art, comics, creative writing, illustration, self care, self-publishing, sequential art

'Zine dreams

Well…let’s see. We’re still rearranging the house. Bright spot: I may now have an area (extra desk, cart, and space) I can use for sewing. Somewhat-uncomfortable spot: I think a lizard may have gotten in. Not that they’re terrible or anything, but all they do is die…

I’m not sure that’s the best way to start a post, but you know. Best not to forget about the lizard. Last I saw it, it may have run behind the TV–!!

Right now…I do just kind of wonder whether I had a surplus of free time for so long that I’ve just been able to develop a number of different skills. I am thinking that if I were working on a different timetable…if I had to support myself, that is, I wouldn’t have had time to begin these practices, at all.

A number of days back, I realized that I could combine embroidery, applique, and piecework in order to make original artworks…this, though, has led to me finding my sewing stuff, my fabrics, and projects which I’ve intended to work on, but haven’t had the motivation (or memory) to do so.

I’ve also found a bunch of…old, completed or mostly-completed sketchbooks. In a couple of them, I was getting into things heavily enough that I had started to work out situations which stories could take place within…or actual stories. And characters. And drama. And page layouts. Seriously. How much more exciting is it when I’m not hesitant to make my characters feel?

On top of that, I have a lot of pencil character sketches which I could translate to marker paper. I know that working these out in black-and-white should be easy. I also know how Copics work, now, and a bit about their color ranges. There’s also the thing about working these out on heavier paper, or on Deleter paper. I have a fairly decent amount of the latter…but I still don’t yet know its properties (stability under water or light washes; how it takes alcohol marker, or dip pens; I think I remember using it before with Microns, but not Copic Multiliners, which I found out about later).

In short, going through my old art stuff reminded me of old and unfinished projects. Last night, I realized a method of binding that I could use to make comic pages with full bleeds (images running off the edge of the page), without needing to align printing on both the back and front of the paper. (Fold the paper at the center, bind the loose ends. One image, two pages.) That, then…that opens up a world of possibilities.

I also thought of writing and illustrating the thing for a small circle of friends here, and in ‘zine format, distributing it within small independent bookstores and ‘zine fests. From there, it can grow, or not. But it will have reached people I’ve most wanted it to reach.

I’ll also, then, have a portfolio piece. And I’ll be able to get this story out of my head.

Last night — after drinking an iced oolong in the middle of the night — I realized that I needed to get the core of the story down, and then build the rest of the story around it to support it. Then I realized that I did know the core of the story…which I eventually decided to take a moment to scribble down. One page. So much.

So today, I have the essential core of the story (plus some extraneous things). It is very…LGBT+ themed. I’ve learned over the years that it isn’t worth it to try and alter this story away from what it is (or what it has become, at least). I wonder if this generativity has come, also, from getting tired of writing the same things over and over in my journals.

The major thing is…graphic novel format feels more “alive” to me, somehow, than just text. At least so, when I make an effort to show emotion through my characters…and there are a lot of ways to do that. But I wonder if it’s worth it to try and illustrate the story as versus writing it out, first. Generally, so far as I know, at least; scripts come before illustrations. However, that isn’t always the case.

Doing the writing and art separately implies a division of labor between writer(s), who may not be able to draw — and illustrator(s), who may not write as well as they compose and create visual art. However, if they’re both the same person…that’s different. Jeff Smith, who wrote and drew the original Bone comics, was like this, though he started off with a blank page with a set number of panels, and basically drew the story as he imagined it.

Of course, he also started his own publishing house to get his work out there–!

Not to say I’d work exactly as he did — I don’t imagine that. However, the only person who needs to understand my process, is me. That means I don’t have to artificially separate generative tasks in the way I would if I were not currently aspiring to be an indy comic artist.

I do think that somehow, getting back into…this kind of gentle non-figurative stuff with letting myself be okay with just doing sewing, or embroidery, or abstract watercolor (and disregarding for now the possibly salient concept that all of these tasks have been accorded to women in the past) — it has also stimulated other parts of my mind.

