5 x 5 Interests: His, Mine

The exercise calls for me to list 5 interests, and then 5 interests of my child that are unfamiliar to me. In this case, I am instead going to list my partner’s interests since our “child” is a stuffed baby penguin named Theo.

5 of my interests:
1. The occult
2. Beat poetry
3. Dance, all types
4. Urban exploration
5. Jewelry making

5 interests of his that I am unfamiliar with:
1. AnimeNot Even Wrong_5347841629_l
2. Fancy pens, their engineering
3. Video gaming
4. Debian programming
5. Youtube in general. I am fascinated with its platform potential but I am not one of those people that can surf it for hours.

Thoughts on common criticisms of the artist’s way

Clearly, this comes from a known advocate of the artist’s way. This is my deal, and it works for me. I am a big advocate of doing what works, and I do know people that this system really, really doesn’t work for. Atheists find it problematic, with reason, since a lot of it is higher-power oriented consciously along the lines of AA. People with ADHD, weird work schedules, hand problems find limits in the Morning Pages. I get that – all of it.

There are, however, two criticisms that come from either not understanding or just not doing the work of the Artist’s Way:
1)It’s narcissistic
2)It uses “pop psychology.”

On Narcissism
People who associate taking time to take care of themselves with narcissism are mistaken about how narcissism works. Narcissists don’t take care of themselves. A narcissist would never make it through the Artist’s Way. Why? Because narcissists expect everyone else to take care of them. Self care is a different story. The Artist’s Way encourages you to work on yourself, to humble yourself, to make gentle changes until you actually do like yourself. For example, the self-sabotage chapter where you write down and then challenge your own excuses? No narcissist in the world would actually do that exercise. Narcissists as a rule don’t like themselves but like absolutely everyone else even less.

When you like yourself, your behavior towards other people changes. Narcissists don’t just have inflated egos – they are lost in them. The steps of the Artist’s Way untethers you from that ego.

Its Use of Pop Psychology
One person who admitted to reading the book through rather than working the steps complained of it using “pop psychology” (referencing Inner Child Work) but not really identifying how this was bad/didn’t work. The argument seemed to be that it was bad just *because* it smacked of “pop psychology.” That’s some pretty lazy, stereotype laden thinking. Also in this
read through” the critic in question did not actually read any of the foreword or end material. It says pretty clearly in both of those that the work at hand is not intended to replace therapy even though it is therapeutic in practice.

The concept of an inner child is a metaphor. Artists used metaphors long before therapy existed. It seems likely that the metaphor existed before it was co-opted in the 80s.

As to the criticism of “pop psychology” unfairly and inaccurately linked in to the Artist’s Way I have to say, as I say entirely too often of late, a little discernment, please.

The stigma on pop psychology is just a general distaste for all psychology that traces back to misinformed people that think getting counseling means “crazy.” Not only is this another example of lazy stereotype thinking, it displays an absolute unawareness of how good therapists work. In western culture, we leave emotional management skills to the wild, evidently assuming that whole people are born knowing them and genetically flawed people just don’t. Neither is true. Most emotional skills can be taught; without those skills life can get distressing for just about anyone. Most of the time a good psychotherapist is nothing more or less than a tutor in those skills, and often that person had to go seek training in those skills him or herself. Medication doesn’t – or shouldn’t – come in unless something is happening in the biochemistry that keeps you from mastering those skills.

The pop psychology market of books capitalizes on those skills many people just don’t get taught. Often they are actually helpful. Other times, they are exploitative and stereotype driven – just look at Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, anything Dr. Phil writes, the very existence of Laura Schlessinger. Undeniably bad stuff there.

But as with any subject, a little careful thought and discernment goes a long way. The “bad” examples above always encourage some status quo, whether it’s one where “morality” is substituted as a word for “inequality” or where guilt and shame are advocated in place of sorting out what is genuinely harmful and accepting the rest.

