juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I went down to Corvallis for my mother's 65th birthday almost-surprise party—not a surprise that there would be a party, but a surprise that out-of-towners, including her sisters, would be there; they also gave me my ride down from Portland. I am very bad at social events, even casual ones; I went and I didn't fail miserably (just moderately), so that's something, I suppose.

And I talked with people, uh oh. )

Then I spent ~10 days closed in Devon's bedroom, speaking to no one except a very good dog and occasional cat (and also Devon), lying in bed and reading, and playing the occasional video game; and it was approximately enough recovery.

- - - - -

I came back to PDX because I wanted to see my cat, and we made the mistake of driving up on a weekday afternoon because it fit every schedule except traffic and the first heat wave of the season. The car began to overheat once we hit the Portland traffic, so we ended up pulling off to the dead end of a residential street—a vacant lot and a half, tucked under an overpass and against a power station, nothing there but the shade of trees with their sudden vibrant green and the quiet backs to apartment complexes. We hung out for an hour, to let the car cool and traffic pass; I read 1984 for the millionth time. Then we drove home through back ways we know from when I lived in SE. It was, bizarrely—the unexpected 4-hour car trip, unseasonably hot, broken radio, rush hour traffic, and yet—a lovely, long goodbye, relaxing despite the stressful circumstances.

I hate summer, don't get me wrong. But summer is such an intense experience, so physically present, that the first signs of it conjure something akin to nostalgia: memories of spending all day in bed with all the electronics off, reading, reading, coaxing a crossbreeze out of my opened windows, and the anticipation of sunset and the full-body relief of tired eyes and tired skin. I saw that in the haven we found in that dead end.

- - - - -

These things are over a week old, now, but I've been been so tired lately; I've been having back issues for the last three or four weeks, the "wake up already in pain" variety, which is part of it. All I want to do is lay down and read, but the more time I spend reading, the longer the omnipresent backlog of book reviews becomes, fie. (It is so long.) But there've so many great books lately! Almost everything hovers at that 4-, 4.5-stars level, not quite flawless, but that can't really be a complaint.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
LJ's recent ToS update and the final, for-real-this-time exodus hit me harder than I expected, for one logistic reason (my list of book reviews, which I reference a lot for personal use, links to LJ posts, and I will never be arsed to manually replace >600 links), predictable comment- and community-related nostalgia reasons, and vague "the intrusion of the current world climate into my personal bubble" reasons. The compromise? solution? I've opted for is to turn off crossposts and make all of my LJ entries private; I have indefinite, personal access to the comments, but if my LJ is deleted or it becomes wiser to do so, so be it.

A while ago I made a trip down to see Devon which ended up lasting about a week longer than normal. When I see him, a lot of my crazy comes to a head because my subconscious decides the make-it-better person is present and I should therefore provide all the icky things for making-better purposes; as such, I tend to have ironic mental health crises when visiting; as such, I generally make those visits sort of ... vacations from reality, since they're also vacations from my 1.5 responsibilities. So I just ... switched off the politics part of me when I was there, and I was there for ages. And when I got back, I never switched politics back on.

And you know what, I was pushing myself far beyond my limits. So now I'm one the other side of the same debate: I'm not doing the work I deem important, I'm filtering what I expose myself to which, there's inevitable unfilterable intrusions that really bring it home; I'm less crazy, less anxious but more depressed, cognizant always that avoiding the world is only possible because I'm so crazy as to not have a life; I know it's a long game and I can resume my role in it later.

And LJ manages to be simultaneously a petty nothing and emblematic of all of that.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)


I just got back from a week visiting Devon in Corvallis, and the return journey was lovely. Mist over the fields and river out the train window; dense fog as we reached Portland, with the city and its bridges shadows in the gray. The 6am train trips in autumn are consistently my favorite of all things: the clear dark cold at the train station, the slow sunrises, the mist and the changing leaves.

August was ridiculously clingy when I was preparing to leave (she even followed me and my luggage downstairs to hang out by the door and look concerned) and she's been inseparable since I got back, because she loves me and also because it's autumn and she wants to sit on me and be warm. I held her on my tummy and sang Can't Take My Eyes Off You to her, my wonder keeping the stars apart.

It was a fantastic trip, and I appreciate the reminder that I have those—and that last month's misery visit was a birthday-related anomaly rather than a trend. I timed my visit for the Fall Festival; I accidentally slept through most of Saturday, but we stopped by on Sunday. It was too sunny and I am pale and pathetic, so we made but a brief circuit. My favorite of what I saw was Fantasy Figurative Art dolls by MARCA—I like my art dolls creepy/cute rather than Froud-esque, but there were blue goblin children and humaniod bird monsters and of that I approve. We also went to the library's book sale, and by the time we got there they had entered the $5/bag "please, take them away" final phase; slim pickings but a joy to comb through, in no small part because it was indoors this time. I picked up paperback copies of books I own in hardback (hardback is a pain to read, and I'm a big rereader), some new-to-me books by authors I'm familiar with, and a few random picks—because at a flat rate, mistakes are free.



The Cherryh I picked up on another night out. After dinner and dark, we got Starbucks and walked across to the Book Bin—bless their late hours. The checkers were looking at pictures of baby goats, there were no other customers, and because I'd already made a book run I wasn't working off my to-buy list: the laid-back book browsing I've always wanted. Having credit there allows me to make impulse purchases without stress.

One final highlight: a moment when Devon and I both walked down the hallway and Gigi the puppy, the best baby dog with the most love, came in from the kitchen, saw us both, and barreled past Devon to get to me because Dev is everyday and known and boring where I am Important Dog Auntie, and also the only one that will hold her paws.

I didn't see my family and other than the Fall Festival had no to-do list, which I think contributed to the successful visit; it was the private, quiet time that we needed.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Be ye warned of discussions of pet health/aging/death.