Like the discursive part that doesn’t care if, say, when we’re talking about ghosts: what ghosts are, in reality; and whether I’m being accurate to reality, and whether life after death exists, and what paradigm to write from when writing about life after death, etc. That’s why fiction is here.

I also had to be okay with shifting away from my prior goals, to new ones. Yes, I know that I hadn’t planned on this, but I also know I can’t over-plan my life. Sometimes I just have to look at what I have the ability to do, with the resources I already have. I am looking at what I’ve already sunk resources into, and what I already know.

Sometimes…like with Japanese language, I’ve sunk monetary resources into it, but I haven’t used the materials much (at least, recently). On the other hand, with something like Spanish language, I’ve sunk (at least five) years of study and practice into it…to the point that I can understand some basic spoken or written Spanish, without help (like someone asking a clerk today how much an item cost). Because of this, the barrier to entry is much lower than with Japanese, which I spent at most one classroom year of time, studying and practicing.

I’ve also sunk time into Art training, including at least three semesters of Figure Drawing. It’s to the point that I’ve begun to envision at least skulls in three dimensions…and I find myself struggling with the idea of letting form slide for the sake of cartooning (although of course I can make cartoony versions of my characters’ images). The major difficulty I find right now with the concept of illustrating a ‘zine is the fact that there is so much drawing involved. (Do I know if I like drawing that much?) But my writing and vision may make up for present deficits in my skill level…which will rise as I practice, if I practice.

There’s also the fact that this story as it stands is finite. I know the ending already (I also noted it last night). That makes it easier to envision tackling.

Then there is stuff just to do for relaxation. I can’t focus on my career 24/7. It stresses me out too much, and makes me dread going in to work. I’m thinking of setting aside a set number of hours every week (3 to 6) for Professional Development activities, and not worrying about my progress, outside of those. Pretty much every time I go in to work, I’m gaining practical experience and getting closer to becoming a Librarian. That’s really what I need to be doing.

Reading materials on Chat Reference work or Library Programming will get me closer to that, as well, but they’re not things I really need to know now. Probably the thing that I most need to do out of all of it is to read up on Reader’s Advisory (though that only really impacts me at one branch), and reading up on how to handle difficult situations, like dealing with people who are hostile or inebriated, or people experiencing severe mental illness.

And yes — the driving lessons have started. My fear and tension is probably my biggest problem, and that should reduce drastically as I get more comfortable behind the wheel. Kind of like work, now that I think of it…

art, ceramics, personal, self care, self-publishing, writing

Pen tinkering. Ceramics. Plus the hard stuff.

Last night I was having issues with my new TWSBI ECO stub-nib fountain pen hard-starting and skipping (that is, not writing well). Today I looked up possible reasons…and I think what happened is that the pen had likely rolled in my hand, causing me to write more with one corner of the nib than the other. This, plus the pressure I used to try and get it to write correctly, pushed the nib out of alignment with the feed. I could see it today with my 10x loupe. (I originally got the loupe for Geology classes. This is another occasion on which, I’m glad I never tossed it.)

I nudged everything back into position (this nib and feed are looser than on my initial ECO [a Medium nib], but that’s likely because when I tried to adjust the Medium’s nib and feed, it was dry, thus unlubricated and fragile). We’ll see how it works.

Last night I realized that if I flooded the feed with ink by manually advancing the plunger in the ink reservoir to expel all the air, I could get it to write again. But I really shouldn’t have to do that.

It’s like a puzzle in a pen. Anyhow, that’s just part of what I came here to write about.

As I may have mentioned…we’re getting rid of things over here. Last night as well, M had separated out a bunch of glassware and ceramics from storage, and told me to pick out anything I wanted to keep.

There is a small stoneware vessel, black and gunmetal glazed, which I made in high school…it’s about 4″ wide, maybe 2″ high. I don’t know what I’d use it for, but it’s beautiful. I washed the dust off of it and dried it…and holding it later, still warm from the water, I found another beauty to it: because I made it with my own hands, it nestles down right in my own hands. Still.