The Artist’s Way is about creative recovery – it absolutely operates as a program for artists alongside the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. It operates on the understanding that humans resist big changes but can handle small ones. That may offend people that still believe they need to feel strained, burned out, and exhausted or they’re not “really working.” For those that work the steps, however, it’s nice to do the work while the ego – the source of all that stress – goes somewhere else for awile.

5 Places to be exposed to flora

Well, I live over in Sea Cliff in San Francisco Bay…likely the easiest place in the city to actually get some green.

So yes -

1)Golden Gate Park

…because it’s right there, literally across the street from my apartment. Manicured the outer part is not.

2)Ocean Beach

again, it’s right there, and yes, there are some sea plants around. My partner surprised me with an Audubon guide so now I can even determine what these plants are! (Something I failed to do in Minnesota. In Indiana, I knew the plants – the chicory, the Queen Anne’s Lace, the poison gooseberries…not so much elsewhere.)

3)The Presidio

For those unfamiliar, the Presidio is a former military outpost converted to residences. There is a very swanky, expensive apartment building it is famed for, and then there are several “affordable” (i.e. ridiculously expensive everywhere but NYC) apartments and houses for rent. We came very, very close to renting a townhouse there until we realized that even with a lease we had no rent protection from Uncle Sam. Also, it’s great as a self-contained community even now but it was very cut off from the rest of the city. Since I’m here to do city-spirit work, I need to be in the city itself. It has a beach and a lot of wild/woods to it.

4)Farmer’s Markets

but don’t bother with the Ferry Farmer’s market on Embarcadero if you live here. I went last weekend. While it’s OK for meat, cheese, and fish vegetables were decidedly tourist priced. Upon chatting with some of the dairy farmers, it seems that revealing you’re local will prompt them to redirect you to the other farmer’s markets in the area. Food is a LOT cheaper here  than in Minnesota, especially in the winter months (and yes, there’s winter, though it’s a different animal than what I have previously experienced.)

5) The Conservatory

while the Golden Gate conservatory does not hold a candle to Saint Paul’s Como Park Conservatory, it is flora. Since this city has a hell of a lot more cement to it than Minneapolis, it is easy to get a bit starved for it.

5 Freeing Things I did as a kid

These activities made me feel free/absorbed in the task when I was a child:

  1. Spinning in circles until I fell over. Looking back, I did it for the high. This may explain why alcohol/getting drunk never has appealed to me all that much. It’s only half the ride. I want the whole thing.
  2. Making abstract paper cutouts. I think I usually tried to make a doll chain, usually failed, but did not feel any frustration or deterrence in the face of this failure.
  3. Dancing. Always, always dancing.
  4. Reading – I always loved to read, but I remember really, really loving to read after my grandfather bought me Dragons of Autumn Twilight one summer. It never led me to much RPGing – I didn’t know who to ask, really, and when I finally found some people to play with it seemed tedious – but I loved those stories, and I still adore the fantasy genre.
  5. Sketching, drawing, crafting with no specific purpose at hand. I can’t remember why I quit – I think my parents refused to buy me sketch books at some point, (these things were often launched upon me arbitrarily with no prior discussion or clear trigger for the decision) and I had to pay for my own clarinet reeds so it just kind of stopped.

Comfortable in my own skin

Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles_7546808832_lSo there’s a passage in Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for Parents that talks about a friend of hers that struggled to feel comfortable in her own skin after the birth of the baby. What was described also resonated with my current experience of an unexpected, dramatic relocation. Lo, the example cited after that was a woman who had a cross-country move (in addition to a baby.) No, I haven’t had a child – but I recognize this discomfort in my own skin. Some of it is about connecting to the place more, and I come as a significant part of San Francisco’s defining community spirit is dying. I really hope I’m not here as hospice midwife.

I realized that while I’m walking more by necessity – sedentary San Francisco = moderately active Minneapolis, I haven’t just walked to walk since I moved here. I do have a few reasons for this: my allergies are just as bad here, and my Minnesota allergist is playing games with my record transfer, deferring the treatments I need to actually live in my own skin. Since all my allergies are environmental, outside time can get dangerous. I’ve also been sick twice in two months, and both were full on knock-you-off-your-ass-induce-existential-despair sick.

