art, beadwork, career, creativity, illustration, painting, writing

Wait…do I have, “artist problems?”

I started writing this post last night…and apparently the only thing on-topic, was the title. That happens when you’re up at 3 AM, I guess. What I had started out thinking on (when I need to be doing, not thinking), was organization. I am…having a bit of trouble with commitment to any one path, but that really has been my pattern overall, since I was a young adult. That’s why I majored in Creative Writing, and why I sought work in a Library. These things are not topic-specific.

As I’m thinking back on it now — I had intended to work with gouache today. I wanted to see if I could mix it with acrylic glazing medium to make it water-resistant. That…was entirely forgotten when I woke up, though.

  • As I expect to forget that I’ve purchased a book with the aim of learning how to design in beadwork, as versus copying others’ designs.
  • Or that a reason for desiring acrylic gouache in the first place, is to have more freedom in my work (via using opaque colors), in order to create conceptually abstract pieces, while being able to use my watercolor brushes and supports along with mixed media. The “acrylic” portion means, I hope, that the colors will not lift as gouache normally tends to.
  • Then there’s the fact that I am wholly intending upon taking a cut-paper approach to my journaling.

My mind was busy last night, you see.

Last night, I got my second stone ever, bezeled using beadwork stitches. It’s tough to be new at something, but then the newness was the reason I tried it. Making refinement after refinement on the same design — where you know the underlying mechanics — isn’t quite the same thing.

As for the bezel, it’s not my greatest work ever, but I was able to give it a shot, and that gives me a good basis for further work (I have points to work on, the next time I try).

I still have to end the second line of thread. My bead holes are filling up quickly via multiple thread passes, although that should stabilize the piece overall. It’s questionable whether I’ll have the space remaining to attach this thing to a necklace, however: I can see very clearly why people prefer to use cylinder beads (like Miyuki Delicas, Toho Treasures, Toho Aikos, etc.) for this, rather than regular seed beads. Cylinder beads just have a lot more space for their size than regular seed beads, particularly when you get down to the size 13/0 Czech Charlottes for the final rows…and have to use a very fine needle, possibly so fine that it’s difficult to thread. They’re also smoother on the outside, if you’re worried about contact damage to foil backings.

The good thing about this is that I can cut the stone loose and start over. What I need to watch out for is the degree of damage I’m making to the foil backing, which…seems like it would only happen in practicality, by scratching it with the needle. And then, it seems like it might only show with a relatively narrow bezel…not a beginner’s one!

I stopped last night when I jabbed myself pretty badly, and dinner had to be made. After I washed my hands, the bleeding stopped (I washed anything out of there pretty thoroughly: it didn’t hurt, toward the end).

Anyhow…I spent a good amount of time last night, looking for a planner. Then I realized that I could make my own with what I had, so…yeah. Time to get creative about tracking my creative time and projects. I need to hold myself more accountable both for what I’m spending, and for how much I’m not working. Or, at least, to build in some structure around it, so that I’m actually self-employed and not just being unemployed.

After I started getting into this, I realized I had enough markers and fineliners (and empty notebooks) to help with a Planner/Bullet Journal/Project Journal already. I did, however, realize that I can…well, make this more pleasant.

I’m thinking that time management and staying busy is probably an issue with most people who are attempting self-employment. I know that my own comfort zone is rather in writing and recording, moreso than in making art…but I realize also that there is some excitement in trying something I haven’t, before.

I wouldn’t have reached that point without having come to a dull point in beadwork, where I was basically working a process I knew. I had smoothed out production to the point that I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions…which is different than actively, you know, arting. It probably would have been arting, if I were looking for a way to make it better — or, at least, different.

But hey: I figured out a new clasp mechanism within the last three weeks. I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

Anyhow…last night I realized that I am struggling to be an artist, and then I realized that probably most artists are struggling to be artists. It’s not a given that everyone puts art at the top of their priority list; I in particular decided not to major in Art, for multiple reasons (some of which were appropriately childish). At this point…I’m looking at the skills my training has given me in research, in reading comprehension, in composition, in entrepreneurship. I did not just study to be, “a writer.”

Writing and language are just different forms of communication which are likely better established, due to the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and then the typewriter and then the QWERTY keyboard. Also due to the fact that most people understand art like I understand music: intuitively, we know when we like something; when it comes to composing, though, we tend not to do it very well.

I suppose that maybe I shouldn’t mourn not having been in Art in my Bachelor’s program; the fact is, I have the ability to work on my skills, now.

