On Decluttering

19 Nov

A few months ago I finally pulled all my WIPs from my old computer, and spent an enormous amount of time reading through and sorting them out. It was a ton of fun. It was also a little surprising, because I didn’t hate most of them! I was baffled, though, because I remembered writing quite a bit more on most of them. I spent a lot of time looking for them: searching every conceivable turn of phrase through every device, swearing, moping, and feeling REALLY MAD about having lost all this stuff, but today it finally dawned on me to check my old journals. I dug them out of my hope chest, and lo and behold, I found everything I’d been looking for. I just never typed it. Some of this shit is really good! There’s at least two novels in here! I’m so excited!

And that, gentle readers, is why I’m never throwing anything away ever again.

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I’ve Been Thinking: Healing and the Feminine Semidivine

18 Nov

Been thinking a lot about Christmas today.

(I will warn you that this post is suuuuper wobbly, and the title is the most coherent part of it).

I always loved Christmas. It was my favorite holiday, aside from my birthday, for most of my life. The last sixish years it’s been wrapped up in a lot of really terrible feelings of sorrow, regret, exhaustion, severe anxiety. It has brought meltdowns, breakdowns, vaguely suicidal tendencies, and crippling depression, but I still cling to the idea that I love it. I hate the cold and the dark, so I’m super into a celebration of light. I hated school when I was in it, so hey! Vacation. I love giving and getting presents.

Mostly, I love Christmas music. Like, a lot. A lot. 

I was a choir nerd, a band geek, a theatre jerk, and a preacher’s kid, so for me Christmas music usually started in September, and I was lucky enough to be exposed to some really astonishing seasonal music. Shit you don’t hear on the radio. Deep cuts, if you will. I still love Christmas music–I make a lot of money every year as a professional Christmas caroler. I just released a Christmas CD, which I recorded in June. When I’m very, very stressed out, I find that 16th century sacred choral music will help me calm down a bit. Today I started building a couple of Christmas playlists, and as is probably to be expected, I ran into Mary Did You Know, aka “Mansplaining Christmas: The Musical.”

TO BE CLEAR: Mary was aware, this song is theological garbage and downplays her bravery and intelligence in the interest of glorifying “innocence,” but I’m not here to bitch about it.

Despite it being crap, it’s been stuck in my head all day (with the exception of the four hours I spent listening to different versions of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence). Fortunately it’s not the only Christmas song about a woman. Most Christmas music about a woman–granted, it’s about a woman giving birth, which I was never interested in, but Christmas is ultimately Mary’s story. Joseph is totes a good dude, and there’s a lot more room to talk about him, and Jesus obviously has a featured role, but the heavy lifting goes to Mary (and Elizabeth, to a lesser extent). And as it gets dark outside and my uterus continues its cycle of bloody revolution, I find myself thinking about what kind of person would be able to handle being Mariam without losing her ever-loving mind.

Joan of Arc was my favorite saint growing up. I wrote several reports on her. I had several of her medallions. I didn’t grow up Catholic, so why did I have a favorite saint at all? More to the point, why was my favorite saint one who didn’t live to see her 20s because she was burned at the stake? I don’t know. I’m into dramatic epics and always wanted to believe my life has a big, grand purpose, and I admire bravery. As I lay here almost paralyzed by fear and indecision, I cannot imagine what sort of person would be capable of being Jehanne.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those two ladies today. The focus on their virginity never sat well with me (I get that a spontaneous virgin birth is miracle, but the centuries of veneration has very little to do with miracles and everything to do with purity culture, and TO BE CLEAR that’s bullshit), but otherwise they always struck me as pretty great. “I know what I’m here to do, I’m going to do that thing with aplomb, and none of you will stop me. This is who I am. I’m good enough for The Big Guy, it can be good enough for the rest of you bastards.”

I admire people who know what they’re meant to be doing. I used to know, or think I did. The last time I had to make a decision (what to get in my burrito), I panicked for almost a full minute.

Anyway, today I’ve been thinking a lot about them.

I kind of fell apart when my grandmother was dying, and I haven’t been back to church in years. The last time I was in church I wept so hard I almost hurt myself. I grew up in church: singing, ringing, reading, teaching, eating, wasting time in my mom’s office, stealing communion wafers, skipping youth group to write fanfiction in the bathroom with my bestie. We were there twice a week, every week. I read the book twice (including all the begats), I did my research. I put a lot of time and thought into what I believe. I still believe, but believing hurts. I’m not worried–I was for a while, but then someone reminded me that God is big enough to comprehend even the most incomprehensible anger/grief/fear/pain, even the pain I can’t comprehend myself, and will still be there. It hurts less. But it still hurts.

I’ve been thinking a lot about incomprehensible grief, and courage, and being loved. I’ve been thinking about the aspects of feminine divinity that are missing from too much of mainstream Christianity, prompting generations of worshippers, desperate to see ourselves reflected in our God, to shift a little divinity to a thousand female saints.

