I want to talk about anime, not what I do all day.

I am the shadow of my motherhood.
I am what comes after the stroller,
so that you already know
the shape of me
before you’ve really looked.

I am cast with the waking of the sun,
and warp around demands
much bigger than the mouths
that make them,
stretching and shrinking as needed.

So please excuse my melodramatics
and the volume of my voice
when I talk about politics, science, poetry,
video games, or anything but my kids.
I’m just trying to cast the shape of myself.

Photo by Johny Goerend on Unsplash

I am here.

So I’ve been on hiatus for… a while.

I’m okay.

I wasn’t okay.

But I’m mostly okay now.

I’ve had depression and anxiety for a very long time, but there’s always been a good reason to push it aside. To tell myself that I’ll be alright as long as I keep moving. That I don’t need help. That it’s “normal.” That I can handle it.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has had those beliefs shattered in the past year. My existential crises suddenly found themselves with some very real material, and my coping mechanisms — social events, going out by myself, getting someone to watch the kids — went flying out the window.

To be honest, it didn’t feel like what I was experiencing was even related to the pandemic, and in some ways it wasn’t — my mental health wasn’t great to begin with after all — but whether I acknowledged the pressure bearing down on me or not, it was still there. In the way I couldn’t take my children to the park or to the grocery store. In the way I hadn’t been away from them for more than half an hour in several months. In the masks I saw hanging from rear-view mirrors as I walked down the street. In the way that walking those streets had become a sick strategy game — weaving back and forth or meandering blocks out of the way so that I didn’t have to go within two metres of anyone else.

I felt it in my core even if I didn’t acknowledge it. I stopped doing anything. I stopped being anything. I wanted to just stop altogether.

So I got help. For the first time. And just… thank God. Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?

Please, whether it’s been a lifelong thing or it’s a new thing… if you feel empty, overly anxious, meaningless, like your entire self is about to implode… tell someone. Preferably your doctor. Look for community resources if you don’t have access to paid therapy and can’t afford it. Online therapy. Just, ask for help. I promise you deserve it. (For the record I signed up for a government-funded online therapy clinic and used a free CBT app called Woebot while I was waitlisted.)

And if you are in crisis, please call a crisis support line or stop by your emergency department. Your life matters and I swear you are strong enough to get through this. You just haven’t been given the tools yet. You’ve been climbing a mountain with your bare hands and you’ve still gotten this far. Imagine where you’d get if someone gave you some climbing equipment (and taught you how to use it).

Anyway. Therapy and mental health supports aside (but seriously, access them if you think you need them), I thought it was about time for an update.

Even before the pandemic, I was really struggling with my creativity. Not so much a writer’s block, just a lack of passion for… well… anything. Writing included. This of course, caused extra anxiety as I thought to myself… will I ever be creative again? Will I ever feel again? Despite the way we romanticize mental illness, that poetic melancholy or artistic moodiness, it is NOT conducive to creativity. I am a much better (and definitely productive) creator when I am mentally well.

While I was recovering, and within the pressures of parenting during a pandemic, the only thing I’ve consistently found time for has been poetry. It’s short, I can write and edit it on my phone, and it’s cathartic as hell. I’ve actually started a poetry Instagram with the tag @amnotpoetry. You can see the feed over there —>
I’ll do some poetry posts to update any new ones to the site and file them under the Poetry section up there. ^

I also quit twitter for now, because who needs that negativity?

An example of the kind of stuff I’m doing over on insta

As for what comes next… well, I’m trying to take it easy for now in terms of setting goals, but I AM working on a few stories again. I’d also still like to work on finishing the voice recordings of Ganymede, but ultimately that comes down to finding a period of time and a space where I can consistently create a quiet enough environment. Worst case, it’ll happen as restrictions from the pandemic ease off and I can book a space. The focus right now is on creation, and eventually the debate of going the webfiction route again, or trying for traditional publishing. But that is a ways off (though I’d love to hear what you think!)

I’ll try to do more consistent blog posts. I have one mostly written already about media that’s kept me sane and helped me deal with my depression over the past year. Books, podcasts, video games, etc. So stay tuned.

Anyway, I’m back. It’ll take some time for me to fall into a regular habit of posting, but for now, I am just so ecstatic to be creating again. I hope everyone out there is doing alright and taking care of themselves as best they can. It’s okay to take a break, sometimes just getting through the day is enough. We’ve got this, one day at a time.

