“I’ve had a lot of experience with semantics, so don’t try to lure me into some maze of circular logic.”

couple separating

I know I haven’t said a word about the Beyoncè show.  I’m still processing the experience.  Spoiler:  🤯🤪🤩😁😍😭😍😭🙃  I finished reading a novel for the Gettin’ Grown podcast book club last night, titled, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.  (It’s an Oprah book club edition.)  I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the story.  Marriage is a painful subject for me.  (Skirting spoilers, sorry if I tripped.)

I realized about halfway through the book how much it mirrored my (former) marriage.  How circumstances beyond our control sabotaged both our relationships.  While the sabotage differs, the effects on those involved are remarkably similar.  It allowed me to see things from another perspective, where before I didn’t have one.  The way my marriage ended was so far outside my experience and understanding it left me emotionally paralyzed.

The novel brilliantly allows the reader to exist in the minds of the main characters, getting a complete and intimate view of their perspectives.  It’s like watching a movie filmed from the eyes of the actors.  All the minute details we don’t consciously collect are just so.  I lived this story as different individuals, and I understood their feelings.  I effortlessly adopted their thought language as my own.  I was male at times, and female, others.  I gained insight into how it feels to be a black man in America today.

marital tensionI’m intrigued by the writing.  Tayari Jones is an impressive author.  The small details and phrasing that stand out and beg for memorization are like Easter Eggs in novels.  I’m so glad I read this book, and I highly recommend it.  It’s packed with useful information about how to survive when your world explodes without notice, and it’s not your fault, and there’s nothing you can do to reverse it.

Everyone knows we’re supposed to get back up when we fall.  Thank goodness for the people that show us how.  I put a lot of trust in books, music, and art.  It’s because it’s people giving us their best after a lifetime of training and practicing.  Most artists have to compete fiercely even to get noticed.  I’m sure there’s corruption involved in who gets famous, but I’m excellent at recognizing unicorns.  They catch me up when I lose faith in humanity.

Even though I still get twinges from my mom’s spirit when fangirling over famous people, I hold tight to my unicorns.  My mom had an incredible record for being right.  I had accepted this by the time I was 12, merely because it was statistically logical, and painful to ignore.  However, in this single instance, I think she was wrong less than right.

mother nurturing puppiesI don’t think it’s unreasonable to appreciate the gifts these incredible artists give for little in return.  I love my obsessive tendencies.  They’re part of who I am.  So is my need to express my delight in what others give me.  I realize most people don’t study every interview with Stevie Nicks on Youtube.  They probably don’t continually reread long epic novels and marvel over the useful information presented in such an enthralling manner.

Not everyone wept (with joy) while watching Beyoncè be so Beyoncè.  I may be the only one who grieved the loss of my little sister with Amy Lee and her beautiful songs that expressed what I felt when I couldn’t find the words.  I’m probably the only one who has to listen to ABBA Gold on repeat to participate in raids in video games, (but I usually get at least three other people to sing along and celebrate their fabulous, universally adored music with me.)

It’s probably about time, but I think I’ve finally grown beyond the need to escape epic guilt by only doing what my mom approves.  Her stings from beyond the grave no longer rule me.  Instead, they remind me how much I needed my mom for most of my life.  I realize now she was the perfect mom for me.  She’s a significant, bright part of who I am, and I’m glad.  Even though she died, she’s always with me.  So is Beyoncè, Stevie Nicks, Amy Lee, J. K. Rowling, Sheryl Crow, Oprah, and so many others who nurture my spirit through their creations.

Here’s every word my mom ever said to me about spirituality:  Don’t take the bible literally.  She raised me up but isn’t part of my spiritual data gathering.  It tickles me (now) because her words were necessary.  I just laughed hard remembering what I was like before my mom gave me this advice.  When I was eight, we got kicked out of our church.  I recall my brother swallowing the Sunday School goldfish on a dare as the reason.  My inner adult suggests there were probably several prior incidents involved in the decision.

The Great Upside-Down Philosopher by Rube Goldberg

All my biblical knowledge came from songs I learned in Sunday School.  After we stopped attending church, I went through the house and stole all the bibles I could find, then hid them under my mattress.  (No idea.)  It’s also when my friendship with Jesus may have grown a bit obsessive.  I developed my continuous internal conversation with him (and stopped talking to anyone else.)  We talked about everything like we were aliens exploring and observing earth.

Now I’m starting to get self-conscious because I’ve never told anyone about this.  🤫  I assumed everyone did it.  (I still do it, but I often doubt my Jesus is THE Jesus these days.)  I suck as an atheist or anti-theist.  The more I reject Christianity, the more time I spend wrestling over it in my mind.  I forgot what it’s like to take a shower without weeping over the horrible, awful shit people do to other people every single freaking day.  How can I hate organized religion so much while also loving the people who hold tightly to it?  What kind of never-Catholic-atheist loves the Pope?  What the entire hell?

