Some community members are signed up for MSN Messenger. Last night Nicosian, Allikitten, Erik (Erik_Forbes), Nonny and I were using that as an alt.chat -- if you are in Forward Motion and want to try to pull chat together when N54 is down, I am robertsloan2 on MSN and we will have weird little Messenger chats running when possible. The IM function does work for a larger chat if the people in it invite the people who aren't...
Some community members are signed up for MSN Messenger. Last night Nicosian, Allikitten, Erik (Erik_Forbes), Nonny and I were using that as an alt.chat -- if you are in Forward Motion and want to try to pull chat together when N54 is down, I am robertsloan2 on MSN and we will have weird little Messenger chats running when possible. The IM function does work for a larger chat if the people in it invite the people who aren't...
I'm almost done with Chazho, that line edit is ahead but the last time I worked on it I slammed nine chapters in a single heavy night. I could marathon that, especially if I stay in bed to do so and conserve my energy. I'm tired but I feel good tonight. Good enough that I feel as if I'm starting to get back a fraction of my emotional reserves again, just as important as the physical and some of where the physical comes from.
I am down here now and starting to relax. This time is different, this time is unlike all the other times and what I'm doing, I have never done. Where I'm going I have never been.
The roaches aren't swarming any more because I don't smell like a large animal that's going to die soon...
It's not fair for me to twitch and dream of spiders and have all this pain when I didn't even do drugs. This really sucks.
Health and chemistry observation: yesterday I tried to deal with being dehydrated by having only two cups of coffee and drinking a lot of iced tea and other liquids-not-coffee including Orange Mandarin tea that doesn't even have any tea in it. This is good for my detox and malnutrition, the orange mandarin goop was full of nutrients and herbs I needed. However it was a relaxant.
Now throughout my life, I have *known* that anything like alcohol or any relaxant will bring on a huge case of the blues unless I am in a happy situation with a reason to want to relax and lower inhibitions with good friends -- and a positive happy topic to focus on. Such as, for example, drinking and enjoying social drinking while thunder drumming around the fire at an SCA event where the more ablebodied are up belly dancing around the fire. This activity is as immersive as writing and tremendously enjoyable. So I do relax, enjoy myself and the energy of the gathering keeps my mind off the inevitable blues.
Essential oils like lavender, rosemary, peppermint, garlic and all to name four ingredients of the mysterious six-oil mix that Kitten makes up for my therapeutic baths, are drugs with effects on your system. I grew up on the idea that drugs are something you ingest. The idea of topical drugs was theoretical -- I knew you could take LSD by mixing it with DMSO and rubbing it on your skin. I didn't get into this treatment without Kitten explaining that the oils would have chemical effects on me, but there's a difference between knowing something intellectually and experiencing a feeling of being on drugs from just taking a bath.
I wound up on some hellacious crying jags after the amount of stress five years of activism and social self defense in NY produced on the first night, it was as bad as getting drunk while stressed and without sufficient content to maintain focus. My life doesn't look livable from some angles. I think I am writing the word "depression" right out of my self descriptions, no matter how deep the grief gets. I think I like calling it the blues, because that is a far more accurate description of what causes it, how I handle it, what I do with it and why I feel it.
Blues grows out of poverty and extreme conditions and is the point in a strong person's life when he or she faces circumstances too much to bear, and not only cries about it -- but winds up turning that into music. Or art or in my case, writing. Calling my deepest sad nights "the blues" is a reminder that the reason I put up with all that, is that I will pick myself up again and blow some good riffs off of it and write it ten times worse on some poor protagonist's unsuspecting head and make something good out of it. I am getting good at that. The previous LiveJournal entry was one of those blues results: the Wild Kingdom observation of the behavior of small game in my narrow little world of this bedroom, written for readers interested in natural history and of course, small game hunters whether human or feline.
Hunting the Palmetto Bugs is an enjoyment not just limited to Ari. Vandal, Kitten, Ravyn and Brian have all jumped into the sport with zest. They are, to the nonphobic, an amusement. We had seven of them night before last in quick succession and all were showing up right behind me at my desk. One of them actually landed from the ceiling on Toshi's keyboard while I was typing.
That one was baiting me. I jumped back and yelled, but no one was home. So I watched it as it got off my desk and ran under the bookcase. Uneasy, I went back to typing. It ran out and encountered Ari and ran back. It had acquired a trail of fluff on an injured leg, so I could recognize it. I was scared I was *training* it to bait me because it was good at getting into cover and knew my movement rate. I tried to drop the clean empty can I use for catching them when I'm home alone over it and missed.
On the third time, it went out past the side of the bookcases and out into the floor area and was just far enough away I had time to get the can and move up and stalk it -- the fuzz got caught on the floor and it staggered, stuck for an instant. I got it. I had a brief flash of delight at successful bug hunt -- and the phobic critter was safely trapped under tin can, no longer anything to fear. I have caught several by the "put a can over them" technique and when I got the hard to catch one -- number one of the night actually -- I had a moment's glow of pleasure in the little animal.
