Oh, My Word

Note: This isn’t me asking for life advice.  It’s a state-of-the-author sort of thing, and I was hesitant to post it because I’m sure my long-suffering readers grow weary of hearing me talk about my issues.  But I used to be far more confessional and far braver, so, the least I can do is be honest about where I’m at.  Or not at.  Whatever.

Also I realize there are more pressing things going on in the world right now than my state of mind, but if you think I stand anywhere but against racism and bigotry in all its pernicious forms you must not have read anything I’ve ever written ever.  I feel like other people have much better things to say than I could come up with…partially because of my state of mind.  Hence:

“Disenchantment” is the word I’m looking for.

I keep a timeline of events in my life – a Word file tucked away where I make note of significant happenings each year.  New jobs, new friends, new meds, relationships ending, even a few world events.  Anything that will help me place that year in context later when my long-term memory, damaged by years of Ambien use and mental illness, fails to put things in order. 

Not remotely related to anything, but it’s hot as hell and I thought we could all use a laugh.

I’m turning 40 in November, and it’s already got me in something of a state – not so much at the whole “middle age” concept, as at the realization of everything that has happened in my 30s and how much I seem to have lost or forgotten along the way.

In my early 30s things weren’t perfect.  Depression has always been a traveling companion, sometimes in the back seat and sometimes at the wheel.  My 30s started only a few years after the sudden death of my brother sent everything I knew into a tailspin, but at least by 2007 I felt like I was starting to get a few things right.

The first three years or so of the decade so much happened.  I started it in a coven of amazing women, where I got to work with my best friend to create rituals – as a group we were powerful, devoted, and hilarious.  We had so much fun…until we didn’t. 

I started the decade in a relationship.  It was never perfect either, and over time I realized I just didn’t feel the kind of love I felt he deserved.  I might not be capable of that kind of devotion to a human being; I’ll probably never know.  But I ended it with all the skill of a toddler with nuclear codes, as is apparently my MO.   

But all of that loss was tempered, at least somewhat, by what was beginning:  my career as a novelist.  It was the only dream I ever really had; everything else was just an idle half-assed notion.  When I began writing Queen of Shadows I knew it was good.   And when I sold it, and its sequel, without an agent, I thought, This is it, I’m doing it, I’m on my way, this is gonna be so huge.  I can feel it.  It’s happening.  My life is happening.

I was naïve, of course, and I’m sure any other writers out there are sighing and shaking their heads thinking, “Boy were you in for a rude awakening.” 

Yeah, no shit.

But for the first time in my entire life I felt like I was headed the right way.  Like everything I’d learned and done and been through, even the worst things I was still afraid to write about, was going to be worth it.  The possibilities of the next decade, my 30s, my creative coming of age, spread out before me, gleaming like spires of marble under the moon. 

So I’m about to turn 40 and the only question that comes to mind is, What the fuck happened to me?

I’m not talking about my career.  I’ve got some amazing fans and I’m still writing novels, so, as far as I’m concerned my career is still chugging along, even if it’s not really chugging to anywhere.  It’s not going to be able to move forward until I come up with new stories, which as a matter of fact is part of what I’m talking about here.

Looking back at those early years the one word that keeps coming to mind is magic.  Whether it was Craft-with-a-capital-C or the feeling of life soaring out ahead of me on its very own wings, even the lows of those years felt magical.  There was magic in the world, in my life.  I had power, and I used it, and I reveled in it.

2011 was, I think, when I started to lose it.  Was it related to marrying myself, I wonder?  Did the hate I received over Shadowflame do more than just break my heart?  Did the mistakes I made online, which resulted in a lot of pain involving my family, compound that fracture?

That’s not to say everything after that sucked.  Far from it!  Some really cool stuff has happened since then and I’m grateful for every little bit!  But the last half of my thirties has been…well, kind of awful, to be perfectly honest, and again, not because of bad or good things happening so much as the feeling that none of those things really mattered.  I’ve started 100 new projects, I’ve turned over a thousand new leaves.  I’ve tried to affect my physical health, my mental health, my spirituality, and I’ve even tried doing nothing at all.  Every effort (or lack thereof) I’ve made to figure myself out or move in a more positive direction, or at least to figure out what direction to even try moving in, has met with disappointment. 

I’ve begun to feel like that’s all adulthood is – being tired, disappointed, and in debt until you die.

That’s a shitty way to feel! 

Nothing I hoped for in my tender years has come to pass.  Things I thought were a sure bet turned out to be nothing special.  People I love who should be doing really well are constantly beset with pain and trouble they don’t deserve.  The world is kind of going to shit all around us.

