Breaking Perfectionism

Sometimes you’ve just got to look at an empty page without anything particular in mind. I chose not to offer up my attention to the debates last night, and I think I am better off mentally for it, based on all of your reactions. We watched Brave and A Bug’s Life back to back while it was happening, and I didn’t check social media until around 3 a.m. today. My sleep cycle is all kinds of off, but once we move, my partner will be able to access the kitchen again without the barrier of stairs.

The desire to be remembered is fading as I realize there will be no more generations to study the present as its history. Everything I make is free to ultimately be consumed by the void. As I commit to writing almost daily on the blog, my sense of perfectionism is being painfully broken. I don’t think I’m phrasing things the way I think of them in my head, nor do I feel that my priorities are reflected in what floats to the surface when I sit down to write.

I’m trying to pull as much creativity out of myself as possible, but this upcoming month, I’m going to be really busy with getting everything together to move. I’m dreading it. I hate packing, I hate moving, I hate dealing with everything about it. I hate making phone calls, I hate negotiating, I hate scrounging up funds to fork over to landlords, I especially hate packing. Packing is a central trigger for me, my nightmares are full of desperately, urgently packing.

Today, a sense of hopelessness has spread its way across all my circles. Like I said, I didn’t watch the debate, and I think my mental health is better for it, but I’m still struggling not to feel the sense of despair. Even though I felt like I was resigned to it already, like I saw this coming, like it’s exactly why I didn’t watch. The reality for the American people is that our 2-party system has failed to give us anything more than the illusion of choice.

It’s a fight to keep myself typing. I keep talking myself through it, holding my own hands mentally to pull myself through the process of blogging. I can’t be burning out already. I have to make this a regular thing. The only way is to stop demanding perfection of myself.

I’m a mess today. If you are, too, you’re not alone.

Seeking a Home in the Midst of Collapse

Every night, I get up at least twice in the night to bring meals to my partner. He is too disabled now to get his own food from the kitchen. We have a flight of carpeted stairs separating our bedroom from the kitchen and going down them gives him chest pain and a rapid heart rate, sometimes also palpitations. He only goes down them when absolutely necessary, which is to get to his appointments with the cardiologist and primary care provider – and these can give him symptom flare-ups. He’s never been able to sleep at night, and I’ve never been able to get myself to match his sleep cycle, either. When we met, he was fully capable of cooking for himself. Then over time he needed me to take over the cooking, and leave meals for him to eat during the night while I slept. Now I have to go up and down the stairs many times a day and get up in the night to bring him what he needs.

We are lucky to have had all your support throughout the pandemic. We have been able to pay rent since I left my day job in March and switched to taking care of my partner full-time. Now I am doing my best to also write and create regularly again, but the interrupted sleep is becoming difficult to deal with.

There are many reasons we need to leave this living situation, and I’ve detailed the problems of accessibility and finances in two earlier posts. In this one, I want to explain more about what our options are, the desperation of the situation, and how it looks to be trying to raise money to move into a new apartment while your country’s so-called “society” is collapsing.

First, the situation from a wide angle: my country is collapsing, and most of us are in denial about it.

If you don’t believe me, please check out these independent articles by people who’ve lived through collapses in other countries. Umair Haque wrote a piece that’s been making rounds in my circles entitled “We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.” Indi Samarajiva wrote another about his experience in Sri Lanka called “I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There.

Of note, in the latter article, this bit got my attention:

“If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like ‘this is it’, I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says ‘things are officially bad’. There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.”

I believe that the election will only exacerbate the unrest that has been building for the past six months. I am expecting the worst – an inexplicably low voter turnout, followed by an indefinite and unresolving results determination process that makes the 2000 election look quick, followed by an economic collapse worse than the Great Depression. Other things worse than this may happen, too. I may be wrong, but I must make personal decisions based on the information I have.

To zoom back in to my personal situation, which is only one of a growing number of people who are falling through the cracks financially as our economy topples, we need to move before the election. If any change is going to be made in location, it needs to happen now. So we are looking into applying for an apartment very soon, and we will need to continue bringing in funds to put down a deposit and introductory rent, as well as cover the costs of moving itself.

Right now we’re spending about $900/month on rent, utilities, and my phone (we don’t even pay for a line of phone service for my partner too). Thanks to the generous help of my Patreon patrons, I have a steady income of $591 per month as of this writing. I’ve been using GoFundMe to make up the difference in living expenses. I can get a place where I’d be spending less on rent and utilities than I am now. Providing proof of this income will qualify me to sign a lease, and our future roommate is someone we deeply trust who can pay the other half of rent.

Being homeless again would certainly kill my partner. He is bedridden. You can’t be bedridden and have to walk everywhere, carrying whatever you have left of your possessions, yet this is what homelessness demands. He’s also sensitive to heat and cold, so exposure would make things worse, too – by all standards, he wouldn’t survive. We need a more affordable, accessible apartment to live in. We need to move in at the beginning of November. Otherwise we will be trapped indefinitely.

