That will be all, 2016. You may go.

Let’s start the year with a long-ass confessional post, shall we?

Like most people I’ve always tried to hit the ground running at the New Year, or at least on January 2.  (I figured January 1 was kind of a wash for most resolution type things, as I’m usually tired or hung over or unprepared for whatever it was I wanted to start.)  

Some people are natural sprinters (Dwarves mostly).  I am apparently not one.  Every time I do a “I’m going to start this lifestyle change or improvement on THIS day,” something happens to make me push that date back, and back, and before I know it it’s a week after NYD and I already feel like a failure.  

Not today, Satan.  This year I’m trying something different.  At the risk of using a self-help buzzword, I’ve decided to try “leaning in.”

I decided that the whole “40 Things Before I’m 40” thing isn’t going to happen.  It’s a great idea, but even those tiny goals were already a source of mild stress, since some of them were things I’ve tried and failed to do before.  When I really got down to the truth of things, I realized I need to focus on exactly two things this year:  Writing and veganism.

As I told my Patreon peeps last week, I have lost my passion for my work.  The last couple of years of financial stress and career disillusionment have turned my writing into a job, and therefore a burden; long before I actually managed to get a day job I had realized I couldn’t be a full time writer and do nothing but “hustle” (there’s another buzzword you hear all the time these days, which basically means “work yourself to death and maybe the stars will align for you”) with promotion and marketing and all the things I hate most in the world without it totally killing my creativity.

Some people can do what they love for a living, and the uncertainty and instability and sacrifice just fires them up more.  I need to buy cat food and hummus and prescription medications.  I want health insurance and a bank account free of overdraft fees.  And most of all, I need to love writing and I just…don’t right now.  My relationship to my work has gone from a passionate love affair to a sexless begrudging marriage.  I can’t live like that.

So, saving our relationship is going to be my 2017.  I’m going to start by dedicating time and space, silly things like a desk and hopefully at least one new project.  I’m not putting anything on hold, but I have no release date for Shadow Rising because it’s not even half finished and I kind of hate it right now.  

My other goal is tied into pretty much every aspect of my life, because it touches on issues of self-esteem, self-care, integrity, compassion, making a difference, and doing more than just mourning the world we seem to be losing piece by piece.  Veganism is a spiritual practice to me, and it was certainly never a “diet;” it’s always about the animals, the Earth, and my own integrity.  These days that integrity feels even more important than ever – surrounded as we are with corruption and hatred, I might not be able to do much right now but I can become more of the kind of person who embodies what I want for the world, not what I fear.  

This year instead of a single word I’m working more with Danielle LaPorte’s Core Desired Feelings; I’d read The Desire Map but wasn’t all that inspired by it, but among the half dozen or so end of year workbooks I read this year was her Goals With Soul, which somehow struck a chord with me this time.  I wrestled with a lot of seemingly contradictory feelings until I had the list down to something manageable:

One thing I learned in 2016 is how much of my life is governed by fear.   I am tired of my energy being drained away by fear and anxiety. I doubt I can become truly fearless, but I can work on it. 

Another unexpected but long-time-coming realization was that I have trouble making genuine connections to people; even those I love best know precious little about what’s going on in my head. I’ve been getting the Singer of Connection card from my Faery oracle for YEARS and never really did anything with it; the idea of trying to reach out to people makes me deeply uneasy…which of course means it’s what I need to do. I have no idea how to do that, or how far I want to go, but I know I need to learn more about what it means to feel connection, to like it, to nurture it.

Integrity is a big one for me, both in the veg department and in my whole life. I am terrible at keeping commitments.  Terrible.  I can’t tell you how many things I’ve gotten involved in (usually when I’m hypomanic) only to realize halfway through I never wanted to do it or I got into it for the wrong reasons; then it’s too late to back out gracefully, so I…vanish.  Or make something up.  Or forget all about it.  I try to keep my word with other people, but when it comes to organizations or plans, I have dick for follow-through.  Obviously I don’t want to be that person.  

Now, the last two are the kickers, because they might seem to contradict the spirit of the first three. Delight and Ease?  With heavy ideas like Integrity?  WTH, Sylvan?

