juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
The hilarity of shapeshifter monster-of-the-weeks (I'm watching The X-Files 4.20 "Small Potatoes") is that as someone with moderate face blindness this is how I feel all the time. Swear to [noun], every time Devon cuts his hair I have a week of intense discomfort: his hair is the means by which I recognized him—you know, that guy I've been dating for a decade—and when it changes, I have to relearn my visual indicators of his identity, and it's deeply disorientating. Face blindness (and my general problems with visualization) means that any face could always be a lie, and I have to take it on faith that people are who they say they are. It's a background fear because it's ultimately baseless, but I always worry that everyone around me is really someone else.

Wow! says The X-Files and Supernatural and almost every supernatural-themed TV show, Wouldn't it be scary if you couldn't trust that someone's appearance verified their identity?

HAHAHAHAha fuck you.

I took an extended break between season 3 and 4 of X-Files because I was beginning to burn out on its repetitive tropes: the part in the episode with the unnecessary chase/action scene, the part in the episode where Mulder says something crazy and Scully says dude that's crazy, the part in the episode where Scully beings to question her incredulity, the part in the episode where Mulder and Scully are conveniently separated and then Mulder alone directly witnesses a supernatural event; the third instance in a season of Scully being kidnapped/victimized (Mulder gets beat up a lot too, but the trend is usually: Mulder gets himself into trouble on account of being an idiot; Scully is targeted/attacked—active versus passive entry into danger).

My biggest problem with the show is its certainty. Aliens! says Mulder. Well it was a bit weird but, dude, it wasn't aliens, says Scully. Says the viewer: I just saw like a dozen aliens walk across the screen, they were right there being, you know, aliens, and I don't really see any need for tension or debate. Oh no do you think there is a secret government conspira—YES I JUST SAW THAT PART TOO. I can never fully sympathize with the leads because I as viewer see too much: I share none of their doubt or hope, and doubt and hope are what should drive the show. On the basis of a single episode, this is no big deal; taking the series as a whole, the surfeit of certainty breeds frustration and the tropes—the weekly monster and/or overarching government conspiracy, explored by the constant questions of what if; not possibly; YES OBVIOUSLY—grow repetitive.

That said, season 4 is a remarkable improvement. Part of the improvement is the writing, in particular less of a reliance on that same handful of tropes; much of the improvement is Scully. The contrast between Mulder and Scully is understood, and now referenced with a nod and a wry lift of Gillian Anderson's eyebrows—and with that contrast established, the show is free to move on and explore other aspects of their relationship and personalities. Scully comes into her own, and while the Mulder-centric episodes can be shaky—Duchovny brings an intense physicality to Mulder which stands at contrast to his view beyond, and distraction from, human need and limitation, making him a man who sleeps on couches and eats sunflower seeds, human and fragile while trying to see and live beyond the human; but what Duchovny sells in body and nuance he can't always sell overtly, see: 4.5 "The Field Where I Died," which feels unexpectedly hollow—Gillian Anderson can act, motherfuckers. The writing isn't always smooth but she's no longer being kidnapped and there's more focus on her reaction to events which directly effect her, and Anderson she brings intense conflict to Scully in season 4: the subtly of her doubt, the war between her physical and therefore mental vulnerability and intense personal strength, and on the whole an increasing unwillingness to be only Mulder's foil.

I have a difficult time angsting over the is it platonic?!?!! of a male/female relationship, and the shows internal mythos is a bit hilarious (do powerful white men insidiously and successfully dictate how we view the world? well, duh, of course they do), but when this show gets it—when the relationship between Scully and Mulder is unstated, a converse kinship littered with rolled eyes and yet perfect agreement; when Mulder discovers something more concrete, and when the viewer sees a little less and doesn't know for sure what is in that bag, and doubt and hope become a progress rather than a stalemate—it gets it.

And then there's silly episodes like this one.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
After watching Devon play Saints Row 3—and after playing just enough of it to go clothes shopping and blow some shit up with tanks—I'm having weird Second Life cravings which are less about SL and more about character design. I suppose I could play Sims, but not unlike SL it requires such a significant investment (initial and ongoing) that I can talk myself out of it.

I've lost about ten pounds within the last few months, the result of slightly more exercise and slightly better eating, just enough of an improvement that I can see it and feel more comfortable in my skin, just little enough that I'm paranoid about losing it. The best thing I can do is continue to get more exercise and maintain a stable diet—I'm more concerned with the former than the latter—and my body would probably be happiest if I lost another five to ten pounds. Ideally ... well, who the hell knows. As established, my view of beauty is incompatible with or, more correctly, unrelated to my actual body. "Ideally," I'd weigh little more than a hundred pounds and would wear long drapey layers, if there was a me-as-we-know-it at all.

But gaining a little control over my body makes me want more. It threatens to become an unhealthy and unwinnable battle against my body, against every bite of food, against every minute not at least spent doing leg bends. It makes me want to go shopping, or at least to have something approximating a wardrobe; it makes me curious about the terrifying and depression-inducing realm of makeup (which if I explored here would make for much too long a post); it makes me want to develop a mode of self-presentation, a style, a visual identity.

I've been watching Being Human as I do some never-leave-the-room recuperation and hiding, and one character—Mitchell—frequently wears a pair of green knit fingerless gloves. I have a weakness for this sort of comic-style character design: when everyone has pretty much the same face, they get distinguishing features instead, a crazy hair color and certain hair style, a fixed outfit, a trademark accessory, headphones or jacket or fingerless gloves.

