Saturday, December 31, 2016

Melanie's Marvelous Mashed Potatoes

Melanie loved to cook. She was mixing her own concoctions ever since she was two years old. As she grew, she experimented with all kinds of cuisines, combining foods that no one would imagine would taste good together but they did. She made special dinners for her family all the time, baked birthday cakes for her friends, made cookies for her grandpa when he was in the hospital, and brought her homemade ice cream to family barbecues. By the time she was 13, Melanie had a 50-page book full of her own recipes.

Then, something terrible happened. Melanie was taken away from her home and forced to go to a strict boarding school where she was abused. I won't go into the details of the abuse, but *horrible* things happened at this boarding school, and Melanie had no way to get out.

In addition to the abuse at this boarding school, the main food supply they had was potatoes. They had some odd spices and herbs and oils, and once in while they'd get a shipment of something like bread, or maybe one other vegetable, but the basis of every meal was potatoes. The students were allowed to cook their own food, and most of them made the basics - mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, French fries, and maybe oven roasted potatoes if they were feeling ambitious. But Melanie, being a chef, came up with all kinds of creative dishes with potatoes. She cooked them all different ways, with all different spice combinations that her classmates had never tried before. She even managed to make a whipped potato dish that tasted just like chocolate ice cream, which she had been missing since was taken away from her home.

When Melanie finally graduated from this boarding school, she didn't just return to her normal life. She was severely depressed and had PTSD from the abuse that she suffered at the school. She also no longer remembered how to cook with foods other than potatoes - that 50-page recipe book that she left at home all those years seemed like a foreign language to her now. 

When Melanie continued to cook the potato dishes that she made at school, a lot of people loved them. Her chocolate ice cream mashed potatoes in particular were very popular. She managed to open a potato restaurant and sell these recipes, and her business was very successful, but she never felt happy, fulfilled, and whole again like she did before was sent to the abusive school.

When Melanie tried to talk to people about the abuse that she suffered, about the fact that it was never okay for her to be non-consensually taken away from her family, everyone told her, "But look at all the good that came from it! Your business is so successful! I bet you never would have never come up with all these potato recipes if you hadn't been sent to that school!"

Well, it is true that Melanie probably would not have come up with so many potato-based dishes if she hadn't been in that abusive situation. But that does not justify the abuse. That does not mean that Melanie herself would say that anything that happened to her was worth it just because she can cook potatoes now. No matter how successful her restaurant is, it will always be Melanie's choice - and Melanie's choice only - whether she wants to focus on the positive thing that came from the abuse, or whether she even considers the potato restaurant to be a positive silver lining at all. Melanie may rightly feel that she would have rather not suffered the abuse even if it meant that she would never become a successful chef, and that's totally okay.

But in addition to that, let's talk about Melanie's life as a chef before she was sent away. Because when an artist creates something that was inspired by a horrible situation, we sometimes give credit to the situation more than to the artist - we act as if the situation was somehow acceptable because they were able to create art that they could not have otherwise created if the bad thing hadn't happened. Now, if a person says that something that happened to them was not acceptable, it was not acceptable. Full stop. But we're also forgetting that Melanie was already a brilliant chef before anything bad happened. She didn't create all those potato dishes because that's what happens when you get thrown into a situation like that - she created them because she's a chef. If it were only the result of her being forced to eat only potatoes, then all of her classmates would also have successful potato restaurants. But they don't. Melanie created those recipes because she loved to cook. When an artist creates something wonderful out of something bad, we often act as if they would have created nothing at all if the bad thing had never happened. But really, it's not a choice between Melanie's marvelous mashed potatoes and nothing - it's a choice between potatoes or all the other foods in the world! It's a choice between potatoes and the 100 more recipes that she may have added to her cookbook if she had stayed home and been able to cook with all the foods that she wanted. What makes you think that Melanie is only successful because of her potato recipe, when she may very well have opened a different kind of restaurant with a better variety of foods, had she not been taken away?

When something horrible happens, it can be all-consuming. It can fill your brain to capacity to the point that you can't think about anything else, you can't create art about anything else even if you wanted to. It's like your entire house is filled with potatoes to the point that you can't physically leave to go get any other food, so you have to eat a lot of potatoes just to be able to get out. 

When an artist makes something brilliant as a result of something bad, don't think for a second that that makes the bad thing okay, or that we feel like the bad thing was worth going through, or that we otherwise would not have anything to make art about. Don't think that it was fully our choice to make art about the bad thing, because trauma can be all-consuming and doesn't always leave room in your brain for anything else. If the bad thing hadn't happened, we'd be making art about the gazillions of other things that we wanted to make art about, and that art may have been even better. And even if the art wasn't better, we would be.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

New Year's Resolutions 2017

1. Have more sex.

2. Eat whatever I want.

3. Take more sick days.

4. Spend all the time I want NOT interacting with people, even when people are right there trying to interact with me.

5. Never accomplish anything or do anything that a responsible adult would do - just have fun!

6. Complain more. A lot more. Use caps lock and punctuation more often. Scream louder.

7. Say no to every single thing that doesn't interest me, even if it's just a tiny thing like eating a cookie that I don't want.

8. NEVER FUNCTION WHEN I DON'T WANT TO FUNCTION.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hmm.

"But you'll be living next to an active volcano!"

"Okay."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"You're sure?"

"Yes."

"Positive?"

"Yes."

...

...

...

"Help! A volcano!"

Monday, December 19, 2016

Limitless Limits

At the start of this year, my goal was to not take any actions or inactions based on guilt:

http://yourownkindofmusic.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-new-years-resolution-for-2016.html

I made it 267 days mostly following my goal, but more on that later.

For now, I want to talk about a specific issue of *why* I often did things out of guilt in the past, and I want to focus on correcting that this year.

In 2017, I am going to focus on having limitless limits. By that I mean, I am not going to place any limits on the number of limits or boundaries that I'm "allowed" to have, the number of things I can say that I don't like, or the number of things that I can say no to. The number of personal limits I can have in terms of what I am willing and unwilling to do is unlimited.

A big part of the reason I went along with things I didn't want to do prior to 2016 (mainly prior to 2015) was that I was acting as if there was some arbitrary limit on the number of times I was "allowed" to say no to things that I didn't want to do. For example, I remember one time that I agreed to get pizza and see a movie with my ex boyfriend and his parents when I really did not want to do that at all. My reasoning for going (and I was well-aware of this at the time, but did it anyway) was that I felt obligated to spend a certain amount of time with his family, even though I did not enjoy spending time with them. I felt like I had to say yes to at least some of the invitations, and pizza and a movie was acceptable. As much as I didn't want to go, I figured the next invitation could be to go camping or kayaking or to some fair that lasts all day long where I'd be stuck with them or to a huge reunion with lots of people - things that would really, really suck, and that if they invited me to something I could tolerate, like pizza and a movie - even though I don't eat any of the same kinds of pizza that they eat and I had no interest in the movie they picked and would be sleeping through it - it just wasn't as bad as the other possibilities. I felt like going to this pizza and a movie event would make it more acceptable to say no to things that were really not okay, when the reality is that I should have been able to say no as often as I wanted to.

I was acting as if I had a limited number of "No" tickets in my pockets and that using one meant I couldn't get it back, now I had fewer tickets and fewer chances to say no. If you have a limited number of times that you can say no, you end up saying yes to a lot of things that you really don't want to do because you figure something worse could always come along.

When I was a first-year student, part of our required curriculum was that we had to attend four "wellness seminars" during the school year, which were talks on campus about various topics. These talks were open to the whole school and we could go to as many as we wanted, but we were required to attend at least four. I think there were like ten or twelve events that counted as wellness seminars.

I went to the first four wellness seminars that I was able to go to. All of my classmates didn't take this approach. A lot of them looked at the list and thought about which topics interested them, and they would decide what to do based on what they liked. But since four seminars were required, it seemed to risky for me to wait and go to the ones later in the year. What if I was sick one of the days? What if I wasn't free during the time of the seminar because I had a different schedule in the second semester? What if there was something fun going on that I would have to miss out on to go to the seminar? What if I was just too busy at the time and it would be really hard on me to squeeze the seminar in? There were just too many variables to plan on attending a seminar much later in the year. So whenever a seminar came up that it wasn't a huge burden for me to attend, I attended it, until the requirement was met.

Being required to go to those seminars was sort of like having a limited number of No's. Like, if there are ten seminars and you have to go to four, then you only have six times that you can say, "No, I don't feel like going." And that's how I was behaving about a lot of things prior to 2016:

-Doing things I was never willing to do but felt obligated to do, like OT at work
-Spending time with people that I did not enjoy spending time with, like my ex boyfriend's family and some of his friends.
-Doing activities that I don't want to do in order to spend time with people I like, like when I went on that camping trip and went to drinking-based parties and events where I didn't know anyone and a number of other things.
-Acting less upset than I was about a lot of things because I felt like I had a limited number of times I could be really upset.

