2021 in Writing, 2022’s Slow Start

Most years I’ve posted the wordcount for writing in the previous year right after the writing year ends. Which is November. October 31st is my last writing day of the year, typically. November got complicated and December was worse. January has been chaotic, but at least it’s a little less emotionally fraught. Work is demanding in a new and stressful way, which takes some of the energy that normally would go do daily writing or being creative or just…anything besides sitting on the couch under a blanket and watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote.

Hey, don’t hate. MSW is fucking amazing.

Anyway. It’s been cold, and Sarah and I are back in our form of quarantine because of omicron, and the world is dark all over again in new and painful ways. And everything is exhausting. Work is exhausting. CVG is exhausting. Choir is exhausting. Writing is exhausting. Trying to deal with people is exhausting. Trying to deal with people who have feelings about me is exhausting. I don’t think I’ve written a word in a week, and I don’t feel rested, either.

But I’m here. And I am trying to make good choices when I can. I’m exercising most days at least for a while. I’m drinking water when I remember. I choose to watch things with Sarah (when she’s up to it) that make me feel good. I read stories before bed that lift me up instead of feeding my insecurities. I’m looking ahead at the next job I want inside my company and working on how to get there. I’m not hating on myself when I fall down.

And that’s…about as much as I can really ask of myself right now.

Here is the writing summary for 2021. I did only write really 3 works if you count part 4 of the TMOI series as a single novel. It can also be read as 12 oneshots for 14 total works. Either way, I don’t think it matters. I managed 300k words in the second year of the world coming to an end, and that is worth celebrating.

I’ve been working on an MCU fairy tale, but then after that I want to go write another original novel. I have…40% of it figured out. Which is to say, I have my main characters, my world, and my narrative style. I’m just…lacking in plot. I’m working on it. I decided I didn’t want to go back to the urban fantasy I started previously because I just can’t get my head around parts of it. So I’m starting over.

It’s a tough time to be stretching for creativity, but I need that stretch, I think.

The one good thing I can say about *waves at everything* is that…I’m not any more scared of most things than I was before. I’m better than ever at getting shots and having blood drawn without passing out, though that may just be repetition with all the damn tests I have to get on a frequent basis for my illness. I don’t know that I have much improved my self esteem when it comes to my writing or even singing, but I don’t think it’s much worse, either. Events that rocked me to my core didn’t tip me over. I’ve questioned if I can keep on doing all the things I do, but less so whether or not I’m worthy to do them.

In a world where so many people, lives, hearts, minds, spirits are broken, where so much tragedy and fear has overwhelmed every day of the last nearly two years, I didn’t lose those things. I lost other things, lots of them. But I didn’t lose myself.

I’m having trouble getting the MCU fairy tale out of my brain, but I think that’s partially because of aforementioned exhaustion (especially the work-related stuff), and partially because I’m not sure what I need from it. Usually my writing is about saying something I believe and simultaneously feeling something I feel as deep as I can. And with this one, I don’t think I’ve figured out how to really do either.

Which, maybe I should just pause and write the original thing and feel my stuff, and then see how the MCU fits upon return. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened, even if it’s annoying. I like being able to start and end a project all at once!

Don’t mind me. I’m just fussy about myself. I hold to standards I would never so much as suggest to anyone else because I always want to push myself. I can do better. I can be better. I can work harder. I can be smarter. And if I can be, then I want to be. Even when I might be better served taking a break.

There’s a balance in here somewhere. I have no idea what it should be. I’ll keep working on it.

But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Keep working on it. Keep trying. Try harder. Keep stepping forward. Keep failing. Fail harder. Get up. Make more art. Art harder.

There’s a universe inside me. A million stars around which orbit a billion stories. And I’m going to tell them all for as long as there is breath in me.

If we’re all only as much as what we create to leave behind, then I’m going to leave a library.

I know nobody reads this thing except maybe…3 or 4 of you? So I’m ending here to see if I can churn out a few more words tonight. But I leave you with this song. I’ve spent the last several years building up playlists of music for writing, but the vast, vast majority of it has been vocal. Somehow, now I’ve turned around and I really want non-vocal music for writing. I have a playlist of 122 songs, some brand new to me, some I’ve loved for literal decades.

But one of my oldest is this. It’s the 2nd track on the first piano CD I ever owned, bought in middle school. The first track is one intimately tied to spiritual practice. But this one has always just helped me quiet down and think.

