Who Am I? (Part 3: Loyalty)

Loyalty should be simple, and that’s exactly why it isn’t. To me, loyalty means standing by someone to the end. There’s three pieces of that statement which have to be dissected.
Let’s go out of order.

“To the end” can mean a lot of things. In movies or stories, it means to the death, or beyond. It means “I, the hero of heroism and good battle hair, will follow you into the jaws of unspeakable torment and maybe bad breath until the sun explodes and the whole thing becomes moot.” Not exactly a common occurrence in my life; if it is in yours, I want to hear about it.

Anyway.

For me, standing by someone “to the end” is a little bit based on context. I will stand by my CONvergence team to the end, which means they can call me at 4am needing me to back them up and I will come. It also means they can call me for help in the off season, and, by dint of being my team, I will still come. But when people leave that team, if we aren’t friends independent of that, I might not be as willing to jump up at 4am to help someone’s wayward cat or to haul a broken stove (though, if they were desperate, I’d probably go anyway).

On the other hand, “to the end” with those who are my family, not of blood, but forged in bonds of friendship and shared experience and trust — them, I would happily follow into hell armed only with a lopsided snowball. And for those who are so close to my heart, to the end really means to the end. To my dying breath, I will be on their side. I will be their family, their backup, their support. Those who call me family will have a place in my house even if my house is a one room apartment with no heat. “To the end” is a vow I give not necessarily out loud or to someone’s face, but once my heart is entangled with theirs? Yeah, “to the end” is until the end of measurable time and whatever comes after if anything does.

But that “to the end” has a lot to do with the “who” of the loyalty. And that “who,” the “someone” who I am standing by, is the most important piece of loyalty.

Am I loyal to my alma mater, or my hometown? Uh…eh? I mean, kinda. More the former than the latter. I take pride in my WNY heritage, but I’m loyal to the Buffalo Sabres. I love Carleton College, but I’m not going to get in a pissing match with somebody from St Olaf just because of reasons (some of my favorite people in the world went to Olaf). Am I loyal to the country of my birth? Yeah…but that doesn’t mean I wear flags on my shirt every day and sing “America the Beautiful” as a lullaby. Because it’s less that I’m loyal to the institutions and more that I’m loyal to what they represent.

(Except the Sabres. That surpasses all things rational and goes to the blood. Can’t help it.)

I am NOT loyal to a president who attacks his own people, no matter what color their skin or their religion or where they came from to get here. I am NOT loyal to a government predicated on removing the voice and votes of some people to artificially raise up their own demographic. I am NOT loyal to a concept of freedom which only applies to some people, some of the time. I AM, however, loyal to the idea of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I AM, however, loyal to the Bill of Rights. I AM, however, loyal to the people who sacrifice so much to serve the rest of us.

Really, whether you’re talking people or abstract concepts, my sense of loyalty is directly related to my feelings of respect. Loyalty can also be bred in affection and closeness and love, but it cannot exist without respect.

So I am loyal to my friends and my family, to the members of my CONvergence team and the Twin Cities Women’s Choir. I am loyal to people who make choices to advocate for, or care for, or support, or show kindness to those I love. I am loyal to those who are loyal to me.

But loyalty doesn’t mean I won’t challenge.

Because “standing by” someone doesn’t mean silently approving bad or cruel decisions. It doesn’t mean lending my support to a wrong thing just because a person to whom I am loyal says so.

“Standing by” means I’m going to publically back you for as long as my loyalty doesn’t infringe upon my honor or my other values. It means taking your side in a struggle, and having your back in a tough place. But it also means that, if your decision is a poor one, I’m going to tell you about it. It means supporting you against others, but challenging you in private to be certain you are making the best choices.

Loyalty cannot be blind or unquestioning — that makes it obedience.

I am obedient to no one.

But if I respect you and you make a request of me (or are of a position in which you can give me an order and reasonably expect me to follow it), then I will do ask asked. Loyalty means slotting myself in beside you where I belong and putting my efforts to your side — but it means making sure that I voice any doubts I may have. Loyalty means I’ll help you out of a jam, but if that jam is a problem of your own making, I’m going to make sure you know that. I will stand up with you against any crowd, but when we are alone I will tell you if I think you’re being a doofus.

Loyalty means I will come when you need me, but I won’t hide bodies for you. It means I’ll tell you why you need to turn yourself in — at length — even as I promise to go with you and keep you company for as long as I can.

Because those people or ideals to which I have loyalty also have my respect — and I cannot respect anyone with whom I cannot be honest. Not cruelly, not without purpose. But if I am loyal to you, then I respect you enough to hear me when I tell you that you are in the wrong, and I will be at your side to help you make it right.

Where Honor demands the best of me, all that I can safely give, Loyalty demands that I seek the best in others, and I do whatever I can and whatever is necessary to support and encourage and defend them while they do so. I may make a promise on my Honor and keep it always, but Loyalty means I don’t need a promise — one is implicit in the exchange of respect.

Because once my Loyalty is given, I rarely take it back.

There are those I have not seen in years, a few kind souls from the years before I found my way, before I found my people and my family and my community. They don’t even know this blog exists. They may barely remember that I do. But they did me a kind turn when I was in need, and they remained with me when all others did not. They were not as instrumental in guiding the course of my life as those who left scars, but they were always honest with me. They gave me space to be myself and support when I asked for it. They were my friends, and they made a difference. And if one of them were to call me tomorrow and beg for my help, I would give it. Not just because I owe them a debt of honor, but because I still hold loyalty to them. Because they are still deserving of loyalty, even with years between us.

There’s a poem I think about often when I think about the amazing people in my life, the people for whom I would do anything. It’s unfortunately gendered, but applies nonetheless: Rudyard Kipling’s “The Thousandth Man:”

One man in a thousand, Solomon says.
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it’s worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.

‘Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for ‘ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ’em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.

But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the world don’t matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ’em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he’s worth ’em all
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong’s your wrong, and his right’s your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men’s sight
With that for your only reason!

Nine hundred and ninety-nine can’t bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot – and after!

That’s Loyalty. And it is my great honor and privilege to be that Thousandth person to those who are the same to me.

Next week — Kindness.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Who Am I? (Part 2: Honor and Integrity)

I should put more disclaimers in my blog posts. Or at least I should remind myself of the completely expected and known events which may conspire to prevent me from updating. The whole last post was about getting to work, and I actually did that! I just ran out of time to write about it!

