theferrett: (Meazel)

I knew musicals could cheer me up, but I’d never heard of one that gave me new tools to deal with chronic illness and depression. Yet when I saw Groundhog Day last Wednesday, I was so stunned by what a perfect, joyous metaphor it was for battling mental illness that I immediately bought tickets to see it again that Saturday.

I would have told you about this before, but it was too late. The show closed on Sunday. A musical that should have run, well, for as long as Phil Connors was trapped in his endless time loop only got a five-month run.

But I can tell you about it.

I can tell you why this musical made me a stronger, better person.

———————————–

So let’s discuss the original Groundhog Day movie, which is pretty well-known at this point: Bill Murray is an asshole weatherman named Phil who shows up under protest to do a report from Punxatawney, Philadelphia on Groundhog Day. He’s trapped in town overnight thanks to a blizzard. When Phil wakes up the next morning, it’s Groundhog Day again. And again. And again.

Phil goes through several phases:

  • Incredulous as he can’t believe what’s happening to him;
  • Gleefully naughty as he uses his knowledge of people’s future actions to indulge all his greatest fantasies;
  • Frustrated as he tries to romance Rita, his producer, but he’s too cynical for her and nothing convinces her to hop in bed with him unless everyone else in town;
  • Depressed as he realizes that his life is shallow and there’s no way he can escape;
  • Perplexed as he tries to rescue a dying homeless man but realizes that nothing he can do on this day will save this poor guy;
  • And, finally, beatific as he uses his intense knowledge of everything that will happen in town today to run around doing good for people.

Naturally, that’s a great emotional journey. It’s no wonder that’s a story that’s resonated with people.

Yet Groundhog Day changes just one slight emotional tenor about this – and that change is massive.

Because when Bill Murray’s character gets to the end of his journey, he’s actually content. He’s achieved enlightenment where he enjoys everything he does, toodling around on the piano because he’s formed Punxatawney into his paradise. He laughs at people who ignore him. He’s satisfied.

And when Rita, who senses this change even though she doesn’t understand why, bids everything in her wallet to dance with him at the Groundhog Dance, the Bill Murray Phil is touched but also, on some level, serene.

Andy Karl’s Phil is not happy.

We spend a lot more time in Andy’s Phil’s headspace, and at one point he breaks down because of all the things he’ll never get to do – he’ll never grow a beard, he’ll never see the dawn again, he’ll never have another birthday. Anything he does is wiped away the next morning.

Bill Murray’s Phil gets so much satisfaction out of his constantly improving the town that his daily circuit has become a reward for him.

Andy Karl’s Phil is, on some level, fundamentally isolated. People will never know him – at least not without hours of proving to them that yes, he is trapped in this time loop, he does know everything about them.  No matter what relationships he forms, he’ll have  to start all over again in a matter of hours. There’s no bond he can create that this loop won’t erase.

And so when Rita finally dances with Bill Murray, it’s shown as a big romantic moment. And in the musical –

In the musical, Rita moves towards Phil and everything freezes in a harsh blue light except for Phil.

This is everything Phil has ever wanted in years, maybe decades, of being in this loop – and instead of being presented as triumphant, everything goes quiet and Phil sings a tiny, mournful song:

But I’m here
And I’m fine
And I’m seeing you for the first time

And the reason that brings tears to my eyes every fucking time is because this Phil is not fine – he repeats the lie in the next verse when he says he’s all right. Yet this is the happiest moment he’s had in years, finally understanding what Rita has wanted all along, and this moment too will be swept away in an endless series of morning wakeups and lumpy beds and people forgetting what he is.

Yet that mournful tune is also defiant, and more defiant when the townspeople pick it up and start singing it in a rising chorus:

I’m here
And I’m fine

Phil knows his future is nothing.

Yet that will not stop him from appreciating this small beauty even if he knows it will not stay with him. Trapped in the groundhog loop, appreciating the tiny moments becomes an act of rebellion, a way of affirming life even when you know this moment too will vanish.

Can you understand that this is depression incarnate?

Which is the other thing that marks this musical. Because I said there was joy, and there is. Because when Andy Karl’s Phil enters the “Philanthropy” section of the musical (get it?), he may not be entirely happy but he is content.

Because he knows that he may not necessarily feel joy at all times, but he has mastered the art of maintenance.

Because tending to the town of Punxatawney is a lot of work. He has to run around changing flat tires, rescuing cats, getting Rita the chili she wanted to try, helping people’s marriages. (And as he notes, “My cardio never seems to stick.”)

When Bill Murray’s Phil helps people, it seems to well up from personal satisfaction. Whereas Andy’s Phil is thrilled helping people, yes, but his kindness means more because it costs him. On some level he is, and will forever be, fundamentally numb.

This isn’t where he wanted to be.

Yet he has vowed to do the best with what he can. He helps the townspeople of Punxatawney because even though it is a constant drain, it makes him feel better than drinking himself senseless in his room. He doesn’t get to have everything he wanted – also see: depression and chronic illness – and it sure would be nice if he could take a few days off, but those days off will make him feel worse.

He’s resigned himself to a lifetime of working harder than he should for results that aren’t as joyous as he wanted.

And that’s okay. Not ideal, but…. okay.

Andy’s okay.

And I think the closest I can replicate that in a non-musical context is another unlikely source – Rick and Morty, where Rick is a suicidal hypergenius scientist who’s basically the Doctor if the Doctor’s psychological ramifications were taken seriously. And he goes to therapy, where a therapist so smart that she’s the only person Rick’s never been able to refute says this to him:

“Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.

“You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control.
You chose to come here, you chose to talk to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces, your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.

“I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die.

“It’s just work.

“And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.

“Each of us gets to choose.

“That’s our time.”

And yes, Groundhog Day the musical is – was – about that lesson of maintenance, as Andy comes to realize that “feeling good” isn’t a necessary component for self-improvement, and works hard to make the best of a situation where, like my depression, even the best and most perfect day will be reset come the next morning.

And yes. There is a dawn for Andy’s Phil, of course, and he does wake up with Rita, and you get to exit the theater knowing that no matter how bad it gets there will come a joyous dawn and you get to walk out onto Broadway and so does Phil.

But you don’t get to that joy without maintenance.

And you might get trapped again some day. That, too, is depression. That, too, is chronic illness. We don’t know that Phil doesn’t get trapped on February 3rd, or March 10th, or maybe his whole December starts repeating.

But he has the tools now. He knows how to survive until the next dawn.

Maybe you can too.

—————————–

Anyway. There’s talk that Groundhog Day will go on tour, maybe even with Andy Karl doing the performances. He’s brilliant. Go see him.

The rest of you, man, I hope you find your own Groundhog Day. I saw mine. Twice.

Perhaps it’s fitting that it’s vanished.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As a reminder, I’ll be at Pandemonium Books and Games (which is an awesome store even in the absence of me) at 7:00 tomorrow to read to you, sign whatever you put in front of me, and probably go out for drinks and/or ice cream afterwards.

I hope to see you there! These donuts aren’t gonna eat themselves.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So this fall I’ll be premiering my “You’re Far Away But Your Hearts Are Close” class on running successful long-distance relationships. And to make that work, I gotta ask y’all:

What would you like to see taught in a class about long-distance relationships?

Some of the questions I’m planning on answering to the best of my ability are:

  • How can you tell if someone’s genuine online?
  • What are the best practices for transitioning from an LDR into a “real life” relationship?
  • How do you handle arguments when you’re not able to cuddle and heal properly afterwards?
  • How does New Relationship Energy affect LDRs?
  • What sorts of relationships can LDRs offer?