The “uncomfortable in your own skin” factor has come up synchronistically a few times of late. When I moved to Minneapolis and assumed my new identity as a newly single adult, the disappointment in myself for letting divorce happen, the conflicts between who I was, what my family wanted me to be, and lacking the money necessary to even attempt to fulfill my family’s demands I visit Indiana all tore me apart. (There was also a fear that if I did go, they’d trap me under a glass and keep me there.) The discomfort in my own skin became a buzzing noise in my head that eventually manifested in chronic hiving. That hiving is why I’m getting (or trying to get) allergy shots now.

I moved to Minneapolis in November of 2002. Over a year later, as I had coffee with a friend, she commented that I seemed “more comfortable in my skin lately.” At that point I had learned some, but not all of my hiving triggers. I also knew more about where to park, what might get me a ticket, and where I should not go for a walk at night. I knew the way home with certainty. I felt more comfortable in geographic space, and it helped me to acclimate my inner space.

The skin not fitting makes sense for pregnant women – suddenly your body isn’t yours anymore, then you get it back, but it’s not the same body. It’s got some new chemicals in it, some new processes going, and nothing is going to change it 100% back to pre-baby no matter what you do with it externally. A relocation is not like that. I know that.

A dramatic relocation does, however, do something sort-of like that to the soul. Minneapolis became integrated into my sense of self. It was my city, my town, my treasure trove of unappreciated and under-appreciated secrets. Suddenly I find myself in San Francisco, a place former residents rhapsodize because they don’t know exactly how many jewels in their memory have been stolen, or ripped away thanks to byproducts of the Ellis Act.  I keep thinking this doesn’t fit. This isn’t home. There are no artists and writers here – they’re all in Berkeley and Oakland, and every single one I’ve spoken to has plans to leave for Portland, or Seattle, or Minneapolis, or Chicago.

Everything about here sort of chafes – and I realize now it’s the tension of the unaccustomed. So yes, I’m uncomfortable in this new skin. Being given a new city is a lot like being given a drastically altered body. Suddenly I must explore it piece by piece, find the new sensitive spots, identify the danger zones, seek out the places that produce pleasure, and seek new forms of pleasure, too.

It’s an a-ha – it’s my skin. The following days, through Solstice, I’ll focus on getting walks when it’s safe to, in getting deeper into my gym habit. I need to do what it takes to relax and get back into my own skin, and get into this new geographic body.


5 Possibly Fun Outings

san francisco beach fires
Shot I took earlier this week – beach fires are a popular activity here.

I’m in a new city, so this should be fresh for me. The hard part will be not falling into the same thing over and over trap.

  1. San Francisco zoo. I do love zoos
  2. One of the museums in Golden Gate park.
  3. Trying out one of those double decker tourist buses. I’ve always said when in a new place get to the high ground and then take a land tour. Well, there’s a lot of high ground in my neighborhood so the land tour is the next most logical step.
  4. I hear rumors of a Doctor Who meetup in these parts…
  5. Green Apple books looks intriguing.


"I'm a Mom!"
“I’m a Mom!”

What Julia Cameron writes in the Artist’s Way for Parents about the isolation of a new parent is resonating with me. Why? Because a similar isolation haunts me at the moment. I am suddenly relocated from everything familiar. I sort of know safe and not-safe neighborhoods. A person I am meeting next week wants me to “pick a place with wireless.” Well, I don’t know where that is – and since I am tutoring her in using the Meetup.com system, I’m pretty sure tethering might take a bit too much work to explain this early in her tutoring.

The first month out here, in the temp housing in San Jose, I got sick. So rather than try to go to meetups in San Jose or try to meet people, all I could do was spit out mucus and watch television. I couldn’t even go down to the workout room there. The one time I did, I had some bikini-clad girls staring at me, boggled by the fat woman at the treadmill. There’s a lot of that in California.

