Tag Archives: change

Storytime

1 Jan

leap year page 1

Here in Los Angeles, California, it’s just shy of three hours to the close of January 1st, 2016. Today’s not been much different than any other day, closer to weekend-style even though it’s Friday, but not quite the same because one of my roommates is out of town, and the other is recovering from a long stretch of mandated human interaction, and I myself just returned from The Hellhole That Is Currently Underwater.*

But still, all in all, pretty much the same as any other day. January 1st has no particular magic to create a grand shift in my life. It is just an arbitrary designation of the passage of time.

Except… we don’t want it to be, do we? We want there to be some power in the rustle of a new calendar being hung on the wall. We want there to be some force that we can harness through the symbolic gesture of wiping the slate clean. Whatever the year, we want 01/01 to be not just one more day full of nothing more than more of the same, but rather to be one glistening 24-hour chance to grasp hold of a future we haven’t yet tainted. A notebook that’s got no smudges or eraser marks. A slab of clay, wet and waiting, for us to pick up and do something with.

We want it to be the start of a new story, ripe for the telling.

2016 is a particularly good year for that, it seems. We’ve got a leap year ahead. One whole extra day for awesome.

And I, who makes much of her living out of words, sits here at the close of page 1 of 366 wonder – what makes a good story? What do I want?

What do you want?

What makes a story worth it, after it all, when you’re running out space for lines on the page and midnight is tolling and another book, another voice, another year is chasing at your heels? What is it in a story that will leave you satisfied at “the end” – or even better, hungry for more?

If you’ve got some thoughts to tell, I’d like to listen.

——-

* Missouri. Not necessarily an intrinsically bad place, but a historically terrible destination for me in particular. Also, it’s rained so much there in the past few days that a house literally floated away. It was on the news, guys.

It can be okay in the summer, though.

Just… mind the tornadoes.

**Trigger Warning**

2 Feb

Over on his blog, the ever-fantastic Chuck Wendig is currently hosting a comments-based discussion (brave one, he is) on trigger warnings when it comes to written material. Not every book is exactly “safe to handle” for every reader. But is that the reader’s job to gauge? Or the writer’s job to present up front, like an STD in a potential lover? Should books come with sets of trigger warnings?

For those who don’t want to read the N paragraphs below, I’ll tell you my personal opinion up here: No.

If you’d like to know the credentials behind that opinion and the whole long rambling comment I left in Wendig’s discussion, then, dear reader, venture on.

I pretty much promise there are triggers.

* * * * *

Context on me as a commenter: As someone who grew up with abuse of many kinds, eating disorders, and depression and who spent most of college in and out of treatment, residential and outpatient, for the lasting impact of all those things, I talked and was taught a crap ton about triggers. My therapists and I and the other lucky people in treatment discussed triggers around food, triggers around weight, triggers around body image, triggers around physicality and sexuality and self-esteem. There are about a *makes up really funny-sounding humongously big number* triggers out there. Some of them might stir feelings in me of wanting to not eat for a week, or puke up anything I do. Some of them might make me want to tear my skin apart. Some of them might send me flying back into a near-hallucination of memory-based, stimulus-galvanized panic attack where what’s real and what’s not becomes really slippery and I have to tell myself over and over and over again that the floor is real, the wall is real, the door is real, the friend beside me is Person X or Y and they are there to care and not to hurt me like my brain is trying to say there are, conflating them with so many person Z’s in the past who have. Triggers can be loud, concussive noises that send my adrenaline bursting. Triggers can be soft, gentle, well-meant and goddamn *wanted* kisses. Triggers are songs and sentences and slantwise jabs from strangers. tl;dr – triggers are everything.

