Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Which I Try Not To Make A Point

So, a few days ago, I got into a discussion with a good friend and avid reader of mine *waves* wherein we discussed her desire for a boyfriend, and where this came from, and how she might approach this from a healthy perspective. This happens a lot. People come to me for romantic advice, sometimes because they just want to be able to disregard everything I say if they don't like it, but also because a lot of the time, in order to recognize how backwards your own behavior is, you really need to find someone who you literally cannot justify it to. And I'm very good at making o.O? faces when the subject of wanting a boyfriend comes up.

For background info, I identify as an asexual aromantic, which are two imperfect terms that imperfectly define what was, for many years, utterly indefinable. They are, essentially, the lesser of two evils (the more evil is me having to explain that in my case, no means never, and no, I don't have a reason for that, beyond it's what I want. Which you would think would be absolutely fine, but has netted me a few thousand o.O? faces over time, and a lot of really disgusting, invasive questions that people actually feel the right to expect answers to.) Of the two of them, asexual is most apt, as I do not now, nor have I ever, to my knowledge, had any real desire for sex. I don't actually believe sexuality is finite, but nor do I believe, at this age and stage, that my own feelings will change. So there's always that thought in the back of my head, "yes this could change, but it probably won't." Really, it's easier keep the label that says it won't because, well, people don't take it well, to be honest, and I don't need everybody hanging on so tightly to that 'maybe.' Aromantic is an unfair term, I think. I am not aromantic. I am a total romantic sap, I just don't want that for myself. I build strong friendships, without which I would be a sour and dried up corn husk doll, and my dear love and I share a wonderful connection without which my world would be, let's say, less than what it is now. But I do not fall in romantic love, or desire whatever that next level is. My feelings have always been that being in love is when you are attracted to your best friend in the world. I'm sure in many ways, I have it wrong, and invite more romantic asexuals than I to explain this, because, as I recently uncovered, I really don't get it. So my friend and I discussed, and since neither of us could pinpoint what she wanted a boyfriend for, exactly, I advised her to think more about the kind of boy she wanted, rather than where she might find one available to her. So then I got all thinky, and went to another friend, who also wanted a boyfriend.

The conversation from there played out a bit like when my six-year-old nephew tried to explain to me what his Bakugan toys were for. He put the little toys on the cards, and when they opened, he announced we were battling. At which point, I, trying to indulge him, said, "Okay, what do I do?"
"Do? You do just like that. They battle now."
"Okay." I move to pick it up.
"No! Don't move it! They have to battle."
"Okay, so what do we do?"
"Don't do anything."
"Okay? So what are they for?"
"This is what they're for."
"Okay. But what do they do?"
"Well, they're for battling."
"Okay. But what are we doing with them?"
At which point he threw up his hands and announced, "You don't do anything with them! They just do that!" And me saying,
"I don't think I'm very good at this."
"No. You don't know how to play this, do you?" Out of the mouths of babes.

This, was kind of like that. I kept saying over and over, "What is a boyfriend for?" And my friend would list several things that a hypothetical boyfriend does, or that she believes he would do. And I would ask how it was different, when hypothetical boy does it, versus when other friends or family do. And she would be unable to explain. And there would be much head-scratching on my end. Occasionally, I would attempt to reconcile what I was hearing with what was happening in my head. I would ask what a boyfriend did differently, and she would say, "It feels different, when a boyfriend does it." and I would say, "Because you're attracted to him?" and she would say, "Not just that." And then, more head-scratching. Which culminated in the twenty-something's version of my six-year-old nephew, where she finally suggested that perhaps it was harsh of me to be all, "Pfft who needs it?" when some people did feel they needed it. At which point I began the same explanations I have given since puberty, when people started looking at me funny every time I dared say no:

I'm not all, 'pfft, who needs it?' Really. I am a very romantic person. I'm just not sure what it's for. If you have feelings for someone and you act on them, that's awesome. If there's only potentials, right and left, or not enough potentials, and you keep waiting for the potentials to show up, that's where I get confused. And part of me wants to take the easy road and just say it's socialization, that we're just led to believe that there are certain things we're supposed to have, and that's one of them. But that is just so narrow-minded and unfair, and people keep insisting there's more to it than that. So, if you're an asexual who is not currently in a relationship, but wants to be in one, could you please explain how this works? Because I keep coming up empty.

 I do not want to alienate my friends, and I also don't want to be throwing psychobabble at them all the time. I know that I'm the one who's different, and I'm not asking people to prove how they feel, but I feel that I am missing something important from the equation here, and I would hate to see it giving me some prejudices of my own. I have mentioned my dislike for both of Hannah's mothers. Well... Not so much dislike. Marissa, Hannah's biomom, gets pregnant as a teenager. She is irresponsible and silly as both a teenage almost-parent, and as an adult in an established relationship with a child she is actually raising. Because that doesn't change much, I don't feel guilty about the whole teenage mom = irresponsible thing, because I think it's pretty clear that the character herself is flawed in that way, not so much her circumstances. But then, after the whole Amanda Palmer hipster racism thing, I certainly don't want to be a hypocrite.

Jane, Hannah's mom, is, by contrast, a smart and well-educated woman, moderately successful and comfortable in her own skin, but she is deeply damaged by grief, and pressured by her well-meaning friends to move on with her life, ie, find someone else, after the death of her husband. Coupling that with her overprotectiveness around Hannah, who is not quite the child she appears, and does not need her mother as much as Jane wishes she was needed, and Jane is also a very flawed character. I know these flaws are necessary, that they fit with the story, but I'm not sure Jane is weak or damaged enough to have a serious relationship with the kind of man she winds up with. And therein lies the guilt. Because, while I am not stupid enough, nor enough of a victim-blaming asshole, to believe that is only the weak and vulnerable (read: desperate) women who fall for that kind of man, I know what the rest of the world expects to see. And I need to make this fit, and I need it to work in a story, and I need it to make sense to other people. And that really sucks. Because everybody believes that women just need men, or just desperately want men, and therefore, that should be answer enough. And I don't believe that, and I'm not sure how to write like I do, and still be honest.