After the move to San Francisco, my partner went off to work, leaving me to stay home with the boxes. The mountains of boxes with our lives in it, lives we could not even think to start until opened. Lives that required massive editing because in addition to familiarity we also gave up a roomy three story townhouse for a three bedroom, one bath in a distant neighborhood.  While my partner goes off to a job he loves, it’s my job to the editing. I can of course reach out to people – I’ve maintained cross country and international friendships for years. But when it’s time for a cup of coffee, I don’t know where the coffee shops are and my partner has a gift for finding the shittiest ones humanly possible. I start conversations in lines all the time – at the grocery, in those coffee shops, at the farmer’s market. Not one will lead to anything. Finding new friends requires joining groups, and joining groups is something my partner doesn’t do very well, if at all, at least not the type that I can frequent.

I could get up, drive to Oakland, but despite California’s “plan” to get more electric cars on the road they aren’t facilitated nearly as well as my partner insisted they were when he told me how madly in love with San Francisco he is. Really, chargers are bitterly competitive things, and electric cars are bitterly resented by the underclass. The one local EV meetup I hoped to attend switched to a Fiat-owners only meetup, and the owner politely suggested I check out the EV meetup…all the way down in San Jose. These are not the acts of people seeking expansive fellowship or environmental good. I don’t want a misogynistic reaming if I get distracted while charging my car. And it’s going to be awhile before we install a fast charger.

Even if I could drive the car somewhere, there’s a very good chance I would have nowhere to park it. I damn near lost a my virtue to a parking space in the Castro because of that. The buses are OK, but the Fulton line is so overcrowded it really should have a train line instead. Also, in the outer districts some buses only run every twenty minutes even though the population is high enough it should run more than that. These things also create a sense of suffocation.

The one meetup I’ve gone to was fun – for people that want to sing, for the sake of singing. But it’s also a bit out of step, and in a pretty bad neighborhood. People there use old technology. They stick to the American songbook. They like folk music, something I’ve learned to hate because I want to experience new things, not the same four Kingston trio tapes my parents owned and played over and fucking over. The two men at the meetup were over 50 and had very specific ideas of how women should be all qualities that would drive me to suicide if I had them. But they were happy I was there.

That also made me feel isolated, in a different way. No one here is 40 or almost 40. All the age meetups call for 35 and under or 50 and over. I am not those things. I am not a mommy, either, and that also tags me out. The other Pagans all live over in Oakland, or around Santa Cruz.

It’s a different kind of isolation. It’s also quite painful.

This will of course change over time. As I develop routines it gets better. I’m in a bitter mood because my routine got wildly screwed over by the Cantonese repairman today, when he took almost five hours to repair a garbage disposal, and in the process brought his wife and a plumber into our house without my permission. I had plans today, and I have deadlines, and because I work from home I often find those deadlines and myself disrespected. This is what a writing career when you also have a vagina can feel like. People just assume you’re not doing anything, not because you’re not, but because they’ve been taught over and over to be almost literally blind to it.

But yes – I do feel isolated.  Yes, it does bother me. Yes, it will change, but right now I’m in it and it hurts.

5 Things I Love

Hm, 5 things I love?

  1. The dippy feeling my stomach makes on a Tilt-a-Whirl
  2. Traveling
  3. My National Geographic digital subscription
  4. A well-organized closet
  5. Roses. I adore roses.

So how would I share these loves?

1. Take someone on a tilt-a-whirl with me. In lieu of a tilt-a-whirl, find a safe place to spin in circles until we both fall down. For those of us that don’t get nauseated, it is very much like going on a ride. So fun.

2. Take someone with me. Traveling is one of those things you love or you don’t, though. I suppose travelogues can build appreciation. Kiwanis travelogues gave me the bug as a child.

3. My National Geographic subscription – gift it. Maybe just go analog, and encourage any new reader to use the images for all kinds of craft projects after enjoying the fabulous reads.

4. Well-organized closets are the kind of thing you have to live to really appreciate. It also takes some tailoring. Aside from showing endless episodes of Clean House there’s not really a way to get that one across.

5. Roses – show pictures, take someone to a rose garden, volunteer to work in a rose garden…