Resolution Triptych

Resolution Triptych

Note: This post was originally written as an entry for @nonfiction’s New Years 2018 Resolutions contest on Wattpad. If you’d like to read my other stories for free on Wattpad, check out my profile!

Be still, be gentle, be brave.

I’m not sure where this phrase came from – it was either read somewhere then forgotten and re-remembered or it popped into my head out of the blue one day. But it helps me control the anxiety I’ve struggled with for years. Usually I repeat the first part – be still, be still, be still – until I’ve calmed down enough to process the rest of it: be gentle, be brave. It’s simple and maybe even a little silly to some people, but it grounds me.

That little mantra also become my three-part New Year’s resolution for 2018. Hopefully, it will help me leave this year a little more grounded than when I left the last one.

Be still

Last year was unexpectedly big for me. At the end of 2016, I got into my first romantic relationship in seven years; it shook my world up like a snowglobe, and from the word “go” 2017 was a glittery whirlwind of new love, new goals, new jobs, new friends, and a new home. I accidentally fulfilled a dozen unmade New Year’s resolutions by the time 2018 rolled around. It was both exciting and stressful, satisfying and terrifying.

I just want everything to settle down. All the changes I went through in 2017 were necessary but gods, they were exhausting. For the overwhelming majority of the year I was just screaming internally from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep.

Be still. Be still. Be still.

Well then. If I can’t make everything else settle down, I’ll just settle myself down. I’ll work on controlling my thoughts and emotions a little better. I’ll set a routine for myself and stick to it. I’ll be more purposeful in how I use my free time, instead of flitting from whim to whim until I fall asleep.

This isn’t to stay I don’t want adventures and new experiences – I do. But I want to make them happen instead of just letting them happen to me. If that metaphorical snowglobe gets shaken again I’d damn well better be the one who’s shaking it.

Until then, I’m content with watching the glitter slowly settle around me.

Be gentle

For years I assumed that I wasn’t strong – even when other people claimed I was. I believed that strength was a hard, sharp, violent thing, like pounding a rock into gravel. It was only recently that I realized that strength can be gentle, like a stream smoothing the surface of a stone. That’s the kind of strength I have; it’s the only kind I want.

Getting through 2017 didn’t require an extraordinary amount of strength for me, but it did require gentleness. And being gentle is surprisingly hard.

While anyone can be unintentionally violent and hurtful, being gentle is always intentional. So I often have to remind myself to be gentle to others as well as myself – especially when I’m frightened, anxious, or stressed.

Be still, be gentle.

So how can I be gentler this year than I was in the last? By accepting that nobody can do everything, not even me. By letting myself rest when I need to instead of pushing myself to exhaustion. By understanding that changing the world in small increments may be all anyone can do, and that’s okay. After all, wearing a stone smooth takes time.

Be brave

If the first and second parts of my mantra are commands to stop and reorient myself, the last part is a call to action. Be brave. You can’t be brave without doing something – even if that something is simply existing.

The only people who think existing doesn’t take effort have never had to fight for it. I have. It’s never been against an external enemy; it’s only been against myself, or more accurately, my malfunctioning brain. I won’t dwell on it. I just want to acknowledge it, because I know I’m not the only one. And you out there, nodding at what you just read: you’re not the only one either.

Be still, be gentle, be brave.

So whether it turns out to be good or bad, I’ll turn to face 2018 head on. And whenever it knocks me off balance, I’ll try to breathe, soften, and go forward. I won’t always remember to do it – sometimes I’ll still stumble and lash out thoughtlessly.

But I’ll still keep trying. It’s all I can do.


Make what you love

Make what you love

I’ve been struggling to write much of anything lately. I could make all kinds of excuses about being too tired or not having enough time or lacking inspiration, but that’s all bullshit because every other writer has been able to overcome that same stuff. No one but myself to blame, but then again self-blame hasn’t gotten me anywhere good in 27 years so fuck that too.

I think part of the problem is that I’ve been dwelling too much on outside reactions to what little work I’ve done so far – publication rejections and bad reviews of one of the very few things I have published – which is honestly ridiculous because there’s ultimately nothing I can do control that. No matter how hard I work and how good I am, there’ll be someone out there who doesn’t like what I do.

