Unabridged Me

JUST ANOTHER WRITER

We journeyed to a holiday house party and returned unscathed.

Okay, a bit verbose, archaic, and not entirely true. I’m sick. In bed, muscles weak, gasping for breath when I move, ill. So, unscathed does not apply to me.

The rest of the household, they are good. Energetic, happily going about their business making messes, good. 

So I am laying down, unable to sleep any longer yet unable to get up, pondering my existence. Okay, also not really. I came to terms with my existence long ago. But having returned from holiday with family, and having sick brain on top of it, leaves me pondering something. 

The visit went well, all things considered. My father had his usually skirmishes of opinion, with every member of the group including Vivian. After dinner all individuals went our separate ways to different corners of the house, unwilling to give up our solitude developed over years of living alone or with few people around. 

And by Monday, it was over.

Stepmom back to work, sister on her long drive home, dad helping his mother-in-law with her businesses (despite his retiring years ago), and me packing us to go home. Questioning the wisdom of flying as late as we were. 

Despite all our differences and disagreements, I love my family. My mom and dad have supported me through crazy life situations, and at the end of the day they are people I can rely on regardless what is happening.

But that does not minimize the discomfort of changing routines and being in 24/7 energy contact. 

I finished packing everything and decided to take a nap, as we had about an hour before leaving for the airport. I was already exhausted, sleep not being a friend of mine even on vacation. I laid down, drifted off, was dreaming…

And woke up with a start as I heard my father hollering and cussing in anger. I paused, on the edge of the bed, with my brain suspended in a sleep fog. What the…? I strained to hear the reply, wondering if I needed to jump downstairs and throw myself between some people. 

Then some words drifted into my consciousness.

Football. They were discussing American football. Cleveland Browns, to be exact.  And with that I fell back to the bed, lying with my arm across my eyes, flinching as I listened to the tone in my father’s voice.

I’ve heard people say time softens. Whether it’s easing of emotional pain, or distancing from a traumatic event, people like to assume passing time will lessen it. Which for some things may be accurate, like a cut or a bruise.

For other things we adapt. We change our reference towards the event or situation and fold it into ourselves, with varying degrees of success and side effects.

But unless intentionally focused on mitigation, personality traits strengthen with the passing of time. Our normal tendencies become exaggerated as we age, often supported or at least ignored by loved ones accepting this is who we are.

Granted, I have changed. Been forced to change. 

But I wonder if my changing wasn’t in fact merely the stripping of some traumas and distortions, allowing me to be closer to the child me. Then again maybe not. As with all things personal, I question my ability to see myself clearly.

My father has strengthened in his opinionated loudness. Namely, my father does not appreciate the nuance of debate. And if you disagree, you are wrong. While this in itself is not unique, my father backs his opinions with loudness and profanity. 

Same point, just louder. 

Of course, he’s not the only one in the family with this tendency. Both sisters and I are opinionated, and we don’t like to back down if we feel we are in the right. Though we have a stronger appreciation regarding debates and differing opinions. 

All in all, barring the football skirmish of which I had no part or interest, most items involving ideological differences were avoided. Meaning we did not talk politics, religion, economics, and in the case of my sister and dad, a discussion regarding public education and disparity of socio-economic status was walked away from. 

Instead all attention was focused on the toddler. Cute, attention grabbing, opinion diffusing toddler. 

Who has an amazing ability to walk away. My daughter walked away to sulk in her room no less than 3 times.

Although child psychologists, and critical parents et al, may find issue with a 3 year old walking away when upset, I was ecstatic to see the behavior. Primarily, it means no tantrums. No kicking, screaming, mucus filled tantrums.

But long term, my daughter already knows how to regulate her emotions far better than most the adults at the gathering. Followed up with a verbalization of exactly why she was upset. 

While there are plenty areas where my mood instabilities and sensitivities to stimulus will inevitably cause her issues, I can say there is one area of strength. 

My daughter will understand her emotions. 

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Drinking a Toxic Potion

November 22, 2017

The cherry seawater might actually be killing me.

I know I said earlier I thought it was the safest bet, but my body is not appreciating the ingredients. Lately my body is cramping and my body’s waste water is reflecting signs of toxicity.

So, all things apothecary from my mother will now be treated with suspicion.

I guess it was worth the attempt of not getting sick, as well as keeping my father from being exposed to anything. I now have data to back up my general suspicions regarding my mom’s medical opinions.

One might challenge my conclusion, stating I cannot be sure the drink is causing my body’s reaction.

Well, one might be correct. Except the only thing changed in my diet was the elixir, and after one day of flushing with water I feel better. Not exactly scientific, but enough to support my already existing bias of resistance.

And it’s not like my body is a computer system, with data points collecting for me to query or analyze with any resounding conclusion. Data points would make debating about food beliefs easier, but I can’t really be sure the data wouldn’t be manipulated and changed to support any argument anyway.

As much as people try to convince me that data is immutable, cannot be changed, and thus entirely trustworthy, I will always disagree. Because data is not understood in it’s raw form, requiring human touch for meaning. And human touch is subjective, fallible, and inclined to support its own biases.

Before I jumped off a cliff, quitting Corporate America, I had been miserable in my job. Well, not entirely, let’s be honest. The structure and premise of my job was a boring enterprise, and entirely unsuited for my way of thinking.

As in the case of medium, lean-and-mean, companies I came in at one position and was allowed to grow and develop as far and as fast as I could prove myself. To a point. What started as an experiment for me, hey let’s give this a try and see where we go, became a several year process of educating myself, researching, trial-and-error, and ultimately ending up in a management position.

Of Human Resources.

Now tell me what is the image you have when you think HR Manager? Yup, me too. And totally not me in personality.

