*tap-tap* Is this thing on?
Hello academic blogosphere, I hoped you enjoyed your summer. I’ve been MIA for the most part and it’s been restful (again, for the most part; another week of house guest; DH jokes we might need a second vacation).
You thought I’d be back with some academic fare? PSYCH! as my kids would say. No such luck for you today, dear readers. Instead, put on your oxygen mask and goggles, we’re diving into my navel again.
So it turns out that Eldest doesn’t know me. Apparently, he, who’s known me all his life and with whom I have always had great rapport, thinks I am some sort of a super tough lady. He has no idea, because as he rightly says he’s never seen any evidence to support the following assertion, that on the inside I am a giant hypersensitive sniveling wuss who feels and is bothered by everything, thinks everything is her fault, and that how I relate to the world is really through a twelve-inch-thick armor so as to protect said sniveling wuss from getting its feelings hurt (again!) and to prevent the world from exploiting the wuss’s myriad vulnerabilities.
I despise my vulnerabilities/wimpiness/mopiness. So much that I channel everything into rage. Yes, just like a dude. My transformation is complete.
For instance, DH’s brother is here and was playing some old-timey folk songs from Godforsakia. These are the songs often played at weddings in rural parts and it’s also the music to which people get piss-drunk after breakups.
That stuff is forbidden around me (not that anyone would play it; DH stopped craving it long ago) because I get all nostalgic and mopey and I abhor it. Also, the pop culture stuff we listened to and watched in our youth is also forbidden, for the same reason — hatred of inescapable weepiness.
We are where we are. We live how we live. I understand being nostalgic fresh off the plane. Nostalgia after 20 years in a different country is useless, self-indulgent bullshit. A luxury. This is my credo. YMMV.
In interpersonal relationships, I always wait for the other shoe to drop. Other than my immediate family (that’s DH and the boys) I am always on the lookout to be disappointed. I don’t want to try to be friends with moms of my kids’ buddies because I don’t want to freak them out by being the needy mess that I am; they are also giving all they’ve got to not freak out over my accent; better to stay away. I think I terrify most of my colleagues. How people make friends in this country is still mysterious to me and will likely remain so forever. DH doesn’t need people at all; I kind of envy him for that. I do need people, but the interactions are always a disappointment — they are either pro forma or, if I let my guard down, I am too much. So, to be accurate, the interactions are a disappointment because I am.
Enough of the disgusting pity party. I have some writerly friends and am supposed to even go to a writing workshop (!). I expect the workshop to potentially be useful but for meeting writing friends to be a letdown, because I am far cooler on literary twitter and here than IRL. (Not hard; I am really lame IRL; not being humble, it’s true.) Actually, I might still just back out at the last minute from the workshop.
So my son thinks I am really tough, which I probably am, and it makes me sad because I thought my kids have been the only ones who’ve always loved me unconditionally, for whom I’ve always been enough. It turns out, that’s because they, too, don’t really know me. Do we ever really know each other? I suppose I don’t really know my parents; I kind of do know my mom now, but my dad I still don’t. Or perhaps I know them as much as you can know people who are family but not soulmates.
In other news, which on the surface aren’t related to the above but kind of are, I’ve written a lot of horror, dark fantasy, and dark sci-fi in recent weeks. Horror would not be a genre I’d peg myself to write when I started out, because I’m a scaredy cat. Seriously, I can’t watch horror movies because I can’t sleep, but I love reading creepy stuff, I really do, and it turns out I can write it. I guess one needs to be able get creeped out in order to creep others out. I’ve had a really disturbing body horror short story accepted for publication and two more awaiting, alongside a fairy tale (!), a dark sci-fi story, and a whole bunch of shorter dark sci-fi stuff.
Writing speculative fiction is much more comfortable than writing creative nonfiction or even realistic fiction, because the latter two make me feel too exposed. Speculative fiction gives me just enough of a protective buffer, a cloak of sorts, that I am able to relax and delve into some real feelings and visceral stuff. Writing fiction is an amazing, half-otherworldly process. When you hit “the flow,” it’s you but not entirely you; it comes from a semi-conscious place. Writers tell you that the characters take on a life of their own, and they are not lying. It’s a little like giving birth vaginally without meds. When the time comes to push, you feel an overwhelming urge to do so; there is no stopping it or controlling it. (Yes, what you see on TV people yelling push is complete bullshit, unless you’re numb on pain meds and don’t feel contractions). Hehe — I told you I write gross stuff now.
Concluding this navel-dive drivel.
Do we really ever know other people?
Do our kids really know us as people? Should they? Can they, once they are adults?
How to cure/survive being a square peg surrounded by round holes?
Is human connection overrated? Is it OK if I spend the rest of my life having only small talk with everyone except my immediate family, writing body horror, and spilling my metaphorical guts to strangers on the blog?
How do I quench infinite impatience that is the main reason why my stories don’t go as high up the publication totem pole as they could (cause I cannot/will not wait 6 months for a form no from a magazine that doesn’t permit simultaneous submission)?
Aaaaaargh! (okay, technically not a question)
How’s your summer going?
Please go to the writers workshop!!! I found out far too late (at 37) that other writers seem to be almost the only people I can naturally and easily connect to and that I honestly like to be around. 🙂 Maybe it will be similar for you? They are much kinder than physicists, but similarly original and weird and nerdy in a different way. I also usually feel that as soon as I open up people find me too much, but that is not like that around other writers because many of us write precisely because we are a bit on the intense side. Also it is simply so cool to get to know people both by what they write and in person, it is often so different that it has actually changed my view on humans.
p.s. I also feel very uncool all the time but what I write is a bit cooler than me and that makes people react differently to me than normally, which is so nice.
