• Category Archives artist’s life
  • Warming Up the Blogging Machine

    Hello, strangers. After a streak of weekly posts, I’ve been quiet (too quiet?) the last 6 months. Did you miss me? Did you wonder how I could forsake writing?

    I’ll just assume you’ve answered “yes” to both. But! I come with news. You see, I wasn’t forsaking writing. Not at all. In fact, my first sci-fi novel will be published in a few months. See? Totally busy with writing things.

    Now, I know you’re all still due an updated entry on autism, now that it’s been over 18 months (close to 21 months, actually) since my diagnosis and I’ve had time to educate myself and process and so forth. And I swear that that is on my list; it is going to happen. But I think you can see how the impending publication of a book is kind of a massive deal to me. So, I’m going to get back to more regular blogs. Because writing a book is a journey and I have Thoughts.

    We’re about a week out from a cover reveal, but what I can reveal is this:

    The book is called Peace Fire, and the awesome Ernie Cline, bestselling author of Ready Player One, had this to say about it:

    White text on a dark background: "A smart, fun, fierce tale of geek revolution and high-stakes adventure." -Ernest Cline, Bestselling Author of Ready Player One

    So, keep an eye out! In addition to reading blogs here, you can follow me on Facebook. There should be a steady trickle (that will increase to a torrent!) of content for the next little while.


  • Not Ashamed Addendum: Isolation

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    (Relevant to bi-polar, autistic, musician, writer, introvert, reclusive, but also to “my own biggest fan”)

    Stepping out of the flow of existing topics for this addendum, because it seems like an important one for people who care about me and are reading along.

    I was talking to one of my sisters the other day, and she made a comment about how depression is isolating. Which is true. Feeling isolated and alone is a very common part of the depression experience for most (all?) sufferers. Which got me thinking about me and solitude (and also the fact that I think my sister was trying to carefully express worry about me and solitude given the fact that depression is isolating).

    Now, I’m in a rush to get some things done, so I’m not going to google it, but…It seems like depression is isolating because:

    • Depression seems to be tangled up with the lying voice of low self-esteem, so you isolate yourself because you are pretty sure you don’t deserve friends or good times and that your friends probably actually hate you.
    • You have no energy or desire to do anything but lie in bed or binge watch TV or something like that.
    • You don’t want to be judged for being depressed, and the best way to avoid judgement is to avoid people.
    • Other people can be weird or uncomfortable around you when you’re depressed, so they stop inviting you around or you get tired of that and you stop accepting invitations.

    There might be more reasons, but those are the ones that seem to be the main issues.

    If you look at the list of labels you could apply to me (as laid out in my Not Ashamed posts), you’ll see that figuring out my own situation (am I isolated by depression?) is complicated by other things. In addition to being bi-polar (which, for me, is where the regular depression is seated), I am:

    • Autistic. Autism can be isolating for all the causes noted up in that first list, but also because of social awkwardness, sensory overwhelm issues, and how much work it can be to try to appear “normal.”
    • A musician and writer.Setting aside the oft-noted isolation of a touring musician…For me, and for every creative I know, alone time is essential for actually creating. Time to process, to try things out, to do the actual work.
    • An introvert. I won’t waste time dispelling misunderstandings of that term. The internet is full of that. But the root of what an introvert actually is is this: whilst extraverts are charged by being around other people, introverts need alone time to recharge. For me, I need hours every day—and sleep doesn’t count—to recharge from interacting with other humans. When I’m super worn out, that also includes avoiding online or on-phone interactions.
    • Reclusive. For reasons of pure preference, not due to any of the stuff on the first list or the rest of this list, I just really love solitude and enjoy being away from humans.

    In a case like me, it would be hard to tell if depression were isolating me, because so many other things in me either need or lend themselves towards isolation. So, to maybe relieve some concern from others, I want to address the usual reasons for isolation that I put in the first list.

