a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
19 June 2018 00:02 - Upcoming stuff 'n' things
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thank you, relief, improvement
Despite getting some sad news earlier today, I went to the TMBG show and I am so, so glad I did. I was feeling really lonely and worried about being there on my own, but it turned out that [twitter.com profile] improperlybusy was in town and already planning to go to the show, so we met up at the venue and got some time to catch up between sets. It was very nice to have a friend there and get some extra hugs.

Tonight was the album launch for Glean and apparently the band decided that meant they should play almost all the crowdpleasing songs in their repertoire, going all the way back to their first album. Details cut-tagged for those who couldn't care less, but seriously, this was the setlist equivalent of the all-star team.

So much musical goodnessCollapse )

After the show, Marty was signing drumsticks and ticket stubs at the edge of the stage; he wasn't in the band in 2002, so I had to explain why I particularly wanted to thank them for playing "New York City", but he gave me a very solemn and sincere nod once I filled in the backstory. I hope he passed the thanks along to the other guys.

I'd felt very pent up around the sad news, and the music broke the dam. I got in a cab home and called Miriam and got all weepy on her. Yay catharsis and good music and good friends.

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fairy tales, old-fashioned, roses, nostalgia
I woke up and thought for a while about what I wanted to do before deliberately checking only my "family" list and locked account timeline on Twitter. I got up and showered and had breakfast and... well, if I wasn't going to read Twitter while I ate, what would I do? So I read a very absorbing book and chatted with my brother for a bit. When X got up, we had lunch and went out clothes shopping. I read a bit more of the book on the subway.

(The book is Natasha Pulley's The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, which is deservedly on my list of excellent books coming out this summer. It's is the first book I've read since I started writing my own, and it's extremely good, so I got to have that lovely feeling of "Well, this person is a much better writer than I am"--a particularly easy comparison to make when it's set in historical London with a protagonist who shares many personality traits and a name with my own hero! But I managed to turn it into "This book is a good example of things I'm not doing, and now I get to decide whether to do those things" and that felt better. Anyway, I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who liked Jo Walton's Small Change books.)

We came home and I read for a bit and then J and I went to the supermarket and came home and made dinner. I resisted the Twitter urge and instead posted on FOCA and checked LJ/DW while the chicken was baking. I also checked email (I'm trying to remember to keep the email tabs closed and only check once in a while, or hourly for work email during work hours) and knocked my inboxes back down to zero. After dinner J did the washing up*, X went off for some introvert time, and I finished the book.

* Whenever I read a book set in England and written by someone English, it immediately creeps into my vocabulary. I nearly said that X went off for a lie-down.

X has gone to bed and J will probably conk out shortly. I've just caught up on my limited feeds again (at that level it feels a lot more like catching up on LJ/DW) and now I'm contemplating how I'd like to spend the next four hours. I might get some of the work done that I didn't do on Friday. Or I might just sit here and listen to Glean over and over and over again so that I have it memorized for tomorrow's concert, because I'm a nerd. :)

At some point in the early days of the Ménière's, I wrote that I would miss silence. I'm particularly aware of that today, with my ear so blocked up and the ringing persistent and vexing. But on a more metaphorical level, today felt very quiet without the constant background noise of online conversation. I've missed that kind of silence too. It was really nice.

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ear, overheard
Symptom watch: the tinnitus in my right ear has been on the loud side for the past week, mostly noticeable when I'm in bed at night. Today I woke up with my right ear feeling blocked and congested, and hearing significantly occluded. No change after a hot shower and some Flonase. I may be reaching the limits of last year's Ménière's treatment. :(

I'm not feeling any hint of vertigo, and I'm perfectly functional with only left-ear hearing to rely on as long as people face me when they speak, so I'm not sure there's anything to do at the moment except keep an eye on it and note any changes. But I've emailed my specialist ENT just in case he has any ideas.

And then I will take all the taurine and try not to panic. The thought of going back to the endless horrible vertigo is terrifying, and the treatment I had was experimental, so it may not be available for me to get again. I'm trying not to borrow trouble, but I'm kind of primed for anxiety at the moment, especially when I'm dealing with my other physical disability flaring up. I've really enjoyed being able to hear and stand upright and take taxis and so on. I would like to continue doing those things. I don't want to have vertigo ever ever ever again.


Right. Food, taurine, distraction.

EDIT: I thought at this point it was pretty solid internet etiquette to not provide unsolicited medical advice, but for those who missed that memo, here's a clear statement: I do not want medical advice on this topic.

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exhausted, spoons
I think it might be time for me to take a break from Twitter. I mostly spend time on there because it's a convenient source of quasi-socializing and it gives me those tasty dopamine pings. Right now, I'm not feeling very social; we're at an exhaustingly anxious stage of fertility stuff and mostly I want to stay at home, cuddle my people, and nest. I don't mind some socializing--see also: plans to go to BBG--but I want it to be socializing that gets me out of the house and moving around, not socializing that costs me sleep and hurts my arms. Dopamine pings are bad for my sleep, which is especially ungood when I'm stressed out and in pain and generally needing more rest; a few days ago I started leaving my laptop in the guest room at night instead of taking it into my bedroom, and I immediately slept for nine hours per night two nights in a row, which is the sort of thing I definitely need to do more of. It's also really noticeable how much more work I get done when I turn off the interrupt machine. (Turns out this is also a downside of inbox zero: as soon as a message comes in I must deal with it immediately and maintain that clean slate! And then it disrupts whatever else I was doing. So I may have to rethink how I do email too--only checking it periodically, maybe.)