Going forward, I am not playing this game of imaginary "No" tickets. Going forward, there will be no limits on the number of things that I say no to.

Going forward, my limits are limitless.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Weird. Just Weird.

Imagine that you have a recipe blog where you post all sorts of recipes that you love. It's just a generic recipe blog, you've never stated that it was for any one type of food. So you post your favorite dessert recipe, and someone comments that your recipe is not vegan because it contains butter and you should substitute olive oil instead. Now, you are not vegan. You never claimed to be vegan, and you never said that your recipe blog was for vegan food. And yet this person is informing you that your recipe is not vegan as if vegan was your goal. You explain to them that this is not a vegan recipe blog, it's just a generic recipe blog, yet they keep making the same comments, telling you all the non vegan ingredients and how to substitute them with vegan products.

This is how everyone sounds to me when they expect me to post happy things or to focus on positivity or to be any level of functional or a nice person when something is wrong. Like, when did I EVER express any desire to be any of those things? If I were a surgeon, your spleen would end up where your brain belongs. If I were a motivational speaker, I would tell everyone to fuck off and spend the rest of their lives staring at the wall doing nothing. If I were a boss, I'd fire everyone so I could be alone and have quiet. I've never expressed any desire to be a better person than that when things go wrong. I don't get why anyone would have such high expectations of me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I Mean It.

When I die someday, REACT HOWEVER YOU REACT, cry for months on end, break all your dishes, quit your job and stop functioning, do whatever comes naturally to you and do not ever let anyone tell you that I would have wanted you to be happy and move on because I DON'T, I want you to do whatever you do.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas

Just finished the family puzzle, now experimenting with my homemade gifts. This is going to be the bestest most Christmasy Christmas since high school!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

On Telling Everyone to Vote

So around election time, everyone is pressuring people to vote, including saying things like, "If you don't vote, you don't have the right to complain," (Which is not true by the way - you ALWAYS have the right to complain no matter what). But the thing is, voter suppression is real. The fact that everyone in the country doesn't vote is not just because people don't feel like it - people from marginalized groups are actually being prevented from voting. Here are two articles that explain voter suppression, and how voting is not accessible to everyone:



Every year at election time, my Facebook feed is filled with statuses telling everyone go and vote, do your civic duty, no excuses, if you don't vote you can't complain, and on and on like that, but nothing whatsoever about suppression or inaccessibility of voting for marginalized people. If you care about voting, if you think it's everyone's responsibility and civic duty and that it's so important that everyone do it, then you should start by caring about all the people who want to vote and are being prevented from doing so. 

More Hypocrisy

Everyone pushes you to "choose" happiness and take responsibility for your own happiness, but the second that you prioritize doing what will make you happy over doing what will make you either educated or productive but not happy, everyone criticizes you for that too. Hypocrites. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Shock

I'm so sick of people being so fucking shocked about everything. Especially after I just said how much I hate people who are shocked about stuff I tell them, you go and do the exact same thing. Next time I hope your eyes actually pop out of your head and go rolling down the street. It would serve you right for having any expectations of me.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

June 2016 Calendar


I did not put nearly as much effort into June as I did into May. I typically spend each month working on the picture for the next month, so the quality of the picture depends entirely on how much time I devoted to it. May was one of my hardcore edit months where I spent the majority of my time working on my book, so I didn't put as much work into the calendar. Since I was legitimately feeling good at the time, I decided to make this a bright, fun summer picture.

I drew in the stick figures to liven up the picture - I didn't have a particular intention, but now I think it looks like people dancing, adding to the fun theme. While I didn't do the kind of shading and blending that I did back in May, I did put similar shades of colors together to create a look of blending. For example, the orange petals on the center flower are actually two different colors - I rotated a darker orange with a lighter orange. Although each individual petal is just one color, alternating different but similar shades gives it a blended look. I did the same thing with the red and pink shapes, and the dark blue and light blue shapes that form a circle around the flower and the dancing people. I got this technique from what I did in May - prior to that, I would have used all one color, or rotated contrasting colors such as pink and green, but it would not have occurred to me to alternate similar colors. The first time I left any part of the picture white was with the eyes in May. This time I left the background of the circle of pink and blue squares white so that the colors would pop more.

This was going to be a fun month. It was already a happy month for me because I had just finished the second draft of my book. I drew in the Matilda logo for the day that I was seeing Matilda, and the Sadness and Joy fusion on the anniversary of Inside Out. I also wrote on the calendar what I see on my bathroom mirror every morning: "Every bestseller was once a rough draft."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

May 2016 Calendar



After trying and failing to make April into something wild, I think I succeeded with May. This was the first month that I feel I really made the picture into something that it wasn't meant to be. The original picture looked to me like either a bunch of vines (without the thorns - I drew those in myself) with some leaves and heart-shaped flowers, or like ribbons with hearts. Even if it was just meant to be an abstract picture with representing anything in particular, it just looked all cheery and happy to me before I did anything with it. That had to be fixed. I never liked the may picture from the start because it felt too simplistically happy, and I was going to make it into something cool, something wild, something totally different than whatever it was meant to be.

This is a picture of ideas being generated in someone's imagination. Each of the four corners is colored in light gray, to represent the rest of the brain, the part that isn't involved with the imagination. The pointy shapes in the corners are ideas entering from the outside, I'm imaging the ideas being injected in, sort of like squirting frosting out of a plastic bag. The pipes or vines contain ideas, the colors keep changing because ideas keep changing as well. Imagination feels like a run-on sentence that just keeps going on and on and changing from one thing to another, into so many different possibilities. That's why there are no parts of this picture that are just one solid color - because everything is constantly moving and flowing and changing and creating new ideas. So, the ideas travel through the pipes, changing colors as they go because all ideas change a lot while they're traveling on their way to become something, the ideas meet at those hearts, which are the crossroads of different ideas fusing together. I added the raindrops coming from the hearts to make them look like they are bleeding - bleeding in a good way because there is so much passion in the fusion of the ideas that it cannot be contained in the tiny space. From the heart, the two colors mix together to form a new color, which then travels and meets yet another idea and creates another fusion, which looks more like a spiral of two different colors that never actually blend together, as opposed to the hearts which blended the colors and had a new color come out the was a mix of the two, because there are all different levels of fusion and different ways of mixing ideas together. The creatures with the eyes are figments of the imagination, and they also have the swirling colors and are constantly changing. If you look closely, you will see that I made breaks in the pipes where streams of color are flowing out of the pipes and filling in the background area. This is because the ideas refuse to be contained within the pipes and will fill the surrounding area. The piece in the center is every idea coming together into something amazing. 

This is the first time that I did so much shading and blending of colors, a technique that I love and use in later pictures. I'm especially happy with the way that the center of this piece came out, and particularly the part that looks like a flame. 

It's also the first time that I added so many things to the picture that weren't there initially, like adding the spikes to the pipes, making what had looked like leaves into eyes, and adding the drops from the bleeding hearts. This is also the first time that I created so many of my own patterns within the spaces. In January, February, most of March, and April, I colored all of the solid spaces in with solid colors. If there was a circle, for instance, I would just color that circle one solid color and saturation. This is the first month that I did shading and spiral patterns using multiple colors within the same shape. 

I surprised myself with this picture. I hadn't done studio art for years, I had just recently gotten into coloring and drawing within a year or so of when I bought this calendar, and I hadn't gone very far with it. I had honestly expected all of the calendar pictures to look more like January did. February felt like my limit - it felt like that was the farthest I was going to go when it came to coloring the calendar pictures. May just proved me wrong. May was the month that I felt like I was an artist again. It was like, okay, this isn't just a pretty decoration for my cubical - this is real, this is serious, this is art, this is me.

My grandma always liked to color. When my mom and her sister were little and liked to color, my grandma would color with them. She did the same thing with me when I was little. I had always assumed that she was just coloring because I was, but my mom said that my grandma definitely enjoyed it. By the time all of these advanced coloring books became popular (I say "advanced" instead of "adult" because "adult" implies that coloring is inherently for kids), my grandma wasn't able to do such detailed work anymore, but my mom said that she probably would have done advanced coloring if it had been popular earlier. My mom told me that she still remembers the time when she was little and they were coloring together, and my grandma was coloring a rooster, and she used different colors to color in the same feather (like, she colored half of it red and the other half green). My mom was little then, and she had always assumed that you had to color each shape with just one color, and when she saw my grandma color in the rooster's feathers like that, it was the first time she realized that you could do that, that you could use more than one color within the same shape.

