Monday, October 19, 2015

To write a book... or not.

I think I first wanted to be a writer when I was very young. I can remember writing short stories, things I hoped could expand to epic tales or novel series, on my parents old Macintosh computer. We may have still had dial-up internet at that time. On and off over the course of my life, I've taken up the hobby of writing. Poems, prose, short stories, never much longer than that. And journals. Lots and lots of hand-written journals, whereas most of everything else ended up on a computer.

I don't have it anymore. Any of it, except for what survived my archived files from college, and that's just some work from creative writing classes. Any other computerized writing never survived the many transfers from family system to family system, and I think at some point, I went and deleted anything that was so juvenile it seemed "embarrassing". Possibly the worst travesty is my decision earlier this year to purge all of my hand-written journals, the contents spanning thoughts from over ten years of my life. Sometimes I maintain that this was a wise decision to forge ahead and try to let go of past events that I may be lingering over too much, but I clearly do have some regret over it. I guess have some forgiveness to do.

Many years ago, I re-read an old journal and was depressed by what I'd written. I made a rule then, and stuck by it, that I would never read anything in my journal again after an entry was written. The only exceptions were to reference dates in the most current journal. I can think of very few times that I violated this rule. I considered a few years ago going through all of the journals to extract some entries and compile a memoir of sorts, but that option is lost to me now. Now it would be half-fiction, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.

The earliest story I can remember writing is one about the cat I grew up with. I wrote that my sister and I discovered Mourka could talk and that she lead us on some epic adventures. She introduced us to our neighborhood friend's cats, who could also talk, but had been hiding the ability until Mourka deemed it was appropriate. At some point in the course of the story, I knew I wanted Mourka to rescue us from a kidnapper and/or vise versa, but I never knew how to get from the introduction to the action, so I skipped ahead, thinking I would fill that in later. I never did, but I think the story ended up being something like 17 pages in Word (probably your old standard of 12 point font, Times New Roman). I'm still impressed with that.

Perhaps due to my own arrogance about my creative writing abilities, I never learned a good editing strategy. Maybe this is a more common flaw among writers than I seem to think. The only writers that I've ever spoken to were peers, who always sounded so much more confident than I was. They knew more technical terms to describe their story composition or writing methods, at least. Some that I have spoken to are published now, at least with articles somewhere online, or still seem to write regularly. I'll admit that other people's successes tend to scare me away from even trying.

The prevailing theme behind all of my fictional stories has been some kind of rescue. Whether that was someone else helping the main character, or the main character figuring shit out for themself, they'd get a happy ending. It was something I couldn't see for myself at times during my depressed adolescence and it made me feel better to write about it or imagine scenarios while it could about. It took me a long time to figure out that I had to rescue me, I had to write my own happy ending in life (though life is a journey, not a destination), and really accept that responsibility. I still struggle with it. So I imagine that any book I'd write would be kind of in a journal form, with entries spanning many years, and inspiring hope in any young, depressed readers who might come across it. That's what I'd want anyway.

So. Among my many endeavors, hopes, and ambitions in life, I am adding back "to write a book". It might never happen, but at least I can say I tried.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Stitch Fix - July 2015

Today, I received my second order from Stitch Fix (referral link, I'll get credit to use towards a purchase if you sign up and place an order through this link). It's a personal styling service which will mail you clothes & accessories based on a style profile that you fill out. It also helps to keep a Pinterest board of inspiration images with notes about what you like. I first used the service in February or March of this year and kept everything that they sent me! I wear 4 of the pieces constantly, but rarely wear the bird scarf. I realize now that it's because I don't know if I like wearing so much black bundled around my neck, even though I typically like black clothing.

As you can see in the first image, they send you a styling card and a little note from your stylist about some of the things they picked out for you. I have until July 30th to decide what I want to keep (just under a week).