Maintaining things makes me want to scream. Files? Forget about it. Setting standard processes, and making sure they are followed? Be a damn adult already.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys it. We all have our strengths. HR Operations is not mine.

The early years were awesome, in that I charted my own course and was self-teaching in all possible categories. I learned there are some areas of HR I find interesting, namely those involving psychology or creativity (I know, die of shock) and I was reinforced in the areas that just totally suck.

During that period the company was making me an amazing cocktail of free reign potential, and I was drinking what they were selling.

But as with all things made up to be too good to be true, this potion created a toxicity in me that was impacting my very essence. I was settled into HR operations, with very little respect or acknowledgment regarding what I brought to the table.

It happens. The pat her on her head isn’t she cute, but she doesn’t really know business and isn’t she so young.

Forget I was responsible for a multi-million dollar department with a global company in my previous experience.  Not bitter. Really.

Instead I fell into a pit of despair and ohmagad is this what my life is becoming mentality. I struggled daily with working in a corporate environment, which was never a goal in my non-existent plan, doing things I couldn’t stand. The toxicity was building in my body, and soon my life would be affected irreversibly.

Then things got really busy. Like implementing a new system while integrating three acquisitions busy. And for the first time in my life, I found myself more on the IT side of things, assisting with two systems and understanding large picture theories and how things would fit together.

I enjoyed myself. Despite the stress and exhaustion. And since I was intimately familiar with the systems, it was natural progression to begin data analysis for my boss.

So when things settled back down, and I was back to managing the crap (again no offense), I started looking elsewhere. Thinking maybe data analytics would be something I could really sink my teeth into.

Why not propose a new position at my current company? Because despite the explosion in revenue, it was still a lean and mean shop. A friend was working her way into the Business Analyst position, and the two separate positions were not needed.

And… despite having my boss’ full support, it was still a pat her on her head isn’t she cute she doesn’t really understand business environment. I would never be more than what I had clawed my way to being. And long periods of exposure to the potion caused a toxicity level my body couldn’t flush without full quarantine.

Several interviews and a few companies later, I came upon what I thought would be my mecca of jobs.

A company recently moved their global headquarters to Denver, and they were staffing up, creating new positions, and were rumored to be an amazing place to work.

The position read as my ideal scenario, and when I interviewed in person I could almost believe the rumors were true. The company was a case study for Organizational Psychology everywhere. The sense of support for the company was cult-like, palpable as soon as I walked in the door.

I made it pretty far in the interview process, and almost convinced myself I would have been happy there. I was sipping their tonic.

Lucky for me I didn’t get the position. Instead, life events led me to a different path. One where there is no potion and my stress level is lowest it’s been in years. My body has flushed the toxicity from my system, and I am moving forward with my complete brain rather than creating scenarios where I can be happy with only my left hemisphere working.

Of course, it may be true that I am mixing and consuming my own libation in my current endeavor of writing. Though, since it’s my potion, I’m unlikely to view any of the symptoms as toxic.

Sickness and Sleeplessness

November 20, 2017

The last few days Vivian has been sick.  Okay, more than a few days. Six days to be exact.

Though I am not using this as an excuse of not writing. Even though I want to.

Rather, the sickness brought all activity to a halt. Namely because she was horrible coughing, mucous oozing every where, sick. And as normal with toddlers, she was hard to contain which means germs were hard to contain.

In the best possible manner, I isolated her and me from the remaining individual in the house. I knew I was collateral damage, but it had to be stopped.

Which meant I slept on the couch near her room. Or tried to sleep. It didn’t work any of the nights I did it.

The first night was the worst.

Anyone who has an infant can tell you stories of sleeping upright while the little being in your arms attempts to breath and cough without much muscle memory to assist. If you are lucky, you own a recliner or a bed with lots of pillows. If you aren’t, sofas are the next best thing.

It was one of those nights. Vivian woke up every hour, crying and uncomfortable. Resorting to what I knew, I propped both of us up on the sofa so I could adjust and pat her as needed.

Unfortunately, Vivian is no longer 15 lbs and under 2′. She is now close to 40 lbs and more than twice my length.

Which resulted in zero snooze time for myself, my arms falling asleep due to being at odd angles while I watched my phone or tried to doze.

Several friends asked about taking Vivian to the doctor. Meh. I knew we were in day one of full symptom explosion. If night two offered zero relief, then I would consider the doctor. As I see it, Vivian’s system was doing what it is designed to do.

If we happened to get into Vivian’s doctor, he would have said meh it will be okay, it’s just a cold, here’s a flu shot for the family. No thanks.

Given the time of day, it would be an urgent care clinic which would have probably prescribed something unnecessary because I would be the upset mom who just needs something for her baby to sleep. And here’s a flu shot for the family. No thanks.

Before anyone gets in arms that I neglected my child, her fever responded to basic ibuprofen and her breathing was not labored while sleeping propped up. Please shush.

My system is another matter entirely.  Namely, I am older, have more breakdown in my biology, and apparently did not develop the immune system needed to deal with petri dish explosions toddlers heap upon household heads.

Of course, getting sick was not an option for me. We are traveling to my father’s house tomorrow, in celebration of the wondrous gluttony that is a national holiday. My system needed to be the best it’s ever been.

For anyone who has travelled ill, you understand the plight. No amount of medication will ever assist when trapped in a tin can of recycled air. Of course, fellow passengers become no fans of yours either.

Secondly, my father has slid into, for a lack of better terms, elderly living. While I admit I do not age in my mind, it’s hard to deny the aging of a parent when you see them once every couple of months.

Exposing my father to anything will not do, not at all.

Lucky for me, my mother was there for the rescue. Of course, I should use quotes for lucky but I’m going to leave voice creation up to you.