A little while ago, my family's dog Jamie (a fourteen year old black lab; lab life expediency is 10-12 years) had a health scare that resolved to be a probable brain bleed, collapsing, some seizing, labored breathing, etc. We did the entire routine of family panic, "the dog may be dying" phone calls, considering trips to the emergency vet; the crisis resolved overnight and they were able to take her to her normal vet the next day. She's been acting old-dog normal since, with all the ongoing health issues but no new ones. But the vet still believes she won't make it through autumn, if only because they see most old animals die in spring and autumn when the changing seasons add new stressors.

Talking about this with Mum after the fact, she said that she'd used me as an example of calm and acceptance when everyone was doing the crying freakout thing—which startled me to hear, but makes sense. I've seen so many companion animals die, both recently and generally. I am on intimate terms with non-human animal death, in ways I never am with human death, even when I know the deceased. These dying animals are in my care or care-adjacent; their lives and deaths and my responsibility. None of that has a negative connotation, and I have gotten really good at calmly accepting end-of-life events.

When Mama died, so quickly, despite lifesaving measures, we still had a sense of absolute certainty. We watched her transition from skittish bedraggled stray to a playful, profoundly affectionate, calm housecat, and that was our doing; we also helped her in sickness, and made the decision to euthanize her, and that was equally as beneficial to her wellbeing. I cannot have one of those things without the other, nor would I want to. This one thing, providing love and care to animals, is within my ability, and there's nothing I'd rather do.

My sister got a mini red merle Australian Shepherd named Tiber last year, and, I mean, he's a good dog, but I was watching my family replace Jamie, not with intent but because it was easier to bond with a lively young dog than to accept Jamie in her old age, with her failing body, her loud panting, her constant need to Be With. They were looking after her physically, but their emotional energy was diverted. And, to be honest, I don't think Jamie knew or cared; with her blindness and exhaustion came a particularly dogged affection, a love unswayed by physical or social concerns. But seeing the impatience and distraction she received bothered me.

When I explained all of this to my mother (everything except the quiet judgment, obvs.), my emphasis was this: I was sad when she seemed like she might be dying, but not afraid and not sorry, because I regret nothing about Jamie, not the life I had with her, not who she is now, neither her eventual death. It's not an inconvenience or a price to be paid for the better parts; it is part of an experience, and that experience is the thing I value most in my life.

I don't expect them to do that, to turn tolerance into engagement and value Jamie-now as easily as Jamie-then. But not everyone engages with companion animals the way I do, and to be honest my engagement is something I've severely fucked up and undervalued in the past (and that I do regret). But her health scare woke them. They know not to take for granted the time she has left, and so to engage with her in that time, even if that requires patience with her old dog ways. I'm glad to see it, because she deserves the world—they all do, these animals we pledge ourselves to, but Jamie does in particular.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I made an unusually long visit to Corvallis, because I hadn't seen Devon for a while and because I was making a trip with my parents to go to Ashland and see some Shakespeare (!! !). I usually travel by train, but Devon and I drove back up today because he had to pick up a friend from the local airport.

This is the sort of thing that only I could do:

As we approached the airport, Devon called his friend to let him know we were running 20mins late on account of traffic. I was unsure if this was traffic-traffic or "traffic"-traffic, as we had stopped for dinner along the way and I legitimately did not remember any traffic congestion. It occurred to me that if it were white lie-traffic, I was complicit in a white lie! so I queried Devon. Devon recounted for me the three (3) episodes of stop and go traffic that resulted from some broken-down cars, which occurred approximately when I was talking in depth about 1) the abuse of Malvolio and its end-game resolution as appeared in this production of Twelfth Night,* 2) the way the B-plot was weighted against the A-plot in Twelfth Night, the ways they were knit together, the depth given to the B-plot, 3) the overlap of an actor in Twelfth Night and Hamlet, and as natural segue, 4) which was the more successful production of the two (spoiler: Twelfth Night), especially in conceit, but 5) that this was one of my very favorite Hamlets.**

Which makes these things the take-away:

My memory is so spotty that I can entirely forget not one, not two, but three separate repetitions of the same event.

I am so engrossed in media criticism that I can carry on a one-sided outpouring of Shakespeare Thoughts that lasts through at least 20-mins-late worth of traffic.

My compulsive honesty is so intense and deeply ingrained that even being adjacent to the possibility of a small lie will cause me anxiety and require immediate clarification/resolution.


* As a type-A fellow antisocial uptight often-socially-corrected personality, Malvolio is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters and I am incredibly sensitive to how productions depict his abuse and its aftermath—whether it's played for fun, whether the audience is complicit, whether his "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you" does or doesn't diffuse the anxiety of the realization that things have, indeed, gone too far. This one was handled so well! so explicit, so cruel, so unforgiven; he internalizes his enforced socialization, his "smile," but reclaims it, develops it into a tool to use against those that hurt him. It threatens to diffuse and then refuses to, so pointedly. It was all I ever wanted.

** I feel that too much Hamlet discussion and production is given to issues of is he mad or faking (& is he flippant or bereaved); in this production he was all, he was driven to an extremity of emotion and he was numb, impassioned but indecisive, feigning and sincere, sarcastic and authentic. He was complete. That is the Hamlet which makes the play endure, who engages our ambivalence and writes it vast yet sympathetic, and we see ourselves in him, and we fear him, and fear ourselves
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
When I was last down visiting Devon, we made two trips to the local used bookstore because I have a ridiculous amount of credit there that I never manage to spend. On the first trip, I picked up two books: Elizabeth A. Lynn's The Sardonyx Net, because I love everything Lynn and won't turn down a random mass market copy of her books especially since most or all of them are out of print, and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle which I read last year and fell in love with and thus needed to own. The second trip was made on a whim two days later, when I wouldn't have expected stock to change dramatically, and yet! four books: Elizabeth A. Lynn's The Dancers of Arun; two by CJ Cherryh, including telepathic bond horses Rider at the Gate, which the library doesn't have even in physical form; a new-to-me novel by Elizabeth Bear. The Dancers of Arun was a small miracle to find, because, as mentioned, it's out of print—and it's one of those quintessentially-me novels, far and above my favorite of her work, and I've wanted to own it since before I finished reading it the first time.

