robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
2014 is the start of a 3 year plan for me to become self supporting before my SSI turns into Old Age version of Social Security. If I retire early, I will get a smaller check. Much better to be self supporting and just never retire. That's the long term goal.

In a comment on an artist's blog that I wrote about 4,000 words and deleted all but about 200, I worked out just exactly what it means to "Work toward self supporting in 2014."

I have a slight chance of success at it. My guesstimate at the moment is 10% to 20% that I will actually reach a point where I could draw a salary of a thousand a month and not change my lifestyle. Just quit SSI and take the limit off my personal savings.

What I really need to do in 2014 is work out my schedule and the rhythm of the year. November 2013 was a very bad time. I barely got in 50,000 words. Lots of sick days and two weeks of flu did me in. I will always have Too Many Sick Days. I always have. Net result of disabilities, day job as a cripple schedules itself.

December 2013, I didn't do much at all. I took a freaking vacation after the intensity of the most difficult Nanowrimo that I ever won. I'm serious. It was harder getting 50,000 words of Arts and Aspirations than it was to write 450,000 words of seven fantasy novels in a previous year. But I succeeded in my big goal - it is a better book that will take less editing.

I also signed up for The Sketchbook Project. I paid for it to be digitized and posted online. This is using my art to sell my book. I did it so that I could publicize my steampunk novel. I thought that I'd be self illustrating while writing, would have a lot of time to do 32 decent sketchbook pages with teasers.

Now I've got ten to fifteen days to complete the whole thing, with three pages penciled. Those need to be inked. It's not quite as bad as I thought - I thought I only had one page. But it still means doing more than one artwork a day till it's done. Getting back to a schedule more like when I lived on my art. Managing to work on it on days when I've got home care or medical appointments.

It's going to be possible but difficult like Nanowrimo was. It will only serve its intended purpose if I can do a good job on it. Penciling first is probably a good idea! It might let me lay out many more pages and it's not something I'm doing just to goof around. I paid good money for it as a publicity tool for the book's launch. I'll design the cover last, because I could do the cover very simple if it comes to that. An easy cover would be a portrait of the cat and the title in calligraphy.

So this year is starting off with a bang.

December will always be my vacation. A pro writer I knew a decade ago did that, took December off entirely as vacation because the holidays and her kids took up too much of her time. I don't do that kind of thing. I don't live with my kids and grandkids and when I did, they did most of the work. For me it's just that is the low end of the year when I'm exhausted physically and emotionally. I either get depressed by pain and fatigue or distract myself with holiday cheer and soppy old holiday movies. I did the lazy holiday cheer this year.

It was great!

In fact, it might have been the first real vacation I've had in my life. I don't count the miserable two week trip to San Francisco in the 1980s when I went with my ex, blew a lot of money saved up for it and bought a lot of tourist junk, ate out a lot, stayed in an expensive transient hotel and made myself miserable with homesickness. That trip was a bitter exercise in pressing my nose hungrily against the window of my life. Now I live here.

This time, for once, taking a month off left me feeling excited again about my writing and my art. I want to sketch. I want to play with colors. I want to get back to the book and read about those characters and keep going when I hit the point where I left off. Writing rough draft is a lot like reading the book before it exists. I turn the page and get the next sentence, paragraph, page and enjoy all the twists as surprises.

So why not combine rereading the book to catch up with myself with doing the Sketchbook Project? I'll ink what I have penciled, then start reading the book again. Stop and pencil when I see something that'd make a good picture. Doodle my way through the reread and then turn "Rereading" into "Drafting" when I run out of chapters already written.

Maybe it's not so daunting after all. :D

I want to be able to build up to 40 hours a week at productive work on my career. 2014 is the year of discovering my schedule, what gets done when. What works best which days of the week, which weeks of the month, which months in the year. I need to find just the right level of push between "pushing myself too hard and falling over" and "could actually be doing more if I made the effort to start." That's always tricky in both directions.

If I find out by December 2014 that I can't do 40 hours a week year round, fine. I'll readjust my income expectations to the reality, whether that's 30 hours or 20 hours or 10. It will probably be different in different months and some months I might go over 40 hours a week because some tasks work better by immersion. I mean average 40 hours a week for the next 11 months, not keep to 40 hours a week every week but December. Most of all, know the seasons and my climate. I've had two years here to know when I'm up to going out just for fun, when it's hard just making it to medical appointments, when I'm going to fall down on basic necessities of self care and when I've got time to relax.