Let’s lay down the background. At least once a month my mom sends me anti-vaccine information, usually surrounded with the-man-is-spending-money-hiding-this-from-you propaganda.

Everyone makes their own educated (or not so educated) decisions. I lean slightly in favor of science, so Vivian has already had her full course. However, each parent makes their own decisions.

My mother is a firm believer in supplements, organics, and has limited her diet to very little because of leaky gut syndrome (learned about online) and thyroid issues. She also enjoys her wine and eats out frequently.

I am not criticizing my mom, I have my own things to be sure. However, the above is important for the following.

My mom offered to pick up something for me, and I requested Vitamin C. In fervor my mother brought over an entire apothecary of oils, potions, feet reflexology, and other things to bombard my system.

The first item, a potion that tastes of cherry juice and seaweed and looks like sediment from the bottom of the ocean. I read the ingredients, mostly B-complex Vitamins. Okay, not going to kill me, it will give me energy after sleepless nights.

The oils I treated with more suspicion. Especially the one to go on my feet. Full transparency, didn’t do that one.

So while Vivian’s body does it’s thing, assisted by ibuprofen and quiet time (which is nearly impossible with a toddler, no matter how bad they are feeling), my body was assisted by ibuprofen, Vitamin C and B complex, and… cherry flavored seawater.

As of right now, Vivian is on the last legs of expulsion. I am fighting the good fight. Towards the end of the day my head hurts and my throat aches slightly, but no mucous or coughing, making contagions easier to contain.

And after all this, there are some things that just have to be faced.

No matter how good a solution was a few years ago, you have to take in account different environmental factors. You can’t prop up a toddler and expect to doze.

Suspicion of western medicine might be a genetic trait. I have to watch this, as I know for a fact I do not want to end up on the other side of that pendulum. Why nature and not nurture? My inherent nature is to reject most things that are my mother’s traits.

That discussion is way too long and for another time.

Nighttime without stimulus can do odd things to a mind. Insomnia has taught me this already, but taking care of a sick child provides a different environment for the mind.

My Twitter feed took an interesting turn those nights.

Brains and Houses

November 11, 2017

I was haunted.

Losing my mind, sleep deprivation, fainting spells, neurons firing odd, neuropathy in the extremities, hearing things, straight up losing my mind. I was going blind in one eye, which happened once during pregnancy due to blood flow but not before or after, and my tinnitus was so severe I felt like I was standing under major power lines at all times.

Medical science had little to offer me. Given an MRI, came back clean. Awesome, except still didn’t know what was wrong.

My grandmother-in-law said I brought back something from Panama, though it started before going. Abuelita (Ita, as Vivian calls her) is old school Native American/Spanish, but damned if Vivian didn’t suddenly have a new imaginary friend.

So less than six months after purchasing and moving into a house, I was ready to walk. Didn’t care if we lost on it, I needed out.

It wasn’t just about my mental state. Though my mental state could have been self-created due to my complete discomfort and extreme stress at work.

For the entire time I had lived in Denver, I hadn’t lived further than a 15 block radius. And I loved where we were. Five minutes from downtown, readily available public transit, walk to parks and the longer I was there the more markets and shops were available.

My mom thought I was crrrraaaazzzzyyyyy.

At least when I was renting on the North side of the main street, I was near a synagogue and the Hasidic community kept it pretty low key.

I move eight blocks away, the other side of the main street, and suddenly I am in the barrio. Cholos working on their cars and having “yard sales” of football jerseys several times a week. Rottweilers behind fences, and a hybrid church having services at 2 am. The kicker for my mom was Denver Housing Authority located not even a block away.

I was good with it.

Two reasons why.  First, I lived in the neighborhood for years and witnessed changes. Lightrail was going in just a couple blocks south, opening the entire corridor to young, educated, well paid individuals who work downtown.

Sucky thing about public transit. It goes in to help those who do not have transportation. However, the result is to push those same individuals further out of the urban area where there is no public transit as the section of town becomes gentrified by professionals wanting to live near downtown.

At least in Denver. Read a study on it, and watched it happen in real life. Unintended consequences of ideological intent.

But from my perspective, first home purchase needed to be a financial investment. I was heavily laden with student loans and both of us worked for a big box retailer not making much more than poverty. We bought in where we could afford, with me seeing all the signs of having a decent return within five years.

In case you were wondering, and even if you weren’t, I was reared by two very left brained business and accountant minded individuals. Financial brains are apparently genetic. Or nurture. But that is a different discussion.

Second, the house was my ideal, albeit a slight compromise due to being half a duplex. A 1923 Craftsman bungalow with all the original details intact, like bookcases around the coal fireplace and trim around windows and doors, plus a finished basement with a lowered floor as a modern living room.

Living there was a labor of love, redoing the kitchen and making the house a work of art. And yes, I had our return in less than my goal of 5 years.

The neighborhood started turning early. For about 8 months I watched the neighborhood, the investors come through, the sales prices. And in true me fashion, I said out of the blue it’s time to sell.

So we sold. In a sellers market.

Which was great except when it came time to buy.  Our agent wasn’t great, she let me lead, which wasn’t smart because I was emotional about being homeless with a toddler and I was leaving a home I designed and loved and couldn’t afford the same neighborhood any longer and….

So we ended up on the other side of town. Still in the city of Denver, not in urban Denver. Me and suburbs, no bueno.

Should have known the first night I wouldn’t make it. It was too damn quiet. Like seriously, quiet! And we weren’t even in a good part of the suburbs, because there is always the part of me that sees potential and refuses to pay top in an already awesome neighborhood when I can live in a not awesome neighborhood and get more for my money.