While I wait to think about God some more, I’m thinking about these two women. Girls. Lady-persons. I’m just thinking about femaleness as strength, of femininity as expressed in two totally different but equally valid ways. I fought for years against the idea of God as solely male, because 1) I want to see myself truly reflected in the God I believe created me in Its image, and 2) it’s theologically questionable, and 3) sometimes I need a father, and sometimes I need a mother. And a crazy bachelor aunt.

Sometimes I need a couple of ladies who take no shit and give no fucks and walk confidently into the future. So as I get ready for Christmas, whatever Christmas means to me this year, I’m thinking about them.

My Friends Say Nice Things About Me

13 Nov

I’m a little better than I was, but not by much. The holidays are creeping up faster than I had anticipated, and the holidays are a rough time. My maternal grandmother died a few days before Christmas several years ago, after having been diagnosed around November the year before, about a month before my paternal grandmother died (keeping up with all this?). The memory of Christmas in the Cancer Ward is strong to this day. And of course, it’s dark outside and it finally got cold. So regular depression plus seasonal depression plus holiday depression plus sweaty palms and cold fingers, blah blah blah, it’s just generally not a great time. I’m behind on stuff, I’m sad and fragile and snappy, I’m deep in the cycle of self-sabotage, you all know this song.

Anyway, into this come my friends, who are my forever source of wonder and light. A lot of them have been saying nice things to me as we work on projects–all the Kickstarter rewards (except the ones that require travel) have gone out, so we’re awash in joyful tidings about that, plus some other things that I’ve been working on. I thought I’d go ahead and document some of them for, ya know, proof against future “nobody likes me” moments.

“For the past week I have had a dreadful cold, can’t sing, no energy, general misery. It was into this befuddlement that I received your CDs and tote bag. I felt wrapped in the love of friends!!! The lightest of blue bag with the musical notes inside was beauty to the touch and eyes, and the music felt like hugs and smiles and laughter. You dropped a load of beauty into my grey, and I love you both for it!!!”

“today I got a little weepy over coffee explaining to K how you helped me survive this terrible summer, and then we both talked about the ways in which you’re superior at supporting people when they need it most, and K said, ‘biscuit is the best person I know for meeting a person wherever she is or wherever she needs to be without making that person feel deficient or like a weirdo.’ And it’s so true.”

How awesome is it to have CDs of your own sister? I am so lucky to have such a beautiful and talented sibling. I love listening to her sing, and now I can whenever I want!!!” (plot twist: this one is from my sister.)

“I love you so hard.”

There are so many others. I could never keep track of all the ways that my friends and family have helped me or held me up, all the wonderful things they have said about me. The last two or three days there have been a lot of exclamation marks coming my way, which is especially helpful, because I’ve been unable to manufacture my own for a while.

On the roughest, coldest days of early high school, when the pressure of continuing to exist felt like it was going to rip me in half, I would carry around a cassette tape (!!!) of the Newsies soundtrack*. I’d put it in the pocket of my jacket and cling to it when everything around me and inside me was chaos and I was ready to fall apart. In middle school, it was a copy of The Hero and the Crown. In elementary school, it was a battered old Trapper Keeper with a grey kitten on the front. In college, it was my purple cabbie hat. I’ve always carried little talismans in my pocket. This feels like putting my friends in my pocket so I can find them when I need them**.

It’s good to have people around who love you all the time, but especially when you don’t love yourself.
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I Make Playlists: Halloween

31 Oct

For your listening pleasure: four hours (!) of curated Halloween music. Includes the scary, the silly, and the sad, from pop to folk to novelty songs to hip hop to metal to showtunes to spooky theme songs. Ghosts, candy, witchcraft, monsters of all stripes, and that song from Beetlejuice.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/stonebiscuit/playlist/6r4I6WRlLNuYVUh2SfPAWJ

Not included: way too many songs by singer-songwriters using the word “Halloween” as an excuse to talk about their breakups, none of which appeared to have happened on Halloween or have anything to do with the holiday at all.

Not Being Ok

31 Oct

I’ve been in a depression spiral since my last project was finished. I should have expected it–the post-show drop is real, and then my period happened, and that was kind of it. For a while I thought it was just a little bit of a spiral, but, I mean, no, it’s kind of not. I’m trying to work on a post about the joyful success of my return to the stage and the Kickstarter, about how AMAZING it is to be selling CDs, and about how much I love my life, but instead I’ve been spending a lot of time not sleeping, not eating, sabotaging my own health and budget and deadlines, and forgetting to wash my hair or change my clothes or do the dishes.

My goals for today:

  • have a fun Halloween with some of my most beloved friends
  • finish just two items for work
  • go to bed when mr. biscuit does, rather than at 4 in the morning
  • try to be OK with a couple of things:
    • needing some help or some sunshine or some water
    • where I am
    • not being OK

Because I’m not OK right now. I’m not anywhere near OK. That’s hard to admit, but I can feel it in my chest (like it’s full of concrete), my throat (breathing feels like too much work sometimes), my head (foggy), my wrists (they ache), my jaw (clenched).