I don't actually remember a time when I thought you had to only use one color for each shape. I mean, I may have felt that way if I was doing something for school, but on my own, I don't remember ever thinking that way. Coloring May felt like that moment of revelation that my mom had as a child, when she realized that you weren't limited to just one color. I felt young and passionate again. And May was only my fifth picture - I had been away from this type of art for so long, yet it didn't take much time at all for it come out again. When I finished May, I just thought to myself, You are an artist. You can do amazing things.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Try Shifting YOUR Sleep Schedule Back by 5 Hours

So, I've spoken about this many times before, but before I had a job, I used to stay up until like 4:00 AM and wake up at noon. I liked my sleep schedule. I had no desire to change it. And yet, no one accepted that. My ex and his family in particular would always just start telling me how to shift my schedule when I had never expressed any desire to change it. They never accepted how much it sucked to have to suddenly shift my schedule to wake up so much earlier. When I eventually had to change my sleep schedule when I got a job, everyone acted like it was just something that needed to happen and I felt like I had to act like it was less of a hardship than it actually was to me. But I realized something when I woke up this morning - an analogy that I wish I had thought of at the time:

Think about your normal sleep schedule - what time you normally go to bed at night and wake up in the morning. Now, imagine what it would feel like if I told you that starting tonight, you have to shift your schedule back by five hours. This means that you have go to sleep five hours earlier than you normally would, and wake up and start your day five hours earlier than you normally do. Think about how disruptive this would be to your life. Could you physically fall asleep that early? Could you drag yourself out of bed that early? Could you just change your schedule that drastically, that fast, without warning, because you just found out that you start a new job tomorrow or that someone else expects you to wake up that early, and they think it's unreasonable when you try to compromise for a time in the middle? What about all the things you had planned to do during those hours that you thought you'd be awake? How many things are you going to miss out on because of this sudden change? Just think for a moment about how disruptive this five hour shift would be to your life.

THAT is what it was like when I had to shift my sleep schedule, My first job came without warning - I was told that they wanted me to start the next day. And all the other times, my ex and his family just acted like it should be no big deal for me to shift for them. What you just imagined your day would be like if you suddenly had to shift five hours backwards is exactly what it was like for me, it's just that no one thinks of it that way because everyone thinks of waking up for a 9-5 job as normal. My sleep schedule was normal for me. And asking me to shift five hours back was NO DIFFERENT than asking people with more conventional schedules to shift five hours back, and it was never okay for everyone to act like it was.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Hypocrisy I've Always Faced

Me: I am deeply affected by this thing that happened that has hurt me directly. I'm not okay now, I don't feel happy, I feel horrible. I'm going to spend every moment of my time speaking out about this bad thing that has happened to me and I'm going to do major things about it.

Other people: Don't sweat the small stuff! You need to learn how to not let these things hurt you so much! You should just let it go and get on with your life and choose to be happy!

Later...

Me: I am not deeply affected by this thing that is not disrupting my life directly. I'm going to focus on my own life and do things that make me feel happy.

Other people: No! You have to be deeply affected by this and do something about it! How dare you live in your own personal bubble and do happy things and not say or do anything about this issue!

*********************************************************************************

Me: I am no longer going to be friends with people whose behavior is hurting me directly, regardless of how long we have known each other.

Other people: You shouldn't drop friends just like that! Give them a chance. They have good intentions. You've known each other for so long and now you're just going to throw the friendship away over a difference of opinion? It's good to be friends with people who push your boundaries and offer different opinions. You shouldn't surround yourself only with people who think like you.

Later...

Me: I do not want to stop being friends with someone because we have different beliefs on certain issues. I wish they didn't think that way, and I would not make new friends with anyone who thinks that way, but we have already been friends for a long time, I still love them, and I am just not willing to throw the friendship away over this.

Other people: It doesn't matter how long you've known them. You have to stop being friends with anyone who thinks that way and only be friends with people who think like you.

Friday, November 18, 2016

PSA

If you do not experience a particular form of oppression, you do not get to have a say in how people who do experience that oppression should be reacting to it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nothing

When I said that I got 3 Cs and a D on my report card back when my grandpa died and that no one ever had any business pushing me to improve my grades and that it was the same way this time around. I meant it. I really, truly meant it. There is nothing that would make me function on a higher level. Nothing, nada, zero, zippo, ziltch. I think people have this idea that I'm gonna just spring into action when it's necessary and I won't. I absolutely won't.

If the house were on fire, I'd roll my eyes like OMG WTF do I seriously have to go outside now, and I'd drag my heals on the way outside and then call a friend to complain about the fact that I was stuck standing outside before I'd even call the fire department.

See what I mean? There is NOTHING that I'm gonna suddenly jump up and function for. And believe me, I have a very, very long list of things that I actually *want* to be doing that I don't feel well enough to do, so even if I did suddenly start feeling functional, anything that anyone else expects me to do is going waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy at the end of the list. I mean that. I function for no one.

Hate.

So, one person says, "I hate women."
A second person says, "I hate rapists."
And a third person says, "You're both bad, we should love and not hate."

Yeah, this is where the whole "Don't fight hate with hate" thing goes and it is fucking sick.

Have some respect for those of us who never intend to hold hands and sing campfire songs with people who have done horrible things to us, directly or indirectly. Have some respect for those of us who want to fight back.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Meh.

I never really got to just focus on my grandma and take the time I needed to grieve. Never. There was always someone pulling me in another direction or the election taking over my brain so I literally couldn't focus on the letter I was writing to her. Always something else. Always something I had to put first. Always some other obligation, whether it was someone literally pushing me to function (like my aunt at her wedding) or myself pushing me to function because everyone was yelling that it was time to stand up and fight instead of just shutting down for a while. I never had a chance. Grandma never got a turn to just be the number one thing on my mind. It's not fair. But I don't know how to make room for her in my mind with everything else that's in it right now.

And I never got to really act like that C C C D student that I said I would be like. Never. It's not fair and it's not okay. It's never going to be okay until I get that chance.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

White Privilege

Having White Privilege does not mean that everything in your life is perfect. I've seen a lot of people reject the idea of white privilege because they have also face difficulties or disadvantages in their life, it feels like white privilege means that you haven't faced any problems. It doesn't. White privilege means that those of us who are white benefit from institutionalized racism. We are more likely to get hired, less likely to unfairly punished or stopped by the police or arrested, we see representations of ourselves in media, and the list goes on and on. Saying we have white privilege does not invalidate anything else that we struggle with; we can still experience white privilege while having other issues. For example, let's say that white person says that they are not privileged because they have depression. Now, having depression sucks. No argument there. But a white person who has depression still has white privilege, because someone of a different race who also has depression would be treated differently. A black person who has depression is likely to face more discrimination when trying to access resources to help with their depression, they are less likely to find a counselor who fully understands what they are going through, and they are more likely to face hiring discrimination, workplace discrimination, and housing discrimination, among other things. Saying that you have white privilege does not invalidate the fact that you have depression or any other issue - it does not mean that every individual white person has a better life than every individual person of color. It means that with all other things being the same, if you and a person of color were in the exact same situation, you would be treated better because you are white.

I have white privilege, and it's in everything I do. I talk all the time about how school ruined my life and college was the most traumatic experience ever, and I have really long blog posts about them. But here's the thing - if I weren't white, if I were African American or Latina, and I wrote the exact same things about college being traumatic and about school ruining my life - my entire race would be judged for it. People would read my posts and think that African Americans or Latinas are just not good at school. It's because I'm white that people read my stories and see them as my individual experience. It's because I'm white that people accept that when I talk about not fitting in because of personality differences, people see those things as my individual experience and don't try to make it about my entire race. And that's something that's important to keep in mind. Think about how you read my anti-school stuff and what it would sound like if it came from someone of a different race. How would you perceive it differently? Would you make judgments about an entire group of people? It is a huge privilege to be able to talk about stuff like I talk about and not be worried that people will judge an entire race as a result of it. We all need to stop and notice whether we really are treating everyone the same, and making sure to correct ourselves if we're not.

No Tone Policing

This is a great webcomic about tone policing:

Using Invalidation to Shut People Down

I talk a lot about how to validate other people's feelings, but I want to take a moment to talk about how to actually use invalidation in a positive way, to shut someone down if they are saying something racist, sexist, heterosexist, etc. This is basically the reverse of a technique I describe in the validation book, so I am trusting my blog readers to ONLY use this method when someone is saying something bad against a group of people, not to invalidate anyone's personal problems.

This is a much, much smaller issue, but when I was in college, I hung around with this group of girls who used to complain a lot about how other people dressed. They specifically had an issue with girls wearing spandex as pants, without anything over them. Whenever they complained about this, I told them that there was nothing wrong with wearing spandex as pants and that people could wear whatever they wanted, but they ignored me. They just kept talking right over me and it didn't matter what I said. So I switched tactics. Instead of telling people that they were wrong, I acted clueless. Our conversations went like this:

Person: "There was a girl in my class wearing super tight spandex today."
Me: "Uh-huh?"
Person: "They were skin-tight, you could see right through them!"
Me: "Uh-huh?"
Person: ....

Basically, I said "Uh-huh?" in the tone that says, "yeah, and?" as if I waiting for them to tell me that a dragon flew in through the window and ate the girl wearing the spandex. My tone indicated that there had to be more to the story than that, because someone wearing spandex to class is not any kind of a story on its own. And the thing is, it actually worked. When I used this method, people did just drop the subject because they did not know what to say.

