Cats Worry, and Other Stories We Tell Ourselves

Early this morning, I had the thought that my cat doesn’t trust me, and it made me feel better.

I was crying, and normally when I cry, my cat ignores it. He doesn’t understand what crying means, that it means I’m upset, so he just continues on, acting like a cat. Usually being pretty damn annoying, as one tends to be at 3am. Well, he was in this particular instance. While I cried, he tried to climb the window, and finally I sobbed out at him to stop, and amazingly, he obliged and came up on the bed to cuddle.

He lay on my stomach, held my hand between his paws, and stared at me. Stared at me as I cried, thinking about whether people would be put out if I was gone, and whether it would affect anyone past being sad for a little bit. Like, I was really trying to be logical about it. Work would need to get a few things sorted, but once they did that, they’d be fine, and the only people I figured whose hearts would really break really wouldn’t have too much of a difference in their physical day-to-day, because they’re family and live far away, that sort of thing. The crying was more a separate thing that was happening alongside all the logic that was going on. And my cat, through all of this, stared at me as the tears subsided, as I lost the strength to keep crying, and I kept looking down at him and seeing his little kitten eyes, staring at me, and I thought to myself, a sign that your cat trusts you is if he closes his eyes around you. But he was ever vigilant, watching me, not daring to shut his eyes.

And I thought to myself, if I didn’t have any logic, and anthropomorphized this creature, I would believe that he is worried about me. That somehow he has figured out that I need to be watched, and that is why his eyes are open right now. But he’s a cat. I do have logic, and I know that’s not true.

But maybe that’s my problem. Maybe the key to survival is to stop being so logical. Maybe I need that anthropomorphism to keep me alive, to believe that someone is worried about me, that this little guy wants me around.

I guess in terms of physical survival, logic is important, but in terms of emotional survival, I think we’re better off without it. I think the more we try to be honest with ourselves about our place in the world, the more we’ll come to realize that no one is really needed, or important on more than a superficial level, and I think I’d rather cling to some semblance of worth reflected in the people around me. Even if it doesn’t make sense, I’d rather believe that that worth is there. Applying logic has only brought me to low places, so I would like to be illogical, and be content with a world that I create. Maybe that is how people find happiness.

I have always sworn by story as a way of navigating through life. Religions have done it for centuries; and as individuals, we do it all the time. Whether it’s to make sense of a situation, or to displace logic, story is what’s gotten us through it all, time and time again. We ascribe purpose to our lives through the stories we tell. And I’m very grateful that I’m a good storyteller.

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Ending on a High Note: Carrie the Musical is a Wrap

It’s been nearly two months since I joined the team of Carrie: The Musical for tech, and then shows.

There have been a lot of bittersweet moments in those last nearly two months regarding this production. I was severed from my social life (lack of weekend availability will do that) but I also got to hang out with some pretty cool people backstage. I felt exhausted at 10:30 at night but I probably got more exercise from resetting tables and chairs and windows than I have in two years. The list goes on.

Someone asked me before closing night if I was going to get emotional. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about it. “Maybe?” I responded, and laughed, because that’s silly, right? Why would I get emotional? It’s not like I get emotional while watching TV commercials, or while seeing patrons come out of a sad movie all teary-eyed, or while watching a bee identify its dead friend on the sidewalk. No, I never get emotional. I am an emotion-free human being.

Guys, I get so emotional.

So I can’t believe I didn’t expect to get emotional about Carrie. I mean, for crying out loud, the last stage production I worked on had people walking out during the show (it was still amazing, screw those people), and I still got emotional after that.

So, closing night. It was a near perfect night, in terms of my ASM responsibilities.

There’s the big moment at the end of the show, which anyone who knows the story of Carrie will know, and after Carrie leaves the stage, I follow her through backstage from Stage Left to Stage Right, collecting bloody items from her so she can go back onstage in the next scene.