I painted my nails and blow-dried my freshly-washed hair, and that helps. I ate some vegetables, and that helps. So I’ll achieve the first three of these goals, and that will help with the fourth.

I’m just trying to be OK with not being OK for a bit. It will swing around eventually. It will swing around sooner if I stop beating myself up.

Love Stories: I Love Them. But.

24 Oct

I like romance in my media.

It feels a little bit odd to type that like it’s revolutionary, because it’s hella not. Stories of romance have been around since the first cavelady got a prehistoric crush on the clan leader. Most of modern media is full of romance. Much of that romance is shitty, unhealthy, underdeveloped, and/or totally nonsensical. Much of it is aimed at female audiences to the exclusion of all other stories. There is a boatload of really valid, really good criticism and scholarship about this problem. Far too often, female characters only exist to be part of a romance. I totally understand the desire to see female main characters exist in stories without romantic components. I am super glad that neither Moana nor Jyn Erso ever kissed anyone on screen. I only ship Katniss Everdeen with years of intense therapy.

But I also really like romance, ya know?

I have a great husband who I not only love, but also like and respect. He loves me, and (tragically rare in heterosexual relationships) he likes and respects me too. We support each other in our separate endeavors and work together towards our joint goals. We play video games, harass our cats, share stupid jokes, eat too much junk, and sometimes even go to the gym together. We’ve been through some rough shit together. We enjoy each other’s company. We ease each other’s fears and take care of each other. Having him around makes life easier, better, and more fun for me. Plus? Also? I like sex. Getting down with myself is pretty swell, but having sex with another person is just the bee’s knees. Like let me tell you about the other night–wait, no, my mom reads this.

Again, I totally understand the criticisms levelled at the vast swaths of media where the single female character only exists as a prize for the hero. That trope is bullshit. As Princess Jasmine once said:

Fucking right you’re not, Jasmine. You’re a strong, independent princess who keeps a fully-grown tiger as a pet for some damn reason.

But what I’m saying is that I like having a good romantic life partner. It makes me happy. And when I’m enjoying the exploits of fictional characters, I want them to be happy too (eventually, as much as possible after much turmoil). To me, being happy included having a good romantic life partner. That’s not true for every real person, I realize, and it needn’t be true for every fictional character. But for me it’s true, and that’s what I tend to want in my fictional characters.

As a consumer, I seek out media with female main characters*. As a creator, I create female main characters almost exclusively**. Whether I’m consuming or creating, I want female characters that I can desperately and deeply relate to, and I want them to do several things:

  • have a goal (save the world, get tickets to a sold-out show, find her glasses–whatever it is, something that feels important to her)
  • fight like hell to achieve that goal, even if it changes
  • move the plot along in interesting and dynamic ways (related to point 2)
  • do something pretty cool (related to point 3)
  • have deep, important relationships with interesting and varied female friends
  • wear attractive but comfortable footwear (THAT MEANS NO GODDAMNED SPIKED HEELS IN ACTION SITUATIONS)
  • engage in consensual, mutually satisfying sexy-times appropriate to the audience

That seems like a long list, I guess? But it’s really not. Han Solo does most of these things. So does Peregrin Took. So does Sebastian the crab. None of them are even the main character. Most of this is just par for the course in creating a well-rounded character***. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Too many female characters in movies, books, TV, video games, comics, plays, whatever, are straight up not well-rounded. They are one-dimensional objects who exist to give the hero something to achieve, and the creator/audience something to project their fantasies on.

So yes, if that’s all your heroine is doing? If she can be summed up in one word, whether that’s “princessy,” or (God forbid) “badass,” “kickass,” “strong,” or any of their nonsensical ilk? Then fuck right off. I will take well-rounded, three-dimensional female characters who never go to Bone Town over some cardboard cutout of The Hero’s Reward any day.

But I really like romance in my adventures, and I don’t feel like I should have to pick one or the other. I want stories where the interesting, flawed lady protagonist gets to do interesting, awesome things while falling in love with an interesting, flawed other character. I want lady characters who fight to save the world/their friends/the MacGuffin/10% on car insurance while standing back to back with their supportive, competent, blisteringly attractive lover, both of them wearing sensible but flattering footwear.

There’s no fucking reason consumers should so often have to choose interesting female characters OR female characters who fall in love. I am sick to fucking death of it. Creators have got to do better.

Related: I should be working on my WIP.

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Memo to Self: RE Stage Fright, Stress Dreams, Panic Response

23 Sep

Nerves are a sign of investment in the quality of the upcoming performance. Tune your guitar and practice your chord changes until you feel better (if you never do feel better, well, maybe try tuning again? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor).

As a wise friend of mine once said, “Just keep your soft palate nice and high through the long ‘o’ in ‘gloria’ and we’ll all get through it.”

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