Banishing Normal

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Last October, I was informed the bookstore I worked in for 21 years was going to close. I’d lose my job in April. This was the first in a line of incidents that crushed my sense of what was normal.

Then my mother’s pre-cancerous condition became serious enough that her doctors recommended chemotherapy and a blood marrow transplant. This would involve months of treatment with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Dad would come up with her and be her full-time caregiver during this time. Seeing my mom treated for cancer, sporting a tube that had been surgically embedded in her chest for easy blood sampling and infusion, was the next jolt to my sense of normalcy.

When Dad had to leave Seattle to return home to the drier climate of Nevada so his bronchial infection could heal, I became Mom’s full-time caregiver. My apartment wasn’t suitable for her stay. It was a four-floor walk-up without an elevator and wasn’t close enough to the clinic. I moved into a one-bedroom apartment with Mom in housing set up for SCCA’s patients. I moved out of home, just another couple miles away from normal.

Mom got better and she went back to Nevada, too. I went back to work during the final month before the store closed. At this point, the building looked more like an abandoned two-story garage than a bookstore. It was emptied of books and only full of echoes. This shouldn’t be the normal state of any bookstore.

Now, I’m unemployed for the first time in my adult life. What used to be my normal life has completely vanished in less than a year.

Upon reflection of the difference between my life then and my life now, I realize I don’t want to have a normal life ever again.

Ten years into my twenty-one-year bookstore career, I realized it was time for me to leave, but I didn’t. I was comfortable. I had a routine. I was being paid well enough that I didn’t have to struggle to survive. I wanted to do more than survive, but I was afraid to risk what I had in order to strive for what I truly wanted.

While I recognize that routines can help us become more efficient in meeting our personal goals, I don’t ever again want to mistake the routine for the goal. Routines are tools that help us achieve the goal. The goal is a fully engaged life, not one stumbled through.

I don’t ever want to mistake comfort for success. I don’t ever again want to become hypnotized by sameness. I want to be fully conscious of what is in front of me, what is within me, and what is holding me back.

While I was afraid of being my mother’s caregiver, doing so forced me to face my limitations. I had to become better than I was accustomed to being. I had to create better habits and be more honest with myself and others about what needed to be done if I and those around me were going to live healthier lives. So, from now on, I want to face the challenges of my life head on, realizing that at the end of my limitations begins new knowledge and wisdom.

I am choosing to live as a writer, whatever that means, wherever that takes me. I don’t know the path, and that excites me, but I know whatever comes, I will face it consciously, graciously, gratefully, and with more fear of settling for a normal life than of experiencing the unknown.


Methods of Procrastination, Chapter 3: Procrastinception and Restarting

In Creative Inspiration, Methods of Procrastination on May 12, 2017 at 7:45 pm

In previous blog posts I have written about procrastination, not from a self-help, “how to become more effective” point-of-view, but from a contrarian perspective which celebrates the stalled, the stuck, the inert.

Since it has been four years since I updated this blog with new posts, it only seems fitting that I revisit this series on the Methods of Procrastination.

At the end of my penultimate post, I wrote, “I should be back to writing a regular weekly blog in May.” That was in 2013.

Okay. So what kept me from writing this blog? In no specific order:

  • Oddly enough, writing. I initially stopped because I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry month in April and I didn’t feel like I had the energy to work a full-time job and do both writing projects at the same time, not if I wanted to do them well.
  • Moving, which is actually a several month long process of packing, moving, unpacking. I’m still unpacking.
  • Developing a new audio drama podcast. My writing partner Sam and I have come up with a great idea that we are certain people are going to love. We believe the fans of our previous series, the Lovecraftian horror- soap opera The Unspeakable and the Inhuman, will enjoy this as will a bunch of new listeners. Can’t talk much about it now because we are still in the development stage. And honestly, the momentum we had going got derailed by the next item on my list.
  • Writing a novel. My writing partner Sam suggested I participate in National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo), since he and several friends of his were doing it. I started last year. Still working on it.

(Side Note: I am a king of procrastination. Do you see that I have a knack for stacking procrastinations on top of each other? Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR writing projects have been delayed by OTHER writing projects. It’s a Russian nesting doll of procrastination, a veritable procrastination-Inception (a Procrastinception, if you will).)

  • Taking care of my mother while undergoing cancer treatment. That took a few months. No worries. She’s in remission now.
  • Being unemployed and looking for a new job. Still looking for work right now.
  • Spending an incalculable amount of time watching YouTube videos whenever I found myself bored or stressed and then didn’t realize that I had spent hours looking at videos until I noticed that the amount of sunlight had changed.