I mean, seriously.

And while I would have liked to have completed a BFA from CCA or Mills…in reality, I would have needed substantial Financial Aid, and then I would have trouble paying it off, if it wasn’t in grants. I’ve been told that it’s very difficult to get a job in the field without another angle besides Art. Even competition for Community College instructor positions is fierce, if I wanted to do that, and I’m not the type of person who would be good at it. I would be too concerned about crushing little souls. Art Librarianship is another…highly competitive, route. But at the time, I had no desire for extended learning beyond my Bachelor’s.

So I went the route of majoring in Creative Writing…which also isn’t a rewarding path, monetarily; but it was an avenue of expression for me as a youth, and one of the only things that was constant in my life. As I’ve aged, the skills in composition that I have had have gone to figuring myself out, and to expository writing.

I didn’t know back then that I would have decades to find out who I was, and to work on the issues I had against myself. When I was in Undergrad, though…all of that stuff forced its way to the surface, and the mode of expression it found was within language. Granted that likely most of what intrigues me about writing is the problem of expressing what the limitations of the language itself prohibit one from expressing.

Of course, though: when you get a handle on what’s happening with you and you know the causes and the reasons why, and how it affects you…you get to build yourself from there, without having to scream out through your paintings or your writings.

Also: when you get a handle on who you are…when you find security in knowing yourself, there is less need to do this. Not that writing is inherently an outgrowth of insecurity…but when you’re looking at a very-young-adult’s writings, it’s hard to avoid insecurity in the formula. Especially if peer abuse factored into that kid’s self-image, and they don’t know yet (or love yet) who they are.

And, you know, looking back on all this: I am thinking of making illustrated books. Maybe not just for adults. Maybe for kids, too. I mean, I do kind of have a thing about animated series, and a drive to avoid psychic violence. At the same time, I am an adult now, which…means things that I didn’t understand when I was 7.

I haven’t really — to my knowledge — mentored a lot of kids…but I understand what kids are going through when they ask how I became so stable in my perspective and identity. It’s something that I’ve gained over the past 20 years…the question is how to explain it so that kids can understand it. Understand that they can be okay in who they are; that no matter how much they admire other people — and it’s okay to admire other people — wishing you were them is not necessarily where you want to go, because it devalues yourself. That you want to be the best version of yourself, whoever that may be, because you end up writing your own character in this life.

Your unique character. That is what you have control over. You don’t necessarily get to choose who you are or what you have to deal with; but you get to choose how to be that person, and how you’ll meet those challenges. You find you; you choose to be you as best as you can.

It’s a reason I’m going back to beadwork as a relatively advanced practitioner, when there’s so much more information I can find about painting. It’s also a reason I’m seeking out books for the intermediate-to-experienced crowd who want to know how to design, not just follow other peoples’ designs.

That’s actually…quite a possibility. I hadn’t thought of doing it because I can’t imagine having an easy time being — well, an adult person — and helping to write and illustrate a children’s book. But it’s possible to reach those little kids for whom that book will be their favorite book, and they’ll remember it long after. If I don’t write it, that never gets the chance to happen.

There have been more obnoxious Children’s writers…

In any case…these are all great dreams, but then what am I doing with my time? Living? That’s all? Ha! Yes, I’m savoring my time with family.

Because.

And no, I am never planning on being a Children’s Librarian. Nor am I the marrying or childbearing type. What I can do is help my communities, and youth happen to also be members of those communities. When I was young, I didn’t know about gender diversity. It would have helped.

Anyhow, as regards my orientation towards Art, and the struggle to maintain it: I have trained for a gainful second career through which to finance my life. I had forgotten that the promise of the ability to practice Art was one of my primary drives in persisting and succeeding in the Master’s Program. I’m not in Library Science because Library Science exists. There exist the food and housing and clothing and utilities and transportation motives.

In practicality, I’ve been unemployed for 10 months. It’s likely okay, now, for me to get back to my — actual — work…the reason I have done the other work

craft, creativity, jewelry design, small business planning, work

I write too much…

Yeah…I think it’s understandable why cyberspace has been so quiet, recently. As for what’s going on over here…I’m still dealing with a problematic creative pattern (grab onto a project like a pitbull and not let go until my body gives out, then avoid it the next day because my body doesn’t want to go through that again)…though I have realized that I have another beadweaving pattern I originated, which I had forgotten about until putting the earrings in as placeholders over Xmas.