The same pleasure that my cat and all four other household members get at outwitting them.
So that's a major step forward in desensitization and another insight in life comes clear.
I have never in my life had time to waste time. Period. "Just Relax" is not part of my universe. Time off was a time I could spend on goals of my choosing -- writing mostly -- and sick days ate my vacations from childhood onward. The only way to survive such a life without burnout is to play at work and enjoy the work and live every moment in all possible ways. I knew all my life I hated vacations -- formal, set aside as vacations when travel for the purpose of taking a vacation to a destination you were supposed to just go and play in or look at was the plan -- because the vacation activities weren't enough to hold my interest but the amount of physical and emotional effort to make the trip was the same as if I moved to the great cool place like San Francisco or New Orleans ... so I might as well move there and take my time seeing the sights as small local outings while having some overwhelming reason to live there.
And now I am finding out what writing activities work in what states of body-mind.
Hanging in chat with my morale back after crying and letting out the Blues, my creativity returned. I've been doing a lot of rewriting. Now I'm doing some prewriting. I brainstormed an actual honest to gods Romance premise, am still working on it -- and that of course is pseudonymous so that's not interference to my main career. The premise is starting to look like a lot of fun. I found a place in it for a type of book I'd enjoy writing with characters I am starting to love. Key to this is that I'm starting to love the gutsy, responsible, clever heroine and she's got a good match in the clever, courageous, somewhat too serious hero.
Now, before Forward Motion, I was not a romance reader. I respected the genre because I dated a romance writer. I knew that I wanted to marry a romance writer someday, because she would understand about writer-habits and we would be very happy together. I knew vaguely that I might collaborate with her on romance or erotica because marital collaboration can be a whole lot of fun. But I have to thank Gena Hale for the first dose that's put Romance onto my reading stack... because Gena Hale novels broke some misconceptions I had about the genre. Smashed them into smithereens. They are not dull books, they are not "nice" books, heroines do not get the promised Happy Ever After ending without getting dragged through every rotten thing a heroine can put up with in a novel and neither hero nor heroine are wusses. They are not about dull people and their conflicts are not dreadful dysfunctional family go-for-the-unforgivable-gut infighting -- the couples are compatible and not locking themselves into nightmare marriages with the HEA. The guys are guys, the books are not about "guys are rotten."
The demanding genre that I've always compared to classical ballet, which still has a midlist *because* its stylized demands set a certain level of quality for new authors, is something I finally grasped in premise. And that puts it on my To Be Written stack, with a nice set of prewriting exercises that will let me develop the concept and setting and characters thoroughly, outline it -- and then when I schedule the time, SLAM the rough draft the same way that I do all my rough drafts and rewrite per my then-speed of rewrite. If there was some way to work "troubador" into the pseudonym for romance, then I would do that -- because that is how I think of myself as romance writer. A man writing well about love to entertain women who want a break with a love story.
And being in love myself, every one of my romance plots or subplots now has an object of that love, whether she is collaborator or reader. Perhaps the real reason that I couldn't contemplate writing romance to this point had nothing to do with male ego about pseudonyms or whatever. Perhaps it was just too painful to write about what felt forever out of reach... even if that would've been a way to meet potential girlfriends. Now I'm not hitting on readers. Now it's more a celebration of my own feelings and love is the joy in my life that was always potentially there... I just had to wait longer than some to find her.
I posted a long entry on my LiveJournal: Detox 2: R for Disgusting. I won't repeat it here -- one reason I keep two blogs is that I put separate content on each. But this will occupy me while I'm detoxing.
Chazho is on hold till I feel well enough in Detox treatment to actually pound through it -- after this much delay it's better to do it right than race to make it a few days less late when it didn't have a real deadline in the first place. I should drop an email to Patrick Neilsen Hayden telling him status on the project so that he has some idea when to expect it.
After Chazho comes the submission blitz -- when I start working on submissions, queries and proposals and I do the Pro Author Scramble. I have all this great intellectual property, I need to do marketing. I will ship a lot of small stuff off my desk as I get to it, as the productive time-stuffer that is, and work on queries and proposals and three-chapter rewrites of everything in stock -- then cast the net and see what I catch in it. Tossing *everything* at pro markets first so that if anything comes in, it's enough to live on.
I'm feeling a lot more optimistic today about that. I think if I behave like I'm already a multipublished pro and demonstrate professionalism in how I handle this stuff, the odds SOMETHING in that warehoused stack of roughs that only need scheduled edits to be finals will sell and then I will be a paid novelist with some work cut out for me -- and life will get better than it's ever been before.
Robert and Ari >^..^<
I'm sitting in bed to type instead of at the desk. Life went to pot after a 22 hour household meeting that was the spring cleaning of all grievances everyone had against everyone, which was necessary because tempers had soared to the point no one could contain them... and reminded me why I put up with all the logistic problems of living alone and what I lost when my health declined to the point that I could not take care of myself. Because that turned out to be the core of the problems anyone had with me. I am sitting here feeling like hell, because the upshot of it all after all of that wrangling was that there was a lot of miscommunication.
