Life Tip

Life Tip: When nothing goes right, go to sleepI wonder how much bad news humans can handle–asking for a friend. Despite how much I’ve backed off social media, and how much I’ve been bingeing Star Trek: The Next Generation, news keeps slipping in between the cracks. The writer friend who created #wordmongering lives in northern California. She was forced to grab her furbabies and husband and flee for their lives in the face of the inferno that has enveloped that region. She lost everything. Another writer friend had a different kind of family crisis.

Tonight I see #metoo trending in response to an entirely different kind of despicable series of reports in the past week. And I have to stand with the multitude of friends I’ve had to support through similar experiences. And question how I’ve managed to get off lightly with mere dick pics, unwanted advances, and catcalls.

This weekend, I slept. I’m not sure how much of a return of the flu bug this was (though I did have a fever and headache), versus how much the existential weight of it all just ground me into the pillows. Earlier in the week I’d read about tricks from neuroscience to help increase emotional intelligence. Which naturally reminded me of an old post about words for experiences and emotions that don’t exist in English.

All litost-inducing.

Which is why an article about Jeff Goldblum, all the Star Trek I can handle, and new research about skin pigmentation haplotypes really help with reminding me to smile.

As does this Honest Trailer:

Still no editing work. At least hubs and I have enjoyed watching Star Trek: Discovery together. That show’s writing has really hit its stride, and is starting to get into some fascinating scifi realms. As well as explaining how the so-advanced mycelium engine the ship sports didn’t make it into later generations of starships. (At least, speculatively, now that we’re five episodes in.) Some of the stiffness in characterization and dialogue is working itself out. The releationship between Michael and Tilly continues to evolve in a natural and affirming way, and I love the subtle parallelism that it takes both a senior and a junior officer to shake Michael back into her more human emotions. Having Michael at the emotional heart of the show rather than the captain makes for a different take on the franchise–as if it were somehow more accessible because she’s now a working grunt along with the majority of the rest of us.

I’m back to considering a sequel to The Builders or another book in the After the Fall series since my head is all in with space opera at the moment. But that would be letting down the people who are waiting on the final Red Slaves novel and breaking my promise to myself. Might be a different explanation for why I’m so very stuck on my editing process.

We are still walking though. The phone says I’ve averaged 4,130 steps per day this week. Surprisingly not as big of a drop-off as I’d imagined given the shorter walks we’ve been taking to help Tashie heal. Again.

To everyone else who is struggling: sleep is to be highly recommended. As is a cuddle-buddy. I’m grateful and lucky to have had both this weekend. My ROW80 buddies continue to report in despite obstacles; so will I.

Running Down Dreams

When we were trying to crawl through our nightmares, he taught us to "run down our dreams."It seems the old “it bleeds, it leads” adage is alive and thriving on the glut of death and disaster in our world. Last week it was enough to make me retreat, focus heavily on the safe space hubs and I have built together. And not blog. Even though Tom Petty’s death in particular hit me where I live. Not quite to the extent this author described, but the soundtrack of his songs is an underlying beat to my high school and college years. And back in the day when hubs was a rock critic for the Milwaukee daily paper, he got to spend a day with Petty, interview him, get to know him as a person in a way that affirmed the good-guy persona the rest of us caught glimpses of through his lyrics.

Apparently my inclination was not unusual, either. One of my favorite authors, Ilona Andrews, posted about the Fear Overload we’re facing at about the same time I took my break.

Unfortunately, my break was also driven by a cold/flu bug that had me sleeping through the first half of the week. The work requirements that are always heavy, though, didn’t slow down while I did, so the title theme of running down our dreams feels in many ways to me more like sprinting to catch up with the status quo.

Another piece of same old-same old was in play in late September, when the New York Times Book Review deigned to report on romances. What wasn’t expected was the Jezebel response, “How Not to Critique Romance Novels.” There was also the interesting push-back in Harper’s Bazaar entreating everyone to stop calling women nags, and several days later, the response reporting that emotional labor appears to have finally made it into the mainstream of understanding.

On the other hand, horrifying reporting out of Nevada, where a high density of retirees allows for rich predation by those claiming the mantle of “court-appointed guardian,” offered another possibility of a fear overdose.