When I think about owning my self-presentation, I want to design myself in the same way—however silly it is to treat yourself as an anime character, despite the fact that I do have a distinct face: it's a form of character design that I understand and appreciate, because of my exposure to it but also because my face blindness and inability to visualize means that cheat-sheet character indicators are useful to me even in the real world. But when I wonder what my indicators would be, I draw half a blank. There's no single piece of clothing (other than perhaps thumbhole sleeves/arm warmers) that I would want to wear all the time, and I'm trying to train myself not to live in just one hairstyle. But everywhere that I make an avatar—in Second Life and in stupid silly Flash memes—the bare necessities are pale skin, red hair, green eyes, glasses, cat parts, and sometimes a collar. Where cat ears aren't an option, the character never quite feels like an avatar—that is, like an image of me. In the real world I'm stuck with blue eyes (no contacts, thank you), and I'm at peace with that; I've internalized my coloring enough that I associate it with myself (unlike my body shape and facial features). But cat ears, a tail, whiskers even, are as much a part of my internal self-image as my hair color, and more integral than my body shape or gender.

On Halloween I wore my cat-eared hoodie and bell-and-tag collar (this one, but it also has a heart tag with my name on it now) when we walked to the store and when I answered the door, and I've never felt so comfortable as myself. Paranoid and nervous too, of course, because Dee gave me those ears almost a year ago but I'd still never worn them out of the house—but Halloween is the day that you can be yourself by pretending it's just a costume, and that costume was me: just a black hoodie and blue jeans and big stompy black shoes, and cat ears, and a cute collar with a bell. It wasn't ten-pounds-lighter me, or hundred-pound-waif not-me, but it was a me that felt comfortable and true.

Even more pathetic than designing yourself like an anime character is pretending you can be a catgirl and pull it off. On the other hand, who's gonna judge you—your supportive boyfriend, or your supportive roommate? Who'd even know it was more than a novelty when they saw you at the grocery store? (Unless I also take to wearing a tail, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.) But that hoodie still sits unloved, and I'm not sure how to even contemplate wearing the ears without it—on a headband I guess, but then I'd have to try finding a headband that works, and it all just gets ... silly. It's absurd, and I'm not sure if it's something I shouldn't even consider or something I should have to take so long to consider, but there we go.

August says it's bedtime. I'm inclined to agree.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Thank you all for your condolences. As always for this sort of thing, that's what I'd be saying each time: Thank you, thank you. I am grateful. I'm just also tired.

So here's the thing. It wasn't until the last year or two that the fact of my grandmother's death really hit me. She'd died some five years before. I've written about this—in some depth when Dink died, and in passing mentions when Alfie died, and I keep meaning to sit down and really explore the issue but, no surprise I suppose, it's one I don't want to explore while I'm coping with it—but: I don't miss people, and as such I find it difficult to comprehend death. I tend to see the past as a bad memory and the future as a terror, but the bulk of my brain lives chronically in the here and now. I don't have a good grasp of trends over time or general histories, and there are some things I find it hard to project forward. And I don't miss anyone. I have a healthy sense of nostalgia and can get lonely, and I can miss the stimulation associated with certain social interactions, but with the exception of Devon I don't specifically miss anyone when they're not there. I can go months without remembering to contact my immediate family, and it's not them, it's me: it just doesn't occur to me that I should. I suppose it's a little hard to explain.

Death is the knowledge that you'll be missing for the rest of your life. Without missing, and with a poor concept of the past and future, I don't really understand death. People go away, but I never really need or expect their return, and there's no sense of loss.

But December last year or so I was talking with my mother about the upcoming (second) cruise and realized that my grandmother was dead. She died when I was a freshman in college, and I went to her service with almost no trace of emotion; there's some uneasiness between my family and my grandfather's second wife, because of how soon he remarried and because she's so insistent on the ease with which we (grown) grandchildren should adopt her as replacement grandmother. I saw those grandparents about twice a year as a child and biyearly as an adult, and (socially) I take after that side of the family, which means we were relatively close.

And it bothers me that my grandmother is dead. It bothers me because of the fallout it's had on my family and my (lack of) relationship with my grandfather, but it bothers me also because while we didn't have the emotional resonance that some people have in these relationships, I was always so much my grandmother's kin; and while she wasn't remarkable in any expected sense of the word, my grandmother was a memorable and irreplaceable woman who I will never see again. It's not a keen sense of loss, it's not like I'm finally cognizant of that loss and just now beginning the grieving process. It's that the grieving process was, for me, all number of years spent not knowing it was going on, and then I came out somewhere near the other end going: Oh. This death upset me.

I'm afraid this will happen with Madison.

It's not unfair to compare a cat to a grandmother. Animals are people, to me; I spent more time with Madison than with my grandmother; I know from my experiences with losing Dink and Alfie that while the circumstances are different, the basics of my grieving process is the same. I also know—especially with the loss of Alfie—that I am better, now, at conceptualizing loss and death, and I know what helps me do that. I know that seeing his body freed me, not because it released me from my pain but because it triggered it, allowing me to experience a more immediate, intense, and timely grieving process. I'm not at peace with his loss now, but I'm so much closer to that than I would have expected to be. Where my sister can still mourn pets we lost ten years ago, I can finally comprehend those losses ten years later; that I have come so far in understanding Alfie's death is remarkable.

Madison is dead and buried. I have no control here, no immediacy. I can't trigger and embrace my grieving process. I barely feel like I'm entitled to one because of my lack of involvement—Devon didn't even tell me that she had died until they had already buried her. I understand that that seemed like a reasonable response of their end, and they're entitled to it. Not everyone finds solace in freezing a corpse for later inspection which, and let's be frank here, is pretty reasonable. And I know it's not as feasible with a cat, no matter how small. I know that she wasn't my pet in the way that the pigs were, and so I can't make demands about the disposal of her body.

