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.
Let’s be honest here: 2017 sucked. If your year was awesome, well, chances are you’re either a millionaire, you are oblivious to the outside world, or you are Taylor Swift (which means you are a millionaire and oblivious to the outside world).
This is not to say nothing good happened. Of course it did! Through the smoke of the gigantic dumpster fire of 2017 you could catch glimpses of beauty and truth. I hope that your personal life involved at least a few lovely things, and that here at the tail end of the year you’re able to look back and see those lovely things no matter how much of the world’s bullshit wound up burning in a bag on your porch. Let those be the things that warm you as we head into what is likely to be another difficult year for those of us with a social conscience and a lot to lose.
As for me, I feel an immense relief that the year is over even though I have no real reason to imagine 2018 will be less of a turd soufflé. And rather than analyze it all to death, I’m just going to bury it in the litter box and try to be done with it – I need my strength for the year ahead.
But here are ten small-to-medium things about 2017 that I did love, in no particular order.
Incidentally it’d be really awesome if you read Shadow Rising and would be kind enough to leave a review or rating on Amazon. I don’t read reviews (no, not even good ones) because they’re bad for my mental health, but every writer needs them to help encourage people to try out their work.
2 – Wonder Woman.
Even though DC has misfired dreadfully on 90% of its superhero movies, this one was like a breath of fresh air and optimism in an unrelentingly dreary year. At long last a movie with a female superhero character who wasn’t constantly framed for the male gaze – no long shots down her cleavage, no posing with her butt positioned toward the camera in defiance of anatomy and logic. Was it a perfect movie? Oh gods no. It turned into a giant CGI brainless brawl at the end, and I still can’t get past Ares’ porn stache, but if you didn’t see a bit of yourself – of our collective soul and sanity – in the No Man’s Land scene, standing up and resisting, refusing to be moved – well, you should probably watch it again:
3 – Hamilton.
Late to the party as usual, but listening to the soundtrack on a whim one night led to my falling head over heels in love with this weird hip-hop retelling of the founding of America and, by extension, its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I think might be an actual unicorn. If you want someone on your Twitter feed who’s positive, hilarious, and full of heart (and who writes sonnets on a whim just to say good morning), follow him, you won’t regret it. I think when the purge of horrible men in Hollywood is done it’ll be just him, Chris Evans, and Patrick Stewart left standing. I’m totally okay with that.
Enjoy, here, the Tony Awards performance of Hamilton’s original cast, introduced by the Obamas. Notice that the “battle” involves no guns – the props were removed for the performance because that was the day of the mass shooting in Orlando.
4 – Lucifer.
And now for something completely different. I don’t quite remember what made me start watching Lucifer, or what inspired me to slog past the first few ridiculous episodes, but by the time the first season was halfway over I was HOOKED. Aside from the gorgeous and talented cast, the show is way better than it has any right to be – the characters, especially Lucifer, Amenadiel, Mazikeen, Doctor Linda, Chloe, and the Goddess of Creation, are so emotionally compelling. Based on the characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels, basically the idea is that the devil leaves hell to live in Los Angeles, run a night club, and eventually fight crime. Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds, but it’s also amazing, due in no small part to Tom Ellis’s performance as Luci.
I tried to find a clip to show you, but the really good stuff depends on context, so just take my word for it and go watch the show.
5 – My new Tarot deck.
After a long, long dry spell in the mystical department, I’ve gotten back into Tarot. Rather than trying to work with oracles that aren’t really talking to me anymore, I decided to try something brand new, and have embarked on learning actual Tarot (my preferred oracles have been, as you may know, the Runes of the Elder Futhark and the Brian Froud Faeries Oracle). Inspired by YouTubers like Katey Flowers, and the fact that I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful deck, I re-bought the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, and am currently studying it along with a more traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck and my Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Law.
And lord, does the Hidden Realm deck talk to me! For the moment I’m concentrating on using the cards for myself, but I’ll probably start reading for other people once I’m more comfortable with them. I have something of a divinatory spark, and it always wants to catch others on fire.
I’ll have a full post about my Tarot explorations soon.
6 – My Funko Pops! collection.
My desk at my day job is like a toy store at this point, and my Funko Pops! are the stars. My favorites so far are General Leia and Bob Ross, who are front and center (along with a vastly amused black cat figurine):
My other favorite, of course, is Dorothy Zbornak, a gift from m’bestie; here she is having none of Stephen Strange’s nonsense, while Patty from Ghostbusters stands guard nearby.
7 – Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”
I wasn’t as thrilled with Ed’s newest album as I was with the last one, but it does have some great songs, and the two that are Irish-inspired are probably my favorites. This one for some reason just always makes me smile and bounce. Smiles and bounces are important.
8 – Contouring 101.