That’s life, right?

Is it?

And above all, there seems to be no magic left in my life.  I still meditate, and it helps me stay on a more even emotional keel (relatively speaking), but I feel no connection to spirit, no sense of the sacred in anything. 

A couple of years ago I opened the floor to any deity who’d have me.  “Hey Anybody,” I said, “Just slap me on the rump and I’m yours, we’ll work it out.”  I wanted to be Someone’s again, to have that relationship, to be inspired.   I was willing to work past the issues I’ve addressed before with mainstream religion if I could just feel something.

Nothing.

Not even at church on Easter.  In fact I found myself fighting tears for the same reason I had so many years ago, at age sixteen:  I wanted so badly to feel something, but there was only emptiness. 

Intellectually I still hold to most of the beliefs I always have about deity and the Earth and what matters in life.  Ethically I’ve become even more of a feminist bunny hugger.  But it’s a matter of justice now, not a matter of holiness. 

That hurts.

Thus, my word of the year is apparently one I didn’t choose, but chose me a long time ago and doesn’t seem willing to let me catch a breath of anything but mud. 

Disenchantment. 

The word came to me, oddly enough, in a Tarot reading.  I’ve kept on doing my monthly readings even though I didn’t really do much with them, and last month I got a new deck out of desperation.  My reading for August brought up four water cards, and the interpretation in the deck’s little white booklet stood out in black all caps:

DISENCHANTMENT

Literally, figuratively.

Utterly.

And until I can find a way to re-enchant my life, what do I do?

I finish Shadow Rising.  I hope it still catches my readers’ hearts.  I go to my day job, I come home from my day job.  I work overtime hoping to eventually have a savings account again so maybe someday I can get the fuck out of Texas.  I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack.  I donate to my causes and pray to Whomever might be listening (or not, how would I even know anymore?) that the world finds its way through its own dark night of the soul.  I take my meds, change my meds, adjust my meds, take my omega-3s and magnesium and rhodiola and B-complex and probiotics.  I check things off in my planner and make more lists in my planner.  I keep trying to be vegan.  I wonder at what point a crisis of faith becomes a permanent loss of faith.   I read.  I meditate.  I talk to birds and trees and don’t expect answers.  I fall in love with TV shows and lose interest ¾ through.  I look at cat videos.  I laugh at bad puns. I make stickers for my planner.  I remember what it felt like to teach, and to have something to teach.  I dust my altar.

And I wonder what it’s all for.

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Planner Catchup Post (yet again) – July

Every time I think I’ve got a handle on this year’s mad pace, I turn around and it’s the end of the month!  You’d think that, spending as much time as I do playing with an actual paper calendar that has the date all over it, I’d have a better grasp on where I’m at in the year.  Apparently not.

 

Meanwhile, please enjoy my planner themes for the bulk of July.

July 10-16 – The Princess and the Frog

I felt the need to celebrate one of my favorite Disney animated films, and in my mind one that’s criminally underrated given the somewhat baffling obsession a lot of people have with Frozen.  (I loved Frozen too, but not nearly as much as, say, Tangled, or Moana.)  In addition to being the first African-American Disney Princess (a dubious honor but one long overdue) Tiana was the only one I can think of with an actual job and a work ethic.  

The font is Stalemate (available free), and all the images were found on Pinterest and Google.

July 17-23  –  Blue Blue Butterfly

Feeling a bit of Theme Fatigue, I used a single “sheet” of digital paper and chopped it up into the shapes I needed.  

The paper came from Paula Kim Studios on Etsy, specifically the lovely and happy-feeling “woodland floral” pack.  

The font for this one is Fieldfare by MediaLab.co, downloaded from Creative Market.

July 24-30 – Darling Elephant

For once, I decided to start with a premade kit – gasp!  I happened on this one on Etsy and thought it was absolutely, well, darling.  

It was an Erin Condren vertical planner design, but little known fact:  to print an ECLP vertical kit that will fit a Plum Paper easily, all you have to do is print it out at 96.667% size.  I did things the hard way – I took the individual stickers I wanted to use and sized them down to 1.45″ and made a sheet on my Silhouette Cameo design software, which is how I usually do things.  I made the banners myself, though the kit comes with its own – nobody ever has the exact headers I use, and it takes a couple of minutes each to make my own using the same colors.  

La Vie Prints has quite a few really adorable kits, so check them out if you need new ink in your planner!

I used two fonts this week, one for the daily headers (Conchoid) and another for the Weekend, Dailies, and This Week stickers (Waterlily).  