Black Lives Matter

Coming out of hiatus briefly because… however small my platform may be… I have the responsibility to use it for what is right.

Everything I have to say has already been said, but what I want to focus on in this moment is:

SILENCE.

Don’t be silent — use your voice, your time, and your energy to speak up for equality and justice. Point out those racist moments — and not just the “obvious” ones, but the casual ones too. These are what build and create a society that tells Black persons: “this place is not for you.” This will not end until those aggressions — big and small — are dismantled along with outdated systems that sustain them.

But also, specifically for non-Black folks and especially white people like myself:

Sometimes SILENCE is the answer. In particular when a member of the Black community is talking: when they are sharing their experiences and telling you what they need. Unless you have been explicitly invited, it is not the time to talk about your own experiences as a non-Black person, or to demand information and resources, or to assume you hold better knowledge than they do about their own damn lives.

Instead just LISTEN. Do some research (there are a TON of resources being thrown around, I’ll link some below.) Introspect on what you can do better (because we can all do better) and be patient when someone corrects you. Read and share resources created by actual Black people. That doesn’t just mean about police violence and racism, either; whatever you’re into when the world isn’t on fire (video games, fantasy, cooking, music etc), I guarantee you there’s a whole community of talented Black creators out there for you to follow.

So quick recap:

Speak out against hate and racism. Listen when members of the community experiencing the actual oppression are talking. Prioritize their perspectives, and let them tell their own stories.

If you want to learn more about un-learning racism (I know I do), check out some of the links below:

Monique Melton @moemotivate – https://www.instagram.com/moemotivate/

So You Want To Talk About Race book by Ijeoma Oluo

NPR’s Code Switch podcast https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/

If you’re looking for places to donate to help dismantle police violence or to aid in the protests happening in Minnesota, check out these links:

Campaign Zero

Reclaim the Block

Black Visions Collective

Minnesota Freedom Fund

Life On Hold

I’ve gotten nothing done. I had a series I fully intended to write, multiple things I have talked about recording and releasing… and the bare truth here is that I simply haven’t done it.

I have a pocket full of excuses — I have two kids, a schedule that leaves me with around an hour to do things for myself each day (that means after-kids-go-to-bed chores, homeschool organization, writing, reading/watching/gaming, self-care, time with my husband), a noisy apartment not conducive to recording.

And while those things don’t help, the real problem is me.

This isn’t writer’s block — I have a million ideas squirreled away — it’s something much deeper. It’s not this lockdown, though again I’m sure it isn’t helping. This is a problem I’ve been struggling with for years now that I do everything possible not to talk about. Something I’m not even sure I have to words to talk about.

It’s a mingling of existential dread, self-loathing, and a dearth of mental space that has culminated in an inability to… imagine? To fantasize? To allow my brain to exist anywhere that isn’t this moment, with these restrictions, and all of the terrifying possibilities of what could come next. It means that I struggle to enjoy stories, especially stories with peril or suffering. It means I can barely read, can barely watch, and can barely create.

I feel lost and purposeless. Everything around me seems meaningless. I’ve lost the how and the why that use to push me through challenges like this.

And yes, it is not lost on me that this is a mental health issue. I’m working on it. It’s not an optimal time for getting medical attention but I’m looking into it.

For now I’m focusing on taking care of myself. On trying to remember how to enjoy things again. I’ve been playing Nier: Automata… and while I feel guilty using my one hour a day to game, it’s also one of the first things I’ve actually gotten enjoyment from. Some days it helps hold me together.

I want to write again. At least, I think I do. But until I can remember why I did it in the first place, until I can remember what it’s like to be able to daydream, until I get help… I guess I’m on hiatus.

Thanks to everyone who has read my work or has taken a moment and read this. I think I just needed to put it out there, and also to explain to the people following the blog where the hell I’ve been.

I will come back from this, somehow. Even if I don’t believe those words right now, I have to say them. I will be back with new stories and new worlds and maybe a renewed love for this one.

Thoughts at 1 am

This is for the moms
whose vacations were taken
in the aisles of grocery stores,
at the tables of cafés,
in efficient trips to the shopping mall
or gym.
Whose nights off
meant eating out
or leaving the kids with Grandma.
Who see no end in sight,
no relief,
no breaks,
no peace.
Who hate to complain
’cause they signed up for this right?
It’s a sacrifice they have to make
and damn,
but they’re good at those.

