Okay. That went well overall.

Sep. 22nd, 2017 04:12 pm
avivasedai: (shofar)
[personal profile] avivasedai
Second day went and felt so much better than 1st day of Rosh Hashana this year. A long recap. )

Now it's 5 PM on Friday night, erev shabbat. Benito is at the end of his nap - starting to wake up - and the holiday is going to transition to the next holiday. It's time for unease of the soul, thinking about repentance, forgiveness, our relationships with others and with God. First, though, Rick and I are going to be with our friend who lost her mother last year today, and I'm going to think about what to do for Hebrew school on Sunday. I should do more arts and crafts with the 2nd graders, make things concrete for them. Yom Kippur cards - "I'm sorry for X. Next year, I'll try Y." Something on that idea?

This can be a good weekend.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

In case you forgot, I’ll be at Borderlands Books (my favorite place in SF) at 3:00 pm this Saturday to read to you from my new book The Uploaded, sign whatever you put in front of me, and to, as usual, go out for hamburgers afterwards.

(And if you’re extra-special-good, I may do a super-secret advance MEGA-preview reading of The Book That Does Not Yet Have A Name. Not that, you know, you shouldn’t be rushing out to your stores to buy The Uploaded right now.)

I will, of course, bring donuts after my massive DONUT FAIL in Massachusetts, which I still wake up in cold sweats about. I will bring you donuts or die.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Shana tova...

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:07 pm
avivasedai: (shofar)
[personal profile] avivasedai
It's erev Rosh Hashana (h optional). I called Ilan, who is in Kansas with Tahl and the girls, and also our parents. He's leading services and only feels slightly nervous, but knowing that the synagogue doesn't expect him to be a cantor like Tahl has calmed a lot of his nerves. I hope he does well enough to be happy with himself - we are our own worst critics. I hope Mom and Abba aren't super-critical of him.

The plan for neilah after I gave it back involved asking a group of women to lead it, as the rest of the Yom Kippur services are being led by men. I got another email asking if I would be comfortable leading part of it, and after waffling AGAIN I said no, again. Person #2 might not have known that I gave it back in the first place, and/but honestly, this is about my stress level. I know there are 8 usable days between RH and YK, but the same things apply: I work, I family, I chores, I stress. NNNOOOOOOOO.

It's erev Rosh Hashana. I asked my mother-in-law if she would stay for dinner with us and she said yes - it's Grandma Day, the day she picks up Benito from daycare and hangs out with him until I get home. However, I came home and she shortly said "okay, I'm going." I said "You don't want to stay for dinner?" and she gave a look of discomfort. I said "Oh, you're tired and need to go home. Okay. Have a good night," and gave her a hug and a kiss. I had gotten home a little early, the better to prepare food for tonight (and clean whatever needed cleaning in the kitchen) and tomorrow, and I was looking forward to having her with me, even if she was sitting on the couch while I was doing kitchen stuff. I was also looking forward to feeding her, to feeling like the meal was festive b/c I was sharing it.

I made really good mushroom soup in the crockpot, using a mushroom and sea asparagus rub I bought at a farmer's market this summer that told me it could also make a tasty broth. I should get some bullion that isn't chicken: mushroom, onion, and/or beef. It's a relatively simple soup, just mushrooms, onion and carrot, and it's very pleasing. I did manage to put together an apple kugel this evening; it's in the oven and should be done soon. Benito and I have eaten some; I'd like us to have bath-time, and then when Dad is home we can all eat together. I can light the holiday candles, break into the round challah and feel slightly better. *sigh*

Let Life Happen.

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:13 am
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

“I’m not up for sex,” she told me. “I’ve had a lot of medical issues lately. It’s more painful than not to even try.”

“Cool,” I said, and we spent the day going to a street festival.

I woulda liked sex. But life happens.

“I’m in the middle of my seasonal affective disorder,” I told her. “You show up, I might not be able to leave the house. I might just curl up and cry all day.”