Plus people who live in ideal neighborhoods are not my ideal neighbors. They are pretentious and ridiculous and bore me beyond tears.

In fact, a running joke with my previous co-workers is I like my neighborhoods rough. I never had any problems, all the violence in my life came from people I knew.

Beyond not being able to see the skyline, and having to drive 20 minutes to downtown, and living in an area where the oldest house was 1950’s ranch, and having to drive the industrial corridor, and…  I missed my old neighborhood.

Sounds of trains and freeways, ghetto birds (a.k.a. police helicopters), and yes there were guns. Though it was usually a shotgun in the air during a party.

We did find some suspicious bones in the back yard when planting a garden. The area had a much rougher past than when we lived there. No questions, no answers, leave the past where it lies.

But the new neighborhood was different. Eerily quiet, with cameras on the streets watching everything, a sense of something about to break at any minute. And gun violence, like drive by shooting at houses gun violence.

Guns in themselves don’t bother me, but it was sense of fear and apprehension. People were violent in both neighborhoods, but in the second neighborhood people were afraid of authority as much as anyone else.

In our old neighborhood, make eye contact, be friendly, don’t get in their business and they don’t get in yours.

So regardless the physical insanity descending upon me, I needed to move. And we did. Like I said, we couldn’t afford our old neighborhood so we moved a bit north. Oddly enough, closer to downtown and in an even more ideal house.

My kind of neighborhood. Still rough, definitely not an easy past, though changing quickly. Haven’t heard the ghetto birds as much, and only shotguns were on 4th of July. Unfortunately a lot of the neighbors are already insufferable, but I don’t exactly take cookies to every door so who cares.

No strange medical symptoms, never found out what was wrong, and Vivian is back to her hands and feet being her imaginary friends.

I’m going to pretend that’s normal until told otherwise.

One Thing I Will Never Eat

November 9, 2017

The other night we went out to eat at a carnivorous-centric restaurant.

Though there seems to be one of these restaurants popping up on every corner in our neighborhood (eyes roll), this one is particularly close to my heart. It’s true their food is a-fing-mazing, but that’s not the reason for my passion.

What is particularly interesting to me is the name. The restaurant, as mentioned, is meat focused with a full view curing room and tip to tail philosophy. And is named after George Orwell’s revolution inciting pig in Animal Farm.

The irony cannot be missed.

Eh, maybe it can, but not by me.

As I mentioned, these types of restaurants are all over the urban core of Denver. Part of the whole movement back towards artisan living, with best examples found in cities like Portland, Seattle, and Denver where hipsters with too much money wander around gentrifying the city while loudly staking claim on better ways to live.

Not saying I don’t benefit. My property value goes up, though new neighbors tend to be individuals I would rather not deal with, and we have some pretty good restaurant options.

Restaurant options being by far the best of the whole scenario.

As we were sitting at the restaurant the other night, amusing ourselves at the pretentiousness of the staff, our waitress asked how we enjoyed the charcuterie board. Definitely one of the best we’ve had, and she then hesitantly explained where each piece was located on the animal.

We were amused at her concern. Vivian already knows hamburger comes from a cow, just as she has gotten eggs from chickens and then cooked them. No break in the chain in our household.

Though totally get her concern. Most people are not as familiar with their food and would rather just eat than know. We eased her by explaining our experience with a pig’s head. Well, not mine, though I was witness.

A friend and her new husband had just returned from their honeymoon trip, and we decided to take them out to a new restaurant we had discovered maybe two months earlier.

Keep in mind when I say new, I mean new to us. I’m pretty sure the restaurant had been there for several years before, but I hadn’t been in that part of the city since it was warehouses and a coffee shop that had only coffee and books. That’s right, no food, no wine, no beer, just coffee and books.

The coffee shop tried adding a wine bar as the area improved, and sadly went out of business about two years ago. Rent was too high.  Different demographics.

This restaurant, similar to Old Major, sourced full animals and changed the menu based on what part was being butchered at that time. Lucky us, we were there on the night they reached the head.

Now my friend was newly pregnant and still queasy from the blessing that is hormonal shifts and morning sickness of early pregnancy. Or in her case, all pregnancy. Though I believe this has gotten better with each subsequent child.

Side note, pregnancy suited me incredibly well.  I was sick a total of two times and felt pretty amazing even in my brain. Motherhood is an entirely different story.  Ten months versus a lifetime? I will not be having another child, stop asking.

That night was a decent night for her stomach, thankfully, because the two men of the table decided to share half a pig’s head.

She and I both opted for the vegetarian platter. Ya, I get it. But I’m not a super carnivore and sometimes meat is just not for me.  And for her, sometimes meat is not best for stomachs not inclined to keep anything down. Or at least, it sucks on it’s way back up so best not to chance it.

So instead of eating we had entertainment as two men sat across from each other and discussed which parts each was going to eat. All in all, it wasn’t bad. Until they reached the eyeball.

I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to food. I will try everything at least once, especially when traveling. Almost everything. After watching them try to cut out the eyeball, slice the eyeball, and then decide who was going to have the cornea… ya, I’m good. Eyeball is not something I need to try.

Dialogue on our side of the table while this was going on? Reminded us of biology class in high school. Fetal pigs and eyeballs. Apparently separating ourselves into some form of intellectual query rather than having any sense of empathy for the animal. Or feeling the gag reflex thinking about the texture touching their tongues.

Did you know your cornea has the same texture as a wax ball?

Ya, I know. Probably a useless fact. I could have gone a lifetime not seeing a half chewed cornea come back out on the plate.

And of course, at the same time the pig was being eaten we were being sent text memes of a dead raccoon on the side of the road with a get well balloon tied to it.  All in all, an entirely barbaric evening surrounded by decadence of a pricey restaurant in downtown Denver.