    • Low self-esteem: This definitely used to be the case. As noted in another Not Ashamed essay, I have known the grip of self loathing. But, these days, I’m my own biggest fan. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s good cos I can barely manage the friendships of those who do love the taste of me. And I’ve pretty much stopped spending time with people that I think actually hate me. So, nope. This one isn’t an issue.
    • No energy or desire: This happens. It sure does. But I’m never lying in bed and weeping because I wish I had the energy or desire to hang out with someone. And I know that, if I didn’t want to be alone in that, I have friends who would happily, quietly sit with me. Really, given my introvert nature, it is a relief to me to be alone on such days. Being around another human would only sap what little energy I might have.
    • Don’t want to be judged: I’m pretty lucky here. In addition to caring less and less with every passing year what others think, I happen to be mainly engaged with people outside the mainstream. One awesome thing about that is that such people don’t stigmatise depression. They don’t judge me; they feel compassion and—in some cases—empathy for me. Basically, I am totally blessed that my friends are awesome and not “normal.” (Again, see how I am Not Ashamed about my depression, so not even general societal stigmas can isolate me. Rar!)
    • Not invited cos I’m a bummer: As noted, I have great friends. I’ve always been very blessed with good people in my life. Even when I was a raging mess as a teen, my friends (again, not mainstream kinds of kids) invited me and welcomed me. We tried to support each other and care for each other and, at the very least, learn to work with each others’ messiness. These days, I think that I manage to keep my messiest bits out of the fun social times (which is something that is made easier by the lovely solitude I need, I want, I take for myself). And, even when I don’t, my friends aren’t weird about it but are thoroughly supportive and sweet.

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging. I wrote all that with an immense sense of gratitude. And I sincerely wish that everyone could feel so blessed as I do. And, if you are struggling with something and feel isolated for whatever reason, I truly hope you can find friends and resources to help you have as little solitude as you want.

    But no worries about me. I don’t feel isolated, and I know there are people I can easily turn to if I ever did feel isolated. (And thanks for those of you who have felt loving concern over this. I hope this eased your minds.)


    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: A regular patron of loud dance clubs and quiet bars

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I’ll keep this short, because there’s nothing complicated to say.

    Some people believe that those who are sober or who are Mormon shouldn’t hang out at places that serve alcohol or where people go specifically to get wasted and maybe hook up. (Let’s be honest, though…most places are that to a lot of people who are single or thirsty.)

    And I 100% respect that there are some people fighting addictions who really should just avoid these places. Or people who don’t feel comfortable in such venues.

    There are also people who look down their noses at people who go to the loud dance clubs, because quiet bars are clearly the superior choice. From what I’ve heard, this has to do with it being easier to have deep conversation and look smart with your drink or something.

    But I love to dance. I love it. I was raised dancing. And there is something about that music so loud that I can feel it in my bones and a floor that is specifically for dancing. About dancing until I’m exhausted and feeling, all along, like the music is devouring me. You better believe I’m going to unashamedly let that happen when it can. (These days, it happens almost never for a variety of reasons. Which makes me sad.)

    On the other hand, there are people who think that the whole “deep conversations at quiet bars” thing is pretentious and way less fun than loud dance clubs.

    But I also really love long, deep conversations (especially if I don’t have to shout and I can hear the person with whom I’m conversing). There are only so many options for places to do that. And if I’m not comfortable with being alone at your home with you or I feel like a jerk for sitting at a table in a restaurant for hours after the food is gone, there aren’t really a lot of other options, are there?

    From the religion perspective, there’s this worry that you want to be in places you can hear God, and people seem pretty sure that neither of the venues I’ve listed qualify. And, maybe, that’s been true for those people. But I’ve felt close to Deity in both. I have a very noisy brain, and sometimes I can lose myself enough in dancing and the overwhelm of a loud club and then…it’s like meditation. Then, my brain is somehow still, and my ears and heart are wide, wide open. And I’ve sat deep in serious conversation in those quiet bars and suddenly found myself saying truths that I didn’t know were in me, that felt like they were kind of pouring into my mind as I spoke.