If you can spare any help, both Patreon and the GoFundMe are great ways to support us in getting into a new home – the former pledges monthly support, while the latter accepts one-time donations. If you can’t spare anything, please don’t feel bad about it – most of us are facing financial struggle. If you’re already pledging and donating, thank you so much for your incredible kindness. We would not be sheltered and alive without your kindness and understanding of what we are going through.

I want to help others like us, because we are not alone – and the numbers of people facing financial devastation are growing daily. I’ve been doing so where possible, like with promoting others’ fundraisers and donation requests on twitter. We are asking for mutual aid, not charity, while demanding a new system that spreads resources evenly. There is no going back to normal. This is the time to imagine a new future and fight for it.

My Patriotic Education

This happened last week, but I’m still thinking about it. The trick the president is trying to pull is outdoing himself constantly so each shock makes the previous one seem mild by comparison. How can one consider that he’s trying to control how children see the world’s biggest industrial-colonial-prison system, when it was followed up a few days later with refusal to give a direct answer about whether he’ll allow a peaceful transfer of power following an election loss? With so little national faith in the electoral system, will any of us even believe the results? Trump says if he loses, his followers certainly won’t, and I think that much is true. That’s another good trick when you’re managing masses to increase power and profit: mix a good amount of truth in with the lies.

As I describe my personal experience, I realize this may not be exactly what Trump has in mind when he calls for “patriotic education.” In fact, what he has in mind may be far more regulated, which is terrifying, but possible. I think it’s important to write about this because my education was spotty at best, indoctrination at worst, and this is exactly the kind of education that makes Americans so patriotic. The elements necessary include the suppression of information and racist tokenization. They include memorization of pledges of allegiance to symbols from early childhood, before it’s possible to think critically about what is being sworn away. They write off conflicting information as fake or revisionist. From what I can gather, this problem is only exacerbated when parents are in full control of their children’s access to information, not limited by any means to the homeschool table.

Every school day morning, when my siblings and I gathered around the dining room table for homeschool, it was time to get the American flag and say our pledge of allegiance to it. We kids took turns holding it up in reverence, putting our hands over our hearts, and most of us had the pledge memorized by the age of 2 or 3. Then we’d also say the pledge of allegiance to the AWANA flag. This was to practice for our Wednesday night AWANA meetings. At each AWANA meet, too, we said the United States flag pledge before pledging our allegiance to AWANA clubs. (For those who don’t know, my parents have since stopped homeschooling or participating in AWANA, so I am commenting on my own childhood experiences, not the present.)

AWANA is all-caps because is an acronym from a Bible verse, 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, explicitly an organization designed to indoctrinate children early. I started at age 3, as one of the “Cubbies,” memorizing two full books of short Bible passages like “Jesus loves me.” Then between the ages of 4 and 7, I was in “Sparks,” named such because we were young children “shining” for Jesus “to light the world,” based on Jesus’ reference to calling his followers “the light of the world.”

I won’t put the US flag pledge here, but I can write the AWANA pledge from memory since it’s less well-known:

“I pledge allegiance to the AWANA flag
Which stands for AWANA clubs
Whose goal is to reach boys and girls
With the gospel of Christ
And train them to serve him.”

That was the beginning of each school day, followed by praying aloud as a group – mom and us kids. Not all of us had to pray, but at least four of us had to volunteer to take each kind of prayer my mother required. She went by ACTS – Acclimation, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. The scapegoated kids were usually put on the spot to come up with something to confess in front of anyone, and we were scolded if our prayers didn’t seem genuine enough. By the time the pledges and prayers were over, we were expected to do Bible time, before listening to mom read aloud from a children’s illustrated historical fiction book while we colored pictures.

The first history book that comes to mind is Stories of the Pilgrims, written by Margaret B. Pumphrey and published by Christian Liberty Press. I remember it well, because we read it every November for as long as I can remember, leading up to Thanksgiving. What I remember about this book was that my mom had no problem reading it exactly as it was written, referring to the Indigenous people they encountered as “the Indians.” We always celebrated Thanksgiving as the history of the Pilgrims being welcomed into a new land where they would be free to worship.

We listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio constantly, along with the cohort of similar hosts including Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck (though Beck wasn’t conservative enough sometimes). We didn’t watch Fox News, not because we didn’t believe it reported with accuracy, but because we didn’t have TV. Our main source of breaking news was Drudge Report. There was constant exposure to rhetoric about taking back the country. America was awesome, and so was our family, and thinking otherwise was cause for great conflict.

