juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
August recently recovered from a five-day stint with the cat flu. It conformed exactly to expectations re: symptoms and recovery (she had a clear runny eye and nostril, just on her right side; some sneezing and squinting, but no breathing problems; mild decrease in activity but no decrease in appetite); it was still unenjoyable. I made a successful effort not to provide any contagious anxiety, because something like stress/going off her food could've lead to legitimately dangerous complications. And her vague self-pity and head-shake sprinkles of tears and snot were cute, in a gross way. But she's my baby and my lifeline, and I live in terror of anything bad happening to her ever. I'm glad it's behind us.

(Dee and I have no idea how she got sick! All the cats are indoor-only; August has limited physical contact with the other cats and zero contact with the dog (who obviously does go outside). None of the other cats have gotten sick. The windows have been open and we've had visiting porch cats, and that seems like the only possible vector: virus via early-summer open windows.)

* * *

My last set of overlapping books included a Le Guin (and is there anything more satisfying than Le Guin, than the strength of her language, the plot-wide influence of her worldbuilding elements); a revisit of my favorite short story of all time, Kelley Eskridge's "Eye of the Storm;" and Anne of Green Gables, a childhood favorite that I haven't reread in at least 15 years and which is remains just so delightful. It's been a decided upswing after a brief series of mediocre books.

I spent this afternoon in bed, just having finished the first and a story adjacent to the second, reading the third. August climbed under the blankets with me and lay down on my chest, and we took a nap together in an idyllic setting which echoes Green Gables: my computer was turned off, my blinds down; the room lit by diffused white light and the day cool for June; sleeping atop freshly-laundered sheets. Echoes Green Gables in specific not at all, but in that atmosphere, of finding the best of a thing; of making space and time to daydream. August's whiskers on my face brought me in and out of sleep for an hour until I finally got up to make dinner.

I have a lot of sleep issues, split equally between anxiety and back pain, which means I effectively never nap—it happens about three or four times a year, generally on accident. Pleasant when it occurs (if it doesn't fuck up my back), but not something I can do on purpose, because sleep is a carefully coordinated effort that I only have the energy for once a day.

It's one of the things I envy most in my cats, but sometimes, just sometimes, August shares it with me.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
That moment when you strip the bed and start laundry and almost put a book in the wash.

So I'm heading back to San Francisco this weekend, to spend about ten days with Express. I've been having some sleep issues coupled with another spike in back pain (the sort of which I don't really notice until I mention offhand to the boy that "oh, I've been in excruciating pain lately"—and you think stealth pain would be a blessing, but it just means all of the fatigue with none of the ability to treat it and a bonus feeling of utter disconnect with your own body), so I'm going into this with a mantra of "I can't hear you, I can't hear you." It's not that I won't love being there, it's that I'm afraid I'll exhaust myself just by preparing to be there and then I'll be done with the visit the minute I arrive. So I'm not doing an incredibly intelligent advance packing job, or thinking about it overmuch, but I figure I'll try not to forget underwear and this is Express: I know him, I don't need to fuss about any of this.

And it'll be a good visit.

I was down in Corvallis a week ago, and came back to a cat who for a full 24 hours would not leave me: the only time I was not obligated to hold her is when we were both lying in bed. She hasn't quite caught on yet to the fact that I'm leaving again, but she's starting to figure it out (just wait until I pull the suitcases from the closet). It is ... good to be loved. When I first moved up here, it was on a weird "I don't know if I'm visiting or moving!" basis, and while we'd talked about a cat—a cat has been my lifelong dream; of course we did—it wasn't until I actually started signing paperwork a the shelter that it hit home that I had a ... sister/daughter/dependent. I still manage to spend weeks away, in Corvallis, taking the train down to San Francisco; Dee is an angel who doesn't mind feeding a rabid food-beast (and a half: there's Kuzco, too) and otherwise sharing a cat. But I'm tethered, now—not just to a place, although I love it here (but I've lived in and loved so many places over the last few years—those are less permanent), but to a person, a floofy little cat person who climbs on and over my shoulders until I let her bury herself into my lap.

Last time I was headed to San Francisco I wrote a near identical post—hmm. Oh, except then August had just started to sit in my lap—and now I have a semi-permanent fuzzy black lap tumor, guys, you don't even understand. I fell head over heels for this cat in the first moment, but we have become kin now in a way that's easy to take for granted, the way that mostly sounds like "hey August no one cares shut up" and really means "I love you move than anything in the entire world."

