The Way Fear Makes You Move

I almost didn’t post this, because it’s, well, chickenshit particularly in the face of what’s going on in the world right now, but I want people to know that you can’t be a pillar of righteous fire and fury all the time, even assuming you’ve ever been one.  Sometimes you’re scared and sad and tired and you don’t know what to do with the person you wish you were but apparently aren’t anymore.

So, here we are.

You know, I’ve changed my mind. 

I really don’t want to be brave.

I’ve berated myself for a long time for not being the daring writer I was a decade ago – the one who wrote about life as a fat girl, and who spouted her opinions more or less freely when blogging.  I used to have SOMETHING TO SAY, I told myself, and I was willing to go to the mat for it!

Well, I’ve realized that there are actually perfectly good reasons not to do that and, I’m slowly beginning to understand, I just don’t want to.  Aging may have something to do with it. I’m just not as energetic as I once was.  But at heart the main reason is this:

The internet is terrible.  It’s also wonderful, but nowadays the terrible can get you killed or, at the very least, leave you with psychological scars.  I only have to look at my experience with Shadowflame and a few very slightly popular posts on fatness – and that was years ago, before the meteoric rise of white cishet misogynist online rage made it literally dangerous to be a woman with opinions on the internet.  

I’ve been told in no uncertain terms to kill myself because fat people are “draining resources” that magically healthy thin people should get to use.  I’ve been accused of “pussifying” my male characters because they didn’t adhere to heteronormative machismo ideals.  (To which I reply, “…YAY!”)  But those accusations were couched in such vicious speech – all of it personal, none of it really about my work, but about my body and my right to write and even exist – the silliness of it became sinister.  And my experiences have been almost embarrassingly MILD.  

I was recently reading a book by a body-positive activist in which she talks about some of the things that have been done to her just for speaking out and suggesting maybe, just maybe, fat people (women, anyway – I doubt she’d get anywhere near the hate if she wasn’t a woman) are human beings worthy of respect.  The sheer violence of people’s hatred – talking openly about gutting her and watching her “blubber” spill over the Trader Joe’s floor because she had the nerve to buy food in front of them – made my entire body curl up on itself, and it wasn’t even about me! 

Realization: I don’t want it to be about me.  I do not have the strength for that.  I am medicated enough to get through most average workdays, that’s about it.  I do not want to be a Presence on the Internet to the degree that I become a Target on the Internet.

Of course the only way to completely avoid that is never say anything ever again, and we all know how likely that is.  I just…I no longer feel confident enough in anything I have to say to stand up and let the world rip my skin off shred by shred.  

Rumi wrote, “…don’t move the way fear makes you move.”  I wonder how Rumi would have moved if some sick asshole hiding behind a computer had said they wanted to skin him alive and rape his “fat whale” corpse.**  

I’m pretty vocal on Twitter as far as politics goes, but my following is pretty small and I only get the occasional nutter spouting bumpersticker rhetoric in a tweet-by then disappearing.  As much as I want to feel like a successful author and feel like I have a voice, I’m just too afraid of the consequences anymore.  The world has grown so loud and so hateful so fast, it seems (I am aware of the privilege involved in being sheltered from it so long), my emotional fortitude medication just can’t keep up.  

But these are days that demand lifted voices.  We cannot be silent when lives are at stake – as is the soul of our society and the hope that one day it could be the dream some of us were lucky enough to think was real all along.  These are not days to be scared of empty, sick little men barking just to be heard.  Letting those idiotic little shits silence us means they win – and worse than some ideological battle, on the larger scale it means actual humans suffer, families are broken, people die, and things continue to degrade until it is too late to save that dream.   

