Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'wah' Category

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I wound up getting a pretty invaluable takeaway from the Staycation-that-wasn’t.

When it was over — or not over, really, since it didn’t really happen, but you know what I mean — I realized that I had stayed off my personal Twitter without even noticing.  Then I realized that going back on filled me with some level of dread. So did the prospect of doing pretty much anything that involved promotion or standing out from the madding crowd in any way.  While I didn’t get the time off I wanted, I was at least able to get a handful of days separate from my larger work world of late and away from its constant din. In a word, anything potentially extroverted or which carried the pressure to be extroverted made me feel highly anxious and depressed.

Growing up, music, writing and teaching were always my big loves, as they are still. Unsurprisingly, my musical abilities tended to be the ones that got the most attention and focus from others.  Some of that was just because I loved to make music, but I suspect a larger part of it was that making music tends to involve a level of performance that writing (well, until fairly recently) and teaching, especially when you do it the way I’ve always liked to, do not.

The thing is, I never liked performing. I still don’t. What I liked was making music, being a part of music, or even more to the point, being so much a part of music that what I was in those moments was music itself, separate from myself, invisible as myself.  My favorite part of any kind of art has always been the process, not the product, and really being able to get lost inside that process. Before I went to the arts high school I did, I was always in the choir at every school I attended. I remember people feeling very invested in getting solos or not, but that was never my interest. Being in the choir — in it –  was my favorite part.  I especially loved those moments when you’d be singing with everyone else, and all the harmonies would be just right: even though you were still singling just as clearly and loudly when your own voice was more audible, you’d blend in so that you couldn’t distinguish your voice from anyone else’s anymore. It was like you opened your mouth and everyone’s voice came out, and yours was only one part.  It’s the same reason I loved being in the mosh pit during my high school years: things were loud and intense, sure, but everyone was part of the crowd, it required going with that flow or people would wind up underfoot.

I loved being at the arts school. Being able to focus on my writing was fantastic, but I was there primarily to study music, and I loved that, too. At the end of senior year, everyone needed to present their own project, and I was so happy to be able to form a band and be able to collaborate with a group, rather than playing alone. But by the time graduation was coming up, I,d realized that a life in music would probably mean a life performing. Making my living as someone who only stayed in the studio was not likely to be doable (I should have learned a brass instrument, I know). If I wanted to sing, I’d need to learn to like performing. I tried. During my gap year, my friend Joe and I would play open mikes and at a couple bars and I literally tired to see if I could learn to like performing if I just sang and played my dulcimer with my back turned to the audience.  (Yes, really.  I did like it better, but audiences, as you’re probably not surprised to hear, found it a bit odd.) What about street performing, I thought? Maybe that would work. Nope. Also? Fucking brr.

So, when I started college, I decided to stop studying music and focus instead on literature and sociology, and on writing and teaching. There’ve been two decades between then and now, and a lot happened in my life and in the world in between.  And of course, silly me, I decided to write and teach about and subjects that seem perfectly normal and relaxed to me, but also wonderfully complex, so never boring, but which most of the world finds provocative and feels the need to yell about a lot.

But over the last couple of decades, the biggest thing that happened around my little epiphany I’m about to talk about is that it seems to me that our culture has become a culture of constant and en-masse extroversion to the exclusion of all other ways of being.  A “look at me” world. If how a lot of the world seems to be going right now was a kid in class, it seems like it’d be the kid who always has their hand up for every question, even though half the time, they don’t have the answer or weren’t even paying attention to what the question was.

Everything seems to involve marketing. Everything feels like it involves making yourself louder and louder and louder and bigger and bigger and bigger. If you don’t want to be on television — or, if you’re like me and that kind of visibility sounds like a circle of hell Dante would have invented if he’d written the Divine Comedy in the 21st century — it must mean you’re not really motivated to do whatever it is you do. Hell, we have reality television, and people who aspire to be on reality television as a what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up. If you just want to quietly do your own thing, it’s often assumed you must not want to involve other people or make an impact on the world, since making an impact involves being seen as widely, as largely as possible, even if what you have to offer when given those opportunities is less than the best you’ve got to offer. I can’t express how many times over the last year or two I have found myself arguing with colleagues who just don’t understand — they’re not being assholes, they just clearly don’t get it –  why I don’t self promote more, more, more and how I can be highly dedicated to doing what I am without wanting to spend more time marketing myself and my work than time doing my work. It’s gotten to the point where if anyone around me even starts the sentence, “You know, you really should promote yourself better by….” I feel on the verge of tears or shin-kicking, sometimes both.

And in the subject I work in, in sex, I feel like it’s just gotten really bad — and maybe it always was — to the point where the promotion and marketing schtick has gotten so fever-pitch that even smart people I know with great intentions frequently sound like snake oil salesmen to me. I ran from two professional email lists screaming in the last year because where I had been looking for educated community to deepen the actual work we all do, most of what I found was what sounded like a nonstop infomercial from hundreds of people at once, some of whom, it seemed to me, spent more time marketing than actually doing the work, because when they did ask about work-related things, the questions they asked were so rudimentary it made it obvious how little time they spent doing the work they were promoting.

When I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve felt so burnt out and tired, I kept finding myself very perplexed. I love the work I do. Working with teens and young people, especially when they’re in crisis, can be very challenging, but it rarely wears me out: it tends to energize me instead. I never get tired of writing: I still love the process. Same goes for teaching: I still love working as en educator.  The money stuff is always tiresome, so I often look there when I’m trying to identify a source of stress, but that’s not it. I wish I had more time for my life, still, and for my own creative work, but I’ve been working on that with some measure of success. I keep being asked for things from too many people who seem to forget I’m just one person over here, but as frustrating as that is, I can let mostly those annoyances go when I experience them. I’ve wracked my brain with all of these puzzle pieces and more, trying to find out where, exactly, so much of my stress seems to be coming from.

Then I realized that I somehow have managed to often fall into working in this extroverted mode that doesn’t work for me at all. In fact, it keeps me from doing my best work; from my best self, even. From who I am and the way that I do things best.

I’m gragarious, sure. And very open. Sometimes loud and boisterous. But I’m not extroverted. I’m introverted. It’s one of the reasons I always loved writing. It’s one of the reasons why I’m always much more concerned with getting enough time alone than with getting enough social time, and why I always feel completely perplexed when people ask me if I get lonely now that I live on the island or if I get bored out here. When I was in the UK early this year, Blue took some time off and was home alone for several days.  When he told me on the phone he hadn’t seen a single person in days, I said, “I know, isn’t it AWESOME?” (I think it is. Blue, on the other hand, was a little freaked out by the experience.) It’s one of the reasons I fell so in love with Montessori when I discovered it, where the teacher isn’t the focus, the students are. It’s one of the reasons I still love making music, and tend to save it for cherished, quiet times when I’m alone. It’s the main reason why it’s been very hard for me to have to adjust to the fact that semi-regularly now, I have to do public talks for big groups, something I’ve gotten decent at doing, but am always most thrilled when it’s over. My introverted nature is not news to me nor is it to anyone who knows me well.

And yet. Because — and really, I can’t believe how unaware of this I have been — it seems like the way things have been around this is that this, this high-key extroversion, is The Way you do them, I have tried to do them that way. I have tried to keep my own personal and professional din at something resembling the level of what seems like everyone else’s. I have pushed myself really hard to perform the way a lot of my colleagues perform. Heck, I can actually track this back to way earlier in my life, to times even as a kid where I forced myself to learn to be loud because I so badly wanted to do things, and the only way it seemed I was going to be able to get a chance to do them was if I acted like I was extroverted.

And that, my dears, is what I realized has been making me so incredibly worn out, above and beyond all else.