I can admit I'm not always a good feminist. I listen to music and watch movies that many would consider problematic. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt more often than they deserve it. I let things go because I know there are people with more of a stake in it than I, who are fighting, and quite frankly, sometimes, I've got enough to fight for, and I only have so many spoons to hand out on any given day. (Yes, I know, you'd never know it from the rage posts, would you?) Though I try to use correct language whenever I can, and accept criticism when it is warranted and constructive, I am sometimes ridiculously clueless about what is wrong about what and why. I don't want to be saying, "Teenage mothers are silly and irresponsible." My mother, and several other members of my family, were or are teenage parents. Not all of them, but many of them have done wonderful jobs, and were or are much better at being mothers than they were at being teenagers. But I am not going to take it for granted that people might make that leap, and it might be me showing up in somebody's rage post as a hypocrite, someday. (Oh, Goddess, if I ever become that important to somebody, I promise I will stay as receptive to criticism as my fragile self-esteem allows.) I don't want to say, "If a woman wasn't so desperate to be in a relationship, she would have more sense, and not pick that guy." Because that is both nonsensical, and totally not my area. Also not at all what I want to say. But I can't be sure that it won't be taken that way. So I get nervous and paralyzed, and don't write, and hate myself. And then I choose between hating myself for not writing, or hating myself for writing something that is absolute crap. Or, hating myself because I'm writing something I have absolutely no right to be writing. Far be it from me to add to the slew of 'evidence' of things that are not actually true. But. I've never claimed to be a political person. This is a recent discovery, and I make fumbling attempts to learn, and try to do what is right. Whereas, I am, as I mentioned, first and foremost, a teller of stories. If the story says we go left, then we go left.

*fretfretfret* <--- are you tired of me yet?

So, recently, I've been reading this book. I won't give you the name or author just yet, I haven't finished it and don't know if it's one I want people to read. It's one of those 'devil's spawn' books, you know the kind I mean, where there's this otherwise cherubic and adorable child, who happens to be 'evil' and the 'evil' is explained away by some kind of demon parentage. It's an older book, I think 70s or 80s, around the time that sort of thing was popular and still really scary. And while I'm reading it just for fun, I can't help but notice some things. There's a lot of religion, for one thing, which, duh, is kind of expected. But there's also a lot of cliche. The mother of this demon child is a single, younger women, who became pregnant 'young' (the book assumes we know what 'young' is) and then married an older man who is overcome with both lust, and the desire to take care of her. (These things apparently go hand in hand) And I'm really hoping he is murdered in some grisly way, but I'm pretty sure it's the mother who's going to get it. And I'm really annoyed that I know that.

The stuff I think and feel and believe worms its way in my writing. That's a huge part of the reason I have this blog. Before, I used to put it in notebooks, kind of siphon off the stuff that was just brain fodder from the stuff that was actually part of the story. Sometimes, the fodder works its way in the story. In the first installment of Hannah, I mention a story I once read in a Bruce Coville anthology, something to do with dolphins, and their immense brain power, and the effects it might have on a person, or lesser being. So in the second book, I continued on with dolphins. The third book never came to fruition, aside from a few lists and notes, my favorite of which reads simply, what to do with the damn dolphins? My more deeply held beliefs are also prominent. Hannah's mother Jane is a choice mom, which is something I hope to be myself someday. The entire concept of the character herself lies in the fact that children and their experiences and intuition is often overlooked and discounted, a feeling that, as a person with a disability, as well as an asexual, both things which many people think denote a lack of maturation, has followed me from childhood, through adolescence, to adulthood. You would think this translates to me telling you that maybe, deep down I do believe in those cliches, but I sort of feel like the opposite is true. Like Hannah's appearance, I think I sort of just assumed that if I wrote it that way, if I wrote a strong woman with one case of bad judgment, managed to be fooled by someone charming and interested in her who also happened to be an abusive asshole, people would believe it. And now, that shrewd editor is kicking in again, and it's just not enough.

In the Mary Sue post, I mentioned that a good writer can make even the most unbelievable characters make sense. So in theory, I can make this work. In theory, there was some reason my fourteen-year-old self chose that as a catalyst, and my eighteen year old self didn't see enough wrong with it to go a different way. In theory, it was more than just laziness and working with a cliche I could not have even known existed then. (I was just as O.o? about relationships as a teenager, only with a lot less experience, and therefore unable distinguish what my hormonal and insecure friends thought was normal, and what was actually me genuinely missing something other people had.) In theory, I should be able to pin this down, and spread it out like a butterfly on a cork board, so that it looks like exactly what it is, one person, in one circumstance, that, in context, makes perfect sense. Of course, said theory also depends on me being a good writer. So. We've come back to that. The truth is, like I said, the stuff we think and believe will worm its way in there, and if I'm a good writer, the stuff I think and believe will too, and people will know better. I'll maybe get some people calling me on it, but I will at least be able to explain how it is what it is.

I still really hate how tempting it is to take the easy road.

x fingers for me

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cross-Section of Self-Esteem


This is a small sample of what goes on in my head, while writing, say, the average Hannah pages. In no particular order:

1. Oh, I hope I can get more writing done today than yesterday.
2. How do I spell that again?
3. Shoot. I've mentioned this person before. What was his name again? *roots around to find it*
4. Four hours writing? pfft. Easy. I'll do five hours tomorrow *A.N: this doesn't work. don't do it!*
5. Wow. That was actually really good. Celebratory tea break!

This is a small sample of what goes on in my head, while editing, say, the last screenplay I completed.

1. What? (sometimes I throw scenes in just to hit the page requirement. Sometimes I can't decipher my own shorthand. Sometimes I don't realize how much time I have spent on useless exposition, or how little exposition I've actually written.)
2. Y'know, for a writer, I am actually crap with words.
3. Oh my God. I am capable of so much better than this!
5. ...This is still not as bad as that thing in '07. We have hope.

This, dear readers, is a small sample of what goes on before I hit the "publish post" button on this blog.

