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Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

I’m sitting here typing this on the longest night of the year. After this, the nights will be a few minutes shorter, and then a few minutes shorter again. At some point in the not-so-distant future, it won’t be dark at 4:15 in the afternoon. The sun will make it till 4:30 and then even 5:00.

I can’t give you words of comfort about the state of the world because I don’t have any right now. What I can give you is comfort on a more personal level.

Every year I make a photobook of highlights from the year that’s just gone by and give it to myself for Christmas. This year I didn’t want to make one. I put it off, and then I put it off some more. I thought it would be depressing. 2016 was such a challenging and difficult year for me personally, what photos would I even have to choose from? But finally I forced myself to sit down and start the job by telling myself I could always just make a whole book of cute Nala pictures. No one else might enjoy looking at a book like that, but I would like it.

What I found, though, as I started putting photos onto pages, was that there was still plenty to be happy about in 2016. My book wasn’t a lot shorter than usual, and it wasn’t a lot sadder than usual. There was still joy and love and silliness to record on its pages. There was still hope.

And I realize, when I think back on the year, how much of my joy derives from the people I care about. It’s been easier than usual to forget this year because there was a lot going on, and much of that was disappointing or ugly or just plain tough. But when I think about the year, I don’t just think about all the hard times. I also think of all the people who were there through the hard times.

I think of friends in the Bay Area who took me out, who danced with me, who listened to me without judgment, who fed me sushi and waffles and peanut butter pie. I think of those friends who supported me moving to Seattle one hundred percent even though they were personally sad I was leaving. And I think of the phone calls and messages since I moved, and how those friendships haven’t gone anywhere.

I think of my friends at Rainforest who helped me figure some stuff out. I think of my friends in LA who I hadn’t seen in years who welcomed me back into their lives with open arms. I think of my high school friends with whom I shared a special reunion. I think of my friends at Worldcon in Kansas City who looked out for me since my health wasn’t good.

I think of my friends in Seattle and how humbled I have been by their kindness and generosity. I had only been living here ONE MONTH when my life completely fell apart, and you all stepped up to the challenge, even though many of you barely knew me. I can’t think about it without crying. Your willingness to show up and be there for me and help me means everything to me. And there were many people supporting me from a distance as well. You showed me how good people can be and how little it sometimes takes to make a huge difference in someone else’s life. You have forever changed my experience of the world.

I think of my close friends, my inner circle. The ones who know me best, who know my faults as well as my strengths and love me anyway. The ones who walk beside me as we share what we think and how we feel. The ones who understand the less obvious things about me, the ones who validate my feelings, the ones who I trust. I feel so lucky to have met you.

And I think of Nala, of course, who is loyal and sweet and mischievous and empathetic. And who was so scared of being left when we’d moved to a new state that she learned how to grab onto my legs with her front paws while standing on her back paws. There is no one more concerned about my welfare than that little dog, and she brightens my life every single day just by being herself.

When we go through hard times we learn a lot, both about ourselves and about the people who are around us. What I learned this year is that even when everything is going to hell, some people will be kind and they will be true. And there are an awful lot of people out there who love and care about me, and who I love and care about back.

On the longest night of the year, I think about all of you, and then it doesn’t seem so very dark.

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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.

 

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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.

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I am in Washington! As I write this, I have been at my new home for about sixty hours, and so far, it has been quite a whirlwind.

Less than four hours after I picked up my apartment keys, I hopped into my car and drove across to my first Seattle party. So far I have been to two parties and am about to go to my third. I have gone to Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Safeway, and Pet Smart. I have enjoyed the view from Lake Union. I have gone dancing. I have explored a bit of the downtown of my little city, and I have played a bunch of air hockey. I have seen several friends and met a bunch of new people, almost none of whose names I can remember. I have, most important of chores, set up the internet. I have done a load of laundry to clean up the end-of-road-trip doggie vomit mess.

Nala and I have established our new daily walking route, and it is so exciting! There are some old abandoned railway tracks right behind our building, and if you follow them a little ways, they join with a lovely gravel walking path. The area is surrounded by trees, and it is the best daily walking spot we’ve ever had. We’ve been taking longer walks than usual because it’s so pleasant.

My apartment is not quiet. The downstairs neighbors play music all the time. The neighbors who share my bedroom wall had a lovers’ quarrel at 1:30am on Saturday night. Ear plugs are my friends. My allergies are acting up because of all the pollen-producing plant life around here. I woke up in the middle of the night when my air mattress deflated and ended up breaking my fingernail below the quick while fixing it, resulting in a throbbing and bleeding finger at 3:30 in the morning. Nala is nervous. One of my dance partners threw me around in an unexpectedly rough manner, and I hurt my shoulder before I could compensate for his use of force.

I am either too hot or too cold, but very rarely completely comfortable. Everyone in Seattle hangs out outdoors at night, even though it’s cold. I sleep with my electric blanket turned on, even though it’s July. I wish I had packed more sweaters. But then sometimes the sun comes out and because of all the layers from the time it was cold, it becomes suddenly sweltering.

