Monday Musings #16 – Writing About Relationship Problems and Families

I love my family. Really, I do. I’m lucky enough that my grandparents and aunt’s family on my mom’s side have lived nearby since I was a year old. But at the same time, I don’t have a lot of patience for family drama. Add that to one of my favorite people in the world while I was growing up kind of being a drama faucet at just about every available opportunity and, well…

In lieu of actually ranting, though, I’d like to turn this into a writing exercise. Might as well turn it into something potentially productive, right?

Everyone who has been in a romantic relationship has had some amount of relationship hurdles. Even if it’s just small but frustrating stuff like “for the love of god if you finish a roll of toilet paper and don’t put a new one on one more time…”

Anyone who hasn’t is lying.

But here’s something I didn’t fully appreciate until recently: those hurdles can affect the people around the couple, and when they do it can be a significant effect.

Say you have two couples. Couple A has their issues, even serious ones, but they keep it behind closed doors. Their friends and families aren’t particularly aware that they’re having a rough time, and therefore no one ends up dogpiling in with their two cents. That’s not going to have much of an effect on anyone around them, except eventually they might break up and it will come as a surprise to everyone.

For better or for worse, couple B is not as discrete. There’s a lot of different ways that could manifest. Maybe one of them is the kind of person who wants the people around them to pick sides. Are their friends and family the kind of people who would…

  • Take one’s side and be nasty to the other just on principle
  • Take one’s side and offer support, while remaining non-confrontational
  • Take no one’s side, at least not officially, but stay out of it and on okay terms with both
  • Take no one’s side, at least not officially, but privately think they’re both in the wrong and gets more and more pissed at whichever one is more responsible for dragging everyone into their drama but will never say so because ugh, confrontation
  • Just really try to ignore it and not take sides, with minor exceptions when one of them is being totally insufferable
  • Not say anything to their faces but casually try and defend the underdog when the meaner one is really laying into them about something

Other factors to ponder:

  • Does the couple have kids together?
  • Are the in-laws drawn into the fray?
  • Does it become a factor at family gatherings like birthdays and Christmas?
  • Who’s sad, who’s angry, who’s both?
  • Who accepts it as just something that’s happening, like whatever?
  • Who’s frustrated and wants everyone to just shut up?
  • Who has a lot of feelings but has no one in the family they feel like they can discuss it with, rather than just telling/venting/dumping and getting no response back?

Families are complicated organisms. We all know this, and we’re frequently counseled to write what we know.

What family dynamics would you add to these lists of possibilities?

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Monday Musings #15 — Anxiety, Horror, Zen

Do you follow Zen and Pi? There’s a newsletter associated with the blog that I’ve subscribed to and read, eventually. Today I didn’t feel like getting it if bed right away and it was one of the most recent Unread things in my email inbox. So I opened it.
There are always links to interesting reads at the end. I have to admit that I don’t usually click on most of them, and when I do it’s somewhat haphazardly. After all, I usually have a lot of blog post notifications from the blogs in subscribed to waiting in my inbox to be read as well. But today I saw this and clicked immediately: “Horror movies for anxiety?”
One of the hurdles I had to get over in order to ask my doctor about anxiety medication was simply that thinking about how long I have been living with anxiety makes me uncomfortable. As far as I can tell, I went from relatively extroverted to an introverted bookworm at some point just before or during fourth grade. By sixth grade I was a huge Stephen King fan, my favorite movie was Jaws, and vampires that are actually scary became (and for the most part continue to be) my favorite type of humanoid monster. So reading this article about how many people with anxiety self-soothe with horror at first made me uncomfortable because it points out something I’ve been doing for longer than I’d like.