This is for the people
who’ve found all exits blocked,
trapped in homes
that threaten to consume them.
With partners
or parents
or whoever it may be
that beat
and belittle
and go off like bombs
leaving nothing but ringing silence in their wake.

This is for everyone
whose schedules,
consistency,
and routine
were medical requirements
abandoned in the crossfire.
Kids and adults
panicking,
lashing,
crumbling
because suddenly their needs
come last.

For Asian communities forced to carry a weight that isn’t theirs.

For those without homes
and those with no one else to share them with.

For those who can’t work
and those who can’t stop.

For those stuck with their families
and those kept away.

For adults and children
with mental health conditions,
or disabilities,
or everyday worries and fears.

For seniors,
and in-betweeners.

For health care workers
and delivery drivers,
small business owners,
grocery store staff,
the helpers
and the helped.

This is for you.
Whatever that’s worth.

It isn’t a promise that things will be okay
because I don’t know.
I suppose it’s a wish —
a midnight thought,
an hour (probably more)
of lost sleep
imagining I could reach you.

All I can say is:
I will do my best to see you.
You deserve to be seen.
Your needs deserve to be met.

I hope you find safety
and peace
and justice
and connection
wherever you are.

And if you’re lucky,
I hope you find a good night’s rest.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Good Things Will Happen

I am not an optimist. In fact, I am an anxiety-ridden pessimist that will imagine the worst case of any given scenario.

One day, my husband said to me: “You know the worst outcome isn’t any more likely than any other outcome.”

“Yeah, so? It could still happen.”

“So could the best outcome. Why not visualize that one instead? It’s just as likely or unlikely as the worst.”

It seems so obvious, but for a moment I was taken aback. Why does fantasizing about positive outcomes feel frivolous while ruminating about disaster feels pragmatic?

In recent years I’ve taken his advice to heart; it helps me recognize when I’m “doomsdaying” and allows me to visualize (and therefore work toward) positive outcomes. That doesn’t mean I ignore or refuse to prepare for challenges, but it allows me to protect my mental health so that I am strong enough to accept turns for the worst.

By now, you probably know where I’m going with this.

COVID-19 is happening. However we anticipate or prepare, the disease is a reality that we will have to accept. Maybe it will effect us directly (or depending where you live, maybe it already has.) Maybe we will escape its reach. Except we won’t, because its very threat is already weighing on us: in our social media feeds, in the news, in our thoughts. It whispers through the phone lines when we call our family and friends, it lingers in our goodnight kisses, it sits on our chests as we lay in bed at night.

Let’s be honest — pop culture does not have a great track record for preparing us for crisis. We love our postapocalyptic fiction — the grittier, the better — and it has ingrained in us a certain set of expectations about what humanity does when faced with a threat:

Every person for themselves.
Conflict between small groups.
General lawlessness and anarchy.

When we hear the word “pandemic,” “quarantine,” and “lock down,” I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the images that come to mind are bleak.

And there are very real challenges to a pandemic like this: there are deaths (and no, “elderly, disabled, and immuno-compromised does not lighten that blow), there is loneliness, there is anxiety, general inconvenience, and boredom.

But, my God, there is also beauty. Not that pandemics are desireable or beautiful things, but nor do they entirely eradicate the ability of humans to experience wonderful things. Lock downs, quarantines, and sickness are not experiences we would choose for ourselves, but we manage to live through them anyway.

Here’s the thing, when faced with a crisis, humanity does not devolve into madness. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Hugo-award winning author N.K. Jemisin has pointed this out on multiple occasions. Her intensive research and world-building is what makes her postapocalyptic Broken Earth series so engaging.

That doesn’t mean that the Stillness –the world in which the Broken Earth narrative takes place — is without violence, systemic oppression, death, or any other number of terrible things; they are often central to the story. But they are also not presented for “shock value.” They are authentic qualities of the world, they aren’t exploited to manipulate the audience’s attention and emotional reaction, they are not contrived, and that’s what makes her writing so compelling and important. Its world encourages the audience to more deeply examine their own reality, it provides meaningful perspectives and the tools to navigate them. It also leaves room for hope.

(By the way, I highly recommend reading the article mentioned in the tweet — written by Arkady Martine, another fantastic SF writer — you can check it out here: https://www.tor.com/2018/11/14/what-really-happens-after-the-apocalypse/)

COVID-19 is not an apocalypse. It is a moment that will pass, which does not mean it will leave the world the same once it is gone. Hope and acceptance are reasonable things to have during its stay.

