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Jul. 6th, 2014

Grotto

Stories and self-mythologies

Beans are worse than meat when they go bad. I'd rather deal with rotting beef, to go purely by the smell. For one thing I'd have recognized and located it sooner. It's also more cohesive and thus easier to clean.

I'm trying to pare down my stuff collection. Thinking of it as buying back the space the stuff occupied helps just a little, but it's difficult for me even when all I'm doing is getting rid of recyclables. "Wait, I've used those before! They have utility! What if I recycle all my flyers and don't have anything to clean mirrors with? What if I need to plant basil cuttings!? But I know how to make a really useful tiedown out of this plastic!!"

I'm rolling my eyes at myself and yet it doesn't quiiiite seem to sink through and become emotional reality that this is patent nonsense.

I wonder why it's been so long since I wrote here. I'm going to have to upload it a couple of days late since I'm out of data right now - maybe that's why I'm generating content, because I'm not reading it right now.

I suppose the purpose of a journal is for airing ideas that you aren't convinced others would want to hear, or which aren't yet refined or polished sufficiently to inflict on company just then. I've been spending so little time socially around people, despite my work, that I don't have time for those thoughts in the first place - unlike every occupation I've held to date I have absolutely no time at all to think outside of getting the job done. Fair enough given the way it has to be structured.

We found a Chinese app that's basically a direct rip of Duolingo and I cannot cannot wait to get to a wifi connection and download the thing. If I were smart I'd have sent my laptop as a vanguard of my digital life to download it ahead of me and bring it back to the Wastes of the North.

We got to discussing my apartment tonight. I'm still of conflicted feelings about it; I know I oughtn't spend so much on a routine expense. I know I could go on whole international vacations for what I spend in excess rent every quarter. (I also know that I know how to shop for most things, so that's not so severe as it sounds at first; more in terms of the average person's groceries. But the principle is the same because it is the same measure of power for me personally.)

When my friends moved me in at first we joked about its remoteness, a whopping sixteen miles from the social hub of my boyfriend's place. We said it was in Narnia. I laughed about my Palace-in-the-North, the height, the gates, the grand bright windows. I regretted not being HOME for it more often; still working two jobs and six days most weeks at that point, though that ended quickly after.

More recently I've stopped mythologizing it thus - the palaces of Snow Queens, whichever ones we're discussing, were always the essence of alien remoteness, the more real counterpart to fairylands: the sort of place you might encounter a speaking reindeer or lion and then be obliged to ride them into or out from danger. These were not my native grounds, these wastes of lowland pines and higher barren tundra plains. They didn't feel natural to me, and I didn't realize until now what I was doing when I created it so in my head. I didn't feel welcome to this place, although for the time I knew I held it in my power. I felt I had intruded, boldly, and would before long need to leave, and I less mourned the loss of this particular extravagance than the loss of a sense of haven which I somehow associated with it and it alone.

I've only ever had a few safe spaces in my life, and almost each one I was forced from in some way or another. It seems plausible in retrospect that I would feel confident of being forced from this one, too, before I was ready to go.

But it is a haven for more than the mere absence of malefactors, and is finally becoming valuable to me in an increasingly near, intimate way.

A friend joked about my aerial hobbit-hole tonight as we planned for a party, and I realized it: I have begun to perceive it in line with one of the Tolkien paradigms for "home," albeit not that one. I sense something more grand but less earthy, a bit of a surprise given what I thought I wanted for so long. This is more Imladris, more Rivendell - a lovely place, not a private, personal estate, but an open house. It is not fixed to my precise self, because my precise self is not yet fixed. I am not yet so old or far along in my years to know who that will be or what life she will choose to lead. It is merely a very good place, whether one likes food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all; and merely to be there becomes a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.

The best and most beautiful thing about this sense - this feeling of home - is that it has no real relation to the physical place.

I like this apartment with its beautiful light, but I know I am unlikely to stay here when I can eventually move somewhere more practical. Closer to work, if I have it; closer to the market, closer to the ground. Always where there are trees. Always near running water. But the feeling of home that is beginning to creep into me is intrinsic to myself.