For an extrovert, see, that stuff obviously feels energizing and exhilarating. Not for an introvert: it gives me an intense desire for a rock to go hide under where I can take a long nap or listen to my records alone all day. An extrovert loves to be in the spotlight. We introverts generally can’t stand it, especially if we’re not at least sharing it, ideally with someone who wants that spot right on them, far, far away from us. My sense is that for extroverts, being constantly visible and in the middle of everything helps them focus. For an introvert, especially for this introvert, it feels like trying to watch one screen while 50 different screens with different things on them are on at once. It’s distracting. For me to see out clearly, I have to start by seeing in: and I can’t do that very well if I’m trying to be extroverted. It’s like extroversion puts a flashlight in my eyes.  Not only does it just feel wrong — wrong like you feel when you’re trying to get somewhere, and someone tells you you’re on the right street, but you are 110% certain you’re utterly turned around –  it makes it really, really hard for me to even remember what I’m supposed to be doing, let alone enjoy it.

The thing is, I — and my other fellow introverts — should be able to be who we are, the way we are, and do what we want to do in life and in the world in our way. It’s no more wrong or right than the other way: these are both ways of being. Not putting out a constant, flashy, look-look-look outflow doesn’t mean I don’t want to do things that have a big impact, nor that I don’t think my work has value: it usually just means that I want to be in the work and focusing on the work itself, and focusing on myself in such a way that I’m the vehicle for it, rather than the other way round.

I thought a little about some of the people I’ve admired most in the world who were clearly introverted: Blake, Goodall, Thoreau, Ghandi, Woolf, Bronte, Curie, Einstein, Dr. Suess, Jung, King, Van Gogh, Chopin, Yeats, Joni Mitchell, Georgia O’Keefe, Remedios Varo, nearly every writer and artist whose work I find most visionary and my father. Then I started thinking about how they’d fare in the world right now, and how hard it might even be to find them and what they did if they didn’t shift to an extroverted model. I mean, would Virginia Woolf really be like, “No, srsly, everyone, COME SEE MY ROOM! Pls RT!” Would Thoreau have a daily photoblog of Walden Pond? Why? How the hell would Chopin have composed anything with one hand on a cell phone? How on earth could activists like King and Ghandi have done what they did as well as they did with the kind of reactive urgency we have right now?

Then I realized that all the people on my list were brilliant people, very self-possessed and visionary people who I feel certain would have found a way to be who they are, and to do things the way that felt right to them, without taking on a way of being that would be more likely to stand in the way of their work and their lives than it would be likely to enhance it.

I am, at the moment, without solid answers about how to do this differently. At the same time, it’s not like I’ve ever really thought about it before: I only, and quite foolishly, just hit upon this awareness last week.

But I’m so very grateful to have gotten to that awareness, even if what got me there mostly seems to have been a lot of deep annoyance, a ton of new grey hairs, distraction from all of the things I actually want to do and which need a level of full attention tough to come by anymore for me to do them as well as I can, and feeling very misunderstood pretty much constantly, all unpleasant things.

For now, I’m just going to start thinking about this. I have a few strategies to start with, though, like staying away from social media I can until I figure out a way to manage it that really works for me, taking baby steps to ask the extroverts in my circles to accept I’m different than they are, doing things more quietly, even if it seems like a gamble to do so, and just reminding myself that the way it seems like everything has to be done isn’t the way everything has to be done.  There are other ways to do things than whatever the predominant model is or seems to be at a given time, something I know and have always applied to near everything in my life and my work, something I tell other people at least several times a day, and something I used to do all the time, so there’s no reason I can’t apply the same here with this, starting now.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do with my Dad was to go to Cubs games. And not just because it meant hanging out with my Dad, and also in spite of the fact that when they played the Phillies, my father rooted for them instead which resulted in things being thrown at us. I can’t decide if I liked doing this in spite of or because of the time when I was thisclose to catching a ball, some dude behind us grabbed it from me, and my father went into an invective that seemed to last for DAYS about what kind of putz someone was for taking a fly ball from a little girl. Probably both.

Even though I left Chicago over a decade ago now, I remain, and always will, a diehard Cubs fan.

If you assume I care at all about baseball, or even understand how the game is supposed to be played, you may be wondering why.

I have my reasons, but one of them is that the Cubs provided me — and provide me still — an amazing lesson in owning your suckitude. The Cubs never really acted like they sucked as much as they do, nor did we or any of their other fans. Sometimes it was fun just to see what new, creative way they’d blow a game: they have never seemed to run out of ways to do that, which strikes me as its own genius, really.

Every now and then, the Cubs would actually win or at least actually play well, and that was awesome, I suppose, but I feel like the times when that happened we were all so busy looking for pigs flying overhead or the four horsemen of the apocalypse that we, Cubs fans, were always distracted enough to not get the full impact of the amazing lack of total failure.

The Cubs, especially to me as a kid, made sucking actually seem kind of cool. Like a rebellion, in some ways — Oh, winning. That is so last year. And the year before. For everyone else, anyway. It’s cheap to be a winner: we aim to LOSE, because we are THAT MUCH COOLER THAN YOU. — but mostly they sucked, and then the next game, they got back out there and they kept playing.  And that’s been how it’s been for the whole of my life. Players keep actually joining the team and seem to be excited about it. Fans still fill Wrigley, and the jeers and cheers are full of equal amounts of love. The Cubs seem to basically give suckitude a hug, a kiss, slap it on the ass than have a beer together.  I think that’s pretty super-amazing.

I’ve been thinking about the Cubs lately, because I feel like I forgot these lessons in sucking they taught me so generously. When I was younger, they informed a lot of what I did.  I think, because of the Cubs, no lie, I was a lot more fearless than I would have been otherwise, and a lot less afraid to try things I might lose, fail or just plain suck at.

Lately, I feel like I have been failing a whole hell of a lot. Heck, last week, I had a much-needed staycation planned, and I even managed to louse that up.  One assumes there are no grades given for recess because no one could possibly fail recess.  Clearly, those school systems have not met me. I totally failed recess last week.

I keep feeling like I’m watching some of the people around me excel at things I have tried and tried to do well, but either failed at or…well, failed by my ridiculous standards.  Mind, some of these things are things where I just wouldn’t be down with, or have time for, doing the same things to have that same level of achievement.  Others are things where someone else is simply more invested in winning or succeeding at them than I am.  But with other things, those conditions don’t apply.  Some of these things are things I very much wanted to do very well with, or well with consistently, and tried the same things but got different, less awesome results.

Blue, because Blue loves me and is lovely to me, says I’m being too hard on myself.  That may well be, of course, as I’ve a bit of a reputation for that sort of thing. A couple other friends of mine roll their eyes, and with love, not malice or dismissal.

At the same time, my standards are my standards, and sometimes they aren’t actually higher than other people’s standards. By whatever yardstick we’re using, I feel like I keep failing and have failed a lot in the last year or two with a lot of things.

What I want, though, is to be able to allow for that. I want to have it be okay for me to fail sometimes, or even a lot.  After all, I try a lot of things, constantly, unceasingly, so it’s not like I can be amazing at all of them or amazing at them all the time, nor should I have to be. It needs to be okay — with anyone, but most of all, with me — for me to suck. Ideally, I’d like to get to a place where it’s not only okay, but I can have a Cubbish sort of Zen about it and actually embrace sucking.

I mean, it’s not like messing up, or not hitting the highest bar or just being meh at anything doesn’t have its benefits or offers us nothing.  It offers us plenty: humility, patience for ourselves and others, compassion, humanity, humor, and the ability to have a life that is about something more than achievement or whatever we count as success.  It keeps us playing the game, as it were, to play the game; to be in the process, not the product. I’m sure it offers more than that, those things are just off the top of my head, and I’m not where I’d like to be with it yet, remember. I feel confident that when I get to that enlightened place where feeling like a failure is nothing close to the end of the world, a place of ass-slapping comfort, good cheer and one more reason to just keep going back out on that field, picking up that bat, and trying again, I’ll have a lot more benefits to report.