Meanwhile, I've been having an ongoing issues with Overdrive and Adobe Digital Editions which means that approximately 1 in 5 licenses doesn't fulfill. I've found reports of this issues online, with no Adobe-side resolution; users recommend either reverting to an older version of ADE (which for me also leads to failed fulfillment, although without the program crash that makes this troubleshooting process so time-consuming) or unverifying and then reverifying the user license (or verifying a new license) for ADE—the later of which doesn't work because 1) it requires a password, and my Adobe account is so old that, whatever password I used 15 years ago, I can't remember it now; 2) I can't do a password recovery process because the account is tied to a 15 year old, defunct email; 3) adding a secondary account to just try from scratch first requires unverifying the current account/license. This problem reoccurs frequently and there is no resolution except to get a different book, even after much troubleshooting; in the Adobe forum threads I saw another user write something along the lines of "I've spent four hours troubleshooting this, and it's so frustrating. I'm computer literate. How do casual users manage at all?" which expresses approximately my level of really, DRM, really?

The golden rule of DRM should be—but isn't—that it must be easier for the average user to legally obtain a product than to pirate it. The library's Overdrive service is in general phenomenal, especially in my area, where there are plenty of licenses and it's easy to request new titles. I read almost everything as ebooks now, because I can obtain digital copies from the comfort of my agoraphobia home, and because the backlight on my ereader allows me to read without the eyestrain caused by even the dimmest of lamps. But this a golden rule violation if I have ever seen one, and seeing the two set against each other recently, these magical perfect purchases against the frustration of yet another DRM snafu, has made me sad.

(The almost-worst of it is that it's not Overdrive's fault, and their tech support is also superb and timely and considerate; and the comments which I've seen by Adobe tech support, while in now ways productive, are also kind and patient. The problems is almost surely ADE side, but the real culprit the truly awful state of electronic publishing. There's no one to blame but that, and they don't have a tech support whom I can send a message that reads "really??????". Nor is there any true recourse.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
What is it about the holidays that inspires an intense heartsickness? Hanukkah is arguably more important to me than Christmas—it feels more intimate and profound—and yet I take some issue with how my family's come to handle it, growing lazier, we don't even make our own latka anymore; and whenever I go home, I realize how distant from my family I've become. My sister's been living there since her diagnosis, and she's always been more comfortable in that social setting. They're noisy and casual and gossip about people I don't know or care to; I go home to feel like an outsider, and to half-ass something important to me.

It makes me want to reclaim the holiday, to learn to make my own latka, to replace what's gone missing—but the very nature of the holiday season means I'm spoon-bereft. I put the average introvert to shame: I rarely socialize, but I rarely feel like I lack anything for it. Except now. This is the only time when I feel like I am actually missing something, that I'm denied something by my sheer inability to ~people~.

On Thanksgiving, Dee's immediate family came into town; they made stuffing and gravy the day before, then left on Thanksgiving itself to visit relatives. I was alone overnight, watching two dogs and four cats; I pulled out the couch and made a big nest of animals, and we watched TV and I ate stuffing and gravy. (Pics or it didn't happen.) It was perfect—enough socialization on either side, but the day itself was stress-devoid and I could actually enjoy my comfort foods.

And between the two, the quiet frustration of Hanukkah and the perfect day that was Thanksgiving, I'm tempted to spend Christmas at the house alone, watching the cats in quiet while Dee goes up to Seattle; but I worry that that tends to far towards not celebrating the holiday at all, and because I can't reclaim it and engaging with it as-is seems unpleasant I'll just ... let it pass me by, which is almost worse.

There are other, personal frustrations which are piggybacking on to this sense of heartsickness, homesickness, longing. I don't have a resolution for any of it.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
(Previously discussed here.)

Went to Devon's for a week, spent four days on Tramadol (three doses in three days, two days off, one day on; timing was largely happenstance, but it worked out well). It was a lovely trip for obvious reasons—Tramadol is by far my favorite drug—but also did what it needed to do and essentially hit a reset button on my pain cycle. My back is still bad, and I'm unsure what degree of bad or what this sort of bad indicates in the long-term, but it's a sort of bad I can treat, now; before, nothing was touching it.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
The very great catch-up post.

March, 7: Saw the Twilight Sad in concert
at the Doug Fir. Most of the bands I see with Dee are ones I don't much listen to or only listen to live; I have never yet been disappointed by a performance. This is in part because Dee has great taste, and in part because live music is its own energy and sound—and this show was a great example. The energy flow between musicians and audience was joyful and near palpable; the band was so obviously happy to be there, with us, and I felt somewhat responsible for that—a phenomenal experience.

March 8: Made trip to Corvallis
A brief one, as it was right before finals week for Devon. The very first thing that happened as I walked in the door: Devon's mom asked, "oh, how is Mamakitty doing?" and Devon went "WELP it seems I forgot to tell you something." A weird trip, not entirely in a bad way; I missed seeing my sister but did see my parents.

Family Stuff under the cut. )

March 13: Traveled back to Portland, got sick
Started with a tolerable cough; remained a tolerable cough until directly after:

March 21: Saw The Decemberists in concert
I can't remember how many times I've seen them, now. Many! At least four, if you count Meloy's solo show. I occasionally listen to them, but not often; Meloy's twang sounds raw on record. But I adore them live, and this concert was no exception. It was in the Keller Auditorium, which is quite stately, but they still got everyone on their feet. Their concerts are performance art, despite the minimal performance (whale excepted): presence, energy, vivid dark humor, self-awareness, an appetite for the absurd, a proactive engagement with content and audience.