While every holiday had a Christian perspective, including adding a Last Supper Communion cup of wine – er, sprite and grape juice – to our “Passover” celebration every Thursday-before-Easter, Independence Day was as big a deal as Christmas. The 4th of the July started in the early morning, when we started decorating the bikes and wagons so we could join in the children’s parade. Then we’d all gather for the big parade, which always concluded with lots of sirens. We always tried to see fireworks in the evening, too, and in my younger days mom would make special caramel popcorn for watching them.

The only thing I learned from my parents about slavery was that Abraham Lincoln was a great man for ending it. When I was perhaps 10, I told my mom to read the American Girl books about an enslaved child. They made her cry, but she never chose to include this crucial part of history with the other kids – maybe she didn’t know how to talk about it.

Our whole lifestyle had to do with supporting war, capitalism, and white supremacy. Patriotism looks like festivity for white people in this country, which is grotesque but true. It looks like pretending whole genocides didn’t exist. It’s disgusting to me now, but that is only because I have since learned how inaccurate my education was.

I can’t get to everything. I’ve been writing this post since yesterday. I need to wrap it up. My point in offering all of the above information is that part of systemic racism is educational neglect, and giving the power to educate to uninformed people. I do not believe any child can be sufficiently educated by only two people, particularly not by two people who agree enough about the world to be married to each other. Yet millions of people go through our public education system and are still left thinking that oppression is the problem of the oppressed.

Cognitive dissonance is going to be a real problem for all of us as things get worse on our planet. Our brains have not adapted to a rapidly changing world. As reality becomes more frightening, denial is more enticing. At the same time, denial will become more difficult to achieve.

I mention denial here because it is the key ingredient in keeping our system working the way it does. Evil happens because they don’t expect us to even believe anybody could be that evil…but the evil is everywhere: health insurance companies burying people alive with bureaucracy. Empty homes owned by the wealthy, while others go homeless despite their most dedicated efforts. Vast inequality, most detrimental to those who are the most disadvantaged. Police brutality to keep it all working the way it’s supposed to.

I don’t know what to say to help people get from a point where they embrace this country to realizing it’s an empire of exploitation. Perhaps it is impossible to cut past the extreme indoctrination. It’s not an education at all. It is the insistence that this country ignore its roots as a colonial power. It is the demand that we swear our loyalty without knowing what we’re agreeing to.

No longer do I stand to recite the pledge, nor do I sing the national anthem. It only reminds me of how I was told what to feel and think and believe. Now I am reading everything I can to inform myself about what really happened.

Unfortunately, whatever Trump is calling for has already taken place for millions of us. We were supposed to be patriots.

(Almost) Hopeless

Content Warning: This article discusses police brutality, internet censorship, and near-term human extinction.

Not sure where to begin after a day like yesterday. The onslaught of news was overwhelming. Later in the day, it became apparent to me at last that our internet is being censored. The omissions were eerie. For a little while, the only tweets coming through about the situation in Kentucky misspelled Breonna Taylor’s name – nothing with the right keywords was favored by the algorithms. Thousands of accounts had their followers and people they followed disappear. I kept seeing tweet after tweet asking, “is something wrong/off about twitter today?” Nobody asked about Facebook because “getting zucced” is a regular thing already.

It has been this way for some time. American exceptionalism is so deeply engrained in me that even though I have unlearned a lot of it, realizing that our internet is censored shocked me. Not here, I thought, before correcting myself: why not here? When has our genocidal, imperialist, racist country ever been above controlling the information its citizens have access to?

I should not be surprised, but I am. Social media has been the cold water to slowly heat to boiling with me in it. The options have simplified over time, leaving us cycling between a mere handful of sites to gain information. Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – the algorithms are designed to suppress uprisings and prevent communication between revolutionaries, spread misinformation to the gullible, and to bury relevant information.

Don’t believe me? Just try Googling the number of COVID-19 deaths. Rather than offering a direct answer, Google has built a page to subvert and confuse the facts, so at first glance you’ll only see the daily changes in a chart, based on your location. One must toggle several menus to get an accurate answer for the country and world. That’s not to mention all the so-called “reputable” sources who charge for content, excluding the poor from being more informed.

So the media reports about two officers injured last night. People have been protesting for months and I haven’t seen a single news media outlet list off the many injuries inflicted by the police. The news claims protesters are being violent. The algorithms have been sufficiently tightened to suppress information and anyone who thinks it couldn’t happen here still believes that the United States is what it claims to be on some level. But it’s not.

We are not a land of freedom, justice, equality, or human rights. We never have been. Our violence and brutality exists for profit, for the taste of immense power.

Also don’t come at me with the bullshit that people who hate this country should just leave. I’ve been TRYING to get out of this country for over five years now, not that it would necessarily help anyone. I’ve never in that time had the spare funds to get a passport, much less the resources to cover the transportation, much less even a cheap car, not to mention the host of other details required in the process of getting out. To leave, to move, to travel – all of this is a privilege afforded to few in my country. Most of us are trapped, trying to get by in a system that demands both our labor and our wages for existing (including putting this expectation on people who can’t even work), and keeps murdering minorities to maintain a reign of terror. Our continuous wars for profit extend this terror – of white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, destruction – to the world.