Like I’ve said before: I make a lot of jewelry, I don’t necessarily wear a lot of jewelry. I’ve had these piercings for a while, but I still get a little…worried, that they’ll close up with disuse. I probably don’t have to worry about that quite so much, given that they were originally pierced at 14g. Yes, I do miss my surgical steel rings, but putting them back in means that either I forego wearing regular earrings, I constantly wear a nut on the back of all my earwires and deal with possible migration, or I fabricate custom 14g earwires for everything I wear…and trust me, silver isn’t that cheap. 14g wire is pretty expensive, that is, just from the sheer weight of it.

I do realize that if I want to run this jewelry thing as a microbusiness with significant returns, I’m going to have to work more. A lot more. Just slightly prior to Xmas, though, I did encounter the beginnings of a depressive episode, which is likely what has slowed me down over the past couple of weeks. (I’ve just realized that I’ve only been out of classes for three weeks, so far!) I had wanted to sew face coverings to give out over the holidays…but for multiple reasons, prime among them a very late start due to having my attention taken up with my University course, that didn’t happen.

“A very late start”…unless I jumped into making face coverings at the moment I thought of doing so and worked as hard and as fast as I could and sent them out as soon as I could, I would be late. And even then, I probably would still have been late. University conditions you, not to be late; that it can mean failure, to be late. (Unless you’re working with accommodations.) Of course, University matters because they’re reporting your grades to the Federal Government, which impacts any future Financial Aid. Making money through selling jewelry has no such penalty for lost time. Except, well: lost income.

I think that the realization that I wasn’t going to make the Xmas deadline/buying rush (for either gifts or sales) was probably the beginning of the episode — or the beginning of my noticing it, at least. I notice in my backfiles some information about OCD, as well…which was probably what was most easily visible. You deal with this stuff a while, and it gets easier to recognize when you’re experiencing symptoms.

Then there was the fact that I had hoped to be up and running with my beadwork, in time for the Xmas buying season. That, obviously, didn’t happen — although I did clarify some things for myself, like why I’m doing this, and what my goals are. I made the move to decide that there is, philosophically, value in the creation of beauty.

What’s really…interesting, is that when you’re working with an inclusive gender definition, it can be difficult to create gender expressions which are clearly intended for that definition. I mean…you make nice things, and those who want to, can wear them.

I’ve heard fairly commonly that people in the nonbinary community have a tendency to be slotted as cisgender men and women, though by this time, the trope is…well, used. No longer upsetting, that is, because you know it’s coming…and you know that the people saying it have their own issues to deal with. And I, at least, know enough NB people that I see a difference between cis and NB, even if nothing earth-shatteringly different appears on the outside. (Two things that do appear from within, are acceptance and understanding.) The thing is: nothing should have to appear different on the outside, for a person’s gender identity to be respected.

Right now…I’m in a stage of breaking out of being intentionally gender-neutral. In specific, there’s nothing wrong with pink. Or violet. Even if I’m biologically female. Even if mostly women will wear these. It’s OK. Nothing at all says that I have to or need to sell specifically to NB people (and if that had been part of my business plan, I would likely need to alter it — we’re not that incredibly common).

I’m hoping to use these colors, soon…and maybe I should do it. I mean, really plan on doing it. Like, purchase some stuff and set aside some blocks of time, to do it. That infers — well — planning…which I may be able to work out with one of my extra A5 notebooks, or by using a printed spreadsheet.

The thing I’m dealing with now is the tension between working on designs I have already created beforehand, and experimenting with new supplies and techniques. The latter takes a lot of time, but can involve totally new practices (which is exciting); the former allows me to refine previously set patterns and experiment specifically with color (but not so much with form).

If I look at it now…I have several designs I’ve come up with totally on my own, which I know I came up with totally on my own. I’m not sure it’s worth it to go through the actual process of registering copyright, especially as the designs are refined and change, over time (a.k.a., constantly). It might be good enough just to mail myself copies of the schematics in preemptive defense, although I know copyright law says I’m good from the time of creation.

Ah, the concept of intellectual property. How…how annoying are you. Or maybe I should say, “concept of intellectual property, how easily you are misused….”

art, color, occupational hazards, work, writing

Not getting much done :)

It’s OK. I already have my degree. ;) Actually, though: when I planned on taking two classes for the month of August, I didn’t factor in natural disasters on top of a pandemic. I also didn’t factor in the knowledge that I might figure out what I wanted to do, while I was unemployed.