1. I'm stupid.
2. Nobody cares what I think.
3. Other people are so much better at this than I am. (In my defense, this is actually true. True, but irrelevant.)
4. I can't even spell. (Very true. Seriously. Thank Goddess I have such lovely people in my life, who can actually do this for me.)
5. It's not that I don't deserve to have an opinion. It's that it's a stupid one, and people shouldn't be forced to listen to it.

You see the problem, yes? There is a slight disconnect between what is going on in my brain, and what I think is going on in my brain. Sadly, I do not know which is accurate. It terrifies me to think I could write something really good, and hate it, just because I wrote it. Because Due Date is coming up fast, and, without a traditional publisher, editor, or marketing team, my success depends on how good I think I am, because it's up to me to convince other people. And I get really nervous when I think about that, because I don't know if I'm going to be able to do it.

Logically, I know that I have readers. People read this blog and like it, and link it in places I never expected them to. I thank you for that, by the way. I also know that self-loathing is the cornerstone to any artistic pursuit, and that part of the reason this blog is so nerve-wracking is because it is true. It isn't things wrapped up in story form that are meant to entertain, it's who I am and what I think. Seriously, you should see the anxiety-ridden nightmares after each rage post. As I discussed in my earlier posts, oftentimes, even among friends and family, who, regardless of my many and varied issues with them, are not such terrible people, generally speaking, I am seen as far too Other to have a valid opinion on anything. I am too different for my thoughts and feelings on any particular thing to have any bearing on anyone else's life. I know that is not true, but subconsciously I seem to have accepted this as truth. It does make writing difficult, as we are supposed to 'write what we know' and I certainly can't make the worlds I invite you into any more 'normal' than the one I inhabit. Perhaps this is my failing as a writer.

It has taken me years to get to this point, but honestly? I love editing and rewriting. I do. I love it because that is the point where I look at what I've done and I go, "oh hell, this sucks." And then I fix it, until it stops sucking. My dear love asked me recently, as I was whining and complaining about first drafts, as I am wont to do, (as we have clearly seen) how did I know when it was worth saving? Why continue on if it's going to be this hard? It's not something I can explain. I get through the first draft, and then I know. In the end, the finished products are mine, but the stories come from in the ether, and they are gifts. When I'm finished the first draft, I can see whether I'm going to be able to use the gift I've been given the way it's intended to be used. That's the best way I know to explain it. Hannah has been through enough incarnations, and each incarnation improves, and I know the story is there. The story is not the problem, it's my ability to write it that waxes and wanes. So I don't know, until that first draft is done, and I can see what sort of thing I'm working with. There've been scripts and novels where I get through three or so drafts and go, "I have no idea what I'm saying." And I have to put it down. Sometimes twenty or thirty, sometimes a hundred to a hundred and fifty pages in, I have to go, "Whatever this is, I'm not up for it." That sucks. Anyone who's been through that, you know. Anyone who hasn't, go pat yourself on the back for your brilliance. I am in awe of you, fortunate one.

There's a quote in one of the most amazing books on writing in my possession, Elizabeth Ayers' Writing The Wave. I'm serious, pick it up, wherever you can, and do everything this woman tells you to do. It's that good. Anyway, at one point, she quotes Michaelangelo, who said, when someone asked him if carving the statue David was hard, that it wasn't. He just carved everywhere the statue wasn't. Ayers says, as writers, we have the harder job. First, we make the marble. Then we carve it. So I always need to see what manner of marble I am working with. And Hannah has already been made in so many versions and shaped so carefully over time, and I understand it, and I know that it's worth something, so I keep going. And I can't wait til I can look at this latest incarnation and go, "That goes out, that stays in." It's exciting. Like having a baby when you get those charts like they have at a hospital, and you go, "and now its eyelids are forming, and now you can see its fingers and toes..."

A couple summers ago, I was putting the finishing touches on a script that I had been tinkering with for omgtwoyears. For Hannah, that's young, but for a screenplay, it was astronomical. And my dear love was feeling anxious and uncertain, because he had the arduous task of telling me when it sucks. It could have destroyed our relationship (this job has, in fact, destroyed relationships in the past), but after much hand-wringing, he was suitably honest, and told me where I was messing up, where I was not being enough, where I was being less than I was capable of being. And thus, he commenced in fretting, and reminding me that he actually had no idea how I do what I do, and I was obviously not required to listen to him. And I thanked him profusely, and then I got better. It's very rare to find a draft-reader who can help me to get better, as most are intent on reassuring me I don't suck. Which, come to think of it, is kind of like how, when I present my asexual, non-relationship-seeking self, people hurry to inform me, and others around me, that I absolutely could get a boyfriend, if I wanted one. In case I didn't already know that. Whatever, it's rude and unhelpful, and I have made mistakes and people have not been right for the job, but I'm fortunate now, and worry about that less. Fortunate, and doomed to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

I keep going because I can't not do it, but not because I have any particular faith in myself that it will pan out. I'm a stubborn fool. This is just how it is, just what I do, and I don't know if I can make that worth somebody else's while or not. So I really want to take a second to, again, thank any readers I happen to have, for listening, for wanting to listen, for helping me to improve, and for knowing what I talk about, when I need to be introspective and talk about The Artist's Journey for a second. I know I don't suck as much as I think I do, sometimes, but the only reason I know when I'm actually good is when somebody else says so. So, thanks. And while I have you, um.

Is there a point at which the intense self-loathing goes away? Or is this just one of those, "square your shoulders, learn to deal with it" kinda things? Because this is really getting old.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Those are These, and These are... Me.

Rage Disclaimer: Come on, you know the drill. I rage, I swear.
Disclaimer 2: Post contains some seriously bad language, but I used it in context. I apologize to anyone who might be offended.

I am about to rage. And this time, I don't want to rage. Because I am about to rage about people I love. And there are people I love who read this blog and will go all, "omg, is she about to rage at me?" And yes. Yes, I probably am, and you're just going to have to learn to suck it up and deal with it.