Between having a house-guest for a week (an awesome week, but not much time in it to spend writing), and a renewal of work on the current novel to prepare it to be queried (it’s almost ready!), plus the unexpected-except-we-all-saw-it-coming blow up of stuff at work, I’ve not been idle. I don’t feel like I’m in the same rut I was that needed to be broken. I’ve just been a different kind of busy.

(And, of course, there’s no forgetting or mitigating the impact of the absolute shitslide that has happened lately in the world of politics. All other things being equal, that by itself would probably have been enough to knock me and most others off their center of balance for a while.)

(Also, the number of people in government these days who would be improved if they had the scruples of a fecal fungus is astonishing. VOTING FUCKING MATTERS, FOLKS.)

Anyway.

Back to what this series is supposed to be about. That which defines who I think I am.

There’s an exchange in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time which happens quite close to the end. It’s been distilled this way (so I don’t have to type up the whole scene):

“In your language you have a form of poetry called the sonnet… There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter… And each line has to end with a rigid pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet… But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants…”

“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?”

“Yes. You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

It’s true of our lives in the sense that we are born into human, mortal bodies, grow up, have to eat and sleep and breathe oxygen, and we eventually die. But it’s also true beyond the corporeal. Life gives a person an option — what that person chooses defines who they are. Some people live their lives not in the form of a sonnet with its rules and demands upon form, but in a free-flowing verse. And in some ways, I do that, too; we’ll come back to that when I talk about Defiance.

But the form of my sonnet is Honor. And the proof of it is in my integrity.

The difference between honor and integrity is this — honor is the precepts you choose to live by; integrity is how well you actually follow them. So you can have a sense of honor, but not act on it. You can speak about behaving with honor, but utterly fail to do so. For me, my integrity is how I prove my Honor as well as my other pillars. If I give up on Kindness but keep up with Loyalty, then my integrity is still in question.

When I call one of my pillars Honor, one of the things I mean is the certainty of my word.

If I tell you I will take you to the grocery store, I will. If there are mitigating circumstances, we might need to adjust when I take you, or how. But if I have given you my word that I will do it, then come hell or high water or the end of the world, I’ll get it done. People say “my word is my bond” — I don’t know how many really mean it, but I sure as hell do.

This gets complicated when I’ve given a promise I no longer want to keep. If I told you I would take you to the grocery store and then we had a big fight and I don’t want to see your face, it sure makes keeping that word tough. But my Honor demands that I do it anyway. It does not, however, demand that I remind you of that promise. If you decide, given our fight, that you’d rather I not be the person to take you to the store, that’s your choice which you are free to make — and it absolves me of having to keep my promise. But if you come back and say, “I hate your guts, but you said you’d do X, so I’m calling in my marker,” my only Honorable answer can be, “Okay.”

Another piece of Honor is, basically, “doing the right thing.”

But that “right thing?” That is based entirely upon my own perspective.

So, for example, keeping a promise is always a right thing — unless that promise invites something unhealthy or dangerous. Even if I made a promise in years past to maintain a relationship with someone but that relationship turned toxic and damaging, then I don’t hold that said promise is valid. Because I have to do what is best for me as well as others. Promises made are mostly about other people — I promise to look out for you, I promise to help with hauling a heavy thing, I promise to listen when you need to talk, I promise to come to your party. But if me keeping the promise to haul the heavy thing happens to coincide with me having a broken arm, I’m not doing it. I can advise you, remind you to lift with your legs, find you someone to take my place, etc, but I’m not actually going to do myself that much harm. Because I have other promises I have to keep, and I can’t let that one promise force me to break fifteen others.

Sometimes doing the right thing is simple, though. See someone drop their wallet in the store? Give it back, untouched. Spot a turtle trying to cross a street? Pull over and help (without getting hit by traffic or bitten for my trouble). Find out your neighbor who sometimes watches your dog and mows your lawn is a bank robber? Call the police.

(That last one is fake, obviously.)

But there’s another angle of Honor which is entirely mine, caught up in how I see the world and how I see myself, and it goes like this:

When my promises are met, when I have enough for my needs and the needs of those who depend upon me — whatever is left over belongs to someone else.

That’s true of money, food, but also emotional energy and time. When we’re doing okay for money and Sarah and I are not stressed, we donate what we can where we can. When we have extra vegetables from the garden, we give them to whoever wants or needs them. And when I have the mental fortitude, the spoons, to do more than just take care of myself and Sarah and all the people in my immediate orbit who might need it, then I reach out and take care of others. That’s a huge portion of why I got involved in CONvergence Operations in the first place — I had a love of the convention and energy to spare, and I wanted to put that energy where it could do the most good for others.

I really don’t categorize this under Kindness. I categorize it under Honor. Because my sense of Honor demands that I do all I can, whenever I can, within healthy limits, to improve the world around me. Honor demands I take care of my family and friends, that I be able and willing to offer assistance or hugs or a spare room when someone is in need. It demands that I don’t just sit back and think “Ha, I got mine; good luck getting yours!” Honor demands I stand up and I lift others up with me, even if only by giving them some tomatoes.

Because the promise I must keep above all, the one I made to myself, is that I will do my best, always, to return all the luck and circumstance this world has given me with the hard work to try to give that same luck and circumstance to others.

I have been UNBELIEVABLY lucky in my life. Unlucky, too, but lucky where it counts. I was born to privilege, both in the color of my skin and in my society/financial reality. I never went hungry, never worried about if the house would have heat in winter. I never wanted for the necessities, and rarely for the luxuries. I was also gifted by no merit of my own with a brain that largely works for me in the world, a body which largely functions without accommodation, and a spark that doesn’t drown in any flood — see Defiance for that, too. I was lucky enough to find love, lasting and surpassing, that holds me up no matter how far down I fall. I have been lucky enough to be loved not just by Sarah, but by friends who are family, remarkable, phenomenal people who are a gift just to be around. I am lucky enough to live in a state with reasonable governance (not perfect, but nothing like other places), to have a job which supports Sarah and I.

I worked for a lot of these things, but people can work their whole lives and still never achieve as much as had come to me before I was 30 years old. Effort does not always lead to results, no matter what the American Dream says. There are people who work four times as hard as I do and have far less. And that is not my fault or theirs. That is the luck of my circumstances. I had nothing to do with how I was born and that those opportunities led to even more. I had nothing to do with the fact that I encountered Sarah who is my perfect match. Those things just happened to me.

My Honor demands, unequivocally, that I repay that luck with whatever excess I receive to give to others. When I have more than I need (and I define that need very, very narrowly), it’s not mine anymore. I don’t even want it.