The minutiae of a depressive's daily life are pretty boring, even when half her wishes are fulfilled (cat! friendship! city!). I consume too much media and think about food a lot and have problems sleeping and snuggle with my cat: it ain't fascinating stuff. And when I'm in San Francisco I'll consume more media and think about food and have problems sleeping and snuggle with my friend, who is hugely unlike a cat but I guess that's a good thing. Still it's a bit of a revelation, each time: that in the midst of being me, my life can still be this—not always, which is fine: it would exhaust me; but sometimes it's pretty wonderful.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
My father has tried to make the attempt to get me health insurance as easy for me as possible, handing as much of it as a third party can and then finding me a professional to help with the rest, and I'm beyond grateful for it—because not only is it wonderful in its own right, it shows a knowledge and tolerance for my inability to handle ... well, you know, basic adult responsibility. That's not something he's had, at least not so explicitly, until recently—and while it's not something he should need to have, it means a lot to me that he does.

But neither he nor the professional helping us can do everything, and the little bit that still falls to me has me tied up in knots inside. I need to contact my old doctor to try to request info they probably don't have* in order to give one insurance company information they don't actually need**, and it's been weeks now and I just ... can't do it. It means making a phone call, to talk about my health, with an old doctor because I haven't seen a doctor in years, because being a grown up and doing grown up things is literally beyond my abilities—and once that's done I have to do more paperwork, and send it in, and then wait to hear what else I need to do before this business is finished—meanwhile both of the other people involved with this keep sending me emails checking in and asking for updates. It's like a checklist of things of things that make me anxious, and would you look at all those tick marks. Instead of being grateful about the enormous kindness my father is showing me, I'm failing to do the few tiny things I do to repay him and I have no excuse for it other than lalala I can't hear you.

It came at a bad time, at the end of a busy month when all I wanted was just to sleep for a week and do nothing social for two more. I don't even know. When I write it, it sound small and I sound irresponsible, but there we go. This is the sort of thing that keeps me up nights.

I mean literally. I'm trying to right my sleep schedule after spending a few days in reverse: sleeping at dawn, waking an hour before dusk. I sleep better during the day (read more) and like shit at night (read more) and for those reasons among others I do this sometime, wander around the clock. I'm lucky that I can, no responsibilities or schedules, but it's not a good thing, no matter how peaceful it is to sleep in sunlight. It means that I'm worn so thin, that the anxiety is worse than usual and sleep is even more inaccessible, and that I have to go into full isolation- and indulgence-mode to get by.

So I stayed up a day and a half and took a nap and stayed up some more, eking out half hours of waking daytime, half-lucid and very tired—and then as soon as nighttime proper rolled around and it was okay to sleep I didn't want to. And here it is at 3a the next day and I'm doing the same. It's not even a present sort of anxiety—I've been procrastinating this so long that I honestly am forgetting to call instead of thinking about it all the time and trying to make as though it's slipped my mind. It's a background thrum, a general depression, a desire to be not here and not me for as long as possible—but not via sleep, now now, not while it's not safe to sleep.

Every time I write a post like this, I end by saying: I have no big conclusions. It sounds pathetic when put in words. I'm writing for my own records. And each time I find myself in this cycle I feel betrayed anew: by my body, for creating the problems that need doctor's signatures; by my brain, for finding every reason—the problems, the signatures—to be upset about it.

My sister comes back from studying abroad in Italy on Saturday. My parents are picking me up, then her, and we'll go out to dinner and then take her home. We'll decorate the tree while I'm in town, and Hanukkah begins on Tuesday. My father's birthday is on the 21st. There are many reasons why I need to be rested up and sleeping nights; reasons why I want to be happy. Instead, I'm still not sleeping.

* I have minor scoliosis and major lordosis. Scoliosis is frequently diagnosed and, when diagnosed, measured in degrees of curvature. Lordosis is a rarer diagnosis, has more complex points of curvature, and as such is rarely diagnosed with a degree of curvature. ** One insurance agency wants the degree of curvature for my back, by which they assume scoliosis, which is basically asking the wrong question: that number alone doesn't warrant a diagnosis; it's that it aggravates a more severe back problem that makes it an issue. In other words: fuck you.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Kitty under my chair.