Then was really sick
Polite of it to wait until I had free time to be miserable. Complaining about a cold feels trite, because no one enjoys them. But post-Mama, still unsure how I've recovered; post-travel, which is exhausting even if positive; post-two big, beautiful, but energetic concerts: I'm already bereft of energy and cluttered with unexamined feelings, and being ill and nigh unable to sleep didn't help.

My saving grace is that I've been consuming a lot of engaging, enjoyable media—and while I don't have the energy to spend time in my own life, escaping into another is welcome. The problem is that I should be reviewing, or at least making note of, all I've consumed, but I feel disorganized and feeble, and can't set my thoughts to order. So, I thought, writing some of that down may help, and I wrote.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Most memorable Hanukkah event so far thus year: Loki the kitten jumping up on the menorah windowsill the first night and (harmlessly) singeing her fur. She gets locked in her bedroom for candles, now.

I'm still amazingly unwell. Every few years I lose the holidays to my illness, because I don't have the energy to engage as giver or receiver—so I'm sensitive about how this season intersects with my mental health, which predictably increases my anxiety. I'm so stressed and exhausted that I keep forgetting things, like eating and lighting the menorah.

Between the genetic aspect of my sister's cancer, and my grandfather's Alzheimer's, I'm very aware of my Jewishness right now. Being half Jew, especially through your father's side, especially when you're cultural/non-religious, is a tenuous thing. I'm white-passing and not-Jew in the bulk of my life, but the Jewish imprint lingers—and it's frequently an unpleasant burden, an inherited pessimism, a culture of Exoduses and Maccabean Revolts and Holocausts, a presumption of suffering. And right now it's also BRCA mutations and Alzheimer's.

I don't look very Jewish, I don't act very Jewish, but lighting the candles makes it real. It makes cancer and Alzheimer's real; it's an acknowledgement—but despite all the negative connotations, that menorah is also my light in the dark. I don't know why. I suppose it's enough to validate and memorialize something, that that act has meaning. But this is the most sacred Hanukkah that I can remember.

My father gets back from Florida in a few hours; I'm meeting him at the airport to drive with him down to Corvallis, and spending a few days with Devon and my family. Just arranging it has been exhausting, but I'll be glad to be there.

(Raise a toast to my boyfriend, who buys me a Hanukkah gift and a Christmas gift, because he knows that Hanukkah matters and deserves its own special recognition.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Just got back from a week in Corvallis, a longer than average trip because I caught a cold on the way down. It was pretty minor, in large part because I had Devon to look after me and didn't try to travel while sick. I was nervous when I developed symptoms because I'm never great at dealing with adversity but I'm particularly shit at it right now, so I'm thankful. Unfortunately, finding ways to sleep with congestion has done a number on my back and I imagine I'll be recovering from that for a while.

My parents were out of town by the time that I was well enough to visit the house, but I did stop by to pick up a bag of Liberty apples (a tradition; these are my favorite apples in the world) and this year's crop is phenomenal, firm and tiny—I find the smaller fruits to stay firmer longer, be more flavorful, and be an ideal serving size.

While I was there I had a nice long talk with my sister; we haven't talked in person since her diagnosis, so the conversation was long and weighty and hugely reassuring. She's halfway through chemo, and has run into most of the predictable issues but none of the big and dangerous ones. I've always had an unshakable faith in her ability to deal with this, and that's not something that I say lightly: it's something that I know I couldn't deal with, not right now and maybe not ever; I believe that praising a sick person for their strength and bravery can easily slide into the realm of the problematic and belittling. I have a lot of predictable, essential anger at the whole Cancer Thing: it isn't fair and she shouldn't have to be strong—but she is: she has an intense capability and self-control and will, she's giving nurses and doctors What For to ensure she gets the treatment she needs and is able to continue to work and live as she wants to, she's dealing with intense emotional burdens with great aplomb. I'm proud of her and it was nice to have the chance to say so.

All that she's been dealing with also makes me confident in my decision not to get tested at this time, because I cannot do what she is doing.

I was also fairly honest with her about how I've been, which was—well, it was weird. Weird and pleasant, I mean; it fit the situation and felt good to share. But I tend not to be forthcoming about my personal life/health issues with my family, and there's something about the sentence "sorry, I've been too busy being sad to be present and supportive while you were diagnosed with cancer" which triggers every anxiety about the veracity/severity of mental illness.

I'm at ~4.5 months with this major depressive episode, which is by far the longest episode I've had since I dropped out of school; I'm sure that what's been going on with my sister has contributed to its longevity. The day-to-day experience is somewhat more tolerable than it was at onset, but I'm so worn down that it barely matters.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I went down to Corvallis over Christmas (Dee decided to go up to see her family immediately after Christmas, so it was lovely no-stress scheduling), and it was okay, I guess. Every few Christmases, the holiday comes during a depressive episode and I just want to wish the whole thing away because I lack the spirit to begin with and all the holiday responsibilities and events serve to exacerbate my mental state; at least once I've effectively defaulted on Christmas, even failing to buy gifts. This would have been one of those years, there but for the grace of Devon—he saw it coming, and so he researched wishlists and gifts and made it stupidly easy for me to pick presents for others. And everyone loved them! and that surprised me. Buying for my family is hard; my parents have a lot of art in the house and I've had good luck getting new pieces for their collection, but that grows predictable year after year; my sister and I have radically different tastes, and I never know what on her wishlist reads as "something you actually really want but may still have sentimental value." Considering where I started, with a deep unwillingness to do anything and an utter dearth of Christmas spirit, coming out the other side having given successful gifts feels awesome.