We still see those friends from time to time, mostly holidays and birthday parties. They have three sons now, and of course Vivian is front and center of my life. Restaurants of most sorts, particularly overpriced tip to tail restaurants, are few and far between.

Except when I scrounge enough from the change jar or short us on groceries to visit my favorite restaurant of irony.

Losing Voice

November 8, 2017

I need a waterproof laptop. Or at least a tablet with keyboard. Nothing fancy, just something for the shower.

If you have any suggestions, let me know. Tired of my ideas sliding down the drain, forever lost to me.

I haven’t written for a few days. Okay, a week. And this isn’t due to lack of ideas. I have no less than 3 drafts sitting, waiting to be published.

Rather, it’s a lack of voice. Well, lack of voice I want.

The 3 drafts that shall not be published are very essay in orientation. I start with my normal story telling, but I end up in a how-to or advice essay. Sophisticated language, resources, the whole shebang.

Which would be fine, if that’s what I wanted this to be about. However, as we all know, there is a plethora of authors talking about how to write, how to be published, how to blah blah blah. I have nothing to offer that hasn’t already been sent to the ether of mass language collecting on the internet.

Rather, I prefer to use this medium as a skill development, word experiment, and sometimes just plain cathartic, tool. When I am in essay mode, I’m pretty far from experiment and cathartic.

I lose my story telling voice.

It speaks to where my mind is when I start writing. Whether I am available to vulnerability, or if I am trying desperately to wrap my consciousness in intellect where things make sense, people are puzzles to be solved from afar, and drama and trauma are things to be studied from a distance.

In essence, a very distant and safe place. Yet this is not the place from which my best stories are told.

This medium has developed a creative non-fiction voice where I can reflect my wit (though debatable depending on who’s reading) and my sense of things. Above all else, I can combine words and phrases, build in story-long metaphors, and create a world for readers.

And for the last week that voice has been absent.

So as any skilled writer would do, when something is not working you have step back and take a look at where the words are in relation to your world. What formulas and equations were working, and what styles are not.

Having hit a brick wall in creativity, exhausted from my mind being pulled in various directions and a lack of sleep, I defaulted to what comes easiest. Which is essay.

But reading my own essay writing is dry and boring. I enjoy writing essays, I adore researching and finding more information, but I think that form is better suited for those who have a natural voice for it. Rather than merely a voice from years of practice.

In reviewing the posts where I feel I have done the best, I see writing I enjoy the most and receive the best feedback is writing laced with memories, humor, and a little shock and awe at the end.

The last piece purely due to my inability to tie up a story.

I can end almost any type of writing, except stories. Goes back to my whole-life-doesn’t-end philosophy so … flash fiction and personal realizations through creative non-fiction are my go-to.  With a tendency to drop a bomb out of thin air like I quit my job.

This voice fits me. I have fun when writing it. I don’t bore myself to tears and just stop writing mid post.

Unlike the several drafts that sit waiting for me to hit publish, which I won’t do. If you could see the number of drafts sitting out in no man’s land of my previous website, you would understand the regular struggle I have with holding voice.

However, this being said, I realize I cannot let my unpublished items sit in an internet landfill, never decomposing. To push myself, I will revisit and edit for voice, which in itself is a skill I need to work on developing.

In fact, I’m pretty bored with this post too. It might be I let it sit too long. It might be I’m just tired. Regardless, time to wrap it up.

On a completely different note, I am collaborating with poetry again. Jumped right into the deep end with us co-writing a sestina. A form based poem, it’s long and can get complicated.

Here are the first six lines of what will be a total of 39 lines:

People speak of losing time/as if time were a commodity to be lost/an item dropped from a pocket/or shoved amongst gathering clutter/an object traded or bought/passed down through generations.

Stay tuned.

And publish.

Beta Readers and Feedback

October 31, 2017

Today Vivian and I headed south to have lunch with some ex co-workers. We try to do this at least once a month, in an attempt to stay in contact despite not having proximity of space for relationship maintenance.

I’ve been to the office a few times since I quit. Several times to train my replacement and a few times for lunch. The first few times were a bit surreal, as if walking into an alternate universe where everything looked exactly as I left it yet everything was different.

Namely, I wasn’t there any longer.

My office had another person with the same title, staff had overturned a little bit, and the shared reality of the office had continued without my presence. In my mind the office was as I left it, yet I knew it continued without me.

Today was different, as I’ve been gone long enough to move onto my new reality completely. Which in turn means the business in my brain has moved on as well.

Though I was still asked a damned payroll question today. I will never get away from payroll.

Lunch had managed to translate into new realties as well. The first time we had lunch together, there was an awkward how-do-we-proceed-with-this-new-relationship feel about it. I was still deep in the business, and they were still feeling the lack of my presence. According to them.

Today I no longer felt the sense of business moving without me, and we were able to discuss things beyond changes since I’ve worked there.

Like my writing, which of course is just standard catching up what’s going on in your life conversation.

We talked about how client writing is making me slightly paranoid regarding technological advances. After all, you can’t research cutting edge tech week in and week out without the brain seeing some potential.

Potential that was confirmed by my friend in IT. Thanks, Matt. I could have probably used some nah it’s all in your head, not yup you are right we are seeing the birth of Skynet. But the spider web of connections in my head regarding technology was a mere transition to the topic of creative writing.

I was asked by one individual if I was writing anything other than for clients, to which I confirmed I’ve re-upped on my blog if only to practice my skills. One of my friends commented it’s good I’m doing creative writing for myself and not just client writing, and then quipped that means I can finish my story.

The first friend then replied the story is finished, don’t you remember?