Apparently, my hands were fully grown when I made this pot. :)

I wasn’t expecting to find beauty in a tactile form…but once I did, I rescued two of my other pots…a pinch-pot and another which I had thrown, both from high school. This was to remind me of the beauty I could create with my hands.

I’m not in love with the decoration on those two — both of the latter are painted with underglaze and fired with a clear crackle glaze on top. The crackle glaze doesn’t make for a great surface feel. They’re…from early on in my development. But I kept them because they’re good as examples of form. I also kept the black and gunmetal piece because it’s just beautiful.

In the near future, I should be cleared to practice ceramics, again. There’s a place I can go which has a lot of time devoted to ceramic making, and will fire my pieces for me. As the major expenses (and barrier to making) ceramics are in the kiln, wheel, and stable wedging tables…it’s a big help. (Well, I don’t know if the wedging table is really a big expense. I know it’s hard to find something suitable; clay is a fairly sturdy material to be pushing around on top of it.)

So I am hoping to get back into this. Even though it will probably mean having to go back to routinely moisturizing my hands. :) If M and I do both get back into it (she also has taken years of ceramics classes), there’s the possibility of getting a wheel and kiln, ourselves. I know she has thought about it. So have I.

I think, at least, a kiln would make me feel safer than a torch. Though, the same place that does the ceramics, also gives Jewelry classes (both basic beadwork, and Silversmithing). I have a couple of semesters of Silversmithing practice under my belt; it would be interesting to get back into it without worrying about explosions or accidentally burning the building down.

Or maybe I should say, there will be other, more experienced people, around to help prevent those outcomes. And it won’t necessarily be my fault, if it happens. As a third benefit, I’m pretty sure the Fire Department has been called out there, before.

I also, last night, began writing again about gender and sexuality in a hard copy. As a note to myself, it’s in the pink journal…

I made the connection between avoiding making myself vulnerable and the reactions I’ve gotten in the past because I have made myself vulnerable, particularly from M, and also the Internet.

It makes sense not to go into some of this stuff with her. I think she may appreciate it, if I didn’t. She just isn’t the greatest person to talk to about emotions…she’s more action-oriented, and doesn’t know what to do if I’m talking to her about something she can do nothing to fix. She also is quick to snap to judgment…even if she doesn’t understand the situation. I don’t want to be exposing new tender baby shoots of ideas to that.

I had thought that when I had finally figured out my identity, that was it; I was done; I could stop working on it and obsessing over it, and move on with the rest of my life. But, in reality: the story doesn’t end when you figure out who you are. It is an answer, but life goes on, and along with it, the story continues.

And sometimes…what you think you’ve figured out, isn’t the whole story. (Such as: “I’ve figured out who I am; now how do I interact with the world?”) Or the answer isn’t sufficient to last you your entire life. You find out that the categories you used to figure yourself out as a youth were flawed, or you realize that the way a person looks has little to do with the person they are beneath (but much to do with their experience), which revolutionizes the way you think about people. Or you realize maybe you can be attracted to a range of people, despite being celibate. Or maybe gender isn’t always (or perhaps, ever) the prime qualifying category you love in others.

It’s just that way.

At this point, I kind of wonder about the efficacy of working in a fictional format…as versus a blog one, or a semi-autobiographical one. It’s one of those things you’ll want to know before you post anything online. :) Basically, posting it verbatim online counts as publication, and will take First Publication Rights away from others, which are generally what traditional Publishers seek to acquire from an author before publishing a work. They tend to want to be the first to bring it to the world — though there are exceptions.

Of course…there’s also the question of whether one wants to publish their work in book format, or in ebook or PDF format, or as part of a website or blog. That’s a really big question, though; not one which I feel confident about tackling in public, at this point in time. What I will say is that…I’m leaning towards the blog format, right now. Tentatively.

I know that it’s easier for me to write articles, than it is to think about tackling a long, integral whole that I keep secret until some future time at which I sell my intellectual rights to the work. It’s fairly certain that I won’t make a fantastic amount of money off of it, but I didn’t get into writing to do so.