The miscommunication was an eye opener. I have lived with birth defects all of my life, whether I knew it or not, I adapted to them. I don't bitch at people who can't help me if they don't want to. I don't ask if someone resents something I ask for, unless it is life or death survival, because I know I have to reserve it for that. This is a bitter, nonjudgmental look at all the forces that shaped my life, because I know where I learned those habits and I know what I was like as a child and I know what I've been accused of all my life and it still isn't true but it's just the same as if it was and there's nothing I can do about it.
I am not lazy and I am not crazy.
I never was and that didn't make a difference. I laugh bitterly sometimes when I hear about people who feel shock at the idea that bad things happen to good people, because I have lived with that since I was three years old and distorted everything in my life trying to be good enough, trying not to be a whiner, trying not to be a burden on anyone and damnit, I am, and it is not my fault that I am a burden on people, but the burden is real and it stresses them out and they can't close the gap. The insoluble barriers that have kept me from getting anywhere in life no matter how many times I whip up some hope and keep going are still there and still insoluble and I can't pull money out of my butt real fast with a sprint effort to try to earn some, because the only job I can do might be the only one I ever wanted -- but it doesn't pay off fast, it isn't like selling sketches or tarot reading or whatever like that. Little inconveniences like physical mess and not having floor space that are annoying to healthy people are like putting up a barricade around me: the energy needed to get past it is not enough to be worth the walk unless it is a necessity like making it to the bathroom.
Healthy people cut corners that I can't, because if I cut those corners I go into decline. I make short term emergency decisions and put more effort into dealing with the problem that got into my face and not the problem that I have been wearing down inch by inch like an Easter Island stonecutter, the great achievement, the thing a whole lot of nondisabled people want but not enough to throw everything they have into making it real: writing.
There are things I can't afford in life. Denial is one of them. It has cost me years.
There are too many times I have paid too high a price just to survive, and when I look back over the years both at my childhood and at a long ugly marriage where I did *anything* not to be abandoned and pretty much lived as a slave, when I think of the times I flunked schools and lost jobs, when I think of the times when I didn't quite have enough to do what I was doing let alone have enough resources for anything beyond survival... I know why I am this sick.
I had treatment last night, a therapeutic bath and massage with peppermint oil and some other essential oils to try to recover all the way. One thing that came out in the discussion with Kitten was that I have probably taken in a lot of environmental toxins from my NY adventure, that my overall consistent declining cumulative health problems may have included environmental toxicity and that I've got malnutrition on top of that. I had a protein craving from hell. I have gone on a few days of meat-fish and skip carbs to try to build up my immune system, I wound up immunosuppressed by way of chronic fatigue and the rest of it, and I need to get to a point where I can actually recover -- not just hit the plateau and fall off the plateau.
The content of the misunderstandings in the gruelling long house meeting isn't relevant because everyone who didn't understand eventually got the point. All the points but one. All the points but this one: someone brought up that when I had to deal with some emotional stuff over contact with my mother, that person couldn't understand why I didn't just cut her off completely if I was that angry. I tried to explain that I went through that annually to build a good adult relationship even if we hadn't had a good relationship when I was a kid. At the end of listing off all of my personal reasons why I'd want to have a mother and why I'd put that much work into trying to get along with her, I finally said "At this point, I think I'm more doing it for her than for me."
That got disbelieved. But it's true. I care about her. And this is a big part of it-- that no matter what she said or did when I was a kid or how she behaved then, she was also taking care of a disabled child, not a healthy child, that wasn't even a normal mothering-situation and my needs were greater than the other child. I know she's told me how it broke her heart that I cried all the time and was never happy and wanted to die. Well, I was in a lot of pain and I was half starving and sick all the time only no one believed I was sick and I was expected to do five times as much as any other child and pretend to be happy while it was going on and while all other children reacted like the little primates they are -- stone the scapegoat, literally -- and it was something that I would not wish on any living thing. It was that bad. And unlike any healthy child, I did not have any escape, because I didn't have the energy to get out of the house and run down the road to another house and cry for two minutes in the woods and get lost playing and come home dirty and get chewed out for it.
I wronged her in one thing.
I thought at the time it was fear of her that kept me from breaking any rules and made me creep around like a ghost living like the people in 1984 or the people in the Diary of Anne Frank or anything like that which gave me comfort. She did not hold the keys to that jail and she could not have let me out of it if she had known. She didn't lock me in. She told me not to -- but most real children get to disobey and take the consequences and the consequences of a night sent to bed without dinner were more than I could take and that hurts to admit that now, not that she was right, but that she was innocent and didn't mean it. I would like to believe that if she knew it had that impact and if she had believed me and if some doofus with an MD had told her and they had educated people about disability at that age, she would have been kinder or at least left me alone and not expected me to keep up with chores and homework like a normal child, and not expected me to wake up cheerful in the morning after not enough sleep and not expected me to be just as good as anyone else and *superior* at everything there is.