Yesterday when I woke up (and I woke up several times), the sky was orange, and I had a scattering of ashes all over my computer and desk (only some of which I’ve yet cleaned up). Pretty much nothing got going until after noon, though I was able to initiate Week 1 of XSLT and Week 4 of Vocabulary Design. It just wasn’t enough to hold my attention, however. (It would have been better if I had caught up on Week 3.5 and 4 of XML when I had the surprise week off…)

I do kind of wonder if I should be back in the Visual Arts, though I have to realize that is a dream…which won’t come to fruition, without practice. I would have more time to practice now, except I’m filling that time with building professional job skills to get me out of the service sector (what I’m calling front-line work with the public, although I believe according to some U.S. government sources [I can’t remember the website, unfortunately], all work that isn’t either farming or manufacturing is categorized as “service” work).

What it’s looking like, however, is that I may be in for a future of gig work. That is, I need to get my portfolio completed and online (and updated), because it will likely be key in helping me obtain gainful (and desirable — for me) employment. I should also likely hone my LinkedIn profile, for the same reason. Maybe start a Behance profile, or create an in-depth online portfolio including images and written work, aside from my Library work.


The place I’ve been laid off from, has just opened recruitment for “Librarian” positions…but the thing is, I don’t really want to work there, now. Especially not, now. Basically, the only thing it’s got going for it is that it’s not a long commute (depending on the branch). I realize that my application may be submitted without any effort on my part due to the fact that I was laid off, but seriously:

Like I’ve said, I have OCD and a germ phobia at baseline, and guardedness around the public as a starting point. On top of that, I’m not even very social; I have issues with strangers constantly misrecognizing and underestimating me on sight, which leads to their testing me; and we’re in the middle of a pandemic; and as such, Public Services in a Public Library is not where I want to be. There are too many stressors.

Before I was laid off, I was losing weight due to stress. Losing weight isn’t necessarily a bad thing; especially in my case where I have medication-induced weight gain; but when it’s for the wrong reasons and uncontrolled, it is a physical indicator that something needs to change. That it’s not just mental anymore. And it’s not fake. My job (was) physically making me sick. That, with more power and responsibility, doesn’t look good for anyone.

Though I guess I can just say that, if I get called in for an interview. It’s not a good fit. In fact, it’s a terrible fit. I don’t like being expected to care for and about people who disrespect me (by the people who disrespect me), and disrespect (at times ramping up to abuse) occurs on a daily basis in Public Libraries. At some point I’m led to wonder if I was a time bomb in that situation, waiting for someone to say something in precisely the wrong way at precisely the wrong time, which could tempt me to lash out — not just because of what they said, but because of my entire history and set of stresses, leading up to that point. (My awareness of the fact that others are ignorant of my situation, and that they don’t deserve to be punished for a lifetime of other people’s slights, has prevented a number of these incidents.)

And no, no one expects that from me, because I’m female, hence they label me as a “girl” and think I would never get to the point of violence against anyone but myself. My problem (and it is my problem) is that I have layers of accumulated rage around people constantly assuming I am someone I’m not. And sometimes it has to get to the level of my protective facade cracking for them to see that they’re wrong, and that they need to back off.

That’s too far, for me. I don’t like being in that place.

The problem I have here is that my alternative is hormone therapy which will gradually cause me to appear more male (or, alternatively, suddenly more male). The problem is that there’s only one other safe option, and it still doesn’t fit. I’d be satisfied if people could just stop seeing me as a body or role, and approach me as a human. But that seems beyond the grasp of most people.

If I do have a masculine gender identity, which I’m in no way sure about, it’s based more in what I see in the natural world than anything I’ve seen in this culture. Suddenly appearing male also comes with its own set of stigmas and dangers, especially because my skin is dark and because I’m not a typical (heteronormative) man; and both of those things, tend to threaten people (though at this moment, I’m kind of wondering if women threaten, “people”, and that’s why it seems so important all the time to reduce them to their bodies).

This is to the point that I have a hard time seeing myself as a man, at all — though I tried to, at one time. The thing that I share with (most) men is that constantly being seen as a woman isn’t something I want, and that could escalate out of control; given the fact that most of reality insists on seeing me as a woman. Which is, in fact, why I write: disembodied text doesn’t carry the same social cues.

I suppose that is what I gleaned from my time as a Library Assistant. No more public service. At least, if I can help it. If my housing and food depend on it, I can do it. Like, if I’ll be homeless otherwise, I’ll take Public Service. But it won’t make me happy.

Yeah, I didn’t intend to get into that. Anyhow…the art thing…and the writing, thing. Right.