    And I’ve said “no” to all the things that I should say “no” to. I have gotten very good at “no.”

    So, as life allows and the desire exists, I’ll keep being a patron to these places. As well as the really loud bars that are seen as equally suspect by the same populations, the bars where I get to play my music or watch others play theirs. Definitely going to keep doing that. Without shame.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Silly

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, my intensity is broken up by silliness. (Just as this post will be broken up by pictures of silliness on an outing with a friend.)

    It seems like, sometime around age 13, one is expected to grow out of silliness. Silliness is immature. Silliness isn’t cool. Silliness is taking you away from deep and important issues and ideas. (And they say that I’m too intense…get over it!)

    Just two space princesses duck-facing their way across the universe.

    And, whilst I’m not as broadly and publicly silly (I mean, it’s not gone…I have too many headbands with cat ears that I wear any time of the year or hats with ears and faces that I’ll giddily break out when winter hits…just as a couple examples), I’m just not going to ever fully let go. Never ever ever.

    I think it’s just that I love to laugh and enjoy myself (I’m not fun-motivated, but I’m also not a robot…that you know of…). I would assume we all do. I love the light and smile-inducing bubbles of pleasantness that silliness can lead to. And, as you’ve surely realised by now, I balk at most social conventions that limit what I can enjoy or do based on my age. Sure, I’m totally okay with not trying to hook up with someone who’s too young. And I can get behind restrictions on drinking or driving based on age. (And on a complete restriction to doing both at the same time, no matter your age.)

    Not even an alien can scare me straight!

    But I return to my old refrain: as long as I’m living up to my commitments and taking care of my people, I’m not going to let my age dictate my life.

    And the people in my life don’t have to match me in silliness, but you’re not going to find yourself in my inner circle unless you at least kind of find my silly quirks and moments endearing.

    If the main way you know me is through this series of writings, it might be hard to believe I’m silly. And, sure, my brain is full of difficult and deep thoughts. My fingers drip lyrics and poems that are full of my trickier emotions. The inhumane way that people treat each other and the planet and animals makes me sad and angry. Depression is a pretty constant reality of my life. And all that is exactly why silliness is important in my life. It’s a sweet, free breath when I feel like I’m drowning in all the heavy waters of this life.

    (When I was younger, I think the silliness shaming had more to do with the way that an adult life makes it hard to be patient with anything that doesn’t seem productive. And silliness and play rarely seem productive. So, so sad…)

    I need this in my flat…

    So, you feel free to be grown up. Really. I don’t need everyone else to be silly like me. But I’m going to keep singing silly songs to my cat. And I’m going to laugh every time I see fish balls or melon ballers. And so on and so forth. Cos I like some rainbow streaks in my little, black life!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Intense

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I think intensity has some complications. As with other things on my Not Ashamed list, I’m not claiming that the things are all easy or good or whatever.

    For instance, a good percentage of the people I’ve thought of as intense in my life have also turned out to be drama-magnets. Nay, not drama magnets, but massive drama generators. And the worst of my bad romantic relationships were with people whose intensity I found attractive, until it turned out that they were too easily inclined towards darker emotions (or “thrilling” behaviours like stalking or abuse).

    And I suppose that one reason I get accused of flirting when I’m definitely not is that people are just so used to those who aren’t intense. I don’t want to spend time on small talk (I really loathe it) or with someone who isn’t interesting. Which means I don’t tend to go for light topics, and I try to pay attention to the person I’m talking to (sometimes just because I’m trying to figure out if I want to keep talking). So, you find yourself in the eye of my intense storm and you wonder…But, for 99.99% of you, you really shouldn’t.

    But I think of my intensity as quality. Condensed goodness. Fuel for my art. Not just for my art, but it’s also fuelling the fires behind my emotions, my devotions.

    I guess, if you’re used to only those who aren’t intense, maybe that can be frightening.

