2017 Readathon: Halfway There

Just crossed the halfway point, and going steady!

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by  Jeff Lindsay. Gotta love those stabby stabbers.

2. How many books have you read so far?

Finished Zer0es by Chuck Wendig and Penny Blackfeather by Francesca Dare, so – two!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

It’s still a toss-up between my two remaining graphic novels: Westernoir and Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Not too fussed about those this time. I wanted to get my introvert self to talk to people more – and everyone’s been super sweet to me so far!

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

Umm, the fact that Chuck Wendig went ahead and liked the tweet linking to my review of his book? A slightly critical review, no less. When I sing praises to his writing advice, he’s nowhere to be seen, but post one criticism (without even @-ing him), and here he is. Aaaaawkard. ^_^;

2017 Readathon: the Kick-Off

It’s time for this year’s Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, and I’m so excited to be here for its 10th anniversary!

Le Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

The environs of the fine city of Bristol, UK.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I have a handful of comics from this year’s Thought Bubble con, and I’ve been dying to get to them. Now’s the time!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

A box of millionaire’s shortbread has mysteriously appeared in my kitchen half an hour ago. I predict it will mysteriously disappear by the end of the day…

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I’m a Ukrainian expat in the UK, my spirit animal is the owlbear, and I’m in love with a crazy boy in a red Trans Am. Writing books about him, actually.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?

I want to spend less time stressing about how many pages I’ve read, and more time interacting with all the lovely readers. I’ll be hosting a mini-challenge at the start of Hour 2, so come on down to my instagram (hey, that rhymes).

And to wrap this off, here’s a glimpse of my reading pile:

My readathon books are about hackers, psychopaths, vigilantes, gunslingers and adventurers… Plus one book that tries to explain how we came to be all of those things and more.
Photo by Martin Fisch

#52Beats. Beat Three: Anxiety.

My anxiety is an old suit of plate armor, one that has gone unused for years, standing in a dusty museum or a forgotten corner of the armory. Some of the armor’s hinges move reluctantly. Some are rusted shut. It wasn’t made for me, and being inside it locks my body in unnatural shapes. There isn’t much air to breathe inside it. It’s very cold. I’m afraid to move, lest some piece of it comes off and falls to the floor with a deafening crash, giving me away. All I can do is stay there, motionless, peering at the world through the grimy openings in the visor.

How’s that for a mental image?

Over the past week or two, I’ve been working my way back into a certain creative project, one which is fraught with quite a bit of anxiety. Today, I was doing some unrelated reading and came across some shares from a therapy group, where people gave their anxiety visual shapes: some as a bowl of water with a dirty oily film, some in form of an orange bristling with spikes. I paused and asked myself: so what’s my anxiety like? The image of a rusty plate mail sprung to my mind almost instantly.

Think of that armor again. It’s cold and rigid, and the longer you stay in it, the colder you are, the less able to move. Fight, flight, or freeze? Do item three on this list for long enough, and you won’t be capable of either of the first two.

Both temperature extremes can provoke an emotional response from me. Being too hot can make me feel uncomfortable in my body and result in a body-shame spiral (where “hot and sweaty” equals “useless fatty”; as an aside, I spent years avoiding any exercise outside of water, because I didn’t want anyone to see me sweating, convinced that only fat and unfit people do that). Cold, however, immediately translates to fear.

When I’m scared, my hands turn to ice, and my feet are often to follow. This connection is entrenched in my brain deeply enough that it can easily reverse the cause and effect. If fear equals cold, then cold equals fear. My hands may have gone cold for objective temperature reasons, but a part of my head will start wondering what it is we could be nervous about. If unchecked, it will easily find a dozen outlets to channel the fake anxiety into until it becomes real.

Going back to the suit of armor. I find it fascinating that when casting for a mental image of my anxiety, my brain didn’t go for things like a straightjacket (immobility), chains (immobility and cold), or even a plain block of ice (even more immobility and cold). Of all the possible images, it opted for armor: something that can (and is meant to) protect you, but, BUT only if properly taken care of. If neglected, it stops being protection and becomes a trap.