But I love this cat. I suggested her name—an M name for a tabby with a classic M forehead marking, and also one of my favorite names, a name I'd always wanted to use for a pet. When she was young she used to be a wild beast (they nicknamed her Kerrigan), but I used to pick her up, hold the scruff of her neck so she couldn't bite, and enforce socialization—and bit by bit it began to work. When they finally spayed her (after years of reminders and promises that it would change her behavior), she became an entirely different cat—calmer, tamer, and fonder too of soft bedding and warm corners. It got to the point where she would purr when I picked her up—she, this half-feral five-pound wildbeast. I was the one that groomed the mats out of her cheeks, and she didn't even mind that.

Madison is the cat that taught me to be a cat. Dude is the lovable confident man of the house, and he and I get on famously—but in Madison I saw myself: not specific character traits, but the existence of character, the knowledge that each cat is a life, entity, person onto themselves, that they don't always (or often) conform to feline clichés but are nonetheless wholly themselves and wholly cat. Madison was my sister-cat, who taught me about sleeping in a circle and finding hidden corners and having tufts of fur in the ears and a poofy tail.

Intellectually I know that she's gone, and clearly some of that hit home because she I first heard the news my fingertips went numb—there was something there, some realization. And now when I run idle for a few minutes my thoughts come back to Madison is dead or and we found Madison dead earlier and they buried her with this sort of dryness—it's literally just the words, like a line of black type in the middle of a white sheet of paper. I don't know what happens after that, because I just get the white, the blank, the rest of the naked page, or I find something to do (which, today, apparently isn't sleep) so that I'm not thinking about it any more.

But that's it: a few words on a blank page. I cried on and off when Devon first told me, but I've been numb since then and I'm not sure when that will change. I'm worried that it won't. I'm on the fringes of this and not allowed in. I wasn't there, because I'm not her family. I can't turn to Devon for help because he was there and he's hurting from this too, and it's not right to compound or to trample over his grief. I can't engage with the rest of the family because I blame them and I don't want to recieve their comfort or share their grief—they were the ones that decided to make Madison indoor/outdoor and while I know that wasn't malicious, and that you can carry the the guilt of a death and still be a decent human being (as I feel about what happened with Dink), this is still something that could have been prevented and so yes, there is anger there. I will never see her corpse, and never say goodbye.

When I think of her I remember her sleeping curled, but when they found her she was on her side, dead, with blood in her mouth.

I'm angry about what happened, and I feel isolated and denied by my lack of involvement, and I don't want to be brokenhearted and grieving too but I would rather have that—violent and miserable and cathartic—than feel this hanging over my head: the loss I should feel, and can't understand; the experience that I don't know I'm engaging with, and may not resolve for weeks or years. And then I'll finally go: Oh. This is what it means that she's dead.

Maybe it'll make sense the next time I'm in Corvallis and she's not there. I don't know. I feel guilty, as always, about making this about me and my grieving process and my issues instead of about her—because it is all about her. She was a remarkable little beastie and I wish you could have known her. She used to stare at her reflection for hours. She used to suckle on microfleece blankets. She used to curl up so tiny—she was a remarkably small cat, and half of that was still fluff. She was bizarre and beautiful and she's dead, so there's that. But I don't know what to make of it, yet, and it scares me.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
So we're one week into this thing as of today, and I am congested and I lost my voice yesterday. The congestion ain't fun, but: icky cold TMI. ) I've had an almost entirely unproductive, actually fairly minor cough over the last few days, but it aggravated my already sore-throat. If I talk I sound awful and it hurts; if I don't talk, there's no pain. So I'm not talking as of midafternoon yesterday, and I'll keep it up until I can talk without sounding ... well, like this.

There really is no better time to have a DS at my bedside (Pokémon Black, hello! I caved and bought it, and I'm enjoying myself muchly. Is anyone else playing BW?), because the screen is a perfect scribble pad; I've also developed a complex, off-the-cuff form of sign language that's one part logic, one part charades, and one part head shaking. Being verbally silent is actually quite strange, because it also makes me textually silent, and vice-versa: if I'm trying to remember not to talk, I start making my IMs as short as possible or type entirely in emotes (/me does something or another—a leftover habit from my years playing Second Life); if I remind myself that that's stupid and typing is safe, then I'm like to start talking aloud when Devon's in the room without even realizing it. Written language is just as important to me as verbal language. I would say also that it's inextricably linked, but of course it is, it is for almost everyone—but for me it's more than just a link: it's more or less the same thing.

Anywho. Remember when I said that this was a wonderfully light sickness thing, almost magical in its way? The fever was still a damn cool experience, and I much prefer this to what I had in January (this is tolerable, even functional; January's turned me into a pile of mush for a few days), but this illness and I are officially no longer friends and it is welcome to bugger off whenever it so pleases. Just so as that it knows.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Day One: Ten things you want to say to ten different people right now.
Day Two: Nine things about yourself.
Day Three: Eight ways to win your heart.

Day Four: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.

1. Whether I have comments/emails/posties to look at. My social life centers around the internet and I'm prone to obsessive thinking, so it's no surprise that I'm constantly contemplating checking my email one more time.

2. My back. I think about it because it hurts, because maybe I can alleviate the hurt. I think about my posture and if I should stretch or take a break. I think about how I look to others when I'm dealing with it. I think about what my pain levels have been and if that changes what I can or should do. My back is always there, at the edge of my thoughts—and it should be, because neglecting it can only do harm.

3. What I'm compositing. I'm always compositing something—a few LJ posts and emails and a piece of fiction on any given day, and they're constantly in my thoughts. I muse over big ideas and specific word order, I work over roadblocks, and while I sometimes jot down notes unusually it just collects in my hindbrain, fodder to feed me the next time I sit down to write.

4. Food. I'm a nervous, possessive eater, never quite sure what my next meal will be or when, or if it'll be enough to satisfy me. I'm discontent with my body image, and worry about what I should eat or if I've had too much. I often think of, and worry about, foodstuffs.

