2011: the lights and shadows

I always start with the negative and move to the positive, although I did learn through recent reading that people are inclined to remember the negative even when the positive is the more important message. So this year, let’s start with the highlights. I’ll put those negatives behind a tag, so you only have to look if you want.

Light

  •  I got a book contract! Yes, in 2012 (or 2013, depending on the polishing it takes) Divorcing a Real Witch will see print. There’s a lot more to it that has my stomach turning in knots – marketing, workshop planning, showing up at bookstores if they’ll let me – and for that, I will be asking for help. There is stuff you yourself can do; if you want to help, comment here or join the mailing list posted in the sidebar. Most of what I will ask will involve you, say, posting a link to your Facebook wall and saying “I know who wrote this!” (or I read her blog, etc. etc.) If you yourself are a published Pagan author, let me know if you’d be open to doing an endorsement – I will of course have you read a copy first to ensure it’s something you would in fact endorse. It helps is you’re NOT opposed to divorce.
  • I went to Paris! It was awesome, and most of the French wait staff were lovely.
  • I self-published a book to get a feel for the new publishing industry. It proved informative on many levels, and has sold about 50 copies. It’s one of those things that gets no in-between reactions – it’s either “brilliant” or “heinous.” Reactions reveal far more about the viewer than it does about the book. I broke the taboo that things must be “good” and “perfect” and went with “real” and “flawed” instead. Some people are eager to break that taboo, while others responded as though threatened, or as though I were a naughty school child for daring to produce such a document. Somewhere creativity and academia need to come together; in the process we really need to clear out both the willful ignorance and the condescending elitist pedantry that have both prevented intellectual growth in Paganism. I have no illusions that I am any good as an artist or illustrator – this was more of a “yes, I have this limitation to, but do it anyway for the goal that lies beyond it and beyond the pettiness of complaining about crooked lines.”
  • My Facebook fan page has grown from 50 something to 80 something. I really would like to see it hit 100 by the end of this year.
  • Fat Chic got a mention in People Style Watch, which has led to not only a readership boom, but has helped renew my enthusiasm for the project. I have a good sense of what’s possible with the blog, how to make it unique, and how I can make it kick ass.
  • I got in a retreat at Spring Green, Wisconsin. For some bizarre reason this town has always been a source of spiritual renewal for me.
  • I finished a complete novel, now left to age in my “drawer” for at least six months. I now know what it takes to get a book written at a reasonable rate, and this has made me feel confident that I can get other works done while doing the marketing and promotion for the Divorcing a Real Witch (tentatively titled) book.
  • I successfully established a 4 hour a week minimum gym habit. Mostly I do treadmill, water aerobics and Pilates. In the summer I try to squeeze in a yoga class, too. I have to consider what’s best for mind/body/spirit all together – on the one hand, I’d like to go back to bellydance classes. On the other hand, it’s an added expense, and there’s always a costumery and “special workshop” push that’s beyond my sewing ability and far beyond what my wallet can handle. I just like to DANCE, yo.
  • I learned crochet. I hope to keep learning more, as long as my friends are willing to teach me.
  • I also learned origami. I can do owls and a few other things that require a bird base, and make cootie catchers and crowns. I’m on the market for a decent paper cutter – I’ve been slicing down old magazines for practice paper.
  • I think at this point I may have the healthiest/most conscious (self-aware) group of friends that I have had in the course of my life. Related both directly and indirectly, I’m wondering if I would benefit from getting more involved with some of the feminist organizations in town.
  • I’m moving into year 4 of working through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way book series. Really and truly, it has made a difference. An interesting side note is that, just as it mentioned in occult practice manuals, some people have found the changes in my attitude about art and creativity offensive despite these changes offering no threat to themselves.  What’s interesting are those that are the most threatened are the ones that talk the most about goals and projects they have – and that they never move forward on (or take a step and then self-sabotage.)  Other acquaintances, however, have taken note of the changes the work has brought about in me and have elected to come a bit closer: notably these people are all producing creative work, but not saying much about it until they’re done – or are talking about doing it, because that’s how they spend the bulk of their time, even when in day jobs they don’t like.