“Cool,” she said, and I was pretty morose but we cuddled a lot and eventually managed to go out to dinner.

I woulda liked to have a working brain. But life happens.

“I’m not sure I can make it through this convention,” they told me. “My flare-ups have been really bad this season. I might not be able to go out with you in the evenings.”

“Cool,” I said, and I went out for little hour-long jaunts before heading back to the room to cuddle them, then charging out again to circulate.

I woulda liked to have them by my side when I hit the room parties. But life happens.

I’m a massively flawed human with a mental illness. I need to have poly relationships that include for the possibility of breakdowns. Because if I need to have a perfect day before I allow anyone to see me, I might wait for weeks. Months. Years. And then what the fuck is left by the time I get to see them?

I know there are people who need perfect visits. They have to have the makeup on when you visit them, and they’ll never fall asleep when they had a night of Big Sexy planned, and if they get out the toys there’s gonna be a scene no matter how raw anyone’s feeling.

But I can’t do that.

My relationships aren’t, can’t be, some idealized projection of who I want to be. If I’m not feeling secure that day, I can’t be with a partner who needs me to be their rock so the weekend proceeds unabated. And if they’re feeling broken, I can’t be with someone who needs to pretend everything is fine because their time with me is their way of proving what a good life they have.

Sometimes, me and my lovers hoped for a weekend retreat of pure passion and what we get is curling up with someone under tear-stained covers, holding them and letting them know they will not be alone come the darkness.

We cry. We collapse. We stumble. We don’t always get what we want, not immediately.

But we also heal. We nurture. We accept.

And in the long run, God, we get so much more.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

I knew musicals could cheer me up, but I’d never heard of one that gave me new tools to deal with chronic illness and depression. Yet when I saw Groundhog Day last Wednesday, I was so stunned by what a perfect, joyous metaphor it was for battling mental illness that I immediately bought tickets to see it again that Saturday.

I would have told you about this before, but it was too late. The show closed on Sunday. A musical that should have run, well, for as long as Phil Connors was trapped in his endless time loop only got a five-month run.

But I can tell you about it.

I can tell you why this musical made me a stronger, better person.


So let’s discuss the original Groundhog Day movie, which is pretty well-known at this point: Bill Murray is an asshole weatherman named Phil who shows up under protest to do a report from Punxatawney, Philadelphia on Groundhog Day. He’s trapped in town overnight thanks to a blizzard. When Phil wakes up the next morning, it’s Groundhog Day again. And again. And again.

Phil goes through several phases:

  • Incredulous as he can’t believe what’s happening to him;
  • Gleefully naughty as he uses his knowledge of people’s future actions to indulge all his greatest fantasies;
  • Frustrated as he tries to romance Rita, his producer, but he’s too cynical for her and nothing convinces her to hop in bed with him unless everyone else in town;
  • Depressed as he realizes that his life is shallow and there’s no way he can escape;
  • Perplexed as he tries to rescue a dying homeless man but realizes that nothing he can do on this day will save this poor guy;
  • And, finally, beatific as he uses his intense knowledge of everything that will happen in town today to run around doing good for people.

Naturally, that’s a great emotional journey. It’s no wonder that’s a story that’s resonated with people.

Yet Groundhog Day changes just one slight emotional tenor about this – and that change is massive.

Because when Bill Murray’s character gets to the end of his journey, he’s actually content. He’s achieved enlightenment where he enjoys everything he does, toodling around on the piano because he’s formed Punxatawney into his paradise. He laughs at people who ignore him. He’s satisfied.

And when Rita, who senses this change even though she doesn’t understand why, bids everything in her wallet to dance with him at the Groundhog Dance, the Bill Murray Phil is touched but also, on some level, serene.

Andy Karl’s Phil is not happy.

We spend a lot more time in Andy’s Phil’s headspace, and at one point he breaks down because of all the things he’ll never get to do – he’ll never grow a beard, he’ll never see the dawn again, he’ll never have another birthday. Anything he does is wiped away the next morning.

