Life on the island is fantastic. I absolutely love it here. I feel at home, I feel at peace, and I find it very easy both to work and to relax, the latter of which is, was and always having been the bigger challenge for me. We’ve just had three days of nonstop rain, which hasn’t bothered me, but since the sun is out, I had Blue move my big blue easy chair out back so I could get some sun and some writing here in.
I didn’t mean to let a month lapse since I last wrote. I know this site of late (read: the last couple years) is something I’ve kind of neglected, or at least which has gotten far less of my time than it has in years past. I want to just kind of sit with this today and thin — and write — about why.
When I started writing over here in 1999, Scarleteen was still in its infancy, the dot bomb hadn’t happened yet, and I was doing just as much work around sexuality and art for adults as I was doing sexuality work for young people. When it all comes down to it, I started this site, and writing here, not to long after I’d made some really major changes in my life, particularly leaving classroom teaching in order to make my work both online and around my arts and I’d moved to Minnesota after Chicago had been my hometown for most of my life. I’d just come out of a few pretty damn dark years: of illness, of heartbreak, of almost winding up homeless again. I was 29 years old, in a relationship with my best friend at the time, and doing work that most people weren’t yet recognizing as work, or of anything of value, at all. I was still doing some modeling for other artists, not just for myself (nor had I yet moved behind the camera, which is about 80 million times more interesting to me). I had a lot to sort out and suss out, very few supports in it and frequently fluctuated between states of intense inspiration and intellectual clarity and feeling totally, utterly lost, not knowing what the fuck I was doing in every area of my life. On top of that, very few women — or people, period — were talking about and working about the things I was. This site made a lot of sense then, and it makes less sense now, when so much of all of that has changed.
It’s so cliche, but I’m one of those creative people who tends to be most creative when I am hurting, angry, in a new emotion or in some kind of crisis or conflict. I’d feel more stupid about that if there didn’t seem to be so many other artists and creative folks who are the exact same way. All the same, it feels silly; lazy, even. I mean, if you can only artistically express a limited range of emotions, how creative are you, really?
So, here’s one thing: on the whole, lately — as in, over the past year and change — I’ve just been happy. Not the screamy, high-energy kind of happy, but the quiet kind, the kind that soothes and calms and contemplates and doesn’t have a lot to say a lot of the time. The kind that doesn’t keep its mouth shut because it feels silenced or scared, but because it’s just contemplating a gentle hum and finds it has little to report back.
The kind — no sense in being dishonest — I really don’t know much about at all. I’m a newbie. I can think of very few times in my life I experienced this, and the couple times that come to mind, I was so certain I was mistaking happiness for settling or complacency or detachment that I overthought it so much I didn’t really fully experience it at all, and also ran from it in due course.
But right now…okay, here’s my right now: I can pay most of my bills. I live in a rental — but a house — that is both beautiful and not in any way broken. I am in the middle of the woods, every day. More friends visit now that I moved out here than I saw when I was in Seattle-proper, and when they visit, we’re very rarely in the position where one or more of us is crying or venting because our lives suck in some major way. My sister even just moved to this state, a sister I have never really had a relationship with, but who it looks like I finally can, especially with both of us being so far away from home. I’m partnered with someone I have dearly loved on and off for 20 freaking years, who is both a peace and a passion in my heart and my mind. All the drama around that when it restarted has since subsided. I feel able to be myself pretty much 24 hours a day, every day, no matter who I’m around.
Work is often a lot to manage (I’ll get to more on that in a minute), but it’s going well. I’ve been doing what I have been doing for around 13 years now, solidly, and I know what I’m doing, I have way more support for it than I used to, it’s recognized as an actual job, and as something of value. While funding, as ever, is always an issue, it’s not as much of an issue as it’s been in years past, and even when the shit hits the fan, I can usually figure something out. I’ve been able to do some work through my work — like working for the abortion clinics and the teen shelter — I really wanted to do. I may soon be writing a second book, which will carry a ton of stresses, but is something I very much want to do.
I could feel better physically, sure: my health is still not anything close to a non-issue. Some things could be a good deal more stable. Work could be less stressful. But I’m 40, an age I never thought I’d even reach as a teenager, a concern that was more than valid then. I’m sitting on an overstuffed chair in the woods on an island, with a nice glass of wine, birds flying around me singing away, the sun is shining, the air is clean and warm and I’m comfortable. And happy. And mellow. In a couple hours, I’ll go make a delicious dinner with my sweetheart, which we’ll savor leisurely, then wind down with some lovely way of connecting and chilling, and then I’ll sleep like a baby in the perfect black dark. It kinda rocks, to say the least.
Not only am I just learning how to be like this, I have yet to learn how to do my own creative work when I feel like this. I’m determined TO learn, mind you, but I’m not there yet. And I forget, just plain forget, about my own writing or making art a lot of the time because I’m all caught up in my reverie. When I realize that’s happened, I’ll start to give myself shit about it, and then I just stop. Because I don’t have to do any of these things if I’m not feeling it. But what I do have to do is learn to just let my heart be happy and my mind be quiet, one of the lone areas in life in which I am a late bloomer, and something I am actually learning to do at long last.