    I guess, if you’ve only interacted with intense people who turned out to be manufacturers of drama and chaos and unpleasantness, any intense person can be frightening.

    I guess, if it makes you have to look deeper in yourself because maybe now you wonder if you might also, buried in your core, have such intense emotions…or you look and see you can’t match mine (in romance or friendship or bandmate-ing) and you’re afraid telling me will hurt my feelings or make me angry, maybe that can be frightening.

    And I’m not going to judge you for preferring…less (nor assume that, in an objective sense, that is the same as lesser). There’s a world full of people for you, and I hope that you find the best non-intense friends and romantic partners and so forth.

    But I’m never going to be ashamed of being intense, and I’m going to treasure those few who can dig on my intensity…and those who have some of their own without going mental on me.

    I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m a rather strong cup. But I’d drink me (and so would a few, delightful others).

    p.s. I balance out my intensi-tea with a propensity for silliness and an inclination to laugh. Call it my sugar, my milk, whatever it is makes your tea something more than bracing.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Unconcerned with Acting my Age

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I can’t even recall when I was first shamed for not acting my age. Sometimes it was for doing things that were culturally considered “too young” for my age. Sometimes it was for things that were culturally considered “too old” for my age. I’ve never seemed to get age right.

    The things that were “too old” weren’t as exciting as you might think. In fact, it was always for times I was “too serious” or my intellectual pursuits were above my expected level. Yes, really. Obviously, when balanced with the “too young” stuff (so that you know I didn’t forget being young), I find this particular one almost too ridiculous to even address and I’m certainly not going to feel ashamed of this.

    The “too young” stuff, of course, is a common one. “Act your age!” seems to be something most of us have heard at some point. Of course, most people eventually take that to heart. Even when it’s not reasonable and related to immature behaviours (like adults throwing tantrums and such things). Even when it’s not true to who they are. They change their clothing and hobbies and goals and so forth to fit what society has declared the correct ones for their age. (To be clear, if those new clothes and hobbies and goals are who you really are, I’m not criticising. I know adults who fit the grown up mould.)

    Here’s where I stand on the topic of societally mandated grown up-ness: As long as I fulfil my commitments (which includes paying my bills, so I’m not a drain on your precious society) and take care of “my people” (which includes my cat and other non-humans I might consider part of my circle), I’m adult enough. And I strive to make sure I have emotional maturity, but that has nothing to do with my hobbies, my appearance, etc. I doubt I shall ever be a grown up, and I’m just fine with that.

    Interesting note: Apparently, it’s common for females on the autism spectrum to have disregard for and confusion over age.

    I guess, if you want grown up friends, you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere, as I am entirely uninterested in giving up the magic and delights that have been declared “too young” for me. Especially as there appears to be no good reason for those things being relegated to kids and/or teens. I’m just glad I live now, when it seems there are more of us questioning at least some of what society has decided is not age-appropriate for adults. Glad that, as an artistic type, there’s more room for me to go off the popular, socially sanctioned script.

    Amber with nerf gun and stuffed hunting companions
    Don’t make us come for you. Adventure penguin and Hedgehog will get you!

    Man, those who get upset about me now are really going to hate it when I’m an old lady who hasn’t grown up, aren’t they? Unconcerned with acting my age, now and forever. Yay!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Fluffy Placeholder

    Yesterday, I clicked a link that landed me on this blog, on my blog, and about gave myself an anxiety attack with the first blog title I saw. (Which is the last post. Which I know is a past issue. So how must people feel who don’t know that when they see the title as soon as they get here?)

    And I realised it’s been a while since I really did anything but Not Ashamed posts. Not because I don’t have ideas, but because I’ve been really busy doing revisions on a book I’m writing (sci-fi, since that’s the first thing people ask about) and working on a poetry project and on Varnish and on another, secret-ish music project and so forth.

    But today is the day I take a rest before I do a quick edit pass on the book before handing it off to some readers. And I have loads and loads to do, but…I was in the shower and I kept thinking about how it felt to click over and see the previous blog title.

