The Sad (TM)

I’m not a sad person, generally.

But I have been. For months I have been a kind of sad that pales all other sads I have ever experienced.

Officially, it is depression. I have a therapist who says so. She makes me take a little quiz at my sessions about it. My depression score is getting lower. That is a good thing.

Having been raised in the tradition that holds depression as a character flaw, a weakness, a lack of faith, it is not easy to confess my sadness. Or even to call it depression.

Which is bollocks. Really.

But bollocks that is entrenched in my imperfect mammal brain, and one of the many erroneous beliefs about myself and the world around me that I have been slowly unpacking these past few years.

I have learned some things during The Sad (TM). Some really, like, groovy things. Some things that, approaching the other side of The Sad, I can be thankful for.

Here is an incomplete list:

  1. I learned to make space for my emotions. I have been so miserable and so desperate to figure out why, and so angry and railing against my inability to figure it all out, I realized I was wasting energy and started to practice mindfulness about my emotions. Like, whenever they surfaced, I had a chat with them. I asked them what they were about. I tried to trace their impetuses, I found my inner child who feels so ignored and trounced. Whenever I can look at and name these feelings, I can also talk about them in a way that has always felt frustrating and impossible in the past.
  2. I learned that owning sadness is strong. Sadness is not a character flaw or a weakness. To confess to sadness and begin to sort through it requires thigh muscles of titanium, because The Sad is fucking heavy, like water. And it’s working hard to keep you down. And you lose all your natural buoyancy, and sometimes it is really tempting to just give up and breathe in The Sad you’re under till it literally kills you.
  3. The Sad helped me unpack some important, pivotal, revelatory stuff about myself: I’d lost sight of my goals. I’d made so many employment and work decisions out of desperation that I forgot what I really *want* to do with my life. I forgot that I still have access to pursuing that goal. I forgot that failing once does not mean failing forever. I forgot about the opportunity in failure.
  4. The Sad helped me to realize that my intuition is powerful and I should listen to it. Whenever my lady nuts tell me something, I ought to listen.
  5. The Sad helped me to rediscover my spiritual self, and to learn to practice a spirituality on my own terms, that is non-judgemental, and that does not come with a specific special book full of ancient stories that are up for (mis)interpretation, or that have been hijacked by the patriarchy.

I’m glad to be feeling more like myself lately, to begin to shake The Sad. But I am grateful for this season, despite its vast unpleasantness.

Grammar Fool

Universally, friends and acquaintances tell me they are nervous to write me messages because they fear my judgement regarding their grammar.

I think it’s time to make a public announcement:

I don’t give a toss about your crummy grammar. I’m not judging you. We’re good.

I only correct grammar in one of two situations.

  1. If I am getting paid.
  2. If you are my boyfriend who is persistently critical of my semantics.

Being a professional word nerd, and knowing how to research subordinate clauses and commas working together in slippery situations does not mean I am constantly  apoplectic when people in my little sphere don’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re.

Think of it this way: therapists aren’t constantly diagnosing their friends and neighbors. Attorneys do not take notes during private conversations for future litigious use. Physicians don’t perform minor surgeries casually. Bartenders do not pass out adult beverages at their parent-teacher conferences, much as that would be a general improvement.

SO, PLEASE DO NOT BE AFRAID TO WRITE TO ME. Chances are, I will not even notice any grammar issues in your missive. Promise. But if I do, you will never hear from me about it.

One of my favorite things about English is that it’s growing, evolving, and changing.

For example, one of my favorite style manuals, The Chicago Manual of Style, recently ruled that the word they is now acceptable as a singular pronoun.

This change is exciting to me because it reflects a change in the way we talk about gender. It’s exemplary of societal growth.

In my opinion, digging in one’s heels on such things–especially when the changes serve a higher social purpose–amounts to bigotry. 

I am not sure why people feel so much shame over making grammar mistakes. I do it. 

Everyone does. I misuse words. Sometimes intentionally, but sometimes I feel like a real dweeb about it. 

Just like you, there are words I persistently misspell. I often confuse the words liturgy and litigious (I looked it up when I used it above!). I learn new things about grammar, style, and usage almost every day.

And just like you, I think it is obnoxious at best when people act like the grammar police. 

I feel passionate about being an attentive student of language and grammar. I love to learn about words and sentences and lesser used punctuation marks. 