If you haven’t seen this video…I don’t even know how to describe it to you. It’s…a parody? It’s bizarre and hilarious and I’m STILL laughing about it. My roommate and I quote it constantly, specifically “…NOSTRILS” and “IF THE MEN FIND OUT WE CAN SHAPESHIFT, THEY’RE GOING TO TELL THE CHURCH.”
9 – Coffee.
Life continues to bamboozle and explode. Coffee is always there for us. Coffee understands. My drink of 2017 was a raspberry soy mocha. Trust me, the combination of flavors is exquisite. I even had my birthday cake, which was DELICIOUS and gorgeous and made by local vegan bakery Capital City Bakery, made in mocha and raspberry.
Actually my 40th birthday party should be on this list anyway, as it was a fabulous time with some of my favorite people, and I got delightfully squiffy on Moscow Mules (my favorite form of squiff-ening beverage).
10 – My new pendant.
Speaking of my birthday, I had my eye on this piece for an entire year before I finally ordered it. I’ve long worn a pewter compass that says “Trust Your Journey,” but as my 40th loomed I felt it was time for a new “me” necklace. The pendant below bears the calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my all-time favorite spiritual writers and a true inspiration; it’s one of several pieces in the series, and is a sentiment I try to be mindful of every day: No mud, no lotus.
11 – (Special Bonus Round!) All of you.
I know, it’s cheesy, but all my readers and Patrons and friends and Twitter followers and Facebook peeps helped immeasurably to keep 2017 from being a total misery-orgy. I’ve never been good at communicating with actual people – I’m awful at returning emails and comments, not because I don’t read them or want to reply, but because…I don’t know, exactly. It might be the same thing that makes it so impossible for me to make phone calls. I absolutely blow at reaching out. But I know you’re there, and i adore every one of you. I hope that my infrequent blog posts, occasional novels, and sporadic attendance at my own social media are at least worth sticking around for. I hope to have a new book for you this year – probably not Book 8 (although who knows?), but something new (I hope I hope I hope), and I really want to offer more Shadow World Extras and, gods willing, more of the Agency. But none of this would be possible without all of you staying with me through my silly seasons and sad storms, so thank you, thank you, thank you.
Let’s all have a solidly good 2018. It seems a bit laughable to ask for awesome, given the state of the world, but let’s all do what we can to make it better – for ourselves, for each other, for everyone.
Everyone hold hands…take a breath…and…jump!
I’ll be back soon with posts on my new bullet journal/planner situation, a wrap-up of last year’s favorite planner spreads, some musings on divination, and my goals for 2018.
Become my patron for exclusive online content and read new stories before anyone else!
CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of suicidal thoughts. A good deal of cursing.
A message to 2017:
This year is, in my opinion, welcome to take a flying fuck at a rolling donut off a cliff into a Sarlacc pit.
I had a great birthday, by the way. That’s not sarcasm. I got to spend time with my favorite people, drank a lot of Mexican Mules, ate an enormous vegan raspberry mocha birthday cake (that I didn’t even have to bake myself!), and put out a new book that week, so, yay me! I don’t want to downplay the loveliness of all of that, especially since it came in a week that I was a) on my fucking period and b) having some really unpleasant emotional crap.
As soon as the 19th passed, however, my mind immediately went into “OKAY TIME FOR 2018 TO GET HERE BRING ON THE WORKBOOKS AND NEW PLANNERS BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, FUCK THIS YEAR.”
I have zero reason to believe that 2018 will be any better for the world or myself, but at this point, I’m still anxious to get there, because 2018 has one obvious advantage: It isn’t motherfucking 2017.
I’ve been trying to figure out why 2017 was so much worse for me mentally than 2016 (I’m not talking globally – I think we can identify a large, tantrum-throwing, tangerine-tinted reason it’s been bad for the world) even though 2016 was a trip to the special hell for a lot of people (can we please agree to stop holding beers for anybody?), and I think I’ve hit upon at least one thing, a phrase that I feel applies to most of the last 11 months:
Passive suicidal ideation.
Important Clarification: I am not now, nor have I been, planning to kill myself. I swore years ago I would never do that, and my brother’s decision to put a gun to his head in 2004 only solidified that resolve. You’re probably thinking of active ideation, which is what we typically think of when the topic of suicide comes up: Someone wants to die, and that someone has a plan, or is trying to decide on a plan. They intend to take steps – or they’re at least coming up with steps.
Passive ideation is more of a “…what if I just let it happen?” What if I don’t lock the doors? What if I don’t look both ways? What if I don’t get that lump checked out? What if I keep drinking? What if…
What if I just stop trying to take care of my body at all, and keep eating horrible, dairy-and-fat-and-sugar laden food for every meal and not exercising until at some point I have a heart attack or become diabetic and my body gives out on me? How long would that take, I wonder? Would I be able to stop myself in time to avoid permanent damage? Would I even care by the time I got genuinely sick? Or by then would I feel so awful every hour of every day that I’d be looking forward to that MI or stroke?