When I think about what I want to be doing with my arm-ergs, I think of work, writing, and PT. When I think about what I want to be doing with my time, I think of spending time with my family, writing, and reading. Twitter doesn't even go on the list. It's not a thing I want to be doing; it's a thing that I do, and a thing that takes me away from things I want to do. Nothing personal to anyone I hang out with there. I really do enjoy your company! I'm just in the middle of a fairly massive priority shift.

I don't know yet whether I'm going to go off of it altogether or limit myself to my nearest-and-dearest list or only go on at specific times or what, but expect to see less of me on the Twitters, at least for a while.

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24 April 2015 17:59 - "Dreamtime"
nerdy, geeky (worksafe), geeky, math
Last night I dreamed that J had offered to write some drivers so I could use a USB trackpad with my laptop, and I was affectionately teasing him about what a silly offer it was because he's not really a programmer. We were walking down the street, someplace with wide roads and low warehouse-type buildings--maybe an ungentrified part of San Francisco. Two women who were standing at a bus stop overheard us, and after J got on the bus? went somewhere else? I started talking with them about how much we all enjoy writing x86 assembly code (which I did enjoy the last time I did it, but that was almost 20 years ago!).

When I woke up, I thought "My dreams are the patriarchy's nightmares!" and smirked a lot.

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24 April 2015 01:39 - "April showers"
trees, spring
I feel like I'm still at a sunshine deficit, even though it's late April. I feel SO GOOD on sunny warm days, and then we get chilly rainstorms and I droop. This is particularly annoying because I usually love spring rain. I did enjoy the lightning and thunder we got the other night, but that was after a wonderful warm muggy afternoon.

Right now it's 40 degrees and the heat just came on. I mean. This is fucking ridiculous.

But it's supposed to be sunny and warm next weekend, and the cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are just hitting their peak, so who wants to go to BBG on Saturday May 2? Sakura matsuri is this weekend, so going next week should let us miss most of the tourists. :)

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23 April 2015 12:04 - "Dreamtime"
contemplative, pensive, thoughtful
I dreamed that X and tithenai and I all went to my high school to retrieve a copy of a paper I'd written. It was buried in the archives in the gym (??) but a nice person eventually dug it up. Then I realized it wasn't on the topic I'd remembered, so it wasn't all that useful to me. Oh well.

Then somehow we ended up in a meadow, in a place with gently rolling hills and occasional stands of trees. There were some small strange half-buildings, with two walls and no roof but all the furnishings, like stage sets; we spent a bit of time exploring them, but they felt very lonely. The queen of the Fae showed up and was annoyed about something, and we had to sing in harmony to appease her. We managed this with reasonable success (singing Heather Alexander's "Dance in the Circle" of all things!) and she left us alone, but the king came over and suggested that we swear allegiance to him instead, so he could protect us in case the queen got angry again. The vast majority of the dreaming-time was taken up with the king making his case and us talking about it. The rest went pretty quickly but when I was doing the wake/doze/wake/doze thing I kept going back to that conversation about swearing allegiance. I think by the time I fully woke up we had decided that he seemed like a pretty decent guy, and that we'd much rather be on his side than the unpredictable queen's.

tithenai had short hair and was wearing a long flowy dress, and the king appeared as a guy in his 30s with short brown hair and beard and a serious expression. He looked a bit like [twitter.com profile] sentencebender, actually. The queen had a face that I can only describe as pugnacious. I have no real visual sense of anyone else who was in either part of the dream.

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trees, spring
In April 2005, we adopted Sam. She was a wee tiny thing and terrified of everything. Now she's an 11-pound middle-aged cat who still acts like a kitten--but a kitten who's affectionate and cuddly, a mighty hunter who just smacked down the first giant bug of the season (I had to deliver the coup de grace, but she definitely gets the RBI), willing to hold her own against the other cats when they get in her face, comfortably at home in every room of the house. At night I turn out the light and she snuggles against my shoulder and lovingly whaps me in the face with her tail. She has no brains in her head whatsoever. I love her with infinite love.

In April 2006, as previously noted, J and I got married. We enjoyed a fabulous low-key honeymoon in Japan, my first-ever trip to Asia.

In April 2007, I started working at PW.

In April 2008, I started really building a friendship with Miriam.

In April 2009, I took on, and aced, my first-ever major freelance copy editing gig. I also started hanging out on Twitter. (Perceptively, I wrote, "Fine, fine, I'll reactivate my goddamn Twitter account. I really doubt I'll use it very much. Five years from now when my thumbs fall off from tweeting (I hate 21st century verbs so much) you can all make fun of me.") And I created my Dreamwidth account.

In April 2010, I danced half the Playford Ball in a tailcoat and the other half in a gown. The me-and-me photo remains tremendously important to me, capturing one of my earliest moments of being explicitly genderqueer within a community that really mattered to me. J and I returned to Japan with his mother and cemented the association of cherry blossoms and our anniversary by climbing Hanamiyama.

In April 2011, I started taking driving lessons.

In April 2012, I ran the Playford Ball.

In April 2013, X and J and I really started becoming a family, and X and I began seriously working out together.

In April 2014, we moved into this glorious home and almost immediately started working on getting X pregnant.