The whole thing got me wondering how I could break out of this mindset, and it reminded me of one of the few creative things that hadn’t lost its fun factor for me: editing beyond-ridiculous videos.

I make shitposts not videos

Let me be clear: my videos aren’t good. It might even be too generous to call them shitposts, because “shitpost” implies that they’re part of any kind of discussion whatsoever; my videos just occur randomly and are completely out of place, like a blizzard on Halloween. But dammit, I love those videos. And I love making them. They aren’t made for the views, they’re made for the lulz. Which is good, because who on earth would go out of their way to watch something like a clip from an obscure Peter Lorre movie combined with audio from Homestar Runner?

I started making videos around the same time I started writing seriously, in my mid-to-late teens. But while I moved from writing comedic fanfiction to writing “serious literature,” my video editing never matured. Even after ten years of making them, my videos remained basically the same.

Those videos are just a fun thing to fiddle with, the way writing used to be. I only made them because nobody else had and I wanted them to exist.

So do you have a point or…?

That realization put me in mind of some writing and/or general creative advice I heard once. (I can’t quite remember the source and am having trouble finding it even with the help of the internet hivemind, so please forgive me for not crediting you, source.) It went along the lines of “you shouldn’t make something because you think it’ll get popular and make money, you should make something because you want it to exist in the world.”

I think that’s good advice, for the same reason that “collect what you love, not what you think is a good investment” is good advice: because that way, even if what you make/collect doesn’t get you a lot of money, you’ll still be happy with the thing itself. Chances are, if something speaks to you, it’ll speak to someone else too. But even if it doesn’t, at least you’ll have something that you like.

So it’s probably time to reorient myself and approach writing the same way I approach making videos – albeit with a lot more work and attention to quality. If I want something to exist, then I’d better get on it; nobody’s going to make it for me.

Decluttering Quest: the impending move

Decluttering Quest: the impending move

Lately, the good things in my life have intensified; unfortunately, so has my internal screaming.

Most of the screaming is just stress from one thing: an unexpected upcoming move. I was suddenly linked up with a friend of a friend who was looking for a new apartment and a roommate, and less than a week after contacting them I had visited, applied to, and been approved for an apartment with them. Which is great, but now I have just three weeks to finish my Decluttering Quest and pack up whatever’s left of my stuff for the move.

Trust me, I am not complaining about this situation at all. The prospect of finally moving out of my parents’ place, gaining independence, and becoming a Real Adult is amazing (especially now that I finally have the income to comfortably support myself). But avoiding this kind of deadline-induced stress was half the reason I started the Decluttering Quest when I did.

Then again, had I finished it in a timely manner, I wouldn’t be in this mess at all. Literally. So it’s time to quit screaming and get to work.

Surprise! More books!

Remember how I began my Decluttering Quest by sorting through all my books? Well, joke’s on me, because I completely missed half a shelf’s worth of (mostly children’s) books. Luckily, they were pretty easy to sort through, because I’ve gotten soft as this process has gone on; it was mostly a matter of taking out the ones that have a place on another shelf and rearranging what was left.

I broke one of the self-imposed rules I made when arranging my other bookshelves: “put all the knick-knacks elsewhere.” Since almost all the knick-knacks on this shelf were directly related to the books there, I felt it was okay to leave them there, albeit arranged in a much more attractive way.

The result: a cute little corner dedicated to some of the books that played an important part in my life as a young reader, including the entire Harry Potter series, Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books, some beaten-up copies of L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz books handed down to me by my brother, and a handful of books and boxed kits related to my early obsession with Ancient Egypt. (An adult Kemetic who was obsessed with Ancient Egypt as a child? Shocking, I know.)

Bathroom cleanout adventure

Even though I’ve made several efforts to organize my bathroom – some of them rather recently – it turns out I hadn’t thoroughly gone through my medications and products in a long time. And by “a long time,” I mean nine years, apparently.

