2017 Wrap-Up

Hear it?

There it is again. The silence.

First things, first. My bad! I’m horrible at this blog thing. Nevertheless, I’m not giving up on it. Recent life has been…well, quite frankly, a bit of a train wreck. The 2017 holidays were rough. I barely survived that shit. They’re always hard, at least for the last ten years, but this year, they were pretty awful.

 

My step-father is dying of cancer, metastasized to the whole of his body. He can barely walk. He’s fallen several times, which in his condition, is a nearly lethal thing. He’s on so much morphine, he’s hardly lucid. He got laid off from his job Thursday. He was planning on resigning at the end of the month, sticking it out until then so he could get his vacation pay. His employer beat him to it and his last day is sooner than he would have preferred. He sits by the gas heater in the living room slumped over in his chair waking up for the occasional drink of water or coffee. His appetite, which was pretty good there for a while, is now bad again. He’s reluctant to get in bed because he’s afraid he won’t wake up.

 

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My step-father

My mom is a nervous wreck. She was always a control freak but lately, it’s full-throttle. I am an only child and she is estranged from her “family” so I’m all the family she’s got. And as my step-father worsens, the tighter her grip on me becomes. I’m a natural nurturer. Care-giving is in my DNA. But my life is far from normal. At forty-four years old, (I turn forty-five in five days) I am essentially a casualty of family dysfunction. (I could go into elaborate detail and maybe I’ll conjure the courage to do that one day, but now’s not the time.) That’s pretty much been my normal for the last twenty-six years. My mom is drowning. And what do drowning people do? They reach for anything and everything to keep afloat. Even at the risk of drowning you too.

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My step-father with canine buddies, Oakley and Peaches.

 

Then throw in my own issues (too many to list here, but suffice to say, anxiety, depression, PMDD and shitty self-esteem are just a few) and what you get is a big hot mess in a big hot pot. I’m doing what I can to ride it out and see it through. At times like these, I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s quote…

If you’re going through hell, keep going.

So that’s what I’ve done, kept going. Hoping and praying my little family comes out the other side of this rough patch, still intact or at least, no worse. I’m being tested and I don’t want to let the Universe down. Everything I’ve read and heard, tells me things are looking up for the next couple of years for Capricorns. It’s okay if you don’t believe in that stuff—astrology, tarot, etc. I take it all with a grain of salt and wear a big grin when what happens aligns with what was foretold. It’s fun and keeps me thinking and dreaming and that’s always a good thing. The holidays are over and we’re staring down the bulk of winter, an entire year of possibilities before us. Now I can realign my energies and focus on the things I want to accomplish in 2018. I won NaNoWriMo 2017 but haven’t written much at all since. I have faith though. The words will come. They always do. I’ve just got a little more hell to go through first.

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#MeToo

The first time it happened, I kept it to myself. I think it was the initial shock that kept me mute, the disembodied sensation that I had been evicted from my body and that an impostor, a doppelganger, would soon be slipping into my skin to take my place. She would sleep in my bed. Wear my clothes. Taste the food on my plate. Even though I couldn’t begin to articulate what had happened, I had an acute understanding that something horrible had occurred. Certainly not the sequence of events as they had played out, that would take years to recall, let alone the invisible injury, the psychic wound that is so much longer lasting than the physical act of assault itself. I knew then that I had been touched by something evil and no matter how hard I tried to scrub it away, I was to be forever marked by it. Sadness invaded my spirit and stripped away that childlike naiveté I didn’t even know I had. Like a filter over a lens, it colored my world. Nothing was outside its grasp. It touched everything, poisoned it. Other bad things happened in my life, as they do to everyone. This, however, was my secret pain.

I couldn’t remember the details all at once. It was too much for my brain to process. So I remembered in bits and pieces, flashes that shook me to the core every time a memory washed over me. Almost always at the most inconvenient places and times. Somehow I managed to keep it to myself until I turned eighteen. Then it came tumbling out all at once. I still don’t remember every detail. Maybe I never will. But I remember the feelings and that’s what really matters.

