Honesty is Next to Thankfulness

anigif_enhanced-buzz-14562-1385488927-8.gifMy best friend goes to Thanksgiving dinner at her in-laws’ each year, and this year they decided that dinner conversation needed to be more even more awkward than normal. So they sent out discussion topics ahead of time that everyone would “get” to share with the group. My best friend has an acerbic wit behind an angel’s face, so she passed them on to me, along with the answer she would like to give her in-laws. These included such gems as “How is your life different than it was last year?” (“I have a lot less sex”) and “Tell us about a vacation you went on this year.” (“We’re just trying to make rent but I can’t wait to hear about your six week trip to Spain”).

Bless her heart, she’ll make up something suitable to tell them on the actual day. I’m not sure I’d have the patience. I can just about deal with the inevitable “What are you thankful for this year?” question that has to be recited. Just about.

Brooklyn99Insider-Rosa-Beatriz-Trainwreck Thanks 1.gifBut really, it’s not like you can actually be honest with that one either. You have to be thankful for the right things. Acceptable subjects of gratitude include family, significant other, friends, health, basic necessities, and a job. Full stop. Try mentioning at dinner that you’re thankful for your vibrator and see how quickly conversation grinds to a halt.

Continue reading “Honesty is Next to Thankfulness”

How I Monitor My Depression

p5pnnvj5mvc1oeb9wlem.gifI recently wrote about how I’m managing my depression at the moment, and it made me think of another topic that’s equally as important: monitoring my depression. Depression is a sneaky bastard. You might be chugging along, thinking you’re doing okay and then one day you wake up and realize you’ve not gotten dressed or showered in a couple of days and that you’ve crossed the line from functional to not. It’s surprising how it can creep up on you when you aren’t paying attention. This happened to me in the early fall. I thought I was fine at the end of the summer, but as our Comic Con (which coincides with my birthday) approached at the end of September, I didn’t start to work on a costume or plan anything for my birthday even though those are both things I really enjoy. I bought fabric for the costume I wanted to make, but just… didn’t start it. For me, that was a huge sign that the seasonal depression was kicking in early, as well as maybe a bit of feelings about turning the age I am.

me-partyEveryone’s depression signs are different, so it’s important to know yourself well. I have friends for whom becoming anti-social is a major warning sign. Not so much for me. I didn’t (willingly) speak to a single soul or go out for most of this past weekend, and it wasn’t a sign my depression is getting worse. I just really treasure my alone time – I got a ton of chores done, caught up on some TV shows, ordered some food I love, read, and went to bed early. It was incredibly relaxing and I felt much better for it. If I had stayed in all weekend and still felt miserable, that would probably have been a sign that something bigger was going on.

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Undercover Heathen: Tales from a Baptist Christmas Party

first_baptist_church_lakeside_city

“You should pull up your top, you’re showing too much cleavage,” my mom said, eyeing me critically.

I knew then I’d made a huge mistake. But it was too late. I’d been trapped. I was was on my way to a party at a Baptist church dressed, apparently, like a small-time prostitute.

The hook had been baited earlier that week when my mom suggested we should have a girls’ night together soon. So I’d invited to her over for Sunday evening to watch Inside Out and eat sandwiches, since my husband was out of town and my father would be completely unable to comprehend an animated movie starring anthropomorphic versions of a young girl’s emotions. It sounded about as relaxing as an evening with my mother could possibly be, and like the introvert I am, I planned on making it an early night and probably not changing out of my pajamas the entire day. Well, except to change into fresh pajamas after my bath – I’m not a barbarian.

Two hours before our movie date, my mother called.

“Hi, honey! I’m so sorry but I completely forgot that I had a work party scheduled for tonight, since we hit all our sales goals for the last six months.”

My mother works at an evangelical Christian bookstore, a job for which she is more than suited. In fact, it might be the only job for which she is suited, since she would be immediately fired from any other sort of employment for rabid proselytizing.

“Oh. Okay, well we can watch the movie anoth-”

“I’d like you to come with me and meet my coworkers.”