Honor demands that I do my very, very best in this highly imperfect and unkind world, because I have it easy in a way others do not. And to not give back, to not share what I have received unearned, is a kind of selfishness that, to me, could never be “doing the right thing.”

That’s what my Honor really means to me.

If I have given you my word, I will not break it, save if it endangers other people or other promises which supersede it.

If I have the opportunity to do the honest or brave or ethical thing, or to do the easy or lazy or apathetic thing, I do the honest thing, the brave thing, the ethical thing.

If I have the ability, I lend my weight to lifting up the world as high as I can make it go.

I’m not perfect, I screw it up sometimes, I miss something that tells me I should have gone left when I went right, I run out of energy, my obligations conflict, and sometimes life just shits on the best-laid plans. I can’t help any of that. There will always be days when I’m too heartsick, too lost in the demons of my own brain chemistry to do even the easy right things, when all I can do is breathe in and out all day long and maybe put one foot in front of the other. And that’s okay. I have not failed in living up to my Honor just because today I failed at everything else.

I have learned the hard way that the very first step to Honor, to integrity, to living at all, is accepting that everything, even my best intentions, are going to run into walls sometimes. Limitations, be they mine, circumstance, whatever — they’re not failure. They’re part of the living system of being human. They say “nobody’s perfect,” and it’s true. Nobody is. And no intentions to weed the garden or finish a project can stand up against an unexpected hurricane, real or figurative.

When Honor is doing the right thing, but the right thing can’t be done, then Kindness is forgiving and letting it go.

But that’s a few weeks from now.

Next week (assuming no more weirdness time-suck stuff) — Loyalty.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Who Am I? (Part 1: The Framework)

I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately. I self-examine my life rather frequently, but it’s been more noticeable of late. Part of this is that, for the past week, I’ve been slowly converting one of our spare bedrooms into a proper office for me — and this is the first bit of writing I’m doing in that new office space. What a way to celebrate 100 entries on the blog!

What was a spare bedroom with blue walls the EXACT shade a 10-year-old cisgender boy would love has become instead my workspace. I repainted the walls a pale grey which shades to a slight lavender in certain lights. I moved my rarely-used desk in and put the bed in the other room (we call it the Chancery; it’s where Sarah does her music). I built a giant shelf to fill with bins to store the stuff that used to be haphazardly spread between these two rooms, and I purged a lot of stuff that just didn’t need to be kept anymore. There’s a bit of work left to do — the only art hanging up here right now is my diploma mainly because I wanted to get it and its finicky frame out of the way — and I’m still considering and reconsidering the exact configuration of my desk. But, for the most part, what was the spare room (called “Spare Oom” as often as not) is now my office.

This has the advantage of allowing me to work from home without being at my dining room table, which is a nice change of pace. It also gives me a place to focus for work, for writing, and for CVG stuff. I’ve only been in here 3 hours as of this entry, but the psychological difference is palpable. I’m focused in a room in a way I wasn’t in our open-floor-plan downstairs. I feel like I’m up and away from the world with a window that looks out on trees and rooftops instead of down to the driveway and every car and dog-walker going by. I’m aware of the door I can shut if I need isolation or a break from nosy cats. And this space, like only one other in the house, is truly mine — defined at every particular by me and my wants and needs, from the colors to the layout to whether or not to move the light around. I painted every inch of it myself, alone (although I had help with the liberal use of painter’s tape), and I would have built the shelf thing myself, too, except it would have been IMPOSSIBLE because Ikea doesn’t do anything simple.

Anyway.

Setting up the office required me to do some very focused thinking about myself. For example, I learned that I need to be able to stretch my legs out sometimes — so I piled a few pieces of old cardboard behind the desk to prevent me from getting footprints on my wall as well as giving me a place to rest them. I’ve always known I don’t work well jammed into a corner; I need to be able to see out, to stare at something other than a wall. So my desk faces the window. I know I need to put a giant cork board on the wall behind me where I can hang the million rotating things that all seem critical in the moment but I won’t need or want permanently displayed after some unknown period of weeks or months or years.

This also marks a re-dedication on my part to something I’ve lost over the past couple of years. Existential (political) dread and anxiety have slashed my writing amount to half or less than what it used to be. The stories come to me just as rapidly — I have, at current count, 45 good and usable ideas for everything from short oneshots to full novel series, fanfic and original — but the ability to press them into existence has been lacking. I don’t have to worry about posting next year because of the project I did manage to complete, but the word counts are still low. I’m a month and a week or so from the end of my writing year, and I know I’m looking at an uphill trek to finish something else before November. I’m going to try, of course, but it won’t come easily.

However, if it was always easy, it wouldn’t be worth the doing.

Not all people feel that way. The whole “it isn’t worth it if it isn’t difficult” thing gets rolled eyes, and I very much understand that. It’s not a mentality that is for everyone. And even for those who believe it, like me, find it deeply fatiguing sometimes. If literally everything you cherished had to come to you the hard way, would you really manage to build up the energy to cherish so much? If relationships, achievements, insights, if every one of them was earned only by sweat and blood, if nothing was a break — wouldn’t you break?

I wouldn’t dare speak for others, but for me — the answer is no.

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that I hold myself to 6 pillars, 6 values that I have chosen will define me. They’re not “rules” because rules change and flow and need to be outright broken sometimes (or a lot). They’re the attributes that help me define who I want to be as a person. They’re the solid stones I set as my own foundation. I think most people have some — but for me it was helpful to codify them, to put them in words, to give them names and shapes. Because then I have a framework for myself, a standard to hold to when other things make life harder.

When life gets harder, that’s when you find out who you really are — because that is when you will make the self-defining choices.

I base my choices on these six pillars:

  • Honor
  • Loyalty
  • Courage
  • Kindness
  • Endurance
  • Defiance

(There are two unspoken ones which I don’t typically name, but there’s no denying them — joy and love. They’re not choices I make; they simply are. I have taught myself honor, have changed how I understand loyalty, and have honed my courage. But joy and love, they burst into my spirit with no urging, and I can’t take 2 steps without tripping over them.)

I’ve meant for a long time to go into them in detail on this blog since they’re such a fundamental part of who I am, and I think that will be my writing project for the next few weeks. Because setting up this office has had the effect of really making me think about how I define myself, how I want and need to be. Just as I needed to choose a color that I would find energizing, not over-stimulating, I needed to rediscover those anchor-points in my heart where there is no give. The truths without which I cease to be.

