Planner Friday: Put a Ring On It, Part 4

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As I mentioned, after doing “favorites” most of July, this week is a bit different – I decided to commemorate the fifth anniversary of my self-wedding in my planner.

I used a few pics from the event itself, as well as the color scheme (I do still love my reds, though I’ve been in a teal/purple place this year, whatever that means), and added as many good self-love-related words and images as I could cram onto the pages.  I really like how it came out.

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Click to embiggen.

I also wanted to share the divider page for the month of July – the Plum Paper Planner’s monthly dividers have a goals-and-such area on the back, which I never really got into using – instead I’ve started doing a monthly vision board/wishful thinking board type thing, a collage of images that have the kind of feel I want to create that month.

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Put a Ring on It, Part 3: 10 Things I Love (About My Wife)

This is probably the most important post of this entire week.

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Isn’t she a dish?

Here are Ten Things I Love About My Wife, Dianne Sylvan.

1. She has the most adorable little hands and feet. Even though they’re small, and her fingers shake, she makes amazing stuff with them. I love when she paints her nails – either dark brooding Scorpio red or some crazy sparkly blue.

2. Obviously I think she’s a brilliant writer. I especially love how she can wring tears out of people; I’ve seen her make people cry by committing horrific (fictional, as far as I know) murder and by just telling a story about herself. I want her to have all the stories – all the ideas she could ever want, just so she can do the thing she loves most in the world and create characters that move people…or even change people. She gets messages sometimes that her stories have changed how people view love – I can’t think of a higher calling than that. Which of course leads me to:

3. I love that she doesn’t give up. Oh, she might say she does, but before you know it she’s back at it. If it’s something that matters to her, whether telling a story or going vegan, she keeps trying, and tries different approaches, different ideas. I think it’s a Scorpio thing (and also a writer thing), that drive to understand how people tick – including herself! – and change the story. Her tattoo says “we’re all stories in the end,” but it’s not so much about legacy as it is about reality; so much of who we are is just a story we tell ourselves and by extension the world. When she gets past that mountain of self-doubt she has the ability to change that story. I wish she understood how powerful that is…although if she ever does, look out world!

4. Seriously, have you seen her skin? I love how her tattoos show up so starkly – she can never decide if she wants to get full color or just stick with black line given how awesome it looks on her. She really wants another script tattoo on her right forearm to balance the left one – that might be next on the roster, money permitting.

5. I love that she doesn’t care how uncool her taste in music (and everything else) is. There are all these authors, especially in genre fiction, who seem determined to be weird. How many vampire writers are so into Taylor Swift? She says often that she doesn’t believe in “guilty pleasures” – if something gives her pleasure and doesn’t hurt anyone, she refuses to feel guilty about it. That means watching Disney movies over and over, bebopping in the car to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and being open about her distaste for classic literature (she says she has to read what white men think about women every damn day, why do it for fun?).

6. I love that she is brave.

7. You’ve probably noticed this already: She’s insanely funny. Get her past her social anxiety and she’ll have the whole party rolling on the floor inside five minutes.

8. She’s compassionate – sometimes weirdly. She cries when she kills a bug. She starts thinking about how that bug had one life just like she does, and its entire single life is over with because it annoyed her, and it breaks her heart. She says she’s not good at offering comfort to humans; she gets really self-conscious about what would be useful and what would just be frustrating, based on how she feels when people force her to talk about her feelings, so she ends up stepping back and offering money, rides, food, a calm front. She wants to be useful by doing things she’s good at, which is funny considering she’s good at everything she wants to be good at, but try telling her that. Stubborn she-goat. *laugh*

9. I love that she’s a stubborn she-goat.

10. I love her tiny tiny handwriting, her swirly vine doodles, and all the other silly things that come out of her pen to make things pretty. She’s such an odd combination of styles and moods – Kawaii Scorpio, I guess you could call it, like if you could pass light through blood and get a rainbow.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Go forth to your blog, your Tumblr, your Facebook, whatever, and write down ten things you love about your most important significant other…yourself. Physical, mental, whatever, just stop what you’re doing and make a list. Do it in third person if that makes you more comfortable – imagine you’re married to yourself and telling the world why you chose that wonderful creature in the mirror as your best beloved. Do it. I double-dog-dare you.

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Put a Ring on It, Part 2: Sylvan’s Ultimate Self-Love (Or Die Trying) Playlist

Pretty much what it says on the tin:  My great big long playlist of songs that make me feel powerful, beautiful, joyful in my skin, or just glad to be who I am, even if only for 3 1/2 minutes.

What songs make you feel amazing about yourself and your life?  Let me know in comments – I’m always looking for more.

POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING:  Video #15, P!nk’s “Fuckin’ Perfect,” includes images of self-harm.

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Put a Ring on It, Part 1: The Upshot

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Five years ago July 30, I married myself.

It was such a crazy, optimistic time in my life.  I was super excited about Shadowflame coming out; I’d just done my first (and to date only) con, Queen of Shadows was doing well, and all I could see in the future was possibility.  It seemed like the perfect time to step up and fully commit to myself – to declare once and for all that I was a sovereign state, that I didn’t need the world to affirm me because I had my own back.

Bless that child.

It was my first real attempt at looking at life positively – I’ve been a dark little depressive my whole life, but just that once I decided, actively, to try a new way of walking in the world…not just as a potentially happy person, but as my own beloved.

It’s the kind of thing that usually gives birth to watercolor downloadable self-help books full of words like “juicy” and “gorgeous.”

You’ve probably noted the lack of watercolors around here.

It started shortly after the wedding: hate mail, first from a few disgruntled and disappointed readers who for some reason thought married characters can never hurt each other, and then from raging homophobes.  I walked around feeling bewildered and betrayed by my own audience for quite a while…now, I’m more inclined to NEVER WRITE ANOTHER HETEROSEXUAL RELATIONSHIP AGAIN because BY GOD I DO NOT HAVE TO AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.  Not the most mature of responses, perhaps, but it’s better than the five years of crippling depression I’ve just had.  Maybe spite isn’t healthy but it’s way more fun than contemplating suicide.

This wasn’t long after I’d written 10 Rules for Fat Girls, so once the haters got through telling me I’d “emasculated” David Solomon (good thing he’s secure in his masculinity – apparently some real people aren’t with their own), they realized I’m fat and had at me over that.  I was told I should have killed myself a long time ago, and told I should go ahead and do it now; and those were the nice ones.  There were dozens of them, and while none were the genuinely frightening threats a lot of people get online these days, they were pretty horrifying.  It really put being called Shamu in junior high into perspective.

Everyone online who dares to write something real is going to get hate mail.  In theory I understood that.  It was the timing that was a problem; I was so ready to step out into the world with my happy face and new wedding ring on and got gut-punched before I had time to actually acquire the skills a person needs to exist on the internet without breaking.  I’d mostly only ever written to a smaller, Pagan or body-positive audience, but here I was exposed to the mainstream and all the delightful assholes it has to offer.  I was ill-equipped.

Since then nothing has been the same.  It was one thing after another, as if the universe had been waiting, drumming its fingers together Mr. Burns-style, for me to get into a good place before setting the weasels on me.  I plunged into an endless round of bipolar cycling and medication-roulette.  Mental health-wise I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress at all – here I am five years later back on a single antidepressant, just like I was before.  Hundreds of dollars and dozens of drugs and dosages and nothing has changed except I forced myself off of Ambien once I realized I was using it to stay asleep as much as possible.

In the last five years everything that was important to me that summer has kind of faded away.  I’ve attempted repeatedly to get back to my wedding vows and try to honor them – truthfully reading them now they sound adorably naive.  Even my post on the subject on my third anniversary brings tears to my eyes, because after that brave statement about making the pain count…two more years went by, and…nothing.  I’m on the verge of turning 40 and I don’t feel any better off than I did at 30.

Now, I know this is all a big downer, and not what you were hoping for in a post about something as joyful as a wedding.  But I’m not about to start lying after all the shit I’ve gotten for authenticity.

I mentioned in my 3rd anniversary post that I’d lost my wedding ring; well, I finally replaced it, though the closest I could get was the same design (which took months to find) in a larger size, so now instead of occupying the traditional left ring finger it’s on my left middle finger.  Really, I think that’s fitting, not just because of my urge to give the world my middle finger in general:  It turns out that committing to myself looks nothing like I thought it would, feels nothing like I thought it should.  It was never going to be a traditional “marriage” anyway, so jettisoning the “proper” way to wear a ring is appropriate.

After all this, it remains up to me to define what this ring means.  I’ve had five years to figure out what it doesn’t mean.  Five years have stripped away most of what I thought I was, and left very little of that 2010 Sylvan that’s recognizable.  She’s still fat, still funny, still a damn good writer; she’s still snarky, still makes a fine-ass vegan cupcake.  She tries to be generous and tries to be compassionate.  She tries.

And she’s not done trying.

I’ll be posting more about the anniversary all week, so, stick around.  It won’t all be depressing, honest!  There will be music at least.