But the classes I teach are for you (especially if you’re attending The Geeky Kink Event, Beyond The Love, or Indegeo Conception this fall – so I ask you, “What issues with long-distance relationships would you like to see covered in an LDR class?” I can’t promise I’ll bring it up, but in the best case you might inspire an essay or two later on.

So. What sorts of long-distance relationship issues are you curious about?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Salvatore doesn’t remember me.  I’d lay money on that.  I was merely one of his victims, and probably not the most interesting.

He terrorized an entire middle school, after all.

Salvatore won the adolescence lottery – while the rest of us were still waiting on deliveries of impending hormones, he got his testosterone nice and early, shooting up to six feet tall before he finished sixth grade.  He dwarfed teachers.  And he wore wifebeater shirts to show off his muscular arms and had one deep, bellowing call:

“OPEN CHEST!”

If Salvatore saw you, and you weren’t clutching books protectively to your chest, he would punch you in the chest as hard as he could.

I got hit twice.  All it took.

So I clasped my books against my chest like it was a baby, hunching my entire body around it, as did everyone else around me.  People in the halls scurried, because when Salvatore hollered his call even the teachers mysteriously disappeared.

I’m forty-eight years old.  It has literally been thirty-five years since I had to worry about Salvatore.

But my body has still not unclenched.

I know this because I’m in personal training right now, and they are panicked about my posture.  They point out all the muscles that have atrophied because I am a habitual slumper, the damage I’m doing to my spine.  They give me exercises specifically to strengthen my neck because my head hangs forward.

It’s been a month, and when I walk the dog, it’s now uncomfortable to slump.  I have too many aches in those clusters, so it’s easier to stand straight up with my spine properly aligned.

And I feel like an idiot.

I don’t have some crazy worry that Salvatore will appear out of nowhere and punch me – that’s the sort of simplistic one-to-one bullshit that bad writers think up.  No, Salvatore’s crumbled into a finer sediment.

What I feel when I walk properly straightened is foolish.  Because I grew up in a middle school where, because of Salvatore, “standing straight” was a form of pride.  Few kids stood up straight, and those that did usually got cut down something fierce by Salvatore, or had their own unique middle school qualities that made them unappealing to Salvatore’s form of bullying.

I’m not afraid of standing straight.  It feels preposterous.  I feel like people are staring at this idiot walking by with the puffed-out chest and the straight-ahead vision, this Frankenstein bodybuilder’s swagger, and who the hell does that guy think he is?

Yet when a photo of my recent book signing – which, I should add, I’m doing another one in Boston next week, and in San Francisco the week after – surfaced on Facebook, people didn’t recognize me at first.  “You’re looking a lot younger and you seem to be more comfortable standing,” said a friend who’s known me for a decade.  If people notice the way I’m standing, it’s probably a positive impression.

Yet there’s Salvatore.

And there’s all sorts of other memories churned up by walking properly.  I’m not craning my head down to see my feet, so I can’t see where I’m stepping directly, which makes me anxious because I had issues in gym class that caused me to self-identify as a clumsy kid and oh God I’m going to trip why am I walking like this.  I read while I walked on the way to school, and subconsciously I’m angling myself to read the book – or, now, the phone – that I should be looking at while I bumble along.

(Note that #2 contradicts #1.  The archaeology of my memories do not have to make sense when combined.)

And I’ve never thought about these.  It’s just ancient history silently bending me into another shape.  It’s only once I struggle to break free of this that I see how many influences I’ve quietly absorbed to make me believe that this is how I should be.

And I remember a friend of mine, when I told him, “We’re all controlled in part by subliminal impulses we don’t quite understand” and he said, confidently, “No.  Oh, no.  I know every reason I do everything.”  And I thought, even then, that this was a comforting lie he told himself in order to maintain the illusion that he was a being of pure rationality, because the alternative – that much of what we unconsciously decide is shaped by forces we had no control over – was terrifying to him.

But the truth is, we do have our own archaeologies.  Even something as simple as standing is the sum total of a thousand memories, and a few wrong inputs at the right time can change your position forever.

Imagine how complex it gets when it comes to relationships.  Or sex.  Or sex in relationships.

And that’s not to say that you’re powerless to fight these forces.  You’re only powerless if you deny their existence.  I’ve watched my rational, knows-everything friend make exactly the same mistakes across two divorces now, headed towards a third, in part because he can never see how his unconscious habits are undercutting his stated desires.

I’m not saying I’ll learn to stand properly.  This may be a lifelong battle, as it is with my weight, as it is with my mental health, as it is with my writing.  But it’s another tool I can use to battle back something harmful.

And I keep watch. I wonder what other aspects of myself got concretized without my ever knowing it.

I wonder what parts of me I get to dig up tomorrow and replant.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Kink and BDSM Podcast Off The Cuffs had me on to discuss what it’s like writing on FetLife, but somehow I wound up talking about the time I dumpster dove for porn.

Okay. Yeah. That’s on-brand.

But there’s some good meaty conversations involving questions like “How do you accept negative feedback when people are screaming at you?” and “What is the value of engaging with people who are clearly beyond being convinced?” and “How did you get into kink?” And there’s also a great Patreon level where for every dollar you donate, they hit their in-house masochist with a new toy.

So anyway. I’m rambling over here, perhaps too honestly. You can go listen.

And if you live in Cleveland, don’t forget I’m signing my new book The Uploaded at Loganberry books tonight! Show up and get free donuts! HOW COULD YOU GET A BETTER DEAL

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I told my daughter there was only one skill you needed to perfect in life: Doing shit you don’t want to do.

“You get that one skill down, and you can master all the rest easily,” I told her.

Because it’s true. I don’t wanna exercise… but I’m doing the shit I don’t want to do. This novel’s a pain to write… but I’m doing the shit I don’t want to do. Work’s a bug-filled helltangle snarl this week…. but I’m doing the shit I don’t want to do.

I do those unwanted things because they make my life better: work gets me money to live well, writing gets me the career as a novelist I’ve longed for (hey did I mention I had a book come out yesterday?), and exercising keeps me from falling face-first dead into my minestrone soup.

I don’t have to necessarily like doing any of those things. Life’s full of maintenance tasks, little uncomfortable bits you need to do to keep the genuinely fun ones rolling.

I don’t have to want to do them, I just have to recognize that I need to do them.

“Working through jealousy” is a thing I do not want to do.

Now, I could remove the jealousy by removing all competition. We’re polyamorous, so I could tell my wife not to have any other lovers – but monogamous people often conveniently forget that dysfunctional relationships get jealous of anyone with a close emotional bond. I could start bumping her friends out of the way.  Hell, I know folks who are jealous of their spouse’s mother, and man, is that a fun place to be.

But I could trim all that down. I could have that Mike Pence rule where we agree not to ever be alone with anyone of a gender we could potentially be attracted to. I could guilt my wife into calling her daughters less often, punish her by sulkings and silence when she dared to call them. I could do my best to trim out the competition…

And life would suck in new and different ways, because my wife would be a lot unhappier and less willing to be generous to me and there we’d be, locked in a cage of our self-making.

No. My wife having a vibrant social life with close friends and lovers and relatives means that she brings back all sorts of interesting gossip and new movies to watch and just genuine happiness from seeing people she loves. And in turn, that makes her willing to let me go hang with the people I love.

So time to do the shit I don’t wanna do, and handle the jealousy when she’s out on a date with someone else. Maybe I go for a long walk. Maybe I flirt with someone else. Maybe I need to find a friend with a shoulder I can sob into.

Yet I’ve had well-meaning partners who’ve witnessed my mopiness and blackmailed me.