Continue reading “Undercover Heathen: Tales from a Baptist Christmas Party”

How I Manage My Depression (at the Moment)

3171464462_0bdb6c51c7_bAt various times in my life I’ve been diagnosed with mild clinical depression, moderate-to-severe clinical depression, situational depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’ve been on and off various medications for it, and while I’ve been lucky that it’s almost never made me completely unable to function, it does seriously impact my life, particularly this time of year when the SAD (most apt acronym ever) compounds whatever else is going on. Right now, I’m managing it without prescription medication and am doing OK, but before I talk about how, I want to stress that you should always consult a doctor before making any big changes to how you manage your depression, especially before going on or off any medications.  I am not a doctor and am not providing medical advice or treatment. Got it? Fantastic.

Continue reading “How I Manage My Depression (at the Moment)”

Oh, Fall’s Your Favorite Season? How Original.

This has nothing do with those damn                                    lattes.

It’s not fall yet. Fall starts on September 23rd. It’s on the calendar. In fact, it’s still pretty ungodly hot outside (and often inside). The days are still long. I don’t have to go back to school nor do I have kids who go back to school. Nothing of any substance has changed in my life since August.

And yet… something is different. Maybe it’s the first hint of color on the dried out hills. Maybe it’s something in the smell of the air or the way it’s suddenly breezier than it’s been in months. Maybe it’s the bounty at the farm market screaming of harvest season. Whatever it is, I’m starting to feel like fall.

It’s my favorite season and September is my favorite month. I don’t know why. I do love summer, and when I was a child I’d spend the summers with my parents on these epic 6-12 week long rambling vacations where we’d travel all over the country and camp and hike and swim. Those are some of my best memories. But there was something about coming home after being away so long, seeing friends again and having something resembling a routine (until I got bored of it again). Something about starting school again and feeling like there were so many possibilities of what I could learn and who I could be.

The author, preparing for winter.

Whatever the reason, as soon as September comes, something starts stirring inside me. Maybe it’s just a nesting instinct. Like a pika, I know winter is coming and I need to make my home secure and stock it with food and warmth so I can safely ride out the cold months. But it’s also a creative instinct. I often start writing or crafting again. Making things, preserving things, cleaning things. I often have more energy and I start dreaming big dreams about my life and what I want to do.

Last night I made and canned ten jars of salsa and twenty of plum jam, and have been drawing up lists of of even more: pickled cauliflower, tomato sauce, pear-lavender jam, rose hip jelly, elderberry syrup, beer, hard cider, sauerkraut… I’ve started work on one of my long-neglected novels again. I’ve started exercising regularly again. I want to sew something, bake something, clean something, paint something.

An early symptom of fall madness.
An early symptom of fall madness.

The first whiff of autumn is like catnip for my soul, a much needed burst of joy just as summer is winding down. It usually manages to carry me into the holidays, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas providing their own unique diversions. The problem is when the celebrations are over and we settle into the deep part of winter, when it’s cold and dark and our air quality is poor, so the sky and land both take on a grey quality and vigorous exercise is not recommended.

That is the time of year I should be being creative. Long evenings, plenty of time to write books and knit sweaters and redecorate the kitchen. I always say I’m going to, but then the seasonal depression kicks in and in reality I spend those three to four months curled up on the couch watching TV and eating potatoes. Everything feels difficult. Nothing feels worth the trouble. All my plans evaporate and I spent my days and nights just waiting for spring to get here.

Is this just a fundamental trait that I have that’s never going to change? Should I just accept that fall will always be my most optimistic, productive season and that winter will be a season of… Netflix? Or it something I can change somehow? Will I one day be able to roll the enthusiasm of autumn into building something real on those long winter nights, or am I always doomed to repeat my seasonal pattern?

It’s hard to say. I like to think that there’s something different this year. That this is the year, I’ll make a substantive change in my life and how I do things, something I can build upon for longer than just a few short months while the leaves are turning. It certainly feels different, but then it always does.

I don’t know if this is the year I’ll escape the trap of winter, or if I should even try. For now I’m just going try and take advantage of my current pre-autumnal euphoria and do what I can. There is fruit to dry and a garden to hoe and stories to write. While I still can.