5. Where my glasses are. I'm nearsighted and my focal range is at about three feet, which means I need my glasses to get around but take them off for close work (like reading or using the computer—both of which I do all the time). I'm also absentminded and clumsy. If I'm not thinking about my glasses, I'll take them off and put them somewhere and they end up lost, or on a chair and sat on, or on the floor and stepped on. So I think about them.

6. Sex and the related. This is complex and vast and I don't really feel like discussing it, but ah—call me predictable: sex is on my mind.

7. How I come off. This goes at the end of the list not because it's the least important, but because it's the hardest to pin down. Self-presentation and outside perception are the most common and important things on my mind: what others think, why I care, how I can change, if I want to change, if my intentions differ from my results. This makes up a fair chunk of my brain-crazies and is the hobbyhorse of my obsessive thought. It is always there.

Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.
Day Six: Five people who mean a lot (in no order whatsoever)
Day Seven: Four turn offs.
Day Eight: Three turn ons.
Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.
Day Ten: One confession.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Day One: Ten things you want to say to ten different people right now.
Day Two: Nine things about yourself.

Day Three: Eight ways to win your heart.

Insofar l as I know myself: consider this list startlingly accurate, for better or worse.

1. Be unique. I find nothing more attractive than this. Don't take pains to be painfully special, and don't take "unique" to mean "incompatible with the rest of society," but have qualities which are distinctly yours—and own them. I love unique noses and extraordinary eyes, ingenious hair colors and body mods, strong styles and unusual methods of self-presentation; I love personality quirks and strong opinions, overused words and strange habits, remarkable skills and new ways of looking at the world; I love geeks and artists and the double-jointed, but I love little things too: moles and writing styles, small details that are you, distinctly you, uniquely you. I love people who are not ashamed of what sets them apart. I love to find what sets a person apart, to fetishize it, idolize it, and let it expand me.

2. Have nice hair. This probably doesn't mean what you think it means. I don't care about highlights and designer cuts, and I hate hair products. But I use hair to recognize people, and so hair is sort of My Thing. I like unique hair, I like touchable hair, I like beautiful hair. I like hair. I want to like yours.

3. Be honest. I find unexpected honesty and intimacy very seductive. Open up, lay yourself bare; say things not permitted by social borders and niceties, say things which are difficult to say. Share your opinions, expose your emotions. Make compliments and confessions. Online communication lends well into this, because we all feel a little safer behind a computer screen—but this is about more than anonymous catharsis. Surprise me with who you are.

4. Be weak, and changing, and strong. I don't believe in perfection or miracle improvement; I find self-knowledge and self-actualization powerful. Navel-gaze, discover your flaws, and be honest about who you are because vulnerability and weakness can be beautiful in their own right. Find ways to change and better yourself, and inspire me with them. Develop yourself, that you are always better to know, that I'm always discovering something new in you.

5. Expose me to something new, something to fall in love with. Maybe it's the art you make. Maybe it's the art you consume. I associate people with the beauty they bring to my life, so give me something to make me better, to make my days better, to make me think of you. (And always, always, give me books.)

6. Be passionate. Be the sort of passionate that we label geeky. Geek out with me. I desire both intelligent, fierce discussion and foolish fansquee, sometimes in the same conversation. What we love says so much about us: I want to dig into your brain and discover your whats and whys. I want you to encourage the failed academic hiding within me. I want overenthusiastic gushing to lighten the mood and create the sort of camaraderie only found in shared passion.

7. Take initiative and make allowances. I'm introverted and insecure and a little brain-crazy. If you reach out and make sure I don't retreat into my hermit cave, you'll assure that our relationship won't disappear to nothing—and you'll win my gratitude, and let me put my energy into building a deep relationship rather than maintaining its simple existence. Put up with my moodiness and eccentricities, and better yet appreciate them as a part of my total package. Don't bite back affection or compliments; say you love. Nothing is more reassuring or beloved than explicit and unabashed affection. Say you care, say you love. Don't worry: I say it too.

8. Take care of me. This the least universal of these rules, because not everyone should or can and not every relationship (no matter how intimate) warrants it. But I am, at heart, just another spoiled lap cat. I'm as self-sufficient as a kitten; I want gushy food and delicious treats, and a scritch behind the ear. Give me gifts and a soft bed, call me by a special nickname, spoil me, keep me safe and sound. Know that sometimes I'll squirm away or turn up my nose at the best offerings, know that in some relationships being babied is never welcome—but under the right circumstances, nothing makes me fonder.

Day Four: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.
Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.
Day Six: Five people who mean a lot (in no order whatsoever)
Day Seven: Four turn offs.
Day Eight: Three turn ons.
Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.
Day Ten: One confession.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Day One: Ten things you want to say to ten different people right now.

Day Two: Nine things about yourself.

It was hard to come up with nine things which were worth saying but hadn't been said a billion times before. Whether I managed to find that balance, I don't know—but they'll do. This has sat around waiting long enough.

1. I present as female, and am fairly content to be identified as female, but the truth is that I don't have a strong gender identity. I relate to some female social roles, and given my body type tend to conform to some aspects of female self-presentation. I relate to many masculine sex roles and some social roles. More often, and especially where my therianthropy is concerned, I relate to a null-gender, more neuter than gender-neutral. I find myself somewhere between both and neither, with twinges of gender-related dysphoria in both my physical body and my gender presentation; I wish I could toss out the entire idea of gender, but don't need to do that or to redefine how I present and am identified. In other words: this is just enough of a thing to bug me, but not enough to hold a candle to the more significant gender issues that others face, so I try not to fuss about it overmuch.

2. I read an average of one page per minute. This proves to be a reliable and universal estimate, as long as we're not talking verse or textbooks; it's also damn useful, because I can use pages read as an approximate timer.