No wonder April always makes me so happy. Good things happen. Good things begin. Hooray for literal and metaphorical springtime. :)

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valour advances
There is this anxious thing I do, that I think a lot of people do: if I know something difficult is coming up, especially a difficult conversation or interaction, I rehearse it in my head. My rehearsing mechanisms go back and forth with my editorial mechanisms, refining what I'm going to do or say and how I'll respond to questions until I'm reasonably certain that I have prepared for every eventuality.

This is apparently also how I write, at least based on how it's gone so far. I pick a scene (either because it follows logically from the one I just left or because I get excited thinking about it) and frame it in terms of interaction; if it's not multiple people interacting, it's an individual interacting with their environment, memories, worries, plans, creative work, etc. Then I turn the scene around in my head and rehearse it a bunch of different ways. If something feels out of character, ahistorical, or otherwise off, I tweak it. Lather, rinse, repeat (sometimes literally--I do a lot of this sort of thinking in the shower).

I focus less on specific words and more on concepts, same as when I'm rehearsing for a real-life event: make sure you express this, but try to avoid discussing that. I don't worry too much about how the scene builds plot, though having characters' different motivations interact almost always develops story to some extent; I'm just getting a sense of how the interactions might go. And the emphasis is on "might": the first time I noticed that I was doing this, it was because I'd caught myself assessing a scene in my head and realizing that there were several different and equally acceptable ways that it could go. That alone was kind of revelatory. I'm not usually so easy-going. :)

When I write the scene down, the written words are like a translucent overlay on the imagined interactions. I fill in a lot of details while I'm writing, things like body language and staging and specific witticisms that aren't relevant to the rehearsals. Then I look at the places where the overlay diverges from the rehearsal and decide which I like better.

I do almost all my writing on Tuesdays, and write maybe 1200 to 1500 words in a day, so I spend most of a week casually exploring possibilities for fairly short scenes. It's a leisurely process. I like it.

The one thing I need to watch out for is that when I'm rehearsing for real-world things, I want them to go as smoothly as possible, whereas sometimes fiction needs to go very badly for one or more people involved. J reminded me today that I struggle with maintaining tension in my longer narratives; I always want to solve all the problems right away! I also tend to keep writing after a scene has already done all the things it needs to do--I guess I just get in the groove, and I don't quite have a sense yet of the natural stopping point--and then it trails off in the fiction equivalent of people awkwardly making small talk at a party because they don't know how to escape. But I'm working on that. I suspect it's going to involve writing a lot of scenes that go like this:

1. setup
2. presentation of problem
3. resolution of problem/unnecessary restatement of problem/hot air

and then cutting part 3 and either throwing it away or saving it for later. I guess this is a type of "writing out of order" but I'm not doing it deliberately; I'm just an amateur writer who doesn't know how not to kill tension yet. :) Fortunately I'm also a decent editor who can spot the problem once I'm looking back at it.

Arm pain is my friend here, oddly. I had to stop writing on Tuesday night because ow, and then I went back on Wednesday and realized that actually that scene had done everything it needed to do. It didn't end in a perfectly resolved way, and that's just fine because I am writing an entire book and individual scenes and chapters don't need to be perfect tiny short stories. :) So I will leave the # at the bottom of the page where Scrivener put it and move on to the next thing, which is probably Nathaniel and Eliza having a fight.

I might even end the scene while they're still--*gasp*--annoyed with each other.

Gosh, that feels wicked and daring. :D

Have I mentioned that I'm having so much fun with this? The slow pace really helps with that too. At 1200 words a week I'll be done in a year and a half or so. That's fine. I'm in no hurry. And I just get to enjoy it.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention the flip side! Of course there is a companion anxiety thing where after I've done something that I feel bad about, I replay it over and over in my head, sometimes years later. Well, I do the post-hoc analysis with writing too... but it's called "revisions" and I get to fix everything I regret. So tremendously satisfying.

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valour advances
Tuesdays appear to be my writing days. 800 words, woo. :) And I get to introduce Nathaniel and Algernon, which I've been waiting for.

A bit of banterCollapse )

Nathaniel does get to banter too, later on. It's just that Eliza and Algernon are both natural wits, and Nathaniel... has other talents.

I'll probably stop posting excerpts at some point but I'm just enjoying this too much not to share it. :)

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13 April 2015 22:26 - "Strength to your arm"
bottoming, pain
After six weeks of the best care I could manage while still working full-time, my arms kept being almost but not entirely better. SO FRUSTRATING. I hate being stuck in the tendinitis paradox:

* More muscle strength will protect the tendon.
* Exercising your muscles aggravates the tendon inflammation.

I really tried to get the inflammation down to the point where I could go back to the gym, and it kept not happening. So today I gave up and went to PT instead. For $30 (same cost as half an hour with the personal trainer at my local gym) I got 20 minutes of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), which strengthens the muscles while ignoring the tendon entirely, and 20 minutes of some of the best and most seriously intense therapeutic massage I've ever received. I said I'd had therapeutic massage before and wouldn't yell, and Ravi the PT did not hold back. Whenever I said "ow" he took that as a sign of a spot to work on harder. I didn't yell. I did bite my lip, and bite my tongue, and hiss, and whimper, and tear up a couple of times. He distracted me from the worst of it by making me repeat his name until I got the rolled "R" right. :) It was really good. Not fun, but good. I'll probably have some splendid bruises tomorrow.

(Physical therapy and kink: sometimes very, very similar.)

Ravi suggested going once or twice a week; I'll aim for twice, knowing that sometimes I'll only manage once. In the meantime, lots of ice and Celebrex and stretching and taking breaks, oh yes.