So if you need a moment of peace, here’s “Nightfall.”


When we look up sometimes

It’s beautiful and sunny in Minnesota today, and I actually managed to sleep some last night. I haven’t looked at Twitter in more than 24 hours, and so I’m feeling okay.

So here’s a happy song. It makes me feel a little better, being reminded that there are still beautiful moments in the world even when it feels like everything is going to hell. And that the only thing that can lift me up right now is myself, if I “keep on keeping at what [I] love.”

I wrote more than 6,000 words this weekend. So I definitely did something right.

The only thing I can control is myself, and sometimes not even that. So I’m going to let the happy song play, and put whatever good I can summon into the world today while I’ve got it.

The sun is shining, and today, so can I.


March: Into isolation

I am actually typing this a close to a month after the last update, realizing that this month of chaos has been one I entirely missed on the blog. To be fair, the world right now does not look the way it did a month ago.

At the start of the week of March 9th, the spread of COVID-19 was starting to make real ripples in the world.  We weren’t in lockdown then, but that week was when we started to really think about it.  By the end of the week, Sarah and I managed a pretty intensive grocery run, figuring we weren’t going to want to get out to the stores again for a while.  That Saturday, the 14th, we had a gathering with volunteers from CVG.  We were in the same room, but there were fewer hugs, no handshakes, and a palpable difference in people’s body language as we got used to stepping one more pace back from each other.  We didn’t, then, know anyone who was sick.  We figured the world would have to go a little quieter, that people wouldn’t hang out as often — but not that no one would leave their homes.

Sunday the 15th, Sarah and I celebrated Ostara with our Clan.  We had our traditional egg hunt and the giving of chocolate.  It was also a celebration for me, because Friday the 13th had been my last day at the previous job and I was taking a week off before embarking on a new phase in my career.  We played games until 11pm-ish, glad for the big dishes of food and company.  But even then, we were still talking about seeing each other sometimes.  Not often, but sometimes.

Monday the 16th, Sarah changed her mind, the of us to really declare a full lockdown.  She asked me to cancel all hanging with people, and pretty much forbid me from running errands or doing other tasks that might put me into contact with others.  She worries because she knows I’m vulnerable.  We took off in the car to deliver Ostara chocolates to those who hadn’t been able to come, and we spent a little time wandering around Northfield because we were there anyway.  But we felt a little bit like we were the odd ones out.  After all, kids were still going to be in school for a day or two, and the distancing was more voluntary than necessary.

That whole week went by in a blur, partly because we both got hit with absolutely horrific seasonal allergies, and partly because the news in the world was rapidly worsening on every front.  The common areas in the condo closed, cutting off access to our pool and workout room.  Schools in MN shut down, ostensibly for a longer spring break, but the rumblings of something more permanent were present.  By the weekend, March 22nd was supposed to be a ConCom meeting and instead it turned into a series of video calls because everyone who wasn’t “essential” was staying home with almost no exceptions.  Runs for food and basic necessities still happened, but most people had not set foot out of their homes for days, Sarah and I included.

That’s also the point when I started to recognize the effect of isolation on myself and took to ranting on Twitter.  But COVID-19 cases were mounting everywhere, and I was still vulnerable, so I assured Sarah I would not break our quarantine.  We set up calls twice a week with our CVG team just to hang out virtually and keep each other company.

Then I started work at the new company, and the last full week of March vanished into a rush of learning new systems, new names, and trying to do it entirely remotely as the company (and many others) had sent everyone to work from home without exception.  The economy was suffering hard, and all indications were that things were getting worse, not better.  Deaths were piling up, and hospitals were out of PPE.  People were sewing masks out of t-shirts.  Unemployment shot up.  Fox News quit lying about the pandemic.

Sarah and I started trying to do something musical or meditative every other day or so, trying to keep ourselves balanced and positive in a world sliding down an exponential curve to hell.  I wrote a new translation for a cover of “Diamond Crevasse” from Macross Frontier; Sarah is still mixing/balancing the tracks before we put in a visual aspect and post it online.  I started a oneshot on my list from years ago.  I got my first paycheck, but the company also took a hit.  I realized I was going through cycles of not sleeping 3-5 nights, then sleeping well for 2-3 with no appreciation for which nights were in front of workdays instead of weekends.