(I go into some of this stuff with you all because I wouldn’t be able to function as a writer, without being honest with myself and with you. Thank you for putting up with it.) ;)


Right now, I’m intending to look for an alternative to Aureolin. This is cobalt yellow, a fairly toxic pigment by ingestion. This concerns me now because I keep noticing myself accidentally dropping water into the carpet when changing out water or washing brushes. I’ve lived with carpet long enough to know that not all of that comes out, and that it might only start to come out, with shampooing.

In any case…today I went back to my palette and swatched out everything that was on there, plus everything I intended to use, that wasn’t. (There are a number of paints which I’ve found inferior to what I’ve decided to utilize, including several different Viridians and Prussian Blues, plus a granulating Pyrrol color [it’s either Scarlet Pyrrol or Pyrrol Scarlet, which are two different colors in two different product lines].) Cobalt colors…I would say I have a love/hate relationship with them, but really, it’s just Aureolin that I have some misgivings with, at the moment.

There are several other cobalt colors, including Cobalt Blue, Cerulean, Cerulean Blue Chromium (you don’t want to eat Chromium, either), Cobalt Teal, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Cobalt Violet, Cobalt Blue/Violet, Cobalt Yellow, etc.

How they got a yellow out of that, I don’t know; what I do know is that on top of its toxicity, Aureolin is rumored to discolor over time (which was proven over on handprint [check out PY40, which is Aureolin’s (not Aureolin Hue’s) pigment number]).

The reason I even have it on my palette is that it was required for my Beginning Watercolor class, as a green-leaning yellow. Once I had been initially exposed to it (transdermally, and this in the effort to avoid touching it [my glove got wrapped around the tube, which spread the seeping paint all over the tube: I didn’t realize it until taking off the glove to try to remove the jammed lid with my bare hands — and I was in the field]), it didn’t seem like a big deal to keep it on the palette, and I already knew how to mix with it. However, basically everything else I have, appears safer than Aureolin.

Of course, that’s only apparently.

I am actually fairly interested in color families which I see over and over again at this point, like the Pyrrols and Perinones and Ultramarines and Hansas, etc. (I found an Ultramarine Pink and Ultramarine Violet Deep from M. Graham which are…fairly gorgeous, even though the violet would compete with Dioxazine Violet. The major difference I see right off is that Ultramarine Violet Deep has less tinting strength and is a more delicate pigment, in general [think, “fringed gentian,” though a little pinker]…whereas Dioxazine Violet can easily overpower the rest of a painting.)

I am also curious about the Cadmiums (apparently, there’s now a “Cadmium Green”; looks like a bunch of convenience mixtures), but if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably know that I know (and have been concerned) about cadmium poisoning: it’s not pretty. I did read about it recently in Toxic Archipelago by Brett L. Walker, a book about industrial poisoning in the Tokugawa and Meiji eras in Japan, after having accidentally run across the Wikipedia article on itai-itai (which freaked me out a bit), and having found limited English-language resources about it, online (I believe one of them was a map of the Jinzu River Basin?).

My major issue here was about not being required to use Cadmium pigments in my painting classes, as soluble cadmium salts can be absorbed transdermally. The trick, for me at least, seems to be finding insoluble salts that I won’t absorb, and can wash off of my hands. Not that I’ve tried, yet…

Chapter 4 of Toxic Archipelago, Engineering Pain in the Jinzu River Basin, focuses on cadmium poisoning. (Most copies I’ve found of this book are e-books. I don’t know why [and the e-book version of this on Amazon costs more than the printed one] — but searching WorldCat, you may be able to find a copy close to you. Note that I can’t be responsible if you get sick from a library book [although I believe most libraries are quarantining items to wait for any COVID-19 to die]. Just saying…)

What I learned from reading this is that there were a number of concomitant factors involved in the genesis of itai-itai byou (lit. “it hurts-it hurts disease,” the Japanese name for cadmium poisoning) including Vitamin D deficiency and large numbers of childbirths (most who contracted it were older women [e.g. postmenopausal] who had a lot of children and shaded themselves from the sun). This contributed to osteoporosis and osteomalacia. So I am aware now that I probably don’t have to worry so much about contracting itai-itai itself, but Cadmium is still a heavy metal, toxic, bioaccumulative, and a carcinogen…not great, but not necessarily a death sentence to use.

That being said, I know a lot of artists who have been through battles with cancer, and who have known other artists who have had cancer.

Also, some of the newer pigment families (e.g. Hansas, Pyrrols) were specifically created to be less toxic, to the best of my knowledge.

