WEIRD.

The date I’m least likely to post on seems to be on May 21.  I looked on several sites I post on, and it seems to be the date I’m least active out of all of them (on this site, that trend goes back a couple years).

May 21, incidentally, is the day the Paris Commune fell in 1871.

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An Explanation

I suppose if I begin posting more here, especially if I start ruminating about the war again, it’s because the novel I’m working on now was once a catharsis for these feelings; now it’s a trigger.  I’m emotionally exhausting myself with this book.

I hate that I can’t talk about what it’s really doing to me on other social media.  It’s compounding a lot of anxieties I already have.  It’s causing me to revisit the extreme stress reactions I had in 2011-2013.

A writer friend of mine, quoting a source I don’t recall, once said “writing is easy, you just open a vein and bleed.”  Well, I’m bleeding right now.  I’m not enjoying this.  But the book will probably be the best thing I ever wrote in part because it’s a mostly-fictional story built around a true emotional landscape.

Essentially, it’s a book about psychological abuse and a lot of it draws inspiration from the psychological damage done working in the video game industry, doing support for a popular video game console.  It came at a time when I was already dealing with lots of things, including a toxic roommate, and it touched off memories of childhood abuse at the hands of a particularly sadistic teacher.

That was the backdrop to these memories, if that’s what they really are, of the war.  I had too many things pile on and my personality collapsed.  This book is about a character going through the same thing, just under different conditions.  The antagonists are disgusting, predatory people and the protagonists are kicked around hard.

And yes, I do make some reference to my memories in this story, although the reference is highly fictionalized.  I was surprised, though, that some of the things I came up with out of thin air (like a gigantic Banyan tree about a day’s travel from Secunderabad) were actually there when I looked them up.  But for the most part, it isn’t about the war; it’s about horrible people and the damage they do to the lives of others.

Speaking of which, I may have mentioned this but I’ve been hospitalized several times since my experience with chest pains, palpitations, shortness of breath, and severe fatigue only to find I had no physical anomalies.  I had never had episodes like this until the memories of the war broke.

Today I found out that this condition- which is a common anxiety manifestation for survivors of extreme distress- is sometimes called “Soldier’s Heart.”  And just like in the book, I’m not sure if it was the toxic people or the vivid flashbacks of a war from a century ago that did it.

Bear with me.  I have to contend with some old ghosts while I make art out of something horrendous that’s still with me, and probably always will be.  Then once I’ve finished this I may need to take the rest of the year off from writing.

Possible Memory Fragment?

After a very long time, a possible memory fragment has surfaced.

I remember being offered some sweet, citrusy spirit by a French or Belgian soldier.  The flavor was exaggerated, almost artificial, and it had the bitter, harsh hit of cheap liquor.  Not unlike a cheap triple sec in flavor but with a slightly more lemony flavor and maybe just a little bit of a floral hit (orange blossom perhaps).  I’m at kind of a loss to describe the flavor because it’s only the briefest flicker of citrus and strong alcohol in my memory.

If anyone knows of such a spirit and how common it was at the Western Front, let me know.  I can’t imagine hard liquor of any kind was especially common in those places by the Spring of 1915.

Photos From Yesterday’s Trip

Since my mobile wasn’t cooperating, I had to get creative to get these onto my desktop so I could post them.

These are all phone photos, but they turned out pretty good I think.  Mostly Astoria but there’s one of a sea cliff along Highway 101 and one of a neat little crab that was very well-camouflaged among the barnacles on a large rock.

To The Sea

Today I finally took my much-needed drive to the coast. I don’t know if I’m any closer to answers though; it felt in some ways like ad hoc relief because I didn’t have a transcendent moment.

In other ways, it felt like a human moment that might have bought me just a little bit of grounding. I had my husband with me, and a random local guy I met via Twitter who seems OK.

I don’t know what the trip did for me really; I’m too tired to think after 12 hours behind the wheel.  It certainly was pretty, though.  We all need beauty in our lives and I drank in so much of it today; Western Oregon is possibly one of the most majestic places in the world, or at least in the US.

Also, I must admit that the sea air put some color in all our cheeks. We were all a bit pale this morning; now, not so much. We’re not sunburnt, we just look healthier.

I guess the biggest emotion I got out of this trip so far was a sense of profound longing, though. It really hit in Astoria, seeing the ships moving down the mighty Columbia toward the Pacific.

There is a part of me that really misses the ocean. And that part of me, I’m fairly certain, once sailed into Astoria about 150 years ago.

Maybe if the country goes to hell, that’s what I’ll do.  I have fewer regrets from my seafaring life than I have from the life I wasted at the Western Front.

In the meantime, what can I do, but go to the seaside as often as I can.

No Closer To Answers

I’m no closer to answers on what I should be doing.

I do want to condemn the shooting of a public official earlier this week.  I do not believe such actions are going to be helpful at this middle stage of metastasizing fascism.  Already there are calls to weaken press freedoms in the wake of this attack, which is the last thing we need.  The only time raising arms against a public official is justified is when they have already taken your freedom to dissent and they can no longer be voted out, though I fear that time may come sooner rather than later if there isn’t a massive, non-violent action.

Honestly, our best bet is a general strike that drags on for a long period of time and economically paralyzes the country until demands are met, but I don’t see that materializing, and I don’t know the first thing about organizing such a massive initiative.

With nothing doing in the way of a really constructive action, I haven’t been getting more involved in activism. Instead I’m retreating deeper into my writing.  I find that it’s the only lifeline I have to keep me grounded now.

Not only am I working on a novel that I’ve been trying to finish for years, but I’m also re-working a novel I wrote in 2010 and shelved, which should be ready much sooner since I’ve already done all of the painful work of actually sorting out the story.  I’m thinking of self-publishing that one since it’s outside the scope of what my publisher normally works with.  It’s a picaresque slice-of-life story about an unhinged American student living in London; my SF work has been easier to publish and distribute (thus it ever was).

Maybe this weekend I’ll go to the ocean.  I’ve needed that.  I haven’t felt this helpless or agitated since the life I spent sailing those very waters 150 years ago.  I’ve often thought about my husband and I getting work on a ship if things get too hopeless here on land, but it’s a bittersweet thought.  The sea was my refuge, but it wasn’t always a pleasant place.  We think of freedom in such glowing terms, but what is it really?  Wild animals are free; their lives are nasty, brutish, and short.

That’s what the ocean is to me: freedom, in all its glory and all its horror. Beautiful, but stark.  The will to live and the thanatos drive separate themselves by a thinner margin there than anywhere else on earth.  And on the shore, that liminal space between the rocks and the surf, maybe I’ll clear my head and come to some understanding with this uncaring universe.

Sorry to ramble.  I’ve got ten thousand restless thoughts right now and I can’t possibly force them all into some succinct or coherent box.