It’s more important to me to reach people who need to hear from my experience and perspective, to help them figure out where they stand in this whole diverse world. Because it really is diverse; moreso than I ever could have really imagined, as a youth.

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…

creativity, personal, philosophy

Yearnings

No amount of purchases will get rid of the hole in my heart. Even art supplies. It doesn’t work if you buy them and then don’t use them.

Right now I’m in bed, fighting off the last of a cold which hit me over Christmas. Well: I’ve been sick for the last week. Although I’m in the mood to be vulgar with this, it’s wordpress.com (not .org), so I won’t be: the worst part of this is that it hit me when I otherwise had the opportunity to see distant family. (Distant in regard to space, not in regard to relation.) It’s good to be back home and not in a hotel. With a kitchen and my art supplies and medications and plentiful books.

But still, I don’t have much of a life here. In regard to friendship, that is.

We’ve been considering moving out to Hawaii for years. But…it’s a really hard place to live. I think I can say that. For most of the time we were out there, being indoors was constantly like someone had just taken a hot shower and vented the hot, moist air inside. It was everywhere, except the places that were air-conditioned. My books wouldn’t survive. I’d have to find a way to put them under climate control, or leave them behind, or forget about them.

The latter is hard to think of, as someone who has trained to be a Librarian.

Tonight, I broke back into my Baochong oolong tea, though I was out of it (fatigued) enough that I thought it was Jasmine. So when it was a little savory, I was kind of like, “I don’t remember Jasmine tasting like that.” Because it’s Baochong. Oolong. Not Jasmine green. Silly dumpling.

And yes, having the water temperature 15° F above optimal, for that oolong, makes it taste burnt. I didn’t know water could burn tea, but I think I’ve found, it can.

So…right. I now have enough tea for like the next two years, but a bunch of it “expires” (does tea expire?) early next year. (My Tieguanyin [Iron Goddess oolong], I was told, was likely fine even though 2-4 years past expiration, I can’t remember anymore. The Jasmine Pearls from that batch were better than the fresher tea I got to replace it, which meant I had to make a run to the good tea store in order to get decent whole-leaf Jasmine green, as versus whatever was in the bulk aisle.)

Granted, I’ll have at least a season to get through it and see what it’s actually supposed to taste like, before it ferments further. But it’s a pretty sure thing that given where I got these from (in Hawaii), maybe that data about expiration was based on Hawaii climate. Like mid-70° F temperatures and high humidity at the end of December. (What is it like in July?)

It was unseasonably cold while we were there, though. High winds, and a storm (with lightning) coming through right on Christmas Day. I still had the window open until the rain got too…sideways, however.

When I was a kid, particularly M would buy stuff for us as a token of love. She wasn’t great at expressing it to us after we got older (though I can remember plenty of times when she picked me up and tried to soothe me when I cried as a really young child — like I don’t know how young, I wasn’t paying attention to my age at the time — but it had to be under six years old, because I remember it happening in my first apartment).

I’ve been doing some reading about Reader’s Advisory and the value and neurological process of reading the narratives of others, which is probably why I’m back here writing this, now. I mean, you know, I’ve realized that writing isn’t totally worthless. Which, again, is a surprising thought coming from someone who has trained to be a Librarian. But it was made pretty clear in my Creative Writing program that Creative Writing wasn’t something one did to make a living.

A lot of that history, though, it’s kind of messed-up from the point of view of an adult looking back on it. If I had to do it over again, I would have at least tried getting back into the Japanese Language and Literature program. But I really wasn’t thinking that far ahead, probably like most people around the age of 20. Actually, around the age of 20, I was just trying to survive.

I won’t go more deeply into that, here, but I will say that my worst enemy was myself, at the time. I didn’t think I would make it to 30; so getting into my young adult years, I realized that I didn’t have a career plan. That’s why I became a Librarian. Or trained for it, anyway. I still have some experience to accrue.