“I can’t stand seeing you unhappy,” they say. “So unless you can manage to become ecstatic about this, I’m going to lop off all the portions of my life that inconvenience you.”

Don’t you fucking dare.

Look. Part of who I am is “occasionally insecure.” And the partners who try to blackmail me into joy mean well – because they don’t feel jealousy, and they genuinely believe that if they did everything right then I’d dissolve into a cloud of brightly-colored butterflies and do the dance of the galactic unison.

That’s not me.

I’m insecure, but I do my best to own it. And over years of dating, I’ve learned that for me, the choice is “Swallow back some insecurity from time to time” or “Wall off my partner’s options until they’re so miserably captive they break out and leave me.”

I choose to swallow back some insecurity because it’s objectively the better call. I spend a few mopey nights, but in return I get a jazzed-up partner who adores me and comes bouncing back into the room to squirt love all over me and who doesn’t want that?

And I know you mean well, but telling me “I can’t do anything until you’re not just willing, but rhapsodic about it” is a form of emotional blackmail. I mean, sure, if I’m so constantly miserable that our relationship dynamic becomes entirely about reassuring my insecurities? Then maybe it’s time to go, because that shiz is unhealthy. You can’t have all misery.

But I can’t have all happiness, myself. Life can be fulfilling for me and I can still have those nights of “You go have a date, I’ll find some way to compensate for my loneliness this evening.” Because that’s normal, man. Nobody likes sitting at home alone when there’s fun times that you can’t attend.

(And that subtle “YOU MUST BE HAPPY” emotional blackmail often extends into the twisted logic of “WELL THEN MY PARTNERS ARE INVITED TO ALL THE FUN TIMES” and the concomitant “We only date as a couple” shitfall that often leads to forcing attractions that don’t actually work and third-wheel syndrome and the terror of disappointing your partner by not being into someone… but that’s a whole other essay for another time.)

But no. Look. My life is filled with shit I don’t want to do, that I do do because the payoff’s greater than the grump. I don’t like being frumpy and jealous, but the reward for handling the occasional discomfiting emotion responsibly is way better than creating a relationship that rests entirely on a thin crescent of our Least Common Denominator.

And I know you mean well. But don’t try to armwrestle my emotional maintenance into unfettered joy. It’ll just make me more miserable because now I’ll feel like something’s broken within me as opposed to this grungy task I gotta do to clear the pipes.

I would instead suggest, tentatively, that perhaps your learning to not require paroxysms of euphoria with my every acceptance is the shit you gotta do that you don’t wanna.

Maybe get to work on that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’ve never been sure how to promote my book The Uploaded.

Is it a tale of immortal brain-Gods, all your craziest Facebook relatives uploaded to the Internet as alt-living people where they will vote forever and never die?

Is it a family drama about what happens when half your family is dead but won’t stop making excuses for why they’re still making your life miserable?

Is it a book about Amichai, a living kid struggling to find a place in a world where uploading consciousnesses has become so habitual that “being alive” has fallen out of fashion?

Is it a book with a kick-ass super-pony named Therapy who loves carrots and sick sisters?

No matter. All my months of dithering have led us to this moment where The Uploaded is now available for release in North America.  (You Brits, for unknown reasons, have to wait two days.)  And so I ask you to do the things for me that you would do for any author you love, in the order in which they help:

  1. Purchase.  Buying the author’s books is the greatest thing you can always do for them, since it encourages publishers to buy more books and keep their careers going.  The Uploaded is available at pretty much any bookstore – Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, and various Indie booksellers.  (I don’t care where you buy it, as long as you did, and thank you.)
  2. Promote.  There’s a lot of books out there, and a single Tweet or Facebook update saying, “Hey, {$Author} has a book out today!” helps a lot.  People mostly buy books recommended by their friends.  You even mentioning it is a stealth recommendation, so your social push helps more than you can know.
  3. Review.  Retailers push books that have more reviews.  They say that 50+ reviews on Amazon is the magic number.  So even if you don’t like the book and leave a negative review, that helps the book.  (And of course to my mind, you’re not obligated to like it, although most of the people who liked Flex/et al seem to also like this book.) So when you’re done, figure out how many stars it’s worth and type up a sentence or two.  It really helps.
  4. See The Author On His Book Tour.  This year I’ll be attending Cleveland (this Thursday!), Boston, and San Francisco.  Showing up to say hello convinces book stores that hey, it’s worth having this person out here.  Also it makes a socially anxious author like, you know, me feel less anxious knowing you’re coming.

Anyway.  Here’s all the links for The Uploaded.  Thank you if you choose to mention it anywhere.  If you purchase it, I hope it prods your brain and then breaks your heart in all the ways I intended, because it’s a dystopia, but it’s a dystopia with a weird hopefulness.

Or so I hope.

Excerpt of the first two chapters for your perusal

Buy The Uploaded at B&N

Buy The Uploaded at Amazon

Buy The Uploaded at Powells

Buy The Uploaded at Indie bookshops

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’ll be appearing in just three cities to promote my new post-singularity thriller The Uploaded, and then I will not tour again until 2019.  So if you want to see a weasel, may I suggest now?

I’ve made Facebook events for all these dates, but Facebook is terrible at reminding me which friends live in which towns.  In my mind, all my friends live on the Internet.  If I didn’t invite you, that’s because I forgot you lived there.  (If I haven’t accepted your friend request on Facebook yet, that’s because I stopped accepting new friends on Facebook in 2014 after Facebook showed me linkbait news stories yet never told me that two good friends had major deaths in their families.  For me, Facebook gives people an illusion that I know what’s going on their lives when it fails at the one thing it claims to do, meaning that I’m pretty much on Facebook only for my Mom.)

So anyway, the point is that if you are planning on going, or even merely interested, accepting that Facebook invite helps get the word out to your social network, which in turn helps me out.  So do a guy a favor and share as widely as you can?

Anyway.  Book tour begins.  It’s tiny this time around, but my book is grand.  And yes, we will have donuts and/or cupcakes even though The Uploaded is a donutless dystopia!  Why?  Because I frickin’ love donuts and cupcakes, that’s why.  And as usual, I’ll try to go out for drinks afterwards and hang with as many people as possible, because part of the joy of doing this is seeing you all.

September 7th: Cleveland, Ohio
Loganberry Books
13015 Larchmere Blvd, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

September 14th: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Pandemonium Books
Pleasant St, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

September 23rd: San Francisco, California
Borderlands Books
866 Valencia Street, San Francisco, California 94110
Exact time currently unknown, probably afternoonish?

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Trainers are super unfair. I have pretty decent biceps and thighs, I know what I can bench-press. It’s not terrible. But you know what she works on?

Teeny, teeny little muscles between my shoulder blades.

Apparently my posture sucks, so they’re working on my “core,” which is a synonym for “all the muscles nobody even thinks about.” She comes at my shoulderblades from over the shoulder, under the shoulder, round the side, all these little exercises designed to push my spine straighter.

She gives me a forty-pound dumbbell and I relax. Big heavy weights are easy. Because I know the real agony’s gonna be when she hands me a three-pound weight and asks me to lift something I didn’t know I could lift.

So not fair.
————————-
Until now, my body’s basically been a carrying case for my head. I’ve done jogging and other exercises, which gave me greater strength, but none of that involved paying attention; I just ran and things got stronger.

Now we’re discovering how little I know about my body.

She’s continually telling me, “Get your shoulders back.” I thought they were. “Stand with your feel square with your shoulders.” I thought they were. “Spine straight.” I thought it was.

I have no idea what my body’s supposed to feel like.