In any case…Hansa Yellow Light is radiant and gorgeous (this is M. Graham’s “Hansa Yellow” I’m using; check out PY3 on handprint), and I’m thinking of using that plus the Green Golds (there are at least two formulations of this: Winsor & Newton’s “Green Gold” (PY129) approximates Daniel Smith’s “Rich Green Gold” (PY 129) [DS’s regular “Green Gold” is something I’ve never seen before]), in order to brighten greens. I had some success with that, tonight…and according to a tiny bit of research and experimentation, it looks like I’m on the right track.

Hey, maybe I don’t need to replace Aureolin. I could use these three, instead.

Having done all this work, it’s fairly obvious which paints I would really want to get from the Daniel Smith lineup. Things that would be difficult to mix, for which I don’t have a lot of representation. There are some really nice earth tones, in particular.

I’ve read that a number of other companies (Schmincke Horadam, Winsor & Newton, Sennelier, Da Vinci) sell dot-card sets, but I think I’ve done enough dot cards, for now!

The other thing I’m thinking of is re-introducing Holbein Isoindolinone Yellow (PY110) to my palette; I had begun to use Daniel Smith Permanent Yellow Deep (PY110), but…it’s actually duller than the Holbein! (I had heard things about brush-handling qualities of Holbein watercolors as versus basically all the other major brands, which drew me to remove it from use…but it’s cleaner and brighter.)


The other thing…writing. Right. If I’m going to be a writer, it would help to decide what to write about...which…well, it’s obvious that I’ve got something right here in this post, but it’s difficult to see as though I stood outside of myself. I don’t have a lot of people to bounce this off of (I get misread a lot, even by friends, because I’m not forthcoming about things they do or concepts they have, which I perceive as wrong — even when it comes to my self-definition and my privileges to define what does and does not happen within my own house. So I just end up not dealing with them, and not inviting them over).

There’s the opportunity to write about art at the same time as I practice art, which would enable me to double-task the artwork! Then again, I took up Librarianship because I wanted to double-task my reading, and we see where that ended up. :) I neglected ten years ago to see that Librarianship was about people, not about books.

If I did want to be all about books, Writing basically requires extensive knowledge of the field one writes within, and it’s said (like Art) to be lonely work, though I’m well-suited to that. (Editing, on the other hand, is said to be interpersonally intensive.) Cataloging is also apparently a fairly solitary activity, though it would seem…technical, I guess.

(For me, “technical” is better than “social”…)

I’ve got a long way to go if I want to be a professional illustrator or artist, but I think I do have an angle on things that is not-mainstream, and which is valuable.

I wonder what would happen if I created, and successfully published, a graphic novel, or an illustrated book?

creative writing, creativity, writing

Thinking about Web Publishing…

I…have I found what I’ve wanted to pursue? The possibility of starting a small nonprofit and running a site focusing on the literature of gender minorities, primarily for gender minorities…it didn’t come to me until last night. I have been awake since then, largely reading in the anthology, Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian. It was from this, and from my work in Project Management, that I realized the group I wished to help most, to build community with, and to hear from. And I know there is a market.

I’m quite astounded. The thing is…I have the choice to continue on with XML and RDF and then on into more cutting-edge technology (which I don’t believe is yet being widely used), or I could branch off after XSLT is over, and put my energies into Digital Libraries. The latter looks like it is where I want to go; it hybridizes Collection Development, Editing, Humanities, Web Publishing, Writing, and Community…I think I’d be happier as a content developer than as a Cataloger (though perhaps not moreso than with Metadata — which I can find a way to work in).

I hadn’t seen the opening before, but I can help in this way…which capitalizes on my own strengths in Writing, Editing, Art, and Constructive Criticism. I know a lot of people who are gender minorities and relatively isolated, even within the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition, I can tell that a lot of us have some difficulty being seen by others as we perceive ourselves, and that can lead to social difficulties. I know I’m not the only one who uses the written word as my primary method of communication (it lessens the impact of my physical and auditory gender cues; and because I’ve been a Fiction writer, I have experience with altering my written voice). I relate to people through their writings more easily than otherwise, and if I look back over my lifetime…reading has always been richer for me, until recently.

This is…kind of crazy, but in a good way. I should probably bring this up with people; at the least, ask for contact information. There could be some issue if a personal contact wants something published which isn’t the quality I’m looking for, but that really shouldn’t stop me from pursuing the idea. I’m looking for book blogs, things people have recently read, and the places they get recommendations from.