Christmas gifts given. )

Christmas gifts received. )

As always, I record this stuff because my memory is horrible and they're things I don't want to forget.

My father's birthday was December 21st, so we did a family dinner in and a family dinner out, and I went to the house to decorate the family tree, and then decorated Devon's grandparents's tree; Christmas Eve was blessedly quiet, but I went to both Devon's grandparents's family Christmas (a dozen people were there) and had traditional Christmas homemade pizza dinner with my family; Devon and I drove up to Portland on boxing day so that he could transport and set up the new monitor and Dee could leave to see her family the next day. In other words: exhausted, utterly exhausted, and while there were highlights and the homemade pizza continues to be the best pizza, I am mostly just exhausted. And exhausted.

But the days have been silver gray and heavily fogged; skeleton trees against cashmere skies; cold weather, scarf and overcoat weather, hot coffee weather; distinctly winter.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
My grandfather's funeral was a few weeks ago. Everyone in my nuclear family went but me; I went to Corvallis to watch my parent's house and the family dog while they were away. My impression is that this is the best decision I could've made; it sounds like the funeral was a minor nightmare, too much alcohol and grief and drama in one place; I would have found it extremely stressful, and that's not how I want to remember my grandfather. Jamie and I meanwhile had a fine few days of watching bad TV and walking in autumn weather.

Hanukkah began the night before Thanksgiving this year—very early! I was down in Corvallis Wednesday/Thursday/Friday last week, and then came back up so that I could watch the house and approximately one thousand cats (kittens, man, they're like a dozen cats in one small cat body) while Dee went up to visit her family over the weekend and Devon did Thanksgiving with his extended family on Saturday. My family and I had latka for the first night of Hanukkah, traditional French Toast on Thanksgiving morning, and a very relaxed Thanksgiving dinner that night. The weather has been starkly cold, dry and bright and on the edge of freezing, just what I needed to clear my mind in between too much socialization. The menorah has been burning each night both at my parent's house and at Dee's house here in Portland.

Hanukkah's early date has made me extremely sensitive to how easily it (the holiday, Judaism, take your pick) is overlooked—that sense that with Thanksgiving passed we're all now preparing for the "holiday season," but half of mine is nearly over, and so "holiday" obviously reads as "somewhat secular Christmas." I celebrate secular Christmas, too! with enthusiasm. But the erasure is needling me, this time around.

I think it's reasonably safe to say I've been in another depressive episode these last few months. Given the accommodations in the rest of my life, these episodes are mild now—pedestrian, even: something between ennui and anxiety, a suffused discontent and sadness with the catharsis of a breakdown. The best recourse is just to try to stay out of my own head, thus the constant reading and TV watching and gaming. I got worse and better—see: the catharsis of a breakdown—while in Corvallis, which was expected because even family stuff stresses me out. Been listening to Kelli Schaefer's Black Dog when I'm hopeful; Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog the rest of the time.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I just returned from Corvallis today; came back to Portland to a very excited dog and two! cats, which I don't yet take for granted. August was not her usual snuggleself on my return home; she was preoccupied by Gillian, by how his presence changed our interactions. (She is still, always, my favorite; she knows that.) But five minutes before I sat down to type all this, they were playing with the same piece of ribbon.

I went down to Corvallis for the start of Hanukkah. My sister was working late on the first night, so I just lit candles for the family. She was home all day on the second, so we did latkas and a family candle lighting and half of the holiday gifts and then I decorated the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music, as one is wont to do during Hanukkah. They bought new lights this year, LEDs in a crystalline white, so I went out of my comfort zone for a light, white-toned tree (I tend towards red and brass, with a preference towards a wooden cranberry garland and wooden amanita decorations). I don't have pictures—my sister took some, but hell if I know where they got posted—but consensus is it turned out well.

Devon rearranged his work schedule during my visit so that he was home by sundown, bless. I also had some simple, precious downtime with him. For Hanukkah he gave me a Kobo Mini, which is my first e-reader—I still prefer traditional books, but this opens up giveaways and more library lending and lots of free classic literature, on a display I like and without any icky Amazon ties. My parents gave me a remote for my camera, which lets me add myself to the pictures of my cats if for some reason I'd want to do so.

(Devon is also giving me a Christmas gift—the way he's distinguishing and celebrating each holiday this year means a lot to me. I'll probably see my parents around the week of Christmas, when they make a day-trip up to Portland.)

(I gave my sister Beats earbuds, which turned out to be quite timely as her earbuds had just been damaged. I gave my mother The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I've wanted to give her since its release; I gave my parents a pair of ceramic bird garden sculptures by a local artist. Devon's gift is his when he comes for Christmas; Dee's will be here when she gets back from visiting her family at the same time. I'm rarely a good giftgiver, because I am chronically low on spoons and have no money to my name; sometimes it just doesn't happen. This year it's all working out beautifully, everyone is getting the perfect things, and I'm so glad.)

It was bitterly cold last night, and after some back-unrelated (the worst canker sore I've ever had—my pain tolerance is exceptional but this was one of the worst things I've lived through) reliance on pain medication I'm back to being med-free and I spent last night with the sort of stabbing back pain that can only be brought on by insomnia and shivering, and I still don't mind. It's cold and crisp followed by bouts of slate-blue rain; it's coffee-drinking weather, and in the dark nights we raise shining lights. I took the train at 6a, which is my favorite time to ride it (until 7a, when the loud gentlemen got on and seriously, dudes, shut up), I took a nap with my cats, I lit candles and Dee gave me a fantastic and immensely useful pair of fingerless gloves. Winter has always been a strange time for me—through my childhood my extended family wintered in Texas and Florida, which are decidedly non-wintery places; as a young adult I've spent years bouncing between locations and living arrangements and multi-family gatherings of mixed success; always as a cultural Jew who celebrates Christmas it just becomes a bit ... strange. I hate Christmas as a multi-month institution, and would never want to do something extravagant for any of the winter holidays. But while autumn is my season, there is something so powerful to me about the symbol of a light in the dark, of lit trees and menorahs. I don't begrudge winter and I don't fight the night; I like the contrast, and what it means to flock to the comfort of that light.