But in the meantime, I kind of suck.  And dammit to hell, I am going to get okay with that being the case sometimes if I’ve got to fly to those now-unaffordable bleachers and make myself positively sick on cotton candy, cheap beer and completely misplaced optimism towards a team doing well that never has to make it happen.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Consider this a bookmark.

In the last month, we’ve had two computer deaths. One of these meant getting a new system, a new system I haven’t even had a chance to get familiar with yet, though it’s been here for a couple weeks now. That new system meant that most of what I used to do most of this site and another couple was now obsolete, and I now have to migrate everything into Dreamweaver. Like, the ten years of site kind of everything. More accurately, the ten years of site kind of everything from someone who seriously talks too freaking much. Let’s remember that I learn any kind of tech by the seat of my freaking pants: it’s insane that someone who makes so much of their living on computers has such a tiny skillset with them. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have nearly wept with a longing for the manual typewriters I used until the mid-90’s. I want them back. I understood them. They understood me. We had a much healthier relationship than computers and I have.

On the computer FAIL theme, we also needed to upgrade the Drupal at Scarleteen, which broke about eighty million things myself and my tech developer for that site have been driving ourselves crazy to find and fix.

I’ve had to do the HUGE deal that was the fundraiser (which I still have to sit down and do all the accounting for), Scarleteen traffic has been insane and I’ve been busy as heck trying to keep up. I am drowning in teenage crises, to the point that I may feel more stressed out about their crises than they do. I had pieces that needed finishing there that have been taxing. I’ve had phone meetings on various things coming out of my ears.  I have people sending me input on things, ideas on things in such a huge way that I’m dizzy, and can’t keep track of a good, goddamn thing anymore. An internet drama turned into people or groups being at risk that I was also dealing with and trying to help do all I could with. I have an amount of planning for both Scarleteen and the in-person program I direct here in Seattle that boggles my half-crazed little mind.  Money, as usual, is stressful as hell and I want to kill it until it is dead.

I actually made some new year’s resolutions this year, but they are only half-blogged.  I also have photo updates to add, but I have to deal with all the computer stuff and figure out how the hell it all works in order to do that.

In other words, I’m here but I’m not here. I will get things up as soon as I possibly can, but I have no idea when that will happen and if I’ll have any hair left on my head I haven’t pulled out by the time that it does.

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The other day, a friend called to catch up with me and asked how I was.

I answered her by saying that the house won’t stop falling apart on me, that I’ve been beyond overworked and am scrambling to make ends meet, that I spent a week with what undoubtedly was H1N1 that flattened me utterly, but that otherwise, I’m seriously great.

Which is true, even in that context of not-at-all-great stuff.

Sorry to have been so absent. I was first gone for a while because of taking my Staycation, which I completely enjoyed, especially since half of it involved Blue’s arrival. Being able to have real time together without seeing and feeling the sands of the hourglass dwindle to an inevitable and painful separation was amazing. Having the time and the freedom to really spend some time ushering in a life together we’ve both wanted on and off for such a long time was a very big deal and a seriously righteous gift.

Then I forced myself to go back to work again, which included a day at the youth shelter, where it was total pandemonium including a couple of the teen boys hacking up a lung in everyone’s face. Two days later, I woke up feeling a little out of sorts. Four hours after that, I passed down face first on the couch and don’t remember a damn thing that happened the next couple of days afterwards, mostly because I almost entirely slept through them. I was still sick — but much more lucid — for a few more days, but it took well over a week for me to even resemble being back to normal. I thank my lucky stars that Blue was here to be a killer nursemaid.  It’s crazy to be so sick you have no memory of whole days at a time.

After that, I not only had to try to jump back into work again, but into big-time high-gear.  I had abstracts to prepare, a presentation for medical students to prep and deliver, a book foreword to write for an anthology, several local meetings, an interview and all the usual work I already have to do. I read a bunch of libelous commentary in both a printed book and online from a religious conservative about me that made me want to get out a Ouija board, channel Jesus from the dead, and demand he go and do something about some of his apparent followers because some of them are really out of hand and he’s clearly the only one they’ll listen to (if that: they seem to dismiss a lot of his messages, but just showing up would at least scare the crap out of them and get a momentary silence we all could use). After that, I needed to prep a feminist carnival, roll out a huge new addition to the services Scarleteen already provides, and start prepping for the big end-of-year fundraising appeal for Scarleteen that is critical to our survival. In case you haven’t picked up on this about me already, I HATE dealing with, thinking about and talking about money. I hate asking for it even more. I just hate money, period: I’d give just about anything to live in a totally barter-based world. When my days are filled with large portions that are about nothing but finances (especially since it’s usually about finances that aren’t there), I begin to slowly and surely lose my mind. It doesn’t help, of course, that Blue is in a similar spot right now himself.

The night before the fundraising release, my stress levels and way too many 12-15 hour workdays in a row broke the proverbial camel’s back.

I had a meltdown that made almost all other meltdowns in my personal history look downright amateur.

Mind, that was also in part because of the falling-down-house. The house I rent here is 107 years old.  It’s clearly withstood a lot, but the maintenance on it over the years and the time we’ve been here has been less than fabulous, and it’s a typical old west coast house: built fast, not in any way insulated. In the last two months, I’ve had so many things break it’s just nuts, and they seemed to have liked to do so in a way that gave it all a very dramatic build: it started gradual, but then picked up so there were days towards the end here where something would happen almost daily. First it was one broken sink (paired with another that was already broken: anyone who has stayed here recently got used to brushing their teeth in the kitchen). Then a broken toilet, which we woke up to with the floor full of water it resulted in. Already, the woodstove was toast (and the landlord doesn’t want to pay to fix it), and then the heat in the main rooms downstairs broke (which is also still not repaired). Next, one of the kitchen cabinets just fell off in my hand. Then the dryer broke. We’re not provided a washer and dryer in the lease: the last were bought used, so are up to me to replace: thankfully, we lucked out and found a free one. Then the toilet downstairs started leaking, providing the cold downstairs of the house with an oh-so-wonderful urine-scented perfume.  Then — not actually part of the house, but still — my main computer system which houses all my music, all my photo work and what I use to do it with, and my most important software, went kablooie.  And because we’ve had a recent move-out and move-in here, a good deal of the house was already in disarray.

And that’d be when I totally lost it, sinking into a pile on the floor of the stinky bathroom. It absolutely did not help that in that same week, we’d decided to double feature the original Grey Gardens with the dramatized new version (which was exceptionally good, but somehow manages to be even more depressing than the original documentary, which is quite a freaking feat). Both Blue and I could identify the stage the place here was in with its matching Grey Gardens stage, what felt like only a couple steps away from a pile of cat food cans in the corner and water from the ceiling pouring unto the piano.

I needed that big cry, really. It’s hard and it’s scary to work so much, so diligently and for so long in my life and still be dealing with things like not having working plumbing and heat. I was basically raised with very strong messages that I, like everyone else on both sides of my family, should expect to be overworked and underpaid, to always be bone-tired from work at the end of every day of my life and to not find work would net me even the basic the things it can net others. Those messages in some ways were helpful — after all, they have helped me manage my expectations — but in other ways, especially the older I get, they can feel a whole lot like a curse, especially given how deeply I am realizing I internalized all of that stuff.  Perhaps internalized to the point that others read that in me and figure throwing me crumbs is just fine since I’m clearly fine with it myself and will not stop doing all I do regardless of the conditions. It’s also hard and scary to be very transparent in asking for things I badly need, and most others in my position have, knowing that ask is inevitably going to meet with at least some cold shoulders that are going to either make me very angry, or just really hurt my feelings. Some of my meltdown was me bracing myself for some disappointment I knew would come.
It’s also hard and scary for me to have someone else around who very acutely feels my pain and frustration; who I’m both really letting all the way in, and who goes all the way in when I do let them.  Usually when I totally lose my shit, I’m alone, which sucks in some ways, but in others, I can really go whole hog with a freakout when it’s totally private.

