Creativity

Supplies: Ice on the Wings

Ice cased Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison / photograph by Frank Hurley

From State Library of New South Wales flickr commons collection

There’s a few different places where a project has been all lined up ready to go…and someone went and iced the wings.

Back in the 1990s, I was all ready to launch a Pagan Writer project. I raised the subject on a listserv. Suddenly, the person running the list stopped me. “No no no… we don’t want this to be an ego project like that one with that BNP that you don’t even really know…”

He never explained what made him think a directory of markets for Pagans would be an ego project, especially when headed by a (still) unknown like myself. But he did it again, with every other project raised. “No no, you need to do it this way…” notably when it came to follow up, he was never available.

Not the same guy but I encountered this situation rather a lot when I first started pitching the Divorcing a Real Witch book. Every few people – usually other Pagans – would wrinkle their noses and say, “Oh, that is so niche.” Notably it is only a small percentage of Pagans that bring up offense at the title… not because the offense is real, but because they think finding offense makes them somehow insightful.

What pushed me forward with the book was that the non-Pagans I told about the book got excited about it. “Oh, yes… we want that ourselves! That’s really interesting!”

I will be writing thank you notes for people that have helped me push this book along. Because yay.

Filed under: Struggles

Supplies: ever-fogging flattery

Image taken from page 5 of 'The Fog Princes. A novel ... Second edition'

from the British Library Commons Collection on Flickr

Oh yes, I know all about how flattery can fog perceptions. There’s a difference between a compliment and flattery. Someone who pays you a compliment does not expect you to get caught up in it.

I’ve mentioned before I was raised by narcissists. Flattery was a way to build you up – before dragging you down as far as you could go. It’s created a situation for me where I’m nervous about accepting all but the most surface of compliments. I can’t think of specifics right now – but they’ve gotten me. Many times, especially when I was younger. It’s the flattery that leads to the toxic friendships.

There’s one years ago where the girl had already started a campaign against me. She wasn’t going to stop until she was sure I had no friends left – but she still wanted to use me. On one day when it was obvious that she’d heaped on flattery to get a ride somewhere, she started going on about how her boyfriend “adored” mine (they never spoke) and how she of course wanted me there – I added so much to the stuff we did. I realize now that such placation is total insincerity. Actions always do speak louder than words.

I have a hard time remembering specifics but I know it’s happened. Perhaps I’m just embarrassed to remember them. It’s taken me a lot to get to the point where I can acknowledge my embarrassments.

I myself am bad about giving compliments. I forget to give them even when I am truly appreciative of the help I’ve received or genuinely impressed by someone’s talent. I have to remind myself to say something/do something.

That said, non-praise is also a form of manipulation. My mother was a master of both. Most narcissists are a master of both – either saying nothing when I accomplished something great or realizing I should feel great and then, a favorite of my sister’s,  proceeding to make me feel like shit for feeling good about myself.

I’ve also been involved with witholders. The withholding types are usually men, as opposed to the negatively inclined women who seem to be able to give and take on both sides as a means of control. My ex was a withholder. Two guys I spent time with right after my divorce withheld. It’s not just compliments… it’s basic emotional connection. None of these guys would give a thing of themselves – but all felt free to push me to make myself as vulnerable as possible. I knew something was wrong in these relationships, I just didn’t have the word for the problem until years later. Yup, total withholders.

I’ve done it, too, but not intentionally. I am trying to make it so if I see something good about someone – even someone I dislike – I will point to what I think is good and say so.  It’s a tough practice, one that requires a lot of ego swallowing. But it helps me become more objective and confuses my enemies terribly. Neither is a bad thing.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: what listening to Mikey does

[Aviation Mechanic with Lockheed 12A Electra Junior]

flickr commons – from SMU Central University

Mikey obviously lives to prevent progress. The irritating part for me is that I didn’t want a block. I was looking for a simple, sensible way over the block. What it did is reveal to me that I was actually working with people who wanted blocks. They recognized that I did not share their blocked tendencies with them – thus why they had wanted me to go up in front of the microphone. I am a “make shit happen” person and that had them terrified because they found comfort in complaining about all the things that never changed… that wouldn’t change… unless they changed. I just went ahead and changed around them by finding people who also wanted and were ready to change, leaving the rest to do their thing.

Mikey figured this out and thus wanted to put a stop to me. I was just ruining the status quo which is pretty much what I do.