My natural escape valve for all of this is speculative fiction. I’m thrilled that Star Trek: Discovery is underway. Despite my generalized annoyance with CBS pushing its app on us and therefore forcing us to pay an additional subscription fee in order to be able to watch the show… it’s actually worth it. The production values and story lines make the experience like watching an hour-long movie. The acting and characterization are fabulous. As a bonus, I get to see old episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation on demand.

None of this helps me with my goals, though, which remain:

  1. Finish edits on Dust to Blood and re-release it with its new cover.
  2. Edit Blood to Fire and re-release it with its new cover.
  3. Edit Fire to Dragon and release it.
  4. Walk at least a mile a day.
  5. Blog weekly with my ROW80 updates.
  6. Keep the sanctity of my weekly date night with hubs.

This Round, I’m also looking forward to having the first audio book version of one of my stories. I finally chose and signed an agreement with a narrator to at least take that task off my plate. We’ll see how the experience plays out.

Otherwise, there remain 72 days in this Round, and more things to do than I’ve managed in any given Round to date. So I’ll keep reporting and encouraging you to see how everyone else is doing.

Flat

Feeling Flat?Hubs is away visiting family this week, so naturally my car would protest by coming up gimpy–at least in the form of a pancake-flat tire. This particular tire is the newest of the four on that car, so it seems there’s some prejudice in the DC-area roads agains the front driver’s side wheel, given this is the second time in the three years we’ve lived here that I’ve had to go through the repair/replace dance. We’ll see how much time it wastes this go-round.

Aside from missing hubs, and having three discombobulated Huskies who are sure if they stare at the front door long enough they will make him magically re-appear, it was another week of heavy day-job requirements. We’re starting to look at hiring staff, so I’m hopeful that in the coming months there is a light at the end of this tunnel. In the meantime, it’s a challenge to have any energy left over to do much beyond basic requirements.

Like walking the dogs. Even without hubs (and with full gratitude to the friends who are stepping up to help make sure everyone gets at least one good walk a day) my phone says I’ve averaged 6,573 steps a day this week. I’m actually amazed this is only very slightly down from last week.

Or reading. I’m catching up on the final NetGalley book in my queue, The Tethered Mage, by Melissa Caruso. It’s due out at the end of October, and I’m very much enjoying the world-building and poetic language. The layers of metaphors as a young woman comes to terms with the repercussions of all she is heir to and the responsibilities she’s chosen. It will be a challenge not to stay up all night reading without hubs to remind me of the hour.

Or catching a talk by Dame Stephanie Shirley, who titled her presentation “Why do ambitious women have flat heads?” My kind of gal–and she’s even in the tech field with me. Her sense of humor as she talks about the number of times she’s been condescended to gives a good orientation to women now considering joining this male-dominated field.

So I’ll keep it short this week, but will be taking a peek at my fellow ROW80ers to cheer their progress, and return next week with what I hope is more actual forward motion.

Nothing Hurts?

"Nothing hurst a good soul and the kind heart more than to live amongst people who can't understand it." -Ali Ibn Abi TaibI had the good luck this weekend of catching up with a number of old friends. The kinds of friends who are happy to chit-chat about interesting, meaningful things–even if it’s been months (or years?!) since last you spoke. And it struck me today that one of the reasons I tend to feel like I’m just a visitor in the various places we’ve lived might be because the majority of people around me are pursuing goals wildly divergent from mine, or have beliefs and values only tangentially related to mine. More often than not, I feel like a stranger, an alien even, living in a cage in the midst of the zoo of humanity.

That sense was heightened by our movie night selection this week: “Birdman“. We’d had the BluRay in our to-watch pile for more than two years. I hadn’t realized until tonight just how long the list of awards was that it had won–including 2015’s Oscar for best picture. The movie earned every single one of them. It was in some sense as shockingly out of place in the Hollywood system as what I described of myself earlier. The movie was also nothing like anything I’d expected when we pushed play. It pokes at the lines between madness and sanity, artistry and banality, age and youth, and so many other so-called dichotomies and leaves you feeling like whatever your particular brand of suffering is, there are so many others sharing their unique pain with the world that none of us is truly as alone as we might feel.

It was, in short, the kind of movie that opens up conversation and closeness and introspection. Where I’d seen “Michael Keaton” and “dark comedy” and thought this might be in the “Beetlejuice” direction, I got a think piece that reminded me to reach out to my friends.