Middle ground

  • I’m neglecting Magickal Realism and for the time being letting it close/expire by attrition. As some of you will know or even see, I’m still making things, but between the vagaries of Etsy, an upsurge in customer entitlement behavior and my writing career growth, I am relegating it back to hobby/private service. People keep comparing it to Black Phoenix Alchemy, and since I have no interest in doing what they’re doing, it’s annoying that I have to expend energy fighting that perception. I love perfume and bath product design, but my creative impulses in that area are leading me more towards studying hoodoo, learning to sew and lots of interesting upcycled/trashion applications that are occult practice friendly. The business never really recovered after the time I had to take off when my father died, and it seems like all paths are leading me to writing now, anyway.
  • I’m having to bend on my rules about science fiction conventions and the like. It’s really about my dislike of crowds, and my impulse to get combative when someone assumes I think/perceive the same way they do (happens more at conventions, for some reason. I like Tenant – NOT A FANGIRL!) With the five year anniversary for the Doctor Who meetup coming up, I’m going to have to work hard on improving my tolerance for people inside my space.

Shadow

What follows is the negative things, most of which happened during the extended winter. I share these things for reasons both self-serving and audience serving. First, I believe silence is the most poisonous substance the soul contains. Attempts to shut me up, make me disappear or silence me are typical of those who slide by on negative energy only (instead of a proper balance of light and shadow.) Attempts to shut me down tend to be harsher than what most people experience in US culture, because I am large bodied, outspoken when I see reason to be, and female. I also call attention to things that we’d all like to ignore, like the weird thread of misogyny in gay culture (not all gay men have this, but I’ve heard enough opinions about women’s public hair from parties that have no reason to see it to know that there is SOMETHING VERY WRONG), or that so many Pagans are still screaming “misandry” when in fact misandry and misogyny have become equally prevalent and equally serious problems in our subculture. Also, the insistence upon trying to stay “in the fringe” while complaining about the decisions of overculture that affect us all anyway is neither healthy nor useful.

Because I know people would like to jump on both of these, let me make this understood: I have a journalism degree. I know the ins and outs of libel law. I will NOT EVER post something libelous on my blog. I am quick to distinguish fact from opinion, and if I am printing/publishing these statements, it is a)because I believe them to be true and b)I have written and voice records to back up what facts I do assert. There’s been a lot of good old fashioned backbiting and backstabbing, and not one person directly involved has made an effort to deal with me honestly. While I suspect that in at least two, possibly three cases, any word against me would actually make me look really good to a lot of people (and this has happened before), there is some distinct narcissism going on that makes it impossible for these people to recognize that a)I am not an extension of themselves b)I only think about them when they’re annoying me while I’m trying to do other things and otherwise, they’re not really part of my consciousness and c)I do not have proof, but I do have carefully documented behavior, that suggests there’s a thread of disorders running through this group that were turned on me. If I had not been coming out of grief and some problems with Mike, I would have registered the issue and disengaged sooner. There is a third party involved who had nothing to do with any of this bullshit, and I am sorry for any betrayal he feels about it, but I still assert that I am not the person who betrayed his trust. I tell the truth even when I really WANT to lie.

Lost some people from my life, only two of whom I really consider a loss. (It’s not the ones you think.) They think I’m crazy. I think they’re crazy, and they played this situation  extremely dirty, accusing me of things I never said and exaggerating actual small actions that happened under duress into what they want others to believe is a pattern of criminal behavior. Given the severity of false accusations leveled against me, I can’t really bring myself to wish them well.  I responded in the anger of any person would when presented with a pack of lies; I did not in the course of my response utter or print a single threat. What disturbs me is how two people lateral to this situation who were incredibly poor guests in my home have remain fixated on me despite only passing contact with me since then.

But one more phone call from the lateral crazy people, and I will be getting a restraining order. I think six months of silence from me does not merit a harassing phone call over what was either a)an honest mistake on my part since I wasn’t exactly filing away every detail I was ever told by these people or b)a hallucination on their part. Also, I have Google Voice. ALL my voice mail records are retained and publishable – FOREVER.