Bill Murray’s Phil gets so much satisfaction out of his constantly improving the town that his daily circuit has become a reward for him.

Andy Karl’s Phil is, on some level, fundamentally isolated. People will never know him – at least not without hours of proving to them that yes, he is trapped in this time loop, he does know everything about them.  No matter what relationships he forms, he’ll have  to start all over again in a matter of hours. There’s no bond he can create that this loop won’t erase.

And so when Rita finally dances with Bill Murray, it’s shown as a big romantic moment. And in the musical –

In the musical, Rita moves towards Phil and everything freezes in a harsh blue light except for Phil.

This is everything Phil has ever wanted in years, maybe decades, of being in this loop – and instead of being presented as triumphant, everything goes quiet and Phil sings a tiny, mournful song:

But I’m here
And I’m fine
And I’m seeing you for the first time

And the reason that brings tears to my eyes every fucking time is because this Phil is not fine – he repeats the lie in the next verse when he says he’s all right. Yet this is the happiest moment he’s had in years, finally understanding what Rita has wanted all along, and this moment too will be swept away in an endless series of morning wakeups and lumpy beds and people forgetting what he is.

Yet that mournful tune is also defiant, and more defiant when the townspeople pick it up and start singing it in a rising chorus:

I’m here
And I’m fine

Phil knows his future is nothing.

Yet that will not stop him from appreciating this small beauty even if he knows it will not stay with him. Trapped in the groundhog loop, appreciating the tiny moments becomes an act of rebellion, a way of affirming life even when you know this moment too will vanish.

Can you understand that this is depression incarnate?

Which is the other thing that marks this musical. Because I said there was joy, and there is. Because when Andy Karl’s Phil enters the “Philanthropy” section of the musical (get it?), he may not be entirely happy but he is content.

Because he knows that he may not necessarily feel joy at all times, but he has mastered the art of maintenance.

Because tending to the town of Punxatawney is a lot of work. He has to run around changing flat tires, rescuing cats, getting Rita the chili she wanted to try, helping people’s marriages. (And as he notes, “My cardio never seems to stick.”)

When Bill Murray’s Phil helps people, it seems to well up from personal satisfaction. Whereas Andy’s Phil is thrilled helping people, yes, but his kindness means more because it costs him. On some level he is, and will forever be, fundamentally numb.

This isn’t where he wanted to be.

Yet he has vowed to do the best with what he can. He helps the townspeople of Punxatawney because even though it is a constant drain, it makes him feel better than drinking himself senseless in his room. He doesn’t get to have everything he wanted – also see: depression and chronic illness – and it sure would be nice if he could take a few days off, but those days off will make him feel worse.

He’s resigned himself to a lifetime of working harder than he should for results that aren’t as joyous as he wanted.

And that’s okay. Not ideal, but…. okay.

Andy’s okay.

And I think the closest I can replicate that in a non-musical context is another unlikely source – Rick and Morty, where Rick is a suicidal hypergenius scientist who’s basically the Doctor if the Doctor’s psychological ramifications were taken seriously. And he goes to therapy, where a therapist so smart that she’s the only person Rick’s never been able to refute says this to him:

“Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.

“You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control.
You chose to come here, you chose to talk to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces, your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.

“I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die.

“It’s just work.

“And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.

“Each of us gets to choose.

“That’s our time.”

And yes, Groundhog Day the musical is – was – about that lesson of maintenance, as Andy comes to realize that “feeling good” isn’t a necessary component for self-improvement, and works hard to make the best of a situation where, like my depression, even the best and most perfect day will be reset come the next morning.

And yes. There is a dawn for Andy’s Phil, of course, and he does wake up with Rita, and you get to exit the theater knowing that no matter how bad it gets there will come a joyous dawn and you get to walk out onto Broadway and so does Phil.

But you don’t get to that joy without maintenance.

And you might get trapped again some day. That, too, is depression. That, too, is chronic illness. We don’t know that Phil doesn’t get trapped on February 3rd, or March 10th, or maybe his whole December starts repeating.