I think of how much work there is to be done for the cause of justice. How long must we wait, I wonder? Because as humans, we are running out of time to get our shit together.

The time between now and our extinction as a species is growing shorter with each day we continue to pollute and destroy. My research has led me to believe we have less than 100 years left. I believe this because all the models I can find for climate change reversal/slowing are based on significant reductions in pollution and destruction that we are not making whatsoever. You have to read all the way to the end to find the sections of these studies that say “and here’s what will happen if we continue on our current trajectory,” and those timelines are getting shorter with each new study. Each year the fire seasons will get worse, each year more animals and insects and other life forms with go extinct, and each year the sea levels will rise. When we say Gen Z is the last generation to live out a lifetime, that may be optimistic.

I do not have hope of reversing climate change. We are past that point. The most we can do, realistically, is minimize the inevitable suffering and halt our destruction and violence. We have the resources to feed, shelter, clothe, and otherwise care for everyone on the planet. The least we can do is make ourselves comfortable and care for each other. Our looming fate can motivate us to go out peacefully together.

I cannot say I see it happening, though. I don’t blame us, the ordinary people, for what is outside of our control. We can only protest the powerful, in whatever ways we can. The powerful are funneling the resources out of our mouths and into their pockets, and also using murder and maiming as motivation to conform.

We’re begging them not to kill innocent people in their own homes for the color of their skin.

That’s not a lot to ask for.

But our system can’t even offer a presidential candidate that doesn’t support the police state. It can’t offer impeachment of a corrupt president. It has no interest in keeping power in check, so it doesn’t. I’m realizing it never did.

I am not hopeful today. I only see the vast difference between the possible and the real, and my expectations lower with each development, especially with climate change looming.

This doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s worth it to fight for what’s right. I just think those of us who are trying to see things as clearly as possible need to realize we don’t have a lot of time left as a species, so we need to realize we’re racing against our own fate. We can’t stop our own destruction, just slow it down and demand justice for all of humanity until then. It shouldn’t be too much to ask.

If you’re struggling to hope right now, you are not alone. If you’re not, why?

I’m not saying religion sucks, but it hurt me, okay

Disclaimer: this is not an attack on religion or religious people for being religious. It’s just my thoughts about MY former faith and how I interpreted it then and now.

Seven billion lives to punish
This race will pay for their avarice
The odious destroyers
Leading our lives towards exile
The fickle breed will purge themselves

Seven billion people will be burnt from this earth
This world will never be safe
Glorifying christ like he saved us
With a thousand eyes we watch but refuse to act
We will bathe this world in our blood.
Pain is your guide.
Pain is your god.
Pain is your guide.

I wasn’t exposed to a lot of good music growing up, so my partner has shown me many rock and metal albums that I missed. I don’t think I could even name all the bands he’s gotten me into, including my current favorite band, He Is Legend.

This album is his favorite of all time, but I haven’t been able to emotionally approach it for years because the themes are so strongly Christian. I used to love Christian music while I was a Christian, and I’ve known a lot of bands that are formerly Christian, including He Is Legend. (If you’d like to see a video about why so many metal bands left Christian metal, Finn McKenty covered it well here.) Some Christian music is fine for me, but some of it is nothing short of emotionally devastating, and it brings me to tears of rage and grief. I told him that we could listen together when I was ready, and today, at last, I was. And I cried a few times throughout the album, as expected, but it was good.

I’ll tell you what it’s called, but it’s not for everyone. Define the Great Line by Underøath. For those who would prefer to avoid the screaming vocals, this song is a transition in the middle of the album that’s soft, emotionally soaring, and contains Psalm 50:1-6 performed in Icelandic, a truly gutting and harrowing recording. Below is the passage in English:

The Mighty One, God the Lord,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;
A fire shall devour before Him,
And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.
He shall call to the heavens from above,
And to the earth, that He may judge His people:
“Gather My saints together to Me,
Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”
Let the heavens declare His righteousness,
For God Himself is Judge.

Most of my readers weren’t here back in my Christian days, but I used to pour my heart out over the deity I once believed in. I haven’t salvaged all of the archives from when I was blogging daily starting back in 2012, but I’ve always incorporated musical lyrics that resonate with me in my writing. In this post I talked more about what it’s like to lose your religion, where I actually quoted the one Underøath song I’ve always really liked.