While it’s certainly ironic, since it’s not what I want, it’s no coincidence that in my relationship history, it’s more common for me to be with people who keep a certain distance from me or withhold than it is for me to be with those who get very close and go all-in. With Blue back in my life full-stop, I’m acutely reminded that in some ways, I can be somewhat Wild Boy of Aveyron emotionally: a bit feral, twitchy and skittish when it comes to anyone really being all the way open to me and wanting the same in return. I’m reminded that this was part of the issue with us way back when, and that while I’ve certainly come a long way in that regard, I’m hardly all the way there. This Mowgli still has some serious work to do in this department. However, having someone so deep in it with me who will really just let me go and listen to all I’m crying about — both the reasonable and the not-so — is a gift. I also need to remember that especially for someone who knows — perhaps better than anyone — how hard it is for me to really open up and speak to the things that scare me the most, that make me feel the most awful, that my doing so is a gift, too.


Like I said to Becca when she called and asked how I was, all of that aside, I’m actually ridiculously happy. Which might seem completely insane given all the crap I just chronicled, but there it is.

Last night I was saying to Blue that if the two of us are as happy as we have been with everything in such total fucking disarray and utter chaos, it’s kind of mind-blowing to figure how we might be if and when it’s not. Even something relatively tiny, like getting an electric blanket to help with the cold, seems to make us much happier and more giddy than it might otherwise. Life here is very good despite all the other kinds of crazymaking and badness.  It’s amazing having Blue here and continues to be awesome for us both to finally really be together. In setting up some of what we can with the place here, it feels homier than it ever has, and that process has been exceptionally nice. Nice enough, even, that when I had heartburn the other night and Blue pointed out the Tums were next to the condoms on the nightstand, it made me laugh instead of making me feel geriatric. The animals are all socializing well. The meadow I cultivated — where the tree used to be — is beautiful and flowering. I have some good work stuff on the horizon in the next six months, just have to see it all through and hopefully get there.  I have had some great help and company in Blue with some of my work stuff and functions. And while I am not in the position to cut back my work hours, I really, really want to, and that wanting is in and of itself a very positive thing.

It sucks that we have to deal with the crap that is this crumbling Grey Garden right now, but we’re still planning a move to the islands, hopefully in the spring. I think we can get through one winter here, even with busted heat. Thankfully this is Seattle, not Chicago or Minnesota, so even if we had no heat at all, it’d be uncomfortable but hardly lethal. It sucks that I have to keep pushing the envelope so much with work, and have to work so hard right now, but it’s hardly anything new.  And I *did* get a weekish off this year, and that really was a lifesaver.

So yeah: a whole lot of everything really is quite shit. But I’ll work my way through it — and get to some of the bright spots looming on the horizon up there –  and am sure I’m not only going to get through it all okay, but in some ways, all that shit only has so much impact because it hasn’t yet managed to overrun the stuff that’s really, really good.

P.S.  I deeply apologize to site subscribers for the lack of photography updates.  I actually have one fantastic completed set that was ready to go online, and two in the process of being ready, but since the main system died with all of that inside of it, I can’t get to any of that or upload any right now.  I may be able to get the data off of it in the next week, but it’ll still be a bit after that for me to be able to get everything moved over to another computer and get it all up.

P.P.S. For those of you who don’t know, when I’m silent here, I’m rarely silent on Twitter, where you can keep up with my life and work mini-updates, things that politically infuriate me, my irrelevant random thoughts and my attempts to stop eating the pretzels I’m unable to stop stuffing in my gob right now.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

I am a giant, pulsating ball of stress.

Here’s my whirlwind, as scattered and lunatic-fringe as it feels: some friends in deep crisis needing a good deal of care, more and more rape/abuse survivors coming to Scarleteen as well as more and more users who just need a kind of care we can’t give, but who often aren’t willing to get what they actually need, Blue mid-divorce which will probably get more and more yucky (paired with my own irritation at people getting married in the first place, with all apologies to my married readers), more work that just is barely paying me lately (Scarleteen donations are dismal) than any one human being can do, less work that does pay me available to me lately, a bunch of long effort expended on a maybe-second book only to get the oh-so-typical marketing team not-commercial-enough smackdown, Mark getting ready to move and going through something major to boot, Blue getting ready to move, a big house I am going crazy to keep tidy on my own, the tail end of the peer sex educator training, broken sinks, cut-down trees, overwhelming photo backlog (have been making progress, but have a long way to go) so I can get to the point where I can make some new art (which my spirit direly needs), serious impatience about having certain parts of my life start I feel like I’ve been waiting for forever, feeling ineffectual half the time even when I work my tush off, not enough help for…well, nearly anything and everything I need help with, behind on a million things from people visiting, feeling like I can’t possibly give all my friends the time and care they all deserve, money worries including old bills coming home to roost, too many people asking me to do too many things, feeling better physically but still have no answers and am sick and tired of stupid healthcare bills especially in the cultural context of a million people whining about healthcare proposals who have always had and will continue having their damn healthcare, not allowed to box which would really freaking help right now, still desperately trying to find a new developer for Scarleteen we can actually afford and not at all liking living totally developer-less, my pug is itchy all the time again, I’m sad for summer’s upcoming end, I desperately need some time alone, I’m excited about good stuff to come but also nervous as hell, I worry over both my parents a lot these days. Hell, I worry over anything and everything I could possibly worry about.  I have also been finding much of the world lately to be an utterly irritating and crazymaking place and I hate my negativity that way.

Like I said? Giant pulsating ball of stress.

At this precise moment, I’m not sure what the answer to all of this is.  I can figure out some answers for a few of those things, I can put on a few band-aids, but unfortunately, an awful lot of them are things I just have to weather for a bit.  All of this not going on at once would sure help, but there’s not much I can do about that.

I have, however, firmly decided that sometime in October, I am taking a full week, maybe even a week and a half, off.  I mean real-deal time off: NO Scarleteen, NO clinic, no work at all.  No managing anyone else’s crisis.  Part of me says I can’t afford it, but the smarter part of me that cares for myself says my pocketbook is more resilient right now than my head, heart and body are.

I honestly don’t know when the last time was that I did that, where I didn’t even check in with any work-stuff at ALL for more than a couple days at an absolute maximum.

I am taking a moment to put this here because I can pretty much always come up with some excuse when the time comes to take time off as to why I cannot, and I’m asking the internet-at-large to hold me to this, and nag me like a granny if I backpedal.  You see me working anywhere during that time?  I want you to chase me with sticks like a crow in the corn.
And if you’ll humor me, I’d like a few moments to step away from the whirlwind and daydream about what I’d like to do with that week, even about things that probably aren’t possible in reality, in an equally scattered fashion.