See, when I went off to college back in 2008 I took a small bin of beauty products and medicines with me, and I guess instead of going through them at the end of each year to weed out whatever was expired (or simply too old), I just kept adding to it and lugging it around with me, eventually just shoving the whole thing into the cabinet under my sink when I moved home two years ago and forgetting about it.

When I finally opened it up again the interior had acquired a strange witch-hazel-y smell from some long-forgotten beauty product which had permeated absolutely everything inside the bin, right down to the pills inside the bottles. This would’ve been enough excuse to throw almost everything away, but as I carefully went through I also discovered that not only were most of the medications expired, they had been expired for years – one as far back as 2009.

stupudding“Why on earth do you have meds from 2009?” – “Because I’ve lost control of my life.”

While there were a couple things I kept (which I may regret if they carry the smell into the now Clorox-wiped bin through their new sealed bags) I ended up dumping everything else. It was hard to ignore the internal “you’re wasting perfectly useful things” voice but frankly, if I haven’t used a tube of lotion in the past nine years, I’m never going to use it and there’s no way it’s still good anyway.

After that I gradually moved through everything else in the bathroom, trying to apply the same logic I had with the bin. The plastic drawers were easy, because I use their contents every day and thus keep better tabs on what’s in there. The wall cupboard, on the other hand, was a completely different story. Pretty much the newest products in there dated back to when I was in high school, and most of the medications had expired ten or more years ago.

It also, inexplicably, held a stash of mini shampoo, conditioner, and lotion bottles taken from hotels many years ago – you know, just in case I used up the other two-dozen-hotel-bottle stash that I’d been keeping in the bin. Honestly, you’d think I’d lived through the Great Depression or something.

Starting the final push

With those two areas done, I’m basically on the home stretch when it comes to my decluttering process. All I have to deal with now are a couple display shelves, the craft supplies, and the floor of my bedroom. And although the floor of my bedroom is still a nightmare, it’s a doable nightmare. It may be a large amount of stuff, but it’s a finite amount of stuff. I can do this.

The only question is: can I get it done before the move?

Gender anxiety triptych

Gender anxiety triptych

I’ve been having a lot of gender-anxiety lately. You’d think that semi-openly identifying myself as genderfluid and getting a tattoo about it and all would quell this anxiety somewhat, but if anything it seems to have gotten worse. It feels like I constantly have to perform my identity and that if I don’t do it 100% correctly 100% of the time, then I’m a fraud.

The whole thing’s ridiculous, I know – as if I’m expecting the Nonbinary Police to kick down my door one day, revoke my genderfluid card, and officially declare me a “confused ciswoman” – but the anxiety’s still there. And recently, it surfaced in a completely unexpected setting: a queer-friendly comics expo.

The cupcake dress

Queerness and nonbinary-ness were just about everywhere I looked at the expo – from the amazing indie comics for sale (and their authors) to a panel I attended devoted entirely to the exploration of genderfluidity in a sci-fi context. But in spite of the great variety of gender expression I saw in people’s appearance, I started to feel very self-conscious about my own.

That day I wore my pink cupcake dress. By “pink cupcake dress” I mean a sweet, floofy, borderline-lolita dress complete with a petticoat. I look goddamn adorable in that dress. And let’s face it: adorable is the only kind of look I can pull off. I got a lot of compliments on my appearance that day by all kinds of people at the expo, including one of the genderfluidity-in-sci-fi panelists.

But still I worried about what those same folks would think of how I dressed if they knew I identified as genderfluid. In spite of the “fluid” part, a lot of people seem to equate genderfluidity with perfectly-balanced, effortless androgyny – not with doing what makes you feel comfortable, including changing things up and playing with the extremes of gender norms.

675px-Pink_gothlolitaExtreme pink femininity, as imagined in lolita fashion

I like playing with extremes. I mentioned lolita fashion earlier, which is a style that has long fascinated me, and I think one of the things I love most about it is that it seems to take certain youthful feminine ideals to an extreme degree. It’s as if someone said “Oh, you want me to be cute, modest, and frilly? I’LL SHOW YOU CUTE, MODEST, AND FRILLY!” and created the most adorably excessive thing they could think of.