And now here we are.  March has ended, and April begins with the world fully in the grip of COVID-19.  We haven’t hugged anyone but each other since March 16th.  Haven’t spoken to someone in person other than the security guy in the building when picking up packages or the chiropractor since March 18th.   Haven’t run errands, living 95% off our badass grocery run with 1 instance of delivered food, since March 14th.  We wash our hands between loads of laundry because I have to touch the machines down the hall.  We meet our CVG folks on Tuesdays and Fridays to chat, and the choir has started doing “guided rehearsals” over the internet.

People have said this is like a war, but I think it’s more akin to exactly what it is — a natural disaster.  And so I’ve been reminding myself of the Survival Rule of Three.

You can only go three minutes without oxygen.  Three hours without shelter.  Three days without water.  Three weeks without food.  But you can only go three seconds without hope.  If you lose hope, you’re lost before you’ve begun.

So I’m not always upbeat or positive.  I’m not okay, but nobody’s okay.  How could anyone be?  Most days I can manage my anxiety, push the dread and fear down.  I’m doing much better about controlling my access to social media and the increased stress that comes with reading the latest stats and knowing the current worst case.  Most days I breathe all day long, and I don’t cry.  Most days, I can even find a way to do something that makes me happy, either writing or singing or thinking about cosplay.  Most days, I’m not okay, but I’m surviving.  Most days I’m not breaking the Survival Rule of Three.

I can’t say more than that.  I can’t say it’ll get better, or I’m waiting for it to get worse.  I can’t say that I’ll be able to make it through if I get hit by a bad downswing.  There is no certainty right now.  There is only right now.

And yet, I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  Minnesota acted fast, and comprehensively.  I still have a job, and we can afford to buy the food and prescriptions we need without worrying about bills piling up.  I have a frustrating, hilarious, ever-challenging, ever-entertaining kitten to distract me and cause new problems to solve.  I am in isolation with the person I absolutely adore, the person whose presence never becomes tiresome, the person who makes me laugh no matter what, the person I trust with everything.  We aren’t sick.

And we’re still struggling.

I miss the FUCK out of the people I love.  I miss the FUCK out of hugs.  Out of hanging and watching anime.  Out of being able to cry on a shoulder, or vent, or poke somebody in the ribs.  When I get to life After COVID-19, I am NEVER going to take those moments for granted again.  I didn’t before, having been alone in life already and knowing what that feels like, but even so — it’s different.  A lot is going to be different.  Life BC-19 (Before COVID-19) and AC-19 will be alternate universes of one another.  I’m not sure in AC-19 if I’m ever going to touch anything in public ever again, if I’m ever going to be able to pick up housekeys without wanting to wash my hands before I touch anything else.

But AC-19 feels very far away.  And there’s a very real chance that, when I get there, I won’t be there with everyone who was a part of my life in BC-19.  That all of us will lose someone, maybe many someones.  That all of us will be marked, forever.  That we’ll emerge with new scars is a certainty.  How deep they’ll run, how hard it will be to heal them — only time will tell.

Until then, take care of yourselves, goddamnit.  I want you in the world when this is over.  I want you in the world with me.  Do what you have to, just survive.  Just not from this fucking coronavirus, but from the isolation and the fear and the struggle.  Be selfish if you have to.  Be kind whenever you can.  But just survive.  Hang on.  Be there to hug me someday again.

The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your
Door have been silenced forevermore
And the distance is quite simply much to far for me to row;
It seems farther than ever before

I need you so much closer


Bullying and bad dreams — and better days

Last night was apparently the night for bad dreams — I had them, and so did Sarah. Both of us have the unique skill/gift of remembering our dreams virtually every morning, so when the dreams are vivid, or upsetting, they tend to stick with us.

Mine were all about my personal bullies.

In eighth grade, I transferred schools and became the only new person in a class of 48. Yup, 48. That was hard enough, entering a group that was so small, that had been together since 5th, knowing nobody and being a true outsider. But I did my best to make friends, or at least get along with people, and before midway through the year I had found myself three or four friends. We would do long phone calls and hang out during free periods and they even came to my house once. It was fun, and it filled a hole in my life where I had lost most of my pre-existing friends when I made the transfer.

Now, I will be honest, I was a weird kid. Hell, I’m working my way towards 40 and I’m STILL a weird kid. I never could keep to topics that were “normal,” preferring to chatter about the most recent story I’d dreamed up, or what I’d read about Bigfoot being real, or experiments into ESP. The first non-fiction book I ever took out of the elementary school library was a book about unknown phenomena from aliens to Nessie, and my interests continued in those veins for years. Still do, to be honest.