There was a psycho-sexual factor to this: Mikey had a thing for me. Because Mikey had a thing for me, he wanted control of me. This isn’t typical of all men, just the really horrible ones who have been taught to perpetually think horrible things about women. It programs them to think of women like me as best fucked and controlled.

It’s nasty because it’s true.

For me, I’ve just had to accept that this is one of the predators that nature has selected for me. I can’t change the predator. I can change how I deal with the predator. I can change the world that the predator lives in so some people hunt and spear him. This is why that particular predator hunts me. I really screw up his habitat so I can live well.

 

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: My encouter with Mikey

Garage mechanic near Newark, N.J. Badge denotes member of Office of Defense Transportation  (LOC)

from flickr commons – Library of Congress

In Supplies, Mikey the Mad Mechanic is one of those people that gets in your way when you’re on your course and proceeds to dismantle everything you’ve done.  Not only have I encountered Mikey, his real name was actually Mike.

I usually refer to him by a different derogatory nickname. This is NOT the same Mike as my partner.

Obviously, there are other people who have done stuff like this to/involving me, but his was by and far the most overt.

This happened back around 2004 when I acted as volunteer coordinator for Pagan Pride. I was successful in part because I had no history with anyone yet. But also because I put some serious time into the job and making sure people were contacted appropriately.

The board at the time had wanted me to make an announcement after the keynote (before? who knows) about board positions available for the next year.

To me this seemed very business as usual. Boards have turnover – a turnover at the completion of a project term is very normal and healthy.

Mikey had a shit fit. He did not want me going up there and inviting board applications. “People will think their’s infighting. It will make us look unstable.”

When I asked why, it was because people in the Twin Cities gossip. Other organizations had had turnover because of infighting.

This, to me, was absurd. Only someone already unbalanced could possibly jump to that conclusion at the end of a normal project year.

I told him it was absurd. It was clear to me he just wanted to control my behavior – and did not want people in our community actually seeing my face for whatever reason. A temper tantrum followed that the took to the head organizer. This organizer, to my disgust, conceded. No announcement was made and I had a much more difficult time than necessary finding people to fill those slots later that year. I had been denied the ideal moment to recruit new volunteers because of Mikey and his machinations.

That was the first of many times he sought new and nasty ways to control my outcomes. It stopped working after that, but boy did he try. Other people tried, too.

So yes- I know the Mikeys of the world. Quite well.

 

 

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: the People most grounding for me

In-flight shots

small island off the coast of Iceland shot by Diana Rajchel

The aforementioned Lisa is great at grounding me. She gives me a feeling like I have all it takes to handle it.  Ruth has also been a gift when sorting out my family issues: she was there to accept that dealing with them is hard for me, that my feelings are normal, sane reactions to truly crazy shit. Tonya is always grounding for me – she has this gift of accepting people as they are, warts and all that makes everything seem so beautiful and ridiculous when I’m talking with her. Nearly all face and voice conversations end with us in hysterical giggles. It helps me walk away accepting the world as the ridiculous, hilarious place that it is.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: Mentors

Franklin Coop - Somali Science Class

science class poster – shot by Diana Rajchel

Note: written on 1/27/14

Mentors are not always the people you expect.

For me, when this exercise came across my page, the thought that came to me: “Ah. This is why I’ve been thinking about him.”

My first mentor – not named as such in any way – was someone I knew 20 years ago. He might have been a little bit younger than me. I only vaguely remember how we met. He said I loaned him a pencil during our college placement testing. That day was an anxiety-filled blur. If I did it, I don’t remember it. Such kindnesses were reflexive for me. I was always the smart kid that carried the dumb kid that forgot his pencil. Wait, I sort of remember it because he asked three other people before he asked me and he had started to look a little desperate so I felt sorry for him.

I know I remember meeting him at a privilege-consciousness exercise called “Archie Bunker’s Neighborhood.” He pissed me off by greeting me with “hi honey!” then displayed both leadership and noise making skills that left me irritated and resenting my own growing attraction. He was an athlete. Where I came from, associating with a jock might as well have been associating with a felon up for multiple murders that had something on every judge in the state. Jocks were thugs, especially when it came to me. Usually I was spared the sexual violence – too undesirable – but often they would attempt to pretend to befriend me only to turn on me or establish some exploitative arrangement in hopes I’d do their homework for them.

I’d hoped to leave that behind when I started college but it was made clear it followed me within my first ten minutes in my dorm room. I heard my neighbors loudly discussing the size of my ass and the other flaws of my body. By the end of that day I’d encountered so many jeers by the young men and young women that I was only too happy to skip freshman orientation and work in the newspaper office instead. He was the person to suffer the consequences of that.