Armor is also something that can cater to the “fight” and “freeze” options of the adrenaline triad. Not so much the “flight” option. That’s pretty in-character for me, because I’m terrible at fleeing from fear-inducing situations. Not holding myself up as a lionheart here: the inability to flee means I’m rubbish at stepping away from emotional situations and am more likely to make decisions in a hurry, discarding potentially more reasonable choices in favor of getting the situation over with.

Still, there’s something to be said for the fact that the image my brain chose to represent anxiety isn’t something inherently bad or damaging: rather, something that has been poorly maintained. I’m sure someone well-versed in psychoanalysis could have a ball exploring all the aspects of this imagery as juxtaposed with my history and personality. Myself, I can name two obvious truths. One, I am much more prone to get anxious when I haven’t been taking proper care of myself. Two, the brain itself is our greatest protector or trap, depending on its state and our circumstances.

So what’s your anxiety like? Tell me while I shuffle around in this rusty thing and try to oil some of those stubborn hinges.

Photo by Martin Fisch

#52Beats. Beat Two: Marie Kondo vs. Charles Bukowski

“Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.” After reading this opening sentence, a younger, punk-er me would’ve put Spark Joy by Marie Kondo (aka KonMari) firmly down and gotten on with her life. The current, slightly older me accepted that the line is a good opener for a book on decluttering. The slightly older me is also better at the “buffet” approach to information. I hate mango, but I’m not going to turn my nose up at red velvet cupcakes just because they happen to sit next to the mango on the buffet table.

Besides, I knew what I was in for when I picked up Spark Joy, having read its predecessor, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up during one of my recurring minimalism phases. Sometimes, in the middle of a life dominated by deadlines, it really is soothing to sit down with a coffee and read about proper sock folding techniques. (This is not a joke. Pages 98-99.)

I like to think that I have a halfway decent handle on house organization: I know what I own, I can locate most things within a minute or two, and I know the critical masses of both chaos and order that tip my stress threshold. Still, KonMari’s book did inspire me to a couple of organization sprees, which were useful in a household still reeling from a cross-country move.

Then, as I was contemplating this blog, my mind went back to a poem by Charles Bukowski  called Air and Light and Time and Space (once excellently illustrated by Zen Pencils). The poem is a dialogue between Bukowski’s narrator and an unnamed party, who recently sold a house, bought a studio and is excited about finally having “a place and the time to create.”

Boy, does Bukowski let them have it. Continue reading

#52Beats. Beat One: Introversion

During the very first week of my project aimed at no-pressure blogging, I spent a long time paralyzed by indecision on what I should blog about. Well. If anything, that proves that 52 Beats should be a useful exercise for me.

The thoughts going through my head went something like:

“I should totally talk about the Marie Kondo book I’ve been reading.” – “Is that really what you want to dedicate the whole weekly post to?”

“I should talk about the Bristol Zine Fair!” – “You can describe the entire experience in two sentences.”

“How about the whole introvert thing about having time and space to myself?” – “You’ve got friends who will take that personally and assume you hate them.”

“I think I want to take my laptop to a coffeeshop and blog from there.” – “Excellent, let’s establish that as a habit.” [and then spend weeks not blogging because we didn’t manage to get out to a coffeeshop that week]

So. I’m blogging from the corner of my couch, surrounded by the strewn-around results of the organizing kick I’ve been on thanks to the Marie Kondo book and the pieces of the costume I wore to the Bristol Zine Fair, and having taken the time and space to myself is the sole reason I’m still healthy and relatively sane after two ridiculously busy weeks.

And since I can’t decide on which of the three main subjects to blog about (four if we include the perfectionistic habit-building aspect), let’s have ourselves a three-part blog this week I’m going to talk about introversion, as this was the subject most frequently on my mind during this week.

(I had intended to have a multi-part blog, but the first segment ran long enough to make me want to procrastinate on the rest, and I know where that road leads.)

I, Introvert

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the grips of a dilemma. Continue reading