But I don’t expect the same from you, I am not silently correcting your grammar. 

And if the other word nerds you know are? They’re dicks. Stop hanging out with them.

Death Threat

Saturday morning at 10:23, a terrible email showed up in my business email inbox.

I am not going to reproduce it here because it is unspeakably horrible. It includes the words maggot, jew, pedo, shoot, and family.

It was jarring and awful. My heart rate increased, I felt like I was going to stop breathing, and then I shed giant tears of fear and frustration. My hands shook as I screen capped it, sent it to my boyfriend, then shared it in an online community I trust for advice.

The email came to me as a result of a highly peripheral, tangential connection that a certain group of conspiracy theorists made between my business and a basementless restaurant in Washington D. C. It’s important that the restaurant has no basement because a key premise of the conspiracy theory was that democrats were trafficking children from that imaginary basement.

My business is called Adipocere Soap. My whole schtick is that I use only plant-based ingredients, and no synthetics. When called on to describe further, I say “handmade products with creepy, anachronistic sensibilities.”When someone first drew my attention to the connection between my business and this conspiracy theory, I was amused. Kind of flattered, even. I received some strange requests for information about where I source my adipose, but I ignored these and laughed about them with friends. Someone who can only google adipocere but not vegan left a ridiculous review on my Facebook page which a customer reported as nonsense.

I’m wrestling the impulse to provide credentials that I’m not, in fact, by any stretch, involved in any kind of trafficking of children or otherwise. Of course I’m not. I do not need to prove anything. I have done nothing wrong.

However, we see over and over again that an absence of wrongdoing doesn’t really mean anything for a lot of us. And I’m not taking this all the way lightly.

Apparently there was a real retraction late in March, under threat of legal action by the owner of the DC pizza restaurant.

But even after that retraction, the nonsense waves reverberate. Here are some things that happened as a result of this death threat:

  1. After I could not get anybody on the phone on Saturday, A police officer at the station on Monday morning responded to me with sarcasm and annoyance when I explained I’d received a hate email with a death threat. He did not ask “what did you do to deserve that?”, but that was his subtext. Of course, as soon as I named the conspiracy theory, he could take my word for it because he’d spoken to a man about it previously.
  2. I had to invite other police officers into my place of business. The officers who took my report were conscientious and kind and affirming, but I had to talk to other people in the complex that houses my business; I had to warn them, explain why the police were coming, show the email to others, involve my community, possibly connecting them to this madness.
  3. I had to face the following truth: I am embarrassed about all of this because as a woman in America in 2017, despite how much I know it’s not true, on some level I am conditioned to believe I am asking for it anytime something unpleasant happens to me.
  4. A well-meaning person suggested I rebrand. Adamantly. And while I understand the intention of the suggestion was oriented toward my safety, it reveals a cultural impulse as strong as my own embarrassment about this: I have done something to bring this senselessness upon myself, and I have the power to change it, so I should.
  5. I have considered contacting the FBI. Ironically, several months back I reported a suspected child trafficking victim that I observed at my place of employment. So I have a card for a local FBI person; I believe this email I received constitutes a terroristic threat, and I am certain that FBI person would be happy to connect me with the appropriate department.

Will I contact the FBI? I am still deciding.

Am I unsafe? I do not think so. Even in the original forum where the connection between me and the conspiracy was made, some believers said (I’m paraphrasing), “uh, those folks are harmless, man. they’re just weirdos.”

Though I still reported it to the police, to Google, and kept a record. I will eventually have  a police report, too. Just in case.

Do I plan to rebrand?

No.

If I rebrand, the terrorists win.

If I rebrand, I will lose clients who buy my products *because* of the branding.

Rebranding would mean redesigning all of my labels, getting a new business name and URL, redesigning my website, newsletter, and all signage. It would be time-consuming and expensive, and the only way I’m doing it is if I want to for reasons wholly unrelated to this madness.

Rebranding is starting from scratch in an already-saturated cottage industry. In a market where my branding is the only obvious thing that sets my products apart from any of the 6 other handmade body care companies in this town.

Rebranding is confessing that this IS my fault, and giving people who do not deserve any of my thoughts a lot of power over me.