I’m also, now, getting to the point that “young” adult, as a description, is no longer accurate. I’m just an adult, and I’ve got adult problems, albeit Millennial adult problems. Like worrying about how long any of us will survive. What to do if and when my parents are no longer here to help me. Disputing the personal value of faith and belief and religion in the face of guaranteed death and fragmented communities. (For some reason, the term “bad faith” just came to mind — can’t remember who said it, though. Sartre?) And, though I’ve been watching myself for the last 25 years, trying to figure out who I am as versus who I think I am. Because the two don’t have to align.

I am not even sure anymore that I’m a creative person, or if that is something that characterized me as a psychologically vulnerable youth. I mean, I know I’m writing, here. It’s just that I keep accumulating the props of being a creative person, and then not using them. Then that perpetuates the hole in my heart that I try and refill with buying more stuff, when not-being-creative and buying paints and inks and pens for some ideal future destination where I use them (and then don’t), doesn’t heal me.

I actually am using the pens for writing; that is one spot of healing. At the same time, I can only use one, maximum two, pens at the same time, unless I get into some gymnastics; so how many pens does it take to fill that one hand for that one session?

Buying stuff is not working. Using stuff, might; but as I realized on our trip, I do have a bent towards paint and brushes and inks and pens. I’ve overlearned pencils, though pencils can be the base of other art; it’s just that pencils and drawing the same stuff all the time has gotten so rote as to be discouraging. I realized over the holiday that I really don’t like pencils, now. At least, not the ones with tiny points and HB graphite lead. I’ve done enough of that.

In addition — I’ve decided to let the Art and the Writing go their separate ways. There’s no reason why I should, or have to, or need to, force myself to make comic art. Right now it’s influenced a lot of my work…but if I look at it on its face, I’m a much better writer than I am an artist, and I deflate at the prospect of illustrating a book of my own work. How much drawing it is.

With that out of the way, I’m free to paint and make mandalas and study plants, all I want. Right now, the mandalas are pointing me in the direction of abstract art, of which I think I have an inkling. Particularly, looking at some of my portfolio pieces from 2016, I know I have it in me to do this — I see things I was afraid of acknowledging before, like the shapes of women — and I hope that by getting further into it I can discover more about where these things are coming from. Of course, that might possibly lead into the place where I figure out I’m lesbian even if I don’t consider myself a woman and don’t abhor some sweet technically-male things who sometimes (or often) wish they weren’t; but forget judgment, this is your soul talking.

Well, this is your soul raging, isn’t it?

I think it took watching a Dr. Who marathon and voicing that I thought Clara Oswald’s character was cute, to get me to share that I can be/am still attracted to women. (I have a close female relative who cannot stand Clara Oswald [“she’s too perky”]. But then, she also can’t tolerate “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. It’s too screechy for her.)

To each their own.

I still haven’t resolved how and if a person can be lesbian if they don’t identify as a woman. Then again…I think I’ve already resolved (in my head) that the category of “woman” is a social construction, a name for a concept generated by people which is not real on any ultimate level of truth.

Like I was thinking of saying before, not believing in “God” doesn’t mean you don’t believe in “Christians”. You can recognize that Christians exist without proving the ultimate reality of God. I mean, seriously: it’s obvious that Christians exist. The thing they define themselves in relation to, however; that’s not obviously existent, but to them, it’s part of their reality; inasmuch as a multi-tiered system of worlds, dependent on internal personal vibration or resonance, is part of mine.

I almost went there in my last counseling session, but I didn’t. The person I was talking with seemed to imply that being agender (akin to “atheist”, as I used it [I don’t think that’s usual]) meant being “gender-blind”, which is something that I definitely do not espouse. There can be men and women (who believe that they’re “real” men and “real” women) without gender ever being a solid universal or ultimate concept that lines up with reality. It just means that the definitions are personal and vary among people.

That also should mean, though, that maybe I shouldn’t lock myself out of groups based on my own personal gender definitions, when I know that those definitions only apply in my own head.

That also means, however, that it’s possible for me with qualifications to say that I’m a person who has the potential to love a woman (or someone who looks like one or is similar to one in some way). I just look like a woman, though. Just let me get too close to a woman in public, and I’ll automatically be slotted as lesbian; because most people still don’t know about the nuances of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Some may even take any apparent gender difference to be proof of a preference where it comes to who I love. Because why would there be a gender difference if it didn’t have to do with sex. Or something.