I don’t know if I can begin to describe how intoxicating it is to genuinely believe in the supremacy of the divine. I noted while I was listening that the music soars with emotion, and it was the Psalm I linked to earlier that brought me to tears. At last, there has been enough distance from the trauma for me to appreciate the beauty in the art created through religion. I’ve always found the recitations of religious literature incredibly beautiful, inspired and fueled by the magic of consciousness in wonder. I don’t care if it’s an Arabic passage from the Quran or a Hebrew selection from the Torah, or any non-Abrahamic religion. My point is that I can see the appeal.

I can more than see it. I am familiar like a former addict. I used to ride the emotional waves, conjuring a whole god in my imagination, to shrink under its infinite shadow. Allow me to paint a picture of why this particular passage from the religious book I used to believe was the written word of the god of the universe and all creation. The scene that comes to mind is the view I saw from the height of climbing a 14,000-foot mountain and looking down at the surrounding mountaintops of the Rockies, spreading to the horizon like slow waves in a haze of clouds. It was on this trip that one of the kids in my wilderness camp expedition group brought along a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and asked me to read it aloud. They were at the part where the children ride Mrs. Whatsit’s Pegasus-like angelic form, and are brought up high above mountains on another planet, overcome as well with a breathtaking view. In the book, they use magical flowers to help them breathe. Below them, beautiful creatures perform a musical dance in a garden, which has a profound effect on them emotionally. They don’t understand the words until it is translated into another biblical passage, Isaiah 42:10-12.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice,
The villages that Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,
Let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord,
And declare His praise in the coastlands.

There’s a lot there to analyze, and I’m already past the “short post” line, so I’ll do my best to be brief. The idea of a deity is so massive that it takes up a lot of space in the consciousness. It may have no impact on reality whatsoever, but it impacts the psyche deeply. You don’t need to have proof of miracles to believe in them. In fact, the religion I once identified with encourages belief without proof. There’s a story in the bible that after the resurrection of Jesus, his disciple Thomas has his doubts until he sees his crucifixion wounds for himself. The resurrected Jesus is reported to have made the statement, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.”

This literature goes big, it goes to epic proportions. This deity is imminent in the rotation of the planet we inhabit and its star. Not only that, he’s beautiful and perfect. Not only that, he is powerful enough to rain fire from the sky with a thought. Not only that, the future of all time is up to him to determine and resolve. He is so majestic, so immense, so powerful, that anyone who encounters him will be brought to a state of groveling in worship. Not only that, at the end of all things, anyone who hadn’t clearly seen before that this deity is supreme will fall to their knees and admit they were wrong about it. The wonder of the universe itself pays tribute to the deity, because he is its presumed creator. These ideas distort reality so that everything is scrutinized in the light of a literally sky-sized imaginary friend.

It got to me when I read the line, “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” This is because for many years, I was a self-proclaimed Jesus Freak who thought martyrdom was a worthy end I would be lucky to endure. One of the great tragedies in the myth of Christian martyrdom is that it has glorified pain and torture and death, turning horror to honor. The promise is that if you’ve suffered well enough, and not recanted your faith in the saving grace of god, someday you’ll have earned the reward of a better existence than this one.

To me, that false hope with a refusal to acknowledge the finality of death is tragic. So as I find it haunting and I appreciate the poetry of those who are under its influence, my experience of this kind of art is fresh once again, and I am processing the emotions at last that were too painful to approach for so long.

I’ll close with describing a music video from a very secular metal band, I Exalt. The name of the band satirizes this concept of worship, and the songs criticize the hypocrisy of many religious people. The video itself contains the vocalist hanging from a cross, secured with chains, at one point with black liquid spilling from his mouth. The music itself is called deathcore metal, so again, it’s not for everyone. Here’s that video, for anyone who cares to see that while listening to deathcore metal music and vocals.

I opened this post with the conclusion of that song. That is how I feel now about denial in the face of climate change and near-term human extinction, something many people use religion for. I’m not saying all religion is bad, or that people who practice and believe it are bad people. What I am saying is that for me, to go back would be to embrace denial.

Anyway, I don’t feel that I really grasped why it was good for me to go on this emotional journey. It just was. It helped me process the way I used to think and feel. Sometimes that’s enough.

Therapeutic Creativity

Image: a painting with a black background with an yellow/red/orange sun in the center, a maroon planet with a shiny green ring off to the upper right, below the arm of a galaxy illuminated with silver clusters of stars. Crossing from the middle of the left side to the top, there is a spiral of shiny blue and green intertwining. A blue planet lurks in a dark upper left corner, three moons surrounding it – the biggest moon, to its right, is gold, and two smaller moons are to its left, blue and silver. In the lower left corner are twin planets, the slightly larger one is gold and the slightly smaller one is a shiny green. Finally, in the lower right corner and swooshing across to the bottom-center of the painting is a wave of silver dot stars over dark blue swirls.

