Archive for October, 2012

Again, November

Month of thanksgiving and also, month of madness: the vaunted month where authors everywhere try to churn out a novel of 50k words or more.

I’ve tried it twice now, and I don’t think it’s for me.

I have at least two friends-in-Boston who might be doing it this year, and at least one friend from my crit group who is interested in doing it — I have to admit, the temptation to start up again is strong. But as my boyfriend says, “Nano is that abusive boyfriend who is no-good-very-bad for you and who you keep going back to anyway”, and I’m somehow oddly uninterested in being known as “that person” who cannot manage to learn from past mistakes.

It’s started me thinking, though.

Sometimes there is just a lack of perspective and far, far too much hubris involved.

Last year, I got terribly discouraged because it seemed like everyone was easily whacking out their word count within an hour and I was struggling with a wordcount in the low hundreds. Everyone, including the writers who are multi-published and do this for a living (which wasn’t too depressing); the college kids who flood the chatroom come NaNo (not that depressing either, considering I could have written ten novels in my college career instead of leveling up a character in World of Warcraft to max level as a hobby); and what was truly last-vestige-of self-esteem-killing — the under 18 teenagers who were tossing out words in the thousands that were good.

So I quit.

Clearly, it wasn’t healthy for me and I wasn’t actually going anywhere because I spent more time being terrified of being behind than actually able to write.

Not that I’m proud of quitting.

The spectre of quitting, of being lesser than haunted me for quite a while.

It was hard, terribly hard to admit that I have a horrible issue with stress. That I was under-performing by my standards to everyone, in all age ranges, in all stages of life.

Not to be overly dramatic, but it made me question just whether or not I was actually capable (or deserving? I don’t know) of being a writer. It made me wonder, if it took me ten hours a day to painstakingly etch out less than two thousand words — was it actually even worth it for my time investment? Put another way — was my world and myself benefiting more from my taking that time out to write, or would I just be doing everyone a favor if I cleaned the house, cooked more healthy meals, and volunteered in that time instead?

I had sort of the same reaction when I started reading all my food bloggers who started getting married, had babies, had cookbooks and memoirs out and had this visceral gut reaction against being left behind.

To a certain extent, I blame our society. Everything in media fills us with horror about growing old, about under-achieving for our age range, about the terror of being overtaken by the young nipping at our heels. Popular culture expects certain things of us, and if we haven’t managed that by the age that it deems proper — nothing can save you from the scorn, the disdain, the vaguely caring, mostly catty implications of being too old to have that sort of pipe dream.

Well, screw that.

I’m twenty seven this year. That’s a respectable number. I won’t care if there are 18, 17, 14 year old publishing books and becoming famous. I won’t care if other authors are juggling a day job, a husband, and three children. I won’t care for the stupid siren catcalls of popular media telling me that I’m just a washed up old nag gone too many times around the block with no new tricks left to learn.

Twenty seven. That means at least thirty, if not forty, fifty, sixty more years to live. Seventy and eighty more years if I’m lucky and if medical advancements and money says yes.

I have plenty of time.

This year, maybe I’ll do it differently.

If I do head back into NaNo madness, I’ll have a safe word.

I’ll remember that it’s a personal journey and the only person I should legitimately be competing with is myself, and perhaps not even then.

My day job right now is grueling in ways both mental, social, and physical. To compare the word count I have when I drag myself home from work after a confrontation-laden day to the word count I get when it’s the depth of summer, there’s no work, and I can just heat up pizza for dinner is complete folly.

I can only seek to live my life in a way that makes me happy and satisfied with myself at the end of the day instead of wondering where the hours went to. And I should gag and quell that stupid little voice that nags, incessantly, about how I haven’t found a way to cure cancer through my writing yet.

This time around, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

 

Love doesn’t hurt

A conversation with C the other day unearthed some things that I had not previously been aware of.