It is a sad commentary on society that it wouldn’t be my last experience with sexual assault. Throughout my life, it happened again and again in different situations with different people at different levels of intensity. I believe that first assault made the other assaults possible. The experience warped me, my survival instinct directly tethered to my sense of self-worth. On some level, you decide you are damaged goods. That there must be something wrong with you that this thing happened. You believe the lie. You don’t matter. Who cares if what you’re doing is dangerous, self-destructive or bad? You are bad. That bad thought you just had about yourself? You deserve it and more.

My experiences marked me permanently. If you’ve been assaulted, you know what I mean. You also know what I mean when I say, you can see it in others. After it happens, you develop a kind of radar for it, a knowing. Like your senses become attuned to it, that familiar bittersweet mix of innocence and shame your intuition recognizes all too well in others. Some primitive detection one wounded animal has for another. It happened to you too, didn’t it?

It sickens me that so many people know exactly what I’m talking about. It breaks my heart because I understand you. Through that understanding though, we become one. One voice that, on its own, may not have been enough to stop what happened to me, to you, to us. But one really loud collective voice that says…

No. It’s not okay. It will never be okay. But I will be. We will be.

The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was a child. My assailant lied to me, lured me in, took no pity on me, reveled in my suffering and only let me go after torturing me for hours. To my knowledge, the person who did this to me has never had to answer for it. Another time, years later, I sat on a bus while a lecherous old man leered at me and made disgusting comments directed at me. I told myself it wouldn’t last forever and endured it. In college, I told my boyfriend no, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. I lived through that too. During those situations, I told myself that I would be okay. But you know what? It wasn’t okay. It’s never okay to treat others with disrespect. And it’s not okay that people are left with no choice but to accept it or resign themselves to the notion that it’s just something that happens. A normal thing. An unfortunate part of life.

Fuck. That. Noise.

There are other moments, when it nearly happened again, when I escaped with my life and my sanity intact. I know that I am lucky to be alive. I have not always cherished this life or valued myself. That little voice inside my head has at times been kinder to others than to myself. These traumas scarred me, shaped me. I’ve had to figure out ways to grow and thrive around them. It introduced me to the darker aspects of the human psyche and gave me an intimate understanding of humanity that comes with a terrible price. It’s a wisdom tooth that can never be pulled and will always ache. I remodeled my pain into compassion, redressed my emptiness into empathy. It did not destroy me. I am a good human in spite of it, in direct defiance to those who did me harm. I still know joy, love and perhaps most importantly, trust.

Don’t let the assholes of the world take those things from you. If you read this and it happened to you, you survived. That makes you a survivor. You don’t have to tell your story, by the way. Telling it doesn’t make it any more or less true or real, than keeping it yourself. It’s your truth and no one else’s. Those who choose to tell their story, do so not for sympathy or sensationalism. We do it so that we can empower others. To arm each other with knowledge. And maybe, just maybe, to stop it from happening to someone else. #metoo

 

Do You NaNoWriMo?

It’s that time again. October. A favorite season for a lot of people. I’m fond of it too, if for no other reason, the cooler temperatures. I love the crunch of dead leaves under my shoes, the gorgeous change of colors all around and the general slowing down of things. I think I like winter best, but fall is a really close second for me.

Since I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for several years now, I’ve come to associate that event with all things fall. I find myself looking forward to it as the summer ends. October, commonly known as Prep-tober/Preptober among NaNoWriMo enthusiasts, is when writer-types begin thinking and preparing for the event with all manner of advice vlogs, blogs and ideas for bullet journal spreads.

I’ve done some of that too. I created something of a prototype notebook full of NaNoWriMo bullet journal spreads. My first attempt turned out okay. I disregarded theme and used a lot different colors, pens and ideas. Not bad for a first try. I learned a lot in the process actually. It was only after I had all but completed it (minus the actual brainstorming and writing in it) that I realized that there were a few additional bullet journal spreads that I wish I had included. Then I realized I could have made it look better with a little more forethought.