    So this is a fluffy placeholder to spare you that shock.

    And this is a fluffy placeholder to promise I’ve got less intense, though not necessarily all entirely frivolous, posts in mind. Some as not-intense as a post on what I mean when I say I like pretty boys or one after a “who do I look like” discussion or one on what I mean when I say I like glam rock and want to do a glam rock album or…well, listen, there’s a whole list.

    Playing with glam rock looks
    Glam albums need personas!

    And this is a fluffy placeholder because I know I have new readers and I wouldn’t want you to get the mistaken impression that I’m a totally serious person (or that I’m a grown up or anything like that). If you just see me here, you don’t probably see the silliness (side-by-side with plenty of political and social issue reposting, of course) that goes on on the Varnish Twitter or on my Tumblr. You don’t know that I’m a complete sucker for cat gifs or that I will spontaneously dance around dramatically to the least-serious of pop music sometimes. You don’t know that I’m lamenting the fact my favourite Really Bright Blue eye shadow is running low and has been discontinued and how am I going to get the sparkly oceany mermaid-drowning-in-stars look that I created and love so much? Or that, last round of revisions, I ate loads and loads of biscuit (aka cookie) dough because it was stupid hot here and I didn’t want to take time out from writing to figuring food. Or blah blah blah.

    Me in silly hats
    This is as grown up as I get most days…

    gif: cat jumps kid
    Okay, and here’s a cat gif I giggle at for minutes at a time.

    I’m plenty serious and intense, but I’m not all that all the time. And I promise that I’m working on posts other than the Not Ashamed ones. Those are just the ones on a schedule so that I more easily make myself make time for them around other stuff. Some of you prefer me serious…so I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Because I really, really want to write something more fun for me to write. I’m about to ruin the flow for you. Woohoo!

  • Not Ashamed: Ridiculously Musically Eclectic

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Of all the things on my list, this is probably one of the top 5 I’m most hesitant to post. You see, I am a musician. The best thing, in my opinion, that I have put out into the world is songs. And musicians are judged more harshly than most anyone else when it comes to their musical tastes.

    Now, I completely own up to the fact that my opinions of people are influenced by their musical tastes. I love people who, in my opinion, have seriously questionable musical tastes. But I also see that almost all of my closest friends share many of my favourite bands and musicians. And the thought of being in close relationships with people who hate the music I find most important makes me cringe. (Been there, done that, never going back.) So I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t factor in the musical tastes of others when forming opinions. I honestly believe that a person’s musical favourites say a lot about them.

    That said…

    I was raised in a home that was full of music. We all grew up wanting our own stereos and then played music non-stop on whatever we had access to. We all loved music, though most my family didn’t all love the same music. Plus, my dad and eldest brother were (are) pretty eclectic themselves. And then most, if not all, my friends loved music. There was more overlap there than there was in the music family members loved, but it still wasn’t complete overlap. Which means I had access and exposure to a wide range of music. Lucky me!

    With the internet, I also had access to music nobody I knew was listening to. Access to All The Music!!! Lucky, lucky me!

    Wee me with headphones
    Pretty sure the stereo was the nicest, most magical thing we owned.

    Like most creative teenagers, my friends were vocally and strongly opinionated about music. So there were whole swaths of music that I either avoided completely or that I wouldn’t admit that I enjoyed. It was risky even to say, “I don’t like their music, but they’re clearly talented.” Nope. Just keep your mouth shut.

    Which is to say that I was not always not ashamed of my musical tastes.

    But, sometime around age 21, I started to care a whole lot less about other people’s opinions of my tastes and looks and actions. I also started hanging out with more musicians and realising that, as much as people judge us strongly for our tastes, it’s a good thing for us to be atypically eclectic. The broader my tastes, the broader the influences on my own music. Even if you don’t hear it, there are bits of songs that occurred to me to approach in particular ways because of some song or genre you might not expect me to enjoy.