I can carry it with me, and less and less do I need any particular thing to summon the presence of it. A full spice rack the height and breadth of a pantry door helps, as does the fully-stocked pantry, and freezer, and growing, twining, fragrant things in the windows and just outside. But the heart of it is with me. I still 'need' my sketchbooks. I still 'need' the tools of an artist. But less and less do I fear the loss of the little things. Perhaps this is because I am increasingly able to replace them?

There are days, now, for the first time, that if I had to walk from the flames of my former life, there are few things I would carry with me. Records, mostly, of my life and history; my artwork, my pictures. Not possessions. And I could start all over again with fresh new belongings on what I live on in a year, and frankly that's not bad at all.

This is why it surprises me that I am reluctant to give things up. I know increasingly that I shouldn't mind if I lost them, but there's a sense of profligacy that comes with disposing of anything of my own volition, I suppose left over from an era when I was always afraid of not having enough. I still fear that from time to time; I am not SO well off as that.

But a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he is able to let alone.

I have found I can live quite comfortably on very little. Reading, and employment, have led me to realize that a majority of the population spends nearly everything they earn in a year. Given that it is not abnormal for a person of middle income in their prime to make fifty thousand in a year, this means they are spending fifty thousand in a year also, and I have no real sense of where that goes. Rent aside, I can make do quite happily, even luxuriously, on a tenth of that.

(I say this as someone comfortably running a ceiling fan, not having used any air conditioning all year, in mid-July, in north Texas. I recognize this is not considered expected. But I still think my electric bill is high and I suspect my refrigerator is an egregious spendthrift antique, so I have to make up for it somewhere, and it won't be a cold stove.)

Possessions mean less and less, and power means more and more. Low needs mean agility of lifestyle. I could move, if I needed. I recognize the strongest holdovers to this are books. I just finished, finally, my father's ancient copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I would be lying if I claimed it would have meant as much to read an ebook as this yellowed, still-crisp paperback with a ghosted Ex Libris bookplate in the front cover. His copy of Life, the Universe and Everything is priced in British pounds. These things bear significance to me. (For contrast, his copies of The Lord of the Rings are tattered, frayed, and generally much-loved, which I think says something about what we have in common. Though enjoying both, we each tended to prefer solemn, lovely things to silly, clever ones when young.)

These are the things I would strive to preserve. But I'll keep my copies of The Names Upon the Harp and The Song of Mu-Lan if it doesn't pain me to do so.

When home could not be people - most of my life, in fact - home was the things that reminded me of when home had been people. Childlike, those important people were not me. I am, slowly, learning to make home where I am, instead. I think that's why the sketchbooks still matter.

Divorcing identity from possessions is slow and strange, and I keep drawing parallels to giving up a body held too long. Although of course this means something other to me than it might on first glance, in a society that renounces nature for an artificial ideal of humanity. I am not looking to move past physical presence; I'm looking to inhabit it fully, as what I am most fundamentally. Everything right down to clothing is petty superfluous possession. I am an animal with senses and wants and the primary animal ability to take from the world around me all I need, for all animals are predators in honesty.

Increasingly unlike past years I am losing territoriality. I am possessive of things, in the short run. I will snap if my meal is threatened when I am hungry. But I am no longer fixed as I was as child on preserving the exclusiveness of my space. I've given the woods back to the trees, so to speak. The walls around me will not come with me when I leave, and this no longer makes me sad. I just picture the new walls. I picture windows full of light and edged in climbing vines. I see trees outside and roots in soil and think of the garden I could plant and how quickly I could get the basil to overtake a window box and whether there is enough room to try for sweet potatoes.

I think of myself ten years on painting in the light from my bedroom window. Bedrooms are good places for a studio, because then you can keep all your dreams in one place.

I reinterpreted myself in myth and I no longer saw the desperate, peace-loving, forced heroine I always did when I was younger. I never understood why she was what she was. I was too close to my situation to realize that that story was about knowing intuitively what is good and worthy in life and fighting with all one's soul for it, holding out only the barest flickering hope to light the way, and that is what it was to grow up when and where and how I did. I dreamed of dreaded wars and impossible odds and the best of humanity as demonstrated by virtual self-sacrifice for only the chance of salvation for the rest. Nothing beyond that story; the world is given back to itself, and nothing expected to be left of its hero.