But he has the tools now. He knows how to survive until the next dawn.

Maybe you can too.


Anyway. There’s talk that Groundhog Day will go on tour, maybe even with Andy Karl doing the performances. He’s brilliant. Go see him.

The rest of you, man, I hope you find your own Groundhog Day. I saw mine. Twice.

Perhaps it’s fitting that it’s vanished.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

I gave it back.

Sep. 16th, 2017 12:07 am
avivasedai: (shofar)
[personal profile] avivasedai
I couldn't do it. I could not devote the time I knew it would take to do a good job on the ne'ilah service, and I gave it back. I definitely feel like I am letting the rabbi down, and I have added a burden back to him that he had not thought he'd get, and perhaps I've burdened the Ritual Committee, which is to say Ian, in helping the rabbi find someone else to lead it (if that's what will happen instead of the rabbi taking it on).

On the other hand, he is the rabbi. I expect a rabbi to be able to lead services. He did what he needed to do - found someone to help him lead - so I guess in that regard he did his job, too. Crap, my other hand turned into the first hand. Dammit!

I was getting so anxious, I would practice for an hour, and then 30 minutes later I'd get the tune wrong again. I can read the Hebrew, I can even read it out loud, but I kept going over the same parts again and again and not progressing. The example audio clips I was given weren't covering what I felt needed covering.

This is not how I need to learn new services. The last time I learned new services was my bat mitzvah, and in that instance, I had been *attending* those services for years. I already had the tunes in my head, I just had to be the one to start them, and to pronounce the Hebrew flawlessly. In this case, I was being asked to learn on my own a service that not only only happens once a year, but that I hadn't attended in full for at least 4 years, and even before that I've heard it once a year, sung by different people, not reading along deeply in the Hebrew because I wanted to read the English and understand the prayers as well as perhaps sing them.

To learn this service for next year, if I want to do that, if I'm asked to do that, I seriously want to sit down (or stand, whatever) with a cantor or rabbi who can sing it, and go through the whole thing. First, go through it all, make notes in the machzor, then break it down into its parts.

I don't know if I could honestly pull it off if I kept it, and that's why I gave it back. I refuse to say "Okay, I'll read the Hebrew, but I'm not doing the right melodies." I don't work that way. There's a certain amount of coasting I find acceptable in a weekly service, but for this, one of the most important bits of praying Jews do in a year, one that some people find incredibly important and significant, no. Sure, I have neshama - spirit, and intent, and perhaps even reverence, and the congregation would be able to pick up on that, but I would not have the confidence. Just no.


Having finally made that decision and committed to not committing, I am literally breathing more easily. Now I feel like I can worry about all the other things in life and still breathe.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

As a reminder, I’ll be at Pandemonium Books and Games (which is an awesome store even in the absence of me) at 7:00 tomorrow to read to you, sign whatever you put in front of me, and probably go out for drinks and/or ice cream afterwards.

I hope to see you there! These donuts aren’t gonna eat themselves.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Feeling a little better.

Sep. 11th, 2017 09:00 am
avivasedai: (Default)
[personal profile] avivasedai
I took it easy last night, worked on the photo album, made an easy dinner, took an Advil for body ache/cramps and general malaise, and that seems to have worked pretty well for the physical weariness. I felt better while Benito and I were outside, he on his trike and me running behind. He's getting quite good at it. It might be time to start looking around for the next size up - a small bike with training wheels, perhaps?

I have a dr's appt today. No pelvic exam will be done, but she'll test my iron level and perhaps also my thyroid - iron would be affected by Aunt Flo but at least one test will be reliable. I also want to ask her for a recommendation for an allergist. This quasi-random excema to varying degrees is really tireseome.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

So this fall I’ll be premiering my “You’re Far Away But Your Hearts Are Close” class on running successful long-distance relationships. And to make that work, I gotta ask y’all:

What would you like to see taught in a class about long-distance relationships?

