Today is October 22, 2016, and for over a month this fall, my life wasn’t really my own. I was taking care of someone in a scary situation, a young mother with an infant who decided she needed to break up with her boyfriend. The now-ex-boyfriend is the child’s father, and he is a verbally and emotionally abusive individual. He also becomes physically violent, and in order to keep everyone safe, I dealt with the police a lot, spent a long time away from home, and did other things that are frightening and uncomfortable.
So it’s been a strange autumn for me. To occupy a space of constant mental and physical danger does wonky things to the human mind. Perceptions change, and the basic necessities of survival dominate life. I was also scared to fall asleep at night, I woke up one morning to this violent individual trying to kick down the front door, and I was constantly swimming through a heavy sea of emotions, because when a baby is involved, everything becomes so much more harrowing.
In the culture at large, there are a lot of people like this gentleman loose in the world. People who cannot claim responsibility for their own behavior, or their own mental state. They are most fond of statements like this: “YOU made me do this.” “YOU need to obey me, or I will hurt you.” “YOU make me so angry, I have to hurt you.” And the most popular mantra of every abuser I’ve ever known: “This is all YOUR fault.”
This violent individual didn’t appear in my life overnight. And the situation still isn’t resolved. As a writer, I admit that in May, this person caused me such acute pain that a new set of characters came to life in my head, because this is what my mind does with my trauma: it invents a new story to draw the pain out. I think all human minds operate this way, and writers just grow accustomed to the schizophrenic quality of this coping technique. Inside a writer’s skull, the voices we all have in our heads become distinct people, with wishes and minds of their own.
In May, this abusive man hurt someone I love very much, and the extreme pain this caused me flashed to wrath very quickly, a rage I could never express to him. Because this is something else I know of abusers: they want you to throw gasoline on their fire. They name-call and curse and belittle and threaten and spread pain in order to provoke other people to engage in their hell — the Hell they’ve made for themselves inside their own minds.
I do not engage. Even though, in the face of anger, more anger is often seen as strength. But this is also an escalation of violence, and when fighting a fire, throwing gasoline on the flames isn’t helpful.
So my mind invents characters instead, and I channel my wrath into story. All summer, while I finished my YA novel (Kinned to the Sea), my new rage-inspired characters wanted to take over. In September, the moment I finished the third draft of my fifth book, these characters took over my mind, and now I have the problem of too many projects to juggle. But I’m trying to manage. My urban fantasy (Bloodshade of the Goddess) is finished, and I’m moving forward with cover art, so I can format that novel into an ebook. Mark of the Pterren was sent to CreateSpace this week, beginning the process of turning that novel into a print book. And my newest draft of Kinned to the Sea was sent to four new beta-readers this week. Since I only have two willing beta-readers left after these readers are finished, I’ll reach the end of the line — my editing line — on that manuscript soon.
I did send out my first query letter for that book this week, even though it stars mer people, and publishers don’t want anything to do with mermaids right now.
As muddled and dissatisfying as my progress feels, I still wanted to celebrate. To take a moment away from my work to think about something else. So I thought I would distract myself with some pictures this morning. I went on a long car trip in July, out to California and Oregon to visit family with my husband, and I never shared pictures of that trip on my blog. So here are some photographs to share, and a piece of my life that involves no abuse, only whimsy.
On our way from Colorado to California, we drove through Utah, at the same time I was reading Amy Irvine’s memoir, Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land. I wrote a review for this book, which you can read here — and we passed through Monticello, Utah, one of the settings for this book. After Amy Irvine moved away, a wind farm was built there. I took a picture —
Greg and I stopped for lunch in Moab, Utah, and I took a picture of the gelato display at the Moab Brewery —
I didn’t purchase any, but the flavors included French Toast, Jack Daniel’s chocolate chip, marshmallow frappuccino, and peach mint lemonade.
Once we arrived in California, I stayed with my youngest brother, Dale, his wife, Jessica, and their daughter, Elana Belle. They live in a town called San Ramon, which is about an hour east of San Francisco. I am so proud of my little brother I pretty much explode with the feels whenever I’m with him.
Greg spent a few days with one of his friends, who lives in Tiburon, a pretty place with a view of San Francisco.
