Happy First Day of Autumn (September 2018 Personal Updates)

It’s September 22nd and officially autumn so I’m currently decorating for Halloween, weighing different costume options, and realizing that next month is gonna go by like a whirlwind. Ah, well. At least I finally finished my Goodreads reading challenge!

Some brief updates on my life:

  • Grad school is busy, busy, busy, and even more so with student org obligations and work, but I’m gonna make it through this year if it kills me, dammit.
  • I’m getting better at giving vaccinations!
  • I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but I’ve been working with a new therapist since before summer started on some mental health things I’ve referenced on this blog in the past, and it’s helping loads with managing grad school + life stress and setting healthy boundaries. I just need to be better about the “homework” I’ve been assigned to do. (Mental health apps are a literal lifesaver.)
  • I did read way more books this year than expected (granted, a fair few were poetry books, short stories, graphic novels, and DNFs that I dropped like a hot tamale), but I’ve been better about slowing down with my reading now that classes have begun. It doesn’t feel that way sometimes, but I’m in a much better place than I was last semester.
  • I’m still not sure how I feel about alcohol since people generally assume that if you’re going to college and you’re in your 20s, you should be drinking like a fish in your free time. But since I have family members who have since passed on from their chemical addictions and because I lost a friend earlier this year to alcohol poisoning, I’m rather wary of it nowadays. I’ve been better about setting boundaries on how much I drink and when I drink and overall I’ve become that mythical person who can stop after one drink at social outings. I prefer myself much better this way, especially because it means I can still think, function, and get work done. Anyone who doesn’t respect my drinking choices probably isn’t healthy for me to be around, anyway.
  • Since I had a blood test about a year and a half ago that indicated I was pre-diabetic, it’s been a wakeup call to make healthier eating choices (even on the most stressful days) and to exercise more. Hence the renewed interest in cooking and the recipes I’ve been posting here. Many Americans are pre-diabetic and don’t know it, so I’m considering it a gift to have this knowledge early so that I can protect my good health as long as possible.
  • Word of advice: If you know you have diabetic or pre-diabetic family members, try to get your A1C checked at some point because it never hurts to know and lifestyle changes are so much cheaper than dealing with the cost of diabetic healthcare in the USA. I deal with diabetic patients every day at my job and the costs (and stress on my patients because of the costs) are horrifying.
  • Mormonism and leaving Mormonism has been on my mind lately with the Protect LDS Children initiative (and Sam Young’s subsequent excommunication over it), plus the various abuse scandals with missionaries and so on. I try not to let being an ExMormon take over my identity too much, but when a lot is on my mind, it feels like a shield, if that makes sense. Plus, I’m now more involved with the local queer/LGBTQ+ community, so I’m reminded of it since my sexuality (and gender) was a major factor in wanting to get out when I was 13/14. Someday I hope the baggage I carry will feel less heavy and the PTSD will be easier to manage.
  • Related to this blog is the writing blog I started when I was not in a good place in my life and then carried on with as a way to document my writing hobby and the recovery process. I haven’t been writing too much in the past month aside from things related to school and book reviews (mea culpa), but it’s one of the things I’m hoping to do more of instead of wasting time on social media.
  • Goals for next month/autumn (since I may not have time to post again until November): be better about socializing and keeping in touch with people because grad school makes it far too easy to become a recluse, keep my living space as organized and as clean as possible so that it doesn’t become hot chaos, and then less time on social media (I say as I refresh social media yet again lol) and more time on physical exercise and writing as much healthier coping mechanisms for anxiety.

Good luck to y’all with your goals and plans and have a lovely autumn!

 

 

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A brief word of advice to editors and readers

Normally, this is the sort of thing I’d post to the more casual blog, but I’d probably receive the third degree there for what I’m about to say.

As a hobbyist writer, I’ve been involved with online writing communities for nearly 15 years now and have experienced dozens of different kinds of writer cultures. I think I can safely say that I’ve seen most of the usual writing-and-book-publishing dramas that eventually crop up in such creative circles. I’ve also been the odd beta reader, a casual editor, and a frequent reviewer.

If there’s one bit of advice that I highly recommend to both readers and editors, it’s that in online circles where writers post more personal stuff or post more casually written things (not officially published works), one must bear in mind that many writers have egos that are as fragile as glass. 

Now, I’m not saying that you need to protect their fragile egos from criticism or rejection. Hell no. That’s unhealthy and unrealistic and quite frankly some of us writers actually prefer to hear honest critiques or to know when we make a typo in our creative writing (we exist!). Writers/artistic people can and should be responsible for managing their own emotions, reactions, mental health, and so on. But, uh, in close-knit writing groups on social media, fandom culture, etc etc it might be better for you to take a moment to think before you say something to them there because I’ve seen many folks make an off-hand comment or note something with the intention to be helpful and then immediately regret it because social media can breed such nasty backlash. You can go full Leeroy Jenkins if you want, but also be smart and protect yourself in this screwed up age of internet harassment culture, mmkay?