So, yeah. It's a good time of year.

(Many thanks for all of the Kuzco-related condolences. I've had some good time to reflect, if not overtly grieve, and am gaining some distance from it; I'm really doing fine.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Last weekend was fantastic and hugely busy. On Saturday, Dee and I made a day trip down to Corvallis. We brought Odi to board the day in grandparents's outdoor dog kennel, and went with Devon and my family (parents and sister) to the Fall Festival, an outdoor fair of local artists. I usually go just with my father, or sometimes with my sister as well; having such a large group was a bit like herding cats (oh, the yelled cell phone conversations), but it was also lovely. The weather held at mostly sunny but not hot, my parents bought some metal work for the garden, and I got to show off one of my favorite artists, Cameron Kaseberg. When we were done with the booths, we split up and Devon, Dee, and I went across the street to the library book sale, where everything was half price for the end of the day; I am absolutely drowning in books over here, but I still managed to find Dracula, some Atwood and Woolf, and a Southern Gothic novel of questionable potential for $6, and who can say no to that. Then we went out to a delightful dinner.

Back at Devon's grandparents's house we discovered that—true story—as soon as we'd left, Odi had managed to pull up the chain link sides to the kennel, wriggle underneath, and follow Devon's scent trail across the yard and back to Devon's house, where he had found Devon's father and invited himself inside and spent the day gorging on found bags of cat food and playing. We're exceedingly lucky that he wasn't hurt in the escape and that he immediately found a safe place to go (as a one-eyed dog he's pretty identifiable, so Devon's folks recognized him), but: WHUT.

On Sunday, Dee and I took the bus to Hawthorne—one of my old Portland stomping grounds out in SE—for the Under Wildwood release party. The Wildwood Chronicles take place in St. Johns (our neighborhood here in Portland) and the vast park visible from the neighborhood; at the release party we got a pre-release signed copy of the second book in the series, and the author and illustrator did a joint talk which was all about the book as a collaboration—their joint approach to creating its world, and then exploring it in their respective mediums as author and illustrator. Afterward, we went to an early dinner at Chez Machin—I'd never had savory crêpes, and they make theirs with chewy robust buckwheat; mine was filled with mozzarella, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and topped with a pesto sauce. I'm an extremely picky eater, mostly in regards to texture and new foods, so it was a bit of a risk but a complete success: A+, would love to eat again.

On one hand this is exactly what I want of autumn: more to do, more desire to do it, the delicious exhaustion and enthusiastic downtime that follows having done it. That said, we noticed this week that Kuzco has been having some troubles eating: he lost a top incisor a bit ago, which is totally normal, but I think he lost this one way down at the root and the root got infected. It's just broken through, so he's probably fine, but he's lost a bit of weight in the meantime and the infection may still linger. He has a vet appointment tomorrow just to make sure he's fine, but here's the thing: Kuz is 7 years old, and guinea pigs live between 5 and 8 years. He's developed a cataract in one eye; when he's eating well (which is usually) he gets rotund but the weight is all in his tummy—he's never been a very plump pig, but he's on the bonier side now. What I'm saying is that he's an old man, the last of his herd. This tooth issue is probably unrelated to aging, but it sort of makes his mortality hit home. I'm not dreading or even anticipating his death—Kuzco has had a good life, and he can stick around for as much more of it as fate determines—but this comes while we have a cat in limbo and while I just feel ... exhausted.

It's money issues (even if Devon doesn't seem to think there ... are any), it's fear of commitment and responsibility, it's general exhaustion and the need for some downtime. Two weeks ago I was exhausted and went to escape in Corvallis, and spent the whole time having an extended nervous breakdown. Then there was cat, then there was social stuff, now Kuzco, and I haven't showered in a couple of days and when I'm not surfeited with distraction (making stars while watching a show, reading a book while watching video games) I'm on the verge of a crying jag.

Gillian is fine! He managed to groom the section that he had groomed to the skin, so that's still healing, but most all of his scabs have flaked off and he's no longer vibrating with itchy frustration. No other health problems, he's on the second half of his preventative medication course, and really the only thing he hates is being trapped in one room. I'm just having a hard time bonding, because right now I don't see "cat I love"—I see "ongoing responsibility and monetary investment." That's selfish, and it doesn't mean I don't love him, but it's a connotation I can't shake right now.

If sleep were easier (not having nightmares, just sleeping restlessly), I'd want to sleep for a week. Devon wants me to come back to Corvallis for another try at downtime, but it depends on what Kuzco's vet visit turns up. I just wish there were an off button for the world, or for me.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
This is in-Corvallis do-nothing low-stress time and I will be damned if I've not had constant nightmares every time I go to sleep: I've been in college, been on a cruise, attended a college on a cruise ship; people have died from exploding intestines yes it was as gross as it sounds, I hid from a werewolf-cum-madman attack, and my parents got divorced. It's not the vivid, winding, surreal dreams I have upon waking, but a constant parade of them all fucking night long and I remember them all.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm anxious.

Got a quote for Gillian's initial vet visit; Devon will cover it. Will make appointment soon. Corvallis Fall Festival is next weekend because timing is shit; my father invited me and I'm not even sure yet if I want to go, least of all what's feasible. I am a constant bundle of nerves, so frazzled that I cannot concentrate on a video game (but I can read for two straight hours; I don't even know). I just.