Some of the questions I’m planning on answering to the best of my ability are:

  • How can you tell if someone’s genuine online?
  • What are the best practices for transitioning from an LDR into a “real life” relationship?
  • How do you handle arguments when you’re not able to cuddle and heal properly afterwards?
  • How does New Relationship Energy affect LDRs?
  • What sorts of relationships can LDRs offer?

But the classes I teach are for you (especially if you’re attending The Geeky Kink Event, Beyond The Love, or Indegeo Conception this fall – so I ask you, “What issues with long-distance relationships would you like to see covered in an LDR class?” I can’t promise I’ll bring it up, but in the best case you might inspire an essay or two later on.

So. What sorts of long-distance relationship issues are you curious about?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

I'm sorry. (also, I am tired.)

Sep. 10th, 2017 04:05 pm
avivasedai: (Default)
[personal profile] avivasedai
I'm sorry I didn't go to the apple picking today with the Jewish community at large. It's true that Benito was not into it, but honestly, I am the parent, and if I had planned for it to happen, it is much more likely that it would have happened. I did not plan for us to attend. The rabbi called me at 3, when we were in our driveway, Benito asleep in his seat. He asked if I was going, and if I was, if he could call on me to help him with the shofar blowing. He admits he is not good at it, and I am. It is true that if Benito had been willing to go, we would've gone, but having gotten out of the car, I no longer had the energy to get him back into the car and go. I wasn't up to convincing him, or taking him against his will. I am the parent and I get to say what goes sometimes, I know that, but the fuller truth is that I've used up all my energy. The stress I've been feeling since... Friday, maybe even Thursday, has been used up.

I've had my first day of Hebrew school, with 3 in K, 2 in grade 1, and 7 in grade 2. It's a large group to try and keep focused. There are ~3 shy/quiet kids, 3-4 who are more interruptive, 2-3 who can be egged on to excess energy, and the rest are what I would call normally talkative. There was good participation, a number of tangents, and I think a good time was had by all.

My energy is just all used up. I would have liked to go to the thing, and it was almost enough that the rabbi called me - even though I know there are other people who can play a shofar. I'm saving up the energy for later, later tonight, when I have to make dinner and think about dinner for the rest of the week, and do the next large task (either more studying for neilah or more progress on the Spain photobook). Now, I need a freakin' nap, but Benito wants to play with me, and will play by himself for a while and then come back and tug on my arm again.

I was also asked if Benito was going to be part of the pre-K Hebrew school group (I hesitate to say class), who are meeting twice monthly instead of every week. I said "Nope, not this year." If this endeavor repeats next year I will more strongly consider adding him to it. This year, not only did I not have the strength to ask Rick if he would be okay with it but I also didn't think I'd be able to handle getting him ready on Sunday mornings as well as my own self for teaching. Maybe I'm wrong and I could handle it, but again, I am too stressed right now to deal with it.

I must be doing something wrong. I do not want to be carrying this much stress. On the other hand, just because I don't see other parents exhibiting the kind of stress I am feeling doesn't mean it isn't there. It sure is. I am not doing something wrong, I am doing things right, I'm just doing a lot of things, at the same time, and I haven't gotten the knack of ... well, a lot of things, I suppose. After the fact, I wanted to respond to the rabbi when he told the kids "I'm not good at shofar blowing" with "I am, but the rabbi is good at lots of things that I'm not."

Enough writing. Time for playing.

The Archaeology Of My Posture

Sep. 10th, 2017 10:36 am
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

Salvatore doesn’t remember me.  I’d lay money on that.  I was merely one of his victims, and probably not the most interesting.

He terrorized an entire middle school, after all.

Salvatore won the adolescence lottery – while the rest of us were still waiting on deliveries of impending hormones, he got his testosterone nice and early, shooting up to six feet tall before he finished sixth grade.  He dwarfed teachers.  And he wore wifebeater shirts to show off his muscular arms and had one deep, bellowing call:


If Salvatore saw you, and you weren’t clutching books protectively to your chest, he would punch you in the chest as hard as he could.