So... resolution: CHART what I'm doing in 2014. I need to start logging my hours every day and week, what I do that's productive. I'm not going to count hours spent doing medical appointments or other necessities like supervising home care unless I did something productive during it. I've taken to using the hour of waiting for the van or after arriving early for sketching, which got me sketching even when I wasn't doing anything else. So that hour counts on an appointment day.

Two new treatments in 2014 might also improve my net function. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) treatment for my PTSD may eliminate flashbacks and symptoms that trigger fibromyalgia flares. That is a nasty combination. Knocking down my PTSD may give me a lot of energy locked up in flashbacks. Once that's done, I'll look for a physical therapist with geriatric and/or pediatric experience.

When I finish that, I'll get a physical therapist for massage therapy, possible hippatherapy and water therapy. The sorts of physical therapy that really do reduce the damage and give me more energy walking out than I had walking in. Chiropracty always does that too. When I'm no longer living on the survival edge, paying out of pocket for treatments that really do help is worth it. I just need to have enough left after necessities to afford those treatments.

So... 2014 is starting the run. I'll start by doing the Sketchbook Project and see what comes of it. Hopefully a finish to Arts and Aspirations.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Pain level ten always brings thoughts of suicide. That's my definition of pain level ten - it's when death starts looking better than going on putting up with the pain, when it's gotten so bad there is nothing but the pain. So I've had well over fifty years of finding ways to fight the temptation to kill myself. Demonstrably, I succeeded.

I will add that at no time has anyone else intervened in my life to stop me. I can think of a few times when those around me were tacitly making it easy, like leaving a clinically depressed child diagnosed with suicidal tendencies alone for hours in a basement room right next to an unlocked gun room with over 50 firearms and enough ammunition to hold off the Russian army. I would've had time to melt down the slugs and craft a reload to shoot myself with if I'd actually gotten down to doing it. I didn't tell the shrinks at the time because I didn't want that door locked. I wanted my options open.

There are different things people do to deal with the pain. Whatever the pain is, when it gets to the point of suicide, I treat that as pain level ten and respect it. I respect their reasons for being that hurt even if they may seem trivial to me. Most of all I'm aware that sometimes something trivial can make the difference between life and death.

I've also known someone I loved at the time who decided not to kill himself because he hadn't seen the next episode of a science fiction show PBS was airing in a couple of days. He chose to live because of that show. We were big fans. Fortunately, it turned out to be one of the best episodes of the entire series when we sat down together to watch it.

Anything that makes a person want to live at that point is worth it. That's not for someone outside to judge, especially if they're trying to help that person come back to the world of the living. I don't actually know what it's like for people who find relief with drugs or alcohol, when that temporarily blots out the pain. Only that for many addicts it does and they have a big physical problem with their brain chemistry being unable to function without that chemical unless they go through a lengthy difficult recovery process.

Drug/alcohol addiction is its own big topic anyway. It's an entire social process and maybe that's where some of the "ease the pain" goes away. Both drunks and recovering drunks have massive social support for their new, simpler identities as drunks or drunks in recovery. It's common for them to have been abused in childhood. Social wounds may actually get relief from social support, who'd a thought that? To me, that's a huge part of why AA works - what people take to drinking for gets provided without the booze and in a way that encourages personal growth.

But let's look at some other things. Junk food. Reading all the time, burying yourself in a book. Distraction. Burying yourself on the computer in game after game. Withdrawing from mainstream life into a narrow subculture.

When I was younger it used to be Dungeons and Dragons, table top role playing games. I threw over D&D for the Gurps system as soon as I found it, since the rules system was better for my style of storytelling and the setting was much more flexible, easier to adapt to give my games either an original backstory or base them on my current fandom. I wound up putting together not the giant support groups of AA and Al-Anon and their like, but a small six to twelve person intimate group of people all of whom knew me, liked me, had a reason to come over to my room and stay up all night.

That was a very big part of how I survived my pre-op years. Gaming. RPGs. Fictive universes. When I was with my long term ex, we gamed together, just a universe of two with a cast of thousands. Most of the games naturally had erotic subplots and assorted erotic or romantic plots. We met for the first time ten thousand times in a thousand different worlds and venues, which was as fun as it was the first time we actually did.