In the same way as everyone has to be a “man” or “woman”, everyone has to be “gay” or “straight”. And some people’s ideas of gender boil down to, “like me,” or, “not like me,” which…is worse.

In my reality, though…I find it hard to deal with being in a community where no one else has seriously questioned their gender. I don’t know what it’s like to, “fit in.” Without trying. The closest I’ve come is gender-nonbinary community, but even there, it’s fairly obvious that…well, we’re not obvious. I’m not obvious. And I don’t have any obligation to be.

My reality is much messier than any definition could hold, but you know what that means? It means I’m being authentic to myself. The issue is, then, regulating a channel through which I can contact and interact with the outside world, and I’m not sure how to do that without compromising my identity.

personal

Gender shift.

For the first time in a long time, I woke up recently with cross-gender feelings. Since I was about 20, I have (or had) been considering gender reassignment to male. It’s been over 15 years since then. It was before I knew things were really more complicated than my being Female-to-Male transgender. (Over time, I’ve gotten to know more variations on gender identity than I knew of in early University.)

Normally these days, it’s more like I’ve been neither a man nor a woman, and happy that way. The option that has presented itself is to masculinize; and then still be, internally, neither a man nor a woman (though that is, honestly, not something I think I could do). I can put on “man” in my mindset, and though it throws other people off (the unprepared expect a “girl”, and my “man” mindset is pretty dark due to being constantly misgendered), it works, though it’s not good for my social adaptation. But it’s still also role-playing. I need to get beyond that.

I had been waiting to see what I would think of transition, while clear-headed (which I was definitely not, in my early 20’s). I don’t think I’m totally clear right now — the thoughts I’ve been having detract from that, largely in relation to not being taken seriously because I haven’t physically marked myself — but it’s notable that my gender identity did shift. That means that on some level, I’m still gender-fluid, and not stably non-binary (the latter of which, I had been hoping for: it makes things a lot easier to deal with).

I did do some writing before this entry on paper, so I got most of the extremely personal stuff out. I think I’m still processing things from relatively recent events, and somehow in my mind went back to the last time I was at a normal developmental place where it comes to intimate relationships. That was high school. (!) It was during that time and shortly thereafter that I felt I needed to be celibate to protect myself and others. It was just way too risky for me at that time to participate in growing in that manner.

This was in no way an issue for other students, though. Maybe I just saw the bigger picture.

It just feels safer to be gender-nonbinary and celibate than it is to obviously have an intimate relationship with someone of one’s own phenotype, or for a female to declare themselves a man (though I know I’m not a man, at this point, so this is moot). For that matter, though, it’s also tough to appear to be a man, and then be constantly challenged to, “live up to expectations,” when you know that you transitioned yourself into an even more vulnerable place than before you began.

Due to a number of factors, I’ve for a long time felt that I must be asexual. But what if that’s not the case? What If I’ve been practicing celibacy (voluntarily not indulging any sex drive) instead of being asexual (experiencing little to no sex drive)? If I need to know I’m recognized as myself and not my image, as a precursor to letting anyone get close to me — and I haven’t let anyone emotionally close enough to me to have the opportunity to get to know who I actually am (as versus what I look like) — that kind of precludes any opportunity for physical closeness.

Of course, with a lot of people, relations just stop at what I look like (assuming female = woman, woman = “girl”; implying all sorts of things about who I must be that I am not), regardless of whether I give them the opportunity to learn. It’s a reason (among many) I’ve broken up with people, before, though I’ve never had a romantic relationship that I was really, “into.”

The major thing I’m dealing with is the fact that I don’t know how to be any kind of woman in a romantic relationship. When I think of myself in a relationship, it’s in a masculine role, regardless of the sex or gender of the other person. (I would also add that I’m not attracted to any one sex or gender, so even though people often assume I’m lesbian, I don’t see this as the case — both because I don’t see myself as a woman, and because I’m not exclusively attracted to women. Most people don’t get that fine distinction, though.)