1) Getting August was this stretched out thing and this is so fast and it's scary; it's a big responsibility and it's just sitting there in front of me, being vast. 2) In getting August I convinced myself that you could adopt a cat normally; they didn't have to show up, bedraggled and hopeful, on your doorstep for it to be magical and meaningful—AND THEN THIS ONE DID, after I'd finally dismissed that ideal. 3) I hate money. 4) I hate it a lot, you don't even realize; any issue of money triggers my anxiety, but this is like a dozen in two weeks and I hate it goddamn. 5) Everyone makes all this sound easy. Unfortunately, we're not in a magical world wherein something that ought to happen easily does, and I feel like the only one seeing the difficulties and then I have the stress of not being understood on top of the stress of being stressed.

I want to run in circles and punch things and scream and then sleep for a few solid days without even a single dream.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
This is my life:

Yesterday was my birthday! Devon and I went to have dinner with my parents; we went to Laughing Planet, which I discovered last time I was in Corvallis and fell a bit in love with. I had the cheese and pico quesadilla that I always get, and it was a fantastic meal: enjoyable but low-key. As much as I think my parents wish I did something with my life (which is a valid desire), they're still pleasantly surprised just to see how much I've improved in recent years—I think they're relieved to see that I'm more vivacious and simply happy, and dinner had that vibe to it: it was a relaxed pleasure which I couldn't've managed some years back.

As if to prove a point, I noticed in the middle of a completely different discussion that the restaurant was playing Florence + the Machine, and so I broke into a lengthy recounting of this experience, explaining (mostly to my mother, who's more emotional and emotionally-receptive than my father—that's not a condemnation: he's a happy well-rounded person and so, frankly, doesn't "get it," for which I envy him more than anything else) how it came down to the fact that I needed that concert to be beautiful, and it wasn't beautiful in the back, and I couldn't tolerate that—because F+tM is about living life with foolishly and joyfully, not in halved in experiences; not because you have no fear or regret, but because you swear to yourself to throw them off.

The song they were playing? The Dog Days are Over. Then after that, I shit you not, they played Shake It Out, which at the concert was the song that told me about throwing that devil off, and has become my secondary theme song.

The bakery we went to afterwards didn't have the dessert I wanted, because F+tM and no chocolate deliciousness apparently now go together, but who the hell cares. In my life, a restaurant plays Florence for me on my birthday and reminds me of everything I should never forget, bless.

The weather's broken somewhat, down to reasonable warm-because-summer, not hot-like-burning levels; it's the sort of weather that almost lets you glimpse autumn on the horizon, and that's a gift in itself. Devon's gift is still in the air, or may be a number of various long-needed necessities. (After seeing my parents last evening, we did a late Fred Meyer run and came away with three nail polish shades I've wanted for a while—no necessity by far, but yaaaay.) My father gave me spending money (BPAL Halloweenies in my future, perhaps?), including credit at The Book Bin which I will go spend today; my mother gave me, with assurances that in a few months it would be lovely instead of torturous, a black knitted cowl which doubles around the neck and is squishy and warm—and I actually had the chance to wear it already, when Devon and I went to an early morning breakfast today while the air was cold and fog was still on the fields, oh bless. Later today when we finally get moving we have many shopping trips planned, to the bookstore and elsewhere.

So. That's all I could ask for: love from friends and family, time with the boy, good food, things I want, and Florence.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
funny pictures of cats with captions

Apparently? This year sort of crept up on me, perhaps because it's been a bit too hot lately to think about anything but being miserable (everything written about the weather in this post turned out to be a lie oh god—it's been like a billion degrees), but today is indeed my birthday and I am now 27.

I'm in Corvallis, Land of the Air Conditioning (although it is no longer so aggressively miserable out: I would love some cold air, yes, yes I would); tonight we'll go out to dinner with my parents and, if I'm lucky, manage a slice of flourless chocolate torte at the neighborhood bakery afterward. That's about all I have planned—low key and lovely; I'm fine with it.

I have no idea what birthday gifts look like. I'm having huge and major wantsies in a lot of areas right now, and the BPAL autumn update is due soon and I usually put most of my birthday shopping into that, but probably on account of the weather I've been a bit too bleh to actually plan or decide or request anything. So! We shall see, I suppose.

And that's it. Thank you for birthday wishes and love!
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
In Corvallis, housesitting while my father is in Calfornia, meeting my mother at the tail end of a long stay in Texas. They'll be down there a few days, visiting friends; it's just Jamie and me in the meantime, hangin'.

Devon and I went round one in mission: tame the back pain last night. "Is it any better?" "Yes, actually." "It'll be worse tomorrow." And it was, starting when I woke at the end of my first sleep cycle at 3a, and I slept like shite on account. This battle with my back has been one of the toughest yet—in part just because the pain's been bad, in part because it's been going on for weeks now, in part because it's been one factor in many: exhaustion, maybe some depression, triggering (but good!) media, people I know with mental health and substance abuse issues, people I know with chronic pain issues, all of them filling my head to one whirling blur of problematic thoughts. But they are primarily thoughts; the only thing which is concrete is the pain—and even that is half as often phantom pain, a pain I can't feel directly but still know to be there because it effects me or just because I know. Writing about it seems insincere—like I'm appropriating other people's much more pressing issues, or dwelling on passing problems, or just making up problems entirely. Ten years in on this—my back problems started when I was abroad in England at sixteen; it terrifies me, in a way, that it's been so long—and I still don't believe it's real. On some level, I still think I'm faking it for attention or just because I enjoy being miserable. If I don't have rights to it, I certainly don't have rights to all the other thoughts, that blur. Before this trip I'd reached a point somewhere between resigned and angry, where I wasn't even trying to treat it anymore, I wasn't trying to do anything but watch TV and not think, but I was also taking these long walks despite a 80 degree heatwave, trying to pour all the agitation into blisters and sweat, trying to get so tired that I could actually sleep.