I want… to hula-hoop in my backyard on days when it’s sunny and blast reggae while doing so, get a footpath into the front lot where they took my tree away from, get back to baking bread especially so I can give it that satisfying thwack after it rises, make some art, have lots and lots of sex and even more kissing, paint a wall something crazy and in possibly poor taste just because, learn to take naps, go to the Olympus (and in my fantasy world, I magically don’t have to pay for it), eat too many Mighty-O donuts, get a bike ride in every single day, restring my dulcimers, watch way too many movies in a row, discover my new favorite band, have not a single pimple, find things I’ve misplaced and have been missing for years, write something completely fanciful and ridiculous of absolutely no import or consequence to anyone, not have anyone talk to me about money at all — in fact, not deal with money at all save to discover some unexpected donation that comes in to fund my taking time off and prove me right in being able to take the time in the first place, be free of awkward silences, put up curtains in the kitchen at long last so I can dance (and do other things) freely in my underpants without providing live theater for the neighbors, get a real sofa like real grownups have (if it appeared at Goodwill and was two bucks, that’d be even more awesome), giggle, sew a canopy for what’s become my new bedroom, actually experience total apathy for even just one minute, remember I don’t need to somehow write or say everything that needs saying in one sentence, get out of the city for a day, be given a bath in which someone washes my hair who isn’t me, play with my dog, take evening walks, spruce up my space for my sitting practice, have dinner made for me, read books that have nothing to do with work, have someone tell me marvelous things about myself right in my ear where I can hear them and not doubt them, go to sleep too early and sleep in too late, have an overcast, chilly day turn into the most beautiful day of the whole year, find the bathroom scrubbed clean when I didn’t do it myself, start one day with a pitcher of mimosas, go to the zoo, say some things I often feel like I shouldn’t, cry freely, have nothing terrible in the world happen for at least half my time off, find those days stretch like taffy and have each feel like a week and remember who the hell I am again, entire and apart from the giant, pulsating ball of stress I have lately become and deeply dislike.

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

This is a fucking outrage.

So, it appears that Amazon.com has decided that some books now belong in their version of the back room.  In other words, some books, which they state they consider “adult” now are no longer listed in sales rankings or topical lists of subjects.

My book — a young adult book, one right on the shelves with everything else in the young adult section at the library, for crying out loud — is among them.

So are: Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti, Cycle Savvy by Toni Weschler, Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein and too many others to count.

What CAN I still find in the rankings, which apparently now cannot, according to Amazon, include “adult” material?  Girls Gone Wild: Girls on Girls, Surrender the Booty 3: The Search for More Arse, Jenna Jameson: Ultimate Collection, Playboy: the Complete Centerfolds, Girls Kissing: Volume One, Hot BabesI don’t think I need to go on.

In other words, what it’s looking like is this:  It’s NOT “adult” and not deranked, so long as it’s porn, or salacious, or for the sexual entertainment of “normal” people. And possibly also simply not adult if it’s heterosexual or heteronormative (or tagged to the contrary).  It IS likely to be considered adult and stripped of its ranking if it’s queer (or written by a GLBT author), not hetero/gendernormative, feminist or about any aspect of sexuality for young people (though oddly, some YA sexuality guides were spared, and of the ones I am familiar with, they aren’t outrightly queer-inclusive or sex-positive, either of which may be why).

To be clear, if a person searches for one of these books by title or author, they will find it.  However, that’s only so useful.  Many people find books on a given subject by browsing the subject listings, not knowing what is available by title or author, or by seeing what books are most popular per sales: these derankings remove us from those listings, no matter our book’s popularity or relevance in a given subject.  What this also results in is a given subject, like say, homosexuality, showing books which aren’t actually relevant unless you are looking to “cure” yourself of the apparent affliction of your own identity (today, post-deranking, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality was the top book under homosexuality, and most other books in that topic are of that ilk.)  In other words, many of the listings by subject in these kinds of subject areas, have been replaced with books which, well…either aren’t really about the subject, which are protests to these subjects or are somebody’s idea of what is an acceptable approach to these oh-so-unacceptable topics.

I sent a letter, a far calmer one than I wanted to, to their executive office this morning, which looked like this:

To whom it may concern,

It has recently come to my attention that the topical listings and sales rank for my book, a young adult sexuality and reproductive health guide, “S.E.X.: The  All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College,” are now gone on Amazon, despite having active sales, and usually being very well ranked.

I have also noticed several other reproductive health guides for young people, such as Toni Weschler’s “Cycle Savvy,” and The Boston Women’s Health Collective’s “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives,” have had the same treatment.  And yet, other books similar to ours, such as Michael J. Basso’s “The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality,” have retained their rank and listings.  Why?  Who is making these decisions, and where might any of us who are authors find the clear criteria or standard on which these decisions are being made?

My understanding is that Amazon is now hiding what it considers to be  “adult” (or rather, SOME “adult”) material from its rankings and listings,  While I strongly disagree with this practice as a whole — and the arbitrary standards clearly being applied, particularly as Amazon appears to be especially targeting gay and lesbian material — I feel all the more strongly about my book and some of these others being classed as adult, as they are expressly young adult books.

I can go to any library who has my book — and that is hundreds of libraries — and see my book right on the shelves, in the young adult section, unhidden.  Why has it been relegated at Amazon to the back room?

Thank you,
Heather Corinna

Who knows if I’ll get a response, or if the response I get will…well, contain any actual information.  Clearly, an arbitrary standard is being applied here, but I have a hard time envisioning them earnestly copping to it.  After all, what exactly are they going to say?  “Yes, we do find sexual health information for young people, particularly if it addresses queer youth or is written by a queer author, obscene and do NOT feel that Girls Gone Wild is, because…well, it’s not gay, even when the girls are macking down in it because we all know that’s just for the guys watching?”

(Is it perhaps worth my pointing out that the girls who appear in GGW really NEED to be able to find books like mine?)

Edited to add this.  If they can make money off of my book, one supposes I ought to be able to voice my objections at their front door.

4/14 Update: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/14/amazon-derank-books-sexuality

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

For the most part, I usually do one of two things on Thanksfornothing.

I either a) wind up cooking a meal for people who do celebrate the holiday but who are, for any number of reasons, sans a place to go and sad about it , for I cannot stand to see people I like both sad and hungry, or b) get to spend the whole day by myself, enjoying the relative quiet that happens when a great many people are very busy doing something that has nothing at all to do with sex.

I like the latter best, and was very much looking forward to having a quiet day this year.

I did a bit of work that morning, and had my living room floor spread with OB/GYN texts for some extended research I was doing so we have some better material on yeast infections.  It was a bit chilly, so I started a fire.  At a certain point, it started to die down a little, so I opened a pack of wood from the front porch.  It was pretty moldy, but I didn’t think anything of it, save that it may well not catch.

However, within just a couple of minutes it did catch. Well.  A bit too well.  As I stood in front of the wood stove, I noticed that, in fact, what had minutes before been a slacker of a fire seemed to have become quite the overachiever.  The flames were going a bit higher in the back of the stove than they ever had, and then I heard a strange sound, something which sounded a bit like some kind of something had fallen in the exhaust pipe.

Then the flames got big.  Very big.  I went from wondering if maybe this wasn’t a little weird, wasn’t a bit larger of a fire than was such a good idea to knowing, for certain, things were very much not okay.  The exhaust pipe started to glow red, and little sparks could be seen at some points.  Then the fire in the stove started licking out of the stove altogether.  Shortly thereafter, the iron grate that sits under the exhaust pipe fell into the fire, sending out another whoosh of flames.  My dog — smart little thing that she is — ran out of the room and vanished, clearly considering it was every pug for herself.

My first thought was to grab the ceramic garden gnome on the stove — Save the gnome! – which had been sitting there since Mark got it for me, as I had not yet decided where it should go in the garden. Then I pulled the top log off the pile: that didn’t seem to help.  Then I began running back and forth between the kitchen and the living room hurling pitchers of water into the stove, since (something I have voiced concern with for some time) we are sans fire extinguisher.

In the midest of all this, there was a knock on my door, and I ran to it, threw it open, and probably scared the bejeezus out of the neighbor as I stood, breathless in blue zebra pajamas, face half full of soot with a pitcher in my shaking hand. He casually — as if I were not in the midst of fighting for my life — asked if everything was okay, as their apartment next door was a bit smoky from our chimney.  As, “I am in the middle of trying to keep the house from burning down right now, lovely to see you, but could you please come back later?” did not seem the right thing to say, and as I am terrible with other people in the midst of a crisis, and my brain was a bit addled, I said something about a log just sparking (what that meant, I do not know) and it made a hotter fire than I expected but I’vequitegotithandledrightnowthanksforaskingbutIreallyHAVEtofuckinggonowBYE.

