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.


Shadow World Extra: Order Form

Greetings this fine Monday!  I sat down to start making notes about all the prompts I got from the giveaway, and this was the first thing to spring to mind – a silly thing I thought I’d share.  It’s what happens when you leave a clipboard hanging somewhere that two people can walk past intermittently throughout the evening.

After all, if our heroes are all busy fighting wars and making platinum albums, someone has to buy the ice cream.

Passing Notes

(I know the clip’s a bit cheesy, but I was improvising because I didn’t have my usual tools.)


Sylvan Points at Stuff, 9/4

Hello again!  Let’s start with what may in fact be the best song ever.


I love that different parts of the world have their quirky trends – Japan has washi tape, and it turns out Korea has diary stamps. They’re itty bitty (usually 1cm x 1cm x 3cm) wood-mounted stamps with tiny symbols to use in planners and diaries, indicating dates, appointments, weather, all sorts of stuff. If you don’t want to bulk up your planner with stickers, you might try some of these adorable little dudes:

While we’re on the subject of adorable things, I give you puffy manatee stickers.  Pink manatees.  Wearing pearls.

Pink Freaking Manatees!


Hey, anybody need some Uranium?

Great Product, Poor Packaging.

Seriously, you have to read the reviews.  I love it when Amazon customers gang up on crazy-ass products like those “Bic for Vaginas” pens and the banana slicer.


All right, stop

(collaborate and listen)


whatever you’re doing because DANCING BABY GROOT CUPCAKES.  There’s even a how-to video.

Don’t forget, you can also find me:

On Pinterest, where I post dozens of images of the same sort of stuff for a few days and then move on to something else.

On Tumblr, where I reblog inflammatory political stuff on occasion but mostly just enjoy the gay porn.

On Flickr, where there are lots of pictures of stuff I’ve made.  This may in fact include the Littlest Tofu Ever once I bust out my polymer clay tools.


Writing Prompt Contest Winners!

All right, ducklings, let’s get this party started. I picked the 10 winners based on what ideas and thoughts sprang to mind after reading their entries – what I end up writing for each might not be an on-the-nose response, but it will certainly use those entries as a springboard.

If you are among the winners, please email me at diannesylvan at gmail dot com with your name/address and whether you’d like a bit of art or a signed book; and of course if it’s the latter tell me which book you want. I think I have a couple copies of The Body Sacred around, too, if that’s your preference.

Posting of the winning, er, posts, should commence by Monday at the latest.  The winners are:

  1. Elspeth
  2. Ellie Di
  3. Liz
  4. Kyeli
  5. Rin Ashton
  6. Cadry
  7. Vicki
  8. Brittney
  9. Roe
  10. Andi

Congrats guys! Looking forward to your emails.



A Tour of My New Erin Condren Life Planner

Quick reminder: be sure and enter my latest giveaway for a chance to win either a signed book or a bit of art.  Entries close August 31.

Warning: This is a long-ass post.  It’s mostly pictures, though.  And they’re somewhat decent pictures for a change.

If you’re familiar with my weirdness you know I’m kind of obsessed with planners, especially lately. I recently made my own, and while it was hella fun and had a lot of potential, the one I made ended up being way more entertainment than tool.  There are certain things I need from a planner, and I didn’t think I’d find them all in one place.

Enter the Erin Condren Life Planner.  I’d seen people rhapsodizing over these things all over Pinterest – they’re the kind of thing that people make YouTube videos of themselves unboxing.  The ECLP looked like it might just be perfect, but it’s also expensive (actually it’s no worse than a leatherbound Filofax when all is said and done, and even a nice Day Timer will set you back quite a bit at Office Depot), so I hemmed and hawed until one day I just bit the bullet and ordered one.

Customizing the ECLP is a popular pastime among its worshipers – the structure of the planner lends itself to endless personalization for whatever way your life works.  People have come up with ways to change the headers and add in pages, to make them pretty in a thousand ways (mostly involving stickers and washi tape). I bought a pack of sticker paper and was off to the races.

Here, then, is a look into this amazing book that now occupies an enormous chunk of space in my bag.  (It’s crazy heavy, but really no worse than the DIY one I made after I’d glued a million pieces of paper in it.) Down below I’ll list some of the supplies and shops I ordered to play with.

front cover

One of the cool things about the ECLP is that you can change the cover – they’re heavy-duty laminated and spiral bound, but you can remove the covers and switch them out really easily.  And you can get a cover with pretty much anything on it; I liked the premade designs, but a lot of people have photo collages of their pets and kids and so forth.

planner charm

I was making a planner charm for a friend, and decided to do one for myself as well – I started with a premade one I ordered from Etsy which, unfortunately, arrived broken.  (Easily fixable with a pair of needle nose pliers, as are many things in life.)  I ordered a bunch of charms and hooked them all together as a dangly thing; I was afraid I’d hate it or it would get caught on stuff, but so far I love it.  It gives me something to fiddle with.

inside front cover

My planner was an 18 month – you can get either 18 or 12 for a $5 difference. June, however, had already passed by the time I got it, as had July, so I ripped both months out (this also helps make a little extra space to accommodate all the extra stuff I put in) and covered the front page with cardstock. I pasted a Smash pocket over that; the planner has a very nice pocket in back, but I wanted one in front too.  Then, I made a menu planner and grocery list holder; I printed it out and used those self-seal laminating pouches, then the coil clips you can buy with your ECLP to add things to the planner.  (There’s also a DIY version, linked below, which is better for less important items.)