And as we’re walking around the set, I notice her shoulders are shaking, and yes, the lead of our production is sobbing. Covered in blood, just having murdered a bunch of teenagers at a prom, and she’s crying. Not because of the emotional impact of the scene — she had done this fourteen times before, no problem — but I imagine because it was, in fact, the last time she would be doing it. Ever.

There were a lot of moments throughout that last performance where I took that fact in… This is the last time I’ll rip this shower curtain off the stage. This is the last time I’ll put this chair out on stage. This is the last time I’ll have to move this evil sewing machine that breaks with every move. This is the last time I’ll slam this window; now this window. This is the last time I’ll sit under a table and play Magical Powers. This is the last time I’ll headbang with the Kids backstage before we change scenes, the last time I’ll dance with a woman holding a knife behind Stage Left. This is the last time I’ll hold the doors shut as the Kids try to break through it with panicked ambition. This is the last time I’ll clean blood off of six or seven different prom outfits.

It was emotional.

I am so happy that I took this job, even if I did lose a lot of my social life. And I am so sad that it’s over.

For those of you who saw this show, you will know how technically intense it was compared to anything that at least Open Stage has done before. And you’ll know that everyone put their hearts into it. Both cast and crew became a living organism, with laughter and heartfelt moments and inside jokes and secret dance rehearsals before scenes started, and with the passion of an assembly of artists making art.

I’ll miss all the death and destruction. I’ll miss all the mistakes I made backstage. I’ll miss the comradery we had, and I’ll hope to continue some of those relationships as best I can.

Thanks, guys. It’s been a Carrie great time.

An Update!

It has been an incredibly busy time recently — for those of you who haven’t tried to hang out with me in the past few weeks and failed, I’ll let you know why: I’ve been working like mad as an assistant stage manager for Open Stage’s “Carrie: The Musical”. It’s taken up most of my free time, which is bittersweet — I have missed a lot of improv opportunities, but it’s still been really fun. So it all evens out, I suppose. Performances are still happening, but selling out quickly, so get on that if you want to see it!

But even with all the fake blood and quick set changes that I’ve been making, I’ve still tried to spend some time figuring out what I’m going to do about this book. And I think I’ve finally landed on one detail: The Fields‘ release date will be December 30th! (I figured I wouldn’t delude myself into believing I would be people’s priority during the holiday season, but I will make ample use of the fact that people get gift cards around that time!)

So mark that on your calendars. I will slowly get the hang of marketing and squeeze out more details, like pre-ordering, what the cover will look like, etc, but hold onto that one tiny detail for now.

It’s Kinda Sorta (Almost) Finished

It’s finally crunch time. I’m going to publish this damn book if it’s the last thing I do. I’ve talked about The Fields from time to time on this blog, and that’s all it’s ever been… talk. Now I will do. And it’s going to happen in the next two months.

That’s as risky of a deadline as I’m allowing myself at this moment… god forbid I give myself an actual date. But I am the closest I’ve ever been, and I’m reaching the point where I feel I need to just bite the bullet and get it over with — a sure sign that it’s ready. There are just a few details I need to attend to in order to get it off the ground, mainly dealing with promotion.

Some of you have already obliged me in my feeble attempts at promotion, as I created a public figure page on Facebook. This feels so weird to me. I don’t like advertising myself, but I know I need to in order to get people to read my work, so it’s always an awkward battle with my self esteem.

As I get closer and closer to publishing The Fields, I find myself face to face with questions I do not like. One of those questions is, “who is your audience?”

I hate the audience question. No one sits down and says, “I’m going to write a story for x audience” (Okay, maybe children’s authors do. Whatever. That’s different). When you write, you’re creating a story that you’re interested in, and you don’t think about how it will conform to any one genre or age group. You just write the damn story. It’s only afterwards that you have to think about what the hell you’re doing.