I don't know. I don't know what she would have done if she'd been informed. I know that my body is one of those ironies of the times because my scoliosis became curable a decade after I was too old for the surgery. Whole generations of people will not have the specific physical problems I do, because science and medicine does march on, but I am not a child any more and I never was when I was one, and this health crash threw me back to that.
My life has no margin for error. It never did, and I have been on the run all these 48 years desperately juggling one necessity against another. Children were starving in India. They still starve in India. I look at how I felt when I heard that the first time while trying to choke down food that would make me vomit, while a mother unaware of food allergies raged and insisted on serving it more often to make me behave, and all that came to my mind then and now was "ship that to India so I don't have to eat it" even though I was starving, myself, from lack of some things I did need.
I know that poverty is a lot of the malnutrition because I have cut the same financial corners myself at times when I lived alone and had the strength to do something that earned money -- never enough -- but that when I had windfalls I'd eat. I'd eat the things my body craved, and find out now there are sound physical reasons behind every one of my unendurably quirky food tastes and that I need to earn enough money to eat like a rich man ... but that without fuel, I don't function.
After the stress of the holidays, I had another relapse. I was a lot physically weaker.
The same thing happened at the house meeting and I don't have anything to be ashamed of in my behavior but I had to endure it anyway and now I just ... know, down to my bones, that I came way too close to breaking and that I get very tired of living as a prisoner and there comes a point of health that my body won't take the adrenaline of the stress even if I am sharp of mind and calm and patient and sane and deal with everyone's emotional problems with me and the laundry list of miscommunications which included some catch-22's created by just -- lack of experience.
Healthy people when sick grumble and groan and whine and do make a fuss and do get needy and demand attention and want extras.
I don't dare and I have never dared. I don't presume and I don't ask for anything that isn't given freely, the price is too high. It is not cost effective to whine when sick or get angry at someone who doesn't do what they said, especially when I'm adult enough to see why without asking and know that shit happens. And because people who have put up with crazy people who stew and stack up a ton of resentments and go into a sweet martyred uncomplaining phase before busting out into irrational rages and demands expect that behavior to be "powder keg waiting to go off" -- no one believed that I wasn't a powderkeg waiting to go off... because I was too good and well behaved. I was making bad but necessary triage decisions all along and kinda tanking my work needs and anything else for a while because I needed to reserve asking for help for say, getting food, and hope someone would be home to provide it when I was on bed rest and couldn't get up to get it myself.
The other half was everyone saying "We didn't know it was serious because you asked so quietly and nicely" -- and insisting I should start complaining, whining, yelling. Which wouldn't be real and would be nasty and still would not have gotten me what I needed because at the first sign of it that's the justification for "you're just blowing off steam, you're making a fuss about nothing."
I knew that. I don't *do* stupid things that don't work -- but I didn't hand off a good excuse for the tempers and the rage and I still somehow on some level think it's wrong to take it out on me that it's hard to live with what I have to live with, because it is a hell of a lot harder for me to live with it and know that it's the same whether it's institutional assholes or people who actually love me, that sometimes it's worse when it's people who love me because their hearts break and they lash out and you can't just deal with it and blow them off as institutional assholes and not see the damage your passive existence and immutable handicaps have wrought -- is it fair for me to make friends or kinships, to impose my existence on anyone, when that will just break their hearts and make their lives harder?
The people who hold up the Faux-Darwinian "survival of the fittest" let 'em starve, make 'em work, so what if they die attitude in rants are striking a deep blow because on a religious level I know I am just a living organism like any other on Earth. That human rights are a fiction made up by human beings as a set of rules they could vote to change at any time, and there is nothing distinguishing me from a feral animal. Just a fairly eloquent feral animal who wants to live. Oh, but it is evil for me to suck up the resources of the healthy. Oh, but it's a burden. Well there's only one damn solution to that, and that is what I say to them in debates, when the topic comes up on forums.
You're talking about me. If it's like that then why should I have to put up with all the legal barriers and the discrimination and all the other barriers I have always faced. My choices playing by those rules are to blow my brains out or lay there and rot.
I've been fighting all my life and I am tired of the fight. After the therapeutic treatment, which had some detoxifying elements, I can smell my sweat and it *stinks* -- it stinks with an acrid poisonous odor that makes me sick just to smell it, and at this stage of physical weakness, I have had a relapse and I am back in bed and I can't bathe without assistance. I have never in this life had all of my needs met at the same time. I am not the only one who can say this, it's brutally true of way too many human beings on this planet. Even in relation to my previous health, my health is ruined from my attempts to go through all the channels and all the systems of seeking health care and the result is that I am physically reduced to the point that all the strategies I had on the street aren't practical and aren't in my much shortened reach any more.