I got hit twice.  All it took.

So I clasped my books against my chest like it was a baby, hunching my entire body around it, as did everyone else around me.  People in the halls scurried, because when Salvatore hollered his call even the teachers mysteriously disappeared.

I’m forty-eight years old.  It has literally been thirty-five years since I had to worry about Salvatore.

But my body has still not unclenched.

I know this because I’m in personal training right now, and they are panicked about my posture.  They point out all the muscles that have atrophied because I am a habitual slumper, the damage I’m doing to my spine.  They give me exercises specifically to strengthen my neck because my head hangs forward.

It’s been a month, and when I walk the dog, it’s now uncomfortable to slump.  I have too many aches in those clusters, so it’s easier to stand straight up with my spine properly aligned.

And I feel like an idiot.

I don’t have some crazy worry that Salvatore will appear out of nowhere and punch me – that’s the sort of simplistic one-to-one bullshit that bad writers think up.  No, Salvatore’s crumbled into a finer sediment.

What I feel when I walk properly straightened is foolish.  Because I grew up in a middle school where, because of Salvatore, “standing straight” was a form of pride.  Few kids stood up straight, and those that did usually got cut down something fierce by Salvatore, or had their own unique middle school qualities that made them unappealing to Salvatore’s form of bullying.

I’m not afraid of standing straight.  It feels preposterous.  I feel like people are staring at this idiot walking by with the puffed-out chest and the straight-ahead vision, this Frankenstein bodybuilder’s swagger, and who the hell does that guy think he is?

Yet when a photo of my recent book signing – which, I should add, I’m doing another one in Boston next week, and in San Francisco the week after – surfaced on Facebook, people didn’t recognize me at first.  “You’re looking a lot younger and you seem to be more comfortable standing,” said a friend who’s known me for a decade.  If people notice the way I’m standing, it’s probably a positive impression.

Yet there’s Salvatore.

And there’s all sorts of other memories churned up by walking properly.  I’m not craning my head down to see my feet, so I can’t see where I’m stepping directly, which makes me anxious because I had issues in gym class that caused me to self-identify as a clumsy kid and oh God I’m going to trip why am I walking like this.  I read while I walked on the way to school, and subconsciously I’m angling myself to read the book – or, now, the phone – that I should be looking at while I bumble along.

(Note that #2 contradicts #1.  The archaeology of my memories do not have to make sense when combined.)

And I’ve never thought about these.  It’s just ancient history silently bending me into another shape.  It’s only once I struggle to break free of this that I see how many influences I’ve quietly absorbed to make me believe that this is how I should be.

And I remember a friend of mine, when I told him, “We’re all controlled in part by subliminal impulses we don’t quite understand” and he said, confidently, “No.  Oh, no.  I know every reason I do everything.”  And I thought, even then, that this was a comforting lie he told himself in order to maintain the illusion that he was a being of pure rationality, because the alternative – that much of what we unconsciously decide is shaped by forces we had no control over – was terrifying to him.

But the truth is, we do have our own archaeologies.  Even something as simple as standing is the sum total of a thousand memories, and a few wrong inputs at the right time can change your position forever.

Imagine how complex it gets when it comes to relationships.  Or sex.  Or sex in relationships.

And that’s not to say that you’re powerless to fight these forces.  You’re only powerless if you deny their existence.  I’ve watched my rational, knows-everything friend make exactly the same mistakes across two divorces now, headed towards a third, in part because he can never see how his unconscious habits are undercutting his stated desires.

I’m not saying I’ll learn to stand properly.  This may be a lifelong battle, as it is with my weight, as it is with my mental health, as it is with my writing.  But it’s another tool I can use to battle back something harmful.

And I keep watch. I wonder what other aspects of myself got concretized without my ever knowing it.

I wonder what parts of me I get to dig up tomorrow and replant.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.


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