Continue reading “Monday Musings #15 — Anxiety, Horror, Zen”

Monday Musings #14 – Just another Manic Monday

When I started this blog, I wanted to focus on creative writing — my personal experiences as a writer, techniques, fun things to write about, etc. I’ve since discovered that there are a lot of blogs like this. That doesn’t bother me, because everyone’s experience is different and has a unique perspective, so it’s not like the niche is ever going to fill up. It does create a lot of other noise for one blogger’s voice to get lost in, but I didn’t start this blog under any illusions that it would make me Internet Famous.

Mostly, the reason I haven’t been posting much lately is that I just haven’t been writing.

My personal life has been complicated recently by apartment problems. These problems have been half solved, half replaced… by moving and unpacking and trying to get organized again.

Also, there’s work. I have two jobs right now, but the same boss for both and technically I’m still on just one payroll. One of these jobs is a sort of marketing/sales support catch-all for family farmed hard cider. In the past couple months I’ve built a website from scratch on Wix, made fancy-looking brochures, made new social media pages to start building up followers and impressions, and written lots of marketing copy…

Not bad for a creative writing major with no specific schooling in marketing or graphic design. I’m still trying to find my footing and get my work-life balance

But I do miss writing, both for this blog and the stories I haven’t been working on for the past month or two. I want to focus back in on that once the unpacking is all done and I have more free, non feeling-burnt-out time at home. I’m also considering opening up my blog theme a little more to include social media tips or something. What do you think, are there any questions you’d like answered that sound like they would be in my skill set?

Monday Musings #13 — Morning Pages

Good morning! Yesterday I hit my 100th post, and to celebrate I spent the rest of the day changing my blog theme and adding a guest blogger contact page (if anyone would like to submit anything). Today I’ve armored up against the week, however flimsily, with earrings, a t-shirt I’ve had since preschool, and the knowledge that I won’t have a two hour commute to get home tonight. It’s a start, anyway.

I tend to do that. Sometimes I armor myself with optimism, or with exhaustion, or occasionally a dreary “it is what it is so just deal with it” realism that neither worsens nor betters the situation. Often, I try to armor myself with rituals. A cup of tea in the morning. Meditation. Sunday gratitudes. Taking walks. Listening to audiobooks in the car. Remembering to floss. You’d be surprised how many times you might be able to tell yourself that you can handle anything just as long as your teeth feel clean.

It’s a toss-up whether or not most of this does any good. At least I haven’t had any cavities in a long time, and the meditation does help. I should do it more often — that and taking walks. But I’m always on the lookout for new good habits, just in case they are good and, importantly, just in case they’ll stick. Continue reading “Monday Musings #13 — Morning Pages”

Monday Musings #12 – Coffee Shop Self-Care

I don’t often sit in coffee shops. While the free wifi that’s pretty commonly available these days helps, I always feel self-conscious and anxious when setting out to do so. What if I can’t find a comfortable place to sit? What will I do with all my stuff when I have to go to the bathroom? What do I do about food if I’m there for a long time, take snacks (if I have any) or just spend money there? If I take my laptop, what if I can’t get a seat near a plug? Or what if I do, but lose it as soon as I get up to use the bathroom? And let’s be honest, do I really even want to use a public bathroom?

But today I’m just on my phone, and while I’m vaguely concerned about the battery I am temporarily without a charger besides the one in my car so it doesn’t matter if there are seats near the outlets. I ended up with one of the comfy chairs. The music has settled into a tolerable background noise. Today is a paid day off thanks to the holiday, and I have nowhere in particular to be. Well, at least not yet.

So I’m spending the day just chilling. This mornings I woke up at (gasp) 6:30am to have an early breakfast with my brother and parents, and see him off before his drive back to Nevada. Then I went back to bed. When I woke up again, I dusted off one of the half hour yoga recordings and did a (mostly) standing series of meditation stretches. Although that was mildly exhausting it returned to me some of the sense of unwinding that I felt after getting that massage the other week – where the masseuse recommended I do neck and shoulder stretches before bed and first thing every morning. This is the first time I’ve actually done so and I’m going to try and do it more often.