Unfortunately the color of the menu came out horribly – I will probably make a new one later, but I hated to waste the supplies so I kept it for now.

inside front cover 2

All throughout the planner I’ve used double-stick tape and a glue stick to add in quotes and images I love, as well as pre-bought stickers.  I want every inch of this thing to be me.

unaltered weekly

Now, this is what the weekly spreads look like before they’ve been futzed with.  There are sections for morning, day, and night; and a spot at the bottom for notes, quotes, meal plans, exercise records, whatever.  But I, like many people, don’t really need all three of those sections just for my schedule, so I came up with a different approach.

weekly layout

I made sticker boxes to cover the bottom two sections, and made stickers to cover the titles; the measurements of the sections are easy to find online (told you, people love to customize this thing).  There are lots of stickers like this you can buy already made if you don’t have a printer or don’t feel like going to the trouble.

week 2 layout

This is this week’s layout, partially decorated; it’s Tuesday as I write this, so obviously not much is filled in.  Color coordination and weekly themes are popular among ECLPers, but I’m mostly just going for “fun and pretty” right now.  I haven’t been filling out the self-care sections like I should, but I’m still getting used to all of this organization.

Also here you can see the awesome bookmark/ruler that comes with the planner.  It snaps in and out and also makes a great guide for punching holes in other things to add to the binding.

washi bills

The back section of the ECLP has both lined and unlined note pages, a pocket, a plastic zipper pouch, and a removable insert that acts as a perpetual birthday and event calendar.  I had no real need of the latter, so to save bulk I took it out and wrote in my birthday list in the notes pages.  I also added this bill tracker, made in Excel and printed in similar colors to the planner.  It’s got two additional pages to cover all of 2015.

On the left is a selection of washi tapes; carrying rolls is a pain, so I just stuck strips to a page and they can be removed and restuck elsewhere on a whim.

blog and stuff

You know me and lists – I’ve spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at planners and what I’d add to mine, and decided to put in a few in the notes section, like possible blog posts and a place to record books and such I want to look for.  I printed the titles out in the same font as I used in other additions.

30 by 38

The unlined note pages are all decorated in the designs you can get for the planner covers; this is one of my favorites.  I put in this list and added the Buddha from Sinfest (I just love the Bood) to add a bit of Zen.

back pockets

Lastly, the inside back cover; the zipper pouch is full of stickers and paste-ins, but I added everything on the right – cards with important numbers, and two library pockets I colored in with Distress Ink to keep my planner stickers in.  The top has things like shopping, cleaning the cat box, getting my period, and writing deadlines; the bottom is full of weather stickers.  I put each in a handmade envelope and stuck it in the pocket so it can’t come open.

You may not have seen my stickers – over on my Etsy shop, I’m actually selling a couple, a set of Pagan holidays and another of weather icons.  They’re my own artwork, and very cute.

Here’s a list of things and places I gathered for planner playtime. I’ve really enjoyed making my ECLP my own – in six months it might be a different story, but right now at least it’s damn near perfect for me.

ECLP Videos:

The official Erin Condren 2014 intro video
DIY Coil Clips for Erin Condren Life Planner

How to make ECLP labels using your Cameo (a die cutting machine – but the awesome thing here is below the video where the host gives you all the measurements for the labels)
EC Coil Clip hack - this woman has some great ideas for getting the most out of your coil clips.

Etsy Shops for ECLP Goodies:

Petunia Paper – inserts and reminder stickers.
Organized Stickers – Daily section title stickers, checklists, exercise & habit trackers
Happy Zakka Life – dear God, the washi tape!
Karolina’s Krafts - lots of adorable reminder and habit tracking stickers.
TeeChic - elastic bands to keep your ECLP (or other planner) closed; I have a TARDIS coming in the mail.
Bohemian Findings - the charms I used on my dangly business.  Very inexpensive and there are a million kinds, including pentacles and other spiritual goodies.
Pretty Sang – handmade planner charms, keychains, and the like.

Lastly, here’s my Pinterest board dedicated not just to ECLP but to planners in general:  Planet Plan-It.

If you like the idea of a planner you can customize but don’t want to spend the money, all you have to do is search on Pinterest for “free planner printable” and you’ll be amazed at what you find.  There are also lots of DIY versions on Etsy that have a similar look to the ECLP but are cheaper (usually because you print them yourself).  My main problem with most of them is that I don’t want a binder – I wanted a tight, coated spiral binding because I’m left-handed and those hard binder rings are just no fun for writing when you’re sinister.