The light in the darkness is always there: personal postives

Here’s a fact: I am, by nature, a negative person.

I know this, and I have always known this.  Given a situation, I am most inclined to look towards the worst possible outcome.  I can find out a hundred ways in which something can go wrong.  Given enough time, I will discover more.  Is it any wonder that I am someone who is inclined towards depression?

I have to fight that negative bent pretty much every day of my life.  When I was younger, I often didn’t fight it very hard.  I spent a lot of time mired in depression, mired in the negative.  I wasted a lot of time there.  Sometimes it makes my heart hurt to think of how much time I wasted.  And there’s another moment lost to the negative.

I’m a mother now (a thing which, at times, still startles me), and while I still naturally lean towards the negative, I try harder to fight it.  I want my son to grow up in a world where he gets to keep his cheeky grins, his laughter.  I want his natural bent to be towards the positive.

The trick is how to do this.  I believe, as a parent, that one of my roles is to provide boundaries to my son.  It’s very, very easy, to get lost in this, to become the kind of parent who exists almost as a boundary themselves.  It’s easy to focus on the fact that your child didn’t listen to you, isn’t doing this, isn’t doing that.  And in doing so, you miss all the things that your child is doing.

I look around me for examples of people who focus on the positives.  And, sadly, on some days, it’s hard to find them.  Especially online, where, on some days, everything seems to be drama and passive aggression and plain old aggression.

And then it occurs to me that I have one of the best examples in the world.  My mother.  Over the last decade or so, life has given her more than enough stumbling blocks.  She’s dealt with family issues that aren’t mine to go into in public, she’s lost her husband.  And yet every day, she wakes up and makes the world a better place.  She is one of the few people I know who genuinely listens when she asks someone how they are.  She smiles at everyone, and goes out of her way to talk to people. She does small things for people, like bringing in their bins after they’ve been emptied.  Few people thank her for this, but she does it anyway.

And I think about the ways that I can bring this into my own life.  Even the small things make a difference – like thanking people when they do something for you, like asking the name of the person who’s serving you in a store, like giving formal, positive feedback when that same person is doing a damn good job.

Most days I live a very quiet life.  I’m a writer, so I’m holed up at home, in front of my computer.  And in case anyone wonders how on earth this fits in with having a small child, look to the example of my mother – she watches my son for a few hours every day so I can work.  But there are things I can do, even here.  One of my favourite things to do is send friends books in the mail – books that I think will bring something into their world.  I try to comment on blogs, especially when posts touch me.  It’s all too easy to feel like we’re just tossing words into a void, and what’s the point in being connected by the internet if we’re not actually connecting?  I buy books published and written by friends and I read them.  I review books, I give feedback to podcasts that make a difference in my thinking and writing.  I try to give back, as much as I can.

I am acutely aware of the privilege of my life.  I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.  These days, I am in relative good health, and the healthcare I need is available and affordable to me.  I have a roof over my head.  I am warm.  I am loved.

I want to be someone who reflects that back into the world.  And I think that is a large reason why I write.  The darkness and the negative always creeps in there, but I always want to reflect hope as well.  I don’t know if I always succeed in that, but it’s my aim.

And so I write.  I hug my son and tell him that I love him.  I send people random presents in the mail.  I tell people how much they mean to me.  I buy their artwork, their jewellery, spread awareness of their work.  And one day, I’ll probably be the person bringing in their neighbours bins, even though they never get thanked.  And hopefully I’ll be smiling while I’ll do it, no matter what.

Breaking silence

So, I’ve been quiet over here again.

Part of it has been the fact that I’ve taken a step back from all social media.  Facebook, especially.  I’m just tired of passive aggressiveness, plain old aggressiveness, and everything meaningful getting lost in a flood of memes, reposts and arguments.

I have been blogging, just in a more private space.  And I had considered taking the blog section on this website down.  I figured it wasn’t really giving me anything.  That I would be better off just spending my time writing.

But then Mur Lafferty posted about why she hasn’t been blogging or podcasting much of late, and it has one reason: depression.

I have a long history of struggling with depression.  I don’t make any secret of that, nor do I see a reason to.  I didn’t choose my genetics or my brain chemistry in that regard.  I do choose what I do about it.

I am currently off medication for depression, something that I am damn proud of.  Frankly, when the depression was really bad, I needed it.  But when things are stable, you know what that medication is (for me, I’m not speaking for anyone else here)?  It’s a crutch.  It’s a way to stay numbed, to not have to deal with normal emotion as well as the depression.

I didn’t really realise that until I came off it.  And I came off because I was sick of the side effects, and I wanted to see how my brain chemistry was now that I’m sleeping well, eating well, exercising and working meaningfully.  And in terms of the overt depression, I’m doing okay.  I do have some mood swings, and I know that my fuse is shorter than when I am medicated.  But in general, everything feels better.  A lot better.

What I hadn’t realised is how engrained some of the thinking styles had gotten.  I did a lot of work with a therapist recently on this (and, as an aside, if you have depression or anxiety and you’re only relying on medication, get yourself to a good therapist Right Now.) and I’m realising that I have a way to go.

Because, you see, like Mur, I wasn’t posting because I figured no one would want to read what I had to say.