    People talk a lot about guilty pleasures. I’m not going to claim that all pleasures are okay; there are a lot of questionable people with even more questionable pleasures. But I absolutely refuse to have musical guilty pleasures. Why bring shame in to taint my enjoyment of a song? Not going to happen.

    As a bonus, I learned years ago that the quickest way to get certain kinds of boys who were hitting on me to leave me alone was to be forthright about the music I loved that they considered crap. “Yes, I see you posturing there. Do you see me skanking during the song you’re mad the DJ is playing or bobbing my head to Public Enemy as I chat with my friend? Oh, you’re leaving? Such a shame…”

    Me glaring at someone at a club
    It wasn’t like I was an inviting person to start with…

    I’m not claiming I love all music. Though, so far, I’ve found that there’s usually a song or two of the types I’ve heard that I enjoy. And not just obscure things. I’m sure I lose my punk card, my goth card, my alternative card, and an assortment of other cool kid membership cards when I gleefully sing along to Taylor Swift or have kitchen dance parties with Jay-Z and Rihanna. When I put on some Genesis or Dire Straits or Fleetwood Mac on purpose. When I don’t protest if my guitarist says I have to check out the new JT (that’s Justin Timberlake, cool kids) album. And I know plenty of rock kids who don’t get it when I spend a night listening to nothing but Chopin’s piano pieces or won’t let them switch albums until I’m done with the whole Salt-N-Pepa album I’m in the middle of. And so on and so forth.

    Please also note that I’m not claiming to be an expert on everyone I like to listen to. Not at all. I haven’t had the luxury (of time or of memory) for that since I was about 15. Even then, I always felt a little obnoxious trying to prove I was a super-fan via knowledge of trivia. Because that’s not what it’s about.

    I love wallowing in songs I’ve enjoyed for ages. I love hearing new things I enjoy. I love to lose myself in a song, an album, a playlist. I love songs that make me cry and songs that make me dance and songs that make me want to grab someone pretty and do scandalous things.

    Me dancing whilst I sing
    Wallowing in my own music, hoping for scandal

    If we’re listening to music from my collection and it’s on shuffle and I warn you that you will probably end up disappointed in me, that’s not an apology. Not at all.

    If we’re listening and something shuffles up that I skip, it’s not shame. It might be that I know you’ll be offended and I’m sparing you or it might be something added to my massive collection by a friend or partner that I have yet to clear out.

    If I explain that I know a song I love is kind of lame but there’s this particular emotional context. I’m not ashamed of loving the song. I’m just acknowledging that some of my tastes have more to do with emotions than with the actual song.

    But my own ridiculously eclectic musical tastes are not something of which I’m ashamed. And I sincerely believe they make me a better musician. Rawr!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Very Selective in My Friendships

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I suppose this ties into the last two weeks’ posts. I mean, maybe this is because I’m an introvert and I’m reclusive.

    When I was younger, I scrambled for friendships. I think that I did it because society taught me that having loads of friends was normal and a measure of just how well I was doing in life. I think that I did it because I thought that enough friends would prove (to others and to myself) that I had worth. I think that I did it because I was afraid of what I might find if I were alone with myself.

    But I…I want to say I outgrew that, but I don’t want to imply that there was anything wrong with wanting loads of friends. In fact, I think it probably is normal to want that. That the majority of people, for at least part of their lives, want that. I don’t look down on people for wanting it.

    But as I grew to really like myself and not be afraid to be alone with me. As I spent time alone with me and found that I really, really loved being alone. As I learned that “normal” didn’t necessarily mean “better” or “best for everyone.” As I had some really incredible friends who helped me see that that was the level of friendship I wanted if I were going to put aside the art I was making or the beauty of solitude and give time and attention to other people. As that all happened, I grew into a self who had rather high standards for friendship.

    Now, I understand that what I consider my bottom line for friendship is higher than what others consider that line. I know what you probably mean when you call someone a friend. And I don’t judge you for that. What right is it of mine to judge? Friendships are personal things, aren’t they?