It's a shocker, so I want to give you a minute to wrap your head around it, but um. I am a person with a disability. I know, I know. I don't sit in a wheelchair, I don't drool all over myself, when I talk you can usually understand the stuff I say, and when you talk, you very often make sense to me. I do not, in any way, resemble any of the people with disabilities that you see on TV, in the news, or in really inspiring movies where the end result is we just want to be treated like everybody else. I don't, actually, want to be treated like everybody else, because there are a lot of ways in which I am Other. I don't look 'other' in any way, I can almost pass for normal. So what is so wrong with me, and why do I think so terribly about myself? Well, frankly, it's none of your damn business what is wrong with me, and secondly, as a side note to the amazing news about my disability, having a disability is not a bad thing. It's not a good thing. It's not any kind of thing, it's just a thing that happens sometimes. And it's a thing that happened to me. So please forgive if I do not see it as a compliment when you refuse to see me as the whole person that I am, a whole person who is funny and smart and talented and spiritual and nice, and also, in fact, brain damaged.

It's bad enough when strangers don't seem to get this, or when new people don't seem to get this. There are people in my life, that I work with, that I spend time with on a peripheral basis only, who I have to take this crap from. I get it. I truly understand that it's difficult, for people who see me on the day-to-day and don't know me well, to either see the disability or not see it. Enabled* doesn't have a whole lot of gray area; your body works or it doesn't. Your brain works right, or it doesn't. That means enabled people aren't used to having to see gray areas, the same way heterosexual only goes one way, and some heteros have a real hard time with the *cough* rainbow of LGTBAQI experiences. It sucks, and it should not be my problem, but it is, and I sometimes have to suck it up and deal because, hey, part of being encumbered with a disability is you don't always have the energy to fight for all the stuff that is worth fighting for.

But these are not strangers. These are enabled people, or sometimes, shockingly, other disabled people, who know me, and know me well enough that, if they cared enough to pay attention, could understand, should, after 25 years, 10 years, etc, know what it is they're doing wrong. But they don't. I have a great many theories on why they don't, which I will expound upon in a moment, but right now, I have a couple stories to tell, if you'll just bear with me.

Story #1
So, last weekend was Easter. Holidays with the fam are usually absolutely out of control. Sometimes, in the good ways. Sometimes, in the bad. To give you an idea, I have three biological siblings. We range in age from 29 to 21. My sister C has four beautiful children, and a boyfriend. The oldest of these is Perfect Nephew #1, who is 6. The rest are babies, 3, 2 and 6 months. I also have 4 gorgeous foster siblings. The oldest is 16. The youngest is 6. My mother has a huge german shepard, and I have 2 small dogs. And on holidays, particularly holidays when I work and then have to be driven home for holiday dinner with the fam, we all hang out at my parents' huge property. Sometimes this works, but often, there are arguments. We were raised with strong opinions, and mine tend to run the opposite direction of everyone else's.

So I had brought my dogs over to the house, and, as promised, I kept them outside. Now, Tootles gets a bit nervous around other dogs, so he was peeing all over everything in the yard, including a crumpled up kiddy chair. I laughed, which netted me a 20 minute lecture from older sister (who is, by the way, 3 years older than me) about how I do not show any respect to anyone, and I am selfish and should learn to take better care of my animals. (These are highlights.) This was closely followed by my brothers, who, once they were able to ascertain who was winning the argument, quickly leaped to my sister's aide in besmerching my general character. Which was then immediately followed by my overhearing the word retarded in my brother's conversation.

I have asked them, time and time again, to refrain from using that word, for reasons which would be pretty damn clear to anyone who might read this blog, but outside of The Internets, for some reason, this is less clear. Their attitude is if they're talking about inanimate objects, abstract concepts, hypothetical people, or a group of people, or, generally people who are not me, they are allowed to use that word, and I am not allowed to complain. This is not anything that makes any kind of Earth Logic, so, this time, because I had been up at six in the morning to work, because I don't like people making fun of my dogs, because I am tired of being made to feel like an inconvenience, when compared to my sister, who has four children and therefore, needs attention, or my brother, who still lives at home, and therefore deserves extra attention, and my other brother, who is never around, and therefore never gets attention, because of all those things, I lost it.

"Okay," I said, "let's talk about respect. Let's talk about how I ask you time and time again not to use that word, let's talk about how it feels when, not only do you shamelessly use that word, but you shamelessly use that word in front of me, ten minutes after butting in on some ridiculous lecture about 'respect' as if you can fucking talk about any kind of respect for any human being besides yourself and someone you want something from. Not one of you show me five minutes of respect at any given time." Now, here's where it gets nasty. Because here is where the world stops making sense, and I start being forced to see my big, well-meaning family for the selfish abilist pigs that they are. Because as usual, as I am angry with my brother, my sister feels the need to interject. I kid you not, this is the actual conversation that follows. I wrote it down for posterity.

"Do you, like, see yourself as retarded or something? Because I don't see how that can be so disrespectful to you."

"There are, actually, a lot of people who do see me that way."


"I have brain damage, you moron." (edit:  this is apparently ablist language. Live and learn. I will refrain from using it in future.)

"Okay, but that's not what it means."

At this point, a side note, interestingly, from the brother who made the original offense. You see how the family dynamics work, yes? Whoever is winning gets the backup (there's some patriarchal backstory to that, which I am not getting into here.) "Uh, yeah, it kind of does mean that," brother says, but does not apologize for his earlier offense. C becomes flustered.

"Okay, but we don't see you that way."

"Except for all the times you call me your 'stupid retarded sister.'"

"Okay, but I mean that as an insult, not like, as a real thing."

Okay, please let me take the opportunity to explain to the ignorant out there scratching their heads going, "y'know, she has a point." No. She does not. I would almost believe my sister's ignorance, that she truly is only saying it as an insult except A) my brain is not an insult, thanks very fucking much and B) the only time my sister refers to me as her 'stupid retarded sister' is when I am getting something she is not, or does not feel I deserve. And usually, the cause of my not deserving something is, in fact, my disability.

As in, "How do you think I feel that my stupid retarded sister gets to go to Europe, while I don't get to do anything, and never did anything with my life?"

"How do you think I feel when my stupid retarded sister goes off to college, and I'm like, stuck here in public housing because I have kids?"