There’s nothing wrong with androgynous style, of course, and I try to rock it whenever I can. But style should be about self-expression. And since my gender is in constant flux, shouldn’t my style be a little bit in flux as well?

The more I think about it, the more it bothers me that I was bothered at all. I shouldn’t feel like some kind of gender traitor just because I like to wear floofy dresses sometimes.

The pronoun dance

Of course, this isn’t just about appearance. For me, it’s also about that much-mocked subject of personal pronouns. I’ve been feeling a strange amount of discomfort about my lack of discomfort with the pronouns I’ve lived with my whole life: she/her.

Part of me does want to switch pronouns – probably to they/them – but the rest of me is exhausted by the thought of giving them out to everyone and correcting assumptions and dealing with the “but it’s grammatically incorrect” crap. And I get doubly exhausted thinking of how much more pressure a switch in pronouns would put on me to discard my feminine side completely, which I frankly don’t want to do.

More than laziness, though, there’s also my worry about being a bother to other people, which will probably kill me one day. I can’t even bring myself to ask friends if I can have a glass of water when I’m over at their homes; imagine me trying to ask them to change the entire way they talk about me. It’s downright laughable.

The understanding partner

During a recent visit from my partner, I was driving us home from dinner with a friend when our conversation somehow got on the subject of my gender identity. More than merely accepting my genderfluidity, he seems to have embraced it; so I felt comfortable telling him about some of the anxiety I’ve been having about it.

Sitting at a stoplight, I told him how nervous I felt about the whole issue of personal pronouns, and whether not changing them meant that I wasn’t really genderfluid. Staring at the light, I tapped the steering wheel nervously and he put his hand on my knee to comfort me.

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” he said gently.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding and the light changed. It was such a small, simple thing to say, but after being stuck in my own head for so long, I really needed to hear it. I suspect a lot of nonbinary people do.

So in case you have no one in your life to say it to you, I’ll repeat it: you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You really, really don’t. Nobody can take your identity away from you just because you don’t look or talk or act the way they expect you to. And fuck anyone who tries.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bunch of floofy dresses to buy.

Channeling idealism

Channeling idealism

Recently I was forced to admit to myself that I’m an idealist. That I usually see the best in people. That I lean towards pacifism and never fully recovered from my teenage hippie phase. That, deep down, I really do believe love can change the world if it’s implemented properly.

It was a hard thing to admit, because I’ve been fighting my idealism tooth and nail for years. In a post on this blog several months ago, I got furious at myself for seeing the best in people. And in an unfinished post I was working on this past week, I beat myself up for leaning towards nonviolence in my own actions, calling myself “weak, cowardly, stupid, and naïve” because of it. Realizing that there was a poisonous idealism running much deeper than both of those flaws filled me with shame.

But if I only learned one thing from years of therapy, it’s that I need to stop and analyze my negative thoughts about myself before they amplify into total self-hatred. Why (as always) was I criticizing something in myself that I’d never criticize in another person? And, more importantly, was there any way I could turn this “weakness” into a strength and use it to make things better for others?

Fitting in

Digging deeper into my attempts to reject or suppress my idealistic side, a lot of it seems to trace back to when I first started trying to fit in with my anarchist punk friends. I find that hilariously ironic because A) punk is supposed to be about “being yourself” rather than fitting into a mold, and B) I consider anarchism to be the most idealistic political philosophy on the scene today. I have no doubt my friends will feel insulted by the latter analysis – how fucking dare I say such a thing – but the way I see it, being an anarchist means believing enough in the inherent goodness of people that you think dismantling the current oppressive systems they live under will result in them building something new that will be truly good for and fair to everyone involved. (I’ve almost certainly gotten everything wrong about that; it’s just my personal impression.)

Yet it’s been the posts and comments from these same friends that have most fueled my shame and hatred of my own idealism and personal tendency towards nonviolence, especially in the wake of that horrible rally in Charlottesville. The message they’ve been broadcasting is clear: nonviolence always equals inaction, it’s useless and worthless, and using nonviolent tactics to resist fascists only endangers everyone around you.