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Wednesday was my 9th wedding anniversary with J. We went to Delmonico's and had glorious steak and gazed adoringly at each other over the table (seriously, we look like lovesick teenagers when we do this, it's ridiculous). Then we walked all the way up along the Hudson River to Chambers Street, nattering about anything and everything. It was intermittently spitting chilly rain and we didn't care at all.

Today X and I had a wonderful lunch with my mother, and then we walked all around Chelsea and the Village--it was like a movie montage of landmarks. We shopped for useful things and shiny things, wrote heart-baring entries for the Strangers Project, sat in Washington Square and people-watched, and got haircuts. I talked them into buying a stunning necklace at a pop-up flea market. It was sunny and windy and probably too cold for sandals and we didn't care at all.

Tonight the three of us had dinner together and came home and snuggled and giggled and teased and were just a little sappy. It was perfect.

I love my people and my city. I love them so, so, so much.

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valour advances
Shiny new userpic! The typeface is Grit Primer and the image is from an 1813 drawing of a lending library in (I believe) Scarborough:

That library is about five times the size of Nathaniel and Eliza's little shop, but it gives you a sense of the space, and the customers. I love this drawing so much.

On Sunday I felt frantic and overwhelmed by overdue work. I spent all of yesterday working my way through the heap and catching up. Which meant that today I could write. And I actually wrote, putting down the opening scene that's been in my head for months. I cannot begin to articulate what it's like to have the text overlaid on the more nebulous mental concept, or vice versa; there are places where it doesn't quite feel right yet, and somewhere in the back of my head (and trying to come to the front, though I won't let it) I'm already writing editorial notes to myself. But: draft first, revise later. I even caught myself starting to revise when I was about 500 words in, and I made myself stop revising and keep writing. And now the scene's done, at about 1270 actual honest-to-gosh words.

Writing at this length is so freeing! There's room for banter, for character development, for delicate lashings of exposition! I can sneak in the occasional reference to obscure historical figures! (I have helpfully footnoted them in the excerpt below.) I plan to write long, long, long, gloriously long, and cut it down later. 1270 words for just one scene--not even a full chapter! Such a luxurious change from reviewing a book in 200. :D

It's a rough draft it's a rough draft it's a rough draft. I will tattoo these words on my eyelids. But since you've all cheered me on so much, you deserve a peek at the fruits of my research, and so I will stop tweaking the damn thing and just post it. You all understand it can and will change between now and whenever I consider the book actually done, right? Right.

A tasteCollapse )

Positive and supportive comments only, please; I am v. vulnerable around this and not equipped to handle even the smallest and most helpful suggestion. If you think it sucks or you want to go on a rant about people speaking with contractions in 1810 (p.s. they totally did) or you want to make sure I know about the very obscure law forbidding people named Hawthorne from becoming butchers or whatever, I'm sure you can find another place to express those feelings, secure in the knowledge that I will re-research every word of this book once I write those words.

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hug-happy, cat
Yesterday J and X and I were hanging out in the guest room, with cuddly cats and a beautiful breeze. In this room is a bookcase full of my various stuffed animals.

Alex, walking past the bookcase for the dozenth time, suddenly decided a teddy bear was looking at him the wrong way. So he stalked it, and swatted at it. It tilted forward and he fled in terror. Then he came back, stared at it, hissed, and swatted again--and missed, hitting a stuffed turtle that fell on him.

He is now firmly convinced that all stuffed animals are his deadly enemies. We could not breathe for laughing. I didn't have a phone or camera to hand, but even if I had I don't think I would have been able to capture the epicness of it.

The guest room was cat-free until very recently, when we decided that having cats and a couch in the same room trumped the futile effort to have an allergen-free room in a house full of cats and books. That means it's no particular cat's territory. As a result, Sam and Alex are downright amiable toward each other when they're in there, unless Alex gets right up in Sam's face. (Sophie is mostly too nervous to come in, though she did carefully and quietly explore it a bit the other night.) Earlier today Sam was snuggled next to me and Alex hopped down from the windowsill and landed right behind her. She was so confused by this that she didn't even turn around or growl or anything, even when he leaned around to sniff her a bit.

And tonight he was curled up and snoring, and she tentatively reached a paw toward him (from a couple of feet away) and then thought better of it.

I very much hope this newfound peaceful attitude translates into better kitty relations in the rest of the house. Not that they've been bad, but they can always be better.

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5 April 2015 12:21 - "Party time, excellent!"
I dreamed that X and J and I bought a house, a long low house stuffed full of cheap flimsy furniture, somewhere in the country. It was an incredibly ugly house, cramped and narrow with low ceilings, and all the grass around it was withered and dry. We were clearly hoarders; each of us had two beds, and our clothes didn't fit in the closets (if there were closets) so we had them on racks around our rooms like they were showrooms. All that was missing was a truck on blocks in the front yard to complete the portrait of rural American poverty-consumption.

X and I got married and we decided to throw a party. The house was pretty big, despite having a lousy layout, so we made it a BIG party, and soon the place was full of people I didn't know. It was like walking through a house full of Twitter stereotypes: black literary nerds over here, white tech nerds over there. X and J had moved several of the beds into one room to leave other rooms empty for partying. The guests thought we were giving away the clothes on the racks and started trying them on. Everything was in disarray. And at some point J and X got tired of it and left, so I was all by myself, though I found this more vaguely annoying than really distressing.