Of course, He did not know any of this. I never quite felt safe enough to tell him.

Looking back, He really tried hard to befriend me. I may have been the most effort He had ever expended up to that point, especially since men gravitated to Him and women threw themselves at Him at a fairly constant rate. I was the person that made it hard for Him because of my automatic mistrust.

On the first day of classes He came into Sociology 101, looked straight at me and then sat in the desk next to mine with a big smile. The entire time I sat thinking please be looking at someone else please have some girl you want to fuck on your radar please don’t pick me out to harass aw shit I’m on his radar any moment the harassment will start…

I think He tried to start a conversation with me. I ignored Him. Just ignore Him so this way the bullying just goes into a void…He finally shouted my name so I had to look.

He was laughing, but puzzled.

“What do you want?” I snapped.

He mocked me for that. With a little persistence He got me to relent and then got a conversation out of me.

____________________________________

The next class was intimate, an honors class founded in discussion. It was right across from the Sociology 101 class, right after it so I had one of the first seats. People sat around a single table that filled up slowly. Most people chose chairs far away from me, except for the girl I’d already met in my probability and statistics class. (She was awesome. I am sure she still is.) At last it looked like everyone was there, the campus pastor had started distributing the syllabus and at the last possible moment He swung through the door. He looked straight at me and grinned. There were only two chairs left: the one right next to me and the one closest to the door. He took the chair next to me. The shit, don’t sit next to me voice had started as He looked at both chairs.

I cringed. I thought it was inward but it may have been outward. I had a brief, paranoid thought: did this guy change classes so he can harass me? I dismissed it. Jesus Christ, Di, it’s college. No one here has the money to do that ridiculous shit.

He annoyed me during class, all right. He proceeded to tip on the back of his chair, balancing as far back as He could. I kept worrying that He’d fall and hurt himself. The bastard found a way to trigger my babysitter’s impulse.

The pastor had to stop class and chide us for bickering at least once that day. It wouldn’t be the last time the poor man had to do that.

_____________________________________

This memory may be confused. It might have been someone else. It might have been the same day or a week later. It was still fall. He was walking with me after class. He asked me to sit with him at lunch. I said yes. Paranoid voices in my head were still going. OK, here’s where he humiliates you. Maybe he just wants you to help his buddies with their homework. When I got through the food line He was at His bench, surrounded by His friends.

He, I might have handled. But a table full of His friends terrified me. There was no way someone wouldn’t be derogatory. I sat where I usually sat. I don’t even remember who I talked to – I never had regular lunch companions.

He asked me later why I didn’t sit with him. “Your  table was already full when I got there.”

He never asked again.

________________________________________

There were girls in the dorm lounge. I almost walked past, but then, thinking of my lonely lunch and supper that day, I forced myself to turn and join them on the couch.  I need to at least try to make friends. They were talking about boys.

His name came up. They all declared Him hot. I didn’t realize He was who they were talking about – His last name hadn’t registered quite yet. I didn’t know anyone’s name. I didn’t find anyone all that attractive. Attraction was a complicated, mostly suppressed thing for me.

He walked through the door while we were talking – the girls all gestured Him over, and after looking the group over, He came. As He sat with us the girls began to talk about the arcana left by previous tenants. In one room stars, in another graffiti. I asked to see the astronomy map left in one girl’s room.

“Of course,” she said through grit teeth. She then leaned over to her friend, covering her mouth and cupping the girl’s ear and whispered something while looking at me. “It’s not about you,” she said to me.

“Sure.” I smiled tightly. Wow, so it’s not high school that never ends, it’s junior high.

He caught my eye and said it in a way that made it clear He was only speaking to me. “Do you want to see my room?”

A junior had invited me to His room earlier that week and it got really weird really fast. While I got out before anything happened, it made me none too fond of being on boys’ rooms. Because of this, I almost hesitated, then on some subterranean level that understood how normal people thought, I got it. “I’d love to,” I said.

We walked away from the gaggle of mean girls together.

I walked with him down the  boy’s hallway, endless white brick. He showed me – it was the room right below my own. “That’s my room,” he said, waving to it.

“Good to know,” I said.

“We’re even,” He told me.

I had no idea what the hell was talking about. But OK. I went upstairs to my own room.