That is…that’s Librarian work, right there. Independent library work. With a community I actually want to work with…

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.

jewelry, personal, psychology

Recap, and envisioning my future self.

Okay, so…that bit of time when I was up until after midnight this last Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, and had to wake early Wednesday? I’m still feeling the aftereffects. (Of course, it is only Thursday. The days seem to be going slower for me, recently.)

I fell asleep by accident at 8 PM last night (Wednesday), then woke up at 3:30 AM (today, Thursday) from the local fox screaming in the backyard. (It’s probably a girl; we read that vixens scream to attract mates.) At that time, I realized I had missed my 9 PM medication…by 6.5 hours…and got up to take it. I also had to eat a little bit to avoid becoming sick from the meds — plantain chips. (It must have worked, as I didn’t get nauseous, and I wasn’t nauseous when I woke up.)

Then I brushed my teeth and got back in bed, to wake up at 9 AM for the live meeting of my current course. That was relatively difficult to get through; I went back to bed at 9:50 after it ended, skipping produce shopping for today.

So…I think that will have to wait until tomorrow, to avoid being on the road during rush hour. We did go out, though I basically had to eat two meals to stay up. The only way I am staying up right now is that I drank a caffeinated soda. I’m also eating some chocolate, which is likely not a coincidence.

I still haven’t written about last weekend, though…I wonder if I wrote anything by hand? I know I did, some. Any names mentioned here would have to be altered or omitted for confidentiality reasons…but basically, my dad’s cousin had a family gathering, and I got to meet family whom I had met maybe once before. There’s a lot of history that precedes me here; some that precedes my father; it’s not proper for the blog, but whose family history is…?

In any case, it was nice to meet people, though I kind of wish I had been more up to the task of being social. Because I’m a shy person by nature, I did do a little tatting at brunch to withdraw a bit. I am amazed at how many people know what tatting is! It’s sweet when they find you and recognize what you’re doing. <3

I’m also starting to really love tatting, or at least the fact that it’s extremely portable, and calming. I find that I can listen and be aware of my environment at the same time as I’m paying attention to what my hands are doing. Having my attention nominally on my handwork, though…it means that I’m not expected to talk.

I guess it’s kind of like the smartphone in the hands of the kid sitting next to me; it gives the impression that one is occupied, though I find that tatting doesn’t take up as much cognitive attention (as versus fine motor attention) as the phone does. I gave him some visual cues to signal that I could talk, but he was absorbed in his phone. I assumed that he didn’t want to talk as much or moreso than myself, so I left him alone.

So…after that, we headed off to Monterey. I still have most of a bag of candies from there (okay, about 60% now)…it’s kind of hard to visit Monterey and not come home with salt water taffy. The time we spent down there, we were with one of my aunts. It was nice to talk with her one-on-one, though I wish I had said more than I did. I just happen to be a listening kind of person, I guess.

Also, we visited the aquarium, which was interesting and cute. There were two high points for me: one were the birds (including the aviary [where I saw someone unsuccessfully try to entice a Snowy Plover into his hand: the plover just looked at him, about eight inches out of reach] and the Pigeon Guillemots in a separate exhibit); the other was the diving beetle exhibit!

Okay, so the two Pigeon Guillemots whom we saw in an exhibit were playing with the people looking at them by acting cute (trying to swim up to us, even though the glass obviously blocked them). I’m thinking they had learned that if they interacted with people (even people behind glass), they could get us to do things. :) They went away when I looked up to try and figure out what they were. I think they thought I was signaling disinterest (they couldn’t see the sign I was looking at), though I was really just a little embarrassed by how cute they were (and that I couldn’t give them any fish).

The diving beetles, though…that was just amazing. It was crazy seeing all the little beetles swimming around underwater! They have two paddle-like legs, and a bubble of air under their shells, and they just…swim. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen diving beetles before! (They were at the end of the Viva Baja exhibit.)

So…the places we stayed were also really nice, although I think there was some covert racial bias we encountered outside of the hotels. It’s hard to tell if it was that, or just a couple of instances of poor service.

So I don’t forget myself, I should mention that I visited a gallery/boutique on Cannery Row where I was able to purchase a black ceramic ring with a metallic polish. It reminds me very much of a hematite ring I had (and loved) in high school, and kept until it finally got a stress fracture. I found out later that hematite isn’t the greatest material for rings, as rings have to be hard-wearing, and hematite is vulnerable to stress fractures from rapid temperature changes, and also to fractures from shock (say, by putting one’s hand down on a table).