August has discovered the magic of microfleece blankets. I'm not horribly surprised—Madison goes crazy for them, she'll kneed and suckle on them like some replacement mother; August just kneeds and ... puts her nose one the fabric. It's like she's not sure why her nose and mouth need to touch it, she doesn't drool or suckle at all, but they have to be there or the experience isn't quite complete. Honestly it's like she's not sure why any of it has to happen at all—she gets this look of WHY AM I KNEEDING PLEASE SEND HELP that morphs into NEVERMIND TOO COMFORTABLE PLEASE GO AWAY. Kitten loves her blanket.

Not that it's her blanket. Boy is using it over his long weekend here, and then it'll return to the living room because my dirty little secret is that the freakishly soft feel of that fabric makes my skin crawl. Said blanket has been necessary for the weekend, however, because we hit the sweet spot in this week of remarkable, overcast, cool summer weather: Rain. Buckets of rain. It's pouring now and has been pouring all day, hours of it, I fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain and woke to find it even heavier. All of this unseasonal coolness has been welcome—seriously, Dee and I won't stop talking about the weather—but this rain, it feels too good. It's perfect. It makes me long for autumn as if it weren't already here—because I know well enough that it's not: this weather can't last forever, and now that it's had its grand finale it'll probably pass. I've come to embrace summer in the last few years, as I've learned the art of sleeping in sunlight (and since Boy has an air conditioner in his room), but this is my weather and my home: the sound of rain, the gray sky and silverblue light, the cool humidity, the cold breezes, long sleeves and blankets and a sudden craving for warm food covered in cheese. It hurts me a little to know that after this will be many more weeks of heat—not that the heat has been bad this summer, and we've found all the little tricks for coping with it, but ah, this weather. I want it to last forever.

Devon's visit has been fantastic. He got here Thursday night, and leaves this evening—we've been doing four or five days together every two weeks, which seems to work out wonderfully: the longer visits are more relaxed and fulfilling, and the weeks off give us more time to engage in our own local lives. This weekend's weather has me in the mood for books, sleep, and staying in, so we're thoroughly wasting our time away with a marathon of the original American McGee's Alice, and it's perfect. We're sleeping when we want to sleep, sometimes at night but also to the sound of the rain during the day; we have the windows half open and most people would think it's way too cold in here but that just makes the snuggling even better.

You may have noticed at some point that sleep and I are not particularly good friends—but August has me napping at all hours, these days. We curl up for a cuddle and sometimes when she drifts off, so do I. That, like this casual non-schedule that Devon and I have had this weekend, feels surprisingly natural. It embraces my preference for sleeping in sunlight and the fact that I wake up so often that pretending to get a solid chunk of sleep is foolishness, and it dismisses so many of the anxieties that make sleep difficult—like the simple expectation that I'll sleep now, for this long, and then be awake and engaged with the world. As a result of course I'm less engaged, but...

Basically, August is teaching me to be a cat. Some of it already there, in little realizations that tickle me—like when we watch out the window together and we both perk at the same sound or movement. But my sleep issues are one of the hallmarks of the disconnect between my self-as-human and self-as-cat, and so this.... Well, back in that post I wrote, "A cat that can't catnap hardly feels a cat at all." And now, sometimes, we catch a bit of sleep in the sunlight for no reason at all other than the fact that the bed feels nice. There's that argument in the therianthropy community about nature and nurture—if this identification is innate, or if it changes and grows; if it's inherent nature, of if it's tainted by affectation. It makes me feel like something of a charlatan that so much of my personal experiences are about the disconnect between my human and cat identities, and therefore about (re)learning mentalities and behaviors—not because they're not mine, but because I get in my own way where they're concerned. And for all that anxiety I still don't give a flying fuck how it might be perceived, because these little lessons, these little naps, make me so happy.

So it's been a pretty nice long weekend, I guess is what I'm saying.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
The house smells of smoke today. Some of the neighbors must be burning yard waste. To my surprise, it's quite lovely.