Well, that’s where self-care comes in, because my goal is to explore these feelings while still focusing on ease and delight.  By not kicking my own ass, by not “punching today in the balls,” or “hustling” or “putting some gangsta rap on and dealing with it,” to use yet more of the slogan silliness you find on Pinterest if you look for inspirational quotes.  (Man white ladies love to talk about gangsta rap and “thug life,” don’t they?  I wonder if they’re just really high from all those pumpkin spice lattes?)  

I don’t want to do any of those things.  I realized that in 2016 about the only delight I had was at the movies.  There were lots of great movies in 2016, and when I think about real fun or really enjoying something, that’s all that comes to mind.  It’s been so long since I was genuinely excited about something new, or enthusiastic about anything – I was under so much stress about money for so long, now that I have a stable job that (mostly) pays the bills I’m seeing how much of my life got ground under the heel of that fear and sense of failure.  

So I want to spend 2017 seeking out ways to develop my spirit and heart without it feeling like constant backbreaking labor.  I want to breathe deeply again, and I want to fill my cup with something besides poison.  It’s pretty much empty right now, which is sad, but at least offers the potential of something less bitter or, at least, more nourishing to drink.

January therefore is leaning-in month here at Sylvan; I’ll be shifting to 95% vegan from the 80% I’ve been hovering at for over a year (which is still pretty good, all things considered) and also upping the amount of actual plant foods in my diet to help me feel a little better.  The amount of junk food I’ve put in my body this year (especially the last few months thanks to the move) is kind of scary.  I have no desire to lose weight but I have gained quite a bit in a very short time and to me that’s a warning bell – it means my self-care has gone perilously awry.  But my body is strong and adaptable, and she’s weathered the storm like a champ.  I’m unutterably grateful and I want to do better by her.  But I want it to be fun, and delicious, and easy, not a regimen or a 21-day anything.

I don’t have a plan for my writer-rescue, but that’s okay.  I want to cast about in my mind for a new idea, a new story to tell; 9 times of 10 when I get into something new it also energizes all my other work, so having a new book to work on or what have you will benefit all my stories.  I have a few things percolating.  I’m hoping to blog more just about random weird stuff, just to write; even my readers have always liked it better when I just wrote about whatever was on my mind.

So, to make a long post even longer, that’s how things are here at the moment.  I’m not going to dwell on 2016 any more than I have to – that’s why I did the workbooks I did, to look deeply into what went wrong in 2016 and clarify what I need to take with me so I can drop the rest.  This year is going to be a challenge, to say the least, in so many ways, so I’m doing the best I can not to make it any harder on myself than I have to.  

It’s good to have you with me.  

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…because I needed another challenge

Well, I’ve officially been wandering around in this person suit for 39 years.

39 nine is kind of a dumb number, as far as significant birthdays go, but 40 had a certain weight to it – socially if nothing else.  Therefore I’ve decided to undertake what I hope will be a fun project – 40 Things to Do by my 40th Birthday, or to use the groovy parlance of today’s hip modern youth, #40by40.

I worked on the list for quite a while, and I’ve designated a notebook for it (naturally).  It’s just a regular old Moleskine Cahier notebook I covered with decorative paper and drew a title on with my white gel pen.  I seem to be going with a celestial sort of theme for 2017 for some reason, and I had a scrap of paper a friend sent me long long ago, so it became the cover.

40by40ext

The plan is this:

Each time I complete a task, I’ll create a page (or half page) for it and write, draw, or paste in mementos from the experience.  It won’t have to go in order from 1-40, as I can just record the number of whatever page the task falls on.  That way I’ll have a memento of what I hope will be a much, much better year not just for me but for the entire damn planet.

I also plan to post here on the blog about each task so you can follow along if you like – hell, come up with your own list for 2017 (of whatever number you deem appropriate for you) and tell me all about it on Instagram.

I tried to make the list using only doable items that are finite in nature – nothing like “meditate every day” or “eat more vegetables.”  I wanted the list items to stretch my comfort zone a bit but still be things I’d enjoy doing or at least benefit from in some way.  I also instituted a few rules:

1 – I can change an item if the one I had becomes impossible.  For example, if a restaurant I want to visit closes down, I can take it off the list, but I have to replace it with something comparable.

2 – I get two freebies I can chuck for any reason at all including realizing six months from now that I don’t want to do that thing anymore, but I have to replace them as well.

3 – I have to blog about and make a notebook page for each item.