But they are not everything *always.* What could poke at my emotions or my sanity one day might be something cathartic and beneficial another day. If the entire world is a trigger, then, as I have been told in so many group sessions again and again, it is not my job to censor the world. That’s not feasible. And that’s not fair. While I am not responsible for what’s happened to me, I am responsible for how I deal with it. If I want to do any semblance of living, it is my job, now, to figure out warning signs and preventative measures and people to throw in my safety net and what to tell them about different scenarios and breathing techniques and focusing techniques and fighting techniques and no, it’s not fair that I have to do all these things, but that’s just how it is. Because that’s how I get better. That’s how I fight back the triggers and pick off their numbers, one by one. Neural plasticity is a wonderful thing. But if I continually hide, never ever deal with the thing that hurts me, never practice coming up against it because I’ve cloistered myself from any possible sharp thing, then I am never going to change. I am going to remain crippled and afraid and hiding. And that’s when everything that led up to these triggers wins.

Yes, flashbacks are damn painful but I’d rather navigate my way through them than never be kissed by another human being ever again.

Yes, reading about suicide might make me remember my own attempts, but it also reminds me that hey, there are people out there who have experienced these things too, or who at least understand them well enough to write about them this way. And that’s way more valuable, how much less alone that makes me feel, then reading about rainbows and sunshine all day long. Because really that’s only going to make me nauseated.

There’s a difference between seeking out specifically triggering material and reading material that might crop up some stuff. I know not to go reading pro-ana or pro-mia stuff. That’s just intentionally triggering. And dumb. And not well-written, really. And on a day when I’m teetering back and forth across the line of sanity, I know that maybe I should pick up a Harry Potter book instead of Forman’s ‘If I Stay.’ But on days when I am angry at the world and what it has done to me, IS doing to me, then it’s those days that I really, really need Miriam Black and Palahniuk’s cast of psychopaths and N.K. Jemisin’s gloriously unsafe Nahadoth. I need characters with dangerous thoughts and dangerous emotions because they make me feel unalone in mine. They make my existence feel justified. They make me feel like I’m not just some aberration amongst the rest of the human race.

It’s up to me to know when my brain can play nicely with them, or meet them, if I’ve never perused their pages before. That vigilance is not your job. The only amount of warning you’re required to give me is a synopsis on a book jacket. Anything more, and it’s really just cheating.

—–

The only kind of trigger warning I want:

trigger warning

The Lie of ‘Better’

11 Dec

When you have a mental illness like depression, the first and most frequent condolence people will tell you is that “it gets better.” When you tell them that you are sad, sad not just one day, but sad for nearly every day the past month, they tell you it’ll get better. When you tell them that you have been down and clouded and crying for the past half a year, they tell you to just hang in there, thing a or thing b will change, feeling x or feeling y will be spirited away by a sparkling unicorn or the glittering hand of some god or other, that something, magically, will happen and it – you – will get better.

When you begin therapy, they tell you it gets better. When you talk about short term and suicide, they tell you about long term and how it’ll be better. When you begin seeing a psychiatrist and finally trying meds, they tell you it will finally, finally get better.

When years later you’re on your fifth therapist and third psychiatrist and you’ve run the gamut of SSRI and SNRI and second-gen psych meds and third-gen atypicals and still you find yourself crying on your couch every weekend, they will all, again, tell you that it will get better.

When you graduate and have job interviews and jobs acceptances and 401k’s and lovers and partners and spouses and kids and apartments and houses and nursing homes, and you say that you are still itching for that off button, they tell you keep hold of your life-allotted joystick to maneuver yourself through life-allotted hoops because this life-allotted endless game, it will get better.

But what they don’t understand, where the syntax error lies, is that while sure, support and friends and love and loving and comfort and direction, they can make it all externally better, making it better… that’s not making it okay.

I don’t want it all to be better.

I want it to be okay.

Cupped

4 Sep

hands and coffee

There is something comfortable to holding a hot mug of coffee in your hands, fingers cupped around it while a gentle heat exchange between capillary and vessel quietly bonds you together. It’s the modern Thinker’s pose, in a way. Elbows resting no matter where, cup steaming between dreaming fingers, eyes looking over the sconce off in the distance, as if it held future just before time dipped out of sight. The grey and wet city street, the dry and dusty desert playa – they’re both the same. I was away at Burning Man last week and sat on empty truck bed, the long wooden kind that semi’s use to tow things. It was a Friday, the day that my roommate and I always have our coffee date in the morning, even in the desert.