"Seriously, don't you think it's odd that you live on disability and you get to have extra money to do things? I have four kids, and we don't have money. I don't think that's fair. You're supposed to only have the bare minimum. Don't you think you're being selfish? How do you think I feel that my stupid retarded sister has more money than me?"

Et cetera. But it is such a comfort that she doesn't actually mean I'm retarded. Just, y'know, that I am less than she is, that I was supposed to be the one lacking, and how bad must her life be, when mine is better? Which is fine, really. Totally acceptable. Sibling rivalry and all.

There is also C) that it is actually a real thing, that it is a real thing which essentially means you have brain damage which effects your mental faculties, cognitively and/or intellectually, and guess what? I actually have brain damage.

The actual conversation then degenerated into what my sister believes 'retarded' really means, which I cannot post here because it made me absolutely sick with rage and disgust, but various qualities were mentioned which many of my friends with disabilities share (drooling was mentioned, and the use of diapers). After she went over all the qualities of why and how I was 'normal' and 'not one of those' and therefore, had no right to be offended, and then talked about how it didn't even count because it wasn't directed at a person and how she's not even allowed to call her son a goofy kid, because apparently that is offensive (edit: apparently, this is a prison slang for pedophile.) and she was tired of it. Yes, folks, my sister was offended by the idea that she was expected to know or learn or even care about how to respect other people. And in her own family too! This, apparently, is what qualifies as a valid point in my family.

After this myriad of excuses, attention was successfully diverted from me and my rage, and I watched in growing horror while they discussed hypothetical Others, and how to treat them fairly while still managing to not change in the least. All the while a real, flesh and blood Other, who is a member of their own family, was sitting right in front of them telling them you're doing it WRONG! But apparently, only the hypothetical Others count, or maybe I don't count as Other, because... huh.

You know, I don't know. I can never figure it out. My family has a long and sickeningly proud history of racism, sexism, homophobia and ablism. They categorically and sometimes gleefully announce how and why they hate everyone who isn't like them, and all the ways they have a right to that, and are treated unfairly for it. And then expect me to believe they don't hate me. That I am the one person in the world that they can acknowledge is different, and make their peace with that. I can't figure it out. I really can't. I suppose this, then, is where the term "special" comes from. The kicker was after, when I replayed the conversation for my mother, who missed most of it, and she told me to stop thinking of myself that way, because I wasn't like that at all. That she was siding with my sister, because I was taking things way out of context.

Story #2
So, I have a lot of friends with disabilities. I went to the summer camps, the seminars, took part in the pen-pal programs, etc, all the 'specially designed for disabled people' programs that were offered. Sometimes, other people with disabilities give me just as many funny looks as enabled people give. It's understandable. I no longer wear braces**, or even glasses. When I speak, as I mentioned, I am pretty understandable. Usually. I stutter over words or drop words in the middle of sentences, and when I get angry, half-formed words tumble out of my mouth (which is the reason I write letters), but generally, I speak perfectly fine. I am independently mobile (no wheelchair, walker, crutches, etc) and cognitively and intellectually, I tend to excel, for the most part. I'm missing most of those things my father calls 'common sense', that is, I have zero short-term memory.  I forget to eat. I lose track of time. I can spend hours carefully mapping out exactly what I'm going to do in a day, then be rendered completely useless for several more hours, unable to work out the logistics of how I will get around to X when I've just been interrupted because Y has come up. I constantly exhaust myself, and have to factor in naps, and then am unable to sleep because I only have so many hours of the day when I will be able to concentrate to get things done. I have zero skills with numbers. I instinctively know that some numbers go together, and how this works in my head, I will never be able to understand or explain to others. But there are days when someone hands me $150 for a $130.90 hotel charge, and I cannot make correct change without checking and double-checking on the calculator. These all count as cognitive and intellectual impairments which may or may not be brought on by the brain damage. But to my family and friends, they are only personality quirks, or in some cases, personality flaws. Because I can't possibly have cognitive or intellectual impairment. Because I'm smart.

Anyway, I can recognize my own ignorance when it comes to the disabled community. I am fortunate where others are not. But occasionally, you run up against assholes in the disabled community, who, much like the assholes in the enabled community, have ideas of who you are, based on what you are. Because you see, people are people! And some people are assholes! In this instance, I had a friend who liked to give The Excuse for virtually every flaw in his personality. He was constantly going through women, desperate for attention, specifically, female attention, because he was in a wheelchair, and therefore could not hope to keep attention, and had to always be on the lookout for the one who would marry him. He could not be expected to go to class, despite the fact that his parents paid for his college education, because it wasn't like he was ever going to get a job, he was in a wheelchair. More importantly, I could not understand his pain, his isolation, because though I too had suffered academically, socially, financially, and professionally because of my disability, I was not in a wheelchair.

The problem with this scenario, as anyone with a less-than-visible disability would be able to tell you, is that I am visibly disabled enough that it is clear that something is wrong, even when it's never quite clear what is wrong. And to a frighteningly large portion of the the enabled community, there are only two disabilities: The ones where you can't walk, or the ones where you are... I want to say developmentally disabled or intellectually impaired like I've been taught to say, but let's be honest. They don't think of it like that. They think retarded. And every person who's ever used that word to not mean that, they know it. Because everybody who uses that word to mean stupid understands why it's a worse word to use than stupid, like when you say 'fuck' and you really mean 'sex' but you want to emphasize something - some bad inherent in the word prompts you to say it that way.

Anyway, that's not the story. The story is that I knew this guy who was a complete asshole and blamed his disability on things that were really his own totally shitty opinion of himself, and the fault of the shitty people who gave him that opinion of himself, or, his own fault, because at this point, he was in his early twenties, and the fact that he wasn't doing anything to work through these demons of his was kind of nobody else's responsibility. And eventually, I got tired of the constant complaints about how this friend and that friend was supposed to understand, because zie was also in a wheelchair, and I had to explain, "Maybe, uh, that's not the problem?" Only to be told how I did not understand because I could stand on my own two feet. So, eventually, we parted ways, because I do not like negativity.

