Note

Anxiety riding high, for reasons which should be obvious to anyone who has taken even the most passing glance at the news. Or, you know, has been living in the US for the last four years.

I have been bombarded with news and all manner of takes, and these are important things to pay attention to and talk about and take action on.

But not here. Because it’s important to have a space to retreat to when it becomes too much, too much, too much.

Not that anyone is turning to me little corner of the internet looking for hot takes, but I just want to assure people that my silence — on here — is not synonymous with complacency.

I just need someplace quiet to regroup.

Take care of yourselves.

Take a Chance

I started this year off determined to take more risks as a creative.

There have been ups and downs to that this year, obviously. I feel like my writing has been seriously neglected, but that, to be fair, was a conscious decision; particularly since quarantine began, come day’s end, I feel so mentally burnt out that writing is not enjoyable, it’s frustrating and stressful. Drawing and painting feel much more a function of muscle memory, something I can not only do on autopilot, but something that actually seems to turn out better the less I think about it.

That being said, I did do a little writing, something along the lines of twenty or so poems, several of which I’m actually rather fond of, and in the meantime, my drawing and painting skills have grown in the leaps and bounds.

Not to say I’m “skilled,” by the by. I have quite a long way to go. But I’ve definitely grown.

Towards the beginning of the year, when this new philosophy of creative growth was still fresh in my mind and was something I was still enthusiastic about, I took what felt like a huge leap for me and submitted three drawings (which, looking back even from nine months on, are so much more rudimentary than what I’m currently producing) to a local art exhibition that was supposed to be elevating the work of women, femme, and non-binary artists in my community. It was an exciting prospect, and while I was almost sure I wouldn’t get selected for the exhibition, I figured the experience of submitting, even if I got rejected, would be good for me. So I submitted a week before the deadline.

Five days after submitting, we went into lockdown. The gallery show was listed as postponed. My city has since never left the red zone, and no mentioned has ever been made of what became of the exhibition plans.

I was bummed out for ages about losing the chance to get either accepted or rejected; it felt like I took this leap — which was comparatively small, but for me felt emotionally huge — only to be left in limbo. I didn’t know when I would get the opportunity to put myself out there again.

Then, last month, a mutual on Twitter (hi, I have Twitter! I have like, 19 followers because I’m still learning not to just be a lurker, so it’d be awesome if you wanna be Twitter buddies or whatever) began taking applications for a Tarot project for body/fat positive artists, with the project benefitting a charity for trans/nonbinary/gnc BIPOC — I mean, honestly, how could I not apply?

As I saw more and more people express interest, and I saw the art they produced, I became pretty well convinced that there was no way I was going to get in. And that would be okay! The applicants were all super talented, I’m just starting out, and it would be okay. But I picked the three piece I was most proud of, filled out the application, and sent it in.

Yesterday was the day when the artists were contacted.

I didn’t hear anything most of the day. I was trying to feel comfortable with the presumption that I had simply not made it.

It was around 8:30 pm when the email came. I didn’t make the cut. I was honestly… fine. A little let down, but the knowing will always, for me, be better than not knowing. Onward and upwards. That was my response. I would look for the next thing (but still planned to pre-order the deck when it came out, obvs. Fat Tarot is a fucking awesome idea, full stop).

At 6:00pm today, I logged on and had another email.

Acceptance — disregard last email.

There had been a mix-up.

I was in. I am in.

And while I’ve spent so long coming to terms with and accepting that there is no such things as a “fake” artist — that an artist is someone who produces art, regardless of quality or subject matter, and who lives their lives in a creative way — there is no way to deny how uplifting some external validation of your efforts are.

I am part of a collaborative art project.

I am an artist.

No Marketing Genius/Just to Check In

Now, my spam filter has caught them all, don’t get me wrong — and I have to approve all comments posted to my blog anyway, but — how effective do you think the ads for “sexy singles in your area” and “hot new porn sites” are when posted as comments by bots on not-even-marginally-related blog content? Have there ever been, just, horny-as-shit blog readers skimming my posts who have thought, “hmm, you what this deeply personal essay on the creative journey has left me craving…?”

I mean, to each his own, and I’m not a marketing genius (and have no desire to be), but if this is still a thing that’s happening, either 1.) the people programming these bots are terrible at their jobs, or 2.) it’s… actually working? Right?

But on who???


Life is settling. Not for the long term, and it’s hard to say if it’s even for the better or the worse, but at least I have some temporary reprieve from the “what the fuck am I supposed to be doing” thought loop, and a personal plan of action for next steps. It doesn’t feel good, exactly, but it feels better than the endless spiral.

I’m trying to keep in perspective those things over which I have control and remind myself that I can make good things happen for me and for my circle of influence if I can stay focused and motivated.