So I keep reading and listening and watching.  I don’t call myself a Christian because I don’t understand it.  I still feel like an alien on this planet.  I’m just thankful for these invisible connections that comfort and guide me through this maze of unknowns known as life.  I’m fascinated by how our spirits can and do lift each other up from even the deepest pits of despair without our ever even crossing paths in the physical realm.  I don’t understand it, but I love it.  I’m off to band practice.  💜

“Ah. Catalog writer’s block?”

Once upon a time...

I’m living in my head in no small degree of late.  I’m not stuck, I’m in fascination overload.  I love it here.  I’m learning so much so quickly.  I feel almost like The Lawnmower Man, (before the madness.)  I understand humans more profoundly than before.  I’m giving my mind some breathing room to process my third reading of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, (ASOIAF.)  I’m on season 2 of the HBO series.  (I need to pick up the pace.) 😉

In the meantime, I’m reading the Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler.  I haven’t read the final book, yet.  When I do, it will mean I’ve read all she published.  It occurred to me the stories I’m reading now are clarifying and expanding the wisdom I’ve acquired from the other epic series I’m studying, (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and ASOIAF.)

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler’s voice reaches me easily, much to my delight.  (She’s who I’ve chosen as my ((imaginary)) writing mentor.)  I love reading books by authors whose voices require no internal translation.  John Scalzi, Stephen King, John Irving, Ernest Cline, Peter F. Hamilton, and J. K. Rowling are some favorites with this skill.  I also appreciate imagined dialects that can enhance the otherness of a world.  George R. R. Martin used neglected words to help shape his world.  Brilliant, eh?

I’m sad Octavia E. Butler died young, (58.)  I would have done whatever reasonable to meet her, otherwise.  I’m serious about her being my mentor.  When I first discovered her novels, I was initially a bit upset.  I didn’t want to read about enduring slavery.  (I avoid horror because it horrifies me.)  But the novel claimed to be science fiction, so I stuck with it.  I survived but was understandably sure Octavia E. Butler’s books weren’t for me.

Then the thinking about it began.  What I read wouldn’t leave me alone.  I realized I wasn’t ready to dismiss an author that managed to climb inside my mind and rearrange the furniture.  Despite the fact it hurt me to read about humans embracing their darkest, most vile impulses.  It scares the shit out of me to acknowledge the human capacity for evil.  I’m a human.

I can’t be a tree.  It’s outside my control.  I can only be a human pretending to be a tree.  My mind forgets and returns to human thoughts.  My perception remains that of a black woman from South Dakota.  My roots are invisible, and I barely believe in them.  It feels as silly as pretending to be a tree.  So I faced my fears and processed what the book taught me.  What I discovered astonished me and prompted my journey of reading her entire catalog.

Octavia E. Butler

I don’t have the words to define what I’m gaining from reading Octavia E. Butler’s books.  Healing comes pretty close.  I’m still grokking.  And growing, and forgiving, and understanding.  I’m a unicorn magnet.  😁  I added two more podcasts:  The Read and The Friendzone.  I love, love, love them.  Aside from catching up on ‘Thrones, and my We Bare Bears obsession, I’m over TV.  I prefer podcasts.  (Plus, I have a massive girl crush on Chrissle.)

I wrote a letter to Octavia E. Butler, yesterday.  I told her all about the story I’m creating and asked for advice on how to begin.  (I know she’s dead, I’m not sending it! 😂)  It was a long letter.  In fact, it was a short story in need of a rewrite or ten.  (!!!)  See?  She’s a fabulous mentor.  (Please imagine an emoji taking a bow.  Thank you.)  🙃

In my mind, all these epic tales are a single story with varied voices and perspectives.  They’re crucial pieces of the map I use to navigate life.  They’re teaching me how to heal from PTSD, how to cope with chronic depression and anxiety, and why humans are worthy of my love and attention.  They’re convincing me I can survive and reminding me I have reserves no matter how spent I feel.  They’re helping me forget I can’t be a tree.  I’m off to beat my drums with sticks.  ✌🏽

“If she doesn’t show up, we can’t possibly have dinner with him alone.”

people having fun

I’m on the fifth book in the series, A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin titled, A Dance with Dragons.  Unlike many others who love this series, I’m not ready for the next book.  I’m not impatiently waiting for its release.  Instead, I’m trying to catch up.  The story has many layers, many of them so blatant; they’re subtle.  I need to read the first five books a few more times.  Yay.

I thought studying literature ended when I finished university.  Especially since my field of study had few such requirements, (Computer Science.)  Now I realize it was just preparing me for a lifetime of intensive reading.  I’m presently studying several epic tales simultaneously.  They’re interrelated because they’ve become embedded in my life story.

The King Killer Chronicle, by Patrick Rothfuss, The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson, The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and of course, A Song of Ice and Fire.  (Only one of them is convincingly complete.)  I’m astonished by the depth of insight into the human condition these novels represent.