3. I dislike unfinished stories. I rarely read or watch anything that isn't finished—I can make allowances for TV shows (single episodes of crime dramas which don't have strong overarching plots, or finished seasons of long-running series), but I won't read manga that's ongoing and will rarely start books with sequels still to come (and I may not even read books in a finished series). In part this is pragmatism: I don't like getting to the end which isn't an end, waiting for the real end to come isn't my strong point, and I like to consume the media that has my attention now rather than the one that caught my attention with the first installment two years ago. In part, it's fear: like everyone else that began InuYasha a decade ago, I know that a promising start can turn into a painfully long and mediocre story; worse, some strong starts never reach their ends. And in part, I just think it's lazy and selfish to string along the audience for one more season, one more sequel, another year of waiting, another bundle of cash spent, on something which may not turn out to be good after all. I can and do bend this rule, some of my favorite pieces of media actually break it, but for the most part: I dislike unfinished stories.

4. After a lifelong habit, I stopped biting my nails in a single moment. Devon told me that saliva weakens nails (a casual search backs this up), and that was sufficiently strong and logical reason to stop, which apparently was all I needed.

5. I have little connection to my given name. Jessica just doesn't feel like me. It doesn't feel like it's not, me, either; it is null. I have a stronger connection to my screen name because I chose it and have used it for so long, but I wouldn't pick it to replace my given name. I have some connection to my middle name (Erin), because of its relation to my Celtic heritage and red hair, but I wouldn't chose to go by it either. I've considered going by Jesse, which as my maternal grandfather's first name is the source of my given name, but I know most people would hear it as Jessie, which is too cutesy and familiar for me. Sometimes I sign myself as J, which is a happy compromise but obviously not ideal. None of this bothers me overmuch, but it makes me feel a little unconnected, unknown, freefloating.

6. I've always had a strange relationship with my singing voice. While my speaking voice is high, my singing voice is fairly low (for reference, I tend to find Maynard James Keenan's range a good fit). I've long been shy about my voice and unwilling to sing in front of others, and I tend to have difficulty finding notes when singing without accompaniment. But when singing along to music, I'm adept at harmonizing or dropping an octave to stay in my range, and I find the act of singing satisfying in a physical, almost sensual way. Falling in love with Florence + The Machine has taught me to belt it out, and for better or worse—these days I love to.

7. I don't visualize. I mention this upon occasion, because it greatly impacts how I take in and interpret stimuli—but only on occasion, so it's not a bad fact to throw into a list of lesser known things about me. Rather than images, I think in words, often in full sentences. I've explained this in more detail in this comment. I also have what is probably minor dyscalculia, which gives me some trouble with numbers and distances but mostly means that I constantly reverse digits. I have a bit of synthesia-esque cross-wiring, and so read color into scent and feeling and sensation into letters and words. I have minor facial blindness, and primarily use hair to recognize people (even Devon somewhat a stranger after a haircut). I remember specific, random events rather than general trends or long passages of time. Oh and also I think I'm a cat, and I'm diagnosed with depression, anxiety NOS, and agoraphobia. (Now I've certainly grown redundant.) I do not think that I'm a special snowflake and that the eccentricities of my brain are particularly remarkable or extreme; I do find them interesting, and think that knowing and respecting them aids and helps explain me.

8. I have problems reading sideways or upside-down. You'd think, given how intimate I am with words, that these things would be easy, but even on an angle I have problems. This means that I have to sit upright to read subtitles, which sadly makes the bulk of my preferred visual media a little more inaccessible.

9. I run a more-or-less porn blog on Tumblr. It's probably not the sort of images you're thinking, no matter how well you know me—which is why I don't link to or mention it. You probably don't want to know what is there. I wish it were more popular, but I find a lot of joy in this silly little side project—in ways that are meaningful enough to justify in-depth explanation, perhaps, some day.

Day Three: Eight ways to win your heart.
Day Four: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.
Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.
Day Six: Five people who mean a lot (in no order whatsoever)
Day Seven: Four turn offs.
Day Eight: Three turn ons.
Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.
Day Ten: One confession.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
The key to success: give up.

I don't know why this works, and I almost wish it didn't. But it does, invariably: If I lose something, I find it as soon as I stop looking. If I'm waiting for Devon to get home, he'll walk through the door as soon as I shrug my shoulders and start up a game. If I'm stuck in a project, inspiration will come only after I decide to give up for the day and tackle it again tomorrow.

Would that I could do these things immediately, with hope and intention, rather than having them sprung on me just after I've stopped trying. But at least this means things get found, the boyfriend returns home, and projects—

Like Ghost and Aaron fic—

Go from good intention to forward progress in a flash of inspiration come just a minute late.

Scratch the above: I can guess why it works. When I'm concentrating my frustrated energies on something, I run out of options and ideas; when I divert my energies, the problem stews in my hindbrain, uncovering new solutions—which then pop forefront and get me back on task. (Except the boyfriend, of course: his timing is just a sick joke played by the universe.) Writing is part effort and part alchemy, or at least it is for me: the energy spent sitting down and forcing oneself to write is a big part of the work, but the fire of inspiration is just as important—and often makes the first part much easier. I've been stewing over this storybit on and off all day—editing the pictures of the scene, determining if it was the right piece to include, tossing around ideas, opening scenes, pacing. But the last few hours it's been like beating my head against a wall: painful, with little forward progress. I knew what it had to be but couldn't manage the leap from premise to product. So I started up Paranormal Activity (good alone-at-night movie, y/y?), checked my email one last time, sat down to watch—and had that flash of inspiration, and soon after had 400 words.

But as said: better late than—and in the large view of course it's not late, because I can't finish the picture portion just yet anyway, and I've no schedule to stick to or anything. And it sure is nice to have an inroad.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I am finally feeling better. There was a turning point last night so distinct that I could almost mark the hour—and it came not long after Devon brought me orange juice and a brownie, so I am now convinced that this is the cure to all ills. I'm still coughing, still a little snuffly, but this is my body shedding the last of its illness—rather than wallowing in the production of more. I even slept well and had good dreams, a rarity at the best of times but particularly impossible as of late. I am pleased, because it's about damn time: I started noticing my first throat-itching symptoms one week ago come tomorrow. Apparently, that's my version of a "little sick." Do I feel like I'm being punished for the fact that I'm getting out of the house more often? A bit.