We’ve had to devise an entirely new language to handle me, because I can’t comprehend “Shoulderblades drawn back.” Instead, she taps me on the area that’s supposed to feel tired if I do it right, and then I wriggle around while lifting until I do whatever I have to that makes that burn.

She normally starts people off with small weights so they don’t hurt themselves. She’s learned that with me, you go with big weights so I can start exhausting myself on the first stroke and feel where I’m supposed to be.

Which is weird. I’ve lived in this body for 48 years and apparently don’t know it at all.

I can’t decide whether that’s awesome or terrible.
—————————-
I now need a sweatband because I dribble sweat all over the place. I keep looking for somewhere to wipe things off, because every BDSM dungeon I’ve ever been to has sterilization towels. I know you wipe off your playspace when you’re done.

This is a small gym. I think they clean up after we’re gone. But still, I’m looking for the handi-wipes all the time.

And wishing I wasn’t such a squishy sweatmonster.
———————-
Standing is exhausting now. I used to do it all the time, but I was doing it wrong; knees locked, feet askew, slumped. Now whenever I stand you can see me adjust – I stand, realize I’m standing wrong, shuffle my feet awkwardly, and straighten.

It’s not natural. Gini had to go to gait therapy to learn how to walk properly, lifting her feet so she didn’t trip, and she said it was super-awkward. Now it’s second nature to her.

Maybe it will be one day to me, but it’s still weird.
———————-
Standing properly is unflattering. Slumping forward juts your jaw way out, hides those double-chins, folds your belly over. Standing tall draws you back so you have nowhere to hide from your fatness, like you’re shoving your belly out to shake hands with people.

I look in the mirror and wince, then realize that maybe I shouldn’t have been hiding that anyway.
————————
She has a little metal doodad she lubes up and then rakes along my triple-bypass scar. She claims it’ll break up the adhesions, get my chest more open. I cringe all the time because anyone touching my scar tissue is like someone opening up my heart all over again.

It does seem to be working, though.
———————-
The little metal doo-dads cost $3,000 a set and there are three competing brands each of which have their own classes and zealous adherents.

I didn’t even know metal scar-scrapey doo-dads existed, let alone there was a whole fandom centered around them.

The world’s full of things I don’t know.
——————–
This is expensive. We can’t do this forever. But then again, if this turns out to actually keep us alive and healthier for longer, isn’t it worth the expense? I mean, if we took all the money we spent eating out and poured it into this, wouldn’t that be better?

Cash is weird now.

Maybe it would be worth it. Hard to say.
———————-
I don’t feel that much stronger yet. I don’t feel fit. It’s not like jogging, where I saw immediate progress – I’d run two more minutes, I’d run faster, I’d jog upstairs without getting winded.

This is core work, so it’s weird. I stand straighter. People tell me I look a little more confident. But she keeps switching exercises all the time, differing ones on Monday and Wednesday and Friday, so I’m never hitting the same weedly little muscles twice when I remember them.

I’m making progress. But it feels like I’m making progress at things that aren’t that important. But they assure me it is important, and so does Gini.

I’m not quitting. It’s not terrible. It’s just not the swoleness I thought it would be by now.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“My sweetie Fox wants to go see the eclipse,” I said to my wife. “Do you want to come?”

“Where would we go?”

I got out a map of the Zone of Totality, where the sun would be completely obscured – a thick line running in a curve across the United States. “Total eclipse is mostly in the south. There’s Nashville, Columbia, Paducah – ”

“PADUCAH?!?” Gini had bolted out of her chair and was making fluttering motions.

“…yeah. Paducah, Kentucky.”

She began dancing. “THAT’S THE NATIONAL QUILTING MUSEUM! I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO GO! PADUCAH!”

And so it was that a convergence of interests led to my first vacation as a poly unit.

——————————-

Gini and I have gone places with my sweeties before, of course, and I with hers. We go out to dinner, as we have a pretty firm rule that we can’t date anyone the other person can’t sit down for a nice dinner conversation with. (That’s pretty much a gimme, though, as we’re both attracted to interesting conversationalists.) We’ve taken various visiting lovers on tours around Cleveland, where my wife adores playing tour guide and telling all of Cleveland’s cool secrets.

(If you don’t think Cleveland has cool secrets, I assure you: ride with my wife.)

But we’d never actually planned a several-day journey to go out with someone I loved. My wife isn’t dating Fox; they’re merely fond of each other’s company.

Would this implode at some point?

We got in the car, taking starter selfies, and talked for great portions of the trip because we love talking, and I kept thinking, It can’t be this easy. Sometimes I’d drop out of the conversation as Gini and Fox found something to talk about, and I’d reach back to squeeze Fox’s leg, and then Gini would take my hand.

It wasn’t sexy. It felt like a happy family.

And we got to the hotel and crashed in a single King-sized bed, which turned out to be about as uncomfortable as you’d think, especially since there wasn’t any hanky-panky. We awoke grumpy and sore from a thin sleep, setting out to Day One of our adventure – taking distillery tours deep in Bourbon Country.

And Gini and I snapped at each other a bit, and I thought Oh, no, it’s fraying. But we shrugged it off and had a magical adventure where in the middle of a tour we heard a stray feral kitten mewling and rescued it at the Four Roses Distillery (which was surprisingly open about its history of how Seagram turned it from a proud independent brand into rotgut, and they’ve been trying to restore their reputation ever since), and then we got a special backstage tour of the distillery as we took care of the kitten and the employees battled to see who got to take the newly-christened Gator Smallbatch home.

It was a magical day until our car broke.

The starter motor gave out in a small town called Dawson Springs, and AAA was of no use because Dawson Springs usually had 2,500 inhabitants but with the eclipse they had about 30,000 people passing through and everything was overwhelmed. We only survived thanks to the immense Southern hospitality shown by a string of strangers who went to great lengths to get assistance for us.

This, too, was magical, in a different way. We were introduced to a cast of characters in the town – Turtle, the man who was legendary at rebuilding starter motors, but also legendarily slow to arrive, and true to fashion we were there for seven hours and he never showed. Our U-haul mechanic Dave ran into his friend Chase at the local diner and asked him to come over, and when I asked Chase whether he accepted credit cards, he did exactly what I thought and shuffled his feet and informed me this was a cash-only operation because, well, yeah.

We were eventually hauled home by a man called “Buttermilk,” who had a cab with a backseat full of broken glass. His Boomhauer-style accent was near-impenetrable. He broke his back in a fall and went to jail because he refused to stop running a junk yard out of his back yard, and by God was this an interesting trip, we said.

But Fox has some chronic illnesses, and they were severely triggered by standing around for seven hours. When we finally got back to the hotel Fox crashed, shivering and unable to function, and had a mild panic attack because they were too much trouble, who would want to deal with this…

And Gini came over and hugged them and reassured them.

Let me rephrase this: my lover got wound around the axle because of sickness, and my wife – who is not dating them at all – came over and took care of them and reassured them that they were no trouble at all.

I thought, again, It can’t be this easy.

And in truth, it wasn’t. It’s like my laptop.

As I type this, several million problems have been solved for me. Someone’s gone to the trouble of figuring out how to map the impact of my fingers on the keys into an electronic pulse that the system can understand, and someone else has figured out how to store those pulses in a system that translates to Unicode characters, and someone else has figured out how to display light on a screen in a way that can provide words, and someone else has figured out how to send those words out through a complex network of electronic pulses so they can be shared with anyone else on the Internet.

We don’t even think about those complexities these days. They’re solved problems. But at some point, for each of those and a thousand more, teams of engineers ground their teeth and fretted about how to do that.

It’s easy these days, at least until a bug strikes. But it’s not actually easy.