We rested our coffee away from the edge and then wriggled our way onto the bed as well, hoisting ourselves up using elbows and fists and wheels as necessary. We grabbed our respective cups and then, for near an hour, we talked. Just talked. But when you’re cupping a mug of coffee, what would other be just a seat becomes a perch. A spot like a semi truck bed becomes a space. Rambles become musing, garbled whispers revelations. There’s something that invites truth-telling, in those flickers of steam in front of your face. Coaxing tendrils that threaten litmus should you lie, as if their calm clear grey might fire up into red if you throw a falsehood at them.

At least, that’s how it was, retrospectively, in the Black Rock desert, that morning. Perhaps I anthropomorphize too much, though.

Or maybe I just really like coffee…

A Resolution

31 Dec

I’m not really one for the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing. As someone who’s gone through years and years and more goddamn years of recovery, I’ve seen through myself that change is usually not something that happens through one grand turn around, one definitive pivot. It is a slow, gradual, back and forth of deciding and un-deciding and re-deciding over and over again, until somehow, as each sand grain of nearly unnoticeable tremorous choice has slipped through the infinitesimally small bottleneck of the hourglass of our life, we look up and realize all of a sudden – it’s over. I’ve done it. The sand has all passed through now. And in the struggle of the moment, I didn’t even notice.

It is the second-by-second way we live our life that matters. Sure, change can begin with some grand declaration, but a proclamation is not the same as an action. And as history has shown in coups and diets, monumental momentary revolutions rarely last. Change requires more upkeep than that.

And so with all that in mind, I’ve written my hope for the world as turn the page 2014. A hope not so much for resolution, but for recovery.

possibility

2014

My wish this year, as we turn the page once more,
is that we will embrace a new language for these further pages,
to write a story no longer of the old deadbeat rhythm and rhyme
we have clattered with and clod along, year after year,
but instead a story the sound of which is strange in the ears of life,
the new noise of decisions spoken in a different tongue,
To build the world, not break it.
To grow new life, not gore it.
To turn hope into happening
and loss into learning.
To realize that the chance to change
is not tomorrow but all the yesterdays that were today,
and that with every second the breath of possibility whispers,
Now.”

New Things

26 Dec

Well, it’s time for some updating. Getting personal. Chatting with y’all. All that jazz.

Get ready for some not-so-serious kinda-brain-dead rambling, though. No, this isn’t going to be one of those posts where I really talk about the dark and deep and dangerous. This is just some jibbering I’ve got to get done.

Because, first update, I’ve spent the Christmas holiday fairly mentally washed out. A few days ago, the world of microbiota apparently decided that it wanted to give me a Christmas gift as well, in the form of a sinus infection con headache con sore throat con cough con stuffy nose. I know. The world of microbiota really outdid itself this year.

And yeah, being sick over the holidays has sucked. Especially since this was supposed to be the least stressful part of my winter break. I’m in Miami with my boyfriend and his family, away from the cold and the snow and family tension. But you know what? Being sick has inspired a few niceties of its own. My boyfriend has further proved himself amazing, giving me hugs and tissues and water bottles as necessary. Today, he even made me hot chocolate. Because I’d seen a commercial that happened to have hot chocolate in it and suddenly wanted some. And we’re not talking the Swiss Miss, microwave a cup of water and dump in a packet of cocoa powder. We’re talking William Sonoma, heat milk slowly over a stove, whisk in chocolate shavings while standing there for ten minutes kind of hot chocolate. And damn, was it good.