And I think I basically then slammed the door in his face.  This from the woman who complains that Seattle sucks for having any kind of relationship with one’s neighbors.

I got back to my water hurling, and finally got the damn thing to go out.  Then I resumed breathing for the first time in a good ten minutes.

Then I sat in front of the stove trembling and covered in cold sweat for something close to two hours, willing my heart rate to go down, enjoying some lovely post-adrenaline nausea, and feeling generally betrayed that fire, so often my BFF, had not only decided it didn’t want to be friends with me anymore, but had apparently also determined that my number was up and it was time for me to die.

When my knees finally stopped knocking, I spent another hour or two walking around upstairs obsessively, sniffing the floors, the closets, the walls, because it occurred to me that I did not know the exact path of the exhaust pipe from stove to chimney, and there may well be a fire still somewhere in it that would burn the house down.  It’s taken me until today, to be honest, to feel pretty certain there is not some sneaky little fire brewing somewhere in the innards of the house that’s going to burn us all to a crisp in our sleep.

Mark was back with his ex-roomies in south Seattle that day eating dead things, but I resisted the very strong urge to call him.  For one, I don’t know what on earth he could have done from 45 minutes away.  But more than that, I had this flashback to the time a few years ago when I was here visiting, when he was making his second short film, and when I got the migraine that wound up literally freezing my body up to the point that I had to call him in the midst of movie-making to let him know I had something of a concern about…well, part of my body seeming to be paralyzed.

So, I then had this extended solitary sob session about how I couldn’t call Mark and ruin his day, or give him the impression that if he went somewhere out of reach all hell would break loose.  Silly, really, since he’s been quite out of reach many times without incident, but welcome to my dysfunction.  Suffice it to say, we had a very interesting, “Hi, honey, so how was your day?” conversation when he got home that evening, save that we mostly had to have it in the morning because I wasn’t yet ready to relive the events of the day at that point.  It says an awful lot about our relationship that I can say something like, “I think I almost burnt the house down, but can we talk about that in the morning?” and get an easy nod.

After I finally told him my tale of woe the next day, he went out and bought me Wall-e (which I consider the film Pixar surely made just for me, since no one loves an apocalypse with a gender-neutral romance as much as I).  The boy’s the bee’s knees, I tell you.

So, the wood stove is currently closed for business.  I solemnly shut the doors Thursday, and I have no idea when I will open them again. We’re going to get a chimney-sweep out here, but even after that, I’m not sure how comfy I’ll be with a fire in here without not only the much-needed fire extinguisher, but perhaps also a flame-retardant suit to wear, as well.

I’m off a bit later today to another homeless youth drop-on center, to see about adding them to my outreach roster.  The beginning of the week is going to be business as usual (save my morning fires, sigh), Thursday I go to the clinic in the morning, and then within a few hours, will high-tail it to the airport for a visit back home to Chicago, as well as to see my sister in Indiana.  I’ll be with my mother and sister for the first few days, then have a couple of days to spend in-city to see my Dad, my friend Erika, maybe a couple other folks, and a possible meeting with someone I’ve been sorting through some old stuff with and forging a relationship anew (yes, I’m being obtuse).

The fact that I expect to freeze to death, not having gone back to Midwest during the winter months since I moved here, is something I’m trying to keep from having ruin my trip. I pity the poor soul who kindly suggests making a fire to help warm me up.

(Oddly enough, the fourth fire of the year in my father’s SRO happened not the day before, on the floor right beneath his room.  He told me this the next day on the phone and I immediately thanked myself for deciding it was best not to tell him about my own little flaming adventure.  He, no doubt, would have considered it prophetic as he does nearly anything anymore.  Hell, maybe he would have been right this time.)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Just a quick bookmark here so no one thinks I fell off the face of the planet.

Most of my Minneapolis trip was great, and I got to enjoy a lot of sun. It perhaps would have behooved me to ask how warm it had been before the week I arrived before I dove headfirst into Lake Calhoun, but I survived that error all the same. The Baby Liam is well into his two’s for the good and the ill, and began calling me “Daddy Heather” for some reason, which I have no doubt his father will not think is the best thing ever. I had a migraine for several of the days there and as a result, learned a bit late in the game that the person to send for coffee for you is not your friend who a) doesn’t drink it herself and b) has a degenerative eye disease. Only many days of growing pain later did I discover I’d been drinking decaf.

It was great seeing people, and really good to have some real downtime. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to, but that was mainly because I did actually manage to truly vacate a lot of the time there, a nearly impossible task for me.

I, however, came home to considerable and very unexpected catastrophe, and need to find the right way to discuss how I’m feeling in writing without actually disclosing any actual details of the situation. That situation has me a bit of a wreck, though, so I’m not quite there yet and need a couple of days before I can write about it, my trip, or anything else.

I now return you to your regular programming. More later.

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

I finked out on the photoblogging, primarily because since I said I’d do it, I haven’t had a minute to take a single new photo. I haven’t even had time to edit more of my backlog then 50 photos or so. Mind, I would have finked on writing, too, so either way, no one would have seen or heard much of me.

I’m having a tough time managing my schedule these days, and getting all the work in I need to, which has left me pretty much without any semblance of a personal life. I did know this was probably going to happen, and did what I could to prepare for it, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this tough. Now and then, I forget I’m not 19 anymore. Back in the day, working so much was easier. When I began college, I did work-study several days a week as well as teaching special ed Friday nights, all day Saturday and most of Sunday, and carried 27 credit hours, which at the school I attended — our classes were small and discussion-based, not lecture — meant a huge pile of texts to read on top of showing up for class. I was crazy busy, for sure, but somehow I also had time and energy a few times a week to chill out, get laid, have lunch or dinner with friends, throw parties, take walks, what have you. I remember feeling tired, but both energized and relaxed enough most of the time.

My weekly schedule right now is looking something like this:

Monday/Thursday/sometimes one more day: Up at 5, an hour or so of Scarleteen work/checking, then to the showers, then to the clinic. Out of there anywhere from 4 - 5:30, usually home anywhere from 6 - 7:30, with often at least one leg of the three-bus, two-hour commute tango. When I get home, I’ll tend to the pets, assemble some sort of meal, zone out for an hour or so with a DVD or a book, try to maybe make one call or email to a friend or family member, chat with Mark, but by then — and sometimes before plenty of that — I’m usually face down on some sort of soft surface pretty early. After clinic days, I cannot counsel at Scarleteen: I’m just too wiped to handle more of anyone’s crisis.

Tuesday/Wednesday/sometimes only one of those days: Wake up around 7, an hour or two of Scarleteen work/checking, then a solid hour or two where I sit in the bath or stare at a wall, feeling overwhelmed before trying to fit in some housework then getting back to Scarleteen, email, all the other home-work stuff. These are the days I’ll also do in-person or phone meetings, run errands, squeeze in some kind of exercise, call my Dad (there is no such thing as a phone conversation with him that lasts less than two hours: he’s very socially isolated and often in a bad emotional space), deal with finances, etc. At least one of these nights Mark and I will usually get some time together, even if it’s just snuggling while watching a movie.

Friday/Saturday/Sunday: Solid Scarleteen. The pattern lately has been that I wake up at 7 or 8, start working and just work into the night until I drop. Last weekend I didn’t stop working any of those three nights until 10 or so.

Around twice a month, I can swing most of a real day off, but I usually have to prepare for those days in advance.

I’ve realized one critical difference between now and almost 20 years ago is the amount of sleep I need. Plenty of times, three or four hours a night, even if that went on for weeks, was just fine in college, and somehow I was still pretty darn alert all day. Now, even one night of only three or four hours of sleep fucks me up for a week. On days I have to go into the clinic, anything less than seven hours is just not an option.