Despite a trend of continued improvement, I've been all over the map lately. I had a night of horrible sleep, Devon and I both did—but the difference is that when he sleeps poorly, Devon comes home and takes a nap as any reasonable person would; when I sleep poorly, I develop a grudge against sleep, I avoid it, and things get much worse before I finally collapse, and sleep again, and they can get better. (ETA because I forgot to mention: I've also been frequently shaky, which makes me think I haven't been getting enough protein—I always need more than most people, but these days I feel like I can never get enough.) I've been feeling—ah, well, exhausted, sometimes in the literal sense, but more in a cumulative sense: I want to be out of this rut, already; I want to disappear until I am. There is so much that I should be giving to others, but I just don't have it in me right now. I feel guilty about that; I feel that if I can't give I shouldn't take. Ironically, this means that I've been a bit more engaged with the "real" world—so much of my social interaction is online that for me, introversion and escapism can actually mean avoiding the internet.

It's not all bad, though. I tried the cocoa cappuccinos at Starbucks and I think I'm developing a preference for them—the foam isn't as travel-mug friendly, but the texture is delightful (and soy holds foam very well, so the texture is maintained through the whole cup). This seems small, I know, but: Devon and I went out to dinner at a local Thai restaurant (ever since [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes introduced me to truly remarkable Thai outside of Seattle, I've been in search of somewhere to scratch the itch for more of the same) and then we walked a couple of blocks to the local used bookstore (where I actually found something, which is a pleasant change) and then we went across the corner to Starbucks where I tried a cocoa cappuccino (and the barista recognized me and asked if I wanted my mocha, and then we talked about John Ajvide Lindqvist, and it's so cute when strangers try to give me book recommendations!), and then we walked back to the car through the cool fresh air of a spring day turning to evening. It was a marvelous day. It is small, it is all small, but it can be wonderful.

I got sufficient sleep yesterday, and though my day was hit and miss I noticed that as we were starting to get ready for bed, I didn't want to—and not for my usual reasons, not because I was afraid to try to sleep, but because I was feeling remarkably content. Content is remarkable, right now; I didn't want to sleep through the moment. So we put on Practical Magic and watched that instead, and it was perfect—perfect for sustaining the mood, the moment. (Except that that sort of story inspires a sort of regret in me—it's the sort of thing that I aspired to as an adolescent, doing magic in my bedroom and sneaking out the window at night, and can't believe in now, because all my best attempts at faith have never lead to belief. I have a mixed admiration and condescension for people that do believe—in magic, in the divine, in much of anything—because I see them as my adolescent self: hopeful but ultimately deluded, immature, but I envy them for finding the belief that eluded me. I want to carry Tiger's Eye and know the natures of the moon—to do so, and believe it means something, even if I can't blow a candle into flame. Yes. It's silly, it's longing and regret and a bit of bitterness, and it taints things).

But this beautiful spring, and the smell of smoke in the air, and a good book to read, reminds me that ... that I can still liveblog the weather with over-eloquence and mythical allusions: I have my own bits of wonder, even if they're ultimately mundane.

I make no point by all of this. I've been avoiding almost everything, lately. I'm sometimes not doing too good, and it's frustrating that that's still the case. But in bits and pieces, things are okay. That's the usual, I suppose. But sometimes it feels worth writing down.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Two nights of sleep made up of horrible, violent, terrifying nightmares, and I slept just fine. I was chased and abused and stalked and humiliated and ignored but for whatever reason—Devon posits that I knew I was dreaming, and that's possible; somehow I felt enough distance, enough remove, that even though the dream was happening to me, even thought I was objectively horrified, I could just shrug it off. I slept long and hard, and woke well-rested.

Last night began without dreams but I was up, uncomfortable, restless, and depressed, every hour or three. Eventually I just got up and watched a movie; when I went back to bed I had a dream about going back to school which was so stressful that my heart was pounding when Dev woke me up when he got up. He was able to calm me down a bit, but when I got to sleep again I had another stressful dream about going to a three-day political rally that mirrored a speech and debate event or a con—until I finally stopped attending events, went back to my dorm, and ended up adopting the animals that I found there—a kitten, an adolescent cat, a ferret, a small rodent, and two guinea pigs. Dink was one of them, although his fur was spotted black and white (but I knew it was him) and I woke up miserable and missing him.

Things with the other pigs just haven't been the same since Dink died.