Also, certain writing circles can turn into toxic echo chambers of the same old advice, same old rules of etiquette, and other toxic behaviors such that folks who think differently will eventually leave (usually to form their own groups). Sometimes it’s better to gracefully bow out or otherwise stop expending so much energy rather than try to force a change on something that refuses to be changed. Because it bears repeating: Don’t set yourselves on fire to keep others warm.

Updates and August 2018 Happenings

Summer is almost over and per the usual, my plans have been more ambitious than what I was feasibly able to do in reality. Normally I’d write one of these posts at the start of next month, but because I will be very busy next month (and even busier until the winter holidays) I thought I’d jot down what passes for a blog update now.

First off, blog updates: I do intend to keep posting little recipes or cooking advice here and there, though I’ll be making more of an effort to do that at least monthly. I’ll also try to write posts like this one at least quarterly, maybe some book recs and creative writing on my writing blog. Over the past year, I’ve realized that I MUST increasingly waste less time on my other social media accounts since while the folks on there can be super friendly, the websites have been far more of a distraction to me than studying, writing, and cooking motivation. For the sake of my precious free time and mental health, I need to devote more time to quieter, less distracting tasks. WordPress is pretty nice about that, as long as I limit how often I post and edit things.

August 2018 Happenings:

  • My new job and a renewed interest in my own mental and physical well-being has pushed me to change some things about my living space and habits et. al., even if it means things like spending money on a backpack that isn’t broken, a small book I’ve wanted to read for years, or the copay for health care services.
  • To that end, my new job is fast-paced and can be quite stressful, but I’m learning from my (many) newbie mistakes and managing and it’ll help me through school and make me feel less anxious about money.
  • I don’t mention it much, but I’m reading a lot of books atm and have had to push forward my Goodreads reading goal for the year far more times than planned. I expect that to dry up by the end of next month since I’ll need to focus more on textbooks and less on fiction reads. Perhaps I’ll still have time to read and review indie short stories here and there, but I’m not making any promises.
  • Speaking of which, I’m trying to build up better study habits, but it has very much been a work in progress since I tend to get distracted very easily, especially during the summer. I’m actually digging out old calendar-type systems again since neglecting to do that since the start of May has led me to brush up against deadlines far more than I’d like.
  • August 1st marks Lughnasadh and that foreboding feeling right before the end of summer (and for me that means school, flu vaccine season, and putting up Halloween decorations). I’m not sure how I feel about this summer, strange as it has been, but I hope all of you are doing well despite the continued heat wave and forest fires and that you can have some time to enjoy the beach or swimming pool and helados for me as I will be too busy then to partake.

May you all have a nice August and hopefully my time away from this blog won’t be as long as my hiatus earlier in the year.

July 2018 Updates

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything to this blog beyond the irregular shared post on personal or writing advice (or both!), so I thought I’d make a post today instead of continuing to overthink my unplanned hiatus.

So, here are some personal happenings over the past year or so (well, since this blog was more active):