Now, this is a dangerous thing to do when someone is talking to you about an actual problem that is effecting them directly - I actually talk in the validation book about how not to do this to anyone. But I've found that it was effective for shutting people down about the spandex issue. Saying "Uh-huh?" will not always be the best response, but you can pretend to be confused and not understand what the problem is. You can ask the person questions. For example:

If someone tells you that they were nervous when an African American person came into their store, that they were worried that the person might steal something, ask them, "What do you mean by that? Did he actually do anything threatening? It sounds like he was just looking around the store like everyone else." If the store owner claims that the person was loitering too long, say, "I do that all the time! I go into stores and spend forever looking through stuff and don't end up buying anything. I think pretty much everyone does that." Just keep defending the person with a tone of, "I'm totally clueless as to why you would think this person was stealing," thereby invalidating the idea that there is any reason to assume an African American person was going to steal anything.

If someone tells you that they were uncomfortable on an airplane because someone got on the plane wearing a hijab or a turban, ask the person, "What did the passenger do that concerned you? Did they say something threatening to you?" Again, sound totally clueless, like you have no idea why they might find this person threatening because you don't think of people wearing a hijab or a turban as threatening.

If someone tells you that a boy came into their class wearing a dress, you can try saying "Uh-huh," like I did with the spandex issue, until you force the person to actually say that they don't think boys should wear dresses, and wait until that point to tell them that anyone can wear whatever they want. Or you could ask what kind of dress the person was wearing and say, "Cute! I've been wanting to get a dress like that! Do you know where they bought it?" Speak with a tone that this is totally normal and acceptable, nothing out of the ordinary. Speak the way you would if someone were acting like it was front-page news that a girl wore a dress to class. Invalidate the idea that there is anything wrong or weird about a boy wearing a dress.

I'm normally against invalidation, but in cases like these, it can be a powerful tool. Use it wisely.

How to Respond to a Racist Joke

This is a great video on how to respond to a racist joke:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg1aTLsS69Y&t=1s

Please watch this video, and please let's all stick up for other people when we hear something racist!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Video About Racism

Please watch this video, and consider subscribing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4LpT9TF_ew


Calling All Writers

I am calling all writers to say that we have an important role in influencing our culture - we need to be writing more stories with characters of all different races and religions, LGBT characters, characters who have disabilities, and these characters need to be dynamic human beings who have rich life experiences and not be stereotypes or token characters. We need to do this especially in children's stories. And we need to write a mixture of stories that specifically address problems and discrimination issues, as well as stories that do not focus specifically on differences, that are about something completely different and simply have that character as the star. And we need to start it at a young age, so that kids who identify with the characters will see themselves represented and feel good about themselves, and so that people who don't identify will learn to respect and appreciate people who are different from them. This is important, and it's something we need to start doing now.

So for example, think of a story you know for kids that is about anti-bullying - it can be a book, movie, TV show episode, just any story that you think sends a strong anti-bullying message to kids. Do you have one in mind? Okay, now look at the character in the story who is being bullied - are they white? straight? cisgendered? able-bodied? thin? middle class? Think about how many of our anti-bullying stories are like that, how much of our anti-bullying rhetoric treats everyone like we all have equal privilege, and doesn't address the fact some people are targets of bullying much more than others. We need to write anti-bullying stories about kids who are called racial slurs for being African American or Asian or Latina or Middle-Eastern, for being Muslim and wearing a hijab, for not speaking fluent English or for having an accent, for feeling like a girl inside even though other people think of them as a boy, for having a crush on another kid of the same sex. I am not suggesting that white straight cis kids cannot be bullied as well - I was bullied, and I am not trying to erase anyone's experience who has been bullied. I am saying that in addition to the bullying narratives that we've already seen in mainstream culture, we need new ones. We need to hear the voices of people whose experiences are already being erased. Stories like Chrissa Stands Strong do not cut it, they don't address the issues that kids are dealing with today and they don't give kids the tools to stand up to bullies who are yelling "Build the Wall!" at their classmates. We can do better. We need to start doing better.

And even if you are writing an anti-bullying story about a white, straight, cis, able-bodied person, I urge you to dig deeper into the systematic reasons why they are being bullied. For example, if someone is being bullied because of the way they dress, maybe that character comes from a low-income family and cannot afford the "cool" clothes that the other kids wear, or all of the latest gadgets. If a boy is being bullied, the reason is often because he doesn't act tough or because he acts "girly," which is an example of sexism in that we view female-associated traits as undesirable. If a girl is being bullied, is it because she doesn't conform to beauty standards? Because she is a "prude" for not wanting to do sexual things, or a "slut" for wanting to do sexual things? If someone is being bullied because they just don't act like the other kids, examine issues of neurodiversity and how our brains do not all work the same way. No matter who is being bullied, look into the expectations that our society places on them to look a certain way and act a certain way, and basically be someone who is white, straight, cisgendered, middle-class, Christian, able-bodied, thin, neurotypical. Almost all bullying has its roots in systematic oppression. And when we write stories about bullying, it is our job to bring that to the surface.

In addition to the anti-bullying stories, we need more diverse characters where the whole story isn't about their specific difference.  About a year ago, I was rereading some of my favorite picture books from when I was a kid, including the Little Critter series. Most of the books were really funny and had lots of cute moments, like when Little Critter is mad that he can't keep frogs in the bathtub, or when he tries to wash his bedroom floor with a garden hose, or when his little sister pulls the paper towel roll from the bottom and they all fall down in the store. I was laughing my head off rereading these books. But when I got to the book called A Very Special Critter, which is about Little Critter meeting a new classmate who used a wheelchair, it suddenly felt bland. It felt like I was just reading any old generic story that teaches kids that some people use wheelchairs and they are just like those of us who don't, it totally lost that cute, funny, charming quality that all of the other books had. I felt like it didn't do justice to the character who used the wheelchair - yes, he was portrayed in a positive way - winning first prize in an art contest and winning ice cream for the whole class - but the book did not have the same humor as the others. There is no reason why this new boy could not also want to keep frogs in the tub or wash the bedroom floor with a garden hose. The story emphasized that this new boy was "just like us," but the book itself did not feel that way. And this is what I mean - when we write stories about all different characters, we need to be sure we are creating unique, dynamic characters that have rich experiences and are just as good as any other characters.

Here's a good example of what we should do. In the Baby Sitter's Club Little Sister series, there is a book called Karen's New Friend, where Karen gets a new classmate, Addie, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. At first, Karen takes the wrong approach, trying to help Addie with every little thing even when Addie doesn't like it. But then, Karen experiences first-hand what that is like - two girls who are sisters come to stay at her house, and things are weird between them. Like, the girls clearly don't want to be there, but they are being overly nice to Karen like hanging up her clothes for her - and it feels weird. At one point, one of the sisters reminds that other that they have to be extra nice to Karen because her parents are divorced. They've basically been tiptoeing around doing every little thing they can for Karen, treating her like she's been through a tragedy or something. Karen is very upset by this, but it makes her realize just how upset Addie felt, and she apologizes to Addie and learns how to be a good friend to her. But's here's most important part: the story doesn't end there. Addie does not just exist to be a lesson to kids and then disappear. Addie stays in Karen's class and is a regular character who has thoughts and ideas and a life story, and in the book Karen's School Mystery, Addie and Karen are hall monitors together and they solve a mystery together of who has been stealing things out of kids' desks, and they come up with a plan to catch the students in the act. So, the series has the initial books where Karen learns how to be a good friend to Addie, but they also have a follow up story in which Addie is a star and solves a mystery and it's not focused on her cerebral palsy. These are the kinds of stories that we need more of.

I'm thinking again of the Babysitters Club and how all the stories start out introducing all the members of the club - explaining that Kristy loves sports and isn't into makeup and fashion she gets great ideas and has a huge step-family, Mary Anne is serious and cries a lot and lives with just her dad because her mom died of cancer and she has a boyfriend, Claudia is Japanese-American and is an amazing artist with great fashion sense and not into school at all and has an older sister who is perfect, Stacey is from New York and dresses really sophisticated and she has diabetes, Dawn is from California and her parents are divorced and her brother moved back to CA with her dad so she just lives with her mom and only eats health food, Jessi is African American and is an amazing ballerina and is aspiring to be a professional dancer and loves to read, Mallory has red hair and freckles and is the oldest of eight kids and aspires to be a writer. We always get that summary of the group at the beginning. There are even stories in the series that address the racism, like when Jessi first moves to the neighborhood, and in the book Keep Out Claudia where a racist family does not want Claudia or Jessi babysitting for them. So, there's no reason why we can't have a group of kids where the narrator explains that their friend is a transgender girl. Another character can be a Muslim who wears the Hijab and is celebrating Ramadan, and you plan to get together have dinner after sundown during the time that they are fasting. Another character can be an immigrant from Mexico who is undocumented and sometimes worries about getting deported and does not get to do things that other people can do easily like get a drivers license or financial aid for college. When the kids talk about who they have crushes on, some could have crushes on people of the same sex, and some could have no crushes because they do not have romantic interests. All of these characters can exist and have stories, and it is up to us to push them into the mainstream media so that they become normalized, so that it doesn't occur to kids to bully someone for these reasons, and have that bullying turn into violence later on. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fuck Trump

I don't even know what to say right now. I feel like I've been grieving since Tuesday night, I feel absolutely SICK reading about all the hate crimes since Trump's been elected. I'm appalled. I don't even know what to say right now.