Another biggie is that I cannot be halfway-there for any of my gigs. In other words, I can’t just float through days sometimes, present enough to be counted, but not much more than that. That was me often enough in college: I’m one of those folks who had to push a bit to get an A, but I could get a B half-asleep. At the clinic, I have to be seriously on, every minute of that day. Working at home, I am multi-tasking like a spastic chicken: since I started the new gig, I have less time in a week to do the website work, but unfortunately, the amount of work I have to do with Scarleteen has increased. Less time + more work = not good. With either job, when I’m counseling someone, they need my complete attention and investment: how tired or overwhelmed I am isn’t something I can talk about or let them see. And looking at our traffic patterns, while summer is always a bear with Scarleteen, we’ve got higher traffic so far this year at this point than we have for a few years, so chances are good it may be our busiest summer ever, with less help than usual, besides. Can I get an ugh?

Obviously, another big difference is the gravity of what I’m doing, and how in the spotlight I do some of it (and, when not at clinic, how much of it I have to do almost single-handedly). With Scarleteen, I’ll admit that it’s gotten to the point where I deeply resent the expectations people have of me sometimes, because they seem so much higher than anyone having them has for themselves. All my work at this point involves such heavy stuff so much of the time, and so much tending to the toughest parts of people’s lives, and that means that I’m more emotionally wiped from work, more stressed about being sure I’m doing it to the best of my ability. When I have a wee bit of time to myself, most of my energy goes into just refueling my physical and emotional reserves, which tend to be way past empty.

What’s had to be shelved for now? My visual art, as well as any possible photo clients. (Plus, my replacement camera I got a year ago is now currently and inexplicably broken: that leaves me with two broken cameras in need of repair, but with other bills that need to be paid before I can fix either.) Giving up one of those home-work days for photo work at this point means that the next day I work, the workload will be even more unmanageable than it is otherwise. Too, with how my schedule is, I probably couldn’t deliver edited photos to a client for at least six months, if not a year: as it is I have a good ten different sets of photos I need to edit, and thank christ those aren’t paying clients. The All Girl Army, as well as the idea I have had for reprising Scarlet Letters.  My bike: I got out once last month, and that is SO not enough. Just ask my ass. Seeing friends. My social circle here is still fairly small, but even with that, months will go by before I’m able to see people I miss; weeks before I can even chat with a long-distance friend on the phone. Often, friends have to come over to see me, and even then, I’ll be doing some work while they hang out, or I’ll feel like such a basket case that I spend the whole time we’re hanging out trying not to endlessly vent. I also used to be that friend you could call in a crisis, or when you needed to cry, and I’m not that friend at all lately. My brain has also been largely MIA when I’m not working: my level of spacing things out lately has been humiliating. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to appearances, nor would I say vanity is ever a big issue for me, but even by my own relaxed standards, I look like shit these days, too. It’s been a bumper-crop of wrinkles and greys over the last few months: I feel like I age in double-time lately.

I’m not sure what the solution is. In all honesty, I think it just has to be like this for a little while, and maybe I’ll adjust. I need/am committed to do both jobs, and truth be told, there still aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the work and not enough payment for it to really get me up to snuff financially. I’m hoping for some sort of miracle this year per funds with Scarleteen like I have been for the last couple years, not only the kind that can pay the basic bills and some reasonable salary for me, but the kind that could result in me being able to hire someone else qualified to take care of it even just ten hours a week or so. Alas, not sure what to do to make that happen that I haven’t tried already: we’re looking at a possible in-person fundraiser in the fall, but that’s a damn long time from now. But once or twice, decent funding has shown up, so it’s not like small miracles haven’t happened before and can’t happen again.

(And yes, I have considered just saying goodbye to it — people keep asking me that, so I’m answering — but via my one grant, I am committed to do it for another couple years, and too, given all the traffic I just can’t accept that there is no way to get it solvent, and make it manageable per my workload. As well, I’m a longtime activist, reared to be one: I know the drill. There are often very long periods of time where the work is a beast, where pay is infrequent to nonexistent, but when you’re making forward movement in terms of the goals of your activism, you do what you can to just keep pushing through. And until there really was something else like Scarleteen when it comes to its inclusivity, particular approach and real one-on-one service, I know that I would not feel okay leaving it. Too, my current option if I did that would be to shift to full-time at the clinic, which is not something I think I could handle at this point emotionally or practically — even that much of a commute every day would total me. Plus, I don’t think they even have that many hours for me available.)

Some of this stuff is nothing new, and also a bit of a family legacy on my Mom’s side. I was telling Mark the other day that I have this copy of a county newspaper clipping about my mother’s grandfather. The small headline simply reads: Man Dies After Stint of Shucking Corn. The story is that my great-grandfather, in his seventies, was at a farm gig that day where the job was to clean a truckful of corn. About halfway through, he had said to a couple people that he wasn’t feeling so well, but so help him gawd, he was going to finish the job at hand. When he finished the very last ear, he dropped dead.

We don’t tend to die gracefully on either side of my family, but going belly-up in a truck of corn and having it be the basis of your eulogy sets records even for us.

I have a love-hate relationship with this workaholic tradition in my family. I hate it because it has more to do with being dirt poor despite working nonstop than anything else. It’s always so irksome that so many of us just can’t seem to be anything but overworked and still barely getting by, though my version of poor at this point is obviously a far cry from my great-grandfathers: I’m typing this on a laptop, after all, I did eat decently last night, and the shirt I’m wearing at the moment has not been repaired 385 times. Too, with all of us, I think — and some of that is just immigrant inheritance — we feel like we are only redeemed or of any use to anyone by working ourselves to death. I love it because part of me is a closet protestant: I do value hard work, especially when it’s about helping your family or helping others through your work. I value dedication, and leisure/slacker culture, and how entitled so many people feel to work so little or do such unchallenging work, does gross me out. I do think work has a spiritual value for me, and I do like being busy and productive. I don’t feel like myself when I’m not working hard.

I know, I’m whining. I have been a bit down lately in the moments I don’t have to be on or taking care of people: the pressures just feel so immense at the moment, and I don’t always feel up to them. I was doing a bit of life-goaling in my head the other day: some of it may seem pathetic or silly to someone who isn’t me. Like, before I turn 40, I want to just once have an actual sofa to sit on, not a futon, and preferably have it only have butt-grooves from my own bottom, and I’d also really like to have health insurance and to be able to get my teeth cleaned twice a year. Before I turn 50, I’d love to have a house or even just a little bit of land of my own. Before I turn 60, I would like just once to only have to work those elusive 40-hour-weeks I keep hearing so much about. Before I die, I want to be able to take a full month off of everything that is everything, either by going somewhere I’ve never been, working in a garden that I know I can keep, finding the last vineyard where I can help make wine by dancing in a vat of grapes, building something with my hands or by being able to paint a wall mural, every day for that month. And I’d really like to be the first person in my mother’s family that gets to die while sitting down in something resembling a relaxed, off-duty, position. I’m almost positive it won’t happen with my mother or her eight siblings — my mother is never off work and one of her brothers, at 55, still moves furniture full-time — so the next person in line (I’m the eldest of a gazillion cousins) for that is probably me.

If I really want to make any of that happen, something has got to give at some point, man. I just, for the life of me, don’t know what.

(I’m closing comments for this one because comments just always feel weird when you’re whining.)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

blaue engel

I’ve decided that for the next month or so — however long I need — that when I journal here, I’m going to photojournal rather than communicate with words and text. Even that’s tough, posting a photo or a piece of artwork and not saying anything about it. I tell you, you’d think that my odd little mind is convinced that if I shut my yap, the world will stop turning.

One of the challenges I’ve always had when it comes to being creative in more than one medium is striking a balance. It’s fine that I have phases where one medium is the primary one, and the others more secondary. That’s not the issue, or at least not the issue when those phases are days, weeks, maybe even a couple months. But sometimes, any one way of communicating, of creating basically monopolizes all others. That one way will rudely shove every other medium into the closet and lock the door, only letting them out when they whine and say pretty, pretty please, and sometimes, refuses to open it at all, no matter the plaintive wailing, which gets softer and softer as time goes by until one can barely hear them at all.