I have zero insights on public personas and friendship, other than, it’s haaaard. However, on the subject of horror, have you ever read Shadow Unit? (http://shadowunit.org/readingorder.html) I read it when I was at my sickest because it was only a little more horrifying than all that pain!
Er, also content note on Shadow Unit for extremely disturbing scary plot, graphicaly described violence, character death, and a variety of nonconsensual unpleasantness of varying degrees. It IS horror, after all.
Do we really ever know other people? Some are probably easier to fully read than others, but fundamentally I dont think so. Which ties in to ..
How to cure/survive being a square peg surrounded by round holes? Since you don’t know them how do you know they’re round? We’re all irregular polytopes.
Do our kids really know us as people? Should they? Can they, once they are adults? I don’t think kids can or should know all our weaknesses. Kids need to feel safe and have pillars of support and they aren’t able to adequately understand the fears and doubts of a parent. Once they’re adults, sure, make them your best friends or therapists; they owe you that 😉
I dole myself out in small doses to everyone except my DH. From what I understand, I am delightful until I start to grate.
I don’t mind my kids idolizing me a bit—it helps kids when they’re kids to believe that parents can protect them and serve as role models. I don’t think I realized my mom was human until my mid 20s and it was a bit of a shock.
@nm: “From what I understand, I am delightful until I start to grate.”
That sounds about right for me. 🙂
“Since you don’t know them how do you know they’re round? We’re all irregular polytopes.”
Fair enough, and yes, of course. I’m thinking within the same low-level approximation. If I have five edges and someone else has 78, it’s more likely, at first glance, I approximate as a square and they as a circle. ;D
“Kids need to feel safe and have pillars of support and they aren’t able to adequately understand the fears and doubts of a parent. Once they’re adults, sure, make them your best friends or therapists; they owe you that ”
Oh God no, please don’t make your kid your therapist. I was that for my Mom when she was separating from my Dad and starting to see the man she’d been with for the past 20 years; I was in my early twenties at the time, maybe late teens. She did that because her own parents and friends were all unsupportive (must stay married at all cost), so I am glad I could help her and I am sad she was alone. But OTOH that’s also a crappy thing to do, leaning so much on your child. I remember having to step into this ultra-intellectual place with complete emotional suppression to be able to support her, because I didn’t have the experience or emotional maturity to do what really required a middle-aged best friend or a licensed therapist. I know far more about my parents’ marriage and sex life than anyone ever should. So please, a definite no, on making kids your best friend or therapist. It’s quite unfair to them.
But yeah, eventually, it would be nice to be viewed, by my kids, as an autonomous/multifaceted/flawed human rather than an infallible entity that’s there solely for their sake.
@Zinemin: “other writers seem to be almost the only people I can naturally and easily connect to and that I honestly like to be around. 🙂 Maybe it will be similar for you? They are much kinder than physicists, but similarly original and weird and nerdy in a different way. I also usually feel that as soon as I open up people find me too much, but that is not like that around other writers because many of us write precisely because we are a bit on the intense side.”
OMG that’s a great point!
We should really connect via email, I’d love to see what you’ve been writing (if you’re ok with it).
“kinder than physicists” — LOL!
I am part of the literary fiction community, as well as speculative (sci-fi and horror). There are also some poets there with whom I interact a lot. The literary folks are lovely (on Twitter) and the horror folks are really approachable and cool. By far the scariest crowd are the sci-fi folks, and so many of their blogs and submission guidelines to zines are these very off-putting prescriptive hardliner narratives; the vibe is very much the same as in physical sciences professional communities. I don’t wanna link to anything, but sci-fi is the genre that I love to read and love to write, but it’s the only one that fills me with unbelievable insecurity and anxiety when I submit because the gatekeepers are so fuckin’ scary.
@Jenny: I liked this collection: https://www.amazon.com/Gutted-Beautiful-Stories-Neil-Gaiman/dp/194517465X
And there are many places to read horror online for free (quality varies).
Many folks start with Horror Tree’s Trembling with Fear: https://horrortree.com/category/trembling-with-fear/
The Arcanist has under-1000-words speculative fiction, lots of horror in it:
The Sirens Call eZine
I was born here and it’s still mysterious to me how people make friends in this country as adults. But I was reading somewhere that most Americans now report zero close friends, or<1 on average, dropping from 3-5 in the last 20 years. So maybe no one is making friends….
Oh no, sorry to read that the sci-fi people are like that. I only know people writing literary fiction (or attempting to 🙂 ) and they are mostly really nice. It would be so cool if we could exchange our writing, unfortunately I only write in German since my English is just not good enough. But I could try to translate something, might be an interesting exercise. Is your old e-mail address still working?
@zinemin: I am sure your English is good enough! There are plenty of people who aren’t native speakers who write fiction in English (I am an example, but I can think of probably a dozen others off the top of my head who are really very good writers). My German is so rusty it’s probably pulverized, but I remember enough that I could make my way through it, esp. with a dictionary. But don’t worry about it too much.
I was wondering if you could give a bit more insight into how you are getting your writing ‘out there’. Do you treat it like grant applications and submit to as many venues as you can, fearless (or used to…) rejections? Do you submit to contests? Fees/no fees? How did you first start? Or maybe you did elaborate on that already and I missed it?
I’m just really curious…
Biobrains, I can write a separate post a bit later. Or if you have specific questions, feel free to email me.