I would still be me if I decided I was bored of hockey or college football. I would still be me if I no longer watched my cartoons and anime. But I would not be me if I gave up on kindness, if I acted without honor, if I lost my glee at practicing defiance. I would be someone else — and that someone else might not like this room, this life, this self that I have built from the ground up for myself.

With this new room and my re-dedication to writing, to focusing creatively, to being the person I have chosen to be, I’m going to warm back up into the process by taking time to dive into each of these pillars of myself, one a week. I’m going to baptize this room not in water (or paint) but by the practice of defining and centering myself. I’m going to end this writing year of 2018 by using the change in my surroundings to force a change in behavior, so that 2019 is more successful and I get some more work done.

And maybe, if I set my mind on it correctly, if I can focus my energy less into fear and more into action, I can do more than just write. Maybe I can query and publish a book. Maybe I can find a better balance in myself of work, social life, CVG, choir, writing, sleep…all the things that, right now, feel like they’re out of balance. I cannot change the causes of existential dread in the world, but I can change myself. I can give myself more room to be the person I choose to be, to create the art that feeds my soul. I can give myself every advantage so that when the world comes and calls who I think I am into question again, I am better situated to answer.

There’s nothing easy about looking into the void and coming up with something other than despair. There’s nothing easy about standing up when it’s sure to get you knocked down again. There’s nothing easy about creating when the well seems to run dry. There’s nothing easy about any of it.

But it’s all worth doing. And if I am the person I pretend to be, the person I want to be, the person I choose to be, then I will find a way. Endurance is right there in the six pillars. Sometimes Endurance means getting by, staying afloat, managing the unmanageable no matter how graceless.

This time? I’m leaning less on Endurance and more on that sixth pillar. Defiance.

Because in the end, even the void can’t stamp out my will. It doesn’t matter if I shout back into the void, or spit in it, or shine a light, or laugh into it, or swear curses about weasel shits into it. As long as I do SOMETHING. As long as I pull or push in obstinate, sometimes gleeful, opposition.

I hit a downswing, not just in terms of depression, but in everything. I got out of balance. I lost focus. I failed to write. Why and how aren’t what matters. Blame and fault are actively not useful. This is where I am at. This is the reality I have in front of me.

Maybe that’s why now was the time to make this office, why it burned in me for the last week. Because now is the time I can look at that reality head on and choose another way. Now is when I can lean back on my pillars, decided and innate, and push off again.

I have painted the walls. I have hauled the furniture. I have chosen how to adorn the space. I have set it up for work, for focus, to bring out the best in me.

It’s time to get to work.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Femininity and Beauty

This weekend was one of the weddings I’ll be attending this summer, as well as the opening event in the very, very busy lead-up to CONvergence.  Which means that this weekend was the first time in a couple of years I’ve worn a nice dress for any occasion.

I’ve never been a girly girl.  Never ever. And my stance on makeup is unchanged from what it was when I last blogged about it.  But I have finally come to peace with why sometimes I like wearing skirts — when the rest of the time I can’t figure out why on earth I own more than one.

I’ve finally come to terms with the divide between that which is feminine and that which is beautiful.

And what I learned about myself is that I don’t give two ratshits for femininity, but I am okay with beauty.

I feel that I need to clarify that my interpretation of femininity is not one I often conflate with my perception of my own gender.  I am a cisfemale. For me, “femininity” is not a marker of gender at all, but of society. I can say that because I am cisfemale, because I live in a body and in a world that identifies me as female even in the ruggedest and manliest of attires.  This is a privilege I have because of how I was born and the world in which I live. So please do not think that I am speaking in general terms about this or that my interpretation of “femininity” is in any way meant as an insult to those who are not cisfemale.  I am truly speaking only for myself here.

To me, it is very hard for me to separate the idea of “femininity” from the societal role of women in a very traditional sense.  Femininity which is about sex appeal holds NOOOOOOO interest for me. Femininity which highlights being demure, or generally which is pitched to suggest a lesser-ness compared with someone male-presenting, is not my thing.  It’s hard for me to look at something which is inherently “feminine” and not see the ways that such “femininity” is at the cost of equality when compared to “masculinity.”

But I don’t purposefully go in for “masculinity,” either.  I just want to be me, dammit. I just want to be the way I am, and to be received on my own merits.

It’s hard.

So a lot of how I dress or how I carry myself is kind of…neutral?  I don’t show off curves, typically, or cleavage. In casual settings, I wear shorts or jeans and t-shirts, or sweatshirts.  For business casual, I rely a lot on polo shirts or on layers which somewhat obscure my shape. I don’t try for “pretty.” I try for looking like myself.

The things a person wears can say a lot about who they are or what they’re trying to go.  Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I know how to do it fairly well. What you wear, how you are perceived, these can be disguises or they can be armor.  They can be strategic or they can be overt. It’s a game, and one I can play when I have to — like in a job interview — but not one I play except when there is a need.  Being myself is both disguise and armor enough.

Also?  I hate hate hate wearing anything that would be a problem in any kind of emergency.  All the way back to high school, I chose my formal dresses and shoes based on “could I run after a purse snatcher or crawl over a car in this?”  That practicality has only gotten more ardent as I get older. Now it takes a really, really good reason for me to wear anything in which I couldn’t crawl into or out of a burning car.

Some of that is the CVG Operations in me — I’m always ready to be ‘on duty’ even in the off season.

But it also feeds my sense of self, my sense of strength.  There are women, cis and trans, who draw strength from their femininity.  I am somewhat in awe of them, because I don’t understand it for myself. I’m too aggressively neutral in my presentation.  There are so many women who feel better about themselves when they know they look sexy, that they find power and confidence in it.  I think that is awesome.

But it’s not for me.

So I just typically don’t ‘do’ femininity except under special circumstances.

However, I have learned I am okay with beauty.

The dress I wore to the wedding isn’t what I would call strictly “feminine.”  It’s not fluffy or delicate or particularly genteel. It’s also not terribly sexy, I don’t think.

I could be wrong on that, I suppose.  Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder.  It IS form-fitting, but it’s not dramatically low-cut, and it doesn’t exactly hug my curves even if you can see them.  It’s a nice dress, but I don’t think there’s anything about it that makes it bombastic or alluring in any particular way.

What I like about it particularly well is that it shows off my unusually broad shoulders and strong arms.  I like that it’s easy dance in, easy to sit in (not a given in womens’ clothing!), easy to eat food in (even less a given!).  I like that it’s made of something sturdy enough that I can crawl under a church pew or swing a godkid around in my arms and not worry.  I like that it is a strong, slightly-dramatic color that tends to be eye-catching.