I can sometimes be defensive about my lack of appreciation for a certain person(s). This defensiveness can sometimes venture forth into the realm of absurdity, even to myself.

Why should I care whether or not some of my friends enjoy the company of someone else?  Why should I feel compelled to defend the fact that I don’t find someone congenial or desirable company? Why in tarnation should this even be an issue?

Part of it is because I buy into, or used to buy into the geek social fallacies.

Another, larger part of it is that I have been internalizing the viewpoints of one of my close friends for a long, long time now, and been completely unaware of it prior to this.

Z, who used to tell me that she wasn’t sure if I could find anyone else who would be willing to live with me for a variety of reasons. My foul temper. My slob nature. My general untidiness. The way she framed it, it was almost as if I should be grateful that she was willing to put up with me. Often, she would casually toss down comments starting with: “I don’t know if I can keep living with you because ________” or “I just don’t know who else can put up with your _____”

The same Z who would tearfully tell me I was being a dramatic attention seeker who dished out ultimatums just to see people jump when I would say that I couldn’t live in a house with wall to wall carpets because of my severe allergies. Who would tell me she didn’t think she could live with me if I continued to put out ultimatums to upset people when I said that I had severe issues with housemates not doing their chores.

Who used to berate me because I didn’t want to go out on a whirlwind of social activities the way she did. Who, on at least two occasions, made a big fuss about how not going out with her to various social events that she wanted to go to meant I didn’t value her as a friend. Who implied that my lack of  friends was both something that would come back to haunt me in the future and something that was inherently wrong with me. Who insisted, every single time I didn’t like someone as much as she did, that I give a comprehensive and reasonable list of reasons. Who would ignore my stated dislike of someone and my need to have advance warning before someone came over to the house or sleep over unless my reasons satisfied her — which of course they never did. I was always considered to be irrationally judgmental, always the weird anti-social person who had issues.

Z, who told me that she was afraid of my ending up homeless and starving on the streets when I told her that I wanted to quit my day job to write. The implications of that didn’t strike me until recently, when I realized that for me to end up homeless and starving would require losing all my friends and family’s support in every way — which turned her fear for me into yet another oblique commentary on me.

Z, who told me she’d be pissed off if she were C if I took money that I’d earned through my job and put it towards paying a cover illustrator and editor so I could self-publish. Who then clarified that this was because she didn’t think I could make any money off my writing.

Z, who once accused me of exploiting my friends; of purposefully using my face and acting “cute” to take advantage of my friends and inveigle them into doing things for me.

This woman who blamed me for being a bad friend. Who blames me for her depression, her anxiety, her melancholy — because I didn’t give her enough love, support, or help after the dramatic explosion of her relationship.

This after she dismissed my needs to wake me up on more than one occasion to cry and rant at me about everything that was going wrong. After she called me at work, after I devoted hours to listening to her vent, after I tried my best to give her objective advice only to have her blame me for everything going wrong after she refused to take my advice.

Z, who judging from all the dirty looks I get from her friends and cut direct from her mother, has gone around bad-mouthing me and my actions.  Who took an email I wrote out of desperation, telling her I couldn’t continue to be friends with her if she continued to guilt trip me, emotionally manipulate me, and blame me for everything in her life — and promptly turned that around into a “poisonous, hitting-below-the-belt, unwarranted attack” on her to her therapist, family, and friends.

 

Why bring this up now and here?

I debated keeping this on a friend-locked, private post on my personal blog rather than posting it here, on what is supposedly a more professional portal onto the world, but ultimately I thought that this was something that was worth sharing. I aimed to give enough detail to give my side of the story, how I perceived what was going on, because it’s important that it be clear when I say: this is what hurt looks like to me.

Some people may say that I’m over reacting. That I’m being over sensitive.