Here we go:

40by401

40by402

 

40 Things to Do By My 40th Birthday

  1. Finish Shadow Rising
  2. Do Vegan MoFo
  3. Volunteer at VegFest 2017
  4. Go see a play
  5. Have a badass Halloween costume
  6. Get another tattoo
  7. Start a new novel
  8. See some live music
  9. Dye my hair a crazy color
  10. Take a class
  11. Do a fun manicure
  12. Shop at Rabbit Food Grocery
  13. Eat at Counter Culture
  14. Go to Capital City Bakery
  15. Find a home for The Coat
  16. Throw a theme party
  17. Make seitan from scratch
  18. Go watch the bats
  19. Paint a picture
  20. Make something with aquafaba
  21. Make a new vegan friend
  22. Go to two Alamo Drafthouse events
  23. Put out a new ebook
  24. Pet a cow
  25. Try a new recipe every month
  26. Read 10 novels
  27. Get Stella’s bump fixed
  28. Save up $500
  29. Figure out my tax stuff
  30. Hold a group ritual
  31. Do a swap with someone
  32. Try a new cuisine
  33. Do a research project
  34. Discover a new musical artist
  35. Find the right day bag
  36. Finish Song & Cipher
  37. Illustrate a quote a la Vicki P
  38. Listen to the Hamilton soundtrack
  39. Do some sort of 30 day challenge
  40. Donate at least $50 a month

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In Which the Author Loses Her Sh*t a Little Bit

Sorry, this is not Planner Friday.  At the moment I just can’t.

I know that the last thing we should do is stop living our lives and seeking joy, but before I can return to things that mattered to me before this week, I have to give myself time and space to come to terms – as much as that’s possible.

I kept thinking, “How can I add anything to what’s already been said in such splendid depth by so many who are clearer thinkers and better writers than I?”  But then I realized it’s not about saying something new, it’s about speaking up even if your voice is hoarse and brittle or barely a squeak.  The more voices cry out in this darkness, the less alone we feel.

This year has been full of death, but without that “life continues cycle of blah blah blah” feeling we all try to find amid loss.  When I think of this year I don’t think of natural cycles, or of death giving way to rebirth.  I just see the abyss.

I’ve come to feel like God is playing a five-year game of “He loves me, he loves me not” with the petals of my beliefs and aspirations, and where even a year ago I might have had faith that the last petal would be “loves,” right now I’m having a hard time not finding that faith childish and kind of insane.  2016 has been the longest, most grueling mother of all heartfucks for all of us.  Month after month 2016 has swallowed more and more wonderful people, and now it has swallowed the last, most precious illusion I think many of us were clinging to:  that America is “better than that.”

Shaun King is compiling reports of all the hate crimes and attacks that have happened in the last few days, and they’ve already topped 3,000.  Children being told they should “sit at the back of the bus now” or having “build the wall!” chanted at them.  People ripping off women’s hijabs.

At least 10 police officers have been shot this week – all by white people.  Did you hear about that on the news?  I bet not.

There are lists popping up all over Facebook of “things to do before January” that include seeing the doctor, stocking up on Plan B (and hormones for trans folks), and taking self-defense classes.

At least eight trans kids killed themselves Tuesday night.  I forget, how many straight white kids committed suicide after Obama’s election?  Because people are saying we’re just bitter our candidate lost, but I don’t recall much of a body count last time theirs lost.

I am heartsick and ashamed that this is America.  And make no mistake, it very much is.  I’ve lived in this kind of world my whole life – Austin may seem like a liberal oasis, but there are plenty of bigots here, and I grew up in a state full of them.

Okay, so, this isn’t “all Conservatives.”  Well then where are the decent Conservatives denouncing all of this?  Where is their great orange savior’s call to peace?  Why would he bother?  He’s busy getting ready to appoint a completely daft Creationist Secretary of Education.  He’s forcing a man whose citizenship he questioned for years to meet with him – to sit down with a man backed by the KKK and, I dunno, teach him how a bill becomes law?  How to use the White House phone to dial out?  If not all Conservatives are racist, what does it say about them that they voted for one – that sexual assault and misogyny and homophobia and racism were something they could overlook?  “Hey man, I know he treats women like garbage and is cool with white supremacists, but compared to questionable judgment with emails, it’s no big thing!”  Maybe they’re not all racists, but they were more than happy to throw POC and women and Muslims and Latinos and LGBT folk under the bus to serve their own interests.  That doesn’t exactly encourage me to “build bridges.”  If I were to see a hand reach toward me across the aisle, I wouldn’t assume it was a gesture of goodwill or cooperation – I’d assume the other hand was holding the knife.