Today to procrastinate on writing my daily blog post, I’m updating my page about the themes I’ll be covering in my memoir. People online have been asking if I’m still writing it, and the short answer is I’m working on it very very slowly. The reason for this is that I’m quite young and haven’t put much time between myself and the events of that time yet, and it’s hard to write about trauma. I’ve been telling my Patreon patrons about this for some time: It can be counterproductive to recovery to continuously unpack the traumatic events.

I didn’t even realize my family was cult-like until I was 22 years old. I’m 28 now, and my book’s master document has…79,456 words. Not including the work-in-progress chapters, of which I’m working on two. It isn’t fully drafted. I expect that it will take at least a few more years before it’s physically in print. Memoirs take careful simmering, and I may not be ready to say what I need to say for a long time still. I’m not rushing, because some of the best memoirs of all time were not completed at a young age by their authors. I recently finished Boy, Roald Dahl’s memoir about his childhood, which he didn’t write until he was more than twice my age. (Thank you to the sponsor who sent the book!)

That’s why I’m engaging in three therapeutic things: writing fiction, writing shorter and less edited blog posts, and painting. This is giving me the space to reawaken my creativity instead of succumbing to writer’s block over a memoir that I may not be capable of finishing very quickly.

The painting is going well. I took an interest in painting when I was very young, but due to the number of younger siblings I had, nothing was safe from being destroyed by very small children and toddlers. One Christmas when I was six or seven, all my aunts and uncles got me art supplies. I received paints, giant paper, brushes, the works – each a gift that showed they saw my artistic ability and wanted to encourage it. As a final surprise, my grandfather revealed a wooden easel he’d built for me and painted navy blue and white. It was just my height, so I could easily reach. I picked up color schemes and learned how to mix primaries to get the colors I wanted for the next few weeks of winter. Then one day, my little sister poured my paints together until they turned a horrid brown color, and spread it all over the easel. I don’t remember the repercussions, just that I lost interest in painting. I returned to it about 6 months ago when I bought some canvases and a cheap set of acrylics. Now I’m working on painting every day with eagerness.

I won’t say much about writing fiction just yet because I want it to remain fun instead of obligatory, and so far it has been. I’ve been writing fiction with a companion, who has created a fantasy world, and I have built a character to play, and we email back and forth, adding to the story in small increments. I don’t know where this will lead as far as developing more fiction of my own, but if you’d like to see a story I wrote, I published this one a while back: The Legend of the Snow Fairies

Finally, short blog posts. I think I have enough here for today, and I can sign off. I’ll be back for small portions of nonfiction writing here on the blog as regularly as I can.

Writing Doubts

Writing is a real fight. I’ve been at it for nearly five hours, and I’m starting again with nothing.

The blog as a medium is one that I was introduced to through my dad, who wanted to put every details of our family’s life onto his blog for many years of my childhood. When I expressed an interest in having a blog of my own, he at first allowed me to post on the family blog, heavily editing my work, before helping me set up this site. He’d rephrase what I was trying to say until it had lost its original meaning, and there was no convincing him that he hadn’t improved it with his brilliance.

I always wanted to analyze media and politics, weighing in with my thoughts, but to this day I fight with myself. Even though I’ve been no-contact with my father for six years, the criticisms tarnish every hesitant word and phrase. I do not create with confidence. My thoughts seem too raw, too personal, too extreme, too…anything that gives me a chance to leave yet another idea incomplete and unfit for publishing here.

My goal in writing short posts on a daily basis is to just let myself reflect and ponder freely. I may not always be the most informed and I know I’m not always right. Perhaps this is what makes my voice such a unique one on the internet – I explore instead of making absolute statements of opinion. I don’t claim to completely understand why things are the way they are, I can only make observations from what I can see.

I feel a great disconnect between why people read my blog and what I actually write here. People are curious about what happens when someone escapes fundamentalism, and the result in my case is rather extreme. I’m so far left I’m upset with liberals and Democrats most days – it’s the hypocrisy that gets me, more than the outright evil of the far right. At least they’re honest about prioritizing profit and policing bodies.

When I sit down to pen a blog post, what comes out is ranting about how extremely broken our system is. I have my doubts about whether I’m preaching to the choir or to an audience that merely infantilizes me for my past, assuming I’m extreme just because I’ve been hurt or something, as if that’s not a valid and reasonable way to gain information about what is dangerous and harmful. Am I convincing anyone? Have I made people think differently about how they see the world? Even if I have, what difference does it make, ultimately?

I have lofty ideas about this little blog with its blocky, choppy design and just over a million all-time visits. I know it’s not a pretty site right now. I know the archives are all over the place as far as topics of discussion are concerned. Yet some part of me wants for my artistic work to have the kind of meaning that influences the outcome of things. I want to influence larger events while providing a place of solace for those who are also disturbed by the world we live in.