Jumping back to the subject of sleep: I've been thinking on the disconnect between my self-as-human and self-as-cat again, this time as it relates to sleep—and to obsessive thought. Thinking on—and bemoaning, to be honest, this last week while I needed sleep to rest and heal but found it even more cruel and fleeting than usual.

And so I'm going to talk about (among other subjects) my therianthropy. Confused as to what the hell I'm on about? Review my first post on the subject and/or my therianthropy tag. Think this stuff is just too weird? Feel free to skip this post.

I've had issues with sleep since middle school—I used to sleep as little as possible, as self-punishment but also to avoid dreaming. These days I'm more at peace with the need for sleep and the nature of dreams, although my dreams are more often than not nightmares, but these days I'm also plagued by problems with sleep. My sleep is never predictable—I get it in three hour cycles, sometimes as few as one cycle a night for weeks on end, sometimes sleeping half the day away although I tend to wake every three hours for a little while.

Getting to sleep—at the end of a long day, but also after each mid-night wakeup, is the hardest part. Some of it is physical, the simple discomfort of a bad back and a curvy body that demands an artful arrangement of pillows to keep everything aligned and unstressed. Much of it is the fact that I'm prone to obsessive thinking.

I've mentioned my obsessive thought before but I don't know if I've ever tried to explain or describe it. It's an aspect of my anxiety, but it's also a simple part of how my brain works—an aspect of my nature that sometimes causes anxiety. It's like having a song stuck in your head: a phrase set on repeat. It can be anything, hurtful or harmless (I obsess over sour memories, troublesome conversations, problems which are huge to me but would be foolish to another; I obsess over video games, over sentences, anything at all, though I've particular fondness for that which contains repetition or rhyme). Sometimes it's a small annoyance at the start, but after hours (sometimes years; I still obsess over mistakes I made as a ten year old) of incidental repetition or minutes of unremitting repetition it grows tiresome—moreover it's so resistant to change that it grows stressful: I can't stop obsessing. That's a simple statement with a vast import: I cannot stop obsessing. I can't think long, coherent thoughts. I can't concentrate. As a result I can't enjoy, engage, even distract. I am stuck obsessing—repeating a sentence fragment, rearranging letters, hating myself for an offhand remark—indefinitely.

It's painful. And that's what I go through most nights when I try to sleep—and that's how it's been this last week when I was more-than-usually physically uncomfortable and found it that much harder to fall asleep, and so had that much longer to wait for an obsessive thought to arise, settle in, and keep me awake.

The only cures I've found are to stop thinking or to intentionally pick an obsessive thought. This is why, in the worst of my depression, I sometimes do nothing but watch Law & Order reruns and why I often watch movies as I fall asleep: if I can clear out my brain and replace it with the passive occupation of consuming familiar media, I can smother obsessive thought under a blanket of white noise. The problem is that as soon as I stop, as soon as I free my thoughts, the anxiety can return. So I have obsessive thoughts I turn to intentionally. I sing Donna Donna to myself half a dozen times in a row. I go through the alphabet, alternating English and French, over and over. These are repetitions too, but they are familiar and sometimes comforting, and because I chose them I can control them—so that they are not negative, hurtful thoughts; so that I have a calming illusion of control over my own mind. If my obsessive thinking hasn't kicked in yet, I sometimes plan my dream house, tell myself short stories, or visit my meadow*—familiar but longer meditations which keep my thoughts focused so there's less chance that a pause will open the door to obsessive thinking.

The cat doesn't do this. My self-as-cat can feel anxiety: mistrust, skittishness, fear of stranger and of dangers. But as I've written before, my self-as-cat doesn't feel the sort of anxiety that my human brain is prone to, these obsessive rounds of thought. In fact, my self-as-cat wants to spent hours and hours doing nothing more resting. That's another simple sentence with great import: The desire for rest and sleep, for thought-empty stillness, is a vital part of my therianthropy, and that's a vital part of myself. A cat that can't catnap hardly feels a cat at all.

Madison has a sweater, a red chenille business which no one would wear but she loves to sleep on, and since it got put down within her easy reach she's done little but lay on it. She purrs and kneads, suckling the fabric; more often she just sleeps, curled up nose to tail in a neat small round. As she did when she discovered the guinea pigs's bedding, she's been forging her usual outside excursions just to stay there, comfortable and pampered and often asleep.

I have a passion for modal which rivals my passion for chocolate—there is no fabric softer or smoother, and after I fell in love with it Devon got modal sheets for the bed in a subdued spring green. I have a pillow-top mattress and a down pillow, I have A/C to keep the room cold, I have a little den of comfort which I rarely leave. But when I pass Madison in her curl of sleep I still envy her, because I can't do that. I need to wrangle pillows into a back-pampering pile to be comfortable for long, but more importantly even with every comfort arranged just for me I need a book, a film, a conversation; I need a b c d running repeats in my head or "on a wagon bound for market" for the fifth time—I need these things because if I don't have them, instead I have a word, a sentence, a "should have said," a "can't believe I did," a "do they remember?" in a loop so endless that running it has fatigued my thoughts, a repetition so insistent that the trap of it frightens me. In the middle of the night, when I've slept for three hours and wake again like clockwork, if I immediately try to go back to sleep it's even worse—because on the liminal edge of dreams the repeated thought is even more immersive and I can have mental images (which, at other times, escape me) and so I can also obsess over that sight, that action, as well as those words. At those times I can find myself trapped in obsessive thought for a solid half hour, which ends only if I get up for a while or if I finally fall into dream—a dream more often than not tainted by some obsession.