The biggest real reason we stopped having good sex was that my body energy ran out as I ground myself down on the treadmill of my 1980s Work Robot years. It takes a toll sleeping only on weekends and working 20 hour days and then madly spending it all as fast as it comes in so as to keep from jumping off a high building.

There is another one. Sex. This includes masturbation. If someone's thinking of dying, one-handed pleasure is a much better alternative to death. Orgasm can be an analgesic if you can get up to it with enough fantasy to let go of the reasons for the pain and fear. It's a particularly healthy one, it resets your nervous system for a little while and does wonders for brain chemistry.

I got disappointed with a lot of erotic fantasy for lacking fantasy elements though. I expected dragons, elves, magic, flying, your basic fifteen impossible mythic things to go on in the story. The normal stuff was dull, I didn't fancy myself a construction worker or rich guy in suit type to dom someone, I was more into the settings of my RPGs. Vampires, elves, dragons, aliens, the cool stuff. The window dressing of the other way I escaped from reality that was at many times in my life for real unendurable.

Many people escape how unendurable life is at its worst times by pretending that nothing bad ever happens to people who don't deserve it. This is one of the worst ways to face it. That idea sets you up for suicide at the first real injustice, with added self blaming and shame. It's surrendering to your worst enemies and validating their sadistic attacks. If you internalize the viewpoint of the oppressor, you collaborate in your own oppression.

Was that James Baldwin? It was one of the great black philosophers and poets. The ones who kept me alive and sane as a child, right along with the science fiction and fantasy writers. They talked about a reality that didn't deny injustice, a way of health that involved staring it down and not giving in - not down deep, not behind your eyes, never telling them that they're right to treat you like that.

There's more than enough real oppression in this world and this country for anyone to get depressed. There's more than enough real risk for anyone to get a bit paranoid. Staying on balance well enough to make it to work and live month to month on the edge of survival, whatever the actual income level of edge of survival is, that stresses people. A quarter of all Americans will be clinically depressed at some point in their lives.

Most of them have good reasons for it. So when you're trying to say something to help, the thing to say is to listen, let them tell the story. Take it seriously. Reflect what you heard well enough so that they know you actually did understand and care. The hardest thing anyone can do is listen to a gut-wrenching story and not be able to do anything to change what happened - but by listening, that is the one gift that makes a difference and can help.

Never, ever laugh at what they do to get through the night. It may sound silly to you but sometimes what matters is any reminder that anything in life is worth experiencing again, whether that is butter on mashed potatoes or next week's television program or that I hadn't been published yet and my book wasn't finished.

Why that's a rant.

I can't count the number of mental health professionals who disconfirmed my novels and my writing. Treated them as sick, treated it as a symptom, not an ambition or an avocation or a profession. Treated it as an unrealistic "grandiose delusion."

Yes. Something bad happened on Monday morning and I'm not ready to write about it. I'm not sure if I'll ever be ready. But I'm coming down from the flare and the PTSD reactions. I've turned to all my solitary comforts, mostly Diablo III, some junk food and a couple of new Terry Pratchett novels. "The Long Earth" by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is excellent - not a screamingly funny book like Diskworld, good serious SF with incredibly grabby characters and fascinating premise.

I'm going to just take care of myself till my therapist comes back from her vacation next Monday, process everything as well as I can till then and not try to rush the process. I know that I will come through it and feel like myself again eventually, because I have been through worse. I'm still not going to let them win.

Last tip: pet the cat. That always helps. Purring and shedding on you will release endorphins, knock down the pain. A cat is incredibly supportive at times and majorly understanding. The cat does not agree with anyone who ever put you down. The cat's needs are simple and the cats' hearts are big. Substitute critter of choice if you're not a cat person. I am. Ari is my front line defense, he is right there whenever I feel down and will literally wash it away. When he does that, I feel better.

Amazing, how cat spit can change the way the world looks. But he means it with love and he makes me laugh and he's very sensitive to what's going on. He's also particularly happy because his big bag of good cat food arrived yesterday. 15 pound bag of super quality high protein food that is his top favorite brand, his own weight in cat food. Properly served one small handful at a time on demand, so it keeps its strong scent and freshness in the big sealed cat food tub.


robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)

March 2016



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