I still love these stories, but they are changing in me.

There is something - the story itself - after the noble charge, the grand battle, after the obscuring dust settles on the field, when the sides are not so clearly won and lost, but go back to their plows and mills. It is not simple. This was Morrigan's lesson: First, you must survive.

First, she said. And then what?

First means something follows.

It is not right, but neither entirely wrong, to say this diminishes the intensity of the first arc. The tale of sacrifice and The Hero, Alone, has to be given its own volume and treatment. The rest MUST follow after, a little ways behind, a few short years hence.

The first protagonist must be an innocent in order for the sacrifice to be fit.

Who comes in her place later is someone older, altered, brooding. She has measured the ways of man in the aftermath of the initial sacrifice and is calculating her position accordingly. She is not remembered, if she had a place in the grand battle; she is not recognized as sacrificial or innocent, because those are traits which are solely for benefit of others, and that is not who or what she is, if ever she was.

If the first story was about sacrificial valour for the succor of others, the second tale is about the discovery of one's own values, considerate weighing of one thing against the next: the price of caution, the meaning of ambition, the dearness of self. Not here, the high tales of heroism, but perhaps intrigue. Battles are to be won in the realm of word and principle.

This can be darker or more subtle, depending on the protagonist. She will certainly be seen more powerful if she is willing to be seen as dangerous, which she may be; she is certainly amassing power and resources in quiet ways, not demanding attention but increasingly capable of commanding it all the same. She would have as soon have an army hanging on her word - but will she ever give an order?

Jan. 12th, 2014

Grotto

Gaming on life

I'm learning a lot about myself from games lately.

Course overcorrections; Wii Fit slalom.
I self-sabotage through rumination on the minor mistakes I just made, as well as prior pains of all sorts.

Embiggulating mushrooms, etc; Super Mario.
I gather anything that I perceive to have value, even if it is patently useless to me to do so at the present time.

Almalexia; Elder Scrolls.
I overlook details in even the things I think I know best.

Incorporating knowledge into living is the tricky part.

Oct. 29th, 2013

Grotto

Futures

Realizing I had a morning off yesterday - a rare gift - and that the looming threat of work after kept me from enjoying it to fullest advantage really clarified something to me. I can work under time pressure - I nearly always do - but I can't play. I don't relax, can't sink in, find myself dreading immersion because the shock of breaking it is so painful. This is not unique to an afternoon.

When is enough work done to sink in safely and enjoy life?

Clearly after I pick up my license today it will be time for Skyrim therapy.

Mar. 20th, 2013

Grotto

Livejournal is a fickle little minnow.

It won't keep me logged in for long enough to even view a page most of the time nowadays - which is awful, since UrsulaV finally decided her journal has enough prospective grubby-fingered goblin visitors that she put it behind a 14+ wall.

I'm here because I need to record something for myself.

Last week - sometime - the week before? I won't know, as it's tax season and frantically busy. But recently, I was in enough of a state to withdraw into my head in a way that I hadn't since I was making masks once a week. (2007, if you weren't there.)

I was curled into a chair and aching enough to have gone mentally numb in that tenuous way - push too hard and you'll break the surface tension and fall through, and you will drown in the dark while your lungs and throat erupt in fire and your eyes and hands and feet and tongue turn to stones dragging heavily at your flesh. Do not disrupt. But if you tilt your head just right, and you lay very still, and do not breathe too much, what floats to the surface like bubble iridescence can stun. If you turn it this way - and dreams are what it showed me, after all.

There is a girl with skin the color of straw and great dark eyes and lips like willow leaves laying on the ground below. Her hair is a thick tangle of roots off her scalp and the same shade as her skin and they settle but not-quite-sink across the earth in a fan around her head.