We just put effort into it until the solution became common.

Likewise, this was not an easy trip, even though it was. Fifteen years ago, my wife snapping at me in the car would have led to me sulking and an injurious argument, but we’ve learned to make room for each other’s upsets. Ten years ago I would have been attracted to unstable partners with jealousy issues that would have blown this trip apart. Five years ago I would have tried to turn every poly relationship into a sad variant on monogamy, constantly escalating intimacies because that’s how monogamy worked, not realizing that a poly relationship doesn’t have to go anywhere, it can just work.

My wife was able to reassure Fox because I was able to reassure my wife that my relationship with Fox was healthy for us. She was able because Fox had been a constant in my life for over two years now and had gotten to know Fox, unlike my previous strings of fiery implosive relationships. She was able to because Fox brought their own lessons to the table and had shown kindness and generosity to Gini that had been returned.

It looked easy. But strewn behind us were all the lessons we’d learned collectively and individually, sometimes at the expense of precious relationships we hadn’t been able to keep.

We’d just put those sorrows to good use.

And when the eclipse came we still didn’t have our car, but somehow the three of us had determined to have a good time regardless. And we sat down in front of our hotel in blistering heat to a small crowd out on the green, and saw the sky open up and oh my God the total eclipse was magic.

It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, a special effect made real, and all my words cannot sum how great it was.

And when it was done, Chase texted to tell us our car was ready and we prepared to venture home.

It wasn’t easy. And yet it was. All that muscle memory built up served us well, and what we had was a beautiful trip full of quilting museums and occluded suns and kitten-induced bourbon, and a tiny family caring for each other as best we could.

We drove back, weary and fulfilled. We’re smart enough to know nothing is permanent; we try not to make grand promises of future love these days.  That too is wisdom learned.  And there will be strains after this; my wife will need snuggles alone with me, as she always does after a visit, and my sweetie Fox and I will endure the fresh amputated loneliness that comes from that endless aching of the long-distance relationship.

But we will cope because of what we have learned.

That’s enough. That’s good. And that’s what we have, at least for now.

It’s easy, at least by some definition thereof, and thank God.

(EDIT: For those of you asking, “What about the quilts?” let me highlight my own work: “and what we had was a beautiful trip full of quilting museums…”

(Trust me: We went to a lot of effort to arrange carless transportation in a tiny town swamped on eclipse weekend, because I will destroy anything that stands between my wife and her lifelong desires.)

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I asked folks what polyamory seminars they’d like me to teach – because I do teach seminars – and got a lot of good suggestions.

Mostly for classes I’m unqualified to teach.

I’m putting this list out here, because I think these are great topics that I’d like to see covered in-depth some day. If these topics are in your wheelhouse, please consider pitching this topic to your local conventions/training sources! And if you do teach them, feel free to leave comments (with dates/locations of your upcoming classes) to spread your wisdom around!

Raising Kids While You’re Polyamorous.
There was an excellent seminar on that at Beyond the Love a couple of years ago, but it was focused on raising kids in a poly commune. Never having raised kids while poly, I’d love to hear more tips and tricks about balancing privacy, childrens’ safety, and potential legal concerns.

Effective Polyamorous Communes.
I’ve seen a lot of poly groups move in together. Most of ’em fell apart shortly thereafter. I’d love to see a discussion of best practices on how to handle finances, romances, etc in a close-contact environment. Bonus if you’re not an extrovert and can tell us introverts how to survive.

Polyamorous Legal Concerns.
Wills and living arrangements and marriages, wow! I’m totally not a lawyer, but this would be a fascinating topic for a professional who’s specialized in these topics.  (I suspect this would only be useful on a state level, but hey.)

Scheduling.
You’d think I’d be good at scheduling, with my many partners, but the truth is that they’re good enough at scheduling to cover for my manifest weaknesses. I’d love to see someone(s) discuss how to schedule time effectively, how to handle conflict in events, how to reserve enough time for each partner who needs it (including you), etc.

Forging Better Bonds With Metamours.
Some of the most stressful situations in poly involve your partner’s partners – and all too often they’re seen as either your BEST FRIENDS EVER or alien beasts you beam communications through a third party to. I’d love to see a class from someone with a long history of effectively communicating with people on the other side of their lovers.

Now, if any of those classes seem like something you could cohere a 50-minute talk on, I’ll note that The Geeky Kink Event is taking applications for November, and though Beyond The Love’s presentation window has just closed, they do have lunchtime pop-up seminars and maybe you might wanna talk to them.

And if you have any questions on teaching, ask me! It’s both simpler and more complex than you think. But not enough qualified people do it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

One of the worst moments in polyamory is the first date.

Not yours.

Theirs.

Your first poly date is usually this exciting squiggle of “Where is this going?” and flirtatious arm-touches and effervescent ZOMG I LIKE THEM and maybe even some hot smooching. And it’s great, ‘cuz it’s you.

But their first poly date, where you’re the one at home cooling your heels while you’re imagining their flirtatious arm-touches and trying not to break down in jealousy?

That can be a long night.

And I get asked, “How do you cope when your partner starts dating?” And the answer is threefold:

I Trust They’d Tell Me If Things Were Bad.
Sometimes I worry that they’re dating because I’m fucking up in some way. Then I remember how honest they’ve been with me. They’ve told me about any issues between us as soon as they figured out what it was.

I trust my partners to come to me when something is going wrong.

So I trust that if there was a problem, I’d know.

A lot of the jealousies swirling around new poly tend to be, “Is there something wrong with me? Is this a prelude to a breakup?” And honestly, if you’re going for the “Hail Mary” of “We’re not getting along but maybe fucking other people will bring us closer together,” it might well be.

But if this has been a studied expansion, where you’ve talked about dating other people and are now exploring it, hopefully you trust that your partner would tell you if they were seeking other lovers because you were failing them. But they’re not. Healthy polyamory’s not an attempt to replace a broken system, but to expand it to include others.

They’re not dating me because I’m failing them, but because we believe a) that having other emotionally-fulfilling relationships is good, and b) those relationships can include sex. (And often, c) we’re both a little slutty.)

It shouldn’t be a threat if my partner has good friends they talk to. Their desire to see a movie with someone else isn’t a refutal of who we are.

This is just an extension of that logic. And nothing has to be wrong with me, or us, for them to desire someone else.

(I mean, I desire other people and it doesn’t lessen my affection for my existing partners. But that’s easy to remember when I’m in the driver’s seat.)

I Trust In My Own Uniqueness.
The media frames a lot of sex as a competition – whoever’s got the bigger dick wins. And if your partner’s girlfriend is hotter than you are, girl, she will steal your man.

That’s not necessarily true, though.

An odd fact about polyamory is that your partners are often drawn to people totally unlike you. That’s often a source of friction – you’re organized and reliable, why are they dating this sloppy hedonist?

The answer is, dating you provides all the you they need. They’re stocked up on “neat” and “reliable” simply because you’re doing a great job! Now they’re unconsciously seeking people who have other traits they find desirable.

And if you’re not careful, you dismiss your own talents and focus on the things you don’t have. Oh, she’s really good at talking dirty, I can’t do that. She loves that country music I can’t stand. She’s a better cook.

When you do that, you forget the things your lover might say about you if they were forced, somehow, to evaluate you as a direct comparison. They’re a way better cuddler. They know how to make me feel better after a hard day at work. They love the movies I do.

You gotta trust in your own uniqueness. This isn’t a zero-sum game where the person who ticks off the most marks on the checklist walks away with the prize. Yes, your partner’s new lover may be a better kisser, but trust that your sexual skills have something to be desired even if you can’t see it right now.

