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I have a concussion.

Yes, I was in a car accident on the freeway a couple of weeks ago. A guy ran into the back of my car in stop-and-go traffic, and I ended up with a concussion. At first the doctors thought it was a mild concussion, but last week they upgraded it to a more severe concussion.

For those of you who have never had a concussion, I can tell you it is both painful and terrifying. Also frustrating. At least in my experience. Once I am well again, I am happy to answer questions for writers who want to portray more realistic head injuries because now I know a lot about it.

I am not supposed to be writing. Or be using screens very much. Or doing lots of other things. It is unclear when I will be able to do more, but hopefully it won’t be too many more weeks. It is hard to say. Right now I spend a lot of time sleeping and hanging out and petting Nala.

I am writing this to let you know I haven’t forgotten you. I still write blog posts in my head. This is not the best idea as it gives me a headache, but sometimes I do it by accident. I look forward to being able to write more. I especially look forward to being able to write an appreciation to all the people who have been incredibly kind and generous and have been helping me and keeping me company during a dark time. I love you all.

Please don’t forget me either.

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Nala looks disheveled and out of focus…kind of like how I feel.

 

Well, I’ve been living in my new home for about a month now. Not long enough to be completely settled, but long enough that the flood of moving-related tasks has slowed down to a more manageable pace, and a definite end is in sight.

Overall, things feel calm. Amazingly calm. Beautifully calm. Calm calm calm. Probably the worst thing that’s happened to me this week is that I had to spend half an hour on the phone with Comcast sorting out yet another problem caused by incompetence. Which is a little irritating, but as problems go, it’s not so bad, and the customer service rep was really apologetic and nice and appreciative of me being nice, so it was really especially not so bad.

I keep talking about how nice everyone is here, and I hear the slightly unbelieving note in my voice as I say the words. It also feels like damning with faint praise, but what I really mean is people are treating me with respect. They are listening to my preferences and boundaries. They apologize when that’s appropriate. They aren’t pressuring me to do things I don’t really want to do or be someone I don’t really want to be. I don’t feel like they’re going to do things they don’t want to do either. In short, we appear to be taking care of ourselves.

I feel a Flinch sometimes. For example, my friend wanted to come visit at a time that wasn’t good for me. So I delivered the news, and then I flinched and waited for the hammer to come down. In the past, and with this particular friend even, there most definitely would have been a backlash. But this time, there was a bit of disappointment, and then we actually ended up finding a different time that did work for me. I could hardly believe it. I simultaneously felt gratitude and a more prosaic, “Well, you know, this is not actually noteworthy because this is how things should generally work.”

This should be how things are.

This is how things are.

I look forward to the time when the Flinch no longer happens.

Do I think this shift is unique to Seattle? Do I think the people in Seattle are just plain better? No, not at all. I think what we might be seeing here is the beauty of a fresh start.

While I know many people here, for the most part we don’t know each other well, and certainly not as local friends. This gives us a chance to get to know each other as we are right now. Not two years ago, not five years ago, not ten years ago. Now, in this moment. And Amy Now, I am thrilled to discover, really is a different person. Amy Now pushes back when she feels pressured. Amy Now communicates her preferences. Amy Now says no when she needs to. Amy Now gives the side eye to people who say egregiously sexist or unkind things, or who are very obviously lying. The kind of people who aren’t okay with this sort of thing are probably not the kind of people that are going to want to be friends with me as I am today.

Over time, we accumulate habits with one another. Things we do with one another, what we talk about, ways we communicate, ways we DON’T communicate, behavior we tolerate, things that are simply “the way things are.” This is simply human nature. Some of these habits are wonderful and positive and contribute to that sense of knowing and being known. And in any relationship there is going to be some compromise and give and take.

But some of these habits can be less helpful. Sometimes we cannot be the person we’ve become and have the relationship continue to function as it has been. At this point, there are three main choices: to continue the status quo in spite of problems; to go through an adjustment period until the relationship supports you as you are now; or to distance yourself from something that is no longer working. All three of these choices come with their own difficulties, and sometimes they blur one into another. As with anything related to change, there tends to be a lot of inherent pressure to maintain the status quo. And if you actively decide NOT to, things can get…interesting.