That was definitely my process for The Fields, anyway. I technically started writing this book about eleven years ago, but I didn’t really gain traction with it until eight years ago, and then I didn’t even really figure out what the backbone of the story was until four years ago, and then the message began to piece itself together after that… yeah, I’m a really slow writer. But my point is, I didn’t start off thinking, “This is my audience. This is the plan I have for this book, and I will write within the constructs of this plan.” I was just letting the characters come to life, and babysitting, essentially, until those details began to fade into place.

Turns out, The Fields is definitely a young adult novel. And I tried to convince myself otherwise, but it’s true.

First, there’s the protagonist. Mukisa is nineteen years old. Ironically, when I first started writing this story, I was a teenager, and the protagonist was a 30-something year old man (the character who is now the protagonist’s father. Mukisa didn’t even exist at that point). I suppose as a teenager I hadn’t quite learned that I should push women’s voices into the forefront of my work? But as the story grew, the age of the protagonist shrank (I don’t know, I didn’t write the rules, I just wrote the story).

Now, just because the protagonist of the story is a young adult doesn’t mean that the story is for young adults, but it is a step in that direction, especially when you take a look at the themes being represented in the story. Though technically independent, Mukisa struggles with her relationship with her parents, and being able to make her own decisions. Both of her parents are authority figures in the community, as well, so that conflict is heightened. There are also themes of discovering your identity within a community, and a struggle with morality… a lot of the themes do line up with young adult fiction.

I’m not sure why I was initially so frustrated with the idea that I was writing a young adult novel. Maybe it was because some of the content is a little dark — which isn’t a good reason, because young adult books increasingly wrestle with darker topics. Or maybe it was because when I asked for feedback, some of my readers suggested that I simplify some of the language to make it more accessible to younger readers — the words were too big — which I will never, ever be ashamed of refusing. Readers, if you aren’t able to figure out the meaning of a word through context, then it is not going to kill you to look it up and learn a new word. God. (I’m a little bit too firm on this subject, perhaps).

For some reason, I wanted my book to be for adults. And in a way, it still is — there are plenty of young adult novels that adults read, like The Outsiders, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc. The nice thing about story is that if it’s good, it’s good for anyone.

So I’m learning to deal with this.

Maybe this shouldn’t have been such a difficult thing to come to grips with. Are you an adult who likes young adult fiction? Are you a young adult who reads everything you can get your hands on? I’d love to hear people’s experiences with the books they delve into, and/or prefer.

Burnout

Burnout is constantly feeling like I’m late to something, even when I’m not, rushing through an activity because I just want to get to the end and “be on time”.

Burnout is thinking that I have to get through just a little bit more, hold out a little longer, and then realizing I’m not even sure what it is I’m holding out for.

Burnout is when, instead of doing the four very simple tasks before me, I do nothing. I just… do nothing. And then I panic about not getting the four simple tasks done, so when a fifth task is added to the list, it seems like the most arduous, overwhelming task in the world.

Burnout. My therapist asked me to work on trying to identify burnout in my life, so that I can recognize when it’s about to happen, and prevent it. I have reached burnout so many times in my life, and usually I only take action when I’m in its midst — eliminating stressful factors from my life once they’ve already grabbed me by the throat and thrown me to the ground. But to stop the problem before it occurs… well, that’s an idea.

I’m an activity girl. I cram more and more things into my schedule — not social experiences, but activities that may produce social experiences but whose main focus is productivity. I don’t know why I do this… the comfort that I’m looking for is never in quantity of activities, it’s in time spent. I know this. But somehow, activities seem like a more tangible, achievable thing — it feels easier to plan a get together than to actually convince people to spend time with me. I plan because I have social anxiety, I plan because I don’t want to disappear off the radar.

In the times I’ve felt burnout, I have pared back on activities, because activities so quickly become obligations for me. I made a list once of all the monthly obligations I had related to improv, film-related events, meetings, practices, etc, and the count came to more days than there were in a month.

There are things I’ve neglected hardcore in my life because I just move from event to event, activity to activity. I have been absolute shit at writing this past year, because it has gotten bumped down on my list of priorities. I also have greatly ignored friendships, or watched them grow distant, because I don’t know how to fix it and I don’t have the time to figure it out.