My literary world, on the other hand, is exploding in a much better, entirely mucus-free kind of way. I’m loving my Facebook feed – over the past months, it’s become increasingly more concentrated with updates from authors and poets, many of whom I’m now privileged to call friends, who are writing new manuscripts and publishing old ones and submitting articles and going on writerly retreats – and it’s awesome. Sure, sometimes I get intensely jealous of what I see everyone else is up to, but the impetus is inspiration, too. “Look at all these things that other people are doing; Mike Rosen is submitting poems, Tim Manley turned his Tumblr into a novel, Kim’s posted another stupendously colorful blog entry – I want to do all these things.”

Sure, I’ve got a couple of freelance jobs underway, and I’m in the middle of the mire that is my five year old manuscript that I told myself I’d finish editing this year, and I’ve started sketching out some ideas for future novels… but somehow, none of it seems “serious” enough to me. I’m building up relationships with other “legit” authors and artists and publicists, I’ve gotten a few short stories out there in various publications, a few of my blog posts have flown off the hit charts this year… but still, I feel stagnant. I don’t have an official editor or agent. I’ve yet to make it from the realms of Barnes & Noble’s online store to their actual shelves. There’s still a lot of work I could do. Should do. Want to do.

Just… gotta get rid of these clarity-consuming germs first 😉

And then there’s a change I’ve been thinking about for a while…

My blog name.

“The Quill Writings” – formal, professional, and if you ask me, flat-out boring. It’s not catchy. It doesn’t have any personality. It’s not distinctive or descriptive. It’s just… Eh. Blah. All those sorts of onomatopoeic monosyllables.

So. I’m thinking about changing it.

I chose it about a year ago, when I was looking for something to headline the industrial effort that was my foray into more public writing. It was simple, discrete. The quill as a writing instrument is something I’ve always had a fascination with. It’s deep in the history of writing, giving writers a physical tie to one’s work. It recalls a time when one could distinguish writers by the ink left on their fingers. Even these days, a quill is a writerly gift. And then, of course, there’s the presence of quills in the classrooms of wizardry students like Harry Potter. Harry Potter? Done and done.

But… as colorful a background as the quill might have, as a word, it’s still pretty meh. I mean, I think about the names my favorite bloggers have entitled their sites: Katherine Fritz’s “I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog,” Allie Brosh’s “Hyperbole and a Half,” and my friend Kim’s “Terror and Frosting.”

Yeah. I could do better.

I don’t have many ideas right now… Germs and brain and cytokines and all that. So, while I’m still here, recovering from this lovely holiday visit from the world of microbiota, I’m inviting you all, if you’re looking for some procrastination material, to throw some of your own ideas at me. Brainstorm some high pressure systems. Mind spew! I’ll be here in the meantime, cuddling with my tissue box.

Ain’t Nobody Got TIME For That

18 Dec

TIME logo

Lovely readers, I have a confession. I kind of hate news. I am a writer, a creative writer, not a journalist. It’s not so much that I hate knowing what’s actually going on in the world that’s of any importance – that I highly value – but honestly, the majority of news sites are either really just celebrity gossip columns or the articles could all sport one headline, “Terrible Thing Happens in This Place.” Bombing. Another bombing. Car crash. Oh hey, that war in that place is still going on. Yup. Not much has changed. For the most part, my newspaper from today looks the same as my newspaper from yesterday, and from last week, and from last year. Go back five years and maybe the country and politician names will have changed, but it’s all just the same crap of people blundering around the world and being idiots to each other.

However. There are a few news sites that’ll make me perk up my mental ears and listen to what they’re saying. Buy their newspaper from a stack at Starbucks, click on that link that showed up in my facebook feed, spend a boring lecture browsing their articles on my cell phone…

You know. The big names. New York Times. Scientific American. National Geographic. Smithsonian. TIME Magazine.

Ahem, about TIME Magazine… for years, it’s been a interestingly written purveyor of impactful news across culture, technology, and current events. If an article came from TIME, it was legit. Probably. Often enough for name “TIME” to carry some weight.

But today, today I had to unfollow TIME on facebook. Because for the past few months, 99% of the TIME posts promoted to my newsfeed have been utter crap.