It’s right about here that I have to race with my own mind to get the words out and keep going, talking myself through the process, instead of allowing the deluge of doubts to flow in. Is it long enough? What am I saying, where am I going with this? How am I going to come up with a title that summarizes what I’ve just written? Is it important enough to talk about, with everything going on in the world that demands attention?

That last question hangs from every word, telling me to delete from here and start over again. Write about what really matters, I demand of myself. The problem with that approach is I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew, and trying to analyze the whole US economy.

So I get to the bottom of finally producing several hundred words, and they’re all complaints about the problem of writing itself, which isn’t at all what I wanted. I’m tired of the self-indulgence of saying that writing is too hard, when it is a craft I have practiced with such diligence for the purpose of expressing, and there are so many Very Important Things to write about. More important than writing about how hard writing is, anyway, I think. Who wants a writer to remind them they’re writing?

Yet after working at it for five hours, that’s what I’ve got. I will be back tomorrow, maybe then I’ll have something to present that feels worth it. For now, I’m sticking with my goal of posting, even if it’s not perfect. Thank you all for being willing to follow along as I explore.

Everything (Sucks)

How do I sit still while the planet is dying?
The bees are dead
The big boss is up in his tower
My face is red
Yelling, but there’s soundproof glass around him
He’s counting all the mountains of money around him
How would you feel if you got cheated out of
Growing up?
You’re born into a dying world,
Its time is up
This isn’t just some overdone fantasy problem
Quit counting all the mountains of money around you
       -Veela

Each time I sit down to write for the blog, I am overwhelmed by decision paralysis. There is simply so much happening at once, and my outlook on the state of the planet as a whole is quite bleak. I am not convinced, personally, that humanity has much time left before we bring about our own extinction as a species. This is one of the reasons I am not having biological children – they wouldn’t have a whole life span to live, and they would have a miserable collapse to endure until it’s all over.

2020 has been a series of events that were predictable, and in fact had been projected possibilities for decades. I saw this explained well in this thread on twitter. We’re finally witnessing the fallout, and it’s all downhill from here, I find myself expecting. I am simply too small to keep up with all the details of the news cycle, yet the magic of social media algorithms gives me the sense that if I just keep scrolling, I’ll eventually be informed. The pandemic has made the United States a world leader in a horrendous way, and a good number of us think that means we’re winning a game. Our political situation is such a mess, I don’t feel entirely safe to say what I really think about it. And now, as of two days ago, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead – the latest in a series of very predictable events.

Personally, I never idolized Ginsburg. Her existence demonstrates how far we have to go, I think, more than how far we’ve come as a nation. The fact that she was only the second woman to join the Supreme Court of the United States shows how much my country lacks progression. Her stances strictly furthered the cause of white supremacy and capitalism, because US Democrats and Republicans agree on these things. White women primarily benefited from her being in power. At best she did the minimum, but she didn’t by any means support the movement for abolition.

And I suppose if I’m going to make this short and get to my point about everything, and the overwhelm of trying to discuss everything in my writing…it’s that very few people realize how drastic our actions would have to be to make things better.

I am not interested in green deals or other small compromises to put imaginary deadlines and minor reductions on exponential environmental devastation. I am not interested in solutions that leave prisons and detention centers standing and cops employed. I am not interested in merely taxing the rich or raising the minimum wage, as this still fails to reverse the flow of philanthropy from poor to rich in our economy. I don’t want “Medicaid for all” because I’m on Medicaid and it’s awful – I want a robust healthcare system that stops demanding professionals work themselves into husks of exhausted despair fighting to do what little insurance allows. I don’t want small measures. They are not enough.

Even if, starting today, we started implementing the most extreme measures to curb climate change and US imperialism and the inequality crisis, I do not believe it is within our power to stop them. This may seem like a jaded perspective. I am interested in evidence to the contrary, but for now, my search for solutions is more like offering comfort to a dying patient than any hope of a cure.

Well, do you know where we’re heading for?
You think it’s illusion or an intrusion
Maybe the outcome can’t be helped
Cause doing our part just doesn’t quell
Tous les besoins industriels
If it’s too late for us,
Is it right to make more of us?

Link to quoted song: “Time’s Up” by Veela

[French line translation: “all industrial needs”]

P. S. My partner and I are trying to move into a more accessible and affordable place, and we don’t have the stability to do it on our own. More details here: https://cynthiajeub.com/2020/08/31/accessible-housing-for-disabled-couple-fund/

The Urgency-Sustainability Problem of Poverty

I spend a lot of my time explaining myself to people who don’t know what it’s like to be truly poor. In many ways, I myself do not know what it is like to experience extreme poverty. What I know is that it is terrifying and traumatizing to be on the edge of not having a safe place to sleep and access to nourishment and care.