To rebrand is to betray the pieces of myself that are woke, the growing bits of my psyche that believe there’s no shame in being a strong, powerful, ambitious woman, that believe the resounding truth women are not asking for it. That I am not asking for it.

 

Alice

I was one of those teenagers in the 90s who burned incense in her room and wore black t-shirts with weird art on them and really loved the Violent Femmes and Alice in Wonderland and spent a lot of time in her own head, drawing and reading and writing.

So I’ve been reading this book, Alice. By Christina Henry. It’s a novel. My brother, one of the few people I talk to regularly who would remember me as a teenager, gave it to me for Xmas.

Seriously, I love this book.

It is not the sort of thing that’s generally in my taste. For example, there’s a lot of violence. And no sex, at least not the tortured kind between people who are awful to one another and can’t get out of their own ways. And no people with neurotic personalities. And nothing I generally like to read about. I’m a literary fiction snob who’s been on a memoirs kick for like the last 5 years, and I’m really fine with that.

Alice is fantasy.

But the writing is hypnotizing in its vividness, and it’s clever. It’s not literary exactly, but it’s not formulaic; it doesn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator. It takes brilliant and artful liberties with Lewis Carroll’s original characters.

It equates magic with societal otherness in a way that reminds me of this TED Talk by Liz Gilbert.

Alice is a BAMF. I love books by women about BAMFs. Alice’s companion is a fascinating character. They are both broken in their own ways, but as the story rolls on, they get comfortable in the necessity of their brokenness, and the necessity of their awful violence, and the comfort that exists in life’s hopelessness. And there’s a backward sort of hope in that.

That backward sort of hope resonates with me at present. I’ll take it. And I can’t wait to read the next one.

April #DGAF 2017

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about blogging, following the rules, trying to control my content, trying to paint a particular picture of what and who I am.

Why? I don’t know now.

The rules say 500 words. The rules say you gotta do a picture. The rules say keep it approachable. The rules say certain times of day. The rules say tagging, metadata, SEO. Keep a schedule. Don’t post too much. Don’t post too little. LOTS OF WHITE SPACE PEOPLE CAN’T PAY ATTENTION!

The rules are a nag. They are useless to me.

A few months back, I turned 36. So for a few days, I posted on Facebook & Instagram with the tag #DGAFage36.

Here’s an example from Facebook, Nov 2, 2016:

I get real big anxiety about peeing in cups, peeing outdoors, and peeing in portajohns. I have since I was little. When I was pregnant, my biggest worry on a regular basis was whether I’d be able to, and if I could, whether I’d hit or miss. #DGAFage36

At this moment, on Feb 21, 2017, I am a mess. I went from starting the birth year feeling very empowered and content and hopeful to losing my way, spectacularly.

I need to retrieve my confidence. I am afraid in ways that I wasn’t afraid 10 years ago. And not the normal, getting-to-know-my-own-mortality shit, either. Some days, I’m afraid to go out into the world.

I have a few strong, powerful, good women in my life who have helped me realize that I need to DO SOMETHING. So since I still have 2 weeks until I can get into therapy, I’m starting here. With a public declaration that I am actively working to retether. And that part of this work is not giving a f*ck.

This is accountability. This is practice.

So henceforth, this blog won’t be about anything specific or focused, not that it really ever has been. But I used to try.

Trying is good at work, when there is a thing, person, or cause to keep you moored. When trying as part of a team means something in a defined structure.

But in my life, I’m discovering that trying is inextricable from people pleasing, and it will drive me bananas–trying toward my own slave-driver, neurotic standards, or what I guess about others’ standards, or the internet’s copious, contradictory advice about itself, is a surer way to land at the bottom of whatever abyss I’m approaching.

Today, I want to write about writing about whatever the f*ck I want.

Tomorrow, it might be something else, like how much I’m enjoying Anthony Bourdain’s old CNN show Parts Unknown on Netflix. Or how much it makes me want to stab myself when people compare me to Lena Dunham. Or nothing at all.

Or maybe I will never write about either of those things. I don’t have to, you know. And I #DGAF.

Comment if you want. But no pressure. Not closing w/ a question to drive engagement. Not following dem rules. #DGAFage36

Getting Fired Is the Best…

And the worst. The absolute worst.

It was a dissonant event in that I was fired from a position in which I’d been promoted, given a raise, and earned much praise for the quality, speed, and tenor of my work. A position in which I’d gone above and beyond.