Shortly before dawn I decided enough was enough. I started going from room to room telling people to knock off the partying and start cleaning up. Everyone was eager to help, and even the drunk people weren't especially clumsy. One guy, who was the walking personification of the slightly woebegone nerdy white dude, had cracked a bed's footboard when he tried to move it, but I assured him we could get a new part from IKEA. Most of my relatives had left, but my mother was passed out drunk in the bathroom (???); I managed to get her somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep it off. The rest of the dream was so repetitive--go into another room, roust the partiers, tell them to put back our clothes and move our furniture back into the right rooms, move on--that I woke up from boredom.

I'm always entertained when part of my brain tries to have anxiety dreams and another part finds solutions to all the anxiety-causing situations.

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My ears itch. I wore earrings tonight for the first time in months, and I swabbed both earrings and ears with rubbing alcohol first but my ears itch anyway.

Last week my therapist asked "Why don't you wear earrings?" and I had to really think about it. It was not a trans-clueless question. (My therapist is awesomely clueful.) What he meant was "Why do you personally make this choice?" rather than "Why don't you conform to femininity?". I don't remember how earrings came up in the first place, but I mentioned that I have an extensive collection of them and almost never wear them. So I have been thinking about that, which means I've been thinking about the times when I wear guy clothes to be a guy vs. the times when I wear guy clothes to be genderqueer.

Note: I am perfectly comfortable using terms like "guy clothes" while knowing that people who aren't guys wear those clothes. I want to distinguish between clothing that's culturally coded as masculine and clothing that's culturally coded as male, and it's the most useful shorthand I've found. Feel free to skip this entry if that phrasing bothers you.

The easy answer to "Why don't you wear earrings?" is "They don't go with my guy clothes". The easy answer is not precisely incorrect, but it is certainly insufficient. I've worn earrings with suits before. They look queer and great. But when my goal is to look as male as possible, they don't serve that purpose.

And then tonight I put on my new purple shirt and thought "I have a platypus pin that matches this" and then "I have earrings that match this" and it was just right.

PhotoCollapse )

I think the key difference between tonight and the past several months of being super-duper male-presenting all the time (to the point where I recently got very firm with a waiter who was calling me "miss" like it was written on me, because if wearing a men's shirt and a men's hat and a fabulously flattening binder doesn't stop people from calling me "miss", it at least gives me the courage to tell them they're wrong) is that tonight I was having dinner with family. I love queering it up for my family. They know me and they love me. They've seen me in gowns and in suits. They know this is who I am and what I do. I wasn't dressing in desperate hopes of going one god damn day without being called "miss" by strangers. I was dressing for a fun night out with people who know me well.

It felt great, start to finish. I've got a version of that photo as my Twitter photo now (with a silly photo filter on it) and I love that you can see the earrings so clearly even at a small size. It looks like me, the whole entire me.

The whole reason I have a purple shirt is that I realized almost all my guy shirts were white or blue and suddenly I got tired of it. That's not just masculine dress--that's a very specific sort of masculine dress. A very mainstream, bland, boring sort. I wanted more options. I wanted colors. I love wearing colors! And while all my femme clothing is solid-color because the focus is on the cut and shape, I'm enjoying stripes and checks and other geometric patterns on my looser men's shirts. I'm developing a real style there that's about the things I like and look good in, and it makes me very happy. I like the blue and white shirts too, but I suspect that in a few years I'm going to give them away, the way I did with a lot of my early experiments in women's businesswear: a necessary developmental stage, but not one I feel a strong urge to return to once I've moved on.

In the privacy of my own room, or in the company of sympathetic people, dressing toward my own concepts of my gender--which remains firmly genderqueer, significantly transgressive, often masculine, and not male--feels so much better, in my body and in my head, than dressing away from being crapped on by patriarchy and cisnormativity.

In the rest of the world, of course, being crapped on still makes me feel like crap.

As the encounter with the waiter makes abundantly clear, there is literally no such thing as me passing for anything other than female, not unless I want to glue on some fake facial hair and take just enough T to lower my voice. And even if I consistently passed as male, that would lose its savor pretty quickly. What I want is to pass as genderqueer. I don't just want to not be perceived as something I'm not; I want to be seen as what I am. That is not possible in this culture and that's... well, that's always going to hurt, if I'm honest. It's hurt a lot over the winter, since I was already feeling pretty vulnerable and low.

On the other hand, when I'm already generally feeling happy and strong, I can also see it as liberating. If wearing a proper blue oxford shirt won't get me so much as a "sir-uh-ma'am", then why not wear lavender? If no one looks at the hat and the shirt and the blazer and the trousers and the loafers and the flattened chest and sees someone who just might not think of themself as female, then why not add earrings to the mix? If I'm very lucky, queering it up will confuse people enough that they won't know how to gender me and will give up trying, which would be a great big step in the right direction.

Lingering depression-brain worries that dressing in a way that feels expressive of my actual self will make me more vulnerable to the pain of being casually misgendered. It will also probably make me more angry. Dressed as male but read as female? Maybe it's my fault for somehow doing it wrong. Dressed as myself but read as not-myself? Well, I can hardly be more myself, at which point I know it's the other person's fault and I get mad. But optimist-brain suggests that dressing in ways that feel good and comfortable will give me strength to deal with unpleasantness, and there's probably some truth there too. And scientist-brain has the best argument: what I've been doing hasn't been getting the desired result, so it's time to try something else. Maybe tomorrow I'll hunt down my jar of jewelry polish and shine up some more of my earrings.