The only thing I can think is that people who believe this is no big deal, that we’re all overreacting, are people who don’t have much to lose to this administration.  Why worry about discrimination that will never touch you?

In case you can’t tell, I’m pissed the fuck off.  And I’m despairing.  I want to “stand and fight,” but I don’t know how to do that.  I’ll figure out what that means for me once my rage and anguish calm down enough for me to think clearly.  But right now, fuck “mending fences.”  Fuck “reaching across the aisle.”  You want me to play nice with people who think I and most of the people I love are less than human?  Are you serious?  

If a lover treated me without respect, abused and belittled me, would you expect me to turn around and offer reconciliation before a week had gone by?  Well how about if HALF THE FUCKING COUNTRY DID IT?

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s all right if you’re not all right.  You can be angry.  You can be gutted and scared.  I’m all of those things and I’m not getting better yet.  That’s okay.  If you’re numb, if you’re laughing to keep from sobbing, if you’re sobbing, if you’re curled up in your blanket fort, if you’re protesting, if you’re mainlining episodes of Friends and pints of Ben & Jerry’s – those are all totally understandable reactions to something we believed unthinkable.

Do what you have to do in the next few days to get your feet back under you.  If you need to get off the internet, do it.  God knows it wouldn’t hurt given the unending litany of bad news.  Go outside, sit among trees.  Snuggle your animals or your children.  Deck out that blanket fort in high style.  Smoke a ridiculous amount of weed.

We all grieve in our own way, and that’s exactly what we’re all doing.  Even though the America we want to believe in never really existed any more than the “idyllic” Conservative Great America ever did, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to mourn.  There is a whole world of pain coming our way in the next four years, assuming the leader of the Free World isn’t convicted of child rape or fraud…or if that even matters, because one thing’s become blisteringly obvious this week: a man can be forgiven for anything and a woman for nothing, ever.  I saw that sentiment on Twitter and broke down in tears of recognition…one of the many spates of tears I’ve had this week.  I can’t seem to stop crying, and it’s extra embarrassing because I’m a white woman, and 52% of white women voted for that predatory bigot.  White privilege is more important to women than their own bodies and lives.  How can I not cry about that?  But moreover I cry for my friends whose rights stand to be shoved back decades, whose healthcare will vanish, who could be victimized at any time because they’re not white.

I know, I know.  There’s hope.  Of course there is.  As you can see, I’m bouncing among panic, rage, and howling sadness.  I have to believe that my warrior instincts will kick in and I’ll be ready to step up and stand with my friends and fans who have so, so much more to lose than I do in all this.  I feel like a self-indulgent jerk being so devastated when I have the greatest of all undeserved benefits:  white privilege.  But while I fear for my own liberty, I am petrified for those I love.  And I’m not naive enough to think that if the dominos begin to fall they won’t land on me eventually.  I am, after all, still a woman.

I’m sorry to have heart-barfed all over you today.  I wanted to come here and write something inspiring, something to arouse hope rather than wallowing in fear.  But I’ve never been one for blowing sunshine up your ass – if I don’t feel it, I can’t in good conscience write it.  In the coming days we will need each other more than ever, and we will need good writing and humor and poetry and music and art more than ever.  We will need to remember to love…even if our trust is permanently shattered.

I will get myself together and I will do whatever is in my power to keep safe the progress we’ve made in the last eight years, or at least to keep safe those whose lives and rights are on the chopping block.  I will not give up.  But I’m not okay.  And if you aren’t either, you aren’t alone.

 

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The Thursday List for 10/13/16

thursday-list

I finally had a few minutes to sit down and make a list! It’s not terribly pretty but it’s a start.  I didn’t have any sort of coloring toys with me so I had to stick with black and white.

I’ve been under such tremendous stress lately I decided to start off with a basic “things I love” list. Enjoy!

(Incidentally I’m using up pages in my 30 Lists journal that I didn’t fill, which is why today’s is labeled 26.)

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