Which filled me with existential angst and made me question everything about myself as an employee, worker, writer, human.

The work was fun, exciting–I loved it. I got to collaborate with other creative people. I had to be agile in my thinking about my work. I had to be willing and able to redirect with fluidity in 90-, and sometimes 180-degree turns.

The place, however, was less thrilling. While a lovely environment in many ways, the ways in which it was not were aggressive and untenable. I read it as hostile at the time, and even through the months (7 of them) and grieving process and perspective that have followed, I stand by that reading.

The people who love me were happy I got fired. They love me more than they love money. That is the first thing I learned, and I am so grateful.

I got unemployment for six months that bought me some time to read myself and my life and do some prioritizing.

To paraphrase Virginia Woolf, all we need is a little money, time, and room of our own.

I told myself I’d get a real job if I couldn’t make a go of my soap business.

I made goals and rolled with the plan I’d already put in place to get out of the hostile working environment. That plan was to do enough shows and make enough soap and drive my internet sales up so that I could quit within the year.

Unemployment meant I couldn’t make any money at my business, so it forced me to dump every cent I earned back into the business, to diversify my products and learn how to make lots of new things. To study how to do business. Which was empowering. (and scary)

Getting fired pulled the rug out from under me when I was in an extremely vulnerable financial situation. Thank the Universe for my well-employed romantic partner. I’d be so fucked without him.

But I needed the time. I’ve been working since I was 15. That’s 20 years now. Most of the time 2, 3, 4, jobs. I’m burned out.

And I’ve amassed quite a diversity of skills. I do not lack ambition or self-direction.

The truth of my ambition is the first thing that made me question the bootstrap theory of the American Dream. If it were true that all you need to do to be a rich, successful person is to work hard and have a good attitude, I would be a gazillionaire. But that is a subject for another post. #feelthebern.

Getting fired is the best because it forced me to function without a backup plan. I had to get cozy with the notion that  my options for writing jobs in this part of the country are limited, teaching in my field feels increasingly unlikely, even when I do publish a book, and that it’s time to embrace the thing I always return to: self employment.

So last week, my homegirl and I opened a little shop inside an artists’ cooperative. We kicked ass our first weekend. I am excited about going to work for the first time in YEARS.

In fact, I’m going there in 21 minutes. You should come by and see us. We have great products, big knowledge, and we are so fun to hang out with.

And shit is still wicked hard. I’m still in a really vulnerable financial place. I’m still terrified and full of self-doubt. But.

And this is a big but.

I am powerful.

I am learning about myself. I am doing what I want to do. I already have success.

Getting fired forced me to switch my thought process.

I used to think of myself as an abundance thinker. But I was not. I was a scarcity thinker in the moment. I was a suspended abundance thinker. Like, That abundance is mine someday when I am done working really hard for nothing. But today I have nothing.

A friend of our shop heard me doing faulty mantras. She said, “Stop saying, you’re going to. Because when? When will that happen? You have it now.”

Getting fired and everything that followed forced me to practice radical abundance visualization. This is what I say to myself anytime the devil mistress of anxiety, doubt, and fear shows up (even though she is very pretty and I am addicted to her): “I have more than I want. I have more than I need. I have everything I want. I have everything I need. I am successful. I am brilliant.”

And after the first quadrillion recitations, it started to feel less like a lie.

And another hundred recitations past that, it is my truth.

The month we were in the shop before we opened, we made our overhead (rent + utilities), without even trying. Our first two days, we doubled our overhead + 20%.

And now, ya’ll sit back and watch this bitch manifest.

It’s going to be quite a ride.

Creatives Are People, Too. (a rant)

I am really sick of apologizing for being a creative person.

I am sick of seeing “thought” pieces about how useful or useless particular disciplines of study are.

WE ARE NOT ALL GREAT AT SCIENCE, MATH, TECHNOLOGY, AND ENGINEERING.

Wanna know what I’m great at?

Telling stories, making stuff, creating recipes for body care products that ACTUALLY WORK, crocheting hats and amigurumi and coffee cup cozies. I knitted a zombie once. I made my boyfriend a C’thulhu ski mask. I made a mobile out of crocheted octopodes. You wanna buy one? $125. Send me a message.