Everywhere I look there is beauty.

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I feel like I am living in a picture book my mom used to read me every year the night before the first day of school. “Will you be my friend?” I don’t know who I’m going to see once in a while, and who I’m going to see all the time, and who I’m mostly going to see at parties, and who I’m going to see one-on-one. I don’t know who to ask to watch Babylon 5 with me, and I don’t know who would want to go to the theater with me, and I don’t know if I know any live music fans. I do know that I will be able to play board games to my heart’s content and then some.

I know a lot of people here, and everyone so far has been so thoughtful and helpful and wonderful. And I see my friends, and I think, with a small jolt of surprise, oh my goodness, I really like you! This shouldn’t be a surprise, since this is one of the reasons I moved here, but nevertheless, it feels like an unexpected gift. I’ve spent the last few months managing my expectations like a pro.

I take comfort in the things that are the same. Nala is my touchstone. I listen to familiar albums in the car. I have a friend I message almost every day, and we still message almost every day. I still love pie, and otters, and Disneyland. The “i” key on my laptop still pops off all the time in a really annoying way.

Last night I dreamed it was Valentine’s Day, and I was feeling sad, and then my friends threw a spectacular surprise party for me, and I was so happy to see everyone. And then I woke up, and I thought to myself, yes, of course. It feels like you are all right here with me.

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I am interested in depth.

I was talking to a friend who was sad because she had wanted to spend all day with a close friend of hers, and then that friend booked herself so they’d only have a few hours instead. My friend was sad because this would mean they wouldn’t have a chance to go deep. “We’ll only just have gotten warmed up, and then she’ll have to go,” she said.

I had this conversation as I was planning my LA trip, and as a result I didn’t make as many social plans as I might otherwise have done. I wanted to allow time to relax, get comfortable, and potentially go deep. What I found bore this strategy out: the longer I spent with someone, the deeper we were able to go.

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One reason I like Rainforest is because it encourages depth.

Perhaps this is particularly true of people who you don’t get to see in person all the time, but I found the first couple of hours was usually spent with general catching up, some small talk, and just kind of remembering what it was like to be together. Then the conversation would gradually deepen, circle around, come back again, deepen some more, repeat a few times. The longer the amount of time, the deeper we could go.

What do I mean by deep here? Just by seeing each other in the first place, my friends and I were strengthening our connection to each other. But depth is when you move beyond small talk, beyond what you’d say to more or less anybody. Depth is when there are no more pat answers. Depth is where surprises happen, and reveals. Depth is when we say things that are scary. Depth is when we really learn who the other person is, beyond their basic preferences and interests and obvious personality traits.

Depth is the experience of sharing what it is to be human, and what it is to be this specific human right now.

Just as depth takes a bunch of time to foster in any given interaction, it also takes time to develop in any given friendship. Perhaps if you meet someone in a particularly intense circumstance (Clarion, anybody?), you can move into depth more quickly than normal. But more often you’re acting on a mere feeling that depth might be possible here if you invest enough of yourself. Sometimes that feeling pays off, and sometimes it never does. To find out, you have to take time.

The people with whom I am closest all have this quality of depth. I never grow tired of hearing about their lives and what they’re thinking and feeling. When I’m in their presence, I feel something inside of me relax. Thank goodness we can be real together, I’m thinking. Thank goodness I don’t have to put on an act to make them comfortable.

Thank goodness we can love each other for who we are.

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I’ve had some people giving me a hard time for taking my recent vacation in LOS ANGELES, of all places. This is kind of like kicking a puppy dog when she’s really excited to see you, but besides that, they are also wrong.

Los Angeles is a really fun place to take a vacation, you all. Even if you DON’T go to Disneyland with its happiest place on earth tagline, which is closer to the truth than makes me comfortable given that it’s a cheesy corporate slogan. I know that Northern Californians in particular love to hate on Los Angeles, and I certainly haven’t been exempt from this over the years.

But, surprise, surprise, Los Angeles is a big diverse city, and there is a lot of fun stuff to do there. Sure, if you don’t like urban vacations, it won’t be your thing, but since I’m assuming you all already know how I feel about going to London whenever remotely possible, obviously this isn’t an issue for me personally. And yes, the air quality isn’t good, although it didn’t send me into a full-on, I-need-to-stay-in-the-hotel-as-much-as-possible asthma attack like Tel Aviv did, so it’s all about degree. The traffic is also not good, but the traffic in the Bay Area is abysmal as well, so it didn’t feel very different.

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The Getty Museum

Meanwhile, Los Angeles has world-class museums, constant theater and music, lots of amusement parks, and the beach and good weather and all activities those things entail. I thought, maybe I’d like to go to a garden, and so I looked on the internet and there are a whole bunch of amazing gardens (I didn’t end up going to any of them, alas). There is hiking. My friend told me it’s pretty easy to go and see a show being taped (I didn’t do this either). You can see pretty much any movie you want. There is the best French toast I have ever had, and I DO NOT TAKE THIS LIGHTLY.