________________________________________

The bickering started early. I can’t count the number of times the pastor had to stop class because He and I got into it. Speaking in class was as natural to me as making social connections was not – I was often the only outspoken person in class and then silent, sometimes for days at a time, outside it. It made me unpopular in high school. Since most of our  grades depended on participation and I was at this college because I didn’t test well,  I had to participate. I got the feeling He was also often the only one to speak up in class and had become used to shouting into the void. Sometimes having a partner in these discussions was a welcome change. Sometimes He really made me mad; He read the symptoms of my responses with skill and over time could expertly provoke or defuse me at will.

He told me later he had started dating his girlfriend because she actually argued with Him during their high school classes. He enjoyed the energy it sparked. He didn’t understand that exploration I needed, I could handle, but hard debate just wounded me. Still, He was a relief of the otherwise dull and listless student body and He told me years later, in so many words, that I was a relief to him.

When I got a boyfriend it made me feel safer around Him. Having the boyfriend made me feel vindicated, protected against false accusations about my undesirability or supposed virginity. It prevented at least the other freshman girls from accusing me of having designs on Him. It gave Him no opportunity to humiliate me with the “I just like you as a friend” speech. I figured that the speech from Him was inevitable but I wanted to put it off.

Despite my social anxiety with girls I had no trouble telling boys when I liked them. He is the only exception to that, ever.

Every time I might have mentioned my feelings to Him, a new blonde was coming out of His room. It was like He had a production line in there. I may have known of the high school girlfriend by that time. I didn’t ask questions.

Our first test in Soc 101 came up. I surprised myself – seemingly not of my own volition, I turned to Him in class and said “Want to study together?”

He looked as surprised as I felt. He said yes.

This surprised me.

I probably did it because I had a boyfriend to hide behind. It made me feel safer trying to make friends with a man.

He came to my room to study with me while my boyfriend was at a play rehearsal. He was smarter and better prepared than I expected. Mostly we talked about Him. My family often accused me of talking about myself too much so I just didn’t, not with Him, not with anyone.

He told me he planned to transfer out of the school we were at in pursuit of his athletic ambitions. He seemed so certain of it.

An unbidden thought trotted through my mind. I can’t imagine this school with you.

I did tell Him I would probably stay, graduate early if I could.

Mostly we actually studied.

My boyfriend was annoyed to find out that I’d had a boy in my room without his permission. He was especially annoyed it was That boy.

________________________________________________

He is sometimes who I consider my first initiator. He was the one who brought me into adulthood, into the fun part of being a kid that I never really got to connect to while actually a child.

  • He got me drunk the first time. (It happened in part because my moments of naivete were as hard to predict as Midwestern weather. He did not believe I was as straight edge as I said I was, not that straight edge was a thing yet.)
  • He gave me my first dose of Vivarin.
  • He lit my first cigarette. (He did it to get me to stop crying.)
  • To Him, I became one of the guys. He was fond of explaining the male mind to me. It really only applied to His mind, but the effort was appreciated and at least I felt like I understood His motivations most of the time even while I knew He was full of shit when it came to anyone else.

Here’s what I really learned from him:

  • I learned how to chill. I had been horrendously uptight. He gently persuaded me that clenching made no difference over how much control I had over the world. I am still driven and organized, but I’m aware of my trouble letting go, of the madness behind it when I don’t.
  • I learned how to listen, much better than I had before.
  • I learned how to have a conversation without needing to win. We disagreed on some pretty big, fundamental things. But we found a way to relate to one another with compassion and affection.
  • I learned that there is no such thing as a “guy’s perspective.” There’s just “one guy’s perspective” and it in no way represents other men.
  • It wasn’t intentional, but it made it clear that I do have problems with intimacy. Even now, 20 years later, I have a long way to go – but his treatment of me helped me realize that there were things I physically could not talk about and that to have that problem meant something else was wrong.

__________________________________________________

There’s more, so much more to this than I can possibly write here. I can say that the person I’ve turned out to be as I near 40 has a lot to do with that boy I met when I was 19. He wanted to open me up and he did though I don’t think he got the results he hoped for. I’m still suspicious/curious about why he chose to do this with me, why I was the second of his “adoption cases” as he sort of explained it to me sophomore year.

I don’t know his reasons for doing it. Given my dark hair and whiff of ethnicity, I probably reminded him of his sisters. He liked girls that put up a good argument and despite my suppressed romantic feelings I wasn’t exactly hell bent on pleasing him.

I can’t speak for him, but I suspect that nothing turned out the way either of us planned. I left for Minnesota, which had never even been a consideration when we met. He stayed in Wisconsin, having fallen in love and found Christianity in the same moment. He yelled at me a little the first time I brought up leaving – he thought it was a repeat of drama from the year before, drama he never fully understood. But then I left. He was sweet, but I pushed away the hovering suspicions he wanted to say more. That beneath it all was a “wait, I’m not done teaching you yet.”