I read to gain information, and I’m most interested in people.  It’s also one of my favorite things to do when awake.  I don’t often discuss what I read because I tend to get too excited (and forget to pay attention to whether or not others are interested, ((and I’m not confident in my ability to determine said interest.))  It’s easier to avoid talking about books altogether than resist oversharing at this point.  🙃

angry intimidation

Many of the things I’m learning about human nature in these novels are disturbing.  It takes little effort to find examples in real life that substantiate the behaviors expressed in the stories.  I believe these amazing writers have a profound understanding of human nature.  We recognize ourselves and those we know in what they write.  It provides a truthful foundation for the imagined and allows us to believe, even if only for a while.

I’m coming to terms with the dark side of humanity as I read.  I’m growing emotional callouses.  Most of us are capable of choosing whether or not to harm others.  The majority of humans don’t want to hurt anyone, (and don’t.)  I call it rational behavior.  I’m learning to understand how to cope with those who harm deliberately.  President Gregor Clegane and his venomous cult make it necessary.  I’m off to continue studying.  ✌🏽

“Sven-jolly? I didn’t say Sven-jolly.”

mother reading to child
The Invisible Story, I presume. Shh.

I’m presently re-reading A Game of Thrones in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin.  I only made it to season 4, episode 8 of the HBO series.  (The Mountain and the Viper.)  I suspect I’ve witnessed too much real violence to find entertainment in (or much tolerance for) the acted versions.

Fortunately, I can handle the novels.  PTSD triggers are unpredictable and nonsensical sometimes.  I read the books before the series, but the actors are who I visualize while reading this time.  Props to whoever cast the show.

My perceptions of many of the characters have changed between readings.  For example, I felt sympathetic to Catelyn Stark ten years ago.  Now, I find her snobbery disturbing and am offended by how she mistreats John Snow.  I didn’t notice these traits a decade ago.

I’m fascinated by the details.  It’s like I’m reading the story in ultra-high definition, this time.  Heh.  I’m studying the writing and pondering all the data extracted so far, trying to build a sense of what’s to come (so I can brace for it.)

I haven’t read or discussed any series spoilers for the episodes I haven’t watched.  I’m curious, but I want to form a few theories of my own before I find out.  My ego can have this one since it’s harmless.  Yay.  🙃  I think the No! I Want To Do It Myself! Mindset was no phase.

That's no moon, it's a space station.

That’s no moon, it’s a space station.  – Obi Wan Kenobi

I knew once I was ready to make writing my career, something else would probably get neglected.  It looks like that something is video games.  I haven’t played Warcraft in a while, (even though my annual subscription just renewed.)  Usually, the guilt of having paid for it already draws me back.

There’s an expansion pack coming out soon, but I haven’t even read about it.  I feel grateful to Blizzard for all the non-violent and funny content they include for people like me.  Ah, well.  It’s there for me if I need it, so it’s all good.  🤪

M has been teasing me for using Game of Thrones words.  Heh.  Yep, I like the word, jape.  Yep, I plan on using it as often as possible in the foreseeable future.  Yep, I adopt dialect alterations based on novels that intrigue me.  Who doesn’t?  I’m off to practice.  ✌🏽

“An overdue book from 1971? This is a joke, right?”

The Outsider, by Stephen King

I finished reading, The Outsider, by Stephen King.  I read it over the course of two days because it wouldn’t leave me alone.  Stephen King is just showing off at this point.  He’s cracked the passwords to our private fear vaults, and rifled through that old shit we only think about in nightmares.  Then he baited the novels hook with psychological crack.  Even the artwork on the cover got me.

I didn’t get much sleep between readings.  At least not the type that leaves me feeling rested.  I had vivid stress dreams, but couldn’t remember them when I awoke.  My usual trigger of being stuck in an impossible-to-survive situation, no doubt.  Despite this, I’m glad I read it.  It will take some pondering time to nail down what I gained from the book, but I suspect it’s a better understanding of people.

Before The Outsider, I read The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, by Dan Jones.  I learned a lot, and am surprised how much I enjoyed it.  It’s closer to a textbook than I usually read for pleasure.  (I heard the narration in the voice of Robin Leach because the author was also delightfully snarky.)  I’m such a doof.

curious kitten

I also produce the movie of whatever novel I’m reading in my head as I go.  I pick the cast using famous actors I favor.  Usually, Lupita Nyong’o, Charlize Theron, Rosario Dawson, Regina King, and Natalie Portman are in everything.  So are Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, and Matt Damon.  Excellence is like play-doh.  You can mold it to any form.  And I still suck at analogies.  🙃

Now I’m reading a hilarious novel titled, The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson.  It reminds me of Forrest Gump, so far.  It’s going to get me in trouble for laughing so hard after 11 PM.  I’m surprised by how (emotionally) uninvested I am in the characters while still enjoying it so much, though.  It’s likely to change as I read further.  (I hope.)

I’m guessing there’s a hidden symbolic character sucking up all my likes.  As much as I read, I don’t think of myself as a lit geek, because it takes me a while to recognize all the cool stuff in well-written novels;  like irony and hidden symbolic characters.  Let’s blame it on saccharin.  🤫  My band has a gig tonight, so I’m trying to fend off that bitch, Anxiety.  I’m winning, but the adrenalin is still releasing against my will.  I’m relying on the likelihood, whatever happens, will probably seem funny at this time tomorrow.  💜