    And I use the word “friend” the way that you do when I talk to you, because I don’t see the value in having to preface every use with an explanation and with, I’ve learned from experience, trying to help you not feel hurt that, whilst I like you as much as people that you like and call “friend,” I don’t use that word the same way and…Yeah, it gets a bit much.

    I might not agree with all his thoughts, but Michel de Montaigne groks my kind of friendship <3 (Not that I don’t also enjoy my acquaintances and familiar relationships...)
    I might not agree with all his thoughts, but Michel de Montaigne groks my kind of friendship <3 (Not that I don’t also enjoy my acquaintances and familiar relationships…)

    It’s been very clearly communicated to me, by people who I do consider friends, who meet my unusually strict and odd standards, that I ought to be ashamed of myself for having such high standards. (Or even for knowing clearly when people fall in my concentric circles of relationships.) They claim it means I’m unfriendly and cold and…Well, you get the point.

    As with some of the other topics about which I’ve written, I’m sorry, sincerely, if this one hurts your feelings. And I couldn’t tell you precisely why my brain has a very different picture for “friend” than yours does. (Mine probably looks more like what you consider your best friends.) Maybe I actually took to heart those idealised descriptions of what friends are in programmes, films, and books.

    But you’ll see that I still treat you kindly; I don’t automatically treat people who aren’t my friends poorly. And I can still enjoy your company. And I won’t correct you if you call us “friends.” (Not unless I feel like what you are to me is less than what typical people would consider a friend. And, even then, I don’t correct to be mean. I believe in being honest and that knowing where we stand with each other is the best for both of us.)

    Anyway, in case you can’t tell from this post or what section of the site it’s in, I’m not ashamed. Even if I didn’t have a different bar, I wouldn’t be ashamed. I don’t say this about everything on my Not Ashamed list, but: I believe we’d all profit from being very selective about our friends. We should all have only friends who are truly well-intentioned when it comes to us. Who set aside their jealousy to celebrate our victories. Who kindly, and without turning it into gossip fodder or finding some perverse satisfaction in it, hold each other in defeats. Who can be trusted with our vulnerable parts and our secrets. (And, let’s be honest, I have trust issues, so it’s not necessarily an insult if you don’t get my trust.)

    Everybody ought to feel loved and supported by their friends. If your friends make you feel uneasy or attacked or unsupported, maybe you ought to join me in being very selective.

    And, like me, don’t be ashamed of that. It’s better to be selective, to walk alone if you must, until you find those who deserve your goodness.

    (One more note: I’m sure the world has many great people who could be my good friends. But I’m also sure that finding and being friends with all of them would lead me to neglect my arts and the sanity that comes to me from solitude. I don’t feel like I “gotta catch ‘em all.” And no shame if you can’t catch me, even if you are super awesome and we are well-suited. I’m actually a difficult friend. No, really. Have you read the other posts here? I might adore you madly and think of you constantly, but that won’t be enough to get me to find nearly as much time for you as most people seem to want. Consider this so-called shameful quirk of mine your saving.)

    Now, go out and be selective! You deserve it.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Reclusive

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    This one dovetails nicely with last week’s post on being an introvert. My reclusive nature is similar (there’s overlap), but it’s not quite the same thing.

    Last month, I was talking with an older, mothering sort of friend. I said something about being a hermit, and she got a little upset with me. There are a lot of connotations that spring into mind with that word, and none of them, to a casual eye, apply to me. I tried to convince her to let me call myself reclusive, because they’re pretty much the same thing. She didn’t like that much either for similar reasons.

    When you see me, I’m not dirty or unkempt. I don’t have twigs in my hair. I’m not afraid of you or gibbering madly. I know how to be polite and hold up my end of a conversation. My home isn’t a little hut in the forest. Etc etc etc.

    Matthias Grünewald painting detail: St. Anthony visiting St. Paul the Hermit in the desert. (Detail shows St. Paul looking scraggly and hermit-y.)