To be clear, I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m right. I try to never be too assured of my own rightness (which may in itself be wrong). But I wondered if idealism and nonviolence really were inherently useless or if there was some way I could channel them into something useful.

Street medics

In the days after Charlottesville I was paralyzed by inaction; the overwhelming majority of my feed was “Nazi punching or GTFO.” And even if I didn’t tend towards nonviolence, I’m out of shape and have no fighting experience whatsoever, which would make me just as much of a liability if I attempted to fight as it would if I didn’t. But I felt very strongly that I had to do something besides signing petitions and donating money to good organizations. I just had no idea what that could be.

It wasn’t until I was reading through some friends’ accounts of their participation in the counter-protest at Charlottesville that I hit on a possible idea: becoming a street medic. Street medics, of course, have been a thing since at least the Civil Rights movement – treating injuries when protests turn violent – yet somehow I’d never heard of them until that moment.

And something about it really clicked with me. Here was something nonviolent that I could do that would actually make a difference at protests. Also, it was something I could do that would follow in the footsteps of family members who joined the medical profession (or tried to), like my father and grandmother. I don’t know if they will/would approve of becoming a non-professional medic helping antifascists and other protesters, but I hope they could appreciate that I’m trying to do what I think is right.

street-medics-300x298Common street medic patch design

Of course, becoming a street medic isn’t super easy – especially when the 20-hour peer training required to start becoming one is as scarce as it currently appears to be. But in the meantime I’m working on getting official first aid training/certification, and until I can find an official training I’m going to try to learn as much as I can elsewhere.

My idealism is going to be there whether I acknowledge it or not, so I might as well use it. I still don’t know if its a flaw or a strength. But either way, I’m going to do something useful with it.


Featured image from Wikimedia Commons.

Nothing makes sense and it’s going to be okay

Nothing makes sense and it’s going to be okay

Real Talk: I’m living with mental illness.

By that I don’t mean I have a bunch of adorable quirks that are misunderstood by society, or that I’ve been diagnosed with nonexistent problems by the shadowy agents of “Big Pharma,” or that sometimes I feel down but a quick jaunt in the woods cheers me right up. (Seriously, the next person who tells me “the best antidepressant” is nature or kittens or friendship or whatever is gonna get punched square in the mouth.) I mean that my brain flat-out doesn’t function properly without some kind of treatment – in my case, weekly therapy and a few daily medications.

I keep telling myself that there’s no shame in this, that some people’s brains work fine right out of the box and mine doesn’t and that my worth as a human being isn’t lessened because of that. But it’s easy for me to say there’s no shame when I’m lucky enough to have the means and support system to help me manage my illnesses; a lot of people don’t.

But even then, I’m still afraid of talking about it openly, or at least as openly as I do about other parts of my identity. And for me, it is a part of my identity. The whole way I view the world has been colored by my experience with mental illness – the difficulty focusing, the suicidal depression, the hallucinations and delusions – and all the ways it’s impacted my life. But strangely, I didn’t realize how big a part of me this is until quite recently, when I was thinking about whether or not my writing has lived up to my blog’s tagline.

A statement of purpose

Back when I was really concerned about establishing my name and “author brand,” I read some advice that said I should pick a tagline to represent me, my brand, my writing, and so on. After a lot of careful thought I came up with: “Nothing makes sense and it’s going to be okay.”

I picked this tagline for a fairly simple reason: it’s the message I want my writing to convey. This doesn’t mean I want every story to be meaningless randomness with a happy ending. It means that life can be strange and incomprehensible, that sometimes ridiculous or horrible things happen to us and we never find out why, but it’s still possible to survive it all and just go on living. Maybe that sounds simple to a lot of people, but as someone who spent most of their life either suicidal or having inescapable hallucinations, it means a lot to me. Simply surviving the bewildering weirdness of life isn’t always easy.

Because for me the weirdness was there all the time, whether I acknowledged it or not. It couldn’t be ignored, it couldn’t be reasoned away, and it didn’t magically disappear just because I wanted it to. For most of my life, it was my reality. But I survived and found a way to live with it. If my readers take only one thing away from my fiction, I hope it’s this: if I can live through and with my weirdness, and if my characters can do the same, maybe my readers can too.