One day, I was talking to a mutual friend of ours, who is enabled. We were both on the job hunt. My situation was compounded by the fact that there are only a few places that will hire a college drop-out (Long, messy, poor-me story. Don't ask.) and most of them are not disability-friendly. So when I bemoaned the fact that it is incredibly difficult to find a job in this situation, she said, simply, "I told you job-hunting wasn't easy. You were always on me about finding a job, now you see how hard it is." At which point, I reminded her that I was not always on her to find a job, that I was always on her about complaining that she had no job. And I also mentioned that it might be slightly easier for her to find a job than it was for me, owing both to the fact that she lived in a bigger city, and that she could conceivably apply anywhere she chose to, and chose not to apply to lots of places she had deemed as not something she wanted to do even temporarily. I, of course, was much shorter of options, and in addition, was expected to let someone find me a job, and then be grateful they had. (Seriously, do not get me started on that whole job support program. Why the fuck do we need a committee for every decision we make?) She hears this, gives a long-suffering sigh, and says, "You know, you sound a lot like *asshole* today." My bad. I forgot. Asking to be acknowledged as the person you are whose experience is different from someone else is the exact same thing as asking for constant pity and sad-eyes. Because the person who I am, and my experiences, are just that pitiful, the two things are utterly interchangeable.

It is hurtful, when a portion of who you are is deemed acceptably and universally bad by the rest of the world. And of course, when you say it like that, everybody knows that's hurtful. When you say it like that, it sounds like racism, sexism, homophobia, everything most of us acknowledge as wrong, even if only to be PC. But then. Everybody knows disabled means bad, right? It means not able. Oh, the conundrum. How difficult for the enabled community, who are expected to navigate a world they are not part of and actually listen and rely on the experiences of others to explain this world to them.

This is why I still use the term 'handicapped' when referring to myself. It has an adorably ironic sport connotation, (Ironic for me, I mean. I know lots of athletic people with disabilities, and they pretty much all kick ass. I, however, lack any athletic ability whatsoever.) and what it means is that I need something extra to do what other people do, to the same extent and ability. Which I do, unashamedly. And sometimes that is built in, somewhere in me, and sometimes, it has to come from the outside. Sometimes, it has to come from you, enabled people, and that means doing what we ask of you, not doing what you think is best and then asking us to be grateful for it, lest, as the great and generous force behind virtually every positive moment in our lives, you decide not to grant it next time.

A note to the enabled people who know me: I am a person with a disability. And I am happy this way, truly. Would I be happier if I lived in a way that my body was a reflection of my personal self? I don't know. I was never given that option. I don't believe, if I were given one wish, I would waste it on something as foolish as this body of mine, which, admittedly I have no great love for. But I will admit if there was a pill that could make this go away, I would probably take it. The fact that there isn't, though, has no real bearing on my life. Does the fact that I am relatively mildly disabled contribute to my happiness? Well, not as such, though it certainly contributes to my good fortune and the opportunities I am afforded. I do not know how I would feel if I were in a wheelchair, or if I were non-verbal, or if my cognitive or intellectual abilities were less capable, or even appeared less capable, than what they are now, because I can acknowledge that I don't know how people would treat me, and some people treat me pretty lousy now. I do, however, know a lot of people who could fit in either or all of those categories. Some are happy, others are not. Some care about disability rights, some only care about themselves. But I am a disabled person, and I am also a happy and optimistic person, and I have friends who are enabled, and friends who are disabled,  and it hurts me, when I see ablism, and it hurts me when people go out of their way to exclude me from 'those people.' Because sometimes I don't fit with you. And, shocker, I am a lot more comfortable with that idea than most of you seem to be.

I am one of Those People. I have friends who are Those People. That World, that you seem so quick to reassure me I am not part of? The world where every statement begins with a negative prefix, a non, dis, lacking-in, etc? That world of people who need things done for them, of people who take too long to do anything on their own, and get in everybody's way, and can't help but be inept, no one's blaming them, but god, do we have to humor them? I am part of that world. When you talk about Those People, you are talking about me. Or, you are talking about people very close to me. It's you that has a problem with that, not me. I am one of Those People who take this stuff personally because it affects the way people treat me, personally. Because if I don't speak, one of my friends and family will be able, in all honesty, to use those words, and carry around those stereotypes, because you have me, who appears to be okay with it. And because if I do speak, I am one of Those People, who only ever sees herself as Disabled, and who needs to get over that, because she has so much else going for her, if only she could ignore that part, and really, it's not as if it's that hard. Yes, I make this personal. This is the identity I have been given by the enabled, over and over again. This is how many people describe me to other people. I am the friend/sister/daughter who has Cerebral Palsy. I am the friend/sister/daughter who has a disability but is omg so smart though, you'd never know it. This is how, when I say that I am different, people think of different. This is that thing people hurry to tell me is totally unnoticeable. Regardless of how full of crap they are, or what I am actually talking about when I say I am different. That you oh-so-benevolently take it away once you have reassured yourself there is a real person in there, or whenever you need me to feel cut off from Those People, or reassure me that I am One Of You, as long as I keep my mouth shut about it and act grateful when the time comes? That is a blessing I can do without, thanks. You have given me this as an identity, you can learn to live with the consequences. Goddess knows I have to.

Please stop telling me who I am. Please stop telling me what I should be focusing on, what parts of me are worth your acknowledgment, and subsequently, which parts it's okay to pretend don't exist. Having me as a friend or family member is not a free pass to tell people how you're totes all about disability rights, obviously. Using that word is not about your accidental slip of the tongue, how you were raised, or your inability to come up with a more intelligent and accurate response. It is about your laziness. It is about your laziness not only to learn to watch your fucking mouth and show some respect, for Goddess' sake, but also, your casual disregard for me.