    So a lot of people think I’m joking or speaking really hyperbolically when I say I’m reclusive or that I’m an urban hermit. Look at me on stage! Look at me chatting with some stranger at a bar! Look at me managing the food shopping without breaking down in fear! (If they can’t believe I’m an introvert, they definitely can’t believe that I’m reclusive. That’s a step further.)

    The thing is there’s nothing in either the definition of “reclusive” or “hermit” that requires me to be afraid (or dirty or gibbering or living in a hut). Nope. In fact, in examining myself, I don’t even think I have any real social anxiety. I mean, maybe; I might be deluding myself. But I have plenty of friends who struggle with social anxiety, and close enough friends that they’ve described it to me, and I don’t think I’m having the same experience as they are.

    For me, it’s kind of like you asking me, “Amber, would you like vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” and I’m really not hungry for vanilla, so I shrug and say, “Chocolate, please.” No big deal. And, sure, I’ll usually choose chocolate. But it’s not because I fear vanilla. There are even some times I enjoy a little vanilla.

    “Amber, would you like to leave the flat today?” I’m not afraid of it. And, sure, there are times I enjoy seeing family or friends. But, mostly, I’ll just shrug and say, “No, thanks.”

    Now, my reclusiveness is certainly at least partly there to satisfy the introvert need for time alone and the autistic appreciation for being apart so that I can prevent sensory overload. But it’s not a burden for me. I really, truly, madly, deeply love solitude. I need hours of it daily. Even from the person I love most in the whole world. (Need. I’ve tried going without and it doesn’t end well.)

    I know I touched on this last week, but I want to be clear here that there is a part of this that isn’t motivated by needing to recharge or by needing to cut down on stimulus. There is a part of this that’s a deep hunger of solitude. For days or weeks of no in-person contact with other humans.

    There was a day I was having a mad craving for Thai food. My cravings can be ridiculously strong. And there’s a really tasty place nearby that I can get to in under 5 minutes. Or that can deliver to me. Massive craving and kind of busy and all I had to do was interact with a delivery person (I can order online) and I just shrugged and thought, “No, thanks.” My craving was mad at me, but the thing deep in me that strongly prefers solitude was just beaming with contentment.

    For those who worry, no, I never neglect myself. Beyond the occasional craving denied. I never go hungry, I’ve never risked a job or messed up a gig, and I’ve never let the cat go hungry or missed a vet appointment. I’ve left the house to do kind things for others. I even drag myself out in the middle of the night sometimes to catch a film that I’d really rather see at the cinema instead of on my TV.

    I live in a city. On purpose. I love being near the things I want. Especially with this fortress of solitude into which I can retreat within minutes of being done.

    And I honestly don’t mean to confuse anyone. Nor do I like how often people think I must be lying about being reclusive in order to spare their feelings. If I were going to lie about myself or my motivations, I’d make up better stories.

    Fake postcard with child sticking his head out of a castle and saying, "I'm sorry. I am way too busy living my awesome hermit lifestyle to leave my house and party with you."

    Societies are, by nature, social. So, of course, my desire to stay tucked away in my cosy flat is seen as a shameful desire. Especially this part of it that I can’t even blame on a validated thing like introversion or autism. And I’m flattered by those who, in trying to shame me out of being myself, demand to know what right I have to deny people the awesomeness of my company. Hey, I hear you; it must be hellish to live without me as your constant companion.

    But I’m not ashamed.

    And, someday, when it turns out that what I’ve put out into the world instead of a lot of social nights is albums and books and blogs and some killer live shows, I will feel like I’ve put more than enough of myself outside of this flat. If it weren’t for my love of solitude, I couldn’t do the work to create those albums and books and blogs…I suspect I wouldn’t even have enough sense of myself and my emotional space to put on shows that are half so authentic.

    I’m not the first or the last reclusive artist. It’s a fine tradition. No shame here.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).