was drawing with an oil-based Sharpie on some sort of plastic sheeting, and couldn’t get it to work at any other time).

The narrative I remembered likely explores the main reason why I stopped writing fiction. Looking back on it, I just overthought things and freaked myself out to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, or between intuition and my discursive mind running amok. Because of this, I think, it has been quieter: if I were a spirit and was just confusing the heck out of some kid by communicating with her, I might withdraw too (even if I did love her, and at this point I have some clue of who it is I’ve been dealing with).

So when a person is dealing with energetic sensitivity, the conflict of not being able to distinguish between fantasy and reality can be amplified. The task arises of needing to tell an inner narrative, fantasy, anxieties, desires, and insights apart from an objective reality containing things that one may not understand, and which most people can’t make sense of.

And then, yeah, there’s the question of how I get that into a fictional format, in order to release myself from the constraints of memoir. Even as much as I know it isn’t my job (or possibly obligation), I think I do have some reservations about causing others to, “lose face,” though I didn’t think about it in that way until recently. In that sense, I mean, it could be a cultural thing where I’m uncomfortable telling the world about the faults and imperfections of people around me (although I’m sure it would be apparent that I’d also be showing you mine, as well: the difference is, it’s my choice and my business if I do the latter — the former is much messier).

I also don’t have to be sure that a thought is true before writing it, if I’m writing fiction. Which…may be part of the reason any fiction exists?

I don’t have any scans for you today. I’m still trying to figure out what degree of anonymity or exposure I want, online. If I showed you what I drew, my style would be recognizable across handles. There is also the issue of First Publication Rights…which makes writing for print publication different from writing on my own blog (unless I self-publish a web series or something…I’d rather do print, honestly).

Right now what I’ve got is just practice, so it’s not really a big thing. But as a bottom line, putting something on the Web means I lose control of it. I know that from having published images online, before, so this time around I’m being more reticent and deliberate.

The Web can also be a very strange place, but I’m sure we all know that. :)

beading, craft, creativity, design, jewelry design, psychology, self care

Process over product?

Or, “process,” over, “hoarding,” maybe?

I began this post way too late to really be coherent, but after I had a jewelry design + construction session. I worked out a set of earrings in Onyx, Copper, and Hematite; and in trying to work out another set, formed the focal point of a necklace in Smoky Quartz, Citrine, and gold-plate.

Some other things have happened since then. I was contacted by HR, and now have some time set up to go back into work for training. I also was able to purchase some shoes which, hopefully, will help combat the tendency of my feet to hurt, these days. I’ll be wearing them around the house to see how my feet tolerate them.

I also have been notified that it seems I’m having a hard time coping with anxiety. So…it was possible that I would need to reschedule an appointment because of a surprise training session, but my appointment has been delayed at least twice already, making it now about four weeks past the time I initially agreed to return. I think it’s important that I not allow that to be pushed back any more.

It’s possible that making the jewelry helps take my mind off of other things that are going on in my life. I wasn’t in a great place, emotionally, when I made the earrings last night. There’s a certain energy that goes with them, which I didn’t find to be best for me today, when I was putting myself together this morning.

In particular, yesterday I had a lot of anger over a situation which occurred and — although I didn’t see it in quite these terms — others say it sounds like I was triggered, and continued to “seethe” afterward. So, what I made yesterday, looks “hard” to me, today.

Getting out of the “hard woman” role is one of the reasons I decided to stop comparing myself to women and aligning myself with feminine gender terms. Because if you’re a woman, it’s possible to be a hard woman…and if you’re a man, it’s possible to be a soft man. But if you’re female, and you look female, and want to be a soft man…it’s next to impossible to be seen that way. And when you’re not recognized that way, it’s very hard to maintain that identity.

And then I get angry, and I’m back into reinforcing “hard woman” territory, again. I don’t like being angry, or feeling forced into a role.