I wish I remembered what happened. Things got odd between these new friends and I sometime in the spring, but I don’t recall the specifics. What I do recall is one awkward bus ride and one of them asking me something and not liking my answer. And by the time they got off the bus, we were no longer friends.

It was a sad and lonely time for me. Now I was stuck the rest of the school year with no peers at all I could talk to, no one to do homework with, no one who would sit by me. The rest of my classmates were fine, but they all saw me as an outsider. So they’d chat with me politely, but nobody ever invited me to hang out or actually attempted to include me in conversation. I was on the outside of every group but one, and then all at once I was on the outside of every group.

But I got through the year and hoped high school would be better. After all, in high school the class side would double. New people would come in and I would no longer be the only outsider. And, for a while, it was okay. I made a few friends through both sports and classes. The groups shifted and the dynamics of the 84 people in my grade loosened up a little. Plus, on a much larger campus, there was room for me to hang out in secluded spots so I was no longer forever stuck surrounded by people who would not engage me.

That peace didn’t last, however. Because two things happened:

First, the friends I made gravitated to the friends I had lost for the exact same reason I had befriended them in the first place. We were all nerds of one kind or another. We were all the socially awkward outcasts with in-jokes and interest in stuff off the beaten track. We were all a little too smart and a little too strange.

So my friends that I had made began alternating who would hang with whom, me or those I had lost. They would apologize to me. “Sorry, I said I’d eat lunch with them today. You don’t mind, right?” and go spend their time with those who had cast me out. And it hurt. But I couldn’t begrudge them. After all, they were good people, funny and clever, and I would have liked to be there myself. So I would shrug and try not to let the hurt get to me.

But the second thing was worse. Because one of those former friends decided to become my nightmare.

Of the former friends, one decided to take it to a new level. No one really ever knew why. Or, if they knew, no one told me. But it became another common refrain: “Geez. He really hates you. I mean, he HATES you. It’s really bad.”

He wouldn’t speak to me — ever. Even if we were in class groups together, which happened, or were doing something with an after school activity and happened to cross paths. He would not acknowledge my existence with anything other than a lethal glare. That, by itself, was difficult for me.

Then the drawings started.

I was not, ever, an attractive teenager. I had braces, bad skin, and hair that could kindly be called “frizzy.” (I still have 2 of the three some days.) Accordingly, I had almost zero self-esteem. They all knew that.

The bully would draw pictures of me, with sort of creepy frequency. I figured it was a way to blow off steam at the most readily-available target. The pictures were deeply and profoundly unflattering, both recognizable as me and monstrous in their execution. Torn from pages in notebooks, or taking up full half-sheets, the pen drawings exaggerated everything I hated about myself in loving detail.

And I saw them. I was meant to see them.

Sometimes they would appear on my desk in a class. Sometimes my new friends would hand them to me apologetically. Sometimes one would be waiting in the quiet spots I tended to frequent away from the bulk of my classmates. Once I even found one in my coat pocket.

Now, I don’t know to this day if the person who drew them was also the person delivering them, or if there were multiple hands in this torment. I’ll never know. But I know that someone was cruel enough to draw them, constantly, and someone was cruel enough to ensure I was aware of them. And, at least sometimes, they were delivered by people I did like and trust.

There was never any physical abuse in any of this. But there didn’t need to be.

For the entirety of high school, it continued. The silence, the pictures, and the split custody of my friends. I got into the habit of simply not eating lunch on days when my friends would sit at the table with the bullies. I would do homework, or read in the library, or work on music in the choral room. Anything to avoid being by myself in a lunchroom where every single person knew my name and knew why I had nobody. I never told anybody what was going on, and I never asked for it to stop. I never said a bad word about the bullies — not out of fear, but out of respect. Because as cruel as they were behaving towards me, I still thought them good and decent and deserving people.

As an adult, looking back, I feel so, so sad for the person I was, and how little I thought I deserved.

My friends should have been better, and I should have demanded such. Choosing to spend their time with people who made my life miserable because they were funny should not have been acceptable. Not if they were really friends. There is nothing okay about sitting and making jokes with someone who shows cruelty to others. But I was too lost and immature to ask for better, and I assume those who were my friends were too immature and caught up in their own lives to realize their role in perpetuating the cruelty against me.