It doesn’t particularly make me feel beautiful, but it’s a beautiful dress and it makes me feel like a very grown up, differently badass version of myself.  And it does NOT make me feel feminine.

The things in life that I find truly beautiful rarely have anything to do with gender.  Sunsets and sunrises, deep forests and waterfalls, starry skies and candle lights. They’re beautiful without being feminine or masculine.  Their beauty is innate, is their own, because it is inherent and it is not artifice. It is their beauty because it is their truth.

I’m never going to like the artifice of femininity for myself, I don’t think.  But I am okay with beauty — as long as it is ME. And frankly? I’d rather be ugly and be myself anyway.

My best self lives inside my heart and my brain.  What I wear on the outside can sometimes make me feel more comfortable (or less comfortable, as the case may be) in my own skin, but it cannot redefine me.  Only I can do that.

And I do not define myself by my femininity.

Frankly, I don’t define myself by my beauty, either.  ‘Cause I’m not. And I don’t care.

But, for special occasions, I don’t mind the effort to be myself in a slightly different package.

As long as I can still get shit done when shit needs doing.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Writing for Me

So, I’m currently in the process of having my novel read by a set of beta readers who will hopefully help me pound it into shape like a lump of dough that needs to be pummeled. It’s a difficult process, and a scary one, because it’s always tough to put something you pulled out of your soul and ran through your brain into the hands of people who might think it stinks.

On the plus side, writing and posting as much fanfiction as I do, I’ve had lots and lots of practice giving my writing to people — total strangers, even — and let them hate on it. And you know what? I don’t really, really remember the hate and the flames (except for that one person who said my story was bad because it was X-character-centric and they wanted the story to be about Y instead, which, oh well). But I do remember the good things people say.

One of the most striking recently, though, was someone telling me that they were surprised I could write so much in advance.

Now, the “normal” way of doing fanfiction is to write a chapter and post it. And then write another one and post it. And so on and so forth. That’s the common way most people do their fic, it seems. And I did that when I was starting out, mainly because I didn’t have much practice, I didn’t know how much I would even want to write, and, oh, I was in college and kinda busy.

But as my experience grew, and my interest grew, I found that the write-and-post method started to irk me — mainly because it became too easy for me to leave some works unfinished when the shine came off the writing of them. There were 2 notable fics I began which languished for YEARS, one for almost a full decade, before I could force myself to finish them. And I found that I didn’t like being that kind of author who could leave stories abandoned or on hiatus. I completely understand why others do, but, for me, it weighed on me.

So somewhere in the late 2000s, I started writing in advance, and only posting the beginnings to stories when the ends were completely done. By the early 2010s (2012 for sure but it could have been earlier), I was writing an entire year of content in one year and then posting it in the next. And I’ve never looked back from it.

But the reviewer who asked me about it made the point that they gain so much inspiration and motivation from feedback, they couldn’t really imagine being able to write in its absence.

On the one hand, I don’t know that I’m necessarily without feedback, since I do get feedback on stuff that I’m posting (hello current fic with regularly 5-8 comments on every chapter which is pretty good for me). The feedback isn’t on the story against which I’m currently banging my head, but feedback and encouragement always help, regardless of the specific subject.

But the more important point is one I decided when I first got into fic:

I’m really only doing this for myself.

Everyone I know who is an artist of any kind *wants* to have their art appreciated. They want it shared, and, ideally, sold. I don’t think I could name a single person I know who does any form of art who *wouldn’t* want to make a living by what the can create and share out into the world. And I’m no different. I’m going to try to publish the current novel, and if that fails, I’ll try the next and the next. If I could support Sarah and I by writing alone, HELL YEAH I would do it.

But if I can’t, or if nothing I write ever goes to a publisher and shows up in a bookstore, that’s not going to stop me from writing. Because I’m not writing for recognition, or money, or fame, or some weird sense of entitlement. I’m not writing because I think my stuff is so good, others should totally read it.

I’m writing because if I couldn’t, I’d be screaming instead.

Writing is in my heart, my soul, my blood, and my brain. I can’t go 12 hours without thinking about a story currently in progress, one I have on my to-write-someday list, or one I might revive with a sequel or series. I can’t watch a good TV show without wanting to find new stories from it, and wanting to make my own. I can’t drive down the ever-loving street without having random set-ups for short stories or novellas pop into my head.

Singing is breath to me, and writing is thought. That’s just how it is.

And before I ever had fans on my fanfic sites, before I ever had friends who would hungrily consume anything I wrote (as long as they knew the fandom), I was still writing stories in my darkened apartment that I thought literally nobody would read, and I wrote them anyway.

If I wanted fame and a host of fans, I’d be writing exclusively Sherlock, Supernatural, and Harry Potter fic — those are the ones with ALLLLLLLL the fans. Those are the fics that get hundreds and thousands of likes and views and comments and everything. If I was writing for the sake of gaining a huge audience, that’s where I’d be.

Not so much Mighty Max and Gundam Wing and CCS and TMNT.

But it’s also not necessarily about the number of fans. Some people write just for the very small audiences, like the ones you get with Mighty Max. I think there are about 7 of us in the world these days who really care about the fandom. And those other 6 have all become my friends, because who else are we going to nerd-squee at about our favorite Cap-Bearer? With all my fandoms, no matter how small, there is always *someone* who wants to read what I wrote and has feelings about it.

But, truth be told, I don’t write for them, either.

I write for me.

(Okay, I might write a little bit for Sarah, too. Because sometimes she wants a particular story and I really can’t deny her anything and why would I want to?)

I don’t write fanfiction, or original fiction, or novels, or poems, or songs, or anything else for anybody but myself. I don’t write them to *be read.* I write them because otherwise I would choke on them. It’s kinda that simple. And I would write them with no internet to post them to or no publisher to make them into books. I would write them on cave walls if I had to.

I put this quote up more than a year ago, and it is certainly no less true now:

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be… This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” — Abraham Maslow

There are people in the world who will never feel like “real” writers or authors unless some publishing house somewhere has paid them and printed their books. And there are people in the world who will look at ME and my library of 22 novels and 2.5+ million words written and never see a “real” writer or author.

To them, I simply say: You’re wrong.

Because if you write, you’re a writer. If you author a story, no matter the length, you’re an author.

I am a writer and author.