I also had to make some final decisions about my remaining family that were not pleasant, and that, had I felt there were any other options, I would have taken instead. It broke my heart to do it, and it broke a deathbed promise to my dad, but I had to cut them off. To stay in that relationship would mean I had to live under the pall of abuse for the rest of my life, and I hope my father did NOT truly want me to remain in an abusive relationship for the rest of my life “just because they’re family.”

They are in the habit of assuming I think and feel things without ever talking to me to determine what I do in fact think and feel, and when they are wrong, they get all upset at me not sharing their assumptions and go off complaining about what they consider my distorted values.  In addition to this problem with assumptions about my interests and a persistent push to make me more like them (rather than accepting me as-is in the manner that they demand I accept them, or asking and actually listening to what I say, instead of interpreting it to their own mentality) they have an obnoxious habit of making plans for me, again without discussing said plans or whether I would be willing to cooperate, and enlisting their friends and extended family into pressuring me to go along with those plans.

After my mother’s BFF gave me a manipulative guilt trip for “not visiting enough” at my father’s funeral, and this was followed by the openly contemptuous behavior of my mother’s family – highlights included one cousin asking “What’s he like?” about Mike in that tone where she was clearly expecting tattoos and a meth habit (despite not asking me a single question about my own life, or even trying to contact me to know anything about me) and my aunt-in-law trying to get me to talk about my wedding plans at a fucking funeral (I really think she wasn’t being mean, she’s just really THAT STUPID and insensitive. Points to her husband for mostly shutting up and staying away from me – I know that asshole made plans for me, without my consent, but at least he treats me with a modicum of respect now that I’m happy to give him in return, even if it’s the respect of courtesy-based avoidance.) Since it was visibly clear to me at the funeral that my mother and sister had carefully cultivated an attitude of contempt towards me, and the only person that asked me about my life was a guy who had wanted to sleep with my sister for years and who was not the least bit interested in what I might say, I recognized immediately that there was nothing left worth building on with my father gone.

I kept my promise to my dad I would follow through on the wedding, and I did, and there was relationship fallout from that, along with mother and sister immediately trotting out abusive behavior, and deliberately not communicating, or communicating on assumed beliefs and not on anything I actually said. Then, of course, backpedaling, lying (I caught them both in several) and pouting  when I got angry at their completely unwarranted behavior.

Conversations after led to exchanges where I would say something about my life, it would be greeted with silence, and then the subject changed to something about their own lives. My sister would actually, two minutes or less into a conversation, IMMEDIATELY just have to talk to someone not on the phone, leaving me listening to her one-sided conversations. It was rude, and an obvious tack to avoid conversation with me (while lying to me and claiming that she considered my calls a priority, when her behavior made it clear she saw them as an intrusion.) The only contact she initiated was around her birthday, probably because she hoped I’d feel guilty enough to get her a birthday present.

…the manipulative overture actually pissed me off enough that I canceled the one I was going to send to her.

[Gifts received from my family are always a point of dread. They’re never about what I like or enjoy, they’re about who they want me to be, and they’re almost universally godawful. Just knowing these women has caused me to hate my own birthday and Christmas.I don’t want to see who they’re wishing I was this year.]

My mother’s conversations were especially bad about the one-way, especially after she got herself a boyfriend. I understand that the boyfriend died unexpectedly – but not until I was treated to the horror of my mother listing her relationship as “it’s complicated” on Facebook (a status best reserved for those who are bi, poly, or have a situation with a spouse still living) and more than one screed about how my sister should get herself a boyfriend. Before the death, I refused to talk to her without having her on speaker so Mike could hear – this way he was reassured I was in fact not crazy, especially as she was fond of dropping some “tidbit” my father had said while alive, and tell me “not to tell Mike.” She had no concept that Dad and I used to have complete conversations when no one was allowed to disrupt us: there’s once when he was in the hospital and he actually said, “Oh good, your mother is gone, I can actually talk to you.” My father was never an emotional withholder – if he knew he’d be heard, he’d say lots, and he went out of his way to make sure he did to me.