Moving, then, becomes an opportunity to work outside the accumulated habits and build new habits without having to work against that pressure. There is no status quo to maintain. There’s no weight of the past. There is, relatively speaking, little to risk and much to gain. There’s simply me and you deciding whether we’re going to be friends and how that friendship is going to work in a way that supports both of us right now. And even existing friendships are naturally in flux in a way that encourages the building of new habits.

So how does a fresh start feel? It feels calm. It is hard in some ways, but it also feels right.

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When I was a kid, and you wanted to find a new service–an auto repair shop, say, or a tailor–you looked in the phone book. When you wanted to know what was on TV ahead of time, you either subscribed to TV Guide or the local newspaper. When you wanted to know a fact, you asked someone nearby who maybe knew, maybe didn’t, or maybe sounded awfully convincing. Or else you went to the library and looked up the information in the encyclopedia or used the card catalog to find a book on the subject.

The internet has made a huge difference to the accessibility of knowledge.

When I was a kid, maybe two or three years old, my dad borrowed a huge monstrosity of a video camera from work for one weekend. It had to be plugged in, and you could either mount it on a tripod or laboriously carry it around on your shoulder. My first backpacking trip around Europe, I had a camera with real film inside. One of the limiting factors of how many photos I could take was how much film I could afford right then and how much photo processing I could afford later. I carried the finished but undeveloped rolls of film in my backpack all over Europe and desperately hoped no one would steal it.

The cell phone (and digital cameras, and tiny little camcorders) and the internet have made a huge difference to our ability to make, keep, and share records.

When I was a kid, my mom sent out Christmas cards every year, and every year it took forever for her to write them all. But as this was the one time every year she communicated with assorted college friends and relatives, it always seemed worth the effort. Of course, there were only a few college friends she kept in touch with, because who had the time to write even more letters? You paid by the minute for phone calls to places less than twenty miles from your house, and more the further afield you were calling. Answering machines were a big deal because not very long before, if you weren’t home, you’d have no idea if anyone had tried to reach you while you were out. 

The internet and cell phones and social media have made a huge difference to our relationship with communication.

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Photo Credit: Rachel.Adams via Compfight cc

None of this is news. But it’s interesting to see how these shifts in technology are still trickling down and affecting the world today, and how we are managing these shifts, both as a larger society and as individuals.

Ta-Nehisi Coates put it succinctly when he said, The violence is not new; it’s the cameras that are new.” We’re seeing more of a lot of ugly societal trends not because human beings became more monstrous overnight, but because now we can research things, we can record things, and we can disseminate that information with easily available and easy-to-use technology.

It’s important to remember that technology on its own is rarely good or evil. It’s how that technology is used that can be good or evil. And likewise, our behaviors in the face of how the world is changing can be helpful or harmful. Both a corrupt military and a populist revolution can use social media to ferment revolution. We can use the internet to educate ourselves or we can use it to doxx people who think differently than us. We can further the spread of both true and false information. We can help each other, and we can hate each other.

We can lose touch with empathy altogether and forget all the voices on the internet belong to real people. We can lose touch with perspective altogether and say #alllivesmatter and #notallmen. And our flaws and our mistakes are magnified and repeated; instead of reaching the people we saw in person today, the scope of our words becomes potentially global.

Today the individual has more power. And in the headiness of individual power we can forget there are ideals we share. Sometimes we have to exercise research and critical thinking in order to understand both what those ideals mean and how we are falling short. Sometimes we have to contemplate uncomfortable truths, when ideas of how we thought the world looked and who we thought we were are turned on their heads. Sometimes we have to make personal sacrifices in service to those ideals.