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I tragically have no photos of the French toast, but I do have a photo of these amazing bazookies.

Of course, I spent a lot of my time with local friends, which made my vacation even better.

The friends I saw in LA can be loosely categorized into two groups. There were my writer friends, and there were my college friends who have known me for a really, really long time. (I also didn’t get to see everyone I would have liked to have seen. Not enough time, but a good reason to go back.)

First the writer friends. There is something so invigorating about being around, I was going to call them creatives, but people get so finicky about the word creative, have you noticed? So instead perhaps I will say storytellers. By storyteller, I mean not only writers of novels and short stories, but also people involved with movies and TV, with dance and theater, with music and the visual arts. I suppose we could also just call them artists and be done with it.

Anyway, I love artists. Most of the artists I have known are so passionate about what they are doing. And writers in particular (although perhaps not as an exception) tend to be introspective, and as introspective individuals they’ve learned how to listen. (Also some of them have learned how to ask really interesting questions, which is so very enjoyable.) And because they listen, one gets the feeling they might actually understand something about you, and there is something so relaxing about being in the presence of someone who sees you. Even if it’s just a part of you. Also they don’t expect you to perform miracles like find a new agent in two weeks or have no feelings whatsoever about your current work-in-progress or make ten million dollars on self-published ebooks. And if you sound like an idiot talking about your work-in-progress, they tend to not hold it against you since they’ve had the same thing happen to them. 

I was a little more nervous about seeing my college friends. Because, well, it had been a while, and I’ve changed. Which led me to suspect they might also have changed. And what if we changed in different directions?

But my nerves were completely unnecessary because seeing my college friends was great too. As it turned out, there’s a reason we’ve kept in touch all these years, and that reason is that we like each other. Yup, not rocket science, I know. And sure, we’ve all changed, and our lives are different than they once were, but what hadn’t changed is how much I care about these people. Honestly, I felt like perhaps I appreciate them now even more than I did in the past.

They reminded me of where I’ve come from, and they showed me how I’ve stayed the same. Yes, I know I’m talking about change all the time and how important it is, in spite of how difficult it is. But not everything has to change, and there is something very sweet about stopping to notice what hasn’t.

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In conclusion, LA is a great place to take a vacation. Hate on it all you like, but I had a wonderful time.

PS: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is also in LA. Just saying.

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I am tired. Am I allowed to write a blog post about how I’m tired?

Haha, it’s my blog, so of course I am!

Here is a photo of me at 4am on Wednesday morning. I couldn’t sleep because I was too tired and my head was too full. It’s strange how after you’ve spent the last two and a half hours waiting to fall asleep, taking a selfie with your dog seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing.

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Anyway, luckily for me I’m about to go on vacation. I want to be on vacation SO BADLY, and it is about to happen, and this all seems extremely fortuitous.

Now, there are a lot of different kinds of vacation. There is, for example, the relaxing chill out vacation, which is basically me lounging on a chair somewhere beautiful and reading a lot of books. On this type of vacation I also tend to eat a lot and take slow, meandering walks and maybe go swimming.

This is not the type of vacation I’m about to go on. I did think about it, but then everywhere I wanted to go had a Zika warning, and I haven’t had enough time to read enough about Zika to know how worried about it I actually am, so I scratched those destinations off the list. Plus I’ve been working so hard the last two months that I’m not entirely certain what would happen to me if I suddenly came to an abrupt halt and did nothing much. It might be a real shock to the system. It might be like my insomnia, where in the sudden stillness I’d be unable to make my brain shut up. So that’s not what I’m doing.

Instead I’m going to see a bunch of people and I’m going to do a bunch of things, and hopefully I can see and do in a relatively leisurely manner. And I will refuse to go through stuff, lift boxes, or make any decisions about what to keep versus what to throw away. I won’t have to look at my ever-growing array of lists, and I won’t have to write unless I feel like it, and I won’t have to juggle complicated logistics, and if I don’t feel like dealing with feeding myself, there is an IHOP right across from my motel so I can basically live on breakfast food for the next week.

It is going to be the best vacation ever.

I haven’t always taken this type of social vacation, but they tend to be very satisfying. It’s like going to a con except you’re not working the entire time, and you get to see people one-on-one and maybe even in a place that doesn’t require you to shout to be heard, and splitting the check is a lot easier. Basically I get to spend time with people I like a lot and rarely get to see. Nowadays the internet is very helpful for keeping in touch, but nothing beats the occasional face-to-face interaction for maintaining connections, if you can manage it.

I sound so practical about this, but really I am very excited. I’ve been looking forward to this so much! Anyway, next week there will be no blog posts, just me being excited and enjoying my vacation.

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