After the boyfriend’s death – and I do feel for her, especially with her finding him, but there’s nothing I could possibly say to palliate THAT experience – she had completely ignored my feelings from the moment my father died forward, tipped off when she made a point of asking me how I was with the pastor watching. (Kris, Alice,  the overimportance they both place on men, it was irritating – Mike got thanked for a lot of work I actually did.)  The last straw for me came when she COMPLETELY IGNORED me getting a New York Times mention. She posted on my Facebook wall (instead of her own, as was appropriate) about my niece’s stupid theater competition (way to encourage her to peak in high school, it’s turned out so well for my sister –sarcasm), but a New York Times mention, she didn’t even acknowledge. That was the last straw as far as she went.

My first boyfriend died when I was 14, and my mother’s response was to inform me I wasn’t allowed to be “too dramatic about it.” I still can’t forgive her, and while I sent a sympathy card as custom dictates, I can’t bring myself to do any more for her. I’ve been treated to her screaming on the floor when my aunt died (the fat shaming bitch one), her “all about me” bedside scene with her shrieking “my love” as Dad lay conscious enough for me to sense he was as disgusted as I was (trust me, my mother is NOT an affectionate woman. She and my sister only express affection when they’re angling for something), and long, dramatic, self-indulgent speeches about how she “reached her crisis” in whatever loss she’d experienced lately, with no consideration for the fact that I had lost that person, too. That it wasn’t just HER who loses anyone.

But I was never allowed to be “too dramatic” despite losing someone who meant the world to me on an annual basis from ages 14-33.

So any sympathy I can extend her about this latest loss is about as flat as the cardboard it’s printed on. After all, this is the least of her manipulative non-communications. I was furious when she decided I “wouldn’t want to know” about my dad’s quadruple bypass (this was her being petty after I called her out for bullying me on one of my rare visits, that were rare because of her persistent bullying) and when a neighbor who had been part of my life since elementary school died, she mentioned it only in a self-pitying post on Facebook, instead of actually telling me. Of course, my sister did tell me about my father’s bypass back then – mostly because it gave her an opportunity to be dramatic and emotionally manipulative.

All of their behavior is based on convincing me I can’t win. If I continue to try to engage with them, I can’t. I can be miserable, and say I’m still in touch with my family, or I can be sad for a little while and end my relationship.

I choose to end my relationship with them. I’m seeing a therapist to help me with this transition, and to make sure I am doing this from a place of health and not disorder. (My views are consistent. I am a totally sane abuse survivor, and like most survivors, the people who know the abusers in a social context are the least likely to believe or recognize that they are in fact abusive.)  Previous therapists I have had as I could afford it have proposed the idea, but usually we opted to try to find another way of relating. At this point in my life, I can honestly say I have tried everything and nothing has worked. I can only have a healthy relationship with a person who wants a healthy, honest, open relationship with me, and this is not something I will have. Since these people do nothing to benefit me in any other way, I have no reason to keep them in my life, and I will be happier with them gone.

I don’t know entirely the role of my father in the abuse dynamic that played out in my home. He was a survivor of abuse himself, and it was so severe that the violent atmosphere my mother created for me seemed tame, even calm and disciplined, by comparison. This does not negate what I experienced. It was still abuse. My mother’s refusal to recognize and own her behavior is very typical of abusive people – while non-abusive people do sometimes have bad moments, most when confronted respond with questions and not denials. That my mother would “counter-attack” when I did confront her only when there were no witnesses, especially not my father, suggests to me that she has been fully conscious all along of what she does.

Family does not need to be perfect. Sometimes they yell, or mutter, or flush the toilet when you’re taking a shower. Stuff happens. What happened to me was far over the line of the friendly hostility of the functioning American family, and it wasn’t just because I was fat. I don’t know who my mother sees when she looks at me, but it sure as hell isn’t me. I’m pretty sure she hates herself, and her attempts to force me to become her over the years has made that spectacularly upsetting.

So it’s a hard road, but there are generational damages that are not mine to fix.

That’s the shadow side. I feel like these specific fall aways have happened for my benefit; certainly there’s movement towards things that are newer, better, and about my goals rather than about my talent being co-opted into someone else’s agenda. (Collaboration is a very different thing than the stuff I was being asked for.)