I’m also great at using the shit out of every shred of every resource I have.

Know why? Because I live in a time where STEM is what people get paid for, and people like me get treated like errant toddlers with hopeless dreams because we work with colors and words and vegetable oils and plants instead of beakers and graduated cylinders and barium, or circuit boards and processors and base-two programming languages.

I have been hearing all my life about how it’s fine to be artsy, but I really should do something useful.

If I tried to be great at STEM stuff, I’d probably break things and people would be endangered as a result of my ineptitude. My brain just isn’t suited for that kind of work. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid or bad or incapable. It’s like having brown eyes. Not a lot I could do about it.

Also doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to get paid.

There’s this applied sciences college near me whose tagline is “degrees that work.” Because degrees in being an auto mechanic or plastics do, indeed, work out in the field.

Here’s the thing: my multiple degrees in English and Creative Writing work great.

I use the skills I learned in those programs of study every single day.

I know how to use my knowledge and skills to enrich other people’s knowledge and skills.

 

But my skills are “lesser” than STEM skills; so I must do demeaning, exhausting, untenable shit like being an adjunct professor, selling stuff, waiting tables, or whatever else creative people wind up doing for money–working the graveyard shift at a hospital, or working three 12-hour shifts as a janitor so one may spend four days of each week doing what she is really good at. (Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching and waiting tables, but my point is that I’m just GREAT at writing and making stuff, and it’s insanely difficult to get paid for being really excellent at those things.)

So now, with my creativity, I’m opening a store with a fellow creative person, and the skills we have amassed as creative people means we have distinctive packaging, witty copy, and a strong marketing muscle.

It also means we have bitchin’ products.

I am super grateful for people who are good at STEM stuff. I love my computer, internet, programs that let me do my creative work, and living in a house that some person with engineering skills made 100 years ago. I love birth control and antibiotics and ibuprofen.

But the logos for those products, programs, and computers, their shapes, the way the look sitting in your hand, packaging, molding designs in my home,the color of the wood and its stain, the shape of the attic windows, the door knobs and fixtures were designed by an artist.

The more I learn about earth and chemical sciences the happier I am as a human, the better my art gets.

These things make my life richer.

But here’s another thing: creativity pervades STEM fields, too. Creativity is key to innovation.

So why does STEM creativity get rewarded and people who design fonts or draw & write comics or do podcasts or write blogs have to beg for good-will donations or give their work away?

The compulsion to create shouldn’t be a reason not to get paid.

Just because I don’t feel right without a keyboard under my fingertips, my soap smock getting splashed with pre-soap, or trailing a rainbow of fibers, doesn’t mean my skills are worthless, or play, or flaky, or unrealistic, or unvaluable.

And without people like me, there would be no movies, music, galleries, novels, essays, poems, plays, documentaries, beautiful furniture, wallpaper designs, or fun beautiful things to waste time on Pinterest with.

Think about the last piece of art you consumed that changed your life or your thinking.

For me, it was a book.

A book that a creative person wrote, another creative person designed the cover for, and another set of creative people brought to fruition in one of a hundred ways.

So I implore you: If you have dollars, buy books, music, and art. Buy them from people you know. Don’t pirate them. Buy them from as close to the source as you can.

Pay creative people to do things like paint murals on your kids’ rooms’ walls, design a matching set of hats for your family next winter, custom build your kitchen table.

Please, go to art shows, craft fairs, and the quirky shops in your area, and quit making fun of us, even when we’re wearing mismatched shoes, lime green scarves, or have done something outrageous with our hair.

Because what we do is valuable. As valuable as STEM. And as present in STEM as it is in every other area of your life.

If we keep abusing artists, art will be totally ghettoized because artists really do like money. We’ve just been trained to find it in other ways by a bunch of people who stand to profit hugely by having our work for free or cheap.

If you are an artist, PLEASE, STOP GIVING AWAY YOUR WORK. We won’t get it back unless we take it back, My Fellow Creatives. So take it back by asking for a fair sum for your work (think of one now, ok, now double it. Ok, now double that. THAT figure is what you should ask for. Break the chain that it’s no big deal what we do, that it’s worthless, and that thinking has to start with us).

Because somewhere along the line, we lost the idea as a culture that beautiful things made by our fellow humans, unless they go beep, are worth something.

End Rant.