But it is not all dark. For every shadow that is cast, there is the opportunity to shine a light. It is hard to look without flinching at some of the worst humanity has to offer. It’s okay if you flinch. It’s okay if you’re tired, if you cry, if you feel despair that we’re in the middle of a night that will not end.

But then remember. Humanity can also offer goodness: The way a community can come together to help victims after a disaster. The way the scientific community uses the internet to work more effectively. The person on the plane that let my friend rest her sprained ankle on his lap so she could keep it elevated. The person who uses the internet to reach out to someone who is having a hard time. The person who swallows hard after an offensive joke and then says, “Actually, that isn’t funny.” 

Our essential natures have not changed. We have always been monsters, yes. But some of us have also always made the choice to strive for better. Right now we are seeing a lot of our monsters. It is necessary in order for change to take place. The more people become aware of problems, the more impossible monstrous realities are to ignore, the more likely they will be addressed in meaningful ways.

But we have also always been light-bringers. We’ve been willing to help others for no personal gain. We’ve chosen to do the right thing because we value integrity.

We know how to be kind.

I am so glad to be here.

Which is not to say things are perfectly easy. The other day I had a moment, and I thought, “I wish I could just sit down with someone who really knows me.”

I have it so good with this move, and I’ve been really aware of this the entire time. I know a lot of people for someone who landed here four weeks ago. Many friends have gone out of their way to include me. I haven’t had any problem getting enough social contact to not go completely insane with isolation. If anything, my first month has been the opposite; I’ve gone to so many events. So very many.

But we don’t really know each other yet, my Seattle friends and I. We’ve never lived in close proximity. And while I have a few friends who aren’t local with whom I talk regularly, I don’t have that many, and none of them live in Seattle. Most of my long-distance friends I talk with once in a while and then get really excited when I see them in person. We’ve built our friendships in fits and starts, often at high levels of intensity and low levels of sleep, bridged by Facebook and Twitter and probably this blog. We’re friends in spite of the plainly felt fact that there is never enough time.

Now there is more time, and we will get to know each other in a different way. We will slowly fill in the gaps of our knowledge and build more memories together and fall into comfortable friend routines. When I think of a particular friend I’d like to see, I’ll have some idea of what that person would like to do, instead of now when I’m often at something of a loss, which means I hesitate to issue invitations. I will get more one-on-one (or one-on-two) time with people, which is what I like best. (There is nothing like a full calendar of large group events to remind me how much I need this.) And some months from now, the landscape of my life will have shifted.

I remind myself of this. There will come a time when I can sit down with someone who really knows me. Here, in my new home. But that shift can’t be forced. It will happen when it happens.

In the meantime, I continue to make a home. I’m mostly unpacked. A friend is going to fix the computer table I’ve had since I was ten in the next month or so (it got smashed in the move). I have a new monitor I need to hook up. I need to hang up art. I need to go buy a new writing chair. And I have a special new addition to the apartment coming soon that I can’t wait to share once it’s here.

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On the whole everyone here is treating me so well. I have my boundaries up and ready to go, but it’s such a sweet relief to not have them being constantly battered against. It actually shocks me what a relief it is because I didn’t expect the contrast to be quite this striking. There have been a few small boundary issues, but only a few, and each time I’ve been able to respond immediately and pro-actively, advocating for my own well-being. Having a prolonged onslaught against my boundaries last fall and winter burned me out really badly, but now, here, I finally feel like I can come up for air.

Yes, I am so very glad to be here. I am so glad to be starting something new.

It’s a weird time to be writing a personal blog.

When I sit down to write these posts, I think about everything going on in the news: the black men killed by police, the shooting in Texas, the shooting in Florida, Brexit, the coup in Turkey, the American presidential election season, the shooting in Munich, the terrorist attack in Nice, and on. And on. And on.

I don’t think I’ve ever lived through times like these, I tell my friend on the phone. And she says some of her friends have compared what’s going on now to the 1950s and 60s with McCarthyism and the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t know how apt a comparison that is, but yes, it is well before my time.