Exceed brand softcover journal 7 1/2″ x 9 3/4″ aka The Prototype

So I got out some index cards and wrote all the things I had remembered to include plus the things I hadn’t. One idea or spread per card. Then I messed around with the order until I was happy. I also made notes in what I’ve come to call the prototype notebook. My second attempt, the new and improved version, was better executed and is more cohesive in terms of color and style. Simply put, it’s prettier.

Leuchtturm1917 Limited Edition Penrose Triangle in Navy Blue aka The New and Improved NaNoWriMo 2017 BuJo

I’m still going to use the prototype during NaNoWriMo, but also the new and improved version. It’s all part of growing as a writer and at the risk of sounding pretentious, a person. This year I really wanted to streamline my process and increase my productivity. I wasn’t at all sure of how I would go about doing that exactly, only that the desire was there and that it was strong. I think, somehow, I’ve managed to do that. Which is an awesome feeling. Planning doesn’t have to be just for parents, people with careers, or executives. It can be for writers too.

Before I forget, if you’ve ever been curious about writing a book, putting words on the screen or paper, NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to do just that. Don’t over-think the 50,000 words bit. It’s really not about winning or losing. It’s not about publication. It’s about writing. It’s about trying something in an environment that embraces creative experimentation through words. The writing is still for the most part solitary but the online community on the NaNoWriMo website and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook is pretty friendly.

Consider yourself invited.

P.S. My NaNoWriMo name is: PersephoneATE. If you want to add me to your buddy list, I will add you to mine.

Good luck. 🙂

Tea Time Tuesday

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In an effort to organize a blogging schedule, I decided to make Tuesdays a sort of casual chat. I thought about what words started with ‘T’ and of course, I thought of tea. Tea is one of my favorite things in the world, so it makes total sense to me to talk about how the writing’s going over a cup of tea.

I got up today with a bit of anxiety. The particular WIP I was due to work on is one of the most important books in the series I’m writing, maybe the most important of them all. So I went to my desk with my cup of caffeine assuming the words would trickle out like a leaky tap. But no. I got a big surprise. The words just poured out. At the end of the day today, I was shocked to find I had a whopping 4,458 words. That’s a lot for me. I usually average somewhere between 500-1500 words a day. (And then I wrote an additional 365 on another WIP!)

Feeling really good about how well the writing’s gone this year. Feeling good about the series. My muse is happy with me.

I think I owe a lot of my productivity to planning. I keep a dry erase board on the wall by my desk and every day I write down the number of words I’ve written. I love to see those squares filled in with big numbers! I make a plan for yearly wordcounts that I think are attainable and set about achieving it.

I’ve kept an eye on the big picture. Eventually I will have to look for editors, a cover artist. I’ll have to find the courage for publication, put my work out there for people to read and hopefully enjoy. If I’m lucky I might even make a little money.

But even more importantly, I’ve kept my other eye on the little picture. Books aren’t written book by book but word by word. It’s nice to think about the possible future I could enjoy because of my writing but that’s not what brings me to my desk every day. It’s the little unexpected joys, momentary escapes, discoveries, revelations, the hurts that get exorcised, the love that fills all the cracks and holes within me. That’s what the writing does for me. It’s my jam. My addiction. My drug of choice. And I will never go to rehab. 🙂

There’s fifteen weeks left in the year. Can you believe it? That’s four months. Some 110 days or so. I don’t get to write most weekends, so I have less than that to complete my goal of getting all the remaining WIPs in my series to the 10K mark. That’s this year’s goal. (Next year, it will be double that, 20K.)  If I don’t make it by December 31st, it’s okay. The goal’s in place to motivate rather than set myself up for failure. It’s there to say, “Hey, you! You should be writing! These books won’t write themselves!”

Next month I’ll be preparing for National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. I’m already mentally preparing though. I’ve even watched some videos about NaNoWriMo prep known as Preptober and NaNoWriMo bullet journals. So exciting! Think I’m going to do one too.