It doesn’t take a lot to crack hematite. It reminds me of another stone, fluorite, though fluorite is orders of magnitude more fragile than hematite (I’ve chipped it just by trying to bend a wire I’ve strung it onto). Opal is another one of those stones that is extremely easy to damage…it has acquired a reputation for bad luck because it’s so difficult to set.

Anyhow, the ring itself is really nice. The ceramic itself is a very hard, strong, and durable ceramic called a, “gem ceramic,” made from zircon. The last time I wore it to work, I found a shiny black chip trapped under the ring, and realized upon examining the ring for damage that the chip had to have come off of the paint from the shelving cart I had been handling.

I was just really amazed at the fact that my purchase decision was so easy — in lieu of getting a graduation ring, I got this. It has, however, also made me want to expand my earlobe piercings again. I stopped and let my piercings shrink down because I wasn’t sure I would want to go to large-gauge jewelry. However, at this point…this ring really matches the aesthetic I was going for. I’ve also worn plenty of my own jewelry, and I think it’s really okay that I wear jewelry which is different from the jewelry that I make. It’s a style decision.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’m okay with going up to 10 gauge, and with purchasing earrings at that size (as versus making them). Of course, at the moment, I’m closer to 20 gauge — standard earwire girth. It will take months to safely expand my piercings again, but I’m up to it. When I originally got pierced, it was at 14 gauge, I was young, and I told myself that I wouldn’t go up in gauge until I was very sure I wanted to.

Hey, it’s been about 15 years, and I’m pretty sure I’m good with it, now! Also, if I’m going to be a Librarian or Information Professional, I pretty much don’t have to worry about bias instigated by my jewelry. A lot of younger people wear this style, though it started (here, at least) with Generation X. I’m from the generation that followed.

So recently…I’ve been able to get more of a handle on dealing with my own style. For instance…I’ve decided to keep my hair long, and to wear it with its natural curl. I’ve found that if I clip my hair back, it puts less strain on my scalp than it does when I wear my hair pulled back. We have also been visiting some beauty supply stores, and I’ve found a type of shampoo and conditioner (by “Shea Moisture”) that is gentle enough to use frequently. It does seem to be a very good thing for me to use sulfate-free shampoo.

I do need to trim my ends, but I also found a styling aid that makes it much easier to comb. I’m considering — once I get my sleep stuff under control — taking a shower in the morning and washing my hair every day or two, so that I can wear it long and curly, without having slept on it first. I also finally have a decent hair dryer which I can use to target my roots, so I don’t get too cold, and so that I can avoid mildew growth. Hair care is the major reason for me to cut my hair short: I have a type of hair that is very high-maintenance (thick, wavy, and curly), and in the past, I didn’t want to be burdened with it. However, now I know that having it long is a choice, not a requirement.

I also now have enough makeup to practice, as well; though I need to wash my powder brush. There’s that, and the fact that I have to keep my body hair trimmed, if I want to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses. Then there’s the exercise which I want to get back to so that I can tighten my body up again and regain some leanness and hypertrophy (and energy). I really don’t have anything against being larger; it’s just the belly and the health drawbacks (and the specter of the weight gain from my medications not ceasing) that are causing me to work on myself.

I almost can’t believe how much identifying (and finding a community) as gender-nonbinary has freed up so much of my energy, and ceased so much of my angst about conforming or not conforming to standards as either a man or a woman. It’s enabled me to just release it, instead of being trapped in a two-gender dialogue between compulsory femininity and rebellion against compulsory femininity.

I used to hear trans* men say similar things (a great sense of freed-up energy and sense of well-being) about their lives after transition to male, though (which made me want to transition, before I realized I wasn’t them; thus, their solution wouldn’t work for me), so I want to emphasize that the happiness, liberation, and sense of calm comes with finding your authentic self, whoever you are, and finding your own way to engage with the world, over all the noise that tells you that you shouldn’t be you. It has nothing to do with the specific identity of the point you find to be happy at.

For me, getting to this point has had to do with finding what makes me happy, and negotiating out a way to do that, with the world — regardless of others’ opinions of whether or not what I’m doing is, “correct,” (against what standard?) or whether I’m being, “trans enough” — because, cis and trans are relative and culturally contextual terms. In my case, I know I’m going to stand out (firstly, because of my race), no matter what I do, and regardless of whether I want to. My thought is that I might as well aim to become a person I am proud to be: my authentic self; and then let things play out as they will. No regrets.

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…