But I didn’t know what it was between us, not then. So I could see something in the clouds above us but had no idea how to interpret the shape.

It’s rare for the one being educated to leave, but it was time for me to. I still wonder what it would have been like if I had managed to stay at that school, if the money had miraculously arrived to let my life continue. I wonder a lot about how our relationship might have evolved. I don’t have any curiosity about what might have happened with anyone else there – just him.

Minnesota was a mistake, a bad choice in a situation where all my options were bad, but it was one I needed to make.

When I called, he just said he missed the way I contributed to discussions in our honors class.

I have no idea how he’d feel about my writing about him now.

Friendship with him did not last twenty years and while I know how to find him I don’t think I could handle the inauthenticity social media gives to people that haven’t interacted for decades.  In the end he let me go and then waited patiently for me to let him go. He was always kind, even when he was mad at me, even when he was ready for me to disappear from his life. He used to make the same face my grandfather did when I said something he didn’t like, an odd motion of the jaw, complete with  visible internal processing. That next-to-last conversation, the one where I told him I was engaged, I could almost hear the movement of his jaw over the phone line. He’d helped me become who I am but he didn’t like the long-term results. He managed to not be home the next few time I called him. He wasn’t my mentor anymore – and he wasn’t happy with the new course of experience I’d chosen.

Who he was to me then meant too much to me for anything less than the real now. I have no idea who he is now…but there is no picking up where we left off, not after this long. There are husbands and wives and for him babies now.  We’d have to start new and that would probably not be easy. It was hard enough work the first time.

None of it makes what he taught me or how it makes me who I am now any less important.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: the Most Grounded of them All

In-flight shots

land mass over Iceland – shot by Diana Rajchel

Out of the people closest to me, I’d have to say Lisa is the most grounded person. She’s gone through considerable hell in her life but no matter when I see her or when we interact she’s always got this sort of rooted (in a good way) quality to her. She knows from whence her nourishment comes and she pulls that right up into her as she needs it. So even during chaos she gives this profound impression of having her shit together.

I don’t know if I’ve ever envied it but I certainly have wanted to learn from it. It’s a truly admirable quality of hers.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: 5 Qualities of Ground Control

Land Mass shots

land mass shot from airplane – shot by Diana Rajchel

5 qualities I look for in ground control:

1. Perception checkers. Tonya and Lisa are great sane makers as they both help remind me of what my responsibilities are and aren’t. They help me identify whether I am letting the ego do the driving or if the problem I think I see is really there.

2. Reliability. Reliability is the forerunner of reciprocity. Really it’s a quality I look for in all my friends.

3. Kindness. I can handle criticism. I can’t handle mean spirited criticism. Jill D. has a gift for pointing out when I’m wrong in just the right way.

4. Effort to understand. There are three guys in my poetry group that do this. It’s kind of amazing as I’m very used to men being acculturated to make no such effort whatsoever. Yet not only do they do this, they do it with greater skill than the women who attend usually do – and can still pass along valuable critique. Three of them. In one place. I may be idealizing but it’s been long enough that I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

5. Support. For me, it’s in the form of “I tweeted this,” or “posted this” or “told my friend about your work.” I get so much of this in so many ways – Crystal talks me up, Star happily posts stuff, Jill D retweets even when she’s not in a given focus group. (She’s a mom so it’s more rare now but so appreciated in any case.)

That’s my ground control qualifiers – I have some seriously good people around me.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: To feel more grounded

Right now the things I need to feel more grounded may only minimally come from other people. First, (1/23) I’m having back problems. This keeps me from working for extended periods because I usually resort to doing stuff in my kitchen or around the house that requires no sitting. I have tried the standing desk thing and I just can’t stand and write creatively. It sucks. So the back problems/ getting back to Pilates now that we have a car situation handled will help.

A good writing schedule will also do wonders for me. Right now I’m in research phase on two books I’ve been hired to write – I’m super nervous about both of them as I really want them to be high quality. Getting into a frame of mind where the research falls together and it all just flows will do me a world of good. Schedules are very grounding for me.

A strong, wholly positive social support group will also help. People that want to see me succeed matter rather a lot. I’m starting a Pagan salon and I have a good poets group; another writer’s group or at least a partnership that happily exchanges ideas and work would go a long way to this end.

 

Filed under: Supplies