And if not one of my stories had ever traveled farther than the My Docs folder on my harddrive, I would STILL be a writer and author.

So the reason that I find it simple to write with no feedback, the reason I can sit on chapters for a full year before posting them to my fanfic accounts, is that I don’t need the feedback to breathe. I don’t need the reviews, the hits, the kudos. They’re nice, certainly. They make days far better when I get a happy comment or an insightful message. But the response isn’t the fuel of writing. It is the side-effect.

The fuel of writing burns inside my veins and is twisted up in my existence.

And whether I get to publish this book I have out to my betas or not, nothing changes. If not this one, then maybe the next one. Or the one after that. And there will always be fic in the meantime.

But even if that all stopped? If the internet went dark and books vanished and the world stopped telling stories?

Come find me. I’ll be in a cave somewhere, writing novels on stones and leaves, singing stories to the very stars. For as long as there’s breath in my body, there will be stories to tell. Even if no one else is around to hear them.

*I’m* around to hear them. And that is more than enough.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Warrior

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.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

More With Less

Sometimes, I think the whole process of moving out into the world, from childhood to adulthood, from student to member of the workforce, from novice to expert, is all the same process of learning to handle more with less.  More work with less sleep.  More stress with less certainty of success.  More emotional upheaval with less retreat to recover.  More expectations with less room for error.

Eventually, the time comes when a person is going to need something to backfill all the ‘less’ that has been sacrificed to the ‘more.’  And how a person goes about that is as unique as the person.

For me, it kinda depends what I need.

If I need meditation, or just calming the hell down, I turn to this song, specifically written and arranged to help people relax.

If I need a 1 minute giggle, plus some insight into something totally random, I find something from QI.

Or maybe I dig into the archives of MST3K.

If I need my faith in the world restored, I go watch Matt Harding’s videos.

Or maybe this from The Trevor Project.

If I’m feeling nostalgic for the place I grew up, or I want to get emotional and feel the blood thumping adrenaline of my favorite sport, I’ve got the Buffalo Sabres 06-07 season opening.

And that’s just the stuff off the top of my head that helps.  A handful of videos that can reset my head and give me a little more to handle the less.  If I had to, I could list dozens of songs and stories, each of which can bring me back to a better place.  Each of which can make the world seem less heavy and more manageable.

Sometimes you really do just have to buckle down and handle the more with the less you’ve got.

I hope you have your own ways to even the score and get a little more back, too.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Worth Believing In

Let’s just preface this with — when a movie means something to me, I couldn’t give the smallest amount of rat piss whether or not it is deemed “good” by the internet or Rotten Tomatoes or the critics or anyone else.  Meaning isn’t something that gets assigned by a quorum of critics and a weighted score.  Meaning is personal.  Meaning begins and ends with the person who is the “me” at the front of it.

Most of the collective wisdom of the internet will tell you that “Secondhand Lions” is not quite bad enough to be awful.  It’s “schmaltzy.”  It’s “molasses-drenched” (I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds very sticky).  It’s “sentimental.”

Well, fine.  I’m sentimental too.  What’s your point?

But whether or not you fall in love with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine as a pair of retired brothers sitting on a wealth of stories and experience, whether or not you snort every time Haley Joel Osment’s voice cracks at the perfect moment, and whether or not the split narrative of loneliness in Texas and adventure in Africa (complete with B-movie stylings) works for you — there’s something to be gained in this movie.

Shake your head at the rest of it if you will.

But listen when Hub McCann starts to speak.

Around the midpoint of the movie, there is made mention of a speech given by Hub McCann, the “what every boy needs to know about being a man” speech.  Which, truly, should be reframed as “what everyone needs to know about being a good person” because there is nothing that applies only to men here, and everything that applies to us all.  We only get a piece of it, but it’s more than enough:

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most — that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love, true love, never dies.  No matter if they’re true or not, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.

This speech, like the “invincible spell” of my favorite anime magical girl, has stuck with me a long, long time.

I am a deep, old-school believer in things like courtesy and honor.  I believe in treating others gently, with full respect, and with sincere kindness — no matter how I feel about the kind of day I’m having or how I felt one moment before I looked into their face.  I believe that every time I give my word, that is an unbreakable vow and oath; if I say I will do something, even if it is difficult, even if it comes late, even if it has to be shuttled amidst all the wreckage of my life, I will get it done.  I believe in the promises that bind people, and I believe in leaving every encounter, every person, every place, every situation, better than I found it.

These are the things I choose to believe in, because, to me, they are worth the effort of that belief.

And it doesn’t matter that the person right behind me in line will be unkind to the cashier, or that I may keep a promise, but someone may not keep one to me.  It doesn’t matter that someone weaves through traffic igniting ire and frustration in their wake.  It doesn’t matter that the weight of my word given may mean little or nothing to the stranger who receives it.

I can’t control the other people in line, or the rude driver, or the person whose promise will never be kept.  I can only control myself, and give into the world that which I believe is worth giving.  So I give my best.  I give my kindest.  I give my honor.  Even if I never get them back.

So I choose to believe that the rude person in the check-out line is deeply worried about money and is stressed and not sleeping, and has no more emotional energy to show respect.  I choose to believe that the dangerous driver is racing to get to someone in need, perhaps a hospital, perhaps a child who is scared and alone.  I choose to believe that the broken promise is not broken maliciously, but at the end of someone’s rope, a choice and a sacrifice made so that something more important may be accomplished instead.

And therefore I smile at the cashier, and hope my smile will be what they remember at the end of the day.  I repeat my mantra for rude or inconsiderate driver, which is “may you get where you’re going safely and harm none on your way” because that’s the only thing that matters in the end, and I forgive the broken promise.  It’s not self-indulgence or being holier-than-thou.  It’s not me being smug that I have done the right thing and someone else has not.

I choose to believe in the best of people.  Because people are worth believing in.

For every human being who is terrible, who is selfish, who is cruel, who is callous, there are people who are gloriously kind and loving and selfless and generous and true.  And I will not let myself be counted amongst those too caught up in the world inside myself to remember the worlds inside others.  I will be the best damn human being I can, and I will treat everyone who crosses my path with that much dignity and respect and kindness, until I have no breath or blood left.  I choose to believe that people are amazing, that people are capable of fantastic good, that people all have something of value, something unique, to share and give.

Because any alternative is not worth believing in.

And you know what?

I’ve yet to be proven wrong.