A little background. In about June/July I was on a writing frenzy. I was writing all the time in my blog, and my creative writing was getting juiced as well. I posted a (very) rough draft of a short story for some feedback.

Which was all over the board.

betareaderThe feedback I received provided a standard bell curve after dissemination, and I realized it was probably worth editing. Which I have since done.

These two friends represent opposing sides of the bell curve.  Well, maybe not opposing. One friend enjoyed it; however, she believes it’s not finished. The story is a flash fiction. I pick up in the middle and I end in the middle.

She wants to me to complete the story, for the protagonist to find resolution and a happy ending despite her unhappy circumstances of life.

My response? The story is finished. It’s done. Life does not wrap up in pretty bows when situations move on. Life is on-going with one ending: death.

The other friend hasn’t read the entire 800 words of the story. Probably because I did post a (very) rough draft. Though her complaint comes from the story being too detailed. Which I get, however I am not going to change most of the details as they set mood.

My sense for not editing to that feedback was confirmed when she stated she skims pages in books of a well known romance author. He puts in too much detail about setting.

While listening to this discussion, and finding out what everyone was reading in general, I got a sense about reading audiences. And whether or not to write to an audience or write for self, hoping the right audience is out there.

Personally, I see both scenarios benefiting authors.

It’s important for authors to know there is an audience, as well as what reader experience is going to be brought to the table. If anything, it helps with word choice and editing decisions.

On the other hand, putting too much stock in individual readers will ultimately confuse and confound the writing experience. Of the four friends at the table: two hadn’t read the story, one didn’t read it entirely, and one felt it was incomplete.

Frankly, my story makes her twitchy because of where I left it.

Am I going to change the story to fit either of the two who had feedback? Not entirely. From the first time we had the conversation, and we’ve had the conversation about this story before, I learned some of my (not so) well placed clues were hard to catch. This caused the ending to be more mysterious than needed.

This opinion was backed by a beta reader who has extensive reading experience in multiple genres.  Feedback? Well written but didn’t understand the ending. Noted.

So I am not dismissing reader feedback entirely. More edits are due as I tighten the story, after which comes more beta reading and maybe some submittals.

I do think finding beta readers and critique partners is important, though. Feedback is necessary for editing, if not for the story.

Today I am writing as soon as I have a thought.

Well, not exactly as soon. I needed to rinse my hair, towel off, make myself decent, and descend to my computer.

But close enough.

I have been struggling with the whole concept of niches. As I mentioned before, I started on social media as marketing and market research for my writing. Not my business writing, that fell into my lap. My personal writing.

It’s true, I have nothing published to date so why would I need to market?

To see if there is interest. Despite the appearance of an impulsive nature and wayward mind, I am risk averse when it comes to putting forth efforts. I think I’ve explained the whole perfectionist thing in a previous post.

One thing that has always gotten in the way of my writing is concern I have nothing to say of interest. Words and I have a long standing relationship. But I lean towards functionalism. If the words I produce serve no function other than purging my thoughts, then there is no point.

Ya, I hear some of you. Purging my thoughts serves a function. But language is developed to communicate. My thoughts and I go way back, like my whole life, so purging serves no function. If what I write does not communicate to another person, no reason to do it.

Which is why I never wrote in a diary. Diary writing always felt pretentious for me. It serves a purpose for some, but for me it never felt like a productive use of my time.

Academic writing is different, and therefore easier. There are several purposes: to make a point based on research and intellectual debate, communicate a new theory, or in general educate the masses.

But creative writing has always fallen into the void of what is the purpose? What is the function? At the end of the day, do I have anything to contribute to humanity’s ongoing monologue?

When I realized writing is something not going away, and trying to avoid writing created a miserable soul deadened creature, I had to approach it systematically like all things anxiety causing.

The blog came first. A jump in the deep end and see if I can swim attempt, which left me floundering and bored quickly. Until I busted the seams of creative language use and found a few loyal audience members by way of co-workers and family members.

Next comes true market research (albeit completely amateur with no methodology). Is there an audience, and who are they?

So I read how to approach marketing on social media, and I was introduced to niches. It’s not a new concept, businesses the world over have specialized and focused in on their target consumer.  But social media? Really? I need to decide what subculture for my writing, and then stay there?

And this is where I struggle. I’ve known this struggle with Instagram for years, which is why I post rarely and have never really cared about followers.

People unconsciously arrange themselves in niches, and if you are not in their niche they are less inclined to follow.

And followers/friends mean little to me in social media. Except that if people don’t watch you, no one sees the stuff you put out, and then your research is flawed and provides no usable data.

More importantly, no one reads your writing.

So I had to solve this problem of social media and unlock the mysteries of why marketing people are all agog with the potential. Empirically I understand algorithms. I get how systems do what they do, and I am reaching a much larger understanding of how human behavior lays down upon the system and furthers the driving force.

So ya, I get why marketing gurus say find a niche and stick in it. But I find niche driven behavior boring and stifling to my creativity.

While I was still bumbling around Twitterverse as a newbie, bouncing into things and figuring out how this whole mini-blog, stream of consciousness world worked, I tried to limit myself. I attempted to find a voice to speak to who I thought I wanted listening.

And I was bored. Both with my feed and with what I was writing and saying.

I tried playing games, and it was fun for a little while.

But the more I understand the system, the better I am able to operate within it. What I’m finding is different cultures respond to different tweets, and invariably not everyone will respond the same. And I’m okay with that. I’ve had crazy response to the most random  thoughts in my brain, and poems I thought were amazing received little to no feedback.

At first.

The more you put yourself out there, the more response and feedback you receive. Which is impossibly hard and easy at the same time. I hesitate, delete, and sometimes just don’t say anything at all. It’s overwhelming. The weight of untold people reading a tweet is crushing.