I wrote, in a recent blog post, about a friend of mine who is being less than supportive about this whole deal. I assume said friend knows who zie is. But really, it goes for all of you, all of you who use that word once you understand, not only what it means, but what it means to me. I am not, by nature, a social person, though I'm very friendly. I regret to say I have lost track of people, or closeness with people due to mutual disinterest, or my own genuine cluelessness. You make the choice to be in my life. This is a part of that. My body, my brain, and who I am, sometimes in spite of, sometimes because of, but always in addition to, all of that. What you are doing, when you use that word, is reminding me where we stand. How you stand on one side and I stand on the other. How it's still your world, and, though you love me and care about me and are interested in me as a person, you have no desire to venture into mine, and I have no right to expect you to. I am on my own, and I cannot expect you to 'deal' with this, because who in their right mind would, voluntarily? Which would be fine, except that I still have to live in yours. I don't have the option to opt out like you do. And the sick thing is, as much as you claim that it doesn't mean what I keep telling you it means, I'm pretty sure that there are a few of you out there who don't want to venture into my world, because, like my sister, you're not comfortable with the idea there may be some places we may need to lead you. Because that's just not how it goes, is it?

If I talk about this stuff and I'm being too sensitive because it's based on my own experience, and the people who 'love me' don't talk about it, because it's not that big a deal and I'm being too sensitive, and the people who don't know any better can't talk about it, because they don't have the experiences, when is it okay to talk about? Oh. Right. That's the point. Sorry, sometimes I miss that. You know how it is.

*Enabled - Ally's word for people who do not have disabilities. Blogosphere does not like able-bodied, as it left out people with neurological impairments and developmental disabilities, but also, I do not like the term 'temporarily able-bodied' for some reason I have yet to identify. Possibly because it's clunky. Enabled is my replacement, as I feel it encapsulates most of the problems within the community of people with disabilities, which are caused by, not the disabilities themselves, but the fact that society is built for bodies to work a certain way, and you get all kinds of nice things given to you and ascribed to you if yours does, while we have to content ourselves with whatever version of 'nice' you decide we are capable of comprehending, and often receive a cookie for your efforts.

** braces such as the ones I wore, for those of you who don't know, go on your legs, not your teeth. I wore several incarnations off and on from toddlerhood til I was about 13. It actually did take them ten years and one trial and error serial casting episode before they realized that it didn't really work for me. There was a lot of trial and error episodes in those days.

AN: If you have a squicky feeling of guilt in your stomach, wondering if this post is about you, then it probably is. If you're just really pissed at me right now for getting mad at this? That's okay, I'm probably pissed at you too.

Is that burning rubber I smell?

So, I do have a rage post coming, because something happened over the weekend that I really feel the need to rant discuss. But I've been writing a lot over the last few days. Like, a freakish amount, seriously. Which is good because I have to take my computer into the shop again. So I'll probably do that this weekend. Because I'm working all weekend, and at least I can access my googledocs and get a little bit done. Anyway, I really just wanted to post something on the actual projects, as that is the main purpose for this blog, and I feel like I haven't done that forever. So, this is a small sampling of what I have been writing over the past three days:

Somewhere around 30 pages for Hannah. (We are finally moving! Woop!)
15 pages of Frenzy
A whole whack of prework for The Fairy Tale That Is Not Yet, But Will Be At Some Point In Future
Random lists of ideas for what I am going to do, when I am publishing under my very own independent publishing logo.
Tiny bits of POST OF RAGE - full version to follow

I also downloaded some new audiobooks, Sunshine by Robin McKinley, which, interestingly, I'd already found shortly after writing this post, debated, and was then directed to by a reader. I haven't started it yet, but I did scuttle off immediately to download it. Sadly, it is the only Robin McKinley book Audible has, so I may actually have to buy a book for realz, if zie turns out to be as good as I think zie will be. (thanks again Tacita Sempronia!) Along with that, there's another modern retelling of Peter Pan, and Captive, the second in Carrie Jones' pixie series, which is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but also, is published by Flux, which is a division of Llewellyn, which just makes me love her more. What? I read YA novels. Can't be all Deep Thinker all the time.

Hannah is, amazingly, moving now, and should definitely be ready for rewriting before the end of the month, even with the Frenzy going on. I am seriously all "ROAR! I have a mighty pen!" just now. It was such a relief to get past the first two chapters, and into the characters as I know them. I didn't expect Hannah's babyhood would be that long, or that agonizing. I'm going to cut a lot of it out, I think, it didn't turn out like I thought it would. But whatever, we're moving now. Work is slowing down a bit after next week, and while I'm pretty sure it's going to jump right back up again in a few more weeks (*shudder* wedding season...), I am taking advantage of this settling down time to dig in and really push for the next three weeks or so. Which means falling behind on Script Frenzy. Which is... expected. There's also a self-publishing course at my local college. It runs right through my vacation time, but my vacation is only for 11 days, so I think I could make it work. The completion of the course actually requires you to self-publish. And the end date? August 30th. Seriously. I cannot make this stuff up.

Frenzy is, as ever, demoralizing. But it's nice to at least be demoralized among friends, so to speak. I did miss the characters, and we are having fun together, though it's stilted fun, and it's tempered by all the other things I have to write, oh my god. I was hopeful this year that there would be some local meet-ups and such, but so far, no dice. Probably also for the best.

Anyway, important points, I am very busy, writing is no longer resembling pulling teeth, lots of new books, my summer schedule is officially BOOKED SOLID: possible summer course + Hannah completion and release [oh holy crap THAT FAST?!] + potential extra workload + trip to Europe [wee!!! more later] + new books to read + extra special auntie time with Perfect Nephew #1 (and the rest of the crew, too) = whatever you want from me this summer, too bad, you should have mentioned before now, I am officially too busy for ONE MORE THING. But I shall continue my efforts to blog, as it seems to be working out shockingly well for me. As always, dear readers, I appreciate you, even the invisible ones who refuse to comment. I understand. I used to think people would find me weird and creepy for spying on their day-to-day. But it isn't! Promise! Now, my girl and I are back to the slog.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

One Month! (a post of lists both formal and informal)

One month blog-o-versary. Wow. I've actually never been able to maintain a blog. Deeply impressive. And, because I'm all about learning new things, I have put together a list of, in no particular order, the things I have learned this month. Because I'm a huge dork.