By the end of senior year, however, I already knew those friendships were too weak to stand. Of the three people I had counted friends in high school, only one truly seemed to care about me. And she had made it very, very clear to me that she was not intending to carry anything from high school to college with her, including relationships. I’ve always been affectionate — that’s my nature. I think it did not work with her own. And that was fine. She was very clear about her expectations, and that was kinder, perhaps, than pretending to be closer than we were.

I left for college and have never, ever looked back. Nor will I. There will be no high school reunion for me, because there was no “union” in the first place. The school itself got me into the college that helped me redefine myself and create the life I now lead. That is its value and I am grateful for it. But there is nothing for me there with those people who knew my name and never gave me the time of day at best. And there is nothing worth revisiting with those who sought to bring me pain and isolation for years.

After the nightmares of last night, I did a bit of Google searching and found the three main people who started as friends and became points of sorrow thereafter. Anyone is surprisingly easy to track down if you know their full name and general location, after all.

The true bully, the one who drew pictures, has become semi-famous in his field. When I came upon a picture, my heart went into my throat and I was momentarily 16 years old again and just as hurt and lost. Even now, a thousand miles away and surrounded by loving people, he can still hurt me in remembrance.

I thought, for a moment, about contacting him through his website. Demanding to know if he remembered what he had done to me, how he had spent almost four and a half years making my life miserable. Finding out if he recognized the pain he had caused, deliberately, intentionally, constantly. Asking if he would admit that his treatment of me trickled down to everyone else I might ever have befriended and left me adrift. Seeking any kind of apology or acknowledgement.

But just as quickly, I discarded the idea.

Nothing good can come of it. Either he doesn’t care, still, and feels he was in the right at the time (or that his actions, while unkind, were not “bad enough” to warrant my seeking him out 20 years later), or he has done his own soul-searching and come to his own conclusions about his behavior, and he has to live with that guilt, too. Slamming back into his life would open up those floodgates for us both. And, the truth is, that an apology might feel good, but it isn’t going to make anything change. It won’t rewrite the history of those years. It won’t give me the chance at relationships with those already spread to the world. If he doesn’t care, then I am the only one who stands to get hurt all over again. If he does, then I don’t owe him my forgiveness or chance to make amends.

Life isn’t like the movies where the estranged people find one another after a long separation and cry and all is well ever after. One who was hurt does not owe their pain-maker a chance at redemption or a cinematic reconciliation. If it helps the one hurt, then of course it is a good thing — but if it does not, if it does not serve the person already in pain, then it is not worth the doing. Because it is the need of the one who was hurt that comes first.

And I have nothing I want to hear from that bully, so I have nothing to say.

Bullying doesn’t have to be physical, punching in the bathroom and worse in the locker room, to do lasting damage. It doesn’t have to be screamed insults or whispered comments to scar. Bullying takes many forms, as many as there are ways to hurt, and each and every one of those is valid. I was never hit by a classmate, never teased before my grade, but I was a victim of bullying nonetheless. Me and millions of others. And the shadows of that experience colored the first few years of my college life, until the roots I put down in Minnesota became strong enough to beat back the weeds of high school.

Last night, my dreams decided to remind me about all that I endured, and the harm it caused to me. But today, in the fading sunlight, I choose instead to think about how far I’ve come.

I was bullied and alone. But I am not anymore.

I’ve become strong enough to stand up for myself, to demand appropriate and respectful treatment, to defend others when a comment is aimed to hurt, even unintentionally.

I’ve found for myself people who are supportive and kind, people who would not sit idly by while someone spoke of me in a hurtful manner, people who would not choose to sit at a table with one determined to torment me.

I’ve learned that, while it may be a human response to lash out at others in your own selfishness when you are hurting, too, that I don’t have to take it from anyone. I’ve gained the confidence to be able to say, “I get that you’re not okay, but what you’re doing is not okay, also. Now do better.”

I’m happy in this life that I’ve built for myself. I have now far more than I ever dreamed I could find in those dark high school days.

And every one of you who reads this blog is a part of that.

My high school bullies are behind me. Thank you for helping me build the road ahead.


Back from hiatus, I think

I’m sorry about the long silence. In the last month, there’s just been a lot going on. It’s not about me specifically, but it’s all personal, family-related stuff, so I don’t feel comfortable making it public. But, suffice it to say, many hospitalizations, scary calls/texts, and a great deal of pre-grief soul-searching has been underway. Not a fabulous month, all things considered.