The first item was this clutch, called the Juno Small Folded Clutch. I don't really like gold tones for accessories or jewelry...or anything. It just doesn't work with my skintone, but the color of the leather is really lovely. I like the idea of having a small purse for just my phone and wallet, if I don't want to worry about pockets or carry my large bag. I think I'll keep this one, but I'm not sure. $38 (Edit on 7/27, decided to keep)

My husband helped with some photography.

I love this one. I popped on a skirt that I already own, but I can see myself wearing it with jeans, to the office, or...anywhere. It's very soft and flattering on my shoulders. I can also wear it in pretty much any season, which is what I requested for this particular Fix. Morlan Halter Top - Keeping it! $48

 Yeah, this one was a failure. It would definitely work better with jeans, but the garment was damaged anyway (the hem was sewn onto the body of the shirt in one spot). I didn't like the fit on my torso, it felt loose in a baggy way, unlike the cobalt blue top. Sending it back - Laguna Embellished Neckline Blouse, would've been $48 (Edit on 7/27: decided to keep, I emailed Stitch Fix about the damage and they offered 15% discount on it to go towards repair. I'm going to see if I can make it work)

 Okay so I'm sold on the striped Parma Open Cardigan ($48) though probably not paired with this dress, but on the fence about the Jakobe Chevron Print Maxi Dress ($54). I think the fit of the dress is much better in these pictures than I saw it on myself in the mirror.

I took this last one to get a sense of what it'd be like to use the clutch. Hmm...leaning more towards keeping it.

So if I keep everything, I get a 25% discount on the whole order, plus $20 off from my styling fee, and $5 off from a referral. That brings the total to $152, which is right around what I wanted to spend. But I'm not sure if I want to keep the clutch or the dress. I'm only really certain about keeping the blue shirt, the striped cardigan, and sending the black shirt back.

What do you think?!

Edit 7/27: I decided to keep everything and get the discount on the whole order.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Loneliness as a learning experience

"So I leaned into the loneliness, and when I did, I felt an enormous wave of love wash over me. I was feeling lonely because of the incredible love I have in my life, in this home. I missed my husband and my son so much, and in that longing for their companionship, I began to run through my mind all the times that I longed to be away from them--all the times I lost my temper or took out my frustrations on them.

It was icky and nasty, and I leaned into it. "

quotes from Neghar Fonooni, in a recent newsletter

When Hulky and I are apart, I get lonely very easily, but I have realized that there's a lot of love in that loneliness. Without the love that we have in our relationship, I would not feel so sad at my partner's absence. I have found the time to be motivated, improve on myself, run some personal experiments, all while looking forward to seeing him again.

"When we lean into [loneliness], invite it to stay for dinner, give it the room it needs to breathe--then we experience the freedom that comes from opening up to what's in our hearts. When we allow the discomfort the space it needs to dissipate, we can stop resisting, and start living."

Last night, loneliness caught up with me and I stayed up very late, watching Jurassic Park III. I ate a bunch of ice cream (Ben & Jerry's, of course) and cuddled up under the most fuzzy blanket in the world. I emotionally checked out and just let my brain rest. It was needed. Today is back to the grind and I'm feeling ready to take on a few more small projects before Hulky gets home on Friday.

If Depression was a pool that we wade in, and sometimes drown, I probably only get to my knees on the worst days in recent years. More often, it's just ankle-deep, and sometimes I just stand at the edge with small splashes on my toes. It's always present, I always see it even if I don't feel it. Just like loneliness, I am sometimes able to let depression just exist and explore it. It is in those times that I remember depression and feeling depressed are not the same thing. One can linger for weeks at a time, the other typically passes much sooner and is a lot easier to work through on your own.

I might think of my periods of feeling depressed as episodes of healing. They are short enough that I can't really do any deep-wading and I tend to make some helpful internal observations during those times. This is very relevant after seeing the movie "Inside Out" which was adorable, by the way. The primary message I got from it is "Sadness has a purpose." Sadness allows us to process our feelings and It's when sadness lingers and becomes Depression that it can be a problem, when we end up stuck wallowing instead of using grief as a way to heal. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Living in photographs

As I journey through old digital photographs in an effort to tidy up my digital storage, I am learning unexpected lessons about myself.