I know that there are far greater complaints out there—I'm not the most miserable of the miserable. I know that I'm not the only one that wishes: oh, for the simplier mind (and life) of a beast! This is not about my status as a special snowflake. It's not even entirely about my obsessive thoughts—they can be hellish, but ever since I discovered the little tricks that help me deal with them they've become a more manageable evil.

What pains me is that how my brain works defines me-as-human, and it separates me from me-as-cat. My self-as-human and self-as-cat are not separate identities, but sometimes there is a wall between them, sometimes they are at odds. I wrote before that "in order to be myself, I have to move beyond myself"—that I have to overcome some aspects of myself-as-human in order to be myself-as-cat, and there's a certain pain in realizing that, in experiencing the disconnect within myself; there's more of a pain in the long nights of sleeplessness and anxiety where I'm not only suffering from those miserable repetitions, but also because I am not myself, you see; because I cannot be who I ought.

* The comfort, sometimes the saving grace, in all of this is that my meadow—an open field with a single large tree and a single small house where a single 60-some woman resides—is the realm of my meditation and where I let my mental self-as-cat run free. It's the most difficult of my mental distractions because there's so many levels of complexity (immersing myself in cat-body, trying to imagine the meadow when I can't image images, etc.), and I can't indulge it unless I'm in a pretty healthy mental state; if I'm not, it soon disintegrates into obsessive thoughts. But when I can manage to run there, it's a blessing: an escape from the troubles of my human brain, and a chance to experience a more complete version of myself-as-cat.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Many many years ago, when I was still a child, I encountered a piece of fiction—I believe it was an animated film, potentially part of a made-for-TV miniseries based on fairy tales, but all my attempts to track down it or any detail about it have proved fruitless—in which a character, who may or may not have been a some sort mermaid, stepped on a tentacle-like plant. It was sharp, or spiked, or in some other way injured her foot and poisoned her. The story's plot was an attempt by her companions to find a cure for the poison while the female character was trapped in a coma, nearing death.

Many of those details are irrelevant. Was is relevant is this: When that character stepped on that plant, I felt it. A sharp, stabbing sympathy pain on the sole of my foot—in the center, just above the heel, where the inner side of the instep draws a line of tender, vulnerable muscle down the foot. Ever since then, painful images, descriptions, or thoughts have been able to trigger that same sympathy pain. It doesn't always happen. It doesn't matter what sort of pain or injury is described. When the response is trigged I feel a stinging, stabbing, slightly cold pain in the sole of my foot, like a woman stepping on a pointed tendril, a tentacle, which penetrates her flesh, just barely flexes inside of her, which stings her, poisons her—all in the moment just before she realizes where she's put her foot.

What interests me though is that—as I discovered tonight—the reverse also works. I was sitting here, after spending too long online again, curled up with my feet pressed to the chair seat, my soles are cramped and sore from it, twinging with discomfort. Meanwhile I was looking at violent imagery for which I tend to have a remarkably high tolerance but on this rare occasion it was getting to me, disarming and disturbing me, paining me—because I was already in pain. I felt the effect of the emotion, and that helped trigger the emotion.

This is no breakthrough in how my, or any, brain works, but I hadn't thought about it before and it was fascinating to see in action.

I've been thinking a fair bit about pain lately—specifically about pain as an intentional intensifier. I have another storybit brewing for Ghost and Aaron (who are not forgotten!) about Ghost's reactions to pain during intercourse. I stumbled upon a drawing of a man touching an open wound on his partner's back and it was in my mind remarkable—so much so that it's had me in search of more equally images of intimacy via pain/violence/wounds (and here we loop around to the event that sparked this post). And the cold weather has my back muscles tighter than usual—which causes unwanted, undesirable pain, but also makes it very intense when Devon stretches my back—more intimacy via pain, because I would let no one else do that to my body.

None of this is new to me—I discovered BDSM far too long ago for that to be the case—but it's been fresh on my mind. I should write that Ghost and Aaron fic bit to put all these thoughts to a constructive purpose, and imagine I shall soon. But for now the thoughts of it swirl: the relationship between emotion, reaction, and pain; pain as an intensifier for social interaction, pain as an intensifier for physical reaction; pain as intimacy, sexual or otherwise. Thinky-thoughts, thinky-thoughts.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Thank you all for your comments and support following Dink's passing. It's much appreciated.

Devon was an absolute angel yesterday, rushing home to cuddle me when I found out and making sure I was comfortable and comfortably distracted last night.

I am often petrified of the future, but I tend to live very firmly in the present. So much so that it's one of the hallmarks of my depression: if I feel unhappy at a given moment, I believe in my heart that I will always feel that unhappy, that I always have been that unhappy, that change is impossible. It makes one casual depressed evening into a lifetime of suffering. But as a corollary to living in the moment, I don't really miss things. I have a poor, fragmented memory and I don't anticipate the future (I'm more likely to dread it). When I'm apart from a friend, a family member, a pet, I don't miss them. I don't look forward to a time when I can interact with them again, I don't reflect fondly on a past when we were together. It makes me a pretty miserable friend and daughter and sister, really. Not being wanted tends to make people feel, well, unwanted.

I don't miss the family pets that died before my family went to England: not Sunshine, our beautiful and sweet Sun Conure who used to dance to "You are my Sunshine"; not Cokie, our chocolate lab that I had grown up with. I don't miss the friends that I left behind when I came back from England, although Lizzie was one of the best friends that I've ever had and whether or not she knows it, she changed my life. As incredibly displaced as I was at Whitman I didn't miss my family so much as I missed Oregon; I can go months now without going home and I don't miss my folks. When my grandmother died it never really hit home, I never really cried, and I don't miss her now, as fondly as I think of her. Devon is the only exception, the only person I ever really miss—after more than a day apart I yearn for him, so let me tell you those four years lived long distance were miserable. But he is, indeed, the exception to all of my rules.