I don’t remember what else. It seems like there should be more. That seems to be enough for a single year of procrastination, but four years?

The truth is none of these things became obstacles to me writing my blog. They were actually priorities. They were things I prioritized over writing the blog and the number one thing I prioritized was depression, an intricate series of thought processes, emotional habits, and self-doubts that led me to prioritize believing my contribution to the world, of my writing, was not a worthwhile thing.  I saw writing as self-indulgent, unimportant, frivolous, and not as significant as other contributions I could make, such as activism, financial investment, political participation, doing “real” work. I sought and received treatment for the depression and am now much better. I still have to combat the internalized voices that want to warp my sense of self-worth, but  I have come to realize that there is actually nothing harmful about bringing my writing to the world. My writing has never damaged the world.  In fact, it has created joy in more than a few. A few have told me such and I am choosing to believe them. Writing is also the main thing I want to do in my life. It is the main contribution to the world I wish to bring. If this contribution creates joy and causes no harm, then I am doing a greater wrong by not writing, because I am actively not adding to the potential joy in the world. So I’m deciding, it is my duty to write, advance my craft and put my writing in the world. I have to do more of it and make more of it happen.

I’m reminded that when I started this blog, I was stymied by my own impossible standards of how this blog should go. At the end of my first blog entry, I wrote:

I’m going to write every day, freewrite, long hand, for at least 10 minutes, and at the end of the week I’ll edit one (or more) of my freewrites as I type it and then post it. No excuses. Every Monday, there should be something new posted here, whether or not it’s perfect. This is how I’ll engage the practice of vulnerability and imperfection.

I don’t know that I will post every week, but this is a good model to continually engage the continuous craft of vulnerability and imperfection. You will see more blogs soon.

Doctor Who Needs Diversity Beyond Casting

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Saturday, August 3rd, Doctor Who fans were freaking out about the news of the new actor to play the British science-fiction TV series’ title character, sitting in front of a BBC or BBC America live show, awaiting the announcement of the next Nerd Pope (a title supplied by several people on Twitter). I’m one of the world’s biggest Doctor Who fans, but I don’t give a damn about the announcement for the casting of the next Doctor.

I don’t mean that I’m upset or in denial about who they cast. I mean I don’t care who they cast. It is meaningless to me until I watch the actual program. Knowing ahead of time and having an opinion doesn’t alter the BBC’s decision, so it’s not really worth my time and energy.

However, I did watch the live announcement and the following reaction on the internet. I knew people would ask me about it so I decided stay informed. And I realize that one of the things I’m going to be asked about the most is if I’m disappointed that the next Doctor isn’t a woman or/and a person of color.

And surprisingly the answer is “not really”.

I mean, there was an amazing list of people that fans were hoping would be cast, including Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Helen Mirren. However, none of them were in the running. None of them were asked or were interested in the role. Fans can make dream lists all they want, but, again, this has no effect on the actual casting process.

If you really want to be up in arms about the lack of diversity on Doctor Who, the main actor is hardly the problem. The larger issue is the representation of history in general. In the 50 year history of the show, although they have a ship that can travel to anywhere in time and space, they have never been to South America. While they have met the aliens who inspired the myths of the Egyptian gods, they have never actually been to Egypt, or anywhere else on the African continent. They have only been to Asia once to travel with Marco Polo to meet Kublai Kahn and they have been to the Middle East once, but only because they English were there during the Crusades. Unfortunately, we only know of these last two travels because the scripts and set photos still exist. These stories were among the early episodes that were thrown out or taped over.

The show has also been pretty skimpy on its representation of historical women. On a Wikipedia list of 56 historical figures seen in the program’s history, only nine of them have been women.

It used to be that the problem that science fiction had with the diverse representation of humanity was its depiction of the future. If you look at science-fiction films from the ‘60s and earlier it seemed that only white men survived to travel through space. By contrast, the current series of Doctor Who seems to do an okay job of placing women and people of color in prominent roles in their futuristic stories. However, the show’s depiction of the past eliminates 3/4ths of humanity as well as the influence of women. It seems the Doctor would rather travel to a planet knowingly invaded by genocidal cyborgs than travel to Nairobi or Mumbai.

I would love to see Doctor Who stories set in Buenos Aires, Cape Town, or Kyoto and other tales featuring Marie Curie, Joan of Arc, or Harriet Tubman. The token gender or racial casting of The Doctor is nowhere near as interesting to me as truly opening up Earth history to a complete and multi-dimensional representation of humanity.