I just don't get it, really—what circumstances and content it is that makes dreams into nightmares for me. Or perhaps I do. I think all of the bad stuff used to get to me, but I've grown inured to some of it by now. Desensitized by repetition. Being stalked and humiliated by an abusive ex-boyfriend? No big deal! It doesn't target my own personal fears and memories and experiences. Objectively, I know it's awful; personally, I have some distance. But man, send me back to school and I turn into a shaking mass of anxiety, because in dreams and out of dreams that is my nightmare. I toss around the idea of finishing my degree one credit at a time at a public school, because the one class I took at PSU actually did me a world of good, it got me out and working but it wasn't stressful—either by being a difficult course, or by immersing me in the college atmosphere—and so, all good things forfend, I was actually able to complete the damn thing. Doing more of that tempts me, under similar circumstances. But college—the people, the culture, the schedules, getting myself on campus, being on campus, doing homework, receiving assignments, trying to complete assignments that require me to work with others and/or come on campus even more, every bit of it adds up, it even seems to multiply, exponential growth that builds a stress greater than I can completely imagine or hope to bear.

And I dream of it, I fear it, all the damn time. I wish that I'd discovered Reed earlier, before Whitman crushed me, I wish I had completed my degree, but I wouldn't be a fulltime student again for my life. I can't.

I have more to say about why I'm thinking about college again, about the death of a Rutgers freshman and how much of all of this anxiety comes from Whitman, not just started there but was born and bred there. But I'm only just starting to realize that I'm not looking objectively at that suicide. I'm taking too personal an angle on it—this happens, I hate it, it's useless. High school for me wasn't fun but it was no big deal, socially, and I still don't understand what made it into living hell for so many people; but college, the social abandonment and ostracization in a society so isolated that when pushed out of it you had nowhere to be, and mine was only a case of that, of rejection rather than ridicule, and I can't even imagine how much worse the latter would be. But I know it happens. I want to warn people that it doesn't get better, like some magical turning point—that depending on person and circumstance it may get quickly, remarkably worse. And what do you do that when they promise you that the day after you leave high school it will all magically improve—and then you get to college and they humiliate you?

And I think those are fair concerns—and then at the same time I know I'm being so negative and hopeless that instead of encouraging a little good I'm denying even that effort. Well done, me. I don't want to think it's hopeless, that there is nothing that can be said or done to make things "get better." Awareness and dialog helps, but wearing purple ain't gonna do a goddamn thing and that breaks my heart because I understand the impulse, I do. But we're looking at a beast that a purple t-shirt can't change: a combination of the social acceptance of bullying and the prevalence of anti-queer sentiment. Just one of those by itself is a monster; together they do horrible things to kids and to promising college students but I can barely even see it, barely even fully understand it, and the size of the problem scares me.

Into nightmares, and inaction.

I do this. I hate it. I hear about someone's rape and it leaves me incapacitated by my fear of rape culture, I hear about a suicide and and it gets me stuck on my own memories and fears of the hell that can be college, and that's selfish and it does no goddamned good. It arises from sympathy and love, it is how I try to understand how I feel about others, but it all comes back to me. How self-indulgent, how privileged, that I can complain about how these big things make me feel so small and curl up into my little ball and hide. I understand the want to wear purple because I can do that, I can wash a purple shirt and put it on, that's easily within my abilities, it's concrete and it's safe. It's also largely useless, and because it is so easy and so satisfying it's all we do do: we make ourselves feel better with a t-shirt, and then go on to ignore that huge and terrifying problem that it's supposed to represent. Awareness matters. Talking about, sharing, realizing, attempting to publicize the existence of these events matters. Symbols for them can matter, too. But that's not all it takes—it just feels like all that we know how to do.

I actually haven't been that depressed, lately. I've been okay. But I interpret this all too personally. I always do. I feel hopeless and I panic and make myself sick with nightmares. It shouldn't be about me. I'm not sure, though, how to wrap my head around the rest.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
You know what would be awesome? If I could sleep reliably and easily. That'd be great. It would also, it seems, be a goddamned miracle.

Yesterday Devon and I went out and finally bought awesome headphones, another belated birthday gift (we've yet to order BPAL, too—I've been half off smellies for the last little bit because I seem very sensitive to them right now, so there's no real rush I suppose). I long grew sick of the over-the-ear pair I use when I go out for Starbucks/library trips, and these sound much better, and I've been eyeing a certain headphone-wearing video game character with envy for a fair bit now, so they're a wonderful buy. I'm so enamored that I sort of want to wear them all the time now, except that—well, there's hardly any need at this particular moment. But they're just what I wanted in both form and function: flattering, black, portable, and the sound quality is fantastic.