I spent time hanging out in and around San Ramon, and checked out the dealership service center where my brother works as a mechanic —
My brother is technically not my child, but I can’t help showing off these pictures of him like he is —
I spent some time playing in the dirt with Elana —
We gathered up this huge pile of seeds, because why not. I brought one of them home with me as a souvenir.
I wanted to buy Elana a Totoro from the Disney store at the mall, but when we went to the mall, the store didn’t have any Studio Ghibli memorabilia. We did, however, find this awesome rosemary bush growing next to the playground at the mall. We played there during sunset, watching a full moon rise over a soft purple sky, and my camera had a hard time capturing this rosemary bush in the dim light —
Jessica and I were so enchanted by the smell of this plant, which filled the air with the scents of white pine, sage, and mountain mint. A strong and beautiful odor. I called the smell “Colorado.” I called the smell “home.” Jessica agreed.
I took this picture of Elana on my last night in town, on our way to eat cheeseburgers —
We went outside to play afterward —
My niece is so adorable, this blog post could just explode from the cuteness —
Here is a picture of me with Jessica, and I’m wearing the same Nine Inch Nails shirt I’ve sported almost every day for the past seven years. I’m just awesome with fashion choices like that —
After we left California, my husband and I drove to Portland, Oregon, to visit his daughter, Rachel, and her boyfriend, Tucker. Just look at how cute they are standing in front of this house they were renting —
Cutest hipster couple ever, I think —
Of course, I spent a lot of time in Powell’s Books downtown. I hadn’t been inside the store since their big remodel, and it was ABSOLUTELY THRILLING to be in the new store. I took a picture of Greg and Rachel to commemorate the magnificence of the day —
Since we couldn’t stay with Rachel and Tucker, I had to Hotwire a room, and we ended up staying at The Heathman Hotel downtown, a block from Pioneer Square. The hotel room was super tiny. I took a picture of the bathroom. Don’t ask me why —
Also, I took this picture of the sink. For such a tiny space, I liked all the design elements on display, especially all the circles. I’ve always loved circular mirrors —
After our first night at The Heathman, we woke up to find out there was an electric car show taking place at Pioneer Square, so Greg and I took a stroll through all the cars with electric engines on display. A lot of the vehicles were older ones with their engines swapped out, but there were also some more futuristic types to be seen —
We went to the restaurant where Rachel works, and had brunch there one morning. Greg ordered this meal of fried chicken on a pancake with spicy maple syrup —
The idea of eating that was so repulsive to me, I took a picture of it. Fried chicken on a pancake isn’t appealing to me at all. Ew.
While in Portland, I took a drive with Greg and Rachel to Lewis and Clark College, because I’d never visited that campus before. Since it was summer, the grounds were pretty quiet, with some kind of fundraising luncheon taking place at the president’s building. Rachel went into the college library with me, and upstairs, I found this stained glass window I liked a lot, so I took a picture —
Later that night, Greg and I decided it was time to try our first bowls of pho, the super-popular Vietnamese dish of broth, rice noodles, herbs, vegetables, and which frequently is made with a variety of meats. We met up with our friend Donny that night, whose father was Greg’s best man at our wedding —
Donny is an aspiring author. I suggested he write a novel like Sweetbitter from the male bartender’s point of view, because Donny is one hell of a good mixologist as well as a great bartender.
The next morning, we left Portland with Rachel, and drove to the Oregon coast. We camped outside Lincoln City, which was packed with tourists —
I walked around barefoot a while, it was nice —
We slept in a tent for two nights, and Rachel stayed in her own tent beside us, but the KOA also had these cute little cabins to rent —
My photograph stream ends here for now, but one of my favorite parts of this trip is yet to come, when I traveled up and down the Oregon coast with Rachel and Greg. In total, we were out of town for two weeks in July, with our first week spent in California, and our second week in Oregon.
I couldn’t even finish typing this post without receiving another phone call concerning the abusive man I’ve been dealing with, the individual who makes my heart race and fills my stomach with acid. My prayers and love go out to everyone else facing a situation like this, whether it’s stalking or physical violence or a verbal and emotional assault. I well know how draining and debilitating abusers are on someone’s mental health, and the physical danger they put people in. There is no other word but horror for this kind of intimate violence, and like everyone else who has been in my shoes, I cling to the hope that one day it will end.