  • I’ve made new blogs and writing accounts elsewhere, which are a lot more free-spirited and good for making casual friends or acquaintances who share a lot of my interests. I won’t say where or link them (but those of you who can guess enough to know how to PM me are welcome to ask me privately). There are definite downsides to juggling different styles of blogging, but I’m not giving up on WordPress because even though the writing community here is smaller and less active, I do enjoy its simplicity and peacefulness that is relatively free of drama compared to other places.
  • I’m also writing 3 WIPs: two novel-length ones that have been stuck in my head for at least a couple years (if not much longer) and one short story just because. They’re hobbies for the time being; I’m not seriously planning to publish them within the next few years, but instead study the process of writing and have a place to creatively vent with words.
  • I’ve started grad school in the past year which, for multiple professional, financial, and personal reasons, has felt somewhat like throwing myself repeatedly into an MMA ring after having only a week of beginner’s boxing lessons. And then sometimes I manage to win a match and I go, “Huh, I guess I know more than I feel like I do.”
  • Some parts of grad school have been rather difficult because I was rather starry-eyed about being surrounded by lots of grad school friends and dropped the ball a bit on the work needed to make friendship happen. I’ll have to do better. While I have dozens of nice enough classmate acquaintances, I’ll need to think more about how I might be a better friend to them, as well as choose my friends more wisely.
  • I’ve started a new part-time job after a year of doing odd jobs and mostly having too much time for a brain as anxious as mine is. The work can be stressful, but I like that it challenges my brain and keeps me moving and focused on my schoolwork and adulting skills. I hope I can stay on with this one, no matter how busy I get, at least until I earn my degree in a few years if not longer. It’s not the sort of work I planned to be doing 6 months ago, but I’ve changed my mind about what I’m interested in since then.
  • On that note, I started up one-on-one therapy again. It’s not perfect (therapists who have expertise in spiritual abuse and cults are unfortunately rare), but my therapist does know a fair bit about PTSD and so I have hopes that I can improve my patterns of thinking and make them healthier, since now I’m not only responsible for my own health, but also the patients I encounter when working or volunteering. I often have this image of myself as having to be strong and capable for the others who rely on me, but that’s not possible if any aspect of my health (mental or physical) is teetering off a cliff.
  • I’ve also started doing my own spiritual practices again. Last year, I was expecting to have joined a UU congregation by now, but I’ve concluded that going to a church building every Sunday might be more triggering than I originally thought. So, I can do my own thing instead, something I do for myself and keep fairly private, and can return to on my own terms and whenever I have time, considering how chaotic my schedule can be.
  • I would also be lying if I didn’t mention here that I am very worried for the future of my country and trying to do what I can to preserve the interests of future generations while picking my battles wisely and trying not to fight all of them alone, given that allies and potential allies are everywhere. There are many ways I can help, more than what one might see on the nightly news. I’ve always wielded my sense of politeness (even reservation) and easy ability to get on with those much older than me like armor, as if to protect myself from the things I experienced in my childhood and prevent them from ever harming me again. However, it occurs to me that the things I’m learning and the skills I’ve developed over the years can extend that armor to others, and I really ought to do that when I have the spoons.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I hope everyone is having a nice start to their July so far, and if not, I hope you have easier days soon.

If you’re currently working on a summer project or anything, I’d be happy to hear about that, too!

Best things of 2016

Tonight starts the final countdown to this long and complex and difficult year, but instead of adding to the general negativity, I thought I’d reflect on the good things that have happened to me.

I don’t intend to diminish the bad things that have happened to people, but I do want to ring in 2017 by celebrating what made this past year a little brighter. If you have something of your own to celebrate or if you want someone to talk to about 2016, feel free to leave a comment below.

  1. I got into my professional program of choice. This was by far the greatest thing that has happened to me in a long time because it meant the years of work and choices all the way back to when I was a wee one finally meant something tangible. I still have a long way to go before I start, but I am so happy that I can pursue a career I love.
  2. My family got a puppy! (Picture included below as a gift to my followers.) It was exhausting at first since she was much like a needy newborn for a month or so, but she’s been the light of all of our lives since then. I can’t imagine my family without her anymore; she is a blessing and a joy.
  3. I started reading more books again. Maybe that would sound strange to some people who know me as an insatiable bookworm, but I stopped really reading books, even those useful for classes, for about a year and a half or so. I read maybe one or two at most during that time when normally I’d read at least one a week. Something clicked this past summer and I started to read books for fun instead of viewing them as a chore or something not worth the time investment. I’ve enjoyed so many books since then. It’s made me a better reader, writer, and thinker these past few months.
  4. I finally sought out a therapist when I really needed help instead of pretending I could continue to fight on my own. Without going into too many details, having a therapist has helped me because I had an objective outsider advising me on my behaviors and mental health. It made all the difference for my motivation. (It also helped me to see that I am very much an unreliable narrator of my own life, something I will try to work on in the future.)
  5. Through a combination of seeking out support groups and different communities, I have realized and accepted some important things about myself and others. I enjoyed the countless stories, the great entertainment, developing friendships, attending events, and feeling more comfortable in my own skin.

As for 2017, I intend to keep working on myself and to try to be a source of support and lightness in others’ lives. I want to be more comfortable with both accepting and giving. I want to read more books, listen to great music, rock the dance floor, walk the dog, and enter my career program with a spectacular start.

I wish all of you strength, happiness, and good health in 2017 as well.

puppy_may2016

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Thoughts on Skating and Failure

I grew up in the Southwest, so ice skating is still a bit of a novelty for me. Out there, you could rollerblade or skateboard, but winter sports were out of the question unless you had enough money to travel.

On the other hand, I’ve always had a soft spot for winter sports, dating all the way back to when I first tuned into the Winter Olympics on our family’s fuzzy television (Salt Lake City, 2002).