If you're a person of color, you NEVER deserve to have anyone calling you racist slurs, and no one should EVER tell you to "go back where you came from." You belong here, this is your home, you have just as much right to be here as anyone else. All of the white people in this country  were immigrants at one time and do not have any more right to be here than you.

You have the right to practice your religion without being bullied or harassed or labeled as a terrorist. Muslim people are not terrorists. Ever notice that when a white male shoots up a school, we never target all white men as a group? That we never target people of their specific religion or white European ethnic group? Ask yourself why.

If you are an undocumented immigrant, you do NOT deserve to live in fear of being deported, and you deserve the same rights that I have as a citizen.

If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, it is NOT okay, it is not your fault, it is 100% the perpetrator's fault and you deserve to be believed, no matter who the person is who assaulted you or how famous or popular they are.

If you are LGBTQ, you deserve to be yourself and love whoever you love and not have to worry about being bullied or losing your job or being kicked out of your home. If you are trans, you have the right to dress how you want and be called by the correct pronouns and use the bathroom that is most comfortable for you.

And above all, if you are a parent or a teacher or anyone who works with children, it is imperative that you teach your kids about racism, sexism, Islamophia, and everything else. I'm all for anti-bullying, but generic anti-bullying is not enough anymore. We need to talk specifically about our prejudices that cause us to bully.

Make sure your kids are aware of things at a young age. Make sure they get to meet a wide range of other kids, and they learn how to treat kids who are different from them with respect. Model the behavior by treating people who look different from you with respect as well.

Read your children stories with characters of all different races and backgrounds. Show black characters and Latina characters being dynamic and relatable. Show your kids picture books with Muslim characters who wear the hijab.

Do not assume that every child is heterosexual. Don't talk to them about marrying a person of the opposite sex. Let them know that you can be attracted to male people, female people, both, or neither. Let them know that everyone does not identify as male or female, that some people are in the middle, some people are neither, and some people are born into the wrong body and may choose to transition. Talk about these things casually, normally, while the kids are young.

When you teach your children about history, teach them about the accomplishments that women and people of color have made to our society. If their school history lessons try to act like everything got resolved, let them know that racism, sexism, and everything else is still going on today, and how we need to fight it.

If you find out that your child is calling their classmates racial slurs or telling them to go back where they came from, do not punish your child - talk to them about why they did it. Punishing your child may prevent the behavior in the short term, but it will not change your child's biases. Ask your child why they did what they did to get to the root of the problem. Teach them to think about how the other person feels by putting themself in the same position - for instance, imagining what it would feel like to be bullied as the only white student in an all-black school, or for their Christian beliefs and traditions, or for being an American immigrant in another country.

And finally, teach your kids that adults aren't always right, authority figures aren't always right, Donald Trump is not right. Don't let your kids think that just because someone has some sort of authority like being the president, it means that you have to listen to them. Make sure they know how to challenge adults and authority and don't just go along with what authority figures tell them.

Not sure what else to say right now. It's still pretty surreal. I took a personal day tomorrow to rest and process things, and I still need to write that goodbye letter to my grandma by Wednesday. The grief just keeps piling up. I love you all. We can fight this together. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Truth

I actually sort of *like* the idea of having everyone over for a pool party once I've cried so much that my apartment is flooded. You're not being disrespectful if I *invite* you to do it.

It has this freaky bitter cathartic fuck society quality to it, like Sadness would be her glory and Joy would be totally frantic trying to mop up the place while everyone else parties on like nothing's wrong and everything's wrong all at the same time because it's okay to not be okay.

So yeah that's my freaky fantasy at the moment. 

Needs

Things I Need at a Time Like This:
1. Validation.
2. Cuddles.
3. Talking about what's actually wrong.
4. Meaningful writing/art projects and friends who care about them.

Things I *Don't* Need at a Time Like This:
1. Outside.
2. Exercise.
3. Meeting new people.
4. Going on trips.
5. Stimulation.
6. Smiling.
7. Staying busy.
8. Anything else that's listed on any How to Be Happy list that you find on the internet.

I actually have the things I need at this moment. I have true friends who get it.

If everyone else in the world could back off about the things I don't need right now, that'd be great.

April 2016 Calendar


April is probably my least favorite picture. I had a cool idea, but didn't quite execute it properly. The flower in this picture is supposed to be an orchid. There is a psychology theory that some kids are dandelion children who are okay in any environment, and some are orchid children, who need to be in a specific kind of environment in order to thrive. I had meant for this to be a picture of an orchid. I drew the raindrops in myself and faded the colors, to show that the flower was delicate and would become washed out easily with just a drop of rain.

Now, I absolute love the concept behind this picture, but I realize what I did wrong: See, with the month of March, I felt like the split between the warm and cool colors was the main focus of the picture - the thing that made it interesting. I was imagining that the raindrops could be the thing that made this picture interesting. I kept the rest of the picture kind of plain and flat and boring, thinking that the raindrops would do the job of making it interesting. But after much more coloring and experimentation, I realize now that in order for this concept of the raindrops to be effective, the initial picture has to be much, much more engaging. Basically, with the background picture being simple, it just looks like an ordinary picture of a flower in a rainstorm. The raindrops don't look like they are supposed to represent anything bad. What I think would have been much more effective is if the flower picture had been really interesting and engaging - lots of shading and swirled colors and all kinds of cool tricks that you'll see in my later pictures - and that picture was so eye-catching and enjoyable to the viewer that the raindrops feel annoying. That when you look at the picture, you would love the flower and want to look at it and you'd be wanting the raindrops to get out of your way so you could just see the flower. The raindrops would make you feel unsatisfied, which would achieve their purpose. This picture didn't turn out as I had hoped, but I love the concept and I'm sure I will use this idea again in a future picture, now that I have a better idea of how to execute it.

At some point towards the end of the month, I added the caption "Proud to Be an Orchid Child," to make the picture feel more wild and more about something. My picture that has the caption is blurry, but I may go back and take another pic at some point.

And one final thing about this picture: the biggest reason that it didn't come out as good as I had hoped was because I was feeling horrible during the month of March, while I was working on this picture, because it was my breakup anniversary. (My actual breakup anniversary is in April, but I remember that it was the Tuesday before Easter, and Easter fell in March this year, so it felt more like anniversary around Easter and I had lots of flashbacks). I while back I wrote a blog post on the myth of suffering for your art, and this calendar picture is a direct manifestation of what I explained - feeling bad does not create great art. Not for me anyway. While being in a bad place makes me want to create art that is wild and will have a huge effect on people, I have to be feeling well enough to create the art in the first place. So this picture reflects that perfectly, and in a kind of meta sense since the point of the picture was about becoming lifeless when something goes wrong. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

March 2016 Calendar


I knew I wanted to do something different with March. February had that wild elaborate pattern that just lent itself to being a cool picture. I didn't have to do much other than choosing the colors. March was different. March looked more like January in terms of the detail of the drawing itself, and I didn't want another simple one like January. Once I did February, I couldn't let my calendar to return to the land of ordinary again. Plus at the time, the drawing for March was actually my least favorite in the entire calendar, although I've changed my mind about that now. I had to do something special with March to make it come out more interesting, to make it just as cool as February, in spite of the drawing being less appealing to me.

I thought of doing a split between warm colors and cool colors because March is a seasonal transition month. I was originally going to put a wavy line in the middle, but it just didn't look right, so I went with a straight diagonal line.

I had my doubts about this idea as I was working on the picture. The first two pictures were all about putting colors together that looked nice, and that usually didn't involve colors that were next to each other on the color wheel. February in particular was all about lots bold contrasts between colors, and using as many different colors as possible. When I found myself faced with only warm colors and only cool colors, I felt limited. Very limited. I kept thinking that each side would come out too flat, too boring, because I didn't have enough colors to work with. I kept wondering whether I should ditch the idea and go back to using all of the colors for the whole picture, but I really wanted to make this idea work.

I think that by limiting the colors choices, I actually learned new techniques. I played around more with the saturations of the colors. On the cool-colored side, I lightened the area around the stars to make them pop more. I was really pleased with the way it came out. I like that both sides of the picture draw me in for different reasons. One of my coworkers said the same thing - that she couldn't decide which side she liked better because she was attracted to the brighter side, but the darker side looked so cool. March is still my friend Eli's favorite picture.