I don't know.

Today Jamie and I went for a walk. 60 degree weather, overcast and windy. Jamie's coming up on ten herself and often it's hard to tell, but man did all the uphills tire her. She's sleeping well, now. We went up a hilly residential street and into the Timberland forest, a walk I've made hundreds of times. I found sacred art in the woods, feathers tied a vine on a tree with bows of red fabric. They added a new road and residential development up that way about a year ago, and I hadn't been up there since, but to my surprise so much of the wilds are still intact—the field is gone, but the path beside it remains, and you can still walk in nature instead of beside a road. The wind was noisy through the tips of the pines; outside the forest, wild iris dotted the path. I felt grateful to be there. I ... haven't felt that in a while.

I really don't know. On one hand I'm full of thoughts about what it means to have a decade of chronic illness behind me (and a lifetime more to come!), and how I consider myself an alcoholic who's just never had a drink, and how ironic is that what keeps me from drinking is primarily that I'm too mentally ill to obtain alcohol har har har, and what it means to think about suicide, and if it changes things to admit that I think about suicide, and ... and. And yet I come here to a boyfriend that loves me beyond reason, and there is wind in the trees. I don't know how the two balance out, right now.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
For all of that (that: having nearly $700 in electronics stolen on the train), I had a remarkably nice time when I was in Corvallis. The trip had a rocky start, of course, but I stayed two extra days to make up for it, and it was ... well, a week of being aware of the concessions others make for me and of the support structure I have.

Devon bought me a 3DS, as a late anniversary and prompt Valentine's gift (we usually celebrate them together, as they fall only two weeks apart) and to replace the DSiXL that was stolen. It's something he would have given me eventually, because he admires the tech and there will be games for it that I'll want (Animal Crossing 3DS, I'm looking at you), so it wasn't a gigantic gesture—just a large one, and it did the trick: a shiny new toy and distraction (he got Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, too, which we'd been planning to pick up while I was in town) just when I needed it most, and the reminder that, despite my emotional attachment, these are still material goods and they can be upgraded and replaced, and perhaps more than anything else a sign that it wasn't the end of the world: he forgives me, and look a pressie, and everything will be all right.

I visited my parents on Wednesday (the 15th) in part so that Papa and I could start the process of switching my insurance. For those who remember that saga, Regence accepted my application; I don't know where the other applications stand, I don't think any of us care because this is an opportunity to finally put the issue to bed. Because I'm a legal adult, I had to be present for the phone call to the insurance agency—which amounted to stating my name, spelling my surname because have you seen it, and giving verbal permission for the agent to discuss my private information with my father. And that was it. Through this entire process, Papa has gone out of his way to make things as easy as possible—and, for a change, the system cooperated. It was the best it could have been, and I consider that a minor miracle and a blessing.

The 3DS tracks steps and playtime, and charts them on a pair of graphs. I had forgotten the addicting nature of pedometers and statistics: for someone like me who's always compelled to add one more to the collection (Pokémon, pictures, pennies), it's a thing of glory. I have near-zero interest in the in-system rewards—play tokens for onboard minigames, and the ability to share Miis with strangers on the street (that feature would delight me were Miis less ugly)—but so help me, I carry my 3DS in my pocket now and I have sudden urges to go on walks and I check my graphs a dozen times a day.

Accordingly, we kept going out and about. Part of that is that while in Corvallis, I spend most of my time trapped in a single room—there are people coming and going, and the rest of the house is a mess; hiding in the room protects me, but even as introverted as I am it's stifling, especially as I've grown used to freedom of movement here in Portland, where I can leave my room with little fuss. But part of that was the rare desire to see and do and go—and add steps to my graph, of course. We browsed video games. We went to coffee twice, and I'm changing my usual Starbucks order to a double tall soy mocha (no whip), which balances out the sugar of the chocolate syrup and delights the long order-loving hipster in me.

And I came back to Portland with a similar sense of restlessness-cum-energy. I'm making tentative pledges to try to get out of the house by myself at least once a week—which now that I've said aloud will certainly fail—because I am happier when I do. The Portland house is slightly more spoon-consuming day to day—in a contest between hiding in the room far away from the noisy strangers and interacting with a wonderful person every day, the latter is slightly more taxing but greatly preferable; still, it means that I have a little less energy and drive to get and out and do things on my own. That just means I'll have to try harder to do so, and maybe do something crazy like take Dee up on her offer to drop me off and Starbucks so the whole process gets a bit easier.

It's weird, but life is pretty good. I feel like Devon and I are on an upward trend—we've gotten better at this semi-most-long distance thing, and I'm continuing to resolve the many issues that developed when I had my mental breakdown lo these years ago, and more important than that even when things are not all well, when I feel like in a small and petty way the world is sort of ending, he is there. My father for many years could not understand what concessions I needed and why in order to survive in the adult world—not because he didn't try but because he didn't understand; now, he is considerate and supportive, and while he shouldn't have to go out of the way to shoulder burdens it floors me that he will. That doesn't make things easy, but renders doable what otherwise would not be, and sometimes things actually work out. I live with a friend and don't feel the need to retreat to my room and never come out, and she's willing to pick me up at train stations and feed me, and I have a cat and a city, and I have real world interactions and friendships. My id says: What are you people doing, you must be crazy, I am horrible and you should not care about my welfare or, goodness knows, do what you can to protect it. But my superego has occasional moments of clarity, when I see further and without the constant veil of pessimism, and realize that I have a support structure, and great loves, and that I'm happy.

Even when someone steals my things. I am vengeful and angry, but I'm getting over the sadness, because so help me there isn't always too much to be sad about.

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juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
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