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Metanoia and the Married Spinster

handsIt was such a beautiful evening. A candlelit room, flowers, a tower of chai cupcakes, a circle of loving friends, with me all made up and shiny in red. My two best friends in the world, hailing from wildly divergent spiritual backgrounds, teaming up to marry their girl off to their girl.

I made vows. They were long. They’re hanging on my bedroom wall, which is the only way I have any idea what they say. I think it’s safe to report that in the last three years I’ve broken every one.

Several people have expressed a desire to know how my whole self-love situation has progressed since my self-wedding on July 30, 2011. I want so badly to tell them, and to say now, that it caused a revolution in how I treat myself, that I’ve learned my own awesomeness and am living by my authentic inner goddess truth or whatever.

Not so much.

By the time I lost my wedding ring I probably should have known something was wrong.

I fucked it up, guys. If you know anything about my life these last few years you know it hasn’t been easy. After my psych diagnosis everything became so complicated; then my life as a writer kind of collapsed like a soufflé sitting on a beehive. This year I’ve found myself unrecognizable as the woman who walked down that aisle to Apocalyptica and then did Bollywood-esque moves in a circle while ever so slightly drunk on sangria.

I don’t even dance anymore.

It’s hard to say what went wrong. I could point to individual circumstances, but blaming any one thing, including myself, seems like a cop-out.

I feel like I swallowed a drought. My insides are dusty and cracked, soul parched, silently begging the sky to open up both to green the land and to release the tension in the air. I’m a hungry ghost, wandering the world with my mouth wide open but unable to find satiety. I haunted all the places I used to touch the Sacred; I rattled my chains and howled without a voice.

I’m fairly sure that, looking at 2014 as a whole so far, you could quite accurately say I’ve been having a slow protracted nervous breakdown.

My sincerest hope is that I’ll look back and realize it was more than that – that it was Jungian metanoia, and the rebuilding after the breakdown led to something amazing.

The past few weeks have been much better, but the really shitty thing about bipolar is that you learn not to trust feeling well. You know it’s going to be yanked away from you, whether tomorrow or in a month. You try to enjoy it and do as much living as possible, but underneath is a current of fear and sadness that never goes away.

It’s funny. I decided to self-marry because I was tired of being at war with myself. Not a year later I was diagnosed with an illness that basically means my brain is at war with itself.

Here in 2014, four years after my first novel hit shelves and three years after I vowed to care for myself as I would my beloved, everything I used to love and enjoy, everything that I thought made me who I was, is just…gone.

For a long while I was obsessed with “getting it all back.” For a brief span of months around age 30, I was happy – I didn’t realize it at the time, and it certainly wasn’t perfect, but I really felt like life was functioning on all eight cylinders for the first time in adulthood. Since then I’ve tried to reach back in time and capture that feeling, that person I was, when I was HPS of a coven and had an actual human lover and was dancing and my career was in its infancy so anything, anything could happen.

I’ve realized recently – embarrassingly recently, in fact – that I don’t want it back. At 30 I didn’t want to be 23 again. Why would I want to be 30 now?

And by God, if this last year has served to tear down and pulverize everything I thought I liked about myself and everything that made me who I believed I was, I’m going to make that demolition worth the dust in the air and the pounding jackhammers all night long. One of my life mottos is “Make the pain count.” Life is going to suck, and suck hard with malice aforethought, and you can’t always prevent the suck no matter how “together” you are. What you can do is use the suck.

I’ll stop with the sucking metaphor there, though, because it could go someplace weird really fast.

If this were a two-person marriage, I’m pretty sure my wife would have walked out by now. I don’t say that in a bitter way; I’ve been an inattentive spouse at best and an abusive one at worst. But unlike an ordinary marriage, when one of us treats the other one like crap, the other can’t leave. Try though I might I can’t get away from myself.

It’s that better part of me, in fact, that has kept me hoping – that little voice whispering “Come on, you can try again – nobody’s keeping score but you. It’s going to be okay.” She says she loves me, and she’s not giving up on me. She knows who I can be underneath the rubble of who I have been, but she can’t tell me; I have to figure it out for myself.

That’s how I know wisdom when I hear it: it’s almost always really annoying.

I don’t know how I’m going to make things better. I’ve certainly tried. Every attempt, from the tiniest shift to a tectonic realignment, has fizzled. But I know, deep down somewhere more visceral than my heart, maybe my liver or spleen, that I’m meant to do something really badass with my life, and that the way I’ve been living since the wedding is not it. I don’t know which way to go, or how to start, or much of anything; but I have an inner conviction that I’ve got work to do.

I also still have an awesome wife. And you know what they say: behind every great woman is that same woman, because she had to kick her own ass.

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