And then I know more about her, her breaking heart and why she only just breathes, and her beautiful lover with no face, luminous and faintly golden, who takes up nearly all her sight in her mind, and flashes of comely river-girls with hair like seaweed tumbling down their shoulders, brief snatches of darting sky-women all thin down snowflaked over sharp talons, and how lovely and how different and how much she feels for everything, how she churns at the center while she holds herself still, pressed into the soil, pulling air and water in once for every time it falls back out again.

And then I am me, again, and realizing what I am being told, and what is happening, and supposed to be having a conversation, and I wonder why that world left me so long ago, and moreso, why it came back.

Jul. 2nd, 2012

Grotto

Junctions

Talking into a journal is not as natural as it used to be.

I went shopping with a friend today. The results were encouraging. I'm apparently feeling pretty good about myself given what I bought. I keep having double-take reactions when I see a full-length mirror - while I'd like to drop maybe another three pounds of fat and put on a good five pounds more muscle, I think I look better than I have in quite a long while.

Along with the financial hemorrhage at the mall, I've been buying decent food for a change, and this is probably influencing the aforementioned physical status. Quinoa, coconut chicken and asparagus last night at the cafe looked like not much but was immensely satisfying - I'd forgotten how filling calorie-rich foods can be when they have flavor. Surviving on bland carbs (and not many of them) has really gotten old.

I miss exercise. I'd just gotten good about occasional weightlifting and some basic stretching again, due to the potential I might have a major cosplay going on, and everything fell apart with the last few weeks between work and home and losing out on the chance to do the cosplay. Meeting a new friend was somewhat inspiring - I'd love to take on a shape anything like that, and I know more muscle would be flattering as well as useful. If my work becomes more sedentary it's going to only be more important to keep it up.

I need to get back to a predictable sleep-wake cycle so that I can walk in the mornings and do weights at night again. All this comes back to the need to move, however - I'm not going to get far unless I can manage my own schedule.

I've seen two of the three major films I was looking forward to this summer; just Dark Knight Rises left. The invitation to go make an appearance in costume at the museum was a little heartbreaking and I wish I'd had more time, but it'll happen one way or another.

I need to keep drawing. Sketchbook's on the shopping list - I'm almost out of pages finally - and I'll hate the empty feeling of it so much it'll hardly take months to have a collection again. I need to get on that but quick, though; I can sense my aesthetic changing yet again, craving more powerful figures (I was so glad the All-Orc game was postponed), revisiting my historical love of irritable brunettes. I look forward to picking up a copy of Hiketeia sometime...

Jan. 23rd, 2012

Grotto

Vascillation

I'm almost starting to feel like this wild flickering between hope and resignment is normal. Which really goes to show just how badly I need a big change.

I've got a job application in the works which might turn out to be exactly the dose of stability and good environment I need, with additional perks being opportunity to experiment and learn within the context of my job, and a coworker community with a fixation on curiosity. If this did work out, I may be able to count on a large circle of built-in friends. Not to mention an income and all the opportunity that brings: relocation in particular.

I'm taking a class through properly-enrolled friends in German, and am vaguely terrified I won't keep up, but at the same time enthralled; already the sounds are beginning to make sense, I can pick out bits of the music of the tongue, and even the case system isn't as intimidating as I had originally feared.

My social situation is beautiful. I still feel sometimes as if I've had a paving stone dropped on me and I'm having to grow out from under it. I would really do well if I could just get some proper sunlight; hopefully the weeds sprung up around me are about to be clipped out of my way.

So much - so much - has changed, and so much still has to. A year on from tragedy and things have been better - I was hoping not to see this backslide, but I'm glad we're where we are now after what's happened thus far. Things could have been far more traumatic. My whole family has been reprofiled. I'm about to be rewriting my own place.

Little things:

Oh, Skyrim. How I wish you were ready for my console back when you were released. It looks as if I'll be waiting for the Game of the Year edition again, and that's a sad, distant thought. I had my character half-written already, an experiment in my abilities, and I fear I'll forget before I can flesh her out.

Skyward Sword is lovely and I wish I wouldn't forget my console at friends' houses so that I cannot play, especially when said friends are in class all week and won't have time themselves.