I feel utterly steamrolled by my own words lately, both in writing and in talking. Not only is that not leaving room for anything else, they’ve been so fever pitch that managing them in the way any writer needs to has become far more difficult than it should be.

I’m missing visual imagery these days. While images certainly have things to say, they’re communicated in a silence which I find meditative. It helps me listen to the world with my eyes and my more intuitive senses. (That sounded both completely convoluted and cheeseball, but so be it.) I’m more observant of everything around me when I do photography or other visual artwork, and that’s an important meditation for someone who is a far better talker than she is a listener. (Being hyper and a bit ADD also is a factor in this.) Words tend to energize me and work me up, whereas the visual — and music, too — calms, stills, quiets and centers.

I may even just write for myself a bit in the interim. It’s been a long while since I’ve done that, sparing my to-do lists, which while they have a flavor all their own, and are occasionally amusing, aren’t exactly the deepest form of personal expression.

Of course, I can’t get away with not writing anything, nor without conversing, simply because for two out of three jobs, I need to do those things. But I think that even limiting it in one avenue will be the good news.

So, you get a piece from a full set I put up today, of Melissa (Happy birthday, gal!), which is apt, really, and not just because her setting and posture speak — as it were — to some of how I’m feeling at the moment. Even though we spent this day last October talkingtalkingtalking, there’s still that quiet, that calm, that observation and meditative focus I get when I take pictures sewn throughout.

And now you get me being quiet. Starting now. Here I am, quiet, quiet, quiety-quiet. La la la, wordless bliss. Okay, no really: right now. No, wait, I — now. Quiet. Hmm. This kind of reminds me of The Monster At The End of This Book. Fine, seriously. No more words.

(Oh, hush.)

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Greetings from the Planet Codeine!

So, I’ve been given the marvelous gift of some serious bronchitis and a bacterial infection from The Baby Liam, and the extra bonus of two totally busted up ear canals from my fever. The sick was not going away, even standing for a bit was exhausting, some of what was coming out of my throat was pretty creepy, and it’s ungodly how long it took my fever to break. Then Bri called late Friday after seeing the pediatrician again to tell me the word was that given what he had, I probably had bronchitis or pneumonia. Beyond feeling awful as it was, as one of those folks who tends to, if she picks up a bad virus, wind up with all the worst complications possible, that was scary news.

Got to spend yesterday going nuts trying to find anyone left in town for the holidays to give me a ride to the clinic. Finally, after nearly a whole day of hunting — always fun when you’re sick as a dog — 1happygirl was a shero of the revolution, and raced from an appointment to help me out. We tried to get up to the Minute Clinic in the hopes of my not having to pay out the wazoo for care, but not only did mumblegrumbleoverconsuminggreedymaterialistbullshit festive holiday shopping traffic keep us from getting there before close, I did grab the nurse leaving when we got there and she told me I needed chest x-rays they couldn’t do anyway, so they couldn’t have helped me even had we gotten there in time.

So, back we go to my neighborhood and the ER (which is a mere three blocks from my place, so I was pissed at having worked so hard to avoid the inevitable which would have involved no ride at all). I’m of course apologizing left and right to everyone on call there because growing up in hospitals, I know full well that people going into the ER when they haven’t, like, lost an eye in a car wreck or been shot in the guts is often really maddening for ER staff, but there weren’t any other options. There also wasn’t anyone else in, so I felt less guilty than I might have once I saw the ghost town it was inside. I expressed my amazement to the staff: given how freaking loony people get with this holiday, I fully expected to see the chairs full of people with head injuries from clocking some kind of relative in the head with the universal remote, post-Hanukkah latke-bloat, maybe faces scarred from acrylic nails due to a tussle over the last remaining Nintendo game that if little Timmy didn’t get this year, would end the whole damn world.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but public healthcare here in Seattle is beyond dismal. The few clinics there are tend to have intense waitlists due to the homeless population: save that it leaves me without healthcare, I’m fine with that: someone on-street is way more likely to croak from what I’ve got than I am. The one or two that don’t have atrocious reputations for charging serious sums and sometimes not even seeing patients or giving any care at all. Honestly, healthcare here (and most insurance companies in WA won’t even cover self-employeds, even if you have the cash to pay for it, no less) makes public health in Chicago look like a freaking mecca, which is just nuts since this city has so much damn money. But I can bitch more about that later.

I get my x-rays, the whole works. Let me just tell you that as a smoker of 25 years on now, having those x-rays done was scary as hell. I have had a zillion medical tests done in my life, but usually on my brain or in my guts: I don’t recall ever having a chest x-ray. So, it was all moment-of-truthy. But I was basically told that teeming bacteria from this toddler-based infection aside, my lungs are apparently something of a medical miracle and look just swell. Well, that’s something.

Two honking prescriptions, a trip to the market for more soup and such (including a pile of soy yogurt to avoid the hell big antibiotics wreak on one’s girly bits), and a call to poor Bri who feels terrible about all this later, I was back out on the couch in a codeine-robitussin induced stupor. I half-watched North Country for the gazillionth time because home alone, I could shamelessly weep like a baby during the last few minutes of the film where everyone finally stands (including two women as extras who were part of the real-life case, which is where I tend to really lose it) up for Josey and against sexual harassment. I watched that scene three times on a loop. It’s hokey, I know, but I was too ill to feel like an idiot about it, so it was very pleasant. If I hadn’t passed out right after, I would have watched the last five minutes of the season seven finale of Buffy to get the same buzz, too.

Anyway, I’m told not to expect to earnestly feel better for a couple of weeks. Wonderful.

I’m so frustrated right now: this week and some to myself was going to be exactly what I needed to get so much done, and so far, I can barely do a damn thing or stay up later than nine. Of course, it’s all doubly maddening when you already feel like shit on a stick and then not only have to deal with a couple of friends who you’ve dropped everything for more than once just not stepping up, but with the whole wonderful reminder of how much it really freaking sucks when it comes to healthcare in this country. Most of my life has been spent in the public health system, sans insurance, and the girl gets bitter sometimes. Now and then, I’ll listen to someone insured kvetch about how they’re sick and they have to get into the doctor, and what a pain that is, but that usually involves them dialing a number they already know, making an appointment, and driving a car they own to get there. Still a bitch to go anywhere when you’re sick, for sure, but that process is not a day or more of endless research, calling clinic after clinic, waiting for buses to get there or begging for rides, having to fill out piles of forms every time, sending in all your income information, being seen by seriously overworked clinic staff, and knowing the whole time that the chances of having to go to more than one clinic, paying out the wazoo every time, are high. Tack unto that, of course, the knowledge that whatever the bill is may potentially screw you for months — or when the worst happens, years and years — and leave you even poorer than you were already… just ugh. Do we have a single person working in U.S. Government who is actually, or who at least has been, for any substantial period of time, uninsured? I’m thinking not, because if we did, there’s just no way in hell our healthcare system would still be like this.

Suffice it to say, it’s doubly frustrating since chances are, the additional job I took in order to help with the existing financial badness will now likely be covering ER bills for at least a few months. Oy, that thing where when you finally think you can get even a little ahead and then get whacked with something that sets you even further back. It never freaking fails.

Eh, enough of my whinging. I’m going back to the couch. You know, the real one.

P.S. My horrendous headache just would not go the hell away, so I figured that some masturbation sure couldn’t hurt and might help. Holy mother of…something. All those women taking Robitussin to thin their cervical mucus for fertility purposes? Umm, is there a reason we can’t just use this stuff all the time as a lubricant, because I tend to be a pretty juicy gal most of the time already but that was pretty outer limits.

P.P.S. I just finished watching and what an awesome film that was.