And I have neglected being in the moment. I have neglected spending time outdoors, I have neglected people watching, I have neglected peace of mind.

My friend once chastised me for not making enough time for myself, but I think that’s because my introspection happens when I’m looking outward. Being alone with myself is something that’s really hard for me, because I don’t really find joy in being by myself. I enjoy being around people, and soaking in their energy, and this is probably why I jump at so many opportunities to be a part of so many things — because then I can be around people for those things.

And maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I shouldn’t formulate an idea of who I am internally by looking at the world around me. Spending time for myself allows me to get a grasp on who I am, once I strip away my reactions to other people.

So I’ve been trying to spend more time by myself. So far this has meant watching a lot of Netflix, which I don’t think really counts as “by myself”, but it’s a start. It’s at least a sabbatical from the act of hiding behind my schedule.

A plea

Stop
Worrying
About being a friend,
And being accepted as a friend,
And friendships unraveling before you as a roll of ribbon,
And you try to put it back together neatly and the way it was before but once unwound the ribbon doesn’t take,
Doesn’t want to take, never wanted to be
A part of the roll anyway,
It just wanted to tie to something else, or to hang by itself,
To do anything but be taped to a cardboard circle.
Stop.
Stop looking at motive.
Stop trying to understand why the ribbon is on the roll,
And start
Focusing
On getting to know
Those you care about.
Friendship will follow,
If it chooses to.
And if it doesn’t,
You’ve still got
Stories.
You’ve still got
A strong surface
For another ribbon to grab hold.
You’ve still got
You,
And if you can’t handle air being the only thing around you,
Then you should be
Worrying
About more than ribbon.

Loren

dsc_00101000194159796445708.jpgThere is now a kitten residing at This Damn House, and his name is Loren.

I told myself I would wait a while before I got a pet. I’ve been wanting one for years, but never was really in a good spot to have one, and then, when I moved to my own house, I had the ability, but I wanted to try and settle down first.

But then, I met Loren.

He was in need of a home. His mama gave birth to him and his siblings at an animal hospital, and all of his siblings were claimed, but he was shy. So no one had claimed him yet.

img_20180709_163618_8508958878538062126834.jpgI couldn’t resist. I was a little nervous when, for the first several hours that he was in the house, he hid. I thought, oh no, he really is shy – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was worried I was never going to actually see him.

 

But then I managed to drag him out from his hiding place, and pushed him into the living room, and he freaking loves that living room. Loren has now graduated to running around, chasing his tail and being very, very vocal. And he is the best at cuddles. He won’t play with any of the toys I got for him – only his tail, and paper – but he is warming up to the soot sprites. He doesn’t yet seem to be a huge fan of food.

img_20180724_152410_9164926205345827315035.jpgAt first I thought that Loren reminded me a lot of me. I am often that shy little kitten who skulks in the corner in new situations, trying to blend in with the wall. I realize now that I may be projecting on my cat a little bit… just because it took a few days for him to come out of his shell with me, and just because it takes a few minutes for him to warm up to strangers, I rush to the conclusion that he has anxiety just like me. I’m not alone, I think. Loren and I can figure things out together.

 

 

But Loren is a kitten. And while he will probably grow out of this skittish behavior, mine got worse as I grew older. I suppose I am slowly learning to run after my tail, and I’m getting a lot better at enjoying what is in front of me and forcing myself to be present and engaged in my surroundings. But I still have a long way to go.

img_20180724_181406_5892414780616135367217.jpgSo as I try to socialize my cat with other people, I’m also trying to remind myself to do the same with, well, me. I want to be able to be myself around anyone, regardless of the situation. I don’t expect my true colors to come out in front of everyone, but I want to get better at revealing myself to those I enjoy, and to not feel stuck when I’m in their presence.

This baby boy has brought me a lot of happiness these past few weeks, and I can only imagine the fun we’ll have as he grows up. And for my sake, I hope I can grow up a little with him.