I don't have the emotional energy to read cards for people and be cheerful and pretend it doesn't hurt and care more about the client than myself, or the physical energy to sit outdoors in a chair after making the physical trip to the place where it's legal to do that. I can't sit up long enough to sketch and again, that only sold if I was sitting out in public cheery being an entertainer. Well, fine, I'm an entertainer, it's a skill. Street sketching and tarot and all those things will make me one of those writers who can do "writer in the window" and bang off an improv story with audience suggestions to share a little of the joy of creating a story. That's a neat thing. If I had the strength to do a gig, that's the one I'd want to do.
When I thought it was insanity, that illusion gave me an illusion of hope -- that with enough introspection, enough attitude work, enough self improvement I'd be good enough at life to make it at daily living. Daily living is beyond me. I can't do it in the ways that work for most people because I have no margin for error. I can't ditch all my stuff and make a fresh start without it, because all that stuff represents the possibilities of weird solutions to crises pulled out of my butt -- solutions that are not cost effective but work in emergencies, like selling crafts. I have put off medical care. Flat put it off. Didn't ever have enough for that. Food was a higher priority, that and housing -- and what happened over this latest stress, which is an ordinary everyday thing that people in group households do to clear the air and *worked* and was done WELL compared to all the other households I have lived in, not bogged in circular arguments but actually, for all its messiness, resolving some issues... is that dealing with that level of stress affects me physically and knocks me out. I am back in bed.
I am back in bed and it hurts, but it's more heartbreak than hurt to realize I can't even keep up with the interpersonal stuff and the psych stuff and the things I am genuinely expert in, that my best is not good enough and I don't have the energy to do what I know how to do... and it doesn't matter that I handled myself well in it, because I wound up back in bed no better off for having endured it, just wound up defending myself to the point it wouldn't become continuous. After five years of that in the shelter and agencies and system, I thought it was just the trips themselves, the walking and waiting and constant rejections -- that the humiliations and the sadism and the conflicts themselves were something I beat through that was just morally wrong, getting angry about that was a source of energy. I didn't stop to think that the fight itself takes a toll on my immune system, or my body reserves, that this happens now every time there's a crisis.
That leaves me with the real fear of something my mother used to scream at me every time I tried to do my chores and my homework and the thousand and one imposed responsibilities children have that most of them have the luxury of screwing up on and just putting up with the punishment. "Too little too late." or "A day late and a dollar short."
It's heartbreak when I am *this* close and my gut is curdling on the fact that I needed just a few more days to finish the proofreading line edits pass on Chazho... and now I not only spent those days dealing with family problems (can happen to anyone, minor aggravation) but once resolved, I'm back at a level where I do not have enough energy to work on it yet. I need to rebuild my morale, and I need to care about something beyond pain and exhaustion. I need to pull myself together and that takes time and work too. I don't have the luxury of putting that off till the project's done and that's the most natural reaction for any workaholic alive that I can think of. Why aren't I venting all this after typing The End? Because this time, I don't quite have the energy to kick open the file and it will take some time to build the energy to kick open the file and begin the task and stop worrying about whether it will be good enough, and stop worrying about the money itself and the fact the advance itself will not be enough for me to live on.
This is like the thing with the chores. I do not pull my weight around here with the chores and that was agreed when I first came down, before I came down, that I am disabled and can't help with anything of the chores. Now it looks like house meetings and conflict resolution are sometimes beyond the level of my present health and what that means, is that I'm in real risk of not recovering, which scares the hell out of me. I need to get up to the level of "do the next step" and make it as small as "proof a chapter" over and over again till I'm done with that, and then ship it, and if I need to break THAT down into "prepare the file" as a task and "make the floppy" as a task and "get the address on the package" and then hand it to someone else in the household to send to the post office, something that should be a happy occasion and reason to have a drink or a party or something, then jump in with renewed energy and start pouring out the other projects.
Planning. I can't plan when I'm in a state of financial panic because if I am that far gone I don't have clear judgment. I should for the next few days focus as a goal on "do what I can" and just keep moving. Without making hard decisions on whether to bash a novel next or spend a day doing queries and proposals to let editor nibbles pick the next project, or a buttload of articles and short stories just to have more short-term relatively faster rejections and responses coming in... that decision, those decisions have to be made day at a time now just to survive.
And both friends and household have said "Oh, you'd get your point across a lot better if you had more confidence." In every conflict. Online or off.
I'm not allowed to have a bad day when everyone else in the world has bad days and aggravated moments and hard times and mistakes and slips of the tongue, because the consequences of my mistakes and slips of judgment stay with me for months and years and the hard choices leave scars that last to this damn day.