It’s the ultimate in societally-assisted suicide, isn’t it? The whole world WANTS you to eat shit, and moreover wants you to hate yourself for it. One commercial sells you the 2 pound bacon burger, the next sells you the gym membership. Being “healthy” is considered being morally upright, being fat (regardless of circumstance) and being sick (regardless of circumstance) are considered the just fruits of a slovenly lifestyle. People know what your body karma is just by looking at you, right? Why not just go with it? If you’ve dealt with hate and sneering because of your body your whole life, isn’t there a certain macabre satisfaction in proving them “right?”
If it sounds absurd, well, itis. It’s utter fucking madness. But apparently at some point this year it’s what I decided my fate would be. Years of slowly encroaching body hate that have eaten away at my self-worth like a cancer just sort of took over, and I stopped giving a shit about much of anything. I just sort of…gave up on myself. I was going through the motions of what I thought my life should be, but aside from finishing SHADOW RISING, I didn’t give a damn about life. I was just waiting for something to kill me.
Even better: To me being vegan isn’t just an ethical choice, it’s a spiritual one. It means embracing compassion and kindness; it means honoring what I consider holy, and one of those things is body autonomy. I don’t feel like I have the right to claim ownership over the body of another creature – certainly not to the point to pay someone to torment and kill them just for my own appetites. But the consequence of that is, if I didn’t believe I myself deserved that compassion and kindness, I could never overcome the cognitive dissonance that kept me from being able to stick with my ethical choices. Either my beliefs apply to all animals, including this one, or they are incomplete at best and hypocritical at worst.
So I embraced another kind of hypocrisy: Say one thing but do another. Fuck the consequences. It’s practically the goddamn American Way.
Actually I think the appropriate term is “passive-aggressive suicidal ideation.”
This is all especially galling when you consider I LITERALLY WROTE THE BOOK ON THIS SHIT.
But it just goes to show you that the messages and beliefs we receive don’t just go away because we do the work of self-acceptance; they can sneak back in, chip away at all that effort, until you’re back where you started. Loving yourself is both a practical and spiritual practice that you have to continually adapt and renew to reflect who you are and where you are. The world is constantly battering at your defenses looking for weak spots. If you want to protect your heart without walling yourself off from the good stuff, you have to be fucking relentless at gatekeeping.
Do as I say, not as I do.
I can’t say for sure what brought me to the realization of what I was doing to myself; I haven’t taken any real steps to change course, but I’ve become aware of my behavior and am paying attention now, studying myself like both an autoanthropologist and a shaman, trying to read my own bones. If I am nothing else, I am excellent at uncovering a character’s inner workings, and what protagonist better to delve into than the one of my own life?
A number of Large Realizations have hit me since my birth-week and I think they’re good ones; I’ve decided to bring some things back into my life that have been sorely missed, which I’ll talk about more later, but overall I’m taking things slowly, as the energy of the year’s end dictates. You can’t spend months and months fucking something up and then instantly un-fuck it.
The waning months of the year have definitely lived up to their symbolism. I have a huge pile of figurative crap I’ve been carrying around all year, so heavy it literally makes me go to bed and sleep and sleep. I have years of disappointments, sadness, anger, fear, past accomplishments and failures, judgments, triumphs, tragedies, and those obnoxious little hopes I can’t seem to shake clinging to my back.
This time of year we decide what’s worth holding onto.
I am worth holding onto, goddamn it.
This time of year is the time to decide what lives and what dies.
There are a lot of things I want to let die.
But I am not one of them.
It’s time I started fucking acting like it.
NOTE: I’m turning of comments here because this sort of post usually attracts lots of diet talk and wellness-evangelizing, and I’m not in the mood for either. I’m glad giving up gluten revolutionized your whatever and that ketogenic bone broth vagina steaming changed your life, but the internet is full of places for that kind of discussion and this is not one of them.
Become my patron for exclusive online content and read new stories before anyone else!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Become my patron for exclusive online content and read new stories before anyone else!
This week’s inspiration: Women reading books, inspired by my second viewing of the live-action (and utterly gorgeous) Beauty and the Beast.
I started with Belle, of course, then branched out into my next favorite book maven, Lizzie Bennett. Just searching for “Women Reading” yielded up dozens of lovely classical paintings and more modern work as well, so I was spoiled for choice.
It only seemed fitting to use a font called Jane Austen for this theme.
You’ll notice the new tracking sticker at the bottom of each day; I’ve been noticing a slight alteration in the pattern of my moods lately and I needed data to get a better handle on what effect my most recent meds change has had, so I created the sticker to make note of mood changes between my workday and everything that’s not the workday. (It’s a scale of 0-5, and I make a little mark on whatever level I feel that symptom was at)