But I have a very real reaction to all of what she did and said over the years. I find myself doubting how lovable I am. I find myself wondering if I am going to end up friendless, destitute, with no one to turn to because of my poor personality, my bad temper, my terrible habits. I get defensive when people ask me why I don’t like someone because I feel like I have to justify myself, that I have to somehow prove to them that I’m not insane, that I am still worthy of being liked even as I don’t like someone else they do. I feel like I’m perpetually under scrutiny, constantly under surveillance, always being tested and found wanting.

Loving someone doesn’t mean you get carte blanche to constantly try to re-make them into someone better.

When someone claims to love you, that doesn’t mean they get a free pass to constantly criticize you.

I think part of why I stayed on so long in that friendship was because I’ve always been taught that being a good friend means sometimes telling your close friends something they don’t want to hear. I’ve always operated under the assumption that when you say something potentially hurtful to someone, you do it with a balance of care and love to offset the pain, and you do it because you have their best interests at heart. So I never questioned Z’s constant barrage on me.

This isn’t to say that I think Z said all that she did out of malice. Perhaps, in her own way, she thought she was being supportive and helpful as a friend.

The more important takeaway message from this for me is that sometimes it doesn’t matter the intention — it mattered that she was hurting my self-esteem, that she was making me feel undesirable as a friend, housemate, and significant other, that she was making me question my own personality, sanity, and mind, that I was being made to feel like I was a hopelessly flawed person.

I was taught to never take the sort of treatment I received at her hands from a lover, a husband, a significant other. The role I cast her in, that of a friend, almost a sister — blinded me to actions that I would never have accepted from my boyfriend.

Ultimately, love shouldn’t hurt.  Someone who loves you, be it parent, lover, teacher, sibling, or friend — they should never make you feel constantly belittled, constantly on alert for an attack, or that any love came with strings.

Even if someone claims daily to love you, to only be doing something that hurts you for your own good, that hurting you hurts them more — examine it. Look at it hard. Ask for a second, third, fourth opinion. It doesn’t matter from whom the hurt comes from, it should always be questioned and scrutinized. There is no legitimate abuse. Ever.

 

 

 

 

Of love and red balloons

It sits in the corner above the cat scratching post next to the bathroom, slightly beaten up and deflating by the day. It’s one of those metallic foil balloons, the ones that I lost interest in as a child when I realized that once you got them, they only got more and more boring as time went by. No way to re-inflate them and of a texture that discouraged playing with the way a normal balloon could be — I thought they were a bad deal.

It was brought home after the wedding and since then moved from one place to the other as it inevitably got in someone’s way. First beside the front door, then to the dining room, then to the door of the newlyweds’ room, then back down to the front door, and finally to that corner where hopefully, probably, it will stay.

But just how long will it stay?

The thing is, there’s no good way to get rid of a bright red heart-shaped balloon with the words “I love you” on it past the wedding day.  Once it’s been brought home, back into the feng shui of a newly wed couple’s primary residence, it can take on a certain sort of meaning that wouldn’t be there if it had just been cavalierly handed off to someone or tossed the day of the wedding when everything was getting packed up or thrown away. Now it’s almost a symbol of the wedding, or perhaps even the marriage itself.

While it’s still floating, it seems a wanton act of destruction, even prophetic perhaps, should one just pop and toss it. So it stays, in the corner by the bathroom, taking up the airspace above the cat’s scratching post, gathering dust and dubious glances as it awaits becoming too decrepit to keep. Perhaps even once it’s slowly wilted to the point where it succumbs to gravity and flops onto the cat’s scratching post, it will be just one of those things hanging around the house that wouldn’t survive a move, but somehow just huddles in the corner because no one has the heart to put it out of it and other people’s misery.  Or, depending on sentimentality, it might get dusted off, folded up, and saved as a memento somewhere deep in a box deep in a closet.

But why bother? The mistake was in bringing it home, because ultimately it’s just a sad, dented, deflating metallic foil balloon that will only grow worse with age — better to have just let it go when it was still a happy memory and a cheerful reminder of happiness rather than what it is now and will be.

Next time, someone should be so brave as to simply pop it and toss it.