1. I am going to HAVE to get some kind of schedule down, or I am never going to get this done. Because what I'm doing now? So not working.
2. People seem to like me better when I'm angry. Whoda thunk it?
3. I may not reach my deadline.
4. I have not yet made peace with that.
5. I have really awesome friends and family, who totally think I'm a famous writer right now. Your epic support and/or editing skills, and/or willingness to put up with my ego as it waxes and wanes has not gone unnoticed. Love you all. I will do my best to make it easier to support me, to the completion of the project, so none of us go totally insane.
6. I have really crappy negative friends, also, who couldn't care less about what I'm doing, don't want to hear about it, don't want to know about it, and don't take the time to listen when I'm talking, let alone read when I'm writing. You can pretty much fuck off. I don't ask for fawning praise or recognition, and I don't ask that you make this project a part of your life just because it's a part of mine. I do expect that if you genuinely want no part in it, that you will understand that that is hurtful, and also that means cutting you out of a substantially large part of my life. It's not my responsibility to make up for that missing space, time, or interest. It's yours.
7. There are total strangers who do, actually, care about what I think. Very cool!
8. You can talk and talk and talk, and still, some people won't get it.
9. There's a lot more to this racket than I thought there was.
10. Not commenting on people's blogs is really, really rude. And I promise never to do it again.
11. I am capable of a level of venom I never thought possible before. Oh, to grow as an artist. (Thanks again, Amanda.)
12. I am also capable of much more than I thought I was
13. Still got a long way to go, though.
14. Write Or Die works for Nano. But I really need to stop using it.
15. For some reason I will never understand, Googledocs hates contractions. wtf Google?

Lookit how smart I am becoming! Even have plans for like, the next six blog posts! For those of you who like to be warned, incoming blogs may include:
my vulnerable self-esteem
the elitism of the literary world
the previously mentioned post on positive thinking
a possibly, a follow-up to the Mary-Sue post, currently titled, in my head, The Dreaded Twilight Post I Really Don't Want To Write.
and a particular charming one where I attempt to write a scene which incorporates sexual aggression, drunkenness, and violence. Three things I have absolutely zero experience on.
And more! *cue cheesy theme music* (Hm. What kind of theme music? I wonder). Also, watch me juggle Script Frenzy and play catch-up with Hannah.

(Also, please cross fingers for me.)

And because I believe in sharing, have some awesome:
Asexy bingo card - I don't spend a lot of time on the AVEN boards, but this gave me a laugh. Count how many you've gotten, and hope the prize is NEVER HAVING TO HEAR IT AGAIN! (I counted 22.)
Hir - I use 'zir' as my gender-neutral pronoun of choice, as I'm sure you've noticed. This will still make you cry. I am not being dramatic here. Bring tissues and be prepared to hit 'replay' at least four times.
101 Reasons To Stop Writing - Despite the demoralizing intent of the content, it makes me laugh. Particularly the Demotivational posters. Also, there's a really good snark piece on the Polanski rape-apologist nonsense, if you can stomach being snarky about it yet.
BookByYou - Okay, so I know the writing is probably abysmal, but whoever came up with this idea is a freaking genius, and probably raking it in. Don't judge me. Like you never read Choose Your Own Adventure as a kid. For those of you interested, they're also coming out with same-sex romance novels within the next year. (credit for this knowledge goes to my dear love, who wrote to ask if they would, only to be told they were already working on it, but the current crop of mystery novels could serve in a pinch.)

That's pretty much it! Next month, hopefully I will finish a full draft. Thanks to everyone still following along. And if you're a lurker, it would be awesome if you de-lurked sometime next month. Watch this space!

Friday, April 2, 2010

There Is A Method To This Madness

Yes, Hannah is behind.
Yes, I am doing script frenzy this year.
Yes, I have failed the last two years in a row.

Why do I do this to myself?

Actually, I have a really good reason. It's kind of like that scene in Major Pain. Y'know, the one where the guy's been shot, or something, so his friend breaks his thumb? Like that. If I fail at script frenzy, it will be because I was procrastinating. And if I'm procrastinating on my screenplay, I'm going to have to find something else to do. And there will be Hannah. And if I'm procrastinating on Hannah, I will have to find something else to do. And there will be script frenzy. And at any given moment, one of them is bound to be less painful than the other.

This method is actually surprisingly effective, or has proven so in the past, right up until one of them trumps the other one, and I've just decided, (no, really, right this second, I have to go change what my profile says) that since I'm working on Hannah, which is a very personal project from back in the day, Screnzy will be likewise. I will be doing Preston Academy, which is an internet serial I wrote (read: began) back in the days of Geocities (R.I.P) and which I've always wondered whether I should translate to TV serial or a book series. Like Hannah, I really enjoyed and got attached to the characters, and was always sad not to see them reach their full potential. When I was supposed to go to the Vancouver Film School, and couldn't get the money (don't ask. ODSP are complete overbearing assholes, and I don't want to talk about it.) it was one of the things I was mucking around with in preparation, since I've never actually done a TV series, but I wound up doing the outline for the pilot episode, and with my tendency to overwrite, two or three good episodes should fulfill, though once i get started, I could probably move all the way through a first series, as I already know them well enough (yes, I've heard it before too).

The truth is, I want to do it because I won Nano last year (squeaked by, but whatever) and it makes me feel like crap I can't get my stuff together enough to do this. I want to go back to the days when I could spend hours at the keyboard without needing a $4 on a coffee from down the street, or to make sure nothing good was on Dr. Phil, or nobody had commented on my latest blog post, youtube video, or tweet. I miss myself. All this nostalgia, I miss me when I was The Girl Who Wrote The Stories, instead of The Writer Going Nowhere Faster Than The Speed Of Light. *sigh* Poor me, right? I know.

Preston is fun. It's nothing heavy or deep, it's like, it's like a cross between Fame, Glee, and Gossip Girl (though, light on that. I am so tired of TV shows about how hard it is to be a spoiled rich kid). It's so I can goof around, take it easy, one step at a time, and I already know the story. So it'll be a change, which will make it a challenge, but , like Hannah, it'll be like coming home, only not after a long and harrowing journey, but more like after summer vacation. I can totally do both.



(Anybody else on there, I'm under reckless.tenacity)