Work is also a bit nutty. We’ve never been as short-staffed at Scarleteen as we’ve been in the last year. I have a fantastic part-time assistant director, but unfortunately, before we could really even get started, he got whacked with some serious illness that has kept him from the work. I’m dedicated to waiting on him, because I just can’t think of anyone better for the gig, but it’s certainly been rotten timing. As well, the more years I do this for, the more really difficult situations per the users lives I find myself addressing. I have a lot of pans in the fire all the time anymore, and providing direct services AND doing all the management AND doing all the networking, locally and internationally, has been seriously hard. At the end of many a day, I’m just too worn through and tired to do other work, even though personal creative work is only so worky. Much, much more of my time and energy has had to go to educator-me than to artist-me, an irony is not lost on me. 12 years ago I made a big choice to stop teaching in the classroom, which only seemed to eventually result in my putting more time and energy into teaching, in a classroom of far greater size, more unlimited bounds and which requires far more creative thinking. Go figure.
I’ve also had to deal with some shit over the last few years per what I do with Scarleteen and the other work I do. I always did, but the longer I do this, the more visible I am, so it tends to get worse over time. Now, mostly it comes from people I think are complete idiots, and who most of the world probably thinks are idiots, or will, after some momentary fascination passes. But it’s still rough to deal with, and lately I’d just rather not deal with it at all. So, there’s this thing where I feel like I sometimes have to choose between doing the kind of creative writing and photography I’d like to do, I have done, and having some semblance of sanity. I think it’s stupid, of course, that something like my feeling comfortable in my own body and it being part of my art, or talking about sex as an adult, for adults, should be seen as conflicts. But I can think it’s as stupid as I want, and that has no input on the backlash it sometimes generates, a backlash I’ve just run out of energy in dealing with, I think. Last year kind of felt like the death knell for me in that, when I had to read someone literally calling me a slut in print, in a book in a bookstore, talking about how sex education harms young people. I wasn’t even hurt so much (I mean, hello, I *am* a slut) as I was just tired, of the sick-and-tired variety. Reading it just made me want a very, very long nap and some kind of universal time out.
Alas, of late, my hands have not been kind to me. The arthritis that’s dogged my dominant hand since my fingers were first severed when I was a kid has been a total asshole lately. My hands shake, making many of the photos I take…well, crap. I can work that out, per finding some adaptations, but that takes time, in short supply, and a deep desire to do so, which I’m often lacking. This comes in somewhere else, which is that with all the illness of the last couple of years, my body and I aren’t speaking to each other the way we normally do, something I need to work out or at least start an internal dialogue about before I can be my own art again. One doesn’t have to be at peace with one’s own body to be artistically engaged with it, but one does have to be in some kind of constructive communication. I’m working on that.
I’m behind with pretty much everything these days. Between major relationship changes, another big move, computer blitzing that requires me to need to learn some new things, a workweek that just never fucking ends and other not-so-manageable stuff, I’m just behind. I don’t like it, but I accept it, just as I accept my limitations. I’ll get it together, but it’s going to take some time, which has to be okay, because it can’t happen differently right now.
All of these I’m-going-to-do’s I am going to do. But what I’m not going to do is make any promises about them that I don’t have to. I’m all too aware of how life is, and how times like these may change, may not always be as they are, and are not anything I want to take for granted. I regret little in my life, but I think that’s primarily because I’ve let myself live it and roll with it and savor the good stuff when I’ve got it. That feels more important now than ever.
Here’s the bidness note about this: for those who are patrons of this site with your dollars, thank you. There aren’t many of those any more, but still enough that that needs be said, especially to some who have been so for many years. I still live very simply, and creative people still live in a world where we’re largely unsupported per our basic needs, so I feel blessed with that exchange. I’m also blessed in that I’ve had so many people willing to support my work who have never wanted it to be anything other than what I wanted it to be; what my creativity put out there in its own voice. Know that for the near-future, I may continue to write infrequently, and I have no idea, at all, when new art will be posted, visual or otherwise. If I do something, though, you’ll see it, but I probably will keep most of what’s very personal behind the passworded doors, so checking for updates is probably going to be best done in that area, not this public one.
That taken care of, to everyone who has read me or looked at what I do for so long, it’s a really big deal with me to have that kind of companionship, albeit mostly virtual, sometimes with little to no communication from your end. I want to make sure you know that that, too, is not something I take for granted. Your patience in me, and your interest in what I do, think, feel and say is a gift, one that’s benefitted me immensely. In fact, I’ve probably gotten more messages from readers and users here that support my taking it easy on myself, learning how to be happy, speaking my mind and my heart, than I have from most other places in my life, which has been such a gift. Thank you, and I’m taking your kindnesses and your sweet advice to heart.
That that results in some silence may not be what you intended, mind, but it’s what’s happening nonetheless, and I want to let it happen while I can. I’ll keep writing, I’ll come back to recording what I see and I’ll figure out some strategies. But not on this particular lovely day in this lovely chair when I can just enjoy a lovely life.