What's special about March is that it marks the beginning of the calendar pictures having a meaning. January was generic, February I wanted to look like fun party time, but March is the first one that tells a story. You can think of it as the seasons changing, but you can also think of it as the same experience being different under different circumstances, like how you might feel differently about something when you're older vs. younger, you may see the same things in a whole different way.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

February 2016 Calendar


February had one of the most elaborate patterns in the calendar (The most elaborate was October, with February as the second most). This one was a vast improvement over January. With the more elaborate pattern, I developed some better coloring techniques. The January picture was kind of flat - I used the same saturation for all of the colors. In February, I purposely colored part of the picture lighter so that the center circle and the patterns on the edges would pop more. The style is much wilder than January. On the outer frame of the picture, I used several different patterns, each one matching the one across from it. While it is symmetrical, it is much more interesting than January, which had the exact same pattern repeating all the way around in a circle. Additionally, this picture is not completely symmetrical - the pattern that is just inside of the circle of red hearts, but before the 8-pedal flower pattern, I chose the colors at random.

February still had that "wow" factor with everyone at work being so impressed by it, and they all saw the improvement as well. I think January was like, "Wow, that's so cool that you have a coloring calendar!" and February was more like, "Wow, I can't believe you're so good at it!" And it wasn't just other people's reactions - that was how I felt as well. In January, I felt like I was doing something wild simply by bringing a calendar that I colored to work. In February, I felt like I was doing something wild with the calendar. January felt more generic, like I was doing what a person is "supposed" to do. From February on, I knew that this calendar was my art project, that I was going to do amazing things with it. I would later look back on February and think of it as tame compared to my later works, but at that moment, it felt wild.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Grief Counselor, Part 1

I had my first meeting with a grief counselor today. It went...well. Sort of. Not super good, but not bad either. She was not invalidating, she did not pressure me to suck it up and deal, she actually validated all of the things I was upset about, not just in terms of missing my grandma, but in terms of everything else that happened in my family at the same time, and everyone expecting me to be functional when I'm not. She made an important suggestion - that I write a goodbye letter to Grandma and we read it together next session, and it can be as long as I want it to be. That is very important to me, I intend to spend the full two weeks working on it, and so I definitely appreciate that and I will be at the next appointment so we can go over it.

But I felt something missing. Like...something that just didn't quite click.

Here's the thing: if Grandma hadn't just died, if I had just gone to the counselor for general support, not related to one particular issue, and I was planning to establish a long-term relationship with her, I could understand talking about lots of different things. But this was supposed to be grief counseling. I was going to here specifically to talk about my grandma. Now, I understand that some other stuff is relevant to that - like asking about what support systems I have with my family and friends, but a lot of it wasn't relevant, and I had to work to keep the conversation where I wanted it. She wasn't good at reading me and listening and paying attention to what I needed and where I wanted the conversation to go. It was like she had a list of things to talk about, whether I needed to talk about those things or not.

It was *not* a disaster by any means. On my -10 to +10 scale, I would give it a +3 or a +4. Which is good. Anything above zero is good.

The thing is though, that I could sort of understand her getting all that baseline info if I were going to be seeing her for a long time. But I only have three sessions. Through a benefit at my workplace, I am entitled to three free counseling sessions, and I was only planning to use those three, unless I formed a major connection with the counselor and thought that I would seriously benefit from seeing them more. She knew I only had three sessions because she got the referral information. I just want to talk about my grandma and about grieving and about all the stuff surrounding it like my fear of people ditching me and my recurring desire to run away and go live in the woods away from society where no one can have any expectations of me. We didn't need to waste any of this session talking about stupid stuff that I don't need to talk to a counselor about.

Sometimes it's hard for me to express to another person just how not-okay I really am. I used to think I had a good relationship with my counselor in college because she knew how not-okay I was, but I realize now that that was never the case. Imagine that you and your friend are on a swim team together, and your whole team gets changed together in the locker rooms so often that it becomes no big deal to you. Now, imagine that you're having a sleepover party with a bunch of friends, including your friend from the swim team. When it's time to get changed, most of your friends are waiting in line for the bathroom so that they can change in privacy, but you and your swim team friend don't mind getting changed in front of each other. It doesn't mean that this person is a closer friend or that you trust them more than the others - you're just comfortable getting changed in front of each other because you've already done it so many times. That's what my relationship with my college counselor felt like. It wasn't that we had a truly deep connection. I don't feel like she fully validated or respected my feelings, there were at least two times that she turned the conversation to something completely irrelevant and wouldn't listen when I told her that those things were non-issues for me, and, oh yeah, she told me that her job would be at risk if I hurt myself and that was clearly her main concern. So not the best counselor around to say the least. But I felt a deep connection to her because since she responded to the call that night that I posted the message and got in trouble, she saw me at my absolute worst already. I felt comfortable being my complete not-okay self around her because she had already seen everything there was to see, the same way that you'd feel comfortable changing clothes in front of someone if you've already done it a million times and there is nothing new for the person to see.

But anyway, back to this current counselor. Okay, I don't mean to brag about having written a self-help book. But that is part of my story, the fact that I was celebrating finishing the book one day and had my whole world come crashing down the next day is part of my story. The fact that I never really got to share my book with Grandma because it would have been too complicated for her to understand, and she never got to see her acknowledgement in this book or her dedication page in my next book, that's part of my story. I can't just not mention the book at all. And yes, I would expect any counselor to be impressed by it. But we talked about it for way too long, and I know I should have stopped, I got really caught up because I love to talk about my book, but before long I realized that I didn't want the praise anymore. I didn't want her to keep looking at me like wow you're so amazing you've written a book. I know I say never tell people to get over it, but there was a part of me that just wanted to tell her to get over the fact that I've written a book. Yes, I write books. All books you read were written by humans. I am a human. This is not a difficult concept.

Yes, yes I love getting praised for my book and I appreciate it. I always feel better about myself after getting praised for it. But the kind of praise she was giving me - that shocked, OMG I can't believe you actually wrote a book kind of praise - I get that every day. I can get that praise anywhere, from anyone. I'm not in need of more of it. I didn't go to a counselor to get that kind of praise. I don't want you to be impressed. I want you to understand how not-okay I am. I want you to see me as not-okay, not as this super-awesome person that you think I am. Sometimes it just feels like the hardest thing in the world to communicate how not-okay I am. Yes, I felt better about myself after leaving, I appreciate you telling me that I'm already perfect the way I am, but that is not what I need to hear right now. I need you to understand how not okay I am and not just read me as this functional adult who has normal desires like a boyfriend and career focus (both of which I had to actively deflect the conversation about) and does impressive things like writing books. Seriously, I'm not okay, those things don't make me okay, please understand that I am not okay. You know how other people still do stuff like go to school and go to work and buy groceries and take care of their children even when bad things are happening? Well, I'm not functional like that, I'm not the kind of person who would continue doing those things, but if it helps you, think of my writing as my job, and understand that the fact that I am doing that the same way that anyone does anything (and as I told you, I'm not even working on the book right now, I finished it about a week before I got the news about Grandma's condition, and I have not been up for looking for publishers or anything since then).

The next session I'll have that long letter to read, so that will take a lot of time and hopefully we can focus on the things in the letter and not everything else under the sun.

January 2016 Calendar



January is the simplest of all of the months. It was the first calendar design that I ever colored, and I did not use any fancy techniques or add my own flare to it - I just colored it. I didn't even press as hard with the colored pencils as I would in later months, so it doesn't pop as much as the others. But even though it's the simplest, January has a lot of sentimental value to me.

For a long time, I hated my job. I had a working-with-people job that sucked because it involved working with people, and it drained me. As a result, I didn't like my workplace and didn't bond with anyone there simply because I didn't like being there. I had no pictures, nothing personal at all at my desk because I didn't care. I didn't think of it as home.

Then in September 2015, I got moved to a more numbers-based position, and suddenly, I had my energy back. Within the first week that I did the new job, I had so much more energy when I got out of work every day. As a result of having a job that was a much better fit for me, I realized that most of the people I worked with were very nice and I made more of an effort to bond and form friendships. Beginning shortly after I started the new job, I felt a connection with everyone and looked forward to seeing them every day. Now I can talk to the people in my department about a lot of things, and I don't feel lonely at work like I did in the beginning.

This calendar marks the beginning of that. Why? Because this was one of the first personal things that I added to my work area. Since I colored it myself, it felt really warm and cozy and intimate to have it at my desk. It made me feel more like myself at work. And everyone loved it. I probably got more praise and attention on this month than any other simply because it was the first and no one had seen anything like it. In the picture above, it is actually hanging in a part of my cube where more people can see it - it was mid-January when I realized that I wanted to move the calendar to my desk so I could look at the picture myself. To this day, I think I have the best calendar in the whole building. Everyone still compliments it and is so impressed with the creativity. My boss loved my coloring so much that she actually gave me a picture of an elephant to color for her and she keeps it at her desk next to the pictures of her grandchildren, which I think is really sweet. It means a lot to me when people at work compliment me on the calendar. It makes me feel more like me.

I first saw the calendar in the store back in November 2015, and I kept debating if I should get it. I finally decided to go for it. It felt like a bold move, because I knew I was planning to have it at work, and that no one else had anything like it. And I also felt like it was the right time. I was with a nice department, I had been there long enough that I wasn't walking on eggshells to prove myself anymore. I was ready. I was ready to be me.