There are many people from my childhood that I am simply done with. There are many faces in the photos that I am familiar with, but I can't remember their names anymore, or we never communicate (online or otherwise), or I frankly just don't care about them. It's hard with some photos to determine how I feel about them. Photos of former teachers? Do I really care about these? Would I miss them? I would probably not remember them if I got rid of the pictures, and that doesn't help me decide at all. In a physical photo album, we review the pictures periodically or infrequently and still appreciate them. As a digital volume, do I want to do the same? It seems absurd to keep so many. How can I really know what to keep? My inclination is truly just to hoard them all.

I came across the first photos of me with pink in my hair (the better version of the photo was actually taken on a film camera). I had been permitted, at around age 15 I think, to put a streak of pink in my hair. I felt so bold. I loved it. I love the photo that attempts to capture those feelings. I like being able to look back and know that's not a person I want to be anymore, while still appreciating who I was.

These photos also capture my varying and strange personal fashion trends. Most of them make me laugh now. I've spent many years trying to find a personal style without realizing that I have one already. I may not be able to define my tastes, but I know how to pick clothes that I like and I only wear what I like.

This article had me re-assess my current hair state, which is a somewhat more mature pink, as in much less vibrant (I didn't lighten the hair enough before dyeing). I don't think I'm done yet with fantasy colored hair. It still feels like me, it still gives me confidence. But I do recognize there are some inklings of teenage-me in my choice of hair color or style. I don't think that's a bad thing. Some things we take with us and some things we leave behind as we grow up. It can always change and I am open to listen to myself on this score.

I am realizing that choosing what (photos) to keep is less about the memories and more about what aspects of me I will choose to carry with me into the future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Scents and sounds

I've always considered myself a visual learner and expected most of my memories to be tied to visual stimuli as well. While I do have a good memory for faces, I've found recently that scents and sounds tend to trigger much stronger emotional responses for me.

Lately I've been reading about aromatherapy and essential oils. While I'm dubious as to the claims of potential medical help oils could provide, I think that the emotional response by smelling something pleasant or specific (placebo effects!) is very real. I bought an inexpensive kit (affiliate link) from a brand that sells on Amazon to start myself off. While none of the oils on their own make me think of anything in particular, I am starting to get a sense for what scents go well with others and might make a nice blend for a candle or roll-on application mixed with a carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil). It should be a fun little project, even if I don't stick with it. I've accepted that I'm a hobby hopper.

Scents that trigger nostalgia or pleasant feelings for me

  • freshly cut grass
  • rain on hot asphalt
  • this body product line that my grandmother has had in her bathroom since forever, the name has some 3-digit number in it; the scent is a combination of sharply floral yet masculine
  • Old Spice deodorant, probably because my dad has always worn it
I don't have particular memories associated with most nostalgic sound triggers, but there are some that I find oddly soothing.
  • plows in the wintertime, but only at night when it's really quiet other than potentially wind
  • lawnmowers, specifically make me think of the week or two before the fall semester started my sophomore year in college. I was there early for job training and the riding lawnmowers were out much earlier that I'd like, but it's still a nice memory
  • humidifiers
  • a shower running in another room
  • the sound of water running through pipes for a shower. When I was little, I would sit in the closet of my sister's and my bedroom (now my parents' room) and listen to the sound of the water running through the pipes/the shower on the other side of the wall while anyone was in there getting clean.
  • fan noise is SO soothing to me. I love having a fan or air purifier running at night. I think it's because it helps drown out any sudden noises that may occur outside so I don't get woken up by them
I guess a lot of the sounds I like are kind of variants on white noise! A distant lawnmower is something I could sleep to, as are all the others.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sabriel Day

I was lent Sabriel by Garth Nix when I was around fifteen years old. My best friend at the time had really enjoyed the book as well as its sequel, Lirael, and I trusted her book recommendations. I don't remember if I immediately loved it as much as I do now, but I liked it enough to read the sequel and buy the third book in the trilogy when I realized it was already out. Actually, her little sister bought it for me and I can't remember why  now! I still have that copy and I still think of her every time I see it on my bookshelf. The original release date for Sabriel was twenty years ago today, in Australia.