It wasn’t until I got the chance to try winter sports for myself that I realized how strongly I loved it. I love feeling the cold chill in the air and being bundled up against it in a much-too-bright athletic jacket and gloves. I love that feeling of my feet flying beneath me across the ice or the snow. I love arriving indoors, breathless and rosy-cheeked, and brewing a cup of tea or coffee or cocoa after a long workout. I’m not great, but I look forward to all of my little wintertime adventures as the days grow colder.

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I’ve recharged

Without really thinking about it, I’ve taken yet another long break from blogging. Two full months, to be exact. I’ve never been good about blogging regularly, but I’d hoped the summer would have made it easier to write more often. That didn’t happen.

I could excuse it on account of career/future planning demands (true). I could try to excuse it on a lot of family matters and shifting dynamics that have come up (also true).

But I know I could have made time for it, just like I’ve made time for other things in the past two months. I really just didn’t feel like blogging for a while; I didn’t feel like publicizing my thoughts/experiences on the Internet. I held them close in my journals instead.

Maybe it’s because (hormonal or stress-related or otherwise), my thoughts/words took a dark turn in June/early July and I wanted to wait until I was okay again. I felt like my writing (essay, fiction, or research) was a lie. False, broken, nothing. I felt like a fraud. Like I had all these hopes and dreams and others hoped and dreamed for me too and I was going to let them all down horribly. I was cranky and rude and cried myself to sleep for over a good week when it got really bad.

I’m still not sure how got the strength to I pull myself out of the rut, but here I am, blogging again with my usual rambling and insertion of personal details that are maybe a bit much.

One thing I did do is recharge. The last few months (and year, really) have been stressful and emotionally draining for an idealistic dreamer like me and I haven’t been practical enough to let some of the burdens go or make real progress in talking them out with others. It’s been too tempting to escape instead, but fortunately I’ve had time to turn some of those escapes into chances to recharge.

So, I’ve done things I haven’t been able to do in a long time. I’ve hiked. I’ve slept in. I’ve woken up early. I’ve eaten healthy food and junk food and experimented with recipes. I’ve paid for a ridiculous amount of Kindle e-books and finished two book series within days of each other. I’ve updated my library account and avoided reading too many current events or negative websites. I’ve reached out to old friends and new friends. I’ve visited a place where my career could take me and loved the experience. I’ve tried not to stress to much about my future or how difficult it is to articulate what I want in 4500 characters or less. I’m starting to think about being kinder and practicing more self-care and including more socialization—even dating—in that category of self-care (something that used to terrify me).

So even though the summer has mostly gone by without my blogging input and I’m not sure if I’m able to keep it up on top of everything else without sacrificing bigger priorities, I’m glad to be back on my feet, more or less, and I’m grateful that I had a chance to at least talk about it here.

I hope all of you are doing well, but know some of you might also be struggling to stay afloat. If you need to talk to someone about it, I’m happy to listen. Best of luck to all of you today with your current problems, your hopes, and your pursuit of dreams and futures and happiness.

– Cinnia

How I Write

It probably goes without saying that I love to write, probably just as much as I love to read. I love flexing my creative muscles, but also consider blogging a close companion — it’s been my years-long, ill-kept secret means of unleashing my energy and weird thoughts on the Internet.

In many ways, writing makes me feel like a guest invited to another world or into the lives of my characters and my readers, though this probably makes the process seem more formal and organized than it truly is.

A more apt description, perhaps, is that I become a fly on the wall, privy to scenes and thoughts and emotions that seem to spring from my mind to my fingertips when I start writing them down. It’s almost like I hear the words and the descriptions and the poetry, but not quite — it’s something that becomes heard once it’s written, but until then it’s far away but ever-noticeable, like a train horn sounding off in the distance.

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The Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May

Today is May 25th, the day Terry Pratchett fans wear the lilac as a reference to his beloved Discworld series (and also, more recently, in honor of the author and other Alzheimer’s patients). It is also, quite wonderfully coincidentally, Towel Day for Douglass Adams fans (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series) and, as Jack reminded me, World Tarot Day. Let me take a moment to remind you, in case you forgot: DON’T PANIC.

But for me, this day is particularly special.

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Revisiting Stories: Bitterblue

From my past experiences of reading books and watching movies, I know that I tend to intensely identify with one or two of the characters. Sometimes I think about how they would behave in my life situations and how I would in theirs. I don’t think this habit is all that uncommon, but if you want to read up more on it, see exhibits A and B.

This post, in contrast to the thousands of reviews on Kristen Cashore’s Bitterblue novel, explores the connection I developed while reading this book a few years ago and my recent re-reading to explore why it affected me so strongly. Rather than focus on the plot, I’m focusing more on the points of personal connection as a bit of a psychological exercise.

Slight Spoilers Ahead!
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