I had a long, long number of years of writers' block that was fear of daring to put it down at all, that came from being locked up at 14 in that mental institution and in 1969 just having paranormal content in your stories -- however boisterous and cheery half of the kid action epics were -- was enough to get them labeled as poisonous and morbid and insane, anything I put on paper can and will be used against me as proof I'm incompetent to live my life, so that people who are not competent to run my life can make bad decisions that make me sicker. At the time I kept my sanity by defining myself as a political prisoner -- at this age it would look more like malpractice to any decent attorney, but that's all what, 34 years ago? Everyone knows the mental health system was screwy back then and committed atrocities, some people got it worse than I did. I do remember a perfectly good Buddhist monk living under a handful of vows that aren't that unusual for Buddhist monks -- they included "ahimsa" or respect for all life and this man literally would not squash a bug -- who was in the adult section of that institution as a schizophrenic. And when he talked about Buddhism gently and in depth, I read up on it later in life and my gut impression was confirmed: he was just a Buddhist monk with a reasonably good grasp of his own religion's tenets who practiced what he preached. I respected him a lot. I cared about him a lot. That was the one I knew, the clearest case. He was doing more good for everyone else in there than anyone who worked there.
There were kids who got electroshock therapy for things that were not extreme, because the rules get twisted and the rules get downright insane themselves and when a human being is put into an unlivable situation and expected not to feel anything about that and still cheerily spout party lines and deny the self, that can destroy minds. I remember them. I also remember some of them were violent and not everyone in there was an innocent. I just knew who the ones I found worthy of talking to or hanging out with in my own crazed loneliness were and what was done to them over things that weren't insane. Half of them, literally half were just criminals and there was a lot of psychiatric fuss about them but they knew how to play to it and did, they tended to do a lot better than either the genuinely insane or the innocents.
I was trying to tell the truth. I think I believed in writers and reportage. I think I believed that if I told the truth long enough and patiently enough and honorably enough that I would eventually find redress, that I would gain allies and good people would rally to get me out of the hole and of course that did happen, but the price was a bit too high there too. The price at my grandmother's was my writing and she did not approve. The risk she didn't realize she was blackmailing me with was that if I didn't manage to keep her happy and live and pretend to be a normal kid there, after everything I'd been through, I'd wind up in the hole again, I'd go up the hill and then the magic calendar age wouldn't be a parole and a ticket to freedom.
I don't think it's unreasonable to have a bad day, or to blog a bad day, or to try in a blog to talk myself down and give myself back a little of my courage remembering fights I won and troubles I outlasted. I don't think courage means not being scared, if it did I'd be the worst coward. I just don't have the emotional energy today this hour to pretend I don't get scared, and that I don't wind up dreading the nightmare terror that I've done all this and accomplished all this and gotten the goal. I kept my eyes on the prize. I wanted to be a science fiction writer (and did subsume fantasy and horror into the term)... and I am one, I became it, that is bedrock, that is fact. Provable fact: Raven Dance exists as a tangible science fiction book.
It might be the crummiest SF book ever written but it's recognizably a novel and recognizably SF.
I honestly don't care which people love it or hate it or never heard of it and don't care, I write those for the people who love them and I'm pretty sure the people who don't all have perfectly good reasons to prefer whatever they like to read or to just not like reading and prefer renting a movie or going ice skating or whatever they enjoy for entertainment.
I have readers and some of them did like the book. They are real people with a right to expect more good books like Raven Dance out of me and for me to get better at my craft. Every one of them found something different in it that they liked, every one of them got something for it if that was no more than filling a few hours of boredom and destressing after work. Novels are like that, half the experience of any novel is the reader's backstory. Movies are like that.
I saw Shawshank Redemption on video after all the fireworks while we were all making up... and I cried at that movie because I am so damn close to being Andy DuFrene and I am like that in life, I have always kind of made do with what I had around me and used the resources I have and been clever like that. But, my life doesn't have the right arc if the story, the biography, the chapters of it that are this stage of it, don't have that kind of ending.
And he ran off with his beautiful She-Writer and they live in a neat old house with a lot of cats and weirdos come by and he reels out still more big fat fantasy novels and drives around town on his little electric scooter all Gothed out and strange, he's 48 and looks like he's maybe all of a beardless 20 and when he's up he stomps around with a carved mahogany cane that has an amber doorknob for a finial, looks like a miniature wizard's staff.
There's a life ahead of me, just like Andy DuFrene's old rehabbed boat and Mexican beach... a sort of cheery Gothic Wizard of Oz type who's got all of his needs taken care of and is just as genial as Mr. Fezziwig with anything beyond need, because that's what it is and that's who I am when I'm not fighting just to get through the day. That's not a bad thing to do with a life. That's not a bad thing to be, and in all my mad attempts to get past the barriers I've also had a buttload of adventures. I mean, seriously, I have had some adventures in my life. I just get tired of having adventures if I have one of those icky little Mordor nights and the nightmare is that the story doesn't end that way for me -- that the books are there and the quest was won and the friends carried on and they got into print but it ends like Mozart and I don't actually get the check and the house and the life of just living it in joy and appreciating all those things for what they are... but left something for the world. Kind of halfassed and that would suck. Doesn't anybody think it sucks that they do things like that to people like that?