The first book follows the journey of Sabriel, a teenager in a fictional version of 20th-century England, as she re-enters her magical homeland: the Old Kingdom. There, she takes on the mantle of the Abhorsen, which is essentially a law-instated necromancer, as she searches for her father, the former Abhorsen, who went missing. Accompanying her on the journey is a magical creature that takes the form of a speaking cat, Mogget. Sabriel's tools of her trade include a bandolier of bells, each spelled for specific duties against Dead creatures arisen by rogue necromancers, a spelled sward, Charter magic, and the Book of the Dead.

The second and third books follow other character primarily, so I won't try to summarize those because I'd probably spoil something. I can say, however, that Lirael and Abhorsen take place somewhere around 20 years after the events of Sabriel. Sabriel does make an appearance in those books, but she's all grown-up *sniffle*.

The heroines in books whom I find most appealing tend to be very self-sufficient and courageous. Sabriel is no exception there. She doesn't always makes the right choices, sometimes she pays for those mistakes, but she always finds a way through on her own. There are very few situations in the book where I'd consider her "rescued" by anyone. I've found that my own choice of friends over the years tend to have similar qualities: passionate, self-reliant, often gregarious or extroverts. Sabriel is not entirely an extrovert, but she is able to speak up for herself and take lead when needed.

Over my many years living with and battling depression, I've learned over and over that there is no knight in shining armor to save you from the bad times. You have to do it yourself. Sabriel represents to me someone who can take on tremendous odds and conquer them. While my battles are usually mental and hers are usually physical (or magical), I still hold her as a sort of role model for strength and perseverance.

I recommend this book to anyone who remotely like fantasy novels, especially to teens, but really to everybody. There are a couple more books related with the trilogy as well, such as the recent release of Clariel, a prequel that takes place a couple of hundred years before the events of Sabriel, and some short stories in two separate collections (one comes out next month).

Monday, April 27, 2015

How to overcome depression

Like I know all the answers.

Like I haven't been down that road and back a million times.

Maybe while I'm in the throes of another episode of depression is not the best time to write about depression. On the other hand, it could help, so I try. I keep writing this blog and talking about the same things over and over.

I overshare like it's my job, according to some. It's never been in me to do anything differently. Once you get me going, I will tell you just about anything.

The most important thing I've come to understand about living with depression over the past 13 or so years is


Depression is an illness. It would like you to think that you are worthless, that you should give up, that no one loves you. Depression is lying to you so it can thrive. Don't let it thrive. Don't stop fighting. Don't stop telling people how you are feeling. You may think that you are being annoying and hell, maybe you are, but you're more important than that.

Your life is more important than any minor inconvenience you may cause.

Talk to doctors. Talk to strangers. Talk to friends or anyone you maybe thought loved you, even if depression is telling you that right now, nobody does. It's lying, take the risk and tell them anyway.

You are always worth fighting for.

I put a lot of value on the life of every individual. I am not a supporter of the death penalty for any crime. I do believe that those with terminal illness have the right to die with dignity, but depression is not a terminal illness. It doesn't have to be.

Mental illness is devious and deceptive. Anxiety will let you think that someone holds a grudge for some tiny mistake you make seven years ago. It may lead you to stop talking to people out of irrational fear that something has gone wrong in your relationship. Depression will keep you from pretty much doing anything and it's so, so hard to get moving again. Add in suicidal thoughts and it gets bad really quickly.

On the worst days, which are thankfully not that often anymore, I think about the people I'd leave behind. I think about how sad they would be, how I would not wish how depression makes me feel on anyone else. I can't take the risk that I'd leave anyone else to that fate due to my abrupt absence.

I choose to stay and fight and sometimes it's the hardest choice I've ever made.

(Sidenote: I'm not that bad right now, please don't worry, I just felt motivated to write.)