At the same time, these are not people who see me every day. Liberating an otherwise socially reserved nature to experiment, explore, and challenge who I thought my audience would be as well as my own interests day in and day out.

Which is not niche driven.

I like a myriad of topics and large buffet of information to absorb. And this is how I am choosing to interact with the platform.

I admit I avoid certain conversations and topics. Even if I agree with the sentiment, or some language moves me, I will not respond. Not because I’m not taking in the information. I read everything. I prefer some things about me remain unknown, just as I would rather remain off the radar of certain types of people.

I’m not here to shout from the mountains.

And for those who say they are on Twitter “just being me,” you are in a niche. Look at the feeds followed and likes/retweets. Most will find they like the same things they produce, creating a homogenous group of interests and philosophies.

Just being you is tribal and niche behavior.

However, none of this understanding of niches and Twitter helps me with the one question I am asked repeatedly in writing circles, and with which I will struggle forever. What genre do I write in?

I don’t know.

And I’m not sure I want to be defined by a genre either. Similar to my hesitancy in choosing a career path, or anything that requires high levels of specialization, I think I would become bored if I had to write within a specified form and style all the time.

I understand there are reasons for it. Namely, readers have expectations to be met. So they shop genres that will provide their style of escapism, edification, or time passing.

Yet I find myself bouncing between prose and poetry, essay and aphorisms, all of which do not have an underlying genre. And not because I don’t know genres. I know all the forms, styles, tricks, history of creation, blah blah blah. Maybe what I write is too close and I can’t see the genre. Then again, maybe I just write.

So until I am asked by a publisher what genre my story is, I will keep writing whatever I feel.

And don’t be surprised if my next post or two has nothing to do with writing. There is only so much writing I can do about writing.

Thoughts are bouncing in my head like wayward balls from a ball pit.

I think I have one in my grasp, and it slips off my finger tips to bounce around the concrete cavern of my mind. More often than not to get lost in a corner somewhere.

As mentioned before, the largest issue is when the thought occurs.

Today was no different. We had yet another birthday party to attend. The son of a friend is turning four. Since they have two younger children, they hosted the party at a local trampoline gym.

I was familiar with the location, having thrown our own toddler party there, so my normal strange environment anxiety wasn’t kicking in. Being around people I didn’t know, eh. We’ve been to their house for parties, I knew in general who I would see.

However, the sensory overload was more than expected.

In May of last year we had a tremendous hail storm. I was still working out of the house and spent my days about 20 miles south. The storm dumped water where my office was located, but coming home I passed snow plow trucks pushing a foot of hail from the roadways.

The summer has been filled with door to door solicitors and sounds of nails banging into roofs.

West of the city received the most damage, including the mall where the trampoline gym is located. Most of the mall is still closed, nearly six months later, with some peripheral locations opening.

What that means is everything within the gym is newer than it was last spring. In designs for children, newer means brighter. Full rooms of carpet with pops of neon color jumping out in rapid pattern brighter.

Okay, I got this.  Just don’t look down.

Which was fine to a point. Until I noticed the smell. The carpet and interior still had a bit of straight out of the warehouse chemical smell, which they tried to hide with fruity air freshener.

Just breath shallow.

The party started as soon as the place opened, so before I knew it The Wall was pumping loudly from the speakers and tons of screaming children were running around.

The music was not an issue. I like Pink Floyd. In fact, their odd choice of music for a children’s venue helped me to focus on something other than screaming, shrieking, yelling, and crying tiny beings all around me.

So many children running around, attracting and repelling like atoms. No sense of boundaries or self, children change course mid thought causing collisions between adults trying to not run over the tiny being.

But I survived. Vivian had fun. And as we were driving away I started having amazing ideas for writing. Deep thoughtful ideas about tiny humans and not so tiny humans.

Yup, I said I was driving.  All I managed to hold onto was the beginning line to this post.

So here I am wondering what else to write. I’ve led you up to this point where I am in the car, having amazing thoughts, and then boom… nothing. Kind of disappointing, I know.

And that’s how I feel when I have thoughts bombarding my brain in locations where I can do nothing to transcribe, record, or even notate. While driving home I attempted to stop my brain from thinking. If I don’t allow my brain to move through a concept, and I focus on developing the perfect opening line, than it should all still be there when I’m ready to write.

Right?

Wrong.

My brain doesn’t listen to me. My mind wanders as I drive, even as I focus on operating a machine. As I slow down for a red light, my brain thinks about how to describe the carpet. As I check my blind spot and change lanes, I focus on the confusion regarding music choice.

And it’s not just thoughts, words are developing and forming. Amazing phrases are flowing through my head like a sparkling stream from one ear to the other. I sit in awe at the beauty flowing past.

And then straight out, a waterfall of words.

I will never know if the thoughts are really that spellbinding. Or if the words are interesting enough beyond not using the every noun. Because once it’s thought, it’s gone.

Today was a busy day, way busier than I prefer. After the party and a nap, we took my

20171029_001126

While my mom was driving, I was taking pictures.

mom to the airport. To return just in time for another party.

 

This time we went to my in-laws for their Halloween party.

My sister-in-law and I were talking about my posts and having thoughts in the shower and driving. She recommended we get a recorder for me so I can record my thoughts while driving.

A water-proof recorder, of course.

And that idea was kind of brilliant. I don’t think I would ever use it, though. Mostly because starting a new habit is difficult and takes focus. The reason I have most my ideas while driving or in the shower is because my brain is not otherwise occupied. It’s free to do it’s thing while muscle memory and sensory input take over.

And I listen to music while driving. Which gets my brain all creative like and into a different zone. Talking out loud would definitely interfere with my (poor) singing.