I’m okay, though, because I have the greatest support network in the world.

What’s been odd is that this month has also been one of my most productive in 2019. I’ve written more, edited more, been more inspired, than I have all year. I think, at some point, I hit maximum crisis level. There’s a limit as to how much anxiety and fear and grief and loss and terror a person can feel at one time while remaining able to hold a job every day and do grocery shopping and not fall into unhealthy habits. And I can honestly say I’ve been pretty damn healthy this whole time. I’ve had to be. I’ve let myself cry when I needed to, and given myself permission to forget about it all and watch cartoons when needed. I’ve worked out many if not most days, listened to music, and come up with new story ideas.

I think I saturated my brain so hard, only work and creativity could exist alongside the rest of it.

Still. It’s reminded me how strong people are. People all over the world feel that and far, far worse every day of their lives, and still sing songs, write stories, pen tiny poems that scream their hearts. People can do amazing things to survive, to keep themselves going, to find a spot of joy and a bit of self in the morass that life sometimes gives us. People survive by finding wings and taking flight, even if they cannot move their bodies or escape from cement walls and bars or find even one moment of safety and peace in the day. People are resilient.

And I’m trying my best to be resilient, too.

I don’t always feel okay. There’s a lot still that rips at me, and I think I’m becoming increasingly afraid of getting texts from certain people. But I know the difference between being okay and knowing I’m going to be okay — and I’m going to be okay. Even if everything goes as south as it can go, if it all falls apart, I’ll grieve. I’ll cry and know a deep and terrible loss. I’ll never be the same. But I will be okay. I will be surrounded by those who love me, and they will hold me up when my own resilience gives out. And if the stories and writing haven’t left me now, then they’re never going to. I am a writer in good times and bad. I have it easier when life is easier, but I have it regardless, too.

So I’m going to try to get myself back into this posting habit. I may not always have much I can say, because sometimes the words can’t get through the muck of the rest of it. But I’m going to try. Because I’m still here. I’m still writing. I still have myself, and my courage, and when everything else is gone, I have those who love me.

I hope — I truly hope — that anyone who ever stumbles across my bit of the internet can say the same. And if you’re one of mine, then you should already know that you do.

I leave you with this. I’ve been watching a lot of auditions on YouTube lately (X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, America’s Got Talent, Idol, etc.) because either they are wonderful and soul-affirming, or they’re complete train wrecks and cringey-funny. And different days, I’ve needed different answers. But today was a soul-affirming clip.

It wasn’t what I expected, and it made me feel things I didn’t expect, either. But, then, life is rarely what I expect. And even when it is tragic, it is also still so beautiful.


Warning: Downswing Commencing

I’ve been having a tough time lately. Maybe it’s a delayed post-CVG crash. But it feels more like a natural downswing, which means the only way forward is to ride it out. It’s not BAD in the way they get sometimes, at least not yet. But the voice inside that tells me that I’m a waste of space and not worth the time or attention from anyone I respect or cherish is a whole lot louder and stronger than the voice that usually rises up in opposition.

It makes it hard to do anything this way. Even to reach out and ask for help. Because how can I possibly ask another for support or encouragement or kindness when I can’t believe I’m worth it? When such an expenditure on their part would be a waste, since they can’t possibly really mean it and I don’t deserve to take it from them?

And then help arrives, and sometimes it makes the voice even louder. “See. Look at that. They put themselves out for me, gave me energy they should have kept for themselves or someone that matters more. And I don’t feel better. So I was right. I am a waste of everyone’s time, because even their generosity doesn’t fix me.”

It’s all lies, of course. Depression lies.

But lies still hurt, still weaken what is already weak. It’s the “fake news” of mental health, but it can still have devastating consequences.

The more insidious lies are the ones about me and my worth, or lack thereof.

There is a part of me that may never believe, no matter how long I try, that anything I do is worthwhile, that it is enough, that it has intrinsic value. Because how can I believe in something of my own, when I can already see how much less it is than another’s? An example is with music. I can sing, sure. I can write lyrics. But I’ll never sing well enough to feel truly okay about it. I’ll never look at a song I wrote and feel that it is sufficient. And then I look at the songs sung by people in the choir, or songs written by Beth, and everything I do feels like crayon scribbles and hoarse shouting in comparison.

I know that there will always be someone better than me at literally everything possible. That’s how the world works. But there’s a difference between “I will never be the best” and “Mine is so much less that it has no worth” and that’s where I get stuck.