I only wish I could paint the red parts green, but that may not work out so well given the warranty.

My head's been in a dozen places at once, lately. It rained yesterday, the first rain of the coming autumn—on the same day that we went out for dinner and shopping, no less. I wore long sleeves, walked through the dark and the mist, and I could not have been happier. I'm reading a book right now which, although it's still too early to tell for sure, I think I may love. But I'm not in my quiet bookish phase—I'm still playing Persona 4 and I've also taken up old school Harvest Moon, Dev's playing, oh, half a dozen games at once, and we're watching anime together for a change—all about as geeky and fangirly as can be. Moderation or, I guess you could say, multitasking like this is not my usual way: I am a creature of extremes, drowning in books or playing video games all day but rarely doing both at once. In a way it seems healthier to spread out my interests like this—I have more freedom and variety, I get a little less obsessed (and I do hate how my brain operates when obsessed), so on, so forth. But there's a certain cognitive dissonance in the variety. I'm fangirly but intellectual, hyper but subdued, talkative but quiet, and—relatedly or not—often cheerful and melancholy in alternating phases, sometimes in the same contradicting phase. For all that it may be healthier and can be quite nice, it's also confusing and fucking exhausting.

The inaccessibility of sleep doesn't help.

I don't exactly want the alternative, the extremes—but I would prefer some stability, or in the very least the ability to do a little more with both sets of moods. I have letters to write. I have posts to write, books to review, reviews to type up ... so much goes undone, and that's beginning to bother me.

I would also like to sleep.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Back when I was living in my apartment in Portland, down in a little one-bedroom basement place, I rarely saw the sun. I used to hide from it. Not just outdoors, bright-light sun—but everything down to the rays through the window. Only one small window stood uncovered by blinds; it was in the same room as my computer and during the day, I used to advert my eyes from that window, I used to pretend that there was no sun shining through. Seeing the sun cycles would be to admit to the passage of time and to the existence of a real world outside the confines of that small apartment—and at the end of my stay there, things like time and existence and reality were more than I was able to handle.

When I moved into the townhouse, windows were everywhere. My bedroom was on the second floor, white-carpeted and open and empty but for my spacious bed. Two windows shone sunlight into that room. I'd hang a sheet over the windows because bright light has always bothered my eyes, but I learned, living there, to lay in that diffused glow, curled on burnt orange sheets, reading sometimes, writing a little (although I did most of that downstairs), watching a lot of movies on my laptop—and napping through the days. I was recovering, then, from the low point I had hit before. I was not healthy, but those golden sunlight afternoons taught me that, for me, perhaps there was a sort of health in just curling up with a book or for a nap—and aiming to nothing more.

These days, the room I share with Devon is cornered on two sides by huge windows. One is densely blinded; one has blinds and I sometimes cover it with a sheet, and sometimes can't be bothered. A large flowering bush stands before that latter window, and it filters out most of the sharper light. I go days, weeks, at a time without thinking much on the sunlight that comes through. Sometimes when I leave the house, the brilliance of the light blinds and confuses me. But sometimes I long for the sun in the way that seems most strange for someone who rarely goes outside, who is afraid of direct light, whose eyes dislike even an overhead bulb. I don't long for the sun as my sister does: to have it on her face, warm and present. I long for its glow: for reflections in burnt orange, for gentle light and barely perceptible warmth, for the golden ambiance that only sunrays can bring.

I am healthier now than I have been for years—healthy as one can hope to be when one "cures" ills not by fighting them, but by giving into them. I have cut myself off from the real world so that things like time, existence, reality are not present dangers—so that they are optional, and therefore sometimes even desirable. Sun cycles rarely scare me, now. Nor need I try to recover (with the same desperation, anyway) from the time when they did. But the sun is still an unexpectedly blessed thing. I'm a night-beast, a pale- and thin-skinned being, suited for shade and dark; I still fear and hate direct sunlight. But that golden light, that ambient glow, holds me curled catlike: napping, maybe; amusing myself, perhaps; comfortable, warmed, calmed. I miss it in the winter, although I welcome Oregon's thick wet weather. I treasure it in the summer, although I hate heat. It is my pocket of safety, golden orange, recumbent, content.