I have a voice, and I have talent, and a few people still listen to me when I talk.  I would consider my life truly wasted if I didn’t use those things to try.  But just as creative malaise has taken over my fiction – I haven’t had a new story idea literally in years – a kind of moral cowardice has overtaken the rest of me.  I can be brave in 280 character increments and even most of those are retweeted from cleverer minds.  When it comes to the world we’re in, to the constant barrage of misery and anger that never, EVER seems to let up (I saw a tweet in fact that said the best platform to run for POTUS on in 2020 would be “You will forget I exist for days at a time!”), I don’t know what to say or how to say it. 

So week in and week out my blog sits silent.  I parrot the Tweets of other people most of the time. My barely-started eighth novel stays barely started.  I stare at blank screens where all sorts of status-quo-terrifying relationships could be blooming.

In a time when a viral post can bring rapists to your door, death threats to your family, or even just bile spewed hot and disgusting all over your online presence, I just keep asking myself:

Is there a story left to tell that’s worth my sanity?  Is there a blog post important enough to be worth the hatred that’s just the cost of doing business as a woman online?

What words are worth my life?

 

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** – Said to me in an email from a self-declared “fan” regarding my second novel.  Apparently hot boy on boy action triggers some men’s “fuck a dead fat girl” fetish?

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Ten Things I Love: Oracular Wish List Edition

I already know that I’m going to be one of those people with 50 tarot decks or worse.  There are just SO MANY that are SO GORGEOUS and how on Earth are you supposed to just pick one?  Why should I, when there is such an astonishing variety of beautiful, meaningful, adorable, or just plain hilarious decks out there?  

Here are a bunch of decks that I would love to get my hands on for various reasons, as well as a couple of oracular accessories I’m in love with right now.

1 – The Monstarot 

This deck by Joanna Nelson is so utterly adorable I can’t even stand it.  It’s pretty much Rider-Waite-Smith, but with a playful, childlike twist.  Not every reading has to be Deathly Serious, and if you’re turned off by a lot of the heavy-handed JudeoChristian symbolism in the RWS you might have a lot more fun with a deck like this.  

2 – The Impressionist Tarot

This deck is one of the classical-artist-copycat type decks, and I mostly just love it for the art.  Each suit is inspired by the work of an Impressionist:  Wands are Manet, Cups are Monet, Swords are Van Gogh, and Pentacles are Degas.  (The Majors are a mix of all four.)

3 – The Last Unicorn Tarot

OMG I MUST HAVE THIS.  An officially licensed deck using the artwork and style of the animated adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, one of my favorite childhood books and movies.  At the moment I can’t quite justify spending nearly 80 dollars on a deck, but I’m hoping it will do well and be in print long enough that I can get my hands on one.

4 – The Ophidia Rosa Tarot

Every time I see someone post about getting this deck I feel a surge of painful envy that I suspect means I would love working with it myself.  It’s a botanical deck, which I wouldn’t have expected to swoon over, but something about the near-monochromatic illustrations and the beautiful snake backing draw me in over and over.

Here’s a video review of both the Ophidia Rosa and its sister oracle deck.  

5 – The Next World Tarot

There are many modernized Tarot decks, but few that manage to convey diversity, gritty reality, and the sense of hope underlying the Next World cards.  They are grounded in the human body and represent it in its full splendor, including all shapes, sizes, genders, abilities, races, ages, you name it.  As I understand it the cards are huge, which would probably prevent me from reading with them (I have wee little hands) but I want to touch them and gaze into them, meditate on their layers of meaning.

To quote the Little Red Tarot description of the deck, “The Fool’s Journey is about smashing systematic oppression, owning their truths, being accountable to the people and places that support them, and taking back a connection to their body that may have been lost through trauma or societal brainwashing. The NEXT WORLD TAROT is a visual spectacle of both the battle cry and the reconnection between outcasts and their criminalized identities.”

6 – Raven Tarot Bag

I am blessed with a roommate who sews beautifully, so in theory all I’d have to do is find fabric and ply her with cookies to get all the tarot bags I want, but still, I like supporting independent artists out there in the world who create beautiful things as well (or have access to materials it would be way more trouble to acquire or work with than I’d want to inflict on my Roombeest).  And one can never have too many pretty bags for Witchy and Mystical Goodness, right?