I’m trying.

Stay safe and sane.

What I Miss

I talked to my friend Melissa via Discord for the first time (with the exception of “you still ok?” texts) since December.

We’ve been friends for eightteen years, so long stretches of not a whole lot of talking — because I have a kid, because she works a weird retail management schedule, because we both have anxiety (which is incredibly mentally draining) — is not unusual or particularly upsetting. With COVID, though, this absence from each others’ lives has been longer than intended or anticipated. So chatting was good; more than good.

She mentioned a post that popped up on Facebook Memories that morning, of a beach trip she, I, and my sister took, nine years ago (holy shit); we reminisced about how drunk we got, and walking back from the bar to our hotel, how worried all of us were that she was going to run into the sea “to make sweet, sweet love to the waves, as was her wont.”

Oh, God — I miss the beach, I said.

I miss going out and getting buzzed, and I miss streetlamp lit walks back to our hotel, and the smell of saltwater and the crash of waves in the background. I miss bad karaoke at La Bec Rouge, and free Sour Apple shots on Ladies’ Night, and mind-numbingly hot waitresses, and seductive indie guitarists playing on the patio.

I told her how, every once in a while, I get struck by how badly I miss something that COVID has changed, or taken away, and how I keep thinking I should write about that, even though it seems like everyone and their mother is writing about it, and I couldn’t possibly add anything exceptional or new to the mix.

You should, she said. It’s good to think about. It’s good to keep in perspective, and to aknowledge an appreciation that you never really considered before.

So, here are the things I miss that I’d never really appreciated before.

I miss stopping to grab a latte at Dunks before an all-day shopping spree with my wife.

I miss calling my mom up in the early morning and asking if she wanted company, then packing a bag with stuff for Bear and heading to her house to spend the day there.

I miss impromptu McDonalds run with my sister and her kids.

I miss propping open the front door, and letting Bear play with the neighbor kids (as long as I could still hear them!) until dinner time.

I miss standing outside my son’s school with the other parents, waiting for the janitor to open the doors for afternoon pick-up.

I miss listening to podcasts on the treadmill at the gym.

I miss piles of air matresses on the floor, hard cider, and old I Love the 80s reruns at sleepovers with my friends.

I miss clandestine cigarettes out on my sister’s back porch after the kids have gone to bed.

I miss stocking up at the grocery store for supplies for a weekend potluck.

I miss scrounging through clearance racks at the change of seasons.

I miss sitting and reading a magazine in the Children’s Room at our library while Bear plays with the hand puppets and Thomas the Tank Engine activity table.

I miss rainy nights in the Boston’s Theatre District, and long walks between the restaurant and the theatre before a show.

I miss the early morning anticipation in the admission lines for Comic-Con.

I miss cosplay meet-ups in Boston, I miss conventions, I miss packed-to-capacity panel rooms with a hundred nerds in costume.

I miss midnight movie releases and line parties.

I miss my sister stopping by hours early before a party with alcohol and baking supplies.

I miss sending my son to school on field trip days.

I miss crowding around a computer with my mom and brother to play an escape-the-room game.

I miss knowing my wife has something wonderful planned for our birthdays, or anniversaries, or whatever special occassion she’s remembered (the day she gave me my ring, the day of our first date, the day we met it person, etc.)

I miss impromptu hotel stays with fancy dinners when my wife thinks I’ve been too stressed lately.

I miss… the freedom of not having to plan for my every move, to take into account every possible precaution to make sure I’m not bringing home a potentially deadly pathogen. I miss being able to be impromptu. To be spontaneous. I missing being able to do, without having to mentally measure physical distance or remember to bring masks or stock up on hand sanitizer.

I miss being able to write my chronic anxiety off as “excessive.” I’m tired of my fears being vindicated. The novelty has worn off.

I made my first trip to a store today, set foot inside a retail establishment for the first time since March 12th. It was terrifying, even though everyone wore a mask and kept their distance (though that was really encouraging to see). I have my first social event tonight that isn’t just with my family, in the form of an outdoors, socially distanced get-together for the 4th — nine people including us, BYOB, some food but all single-use disposable serving utensils and all disposable plates and cutlery, plus a bevy of sanitation precautions for bathroom usage and hand sanitation. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable going somewhere where I know we and the other guests and interested in mantaining all the safety protocols, but man, I miss not having to worry about safety protocols.

I miss the days when the biggest social safety protocols I had to worry about was keeping my wallet and drink close by and arranging a designated driver.

But if we keep living like this, we keep… living. And honestly, I will trade conveience for peace of a mind and a chance to safely see my friends. I hope all of you realize that that’s a worthwhile trade off.