Until I can solve for where I am when ideas drop from the sky, I will continue to post blogs late at night when I can patch together something I hope is similar to my thoughts. Sleep deprivation seems to have the same conduit affect as showering and driving.

I just have to keep myself off Twitter.

Games Writers Play

October 26, 2017

Throughout life writing has been a butterfly hovering and then flying off. I’ve spent hours writing, and I’ve spent years not.

Not to say my inner voice isn’t always running at top speed.

Usually in showers and driving. Words gifted from my subconscious descend upon me with clarity and precision. However I can’t write them down, so I am stuck repeating the thought while trying to either avoid a speeding ticket or rinse off.

Unfortunately, my mind has a mind of it’s own and runs away with the idea, effectively creating and pushing any decent stuff out of my brain before paper can be found.

But I digress. Writing for me comes in torrents with gushing in every direction or bare dribbles as I attempt to focus on important things.

Of course, surrounding environment plays a huge role in whether I am flooded or parched.

While I was getting my graduate degree I worked in a call center for a waste management company. The pay was tolerable, the work load light (barring blizzards), and in the early days society was limited allowing me to focus on my studies.

The graduate course I attended was a front runner for accelerated online programs. While some may snub such styles of education, the system is perfect for students like me.

In a traditional system, I performed well in the first month and the last month of study. First month because I was fascinated by a new topic, last month due to anxiety of meeting expectations. The 8 weeks between bored and frustrated me.

Hosted by a state university, I was able to earn an accredited Masters in Arts while consuming information in mass. Finishing a topic before boredom set in. The graduate program presented me a challenge of learning 16 weeks of information in a 5 week period, with the same expectations of performance. I was in cerebral ecstasy.

That also meant I was reading during lunch, reading at night, and writing papers and emailing in assignments while sitting at my computer between calls.

My boss knew what I was doing. Talk about big brother, call centers watch everything. But I was performing above metrics, so they didn’t bother me.

As I mentioned, society was limited so I was able to push through a magnitude of reading and notating during lunch.

Until Troy.

Troy was (or still is, I don’t know) a very typical post-Goth individual. He alternately dyed his hair blonde and black, and was sure to wear short sleeve collared shirts so everyone could see his star tattoos despite the dress code.

And of course, wore all black. Always all black.

I admit, I wear majority black accentuated with gray. However, my reasons are pure aesthetic laziness. In the morning, I don’t want to worry about separates matching. I grab and go, focusing my mind on other items like making sure my toddler gets in the car before I drive off.

I do have to focus on matching shoes, to each other, but that story is for a different day.

Troy was ego-centric, highly emotional, and constantly in a state of angst. The epitome of poet and alt rock musician.

He was also very intelligent.  Which, when combined with his childhood and life decisions, gave support to the image he worked so hard to propel in efforts to equally push away and entice other people.

At some point Troy started talking to me about something I was reading. I know for sure it wasn’t me. I don’t approach in general, with rare exceptions, and at that point in my life I was an island with nothing but ocean around me.

Not really sure how our friendship progressed to the state it did, but when two writers meet each other they will inevitably throw out they are a writer and begin talking and bonding over writing.

Except in the cases of competitive people. Since I am not competitive, one-upping writers make me gag and turn away.

At the height of our inescapable bonding, I was taking a poetry class. I was not in a creative writing tract, yet this class required me to learn not only history and differences of form but write in every form studied.

So Troy and I started a game, via IM.

Each week we chose a form. We would alternate writing a poem in the prescribed form based on a theme decided by the other person. Troy would pick the theme, and I would write a poem. Then we would switch.

The person who picked the theme would get to grade the poem for both form and theme strength.

Yes, all this between phone calls. I was in the commercial division, he was in pro accounts, we had time. And yes, all under big bro’s tech spying.

We had a pretty laid back boss. As long as her boss didn’t walk behind us and see what we were doing, we were golden in her eyes.

After the first day of independent writing, we upped the ante on ourselves and each other. We co-wrote poems, taking turns on theme. I would pick a theme, Troy would write the first line (or first two depending on form), I would write the second (or 3 and 4), and on and on and on.

We played this game every day for two months. Together we created some astonishing poetry.

None of it transcribed, saved, or archived beyond whatever IT did with IMs on their server.

Part of what worked so well between Troy and me is there was never any physical intimacy. I was coming out of hell and wanted nothing to do with most of humanity, and he was all agony over his ex/girlfriend/wife (she was all three during our friendship).

Even if there was physical attraction, it was quelled early. He was too much emotional maintenance for one. I was a bare ghost of a human for two. And for three, we were too similar.

We were not a soul split in two, we were mind clones. There was compatible intellect, curiosity, and boredom in equal measures. Of the same topics. Yin and yin do not make a whole.

About a month after the height of our friendship (eating lunch together, hanging out after work, writing poetry) the company went through a restructure. Troy was laid off.

We maintained contact for a short period of time.

Then my life went through a restructure. And we slowly drifted away as is natural in friendships developed in daily proximity between two people who are not inclined to reach out.

Troy called me randomly about two years after we had drifted apart. He and his ex/girlfriend/wife had moved to the suburbs, and he was working construction. Troy explained he had a dream in which I was screaming, and he felt an overwhelming urge to save me.

At the time I was evolving into a fully content being. I didn’t want his kind of saving.

Troy admitted it was pretentious of him to think I needed to be saved by anyone.  In all our time, conversations, and mind melding that was the first time Troy dropped his hero-to-all-tortured-women filter.

We talked for about 15 minutes and never spoke again. And I don’t miss Troy. We were never meant to be more than an intense fling of intellect.

But I miss the games we used to play.