Isn’t this fabric amazing? The same shop has several other patterns I love.

7 – Tree of Life Zipper Bag

You know, it had never really occurred to me to try a zippy bag for my cards.  I guess my inner woo-woo-maven thinks that drawstring is more…magical?  I have no idea. But I’d never have to worry about the deck falling out of a zipped up bag.  Again, this shop has several alchemical and mystical patterns that would be perfect for cards, runes, or whatever items you need to have on the go.  

8 – Tarot Wraparound Pouch

These colors!  I do love a batik.  I like wraparound bags and cloths like this one – they feel secure but have more visual and textural interest than a regular old drawstring bag.

The shop also carries other patterns and additional magical goodies you might enjoy browsing through.  Just FYI.  

9 – Tree of Life Altar/Tarot Cloth

So pretty, nice soft rayon, 18×18″…I might have to snag this one given how affordable it is.

10 – Gothic Storage Box

This box is flat out gorgeous, and I’m sitting here doing a Homer!Gurgle just looking at it.  I’m also guessing that the Roombeest would be willing to fight me for it given her love of blue things.

 

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New Shadow World Extra: Even in the Rain

At long last, time for a new Shadow World Extra.  

This story is the first of a planned series of Extras that will delve into the 20-year period between the end of SHADOW RISING and the beginning of Book 8.  

“Even in the Rain,” in fact, takes place about four years after the climax of SHADOW RISING.  The Tetrad’s world has changed since that terrible night, and though some have found peace in the aftermath, others have found only a waking nightmare that never seems to end.  Can they find a way through together before the war claims another casualty?

Fair warning…to quote one of my beloved Beta readers, “You owe me a box of Kleenex.”

Content warning:  Discussions of sexual assault, trauma, and post-traumatic stress.

You can download the story (pdf) here.  

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Sucky Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Time for another embarrassing confession.

I can’t say 2017 was entirely wasted.  I did learn a couple of very important things about myself that I’m still working to process.

I already talked about one of them:  The realization that I had spent pretty much the entire year in a state of passive suicidal ideation.  But when trying to work out how to move forward with that knowledge, I hit a road block that I realized is kind of a cornerstone of the big brick shithouse that is my lifetime’s worth of issues.

It’s something that I understand is really quite common, but as you know I am a special one-of-a-kind magical manatee whose issues have never been seen by humanity before, so it was a wild revelation for me.  

Basically:  I don’t know how to suck at things.

Hear me out.  I’m not saying I don’t suck at things.  I suck at plenty. 

I’m saying I never learned how to learn.

When I was a child I was in the “gifted” class.  Even in the higher level and honors courses in public school, I barely had to lift a finger to make As.  My hardest classes in high school, Calculus II and Chemistry, were “impossible” for me because they required occasionally cracking a book.  I sailed through elementary, junior high, and high school like some kind of child genius.

I am not a genius, however, and nowhere was that more apparent than college.

After all those years of being bored and unchallenged in school, I went to a university (on a National Merit Scholarship no less) where my freshman class was literally larger than my entire hometown.  I wasn’t just a little fish in a big pool, I was an ameba.  

And I had NO IDEA how to study.  I knew how to memorize, but I didn’t understand how to assimilate information in a way that would be useful later.  

Combine that with my depression finally having the opportunity to run riot in my brain, and my first real relationship with a boy (which was terrible, but I thought it was my only shot at “love”), and the result was predictable:  I failed.   Things started out okay, but went downhill fast.  The whole experience netted me student loan debt and my first suicidal episodes and not much else.  College was a humiliating experience I vowed not to repeat.    

The takeaway is that after that, I never got any better at being a beginner.  When I’d try something, if it didn’t come easily, I’d just quit.  I was denying myself a very important life lesson:

Sucking is important. 

Sucking is the first step toward awesomeness.  