Or to people who aren't off doing great things but might be just as much Wizard of Oz types for how downright good they are, who don't get famous except to the handful of people who knew them?
If I hadn't been able to bring my stuff down from New York, I would not own the Howard Paxton Memorial Television Set. Howard Paxton wasn't a writer. He was a giant, six foot eight, with heart trouble from his size, too weak to work and he had been a television repairman. He used to ramble around the grounds on his long legs and salvage old TVs from the trash and take them back to his room. He'd work on them at his own pace, still disabled but still himself, still doing the thing that Howard Paxton was good at. Then he'd just give them away to residents. I didn't even know about this until he stopped by my room for something random and asked "Don't you have a TV?"
"No, I don't worry about it much, cause I'm a writer and I just listen to the radio and work on my novels."
"You need some time off to relax, dude."
"I do relax, I like my writing. And the TV room is too crowded downstairs anyway."
He laughed and joked around and then he left and twenty minutes later he was back at my door with a little 13" black and white TV with a homemade antenna and he installed it and I thanked him and that's when he told me about what he did. And becuase I had no tools, having lost even my screwdriver set along the way to NY, he gave me a couple of spare screwdrivers. I still have that TV. Howard died at the shelter. I didn't get to go to his funeral, I was having a bad day and I didn't go downstairs and find out till after the van left for it, but I grieved him and I still remember him. So do a few other people, a lot of other people. The good things that Howard Paxton did aren't forgotten and I will keep that old TV and tell the tale now and then when I need one to cheer me up.
Because Howard Paxton is my answer to "who do you think you are?" about my writing.
Yes. I achieved something damn wonderful becoming a science fiction writer, it was what I wanted. But a Dream can be anything and Howard Paxton had something as great as my writing. He gave me a piece of it. I have a neat little television set that works and it wouldn't be worth anything to pawn, but it is worth so much to my heart. I lent it out to the guys in the front room who don't have a TV, because I think Howard would've approved of kinda passing it on. If I couldn't keep it, I would tell the story and give it away to someone who needed it.
I have been accused of selfishness for pursuing my dream at the expense of other people (not at this house meeting, please, don't let this look like I'm trashing the household here -- I left the conflicts offstage for good reason since they were resolved and were for the most part logistic). That came out of Mom and it came out of a whole lot of people, an ex, assorted and many *other* housemates that you will notice I do not still live with. That comes out of people who have made bad short term decisions and taken whatever came along for a job and threw away a Dream, that jealousy. Or the many others, the maybe majority of others, who really didn't dare to Dream at all and never did decide a direction in life because the direction they picked wasn't an occupation and it didn't get respect because it didn't get a paycheck.
The little girl who says "I want to be a mommy" and that is the identity-Dream, the "who I am" definition, can get very good at it and get treated as if she has no dreams at all once she gets up and gets married and has kids, or just has the kids and does all that's needed to make life good for them and maybe, yes, some of these mothers are inspired and so good at it that they might as well be a Howard Paxton for just plain old skill as well as heart. Or the guy who wants to collect cards. Or the girl who wants to be the world's biggiest Trekkie. Or the guy who wants to fish and never does try to make a *living* at it because he'd rather set up a better support system for the fishing like having a house and a job that pays for good tackle and expensive trips and stuff. There are lots of people who have Dreams and don't even realize that's what they are, and get laughed at for their expertise. It's not something that just happens to writers.
To be a Howard Paxton kind of guy I have to live large and take care of myself and believe in what I'm doing, know it has some value to someone, know it's worth doing. I'm a science fiction writer. I do entertainment. That's not a necessity and it won't feed people who haven't got enough money to eat, and I am not the only one who's got to juggle whether to eat at all or whether to get the foods I need for a special diet -- even if I lucked on what the special diet is or got so attuned to my body that it just feels like satisfying cravings. I have to actually admit it on bad days and vent it somewhere: today it's a blog entry and another, yet another day of the Goth guy with the bonsai body twisting again in the wind in the same curves that he did last time, that give him a balance tall straight pines just wouldn't get -- because he grew on the damn cliffside and the winds would tear off any straight-growing pine so fast on that cliff.
I do often think about bonsai when I think about my life and my living skills. I think there is some beauty in my life. I think there is some good in my life too -- but I do not boast about that as an achievement, it just is, it's not something I feel like thinking of as something out of the way. It was a life choice all right, but it's not something I set out to do like being a writer is.
It's all real.
It's all just real and I've done all I can and there isn't any social judgment I can accept on whether I work hard enough because my efforts do not produce the tangible results that anyone else's would. I can't pull my weight in this household or this country until and unless I make enough money at science fiction writing to just compensate for what I can't do by hiring people who can. I would have done this if I didn't need the money. If I had won the Lottery I would have just put it all up in a way that I would never have to worry about that stuff again and then gone back to writing and probably just been generous with the money on a reasonable budget that didn't ever throw me down in the pit again, where I wouldn't do anyone any good.