And then I write a list on my blog about Seattle, and it does pretty decently as posts go, and another friend tells me after looking at so much bad and stressful news on his feed, he clicks on my post because it’s a relief to take a break from all that.

It’s weird because I’m very aware my life is the tiniest piece possible in a world that is quaking and breaking and changing and questioning in a hugely dramatic fashion.

Also when reading the presidential campaign news, I realize I’m much less of an idealist than I thought. You know what I’m not an idealist about? Money, politics, taxes, health care, and dysfunctional families. I’ve been playing the “choose the lesser evil, keep things afloat however possible” game in my personal life since I was eleven. I am very practiced in not getting what I want, in having to think about the longer term, and in exercising damage control. The very fact I believe change is possible makes me an idealist by some definitions, but I don’t think change is fast or easy or without scores of compromises you make along the way. But I also know how exhausting pragmatism can be over time. Of course, some of us can afford to discard prgamatism more than others.

So here I am writing a personal blog during Interesting Times, a pragmatic idealist (or practical free spirit!) and I am reminded of the small stories set against a larger backdrop in science fiction and fantasy. I’m talking about My Real Children by Jo Walton, or Life after Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson, or Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, or The Last Policeman by Ben Winters or The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke. These and the many other books like them are all intimate stories about individuals who don’t make a huge impact on the world around them. These are not Chosen Ones or heroes and anti-heroes whose actions save or ruin the entire world. They are smaller stories, quieter stories, stories of personal revelation, stories of one person searching for meaning in their more or less ordinary lives. Lives that are nonetheless affected and influenced by the worlds these characters inhabit.

And this is how a personal blog can fit into these times we are living in right now. I am often going to choose not to write about politics, not to write about all the wider tragedies we find ourselves facing. Alas, my strength as a writer is not in debate, nor is it in abruptly shaking people awake.

No, I mostly write the smaller stories. Here in this place I write my small story.  It is not the most important story, but it is what I have to tell. It is personal, but the context also matters. I look at the news, and I am heartbroken again and again. I am cognizant of the chaos that’s going on around me. I feel the injustice and the widespread fear down to my bones.

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Here is a photo of Nala looking particularly goofy. In case you need that today.

We live in Interesting Times, my friends. This blog is a drop in the ocean of the world. But I like to believe sometimes this blog may cause you to think about something in a new way. I do hope the small stories it tells can sometimes lift up, inspire, and soothe. Or at the very least, that me writing here can provide a small respite from the larger stories with which we must wrestle and agonize.

Perhaps it can serve as a reminder that we are all here, and we are all human, and that in spite of all the tragedy and all the deep rifts between us, there are also some things about us that are the same.

I am still enough of an idealist to believe empathy matters.

I had a particularly difficult night of insomnia last night, so I present to you: Amy’s Impressions of Seattle, as told through the filter of sleep deprivation.

  1. Everyone is really polite here. Especially drivers.
  2. The average road speed is much slower. I am often on roads that don’t have that many cars on them when it is not the middle of the night. I find this strange.
  3. Compared to the Bay Area, pretty much everything is cheaper here except for food. Maybe also movies and concerts? I don’t know, I haven’t been to any yet.
  4. When you haven’t gotten enough sleep, things seem harder and darker than they really are.
  5. I haven’t found my favorite sushi place yet, but I do not consider this to be a hardship.
  6. I gave away enough board games that my remaining games fit onto three shelves. I like to look at them.
  7. I now own seven throw blankets. Winter is coming.
  8. Nala is still not entirely convinced. But I like how many dogs seem to live here.
  9. My allergies are terrible here, and it is July. I think of springtime with a small shudder.
  10. There are so many writers here. SO MANY.
  11. They don’t charge for grocery bags here, so no one brings their reusable bags into stores. It feels strangely backwards to me, and it also takes me more trips to bring my groceries into the apartment. I think I might start using my reusable bags anyway.
  12. I can drive ten minutes to dinner and then walk down to the lake right afterwards. This blows my mind.
  13. Moving is expensive.
  14. My complex has an indoor hot tub. It is a great reason to live here.
  15. The lightrail is amazing. It is fast, efficient, cost-effective, temperature-controlled, and weirdly clean. Its only drawback is the limited number of stops.
  16. People smoke here. Where I can see them.
  17. If you spend a nice day indoors, people will act surprised. People here love being outside. They love being outside regardless of the weather.
  18. I learned what glamping is, and I am afraid kayaking will be hard but everyone does it here, and if I learn to kayak I can see otters.
  19. I know there must be bad traffic here because everyone tells me there is, but I keep not finding it. Meanwhile, people persist in believing that a 20-minute drive is far. It is baffling but not without its charms.
  20. I see something beautiful every day without trying.
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My new home.

