HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRIS!

Today is my wonderful boyfriend Chris‘s fortieth birthday. Tomorrow, we’ll fly to Seattle where he’ll meet my parents, along with my brother and sis-in-law, and a few other important people, for the first time and go to Emerald City Comicon.

I’ve been thinking on how to celebrate Chris here on the blog. How do I sum up in words how much he means to me, how much I love him and all those things I see everyday which illustrate what a good man he is? Can’t be done.

So, instead of struggling with words, I’ve selected a handful of photos which make me smile when I look at them.

After a Warhammer 40K victory:

The button bin at All About Fbrics:

Dragon*Con TOS Klingon with a frat boy and a furry:

At my birthday dinner last year:

At Dragon*Con:

And, my personal favorite, holding up my Klingon wedding dress:

Chris, my love, you are amazing. Funny, smart, creative and talented. Kind, generous, thoughtful and loyal. You have no idea, either, how wonderful you are and how much you are loved. You have brought so much joy into my life, so much fun and contentment. I love your laugh and your smile, and so much more. I love talking with you, about the silly or serious. I’m the luckiest girl in the world because you love me. Happy Birthday!

SWEATSHIRT SKIRT

Here is yet another Self Portrait Sunday featuring a sewing project. This one isn’t for the Klingon wedding and took around an hour, start to finish. I’ve got one item left to make before the big event, but I’m taking a break since I wouldn’t finish before our trip to Seattle. Plus, I need some things I can wear to work and buying another pair of khaki pants which don’t last isn’t on my agenda. Frankly, anyone who’s thighs rub together knows what I’m talking about: it doesn’t take long to get holes on the inner part of the pants. Plus, I’m happier in skirts.

I spent some time this week searching for revamp and refashion ideas to turn existing items into something new, then hit the clearance section of Goodwill yesterday for cheap pieces to cut, seam rip and resew.

On this one, I skipped the “before” shot. It was a basic men’s Nike sweatshirt and I got it for a buck. I used an idea I found for a 30 second shirt and it worked like a charm. I added elastic at the waist since I’m going to wear it at work, but with the costume cut to fit waist hole, you don’t have to add elastic.

Please ignore the fact I didn’t publish my “Sunday” portrait until Monday. I’d typed it up and planned to come back and publish before bed, yeah, not so much.

AIRING LAUNDRY

The refrain of “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” might be passe in modern America. We’ve moved beyond talk shows into reality shows where instead of sitting on a stage talking about their problems, people invite cameras into their homes to get high def footage of the dirtiest of dirty laundry. I am not a fan of talk shows which serve only to parade guests’ dysfunctions or reality shows where the most outrageously messed up examples of humanity are the most popular. Certainly some of my distaste for such programing is the deep sense of privacy and propriety I was brought up to model.

But not all airing of dirty laundry is created equal.

As I have been thinking about being more honest as a writer, I have been thinking about things like gossip and the airing of laundry in public. It does not get more public than the internet, does it?

I happen to know, during the time I spent in Seattle in 2010 recovering from events which ultimately changed every facet of my life, my situation was discussed, literally, coast to coast. For the most part, the participants cared about me and my happiness. I understand what I went through and the decisions I made as a result weren’t always easy to watch from the outside. It was doubly hard from the inside and I removed myself from the “public” life I have cultivated on the internet as a result, no doubt adding to fuel to the flames.

I don’t hold it against anyone who may have had something to say during those troubled times, but I do wish more of the conversations had been with me rather than about me.

The experience does make my mission to write honestly a bit scary.

One of the influences I didn’t mention in my last post might be the most important in all my determination to blog more intimately about my life. The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast hosted by Paul Gilmartin has both entertained and fasionated me since I discovered it in late 2011. I went back and listened to every single episode. Each one features Paul interviewing someone – mostly creative folks – about their lives, hangups, addictions, and fears. Sometimes I nod as I listen and sometimes I think “whoa, I’m pretty normal compared to that hot mess” – most often during the same interview. I cannot say enough good about the podcast for anyone who’s interested in mental illness and creativity.

One thing Paul always makes clear as he and his guests talk about their pasts is they aren’t out to blame anyone, that most people in their lives haven’t been malicious, but have done they best they could. We all have family, teachers, friends, romantic partners, doctors, classmates, bosses and all kinds of people who affect us in ways both good, bad and, worst of all, complicated. The other person doesn’t matter, really, but examining the relationship does matter in figuring out where to go from the point of saying, “I have some issues.” After listening to 50-odd episodes of Mental Pod, I’ve come to see how my fear of “airing dirty laundry” has severally curtailed my ability to write about my life.

While I’m pretty awesome, I’m also get tangled up in patterns of thinking that started long before I was aware of, well, anything. Getting untangled is why I’m driven to write and why it’s the first thing I go back to when something bad happens. For a change, I’m in control because my life is freaking fantastic. Not perfect, but oh so good. I’m still me, there are some knots to fuss with, and I’d rather do it here than in a therapist’s office.

One thing I know for sure is dirty laundry needs to be aired in some form or it will fester, mold, mildew and ruin lives.

Balancing truth vs. privacy vs. not throwing people under buses is something I’m going to have to learn as I go along. I do not even think my life and past is all that scandalous, but it is the foundation of who I am. Nor is every post I’ve been too afraid to write primarily about my life. I have never been much for commenting on political or social issues on my blog because I do not want to stir the pot. As someone who does care about the world at large, I have opinions I’m passionate about. I admire people – agree with them or not – who are willing to state their beliefs publicly. Discourse is important.