I have a renewed love of homemade pizza and a newfound appraisal of canned tomato when it can be had so cheaply. Good spices hide a multitude of sins. Garlic-bread crust is painfully delicious. Crusts really do need to be liberally pierced.

I'm still terrible about actually doing my laundry before I run out of clothes.

Running into old friends is a trip. I never expected to have to bid so many people farewell, though; I'd assumed anyone who was going to be leaving had left by now.

Seeing everyone couple off or marry all of a sudden is a more hopeful feeling than I really think it ought to be, but there it is.

Oct. 18th, 2011

Grotto

Breathing

Times like this, when the earth seems to lurch and rock with every heartbeat, and you're holding on for fear you'll fall from where you lay ostensibly stable, all you can do is breathe. This isn't the night when breathing is a chore so loathsome as to seem scarcely necessary, nor even when it aches from the soreness of diaphragm and rawness of throat after hours sobbing; this is the night when each breath is a gasp, as if one has run to safety some minutes ago and has yet to catch back the wind, reeling and hollow and dry as cut bamboo.

Once again, I find myself out of rope.

"Safe" is relative. I have too much of the dog in me; I want so bad and so badly to trust and cannot stay away from that which burns or kicks. I cannot drive these needs out of myself and cannot seem to preempt the consequent blow, either.

I find myself wondering if I ran away, found a role somewhere I had no closenesses, if I could find a way to self-sustaining happiness, or at least find a way not to be disappointed. Perhaps if I could learn to love better as a generality, take a page from Mozi and his jian ai, his impartial love. It makes wholehearted benevolence easier. It makes charity easier. But it often lacks reciprocity - one gives so much more than one ever receives - and I find myself in need of an awful lot about now. I may not be strong enough to survive that way.

On the other hand, I could sell out. It'd almost certainly be easier to let the redundant disappointment fester into resentment and old fury. Then I could take without any sense of guilt or selfish proportion.

But I find myself drawn to tribe and clan and kith and kin; I want family. I want companionship. Clearly I need dog-people, or at least dogs. With language's sociality comes a whole new level of having to realize the personhood of others, and too often we aren't up to the task; it's easier to let some people be environmental objects in our minds, finding it too taxing to regard every one of these other bodies as people. So they are grouped, and ranked, those least like us naturally least deserving of the distinction of personhood and humanity, and best of all if we can make them complicit in it. It's game theory - even if we'd all be better off with a conspiracy of mutualism, the temptation will always be too great for a few, and they will gladly take whatever advantages they can get. We weaken those who might be strongest, the best among us, and congratulate ourselves on our tough-mindedness, our rationalism. "Someone has to come out on top; it might as well be me."

It's very hard not to want to quit this kind of game.

Oct. 9th, 2011

Grotto

Disturbing.

I think I just mentally articulated something I'd been not-quite-conscious of for some time.

I have had a rough day, since I got home. A couple of well-meant but very insensitive comments gone awry and some really revolting behaviour on part of another person rather crashed my otherwise good mood, in light of the gorgeous stormy weather.

And I find myself on the computer, clicking through all my favorite bookmarked sites to watch, finding nothing, checking my social networks and email, proceeding to idle thoughts of the particular high-sugar high-fat foods (mostly, white chocolate or sweet cheese fillings) I wish I had access to, running over certain tentatively joyous things in my life with the absent intention of a person fingering a worn-smooth ring. I'm trying to come up with something that will make me feel better, but this goes beyond looking to be cheered up; this is nearly compulsive behaviour, as you might see in an addict. I am looking to be fixed. I am looking for something that will bring me back up to baseline, and I want it now.

I suppose, being aware of this, that I could attempt to channel it somewhere productive. But it's disconcerting all the same.

Sep. 20th, 2011

Grotto

Scavenging.

So I bought bookshelves.

theFerrett here at Lj used to work for Borders and was talking about their imminent demise some months back. I knew it was coming. But it still seemed a little surreal when the store started posting their discount banners in all the windows.