Tonight, then, I saw that Pentatonix had released a version of John Lennon’s Imagine. Their rendition strangely summarized my mindset:

As you might imagine, working (the day job) and talking once again derailed any effort at creativity. At some point I’m going to have to force myself into action, whether I feel ready or rested or not. In the meantime, we are at least walking quite a bit. My phone says I averaged 6,640 steps daily this week, and today I managed over 5 miles between the two long walks with the dogs and walking in circles through the house while I was talking on the phone.

I’m down to the final month of this round of ROW80, and so far I’ve been almost the epitome of anti-productive. My day job has gotten more intense, and somehow this year the summer cycle of social activities has been more distracting than normal. While I hope this week is more productive, I’m reminded of the adage that “hope is not a strategy,” and will be pushing myself harder to find and maintain the focus that has allowed me to finish drafting my stories. In the meantime, I encourage you to see how the others in my group are faring. I’ll be back next week to report on my progress.

What I Want

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a stroke of wonderful luck.Last week, the now ex-Googler was on my mind. This week kicked off with discussions about what actually qualifies people to become software engineers (hint: ability to code is the lowest barrier to entry); that men have since at least the time of Hippocrates used “science” to justify male superiority; that “race science” is based on equally spurious claims; and that women in Silicon Valley are just starting to find mutual support.

And then there was yesterday in Charlottesville. Which followed on the heels of a kerfluffle in Great Britain regarding a cartoon on the BBC, which was portraying historical accuracy when it included a racially diverse cast for a story set in Roman times. It’s worth raising the spectre of American Exceptionalism, and shooting it down one more time for posterity. There is no nation that hasn’t committed atrocities–now or in the long-distant past–and anyone claiming they’re advocating for a “return to a better time” is misremembering the freight that comes with that past.

I’m frustrated by the world I find myself living in. That I keep getting slapped in the face by news that is offensive to my nature and my aspirations. So this evening I revisited some of my favorite scenes from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Remember the “Measure of a Man” episode? It’s worth going back to YouTube to hear Picard argue about Data’s sentience–and Commander Maddox’s persistent insistence on the science of sentience. In fact, his three criteria–intelligence, self-awareness, consciousness–have a booby trap in them. Intelligence? What kind of intelligence? Does this mean that people of low IQ are not sentient? This is, I suspect, why science deems “mere animals” below the threshold of sentience. I keep seeing articles that compare dogs’ cognitive ability to those of toddlers. Why would scientists do that unless to prove their bias toward keeping a certain barrier to entry to the elite club of sentient beings?

And that loops me back to all the variations in the news of who belongs to which club. Am I linked to the one with the most power? Least power? Most self-righteousness? How about being linked to the one with the ability to keep an open mind and actually debate ideas and solutions? In all the chest-thumping we’re seeing right now, we’re being distracted from dealing with the real problems that are driving the pain and anger and fear pushing people to act in horrifying ways.

Which loops me back to this week’s image. And why I was thinking about Star Trek. I write speculative fiction to put myself into worlds that might be familiar in some respects, but that allow me to explore new ways of seeing underlying tensions. Play with the idea that there could be solutions to the problems we face. So as terrible as the world is, I have the privilege of being able to reflect on it. To try to pull lessons from what I see. I have the imagination to stretch sentience into other beings and explore the philosophical consequences Captain Louvois (from that ST:TNG episode I referenced above) was hesitent to give credence to. What I want? To have the time and emotional energy to spend more time doing that. Our current news cycle is giving me more fodder than I really wanted and is exacting an emotional tax that makes it difficult.

I finally opened my WIP to return to my editing task yesterday. And retreated to read Mercedes Lackey’s Beauty and the Werewolf. I’m doing wonderfully well on my Goodreads reading challenge. Horribly on my writing goals. Walking goals are coming back down to earth; my phone says this week I averaged 4,949 steps per day. And hubs and I were distracted by visitors, errands, and obligations so skipped what I would consider a date night–even though we made dinner together most nights, and were walking together for many of those steps.

I hope that delaying my editing process is a stroke of wonderful luck, though the thread of frustration that connects that delay to everything I’ve written about should indicate how I really feel about it. This week will require a trip to Maryland and next week hubs has a trip out of state, so I don’t anticipate any kind of normalcy returning any time soon. Nonetheless, I will persist. As will my ROW80 cohorts.

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