Trust that there’s also reasons to want you.

I Trust That Some Relationships Need To Be Over.
This is the tough one. Because yeah, sometimes when people fling themselves into polyamory, they do find someone more suitable and they do leave the old partners behind and they don’t communicate their problems until it’s too late to do anything about them.

I trust it’s better to know that we’re not meant for each other.

And you’ll see plenty of couples tapdancing around some fundamental incompatibility – he wants kids/she doesn’t, she wants deep emotional relationships/he doesn’t, he wants to get married/he doesn’t – and rather than look squarely at the irreconcilable difference and walk away, they instead push it off for years, grinding agony the whole time.

And in the end, they often give in to something they never wanted to happen, or they break up after years of intimacy.

That’s a lot harder than acknowledging it early and breaking it off while it’s still nascent.

So I take the attitude with relationships that I do with medical tests: No, I don’t want this, but if I have some terminal condition, it’s better to know right away.

Maybe my lover will discover that they’re polyamorous and I’m not. That’s not great, but it’s good for us both to know who we are – and if that’s not compatible, let’s examine it.

I don’t want to lose anyone, but if there are problems in this relationship, let’s highlight what they are and see whether we can fix it. Or not.

And it’s a weirdly calm trust, because this is the one that brings me back to reality: Yes, I love her. But are we really as good for each other as we think we are? Maybe I’m putting this relationship on a pedestal.

And then the old prayer: It’ll work if it’s meant to be.

And honestly, it mostly has worked out. Dating mature partners who discuss things generally turns out to be stable. They can see other people and come back to me and be just as excited – sometimes more so, because I’m actually enabling them to have wonderful relationships and so they come to associate me as “That person I love who wants me to have so much beauty in my life.” And they date other people, as I do, but in the end the thing I have to offer is “I’m that person who really, demonstrably, wants the best for them.”

That’s a helluva strength to bring to the table.

It can be okay.

You just gotta trust.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So for my birthday, I got myself an expensive gift I didn’t want:

A personal trainer.

I don’t want a personal trainer because I hate exercise and I hate going someplace else to exercise and I hate paying money to have strangers judge my body.  But I also recognize that my fitness has never been great, and perhaps I don’t know how to push myself properly (which is a real concern when you have both heart problems and a proven inability to recognize fatal pain), and so I signed up for a couple of months with a personal trainer as an experiment.  Just to see whether it would make a difference.

And this trainer seemed nice.  She told me she was not the ooh-rah trainer who says you’re not done until you’re barfing. She was a physical therapist who’d dealt with heart patients before, and could make long-term changes conducive to my benefit.

So as I went to the trainer yesterday, I was nervous.  I’m not a weightlifter.  Would she have me doing laps around the gym?  Would it be the medicine ball?  Would I be completely useless after the session, my every muscle quivering?

As it turned out, my job was to stand there while they critiqued.

I failed at standing.

“See how his hip is turned out?” she asked her fellow trainer, who was called in for a consultation.  “All his weight is on his left foot.”

“Dangerous to let a man like that exercise,” the other trainer agreed, and I was shuttled off to a massage room where she jammed the inside of my hip, telling me to relax as she rammed stiff fingers dangerously close to my crotch, reminding me to breathe.

“You’re very shielded,” she said, wrenching me aside.  “I can’t get this muscle to release.”  And then, five minutes later: “That’ll do.”

She didn’t get it to release, but apparently she’d given up on me.

Then she had me breathe.

I failed breathing.

Apparently, there’s a way you breathe from your diaphragm in a way that makes your crotch tighten, and if that sounds sexy I assure you it was not.  All my breath was in, apparently, my chest.  It’s supposed to be in my diaphragm, which is to say my belly, and I did that wrong.  She had me on my knees, palm on my stomach, urging me to do something with my belly button to bring it against my spine, and eventually she sighed and called out, “We’re putting him on his back.  He can’t do the APT.”

Even on my back, I didn’t breathe properly.  She said, encouragingly, that I’d learn, but it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’ve just failed standing and breathing. I’m not sure what else there is to fail, but I’m sure I’ll find out.

So I have a sheet of exercises.  When I head towards the bathroom, I am instructed to take a moment in the hall to twist my leg and loosen the hip, or to stand with my back against the wall and press out.  My hip aches from where she pressed hard enough to bruise it.

I thought personal training would be gruelling – and to be fair, I was sweaty and tired at the end of it.  And I’m sure it’ll ramp up over time.

I just thought it would be more “You’re too weak to lift this weight” and less “You’re too incompetent to breathe,” you know?

 

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I have been absent from blogging for a very long time.  But I have good reasons!

Work has been chewing up large portions of my energy.  
The project I’ve been working on for about two years finally got pushed out the door, which has led to a fascinating complication:

My bugs actually matter.

I’ve gotten used to the comparatively sedate pace of Massive Development, where I had deadlines but they were months down the road and if I had bugs, well, it was just test data.  And after a lovely long vacation I’m launched back into bugs actually costing people money, or inconveniencing customers, and that turns out to be a significant stressor.

So work’s gotten more tense, and that’s almost entirely due to my own overdeveloped sense of responsibility – because my bosses are understanding that bugs will shake out when a hugely complex project rolls live, thankfully.  I am the one who’s like “ZOMG MUST FIX NOW.”

It’s not bad, it’s just a situation I have to reacclimate myself to.  Or get myself into another lovely theoretical project.

I’ve been frantically writing books. 
One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from Seanan McGuire, who warned me that if I was at successful at this novel-writing thing that I’d be forever bouncing between projects, so I’d best get used to writing novels in snippets.

Sure enough, I had the editorial letter for Savor Station, so I was doing final(ish) edits on that, then I returned to my polyamory-in-Narnia novel (if you think you’re jealous of your girlfriend’s boyfriend now, imagine when you find out he’s Prince Caspian) just long enough to finish off Act I, and then I snapped back to writing my maintenance cyberpunk novel where yes there are voluntary amputees charging into combat with hyperfast prosthetic armaments but really the battle was won in the workshop two days ago when you fine-tuned your IFF routines to be better than your opponent.

All that switching headspaces is surprisingly exhausting.  Which means that when it’s time to blog….

I’m doing low-key blogging on other platforms.
I’ve been experimenting with doing more Twitter threads,  which are a lot like short essays here except every line is potentially Retweetable.  They’ve been popular and get me more fans – FOLLOW ME AT @FERRETTHIMSELF, he said – but I’m not ultimately sure I like it.  Twitter threads are easier to write in a way, and the social media environment rewards them disproportionately, but if one hits big then my mentions are chewed to pieces and I can’t interact with people I actually like.

I’m debating what to do on that one.

And then I’m tossing off the occasional essay on FetLife, merely because Fet provides more context.  I’m usually riffing off the topic of the day there (as their Kinky and Popular page, which shows the most-read essays on Fet, ensures regular swirls of debate on various issues), and FetLife’s easier to write for because there’s a certain base layer of “Hey, we’re all kinky here, so we agree on these tenets.”

Writing for the open Internet is a bit harder, because I have to stranger-proof my writings, whether here or on Twitter – something I write could be easily taken out of context and draw a lot of heat, so I have to continually explain myself to strangers.  Whereas writing on kink or consent on Fet is a bit like Harry Potter fanfic – you don’t have to explain to the audience what Hogwarts is, you don’t have to infodump the magic system, let’s go.

So the blog’s been a bit dusty.