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Planner Friday – Write On

(Yeah, I know, bad pun, sorry)

This week is a funny story, and it illustrates the fact that no, my planners aren’t always pretty or cool, and the process of making them that way can be face-clawingly frustrating.

I had a theme all made up for this week – I mean, it was done.  I had printed it, cut it out, and was laying it out over the empty pages to see how it looked as a whole.

Turns out I HATED it.  Hated it, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee!  The colors hadn’t printed true, the designs were just boring, I didn’t like the font…it was just shit from bottom to top.  

(I was using a digital paper pack, like I did on the Peacock Watercolor theme, but I’m not going to tell you where I got it, because the paper is quite pretty and I may try again with it later, with considerable color adjustments.)

I had put time and effort into it, though, and I had an actual internal argument over whether I could just chuck all that work.

But you know what? To use a mantra I’ve adopted for myself of late, I’m a grown ass lady and I do what I want!  I threw that mess away and started over.

Turns out it was a great decision – I happened to see a quote about writing on Pinterest, and it gave me an idea.  Next thing I knew I’d made a theme about writing that I absolutely love, and I’ve enjoyed looking at it all week.  I’m so glad I went with my gut and didn’t force myself to stare at something I hated for seven days!  

I especially like the combination of the parchment-paper background and the blue-grey accents – I just nabbed a color from one of the photographs and used it for headers, and I love the way it looks with the “paper.”  The whole thing just makes me feel good when I look at it, and really, who could ask for more from a planner?

The font for this week’s theme is Special Elite.

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Sylvan Points at Stuff: Favorite YouTube Channels

Been a while since I pointed at anything, so let’s have some videos!  

I am a woman of odd enthusiasms, as are, I imagine, many of my readers.  Looking at the channels I subscribe to on YouTube or the Instagrams I follow would be pretty instructive to those trying to figure me out – just, um, don’t read too much into my Tumblr, I’m really not *that* into gay porn.

I think the entire internet just gave me this face:

While Instagram for me is mostly pretty things and food, however, I actually use my YouTube for some practical purposes, including getting the hell to sleep.  I follow a number of meditation music channels and ASMR-related channels to help my anxiety and help me sleep, so they make up a significant chunk of what you’d see on my feed.  I also have several art-related folk I follow, particularly devoted to art journaling and the like, and remarkably few planner-related bloggers, although I used to follow a bunch. A lot of planner-related channels pay way more attention to things like dieting than I really want to hear about, not to mention some of the ones I used to really enjoy have stopped updating (the eternal YouTube struggle).

Here then are some of my favorite YouTube channels, in no particular order.  I’m not listing some of the more obvious ones, like Maru – I wanted to point out YouTubers you might not have heard of.

ASMR Rooms

This channel is brilliant – the creator has built a variety of “rooms” that are basically soundscapes, combining nature sounds, ambient sounds, occasionally voices, and the background noise of a particular location.  In this example she’s captured the Ravenclaw Common Room at Hogwarts, but she’s done rooms from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Hobbit, and others.  They’re all incredibly soothing and evocative.

Peaceful Cuisine

Another ASMR-ish sort of channel, this one combines lovely cooking noises with vegan recipes.  There are usually two versions of each recipe, one with music and one just with the cooking sounds so you can listen as you watch.  I’ve always found cooking sounds – like dicing, pouring, and stirring – really soothing, and the videos are beautifully shot.  The creator is Japanese and occasionally appears on camera but the emphasis is always on the food and the process of prep and cooking.

YellowBrick Cinema – Relaxing Music

A prolific channel for meditation and relaxation music.  They post at least once a day.  Some of their posts are classical music, some acoustic, some ambient, and they range from 15 minutes to 6 hours in length.  There are also videos meant to help soothe babies to sleep, and music for reiki and healing practices.

Vicky Papaioannou

Vicky is one of my favorite art/craft YouTubers, partly because of her wonderful Greek accent, partly because I enjoy the bright exuberance of her style, and partly because her cat Ginger makes periodic appearances walking around on her work table.  I’m not into making handmade cards, but I enjoy watching her try new techniques and show off new supplies, and her art journals are a totally different style from what I originally found online.  It’s obvious how much she loves doing what she does.  

Yoga With Adriene

Adriene is from right here in ATX, which was my impetus for clicking on her “beginners’ yoga” video when I was tooling around YouTube looking for videos to start playing with.  I loved her almost immediately – her teaching style is a good combination of woo-woo and pragmatic, asking students to meet themselves where they are and “find what feels good.”