So then you get into identity erasure, and on top of that, not being given a chance to speak because of gender dynamics combined with racial dynamics. The bad thing about this is that at this point, I’m dealing with anger, regardless of whether I’m a man or a woman or other. And as I’ve learned, being seen as angry and black at the same time is not a combination that makes my life easier.

My issue…as it stands, is that I tend to get angry and stay angry over things that I see to be injustices, or systemic social patterns that I see to be wrong…which I may be more informed on, than most. I’m informed enough on it to know that focusing on it will likely lead to an early death from heart concerns or cancer. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the problem when you want to fix it, and think that if you think about it enough, you could understand and fix it. Often, though, the stress just ends up killing people.

I mean, I come from a background where people allow each other space to speak. I come from a background where “Step Forward/Step Back” is a basic ground rule of discussion. “Step Forward” invites people who are otherwise silent to contribute to the conversation. “Step Back” asks people who are dominating the conversation to quiet down and allow other people to speak — even if there are silences.

It’s a way to address the effects of power inequalities in spaces where group members experience differing power levels or cultural norms of conversation. Otherwise, it’s known that those who are accustomed to higher levels of power may take over and direct the conversation, often even talking over other people to maintain control. This silences others, perpetuates the current power dynamic, and deprives the group of the generativity it could experience if everyone were contributing.

The obvious argument is, “contribute if you want to contribute,” but that assumes that I’m comfortable with my contribution conflicting with or destroying the current dynamic, in which I’m a lower-powered member.

Anyhow. Aside from witnessing another episode of, “let’s watch the status quo in action,” I was able to put together the beginning of a necklace. It features a couple of Citrine beads I got in high school and never used, because the drill holes were so uneven that they wouldn’t even take a 24-gauge wire. I do have a bead reamer, though, so I held the beads under cool running tap water and twirled the reamer with gentle pressure (backing it out when it jammed, so I wouldn’t snap it off) until I could actually see that the hole widened enough to take a wire.

No, I didn’t intend to be gross about that. (I edited before posting.) Quiet, you. :P

Anyhow…it was easier than I anticipated, and left a cleaner drill hole than I anticipated. Another reason to ream a drill hole under running water is that it captures free particles of silicon dioxide, which I would expect to be hazardous to the lungs unless contained in something like water.

I’m thinking of using a wire-wrapping technique to wrap a teardrop-shaped cabochon of Smoky Quartz with Rutile inclusions. I’m not entirely sure right now, how I would do it; I just know that it’s possible. Maybe I should get some square wire to practice on, and, you know, see if I am better off making the earrings. :)

I also don’t quite know where I’ll find more Citrine…at least, in non-spherical shapes. The two specimens I have now, I bought loose — because, if I’m recalling correctly, they cost around $4 or $5 each. The entire strand was just an exorbitant price, for a teen (remember, I bought these in high school).

What’s weird is that both Smoky Quartz and Citrine are commonly colored by heating and/or irradiation, which…it’s just weird to me. Don’t mind me. They’re supposed to not be radioactive at point of sale, which I can just hope is true.

Anyhow, right now it’s mid-October, so the Bead Show will be here in about a month — if I can save up enough money to wait to buy a gorgeous Citrine strand, then. That, in turn, depends on how much I work, or am allowed to work (or how much I sell! I’m not overly attached to either of my last pieces, but I do need to document them — including cost of production).

What I’ve found is that I do really love making things, but I’m not too attached to the little pieces of jewelry I have after I’m done making them. One of my friends was telling me that she was addicted to the process of making, but then has all these things that pile up after she’s done, that she has to get rid of. I’m kind of feeling like that. Certainly, at the time I began this post, that’s how I was feeling. I mean, what I made is nice — but I can do better, and I will. And I want to see that. And…income from selling what I’ve made will help me see that.

I also got a gaiwan today (a little teacup-brewer). It isn’t as pretty as I would like, but it is a porcelain gaiwan, I can upend it comfortably, and it didn’t come with a Prop 65 Warning on carcinogens. At this point, I don’t know how much more I can ask for…