Okay, sure, maybe some of them were worthy of a giggle or a two-second “aawww.” Something about a puppy. A family rapping their Christmas card. I dunno. I assume those would have been if I’d actually clicked on them.

But I don’t follow TIME for giggles and aaww’s. I follow TIME for news. You know, the important stuff. I don’t give a crap about what Miley Cyrus has to say about her break up, whenever the hell that was, and I’d appreciate it if my supposed news page didn’t keep sticking shit like that on my feed.

Based on the comments I’ve seen on promoted TIME facebook posts over the past few months, it’s not just my feed that’s been infested. There are dozens – possibly hundreds, if I actually cared to look through all the contentless fluff that much – of other disgruntled commenters telling TIME that they’re unfollowing, unsubscribing, un-fuck-why-did-we-ever-think-that-TIME-was-legit-ing.

And I understand why. Please, I hear enough about sad puppies or happy puppies or neurotic puppies from all the animal rescue pages I follow. I can probably keep up with Miley Cyrus just as well by unthinkingly glancing at tabloid headlines while I’m in the checkout line at the grocery store.

But… I’m not content to just flip TIME off and call it a day. Because TIME has produced quality content for so long, and I don’t want to just give that up. I mean, if you actually pay to get their magazine, or browse their website, or even actually visit their facebook wall, there is still real content. The time we readers actually do have time for. Or, you know, make time for during boring lectures. But for whatever reason, TIME’s social media person has decided that apparently it’s more important to promote “trending” fluff than information of actual consequence. So all the crap flows onto people’s facebook feeds, and none of the hard stuff gets featured, resulting in a massive distortion of TIME’s image and content procurement.

Uh, yeah. I’d really like that to stop.

So, I emailed TIME’s editor. Did some search engine hustling and managed to find one generic email address to write my concerns to. And then, I decided that perhaps said editor hearing even more well-spoken complaints (instead of just angry “fuck you’s” left as facebook comments) might be useful. Might actually change something. It might not, but hey, at least then I’ll still know that I wasn’t just sitting back on my ass wishing TIME would get their shit together without actually giving them any impetus to do so.

If you honestly don’t care about TIME, that’s fine. I mean hey, throw a Wall Street Journal at me and I’m just gonna wrinkle my nose and chuck it back at your head. But if you do care about TIME and want to voice your opinion, I’ve tried to remove some of the energy barrier to doing so for you. I’m not calling for some massive movement, I’m just offering help to those who would like to at least get their own opinionated fingers wagging.

Ooookay. So, I’ve posted the message that I sent below. Feel free to copy-paste it into your own shiny new “compose email” box and send it as is. Warning, it is written in me-speak. I mean, one of the more professional dialects of me-speak, but it’s still my own voice. So. You could also change the wording a bit – or entirely – if ya want to. Yup yup.

Damn this is getting long. Okay, I’ll just plot the rest of the info below. Go ahead and check it out if you, too, are displeased with TIME’s recent content shift and want to tell the magazine – ain’t nobody got TIME for that.

 

Email: letters@time.com

Message:

Dear Editor,
Up till just recently I’ve been an unabashed fan of TIME. But since approximately two months ago, on TIME’s Facebook at least, it seems that TIME is diverging from its old reputation of “source of legitimate newsworthy, culturally poignant information” and has started to become just another tabloid magazine, full of trivial GIF’s or cutesy posts, like the “Christmas card family rap.” My feed has been flooded with uninteresting fluff and “entertainment” (a.k.a. celebrity gossip) pieces, like the “article” about Miley Cyrus’s break up statements. There are still noteworthy pieces linked to from the TIME Facebook wall, but few to none of those actually get promoted to followers’ news feeds. I’ve noticed from the comments on posts that other readers are feeling the same way, and that most of us eschew this change from news to nonsense. A quality, impact-based distillation of content would be much appreciation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
(Your Name Here)