Despite everything, good things will happen. Cooperation. Generosity. Laughter, even. And when we can visualize these moments, it becomes easier to recognize and embrace them. To share them.

Stories from China and Italy are already demonstrating this.

Moments of peace slip into the tiniest gaps left by fear, anxiety, and even grief.

I think there is a delicate balance that fiction can strike which can help us during times like these. Fiction can recognize and challenge difficult situations, it can tackle issues like inequality, violence, and loss, it can evoke uncomfortable feelings from a “safe” perspective.

My goal as a writer for the past few years has been to create fiction that offers relief and escape without sacrificing responsibility. I want to find beauty in mundane moments, “good” and “bad”. I want to help give people the safety and space to begin valuing these moments in their own lives. (And also therefore, room to acknowledge and dismantle obstacles and injustices.)

I am working on a short-run web fiction series that focuses on isolation, illness, connection, and loss. Maybe it will help me deal with some of the anxiety that comes from living in this media-driven world during a time of difficulty, and maybe it will bring someone else a brief moment of peace too.

All of this to say that: this is a moment. It’s reasonable to feel anticipation, fear, anxiety. It’s responsible not to ignore the challenges ahead, but it’s also responsible to remember that you are not alone. That there will be times when things are not okay, but there will be times when they will be. That this is not an interruption to your life, it IS your life.

It’s okay to imagine a world where things work out. It’s okay to want to see that world in the fiction you consume and the reality you live. It’s okay to feel what you feel when things get difficult.

But whatever happens, we will still move forward, together.

Some Days

Some days
I give so much of my love away
that I forget to leave any
for myself.

Some days
I give so much of myself away
that I become a walking
human-shaped absence,
defined
only by the space
of where other people are not.

Some days
I have no one to give to
and in that freedom I expand
so far
that I lose
all
cohesiveness.

Some days
I cannot remember who I am
only all of the things I should do
and all of the things I have failed to do.

Some days
I make lists about myself
so that I cannot forget:
what I’ve done,
what I like,
what I want.

Some days
I look at those lists
and wonder
where that person went.

Some days
I am certain
that some crucial part of me
has died
taking with it:
memories
and dreams
and desires
and
and
and

Some days
I want to be struck by lightning —
not to die,
but on the off chance
that I might reanimate.
Or at least
feel that rush of electricity
down my spine.

Some days
I can pretend that I’m okay,
end this on a note about
hope.

Some days
I give so much of my love away
that I forget to leave any
for myself.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Thieves’ Guilt

my love,
we live
in a den full of thieves

each of us
pilfering and pinching,
one from the other,
back and forth
and around again
in a merry-go-round heist

our children
plucking the hours
from our pockets
and the sleep from our beds,
the heat from our meals
and our drinks
and our kisses —

not that it keeps us
from stealing them anyway

after all,
you and I
are just as guilty as they:
every breathing moment
an ill-gotten prize,
an impossible debt
we never intended to pay

our guilt
evidenced
in the tipping of toes
and whispers in the dark,
in quiet tears
and the protests
of little voices

every moment we call
ours
is one taken from
them
every second I claim
mine
means one less for
you

these very words
counted and hoarded,
concealed around a corner
while the authorities
call my name

they are written
with borrowed minutes,
a fleeting currency
that dissolves
before it can ever be
repaid

we live
in a den full of thieves,
my love,

and I fear
taking more
than I’ve
lost

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A Safe Distance

There is a space between

you and me

that measures
the exact distance
required
for a wild animal
to turn from deadly
to cute.

It is the kind of distance
that plays tricks on the eye —
blurring harsh edges,
leaving only pointillistic impressions
that tickle the most palatable of memories.

It is the size of
scribbles
coalescing into sense,

kitchen knives
mistaken for
wooden spoons.

Ours is the distance of i n e b r i a t i o n.

An astigmatic blur
bloating e’s into o’s
and misjudging lies lines.

The time it would take to travel from

Point “me” to Point “you

is comparable to
that satisfying span
of autumn and summer
before we begin to pine
for the pleasures of the other.

Or the time
it takes a new mother
to break that promise
she made to herself:

Never again.”

It is the breadth of forgetfulness,
of longing,
of doubt,

but not of forgiveness.

There is a space between

you and me

and it is not enough.