Over the past few weeks I feel like everything has been set to Fast Forward. Work feels as though it’s demanding that I move at breakneck speed, although I feel as though everything I do is more like treading water and I cannot explain that contradiction to myself – I’m pretty sure it’s all in my head. I’ve recently read the suggestion that one of the symptoms of depression is becoming a workaholic, and that seems to ring true because I feel so frantic to get something, anything done and that’s the easiest arena for accomplishment. In my personal life, situations keep escalating in the blink of an eye – this one I know this is all in my head and I’m spacing through a lot of what’s happening for various reasons.

Continue reading “Monday Musings #12 – Coffee Shop Self-Care”

Monday Musings #11 — Censorship

I find a lot of songs on the radio irritating. Some because I just don’t like the genre or something, but a lot of the time it’s because of censorship. Have you noticed that quite often, the “clean” version of a song changes “fuck” to “love” for all the delicate, shell-like ears out there?

Which would be fine, but those things aren’t just fucking interchangeable. One might be in love with someone they’re fucking, but there are lot of songs out there that are really talking about the other, no emotional strings attached kind and potentially giving impressionable listeners (this is the “clean” version after all, so any one could be listening) the wrong idea about what healthy love is like.

Here are just a few examples. Continue reading “Monday Musings #11 — Censorship”

Monday Musings #10 — What just happened?

So… April is over? Apparently? Even though I was doing the April A to Z challenge and hyper aware of where was (or was supposed to be) in the alphabet at most times, the end of the month still managed to sneak up on me.

What did I even do this month?

I listened to four audiobooks:

  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which I’d read before but a while ago. I really like the patchwork feel to it, consistent with how London itself is sort of a patchwork of small towns that the city expanded to and assimilated as it grew.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. I’d seen and been confused by the movie from a fairly young age, so I found this book both fascinating and a revelation.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which… I liked the spiritual aspects of, but I sort of still have lingering “sigh, heterosexual women” feelings. And I didn’t particularly appreciate her disapproval of anti-depressants. Sure she took them, and benefited from them, but she kept broadcasting this “I don’t want to be on these forever” feeling and made a point of explaining that she got off them asap. I don’t know, it just rubbed me the wrong way. At the same time, I really appreciated her handling of the fact that not all women want to have children, and not all those that do have them responsibly.
  • And The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. I am still digesting how I feel about this book. It didn’t have the amount of Quentin fucking up as I’d grown used to.

I went to Indianapolis on my first business trip.

I got my first sunburn of the year, at a really awesome cider festival.

Counting my Sunday Gratitudes, I wrote a post for ever day of the month. They didn’t get posted one per day, exactly, but who’s counting.

All in all, I have gotten a lot done this month. I feel okay about that. Now on to May, and turning twenty-eight…

Monday Musings #8 – Online Consent

Last week, a fellow blogger‘s post got me thinking. The post itself was about a personal struggle with being entrusted to read other people’s writing, but what struck me is that her main example dealt with a request from a friend who had sent both the request and their writing in the same message.

We all have to give each other some benefit of the doubt when it comes to the internet. To me sending the request and the writing together is presuming you’ll get a yes, or a sly end-around to being turned down by making it that much more uncomfortable to do so… I will admit, that was my initial thought because I’m a bit of a cynic sometimes. But it could just be the awkwardness of a fledgling writer seeking out serious feedback for the first time.

So dole out the grains of salt, because not doing so might lead to online attacks and shows like this, but at the same time there are some things about consent that I think we should hold each other more accountable for.

consentFor writers seeking out beta readers, always ask if someone is willing to read what you’ve written before sending it. Even if it seems like that just takes more time, and it’s a hassle sending and keeping track of all these emails. Especially if they’ve never read anything for you before! And even if they have, it’s only polite to ask, “Do you have time for this right now?” Because we have to respect the fact that we each have our own lives to deal with, too.