Some of the gender shift I experienced, is likely due to the fact that I’ve decided to stop waiting and hoping for a future incarnation where I have a fully-functioning male body. This life is all that’s guaranteed to me, that is, and I’m living for now, now; rather than for a hypothetical future. Earlier on, as a young adult, I was leaning back on the Buddhism and hoping that a next life would be more fortunate, but I’ve come to realize that, should Buddhism be true, it’s a relatively dark view of the world. For me, in my interpretation.

It’s compounded with knowledge that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction. I don’t really want to choose to believe that I’ll be reborn for eras as a cockroach on an overheating planet because we’ve interfered with the ecosystem so much that the only things that can survive are “less desirable” rebirths. (Although cockroaches do tend to look happy a lot of the time.)

At the same time…what I can do with testosterone to alter my form, is basically not what I’m looking for. It’s just not. I would rather be muscular and still appear female, than look male and be losing my hair and have to deal with (more) acne and (more) facial hair maintenance and (more) body hair and arteriosclerosis and a pot belly, etc. And that’s without what I actually want, which is to be larger than I am and stronger. I basically want to be fully physically male, which isn’t going to happen.

It would be more worth my while to trim down where it comes to my fat, and bulk up where it comes to muscle. Especially as I have no desire for surgery. To tell the truth, I have no desire to inject myself with hormones every week or two for the rest of my life, either.

The issue is not wanting to be considered a, “girl,” on sight; and also for people important to me not to be blinded by my appearance and the things stereotypically associated with that appearance. When those things blind others to who I actually am, there’s a problem. The problem, however, I don’t see as sourced in me: I see it as sourced in society, which is (or was, when I was new to the scene) apparently the main thing differentiating me from a mainstream “transgender” person. It’s the major reason I have not requested a testosterone prescription. The problem is not mine. It’s a systemic problem embedded in the fabric of society, and I just happen to lie at one of the pain points.

On the upshot, I have been presenting a strong “aura” (for lack of a better term) recently, which I don’t see as gendered (though it’s still apparent that I’m female). It’s actually good this way. I don’t mind people seeing me as female, as long as they know that my sex doesn’t determine my gender. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the majority of society, still; and particularly in formal communications, there is no universally accepted, accessible way to address someone without assuming their gender (or lack of gender). The best thing to do is ask, but do you ask everyone? For some people, it isn’t an easy question to answer, or may feel intrusive (I know). It’s easy, that is, to default to the assumed gender; but it amounts to coming out to the questioner, if the answer is anything different.

The thing I’ve got to be better at is being able to…you know, not intentionally hold back information that interferes with smooth functioning. Of course, there’s a scale here, where at one end I accept and reflect what is expected because it makes social interaction happen more easily; and at the other end, I basically assert who I am regardless of others’ feelings or opinions about it. I may be better off at that latter end, but it’s been a new thing to be accepted on sight. It’s something that I had come not to expect, until I got my first job and realized that people — on the whole — intend to be decent. It’s very different from either school or the Internet.

It is possible to present as masculine for me, still — even though solidly into my “adult” years, now, I’ll need to lose weight if I want to wear clothing made for men. (Aging has come with curves by default.) Right now I’m wearing what fits, and it’s working. It doesn’t say much about my gender, but I’m not sure I should even deal with trying to express my gender through store-bought clothing. I mean, finding something that fits and looks all right and covers my body, is good enough.

And now that I’ve written all that out, I feel better. It’s tiring to get blindsided by these things so often, though in all honesty, it’s been quite a while since I shifted so strongly. Possibly relevant is that in a dream preceding that morning, I saw myself as male…but I was a vampire at an Otherkin convention.

Yes, I know. ;)

No, I’m not a vampire.