But hi!  I have a book coming out in September (which is getting good advance reviews, if scarce ones) on rebellious teenagers fighting against immortal digitized politicians who’ve forgotten what it’s like to be alive.  (Because seriously, if we perfect brain-uploading technology so no one ever dies, that’s gonna fuck up our politics something fierce.) And my first book Flex is on sale for a dollar this week, so it’s an easy in if you’ve been waiting for an opportunity to read me.

And much is happening in my life! My Dad is visiting this weekend!  My wife and I have hired a personal trainer!  I fixed stuff around my own house, and other peoples’ houses!  But I just haven’t had the spare cycles to write about any of that so I’m watching Twin Peaks and drinking bourbon.

If you want a more livestream version of me, I’m at Twitter or Fet. And if history shows anything, I’ll probably be back here more often.  But hallooooo!  I’m a me. It’s good to see a you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Dear Lover:

Sometimes, you’ll see me flinch when you say “I love you.” It’s not a bad thing. I’m startled.

I forget you love me a lot.

And the sad thing is, it’s nothing you did. I’m a depressive. That’s my disease. No matter how much adoration has flowed between us, no matter what grand gestures you make to prove your affection to me, I forget. I’m like an emotional amnesiac, my good feelings forever being erased to leave me with shadows of doubt and terror. Sometimes I read old texts of yours to try to remember what it felt like being loved, and all I come away with is cruel reinterpretations of how those kind words didn’t really mean what I thought they did.

I don’t want this. I merely survive with it.

And I know my inability to remember consistently costs me. My past is strewn with exes who exhausted themselves through increasingly grander gestures, convinced that if they kissed me the right way then all this depression would vanish like dew in the summer sun. And when it didn’t, they decided I was being stubborn, and left.

You haven’t. Not yet.

Don’t think I’m not grateful. Don’t think my endless, shivering fear that today you’ve stopped loving me means that I don’t love you – why would I be afraid of you going unless you meant something to me?

And don’t think I’m not trying. Like I said, I reread your old texts, I recall your warm embraces, I recount all the lovely things you’ve done for me, all in an imperfect attempt to transform cold memories into some flickering ember of love to warm myself by. I will flinch sometimes, and be shocked, and yes, sometimes be the pain in the ass who asks “You love me, right?” at the worst times – but I am trying, oh so trying, to retain what emotional memories I can.

Then there are the days when you ask the right question at the right time. A simple text: “Do you know I love you today?”

That “today” makes all the difference.

That “today” lets me know that I might forget tomorrow, and you’ll be here to remind me.

That “today” tells me you understand my illness in all the ways I need you to.

And yes. Yes, I know today. I know today, and it is wonderful because for a brief moment I can feel that love flowing between us like a river, and maybe I’ll forget the warmth of water tomorrow but for right now I know it yes I know it.

I love you.

That’s something I never forget.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Today is the most important day of the year – it is MY BIRTHDAY!  I was the first grandchild in my family for six years, and I was born on July 3rd, so it took me a while to figure out that the fireworks and the big beach celebration weren’t meant for me.

(I was generous. I magnanimously shared My Fireworks with everyone.  AS I STILL DO.)

Today I shall be celebrating by heading down to Amish country and eat cheese, which is a thing that old people do to celebrate. But if you would like to wish me joy on this occasion, here’s a few things you can do:

1) Call Your Senator To Preserve Health Care!
Looks like Trumpcare is about to pass – while Donald Trump has been making headlines with stupid Twitter-fights, Mitch McConnell has quietly submitted his revised bill to the CBO, indicating that he probably has the votes.  And yes, it’s exhausting and demoralizing because even if we get the Senators to halt this bill, they’ll come back with another bill…

So your birthday gift to me can be rising, grumpy and irritated, from your couch to pick up the phone and call one more time.  (To those of you going, “But my Senators are Democratic!”, call them and say, “GO BALLS TO THE WALL TO STOP THIS FUCKING THING.”)

I’ve written a still-mostly-relevant how-to guide as to how neurotic people like myself can call their Senator, so it’s as easy as possible.  Wanna make a weasel happy?  Act politically.

2) Preorder My Upcoming Book, THE UPLOADED!
People frequently ask me, “Where’s the best place to buy your book so you benefit the most from it?”  And as for all authors, the question is not “Where” but “When.”  As I’ve discussed before, ordering in advance of the release date is the single best thing you can do for an author’s career.

(Unless you’re an editor. Then buying their book and promoting the fuck out of it is the best thing you can do.  But most of you aren’t editors.)

Anyway, The Uploaded is coming out in September, and I’m nervous about its reception because – like every book – it’s hard to get traction when the world is actually falling apart.  So if you were planning on buying it, you can make me happier on my birthday by buying it today! And if you’re not sure whether you wanted to buy a book about what happens five hundred years after humanity perfected immortality, well, Barnes and Noble has the first two chapters available for your perusal.

(And yes, I’ll be doing a book tour of some kind, though there will probably be different cities. I’m gonna try hard to hit Ann Arbor, and Washington DC, and maybe Atlanta and Colorado, as well as other locations people have been bugging me about to go to. Feel free to contact me if you have a local bookstore you think would be amenable to hosting.)

Anyway, The Uploaded is ready for preorder at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and every good bookshop you can name.  If you’re up for it, geddit.

3) Treat Yo Self. 
If you’ve done those first two, well, do something nice for yourself. Go watch the fireworks, if you have them in your country.  My birthday’s awesome, and you’re awesome, so make yourself feel awesome.

Love to you.  Happy birthday to me.  Peace out.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So if you’re a reviewer and you’ve been thirsting to get my tale of genetically engineered superponies and immortal brain-gods who have made life positively unfashionable, well, The Uploaded is available for download at everyone’s favorite advanced reader review site NetGalley. Get out there and give it however many stars you think it deserves.

If you’re not a reviewer and you’re like, “Say, I want in on this pseudo-cyberpunk family drama!” then let us not forget that Barnes and Noble has two sample chapters available for you, so you can see what happens when your mother and father die and get uploaded into immortal perfection while you’re stuck on this filthy rotting Earth.

And if you like it, well, it’s coming out in September. Feel free to preorder it.  It’s at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and every reputable bookshop. If your local bookdealer of choice doesn’t carry it, explain to them that reputability is critical to their business, and there’s but one way to achieve that, and that is indeed ensuring they carry my book.  Funny, that.  But hey, I didn’t make these rules.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I doubt he even remembers enraging me. But I almost screamed at him.

I’m still not sure whether it was his fault.

But let’s rewind. I have a friend who has pretty severe walking issues – he gets only so many steps in a day before he collapses. Most days he can get to nightfall without needing a walker – and he works hard, very hard, not to be seen as a burden.

More so, he struggles to be seen as a person. If you’ve never friended someone with a disability, you don’t quite understand how a visible handicap can eclipse someone’s personality. People tend to assume that everyone in a wheelchair acts the same – they talk a little louder, a little slower, they’re quicker to dismiss their opinions because really, do they know what they want?

Disabled people struggle to be seen. And my friend, well, he worked really hard to be more than his disability –

– which meant he pushed himself hard at conventions. Lots of covert sweating, casually leaning on bars, sitting down when they could. Because if he displayed weakness, the conversation would shift from all the happy things that made his life worthwhile and would focus on “Are you all right?” – which is a question he asks himself entirely too damn much as it is.

He wanted the con to be a vacation and not an explanation. Which was why his disability was, largely, not quite a secret among friends but something where the extent wasn’t entirely revealed unless you were in the know.

And my friend had held up well during the day but was starting to fade in the evening. He was looking for, well, let’s call him The Guy Ultimately I Wanted To Yell At, or Tguiwtya.