I don't want to sleep tonight less because I'm wakeful (I am that, but only by fighting my tiredness), less because I'm anxious, less for what I have or feel—than for what I don't. I want to nap in the gentle sunlight, rather than sleeping in the blueblack of late night. I want that golden comfort calm. I know it's silly to stay up to sleep with the sun, I know that I could well regret it (I do lose a lot of time that way), but I get like this sometimes. I remember the townhouse, I remember that cream and orange bedroom, I remember when I realized there was a hope—if I chose to lay back and rest through the day, rather than trying to make something of it, I could, perhaps, be happy.
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: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
'I can't explain MYSELF, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

I've always slept in three hour intervals: three, six, nine, twelve hours a night, although eighteen is not unheard of either and I once managed 36 over a 48 hour period. Right now my three hour intervals are even more literal: I sleep for three, wake for three, and then try to repeat the process again. Normally I would hate this strange version of insomnia, but it's doing too good a job of breaking my day into consumable, wastable hours. I pack my time spent awake with Law & Order reruns multitasked with PopCap word games and more or less just wait for Devon to get home, and then we watch sometimes together or I watch him game. Days are slow and stagnant but relatively painless. My thoughts are a fog thick enough to stir with a spoon but I don't bother—I would rather doze through, wait through, this.

I'm wasting my time but that's precisely the point. Nonetheless I hope to break from it soon, because I have a draft to type up and letters to respond to and a number of other things to get to which are ultimately useless but are certainly more productive than never leaving my bed. Still there's a comfort in totally vacating my own skull. I've done this before (I spent a month once, about the time that I was dropping out of school, doing nothing but leveling in Final Fantasy XII, an endless repetitious thoughtless grind that all but silenced my thought, allowing me to escape to an empty place where there was nothing more than a hundred-chain of kills). It's comfortable. It's pleasant. It's the clearest proof that I am content with my own misery.

Perhaps Alice can explain herself.

I'll be better soon.

Merely tangentially related: Can someone other than my lovely boyfriend reassure me that the new Alice in Wonderland was somewhat ... disappointing? We saw it on the day it was released and while we loved the aesthetic, the casting (except the White Queen, on my part—Hathaway, though I love her in other roles, exaggerates her caricature to the point of awkwardness), and the CG, neither of us enjoyed it as a reinterpretation of the source material—for a number of reasons: Turning Wonderland/Underland into a strictly "real" place with strange, ill-suiting rules strips away its wonder and destroys its connections to dream, subconscious, and imagination; the empowering themes start so well, but crumble horribly when Alice "choses" the predestined role which she must chose or else condemn Wonderland to complete ruin; the aspects directly harvested from the source material mangle and misrepresent said source material, from parts which are exaggerated from incidental to instrumental (e.g. the Jabberwocky) to characters which are confused (the Queen of Hearts is not indeed the Red Queen, despite popular belief) and wholly misinterpreted (what the fuck was with the feisty, alert, female dormouse?).

Yet it seems like almost everyone but us loved it. Don't get me wrong: fascinating visuals and aesthetic, clever casting, these are wonderful things and they made for an engaging film, especially in the first half. (I'm a huge fan of Burton, Depp, and Bonham Carter, which doesn't hurt.) But I keep hearing—sometimes from people that I respect!—that the film was just awesome, or at least, outright enjoyable. I did enjoy many parts of the new Alice in Wonderland, but it left me with a sour taste which feels more potent than my usual critical approach to most media. I feel like I'm reliving The Looking Glass Wars, despite the vast differences between the retellings. This is another Wonderland retelling that shares enough of my infatuation with the world of the books to draw me in, but never quite seems to capture the books's wonder, whimsy, and iconographic characters in its retelling. I'm not looking for all-out literal faithfulness to the source material (if I were, I'd just reread the books—and I have!) but I love the books for a reason. They have a magic, an imagination, a spirit which intrigues and inspires me. If retellings and reimaginings don't have that at their heart, then they will leave me cold—because they do brilliant source material a simple disservice.