;)

personal, self care

Hygiene, exercise, pride

I have meant to write in for the past couple of days, though in practicality, most of yesterday — after an emergency meeting and clothes and produce shopping — was lost to sleep. I still haven’t really begun this next section of my coursework, on Library of Congress Classification (LCC; a form of classification used mainly in Academic [College and University] Libraries)…but on the upshot, I’ve been taking care of myself better, now that the classes don’t hold my future on the line. That really is the silver lining to this.

Well…”silver lining.” These classes are optional. I shouldn’t stress myself out too much over them…especially since right now I’m seeing work in a Public Library as more within reach (as versus Academic). Or maybe I’m just saying that because learning LCC is HARD. The class I’m in puts it much more within reach than I would be on my own, but it still requires neuron growth. Neuron growth can be intimidating and uncomfortable, especially at the beginning of the process.

Instead of staying home to work on this, I went to the gym. I’m really glad I did. I see now why my prescribing doctor has wanted me to exercise: not only is it going to help me distinguish between “awake time” and “sleep time” (I was much more awake afterward than I would have been if I had stayed home to study), but I need to be getting activity in order to stop and reverse the weight gain caused by one of my medications. As well, the recent injury I’ve sustained is likely to be related to my current weight as versus the strength of my ligaments and tendons.

Today, then, I started with cardio and moved on to lunges and squats (a bit gentle, as I’m still healing), then to abs, and then I started spot-training my delts (shoulders), which was the only machine work I did today (I can lift 20 lbs. overhead; my deltoids are among the weakest muscles on me). I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realized that it’s really OK for me to want to be buff again. It’s something I was discouraged from, a while back, and I’ve gotten to the point of realizing that the person who was discouraging me really had his own things going on that had nothing to do with me. There’s more to the story, of course, but not so much for public consumption.

Later that day, I went with someone to a makeup store, and got a foundation — which helps me feel better about my skin. Right before dinner, I took a shower and washed my hair (from the gym), and did a deep scrub on my face, followed up with an awesome moisturizer. That…is going a lot better, as well. I’ve realized how attractive it is to work out and be clean at the same time, and to maintain my self-care even when I don’t have to. It isn’t about other people, after all; it’s about me, and it’s becoming about how much I value myself.

That also means that I don’t have to be conventionally, “beautiful.” I can do what I want to, when and in the way that I want to.

So…I’m introducing myself to (or being introduced to) the concept of taking pride in my personal hygiene. I think it’s probably because I’ve recovered enough, and have enough spare time, to do more than the minimum to get by. I kind of wonder what it’s like to live with me while I really — for example — need a shower; and I don’t want to make my family have to tolerate that anymore. I want to be a person who is not a chore to be around, even with the people closest to me.

That much is said; more could be said about getting ready to face the day (basic hygiene — brushing teeth, washing face, showering, using deodorant) even when I’m not planning to go out of the house — or brushing and flossing, even when I know I don’t have to. People with my condition (separate of being gender-nonbinary) tend to have problems with self-care, and I am intending at this moment to break that stereotype. Of course, I haven’t yet started the routine…but I think it will be OK.

I want to use makeup again. And I’ve realized, that’s also OK.

Since school has ended…I’ve had the time and energy to put into things like being more social, and caring for my dwelling and my personal care. I did go to a meeting recently…expressly to be social, because outside of online and work and family, I don’t have much of a social life. That meeting is easier than most to deal with, because we basically all understand each other.

I actually had a kind of profound realization that I’m attracted to people who exhibit an unusual combination of gendered traits…and that there are people who very naturally exhibit (and aspire to) those mixtures. It’s possible that I haven’t had an intimate relationship (that I was involved in) for a very long time, because I am attracted to certain people, who both understand me, and whom…well, whom I can appreciate.

It’s different, that is, to be with someone who has no experience having a gender they are not seen to embody, as versus someone who can actually let me be me, and who can understand that what I look like doesn’t determine who I am; that even if others find my voice associated with women, that doesn’t mean I have to agree. Who understands that I don’t have to see myself as a man or a woman (or “boy” or “girl”) in order to exist, and to be worthy of respect and love. Actual love, not just being an object of fascination or possession or abuse.

Have I gone into this on this blog, before? I don’t think I have…