A statement of fact

Even with treatment, I’m still living with mental illness. It’s still a part of my life; maybe it always will be. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I really do believe that, and I’ll try to express it in my writing as much as I possibly can.

And as long as this is a part of who I am, I might as well be honest about it. Nothing’s going to get better unless more people are open about this kind of thing.

Zanne’s Wep Ronpet Holiday Special

Zanne’s Wep Ronpet Holiday Special

Yesterday, according to my calendar, was Wep Ronpet – the Kemetic New Year, one of the biggest (or at least most widely-celebrated) holidays on the Kemetic calendar – and for the first time since I resumed my practice, I wasn’t enthusiastic about celebrating it.

I still tried to do the usual Wep Ronpet things, of course. I cleaned my altar, did a ritual, gave offerings, all that jazz. But none of it felt like a celebration; it felt like I was just going through the motions.

The whole day I felt listless, isolated, and out-of-touch with my practice, even when I did ritual. In a way, I felt like the protagonist at the beginning of some holiday special: burned out and uncertain of the true meaning of the holiday.

What is Wep Ronpet really all about?

However, unlike the protagonist in a holiday special, I couldn’t rely on supernatural intervention or a friend’s monologue to teach me the true meaning of Wep Ronpet. I didn’t even have my usual Kemetic contacts to turn to for general advice; I recently left my longtime Kemetic group for various reasons (to be honest I hadn’t participated much while I was in it), and I didn’t want to ask my other Kemetic friends directly as they were members of the group and I felt it would be awkward to draw attention to the fact that I’d left. Turns out that being independent can have its drawbacks.

So I did what I usually do: checked what the Kemetic bloggers had to say. I poked around the blogs I usually read, but while I saw a lot of hows and whens, I didn’t find many whys – except for the occasional brief reference to renewal and Zep Tepi. “Maybe this is something I should just know,” I thought. “Maybe this is proof that I really am the Worst Kemetic Ever™.”

But as I thought about it more, I kept coming back to the fact that this is a reconstructed religion, something every Kemetic is basically trying to reassemble from whatever bits and pieces happened to survive the past couple millennia. Combining that with the fact that I’d basically chosen a path without any religious leaders means that when you get right down to it, nobody else could tell me the true meaning of Wep Ronpet; it was something I’d have to figure out for myself. Well, damn.

Zep Tepi

The concept I see referenced most often when it comes to Wep Ronpet is Zep Tepi, the “first time.” It refers to the first sunrise on the first day, the literal dawn of creation, the beginning of everything. It’s also thought to be a moment of renewal that reoccurs at the start of every repeating cycle, whether it’s a new day or a new year. It shows that it’s possible to begin again and restore order, no matter how much things seem to have fallen apart.

I guess that could mean Zep Tepi (and by extension, Wep Ronpet) is about hope – the hope that you can break out of a bad situation or a destructive pattern, no matter how deep you seem to be in it, and try again. And it’s also the hope that if everything comes undone and order is completely overtaken by chaos, eventually order will be restored and things will start over. One could even argue that the efforts to try and reconstruct this religion – even if it’s in a different form, with its followers scattered all over the world – is an example of this type of renewal.

Sunrise_at_CreationSun rising over the benben mound at the beginning of time

So what does all that mean for me and my practice? Well, maybe it means that I can let go of my guilt and fears about being the Worst Kemetic Ever™ – about forgetting holidays and skipping daily rituals and feeling isolated and not knowing what I’m doing. I can try to start over, the way I started my whole practice over a few years ago after a crisis of faith and years of inactivity. I can recognize that doing ritual today has nothing to do with whether or not I skipped ritual yesterday. I can learn more, and try harder, and know that every day gives me a new chance to do things right.

With that all in mind, I’m going to try to do-over my celebration of Wep Ronpet in a few days – but this time, with the meaning behind it in mind. After all, if it’s about second chances, then I should get a second chance to celebrate it.