There’s a lot to miss, but there’s a lot we can still do if we’re just conscientious about it and follow the experts’ guidelines.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

NaPoWriMo: Day 18

Coffee

It was ritual;
Rising long before the sun,
Winter sky still dark;

Color diffusing
(Black to purple to pink)
Until golden light

Flooded the kitchen.
There was magic in the first sip,
Sitting cross-legged

On the kitchen bench,
The newsprint, dark and pungent,
Staining my fingers black.

The smell of coffee
Like a promise to myself;
“Today will be okay.”


Prompt Day Eighteen:  As ode to something mundane; an example given was a cup of coffee, so here we are.

Quarantine Brain (A-to-Z Challenge)

Here’s how my mental state has been:  I forgot that A-to-Z Challenge ran all month except Sundays.  I thought it was all month, except weekends.  So I am technically behind; I posted K today when I should be on M.

Which is not a problem, per se, because I can simply do an entry on the next two Sundays.  But I thought — ugh —  I’ve got to at least acknowledge my flub.

It’s been a long few weeks, everyone.

NaPoWriMo: Day 13

Windows Open

With windows open
The breathless whisper of leaves
Carries through cool air

The porch light beckons
Sallow moths, beating pale wings
To rattle the screen


Day Thirteen Prompt:  Off-prompt.  Thought about waking up at my sister’s house in the middle of the night after a drunken night out.  This was pre-kids for both of us, so the house was generally quiet except for one or two familiar sounds.

A-to-Z Challenge: Engine Driver

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Today was the best day Bear has had in a long time; since the start of quarantine, his mood has been volatile, and he’s become hugely argumentative.  Which is not surprising, nor do I blame him, but dealing with my own internal struggles (quarantine-related and otherwise) coupled with the fact that I am now alone with Bear for the entire day while also trying to work/conduct some classes and tutor him means I, myself, have not always acted or reacted in the most positive way, and the onus for changing this whole dynamic was on me.  I made a very conscientious effort to not lose my temper or raise my voice, and while it was not a perfect day, it did run a lot more smoothly, and we managed to both be very productive.  Bear got all his school work done, a number of enrichment activities, and I got a lot of chores done, as well as my A-to-Z challenge.

Ink and colored pencils.

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The Engine Driver

I’m an engine driver
On a long run, on a long run
Would I work beside her?
She’s a long one, such a long one 

And if you don’t love me, let me go
And if you don’t love me let me go 

I’m a country lineman
On a high line, on a high line
So will be my grandson
There are power lines in our bloodlines 

And if you don’t love me, let me go
And if you don’t love me, let me go 

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I’ve written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones
My bones 

I’m a money lender
I have fortunes upon fortunes
Take my hand for tender
I am tortured, ever tortured 

And if you don’t love me, let me go
And if you don’t love me, let me go 

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I’ve written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
I am a writer, I am all that you have home
Home

And I’ve written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones
My bones 

And if you don’t love me, let me go
(And if you don’t love me, let me go)
And if you don’t love me, let me go

A-to-Z Challenge: A Bower Scene

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Some houskeeping first:

I realized at some point last night — because of course I did, any earlier would have been entirely too convenient in these circumstances — that essentially all of my micron pens are running out of ink.  While I intend to do a quick run through our office supply aisle at the grocery store to see if they carry them, I am not venturing, nor sending anyone else out to the grocery store until it is absolutely necessary (as in, until we actually really need more food), so that may not be until this weekend or later.  There’s also a (decent) chance that they won’t carry them, at which point I may try ordering them online, but with everything going on, who knows how long they’ll take to arrive.  So be prepared for micron sketches peppered throughout pencil sketches, colored pencils, watercolors or acrylics, et. (I’m working them out of order, so even though I’m running low today at “A,” micron might still show up much later in the alphabet).

Now, onto the challenge.  I don’t care for this drawing at all; in all honesty, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t even share it.  I wanted a sort of whimsical, storybook sort of illustration, but the loss of my finest tipped microns means this was done with much thicker lines than I would have liked (her face and body I would normally have done in 005, and instead I had to use a 03 and a 05).  The loss of the fine-lining ability of the microns means, given how this drawning turned out, that I’m going to have to rethink some of my ideas for my illustrations.  I got disheartened with this one as soon as I entered the inking stage, and it shows for how I rushed it (basically, as soon as the face turned out like that, I was like, “Welp. No hope for it now,” ha ha).  Not my best start to the challenge.

Still, onward and upward.  So many more chances.

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Thou unconsolable daughter
Said the sister

When wilt thou trouble the water
In the cistern

And what irascible blackguard
Is the father

And when young Margaret’s waistline
Grew wider

The fruit of her amorous entwine
Inside her

And so our heroine withdraws
To the taiga