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4 April 2015 00:32 - "My body is ready!"
trees, spring
Spring, cont.:

1) X and I took a lovely two-mile walk after dinner. We saw a wee little adolescent black kitty and X hung out with it while I ran to a bodega and got it a tin of food, which it quite appreciated. This is a very cat-friendly neighborhood (when J and I were out walking on Wednesday we saw three cats, all quite plump) and the weather is getting warmer, so I'm sure tinycat will be fine, but we both really wanted to scoop it up and take it home, or at least TNR. :/ Alas for not being able to have infinite cats.

Anyway, it was an extremely nice walk. I wore sandals! Trees were budding! We got drizzled on just enough! The neighborhood was basically deserted because of the holiday. We admired the rather ludicrous houses near Kingston, overheard occasional bursts of Seder singing and talking through open windows and screen doors, and talked about whatever. It was a perfect date. As a bonus, I got delicious oxtail and rice & peas from the jerk chicken place around the corner before we went home. (Dinner was leftovers from the same place, and small, so after a long walk I was surprisingly hungry.) I must find out what the official name of that place is so I can give it good reviews--not that Yelp is really a thing in this neighborhood, but it never hurts. Mmmm, oxtail.

2) The other day I bought white undershirts that fit, and tonight I washed them, so while I was putting them away and getting rid of the ones that don't fit, I decided to do my summer/winter clothing swap. I keep off-season clothes in a foot locker. I was a little startled to see a big pile of jeans in there, and then remembered that I'd put them away because they didn't fit over my thick winter tights.

Nope, I was wrong. They don't fit over me. And neither do most of my shorts. :( I've only gone up two waist-inches but that's enough. I blame a very inactive winter, between all the snow and the sudden cessation of commuting. Definitely time to go back to the gym, now that my arm is better, and add some cardio to the weights. I keep feeling a weird urge to go running--weird because I've always actively disliked running the times that I've done it--but my knees absolutely would not tolerate it even if I wanted to try indulging that urge. There are plenty of other ways to get moving, though. And more walks! Long, long walks.

In the meantime, all those thick winter tights are in the foot locker now, and the shorts that fit are in the dresser, and I put my winter boots in the closet and put my sandals on the shoe rack.

3) I did finally have to close my windows because my room was cold, but the air in here is still wonderfully cool and fresh. Even through the closed windows I can hear epic alley cat sex happening in the back yard.

I've been getting a lot of California nostalgia lately, which is very unusual, but tonight I have an even more unusual nostalgia for the few months I spent living on East 7th Street. I bet the Village is hopping. The whole city seems to have decided that today is the first day of real honest-to-gosh spring, and we are going to celebrate our asses off.

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trees, spring
My arms appear to be better. Haven't taken Celebrex for two days. Still treating them gently but I think I can go back to the gym next week. This is a huge relief--they were bad for nearly a month.

My mood has been horrible: mostly depressed, sometimes anxious, sometimes both. I blame this wretched endless winter. I have been starving for spring.

Horrible winter mood has meant horrible sleep: staying up until 5 or 6, sleeping badly once I do go to bed. I think I more or less managed to catch up today but will probably need to catch up more over the weekend. It also means I'm struggling to focus on work, both directly because depression and indirectly because poor sleep. I'm managing, mostly, but it's hard. Yesterday was extra super hard because I had to get up early for the presentation; I went to the office, recorded the radio show (nearly falling asleep mid-interview, and not because the interview was boring), went to therapy, had dinner, and went home instead of pulling my usual late Thursday night. I was almost too tired to walk, let alone assign books.

Spring is really here now, though. There are buds on the magnolias and the pear trees and the cherry trees and the unidentified trees outside my bedroom window. BBG set a date for sakura matsuri (a very late date, to no one's surprise, but I was starting to gloomily believe that the trees would simply never blossom at all). Yesterday I drank iced chocolate in Madison Square Park and squinted at the barest fuzz of green creeping across the lawns and around the tree branches, my unnecessary coat bundled into a shopping bag at my feet. Last night I turned off the white noise recording, took off my nightshirt, and opened the curtain and the window; a soft, cool breeze washed over my skin and the city's night sounds murmured in my ear. It was like taking a bath after months in a desert. In that moment I found myself genderless, my thoughts and emotions and sense of self all ebbing away until I was a purely physical being in the physical world--such a relief after these months of mental and emotional turmoil, of being wrapped up in coats and blankets and layers of protective separation from the refrigerated world. Cradled by the breeze and the ambient orange cityglow, I swam off into sleep.

Then the light and noise woke me five hours later, and Sam got all excited that I was awake and started demanding food and cuddles, and I tossed and turned for two hours. Still basically worth it. X graciously released me from my promise to accompany them to an early morning doctor's appointment; I shut Sam out of my room, went back to bed, and slept like a rock.

Now the air is warm and wet and I have the window open despite the chametz smoke that permeates the neighborhood. In a little while I'll get up and go to the office and do all the things I didn't do last night, but it's impossible to tear myself away from the breeze. I have never wanted so desperately to be able to fly, just so I could hover in the air and be completely surrounded by rain and wind and pollen and smoke and spring, spring, spring.