My voice is important, or at least as important as every other yahoo with a modem, and my fear of being judged for thinking one way or another isn’t nearly as important. I know, deep down, what Dr. Suess says is true, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”

Sash

Forgive any formating weirdness on today’s SPS. I’ve just now downloaded the WordPress app for my spiffy new Andriod phone. I’m hoping having easy access to my blog on the go will allow me to use those little moments of down time to post or at least open drafts when I have a brillant post idea.

Today, I’m at work earlier than I have to be. Such is life without a car of my own. It doesn’t happen often and if I use the time to read or write, I’m perfectly happy to spend a few hours in the breakroom, drinking coffee.

My portrait is yet another Klingon wedding project photo. This time, the sash is for our friend Alex, who’ll be serving as a sort of best man. There is a Klingon word for it, but as I’m not at the computer, I won’t trouble with looking it up now. Maybe blogging from my phone is the best idea ever. Fewer distractions and more typing away.

The sash took more effort and thought than it looked like. I’ve got a layer of interfacing and a layer of muslin between the satin front and cotton liner. I first sewed the interfacing to the lining and the muslin to the satin so I only had two pieces of fabric to handle. Then I sewed the wrong sides together, creating tubes, turned them right side out, before sewing the front and back together. In writing that out, I wish I’d taken pictures of the process. Ah, well. There will be other sashes, no doubt. Klingons are big on honor sashs.

TO TELL (MY) TRUTH

I haven’t been honest in my writing. I have avoided the truth at every turn, written about safe topics and superficial feelings. It’s easy to write book reviews or answer silly quizzes or post pictures of craft projects. Those are perfectly reasonable things to post on a personal blog, but alone it is not all that personal.

I sometimes scratch the surface of deeper things; daily struggles, health and physiological issues. But I hold back, never cutting beyond the skin. Talking about the fact I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression isn’t hard. Telling my readers, today I was frozen by anxiety with irrational fears running through my head is terrifying. Equally frightful is the prospect of explaining happiness and joy.

Hell, I often don’t admit to myself how I’m feeling, but instead keep pushing forward.

Pushing forward is great. “Doing” is a strategy I fully embrace. For 2012, I made a to-do list rather than resolutions. Sitting around thinking is about the worst thing a person like me can do, but a busy schedule isn’t a cure. Nor, ironically, is a happy life. Is that annoying or what?

In many years of self-examination, I have found I don’t figure out anything by thinking. Talking, even to my nearest and dearest, doesn’t do the trick either. I can’t tell anyone what I don’t know or understand. Since I was a kid, I have articulated myself to myself best by writing. My journals from those years are gone, paper and pen are no longer my native tools. A keyboard is where, if I free myself, my thoughts flow best. I don’t know what is coming before I start typing which in itself frustrates me. I crave a peek at the big picture.

Opening a Word document, keeping a journal on my computer like I did on paper off and on for most of my life, would be one solution to working out what’s on my mind and heart. No doubt, it would be helpful. There have been times I have done just that and certainly in the course of my life I will do so again. But that solution only solves half of the problem.

What I’ve realized lately is being a chicken shit blogger has more consequences than a boring blog and low traffic. It represents giving up on my dream of being a writer. I have accepted easily the fact it’s harder than ever to break into traditional publishing. I don’t care one lick about being on the New York Times Bestsellers List or even on Amazon’s list. I care about filling a blank screen with words destined to be read. Without the second part of the equation, it’s literary masturbation. It’s a dichotomy; one writes for oneself, because it’s necessary, but putting the words away in a shoe-box under the bed doesn’t satisfy the writer’s needs. Writing is a conversation as much as sitting across the table talking is a conversation.

In staying safe, I have failed as a writer. The truth is the only thing worth reading. That is as true in fiction as in personal writing. As a personal blogger, I aspire to the best of autobiographical essays. I aspire to challenge readers, but not half as much as I challenge myself.

It is not in isolation I have come to these conclusions. As I find to be the case when I’m struggling with something I need to do but don’t want to do, life, the universe and everything puts signposts in my path too bright to ignore.

First, I must credit my cousin Sarah, better known under her pen name, Ivy Marie, who’s been writing her heart out for a while now online, has published a book, and is brave enough to tell the truth, even when it’s ugly, scary or unflattering. Not only has she found her voice with no formal training, she’s managed to make money doing it. I am inspired by her persistence and the sheer volume of words she’s written since she began her first blog.

After that, in no particular order, are some bloggers I deeply admire for the traits I want to infuse into my blog. Jessica Gottlieb wrote this post. The Gal Herself who chronically her life with such honesty it’s easy to forget she does it anonymously.

Dan of Single Dad Laughing writes bravely about the very meaning of life and happiness. Seriously, his top posts page has something for everyone or start with Who’s Life is It Anyway.

Of course, and always, there are writers who have influenced me for decades. Issac Asimov and Madeleine L’Engle top the list which includes so many fine, brave writers. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them, nor would I hold the dream I can’t shake loose (I’ve tried) of walking in their footsteps.

I am afraid of the consequences of digging deeper, but I am also afraid of the consequences of silence. If I’m honest, I am more afraid of the consequences of silence. Not sure what’s coming as a result of this honesty I vow to pursue, but I know it’s necessary.

TIRED

Got to admit, I didn’t notice until I uploaded this week’s self portrait just now that it sort of looks like I’m not wearing anything. Oops. As it happens, I’m down to a tank top, post work and before a light yoga session.

I am tired tonight. Pretty obvious, no?

My subconscious has decided to deal with stress by producing the kind of dreams you don’t have to be Freud to understand. Two nights in a row, I’ve had vivid dreams about specific stresses. I seldom remember dreams, so this kind of thing rattles me. I can’t even say the worries involved are at the forefront of my mind. It’s more the “same shit, different day” type of garbage one collects over a lifetime.

Can’t wait to go to bed in a few hours and see what the old brain has in store for tonight’s entertainment.