I never took writing courses because I didn’t want anyone telling me how to write.  I already knew I was good and refused to be told otherwise.  In fact the one time I was told I was terrible, I up and quit writing for several years.  By the time I started again, my years of depression and hard-won emotional maturity helped made up for a lack of practice.  I’ve gotten better over time, but not because I’ve worked specifically to become better; it’s happened organically as I’ve kept writing and matured.  

Another problem:  Nothing pisses me off like being treated like I’m dumb or don’t know what I’m doing.  When I entered the Pagan community I found that’s exactly how people treated “newbie” Witches – like they were cute little idiots who couldn’t possibly know anything Llewellyn didn’t tell them.

As you can imagine I didn’t take well to that.  I was determined to be taken seriously, so much so that when established organizations dismissed me, I told them to fuck off and started my own.  

Meanwhile, I had yet another issue:  Whenever I get into something, I operate on the assumption that I’ll write about it.  Even from my earliest Pagan days I was asking myself, “How would I write about this?  What could I contribute?” 

That’s how I ended up writing a book on creating your own spiritual practice at age 26 – I barely had a practice of my own, but by Goddess I had THINGS TO SAY on the subject.  

At no point did I wonder if I was qualified or experienced enough to do this.  I just assumed – and I still find myself assuming – that if I’m interested in something, I’m going to write about it, and what I write will be useful and meaningful to people.  If I love it, if it matters to me, give me 200 pages and it’ll matter to you too. 

It’s not bullshitting – I honestly care, very intensely, about what I’m writing, and I believe strongly in what I’m saying.  It’s just that I tend to jump over the part where I personally learn to do what I’m writing about.  I want everyone else to know about it; I want them to try out my ideas and hopefully use what works and come up with their own as well.  I want the ideas and information to move through me to where it’s needed.  It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve always wanted to inspire people, whether through fiction or non.  

I wrote The Circle Within in what felt like a state of Divine inspiration; it flowed through my fingers like water and I never questioned it.   I was a conduit above all.  I had so much to share, but I kept none of it for myself.  

I’m laughing at how fakey-noble that statement sounds.  It wasn’t some sense of martyrdom at play so much as impostor syndrome gone bananas.  I’d taught myself to fly without learning to walk, which is all well and good until you need to land.

I have yet to manage to stay vegan for more than six months at a stretch, but I have SO MUCH TO SAY about veganism and spirituality and so many IDEAS…practices and poetry and food for the conscience and soul.  Never mind that I haven’t done any of them; never mind that there’s still something blocking me in my own practice.  I can’t think about that right now, I HAVE THINGS TO WRITE!

*pats herself on the head*  Oh my sweet summer child.

I’ve always considered myself a transformation junkie.  I collect self-help methods and spiritual practices and philosophies and ways to change one’s life the way some people collect comic books or ex-lovers.  Like most people I’ve tried a great many ways to “better” myself, most of which have petered out if they even got off the ground.  But also like most people I just figured that was because I was lazy and self-loathing rather than actually examining what might be keeping me stuck.

There are multiple factors (laziness and self-loathing cannot be fully dismissed), but a significant one is fear of sucking…fear of being a beginner.

Basics are boring.  There’s no glory in gradual.  Step by step just takes so damn long!

But if you ignore that part, if you plunge ahead assuming you know everything, you might inspire others, but what does that leave you, when it’s you alone at the end of the day?

It leaves me with a house built on a hollow foundation of matchsticks, and the only way forward is to burn the whole thing down and rebuild.

At least striking a match is something I know how to do.

 

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The Oracle Will See You Now, part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve taken up the cards again, both to bring some sense of the mystical back into my life and to help me make sense of where my life and brain are at these days.

I thought I’d share a bit on the decks I’m working with at the moment as well as how I’m studying them; in a future post I’ll talk more about what the cards actually are to me, and how the whole idea of “fortune telling” is basically a load of crap but divination most certainly is not.

Read more

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