I cannot judge myself by my wallet.
My world has narrowed to a four by six foot bed and the immediate room that bed is in, it might be in New Orleans or on the moon, it's what it is. And the Internet. I live at that level and if I do not get out of this bed, I will not get to see anything more of the world than the last damn bed. I think there are logistics to some of the things I've been through -- now that I have seen it happen when there was no inaccurate label and no one believed I wasn't disabled -- that when people take care of other people, the only really common paradigm for taking care of others is taking care of children -- who do not usually have the judgment to take care of themselves. Maybe some children in the world really are children and need guidance as well as care. I wasn't one of those. I never was a child, I sucked at being a child. I wasn't trusting. I had reason not to trust even if a lot of those adults meant well and did the best they could and I did try to communicate but I wasn't listened to. People don't generally take children seriously.
It made me weird, it made me listen to everyone, even children.
It left me feeling like anger was something that had to be used and controlled, turned to energy... and that vengeance by and large is not cost effective because it will not get you what you want. Vengeance, even when I was young, rapidly proved pointless, the effort could have gotten me something I wanted instead. If I listed every institution or physician or situation that discriminated or did me wrong, even if I filtered through "what the law considers wrong" then I would have some good cases and not the resources to pursue them and it would not be cost effective to try, and hard to know where to start. But spite and vengefulness is taken for granted by so many people as an okay thing to do if you're mad enough. It's seen as a forgivable motive.
Need and greed look exactly like the same thing and I now have a gut visceral appreciation of a vampire's craving for blood -- just translate "hamburger" into "blood" and describe sensually. Only a writer would think of it, but I do collect intangible trophies as well: the experience of that hunger at a time of night when anyone who could have got up and nuke-thawed the hamburger that was in the fridge was asleep and needed to sleep to make it to work or school is a real thing to a writer. I do write vampires. My vampire novels will be just that trace better for the night that I sat there craving it and paying attention to the craving to figure out if what I needed was calories or iron or protein or whether it was just that hamburger was more digestible form of all of the above -- when thinking about grabbing one of the shoulder steaks and thawing that instead did NOT appeal to me as much I knew it was because it was ground and easier to digest, which led back onto the vampire track and a visceral awareness of what someone with that kind of digestive system would feel -- that specific a craving, like koalas and eucalyptus leaves. Only all the time, not just a few hours.
I'm still fiddling with the description and it's reversed in this entry "like a vampire's craving for blood" is a metaphor for what a dietary need feels like to someone with malnutrition. It could as easily be a craving for potato skins or canned pineapple or anything. I have learned to trust those cravings. I get stronger if I indulge them immediately -- and if they are transient deficiencies, then once indulged they don't return. If they are emotional, once overindulged I never feel the pull again.
But when I am stronger and not IN this state in this bed, I will sooner or later get around to writing vampire stuff again and the next time a vampire gets hungry I will remember that night and that hunger. I will get paid for my trouble then. Seriously, writing well justifies so many hairy adventures and risks and terrible things that happen. It is a big part of my balance that any rotten thing that happens in life that's just luck is "Oh cool, now I can make it ten times worse and do it to an MC." If you are a very healthy writer, if you have never hungered like that, it would be worth a day or two fasting to know what hunger feels like when food becomes the top priority in your life and you have a hunter's need to weigh the last erg of your body's energy to sprint toward that gazelle -- and look at that hamburger in the freezer as a gazelle and wonder if you've got the strength to move fast enough and far enough to get it. And recognize the gazelle is grazing JUST outside your range. That if you jumped, you wouldn't get it and your shot at eating wouldn't work this time but the energy of that hunt would weaken you for the next, so you lay in the shade and flick your tail and watch the gazelles with lion's eyes, waiting for one of them to get stupid.
Actually, this is where young lionesses come in because my daughter got up not long after that vampire meditation and read my notes on it, which got fairly clinical, and got me a nice can of tuna to stave off the hunger before I went to bed, so I did all right and it was a *good* gutpredator response not to go chasing what hadn't come in range. A ludicrous miscommunication did get resolved at the house meeting and that was that if I wasn't quite feeling up to getting up, she didn't have the time and energy to cook but it was NOT too much trouble for her to do a very small favor, open a can and feed the writer. We're back to life as I know it: Ari eats dry food and I eat canned on the noncooking days, when the school-and-work grown kid only has time to really cook once a week. And likes to cook treats when she does, foods well adapted to people who have more than one meal in a day and are physically active and have completely different needs than someone who's rebuilding atrophied muscle on a wrecked digestive system. There's a reason bland food tastes good and feels safe. It's not going to give me an upset stomach and gas and put me through spending more effort digesting than I get out of the calories it has.
Thanks for letting me vent. I'm almost there on the Chazho project and when I'm done it will ship. At that point a huge weight will be off my shoulders and I can actually look at doing another project...
Robert and Ari >^..^<