When I tell my CONvergence team that I think they’re awesome, that’s not hyperbole.  That’s not false praise.  It’s because they astound me with the work they’re willing to do, with the efforts they undertake, with the kindness, dedication, focus, effort they bring to our team and our convention.  When I tell my team that they are a group of people I trust and respect and cannot wait to work with, it’s because they are, and it’s all true.

It’s been said that a person becomes what they believe themself to be.  And that’s certainly true — but it lacks the active part of choosing to believe.  We don’t just become what we think.  We become what we do.

I choose to believe in honor and courtesy and kindness and respect, and that is what I will do in this world.

But we also become what others believe about us.  And when my CONvergence team tells me that they trust me, that they respect me, then I become a better member of the team.  When they tell me that I am doing my job well and am helpful in adding my part to our collective efforts, then I am able to do even better and double down on my efforts.

I think we all become some mix of what we choose to believe, and of what others choose to believe.

But we can only choose for ourselves.

So I choose to believe in the things worth believing in, and I choose to believe in the inherent goodness and value of people.  People on the street, in the store, in their cars, in the hallways, in the world.  Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not for every single one of them on every single day of their lives.

People are always worth the effort of belief.  Always.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Symbiosis: My Readers and Me

This year has been a nightmare, and there’s only been a few things that have carried me through.  One is, of course, Sarah and my family and friends out here in Minnesota keeping me going.  Another is music, particularly the TCWC and Encore.  A third is CONvergence, which is now an enormous, life-affirming time-suck of working with awesome people to make sure we are providing and protecting a community and a space which is welcoming and safe and fun and kind and respectful for all, particularly those who really, really need it.

But the fourth is writing, both what I’ve been producing and what’s been going up online.

For this year’s writing, I’m a little behind on my yearly goals, I’ll be honest, but I should make the absolute minimum I require of myself.  By the end of Oct 31st, I need to finish enough to have 47 chapters/oneshots/installments to go up each week next year.  (Then I get to spend November on Yuletide and editing the original novel and adding a chapter to the work currently being posted because it needs a little more than it has.  I have no idea if I’ll write at all in December, or, if so, what.)  More on this after the end of October when I’m hopefully done.

The flip side of writing, though, the part where I wrote it last year but am unveiling it this year, that has been awesome.  I have developed a whole Monday night ritual of putting off posting the next chapter for about an hour because I get nervous, then slamming my laptop open and proceeding to agonize about authors notes and final edits before I publish the update to both fanfiction.net and AO3.  And then I respond to any outstanding comments or reviews.

Two or three years ago, I decided I would respond to comments and reviews left on my stories, and for the most part, I’ve done well.  Even a “I liked this, thanks!” gets a reply from me.  It may only be a few lines, or it may be paragraphs.  But I try very hard to respond to the people who take the time to tell me they liked my work.

(This is sometimes funny on my end, when the same person reviews 3 or 4 chapters all at once and I respond to each review one at a time, or when the reader who translates my stories into Spanish leaves a review and I have to dredge my lingering Spanish up out of my brain to respond in kind — they are very, very nice about my stumbling written Spanish and always offer me hugs.)

The current work that’s been going up since the first week of February has garnered rather a lot of commentary.  Not necessarily dozens of different people, but a group of dedicated readers who respond sometimes at length to every single chapter, sometimes leaving 2 or 3 comments just because what they have to say is longer than the review box.  These readers have made and commissioned art for me, have written their own AUs and crack!fics based off my story as it unfolds, and have tossed speculation back and forth amongst themselves about what is really happening and what I’m going to do next.

What was just my story has become a gathering place, apparently, a little ecosystem feeding off the environment I’ve set down, and growing all on its own.

So after the chapter goes up on Mondays, I tend to have several different people who deserve answers, considered responses and not just “Yay thanks!” on my part for all the effort they’re putting in.  These wonderful, enthusiastic, kind people are taking their precious time to heap love and interest and speculation and emotion on my stories.  The very least I can do is respond in kind.  So that takes far longer than actually posting the chapters themselves.

And then I end up having to yell at my phone, because it ALWAYS happens that I’ll JUST have finished clearing all my comments and reviews from the last week when I get one from somebody who just read the new chapter.  And I thought I was DONE but now I have to go back in and reply AGAIN to someone, sometimes with them having reacted with many, many exclamation points, and it is always funny.

And I can’t stop grinning until bedtime, and sometimes until I actually fall asleep.

Because this dedicated group of fans, of readers, of friends — they are reading and reviewing and I can almost feel the collective OMG of them taking in and responding to what I post each week.  And it just…it fills me up.  No matter how bad a Monday has been, I go to bed happy because I put something into the world that gave something to them, and they gave it back.

There is an Avengers fic on AO3 I really like by Scifigrl45 named “The Act of Creation Will Be Your Salvation” and that title sums me up pretty well.  Music, writing, even building a family out of friends and a convention community out of nerds — this is what I have to give the world.  I have this drive to take a piece of myself and put it into the ether to be found by anyone who needs it.  And doing so, producing writing and offering it to those who need it, or producing music, or working for CONvergence, it fills me back up again.  It is an exchange of energy and love and spirit, and it makes us all better when we share in it.

I’ve written so many stories that don’t get read by more than one or two people, but they are just as necessary because sometimes they are there for that one person who really, really needs it.  Just as there are stories I really, really needed and still need sometimes.

It is everything on those Monday nights to put my story, my heart, my gift into the world, and know that it has made a difference.  Even if for just one person or just one moment.  It is everything.

The way I understand myself, my job is to stand at the edge of shadow, to hold it back from anyone who seeks shelter behind me, and to find something to bring some light to shine forward.  Just as I was a scared kid when I first discovered fanfiction or CONvergence and, through them, managed to hang on, I know there are other scared kids out there.  So I protect them when they come to me, be it to read my stories or attend CONvergence or share Thanksgiving at my table.  I stand up against the shadow.  I keep the storm back.  And I find a flashlight or a lantern from inside myself and push that to shine into the dark.  So the next scared kid can find their way, too.

Every one of my 114 stories would be worth it, all taken together, if they gave just one person that moment of light.  And they have done far more than that.

I have received comments and reviews from people who were struggling to remember to breathe all day long, fighting depression and worse with all their flagging strength, who said they felt better for reading my stories.  I had a year-long exchange with someone who took my chapters with her to her chemo appointments, and the novels I unfolded for her helped her cope with her battle to survive.  I have formed friendships with people I’ve never met which result in much giggling — but also which open up an avenue between us so that neither of us needs to ever feel that we are truly alone in the world.