The Borders location I grew up with closed up some years back and moved a few miles down the street. I had no particularly strong attachment to the location that was now closing; no particularly strong memories forged there. In high school I largely had to stop reading for pleasure, and visiting a bookstore was like dropping into a candy shop after being proscribed sweets. But I had spent a good chunk of time there, and after all, it was a bookshop, and any place of many books has always had a certain resonance for me. Shopping there for discounted volumes was one thing, and then I saw the prices on their store shelving, slowly being dismantled and carted away by soon-to-be-former customers.

I wound up getting a much better deal on the bookshelves than I'd anticipated - 60sqft. for $80 total - due to waiting so long. But I felt sort of dirty feeling good about it. I felt like I was picking the bones of some whale - I would rarely sentimentalize something out of its utility, but it seemed a little cannibalistic.

That said, I now have bookshelves lining half of my bedroom. They don't precisely FIT - my unusual ceiling configuration has them inconveniently propped a full foot out from the wall at the base - but they cut down tremendously on the number of boxes of books I have to stuff under the bed and everywhere else. In fact, what I own barely begins to fill the shelves. I may start displaying my masks in the empty spaces. And it's mostly empty spaces.

But I've started having dreams about bookshops. This morning, right before I was shaken out of sleep by an explosive commercial on the television downstairs, I was assisting a vague, odd old man seeking employment in a bookshop. He wanted, in his queer, foreign way, to understand people, and thought it would be as good a venue as any, given that he suddenly had bills to pay and a life to live, all of this alien to him as a consequence of having until very recently been immortal and the personification of Death.

Did I help bring Death to a bookshop in this dream? Did my dream-self's sympathy for his beliefs regarding the clerk's position as a potential source of happiness reflect a hint from my dreaming mind that I ought to go find myself a nice bookstore and settle down? It seems like a dream like that ought to be loaded, and it's certainly true that I would enjoy working in a bookstore. I just wouldn't particularly enjoy the hours or scheduling.

Something to puzzle at, certainly.

Aug. 4th, 2011

Grotto

Guilt

Something I've been ruminating on since I worked it out in the first place a few years ago is my issue of chronic guilt. I think I figured out a factor in its genesis and one of its more destructive facets in particular, aside from the simple and constant impression of scarcity.

One of the things I've observed myself doing is avoiding engagement when I "should" be doing something else, whether I can be doing this other thing or not. I'm not sure whether it's more out of a sense of self-imposed deprivation in punishment - I certainly feel as if I "shouldn't" be out having fun when I should be working on employment, for example, but there's no reasonable limit on how much time I can spend at employment-seeking at a time. This made me a spectacular, and spectacularly miserable, student - any time not devoted to study had to be spent on either eating or sleeping, or the occasional mad fire-on-the-mountain fit of inspiration. It's an incredibly unproductive way to live your life.

And here I am, doing it again, feeling I don't deserve to spend time away from the harshest aspects of my life. I've modified the terms a bit - I've been permitting myself time with friends after the realization that, why, yes, it does me a great deal of good not to self-isolate. But I haven't been allowing myself the creative diet I need in order to produce.

I came into possession of my old game console late winter, and never set it up, thinking it would motivate me to push that particular variety of pleasure into the future. Naturally it did no such thing and I needed no such motivation; all it wound up being was another form of self-denial.

So I was invited to set it up in the living room to test it out - after all, when I had it repaired I paid serious money to ensure it was in warranty for another two years. I played a few hours of Dragon Age, and I finally created a new user profile to link to my PSN ID. And I've been on fire ever since, ultraproductive and excitable. And once I realized that I stopped feeling guilty. But that led me to realize something else - that once the guilt was gone I was hyperconcerned with being SEEN as having too much fun while I "should", theoretically, be miserable. That I might have to perform misery to be seen as properly responsible, as taking my situation seriously, nevermind the near-crippling anxiety I've been fending from the door, because the accusation that I don't take my situation seriously enough, if it comes from the right person, will send me into another death spiral. Oh.

And of course, in the nature of learning about things, this just leaves me with a new problem and series of questions: what do I do about my inability to disengage from inapplicable criticism?

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