X asked how I was feeling, and I said, "Like spring just came to visit after a year-long LDR: happy but clingy, and suddenly aware of the ravenous wanting that I've been trying to suppress." At least I know the "visit" will last a couple of months before it makes way for summer. By then I may even feel like I've gotten something like enough of spring, or at least enough to tide me over for another year. I am still so desperately needy and hungry. A day of spring can't make up for the slog of winter, five full months of clawing out little bits of warmth and light for myself in the darkness. But the rain is starting to wash away the gloom, and I think I can see my way out.

We're having our Seder tomorrow night instead of tonight, its lateness feeling like another symbol of the season to go with lamb, eggs, baby greens, and what I hope will be the last salt water and bitterness that we taste all year. Let the Christians have their Easter rollercoaster of grief and alleluias. My resurrection begins today.

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On five hours of sleep, I gave a talk to a dozen 11-year-olds about gender non-conforming people in 18th- and 19th-century Western Europe. They asked amazing questions:

"Our parents had to sign permission slips for us to attend this talk. That means transphobia is still a big problem, right?" (I love it when kids call adults on their shit.)

"If gender identity and sexual orientation aren't the same thing, why did you talk about gay people who crossdress?" (GREAT QUESTION that let me talk about how people absorb and interact with culture even when that culture tries to exclude them.)

"Is there any way to know whether James Allen's wife knew that he was transgender?" (Nope. It seems likely that she did, since they shared a house and a bed for 21 years, but anything is possible, and she's not around to ask. Studying history frequently involves saying "we don't know".)

"Do you think America is more accepting than other places?" (I firmly shut down both the idea that America only has one culture and the idea of there being any benefit to playing "we're better than you are".)

"When can we read your book?" (Bless you, child. I have to write it first!)

The last question--from a kid who was clearly doing some serious thinking about their own identity--was "How do you deal with it when people are transphobic?". I managed to answer clearly (I get sad and angry, I lean on people I trust, I heal in safe spaces, and then I grit my teeth and face the world again) while my heart shattered into tiny little pieces.

I talked with that kid a bit afterwards and told them they could get my email address from the teacher and anytime they wanted someone to talk to they could write to me. I emphasized that I really really meant it. Then I thought about it and asked the teacher to give my contact info to all the kids who attended the talk so that no one had to single themself out by asking. (Incidentally, I am super appreciative of the teacher and the school administrators, who were really enthusiastic about the talk and spoke very supportively to me about the gender-questioning kids in the group.) And then I left and did my best not to cry on the subway.

Those wonderful kids. I hope the world is good to them.

I'm pondering ways of publishing the talk, which is suitable for all ages and has a lot of basic gender info wrapped up in fun discussion of entertaining historical figures. It includes a very broad range of gender non-conformity including trans men, masculine lesbians, genderfluid drag queens, fops and dandies, stage performers, and female soldiers. Right now it's a Powerpoint deck of images, with a script in both bullet-point and full-narration format. Runs about 35 minutes. It doesn't have citations but they wouldn't be hard to add. It could be a blog post, a video with transcript, a Cracked.com piece on Seven Amazing Gender Transgressors in History, a something else... but I want to get it out into the world one way or another, in a way that it reaches a lot of educators. Making $3 a download or something would be nice but isn't essential. Thoughts welcome.

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28 March 2015 02:40 - "Begin as you mean to go on"
candle, birthday
Happy 14th anniversary to this journal (a day late, almost to the minute if one goes by the timestamp on my first entry). That's the longest I've consistently kept up with anything other than, like, breathing.

My first day on LJ, I made five posts: one meta plus daily diary, one about staying up until 4:30 making art, one with a to-do list, one about interpersonal difficulties and trying to understand myself better, and one about body shape and weight and physical self-image. That's pretty much what I've used it for ever since. I've changed a great deal over the past 14 years, but I still feel strongly drawn to examine and muse about my inner and outer selves, my inner and outer lives, and this is still the best medium I've ever found for it.

LJ/DW aren't as conversational and social as they were, but I have Twitter for that now (as I had IRC and Usenet then), and I think I also need the commentary and discussion less than I did. How funny that I started out keeping this journal as a way of interacting with other people, and along the way it also taught me how to do the thing most journals are for: write for myself. I certainly don't mind if someone reads it, but I also don't mind if no one does. I think I'd still find it extremely hard to keep a purely reflective journal in a paper book or a file on my personal computer--there's something important about doing this as a public exercise, and about being part of our increasingly tangled digital web--but I'm no longer constantly refreshing my inbox waiting for the next comment email to land. In fact, I'm always vaguely surprised when someone does comment. :)

I keep fumbling around theatrical metaphors, but "performance" implies a degree of artifice that I've always tried to avoid in this space (and, over time, in all spaces). I'm not onstage, you're not the audience, and there's no row of footlights between us. I'm not even sure why I'm looking at metaphors when it's so easy to state it plainly:

This is where I talk about myself and my life. Sometimes other people come by and we talk together. Sometimes I talk to myself. That's what the space is designed for, and it works very well. It's comfortable. I like it. I think I'll stay around a while longer.

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examined head, introspective
Just briefly making links between my recent post on the joys of not being necessary and a 2012 post about falling asleep at parties and in 2004 about "the lovely shock of being reminded that there are tremendous parts of the world that do exactly as they please without depending on me in the least" and also in 2004 about singing in choruses (literally and metaphorically). I assume there are others between 2004 and 2012 on the same topic, in one way or another, but those are the links that came to hand today.

Moments of glorious unnecessity are so essential to balance out the dreadful weight of feeling responsible for making the sun rise, and to teach me alternatives to submerging my self in another person's need for me. I know I've written a lot about those feelings too.