Because we aren’t.  Max and Don and Blair and Quatre and all the rest have given us to one another.

When I do someday publish something that isn’t fanfic, it’s going to be because so many people have given me so much to get here.  Because these fans, readers, reviewers, friends made me believe I had something to offer, light worth shining, and gave me their own when mine went dim.  Writing is, at its best, a symbiotic relationship between author and reader, a circle of creation and inspiration and admiration.  I would have written those 114 stories just for myself, but it makes it so much more worthwhile to know I also write them all for every single person who has ever found and read and loved them.

(And every single person who read them and loved them and needed them but never left a comment, either — I don’t have to know them to know they’re there.)

So, to you, my wonderful, inspiring, soul-affirming friends and fans and fellow fic-nerds, thank you.  Thank you for everything.  And thank you on behalf of every author who was lifted by you.  The world needs a million more of you.

And for myself, for you, because of my heart, because of yours, I will never stop telling my stories.

Which really are my stories.

But they all belong to you.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter

Myers-Briggs and Me

A friend asked me this weekend about my personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs framework.  I retook the test, but then I also looked back at my results from the same test about 6 months ago.  Somehow, I’m not surprised I got pretty different results.

When I took the Myers-Briggs 6 months or so ago, I was an ENFJ.  This weekend, I scored ESTJ.

I took the test here if you’re curious.

The website goes into depth on each of the personality types and some of what the various combinations represent.  I think, generally, I fall somewhere between the ENFJ and ESTJ types.  What I find to be particularly amusing in the entire analysis of it, though, is that both peg me as being Extroverted rather than Introverted, and both peg me as being Judging rather than Perceiving — and I’m not sure I agree with either in its entirety!

Extroversion and introversion are always an interesting tangle.  Most commonly, they get explained as “do you get energy from people, or from being on your own?”  But the problem is that I think such a distinction doesn’t work for me.  Because whether I’m action or thinking oriented, whether I look for more interaction or less, and what exhausts me more — all these things are dependent on everything else.  Sometimes I call myself an “outgoing introvert.”

For me, it all depends on the day, the people, and how my brain chemistry has decided to line up.  I spent a large portion of this past weekend in crowds of people and felt more energized than ever — but those crowds were my two most comfortable communities: the Twin Cities Women’s Choir and the convention committee for CONvergence.  Sure, I was in a room with 100 people, and I had to be social, and I needed to be on my game, alert and quick and chatty and entertaining.  But I was with people where all of that comes more easily to me than, say,  a group at a ballgame or in the store.  The TCWC women have been my sisters and aunts and cousins for 11+ years.  They know me, and it’s fine for me to be myself, just as I am, around them.  I’ve known the CVG crew for less time, but, if anything, they are even MORE welcoming of me and who I am and how that presents today.

Contrast that with my usual circumstances at work, where I can go a whole day and sometimes a week without interacting face-to-face with a single coworker, in spite of sitting in the middle of a “cube farm” as it were.  I answer emails and IMs, and the few-and-far-between phone calls, but for the most part I find those weeks without people more restful and easier to handle.  The days when I don’t have to chat with people, or stand up in front of a room to give a presentation or training session, are the days I’m the most productive, the most relaxed, and come home feeling the most refreshed.

One hour-long meeting at work might be all the social interaction I would want in a day, but I can easily spend 3-4 days with the TCWC or CVG and never feel the fatigue of introversion.  So the “E” of the Myers-Briggs only works, I think, when I’m within a group where I already feel safe.  When I’m an outsider, though, or when I’m still finding my way, then I would challenge that “E” more strongly.

I’m probably not a genuine extrovert all of the time, or even most of it, but when I have room to be myself, then I take that room and enjoy it.

Similarly, the judging/perceiving divide doesn’t QUITE work for me.  It’s not quite as neat a divide to explain, but it seems to come down to “are you more likely to organize and follow a clear plan, or let the world give you some ideas and improvise along the way?”  And, once again, in a lot of ways I find myself to be both.

I am, generally, an organized person.  If someone asks me to make a plan, or figure out how to get XYZ things done, or set up a schedule with lots of conflicting information, I can usually breeze through it, produce something straightforward and logical, and enumerate the exact sequence of events or precise steps from start to finish.  I have the capacity to orient the world in my head and snap it into order, whether I’m doing it with my spreadsheets and plot structures or the exact to-do list before a road-trip.

But, honestly, a lot of that isn’t because I need it for myself — it’s more a result of everything else.  Living with Sarah, it helps us both for me to be able to make clear and concise plans she can use.  At work, I’m a data analyst, so my brain naturally whirls through numbers and patterns to create trends and graphs and correlations and conclusions.  I don’t know that I necessarily see the world in concretes, nor that I even need to perceive it that way.  But that’s the path of least resistance because that’s how I tend to keep life moving forward.

When it’s just me, living inside my head, I don’t think I bother with so much organization and structure and order.  I don’t typically make plans unless plans are necessary by some outside force, and I know things will get done in their own time.  I don’t bother to pin down the 15 different scenarios for every outcome of every branch of what I might do — I just go on my merry way and adjust my steps when the path changes or a rock creeps up.  Also, the “P” type tends to attract the non-conformists and I am ABSOLUTELY a non-conformist.  I’m the person who wanders around in ratty sweatpants in the nicest stores in the richest suburb because I CAN and I find it funny when people blink at me, as if somehow I’m “doing it wrong” by existing without being perfectly put together.

I do tend to interact with the world on the “J” side of the divide, but I think, if there were no world and just me, I’d stick to the “P.”  But, part of that is that I don’t need the plans of a “J” for myself because I know even if I stumble, I’ll catch myself and keep on walking.  But I plan, because I’m trying to make the path easier for anybody else walking with me.

So…I’m not sure I’m a good candidate for Myers-Briggs.  And all this is before you get into the nuances of trying to do personality testing in a constantly-fluctuating brain with bipolar tendencies.  It’s like trying to thread the needle of a sewing machine while it’s running.  You might hit it at just the right moment, but for the most part, you’re going to miss.

I understand why these types are helpful, both for people who want to learn about themselves and to help others understand one another.  I just don’t think they help ME very much.

But then, it’s just one more box, one more set of expectations, one more world of nice clean lines for me to willfully and cheerfully ignore when it suits me.  One more way to defy the mores of conventional understanding.

Because it’s fun.

And anything worth doing or being is worth doing and being yourself, for yourself.

Even when that makes me personality type ???? and sometimes !!!!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
twitter