The state of the internet feeds into this so much.  We’re all on Facebook, posting bite-sized updates on Twitter.  Few people seem to want to sit down and write real blog posts now, and fewer are commenting, unless there’s something they want to argue.  And I am just as guilty of the not commenting.  There is just so much information being flooded over us every day, and it’s damn hard to find the time and energy to give something meaningful back.

We are all so connected, and yet we’re drifting further apart.  And for some of us, with the black voice of depression whispering to us, we figure that’s how it should be.  That no one would want to hear us anyway, so why bother?

I am bothering.  And I am saying a hearty fuck you to depression and the thinking that leads there.  Because if even one person reads what I write and finds meaning in it, then it’s worth it.

 

Links are much belated

 

prints available at etsy.

Great opening sentences from classic fantasy novels.

Lifehacker’s ultimate guide to sleeping better.

Justine Larbalestier talks about the purpose of bad books.

Jay Lake talks about writing and impossible things.

What is intense parenting and why are mothers who do it so darn unhappy?

SF Signal mind meld: Non-fiction books about science fiction that should be in every fan’s library.

The Avengers painted as epic fantasy heroes.

Justine Larbalestier talks about writers and editors

Chuck Wendig talks about 25 bad writer mistakes.

 

Lessons from the slush pile

And now, another lesson from my slush reading experience.

Sometimes, you will get to read something awesome.  Something that will make you cry, and will stick in your head long afterwards.  And sometimes you will get to see that author squee afterwards about selling their story (note that no author names are attached when we get them as slush) and you will be so, so happy.

And sometimes that story will be so good that you’ll be convinced that it was actually one of the stories you read for the Hugos and will drive yourself a little nuts wondering why it wasn’t in your Hugos folder so you can just vote for it, dammit.

Yeah, sometimes reading slush is absolutely awesome.

 

An unintentional hiatus

So, I had been all gung ho on blogging here every day.

And then I started the couch to 5k program, and promptly injured both knees on the second week.  Now, after a lot of physio and a lot of exercises, we’ve figured out that it’s not a structural problem with my knees (thank goodness, especially since both of them make rather horrid crunching sounds when moving) but actually problems with my hips and muscles basically not doing what they’re supposed to.  It’s improving, but I still can’t walk more than about 200m without being in pain and limping.

The basic gist of this is: I’ve been in a lot of pain from it, and I haven’t been sleeping well because of the pain, and because I haven’t been able to get enough exercise.

And, as a result, I’ve been a grumpyguts.  I’ve also been dealing with some side effects of coming off medication, which has made that even worse.

Naturally (I suppose), I haven’t really been accomplishing much of anything.  I’ve been writing, because turning up to the page is what I do, no matter what, but everything else has kind of been piling up.  I need to kick my own arse into gear and get back into the routine of it all, dammit.  Maybe starting to blog here again properly will help a little.

The ironic thing is that I’m pretty much used to pain.  Fibro pain is always, always there, no matter what, and has always been there since I was about thirteen.  But it’s like background static, except when it flares badly.  I feel like a wuss for how badly this knee/hip issue has derailed me.  But I am working on strength, working with my physio, and I will get back there.  Walking first, then running very slowly.

And for the record, a couple of wise people have pointed out to me the huge injury rate that couch to 5k produces – I think it’s an awesome thing for some people, especially if you’re already somewhat used to exercise and have no muscular or joint programs, but for true couch potatoes (of which I categorically was not one when I began, being used to walking 3-4km daily), a much slower program is probably a much wiser choice.

 

Bloodstones TOC announced, featuring me!

 

It is with much squee that I can announce that my story, The Skin of the World, will be appearing in the upcoming Ticonderoga Publications anthology Bloodstonesedited by Amanda Pillar.

For those following along with the patchwork quilt of my writing worlds, The Skin of the World is a prequel to the novel I’ve been working on (which is currently in a very messy draft that needs to be stripped to the bone), The White Raven, and also takes place in the same universe as Narthex, which was published in In Bad Dreams 2: Where Death Stalks.  Yes, I like having interconnected stories!

Here’s a little peek into how awesome this is for me – not only do I get to work with Amanda again, who is an amazing editor (she was co-editor for Grants Pass), but there’s also this: a few months ago, I sat down and started making a list of goals I’d like to achieve with my career, including some of the publishers that I’d like to sell stories (or longer works) to.  And Ticonderoga was on that list 🙂

The awesome table of contents:

  • Joanne Anderton, “Sanaa’s Army”
  • Alan Baxter, “Cephalopoda Obsessia”
  • Jenny Blackford, “A Moveable Feast”
  • Vivian Caethe, “Skin”
  • MD Curelas, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”
  • Thoraiya Dyer, “Surviving Film”
  • Dirk Flinthart, “The Bull in Winter”
  • Stephanie Gunn, “The Skin of the World”
  • Richard Harland, “A Mother’s Love”
  • Pete Kempshall, “Dead Inside”
  • Penny Love, “A Small Bad Thing”
  • Karen Maric, “Embracing the Invisible”
  • Christine Morgan, “Ferreau’s Curse”
  • Nicole Murphy, “Euryale”
  • Jessica Otis, “And the Dead Shall be Raised Incorruptible”
  • Dan Rabarts, “The Bone Plate”
  • Erin Underwood, “The Foam Born”
Bloodstones will be released in October 2012.