January may be the least exciting of all the pictures. It's simple. It's symmetrical. It's the least vibrant. It has no interesting shading, no special techniques, no symbolism behind the colors, nothing added to the picture to make it my own. But at that moment, on January 4, 2016, it was the wildest, most vibrant, exciting thing that anyone in our department had seen. It was my own. It felt like the start of a new beginning.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Calendar Project

To be clear, I'm not okay, I'm still grieving and will be for a very, very long time, and...well, I would say that you can expect a major drop in writing quality, but it feels weird to say that since A) I haven't been focused on my blog as much in 2016 anyway since I've been more focused on my book, and B) the last time I said that, my writing quality actually improved after the fact, depending on how you judge quality. So anyway, that's not the point, I just need to preface this by saying that if I write about stuff on my blog that has nothing to do with my grandma, that doesn't mean I'm over it because I'm not, it just means that I feel like doing something warm and cozy and cuddly, and there's only so long I can just watch TV and movies without getting bored, and I just finished the coloring project that I had been working hard on all month, so I think I'm ready to do a blog project that is low-key and feels all warm and cozy and cuddly like a teddy bear.

For any blog readers who don't follow me on Facebook, I have a coloring calendar, meaning a wall calendar where each picture is is a coloring picture, and you color it in yourself. I have posted all of the pictures so far on Facebook, but I have a lot to say about each of them. I was considering having a special December post with all 12 calendar pictures, but I don't want to wait until December is finished, so I'm going to give each calendar pic its own blog post, where I post a picture of the calendar page and explain what it means to me. If I do a bunch of them at once, I may set the posts to update at midnight each night so that you'll get a new one each day.

Since I am not feeling well, I am just going to use the photos that I already have on my computer. When I'm in a more ambitious mood, I may go back and take better pictures of the calendar specifically for the blog posts, but not right now.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Diminishing Returns

EVERY SINGLE TIME that something bad has happened to me, the support always has a rate of diminishing returns. That means that when the bad thing first happens, everyone is very supportive, but after time passes (not very much time), everyone just expects me to be back to normal again.

NO. I AM NOT GETTING BACK TO NORMAL ANYTIME SOON.

Did you know that after the breakup, people actually expected me to act like a civilized human being again when it hadn't even been a full year since we broke up? Yeah, FUCK THAT.

I am not accepting this rate of diminishing returns. I will be sad and non-functioning for as long as I want to and no one gets to treat me as if everything is normal because it's not.

Monday, October 24, 2016

2001 Curse

The food itself was not cursed - it was a combination of having a less-than-normal desire to eat, and that issue of everything being higher stakes and that it was just more important for everything to be exactly right.  When I'm sick and don't feel like eating anything at all, there are still certain foods that you could tempt me with. Kind of like the way Grandma ate half of a Boston cream doughnut the last time that I saw her conscious. When I don't want to eat at all, the only things I will eat are really good things. Nothing in the middle. Nothing meh. Nothing that's not quite perfect. That's why all food sucked back in 2001. Call it a curse.

The fact that I have more control over that this time, that I can eat pizza and ice cream as often as I want now, is a good thing. Because if I didn't have that control, I would not be eating anything at all.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

January 25, 2001

You are cursed. Yes, that's right. I'm agreeing with you. I'm not here to tell you that you're wrong, that you're too young to understand, that you haven't experienced enough of the world to say that you're cursed. But you are right to think you're cursed. You just don't understand what's behind it, what's causing it. Here's what's going on:

Other people are grieving just like you are, and now they don't have as much energy to devote to you as they normally would. They aren't in good moods, and they just don't have it in them to be there for you the way that you need them to be. When you combine that with the fact that you need them more now than ever, you have a problem. So when you notice that everything isn't the same, that people aren't treating you the same, that nothing is quite as fun as it used to be, you would be right. Call it a curse or whatever you want to call it, but I assure you that it is happening, you're not just imagining it.

You are not a functional person when bad things happen, and no one is giving you the break that you need. As a result, everything will fall apart. Of course you're not going to be able to handle all your schoolwork (which there was already too much of) while this is happening. Of course you're not going to remember to bring your books home the night before an exam. That's too much to handle. Call it a curse if you want to, but it's really a matter of not being able to take all the time you need and having people place unrealistic expectations on you, such as that you will get all your work done and get good grades.

Your immune system is suffering from all of the stress you are under from being expected to function, which is why you get sick all the time now. Call it a curse.

There are some times when things are just more important than they are at other times. Like if you hit a traffic jam while you're on the way to the hospital and you're about to go into labor, that's obviously a bigger problem than if you ran into the same traffic jam on your way to meet your friend for coffee. Even similar situations can have factors that make something more or less of a big deal - if you have an understanding boss, hitting a traffic jam on your way to work will be less of a problem than if you have a boss who is going to yell at you for being one minute late. There are situations in which the traffic jam would truly be a curse and screw you over, and other times when it just wouldn't matter as much. Right now, you are in a state where everything is more important than ever, and when things go wrong, it is a mega-crisis because it was just way more important for those things to go right this time. It's not always that bad things are literally happening more often, it's that they are having more of an impact because everything is more important than ever. Call it a curse.

You are cursed. I will never tell you that you weren't. It's just a different kind of curse than you were thinking.

Live from the Bounciest Couch and Best Stage on Earth

Oh when I started my Cinderella rules
I made up so many new things
But there's one old thing that I could never forget
Years back, years back, years back
It's a song along here that some have never heard before

We play with I don't wanna tell
We have some nasty ones too
We have jotsy days
Backwards days too
But mostly Cinderella days!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2001

Sweetie, I just want to tell you that you're right - you are cursed. It's a horrible curse, and it's a very real curse. Don't let anyone talk you out of that reality. It is reality. It's yours. You are cursed. You know it. You're right about it.

You're saying it wrong because you don't understand it, you don't know what it is. But it's real.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

NEVER.

I will NEVER grow up and take responsibility for anything. Everything that happens to me is not my fault, I only function when things are going well externally, if you haven't figured that out by now then I suggest you get some help for your drug problem because you must be trippin on some serious acid to think I would ever function.

I DO NOT ACCEPT BEING DITCHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I only function when things are going well and YOU KNOW THAT FIRST HAND!!!!!! How much more first hand can you get? There are only 3, maybe 4 other humans on the entire planet that had more first hand experience than you. On the entire planet.

Well, I've certainly had way more people ditch me than people who've stayed with me, but I never in a million years imagined who it would be.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Edge

I feel like I'm on the edge right now - I could potentially slip into that super dark place I was in during the breakup or in college, but I'm in this middle ground area right now where I could potentially not go that route. Here's what I'm thinking:

Halloween Fun:
September was a HORRIBLE month, I literally have not had a single good weekend since Labor Day. That's NOT gonna fly anymore. (The reason for this is that I wasn't feeling well enough to do anything during most of September. I think I feel well enough now to do some fun things, but nothing extremely high-stim). Here's what I want to do this October:
-Go to Witches Woods (or Spookyworld, or someplace similar)
-Have a scary-movie Halloween party at my house where we watch Don't Look Under the Bed, which is my new favorite scary movie.
-Go to Salem as Matilda on Halloween (I've already spoken to my boss about using a few hours of vacation time to leave early that day, but it will depend on when my friends get out of work).

Personal Fun:
-The coloring calendar. I have a super super awesome idea for November, so I'd like to spend a lot of this month working on that. If I finish early, I can start on December.
-Redecorating. I love my Inside Out motif, but I'm ready for a change so I'm going to redecorate my apartment to more of a mixture of different things, and also decorate the place for Halloween.
-More art projects for the apartment - I have a cool idea for a personality-quiz illustration type of art project.
-More art to give to family and friends.

Work Stuff

To all the people I work with who complain about their troubles a lot:

There is nothing wrong with complaining a lot. Your feelings are valid. Totally valid. I would never ever ever want you to not complain and put yourself through what I put myself through when I was new, using so much of my limited energy trying to act okay when I wasn't. The reason that I get annoyed sometimes when I hear people - especially new people - complain so much at work, especially complaining about work at work, is because I would have had such a better experience if I had behaved the way you're behaving now, back when I was new. When I see how other people feel perfectly comfortable complaining all they want at work, it makes me angry that I put myself through hell for over a year to make a good impression, when maybe I didn't have to. It bothers me that I did not feel entitled to complain as much as I wanted to when other people do feel that entitled. It's not that I ever want you to stop feeling entitled - it's just that your entitlement makes me feel like I put myself through hell for nothing, that if I had been my real, entitled-to-complain-all-I-want self from the start, I would have been fine, I would not have put my job security at risk, and I would be in the same shape that I'm in right now in terms of my job security and what I'm getting paid. That's why I get annoyed. But it's never about you. Your complaints are always valid, and I don't actually want you to stop.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

On Relationships, Mistakes I've Made, and Being Honest with Yourself

Have you ever been to a swimming pool with a high dive, looked at it from the bottom and thought, "I can jump from there! No problem!" but when you get to the top and look down, you realize that it's way higher than you thought it was, and there is no way you're going to jump? Or maybe you thought you could handle taking 6 classes in a semester, only to crash and burn out. Or you think you can babysit your rambunctious little cousins for the whole weekend, and end up being driven up the wall. And if these things don't work out, it doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you - it means you've learned something about yourself, and sometimes it takes trying in order to know.