I cried when I found Dink, cried and panicked and needed help to get him out of the cage. I cried when I let the pigs and Woof say their goodbyes. Cried when Devon came home to comfort me. And now when I visit Alfie I still expect Dink to be a dark shadow in the cage, and it surprises me that he's not there. But I don't miss him, I'm not crying now. I've slipped into the haze of confusion that follows loss; it'll transition next for me into a haze of acceptance, and that's it for me. It makes me feel a little coldhearted, I think. My sister Allie still mourns pets we lost ten years ago, and I admire that, the visibility and vastness of her love. I did love Dink—I loved that little furry eggplant quite dearly. I'm sorry that he's gone. But I won't really miss him. It's not how I work.

And so I move on.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Reading a post on face blindness, watching a yellow lab in the back yard, and it occurred to me that my difficulty recognizing faces may be less face blindness and more another symptom of my inability to visualize.

This dog (next door at Devon's grandfather's 80th birthday party) was a handsome yellow lab which looked remarkable but for the longest time I could not figure out why. It took half an hour of idle gazing before I was able to describe the distinction as broad. It was a big handsome male yellow lab, which isn't all that unusual; but it was very wide, very broad, a big barrel chest and a wide panting mouth. I grew up around labs, they're some of my favorite dogs, in short I am intimately familiar with their general appearance and the variations within. But it took me a good while to figure out what made this dog unique—because while I know labs quite well, I can't conjure up their image in my mind and so I had no image of "default lab" to use as a comparison.

This is certainly one reason that I have a difficult time recognizing people. (Other reasons include my poor visions sans glasses, making faces a blur from a few paces, and my poor memory for names.) I can't conjure up the mental image of someone's face, no matter my familiarity with that person. Seeing someone for the first time, I can't mentally compare their features to those I've seen before and put together unconscious mnemonics for recognizing their face again. When seeing someone for the second time, I can't leaf through a mental book of faces for comparison or identification. When I've seen someone a number of times it gets a bit easier because I can recognize voice, posture, movement, and I can recognize their face when I see it—because I know it outright, and don't need to compare it against a remembered image of their face.

But still, even with someone I know as intimately as the boy, I can't pull up a mental image of that person's face.

Oddly it's hair that often saves me. Hair is less indistinguishable when I'm without glasses, and I have a general fondness for it. Because it's easier to see, because my brain is more likely to notice it, it's what I look for first in a person, to categorize them and to identify them later. As a result, however, I find haircuts incredibly disorientating—so much so that when Devon cuts his hair I draw away from him for a day or two while I adjust. (My own haircuts don't disorientate me, in part because my hair is always long, even when I cut off six inches; in part because I always find my own face disorientating, haircut or no.)

I may still have a mild case of face blindness, which is apparently not too rare—but I've not found enough about it to know just what symptoms and at what severity it entails. But my inability to place the physical variation in that yellow lab wasn't face blindness. I expect that my inability to form mental images has more of an impact on my life than I've previously been aware of. It impacts how I imagine characters and settings and likewise how I write them, it renders a some written horror ineffective and some visual horror hyper-effective, it makes it difficult for me to approximate distance or imagine anything in 3D, big and little things like that which I keep noticing, these days.

Curious, interesting, perhaps—at least it is to me. (Randomly searching this subject: I'm not the only one! I even found a personal account of a man that thinks with words in place of images. I've never run into another person with this particular quirk, and so this quite interests me. Not that I needed reassurance but, well, companionship is nice.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I had the most interesting experience today, conflating text and scent and sensation. I'm reading Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls (and, for all that it is almost entirely gratuitous, rather enjoying it—full review here). The book about vampires in all their hedonistic glory: Nothing is a teenage boy who is actually the son of a vampire. In the early pages of the book he runs away from home and falls in with three vampires—two who gorge themselves on vast qualities of cheap chocolate and candy, one who is his unwitting father. And after some days of drugs and drinking and sex they pass him an unusual bottle, grubby with red fingerprints:
Nothing took the bottle, uncapped it, lifted it to his mouth, and sipped. There was some kind of liquor—vodka and gin, something oily and stinging—but mingled with that was another taste, dark and sweet and a little decayed. Familiar. He brought the bottle down, blinked, then lifted it again and drank deep. Molochai, Twig, and Zillah watched him. All three sat very still, seeming to hold their breath. Nothing stopped drinking, licked his lips, and smiled.

"I don't think drinking blood is so weird," he said.

...The air in the van was thick, tense; something seemed to be passing between them, something Nothing could not read. Then Zillah laid his hand over Nothing's and pushed the bottle to Nothing's lips again.

They passed it around, drinking until the insides of their mouths were stained rotten red. Nothing no longer felt sick. He was giddy with joy...
Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite (139-140)

Meanwhile, there is a BPAL scent which is part of the Shoujo Beat Limited Edition line, designed to match the vivid art and characterization of the vampires found in manga (and anime):
Eternal desire, unquenchable passion: red musk, cocoa absolute, Nepalese amber, red sandalwood, aged patchouli, nicotiana, and blood wine.

On me, Midnight Kiss is rich and blood red, undercut by dark cocoa but sickly sugar sweet. The last time I wore it (just a few days ago), the scent was so thick and red and sweet that I had a distinct physiological reaction: the back of my throat felt tight and sticky and sore, like I had gorged myself to sickness on bright-dyed hard candy. Lost Souls reminds me of Midnight Kiss—both are vivid and bloody, super-saturated, thick and rich. It reminded me so much, in fact, that when I got to the blood drinking passage above my throat closed up, dry and thick, that same candy-gorged feeling triggered by the scent. It was a bit unpleasant, physically uncomfortable, but certainly fascinating. From text, to scent, to sensation—the book had a rare effect on me. I've never experienced anything quite like it.


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

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