Another (somewhat unrelated) thing that pings my radar a lot is baby pictures on Facebook. And anywhere, really, but that’s where I see it most often, especially with grandparents and new parents eager to show off their new arrivals. It’s cute and sweet and I’m happy for you — but that picture is on the internet forever. That infant or toddler or cute little kid is going to grow up and realize that they had an online presence long before they even knew what that was or had any control over it. Is that scary? That seems a little scary to me, and I say that as a card carrying millennial.

And it’s not just kids. I haven’t been tagged in a photo in a while so I don’t know if Facebook has changed the way this works, but it at least used to be that if someone tagged you it gave you the option of whether or not to make that tag visible to anyone else and include it in your account’s collection of photos. But even if you declined the tag, that picture of you was still there, online, for anyone inside the poster’s privacy filters to see. What if you were uncomfortable with that?

With photos as with beta requests, I personally feel that it’s only polite to ask first, then act with consent. With adults, let them know in advance if you’re going to post a specific collection of photos and give them an opportunity to say whether or not they’re comfortable with that. (Like, if it’s something they might not want their boss to see, they might at least want to ask about your privacy filters.) With kids, I don’t know. I’m not sure what age they’d start being able to really understand and give consent.

This has been a rant. But consent is important to think about, especially as the concept of an online life becomes more “normal” to incoming generations. How transparent do we really want to be online? To what extent do we inadvertently make that choice for other people? What’s the social protocol here? That’s especially hard to nail down given the global nature of the internet, but so necessary for every individual on it.

Monday Musings #7 – Thoughts About Zombies

Some of my followers are already aware that I am a Walking Dead fan. Since my binge-watch introduction to the show two summers ago, it’s become my favorite portrayal of the zombie apocalypse (although World War Z is a close second and Newsflesh is a not so distant third). Once, my partner and I made these awesome brain cupcakes for a mid-season premiere party (of four people, lol, but hey- more cupcakes for us). At some point I will get around to borrowing the comics from a friend, but for now I think I’d rather just enjoy the show. 2014-10-12 20.14.34

From time to time I pick up a new zombie story. My most recent find is an audiobook copy of Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, which I have not finished yet to be honest. But it’s fascinating to me because I found the attitudes in the book so irritating at first, and now it’s starting to grow on me.

The following review doesn’t exactly contain spoilers, per say, but it does go over the context of this book’s zombies and apocalypse.  Continue reading “Monday Musings #7 – Thoughts About Zombies”

Monday Musing #6 – Unexpected Inspiration

Everyone studies something they never expected to, at least once. In school or in life. Since I got my undergrad I’ve learned a lot about marketing (not what I majored in) and, randomly, the food industry (same).

In college, it was art history.

As I mentioned to Danielle over at The Caffeinated Writer recently, I went to a school so liberal arts that it didn’t believe in math requirements. It didn’t believe in language requirements, large class sizes, tests, or letter grades either. I chose this school largely because of the focus on writing, but also because I didn’t want to have to take any more classes in my least favorite subjects: math, foreign language, and history. I got through tolerably well to AP Calc in high school which was plenty of math for me, thanks, and I scraped through enough years of Spanish class to learn grammar rules and that I’m not good at learning languages. As for history, I’m just awful at keeping track of dates and always found the subject to be generally pretty dry.

But what I didn’t account for was class sizes (10-20 for a seminar, 20-60 for a lecture), and how competitive it made some courses. If it was a popular subject or professor, forget about it. Well… still try, but have lots of backups.

In my sophomore year, I started working on my lecture credit requirements by signing up for a class titled Art & The Sacred. Although it was technically listed as a history class I was able to overlook that fact in favor of the focus on art and it’s historical connections to religions. It turned out to be taught by a delightful little old man whom one of my friends was absolutely convinced was a Time Lord. (Don’t as me why. Dr. Who is something I keep meaning to get into but for some reason never have.) I sat through the entire semester enthralled, especially by illuminated manuscripts.

Continue reading “Monday Musing #6 – Unexpected Inspiration”