I always go around telling everyone that I never do any work or cleaning or chores and that I never will. I have signs on my apartment walls about not doing any work, I've had Facebook profile and cover pics that are all about not doing any work, and I've posted endless statuses about the fact that I don't have work ethic, don't do any chores, I almost flooded my kitchen trying to do the dishes, and I never plan to change. You know this. You've heard it all before. But here's something I may not have shared, but it feels important to share now: I wasn't always as overt about these things as I am now. I mean, yes, I was always just a hedonist who only did fun things, not someone who was going to do any work, but I never imagined that not doing chores would become such a huge deal to me, to the point that I'd spend so much time talking about it and having signs about it in my apartment.

See, when my ex-boyfriend and I were in the early stages of our relationship, nowhere near getting an apartment together, I did tell him that I never clean up, and I also made it clear to him that I just didn't see myself wanting to live with another person. I told him everything that I thought he needed to know about what it would be like to live with me - that I don't want any noise so he would never be able to play music or watch TV if I wasn't doing that, that I don't want to interact with people all the time and would not be a nice person if he was there when I didn't want him to be, stuff like that that would make it pretty clear to most people that they shouldn't live with me. He didn't want to believe any of it, and he kept thinking that we could make living together work, when I had pretty much said that it wasn't something I was willing to work on.

But here is where *I* really messed up: When my boyfriend got his first apartment, and I started living there, and he started talking to me about how he wanted me to wash some of the dishes and help clean up and that he wished he could see his bedroom floor instead of having it covered with my clothes...I should have stood my ground and said that this is how I roll, I'm not gonna change, and I had told him that a long time ago. But I didn't. I said, "Okay," that I would work on those things. And the thing is, it wasn't a lie at the time. I didn't say that I would work on those things just to shut him up, when I had no intention of doing it. I honestly thought that I was willing to change. See, in our early stages, when we were nowhere near living together, it was easier to state that I would never do those things. But once we were living together, I realized how much I liked living together in terms of being all warm and cozy and cuddly together. I got really attached and I didn't want to lose that. And when I thought about it logically, doing a few chores and being a little neater just didn't seem like too high of a price to pay in order to keep living together and being warm and cozy. I honestly thought that I was willing to do it. But every time it actually came up, my response was, "No way in hell!" Especially once I was working - working for 8 hours a day and commuting 2 hours a day was waaaaayyyyy more work than I was ever willing to do and there was no way in hell that I was going to do even more work in addition to that. There is nothing wrong with that. But the problem is that I wasn't honest with myself about it. I kept insisting that I was willing to change when I think deep down I knew that I wasn't going to change. It was at the breaking point of our relationship that I finally told him that I was never going to do these things. And I acted as if it was all his fault, that he should have known that because it's what I told him a long time ago. But the truth is that once we started living together, once I saw that being all warm and cozy together was something that I wanted, I did convince him that I was going to change when I wasn't, and that part of it was my fault, and I should not have done that.

It was wrong for me to say I would change when I was not going to. But it never felt like a flat-out lie. There's a difference between promising someone that you'll go hiking with them when you honestly have zero intentions of doing it, and promising someone that you'll go hiking with them, and realizing when it gets closer to the time that you are not actually in good enough shape for the hike after all, but you were sincerely hoping that you would be. And really - I don't like to admit this, but it's true - that's what happened with my boyfriend not being the validator that I needed him to be. I'm angry about that so I say a lot of bad things about him, but the truth is, I know he didn't have malicious intent. I know he wasn't actively leading me on when he knew that he could never be a validator or be with someone like me - he just never thought it through completely, he thought that he could be a validator because he didn't really know what it meant, and he thought he could be with someone who doesn't function when things go wrong until he saw what that was actually like. I'm still angry with him because I was overt about a lot of those things, but I know deep down that he didn't have malicious intent with those things, he just wasn't thinking it through and I don't think he had the self-knowledge to understand what he would be okay and not okay with. I think it was a situation of standing at the bottom of the high dive and thinking, "Of course I can jump" and not realizing how high up it really is until you get there.

That's what I experienced when I said that I would change. And I'm not saying that this made it okay, because I absolutely should not have promised to do things and then not done them. Here is what was going through my mind:

1. I was deeply in love with my boyfriend and I was so attached to living together and being all warm and cozy that I thought I was willing to do anything to keep it that way. I just couldn't bear the thought of not curling up in his arms every night, so I convinced myself that I was willing to make compromises for that lifestyle, which deep down, I wasn't really willing to make. The attachment emotions were basically driving at that point, and whatever negative feelings I had about chores and work ethic took a backseat.
2. Logically, doing chores seemed like such a small thing that it just didn't seem worth risking a relationship over. I didn't want to admit to myself that it wasn't something I would change, even if that cost us our relationship.
3. I convinced myself that chores were a small enough thing that over time, my boyfriend might change his expectations and not break up with me over the fact that I didn't do any work. I should not have done this, but I wanted to be together so badly that I convinced myself that it would be okay.
4. I convinced myself that I would change because a part of me felt like I didn't have a choice. See, when my boyfriend had a problem with the fact that I'm not open to going camping, I stood my ground and told him that I said on our first date that I would never ever go camping, I purposely told him straight-up because he seemed like an outdoorsy person, and that he had no business expecting me to be more open about it when I had essentially told him that not going camping was a contingency of us being together. Now, before we ever lived together, I had basically said the same thing about doing chores. But I didn't feel as comfortable standing my ground about that. A huge part of that was just because it was more of a serious issue that mattered to him - even though he said he was into camping, it wasn't something he actually did very often - but another part of it was that doing chores is sort of a societal expectation. In general, it's way less socially acceptable to say that you'll never do any cleaning than it is to say that you'll never go camping. And when the thing you're not willing to change is something that almost everyone in your culture expects of you, it can be very hard to admit to anyone - especially yourself - that it's not something you're going to change. I know this may sound strange coming from me because I'm always saying fuck society and fuck the system, but I realized just how much I felt that way as a result of the relationship.

All the blog posts, Facebook statuses, and signs in my apartment about not doing any chores and having zero work ethic are a direct result of what happened in our relationship. Yes, I was always that way, but it took all of that trial and error - all those times that I said I would do something only to realize that I wasn't going to - for me to realize just how serious I am when I say that these things won't change, and just how big of a deal that is. I have a level of self-knowledge now that I never had before the relationship.  And I don't know if I could have gained it any other way.

I don't know what to do about all of this, but we all need to be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with others. That's what I learned from my relationship. And we should realize that sometimes, when people are not honest with us, it could be because they are not being honest with themselves. None of us have perfect self-knowledge. Sometimes we think we can do things that it turns out we can't. Sometimes we think we can tolerate other people's behaviors that it turns out we can't. And sometimes we just don't know what it looks like from the top of the diving board until we're up there.

 And we should also remember that none of our friendships or relationships exist in a vacuum. We are products of a society that tells us what we're supposed to be, that we should feel ashamed if we aren't doing what our society expects us to be doing, and that just makes it harder for us to be fully honest about who we are. We are also products of a culture that has always taught us that love conquers all, where most of the media we consume shows relationships working out just fine in the end despite tons of incompatibilities between the people involved. We are taught that love is supposed to trump any incompatibility, but that is not the case. You can love someone and not want to live with them. You can love someone and not want to work with them. You can love someone and not be willing to do anything in the world in order to be with them. There's a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower that says, "I'll die for you, but I won't live for you." If someone kidnapped you and said that they were going to kill you if I didn't do A, B, and C for them, I would absolutely do those things, no hesitation, no questions asked. But if you tell me that I have to do the same A, B, and C or else you won't be my friend anymore, then it really depends on what A, B, and C are, and whether I'm willing to do them. And even if I thought I could tolerate doing A, B, and C, I'd have to seriously consider whether I could keep it up forever, whether I was willing to invest in a relationship that was contingent upon me doing those things. And I think as a society, we get these things mixed up a lot of the time - we think that loving someone so deeply that you'll do anything for them means that you have to also do anything to keep your relationship going, even when it causes harm to you. Whether that means doing things that you aren't really willing to do, or accepting behavior from someone else that you aren't really willing to accept - loving someone doesn't mean that you have to be willing to do everything to stay in a relationship with them. Loving someone doesn't have to mean that you're willing to set yourself on fire to keep the other person warm. And if when you are honest with yourself, you realize that you can't have the type of relationship you would have liked to have had with someone, that's okay, and it doesn't make your love any less real.