  1. You write in an effervescent, breathless style that makes you think of tiny, tiny bubbles in champagne that tickles your nose. You know it tickles your nose because hundreds of writers have insisted this is so.
  2. You must repeat words. Especially adjectives. Especially simple yet descriptive adjectives like fresh and soft and tiny and smooth.
  3. Also fragments and short sentences. As many as you have the stomach for. A firm, taut stomach or a poochy, loveable stomach. Any kind of stomach. The type of stomach does not matter.
  4. Lists shine like chronicles of diamond brilliance. Everyone loves lists because NUMBERS and PERIODS. Even if you actually have no structure whatsoever, a list will make it seem like your mind works in an orderly yet quirky fashion.
  5. Irony oozes out of your articles like fresh, fresh honey. It hardens into impenetrable armor that allows you to say what you want with fewer repercussions because no one can entirely tell where the irony ends and the truth begins.
  6. Or fuck, you can also just swear a whole fucking lot so you sound like you have a goddamned edge, like maybe you’re a little angry but also you’re just so fucking cool that everyone should shut the fuck up and listen to what you have to say, which is good old-fashioned hard-nosed no-shit wisdom, y’know?
  7. But if you’ve already got some of the manic pixie dream girl vibe going on, then the gentle sarcasm-dripping flow of honey armour is definitely the way to go. People will love you. They will love you so much, they will share your article on Facebook without ever knowing your name. Eventually you can start the next Toast except named after a different breakfast food or maybe crème brûlée.
  8. Your irony is like a scythe if you’ve ever used a scythe. Otherwise it’s like the X-acto blade in sixth grade art class. You make long careful cuts against the grain of society’s bullshit. Long, smooth cuts. Long, incisive cuts. Long, insightful, sharp yet understanding cuts that are way healthier than the way physicians used to practice bloodletting on sick people via cupping or leaches.
  9. You can also use ridiculous metaphors and not-very-obscure historical and pop culture references that may or may not apply. Either way you will be creating sly but searing commentary. People will think you are clever.
  10. It also helps if you include a refined and artful graphic related in some way to the past. Here is an 18th century painting. Here is a bucolic landscape. Here is a brass lamp that is definitely more than ten years old. Even better if you can insert either a sweet sense of superiority or a relevant allusion to one of today’s societal woes.

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    Each one of these objects holds a profound yet subtle significance.

  11. Suddenly you know how to write tongue-in-cheek articles about Seattlites’ obsession with bridges, men’s urges to make a pass at you while you’re crying, Burners’ conviction that by not going to Burning Man, you are missing out on the greatest experience known to man, and the strange propensity to want others to admit you have it worse than them while simultaneously acknowledging your innate and glowing greatness.
  12. You also begin to plan the most ironic post on dating that has ever been conceived by a human mind. It will be scathing but human. Bitter but sweet. Absurd but relatable. Your single friends will read it and laugh. Your married friends will read it and polish their rings.
  13. Bubbles. Fresh. Fresh fresh bubbles. We all love bubbles and freshness and everything about this post that makes us remember that pleasant sensation of being too clever and fresh and laundered to breathe. Like a magazine ad. Like crisp ironed cotton. Like a blog post that has gone at least one list item too far.
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