I have always been me, apparently.

I keep looking for a way to link in my "being useful" tag, but I think that's actually orthogonal to concepts of necessity, because it's all about making the choice to offer assistance. Utility is a surface thing, a satisfaction that doesn't dig too deeply into the psyche. Need is... deeper.

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thank you, relief, improvement
(Quote source because I can't put the entire song in a subject line.)

I used to get a huge ego thrill out of giving people useful, wanted advice or help. And I still do, occasionally... but I like it even better when someone else gets there first so I don't have to. I mean, I never have to, at least in the sense of outside obligation, but in the past I've been in situations where I felt like I was the only one who could help--because I had unique knowledge or insights or there was no one else around--and it's just so incredibly refreshing when someone else steps up with their own unique knowledge or insights, or in any way at all that relieves me from being on point. I was going to say "refreshing when I can delegate" but that implies authority I don't have. I get the same sense of relief when I delegate a task to someone who I have faith in, though, or when a partner seeks support from one of their other partners. It's a thing that's off my plate, off my mind. I feel freed to deal with other things where I am actually the only person who can do it.

Sometimes I open up the recent posts list on FOCA, pick some threads where I think I might be able to help, read them, nod along with the other advice people have given and admire the things they thought of that I didn't, and then close the tab with a sense of pure contentment. I rarely even feel the urge to chime in, and I never feel an obligation. It's not because everyone else there thinks the way I do; I have apparently moved past the notion that My Way Is the Right Way and Other Ways Are Wrong. It's because everyone else there offers advice and support in ways that strike me as entirely sufficient. I have apparently also moved past the notion that sufficiency lies only in perfection--meaning My Right Way, of course. Hooray, evidence of gradual maturity.

I keep using and deleting "have to" phrases. The obligation is so clearly internal, coming from the same place as the OCD feeling that I am the only one who can do a thing correctly and no one else can be trusted. It feels so good to prove that feeling wrong. I really dislike its desperate urgency. The further I can get from that, the better.

I recently reread this very emotionally raw post from May 2001 where I pondered the perils of being necessary. At the time I wanted to be needed but was pretty sure it was bad for me. Now I have a slightly more nuanced view: I like being valued and important in situations I choose, like my job or being someone's partner, but I don't like being valued and important in ways that I didn't choose, and I really don't like being necessary in the sense of there being no backup plan or safety net if I want or need to step away. The OCD positioning of my obsessive self as the guardian of perfection quickly transmutes into pure stress and anxiety as I try to do everything while regarding everyone else with suspicion. I can't really turn off the part of me that's constantly checking whether I need to be doing or fixing something, but how lovely it is to look around and be reasonably confident that everyone else is doing a perfectly fine job and I don't actually need to do anything at all.

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15 March 2015 03:36 - "YOUR CAT THOUGH."
hug-happy, cat
X, on IM: Ugh, bad dream.
R: Want hugs?
X: Yes pls.

I go across the apartment into X's room. They relate the details of the dream. I give them lots of hugs.

X: It was awful and gross.
R: You poor thing. I'm sorry.
X: I know it sounds innocuous but it felt terrible.
R: I understand completely.
X: And the worst--
Sam, in the distance: *begins making a horrifying, indescribable noise*
X: --what the fuck.
Sam: *gets louder*
X: Okay, checking on your cat gets priority.
R: No, I'm pretty sure that's the "I killed it" song.
Sam: *sounds like a yodeler using a jackhammer*
X: Uh.
R: Hang on.

I go across the apartment and into my room. Sam looks up proudly from a crumpled piece of paper. I go back.

R: Yep, it was the "I killed it" song. She killed a bit of paper.
X: Holy shit. She sounded like a pig on a treadmill.
R: I thought she sounded like she was being attacked by an octopus.
Sam: *begins yodeling again*
R: I should have taken the paper away.

I go back into my room and take the paper away. Alex has come to see what all the fuss is, so I toss it to him. I pick Sam up, carry her into X's room, and put her down in her usual spot at the foot of the bed.

R: I took it away and gave it to Alex.
X: Good plan. That noise!
R: She used to do that all the time when we lived in Inwood. She'd kill packets of cough drops, or tubes of lip balm, and sing the "I killed it" song outside my door at 2 a.m.
X: I had never heard it before. It is not like anything of this earth.
Alex, in the distance: *bats the crumpled paper*
Sam: *jumps down from the bed and goes out to see what the noise is*
R: If they start fighting over the ball of paper I'm... just going to let it happen.
Cats: *scamper*
X and R: *hysterics*

I go out and find that Alex has cornered Sam under a bookcase. I chase him away. Alex glares at me like I ruin all his fun, which I do. I leave Sam under the bookcase and go back into X's room.

R: So anyway! Uh, pat pat, there there, I'm sorry you had a bad dream.
X: I think the moment is past. ...That's not a bad thing.
X: I've never sincerely thanked someone for killing the mood before!
R: If nothing else, she is extremely effective at providing comic relief.
X: She sounded like a pig on a treadmill, I swear.
R: I'm sticking with the octopus attack.
X: It was totally fucking bizarre, whatever it was.
R: You realize this whole thing desperately needs to be blogged.
X: You go ahead and do that. I'm going to go to the bathroom, stare at pictures of cute things until my eyes bleed, and go back to sleep.

And now Sam is washing herself on the foot of my bed as though none of this ever happened.

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