Devon and I have been asked a few times if we recommend Alice in Wonderland, and our answer is: Have you read the books? If not: sure, you'll love it. If you have: the film is a disappointment. But I've read from others that know, love, and even quote the books that the film is awesome, so I say: what the hell am I missing?
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Mostly for my own records: my mood has been particularly bad as of late. )

Moods aside, not all is lost. For one, I'm slowly resuming some of my CR religion studies. I've been hesitant to say as much because I hate falling through on the things that I announce publicly, which I did with exactly this announcement about a year ago. I am, unfortunately, much more of a flaky person than I intent to be. The depression and anxiety get to me, laying waste the very best laid plans. I get overwhelmed, I have a breakdown, I give up, and then I'm too ashamed to try again. But here I am, trying again—because I miss it, and because it is important enough to me to try again. So I'm (re)reading The Tain and The Mabinogion, to get started, as well as the Scottish-specific books that I bought last year (The Gaelic Otherworld, Carmina Gadelica, and The Silver Bough), to get my groundings. I plan to look into ogham a bit more this time, for want of a divinational practice. My greatest fear is changing book knowledge into life practice—building rituals, devotionals, and altars. The process of moving from theory to action has never been my strength. I hate doing things unless I am certain that I shall do them well—and there's no way to know that, with religion, especially with a reconstrutionist faith where so much of the wheel has to be reinvented. The thought scares me silly, but I shall try to press on anyhow.

If none of this is making sense to you, some background into may be useful. Last year, I began a study and practice of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, specifically focusing on (the highlands of) Scotland. CR tries to reconstruct pre-Christian pagan Celtic faith, taking into account how it would change in the modern world (read: we do not collect the heads of our enemies). For more information, feel free to check out the CR FAQ (which was my first introduction and is an amazing resource) and my LJ tag on the topic, which will take you back through my studies last year. Also feel free to check out [livejournal.com profile] cr_r, the LJ community closely affiliated with the people that run/wrote the FAQ above.

And now having said as much, I shall proceed to worry myself silly about the doing of it all. Gah. But do wish me luck. This is as important to me as it is utterly mystifying and terrifying.

For another—in other "not all is lost" news—I've come up with a starting place for that book genome project I was contemplating earlier. This starting place is basically the relevant information to input into the program so that it could churn out useful results. In other words: the genes that make up the genome of the book. I tried to select information that would provide useful results: books with similar characters, settings, styles, genres, publishing dates, ratings/intended audience, and key characteristics, all in a simple fill-in-the-blanks schematic that would be easy to put into a database and simple enough to categorize.

The format I'm looking at follows. ) But there's still a major bug to be worked out: what the categories are, how many to have, and how to structure them. This is particularity relevant for genre, setting, and keywords. With genre, it probably comes down to creating a finite hierarchical list. For example, urban fantasy would be on the list, as a subgenre of fantasy, as a subgenre of nonfiction (which is implied, as I have absolutely zero intent of dealing with non-fiction at all). When setting is selected, the most accurate subgenre(s) will be selected, and the parent categories will be taken into (weighted) account when the genome spits back results. A set list of genres will make labeling easier and make the system function better by providing more (and more accurate) results. Keywords are not as easy. These are incredibly important—if I'm looking for more books like Season of the Witch, I'm probably far more interested in finding something with alchemy in it than I am in another 30-some male protagonist. As a result, these keywords need to be diverse and specific—enough that I can find another book on alchemy, not just magic, and that a book on prophecy can turn up appropriate results too—but they have to have some order to them, or the results are useless. What the author calls remote viewing may be too minor a term—is psychics better? Will the categorizers (me!) forget what term they went with before and therefore invalidate the search process? I think keywords are probably the trickiest and the most important part—after all, they are what makes the Amazon system start to float ... and then sink like a stone.

With this system mocked up, what comes next is implementing it. I plan to make an table (Excel, probably) and start categorizing any books that I can think of, and am sufficiently familiar with (read recently or read many times) to assign genre and keywords too. After I build up a big enough database, I can start searching it and seeing if I can con the boy into mocking up a system for it—and see if it's any good. I have four books labeled so far. So... that's a start? Ask me again in a few months if this brainchild should have been aborted or not.

The other tiny bit of good news is that I have book reviews (three, including Lane Robins's Maledicte, a title which I plan to repeat until I drill it into every readers brain and convince them all to check it out) and BPAL (a bottle and another half-dozen imps) on the way. The reviews are getting written about now, and the BPAL is in shipping and should be here any day now. Yay.

(I should totally have a tag that reads "one more tag" for posts when I write a short novel and cover enough topics for a dozen tags... just to drive the point home, yanno.)


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

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