How about you? Do you find your writing habits have benefited from structure? Do you find planning helps keep you on track?

The First Tea Is The Sweetest

Bubble tea has been around for a while now, but it’s only been within the last five years or so, maybe less, that they’ve been anywhere near me. Whenever I saw someone with one, I was so curious. Were they good or just trendy?

Well, Friday I finally got to try one.

Yummy in a cup

I got mango and strawberry flavored black tea with peach pops. It was fruity, sweet and delicious. I will definitely be going back and trying more flavors. Fortunately, there are a lot of them. 🙂

Backstreet’s Back! No, Wait…

…I’m the one who’s back. Yeah, that’s it. Sorry. I was having a 90’s boy band flashback there.

Scary.

I’ve seriously neglected my blog. Not happy about that but I suppose if I was going to neglect it, it’s been for the best of reasons. Rationalizing? Who? Me? *looks all around*

I was writing. Yes, you read that right. Ever since NaNoWriMo 2016 I’ve been writing every month. I mean I was always writing, but never with such regularity. I’ve been keeping track of my wordcount and it’s been consistently good this year.

Define: good. Well, with the exception of two months, March and May, I managed to write 19,000 words or better. August, was my best month yet. I wrote 28,000 words. *wiggle butt chair dance…yes, there really is a wiggle butt chair dance*

Technically, this is a chair spin not a chair dance but you get the idea.

But I’ve missed blogging. So I’ve rededicated myself to getting back to it. I’ve come up with a game plan and a structure for myself. This is coming from someone who would say her boogeyman is structure. I crave it yet I will always fight it. It’s a yin-yang thing that I’m learning to embrace rather than resist. Check me out. I’m getting all Zen up in here.

In short, I invite you to revisit. I’ll be here. 🙂

Oh. And before I forget…

My Poe

I got a wonderful surprise in the mail today, my new Jonelifish. A gorgeous blend of black, gray and red. The quote is from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.

A Hairy Weekend

My husband and I took the dogs to the vet early Saturday morning for their annual checkups. I always dread it but now that it’s done, I’m nearly overcome with relief. And they both got good reports, which is reassuring. Especially with regard to Gypsy, since a few months ago she had major surgery. So we couldn’t be more pleased about that.

We have two canine furbabes. (And a feline furbabe who managed to avoid a trip to the vet. Clever girl.)

Gypsy is a German Shepherd-Labrador-Pit Bull mix. She looks a little like a devil dog or a badass being nearly all black and business-looking. (This was especially true when she was a puppy. Her eyes were a bright, golden yellow that made her look a bit like a wolf and she was way leaner back then too, so those traits served to make her appear more wild and uncivilized). But it’s just her look. She’s really a big weenie. (Shh, don’t tell her I told you.) She’s got these big, over-sized ears and frequently whines and groans, in her attempts to talk like I’m told all German Shepherds do with their humans. Her favorite topic of conversation is, “When am I getting my treat?” 🙂

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Rudy, is a hound of some sort, Mountain Cur, possibly?-Labrador-pit bull mix. Gypsy’s the older of the two and Rudy, the bigger of the two is the baby. Well, technically he’s not a baby or puppy anymore. But based on the fact that this animal wants to be in your lap versus anywhere indicates that his self-image resembles that of a Pomeranian. He doesn’t realize he’s a big, clumsy, 75 lb infantile hair machine. And I don’t have the heart to tell him the truth. 🙂

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Winter

Today marked the Winter solstice. The shortest day and the longest night. It’s officially Winter. Winter until March of 2017. In east Texas, it feels like it ends a little sooner. In fact, Christmas is going to be mild this year. Certainly not the Winter wonderland they sing about in Christmas songs. I’m not saying I want a bunch of snow but a little would be festive. As Christmas only comes but once a year, snow would be nice to see if only once a year. You know? At least there’s snow falling on my blog. 🙂

 

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