He was looking for Tguiwtya. Because he was good friends with Tguiwtya, and and wanted a few moments to hang with Tguiwtya to hang out before he collapsed. And my friend texted Tguiwtya to say “Hey, I’m on my way,” and Tguiwtya had said “I’m in the back of the ballroom.”

Tguiwtya was not in the back of the ballroom.

I ran into my friend, looking exhausted, who asked me if I’d seen Tguiwtya. I knew he’d walked all the way down from their room to meet Tguiwtya, exhausting the very last of his daily steps, and getting back up to the room would be an effort. I said I hadn’t.

He plopped into a chair, sweaty, miserable, waiting for Tguiwtya to show. I kept him company, brought him water. But Tguiwtya wasn’t responding to texts. And eventually, my friend said, “Well, let’s see if I can find him,” and staggered off, leaning heavily on his cane.

I wondered if he was going to make it.

I left. And lo, a couple of hallways down, there was Tguiwtya! Merrily laughing with a bunch of his friends. I collared him.

“Hey. Our friend’s walking the halls looking for you.”

He looked puzzled, as if unsure why I’d bring such a trivial thing to his attention. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s fine.”

I almost screamed.

What I wanted to yell was, “Do you fucking realize how much effort it takes for my friend to find you? You said your dumb ass would be at the back of the ballroom, and they exerted themselves to get to you because they like you, and now they’re straining themselves to find you again, and your answer should not be some pudding-faced ‘that’s fine’ but ‘Yes, sir, I will get right on that.'”

Then I saw Tguiwtya’s friends, crooking their necks at me.

Did I want to make a scene?

Was it worth looking like a fucking maniac in front of all these people, just to make a point about someone’s condition? Because they didn’t know. They couldn’t understand unless I literally barged into their conversation, twisted it, made it about this, and….

Oh.

Shit, that’s gotta be what it’s like all the time, isn’t it?

Let’s be honest: Tguiwtya should have fucking known how much effort it took my friend to walk all the way down to meet him. I know for a fact that my buddy had talked to Tguiwtya about his illness. He was one of the inner circle, one of the folks who’d pushed a walker for my friend.

But how many times do you want to call some able-bodied person out for not comprehending something that they cannot experience? For Tguiwtya, “walking to the ballroom and back” was such a trivial effort that I doubt he even contemplated it as an effort.

Would I be damaging Tguiwtya’s friendship with my friend by explaining what an accidental asshole they were being?

That was, I realized, a brief window into being disabled. People don’t see your illness, even when you make it clear to them. They can’t comprehend that this background static of their lives could be a deafening uproar to anyone else.

And you always get to choose: make an embarrassing fuss and maybe get accommodated, maybe get rejected – or keep the peace and keep a friendship that means less but at least you get to keep it?

To this day, I’m still not sure if I should have yelled at him. Maybe I should. But he wasn’t my friend, and even if he was, I’m not sure I wanted to dress him down in front of a crowd of people.

What I do know is that I doubt Tguiwtya even ponders that moment. If he does, he thinks of me as the asshole who gave him a vicious side-eye when he didn’t break off his amusing anecdote to rush to meet our friend in the ballroom.

But I remember.

I learned something that day.

I hope I learned to listen.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I was told the other day how true polyamory didn’t have rules. You just got to fuck whoever you wanted, and nobody could stop you or it wasn’t polyamory.

Okay.

Let’s break that down.

Because people forget rules weren’t inflicted on people wholesale by malicious bureaucrats. Rules are like pearls, which are beautiful to us but an irritant to an oyster. Oysters create pearls because they can’t get a piece of sand out of their tendermeats and layer it in nacre until they have a ball of Stuff stuck in their craw. That’s not great for the oyster, but it’s better than having sand ripping up their insides.

And like a pearl, every rule started with some Problem that was causing distress, and people decided to wrap a Rule around it – because as annoying as that Rule was, it was better than the initial Problem.

Now rules, as I’ve noted, are the failure state of polyamory. You’d be better served by utilizing expectations, which aren’t quite as brittle and lead to better understanding. But rules and expectations both are solutions to the same ultimate problem:

You’re hurting someone you love.

They feel abandoned when you don’t text them at the end of the night. They feel threatened when you cancel dates on them to go out with New Person. They feel exasperated when they’re spending their dates with you as a pseudo-relationship counsellor, picking apart the reasons you’re fighting with your other partner all the time.

But hey. You have no limits. So even if your partner’s cat just died and they’re desperate to not be alone tonight, fuck that! You had a date. And you’re not cancelling that because NO LIMITS!

What’s that?

That’d be cruel? You wouldn’t leave your partner alone during a time of need?

Well, I guess you have limits.

“That’s different!” you cry. “That’s what I wanted to do! I chose to do that of my own volition, not because of some stupid rules!”

Here’s the secret to rules, my friend:

Everyone chooses them.

There’s no legal contract for any poly relationship saying, “I have to stay with this person.” There may be consequences, divorce laws being punitive and all, but there’s consequences for any bad decision. You treat them badly enough that they refuse to talk to you, you don’t get the hot sex or the emotional support. If you’re really a shithead, you may lose friends over the breakup. There is no consequence-free decision.

As such, people may bitch about rules, but ultimately they chose to stay with the person who enacted them. Why? Because the irritant of the rules is better than losing that person entirely – or better than the less-critical problem of “I love them, so I don’t want to make them feel bad.”

You’re not better because you made a decision on the fly to alter your behavior to be with someone. That’s how relationships work. You negotiate, you compromise, you figure out where your elbow hits someone’s eye.

And in a lot of cases, you don’t do something that would bring you magnificent satisfaction because you know it would hurt someone. Unsafe sex. Taking someone else to the concert you promised you’d take them to. Disappearing for a two-week vacation with a new sweetie without letting them know where you’re going.

All those are limits.

“They’re self-imposed limits!” you cry – but now you’re changing the argument. Because polyamory was supposed to have no limits, man. Total and utter William Wallace-style FREEEEEEDOM!

…except that compassionate human beings, when given the choice to do whatever they want, will often choose not to do things that injure the people they love.

True freedom involves the ability to self-limit.

And so “Polyamory has no limits” often is a synonym for “I am a sociopath who is only out for my own satisfaction, and anyone who inconveniences me in any way will be shunted aside. I don’t give a fuck about you as long as I get mine.” It’s not so much an ethos as a warning sign that this person is not someone you want to date unless your Venn diagram of what you desire overlaps theirs perfectly.

And yes. It’s perfectly logical to stop dating someone whose feelings are so sensitive you can’t avoid bruising them; I’ve done it myself. But that’s not “I have no limits” so much as “Our limits were irreconcilable.” There’s nothing wrong with a hedonistic relationship based on pleasure, either, so long as everyone involved chose it honestly. It’s possible to have a relationship with such low limits that you never brush against them.

But I generally find that the people who bristle at any idea of limitations are the people who bristle at the idea of other people having needs. They want no limitations because really, anything that obstructs their satisfaction is an enemy to be destroyed.

Date these people at your peril.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Hey guys, I’ve got a quick-turnaround website to protest the AHCA – but while I’ve written the words and done the research, my web design looks like 2003 hot garbage.

If someone out there can commit to a professional, bare-bones web design to help me get out a three-page website this week, please email me at theferrett@gmail.com stat, along with a page or two that you’ve designed so I can verify you’re better than I am.  (It’s not hard, trust me.) And I’ll happily share details if you’re a professional who knows design and/or political protest and wanna email me at theferrett@gmail.com, because, well, it’s a last-ditch shot in the dark against the AHCA before it passes next week.

If you’re feeling volunteery, please email.  Thanks.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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