She’s definitely not a plus-sized yogini, and there are a couple of weight loss videos on her channel, but she typically doesn’t bring up that sort of thing unless that’s the subject of the video.  Since that’s not what I’m there for, I just steer clear of those and stick with what inspires me.  She has videos that focus on all sorts of needs, from yoga for your back and shoulders, to yoga for swimmers or cyclists, yoga for migraines, anger management, yoga for those in wheelchairs, you name it.  There are also meditations and some videos that focus on getting deeper into a particular pose.

I also love her dog Benji.  You know you’re watching an Austin yoga video when the teacher’s dog is in it.

Molly Roberts: HerSpeak

A relative newcomer to my lineup, I happened across Molly when looking for meditations, and I don’t know if it’s her voice, her enthusiasm, or just her flat out adorableness, but I was hooked.  I’m planning to go back to the beginning of her channel and watch anything that sounds appealing.

Molly’s a Pagan YouTuber, and does videos on magick, ritual, and some of my favorite subjects:  BoS/Grimoirekeeping and altar building.  To be perfectly honest it had never occurred to me to look for BoS tours and altar show-and-tell the way I’ve watched planner-walkthrough videos, and how could I have been so blind?!?  Those were always some of my favorite aspects of the Craft, and if I had a remotely video-friendly bone in my body I’d do a walkthrough of my old, hand-drawn BoS just to show how much work and love went into it way back when.

Anyway, thanks to Molly I have a whole new YouTube rabbit hole to fall down, and I’m looking forward to it.  But in the meantime I just love listening to her talk (her voice is an ASMR trigger at times, which only makes it that much more awesome) and love her ideas.  Not to mention she combines magick with something else I love hearing about:  Bullet Journaling.

Incidentally, do you have any mystical or spiritual YouTubers you love?  Pretty much any tradition, as long as it’s non-conservative.  I’m a soul-slut, as you know.  What I’d really love to see are more Pagan planners, bullet journalers, or BoS-keepers.  Recommend away in comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.  

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Planner Roundup – May Through Mid-June

May 1-7 – Just Say Om Theme

For more info on this week’s theme check out the original post – it has links to the artwork, the font, and more about why I created the theme.

Random note:  I usually get pics of my planner on Mondays, at work, where the lighting is terrible but before I’ve had a chance to scribble all over the week.  Some of these were taken later in the week after I’d already started actual planning and listing and so forth.  I’m kind of tired of having such shitty pics for you, though, so I’m going to try and start getting better shots in better light.  

May 8-14 – Deer Theme

Original post.

May 15-21 –  Waterhouse Theme

Original post.

May 22-28 – Peacock Watercolor Theme

Original post.

And now we move into June, which I haven’t already posted, so a bit more detail about those.

May 29-June 4 – Fluorite Color Scheme

There wasn’t really much to this one – I just wanted to do a week with my favorite color scheme, the colors of rainbow fluorite.  I also managed to forget to write down the font name, so, I have no idea what to point you toward if you like it.  Sorry!

June 5 – June 11 –  Sunflowers Theme 

If you know me at all you probably know I hate summer.  Loathe it.  I’m sure people who live in areas where the sun doesn’t try to murder them half the year think I’m a madwoman, but after years of prescription-induced photosensitivity, I’ve gotten to where being out in the heat and especially direct glaring sunlight like we have here literally makes me sick.  

Summer in Texas is endless, brutal, and awful.  And since I don’t like the beach, don’t like swimming or water-related funtimes, and am too vegan to really enjoy 90% of barbecues, most summertime activities are kind of wasted on me.  I want Autumn, Winter, and even Spring – Texas does boast a lovely, if brief, Spring.  But I hate every minute between Memorial Day and pretty much Mabon – it doesn’t even really start cooling off until the end of September if we’re lucky and sometimes not even till Halloween.  So you probably won’t see lots of brightly colored beach-themed and camping-related themes from me from now until Fall – if anything the opposite as I try to distract myself from the season.

However, there are a couple of things that early summer in particular offers around here that I do like:  Sunflowers and storms.  Oh, summer storms!  Violent and wild and electric!  I adore them.  And even though yellow isn’t remotely my color, something about the brazen happiness of sunflowers always makes me smile.  There are stalwart stands of them all along my commute, and they cheer me up amid the relentless heat.  Thus, I wanted to capture them in my planner to remind me that not everything about Summer is awful…although ask me again in late July and I’ll probably say even sunflowers can jolly well fuck off.

Font:  Serenity  (free download)

June 12 – 18 – Wonder Woman Theme

Shockingly (not), I loved Wonder Woman, and I absolutely had to do a theme for the movie.  I had to be sure and include Robin Wright’s magnificent Antiope – can we have her in all action movies from now on?  

Font:  Lilith (all caps)  (free download)

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