Think of It as Leaving Early to Avoid the Rush

What I’m doing tonight

Today is a bittersweet day, because today I got the very last ever Discworld novel. Sir Terry’s writings have entertained me, inspired me, and deeply influenced how I see the world ever since a dear friend gifted me Interesting Times almost fourteen years ago. My only regret is that I didn’t discover them sooner. Particularly Good Omens, which I feel would probably hastened my journey away from the strict conservatism in which I was raised.
My husband and I got into the habit of reading the books out loud to each other (and by that I mean, he reads them aloud to me like a human audiobook), so we’re going to continue the tradition tonight. He’s going to try and get through as much of the book as possible and I’m going to try and can as much salsa as possible.

I’m so happy the last book is a Tiffany Aching book and that her story is getting a proper finale. I really think the Tiffany Aching series is one of the best young adult series for anyone out there, but especially for young girls. Even though I came to it as an adult, she still taught me a thing or two about listening to my Third Thoughts. I’m sad that there will be no more new Discworld novels, but one of the marks of a great author is that they’ve created a universe so vivid and complex that you’re left with the feeling that it’s continuing on somewhere, all on it’s own, whether or not anyone is reading or writing about it at the moment.

The Discworld is a place that will truly live on forever, and while Terry Pratchett was taken from this world far too soon, I’m so grateful he left us with so many wonderful ways to visit it any time we want.

Writing About Not Writing

So, I’m gradually trying to do what I say I want to do which is blog regularly and try to start really writing again (and hopefully, selling some of that writing so I can live the fabulous and carefree lifestyle of someone who has two freelance writers in one household). Because my two favorite things are goals and lists, I’ve set myself two goals for the month of September.

1) To blog something everyday

2) To write a total of at least 500 words per day.

The blogging can count as my 500 words or it can be just a short little something as long as I write something else as well. The main thing is to get myself back to writing and blogging consistently. I’m not too concerned with the content at this point.

I know people like to say you aren’t really meant to be a writer unless you can’t not write all the time, but even ignoring the double negative I think that’s bullshit. There are lots of reasons writers end up not writing for various stretches of time, including depression, medication for that depression, other life circumstances, or simply just writing the stories in their head but discarding them before they can put them paper because their inner critic is a loud-mouthed asshole.

My difficulty in actually writing comes from several sources.

Aside from those mentioned above, the first one is that I have somewhat of an all-or-nothing personality. This problematic because it tends to mean if I am doing something, then I am doing or thinking of that thing all the time. It’s not just one of many things I’m doing, it’s all I’m doing. At least until I reach some kind of end point or hit some kind of difficulty, at which point I stop doing that thing entirely.

I read the complete (so far) Song of Ice and Fire in a week. I stayed up late, barely ate, and, yes, read at work when I could get away with it. When I was done with it I probably didn’t read another book for several months. I’ve spent weeks toiling on a knitting project but when I discovered a mistake I’d have to go back and fix, I put it away and didn’t pick up again for several years.

I’m not saying it’s a good personality trait, it’s just the one I seem to have. The last time I was in the writing groove I produced a totally of nearly 300,000 words of Sherlock fan-fiction (Johnlock forever!) in a startlingly short period of time. And then I went off it and have barely written anything else, of any kind since. Although it was some damn good fan-fiction, it did kind of take over my life for awhile.

Another problem is that my actual job that I get paid for involves pretty much sitting at a computer all day, writing technical documents. I cannot even express how little I want to sit down at my recalcitrant laptop-from-hell and write something incredibly amazing after a long day sitting in front of a slightly larger screen writing something incredibly factual. And it’s probably not great for my career to spend my hours at work writing fiction. Although I can’t say it’s never happened.

Lastly, I have a massive fear of failure. Which is conveniently dealt by not actually attempting things in any serious way. The fantasy of the half-finished novel in the drawer that will change my life one day is the perfect thing to keep hope alive while not having to face change in any meaningful way. Also, little known fact: “Keep Hope Alive While Not Having to Face Change In Any Meaningful Way” was a rejected slogan for the Obama campaign.

But I feel like I’ve reached a breaking point with hanging out in my comfort zone (or I’m just really sick of working in this cubicle), so I’m going to try to brute-force my way out of these habits and into some better ones so I can a) get back to writing creatively, b) not burn out on it or tank my current job in the process, and c) eventually have a little less fluorescent light and a little more sunlight in my life.

Only one real question remains: Is it cheating to use writing about my issues with writing to hit my word count for the day because I can’t think of anything else right now?

Probably. But this sucker is 749 words, so I’m going outside!