In a good frame of mind, I can hold onto this quote from Madeline L’Engle:

My husband is my most ruthless critic. … Sometimes he will say, “It’s been said better before.” Of course. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anyone else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.

In a good frame of mind, I can summon even a spark of defiance. “I may scream into the void, but it’s MY scream, dammit, and I WILL BE HEARD.”

In a good frame of mind, putting any of the truth of myself into the world is worthy enough, and quality matters only in the minds of others.

But I’m not in a good frame of mind today.


If there is a nice thing in this pit of awful, it’s in my self-awareness. I know, even if I can neither feel nor believe it now, that this will pass. No part of me can internalize it, but it’s true nonetheless. I don’t have to feel it or believe it to know that it’s true. This will pass, and I’ll again be able to take pride in what is mine, regardless of how good or not good it is. This will pass and I will be able to feel again that the act of living, of creating, of being myself is worthy in and of itself.

No matter how beaten down and worthless I feel, I know that nothing keeps me down forever.

Sometimes the brain chemicals go wonky. Sometimes the scale slips and the spectrum gets a little heavier on the depression side of bipolar. Sometimes the pain comes, the doubt, the self-hate, the defeat, the loathing, the sorrow.

Right now, that’s all I can feel.

But I know that it won’t beat me.

I can’t summon Defiance or Courage right now. I don’t feel the good things that the people who care for me would offer if I asked. Nothing penetrates the haze.

But today there is still one thing greater than that haze, one thing more powerful still. And to that I cling.


Defiance has gone dormant in me. Endurance is exhausted and doesn’t care to raise its head today. But there is a reason I started my pillars with Honor, and a reason it provides the framework.

I put this up on another entry just about a year ago. It’s a quote from Jane Eyre:

“I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane—quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”

In this case, it is the literal truth of where I am at.

I am in a downswing, and the world has lost meaning. I have no value. The outlook is bleak.

But I have given my word to many people, and to myself. I made promises to be there for others, to take care of them, to treat them with compassion, to support them, to laugh with them. I have meetings on my calendar and tasks on my list that rely upon me to accomplish them. These are all vows and agreements I made when I was sane, as it were. When I was not in the dark place that now surrounds me.

So I plant my feet in my Honor. If I cannot believe in the good things, I cannot give up on them either because I gave my word. And if I can hold onto nothing else in this haze, if nothing else is real and true, then my word shall be.

Just because I can’t feel good about things, because I can’t see one iota of worth in myself, that does not give me the right to be forsworn. Just because I would rather give up does not give me the right to break promises. Just because I am nothing does not mean my vows and service to others are similarly nothing.

And as I think on that a while, as I lean on Honor as the pillar which as not forsaken me, then others start to wake up again.

Endurance chuckles like an exhausted boxer in the ring. “Down and out? Not yet.”

Courage opens a sleepy eye. “It doesn’t matter if your heart is screaming. Get up anyway; it’s only pain.”

Defiance hauls in a breath after near suffocation. “If the world is against you, even inside your own head, then the only option is to fight back anyway.”

And they speak together.

“So what if you’re worthless? Worst case scenario is that you are precisely what you feel. So what if you’re right and nothing you contribute can ever matter? So fucking what? Get up. If the best you can do is not bring harm to someone else by keeping your damn word, then do that. If there is NOTHING ELSE in you that matters, then all that’s left are the chains that bind you to obligation. Loath yourself if you want, but you WILL honor those chains until there is no breath left in your body.”

That is why I know, even if I can’t feel it, that this will pass. That is why I know that I won’t be beaten. Because for as long as I am bound in Honor to those I cherish, for as long as I have even one vow outstanding, no matter how I feel, I will have the strength to pull through long enough for everything else to rebound and the haze to fade.

And that is how I will get through today.

Not on the faith that the sun will come up and I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Not because I am loved.

But because I bent the shape of my very self into a thousand promises, put them above everything else. So even if I wanted to lay down and die, I can’t. Not with those vows unfulfilled. They can cut like razors or burn like lava, but they keep me from slipping away.

When you get right down to it, the only real feeling I have left is the love I have for everyone else.

And for them, I will Honor my responsibilities, my promises, my vows.

And for them, I will find a way to Endure the self-hate in order to uphold that Honor.

And for them, that Endurance will become Courage, because fuck pain and fear anyway.