My last few posts and announcements may come as a shock to many of you, and I want to clarify my thoughts and intentions as much as possible. There are several factors at play here: my partner’s steadily deteriorating health, my own chronic nerve pain, the struggle to keep a roof over our heads with my writing-from-home income, the ongoing push for disability benefits, and the rising cost of living alongside a failing economy.

So to break down the decision-making process, I want to talk first about where we’re at and where we need to be, and how it is possible to use our accessible housing fundraiser to launch us into sustainable housing. Before I can get into that, though, I need for middle-class and upper-class readers to understand that sustainable decision-making is a privilege. I can only project with what I have, and that doesn’t mean I can crunch numbers several months or even a year out. I must take my expenses month by month.

Poverty creates a sense of urgency like nothing else. Every meal, every night of sleep, every place you can think to safely secure your belongings, becomes a fight the less you have access to wealth. I feel extremely lucky to say that for the past two years, my partner and I have consistently been able to live in the same place without missing rent once. All of that is due to your kindness.

Right now I make $515 per month from 57 Patreon patrons. My partner hasn’t been able to work in over a year, and is bedridden and can no longer use the stairs. I left my front-lines grocery store deli job in early March to protect my partner, and also because the work was too strenuous for my body. Since then I’ve been relying on the kindness of friends, allies, and supporters. Right now, rent is $700, utilities vary between $100 and $150, sharing one phone is $40, I don’t have a car so Uber rides are another $150 or so, and emergency expenses bring us up to about $1000-$1,200 in expenses per month. This is about twice what I make, which is why I’ve needed to also raise funds to make ends meet over the past several months.

Winter is coming, and I think I can do better on both expenses and accessibility. We’ve spent time looking for a roommate we can trust who has a steady income. They can pay for half of rent on a 2-bedroom apartment. I’ve been looking, and we can beat the cost of what we’re paying now. We also desperately need a place without stairs. It would mean so much more access for my partner, who can’t access the kitchen these days.

My diagnosis did not take me by surprise. I have been in pain for a very long time. It merely confirms how difficult it has been for me to do work that people twice my age don’t seem bothered doing. I can still write, and I am determined to keep doing so. I want to stop talking about myself and my own financial situation and get back to the economy at large, but each day is filled with trying to make the next month’s worth of expenses happen. Just like it is for people who have “real jobs.”

Here’s how the expenses would break down if we do indeed move in by the beginning of October: application expenses will be about $150-$200. Rent will be split, so I will be paying $500 and so will my roommate. The deposit can be anywhere from $600 to $1,200 as well. Renting a U-Haul truck for moving us within town will cost about $100. We need to also put down the first two months’ worth of rent, which is $2,000 up front. We’ll also need to attain basic household necessities and a food staple base. Altogether, we think $4,000 is a realistic, sustainable amount to ask for in making the move happen.

I am making the most sustainable, least desperate, most financially wise choice available. Poverty creates urgency, and I wish I could present a more stable plan, but I hope this post clarifies that I’ve thought this through and my expectations are realistic.

If you’re interested in helping me get by monthly, most of my Patreon patrons give $5 a month. More details here.

If you’d like to help us move, the accessible housing fundraiser is here.

Thank you all so much for everything, and for encouraging me to ask.

When am I getting back to writing?

In December 2019, I announced that I was back on the blog. Then 2020 happened, and in the past 8 months I’ve hardly posted once a month, mostly to raise funds to stay housed. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone for helping us so far and for your continued efforts to share and donate to our fundraisers, and in making pledges on Patreon.

I haven’t stopped writing, but I have needed to walk away from the memoir for a bit. I’ve been (still, slowly) working through a book of prompts for my journal. For the past few weeks I’ve also been practicing with writing fiction, with the help of someone more experienced in the craft. I think if I was to return to the blog, I would need to start making short posts of what’s on my mind instead of trying to demand perfection in researched essays from myself.

Who am I convincing with all this information I’ve gathered about the economy, injustice, and trauma? I wonder and I am divided between all the things I want to write, and everything I definitely don’t want to write.

What I don’t want to write is the stuff that leaves me exhausted for days afterward to squeeze out. It’s the memories that haunt me most, the ones that leave me with nightmares and other symptoms of complex PTSD. It is difficult to recollect the life I left behind, and because I so often try to revisit it out of a commitment to finish this memoir, it feels sometimes as if I haven’t left it behind at all.

What I do want to write is expansive – stories, allegories about religion and fantastical science fiction and fantasy, and nonfiction books of reflections on various subjects. Maybe even music.

I must be patient with myself – I’m not yet 30 and many great authors didn’t finish their memoirs until they were twice my age or older. I don’t want to limit myself to only focusing on one project because I’m afraid of what I’ll miss out on creating and enjoying in the time it takes to finish my book.

Times are perilous and I have much to say. I will be trying to blog more often, but this time in short bursts. I hope you enjoy whatever thoughts land here.