And for them, I will find the Courage once more to Defy even the chemicals in my brain, to throw my head back, and scream, and be heard, and the void will be filled again.

It’s not a smooth process. It drags every part of me over coals and barbed wire and glass shards and gravel. And from moment to moment, I do put my head down and surrender. But those moments pass and the next comes. And because I know that this is not the end, that this cannot be how every breath of my life will feel, because I know that cycles turn and the wheel gives way to a new beginning, I keep going.

I’m not okay. I dunno when I’ll be okay next.

But I’m here. And I have my pillars to which I cling.

Nothing in the world can fix me. But nothing inside me can eradicate me, either.

So, in the end, the only result is success. Even triumph.

Might take me a while, but I’ve got time.

See you on the other side of the haze.


Rolling blackouts ahead, and wisdom from a Minnesotan native

So…yeah, things are really busy.  I have something like 5 evenings of meetings in a row this week, and more next week.  And then it will be CONvergence!

The blog might go a little fallow in the meantime.  Not that, you know, it makes a HUGE difference given my, uh, small but mighty readership.  I’m better about Twitter these days because I can put stuff on it from my phone.

But I’m here.  And I’ll be here afterwards, too.  Possibly with the whole story of why this year is trying so hard to break our community and how, exactly, we’re keeping that from happening.

If you do happen to be in the MN area the weekend after the 4th of July, come come hang out with us at HarmCon on Friday, 11am at CONvergence.  Hopefully we’ll record it this year, too, but no promises on when I put the stuff on YouTube. We do have several new songs, though. Including one crowd-sourced parody.

Not even kidding.

Also, crowd-sourcing is a FANTASTIC way to get hilarious gaming stories.  Just sayin’.

So if I drop off the map again, I’m sorry in advance.  I’ll be back, though. In my own time and my own way, probably, but without fail.

In the meantime, I hope your summer is treating you as well as can be expected.  The world is tough for a lot of us right now. For a lot of different reasons.

So take your lesson from this week’s viral adventure.

Make like the MPR Raccoon.

Keep climbing and never give up.  Rest when you have to, and know that it’s okay to be scared.  We’re all afraid of the fall.

But we were born for this climb.  Every one of us.

No matter what specifically your climb is, you can do this.

Climb on, my friends.  Climb on.


Still flying on

This song is called “O” by Coldplay, and it has really spoken to me lately:

Flock of birds
Hovering above
Just a flock of birds
It’s how you think of love

And I always
Look up to the sky
Pray before the dawn
‘Cause they fly always
Sometimes they arrive
Sometimes they are gone
They fly on

Flock of birds
Hovering above
Into smoke I’m turned
And rise following them up

Still I always
Look up to the sky
Pray before the dawn
‘Cause they fly away
One minute they arrive,
Next you know they’re gone
They fly on
Fly on

So fly on, ride through
Maybe one day I’ll fly next to you

Fly on, ride through
Maybe one day I can fly with you



I’m still fighting my way through this downswing, though a restful weekend certainly helped.  A friend brought food and comfort over on Friday night, and she leached some of the leftover anguish from the Rise Up concert from my heart.  And though the storm goes on, I stand a little stronger against it today.

There are storms in every corner of the world, and in every corner of every human heart — no one is unique in that way.  And, like I said last week, because pain is relative, one person cannot necessarily say or know that another’s storm is easier or gentler than their own.  Some storms are outside us, a society which is cruel or biased or unjust. Some are inside, like my downswing or the damage done to someone by another. Some are both, a cycle of judgement by the world which reinforces and strengthens the ice daggers within.

We all fight battles, big and small.  Some stand on a national stage and fight for their people against an oppressive power.  Some crouch in a darkened room and fight despair inside. Some do both, sometimes all at once.

But it all stems from the same choice, the same decision —

“I can and will fight.  I can and will a warrior be.  It is my nature and my duty.”

The TCWC’s Encore does a version of this song which…well.  Make sure you hear it sometime when we perform, and we will blow you away.  It’s very, very much worth it. Sarah and I also performed it at CONvergence last year with the help of a friend.  Hopefully I’ll get our version on YouTube soon.

This week, I give you this song.  For whatever storm you are battling.  For whatever darkness seems too deep. For whatever fatigue beats you down.  For whatever surrender seems too easy.

Don’t give in.

We are all fierce warriors.  In the world, in ourselves, for causes great and greater, because no cause worth fighting for could ever be small.

It is the humanity in us all.